Eternal Purpose

by Isaac Ambrose (1604-1664)

Of the purpose of God concerning man’s salvation before the world began…

images (4)….we read in Scripture, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,”(Romans 8:28). And it is said of Jacob and Esau that being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand,” (Romans 9:11). And, in Christ we are said to obtain an inheritance, “being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will,” (Ephesians 1:11). Elsewhere the apostle speaks of “the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Ephesians 3:10-11). Again, “He hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” (2 Tim. 1:9).

acceptance-image-2All these hold forth this truth: God purposed in Himself from all eternity to bring them, whom He foreknew, to life and to salvation…This purpose of God speaks of our stability and certainty of salvation in Christ. When God once purposeth, it is past altering: “Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed,” saith God, “so shall it stand,” (Isaiah 14:24). Methinks this word speaks to me, as if I heard God say from all eternity, “It is My purpose to save a remnant of mankind. Though all are lost by sin, yet My wisdom hath found out a way to choose out some; and though…those few that I have purposed to save stand in very slippery places, yet I will be ‘the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). I purpose to bring this little flock to heaven! “My purpose is in and from Myself, and I am God, and not man; therefore, I cannot repent nor call in the purpose that now I have. Have I said, and shall not I do it? Have I spoken, and shall I not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) Yes, yes, My purposes must stand! And for this purpose, I will set My Son between My people and Myself, so that if they sin, I will look on Him…” Thus may I imagine the Lord from all eternity to say, speak, and purpose with Himself. Surely, His purposes must stand upon this account: “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,” (Romans 11:29).


The decree of God concerning man’s salvation before the foundation of the world appears in these texts, “I will declare the decree,” saith God (Psalm 2:7). What was that? Why, concerning Christ and concerning the Church: “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalm 2:7-8). It was God’s decree to give out of Jews and Gentiles a Church to Christ…This decree in Scripture hath several titles:

1. It is the same with that which we usually term predestination.

images (6)For what is predestination but a decree of God concerning the different preparation of grace, whereby some are guided infallibly unto salvation? Predestination is a decree of both the means and end, a decree of grace given, effectual unto some persons here and of bringing the same persons unto glory hereafter. This decree, this predestination, this golden chain of the means and end, is set down by the apostle: “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified,” (Romans 8:30). As God hath predestined some to life and glory, so He hath predestined them to be called and justified before they be glorified. Whomsoever the Lord hath decreed to save, them hath He also decreed to sanctify before they come to enjoy that salvation. God hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be first holy and then happy (Ephesians 1:4). See how these are twisted together by the apostle once and again, “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth,” (2 Thes. 2: 13)…

2. This decree is the same with that book of life wherein are written the names of the elect.

judgement_1844Paul tells us of some women with Clement and other fellow-laborers, “whose names are in the book of life,” (Phil. 4:3). And Christ bids His disciples, “Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven,” (Luke 10:20). And John saw in his vision “the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life,” (Rev. 20:12)

3. This decree is the very same also as God’s seal.

“The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his,” (2 Tim. 2:19).

A seal is used in three cases:

(1) to keep things distinct,

(2) to keep things secret, and

(3) to keep things safe.

Rev Book of Life50In every one of these respects, God’s decrees are seals, but especially in the last. Those souls that are sealed by God are safe in the love and favor of God…God seals up His saints, i.e., He secures them of the eternal love of God, so that they shall never drop out of His heart. All these titles speak of the immutability of God’s eternal immanent acts, q.d., “I decree, I predestinate, I book it, seal it, that such and such persons shall be eternally saved…Is there any power, or shall there ever be, to take them out of My hands? Or is it possible that ever I should have a relenting thought at the saving of these souls?…No, no, ‘I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed’ (Mal 3:6).”


The covenant concerning man’s salvation is the last and main particular I give in proof: I dare not be too curious to insist on the order of nature and the rather: because I believe the covenant between God and Christ from everlasting is interwoven with the decree, foreknowledge, and election above. So the apostle tells us, “He hath chosen us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world,” (Ephesians 1:4). Mark that—in Christ. There was an eternal plan between the Father and the Son; there was a bargain made (I speak it with reverence) between God and Christ; there was a covenant between the Lord and His Son Jesus Christ for the salvation of the elect. And, of this, we observe especially these following texts: In Isaiah 49:1-4, the prophet seems to set it dialogue-wise: one expresses it thus:

First, Christ begins and shows His commission, telling God how He the Father had called Him and fitted Him (Christ) for the work of redemption. He would know what reward He should have of Him the Father for so great an undertaking. “The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me,” (Isaiah 49:1-2). Upon this, God answers Christ and tells Him what reward He should have for so great an undertaking…Methinks I imagine as if I heard God speak unto Christ from eternity, “See, here I have loved a remnant of mankind both of Jews and Gentiles with an everlasting love. I know they will sin, corrupt themselves, and become enemies to Me, liable unto eternal death. Now Thou art a mighty person, able to do what I require of Thee for them. If Thou wilt take upon Thee their nature and sins, undertake to satisfy My justice and law, take away that hatred that is in them towards My law and Me, and make them a believing holy people, then I will pardon them. I will adopt them in Thee for My sons and daughters and make them co-heirs with Thee of an incorruptible crown of life.” Then said Christ, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,” (Hebrews 10:7-9). Christ as it were, struck hands with God, to take upon Himself the nature and sin of man, and to do and suffer for him whatsoever God required of Him…Thus was the whole business of our salvation first transacted between God the Father and Christ, before it HEAVENLYTHRONEwas revealed to us. Hence, we are said to be given unto Christ. “I have manifested thy name,” saith Christ, “unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me,” (John 17:6). This very giving implies, that the Father in His eternity must have said to the Son, “These I take to be vessels of mercy, and these Thou shalt bring unto Me; for they will destroy themselves, unless Thou shalt save them out of their lost estate.” Then the Son takes them at His Father’s hand, looking at His Father’s will: “This is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing,” (John 6:39). He thereupon takes care of each: He would not for a world let any of them be lost, which His Father hath given Him. They are more dear than to let it be so. In Isaiah 53:10-11 and in Psalm 40:6, Christ is brought in as a surety, offering Himself for us and readily accepting of God’s will in this very matter. Hence it is that He is called God’s servant, and His ears are said to be opened. In Isaiah 42:1-6, this very covenant is expressly mentioned. Thus, God speaks of Christ: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth…I will give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles.” Yea, this covenant and agreement seems to be confirmed with an oath in Hebrews 7:28. And for this service, Christ is required to ask of God, Who will give Him the heathen for His inheritance (Psalm 2:8). Observe how the Church of God is given to Christ as a reward of that obedience that He showed in accepting the office of a surety for us. Some make this stipulation to be that counsel of peace spoken of by the prophet: “And the counsel of peace shall be between them both,” (Zech. 6:13), i.e., between the Lord and “the man whose name is The BRANCH,” (6:12). images0For this agreement, Christ is called the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45, 47; Rom. 5:12-19). For as with the first Adam, God solemnly promised a covenant concerning him and his posterity, so also He did covenant with Christ and His seed concerning eternal life to be obtained by Him. I deny not but that some promises were made only to Christ in His own person and not to descend to His children, as, “Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool,” (Hebrews 1:13). “He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand,” (Isaiah 53:10). “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession,” (Psalm 2:8). But there are other promises made to Him and His, such as that grand promise, “I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son,” (Hebrews 1:5; Jer. 32:38)…and that special promise of spiritual grace (John 1:16), of justification (Isaiah 50:8), of victory and dominion (Psalm 110:2), of the kingdom of glory (Luke 24:26). They are every one first made to Him, and then to us. The business from eternity lay thus: “Here is man lost,” said God to His Son, “but Thou shalt in the fullness of time go and be born of flesh and blood, die for them, and satisfy My justice. They shall be Thine for a portion, and they shall be called, ‘The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD’ (Isaiah 62:12). This shalt Thou do,” said the Father, “and upon these terms they that believe shall live.” This was God’s covenant with the Son of His love for us, to Whom the Son answered (as it were) again, “Content, Father, I will go and fulfill Thy pleasure, and they shall be Mine forever. I will in the fullness of time die for them, and they shall live in Me. Burnt offerings and sin-offerings, Thou hast not required (no, it was self-offering), ‘then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God’,” (Psalm 40: 7-8). In what book was it written that Christ should come to do the will of God? Not only in the book of the Law and the Prophets, but also in the book of God’s decrees. In this sense, He was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” (Rev. 13:8). His Father from before all time appointed Him to be our High Priest, and He from all eternity subscribed to His Father’s pleasure in it.

