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The Obligation-Book 1-Chapter 1

Book First

CHAPTER I.

THE OBLIGATION.

The study of religious truth ought to be undertaken and prosecuted from a sense of duty, and with a view to the improvement of the heart. When learned, it ought not to be laid on the shelf, as an object of speculation; but it should be deposited deep in the heart, where its sanctifying power ought to be felt. To study theology, for the purpose of gratifying curiosity, or preparing for a profession, is an abuse and profanation of what ought to be regarded as most holy. To learn things pertaining to God, merely for the sake of amusement, or secular advantage, or to gratify the mere love of knowledge, is to treat the Most High with contempt.

Our external interests are involved in the subject of religion, and we should study it with a view to these interests. A farmer should study agriculture, with a view to the increase of his crop; but if, instead of this he exhausts himself in inquiring how plants propagate their like, and how the different soils were originally produced, his grounds will be overrun with briers and thorns, and his barns will be empty. Equally unprofitable will be that study of religious doctrine which is directed to the mere purpose of speculation. It is as if the food necessary for the sustenance of the body, instead of being eaten and digested, were merely set out in such order as to gratify the sight. In this case, the body would certainly perish with hunger; and, with equal certainty will the soul famish if it feed not on divine truth.

When religious doctrine is regarded merely as an object of speculation, the mind is not content with the simple truth as it is in Jesus, but wanders after unprofitable questions, and becomes entangled in difficulties, from which it is unable to extricate itself. Hence arises the skepticism of many. Truth, which would sanctify and save the soul. they wilfully reject, because it will not gratify all their curiosity, and solve all their perplexities. They act as the husbandman would, who should reject the whole science of agriculture, and refuse to cultivate his grounds, because there are many mysteries in the growth of plants, which he cannot explain.

If we set out, in our search for religious truth, from a sense of duty, and with the purpose of making the best possible use of it, we may hope for success. The Lord will bless our efforts; for he has promised, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.”[1] As we advance, we shall find out all that is necessary for any practical purpose; and the sense of duty, under which we proceed, will not drive us beyond this point.

The sense of religious obligation which moves us to seek the knowledge of the truth, though disregarded by a large part of mankind, belongs to the constitution of human nature. Man was originally designed for religion, as certainly as the eye was formed for the purpose of vision. It will be advantageous to consider well this fact, at the outset of our inquires. We shall then feel that we are proceeding according to the best dictates of human nature.

The various parts of the world which we inhabit, are admirably adapted to each other. Many of these adaptations present themselves to our most careless observation; and, if we search for them with diligence, they multiply to our view beyond number. The seed falls to the ground from its parent stalk, like a grain of sand; but, unlike the sand, it contains in its minute dimensions, a wonderful provision for the production of a future plant. This provision, however, would prove unavailing, if it did not find a soil adapted to give nourishment to the young germ. Moisture is also needed: and the vapor, rising from a distant sea, is wafted to the place by the wind, and, condensed in the atmosphere, descends in the fertilizing shower. But all these adaptations are insufficient, if warmth is not supplied; and, to complete the process, the sun at the distance of ninety-five millions of miles, sends forth his enlivening beams. Such complications of arrangements abound in all the works of nature.

The purposes which these adaptations accomplish, are often perfectly obvious. In plants and animals, they provide for the life of the individual and the continuance of the species. Plants are adapted to become food for animals; and plants and animals render important benefits to man. But man, too, has his adaptations; and, from a consideration of these, his proper place in the great system of the universe may be inferred.

Like other animals, man is so constituted, that provision is made for the continuance of his life, and of the race. Were there no higher indications in his constitution, he might eat and drink, like other animals; and the indulgence of his natural appetites and propensities might be the highest end of his being. But, for human beings so to brutalize themselves, is a manifest degradation of their nature. They possess endowments, which, as every one feels, fit them for far nobler purposes.

The high intellectual powers of man, call for appropriate exercise. His knowledge is not confined to objects near at hand, nor to such relations and properties of things as are immediately perceived by the senses; but his reason traces remote relations, and follows the chain of cause and effect through long successions. From the present moment he looks back through past history, and connects events in their proper order of dependence. By his knowledge of the past he is able to anticipate and prepare for the future. In the causes now existing, he can discover the effects which will be developed long hereafter. Such endowments agree well with the opinion that he is an immortal being, and that the present transitory life is preparatory to another which will never end; but they, by no means, accord with the supposition, that he dies as the brute. No one imagines that the ox, or the ass, is concerned with the question whether an immortality awaits him, for which it is important that he should prepare; but the idea of a future state has had a place in the human mind in all ages, and under all forms of religion. The bee and the ant provide for the approaching winter; and the winter, for which their instincts lead them to prepare, comes upon them. If the future life, which men have so generally looked for, which their minds are so fitted to expect, and for which many have labored to prepare, with unceasing care, should never be realized, the case would violate all analogy, and be discordant with the harmony of universal nature.

