The Pity and Presentness of God (Melanchthon)

 We might sometimes forget the many difficulties the Protestant Reformers faced in their efforts to reform the church according to the Word.  It’s not like everyone appreciated what they were doing and flocked to their churches.  Many reformers faced a lot of hardships, hostility, and hatred from all different kinds of people.  I’m sure many of you know the stories.

In light of the difficulties the reformers faced, Phillip Melanchthon (d. 1560) preached a comforting sermon on John 10:28 called “The Safety of the Virtuous.”  In the sermon, Melanchthon said that this verse often raised him “up out of the deepest sorrow” and drew him as it were, “out of hell.”  I recommend reading the whole sermon, but here’s one excellent section of it that I appreciated:

For to this end are we laden with such a crowd of dangers, that in events and occurrences which to human prudence are an inexplicable enigma, we may recognize the infinite goodness and presentness of God, in that He, for His Son’s sake, and through His Son, affords us aid. God will be owned in such deliverance just as in the deliverance of your first parents, who, after the fall, when they were forsaken by all the creatures, were upheld by the help of God alone. So was the family of Noah in the flood, so were the Israelites preserved when in the Red Sea they stood between the towering walls of waters. These glorious examples are held up before us, that we might know, in like manner, the Church, without the help of any created beings, is often preserved.

Many in all times have experienced such divine deliverance and support in their personal dangers, as David saith: “My father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord taketh me up”; and in another place David saith: “He hath delivered the wretched, who hath no helper.” But in order that we may become partakers of these so great blessings, faith and devotion must be kindled within us, as it stands written, “Verily, I say unto you!” So likewise must our faith be exercised, that before deliverance we should pray for help and wait for it, resting in God with a certain cheerfulness of soul; and that we should not cherish continual doubt and melancholy murmuring in our hearts, but constantly set before our eyes the admonition of God: “The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your heart and mind”; which is to say, be so comforted in God, in time of danger, that your hearts, having been strengthened by confidence in the pity and presentness of God, may patiently wait for help and deliverance, and quietly maintain that peaceful serenity which is the beginning of eternal life….

Phillip Melanchthon, “The Safety of the Virtuous” in The World’s Greatest Sermons (vol 1), p. 167.

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

The Grounds of Perseverance

Chapter 38 of A Puritan Theology is titled, “The Puritans on Perseverance of the Saints.”  In this chapter the authors list four grounds or foundations of the perseverance of the saints as taught by the Puritans.  To state it as a question: “What are the grounds of the perseverance of the saints?” (I’ve edited the following to keep it brief – though I do recommend the entire section.)

Ground One: The Father’s electing love.  The Puritans stressed that our perseverance in faith is based on God’s preservation of us in grace.  Watson said, ‘It is not your holding God, but his holding us, that preserves us.  When a boat is tied to a rock, it is secure; so, when we are fast tied to the Rock of Ages, we are impregnable.’

Ground Two: Christ’s merit and intercession.  The Puritans said our union with Christ cannot be dissolved.  Christ will not let his people be sundered from him, any more than a head will willingly be cut off from its body or a husband from his wife.  The Puritans taught that the merit or value of the sacrifice Christ made at the cross guarantees that for those whom he died will be eternally saved.  The Puritans also viewed the intercessory work of Christ as our high priest as integral to the believer’s perseverance in faith.

Ground Three: The indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Richard Sibbes said, “There are none that hold out but those that have the Spirit of God to be their teacher and persuader.”  The ground of perseverance is closely connected with the Word of God which abides in us, for the Word of God and the Spirit of God are always closely connected.  Owen wrote, “…The Father gives the elect in to the hands of Christ to be redeemed; having redeemed them, in due time they are called by the Spirit, and marked for God, and so give up themselves to the hands of the Father.”

Ground Four: The Covenant of Grace.  The agreement of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit from all eternity is intimately connected with God’s covenant mercies to us because in the covenant God revealed the order of the cooperative work of the Trinity through the incarnate Mediator.  The covenant promises that God will be faithful to his people, and he will ensure their faithfulness to him.  True believers may be assured that they will have heaven because they already have the Lord as their covenant God, and that is the essence of heaven on earth.

Standing upon these four grounds, the Puritans said, the Christian’s hope is solid, substantial, and certain.

Joel Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 607ff.

rev shane lems
hammond, wi

Triune Preservation: Canons of Dort V.8

The Canons of Dort are a great treasure field well worth mining.  Let me explain.  While studying John 17 (Jesus’ High-priestly prayer), I noticed how clear it is that Jesus saves, keeps, and guards his people, and prays to the Father for this as well. Earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus spoke about the Spirit who would come when he (Jesus) completed his Exodus. Of course, we see the coming of the Spirit of Christ fulfilled at Pentecost. Taking these teachings of Christ together, we can see how the Triune God keeps his people.

The Canons of Dort wonderfully reflect this truth of Triune Preservation. “Preservation is not a consequence of our own merits or strength, but of God’s free mercy, that we neither totally fall from faith and grace nor do we continue and perish finally in our times of backsliding – which, if it were on our shoulders, would most certainly happen! However, since it is not ‘on our shoulders,’ but God’s, it is completely impossible that we should fall away. Why? Because his counsel cannot be changed, his promise cannot fail, his ‘call according to purpose’ cannot be revoked. Neither can the merit, intercession (John 17!!), and protection of Jesus be rendered ineffectual. Neither can the sealing of the Holy Spirit be frustrated or extinguished” (My re-wording of CoD, V.8).

Amen and Amen. Talk about deep comfort for the soul!

shane lems

sunnyside wa