26 February, 2007

Gillespie on the Necessity of Presbyteries and Synods

I have been spending time in two very important books on Presbyterian church government. The first is Jus Divinum Regiminus Ecclesiastici which was written in 1646. The second is Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland, In the Points of Ruling Elders, And of the Authority of Presbyteries and Synods by George Gillespie. This one was written in 1644. The Gillespie work is a great read for those interested in reading on church government, but do not have a lot of time to devote to the study. Each chapter is very short and to the point. Below is one chapter which is illustrative of the length and the spiritual depth of the book. Thank you to my friend Shawn Anderson who recommended it to me. Shawn just spent over one year studying this issue in depth. He will have a bibliography available for us all soon.

We have another reason to add, and it is borrowed from lawless necessity; for without a subordination among ecclesiastical courts, and the authority of the higher above the inferior, it were utterly impossible to preserve unity, or to make an end of controversy {60:A} in a nation. A particular congregation might happily end questions and controversies betwixt the members thereof, and so keep unity within itself (and not so neither, if the one half of the congregation be against the other), but how shall controversies betwixt several congregations be determined if both of them be independent? how shall plurality of religions be avoided? how shall an apostatizing congregation be amended?
It is answered, (1.) If a particular congregation neglect their duty, or do wrong to another, the civil sword may proceed against them to make them do their duty. (2.) A particular congregation ought, in difficult cases, to consult with her sister churches; for so much reason dictates, that in difficult cases, counsels should be taken of a greater number. (3.) Sister churches, when they see a particular congregation doing amiss, out of that relation which they have to her, being all in the same body, under the same head, may, and ought to admonish her, and in case of general apostasy, they may withdraw that communion from her which they hold with the true churches of Christ.
But these answer are not satisfactory. The first of them agreeth not to all times; for in times of persecution the church hath not the help of the civil sword: a persecuting magistrate will be glad to see either division or apostasy in a congregation; but so it is, that Christ hath provided a remedy, both for all the evils and diseases of his church, and at all times. The church (as was said before) is a republic, and hath her laws, courts, and spiritual censures within herself, whether there be a Christian magistrate or not.
The second answer leaveth the rectifying of an erring congregation to the uncertainty of their own discretion, in seeking counsel from a greater number. And, moreover, if this be a dictate of reason, to ask counsel of a greater number when the counsel of a few cannot resolve us, then reason, being ever like itself, will dictate so much to a congregation, that they ought to submit to the authority of a greater number when their own authority is not sufficient to end a controversy among them.
To the third answer we say, That every private Christian may and ought to withdraw himself from the fellowship and communion, either of one man or of a whole congregation, in the case of general apostasy. {60:B} And shall an apostatizing congregation be suffered to run to hell rather than any other remedy should be used beside that (commonly ineffectual) remedy which any private Christian may use? God forbid.
What I have said of congregations I say also of classical presbyteries: How shall sentence be given betwixt two presbyteries at variance? How shall a divided presbytery be reunited in itself? How shall an heretical presbytery be reclaimed? How shall a negligent presbytery be made to do their duty? How shall a despised presbytery have their wounded authority healed again? In these and such like contingent cases, what remedy can be had beside the authority of synods?

An Anniversary Reflection on Peter Detanus's Marriage Form

Five years ago today Lydia and I were married at the Chapel of Reformed Bible College. We sang Psalms, read Scripture, and were married according to the Reformation form written by Peter Detanus. Reformed Christians have been using this form for nearly 500 years. It was a blessed event in which the glories of Jesus Christ were proclaimed. We thank Him for 5 years and pray that the Lord would grant us many more.
In the past five years the Lord has blessed us in many ways. The greatest of which being Anna Grace and Owen Justice. We look forward to our new baby as well. The Lord is gracious and kind unto those that love His name.

