Tuesday, March 3, 2015

"We shall be like Him..."

"With Him as only our example we could see in His perfect manhood only what we ought to be, ought but cannot. Hopeless gloom would inevitably settle upon our souls. With Him as our life, who has died for our sins and purchased the sanctifying Spirit for us, we see in His perfect manhood what we are to be. Do we peer into that mysterious future, with doubt if not dismay? We have the precious assurance based upon His perfected work of propitiation and purchase: "Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if He shall be manifested, we shall be like Him." "We shall be like Him." Our hearts take courage, and we rest on this word. We shall be like Him!"
B.B. Warfield, Sermon - The Revelation of Man.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Marrow - A Threefold Law, further unpacking...

The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher
with Notes by Thomas Boston

SECTION 2: A threefold Law 

EVANGELISTA, a Minister of the Gospel.
NOMIST, a Legalist.
ANTINOMISTA, an Antinomian.

Evan. Yea, in the Scriptures there is mention made of divers laws, but they may all be comprised under these three, viz.the law of works, the law of faith, and the law of Christ;1 (Rom 3:27, Gal 6:2); and, therefore, I pray you, tell me, when you say the law ought to be a rule of life to a believer, which of these three laws you mean.

Nom. Sir, I know not the difference betwixt them; but this I know, that the law of the ten commandments, commonly called the moral law, ought to be a rule of life to a believer.

Evan. But the law of the ten commandments, or moral law may be either said to be the matter of the law of works, or the matter of the law of Christ: and therefore I pray you to tell me, in whether of these senses you conceive it ought to be a rule of life to a believer?

Nom. Sir, I must confess, I do not know what you mean by this distinction; but this I know, that God requires that every Christian should frame and lead his life according to the ten commandments; the which if he do, then may he expect the blessing of God both upon his own soul and body; and if he do not, then can he expect nothing else but his wrath and curse upon them both.

Evan. The truth is, Nomista, the law of the ten commandments, as it is the matter of the law of works, ought not to be a rule of life to a believer. But in thus saying, you have affirmed that it ought; and therefore therein you have erred from the truth. And now, Antinomista, that I may also know your judgment, when you say the law ought not to be a rule of life to a believer, pray tell me what law do you mean?

Ant. Why, I mean the law of the ten commandments.

Evan. But whether do you mean that law, as it is the matter of the law of works, or as it is the matter of the law of Christ?

Ant. Surely, sir, I do conceive, that the ten commandments are no way to be a rule of life to a believer; for Christ hath delivered him from them.

Evan. But the truth is, the law of the ten commandments, as it is the matter of the law of Christ, ought to be a rule of life to a believer;2 and therefore you having affirmed the contrary, have therein also erred from the truth.

Nom. The truth is, sir, I must confess I never took any notice of this threefold law,3 which, it seems, is mentioned in the New Testament.

Ant. And I must confess, if I took any notice of them, I never understood them.

Evan. Well, give me leave to tell you, that so far as any man comes short of the true knowledge of this threefold law, so far he comes short both of the true knowledge of God and of himself; and therefore I wish you both to consider of it.

Nom. Sir, if it be so, you may do well to be a means to inform us, and help us to the true knowledge of this threefold law; and therefore, I pray you, first tell us what is meant by the law of works.

Notes by Thomas Boston

[1] These terms are scriptural, as appears from the whole texts quoted by our author, namely, (Rom 3:27), "Where is boasting then? it is excluded. By what law? of works? nay: but by the law of faith."(Gal 6:2), "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." 

By the law of works is meant the law of the ten commandments, as the covenant of works. 

By the law of faith, the gospel, or covenant of grace; for justification being the point upon which the apostle there states the opposition betwixt these two laws, it is evident that the former only is the law that doth not exclude boasting; and that the latter only is it, by which a sinner is justified in a way that doth exclude boasting. 

By the law of Christ, is meant the same law of the ten commandments, as a rule of life, in the hand of a Mediator, to believers already justified, and not any one command of the law only; for "bearing one another's burdens" is a "fulfilling of the law of Christ," as it is a loving one another: but, according to the Scripture, that love is not a fulfilling of one command only, but of the whole law of the ten commands, (Rom 13:8-10)."He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." It is a fulfilling of the second table directly, and of the first table indirectly and consequentially: therefore, by the law of Christ is meant, not one command only, but the whole law. The law of works is the law to be done, that one may be saved; the law of faith is the law to be believed, that one may be saved; the law of Christ is the law of the Saviour, binding his saved people to all the duties of obedience, (Gal 3:12, Acts 16:31). 

The term law is not here used univocally; for the law of faith is neither in the Scripture sense, nor in the sense of our author, a law, properly so called. The apostle uses that phrase only in imitation of the Jews' manner of speaking, who had the law continually in their mouths. But since the promise of the gospel proposed to faith, is called in Scripture "the law of faith," our author was sufficiently warranted to call it so too. So the law of faith is not a proper preceptive law. 

The law of works, and the law of Christ, are in substance but one law, even the law of the ten commandments the moral law that law which was from the beginning, continuing still the same in its own nature, but vested with different forms. And since that law is perfect, and sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of it, whatever form it be vested with, whether as the law of works or as the law of Christ, all commands of God unto men must needs be comprehended under it, and particularly the command to repent, common to all mankind, pagans not excepted, who doubtless are obliged, as well as others, to turn from sin unto God; as also the command to believe in Christ, binding all to whom the gospel revelation comes, though, in the meantime, this law stands under different forms to those who are in a state of union with Christ by faith, and to those who are not so. The law of Christ is not a new, proper, preceptive law, but the old, proper, preceptive law, which was from the beginning, under a new accidental form. 

The distinction between the law of works and the law of faith cannot be controverted, since the apostle doth so clearly distinguish them, (Rom 3:27). The distinction between the law of works and the law of Christ, as above explained according to the Scriptures, and the mind of our author, is the same in effect with that of the law, as a covenant of works, and as a rule of life to believers, and ought to be admitted, (Westm. Confess. chap. 19, art. 6). For, (1.) Believers are not under, but dead to the law of works, (Rom 6:14), "For ye are not under the law, but under grace."(7:4), "Wherefore my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead."(1 Cor 9:21), "Being not without law to God, but under the law of Christ." Some copies read here "of God," and "of Christ"; which I mention, not out of any regard to that different reading, but that upon the occasion thereof the sense is owned by the learned to be the same either way. To be under the law to God is, without question, to be under the law of God; whatever it may be judged to import more, it can import no less; therefore to be under the law to Christ, is to be under the law of Christ. This text gives a plain and decisive answer to the question, "How is the believer under the law of God?" namely, as he is under the law to Christ. (2.) The law of Christ is an "easy yoke," and a "light burden," (Matt 11:30); but the law of works, to a sinner, is an insupportable burden, requiring works as the condition of justification and acceptance with God, as is clear from the whole of the apostle's reasoning, (Rom 3). [and therefore it is called the law of works, for otherwise the law of Christ requires works too,] and cursing "every one that continues not in all things written in it to do them," (Gal 3:10). The apostle assures us, that "what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law," (Rom 3:19). The duties of the law of works, as such, are, as I conceive, called by our Lord himself, "heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne," (Matt 23:4)."For they," viz: the Scribes and Pharisees, "bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers." These heavy burdens were not human traditions, and rites devised by men; for Christ would not have commanded the observing and doing of these, as in this case he did, (verse 3), "Whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do"; neither were they the Mosaic rites and ceremonies, which were not then abrogated, for the Scribes and Pharisees were so far from not moving these burdens with one of their own fingers, that the whole of their religion was confined to them, namely to the rites and ceremonies of Moses' law, and those of their own devising. But the duties of the moral law they laid on others, binding them on with the tie of the law of works, yet made no conscience of them in their own practice: the which duties, nevertheless, our Lord Jesus commanded to be observed and done. 

