St. Anselm and the Ontological Argument

The Ignored Anselm
When I was seminary I read a few books whose authors seemed to take great joy in hating on St. Anselm. I don’t remember what they were at this point, but it still struck me as weird. He would be dismissed as somebody who was overly philosophical, he would be lampooned as having come up with a silly proof for God’s existence, or he would be criticized for foisting his medieval economics upon the gospel in Cur Deus Homo. I’m not sure that any of this criticism was warranted. I’ve been rereading Anselm and found his work to be quite edifying.

The Ontological Argument
Since I’ve graduated from seminary and started reading more philosophy I’ve discovered that the Ontological argument is not limited to Anselm (though his expression of it seems fairly original). I don’t really buy the argument because it relies (on the surface any how) upon innate knowledge rather than empirical experience. Aristotle was right on that score and so was St. Thomas. Nevertheless, it was weird to read theology text books making fun of the argument or even hearing lectures by theologians (none of my profs, just some courses I downloaded from bigger name schools on itunes university) making fun of it. The problem with doing so is that the argument has been treated much more thoroughly since that time and perhaps in much more rigorous ways than Anselm did (for his piece was also meant for devotional purposes, not merely philosophical). Anyhow, since Anselm, some version of the ontological argument has been put forward by:

  1. Rene Descartes (see his meditations) It’s also important to note, that despite his critiques of Descartes, Hume seems to have mentioned in a letter to a friend in Edinburgh, that Descartes argument still remained convincing enough. Though this could be Hume’s attempt at having his cake (being an atheist) and eating it too (not wanting to admit it).
  2. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (it appears in several of his papers)
  3. Georg Hegel
  4. Kurt Friedrich Gödel (volume 3 of his collected works)
  5. Alvin Plantinga

Some of these are more rigorous than others. But its not like the argument hasn’t received attentional due its ridiculousness. Gödel’s version has even been verified as logically valid using computer science in an experiment meant to show the utility of computers for formalizing arguments. Hegel, as far as I know, never actually stated his version of the argument, but he claimed to have it. Plantinga’s possible worlds model is weird to me because I don’t buy into the whole “possible worlds’ model of argument seems wrong headed. Rene Descartes’ version of the argument starts from global skepticism and moves from there. It at least shows that if we doubt everything we must then infer our own existence, followed by God’s own being. Again, I’m not saying that any of these are necessarily true arguments. I’m just saying that Anselm wasn‘t some medieval hack who sullied our theological heritage. It is also important to note that there are some interpretations of Anselm‘s argument that have almost nothing to do with proving God’s existence at all, but that his argument is instead an attempt to understand what it means to the intellect to have faith in the Christian God (Barth, Anselm: Fides Quarens Intellectum).

I’ll post more later on Anselm’s supposed understanding of the Atonement. To put it briefly, it isn‘t so wrong as all that.


Body of Christ

Nick posted about the Body of Christ. His chief insight, which is true, is that Jesus himself, though head of the church, is a member of the church. This is because the head is a member of the body. It reminded me of how a man I work with prays. He prays, “In the name of our older brother, Jesus.” Sometimes people mention to me that that find this unusual. So I point them to these passages (ESV today, didn’t feel like translating this morning):

Mat 12:48-50  He asked the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”  (49)  Then pointing with his hand at his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers,  (50)  because whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Rom 8:29  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that the Son might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Heb 2:10-18  It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering as part of his plan to glorify many children,  (11)  because both the one who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified all have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers  (12)  when he says, “I will announce your name to my brothers. I will praise you within the congregation.”  (13)  And again, “I will trust him.” And again, “I am here with the children God has given me.”  (14)  Therefore, since the children have flesh and blood, he himself also shared the same things, so that by his death he might destroy the one who has the power of death (that is, the devil)  (15)  and might free those who were slaves all their lives because they were terrified by death.  (16)  For it is clear that he did not come to help angels. No, he came to help Abraham’s descendants,  (17)  thereby becoming like his brothers in every way, so that he could be a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God and could atone for the people’s sins.  (18)  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Without any in depth exegesis, it can be seen that from the point of view of the gospel writers, of Paul, and of the author of Hebrews (Paul according to Dave Black) that Jesus is our brother and we are his. He is not less our Lord for this, but he does look after us as an old steward who ensures that those within the family of God remain in good graces with the Father of the house. In other words, if we wish to know how to be the beneficiaries of the house, is should look to Jesus. If we want to know what the beneficiaries receive, we should look to Jesus. If we want to know how to deal with sufferings and persecutions, we should look to Jesus. If we wish to know what to do when our household memberships are in conflict, we should look to Jesus. Jesus is the head of the church, but not merely in the authoritarian sense. He is the head of the church in the sense of being its first member, of being the older brother of those who are members, and in the sense of being the paradigm for membership. 

