Joy in the Day of Prosperity; Learning in the Day of Adversity

God gives us two different days. He gives us the day of prosperity, and He gives us the day of adversity. We must recognize that “surely God has appointed the one as well as the other” (Eccl. 7:13–14).

In 1686, shortly after Jean Claude, the famous Huguenot theologian, had left France because of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (which had allowed for toleration of the French Reformed Churches) he preached a sermon on that passage to a crowd of Dutch citizens and Huguenot refugees in The Hague, Netherlands for a day of fasting. Claude could not have chosen a more appropriate text. The Dutch had enjoyed the prosperity and blessing of the Lord in a free, Protestant land. The Huguenot refugees were still mourning their flight from their French homeland and attempting to put the pieces together in a new land.

Claude’s sermon was recently translated by Rev. Charles Telfer and printed in Vol. 19 of the Mid-America Journal of Theology (purchase it here). This sermon is a powerful exposition of that particular text as well as an excellent illustration of the power of Huguenot preaching. It is also one of my favorite sermons.

When Claude arrived at the point of application in his sermon, he addressed each group (the Dutch and the French) within the congregation separately. To those who had lived in prosperity he encouraged them to be grateful and use what they possessed to God’s glory: Continue reading “Joy in the Day of Prosperity; Learning in the Day of Adversity”

Jesus As Food

This figure that Jesus Christ presents to us under the image of food is itself very full and beautiful, being founded on an almost infinite number of comparisons or relationships that there are between the body and blood of our Savior in regard to our spiritual life and food in regard to our bodily life. At this point, I will not make an exhaustive list, it will be sufficient to notice three that can serve as a door to the others.

First, food is something naturally outside of ourselves that changes into our substance when we partake of it, and it is so absolutely necessary that without it we cannot exist so that the desire for food is violent and insatiable. In the same way, Jesus Christ is a principle of life which is outside of us, but being received by devotion and faith, communicates Him to us in such a way that we are filled with the power of His death and resurrection. Further, this is so necessary for the rest and peace of our consciences that without Him we cannot have any holiness, consolation, hope, or even the least spark of joy or spiritual life. That’s why the anxieties of a soul deprived of this great support are compared by Jesus Christ to hunger and thirst. “Blessed are those,” He says, “who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled” (Mt. 5).

Second, just as there is delight in taking food, since nature wanted to join pleasure to the usage of something so necessary and just as the body feels established and a certain tranquility after eating, so is it with Jesus Christ. The Christian soul cannot meditate on Him without an indescribable pleasure nor receive Him without enjoying a perfect rest.
Continue reading “Jesus As Food”

Jean Claude, Pastor and Theologian (1619–1687)

The Church Where Claude Pastored
One of the most famous and highly respected theologians of the 17th century was the French Huguenot Jean Claude (1619–1687). Everyone in the Reformed communion speaks of him the highest respect. Even his greatest opponent, Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, the famous Roman Catholic apologist, said of him that he said the most and best of what could be said for a bad cause! In this post, I would like to give a very brief overview of his life and explain a few of his works that are available in English.

As for the major events of Claude’s life, he was born in the home of a Protestant minister in southwestern France, where French Protestantism was strongest, in 1619. He did his studies at Montaubon and was ordained by his own father in 1646. He ministered in La Treyne for one year and then went on to Saint-Afrique where he served for eight years. In 1655, he became a pastor in the Reformed Church at Nîmes, one of the most important churches in France. Because of his success and the outcome of a provincial Synod in 1661, he was banished from the province (Languedoc). He then went to Paris to seek to get the sentence removed, but he was unsuccessful. His travels then led him to Montaubon, where he had studied for the ministry, and he was soon called and installed as a minister of that place. There, he served with relative peace and contentment for four years.

