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Heart Aflame - Psalm 16:1-2

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.  This is a prayer in which David commits himself to the protection of God.  God is ready to succour all of us, provided we rely upon him with a sure and steadfast faith; and that he takes under his protection none but those who commit themselves to him with their whole heart.

You are my Lord, my well-doing cannot extend to you.  David begins by stating that he can bestow nothing upon God, not only because God stands in no need of anything but also because mortal man cannot merit the favour of God by any service which he can perform to him.  At the same time, however, he takes courage, and, as God accepts our devotion, and the service which we yield to him, David protests that he will be one of his servants.

Two things are distinctly laid down in this verse.  The first is, that God has a right to require of us whatever he pleases, seeing we are fully bound to him as our rightful proprietor and Lord.  David, by ascribing to him the power and the dominion of Lord, declares that both himself and all he possessed are the property of God.

Let men strive ever so much to lay themselves out for God, yet they can bring no advantage to him.  Our goodness extends not to him, not only because having in himself alone an all-sufficiency, he stands in need of nothing, but also because we are empty and destitute of all good things, and have nothing which to show ourselves liberal towards him.

It is impossible for men, by any merits of their own, to bring God under obligation to them, so as to make him their debtor.  The sum of the discourse is, that when we come before God, we must lay aside all presumption.  When we imagine that there is any good thing in us, we need not wonder if he reject us, as we thus take away from him a principal part of the honour which is his due.  On the contrary, if we acknoeldge that all the servies which we can yield to him are in temselves things of nought, and undeserving of any recompense, this humility is as perfume of a sweet odour, which will procure for them acceptance with God.



A few links I liked this week

 I enjoyed two links from the Grace to You blog, where Dr. MacArthur talks about Bad Hermeneutics and Good Hermeneutics.  They are audio short clips, and very much worth the listen.

This morning, Annette shared a video done by a young woman from Toronto, discussing how Canadians all drink milk from bags (we do here in Ontario).  A subsequent article in The Toronto Star reveals that Miss Ng, was not properly informed; not all Canadians partake of milk from bags.  I thought it was interesting that her video generated cries of "Are you guys ever weird!"  Have those people seen what is on YouTube?  Miss Ng's video was among the saner material I have seen.  Weird is in the eye of the beholder, at times.  It's kind of mind-boggling that such a trivial piece of informaton can generate so much attention; but then again, this is the internet after all.



I finished reading John Frame's book The Doctrine of Knowledge of God.  It took me longer than I planned, but honestly, so much of what I read was so thought-provoking that I had to sit down and think about it.  I must write (with a pen and paper) things out to process them, so I had a notebook alongside this read, with attempts to summarize things well enough to understand them completely.  Even after doing that, however, I think I will want to read this book again in the future.  What would be really great is to find someone much smarter than I to read along with me so that we could discuss it.  Who knows?

There are far too many things about this book that I liked to start listing them.  I guess above all, though, is that despite the fact that Frame is a philosopher and an academic, and his writing reflects that, it is very evident to the reader that Christianity is not merely an academic thing to Dr. Frame.  He regularly emphasized the balance between knowledge and experience.  Furthermore, his emphasis on showing humility and charity in our theological debates was very encouraging.   I like how he regularly points to the reader to the absolute necessity of the Holy Spirit in any theological endeavours.

Another aspect to this book I liked was the section discussing language in theology.  We must remember that Scripture is, above all, a language.  God has revealed Himself in language.  There are all kinds of interesting intracacies involved with how people learn and use language that will affect our study of theology.  I found that part quite interesting.

There are a couple of other books in this series of Dr. Frame's, The Doctrine of God, and The Doctrine of the Christian Life, and I would like to see those some day, but in the meantime, I think I'd better start reading what I already have!


