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John Owen: The Holy Spirit and Conviction of Sin

26 Jun

1616 -1683. Preeminent English Puritan theologian, pastor, and independent.

The principal efficient cause of this work [conviction of sin] is the Holy Ghost; the preaching of the word, especially of the law, being the instrument which be maketh use of therein. The knowledge of sin is by the law, both the nature, guilt, and curse belonging to it, Rom. 7:7. There is, therefore, no conviction of sin but what consists in an emanation of light, and knowledge from the doctrine of the law, with an evidence of its power and a sense of its curse. Other means, as afflictions, dangers, sicknesses, fears, disappointments, may be made use of to excite, stir up, and put an edge upon the minds and affections of men; yet it is, by one means or other, from the law of God that such a discovery is made of sin unto them, and such a sense of it wrought upon them, as belong unto this work of conviction. But it is the Spirit of God alone that is the principal efficient cause of it, for he works these effects on the minds of men. God takes it upon himself, as his own work, to “reprove men, arid set their sins in order before their eyes,” Ps 50:21. And that this same work is done immediately by the Spirit is expressly declared, John 16:8. He alone it is who makes all means effectual unto this end and purpose. Without his especial and immediate actings on us to this end, we may hear the law preached all the days of our lives and not be once affected with it.

~John Owen~





A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit, The Works of John Owen, Volume 3 (ed. William H. Goold, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 351-352.

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John Calvin – All Truth is God’s Truth

23 Jun

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As truth is most precious, so all men confess it to be so. And yet, since God alone is the source of all good, you must not doubt, that whatever truth you anywhere meet with, proceeds from Him, unless you would be doubly ungrateful to Him;

~John Calvin~






Letter CCXXXVI.—TO BUCER, Letters of John Calvin, Volume 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 198–199.

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Theodore S. Wright – Prejudice and Discouragement

22 Jun

1797-1847. Attended Princeton Theological Seminary. Pastored First Colored Presbyterian Church of New York.

But, sir, this prejudice goes farther. It debars men from heaven. While, sir, this slavery cuts off the colored portion of the community from religious privileges, men are made infidels. What, they demand, is your Christianity? How do you regard your brethren? How do you treat them at the Lord’s table? Where is your consistency in talking about the heathen; traversing the ocean to circulate the Bible everywhere, while you frown upon them at your door? These things meet us, and weigh down our spirits.

~Theodore S. Wright~





The Black Abolitionist Papers Volume III: The United States, 1830-1846 Edited by C. Peter Ripley (Chapel Hill, NC; The University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 185.

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John Calvin – On the Golden Rule

19 Jun

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So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 ESV)

It is an exhortation to his [Christ’s] disciples to be just, and contains a short and simple definition of what justice means. We are here informed, that the only reason why so many quarrels exist in the world, and why men inflict so many mutual injuries on each other, is, that they knowingly and willingly trample justice under their feet, while every man rigidly demands that it shall be maintained towards himself.

Where our own advantage is concerned, there is not one of us, who cannot explain minutely and ingeniously what ought to be done. And since every man shows himself to be a skilful teacher of justice for his own advantage, how comes it, that the same knowledge does not readily occur to him, when the profit or loss of another is at stake, but because we wish to be wise for ourselves only, and no man cares about his neighbours? What is more, we maliciously and purposely shut our eyes upon the rule of justice, which shines in our hearts. Christ therefore shows, that every man may be a rule of acting properly and justly towards his neighbours, if he do to others what he requires to be done to him. He thus refutes all the vain pretences, which men contrive for hiding or disguising their injustice. Perfect justice would undoubtedly prevail among us, if we were as faithful in learning active charity, (if we may use the expression,) as we are skilful in teaching passive charity.

~John Calvin~






Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 355–356.

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Abraham Kuyper – Particular, Covenant, and Common Grace

8 Jun

1837-1920. Dutch pastor, theologian, politician, and Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

Particular grace deals with the individual, the person to be saved, with the individual entering glory. And with this individual, as child of God, we cannot wrap the golden chain of redemption around his soul unless that golden chain descends from personal, sovereign election.

For that reason, the almighty sovereignty of God, who elects whom he will and rejects those to whom he does not show mercy, remains the heart of the church, the cor ecclesiae, which the Reformed churches must hold firmly until the return of the Lord. The consequence of forsaking this truth would be their vanishing from the earth, even prior to the Maranatha. This doctrine is and remains, therefore, the heart of our confession. This is the testimony that, on the authority of God’s Word, sealed by our personal experience, we shout aloud for all to hear: grace is particular.

Nevertheless, that same child of God is something other than an isolated individual limited to himself. This individual is also part of a community, member of a body, participant in a group identity, enclosed within an organism. The doctrine of the covenant emphasizes and does justice to this truth.

Without the doctrine of the covenant, the doctrine of election is mutilated, and the frightening lack of the assurance of faith is the valid punishment resulting from this mutilation of the truth. If separated from the confession of the covenant, election in isolation attempts to take hold of the Holy Spirit without honoring God the Son. The Third Person in the Trinity does not allow that violation of the honor of the Second Person. Christ himself testified that the Holy Spirit “will take what is mine and declare it to you” [John 16:14]. Anyone who presumes to trample upon this divine ordinance will not escape the severe anguish with which this unshakeable ordinance wreaks its misery of soul.

Therefore, in Holy Scripture this sovereign, personal election never appears in any other manner but within the context of covenant grace. The individual, this single soul, must experience being incorporated into the community of the saints. We are elected personally, but together we are branches of the one Vine, members of the same body. For that reason, the confession of particular, personal grace is untrue and unscriptural unless it arises within the context of the covenant.

