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Random Selections

(16 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.

Random Selections: Until He Be Born Again (William Tyndale)

This random selection (even page, final paragraph) is from A Pathway into the Holy Scripture by William Tyndale (c. 1494–c. 1536), translator of the first English Bible—for which he was burned at the stake. The fall of Adam hath made us heirs of the vengeance and wrath of God, and heirs of eternal damnation; and hath brought us into captivity and bondage under the devil. And the devil is our lord, and our ruler, our head, our governor, our prince, yea, and our god. And our will is locked and knit faster unto the will of the devil, than could an hundred thousand chains bind a man unto a post. Unto the devil’s will consent we with all our hearts, with all our minds, with all our might, power, strength, will and lusts; [so that the law and will of the devil is written in our hearts as well as in our members, and we run headlong after the devil with full zeal and the whole swing of all the power we have; as a stone cast up into the air cometh down naturally of its own self, with all the violence and swing of his own weight.] With what poison, deadly and venomous, hate hateth a man his enemy! With what great malice of mind, inwardly, do we slay and murder! With what violence and rage, yea, and with how fervent lust commit we [adultery], fornication and such like uncleanness! With what pleasure and delectation, inwardly, serveth a glutton his belly! With what diligence deceive we! How lustily seek we the things of this world! Whatsoever we do, think, or imagine, is abominable in the sight of God. [For we can refer nothing unto the honour of God; neither is his law or will written in our members or in our hearts: nor is there any more power in us to follow the will of God than there is in a stone to ascend upward of its own self.] And [besides that,] we are as it were asleep in so deep blindness, that we can neither see nor feel what misery, thralldom, and wretchedness we are in, till Moses come and wake us, and publish the law. When we hear the law truly preached, how we ought to love and honour God with all our strength and might, from the low bottom of our heart, [because he hath created us, and both heaven and earth for our sakes, and made us lord thereof;] and our neighbors (yea, our enemies) as ourselves, inwardly, from the ground of the heart . . . and how we ought to do whatsoever God biddeth, and abstain from whatsoever God forbiddeth, with all love and meekness, with a fervent and a burning lust from the center of the heart; then beginneth the conscience to rage against the law, and against God. No sea, be it ever so great a tempest, is so unquiet. For it is not possible for a natural man to consent to the law, that it should be good, or that God should be righteous which maketh the law; [inasmuch as it is contrary to his nature, and damneth him and all that he can do, and neither sheweth him where to fetch help, nor preacheth any mercy; but only setteth man at variance with God, (as witnesseth Paul, Rom. iv.) and provoketh him and stirreth him to rail on God, and to blaspheme him as a cruel tyrant. For it is not possible for a man, until he be born again, to think God is righteous to make him of so poison a nature, either for his own pleasure or for the sin of another man, or to give him a law that is impossible for him to do, or to consent to;] his wit, reason and will being so fast glued, yea, nailed and chained unto the will of the devil. Neither can any creature loose these bonds, save the blood of Christ [only]. —The Works of William Tyndale (Banner of Truth, 2010), 1:17–18.

Random Selections: Conviction First (Richard Sibbes)

From the beginning, I've wondered how long I can make these random selections before I land on a paragraph that makes no sense on its own. As of this entry (the 11th), it hasn't happened yet. This selection (even page, penultimate paragraph) is from Sin’s Antidote by Richard Sibbes (1577–1635). The Spirit that testifies to a man that his sins are pardoned him, doth it first by convincing a man of his sins. Now, you know, there is more in conviction than bare discovery. It is a full and thorough discovery of the thing; and not only so, but an effectual discovery, such as works upon the soul; there is not only a light in the understanding, but some heat in the affection and in the will. Now, when the Spirit convinceth a man of sin, here is the first thing now whereby he knows that his sins are pardoned. —The Works of Richard Sibbes (Banner of Truth, 2001), 7:274.

Random Selections: A Great Mystery (Denny Burk)

This random selection (odd page, final paragraph) is from What Is the Meaning of Sex? by Denny Burk. God did not create marriage as an end unto itself. It exists not to tell its own story but to tell the story of Jesus’s marriage to the church. So Paul explains in [Ephesians 5:32], “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” Here Paul identifies Genesis 2:24 as a reference to Christ and the church. This would not have been easy to see for the first readers of Genesis 2:24, but Paul is saying that the connection is clear now that the gospel has been revealed. The key to this text is to understand the word mystery. In common English parlance, mystery denotes something that is hidden and unknown, but that is not how Paul uses this word. A mystery in Paul’s vocabulary is something that was once hidden under the old covenant but that has now been made known through the gospel (see Rom. 16:25; 1 Cor. 2:1, 7; 4:1; Eph. 1:9). The accent is on that which is revealed, not on that which is concealed. The great mystery is that from the very beginning God intended marriage to be a depiction of the gospel. Marriage exists to manifest the glory of Christ’s redemptive love for his bride. Thus each and every marriage is supposed to be an enacted parable of the gospel. Husbands are to love their brides in such a way that people can see Christ’s love for his church. Wives are to submit to their husbands in such a way that the world can see the loveliness of Christ reflected in the obedience of his bride. In this way, God intends marriage to symbolize the gospel. —What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Crossway, 2013), 105–106.

