The eminent theologian, Dr Charles Hodge, a stalwart of the Reformed faith, who penned his Systematic Theology which is read by many even today, shows himself when it comes to the Roman Catholic church, to be like most other men, a man with feet of clay. He wrote in a magazine article, “The question proposed in your letter is one to which wise and good men have given different answers. Some say that the Romish church teaches serious error. As the influence of that church is everywhere, and from its nature, hostile to civil and religious liberty, therefore it is wrong to grant it any voluntary support or direct encouragement. Others say that, inasmuch as the Roman Catholic church teaches truth enough to save the souls of men (of which I have no doubt); inasmuch as it proclaims the Divine authority of the Scriptures, the obligation of the Decalogue and the retributions of eternity; and inasmuch as it calls upon men to worship God, the Father, Son, and Spirit, it is unspeakably better than no church at all. And therefore, when the choice is between that and none, it is wise and right to encourage the establishment of churches under the control of Catholic priests. While, therefore, I dread the influence of the Romish church, and recognise its corruptions in doctrines and worship, I nevertheless believe it is better that men should be Roman Catholics than infidels or atheists. Romanists teach people to worship Christ and to regard and acknowledge Him as the Savatorum Hominum.
The converted Roman Catholic priest, Charles Chiniquy, in response says, “If these assertions are correct, Luther, Calvin, Knox etc., would be the most guilty men of modern times, and the millions of martyrs whom Rome has slaughtered would be nothing else but rebels justly punished. If the church of Rome’s teaching can save souls, why should we continue to protest against the great soul-saving “church” and why do we not go to the feet of the Pope to make our peace with him?
Dr Hodge is a mighty logician…But the more arguments he will bring to prove that Rome is a soul-saving church….the better he will prove that Luther and Calvin with their millions of Protestant followers, Dr Hodge included, were, and are, today, the greatest fools and the most wicked of men for having made so much noise, caused so much shedding of blood, to get out of the chains of Rome”.
Seven sober, practical resolutions left by an eminent servant of Christ, John Caspar Christian Lavater, of Zurich, Switzerland:
I will never, either in the morning or evening, proceed to any business, until I have first retired, at least for a few moments, to a private place, and implored God for his assistance and blessing.
I will neither do nor undertake any thing which I would abstain from doing if Jesus Christ were standing visibly before me, nor any of which I think it possible that I shall repent in the uncertain hour of my certain death. I will, with the divine aid, accustom myself to do everything without exception in the name of Jesus Christ, and as his disciple I will sigh to God continually for the Holy Ghost to preserve myself in a constant disposition for prayer. Every day shall be distinguished by at least one particular work of love. Every day I will be especially attentive to promote the benefit and advantage of my own family in particular.
I will never eat or drink so much as shall occasion to me the least inconvenience or hindrance to my business. Wherever I go, I will first pray to God that I may commit no sin there, but be the cause of some good.
I will never lie down to sleep without praying, nor, when I am in health, sleep longer than eight hours at most.
I will every evening examine my conscience through the day by these rules, and faithfully note down in my journal how often I offend against them.
Let all beginning a religious life expect sore trials. Satan is always most busy with those who are struggling to escape from his dominion. Men see their own want of heart, and Satan would persuade them that all religion is hypocrisy.
All bad company is dangerous.
Man knows the beginning of sin, but who bounds the issues thereof? It is easy to do mischief, but who can undo it? To sin is natural, but to escape from it requires atoning blood, and the supernatural agency of God’s Spirit.
It has ever happened that when flocks have been pious, theology has flourished. She has accomplished herself with learning; she has put due honour on studies that require vigorous effort; and, the better to capacitate herself for searching the Scriptures, not only has she desired to master all the sciences that can throw light upon them, but she has infused life into all other sciences, whether by the example of her own labours, or by gathering around her men of lofty minds, or by infusing into academical institutions a generous sentiment of high morality, which has promoted all their developments.
Thus it is that, in giving a higher character to all branches of study, theology has often ennobled that of a whole people.
Hence the intellectual bankruptcy of our nation today.
George Whitfield, the evangelist, wrote of the Puritans as follows: Ministers never write or preach so well as when under the cross; the Spirit of Christ and of glory then rests upon them. It was this, no doubt, that made the Puritans…such burning and shining lights. When cast out by the black Bartholemew-act [the 1662 Act of Uniformity] and driven from their respective charges to preach in barns and fields, in the highways and hedges, they in an especial manner wrote and preached as men having authority. Though dead, by their writings they yet speak; a peculiar unction attends them to this very hour.
Wherein a whole parish may all go abreadth in it; tell these people they shall be damned, their answer is, then woe to many more besides.
