Monday, December 19, 2011

The Recovery of Sight by the Blind (Part 5)

The Recovery of Sight by the Blind, A Sermon by Augustine (354-430)

Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. Matt. 20:30.

XVI. It is to the love of this light that I would exhort you, beloved; that ye would cry out by your works, when the Lord passeth by; let the voice of faith sound out, that Jesus was standing still, that is, the unchangeable, abiding wisdom of God, and the majesty of the Word of God, by which all things were made, may open your eyes. The same Tobias, in giving advice to his son, instructed him to this, to cry out; that is, he instructed him to good works. He told him to give to the poor, charged him to give alms to the needy, and taught him, saying, "My son, alms suffereth not to come into darkness." The blind gave counsel for receiving and gaining sight. "Alms," saith he, "suffereth not to come into darkness." Had his son in astonishment answered him, "What then, father, hast thou not given alms, that thou speakest to me in blindness; art not thou in darkness, and yet thou dost say to me, Alms suffereth not to come into darkness?" But no, he knew well what the light was concerning which he gave his son instruction, he knew well what he saw in the inner man. The son held out his hand to his father, to enable him to dwell in heaven.

XVII. To be brief; that I may conclude this sermon, brethren, with a matter which touches me very nearly, and gives me much pain, see what crowds there are which rebuke the blind as they cry out. But let them not deter you. Whosoever among this crowd desire to be healed; for there are many Christians in name, and in works ungodly; let them not deter you from good works. Cry out amid the crowds that are restraining you, and calling you back, and insulting you, whose lives are evil. For not only by their voices, but by evil works, do wicked Christians repress the good. A good Christian has no wish to attend the public shows. In this very thing, that he bridles his desire of going to the theater, he cries out after Christ, cries out to be healed. Others run together thither, but perhaps they are heathens or Jews? Ah! indeed, if Christians went not to the theaters, there would be so few people there that they would go away for very shame. So then Christians run thither also, bearing the Holy Name only to their condemnation. Cry out then by abstaining from going, by repressing in thy heart this worldly concupiscence; hold on with a strong and persevering cry unto the ears of the Savior, that Jesus may stand still and heal thee. Cry out amid the very crowds, despair not of reaching the ears of the Lord. For the blind man in the Gospel did not cry out in that quarter where no crowd was, that so they might be heard in that direction, where there was no impediment from persons hindering them. Amid the very crowds they cried out; and yet the Lord heard them. And so also do ye even amid sinners, and sensual men, amid the lovers of the vanities of the world, there cry out that the Lord may heal you. Go not to another quarter to cry out unto the Lord, go not to heretics and cry out unto Him there. Consider, brethren, how in that crowd which was hindering them from crying out, even there they who cried out were made whole.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Recovery of Sight by the Blind (Part 4)

The Recovery of Sight by the Blind, A Sermon by Augustine (354-430)

Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. Matt. 20:30.

XIII. When he shall begin to do all this, all his kinsmen, relations, and friends will be in commotion. They who love the world will oppose him. What madness this! You are too extreme! What! Are not other men Christians? This is folly, this is madness. And other such like things do the multitude; cry out to prevent the blind from crying out. The multitude rebuked them as they cried out; but did not overcome their cries. Let them who wish to be healed understand what they have to do. Jesus is now also passing by; let them who are by the wayside cry out. These are they, who know God with their lips, but their heart is far from Him. These are by the wayside, to whom, as blinded in heart, Jesus gave His precepts. For when those passing things which Jesus did are recounted, Jesus is always represented to us as passing by. For even unto the end of the world there will not be wanting blind men sitting by the wayside. Need then there is that they who sit by the wayside should cry out. The multitude that was with the Lord would repress the crying of those who were seeking for recovery. Brethren, do you see my meaning? For I know not how to speak, but still less do I know how to be silent. I will speak then, and speak plainly. For I fear Jesus passing by and Jesus standing still; and therefore I cannot keep silence. Evil and unknown Christians hinder good Christians who are truly earnest and wish to do the commandments of God, which are written in the Gospel. This multitude which is with the Lord hinders those who are crying out, hinders those, that is, who are doing well, that they may not by perseverance be healed. But let them cry out, and not faint; let them not be led away as if by the authority of numbers; let them not imitate those who become Christians before them, who live evil lives themselves, and are jealous of the good deeds of others. Let them not say, "Let us live as these so many live." Why not rather as the Gospel ordains? Why dost thou wish to live according to the remonstrances of the multitude who would hinder them, and not after the steps of the Lord who passeth by? They will mock, and abuse, and call thee back; do thou cry out till thou reach the ears of Jesus. For they who shall persevere in doing such things as Christ hath enjoined, and regard not the multitude that hinder them, nor think much of their appearing to follow Christ, that is of their being called Christians; but who love the light which Christ is about to restore to them more than they fear the uproar of those who are hindering them; they shall on no account be separated from Him, and Jesus will stand still, and make them whole.

