Archive for March, 2010

Study Guide to Owen’s, Communion with God

Posted on 29. Mar, 2010 by .

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Ryan McGraw has produced a chapter-by-chapter study guide including questions of John Owen’s magnificent, Communion with God. The link to the .pdf is on the right side of the blog under “Print Resources.” Blessings on your reading and studying.

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Review of “A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness”

Posted on 23. Mar, 2010 by .

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Jeremiah Burroughs, A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness (1649, repr., Orlando: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2006). 259 pages.

In his introduction and recommendation of this book, Dr. R. C. Sproul wrote, “My guess is that few people will ever pick up this book and read it. Its theme and content are too alien to modern Christianity to evoke much interest” (pg. vii). Without the awareness of many, modern Christianity has gradually become earthly-minded, shifting its focus away from the glories of heaven without being aware of it. When people do not know that a problem exists, they do not seek a remedy for that problem. This book both diagnoses the problem of worldliness and offers medicine to treat the disease.

In a sense, the title of this book is misleading. The treatise on earthly-mindedness only occupies the first third of the book. The rest of the book is divided into two sections. The first teaches us how to live our lives as those whose citizenship is in heaven, and the second teaches us how to walk with God throughout our lives.

Among many things, one thing that struck my heart closely in this book was Burroughs’ evaluation of anxiety. The Scriptures forbid believers to have anxiety over the things of this life (Luke 12). This is one of the most difficult points of practical godliness for many, if not most, of God’s people, whether they are currently under trials or not. Burroughs argued that the only causes of anxiety are the fear of some evil coming upon us, and the fear that we shall not have the means or ability to prevent that evil (pg. 12). Some people become completely miserable if they have nothing but the promises of God to protect them. All believers shall struggle with anxiety, but if we allow our anxiety to grow unchecked, we are implying that we have relinquished the care of God over us and have decided to take things into our own hands. If this is convicting (as it should be), Burroughs offers many helps and encouragements from the Scriptures. He is a physician who always wounds before he heals, but though he wounds deeply, he always provides what is necessary to heal his patients.

There are at least two sections that I intend to return to often in this volume. Section 1, chapter 8, provides “Five Directions How to Get our Minds Free from Earthly-Mindedness,” and section 2, chapter 22 contains, “Seven Directions How to Get a Heavenly Conversation.” The entire third section on “Walking with God” is very comforting as well, and the latter parts of this section provide many practical helps on how to persevere with comfort and joy in our daily devotional lives.

This book originated as a series of sermons that Burroughs preached for the profit of his congregation. His friends published the sermons after his death and noted that they had been “twice preached”—once in the practice of the preacher, and once in the hearing of the congregation. In my experience, Burroughs stands out even from among the great men of his age.  He is always simple and easy to follow, always profitable, and always eager to comfort God’s people and promote peace between men and God as well as between men and men.

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What Can We Learn from John Owen on the Hebrew Vowel Points?

Posted on 15. Mar, 2010 by .

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John Owen believed that the vowel points of the Hebrew Scriptures were divinely inspired and given through Moses. On the basis of the idea that it would be impossible to read the Hebrew text without the vowel points, Owen viewed it as blasphemous to assert that the vowel points originated with the Masoretic scribes, since this would threaten the integrity and the authority of the text of Holy Scripture. The idea here is that a group of scribes known as the Masoretes added the vowel points between the seventh and eleventh centuries, while making their hand copies of the Hebrew Bible. Today, most students of the Hebrew text, both liberal and conservative, take for granted the later origination of the vowel points through the Masoretic scribes. Owen’s contention that the text could not be read without the vowel points is demonstrated to be wrong even by the simple fact that newspapers in modern Israel do not include the vowel points unless there is need for clarification. Because Owen saw the authority of Scripture itself bound up with the vowel points, he often criticized his opponents sharply, even harshly at times (John Owen, Biblical Theology: The History of Theology from Adam To Christ, trans. Stephen P. Westcott [Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1994], 499–500). In spite of this fact, we have much to learn from Owen’s teaching on the vowel points. Owen’s criticisms of the unbelieving “scholarship” of his time provide an excellent model for how we should study the Bible today.

