Fire in the Mouth

Confessional Presbyterian ♠️ Reader of Ryle Co-Founder & President of Christian Worldview Discipleship (CWD) Full Time Evangelist w/ Reformed Evangelistic Fellowship (REF) Pursuing M.Div @ Heidelberg Theological Seminary (HTS) 🎧 CWD Podcasts ⤵️

Ministers: sow the seed and wait with faith

It is humbling, no doubt, to ministers and teachers of others. The highest abilities, the most powerful preaching, the most diligent working cannot command success. God alone can give spiritual life. But it is a truth at the same time which supplies an admirable antidote to over-anxiety and despondency. Our principal work is to sow the seed. That done, we may wait with faith and patience for the result. We may go to bed at night and [get] up by day and leave our work with the Lord. He alone can, and if He thinks fit, He will give success.

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on Mark’

Creeds: Public or Private

I do want to make the point here that Christians are not divided between those who have creeds and confessions and those who do not; rather, they are divided between those who have public creeds and confessions that are written down and exist as public documents, subject to public scrutiny, evaluation, and critique, and those who have private creeds and confessions that are often improvised, unwritten, and thus not open to public scrutiny, not susceptible to evaluation and, crucially and ironically, not, therefore, subject to testing by Scripture to see whether they are true.
—Carl Trueman, 'The Creedal Imperative' pg. 16

professing Christ ≠ confessing him

But is it not said by the Lord Christ himself, "He who confesses me before men, him will I confess before my Father in heaven?" Now, for Christ to say, he will confess us before the Father, is equivalent to a promise of eternal life: for if Jesus Christ confesses us, God the Father will never disown us.
True, those who confess Christ, shall be confessed by him; and it is as true, that this confession is equivalent to a promise of salvation. But you must know, that professing Christ, is not confessing him: for to profess Christ is one thing—to confess Christ is another. Confession is a living testimony for Christ, in a time when religion suffers. Profession may be only a lifeless formality, in a time when religion prospers. To confess Christ, is to choose his ways, and own them. To profess Christ, is to plead for his ways—and yet not live in them. Profession may be from a feigned love to the ways of Christ; but confession is from a rooted love to the person of Christ. To profess Christ, is to own him when none deny him; to confess Christ, is to plead for him, and suffer for him, when others oppose him. Hypocrites may be professors; but the martyrs are the true confessors. Profession is a swimming down the stream. Confession is a swimming against the stream. Now many may swim with the stream, like the dead fish—which cannot swim against the stream, with the living fish. Many may profess Christ, who cannot confess Christ; and so, notwithstanding their profession, yet are but almost Christians.

—Matthew Mead. The Almost Christian Discovered (Kindle Locations 495-506). Monergism Books.

John Knox: Zeal

A friend of mine once ironically defined a legalist as someone who loved God more than He did. We might alter the definition somewhat to make John Knox's indefatigable zeal a little less convicting to us. A zealot, a fanatic is anyone who loves God and His Word in a way that embarrasses us.

It is not really possible to love God too much. It is not possible to take His Word to extremes, because His Word prohibits that use of it. If a man is careful to keep his conduct, motives, attitudes, and manner within the boundaries set by Scripture, how could we object to him without objecting to the Bible itself? If we really object to his behavior as Christians, we must do so because he was not conforming to the Scriptures in some way—that he is not scrupulous enough, not that he has gone overboard. This is why Jesus said that unless the righteousness of His disciples exceeded that of the Pharisees they would by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 5:20). The problem with the Pharisees was not that they were too righteous, but that they were hypocritical and unrighteous.

So we see a man who might certainly be extreme in the name of true religion, but this is a different thing altogether. Jesus warned of those who offered twisted service up to God in the name of God. "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service" (John 16:2).

—Douglas Wilson, 'John Knox: Stalwart Courage' pg. 205–206

the mingled spirit of the Pharisee and Dominican

Again, our book recognizes the right of a woman to divorce her husband, as well as that of a man to divorce his wife. Some of our most distinguished men, however, hold that the Scriptures give the right of divorce solely to the husband. Our book also teaches that wilful desertion is a legitimate ground of divorce, a vinculo matrimonii, but many of our brethren in the ministry do not believe this. Other Presbyterians again, knowing that our Lord says, “ Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery,” cannot bring themselves to believe that there can be any such divorce as renders a second marriage lawful. Our standards deny the lawfulness of the marriage of a man with the sister of his deceased wife, yet it is notorious that a large portion, probably a large majority, of our ministers openly reject that doctrine. Now what is to be thought of a rule, which, if applied, would cast out of the ministry all these classes—a rule which would have strangled the church in its infancy, and which would kill it now in a week—a rule which would have deposed from the ministry the venerable Dr. Ashbel Green, and scores of men among our fathers of like standing? If the rule that no man should be allowed to exercise the ministry in our church, who did not adopt every proposition contained in the Confession of Faith, should be carried out, we verily believe we should be left almost alone. We are not sure that we personally know a dozen ministers besides ourselves, who could stand the test. We should have to mourn the exodus of our valued friends, the editors of the Presbyterian, and should doubtless be called to bid a tearful adieu to the venerable “G.,” of Richmond, Virginia. As we have no desire to sit thus solitary on the ruins of our noble church, we enter a solemn protest against a principle which would work such desolation.