Self-Experimentation and Peer-Reviewed Evidence

I’ve mentioned before that I have a genetic bone disorder and have utilized my interpretation of scientific publications to self-experiment. At least once, this self-experimentation has had positive health results. Other times I have merely yielded knowledge about what does not help. For instance, I’ve had pretty bad acid reflux for the past few years. I recently discovered from my mother that I also had terrible reflux as a baby. I might even have a weak LES muscle. I don’t know, I haven’t been to the doctor for it for years because they just prescribe proton pump inhibitors or histamine blockers. I can buy those and as far as I can tell, they have long term deleterious effects on the human body. 

Any how, I recently came across this article by Seth Roberts about self-experimentation (h/t Bruce Charlton). Roberts essentially argues that self-experimentation based on a frame of reference in a field can allow one to test assumptions within the field or to move forward toward different conclusions prior to determining the mechanisms of those changes. He likens the process to foraging and or have a hobby. Back to GERD-like symptoms:

Gregory L Austin et al., “A Very Low-Carbohydrate Diet Improves Gastroesophageal Reflux and Its Symptoms,” Digestive Diseases and Sciences 51, no. 8 (August 2006): 1307–12, doi:10.1007/s10620-005-9027-7.
In this study, a very low carbohydrate diet (consuming less than 20 grams a day) led to improved symptoms in all eight participants. The metric was a probe utilized to determine acid exposure time in the esophagus. There was no blind in this particular study, but the objective measurement is interesting. The measurements were taken before the diet was initiated and then six days later.

WS Yancy Jr., D Provenzale, and Ec Westman, “Case Reports. Improvement of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease after Initiation of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet: Five Brief Case Reports,” Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine 7, no. 6 (November 2001): 120.

In this article records the case of five individuals who self-initiated a low-carb diet found themselves without frequent symptoms of heart-burn and indigestion. It is published in an alternative therapy journal, but it’s still peer reviewed.

The Pay Off

So, I started an extremely low carbohydrate diet about two weeks ago. The main purpose was precisely to decrease symptoms of heartburn that had become more frequent that non-heartburn. My existence had become somewhat miserable because if I happened to even eat a small snack, within minutes I would feel very full and bloated. I would have heartburn (even if I took medicine prior to eating) and the full feeling would last for several hours. If I ate lunch at work, I usually was not able to eat dinner or go to the gym at night. The only way to get food in prior to the gym was to eat around 10am, then just be full and miserable all day at work. This started around March, but the heart burn goes back to my early twenties.

Anyhow, I started the diet, eschewing the conventional wisdom that fatty foods lead to heartburn. I For the first two days I ate less than 20 grams of carbohydrates, continued drinking coffee, and obtained most of my carbohydrates from sauerkraut, spinach, and mushrooms. My protein and fat came from butter and meat. I expected my digestion to remain slow, but to at least experience less heartburn. Within two days, I had my first day with no heartburn and no medication. Upon increasing my carbs to about 50 grams per day, and allowing myself one “cheat day a week,” I have had only one serious experience of heartburn and 7 light flare-ups that went away as soon as I took an antacid or dissipated by the time I walked to the medicine cabinet. My digestion has sped up as well. Just Tuesday I ate a rather large lunch and was able to hit the gym by 3:45 without losing my food after dead lift.

So, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, a high-fat, low-carb diet may assist with relief of symptoms related to GERD and indigestion.



Should you do doctoral work in theology?

This is a response to this post. H/T to Dave Black.

Should you pursue doctoral work in theology?

No. Then maybe yes.

The problem with deciding to pursue such a track when you’re younger is that younger usually have not developed the sort of pragmatic wisdom necessary to make a decision that locks you into a specific career for the rest of your life. This is particularly so with things like theological studies wherein the cost of schooling is exceptionally high and the prospects for income are exceptionally low.

