The Soul After Death

John Calvin published a tract in 1534. He was twenty-five years old. With the exception of his Commentary on Stoic philosopher Seneca’s exhortation to Emperor Nero known as On Mercy, published in 1532, this was the earliest of Calvin’s writings, and two years earlier than the Institutes, the first known edition of which appeared in 1536. Called Psychopannychia, derived from Greek words which signify “the sleep of the soul,” the tract disproved the contention of the Anabaptists that the soul of man sleeps between physical death and the Judgment. Calvin wrote,

…Our controversy, then, relapses to The Human Soul. Some, while admitting it to have a real existence, imagine that it sleeps in a state of insensibility from Death to The Judgment-day, when it will awake from its sleep; while others will sooner admit anything than its real existence, maintaining that it is merely a vital power which is derived from arterial spirit on the action of the lungs, and being unable to exist without body, perishes along with the body, and vanishes away and becomes evanescent till the period when the whole man shall be raised again.

We, on the other hand, maintain both that [human soul] is a substance, and after the death of the body truly lives, being endowed both with sense and understanding.

Though the tract is a tour-de-force rebuttal of this doctrinal error, that is not what attracted my attention. It was the detailed exposition of our state between death and the Judgment. I had never read such a clear, complete, and consoling description. What is amusing is that Calvin, in accommodation to his adversaries, references apocryphal texts, the Book of Revelation, and quotations from trusted New Testament theologians.

The following are excerpts from Calvin’s arguments which present the condition of the human soul after death. We’ve reordered portions to clarify the soul’s condition since Calvin intended a different goal, rebutting Anabaptist error. Even though Calvin assiduously supports all his claims with scripture, were we to quote all but his summary statements, we would present not a summary but the arguments in full. Please refer to the text for these arguments.

Those who place their trust in Christ’s finished work are at peace, Calvin says, quoting the scriptures,

“My people will walk in the beauty of peace, and in the tents of trust, and in rich rest.” (Isaiah 32:18,) “O Lord, you will give us peace: for you have performed all our works for us.” (Isaiah 26:12,)

Believers have this PEACE on receiving the gospel, when they see that God, whom they dreaded as their Judge, has become their Father; themselves, instead of children of wrath, children of grace; and the bowels of the divine mercy poured out toward them, so that now they expect from God nothing but goodness and mildness.

But since human life on earth is a warfare, (Job 7:1,) those who feel both the stings of sin and the remains of the flesh, must feel depression in the world, though with consolation in God – such consolation, however, as does not leave the mind perfectly calm and undisturbed. But when they shall be divested of flesh and the desires of the flesh, (which, like domestic enemies, break their peace,) then at length will they rest and recline with God: For thus speaks the Prophet,

“The just perish, and no man lay it to heart; and men of mercy are gathered: for the just is gathered from the face of wickedness. Let peace come, let him who has walked under his direction rest in his bed.” (Isaiah 57:1-2)

Does he not call those to peace who had been the sons of peace? Still, as their peace was with God, and they had war in the world, he calls them to a higher degree of peace.

Now, here on earth, we war with our corrupt “mass of sin,”

…Our confession, which is sufficiently established, is this,

“In Adam all die, but in Christ are made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22.)

These things are splendidly and magnificently handled by Paul. “If the Spirit of Christ dwell in us, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10.)  He no doubt calls the body the mass of sin, which resides in man from the native property of the flesh, and the spirit the part of man spiritually regenerated. Wherefore, when a little before he deplored his wretchedness because of the remains of sin adhering to him, (Romans 7:24) he did not desire to be taken away altogether, or to be nothing, in order that he might escape from that misery, but to be freed from the body of death, i.e., that the mass of sin in him might die, that the spirit, being purged, and, as it were, freed from dregs, he might have peace with God through this very circumstance; declaring, that his better part was held captive by bodily chains and would be freed by death.

I wish we could with true faith perceive of what nature the kingdom of God is which exists in believers, even while they are in this life. For it would at the same time be easy to understand that eternal life is begun. He who cannot deceive promised thus,

“Whoso hears my words has eternal life, and does not come into condemnation, but has passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24.)

Speaking of Noah’s, Abraham’s, Jacob’s, Job’s, and Moses’s reaction to death, Calvin says,

…All, as far as we can see, embrace death with a ready mind. The words in which the saints answer the call of the Lord uniformly are, “Here I am, Lord!”

There must, therefore, be something which compels Christ and his followers to [shun and deplore death as something horrid and detestable.] There is no doubt that Christ, when he offered himself to suffer in our stead, had to contend with the power of the devil, with the torments of hell, and the pains of death. All these things were to be done in our nature, that they might lose the right which they had in us.

In this contest, therefore, when He was satisfying the rigor and severity of the Divine justice, when he was engaged with hell, death, and the devil, he entreated the Father not to abandon him in such straits, not to give him over to the power of death, asking nothing more of the Father than that our weakness, which he bore in his own body, might be freed from the power of the devil and of death.

The faith on which we now lean is that the penalty of sin committed in our nature, and which was to be paid in the same nature in order to satisfy the Divine justice, was paid and discharged in the flesh of Christ, which was ours. Christ, therefore, does not [deplore] death, but that grievous sense of the severity of God with which, on our account, he was to be seized by death.

Would you know from what feeling his utterance proceeded? I cannot express it better than he himself did, in another form, when he exclaimed, “Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?”

Then, discoursing on death’s sting blunted, Calvin says,

…Again, when he elsewhere says, that “the sting of death was sin,” (1 Corinthians 15:56,) how can death longer sting us, when its sting has been blunted, nay, destroyed? The whole scope of several chapters in the Epistle to the Romans is to make it manifest that sin is completely abolished so as no longer to have dominion over believers.

…The Apostle confidently declares, (Romans 8:1,) that “there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” …Where is grace, if death still reigns among the elect of God? Sin, as the Apostle says, indeed reigned unto death, but grace reigns unto eternal life, and, overcoming sin, leaves no place for death. Therefore, as death reigned on entering by Adam, so now life reigns by Jesus Christ. And we know that:

“Christ, being raised from the dead, dies no more: death shall no longer have dominion over him: For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he lives, he lives unto God.” (Romans 6:9.)