From, “Looking unto Jesus.”

Meet the author and part of your Christian Heritage:  Isaac Ambrose (1604 – January 20, 1663/1664) was an English Puritan divine. He associated himself with Presbyterianism, and was on the celebrated committee for the ejection of “scandalous and ignorant ministers and schoolmasters” during the Commonwealth.

So long as Ambrose continued at Preston he was favoured with the warm friendship of the Hoghton family, their ancestral woods and the tower near Blackburn affording him sequestered places for those devout meditations and “experiences” that give such a charm to his diary.  As a religious writer Ambrose has a vividness and freshness of imagination possessed by scarcely any of the Puritan Nonconformists. Many who have no love for Puritan doctrine, nor sympathy with Puritan experience, have appreciated the pathos and beauty of his writings, and his Looking to Jesus long held its own in popular appreciation with the writings of John Bunyan.

Dr Edmund Calamy (1600-1666) wrote about him, ”He lived & died a Nonconformist and was a man of that substantial worth, that eminent piety, and that exemplary life, both as a minister and a Christian, that it is to be lamented the world should not have the benefit of particular memoirs concerning him from some able hand”. He lived in the latter part of his life at Preston and when his end drew near was very sensible of it. Having taken leave of his friends abroad with unusual solemnity, as if he foresaw that he should see them no more, he came home to Preston from Bolton, and set all things on order. In a little time some of his hearers from Garstang came to visit him. He discoursed freely with them, gave them good counsel, told them he was now ready whenever his Lord should call, and that he had finished all he designed to write; having the night before sent away his discourse concerning angels to the press. He accompanied his friends to their horses, and when he came back shut himself in his parlour, the place of his soliloquy, meditation, and prayer; they thought he stayed long, and so opened the door, and found him just expiring. This was in the year 1663-4,cetat. 72. He was holy in his life, happy in his death, and honoured by GOD,and all good men” (This quote by Dr Calamy is quoted in the opening pages of the Isaac Ambrose book “Prima, Media Et Ultima”) 

Character excerpts from Wikipedia

The Negative Implications and Theological Distortions of Dispensationalism Upon Scripture

messianic_star81.) The church becomes a parenthesis in God’s redemptive plan. Rather than being the primary goal and plan of God — “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3;11), the church becomes a step for God to fulfill His plan to the Jews.  This was explicitly declared by earlier ‘classic’ Dispensationalists, though many contemporary ones feel uncomfortable with it. While many now reject this idea of the church being a parenthesis, the fact remains that they see that the Jews will become the predominate players in God’s plan, distinct from the church in the Millennium.

2.) The Gentile believers remain the second-class citizens of the kingdom. It is not merely that the Jews become the predominate players in God’s plan, but they shall rule over the nations, which must include saved Gentiles. The would fly in the face of the fact that there is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ, that all believers inherit all things, and that we all shall reign with Christ as Kings and Priests.

3.) The doctrine of Soteriology or the nature of salvation in relation to the Eschaton (last days) has changed. This is the most controversial contention, and a problem which many contemporary Dispensationalists try very hard to distance themselves.  However, some points cannot be satisfactorily settled. First, while all agree that one is saved by faith, the object of faith is fluid in the minds of many Dispensationalists, it is not necessarily Christocentric, that is, settled upon the finished work of Christ on the cross. Instead, it is a rather limiting type of faith tied to the general revelation of God at that point of time. Second, while there is a growing number of Dispensationalists that argue over the work of the Holy Spirit without distinction between the Spirit’s work in the New Testament and that of the Old. Thus, they minimize the gift of the Spirit  in the New Testament, and interestingly they do so because the gift of the Holy Spirit was a gift to emphasize the centrality of the Church as Christ’s bride, and as a significant focus in God’s redemptive plans -NOT Israel. Third, many view that the Spirit of God will depart the Righteous during the Tribulation.  Despite the fact that the Bible teaches that He will NEVER leave us.

4.) A slouching toward Antinomianism. For the vast many Dispensationalists, the Law has effectively been abolished. There may be a moral law to be followed –usually defined by the idea of love, the Ten Commandments as a whole are not required as a rule for life and conduct.

5.) A Distortion and closure of the Bible. This is done through the destruction of proper biblical hermeneutics in two ways. On one hand, too frequently, it is preached by many contemporary Dispensationalists that the OT promises and texts are exclusive to Israel, both now and in the future; therefore, marginalizing large portions of the Scripture to the modern “Gentile” Christian. While many seek to principalize the OT (in measure, also a good thing), this can hardly be said to satisfy the demands that we as modern gentile Christians may extract doctrine, reproof, instruction in righteousness; nor does it satisfy the idea that all the promises are yea and amen in Christ…to all Christians!  On the other hand, for Dispensationalists, the Bible is preemptively exclusionary by giving preeminence to the OT over the NT because of undo eschatological, dispensational emphasis of the redeemed Jew. No true Christian sees the OT as non-applicable, but rejecting the clarity of the NT to interpret the obscurity of the OT makes it so that we are left in the darkness about the mysteries of salvation.

In short, If I may sum it up in the words of A. W. Pink, “Dispensationalism is a modern and pernicious error”.

I am Vile

by A. W. Pink (1886 – 1952)

“Behold, I am vile” (Job 40:4).

This was not said by Cain in a remorseful moment after his murder of Abel, nor by Judas after he had betrayed the Saviour into the hands of His enemies; instead, it was the utterance of one of whom God said, “There is none like him in the earth, a perfect (sincere) and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (Job 1:8). Was Job justified in using such strong language of self-deprecation? If he was, are Christians today warranted in echoing the same?

forgivenWhen was it that Job declared “Behold, I am vile”? It was when the Lord appeared to him and gave him a startling revelation of His own wondrous perfections! It was when he stood in the all-penetrating light of God’s immaculate holiness and was made to realize something of His mighty power. Ah, when a soul is truly brought into the presence of the living God, boasting ceases, our comeliness is turned into corruption (Dan. 10:8), and we cry, “Woe is me! for I am undone” (Isa. 6:5). When God makes to the soul a personal revelation of His wondrous perfections, that individual is effectually convinced of his own wretchedness. The more we are given to discern the ineffable glory of the Lord, the more will our self-complacency wither. It is in God’s light, and in that only, “we see light” (Ps. 36:9). When He shines into our understandings and hearts, and brings to light “the hidden things of darkness,” we perceive the utter corruption of our nature, and are abominable in our own eyes. While we measure ourselves by our fellows, we shall, most likely, think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think (Rom. 12:3); but when we measure ourselves by the holy requirements of God’s nature, we cry “I am dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27). True repentance changes a man’s opinion of himself.”

A W PinkMeet 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”. 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.

Character Excerpts from Wikipedia

Jesus Christ the All-Sufficient Priest

by Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686)

Now once in the end of the world has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
—Hebrews 9:26

mQUESTION: How does Christ execute the office of a priest?

Answer: In His once offering up of Himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us. What are the parts of Christ’s priestly office? Christ’s priestly office has two parts: His satisfaction and intercession.


This consists of two branches:

(1) His active obedience: He fulfilled all righteousness (Matthew 3:15). Christ did everything that the Law required. His holy life was a perfect commentary upon the Law of God; and He obeyed the Law for us.

(2) His passive obedience: Our guilt being transferred and imputed to Him, He suffered the penalty that was due to us. He came into the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. The paschal lamb slain was a type of Christ Who was offered up in sacrifice for us. Sin could not be done away without blood. Without blood is no remission (Hebrews 9:22). Christ was not only a lamb without spot, but a lamb slain. Why was it requisite there should be a priest? There needed a priest to be an umpire, to mediate between a guilty creature and a holy God. How could Christ suffer, being God? Christ suffered only in the human nature. But if only Christ’s humanity suffered, how could this suffering satisfy for sin? The human nature being united to the divine, the human nature suffered, the divine satisfied. Christ’s Godhead supported the human nature that it did not faint and gave virtue to His sufferings. The altar sanctifies the thing offered on it (Matthew 23:19).

0602212The altar of Christ’s divine nature sanctified the sacrifice of His death and made it of infinite value. Wherein does the greatness of Christ’s sufferings appear?

(1) In the sufferings of His body. He suffered truly, not in appearance only. The apostle calls it “the death of the cross,” (Phil. 2:8)…The thoughts of this made Christ sweat great drops of blood in the garden (Luke 22:44). It was an ignominious, painful, cursed death. Christ suffered in all His senses. His eyes beheld two sad objects: His enemies insulting and His mother weeping. His ears were filled with the revilings of the people. “He saved others, himself he cannot save,” (Matthew 27:42). His smell was offended when their spittle fell upon His face. His taste, when they gave Him gall and  vinegar to drink. His feeling, when His head suffered with thorns, His hands and feet with the nails. His whole body was one great wound; now was this white lily dyed with purple color.

(2) In the sufferings of His soul. He was pressed in the wine—the press of His Father’s wrath. This caused that vociferation and outcry on the cross, “My God, my God,” (Matthew 27:46). Christ suffered a double eclipse upon the cross—an eclipse of the sun and an eclipse of the light of God’s countenance. How bitter was this agony!…Christ felt the pains of hell in His soul, though not locally, yet equivalently. Why did Christ suffer? Surely not for any desert of His own. “The Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself,” (Dan 9:26;Isa 53:6)—it was for us…He suffered that He might satisfy God’s justice for us. We, by our sins, had infinitely wronged God; and, could we have shed rivers of tears, offered up millions of holocausts and burnt offerings, we could never have pacified an angry Deity. Therefore, Christ must die that God’s justice may be satisfied. It is hotly debated among divines, whether God could have forgiven sin freely without a sacrifice. Not to dispute what God could have done, when He was resolved to have the Law satisfied and to have man saved in a way of justice as well as mercy,

0…it was necessary that Christ should lay down His life as a sacrifice.

(1) To fulfill the predictions of Scripture: “Thus it behoved Christ to suffer,” (Luke 24:46).

(2) To bring us into favor with God. It is one thing for a traitor to be pardoned, and another thing to be made a favorite. Christ’s blood is not only called a sacrifice, whereby God is appeased, but a propitiation, whereby God becomes gracious and friendly to us. Christ is our mercyseat, from which God gives answers of peace to us.

(3) Christ died that He might make good His last will and testament with His blood. There were many legacies that Christ bequeathed to believers, which had been all null and void had He not died and by His death confirmed the will (Hebrews 9:16). A testament is in force after men are dead: the mission of the Spirit, the promises, those legacies, were not in force until Christ’s death; but Christ by His blood has sealed them, and believers may lay claim to them.

(4) He died that He might purchase for us glorious mansions. Therefore heaven is called not only a promised, but a “purchased possession,” (Ephesians 1:14). Christ died for our preferment; He suffered that we might reign; He hung upon the  cross that we might sit upon the throne. Heaven was shut: the cross of Christ is the ladder by which we ascend to heaven. His crucifixion is our coronation. Use one: In the bloody sacrifice of Christ, see the horrid nature of sin. Sin, it is true, is odious as it banished Adam out of paradise and threw the angels into hell. But that which most of all makes it appear horrid is this: it made Christ veil His glory and lose His blood. We should look upon sin with indignation, pursue it with a holy malice, and shed the blood of those sins that shed Christ’s blood…The sight of Christ’s bleeding body should incense us against sin…Let not that be our joy, which made Christ a man of sorrow. Use two: Is Christ our Priest sacrificed? See God’s mercy and justice displayed. I may say as the apostle…

“Behold the goodness and severity of God,” (Romans 11:22).

imagesCAGHSHM0(1) The goodness of God in providing a sacrifice. Had not Christ suffered upon the cross, we must have lain in hell forever, satisfying God’s justice.

(2) The severity of God. Though it were His own Son, the Son of His love, and our sins were but imputed to Him, yet God did not spare Him, but His wrath did flame against Him (Romans 8:32). If God was thus severe to His own Son, how dreadful will He be one day to His enemies! Such as die in willful impenitence must feel the same wrath as Christ did; and because they cannot bear it at once, therefore they must endure it forever. Use three: Is Christ our Priest, Who was sacrificed for us? Then see the endeared affection of Christ to us sinners. “The cross,” says Augustine, “was a pulpit, in which Christ preached His love to the world.” That Christ should die was more than if all the angels had been turned to dust; and especially that Christ should die as a malefactor, having the weight of…men’s sins laid upon Him, and that He should die for His enemies (Romans 5:10). The balm-tree weeps out its precious balm to heal those that cut and mangle it; so Christ shed His blood to heal those that crucified Him. He died freely. It is called the offering of the body of Jesus (Hebrews 10:10). Though His sufferings were so great that they made Him sigh, weep, and bleed; yet they could not make Him repent. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied,” (Isaiah 53:2). Christ had hard travail upon the cross, yet He does not repent of it, but thinks His sweat and blood well bestowed because He sees redemption brought forth to the world. Oh infinite, amazing love of Christ! A love that passeth knowledge!—that neither man nor angel can parallel (Ephesians 3:19). How should we be affected with this love!…At Christ’s death and passion, the very stones cleave asunder, “The rocks rent,” (Matthew 27:51). Not to be affected with Christ’s love in dying is to have hearts harder than rocks. Use four: Is Christ our sacrifice?