My recommendation to anybody who wants to be a pastor, theology/philosophy major, professor of church history, etc is this: go to tech school first or get a degree in a STEM field. Be realistic. If you do not think you can cut it in a science/tech/engineering/math field, then go to tech/trade school. You need to know how to make money and deal with people. While you’re in tech school or getting a science degree focus on these things:

  1. Read, study, and memorize Scripture.
  2. Learn to pray regularly. This can easily stop being a habit in Bible college.
  3. Practice the other spiritual disciplines.
  4. Plant yourself firmly in a church and stay out of the average college ministry (they are often filled with young people who only have a minimal interest in actually studying and understanding Scripture).
  5. Learn to relate to other human beings without using a bunch of big theology words. If you’re a stem major, this could be difficult, but it must be done. It is especially important to learn how to interact with the opposite sex in two ways: learn to flirt/ask on dates and learn to be chaste. During this time you might decide that marriage is for your in the future or that Christian singleness is.
  6. Read theology, history, philosophy, and Biblical studies. Start with classics like Plato, Aristotle, the Apostolic Fathers, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Newman, Descartes, Bacon, etc. Use E-Sword and familiarize yourself with older commentaries. I have two cousins who are engineering majors and they’ve already learned more Greek and Hebrew and read more Biblical studies, church history, and theology than any undergraduate I’ve ever met who majored in any of those fields. Not only can it be done, but it can be done well.

There is tremendous merit in young Christians of scholarly aptitude getting their first degree or certification in science or mathematics field or from a technical school prior to doing work in Bible and theology:

  1. You’ll gain a more thorough handle on logic. I did not take a single logic class in Bible college or seminary. But I have already had to take two math classes that require a great deal of proof based symbolic logic, which is really just a generalization of what I learned from reading Aristotle when I was in high school. But, in my experience, very few people read Aristotle and even fewer actually learned categorical, hypothetical, or disjunctive syllogisms. Even fewer people have learned inductive logic.
  2. You’ll learn technical writing.
  3. You’ll be able to make money and avoid debt if you begin a theology program.
  4. You’ll have skills that help you to do things in the world. Being able to start and finish a physical project (and perhaps get paid for it) is deeply satisfying on a very human level. Without this capacity being a pastor, professor, or over educated barista can be very dissatisfying.

On the Weird Stuff in Scripture

When you read the Bible you really do find a great deal of really, really weird stuff. Interestingly, I find weird stuff in almost everything I read whether fiction or non-fiction. For instance, the Pythagorean Theorem is super weird. It is a proven and easily provable theorem, I came up with a proof for it in high school (that’s not impressive, it had been used before) and came up with several others as a math teacher (again, upon searching all had been previously discovered). Nevertheless, it is weird. You wouldn’t intuit it by looking at a right triangle, yet it works. When I’m reading about other cultures, I regularly learn incredibly weird things. Reading about ancient history is a good way to find weird stuff. Reading in the sciences, several weird things appear. In many ways, nature is precisely counter intuitive. So, if there is a God and this God created nature and left us revelation of the path to true felicity, one might expect to find, in that revelation, a bit of weirdness. This is especially to be expected if this revelation was made to ancient peoples who possessed a mythological worldview and entertained several superstitions about the way(s) of divinity. Not only so, but the culture of the Biblical world is just different from ours, as are their idioms, expressions, and social habits. That being said, a great deal of Christians hear things like, “the Bible is a perfect revelation from God” and thus read the Bible expecting to find something that confirms their own bizarre notions of perfection. I would submit that the Bible is precisely inspired to have certain difficulties, to make a perfect system of theology impossible, and to require tremendous humility to understand because its purpose is ultimately to guide communities of people who dedicate their lives to God’s kingdom revealed in Jesus Christ. Indeed, prior to the time of Christ, the purpose of the Old Testament was, once again, meant to provide light to communities of people who dedicated themselves to YHWH, not to be immediately understandable and easily resolvable in its difficulties (Proverbs 1:1-7).


Joseph Butler on the Weird Stuff in Scripture

Hence, namely from analogical reasoning, Origen has with singular sagacity observed, that he who believes the scripture to have proceeded from him who is the Author of nature, may well expect to find the same sort of difficulties in it, as are found in the constitution of nature1. And in a like way of reflection it may be added, that he who denies the scripture to have been from God upon account of these difficulties, may, for the very same reason, deny the world to have been formed by him. On the other hand, if there be an analogy or likeness between that system of things and dispensation of Providence, which revelation informs us of, and that system of things and dispensation of Providence, which experience together with reason informs us of, i. e. the known course of nature; this is a presumption, that they have both the same author and cause; at least so far as to answer objections against the former’s being from God, drawn from any thing which is analogical or similar to what is in the latter, which is acknowledged to be from him; for an Author of nature is here supposed.

