Family and Catechesis

Dear friends and church family,

I have often remarked that the family is the foundation for all ministry. We see this in the requirements for pastor and deacon in the church. On Wednesday night, I read a portion from the Westminster shorter catechism on the Lord’s prayer and spoke of a short treatise written by Thomas Manton on the importance of using catechisms in raising children. I thought this morning I would provide some short portions from it to give you a flavor for the puritan view of the home and the need to not only provide an example for our children, but also provide them a method for understanding the scriptures. I hope that this will be encouraging to you as you seek to raise your children. To those of you who no longer have children in the house, or have older children and feel that you have failed, please know that there is no failure in the Christian life. If up to now you have not raised your family spiritually, start today. There is no condemnation for you, only opportunity. No matter the make up of your current home situation, I pray that you make it a strong scriptural Christian home, a light on a hill. I find that I myself need these aids in understanding the scriptures often.

 

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“The devil hath a great spite at the kingdom of Christ, and he knoweth no such compendious way to crush it in the egg, as by the perversion of youth, and supplanting family-duties. He striketh at all those duties which are publick in the assemblies of the saints; but these are too well guarded by the solemn injunctions and dying charge of Jesus Christ, as that he should ever hope totally to subvert and undermine them; but at family duties he striketh with the more success, because the institution is not so solemn, and the practice not so seriously and conscientiously regarded as it should be, and the omission is not so liable to notice and public censure. Religion was first hatched in families, and there the devil seeketh to crush it; the families of the Patriarchs were all the Churches God had in the world for the time; and therefore, (I suppose,) when Cain went out from Adam’s family, he is said to go out from the face of the Lord, Gen. 4:16. Now, the devil knoweth that this is a blow at the root, and a ready way to prevent the succession of Churches: if he can subvert families, other societies and communities will not long flourish and subsist with any power and vigor; for there is the stock from whence they are supplied both for the present and future.”

“For the present: A family is the seminary of Church and State; and if children be not well principled there, all miscarrieth: a fault in the first concoction is not mended in the second; if youth be bred ill in the family, they prove ill in Church and Commonwealth; there is the first making or marring, and the presage of their future lives to be thence taken, Prov. 20:11. By family discipline, officers are trained up for the Church, 1 Tim. 3:4, One that ruleth well his own house, etc.; and there are men bred up in subjection and obedience. It is noted, Acts 21:5, that the disciples brought Paul on his way with their wives and children; their children probably are mentioned, to intimate, that their parents would, by their own example and affectionate farewell to Paul, breed them up in a way of reverence and respect to the pastors of the Church.”

“I do therefore desire, that all masters of families would first study well this work themselves, and then teach it their children and servants, according to their several capacities. And, if they once understand these grounds of religion, they will be able to read other books more understandingly, and hear sermons more profitably, and confer more judiciously, and hold fast the doctrine of Christ more firmly, than ever you are like to do by any other course. First, let them read and learn the Shorter Catechism, and next the Larger, and lastly, read the Confession of Faith.”

So, friends, in light of Manton’s recommendations I would like to offer these resources for your aid. These are the catechisms and confessions that I appreciate the most:

A Short Catechism on Baptism ( http://www.reformedreader.org/ccc/tcat.htm )

John Bunyan’s Catechism ( http://www.reformedreader.org/ccc/ifti.htm )

Spurgeon’s Baptist Catechism ( http://www.spurgeon.org/catechis.htm )

Heidelberg Catechism ( https://www.ccel.org/creeds/heidelberg-cat.html )

London Baptist Confession 1689 ( http://www.1689.com/confession.html )

Jesus, life!

In preparing this week for a sermon on Col. 3, I came across a sermon by the puritan Thomas Brooks. In it, his main concern is that the congregation recognize that Jesus Christ is their life. This has been a doctrine that has dogged me the past several years. I have been reminded time and time again that Jesus Christ is all that we have. It is common to hear people speak of Jesus Christ as all we need, but this understanding leaves one with the thought that if Jesus is all we need then we can add to him by going beyond our needs to our wants as well. However, if Mr. Brooks is right, and the apostles for that matter, then we should instead recognize that there is nothing but Christ. There is no hope, joy, or life outside of him. There is nothing but death outside of Jesus Christ. Let us consider two paragraphs from this sermon:

 

Is the Lord Jesus Christ a believer’s life? To pass by what we have further spoken upon this point—this same, by way of use, doth serve to bespeak all believers not to repent of anything they have done, or suffered, or lost, for the Lord Jesus. Oh, is the Lord Jesus Christ a believer’s life? Why, then, let no believer be disquieted, nor overwhelmed and dejected, for any loss or for any sorrow or suffering that he meets with for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake. What a base and unworthy spirit is it for a man to be troubled and disquieted in e himself for anything that he shall do or suffer for his own natural life! Oh, Jesus Christ is thy life; do not say this mercy is too dear for Christ, nor that comfort is too great for Christ. Christ is the life of a believer: what wilt thou not do for thy life? The devil hit right when he said, ‘Skin for skin, and all that a man hath will he give for his life.’ Oh, what should a man then do for Jesus Christ, who is his life! You noble hearts whose particular God hath come near in this sad loss, remember this, that Christ is a believer’s life; Christ is that glorious champion’s life. Therefore be not over-whelmed, for doubtless he is now triumphing in the love, in the light, in the goodness, and in the glory of him who is his life. Let the sense of this sad loss kindly affect you, but let it not discourage you.