"He who hath believed on Jesus Christ, [though he be freed from the curse of the law,] is not freed from the command and obedience of the law, but tied thereunto by a new obligation, and a new command from Christ. Which new command from Christ importeth help to obey the command."Practical Use of Saving Knowledge, title, The Third Warrant to Believe, fig. 5. 

What this distinction amounts to is, that thereby a difference is constituted betwixt the ten commandments as coming from an absolute God out of Christ unto sinners, and the same ten commandments as coming from God in Christ unto them; a difference which the children of God, assisting their consciences before him to "receive the law at his mouth," will value as their life, however they disagree about it in words and manner of expression. But that the original indispensable obligation of the law of the ten commandments is in any measure weakened by the believer's taking it as the law of Christ, and not as the law of works; or that the sovereign authority of God the Creator, which is inseparable from it for the ages of eternity, in what channel soever it be conveyed unto men, is thereby laid aside,will appear utterly groundless, upon an impartial consideration of the matter. For is not our Lord Jesus Christ, equally with the Father and the Holy Spirit, JEHOVAH, the Sovereign, Supreme, Most High God, Creator of the world? (Isa 47:4, Jer 23:6, with Psa 83:18, John 1:3, Rev 3:14). Is not the same [or sovereign authority] of God in Christ? (Exo 23:21). Is not he in the Father, and the Father in him? (John 14:11). Nay, doth not all the fullness of the Godhead dwell in him? (Col 2:9). How, then, can the original obligation of the law of the ten commandments, arising from the authority of the Creator, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be weakened by its being issued unto the believer from and by that blessed channel, the Lord Jesus Christ? 

As for the distinction betwixt the law of faith and the law of Christ, the latter is subordinated unto the former. All men by nature are under the law of works; but taking the benefit of the law of faith, by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, they are set free from the law of works, and brought under the law of Christ.(Matt 11:28,29), "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy ladentake my yoke upon you." 

[2] The law of the ten commandments, being the natural law, was written on Adam's heart on his creation; while as yet it was neither the law of works, nor the law of Christ, in the sense wherein these terms are used in Scripture, and by our author. But after man was created, and put into the garden, this natural law, having made man liable to fall away from God, a threatening of eternal death in case of disobedience, had also a promise of eternal life annexed to it in case of obedience; in virtue of while he, having done his work, might thereupon plead and demand the reward of eternal life. Thus it became the law of works, whereof the ten commandments were, and are still the matter. All mankind being ruined by the breach of this law, Jesus Christ obeys and dies in the room of the elect, that they might be saved; they being united to him by faith, are, through his obedience and satisfaction imputed to them, freed from eternal death, and become heirs of everlasting life; so that the law of works being fully satisfied, expires as to them, as it would have done of course in the case of Adam's having stood the time of his trial: howbeit it remains in full force as to unbelievers. But the natural law of the ten commandments [which can never expire or determine, but is obligatory in all possible states of the creature, in earth, heaven, or hell] is, from the moment the law of works expires as to believers, issued forth to them [still liable to infirmities, though not to falling away like Adam] in the channel of the covenant of grace, bearing a promise of help to obey, (Ezek 36:27), and, agreeable to their state before the Lord, having annexed to it a promise of the tokens of God's fatherly love, for the sake of Christ, in case of that obedience; and a threatening of God's fatherly displeasure in case of their disobedience. (John 14:21), "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."(Psa 89:31-33), "If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail." Thus it becomes the law of Christ to them; of which law also the same ten commandments are likewise the matter. In the threatenings of this law there is no revenging wrath; and in the promises of it no proper conditionalty of works; but here is the order in the covenant of grace, to which the law of Christ belongs; a beautiful order of grace, obedience, particular favours, and chastisements for disobedience. Thus the ten commandments stand, both in the law of works and in the law of Christ at the same time, being the common matter of both; but as they are the matter of [i.e. stand in] the law of works, they are actually a part of the law of works; howbeit, as they are the matter of, or stand in, the law of Christ, they are actually a part, not of the law of works, but of the law of Christ. And as they stand in the law of Christ, our author expressly asserts, against the Antinomian, that they ought to be a rule of life to a believer; but that they ought to be a rule of life to a believer, as they stand in the law of works, he justly denies, against the legalist. Even as when one and the same crime stands forbidden in the laws of different independent kingdoms, it is manifest that the rule of life to the subjects in that particular is the prohibition, as it stands in the law of that kingdom whereof they are subjects respectively, and not as it stands in the law of that kingdom of which they are not subjects. 

[3] Not of the terms here used to express it by, but of the things thereby meant, viz: the covenant of works, the covenant of grace, and the law as a rule of life to believers, in whatever terms these things be expressed.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Law of Works, The Law of Christ

Thomas Boston writes in his Notes, found in Edward Fisher's The Marrow of Modern Divinity:
The law of works is the law to be done, that one may be saved; the law of faith is the law to be believed, that one may be saved; the law of Christ is the law of the Saviour, binding his saved people to all the duties of obedience, (Gal 3:12, Acts 16:31)...
The law of works, and the law of Christ, are in substance but one law, even the law of the ten commandments - the moral law - that law which was from the beginning, continuing still the same in its own nature, but vested with different forms. And since that law is perfect, and sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of it, whatever form it be vested with, whether as the law of works or as the law of Christ, all commands of God unto men must needs be comprehended under it...
The distinction between the law of works and the law of Christ, as above explained according to the Scriptures, and the mind of our author, is the same in effect with that of the law, as a covenant of works, and as a rule of life to believers, and ought to be admitted, (Westm. Confess. chap. 19, art. 6). For, (1.) Believers are not under, but dead to the law of works, (Rom 6:14), "For ye are not under the law, but under grace..."
"The law of Christ is an "easy yoke," and a "light burden," (Matt 11:30); but the law of works, to a sinner, is an insupportable burden, requiring works as the condition of justification and acceptance with God, as is clear from the whole of the apostle's reasoning, (Rom 3)."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sinai and The Covenant of Works

Extended Excerpt From The Marrow of Modern Divinity

by Edward Fisher with Notes by Thomas Boston

EVANGELISTA, a Minister of the Gospel.

