THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAISEWORTHY INTOLERANCE

PREDIC~1by J. C. Ryle

If we would hold fast that which is good, we must not tolerate any doctrine that is not the pure doctrine of Christ’s Gospel.

There is a hatred that is downright charity: that is the hatred of erroneous doctrine. There is an intolerance which is downright praiseworthy: that is the intolerance of false teaching in the pulpit. Who would ever think of tolerating a little poison given to him day by day? If men come among you who do not preach “all the counsel of God,” who do not preach of Christ, sin, holiness, of ruin, and redemption, and regeneration, – or do not preach of these things in a Scriptural way, you ought to cease to hear them. You ought to carry out the spirit shown by the Apostle Paul, in Gal.1:8: “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed.”

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  John Charles Ryle (10 May 1816 – 10 June 1900) was the first Anglican bishop of jc-ryleLiverpool. Ryle was born at Macclesfield, and was educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was Craven Scholar in 1836.  The son of a wealthy banker, he was destined for a career in politics before choosing a path of ordained ministry. While hearing Ephesians 2 read in church in 1838, he felt a spiritual awakening and was ordained by Bishop Sumner at Winchester in 1842. For 38 years he was a parish priest, first at Helmingham and later at Stradbrooke, in Suffolk. He became a leader of the evangelical party in the Church of England and was noted for his doctrinal essays and polemical writings.

Ryle was a strong supporter of the evangelical school and a critic of Ritualism. He was a writer, pastor and an evangelical preacher. Among his longer works are Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century (1869), Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (7 vols, 1856–69), Principles for Churchmen (1884). Ryle was described as having a commanding presence and vigorous in advocating his principles albeit with a warm disposition. He was also credited with having success in evangelizing the blue collar community. His second son, Herbert Edward Ryle also a clergyman, became Dean of Westminster.

Excerpts from Wikipedia, source material from ilyston

 

REFORMATION: The Significance and Relevance of Luther’s 95 Theses. Part 4

The Authority of the Church versus the Authority of God

27_goya_scene_inquisition_wWhen we consider the 95 Theses and its significance, we come to some very important evangelical truths. First, we find the issue over the authority of men versus the authority of God. The church claimed the authority over men’s souls. But Luther says that this is very limited. This perspective was seen in two areas.

On the one hand, the authority of the church is limited to the authority of God.  The origin of indulgences is questionable at best, and no one’s salvation can depend upon it for this reason. It is something that one can do, but he does not have to do it. This is set forth in thesis 47:  “Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.” Only those things which are found in the Word of God can be seen as necessary for salvation.  In this sense, Luther was setting forth the Protestant view of Biblical and Divine authority, as Philip explains,

“The objective principle of Protestantism maintains that the Bible, as the inspired record of revelation, is the only infallible rule of faith and practice; in opposition to the Roman Catholic coordination of Scripture and ecclesiastical tradition, as the joint rules of faith.”

350px-Galileo_facing_the_Roman_InquisitionThe teaching of the living church is by no means rejected, but subordinated to the Word of God; while the opposite theory (which magnifies the authority of the Church) virtually subordinates the Bible to tradition by making the Church the sole interpreter of the former and confining interpretation within the limits of an imaginary “consensus partum.” In the application of these Bible principles there was considerable difference between the more conservative Lutheran and Anglican Reformation, and the more radical Zwinglian and Calvinistic Reformation; the Lutherans contained many post-scriptural and extra-scriptural traditions, usages and institutions, which the Calvinistic reformers, in its zeal for primitive purity and simplicity, rejected as useless or dangerous; but all Reformers opposed what they regarded as anti-scriptural doctrines; and all agreed in the principle that the church has no right to impose upon the conscience articles of faith without clear warrant in the Word of God.

imagesCA7RJ47PMoreover, both the Bible and history shows that when man demands things what God does not, it has the repercussion of judging the spirituality of men on the basis of manmade schemes and turning them away from what they should be doing.  And this was the case with indulgences.  And Luther asserts this very thing in Thesis 43, “Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons.”  Then he proclaims in the 46th thesis, “Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.”