XIV. For how are our eyes made whole? That as by faith we perceive Christ passing by in the temporal economy, so we may attain to the knowledge of Him as standing still in His unchangeable eternity. For there is the eye made whole when the knowledge of Christ's divinity is attained. Let your love apprehend this; attend ye to the great mystery which I am to speak of. All the things which were done by our Lord Jesus Christ, in time, graft faith in us. We believe on the Son of God, not on the word only, by whom all things were made; but on this very word, "made flesh that He might dwell among us"; who was born of the Virgin Mary; and the rest which the Faith contains, and which are represented to us that Christ might pass by, and that the blind, hearing His footsteps as He passeth by, might by their works cry out, by their life exemplifying the profession of their faith. But now in order that they who cry out may be made whole, Jesus standeth still. For he saw Jesus now standing still, who says, "Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more." For he saw Christ's divinity as far as in this life is possible. There is then in Christ the divinity, and the humanity. The divinity standeth still, the humanity passeth by. What means "the divinity standeth still?" It changeth not, is not shaken, doth not depart away. For He did not so come to us as to depart from the Father; nor did He so ascend as to change His place. When He assumed flesh, it changed place; but God assuming flesh, seeing He is not in place, doth not change His place. Let us then be touched by Christ standing still, and so our eyes be made whole. But whose eyes? The eyes of those who cry out when He is passing by; that is, who do good works through that faith which hath been dispersed in time, to instruct in our infancy.

XV. Now what thing more precious can we have than the eye made whole? They rejoice who see this created light which shines from heaven, or even that which is given out from a lamp. And how wretched do they seem who cannot see this light? But wherefore do I speak, and talk of all these things, but to exhort you all to cry out, when Jesus passeth by. I hold up this light which perhaps ye do not see as an object of love to you, holy brethren. Believe, while as yet ye see it not; and cry out that ye may see. How great is thought to be the unhappiness of men who do not see this bodily light? Does anyone become blind; immediately it is said: "God is angry with him, he has committed some wicked deed." So said Tobias's wife to her husband. He cried out because of the kid, lest it had come of theft; he did not like to hear the sound of any stolen thing in his house; and she, maintaining what she had done, reproached her husband; and when he said, "Restore it if it be stolen"; she answered insultingly, "Where are thy righteous deeds?" How great was her blindness who maintaineth the theft; and how clear a light he saw, who commanded the stolen thing to be restored! She rejoiced outwardly in the light of the sun; he inwardly in the light of righteousness. Which of them was in the better light?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Recovery of Sight by the Blind (Part 3)

The Recovery of Sight by the Blind, A Sermon by Augustine (354-430)

Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. Matt. 20:30.

VIII. But because He designed to honor His faithful ones at the end of the world, He hath first honored the cross in this world; in such wise that the princes of the earth who believe in Him have prohibited any criminal from being crucified; and that cross which the Jewish persecutors with great mockery prepared for the Lord, even kings, His servants, at this day, bear with great confidence on their foreheads. Only the shameful nature of the death which our Lord vouchsafed to undergo for us is not now so apparent, Who, as the apostle says, "Was made a curse for us." And when, as He hung, the blindness of the Jews mocked Him, surely He could have come down from the cross, who, if He had not so willed, had not been on the cross; but it was a greater thing to rise from the grave than to come down from the cross. Our Lord, then, in doing these divine and in suffering these human things, instructs us by His bodily miracles and bodily patience, that we may believe and be made whole to behold those things invisible which the eye of the body hath no knowledge of. With this intent, then, He cured those blind men of whom the account has just now been read in the Gospel. And consider what instruction He has by this cure conveyed to the man who is sick within.

IX. Consider the issue of the thing, and the order of the circumstances. Those two blind men sitting by the wayside cried out, as the Lord passed by, that He would have mercy upon them. But they were restrained from crying out by the multitude which was with the Lord. Now do not suppose that this circumstance is left without a mysterious meaning. But they overcame the crowd who kept them back by the great perseverance of their cry, that their voice might reach the Lord's ears; as tho he had not already anticipated their thoughts. So then the two blind men cried out that they might be heard by the Lord, and could not be restrained by the multitude. The Lord "was passing by," and they cried out. The Lord "stood still," and they were healed. "For the Lord Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What wilt ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto Him, That our eyes may be opened." The Lord did according to their faith, He recovered their eyes. If we have now understood by the sick, the deaf, the dead, the sick, and deaf, and dead within; let us look out in this place also for the blind within. The eyes of the heart are closed; Jesus passeth by that we may cry out. What is meant by "Jesus passeth by?" Jesus is doing things which last but for a time. What is meant by "Jesus passeth by?" Jesus doth things which pass by. Mark and see how many things of His have passed by. He was born of the Virgin Mary; is He being born always? As an infant He was suckled; is He suckled always? He ran through the successive ages of life until man's full estate; doth He grow in body always? Boyhood succeeded to infancy, to boyhood youth, to youth man's full stature in several passing successions. Even the very miracles which He did are passed by; they are read and believed. For because these miracles are written that so they might be read, they passed by when they were being done. In a word, not to dwell long on this, He was crucified; is He hanging on the cross always? He was buried, He rose again, He ascended into heaven, now He dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over Him. And His divinity abideth ever, yea, the immortality of His body now shall never fail. But nevertheless all those things which were wrought by Him in time have passed by; and they are written to be read, and they are preached to be believed. In all these things, then, Jesus passeth by.

