April 28, 2017

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

Required reading
Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards 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 reading
Read 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
Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards 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 readingRead 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
Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards 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 readingRead 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.




March 30, 2017

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

Required reading
The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Available from Amazon or free here) - Commence the Second Use of Division First of Second General Part of Direction Fifth by reading up to 'Directions to those who, upon trial, are found insincere and false-hearted'.

My summary
Today Gurnall exhorts everyone to see whether they are sincere or not.

Firstly, Gurnall raises some arguments for such a self examination:
(i) all depends on it;
(ii) hypocrisy lies close to the heart;
(iii) it is feasible.

Secondly, Gurnall gives four false grounds of a hypocrite's profession.  False ground may be seen when a hypocrite says I am not a hypocrite because:
(i) I cannot endure it in another;
(ii) I am bold and fearless in dangers;
(iii) I perform secret duties;
(iv) I fight against sin.

Thirdly, Gurnall shows the false grounds of the weak Christian's fears of being a hypocrite.  False ground may be seen when a Christian says I am a hypocrite:
(i) or else I should not be as I am;
(ii) because of such decays and declensions found in me;
(iii) because i have such a divided heart in the duties I perform;
(iv) because I have sometimes inward checks from my own conscience that this duty I did hypocritically.

Fourthly, Gurnall observes four characters of a true heart - it is:
(i) a new heart;
(ii) a plain heart;
(iii) a uniform heart;
(iv) a progressive heart.

What grabbed me
A great reading for self-examination!

I liked the encouragement to look for a progressive heart if we have a true heart: 'The sincere Christian is progressive—never at his journey's end till he gets to heaven. This keeps him always in motion, advancing in his desires and endeavours forward; he is thankful for little grace, but not content with great measures of grace. 'When I awake,' saith David, 'I shall be satisfied with thy likeness,' Ps. 17:15. He had many a sweet entertainment at the house of God in his ordinances. The Spirit of God was the messenger that brought him many a covered dish from God's table—inward consolations, which the world knew not of. Yet David has not enough. It is heaven alone that can give him his full draught.'

May our hearts never have enough of the LORD!

Next week's reading
Conclude the Second Use of Division First 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 24, 2017

Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards in Vol I of the Works - XXVIII - Appendix IV, V, VI

Required reading
Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here)Read Appendix IV, V, VI.

My summary.
Today we finish the Memoirs with the final Appendices.

The editor gives a good summary of Appendix IV: 'There are four distinct series of these manuscript Notes or Remarks, which from the handwriting, as well as from other evidence, were obviously commenced by him during his collegiate life, and as nearly as can be judged in the following order. The first, entitled "The Mind," is a brief collection of discussions and remarks in mental philosophy. The second is without a title, and consists of "Notes on Natural Science." The third is entitled "Notes on the Scriptures." The fourth is entitled, "Miscellanies." and consists chiefly of observations on the doctrines of the Scriptures.'

Appendix V is a a list of significant family dates from Edwards' Bible and relatives.

Appendix VI is a list of his published works.

What grabbed me
I enjoyed the point about the need for preachers to be passionate:
'6. Why it is proper for Orators and Preachers to move the Passions—needful to show earnestness, &c. how this tends to convince the judgment, and many other ways is good and absolutely necessary.'

If we are to hit the heart, we must show our own hearts have been hit.

Next week's reading
Read Chapter 1 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.



March 23, 2017

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

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

My summary
Now we read Gurnall's first use for the truth of heart as a girdle for the will that covers the Christian's uncomeliness.

Gurnall observes the odious nature of hypocrisy and its hatefulness to God.

Then he gives some aggravations of hypocrisy and outlines things the hypocrite trades in and lays claim to.


What grabbed me
I appreciated the reminder of the relationship of hypocrisy to other sins: 'Hypocrisy cannot so properly be said to be one single sin, as the sinfulness of other sins. It is among sins, as sincerity among graces. Now that is not one grace but an ornament, that beautifies and graces all other graces. The preciousness of faith is, that it is 'unfeigned,' and of love to be 'without dissimulation.' Thus the odiousness of sins is, when they are committed in hypocrisy.'

Hypocrisy compounds the seriousness of other sin.

Next week's readingCommence the Second Use of Division First of Second General Part of Direction Fifth by reading up to 'Directions to those who, upon trial, are found insincere and false-hearted'.

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









March 17, 2017

Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards in Vol I of the Works - XXVII - Appendix I, II, III

Required reading
Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here)Read Appendix I, II and III.

