June 23, 2017

On Original Sin in Vol I of the Works - Edwards - IV - Chapter 2 of Part I

Required reading
The great Christian doctrine of original sin defended in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read Chapter 2 of Part I.

My summary.
Today Edwards demonstrates that man is totally depraved because all humans die.

We hear primarily hear that:
(i) the Scriptures repeatedly tell us that death is due to sin;
(ii) although death does have some benefits for humanity, it is not simply a favour to mankind;
(iii) the death of all infants of all nations demonstrates the sinfulness of all humans.

What grabbed me
I appreciated Edwards' affirmation of link death of sin together: 'And the Scripture every where speaks of all great afflictions and calamities, which God in his providence brings on mankind, as testimonies of his displeasure for sin, in the subjects of those calamities; excepting those sufferings which are to atone for the sins of others. He ever taught his people to look on such calamities as his rod, the rod of his anger, his frown, the hidings of his face in displeasure. Hence such calamities are in Scripture so often called by the name of judgments, being what God brings on men as a judge, executing a righteous sentence for transgression. Yea, they are often called by the name of wrath, especially calamities consisting or issuing in death.'

Without sin, there is no death.  So if there is death, there is sin.

Next week's reading
Read Chapter 1 of Part II.

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












June 22, 2017

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - XXXII - Direction Seventh commenced

Required reading
The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Available from Amazon or free here) - Commence the Second General Part of Direction Seventh by reading up to the heading 'Superiority of our nature in Christ to its state in Adam'.

My summary
Today we continue Direction Seventh: 'And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace' by commencing a discussion of what is here meant by peace.  

Gurnall defines peace as''the blessing of the gospel' and we read about the first kind of peace the gospel brings: peace with God.  

Gurnall teaches us about this peace with God by showing us:
(i) the need for peace with God because of the quarrel betwixt God the sons of men;
(ii) that the gospel effects the peace needed between God and men;
(iii) why God effects peace by the gospel.

What grabbed me
I enjoyed the points about why God brought peace to man, particularly this point: 'Indeed, God intended, by this way of reconciling poor sinners to himself, to make work for angels and saints to admire the mystery of his wisdom, power, and love therein, to everlasting. O, when they shall all meet together in heaven, and there have the whole counsel of God unfolded to them!—when they shall behold what seas were dried up, and what rocks of creature impossibilities digged through, by the omnipotent wisdom and love of God, before a sinner's peace could be obtained, and then behold the work, notwithstanding all this, to be effected and brought to a happy perfection—O how will they be swallowed up in adoring the abyss of his wisdom, who laid the platform of all this according to the eternal counsel of his own will! Surely the sun doth not so much exceed the strength of our mortal eyes as the glory of this will their understandings from ever fully comprehending it. This, this is the piece which God drew on purpose, for its rare workmanship, to beautify heaven itself withal.'

God demonstrated his glory magnificently in making peace with us.

Next week's reading
Continue the Second General Part of Direction Seventh by reading up to the heading 'Directions to sinners as to how they may be at peace with God'.

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


















June 16, 2017

On Original Sin in Vol I of the Works - Edwards - III - Chapter 1 of Part I concluded

Required readingThe great Christian doctrine of original sin defended in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here)Read Sections VII, VIII and IX from Chapter 1 of Part I.


My summary.
Now. in Section VII. Edwards demonstrates from Scripture and church history that mankind is depraved because of their:
(i) wicked character (Section VII);
(ii) corruption despite means to restrain sin (VIII).

Section IX is devoted to answering evasions of the arguments for the depravity of humanity.  The five evasions are:
(i) Adam's nature was very far from being sinful; yet he sinned;
(ii) man only make themselves corrupt by their own free choice;
(iii) mankind only sins because of bad examples;
(iv) man only sins because the animal passions get the start of reason.;
(v) by conflict and victory our virtue may be refined and established.

What grabbed me
I appreciated the point about humanity's continual sin despite being given many means of restraint.  

