July 20, 2018

Inquiry Concerning Qualifications for Communion in Vol I of the Works - Edwards - II - Part II commenced

Required readingInquiry Concerning Qualifications for Communion in Vol I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read Section I of Part II.

My summary.
Now Edwards begins to give proofs for his position that only godly saints should be admitted to communion.

Firstly Edwards explains that saints should be visibly manifest and that piety of heart is the vastly most important and essential part of that religion.

Edwards also answers objections from those with an opposing view, including that a 'gracious character' is the thing that ought to be aimed at in admitting persons into the communion of the church.

He finishes the section with nine observations of how saints are described in the Scriptures that fits with his understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

What grabbed me
I liked this declaration of what is essential to Christianity: 'In order to a man's being properly a professing Christian, he must profess the religion of Jesus Christ: and he surely does not profess the religion that was taught my Jesus Christ, if he leaves out of his profession the most essential things that belong to that religion. That which is most essential in that religion itself, the profession of that is essential in a profession of that religion; for (as I have observed elsewhere) that which is most essential in a thing, in order to its being truly denominated that thing, the same is essentially necessary to be expressed or signified in any exhibition or declaration of that thing, in order to its being truly denominated a declaration or exhibition of that thing. If we take a more inconsiderable part of Christ's religion, and leave out the main and most essential, surely what we have cannot be properly called the religion of Jesus Christ: so if we profess only a less important part, and are silent about the most important and essential part, it cannot be properly said that we profess the religion of Jesus Christ. And therefore we cannot in any propriety be said to profess Christ's religion, unless we profess those things wherein consist piety of heart, which is vastly the most important and essential part of that religion, and is in effect all; being that without which all the rest that belongs to it, is nothing, and wholly in vain. But they who are admitted to the Lord's supper, proceeding on the principles of those who hold it to be a converting ordinance, do in no respect profess christian piety, neither in whole nor in part, neither explicitly nor implicitly, directly nor indirectly; and therefore are not professing Christians, or saints by profession. I mean, though they may be godly persons, yet as they come to the ordinance without professing godliness, they cannot properly be called professing saints.'

A godly life goes hand in hand with a godly profession.

'Next week's reading
Read Section II and III of Part II.


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


July 19, 2018

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - LXXII - Direction Eleventh continued

Required reading
The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Available from Amazon or free here) - Continue Direction Eleventh by reading the Third Distinction of Branch First of Division Second of the Second General Part.

My summary
Today we continue the Second Division of the Second General Part of Direction Eleventh on prayer from: 'Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." (Eph. 6:18) 

As we've noted earlier, the Second General Part makes up an excellent directory to perform the duty of prayer while the Second Division is about the Kinds of Prayer.  And the First Branch looks at 'all prayer' as showing the diverse manner of prayer.

Thus far, we've covered the first two Distinctions of the manner of prayer: ejaculatory prayer and composed secret prayer.

Today we look at the Third Distinction: Social and joint prayer.

Firstly we are taught about the importance of prayer in the family, including four uses of this teaching:
(i) reproof to those Christians who needlesslly throw themselves upon such families where the worship of God is not set up;
(ii) counsel for those whom God hath planted in religious families;
(iii) a word to those heads of families that have not had a heart to set up the worship of God in them;
(iv) a word to those that have set up this duty in their families.

Secondly Gurnall instructs us about prayer in public in the church.  He does so by showing:
(i) that God requires a public worship of his people;
(ii) that prayer is a part of this public worship he commands;
(iii) why God requires a public worship, and in particular, public prayer;
(iv) answers to questions concerning public prayer;
(v) some applicatory improvement of this head.