The human mind is fitted for continued progress in knowledge; and, therefore for a state of immortality. This adaptation includes an insatiable desire of knowledge, and an ability to acquire it. The little chicken, not many hours after it has left the shell in which its feeble existence commences, is able to select its food, to roam abroad in search of it, and to return to its mother’s wing for protection. Man is born into the world, the most helpless of animals. Tedious weeks pass away before the development of his intellectual powers begins to appear. The progress is slow, and many months of gradual improvement pass, before he becomes equal in ability for self-preservation, to many other creatures that have lived a few hours. These animals, however, stop at a point beyond which, it may be said, they never go. The birds of the present age build their nests just as they were built five thousand years ago; and the admirable social arrangements found among bees and ants have undergone no improvements. But no point, no line, bounds the progress of the human mind. Though we are now familiar with the great improvements which have been made in arts and sciences, we contemplate them with admiration and astonishment; and we feel that a boundless career is open before the intellect of man, inviting the efforts which he finds himself internally prompted to make. But, as far as each individual of the race is concerned, the vast fields of knowledge open before him in vain, his power to explore them exists in vain, and the desire to explore burns in vain in his breast, if the present life, which flies as the weaver’s shuttle, is the only opportunity granted, and if all his hopes and aspirations are to be forever buried in the grave.

The moral faculties with which man is endowed, adapt him to a state of subjection to moral government. Our minds are so constituted, that we are capable of perceiving a moral quality in actions, and of approving or disapproving them. A consciousness of having done what is right, affords us one of our highest pleasures; and the anguish of remorse for evil deeds, is as intolerable as any suffering of which the human heart is susceptible. Our conscience exercises a moral government within us, and rewards or punishes us for actions according to their moral character. Much of our happiness depends on the approbation of those with whom we associate. Hence, we find moral government without, as well as within; and at every point, in our relations to intelligent beings, we feel its restraints. Where are the bounds of this moral government? It must be as extensive as our relations to moral beings, and as lasting as our existence.

That men are immortal and under a moral government, by which their future state will be made happy or miserable, according to their conduct in the present life, are fundamental truths of religion. Man is a religious animal; because a persuasion of his immortality and an expectation of future retribution so readily find a place in his mind. No one imagines that such thoughts were ever entertained for a moment, by any one of the innumerable brute animals that have trodden the earth. But in the human race, such thoughts have been prevalent in all nations and ages; have mingled with the cogitations of the learned and the unlearned, the wise and the unwise; and have blended religion thoroughly with the history of mankind.

The considerations which have been presented, establish the claim of religious truth to our highest respect and most diligent investigation. He who disregards its claim acts contrary to his own nature, and degrades himself to the level of the beast that perishes. That men do so degrade themselves, is a fact which correct views of religious truth cannot overlook: “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.”[2] It is a peculiar glory and excellence of the Christian revelation, that it is adapted to this fallen condition of mankind; and that it has power to effect a restoration. It is medicine for the sick, as well as food for the healthy. A healthy appetite calls for food; and the food, when received, administers needed nourishment; so that between the healthy stomach and the nutritious food, the adaptation is reciprocal. But in sickness the stomach loathes food, and rejects the medicine which is needed to effect a cure: yet the adaptation of the medicine to the condition of the sick man still remains. Just so it is with respect to the gospel of Christ. Though rejected by men, it is “worthy of all acceptation,” because it is a remedy, precisely adapted to our depraved state. Thousands of thousands have experienced its restoring power, and unite in recommending its efficacy to the multitudes who are unwilling to make trial of it.

In contemplating the truths of religion, we may view them in various aspects. We may consider them as proceeding from God; as demonstrated by abundant proof; as harmonizing with one another; and as tending to the glory of God. It is interesting and instructive to view them in immediate contact with the human heart, and, like the Spirit of God, brooding over the original chaos, bringing order out of confusion, and infusing light and life where darkness and death had previously reigned. In exerting this new-creating power, the divinity of Christian truth appears; and the demonstration of it is the more satisfactory, because practical, and leveled to the capacity of all.