NOMIST, a Legalist.
ANTINOMISTA, an Antinomian.
NEOPHYTUS, a Young Christian.


Chapter II, Section II, 3 
The law, as the covenant of works, added to the promise.

Ant. But whether were the ten commandments, as they were delivered to them on Mount Sinai, the covenant of works or no?

Evan. They were delivered to them as the covenant of works. 1

Nom. But, by your favour, sir, you know that these people were the posterity of Abraham, and therefore under that covenant of grace which God made with their father; and therefore I do not think
that they were delivered to them as the covenant of works; for you know the Lord never delivers the covenant of works to any that are under the covenant of grace.

Evan. Indeed it is true, the Lord did manifest so much love to the body of this nation, that all the natural seed of Abraham were externally, and by profession, under the covenant of grace made with their father Abraham; though, it is to be feared, many of them were still under the covenant of works made with their father Adam. 2

Nom. But, sir, you know, in the preface to the ten commandments, the Lord calls himself by the name of their God in general; and therefore it should seem that they were all of them the people of God. 3

Evan. That is nothing to the purpose; 4 for many wicked and ungodly men, being in the visible church, and under the external covenant, are called the chosen of God, and the people of God, though they be not so. In like manner were many of these Israelites called the people of God, though indeed they were not so.

Nom. But, sir, was the same covenant of works made with them that was made with Adam?

Evan. For the general substance of the duty, the law delivered on Mount Sinai, and formerly engraven on man's heart, was one and the same; so that at Mount Sinai the Lord delivered no new thing, only it came more gently to Adam before his fall, but after his fall came thunder with it.

Nom. Ay, sir, but as yourself said, the ten commandments, as they were written in Adam's heart, were but the matter of the covenant of works, and not the covenant itself, till the form was annexed to them, that is to say, till God and man were thereupon agreed: now, we do not find that God and these people did agree upon any such terms at Mount Sinai.

Evan. No; 5 say you so? do you not remember that the Lord consented and agreed, when he said, (Lev 18:5), "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them"; and in Deuteronomy 27:26, when he said, "Cursed is he that confirmeth not all the words of this law, to do them?" And do you not remember that the people consented, (Exo 19:8), and agreed, when they said, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do?" And doth not the apostle Paul give evidence that these words were the form of the covenant of works, when he says, (Rom 10:5), "Moses describeth that righteousness which is of the law, that the man that doeth these things shall live in them"; and when he says, (Gal 3:10), "For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them?" 6 And in Deuteronomy 4:13, Moses, in express terms, calls it a covenant, saying, "And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even the ten commandments, and he wrote them upon tables of stone." Now, this was not the covenant of grace; for Moses afterwards, (Deut 5:3), speaking of this covenant, says, "God made not this covenant with your fathers, but with you"; and by "fathers" all the patriarchs unto Adam may be meant, [says Mr. Ainsworth,] who had the promise of the covenant of Christ. 7 Therefore, if it had been the covenant of grace, he would have said, God did make this covenant with them, rather than that he did not. 8

Nom. And do any of our godly and modern writers agree with you on this point?

Evan. Yes, indeed. Polonus says, "The covenant of works is that in which God promiseth everlasting life unto a man that in all respects performeth perfect obedience to the law of works, adding thereunto threatenings of eternal death, if he shall not perform perfect obedience thereto. God made this covenant in the beginning with the first man Adam, whilst he was in the first estate of integrity: the same covenant God did repeat and make again by Moses with the people of Israel." And Dr. Preston, on the New Covenant, [p. 317,] says, "The covenant of works runs in these terms, 'Do this and thou shalt live, and I will be thy God.' This was the covenant which was made with Adam, and the covenant that is expressed by Moses in the moral law." And Mr. Pemble [Vind. Fid. p. 152] says, "By the covenant of works, we understand what we call in one word 'the law,' namely, that means of bringing man to salvation, which is by perfect obedience unto the will of God. Hereof there are also two several administrations; the first is with Adam before his fall, when immortality and happiness were promised to man, and confirmed by an external symbol of the tree of life, upon condition that he continued obedient to God, as well in all other things, as in that particular commandment of not eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The second administration of this covenant was the renewing thereof with the Israelites at Mount Sinai; where, after the light of nature began to grow darker, and corruption had in time worn out the characters of religion and virtue first grave in man's heart, 9 God revived the law by a compendious and full declaration of all duties required of man towards God or his neighbour, expressed in the decalogue; according to the tenor of which law God entered into covenant with the Israelites, promising to be their God in bestowing upon them all blessings of life and happiness, upon condition that they would be his people, obeying all things that he had commanded; which condition they accepted of, promising an absolute obedience, (Exo 19:8), 'all things which the Lord hath said we will do'; and also submitting themselves to all punishment in case they disobeyed, saying, 'Amen' to the curse of the law, 'Cursed be every one that confirmeth not all the words of the law: and all the people shall say, Amen.'" And Mr. Walker, on the Covenant, [p. 128,] says, that "the first part of the covenant, which God made with Israel at Horeb, was nothing else but a renewing of the old covenant of works, 10 which God made with Adam in paradise." And it is generally laid down by our divines, that we are by Christ delivered from the law as it is a covenant. 11

Nom. But, sir, were the children of Israel at this time better able to perform the condition of the covenant of works, than either Adam or any of the old patriarchs were, that God renewed it now with them, rather than before?

Evan. No, indeed; God did not renew it with them now, and not before, because they were better able to keep it, but because they had more need to be made acquainted what the covenant of works is, than those before. For though it is true the ten commandments, which were at first perfectly written in Adam's heart, were much obliterated 12 by his fall, yet some impressions and relics thereof still remained; 13 and Adam himself was very sensible of his fall, and the rest of the fathers were helped by tradition; 14 and, says Cameron, "God did speak to the patriarchs from heaven, yea, and he spake unto them by his angels"; 15 but now, by this time, sin had almost obliterated and defaced the impressions of the law written in their hearts; 16 and by their being so long in Egypt, they were so corrupted, that the instructions and ordinances of their fathers were almost worn out of mind; and their fall in Adam was almost forgotten, as the apostle testifies, (Rom 5:13,14), saying, "Before the time of the law, sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law." Nay, in that long course of time betwixt Adam and Moses, men had forgotten what was sin; so, although God had made a promise of blessing to Abraham, and to all his seed, that would plead interest in it, 17 yet these people at this time were proud and secure, and heedless of their estate; and though "sin was in them, and death reigned over them," yet they being without a law to evidence this sin and death unto their consciences, 18 they did not impute it unto themselves, they would not own it, nor charge themselves with it; and so, by consequence, found no need of pleading the promise made to Abraham; 19 (Rom 5:20), therefore, "the law entered," that Adam's offence and their own actual transgression might abound, so that now the Lord saw it needful, that there should be a new edition and publication of the covenant of works, the sooner to compel the elect unbelievers to come to Christ, the promised seed, and that the grace of God in Christ to the elect believers might appear the more exceeding glorious. So that you see the Lord's intention therein was, that they, by looking upon this covenant might be put in mind what was their duty of old, when they were in Adam's loins; yea, and what was their duty still, if they would stand to that covenant, and so go the old and natural way to work; yea, and hereby they were also to see what was their present infirmity in not doing their duty: 20 that so they seeing an impossibility of obtaining life by that way of works, first appointed in paradise, they might be humbled, and more heedfully mind the promise made to their father Abraham, and hasten to lay hold on the Messiah, or promised seed.

