Sunday, January 27, 2008

Faith to Victory

Teach me how to rule my own spirit, O God, and to bridle my own tongue. Give me, O Lord, that faith which giveth the victory, that overcometh all things. And let me never think that I have done enough for Christ, but forget the things that are behind, and press onward.
-- Thomas Chalmers, Sabbath Scripture Readings, on Luke 17.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Spurgeon not a Calvinist?

"If you have read much of Spurgeon, you know that you will read a thousand pages and not come across anything that is exclusively Calvinistic. He teaches the same gospel that is taught by so-called Arminians, like Wesley and Finney." -- Michael Pearl, No Greater Joy Ministries.

Huh? He must not read very much, or very well.

"The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox's gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again." -- C.H. Spurgeon.

"What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ—the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor." -- C.H. Spurgeon.

"The doctrines of original sin, election, effectual calling, final perseverance, and all those great truths which are called Calvinism—though Calvin was not the author of them, but simply an able writer and preacher upon the subject—are, I believe, the essential doctrines of the Gospel that is in Jesus Christ." -- C.H. Spurgeon.

See also Free Will: A Slave, and Are You Sure You Like Spurgeon?

Say you don't agree with his Calvinism, say he wasn't the best example of Calvinism, but don't say he wasn't a Calvinist. That just makes you look ignorant or dishonest.

The Duty of Social Covenanting

by G.H. Milne.

At the time of the Westminster Assembly the people of Scotland , England and Ireland solemnly engaged in an event we can term social covenanting. Jointly they signed their names to a document known as the Solemn League and Covenant; and it was this SL&C which was at the heart of attempts to bring about a uniformity of religion in the three kingdoms. We are familiar with the religious documents that come down to us from the Westminster Assembly, but most Presbyterians forget that these important statements of biblical truth were intended to be the basis of a religious uniformity guaranteed by the subscription of all classes of society to the Solemn League and Covenant.

When these seventeenth-century citizens of the British Isles jointly and publicly committed themselves to the sentiments expressed in the SL&C they were engaging in the duty of social covenanting. A covenant is a mutual engagement by two parties agreeing to take certain actions and receiving certain promises. Such social human covenants are both civil and religious. They are concerned with a man’s duty as a citizen and his duty as a member of the visible church. While an individual can engage in a personal covenant with God, when a society does so, this is called a social covenant.

One writer has defined social covenanting: It is a solemn religious transaction in which men, with joint concurrence, avouch the Lord to be their God, and engage, in all the relations of life, to serve him by obedience to his law, in the performance of all civil and religious duties in the confidence of his favour and blessing in the fulfilment to them of his gracious promises. [1]

* But is social covenanting a duty Christians, nations and churches should engage in today?

i. This practice has seemed obvious or natural even to pagan societies. The sailors of Tarshish in Jonah’s day engaged in a public vow or covenant to the Lord: “Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows” Jon 1: 16 .

ii. The Bible also teaches the duty of social covenanting by precept. It is biblical to vow to the Lord. “Vow, and pay unto the LORD your God” Ps 76:11; God’s people are to swear to the Lord: “And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness” Jer 4:2.

iii. The Bible also teaches the imperative of social covenanting by example. “Thou hast avouched the LORD this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice: And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments” Deut 26:17-18; “So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem” Jos 24:25; “And Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people, that they should be the LORD’S people; between the king also and the people” 2 Kings 11:17.
Covenanting is a moral imperative and is a duty which has not been abrogated under the New Testament.

iv. There are also prophecies in the Old Testament which predict social covenanting in the New Testament era. “In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the LORD of hosts” Is 19:18; “They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten” Jer 50:5.

v. The New Testament is not silent about public covenanting. Paul urges New Testament believers to give themselves to God: “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God…”Rom 6:13 . In his letter to the Corinthians Paul says of the Macedonian Christians that they “first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God”. This “giving their own selves to the Lord” is language consistent with the practice of social covenanting.

vi. Covenant breaking which Paul denounces in his catalogue of sins presupposes a public covenanting in New Testament times: Rom 1:31 .

vii. God described His covenant relationship with His people by the imagery of marriage. Compare Hosea 2:18-20 where the covenant relationship is expressed in marriage terms; and Eph 5:30.

