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Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 1-Chapter 1-The Being of God

December 5, 2014 1 comment

CHAPTER 1-THE BEING OF GOD

We have no intention of making labored and elaborate arguments for the existence of God. We start where the Bible starts. The Bible assumes the existence of God, and we assume that our readers will do the same. There are so many witnesses to His existence that the Bible makes no effort to prove it. There is the outer witness in nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (#Ps 19:1). The voice of these witnesses has been heard in every language and in all places of the earth. It is true that in times past God “Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways” (#Ac 14:16). “Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (#Ac 14:17). His eternal power and Deity are clearly seen in the visible things He has created: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (#Ro 1:20).

There is also the inner witness of the human conscience. “For when the Gentiles (heathen), which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;” (#Ro 2:14,15). The voice of nature in creation and in conscience proclaims loudly the existence of the true and living and eternal God. And so, for all practical purposes, there is no necessity for proving the existence of God.

THE SOUL FEELS GOD

A man once sought to ridicule the idea of God. He asked his Christian neighbor if he had ever seen God. The believer admitted he had not. He was then asked if he had ever heard God speak, or if he had ever tasted God, or if he had ever smelled God. The believer admitted that with the physical senses he had never apprehended God, and then shut the mouth of the atheist by asking him if he had ever told a lie. And when he confessed he had, he was further asked how he felt. He admitted that he had an uneasy or apprehensive feeling. Now this feeling was the testimony of conscience telling him there was a God, a moral Lawgiver, to whom he must give account. This is the meaning of conscience money and other things men do to ease their conscience and placate an offended Deity. Every man feels God whose conscience has not been seared or otherwise tampered with. The atheist is the educated fool. There are no theoretical atheists among the heathen. There are no atheists among the demons; they believe and tremble: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (#Jas 2:19).

SIN ORIGINATED IN THE AFFECTIONS

The Scriptures do not reason with the atheist, but rather reprove him. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good” (#Ps 14:1). The error is not so much in the understanding as in the heart. The theoretical atheist (the man who denies the existence of God) has tampered with his mind until he has made it agree with his heart. It is a case of the wish being father to the thought. While there are comparatively few theoretical atheists, every man in his natural and fallen state is a practical atheist, he does not want the true God. The fool of Psalms fourteen and fifty-three is the typical fool; he represents every unregenerate man. In the context the plural is used: “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good” (#Ps 14:1). “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good” (#Ps 53:1). Sin originated in the affections or desires, and the darkened understanding is one of the effects by way of Divine punishment. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;” (#Ro 1:28). The true God, when known, was not the God men wanted. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (#Ro 1:21).

MORAL DEVOLUTION

The true evolution, morally, takes sin into account, and is the development or unfolding of a human nature that hates the true God. It is moral devolution. The progress of sin is given “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (#Ro 1:18-32).

First, men suppressed or held down the truth about God. They had the truth about God in the book of nature. His eternal power and Deity were clearly revealed in the things He had made, but men did not like this truth. They turned away from revelation and turned aside to their own reasonings. Second, they changed the truth about God into a lie, and made images or representations of God in the form of man and birds and beasts and creeping things. There was the Apollo of the Greeks, the eagle of the Romans, the bull of the Egyptians, and the serpent of the Assyrians. Men knew God and refused to worship Him, and idolatry followed as a psychological necessity. And third, idolatry was followed by sensuality. God gave them up to uncleanness and vile affections. He withdrew His restraining grace and suffered human nature to go its full length in immorality. The closing verses of Romans one reveal the terrible things men and women will do when given up by God. They not only do these things themselves, but are glad to see others do them. The lowest stage in depravity is reached when men take pleasure in seeing others sin.

NO SAVING LIGHT IN NATURE

The witnesses of God in nature do not constitute Gospel light. They are sufficient to render all men without excuse, but they are not efficient as means of salvation. They are sufficient to make men know they are sinners, but they have nothing to say about a Savior. There must be a further revelation of God before men can know Him in the forgiveness of sins. And this revelation is His written Word as a witness to the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, by the knowledge of Whom many shall be justified. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (#Isa 53:11).