Even from the beginning, this has been the case: 
'Here is a mighty alteration: mankind, once so easy and happy, healthful, vigorous, and beautiful, rich in all the pleasant and abundant blessings of paradise, now turned out, destitute, weak, and decaying, into a wide barren world, yielding briers and thorns, instead of the delightful growth and sweet fruit of the garden of Eden, to wear out life in sorrow and toil, on the ground cursed for his sake; and at last, either through long and lingering decay, or severe pain and acute disease, to expire and turn into putrefaction and dust. If these are only used as medicines, to prevent and to cure the diseases of the mind, they are sharp medicines indeed; especially death; which, to use Hezekiah's representation, is as it were breaking all his bones. And, one would think, should be very effectual, if the subject had no depravity—no evil and contrary bias, to resist, and hinder a proper effect—especially in the old world, when the first occasion of this terrible alteration, this severity of means, was fresh in memory. Adam continued alive near two-thirds of the time before the flood; so that a very great part of those who were alive till the flood, might have opportunity of seeing and conversing with him, and hearing from his mouth, not only an account of his fall, and the introduction of the awful consequences of it, but also of his first finding himself in existence in the new-created world, of the creation of Eve, and what passed between him and his Creator in paradise.

But what was the success of these great means, to restrain men from sin, and to induce them to virtue? Did they prove sufficient?—instead of this, the world soon grew exceeding corrupt; till, to use our author's own words, mankind were universally debauched into lust, sensuality, rapine, and injustice.'

Despite countless warnings and helps, humanity continues to sin.  

Is humanity totally depraved?  Absolutely! 

Next week's reading
Read Chapter 2 of Part I.


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











June 15, 2017

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - XXXI - Direction Seventh commenced

Required reading
The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read the First General Part of Direction Seventh.

My summary
This week we start Direction Seventh: 'And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace'.

Gurnall asks three distinct questions of this direction and the first is the subject matter of today's reading: 'What is meant by the 'gospel'?  

Gurnall teaches us that 'The revelation of Christ, and the grace of God through him, is without compare the best news, and the joyfullest tidings, that poor sinners can hear.'

Then we learn that the gospel has five properties.  It is:
(i) good;
(ii) of some great good;
(iii) intimately concerns those who hear it;
(iv) unheard of and unlooked for;
(v) true and certain.

Then Gurnall gives us some uses of this doctrine;
(i) pity those that never heard word of this good news;
(ii) lament that so good news should have such an ill welcome as the gospel commonly finds in the world;
(iii) unbelievers be persuaded to receive the message of the gospel;
(iv) believers rejoice at the news.

What grabbed me
I liked the encouragement to rejoice in the gospel: 'To believers. You who have entertained the message of the gospel, rejoice at the news. Glad tidings and sad hearts do not well together. When we see one heavy and sorrowful, we ask him, what ill news he hath heard. Christian, what ill news hath Christ brought from heaven with him, that makes thee walk with thy folded arms and pensive countenance? Ps. 132:16. To see a wicked man merry and jocund, or a Christian sad and dumpish, is alike uncomely. 'A feast is made for laughter,' saith Solomon, Ecc. 10:19. I am sure God intended his people's joy in the feast of the gospel. Mourners are not to sit at God's table, Deut. 26. Truly the saint's heaviness reflects unkindly upon God himself. We do not commend his cheer, if it doth not cheer us. What saith the world? The Christian's life is but a melancholy walk. Sure, thinks the carnal wretch, it is a dry feast they sit at, where so little wine of joy is drunk. And wilt thou confirm them in this their opinion, Christian? Shall they have an example to produce Christ and his word, which promise peace and joy to all that will come to this feast? O God forbid that thy conversation, wherein thou art to 'hold forth the word of life'—to live in the eyes of the world—and which ought to be as a comment or gloss upon the word, to clear up the truth and reality of it to others—forbid that this should so disagree with the text, as to make the gladsome tidings spoken of in it, more disputed and questioned in the thoughts of the unbelieving world than before. It is an error, I confess, and that a gross one, which the Papists teach—that we cannot know the Scriptures to be the word of God, but by the testimony of the church; yet it is none to say, that a practical testimony from the saints' lives hath great authority over the consciences of men, to convince them of the truth of the gospel. Now they will believe it is good news indeed the gospel brings, when they can read it in your cheerful lives. But when they observe Christians sad with this cup of salvation in their hands, truly they suspect the wine in it is not so good as the preachers commend it to them for. Should men see all that trade to the Indies come home poorer than they went, it would be hard to persuade others to venture thither, for all the golden mountains said to be there. O Christians, let the world see that you are not losers in your joy since you have been acquainted with the gospel. Give not them cause to think by your uncomfortable walking, that when they return Christians, they must bid all joy farewell and resolve to spend their days in a house of mourning.'