…Man, if he had not fallen, would have been immortal. What he began to be, he once was not; and what he is by punishment, he is not by nature. Then the Apostle exclaims that sin is absorbed by grace, so that it can no longer have any power over the elect of God; and hence we conclude that the elect now are such as Adam was before his sin; and as he was created inexterminable, so now have those become who have been renewed by Christ to a better nature. There is nothing at variance with this in the Apostle’s declaration,

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54.)

…That shall be fulfilled in the body which has now been begun in the soul; or rather, that which has only been begun in the soul will be fulfilled both in the soul and the body: for this common death which we all undergo, as it were by a common necessity of nature, is rather to the elect a kind of passage to the highest degree of immortality, than either an evil or a punishment, and, as Augustine says, (De Discrimine Vitae Human. et Brut., c. 43,) is nothing else than the falling off of the flesh [(Col. 2:9-14)], which does not consume the things connected with it, but divides them, seeing it restores each to its original.

Speaking of our soul’s assurance in death, Calvin says,

…He promises us two things – Eternal life, and the Resurrection…Another expression of Christ is still more decisive. He says,

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes on me shall live though he were dead. And whoso lives and believes in me shall not die forever.” (John 11:25, 26.)

It will not do to say, that those who are raised do not die for ever. Our Lord meant not only this, but that it is impossible they can ever die. This meaning is better expressed by the Greek words equivalent in Latin to in seculum: for when we say that a thing will not be in seculum, we affirm that it will never be at all. Thus, in another passage, “Whoso will keep my word shall not see death forever.” (John 8:51.) This invincibly proves, that he who will keep the word of the Lord shall not see death… This is our belief, this our expectation.

And from an earthly viewpoint, Calvin quotes Paul,

…“We know that if the earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven; if [indeed] being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tabernacle do groan being burdened, not because we wish to be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality may be swallowed up of life.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-4.)

A little afterwards he says,

“Therefore we are always of good courage, and know that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord; (for we walk by faith, not by sight;) we are confident, and would rather be absent from the body and present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8)

…The simple and obvious meaning of the Apostle is, We desire indeed to depart from this prison of the body, but not to wander uncertain without a home: There is a better home which the Lord has prepared for us; clothed with it, we shall not be found naked. Christ is our clothing, and our armor is that which the Apostle puts upon us. (Ephesians 6:11.) And it is written, (Psalm 45:13,) “The king will admire the beauty of his spouse, who will be richly provided with gifts, and all glorious within.” In [short], the Lord has put a seal upon his own people, whom he will acknowledge both at death and at the resurrection. (Revelation 7)

…It is, that both in the body and out of the body we labor to please the Lord; and that we shall perceive the presence of God when we shall be separated from this body – that we will no longer walk by faith but by sight, since the load of clay by which we are pressed down, acts as a kind of wall of partition, keeping us far away from God.

…In regard even to the present life, it is said of the righteous, “They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance,” (Psalm 88) and again, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God,” (Romans 8:16.)

Reflecting on our soul’s state after death, Calvin says,

…We are better taught by the Sacred Writings. The body, which decays, weighs down the soul, and confining it within an earthly habitation, greatly limits its perceptions. If the body is the prison of the soul, if the earthly habitation is a kind of fetters, what is the state of the soul when set free from this prison, when loosed from these fetters? Is it not restored to itself, and as it were made complete, so that we may truly say, that all which it gains is so much lost to the body?

…When we put off the load of the body, the war between the spirit and the flesh ceases. In short, the mortification of the flesh is the quickening of the spirit. Then the soul, set free from impurities, is truly spiritual, so as to be in accordance with the will of God, and not subject to the tyranny of the flesh, rebelling against it.

In short, the mortification of the flesh will be the quickening of the spirit: For then the soul, having shaken off all kinds of pollution, is truly spiritual, so that it consents to the will of God, and is no longer subjected to the tyranny of the flesh; thus dwelling in tranquility, with all its thoughts fixed on God.

Then, elaborating on what it will be like in heaven prior to Judgment Day,

…The souls of the martyrs under the altar, who with loud voice cry,

“How long, O Lord, do you not avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth? And there were given unto them white robes, and it was told them still to rest for a season, until the number of their fellow-servants and their brethren who were to be slain like them should be completed.” (Revelation 6:10-11.)

The souls of the dead cry aloud, and white robes are given unto them!

…These white robes undoubtedly designate the commencement of glory, which the Divine liberality bestows upon martyrs while waiting for the day of judgment.

Having described our rest, Calvin turns to the resurrection of the body sown in corruption and raised better than it died,

…”The first Adam was a living soul, the last Adam a quickening spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45.)

His answer here corresponds to the question of those who could not be persuaded of the Resurrection. They objected, How will the dead rise again? With what body will they come? The Apostle, to meet this objection, thus addresses them: If we learn by experience that the seed, which lives, grows, and yields fruit, has previously died, why may not the body after it has died rise again like a seed? And if dry and bare grain, after it has died, produces more abundant increase, by a wondrous virtue which God has implanted in it, why may not the body, by the same divine power, be raised better than it died?

And that you may not wonder at this: How is it that man lives, but just because he was formed a living soul? This soul, however, though for a time it actuates and sustains the bodily mass, does not impart to it immortality or incorruption, and as long even as it exerts its own energy; it is not sufficient by itself, without the auxiliaries of food, drink, sleep, which are the signs of corruption; nor does it maintain it in a constant and uniform state without being subject to various kinds of inclinations.

But when Christ shall have received us into his own glory, not only will the animal body be quickened by the soul but made spiritual in a manner which our mind can neither comprehend nor our tongue express. (See Tertullian and August., Ep. 3, ad Fortunat.)

You see, then, that in the Resurrection we shall be not a different thing, but a different person, (pardon the expression.) These things have been said of the body, to which the soul ministers life under the elements of this world; but when the fashion of this world shall have passed away, participation in the glory of God will exalt it above nature.

Next, Calvin explains the culmination of our journey in the revealed Kingdom of God,

…Our blessedness is always in progress up to that day which shall conclude and terminate all progress, and that thus the glory of the elect, and complete consummation of hope, look forward to that day for their fulfillment. For it is admitted by all, that perfection of blessedness or glory nowhere exists except in perfect union with God.

