Friday, December 26, 2014

Reading Scripture In The Most Profitable Way


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

God’s Love For His Church: Our Eternal Home (Part 3)

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

My foregoing remarks may have seemed a bit theologically technical, but it has not been without reason. Any practical benefit which may be derived from the rest of this Psalm can be meaningful only if it is grounded upon the theological framework we have labored to present. The structure of this Psalm tells us this. Verse 1 is a statement of a great privilege of the Church. Verse 2 gives the theological reason for this. Then verses 3-17 lay out all of the inferences and ramifications of this objective doctrinal statement. Scripture never gives pastoral theology in the absence of doctrinal theology.

You will recall that earlier I suggested that this Psalm was written when the people of God murmured in unbelief at the report of 10 of the 12 spies. You will also recall that earlier I spoke of Israel standing on the very brink of receiving the first in a series of promises - or rather fulfillments of promises - that would ultimately culminate in the Seed of Abraham in which all the nations of the earth would be blessed. And at the very moment when they could almost taste it, their faith faltered and in their unbelief they behaved as if God’s faithfulness to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and indeed, to themselves, was nonexistent and irrelevant. That, it seems to me, is the reason that this Psalm begins by looking back on God’s eternal decree of sovereign electing love for His people. That is why I endeavored to lay the theological framework.

If God’s people have been guilty of anything throughout the ages, it is the ingratitude of forgetfulness. This is the result of forgetting how great our sins and miseries are and how great God’s deliverance of us from our sins and miseries is! Israel failed to trust God’s faithfulness to them when it came time to cross into Canaan because they had forgotten how great their bondage in Egypt was and how great their deliverance was.

I know that we’re Westminster Standards people here, but I can’t resist pointing to the “Guilt, Grace, Gratitude” paradigm of Heidelberg Catechism Question 2, which, in reference to the comfort derived from knowing that I belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, asks, “How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort mayest live and die happily.” The answer is: “Three; the first, how great my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.” Whenever we lose sight of the magnitude of our guilt, we necessarily lose sight of the magnitude of God’s grace. If we lose sight of these two things, we will become ungrateful. This ingratitude expresses itself in either moral laxity or self-righteousness. But a constant view of our guilt and God’s grace breeds a constant gratitude. If God is eternal, and if His decreed love for us is eternal, then He loved us in full cognizance of our guilt. This does not lead to presumption, but to humility and grateful obedience.

But, as I said, we are forgetful. God in His goodness has always tried to alert us to this danger. Throughout the entire Old Testament administration of the Covenant of Grace every single sacrifice, every single feast, every single religious rite or ceremony was aimed at reminding God’s people of the unmerited favor they had received and the unmerited favor they were yet to receive via the promises that were to be fulfilled by the coming of the Christ. Every time that we partake of the sacraments, God is signifying and sealing to us His covenant promises. He reminds us that we have done nothing to deserve having our sins washed away by the precious blood of Christ. He reminds us that we have done nothing to deserve being engrafted into Christ. He reminds us that He has been our dwelling place throughout all generations and that before He created the world, He was from everlasting to everlasting the one and only true God.

From everything which we have said we can draw the following inferences:

1.      Remember earlier that I pointed out the fact that this Psalm is a prayer? Here is what we learn from that fact: There is no approaching God in prayer, unless we lay hold on the offer of God’s kindness –unless we look upon God as gracious to us in Christ. That is why here, as elsewhere in Scripture, this prayer begins with a renewed expression of saving faith.
2.      God’s people in every place and age, are one with God’s people in all ages preceding and following, and may lay claim to all the privileges of God’s people before them. In our Psalm we see the Church in Moses’ time joining itself with all God’s people in former times, for the benefit of the God’s people in future times.
3.      God’s love towards us is eternal. As Romans 8:39 says, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.” I wonder if you realize just how wonderful that truth really is. Because Paul says this immediately after he has assembled a list which he labels “everything in creation.” God is the only Being outside of Creation, and we know that He has loved in Christ from eternity past, and so we do not doubt His intentions towards us. Since God’s love for us is eternal, it was there before the world was there. It predates everything and anything in creation. Therefore, no created being, not even Satan himself, can get beyond or between God’s love and us. John Knox wrote, “When we understand that presently we believe in Christ Jesus, because we were ordained before the beginning of all times to believe in him; as in him we were elected to the society of eternal life; then is our faith assuredly grounded, and that because the gifts and vocation of God are without repentance, and he is faithful that hath called us. His infinite goodness, which moved him to love us in another then in ourselves, that is in Christ Jesus, according to his free benevolence, which he had purposed in him, is to us a tower of refuge, which Satan is never able to overthrow, nor the gates of hell shall never prevail against it.”
4.      Someone once asked Augustine what God was doing before He created the world, to which Augustine is said to have replied that God was making hell for smart-alecks who asked such impudent questions. But here we see that before God created the world He had already willed to be the dwelling place of His people throughout all time and beyond.
5.      Based upon these truths we see that our trials and sufferings, the painful process of sanctification, and the countless unanswered questions which arise in our minds as we observe the mysterious work of Providence, – all these things have eternal glory as their ultimate outcome. That is why this Psalm can start where it does – with a view of God’s eternal love for His people, and after bewailing the frailty of human life, which is merely the result of our iniquities and secret sins which are always in the light of God’s presence, the Psalm can end in a song of joy and eternal gladness satisfied with God’s unfailing love.

John Knox in his work on Predestination writes, “Except our comfort be grounded upon that foundation which never can be moved, it is not perfect.” In the verses we have looked at we have seen the greatest comfort a sin-weary soul can find:  the love of God for His people, our dwelling place.

Friday, December 19, 2014

God’s Love For His Church: Our Eternal Home (Part 2)

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

This idea (God dwelling with His people and, conversely, His people dwelling with Him), is found throughout the Scriptures. Moses writes in Leviticus 26:11-12 that God, in keeping His covenant with His people, will dwell among them and be their God and they will be His people. This promise has been rightly called the “Emmanuel Promise,” for in it God promises to be “God with us.” This promise is repeated numerous times in Scripture in many forms, and finds fulfillment in the Incarnation of Christ, the God-Man, and comes to ultimate fruition in the consummation of all things as recorded for us in Revelation 21:3, which cites the Leviticus 26:11-12 promise.

The Old Testament authors repeatedly call God their hiding place, refuge, or strong tower. Psalm 91:1 speaks of the “secret place of the Most High,” and the “shadow of the Almighty.” In language reminiscent of our passage, Ezekiel 11:16 has God promising, during the Exile, to be a sanctuary for His people. The true fulfillment of this promise appears in the true Israel of God, (the Church, as per Galatians 6:16), and in John’s vision of the heavenly city where there is no temple because the presence of the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb is the Temple. And did you know that the Hebrew word used of God as the dwelling place of His people in Psalm 90:1 is used in elsewhere Scripture (2Chr 36:15 & Ps 26:8) in reference to the Temple itself? How’s that for continuity?

