Tag Archives: Law

“The love of our neighbour is inseparably connected with the love of our God” by Herman Witsius

“What we have proved concerning the love of God, the summary of the first table of the law; namely, that it is good in nature; might be also proved from the summary of the second table, the love of our neighbour.

For he who loves God cannot but love His image too, in which he clearly views express characters of the Deity, and not a small degree of the brightness of His glory.

Again, whoever loves God will, by virtue of that love, seriously wish, desire, study, and as much as in him lies be careful, that his neighbour, as well as himself, be under God, in God, and for God, and all he has be for His glory.

Again, whoever loves God will make it his business that God may appear every way admirable and glorious; and as He appears such most eminently in the sanctification and happiness of men, (2 Thess. 1:10), he will exert himself to the utmost that his neighbour make advances to holiness and happiness.

Finally, whoever sincerely loves God will never think he loves and glorifies Him enough; such excellencies he discovers in Him, sees His name so illustrious, and so exalted above all praise, as to long that all mankind, nay all creatures, should join him in loving and celebrating the infinite perfections of God.

But this is the most faithful and pure love of our neighbour, to seek that God may be glorified in him, and he himself be for the glory of God.

Hence it appears, that the love of our neighbour is inseparably connected with the love of God.

If, therefore, it flows from the nature of God, to enjoin us the love of Himself, as was just proved; it must likewise flow from the nature of God, to enjoin us the love of our neighbour.”

–Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1681/2021), 1: 43–44.

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“The special end of the covenant of grace” by Herman Witsius

“The special end of the covenant of grace is, ‘the praise of the glory of His grace,’ (Eph. 1:6), and the revelation of His unsearchable and manifold wisdom: which divine perfections shine forth with lustre in the gift of a Mediator, by whom the sinner is admitted to complete salvation, without any dishonour to the holiness, justice, and truth of God.

There is also a demonstration of the all-sufficiency of God, by which not only man, but even a sinner, which is more surprising, may be restored to union and communion with God.”

–Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 1681/2021), 1: 27.

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“It was not legalism for Jesus to do everything His Father commanded Him” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Neither the Old Testament believer nor the Savior severed the law of God from His gracious person.

It was not legalism for Jesus to do everything His Father commanded Him. Nor is it for us.

In some ways the Marrow Controversy resolved itself into a theological version of the parable of the waiting father and his two sons. (Luke 15:11-32)

The antinomian prodigal when awakened was tempted to legalism: ‘I will go and be a slave in my father’s house and thus perhaps gain grace in his eyes.’

But he was bathed in his father’s grace and set free to live as an obedient son.

The legalistic older brother never tasted his father’s grace. Because of his legalism he had never been able to enjoy the privileges of the father’s house.

Between them stood the father offering free grace to both, without prior qualifications in either.

Had the older brother embraced his father, he would have found grace that would make every duty a delight and dissolve the hardness of his servile heart.

Had that been the case, his once antinomian brother would surely have felt free to come out to him as his father had done, and say:

‘Isn’t the grace we have been shown and given simply amazing? Let us forevermore live in obedience to every wish of our gracious father!’

And arm in arm they could have gone in to dance at the party, sons and brothers together, a glorious testimony to the father’s love.”

–Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 173-174.

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“Christ shall have a full reward for all His pain” by Charles Spurgeon

“I would, indeed I would, that the nations were converted to Christ. I would that all this London belonged to my Lord and Master, and that every street were inhabited by those who loved His name.

But when I see sin abounding and the gospel often put to the rout, I fall back upon this: ‘Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure; the Lord knoweth them that are His.’ (2 Timothy 2:19)

He shall have His own. The infernal powers shall not rob Christ, He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied.

Calvary does not mean defeat. Gethsemane a defeat? Impossible!

The Mighty Man who went up to the cross to bleed and die for us, being also the Son of God, did not there achieve a defeat but a victory.

He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hands. If some will not be saved others shall.

If, being bidden, some count themselves not worthy to come to the feast others should be brought in, even the blind, and the halt and the lame, and the supper shall be furnished with guests.

If they come not from England they shall come from the east, and from the west, from the north and from the south. If it should come to pass that Israel be not gathered, lo!, the heathen shall be gathered unto Christ.

Ethiopia shall stretch out her arms, Sinim shall yield herself to the Redeemer. The desert-ranger shall bow the knee, and the far-off stranger enquire for Christ.

Oh, no, beloved, the purposes of God are not frustrated. The eternal will of God is not defeated.

Christ has died a glorious death, and He shall have a full reward for all His pain.

‘Therefore, be ye stedfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.’ (1 Corinthians 15:58)”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Wondrous Covenant,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 58 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1912), 58: 525-526..

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“The doctrine of the divine covenant lies at the root of all true theology” by Charles Spurgeon

“The doctrine of the divine covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace is a master in divinity.

I am persuaded that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the doctrines of Scripture are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the covenants of law and of grace.