But, secondly, If the Lord Jesus Christ be a believer’s life, then this serves to bespeak all believers highly to prize the Lord Jesus. Oh, it is this Christ that is thy life; it is not thy husband, it is not thy child, it not this or that thing; neither is it this ordinance or that, that is a believer’s life. No; it is the Lord Jesus Christ that is the author, that is the matter, that is the exerciser, that is the strengthener, that is the completer, of a believer’s life. You prize great ones; the Lord Jesus Christ is great—he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. You prize others for their wisdom and knowledge: the Lord Jesus hath in himself all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Col. 2:3. You prize others for their beauty: the Lord Jesus Christ is the beautifullest of ten thousand, Cant. 5:10. You prize others for their usefulness: the Lord Jesus Christ is the right hand of a believer, without which he can do nothing. The believer may say of Christ as the philosopher .said of the heavens, Tolle coelum, nullus ero—Take away the heavens, and I shall be nobody; so take away Jesus Christ, and a believer is nobody—nobody to perform any action, nobody to bear any affliction, nobody to conquer corruption, nobody to withstand temptation, nobody to improve mercies, nor nobody to joy in others’ grace. Oh, prize Jesus Christ!

The whole sermon can be found here: http://www.puritansermons.com/sermons/brooks7.htm

Not to be dissolved at Pleasure

Reading again in Matthew Henry’s commentary this morning, I was struck by his explanation of the nature of man and the relationship of family. In our day marriage is looked on as a thing suited to make me happy and, if I find myself unhappy, easily put asunder. However, Matthew Henry, relying on the pattern established by our Lord in the book of Matthew, establishes several doctrines concerning man that you likely have not heard from your pastor. I, at least, have not considered these facets of the doctrine of man as coming from the creation. However, it seems that once you see what Matthew Henry has to say about these issues you might ask why you haven’t heard these thoughts before since they do appear to be natural implications drawn from the text. It is my hope that these thoughts might bless you this morning.

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That man was made male and female, and blessed with the blessing of fruitfulness and increase. God said, Let us make man, and immediately it follows, So God created man; he performed what he resolved. With us saying and doing are two things; but they are not so with God. He created him male and female, Adam and Eve—Adam first, out of earth, and Eve out of his side, ch. 2. It should seem that of the rest of the creatures God made many couples, but of man did not he make one? (Mal. 2:15), though he had the residue of the Spirit, whence Christ gathers an argument against divorce, Mt. 19:4, 5. Our first father, Adam, was confined to one wife; and, if he had put her away, there was no other for him to marry, which plainly intimated that the bond of marriage was not to be dissolved at pleasure. Angels were not made male and female, for they were not to propagate their kind (Lu. 20:34-36); but man was made so, that the nature might be propagated and the race continued. Fires and candles, the luminaries of this lower world, because they waste, and go out, have a power to light more; but it is not so with the lights of heaven: stars do not kindle stars. God made but one male and one female, that all the nations of men might know themselves to be made of one blood, descendants from one common stock, and might thereby be induced to love one another. God, having made them capable of transmitting the nature they had received, said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. Here he gave them, 1. A large inheritance: Replenish the earth; it is this that is bestowed upon the children of men. They were made to dwell upon the face of all the earth, Acts 17:26. This is the place in which God has set man to be the servant of his providence in the government of the inferior creatures, and, as it were, the intelligence of this orb; to be the receiver of God’s bounty, which other creatures live upon, but do not know it; to be likewise the collector of his praises in this lower world, and to pay them into the exchequer above (Ps. 145:10); and, lastly, to be a probationer for a better state. 2. A numerous lasting family, to enjoy this inheritance, pronouncing a blessing upon them, in virtue of which their posterity should extend to the utmost corners of the earth and continue to the utmost period of time. Fruitfulness and increase depend upon the blessing of God: Obed-edom had eight sons, for God blessed him, 1 Chr. 26:5. It is owing to this blessing, which God commanded at first, that the race of mankind is still in being, and that as one generation passeth away another cometh.

Thanksgiving, why?