An objection that these covenant references are only about an individual’s relationship with God in the Covenant of Grace is countered by the insight that the Holy Spirit envisages a covenanting of a nation in New Testament times. Isa 62:4 prophesies: “Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married”. A marriage of the land implies a national betrothal of the inhabitants of the nation. That a nation formally honours God implies a public owning of the Christian faith. Psalm 144:15 affirms: “happy is that people, whose God is the LORD”.

* Social covenanting binds a person to his obligations to God

While social covenants do not add anything to the Word of God, they bind a person more strongly to commitment to that Word. An oath brings an individual under a greater obligation to keep the Law of God.

* Social covenants obligate future generations as well as the generation who first swore the covenant. Social covenants are binding on posterity or until the aim of the covenant has been fulfilled.

i. The Bible affords ample evidence of the binding nature of a social covenant upon posterity. Compare Gen 28:13 with Hosea 12:4-5: “he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us; Even the LORD God of hosts”. Or, Deut 5:2-3: 2 “The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day. The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire”. Forty years after covenanting with God at Sinai, Moses declares that those who were not even born at the giving of the Law were still embraced by the covenant their fathers had entered into. See also Deut 29:10-15, where the posterity is explicitly mentioned as being included in the covenant: “Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; But with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day”.

ii. Neither is this covenant continuity only seen in the Mosaic administration of the covenant of grace. A covenant was made between the children of Israel and the Gibeonites as it is recorded in Joshua 9:15. Over four hundred years later in 2 Sam. 21:1 God states that a famine occured because of the broken covenant, which he alludes directly to in verse 2: “Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites”.

iii. The descendents of covenanters are also held responsible for violating earlier covenants.: Jer 11:10: “…the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers”.

iv. Infant baptism, of course, is an example of holding to this same principle of the continuity of covenant privilege and obligation.

v. The world even acknowledges that we are bound by treaties or covenants made with other nations by an earlier generation.

* The principle behind covenant obligations of posterity is that of the federal right of parents to take on obligations for their children. This is also a divinely sanctioned process.

i. This is seen in the case of Levi’s association with the actions of Abraham: “Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him” Heb 7:9-10.

* What, therefore, is the reason for this continuing obligation to be faithful to the covenants entered into by our fathers?

i. As we have seen, God requires it in His Word.

ii. Nations are moral persons which take on the obligations in each generation entered into by an earlier generation. While generations pass away, God who is a party to covenants remains in existence, and the nation as a moral person continues to exist.

iii. Nations as moral persons always remain obligated to obey God.

iv. Covenanting is a means to grow in holiness, and each generation needs to be sanctified and therefore rightly should use the covenants for this purpose also.

* There is great value for a society to remain faithful to past covenants.

i. Covenanting by generations succeeding the original covenanters helps to engender a greater sense of thankfulness for God’s care for a nation and society. Acts 3:28 .

ii. It increases confidence in the gracious promises of God, because a covenanter recognisers that God’s grace does not die with an earlier generation. Moses can therefore encourage the people “he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them” Deut 4:31 .

iii. Covenanting is a dynamic motive for prayer: Jer 14:21: “Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us”.

iv. Covenanting is a protective shield around the Lord’s people. Lev 26:44-45.

v. It assures a unity in the church throughout the generations if the modern church is faithful to the attainments of their fathers.

* Covenanting is an extraordinary and an occasional duty.

1. The Bible gives us various times and circumstances when social covenanting can take place.

i. When the church is apostate or apostatising: Jer 50:4-5

ii. In times of suffering: Neh 9:1,38; 2 Chr 34:29-32.

iii. In times of public reformation: 2 Kings 23:1-3.

iv. In Times of thankfulness for special deliverances: 2 Kings 11:17-20; Ps 76:11.

v. When the church and nation are lukewarm towards God: Deut 29:10-15.

vi. To strengthen the Lord’s people when they are engaging in a dangerous enterprise: Ps 44:3; Heb. 11:32-35.

vii. When the Lord is blessing us: Is 44:3-5.

viii. In times of schism and when unity in the truth needs to be asserted.

* Covenanting has a long history in New Testament times; and can be found in the times of Irenaeus, Justin Martyr and Tertullian; among the Waldenses and Bohemian brethren; in Germany, France , Switzerland, tthe Netherlands , in the early days of the American colonies ; and most notably in Scotland; England and Ireland at the time of the Second Reformation.