Then see the excellence of His sacrifice.

00(1) It is perfect. “By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” (Hebrews 10:14). Therefore, how impious are those who join their merits and the prayers of saints with Christ’s sacrifice! They offer Him up daily in the mass, as if Christ’s sacrifice on the cross were imperfect. This is a blasphemy against Christ’s priestly office.

(2) Christ’s sacrifice is meritorious. He not only died for our example, but to merit salvation. The person Who suffered being God as well as man put virtue into His sufferings; and our sins were expiated and God appeased…No sooner did Christ die, but God’s anger was pacified.

(3) This sacrifice is beneficial…It procures justification of our persons, acceptance of our service, access to God with boldness, and entrance into the holy place of heaven (Hebrews 10:19)…Israel passed through the Red Sea to Canaan; so through the red sea of Christ’s blood, we enter into the heavenly Canaan. Use five: Let us apply this blood of Christ. All the virtue of a medicine is in the application. Though the medicine be made of the blood of God, it will not heal unless applied by faith…Faith makes Christ’s sacrifice ours. “Christ Jesus my Lord,” (Phil. 3:8). It is not gold in the mine that enriches, but gold in the hand. Faith is the hand that receives Christ’s golden merits…Faith opens the orifice of Christ’s wounds and drinks the precious tonic of His blood. Without faith, Christ Himself will not avail us.

This sacrifice of Christ’s blood may infinitely comfort us.

2173776885_1108b59098This is the blood of atonement.  “Christ’s cross is the hinge of our deliverance,” (John Calvin); the hinge and fountain of our comfort.

(1) This blood comforts in case of guilt! “Oh,” says the soul, “my sins trouble me, but Christ’s blood was shed for the remission of sin (Matthew 26:28).” Let us see our sins laid on Christ, and then they are no more ours but His.

(2) In case of pollution. Christ’s blood is a healing and cleansing blood. It is healing. “With his stripes we are healed,” (Isaiah 53:5). It is the best weapon-salve —it heals at a distance. Though Christ be in heaven, we may feel the virtue of His blood healing our bloody issue. And it is cleansing. It is therefore compared to fountain-water (Zec 13:1). The word is a mirror to show us our spots, and Christ’s blood is a fountain to wash them away; it turns leprosy into purity. “The blood of Jesus cleanseth us from all our sin,” (1 John 1:7). There is indeed one spot so black that Christ’s blood does not wash away, viz., the sin against the Holy Ghost. Not but that there is virtue enough in Christ’s blood to wash it away; but he who has sinned that sin will not be washed; he contemns Christ’s blood and tramples it under foot (Hebrews 10:29). Thus, we see what a strong tonic Christ’s blood is: it is the anchor-hold of our faith, the spring of our joy, the crown of our desires, and the only support both in life and death. In all our fears, let us comfort ourselves with the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ’s blood. Christ died both as a purchaser and as KingJesusa conqueror: as a purchaser in regard of God, having by His blood obtained our salvation, and as a conqueror in regard of Satan, the cross being His triumphant chariot, wherein He has led hell and death captive. Use seven: Bless God for this precious sacrifice of Christ’s death. “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” (Psalm 103:1). And for what does David bless Him? “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction!” Christ gave Himself a sin offering for us; let us give ourselves a thank-offering to Him. If a man redeems another out of debt, will he not be grateful? Let us present Christ with the fruits of righteousness, which are unto the glory and praise of God.

From A Body of Divinity.

The Cause and Custom of the American Thanksgiving, Part 6

Final Thoughts on the Pilgrims, the Trip and the Mayflower Compact

Mayflower_Compact2As we discussed in earlier sections, the Pilgrims of American Thanksgiving yore, were Christians who had serious theological differences with the established churches in Europe and England. The Pilgrims called themselves Separatists, and for good reason. The Separatists believed the State Church and much of the Protestant movement were, in fact, violating vital biblical foundations and therefore, not truly Christian. The established state churches  as well as certain other protestant groups were becoming corrupt and oppressive. So, the Separatists fled from England to Holland in the early 1600s, they did so with dreams of a better, peaceful life. But God did not let their dreams pan out. Eventually the Separatists realized that things were not going to work out in Holland, and the political climate could end up actually being much worse.  

So the decision was then made to migrate to North America where they believed they could be free to worship God as they chose, and hopefully, in peace. Most Separatists or Pilgrims as we call them, were just simple, ordinary people who valued “peace and their spiritual life above any other riches…”

MayflowerAtSeaCroppedThe Leaders struggled preparing for the move, but nothing went well.  God’s hand did not seem to be with them as a number of adverse mishaps, misadventures and heart-breaking setbacks delayed their journey. To top it off, while in Holland, they bought a lemon of a ship called the “Speedwell,” which just as easily could have been called the “Sinkwell” because it was not in the least bit seaworthy. After crossing the English Channel to join with the larger Mayflower, the “Speedwell,” despite ongoing efforts, continued to leak badly. The Separatists tried twice to set out to open sea, but eventually the “Speedwell” was a lost cause. To make matters worse for the Separatists, their delays and setbacks caused the them to leave in September of 1620, which is near the peak of what we now call the “hurricane season.” 102 men, women, and children of the Separatist party had packed into the Mayflower, along with a crew of about 36 sailors as well as various live farm animals for their settlement.

PilgrimFathers1After 11 weeks of being seasick in high winds and rough seas, they arrived far north of their intended destination. Unfortunately, their authorized charter only permitted them to settle in the Virginia territory, which at the time extended from Jamestown up to New Amsterdam (which we now call New York). But unfortunately, the high winds had ultimately driven the ship well away from the area which they had been given a legal right to settle. So with no legal authority for settlement, the Pilgrims had to make a serious decision as to what they should do. Affecting this decision was the fact that the weather was still rough, and the stormy winter seas were preventing them from sailing farther south, not to mention that after being seasick for so long, and weak from their voyage, they had little appetite for setting out again on in such rough water to brave treacherous shoals and unknown beaches, so they decided  to explore the shoreline on foot for potential settlement sites. A series of scouting expeditions led them to decide on settling at an abandoned village of Pautuxet (now Plymouth, MA).

embarkation_pilgrimsIt must have felt like that they were stumbling around all on their own, but God had not abandoned them. While the Mayflower was still anchored, there was much debate over what to do. It was reported that “discontented and mutinous speeches” were made which threatened to dissolve the group. William Bradford’s graphic account in his History of Plymouth Plantation explains that it was this dissension which led to drawing up the famous Mayflower Compact. Bradford indicated that all the adult males would submit to “such government and governors as [they] should by common consent agree to make and choose.” John Carver, who had been a key organizer in the journey and had chartered the Mayflower, is believed to have led in drawing up the historic document. Even here, God used the dissent of a discontented people to accomplish his good.