Nom. Then, sir, it seems that the Lord did not renew the covenant of works with them, to the intent that they should obtain eternal life by their yielding obedience to it?

Evan. No, indeed; God never made the covenant of works with any man since the fall, either with expectation that he should fulfil it, 21 or to give him life by it; for God never appoints any thing to an end, to the which it is utterly unsuitable and improper. Now the law, as it is the covenant of works, is become weak and unprofitable to the purpose of salvation; 22 and, therefore, God never appointed it to man, since the fall, to that end. And besides, it is manifest that the purpose of God, in the covenant made with Abraham, was to give life and salvation by grace and promise; and, therefore, his purpose in renewing the covenant of works, was not, neither could be, to give life and salvation by working; for then there would have been contradictions in the covenants, and instability in him that made them. Wherefore let no man imagine that God published the covenant of works on Mount Sinai, as though he had been mutable, and so changed his determination in that covenant made with Abraham; neither, yet let any man suppose, that God now in process of time had found out a better way for man's salvation than he knew before: for, as the covenant of grace made with Abraham had been needless, if the covenant of works made with Adam would have given him and his believing seed life; so, after the covenant of grace was once made, it was needless to renew the covenant of works, to the end that righteousness of life should be had by the observation of it. The which will yet more evidently appear, if we consider, that the apostle, speaking of the covenant of works as it was given on Mount Sinai, says, "It was added because of transgressions," (Gal 3:19). It was not set up as a solid rule of righteousness, as it was given to Adam in paradise, but was added or put to; 23 it was not set up as a thing in gross by itself.

Nom. Then, sir, it should seem that the covenant of works was added to the covenant of grace, to make it more complete.

Evan. O no! you are not so to understand the apostle, as though it were added by way of ingrediency as a part of the covenant of grace, as if that covenant had been incomplete without the covenant of works; for then the same covenant should have consisted of contradictory materials, and so it should have overthrown itself; for, says the apostle, "If it be by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace: but if it be of works, then it is no more of grace; otherwise work is no more work," (Rom 11:6). But it was added by way of subserviency and attendance, the better to advance and make effectual the covenant of grace; so that although the same covenant that was made with Adam was renewed on Mount Sinai, yet I say still, it was not for the same purpose. For this was it that God aimed at, in making the covenant of works with man in innocency, to have that which was his due from man: 24 but God made it with the Israelites for no other end, than that man, being thereby convinced of his weakness, might flee to Christ. So that it was renewed only to help forward and introduce another and a better covenant; and so to be a manuduction unto Christ, viz: to discover sin, to waken the conscience, and to convince them of their own impotency, and so drive them out of themselves to Christ. Know it then, I beseech you, that all this while there was no other way of life given, either in whole, or in part, than the covenant of grace. All this while God did but pursue the design of his own grace; and, therefore, was there no inconsistency either in God's will or acts; only such was his mercy, that he subordinated the covenant of works, and made it subservient to the covenant of grace, and so to tend to evangelical purposes.

Nom. But yet, sir, methinks it is somewhat strange that the Lord should put them upon doing the law, and also promise them life for doing, and yet never intend it.

Evan. Though he did so, yet did he neither require of them that which was unjust, nor yet dissemble with them in the promise; for the Lord may justly require perfect obedience at all men's hands, by virtue of that covenant which was made with them in Adam; and if any man could yield perfect obedience to the law, both in doing and suffering, he should have eternal life; for we may not deny [says Calvin] but that the reward of eternal salvation belongeth to the upright obedience of the law. 25 But God knew well enough that the Israelites were never able to yield such an obedience: and yet he saw it meet to propound eternal life to them upon these terms; that so he might speak to them in their own humour, as indeed it was meet: for they swelled with mad assurance in themselves, saying, "All that the Lord commandeth we will do," and be obedient, (Exo 19:8). Well, said the Lord, if you will needs be doing, why here is a law to be kept; and if you can fully observe the righteousness of it, you shall be saved: sending them of purpose to the law, to awaken and convince them, to sentence and humble them, and to make them see their own folly in seeking for life that way; in short, to make them see the terms under which they stood, that so they might be brought out of themselves, and expect nothing from the law, in relation to life, but all from Christ. For how should a man see his need of life by Christ, if he do not first see that he is fallen from the way of life? and how should he understand how far he had strayed from the way of life, unless he do first find what is that way of life? Therefore it was needful that the Lord should deal with them after such a manner to drive them out of themselves, and from all confidence in the works of the law; that so, by faith in Christ, they might obtain righteousness and life. And just so did our Saviour also deal with that young expounder of the law, (Matt 19:16), who it seems, was sick of the same disease: "Good Master," says he, "what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" He doth not, says Calvin, simply ask, which way or by what means he should come to eternal life, but what good he should do to get it; whereby it appears, that he was a proud justiciary, one that swelled in fleshly opinion that he could keep the law, and be saved by it; therefore he is worthily sent to the law to work himself weary, and to see need to come to Christ for rest. And thus you see that the Lord, to the former promises made to the fathers, added a fiery law; which he gave from Mount Sinai, in thundering and lightning, and with a terrible voice, to the stubborn and stiff-necked Israel; whereby to break and tame them, and to make them sigh and long for the promised Redeemer.