My summary.
This week we read three appendices that give more information about Jonathan Edwards' ancestors.

Appendix I speaks about:
(i) Richard Edwards (great-great-grandfather);
(ii) William Edwards (great-grandfather);
(iii) Richard Edwards (grandfather);
(iv) Anthony Stoddard (maternal great-grandfather);
(v) Solomon Stoddard (maternal grandfather);
(vi) Timothy Edwards (father - most of the appendix is concerned with narrating his life).

Appendix II is devoted to giving an account of the ministry of Richard Edwards (Jonathan's grandfather).

Appendix III gives a statement of the children (Jonathan's sisters) of Timothy and Esther Edwards.

What grabbed me
I enjoyed reading the account of Richard Edwards in Appendix II.

I liked his way of dealing with heavy problems: 'In all affairs of weight and difficulty, he appeared, in an unusual degree, to commit himself to God, to wait on him for direction and for help, to leave the event in his hands, and then to be at peace. He has sometimes told me, says his son, that when his mind has been much agitated in consequence of some great trouble and perplexity, in which he could see no means of help or relief, so that he could get no rest for a great part of a night, it has been his customary course, to cast it entirely on God, and leave it in his hands; and then, said he, I can at once go to sleep.'

Commit your worries to the Lord and you will sleep far better.

Next week's reading
Read Appendix IV.

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


March 16, 2017

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

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

My summary
Today we continue to learn about the words: 'Having your loins girt about with truth.'

After seeing its first meaning last week, Gurnall says that it also means we are to have truth of heart - in other words, sincerity of heart.

Firstly, he explains that having the belt of truth means that we have sincerity of heart in all our ways which covers all the Christian's uncomeliness.

Gurnall then answers four inquiries that are made about this sincerity of heart in its covering uncomeliness:
(i) What is that sincerity?;
(ii) What uncomeliness doth sincerity cover?;
(iii) How doth sincerity cover the saint's sinful uncomelinesses?;
(iv) Whence is it that sincerity thus covers the saint's uncomelinesses?.

What grabbed me
I liked Gurnall's summary statement about the importance of the belt of truth: 'The girdle is used as an ornament put on uppermost, to cover the joints of the armour, which would, if seen, cause some uncomeliness. Here—at the loins I mean—those pieces of armour for the defence of the lower parts of the body are fastened to the upper. Now because they cannot be so closely knit and clasped, but there will be some little gaping betwixt piece and piece, therefore they used to put over those parts a broad girdle, that covered all that uncomeliness. Now, sincerity doth the same for the Christian, that the girdle doth for the soldier. The saint's graces are not so close, nor his life so exact, but in the best there are found infirmities and defects, which are as so many gapings and clefts in his armour, but sincerity covers all, that he is neither put to shame for them, nor exposed to danger by them.'

We need truth/sincerity to stop everything falling apart!

Next week's reading
Read the First Use of Division First 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 10, 2017

Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards in Vol I of the Works - XXVI - A farewell sermon

Required reading
Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here)Read A Farewell Sermon.

My summary.
This week we read Edwards' farewell sermon which he preached at the end of his ministry at Northampton.

In the preface Edwards seeks to correct some gross misrepresentations about the circumstances leading to his farewell sermon.

The sermon itself is on 'As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.' (2 Corinthians 1:14)

Edwards' doctrine is that ministers, and the people that have been under their care, must meet one another before Christ's tribunal at the day of judgement.  He seeks to show:
(i) what manner ministers shall meet one another at the day of judgement;
(ii) for what purposes;
(iii) for what reasons God has so ordered it.

In his application, Edwards speaks to:
(i) professors of godliness;
(ii) the Christless;
(iii) those under awakenings;
(iv) young people;
(v) children.

What grabbed me
A very interesting sermon given the circumstances.

I particularly liked the message Edwards had for the Christless: 'You and I are now parting one from another as to this world. Let us labour that we may not be parted after our meeting at the last day. If I have been your faithful pastor (which will that day appear whether I have or no), then I shall be acquitted, and shall ascend with Christ. O do your part that in such a case, you may not be forced eternally to part from me, and all that have been faithful in Christ Jesus. This is a sorrowful parting, but that would be a more sorrowful.—This you may perhaps bear without being much affected with it, if you are not glad of it, but such a parting in that day will most deeply, sensibly, and dreadfully affect you.'

There is a far greater parting between believers and unbelievers yet to come.

Next week's reading
Read Appendix I, II and III.

