John adds a warning and an incentive. The warning is: “and the world passeth away and the lust thereof” (v. 17). The things of the world are temporary, fleeting, and have no lasting value. The world offers pleasure, power, and the fulfillment of the lusts of the flesh, but one day these things will come to an end. There will come a time when you will not be able to enjoy them. However, it is almost impossible to convince a person infatuated with the world that this is the case. A worldly person lives for the moment, especially for the weekend, and it takes a miracle of grace to wrest his heart away from the world.
But by “passeth away” John means more than to underline the world’s temporary nature. These things pass away because they will be destroyed in the judgment. The worldly person will stand before God. The music will be silent, the sensual pleasure will be over, worldly friends will be gone and he will be sober. Then he must give an account to the Almighty: “I exchanged my Creator for the fleeting pleasures of creation. I had no love for God in my heart. The world was my god.” And if the worldly person has only his love for the world he will stand naked before God, stripped of everything except his sins, and will be condemned.
The world (in the evil sense) “passeth away,” its lusts (in the evil sense) will be gone, but the world itself (as God created it and purposed it) will be redeemed. Christ is rightly called the Savior of the world. Never in the Bible is he called the Savior only of the elect. This does not mean that he is the Savior of all men, including the reprobate, but it means that he is the Savior of men from all nations, and more that he is the Savior of the universe, the creation, or the cosmos. Christ redeems God’s world—God’s cosmos—from sin, death, and the curse. The world was sold into the power of the devil because of man’s sin, and Christ purchased the world back. The world of the ungodly with their evil lusts, that world shall be destroyed.
Christ redeems us from the wicked world and for the eternal world of God’s kingdom by his death on the cross (Gal. 1:4). That was necessary because only by the death of the cross could we, his sinful people, ever be part of the new creation in which righteousness dwells. That is part of the reason why Jesus rejected the devil’s third temptation. Satan offered Jesus the world, but Jesus already possessed the promise of the world, but he would receive it the Father’s way, the way of suffering and death.
And it is by the power of the cross that the world is crucified unto us: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal 6:14).
The second incentive is: “he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (v. 17). Those who deny themselves the pleasures of the world for a season have no disadvantage. In God’s kingdom there are eternal pleasures that the world will never know. These pleasures are ours already, when we by faith taste and know them. Love not the world. Love the Father. Do his will out of thankfulness to him.
This post was written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland stationed in Limerick, Republic of Ireland
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. (Job 2:1 KJV)
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
He who has any just sense of his own weakness and frailty, and of the frightful evil of sin, must be incessant in his entreaties that he may be upheld in steadfastness by an almighty arm, and guarded from the assaults of one who succeed even in enticing angels to their fall, and prevailed over our first parents in all the vigour of their early integrity, and to whom we shall prove an easy prey, unless One stronger than the strong man armed, interferes for our rescue. A proper sense of our peril will not only tend to beget the general conviction that in God alone is our help, but will, in addition, lead us to fasten upon those particular assurances and grounds of encouragement which are afforded by him for just such a crisis as this. The knowledge of the vast power of our spiritual adversary will lead us to take refuge in the omnipotence of God, to place a new value upon this glorious attribute, to avail ourselves of it as a basis of repose and confidence, to experience in our daily consciousness what it is to have a God of such infinite resources to supply our pressing need.
The almighty power of God is then no longer an abstraction to us-an intellectual conviction-but a present practical necessity; not a perfection which we distantly contemplate, but one by which we live and without which we perish. The dire necessity which drives us to the fount of life is, in its results, and incalculable blessing. And the temptation of Satan which terrifies the soul out of all self-dependence and creature-dependence, and compels it to find refuge in an almighty Saviour, has accomplished a gracious end.
And with this, so with other perfections of the ever-blessed God, and with the precious promises of his Word, and with merciful provisions of the covenant of grace, and with the priceless salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The tempted soul learns afresh how to prize them, and embrace them, and cling to them, and rest upon them, and live by them. (Pp. 20, 24)
One year ago, I reported that many Protestants are ready to “cross the Tiber” into Roman Catholicism. The expression “crossing the Tiber” refers to fording the river that runs alongside Rome, symbolic of the barrier between Rome and Protestants. With grief, I had to report that even leaders in our mother church are talking about making the crossing.1 Some church leaders are sending not-so-subtle messages to members: It is permissible, and probably time, to unite with the Catholic Church. One Calvin Seminary faculty member wrote that Protestants and Catholics are “pilgrims on the same journey, serving one Lord with one faith” who “will come nearer to their goal if they walk together than if they walk separately.” If I had not read his words with my own eyes, I would have been disbelieving of such a report.