Thomas Boston's Notes [1] As to this point, there are different sentiments among orthodox divines; though all of them do agree, that the way of salvation was the same under the Old and New Testament, and that the Sinai covenant, whatever it was, carried no prejudice to the promise made unto Abraham, and the way of salvation therein revealed, but served to lead men to Jesus Christ. Our author is far from being singular in this decision of this question. I adduce only the testimonies of three late learned writers, "That God made such a covenant [viz: the covenant of works] with our first parents, is confirmed by several parts of Scripture," (Hosea 6:7, Gal 4:24),Willison's Sacr. Cat. p. 3. The words of the text last quoted are these: "For these are the two covenants, the one from the Mount Sinai which gendereth to bondage." Hence it appears, that in the judgment of this author, the covenant from Mount Sinai was the covenant of works, otherwise there is no shadow of reason from this text for what it is adduced to prove. The Rev. Messrs. Flint and M'Claren, in their elaborate and seasonable treatise against Professor Simpson's doctrine, [for which I make no question but their names will be in honour with posterity] speak to the same purpose. The former having adduced the fore-cited text, (Gal 4:24), says, Jam duo federa, etc., that is, "Now here are two covenants mentioned, the first the legal one, by sin rendered ineffectual, entered into with Adam, and now again promulgate." [Exam. Doctr. Joh. Simp. p. 125.] And afterwards, speaking of the law of works, he adds, Atque hoc est illud fadus, etc., that is, "And this is that covenant promulgate on Mount Sinai, which is called one of the covenants," (Gal 4:24). Ibid. p. 131. The words of the latter, speaking of the covenant of works are these, "Yea, it is expressly called a covenant," (Hosea 6, Gal 4). And Mr. Gillespie proves strongly, that Galations 4 is understood of the covenant of works and grace. See his Ark of the Testament, part 1. chap. 5. p. 180. The New Scheme Examined, p. 176. The delivering of the ten commandments on Mount Sinai as the covenant of works, necessarily includes in it the delivering of them as a perfect rule of righteousness; forasmuch as that covenant did always contain in it such a rule, the true knowledge of which the Israelites were at that time in great want of, as our author afterwards teaches.

[2] The strength of the objection in the preceding paragraph lies here, namely, that at this rate, the same person, at one and the same time, were both under the covenant of works, and under the covenant of grace, which is absurd. Ans. The unbelieving Israelites were under the covenant of grace made with their father Abraham externally and by profession, in respect of their visible church state; but under the covenant of works made with their father Adam internally and really, in respect of the state of their souls before the Lord. Herein there is no absurdity; for to this day many in the visible church are thus, in these different respects, under both covenants. Farther, as to believers among them, they were internally and really, as well as externally, under the covenant of grace; and only externally under the covenant of works, and that, not as a covenant co-ordinate with, but subordinate and subservient unto, the covenant of grace: and in this there is no more inconsistency than in the former.

[3] As delivered from the covenant of works, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

[4] That will not, indeed, prove them all to have been the people of God in the sense before given, for the reason here adduced by our author.

Howbeit, the preface to the ten commandments deserves a particular notice in the matter of the Sinai transaction, (Exo 20:2), "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." Hence it is evident to me, that the covenant of grace was delivered to the Israelites on Mount Sinai. For the Son of God, the messenger of the covenant of grace, spoke these words to a select people, the natural seed of Abraham, typical of his whole spiritual seed. He avoucheth himself to be their God; namely, in virtue of the promise, or covenant made with Abraham, (Gen 17:7), "I will establish my covenant to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee": and their God, which brought them out of the land of Egypt; according to the promise made to Abraham at the most solemn renewal of the covenant with him.(Gen 15:14), "Afterwards shall they come out with great substance. And he first declares himself their God, and then requires obedience, according to the manner of the covenant with Abraham, (Gen 17:1); "I am the Almighty God, [i.e. in the language of the covenant, The Almighty God TO THEE, to make THEE for ever blest through the promised SEED,] walk thou before me, and be thou perfect." But that the covenant of works was also, for special ends, repeated and delivered to the Israelites on Mount Sinai, I cannot refuse, 1. Because of the apostle's testimony, (Gal 4:24), "These are the two covenants; the one from Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage." For the children of this Sinai covenant the apostle here treats of, are excluded from the eternal inheritance, as Ishmael was from Canaan, the type of it, (verse 30), "Cast out the bond-woman and her son; for the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman"; but this could never be said of the children of the covenant of grace under any dispensation, though both the law and covenant from Sinai itself, and its children, were even before the coming of Christ under a sentence of exclusion, to be executed on them respectively in due time. 2. The nature of the covenant of works is most expressly in the New Testament brought in, propounded, and explained from the Mosaical dispensation. The commands of it from Exodus 20 by our blessed Saviour, (Matt 19:17-19), "If thou wilt enter into life keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery," etc. The promise of it, (Rom 10:5), "Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doth these things shall live by them." The commands and promise of it together, see Luke 10:25-28. The terrible sanction of it, Galations 3:10. For it is written [viz: Deuteronomy 27:26,] "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." 3. To this may be added the opposition betwixt the law and grace, so frequently inculcated in the New Testament, especially in Paul's epistles. See one text for all, (Gal 3:12), "And the law is not of faith, but the man that doeth them shall live in them." 4. The law from Mount Sinai was a covenant, (Gal 4:24), "These are the two covenants, the one from the Mount Sinai"; and such a covenant as had a semblance of disannulling the covenant of grace, (Gal 3:17), "The covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law which was 430 years after, cannot disannul"; yea, such an one as did, in its own nature, bear a method of obtaining the inheritance, so far different from that of the promise, that it was inconsistent with it; "For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise," (Gal 3:18), wherefore the covenant of the law from Mount Sinai could not be the covenant of grace, unless one will make this last not only a covenant seeming to destroy itself, but really inconsistent: but it was the covenant of works, which indeed had such a semblance, and in its own nature did bear such a method as before noted; howbeit, as Ainsworth says, "The covenant of the law now given could not disannul the covenant of grace," (Gal 3:17). Annot. on Exodus 19:1

Wherefore I conceive the two covenants to have been both delivered on Mount Sinai to the Israelites. First, The covenant of grace made with Abraham, contained in the preface, repeated and promulgate there unto Israel, to be believed and embraced by faith, that they might be saved; to which were annexed the ten commandments, given by the Mediator Christ, the head of the covenant, as a rule of life to his covenant people. Secondly, the covenant of works made with Adam, contained in the same ten commands, delivered with thunderings and lightnings, the meaning of which was afterwards cleared by Moses, describing the righteousness of the law and sanction thereof, repeated and promulgate to the Israelites there, as the original perfect rule of righteousness, to be obeyed; and yet were they no more bound hereby to seek righteousness by the law than the young man was by our Saviour's saying to him, (Matt 19:17,18), "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandmentsThou shalt do no murder," etc. The latter was a repetition of the former.