  1. “Boldness and industry” wedded to scholarship leads to great error (Biblical Theology, 498). Pride with intense labor in influential positions can do great harm to the Church.
  2. “The greater gain and reputation . . .” leads to increased boldness in dishonoring Scripture (Biblical Theology, 503). Today this is often hidden under the guise of “progress” in theology.  Do we love the praise of men more than the praise of God?
  3. Be wary of “naked conjectures and unsupported claims” (Biblical Theology, 505).
  4. Beware of only accepting evidence that “contributes to the furtherance of [our] own cause” (Biblical Theology, 509). In a sense Owen was guilty of this by presupposing the divine inspiration of the Hebrew vowel points, but the truth is that we all come to the text and doctrines of Scripture with our own presuppositions. We must be willing to come to Scripture with a willingness to criticize and correct the causes we have adopted, rather than to twist Scripture to affirm what we already believe.
  5. A scholarly thirst for continual “advances” is dangerous (Biblical Theology, 513). For many scholars, “advancement” is equivalent to change and novelty. For us as believers, however, “advancement” should equal a clearer understanding and application of Scripture.
  6. Convictions cannot be formed by a “display of authorities,” but by Scripture only (Biblical Theology, 519). “No man is more ready than I to give due reverence to the names and reputations of great scholars, but still it would be a sheer waste of time to bother to undertake a refutation of some of the ‘reasons’ which are advanced, while even in our own day the converse camp may boast of names as great, of reputations in literature as notable, as any of theirs.”
  7. Do not trust sources cited by reputable scholars without verifying them (Biblical Theology, 519). How often do we act as though a well-respected pastor or professor cannot possibly be wrong in his area of expertise?
  8. Truth is not determined or denied by the ability or inability of scholars to understand it (Biblical Theology, 527–528). “Shall man sit in judgment of the Word of God, using the measuring rod of their own admitted ignorance? Is this fair dealing? I, for one, have greater hopes of him who professes to know nothing than he who claims to know everything!”

May we follow Owen’s counsel so that we may contend for the truth once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). As we benefit from the work of gifted men, may we learn to call no man teacher or father (Matt. 23:8–10). May we learn from the Father, as we come to him through the Son, and as the Holy Spirit bears witness to the truth by and with the Scriptures in our hearts.

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Introducing Ryan McGraw

Posted on 15. Mar, 2010 by .

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Meet the Puritans is pleased to announce that Rev. Ryan McGraw, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Conway, South Carolina, has joined us. You can read more about Ryan’s family, education, and publications at his author page here.

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Mondays with Manton (4)

Posted on 08. Mar, 2010 by .

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MantonI recently preached a sermon on the prophetic office of Jesus Christ and found one of Thomas Manton’s sermons on Matthew 17:5 to be of immense help and blessing.The sermon is sixth of seven in his collection, Christ’s Temptation and Transfiguration Practically Explained and Improved in Several Sermons (Works 1, 258–411).

The sermon picks up Matthew 17:5, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased; hear ye him.” He begins this sermon by setting out the scopus of the text as being “to set forth the Lord Jesus as the great mediator” (Works 1, 392) and further narrowing that down to the prophetical office. Manton then stated the doctrinal theme of the text: “That Christ is appointed by God the Father to be the great prophet and teacher, whose voice alone must be heard in the Church” (Works 1, 393).

What I found so helpful was his discussion of what it means to “hear” Christ. He distinguished three types of hearing: first, the receiving of sounds, which animals can do; second, the understanding of the sense and meaning of these sounds, which all humanity (ordinarily) can do; and third, assenting and consenting with the mind, which disciples alone can do (Works 1, 395). And this hearing that disciples engage in was to lead to obedience.

He then asked the great pastoral question his hearers must have been thinking: “How can we now hear Christ, since he is removed into the heaven of heavens, and doth not speak to us in person?” (Works 1, 396) Manton’s answer? He cited passages such as Hebrews 2:3–4 and 2 Corinthians 5:20 to show that Christians are to hear Christ through the writings of the apostles—the Scriptures.

It so so wonderful to know that the Scriptures are the viva vox Christi and that we are enabled to hear his voice in the reading and especially preaching of the Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. Hear him!

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Puritan Reformed Journal 2:1

Posted on 06. Mar, 2010 by .