The campaign to bring Protestants (‘Evangelicals’) into Rome gained momentum from a 1995 project called ECT—Evangelicals and Catholics Together. ECT is an ad hoc committee that in 1995 published a major document, signed by influential Roman Catholic and Protestant leaders, expressing agreement in fundamental areas of doctrine and voicing commitment not to proselytize one another’s members. Since 1995, ECT has published at least nine more statements of unity in faith. Protestantism’s friendliness with Rome, however, has far deeper roots (down to the early 1900s) and a much wider reach than ECT (extending broadly into Protestantism).
In the year since I wrote that editorial, no other alarms have been raised about this movement. The silence in church magazines of conservative Protestantism is grievous. The original pushback in a few good books has seemed to end. A smattering of Internet articles speak out against it, but even these are not from the sources we would hope—Reformed and Presbyterian churches.2
Members of denominations whose leaders support this move to Rome ought to be up in arms. In churches that are silent, Christians ought to ask their leaders why no warnings are issued. Readers who have relatives and friends in denominations that lean toward Rome should equip them with good information, so they can take the action God requires of them: protest the leanings or leave those churches, for the salvation of their generations. Those inclined to join such a denomination where the children are not inoculated against false doctrine may be warned.
This is their warning, given in love for their souls: To go to Rome is to lose the gospel. There is no good news in Rome. In order to join Rome, those churches that call themselves Protestant must abandon the truth for which our fathers died and on account of which they left Rome. By definition, Protestants protest. Their protest was against Rome. By courting Rome, these Protestants abandon Protestantism.
How could it happen that churches so radically different historically could consider each other of the same faith and on the same journey?
Evangelicals (Protestants) and Catholics are coming together
Definition of a few terms is in order.
Catholics: A reference to Roman Catholicism, the world-wide religion based in Rome under the pope. To refer to followers of the pope merely as Catholics is mistaken since the real catholic, that is, universal church is the true church of Christ, not Rome. Followers of the pope are Roman Catholics.
Evangelicals: A term harder to define, but generally considered to be conservative Protestants. Protestants are non-Roman Catholic Christians, but these are conservative Protestants. They have not gone liberal in rejecting the authority of Scripture, the necessity of regeneration for salvation, miracles, the Virgin Birth, etc. Their claim to retain the gospel explains the label evangelical. So, Evangelicals have been the branch of Protestantism that seeks to maintain Reformation orthodoxy. They are found in most branches of Protestantism, from Lutherans to Baptists, Presbyterians to Pentecostals to Methodists.3
Together: A reference to reconciliation. Some Evangelicals and Roman Catholics desire to break down what walls still separate them. They meet unofficially to discuss common beliefs and assure one another that what differences exist between them fall into three categories: a great deal is simple misunderstanding or misrepresentation; much is explained by historical circumstances no longer applicable; discussing the rest will cultivate deeper mutual appreciation.
Ecumenical: Relating to a movement that aims at world-wide union of all Christian churches. The word comes from the Greek for “the inhabited world.” The “togetherness” that Protestants and Roman Catholics seek is nothing less than the complete unity of all Christian denominations, world-wide.
Roman Catholics and Evangelicals are reconciling. Evangelicals are ecstatic about the project. Roman Catholicism is on board, even though initially, in the early 1900s, it was cold toward any ecumenical efforts because of fear it would “lose its distinctive Catholic dimensions.” That changed in 1962 when the pope convened a major council (Vatican II) that brought the Roman Catholic Church into the ecumenical movement. Vatican II declared unity with their “separated brethren” one of the “principle and essential goals of the RCC.”4
How can this be?
How can it be that Evangelicals, most of whom formerly said “Catholics are not Christians,” are now able to see unity as possible, desirable, even necessary? And why is Roman Catholicism no longer fearful of losing its distinctives?
The answer has two parts: Evangelicals are no longer evangelical. And Roman Catholics are not changing but engaging in creative shapeshifting. Evangelicals are guilty of massive compromise of Reformation faith. Roman Catholics are back to their old tricks, guilty of subterfuge.