Random Selections: A Strong Proof (Lloyd-Jones)

This random selection (odd page, second paragraph) is from Romans 9: God’s Sovereign Purpose by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. For the first time, I will have to provide some context for this paragraph. What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. —Romans 9:14–18 Lloyd-Jones had previously provided a long list of theological luminaries spanning the ages of church history that understood the doctrine of election, demonstrating that what has come to be known as “Calvinism” has been the consensus of the church from the beginning, and was reaffirmed by the Reformers and those who followed. He then singles out John Wesley as a notable exception. The question he anticipates, then, is, “How, then, can you reconcile these things, because Wesley was a man who undoubtedly was blessed of God and was used by God in the salvation of sinners, and yet you say that his whole attitude towards this subject was wrong?” Lloyd-Jones responds by pointing out that, although an understanding of the doctrine of election is indispensible to understanding how God saves, a detailed understanding of how he does it is not required in order to be saved. One who fails to understand the doctrine of election can still be a Christian, and “can even be used of God in the propagation of the good news of salvation.” Furthermore, Lloyd-Jones writes, I would argue that this in itself is one of the strongest proofs of this doctrine, that it is not of man. God can use a man in spite of his being in a muddle intellectually. God can even use a man who may be wrong at certain points in his doctrine. Remember it is not a doctrine that is essential to salvation.* you have to divide doctrine up in that way. There are certain things that a man must believe before he can be a Christian at all, but that does not apply to every aspect of doctrine. And so I say that the fact that God can use and bless the ministry of men who are actually wrong at this point is ultimately the greatest proof of this doctrine; that it is not the understanding of the preacher that matters, but God, the election of God and the working of his purpose through the word and the Holy Spirit upon it. —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans 9: God’s Sovereign Purpose (Banner of Truth, 1998), 153. * That is, the understanding of this doctrine. Divine, sovereign election is most certainly essential, as Lloyd-Jones would affirm.

Random Selections: When our hearts begin to melt (Matthew Henry)

This random selection (odd page, second paragraph) is from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Job 40:6–13. Job was greatly humbled for what God had already said, but not sufficiently; he was brought low, but not low enough; and therefore God here proceeds to reason with him in the same manner and to the same purport as before, v. 6. Observe, 1. Those who duly receive what they have heard from God, and profit by it, shall hear more from him. 2. Those who are truly convinced of sin, and penitent for it, yet have need to be more thoroughly convinced and to be made more deeply penitent. Those who are under convictions, who have their sins set in order before their eyes and their hearts broken for them, must learn from this instance not to catch at comfort too soon; it will be everlasting when it comes, and therefore it is necessary that we be prepared for it by deep humiliation, that the wound be searched to the bottom and not skinned over, and that we do not make more haste out of our convictions than good speed. When our hearts begin to melt and relent within us, let those considerations be dwelt upon and pursued which will help to make a thorough effectual thaw of it. —Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible (Hendrickson, 1994), 3:179.

Random Selections: A Raw Christmas Chicken (Church Curmudgeon)

This random selection (odd page*) is by one of most prophetic voices on the internet, from one of my favorite devotional books, Then Tweets My Soul: The Best of the Church Curmudgeon. Although it is food-themed, no animals were harmed in the posting of this excerpt. Christmas Eve was taken from the side of Christmas Adam. Celebrate with a McRib. I named my three steaks Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in hopes of a fourth showing up on the grill. But they all just came out raw. Spiritual warfare is when you pass by a Chick-Fil-A on a Sunday and just wish . . . —David Regier, Then Tweets My Soul (Canon Press, 2016), 11. Buy the book, feed a starving artist. * Actually, every page in this book is pretty odd.

Random Selections: No Special Mystery (Thomas Peck)

This random selection (odd page, first paragraph, plus one) is from The Lord’s Supper by Thomas Peck. There is no special mystery about this ordinance. It began to be called a “mystery,” a “tremendous mystery,” in the church so early as the middle of the second century, and as words react mightily on thought, men began to think that there must be a mystery in it, and as they could not find any, it became necessary to put some into it. Hence the very word “sacrament,” which meant mystery; hence the doctrine of the “real presence” in all its forms. If this simple memorial of Christ’s death could not be made a miracle for the senses, it must at least become a mystery for faith. Something must be put into it to justify the extravagant language which was commonly employed in regard to it. The mystery is not in the ordinance. How men can be taught by the use of visible signs and symbols it is not harder to understand than how they can be taught by words; not as hard perhaps. The mystery is in the truth, not in the vehicle; the mystery of the incarnation, of “God manifest in the flesh”; the mystery of grace, condescension, and love in the Saviour’s death; the mystery of the believer’s vital union with his Saviour; the mystery of glory, when that life which is now “hid with Christ in God” shall be revealed in the revelation of Christ “our life”; all these mysteries are real and ineffable. But they may be and are set forth in the preaching of the word, as well as in the supper. Is there any mystery in preaching? —Writings of Rev. Thomas E. Peck (Banner of Truth, 1999), 1:163–164. [First published as Miscellanies of Rev. Thomas E. Peck (The Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1895).]


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