A happy Christian is a good witness to the truth of the gospel.

Next week's reading
Commence the Second General Part of Direction Seventh by reading up to the heading 'Superiority of our nature in Christ to its state in Adam'.

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

















May 26, 2017

On Original Sin in Vol I of the Works - Edwards - II - Chapter 1 of Part I continued

Required readingThe great Christian doctrine of original sin defended in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here)Read Sections III and VI from Chapter 1 of Part I.


My summary.
This week Edwards looks at humanity's propensity to sin due to original sin.

Firstly, in Section III, Edwards demonstrates we have a propensity to moral evil instead of good.

This propensity to sin is:

(i) immediate, continual and progressive (Section IV);
(ii) great in matter and quantity (Section V);
(iii) extremely foolish in matters of religion (Section VI).

What grabbed me
I appreciated Edwards' discussion of love for God: 'They may love God more than other things, and yet there may not be so much love, as there is want of due love; or in other words, they may love God more than the world, and therefore the love of God may be predominant, and yet may not love God near half so much as they ought to do. This need not be esteemed a paradox: A person may love a father, or some great friend and benefactor, of a very excellent character, more than some other object, a thousand times less worthy of his esteem and affection, and yet love him ten times less than he ought; and so be chargeable, all things considered, with a deficiency in respect and gratitude, that is very unbecoming and hateful. If love to God prevails above the love of other things, then virtue will prevail above evil affections, or positive principles of sin; by which principles it is, that sin has a positive power and influence. For evil affections radically consist in inordinate love to other things besides God: and therefore, virtue prevailing beyond these, will have the governing influence. The predominance of the love of God in the hearts of good men, is more from the nature of the object loved, and the nature of the principle of true love, than the degree of the principle. The object is one of supreme loveliness; immensely above all other objects in worthiness of regard; and it is by such a transcendent excellency, that he is God, and worthy to be regarded and adored as God: and he that truly loves God, loves him as God. True love acknowledges him to be divinely and supremely excellent; and must arise from some knowledge, sense, and conviction of his worthiness of supreme respect: and though the sense and view of it may be very imperfect, and the love that arises from it in like manner imperfect; yet if there be any realizing view of such divine excellency, it must cause the heart to respect God above all.'

How far we fall short of the love we owe our Lord!

Next week's reading
Read Sections VII, VIII and IX from Chapter 1 of Part I.


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










May 25, 2017

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - XXX - Direction Sixth concluded

Required reading
The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read the Application of Direction Sixth.

My summary
Today we finish Direction Sixth: 'and having on the breastplate of righteousness'.

Because of the breastplate of righteousness, Gurnall:
(i) encourages us to maintain the power holiness as it is possible to do so;
(ii) rebukes several sorts of persons;
(iii) exhorts the saints to bless God, keep their breastplate on, and be humble when they are holy.

What grabbed me
I was helped by the instruction to meditate upon God's holiness instead of my holiness or that of others: '(1.) Often meditate on the infinite holiness of God. When men stand high their heads do not grow dizzy till they look down. When men look down upon those that are worse than themselves, or less holy than themselves, then their heads turn round. Looking up would cure this disease. The most holy men, when once they have fixed their eyes a while upon God's holiness, and then looked upon themselves, they have been quite out of love with themselves, and could see nothing but unholiness in themselves.'

If you are to be holy as God is holy you must look at his holiness!

Next week's reading
Read the First General Part of Direction Seventh.