* In the nations planted by the United Kingdom, there is a continuing obligation to keep the National Covenant of Scotland and the Solemn League and Covenant in our present generation.

i. These covenants contain laudable and biblical ambitions which have not yet been realised. Their central focus is the complete reformation of church and society, including the absence of false religion of any sort; and the uniformity of religion in doctrine, discipline and presbyterian government throughout Britain, and by implication former colonies of Britain, like the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

ii. The parties of these covenants remain; namely the nations and their offspring as moral persons; and God before whom these covenants were sworn.

iii. These covenants were sworn officially sanctioned by acts of parliaments and solemnly entered into by our forefathers. If we would not lightly renege on a treaty entered into with another nation; how much more should we be jealous of a covenant entered into with God Himself?

iv. If we love our nation and its inhabitants as we are bound to do according to the inviolable Law of God, we will want to subscribe these covenants especially in the light of God’s own view of what should happen to covenant breakers: “And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate. And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins. And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy” Lev. 26:21-25.

Andrew Symington has written of the Second Reformation Reformers: ‘The reformers of those days acted upon the principle of holding fast past attainments, advancing in reformation, and extending its blessings to others. They appreciated the privileges which were transmitted to them from their fathers, and, when threatened with deprivation of them, they stood forth in their defence, and held fast what they had. Nor did they stand still, as though they were already perfect. They mediated and planned the union of the kingdom in one happy uniformity and peace; and casting their eye abroad, they contemplated the enlargement of the kingdom of the Saviour. They were animated with a spirit of enlarged love to God, and benevolence to men upon religious principles’. These should be the sentiments of today’s believers also.

[1] William Roberts, The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism (New York: R. Craighead, 1853), 135-136.

(posted with permission from the author)

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Conner (9 years old, 70 lbs), pulling 105 lbs on his deadlift:

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Rated PG-13

This morning I looked in my aquarium, and noticed that my old snail (a golden mystery snail) found the new snail (a black mystery snail). Now, I'm no expert, but it appears they... love... one another. The golden snail appeared to be the instigating, dominating, zealous one... he must be the male. The black snail looked disinterested, bored, and anxious to leave... must be the Mrs. I guess we'll have to wait and see if we end up hearing the pitter patter of little snails. This is exciting.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Sabbath Was Made for Man

Enable me, O God, to rightly divide the word of truth. The Sabbath was made for man, and therefore not made to suspend the exercise of his mercy and compassion -- thus steeling [hardening] his heart against the sufferings of others, and conflicting with the authority of the second great law. This were an abuse of the Sabbath, because fitted to injure the progress of our moral and spiritual education; but while we guard against this abuse, let us remember that the Sabbath has its use, and on the same principle of its being made for man, we should avail ourselves to the uttermost of all its possible subservience to the growth of our divine life, and our progress in faith and holiness.
--Thomas Chalmers, Sabbath Scripture Readings (on Luke 13).

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Hidden Potential of Friends

I got an unexpected phone call the other day, from an old friend that I haven't heard from in a long time. Wow, this is nice, I thought to myself. But, it soon became clear that something was... odd. He sounded like he was reading to me. He unnaturally, with pauses and restarts, told me how excited he was about 2008, asked me if I was making all the money I wanted to, and told me of a unique business opportunity that was so amazing that there was no way he could go over it with me on the phone, so he had to schedule a meeting with me to discuss it in detail.


I told him that I was not interested in his new business thing, but that I would like for our families to get together again and catch up on old times. He said he would make a note of that and get back to me.

Had I said I was interested in the business thing, I'd have an appointment scheduled. But since I just wanted to be friends, he'll get back to me sometime later.

Maybe it's just me, but I would be ashamed to go through my list of friends, past and present, and make contact with them only because I view them each as a unique money-making opportunity. Come to think of it, he's not the first guy to call me with something like this, so yeah, maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

So the new year begins...

With a head cold? I woke up this morning with pain in my nasal passages, and the beginnings of a sore throat. Yuck. So, I'm sipping some hot tea and taking Tylenol. Hopefully that's as far as it goes.

Having totally recovered from this past Friday's workout, last night I started playing around with a few things I haven't worked on much before:

The clean, and the overhead squat. The effects and benefits of the overhead squat are highly touted. Well, I tried it with a meager weight on the bar (we'll not talk about how very little), and failed after about 4 reps. Upon further research, first attempts at overhead squats will apparently make you look like a sissy. This is a personal goal for me this year, to get closer to overhead squatting my bodyweight (yeah right!)