For various reasons, Claude was banished from Montaubon, and once again he went to Paris to have the sentence removed where, once again, he was unsuccessful. However, the Lord had other plans. He became the pastor at Charenton. Charenton was the most important Protestant Church in France because of its proximity to the Court. Because of the terms of the Edict of Nantes, no Protestant Church was allowed within the walls of Paris. Consequently, all of the Protestants in Paris had to worship outside the city walls. The closest church was in Charenton, about five miles outside of Paris. From this church, Claude countered the machinations against the Protestants, gave counsel to the Churches of France, and defended the cause of the Reformation. He was from 1666 until the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, the pastor of French Protestantism. Continue reading “Jean Claude, Pastor and Theologian (1619–1687)”

Criteria for Judging the True Religion

In John 7:17–18, Jesus sets forth proper criteria for judging the true religion. The first is that in order to judge properly, one must desire to do the will of God. In other words, one must be ready to follow the commands of God wherever they lead and in spite of the fact that they may conflict with our own desires. The second criterion is that the true religion gives all glory to God, “He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true . . .”

In one sense, we must examine every teaching to see if it is from God. However, there is a sort of shortcut here by seeking that religion which most glorifies God. This is what Herman Witsius said in his book The Practice of True Christianity. Here is a portion of that work which deals with this question:

10. But since the nations that bear the name of Christian are divided into so many different sects, what should someone who is concerned about his salvation do? He should not be too surprised or be shaken in his faith since he knows that the corrupted reason of man is inclined towards novelty and will worship and that the devil is always trying to forge false doctrines and introduce them among men. But it is necessary for a Christian to examine all these things and test them by the standard of Scripture. He must receive all that is in accord with Scripture and reject all that is opposed to it.

11. But that is a dizzying and hard work and which not all who seek their salvation are capable of doing. Can’t you show me some shorter and more general way to discern the true Christian religion from those that falsely bear the name? Continue reading “Criteria for Judging the True Religion”

Avoiding Legalism & Antinomianism

The Bible teaches that those who have once believed in Christ are secure forever in their salvation. This does not mean that God does not care about the remaining sin in His children. The Bible also teaches that our heavenly Father is displeased with His people’s disobedience and will chastise them for it, determined to lead them away sin. This distinction is presented beautifully in Psalm 89:30–33:

If his sons forsake My law and do not walk in My judgments, if they break My statutes and do not keep My commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, nor allow My faithfulness to fail.

Huguenot theologian Jean Daillé’s comment on this passage is to the point:

God here says two things: first, that he will chastise them, next, that he will not, on that account, cast them out of his covenant. O wonderful, tempering fo the kidness and severity of God! In which he finds his own glory, and believers their safety!

God will not break His covenant with His people, but He does interact with them, delighting in their obedience and chastising their disobedience.
Continue reading “Avoiding Legalism & Antinomianism”

Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed

I would highly recommend to you Richard Sibbes’ classic The Bruised Reed based on Is. 42:3–4.

It is one of the most edifying and encouraging of the Puritan Paperbacks. I would like to provide here a brief sample of his insights.

  1. It points us to a merciful and compassionate Savior. “If Christ had stood upon his own greatness, he would have rejected him that came with his ‘if.’ But Christ answers his ‘if” with a gracious and absolute grant, ‘I will, be thou clean'” (21). He points us to the graciousness and glory of the Gospel:

    What is the gospel itself but a merciful moderation, in which Christ’s obedience is esteemed ours, and our sins laid upon him, wherein God, from being a judge, becomes our Father, pardoning our sins and accepting our obedience, though feeble and blemished? (36)

  2. At the same time, he does not want us to use Christ’s graciousness as an excuse for not repenting. I find that he is particularly good at calling us to this in a challenging way consonant with the tenor of the Gospel:

    There are those who take up a hope of their own, that Christ will suffer them to walk in the ways to hell, and yet bring them to heaven; whereas all comfort should draw us nearer to Christ. Otherwise it is a lying comfort, either in itself or in our application of it. (67)

  3. Continue reading “Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed

Can You Remember the Time of Your Conversion?

But lest any poor soul should be discouraged under the display of this providence [in conversion], because he cannot remember the time, place, instruments, and manner, wherein and by which his conversion was wrought; I will therefore premise this necessary distinction, to prevent injury to some, whilst I design benefit to others.