MAN IS A RELIGIOUS BEING

Man is by nature a religious being. By training, apart from Bible teaching and the new birth, he will either become an atheist or an idolater. This is the best education can do apart from the grace of God. A mere cultural religion deifies humanity, denies the fall, and talks only of upward development. This is the religion of the evolutionist. The god of the sensualist is his belly, his inward desires. The only law he recognizes is the craving of a depraved nature. “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (#Php 3:19). This is the religion of the godless business man as well as of the drunkard and libertine.

It is as bad to invent a god in the imagination as it is to make one with the hands. The old form of idolatry had its gods made with hands; the new form of idolatry has its gods spun out of the imagination and harbored in the mind. The unknown God is still the true God. The Athenians of Paul’s day had monuments to many gods, and in their religious zeal had a monument to the unknown God. The unknown God was the God Paul preached to them. The true God was unknown to them. (#Ac 17:22-32): “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.”

It is the purpose of the following pages to present the God of the Bible in His nature and personal perfections. The reader is asked to test what is written herein with what is revealed in Holy Writ. And may the Spirit of truth guide us into the truth!

C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 1

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Chapter 3-Reason and Revelation

December 25, 2013 2 comments

Chapter 3-Reason and Revelation

 

HAVING considered the proofs of the existence of God, we should discuss the ways in which he has made himself known, before we study his nature, and attributes, and relations to us. These constitute the sources of our knowledge of Theology, which are two, Reason and Revelation.

Reason is that power in man, which enables him to have mental perceptions, to exercise thought, and reflection, to know facts, to inquire into their mutual relations, and to deduce, logically, the conclusions which may be drawn from them.

Reason may be used either with reference to the natural or supernatural means of knowledge conferred by God.

When we refer to reason as a source of knowledge distinct from revelation, we mean the information attained, by the use of this faculty, in connection only with the natural, as distinguished from the supernatural.

By revelation, we mean the knowledge which God conveys by direct supernatural instruction, pre-eminently that given in the book known as the Bible.

Reason involves all the cognitive powers of man, which are the faculties through which the mind attains knowledge. These faculties are not separate, and independent, but are merely the instruments of the mind.

The mind is not itself an original source of knowledge, like the Scriptures, but is merely an instrument by which the man attains knowledge through the exercise of its appropriate faculties. There are no such things as innate ideas. These arrive only through the exercise of proper thought and reflection, in connection with some perceived facts.

The means by which the mind attains knowledge in the exercise of its faculties, are five.

1. Consciousness, by which we learn our own existence, and the fact that we think, and are personal beings, possessing personal identity during the term of our natural life.

2. Observation, and experience of the world about us, through the senses.

3. Through intuitive conceptions, by which, upon the suggestion through some external object, of some principle, we find ourselves at once convinced of its correctness.

4. The dispositions, instincts and tendencies of our natures.

5. The curse of events in nature, as tending to good or evil, to what is desirable or disastrous.

It is manifest that the knowledge obtained from these various sources must be abundant to teach man the simple facts upon which rests his duty to God; namely, that there is a God to whom he owes existence, and consequent reverence, service and love, and whose greatness and goodness enforce this obligation; also to show him that that duty has not been discharged, and that he has not the disposition to discharge it; and consequently to render him uneasy in his relations to God, and anxious to appease him, and secure some assurance of his pardon and approval. It has also been thought by many, that through reason alone man attains the conviction of immortality and of a future state of rewards and punishments.

However abundant may be the information thus conveyed to man, it is nevertheless clear that his knowledge in these directions must still remain very imperfect.

This must have been true of man even in a state of innocence. His finite nature and the finite conditions which surrounded him must still have left him ignorant upon many desirable matters. It is natural, therefore, to believe that, in that condition, he received direct communications from God, which are properly esteemed revelations.

But this imperfection must have been greatly increased by an subsequent, fall from innocence. By this the Perceptions of right and wrong would be dimmed, the power of conscience to enforce the right would be impaired, the desire to do the right would be diminished, prejudices against the right would be created, an affection for God would be greatly decreased, if not entirely obliterated.

