Knowledge, Love, and Wisdom (Huss)

  John Huss (b. 1369) was one of the forerunners of the Reformation.  Well before Luther’s day Huss called out many of the abuses and errors in the church: hypocrisy, corruption, the sale of indulgences, and so forth.  Huss was a very powerful preacher and a bright student of the Word, but he wasn’t the leading scholar of his day.  I appreciate his view on knowledge and the Christian faith:

First of all must we learn that which is most necessary to salvation, that which stimulates us to love; for we should learn not for vainglory or curiosity, but to the edification of ourselves and our neighbor, and to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are some who wish to know in order that they may be known of men, and that is degrading vanity; there are others who wish to know for the sake of knowing, and that is curiosity; and there are still others who wish to know in order to sell their knowledge for wealth and honor, and that is ignoble desire for gain. But there are likewise some who desire to know in order to edify, and that is love; and still others who desire to know in order to be edified themselves, and that is wisdom.”

 Kuhns, O. (1907). John Huss: The Witness (pp. 41–42). Cincinnati; New York: Jennings and Graham; Eaton and Mains.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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The Object of Faith (Warfield)

B. B. Warfield Collection (20 vols.)B.B. Warfield has a great section on “faith” in the collection of his writings called “Biblical Doctrines.”  Here’s a helpful part of it where he talks about the object of true faith.   I appreciate the redemptive-historical way he talks about faith:

It is, accordingly, solely from its object that faith derives its value. This object is uniformly the God of grace, whether conceived of broadly as the source of all life, light, and blessing, on whom man in his creaturely weakness is entirely dependent, or, whenever sin and the eternal welfare of the soul are in view, as the Author of salvation in whom alone the hope of unworthy man can be placed.

This one object of saving faith never varies from the beginning to the end of the scriptural revelation; though, naturally, there is an immense difference between its earlier and later stages in fulness of knowledge as to the nature of the redemptive work by which the salvation intrusted to God shall be accomplished; and as naturally there occurs a very great variety of forms of statement in which trust in the God of salvation receives expression.

Already, however, at the gate of Eden, the God in whom the trust of our first parents is reposed is the God of the gracious promise of the retrieval of the injury inflicted by the serpent; and from that beginning of knowledge the progress is steady, until, what is implied in the primal promise having become express in the accomplished work of redemption, the trust of sinners is explicitly placed in the God who was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). Such a faith, again, could not fail to embrace with humble confidence all the gracious promises of the God of salvation, from which indeed it draws its life and strength; nor could it fail to lay hold with strong conviction on all those revealed truths concerning Him which constitute, indeed, in the varied circumstances in which it has been called upon to persist throughout the ages, the very grounds in view of which it has been able to rest upon Him with steadfast trust. These truths, in which the ‘Gospel’ or glad-tidings to God’s people has been from time to time embodied, run all the way from such simple facts as that it was the very God of their fathers that had appeared unto Moses for their deliverance (Ex. 4:5), to such stupendous facts, lying at the root of the very work of salvation itself, as that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God sent of God to save the world (Jn. 6:69, 8:24, 11:42, 13:19, 16:27, 30, 17:8, 21, 20:31, 1 Jn. 5:15), that God has raised Him from the dead (Rom. 10:9, 1 Thess. 4:14), and that as His children we shall live with Him (Rom. 6:8).

 Warfield, B. B. (2008). The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: Biblical Doctrines (Vol. 2, pp. 502–503). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Answerable Comfort of God (Sibbes)

The Works of Richard Sibbes, vol. 7 In Christ, we know our heavenly Father as the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3).  The Heidelberg Catechism puts it so well: our only comfort is that we are not our own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.  There is abundant comfort in Christian truth.  Richard Sibbes (d.1635) explained it nicely:

Know that the same love of God that brings thee to everlasting life will give thee daily bread. Therefore trust in God for provision, for protection, and for whatsoever thou dost want. For the first thing that a troubled soul doth look unto is for mercy, salvation, and comfort; and therefore in every troubled estate we have one thing or other still from God to comfort us.

