29 March 2012

We Have a Free Will to Go to Hell, but None to Go to Heaven

The doctrines of our election, and free justification in Christ Jesus are daily more and more pressed upon my heart. They fill my soul with a holy fire and afford me great confidence in God my Saviour.

I hope we shall catch fire from each other, and that there will be a holy emulation amongst us, who shall most debase man and exalt the Lord Jesus. Nothing but the doctrines of the Reformation can do this. All others leave free will in man and make him, in part at least, a Saviour to himself. . . .

I know Christ is all in all. Man is nothing: he hath a free will to go to hell, but none to go to heaven, till God worketh in him to will and to do of His good pleasure.

Oh the excellency of the doctrine of election and of the saints' final perseverance!

I am persuaded, till a man comes to believe and feel these important truths, he cannot come out of himself, but when convinced of these, and assured of their application to his own heart, he then walks by faith indeed! Love, not fear, constrains him to obedience.
--quoted in Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the 18th Century Revival (2 vols; Banner of Truth, 1970, 1980), 1:407

My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less

28 March 2012

Hebrews 2:18

If Christ never sinned, can he really sympathize fully with me in all my temptations?

Nineteenth-century NT scholar B. F Westcott, commenting on Heb. 2:18, writes:
Sympathy with the sinner in his trial does not depend on the experience of sin but on the experience of the strength of the temptation to sin which only the sinless can know in its full intensity. He who falls yields before the last strain.
--Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (1892), 59

In a 1943 letter, C. S. Lewis alludes to this comment by Westcott, and it seems that Westcott was the one to influence Lewis' own similar but more well-known statement on temptation in Mere Christianity.

26 March 2012

What's the Central Message of the Bible

From Colin Smith, pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church here in Chicagoland and someone I respect very much.

How Can Christians be Meek and War-Like at the Same Time?

In discussing the sixth sign of authentic spiritual affections, Jonathan Edwards poses this question. After arguing that true godly experience results in meekness, gentleness, lowliness of spirit, he raises the objection--
But here some may be ready to say, Is there no such thing as Christian fortitude, and boldness for Christ, being good soldiers in the Christian warfare, and coming out bold against the enemies of Christ and his people?
Edwards responds:
To which I answer, There doubtless is such a thing. The whole Christian life is compared to a warfare, and fitly so. And the most eminent Christians are the best soldiers, endowed with the greatest degrees of Christian fortitude. And it is the duty of God's people to be steadfast, and vigorous in their opposition to the designs and ways of such, as are endeavoring to overthrow the kingdom of Christ, and the interest of religion.

But yet many persons seem to be quite mistaken concerning the nature of Christian fortitude. 'Tis an exceeding diverse thing from a brutal fierceness, or the boldness of beasts of prey.

True Christian fortitude consists in strength of mind, through grace, exerted in two things; in ruling and suppressing the evil, and unruly passions and affections of the mind; and in steadfastly and freely exerting, and following good affections and dispositions, without being hindered by sinful fear, or the opposition of enemies. . . .

Though Christian fortitude appears, in withstanding and counteracting the enemies that are without us; yet it much more appears, in resisting and suppressing the enemies that are within us; because they are our worst and strongest enemies, and have greatest advantage against us. The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ, appears in nothing more, than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness, and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries, strange behavior, and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable world. The Scripture seems to intimate that true fortitude consists chiefly in this, Prov 16:32. 'He that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.'
--Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, p. 350

24 March 2012

Reversing the Whole Course of History

Theo Preiss:
The kingdom of God is at work not in general but at a precise point, in a person, in Jesus, in his words and sovereign deeds. . . .

As divine Man and true Adam he is engaged in reversing the whole course of the history of Adam. He has conquered Satan in the desert; he has bound the strong man and is beginning to pillage his domain. By his healing miracles, by stilling the storm and raising the dead, he stands forth as King of creation. When he says "But I say unto you . . ." he places himself above Moses as the Lord of the Torah, who is both fulfilling and transcending all that the ancient covenant promised. A greater than Solomon is here: the wisdom of God embodied in a Person; more than Jonah: here is the true prophet who has been speaking in all previous prophets. . . .

In a word, in him the new world of the resurrection makes an irruption into the old.
--Theo Preiss, Life in Christ (Studies in Biblical Theology 13; Allenson, 1952), 68

23 March 2012

God Was at the Bottom of it All

One evening early in his ministry Spurgeon was wrestling through who was ultimately responsible for his conversion. He writes:
The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so?

Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that he was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.”
--Charles Spurgeon, as quoted in Dave Harvey, Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry (Crossway, 2012), 38

20 March 2012

True Manliness Is Tender

All gracious affections, that are a sweet odor to Christ, and that fill the soul of a Christian with a heavenly sweetness and fragrancy, are brokenhearted affections. A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble brokenhearted love. The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires: their hope is a humble hope; and their joy, even when it is 'unspeakable, and full of glory,' is a humble, brokenhearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit, and more like a little child.
--Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections (Yale edition, ed. Paul Ramsey), 339-40

Tenderness, humility, brokenheartedness, is not for a certain slice of the Myers-Briggs. It is not optional for young courageous pastors who preach in black untucked shirts. It is for Christians: all Christians.

'Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind' (1 Pet 3:8).

19 March 2012

Lewis and Money

Lyle Dorsett once told a story about C. S. Lewis in an interview about Lewis. Dr. Dorsett said:
There was one woman that wrote to Lewis and said, 'I can't take this money you are going to give me. I just, I just can't do that.' And he said, 'Don't be silly. You need it, I have it, take it, and thank God for it.' Her response was, 'Well, I will and thank you. No wonder God has blessed you with so much money.' Lewis' answer was, 'Be careful what you say there. Nowhere in my New Testament do I see that money is a blessing. Jesus tells us something quite different. He says it's almost impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. He talks about the deceit of riches.' And he said, 'I need to give this money away, or it will destroy me.'