2. The Way of Civil Education:
Whereby many wild natures are by little and little tamed, and like wolves are chained up easily while they are young.
3. The Way of Good Wishes:
Whereby many people will confess their ignorance, forgetfulness, and that they can not make such shows as others do, but they thank God their hearts are as good, and God for his part accepts (say they) the will for the deed. And, “my son, give me thy heart”; the heart is all in all, and so long they hope to do well enough. Poor deluded creatures thus think to break through armies of sins, devils, temptations, and to break open the very gates of heaven with a few good wishes; they think to come to their journey’s end without legs, because their hearts are good to God.
4. The Way of Formality:
Whereby men rest in the performance of most or of all external duties without inward life (Mark 1:14). Every man must have some religion, some fig leaves to hide their nakedness. Now, this religion must be either true religion or the false one; if the true, he must either take up the power of it, but that he will not, because it is burdensome, or the form of it; and this being easy, men embrace it as their God, and will rather lose their lives than their religion thus taken up. This form of religion is the easiest religion in the world; partly because it eases men of trouble of conscience, quieting that; Thou hast sinned, saith conscience, and God is offended; take a book, and pray, keep thy conscience better, and bring thy Bible with thee; now, conscience is silent, being charmed down with the form of religion, as the devil is driven away (as they say) with holy water; partly, also, because the form of religion credits a man, partly because it is easy in itself; it is of a light carriage, being but the shadow and picture of the substance of religion; as now, what an easy matter to come to church. They hear (at least outwardly) very attentively an hour and more, and then to turn to a proof, and to turn down a leaf: here is the form. But now to spend Saturday night, and all the whole Sabbath day morning, in trimming the lamp, and in getting oil in the heart to meet the Bridegroom next day, and so meet him in the word, and there to tremble at the voice of God, and suck the breast while it is open; and when the word is done, to go aside privately, and there to chew upon the word, there to lament with tears all the vain thoughts in duty, deadness in hearing, this is hard, because this is the power of godliness, and this men will not take up: so for private prayer; what an easy matter is it for a man to say over a few prayers out of some devout book, or to repeat some old prayer, got by heart since a child, or to have two or three short-winded wishes for God’s mercy in the morning and at night! This form is easy. But now to prepare the heart by serious meditation of God and man’s self, before he prays, then come to God with a bleeding, hungred-starved heart, not only with a desire, but with a warrant, I must have such or such a mercy, and there to wrestle with God, although it be an hour or two together for a blessing, this is too hard; men think none do thus, and therefore they will not.
5. The Way of Presumption:
Whereby men, having seen their sins, catch hold easily upon God’s mercy, and snatch comforts before they are reached out unto them. There is no word of comfort, in the book of God, intended for such as regard iniquity in their hearts, though they do not act in their lives. Their only comfort is, that the sentence of damnation is not yet executed upon them.
6. The Way of Sloth:
Whereby men lie still, and say, God must do all. If the Lord would set up a pulpit at the ale house door, it may be they would hear the oftener. If God will always thunder, they will always pray; if strike them now and then with sickness, God shall be paid with good words and promises enough, that they will be better if they live; but, as long as peace lasts, they will run to hell as fast as they can; and, if God will not catch them, they care not, they will not return.
7. The Way of Carelessness:
When men, feeling many difficulties, pass through some of them, but not all, and what they can not now, they feed themselves with a false hope they shall hereafter; they are content to be called precisians, and fools, and crazy brains, but they want brokenness of heart, and they will pray (it may be) for it, and pass by that difficulty; but to keep the wound always open, this they will not do; to be always sighing for help, and never to give themselves rest till their hearts are humbled, that they will not: “These have a name to live, yet are dead”.
8. The Way of Moderation:
Or honest discretion (Revelation 3:16), which, indeed, is nothing but lukewarmness of the soul; and that is, when a man contrives, and cuts out such a way to heaven as he may be hated of none, but please all, and so do anything for a quiet life, and so sleep in a whole skin. The Lord saith, “he that will live godly must suffer persecutions”. No, not so Lord. Surely, (they think), if men were discreet and wise, it would prevent a great deal of trouble and oppositions in good courses; this man will commend those that are most zealous, if they were but wise; if he meet with a black-mouthed swearer, he will not reprove him, lest he be displeased with him; if he meet with an honest man, he will yield to all he saith, that so he may commend him; and when he meets them both together, they shall be both alike welcome (whatever he thinks) to his house and table, because he would fain be at peace with all men.
9.The Way of Self-Love:
Whereby a man, fearing terribly he shall be damned, uses diligently all means whereby he shall be saved. Here is the strongest difficulty of all, to row against the stream, and to hate a man’s self, and then to follow Christ fully.
