Our Three-fold Problem

Richard Sibbes matches the three-fold office of Jesus to humanity’s three-fold problem:

As we are ignorant and blind, he is a prophet to instruct us, to convince us of the ill state we are in, and then to convince us of the good he intends us, and hath wrought for us, to instruct us in all things concerning our everlasting comfort…And answerable to the rebellion and sinfulness of our dispositions, he is a king to subdue whatsoever is ill in us, and like to subdue all opposite power without us…Now, as we are cursed by reason of our sinful condition, so he is a priest to satisfy the wrath of God for us…So, answerable to the threefold ill in us, you see here is a threefold office in Christ…Now, the fundamental, the chief office to which he was anointed by the Spirit, upon which the rest depends, it was his priestly office (Works of Richard Sibbes, volume 1, p. 16).

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New Book on Paul’s Speech at Mars Hill

My friend Flaven Pardigon’s book is now finally in print! I helped edit the thesis form of this book (which was done for a WTS Ph.D.: Flavien and I overlapped at WTS). A more careful study of Paul’s speech at Mars Hill you will not find. Highly recommended!

In need of some encouragement?

John Owen has some encouraging words:

But there is no more sacred truth than this, that where Christ is present with believers,-where he is not withdrawn for a season from them, where they live in the view of his glory by faith as it is proposed unto them in the Gospel,-he will give unto them, at his own seasons, such intimations of his love, such supplies of his Spirit, such holy joys and rejoicings, such repose of soul in assurance, as shall refresh their souls, fill them with joy, satisfy them with spiritual delight, and quicken them unto all acts of holy communion with himself (Works of John Owen, volume 1, p. 399).

Why daily prayer?

Thomas Manton has some good thoughts on why we need to pray daily.

To reprove those which neglect closet-addresses to God; they wrong God and themselves.

They wrong God; because this is a necessary part of the creature’s homage, of that duty he expects from them, to be owned not only in public assemblies, but in private. And they wrong themselves; because it brings in a great deal of comfort and peace to the soul; and many sweet and gracious experiences there are which they deprive themselves of, and a blessing upon all other things…How will your own hearts reproach you then, that have neglected God, and lost such precious hours as you should have redeemed for communion with him!…So, when God is in us and round about us, and we never take time to confer with him, it argues much hatred and neglect of him…Omissions make way for commissions. If a gardener withholds his hand, the ground is soon grown over with weeds. Restrain prayer and neglect God, and noisome lusts will abound…As they which are often with princes and great persons are better clothed and more neat in their apparel and carriage, so they which are often conversing with God grown more heavenly, holy, watchful, than others are; and when we are not with God, not only all this is lost, but a great many evils to be found (Works of Thomas Manton, volume 1, pp. 14-7).

Flavel on Theological Encyclopedia

Although it is a bit of an anachronism, it is relevant to the question of the unity of all truth. I haven’t seen many Puritans directly address this issue (and even this is a somewhat rudimentary treatment, as the four-fold division of theology into exegetical, systematic, historical, and practical is still some ways off), but Flavel has some wonderful things to say here (sorry for the length, but I couldn’t really cut anything):

A young ungrounded Christian, when he seeth all the fundamental truths, and seeth good evidence and reasons of them, perhaps may be yet ignorant of the right order and place of every truth. It is a rare thing to have young professors to understand the necessary truths methodically: and this is a very great defect: for a great part of the usefulness and excellency of particular truths consisteth in the respect they have to one another. This therefore will be a very considerable part of your confirmation, and growth in your understandings, to see the body of the Christian doctrine, as it were, at one view, as the several parts of it are united in one perfect frame; and to know what aspect one point hath upon another, and which are their due places. There is a great difference betwixt the sight of the several parts of a clock or watch, as they are disjointed and scattered abroad, and the seeing of them conjointed, and in use and motion. To see here a pin and there a wheel, and not know how to set them all together, nor ever see them in their due places, will give but little satisfaction. It is the frame and design of holy doctrine that must be known, and every part should be discerned as it hath its particular use to that design, and as it is connected with the other parts.