As religious beings, let us seek to understand the truths of religion. As immortal beings, let us strive to make ourselves acquainted with the doctrine on which our everlasting happiness depends. And let us be careful that we do not merely receive it coldly into our understanding, but that its renewing power is ever operative in our hearts.

[1] John vii. 17.

[2] Is. i. 3.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

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The Regulative Principle of Worship is a Biblical Doctrine

by Jeff Robinson

In my previous article, I argued that the regulative principle of worship is a Baptist doctrine. But any Baptist worth his or her salt will ask the more salient question: But is it a biblical doctrine?

I want to argue that it is in fact a biblical doctrine and give a brief biblical defense from 32,000 feet. As I sought to show last time, Baptist confessions have articulated it and numerous important figures who have roamed the landscape of the Baptist tradition held it in earnest.

Granted, there is not a single text that may be accessed which says, “You shall only use in gathered worship those elements taught by precept or example in Scripture.” But if you take the overall witness of Scripture as to how God expects to be worshiped, I believe a strong case may be made.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

Occam’s Razor and the Perpetuity of Evangelical Scandal

by Tom Chantry

Occam’s Razor is the name given to the logical argument that the simplest theory to explain any given phenomena is likely the correct theory. Since our judgment is often obstructed, we need to shave away needless assumptions and bits of argumentation in order to arrive at a reasonable understanding. Scientists debate the legitimacy of the Razor as an empirical tool; certain complexities in nature (think of the construction of the living cell) suggest that complex explanations of material phenomena are often correct. It is nevertheless a useful philosophical tool, particularly as a foundational principle of the common sense by which we ought to live. If I awake in the morning to find branches from my trees scattered about the back yard, it is simpler to assume that we had a strong wind than it is to believe that demons attacked my trees during the night! The sensible man will automatically adopt the simpler theory.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

The right use of ‘Reason’ example 1

Arthur Pink12. The right use of reason in connection with the things of God. This is another rule of exegesis which is of considerable importance, yet one that requires to be used with holy care and caution, and by one of mature judgment and thorough acquaintance with the Word. For that reason it is not to be employed by the novice or inexperienced. The Christian, like the non-Christian, is endowed with rationality, and the sanctified exercise thereof certainly has its most fitting sphere in the realm of spiritual things. Before considering the application of reason to the expounding of the Truth, let us point out its more general province. Two examples thereof may be selected from the teaching of our Lord.

“Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30).

Here we find Christ demonstrating, by a simple process of logic, the utter unreasonableness of distrustful anxiety in connection with the supply of temporal necessities. His argument is drawn from the consideration of Divine providence. If God cares for the field, much more will He for His dear people: He evidences His care for the field by clothing it with grass, therefore much more will He provide clothing for us.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

John Bunyan

220px-John_BunyanJohn Bunyan, the author of the “Pilgrim’s Progress”, was born at Elstow, near Bedford, in 1628. The Bunyan family had been settled in that country since the beginning of the thirteenth century. Thomas Bunyan, his father, was a “brazier”, or tinker, and John was brought up to his father’s trade. But after his mother’s death in 1644, he enlisted in the army; probably on the side of the Parliament, but as to this there is no direct evidence. In 1646 the army was disbanded; but before that Bunyan had passed through an experience which had left a lasting mark on him. “When I was a soldier,” he says, “I with others were drawn out to go to such a place to besiege it; but when I was just ready to go one of the company desired to go in my room, to which when I had consented, he took my place; and coming to the siege, as he stood sentinel he was shot into the head with a musket bullet and died.”

Shortly after this Bunyan married, but nothing is known of his wife’s family. With her, Bunyan talked of religion, and read in two books which he names: “The Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven”, by Arthur Dent (first published in 1601), and “The Practice of Piety (1612). During the four years he went through a terrible spiritual struggle. In speaking of himself afterwards, he describes himself as the worst of sinners; but the only wickedness in which he is known to have indulged is “swearing, lying, and blaspheming”, and from coarser vices he seems to have been free. The fury of his spiritual struggle, and the darkness of his own description of himself, both were due to the strength and depth of his own nature. At last it ended. Those who wish to know how Bunyan came to the light should read his own wonderful story of it.