However, this is not the end of the matter.

The divine covenant in the Mediator in turn has its background in the work of original creation, in the existence of the world, and in the life of our human race. As individuals God’s children belong to the community of the saints. But that community of saints also consists of the children of men, born of a woman by the will of man. Consequently they are interwoven and interconnected with all of human living that originated in paradise and continues in its misshapen form even after humanity’s fall from God.

Neither our election nor our attachment to the community of saints negates our common humanity, nor removes our participation in the life of family, homeland, or world.

Therefore, we need to consider not two, but three aspects: first, our personal life; second, our incorporation into the body of Christ; and third, our existence as human beings (that is, our origin by human birth, our membership in the human race).

~Abraham Kuyper~





Common Grace, Volume 1: God’s Gifts for a Fallen World: The Historical Section. Edited by Jordan J. Ballor, Melvin Flikkema, and Stephen J. Grail. Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman and Ed M. van der Maas. Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; Acton Institute, 2015), 2-3.

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Abraham Kuyper – The Goal of My Work on Common Grace

2 Jun

1837-1920. Dutch pastor, theologian, politician, and even Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Founded the Free University of Amsterdam, formed the Anti-Revolutionary Party. Known for his lectures “On Calvinism” and his views on Common Grace.

If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit. The non-Christian world has not been handed over to Satan, nor surrendered to fallen humanity, nor consigned to fate. God’s sovereignty is great and all-dominating in the life of that unbaptized world as well. Therefore Christ’s church on earth and God’s children cannot simply retreat from this life. If the believer’s God is at work in this world, then in this world the believer’s hand must take hold of the plow, and the name of the Lord must be glorified in that activity as well…

Spiritual isolation and ecclesiastical isolation are equally anti-Reformed. This work will have achieved the goal I have envisioned only when it ends such isolation without, God forbid, tempting believers to lose themselves in that world, a world that may not hold dominion over us, but rather a world within which we in the power of God must exercise dominion.

~Abraham Kuyper~





Common Grace, Volume 1: God’s Gifts for a Fallen World: The Historical Section. Edited by Jordan J. Ballor, Melvin Flikkema, and Stephen J. Grail. Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman and Ed M. van der Maas. Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; Acton Institute, 2015), xxxvi–xxxvii.

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Geerhardus Vos – The Eschatological Complexion of Paul’s Theology

16 May
10143218

1862-1949. Dutch Reformed pastor who became professor of Biblical Theology at Princeton Seminary. Known as the father of Reformed Biblical Theology.

By giving the soteric movement this cosmical setting it claims for it the significance of a central world-process, around the core of which all happenings in the course of time group themselves. By this one stroke order is brought into the disconnected multitudinousness of events. The eschatology, without losing touch with history, nevertheless, owing to the large sweep of its historical reach, becomes philosophico-theological. It no longer forms one item in the sum-total of revealed teaching, but draws within its circle as correlated and eschatologically-complexioned parts practically all of the fundamental tenets of Pauline Christianity… It will appear throughout that to unfold the Apostle’s eschatology means to set forth his theology as a whole.

~Geerhardus Vos~


The Pauline Eschatology (Princeton, NJ; Geerhardus Vos, 1930), p. 11.

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Abraham Kuyper – The Birth of Common Grace

15 May

1837-1920. Dutch pastor, theologian, politician, and even Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Founded the Free University of Amsterdam, formed the Anti-Revolutionary Party. Known for his lectures “On Calvinism” and his views on Common Grace.

Among the perfections of God, it is particularly his forbearance that is not exhausted in this common grace, but rather is magnified in a moving way. God’s holiness and majesty respond against all sin, not merely in part, but completely, in the most absolute sense. If this outworking of God’s holiness against sin were to proceed unimpeded in all of its dreadfulness, there would be no common grace. But the Lord our God is not merely holy, but also in his holiness he is at the same time forbearing, and it is from that forbearance, which yields the divine patience of the Almighty for bearing temporarily with sin, that common grace is born.

~Abraham Kuyper~





Common Grace, Volume 1: God’s Gifts for a Fallen World: The Historical Section. Edited by Jordan J. Ballor, Melvin Flikkema, and Stephen J. Grail. Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman and Ed M. van der Maas. Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; Acton Institute, 2015), 7.

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John Owen: Psalm 130 and His Experimental Acquaintance with God Through Christ

12 May

1616 -1683. Preeminent English Puritan theologian, pastor, and independent.

I myself preached Christ… some years, when I had but very little, if any, experimental acquaintance with access to God through Christ; until the Lord was pleased to visit me with sore affliction, whereby I was brought to the mouth of the grave, and under which my soul was oppressed with horror and darkness; but God graciously relieved my spirit by a powerful application of Psalm 130:4, ‘But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared;’ from whence I received special instruction, peace, and comfort, in drawing near to God through the Mediator, and preached thereupon immediately after my recovery.

~John Owen~





A Practical Exposition Upon Psalm 130, The Works of John Owen, Volume 6 (ed. William H. Goold, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 324.

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John Newton – As To Your Opponent

12 Apr

As to your opponent, I wish, that, before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab, concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.” The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should shew tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ for ever. But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace, (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit,) he is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger. Alas! “he knows not what he does.” But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defence of the Gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his. Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. If, indeed, they who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistence be offended at their obstinacy; but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is, not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose, “if peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.” If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling-blocks in the way of the blind, or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their prejudices, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable.

~John Newton~





John Newton, Richard Cecil, The Works of the John Newton, vol. 1: Forty-One Letters on Religious Subjects, “Letter XIX: On Controversy” (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 268-270.

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