Here is the prayer that was prayed as we were married before God:

Almighty God, Thou who dost manifest Thy goodness and wisdom in all Thy ordinances, and from the beginning hast said that it is not good that man be alone and therefore hast created him a helpmeet to be with him, and ordained that they who were two should be one, and who dost also punish all impurity; we pray Thee, since Thou hast called and united these two persons in the holy state of marriage that Thou wilt give them Thy Holy Spirit, so that they in true love and firm faith may live holily according to Thy divine will and resist all evil. Wilt Thou also bless them as Thou hast blessed the believing fathers, Thy friends and faithful servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; in order that they, as coheirs of the covenant which Thou hast established with these fathers, may bring up their children which Thou wilt be pleased to give them, in the fear of the Lord, to the honor of Thy holy name, to the edification of the Thy Church and to the extension of the holy gospel. Hear us, Father of all mercy, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, our Lord, in whose name we conclude our prayer.


Members and Friends of the Associate Reformed Church of Grand Rapids : we have a meeting with delegates from the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America to discuss joining this historic denomination. Please remember to come and to have questions in hand.

The sign reads:

Reformed Presbyterian Church (Paxtang). In 1721, near this site, America's first Reformed Presbyterian Church was organized of believers who had suffered in Scotland and Ireland "for Christ's crown and covenant."

Also, the first presbytery of the Church was formed here in 1774.

200 years later at Paxtang, reformed presbyterians gathered to reaffirm his kingship.

Hate Filled Puritans and the Death of Joy

The Puritans brought many great things to Christian culture. It seems as though many have wrong ideas of who the Puritans were. I would recommend the book Worldly Saints by Leland Ryken for anyone who would like to learn more about the Puritan movement. The book gives many proofs that expose the false ideas of who the Puritans were. It is also very readable and edifying.

Upon hearing that I attend Puritan Seminary, I had one person ask me if we kill witches there. Wow!

Here are a few other false ideas of who the Puritans were:

  • A Puritan is a person who pours righteous indignation into the wrong things. -GK Chesterton.

  • A Puritan through Life's sweet garden goes to pluck the thorn and cast away the rose. -Kenneth Hare

  • The Puritan hates bear-bating, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. -Thomas Macauley

  • To the Puritan all things are impure. -DH Lawrence

25 February, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel: Duty of an Elder

They (the elders) must particularly give heed to the walk of each member. There must be careful supervision as to how one conducts himself at home; that is, whether there is love and harmony and whether each member in his particular position of the household conducts himself properly towards others (II: 146).

24 February, 2007

Puritan Seminary According to the Grand Rapids Press

Grand Rapids Press ran a religion section article on Puritan Seminary today. It is actually quite well done. Charles Honey is the religion editor and from what I hear, he is a member of Fountain Street Church.

Maybe some mainstream media can keep their biases to themselves. Of course, we all know that there is no neutrality.

19 February, 2007

Church Discipline Anyone?

My friend Steve is having a discussion on his blog about the reasons that 20 somethings are leaving the Church en masse. I disagree on some points, but overall, the lack of discipline in the Church is causing a lot of problems. Discipline is one of the Keys of the Kingdom and is held specifically by the ruling elders. We should pray for our ruling elders that they would have the courage to speak on behalf of the Lord Jesus as a means of showing forth Christ's love to his Church. Our forefathers had much to say on discipline, and this short list does not even begin to scratch the surface! May the Lord raise up men who desire to serve as elders who rule the flock well.

Belgic Confession Article 19
The marks by which the true Church is known are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church. Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself.

Westminster Confession Article 30
I. The Lord Jesus, as King and Head of his church, hath therein appointed a government, in the hand of church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.
II. To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed; by virtue whereof, they have power, respectively, to retain, and remit sins; to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word, and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the gospel; and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.
III. Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the church, if they should suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.
IV. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the church are to proceed by admonition; suspension from the sacrament of the Lord's Supper for a season; and by excommunication from the church; according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.

Calvin, Institutes, IV.xii.8
"Some persons, in their hatred of discipline, recoil from its very name, let them understand this: if no society...can be kept in proper condition without discipline, it is much more necessary in the Church, whose condition should be ordered as possible.

John Murray, Collected Writings, 2.382
The Session is under obligation to exclude from the Lord’s Supper those who are guilty of such overt sin as requires exclusion... To deny this necessity is to waive completely the demands of discipline.