X. And what are the two blind men by the wayside but the two people to cure whom Jesus came? Let us show these two people in the Holy Scriptures. It is written in the Gospel, "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also must I bring, that there may be one fold and one Shepherd." Who then are the two people? One the people of the Jews, and the other of the Gentiles. "I am not sent," He saith, "but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." To whom did He say this? To the disciples; when that woman of Canaan, who confessed herself to be a dog, cried out that she might be found worthy of the crumbs from the Master's table. And because she was found worthy, now were the two people to whom He had come made manifest, the Jewish people, to wit, of whom He said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel"; and the people of the Gentiles, whose type this woman exhibited, whom He had first rejected, saying, "It is not meet to cast the children's bread to the dogs"; and to whom, when she said, "Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table," He answered, "O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt." For of this people also was that centurion of whom the same Lord saith, "Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel," because he had said, "I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed." So then the Lord even before His passion and glorification pointed out two people, the one to whom He had come because of the promises to the Fathers, and the other whom for His mercy's sake He did not reject; that it might be fulfilled which had been promised to Abraham, "In thy seed shall all the nations be blessed."

XI. Attend, now, dearly beloved. The Lord was passing by, and the blind men cried out. What is this "passing by?" As we have already said, He was doing works which passed by. Now upon these passing works is our faith built up. For we believe on the Son of God, not only in that He is the Word of God, by whom all things were made; for if He had always continued in the form of God, equal with God, and had not emptied Himself in taking the form of a servant, the blind men would not even have perceived Him, that they might be able to cry out. But when he wrought passing works, that is, when He humbled Himself, having become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, the two blind men cried out, Have mercy on us, thou Son of David. For this very thing that He, David's Lord and Creator, willed also to be David's son, He wrought in time, He wrought passing by.

XII. Now what is it, brethren, to cry out unto Christ, but to correspond to the grace of Christ by good works? This I say, brethren, lest haply we cry aloud with our voices, and in our lives be dumb. Who is he that crieth out to Christ, that his inward blindness may be driven away by Christ as He is passing by, that is, as He is dispensing to us those temporal sacraments, whereby we are instructed to receive the things which are eternal? Who is he that crieth out unto Christ? Whoso despiseth the world, crieth out unto Christ. Whoso despiseth the pleasures of the world, crieth out unto Christ. Whoso saith, not with his tongue but with his life, the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world, crieth out unto Christ. Whoso disperseth abroad and giveth to the poor, that his righteousness may endure forever, crieth out unto Christ. For let him that hears, and is not deaf to the sound, sell that ye have, and give to the poor; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not; let him as he hears the sound as it were of Christ's footsteps passing by cry out in response to this in his blindness; that is, let him do these things. Let his voice be in his actions. Let him begin to despise the world, to distribute to the poor his goods, to esteem as nothing worth what other men love, let him disregard injuries, not seek to be avenged, let him give his cheek to the smiter, let him pray for his enemies; if any one who have taken away his goods, let him not ask for them again; if he have taken anything from any man, let him restore fourfold.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Recovery of Sight by the Blind (Part 2)

The Recovery of Sight by the Blind, A Sermon by Augustine (354-430)

Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. Matt. 20:30.

IV. Again, what eyes did He look for when He spake to those who saw indeed, but who saw only with the eyes of the flesh? For when Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father and it sufficeth us": he understood, indeed, that if the Father were shown him, it might well suffice him; when He that was equal to the Father had sufficed not? And why did He not suffice? Because He was not seen. And why was He not seen? Because the eye whereby He might be seen was not yet whole. For this, namely, that the Lord was seen in the flesh with the outward eyes, not only the disciples who honored Him saw, but also the Jews who crucified Him. He, then, who wished to be seen in another way, sought for other eyes. And, therefore, it was that to him who said, "Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us," He answered, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He who hath seen Me hath seen the Father also." And that He might in the meanwhile heal the eyes of faith, He has first of all given him instructions regarding faith, that so he might attain to sight. And lest Philip should think that he was to conceive of God under the same form in which he then saw the Lord Jesus Christ in the body, he immediately subjoined, "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?" He had already said, "He who hath seen me hath seen the Father also." But Philip's eye was not yet sound enough to see the Father, nor, consequently, to see the Son, who is Himself coequal with the Father. And so Jesus Christ took in hand to cure, and with the medicine and salve of faith to strengthen the eyes of his mind, which as yet were weak and unable to behold so great a light, and He said, "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?" Let not him, then, who cannot yet see what the Lord will one day show him, seek first to see what he is to believe; but let him first believe that the eye by which he is to see may be healed. For it was only the form of the servant which was exhibited to the eyes of servants; because if "He who thought it not robbery to be equal with God" could have been now seen as equal with God by those whom He wished to be healed, He would not have needed to empty Himself and to take the form of a servant. But because there was no way whereby God could be seen, but whereby man could be seen there was; therefore, He who was God was made man, that that which was seen might heal that whereby He was not seen. For He saith Himself in another place, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Philip might, of course, have answered and said, Lord, do I see Thee? Is the Father such as I see Thee to be? Forasmuch as Thou hast said, "He who hath seen Me hath seen the Father also?" But before Philip answered thus, or perhaps before he so much as thought it, when the Lord had said, "He who hath seen Me hath seen the Father also," He immediately added, "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?" For with that eye he could not yet see either the Father, or the Son who is equal with the Father; but that his eye might be healed for seeing, he was anointed unto believing. So, then, before thou seest what thou canst not now see, believe what as yet thou seest not. "Walk by faith," that thou mayest attain to sight. Sight will not gladden him in his home whom faith consoleth not by the way. For, so says the apostle, "As long as we are in the body we are absent from the Lord." And he subjoins immediately why we are still "absent or in pilgrimage," though we have now believed; "For we walk by faith," he says; "not by sight."