Conversion, as to the subjects of it, may be considered two ways; either as it is more sensibly wrought in persons of riper years, who in their youthful days were more profane and vile; or in persons in their tender years, into whose hearts grace was more insensibly and indiscernibly instilled, by God’s blessing upon pious education. Continue reading “Can You Remember the Time of Your Conversion?”

Turretin on the Celebration of Days

In this section (Institutes, 11.15.13–15), Francis Turretin sets forth a balanced view of the celebration of days in the church. He urges toleration for those who celebrate them and those who do not, provided they agree in rejecting the superstitious use of them and the idolatrous rites of the Papists. On the other side, he gives cautions concerning their use and explains how they can be used in a right and wrong way. He writes:

XIII. If some Reformed churches still observe some festivals (as the conception, nativity, passion and ascension of Christ), they differ widely from the papists because they dedicate these days to God alone and not to creatures. (2) No sanctity is attached to them, nor power and efficacy believed to be in them (as if they are much more holy than the remaining days). (3) They do not bind believers to a scrupulous and too strict abstinence on them from all servile work (as if in that abstinence there was any moral good or any part of religion placed and on the other hand it would be a great offense to do any work on those days). (4) The church is not bound by any necessity to the unchangeable observance of those days, but as they were instituted by human authority, so by the same they can be abolished and changed, if utility and the necessity of the church should demand it. “For everything is dissolved by the same causes by which it was produced,” the lawyers say. In one word, they are considered as human institutions. Superstition and the idea of necessity are absent.
Continue reading “Turretin on the Celebration of Days”

Updated: Guidelines for True Christian Living

Update: You can download a PDF of the book here.

I have completed my translation of French Huguenot preacher Pierre Allix’s Guidelines for True Christian Living. You can read it by clicking on the title of the book. Here is my preface to the book:

Our catechisms cover the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. We do well to master them. However, there are few resources that set forth in a simple way how to live a Christian life. I believe that Peter Allix’s book does just that. If you take into account the 50 principles that he sets forth here, I believe you will be much better equipped to live a godly life. This book is simple enough that young children can understand it. I intend to use this book to teach my children the basics of godly living. I will be gratified if others put it to the same use.

And here are a few highlights from the book:

  1. To fail to reflect upon our conduct is to live without reason. But to not consider the state of our heart each day is to live without piety and godliness. We must see what good acts we have omitted and what sins we have committed. (9)
  2. We may think we are innocent because we do not commit any great crimes. But let’s be honest. Most of the things we do are far removed from the real purpose of our lives. Oftentimes, we just waste time doing nothing. This negligence is not innocent, even though it may not be the most criminal. (11)
  3. Let us be ashamed at such an imperfect Christianity. Let us be ashamed to do less by the fear of Jesus Christ, by this Jesus whom we ought to love, than by the fear of men who are not worthy of either our love or fear.
  4. Continue reading “Updated: Guidelines for True Christian Living”

Huguenot Theologian Peter Allix (1641–1717)

Louis XIV Revoking the Edict of Nantes
I am working on a translation of Peter Allix’s Maxims of the True Christian. I hope to publish it in a series of posts for my “Sabbath Meditations.” Here is an introduction to his life adapted from the Dictionary of National Biograph:

Peter Allix (1641–1717), preacher and theologian, son of Pierre Allix, pastor of the Reformed Church of France at Alençon, was born at Alençon, Normandy in 1641. His father directed his early studies; afterwards, he attended the protestant universities of Saumur and Sedan. He was especially distinguished in the study of Hebrew and Syriac, and worked at a new translation of the Bible, in conjunction with the well-known Jean Claude (1619–1687). His first charge as a pastor was at St. Agobille in Champagne. In 1670, owing to his distinguished abilities, he was translated to Charenton, Paris, the principal reformed church of city, attended by most of the distinguished families of the reformed faith. Here he acquired great fame and power as a preacher, so much so, that in Bayle’s Dictionary a high compliment is paid to his learning and abilities. In 1683, he was chosen moderator of the last provincial synod, held at Lisy, in the diocese of Meaux. The synod numbered fifty-four ministers and sat for three weeks.
Continue reading “Huguenot Theologian Peter Allix (1641–1717)”