July 4, 2020

Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God in Vol II of the Works - Edwards - I - Preface

Required reading

The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God in Vol 2 of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read the Preface.

My summary
Today we begin a new work on the distinguishing marks of a work of the Spirit of God by reading the preface from Mr Cooper.

After outlining briefly the works of grace in the past, he begins to speak of the work of grace under Edwards. We hear about:
(i) its preachers;
(ii) its extent;
(iii) its recipients;
(iv) its uniformity;
(v) its fruits;
(vi) the opposition to it.

What grabbed me
I enjoyed the description of the preachers: 'The doctrine they insist on, are the doctrine of the reformation, under the influence whereof the power of godliness so flourished in the last century. The points on which their preaching mainly turns, are those important ones of man’s guilt, corruption, and impotence; supernatural regeneration by the Spirit of God, and free justification by faith in the righteousness of Christ; and the marks of the new birth.—The manner of their preaching is not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom; howbeit, they speak wisdom among them that are perfect. An ardent love to Christ and souls, warms their breasts, and animates their labours. God has made those his ministers active spirits, a flame of fire in his service; and his word in their mouths has been “as a fire, and as a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces.” In most places where they have laboured, God has evidently wrought with them, and “confirmed the word by signs following.” Such a power and presence of God in religious assemblies, has not been known since God set up his sanctuary amongst us. He has indeed “glorified the house of his glory.”'

May the Lord raise up such preachers again!

Next week's reading
Read Section I.

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

July 2, 2020

Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 - Shedd - XXX - Chapter 4 Conversion

Required reading  

Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 by William G.T. Shedd (Available from Amazon or here) - Read Chapter IV 'Conversion'.


My summary  
Today we read a chapter on conversion.

Shedd teaches us that conversion consists of two acts:
(i) faith;
(ii) repentance.

Shedd notes the following particulars about faith:
(i) evangelical faith is an act of man;
(ii) evangelical faith is an act of both the understanding and the will;
(iii) evangelical faith is the particular act that unites the soul to Christ;
(iv) saving faith terminates on Christ.

Meanwhile repentance is defined as a change of a mind.

Shedd concludes by teaching us that faith precedes repentance.

What grabbed me
Some of the distinctions Shedd made in this brief chapter are not ones I'd make.

But I did like the illustration given in one of the footnotes of the priority of faith to all other acts:
'In a beautiful New England village a boy lay very sick, drawing near to death, and very sad. His heart longed for the treasure which was worth more to him now than all the gold of the western mines. One day I sat down by him, took his hand, and looking in his troubled face asked him what made him so sad. 'Uncle,' said he, 'I want to love God. Won't you tell me how to love God?' I cannot describe the piteous tones in which he said these words, and the look of anxiety which he gave me. I said to him: 'My boy, you must trust God first, and then you will love him without trying to at all.' With a surprised look he exclaimed, 'What did you say?' I repeated the exact words again, and I shall never forget how his large, hazel eyes opened on me, and his cheek flushed as he slowly said, 'Well, I never knew that before. I always thought that I must love God first before I had any right to trust him.' 'No, my dear boy,' I answered, 'God wants us to trust him; that is what Jesus always asks us to do first of all, and he knows that as soon as we trust him we shall begin to love him. This is the way to love God, put your trust in him first of all.' Then I spoke to him of the Lord Jesus, and how God sent him that we might believe in him, and how, all through his life, he tried to win the trust of men; how grieved he was when men would not believe in him, and everyone who believed came to love without trying at all. He drank in all the truth, and simply saying, 'I will trust Jesus now,’ without an effort put his young soul in Christ's hands that very hour; and so he came into the peace of God which passeth understanding, and lived in it calmly and sweetly to the end.'

Start with faith.  The rest will follow.

Next week's reading    
Read Chapter V 'Justification'.