I say, if we be in trouble, there is answerable comfort given us of God. Are we sick? He is our health. Are we weak? He is our strength. Are we dead? He is our life. So that it is not possible that we should be in any state, though never so miserable, but there is something in God to comfort us. Therefore is God called in Scripture a rock, a castle, a shield. A rock to build upon, a castle wherein we may be safe, a shield to defend us in all times of danger, shewing that if such helps sometimes succour us, how much more can God. I beseech you, consider God is our ‘exceeding great reward,’ Gen. 15:1.

God is bread to strengthen us, and a Spirit of all comfort; and indeed there is but a beam in the creature, the strength is in God. And if all these were taken away, yet God is able to do much more, and to raise up the soul. What! can a castle or a shield keep a man safe in the time of danger? How much more can God! I beseech you, consider how safe was Noah when the ark was afloat, Gen. 7:16. And why? Because God shut the door upon him and kept him there. Thus you see there is something in God for every malady, and something in the world for every trouble; then ‘trust in God.’ This is the way to quiet our souls.

For as heavy bodies do rest when they come to the centre of the earth, so the soul, for joy, and for care, for trust, doth find rest in God when it comes to him and makes him her stay. The needle rests when it comes to the North Pole, and the ark rested when it came to the mount Ararat, Gen. 8:4, so the soul rests safe when it comes to God, and till that time, it moves as the ark upon the waters. Therefore our blessed Savior saith in Matthew, ‘Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and you shall find rest for your souls,’ Mat. 11:28.

 Sibbes, R. (1864). The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes. (A. B. Grosart, Ed.) (Vol. 7, pp. 59–60). Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Humility and Distrusting the Heart (Hutchinson)

 I’m enjoying this book by Christopher Hutchinson called Rediscovering Humility.  It’s an engaging read that walks through the different dynamics of biblical humility in a gospel centered way.  I’ll write more about it later, but for now I wanted to share these helpful paragraphs:

I have often participated in religious or philosophical discussions with people who had made up their minds long before and without any real examination of the issues. They are sure they are right and cannot wait to tell anyone who will listen.  How often people say something like, ‘I think God is like this or that,’ without any consideration that they ought not to think anything about God unless He has first told them.  Wisdom reminds us, ‘A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion’ (Proverbs 18:2).  Fools would rather hear themselves talk than actually grow in knowledge and perhaps even change their minds.  In contrast, humility is ‘quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger’ (James 1:19)….

Americans have a strong tradition of rugged individualism that pushes against humility.  In ‘Self-Reliance,’ Ralph Waldo Emerson says, ‘to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men – that is genius.’  So what happens when my genius heart disagrees with yours?  That is exactly why Scripture warns against trusting one’s own heart, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9).  Humility teaches people to distrust their own hearts and judgment until wisdom has grown and been proved by an abundance of counselors.

What then are believers to do?  They are to distrust their own first instincts and listen to facts – the facts of the world around them, the facts of other people’s thoughts and opinions, and most of all, the facts found in God’s Word (cf. James 1:19, 22).  They are to heed the advice found in Proverbs, ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding…’ (3:5-7).

Christopher Hutchinson, Rediscovering Humility (Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2018), p. 50-51.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

(NOTE: I received a copy of this book to review and was not compelled to write a positive review.)

Inquiring after the Weeds (Owen)

The Works of John Owen (24 vols.) I appreciate this section in John Owen’s “Of The Mortification of Sin in Believers”:

There are two things that are suited to humble the souls of men, and they are, first, a due consideration of God, and then of themselves; of God, in his greatness, glory, holiness, power, majesty, and authority; of ourselves, in our mean, abject, and sinful condition. Now, of all things in our condition, there is nothing so suited unto this end and purpose as that which lies before us; namely, the vile remainders of enmity against God which are yet in our hearts and natures.

And it is no small evidence of a gracious soul when it is willing to search itself in this matter, and to be helped therein from a word of truth; when it is willing that the word should dive into the secret parts of the heart, and rip open whatever of evil and corruption lies therein. The prophet says of Ephraim, Hos. 10:11, “He loved to tread out the corn” he loved to work when he might eat, to have always the corn before him: but God, says he, would “cause him to plough;” a labor no less needful, though at present not so delightful. Most men love to hear of the doctrine of grace, of the pardon of sin, of free love, and suppose they find food therein; however, it is evident that they grow and thrive in the life and notion of them. But to be breaking up the fallow ground of their hearts, to be inquiring after the weeds and briers that grow in them, they delight not so much, though this be no less necessary than the other.

