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Archive for the ‘Covenant Theology’ Category

Boston, The light of the Jews

“A Griegos y á bárbaros, á sabios y á no sabios soy deudor” (Rom. 1:14) —

Chalmers, Orator of the Species [Esp]

More quotes, sans image …

Communion of the Saints

“The speech of one hearty friend cannot but revive the spirits of another. Sympathy hath a strange force, as we see in the strings of an instrument, which being played upon, as they say, the strings of another instrument are also moved with it. After love hath once kindled love, then the heart, being melted, is fit to receive any impression. Unless both pieces of the iron be red hot, they will not join together. Two spirits warmed with the same heat will easily solder together.”

-Richard Sibbes

Faith & the Promise

“The faith of the promises is the door at which the accomplishment of the promises doth enter in: according to the word, Luke 1:45, Blessed are they that believe, for there shall be a performance of those things that are spoken of the Lord unto them. If we were more in waiting for the accomplishment of the promises, the vision should speak, and should not tarry: and no doubt, a mercy coming to us, as the fruit and performance of a promise, will make it an exceeding refreshful thing, when a Christian getteth leave to sing that song, which is in Isa 25:9, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will come and save us. And when a mercy is the fruit and accomplishment of the promise, there is a beautiful lustre and dye upon that mercy, which no art could set on, but only the finger of the love of God.”

-Andrew Gray

Regeneration of Children

“The education of children should proceed on the principle that they are in an unregenerate state, until evidences of piety clearly appear, in which case they should be sedulously cherished and nurtured. . . . Although the grace of God may be communicated to a human soul, at any period of its existence, in this world, yet the fact manifestly is, that very few are renewed before the exercise of reason commences; and not many in early childhood.”

-Archibald Alexander, Thoughts on Religious Experience

Honesty in Confessional Subscription

“Honesty is as important in theology as in trade and commerce, in a religious denomination as in a political party. Denominational honesty consists, first, in a clear, unambiguous statement by a Church of its doctrinal belief, and, second, in an unequivocal and sincere adoption of it by its members. Both are requisite. If a particular denomination makes a loose statement of its belief, which is capable of being construed in more than one sense, it is so far dishonest. If the creed of the denomination is well drawn and plain, but the membership subscribe to it with mental reservation and uncertainty, the denomination is dishonest. Honesty and sincerity are founded in clear conviction, and clear conviction is founded in the knowledge and acknowledgement of the truth. Heresy is a sin, and is classed by St. Paul among’the works of the flesh,’ along with ‘adultery, idolatry, murder, envy and hatred,’ which exclude from the kingdom of God. (Gal. v. 19-21). But heresy is not so great a sin as dishonesty. There may be honest heresy, but not honest dishonesty. A heretic who acknowledges that he is such, is a better man than he who pretends to be orthodox while subscribing to a creed which he dislikes, and which he saps under pretence of improving it and adapting it to the times. The honest heretic leaves the Church with which he no longer agrees; but the insincere subscriber remains within it in order to carry out his plan of demoralization.”

– W. G. T. Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed, 152

Trials in the Womb of the Covenant of Redemption

“Whatever trials you have, whatever troubles you have, whatever difficulties you have, they come from the same covenant as Christ came for your salvation. They come from the same covenant as your regeneration came. They come from the same covenant as your hope of heaven comes. And they come with the same love, and they come for the same purpose, and that is that you might be to the glory of his grace throughout eternity.”

-Hugh M. Cartwright (1943-2011)

The Virgin Mary’s “Low Estate”

“​In the following words she teaches us how worthless she felt of herself and that she received by the heavenly grace that was lavished on her every sort of good merit that she had. She says, “For he has considered the humility of his handmaid. For behold from this time on all generations will call me blessed.” She demonstrates that in her own judgment she was indeed Christ’s humble handmaid, but with respect to heavenly grace she pronounces herself all at once lifted up and glorified to such a degree that rightly her preeminent blessedness would be marveled at by the voices of all nations.”

-Venerable Bede

The Right Veneration of the Virgin

But that she was eminently a saint; that her faith, and resignation, and absolute devotion to God, on the message of the angel, were most extraordinary and exemplary; that her relation to our common Saviour should render her name dear and venerable to us all; and that we should fulfil our part of her own prediction, that “henceforth all generations shall call me blessed,” [Luke 1:48]—all this is not only to be admitted, but remembered and regarded​. . .  Yet in counteracting this error, the veneration and affection due to her true character, has, I think, been sometimes refused, or impaired. Let us avoid both extremes. Let us worship God alone; but let us love and venerate all his saints, and the mother of our Lord among the chief.”