May God grant us now the power to instruct, and you the grace to receive instruction on this vital subject.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Wondrous Covenant,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 58 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1912), 58: 517.

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“What is a godly pastor, after all, but one who is like God, with a heart of grace?” by Sinclair Ferguson

“A misshapen understanding of the gospel impacts the spirit of a minister and affects the style and atmosphere of his preaching and of all his pastoral ministry. What the Marrow Controversy actually unveiled was the possibility of acknowledging the truth of each discrete chapter of the Confession of Faith without those truths being animated by a grasp of the grace of God in the gospel.

The metallic spirit this inevitably produced would then in turn run through one’s preaching and pastoral ministry. There is a kind of orthodoxy in which the several loci of systematic theology, or stages of redemptive history, are all in place, but that lacks the life of the whole, just as arms, legs, torso, head, feet, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth may all be present—while the body as a whole lacks energy and perhaps life itself. The form of godliness is not the same as its power.

Confessional orthodoxy coupled with a view of a heavenly Father whose love is conditioned on his Son’s suffering, and further conditioned by our repentance, leads inevitably to a restriction in the preaching of the gospel.

Why? Because it leads to a restriction in the heart of the preacher that matches the restriction he sees in the heart of God! Such a heart may have undergone the process that Alexander Whyte described as “sanctification by vinegar.” If so, it tends to be unyielding and sharp edged. A ministry rooted in conditional grace has that effect; it produces orthodoxy without love for sinners and a conditional and conditioned love for the righteous.

In the nature of the case there is a kind of psychological tendency for Christians to associate the character of God with the character of the preaching they hear—not only the substance and content of it but the spirit and atmosphere it conveys. After all, preaching is the way in which they publicly and frequently “hear the Word of God.”

But what if there is a distortion in the understanding and heart of the preacher that subtly distorts his exposition of God’s character? What if his narrow heart pollutes the atmosphere in which he explains the heart of the Father?

When people are broken by sin, full of shame, feeling weak, conscious of failure, ashamed of themselves, and in need of counsel, they do not want to listen to preaching that expounds the truth of the discrete doctrines of their church’s confession of faith but fails to connect them with the marrow of gospel grace and the Father of infinite love for sinners. It is a gracious and loving Father they need to know.

Such, alas, were precisely the kind of pastors who gathered round poor Job and assaulted him with their doctrine that God was against him. From their mouths issue some of the most sublime discrete theological statements anywhere to be found in the pages of the Bible.

But they had disconnected them from the life-giving love of God for his needy and broken child Job. And so they too “exchanged the truth about God for the lie.” (Romans 1:25)

This will not do in gospel ministry. Rather, pastors need themselves to have been mastered by the unconditional grace of God. From them the vestiges of a self-defensive pharisaism and conditionalism need to be torn. Like the Savior they need to handle bruised reeds without breaking them and dimly burning wicks without quenching them.

What is a godly pastor, after all, but one who is like God, with a heart of grace; someone who sees God bringing prodigals home and runs to embrace them, weeps for joy that they have been brought home, and kisses them—asking no questions—no qualifications or conditions required?

In these respects the Marrow Controversy has a perennial relevance to all Christians. But it has a special relevance to gospel preachers and pastors.

It raises the question: What kind of pastor am I to my people? Am I like the father?

Or am I, perhaps, like the elder brother who would not, does not, will not, and ultimately cannot join the party?

After all, how can an elder brother be comfortable at a party when he still wonders if his once-prodigal brother has been sorry enough for his sin and sufficiently ashamed of his faults?”

–Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 71-73.

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“The matchless love the Father has for us” by Sinclair Ferguson

“When and how did God show His grace to us? Were there conditions to be met in us prior to Christ’s grace? Clearly not, since it was:

While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. (Romans 5:6-10)

What conditions were met in us in order for God to send His only Son into the world to die for sinners? None. Indeed there can be none.

The Scriptures affirm that the love of God for us is the reason for the death of Christ. That is the emphasis of John 3:16. God (i.e., the Father, since here “God” is the antecedent of “his … Son”) so loved the world that He gave His Son for us. The Son does not need to do anything to persuade the Father to love us; He already loves us!

The subtle danger here should be obvious: if we speak of the cross of Christ as the cause of the love of the Father, we imply that behind the cross and apart from it He may not actually love us at all.

He needs to be “paid” a ransom price in order to love us. But if it has required the death of Christ to persuade Him to love us (“Father, if I die, will you begin to love them?”), how can we ever be sure the Father Himself loves us—“deep down” with an everlasting love?

True, the Father does not love us because we are sinners; but He does love us even though we are sinners. He loved us before Christ died for us. It is because He loves us that Christ died for us!

We must not confuse the truth that our sins are forgiven only because of the death and resurrection of Christ with the very different notion that God loves us only because of the death and resurrection of Christ.

No, He loved us from the first of time and therefore sent His Son, who came willingly, to die for us. In this way a right understanding of the work of Christ leads to a true understanding of the matchless love the Father has for us.”

–Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 65–66.

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