V. Our whole business, then, brethren, in this life is to heal this eye of the heart whereby God may be seen. To this end are celebrated the Holy Mysteries; to this end is preached the Word of God; to this end are the moral exhortations of the Church, those, that is, that relate to the corrections of manners, to the amendment of carnal lusts, to the renouncing the world, not in word only, but in a change of life: to this end is directed the whole aim of the Divine and Holy Scriptures, that that inner man may be purged of that which hinders us from the sight of God. For as the eye which is formed to see this temporal light, a light though heavenly yet corporeal, and manifest, not to men only, but even to the meanest animals (for this the eye is formed to this light); if anything be thrown or falls into it, whereby it is disordered, is shut out from this light; and though it encompasses the eye with its presence, yet the eye turns itself away from, and is absent from it; and though its disordered condition is not only rendered absent from the light which is present, but the light to see which it was formed is even painful to it, so the eye of the heart too, when it is disordered and wounded, turns away from the light of righteousness, and dares not and cannot contemplate it.

VI. And what is it that disorders the eye of the heart? Evil desire, covetousness, injustice, worldly concupiscence; these disorder, close, blind the eye of the heart. And yet, when the eye of the body is out of order, how is the physician sought out, what an absence of all delay to open and cleanse it, that they may be healed whereby this outward light is seen! There is running to and fro, no one is still, no one loiters, if even the smallest straw fall into the eye. And God, it must be allowed, made the sun which we desire to see with sound eyes. Much brighter, assuredly, is He who made it; nor is the light with which the eye of the mind is concerned of this kind at all. That light is eternal wisdom. God made thee, O man, after His own image. Would He give thee wherewithal to see the sun which He made, and not give thee wherewithal to see Him who made thee, when He made thee after His own image? He hath given thee this also; both hath He given thee. But much thou dost love these outward eyes, and despisest much that interior eye; it thou dost carry about bruised and wounded. Yea, it would be a punishment to, if thy Maker should wish to manifest Himself unto thee, it would be a punishment to thine eye, before that it is cured and healed. For so Adam in Paradise sinned, and hid himself from the face of God. As long, then, as he had the sound heart of a pure conscience, he rejoiced at the presence of God; when that eye was wounded by sin, he began to dread the divine light, he fled back into the darkness, and the thick covert of trees, flying from the truth, and anxious for the shade.

VII. Therefore, my brethren, since we too are born of him, and as the apostle says, "In Adam all die"; for we were all at first two persons; if we were loath to obey the physician, that we might not be sick; let us obey Him now, that we may be delivered from sickness. The Physician gave us precepts, when we were whole; He gave us precepts that we might not need a physician. "They that are whole," He saith, "need not a physician, but they that are sick." When whole, we despised these precepts, and by experience have felt how to our own destruction we despised His precepts. Now we are sick, we are in distress, we are on the bed of weakness; yet let us not despair. For because we could not come to the Physician, He hath vouchsafed to come Himself to us. Though despised by man when he was whole, He did not despise him when he was stricken. He did not leave off to give other precepts to the weak, who would not keep the first precepts, that he might not be weak; as though He would say, "Assuredly thou hast by experience felt that I spoke the truth when I said, Touch not this. Be healed then now, at length, and recover the life thou hast lost. Lo, I am bearing thine infirmity; drink then the bitter cup. For thou hast of thine own self made those my so sweet precepts, which were given to thee when whole, so toilsome. They were despised, and so thy distress began; cured thou canst not be, except thou drink the bitter cup, the cup of temptations, wherein this life abounds, the cup of tribulation, anguish, and suffering. Drink then," He says, "drink, that thou mayest live." And that the sick man may not make answer, "I can not, I can not bear it, I will not drink"; the Physician, all whole tho He be, drinketh first, that the sick man may not hesitate to drink. For what bitterness is there in this cup which He hath not drunk? If it be contumely, He heard it first when He drove out the devils. "He hath a devil, and by Beelzebub He casteth out devils." Whereupon, in order to comfort the sick, He saith, "If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of His household?" If pains are this bitter cup, He was bound, and scourged, and crucified. If death be this bitter cup, He died also. If infirmity shrink with horror from any particular kind of death, none was at that time more ignominious than the death of the cross. For it was not in vain, that the apostle, when setting forth His obedience, added, "He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Recovery of Sight by the Blind (Part 1)

The Recovery of Sight by the Blind, A Sermon by Augustine (354-430)

Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. Matt. 20:30.

I. Ye know, holy brethren, full well as we do, that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the physician of our eternal health; and that to this end we task the weakness of our natures, that our weakness might not last forever. For He assumed a mortal body, wherein to kill death. And, "though He was crucified through weakness," as the apostle saith, yet He "liveth by the power of God." They are the words, too, of the same apostle: "He dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over Him." These things, I say, are well known to your faith. And there is also this which follows from them, that we should know that all the miracles which He did on the body avail to our instruction, that we may from them perceive that which is not to pass away, nor to have any end. He restored to the blind those eyes which death was sure some time to close; He raised Lazarus to life who was to die again. And whatever He did for the health of bodies, He did it not to this end that they should be forever; whereas, at the last, He will give eternal health even to the body itself. But because those things which were not seen were not believed; by means of those temporal things which were seen, He built up faith in those things which were not seen.

