Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Review of John Foxe's "Acts and Monuments"

I've just crossed the finish-line on my trek through the monumental “Acts and Monuments” of John Foxe, known popularly as Foxe's Book of Martyrs. The original work runs a full 7,058 pages and consists of 8 volumes. The popular 300-page paperback edition you will find in the Christian bookstore is a “Reader's Digest” version of a “Reader's Digest” version of a “Reader's Digest” version. Archbishop Grindal, who supplied Foxe with many of the official records he cites, and who financially supported Foxe during his exile in Strasbourg, once referred to the work as Foxe's “book or martyrs,” and the name has stuck.

This will not be a book review in the traditional sense, because reviewing a work of over 7,000 pages would be impossibly long, and would make the work seem undesirable. It is a massive work. Writing it must have been an herculean feat, but reading it is not. I did not breeze through it, but many portions are so engaging that 100-150 pages seem to fly by. This will be more of a review by impression.

One of the most important thoughts I've had while reading this work is expressed by George Townsend in his introductory dissertation: “If Foxe's Acts and Monuments had not been written, and this is the best criterion of its merits, no book in the English language can be mentioned, which could supply its place. Whoever will but impartially and candidly consider the mass of the materials collected, and remember that this work was the first attempt to give to the common reader a history of the church of Christ, as well as a narrative of the evil consequences of the one false principle, that the soul of the Christian is to be governed by authority that is fallible, on the supposition that such authority is infallible, unchangeable and divine,—must, I think, acknowledge, that the work of John Foxe is one of the most useful, most important, and most valuable books we still possess. It has never been superseded.”

As Townsend points out, the value of the work is multi-faceted. First, there is the sheer vastness of the accumulated knowledge and materials. Foxe, through a multitude of influential connections, had access to countless records and documents which no other historian could have gotten their hands on – at least at the time of his writing. Secondly, his work proved that the ministers of the Church are to be our useful directors, not infallible teachers. Thirdly, an individual Christian might be in the right, while the great body of the Church's leaders may be in the wrong. Hence each individual must deem himself responsible to God alone. Fourthly, Foxe's work taught the supremacy of Scripture for governing the conscience. Fifthly, we are shown that every system of laws must be founded upon the conviction of their usefulness and truth, or they cannot be made permanent even by the most unrelenting persecutions, of the most formidable power.

One of the most interesting features of Foxe's work is his eschatology. The best description I have read of his view, is “ Amillennial historicist.” The more I have thought about it, the more convincing his view is.

In setting the stage for what I am about to say, let me point out that all Christians are agreed (at least in theory) that the prevalence or sparseness of a subject in Scripture, is an indicator of its relative importance. Anything revealed by God is important, but in the hierarchy of doctrine, frequency and prevalence determines rank. Having said that, isn't ironic that every eschatological position held in Christendom is defined by its relation to the Millennium – something mentioned a grand total of two times in the space of a couple verses, and that in the most difficult book to interpret. Based on what we have already said, it would seem to be a more balanced approach to view the Millennium as something - while real - less central, less definitive, less overall important, to our view of eschatology. Foxe's view does just this.

In sum, Foxe believes the Millennium was a specific 1000 year period in the Church's history, and that this period is now past. It is not the grid upon which all redemption history is written. Like hundreds of other events in the life of God's people foretold in Scripture, it came to pass exactly as foretold, and thus verifies the truth of God's Word.

Foxe reads Revelation 8 telling of a period of 294 years of vicious persecution against the Church. This coincides exactly with the cessation of state-sanctioned persecution at Constantine's conversion. This is the beginning of the Millennium, according to Foxe. For a literal 1000 years, there was no state-sanctioned, state-sponsored wholesale persecution of the Church. The 1000 year period ends in the early 1300's when persecution, which included prison and execution begins, with the sanction of church and state, against men who proclaimed the Gospel truths which were buried under the accumulated doctrinal pollutions of the Middle Ages. This marks the period spoken of in Revelation 20 that Satan is let loose to persecute the Church again as he did in the first 300 years of Church history. This period is extremely intense because Satan knows his time is short. What we often forget is how incredibly intense the persecution of Christians was in the decades after 1517. We seem to imagine that Luther nailed up his 95 Theses, and Boom! everything was changed. The fact is, that in many European nations (Foxe focuses mostly on England), the Reformation was a slow, grinding process, with many false starts, and nearly endless opposition.

Perhaps I should let Foxe speak in his own words:

Concerning the interpretation of which times, I see the common opinion of many to be deceived by ignorance of histories, and the state of things done in the church; they supposing that the chaining loosing up of Satan for a thousand years, spoken of in the Revelation, was meant from the birth of Christ our Lord. Wherein I grant that spiritually the strength and dominion of Satan, in accusing and condemning us for sin, was cast down at the passion and by the passion of Christ our Saviour, and locked up, not only for a thousand years, but for ever and ever. Albeit, as touching the malicious hatred and fury of that serpent against the outward bodies of Christ's poor saints (which is the heel of Christ), to afflict and torment the church outwardly; that I judge to be meant in the Revelation of St. John, not to be restrained till the ceasing of those terrible persecutions of the primitive church, at the time when it pleased God to pity the sorrowful affliction of his poor flock, being so long under persecution, the space of three hundred years, and so to assuage their griefs and torments; which is meant by the binding up of Satan, worker of all those mischiefs: understanding thereby, that forasmuch as the devil, the prince of this world, had now, by the death of Christ the Son of God, lost all his power and interest against the soul of man, he should turn his furious rage and malice, which he had to Christ, against the people of Christ, which is meant by the heel of the seed [Gen. iii.], in tormenting their outward bodies; which yet should not be forever, but for a determinate time, when it should please the Lord to bridle the malice, and snaffle the power, of the old serpent, and give rest unto his church for the term of a thousand years; which time being expired, the said serpent should be suffered loose again for a certain or a small time. [Apoc. xx.]

And thus to expound this prophetical place of Scripture, I am led Three by three reasons:

The first is, for that the binding up of Satan, and closing him in first the bottomless pit by the angel, importeth as much as that he was at liberty, raging and doing mischief before. And, certes, those so terrible and so horrible persecutions of the primitive time universally through the whole world, during the space of three hundred years of the church, do declare no less. Wherein it is to be thought and supposed that Satan, all that time, was not fastened and closed up.

The second reason moving me to think that the closing up of Satan was after the ten persecutions of the primitive church, is taken out of the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse; where we read, that after the woman, meaning the church, had travailed forth her man-child, the old dragon, the devil, the same time being cast down from heaven, drawing the third part of the stars with him, stood before the woman with great anger, and persecuted her (that is, the church of God) with a whole flood of water (that is, with abundance of all kinds of torments), and from thence went, moreover, to fight against the residue of her seed, and stood upon the sands of the sea; whereby it appeareth that he was not as yet locked up.

The third reason I collect out of the Apocalypse, chapter xiii., where it is written of the beast, signifying the imperial monarchy of Rome, that he had power to make war forty and two months; by which months is meant, no doubt, the time that the dragon and the persecuting emperors should have in afflicting the saints of the primitive church. The computation of which forty-two months (counting Forty-two every month for a Sabbath of years; that is, for seven years, after the order of Scripture), riseth to the sum (counting from the passion of the Lord Christ) of three hundred years, lacking six; at which time Maxentius, the last persecutor in Rome, fighting against Constantine, was drowned with his soldiers, like as Pharaoh, persecuting the children of Israel, was drowned in the Red Sea. Unto the which forty-two months, or Sabbaths of years, if ye add the other six years wherein Licinius persecuted in the East, ye shall find just three hundred years, as is specified before in the first book (vol. i. Page 291). After the which forty and two months were expired, manifest it is that the fury of Satan, that is, his violent malice and power over the saints of Christ, was diminished and restrained universally throughout the whole world. Thus then, the matter standing evident that Satan, after three hundred years, counting from the passion of Christ, began to be chained up, at which time the persecution of the primitive church began to cease, now let us see how long this binding up of Satan should continue, which was promised in the Book of the Revelation to be a thousand years; which thousand years, if ye add to the forty-two months of years, that is, to two hundred and ninety-four years, they make one thousand two hundred and ninety-four years after the passion of the Lord. To these, moreover, add the thirty years of the age of Christ, and it cometh to the year of our Lord 1324, which was the year of the letting out of Satan, according to the prophecy in the Apocalypse.

The first persecution of the primitive church, beginning at the thirtieth year of Christ, was prophesied to continue forty-two months; that is, till a.d. 294.

The ceasing of the last persecution of the primitive church by the death of Licinius, the last persecutor, began in the three hundred and twenty-fourth year from the nativity of Christ; which was from the thirtieth year of his age, two hundred and ninety-four years.

The binding up of Satan after peace given to the church, counting from the thirty years of Christ, began a.d. 294, and lasted a thousand years, that is, counting from the thirtieth year of Christ, to the year 1294.

About which year, pope Boniface VIII was pope, and made the sixth book of the Decretals, confirmed the orders of friars, and privileged them with great freedoms; as appeareth by his constitution, Super Cathedram a.d. 1294...

These things thus premised for the loosing out of Satan, according to the prophecy of the Apocalypse, now let us enter (Christ willing) upon the declaration of these latter times which followed after the letting out of Satan into the world; describing the wondrous perturbations and cruel tyranny stirred up by him against Christ's church, and also the valiant resistance of the church of Christ against him and Antichrist, as in these our books here under following may appear, the argument of which consisteth in two parts: first, to treat of the raging fury of Satan now loosed, and of Antichrist, against the saints of Christ fighting and travailing for the maintenance of truth, and the reformation of the church. Secondly, to declare the decay and ruin of the said Antichrist, through the power of the word of God; being at length, either in a great part of the world overthrown, or, at least, universally in the whole world detected. - John Foxe, Acts and Monuments, Book V (Volume 2 of 8), pages 724-727 of the 1843 edition

This framework and exposition of prophecy surfaces again and again in Foxe's work. It is the defining characteristic of the work. The little paperback edition will not convey this. Foxe is not merely recounting history and giving Protestants a “Remember the Alamo,” he is interpreting history through his interpretation of Scripture. The matter-of-factness with which Foxe treats biblical prophecies and historical fulfillments, leaves one with the impression that Foxe's view was the standard view of most of his contemporaries. Every single one of Foxe's critics, whether the papists of his own day, or those of subsequent centuries, have focused their attention on pretended reliability issues of Foxe's primary sources, or whether Foxe was accurately presenting the facts. No one, I repeat, no one – has ever tackled his eschatology. To me, this speaks volumes. When one is faced with a mountain of inconvenient evidence, from a purely pragmatic stance, sometimes ignoring its existence is more effective than taking it on point by point.

As far as Foxe's reliability as a historian goes, Townsend writes, “His frequent appeals to eye-witnesses of the things he relates, the manner in which the declarations he received from the persecuted of their examinations and sufferings, are affirmed by him, not to be credited for their own words only, even though in one remarkable case the narrative of their sorrows was written with their own blood, and not with ink. All these things prove to us that Foxe is worthy of our confidence, and that his 'veracity and fidelity' cannot be assailed with either truth or honour. Disgrace has followed every attempt to destroy its value.” Subsequent historical investigations have further strengthened Townsend's assessment.

I will never forget the impact the little paperback "Book of Martyrs" had on me when I read it as a young teen. I was inspired, appalled, edified, and frightened all at the same time. For days I remember living with a gloomy cloud over my head - a cloud of fear that I could never possibly endure what so many men, women, and children before me endured. As time passed, I began to realize that most of them would've felt the same way, and that it was the same grace of God which enabled them to witness to God's truth in their deaths that enabled me to witness to God's truth in my life. But that impact is nothing compared to the impressions that this complete edition makes and leaves. I know millions of readers love the little paperback, but in all honesty, it is a travesty of the original. Far too much ended up on the cutting-room floor. And what gets left out is precisely what gives impact to what got left in.

For example: The little paperback version tells how Nicholas Ridley was tied to a stake and burned alive for his faith. What the little paperback doesn't give you is the full context of Ridley's trial. “Acts and Monuments” includes dozens of pages of court transcripts. It provides letters between the key players giving the reader a background and framework to the story that the little paperback will never convey. You can read the verbatim back and forth between Ridley and “bloody” Bonner. You can read Mary's ecclesiastics twist his words on purpose and order court recorders falsify his answers. You can read how he was publicly humiliated in the courtroom. Men forcibly restrained him and dressed him up as a popish priest while a man behind him read out the ceremony of the mass in Latin, pretending that he (Ridley) was saying it, thus “making” Ridley commit the transubstantiation he repudiated. The humiliation goes on and on for days. Ridley bears up under it and continues to appeal to Scripture against Gardiner and Bonner. If you only read the account of Ridley, you would be inclined to think that a greater travesty of justice has never been committed. But Foxe provides nearly the same documentary evidence for another 200 Marian martyrs, not to mention all the martyrs whose lives and sufferings he presents from the days of the Apostles through the days of Wycliffe, Hus, and Savanarola. Ironically, the concentrated emphasis on torture and death in the little paperback actually lessens its impact. The real personhood of both the sufferers and the persecutors gets lost.

Besides all this, Foxe's honesty will not let you reduce his work to a hagiography. Along with hundreds of accounts of the brave sufferings of countless martyrs and confessors, he also includes court transcripts and letters of men and women who could not bear up under the persecution and who lapsed and recanted. Foxe never scorns these men and women, either. In fact, he seems to include the stories, often quite elaborate and long, to emphasize the prodigious power the Romish church had. It took extraordinary men and women to buck up under the pressure and set the bar for other martyrs and confessors. Foxe openly acknowledges that men, in human frailty, may recoil from the prospect of torture and cave in to the temptation to recant. He is surprisingly understanding of this phenomenon, yet without condoning it as an expedient to save one's life.

This honesty is another feature that slips through the cracks in the little paperback. That small edition will beat you over the head with blood and gore. This edition will provide text and context to the sufferings – and will also tell you about those who ran from the sufferings and recanted. He will even give you their two or three-page-long letters of recantation – shameful as they may be.

In a very real sense, this work is not a “book of martyrs.” It is so much more. It is an indispensable resource whose absence could not be filled by anything else ever written.


I conclude with a couple of thoughts:
  1. This is really more of a reference work than a history. When Foxe relates the life of particular martyr, he frequently includes actual court transcripts of his trial, condemnation, and sentencing. He also not infrequently includes letters written to and from the person under consideration. Many of these letters are to found nowhere else but in the Acts and Monuments. Foxe has done the Church an inestimable service in preserving these materials. Foxe was personally known to many of the martyrs and confessors whose lives and deaths he chronicles. His connections to the official documents through Grindal and others, gave him access to records no one else alive at the time could've gotten their hands on. This is no superficial history. Foxe lives in primary sources. Many of these sources are inaccessible to today's readers because the only extant copies are in special sections of museums, or else they are in Latin or Anglo-Saxon (Old English). Foxe has provided both original transcriptions of the original texts and English translations of these. The sources which are readily available (Bede, Matthew Paris, Henry of Huntingdon, etc) will more than verify the veracity of Foxe's accounts.
  2. This work needs to be republished in its full form. This 1843 edition should be a standard reference work in every pastor's library. It is a great disservice and insult to the memory of our martyred Protestant forebears that the full version of this work has been out of print for so long. And it is an even greater insult to their memory that many of the modern editions include the deaths of papists, as if in the end, they belong in the same company as our sainted Protestant martyrs – whom they killed!
  3. Nothing can prepare you for encountering the barbarity and despicable cruelty of Stephen Gardiner and “bloody” Edmund Bonner. Under the auspices of Queen Mary, these two moral monsters account for 288 executions, not to mention those who were mercilessly whipped, those who died in prison, those whose bones were exhumed to be desecrated, and those who lived in a self-imposed exile overseas (one of whom was Foxe).
Reading the whole work was truly a monumental task. The sheer amount of information is overwhelming. The graphic descriptions of the torture and execution of so many men, women, and children, is heart-rending. I had a sick feeling deep in my gut through many parts of this work. Foxe concludes his account of Mary's reign with these words: “Of queen Mary this truly may be affirmed, and left in story for a perpetual memorial or epitaph for all kings and queens that shall succeed her, to be noted—that before her, never was read in story of any king or queen of England, since the time of king Lucius, under whom, in time of peace, by hanging, beheading, burning, and prisoning, so much Christian blood, so many Englishmen's lives, were spilled within this realm, as under the said queen Mary for the space of four years was to be seen, and I beseech the Lord never may be seen here after.”

Foxe concludes the work by reminding his readers that he had access to enough information to have made the work considerably longer! His final paragraphs read: 
And thus to conclude, good christian reader, this present tractation, not for lack of matter, but to shorten rather the matter for largeness of the volume, I here stay for this present time, without further addition of more discourse, either to overweary thee with longer tediousness, or overcharge the book with longer prolixity; having hitherto set forth the acts and proceedings of the whole church of Christ, namely, of the church of England, although not in such particular perfection, that nothing hath overpassed us; yet in such general sufficiency, that I trust, not very much hath escaped us, necessary to be known, touching the principal affairs, doings and proceedings of the church and churchmen. Wherein may be seen the whole state, order, descent, course, and continuance of the same, the increase and decrease of true religion, the creeping in of superstition, the horrible troubles of persecution, the wonderful assistance of the Almighty in maintaining his truth, the glorious constancy of Christ's martyrs, the rage of the enemies, the alteration of times, the travails and troubles of the church, from the first primitive age of Christ's gospel, to the end of queen Mary, and the beginning of this our gracious queen Elizabeth. During the time of her happy reign, which hath hitherto continued (through the gracious protection of the Lord) the space now of twenty-four years, as my wish is, so I would be glad the good will of the Lord were so, that no more matter of such lamentable stories may ever be offered hereafter to write upon. But so it is, I cannot tell how, the elder the world waxeth, the longer it continueth, the nearer it hasteneth to its end, the more Satan rageth; giving still new matter of writing books and volumes: insomuch that if all were recorded and committed to history, that within the said compass of this queen's reign hitherto hath happened, in Scotland, Flanders, France, Spain, Germany, besides this our own country of England and Ireland, with other countries more, I verily suppose one Eusebius, or Polyhistor, which Pliny writeth of, would not suffice thereunto. 
"But of these incidents and occurrents hereafter more, as it shall please the Lord to give grace and space. In the mean time, the grace of the Lord Jesus work with thee, gentle reader, in all thy studious readings. And while thou hast space, so employ thyself to read, that by reading thou mayest learn daily to know that which may profit thy soul, may teach thee experience, may arm thee with patience, and instruct thee in all spiritual knowledge more and more to thy perpetual comfort and salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord; to whom be glory in secula seculorum, Amen.”

Uncomfortable as reading much of this material was, it must be read, and it must be kept in the Church's view. We dishonor our Protestant forebears and the Lord they suffered, bled, and died for, by neglecting and forgetting their lives and sufferings. We must never forget.

For those who may be interested in reading it, there are a couple of sources.

Still Waters Revival Books has the set available in pdf format. One can purchase either the entire 8 volume set, or the individual volumes. It is available here.

Also, the individual volumes can be found on Google Books. Below are the links to each volume.








Monday, August 28, 2017

Scriptural Testimony to the Trinity

The Old and the New Testament alike, assures us that in the trustful knowledge of One God,—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,—is the spiritual life of man now and for ever. The Lord grant that we may continue to bring to the study of his word, that humble spirit which prays “That which I see not teach thou me” (Job 34:32).

To one who receives with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save our souls, the Scriptures already adduced prove beyond contradiction that as the Father is God, so is Jesus Christ God, and so the Holy Spirit is God. This truth, however, must be combined with another, which is revealed with equal clearness and enforced with equal solemnity:—“I am Jehovah, and there is none else, there is no God beside me” (Isa 45:5). The combination of these truths establishes the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, for “these Three must together subsist in one infinite Divine essence, called Jehovah or God; and as this essence must be indivisible, each of them must possess not a part or portion of it, but the whole fulness or perfection of the essential Godhead forming, in an unity of nature, One Eternal Jehovah, and therefore revealed by a plural noun as the Jehovah Elohim, which comprehends these Three; but with this solemn qualification, that the Jehovah Elohim is in truth but one Jehovah, Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

This supreme mystery must transcend all the powers of human thought; and the question must recur again and again, What saith the Scripture? Our imaginations must be counted as the small dust of the balance. Thus do you conceive that the very names “the Father the Son” imply a certain point in duration beyond which the Father inhabited eternity alone? Your conception cannot countervail the assertion of Scripture, that the goingsforth of the Saviour have been from everlasting (Micah 5:2); or the words of Christ himself, adopting the formula which declares the Divine self-existence from eternity to eternity, “I am the first and the last” (Rev 1:11).
The illustration, before adduced, of the sun, its beams of light, and its vital heat, may offer some faint resemblance of this great mystery; for the beams of light are generated by the central orb; and yet the sun could not have existed, so far as we know, for a moment without emitting its radiance, nor the radiance have existed without diffusing its warmth: so that “one is not before another, but only in order and relation to one another.” But no creature can adequately image forth the Creator, who asks, “To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?” (Isa 40:18).

Again, do you imagine that the name of him who is alone Jehovah, cannot comprehend a Trinity in Unity? Your imagination is as nothing in contradiction of the words of Christ revealing the one Divine name, as “the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Do you asseverate the impossibility of three subsistences in one eternal essence? Remember, I pray you, the words, “Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” (Job 11:7). What do we know of the essence of created things? The pure white light seems indissolubly one; an unscientific man would, without hesitation, pronounce it uniform, and would utterly deny any plurality subsisting in its transparent simplicity. The colours of the rainbow seem evidently manifold; and the same man might refuse to credit their unity. Science stoops to analyze light; and we are told that— 
 
The prismatic spectrum consists in reality of three spectra of nearly equal length, each of uniform colour; superposed one upon another; and that the colours which the actual spectrum exhibits, arise from the mixture of the uniform colours of these three spectra superposed. The colours of these three elementary spectra, according to Sir David Brewster, are red, yellow, and blue. He shows that by a combination of these three, not only all the colours exhibited in the prismatic spectrum may be reproduced, but their combination also produces white light. He contends, therefore, that the white light of the sun consists, not of seven, but of three constituent lights.”— “Lardner’s Museum” vol. 7 p. 78. 19

The unlearned man then, in his incredulity, would have denied an established fact. The unity of that pure white light was not so simple as he affirmed. More constituents than one subsist in its ethereal essence. But has science now fathomed the mysteries of light? So far from it, we read—“Light is now proved to consist in the waves of a subtle and elastic ether, which pervades all space, and serves to communicate every impulse, from one part of the universe to another, with a speed almost inconceivable. In this luminous ether, matter seems to emulate the subtlety of thought. Invisible, and yet the only means by which all things are made visible; impalpable, and yet nourishing all material objects into life and beauty; so elastic, that when touched at one point, swift glances of light tremble through the universe; and still so subtle that the celestial bodies traverse its depths freely, and even the most vaporous comet scarcely exhibits a sensible retardation in its course— there is something in the very nature of this medium which seems to baffle the powers of human science, and to say to the pride of human intellect, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” Here, indeed, the most brilliant and profound analysts have continually to guess their way, when they would trace out a few of the simplest laws resulting from the existence of such an ether, and unfold their application to the various phenomena of reflected and refracted light. It is a great deep of mystery. Science grows dizzy on its verge when it strives to explore the nature of this subtle, immense imponderable ocean, which bathes all worlds in light, and itself remains, by its own nature, invisible for ever.”—Birks’ “Treasures of Wisdom”, pp.99-106.

Is such the modest confession of truth after all the triumphs of human wisdom? Is man only wading, with tremulous footstep, into the shallow waters of that unfathomable sea called into existence by the fiat of God, when he said, “Let there be light, and there was light?” Are we so soon out of our depth in seeking to understand one of his works? How much rather may we expect to be humbled as we meditate, and to be baffled if we think we can comprehend, the glorious Creator himself? Is light a mystery? How much rather he who dwells in the light that no man can approach unto! We know him only as he reveals himself.

This self-revelation involves a yet greater self-concealment There will be the manifestation of God in the voluntary condescension of his love: and there will be the necessary seclusion within the clouds of his unapproachable glory. W hen a finite being seeks to understand anything of the Infinite, it must always be so. There will be the fragment of truth which the student has made and is making his own, and the illimitable expanse beneath, above, and beyond him. Thus in the field of nature we read, “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein” (Psa 111:2). Here is our knowledge. But “No man,” says Solomon, “can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end” (Eccl 3:11). There is the limit of our knowledge. We are invited to consider his heavens, to trace his footprints, and to regard the operations of his hands. And yet after all, “Lo! these are parts of his ways; how faint a whisper is heard of him! the thunder of his power who can understand?” (Job 26:14) So, in the majestic course of his patient. providence we adoringly acknowledge, “Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints:”(Rev 15:3) and yet we must confess, “Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known” (Psa 77:19).

Humble students are treading an upland path. Their horizon widens every step they take. The angels of light, standing on a higher eminence, see further than they. Still there must be a boundary line which limits angelic intuition: and whatever lies beyond that line must be a mystery to them, or, if made known to them, made known by revelation. We rebuke the want of modesty in the unlearned peasant who argues from his ignorance against the declarations of science: surely those blessed spirits would rebuke us, if we, through preconceived notions of our own, refused to credit the simple revelations of God regarding his own mysterious Being. He reveals himself by his names, his attributes, and his acts. And, therefore, if, combined with assertions that God is one, we find three revealed in Scripture to whom the same names, attributes, and acts are ascribed, the same so far as a personal distinction allows; if we look vainly for any fourth Divine one, or any intimation of more than three; if we connect with this the intimate and necessary union affirmed to exist betwixt the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit, as when the Lord Jesus says, “I and my Father are one,” and when Paul says, “The Spirit searches the depths of God;” if, then, we find that every Christian is baptized into one Name,—the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,—we are led swiftly and irresistibly up to the doctrine (call it by what name you will) of the Trinity in Unity.

Hence, at the risk of apparent repetition, I shall bring together again some few Bible testimonies to the Deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; combining them in one view; and adding a further declaration from Scripture of our sole dependence on the alone Jehovah; so that you may see at a glance, that we are compelled by the Christian verity, “to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity.”

I. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are eternal.

1. I am the first, and I am the last (Isa 44:6). The everlasting God (Rom 16:26).
2. I am the first and the last (Rev 1:17). Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2.)
3. The eternal Spirit (Heb 9:14). 

The One Eternal is our trust. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut. 33:27).

II. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost created all things.

1. One God, the Father, of whom are all things (1 Cor 8:6). The Lord.... it is he that hath made us (Psa. 100:3).
2. All things were made by him (the Word, etc. John1:3). By him were all things created, etc. (Col.1:16).
3. Who hath measured, etc. who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord? (Isa. 40:12,13). The Spirit of God hath made me (Job 33:4).

The One Almighty is our trust. Commit the keeping of their souls to him,—as unto a faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:19).

III. The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are omnipresent.
1. Do not I fill the heaven and earth? saith the Lord (Jer 23:24).
2. Lo, I am with you alway (Matt 28:20).
3. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? (Psa 139:7).

The One omnipresent God its our trust. He is not far from every one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:27, 28).

IV. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are omniscient.
1. No one knoweth the Father, save the Son (Matt. 11:27). Known unto God are all his works, etc. (Acts 15:18).
2. No one knoweth the Son, save the Father (Matt 11:27). Lord, thou knowest all things (John 21:17). 
3. Who being his counsellor hath taught him? (Isa 40:13). The Spirit searcheth all things (l Cor 2:10).

We worship the One all-seeing God. All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Heb 4:13).

V. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are true, holy, and good
1. He that sent me is true (John 7:28). Holy Father. Righteous Father (John 17:11, 25). The Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).
2. I am...the truth (John 14:6). The Holy One and the just (Acts 3:14). The good Shepherd (John 10:11).
3. The Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6). The Spirit, the Holy One (John 14:26). Thy Spirit is good (Psa 143:10).

We adore the One Lord of infinite goodness. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy (Rev. 15:4).

VI. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost have each a self-regulating will.
1. Him that worketh all things after the counsel of his own will (Eph 1:11).
2. The Son wills to reveal him (Matt 11:27). Father, I will (John 17:24).
3. Dividing to every one severally as he wills (1 Cor 12:11).

We rest on the will of him who alone is Jehovah. The will of the Lord be done (Acts 21:14).

VII. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the fountain of life.
1. With thee is the fountain of life (Psa 36:9). God hath quickened us (Eph. 2:4,5).
2. In him (the Word) was life (John 1:4). The Son quickeneth whom he will (John 5:21).
3. The Spirit is life (Rom 8:10). Born of the Spirit (John 3:8).

We depend on one life-giving God. Love the Lord thy God,...cleave unto him,...for he is thy life (Deut 30:20).

VIII. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost strengthern, comfort, and sanctify us.
1. Thou strengthenedst me with strength in my soul (Psa 138:3). I will comfort you (Isa 66:13). Sanctified by God the Father (Jude 1).
2. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Phil 4:13). If any consolation in Christ (Phil. 2:1). Sanctified in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:2).
3. Strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man (Eph 3:16). The Comforter, the Holy Ghost (John 14:26). Being sanctified by the Holy Ghost (Rom 15:16).

We trust in One God for spiritual power. My God, my strength, in whom I will trust (Psa 18:2).

IX. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost fill the soul with Divine love.
1. Every one that loveth him that begat (1 John 5:1). If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15).
2. The love of Christ constraineth us (2 Cor 5:14). If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 16:22).
3. I beseech you for the love of the Spirit (Rom 15:30). Your love in the Spirit (Col 1:8).

The love of the One living and true God characterizes the saint. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart (Deut. 6:5).

X. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost gave the Divine law.
1. The law of the Lord is perfect (Psa 19:7). The word of our God (Isa 11:8). Thus saith the Lord God (Eze 2:4).
2. The law of Christ (Gal 6:2). The word of Christ (Col 3:16). These things saith the Son of God (Rev 2:18).
3. The law of the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2). Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:21). The Holy Ghost said (Acts 13:2).

The word of One Legislator is the believer’s rule. There is one Lawgiver who is able to save (James 4:12).

XI. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost dwell in the hearts of believers.
1. I will dwell in them (2 Cor 6:16). God is in you of a truth (1 Cor 14:25). Our fellowship is with the Father (1 John 1:3).
2. Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith (Eph 3:17). Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:27). Our fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).
3. The Spirit dwelleth with you, and shall be in you (John 14:17). The communion of the Holy Ghost (2 Cor 13:14).

The contrite heart receives One Divine guest. Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, I dwell with him that is of a contrite and humble heart (Isa 57:15).

XII. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are, each by himself, the supreme Jehovah and God.
1. I am Jehovah thy God (Exo 20:2). Thou, Lord, art most High for evermore (Psa 92:8).
2. Jehovah our God (Isa 40:3, with Matt 3:3) The Highest (Luke 1:76, with Matt 11:10).
3. Jehovah God (Ezek 8:1,3). The Highest (Luke 1:35).

The One supreme Lord God is our God for ever and ever. Jehovah, our Elohim, One Jehovah (Deu 6:4).

From this brief comparison, which might be elaborated at far greater length, Scripture assures us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, have the same Divine attributes, concur with a mind and will and heart, personally independent but unitedly harmonious, in the same Divine acts, and are addressed by the same Divine names. And further, we learn that our trust is not dispersed or confused by this co-equal Godhood of the Sacred Three: but that (a way of access being opened in the gospel through the revelation of the Father in Christ by the Spirit) we rest on, we worship, and we love One God.
Taken from the book “The Trinity” by Edward Henry Bickersteth.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

To A Sinner Possible Salvation Is Impossible Salvation

A possible salvation would be to a sinner an impossible salvation. Mere salvability would be to him inevitable destruction. It will be admitted, without argument, that a possible salvation is not, in itself, an actual salvation. That which may be is not that which is. Before a possible can become an actual salvation something needs to be done—a condition must be performed upon which is suspended its passage from possibility to actuality. The question is, What is this thing which needs to be done—what is this condition which must be fulfilled before salvation can become a fact to the sinner? The Arminian answer is: Repentance and faith on the sinner's part. He must consent to turn from his iniquities and accept Christ as his Saviour. The further question presses, By what agency does the sinner perform this condition—by what power does lie repent, believe, and so accept salvation? The answer to this question, whatever it may be, must indicate the agency, the power, which determines the sinner's repenting, believing and so accepting salva tion. It is not enough to point out an agency, a power, which is, however potent, merely an auxiliary to the determining cause. It is the determining cause itself that must be given as the answer to the question. It must be a factor which renders, by virtue of its own energy, the final decision—an effi cient cause which, by its own inherent causality, makes a possible salvation an actual and experimental fact. What is this causal agent which is the sovereign arbiter of human destiny? The Arminian answer to this last question of the series is, 'The sinner's will.' It is the sinner's will which, in the last resort, determines the question whether a possible, shall become an actual, salvation. This has already been sufficiently evinced in the foregoing remarks. But what need is there of argument to prove what any one, even slightly acquainted with Arminian theology, knows that it maintains? Indeed, it is one of the distinctive and vital features of that theology, contra-distinguishing it to the Calvinistic. The Cal vinist holds that the efficacious and irresistible grace of God applies salvation to the sinner; the Arminian, that the grace of God although communicated to every man is inéfficacious and resistible, and that the sinner's will uses it as merely an assisting influence in determining the final result of accepting a possible salvation and so making it actual. Grace does not determine the will; the will 'improves' the grace and determines itself. Grace is the handmaid, the sinner's will the mistress. Let us suppose that in regard to the question whether salvation shall be accepted, there is a perfect equipoise between the motions of grace and the contrary inclinations of the sinner's will. A very slight added influence will destroy the equilibrium. Shall it be from grace or from the sinner's will? If from the former, grace determines the question, and the Calvinistic doctrine is admitted. But that the Arminian denies. It must then be from the sinner's will; and however slight and inconsiderable this added influence of the will may be, it determines the issue. It is like the feather that alights upon one of two evenly balanced scales and turns the beam.

Moreover, this will of the sinner which discharges the momentous office of determining the question of salvation is his natural will. It cannot be a gracious will, that is, a will renewed by grace; for if it were, the sinner would be already in a saved condition. But the very question is, Will he consent to be saved 2 Now if it be not the will of a man already in a saved condition, it is the will of a man yet in an unsaved condition. It is the will of an unbelieving and un converted man, that is, a natural man, and conse quently must be a natural will. It is this natural will, then, which finally determines the question whether a possible salvation shall become an actual. It is its high office to settle the matter of practical salvation. In this solemn business, as in all others, it has an irrefragable autonomy. Not even in the critical transition from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God's dear Son, can it be refused the exercise of its sacred and inalienable prerogative of contrary choice. At the supreme moment of the final determination of the soul “for Christ to live and die,” the determination might be otherwise. The will may be illuminated, moved, assisted by grace, but not controlled and determined by it. To the last it has the power of resisting grace and of successfully resisting it. To it—I use the language re luctantly—the blessed Spirit of God is represented as sustaining the attitude of the persuasive orator of grace. He argues, he pleads, he expostulates, lie warns, he beseeches the sinner's will in the melting accents of Calvary and alarms it with the thunders of judgment—but that is all. He cannot without tres passing upon its sovereignty renew and re-create and determine his will. This is no misrepresentation, no exaggeration, of the Arminian’s position. It is what he contends for. It is what he must contend for. It is one of the hinges on which his system turns. Take it away, and the system swings loosely and gravitates to an inevitable fall.

Now this is so palpably opposed to Scripture and the facts of experience, that Evangelical Arminians endeavor to modify it, so as to relieve it of the charge of being downright Pelagianism. That the attempt is hopeless, has already been shown. It is utterly vain to say, that grace gives ability to the sinner sufficient for the formation of that final volition which decides the question of personal salvation. Look at it. Do they mean, by this ability, regenerating grace? If they do, as regenerating grace un questionably determines the sinner's will, they give mp their position and adopt the Calvinistic. No; they affirm that they do not, because the Calvinistic position is liable to two insuperable objections: first, that it limits efficacious grace to the elect, denying it to others; secondly, that efficacious and determining grace would contradict the laws by which the human will is governed. It comes back to this, then: that notwithstanding this imparted ability, the natural will is the factor which determines the actual relation of the soul to salvation. The admission of a gracious ability, therefore, does not relieve the difficulty. It is not an efficacious and determining influence; it is simply suasion. The natural will may yield to it or resist it. It is a vincible influence. Now this being the real state of the case, according to the Arminian scheme, it is perfectly manifest that no sinner could be saved. There is no need of argument. It is simply out of the question, that the sinner in the exercise of his natural will can repent, believe in Christ, and so make a possible salvation actual. Let it be clearly seen that, in the final settlement of the question of personal religion, the Arminian doctrine is, that the will does not decide as determined by the grace of God, but by its own inherent self-determining power, and the inference, if any credit is attached to the statements of Scripture, is forced upon us, that it makes the salvation of the sinner impossible. A salvation, the appropriation of which is dependent upon the sinner's natural will, is no salvation; and the Arminian position is that the appropriation of salvation is dependent upon the natural will of the sinner. The stupendous paradox is thus shown to be true—that a merely possible salvation is an impossible salvation.” 

John L. Girardeau, Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism Compared, Part I, Section III: Objections From Divine Goodness


Monday, August 21, 2017

John Foxe on Antichrist Exalting Himself in the Temple of God

Most of us have heard of Foxe's Book of Martyrs. What many are not aware of is that this is an extremely edited version of his original work, which is entitled The Acts and Monuments of the Church, Containing the History and Sufferings of the Martyrs. The entire work runs over 7,000 pages, contained in 8 volumes. "The Book of Martyrs" that most people are familiar with is a 300+ page paperback that focuses largely on the martyrs of the first 300 years of Church history. Foxe arranges his material around his interpretation of the Millennium of Revelation 20. Perhaps in later posts, I will provide Foxe's detailed exegetical analysis of this passage of Scripture. But for now, suffice it to say that Foxe sees the Millennium as the 1,000 year period in which there was no official, state-sanctioned persecution of the Church. This extends from the Edict of Milan. From this period, there was no state-sanctioned persecution of Christians. During the intervening one thousand years, pagan Rome was destroyed and its power fully transferred to Papal Rome. A thousand years after the cessation of persecution of Christians, Rome, now ruled by the Pope, reinstituted the persecution of Christians when she aimed her fury at Wycliffe. 

Central to Foxe's position, is that the papacy is the Antichrist. This view has waned among Protestants, even among supposed Reformed Christians, over the past century and a half, but it was without a doubt a central tenet of the Reformation. In fact, whatever doctrinal differences there may have been among the various "schools" or strands of the Reformation (Zwingli, Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, Knox, etc), there was 100% agreement among them about this: The Papacy, and therefore every currently-reigning Pope is the Antichrist. I am bold enough to say every single Reformer would have made this a test of one's claim to the true Christian faith. Nor is it fair to say that this belief was pure reaction on their part against a persecuting power. Centuries before Wycliffe ever made the charge, sprinkled throughout Church history, other writers, not persecuted, have made the same claim. And all have done so based on careful, precise, exegesis of relevant passages of Scripture. 

When one hears Protestants assert that the Pope is the Antichrist, and that he had historically made extravagant claims for and about himself and his position, it might seem like a stretch or an exaggeration. What follows are the final 18 1/2 pages of Book VI of The Acts and Monuments, which are pages 145-164 of Volume 4 in the 1846 edition. Foxe presents what is essentially a catena, or chain of papal edicts, decrees, epistles, etc., in which the assertion that the Pope exalts himself in the temple of God is proven - straight from the horse's mouth. Clicking on an image will open it to view more clearly. I highly recommend reading all 18 1/2 pages.













 












Thursday, August 17, 2017

John Foxe on Defeating Islam

This is what the great martyrologist John Foxe says about Islam, why we should be knowledgeable about it, and the only successful way to combat it.

“If it were not that I fear to overlay this our volume with heaps of foreign histories, who have professed chiefly to treat of Acts and Monuments here done at home, I would adjoin after these popes known above rehearsed, some discourse also of the Turks’ story; of their rising and cruel persecution of the saints of God, to the great annoyance and peril of Christendom. Yet, notwithstanding, certain causes there be, which necessarily require the knowledge of their order and doings, and of their wicked proceedings, their cruel tyranny and bloody victories, the ruin and subversion of so many christian churches, with the horrible murders and captivity of infinite Christians, to be made plain and manifest, as well to this our country of England, as also to other nations.
“First, For the better explaining of the prophecies of the New Testament, as in St. Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians, and also in the Revelation of St. John; which scriptures otherwise, without the opening of these histories, cannot so perfectly be understood: of which scriptures, we mind hereafter (Christ granting) orderly, as the course of matter shall lead us, to make rehearsal.
“Another cause is, that we may learn thereby, either with the public church to lament, with our brethren, such a great defection and decay of christian faith, through these wicked Turks; or else may fear thereby our own danger.
“The third cause, that we may ponder more deeply with ourselves the scourge of God for our sins, and corrupt doctrine; which, in the sequel hereof, more evidently may appear to our eyes, for our better admonition.
“Fourthly: The consideration of this horrible persecution of the Turks rising chiefly by our discord and dissension among ourselves, may reduce us again from our domestical wars, in killing and burning one another, to join together in christian patience and concord.
“Fifthly: But chiefly, these great victories of the Turks, and un- prosperous speed of our men fighting against them, may admonish and teach us, following the example of the old Israelites, how to seek for greater strength to encounter with these enemies of Christ, than hitherto we have done. First, we must consider that the whole power of Satan, the prince of this world, goeth with the Turks; which to resist, no strength of man's army is sufficient, but only the name, spirit, and power of our Lord Jesus the Son of God, going with us without in our battles; as among the old Israelites the ark of God's covenant and promise went with them also fighting against the enemies of God. For so are we taught in the Scripture, that we christian men have no strength but in Christ only. Whether we war against the devil, or against the Turk, it is true that the Scripture saith, ‘Sine me nihil potestis facere,’ that is, ‘Without me you can do nothing.’ Otherwise there is no puissance to stand against the devil, or to conquer the world, ‘nisi fides nostra,’ that is, ‘our faith only,’ to which all the promises of God touching salvation be annexed; beyond which promises we must not go, for the word must be our rule. He that presumeth beyond the promises in the word expressed, goeth not, but wandereth he cannot tell whither: neither must we appoint God how to save the world, but must take that way which he hath appointed. Let us not set our God to school, nor comprehend his Holy Spirit within our skulls. He that made us without our council, did also redeem us as pleased him. If he be merciful, let us be thankful. And if his mercies surmount our capacity, let us therefore not resist but search his Word, and thereunto apply our will; which if we will do, all our contentions will be soon at a point. Let us therefore search the will of our God in his Word, and if he will his salvation to stand free to all nations, why do we make merchandise thereof? If he have graciously offered his waters to us, without money or money-worth, let us not hedge in the plenteous springs of his grace given us. And finally, if God have determined his own Son only to stand alone, let not us presume to admix with his majesty any of our trumpery. He that bringeth St. George or St. Denis, as patrons, to the field, to fight against the Turk, leaveth Christ, no doubt, at home.
“Now how we have fought these many years against the Turk, though stories keep silence, yet the success declareth. We fight against a persecutor, being no less persecutors ourselves. We wrestle against a bloody tyrant, and our hands be as full of blood as his. He killeth Christ's people with the sword, and we burn them with fire. He, observing the works of the law, seeketh his justice by the same: the like also do we. But neither doth he, nor do we, seek our justification as we should, that is, by faith only in the Son of God. And what marvel then, our doctrine being as corrupt almost as his, and our conversation worse, if Christ fight not with us, fighting against the Turk? The Turk hath prevailed so mightily, not because Christ is weak, but because Christians be wicked, and their doctrine impure. Our temples with images, our hearts with idolatry are polluted. Our priests stink before God for adultery, being restrained from lawful matrimony. The name of God is in our mouths, but his fear is not in our hearts. We war against the Turk with our works, masses, traditions, and ceremonies: but we fight not against him with Christ, and with the power of his glory; which if we did, the field were won.
“Wherefore, briefly to conclude, saying my judgment in this behalf, what I suppose. This hope I have, and do believe, that when the church of Christ, with the sacraments thereof, shall be so reformed, victory, that Christ alone shall be received to be our justifier, all other religions, merits, traditions, images, patrons, and advocates set apart, the sword of the Christians, with the strength of Christ, shall soon vanquish the Turks' pride and fury. But of this more largely in the process of this story.
“The sixth and last cause, why I think the knowledge of the Turks' cause, history requisite to be considered, is this: because that many there be, who, for that they be further from the Turks, and think therefore themselves to be out of danger, take little care and study what happeneth to their other brethren. Wherefore, to the intent to excite their zeal and prayer to Almighty God, in this so lamentable ruin of Christ's church, I thought it requisite, by order of history, to give church this our nation also something to understand, what hath been done in of Christ. Other nations by these cruel Turks, and what detriment hath been, and is like more to happen by them to the church of Christ, except we make our earnest invocation to Almighty God, in the name of his Son, to stop the course of the devil by these Turks, and to stay this defection of Christians falling daily unto them, and to reduce them again to his faith, who are fallen from him: which the Lord Jesus of his grace grant with speed! Amen.

John Foxe, Acts and Monuments, Book VI

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