Verse 2 serves as the link which connects the rest of the chapter to verse 1. It is because of God’s eternal love for His people that He provides them the protective shelter of His presence. It is because of His eternal love that He has provided a solution for the sinfulness of His people, sinfulness of which we read in verse 8. This explains why the candid and undisguised confession of sinfulness in verse 8 does not lead to hopeless despair, but rather to a confident reliance on God’s unfailing love in Verse 14.

In New Testament terms, Verse 1 speaks of the Mystical Union that obtains between Christ and His church. Verses 3-11 speak of God’s providential dealings with His people. Verses12-17 pray for the wisdom to live in the light of this knowledge. But Verse 2 hinges everything upon God’s eternity. Again we see the truth of Ephesians 1:3-6. All of God’s good will, grace, mercy, favor, and electing love towards His people have been His purpose from eternity.

Christopher Ness speaks of the Eternity of God’s purposes in these words, “As God's essence is eternal, so His decree must be eternal also. Now the decree is God's decreeing, because whatever is in God is God; it is God Himself by one eternal act, decreeing and determining whatsoever should come to pass unto the praise of His own glory.”

There can no more be a new thought, a new intent, or a new purpose in God, than there can be a new God. Whatever God thinks, He has always thought and will always think. Whatever God purposes he has always purposed and always will purpose. He says, “I know (present tense) the thoughts I think (present tense) toward you” (Jeremiah 29:11). Just as he can never learn anything new or know anything new, neither can he intend anything new. His name is, after all, I AM.

Furthermore, if Christ be the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, as He is called in Revelation 13:8, then God’s gracious purposes for His people must be before time since our predestination unto adoption as children is expressed in Scripture by these words, “as he has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Christ is the means. Means are related to ends in such a way that the means cannot be conceived of before the ends they serve. No one conceives of an elaborate plan and then tries to find a goal to use it on! If Christ is the eternal purpose of the Father, then choosing us in Christ must be His eternal purpose also. Commenting on Psalm 90:2, David Dickson wrote, “From God’s good will to us in time, we may arise to God’s good will to us before time; and from grace showed to us in time, we may conclude grace and good will purposed toward us, and ordained for us before time.”

And of course, Scripture is replete with declarations of the eternity of God’s decree. Scripture uses expressions such as, “before the world began;” and “before the foundation of the world;” and "the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Our Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 7 was written in the light of passages such as Ephesians 1. The Catechism asks: “What are the decrees of God?” The answer given is: “The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass.” God’s decrees are eternal precisely because God’s essence is eternal. God dwells in what might be called an ‘infinite present.’ All things and all events in time are eternally present before Him. The fact that God is eternal, as Psalm 90:2 emphasizes, gives us the comfort of knowing God will faithfully be our dwelling place for all generations.

The great Reformer, Wolfgang Musculus, notes that God has not seen fit to tell us that He has chosen us and to leave us without the knowledge of when He did so. Commenting on Paul’s statement that God chose us before the foundation of the world, Musculus writes, “And yet there was no man before that the world was made. He chose us therefore before we were: so that there can be no occasion for the elect to boast thereof…This consideration commends unto us the wonderful purpose of God, wherein He determined with Himself upon our salvation before He made the world…It is an incredible matter how great an assurance of salvation there rests in the hearts of the faithful…that God had a care of them before the world was made, and that they were chosen by Him unto salvation, before that they were.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

God’s Love For His Church: Our Eternal Home (Part 1)


A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

While we are only looking at the first 2 verses, it will be helpful to know something about the structure of this Psalm in its entirety. This Psalm divides into three parts. The first part contains the Church’s comfort amid the distresses and sorrows of this world. The second part (3-11) contains an acknowledgement of the shortness and miseries of life – the results of sin – sin which is set plainly before the Lord who is full of mercy. The last part (12-17) contains a series of petitions, some of which are for wisdom to rightly use the shortness and sorrows of life, the rest are for deliverance from them.

This Psalm, which is a prayer, (Remember that. We’ll come back to this point later.), was written by Moses. Scholars have generally deduced that this was written at the time when the 12 spies returned from their mission and the people murmured against God. The overall flow of the Psalm seems to verify this view. Until this point in Israel’s history the people of God had no place of their own. This is not to say that it was insufficient that God should be their dwelling place, but He had promised to Abraham the land of Canaan as part of His covenant, which would eventually, through the many twists and turns of history, come to fruition in the birth of Christ, the Seed in which all nations of the earth would be blessed. 

Israel stands on the very brink of receiving this covenant promise, which was the first step in establishing the nation which would be ruled by the tribe of Judah, through the family of Jesse, through the dynasty of David, which would give birth to the Christ. And on the very brink of receiving this long-awaited promise, the Church’s faith falters, they murmur against God, and incur the justifiable anger of God expressed in the 2nd portion of the Psalm, seen notably in verses 7 through 11.

In a fashion typical of all the Bible’s exhortations to trust in God, Moses sets before us in this verse God’s faithful dealing in the past, and in this particular case, with the Patriarchs. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.” Scripture frequently encourages us to trust God by setting before us His ‘track-record,’ as it were, of faithfulness in the past. 

Immediately in this passage, we see a presupposition of the Doctrine of Election, or more properly, the grace of adoption, by which God had embraced the offspring of Abraham as His children. How do we make this assessment? Note that little pronoun, “our.” This speaks of God’s particular, electing love for His people. Moses did not say, “Lord, you have been the dwelling place of the Canaanites, the Egyptians, the Assyrians,” or “of all mankind,” for that matter, but “You have been our dwelling place.” By speaking of ‘generations,’ Moses is looking back to their forefathers in the faith. The Old Testament is saturated with this idea: that of God’s covenant faithfulness across generations – and the relevance of that historical fact to whatever the present situation happened to be. For instance, in the wake (pun intended) of escaping the Egyptian army at the Red Sea, Moses sings in Exodus 15:2, “The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”

Samuel Horsley comments on our passage by expressing the experience of God’s people in these words, “Strangers and pilgrims as we have hitherto been, in every succeeding generation, from the days of Abraham; first sojourners in Canaan; then bondsman Egypt; now wanderers in this dreary waste; we nevertheless find the comforts of a home and settlement in thy miraculous protection.”

The point being driven at here is that the same grace of God experienced by the Patriarchs could be counted on by their offspring. Moses is looking back to God’s covenant promise to be a God to His people and their children, and to dwell with them, in a way which far surpassed whatever glory they had seen in the tabernacle over the previous 40 years. Moses’ statement is intended to recount, not how God had been faithful toward the Israelites since the Exodus, but what their fathers had experienced Him to be since the beginning of time. 

The concept presented to us in verses 1 and 2, goes back even farther than Abraham. It goes back to before Creation. This is accomplished by setting forth God’s grace towards His people, namely, in being their dwelling, not merely from the date of the Exodus, or from the birth of Abraham, but from all generations. The Hebrew literally says, “to generations and generations.” You may well be aware that repetition is a Hebrew method of emphasis. And the relationship between God’s favor towards His people and God’s eternity is emphasized in these verses by a parallel repetition. God is said to be our dwelling place for “generations and generations,” because He is God from “everlasting and everlasting.” Men live for generations; God’s favor, because He is eternal, is from everlasting to everlasting. 

So as I say, we are being taken back before creation itself. Ephesians 1:3-6 expresses this exact same idea in much more explicit language. It reads, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” The “One” He loves is, of course, referring to Christ. 

Here we are told that the sovereign, electing grace of God whereby He gathers His people unto Himself and adopts them as His own dear children, is something God did in Christ before the foundation of the world. 

Before there was a world in which God’s plan would unfold, before there was a garden in which our first parents were placed, before Abraham was called to sojourn in Canaan, and before his Seed would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth, in the decree and purpose of God, He was already the dwelling place of His people. Augustine put it eloquently when he said, “Behold then the eternity that is our refuge that we may fly thither from the mutability of time, there to remain evermore.” 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Election Makes Us Humble - John Calvin

Hence, therefore, arises the impregnable and insubvertible security of the saints. The Father, who gave us to the Son as His peculiar treasure, is stronger than all who oppose us; and He will not suffer us to be plucked out of His hand. What a cause for humility then in the saints of God when they see such a difference of condition made in those who are, by nature, all alike! Wherever the sons of God turn their eyes, they behold such wonderful instances of blindness, ignorance and insensibility, as fill them with horror; while they, in the midst of such darkness, have received Divine illumination, and know it, and feel it, to be so. How (say they) is it that some, under the clear light, continue in darkness and blindness? Who makes this difference? One thing they know by their own experience, that whereas their eyes were also once closed, they are now opened. Another thing is also certain, that those who willingly remain ignorant of any difference between them and others, have never yet learned to render unto God the glory due to Him for making that difference.

Now no one doubts that humility lies at the bottom of all true religion, and is the mother of all virtues. But how shall he be humble who will not hear of the original sin and misery from which he has been delivered? And who, by extending the saving mercy of God to all, without difference, lessens, as much as in him lies, the glory of that mercy? Those most certainly are the farthest from glorifying the grace of God, according to its greatness, who declare that it is indeed common to all men; but that it rests effectually in him, because they have embraced it by faith. The cause of faith itself, however, they would keep buried all the time out of sight, which is this: that the children of God who are chosen to be sons are afterwards blessed with the spirit of adoption. Now, what kind of gratitude is that in me if, being endowed with so preeminent a benefit, I consider myself no greater a debtor than he who hath not received one hundredth part of it? Wherefore, if, to praise the goodness of God worthily, it is necessary to bear in mind how much we are indebted to Him, those are malignant towards Him and rob Him of His glory who reject and will not endure the doctrine of eternal election, which being buried out of sight, one half of the grace of God must of necessity vanish with it.

Let those roar at us who will. We will ever brighten forth, with all our power of language, the doctrine which we hold concerning the free election of God, seeing that it is only by it that the faithful can understand how great that goodness of God is which effectually called them to salvation. I merely give the great doctrine of election a slight touch here, lest anyone, by avoiding a subject so necessary for him to know, should afterwards feel what loss his neglect has caused him. I will, by and by, in its proper place, enter into the Divine matter with appropriate fullness. Now, if we are not really ashamed of the Gospel, we must of necessity acknowledge what is therein openly declared: that God by His eternal goodwill (for which there was no other cause than His own purpose), appointed those whom He pleased unto salvation, rejecting all the rest; and that those whom He blessed with this free adoption to be His sons He illumines by His Holy Spirit, that they may receive the life which is offered to them in Christ; while others, continuing of their own will in unbelief, are left destitute of the light of faith, in total darkness.

Against this unsearchable judgment of God many insolent dogs rise up and bark. Some of them, indeed, hesitate not to attack God openly, asking why, foreseeing the Fall of Adam, He did not better order the affairs of men? To curb such spirits as these, no better means need be sought than those which Paul sets before us. He supposes this question to be put by an ungodly person: How can God be just in showing mercy to whom He will and hardening whom He will? Such audacity in men the apostle considers unworthy a reply. He does nothing but remind them of their order and position in God’s creation: “Who art thou, O man, that replies against God?” (Rom. ix. 20.) Profane men, indeed, vainly babble that the apostle covered the absurdity of the matter with silence for want of an answer. But the case is far otherwise.

The apostle in this appeal adopts an axiom, or universal acknowledgment, which not only ought to be held fast by all godly minds, but deeply engraved in the breast of common sense; that the inscrutable judgment of God is deeper than can be penetrated by man. And what man, I pray you, would not be ashamed to compress all the causes of the works of God within the confined measure of his individual intellect? Yet, on this hinge turns the whole question: Is there no justice of God, but that which is conceived of by us? Now if we should throw this into the form of one question– whether it be lawful to measure the power of God by our natural sense–there is not a man who would not immediately reply that all the senses of all men combined in one individual must faint under an attempt to comprehend the immeasurable power of God; and yet, as soon as a reason cannot immediately be seen for certain works of God, men somehow or other are immediately prepared to appoint a day for entering into judgment with Him. What therefore can be more opportune or appropriate than the apostle’s appeal: that those who would thus raise themselves above the heavens in their reasonings utterly forget who and what they are?

And suppose God, ceding His own right, should offer Himself as ready to render a reason for His works? When the matter came to those secret counsels of His, which angels adore with trembling, who would not be utterly bereft of his senses before such glorious splendor? Marvelous, indeed, is the madness of man! Who would more audaciously set himself above God than stand on equal ground with any Pagan judge! It is intolerable to you, and hateful, that the power and works of God should exceed the capacity of your own mind; and yet you will grant to an equal the enjoyment of his own mind and judgment. Now, will you, with such madness as this, dare to make mention of the adorable God? What do you really think of God’s glorious Name? And will you vaunt that the apostle is devoid of all reason, because he does not drag God from His throne and set Him before you, to be questioned and examined?

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Subjects of Baptism

The Subjects of Baptism
By Dr. Wilhelmus à Brakel
 
We have thus held before you baptism and its essential nature. It is evident that baptism is the first New Testament sacrament, a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, instituted by God, and its admini­stration commanded by the Lord Jesus to His apostles—and in them to all ministers. This administration consists in the act of immersion or sprinkling with clean water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, thereby signifying and sealing to believers the cleansing of the soul from the guilt and pollution of sin by the blood and the Spirit of Christ, as well as the incorporation into the congregation of Christ so that through faith, love, and holiness, they may glorify God, be an ornament to the church, convict the unconverted, and stir up believers.
 