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

June 27, 2020

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol II of the Works - Edwards - XXIV - Man's natural blindness concluded

Required reading

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol 2 of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Conclude 'Man's natural blindness'.

My summary
Today we finish the sermon on "Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see? He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know? The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity." (Psalm 94:8-11)

Edwards' doctrine was 'that there is an extreme and brutish blindness in things of religion which naturally possesses the hearts of mankind.'

Now Edwards makes some practical inferences and application of the subject:
I. By this we may see how manifest are the ruins of the fall of man.
II. From what has been said, plainly appears the necessity of divine revelation.
III. This doctrine should make us sensible, how great a mercy it is to mankind, that God has sent his own Son into the world, to be the light of the world.
IV. Hence we may learn, what must be the thing which will bring to pass those glorious days of light, which are spoken of in God’s word.
V. Hence we may learn the misery of all such persons, as are under the power of that darkness which naturally possesses their hearts.

Then he addresses sinners and asks them to consider:
I. that they are blinded by the god of this world.
II. how God in his word manifests his abhorrence and wrath towards those who remain so sottishly blind and ignorant, in the midst of light.
III. how much wilfulness there is in your ignorance.
IV. what is the course that God will take to teach those who will not be taught by the instructions of his word.

What grabbed me
I liked the encouragement to find wisdom in God: 'If we are so blind in ourselves, then knowledge is not to be sought for out of our own stock, but must be sought from some other source. And we have no where else to go for it, but to the fountain of light and wisdom. True wisdom is a precious jewel; and none of our fellow-creatures can give it us, nor can we buy it with any price we have to give. It is the sovereign gift of God. The way to obtain it, is to go to him, sensible of our weakness, and blindness, and misery on that account. ” If any lack wisdom, let him ask of God.”'

There is no other way to be wise.

Next week's reading
The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God in Vol 2 of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read the Preface.


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

June 25, 2020

Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 - Shedd - XXIX - Chapter 3 Regeneration concluded

Required reading  

Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 by William G.T. Shedd (Available from Amazon or here) - Conclude Chapter 3 'Regeneration'.


My summary  
Firstly, today, Shedd notices several particulars in connection with the doctrine that God is the sole author of regeneration:
(i) the reason for expecting the regeneration of men is found in God's promise to bestow regeneration, not in man's power to produce it;
(ii) a second ground of hope and expectation that sinners will be regenerated is the fact that under the gospel dispensation God's regenerating grace is being continually exerted;
(iii) a third reason for the expectation that sinners will be regenerated, is the fact that God has promised to pour out the regenerating Spirit in answer to the prayers of the church.

Then Shedd teaches us that man's relation to regeneration is not regeneration itself, but in the work of conviction. Man is to perform the following duties in order to be convicted of sin:
(i) reading and hearing the divine word;
(ii) serious application of the mind and examination of the truth in order to understand and feel its force;
(iii) prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The rest of the chapter answers objections to Shedd's teaching the unregenerate to pray.

What grabbed me
I enjoyed the encouragement for unbelievers to pray: 

''It is not until he [the unregenerate man] has discovered that legal conviction, legal illumination, resolutions to reform, external reformation reading and bearing the word, and prayer itself cannot change the heart, that he leaves all these behind him, and begs God immediately and instantaneously to do this needed work in his soul. The prayer for regenerating grace is, in truth, the most energetic and pressing act that the sinner can perform. It is the farthest removed of any from procrastination. It is an immediate act on the part of the sinner, and it entreats God to do an instantaneous work within him.'


Next week's reading    
Read Chapter IV 'Conversion'.

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

June 13, 2020

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol II of the Works - Edwards - XXIII - Man's natural blindness commenced

Required reading

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol 2 of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Commence 'Man's natural blindness' by reading Sections I, II and III.

My summary
Today's text is "Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see? He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know? The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity." (Psalm 94:8-11)

Edwards' doctrine from the text is 'that there is an extreme and brutish blindness in things of religion which naturally possesses the hearts of mankind.'

