Cum poti vedea gloria lui Hristos?

Teologul puritan John Owen dă un răspuns practic și biblic la această întrebare în ultima carte pe care a scris-o, Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ (1684)tradusă și publicată în limba română la Editura Făclia. Din paginile cărţii (care poate fi citită aici în original) reiese că Owen văzuse gloria lui Hristos de departe şi că a meditat îndelung la semnificaţia ei.

Scriptura ne prezintă două căi prin care putem vedea gloria lui Hristos. În lumea aceasta, o putem vedea numai prin credință, aceasta fiind „o încredere în lucrurile care nu se văd”, iar în lumea viitoare o vom vedea în mod real (2 Corinteni 5:7-8 pentru că umblăm prin credință, nu prin vedere. – Da, suntem plini de încredere, și ne place mult mai mult să părăsim trupul acesta, ca să fim acasă, la Domnul; 1 Corinteni 13:12 Acum, vedem ca într-o oglindă, în chip întunecos; dar atunci, vom vedea față în față. Acum, cunosc în parte; dar atunci, voi cunoaște deplin, așa cum am fost și eu cunoscut pe deplin).

Nimeni nu va vedea gloria lui Hristos în mod real în cer dacă n-o vede mai întâi într-un mod limitat, prin credință, aici pe pământ. Perioada harului este o perioadă de pregătire necesară pentru glorie, iar credința este exercițiul necesar pentru a putea vedea în mod perfect. Sufletul nepregătit aici pe pământ prin har și prin credință nu va fi capabil să vadă gloria lui Hristos în cer. Mulți afirmă cu hotărâre că doresc să ajungă în cer. Dar când îi întrebi de ce doresc acest lucru, nu-ți pot da nici un răspuns, afară de acela că este mai bine acolo decât în iad. Dacă omul crede că poate iubi și dori ceea ce n-a văzut niciodată, se înșală singur.

Ioan scrie referindu-se la el însuși și la ceilalți apostoli: „Și noi am privit slava Lui, o slavă întocmai ca slava singurului născut din Tatăl” (Ioan 1:14). Dar despre ce fel de glorie a lui Hristos este vorba, și cum au privit apostolii la ea?

Nu poate fi vorba despre gloria înfățișării fizice a lui Hristos pentru că, pe pământ, El n-a avut nici o strălucire sau frumusețe pământească. Pe pământ, Hristos n-a avut bogății și nu i-a putut aduna pe oameni într-o casă mare. Despre El se spune că n-a avut unde-Și odihni capul, cu toate că El a creat toate lucrurile. În înfățișarea Sa exterioară nu exista nimic care să atragă privirile lumii (Isaia 52:14; 53:2-3). Pentru oameni, El arăta „ca un om al durerii”.

Dar nu poate fi vorba nici de gloria naturii Sale divine și veșnice pentru că pe aceasta n-o poate vedea nimeni cât timp trăiește pe pământ. Ceea ce vom vedea noi în cer, nici măcar nu putem concepe aici pe pământ.

Ceea ce au mărturisit apostolii a fost gloria văzută în „harul și adevărul” aduse de Hristos. Ei au văzut slava Persoanei și a slujbei prin care ni s-a dat harul și adevărul. Și cum au văzut ei această slavă? Au văzut-o numai prin credință, pentru că privilegiul acesta a fost dat numai acelora care „L-au primit” și au crezut în numele Lui (loan 1:12). Aceasta a fost gloria pe care a văzut-o loan Botezătorul când a arătat spre Hristos spunând: „Iată Mielul lui Dumnezeu care ridică păcatul lumii!” (loan 1:29).

Toate gândurile și dorințele mele, ca și creștin, sunt concentrate asupra gloriei lui Hristos și, pe măsură ce gloria lui Hristos mi se dezvăluie tot mai mult, frumusețile acestei lumi pălesc înaintea ochilor mei, iar eu mă răstignesc față de ea. Pentru mine, lumea aceasta va deveni un lucru incapabil să-mi ofere bucurii reale.

Unii vorbesc mult despre importanța de a-L imita pe Hristos și de a-I urma exemplul. Dar nimeni nu va deveni vreodată „ca El”, încercând doar să-l imite comportamentul și viața, dacă nu știe nimic despre puterea transformatoare pe care o simți când îi privești gloria.

Dacă am vedea zilnic gloria lui Hristos, umblarea noastră creștină cu Dumnezeu ar deveni mai plăcută și mai frumoasă, lumina și puterea noastră spirituală ar crește mai mult în fiecare zi, iar viața noastră ar însemna o trăire tot mai intensă.

La toate aceste observații, unii ar putea spune: „Nu înțeleg lucrurile acestea și nici nu mă prea interesează”. Oricine crede că lucrul acesta nu este necesar trăirii creștine și nevoii noastre de sfințire, nu-L cunoaște pe Hristos și nu cunoaște nici Evanghelia. Lumina credinței ne este dată în special ca să ne ajute să vedem gloria lui Dumnezeu în Hristos (2 Corinteni 4:6 Căci Dumnezeu, care a zis: „Să lumineze lumina din întuneric”, ne-a luminat inimile, pentru ca să facem să strălucească lumina cunoștinței slavei lui Dumnezeu pe fața lui Isus Hristos). Dacă nu avem lumina care le este dată credincioșilor prin puterea lui Dumnezeu, suntem străini față de întregul adevăr al Evangheliei.