  1. There is another view of this subject. We all admit that the preservation of the truth is one of the most important duties of the church, and that she is bound to guard against the admission of unsound men into the ministry. We all admit that the Holy Ghost calls men to preach the gospel, and that soundness in the faith is one of the marks by which that call is authenticated to the church. We admit further, that the church has no right to call men to the sacred office; that the authority to preach does not come from her; that the prerogative of the church is simply to judge of the evidence of a divine call. Her office is purely ministerial, and should be exercised cautiously and humbly. She has no more right unduly to lower, or to raise unduly the evidence which she demands of a vocation to the ministry, than she has to alter the evidence of a call to grace and salvation. If she does not, and dares not, require perfect holiness of heart and life, as proof of a call to fellowship with the Son of God, neither can she demand perfect knowledge, or perfect freedom from error, as evidence of a call to the ministry. Now, who is prepared, standing in the presence of Christ, and acting in his name, to say, that so far as the Presbyterian church can prevent it, no man shall be ordained to the ministry, no man shall be a pastor, no man shall be a missionary, no man shall preach the gospel anywhere, to the poor and the perishing, who does not believe that wilful desertion is a legitimate ground of divorce? Who is ready to shut up every church, silence every pulpit, abandon every missionary station, where that principle is not maintained? There doubtless have been, and there still may be, men who would do all this, and in the mingled spirit of the Pharisee and Dominican, rejoice in the desolation they had wrought, and shout, “ The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we.” God forbid that such a spirit should ever gain the ascendency in our church. Let us keep our hands off of God’s ark, and not assume to be more zealous for his truth, or more solicitous for the purity of his church, than he is himself. We may well bear with infirmities and errors which he pities and pardons in his servants.

—Charles Hodge, "Adoption of the Confession of Faith," The Princeton Review, No. IV (October, 1858): 687–688.
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Hodge Statement

THE SYSTEM OF DOCTRINE OF THE REFORMED CHURCH
CHARLES HODGE

We do not expect that our ministers should adopt every proposition contained in our standards. This they are not required to do. But they are required to adopt the system; and that system consists of certain doctrines, no one of which can he omitted without destroying its identity. Those doctrines are, the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and the consequent infallibility of all their teachings;

—the doctrine of the Trinity, that there is one God subsisting in three persons, the Father, Son, and Spirit, the same in substance and equal in power and glory; the doctrine of decrees and predestination as above stated; the doctrine of creation, viz., that the universe and all that it contains is not eternal, is not a necessary product of the life of God, is not an emanation from the divine substance, but owes its existence as to substance and form solely to his will;

—and in reference to man that he was created in the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, and not in puris naturalibus, without any moral character;

—the doctrine of providence, or that God effectually governs all his creatures and all their actions, so that nothing comes to pass which is not in accordance with his infinitely wise, holy, and benevolent purposes;

—the doctrine of the covenants; the first, or covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience; and the second, or covenant of grace, wherein God freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all who are ordained unto life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe;

—the doctrine concerning Christ our Mediator, ordained of God to be our prophet, priest, and king, the head and Saviour of his church, the heir of all things, and judge of the world, unto whom he did, from eternity give a people to be his seed, to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified, and that the eternal Son of God, of one substance with the Father, took upon him man’s nature, so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; that this Lord Jesus Christ, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those whom the Father hath given to him;

—the doctrine of free will, viz., that man was created not only a free agent, but with full ability to choose good or evil, and by that choice determine his future character and destiny; that by the fall he has lost this ability to spiritual good; that in conversion God by his Spirit enables the sinner freely to repent and believe ;

—the doctrine of effectual calling, or regeneration, that those, and those only whom God has predestinated unto life, he effectually calls by his word and Spirit from a state of spiritual death to a state of spiritual life, renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining their wills, thus effectually drawing them to Christ; yet so that they come most freely;

—and that this effectual calling is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from any thing foreseen in man;