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The latest volume of the Puritan Reformed Journal (January 2010) is now in-print and available for purchase. You can read the full Table of Contents here, but I’d like to highlight a few articles and book reviews of note for this blog:

“Hot Protestants”: A Taxonomy of English Puritanism—Ian Hugh Clary

John Bunyan and His Relevance for Today—Pieter Devries

Samuel Petto (c. 1624–1711): A Portrait of a Puritan Pastor Theologian—Michael G.Brown

James Durham (1622–1658) and the Free Offer of the Gospel—Donald John MaClean

Thomas Watson: The Necessity of Meditation—Jennifer C. Neimeyer

Was Samuel Rutherford a Mystic?—Robert Arnold

John Owen and the Third Mark of the Church—Stephen Yuille

Jeremiah Burroughs onWorship—James Davison

David Berkley, Travel Through Cambridge: City of Beauty, Reformation and Pioneering Research (Book Review)—Kenneth Magnuson

Jeffery K. Jue, Heaven Upon Earth: Joseph Mede (1586–1638) and the Legacy of Millenarianism (Book Review)—Mark Jones

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Announcing “Welcome to a Reformed Church”

Posted on 05. Mar, 2010 by .

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Available from Reformation Trust here.

Chapter one, “Roots: Our History” available as a .pdf here.

Endorsements:

“In the providence of God through Rev. Daniel Hyde, you have in your hands an excellent instrument to use in developing the life and ministry of new members, church leaders, and all disciples. This book illustrates the blessings of the historical legacy of the Reformed church with confessional integrity to equip believers and churches with evangelical breadth and theological depth. This is sound doctrine for sound lives. The key to the apostolic church is prominently displayed and easily accessible throughout the pages of Welcome to a Reformed Church.”

—Dr. Harry L. Reeder, III, Senior pastor, Briarwood Presbyterian Church (PCA), Birmingham, Alabama

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“As one who has made much the same journey as I did, Rev. Hyde offers a thoughtful and compelling guide to the distinctive emphases of the Reformed churches for those coming to them. He explains how those wonderful doctrines are worked out in the life and worship of Reformed and Presbyterian churches. If only I had had a book like Rev. Hyde’s Welcome to a Reformed Church, my own journey would have been a bit easier, for I would have had someone to ‘connect the dots’ for me.”

—Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, Senior pastor, Christ Reformed Church (URCNA), Anaheim, California

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“Daniel Hyde has written an invaluable road map for pilgrims new and old so they can know what Reformed churches believe and why. With this book, Christians can navigate the often-confusing landscape of different denominations and understand what makes Reformed churches unique and, more important, biblical. Pastor Hyde’s work is clear, succinct, informative, and faithful to the Scriptures. I highly recommend this work to anyone who desires to understand the theological pillars of the Reformed faith.”

—Dr. J. V. Fesko, Academic dean and associate professor of systematic theology, Westminster Seminary California, Escondido, California

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“Daniel Hyde’s popular introduction to the Reformed faith will prove a wonderful tool for busy pastors who are looking for help in welcoming new believers into membership in the local church. Welcome to a Reformed Church will also serve as a kind of road map for those who are new to the Reformed faith—to its history, confessions, doctrinal commitments, and patterns of worship and ministry. In its own way, this book is a great example of the kind of ‘hospitality’ Reformed churches are called to show to those whom the Lord is gathering into their fellowship by His Spirit and Word.”

—Dr. Cornelis Venema, President and professor of doctrinal studies, Mid-America Reformed Seminary, Dyer, Indiana

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“As a minister in a Reformed church, I am delighted to be able to commend this book by Daniel Hyde, as it provides one of the most useful studies of the basics of Reformed belief, worship, and practice that I have come across. I will be commending it not only for people wishing to know more about the basics of the Reformed faith, but also for those who sit in Reformed churches and need to know more deeply their own heritage.”

—Dr. Mark Jones, Pastor, Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA), Vancouver, British Columbia

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“Daniel Hyde has done the church (and church planters) a great service by giving us this well-written, concise, easy-to-understand book explaining what it means to be a ‘Reformed’ church. Yet, at the same time, this is a theologically deep book that will send us back to Scripture and our confessions so that we might understand just what the church really is. In a day of great doctrinal confusion, especially about the church, I know of no better tool to give to those who want to know more about Reformed churches.”

—Rev. Kevin Efflandt, Pastor, Bellingham United Reformed Church (URCNA), Bellingham, Washington

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“As a fellow import to the Reformed faith from the Pentecostal/ charismatic movement, I can say that Daniel Hyde has summarized our Reformed distinctives in a clear and concise manner, answer- ing many of the questions modern evangelicals ask. I heartily commend this book to newcomers in my church and all Reformed churches.”

—Rev. Jerrold Lewis, Pastor, Lacombe Free Reformed Church (FRCNA), Lacombe, Alberta

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