Dacă Dumnezeu a adus în inima ta această lumină a credinței, învață să vezi gloria lui Hristos aducându-ți aminte că altădată te gândeai la lucrurile din lume. Oamenii păcătoși și neregenerați, plini de dorințe păcătoase, se gândesc și plănuiesc continuu în mintea lor lucruri care dau satisfacție acestor dorințe. Dacă necredincioșii depun atâtea eforturi pentru a-și hrăni poftele, oare noi să nu lucrăm la fel de insistent pentru a vedea ceea ce ne transformă mintea în asemănare cu Hristos, pentru ca ochi înțelegerii noastre să fie tot timpul plini de gloria Lui? Când îl vom vedea în realitate, îl vom vedea continuu și nu vom mai înceta niciodată să ne desfătăm în El.

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Spend the weekend with John Bunyan – Run to Obtain

If you havent gotten familiar with John Bunyan, you have the opportunity to do so here. Please check out the links below this post and they will take you to several pages of online books to read and videos to watch.

John Bunyan 1628-1688

Run to Obtain

John Bunyan

John Bunyan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the 1660s, Charles II, King of England, asked John Owen (1616–83) why he went to hear the preaching of an uneducated tinker. The King was amazed that Owen, a prominent preacher, would stoop to associate with a tinker. After all, there was quite a contrast between the two.

At that time, most ministers in England graduated from Cambridge or Oxford. Owen had entered Queen’s College, Oxford at age 12, took his B.A. in 1632 and M.A. in 1635. On the other hand, the tinker possessed no formal education beyond the second grade. Owen had written voluminously; the tinker did most of his writing while in jail.

The tinker lived in a small cottage in the obscure village of Bedford, but Owen served as chaplain to Cromwell, walked in kings’ palaces, was respected by many of the nobility, and had preached to Parliament and in England’s great cathedrals. The tinker preached to a church that met in an old barn and at its peak may have numbered 300.

Looking the King in the eye, Owen answered, “May it please your Majesty, could I possess the tinker’s ability for preaching, I would willingly relinquish all my learning.”1

The tinker was John Bunyan (1628–88), the Puritan pastor and author of Pilgrim’s Progress.

Bunyan was an old man when Owen first heard him. “The soul-experiences through which he [Bunyan] had passed,” notes one biographer, “had done more to equip him for what God had so definitely called him than any academic training could do.”2

“I preached what I startlingly did feel,”3 Bunyan later noted.

The source of Bunyan’s influence over Owen and others was his passion in the pulpit that flowed from his personal experience of the Bible’s power and his frequent persecution. He was Bible-saturated. As Charles Spurgeon later noted, “Prick him anywhere; his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him.”4

Owen would not have been surprised to learn that Bunyan’s most influential work, Pilgrim’s Progress, would be translated into more languages over the next 400 years than any book except the Bible.

How did the writing of an uneducated tinker become the most widely read piece of 17th-century English literature? Who was John Bunyan, and what can we learn from his life?

Early Life

Little is known about John Bunyan’s youth. He was born in 1628 in Elstow, a little village 50 miles northeast of London. The exact date of his birth is unknown. At age 16 he enlisted in Oliver Cromwell’s army and fought with the Puritans against King Charles I. He was discharged in his early twenties and married. His first wife (her name unknown) bore him four children. The oldest child, a daughter, was born blind.

He was converted in his mid-twenties after a lengthy agony-of-soul similar to Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress. At age 25 he began to preach, and by 30 he was a part-time village preacher. He worked the forge and anvil by day and preached the gospel at night.

Persecution

We often take religious toleration for granted. But tolerance of multiple denominations in one state was a novel idea in the 1650s. Intolerance had been the norm for 1,000 years. Most English Christians were Anglican paedobaptists. But under Cromwell’s new policy of tolerance, the Baptists were beginning to flourish and many Englishmen were nervous.5

Bunyan belonged to a small Baptist church of about 60 people. They were called independents because the Anglican Church — the only church sanctioned by the English government — did not control them.

Cromwell died, and in 1660, King Charles II came to power. He was determined to eradicate Cromwell’s radical religious tolerance and stamp out all denominations except the State-sanctioned church. Parliament cooperated, passing a series of laws designed to persecute the independents out of existence. Bunyan suffered dearly.

In this setting Bunyan received Christ’s call to preach. He knew it would be costly. To complicate matters, his wife died, leaving him with four children. Bunyan knew he would be jailed soon, so he asked a woman in his church named Elizabeth to marry him so his children would be cared for while he was in prison. Zealous for God and His people, she agreed to marry John and serve the church in this way. In later years Elizabeth and John fell deeply in love.

When Bunyan refused to obey Parliament’s new mandates forbidding him to preach as an independent, the English government imprisoned him. He languished in jail without a proper trial for 12 of the best years of his life: age 32 to 44.

