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Heart Aflame - March 14, 2010

Psalm 23:2-3

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.  David relates how abundantly God has provided for all his necessities.  The heavenly Shepherd had omitted nothing which might contribute to make him live happily under his care.  He, therefore, compares the great abundance of all things requisite for the purposes of the present life which he enjoyed, to meadows richly covered with grass, and to gently flowing streams of water; or he compares the benefit or advanraga of such things to sheep-cots; for it would not have been enough to have been fed and satisfied in rich pasture, had there not also been provided waters to drink, and the shadow of the sheep-cot to cool and refresh him.

He restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousess for his name's sake.  As is the duty of a good shepherd to cherish his sheep, and when they are diseased or weak to nurse and support them, David declares that this was the manner in which he was treated by God.  The restoring of the soul, or the conversion of the soul, as it is, literally rendered is of the same import as to make anew, or to recover.

By the paths of righteousness, David means easy and plain paths.

God is in no respect wanting to his people, seeing he sustains them by his power, invigorates and quickens them, and averts from them whatever is hurtul, and they may walk at ease in plain and straight paths.  That, however, he may not ascribe any thing to his own worth or merit, David represents the goodness of God as the cause of so great liberality, declaring that God bestows all these things upon him for his own name's sake.  And certainly his choosing us t be his sheep, and his performing towards us all the offices of a shepherd, is a blessing which proceeds entirely from his free and sovereign goodness.


Concluding the Primer of Justification

John Gerstner concluded his six part series, Primer on Justification, with three further categories:

The Antinominan Way of Justification

Roman Catholicism


These are excerpted from the book Primitive Theology.

The real kicker, of course, is that many who would call themselves "evangelical" may, in fact, embrace a view of justification that does not fall under that category. 


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.

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.


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.