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
















May 19, 2017

On Original Sin in Vol I of the Works - Edwards - I - Chapter 1 of Part I commenced

Required reading
The great Christian doctrine of original sin defended in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here)Read Sections I and II from Chapter 1 of Part I.


My summary.
Today we begin a new work on original sin.  

After preliminaries from the editor and author commending the work to the reader, Edwards makes a case in Section I of Chapter 1 'that mankind are all naturally in such a state, as is attended, without fail, with this consequence or issue; that they universally run themselves into that which is, in effect, their own utter eternal perdition, as being finally accursed of God, and the subjects of his remediless wrath through sin.'

Then in Section II, Edwards teaches us that 'there can be no room for evading the evidences from fact, of the universal infallible tendency of man's nature to sin and eternal perdition; since, on the supposition, the tendency to this issue does not lie in the general constitution and frame of this world, which God hath made to be the habitation of mankind.'

What grabbed me
I know it isn't technically part of the work, but I did like the mini biography at the beginning.  

I was particularly interested in the way Edwards' health declined due to intense study: 'There was something extremely delicate in his constitution; which always obliged him to observe the exactest rules of temperance, and every method of cautious and prudent living. By such means he was helped to go through incessant labours, and to bear up under much study, which, Solomon observes, is a weariness to the flesh. Perhaps, never was a man more constantly retired from the world; giving himself to reading, and contemplation. And a wonder it was, that his feeble frame could subsist under such fatigues, daily repeated and so long continued. Yet upon occasion of some remark upon it by a friend, which was only a few months before his death, he told him, "He did not find but he was then as well able to bear the closest study, as he was thirty years before; and could go through the exercises of the pulpit with as little weariness of difficulty." In his youth he appeared healthy, and with a good degree of vivacity; but was never robust. In middle life, he appeared very much emaciated (I had almost said, mortified) by severe studies, and intense applications of thought. Hence his voice was a little languid, and too low for a large assembly; though much relieved and advantaged by a proper emphasis, just cadence, well-placed pauses, and great distinctness in pronunciation.'

Finding the right balance of study and physical health is an ongoing dilemma!

Next week's reading
Read Sections III to VII from Chapter 1 of Part I.


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









May 18, 2017

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - XXIX - Direction Sixth continued

Required reading
The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read Branch Third of Direction Sixth.

My summary
Today we continue Direction Sixth: 'and having on the breastplate of righteousness'.

Gurnall's third branch is to lay down ten directions by way of counsel and help to all those that desire to maintain the power of holiness and righteousness in their daily walking.  We are told to:
(i) get a good foundation laid;
(ii) keep thine eye on the right rule thou art to walk by;
(iii) propound a right end to thyself;
(iv) look often on the perfect pattern, which Christ hath given thee;
(v) walk dependingly on God;
(vi) look to thy company;
(vii) get some Christian friend to be thy faithful monitor;
(viii) think about your dying hour;
(ix) improve the covenant of grace for thy assistance;
(x) fortify thyself against discouragements of Satan.

What grabbed me
I enjoyed the direction to consider my dying hour: 'Be often seriously thinking how holily and righteously you will, in a dyinghour, wish you had lived. They who now think it matters not much what language drivels from them, what company they walk in, what they busy their time about, how they comport with God in his worship, and with man in their dealings, but live at large, and care not much which end goes foremost, yea wonder at the niceness and zeal of others, as if there were no pace would carry them to heaven but the gallop; when once death comes so near as to be known by its own grim face, and not to report of others, when these poor creatures see they must in earnest into another world, without any delay, and their naked souls must return to 'God who gave them,' to hear what interpretation he will put upon the course and tenor of their walking, and accordingly to pass an irrevocable sentence of life or death upon them, now their thoughts will begin to change, and take up other notions of a righteous and holy life than ever they had before.'

Considering your death certainly puts things into perspective!

Next week's reading
Read the Application of Direction Sixth.

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















May 11, 2017

The Nature of True Virtue in Vol I of the Works - Edwards - III - Chapters 6, 7 and 8

Required reading
The Nature of True Virtue in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here)Read Chapters 4 and 5 of 'Dissertation concerning the nature of true virtue'.