How often men judge others by humanly invented rules and schemes?  They place men in the light of something that is both debated and unproven from Scripture.

Here Ryle makes a relevant statement for all of us to consider:

“It is a mournful fact, that Christians have far too often walked in the steps of Pharisees in this matter. The very same process has taken place over and over again. The very same consequences have resulted. Religious observances of man’s invention, have been pressed on the acceptance of Christians—observances to all appearance useful, and at all events well-meant, but observances nowhere commanded in the word of God. These very observances have by and by been enjoined with more vigor than God’s own commandments, and defended with more zeal than the authority of God’s own Word. We need not look far for examples. The history of our own church will supply them.”

inquisition_-_burning_womanLet us beware of attempting to add anything to the word of God, as necessary to salvation. It provokes God to give us over to judicial blindness. It is as good as saying that His Bible is not perfect, and that we know better than He does what is necessary for man’s salvation. It is just as easy to destroy the authority of God’s word by addition as by subtraction, by burying it under man’s inventions as by denying its truth. The whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, must be our rule of faith—nothing added and nothing taken away.

Finally, let us draw a broad line of distinction between those things in religion which have been devised by man, and those which are plainly commanded in God’s word. What God commands is necessary to alvation. What man commands is not. What man devises may be useful and expedient for the times; but salvation does not hinge on obedience to it. What God requires is essential to life eternal. He that willfully disobeys it ruins his own soul.

Man’s self-proclaimed theology is often contrived to relieve men of the harder tasks of obedience to God. Luther asserts this about indulgences in Theses 41: “Apostolic pardons are to be preached with caution, lest the people may falsely think them preferable to other good works of love.”  Again, hear Ryle on this:

“The persecution of the Puritans in the time of the Stuarts, on account of canons and rubrics was, in too many cases, neither more nor less than zeal for traditions. An enormous amount of zeal was expended in enforcing conformity to the Church of England, while drunkenness, swearing, and open sin were comparatively let alone. Obedience to man-made ecclesiastical rules was required, on pain of fine or imprisonment, while open disobedience to God’s Ten Commandments was overlooked. Experience supplies painful proof, that traditions once called into being are first called useful. Then they become necessary. At last they are too often made idols, and all must bow down to them, or be punished.”

I cannot help to think that there is much of this going on in our day.  We must remember that we can strain at the gnat and swallow the camel. And many camels have been shoved down our throats because the pettiness of debates that surround useless things. We must always place the priority where God does. Surely this is a lesson from the Ninety-five Theses.

One the other hand, the mission of the church is limited to the mission of God.  The Pope may pray for men, and the church may preach the gospel, but it is God who pardons sin. Luther poignantly puts this forth in thesis 52:  “The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.”

What then should the church do? First, she should recognize what her treasure is.  Luther states in thesis 62, “The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.”  It is not found in the merits of saints, but it is the merit of Christ.   Second, she should preach this treasure for all to hear and embrace.  In thesis 53, he states, “They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word of God be altogether silent in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others.”

Then again, in thesis 54, he asserts, “Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on this Word.”  While the indulgence preachers were using bells to grab the attention of men, the church should put the focus upon the real substance that men ought to place their attention –the gospel. Therefore, Luther states in Thesis 55, “It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.”

inquisition71Now, let us apply this to our day.  Do we not see that everywhere the church is being distracted from her real mission by unbiblical practices?  Her treasure is not her programs, her possessions, or what she can do for people; it is what God has done in Christ.  And this must be recovered in our day, and hopefully, the significance of the 95 Theses will help direct us back to that.

“O Zion, haste, thy mission high fulfilling,
to tell to all the world that God is Light;
that he who made all nations is not willing
one soul should fail to know his love and might.  
Publish glad tidings: tidings of peace  
tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.”
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Many thanks and a tremendous debt of gratitude to Timothy A Williams for his materials, scholarship and thoughts on this series!

The Friendship of Christ

By A. W. Pink -1945

Jesus hugWe wonder how many of our readers have ever heard a sermon or read an article on this precious subject. We wonder how many of His people are accustomed to think of Christ in this blessed relationship. If the answer be, “Few,” that is indeed pathetic and tragic! Christ is the best Friend that the Christian has, and it is both his unspeakable privilege and bounden duty—to regard Him as such and to treat Him accordingly.

