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The Moral Law A Rule of Obedience

September 8, 2015 Leave a comment

by Samuel Bolton

QUERY I: Are Christians freed from the moral law as a rule of obedience?

Our text (John 8.36) is the main basis whereon this doctrine of Christian freedom is built. But many have endeavoured to build their own superstructures, hay and stubble, upon it, which the foundation will never bear. Indeed, there are so many opinions which plead patronage from this doctrine that I conceive it is my great work to vindicate so excellent a doctrine as this is-true Christian freedom – from those false, and I may say licentious, doctrines which are fastened and fathered upon it. I must show you that neither this doctrine, nor yet this text, will afford countenance to, or contribute any strength to the positions and opinions which some would seem to deduce from it and build upon it.

The work is great, for I am to deal with the greatest knots in the practical part of divinity, and men’s judgments are various. Scripture is pleaded on all hands. The more difficult the work, the more need of your prayers, that the Father of lights would go before us, and by His own light lead and guide us into the ways of all truth. In this confidence we shall venture to launch into these deeps, and begin the examination and trial of those doctrines which are deduced from, and would seem to be built upon, this text. The first doctrine, and the main one, that they would seem to build upon this text is, that believers are freed from the law. And this shall be the first question we will examine.

In answer to this query as it is propounded, we must confess that we are not without some places of Scripture which declare the law to be abrogated, nor without some again that speak of it as yet in force. We will give you a taste of some of them; and shall begin with those that seem to speak of the abrogation of the law.

 

 

 
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I Blame Us, Part 5: The Recovery

September 8, 2015 Leave a comment

Let’s Have a Reformation!

All week I have argued that the American Evangelical church is to blame for the collapse of our culture. We have failed utterly to maintain the doctrine of the law which was universally taught in Protestant confessions, becoming instead a lawless people. This has handicapped our witness to the world, robbing us of the moral authority to speak and of any message which could convict.

A very serious reformation is needed. Efforts to defund (and dismantle) Planned Parenthood are certainly a righteous cause. It is right for Christians to fight abortion, and to struggle to define marriage properly. However, a more fundamental reformation is necessary, and what is more, it is within the grasp of the church. I speak of a reformation of Evangelicalism – one in which we repent of the last half-century of abandonment of morality. The needed reformation will be spiritual, theological, ecclesiastical, and homiletical.

 

 

 

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I Blame Us, Part 4: The Failure

September 1, 2015 Leave a comment

Yesterday I wrote about the scourge of antinomianism which has all but erased traditional protestant doctrine from the evangelical world. While thorough antinomians may be in a minority; they are both vocal and influential. Most evangelicals have at least abandoned part of the law. Many have adopted a form of homiletical antinomianism – an antinomianism of message if you will. It is as though we are permitted to believe in moral law, so long as we never preach it and rarely write about it. Where the law is still permitted to be discussed, it is only with regard to its first (evangelistic) use. Talk of the law restraining human corruption is forgotten, while talk of the law as a standard for Christian ethics is strongly resisted within the church.

But what does any of this have to do with the moral collapse in culture? After all, a solid majority even of self-professed evangelicals still oppose gay marriage, and we are nearly unanimous in our opposition to the culture of death characterized by Planned Parenthood. Are we indeed to blame?

 

 

 

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I Blame Us, Part 3: The Rejection

Anybody for a game of “Who’s the Pharisee”?

Yesterday I laid out the traditional Christian ethical system, having already quoted the chapter on the law from the 1689 Baptist Confession. Of course this system seems like a radical departure to any contemporary Christian who has been raised on the conviction that biblical law is a useless relic from an earlier dispensation. It is, however, the consistent teaching of Protestantism. In a nutshell, that system may be summarized like this:

1.All biblical law is derived from the character of God, and is thus by definition good.

2.Some laws served a temporary purpose, and God himself abrogated those laws.

3.Biblical law also includes that which is permanent and universal, and this is clearly identified in the Ten Commandments.

4.No one keeps this law perfectly, and thus no one is saved by keeping it.

5.The moral law is nevertheless very useful, and therefore ought to be preached.

6.The preaching and teaching of the moral law is entirely consistent with the gospel.

 

 

 

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I Blame Us, Part 2: The Law

Yesterday I argued that the main culprit in America’s moral collapse has been none other than Evangelical Christianity. In support of that argument I linked to the 1689 Confession’s statement on the law. I argued that this was not a uniquely Particular Baptist doctrine, nor even English Reformed, but was universal in the Protestant church at one time. So before I make some observations on the confession, I need to demonstrate the truth of this statement: “[This] theology was held by Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and the Continental Reformed as well as the Baptists.”

 

 

 

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I Blame Us, Part 1: The Collapse

That’s gotta hurt!

Most American Christians are currently experiencing cultural whiplash. We thought we lived in the best country on earth, one with a long history of Christian influence, and that we were necessarily better than a lot of other places. Better than atheist Europe, better than pagan Africa, better than Catholic Latin America, and better than the tyrannical Far East. Obviously we’re better than the Islamic Middle East. And Canada, too – everyone knows we’re better than Canada. We’re America. We pledge allegiance to the American flag and to a recently-invented Christian flag right next to each other. Piety and Patriotism are twin brothers in our land. We’re the Christian nation, the home of the free, the defenders of liberty.

