Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Origin of Sin Concerning Man

In An Exposition of the Epistle of I John [ISBN 1-888514-01-9], Samuel E. Pierce (1746-1829) carefully describes the origin of sin concerning man while maintaining the sovereignty of God.  He continues:

"The fall of man was brought about, and effected by the old serpent called the devil.  Adam and his wife, were perfectly holy and happy by creation, and in their creation state.  They being left to the mutability of their creature free wills, fell from God, on the first temptation, and corrupted themselves, and all who shall ever descend from them.  And here it may be proper to ask some questions, which may be relieving to our minds.  As 1st. Is not all which hath been delivered to declare God is the author of sin?  To this it must be replied, some of our greatest Divines have asserted this.  Yet not with the least intent to detract from the Holiness and Purity of God.  In the 2nd place it must be asked, What is sin?  The answer is; the least variation from the will of God revealed and made known.  It is a mental evil.  It originates in the mind.  All the evils it further produces, are but the fruits and effects of the same.

But say all this, How could sin originate in a pure mind?  To which the reply is this.  The creatures with all their created holiness and purity, could not continue so, if left one moment to themselves.  The Lord God never created one individual, either angel, or saint, let the creature be created either in heaven, or earth, to exist of itself: or, to be a centre to itself: or, to derive happiness from itself: yet all creature wills, in all intelligent rational agents are inclined to seek for all their enjoyments and happiness in themselves alone.  It is from hence the origin of sin, derived its being and existence.  The mind of those bright intellectual beings in heaven, being left to think of happiness to be enjoyed by them, out of God himself, and it being his declared good pleasure, they should enjoy all blessedness and good out of the fulness of the God-Man, in whom it pleased the Father all fulness should dwell--they not assenting and consenting to this , immediately sought out happiness for themselves.

This occasioned the loss of their original purity and holiness: and from hence, out of this as the fountain and original, all their actual beginnings and sinnings began, and are and ever will be continued.  They one and all sinned in an Head.  Mankind all sinned in an head.  Let what hath been expressed be rightly understood, it will appear, nothing in all this reflects on the glory of God's Holiness, nor does it by any means tarnish it.  This truth remains immutable.  God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  Sin is in the creatures.  Not in God.  Sin is in the nature of the creature as fallen from God.  It is no part of what the Lord God hath created in it.  Sin is a privation of all good; and a positive inclination to all evil.  The whole of which consists, let it be in angels or men, in self love.  In the pursuit of those gratifications and desires, as make self, our chief end, and aim.  It is the principle from whence all these proceed which makes us exceeding sinful.  The existence of which is within us.  Now God is not the author of all this.  Yet God willed all this: or it could not have been," (p. 45).


***
"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all," (1 John 1:5).

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Origin of Sin Concerning the Angels

In An Exposition of the Epistle of I John [ISBN 1-888514-01-9], Samuel E. Pierce (1746-1829) carefully describes the origin of sin concerning the angels while maintaining the sovereignty of God.  He contends:

"God was pleased to display his sovereignty towards all the angels created by Him.  He secured some of these to himself, so as to render it impossible they should ever fall from him, by appointing Christ to be their Head of union and communion with Him, and by so guiding their wills as to render them impeccable: whilst it pleased Him to leave all the rest of the then angels of his presence to the mutability of their own wills.  Thus sin received its being and existence.  The non-elect angels fell: not through any act of God within them, compelling or inciting them so to do; but from their own free will as creatures: by which exercise of their wills, they rejected God's will in setting up the God-Man, to be the one Lord between God and the whole creation.  This was open rebellion against the Divine Majesty.  For this they became what they now are.  They acted thus as left to the free exercise of their wills.  And in the very first instance of the same, it was their free will act.