Thus there is no confounding of the two covenants of grace and works; but the latter was added to the former as subservient unto it, to turn their eyes towards the promise, or covenant of grace: "God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law? it was added, because of transgressions, till the Seed should come," (Gal 3:18,19). So it was unto the promise given to Abraham, that this subservient covenant was added; and that promise we have found in the preface to the ten commands. To it, then was the subservient covenant, according to the apostle, added, put, or set to, as the word properly signifies. So it was no part of the covenant of grace, the which was entire to the fathers, before the time that was set to it; and yet is, to the New Testament church, after that is taken away from it: for, says the apostle, "It was added till the seed should come." Hence it appears that the covenant of grace was, both in itself, and in God's intention, the principal part of the Sinai transaction: nevertheless, the covenant of works was the most conspicuous part of it, and lay most open to the view of the people. According to this account of the Sinai transaction, the ten commands, there delivered, must come under a twofold notion or consideration; namely, as the law of Christ, and as the law of works: and this is not strange, if it is considered, that they were twice written on tables of stone, by the Lord himself,the first tables the work of God, (Exo 32:16), which were broken in pieces, (verse 19), called the tables of the covenant, (Deut 9:11,15)the second tables, the work of Moses, the typical Mediator, (Exo 34:1), deposited at first [it would seem] in the tabernacle mentioned, (33:7), afterward, at the rearing of the tabernacle with all its furniture, laid up in the ark within the tabernacle, (25:16); and whether or not, some such thing is intimated, by the double accentuation of the decalogue, let the learned determine; but to the ocular inspection it is evident, that the preface to the ten commands, (Exo 20:2, Deut 5:6), stands in the original, both as a part of a sentence joined to the first commands, and also as an entire sentence, separated from it, and shut up by itself.

Upon the whole, one may compare with this the first promulgation of the covenant of grace, by the messenger of the covenant in paradise, (Gen 3:15), and the flaming sword placed there by the same hand, "turning every way to keep the way of the tree of life."

[5] Here, there is a large addition in the ninth edition of this book, London, 1699. It well deserves a place, and is as follows: "I do not say, God made the covenant of works with them, that they might obtain life and salvation thereby; no, the law was become weak through the flesh, as to any such purpose, (Rom 8:3). But he repeated, or gave a new edition of the law, and that, as a covenant of works, for their humbling and conviction; and so do his ministers preach the law to unconverted sinners still, that they who 'desire to be under the law may hear what the law says,' (Gal 4:21). And as to what you say of their not agreeing to this covenant, I pray take notice, that the covenant of works was made with Adam, not for himself only, but as he was a public person representing all his posterity, and so that covenant was made with the whole nature of man in him, as appears by Adam's sin and curse coming upon all, (Rom 5:12, Gal 3:10). Hence all men are born under that covenant, whether they agree to it or no; though, indeed, there is by nature such a proneness in all to desire to be under that covenant, and to work for life, that if natural men's consent were asked, they would readily [though ignorantly] take upon them to do all that the Lord requireth; for do you not remember," etc.

[6] That the conditional promise, (Lev 18:5), [to which agrees Exodus 19:8,] and the dreadful threatening, (Deut 27:26), were both given to the Israelites, as well as the ten commands, is beyond question; and that according to the apostle, (Rom 10:5, Gal 3:10), they were the form of the covenant of works, is as evident as the repeating of the words, and expounding them so, can make it. How, then, one can refuse the covenant of works to have been given to the Israelites, I cannot see. Mark the Westminster Confession upon the head of the covenant of works; "The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience." And this account of the being and nature of that covenant is there proved from these very texts among others, Romans 10:5, Galatians 3:10, chap. 7, art. 2.

[7] "But the covenant of the law [adds he] came after, as the apostle observeth, (Gen 3:17).They had a greater benefit than their fathers; for though the law could not give them life, yet it was a schoolmaster unto, i.e., to bring them unto, Christ." (Gal 3:21-24). Ainsworth on Deuteronomy 5:3.

[8] The transaction at Sinai or Horeb [for they are but one mountain] was a mixed dispensation; there was the promise or covenant of grace, and also the law; the one a covenant to be believed, the other a covenant to be done, and thus the apostle states, the difference betwixt these two, (Gal 3:12), "And the law is not of faith, but the man that DOETH them shall live in them." As to the former, viz: the covenant to be believed, it was given to their fathers as well as to them. Of the latter, viz: the covenant to be done, Moses speaks expressly, (Deut 4:12,13), "The Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire, and he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to PERFORM [or DO] even ten commandments." And (5:3), he tells the people no less expressly, that "the Lord made not THIS COVENANT with their fathers."

[9] That is, had worn them out, in the same measure and degree as the light of nature was darkened; but neither the one nor the other was ever fully done. (Rom 2:14,15).

[10] Wherein I differ from this learned author as to this point, and for what reasons, may be seen earlier [footnote #4].

[11] But not as it is a rule of life, which is the other member of that distinction.

[12] Both in the heart of Adam himself, and of his descendants in the first ages of the world.

[13] Both with him and them.

[14] The doctrine of the fall, with whatsoever other doctrine was necessary to salvation, was handed down from Adam, the fathers communicating the same to their children and children's children. There were but eleven patriarchs before the flood; 1. Adam, 2. Seth, 3. Enos, 4. Cainan, 5. Mahalaleel, 6. Jared, 7. Enoch, 8, Methuselah, 9. Lamech, 10. Noah, 11. Shem. Adam having lived 930 years, (Gen 5:5), was known to Lamech, Noah's father, with whom he lived 66 years, and much longer with the rest of the fathers before him; so that Lamech, and those before him, might have the doctrine from Adam's own mouth. Methuselah lived with Adam 243 years, and with Shem 98 years before the deluge. See Genesis 5. And what Shem, who, after the deluge, lived 502 years, (Gen 11:10,11), had learned from Methuselah, he had occasion to teach Arphaxad, Salah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, Abraham, Isaac, (Gen 21:5,), and Jacob, to whose 51st year he [viz: Shem] reached. Genesis 11:10, and 21:5, and 25:26, compared. [Vid. Bail. Op. Hist. Chron. p. 2, 3.] Thus one may perceive, how the nature of the law and covenant of works given to Adam, might be far better known to them, than to the Israelites after their long bondage in Egypt.

[15] That is, and besides all this, God spake to the patriarchs immediately and by angels. But neither of these do we find during the time of the bondage in Egypt, until the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in the bush, and ordered him to go and bring the people out of Egypt, (Exo 3).

[16] The remaining impressions of the law on the hearts of the Israelites.

[17] By faith; believing, embracing, and appropriating it to themselves, (Heb 11:13, Jer 3:4).

[18] Inasmuch as the remaining impressions of the law on their hearts were so weak, that they were not sufficient for the purpose.

[19] By faith proposing it as their only defence, and opposing it to the demands of the law or covenant of works, as their only plea.

[20] How far they came short of, and could not reach unto the obedience they owed unto God, according to the perfection of the holy law.

[21] Nor before the fall neither, properly speaking; but the expression is agreeable to Scripture style, (Isa 5:4), "Wherefore when I looked it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?"

[22] (Rom 8:3), "For what the law could not DO, in that it was weak through the flesh; God sending his own Son," etc.

