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The Bernardine Tradition


You may know Bernard of Clairvaux as the author of “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee,” and perhaps a few other hymns. What you might not know is the extent of his influence as a theologian. Steve Lawson writes,

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Bernard’s theological works closely hold to the truths of sovereign grace in salvation. This is not surprising, as his theology followed a strict Augustinian line. Because of this theological affinity and Bernard’s far-reaching influence, many scholars have contended that the Augustinian tradition, after the middle of the twelfth century, might more accurately be called the Bernardine tradition.

For this reason, Bernard’s teaching was deeply appreciated by Luther and Calvin. Luther called Bernard “the greatest doctor of the church.” Calvin quoted Bernard in his Institutes of the Christian Religion more frequently than any previous nonbiblical author except Augustine, citing his works to support the doctrines of the bondage of the will, divine grace, justification by faith, and predestination. So immersed was Calvin in Bernard’s writings that “the French genius of Geneva may well have written his greatest works feeling the presence of the French genius of Clairvaux peering over his shoulder.” The Protestant Reformers merely brought to fruition that which Bernard had set out to accomplish in his own day.

—Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 325.




Lord’s Day 38, 2018

Sunday··2018·09·23
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. —Matthew 11:28–30 Weary Souls Invited to Rest Mat. xi. 28. I. Come weary souls with sin distrest, The Saviour offers heav’nly rest; The kind, the gracious call obey, And cast your gloomy fears away. II. Oppress’d with guilt, a painful load, O come, and spread your woes abroad; Divine compassion, mighty love, Will all the painful load remove. III. Here mercy’s boundless ocean flows, To cleanse your guilt and heal your woes; Pardon, and life, and endless peace— How rich the gift! how free the grace! IV. Lord, we accept with thankful heart, The hope thy gracious words impart; We come with trembling, yet rejoice, And bless the kind inviting voice. V. Dear Saviour, let thy pow’rful love Confirm our faith, our fears remove, And sweetly influence ev’ry breast. And guide us to eternal rest. —Anne Steele, The Works of Mrs. Anne Steele (Munroe, Francis, and Parker, 1808). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about #LordsDay from:thethirstytheo !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: How Blest Is He Whose Trespass

Saturday··2018·09·22
How Blest Is He Whose Trespass WIE LIEBLICH IST DER MAIEN Psalm 32 How blest is he whose trespass hath freely been forgiv’n, whose sin is wholly covered before the sight of heav’n. to whom the Lord in mercy imputeth not his sin, who hath a guileless spirit, whose heart is true within. While I kept guilty silence my strength was spent with grief: Thy hand was heavy on me, my soul found no relief; but when I owned my trespass, my sin hid not from Thee; when I confessed transgression, then Thou forgavest me. So let the godly seek Thee in times when Thou art near; no whelming floods shall reach them nor cause their hearts to fear. In Thee, O Lord, I hid me; Thou savest me from ill, and songs of Thy salvation my heart with rapture thrill. —Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). The current hymnal for this series is Hymns to the Living God, recently published by Religious Affections Ministries. This is such a good hymnal that I’m pretty sure I could happily post every hymn it contains, but I’ll be limiting selections to hymns I have never posted here before, especially those unfamiliar to me (of which there are many). For more information and to purchase this hymnal, visit Religious Affections Ministries.

Frivolous Friday: Take It

Friday··2018·09·21
This is a serious blog, so I feel obligated to temper the following frivolity with a serious note. So here you go; this is serious: From comedians who preach their opinions to athletes who kneel during the national anthem, I really dislike (to put it mildly) entertainers who use their platforms to make political statements. As others before me have said, “Shut up and sing!” On the other hand, as long as they don’t get too obnoxious about it, and are truly entertaining, I can still enjoy their work. Such is the case with the Smothers Brothers. I was just a wee lad during their heyday, so wasn’t a witness to the Vietnam-era political satire that irritated my parents and got them fired from CBS in 1969, but I’ve always got a kick out of their act whenever I’ve seen them, and I pity those who can’t. Here endeth the serious portion of this post. Ladies, Gentlemen, and Postmodern Undecideds, I give you [drum roll] the Smothers Brothers.

Put Away Empty Thinking

Thursday··2018·09·20
We live in a mindless age marked by entertainment that appeals to the emotions of a numb audience. Unfortunately, this deficiency has invaded the evangelical church and captured the minds of many Christian leaders. As a result, ministries are content to spread superficial thoughts drawn from the base thinking of the world. This hour calls for men to step forward and give themselves to the disciplined study of Scripture in the manner of Anselm. Now is the time for a new generation of Anselms to seize the moment, men who, in an age of spiritual darkness, will serve as beacons to light the true path. As in any age, God has guaranteed the success of His church and ensured that the light of His gospel will never be extinguished. Therefore, the time is now for us to put away empty thinking that reduces authentic Christianity to a cheap imitation of worldly trivialities. Now is the time to bring forth the great truths of the Word. Whatever is to be the impact of Christianity in this day, it can be no greater than its search for, discovery of, and commitment to the grand doctrines of Scripture. At the top of that ascent are the doctrines of grace. Will you apply your mind to the quest for this truth? Will you rivet your gaze on the pages of Scripture? Will you wrestle with the biblical text until it yields its one, true, God-intended meaning? Will you set your mind to pull these doctrines together into one system of truth until they all speak with one voice? Where are the truly profound thinkers of this day? Where, I say, are they? —Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 310–311.

