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

A Pity, Then, That it Should Cleave to the Earth

Today, I thought it would be wise to follow up with Matthew Henry’s second point concerning the creation of man. In the first post he showed that man was made of clay and therefore comes from a low origin. This was designed to keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves. However, this second section from his commentary is in regards to our soul and its high origin. I find it intriguing that his argument appears to be that we do not value our soul and its origin enough. I have to agree with him on this point. I think he is also correct concerning the tragedy it is that we focus so much on our body and its appetites when it is such a base thing, but forget that our spirit has appetites that must be fulfilled and it is a high thing. It must indeed be a devilish scheme that keeps us from looking upon the higher things with gratitude and from truly appraising them for their worth. Let us not be distracted with dirt!

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The high origin and the admirable serviceableness of the soul of man. (1.) It takes its rise from the breath of heaven, and is produced by it. It was not made of the earth, as the body was; it is a pity then that it should cleave to the earth, and mind earthly things. It came immediately from God; he gave it to be put into the body (Eccl. 12:7 ), as afterwards he gave the tables of stone of his own writing to be put into the ark, and the urim of his own framing to be put into the breast-plate. Hence God is not only the former but the Father of spirits. Let the soul which God has breathed into us breathe after him; and let it be for him, since it is from him. Into his hands let us commit our spirits, for from his hands we had them. (2.) It takes its lodging in a house of clay, and is the life and support of it. It is by it that man is a living soul, that is, a living man; for the soul is the man. The body would be a worthless, useless, loathsome carcase, if the soul did not animate it. To God that gave us these souls we must shortly give an account of them, how we have employed them, used them, proportioned them, and disposed of them; and if then it be found that we have lost them, though it were to gain the world, we shall be undone for ever. Since the extraction of the soul is so noble, and its nature and faculties are so excellent, let us not be of those fools that despise their own souls, by preferring their bodies before them, Prov. 15:32 . When our Lord Jesus anointed the blind man’s eyes with clay perhaps he intimated that it was he who at first formed man out of the clay; and when he breathed on his disciples, saying, Receive you the Holy Ghost, he intimated that it was he who at first breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life. He that made the soul is alone able to new-make it.

Jesus christ, your life… that is, your delight

Is Jesus Christ your life? Such a question would likely have been a normal question coming from a pastor in the 16th-17th centuries. It is surely a tragedy that this question seems so rare, and likely odd to one reading it now. The question comes from Col. 3 where the apostle speaks of our life being hidden with Christ in God. However, the implication is more amazing. If our life is hid with Christ then He is our only hope in this life, and moreover He is our greatest delight and in that delight the one we seek to obey.

Consider all of the great things that we proclaim that we would do for a loved one. Better yet, imagine all of the ways that you have gone above and beyond to either woo a lover or sacrifice for a relative. People sacrifice for their family all of the time. In fact, that is often considered the hallmark of love. Then why is it that we often find no strength to do so for Jesus Christ? I believe it is because we do not recognize the fact that He is our life. There is nothing if His work is not finished. We are to be pitied above all men if there is no resurrection.

This little section out of a work on Christ by Thomas Brooks sets forth a teaching on this doctrine that I think is much needed in the church today. So many are looking for a “purpose driven life”, but in that pursuit have forgotten our true purpose. Do we beget children to have slaves? Then why would we imagine that God merely birthed us spiritually for the sake of laboring in the vineyard? He saved us so that we might delight in Him and, through Christ’s work, He might find us to be delightful as well:

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!

Again, Consider the Lord Jesus Christ doth highly prize you; you are as the apple of his eye; he accounts you his fulness; you are his jewels; therefore prize him who sets such a high price on you. But I hasten to what I intend—

In the last place, Remember a Christ highly prized will be Christ gloriously obeyed. As men prize the Lord Jesus Christ, so they will obey him. The great reason why Jesus Christ is no more obeyed, is s because he is no more prized. Men look upon him as a person of no worth, no dignity, no glory; they make slight of him, and that is the reason they are so poor in their obedience to him. Oh, if the sons of men did but more divinely prize Christ, they would more purely, and more fully, and more constantly obey him. Let this bespeak all your hearts highly to prize the Lord Jesus, who is your life.

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.