From the side of Evangelicals, consider three major factors that contribute to their ability to consider Rome their home. At the same time, ask whether your own church or family may be guilty of these weaknesses, and thus in your generations may be vulnerable to Rome, where there is no gospel.
- Ignorance of Scripture
Evangelicals can consider Rome as home because they are ignorant of the doctrines that stood at the heart of the Reformation. Rome has always depended on their sheep’s ignorance, but now Evangelicalism is destroyed for lack of knowledge. While some Evangelical leaders are educated, most of the common members are woefully ignorant. Public education (not Christian schools) is the norm and good catechetical instruction in Scripture and creeds is rare. This paves the way for the attitude that, as long as someone sincerely says “I love Jesus” and lives a moral life, he must be a Christian. A hundred years ago liberal Protestantism imploded from ignorance. Now, Evangelicals follow the same path. This time, to Rome.
- Distaste for battle
Formerly, Evangelicals understood that Christians must adopt a militant stance in the world. They understood the antithesis and knew that engaging in spiritual and theological battles was essential for the church’s existence. They wrote “Onward, Christian Soldiers” and sang it with conviction. Now, most have forgotten that the church is a battling church, that Christians are to be armed (Eph. 6:10-17). Many have removed the battle hymns from their songbooks and would sneer if you would tell them that your Lord is “a man of war” (Ex. 15:3). So when someone proposes that there are errors in the Roman church that must be fought, false teachings that must be destroyed in ecclesiastical battles, these Evangelicals react with surprise and dismay. Their misunderstanding of the peace-making calling of the church mutes their war cry.
- Abandonment of Reformation principles
The majority of Evangelical Christianity today has renounced the gifts God restored to His church at the Reformation. The reader who doubts this would do well to go to the bookstores and read what is published by major Christian publishers. It will soon be clear that churches have lost the marks of the true church: truth in preaching; proper administration of the sacraments—a part of the larger concept of biblical worship; and Christian discipline—a part of the larger reality of proper church government. Let me explain:
Church government. There is no pope in Evangelicalism, but there are many little ‘popes.’ They are the presidents of their ministries, the senior pastors (think CEOs) of their mega-churches, the celebrity speakers on the conference tours, the big names that make money for the publishing houses. How much weight do these heavyweights carry in their circles? How often do Christians look to them as their authority rather than Scripture?
Christian discipline. Christian discipline is “rare as a white crow,” as already 100 years ago Abraham Kuyper lamented was the case in the Netherlands. Accountability to a body of elders, and a plurality of males who exercise authority in the church, an authority checked by the priesthood of all believers who know the Scripture, are strange concepts in Evangelicalism today.
Biblical worship. Worship governed by Scripture has been lost, too. The importance of proper worship as a mark of the true church appears in Calvin’s somewhat surprising testimony during the Reformation. Orthodox teaching, he said, stood in the service of proper worship. In other words, for Calvin, God-glorifying worship was the chief thing; truth served worship. The sacraments show that in a unique way. Proper administration of the sacraments involves both doctrine and worship. What the Roman Catholic church taught about the sacraments show that in a unique way. Proper administration of the sacraments involves both doctrine and worship. What the Roman Catholic church taught about the sacraments denied the gospel and, therefore, how they used the sacraments in worship robbed God of His honor.
What has happened in Evangelicalism with regard to worship and the sacraments is no less tragic because, although the form of their corruption of worship and the sacraments is different, it is just as dishonoring to God. Evangelicalism’s loss of proper worship is explained by the abandonment of the “regulative principle of worship.” How to worship is no longer governed by the rule of the second commandment but left to the judgments of men and women. Regarding the sacraments, baptism either is denied covenant children, or it is considered unimportant. And the ‘fence’ around the Lord’s table was broken down when discipline fell away, so that the supper is profaned as badly in much of Evangelicalism as it is in Roman Catholicism. The Reformers would view Protestant worship today as smoking ruins. Weeping, they would say that the worship they died to restore is gone.
Could your generations end in Rome?
It is easy to point out the errors of apostate Evangelicalism. Of Romanism. Of others. But self-reflection is always in order. Let us take heed who think we stand. Remember, the demise of Evangelicalism did not happen overnight.