(From, ‘The Sincere Convert & Sound Believer’, by Thomas Shepard)
Many years ago, a young man in distress for his soul revealed the state of his mind to an eminent minister, and then said, “If I should die tonight, do you think I should be saved?” The minister replied, “I have no sufficient reason for supposing that you love Christ; and if you do not, then you cannot be saved.” “Then,” said the young man, “I will sleep no more this night;” and he went out and spent the whole night in prayer. As the day began to break, he returned to the house where the minister was, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God, and saying, “I have found Christ precious to my soul.” Oh that all men were in good earnest in seeking their own salvation!
IF ‘YOU’ DIED TONIGHT, WHERE WOULD SPEND ETERNITY?
“SEEK THE LORD WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND” (Isaiah 55:6).
The Scripture, or the written word of God, being in itself every way absolutely right and perfect, and appointed by him (God) to be the rule or canon of the church’s faith and obedience, requiring, trying, regulating, judging wholly and absolutely of them, is come by way of eminence, to be called “canonical” or regular: as the book wherein it is called “The Bible”, though in itself that be the common name of all books. Thus Aquinas himself confesseth the Scripture is called canonical because it is the rule of our understanding in the things of God; and such a rule it is as hath authority over the consciences of men, to bind them unto faith and obedience, because of its being given of God by inspiration for that purpose. When unto the original of divine inspiration this end also is added, that it is designed by the Holy Ghost for the catholic, standing use and instruction of the church.
The Authority of Scripture:
They defile themselves with the impiety of sacrilege who endeavour to bring in, as it were, divers degrees into the body of the Scriptures; for by the impious discretion of human folly, they would cast the one voice of the Holy Ghost into various forms of unequal authority. As, then, whatever difference there may be as to the subject-matter, manner of writing, and present usefulness, between any of the books that, being written by divine inspiration, are given out for the church’s rule, they are all equal as to the canonical authority.
The Depth of Scripture:
In answer to those who alleged that the authority of some portions of Scripture was dubious: How vain, unjust, arrogant, and presumptuous, this supposition is, needs little labour to demonstrate. The understandings of men are a very sorry measure of the truth, with the whole sense and intendment of the Holy Ghost in every place of Scripture. Nay, it may much more rationally be supposed, that though we all know enough of the mind and will of God in the whole Scripture to guide and regulate our faith and obedience, yet that we are rather ignorant of his utmost intention in any place than that we know it in all. There is a depth and breadth in every word of God, because his, which we are not able to fathom and compass to the utmost; it being enough for us that we may infallibly apprehend so much of his mind and will as is indispensably necessary for us to the obedience that he requires at our hands. A humble, reverential consideration of all, indeed almost any, of the testimonies alleged in the New Testament out of the Old, is sufficient to evince the truth of this consideration. “We know but in part, and we prophesy in part” (1Corithians 13:9). How much is it that we know not! Or, as Job speaks, “How small is the word that we understand of God” (Job 26:14)!
The Distinctiveness of Scripture:
The whole Scripture…a revelation of the will of God as to the faith and obedience of the church; and this holy, heavenly, and divine, answering the wisdom, truth, and sovereignty, of him from whom it doth proceed. Hence they are called “the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2), or the infallible revelation of his will; and “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68), for that, in the name of God, they treat about. And Paul tells us that the argument of the gospel is “wisdom”, but “not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of it”, who are destroyed, done away, and made useless by it, that is, the chief leaders of human wisdom and science (1.Corithians 2:6), but it is, “the mysterious wisdom of God, that was hidden from them” (verse 7); Things of his own mere revelation from his sovereign will and pleasure, with a stamp and impress of his goodness and wisdom upon them, quite of another nature than anything that the choicest wisdom of the princes of this world can reach or attain unto….it treats of things which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have they”, by any natural means, ever “entered into the heart of man”, and that in absolute harmony with all other unquestionable revelations of the will of God.
The Design, End and Aim of Scripture:
The whole Scripture hath an especial end….This end, supremely and absolutely, is the glory of that God who is the author of it…..It is the revelation of himself that is intended, of his mind and will, that he may be glorified…..Particularly, the demonstration of this glory of God in and by Jesus Christ is aimed at……The end of the Scripture is the glory of God in Christ.
The Power of the Scripture:
This efficacy and power is in the whole word of God “is not my word like as a fire? Saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces” (Jeremiah 23:29)? That is, “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). As it hath an ‘authority’ over men (Matthew 7:29), so it hath a “powerful efficacy” in and towards them (Acts 20:32; James 1:21); yea, it is the “power of God” himself for its proper end (Romans 1.16); and therefore said to be accompanied by the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1Corinthians 2:4), a demonstration, drawing the soul to consent beyond the efficacy of rational or logical arguments.