—the doctrine of justification, that it is a free act, or act of grace on the part of God; that it does not consist in any subjective change of state, nor simply in pardon, but includes a declaring and accepting the sinner as righteous; that it is founded not on anything wrought in us or done by us; not on faith or evangelical obedience, but simply on what Christ has done for us, i. e., in his obedience and sufferings unto death; this righteousness of Christ being a proper, real, and full satisfaction to the justice of God, his exact justice and rich grace are glorified in the justification of sinners;

—the doctrine of adoption, that those who are justified are received into the family of God, and made partakers of the spirit and privileges of his children;

—the doctrine of sanctification, that those once regenerated by the Spirit of God are, by his power and indwelling, in the use of the appointed means of grace, rendered more and more holy, which work, although always imperfect in this life, is perfected at death ;

—the doctrine of saving faith, that it is the gift of God, and work of the Holy Spirit, by which the Christian receives as true, on the authority of God, whatever is revealed in his word, the special acts of which faith are the receiving and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life;

—the doctrine of repentance, that the sinner out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but the odiousness of sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does with grief and hatred of his own sins, turn from them unto God, with full purpose and endeavour after new obedience;

—the doctrine of good works, that they are such only as God has commanded; that they are the fruits of faith; such works, although not necessary as the ground of our justification, are indispensable, in the case of adults, as the uniform products of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers;

—the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, that those once effectually called and sanctified by the Spirit, can never totally or finally fall from a state of grace, because the decree of election is immutable, because Christ’s merit is infinite, and his intercession constant; because the Spirit abides with the people of God; and because the covenant of grace secures the salvation of all who believe;

—the doctrine of assurance; that the assurance of salvation is desirable, possible, and obligatory, but is not of the essence of faith;

—the doctrine of the law, that it is a revelation of the will of God, and a perfect rule of righteousness; that it is perpetually obligatory on justified persons as well as others, although believers are not under it as a covenant of works;

—the doctrine of Christian liberty, that it includes freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemnation of the law, from a legal spirit, from the bondage of Satan and dominion of sin, from the world and ultimately from all evil, together with free access to God as his children. Since the advent of Christ, his people are freed also from the yoke of the ceremonial law. God alone is the Lord of the conscience, which he has set free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in anything contrary to his word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship;

—the doctrines concerning worship and the Sabbath, concerning vows and oaths, of the civil magistrate, of marriage, contain nothing peculiar to our system, or which is matter of controversy among Presbyterians. The same is true as to what the Confession teaches concerning the church, of the communion of saints, of the sacraments, and of the future state, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of the final judgment.

That such is the system of doctrine of the Reformed church is a matter of history. It is the system which, as the granite formation of the earth, underlies and sustains the whole scheme of truth as revealed in the Scriptures, and without which all the rest is as drifting sand. It has been from the beginning the life and soul of the church, taught explicitly by our Lord himself, and more fully by his inspired servants, and always professed by a cloud of witnesses in the church. It has moreover ever been the esoteric faith of true believers, adopted in their prayers and hymns, even when rejected from their creeds. It is this system which the Presbyterian Church is pledged to profess, to defend, and to teach; and it is a breach of faith to God and man if she fails to require a profession of this system by all those whom she receives or ordains as teachers and guides of her people. It is for the adoption of the Confession of Faith in this sense that the Old-school have always contended as a matter of conscience.

—Charles Hodge, “The General Assembly,” The Princeton Review, No. III (July, 1867): 509–512.
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Banish Creeds, Silence Preaching

He who would consistently banish creeds must silence all preaching and reduce the teaching of the church to the recital of the exact words of Holy Scripture without note or comment.
—R.L. Dabney, “The Doctrinal Contents of the Confession”

Popularity is fickle

How foolish are they who rely for happiness on popular favor. Nothing is more fickle. David may long reign and do good, but when the rebellion comes, the masses turn against him, v. 1. It was always so. One while Israel says there is none like Moses. Very soon trouble comes; then they murmur against him. The very people, who one moment pronounce Paul a murderer pursued by divine vengeance, the next moment say he is a God. The very crowd who cry, Hosanna to the son of David, in three days clamor for his crucifixion. Popular breath is as fickle as the wind, and as light as vanity. The want of it is proof against no man's worth. The possession of it confirms no man's title to esteem.

—William Plumer, ‘Studies on the Book of Psalms’, Psalm 3

Problem in the PCP

I finished going through my printed copy of the PCP Standards of Government, Discipline, and Worship—with a highlighter. Very edifying.
The problem in the Presbyterian Church of the Philippines is definitely NOT the standards.

