Paul or the Papists? (Latimer)

The Reformation and the Irrepressible Word of God: Interpretation, Theology, and Practice

Hugh Latimer was a 16th-century English preacher who came out of the Roman Catholic church to join the Reformation because of its biblical foundation and emphases. The following is a selection from a 1552 sermon by Hugh Latimer which contrasts the Roman Catholic view of salvation with the Reformation view.   You can read more about it in chapter three of The Reformation and the Irrepressible Word of God.

The papists, which are the very enemies of Christ, make him to be a Savior after their own fantasy, and not after the word of God; wherein he declares himself, and set out and opened his mind unto us. They follow, I say, not the Scripture, which is the very leader to God, but regard more their own inventions; and therefore they make him a Savior after this fashion. They consider how there shall be, after the general resurrection, a general judgment, where all mankind shall be gathered together to receive their judgment: then shall Christ, say the papists, sit as a judge, having power over heaven and earth: and all those that have done well in this world, and have steadfastly prayed upon their beads, and have gone a pilgrimage, etc., and so with their good works have deserved heaven and everlasting life,—those, say they, that have merited with their own good works, shall be received of Christ, and admitted to everlasting salvation.

As for the other, that have not merited everlasting life, [they] shall be cast into everlasting darkness: for Christ will not suffer wicked sinners to be taken into heaven, but rather receive those which deserve. And so it appeareth, that they esteem our Savior not to be a Redeemer, but only a judge; which shall give sentence over the wicked to go into everlasting fire, and the good he will call to everlasting felicity.

And this is the opinion of the papists, as concerning our Savior; which opinion is most detestable, abominable, and filthy in the sight of God. For it diminishes the passion of Christ; it taketh away the power and strength of the same passion; it defileth the honor and glory of Christ; it forsakes and denies Christ and all his benefits. For if we shall be judged after our own deservings, we shall be damned everlastingly.

Therefore, learn here, every good Christian, to abhor this most detestable and dangerous poison of the papists, which go about to thrust Christ out of his seat: learn here, I say, to leave all papistry, and to stick only to the word of God, which teaches thee that Christ is not only a judge, but a justifier; a giver of salvation, and a taker away of sin; for he purchased our salvation through his painful death, and we receive the same through believing in him; as St Paul teaches us, saying, Gratis estis justificati per fidem, “Freely ye are justified through faith.” In these words of St. Paul, all merits and estimation of works are excluded and clean taken away. For if it were for our works’ sake, then it were not freely: but St. Paul saith, “freely.”

Whether will you now believe St. Paul, or the papists? …

-Hugh Latimer (see p. 80-81 of The Irrepressible Word of God).

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

The Plan of Salvation (Hodge)

Hodge ST

I always appreciate Charles Hodge’s clear explanation of Christian doctrine and teaching.  I was recently reading volume two of his Systematic Theology – specifically his discussion of God’s sovereign plan of salvation.  After talking about other views, Hodge mentions the Augustinian view.  This is, of course, the view Hodge takes.  After he mentions this view he spends some time explaining it based on the sovereignty of God and the various Scriptures that talk about God’s great plan of salvation.  Here’s Hodge:

The Augustinian scheme includes the following points:
(1.) That the glory of God, or the manifestation of his perfections, is the highest and ultimate end of all things.
(2.) For that end God purposed the creation of the universe, and the whole plan of providence and redemption.
(3.) That He placed man in a state of probation, making Adam, their first parent, their head and representative.
(4.) That the fall of Adam brought all his posterity into a state of condemnation, sin, and misery, from which they are utterly unable to deliver themselves.
(5.) From the mass of fallen men God elected a number innumerable to eternal life, and left the rest of mankind to the just recompense of their sins.
(6.) That the ground of this election is not the foresight of anything in the one class to distinguish them favourably from the members of the other class, but the good pleasure of God.
(7.) That for the salvation of those thus chosen to eternal life, God gave his own Son, to become man, and to obey and suffer for his people, thus making a full satisfaction for sin and bringing in everlasting righteousness, rendering the ultimate salvation of the elect absolutely certain.
(8.) That while the Holy Spirit, in his common operations, is present with every man, so long as he lives, restraining evil and exciting good, his certainly efficacious and saving power is exercised only in behalf of the elect.
(9.) That all those whom God has thus chosen to life, and for whom Christ specially gave Himself in the covenant of redemption, shall certainly… be brought to the knowledge of the truth, to the exercise of faith, and to perseverance in holy living unto the end.

