Theological Structures that Damage/Destroy Our Assurance of Salvation

Written by, Roger Nicole,
Taken from an article written for Ligonier Ministries,
and The Confessing Baptist.

imagesThe privilege of assurance…

…which is secured by the work of Christ for His own and which is properly undergirded in the Reformed faith, is damaged or even destroyed in certain other theological structures.

I. When justification by faith alone is not duly proclaimed and the good works of the believer are presented as participating in the ground on the basis of which salvation is secured, the. assurance of faith receives a fatal blow…

II. This problem also burdens the Arminian view. In keeping with Arminian principles, a believer may properly say, “I am saved now,” for by virtue of the work of Christ God confers salvation to any and all who repent and believe. Yet this blessing is not a basis for complete confidence that a change of disposition may occur…

III. There are, of course, other systems of thought that undermine assurance in a still more fundamental way. For instance, those which deny the reality of life beyond the grave have no place for salvation, let alone assurance. Those also which think of salvation in social rather than individual terms do not consider assurance.

IV. Those, which expect that ultimately all rational creatures, or at least all members of the human race, will be saved extend assurance to all, but in this process emasculate the Gospel and depart from the clear teaching of Scripture as it has been well understood over the centuries.

In the Reformed doctrine assurance is grounded in the adequacy of the work of Christ, our mediator and covenant head, in the testimony of the Holy Spirit who witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16), and in the persistent purpose of God who has begun a good work in the believer and will carry it to completion until the day of Christ (Phil. 1:6).

 

I long to know how matters stand between Christ and your soul…

Written by, Samuel Rutherford, (1600-1661).
Taken from, “A Selection from his Letters.”
Written to, The Lady Gaitgirth.
Where and when, Aberdeen, 1637.
Edited for thought and sense.

imagesTime cannot change Him in His love.

Ye yourself may ebb and flow, rise and fall, wax and wane; but your Lord is this day as He was yesterday. And it is your comfort that your salvation is not rolled upon wheels of your own making, neither have ye to do with a Christ at your own shaping. God has singled out a Mediator, strong and mighty: if ye and your burdens were as heavy as ten hills or hells, He is able to bear you, and to save you to the uttermost.

Your often seeking to Him cannot make you a burden to Him.

I know that Christ has compassion for you, and feels and groans in heaven for you, in all your moods, and under your down castings; but it is good for you that He hideth Himself sometimes. It is not niceness, dryness, nor coldness of love, that causeth Christ to withdraw, and slip in under a curtain and a veil, that ye cannot see Him; but He knoweth that ye could not bear with furled sails, a fair gale, a full moon, and a high spring-tide of His fully felt love, and always a fair summer-day and a summer-sun of a felt and possessed and embracing Lord Jesus.

His kisses and His visits to His dearest ones are thin-sown.

He could not let out His rivers of love upon His own, but these rivers would be in hazard of loosening a young plant at the root; and He knoweth this of you. Ye should, therefore, understand Christ’s kindness, as to its sensible and full manifestations, till ye and He be above sun and moon. That is the country where ye will be enlarged for that love which ye do not now contain.

Cast the burden of your sweet babes upon Christ, and lighten your heart, by laying your all upon Him: He will be their God.

I hope to see you up the mountain yet, and glad in the salvation of God. Frame yourself for Christ, and gloom not upon His cross. I find Him so sweet, that my love, suppose I would charge it to remove from Christ, would not obey me: His love has stronger fingers than to let go its grips of us children, who cannot go but by such a hold as Christ. It is good that we want legs of our own, since we may borrow from Christ; and it is our happiness that Christ is under an act of cautionary for heaven, and that Christ is booked in heaven as the principal debtor for such poor bodies as we are.

I request you, give the laird, your husband, thanks for his care of me, in that he has appeared in public for a prisoner of Christ. I pray and write mercy, and peace, and blessings to him and his.

Grace, grace be with you for ever.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Samuel Rutherford (c.1600 – 1661) was a Scottish Presbyterian pastor, theologian and author, and one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly.

Rutherford was educated at Jedburgh Grammar School and Edinburgh University, where he became Regent of Humanity (Professor of Latin) in 1623. In 1627 he was settled as minister of Anwoth in Kirkcudbrightshire,Galloway, where it was said of him ‘he was always praying, always,preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechising, always writing and studying’, and from where he was banished to Aberdeen for nonconformity, ‘being very powerful on the side of the Reformed faith and of God living’, there in Aberdeen, ‘his writing desk’, was said to be, ‘perhaps the most effective and widely resounding pulpit then in Christendom’. His patron in Galloway was John Gordon, 1st Viscount of Kenmure. On the re-establishment of Presbyterianism in 1638 he was made Professor of Divinity at St. Andrews.