II. Let no one then, brethren, say that our Lord Jesus Christ doeth not those things now, and on this account prefer the former to the present ages of the Church. In a certain place, indeed, the same Lord prefers those who do not see and yet believe to them who see and therefore believe. For even at that time so irresolute was the infirmity of His disciples that they thought that He whom they saw to have risen again must be handled, in order that they might believe. It was not enough for their eyes that they had seen Him, unless their hands also were applied to His limbs, and the scars of His recent wounds were touched: that this disciple, who was in doubt, might cry suddenly when he had touched and recognized the scars, "My Lord and my God." The scars manifested Him who had healed all wounds in others. Could not the Lord have risen again without scars? Yes, but He knew the wounds which were in the hearts of His disciples, and to heal them He had preserved the scars on His own body. And what said the Lord to him who now confest and said, "My lord, and my God?" "Because thou hast seen," He said, "thou hast believed; blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed." Of whom spake He, brethren, but of us? Not that He spoke only of us, but of those also who shall come after us. For a little while when He had departed from the sight of men, that faith might be established in their hearts, whosoever believed, believed tho they saw Him not, and great has been the merit of their faith; for the procuring of which faith they brought only the movement of a pious heart, and not the touching of their hands.

III. These things, then, the Lord did to invite us to the faith. This faith reigneth now in the Church, which is spread throughout the whole world. And now, He worketh greater cures, on account of which He disdained not then to exhibit those lesser ones. For as the soul is better than the body, so is the saving health of the soul better than the health of the body. The blind body doth not now open its eyes by a miracle of the Lord, but the blinded heart openeth its eyes to the word of the Lord. The mortal corpse doth not now rise again, but the soul doth rise again which lay dead in a living body. The deaf ears of the body are not now opened; but how many have the ears of their heart closed, which yet fly open at the penetrating word of God, so that they believe who did not believe, and they live well who did live evilly, and they obey who did not obey; and we say, "such a man is become a believer," and we wonder when we hear of them whom once we had known as hardened. Why, then, dost thou marvel at one who now believes, who is living innocently, and serving God, but because thou dost behold him seeing, whom thou hadst known to be blind; dost behold him living whom thou hast known to be dead; dost behold him hearing whom thou hadst known to be deaf? For consider that there are those who are dead in another than the ordinary sense, of whom the Lord spoke to a certain man who delayed to follow the Lord, because he wished to bury his father; "Let the dead," said He, "bury their dead." Surely these dead buriers are not dead in body; for if this were so, they could not bury dead bodies. Yet doth He call them dead; where but in the soul within? For as we may often see in a household, itself sound and well, the master of the same house lying dead; so in a sound body do many carry a dead soul within; and these the apostle arouses thus, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." It is the same who giveth sight to the blind that awakeneth the dead. For it is with His voice that the cry is made by the apostle to the dead. "Awake thou that sleepest." And the blind will be enlightened with light, when he shall have risen again. And how many deaf men did the Lord see before His eyes, when He said, "He that hath ears to hear let him hear." For who was standing before Him without his bodily ears? What other ears, then, did He seek for, but those of the inner man?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

St. Paul’s Doctrine Of The Holy Spirit 2

One may ask how men can said to be saved by the renewing of the Spirit when the salvation is in Christ.  The answer is obvious.  There is a chain, or series of events, of which no link may be lacking. 
*      We are saved by divine purpose. God has so decreed and chosen us to salvation before the foundation of the world. 
*      We are saved by the atonement as the meritorious basis of all. 
*      We are saved by faith as the bond of union to Christ. We are saved by grace as contrasted to works we have done. 
*      We are saved by the truth that conveys God’s testimony. 
*      And we are saved, as it expressed here, “by the renewing of the Holy Ghost,” as producing faith in the heart. So we find the Spirit called the Spirit of faith,[i] that is, the Author or producing cause of faith. 

Therefore we may unhesitatingly affirm that the commencement of the Christian life must be attributed to the Holy Spirit absolutely and completely.

Of all Paul’s epistles, it is perhaps to the Galatians that his doctrine on the economy of the Spirit is most full.  This was, of course, due to the circumstances which necessitated the letter in the first place.  We are all perhaps conversant with the history of the Galatian church.  They had no sooner been founded than they were subjected to the test of counterfeit teachers.  Representatives from the Pharisaical party of the Jews insisted that an adherence to certain Jewish rites was necessary for justification before God.  Paul replied to this error by stating that they had not received the Spirit through works of the Law, but by the preaching of faith.  The ordinary saving gifts of regeneration and holiness, as well as other supernatural gifts, were not received by any performance of the ceremonial and moral law.

The next thing Paul demonstrates is that the promised Spirit was procured by the vicarious death of Christ.  This proves the assertion made earlier about Paul’s view of the joint mission of Son and Spirit.  The giving of the Spirit is connected with the atonement.  Paul says, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”[ii]  The meaning of this passage is that the death of Christ was the purchase of this gift – the promised Spirit.  The final article (i9na) leans on the words that describe Christ’s sacrifice.

