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Random Selections

(9 posts)

Random Selections: Suppressed Opinions (John Owen)

While sitting at my desk today, just for fun, I turned my head to the right and blindly chose a random book from the shelf on my left. With my eyes closed, I opened the book, having decided to select the last paragraph on the even-numbered page. This is what I got: Let me add to this observation only this, that the attempt to suppress any opinions whatsoever by force hath been for the most part fruitless. For either some few particular persons are proceeded against, or else greater multitudes; if some particulars only, the ashes of one hath always proved the seed of many opinionatists. Examples are innumerable; take one, which is boasted of as a pattern of severity, taken from antiquity. About the year 890, Priscillianus, a Manichee, and a Gnostic, by the procurement of Ithacius and Idacius, two bishops, was put to death by Maximus, an usurping emperor, who ruled for a season, having slain Gratianus; as that kind of men would always close with any authority that might serve their own ends. Now, what was the issue thereof? Martinus, a Catholic bishop, renounces their communion who did it; the historian that reports it giving this censure of the whole, “Sic pessuno exemplo sublati sunt hommes luce indignissimi;”—though the men (Priscilhanus and his companions) were most unworthy to live, yet their sentence of death was most unjust. But no matter for this, was not the heresy suppressed thereby? See what the same historian, who wrote not long after, and was able to testify the event, says of it: “Non solum non repressa est hæseresis, sed confirmata, et latius propagata est,” &c.;—“The heresy was so far from being suppressed hereby, that it was confirmed and propagated.” His followers, who before honoured him as a saint, now adore him as a martyr. The like in all ages hath been the issue of the like endeavours. —John owen, The Works of John Owen, Of Toleration; and the Duty of the Magistrate about Religion (Banner of Truth, 1967), 8:181 Pretty good, I think, for a random selection, and as relevant for our time as it was then.

Random Selections: Absolute Dominion (Stephen Charnock)

Another randomly selected quotation from a randomly selected book (odd page, second paragraph): This dominion [of God] is absolute. If his throne be in the heavens, there is nothing to control him. If he be independent, he must needs be absolute, since he hath no cause in conjunction with him as Creator, that can share with him in his right, or retain him in the disposal of his creature. His authority is unlimited; in this regard the title of lord becomes not any but God properly. Tiberius, thought none of the best, though one of the subtilest princes, accounted the title of lord a reproach to him, since he was not absolute. —Stephen Charnock, The Works of Stephen Charnock, “A Discourse upon God’s Dominion” (Banner of Truth, 2010), 2:415.

Random Selections: Zwingli on “the rights of every Christian church” (J. H. Merle d’Aubigne)

This is the third of these randomly selected quotations I’ve posted here, and I’m wondering how long I can do this before I land on a paragraph that makes no sense by itself. So far, so good. This one is from the even page, final paragraph. On Monday, the 26th of October [1523], more than nine hundred persons—among whom were members of the Grand Council—and no less than three hundred and fifty priests, were assembled after sermon in the large room of the Town Hall. Zwingle and Leo Juda were seated at a table on which lay the Old and New Testament in the originals. Zwingle spoke first, and first disposing of the authority of the hierarchy and its councils, he laid down the rights of every Christian Church, and claimed the liberty of the first ages, when the Church had as yet no council either œcumenical or provincial. “The Universal Church,” said he, “is diffused throughout world, wherever faith in Jesus Christ has spread: in India as well as in Zurich . . . And as to particular churches, we have them at Berne, at Schaffhausen, and even here. But the popes, with their cardinals and their councils, are neither the Universal Church nor a particular Church. The assembly whch hears me,” exclaimed he with energy, “is the Church of Zurich:—it desires to hear the word of God, and can rightfully decree whatever it shall see to be conformable to the Scriptures.” —J. H. Merle d’Aubigne, History of the Great Reformation of the Sixteenth Century in Germany, Switzerland, &c. (London: D. Walther, 1843), 3:314.

Random Selections: Idle Hands (Charles Spurgeon)

This random selection (even page, second paragraph) is from Charles Spurgeon, preaching at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. Let us be afraid of having nothing to do, and be thankful for something to suffer, if we have nothing to do actively; for, let us alone, and the best of us will corrode. And if I am addressing any man who has lately given up business and is enjoying repose, I would urge upon him the wisdom of seeking some service for Christ which would engage his faculties, for it is true of Christians as well as other people, that,— “Satan always mischief finds,   For idle hands to do.” —Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia (Baker Book House, 1978), 14:460.