My summary.
Now, in Chapter 6, Edwards teaches us about particular instincts of nature that resemble virtue, such as
(i) natural affection towards family;
(ii) pity.

Then in Chapter 7 he gives reasons why these natural instincts have been mistaken as true virtue.

And in chapter 8 Edwards outlines how true virtue is immediately pleasant to the mind.

What grabbed me
I liked this comment on why people confuse natural affections with true virtue: 'The reason why men are so ready to take these private affections for true virtue, is the narrowness of their views; and above all, that they are so ready to leave the Divine Being out of their view, and to neglect him in their consideration, or to regard him in their thoughts, as though he did not properly belong to the system of real existence, but was a kind of shadowy, imaginary being. And though most men allow that there is a God, yet, in their ordinary view of things, his being is not apt to come into the account, and to have the influence and effect of real existence, as it is with other beings which they see, and are conversant with, by their external senses. In their views of beauty and deformity, and in their inward sensations of displicence and approbation, it is not natural to them to view the Deity as part of the system, and as the head of it, in comparison of whom all other things are to be viewed with corresponding impressions.'

If there is no reference to God for your behaviour, you are not behaving virtuously.

Next week's readingCommence 'The great Christian doctrine of original sin defended' by reading Sections I and II from Chapter 1 of Part I.


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








The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - XXVIII - Direction Sixth continued

Required reading
The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read Branch Second of Direction Sixth.

My summary
Today we continue Direction Sixth: 'and having on the breastplate of righteousness'.

We now consider instances wherein especially every Christian is to express the power of a holy and righteous life.  The Christian must maintain the power of holiness:
(i) in his contest with sin;
(ii) in his duties of God's worship;
(iii) in his particular calling and worldly employments.

What grabbed me
I was helped by the point about the need for holiness even when you are most zealous against sin: 'The Christian, when he shows most zeal against sin, and hath greatest victory over it, even then must he renounce all fiduciary glorying in this. The excellency of gospel holiness consists in self-denial. 'Though I were perfect,' saith Job, 'yet would I not know my soul,' Job 9:21; that is, I would not be conceited and proud of my innocence. When a man is lift up with any excellency he hath, we say, 'He knows it;' 'He hath excellent parts, but he knows it;' that is, he reflects too much on himself, and sees his own face too oft in the glass of his own perfections. They who climb lofty mountains find it safest, the higher they ascend, the more to bow and stoop with their bodies; and so does the Spirit of Christ teach the saints, as they get higher in their victories over corruption, to bow lowest in self-denial. The saints are bid to, 'keep themselves in the love of God,' and then to wait, 'looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life,' Jude 21. And, 'Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy,' Hosea 10:12. We sow on earth, we reap in heaven. The seed we are to sow is righteousness and holiness, which when we have done, with greatest care and cost, we must not expect our reward from the hand of our righteousness, but from God's mercy.'

Even in victory against sin, we must be vigilant!

Next week's reading
Read Branch Third of Direction Sixth.

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














May 5, 2017

The Nature of True Virtue in Vol I of the Works - Edwards - II - Chapters 4 & 5

Required reading
The Nature of True Virtue in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here)Read Chapters 4 and 5 of 'Dissertation concerning the nature of true virtue'.

My summary.
Today Edwards teaches us two commonly proposed causes of love.

The first cause is self-love.  Edwards says it may be observed that 'self-love may show, how men in general may approve of justice from another ground, besides that approbation of the secondary beauty there is in uniformity and proportion which natural to all.

The other disposition to love is the natural conscience.  Edwards says that 'natural conscience extends to true virtue, consisting in union of heart to being in general, and supreme love to God.'

