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 )

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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

… and what have we then to be proud of?

Once again I find myself in Matthew Henry’s commentary on Genesis. Here our brother points our the humble origin of man, dust. He uses this little fact to remind us that we have nothing to be proud of. How can one be proud of that which is going to crumble? he writes:

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The matter was despicable. He was made of the dust of the ground, a very unlikely thing to make a man of but the same infinite power that made the world of nothing made man, its master-piece, of next to nothing. He was made of the dust, the small dust, such as is upon the surface of the earth. Probably, not dry dust, but dust moistened with the mist that went up, Genesis 2:6. He was not made of gold-dust, powder of pearl, or diamond dust, but common dust, dust of the ground. Hence he is said to be of the earth, choikosdusty, 1 Corinthians 15:47. And we also are of the earth, for we are his offspring, and of the same mould. So near an affinity is there between the earth and our earthly parents that our mother’s womb, out of which we were born, is called the earth (Psalm 139:15), and the earth, in which we must be buried, is called our mother’s womb, Job 1:21. Our foundation is in the earth, Job 4:19. Our fabric is earthly, and the fashioning of it like that of an earthen vessel, Job 10:9. Our food is out of the earth, Job 28:5. Our familiarity is with the earth, Job 17:14. Our fathers are in the earth, and our own final tendency is to it and what have we then to be proud of?

 

Shaking Hands With the Devil

Yesterday, while listening to a sermon by Charles Spurgeon, I was struck by and illustration that he gave of those who put on an act of fighting sin and living as a Christian. It struck me to the core and caused me to consider whether I have truly been seeking to fight sin in earnest, or if I had instead been taking on the appearance of the life of repentance. These questions are good and helpful. We as believers should never blindly assume our salvation, but rather should be working it out daily in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12) never forgetting that it is God who gives us the desire and ability to do so.

In our church age of decisionsism it is easy and often encouraged to rest our hopes on a decision we have made and be done with it. If we are troubled, we will often be reminded of that day where we made our decision or prayed a prayer and even asked if we meant it. This move is not helpful and it is not scriptural. The question is are you trusting Jesus Christ right now? Do not waste your time trusting a decision you have made, rather trust the person and finished work of Jesus Christ for surely if He has not done it then it is not done! Everyday should be an examination of ourselves. Are we truly fighting sin? or are we rather putting on a show? Heed the words of Mr. Spurgeon:

At the same time, let me observe that a man’s outward life may be very much like that of a Christian, and yet there may be no religion in him at all. Have you ever seen two jugglers in the street with swords, pretending to fight with one another? See how they cut, and slash, and hack at one another, till you are half afraid there will soon be murder done. They seem to be so very much in earnest that you are half in the mind to call in the police to part them. See with what violence that one has aimed a terrific blow at the other one’s head, which his comrade dexterously warded off by keeping a well-timed guard. Just watch them a minute, and you will see that all these cuts and thrusts come in a prearranged order. There is no heart in the fighting after all. They do not fight so roughly as they would if they were real enemies. So, sometimes I have seen a man pretending to be very angry against sin. But watch him a little while, and you will see it is only a fencer’s trick. He does not give his cuts out of order, there is no earnestness in his blows, it is all pretense, it is only mimic stage-play. The fencers, after they have ended their performance, shake hands with one another, and divide the coppers which the gaping throng have given them; and so does this man do, he shakes hands with the devil in private, and the two deceivers share the spoil. The hypocrite and the devil are very good friends after all, and they mutually rejoice over their profits: the devil leering because he has won the soul of the professor, and the hypocrite laughing because he has won his self. Take care, then, that your outward life is not a mere stage-play, but that your antagonism to sin is real and intense; and that you strike right and left, as though you meant to slay the monster, and cast its limbs to the winds of heaven.

taken from: A Christmas Question (a sermon)

http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0291.htm

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.”