This week he shows
(i) how it is manifest that there is a sottish and brutish blindness in the hearts of men in the things of religion, by those things which appear in men’s open profession.

(ii) how this is manifest in those things that are found by inward experience, and are visible in men’s practices under the light of the gospel.

What grabbed me
I appreciated this point about the extent of the blindness of men: 'It appears, in that they are so blind in those same things in religious matters, which they are sufficiently sensible of in other matters. In temporal things they are very sensible that it is a point of prudence to improve the first opportunity in things of great importance. But in matters of religion, which are of infinitely the greatest importance, they have not this discernment. In temporal matters they are sensible that it is a great folly long to delay and put off, when life is in danger, and all depends upon it. But in the concerns of their souls, they are insensible of this truth. So in the concerns of this world, they are sensible it is prudence to improve times of special advantage, and to embrace a good offer when made them. They are sensible that things of long continuance are of greater importance, than those of short duration; yet in religious concerns, none of these things are sensibly discerned. In temporal things they are sufficiently sensible, that it is a point of prudence to lay up for hereafter, in summer to lay up for winter, and to lay up for their families, after they are dead; but men do not generally discern the prudence of making a proper provision for a future state.—In matters of importance in this world, they are sensible of the wisdom of taking thorough care to be on sure grounds; but in their soul’s concerns they see nothing of this. Our Saviour observed this to be the case with the Jews when he was upon earth. “Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky, and of the earth: but how is it that ye do not discern this time?”'

Blindness. Utter blindness.

Next week's reading
Conclude 'Man's natural blindness'.

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

Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 - Shedd - XXVIII - Chapter 3 Regeneration commenced

Required reading  

Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 by William G.T. Shedd (Available from Amazon or here) - Commence Chapter 3 'Regeneration' by reading up to the paragraph beginning 'In connection with the doctrine that God is the sole author of regeneration, several particulars are noticed.' (Page 510 in my edition)


My summary  
Today we begin a new chapter on regeneration.

Firstly Shedd teaches the nuances between regeneration and conversion.

Then he notes the following characteristics respecting regeneration:
(i) regeneration is solely the work of God;
(ii) regeneration as the creative and life-giving act of God produces an effect on the human understanding;
(iii) regeneration with respect to the human will is 'renewal';
(iv) man is passive in regeneration;
(v) man cannot co-operate in regeneration;
(vi) regeneration is a work of God in the human soul that is below consciousness;
(vii) regeneration is not effected by the use of means;
(viii) regeneration is the cause of conversion.

What grabbed me
I appreciated Shedd's articulation of the fact that regeneration is not effected by the use of means: 'Regeneration is not effected by the use of means, in the strict signification of the term " means." The Holy Spirit employs means in conviction, in conversion, and in sanctification, but not in regeneration. The appointed means of grace are the word, the sacraments, and prayer. None of these means are used in the instant of regeneration ; first, because regeneration is instantaneous, and there is not time to use them ; secondly, because regeneration is a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the human spirit. It is the action of Spirit upon spirit, of a Divine person upon a human person, whereby spiritual life is imparted. Nothing, therefore, of the nature of means or instruments can come between the Holy Ghost and the soul that is to be made alive. God did not employ an instrument or means, when he infused physical life into the body of Adam. There were only two factors: the dust of the ground, and the creative power of God which vivified that dust. The Divine omnipotence and dead matter were brought into direct contact, with nothing intervening. The dust was not a means or instrument by which God originated life. So in regeneration there are only two factors : the human soul destitute of spiritual life, and the Holy Spirit who quickens it. The dead soul is not an instrument by which spiritual life is originated, but the subject in which it is originated.'

All of grace.  All of grace.

Next week's reading    
Conclude Chapter 3 'Regeneration'.