What grabbed me
I appreciated Edwards' description of the role of conscience on judgement day and its removal from the unbelievers: 'Christians have the greatest reason to believe, from the Scriptures, that in the future day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, when sinners shall be called to answer before their judge, and all their wickedness, in all its aggravations, brought forth, and clearly manifested in the perfect light of that day, and God will reprove them and set their sins in order before them, their consciences will be greatly awakened and convinced, their mouths will be stopped, all stupidity of conscience will be at an end, and conscience will have its full exercise; and therefore their consciences will approve the dreadful sentence of the judge against them; and seeing that they have deserved so great a punishment, will join with the judge in condemning them. And this, according to the notion I am opposing, would be the same thing as their being brought to the fullest repentance; their hearts being perfectly changed to hate sin and love holiness; and virtue or holiness of heart in them will be brought to the most full and perfect exercise. But how much otherwise have we reason to suppose it will then be! Then the sin and wickedness of their heart will come to its highest dominion and completest exercise; they shall be wholly left of God, and given up to their wickedness, even as the devils are! When God has done waiting on sinners, and his Spirit done striving with them, he will not restrain their wickedness, as he does now. But sin shall then rage in their hearts, as a fire no longer restrained or kept under. It is proper for a judge when he condemns a criminal, to endeavour so to set his guilt before him as to convince his conscience of the justice of the sentence. This the Almighty will do effectually, and do to perfection, so as most thoroughly to awaken and convince the conscience. But if natural conscience, and the disposition of the heart to be pleased with virtue, were the same, then at the same time that the conscience was brought to its perfect exercise, the heart would be made perfectly holy; or, would have the exercise of true virtue and holiness in perfect benevolence of temper. But instead of this, their wickedness will then be brought to perfection, and wicked men will become very devils, and accordingly will be sent away as cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'

Sinners without the restraint of God any longer will be truly awful to behold.

Next week's readingRead Chapters 6, 7 and 8 of 'Dissertation concerning the nature of true virtue'.


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







May 4, 2017

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - XXVII - Direction Sixth commenced

Required reading
The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Available from Amazon or free here) - Commence Direction Sixth by reading up to, but not including, the Second Branch.

My summary
Now we begin Direction Sixth which concerns the breastplate of righteousness: 'and having on the breastplate of righteousness'.

Initially Gurnall explains the words in the text and we hear that:
(i) righteousness means the righteousness of our sanctification;
(ii) breastplate infers the protection of the vitals and an emboldened soldier.

Then Gurnall connects the the breastplate and girdle by noting that truth and holiness must go together.

Next Gurnall states his doctrine that he who means to be a Christian indeed, must endeavour to maintain the power of holiness and righteousness in his life and conversation.  There are three branches to this doctrine and we consider the first one today.

Thus, the first branch gives three reasons why the Christian should have especial care to keep on the breastplate of righteousness:
(i) God's great design is to have his people a holy people;
(ii) Satan's design is as much against the saint's holiness as God is for it;
(iii) holiness itself is incomparably excellent.

What grabbed me
I'm not sure that the breastplate does not include the righteousness of definitive sanctification as well as progressive.

But I did like this comment about our need for holy living: 'In vain do men think to shroud themselves under Christ's wing from the hue and cry of their accusing conscience, while wickedness finds a sanctuary in them. Christ never was intended by God to secure men in their unrighteousness, but to save them from it.'

A saint that is not interested in sanctification is not a saint.

Next week's reading
Read Branch Second of Direction Sixth.

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













April 28, 2017

The Nature of True Virtue in Vol I of the Works - Edwards - I - Chapters 1, 2 & 3

Required reading
The Nature of True Virtue in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here)Read Chapters 1, 2 and 3 of 'Dissertation concerning the nature of true virtue'.

My summary.
Now we begin a new work on the nature of true virtue.  

In Chapter 1 Edwards proposes that true virtue most essentially consists in benevolence to being in general: it is that propensity and union of the heart to being in general which is immediately exercised in a a general good will.

Then in Chapter 2 we learn that true virtue must chiefly consist in love to God; the being of beings, infinitely the greatest and best.

Chapter 3 then considers other secondary and inferior kinds of beauty that are erroneously confounded with real virtue: other qualities, sensations, propensities and affections of mind and principles of action (including justice).