Rutherford was chosen as one of the four main Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly of Divines in London taking part in in formulating the Westminster Confession of Faith completed in 1647, and after his return to Scotland he became Rector of St. Mary’s College at St. Andrews in 1651. Rutherford was a staunch Protester during the controversy in the Scottish Presbyterian church between the Resolutioners and Protesters in the 1650s, and at the Restoration of Charles II his Lex Rex was burnt by the hand of the common hangman, and the “Drunken Parliament” deprived him of all his offices and voted that he not be permitted to die in the college.

His epitaph on his tombstone concluded ‘Acquainted with Immanuel’s song’.

Rutherford’s has been described as ‘Prince of Letter writers’ and C. H. Spurgeon described Rutherford’s letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men, continuing in an 1891 review of Rutherford’s (posthumously published Letters (1664) ‘when we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men’. Andrew Thomson, a Scottish minister, in a 19th-century biography observed ‘the letters flash upon the reader with original thoughts and abound in lofty feeling clothed in the radiant garb of imagination in which there is everything of poetry but the form. Individual sentences that supplied the germ-thought of some of the most beautiful spiritual in modern poetry’ continuing ‘a bundle of myrrh whose ointment and perfume would revive and gladden the hearts of many generations, each letter full of hope and yet of heartbreak, full of tender pathos of the here and the hereafter.’ Rutherford was also known for other spiritual and devotional w

Just a Bit O’ History… Psalm 34: A Psalm of Communion, of Christian Heroes, and of the Ages

 

Psalm 34

Lent DevotionalThe 34th Psalm is mentioned by Cyril, A.D. 340, and also by Jerome, as being usually sung by the Church of Jerusalem at the time of Communion.
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It is appropriate throughout for Communion with some of the parts especially so, and it contains the passage which the Evangelist John (19:36) applies to our Lord, ‘He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.’

Error had begun in different ways to creep into the Christian Church, but the memorials of the bread and wine were parted among all, and the thanksgiving of the communion had not passed into the sacrifice of the mass. The efficacy of atonement is ascribed only to the personal work of Christ himself, and such expressions as these occur: ‘It is by Jesus Christ we bring this sacrifice of praise in thy name, and in the name of Christ and of the Holy Spirit. O Lord, we render thanks to thee by thy well -beloved Son Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent in the last times to be our Savior and Redeemer, the Messenger of thy Counsel. It is by him, the Word who comes forth from thee, that thou hast done all.’

It may be seen how well this spirit agrees with the burst of gratitude in the opening of the psalm, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad,’ Sometimes there was added the fervent aspiration of the 42nd Psalm, ‘As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, 0 God.’

It was the love of youth burning all the brighter that it was borne heavenwards by winds of persecution.

Verse 10. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger:  but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good Thing,’ were the last words written by Columba after he had spent a long life of incessant Christian labor, part of which was given to the transcription of copies of the Psalms and Gospels. Columba’ s figure in the history of the British Church is the most clear and noble from the entrance of Christianity to the Reformation, with the exception of Bede and Wycliffe; and he surpassed both of these in the missionary ardor he felt and infused into his followers. His position in Scotland is a singular one. He stands among the stormy Hebrides, like one of their lonely lighthouses, upheld by a mighty arm of rock, to cast a sudden gleam over the waters, and draw it back again into the night.

But like theirs, too, the light appears, hidden, but not quenched…

…or, still more, it is flashed from point to point as time moves on. Placed as he and his disciples were on the known limits of the western world, their zeal turned eastward, and sought a field among the Celtic and Gothic tribes to the very center of Europe. The endless knot “the peculiar signet mark of Scottish art” is found carved in stone, graven in gold and silver, inscribed on illuminated parchment, and tells at Wurtzburg, at St. Gall, at Eatisbon, that the foot of the Columban missionary has pressed the heathen soil with the message of the faith.

Columba died on the morning of the Lord’s day, June 9, A.D. 597, in his beloved lona.

‘There sleep the saintly dead,
Whom from their island home
The Baptist’s hermit spirit led
O’er moss and moor to roam.
Where, soft as spring-tide dew,
Their gracious speech was heard,
Wild tribes whom Caesar never knew
Bowed captive to the Word.’