Next Paul describes the Spirit of adoption as given only to those who are sons by faith.[iii]  This is to further show that works are excluded and that the reception of the promised Spirit is exclusively due to the merits of Christ.  This is why he says, “That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”[iv]

The last part of the Epistle displays the Spirit’s work in another light.  The last two chapters set forth the graces of the Spirit and the Christian’s fruitfulness.  The same Apostle who, in the first part of the Epistle was anxious to assert the Christian’s freedom and bid that we stand fast in it, is not less anxious to set forth the Spirit’s renewing and sanctifying influence.  As the believer’s being led by the Spirit, Paul adduces their liberty from the curse of the law as a proof.[v]  Then after cataloging the works of the flesh, he specifies as the fruit of the Spirit “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and temperance.”[vi]  He calls these fruit, as if they grew on a living tree.  George Smeaton asserts that Paul means that against such people there is no law, arguing that tw~n toiounton is an allusion to people.[vii]  Thus from living by the Spirit Paul argues the duty of walking by the Spirit[viii] and concludes by referring to the duty of sowing to the Spirit.[ix]

In short, we may say that in Paul’s theology, the Spirit is the Source of the saving faith of believers, the Renewer of their natures and the Sanctifier of their lives.  All these operations of the Spirit are connected to the work of the Son.  Never do we find in Paul the work of the Spirit mentioned without a direct link to the work of the Son.  This is, to my mind, the one distinctive feature of Paul’s theology of the Holy Spirit.  This is exactly as it should be, for Christ Himself said, “He will glorify me.”[x]

[i] 2 Corinthians 4:13
[ii] Galatians 3:13-14
[iii] Galatians 4:6
[iv] italics mine
[v] Galatians 5:18
[vi] Galatians 5:22
[vii] George Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
[viii] Galatians 5:25
[ix] Galatians 6:8
[x] John 16:14

Monday, December 5, 2011

St. Paul’s Doctrine Of The Holy Spirit 1

The apostolic testimony to the Holy Spirit is given by Paul, James, Peter, John, Jude and the author of Hebrews.  One thing must be stated at the outset regarding the apostolic theology of the Spirit.  They all, with full consent, take for granted the corruption of man’s nature.  Thus, they refer to the Spirit as the Originator and Source all the saving, sanctifying and comforting influences that Christians experience.[i]  They do not stop to inquire how the renewing of the Holy Spirit is to be harmonized with the freedom of the will – as if these questions were not part of their concern.  Nevertheless, the fact of men’s responsibility along with the proclamation of converting grace and the renewing of the Spirit is set forth with a gravity and exigency to which the solution of these questions could add no further weight – if it were possible to solve them.

We do not find in any of the apostles the sheer volume of allusions to the Holy Spirit’s work in saving and sanctifying as we find in the Epistles of St. Paul.  This is most accurately, besides other reasons, to be ascribed to the fact that Paul had not know Christ after the flesh[ii] but had received his revelations more through an inward communication of the Spirit than by direct discourse with the Lord.  Paul has this distinguishing feature, quite different from the other apostles.

Paul most emphatically affirms that Christ is never to be conceived of apart from the Spirit, and, conversely, that the Spirit is never to be conceived of apart from Christ.  The memorable passage where he says, “Now the Lord is that Spirit,”[iii] shows the close connection in which Paul places Christ and the Spirit and how fully he understands their joint mission.  We will look at several features of Paul’s theology of the Spirit, but the above point should be constantly borne in mind as the groundwork and underpinning for all of Paul’s understanding of the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle gives us quite an ample testimony to the dignity of the Spirit.  In Acts we find him saying that the Spirit spoke by the prophet Isaiah[iv] and that the Spirit testified from city to city that bonds and imprisonment awaited him.[v]  In his own Epistles, Paul declares that the Holy Spirit sustained him in his ministry.[vi]  Paul appeals to the Spirit and calls Him to witness.[vii]  But in demonstration of the aforementioned connection in Paul’s theology of the work of the Son and the Spirit, we advert to the fact that Paul uses the same expression, sent forth (e1cape2steilen), to describe the Spirit’s mission as he used to describe the Son’s mission[viii]

The titles Paul uses for the Holy Spirit are quite numerous, and revealing of his understanding as well.  For instance, he calls Him the Spirit of God,[ix] the Spirit of His Son,[x] the Spirit of Christ[xi] and the Spirit of Him that raised Christ from the dead.[xii]  If we look at the economy in which the Spirit is sent, He is said to be shed on us abundantly.[xiii]  If we examine the titles He is given by Paul in view of the blessings and benefits derived from Him, He is called the Spirit of grace,[xiv] the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus,[xv] the Spirit of adoption,[xvi] the Spirit of life,[xvii] the Spirit of meekness[xviii] and the Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.[xix]

Paul invariably attributes to the Spirit the instigation of the Christian life.  Thus we find him saying, “No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”[xx] And in another place he says, “He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”[xxi]  Whether or not we interpret the phrase “washing (laver) of regeneration,” as referring to baptism, the last phrase (renewing of the Holy Ghost) must be construed as referring to the active operation of the Spirit at the commencement of the Christian life.  Since it is to this shedding or pouring out of the Spirit to which salvation is traced, this cannot be referred to mere doctrine.  The personal Spirit is mentioned as the producing cause.

[i] See Ephesians 3:16; Romans 15:13
[ii] 2 Corinthians 5:16
[iii] 2 Corinthians 3:17
[iv] Acts 28:25
[v] Acts 20:23
[vi] Romans 15:19
[vii] Romans 9:1
[viii] Galatians 4:4-6
[ix] Romans 8:9
[x] Galatians 4:6
[xi] Romans 8:9
[xii] Romans 8:11
[xiii] Titus 3:6
[xiv] Hebrews 10:29
[xv] Ephesians 1:17
[xvi] Romans 8:15
[xvii] Romans 8:2
[xviii] Galatians 6:1
[xix] 2 Timothy 1:7
[xx] 1 Corinthians 12:3
[xxi] Titus 3:5

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Put This In Your Dispensationalist Pipe And Smoke It.

