“Then Luther arose” by John Calvin

“At the time when divine truth lay buried under this vast and dense cloud of darkness;

when religion was sullied by so many impious superstitions;

when by horrid blasphemies the worship of God was corrupted, and His glory laid prostrate;

when by a multitude of perverse opinions, the benefit of redemption was frustrated, and men, intoxicated with a fatal confidence in works, sought salvation anywhere rather than in Christ;

when the administration of the sacraments was partly maimed and torn asunder, partly adulterated by the admixture of numerous fictions, and partly profaned by traffickings for gain;

when the government of the church had degenerated into mere confusion and devastation;

when those who sat in the seat of pastors first did most vital injury to the church by the dissoluteness of their lives, and, secondly, exercised a cruel and most noxious tyranny over souls, by every kind of error, leading men like sheep to the slaughter;

then Luther arose, and after him others, who with united counsels sought out means and methods by which religion might be purged from all these defilements, the doctrine of godliness restored to its integrity, and the church raised out of its calamitous into somewhat of a tolerable condition.

The same course we are still pursuing in the present day.

All our controversies concerning doctrine relate either to the legitimate worship of God, or to the ground of salvation.

As to the former, unquestionably we do exhort men to worship God neither in a frigid nor a careless manner, and while we point out the mode, we neither lose sight of the end, nor omit any thing which is of importance.

We proclaim the glory of God in terms far loftier than it was wont to be proclaimed before, and we earnestly labour to make the perfections in which His glory shines better and better known.

His benefits towards ourselves we extol as eloquently as we can, while we call upon others to reverence His Majesty, render due homage to His greatness, feel due gratitude for His mercies, and unite in showing forth His praise.

In this way there is infused into their hearts that solid confidence which afterwards gives birth to prayer. And in this way, too, each one is trained to genuine self-denial, so that his will being brought into obedience to God, he bids farewell to his own desires.

In short, as God requires us to worship Him in a spiritual manner, so we most zealously urge men to all the sacrifices of spirit which He recommends.”

—John Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church, Trans. Henry Beveridge (London: W.H. Dalton, 1544/1843), 39-40, 43-44.

“They were great souls serving a great God” by J.I. Packer

“Maturity is a compound of wisdom, goodwill, resilience, and creativity. The Puritans exemplified maturity; we don’t.

We are spiritual dwarfs. A much-travelled leader, a native American (be it said), has declared that he finds North American Protestantism, man-centered, manipulative, success-oriented, self-indulgent and sentimental, as it blatantly is, to be 3,000 miles wide and half an inch deep.

The Puritans, by contrast, as a body were giants. They were great souls serving a great God. In them clear-headed passion and warm-hearted compassion combined.

Visionary and practical, idealistic and realistic too, goal-oriented and methodical, they were great believers, great hopers, great doers, and great sufferers.

But their sufferings, both sides of the ocean (in old England from the authorities and in New England from the elements), seasoned and ripened them till they gained a stature that was nothing short of heroic.

Ease and luxury, such as our affluence brings us today, do not make for maturity; hardship and struggle however do, and the Puritans’ battles against the spiritual and climatic wildernesses in which God set them produced a virility of character, undaunted and unsinkable, rising above discouragement and fears, for which the true precedents and models are men like Moses, and Nehemiah, and Peter after Pentecost, and the apostle Paul.

Spiritual warfare made the Puritans what they were. They accepted conflict as their calling, seeing themselves as their Lord’s soldier-pilgrims, just as in Bunyan’s allegory, and not expecting to be able to advance a single step without opposition of one sort or another.

Wrote John Geree, in his tract The Character of an Old English Puritane or Nonconformist (1646): ‘His whole life he accounted a warfare, wherein Christ was his captain, his arms, praiers and tears. The Crosse his Banner and his word [motto] Vincit qui patitur [he who suffers conquers].’

The Puritans lost, more or less, every public battle that they fought.”

–J.I. Packer, “Why We Need the Puritans,” A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), 22-23.

“Then Luther arose” by John Calvin

“At the time when divine truth lay buried under this vast and dense cloud of darkness;

when religion was sullied by so many impious superstitions;

when by horrid blasphemies the worship of God was corrupted, and His glory laid prostrate;

when by a multitude of perverse opinions, the benefit of redemption was frustrated, and men, intoxicated with a fatal confidence in works, sought salvation anywhere rather than in Christ;

when the administration of the sacraments was partly maimed and torn asunder, partly adulterated by the admixture of numerous fictions, and partly profaned by traffickings for gain;

when the government of the church had degenerated into mere confusion and devastation;

when those who sat in the seat of pastors first did most vital injury to the church by the dissoluteness of their lives, and, secondly, exercised a cruel and most noxious tyranny over souls, by every kind of error, leading men like sheep to the slaughter;

then Luther arose, and after him others, who with united counsels sought out means and methods by which religion might be purged from all these defilements, the doctrine of godliness restored to its integrity, and the church raised out of its calamitous into somewhat of a tolerable condition.