Our Scriptural support for those statements is found in the following passages, among others. “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). That can refer to none other than the Lord Jesus, the Lover of our souls. “This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem” (Song 5:16). That is the language of His Spouse, the testimony of the Church, avowing this most intimate and blissful relationship.

Add to these the witness of the New Testament when in the days of His flesh, Christ was termed “a friend of publicans and sinners!” (Luke 7:34), and our warrant is clearly established.

There are many and varied relations in which Christ stands to a believer, and he is greatly the loser if He be ignored in any of them.

Christ is the God, Lord, Head, Savior of the Church.

Officially—He is our Prophet, Priest, and King.

Personally—He is our Kinsman-Redeemer, our Intercessor, our “Friend.”

That title expresses the close union there is between the Lord Jesus and believers: They are as if but one soul actuated them—indeed, one and the same spirit does, for “he who is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17). “Christ stands in a nearer relation than a brother to the Church: He is her Husband, her Bosom-friend” (John Gill, 1697-1771). “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Ephesians 5:30).

But even those relations fall short of fully expressing the nearness, spiritual oneness, and indissolubleness of the union which exists jesus-christ-sermon-mount-241x300between Christ and His people. There should—then, be the freest approaches unto Him and the most intimate fellowship with Him. To deny Christ, that is to ignore the fact that He is our best “Friend.”

“There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). That endearing title not only expresses the close relation there is between Him and His redeemed—but the affection which He ever bears them. Nothing has, does, or can, dampen—much less quench—the outflow of His love for His friends! “Having loved his own who were in the world—He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). That blessed title of Christ’s tells of the sympathy He bears to His people in all their sufferings and sorrows, their temptations and infirmities.

“In all their affliction he was afflicted. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9), what demonstrations of His friendship are those! That blessed title also tells of His deep concern in our cause and interests. He has our highest welfare at heart, and accordingly, He has promised, “I will not turn away from them, to do them good” (Jeremiah 32:40).

Let us consider more definitely the EXCELLENCIES of our best Friend.

Christ is an ancient Friend.

Old friends are prized most highly. The Lord Jesus was our Friend—when we were His enemies! We fell in Adam—but He ceased not to love us; nay, He became the last Adam to redeem us and laid down “his life for his friends!” (John 15:13). He sent His servants to preach the Gospel unto us—but we despised it. Even when we were wandering in the ways of folly, He determined to save us, and watched over us. In the midst of our sinning and sporting with death and damnation, He arrested us by His grace; and by His love and power, overcame our enmity and won our hearts unto Himself!

vermeer033Christ is a constant Friend,

One who “loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). He continues to be our Friend through all the vicissitudes of life. He is no “fair-weather friend”, who fails us when we most need him. He is our Friend in the day of adversity, equally as much as in the day of prosperity. Was He not so to poor Peter! He is “a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1), and evidences it by His supporting and sustaining grace. Nor do our iniquities and transgressions turn away His compassion from us! Even then He acts the part of a friend toward us, “if any man sins—we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

Christ is a faithful Friend.

His grace is not shown at the expense of righteousness; nor do His mercies ignore the requirements of holiness. Christ ever has in view both the glory of God and the highest good of His people. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). A real friend loyally performs his duty in pointing out to me my faults. In this respect, too, does Christ “show himself friendly” (Proverbs 18:24). Often has He occasion to say unto each of us, “I have a few things against you” (Revelation 2:14); and then it is by that, He rebukes by His Word, convicts our conscience by His Spirit, and chastens us by His providences: “That we might be partakers of his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).

Christ is a powerful Friend.

He is not only willing—but able to help us! Some of our earthly friends have the desire to assist us in the hour of need—but lack the necessary ability. Not so with our heavenly Friend! Not only has He the heart to assist us—but also the power. He is the Possessor of “unsearchable riches” and all that He has—is at our disposal: “The glory which you gave me I have given them” (John 17:22). We have a Friend at Court, for Christ uses His meritorious influence with the Father on our behalf: “He ever lives to make intercession” for us (Hebrews 7:25). No situation can possibly arise with us, which would be beyond the resources of Christ.

