December 13, 2019

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol II of the Works - Edwards - VIII - Christian charity concluded

Required reading

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol 2 of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Conclude 'Christian charity'.


My summary

Today we finish the discourse on Deuteronomy 15:7-11.


Now Edwards answers the following objections to the the exercise of charity:

Object. I. I am in a natural condition, and if I should give to the poor, I should not do it with a right spirit, and so should get nothing by it;

Object. II. If I be liberal and bountiful, I shall only make a righteousness of it, and so it will do me more hurt than good;

Object. III. I have in times past given to the poor, but never found myself the better for it;
Object. IV. Some may object against charity to such or such particular persons, that they are not obliged to give them any thing; for though they be needy, yet they are not in extremity;
Object. V. Some may object against charity to a particular object, because he is an ill sort of person;
Object. VI. Some may object from their own circumstances, that they have nothing to spare; they have not more than enough for themselves;
Object. VII. Some may object concerning a particular person, that they do not certainly know whether he be an object of charity or not;
Object. VIII. Some may say they are not obliged to give to the poor, till they ask;
Object. IX. He has brought himself to want by his own fault;
Object. X. Some may object and say, Others do not their duty;
Object. XI. The law makes provision for the poor, and obliges the respective towns in which they live to provide for them; therefore some argue, that there is no occasion for particular persons to exercise any charity this way. 

What grabbed me

Great food for thought today.


I think the last objection is a particularly common one in a society like Australia which spends a lot of money on welfare programs: 'Nor do I suppose it was ever the design of the law, requiring the various towns to support their own poor, to cut off all occasion for Christian charity: nor is it fit there should be such a law. It is fit that the law should make provision for those that have no estates of their own; it is not fit that persons who are reduced to that extremity should be left to so precarious a source of supply as a voluntary charity. They are in extreme necessity of relief, and therefore it is fit that there should be something sure for them to depend on. But a voluntary charity in this corrupt world is an uncertain thing. Therefore the wisdom of the legislature did not think fit to leave those who are so reduced, upon such a precarious foundation for subsistence. But I suppose not that it was ever the design of the law to make such provision for all that are in want, as to leave no room for Christian charity.'


Yes, the government is helpful.  But it cannot provide for all that are in want.  Christian charity is still a valuable work of grace.


Next week's reading

Commence Christian Cautions by reading Sections I to III


Now it's your turn

Please post your own notes and thoughts in the comments section below.

December 12, 2019

Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 - Shedd - XI - Chapter V Original Sin continued

Required reading
Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 by William G.T. Shedd (Available from Amazon or free here) - Continue Chapter 5 'Original sin' by reading up to the paragraph 'Original sin is to be distinguished from indwelling sin' (page 212 in my edition).

My summary
Today Shedd deals with the second particular of original sin: the corruption of nature resulting from the first sin.

Firstly Shedd insists that the imputation of a corrupt nature is imputed along with the first sin itself - as opposed to those who suggest that only a corrupt nature is imputed.

Secondly Shedd shows the corruption of the:
(i) understanding;
(ii) will.

Most of the discussion is taken up with the corruption of the will.  Shedd is particularly keen to prove the corruption of the inclination as well as the acts of the will.

What grabbed me
It is sobering to consider that we are commanded to have holy inclinations: 'Again, that Edwards held the inclination or disposition of the will to be voluntary agency, is proved by his position that the inclination or disposition is an object either of command or of prohibition. A man is commanded to have a holy inclination, and forbidden to have a sinful one. He is so commanded, when he is commanded to love God with all his heart. Love is inclination. He is prohibited from having a sinful inclination, when he is prohibited from lost in any form. The tenth commandment prohibits a sinful inclination. But commands and prohibitions are addressed to the will, and require or forbid something that is truly voluntary. The following is the phraseology of Edwards upon this point : " The will itself [i.e., the inclination of the will], and not only those actions which are the effects of the will [inclination], is the proper object of precept or command. That is, such or such a state or act of men's wills is in many cases properly required of them by command ; and not merely those alterations in the state of their bodies or minds only that are consequences of volition." '

The corruption of sin within me runs very deep.