The "walking hospital"

I subscribe to the little magazine which Banner of Truth publishes.  It has a lot of good material; book reviews, excerpts from upcoming releases, and articles about Church history.  This morning, as I had my coffee and woke up more fully, I scanned the January issue, which I have had for a while, but have not really looked at closely.  The first article is by W.J. Grier, and is entitled "Calvin's Frailties and Charm."

The first time I heard about Calvin was when in 11th grade when I studied Reformation and Renaissance history.  I don't remember much about that class other than that I found it very boring, which is funny, considering that I eventually earned a degree in history.  When I was in university, I took a course on 17th Century European history, and the prof did not like Calvin.  She portrayed him as a megalomaniac with a bible in his hand.  As time has gone by, and I have learned more, I have seen that historians often paint their own pictures which leave out details.  Of course Calvin was human and imperfect like the rest of us, but he did live a very extraordinary life.

In this article by Grier, things are recounted which I have heard of but never really spent much time investigating, and that is the frail nature of Calvin's physical health.  His successor in Geneva, Theodore Beza is quoted by Grier:

His diseases, the effects of incredible exertions of body and mind, were various and complicated.  Besides being naturally of a feeble and spare body, inclining to consumption, he slept almost waking, and spent a great part of the year in preaching, lecturing, and dictating.  For at least ten years he ... took no food at all till supper; so that it is wonderful he could have so long escaped consumption.  Being subject to hemicrania, for which starvation was the only cure he in consequence sometimes abstained from food for thirty-six hours in succession ... He became afflicted with ulcerated haemorrhoids, and occasionally for about five years before his death discharged considerable quantities of blood.  When the quartan fever left him, his right limb was siezed with gout; every now and then he had attacks of colic, and last of all he was afflicted with the stone.  The physicians used what remedies they could and there was no man who attended more carefully to the prescriptions of his physicians, except in that regard to mental exertions he was most careless of his health, not even his headaches preventing him from taking his turn in preaching.  While so oppressed with so many diseases, no man ever heard him utter a word of unbecoming a man of firmness, far less unbecoming a Christian.

Grier comments:

When we think of the vast amount of work done by this sufferer whose body was like a walking hospital, we may well be astounded.

I am astounded.  Clearly, Calvin had some kind of digestive aliment.  With such a litany of ailments, perhaps it is not surprising that he was reputed to be irritiable.  It always amazes me how the individuals who are weakest and sickest often produce the best work.  It is as if those of us who are hale and hearty feel comfortable with putting things off.  I'm certain that Calvin's lifestyle did not help his predispositions.  Sometime, I think it would be interesting to read a historian's view of Calvin's health issues, a historian who has expertise in medicine.  I'll read it if it ever gets published.

Just by way of explanation, "hemicrania" is a severe headache, judging from what I found when I did a Google search.  The "quartan fever" seems to refer to a malaria-like disease.  As for "the stone," I can only assume that it is a urinary tract stone which is referred to.  I wonder how the physicians treated such things without the use of screening devices which we benefit from today.  Now there is another interesting kind of history:  medical history. 

How can people say history is boring?



What redemption does to emotion and intellect

Please indulge me in another Frame quote.  I'll probably be finished the book this week, and the last few chapters are excellent.

In the chapter "The Existential Perspective - The Qualifications of the Theologian," Frame discusses the skills of the theologian, which includes emotion.  He discusses what redemption does to emotion and intellect:

Redemption doesn't make us more emotional (as some charismatics might suppose) or less so (as many Reformed would prefer), any more than it makes us more or less intellectual.  What redemption does to the intellect is to consecrate that intellect to God, whether the I.Q. is high or low.  Similarly, the important thing is not whether you are highly emotional or not; the important thing is that whatever emotional capacities you have should be placed in God's hands to be used according to His purposes.

Thus intellect and emotion are simply two aspects of human nature that together are fallen and together are regenerated and sanctified.  Nothing in Scripture suggests that either is superior to the other.  Neither is more fallen than the other, neither is necessarily more sanctified than the other.

I liked that.  It gives hope for someone like me, who tends to be on the emotional side.