Christ is an everlasting Friend.

He does not desert us in the hour of our supreme crisis: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil—for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). Nor does death itself sever us from this Friend who “sticks closer than a brother”—for so far from calling upon us to sojourn in a popish purgatory, we are with Him that very day in Paradise. Death will have separated us from those on earth—but “absent from the body” we shall be “present with the Lord” in Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8).

brideAnd in the future Day of judgment, Christ will manifest Himself as our Friend, saying, “Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

Meet the Author and part of your Christian heritage:  Arthur Walkington Pink (1 April 1886 – 15 July 1952) was an English Christian evangelist and biblical scholar who was known for his staunchly Calvinist and Puritan-like teachings in an era dominated by opposing theological traditions. For example, he called Dispensationalism a “modern and pernicious error”.[1] Subscribers of his monthly magazine Studies in the Scriptures included Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Dr. Douglas Johnson, first general secretary of Inter-Varsity.After Pink’s death, his works were republished by a number of publishing houses, among them, Banner of Truth Trust, Baker Book House, Christian Focus Publications, Moody Press, Truth for Today, and reached a much wider audience as a result. Biographer Iain Murray observes of Pink, “the widespread circulation of his writings after his death made him one of the most influential evangelical authors in the second half of the twentieth century.” His writing sparked a revival of expository preaching and focused readers’ hearts on biblical living. Pink is left out of many biographical dictionaries and overlooked in many religious histories.

Excerpts from Wikipedia, source material from ilyston 

REFORMATION: The Significance and Relevance of Luther’s 95 Theses. Part 3

Having already outlined what parts of the original posting of the Ninety-five theses were not significant, we are left to consider why the Ninety-five theses was and continues to be a significant force in our world today. As Philip Schaff writes,

“they contain the living germs of a new theology. The form only is Romish, the spirit and aim are Protestant.”

a_new_life

D’Aubigne points to this same thing, when he writes in his notable History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century,

“The germs of the Reformation were contained in these propositions of Luther’s. The abuses of indulgences were attacked therein, and this is their most striking feature; but beneath these attacks there was a principle which, although attracting the attention of multitudes in a less degree, was one day to overthrow the edifice of popery. The evangelical doctrine of a free and gratuitous remission of sins was there for the first time publicly professed.”

Now, we cannot go through the entire ninety-five theses, and we need not. They are very repetitious, though they are sturdy strokes of the axe to the root of a notorious problem. We can, however, summarize these Ninety-five Theses into six assertions, which make up the axeattack, as Thomas Lindsay includes in his History of the Reformation:

An Indulgence is and can only be the remission of a merely ecclesiastical penalty; the Church can remit what the Church has imposed; it cannot remit what God has imposed.
An Indulgence can never remove guilt; the Pope himself cannot do such a thing; God has kept that in His own hand.
It cannot remit the divine punishment for sin; that also is in the hands of God alone.
It can have no efficacy for souls in Purgatory; penalties imposed by the Church can only refer to the living ; death dissolves them; what the Pope can do for souls in Purgatory is by prayer, not by jurisdiction or the power of the keys.
The Christian who has true repentance has already received pardon from God altogether apart from an Indulgence, and does not need one; Christ demands this true repentance from every one.
The Treasury of Merits has never been properly defined, it is hard to say what it is, and it is not properly understood by the people; it cannot be the merits of Christ and of His saints, because these act of themselves and quite apart from the intervention of the Pope; it can mean nothing more than that the Pope, having the power of the keys, can remit ecclesiastical penalties imposed by the Church; the true Treasure-house of merits is the Holy Gospel of the grace and glory of God.

