Archive for July, 2009

May the Lord imprint these truths, so well expressed by Charles Bridges, on the heart of every Gospel minister:

“The book of God is indeed the living voice of the Spirit. To be intent therefore upon the study of it, must result in a clear apprehension of the mind of God. Hence the maxim—’ Bonus textuarius, bonus Theologus.’ Most beautifully does Witsius set out the value of this primary Ministerial qualification—” mighty in the Scriptures.” ‘ Let the Theologian ascend from the lower school of natural study, to the higher department of Scripture, and, sitting at the feet of God as his teacher, learn from his mouth the hidden Old Dutch Family Bible (from flickr.com)mysteries of salvation, which ” eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; which none of the princes of this world knew;” which the most accurate reason cannot search out; which the heavenly chorus of angels, though always beholding the face of God, ” desire to look into.” In the hidden book of Scripture, and no where else, are opened the secrets of the more sacred wisdom. Whatever is not drawn from them—whatever is not built upon them—whatever does not most exactly accord with them—however it may recommend itself by the appearance of the most sublime wisdom, or rest upon ancient tradition, consent of learned men, or the weight of plausible argument—is vain, futile, and, in short, a very lie. ” To the law and to the testimony. If any one speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Let the Theologian delight in these sacred oracles: let him exercise himself in them day and night; let him meditate on them; let him live in them ; let him derive all his wisdom from them; let him compare all his thoughts with them; let him embrace nothing in religion which he does not find here. Let him not bind his faith to a man— not to a Prophet—not to an Apostle—not even to an Angel himself, as if the dictum of either man or angel were to be the rule of faith. Let his whole ground of faith be in God alone. For it is a Divine, not a human faith, which we learn and teach; so pure that it can rest upon no ground but the authority of God, who is never false, and never can deceive. The attentive study of the Scriptures has a sort of constraining power. It fills the mind with the most splendid form of heavenly truth, which it teaches with purity, solidity, certainty, and without the least mixture of error. It soothes the mind with an inexpressible sweetness; it satisfies the sacred hunger and thirst for knowledge with flowing rivers of honey and butter; it penetrates into the innermost heart with irresistible influence; it imprints its own testimony so firmly upon the mind, that the believing soul rests upon it with the same security, as if it had been carried up into the third heaven, and heard it from God’s own mouth; it touches all the affections, and breathes the sweetest fragrance of holiness upon the pious reader, even though he may not perhaps comprehend the full extent of his reading. We can scarcely say, how strongly we are opposed to that preposterous method of study, which, alas ! too much prevails among us—of forming our views of Divine things from human writings, and afterwards supporting them by Scripture authorities, the result either of our own inquiry, or adduced by others too rashly, and without further examination or bearing upon the subject; when we ought to draw our views of Divine truths immediately from the Scriptures themselves, and to make no other use of human writings, than as indices marking those places in the chief points of Theology, from which we may be instructed in the mind of the Lord.’ This exquisite Master of Theology proceeds in the same strain to remark the importance of the Student giving himself up to the inward teaching of the Holy Spirit, as the only mean of obtaining a spiritual and saving acquaintance with the rule of faith; ‘ it being needful that he that is a disciple of Scripture should also be a disciple of the Spirit’ (Bridges, The Christian Ministry, pp. 58-60).

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Richard Baxter of Kidderminster (from flickr.com)Baxter was an establishmentarian.  It is good that kings and queens should be nursing fathers and mothers to the Church.  He lamented in his Reformed Pastor that magistrates did not make adequate provision of Reformed pastors throughout the England of his day. 

Yet, he did not lay the main blame at the feet of civic leaders.  The fault was with the laziness of the ministry.  “It is we who are to blame, even we, the ministers of the gospel, whom they should thus maintain.  For those ministers that have small parishes, and might do all this private part of the work [pastoral care, mainly through catechizing], yet do it not, or at least few of them.  And those in great towns and cities, that might do somewhat, though they cannot do dall, will do just nothing but what accidentally falls in their way, or next to nothing; so that the magistrate is not awakened to the observance or consideration of the weight of our work” (Reformed Pastor, pp. 184-85, emphasis mine).  Like Chalmers some 150 years after him, his establishmentarianism was no fawning dependence of the Church on the State.  Rather, the Church ought to rise to the calling of its own Master, with or without the aid of the magistrate.  Yet, both Baxter and Chalmers believed that the diligence of the ministry could induce the State to its duty of patronizing the heavenly Kingdom.

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“It is easy to separate from the multitude, and to gather distinct churches, and to let the rest sink or swim; and if they will not be saved by public preaching, to let them be damned: but whether this be the most charitable and Christian course, one would think should be no hard question” (Reformed Pastor, p. 184). 

In Chalmers’ terms, we must operate on the principle of aggression and not attraction.

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The following is an excellent quote from Thomas Chalmers in his Christian and Economic Polity of a Nation (1821).  In it, he demonstrates one particular viture of the locality principle, on which the parish system is built – it facilitates the zeal and perseverance of the Christian missionary:

” He, with a select and appropriate vineyard thus lying before him, will feel himself far more powerfully urged, than when under the common arrangement, to go forth among its families. However subtle an exercise it may require from another, faithfully to analyse the effect upon his mind, he himself has only to try it, and he will soon become sensible of the strong additional interest that he acquires, in virtue of having a small and specific locality assigned to him. When the subject on which he is to operate, thus offers Thomas Chalmers and his family (from flicker.com)itself to his contemplation, in the shape of one unbroken field, or of one entire and continuous body, it acts as a more distinct and imperative call upon him, to go out upon the enterprise. He will feel a kind of property in the families; and the very circumstance of a material limit uround their habitations, serves to strengthen this impression, by furnishing to his mind a sort of association with the hedges and the landmarks of property. At all events, the very visibility of the limit, by constantly leading him to perceive the length and the breadth of his task, holds out an inducement to his energies, which, however difficult to explain, will be powerfully felt and proceeded on. There is a very great difference, in respect of its practical influence, between a task that is indefinite, and a task that is clearly seen to be overtakeable. The one has the effect to paralyze; the other, to quicken exertion. It serves most essential!v to spirit on his undertaking, when, by every new movement, one feels himself to be drawing sensibly nearer to the accomplishmviit of it—when, by every one house that he enters, he can count the lessening number before him, through which he has yet to pass with his proposals for the attendance of their children—and when, by the distinct and definite portion, which is still untravelled, he is constantly reminded of what he has to do, ere that district, which he feels to be his own, is thoroughly pervaded. He can go over his families too, with far less expense of locomotion, than under the common system of sabbath schools ; and, for the same reason, can he more fully and frequently reiterate his attentions; and it will charm him onwards, to find that he is sensibly translating himself into a stricter and kinder relationship with the people of his district; and, if he have a taste for cordial intercourse with the fellows of his own nature, he will be gladdened and encouraged by his growing familiarity with them all; and thus will he turn the vicinity which he has chosen, into a home- walk of many charities ; and recognized as its moral benefactor, will lug kindness, and his judgment, and his Christianity, be put forth, with a well- earned and well-established influence, in behalf of a grateful population.”

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