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Wednesday
Mar102010

Poetry for a Wednesday

I See His Blood Upon the Rose
by Joseph Mary Plunkett

I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.
 
I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice—and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words.
 
All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.
Tuesday
Mar092010

The Practical Writings of the English Puritans

The legacy of the Puritans is seen overwhelmingly in the literature which they produced.  J.I. Packer points this out in his book A Quest for Godliness.  In the chapter entitled "The Practical Writings of the English Puritans," he begins by referring to a recommendation made by Richard Baxter, that young pastors ought to fill their minds with the writings of "affectionate practical English writers."  Every movement requires a literature in order to be moved forward, and the Puritan movement can boast of a very exceptional body of literature.

England really had no body of devotional literature prior to the Puritans.  The value of the writings of the Puritans can be seen in the demand for their writings by other Protestant groups.  The Protestants on the Continent wanted the writings of the Puritans, and Baxter's writings alone found their way into translation in countries as far away as Poland and Hungary.  This body of literature was, of course, a huge benefit to the ordinary people who sat under the ministry of these men.

Packer point out five positive qualities of Puritan authors:

  1. They were physicians of the soul.  They saw that the need of man was to have the soul healed, and this they proposed to do through the application of God's truth to the sick soul.
  2. They were expositors to the conscience.  Packer states, "Their applications were directed to the conscience."  They were meant to convict, and to convict on a number of levels; not just the unregenerate, but the spiritually weak and backslidden.
  3. They were educators of the mind.  Packer says:  "The starting point was the certainty that the mind must be instructed and enlightened before faith and obedience become possible."  Religious feeling and pious emotion without knowledge was useless.  The truth was taught through systematic analysis of biblical texts.  The Puritan works are known for being long and detailed.  Just consider this, William Gurnall's book The Christian in Complete Armour confines its teaching to Ephesians 6:10-20, and spans a length of 1200 pages.  As a sidenote, do visit The Thirsty Theologian every Tuesday to get a glimpse of Gurnall's writings.
  4. They were enforcers of truth.  Their plain, straightforward style was a consequence of their understanding that their ability to speak and preach was not an opportunity to exalt their own abilities, but rather what God had done.
  5. They were men of the Spirit.  To the "affectionate practical English writer," failure to live out the message which they spoke was oxymoronic.  They were holy men who concurred with Calvin who said, "It were better for him [the preacher] to break his neck going up into the pulpit, if he does not take pains to be the first to follow God."

Packer points out, and I heartily agree, that this is a legacy of which we can and must partake of.  I like how he concluded the chapter:

To turn to the works of the 'affectionate practical English writers' is like entering a new world; one's vision is cleared, one's thoughts are purged, one's heart is stirred; one is humbled, instructed, quickened, invigorated, brought low in reptance and raised high in assurance.  There is no more salutary experience!  Churches and Christians today are sadly Laodicean:  complacent, somnolent, shallow, stuffy.  We need reviving.  What to do?  Opening the windows of our souls to let in a breath of fresh air from the seventeenth century would, I suggest, be the wisest possible course.

Monday
Mar082010

Let Your Light So Shine

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones comments on a practical aspect of letting our lights so shine:

You see, there is to be a complete absence of ostentation and display.  It is a little difficult in practice is it not, to draw the line between truly functioning as salt and light, and still not to be guilty of display or ostentation?  Yet that is what we are told to do.  We are so to live that men may see our good works, but glorify our Father which is in heaven.  How difficult to function truly as an active Christian, and yet not to have any showmanship.  This is true even in our listening to the gospel, quite apart from our preaching of it!  As we produce and reveal it in our daily lives, we must remember that the Christian does not call attention to himself.  Self has been forgotten in this poverty of spirit, in the meekness and all the other things.  In other words, we are to do everything for Go's sake, and for His glory.  Self is to be absent, and must be utterly crushed in all its subtelty, for His sake, for His glory.

 

Sunday
Mar072010

Heart Aflame - March 7, 2010

Psalm 21

This psalm contains a public and solemn thanksgiving for the prosperous and happy condition of the king.  It is shown that the safety and prosperity of the king ought to produce public and general rejoicing through the whole realm inasmuch as God by this means intended to preserve the whole body in safety.

You will destroy their descendants from the earth, their posterity from makind.  David amplifies the greatness of God's wrath, from the circumstance that it shall extend even to the children of the wicked.  It is a doctrine common enough in Scripture, that God not only inflicts punishment upon the first originators of wickedness, but makes it even to overflow into the bosom of their children.  And yet when he thus pursues his vengeance to the third and fourth generation, he cannot be said indiscriminately to involve the innocent with the guilty.  As the seed of the ungodly, whom he has deprived of his grace, are accursed, and as all are by nature children of wrath, devoted to everlasting destruction, he is no less just in exercising his severity towards the children than towards the fathers.  Who can lay any thing to his charge, if he withhold from those who are unworthy of it the grace which he communicates to his own children?  In both ways he shows how dear and precious to him is the kingdom of hrist; first, in extending his mercy to the children of the righteous even to a thousand generations; and, seconly, in causing his wrath to rest upon the reprobate, even to the third and fourth generation.

Be exalted, O Lord in our strength.  The paslm is at length concluded with a prayer, which again confirms that the kingdom which is spoken of is so connected with the glory of God, that his power is reflected from it.  This was no doubt true with respect to te kingdom of David; for God in old time isplayed his power in exalting him to the throne.  But what is here stated was only fully accomplished in Christ, who was appointed by the heavenly Father to be King over us, and who is at the same time God manifest in the flesh.  As his divine power ought justly to strike terror into the wicked, so it is described as full of the sweetest consolation to us, which ought to inspire us with joy, and incite us to celebrate it with songs of praise and thanksgiving.

Saturday
Mar062010

Soundtrack for a Saturday

On Monday night, our ladies' bible study is having a special guest speaker.  She is a missionary we support; she and her husband work in Israel.  I, along with two other ladies, are leading the worship singing, and this is one of the songs we're going to do: