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My RTS Jackson colleague Dr. Guy Waters responds to the question, “Is Paedocommunion Biblical?”
“It is a sad and dangerous thing to have two eyes to behold our dignity and privileges, and not one to see our duties and services. I should look with one eye upon the choice and excellent things that Chris hath done for me, to raise up my heart to love Christ with the purest love, and to joy in Christ with the strongest joy, and to lift up Christ above all, who hath made himself to be my all; and I should look with the other eye upon those services and duties that the Scriptures require of those for whom Christ hath done such blessed things, as upon that of the apostle: ‘What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God? and ye are not your own: for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
– Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 1652 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2011), 122.
“If we would have a peaceful conscience in our religion, let us see that our views of saving faith are distinct and clear. Let us beware of supposing that justifying faith is anything more than a sinner’s simple trust in a Saviour, the grasp of a drowning man on the hand held out for his relief. – Let us beware of mingling anything else with faith in the matter of justification. Here we must always remember that faith stands entirely alone. A justified man no doubt will always be a holy man. True believing will always be accompanied by godly living. But what gives a man an interest in Christ, is not his living, but his faith. If we would know whether our faith is genuine, we do well to ask ourselves how we are living. But if we would know whether we are justified by Christ, there is but one question to be asked. That question is, ‘Do we believe?'”
– J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol 1. 1869. (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2012), 103.
“Can we ever give too much honour to Christ? Can we ever think too highly of him? . . . Men may easily fall into error about the three persons in the holy Trinity, if they do not carefully adhere to the teaching of Scripture. But no man ever errs on the side of giving too much honour to God the Son. Christ is the meeting-point between the Trinity and the sinner’s soul. ‘He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him’ (John 5:23).”
– J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol 1. 1869. (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2012), 27.
But if you identified all of your burdens and ranked them, which would be the greatest? John Owen helps us prioritize. He concludes, “I do not understand how a man can be a sincere believer unto whom sin is not the greatest burden and sorrow.” (1)
The gravity of sin is revealed in the costliness of our redemption, a reality that Isaiah unfolds solemnly in his fifty-third chapter. At Golgotha we see our Savior “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” For our salvation “the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
The poet Thomas Kelly knew that when when the penitent believer looks at the cross through the eyes of faith, he can never again be flippant about his sin:
Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed!
See who bears the awful load!
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God. (2)
Is the burden of your sin your greatest grief and sorrow? Then there is comfort for you in Jesus’ gospel. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”
(1) John Owen, “The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded” in The Works of John Owen: Sin and Grace. Vol. 7. Edited by William H. Goold. 1850-1853 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1994), 333.
(2) Thomas Kelley, “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” in Trinity Hymnal, no. 257.
“Divorced from the holiness of God, sin is merely self-defeating behavior or a breach in etiquette. Divorced from the holiness of God, grace is merely empty rhetoric, pious window dressing for the modern technique by which sinners work out their own salvation. Divorced from the holiness of God, our gospel becomes indistinguishable from any of a host of alternative self-help doctrines. Divorced from the holiness of God, our public morality is reduced to little more than an accumulation of trade-offs between competing private interests. Divorced from the holiness of God, our worship becomes mere entertainment. The holiness of God is the very cornerstone of Christian faith, for it is the foundation of reality. Sin is defiance of God’s holiness, the Cross is the outworking and victory of God’s holiness, and faith is the recognition of God’s holiness. Knowing that God is holy is therefore the key to knowing life as it truly is, knowing Christ as he truly is, knowing why he came, and knowing how life will end.”
David F. Wells No Place for Truth Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids, MI : Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993), 300.
Evangelical believers of previous generations spoke of “the force of truth.” And rightly so. Paul rejoices that the Romans “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Romans 6:17). That the union of will (obedience), affections (heart), and intellect (form of doctrine) marked their mature faith is no surprise. Through his Word, God appeals to our hearts through the mind, creating godly affections and sanctifying behavior.
Charles Hodge knew the force of truth. His teaching career at Princeton Seminary spanned 58 years (1820-1878). Relationships with six decades of ministerial students, participation in the ecclesiastical courts of the church, and an impressive array of published works made him the most influential Presbyterian of the 19th century. Andrew Hoffecker’s Charles Hodge: The Pride of Princeton is a well researched biography that captures Hodge’s commendable piety, scholarship and churchmanship.
A February 13, 1820 diary entry reveals Hodge’s approach to teaching:
“May I be taught of God that I may be able to teach others also. It is only the heart that has been deeply exercised in divine things which can enable us to preach experimentally to others. Piety is the life of a minister.”
Hodge’s commentaries, journal articles, and three-volume Systematic Theology present biblical truth powerfully and persuasively. My personal favorite is The Way of Life. Prepared for the American Sunday School Union in 1841, it exemplifies the type of devotional writing that grasps the indissoluble union between the theological exposition of Scripture and holiness of life.
Here are a few selections from the last chapter of The Way of Life:
“The secret of holy living lies in this doctrine of the union of the believer with Christ. This is not only the ground of his hope of pardon, but the source of the strength whereby he dies unto sin and lives unto righteousness. It is by being rooted and grounded in Christ that he is strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man, and is enabled to comprehend the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the mystery of redemption, and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, and is filled with all the fullness of God. It is this doctrine which sustains him under all his trials, and enables him to triumph over all his enemies; for it is not he that lives, but Christ that lives in him, giving him grace sufficient for his day, and purifying unto himself as one of his peculiar people zealous of good works.”
“ . . . One hour’s communion with God produces an impression never to be effaced; it renders the soul forever less susceptible of evil, and more susceptible of good. And as the Holy Spirit is ever exciting the soul to the exercise of holiness, and bringing it into communion with God, he thus renders it more and more holy, and better fitted for the unchanging and perfect holiness of heaven.”
“It is most unreasonable to expect to be conformed to the image of God, unless the truth concerning God be made to operate often and continuously upon the mind. How can a heart that is filled with the thoughts and cares of the world, and especially one which is often moved to evil by the thoughts or sight of sin, expect that the affections answer to the holiness, good, or greatness of God, should gather strength within it? How can the love of Christ increase in the bosoms of those who hardly ever think of him or his work? This cannot be without a change in the very nature of things; and, therefore, we cannot make progress in holiness unless we devote much time to the reading, hearing, and meditating upon the word of God, which is the truth whereby we are sanctified. The more this truth is brought before the mind; the more we commune with it, entering into its import, applying it to our own case, appropriating its principles, appreciating its motives, rejoicing in its promises, trembling at its threatenings, rising by its influence from what is seen and temporal to what is unseen and eternal, the more we expect to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so as to approve and love whatever is holy, just, and good. Men distinguished for their piety have been men of meditation as well as men of prayer; men accustomed to withdraw the mind from the influence of the world with its thousand joys and sorrows, and to bring it under the influence of the doctrines, precepts, and promises of the word of God.”
At Christmas we contemplate the birth of our Savior who is “full of grace and truth” (John1:14). Jesus said, “For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37).
As the old year concludes, we prepare ourselves for a new year of devotion to Jesus and his truth. May the mind of Jesus so fill us that, like him, we say: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work (John 4:34) and “I have come to do your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7).