Ignorance. How thoroughly are we “taught of the Lord” (Is. 54:13)? Do we know, for example, what the RCC teaches about salvation by grace and justification through faith? How committed to reading and studying Scripture is my family? Is it our meditation all the day (Psalm 119:97)? How much time do we and our families spend in the Word, compared with leisure, sports, entertainment?
Authority. In a theological discussion, how inclined might we be to give more weight to the views of a man with a big name than to the plain teaching of Scripture? At the time of the Reformation, men did not care so much about what the Bible taught as they did about what ‘papa dixit’ (the pope says). Are we returning to this?
Discipline. Are we thankful for our elders, willing to engage in this work? Do we support and pray for them when discipline is exercised among us? How much do we initiate discipline (Matt. 18)? Do we discipline ourselves and our own children?
Militancy. If we sometimes properly loathe battle because we are “for peace” (Ps. 120:7), are we nevertheless always willing to be armed, ready to fight? Are we always fighting sin within so that we understand the threat of sin every day? Do we teach our children to be good soldiers, to put on the armor, to pray for hands that war and fingers that fight (Ps. 144:1)?
Worship. Is the Lord pleased with our worship? Proper worship includes a humbled heart, a right spirit, genuinely dependent on the righteousness of Christ alone and deeply grateful that His grace has been extended to us. Is God any less displeased with worship that is outwardly proper when our hearts are not right than He is with the improper worship in Evangelicalism?
If we are not spiritually cautious in all these respects, what has happened to bring Evangelicalism to Rome could happen in our families or churches. It will not be the natural result, but the severe and righteous judgment of God. The lesson of Evangelicalism is that it does not take more than a couple generations.
1 See my editorial of March 1, 2018, (Below)
2 The seminary gets dozens of magazines from a wide spectrum of churches. Most ignore it. One exception to this silence is The Trinity Review (trinityfoundation.org). Another are the works of D.G. Hart, most recently his, Still Protesting: Why the Reformation Matters, Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018.
3 There are other uses of the word evangelical, for example, in some denominational names. These denominations are not necessarily associating themselves with “evangelicalism.”
4 This, and much information for this article, are from the pro-ECT book, Evangelicals and Catholics Together at Twenty: Vital Statements on Contested Topics, eds., Timothy George and Thomas Guarino (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2015).
article. This editorial is written by Prof. Barry
The Standard Bearer
Gathering at the river
No, not the Grand River in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where some of our spiritual relatives gathered after immigrating from the Netherlands in order to establish Reformed churches.1
But the Tiber River in Rome, Italy, where some of our ecclesiastical relatives are gathering today, there to destroy Reformed churches. They are there, ready to forsake Reformed tradition and join the Roman Catholic Church.
“Crossing the Tiber” is an old expression describing what a Protestant does when he leaves the Reformation faith for the Roman Catholic fold. The Tiber River ran alongside old Rome; to get to Rome, one crossed it. Thus, “crossing the Tiber” refers to entering the Roman Catholic enclave. Today, descendants of our Reformed fathers gather on the banks of the Tiber River, preparing to cross.
In the past few decades, some notable individuals have crossed the Tiber, the Romish hierarchy welcoming them heartily. The “erring brethren” (since Vatican II we Protestants are given the friendlier label “the departed brethren”) are finding their way into ‘Papa’s’ arms. Rome Sweet Home is the title of one book that gives the conversion testimony of two notable Tiber-crossers, Scott and Kimberly Hahn.2 The Hahns, a former Presbyterian minister and his seminary-educated wife, crossed separately in the late ’80s and early ’90s and became popular speakers on the Roman Catholic circuit, luring more Protestants to ford the river. Since then, many have followed. “The Coming Home Network” and “The Journey Home Program” are two flourishing organizations that both promote such conversions and support the defectors once they go “home” to Rome.
What may not be so well known to readers of the Standard Bearer is that the banks of the Tiber are swelling with crowds of nominal Protestants who show fervent interest in defecting. And yet more are considering how to get to those banks. Reformed and Presbyterian men and women. Most grievously, Reformed leaders, men and women, from our mother church.
The present editorial reports this with no ill-will, but with deepest sorrow and the ardent prayer that God will use it to inform and warn. Are some yet unaware of the leanings of their denominations, or of their relatives or friends?
“What can Protestants and Catholics learn from one another today?”