During these years the government persecutors ravaged what was left of Bunyan’s flock, fining immense sums on people who were already poor by 17th-century standards. Often government officials would arrive at their homes with a cart and take everything they owned — furniture, clothing, and cooking utensils — leaving these poor saints utterly destitute.6

The experience of a poor widow named Mary Tilney characterized the treatment of Bunyan’s flock: “They carried away all the Goods in her House they thought worth their labour, as Tables, Cupboards, Chairs, Irons, Feather-beds, Blankets, the very Hangings of the Room, and Sheets off her bed, insomuch that the Widow was forced that night to borrow Sheets of her Neighbors to lie on. … Yet the poor Mrs. Tilney was more troubled at the crying and sighing of her poor Neighbours about her …, than for the loss of her Goods, which she took very cheerfully.”7

Such was the spirit and attitude of these poor, oppressed saints.

Jail Life

Meanwhile Bunyan languished in jail. Seventeenth-century English jails were not pleasant. Unlike today, he had no color TV and no weight room. Food was meager. He slept on a flea-infested straw mattress in a small room crowded with other prisoners. He had no heat in winter. He lived with lice, fleas, poor sanitation, and little privacy. Many fellow prisoners died of disease.

Despite these hardships, the fate of his wife, Elizabeth, and his four children was his greatest concern. There was no welfare to provide for them, so he cast his family upon the mercy of his small congregation, already impoverished by persecution. His children grew up poor and fatherless.

“The parting with my Wife and poor children hath often been to me in this place as the pulling of the Flesh from my Bones,” he later wrote. “And that … because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries and wants that my poor Family was like to meet with should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind Child, who lay nearer my heart than all I had besides; O the thoughts of the hardship I thought my Blind one might go under, would break my poor heart to pieces. … Yet recalling myself, thought I, I must venture you all with God, though it goeth to the quick to leave you. O, I saw in this condition I was as a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his Wife and Children. Yet, thought I, I must do it, I must do it.”8

He was finally released from prison, and for the next 3 years he returned to preaching. Deepened by suffering, Bunyan’s preaching had a new measure of power and authority.

He was jailed a final time for 6 months. During this incarceration, he received the dream that inspired Pilgrim’s Progress. He finished the manuscript in prison.

From his middle forties to his death at age 60, he was the pastor of a small, growing Bedford congregation. He was also in growing demand to supply pulpits in neighboring villages. His reputation preceded him, and increasingly the great congregations of London called him to preach. It was at this time that John Owen heard Bunyan and began attending his lectures whenever he was in London.

Lessons From Bunyan

First, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). God lifted Bunyan high because he went so low. Looking back on his imprisonment he quietly noted: “I was made to see that if ever I would suffer rightly I must first pass a sentence of death upon everything which can properly be called a thing of this life, even to reckon myself, my Wife, my Children, my Health, my Enjoyments, and all as dead to me and myself as dead to them. And second to live upon God that is invisible. I see the best way to go through suffering is to trust in God through Christ as touching the world to come; and as touching this world to count the grave my House, and to make my Bed in darkness.”9

Second, Bunyan persevered in his calling. He was unaware of the vast harvest that would come through his writing after his death. During his prison years, he faithfully devoted hour after hour to Bible study, never knowing how or when God would use him, or if he would be released. He determined to be faithful trusting the harvest to God.

Bunyan didn’t measure success by large numbers or by fine facilities. He measured it by faithfulness. To what has God called us? Are we devoting our lives to it? Are we discouraged by meager results? Take courage. Bunyan measured success by faithfulness, trusting God for results as He saw fit to produce them.

From an earthly perspective, Bunyan saw few results during his life. He is enjoying his reward now in eternity. If we persevere in our calling, we will have the same reward. Emulate John Bunyan. He was a faithful man.

History is His story.

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/48052700 w=500&h=375]

Smooth Stones Taken from Ancient Brooks – Spurgeon on Renowned Puritan Thomas Brooks (296 pages) Online Book

spurgeon 2
Spurgeon book on Thomas Brooks

Description:

As a writer, Brooks scatters stars with both his hands: he hath dust of gold; in his storehouse are all manner of precious stones. So wrote C.H. Spurgeon in his Preface to this book. He counted Thomas Brooks among his favourite Puritan authors, and it is not hard to see why. Brooks’ popularity lies both in his subjects – practical truths, central to the Christian life – and in the manner of his presentation. He is ever direct, urgent, fervent, full of Scripture, and able to choose words which make his sentences stick in one’s mind.

This book is a collection of sentences, illustrations, and quaint sayings from this renowned Puritan. Gathered by Spurgeon out of the 6 volume set of Brooks’ Works, it remains an excellent introduction to both the man and his writings.

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Mortification of Sin by John Owen (free ebook)

Photo via realtruthmatters.com

The Resurgence has posted an outline of John Owen’s Book ‘The Mortification of Sin’ made by Bob Thune. Read their article here.

For those who prefer a more thorough and analytical outline, including some of the more memorable quotes from Owen’s pen, you can download Bob Thune’s 12-page reading summary in PDF format.

You can also read the entire book here at Christian Classics Ethereal Library or ccel.org

WHY MUST WE MORTIFY SIN?

  • Because sin is always active
  • Because unmortified sin weakens and darkens the soul
  • Because unmortified sin hardens others to the gospel

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO MORTIFY SIN?