Next week's reading
Continue Chapter 5 'Original sin' by reading up to the paragraph 'Fatalism has been charged upon this doctrine of moral necessity, but erroneously.' (page 231 in my edition).

Now it's your turn
Please post your own notes and thoughts in the comments section below.

December 6, 2019

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol II of the Works - Edwards - VII - Christian charity commenced

Required reading

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol 2 of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Commence 'Christian charity' by reading sections I to III.


My summary

Today we begin a discourse on Deuteronomy 15:7-11.


Edwards' doctrine from the passage is the absolute and indispensable duty of the people of God, to give bountifully and willingly for supplying the wants of the needy.


Firstly Edwards teaches us the obligation of Christians to perform the duty of charity to the poor:

I. It is most reasonable, considering the general state and nature of mankind;

II. It is especially reasonable, considering our circumstances, under such a dispensation of grace as that of the gospel.


Secondly Edwards gives us various exhortations to the duty of the charity to the poor:

I. Consider that what you have is not your own;

II. God tells us, that he shall look upon what is done in charity to our neighbours in want, as done unto him; and what is denied unto them, as denied unto him;

III. Consider that there is an absolute necessity of our complying with the difficult duties of religion;

IV. The Scripture teaches us, that this very particular duty is necessary;

V. Consider what abundant encouragement the word of God gives, that you shall be no losers by your charity and bounty to them who are in want.


What grabbed me

I particularly appreciated the application of the cross to the duty: 'How unsuitable is it for us, who live only by kindness, to be unkind! What would have become of us, if Christ had been so saving of his blood, and loth to bestow it, as many men are of their money or goods? or if he had been as ready to excuse himself from dying for us, as men commonly are to excuse themselves from charity to their neighbour? If Christ would have made objections of such things, as men commonly object to performing deeds of charity to their neighbour, he would have found enough of them.'


Yes, there are lots of reasons why Christ shouldn't have been charitable to us. But thankfully he was. And we should learn from his example.


Next week's reading

Conclude 'Christian charity'.


Now it's your turn

Please post your own notes and thoughts in the comments section below.

December 5, 2019

Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 - Shedd - X - Chapter V Original Sin commenced

Required reading
Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 by William G.T. Shedd (Available from Amazon or free here) - Commence Chapter 5 'Original sin' by reading up to the paragraph '2. The second part of the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell," consists in "the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of the whole nature"' (page 192 in my edition).

My summary
Firstly Shedd outlines three particulars under the general head of Sin:
(i) The guilt of the first sin;
(ii) The corruption of nature resulting from the first sin;
(iii) Actual transgressions, or sins of act, which result from corruption of nature.

Today we only look at the first particular: The guilt of the first sin.

Firstly we learn about the internal nature of the first sin, especially the desire for forbidden knowledge.

Then Shedd defends the guilt of all of Adam's posterity in the sin of Adam, primarily from Romans 5 which teaches that all humans actively sinned. The sin of Adam is ours due to its indivisibility and commonality to those in natural union to Adam.

What grabbed me
I liked this illustration of how the internal sinful desire for forbidden knowledge is the root of external sin: 'Concupiscence is different from natural created appetency or desire. Hunger and thirst are not evil concupiscence. They are instinctive, constitutional, and involuntary. Gluttony on the contrary is voluntary, not constitutional. It is not pure instinctive craving for food. There is will in it. It is the inclining and desire of the will for a more intense pleasure from eating food, than the natural healthy appetite provides for. Innocent hunger makes use of the appointed food, and when satisfied it rests. If a man simply quiets his hunger with bread convenient for it, he does not have or exhibit concupiscence. But if he craves sensual pleasure from eating, and gratifies the craving by tickling the palate, he has and exhibits concupiscence or evil desire.'

The desire for forbidden knowledge is what leads us astray again and again, just like Adam and Eve.