What grabbed me
I liked the second answer to the objection that our fellow-creatures, not God, are the proper objects of our benevolence because we cannot be profitable to God: '2. Though we are not able to give any thing to God, which we have of our own, independently; yet we may be the instruments of promoting his glory, in which he takes a true and proper delight. Whatever influence such an objection may seem to have on the minds of some, yet is there any that owns the being of a God, who will deny that any benevolent affection is due to God, and proper to be exercised towards him? If no benevolence is to be exercised towards God, because we cannot profit him, then, for the same reason, neither is gratitude to be exercised towards him for his benefits to us; because we cannot requite him. But where is the man, who believes a God and a providence, that will say this?'

Although God does not need our love, he still delights in it.

Next week's readingRead Chapters 4 and 5 of 'Dissertation concerning the nature of true virtue'.


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






April 27, 2017

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - XXVI - Direction Fifth concluded

Required reading
The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read Division Second of Second General Part of Direction Fifth.

My summary
Today we finish the fifth direction by looking at the second reason why sincerity is compared to the soldier's belt.  

Gurnall teaches us that sincerity doth not only cover all our other infirmities, but is excellent, yea necessary, to establish the soul in, and strengthen it for, its whole Christian warfare.

The strength of sincerity is threefold.  It is:
(i) a preserving strength;
(ii) recovering strength;
(iii) a comforting strength.

What grabbed me
I found the conclusion to the section to be very helpful: 'Be not therefore so thoughtful about affliction, but be careful against hypocrisy. If the bed of affliction proves hard and uneasy to thee, it is thyself that brings with thee what makes it so. Approve thyself to God, and trust him who hath promised to be his saint's bed-maker in affliction, to make it soft and easy for thee. O what a cutting word will it be in a dying hour, when thou art crying, 'Lord, Lord, mercy on a poor creature,' to hear the Lord say, 'I know thee not.' It is not the voice of a sincere soul, but the voice of a hypocrite, that howls on his bed of sorrow. What then wilt thou do, when fallen into the hands of God, with whom thou hast juggled in thy profession, and never sincerely didst love? If that speech of Joseph was so confounding to the patriarchs—'I am Joseph your brother, who you sold into Egypt'—that they could not endure his presence, knowing their own guilt, how intolerable will it be to hear from God's own mouth such language in a time of distress. 'I am God whom you have mocked, abused, and sold away, for the enjoyments of your lusts; and do you now come to me? Have I anything for you but a hell to torment you in to all eternity?''

Sobering words!

Next week's reading
Commence Direction Sixth by reading up to, but not including, the Second Branch.

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












April 21, 2017

Dissertation of the End in Vol I of the Works - Edwards - II - Chapter 2

Required reading
Dissertation of the End in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here)Read Chapter 2 of 'Dissertation on the end for which God created the world'.

My summary.
Now Edwards examines what is to be learned from Scripture concerning God's purpose in the creation of the world.

Edwards teaches us:
(i) that the Scriptures represent God as making himself his own last end;

(ii) ways the Scriptures represent God making himself his end;
(iii) particular texts that show God's glory is an ultimate end;
(iv) particular texts showing us that God created the world for his name;
(v) particular texts showing communication of good to creatures is an ultimate end;
(vi) what is meant by the glory of God;
(vii) that the ultimate end of he creation of the world is but one.


What grabbed me
I always enjoy reading about the glory God receives from redemption: 'Thus it is evident, that the glory of God is the ultimate end of the work of redemption; which is the chief work of providence towards the moral world, as is abundantly manifest from Scripture. For the whole universe is put in subjection to Jesus Christ; all heaven and earth, angels and men, are subject to him, as executing this office; and are put under him to that end, that all things may be ordered by him, in subservience to the great designs of his redemption. All power, as he says, is given to him, in heaven and in earth, that he may give eternal life to as many as the Father has given him; and he is exalted far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and made head over all things to the church. The angels are put in subjection to him, that he may employ them all as ministering spirits, for the good of them that shall be the heirs of salvation: and all things are so governed by their Redeemer, that all things are theirs, whether things present or things to come: and all God's works of providence in the moral government of the world, which we have an account of in scripture history, or that are foretold in scripture prophecy, are evidently subordinate to the great purposes and end of this great work. And besides, the work of redemption is that, by which good men are, as it were, brought into being, as good men, or as restored to holiness and happiness. The work of redemption is a new creation, according to Scripture, whereby men are brought into a new existence, or are made new creatures.'