-Ashbel Green

A Penitent Marveling at Common Grace

“Her self-conceited heart is self-convict’d,
With barbed arrows of compunction prick’d;
Wonders how justice spares her vital breath,
How patient heav’n adjourns the day of wrath;
How pliant earth does not with open jaws
Devour her, Korah-like, for equal cause;
How yawning hell, that gapes for such a prey,
Is frustrate with a further hour’s delay.”

-Ralph Erskine

“Social” Christianity & the Individual

“Nevertheless, the attempts to apply Christianity socially have profoundly affected the meaning which the Christian faith has for the average man and ordinary churchgoer. The emphasis on the social has largely stifled the spiritual nature of the faith. It has obscured the revealed fact that the Christian message was primarily to and for individuals. . . For the business of the Church in its God-given mission is to the individual and through the individual to society. Moreover, the Christian revelation holds out no hope for society except in so far as the men and women who form it are Christian, which for the secular State is a futile and unattainable ideal. It is therefore all the more essential that the truth should be understood that a Christian society can only be fashioned out of and by Christian men and women. . .”

“Evangelical ministers, holding their high commission as ambassadors of Christ, must ever plead with men to be reconciled to God. When people are reconciled to God they are in fact at peace with one another. From this peace, conditioned by faith in Jesus Christ, can alone arise a state of mutual peace among peoples of nations and a fellowship in peace of the states constituted of these reconciled peoples. . .”

“To-day, therefore, as at all times, the primary privilege and service of this ministry must be the regeneration of men who will become creators of a better and more really Christian civilisation.”

-Donald Maclean (1869–1943), Principal of the Free Church of Scotland and co-founder of the Evangelical Quarterly. From “An Evangelical Ministry.”-

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IMG_5335District, door-to-door evangelism done right is distinctly Reformed, being a distinctly household-oriented approach to Gospel outreach.

Follow me here. Doesn’t God administer His grace to individuals as well as to households? Doesn’t it start with the head and flow to the members? Isn’t it interested in reconciling the father to the son and the son to the father? Abraham, Joshua, Cornelius, Lydia. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). We aim for the heads of households; and if we get them, we get the family. (more…)

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Tennent, Adam's Stock

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Here is something I designed for our catechism class to help young and old track with the main contours of Covenant Theology and its bearing on redemptive history. Comments below.

S Cat 020 The Covenants [CCat]

Much of this is self-explanatory for those with a working knowledge of Reformed doctrine. But a bit of clarification on my design. I added a dashed, horizontal line & arrow from Covenant of Works moving through the OT and NT dispensations to help reduce the impression that it is somehow a cipher after the Fall. I also configured the OT period to begin at Sinai (as technically it does), though canonically it usually embraces everything from Genesis to Malachi. Third, the dashed, vertical line above Sinai intersecting the horizontal lines of the Moral and Ceremonial law is intended to reflect the development and institutionalization of the latter and the explicit publication of the former. Last, the dashed and hard vertical lines at the cross represent the distinction between the definitive abolition of these laws at 33(-ish) A.D. and their actual, outward end with the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

I omitted the ‘biblical’ covenants (Noahic, Abrahamic, Davidic), leaving that for another day and another diagram.

And now you’ll need a chart to understand all that! Seriously, though, if you can help me perfect this further, I’m open. Just as long as you’re no Dispy, Hyper-Preterist, or any of the countless bunny trails from good old 1646 Federalism.

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The following passage is worth its weight in gold.  We would expect nothing less from Thomas Boston.

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In what sense Christ is Saviour of the world.  A saviour is a name of honour, and a name of business. It is an honourable thing to save and help the miserable; to be destined, appointed, and called to that employment: but the honourable post has business annexed to it; it will not do without activity, which success is expected to attend, as in the case of a teacher, physician, and the like. Now, one may be a saviour, even as a teacher or physician, of a society, two ways. (1.) In respect of office, as being called to and invested with the office of saving, teaching, or curing that society. And thus one is saviour, teacher, or physician of that society, before ever he save, teach, or cure any of them. In this respect one may be called an official saviour, teacher, or physician. (2.) In respect of the event and success, as actually and eventually saving, teaching, and healing. As the former ariseth from an appointment put upon such a one; this ariseth from the work he manageth in virtue of that appointment. In this respect one may be called an actual and eventual saviour. Thus it is said, Neb. ix. 27. ”  And, according to thy manifold mercies, thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hands of their enemies. This premised, we say,