I ground this on the following scripture.  'And the angels which kept not their first estate,' or principality, 'but left their own habitation.'  Does not this imply their own free will?  They 'left their own habitation.'  This most certainly was their act.  Not the Lord's.  What follows upon it was the Lord's act towards them.  'He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.' Jude v. 6.  I might add this scripture also out of Peter.  'For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.' 2 Epis. ii.4.  Observe, sin was first committed in heaven, or these sinning angels could not have been cast out of it.  Their being cast out of it, was an act of God's righteous displeasure against sin: which is a transgression of the law.  The angels were created under a law.  Their obedience to which would have been perfection of their natures.  They sinned against it.  That was their crime.  Damnation for it, was the righteous and holy expression of God's indignation and wrath against them for it.  So that there is no unholiness in Him," (pp. 44-45).


***
"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all," (1 John 1:5).

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Is This Life All There Is?

In his sermon "Is This Life All There Is?" on January 8, 2017, Pastor Jeff Riddle looks at Ecclesiastes 6.  As he concludes, he gives the following spiritual application for this passage of Scripture (slightly edited for reading):

"Do not succumb to the four false alternatives; do not turn down these blind allies.  Do not think that you can make your life meaningful by: (1) the vanity of riches, (2) having the perfect large family, (3) living a long time and being healthy, and (4) through a series of self-created experiences.

But instead, ask yourself these three questions: (1) How can I live more than a vain life?  We have to turn from Ecclesiastes--it's only one of sixty-six books.  It's there [in the Bible] to show us the dilemma, what shall we do? how shall we live then?  The answer comes in the rest of Scripture and in the New Testament.  It comes when Christ comes: 'I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly,' (John 10:10b).  Christ is not a blind alley.  Christ is not a false alternative.  He said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,' (John 14:6b)...The most important thing is 'Will you know the Lord Jesus Christ?'  He is the One who can really give you life; He is the One who can really give you abundant life.  He is the One who can make you glad or happy all throughout your life no matter the circumstances of your life or whatever you have to go through.  If you know Christ, you can be blessed and you can be happy.

(2) How can I know what is good for man in this life?  I can listen to Christ as He speaks to us through the Scriptures.  Jesus said, 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me,' (John 10:27).  Where do we hear the voice of Jesus so that we can have direction as to how to live our lives?  We hear the voice of Jesus through the Scriptures...All Scripture is God-breathed...If you want to make your life meaningful, look to Christ; if you want to know how to live your life, look to the Scriptures.

(3) How can I have hope?  How can I have hope that this life I am living will have some meaning after I'm gone, and how can I have hope that this life isn't all that there is?  Jesus said, 'No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day,' (John 6:44).  If you trust Christ and you live your life by His Word, Jesus promises us that at the last day, we will experience the resurrection.  By the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, our bodies will be transformed, our spirits will be rejoined to those bodies, and we will be in heaven and we will enjoy life with God forever.  We have a hope that our life can be meaningful as we live it now, as we begin living the eternal life now, and we have a hope that that life will continue in glory at the resurrection.  Joel Osteen is wrong.  You don't get your best life now.  All though it can be good now if you know Christ.  But our best life is still to come."


***
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory," (Col. 3:1-4).

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Christian Objective in Christ

On December 5, 2016, Pastor Mark Fitzpatrick preached a sermon titled "10 Signs of Saving Grace (1)."  He notes:

"Our objective [as true believers] is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever...We are to be regenerated and transformed by Jesus Christ...by the obedience that only He can grant to our souls...The response is not to say, 'I'm going to be a better person from now on'; that is human religion.  The response is to pray that God would reveal Christ more and more to our souls.  That God would increase our love for Him [Jesus].  That God would gives us heavenly minds.  That God would give us greater appreciation of Jesus Christ so that we might have His mindset, and thereby glorify Him in our lives--[to be] glorious within and glorious without."

Amen.