What grabbed me
I enjoyed this exhortation to those who have grown up with family worship in the home: 'Bless God for casting thy lot in so pleasant a seat and fruitful a soil for thy soul, where thou mayest suck in the sweet air of God's Spirit that breathes from thy godly parents or other governors at the throne of grace from day to day; that thou art not wedged into some blind atheistical family, there to live with a godless crew, among whom thou mightest have passed thy days without any knowledge of thy Maker, and with them have been involved in that curse of God which is in the house of the wicked, and hangs like a black cloud in the threatening, ready to pour down upon the families that call not upon his name. Look round thy neighbourhood and see how many families there are who live like brutes, as in so many dark caves and dens, where none of that heavenly light is seen, from one end of the year to the other, which shines on thy face every day. What nurture and breeding should thy soul have had under the tutoring of such parents and masters, who themselves live 'without God in the world?' The queen of Sheba counted them happy that stood before Solomon, not so much that they might see his pomp, but hear his wisdom. O happy thou—if grace to know thy privilege—that thou ministerest unto a godly master, art under gracious parents, or yoked to a holy husband, from whose devout prayers, pious counsels, and Christian examples, thou mayest gain more than if they had the wealth, delicacies, and preferments of Solomon's court to confer upon thee.'

I'm thankful that I grew up in such a home and I hope that one day my children will offer a similar prayer of thanksgiving.

Next week's reading
Continue Direction Eleventh by reading the Fourth Distinction of Branch First of Division Second of the Second General Part.

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




July 13, 2018

Inquiry Concerning Qualifications for Communion in Vol I of the Works - Edwards - I - Prefaces, Part I

Required readingInquiry Concerning Qualifications for Communion in Vol I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read the Prefaces and Part I.

My summary.
Today we begin a new work that examines who is qualified for the Lord's table.

In the Author's Preface, Edwards outlines the background to his treatise, including his reluctance to publish it considering his ministerial predecessor and grandfather opposed his view.

The other two Prefaces are commendations from American and Scottish brethren.

Then in Part I Edwards gives the question to be answered by the work: 'Whether, according to the rules of Christ, any ought to be admitted to the communion and privileges of members of the visible church of Christ in complete standing, but such as are in profession, and in the eye of the church's Christian judgment, godly or gracious persons?'

The rest of Part I is concerned with defining terms used in the stated question.

What grabbed me
I liked how Edwards quote Stoddard's own words to prove his point that we should not hold to doctrine simply because of other men: 'It may possibly be a fault (says Mr. Stoddard) to depart from the ways of our fathers: but it may also be a virtue, and an eminent act of obedience, to depart from them in some things. Men are wont to make a great noise, that we are bringing in innovations, and depart from the old way: but it is beyond me, to find out wherein the iniquity does lie. We may see cause to alter some practices of our fathers, without despising them, without priding ourselves in out wisdom, without apostacy, without abusing the advantages God has given us, without a spirit of compliance with corrupt men, without inclination to superstition, without making disturbance in the church of God: and there is no reason, that it should be turned as a reproach upon us. Surely it is commendable for us to examine the practices of our fathers; we have no sufficient reason to take practices upon trust from them. Let them have as high a character as belongs to them; yet we may not look upon their principles as oracles. Nathan himself missed it in his conjecture about building the house of God. He that believes principles because they affirm them, makes idols of them. And it would be no humility, but baseness of spirit, for us to judge ourselves incapable to examine the principles that have been handed down to us. If we be by any means fit to open the mysteries of the gospel, we are capable to judge of these matters: and it would ill become us, so to indulge ourselves in case, as to neglect the examination of received principles. If the practices of our fathers in any particulars were mistaken, it is fit they should be rejected; if they be not, they will bear examination. If we be forbidden to examine their practice, that will cut off all hopes of reformation.'

Our predecessors are not oracles and shouldn't be treated as such.

'Next week's reading
Read Section I of Part II.


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

July 12, 2018

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - LXXI - Direction Eleventh continued

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

My summary
Today we continue the Second Division of the Second General Part of Direction Eleventh on prayer from: 'Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." (Eph. 6:18) 

As we've noted earlier, the Second General Part makes up an excellent directory to perform the duty of prayer while the Second Division is about the Kinds of Prayer.  And the First Branch looks at 'all prayer' as showing the diverse manner of prayer.

Last week we saw the First Distinction of the manner of prayer: ejaculatory prayer.  This week we focus on the Second Distinction: composed secret prayer.