Next week's reading
Continue Chapter 5 'Original sin' by reading up to the paragraph 'Original sin is to be distinguished from indwelling sin' (page 212 in my edition).

Now it's your turn
Please post your own notes and thoughts in the comments section below.

November 29, 2019

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol II of the Works - Edwards - VI - Wisdom displayed in salvation concluded

Required reading

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol 2 of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read 'Christian knowledge'.


My summary

Today Edwards preaches on Hebrews 5:12 'For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are became such as nave need of milk, and not of strong meat.'


His doctrine from the text is that every Christian should make a business of endeavouring to grow in knowledge in divinity.  Therefore he explores:

I. What is intended by divinity, as the object of this knowledge

II. What kind of knowledge in divinity is intended in the doctrine

III. The usefulness and necessity of the knowledge of divine truth

IV. Why all Christians should make a business of endeavouring to grow in the knowledge of divinity

V. An exhortation that all may diligently endeavour to gain Christian knowledge

VI. Directions for the acquisition of Christian knowledge


What grabbed me

I enjoyed the encouragement to read: 


'Directions for the acquisition of Christian knowledge.


1. Be assiduous in reading the Holy Scriptures. This is the fountain whence all knowledge in divinity must be derived. Therefore let not this treasure lie by you neglected. Every man of common understanding who can read, may, if he please, become well acquainted with the Scriptures. And what an excellent attainment would this be!


2. Content not yourselves with only a cursory reading, without regarding the sense. This is an ill way of reading, to which, however, many accustom themselves all their days. When you read, observe what you read. Observe how things come in. Take notice of the drift of the discourse, and compare one scripture with another. For the Scripture, by the harmony of its different parts, casts great light upon itself.—We are expressly directed by Christ, to search the Scriptures, which evidently intends something more than a mere cursory reading. And use means to find out the meaning of the Scripture. When you have it explained in the preaching of the word, take notice of it; and if at any time a scripture that you did not understand be cleared up to your satisfaction, mark it, lay it up, and if possible remember it.


3. Procure, and diligently use, other books which may help you to grow in this knowledge. There are many excellent books extant, which might greatly forward you in this knowledge, and afford you a very profitable and pleasant entertainment in your leisure hours. There is doubtless a great defect in many, that through a lothness to be at a little expense, they furnish themselves with no more helps of this nature. They have a few books indeed, which now and then on sabbath-days they read; but they have had them so long, and read them so often, that they are weary of them, and it is now become a dull story, a mere task to read them.'


To gain knowledge, read, read, read. But most importantly, keep reading the book of books.


Next week's reading

Commence 'Christian charity' by reading sections I to III.


Now it's your turn

Please post your own notes and thoughts in the comments section below.

November 27, 2019

Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 - Shedd - IX - Chapter 4 Man's probation and apostasy

Required reading
Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 by William G.T. Shedd (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read Chapter 4 'Man's probation and apostasy'.

My summary
Today we read a chapter on Adam's probation and apostasy.

Shedd discusses:
(i) Adam's initial created holiness;
(ii) Adam's probation and its object;
(iii) the covenant of works;
(iv) the tree of knowledge;
(v) the first sin and its origin in Adam's will;
(vi) the threat of death and its realisation;
(vii) sin as habit and accident.

What grabbed me
I liked the comparison of Eden and heaven: 'Consequently, the paradisiacal state, though a holy and happy state, was not equal to the heavenly state. It had not the safety and security of the latter. Eden differed from* heaven, as holiness differs from indefectibility of holiness ; as a mutable perfection differs from an immutable. The perfection of holy Adam was relative, not absolute. It differed from that of God, who by reason of his omnipotence and infinity cannot fall from holiness, James 1 : 13 ; from that of the elect angels, who were kept from falling by a special measure of grace that was not granted to the fallen angels, whose perseverance like that of Adam was left to themselves ; and from that of redeemed men, who like the elect angels are preserved by special grace.'

Heaven is better by far!