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

June 6, 2020

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol II of the Works - Edwards - XXII - Christian Pilgrim

Required reading

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

My summary
Today's text is "And confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country." (Heb. 11:13-14)

Edwards teaches us:
I. That this life ought to be so spent by us as to be only a journey or pilgrimage towards heaven;
II. Why the Christian's life is a journey, or pilgrimage;
III. Instruction afforded by the consideration, that life is a journey, or pilgrimage towards heaven;
IV. Exhortations so to spend the present life, that it may only be a journey towards heaven.

What grabbed me
Great sermon. I always love the illustration of us as pilgrims: 'When a man is on a journey, all the steps he takes are subordinated to the aim of getting to his journey’s end. And if he carries money or provisions with him, it is to supply him in his journey. So we ought wholly to subordinate all our other business, and all our temporal enjoyments, to this affair of travelling to heaven. When any thing we have becomes a clog and hinderance to us, we should quit it immediately. The use of our worldly enjoyments and possessions, should be with such a view, and in such a manner, as to further us in our way heavenward. Thus we should eat, and drink, and clothe ourselves, and improve the conversation and enjoyment of friends. And whatever business we are setting about, whatever design we are engaging in, we should inquire with ourselves, whether this business or undertaking will forward us in our way to heaven? And if not, we should quit our design.'

Amen!

Next week's reading
Commence 'Man's natural blindness' by reading Sections I, II and III.

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

Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 - Shedd - XXVII - Chapter 2 Vicarious atonement concluded

Required reading  

Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 by William G.T. Shedd (Available from Amazon or here) - Conclude Chapter 2 'Vicarious atonement'.


My summary  
Today Shedd finishes the chapter with a lengthy consideration of the extent of Christ's atonement.

Firstly he defines the word 'extent', preferring it to denote the act of 'extending'.

Shedd then discusses the difference between atonement and redemption, so that technically speaking we can say that Christ's atonement is unlimited but his redemption is limited.

Shedd then provides arguments against alternate views (particularly universalism and Arminianism) including an analysis of relevant Biblical text and Greek words.

The chapter ends with answers to the question: 'If the atonement of Christ is not intended to be universally applied, why should it be universally offered?'

What grabbed me
I loved how Shedd demonstrated the limited atonement exposes the pride of man: 'The offer of the atonement to an unbeliever is adapted to disclose the aversion and obstinacy of his own will. This method of forgiving sin displeases him. It is humbling. If he were invited to make a personal atonement, this would fall in with his inclination. But to do no atoning work at all, and simply to trust in the atoning work of another, is the most unwelcome act that human pride can be summoned to perform. Belief in vicarious atonement is distasteful and repulsive to the natural man, because he is a proud man. When, therefore, a man is informed that there is no forgiveness of sin but through Christ's atonement, that this atonement is ample for the forgiveness of every man, and that nothing but unbelief will prevent any man's forgiveness, his attention is immediately directed to his own disinclination to trust in this atonement, and aversion to this method of forgiveness. Bat this experience is highly useful. It causes him to know his helplessness, even in respect to so fundamental an act as faith. The consequence is, that he betakes himself to God in prayer that he may be inclined and enabled to believe.'

Man hates to be told he must contribute nothing for his salvation.

Next week's reading    
Commence Chapter 3 'Regeneration' by reading up to the paragraph beginning 'In connection with the doctrine that God is the sole author of regeneration, several particulars are noticed.' (Page 510 in my edition)

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

May 30, 2020

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol II of the Works - Edwards - XXI - Procrastination

Required reading

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

My summary
Today's text is "Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." (Prov. 27:1)

Firstly Edwards warns against misunderstanding the doctrine and thinking that we should in every respect behave as though we knew that we should not live another day. 

Then Edwards explains:
(i) the precept about boasting about tomorrow;
(ii) what it looks like when men act as though they depend on another day;
(iii) why we ought not to boast of tomorrow;
(iv) ways to inquire whether the reader boasts of tomorrow;
(v) how to spend every day. 

