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:
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)
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)
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.
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”
Recently, Google has begun to put Benedict Pictet’s work, Morale Chretienne, on their collection. It looks like it will be a very valuable and helpful work. The one volume that is already available discusses various issues of the 2nd table of the law. I have put together a translation of his discussion of Christian civility. I believe that there are many valuable points in this short discussion that are both thought-provoking and convicting.
“On Christian Civility” by Benedict Pictet from his book on Christian ethics.
Since God has ordained men to live in society and since He Himself assembles them in that society, He wants them also to respect the bond that unites them according to His order. Conversely, He also wants them to avoid with extreme care every occasion that tends to break that bond and so commands that they conserve the peace amongst themselves and prefer one another in honor. Thus, God has bound us to be honest and civil towards one another.
Civility is this virtue that teaches everyone to do nothing and to say nothing that would offend the well-being of society; to give way to others as much as the order of the world can allow it; to prefer others over oneself; to greet them; to visit them; and to give them all the signs of esteem and honor that one can legitimately give to them.
The rules of civility are:
To exactly observe all that custom has established as civil or as uncivil and to practice the former with care, avoid the latter, and to follow the example of those who are wisest [in these matters].
To accommodate oneself to the places and the nations in which one lives and to the persons to whom one speaks.
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”
Peace should be a high priority for all believers. We should do all that we can to make sure that the church is a harmonious and pleasant place in which to worship. Each Christian should be peaceable. But what does it mean to be peaceable?
Wilhelmus à Brakel in his Reformed classic The Christian’s Reasonable Service gives this definition of peaceableness:
Peaceableness is a believer’s quiet and contended disposition of soul, inclining him toward, and causing him to strive for, the maintaining of a relationship with his neighbor characterized by sweet unity—doing so in the way of truth and godliness. (4:91)
A colleague of mine is going to moderate an upcoming presbytery meeting. He has served as a chaplain, and he wanted to discuss how he could run the meeting well. I asked him if he had run any meetings while he was in the military. “Yes,” he said, “but we didn’t get as deep into Robert’s Rules as we do at presbytery.” So, there you have it. Presbyterians are more strict on Robert’s Rules than the military.
Since my colleague wanted to discuss how to run a meeting successfully, I decided to try and express the principles that I have used to moderate session and presbytery meetings. I have also tried to provide some of the broad principles for the various motions so that you do not simply have to memorize the properties of each motion. Below you will find some of my thoughts. I would be interested in reading your ideas, if you would like to share them in the comment box. Here are a few principles that may be helpful in running a successful meeting:
The key to being a moderator is preparation. You need to have a clear vision of everything that may happen at the meeting. Try to envision problems that may come up and issues that may need to be resolved. Study them beforehand, and the meeting will not get bogged down. Examine everything that will come before the body. Make sure it is in order, and, if not, try to correct it before the meeting. I cannot overstate that the key to a good meeting is careful preparation. This is true for the moderator and all the participants.
“If you are not capable of speaking to certain individuals, and about such matters, speak to others. Begin with beggars and children, by whom you are not intimidated, and discuss general and rudimentary principles.”
“If you know three words, then teach others two, even if you were only to say, ‘We are going to die, which will be followed by eternity.’ This could be a means to somebody’s conversion.”
“Fruit upon your words does not come forth from you. You will not be held accountable for fruitfulness, but for faithfulness. If any does not wish to hear you, you will be able to find another who will readily hear you. If anyone laughs, another will weep.”
Some beautiful quotes from Martin Luther on the value of good works:
Outside the article of justification we cannot sufficiently praise and magnify these works which are commanded by God. For who can sufficiently commend and set forth the profit and fruit of only one work which a Christian does through faith and in faith? Indeed, it is more precious than heaven or earth.
We teach that to reconcile God, to make righteous, to blot out sin, is so high and great and glorious a work that alone Christ, the Son of God could do it and that this is indeed such a pure, special, peculiar work of the one true God and His grace that our works are nothing and can do nothing. But that good works should be nothing or be worth only a penny, who ever heard of such a thing, or who could teach such a thing except the lying mouth of the devil? I would not give up one of my sermons, not one of my lectures, not one of my treatises, not one of my Lord’s Prayers, nay, whatever small work I have ever done or am doing, for all the riches of the world (Cited in Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953), 3:59–60
The following selection is Martin Luther’s comments on Ecclesiastes 1:15: “What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be numbered.”
Cicero writing from his own experience says, “Alas! How constantly it happens that as sure as anything has been devised, and planned for the best, and with the greatest industry, it turns out so badly and so strangely!” God however herein does well, that He blows away and brings to nothing whatever man meditates and undertakes. For as soon as any plan of us men succeeds a little, from that hour we begin to take the honor to ourselves. Forthwith ambition begins to stir within us, and we think to ourselves, this I have done, for this are my country and fellow men indebted to me; and we grasp at the honor which belongs alone and entirely to God. Wherefore, if God is to continue Lord, and to assert and maintain His first commandment, He must only suffer the lesser part of our thoughts to turn out well, and both in the courts and councils of kings and princes, and in all other affairs, so soon as, and whenever anything has been deliberated and determined, show that the words “if God wills it” still retain their full force. Continue reading “What Is Crooked Cannot Be Made Straight”