Scholastic Monergist: Anselm of Canterbury

Wednesday··2018·09·19
Anselm (1033–1109), Bishop of Canterbury, on divine sovereignty: If those things which are held together in the circuit of the heavens should desire to be elsewhere than under the heavens or to be further removed from the heavens, there is no place where they can be but under the heavens; nor can they fly from the heavens without also approaching them. For whence and whither and in what way they go, they still are under the heavens; and if they are at a greater distance from one part of them, they are only so much nearer to the opposite part. And so, though man or evil angel refuses to submit to the divine will and appointment, yet he cannot escape it; for if he wishes to fly from a will that commands, he falls into the power of a will that punishes. —cited in Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 305.

Monastic Monergist: Gottschalk of Orbais

Tuesday··2018·09·18
By the ninth century, Semi-Pelagianism had gained a firm foothold in the church. Among the few who still held to the biblical doctrines of grace was a German monk, Gottschalk of Orbais (805–869). As a boy, Gottschalk was sent to the convent at Fulda where, at his father’s insistence, he took monastic vows. Upon reaching adulthood, he attempted to escape his vows on the ground that vows taken by a child should not be binding. His request was brought before the Synod of Mainz in 829, and was accepted. Maurus, the abbot of Fulda, not wanting to lose a promising pupil, appealed to the emperor. His appeal was successful, and Gottschalk was bound for life. He was, however, allowed to move from Fulda to Orbais, France. It was there that he began studying the writings of Augustine and embraced the doctrines of human depravity and sovereign grace. His awakening to these doctrines became the fuel for heated controversy. At the center of debate were the doctrines of election, predestination, and human will. Over a period od seven years, four synods were convened. “First, the Synod of Chiersy (853) adopted a Semi-Pelagian position, affirming the teaching of Maurus and Hincmar [Archbishop of Riems]. But the Synod of Valence (855) and the Synod of Langress (859) took a strong Augustinian stand. Finally, in an attempt to find unity, the conflicting parties met at Toucy in France in 860. This synod resulted in a devastating defeat for predestinarianism in France.” Gottschalk was interrogated and ordered to recant. Standing firm, he was condemned as a heretic. He was publicly flogged, his books were burned, and he was imprisoned in the monastery at Hautvilliers, near Reims. There he died in 869, having, in spite of a captivity-induced nervous breakdown, stood firm to the end. Gottschalk may be best known for his predestinarian teaching, but as I read Lawson’s summary of his theology, I was most impressed by his understanding of the atonement vis-à-vis predestination. Some seven hundred years prior to Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Gottschalk provided the first clear statement of a definite atonement in church history. His statement marks a major development in the church’s understanding of the extent of the atonement. In one of his few surviving statements regarding this doctrine, he succinctly writes, “Our God and master Jesus Christ [was] crucified only for the elect.” This statement testifies to Gottschalk’s belief in particular redemption for those chosen for salvation. Although previous men had made similar declarations concerning the basic aspects of this doctrine, Gottschalk was the first to demonstrate the strong relationship between predestination and the atonement. For Gottschalk, the doctrine of the atonement was a direct corollary of predestination. Gottschalk left no doubt that he believed no one can come to new life in Christ unless God wills it to happen. This means that those who do believe on Christ were predestined to do so. He affirms: “All those whom God wills to be saved without doubt are saved. They cannot be saved unless God wills them to be saved; and there is no one whom God wills to be saved, who will not be saved, since our God did all things whatsoever He willed.” He adds, “All those impious persons and sinners for whom the Son of God came to redeem by shedding His own blood, those the omnipotent goodness of God predestined to life and irrevocably willed only those to be saved.” Christ’s atoning work was particular to the elect. Gottschalk repeatedly turned to God’s Word to support this teaching. Commenting on Romans 5:8–9, he logically reasons, “If Christ died even for the reprobate, then the reprobate too, having been justified in His blood, will be saved from wrath through Him. But the reprobate will not be saved from wrath through Him. Therefore, Christ did not die for the reprobate.” With these words, Gottschalk resolutely affirmed that Christ died exclusively for the elect. —Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 286.


2018·09·17
Monastic Monergist: Isidore of Seville
2018·09·16
Lord’s Day 37, 2018
2018·09·15
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: God, Be Merciful to Me
2018·09·14
The Evolution of Armininism
2018·09·13
Watch and Pray
2018·09·12
Monergist Father: Augustine of Hippo (5)
2018·09·11
Monergist Father: Augustine of Hippo (4)

2018·09·03
Disciplining an Emperor
2018·09·02
Lord’s Day 35, 2018
2018·09·01
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: A Debtor to Mercy
2018·08·31
Monergist Father: Gregory of Naziansus
2018·08·30
An Early Church Mother
2018·08·29
Monergist Father: Basil of Caesarea
2018·08·28
The Guest of God

2018·09·10
Monergist Father: Augustine of Hippo (3)
2018·09·09
Lord’s Day 36, 2018
2018·09·08
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: From Depths of Woe
2018·09·07
Monergist Father: Augustine of Hippo (2)
2018·09·06
Monergist Father: Augustine of Hippo (1)
2018·09·05
The Parable of the Porta Potty
2018·09·04
Monergist Father: Ambrose of Milan



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