This path is not so beaten as that of grace, nor so trod in, though it be the only way to come to a true knowledge of grace itself. It may be some, who are wise and grown in other truths, may yet be so little skilled in searching their own hearts, that they may be slow in the perception and understanding of these things. But this sloth and neglect is to be shaken off, if we have any regard unto our own souls

 Owen, J. (n.d.). The works of John Owen. (W. H. Goold, Ed.) (Vol. 6, pp. 200–201). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Gospel Promises and Perseverance (Owen)

The Works of John Owen, Vol. 11: Continuing in the Faith One of John Owen’s many volumes is called “The Doctrine of the Saints’ Perseverance Explained and Confirmed.”  As you might guess, it’s a great exposition of the “P” In “TULIP.”  I haven’t read it all yet, but so far it’s been very helpful and edifying.  Below is one section I ran across this morning.  It’s about gospel promises which are one more assurance that God will preserve his people.  Note how Owen distinguishes between law (covenant of works) and gospel (covenant of grace):

Gospel promises, then, are: 1. The free and gracious dispensations, and, 2. discoveries of God’s good-will and love, to, 3. sinners, 4. through Christ, 5. in a covenant of grace; 6. wherein, upon his truth and faithfulness, he engageth himself to be their God, to give his Son unto them and for them, and his Holy Spirit to abide with them, with all things that are either required in them or are necessary for them to make them accepted before him, and to bring them to an enjoyment of him.

I call them gospel promises, not as though they were only contained in the books of the New Testament, or given only by Christ after his coming in the flesh, [for they were given from the beginning of the world, or first entrance of sin, and the Lord made plentiful provision of them and by them for his people under the old testament,] but only to distinguish them from the promises of the law, which hold out a word of truth and faithfulness, engaged for a reward of life to them that yield obedience thereunto (there being an indissolvable connection between entering into life and keeping the commandments), and so to manifest that they all belong to the gospel properly so-called, or the tidings of that peace for sinners which was wrought out and manifested by Jesus Christ (Gal 3:12, Luke 2:10, Eph. 2:15, Is. 52:7).

After these paragraphs Owen goes on to expound on his definition (the opening numbered sentence above) in some detail. If you have access to this, I’d recommend it.  It’ll give you confidence in the promises of God and joy in his preserving grace!

The above quote is found in: Owen, J. (n.d.). The works of John Owen. (W. H. Goold, Ed.) (Vol. 11, p. 227). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Repentance of a Sinning Saint (Warfield)

Faith and Life Here’s a great snippet of a great sermon by B. B. Warfield on Psalm 51:

Thus we perceive that in its conception of God, of sin, of salvation alike, this Psalm stands out as attaining the high-water mark of Old Testament revelation. It was by a hard pathway that David came to know God and himself so intimately. But he came thus to know both his own heart and the God of grace with a fullness and profundity of apprehension that it will be hard to parallel elsewhere. And it was no merely external knowledge that he acquired thus. It was the knowledge of experience. David knew sin because he had touched the unclean thing and sounded the depths of iniquity. He knew himself because he had gone his own way and had learned through what thickets and morasses that pathway led, and what was its end. And he knew God, because he had tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious.

Yes, David had tasted and seen God’s preciousness. David had experience of salvation. He knew what salvation was, and He knew its joy. But never had he known the joy of salvation as he knew it after he had lost it. And it is just here that the special poignancy of David’s repentance comes in: it was not the repentance of a sinner merely, it was the repentance of a sinning saint.

It is only the saint who knows what sin is; for only the saint knows it in contrast with salvation, experienced and understood. And it is only the sinning saint who knows what salvation is: for it is only the joy that is lost and then found again that is fully understood.

 Warfield, B. B. (1916). Faith and life (pp. 21–22). Bellingham, WA: Longmans, Green, & Co.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002