The Subjects of Baptism
In addition to that which has been said, it is necessary that we also consider the subjects of baptism; that is, those to whom bap­tism must be administered. These are not clocks or similar objects which the Papists baptize, thereby dreadfully desecrating baptism. Rather, the objects must be men, and then the true believers among men. Only true believers are entitled to the use of the sacraments. However, since the church is not authorized to require assurance of the probability of regeneration as the foundation upon which the minister may administer the sacraments to someone, all who have made confession of their sins, of their faith in Christ, and of their determination to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and to lead a life which is in harmony with their confession, may rightfully and in good conscience be baptized. If the persons who are baptized are either unconverted or hypocrites, they are responsible and bap­tism is not a seal to them. They are neither partakers of the covenant nor are they entitled to its benefits. This is confirmed in the following passages: "And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. I indeed baptize you with water unto repen­tance:... Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" (Mat. 3:6-11, 8); "Repent, and be baptized every one of you" (Acts 2:38);
"...if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest" (Acts 8:37).
If someone has therefore entered into the covenant— whether it be in truth or in an external sense— and has been baptized, they are also obligated to surrender their children to Christ by way of the covenant and thus permit them to be baptized, as the covenant has also been made with their children. Before we prove this, we must, for a further exposition of infant baptism, make a few prefatory remarks.
 
The Baptism of Children
First, children to be baptized must 1) not be children of Jews, Muslims, heathens, or heretics, even if a member of the covenant has adopted them as children, for such adoption does not change the fact that they were not born within the covenant; 2) not be abandoned children in a country where the true church is not found, or if the true church is present, is filled with Jews, Muslims, heathens, Socinians, and other heretics, for such children can belong to the latter as well as to members of the covenant; 3) not be children of parents who have both been excommunicated— having been born subsequent to this excommunication— since such parents must be considered as heathens (Mat. 18:17); and 4) not be children who as yet are unborn, or who are miscarried— as the Papists do.
Instead, they must be
1) children of members of the covenant; that is, one or both must be members of the covenant (1 Cor. 7:14);
2) they may also be children of members of the covenant who are born as a result of adultery; or 3) children of those who are under censure, for the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father.
Secondly, the place where children ought to be baptized has not been determined by Scripture and does not belong to the essence of baptism. However, where the church conducts public worship services, it is edifying that it take place during a worship service.
Thirdly, subsequent to the breaking of the covenant of works, God established a covenant of grace with man. Never, that is, neither in the Old nor in the New Testament has He established an external covenant wherein both converted and unconverted alike would be members on equal footing, such that God, upon external obedience, would have promised some external benefits, regardless of what name may be given to this covenant, such as a national, typical, worldly, or external covenant. One may therefore not baptize children in reference to an external covenant, but only in reference to the covenant of grace.
Fourthly, one can view elect children either as they are from God's perspective, or as they are in themselves. God knows them as being elect, as heirs of eternal life, and as being redeemed through the death of their Surety, Jesus Christ. As they are in themselves, they are identical to all other children, missing the image of God, having the image of the devil, without the seed of faith, without regeneration and the least gracious inclination, with­out the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and thus, hateful and worthy of condemnation. Therefore, the basis for their baptism is neither^ a measure of grace which they have within themselves, nor eternal I election, which is hidden for us.
Fifthly, God could either partially or fully sanctify children from infancy on. All children would have entered the world as being perfectly holy if Adam had not sinned. This was the condition in which Christ was born (being perfectly holy), and in which elect infants are, who at their death are sanctified as perfectly as an adult believer is sanctified. God generally does not do this, however. Even if He does so with certain persons by way of exception, it is neither a precedent nor clear proof of this. Therefore, we state again that the basis for the baptism of children is not some inherent quality.
Sixthly, baptism is a sign and a seal, and thus has no other function but a signifying and sealing function. It neither works grace by way of inherent efficacy, nor is it an external sign whereby, whereupon, or wherewith God works regeneration. It is not comparable to what Christ did to make the miracle very obvious, availing Himself of something tangible in the performance of His miracles; nor is it comparable to the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit being communi­cated by the laying on of hands. Thus, the gracious operations of the Spirit are not bound to the time or the administration of baptism. Baptism also does not bring the child into an internal state other than was previously the case, and God does not love the child with the love of His delight any more than before. Rather, the entire efficacy of baptism consists in this— that it seals the covenant of grace and all its promises to the child. This is not to suggest that the child has / them already, but rather that the child is entitled to them and that God will accomplish this in this child. It is thus similar to the manner in which future benefits are sealed to adult believers.
Seventhly, all children of members of the covenant (irrespective of whether these members are converted or unconverted) who die in infancy—be it prior to or after the administration of baptism — must be considered as saved by virtue of God's covenant in which they were born and in consequence of which they are children of the covenant. If the parents are unconverted and unfaithful to the covenant, this will be imputed to their account, for the son will not bear the iniquity of the father. One must also consider them to be true partakers and children of the covenant as they grow older, until they show by their deeds that they are unfaithful to the covenant and thus are no partakers of its prom­ises. They then do not fall out of grace, nor is the seal nullified; rather, it is a proof that baptism was not a seal for them and that they have never truly been in the covenant. When, however, some are converted after leading a sinful life, baptism was a seal unto them, and they were thus truly included in the covenant and in very deed are partakers of its benefits, being entitled to them already since their childhood. This is true, even though between their baptism and conversion there was but an external resemblance to members of the covenant— in reference to both their personal spiritual state and sound judgment of others. Baptism only seals the elect.
Eighthly, the form for baptism asks of parents and witnesses, "Whether you acknowledge... that they (their children) are sanctified in Christ, and therefore, as members of His church ought to be baptized?" In order to understand this question correctly, it must be noted:
(1) This form addresses members of the covenant and speaks of their children.
(2) To be sanctified does not imply that the children at that moment are in truth possessors of the principle of faith, regeneration, and sanctification. It also does not imply that all baptized children are, and particularly, that my child is elect, will be converted, and be a partaker of salvation. Rather, it means in a general sense that chil­dren of members of the covenant, by virtue of the covenant made with them and their children, are entitled to its benefits and will become partakers of them. This is in distinction to the children of those who are not members of the covenant and for whom there are no promises in the Word. The salvation of the latter, if they die in infancy, is a matter which pertains to the sovereign and secret dealings of God, there being no foundation in regard to which something can be stated about them. And as long as children of members of the covenant manifest nothing which is either in their favor or disfavor, we may not discriminate among them, but by reason of the promise must deem them to be children of God until the contrary manifests itself. Therefore, to be sanctified in Christ means to be a partaker of Christ.
(3) To be sanctified does not mean to be included in an external covenant, for there is no external covenant. The parents have the \ salvation of their child in view, and not something of an external) nature. The sacraments are not seals of an external covenant, but only of the covenant of grace, and signs and seals of the righteous- J ness of faith. Also the child is acknowledged as being sanctified in Christ, which cannot be said in reference to an external covenant.
It is furthermore acknowledged that the child is sanctified prior to baptism, and therefore ought to be baptized. The child therefore does not become a member of the covenant by virtue of baptism; he was already a member prior to baptism, and prior to the child's baptism there was also no other covenant but the covenant of grace.
(4) Some wish to change the form and say, "to be sanctified in Christ, or those who are sanctified, must be sanctified in Christ." This is the result of ignorance and misunderstanding concerning this matter. If they wish these words to mean something different than to be in the covenant of grace (which appears to be the intent), I cannot understand on what basis they let their children or other children be baptized, since there is no other foundation for bap­tism but the covenant of grace, of which baptism is a seal.
 