Firstly Gurnall teaches us that secret pray is a duty incumbent upon us due to who God is and who we are.

Then he explains that secret prayer implies:
(i)  the condescending love of God, in stooping to hold any communion with his poor creatures, while they are clad with rags of mortality, and those besmeared also with many sinful pollutions;
(ii) that this blots their names from among the number of saints that were never acquainted with this duty;
(iii) we should be exhorted to hold up our secret acquaintance with God.

What grabbed me
I liked this illustration: 'The true lover delights to visit his friend when he may find him alone, and enjoy privacy with him; and I have read of a devout person who, when the set time for his private devotions were come, would, whatever company he was in, break from them with this handsome speech, 'I have a friend that stays for me, farewell!' It is worth parting with our best friends on earth, to enjoy communion with the God of heaven. One called his friends thieves, because they stole time from him. None worse thieves than they who rob us of our praying seasons.'

Conversation with the invisible one takes precedence over conversation with the visible ones.

Next week's reading
Continue Direction Eleventh by reading the Third Distinction of Branch First of Division Second of the Second General Part.

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



July 6, 2018

Thoughts on Revival in Vol I of the Works - Edwards - XI - Part V concluded

Required reading
Thoughts on Revival in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Conclude Part V by reading Section III.

My summary.
Today we conclude the work with exhortations to everyone on how to promote the work.

Firstly Edwards encourages everyone to engage in prayer and fasting.  He gives advice on:
(i) private prayer;
(ii) congregational prayer;
(iii) united prayer on particular days;
(iv) ministerial meetings for prayer;
(v) fasting in secret.

Then Edwards briefly mentions the importance of celebrating the Lord's Supper frequently.

Next Edwards speaks at length of the importance of moral duties, including deeds of charity and alms giving.  He gives relevant examples from Scripture and church history (e.g. Whitefield).

Finally, Edwards suggests the regular publication of a history of the progress of God's grace for mutual encouragement.

What grabbed me
I liked the encouragement for everyone to pray: 'There is no way that Christians in a private capacity can do so much to promote the work of God, and advance the kingdom of Christ, as by prayer. By this, even women, children, and servants may have a public influence. Let persons in other respects be never so weak, and never so mean, and under never so poor advantages to do much for Christ and the souls of men; yet, if they have much of the spirit of grace and supplication, in this way they may have power with him who is infinite in power, and has the government of the whole world. A poor man in his cottage may have a blessed influence all over the world. God is, if I may so say, at the command of the prayer of faith; and in this respect is, as it were, under the power of his people; as princes, they have power with God, and prevail. Though they may be private persons, their prayers are put up in the name of a Mediator who is a public person, being the Head of the whole church, and the Lord of the universe. If they have a great sense of the importance of eternal things, and a concern for the precious souls of men, they need not regret it that they are not preachers; they may go in their earnestness and agonies of soul, and pour out their souls before one who is able to do all things. Before him they may speak as freely as ministers; they have a great High Priest, through whom they may come boldly at all times, and may vent themselves before a prayer-hearing Father without restraint.'

Through prayer, any Christian can have a great influence!

Next week's reading
Commence the 'Inquiry concerning qualifications for communion' by reading the Prefaces and Part I.

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

July 5, 2018

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - LXX - Direction Eleventh continued

Required readingThe Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Available from Amazon or free here) - Continue Direction Eleventh by reading the First Distinction of Branch First of Division Second of the Second General Part.


My summary
Today we begin the Second Division of the Second General Part of Direction Eleventh on prayer from: 'Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." (Eph. 6:18) 

The Second General Part makes up an excellent directory to perform the duty of prayer.  This Second Division of this General Part is about the Kinds of Prayer.

The First Branch of the kinds of prayer looks at 'all prayer' as showing the diverse manner of prayer.

Today we concentrate on First Distinction of the manner of prayer: ejaculatory.

Gurnall provides us reasons why the Christian should use ejaculatory prayer. They:
(i) are a delight to God;
(ii) are excellent use;
(iii) keep the Christian's heart in a holy disposition;
(iv) alleviate any great affliction.