Here we all tend, here we hasten, here all the Scriptures and the divine promises send us. For that which was once said to Abraham applies to us also, (Genesis 15:1,) “Abraham, I am thy exceeding great reward.” Seeing, then, that the reward appointed for all who have part with Abraham is to possess God and enjoy him, and that, besides and beyond it, it is not lawful to long for any other, there must our eyes be turned when the subject of our expectation is considered.

…That kingdom, to the possession of which we are called, and which is elsewhere denominated “salvation,” and “reward,” and “glory,” is nothing else than that union with God by which they are fully in God, are filled by God, in their turn cleave to God, completely possess God – in short, are “one with God.” For thus, while they are in the fountain of all fullness, they reach the ultimate goal of righteousness, wisdom, and glory, these being the blessings in which the kingdom of glory consists.

For Paul intimates that the kingdom of God is in its highest perfection when “God is all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:28.) Since on that day, only God will be all in all, and completely fill his believers, it is called, not without reason, “the day of our salvation,” before which our salvation is not perfected in all its parts. For those whom God fills are filled with riches which neither ear can hear, nor eye see, nor tongue tell, nor imagination conceive.

…That day is called “the kingdom of God,” because he will then make adverse powers truly subject, slay Satan by the breath of his mouth, and destroy him by the brightness of his coming, while he himself will wholly dwell and reign in his elect. (1 Corinthians 15:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:8.) God in himself cannot reign otherwise than he reigned from the beginning. Of his majesty there cannot be increase or diminution. But it is called “His kingdom,” because it will be manifested to all.

When we pray that his kingdom may come, do we imagine that previously it [did not] exist? And when will it be? “The kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) God, therefore, now reigns in his elect whom he guides by his Spirit. He reigns also in opposition to the devil, sin, and death, when he bids the light, by which error and falsehood are confounded, to shine out of darkness, and when he prohibits the powers of darkness from hurting those who have the mark of the Lamb in their foreheads.

He reigns, I say, even now when we pray that his kingdom may come. He reigns, indeed, while he performs miracles in his servants, and gives the law to Satan. But his kingdom will properly come when it will be completed. And it will be completed when he will plainly manifest the glory of his majesty to his elect for salvation, and to the reprobate for confusion.

And what else is to be said or believed of the elect, whose kingdom and glory it is to be in the glorious kingdom of God, and, as it were, reign with God and glory in him – in short, to be partakers of the Divine glory? This kingdom, though it is said not yet to have come, may yet be in some measure beheld. For those who in a manner have the kingdom of God within them, and reign with God, begin to be in the kingdom of God; the gates of hell cannot prevail against them. They are justified in God, it being said of them,

“In the Lord will all the seed of Israel be justified and praised.” (Isaiah 45:25.)

Drawing upon the Old Testament, Calvin shows how the exodus from Egypt to the establishment of the Jerusalem Temple pictures our journey from salvation to resurrection,

…As Paul, in speaking of the passage of the Israelites across the Red Sea, allegorically represents the drowning of Pharaoh as the mode of deliverance by water, (1 Corinthians 10:1,) so we may be permitted to say that in baptism our Pharaoh is drowned, our old man is crucified, our members are mortified, we are buried with Christ, and removed from the captivity of the devil and the power of death, but removed only into the desert, a land arid and poor, unless the Lord rain manna from heaven, and cause water to gush forth from the rock. For our soul, like that land without water, is in want of all things, till he, by the grace of his Spirit, rain upon it.

We afterwards pass into the land of promise, under the guidance of Joshua the son of Nun, into a land flowing with milk and honey; that is, the grace of God frees us from the body of death, by our Lord Jesus Christ, not without sweat and blood, since the flesh is then most repugnant, and exerts its utmost force in warring against the Spirit. After we take up our residence in the land, we feed abundantly. White robes and rest are given us. But Jerusalem, the capital and seat of the kingdom, has not yet been erected; nor yet does Solomon, the Prince of Peace, hold the scepter and rule overall.

The souls of the saints, therefore, which have escaped the hands of the enemy, are, after death, in peace. They are amply supplied with all things, for it is said of them, “They shall go from abundance to abundance.” But when the heavenly Jerusalem shall have risen up in its glory, and Christ, the true Solomon, the Prince of Peace, shall be seated aloft on his tribunal, the true Israelites will reign with their King.

Or – if you choose to borrow a [similarity] from the affairs of men – we are fighting with the enemy, so long as we have our contest with flesh and blood; we conquer the enemy when we put off the body of sin, and become wholly God’s; we will celebrate our triumph, and enjoy the fruits of victory, when our head shall be raised above death in [glory,] that is, when death shall be swallowed up in victory. This is our aim, this our goal; and of this it has been written,

“I shall be satisfied when I awake with beholding thy glory.” (Psalm 17:15.)

Lastly, Calvin exhorts those who cleave to Christ,

…Brethren, let no man rob you of this faith though all the gates of hell should resist, since you have the assurance of God, who cannot deny his truth! There is not the least obscurity in his language to the Church, while still a pilgrim on the earth:

“You shall no more have the sun to shine by day, nor shall the moon illumine you by her brightness, for the Lord shall be your everlasting light.” (Isaiah 60:19.)

…Let us ever call to mind what the Spirit has taught by the mouth of David, (Psalm 92:12-14) “The just shall flourish like the palm-tree, he shall be multiplied like the cedar on Lebanon. Those who have been planted in the house of the Lord will flourish in the courts of our God, they will still bud forth in their old age, they will be fat and flourishing.”

Be not alarmed because all the powers of nature are thought to fail at the very time when you hear of a budding and flourishing old age. Reflecting within yourselves on these things, let your souls, in unison with David’s, exclaim, (Psalm 103:5,) “O my soul, bless the Lord, who satisfies your mouth with good: your youth shall be renewed like the eagle’s.”