By this means only can the true nature of Theology, together with the harmony and perfection of truth, be clearly understood. And every single truth also will be much better perceived by him that seeth its place and order, than by any other: for one truth exceedingly illustrates and leads another into the understanding. Study therefore to grow in the more methodical knowledge of the same truths which you have received; and though you are not yet ripe enough to discern the whole body of theology in due method, yet see so much as you have attained to know, in the right order and placing of every part. As in anatomy, it is hard for the wisest physician to discern the course of every branch of the veins and arteries; but yet they may easily discern the place and order of the principle parts, and greater vessels, (and surely in the body of religion there are no branches of greater or more necessary truth than these) so it is in divinity, where no man hath a perfect view of the whole, till he comes to the state of perfection with God; but every true Christian hath the knowledge of all the essentials, and may know the orders and places of them all.

And as it serves to render the mind more judicious, so it causes the memory to be more tenacious, and retentive of truths. The chain of truth is easily held in the memory, when one truth links in another; but the loosing of a link endangers the scattering of the whole chain. We use to say, order is the mother of memory; I am sure it is a singular friend to it: hence it is observed, those that write of the art of memory,. lay so great a stress upon place and number. The memory would not so soon be overcharged with a multitude of truths, if that multitude were but orderly disposed. It is the incoherence and confusion of truths, rather than their number, that distracts. Let but the understanding receive them regularly, and the memory will retain them with much more facility. A bad memory is a common complaint among Christians: all the benefit that many of you have in hear, is from the present influence of truths upon your hearts (Works of John Flavel, volume 1, pp. 21-2).

Knowledge of God Impossible to Eradicate

Stephen Charnock says it well:

The fears and anxieties in the consciences of men have given men sufficient occasion to root it (the knowledge of God, LK) out, had it been possible for them to do it. If the notion of the existence of God had been possible to have been dashed out of the minds of men, they would have done it rather than have suffered so many troubles in their souls upon the commission of sin; since they did not want wickedness and wit in so many corrupt ages to have attempted it and prospered in it, had it been possible…It seems to be so perpetually fixed, that the devil did not think fit to tempt man to the denial of the existence of a deity, but persuaded him to believe, he might ascend to that dignity, and become a god himself…He (Satan, LK) wanted not malice to raze out all the notions of God, but power; he knew it was impossible to effect it, and therefore in vain to attempt it…The impressions of a deity were so strong as not to be struck out by the malice and power of hell. (Works of Stephen Charnock, volume 1, pp. 136-7).

Isaac’s two blessings

Jeremiah Burroughs notes the switching of the order in heaven and earth between Jacob’s and Esau’s blessings:

Mark it, Isaac blessed them both with the dew of heaven and fatness of the earth (this could be disputed, LK). But in Jacob’s blessing the dew of heaven was first and the fatness of the earth was second; while in Esau’s blessing, the fatness of the earth was first and then the dew of heaven. Note that a godly man stands in need of earthly things. As Christ said, “Your Father knows you stand in need of these things.” But the great thing, in the first place, that a godly heart minds is the dew of heaven, and then second the blessing of the earth. Now a carnal heart thinks that it has some need of the things of heaven; it will acknowledge that. But it’s the fatness of the earth they desire, and then the dew of heaven (A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness, SDG 1991, p. 8).

The King of Knowledge

James Thornwell, referencing Aristotle and John Locke, said it this way:

(B)oth Aristotle and Locke regard it (theology, LK) “as the comprehension of all other knowledge,” so that without it all other knowledge is fragmentary, partial and incomplete (Works of Thornwell, volume 1, p. 25).

When the Enlightenment came along and dethroned theology from its rightful place at the head of all knowledge, then the rest of knowledge immediately started breaking up into smaller and smaller fragments, as it is today. Bits of knowledge float free-form and utterly isolated from anything else.

How do we choose?

Jonathan Edwards has this to say on the human will:

The choice of the mind never departs from that which, at that time, and with respect to the direct and immediate objects of that decision of the mind, appears most agreeable and pleasing, all things considered (Freedom of the Will, in the Yale Edwards, volume 1, p. 147).

​What follows from this is that the believer needs to take care that what he finds most agreeable and pleasing is God’s will. We must love what God loves and hate what God hates.

Fear does what?

Ran across this good little gem in reading Pilgrim’s Progress this morning. It is actually a comment by Cheever on the Slough of Despond, so it is not Bunyan himself, but one of his commentators:

Now this is often just the operation of fear; it sets the threatenings against the promises, when it ought simply to direct the soul from the threatenings to the promises (emphasis original, BoT edition of Pilgrim’s Progress, volume 3 of Bunyan’s works, p. 92).