***
"For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s," (1 Cor. 6:20).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Needful Example of Mary's Disposition

In his sermon "Lazarus is Dead" on 02/19/17, Pastor Mark Fitzpatrick of Arann Reformed Baptist Church looks at John 11:11-20.  He makes the following observation about Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus:

"Mary's act of disposition was to be a meditative, quiet person.  That is just as active as the other [Martha]; it actually takes a very strong spirit to be at rest.  In fact, sometimes it is a sign of weakness when we have to be on the go all the time--that can actually be a weakness of character.  That's the way children are.  They have to be moving; they have to be active; they have to be filling their time with activity.  It takes maturity to bring us to a point where we can actually sit and rest, just be still...But Mary is not passive.  The moment she hears that the Lord wants to see her, she immediately leaves everything and goes to Him.  Is that what we are like?  In a moment's notice, when the Lord calls us to be with Him, we desire fellowship with Him...[in] Luke 10:38-42, Mary has chosen the one thing needful, to sit quietly at the feet of Christ, to hear the Word of Christ...The whole point of this chapter [John 11] is to see the glory of Jesus Christ.  To come face to face with the majesty of the Son of God...The only means by which we can see the majesty of Christ this day is by faith, not with our physical eyes...but we behold Him in His Word, trusting Him...believing that He is the Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."


***
"Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house...she [Martha] went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying,The Master is come, and calleth for thee.  As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him." (John 11:20, 28b-29).

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Reading Versus Meditating

In his book Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, Thomas Brooks counsels the believer to consider whether or not he seriously meditates on the Word of God:

"It is not he who reads most--but he who meditates most, who will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest, and strongest Christian...Know that it is not the knowing, or the talking, nor the reading man--but the doing man, that at last will be found the happiest man...Reader, If [sic] it is not strong upon your heart to practice what your read, to what end to you read?  To increase your own condemnation?  If your light and knowledge be not turned into practice, the more knowing a man you are, the more miserable a man you will be in the day of recompense; your light and knowledge will more torment you than all the devils in hell.  Your knowledge will be that rod that will eternally lash you, and that scorpion that will forever bite you, and that worm that will everlastingly gnaw you; therefore read, and labor to know, that you may do--or else you are undone forever." (Kindle location 238-248).


***
"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was," (James 1:22-24).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Godly Prayer of Thomas Brooks

In his book Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, Thomas Brooks prays for the reader in his Epistle Dedicatory:

"My desires for you are, 'that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in the inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.' (Eph. 3:16-19)  'And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.' (Col. 1:10-12)  'That you do no evil,' (2 Cor. 13:7); 'That your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment.'  'That you may approve all things that are excellent, that you may be sincere, and without offence until the day of Christ.' (Phil. 1:27, 4:1)  That 'our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.'  'That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.' (2 Thess. 1:11, 12)  And that you may be eminent in sanctity, sanctity being Zion's glory (Psalm 93:5); that your hearts may be kept upright, your judgments sound, and your lives unblamable.  That as you are now 'my joy', so in the day of Christ you may be 'my crown'; that I may see my labors in your lives; that your lives may not be earthly, when the things your hear are heavenly; but that it may be 'as become the gospel' (Phil. 1:9-10)."

..."My desires to you are--That you would make it your business to study Christ, his Word, your own hearts, Satan's plots, and eternity--more than ever.  That you would endeavor more to be inwardly sincere than outwardly glorious; to live, then to have a mere name to live.  That you would labor with all your might to be thankful under mercies, and faithful in your places, and humble under divine appearances, and fruitful under precious ordinances.  That as your means and mercies are greater than others--so your account before God may not prove a worse than others," (Kindle location 199-217).


***
"Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices," (2 Cor. 2:11).

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Duty of Consideration

In his book Matthew 13: The Parable of the Sower, Samuel Stennett (1728-1795) expounds Matthew 13:9 "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."  He notes that it is the believer's duty to consider the minister's sermon by appealing to laws of decency and common sense.  He recommends:
  1. "Some kind of preparation previous to our hearing the Word," (p. 185).
  2. "How we ought to behave in the house of God," (p. 187).
  3. To "apprehend the effect of the Word, with the blessing of God," (p. 188).
First, Mr. Stennett encourages the believer to prepare for the Lord's Day by asking yourself the following questions: "What is the end I propose to myself in going thither?  Is it merely to conform to custom, and to oblige my friends and neighbors?  Or am I disposed to listen to what the preacher may say, and to give it that consideration, which its importance as a message from God (for that is its claim) demands?  Both decency and good sense teach, that my going to a place of public instruction obliges me to pay all due attention to the speaker," (p. 185).