Leave the rest to the Lord, who guards our entrance and our exit from this time forth even for evermore. It is he who sends the early and the latter rain upon his elect. Of him we have been told, “Our God is the God of salvation,” and “to the Lord our God belong the [deliverances from] death.” Christ expounded this goodness of the Father to us when he said, “Father, with regard to those whom you have given me, I will that where I am they also may be with me, that they may behold my glory which you have given me.” (Psalm 121:8; Joel 2:23; Psalm 68:20; John 17:24.)

In summary, then, consider,

The faith thus sustained by all prophecies, evangelical truth, and Christ himself, let us hold fast – the faith that our spirit is the image of God, like whom, it lives, understands, and is eternal. As long as it is in the body it exerts its own powers; but when it quits this prison-house it returns to God, whose presence, it meanwhile enjoys while it rests in the hope of a blessed Resurrection. This rest is its paradise.

On the other hand, the spirit of the reprobate, while it waits for the dreadful judgment, is tortured by that anticipation, which the Apostle for that reason calls fearful. To inquire beyond this is to plunge into the abyss of the Divine mysteries. It is enough to have learned what the Spirit, our best Teacher, deemed it sufficient to have taught. His words are,

“Hear me, and your soul shall live.” (Isaiah 55:3.)

And to sum up our position in Christ from the scriptures,

“…They shall not die, but live, and show forth the works of the Lord.” “Those who dwell in His house will praise him for ever and ever.” (Psalms 118:17; 84:5.)

Don’t You Weep When I Die, July 22, 2016, YouTube, Kerosene Halo – Topic

All in All

I’ve always found the second of these two verses baffling:

For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 English Standard Version (ESV)

What does: “then the Son himself will also be subjected” mean? The commentator, John Calvin, says the following about these verses:

He hath put all things under his feet Some think that this quotation is taken from Psalm 8:6, and I have no objection to this, though there would be nothing out of place in reckoning this statement to be an inference that is drawn by Paul from the nature of Christ’s kingdom. Let us follow, however, the more generally received opinion. Paul shows from that Psalm, that God the Father has conferred upon Christ the power of all things, because it is said, “Thou hast put all things under his feet.”

Next is the part that I find confusing, to which, Calvin says:

All things put under him, except him who put all things under him. …It must be observed, that [Christ] has been appointed Lord and highest King, so as to be, as it were, the Father’s Vicegerent in the government of the world — not that he is employed and the Father unemployed (for how could that be, inasmuch as he is the wisdom and counsel of the Father, is of one essence with him, and is therefore himself God?)

But the reason why the Scripture testifies, that Christ now holds dominion over the heaven and the earth in the room of the Father is — that we may not think that there is any other governor, lord, protector, or judge of the dead and living, but may fix our contemplation on him alone.

We acknowledge, it is true, God as the ruler, but it is in the face of the man Christ. But Christ will then restore the kingdom which he has received, that we may cleave wholly to God. Nor will he in this way resign the kingdom, but will transfer it in a manner from his humanity to his glorious divinity, because a way of approach will then be opened up, from which our infirmity now keeps us back.

Thus then Christ will be subjected to the Father, because the vail being then removed, we shall openly behold God reigning in his majesty, and Christ’s humanity will then no longer be interposed to keep us back from a closer view of God.

Calvin’s description above brings to mind the description in the Book of the Revelation of the New Heavens and New Earth, the Holy City, and the River of Life. Carrying this thought further, Calvin says:

That God may be all in all …For the present, as the Devil resists God, as wicked men confound and disturb the order which he has established, and as endless occasions of offense present themselves to our view, it does not distinctly appear that God is all in all; but when Christ will have executed the judgment which has been committed to him by the Father, and will have cast down Satan and all the wicked, the glory of God will be conspicuous in their destruction.

The scriptures portray these events in the Defeat of Satan and Great White Throne Judgment. Calvin continues:

The same thing may be said also respecting powers that are sacred and lawful in their kind, for they in a manner hinder God’s being seen aright by us in himself. Then, on the other hand, God, holding the government of the heaven and the earth by himself, and without any [intervening agency], will in that respect be all, and will consequently at last be so, not only in all persons, but also in all creatures.

The Apostle Paul, in the Letter to the Romans, expressed it this way:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:19-21 (ESV)

Others have also commented on these verses, such as Chrysostom and Matthew Henry, who says that, when sin is no more, Christ in His glory will no longer be mediator between God and man but will be with man as God. But the commentary I like best is:

None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

    nor the heart of man imagined,

what God has prepared for those who love him”—

1 Corinthians 2:8-9 (ESV)

Sunrise, Lake Michigan - Chicago, IL

Sunrise, Lake Michigan – Chicago, IL, 11 April 2012, 06:22:09, by vonderauvisuals, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

In Whom We Have Our Being – Part 2

Last week we discussed Oprah’s favorite verse again. We saw how God’s animating power causes all His creation ‘to live, move, and have its being.’ It is His self-existence that gives us existence. Were He to withdraw His spirit from us, we would all return to dust.

The context for Oprah’s verse is:

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. Acts 17:26-29 English Standard Version (ESV)

Calvin has much to say about verses 26 through 29. Here’s a condensation (if you can believe it!) He starts by saying that those, meant to know the One God, splintered from one another and created gods in their own likeness:

And he has made of one blood. …Paul [appeals to] the nature of God that men must be very careful to know God, because they [are] created for the same end, and born for that purpose; for [God] briefly assigns to them this cause of life: to seek God.

…In sum, he meant to teach that the order of nature was broken, when religion was pulled in pieces among them, and that this diversity, which is among them, is a testimony that godliness is quite overthrown, because they are fallen away from God the Father of all, upon whom all kindred depends.

Calvin states that, despite their rebellion, God still provides light and life for His creation according to His will:

To dwell upon the face of the earth. …[Paul] says not that the times were only foreseen [by God], but that they were appointed and set in such order as pleased him best. And when [Paul says] God had appointed from the beginning those things which he had ordained before, [he means] that [God] executes by the power of his Spirit those things which he has decreed in his counsel…

…For though men, by raging upon earth, …seem to assault heaven, that they may overthrow God’s providence, yet they are enforced, whether they will [to do so] or not, rather to establish the same. Therefore, let us know that the world is so turned over [in] diverse tumults, [through and by which] God…brings all things to the end which he has appointed.

This last paragraph has bearing for every age, and particularly for our own. This calls for patient endurance.