The Scriptural Defense for the Baptism of Children
Having said this by way of introduction, we must now consider the following question:
Question: May and must children of members of the covenant be baptized?
Answer: Anabaptists, Socinians, and Brownists answer nega­tively, but we answer in the affirmative for the following reasons:
First, in the Old Testament children of members of the cove­nant had to be circumcised; therefore they must also be baptized in the New Testament. The first part of the statement is above controversy. The argument for the conclusion is as follows:
(1) Since there is one and the same covenant in both testaments, and this identical covenant also pertains to the children of the Old Testament who were obligated to receive the seal of circumcision, this is also true in the New Testament and they must therefore be baptized.
(2) Baptism has come in the place of circumcision; the external sign has changed, but the seal is the same. "In whom also ye are circumcised... buried with Him in baptism" (Col. 2:11-13). He who is baptized is said to be circumcised, since they are in essence one and the same sacrament.
(3) In both sacraments the same matter is signified and the purpose is identical: cleansing by the blood and the Spirit of Christ. If children had to be circumcised then, they must also be baptized today.
Secondly, children were baptized in the Old Testament. "…that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Cor. 10:1-2). It is irrefutable that all their children were included here (Exo. 10:24). In a manner comparable to being baptized by immersion in water, they were all in the sea, and the water in the cloud which was always above them, covered them. This baptism was a seal of their spiritual deliverance, having escaped from the hands of Pharaoh by the water of the sea. They were overshadowed by the cloud— and thus protected against the heat of the sun and the Lord Jesus was present in this cloud (Exo. 14:24). If children were then baptized as members of the covenant, they must also presently be baptized, for they are as much members of the covenant now as they were then.
Thirdly, the children of members of the covenant are in the covenant, and they therefore are also entitled to the seals of the covenant. Their inclusion in the covenant is evident in Genesis 17:7, "And I shall establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations." This was not only true in the Old but also in the New Testament, for believers from among the Gentiles also are Abraham's seed and are thus included in that covenant. "…that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised" (Rom. 4:11). Peter also confirms this: "Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed" (Acts 3:25). Add to this 1 Corinthians 7:14, where we read, "...else were your children unclean; but now are they holy." They do not have internal holiness, as has been proven in the above; rather, they are called holy because one of the parents is a believer, thereby being in the covenant. The holiness of such children is therefore a covenantal holiness.4 An external covenant does not exist, for there is but one covenant between God and believers: the covenant of grace. The children of members of the covenant are therefore in the covenant. In this respect the Lord calls them His children. "Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou \ hast borne unto Me... that thou hast slain My children" (Ezek. 1 16:20-21). If they are in the covenant, they must also indeed receive \ the seal of the covenant. This is evident in Acts 2:38-39, where we read, "…be baptized every one of you…for the promise is unto you, and to your children."
Fourthly, children are partakers of the benefits of the covenant, the merits of Christ, the promises, and salvation itself. "But Jesus said. Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Mat. 19:14). These were not children in the spiritual sense of the word, characterized by humil­ity, but rather natural children who were brought to Jesus, and who were kept away from Him by others, since they were deemed to be too unimportant. The Lord Jesus declares them to be partak­ers of the kingdom of heaven, of which one cannot be a partaker except through Christ. Who then would dare to exclude those children from heaven who die in infancy? Consider also Acts 2:39, where we read that the promise is to your children. Those who are partakers of the promises of the covenant are also entitled to the seal of the covenant and its promises.
 
Objection #1: Nowhere is a command found to baptize children.
Answer:
(1) Scripture has been given to rational people who know that all must be understood to be members of the covenant who are in the covenant— whether this is the husband, the wife, or the children.
(2) It also is not written: Baptize a man, or baptize a woman, nor are they mentioned by first and last name.
(3) We read in Genesis 17:12, "And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations." In Acts 2:38-39 we read, ". ..be baptized every one of you... for the promise is unto you, and to your children."
 
Objection #2: Children cannot benefit from this; they do not understand it, and they frequently cry when they are baptized.
Answer:
(1) One must not be wiser than God who has thus commanded it.
(2) Any additional objections would also be applicable to the circumcision of children.
(3) The parents are comforted by baptism. It obligates and stimulates them to view their children as members of the covenant and to raise them as such. And when children come to the years of discretion, they may derive as much benefit from it as persons who are baptized as adults.
 
Objection #3: Christ was not baptized until he was thirty years old; we must therefore also wait with baptism until children come to the years of discretion.
Answer:
(1) We would have to conclude from this that one cannot be baptized before thirty years of age. This is refuted by their own practice.
(2) The institution of baptism was not until that time.
(3) Christ had been circumcised in His youth.
Objection #4: One ought first to be instructed, repent, and believe before being permitted to be baptized (cf. Mat. 28:19; Acts 2:38; 8:37-38; Mark 16:16).
Answer:
(1) It is also written, "...if any would not work, neither^ should he eat" (2 Th. 3:10). Should we then deprive children of food? ) Who does not see that in both cases the reference is to adults?
(2) We may not baptize any children except those of members of the covenant. Therefore, parents must first become members of the covenant, and as far as they are concerned, instruction, repen­tance, and faith must precede. These texts therefore do not run counter to the baptism of children of members of the covenant.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chrysostom on Predestination

Then because He said above “And the sheep hear his voice, and follow him,” lest any should say, “What then is this to those who believe not?” hear what He addeth, “And I know My sheep, and am known of Mine.” As Paul declared when he said, “God hath not rejected His people whom He foreknew” ( Rom. xi. 2 ); and Moses, “The Lord knew those that were His” ( 2 Tim. ii. 19; comp. Num. xvi. 5); “those,” He saith, “I mean, whom He foreknew.” Then that thou mayest not deem the measure of knowledge to be equal, hear how He setteth the matter right by adding, “I know My sheep, and am known of Mine.” But the knowledge is not equal. “Where is it equal?” In the case of the Father and Me, for there, "As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father.” Had He not wished to prove this, why should He have added that expression? Because He often ranked Himself among the many, therefore, lest any one should deem that He knew as a man knoweth, He added, “As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father.” “I know Him as exactly as He knoweth Me.” Wherefore He said, “No man knoweth the Son save the Father, nor the Father save the Son” (Luke x. 22), speaking of a distinct kind of knowledge, and such as no other can possess.


John Chrysostom, Homily 60 on John

Friday, November 21, 2014

Why Debate the Mode of Baptism?