The same course we are still pursuing in the present day.”

—John Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church, Trans. Henry Beveridge (London: W.H. Dalton, 1544/1843), 39-40.

“The way of the cross is the Savior’s way” by D.A. Carson

“The way of the cross is the Savior’s way. Those who claim all the blessings of the new heaven and the new earth in the present time frame have not come to grips with New Testament eschatology.

True, the age to come has dawned, and the Holy Spirit himself is the down payment of future bliss; but it does not follow that all material blessings, prosperity, and freedom from opposition are rightfully ours now.

Even John, who of New Testament writers is most inclined to focus attention on the already-inaugurated features of the age to come, makes it clear that the Christian can in this age expect hatred, persecution, and even violence.

Perhaps this chapter, taken by itself, might prove depressing to some. It is helpful to remember that the biblical passage being expounded, John 15:17–16:4, does not stand in isolation. It is the counterpoint to intimacy with Jesus Christ and rich fruitbearing in the spiritual life.

To know Jesus is to have eternal life; and this is worth everything. In ultimate terms, the acclaim of the world is worth nothing. That is why the dark brush strokes of this passage, 15:17–16:4, far from fostering gloom and defeat, engender instead holy courage and spiritual resolve.

Meditation on these verses forges men and women of God with vision and a stamina whose roots reach into eternity. It calls forth a William Tyndale, who while constantly fleeing his persecutors worked at the translation of the Bible into English. Through betrayal, disappointment, and fear, he struggled on until he was captured and burned at the stake. His dying cry revealed his eternal perspective: ‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!’

In a similar vein, William Borden prepared for missionary service in the Muslim world. Born to wealth, he poured his money and his example into missions. After the best of training at Yale University and Princeton Seminary, he arrived in Egypt to work with Samuel Zwemer. Almost immediately he contracted a terminal case of cerebral meningitis. His dying testimony did not falter: ‘No reserve; no retreat; no regrets.’

C.T. Studd, born to privilege, gifted athletically, and trained at Eton and Cambridge, turned his back on wealth and served Christ for decades against unimaginable odds, first in China and then in Africa. He penned the words:

Some want to live within the sound
of church or chapel bell;
I want to build a rescue shop
within a yard of hell.

This is the passion we need: a passion that looks at the mountainous difficulties and exults that we are on the winning side. By all means, let us face the worst: Christ has told us these things so we will not go astray.”

–D.A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 130-132.

“The Word did everything” by Martin Luther

“The Word created heaven and earth and all things [Ps. 33:6]; the Word must do this thing, and not we poor sinners.

In short, I will preach it, teach it, write it, but I will constrain no man by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion. Take myself as an example.

I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing.

And while I slept [cf. Mark 4:26–29], or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philips and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it.

I did nothing; the Word did everything.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 51: Sermons I (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 51; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 77.

“O the sweet exchange!” by The Epistle to Diognetus

“When our unrighteousness was fulfilled, and it had been made perfectly clear that its wages—punishment and death—were to be expected, then the season arrived during which God had decided to reveal at last His goodness and power.

O, the surpassing kindness and love of God! He did not hate us, or reject us, or bear a grudge against us; instead He was patient and forbearing. In His mercy He took upon Himself our sins. He Himself gave up His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy one for the lawless, the guiltless for the guilty, the just for the unjust, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal.

For what else but His righteousness could have covered our sins? In whom was it possible for us, the lawless and ungodly, to be justified, except in the Son of God alone?

O the sweet exchange, O the incomprehensible work of God, O the unexpected blessings, that the sinfulness of many should be hidden in one righteous person, while the righteousness of One should justify many sinners!”

The Epistle to Diognetus, 9:2-­5, in The Apostolic Fathers, trans. Michael W. Holmes (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 709–710.

“A unique phenomenon” by Johann Nepomuk Huber

“Augustine is a unique phenomenon in Christian history. No one of the other fathers has left so luminous traces of his existence. Though we find among them many rich and powerful minds, yet we find in none the forces of personal character, mind, heart, and will, so largely developed and so harmoniously working.

No one surpasses him in wealth of perceptions and dialectical sharpness of thoughts, in depth and fervor of religious sensibility, in greatness of aims and energy of action. He therefore also marks the culmination of the patristic age, and has been elevated by the acknowledgment of succeeding times as the first and the universal church father.”

–Johann Nepomuk Huber, Die Philosophie der Kirchenväter (Munich, 1859), 312. Cited in Philip Schaff, “Prolegomena” in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1 Ed. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), 1:9-10.