Then, Calvin points out the goodness of God and the unreasonableness of mans’ position:

That they might seek God. …Surely, nothing is more absurd, than that men should be ignorant of their Author, who are [endowed] with understanding principally [to seek God].

And we must especially note the goodness of God, in that he does so familiarly insinuate himself, that even the blind may grope after him. For which cause the blindness of men is more shameful and intolerable, who, in so [obvious] and [palpable a display], are touched with no feeling of God’s presence.

…Though they shut their eyes, yet may they grope after him…Their ignorance and [lack of understanding] is mixed with such [contrariness], that being void of right judgment, they pass over without [discerning] all such signs of God’s glory as appear manifestly both in heaven and earth…(Romans 1:20.)

Further, Calvin calls out man’s indifference as monstrous, in light of God’s availability to us:

Though he be not far from every one of us. [So he might discuss] the [contrariness] of men [further], [Paul] says that God is not to be sought through many [twists and turns], neither need we make any long journey to find him; because every man shall find him in himself, if…he will take any heed. By which experience we are convicted that our dullness is not without fault, which we [inherited from] Adam.

For though no corner of the world [is] void of the testimony of God’s glory, yet we need not go [outside] ourselves to lay hold upon him. For he affects and moves every one of us inwardly with his power in such [a way], that our [insensibility] is [grotesque], in that in feeling him we feel him not…

While correctly emphasizing God’s separateness from creation, Calvin dissects how it is that we dwell in Him:

For in him. …God himself separates himself from all creatures by this word Jehovah, that we may know that, in speaking properly, he is alone, and that we have our being in him, inasmuch as by his Spirit he keeps us in life, and upholds us…

…All those who know not God know not [that] they have God present with them not only in the excellent gifts of the mind, but in their very essence [or that, since] it belongs to God alone to be [(i.e., I Am)], all other things [including we ourselves] have their being in him.

…God did not create the world [and] afterward depart from his work; but [the world, which He created from nothing,] stands by his power [moment-by-moment], and that the same God is the governor thereof who was the Creator. We must well think upon this continual comforting and strengthening, that we may remember God every minute.

Carefully, Calvin delineates in what way all men may be considered sons:

Certain of your poets. …Paul [cites a confession of that knowledge which is naturally engraven in men’s minds], though it were corrupt with men’s fables, that men are the [creation] of God…This is that which the Scripture teaches, that we are created after the image and similitude of God, (Genesis 1:27.)

The same Scripture teaches…that we [are] made the sons of God by faith and free adoption when we are engrafted into the body of Christ, and being regenerate by the Spirit, we begin to be new creatures, (Galatians 3:26.)…

…[Because the image of God is almost blotted out in men,] this name, [Sons], is [rightly] restrained to the faithful, who having the Spirit of adoption given them, resemble their heavenly Father in the light of reason, in righteousness, and [in] holiness.

Finally, Calvin shows us men’s folly in depicting God with man-made images.

Therefore, seeing that. …God cannot be figured or resembled by any graven image forasmuch as he would have his image [existing] in us. For the soul wherein the image of God is properly engraven cannot be painted; therefore, it is a thing more absurd to go about to paint God…

…Paul…inveighs against the common superstition of all the Gentiles, because they would worship God under bodily shapes…God is falsely and wickedly transfigured, and that his truth is turned into a lie [as] often as his Majesty is represented by any visible shape… (Romans 1:23.)

…But seeing that God far surpasses the capacity of our mind, whosoever attempts with his mind to comprehend him, [that person] deforms and disfigures his glory with a wicked and false imagination. Wherefore, it is wickedness to imagine anything of him according to our own sense.

God reaches out to us who are alienated from Him. Though we try to throw off His governance, yet He still rules. Created to know Him, we do not acknowledge His presence in heaven, earth, and even ourselves. His animating power gives us existence and life. We are wayward children; His image, engraven in our souls, is gravely marred, yet He still freely offers faith to us so we might become His sons and daughters. I urge you, if you haven’t yet, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

Time-Lapse: 7 Amazing Views of Earth from Space, July 26, 2016, National Geographic

The End of the World

It was trending on Twitter so it must be true:

Any number of apocalyptic events are predicted for various and sundry reasons and pretexts. There’s the: “sky is falling” crowd. And there’s always this fictional portrayal of nuclear holocaust and its real world counterpart. Even the super-rich are preparing for doomsday.

But we have it on reliable authority—not that anyone believes in authorities anymore—that the world will end, and no one will notice until it does:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Matthew 24:36-39 English Standard Version (ESV)

Calvin, as usual, has a lot to say about these verses. However, let’s key in on what he says about verses 37 through 39 to understand why everyone will be so unaware.

But as the days of Noah were. …When he says that men were giving their whole attention to eating, drinking, marriage, and other worldly employments, at the time when God destroyed the whole world by a deluge, and Sodom by thunder; these words mean that they were as fully occupied with the conveniences and enjoyments of the present life, as if there had been no reason to dread any change.

…Promising to themselves that the condition in which they then were would remain unchanged, they did not [hesitate] to follow without concern their ordinary pursuits. And, …it would not have been improper, or worthy of condemnation, to make provision for their wants, if they had not, with gross stupidity, opposed the judgment of God, and rushed, with closed eyes, to unbridled iniquity, as if there had been no Judge in heaven.

Let us, therefore, not scoff as some do, but acknowledge the Lord who surely brings judgment. And those who mock the coming judgment do so because:

And knew not until the deluge came. The source and cause of their ignorance was, that unbelief had blinded their minds; as, on the other hand, we are informed by the Apostle, that Noah beheld at a distance, by the eyes of faith, the vengeance of God which was still concealed, so as to entertain an early dread of it, (Hebrews 11:7.)

…But it must be observed that the reprobate, at that time, were hardened in their wickedness, because the Lord did not show his grace to any but his servants, by giving them a [beneficial] warning to beware in proper time.

Not that information of the future deluge was altogether withheld from the inhabitants of the world—before whose eyes Noah, in building the ark for more than a hundred years, presented a warning of the approaching calamity—but because one man was specially warned, by divine revelation, of the future destruction of the whole world, and raised up to cherish the hope of salvation.

A very large sign of impending destruction was plain to see; yet, they did not heed the warning. Therefore, we should listen to the One who calls from heaven. Even in Calvin’s day, five hundred years ago, many had heard, but few believed:

Though the report of the last judgment is now widely circulated, and though there are a few persons who have been taught by God to perceive that Christ will come as a Judge in due time, yet it is proper that those persons should be aroused by this extraordinary kindness of God, and that their senses should be sharpened, lest they give themselves up to the indifference which so generally prevails.

For Peter compares the ark of Noah with our baptism on this [basis], that a small company of men, separated from the multitude, is saved amidst the waters, (1 Peter 3:20, 21.) To this small number, therefore, our minds must be directed, if we desire to escape in safety.

To Calvin’s statement about baptism, we should add:

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)

Let us, then, hear and obey the gospel. No amount of treading water will help this time (and it didn’t help then); the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire. And our individual ends draw near every day.

Dr. R.C. Sproul – “Crisis In Eschatology,” May 2, 2015,

Video Series

Other Resources:

The Day of the Lord” – Mark Dever

Signs of the End” – Alistair Begg

The Coming of the Son of Man” – Alistair Begg

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Matthew 24

Alexander MacLaren’s Expositions of Luke 21:20–36

“Oklahoma,” The Call, Written by Michael Been

Not of Us

Last week we discussed disunity in the churches. We discovered that God providentially uses church disunity for our good, to refine us and to prove our salvation. The subject we consider today is often the result of disunity:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:19 English Standard Version (ESV)

This is a solemn verse that should cause us to revere the Lord Jesus Christ. The preacher John Calvin doesn’t mince words when discussing this verse’s import:

They went out from us …The Church is always exposed to this evil; so that it is constrained to bear with many hypocrites who, [in reality], know not Christ, however much they may [verbally] profess his name.

By saying, they went out from us, [the Apostle John] means that they had previously occupied a place in the Church, and were counted among the number of the godly. [John], however, denies that they were of them, though they had assumed the name of believers, [in the same way] as chaff…mixed with wheat on the same floor cannot yet be deemed wheat.

Calvin analyzes those who profess the gospel:

For if they had been of us …Here [is] a difficulty, for it happens that many who seemed to have embraced Christ, often fall away.

To this I answer, that there are three sorts of those who profess the Gospel; there are those who feign piety, while a bad conscience reproves them within; the hypocrisy of others is more deceptive, who not only seek to disguise themselves before men, but also dazzle their own eyes, so that they seem to themselves to worship God aright; the third are those who have the living root of faith, and carry a testimony of their own adoption firmly fixed in their hearts.

The two first have no stability; of the last John speaks, when he says, that it is impossible that they should be separated from the Church, for the seal which God’s Spirit engraves on their hearts cannot be obliterated; the incorruptible seed, which has struck roots, cannot be pulled up or destroyed (2 Timothy 2:19.)

[The Apostle John], in short, means that they who fall away had never been thoroughly imbued with the knowledge of Christ, but had only a light and a transient taste of it.

Finally, Calvin states the blunt truth of the verse:

That they might be made manifest [John] shows that trials [are] useful and necessary for the Church. It hence follows, on the other hand, that there is no just cause for [upset]. Since the Church is like a threshing-floor, the chaff must be blown away [so] that the pure wheat may remain. This is what God does, when he casts out hypocrites from the Church, for he then cleanses it from refuse and filth.

Again, this makes me want to cling to God all-the-more. Each of us should make every effort to obey Him and He will bring it to pass.

Keith Green – “The Sheep And The Goats” (live), YouTube, Lyrics, Key Verse

Factions

Psalm 133 says how good it is for brothers and sisters to live in unity. And we know we desire such unity in our churches. However, we don’t often experience it. What’s wrong? Why can’t we all get along? The apostle Paul addressed such a situation in the early church at Corinth:

…In the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 1 Corinthians 11:18-19 English Standard Version (ESV)

There must be factions? What is Paul saying here? John Calvin dissects these verses:

When ye come together in the Church, I hear there are divisions …It is…a reproof of a general kind — that they were not of one accord as [is fitting for] Christians, but everyone was so much taken up with [their] own interests, that [they were] not prepared to accommodate [themselves] to others.

Hence arose that abuse, as to which we shall see in a little — hence sprung ambition and pride, so that everyone exalted [themselves] and despised others — hence sprung carelessness as to edification — hence sprung profanation of the gifts of God.

Sounds unfortunately familiar. Calvin points out that Paul realizes not all are involved but the complaint isn’t groundless:

{Paul] says that he partly believes it, that they might not think that he charged them all with this heinous crime, and might accordingly complain, that they were groundlessly accused. In the meantime, however, he intimates that this had been brought to him not by mere vague rumor, but by credible information, such as he could not altogether discredit.

Calvin then defines heresies and schisms:

For there must be also heresies …Heresy…consists in disagreement as to doctrine, and schism, on the contrary, in alienation of affection, as when anyone withdrew from the Church from envy, or from dislike of the pastors, or from ill nature.

It is true, that the Church cannot but be torn asunder by false doctrine, and thus heresy is the root and origin of schism, and it is also true that envy or pride is the mother of almost all heresies, but at the same time it is of advantage to distinguish in this way between these two terms…

Calvin consoles those who do not participate in these divisions:

“So far, says he, should we be from being troubled, or cast down, when we do not see complete unity in the Church, but on the contrary some threatenings of separation from want of proper agreement, that even if sects should start up, we ought to remain firm and constant.

For in this way hypocrites are detected — in this way, on the other hand, the sincerity of believers is tried. For as this gives occasion for discovering the fickleness of those who were not rooted in the Lord’s Word, and the wickedness of those who had [feigned] the appearance of good men, so the good afford a more signal manifestation of their constancy and sincerity.”

Finally, Calvin says something shocking: disunity is providential. How can that be? He says:

But observe what Paul says — there must be, for he [suggests] by this expression, that this state of matters does not happen by chance, but by the sure providence of God, because he has it in view to try his people, as gold in the furnace, and if it is agreeable to the mind of God, it is, consequently, expedient…We know, also, that the Lord, by his admirable wisdom, turns Satan’s deadly machinations so as to promote the salvation of believers.

Hence comes that design of which he speaks — that the good may shine forth more conspicuously; for we ought not to ascribe this advantage to heresies, which, being evil, can produce nothing but what is evil, but to God, who, by his infinite goodness, changes the nature of things, so that those things are salutary to the elect, which Satan had contrived for their ruin.

So God uses the works of Satan and his followers for our good, to refine us and to prove our salvation. As a result of this, we ought to remain firm and constant obeying God’s word in the face of disunity.

Denomination Blues” (Washington Phillips) by The 77’s Unplugged (Michael Roe & David Leonhardt), YouTube, Alternative Rendition, lyrics, history

Stand Before the Judgment Seat

Last week we considered our propensity to judge others, assigning to some honors and infamy to others, when we have no way to see the quality of their hearts and souls. And, if we could see them, we’d be either too indulgent or too harsh. This week we look at God’s rightful place as Judge. In his letter to the church at Rome, in the fourteenth chapter, the Apostle Paul asks:

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; Romans 14:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

The obvious answer to his questions is: our sinfulness. Calvin analyzes these verses further:

But you, why do you, etc. …It is an unreasonable boldness in anyone to assume the power to judge his brother, since by taking such a liberty he robs Christ the Lord of the power which he alone has received from the Father.

…As…it would be absurd among men for a criminal, who ought to occupy a humble place in the court, to ascend the tribunal of the judge; so it is absurd for a Christian to take to himself the liberty of judging the conscience of his brother…

That certainly puts us in our place. But, to examine the matter at a deeper level, consider Paul’s initial question and response in this chapter:

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:4 (ESV)

Calvin explains:

Who are you who judges, etc. …Now, though the power of judging as to the person, and also as to the deed, is taken from us, there is yet much difference between the two.

For we ought to leave the man, whatever he may be, to the judgment of God; but as to his deeds we may indeed form a decisive opinion, though not according to our own views, but according to the word of God; and the judgment, derived from his word, is neither human, nor another man’s judgment.

Paul then intended here to restrain us from presumption in judging; into which they fall, who dare to pronounce anything respecting the actions of men without the warrant of God’s word.

These are the same principles Paul proclaimed to the Corinthian church. However, lest we think our lot is hopeless, consider the second half of the verse to which Calvin says:

To his own Lord he stands or falls, etc. As though he said, — “It belongs rightly to the Lord, either to disapprove, or to accept what his servant does: hence he robs the Lord, who attempts to take to himself this authority.”

And he adds, he shall indeed stand: and by so saying, he not only bids us to abstain from condemning, but also exhorts us to mercy and kindness, so as ever to hope well of him, in whom we perceive anything of God; inasmuch as the Lord has given us a hope, that he will fully confirm, and lead to perfection, those in whom he has begun the work of grace…as he also teaches us in another place,

“He who began in you a good work, will perform it to the end.” (Philippians 1:6.)

So, the trade is equitable with regard to persons. We relinquish tribunal powers over others of whom we disapprove because they do not meet our personal standards. Rather, we are to judge others’ actions only according to His word. And God promises to complete the work He set out to do, in those others for whom we should hope well and, most importantly, in ourselves with whom we should be disappointed until His work is through.

77’s-Live Warehouse 1989: “Can’t Get Over It,” “Frames Without Photographs,” YouTube, 77’s

Seasoned with Salt

You have friends. They don’t profess Christ as their savior. Do you take them aside, present the gospel in stark terms, and drop them if they don’t repent? That’s not what the Lord does, is it? The Apostle Paul gives us instruction:

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:5-6 English Standard Version (ESV)

How should we put this advice into practice? Here’s what Calvin says:

Walk wisely. [Paul] mentions those that are without, in contrast with those that are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10.) For the Church is like a city of which all believers are the inhabitants, connected with each other by a mutual relationship, while unbelievers are strangers.

But why would he have regard [given to unbelievers], rather than to believers? There are three reasons: first,

lest any stumbling block be put in the way of the blind, (Leviticus 19:14,)

for nothing is more [likely] to occur, than that unbelievers are driven from bad-to-worse through our imprudence, and their minds are wounded, so that they hold religion more and more in abhorrence.

Secondly, it is lest any occasion may be given for detracting from the honor of the gospel, and thus the name of Christ be exposed to derision, persons be rendered more hostile, and disturbances and persecutions be stirred up.

Lastly, it is, lest, while we are mingled together, in partaking of food, and on other occasions, we be defiled by their pollutions, and by little and little become profane.

To the same effect, also, is what follows, redeeming the time, that is, because [interaction] with them is dangerous. For in Ephesians 5:16, he assigns the reason, because the days are evil. “Amidst so great a corruption as prevails in the world we must seize opportunities of doing good, and we must struggle against impediments…”

Therefore, walking wisely, we should not put stumbling blocks in our friend’s path, not dishonor the gospel, and not become profane, ourselves. Instead, we should use those opportunities we’ve been given to honor the name of Christ. But Calvin goes further:

Your speech. He requires suavity of speech, such as may allure the hearers by its profitableness, for he does not merely condemn communications that are openly wicked or impious, but also such as are worthless and idle. Hence he would have them seasoned with salt.

Profane men have their seasonings of discourse, but he does not speak of them; nay more, as witticisms are insinuating, and for the most part procure favor, he indirectly prohibits believers from the practice and familiar use of them. For he reckons as tasteless everything that does not edify. The term grace is employed in the same sense, so as to be opposed to talkativeness, taunts, and all sorts of trifles which are either injurious or vain.

So, we should speak to others with courtesy, consideration, and tact.

That ye may know how. The man who has accustomed himself to caution in his communications will not fall into many absurdities, into which talkative and prating persons fall into from time to time, but, by constant practice, will acquire for himself expertness in making proper and suitable replies…

Nor does [Paul] merely say what, but also how, and not to all indiscriminately, but to everyone. For this is not the least important part of prudence — to have due regard to individuals.

Our conversations with friends should enlighten their (and our) morals and understanding. We should practice proper and suitable replies to each one who asks for a reason for the hope we have. We would do well to imitate Christ’s discussion with the woman at the well.