Upon these grounds we may infer the necessity of some further source of knowledge of God, and of his will with respect to man.

We may also argue a priori as to the nature of this revelation.

1. It must come from God, the source of all our other knowledge. No other could give it, and it is fit that no other should do so.

2. It must be suited to our present condition, confirming the truth already known, and teaching what is practically useful to man as sinner before God.

3. It must be secured from all possibility of error, so that its teachings may be relied on with equal, if not greater, confidence than those of reason.

4. It must come with authority, claiming and proving its claim to be the word of God, who has the right to command, and to punish those who disobey his commands; with authority also, that man may with confidence believe and trust the promises and hopes pardon and peace it may hold out.

5 That it will be accompanied by difficulties and mysteries what may be expected, since these are found frequently attending the knowledge derived from reason.

The gift of such a revelation must of course depend absolutely upon the will of God. It is not for man to say, before it is given, whether it certainly will, or will not, be bestowed.

That it is not improbable may be inferred from the fact that God has already made himself known to us in various ways in ourselves and in nature. If we need further revelation we my hope for it.

The only reason to the contrary is that we have sinned against God, and he may have chosen to abandon us to our fate. But this is not so truly understood until revelation has confirmed our conviction of our sinful estate. On the other hand, the favors which God still bestows, and the means of continued knowledge of him which he affords, indicate that he has not yet consigned us to our deserved fate, and that he may have purposes of mercy towards us.

That which renders it highly probable is the expectation seen in man, in the conceptions he has formed of God, as one to be propitiated by sacrifices and approached with prayer.

If the expectations thus formed are to he verified, the important question arises, in what way can God make known to us the new truth he wills to teach.

They manifestly speak unadvisedly who assert that this can in nowise be done.

If he should so choose, he could impress it on each one in like manner as we attain intuitive conceptions. He might reveal it to individuals in dreams and visions, so as to make each one feel and know that the vision is from God. Those through whom he has revealed himself have in some such way attained absolute conviction that God has spoken to and through them, and with God there is neither impossibility nor difficulty in producing like certainty in the mind of each individual of the race.

But as God usually acts through means, so he has revealed himself to a few, and through them to mankind in general.

The only question then is, how can he give evidence to the race at large that the men he has inspired are indeed his messengers?

This also might be done in various ways, but he has chosen to do it by attesting their mission by miracles wrought through them.

As to the measure of authority to be ascribed to these miracles, men differ in opinion.

Some teach that any miracle wrought is of itself sufficient attestation of the messenger and of the truth which he teaches.

Others, that miracles are only proofs to those who behold them, and dubious proofs even then, and that the true purpose of them is not to set the seal of God’s authority, but simply to awaken attention and excite awe, and thus prepare the way for a proper hearing of the divine message. These assert that the revelation comes to us with the authority only of the self-convincing nature of the truth made known.

It is necessary, in this difference of opinions, to seek carefully after the true theory. From no source can we better obtain it than from the revelation itself, the teaching of which will be seen to be fully corroborated otherwise.

The Scripture theory seems to be this, that in any new revelation the prophet of God must present a doctrine perfectly consistent with ever past revelation and with the knowledge conveyed by nature, and must, at the same time, confirm by miracles his authority as a teacher from God. Without the miracle the new truth has no evidence that it is not simply the product of human reason or imagination. The coincidence in doctrine is necessary to protect against pretended miracles and the tricks of unprincipled men. Besides, the new truth can have no higher authority than the old, and therefore cannot supersede it, for the old also has come from God. No truth ever taught by God can be opposed by any new truth from him. What with God is truth is eternal truth. Like himself, it is the same “yesterday, to-day and forever.” It may be more abundantly or clearly revealed. We may learn to comprehend it better and to correct our own misapprehensions of it, but whatever God has once given as truth must so remain forever, as changeless as his own life.