“It is sometimes asked, ‘Why dispute as to the mode of baptism? What difference whether the element be applied to the person, or the person put into the element?’ They who thus speak cannot have given much consideration to the matter. First, this subject possesses an incidental importance. Let me illustrate. At present no set of Christians seem to attach very much importance to the mode or posture of the body in the observance of the Lord's Supper. Some partake of that ordinance sitting, some standing, and some kneeling, and no one, on this account, charges another with any impropriety. But supposing a denomination should arise who would adopt reclining as their posture, and who would declare that this being the original mode of observance none other was valid, and they who adopted any other posture did not really observe the ordinance at all, but mocked the Almighty, and were guilty of a great sin. And supposing this denomination, should acquire considerable strength, and manifest an extraordinary zeal in seeking to lure the young and uninstructed of other churches within its own folds, would it not then be the bounden duty of every intelligent Christian, and especially of every religious instructor, to contend earnestly for Christian liberty on this matter, by upholding the truth, as well as by exposing the errors of these zealots, and warning of their proselyting efforts.


Now, if this language be transferred from the mode in the- observance of the supper to the mode in the observance of baptism, we have before us a description of the Baptist denomination, the only difference being that, while ‘reclining’ was undoubtedly the original mode in which the supper was observed, immersion was just as undoubtedly not the original mode of baptism. Baptists have made immersion the corner-stone of their denominational structure. According to their theory, there is, outside of their own circle, no baptism, no Lord's Supper, no Christian ministry, no Christian Church: and of course, therefore, no Christian man.” – W.A. McKay

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Herman Witsius on Romans 5:12

"By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Romans 5:2


To illustrate the apostle’s meaning, we must observe these things: 
1st. It is very clear to any not under the power of prejudice, that when the apostle affirms that all have sinned, he speaks of an act of sinning, or of an actual sin; the very term, to sin, denoting an action. It is one thing to sin, another to be sinful, if I may so speak. 
2dly. When he affirms all to have sinned; he under that universality likewise includes those who have no actual, proper, and personal sin, and who, as he himself says, have not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, verse 14. Consequently these are also guilty of some actual sin, as appears from their death; but that not being their own proper and personal sin, must be the sin of Adam, imputed to them by the just judgment of God. 
3dly. By these words  ἐφ' ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον for that all have sinned, he gives the reason why he had asserted that by the sin of one man death passed upon all. This, says he, ought not to astonish us, for all have sinned. If we must understand this of some personal sin of each, either actual or habitual, the reasoning would not have been just and worthy of the apostle, but mere trifling. For, his argument would be thus, that by the one sin of one all were become guilty of death, because each in particular had, besides that one and first sin, his own personal sin: which is inconsequential. 
4thly. The scope of the apostle is to illustrate the doctrine of justification he had before treated of. The substance of which consisted in this, that Christ, in virtue of the covenant of grace, accomplished all righteousness for his chosen covenant people, so that the obedience of Christ is placed to their charge, and they, on account thereof, are no less absolved from the guilt and dominion of sin, than if they themselves had done and suffered in their own person, what Christ did and suffered for them. He declares that in this respect, Adam was the type of Christ, namely, as answering to him. It is therefore necessary, that the sin of Adam, in virtue of the covenant of works, be so laid to the charge of his posterity, who were comprised with him in the same covenant that, on account of the demerit of his sin, they are born destitute of original righteousness, and obnoxious to every kind of death, as much as if they themselves, in their own persons, had done what Adam did. Unless we suppose this to be Paul’s doctrine, his words are nothing but mere empty sound. 

Herman Witsius, Economy of the Covenants  1.8.31

Friday, November 14, 2014

Alcuin of York on Grace

“Therefore, God is near the good by nature and by grace: by nature in that he makes them human; by grace in that he justifies those same sinners. By nature, through which he begat them from humans; by grace, through which he gave them power to become children of God (John 1:12). By nature, through which he causes them to live; by grace, through which he causes them to live soberly, justly, and piously (Titus 2:12). By nature, through which he causes them to remain in this world for a short time; by grace, through which he makes them to reign in heaven forever. However, in the bad, there is only the natural immensity and omnipotence of God, through which he made them to exist, to live, to feel, to be reasonable, and also to have free choice of the will, but free not freed. For, free will remains even now in all humans through nature. What God wants in them, he deigns to free through grace lest they have a bad will. For, through that free will the first man was sold under sin; therefore, the freedom of man began to be bad, because the goodness of the will was lost through free will itself. From then on, no one is able to have goodness of will from oneself unless he would have it by being helped by the grace of divine mercy. Without its help, free will is neither able to turn to God nor advance in God. We ought to believe in both the grace of God and the free will of man. For, if there is no grace of God, how can the world be saved? And if there is no free will, how will the world be judged?”

Alcuin of York (735-804), On Faith and the Undivided Trinity 2.8

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ambrose Autpert on Revelation 22:17

How can the one who wills, receive the water of the blessed fountain, if it is only given to a person freely? And surely the Apostle says: It is not of the one willing nor of the one running, but of God who shows mercy (Rom. 9:16). How can one who wills receive, if he receives it freely, unless the grace of God is given for both—grace which makes a person willing from being unwilling, and then once willing, it gratuitously leads him to that which he desires?

It is as if the bountiful one should say of this same grace: Having been inspired gratuitously, he began to desire eternal things, and gratuitously he trusts that he is able to attain them. For, no one except one who wills, receives the water of life; and no one is led to eternal life freely except one who, having been first preceded by grace, begins to will. On this it is said in another passage through the excellent preacher: For, it is God who works in us both to will and to do his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).

But the same Apostle seems to be contradictory to this opinion of his, when he says in another passage: The will is present with me, but to do good I do not find (Rom. 7:18). But it should be understood by us that he says the will is present with him, recognizing that he had divinely received this very willingness, because he also says, asking: What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Cor. 4:7). Of course, nothing whatsoever!

And so it should be said: The one who thirsts, let him come, as if it were saying: The one who, with grace preceding him, begins to desire eternal delights, should take hold of them with passionate love. And the one who wills, let him receive the water of life freely, you should understand as: The one who was made willing from being unwilling, through no preceding merits of good actions, but gratuitously by the will of God, should copiously drink the water of eternal delight from the invisible fountain.


Ambrose Autpert (730-784), Expositio in Apocalypsin. On Rev. 22:17.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ambrose Autpert on Grace

And because the number of the saints is gathered by no preceding merits, as was said, but only by the gratuitous will of God concerning such, correctly John, about to write to the seven churches which are located in Asia, puts forth the heading of his greeting, saying: Grace to you and peace from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:4-5). For, grace is said to be something that has been given freely, not something paid as a reward, but something conferred freely through kindness. For, when this grace shined within us, we, from enemies were led back to friendship with our Creator, from ungodly were made godly, and from servants of sin were adopted as children of righteousness. Every day we are illuminated by this preceding grace so that we may be able to see where we should place our step regarding good work. We are guarded by subsequent grace so that in the end we are not bitten by a serpent in the heel. By this grace we are incited to good work, but having been incited, unless that grace supports what it has incited, we are unable to complete that same work. On this Paul says: The will is present with me, but to do good I do not find (Rom. 7:18). Accordingly, therefore, the will that is present with you, is only because you received it by grace, as you yourself said in another passage: What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Cor. 4:7) Therefore, just as the will was present with Paul because he received this very thing by grace, so he did not find it to do good unless that very grace, which gave him the will, supported it. Accordingly also, the same Apostle says again: It is God who works in you both to will and to do his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). For, John, Peter, and Paul, when they were about to write to believers, put forth this grace in the heading of their greetings in their writings.