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

March 9, 2017

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - XXI - Direction Fifth commenced

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

My summary
Today we begin to unpack the words: 'Having your loins girt about with truth.'

Firstly, Gurnall advises us to have truth of doctrine for the mind.

This is necessary because Satan:

(i) comes as a serpent in the persons of false teachers, and by them labours to put a cheat on us, and cozen us with error for truth;
(ii) comes as a lion in the persons of bloody persecutors, and labours to scare Christians from the truth with fire and faggot.

What grabbed me
I appreciated the comparison between the wrath of man and the wrath of God: 'Man's wrath, alas, when hottest, is but a temperate climate to the wrath of the living God. They who have felt both have testified as much. Man's wrath cannot hinder the access of God's love to the creature, which hath made the saints sing in the fire in spite of their enemies' teeth. But the creature under God's wrath, is like one shut up in a close oven—no crevice open to let any of the heat out, or any refreshing in to him.'

I know which wrath I fear more!

Next week's readingRead all Four Inquiries of Division First 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 5, 2017

Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards in Vol I of the Works - XXV - Chapter 25

Required reading
Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read Chapter 25.

My summary.
Today's chapter is basically an assessment from the editor about Edwards' character.

From his devotion to the Lord, to his devotion to his children, Edwards is praised as an exemplary man.

The last part of the chapter is concerned with outlining Edwards' contributions to advances in theology.

What grabbed me
I was struck by the comments about Edwards' watch on his tongue: 'He was thought by some to be distant and unsociable in his manners; but this was owing to the want of a better acquaintance. He was not, indeed, a man of many words, and was somewhat reserved in the company of strangers, and of those, on whose candour and friendship he did not know that he could rely. And this was probably owing to two causes. First, the strict guard he set over his tongue, from his youth. From experience and observation he early discovered, that the sins of the tongue make up a very formidable proportion of all the sins committed by men, and lead to a very large proportion of their remaining sins. He therefore resolved to take the utmost care, never to sin with his tongue; to avoid not only uttering reproaches himself, but receiving them, and listening to them from others; to say nothing for the sake of giving pain, or wounding the feelings or reputation of others; to say nothing evil concerning them, except when an obvious duty required him to do it, and then to speak, as if nobody had been as vile as himself, and as if he had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings, as others; never to employ himself in idle, trivial, and impertinent talk, which generally makes up a great part of the conversation of those, who are full of words, in all companies; and to make sure of that mark of a perfect man, given by James, 'if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able, also, to bridle the whole body.' He was sensible, that 'in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin,' and therefore refrained his lips, and habituated himself to think before he spoke, and to propose some good end in all his words; which led him, conformably to an apostolic precept, to be, above many others, slow to speak.'

Setting a guard over your mouth is always a good way to avoid sin!

Next week's reading
Read A Farewell Sermon.


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

March 2, 2017

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - XX - Direction Fourth

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

My summary
This week we study the fourth direction from the text: 'Stand therefore'.

Gurnall outlines three duties that are imported in the command:

(i) Satan in his temptations is stoutly to be resisted, not in anywise to be yielded unto;
(ii) it should be the care of every Christian to stand orderly in the particular place wherein God hath set him;
(iii) the Christian must stand and watch, as opposed to sleep and sloth.

What grabbed me
I liked the reminder that it is safer to resist than flee: 'The Christian's safety lies in resisting. All the armour here provided is to defend the Christian fighting, none to secure him flying. Stand, and the day is ours. Fly, or yield, and all is lost. Great captains, to make their soldiers more resolute, do sometimes cut off all hope of a safe retreat to them that run away. Thus the Norman conqueror, as soon as his men were set on English shore, sent away his ships in their sight, that they might resolve to fight or die. God takes away all thought of safety to the coward; not a piece to be found for the back in all God's armoury. Stand, and the bullets light all on your armour; flee, and they enter into your hearts. It is a terrible place, Heb. 10:38, 'The just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.' He that stands to it believingly comes off with his life; but he that recoils, and runs from his colours, as the Greek word imports, God will have no pleasure in him, except it be in the just execution of his wrath on him. And doth he not make a sad change, that from fighting against Satan, engageth God as an enemy against him? There is comfort in striving against sin and Satan, though to blood, but none to lie sweating under the fiery indignation of a revenging God. What Satan lays on, God can take off; but who can ease, if God lays on? What man would not rather die in the field fighting for his prince, than on a scaffold by the axe, for cowardice or treachery?'