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, p. 333.

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

Why I Am A Christian: Freedom (Stott)

Why I Am a Christian  “If the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”  “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law” (John 8:36 & Gal. 5:1 NLT).  John Stott wrote well about this  freedom we have in Christ:

“The fifth reason why I am a Christian is that I have found Jesus Christ to be the key to freedom. …And freedom is a great Christian word.  Jesus Christ is portrayed in the New Testament as the world’s supreme liberator.  …Freedom is a good modern word for ‘salvation.’  To be saved by Jesus Christ is to be set free….”

I well remember, as a very new Christian, being shown this verse and being introduced to what are called ‘the three tenses of salvation’. They go like this:

Firstly, I have been saved (or freed) in the past from the penalty of sin by a crucified Saviour.
Secondly, I am being saved (or freed) in the present from the power of sin by a living Saviour.
Thirdly, I shall be saved (or freed) in the future from the presence of sin by a coming Savior.

It is a simple structure, which encapsulates what the Bible means by ‘salvation’; and it enables us, whenever the word occurs, to ask ourselves which tense of salvation is in mind: past, present or future. The fact that we have been saved frees us from guilt and from God’s judgment. The fact that we are being saved frees us from bondage to our own self-centeredness. And the fact that we shall be saved frees us from all fear about the future.

In the rest of this chapter (5) Stott explains the different biblical nuances of what “freedom in Christ” means.  It’s an edifying chapter – well worth reading!

 John Stott, Why I Am a Christian (Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2003), 87.

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

Sweet the Sound of Grace Divine (Cowper)

William Cowper Collection (6 vols.) William Cowper, a friend of John Newton and the author of many hymns (including “God Moves in A Mysterious Way”) suffered from bouts of depression and panic attacks from a young age.  Some historians say it ran in his family.  Things became so dark for him that he tried to take his own life several times.  When he was around 30 years old he was in a mental hospital because of an especially deep period of depression and despair.  Later in his life, Cowper said that during that time the devil would even attack him and accuse him in his dreams at night.

At some point during that stay in the mental hospital Cowper read Romans 3:25.  The verse softened his heart and made him remember gospel truths he had learned earlier in life.  He later wrote that during this time he was “overwhelmed with joy unspeakable.”  He eventually left the mental hospital and went on to live until he was around 70 years old.  He always did suffer bouts of depression, but the Lord graciously brought him through.

This, of course, is a very brief summary of Cowper’s life struggles and his faith.  But it’s enough to make one appreciate his excellent poem called “A Song of Mercy and Judgment.”  As you read it, note how he refers to his depression and also note the rhythmic repetition of grace:

Lord! I love the Habitation
Where the Savior’s Honor dwells,
At the Sound of thy Salvation
With Delight my Bosom swells.
Grace Divine how sweet the Sound,
Sweet the grace that I have found.

Me thro’ Waves of deep affliction
Dearest Savior! thou hast brought,
Fiery Deeps of sharp Conviction
Hard to bear and passing Thought.
Sweet the Sound of Grace Divine,
Sweet the grace which makes me thine

From the cheerful Beams of Morning
Sad I turn’d mine Eyes away:
And the Shades of Night returning
Fill’d my Soul with new Dismay.
Grace Divine how sweet the Sound,
Sweet the grace that I have found.

