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”
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.
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)
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)
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)”
In the 19th century, some historians tried to analyze the various streams of Protestantism in terms of a central dogma. Alexander Schweizer thought that it was predestination. He said that the central dogma of the Lutherans was justification. From what I can tell from the secondary literature, he also believed that this was sort of a basic principle from which all other dogmas were deduced. This sort of methodology has been rejected by most modern historians.
However, as I have read classic Reformed theology, I have found that they generally did believe in a central dogma. They believed that it was justification by faith alone. This did not mean that it was a theological axiom from which all other theology was deduced. Rather, it meant:
That the purity of this doctrine was basic to purity in all other doctrines.
That any error in this doctrine was extremely dangerous.
That this doctrine, above all, was to be defended, explained, and meditated upon.
That this doctrine was the foundation of all true religion and holiness.
That the true Church could not be maintained without this doctrine.
In this post, I would like to demonstrate this from the writings of several different theologians from several different regions and eras.
Herman Witsius (1636–1708, Holland), The Economy of the Covenants, 2.8.1: “The pious Picardians, as they were called in Bohemia and Moravia [i.e., the churches of which John Huss was the most prominent example], valued this article at its true price when in their confession of faith, Art. vi. speaking of justification, they thus write: ‘this sixth article is accounted with us the most principal of all, as being the sum of all Christianity and piety. Wherefore our divines teach and handle it with all diligence and application, and endeavor to instill it into all.’” Continue reading “The Importance of Justification by Faith Alone”
You can find the original sermon here, printed in 1686. He is responding to the objection that the term “reward” in Heb. 11:26 implies merit.
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On this point, before we finish, we must answer two scruples that can come from these words. The first is whether it is permitted to do good works looking for a reward. The second is whether we can gather as a consequence merit from reward so as to conclude that since our good works have a reward they must be meritorious as  the false Church alleges. But neither the first nor the second have much difficulty in them. Continue reading “Turretin on Reward and Merit From a Sermon on Hebrews 11:24–26”