That question is posed on the cover of the recent Forum magazine, the newsletter of Calvin Theological Seminary, official seminary of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). This newsletter reports on an October meeting between representatives of Calvin Seminary and the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). With some of Calvin Seminary’s staff were a Roman Catholic professor from Hope College (Holland, MI; college of the Reformed Church in America) and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Grand Rapids, who “brought their own voice to this important topic.” Participants discussed what they could “learn from one another and see as points of convergence….”
The President of Calvin Seminary notes that their previous Forum highlighted the five solas of the Reformation. Now, and “out of that framework,” is the seminary’s present issue, “What Can Catholics and Protestants Learn From One Another Today?” There was no attempt to explain how commonality with Rome fits in the framework of the solas of the Reformation.
The first article, by the Director of the Meeter Center for Calvin Studies and Editor of the Calvin Theological Journal, Karin Maag, examines Reformed and Romish unity in worship. Maag asks, rhetorically, “…are Reformed and Roman Catholic congregations still so far apart when it comes to worship?” and says that “steps are being taken to highlight areas of common agreement.” Both the CRC and Reformed Church in America (RCA) “formally signed the ‘Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism,’ with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.” And there are long-running partnerships between local CRC congregations and RCC groups where “confessional differences shrink away.” Maag participated recently with Roman Catholics in a “panel discussion on how to commemorate the Reformation.” This last beggars belief: discussing with Rome how to celebrate the Reformation! This is not unlike the children of a man—who in grossest wickedness tried to kill their mother and still today is impenitent—children who have finally freed themselves from the man, now asking him to discuss with them how to celebrate his attempted murder. In the end, Maag urges that “arguments over who is more faithful to the teachings of Scripture and the practices of the Church throughout the ages tend only to reinforce divisions.”
The seminary’s Assistant Professor of Moral Theology, 3 Matthew Tuininga, believes that two forces reduced the antipathy between Protestants and Catholics in the twentieth century. First, in Vatican II, the RCC opened herself ecumenically (which certainly is the posture the RCC seeks to show). Second, “Protestants and Catholics alike came to view secularism and the increasing abandonment of Christianity as the far graver threat.” That is, the theological differences become relatively insignificant in light of the foes called secularism and paganism. Now read carefully his conclusion: “faithful Protestants and Catholics of all denominations will increasingly find that, as pilgrims on the same journey, serving one Lord with one faith, they will come much nearer to their goal if they walk together than if they walk separately.” Re-read that, without blinking, for its significance. If that is believed, Christian Reformed ministers will instruct their members that they and Roman Catholics are on the same journey, serve the same Lord, have one faith, and have the same goal. Thus, they must walk together.
The seminary’s Director of Communications wraps up with the report that speakers “noted shared beliefs and values…even around religious beliefs and practices such as the concept of Justification or the observance of the sacraments” (emphasis added). The evening concluded with a shared blessing on the event by the President of the Seminary and the Catholic Bishop.
It is as though the evening was spent entering coordinates into MapQuest to determine the best road from the Grand River to the Tiber. Has it ever looked more bleak for our mother church?
A stronger impetus and a wider road to the Tiber
But the CRC’s friendly leanings toward Rome give only a small glimpse into a much larger movement of Protestants hasting toward the Pope, with his devotion to Mary, rosaries and indulgences, patron saints, and the doctrine of purgatory.
When “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) published their first ecumenical statement in 1994 (ECT: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium), Protestant denominations were emboldened to meet in public with Rome’s delegations. Since then, ECT has been actively publishing statements, even if this further work has not had the publicity of 1994. Nine more statements have been ‘nailed on church doors’ (now, however, on Protestant church doors) on Justification, Scripture, the Communion of Saints, Sanctification, Abortion, the Virgin Mary, Religious Freedom, Marriage, and (in December of 2017) “the Christian Way.” In a preface to a collection of these statements,4 J.I. Packer calls those who oppose them “Evangelical isolationists,” serious condemnation of those who do not join them, and a forewarning of more severe condemnation to come. Timothy George, co-editor of the collection, is certain of the soon-coming day Protestants and Roman Catholics are “fully united in the common witness for which Jesus Christ himself prayed.”