1. The Scriptural authority for this theory is conclusive.

Moses announced the law, which shows the miracle alone not to be conclusive. See Deut. 13:1, 2, 3. “If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and he give thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he shake unto thee, saying, let us go after other gods which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” This passage shows that even a miracle, wrought by one teaching doctrine not in accordance with that already received, should not tempt to belief in the divine authority of him who should work it.

The Apostle Paul gives similar instruction to the Galatians, Gal. 1:8: ” Though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.” Whatever might be the accredited authority of the messenger, his teachings were not to be received.

Yet, with all this, the Scriptures do not disparage the miracle. The miracles of Mosaic times are constantly referred to as indubitably marking it as divine. Nicodemus recognized the high position assigned to miracles by the Jews, John 3:2: “No man can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him.” Christ himself says, John 10:25: “The works that I do in my Father’s name, these bear witness of me.”

This theory of the Scriptures is not necessarily based upon the idea that real miracles can be wrought otherwise than by divine power. Still the language sometimes used is liable to this construction. And much depends upon the definition of a miracle. If a miracle be a suspension of the fixed laws which God has established for the world, that suspension can only occur through his special permission. Taking this as the true meaning of the word, we can understand why such stress is laid in the Scriptures upon the Mosaic miracles and those of Christ, since many of them are such as nothing but divine power could accomplish. But the word miracle in the Scriptures has not this restricted meaning, but is applied likewise to any marked supernatural event. Because men are apt to put these upon a level with the miracles which God alone can work, they are warned not to follow after what is thus supernaturally done, if it be accompanied by such teaching as is contrary to truth already received.

See the apparent reality of such miracles in connection with the magicians of Egypt, Ex. 7:11; Chap. 8:7, and compare with it the conviction expressed by the magicians, Ex. 8:19, when they failed to produce lice from the dust, “This is the finger of God.”

Notice also what Christ says, Mark 13:22: “For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew signs and wonders, that they may lead astray, if possible, the elect.”

See also Rev. 16:13, 14: “And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits, as it were frogs, for they are spirits of devils, working signs; which go forth unto the kings of the whole world, to gather them together unto the war of the great day of God the Almighty.”

It is because of this liability to be deceived, that the Scriptures require the miracle and the concurrent doctrine as both essential to the reception of a new revelation.

2. This theory alone concurs with the course to which nature necessarily impels us.

To the extent that we are fully convinced of the truth of a doctrine, no subsequent revelation could change our belief. It is true that this does not apply when we have doubts; but when our knowledge is fixed, we cannot be moved. No amount of miracle could convince a Christian that the nature of God is otherwise than pure and holy, or that he delights in worship not of the heart, or that he is not infinite in justice and holiness, in goodness, mercy and truth, or that be will pardon sin without due satisfaction to his law.

3. This theory accords with the progressive character of divine revelation.

The earliest revelation came to those who had heretofore been guided only by reason. This was true even down to the beginnings of the Old Testament Scriptures, and, in that economy, only preparation was made for the future glory of the New Testament revelation. Hence the truths taught were, for the most part, only those which come within the compass of discovery by reason, or acceptance by it upon due suggestion, namely,–the existence of one God, the fact of creation, the law of moral obligation to God and man, the punishment of sinners, the duty of repentance, the pardoning mercy of God, and the law of sacrifices, with substitution and satisfaction.

The new economy goes further in its clear instructions: it teaches the vicarious atonement of Christ, involving representation in him and also in Adam, the doctrine of the Trinity in the Godhead, the mysterious union in the person of Christ, and many other truths heretofore only very indistinctly revealed.

These could not have been presented to those only taught heretofore by reason. But the revelation which stood between fore-shadowed them in different ways. From it alone originally they would not have been discovered. But now that they are made known, that former revelation is seen to concur with the new statements, and the conformity of the clearly expressed doctrine to the mere outlines of them in the past sustains the fact that they have a common author, and that the divine revealer is the same. It is like the presence in animals of the same genus in earlier days of germs which find their development in species which come later.

4. This accords with our means of judging what course of action infinite wisdom would have devised.

The conviction we have of past truth renders it impossible that we should throw it aside. We must, therefore, still hold it fast. That conviction has come from God, and we can have no higher evidence.