The Mayflower Compact contained the seeds of a democratic-republic.

The_Mayflower_Compact_1620_cph.3g07155John Carver was elected the first governor of the settlement and he must have had tremendous leadership skills, because to lead a group of non-conforming, discontented Separatists must have been a lot like herding cats. However, despite his initial success in maintaining unity within this small band of non-conformists and organizing a democratic government for “the good of the colony,” one difficulty seemed to lead to another.  Think about it, the Pilgrims had arrived in the dead of winter. Their food supplies were low to non-existent, and they had no shelter from the harsh weather. Further, they were weak from the long rough trip at sea. But if the eleven weeks of bad seas and seasickness was over, the worst was yet to come…a very cold, wet winter!

pilgrimsWilliam Bradford explains that they had extreme difficulty surviving that first, harsh winter. According to Bradford, that winter, “was most sad and lamentable… In two or three month’s time half of [our] company died… being the depth of winter, and wanting houses and other comforts [and] being infected with scurvy and other diseases.” Ironically, it was a majority of the women and children who had stayed aboard the Mayflower who died due to the unsanitary and disease-bearing conditions on the ship. Yet, not one of the Pilgrim survivors chose to go back with the Mayflower when it returned to England in the spring.

If you had been a Pilgrim, at this point, what would you have thought?

Would you have thought that God was not with you? “That this was a foolhardy adventure dreamed up by fools, and how did I get roped into it?” “That maybe you were just wrong… about everything?”  “That it wasn’t worth it?”  What would you have thought if your spouse had died, or your child? Would you have believed that “God doesn’t care?”  I think all of those thoughts would have gone through each of our minds, and I am very sure that it went through their minds as well.  But their focus was putting God first in their lives, and leaving the results with him.

First-ThanksgivingUnfortunately, things did get worse before they got better, Carver and Bradford, who would be the future governor, both came down with illness that winter. However, by March, Wampanoag Indians made contact with the struggling Pilgrims. Through Samoset, and then Tisquantum (Squanto), who spoke better English (after living in England), the Pilgrims met Massasoit the chief.  Carver entered into a peace agreement with the Indians on March 22, 1621. And by late spring, both the weather and food supplies had improved, thanks to the Indians, and the survivors began regaining their health.

09 Bradford William Coastal Scene 1860In April, with high hopes, Carver sent the Mayflower back to England; but sadly, not long after, he too passed away, and William Bradford was elected as the new governor. Fortunately, the Indians kept the peace agreement, and proved to be a gracious friends.

It was that help which prompted Bradford to invite the three Wampanoags over for a thanksgiving service. However, instead of those three Indian friends, 90 Indians showed up and turned the first Thanksgiving gathering into a real celebration. But, the Indians did not come to devour the settlers’ precious harvest, because it was they, the Indians, who provided most of the food.


Illustration of Mother and Children Carrying Thanksgiving Dinner by Douglass CrockwellOn this Day of Thanksgiving, may God give you rest for your heart and mind, may He bless and keep you and your family, and may He continue to extend His blessings upon our great nation, guiding us one and all by His Word. May He grant us patience and perseverance in the unexpected turns and tests of our age. May He impress upon us the spirit of our forefathers, their soul-deep craving for freedom, expressed with courage and wisdom, as we meet the particular challenges of our days.

thanksgiving-wallpaper-6And let us always approach our Heavenly Father with true thankfulness — not just today, but every day — not only in our triumphs, but also in our trials — by acknowledging our utter dependence on Him to supply our wants and needs, for in Him we live and move and have our being. Even our self-reliance is, at its root, reliance on Him:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:6-7


I urge all citizens to make this Thanksgiving not merely a holiday from their labors, but rather a day of contemplation. I ask the head of each family to recount to his children the story of the first New England thanksgiving, thus to impress upon future generations the heritage of this nation born in toil, in danger, in purpose, and in the conviction that right and justice and freedom can through man’s efforts and perseverance come to fruition with the blessing of God.

– President John F. Kennedy

Taken from “A Puritan Mind.”


The Cause and Custom of the American Thanksgiving, Part 5.

thanksgiving2The very first Thanksgiving Holiday was different. It was Canadian!

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada can be traced back to the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher from England in search of the Northwest Passage. His third voyage, to the Frobisher Bay area of Baffin Island in the present Canadian Territory of Nunavut, set out with the intention of starting a small settlement. His fleet of 15 ships was outfitted with men, materials, and provisions. However, the loss of one of his ships through contact with ice along with much of the building material was to prevent him from doing so. The expedition was plagued by ice and freak storms which at times had scattered the fleet and on meeting together again at their anchorage in Frobisher Bay, “… Mayster Wolfall, [ Robert Wolfall ] a learned man, appointed by her Majesties Councell to be their minister and preacher, made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for their strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places …”. They celebrated Communion and “The celebration of divine mystery was the first sign, scale, and confirmation of Christ’s name, death and passion ever known in all these quarters.”

everything-about-the-first-thanksgiving-1aFrobisher returned to England in the fall of the year with over a thousand tons of what he thought was precious gold ore which turned out to be totally worthless, and minus “fortie”, or about ten percent of his ships’ complement “which number is not great, considering how many ships were in the fleet, and how strange fortunes we passed.”

The exact locations of Frobisher’s activities remained a bit of a mystery until the discoveries of the American explorer Charles Francis Hall in Baffin Island nearly three centuries later in 1861.

Years later, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, in 1604 onwards also held huge feasts of thanks. They even formed the Order of Good Cheer and gladly shared their food with their First Nations neighbours.

cavaliers_in_americaAfter the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763, with New France handed over to the British, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving days were observed beginning in 1799 but did not occur every year. After the American Revolution, American refugees who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from the newly independent United States and came to Canada. They brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash.

Lower Canada and Upper Canada observed Thanksgiving on different dates; for example, in 1816 both celebrated Thanksgiving for the termination of the war between France and Great Britain, the former on May 21 and the latter on June 18. In 1838, Lower Canada used Thanksgiving to celebrate the end of the Lower Canada Rebellion. Following the rebellions, the two Canadas were merged into a united Province of Canada, which observed Thanksgiving six times from 1850 to 1865.

1The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.

For many years before it was declared a national holiday in 1879, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November. From 1879 onward, Thanksgiving Day has been observed every year, the date initially being a Thursday in November. The date of celebration changed several times until, in 1957, it was officially declared to be the second Monday in October. The theme of the Thanksgiving holiday also changed each year to reflect an important event to be thankful for. In its early years it was for an abundant harvest and occasionally for a special anniversary.

After World War I, an amendment to the Armistice Day Act established that Armistice Day and Thanksgiving would, starting in 1921, both be celebrated on the Monday of the week in which November 11 occurred ten years later, in 1931, the two days became separate holidays, and Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day. From 1931 to 1957, the date was set by proclamation, generally falling on the second Monday in October, except for 1935, when it was moved due to a general election. In 1957, Parliament fixed Thanksgiving as the second Monday in October.