What grabbed me
I really liked Edwards point about the meaninglessness of quarreling in light of death: 'If you were so sensible of your continual liableness to death, that every day was the last you depended upon, these things certainly would not be so. For let us but consider what are the effects of death with respect to such things. It puts an end to party-quarrels. Many men hold these quarrels as long as they live. They begin young, and hold on through many great and sore afflictions and chastisements of Providence. The old sore remains, when the supporters of nature bow, and the eyes grow dim, and the hands tremble with age. But death, when that comes, puts an end to all their quarrelling in this world. Death silences the most clamorous, and censorious, and backbiting tongue. When men are dead, they cease to lay schemes against those of another party; death dashes all their schemes, so for as they have any concern in them. Psal. cxlvi. 4. “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.”'

Why bother quarreling when the quarrel will end one day regardless!

Next week's reading
Read 'The Christian Pilgrim'.

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

May 28, 2020

Dogmatic Theology Vol 2 - Shedd - XXVI - Chapter 2 Vicarious atonement continued

Required reading  

Continue Chapter 2 'Vicarious atonement' by reading up to the paragraph beginning 'Having considered the nature and value of Christ's atonement, we are prepared to consider its extent.' (Page 464 of my edition).

My summary  

This week respecting the possibility of the substitution of penalty we learn:
(i) punishment is at sin;
(ii) justice is dispassionate and unselfish;
(iii) it is implied in divine sovereignty.

Regarding the sovereignty of God, Shedd teaches us:
(i) the suffering substituted must be penal in its nature and purpose, and of equal value with the original penalty;
(ii) the penalty substituted must be endured by a person who is not himself already indebted to justice and who is not a subject of the government under which the substitution takes place.

Then Shedd makes clear that the sufferings of Christ meet all these conditions:
(i) They were penal in nature and intent, since they were neither calamitous nor disciplinary;
(ii) They were infinite in value;
(iii) They were not due from him as from a guilty person.

What grabbed me
I appreciated the point that a substitute must not be already under the law: 'Secondly, the penalty substituted must be endured by a person who is not himself already indebted to justice, and who is not a subject of the government under which the substitution takes place. If he be himself a criminal, he cannot of course be a substitute for a criminal. And if he be an innocent person, yet owes all his own service to the government, he cannot do a work of supererogation such as is implied in vicarious satisfaction. An earthly state could not righteously allow an innocent citizen to die for another, even if he were willing so to die, because there are claims upon the person and life of every citizen which must go undischarged if his life should be taken.'

The Son of God is the only substitute for sinful man.

Next week's reading    
Conclude Chapter 2 'Vicarious atonement'.

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

May 24, 2020

Miscellaneous Discourses in Vol II of the Works - Edwards - XX - The preciousness of time

Required reading

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

My summary
Today's text is 'Redeeming the time' (Ephesians 5:16).

Edwards gives:
(i) reasons why time is precious;
(ii) reflections on time past;
(iii) who is chiefly deserving of reproof from the subject of the preciousness of time;
(iv) an exhortation to improve time;
(v) advice respecting the improvement of time.

What grabbed me
I always like considering the preciousness of time, including this reason: 'Because a happy or miserable eternity depends on the good or ill improvement of it. Things are precious in proportion to their importance, or to the degree wherein they concern our welfare. Men are wont to set the highest value on those things upon which they are sensible their interest chiefly depends. And this renders time so exceedingly precious, because our eternal welfare depends on the improvement of it.—Indeed our welfare in this world depends upon its improvement. If we improve it not, we shall be in danger of coming to poverty and disgrace; but by a good improvement of it, we may obtain those things which will be useful and comfortable. But it is above all things precious, as our state through eternity depends upon it. The importance of the improvement of time upon other accounts, is in subordination to this.'

Eternity depends upon how we use our time here.

Next week's reading
Read 'Procrastination'.

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