Random Selections: There Is Hope (J. C. Ryle)

This random selection (odd page, final paragraph) is from J. C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Matthew 21:23–32). Let it be a settled principle in our Christianity that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is infinitely willing to receive penitent sinners.—It matters nothing what a man has been in time past. Does he repent, and come to Christ? Then old things are passed away, and all things are become new.—It matters nothing how high and self-confident a man’s profession of religion may be. Does he really give up his sins? If not, his profession is abominable in God’s sight, and he himself is still under the curse.—Let us take courage ourselves, if we have been great sinners hitherto: only let us repent and believe in Christ, and there is hope. Let us encourage others to repent; let us hold the door wide open to the very chief of sinners. Never will that word fail, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). —J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Banner of Truth, 2012), 220.

Random Selections: The Fifth Commandment (John MacArthur)

This random selection (odd page, third paragraph) is from John MacArthur’s commentary on Ephesians 6:1–3. The command honor your father and mother is two-fold. That it may be well with you relates to the quality of life, and that you may live long on the earth relates to the quantity of life promised. The original promise was to Israel and involved many tangible, physical, earthly blessings. But Paul’s reference to it here shows that it also extends to believers today. Though its blessings may not always be tangible, a family where children and parents live in mutual love and submission will have rich, God-given harmony and satisfaction that other families can never know. As for the promise of living long on the earth, the believer who honors his parents can know that his lifetime will be the full measure God intends, rather than cut short like those of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5–10) and certain members of the church at Corinth (I Cor. 11:30). —John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians (Moody Press, 1986), 315.

Random Selections: He Taught Them (R. C. Sproul)

This random selection (odd page, first paragraph) is from R. C. Sproul’s Commentary on Mark 6:34. Notice what Jesus did: He began to teach the people. In the New Testament church, Jesus is the Shepherd of the sheep, but the pastor is the undershepherd, and his primary responsibility is to feed the sheep. We live in a time when churches are weak, and one of the main reasons is that the people demand that the pastor do everything but preach and teach. I believe about 95 percent of the labor of the pastor in the church should be preaching and teaching. The congregation belongs to the Lord; they are His sheep. He has given them pastors as shepherds to keep them fed, giving them food that will not make them sick but will nurture them—the very Word of God. When Jesus set out to feed His sheep, He taught them. —R. C. Sproul, Mark (St. Andrew’s Expository Commentary), (Reformation Trust, 2011), 141.

Random Selections: Free Will (Augustus Toplady, James Ussher)

This random selection (odd page, final paragraph) is from Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England by Augustus Toplady. Archbishop Usher, in his History of the Predestinarian Controversy, already referred to so often, cites some of Pelagius’s propositions, together with Beda’s refutations of them, in the very words of each writer. The following extract will enable the reader to form an exact judgment of Beda’s Calvinism. “Whereas Pelagius says, that we are not impelled to evil by the corruption of our nature, seeing we do neither good nor evil without the compliance of our own will; he herein contradicts the apostle, who affirms, “I know, that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” Rom. vii.—Moreover, when Pelagius asserts that we are at liberty to do one thing always” [i. e. to do always what is good, if it be not our own faults,] “seeing we are always able to do both one and the other,” [i. e. in Pelagius’s opinion, free-will has a power of indifference to good or evil ; to either of which it sovereignly inclines, according to its own independent determination: to this Beda replies] “He herein contradicts the prophet, who humbly addressing himself to God, saith, I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not his own ; it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps: Jer. x. 23. Nay, Pelagius maketh himself greater than the apostle, who said, With my mind I myself serve the law of God, but with my flesh the law of sin.” Rom. vii. 25. —The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, 1987), 99–100.

Random Selections: The Focus of Hope (John Murray)

This random selection (even page, final paragraph) is from The Advent of Christ by John Murray, professor of systematic theology, first at Princeton, and then at Westminster Theological Seminary from 1930–1966. What is the focal point of the Christian hope? What looms highest on the believer’s horizon as he looks to the future? There is but one answer; it is the advent of Christ in glory. This is ‘the blessed hope’, ‘the appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Christ Jesus’ (Tit. 2:13), when he will ‘descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God’ (1 Thess. 4:16; cf. 1 Cor. 15:52). Just as hope itself has suffered eclipse in our day, so has the focus of hope. The scepticism of which Peter warned is so largely ours: ‘Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation’ (2 Peter 3:4). And even believers are too liable to be influenced by current patterns of thought. Let us be alert to the subtlety of unbelief and to Satan’s devices. —The Collected Writings of John Murray (Banner of Truth, 1976), 86–87.


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