Never turn your back on Satan!

Next week's readingRead First General Part of Direction Fifth

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






February 3, 2017

Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards in Vol I of the Works - XXIV - Chapter 24

Required reading
Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read Chapter 24.

My summary.
Today's chapter is filled with death.  

We hear about the passing away of:
(i) Aaron Burr (Edwards' son in law and president of Princeton);
(ii) Edwards' father;
(iii) Jonathan Edwards' death (after his acceptance of the presidency at Princeton, he received a small pox inoculation which was unsuccessful);
(iv) Esther Edwards (Mrs Burr);
(v) Sarah Edwards (she died of dysentery, after her trip to look after the Burr orphans).

What grabbed me
Grim reading today, but it was encouraging to see many good Christian responses to death.

I was particularly impressed with Sarah Edwards' letter to her daughter, Mrs Burr, about the death of Jonathan Edwards:

'My very dear child, What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. O that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore his goodness, that we had him so long. But my God lives: and he has my heart. O what a legacy my husband, and your father, has left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be.'

Thankfully, our Heavenly Father never dies.

Next week's reading
Read Chapter 25.


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

February 2, 2017

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - XIX - Direction Third concluded

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

My summary
Gurnall examines the second argument Paul gives for putting on the armour of God: 'And having done all, to stand.'

Gurnall says that we see here


(i) the necessity of perseverance — having done all;

(ii) the necessity of divine armour to persevere till we have done all;
(iii) the certainty of persevering and overcoming at last, if clad with this armour;
(iv) the blessed result of the saints' perseverance, propounded as that which will abundantly recompense all their pain and patience in the war—having done all, to stand.


What grabbed me
I loved this illustration about the need to act: 'A great captain once smote one of his soldiers for railing at his enemy, saying, that he called him not to rail on him, but to fight against him and kill him. It is not crying out upon the devil, and declaiming against sin in prayer or discourse, but fighting and mortifying it, that God looks chiefly upon. Such a one else doth but beat the air. There are no marks to be seen on his flesh and unmortified lusts that he hath fought. Paul was in earnest. He left a witness upon his body, made black and blue with strokes of mortification.'

Christians are doers, not simply talkers.

Next week's reading
Read 
Direction Fourth.

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





January 27, 2017

Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards in Vol I of the Works - XXIII - Chapter 23

Required reading
Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read Chapter 23.

My summary.
This week we hear about:
(i) Edwards' severe attack of ague and fever;
(ii) Edwards' dissertations on the End for which God created the World and the Nature of True Virtue;
(iii) the war of 1754 with France and its consequences at Stockbridge;
(iv) Mr Hawley and Mr Brainerd's work with the Indians;
(v) Edwards's Treatise on Original sin;
(vi) further opinion from Edwards regarding morality and liberty of the will.

What grabbed me
I appreciated Edwards' comments about the inability of man to repent: 'Fears of hell tend to convince men of the hardness of their hearts. But then, when they find how hard their hearts are, and how far from a proper sensibility and affection in things of religion; they are kept from properly condemning themselves for it, from the moral necessity, or inability, which attends it. For the very notion of hardness of heart implies moral inability. The harder the heart is, the more dead is it in sin, and the more unable to exert good affections and acts. Thus the strength of sin is made the excuse for sin. And thus I have known many under fears of hell, justifying, or excusing, themselves, at least implicitly, in horrid workings of enmity against God, in blasphemous thoughts, &c.'

Fear of hell does not bring about change in a man's life.  A new heart is required!

Next week's reading
Read Chapter 24.


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

January 26, 2017

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - XVIII - Direction Third continued

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

My summary
Gurnall examines the first argument Paul gives for putting on the armour of God: 'It behoves every one to arm and prepare himself for the evil day of affliction and death, which unavoidably he must conflict with.'

This point has three branches:

(i) the day of affliction and death is an evil day;
(ii) this evil day is unavoidable;
(iii) it behoves every one to provide for this evil day.

In his application of the doctrine, Gurnall particularly exhorts four groups of people:
(i) those that are so far from providing for the evil day that they will not suffer any thoughts of that day to stay with them;
(ii) those who if they think of the evil day yet do so only as so far off that it is to little purpose;
(iii) those who think often of this evil day yet continue in their old trade of sin;
(iv) those who rest in an unarmed condition.