The significance of the 95 Theses is found in this; they have in germ form the evangelical doctrine of free pardon.

new lifeThis is not fully developed, but it is a germ that will leaven the whole of church, if permitted. It will begin to make things clear. It sets the authority of God over against the authority of men; it distinguishes the pardon of God from the pardon of men; and it provides a sure foundation for confidence and hope in contrast to an unfounded, false hope. These points are always pertinent, but they were especially felt in an age wherein the key question concerned in how I might be saved and just before God. Philip Schaff writes,

“The Reformation was at first a purely religious movement, and furnishes a striking illustration of the all−pervading power of religion in history. It started from the question: What must a man do to be saved? How shall a sinner be justified before God, and attain peace of his troubled conscience? The Reformers were supremely concerned for the salvation of the soul, for the glory of Christ and the triumph of his gospel. They thought much more of the future world than of the present, and made all political, national, and literary interests subordinate and subservient to religion.”

In our final section we will deal with the relevancy of the Ninety-five theses.

Many thanks and a debt of gratitude to Timothy A Williams for his materials and thoughts on this series!

Theoretical vs. Experiential Knowledge

by John Newton

Image

The Christian calling, like many others, is easy and clear in theory…

…but not without much care and difficulty when reduced to practice.

Things appear quite otherwise, when felt experimentally, to what they do when only read in a book. Many learn the art of navigation (as it is called) by the fire-side at home, but when they come to sea, with their heads full of rules, and without experience, they find that the art is only to be thoroughly learned upon the spot. So, to renounce self, to live upon Jesus, to walk with God, to overcome the world, to hope against hope, to trust the Lord when we cannot trace him, and to know that our duty and privilege consist in these things, may be readily acknowledged or quickly learned; but, upon repeated trial, we find, that saying and doing are two things.

We think at setting out that we sit down and count the cost; but, alas! our views are so superficial at first, that we have occasion to correct our estimate daily. For every day shows as some new thing in the heart, or some new turn in the management of the war against us which we were not aware of; and upon these accounts, discouragements may arise so high as to bring us (I speak for myself) to the very point of throwing down our arms, and making either a tame surrender or a shameful flight. Thus it would be with us at last, if the Lord of Hosts were not on our side. But though our enemies thrust sore at us that we might fall, he has been our stay.

And if he is the captain of our salvation; if his eye is upon us, his arm stretched out around us, and his ear open to our cry, and if he has engaged to teach our hands to war, and our fingers to fight, and to cover our heads in the day of battle, then we need not fear, though a host rise up against us; but, lifting up our banner in his name, let us go forth conquering and to conquer; Rom. 16:20.

Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  John Henry Newton (24 July 1725 – 21 December 1807) was an English sailor and Anglican clergyman. Starting his career at sea, at a young age, he became involved with the slave trade for a few years, and was himself enslaved for a period. After experiencing a Christian conversion, he became a minister, hymn-writer, and later a prominent supporter of the abolition of slavery. He was the author of many hymns, including “Amazing Grace” and “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken.”

Excerpts from Wikipedia, source material from ilyston

REFORMATION: The Significan​ce and Relevance of Luther’s 95 Theses. Part 2

imagesCA918GMMProtestant churches have reason to commemorate October 31, for it was upon October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses to the door of the Wittenberg church.

I think that time has been a good ‘diviner,’ if we may wisely use such language.  Because, as you might have guessed, this event proved to be both significant and relevant. However, our estimation of the ninety-five theses is not merely something which we with hindsight see as significant, but even those within that immediate period saw as monumental.  For example, the historian, Kranz, of 95thesesHamburg, was on his death-bed when Master Luther’s “Theses” were brought to him. “Thou art right, brother Martin,” exclaimed he on reading them, “but thou wilt not succeed. Poor monk. Away thee to thy cell, and cry, “O God, have pity on me”.  And, there is another story of an old priest in Hexter, in Westphalia, who shook his head and exclaimed, “Dear brother Martin, if thou succeed in overthrowing this purgatory, and all these paper-dealers, truly thou art a very great gentleman.”

But others, lifting their eyes higher, saw the hand of God in the affair. “At last,” said Dr. Fleck, prior of the monastery of Steinlausitz, who had for some time ceased to celebrate mass, “At last we have found the man we have waited for so long;” and, playing on the meaning of the word Wittenberg, he added, “All the world will go and seek wisdom on that (white) mountain, and will find it.”