Joseph Butler, The Analogy of Religion: Natural and Revealed to the Constitution and Course of Nature, ed. W. E. Gladstone, vol. Vol. I, The Works of Joseph Butler (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1897), 8–9.

Similarly, Leonard Euler addresses this very issue in the context of polemics against freethinkers:

XXXIX. As for the arguments formed by these adversaries and the apparent contradictions they claim are in the Holy Scripture, it would not be useless to begin by remarking that there is no science, no matter how solid its foundation, against which one cannot make objections just as strong or even stronger. There are also apparent contradictions which, at first glance, seem impossible to resolve. But since we are in a position to return to the primary principles of these sciences, this provides the means by which to destroy these arguments. However, when they are not seen through to the end, these sciences lose nothing of their certainty. Why would such similar reasons be enough to remove all authority from the Holy Scripture?

XL. Mathematics is regarded as a science in which nothing is assumed that cannot be derived in the most distinct way from the primary principles of our knowledge. Nevertheless, there have been people far above average who have believed to have found great problems in mathematics, whose solutions are impossible; by this they imagined themselves to have deprived this science of all its certainty. Indeed, this reasoning that they propose is so deceptively attractive that much effort and insight is required to refute them precisely. However, mathematics is not lessened in the eyes of sensible people, even when it does not clear up these problems entirely. So then what right do freethinkers unwaveringly think they have to reject the Holy Scripture because of a few nuisances which mostly are not nearly as considerable as the ones in mathematics?

XLI. In mathematics, one also encounters rigorously demonstrated propositions that, when not examined with the highest degree of attention, seem to contradict one another. I could produce several examples here if their complexity did not require a deeper knowledge of mathematics than I suppose most readers to have. But I can at least say with assurance that these apparent contradictions are much more significant than those that are supposedly found in the Holy Scripture. Despite this, no one suggests dismissing the certainty of mathematics. This doubt does not even exist in those who do not have the capacity required to refute these contradictions and to demonstrate that they do not hold.

Euler, A Defense of the Revelation Against the Objections of Freethinkers.

Soame Jenyns on the Rationale of Difficult Revelation

MY second Proposition is not so simple, but, I think, not less undeniable than the former, and is this, that from this book may be extracted a system of religion intirely new, both with regard to the object and the doctrines, not only infinitely superior to, but totally unlike, every thing which had ever before entered into the mind of man; I say extracted, because all the doctrines of this religion having been delivered at various times, and on various occasions, and here only historically recorded, no uniform or regular system oftheology is here to be found; and better perhaps it had been, if less labour had been employed by the learned, to bend and twist these divine materials into the polished forms of human systems, to which they never will submit, and for which they were never intended by their great author. Why he chose not to leave any such behind him we know not, but it might possibly be, because he knew, that the imperfection of man was incapable of receiving such a system, and that we are more properly and more safely conducted by the distant and scattered rays, than by the too powerful sunshine of Divine illumination; “If I have told you earthly things,” says he, “and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”1 that is, if my instructions, concerning your behaviour in the present, as relative to a future life, are so difficult to be understood, that you can scarcely believe me, how than you believe, if I endeavoured to explain to you the nature of celestial beings, the designs of Providence, and the mysteries of his dispensations; subjects which you have neither ideas to comprehend, nor language to express? Jenyns, A View of the Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion.



Of course the Bible has weird stuff it is authored by human beings and it is allegedly inspired by the God who made the whole weird cosmos. Every religious, historical, fictional, scientific, and mathematical masterpiece has weird stuff in it because nature is weird, people are weird, and apparently God is weird.



Charles Hodge on Sanctification

Below is an excerpt from Charles Hodges systematic theology. It is essentially his summary of progress in the Christian life under the heading of sanctification. He says more on this process in the same chapter, but here he simply talks about the method of sanctification. Before you his, which is pretty long, let me try to summarize his 6 points.

  1. The preaching of the gospel and the Holy Spirit lead the individual into trust and loyalty to Christ, who promises to save his people from sin.
  2. Faith leads to union with Christ which essentially has two effects:
    1. You receive Christ’s merits. His crucifixion is your death and his resurrection is your life.
    2. You receive the Holy Spirit who helps you to increase in love for God and neighbor.
  3. God’s Holy Spirit helps you apply your knowledge of the gospel story about Jesus to your own life, thus transforming your character over time.
  4. God gives you daily opportunities to exercise your graces or the character traits of Christ and you are to look for those opportunities and practice those traits as the opportunity arises. Richard Foster once recommended praying each morning, “Lord, give me an opportunity to serve somebody in the name of Jesus today.”
  5. Being a part of the church community gives the faithful access to God’s grace is very tangible ways: God’s people, the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, the preaching of the word, etc.
  6. Practice God’s presence by keeping the resurrected King Jesus before your mind throughout the day and recalling his presence in human history and to his people as your day progresses and you face the temptations, trials, and joys of that day.