1. Our Lord Jesus is the actual and eventual Saviour of the elect only, in whose room and stead only he died upon the cross, according to the eternal compact passed between him and the Father, in the covenant of grace, otherwise called the covenant of redemption; for these are not two, but one and the same covenant. Thus the apostle calls him “the Saviour of the body,” Eph. v. 23. that is, of the elect, who make up the body whereof he was appointed the head from eternity, and in whose name he contracted with the Father in the eternal covenant. And he is their Saviour eventually, as actually saving them, Matth. i. 21.  “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.”  None but these will ever truly employ him as a Saviour, or put their case in his hand : and there are none of them but will certainly employ him sooner or later, Acts xiii. 48. ” As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” John vi. 37.  “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.”

2. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the official Saviour, not of the elect only, but of the world of mankind indefinitely; so our text calls him “Saviour of the world.” Agreeably to which, God in Christ is called “the Saviour of all men,” but with a speciality, “the Saviour of them that believe,” 1 Tim. iv. 10.  The matter lies here: like as a prince, out of regard to his subjects’ welfare, gives a commission to a qualified person to be physician to such a society, a regiment, or the like; and the prince’s commission constitutes him physician of that society ; so that though many of them should never employ him, but call other physicians, yet still there is a relation betwixt him and them ; he is their physician by office; any of them all may come to him if they will, and be healed: So God, looking on the ruined world of mankind, has constituted and appointed Jesus Christ his Son Saviour of the world: he has Heaven’s patent for this office; and wheresoever the gospel comes, this his patent is intimated. Hereby a relation is constituted betwixt him and the world of mankind; he is their Saviour, and they the objects of his administration: so that any of them all may come to him, without money or price, and be saved by him as their own Saviour appointed them by the Father.

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The architects of the Reformed Churches in the 16th century were trans-generational thinkers. As those who rediscovered Covenant Theology, this should be expected. In reading the First Book of Discipline (1560), one will encounter explicit and repeated concern for future generations as justification for church policy decisions. For “the profite of the posterity to come.” Like good fathers, they wanted what was best for their bairns, and their bairns’ bairns as well!

Does this paternal, trans-generational concern shape the way we ‘do church’?  Is what we do in doctrine, worship, and government really in the best interests of the rising generations, or is it more candy to placate the over-indulged? Are we correcting and cultivating, or just coddling?

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Our hyper-individualized society possesses a very low sense of corporate solidarity. Every man does that which is right in his own eyes. Every man isolates himself, tears apart what God has joined together, challenging, “and who is my neighbor?” Or, “am I my brother’s keeper?” Tragically, this thinking bleeds over into the mentality of the Church. We have become conformed to this individualistic world, not transformed by the renewing of our mind. Shame on us!

When, however, we begin thinking corporately – and for that matter, inter-generationally (should I say, consistently covenantal?) – we will find ourselves doing much more than confessing our own individual sins. For starters, we will confess the sin of individualism. But what is more, we will sense the guilt that we bear as members of families, states, and nations. We will sense a shared guilt by our association with the compromised Visible Church. And we will certainly feel, in addition to our own sins, the shared sins of our forbears.

Observe this principle in Leviticus 26:40, 42, “If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me . . . then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.” When exiled as a punishment for their sins and the sins of their fathers, Israel ought to repent and confess both. And they should do so with the assurance that the God who shows mercy from generation to generation will do precisely that!

See this also with Daniel in his great confession. This holy man, far from isolating himself from the larger body to which he belonged, rather owned it and identified with it. Even if the nation would not confess its sin, he would do it for them. Or, more to the point, as a part of them. “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land” (Dan. 9:6; see the reference to “our fathers” also in vv. 8 & 16).

Now we may not like this. We may complain, charging God with injustice. “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezek. 18:2). But the Potter has power over the clay. And it has pleased Him to make us not bare, atomized individuals – but much more. We are also members of corporate bodies. We are waves in a larger generational stream, branches in a much bigger tree. This is biblical. This is covenantal. This is reality! Let us acknowledge it and confess our sins. Including those we share with our ancestors. And if we do, should we not expect the God of the thousand generations to remember his mercies towards us – and our children (Acts 2:39)?

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