Archive for April 28th, 2007

John Calvin on the Importance of Remaining Peaceably in a True Church

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

The following quote is from John Calvin’s Institutes, as found online at the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics.

12. Heeding the marks guards against capricious separation

When we say that the pure ministry of the word and pure celebration of the sacraments is a fit pledge and earnest, so that we may safely recognise a church in every society in which both exists our meaning is that we are never to discard it so-long as these remain, though it may otherwise teem with numerous faults.

Nay, even in the administration of word and Sacraments defects may creep in which ought not to alienate us from its communion. For all the heads of true doctrine are not in the same position. Some are so necessary to be known, that all must hold them to be fixed and undoubted as the proper essentials of religion: for instance,

  • that God is one,
  • that Christ is God, and the Son of God,
  • that our salvation depends on the mercy of God, and the like.

Others, again, which are the subject of controversy among the churches, do not destroy the unity of the faith; for why should it be regarded as a ground of dissension between churches, if one, without any spirit of contention or perverseness in dogmatising, hold that the soul on quitting the body flies to heaven, and another, without venturing to speak positively as to the abode, holds it for certain that it lives with the Lord? The words of the apostle are, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you,” (Phil. 3: 15.) Does he not sufficiently intimate that a difference of opinion as to these matters which are not absolutely necessary, ought not to be a ground of dissension among Christians? (Emphasis added.) The best thing, indeed, is to be perfectly agreed, but seeing there is no man who is not involved in some mist of ignorance, we must either have no church at all or pardon delusion in those things of which one may be ignorant, without violating the substance of religion and forfeiting salvation.Here, however, I have no wish to patronise even the minutest errors, as if I thought it right to foster them by flattery or connivance; what I say is, that we are not on account of every minute difference to abandon a church, provided it retain sound and unimpaired that doctrine in which the safety of piety consists, and keep the use of the sacraments instituted by the Lord. (Emphasis added.) Meanwhile, if we strive to reform what is offensive, we act in the discharge of duty. To this effect are the words of Paul, “If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace,” (1 Cor. 14: 30.) From this it is evident that to each member of the Church, according to his measure of grace, the study of public edification has been assigned, provided it be done decently and in order. In other words, we must neither renounce the communion of the Church, nor, continuing in it, disturb peace and discipline when duly arranged.

19. The example of Christ and of the apostles

Then what kind of age was that of Christ and the apostles? Yet neither could the desperate impiety of the Pharisees, nor the dissolute licentiousness of manners which everywhere prevailed, prevent them from using the same sacred rites with the people, and meeting in one common temple for the public exercises of religion. And why so, but just because they knew that those who joined in these sacred rites with a pure conscience were not at all polluted by the society of the wicked?

If any one is little moved by prophets and apostles, let him at least defer to the authority of Christ. Well, therefore, does Cyprian say, “Although tares or unclean vessels are seen in the Church, that is no reason why we ourselves should withdraw from the Church; we must only labour that we may be able to be wheat; we must give our endeavour, and strive as far as we can, to be vessels of gold or silver. But to break the earthen vessels belongs to the Lord alone, to whom a rod of iron has been given: let no one arrogate to himself what is peculiar to the Son alone, and think himself sufficient to winnow the floor and cleanse the chaff, and separate all the tares by human judgement. What depraved zeal thus assumes to itself is proud obstinacy and sacrilegious presumption,” (Cyprian, lib. 3. Ep. 5.)

Let both points therefore, be regarded as fixed;

  • first, there is no excuse for him who spontaneously abandons the external communion of a church in which the word of God is preached and the sacraments are administered (Emphasis added);
  • secondly, that notwithstanding of the faults of a few or of many, there is nothing to prevent us from there duly professing our faith in the ordinances instituted by God, because a pious conscience is not injured by the unworthiness of another, whether he be a pastor or a private individual; and sacred rites are not less pure and salutary to a man who is holy and upright, from being at the same time handled by the impure.

It’s a Bright, Bright Sunshiny Day

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun. – Ecclesiastes 11:7, King James version

The nickname of the state of Washington, the Evergreen State, refers to our expanses of evergreen forests. However, I like to think of it as meaning everything is always green here. And why is everything always green here? Well, we get plenty of rain. In some parts of the country, rainstorms appear suddenly, there’s a downpour, and then the sun appears once again in its glory. Here, however, the rain usually distills down gently. This means that life can proceed as usual. We ladies still go on our walks in the rain, and the children’s sports activities such as soccer and baseball and track competitions, continue. We are so used to the gentle, prevalent rain, that we rarely even use an umbrella. The only down-side to our precipitation pattern is, not only can the skies be cloudy all day, they can be cloudy day after day after interminable day. After so many grey days, I start to reminisce about the deserts of Arizona, the land of blazingly clear skies. This morning, however, I am reminded of why I love it here. Yes, everything is green. Fresh spring growth is bursting forth, the grass is getting bushy, the daffodils have come and gone and the tulips are almost past, too. But, best of all, the rain has stopped. The sky is a clear, misty blue, and the growing green-ness all around is almost electric in the SUNSHINE! Yes, I am enjoying the rare springtime occurrence of a sunny day. I could think of many more spiritual blessings for which to thank the Lord, but I heartily thank Him for this, for this cheering, warming, encouraging SUNNY DAY.