Then Gurnall gives:
(i) a reproof to those who do not use ejaculatory prayer;
(ii) an exhortation to excite saints to frequent use of this kind of prayer.

Gurnall finishes with some helps to ejaculatory prayer:
(i) keep thy heart with all diligence;
(ii) possess thy heart with strong apprehensions of God's overruling providence;
(iii) look thou compliest with the motions of the Holy Spirit.

What grabbed me
I enjoyed this illustration: 'Suppose a man was going about some important business, and had him in his company that alone {which} could help or hinder the despatch of it; were it not strange that he should travel all day with him and not apply himself to this person to make him his friend? This is thy very case, Christian. Thou and all thy affairs are at the absolute disposure of the great God, to bless or blast thee in every enterprise. If thou hast not his vote, thy business is stopped in the head. Now, this God is always in thy company, whether at home or abroad, in thy bed or at thy board. Surely thou didst believe this firmly, thou wouldst oft in a day turn thyself to him, and beg his good-will to favour thy undertaking and facilitate thy business for thee.'

Don't neglect talking to your powerful companion!

Next week's reading
Continue Direction Eleventh by reading the Second Distinction of Branch First of Division Second of the Second General Part.

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


June 29, 2018

Thoughts on Revival in Vol I of the Works - Edwards - X - Part V commenced

Required reading
Thoughts on Revival in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Commence Part V by reading Sections I and II.

My summary.
Now we begin a new section in which Edwards encourages positive promotion of the work of revival.

Firstly, Edwards exhorts both sides to confess their faults.  Those who have opposed revival should consider the seriousness of opposing a work of God.  And those who have been zealous for the work should consider if they have injured others or greatly violated good order.

Secondly Edwards suggests that everyone should see to it that he be a partaker of the benefits of the work himself and that it be promoted in his own soul.  Edwards gives specific directions for:
(i) Arminians;
(ii) those advanced in years;
(iii) ministers;
(iv) candidates for the ministry;
(v) colleges;
(vi) laymen, particularly rich laymen.

What grabbed me
I enjoyed the exhortation to ministers: 'But above all others does it concern us who are ministers, to see to it that we have experience of the saving operations of the same Spirit that is now poured out on the land. How sorrowful and melancholy is the case, when it is otherwise! For one to stand at the head of a congregation of God's people, as representing Christ and speaking in his stead; and to act the part of a shepherd and guide to a people in such a state of things, when many are under great awakenings, many are converted, and many of God's saints are filled with divine light, love, and joy; to undertake to instruct and lead them all under these various circumstances; to be put to it continually to play the hypocrite, and force the airs of a saint in preaching; and from time to time in private conversation, and particular dealing with souls, to undertake to judge of their circumstances; to try to talk with persons of experience, as if he knew how to converse with them, and had experience as well as they; to make others believe that he rejoices when others are converted; and to force a pleased and joyful countenance and manner of speech, when there is nothing in the heart; what sorrowful work is here! Oh how miserable must such a person feel! What a wretched bondage and slavery in this! What pains, and how much art, must such a minister user to conceal himself! And how weak are his hands! What infinite provocation of the most high God, and displeasure of his Lord and Master, he incurs, by continuing a secret enemy to him in his heart, in such circumstances! I think there is a great deal of reason from the Scripture to conclude, that no sort of men in the world will be so low in hell as ungodly ministers. Every thing spoken of in Scripture, as that which aggravates guilt, and heightens divine wrath, meets in them. And what great disadvantages are unconverted ministers under, to oppose any irregularities, imprudences, or intemperate zeal, which they may see in those who are the children of God, when they are conscious to themselves that they have no zeal at all! If enthusiasm and wildness comes in like a flood, what poor, weak instruments are such ministers to withstand it! With what courage can they open their mouths, when they look inward, and consider how it is with them!'

An unconverted minister should be terrified of hell!

Next week's reading
Conclude Part V by reading Section III.

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