Now, I want to ask you the important question over the significance and relevancy of the ninety-five theses. Why are they important? Are they still relevant for us today, or is their significance regulated to the distant past?  Undoubtedly, many remember this as an event in history that, for some unknown reason to them, sparked the Protestant Reformation.  To many, it is a distant truth that has little to no significance to us today. But at least for us, I want to change that, and I want to show why this event, is significant by analyzing its teaching in historical context. I will do this by showing why it is and why it is not significant; then I will outline a few relevant truths for us to take to heart.

The Significance and Non-Significance of This Event

Let us begin by considering the character of its significance.  And let us start by asking why so much attention was given to the actions of an unknown theology professor of an upstart university.   unbeknownst to any of his friends and colleagues, why did Luther make his way on a busy festival day to post a number of propositions in Latin on the door of a church for debate among scholars? And what was within these theses that would cause the whole of Europe to stand up and listen within a month of its original posting? What was the nature of the truths proclaimed therein that threatened the whole religious structure of Romanism?

In order to answer these questions, we need to sift through its historical setting and find the actual truths that were used by God in this great revolution for good and for God!  Let us begin by underlining why it was Not significant in its day.

What the Significance was not

First, the actual posting of the ninety-five theses was not something that inherently caused the fervor which took place.  The church door was something of a bulletin board at this time, and it was the order of the day for the professors to outline points of debate.  Luther himself had just weeks prior to this monumental occasion posted a set of theses against scholastic theology, which at first blush would seem to be more provocative than the issue of indulgences.

Second, the ninety-five Theses were not historically significant simply because they attack the doctrine of indulgences.  Many before him assailed the practice and notion of indulgences. In fact, Philip Schaff wrote the following in his History of the Christian Church:

“The idea of selling and buying by money the remission of punishment and release from purgatory was acceptable to ignorant and superstitious people, but revolting to sound moral feeling. It roused, long before Luther, the indignant protest of earnest minds, such as Wiclif in England, Hus in Bohemia, John von Wesel in Germany, John Wessel in Holland, Thomas Wyttenbach in Switzerland, but without much effect.”

Third,  the historical significance must not be seen in the fact that there is a radical break with Rome and its claims by Luther. If you read the theses, you will see that Luther still believes in the church’s power over purgatory.  For example, in thesis 25, he asserts, “The power which the pope has, in a general way, over purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or curate has, in a special way, within his own diocese or parish.”

At this point, he also believes in the power of the priest. He states, in thesis 7, “God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all things and bring into subjection to His vicar, the priest.” Moreover, Luther condemns to hell all that do not believe in the truth of apostolic indulgences  — “He who speaks against the truth of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!”(71). He even calls upon bishops and priests to the indulgence peddlers all due reverence:  “Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of apostolic pardons, with all reverence” (69).

Now all of this reveals a man who is still progressing, but he is still in the shadows to a large degree. Yet, we may look at the points that I just mentioned and think, “Well, why did Luther hold to these points. He surely was not saved.”  But this would be a grave mistake for us to make.  It is easy to tell what a man of the past should have known and have done. But we do not walk in his shoes, and we are unconsciously taking the fruit of their struggles back with us.

Luther had already come to the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  Yet, it took time for this doctrine to permeate like leaven throughout his thinking. Like all of us, he was a man of his day; we far more influenced by our day than we can ever know this side of eternity.  Yet, bit by bit, the light of the gospel began to shine in the heart of this sincere man of God until it broke forth in this pastoral concern for the souls of men. He even acknowledges this almost thirty years later, when he wrote the following in his preface to the theses:

“I allow them to stand, that by them it may appear how weak I was, and in what a fluctuating state of mind, when I began this business. I was then a monk and a mad papist (papista insanissimus), and so submersed in the dogmas of the Pope that I would have readily murdered any person who denied obedience to the Pope.”