The problem is ordained ministers violating their vows to "sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms," "approve of the government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church of the Philippines," and "to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel, and the purity and peace of the church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise."

They call themselves presbyterian.
They may even shout "PCP rules!" at the top of their lungs.
But they do not practice them.
Maybe, they don't even believe them.
And, worst of all, they persecute those who do.

Fear not for the Church of Christ

Fear not for the Church of Christ, when ministers die, and saints are taken away. Christ can ever maintain His own cause. He will raise up better servants and brighter stars. The stars are all in His right hand. Leave off all anxious thought about the future. Cease to be cast down by the measures of statesmen, or the plots of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Christ will ever provide for His own Church. Christ will take care that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” All is going on well, though our eyes may not see it. The kingdoms of this world shall yet become the kingdoms of our God, and of His Christ.

—J.C. Ryle, 'Holiness'

Evangelism & Apologetics

Artificial conceptions of the work of apologetics often lead to the conclusion that it is something other than theology, or Christian philosophy, or evangelism. . . The key will be to recognize differences of degree between these activities and not escalate the into categorical differences of kind. . . Although they work with difference kinds of questions, audiences, or settings, they are nevertheless expressions of the Christian’s underlying approach to intellectual method in general (or epistemology)—one’s view of reasoning, and particularly its relationship to faith. . .

Theology applies the word of God. So does evangelism. So does Christian philosophy. So does apologetics . . . When believers attempt to evangelize unbelievers and bring them to a knowledge of God’s truth, they should themselves be submissive and responsive to that truth, as well as portraying it correctly—or else they will lack persuasiveness (Rom. 2:2, 21–24; 1 Peter 2:12) and will mislead those who are already in the dark (Matt. 15:14; 23:15). . .

As it turns out, the apologist defends what the theologian has learned, with the tools and insights refined by the philosopher, for the evangelistic purpose of seeing the unbeliever’s heart and mind changed.

—Greg Bahnsen, 'Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis' (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1998), 43–44

Men don't own the church

Men don't own the church:
It's Christ's body (Rom. 12:5)
Christ is her Savior (Eph. 5:23)
Christ is the king (Ps. 2:6)
Christ is the head (Col. 1:18)
Christ is the corner stone (Eph. 2:20)
Christ appoints the officers (1 Cor. 12:28)
Christ walks among the churches (Rev. 2:1)

the greatest imposter and cheat

The heart of man is the greatest imposter and cheat in the world. God Himself states it, "The heart is deceitful above all things." Some of the deceits thereof you will find discovered in this treatise, which shows you that every grace has its counterfeit, and that the highest profession may be where true conversion is not.

—Matthew Mead, 'The Almost Christian Discovered'

Reconciliation in Christ alone

Unlike woke ideology, Christians know that we can never find lasting peace in natural terms and through natural means. This is because disunity, injustice, and hostility flow from our alienation to God, and secondly from our resulting alienation with one another. But if the vertical problem is resolved, then the horizontal is as well. Accordingly, Jesus is the only true hope of those who desire unity of any kind in the world. Human harmony is a good desire, one common to humanity beyond the Church. But there is truly no hope of peace outside of Jesus, for only Jesus solves our foremost problem: separation from God.
Our solution to disunity, injustice, and division is anchored in Christ and Christ alone.
—Owen Strachan, 'Christianity and Wokeness' pg. 158

oppositions and exclusions

Linguistic meaning, they [deconstructionists] argue, rests on oppositions and exclusions. "Man" is defined as the opposite of "woman." "Freedom" excludes "slavery." Yet, because a word is defined in terms of what it excludes, each word carries with it a "trace" of its opposite. Every time we use the word man, we are excluding women. "Freedom" depends for its meaning on the concept of slavery—a totally free society would presumably have no word for the concept. Freedom would be taken for granted. To say, "Americans are free," calls to mind (to the deconstructionists) the ways that they are also enslaved.

—Gene Edward Veith, Jr. 'Postmodern Times' pg. 53

Glorification & Restoration

In like manner the Christian's hope is not indifferent to the material universe around us, the cosmos of God's creation. It was subjected to vanity not willingly; it was cursed for man's sin; it was marred by human apostasy. But it is going to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, and its deliverance will be coincident with the consummation of God's people's redemption. The two are not only coincident as events but they are correlative in hope. Glorification has cosmic proportions. 'We according to his promise look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness' (2 Pet. 3:13). 'Then the end, when he delivers over the kingdom to God and the Father' and 'God will be all in all' (1 Cor. 15:24, 28).

—John Murray, 'Redemption—Accomplished and Applied' pg. 186