In the year 1789, our nation voted to create a day of national gratitude for our freedoms and supplication to God for national sins committed. This day appears to no longer be celebrated for these reasons, and this is, in my opinion, a national tragedy. I know that Thanksgiving was yesterday, but since I did not post yesterday, I thought I would post this today for your encouragement. Perhaps this short address from George Washington might form how your family celebrates next year, or at least help you as you consider the season. There is much more to this holiday than we celebrate in these modern days:

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“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.’ 

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, Who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”

 

Troubles

There is a type of Christianity today that teaches that Jesus is here to ease all of our earthly troubles. However, they are unable to produce legitimate texts to support their position. We are told to count it all joy when we face trials and tribulations (and these are not the little difficulties of having unruly children). God’s common grace ensures that we will have the good things, but it also means that the wicked will enjoy the good things of the earth as well. So too, the bad will dog the heels of all who dwell on this earth. We serve a sovereign and risen Lord, but we will not see Heaven here. That is, not until it comes to Earth at Christ’s return. However, take heart dear Christian, we might die in the midst of troubles on this earth, but these troubles are only designed to make you yearn so much more for Heaven. These earthly troubles are the worst you will face, and soon they will be no more. Let us take to heart the words of J. C. Ryle.

“If we are true Christians, we must not expect everything smooth in our journey to heaven. We must count it no strange thing, if we have to endure sicknesses, losses, bereavements, and disappointments, just like other people. Free pardon and full forgiveness, grace by the way and glory to the end – all this our Savior has promised to give. But He has never promised that we shall have no afflictions. He loves us too well to promise that.” ~ J.C. Ryle

Khanaan Bound?

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“The people of God have ever been strangers and pilgrims in the earth. Though in the world, they are not of the world; and, both by their professions and their deportment, they declare plainly, that they seek  another country, as their final home. Hence, they walk not according to the course of this world, and are deaf to its enticements, and appear to have their eyes fixed on objects that the world sees not. So Moses endured, as seeing him who is invisible. So he turned his back on the pleasures of sin and the treasures of Egypt, and had respect unto the recompense of the reward, to be obtained in the future world. So patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, have lived for eternity, and have left their testimony to mankind, that they were not of this world, and that their treasure, their hearts, and their final home to which they journeyed, were in heaven. These examples call on us for imitation, and, if we possess the wisdom and spirit by which they were actuated, we too shall make it the business of our lives, to prepare for the future world.” – J.L Dagg (Manual of Theology)

“Since the motives to holiness, and to diligence in the pursuit of it, are drawn so abundantly from the future world, a knowledge of that world is of great importance to all men. Every man knows that the time of his continuance on earth is short and uncertain; and while fully assured that he must leave this world, and that the time of his departure is just at hand, to make no inquiry concerning the world to
which he is going, or to disregard authentic information concerning it, and the means of obtaining happiness there, is folly in the extreme. It is therefore wise to study the doctrine concerning the future world, and to study it as a subject of momentous personal interest. At every step in our progress, we should ask, how does this truth affect my heart? Am I so running, as to obtain? Are my prospects clear? Ought I not to renew my diligence, and to seek more earnestly the guidance and help needed, that I may finish my course with joy?” – J.L. Dagg (Manual of Theology)

J.L. Dagg and his Manual of Theology has left a lasting impression on my soul. These two passages have proven so helpful to me as I have sought to better understand the scriptures and how they affect the Christian life. J.L. Dagg believed that we should always live with the end in view. That we as travelers should always have our eyes cast to the horizon looking for a better country, a lasting kingdom not built by hands, our home.

It is this type of outlook that I wish this blog to portray. This blog is, in essence, an opportunity for me to think out how I feel concerning certain issues in theology and church life today, but I pray that, Lord willing, it might also help some who stumble upon this dusty side of cyberspace. I do not pretend that my thoughts are original, especially since most of my posts will likely come from quotes of men who have gone before. Yet, perhaps there will be something of newness to them as it has become apparent that the church of our day has completely lost sight of its history, and in doing so, has lost its moorings.

It is therefore, my goal to bring back to remembrance men who have been forgotten. Great men, not great form their own skill or wisdom, but those who have received a provision from God. Men who walked the old paths. Men who kept their gaze on the horizon looking for the coming kingdom of God. It is here, I hope, my friend that you might be reminded that there is a day coming for the believer when we will sit at the wedding feast of the lamb and feast with those who have gone before.  There is much more to life than the things that distract us as Americans. Why is it that we who are alive wish so much to appear to be corpses? Is it fitting for a prince to strive with all of his might to be a beggar? Then, let us turn from these fleeting pleasures together and seek a kingdom much more glorious than the one that is wasting away.To those dry bones who think that this world is the only one there will be, I plead with God that you might live and that you might see that this world is ash (for it will be baptized by fire0 and its current ruler a fool and a slave master. There is a king coming one a white horse who is more than just and is more than generous. Let us all look to His kingdom. We are, in this life, truly Khanaan bound.