Then, in one month’s time, we discover that actually, the constitutional republic our civics classes taught us about simply no longer exists. Instead, a panel of elite lawyers make up the constitution as they go, while an even smaller number of elite bureaucrats set policies according to their whims. Consider:

 

 

 

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Honorable Gifts

October 13, 2014 1 comment

Spurgeon 1We shall divide God’s gifts into five classes. First, we shall have gifts temporal; second, gifts saving; third, gifts honorable; fourth, gifts useful; and fifth, gifts comfortable. Of all these we shall say, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?”

3. We now come, in the third place, to notice the differences which God often makes in his Church in HONORABLE GIFTS. There is a difference made between God’s own children — when they are his children. Note what I mean: One hath the honorable gift of knowledge, another knows but little. I meet, every now and then, with a dear Christian brother with whom I could talk for a month, and learn something from him every day. He has had deep experience — he has seen into the deep things of God — his whole life has been a perpetual study wherever he has been. He seems to have gathered thoughts, not from books merely, but from men, from God, from his own heart. He knows all the intricacies and windings of Christian experience: he understands the height, the depths, the lengths, and the breadths of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. He has gained a grand idea, an intimate knowledge of the system of grace, and can vindicate the dealings of the Lord with his people.

Then you meet with another who has passed through many troubles, but he has no deep acquaintance with Christian experience. He never learned a single secret by all his troubles. He just floundered out of one trouble into another, but never stopped to pick up any of the jewels that lay in the mire — never tried to discover the precious jewels that lay in his afflictions. He knows very little more of the heights and depths of the Savior’s love than when he first came into the world. You may converse with such a man as long as you like, but you will get nothing from him. If you ask why is it, I answer, there is a Sovereignty of God in giving knowledge to some and not to others. I was walking the other day with an aged Christian, who told me how he had profited by my ministry. There is nothing humbles me like that thought of yon old man deriving experience in the things of God, receiving instruction in the ways of the Lord from a mere babe in grace. But I expect that when I am an old man, if I should live to be such, that some babe in grace will instruct me. God sometimes shutteth the mouth of the old man and openeth the mouth of the child. Why should we be a teacher to hundreds who are, in some respects, far more able to teach us? The only answer we can find is in the Divine Sovereignty, and we must bow before it, for has he not a right to do as he wills with his own ? Instead of being envious of those who have the gift of knowledge, we should seek to gain the same, if possible. Instead of sitting down and murmuring that we have not more knowledge, we should remember that the foot cannot say to the head, nor the head to the foot, I have no need of thee, for God hath given us talents as it hath pleased him.

Note, again, when speaking of honorable gifts. Not only knowledge, but office is an honorable gift. There is nothing more honorable to a man than the office of a deacon or a minister. We magnify our office, though we would not magnify ourselves. We hold there is nothing can dignify a man more than being appointed to an office in a Christian church. I would rather be a deacon of a church than Lord Mayor of London. To be a minister of Christ is in my estimation an infinitely higher honor than the world can bestow. My pulpit is to me more desirable than a throne, and my congregation is an empire more than large enough; an empire before which the empires of the earth dwindle into nothing in everlasting importance. Why does God give to one man a special call by the Holy Ghost, to be a minister, and pass by another? There is another man more gifted, perhaps, but we dare not put him in a pulpit, because he has not had a special call. So with the deaconship; the man whom some would perhaps think most suitable for the office is passed by, and another chosen. There is a manifestation of God’s Sovereignty in the appointment to office — in putting David on a throne, in making Moses the leader of the children of Israel through the wilderness, in choosing Daniel to stand among princes, in electing Paul to be the minister to the Gentiles, and Peter to be the Apostle of the Circumcision. And you who have not the gift of honorable office, must learn the great truth contained in the question of the Master, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own ?”

There is another honorable gift, the gift of utterance. Eloquence hath more power over men than all else besides. If a man would have power over the multitude, he must seek to touch their hearts, and chain their ears. There are some men who are like vessels full of knowledge to the brim, but having no means of giving it forth to the world. They are rich in all gems of learning, but know not how to set them in the golden ring of eloquence.

They can collect the choicest of flowers, but know not how to tie them up in a sweet garland to present them to the admirer’s eye. How is this? We say again, the Sovereignty of God is here displayed in the distribution of gifts honorable. Learn here, O Christian man, if you have gifts to cast the honor of them at the Savior’s feet, and if you possess them not, learn not to murmur; remember that God is equally as kind when he keepeth back as when he distributeth his favors. If any among you be exalted, let him not be puffed up; if any be lowly, let him not be despised; for God giveth to every vessel his measure of grace. Serve him after your measure, and adore the King of Heaven who doth as he pleaseth.

Charles H. Spurgeon-Sermon-Divine Sovereignty-Delivered May 4 1856

Question 54-Puritan Catechism

January 16, 2014 1 comment

Spurgeon 1Q. What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?

A. The reason annexed to the fifth commandment is, a promise of long life and prosperity – as far as it shall serve for God’s glory, and their own good – to all such as keep this commandment. (Ephesians 6:2,3)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism

Question 53-Puritan Catechism

January 9, 2014 1 comment

SpurgeonQ. What is required in the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment requires the preserving the Honor, and performing the duties belonging to every one in their various positions and relationships as superiors, (Ephesians 5:21,22, 6:1,5; Romans 13:1) inferiors, (Ephesians 6:9) or equals. (Romans 12:10)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism

Question 52-Puritan Catechism

January 2, 2014 1 comment

CharlesSpurgeonQ. Which is the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment is, “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism