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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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John Witherspoon On The Best Friend To American Liberty

John Witherspoon

Quoting John Witherspoon – Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Clergyman, and President of Princeton University:

“While we give praise to God, the Supreme Disposer of all events, for His interposition on our behalf, let us guard against the dangerous error of trusting in, or boasting of, an arm of flesh … If your cause is just, if your principles are pure, and if your conduct is prudent, you need not fear the multitude of opposing hosts.

What follows from this? That he is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind.

Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy of his country.” (Sermon at Princeton University, “The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men,” May 17, 1776)

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True Christianity Requires Correct Opinions

Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield

Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield graduated with highest honors in 1871 at the age of nineteen, from the College of New Jersey, later to be named Princeton University. In 1872, while in Heidelberg, Germany, he decided to enter the ministry. He then entered Princeton Theological Seminary and graduated with the class of 1876. In 1878 he took a position at Western Theological Seminary as instructor in New Testament language and literature. He left the seminary after nine years to take the chair of Systematic Theology at Princeton University. Warfield believed that God’s authoritative agents in founding the Church gave the Scriptures as authoritative to the Church which Jesus founded. All the authority of the apostles stands behind the Scriptures, and all the authority of Christ behind the apostles. The Scriptures are simply the law-code which the law-givers of the Church gave to the church. In the following essay, Warfield explains why the doctrines taught by the Scriptures are so important:

A recent writer opens his book with the words: “The present generation is impatient of theological distinctions.” He lets the cat out of the bag when he begins the next paragraph with the words: “There is a good deal of common sense in this reaction against the theological hair-splitting of former times.” He has, perhaps not unnaturally, mistaken his own opinion for the general judgment of the day. The truth is that the world, even in this generation, is made up of a good many people; and a good many varying points of view may be found represented among them. Some are very impatient of theological distinctions, and some are very patient of them: the most are patient to a fault with those they themselves wish to make, and quite impatient of those made by others. The fact is, of course, that everybody makes and must make theological distinctions. Men differ only as they make sound or unsound distinctions, and through these distinctions embrace and live by truth or error.

It is easy to say: “We refuse to believe that a man’s opinions on the minute details of history or metaphysics are sufficient either to admit or to exclude him from the Kingdom of grace and glory.” But when we have said that, we have already expressed a portentous opinion. We have also made a tremendous theological distinction; we have made it most unsoundly; and, as a consequence, we have cast ourselves into the arms of the grossest error, which must mar all our life. The truth is that a man’s opinions on matters of historical fact or of metaphysical truth—call them opinions on minute details or not, as you choose—are absolutely determinative of his whole life. . . .

He who adopts this definite set of metaphysical and historical opinions is so far on his way to being a Christian. He who rejects them, or treats them as indifferent, is not even on his way to being a Christian. This is not to say that Christianity is just a body of metaphysical and historical opinions. But it is to say that Christianity is, among other things, a body of metaphysical and historical opinions. It is absurd to say that a man can be a Christian who is of the opinion that there is no God; or that no such person as Jesus ever lived: or who does not believe very many very definite things about the really existing God and the actually living Jesus. . . .

No man can have faith, or hope, or love, who is not consciously in the presence of an object on which his faith and hope and love can rest. He must be of the opinion that the object exists, and that it is such as to justify or even to command his faith, hope, or love. It sounds very well to rail at “opinions” in contrast with “solid substantial religion.” Did “solid substantial religion” ever exist apart from the “opinions” which lie at its basis? A man who is of the opinion that there is no God will not manifest “solid substantial religion” in his life. . . . “Faith” in Jesus-in his blood (Rom. iii. 37) and his righteousness (2 Pet. i. 1) —cannot possibly get itself born except on the basis of quite a body of very definite and very definitely held “opinions.” No man can live a Christian life who is not first of “the Christian persuasion”. . . .

Whatever we may say of a so-called Christianity which is nothing but “opinions,” there is no Christianity which does not begin with opinions, which is not formed by opinions, and which is not the outworking of these opinions in life. Only we would better call them “convictions.” Convictions are the root on which the tree of vital Christianity grows. No convictions, no Christianity . . . Ignorance is not the mother of religion, but of irreligion. The knowledge of God is eternal life, and to know God means that we know him aright. (“Faith & Life”)

An Introduction To Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards was an American puritan theologian and philosopher. He was born in East Windsor, Connecticut, to Timothy Edwards, pastor of East Windsor. Jonathan was the only son in a family of eleven children. He entered Yale in September, 1716 before his 13th birthday and graduated four years later as valedictorian. He received his Masters three years later.

In 1727 he was ordained minister at Northampton and assistant to his maternal grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. He was a student minister, not a visiting pastor, his rule being thirteen hours of study a day. In the same year, he married Sarah Pierpont, then age seventeen, daughter of James Pierpont, a founder of Yale. In total, Jonathan and Sarah had eleven children.

Solomon Stoddard died on February 11th, 1729, leaving his grandson in charge of one of the largest and wealthiest congregations in the colony. Throughout his time in Northampton his preaching brought remarkable religious revivals. Jonathan Edwards was a key figure in what has come to be called the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s.

When Jonathan Edwards preached, his expressionless face, and sober clothing were quickly forgotten. His was a devoted heart intent on rightly dividing the word of truth. His method was scholarship on fire for God. Edwards’ tongue must have been like a sharp two-edged sword to his attentive hearers. His words must have been as painful to their hearts and consciences. Nevertheless, men gave heed, repented, and were saved. Before Edwards’ spiritual hurricane, the crowd collapsed. Some fell to the earth as if pole-axed. Others, with heads bowed, clung onto the posts of the temple as if afraid of falling into the nethermost depths of hell.

Edwards, however, would not continue his grandfather’s practice of open communion. Stoddard, his grandfather, believed that communion was a “converting ordinance.” Edwards became convinced that this practice was harmful and his public disagreement with the idea caused his dismissal in 1750.

Edwards then moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, a frontier settlement, where he ministered to a small congregation and served as missionary to the Housatonic Indians. There, having more time for study and writing, he completed his celebrated work, The Freedom of the Will (1754).

Edwards was elected president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in early 1758. He was a popular choice, for he had been a friend of the College since its inception and was the most eminent American philosopher-theologian of his time. On March 22, 1758, he died of fever at the age of fifty-four following an experimental inoculation for smallpox and was buried in the President’s Lot in the Princeton cemetery beside his son-in-law, Aaron Burr.

We see today a thin crust, a very thin crust of morality, which keeps America from complete collapse. In this perilous hour we need a whole generation of preachers like Edward!

Research source and more information on Jonathan Edwards may be found here. . . .

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