There is probably no more Israelite-ish book in the Bible than Leviticus. Most Christians admittedly bog down in their “read through the Bible in a year” plans when they hit Leviticus. They wonder if the book has any relevance for New Testament believers. The cause of this sensation is no doubt the lack of clarity most people possess concerning the relationship of Old Testament Israel to the New Testament Church.
To help clarify this, let’s look at Leviticus 26:11-12. “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” (ESV)
These verses are at the end of a segment (26:1-13) that contains the blessings of covenant keeping. The covenant in question is the Covenant of Grace. We know that this is so because it contains God’s promise to Abraham from Genesis 17:7-8
And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (ESV)
Many people mistakenly believe that the Law given at Sinai was a return to the Covenant of Works, but this is not true. The Sinai Law was part of the Covenant of Grace. This can be seen from the fact that in Exodus 19, before the Decalogue was given, God re-confirmed with Israel the Covenant of Grace He had made with their forefather Abraham. Not only that, but the prologue to the Decalogue is pure, unadulterated grace. 
One can compare Ezekiel 37:26-28 with the Leviticus 26 passage to see a confirmation that this is a special promise of God relating to the Covenant of Grace.
I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore. (ESV)
Fastforward several centuries to the day of Pentecost and the time immediately after it. Pentecost, whatever else may be said about it, is the beginning of the New Testament Church. It is the point at which the worship of God moves from a physical temple to a spiritual one. I said all that to say this: anything which occurs here can no longer be said to be a part of the Old Testament Israel-centered religion. In a fully New Testament context, Peter confirms that the promise to Abraham relates to the Church (Acts 2:39 cf. Acts 3:25).
Later, speaking to a church comprised largely of ethnic Gentiles, Paul quotes this promise (“I will be your God and you will be My people) in reference to the Church. Indeed Paul acts as if he understood the original promise to be finally fulfilled in the New Testament Church. Here is what he says: What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people. (ESV)
Notice that Paul actually says that the New Testament Church IS the Temple spoken of throughout Scripture.If this weren’t clear enough, two times in Romans 4 (verses 1 and 9-12 - again addressed to Gentiles), Paul refers to Abraham as “our father.” And in verses 9-12, Paul argues conclusively that the promises of the Covenant of Grace were made to Abraham before there were such people as Jews. That the New Testament Church is the fulfillment of God’s covenant to Abraham is even clearer in Galatians, because this is precisely what Paul argues in Galatians 3.The reasoning of Galatians 3:6-9 absolutely demolishes the phony dichotomy between Israel and the Church which Dispensationalism creates. Look back at Leviticus 26:11-12. The covenant promise of God is this: I will be your God and will dwell with you. Ezekiel 37:26-28 reaffirms this promise to Israel. Paul then interprets the promise to “dwell among you” to mean that the Church IS the temple of God and the promise therefore is ultimately for the New Testament Church (2 Cor. 6:16). Romans 4 and Galatians 3 argue conclusively that the New Testament Church is the continuation and fulfillment of the Old Testament church, Israel.
Confirming that we have not read into Scripture something that is not there, the Bible itself ends on this very note. Revelation 21:3 reiterates this promise to the Church:And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (ESV)

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Covenant of Grace is Identical in the Old and New Testaments

1. Immediately after the Fall, God established this covenant (Genesis 3:15; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8).

2. The Gospel, which is the offer of this covenant, is proclaimed in the Old Testament as well as in the New (Genesis 3:8, 16; Genesis 15:6 {IN the Lord, not just "the Lord."}; James 2:23).

3. The Surety of the Covenant was as equally efficacious in the Old Testament as He is in the New Testament (Hebrews 13:8; Revelation 13:8).

4 Believers in the Old Testament had all the benefits of the Covenant that believers in the New Testament have.
            A. God as Father - Exodus 20:2; Isaiah 40:10; 64:8; Jeremiah 3:4
            B. Forgiveness of sins - Psalm 65:3; 32:5
            C. The spirit of adoption unto children - Romans 8:4; 2 Corinthians 4:13; Psalm 143:10
            D. Peace of conscience with God - Psalm 4:7; 62:1
            E. Childlike communion with God - Psalm 139:18; 73:28
            F. Partaking in sanctification - Psalm 119:97

The "What about this verse" Objections:

1. Old Testament believers didn't 'receive the promises.' - Hebrews 11:13.
Answer: The "promises" refer to the Incarnation. They had the substance of the promises in faith though the things had not yet actually occurred in time.

2. The Law made none perfect - Hebrews 7:19
Answer: The ceremonial laws did indeed lack sufficiency. The repetition of the sacrifices indicate that they knew this. Though the ceremonies were insufficient, they did point to Christ. Colossians 2:13 

3. The way into the holiest place way not yet been manifested. - Hebrews 9:8
Answer: Christ is the way (John 14:6, cf. Hebrews 10:19-20). While Christ had not yet actually paid the ransom the ceremonies were still in effect. This is not the same as saying that prior to Christ's death no one went to heaven. The ceremonies were promises that the substance they typified would come, and God dealt with the people accordingly.