AA Hodge, Confession p.371
The end of Church Discipline are declared to be: the purity of the Church, the recovery of the erring brother himself, the force of example to deter others from like sin, and the exhibition of righteousness and fidelity to principle presented to the world without.

Matthew Henry, Commentary, p.1706
Christian reproof is an ordinance of Christ for the bringing of sinners to repentance, and must be managed as an ordinance.

a’Brakel, Reasonable Service, 2.185
You (the elders) must engage in this task (Church discipline) in the realization that it is the Lord’s work, for in doing so you will gain ability and boldness. You will then begin to observe your congregation, neighborhood by neighborhood, and if you become suspicious about someone, you ought to enquire into this. You should privately address such an individual, exhort and rebuke him, and seek to correct such a person in the spirit of meekness. If he hears you, you have gained him.

IBID, 2.187
The use of this key purifies the congregation, makes others fearful of sinning, and delivers those who are weak from that which offends. It will cause the Church to demand respect from those who are without (the church), who in turn will aspire after godliness and salvation and will be enticed to join the Church. Blessed be the congregation where this may be practiced. "For there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore" (Psalm 133.3).

Ad Fontes and Tech Support

I often think about the connection between advancement in technology and Reformation in the Church. These things have always gone hand-in-hand.

The invention of an alphabet brought about the ability for prophets to record the Word. The move away from leather to paper made the ability for the Word to be preserved at a more cost effective rate, thus making it more available for the common man. The invention of the postal service along with good roads made the early Church able to receive epistles in a timely manner. The printing press played a huge role in the Protestant Reformation as well as the Puritan movement. We will see, in God's timing what the Internet and the 'flattening' of the world will bring.

But one question remains unanswered.

Did every one of these technologies, that brought about the Reformation of the Church... have a tech-support problem?

17 February, 2007

Sabbath a' Brakel

Those who are now convinced that they are the children of God are under obligation to conduct themselves as children of God…. First, entrust everything according to body and soul to your heavenly Father without fear and anxiety. "Therefore take no thought...for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things" (Mat. 6:31-32) [II: 435].

16 February, 2007

Luther on Hearing Occasionally

Luther shows the necessity of attending all services of the church. It seems that Martyn-Lloyd Jones has said something similar, and we must heed these words. Since the Spirit is sovereign, the Church does not know at what time He will move in a dramatic way. We need to be available to receive these blessings from the Spirit as His workman, the Minister of the Word, preaches for our blessing and benefit.

Since preachers have the office, the name, and the honor of being God’s co-workers, no one ought to think that he is so learned or so holy that he thinks he can miss the most insignificant of sermon.

-Martin Luther

13 February, 2007

W Melancthon Glasgow

For those interested, the republication of W Melancthon Glasgow's History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America is going very well. I was required to have 50 purchase agreements before it could go to press, in less than one week, I have 51! I was expecting a few months before I would have 50.

As far as his biography, that is not going as well. It seems that he was a bit biographically-shy. I have not been able to acquire a lot of information, but I have some good leads. Since he died in Philadelphia, PA, I have my good friend Rev. Lanning helping me on that aspect of his life. I have have some more contacts to make as well as piles of the old Covenanter magazine to pursue (Calvin's Theological Librarian, Paul Fields, is a former RP). I have also shared some wonderful emails and phone conversations with pastors and scholars that are excited about this work.

And on a side note, those interested in RP history will be glad to know that Rev. James Faris of Southfield is blogging their history now too.

11 February, 2007

Sabbath a' Brakel

Listen to the knocking and arousing voice of the Lord Jesus and reflect upon the words of the bride: "I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night." She, not being worthy of arising says, "My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him...My soul failed when he spake" (Song of Sol. 5:2, 4, 6) [IV: 273].