Source material from Wikipedia, and from “A Puritan Mind.”

The Cause and Custom of the American Thanksgiving, Part 4

The humble, grateful spirit attendant to those celebrations was expressed in such statements as this by Theodore Roosevelt:

No people on earth have more cause to be thankful than ours, and this is said reverently, in no spirit of boastfulness in our own strength, but with the gratitude to the Giver of good who has blessed us.”

shoppers-look-over-items-on-sale-at-a-macys-store-in-new-york-november-23-2012-black-friday-the-day-following-the-thanksgiving-day-holiday-has-traditionally-been-the-busiest-shopping-day-in-the-united-statesHowever, in 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving Day up one week earlier than had been tradition, to appease merchants who wanted more time to feed the growing pre-Christmas consumer frenzy. Folding to congressional pressure two years later, Roosevelt signed a resolution returning Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November, as Congress in 1941 permanently set the fourth Thursday of each November as our national day of Thanksgiving.

13212055Roosevelt’s inclination to subsume Thanksgiving for commercial interests foretold much of the secular inversion of “thanksgiving” to come. In autumns we now exist amid the oppression of crass materialism in advance of that December day when we give thanks for the birth of Christ, oppression vastly different but somehow remarkably similar to that experienced by our Pilgrim forefathers in England. And, at all times we move amid the seduction of cultural decadence in our everyday lives, again remarkably similar to that tempting our Pilgrim forebears and their families in Holland. Nevertheless, for all the decay and dissolution assailing us, we are still at our core, a nation deeply blessed by God. In our age of great, widespread physical and material comfort, and sensory satiety and satiation, our deepest deficits are spiritual ones — most especially, a lack of accurate perception of the depth and breadth of the bounties that God alone has bestowed upon us. Too often, we look thanksgiving-mother-and-son-peeling-potatoes-19451to government as the provider and guarantor of the many blessings we enjoy, rather than to our Heavenly Father. And, also too often, we forget to gratefully cherish the best of our national blessings, that liberty for which our Pilgrim forebears were willing to risk all comfort and security. As Abraham Lincoln noted so many years ago,

“…[It is] announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord….It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.”

Taken from “A Puritan Mind.”

The Essence of Christian Motherhood

by J. R. Miller, 1886

mary-cassatt-motherhood-ii-80951 “When Elkanah and all his household went up to make the annual sacrifice and his vow offering to the Lord, Hannah did not go and explained to her husband, ‘After the child is weaned, I’ll take him to appear in the Lord’s presence and to stay there permanently.’ Her husband Elkanah replied, ‘Do what you think is best, and stay here until you have weaned him. May the Lord confirm your word.’ So Hannah stayed there and nursed her son until she weaned him.” 1Sam. 1:21-23

It is the picture of a mother of the olden times, that is before us.

The story of Hannah is invested with rare interest. It is one of those narratives whose charm is their unadorned simplicity. Though living so long since, when the world was so young—this mother stands yet, in the radiant spirit of her life—in the clearness of her faith, in the devotion of her motherhood, as a model for Christian mothers in these newest ages. There are some things that grow old and out of date—but motherhood does not. It is ever the same in its duties, its responsibilities, its sacred privileges, and its possibilities of influence. The old picture is new and fresh, therefore, in every age, to every true-hearted mother who looks upon it.

cassatt_mary_maternal-caressFor one thing, Hannah, as a mother, was enthusiastic. She was not one of those women who think children undesirable encumbrances. She did not consider herself, in her earlier married years, particularly fortunate in being free from the cares and responsibilities of motherhood. She believed that children were blessings from the Lord, that motherhood was the highest honor possible to a woman; and she sought, reverently and very earnestly, from God—the privilege of pressing a little child to her bosom, and calling it her own. This line in the ancient picture we must not overlook in these days, when children are not always regarded as blessings from the Lord, nor even always welcomed.

nora-heysen-motherhood1For another thing, when Hannah’s child came, she considered it a part of her pious duty, to nurture and care for it. Instead, therefore, of going up to Shiloh to attend all the great feasts, as she had done before—she stayed at home for some time, to give personal attention to the little one that God had given her, and that was still too young to be taken with safety and comfort on such long journeys. No doubt she supposed that she was worshiping God just as acceptably in doing this, as if she had gone up to all the great religious meetings. And who will say that she was not right?

A mother’s first obligations—are to her children; she can have no holier or more sacred duties than those which relate to them. No amount of public religious service will atone for neglect of these. She may run to social and missionary meetings, and abound in all kinds of charitable activities, and may do very much good among the poor, carrying blessings to many other homes, and being a blessing to other people’s children, through the Sunday school or mission school; but if she fails, meanwhile, to care for her own children—she can scarcely be commended as a faithful Christian mother! She has overlooked her first and most sacred duties, while she gives her hand and heart to those that are but secondary to her.

Hard_Motherhood_ImageHannah’s way evidently was the true one. A mother had better be missed in the church, and at the public meetings—than be missed in her own household. Some things must be crowded out of every earnest life—but the last thing to be crowded out of a mother’s life, should be the faithful and loving care of her children. The preacher may urge that everyone should do something in the general work of the church, and may appeal for teachers for the Sunday school; but the mother herself must decide whether the Master wants her to take up any religious work outside her own home. For the work there-she surely is responsible; for that outside—she is not responsible until her responsibility to her children is well done, and she has time and strength for new duties.


Another thing about Hannah was, that she looked after her own baby. She did the nursing herself. She did not hire any kind of ‘baby-sitter’—and then commit her tender child to her care, that she herself might have a “free foot” for parties and visits and operas, and social and religious duties. She was old-fashioned enough, to prefer to nurse her own child. She does not seem to have felt it any great personal deprivation, to be kept rather closely at home for a year or two on that account. She even appears to have thought it a high honor, and a distinguished privilege—to be a mother, and to do with her own hands—a mother’s duties. And when we think what this child that she nursed became in after-years, what the outcome was of all her pains, self-denials and toils—it certainly looks as if Hannah was right!

motherhood-forwebIt is not likely she ever regretted that she had missed a few parties and other social privileges—in order to nurse and care for Samuel in his tender infancy—when she saw her son in the prime and splendor of his power and usefulness. If anything even half so good comes ordinarily out of faithful mothering, there are certainly few occupations open to women, even in these ‘advanced’ nineteenth-century days, which will yield such satisfactory results in the end—as the wise and true bringing up of children. Many women are sighing for distinction in the professions, or as authors, or artists, or singers; but, after all—is there any distinction so noble, so honorable, so worthy, and so enduring—as that which a true mother wins when she has brought up a son who takes his place in the ranks of godly men?

Could Mary, the mother of Jesus, have found any mission, in any century, greater than that of nursing and caring for the holy child that was laid in her arms? Or, if that example be too high, could the mothers of Moses, of Samuel, of Augustine, of Washington, have done more for the world— if they had devoted themselves to art, or poetry, or music, or any kind of ‘profession’?