Yet, other statements and doctrines very probably or even certainly true, may be taught by men, as revealed to them, when they are either self-deceived, or attempting to deceive others. Hence, we must have the attesting miracle.

On the other hand, we are liable to be deceived as to what is supernatural, and especially, in the supernatural, as to what is within the limits of created power. Hence, we may be misled by the craft of men, or by the superhuman power of wicked spirits. Therefore, no doctrine must be accepted contrary to a truth already received.

A revelation, such as we have described, having been given and proved, another question arises: what is the relation which reason bears towards it?

We may lay down the following facts:

l. That reason is the first revelation, and is consequently presupposed in any other.

2. That the facts of reason cannot be denied by any subsequent revelation. No truth can destroy other truth.

A limitation must, however, be put on the province of reason. The doctrines of which it may judge, are those only which come within its sphere. Upon the presentation of a new doctrine reason may decide whether it agrees with former knowledge. If agreeable thereto, it must be accepted, if opposed, it must be rejected. But, if it be above reason, it must stand or fall with the rest of the revelation. God may, in his mercy, refrain from trying faith by a revelation of supernatural doctrine, but, if he reveals it, it must be no barrier to the reception of that doctrine itself, or of the revelation which accompanies it. In an able article in the Southern Presbyterian Review, Vol. I, pp. 1-34, on “Reason and Revelation,” Dr. Thornwell puts this limitation upon reason, that it is sole arbiter within its own bounds, but no judge beyond them. He thinks that in this way only can it be applied as a test of doctrine. The theory is undoubtedly correct. It fails only in not recognizing the precise manner in which Scripture brings it in as an arbiter, not as the judge of truth as disconnected from the past, but as related to the various times and forms in which God has taught it. Reason should judge a new revelation, not by the truths taught by reason alone, but also by those which have been made known in any previous revelation.

The office of reason with respect to revelation, is therefore seen to be:

1. To examine the evidence of the miracles upon which it rests.

2. To compare its doctrines with the teaching of the past, and recognize their correspondence with or opposition to that teaching.

3. To adopt or reject the revelation according to the evidence afforded that it is God’s truth.

4. To interpret its contents, according to the best light which learning affords.

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D.D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887 

The knowledge of God which we are invited to cultivate will prove substantial and fruitful wherever it is duly perceived, and rooted in the heart.

August 14, 2013 2 comments

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Proofs and illustrations of the divine Majesty. The use of them, viz., the acquisition of divine knowledge in combination with true piety.

9. We see there is no need of a long and laborious train of argument in order to obtain proofs which illustrate and assert the Divine Majesty. The few which we have merely touched, show them to be so immediately within our reach in every quarter, that we can trace them with the eye, or point to them with the finger. And here we must observe again, (see chap. 2 s. 2,) that the knowledge of God which we are invited to cultivate is not that which, resting satisfied with empty speculation, only flutters in the brain, but a knowledge which will prove substantial and fruitful wherever it is duly perceived, and rooted in the heart. The Lord is manifested by his perfections. When we feel their power within us, and are conscious of their benefits, the knowledge must impress us much more vividly than if we merely imagined a God whose presence we never felt. Hence it is obvious, that in seeking God, the most direct path and the fittest method is, not to attempt with presumptuous curiosity to pry into his essence, which is rather to be adored than minutely discussed, but to contemplate him in his works, by which he draws near, becomes familiar, and in a manner communicates himself to us. To this the Apostle referred when he said, that we need not go far in search of him, (Acts 17:27,) because, by the continual working of his power, he dwells in every one of us. Accordingly, David, (Psalm 145,) after acknowledging that his greatness is unsearchable, proceeds to enumerate his works, declaring that his greatness will thereby be unfolded. It therefore becomes us also diligently to prosecute that investigation of God which so enraptures the soul with admiration as, at the same time, to make an efficacious impression on it. And, as Augustine expresses it, (in Psalm 144,) since we are unable to comprehend Him, and are, as it were, overpowered by his greatness, our proper course is to contemplate his works, and so refresh ourselves with his goodness.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 5-Henry Beveridge Translation 

Some things about God can be learned from the course of nature

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Conclusion from what has been said, viz., that the omnipotence, eternity, and goodness of God, may be learned from the first class of works, i. e., those which are in accordance with the ordinary course of nature.