What It Does Not Mean

  • To mortify sin is not to utterly destroy it. (That’s Jesus’ job, not your job.)
  • To mortify sin is not to outwardly forsake its practice. Those who do this are just “more cunning; not more holy.”
  • To mortify sin is not to have a quiet, sedate nature. “Some men have an advantage by their natural constitution… they are not exposed to unruly passions and tumultuous affections as many others are.” This does not mean they have mortified sin.
  • To mortify sin is not to divert it. “He that trades sensuality for Pharisaism has not mortified sin… He has changed his master, but he is a servant still.”
  • To mortify sin is not to experience “occasional conquests” against it.

What It Does Mean

  • A habitual weakening of sin.
  • A constant fighting against sin.
  • Success. Victory over sin!

HOW DO WE MORTIFY SIN?

4 General Principles

  • You must set your faith on Christ. (Fill your soul with the consideration of who Jesus is and what he’s done for you)
  • You must rely on the Holy Spirit. “A man may easier see without eyes and speak without a tongue, than mortify a sin without the Spirit.”
  • You must be truly converted.
  • You must intend universal obedience. If you don’t intend to obey God in every area, you don’t hate sin; you hate the particular sin that is bothering you. Which means you don’t love Christ; you love yourself. A particularly strong, besetting sin commonly issues from a careless, negligent spiritual life in general.

9 Specific Directives

  1. Get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind of the guilt, danger, and evil of your sin.
  2. Load your conscience with the guilt of your besetting sin.
  3. Long for deliverance from the power of sin. “Longing, breathing, and panting after deliverance is a grace in itself, that has a mighty power to conform the soul into the likeness of the thing longed after… Unless you long for deliverance you shall not have it.”
  4. Consider whether you are prone toward a particular sin because of your personality or disposition. This should awaken your zeal. “So great an advantage is given to sin and Satan by your temper and disposition, that without extraordinary watchfulness, care, and diligence, they [sin and Satan] will prevail against your soul.”
  5. Consider what occasions your sin uses to exert itself, and watch against them all.
  6. Fight strongly against the first actings of your lust. “Sin is like water in a channel – once it breaks out, it will have its course.”
  7. Dwell on thoughts that humble you and remind you of your sinfulness.
  8. Know the warning signs of particularly dangerous sin patterns: persistent, habitual sin; secret pleas of the heart to leave sin alone; giving into sin without struggle; ignoring the conviction of the Holy Spirit; avoiding sin because you fear punishment. If a lust has any of these symptoms, it cannot be dealt with by an ordinary course of mortification; it requires extraordinary measures.
  9. Do not speak peace to yourself before God speaks peace to you.

Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.

J.I.Packer – Old Gospel vs. New Gospel

by J.I.Packer (via) Banner of Truth Trust. This is an extract from the Introductory Essay to John Owen’s „Death of Death” published by the Banner of Truth Trust.

The Old Gospel and The New

The old gospel of Owen, first of all, contains no less full and free an offer of salvation than its modern counterpart. It presents ample grounds of faith (the sufficiency of Christ, and the promise of God), and cogent motives to faith (the sinner’s need, and the Creator’s command, which is also the Redeemer’s invitation). The new gospel gains nothing here by asserting universal redemption. The old gospel, certainly, has no room for the cheap sentimentalising which turns God’s free mercy to sinners into a constitutional softheartedness on His part which we can take for granted; nor will it countenance the degrading presentation of Christ as the baffled Saviour, balked in what he hoped to do by human unbelief; nor will it indulge in maudlin appeals to the unconverted to let Christ save them out of pity for His disappointment. The pitiable Saviour and the pathetic God of modern pulpits are unknown to the old gospel. The old gospel tells men that they need God, but not that God needs them (a modern falsehood); it does not exhort them to pity Christ, but announces that Christ has pitied them, though pity was the last thing they deserved. It never loses sight of the Divine majesty and sovereign power of the Christ whom it proclaims, but rejects flatly all representations of Him which would obscure His free omnipotence.

Does this mean, however, that the preacher of the old gospel is inhibited or confined in offering Christ to men and inviting them to receive Him? Not at all. In actual fact, just because he recognises that Divine mercy is sovereign and free, he is in a position to make far more of the offer of Christ in his preaching than is the expositor of the new gospel; for this offer is itself a far more wonderful thing on his principles than it can ever be in the eyes of those who regard love to all sinners as a necessity of God’s nature, and therefore a matter of course. To think that the holy Creator, who never needed man for His happiness and might justly have banished our fallen race for ever without mercy, should actually have chosen to redeem some of them! and that His own Son was willing to undergo death and descend into hell to save them! and that now from His throne He should speak to ungodly men as He does in the words of the gospel, urging upon them the command to repent and believe in the form of a compassionate invitation to pity themselves and choose life! These thoughts are the focal points round which the preaching of the old gospel revolves. It is all wonderful, just because none of it can be taken for granted. But perhaps the most wonderful thing of all – the holiest spot in all the holy ground of gospel truth – is the free invitation which „the Lord Christ ” (as Owen loves to call Him) issues repeatedly to guilty sinners to come to Him and find rest for their souls. It is the glory of these invitations that it is an omnipotent King who gives them, just as it is a chief part of the glory of the enthroned Christ that He condescends still to utter them. And it is the glory of the gospel ministry that the preacher goes to men as Christ’s ambassador, charged to deliver the King’s invitation personally to every sinner present and to summon them all to turn and live. Owen himself enlarges on this in a passage addressed to the unconverted.