APN_motherandbaby_fct683x420x569_t460Perhaps Hannah was right; and, if so, the old-fashioned motherhood is better than the new, and the mother herself is her own child’s best nurse. A hired woman may be very skillful; but surely she cannot be the best one to mold the soul of the child, and awaken and draw out its latent powers and affections. The mother may, by employing such a substitute, be left free to pursue the fashionable round of dining and dressing, of amusement and social engagements; but meanwhile, what is becoming of the tender, immortal life at home in the nursery, thus left practically motherless, to be nurtured and trained by a hireling stranger? And besides, what becomes of the holy mission of motherhood, which the birth of every child lays upon her who gave it life?

A recent writer, referring to this subject, asks, “Is there any malpractice of office, like unto this? Our women crowd the churches, to draw the inspiration from religion for their daily duties, and then prove recreant to the first of all fidelities, the most solemn of all responsibilities! We hear fashionable young mothers boast that they are not tied down to their nurseries—but are free to meander in the old mirthful life, as though there were no shame to the soul of womanhood therein.”

Such a boast is one of the saddest confessions a mother could make. The great need of this age, is mothers who will live with their own children, and throw over their tender lives all the mighty power of their own rich, warm, loving natures. If we can have a generation of Hannahs, we shall then have a generation of Samuels growing up under their wise, devoted nurture.

motherThere is one other feature in this old-time mother that should not be overlooked. She nursed her child for the Lord. From the very first she looked upon him as God’s child, not hers—and considered herself as only God’s nurse, whose duty it was to bring up the child for a holy life and service. It is easy to see what a dignity and splendor this gave to the whole toilsome round of motherly tasks and duties, which the successive days brought to her hand. This was God’s child that she was nursing, and she was bringing him up for the Lord’s service in two worlds. Nothing ever seemed drudgery; no duty to her little one was hard or distasteful—with this thought ever glowing in her heart. Need any woman have loftier or more powerful inspiration for toil and self-forgetfulness, than this?

And is there any mother who may not have the same inspiration, as she goes through her round of commonplace nursery tasks? Was Samuel God’s child, in any higher sense when Hannah was nursing him—than are the little ones that lie in the arms of thousands of mothers today? In every mother’s ears, when a baby is laid in her bosom, there is spoken by the breath of the Lord the holy whisper, if she but had ears to hear the divine voice, “Take this child—and nurse it for Me!” God wants Christian mothers to bring up their children for pure and noble lives, and for holy missions. Every mother is, by the very lot of motherhood when it falls upon her, consecrated to the sacred service of nursing, molding, and training an infant life for God. Hannah understood this, and found her task full of glory. But how many, even among Christian mothers, fail to understand it, and, unsustained by a consciousness of the dignity and blessedness of their high calling, look upon its duties and self-denials—as painful tasks, a round of toilsome, wearisome drudgery?

It will be well worth while for every mother to sit down quietly beside Hannah, and try to learn her secret. It will change the humblest nursery—into a holy sanctuary; and transform the commonest, lowliest duties of motherhood—into services as splendid as those which the radiant angels perform before the Father’s face!

The Happy Calvinist !?!

by Ian Hamilton

11B.B. Warfield, the great Princeton theologian, said that the fountainhead of Calvinism does not lie in its theological system, but in its ‘religious consciousness’. What he meant is that the roots of Calvinism are planted in a specific ‘religious attitude,’ out of which unfolds (as day follows night) a particular theology. He wrote,

“The whole outworking of Calvinism in life is thus but the efflorescence of its fundamental religious consciousness, which finds its scientific statement in its theological system” (5.354) This is what so many miss in their assessment of, or espousal of, Calvinism. It is not first and foremost a theological system; it is more fundamentally a “religious attitude”, an attitude that gives inevitable birth to a particular, precise, but gloriously God-centered and heart-engaging system of theology.

The Formative principle of experimental Calvinism

GloryWarfield was adamant that the ‘formative principle’ of Calvinism is not what so many imagine – the doctrine of predestination – but the glory of the Lord God Almighty! So, the fundamental question posed in Calvinism is not “How can I be saved?”, but “How shall God be glorified?” . Let me again quote Warfield:

“He who knows that it is God who has chosen him and not he who has chosen God, and that he owes his entire salvation in all its processes and in every one of its stages to this choice of God, would be an ingrate indeed if he gave not the glory of his salvation solely to the inexplicable elective love of God” (5.360).

The foundational experience of experimental Calvinism

a) It brought to Isaiah first a deep felt awareness of his sinfulness – “woe to me… I am ruined…”!! When Isaiah ‘saw’ God as he is, he was not left standing – he was not left proud and dispassionate – he was deeply humbled! There is little doubt that Isaiah already was a believing servant – but a stranger to the pulse-quickened sense of God’s ineffable greatness – Isaiah was seeing himself as God saw him – this is experimental Calvinism .

b) It brought Isaiah a new sense of Israel’s corruption (v5) – his encounters with “the King” caused him to see through the façade of Israel’s religion cf 1:10ff. – onlookers would have complimented Israel on the ‘healthy state’ of its religion – but when a man has had a sight of the majesty of God, he sees not only his own sinfulness, but the sinful state of his own generation – of his own .

c) It brought to Isaiah a deep, personal awareness of God’s forgiving grace – as he is overwhelmed by his sinful uncleanness and un-doneness, God mercifully sends an angel to bring him God’s forgiving grace – a live coal from the altar of sacrifice – a coal which becomes the symbol of the basis on which God forgives sinners – touches Isaiah’s lips – inner pain, but “Behold… your guilt…”

To the forgiven sinner, ‘forgiveness’ is a humbling, overpowering, captivating word.

imagesCA3SAWYPNowhere is this more highlighted in our Lord’s encounter with the “sinful woman” in Luke 7:47. The extravagance of her devotion to the Lord acutely embarrassed Simon the Pharisee, Jesus’ host. Jesus’ response is one that ought to humble all of us: “He who is forgiven little, loves little”. The depth of our love to the Savior is in proportion to the depth of our experience of and appreciation of his forgiving grace. It cannot be said too often that the primary pulse-beat of the gospel is the love of God. It was God’s love that caused him to send his only begotten Son to be the propitiation for our sins. It is God’s love that caused the apostle John to exclaim, “Behold what manner of love is this, that we should be called the children of God”. John’s language is filled with unspeakable wonder. He can hardly take in the grace that is revealed in the Father’s love – “From what country is this love of the Father?” His love is literally out of this world. There is nothing clinical or cold in John’s language; rather, it is the language of overwhelmed wonder. The sheer wonder of God’s amazing grace, his undeserved, indeed ill-deserved love to judgment-deserving sinners, is not a peripheral note in Calvinism. How could it be, when God’s love gave birth to the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Is it not true, however, that many of us who call ourselves “Reformed” have lost the “sense” of the sheer wonder of this amazing love? Before sovereign grace is a truth to defend, it is a captivating truth to glory in.

d) It brought Isaiah to yield his life unreservedly to God! “Here am I…” – no cajoling, no pleading – the response of a man to whom inexplicable, sovereign grace has come. Grace costs us nothing, but it demands everything (Matthew 8:18-22; 10:37-39). Here is the reflex action of a man who has ‘seen’ the Lord and felt the power of his presence and grace. This is experimental Calvinism! The story of William Borden of Yale wonderfully illustrates the point. Borden had long prepared to serve as a missionary in the Far East. He had been an outstanding student with a passion for mission. After some years travelling throughout America calling young men “to go east and preach the gospel of Christ”, he at last set sail himself for Burma. On reaching Alexandria, he was struck down with cerebral encephalitis. He would never see Burma. He would die in Alexandria. As he lay dying he overheard someone saying, “What a waste”. With the little energy he had, Borden replied, “No reserve! No retreat! No regrets!” This is the life of the experimental Calvinist. It is a life of unconditional surrender to the saving lordship of Jesus Christ.