Next week's reading
Commence Chapter 5 'Original sin' by reading up to the paragraph '2. The second part of the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell," consists in "the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of the whole nature"' (page 192 in my edition).

Now it's your turn
Please post your own notes and thoughts in the comments section below.

November 22, 2019

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol II of the Works - Edwards - V - Wisdom displayed in salvation concluded

Required reading

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol 2 of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Conclude 'Wisdom displayed in salvation'.


My summary

Today we conclude the discourse on "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10).


This week we see:

(i) the wonderful circumstances of the overthrow of Satan;

(ii) the superiority of this wisdom to that of the angels;

(iii) the blindness of the world that the wisdom appearing in the work of redemption is no more admired in it;

(iv) this wisdom is a great confirmation of the truth of the gospel;

(v) how great a sin they are guilty of who despise and reject this salvation;

(vi) the misery of unbelievers;

(vii) exhortations to come to Christ.


What grabbed me

I loved the description of Christ's overthrow of Satan:


'Consider the weak and seemingly despicable means and weapons that God employs to overthrow Satan. Christ poured the greater contempt upon Satan in the victory that he obtained over him, by reason of the means of his preparing himself for it, and the weapons he hath used. Christ chooses to encounter Satan in the human nature, in a poor, frail, afflicted state. He did as David did. David when going against the Philistine refused Saul's armour, a helmet of brass, a coat of mail, and his sword. No, he puts them all off. Goliah comes mightily armed against David, with a helmet of brass upon his head, a coat of mail weighing five thousand shekels of brass, greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders; a spear, whose staff was like a weaver's beam; and the spear's head weighing six hundred shekels of iron. And besides all this, he had one bearing a shield before him. But David takes nothing but a staff in his hand, and a shepherd's bag and a sling; and he goes against the Philistine. So the weapons that Christ made use of were his poverty, afflictions and reproaches, sufferings and death. His principal weapon was his cross: the instrument of his own reproachful death. These were seemingly weak and despicable instruments, to wield against such a giant as Satan. And doubtless the devil disdained them as much as Goliah did David's staves and sling. But with such weapons as these has Christ in a human, weak, mortal nature overthrown and baffled all the craft of hell.'


Amen!


Next week's reading

Read 'Christian knowledge'.


Now it's your turn

Please post your own notes and thoughts in the comments section below.

November 21, 2019

Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 - Shedd - VIII - Chapter 3 The Human Will commenced

Required reading
Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 by William G.T. Shedd (Available from Amazon or free here) - Conclude Chapter 3 'The Human Will'.

My summary
Now Shedd gives us the distinctions between the will's inclination and its volition.
(i) Inclination is the central action of the will ; volition is the superficial action;
(ii) The volition has the same moral quality with the inclination;
(iii) The inclination of the will is the result of self-determination, not of a volition, because the inclination is the self-determination viewed objectively;
(iv) Inclination differs from volition, as the end differs from the means;
(v) Volition is common to man and the animal creation - inclination or self-determination belongs only to man, and other rational beings;
(vi) Inclination or self-determination is inherited - volitions or choices are not;
(vii) Inclination is free, because it is self-determined - volition is necessitated, because it is determined in its morality by the inclination of which it is the executive;
(viii) Self-determination is causative, and originative of character;
(ix) Inclination is spontaneous - volition is nervous and often spasmodic.

What grabbed me
I appreciated the distinction between man and animal to help us understand our wills: 'Instinct in a brute is necessitated, because it is grounded wholly in sense and animal nature ; inclination in man is free, because it is grounded in reason and a spiritual essence. Inclination is the subject of command, and prohibition. Man is bidden to have a good inclination, and forbidden to have an evil one. The command to love (Dent 6:5; Lev. 19 : 18 ; Matt. 28 : 39, 40), to "make the tree good " (Matt. 13 : 33), to love not (1 John 2 : 15), to lust not (Ex. 20 : 17), are examples.'

We are responsible for our inclinations as well as our actions.

Next week's reading
Read Chapter 4 'Man's probation and apostasy'.