The work of the cross gives much glory to his name!

Next week's reading
Read Chapters 1, 2 and 3 of 'Dissertation concerning the nature of true virtue'.

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





April 20, 2017

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - XXV - Direction Fifth continued

Required reading
The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Available from Amazon or free here) - Conclude the Second Use of Division First of Second General Part of Direction Fifth.

My summary
Now Gurnall finishes with further directions regarding sincerity/truth.  

He speaks to three types of people:
(i) those who consciences condemn them as hypocrites;
(ii) those whose consciences give a fair testimony for their sincerity, that their hearts are true and upright
(iii) those who are doubting souls, who are indeed sincere, but dare not be persuaded to think so well of themselves.

What grabbed me
I enjoyed the encouragement to act from love, not fear: 'Love is the great conqueror of the world. Thus will thy soul be inflamed with love to Christ—set all thy worldly interest adrift, rather than put his honour to the least hazard.'

Perfect love drives out fear.

Next week's reading
Read Division Second of Second General Part of Direction Fifth.

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











March 31, 2017

Dissertation of the End in Vol I of the Works - Edwards - I - Chapter 1

Required reading
Dissertation of the End in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here)Read Chapter 1 of 'Dissertation on the end for which God created the world'.

My summary.
Today we begin a new book in the first volume of the works.

Edwards is concerned to show the end for which God created the world and in chapter one he uses reason to draw several conclusions.  Next week it will be Scripture that is used for his conclusions.

Thus Edwards reasons that:

(i) God did not create the world to receive anything from his creation;
(ii) God created the world to manifest his glorious attributes;
(iii) God delights in these manifestations of his attributes;
(iv) God is not selfish etc in making himself the end of the world.


What grabbed me
I particularly enjoyed section four where Edwards answered objections to God being concerned for his own glory.

For example, here is Edwards' answer to the charge that God is selfish:

'OBJECT. II. Some may object, that to suppose God makes himself his highest and last end, is dishonorable to him; as it in effect supposes, that God does every thing from a selfish spirit. Selfishness is looked upon as mean and sordid in the creature; unbecoming and even hateful in such a worm of the dust as man. We should look upon a man as of a base and contemptible character, who should in every thing he did, be governed by selfish principles; should make his private interest his governing aim in all his conduct in life. How far then should we be from attributing any such thing to the Supreme Being, the blessed and only Potentate! Does it not become us to ascribe to him the most noble and generous dispositions, and qualities the most remote from every thing private, narrow, and sordid?

Ans. 1. Such an objection must arise from a very ignorant or inconsiderate notion of the vice of selfishness and the virtue of generosity. If by selfishness be meant, a disposition in any being to regard himself; this is no otherwise vicious or unbecoming, than as one is less than a multitude, and so the public weal is of greater value than his particular interest. Among created beings one single person is inconsiderable in comparison of the generality; and so his interest is of little importance compared with the interest of the whole system. Therefore in them, a disposition to prefer self, as if it were more than all, is exceeding vicious. But it is vicious on no other account, than as it is a disposition that does not agree with the nature of things; and that which is indeed the greatest good. And a disposition in any one to forego his own interest for the sake of others, is no further excellent, no further worthy the name of generosity, than it is treating things according to their true value; prosecuting something most worthy to be prosecuted; an expression of a disposition to prefer something to self-interest, that is indeed preferable in itself. But if God be indeed so great, and so excellent, that all other beings are as nothing to him, and all other excellency be as nothing, and less than nothing and vanity, in comparison of his, and God be omniscient and infallible, and perfectly knows that he is infinitely the most valuable being, then it is fit that his heart should be agreeable to this—which is indeed the true nature and proportion of things, and agreeable to this infallible and all-comprehending understanding which he has of them, and that perfectly clear light in which he views them—and that he should value himself infinitely more than his creatures.'

If you're supreme, you can't be selfish.

Next week's reading
Read Chapter 2 of 'Dissertation on the end for which God created the world'.

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