6. Let each of us, therefore, in contemplating his own nature, remember that there is one God who governs all natures, and, in governing, wishes us to have respect to himself, to make him the object of our faith, worship, and adoration. Nothing, indeed, can be more preposterous than to enjoy those noble endowments which bespeak the divine presence within us, and to neglect him who, of his own good pleasure, bestows them upon us. In regard to his power, how glorious the manifestations by which he urges us to the contemplation of himself; unless, indeed, we pretend not to know whose energy it is that by a word sustains the boundless fabric of the universe — at one time making heaven reverberate with thunder, sending forth the scorching lightning, and setting the whole atmosphere in a blaze; at another, causing the raging tempests to blow, and forthwith, in one moment, when it so pleases him, making a perfect calm; keeping the sea, which seems constantly threatening the earth with devastation, suspended as it were in air; at one time, lashing it into fury by the impetuosity of the winds; at another, appeasing its rage, and stilling all its waves. Here we might refer to those glowing descriptions of divine power, as illustrated by natural events, which occur throughout Scripture; but more especially in the book of Job, and the prophecies of Isaiah. These, however, I purposely omit, because a better opportunity of introducing them will be found when I come to treat of the Scriptural account of the creation. (Infra, chap. 14 s. 1, 2, 20, sq.) I only wish to observe here, that this method of investigating the divine perfections, by tracing the lineaments of his countenance as shadowed forth in the firmament and on the earth, is common both to those within and to those without the pale of the Church. From the power of God we are naturally led to consider his eternity since that from which all other things derive their origin must necessarily be self existent and eternal. Moreover, if it be asked what cause induced him to create all things at first, and now inclines him to preserve them, we shall find that there could be no other cause than his own goodness. But if this is the only cause, nothing more should be required to draw forth our love towards him; every creature, as the Psalmist reminds us, participating in his mercy. “His tender mercies are over all his works,” (Psalm 145:9.)

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 5-Henry Beveridge Translation 

Are we only concerned with the things of this life?

Reader, are you one of the many who scarcely ever think of these thing; and whose chief concern is, what you shall eat, what you shall drink, and wherewithal you shall be clothed? ……………….

If you were made only to eat and drink, and enjoy life, for a few years, and then to sink into nothing, you might well throw aside every care, except that which respects your present gratification. But you are of an order of beings distinguished from all others in the creation. In your nature are united mortality and immortality; the dust of the ground, and the breath of the Almighty. Life to you is but the introduction to existence, a short voyage which will land you on the shores of eternity. You are surrounded by a number of objects, and feel an interest in each. You build houses, plant orchards, rear animals, and form to yourself a home; but you are not at home. Your feelings associate with these things, but they, are not fit associates for you. You may have a portion in all that is doing in your family, and in your country, yea, and in some sort, all that is done under the Sun; but this is not sufficient for you. The time draweth nigh, when there will be an end to all these things, and they will be as though they had not been; but you will still live. You will witness the wreck of nature itself, and survive it; and stand before the Son of man at his appearing and kingdom. Can you think of these things and be unconcerned?

Rev. Andrew Fuller–The Great Question Answered

Surely We Shall Die

God, to prevent all escape, hath sown the seeds of death in our very constitution and nature, so that we can as soon run from ourselves, as run from death. We need no feller to come with a hand of violence and hew us down; there is in the tree a worm, which grows out of its own substance, that will destroy it; so in us, those infirmities of nature that will bring us down to the dust.

 

William Gurnall

 

It is a Shame for a Man to have Long Hair

With regard to men, he says just the opposite: ‘it is a shame to them if they wear long hair’…If we suggest that this is of no great importance, we see what God says about it by his Prophet: namely that He will reform the strange clothes.

John Calvin For Men Women and Order in the Church