The names of Protestants who took part in writing or who support these joint statements are notable.5 The following list is enough to give the reader an idea how prominent: Bill Bright, Bryan Chapell, Hans Boersma (formerly Canadian Reformed), Charles Colson, Frank James and Harold Brown from Reformed Theological Seminary,6 Peter Leithart, Peter Lillback, Max Lucado, Eric Metaxas, Richard Mouw, J.I. Packer, Joni Eareckson Tada, and Kevin VanHoozer. Finally, and most noteworthy for Standard Bearer readers, Dr. Laura A. Smit, ordained minister in the CRC and professor at Calvin College. These and hundreds more influential church leaders press for the unity of Protestants and Roman Catholics.
By the way, the fact that so many are interested in Rome presages the nearness of the end when the false church will persecute the true church who will not join her. For now the persecution may be merely pejorative labels—“isolationists!” Soon, there will be threats. But the true church must be prepared to die for her faith, as were Luther and the other Reformers whose traditions are being betrayed, even under the façade of celebrating their work. Unity apart from Scripture truth is not the unity “for which Jesus Christ himself prayed.”
Such a strong movement toward Rome is astounding, but should not be surprising. The simple reason so many are able to anticipate “crossing the Tiber” is that the doctrine in many Protestant, even Reformed and Presbyterian, churches has so warped and deformed that it is more like Roman Catholic dogma than Reformation truth (deformation in liturgy and ethics is close behind). Combine this doctrinal deformation with the doctrinal illiteracy of the common member—sound catechism instruction of the youth has long disappeared in most denominations—and the heavy traffic on the roads to Rome is not at all surprising. If Calvin Theological Seminary can report “shared beliefs…even around… the concept of Justification,” there is not much truth yet to abandon before all their members recognize that the Tiber, at this point, looks to be a pretty narrow ford.
But the common denominator among these who desire to join in Rome is not agreement in theology, even the doctrine of salvation, significant as this agreement is. Instead, it is their united aim of world transformation, desire for the “common good,” for promotion of the “kingdom of God.” All their writings breathe such sentiments.
We may never weary of reminding each other and our children that the common grace goal of “transforming the world,” “renewing communities,” “redeeming creation,” and “seeking ‘shalom’ in the city,” is what binds these Reformation-abandoning groups together. They may have many other aspirations, but the one yen that binds them all is their will to Christianize the world, their hope that common grace will transform it into the “kingdom of God.” Protestants are abandoning their traditions—biblical traditions—for this. For this, our mother church relinquishes her Reformed heritage. Abraham Kuyper, what hast thou wrought?!
Our hearts’ desire for their salvation
We say the truth in Christ: we have heaviness and sorrow in heart. Our hearts’ desire and prayer is that those traveling Rome-ward might be saved. They have zeal, indeed, but not according to knowledge—saving knowledge governed by Scripture alone.
O, beware of Rome! Be members of the true church, for “out [outside] of it there is no salvation” (Belgic Confession, Art. 28).
Shall one of the churches’ Evangelism Committees sponsor a lecture that will explain the similarities between Roman Catholicism and the teaching and practice of contemporary Protestantism—and publicize it broadly in Reformed communities—so that some may yet be rescued? Shall a capable writer extend this effort and show clearly that Rome is not moving toward Protestantism, but Evangelicals toward Rome? Rome does not budge, despite its claims to be “open” to ecumenical dialogue. (As they say, ‘the mountain does not come to Mohammed.’) Let preachers in faithful Reformed and Presbyterian churches be clear in their public preaching and in their instruction of the youth in catechism. Let parents and preachers alike prepare the youth to attend the Christian colleges where they will face smart and amiable professors who may try to direct them to the roads that bend toward Rome.
With genuine love for those who remain in these churches angling Rome-ward, we call them loudly, clearly, urgently: “Come out from them or perish with them.”
1 The title of my editorial plays off the title of a book, Gathered at the River, which describes “Grand Rapids, Michigan, and its people of faith” (by James D. Bratt and Christopher H. Meehan, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1993).
2 Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993.
3 It may be worth noting that in Reformed seminaries historically this position was called “Professor of Ethics” and in Roman Catholic institutions “Professor of Moral Theology.”
4 All but the 2017 paper are included in the recent Evangelicals and Catholics Together at Twenty: Vital Statements on Contested Topics, “at twenty” referring to the twenty years since the first statement in 1994 (eds., Timothy George and Thomas Guarino, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).
5 The difficulty of research to determine all the names is compounded by the fact that ECT has no website, calls itself an “ad hoc” and “informal” fellowship, whose statements have no “imprimatur or endorsement” from the churches of which the signers and endorsers are members (ECT at Twenty, 166). News of ECT will be found in the (mostly) Roman Catholic journal First Things.