In 1653 he joined Mr. Gifford’s church in Bedford, which then worshipped in St. John’s Church, and a year or two later he went to live in that town. He began about this time to preach, and so great was his success that he was set apart more especially for this work. At the Restoration (1660), the pastor of Bunyan’s church was dead, and their building was taken from them and given back to the Established Church. On November 12, 1660, Bunyan was arrested for unlicensed preaching; and being again arrested in 1661, and refusing to abstain, he was kept in prison with one short interval until 1672, when he was released at the Declaration of Indulgence. He spent his time in making many hundred gross of long tagg’d laces”, and possibly in other work of the kind. He also preached, and now and again was allowed to go out and attend the meeting of his church, which meet in different houses as best it could. Bunyan wrote and published several books of meditations whilst in prison, and one of the most remarkable auto biographies ever written, Grace Abounding (1666)

In 1672, on his release, Bunyan was chosen minister of the community at Bedford with whom he worshipped, and a barn in Mill Lane was licensed for their meeting-place. He seems to have been imprisoned again, in the winter of 1675-6, in the jail on Bedford bridge, and there to have compsed the “Pilgrim’s Progress” (published in 1678). The book at once leapt into fame; it has been republished scores of times, and translated into more than seventy languages. In 1685 the Second Part, dealing with Christiana and her family, was published. The year 1682 saw the issue of the “Holy War made by Shaddai upon Diabolus”. His numerous other books and pamphlets may be omitted here. In 1688 he travelled to London, and their died, and he was buried in Bunhill Fields.

Of all Bunyan’s books, only two are still commonly read, and these will be read as long as the memory of England survives: the “Pilgrim’s Progress” and the “Holy War”. Both are allegories, a droll composition as a rule; but these books are so true to human nature, so full of pictures of life and character, that children enjoy them as stories without understanding, while their elders admire them for other qualities as well.

 

Source [Reformed Reader]

Important Correction on Coxe

Samuel Renihan makes an important correction regarding the printed and Kindle versions of Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ. At the beginning of chapter 4 in the RBAP publication, Coxe says

The covenant of grace made with Abraham was not the same for substance

But the original said

not but that the covenant of grace as made with Abraham was the same for substance

The implication is that

Coxe is saying that Genesis 12 contains the same covenant of grace for substance (there is only one) as found before and after this passage of Scripture, but it was made known to Abraham in a special way unlike any other example in the Bible.

This is helpful because many think Coxe argued that there were two Abrahamic Covenants, but that was not his meaning.

Please read Sam’s helpful post, as well as his analysis of the original and RBAP in a PDF.

 

 

Source [1689federalism.com]

God has taught monarchs the truth that He alone is God

CharlesSpurgeonAgain: how has he taught this great truth to monarchs! There are some who have been most proud that have had to learn it in a way more hard than others. Take for instance, Nebuchadnezzar. His crown is on his head, his purple robe is over his shoulders; he walks through proud Babylon, and says, “Is not this great Babylon which I have builded?” Do you see that creature in the field there? It is a man. “A man?” say you; its hair has grown like eagles’ feathers; and its nails like bird’s claws; it walketh on all fours, and eateth grass, like an ox; it is driven out from men. That is the monarch who said- “Is not this great Babylon that I have builded?” And now he is restored to Babylon’s palace, that he may “bless the Most High who is able to abase those that walk in pride.” I remember another monarch. Look at Herod. He sits in the midst of his people, and he speaks. Hear ye the impious shout? “It is the voice of God,” they cry, “and not the voice of man.” The proud monarch gives not God the glory; he affects the god and seems to shake the spheres, imagining himself divine. There is a worm that creepeth into his body, and yet another, and another, and ere that sun has set, he is eaten up of worms. Ah! monarch! Thou thoughtest of being a god, and worms have eaten thee! Thou hast thought of being more than man; and what art thou? Less than man, for worms consume thee, and thou art the prey of corruption. Thus God humbleth the proud, thus he abaseth the mighty. We might give you instances from modern history; but the death of a king is all-sufficient to teach this one lesson, if men would but learn it. When kings die, and in funeral pomp are carried to the grave, we are taught the lesson- “I am God, and beside me there is none else.” When we hear of revolutions, and the shaking of empires-when we see old dynasties tremble, and gray-haired monarchs driven from their thrones, then it is that Jehovah seems to put his foot upon land and sea, and with his hand uplifted cries-”Hear! ye inhabitants of the earth! Ye are but as grasshoppers; ‘I am God, and beside me there is none else.’”

Charles H. Spurgeon- Sovereignty and Salvation-A Sermon Delivered On Sabbath Morning, January 6