The Fundamental features of experimental Calvinism

seekSo, what then are the evident marks of experimental Calvinism? Calvinism is not a theological theory, a religious philosophy that compels the mind but leaves the shape of your life untouched and unmoved. Biblical truth reforms and re-styles the believer’s life. So with Calvinism, it leaves it indelible marks wherever it takes root in a person’s life. What are those marks?

a) The Experiential Calvinist honours God’s unconditional sovereignty. How? By consistent prayer. Nothing more honours God’s unconditional sovereignty. Here is Warfield’s description of Calvinism: “Christianity on its knees” cf Acts 4:24ff.; Acts 2:42. The demise of the church prayer meeting is deeply indicative of spiritual atrophy. “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” (John Bunyan).

“When God deigns to bless his people, he sets them a-praying for the blessing which he desires to give them” (Matthew Henry).

Can we dare call ourselves “Calvinists” if prayer is not one of the pulsebeats of our congregational and personal life? Surely it is prayer that most manifests our conviction that God the Holy Spirit is the great convincer, convicter, and applier of Christ’s saving merits to sinners. Calvinists are pre-eminently “pneumatic Christians”. “Prayer is evangelism shorn of all its carnal attractions.”

b) The Experimental Calvinist lives before God’s face – this alone cultivates heart-humility and acknowledges our indebtedness to God’s unconditional sovereignty, cf 1 Corinthians 4:7. What is pride? The attempt to share in the glory that belongs to the King on the throne. The ‘sight’ of our own heart as it appears to God dismantles all our proud conceits.

c) The Experimental Calvinist shapes all of live by the revelation of God’s unimpeachable holiness – “Be holy, for I am holy!” cf Ephesians 1:4; Romans 8:29; Titus 2:14.

d) The Experimental Calvinist exercises trustful dependence on God to fulfil all He has purposed. It is so easy to take the “lower ground,” to resort to unbiblical expediencies in God’s work. This can be seen in ‘worship’ and ‘evangelism’, sometimes more influenced by the principles of a fallen culture than by the precepts of God’s living Word.

Amidst the struggles with “world, flesh and devil,” with a Christian evangelical culture that is drowning itself in shallowness and trivia, the experimental Calvinist draws the sweetest comfort and encouragement from knowing that the unconditional sovereign Lord is fulfilling perfectly – if mysteriously – his perfect, holy, eternal purposes. There must inevitably be a “reserved agnosticism”, cf Romans 11:33ff. Here we encounter experimental Calvinism – the doctrines of grace lead him to adoring wonder and worship. Theology’s first resting place is doxology!

e) The Experimental Calvinist loves God’s Law – all-round obedience! Experimental Calvinism seeks to give God’s holy Law the place in the believer’s and church’s life that God’s holy Word gives it. Commenting on the phrase in Galatians 4:5, “to redeem those under law,” Calvin says, “We must here observe, the exemption from the law which Christ has procured for us does not imply that we no longer owe any obedience to the doctrine of the law, and may do whatever we please: for the law is the everlasting rule of a good and holy life.” Again, commenting on Galatians 3:25, “Now that faith has come we are no longer under the supervision of the law,” Calvin writes: “Is the law so abolished that we have nothing to do with it? I answer, the law, so far as it is a rule of life, a bridle to keep us in the fear of the Lord, a spur to correct the sluggishness of our flesh… is as much in force as ever, and remains untouched.” Calvin is simply echoing the teaching of Christ: John 14:15 cf 1 John 2:3-6.

imagesCA8YOXXSMore than ever, we need today to affirm and reaffirm the abiding relation of God’s holy law to God’s holy people. Faced today with incipient antinomianism, the duties and responsibilities of the moral law are seen by many to have no place in the believer’s life. “If the law might be disannulled as to new creatures, then why doth the Spirit of God write it with such legible characters in their hearts? … Now that which the Spirit engraves upon the heart, would Christ come to deface and abolish?” (Thomas Manton on Psalm 119, 1.5).

John Coquhoun in his “A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel,” endorses Calvin’s teaching and expresses what was the mainstream Puritan understanding of the Christian’s relationship to the Law of God:

“All who are united to Christ, and justified for his righteousness imputed to them, are dead to the law as a covenant; not that they may be without law to God, but that they may be under the law to Christ; not that they may continue in disobedience, but that they may be inclined and enabled to perform sincere obedience in time, and perfect obedience through eternity, to the law as a rule of life. One design of their being delivered from the obligations of the law in its Federal form is that they may be brought under the eternal obligation of it as a rule of duty in the hand of the adorable Mediator” (p. 260).

Let me end as I began: the great question in Calvinism is: “How shall God be glorified?” Listen to Warfield:

“It is the contemplation of God and zeal for his honour which in it draws out the emotions and absorbs endeavour; and the end of human as of all other existence, of salvation as of all other attainments, is to it the glory of the Lord of all… It begins, it centers, it ends with the vision of God in His glory: and it sets itself before all things to render to God His rights in every sphere of life” (358). – Romans 11:36-12:1-2.


You don’t know God’s will…What do you do next?

by Jim Elliff

guidanceHelpful Items to consider when seeking God’s will in matter of guidance…

1. Begin by prayer for wisdom. Do not doubt that God has a wise course of action for you and will make it known.

2. Intentionally seek God’s face even more than His answers. “In Your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

3. Seek to be willing to take any course that God would have for you. Be thorough in your work on yourself. Often people miss God’s will because they are not fully willing to be submissive to God whatever He leads them to do.

4. Carefully seek to discover if there are any directives already given in Scripture which could guide you. Are there illustrations, commands, principles, which speak to this issue? Meditate on these and see if Scripture promotes or rules out any action you are considering. Try to find not only what God permits and does not permit, but what God likes, what is dear to His heart. Go directly to any passage which deals with the general subject to see if there is help to be found which you had not discovered before. Always read the Bible in context.

5. List each possible course of action, and in a prayerful frame of mind write out what are the pros and cons of each option. Put these options before the lens of Scripture one by one to see if God has spoken on these issues in some way. You will find more being said about most issues than you might first believe.

6. When helpful, seek objective counsel from godly and wise men or women you can trust.

puzzle7. Finally, examine your will again. If you are willing to do anything God might direct and that is certain in your mind, then you are free to pursue what God may be placing in your thinking related to the issue. Is there a long-term righteous desire in you?

8. Now, act in faith. If God in His perfect cadence intervenes so as to cause everything to turn again, this is His business. For your part, you are required to take action along the lines of the wisest choice you can biblically make. Rejoice and do God’s will!

Taken from “Led by the Spirit”, Joshua Press, 1999, p. 45-46