Ambrose Autpert (730-784), Expositio in Apocalypsin. On Rev 1:3-5.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Review of William Whitaker's "A Disputation on Holy Scripture"

Imagine the most lop-sided competition you can think of - Rocky Marciano versus a 0-100 light flyweight, the 1927 Yankees versus the 1962 Mets, Garry Kasparov versus Homer Simpson - that's what this book feels like. 


Whitaker’s magnum opus is a reply to the Jesuit hero of the Counter-Reformation, Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621). As good a controversialist as Bellarmine may have been, he was so overwhelmingly outclassed by Whitaker that it was almost embarrassing. Whitaker takes on Bellarmine’s defense of the Roman Catholic “unwritten tradition,” and pounds it into cream. The reason that Whitaker’s work is so overpowering is that he takes Bellarmine apart point by point. This work is not simply a reply to any single work of Bellarmine, but against his career-long apology for Romish ‘tradition.’ 

Whitaker wastes no effort in his manhandling of Bellarmine. A key feature is that, rather than stack up countless Patristic citations against Bellarmine, Whitaker goes to the exact same Patristic sources Bellarmine cites to demonstrate that Bellarmine has both cherry-picked his citations and ignored the larger context of the actual citation. He does this so often that you feel tempted to either pity Ballarmine or simply despise his as a rank fool. 

Whitaker points out the ways in which the Fathers used the word tradition. There are 4 ways, says Whitaker, in which the word ‘tradition’ is used by the Fathers: (1) In reference to the Scriptures, (2) in reference to the doctrines of Scripture, (3) in reference to indifferent traditions, regarding which the Fathers are often at odds with each other, (4) in reference to traditions highly valued by the Fathers which Rome does not practice. Uses 1 and 2 are twisted by Bellarmine into an argument from silence in defense of unwritten tradition. This is something Whitaker shows cannot be sustained by either the immediate context of the Patristic citation in question or the overall work of the Father cited. Uses 3 and 4 are conveniently ignored by Bellarmine. Whitaker gives no quarter.

Another defense Bellarmine has recourse to is the claim that Scripture is not intended to be the rule of doctrine and practice, but merely a ‘commonitory’ i.e., a manual for good living. Whitaker mops the floor with this argument as well. First he notes how deceptive Rome is because they themselves refer to the Scriptures as the “canonical’ Scriptures. ‘Canon,’ by definition means a RULE. Plainly, Bellarmine is being duplicitous, and Whitaker wastes no time pointing this out. Secondly, Whitaker points out that if Scripture were merely meant as a rule-book or manual for good Christian living, it could stand to be a lot shorter. Anyone can see, that by this standard, Scripture contains much that is either irrelevant or superfluous. 

Bellarmine then flips and says that Scripture is indeed a rule, however, not the only rule. Whitaker shows the logical fallacy involved in this position as well. First of all, Bellarmine’s duplicity shows itself in bright colors here since he has just asserted that Scripture is not a rule. When he gets schooled on the very Patristic sources he has used (rather, abused) to promote this assertion, he then attempts to sidestep Whitaker by saying that Scripture is a rule, just not the sole rule. This is, of course, logically inconsistent. Scripture cannot serve as a rule unless it is the only rule. Bellarmine is too smart to get away with such poor reasoning, and Whitaker won’t let him.

A most amusing feature about Bellarmine's defense of 'tradition' against the sufficiency of Scripture, relegating Scripture to functioning as a ‘commonitory,’ is that this is exactly the position argued by so-called ‘Evangelicals’ today. Who would’ve thought that people who are supposedly on Whitaker’s side would be treating Scripture exactly as the Counter-Reformation Jesuit enemies of the Gospel of Whitaker’s day? The fell-good evangelical preachers of our day constantly refer to Scripture as God’s “owner’s manual” for life. I’ve heard it a million times from the popular TV preachers and their multitudinous mimics. Joel Osteen=Robert Bellarmine – who knew? Whitaker must by turning in his grave! 

This is an excellent book and worth the effort on every level. It contains a wealth of Scriptural arguments for the sufficiency of Scripture. I have tangled with a few Romish apologists who like to assert that Scripture doesn't teach our doctrine of ‘sola Scriptura.’ Five minutes with the book will explode that assertion for the idiocy that it is. If you are looking for a defense of the sufficiency of Scripture, look no further.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Reformation Day!


Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences
Commonly Known as "The 95 Theses."