16 March 2012

Jesus Wasn't Crucified for Being Boring

It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man. . . . If this is dull, then what, in Heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore--on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certifying Him ‘meek and mild,’ and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.
--Dorothy Sayers, Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World: A Selection of Essays (1969), 13

C. S. Lewis on 'Being in Love'

The trouble arises when poets and others set up this good thing as an absolute. Which many do. An innocent and well-intentioned emphasis on the importance of being-in-love with one's spouse (i.e. its superiority over lust or ambition as a basis for marriage) is in fact widely twisted into the doctrine that only being-in-love sanctifies marriage and that therefore as soon as you are tired of your spouse you get a divorce.

Thus the overpraising of a finite good, the pretense that it is absolute, defeats itself and corrupts the very good it set out to exalt, reducing marriage to mere concubinage.

Treat 'Love' as a god and you in fact make it a fiend.
--a 1942 letter to Daphne Harwood, in The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 511

12 March 2012

Lewis: Temptation and Sin

C. S. Lewis, letter to Mary Neylan, January 20, 1942:
I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations.

It is not serious provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience etc doesn't get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are airing in the cupboard.

The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of His presence.
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 507; emphasis original

09 March 2012

Eat There

You wouldn't commend a restaurant without having eaten there, been nourished by it, even if you know all the recipes and menus by heart with perfect clarity.

So don't commend the gospel of grace unless you've eaten there, been nourished by it, even if you know all the creeds and confessions by heart with perfect clarity.


C. S. Lewis, writing to his friend Dom Bede Griffiths, after Lewis heard Charles Williams (pictured), one of the Inklings, give a lecture at Oxford in 1941:
He is an ugly man with rather a cockney voice. But no one ever thinks of this for five minutes after he has begun speaking. His face almost becomes angelic. Both in public and private he is of nearly all the men I have met the one whose address most overflows with love. It is simply irresistible.
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 501, emphasis original

08 March 2012

The Holy Ghost Is There

No sooner does the soul begin to feel the life of a promise warming his heart, relieving, cherishing, supporting, delivering from fear, entanglements, or troubles, but it may, it ought, to know that the Holy Ghost is there; which will add to his joy, and lead him into fellowship with him.
--John Owen, Communion with God (Christian Focus, 2007), 373-74

06 March 2012

Truly Spiritual

On April 16, 1940, Lewis wrote to Dom Bede Griffiths:
One thing we want to do is kill the word 'spiritual' in the sense in which it is used by writers like Arnold and Croce. Last term I had to make the following remark to a room full of Christian undergraduates: 'A man who is eating or lying with his wife or preparing to go to sleep, in humility, thankfulness, and temperance, is, by Christian standards, in an infinitely higher state than one who is listening to Bach or reading Plato in a state of pride'--obvious to you, but I could see it was quite a new light to them.
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 391

Philippians 3:8

05 March 2012

All Gold Glitters

Evangelista, a mature Christian, to Antinomista, an antinomian:
He will not be Jesus a Savior to any but only to those unto whom he is Christ a Lord. . . .

Although we cannot say, every one that hath a form of godliness hath also the power of godliness, yet we may truly say, that he who hath not the form of godliness, hath not the power of godliness; for though all be not gold that glitters, yet all gold doth glitter.

And therefore, I tell you truly, if you have no regard to make the law of Christ your rule, by endeavoring to do what is required in the Ten Commandments, and to avoid what is there forbidden, it is a very evil sign: and, therefore, I pray you consider of it.
--Edward Fisher, The Marrow of Modern Divinity, 200-201

04 March 2012

Only One Could Fully Taste Death

In August 1939 C. S. Lewis wrote a fascinating letter to his friend Owen Barfield concerning the incarnation. At one point Lewis said:
In Gethsemane it is essential Freedom that is asked to be bound, unwearied control to throw up the sponge. Life itself to die.

Ordinary men have not been so much in love with life as is usually supposed: small as their share of it is they have found it too much to bear without reducing a large portion of it as nearly to non-life as they can: we love drugs, sleep, irresponsibility, amusement, are more than half in love with easeful death--if only we could be sure it wouldn't hurt!

Only He who really lived a human life (and I presume that only one did) can fully taste the horror of death.
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 268

03 March 2012

Do Not Rush

Even as someone who's grown up in conservative Presbyterianism and memorized parts of the Westminster Standards as a child (and loves these documents to this day), I find the "Well, So-and-so isn't really Reformed--let's not dole out the precious R-word too quickly now" mildly nauseating. But there are some good and wise pieces of advice sprinkled throughout this interview with Derek Thomas and Carl Trueman, such as Carl's response to what a young man should do when he is wondering if he is called to preach:
Do not rush. When you are in your twenties, a year can seem a long time but it is not really so. Paul clearly assumes most people in church leadership positions will be older – family men, men established in their communities, men who have a track record of godliness and spiritual reliability. So go and receive the appropriate ministerial training but do not necessarily assume you should then go straight into a pastorate. I am taking on my first pastorate this year, aged 45 with 28 years of being a Christian, a decade of secular work experience, a decade of teaching at seminary, a marriage of nearly 22 years, two more or less adult children and service on two kirk sessions behind me. I hardly feel qualified now. I could not have done it aged twenty-five!
And this, about persevering in life and ministry (also from Carl):
For me, my marriage has been key. A faithful, down-to-earth wife who does not believe the propaganda I tend to spread about myself is a gift beyond price. If you have one, listen to what she says. You will not regret it.
HT: Lydia Brownback