Now it's your turn
Please post your own notes and thoughts in the comments section below.

November 1, 2019

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol II of the Works - Edwards - IV - Wisdom displayed in salvation continued

Required reading
Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol 2 of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Continue 'Wisdom displayed in salvation' by reading Sections III to VI.

My summary
Today we continue the discourse on "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10).

We continue to learn of the consequences of salvation, including:
(i) the variety and the greatness of the good procured for men;
(ii) how the angels are benefited by the salvation of men;
(iii) the glory that redounds to God as the effect of divine wisdom;
(iv) the wonderful circumstances of the attainment of our good.

What grabbed me
I always love to hear that God overrules sin and suffering for our good: 

'(1) It was wonderful that sin should be made the occasion of our greater blessedness; for sin deserves misery. By our sin we had deserved to be everlastingly miserable; but this is so turned by divine wisdom, that it is made an occasion of our being more happy.—It was a strange thing that sin should be the occasion of any thing else but misery: but divine wisdom has found out a way whereby the sinner might not only escape being miserable, but that he should be happier than before he sinned; yea, than he would have been if he had never sinned at all. And this sin and unworthiness of his, are the occasion of this greater blessedness.

(2.) It was a wonderful thing that man's own misery should be an occasion of his greater happiness. For happiness and misery are contraries; and man's misery was very great. He was under the wrath and curse of God, and condemned to everlasting burnings.—But the sin and misery of man, by this contrivance, are made an occasion of his being more happy, not only than he was before the fall, but than he would have been if he never had fallen.

Our first parents, if they had stood and persevered in perfect obedience, till God had given them the fruit of the tree of life as a seal of their reward, would probably have been advanced to higher happiness: for they before were but in a state of probation for their reward. And it is not to be supposed but that their happiness was to have been greater after they had persisted in obedience, and had actually received the reward, than it was while they were in a state of trial for it. But by the redemption of Christ, the sin and misery of the elect are made an occasion of their being brought to a higher happiness than mankind would have had if they had persisted in obedience till they had received the reward.'

Incredible. Yet true.

Next week's reading
Conclude 'Wisdom displayed in salvation'.

Now it's your turn
Please post your own notes and thoughts in the comments section below.

October 31, 2019

Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 - Shedd - VII - Chapter 3 The Human Will commenced

Required reading
Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 by William G.T. Shedd (Available from Amazon or free here) - Commence Chapter 3 'The Human Will' by reading up to the paragraph beginning 'The distinction between the will's inclination, and its volition, is of the highest importance in both psychology and theology' (page 131 of my edition).

My summary
Today we begin a chapter on the human will.

Firstly Shedd discusses the relationship of the will and desire and concludes that the moral desires and affections are the total action of the will. Thus, there are two faculties of the soul, the understanding and the will.

Shedd then teaches us that the understanding is the cognitive faculty of the soul, comprising the intellect and the conscience.  

The understanding is fixed and stationary.  Whereas the will is self-determining.  

The will is comprised of instinctive desires.  These are involuntary, transient and non-moral.

But the will is also comprised of moral and religious desires.

Shedd also includes a discussion of Biblical Hebrew and Greek terms used to refer to the understanding and the will.

What grabbed me
Really getting into the nitty gritty today.

I liked the description of the effect of the fall on the will: 'The will, unlike the understanding, is mutable. It is capable of a radical and total change, or revolution. It has met with such a change in the apostasy of Adam. Man now is inclined exactly contrary to what he was by creation. In respect to moral and religious ends and objects, he inclines, desires, loves, and acts directly contrary to what he did when he came from the Creator's hand. This great change is denominated a "fall." It is an overthrow, a catastrophe. It is not a mere difference in the degree or intensity with which the will operates, but it is an entire alteration of the direction of its activity. The fall of the will was a revolution, not an evolution.'

Our will still functions.  But it is inclined toward unrighteousness, rather than righteousness.

Next week's reading
Conclude Chapter 3 'The Human Will'.

Now it's your turn
Please post your own notes and thoughts in the comments section below.