The narrative Adamnan gives of his closing hours, of his farewell words with his sorrow-stricken disciples, of his parting with his faithful old horse, which put its head on its master’s breast as if aware of the event, reveals the deep tenderness and humanity of his nature.

When the biographer has lingered lovingly on the little incidents that preceded the death, he continues: ‘After these words he descended the hill, and, having returned to the monastery, sat in his hut transcribing the Psalter; and coming to that verse of the 34th Psalm, where it is written, “They that seek the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good,” “Here,” said he, “at the end of the page I must stop, and what follows let Baithen write.” The last verse he had written was very applicable to the saint who was about to depart, and to whom eternal good shall never be wanting; while the one that follows is equally applicable to the father who succeeded him, the instructor of his spiritual children, “Come, ye children, and hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” And indeed he succeeded, as recommended by him, both in writing the words, and in teaching his disciples.’

Far away from Columba in time, and yet with the same simple faith, two men sang a part of this psalm at the place of execution in Edinburgh, 1679. They were Andrew Sword and John Clyde, countrymen from Galloway, who were condemned for having been at Bothwell, and in penalty for the death of Arch Bishop Sharp, though neither of them had ever seen him.

“The troubles that afflict the just
In number many be;
But yet at length out of them all
The Lord doth set him free.’  

–Verse 19

‘God hath not promised,’ said one of them, ‘to keep us from trouble, but to be with us in it, and what needs more? ‘I bless the Lord for keeping of me to this very hour; for little would I have thought a twelve month since that the Lord would have taken a poor plowman lad, and have honored me so highly as to have made me first appear for him, and then to keep me straight, and now hath kept me to this very hour to lay down my life for him.

At the ladder foot, he said to his brother, ‘Weep not for me, brother, but weep for yourself and the poor land; and make him sure for yourself, and he shall be better to you than ten brethren.’

It was surely fire from God’s own heaven which breathed this soul into the mold of a Scottish plowman.

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Written by John Ker, D. D.
Taken from, “The Psalms in History and Biography”.

Meet Colomba, a very important early Irish Christian Missionary and part of your Christian heritage: Columba (Irish: Colm Cille, ‘church dove’; 7 December 521 – 9 June 597) was an Irish abbot and missionary credited with spreading Christianity in present-day Scotland. He founded the important abbey on Iona, which became a dominant religious and political institution in the region for centuries. He is the Patron Saint of Derry. He was highly regarded by both the Gaels of Dál Riata and the Picts, and is remembered today as a Christian saint and one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.

Columba reportedly studied under some of Ireland’s most prominent church figures and founded several monasteries in the country. Around 563 he and his twelve companions crossed to Dunaverty near Southend, Argyll in Kintyre before settling in Iona in Scotland, then part of the Irish kingdom of Dál Riata, where they founded a new abbey as a base for spreading Christianity among the northern Pictish kingdoms who were pagan. He remained active in Irish politics, though he spent most of the remainder of his life in Scotland. Three surviving early medieval Latin hymns may be attributed to him.

The Art of Casting our Cares…On the Lord!

Written by, Robert Leighton (1611-1684).

burdens“Humble yourselves, therefore,
under the mighty hand of God
so that at the proper time
he may exalt you,
casting all your anxieties on him,
because he cares for you.” 

–1 Peter 5:6-7 (ESV)

Cast thy burden upon the Lord. Hand it over, heave it upon him…

…and he shall sustain you, shall bear both, if you trust him with both; both you and your burden.  He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.  The children of God have the only sweet life; the world thinks not so, rather looks on them as poor, discontented, lowering creatures but they see not what an uncaring, truly secure life they are called to.

While others are in turmoil and wrestling each with his projects and burdens for himself, and at length crushed and sinking under them, (for that is the end of all that do for themselves) the child of God goes free from the pressure of all that concerns him; for it is laid over on his God.  If he use his advantage, he is not racked with musings, Oh! what will become of this and that but goes on in the strength of God as he may; offers up poor, but sincere endeavors to God, and is sure of one thing, all shall be well.

He lays his affairs and himself on God, and so has no pressing care; no care but the care of love how to please, how to honor, his Lord; and in this he depends on him both for skill and strength and, touching the success of things, leaves that as none of his, to be burdened with; casts it on God, and he cares for it.  They need not both care, his care alone is sufficient; hence peace, inconceivable peace.  Be careful for nothing; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds, through Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:6).