09 February, 2007

The Baptism of John versus Christian Baptism

Baptism is one of those contentious issues within the church, even within Reformed churches (although it should not be so). Rev. Gerald Procee of the Free Reformed Church has written a very helpful book on Baptism defending the case for infant baptism. He has one section that specifically deals with the argument that we ought to follow Johannine formula for baptism. Here is a short version of what differences he sees between the baptism of John and the baptism of Christians:

We maintain that John's baptism and Christian baptism differ:
1. The baptism of John was in anticipation of and preparation for the coming of Christ. It was eschatologically emphasized, and was fulfilled with the coming of Christ.
2. The baptism of John was not administered in the name of the Triune God.
3. The baptism by John took place only at the beginning of the Gospels and apparently later became obsolete.
4. John's baptism was not an initiation into the Christian Church. Jews were baptized later in Christian baptism, in spite of a possible baptism by John the Baptist.
5. Paul indicates that he rebaptized those who were only baptized in the baptism of John. (Acts 19:3-6).
6. The baptism of John was not with the Holy Spirit. This was reserved only for Christ Himself.
7. John's baptism could not be the sacrament of initiation into the new dispensation for this had not fully come. That could only take place after the resurrection of Christ and was symbolized by Christian baptism.

05 February, 2007

Scot's Worthies For the Car or Kitchen

I have mentioned this book before. I think that it is a worthy book to read for all who love church history, but especially those who are Presbyterian. Most of us have no idea from where we have come, nor the pains that men and women have gone through to secure our goodly heritage.

Well here is what you have been waiting for! If you do not want to drop $37.99 on the book, you can get it for free online (print it at Kuyper College- tell them you are friends of the De Vos family [its a joke, settle down]).

If you cannot stand to read off of the warm blink of a monitor, and refuse to print it for good reasons, and still will not drop $37.99 on the book- have someone read it to you!

I am including links for the book as well as for the mp3. Burn them onto a disk and listen to them while driving, cleaning, or cooking for your loving husband (or wife in NL's case). Take the time to learn some Presbyterian history- even if you are Dutch Reformed (a'Brakel wrote letters to some of these men).

Reformed Theological Research

As most of you know, I am a book junkie as well as a lover of Reformed research. I am taking Reformed Theological Research this semester at Puritan and I think that it is going to be a favorite class of mine. We have to take this course as a prerequisite to beginning our thesis.

The course is based on a Westminster Seminary course that that teaches Ph.D. students the proper methods of theological research as well as gives all of the great 'hiding places' in academia.

Dr. Beeke said that this course was of great benefit for him in that it taught him the correct way to perform scholarly research.

So far we have had book talk every class. Of course, I love it. We have discussed some of the greatest 'hiding places' to find information. Dr. Beeke is helping us to build and to organize our library as well. He says that one of the greatest tragedies of preachers is that they do not know what they have in their own libraries. One of our assignments is to have our entire library cataloged and organized under one of his approved methods.

We also have some really great assignments. We are making bibliographies and writing small scholarly papers. We have to write a 5 page biography on any Puritan and have an attached bibliography of everything on that Puritan (from books to periodicals to journal entries). We also have to make a complete bibliography on the topic for our thesis. This assignment is a 20-30 page bibliography. We also have some 'problem sets' that we have to do. Dr. Beeke gives us a series of obscure theologians and theological topics and we have to find them in any number of places. The tricky part of this assignment is that there is information that we can only find at Calvin's Heckman Library and some information that can only be found at the Puritan Resource Room at our seminary. It is a definite treasure hunt.

We will also have some guest lectures by great researchers like Richard Muller from Calvin Seminary.

I am very excited about this class. I would recommend anyone who is serious about Reformed research to purchase the mp3s from the seminary. I am sure that this will help to make better pastors as well as scholars.

Here is the book list for the course:
  • Reference Works for Theological Research, Kepple and Muether
  • Reader's Guide to Reformed Literature, Beeke
  • Church History: Introduction to Research and Reference, Muller and Bradley
  • Manual For Writers, Turabian
  • Seven Laws of Teaching, Gregory
  • Elements of Style, Struck and White
  • Handbook for Scholars, van Luenen

04 February, 2007

Sabbath a'Brakel

Contentment engenders many good things. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28).

(1) There will be a quiet spirit, which is of great price in the sight of God (1 Pet. 3:4).
(2) There will be alienation from the world.
(3) It is a state in which there is prayer and communion with God.
(4) There is a frequent experience of the help of God.
(5) There will be gratitude.
(6) There is a longing for the state of glory.
(7) There is the manifestation of holiness (III: 393-394).