Every one hast an undoubted right to his own. He must therefore have the means of knowing and securing his right. Even the heathen admitted the sacredness of the landmark. The stone or the staple was honoured as the god, without whose kindly influence every field would be subject of contention. The landmark was protected by the wise laws of Israel. God himself set the bounds to the respective parts of his own world; restricting each part within its proper limits? Thus also he distributed the different nations, and appointed the same security for the several allotments of his own people. The ancient landmark stood as the witness and memorial of each man’s rights, which his fathers had set. Its removal therefore was forbidden, as a selfish and unjust invasion of property, included in the curse of Ebal, and noted, in subsequent ages, as the forefront of national provocation.
All sound expositors warn us, from this Proverb, to reverence long-tried and well-established principles, and not rashly to innovate upon them. Some scorn the ancient landmarks as relics of bye-gone days of darkness. Impatient of restraint, they want a wider range of wandering, to indulge either their own prurient appetite for novelties, or the morbid cravings of others for this unwholesome excitement (II Tim. 3: 7; iv. 3, 4.) Endless divisions and dissensions have been the fruit of this deadly evil. The right of individual judgment oversteps its legitimate bonds; and in its licentious exercise “very man” feels justified to “do” and think “that which is right in his own eyes.” (Jud. xxi. 35.)
Rome on the other hand, charges us with removing the ancient landmark of unwritten Tradition, which our fathers have set. We ask-What right had they to set it up? We do reverence to no unwritten traditions upon the footing of “the law and the testimony.” (Isaiah viii. 20.) We rebut the charge of Antichrist, and contend, upon the broad ground of historic testimony, that she has removed the ancient landmarks, and substituted her own in their place; that Protestantism (in principle, though not in name) is the old religion, and Popery a comparative novelty. We have not removed the ancient landmarks by bringing men back to the true doctrine, because this, delivered by God, is the ancient doctrine, and the landmarks have been subsequently removed by the subtilty of the devil, and idolatry put in the place of the true worship.
Turning to our beloved and venerated Church; the last age witnessed a rude, but by divine mercy an unsuccessful effort, to root up her landmarks. We have seen a subtle and invidious attempt to remove them from the place, where our well-instructed fathers have set them, and fix them nearer Rome; leaving but a narrow boundary of division between Christ and Antichrist. This is indeed the rooting up of the foundations of the grace of God, which ought, if need be, to “be resisted unto blood.” (Heb. xii. 4.) The Lord makes us “valiant for the truth,” and consistent witness of its power!
The Ten Commandments kjv
And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
The Westminister Larger Catechism (1643-1648)
Question 115: Which is the fourth commandment?
Answer: The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Question 116: What is required in the fourth commandment?
Answer: The fourth commandment requires of all men the sanctifying or keeping holy to God such set times as he has appointed in his Word, expressly one whole day in seven; which was the seventh from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, and the first day of the week ever since, and so to continue to the end of the world; which is the Christian sabbath, and in the New Testament called the Lord’s day.
Question 117: How is the sabbath or the Lord’s day to be sanctified?
Answer: The sabbath or Lord’s day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to betaken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.
Question 118: Why is the charge of keeping the sabbath more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors?
Answer: The charge of keeping the sabbath is more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors, because they are bound not only to keep it themselves, but to see that it be observed by all those that are under their charge; and because they are prone ofttimes to hinder them by employments of their own.
Question 119: What are the sins forbidden in the fourth commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the fourth commandment are, all omissions of the duties required, all careless, negligent, and unprofitable performing of them, and being weary of them; all profaning the day by idleness, and doing that which is in itself sinful; and by all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations.
Question 120: What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, the more to enforce it?
Answer: The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, the more to enforce it, are taken from the equity of it, God allowing us six days of seven for our own affairs, and reserving but one for himself, in these words, Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: from God’s challenging a special propriety in that day, The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: from the example of God, who in six days made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: and from that blessing which God put upon that day, not only in sanctifying it to be a day for his service, but in ordaining it to be a means of blessing to us in our sanctifying it;Wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Question 121: Why is the word Remember set in the beginning of the fourth commandment?
