Preparing to Meet God in the Lord’s Supper

By Jean Claude (1619–1687)

Just as God never presents Himself to the creature’s eyes without all the marks of His infinite majesty, so the creature should never appear before God without being seized with a religious fear and making the strongest efforts to put himself into an attitude of respect and profound humility.

We find in the history of the Old Testament, that when the Lord first revealed Himself to Moses under the image of a burning bush, Moses was surprised and astonished at the bush. He wanted at first to draw near to look more carefully into this miracle, but at that very moment, he heard a voice saying unto him, “Do not approach. Take off your shoes from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Ex. 3:5).
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The Church, Society, and the Law of God

A friend of mine wrote me to tell me that I needed more balance in my presentation of how the church should relate to society. I decided I would try and give a positive presentation of my own views on this matter (at the risk of alienating some). My views are substantially those of Charles Hodge on this matter. I think he eloquently states the obligation of the church to speak to violations of moral law in society but to avoid becoming a policy maker or getting involved specifically in politics. He writes in his Discussions in Church Polity, (103–105):

It follows from the great commission of the Church, that it is her prerogative and duty to testify for the truth and the law of God, whereever she can make her voice heard; not only to her own people, but to kings and rulers, to Jews and Gentiles. It is her duty not only to announce the truth, but to apply it to particular cases and persons; that is, she is bound to instruct, rebuke, and exhort, with all longsuffering. Continue reading “The Church, Society, and the Law of God”

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.
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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.
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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?”