[23] It was not set up by itself as an entire rule of righteousness, to which alone they were to look who desired righteousness and salvation, as it was in the case of upright Adam, "For no man, since the fall, can attain to righteousness and life by the moral law," Lar. Cat. quest. 94. But it was added to the covenant of grace, that by looking at it men might see what kind of righteousness it is by which they can be justified in the sight of God; and that by means thereof, finding themselves destitute of that righteousness, they might be moved to embrace the covenant of grace, in which that righteousness is held forth to be received by faith.

[24] This was the end of the work, namely, of making the covenant of works with Adam, but not of the repeating of it at Sinai; it was also the end or design of the worker, namely of God, who made that covenant with Adam, to have his due from man, and he got it from the Man Christ Jesus.

[25] That is, the perfect obedience of the law; as it is said, (Eccl 7:29), "God made man upright."

Thursday, February 12, 2015

To preach Christ is to feed the soul...

Words of Martin Luther from his “Treatise Concerning Christian Liberty”:
“Christ was sent for no other office than that of the word; and the order of the Apostles, that of bishops, and that of the whole body of the clergy, have been called and instituted for no object but the ministry of the word...
“But you will ask, What is this word, and by what means is it to be used, since there are so many words of God? I answer, The Apostle Paul (Rom. i.) explains what it is, namely the Gospel of God, concerning His Son, incarnate, suffering, risen, and glorified, through the Spirit, the Sanctifier. To preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if it believes the preaching. For faith alone and the efficacious use of the word of God, bring salvation.”

Friday, February 6, 2015

"When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead..."

OK, to grasp the condition of our fallen estate in this life is just way beyond us. This is especially true if we attempt the impossible task of comprehending the incomprehensible holiness of God. How immense is that chasm between our "righteousness" and God's! How far short of the glory of God have we fallen, even due to one sin? Think of Adam... With this in mind I wonder what would be our reaction if we ever came face to face with our glorified Lord in this life?
I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. [ESV]
 (Rev 1: 9-18)
These words are of the Apostle John - the disciple whom Jesus loved - near the end of his life after eighty-plus years of faithfully following the Lord. Years of the Holy Spirit's refining work in his life. He probably had as good a handle as anyone on the reality of the sinful nature and also the forgiveness of sins that was his in Christ. And yet when face to face with the glorified Lord, his instinctive reaction, the only thing he could to do, was to fall at Jesus's feet as though dead! He, a saved sinner, had come face to face with Righteousness. 

I'm sure it's no coincidence that John in his first letter exhorts believers to regular acknowledgment and confession of sin. Certainly that and more is needed to disabuse us of the tempting delusion that we in our own persons and works are becoming more acceptable to God.  Do we think we are acquiring a measure of inward holiness that commends us to God? Indeed, as those effectually called and regenerated [we] are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in [us] (WCF 13.1). And yet the only holiness and righteousness that commends us to God is that of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God's judgment.
Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God's sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections. (WCF 16.5-6)
When coming to God even our best works are stained with sin. If our best was all there was for us to bring then we would be as dead men. But we come to God calling on the Lord Jesus our Mediator and Advocate who continually intercedes for us with his blood and righteousness - washing away our sins, cleansing our stained consciences, and clothing us with his moral perfection.  He reaches out his right hand putting it on us and says, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore..."  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Calvin: The Sum of The Gospel...

Gospel truths that the most saintly Christian never outgrows:

The sum of the Gospel is, not without good reason, made to consist in repentance and forgiveness of sins; and, therefore, where these two heads are omitted, any discussion concerning faith will be meager and defective, and indeed almost useless. 
... nothing belongs more peculiarly to God than the forgiveness of sins, in which our salvation consists. 
... Thus we simply interpret justification, as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favor as if we were righteous; and we say that this justification consists in the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. 
.... in the Epistle to the Romans, he proves, by the testimony of David, that righteousness is imputed without works, because he declares the man to be blessed "whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered," and "unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity," (Romans 4:6; Psalm 32:1, 2.) There he undoubtedly uses blessedness for righteousness; and as he declares that it consists in forgiveness of sins, there is no reason why we should define it otherwise... 
Thus the Apostle connects forgiveness of sins with justification in such a way as to show that they are altogether the same; and hence he properly argues that justification, which we owe to the indulgence of God, is gratuitous. Nor should it seem an unusual mode of expression to say that believers are justified before God not by works, but by gratuitous acceptance, seeing it is frequently used in Scripture, and sometimes also by ancient writers. Thus Augustine says: "The righteousness of the saints in this world consists more in the forgiveness of sins than the perfection of virtue," (August. de Civitate Dei, lib. 19, cap. 27.) To this corresponds the well-known sentiment of Bernard: "Not to sin is the righteousness of God, but the righteousness of man is the indulgence of God," (Bernard, Serm. 22, 23 in Cant.) He previously asserts that Christ is our righteousness in absolution, and, therefore, that those only are just who have obtained pardon through mercy.
John Calvin, Institutes 3.11
(repost from 8-30-13)

Marks of a True Anglican Church

The question isn't so much whether episcopal polity is or isn't valid. The Reformers didn't consider it a deal-breaker when considering what constitutes a true church. In the last half of the 16th century the Church of England had an episcopal church government and was considered a true church by the Continental Reformers. Calvin recognized the Church of Poland, a reformed church with an episcopal polity. I think where things get murky is when episcopal polity is equated with a historical physical succession of bishops and as such a necessary component of the marks of a true church.

John Jewell, a bishop in the Church of England said it up well in one of the Homilies, part of the Anglican confessional standards:
The true Church is an universal congregation or fellowship of God’s faithful and elect people, "built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner stone." [Eph. 2:20] And it hath always three notes or marks, whereby it is known; pure and sound doctrine, the Sacraments ministered according to Christ’s holy institution, and the right use of ecclesiastical discipline. This description of the Church is agreeable both to the Scriptures of God and also to the doctrine of the ancient fathers, so that none may justly find fault therewith.
Now one can argue the meaning of those three marks, but conspicuously missing in Jewell's definition is any necessity of a physical succession of bishops or even an episcopal polity.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Salvation Not By A "Personal Relationship" With Jesus

Most certainly sinners are not strictly saved by a "personal relationship" with Jesus (no "Oprah-like-relational-gospel" when it comes to salvation from sin) unless that relationship is truly grounded upon the finished work of Christ's blood-shedding death for sins upon the cross and his perfect obedience to the Law both of which are imputed by God to you, a condemned rebel and sinner. But then, if that were the case you would be extolling something very different, i.e. the amazing grace of God extended to you in the blood of Christ -- Jesus's perfect obedience to the Law in your place (of which Law you have fallen miserably short), his death-payment on the cross for your sinful violation of that Law, and his glorious resurrection from the grave -- securing your salvation from the wages of your sin. Yes, this would be your testimony rather than some emphasis on "a personal relationship" with him...
In a loud voice they were saying: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" (Rev. 5:12)
And they overcame [Satan] because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death. (Rev. 12:11)

Herman Bavinck: Law/Gospel Contrast...