by Dr. Martin Luther


Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing. 
  1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. 
  2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy. 
  3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one's heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh. 
  4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven. 
  5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law. 
  6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched. 
  7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to the priest, His representative. 
  8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead. 
  9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case. 
  10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory. 
  11. When canonical penalties were changed and made to apply to purgatory, surely it would seem that tares were sown while the bishops were asleep. 
  12. In former days, the canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution was pronounced; and were intended to be tests of true contrition. 
  13. Death puts an end to all the claims of the Church; even the dying are already dead to the canon laws, and are no longer bound by them. 
  14. Defective piety or love in a dying person is necessarily accompanied by great fear, which is greatest where the piety or love is least. 
  15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, whatever else might be said, to constitute the pain of purgatory, since it approaches very closely to the horror of despair. 
  16. There seems to be the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, uncertainty, and assurance. 
  17. Of a truth, the pains of souls in purgatory ought to be abated, and charity ought to be proportionately increased. 
  18. Moreover, it does not seem proved, on any grounds of reason or Scripture, that these souls are outside the state of merit, or unable to grow in grace. 
  19. Nor does it seem proved to be always the case that they are certain and assured of salvation, even if we are very certain ourselves. 
  20. Therefore the pope, in speaking of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not mean "all" in the strict sense, but only those imposed by himself. 
  21. Hence those who preach indulgences are in error when they say that a man is absolved and saved from every penalty by the pope's indulgences. 
  22. Indeed, he cannot remit to souls in purgatory any penalty which canon law declares should be suffered in the present life. 
  23. If plenary remission could be granted to anyone at all, it would be only in the cases of the most perfect, i.e. to very few. 
  24. It must therefore be the case that the major part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of relief from penalty. 
  25. The same power as the pope exercises in general over purgatory is exercised in particular by every single bishop in his bishopric and priest in his parish. 
  26. The pope does excellently when he grants remission to the souls in purgatory on account of intercessions made on their behalf, and not by the power of the keys (which he cannot exercise for them). 
  27. There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clinks in the bottom of the chest. 
  28. It is certainly possible that when the money clinks in the bottom of the chest avarice and greed increase; but when the church offers intercession, all depends in the will of God. 
  29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed in view of what is said of St. Severinus and St. Pascal? (Note: Paschal I, pope 817-24. The legend is that he and Severinus were willing to endure the pains of purgatory for the benefit of the faithful). 
  30. No one is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much less of receiving plenary forgiveness. 
  31. One who bona fide buys indulgence is a rare as a bona fide penitent man, i.e. very rare indeed. 
  32. All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers. 
  33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them. 
  34. For the grace conveyed by these indulgences relates simply to the penalties of the sacramental "satisfactions" decreed merely by man. 
  35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins. 
  36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence. 
  37. Any true Christian whatsoever, living or dead, participates in all the benefits of Christ and the Church; and this participation is granted to him by God without letters of indulgence. 
  38. Yet the pope's remission and dispensation are in no way to be despised, for, as already said, they proclaim the divine remission. 
  39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, to extol to the people the great bounty contained in the indulgences, while, at the same time, praising contrition as a virtue. 
  40. A truly contrite sinner seeks out, and loves to pay, the penalties of his sins; whereas the very multitude of indulgences dulls men's consciences, and tends to make them hate the penalties. 
  41. Papal indulgences should only be preached with caution, lest people gain a wrong understanding, and think that they are preferable to other good works: those of love. 
  42. Christians should be taught that the pope does not at all intend that the purchase of indulgences should be understood as at all comparable with the works of mercy. 
  43. Christians should be taught that one who gives to the poor, or lends to the needy, does a better action than if he purchases indulgences. 
  44. Because, by works of love, love grows and a man becomes a better man; whereas, by indulgences, he does not become a better man, but only escapes certain penalties. 
  45. Christians should be taught that he who sees a needy person, but passes him by although he gives money for indulgences, gains no benefit from the pope's pardon, but only incurs the wrath of God. 
  46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they are bound to retain what is only necessary for the upkeep of their home, and should in no way squander it on indulgences. 
  47. Christians should be taught that they purchase indulgences voluntarily, and are not under obligation to do so. 
  48. Christians should be taught that, in granting indulgences, the pope has more need, and more desire, for devout prayer on his own behalf than for ready money. 
  49. Christians should be taught that the pope's indulgences are useful only if one does not rely on them, but most harmful if one loses the fear of God through them. 
  50. Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of the sheep. 
  51. Christians should be taught that the pope would be willing, as he ought if necessity should arise, to sell the church of St. Peter, and give, too, his own money to many of those from whom the pardon-merchants conjure money. 
  52. It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity. 
  53. Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others. 
  54. The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word. 
  55. The pope cannot help taking the view that if indulgences (very small matters) are celebrated by one bell, one pageant, or one ceremony, the gospel (a very great matter) should be preached to the accompaniment of a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies. 
  56. The treasures of the church, out of which the pope dispenses indulgences, are not sufficiently spoken of or known among the people of Christ. 
  57. That these treasures are not temporal are clear from the fact that many of the merchants do not grant them freely, but only collect them. 
  58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, because, even apart from the pope, these merits are always working grace in the inner man, and working the cross, death, and hell in the outer man. 
  59. St. Laurence said that the poor were the treasures of the church, but he used the term in accordance with the custom of his own time. 
  60. We do not speak rashly in saying that the treasures of the church are the keys of the church, and are bestowed by the merits of Christ. 
  61. For it is clear that the power of the pope suffices, by itself, for the remission of penalties and reserved cases. 
  62. The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God. 
  63. It is right to regard this treasure as most odious, for it makes the first to be the last. 
  64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is most acceptable, for it makes the last to be the first. 
  65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets which, in former times, they used to fish for men of wealth. 
  66. The treasures of the indulgences are the nets which to-day they use to fish for the wealth of men. 
  67. The indulgences, which the merchants extol as the greatest of favours, are seen to be, in fact, a favourite means for money-getting. 
  68. Nevertheless, they are not to be compared with the grace of God and the compassion shown in the Cross. 
  69. Bishops and curates, in duty bound, must receive the commissaries of the papal indulgences with all reverence. 
  70. But they are under a much greater obligation to watch closely and attend carefully lest these men preach their own fancies instead of what the pope commissioned. 
  71. Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences. 
  72. On the other hand, let him be blessed who is on his guard against the wantonness and license of the pardon-merchant's words. 
  73. In the same way, the pope rightly excommunicates those who make any plans to the detriment of the trade in indulgences. 
  74. It is much more in keeping with his views to excommunicate those who use the pretext of indulgences to plot anything to the detriment of holy love and truth. 
  75. It is foolish to think that papal indulgences have so much power that they can absolve a man even if he has done the impossible and violated the mother of God. 
  76. We assert the contrary, and say that the pope's pardons are not able to remove the least venial of sins as far as their guilt is concerned. 
  77. When it is said that not even St. Peter, if he were now pope, could grant a greater grace, it is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope. 
  78. We assert the contrary, and say that he, and any pope whatever, possesses greater graces, viz., the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as is declared in I Corinthians 12 [:28]. 
  79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross with the papal arms are of equal value to the cross on which Christ died. 
  80. The bishops, curates, and theologians, who permit assertions of that kind to be made to the people without let or hindrance, will have to answer for it. 
  81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult for learned men to guard the respect due to the pope against false accusations, or at least from the keen criticisms of the laity. 
  82. They ask, e.g.: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter's church, a very minor purpose. 
  83. Again: Why should funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? And why does not the pope repay, or permit to be repaid, the benefactions instituted for these purposes, since it is wrong to pray for those souls who are now redeemed? 
  84. Again: Surely this is a new sort of compassion, on the part of God and the pope, when an impious man, an enemy of God, is allowed to pay money to redeem a devout soul, a friend of God; while yet that devout and beloved soul is not allowed to be redeemed without payment, for love's sake, and just because of its need of redemption. 
  85. Again: Why are the penitential canon laws, which in fact, if not in practice, have long been obsolete and dead in themselves,—why are they, to-day, still used in imposing fines in money, through the granting of indulgences, as if all the penitential canons were fully operative? 
  86. Again: since the pope's income to-day is larger than that of the wealthiest of wealthy men, why does he not build this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of indigent believers? 
  87. Again: What does the pope remit or dispense to people who, by their perfect repentance, have a right to plenary remission or dispensation? 
  88. Again: Surely a greater good could be done to the church if the pope were to bestow these remissions and dispensations, not once, as now, but a hundred times a day, for the benefit of any believer whatever. 
  89. What the pope seeks by indulgences is not money, but rather the salvation of souls; why then does he suspend the letters and indulgences formerly conceded, and still as efficacious as ever? 
  90. These questions are serious matters of conscience to the laity. To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy. 
  91. If therefore, indulgences were preached in accordance with the spirit and mind of the pope, all these difficulties would be easily overcome, and indeed, cease to exist. 
  92. Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ's people, "Peace, peace," where in there is no peace. 
  93. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ's people, "The cross, the cross," where there is no cross. 
  94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells. 
  95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.

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