Answer: The word Remember is set in the beginning of the fourth commandment, partly, because of the great benefit of remembering it, we being thereby helped in our preparation to keep it, and, in keeping it, better to keep all the rest of the commandments, and to continue a thankful remembrance of the two great benefits of creation and redemption, which contain a short abridgment of religion; and partly, because we are very ready to forget it, for that there is less light of nature for it, and yet it restrains our natural liberty in things at other times lawful; that it comes but once in seven days, and many worldly businesses come between, and too often take off our minds from thinking of it, either to prepare for it, or to sanctify it;and that Satan with his instruments much labor to blot out the glory, and even the memory of it, to bring in all irreligion and impiety.
When Roman legions invaded Caledonia (modern-day Scotland) in the late first century AD, it was said by the historian Tacitus that the powerful Celtic chieftain Calgacus emerged and rallied his tribes against the might of Rome, famously declaring, “They make a desert, and they call it peace.”
Today’s Christian pastor is likewise making similar stands for biblical Christianity in the midst of a secular desert created by an anti-Christian culture. The Bible describes a faithful pastor as an elder who oversees the flock and the household of God. According to Paul, pastor/elders rule the church (Titus 1:5) and guard the treasures of Christ (v. 9). Additionally, they minister to the people by teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).
If ever there was an era in Christian history that believers should be committed to praying for their pastors, it is now. James rebukes our prayerlessness when he says, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). And what prayers are we offering up to God on behalf of our pastors? Let me suggest several.
THAT HE WOULD DELIGHT IN PREACHING
If your minister is not being blessed and instructed by the Word, it is highly unlikely that you will be. Your spiritual well-being is directly linked to your pastor’s seeking the Lord in his preparation for the sacred desk. If he is not diligently seeking the Lord, you won’t find Him in his preaching either.
A godly pastor is a joyful, dutiful herald of the most high King. His enthusiasm for proclaiming God’s Word will be infectious and unstoppable, and it will be readily apparent to all who hear him that this is a man who knows his God. Second Timothy 4:1–2 reads:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
THAT HE WOULD ENJOY THE LORD’S DAY
I suspect that many people who sit week after week in the pews of their particular church have no idea how difficult a Sunday is for a minister and his family. Pray for your pastor’s Sundays. Robert Murray M’Cheyne says: “A well-spent sabbath we feel to be a day of heaven upon earth. … We love to rise early on that morning, and to sit up late, that we may have a long day with God.”
THAT HE WOULD LEAD HIS FAMILY WELL
Pray that God would help your pastor in the midst of busyness to taste and see that the Lord is good. Pray that his children would grow up loved and cherished in the household of faith. Joel Beeke says: “Family worship is the foundation of child rearing. As family worship goes, so will go the family. The Puritans thought family worship was the whole backbone of society.” We read in Deuteronomy 6:4–7:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
THAT HE WOULD HAVE A HEART FOR THE LOST
May your pastor have a Christlike love for the lost and a joy in telling others about the Shepherd-King. If a man loves the Lord, he will love telling others the old story of the gospel. He also will teach and model for others a renewed sense of evangelism and mission. He is worthy to receive the glory and honor due Him (Rev. 4:11). Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is worthy to receive the reward. We need our pastors to have a zeal for the lost.
THAT THE LORD WOULD PROTECT HIM
A growing personal relationship with Christ will supply the motivation and zeal needed for a pastor’s duty to God. It will be tiring. It will require an all-in, total commitment. Pray that God would provide every physical and emotional need for the call to serve. Pastors are often subject spiritual temptation, so pray for God to protect these men from the evil one. Pray that they would guard themselves and be granted personal holiness. Pray that they would apply the means of grace to their own hearts, by God’s help.
THAT HE WOULD PREACH THE GOSPEL
Thomas Smyth of the antebellum historic Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, S.C., once charged a young pastor by saying:
Preaching is your pre-eminent employment, so the Gospel is the sum and substance of your preaching—the power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation.
Necessity is laid upon you, yea, woe is unto you if you preach not the Gospel. … Preach Christ as set forth in the Gospel—the sum and substance of God’s testimony, and the author of eternal salvation to all who believe upon him.
Preach—this glorious Gospel of good news—first and last, every way, and everywhere, in public and in private; in the pulpit and by the press; to the living and to the dying; to the lost and the saved.
Pray for your pastor, pray as if your very life and those you love depended upon it. Melton L. Duncan is a ruling elder at Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C