„Consider the infinite condescension and love of Christ, in his invitations and calls of you to come unto him for life, deliverance, mercy, grace, peace and eternal salvation. Multitudes of these invitations and calls are recorded in the Scripture, and they are all of them filled up with those blessed encouragements which divine wisdom knows to be suited unto lost, convinced sinners…. In the declaration and preaching of them, Jesus Christ yet stands before sinners, calling, inviting, encouraging them to come unto him.

„This is somewhat of the word which he now speaks unto you: Why will ye die? why will ye perish? why will ye not have compassion on your own souls? Can your hearts endure, or can your hands be strong, in the day of wrath that is approaching?… Look unto me, and be saved; come unto me, and I will ease you of all sins, sorrows, fears, burdens, and give rest unto your souls. Come, I entreat you; lay aside all procrastinations, all delays; put me off no more; eternity lies at the door… do not so hate me as that you will rather perish than accept of deliverance by me.

„These and the like things doth the Lord Christ continually declare, proclaim, plead and urge upon the souls of sinners…. He doth it in the preaching of the word, as if he were present with you, stood amongst you, and spake personally to every one of you. He hath appointed the ministers of the gospel to appear before you, and to deal with you in his stead, avowing as his own the invitations which are given you in his name, 2 Cor. v.19,20,”

These invitations are universal; Christ addresses them to sinners, as such, and every man, as he believes God to be true, is bound to treat them as God’s words to him personally and to accept the universal assurance which accompanies them, that all who come to Christ will be received. Again, these invitations are real; Christ genuinely offers Himself to all who hear the gospel, and is in truth a perfect Saviour to all who trust Him. The question of the extent of the atonement does not arise in evangelistic preaching; the message to be delivered is simply this – that Christ Jesus, the sovereign Lord, who died for sinners, now invites sinners freely to Himself. God commands all to repent and believe; Christ promises life and peace to all who do so.

Furthermore, these invitations are marvellously gracious; men despise and reject them, and are never in any case worthy of them, and yet Christ still issues them. He need not, but He does. „Come unto me . . and I will give you rest” remains His word to the world, never cancelled, always to be preached. He whose death has ensured the salvation of all His people is to be proclaimed everywhere as a perfect Saviour, and all men invited and urged to believe on Him, whoever they are, whatever they have been. Upon these three insights the evangelism of the old gospel is based.

It is a very ill-informed supposition that evangelistic preaching which proceeds on these principles must be anaemic and half-hearted by comparison with what Arminians can do. Those who study the printed sermons of worthy expositors of the old gospel, such as Bunyan (whose preaching Owen himself much admired), or Whitefield, or Spurgeon, will find that in fact they hold forth the Saviour and summon sinners to Him with a fulness, warmth, intensity and moving force unmatched in Protestant pulpit literature. And it will be found on analysis that the very thing which gave their preaching its unique power to overwhelm their audiences with broken-hearted joy at the riches of God’s grace – and still gives it that power, let it be said, even with hard-boiled modem readers – was their insistence on the fact that grace is free. They knew that the dimensions of Divine love are not half understood till one realises that God need not have chosen to save nor given his Son to die; nor need Christ have taken upon him vicarious damnation to redeem men, nor need He invite sinners indiscriminately to Himself as He does; but that all God’s gracious dealings spring entirely from His own free purpose.

Knowing this, they stressed it, and it is this stress that sets their evangelistic preaching in a class by itself. Other Evangelicals, possessed of a more superficial and less adequate theology of grace, have laid the main emphasis in their gospel preaching on the sinner’s need of forgiveness, or peace, or power, and of the way to get them by „deciding for Christ.” It is not to be denied that their preaching has done good (for God will use His truth, even when imperfectly held and mixed with error), although this type of evangelism is always open to the criticism of being too man-centred and pietistic; but it has been left (necessarily) to Calvinists and those who, like the Wesleys, fall into Calvinistic ways of thought as soon as they begin a sermon to the unconverted, to preach the gospel in a way which highlights above – everything else the free love, willing condescension, patient long-suffering and infinite kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Without doubt, this is the most Scriptural and edifying way to preach it; for gospel invitations to sinners never honour God and exalt Christ more, nor are more powerful to awaken and confirm faith, than when full weight is laid on the free omnipotence of the mercy from which they flow. It looks, indeed, as if the preachers of the old gospel are the only people whose position allows them to do justice to the revelation of Divine goodness in the free offer of Christ to sinners.

Then, in the second place, the old gospel safeguards values which the new gospel loses. We saw before that the new gospel, by asserting universal redemption and a universal Divine saving purpose, compels itself to cheapen grace and the Cross by denying that the Father and the Son are sovereign in salvation; for it assures us that, after God and Christ have done all that they can, or will, it depends finally on each man’s own choice whether God’s purpose to save him is realised or not. This position has two unhappy results.

The first is that it compels us to misunderstand the significance of the gracious invitations of Christ in the gospel of which we have been speaking; for we now have to read them, not as expressions of the tender patience of a mighty sovereign, but as the pathetic pleadings of impotent desire; and so the enthroned Lord is suddenly metamorphosed into a weak, futile figure tapping forlornly at the door of the human heart, which He is powerless to open. This is a shameful dishonour to the Christ of the New Testament.