20100115-worried-woman-290x218Truly, the Godly are much in the wrong to themselves, by not improving this their privilege.  They too often forget this their sweet way, and fret themselves to no purpose; wrestle with their burdens themselves, and do not entirely and freely roll them over on God.  They are surcharged with them, and he calls for them, and yet they will not give them to him. They think to spare him, but indeed in this they disobey, and dishonor, and so grieve him; and they find the grief return on them, and yet cannot learn to be wise.  Why deal we thus with our God, and with our souls, grieving both at once?  Let it never be, that for any outward thing you perplex yourself, and entangle thy thoughts, as in thickets, with the cares of this life.  Oh! how unsuitable are these to a child of God and your peace, that gives God, for whom a life so far more excellent is provided!  Hath he prepared a kingdom for you, and will he not bestow your charges in the way to it?

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Taken and adapted from, The Whole Works of Robert Leighton (Commentary on 1 Peter), D. D. Archbishop of Glasgow. To which is Prefixed, A Life of the Author, by James Aikman, Esq. A New Edition, Complete in One Volume. Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson and Peter Brown. 1832, pp. 292-294.

Nearing Home


Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.…
John 14:1-4


night-steamerIt was stormy from shore to shore, without a single fair day…

But the place to which we were going was my home; there was my family; there was my church; there were my friends, who were as dear to me as my own life. And I lay perfectly happy in the midst of sickness and nausea. All that the boat could do to me could not keep down the exultation and joy which rose up in me. For every single hour was carrying me nearer and nearer to the spot where was all that I loved in the world.

It was deep, dark midnight when we ran into Halifax. I could see nothing. Yet the moment we came into still water I rose from my berth and got up on deck. And as I sat near the smoke stack while they were unloading the cargo, upon the wharf I saw the shadow of a person, apparently, going backward and forward near me. At last the thought occurred to me, “Am I watched?” Just then the person addressed me, saying, “Is this Mr. Beecher?” “It is,” I replied. “I have a telegram for you from your wife.”

I had not realized that I had struck the continent where my family were. There, in the middle of the night, and in darkness, the intelligence that I had a telegram from home — I cannot tell you what a thrill it sent through me!

We are all sailing home; and by and by…

…when we are not thinking of it, some shadowy thing (men call it death), will pass by at our midnight, and will call us by name, and will say, “I have a message for you from home; God waits for you.”

Are they worthy of anything but pity who are not able to bear the hardships of the voyage? It will not be long before you, and I, and every one of us will hear the messenger sent to bring us back to heaven. It is pleasant to me to think that we are wanted there. I am thankful to think that God loves in such a way that He yearns for me — yes, a great deal more than I do for Him. 

–Beecher

Homesick for Heaven

539wAnd I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done…     –Rev. 21: 1-6

In the American Civil War…

…there is an old, old story about when the Federals and the Confederates were encamped on opposite sides of the Rappahannock. One morning the brass band of the Northern troops played the national air, or anthem, and all the Northern troops cheered and cheered.

Then, on the opposite side of the Rappahannock, the brass band of the Confederates played “My Maryland” and “Dixie,” and then all the Southern troops cheered and cheered.

But after a while one of the bands struck up “Home, Sweet Home,” and the band on the opposite side of the river took up the strain, and when the tune was done, as the tears rolled down their cheeks, the Confederates and the Federals all together united, gave one great “Huzza! Huzza!”

Well, my friends, heaven is very near…

It is only a stream that divides us –the narrow stream of death; and the voices there and the voices here seem to commingle, and we join trumpets and hosannas and hallelujahs, and the chorus of the united song of earth and heaven is, “Home, Sweet Home.” 

–Talmadge

‘Counterfeit Holy’ from Alexander Whyte’s Bunyan’s Characters

There are times when I read a thought, or book, or a post and think to myself that I have just been fed with the “drippins’ off the altar.” Just so here. For those whose backgrounds have been tainted by Arminianism, or some other form of conditional love, the following post may well speak to your soul. Here, we are looking at Bunyan thinking he is wrestling with the tempter, but what we are actually looking at is Bunyan wrestling with his own doubts and asking how much … is enough? How much, what? …you correctly ask. But the answer varies to the person. That is, how much piety, how much remorse or penitence, how much performance of duties, etc. Perhaps what is really being asked is, how much holiness is necessary.

While this post may not go into all the details, it does begin by introducing us to Bunyan sweeping it all aside to get down to where this Gordian knot seems to start for him, “what is counterfeit holiness”? From there, he begins the foundation of his thought and life. Do not expect, to find conclusitory answers here, but a door way to some very verdant pastures of thought.