4. Light and life weren't present before Christ - 2 Timothy 1:10
Answer: Before Christ does not mean before His Incarnation. The text refers to the measure of revelation and the revelation to the Gentiles, which prior to the Incarnation only occurred in Israel.

5. Hebrews 11:39-40 and 1 Peter 1:12 seem to indicate that the Old Testament believers did not partake in these benefits.
Answer: The texts refer to the Incarnation. The promises weren't received during these saints' lifetimes and they knew it. They believed in a Christ that would come. They lived by the same faith - only they lived by a faith of anticipation, while we live in a faith of fulfillment. But the object of the faith is and was the same. It is not that the blood of goats and lambs actually atoned for sin. But God acted as if it did because these sacrifices served to tide the people over till the true sacrifice was made. God treated the Old Testament elect as if Christ had actually already come and died for their sins. They offered sheep in faith that the real sacrifice would someday come. From God's side though, Christ is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Brief History of the Medieval Church 7

A most important part of the Reformation was a vernacular translation of the Bible. Luther’s New Testament (1522) was reprinted at Basel with a glossary. In Zurich it was adapted to the Swiss dialect in 1524, and revised and improved in subsequent editions.

The characteristic difference between the two Reformers is in the general theory of the sacraments, and especially the Lord’s Supper. Zwingli regarded the sacraments as signs and seals of a grace already received rather than as means of a grace to be received. Yet both were equally earnest in their devotion to the Scriptures as the Word of God and the supreme rule of faith and practice.

The pioneer of Protestantism in Western Switzerland is William Farel. He was a traveling evangelist, a man of faith and fire, as bold and fearless as Luther. He is called the Elijah of the French Reformation. He had once been a devoted papist, but after he became a Protestant he only saw the prevailing corruptions and abuses of Romanism. He hated the pope as the veritable Antichrist, the mass as idolatry, pictures and relics as heathen idols that must be destroyed like the idols of the Canaanites.  He never used violence himself, except in language. Persecution only motivated him to greater action.

Calvin arrived at Geneva in the summer of 1536 and was urged by Farel to assume the great task of building a new Church on the ruins of the old. He labored for a while as Calvin’s colleague, and with him was banished from Geneva because they demanded submission to a confession of faith and a rigorous discipline. Calvin went to Strasburg. Farel accepted a call as pastor to Neuch√Ętel in July of 1538, the city where he had labored before. For the remaining twenty-seven years of his life, Farel remained chief pastor at Neuch√Ętel, and built up the Protestant Church. He died peacefully, Sept. 13, 1565, seventy-six years old.

Farel was aided in his evangelistic efforts chiefly by Viret and Froment, who agreed with his views, but differed from his violent method. Peter Viret, the Reformer of Lausanne, was the only native Swiss among the pioneers of Protestantism in Western Switzerland; all others were fugitive Frenchmen. He shared the labors and trials of Farel and Froment in Geneva. An attempt was made to poison them; he alone ate of the poisoned dish, but recovered, yet with a permanent injury to his health. His chief work was done at Lausanne, where he labored as pastor, teacher and author for twenty-two years.

We now come to the life and work of John Calvin, who labored more than Farel, Viret and Froment. He was the chief founder and consolidator of the Reformed Church of France and French Switzerland. Revolution is followed by reconstruction and consolidation. For this task Calvin was providentially ordained.

Calvin was, first of all, a theologian. He was the ablest exegete among the Reformers, and his commentaries rank among the very best of ancient and modern times. His theology, therefore, is biblical rather than scholastic, and has all the freshness of enthusiastic devotion to the truths of God’s Word. He had a rare power of clear, strong, convincing statement. He built up a body of doctrines which is called after him, and which obtained symbolical authority through some of the leading Reformed Confessions of Faith. Calvinism is one of the great dogmatic systems of the Church. The Calvinistic system is popularly identified with the Augustinian system, and shares its merit as a profound exposition of the Pauline doctrines of sin and grace. Calvin did not grow before the public, like Luther and Melanchthon, who passed through many doctrinal changes and contradictions. He adhered to the religious views of his youth unto the end of his life.  Calvin’s literary output is unsurpassed by any ecclesiastical writer, ancient or modern. It is amazing when we take into consideration the shortness of his life, the frailty of his health, and the multitude of his other labors as a teacher, preacher, church leader and correspondent.

The Reformation was carried to England and Scotland mainly as a result of John Knox. He has often been wrongly accused of being a mere “recording” of Calvin. He thought for himself and when his views differed from others, he did not hesitate to disagree openly – even with Tyndale or Calvin. His courage is unrivaled by any, except perhaps Farel. His power as a preacher is just simply unrivaled. On more than one occasion was the whole course of English history changed as a result of one sermon by John Knox.

His influence continued even into the next century. John Milton’s treatise justifying the putting to death of Charles I, leaned heavily on Knox. In 1683, when Charles II began to show that he was a Roman Catholic, commanded the works of Knox to be burned in public in Oxford. This accompanied a prohibition of the reading of Knox’s works. This was in 1683 – Knox died in 1572!  Knox is behind the whole attitude of the Pilgrim Fathers toward the state. Thomas Carlyle is correct when he claims that Knox is the founder of American Puritanism. The Pilgrims, armed with Knox’s attitude toward the state and Calvin’s theology, headed to North America and built a society based upon these principles.

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