Next, the author admonishes the believer to place himself into a suitable frame and temper for hearing the Word.  He inquires: "And need we be told in what manner we should behave ourselves there [church]?  Can it be right to compose ourselves quietly to sleep?  Or to be incessantly gazing about on the congregation?  Or to be wholly employed in observing the person and watching the attitude and manner of the speaker?  Or to suffer our thoughts to wander, like the fool's eye to the ends of the earth [Prov. 17:24]?  He who treats public instruction after this manner, violates the laws of decency and common sense, and defeats all the useful purposes which he would be supposed to have in view by making himself one of the audience.  His presence says he came thither to hear: his behavior the contrary.  How absurd!" (pp. 187-88).

Finally, Mr. Stennett persuades the believer to recollect what he has heard which requires resolution, self-denial, and prudence by:
  • "Avoid[ing] as much as possible everything that may tend to dissipate the mind, and render it incapable of consideration and recollection," (p. 189).
  • "Be[ing] not fond of hearing more than you can retain and digest," (p. 190).
  • "[R]etiring at the close of the day, for the purpose of recollection and prayer," (p. 192).
He defines recollection as "considering with ourselves the particular point discoursed of, the manner in which it was stated, the reasoning upon it, its agreement with Scripture and our own experience, and the uses to which it was applied.  This seriously done, and followed with fervent prayer to God for His blessing, we may hope the great truths of religion will be deeply riveted in our minds, make an abiding impression upon our hearts, and have a mighty influence upon our tempers and practice," (p. 192).


***
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God," (Rom. 12:1-2).

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Wicked One

In his book Matthew 13: The Parable of the Sower, Samuel Stennett (1728-1795) notes that the wicked one in Matthew 13:19 is "Satan, that is, the adversary; and the devil, that is, the accuser. It was he that seduced our first parents from their allegiance to Heaven and so introduced sin and death into our world; where having thus set up his standard, he still exercises his usurped authority," (p. 65).  The author further notes that "he [Satan] not only carries on his designs by instruments employed to that end, but has himself access to the hearts of men; and though he cannot force them to act against their will, yet he knows how by a thousand arts to catch their attention, play upon their imagination, inflame their desires, and rouse their passions," (p. 65).

I was struck by the unexpected reminder that the devil is real.  Satan is a created being under God, and therefore, the devil is not omnipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient.  Notwithstanding, Mr. Stennett argues from biblical accounts that Satan does have access to the heart:

"He [Satan], the god of this world, blinds the minds of them who believe not (2 Cor. 4:4); works in the children of disobedience (Eph. 2:2); puts into the heart of Judas to betray his Master (John 13:2); fills the heart of Ananias to lie to the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:3); lays snares for some, in order to lead them captive (2 Tim. 2:26); and walks about like a roaring lion, to devour others (1 Peter 5:8); beguiles the former through his subtilty, using a variety of wiles and devices in order to get advantage against them (2 Cor. 11:13-14; Eph. 6:11; 2 Cor. 2:11); and violently assaults the latter, now by his messengers buffeting them, and then discharging his fiery darts at them (2 Cor. 12:7, Eph. 6:16).  In fine, he, the old serpent called the devil and satan, deceiveth the whole world (Rev. 12:9); and having so done, accuseth them before God day and night (Rev. 12:10)," (pp. 65-66).

Continuing from verse 19, Mr. Stennett looks at how Satan catches away the seed [the Word of God]:
  1. "Satan uses his utmost endeavors to divert men's attention from the Word while they are hearing it," (p. 68).
  2. "Satan uses every art to excite and infame men's prejudices against the Word they hear," (p. 70).
  3. Satan prevents men's recollection of the Word after they have heard it (p. 72).
The object of a real Christian is to be saved from the dominion of sin as well as the from the guilt of it (p. 78).  "To be tempted is not your sin, but it is your sin to comply with the temptation," (p. 90).  Remember to "admire and adore the grace of God which defeats the designs of Satan, and make the Word effectual upon the hearts of the multitudes," (p. 91).

***
"When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side," (Matt. 13:19).