The lesson here found here is vitally important for us all of us to learn for our own sake for the sake of others. Faith is a grace which admits of degrees. It does not come to full strength and perfection as soon as it is planted in the heart by the Holy Spirit. There is “little” faith and “great” faith. There is “weak” faith and “strong” faith. Both are spoken of in the Scriptures. Both are to be seen in the experience of God’s people.  The work of grace goes on in the heart by degrees.  J. C. Ryle writes,

“The children of God are not born perfect in faith, or hope, or knowledge, or experience. Their beginning is generally a “day of small things.” They see in part their own sinfulness, and Christ’s fullness, and the beauty of holiness. But for all that, the weakest child in God’s family is a true child of God. With all his weakness and infirmity he is alive. The seed of grace has really come up in his heart, though at present it be only in the blade. He is “alive from the dead.” And the wise man says, “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” (Ecclesiastes 9:4.)”

Let us mark this truth also, for it is full of consolation. Let us not despise grace, because it is weak, or think people are not converted, because they are not yet as strong in the faith as Paul. Let us remember that grace, like everything else, must have a beginning. The mightiest oak was once an acorn. The strongest man was once a babe. Better a thousand times to have grace in the blade than no grace at all.imagesCA72L4RZ

In our next post we shall explore what was and is the Significance of Luther’s ninety-five theses.

Many thanks and a debt of gratitude to Timothy A Williams for his materials and thoughts on this series!

A Holy Hatred Against Sin

by Thomas Watson

josephThere is no better sign of true repentance—than a holy hatred against sin.
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Sound repentance begins in love to God, and ends in the hatred of sin.

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How may true hatred of sin be known?

When a man’s HEART is set against sin. Not only does the tongue protest against sin—but the heart abhors it. However lovely sin is painted—we find it odious—just as we abhor the picture of one whom we mortally hate, even though it may be well drawn.

Suppose a dish be finely cooked and the sauce good—yet if a man has an antipathy against the meat, he will not eat it. So let the devil cook and dress sin with pleasure and profit—yet a true penitent has a secret abhorrence of it, is disgusted by it, and will not meddle with it.

True hatred of sin is UNIVERSAL.

There is a dislike of sin not only in the judgment—but in the will and affections. Many a one is convinced that sin is a vile thing, and in his judgment has an aversion to it—yet he tastes sweetness in it—and has a secret delight in it. Here is a disliking of sin in the judgment—and an embracing of it in the affections! Whereas in true repentance, the hatred of sin is in all the faculties,not only in the mind—but chiefly in the will: “I do the very thing I hate!” (Rom. 7:15). Paul was not free from sin—yet his will was against it.

He who truly hates one sin—hates all sins.

He who hates a serpent—hates all serpents. “I hate every false way!” (Psalm 119:104). Hypocrites will hate some sins which mar their credit. But a true convert hates all sins—gainful sins, complexion sins, the very stirrings of corruption.

A holy heart detests sin for its intrinsic pollution.

Sin leaves a stain upon the soul. A regenerate person abhors sin not only for the curse—but for the contagion. He hates this serpent not only for its sting but for its poison. He hates sin not only for hell—but as hell.

Those who have no antipathy against sin, are strangers to repentance.

Sin is in them—as poison in a serpent, which, being natural to it, affords delight. How far are they from repentance who, instead of hating sin—love sin! To the godly—sin is as a thorn in the eye; to the wicked—sin is as a crown on the head! “They actually rejoice in doing evil!” (Jer. 11:15).

Loving of sin is worse than committing it.

What is it, which makes a swine love to tumble in the mire? Its love of filth. O how many there are—who love the forbidden fruit! They love their sin—and hate holiness.

There should be a deadly antipathy between the heart and sin. What is there in sin, which may make a penitent hate it?

imagesCASHQ1T1Sin is the accursed thing, the most deformed monster!

Look upon the origin of sin, from whence it comes. It fetches its pedigree from hell: “He who commits sin is of the devil!” (1 Jn. 3:8). Sin is the devil’s special work. How hateful is it to be doing that which is the special work of the devil—indeed, that which makes men into devils!

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Watson (c. 1620 – 1686) was an English, Nonconformist, Puritan preacher and author.

He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study. In 1646 he commenced a sixteen-year pastorate at St. Stephen’s, Walbrook. He showed strong Presbyterian views during the civil war, with, however, an attachment to the king, and in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love’s plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on 30 June 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for Nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license to preach at the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston, Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28 July 1686.

From Wikipedia