The second implication is equally serious: for this view in effect denies our dependence on God when it comes to vital decisions, takes us out of His hand, tells us that we are, after all, what sin taught us to think we were-masters of our fate, captain of our souls-and so undermines the very foundation of man’s religious relationship with his Maker. It can hardly be wondered at that the converts of the new gospel are so often both irreverent and irreligious, for such is the natural tendency of this teaching. The old gospel, however, speaks very differently and has a very different tendency. On the one hand, in expounding man’s need of Christ, it stresses something which the new gospel effectively ignores – that sinners cannot obey the gospel, any more than the law, without renewal of heart. On the other hand, in declaring Christ’s power to save, it proclaims Him as the author and chief agent of conversion, coming by His Spirit as the gospel goes forth to renew men’s hearts and draw them to Himself.

Accordingly, in applying the message, the old gospel, while stressing that faith is man’s duty, stresses also that faith is not in man’s power, but that God must give what He commands. It announces, not merely that men must come to Christ for salvation, but also that they cannot come unless Christ Himself draws them. Thus it labours to overthrow self-confidence, to convince sinners that their salvation is altogether out of their hands, and to shut them up to a self-despairing dependence on the glorious grace of a sovereign Saviour, not only for their righteousness but for their faith too.

It is not likely, therefore, that a preacher of the old gospel will be happy to express the application of it in the form of a demand to „decide for Christ,” as the current phrase is. For, on the one hand, this phrase carries the wrong associations. It suggests voting a person into office – an act in which the candidate plays no part beyond offering himself for election, and everything then being settled by the voter’s independent choice. But we do not vote God’s Son into office as our Saviour, nor does He remain passive while preachers campaign on His behalf, whipping up support for His cause. We ought not to think of evangelism as a kind of electioneering. And then, on the other hand, this phrase obscures the very thing that is essential in repentance and faith – the denying of self in a personal approach to Christ. It is not at all obvious that deciding for Christ is the same as coming to Him and resting On Him and turning from sin and self-effort; it sounds like something much less, and is accordingly calculated to instil defective notions of what the gospel really requires of sinners. It is not a very apt phrase from any point of view.

To the question: what must I do to be saved? the old gospel replies: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. To the further question: what does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? its reply is: it means knowing oneself to be a sinner, and Christ to have died for sinners; abandoning all self-righteousness and self-confidence, and casting oneself wholly upon Him for pardon arid peace; and exchanging one’s natural enmity and rebellion against God for a spirit of grateful submission to the will of Christ through the renewing of one’s heart by the Holy Ghost.

And to the further question still: how am I to go about believing on Christ and repenting, if I have no natural ability to do these things? it answers: look to Christ, speak to Christ, cry to Christ, just as you are; confess your sin, your impenitence, your unbelief, and cast yourself on His mercy; ask Him to give you a new heart, working in you true repentance and firm faith; ask Him to take away your evil heart of unbelief and to write His law within you, that you may never henceforth stray from Him. Turn to Him and trust Him as best you can, and pray for grace to turn and trust more thoroughly; use the means of grace expectantly, looking to Christ to draw near to you as you seek to draw near to Him; watch, pray, read and hear God’s Word, worship and commune with God’s people, and so continue till you know in yourself beyond doubt that you are indeed a changed being, a penitent believer, and the new heart which you desired has been put within you. The emphasis in this advice is on the need to call upon Christ directly, as the very first step.

„Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him”

so do not postpone action till you think you are better, but honestly confess your badness and give yourself up here and now to the Christ who alone can make you better; and wait on Him till His light rises in your soul, as Scripture promises that it shall do. Anything less than this direct dealing with Christ is disobedience of the gospel. Such is the exercise of spirit to which the old evangel summons its hearers. „I believe-help thou mine unbelief”: this must become their cry.

And the old gospel is proclaimed in the sure confidence that the Christ of whom it testifies, the Christ who is the real speaker when the Scriptural invitations to trust Him are expounded and applied, is not passively waiting for man’s decision as the word goes forth, but is omnipotently active, working with and through the word to bring His people to faith in Himself. The preaching of the new gospel is often described as the task of „bringing men to Christ ” – as if only men move, while Christ stands still. But the task of preaching the old gospel could more properly be described as bringing Christ to men, for those who preach it know that as they do their work of setting Christ before men’s eyes, the mighty Saviour whom they proclaim is busy doing His work through their words, visiting sinners with salvation, awakening them to faith, drawing them in mercy to Himself.

It is this older gospel which Owen will teach us to preach: the gospel of the sovereign grace of God in Christ as the author and finisher of faith and salvation. It is the only gospel which can be preached on Owen’s principles, but those who have tasted its sweetness will not in any case be found looking for another. In the matter of believing and preaching the gospel, as in other things, Jeremiah’s words still have their application:

„Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” To find ourselves debarred, as Owen would debar us, from taking up with the fashionable modern substitute gospel may not, after all, be a bad thing, either for us, or for the Church.

More might be said, but to go farther would be to exceed the limits of an introductory essay. The foregoing remarks are made simply to show how important it is at the present time that we should attend most carefully to Owen’s analysis of what the Bible says about the saving work of Christ.