What grabbed me
I was helped by the encouragement to die to this world: 'Labour to die to this life, and the enjoyments of it, every day more and more. Death is not so strong to him whose natural strength has been wasted by long pining sickness, as it is to him that lies but a few days, and has strength of nature to make great resistance. Truly thus it is here. That Christian whose love to this life and the contents of it, hath been for many years consuming and dying, will with more facility part with them than he whose love is stronger to them. All Christians are not mortified in the same degree to the world. Paul tells us he died daily. He was ever sending more and more of his heart out of the world, so that by that time he came to die, all his affections were packed up and gone, which made him the more ready to follow:19 'I am ready to be offered up,' II Tim. 4:6. If it be but a tooth to pull out, the faster it stands the more pain we have to draw it. O loosen the roots of thy affections from the world, and the tree will fall more easily.'

It's hard to leave what you love.

Next week's reading
Read Second Argument of Second 
General Part of Direction Third.

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




January 20, 2017

Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards in Vol I of the Works - XXII - Chapter 22

Required reading
Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards in Volume I of the Works by Jonathan Edwards (Available from Amazon or free here) - Read Chapter 22.

My summary.

This week the troubles with the Indian school in Stockbridge come to a close as all attempts to remove Edwards are thwarted and the primary individual leaves.

The reading today is also concerned with:
(i) discussion of other missionary efforts to the Indians;
(ii) the illness of Edwards' elders sons;
(iii) the completion of the 'Treatise on the Freedom of the Will';
(iv) Mr Gillespie's dismissal by the General Assembly of the church of Scotland.

What grabbed me
I was encouraged by Edwards' words of consolation to Gillespie: 'You have some peculiar reasons to rejoice in your sufferings, and to glorify God on account of them. They having been so greatly taken notice of by so many of the people of God, and there being so much written concerning them, tends to render them, with their circumstances, and particularly the patience and meekness with which you have suffered, so much the more extensively and durably to the glory of the name of your blessed lord, for whom you suffer. God is rewarding—you for laying a foundation, in what has been said and done and written concerning your sufferings, for glory to his own name, and honour to you, in his church, in future generations. Your name will doubtless be mentioned hereafter with peculiar respect, on the account of these sufferings, in ecclesiastical history; as they are now the occasion of a peculiar notice, which saints and angels in heaven take of you, and of their praises to God on your account; and will be the occasion of a peculiar reward, which God will bestow upon you, when you shall be united to their assembly.'

In times of suffering, it always helps to keep your eyes on your Father in heaven.

Next week's reading
Read Chapter 23.


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

January 19, 2017

The Christian in Complete Armour - Gurnall - XVII - Direction Third commenced

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

My summary
Today Gurnall begins to expound the words: 'Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.' (Eph 6:13)

He starts with 'Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God', and observes:
(i) why the apostle renews so soon the same exhortation (and what truths ministers ought often to preach);
(ii) that the best of saints are subject to decline in their graces and why we are to seek a recovery of them.

What grabbed me
I appreciated the encouragement to see a sense of corruption as a sign of grace: 'Christian, do not judge grace to be fallen weaker, because thy sense of corruption is grown stronger. This oft lies at the bottom of poor souls' complaints in this case. O they never felt pride, hypocrisy, and other corruptions, so haunt them as now. None knows how they are vexed with these and the like, besides themselves. Now let me ask thee who makest this sad moan, whether thou dost not think these corruptions were in thee before thou didst thus feel them? how oft hast thou prayed as formally, and not been troubled? how oft hast thou stood chatting with the same lusts, and thy soul hath not been laid low before the Lord with such abasement of thyself as now? Deal faithfully between God and thy soul, and tell not a lie for God by bearing false witness against thyself. If it be thus, thou hast rather a comfortable sign of grace growing than decaying. Sin cannot be on the getting hand, if the sense of sin grow quick; this is the concomitant of a thriving soul. None [are] so full of complaints of their own hearts as such; the least sin goes now to their very souls, which makes them think viler of themselves than ever. But it is not the increase of sin in them, but the advance of their love to Christ, makes them judge so. When the sun shines with some power, and the year gets up, we observe, though we may have frosts and snow, yet they do not lie long, but are soon dissolved by the sun. O it is a sweet sign that the love of Christ shines with [such] a force upon thy soul, that no corruptions can lie long in thy bosom, but they melt into sorrow and bitter complaints. That is the decaying soul, where sin lies bound up and frozen, [where] little sense of or sorrow for it appears.'

It is far better to have a sense of sin than no sense of sin!

Next week's reading
Read First Argument of Second 
General Part of Direction Third.

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