“While, on the one hand, the Reformers held on to the unity of the covenant of grace in its two dispensations against the Anabaptists, on the other hand they also perceived the sharp contrast between law and gospel and thereby again restored the peculiar character of the Christian religion as a religion of grace.  Although in a broad sense the terms ‘law’ and ‘gospel’ can indeed be used to denote the old and the new dispensation of the covenant of grace, in their actual significance they definitely describe two essentially different revelations of divine will.
“Also the law is the will of God; holy, wise, good, and spiritual; giving life to those who maintain it, but because of sin it has been made powerless, it fails to justify, it only stimulates covetousness, increases sin, arouses wrath, kills, curses, and condemns.  Over against it stands the gospel of Christ, the euangellion, which contains nothing less than the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise, which comes to us from God, has Christ as its content, and conveys nothing other than grace, reconciliation, forgiveness, righteousness, peace, freedom, life, and so forth.
“In these texts law and gospel are contrasted as demand and gift, as command and promise, as sin and grace, as sickness and healing, as death and life.  Although they agree in that both have God as author, both speak of one and the same perfect righteousness, and both are addressed to human beings to bring them to eternal life, they nevertheless differ in that the law proceeds from God’s holiness, the gospel from God’s grace; the law is known from nature, the gospel only from special revelation; the law demands perfect righteousness, but the gospel grants it; the law leads people to eternal life by works, and the gospel produces good works from the riches of eternal life granted in faith; the law presently condemns people, and the gospel acquits them; the law addresses itself to all people, and the gospel only to those who live within its hearing; and so forth.”
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 4.
[HT: Reformed Reader]

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Calvin: Salvation by Grace alone...

"On the other hand, if the whole of salvation is attributed to the grace of Christ, man has nothing left, has no virtue of his own by which he can assist himself to procure salvation. But though our opponents concede that man, in every good deed, is assisted by the Holy Spirit, they nevertheless claim for him a share in the operation. This they do, because they perceive not how deep the wound is which was inflicted on our nature by the fall of our first parents."
- The Necessity of Reforming the Church by John Calvin

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Calvin, Concerning the Obedience of Believers (3)

John Calvin, Institutes of Religion - 3.14.
11. We must strongly insist on these two things: That no believer ever performed one work which, if tested by the strict judgment of God, could escape condemnation; and, moreover, that were this granted to be (though it is not,) yet the act being vitiated and polluted by the sins of which it is certain that the author of it is guilty, it is deprived of its merit. This is the cardinal point of the present discussion. There is no controversy between us and the sounder Schoolmen as to the beginning of justification. They admit that the sinner, freely delivered from condemnation, obtains justification, and that by forgiveness of sins; but under the term justification they comprehend the renovation by which the Spirit forms us anew to the obedience of the Law; and in describing the righteousness of the regenerate man, maintain that being once reconciled to God by means of Christ, he is afterwards deemed righteous by his good works, and is accepted in consideration of them. The Lord, on the contrary, declares, that he imputed Abraham's faith for righteousness, (Romans 4:3) not at the time when he was still a worshipper of idols, but after he had been many years distinguished for holiness. Abraham had long served God with a pure heart, and performed that obedience of the Law which a mortal man is able to perform: yet his righteousness still consisted in faith. Hence we infer, according to the reasoning of Paul, that it was not of works. In like manners when the prophet says, "The just shall live by his faith," (Habakkuk 2:4) he is not speaking of the wicked and profane, whom the Lord justifies by converting them to the faith: his discourse is directed to believers, and life is promised to them by faith. Paul also removes every doubt, when in confirmation of this sentiment he quotes the words of David, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered," (Psalm 32:1.) It is certain that David is not speaking of the ungodly but of believers such as he himself was, because he was giving utterance to the feelings of his own mind. Therefore we must have this blessedness not once only, but must hold it fast during our whole lives. Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church, (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19.) Hence believers have not even to the end of life any which all our iniquities are covered. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul says not that the beginning of salvation is of grace, but "by grace are ye saved," "not of works, lest any man should boast," (Ephesians 2:8, 9.)...
12. ... I answer, that the grace which they call accepting, is nothing else than the free goodness with which the Father embraces us in Christ when he clothes us with the innocence of Christ, and accepts it as ours, so that in consideration of it he regards us as holy, pure, and innocent. For the righteousness of Christ (as it alone is perfect, so it alone can stand the scrutiny of God) must be sisted for us, and as a surety represent us judicially. Provided with this righteousness, we constantly obtain the remission of sins through faith. Our imperfection and impurity, covered with this purity, are not imputed but are as it were buried, so as not to come under judgment until the hour arrive when the old man being destroyed, and plainly extinguished in us, the divine goodness shall receive us into beatific peace with the new Adam, there to await the day of the Lord, on which, being clothed with incorruptible bodies, we shall be translated to the glory of the heavenly kingdom.
13. If these things are so, it is certain that our works cannot in themselves make us agreeable and acceptable to God, and even cannot please God, except in so far as being covered with the righteousness of Christ we thereby please him and obtain forgiveness of sins. God has not promised life as the reward of certain works, but only declares, "which if a man do, he shall live in them," (Leviticus 18:5) denouncing the well-known curse against all who do not continue in all things that are written in the book of the Law to do them. In this way is completely refuted the fiction of a partial righteousness, the only righteousness acknowledged in heaven being the perfect observance of the Law.
[emphasis added]

Calvin, Concerning the Obedience of Believers (2)

John Calvin, Institutes of Religion - 3.14.
10. Even were it possible for us to perform works absolutely pure, yet one sin is sufficient to efface and extinguish all remembrance of former righteousness, as the prophet says, (Ezekiel 18:24.) With this James agrees, "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all," (James 2:10.) And since this mortal life is never entirely free from the taint of sin, whatever righteousness we could acquire would ever and anon be corrupted, overwhelmed, and destroyed, by subsequent sins, so that it could not stand the scrutiny of God, or be imputed to us for righteousness. In short, whenever we treat of the righteousness of works, we must look not to the legal work but to the command. Therefore, when righteousness is sought by the Law, it is in vain to produce one or two single works; we must show an uninterrupted obedience. God does not (as many foolishly imagine) impute that forgiveness of sins once for all, as righteousness; so that having obtained the pardon of our past life we may afterwards seek righteousness in the Law. This were only to mock and delude us by the entertainment of false hopes. For since perfection is altogether unattainable by us, so long as we are clothed with flesh, and the Law denounces death and judgment against all who have not yielded a perfect righteousness, there will always be ground to accuse and convict us unless the mercy of God interpose, and ever and anon absolve us by the constant remission of sins. Wherefore the statement which we set out is always true, If we are estimated by our own worthiness, in every thing that we think or devise, with all our studies and endeavors we deserve death and destruction.
[emphasis added]