Food I loath’d nor ever tasted
But by Violence constrain’d,
Strength decay’d and Body wasted,
Spoke the Terrors I sustain’d.
Sweet the Sound of Grace Divine,
Sweet the grace which make me thine.

Bound and watch’d lest Life abhorring
I should my own Death procure,
For to me the Pit of Roaring
Seem’d more easy to endure.
Grace Divine how sweet the Sound,
Sweet the grace which I have found.

Fear of Thee with gloomy Sadness,
Overwhelm’d thy guilty Worm,
’Till reduced to moping Madness,
Reason sunk beneath the Storm.
Sweet the Sound of Grace Divine,
Sweet the grace which makes me thine.

Then what Soul distressing Noises
Seem’d to reach me from below,
Visionary Scenes and Voices,
Flames of Hell and Screams of Woe!
Grace Divine how sweet the Sound,
Sweet the grace which I have found.

But at length a Word of Healing
Sweeter than an Angel’s Note,
From the Savior’s Lips distilling
Chas’d Despair and chang’d my Lot.
Sweet the Sound of Grace Divine,
Sweet the grace which makes me thine.

’Twas a Word well-timed and suited
To the Need of such an Hour,
Sweet to One like me polluted,
Spoke in Love and seal’d with Pow’r.
Grace Divine how sweet the Sound,
Sweet the grace which I have found.

I, he said, have seen thee grieving,
Lov’d thee as I pass’d thee by,
Be not faithless but Believing,
Look, and Live, and never Die.
Sweet the Sound of Grace Divine,
Sweet the grace which makes me thine.

Take the Bloody Seal I give thee,
Deep impress’d upon thy Soul,
God, thy God, will now receive thee,
Faith hath sav’d thee, thou art Whole.
Grace Divine, how sweet the Sound,
Sweet the grace which I have found.

All at once my Chains were broken,
From my Feet my Fetters fell,
And that Word in Pity spoken,
Snatch’d me from the gates of Hell.
Grace Divine, how sweet the Sound,
Sweet the grace which I have found.

Since that Hour in Hope of Glory,
With thy Foll’wers I am found,
And relate the wondrous Story
To thy list’ning Saints around.
Sweet the Sound of Grace Divine,
Sweet the grace which makes me thine.

(The above information about Cowper is found in A Portrait of William Cowper by Louis B. Risk.)

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

Saved and Being Saved (Warfield)

 The Bible talks about salvation in many different places.  It also uses different tenses when it talks about the salvation of God’s people.  For example, we have been saved (Eph 2:5).  We are being saved (2 Cor. 2:15), and we will be saved (Mt. 24:13).  This language means that when God graciously rescues a person from sin, death, and hell, he doesn’t just bring the person immediately to glory.  Instead, there’s a path, or journey called the Christian life.  Here’s how B. B. Warfield put it:

What is chiefly of importance for us to bear in mind here, is that God’s plan is to save, whether the individual or the world, by process. No doubt the whole salvation of the individual sinner is already accomplished on the cross: but the sinner enters into the full enjoyment of this accomplished salvation only by stages and in the course of time. Redeemed by Christ, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, justified through faith, received into the very household of God as his sons, led by the Spirit into the flowering and fruiting activities of the new life, our salvation is still only in process and not yet complete.

We still are the prey of temptation; we still fall into sin; we still suffer sickness, sorrow, death itself. Our redeemed bodies can hope for nothing but to wear out in weakness and to break down in decay in the grave. Our redeemed souls only slowly enter into their heritage. Only when the last trump shall sound and we shall rise from our graves, and perfected souls and incorruptible bodies shall together enter into the glory prepared for God’s children, is our salvation complete.

 Benjamin B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation: Five Lectures (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1915), 129.