Build Your Library – Books on the Puritans

For the beginner wanting to build a Classic library, or for someone who has not yet encountered any Puritanical writings here come some recommendation as to where to start from The Banner of Truth Trust, UK:

When thinking ‘Puritan,’ we will limit ourselves to the period 1600–1688 (alas, no Ryle!). In addition to the evangelical party of the Church of England (‘the Puritans’ proper), we ought also to consider the works of Independents, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc. My goal here is to whet your appetite from each of three areas: the praying Puritan, the contented Puritan, and the frowning Puritan. Then I’ll suggest a Puritan companion. Perhaps you’ll want to read more from the Puritans to learn better how to live the pilgrim life in this hostile world, for the alien life wasn’t just the lot of the patriarchs of Genesis or the saints of the New Testament church — it will ever be the life of Christ’s people until he comes. No one has produced better reflections upon the pilgrim life than the Puritans.

1. A wonderful introduction to the Puritan at prayer is the collection edited by AArthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision. Meditate on a prayer each day upon first waking, and allow a great saint to lead you into God’s presence. Get the little leather edition, if you can.

2. The Puritans were pre-eminently preachers of the heart. And they could warm a right stony heart at that. Try this little gem: Thomas Watson, All Things for Good. He preached these messages on Romans 8:28 in 1663, the year after two thousand pulpits were vacated by order of the Crown.

3. The Puritans carried the rod to the pulpit as well. Prepare to be quite stunned upon reading Joseph Alleine, A Sure Guide to Heaven (sometimes entitled Alarm to the Unconverted). Am I really a Christian after all?

4. Lastly, what sort of companion do you want? Frequently chosen over the years have been John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (you can’t go wrong if you get the story of your life from the pen of the tinker, for we are all pilgrims on our way to the heavenly city), William Guthrie’s The Christian’s Great Interest, Samuel Rutherford’s Letters, William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armour, Henry Scudder’s The Christian’s Daily Walk, Thomas Brooks’s Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices, and John Owen’s The Glory of Christ.

Most of these books have been reprinted by Banner of Truth and are extremely reasonably priced.

 

Killing Sin – Tommy Clayton

This is a very good post by Tommy Clayton -Content Developer and Broadcast Editor of  the Grace to You’ program- on the aspects of sin and how ‘Sin can play dead’ when you thought you killed your sin.

He starts with a list of points made by John MacArthur and John Owen, in which he expounds on what ‘killing sin’ is not:

  • Killing sin is not covering it up.
  • Killing sin is not internalizing it.

Some imagine that ceasing sinful activity equates to gaining victory over sin, yet they often continue ruminating on the pleasures of previous sins in their mind

  • Killing sin is not forsaking some sins while tolerating others.

Don’t engage in selective sin-forsaking, and then imagine you’ve progressed spiritually.

  • Killing sin is not repressing it.

Some people repress sin with drugs and alcohol.

  • Killing sin is not enjoying occasional victories over it.
  • Killing sin is not ignoring your conscience.

If you want to kill sin, don’t ignore your conscience. Inform it with biblical truth so it functions accurately, flooding your soul with knowledge like a skylight brings light into a dark room.

He concludes with a great exhortation: ” Kill your sins God’s way, or die sin’s way. Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.

You can read the entire article on the Grace to You website-When Sin Plays Dead.

John Owen – The effect and strength of indwelling sin (short video)

John Owen (1616-1683)

John Owen was by common consent the weightiest Puritan theologian, and many would bracket him with Jonathan Edwards as one of the greatest Reformed theologians of all time. Born in 1616, he entered Queen’s College, Oxford, at the age of twelve and secured his M.A. in 1635, when he was nineteen. In his early twenties, conviction of sin threw him into such turmoil that for three months he could scarcely utter a coherent word on anything; but slowly he learned to trust Christ, and so found peace. In 1637 he became a pastor; in the 1640s he was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and in 1651 he was made Dean of Christ Church, Oxford’s largest college. In 1652 he was given the additional post of Vice-Chancellor of the University, which he then reorganized with conspicuous success. After 1660 he led the Independents through the bitter years of persecution till his death in 1683.

You can access a John Owens 36 video playlist on Youtube where you can listen to short (approx. 10 minute) readings of first chapters to some of John Owen’s books. There  are also  14 (10 minute)  videos (readings) to the entire book ‘The Mortification of sin in Believers’ by John Owen.

The Puritans – Getting to Know John Owen, the most prominent theologian of the 17th century

In many ways, the great Puritan theologian John Owen (1616-1683) was not unique for his day. This is not simply playing the contrarian. It is important to emphasize that he was one of many “hotter sort of Protestants;” one of many who bemoaned that the church in England was still “halfly reformed.” Owen’s theology was certainly not unique, but was one representative within the broader movement of Reformed orthodoxy. Many of his contemporaries had similar influence, some with even more political clout and others with seemingly more effective preaching. It is also necessary to note that Owen had his critics. Many of these critics, not surprisingly, strongly disagreed with his theology. But he also faced some disparagement for his persona: some thought he was too overbearing, too stern; and many more thought his knee-high leather boots and cocked hat were far too ostentatious for a university vice chancellor. Even today, he’s as famous (or infamous) for his long and lumbering writing style as much as almost anything else—a reputation that Owen seems to have garnered even in his own day.