Two People Talking

Two People Talking, 23 August 2012, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a work of the U.S. Federal Government in the public domain.

Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment

Current opinion holds that we are good people who do bad things. But opinion isn’t fact; and fact isn’t opinion. Someone, Who knew the facts, spoke about the Third Person of God this way:

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. John 16:8-11 English Standard Version (ESV)

There’s a lot of truth packed in these verses of scripture. Although Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, and John Calvin all commented or preached on this text, we turn to a heartfelt sermon by George Whitfield, Anglican minister, preacher of Calvinist Methodism, and revivalist preacher in the USA circa 1740s. Speaking of sin, righteousness, and judgment, Whitefield said:

…First, …The Comforter, when he comes effectually to work upon a sinner, not only convinces him of the sin of his nature, the sin of his life, [and] of the sin of his duties…

But there is a fourth sin, of which the Comforter, when he comes, convinces the soul, and which alone (it is very remarkable) our Lord mentions, as though it was the only sin worth mentioning; for indeed it is the root of all other sins whatsoever: it is the reigning as well as the damning sin of the world. And what now do you imagine that sin may be? It is that cursed sin, that root of all other evils, I mean the sin of unbelief. Says our Lord, verse 9. “Of sin, because they believe not on me.”

…Perhaps you may think you believe, because you repeat the Creed, or subscribe to a Confession of Faith; because you go to church or meeting, receive the sacrament, and are taken into full communion. These are blessed privileges; but all this may be done, without our being true believers.

…Ask yourselves, therefore, whether or not the Holy [Spirit] ever powerfully convinced you of the sin of unbelief? …Were you ever made to cry out, “Lord, give me faith; Lord, give me to believe on thee; O that I had faith! O that I could believe!” If you never were thus distressed, at least, if you never saw and felt that you had no faith, it is a certain sign that the Holy [Spirit], the Comforter, never came into and worked savingly upon your souls.

…We have seen how the Holy [Spirit] convinces the sinner of the sin of his nature, life, duties, and of the sin of unbelief; and what then must the poor creature do? He must, he must inevitably despair, if there be no hope but in himself…

Whitefield continues:

Secondly, what is the righteousness, of which the Comforter convinces the world?

…O the righteousness of Christ! It so comforts my soul, that I must be excused if I mention it in almost all my discourses. I would not, if I could help it, have one sermon without it. Whatever infidels may object, or Arminians sophistically argue against an imputed righteousness; yet whoever know themselves and God, must acknowledge, that “Jesus Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, (and perfect justification in the sight of God) to everyone that believes,” and that we are to be made the righteousness of God in him.

This, and this only, a poor sinner can lay hold of, as a sure anchor of his hope. Whatever other scheme of salvation men may lay, I acknowledge I can see no other foundation whereon to build my hopes of salvation, but on the rock of Christ’s personal righteousness, imputed to my soul.

…When therefore the Spirit has hunted the sinner out of all his false rests and hiding-places, taken off the pitiful fig-leaves of his own works, and driven him out of the trees of the garden (his outward reformations) and places him naked before the bar of a sovereign, holy, just, and sin-avenging God; then, then it is, when the soul, having the sentence of death within itself because of unbelief, has a sweet display of Christ’s righteousness made to it by the Holy Spirit of God. Here it is, that he begins more immediately to act in the quality of a Comforter, and convinces the soul so powerfully of the reality and all-sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness, that the soul is immediately set a hungering and thirsting after it.

Now the sinner begins to see, that though he has destroyed himself, yet in Christ is his help; that, though he has no righteousness of his own to recommend him, there is a fullness of grace, a fullness of truth, a fullness of righteousness in the dear Lord Jesus, which, if once imputed to him, will make him happy for ever and ever.

…If you were never thus convinced of Christ’s righteousness in your own souls, though you may believe it doctrinally, it will avail you nothing; if the Comforter never came savingly into your souls, then you are comfortless indeed…

Whitefield then proceeds:

Thirdly, …the Comforter, when he comes, convinces the soul of judgment.

“Of judgment (says our Lord) because the Prince of this world is judged;” the soul, being enabled to lay hold on Christ’s perfect righteousness by a lively faith, has a conviction wrought in it by the Holy Spirit, that the Prince of this world is judged. The soul being now justified by faith, has peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and can triumphantly say, “It is Christ that justifies me, who is he that condemns me?”

The strong man armed is now cast out; my soul is in a true peace; the Prince of this world will come and accuse, but he has now no share in me: the blessed Spirit which I have received, and whereby I am enabled to apply Christ’s righteousness to my poor soul, powerfully convinces me of this: why should I fear? Or of what shall I be afraid, since God’s Spirit witnesses with my spirit, that I am a child of God…

But, if we do not find ourselves thus convinced, Whitefield appeals to us once more to be reconciled to Christ:

Though of myself I can do nothing, and you can no more by your own power come to and believe on Christ, than Lazarus could come forth from the grave; yet who knows but God may beget some of you again to a lively hope by this foolishness of preaching, and that you may be some of that world, which the Comforter is to convince of sin, or righteousness, and of judgment?

Poor Christless souls! Do you know what a condition you are in? Why, you are lying in the wicked one, the devil; he rules in you, he walks and dwells in you, unless you dwell in Christ, and the Comforter is come into your hearts. And will you contentedly lie in that wicked one that devil? What wages will he give you? Eternal death.

O that you would come to Christ! The free gift of God through him is eternal life. He will accept of you even now, if you will believe in him. The Comforter may yet come into your hearts, even yours…

***

In conclusion, we briefly quote Augustine on these same verses:

Let men, therefore, believe in Christ, that they be not convicted of the sin of their own unbelief, whereby all sins are retained;

let them make their way into the number of believers, that they be not convicted of the righteousness of those, whom, as justified, they fail to imitate;

let them beware of that future judgment, that they be not judged with the prince of the world, whom, judged as he is, they continue to imitate.

For the unbending pride of mortals can have no thought of being spared itself, as it is thus called to think with terror of the punishment that overtook the pride of angels.

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God – Classic Sermon by Jonathan Edwards – Christian Praise and Worship in Songs, Sermons, and Audio Books, Sermon Text