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

Assurance, Introspection, and Religious Feelings (Hodge)

 Assurance of faith is one of the great blessings of the Christian life.  To be sure, it comes and goes, waxes and wanes.  Sometimes the Christian is certain he or she is a beloved child of God.  Other times the Christian doubts whether it is so.  But assurance is something Christians should pray for, strive for, and be thankful when they have it.  Charles Hodge has a good word on the grounds, or basis, for assurance in volume three of his Systematic Theology:

Many sincere believers are too introspective. They look too exclusively within, so that their hope is graduated [grows] by the degree of evidence of regeneration which they find in their own experience. This, except in rare cases, can never lead to the assurance of hope. We may examine our hearts with all the microscopic care prescribed by President Edwards in his work on “The Religious Affections,” and never be satisfied that we have eliminated every ground of misgiving and doubt.

The grounds of assurance are not so much within, as without us. They are, according to Scripture,

(1.) The universal and unconditional promise of God that those who come to Him in Christ, He will in no wise cast out; that whosoever will, may take of the water of life without money and without price. We are bound to be assured that God is faithful and will certainly save those who believe.

(2.) The infinite, immutable, and gratuitous love of God. In the first ten verses of the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and in the eighth chapter of that epistle from the thirty-first verse to the end, the Apostle dwells on these characteristics of the love of God, as affording an immovable foundation of the believer’s hope.

(3.) The infinite merit of the satisfaction of Christ, and the prevalence of his continued intercession. Paul, in Romans 8:34, especially emphasizes these points.

(4.) The covenant of redemption in which it is promised that all given by the Father to the Son, shall come to Him, and that none of them shall be lost.

(5.) From the witness of the Spirit, Paul says, “We … rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto us. That is, the Holy Ghost assures us that we are the objects of that love which he goes on to describe as infinite, immutable, and gratuitous. (Rom. 5:3–5.) And again, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”

If, therefore, any true believer lacks the assurance of faith, the fault is in himself and not in the plan of salvation, or in the promises of God.

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 107.

(This is a re-blog from December 2016.)

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

The Father’s Grace (Bunyan)

Saved by Grace The phrase “saved by grace” is one that is rich with meaning and comfort.  John Bunyan noted well that saying “saved by the grace of God” means “saved by the grace of the triune God.”  He then took some time to explain the grace of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in salvation.  Here’s what he said about the grace of God the Father in salvation:

1. The Father by his grace hath bound up them that shall go to heaven in an eternal decree of election; and here, indeed, as was showed at first, is the beginning of our salvation (2 Tim 1:9). And election is reckoned not the Son’s act, but the Father’s—“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:3, 4). Now this election is counted an act of grace—“So then, at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom 11:5).

2. The Father’s grace ordaineth and giveth the Son to undertake for us our redemption. The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world—“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph 1:7; 2:7; 1 John 4:14; John 3:16; 6:32, 33; 12:49).

3. The Father’s grace giveth us to Christ to be justified by his righteousness, washed in his blood, and saved by his life. This Christ mentioneth, and tells us it is his Father’s will that they should be safe-coming at the last day, and that he had kept them all the days of his life, and they shall never perish (John 6:37–39; 17:2, 12).

4. The Father’s grace giveth the kingdom of heaven to those that he hath given to Jesus Christ—“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

5. The Father’s grace provideth and layeth up in Christ, for those that he hath chosen, a sufficiency of all spiritual blessings, to be communicated to them at their need, for their preservation in the faith, and faithful perseverance through this life; “not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim 1:9; Eph 1:3, 4).

6. The Father’s grace saveth us by the blessed and effectual call that he giveth us to the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:9; Gal 1:15).

7. The Father’s grace saveth us by multiplying pardons to us, for Christ’s sake, day by day—“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7).

8. The Father’s grace saves us by exercising patience and forbearance towards us all the time of our unregeneracy (Rom 3:24).

9. The Father’s grace saveth us by holding of us fast in his hand, and by keeping of us from all the power of the enemy—“My Father,” said Christ, “that gave them me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29).

John Bunyan, Saved by Grace, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006), 343–344.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015