All of that being said, I do think there are at least three ways in which Owen was particularly important for his time and in the church since.

Here is Carl Trueman, Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary with a synopsis on John Owen:

Great Literary Output

His literary output was unique for its volume, diversity, and importance. The sheer magnitude of material Owen produced is staggering, especially when we today consider that it was under candlelight, with quill pen, and alongside many competitions for time and concentration (e.g., civil war, poor health, family deaths, persecution, ecclesiastical-political leadership, running an almost decimated Oxford University, etc.). His Works stretch 23 volumes in the still-in-print Banner of Truth edition, 24 volumes in the 1850-55 edition. A few of Owen’s contemporaries produced a similar amount of writing, such as Thomas Manton, whose works reach 22 volumes. But in the case of Manton, the majority of his works are published sermons. Owen’s Works contain two volumes of Parliamentary sermons, but ten-fold are the significant works of polemics, doctrinal treatise, practical theology, and one massive commentary on Hebrews with more than 1,000 pages of prefatory material and 2,500 pages of commentary (Vols. 17-23 in the Banner edition).

This and several other works have proven to be unique contributions to the church. His several works on Reformed spirituality have become somewhat movement-defining (Vols. 1, 2, and 4). Abraham Kuyper thought that Owen’s massive work on the Holy Spirit (Vol. 3) was unparalleled. Of course, even those who disagree with Owen’s view of particular redemption know that it is unavoidable to interact with the standard-bearer, The Death of Death (Vol. 10). Owen attempted at least one work on the nature and structure of theology. This Latin work, Theologoumena Pantadapa (1661), is sadly not included in the Banner edition of Works, though there is a paraphrastic English translation (Biblical Theology [Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, 1994]). There are certainly some forgettable sections (one that defends the inspiration of the Masoretic vowel points); but it is nevertheless an important and often overlooked representative of 17th-century “Federal Theology”—a biblical-historical model of theological organization. In short, the enormity, variety, and effect of Owen’s work stands out in his day—or any day for that matter.

Leader in His Day

Owen was a prominent figure in the very “Puritan-esque” times of England’s Revolution and Restoration. He preached to Parliament the day after the king was executed for treason. With the king out of the way, the army and Parliament leaned heavily in the Puritan direction; thus, the 1650s looked to be an unprecedented time to implement many Puritan ideals. Owen enjoyed a unique relationship with Oliver Cromwell, functioning as a leading adviser to the Lord Protector on the complex and ever-changing ecclesiastical-political climate. Indeed, Owen was one of only a handful to construct several legislative proposals for settling a state church during the Protectorate—one that would be healthy, godly, effective, and uncoercive.

All the while, Owen was both vice chancellor of Oxford University and dean of one of its leading colleges, Christ Church. For almost a decade, Owen had the charge of restoring order and glory to England’s oldest university. He was also increasingly a leading figure of the growing movement of Congregational churches in England (and America). This leadership became more apparent and more needed when in 1662 the Independents were ejected from their churches and forbidden to preach publically. Many Puritans, like John Bunyan, suffered years of imprisonment. Though Owen preached and conducted house meetings during these days, he did not face similar persecution (likely because of the already well-established respect he had broadly earned). But Owen did not take such freedom for granted: he constantly pleaded for the release of his imprisoned brethren, wrote many defenses of Reformed non-conformity, repeatedly appealed to the king for liberty, and gave financial aid to many persecuted Puritans and their families.

In these latter days, he was offered the presidency of Harvard and the pastorate of the highly esteemed First Congregational Church of Boston, but he turned them down to remain in his diverse, needed work in England. Therefore, it is an understatement to say that Owen had his fingers in many pies. Whether literary, pastoral, theological, political, academic/educational, or social, his efforts were indeed diverse and he held a prominent place in each. He was not just a “jack of all trades,” but more like a “master of many.” And, whether the Puritans were “in season” (Revolution) or “out of season” (Restoration), he was not only faithful but prominent.

Long and Lasting Influence

The influence of Owen’s life and writing is also quite telling. He has not enjoyed the notoriety of a Luther, Calvin, or Edwards, but it is difficult to think of any contemporary of Owen’s who has had a broader and longer-lasting influence. A few, such as Thomas Goodwin, were indeed very significant in the mid-17th century, but they have not had the same effect on the centuries to follow. Conversely, Owen has been the focus of approximately 30 books and dissertations over the last 20 years. Four significant scholarly works on Owen were published in 2008 alone. More than a few scholars have a major academic work on Owen in process. And, of course, he’s not just of interest to scholars. His practical writings are as widely enjoyed as ever, thanks in part to the modern, unabridged versions edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor (Overcoming Sin and Temptation [Wheaton: Crossway, 2006] and Communion with the Triune God [Wheaton: Crossway, 2007]). Owen’s stock seems to be rightly on the rise, further confirming Charles Spurgeon’s commendation of more than a century ago: “It is unnecessary to say that he is the prince of divines.”

A version of this article first appeared in the Forum section of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Vol 14, No. 4 (Winter 2010).

A 10 minute  reading of the first part of John Owen’s book „Apostasy from the Gospel” interesting to see how John Owen studied the Church Fathers and how they reacted toward church member who sinned.

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