All in all, I find his method to be in step with Scripture as well as with the present understanding of how habits are formed. Hopefully it is edifying to you. I think it would be helpful for certain thinkers in the Calvinist mega-church movement to re-read their Hodge. Many modern thinkers miss out on sanctification or spiritual progress as a necessary aspect of gospel belief or the Christian faith. The knee-jerk focus on God’s free acceptance of people may have some explanatory power for passages like Romans 6 where Paul feels the need to explain why grace is not a license to sin. But in books like J.D. Greear’s Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary, there is an entire section trying to explain why the Bible has ethical commands (since the gospel is really about God accepting us not about us repenting). I think that reading Hodge or for that matter Luther, or Calvin, or the four gospels would help undo imbalances of that nature (imbalances like teaching that commands aren’t really a part of the gospel).

Hodge on Sanctification

  1. The Soul is led to exercise Faith

    It is led to exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to receive Him as its Saviour, committing itself to Him to be by his merit and grace delivered from the guilt and power of sin. This is the first step, and secures all the rest, not because of its inherent virtue or efficacy, but because, according to the covenant of grace, or plan of salvation, which God has revealed and which He has pledged Himself to carry out, He becomes bound by his promise to accomplish the full salvation from sin of every one who believes

  2. The Effect of Union with Christ

    The soul by this act of faith becomes united to Christ. We are in Him by faith. The consequences of this union are:

    1. Participation in his merits. His perfect righteousness, agreeably to the stipulations of the covenant of redemption, is imputed to the believer. He is thereby justified. He is introduced into a state of favour or grace, and rejoices in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1–3.) This is, as the Bible teaches, the essential preliminary condition of sanctification. While under the law we are under the curse. While under the curse we are the enemies of God and bring forth fruit unto death. It is only when delivered from the law by the body or death of Christ, and united to Him, that we bring forth fruit unto God. (Romans 6:8; 7:4–6.) Sin, therefore, says the Apostle, shall not reign over us, because we are not under the law. (Romans 6:14.) Deliverance from the law is the necessary condition of deliverance from sin. All the relations of the believer are thus changed. He is translated from the kingdom of darkness and introduced into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Instead of an outcast, a slave under condemnation, he becomes a child of God, assured of his love, of his tenderness, and of his care. He may come to Him with confidence. He is brought under all the influences which in their full effect constitute heaven. He therefore becomes a new creature. He has passed from death to life; from darkness to light, from hell (the kingdom of Satan) to heaven. He sits with Christ in heavenly places. (Eph. 2:6.)
    2. Another consequence of the union with Christ effected by faith, is the indwelling of the Spirit. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us, in order that we might receive the promise of the Holy Ghost. (Gal. 3:13, 14.) It was not consistent with the perfections or purposes of God that the Spirit should be given to dwell with his saving influences in the apostate children of men, until Christ had made a full satisfaction for the sins of the world. But as with God there are no distinctions of time, Christ was slain from the foundation of the world, and his death availed as fully for the salvation of those who lived before, as for that of those who have lived since his coming in the flesh. (Romans 3:25, 26; Heb. 9:15.) The Spirit was given to the people of God from the beginning. But as our Lord says (John 10:10) that He came into the world not only that men might have life, but that they might have it more abundantly, the effusion, or copious communication of the Spirit is always represented as the great characteristic of the Messiah’s advent. (Joel 2:28, 29; Acts 2:16–21; John 7:38, 39.) Our Lord, therefore, in his last discourse to his disciples, said it was expedient for them that He went away, for “if I go not away, the Comforter (the Παράκλητος, the helper) will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.” (John 16:7.) He was to supply the place of Christ as to his visible presence, carry on his work, gather in his people, transform them into the likeness of Christ, and communicate to them all the benefits of his redemption. Where the Spirit is, there Christ is; so that, the Spirit being with us, Christ is with us; and if the Spirit dwells in us, Christ dwells in us. (Romans 8:9–11.) In partaking, therefore, of the Holy Ghost, believers are partakers of the life of Christ. The Spirit was given to Him without measure, and from Him flows down to all his members. This participation of the believer in the life of Christ, so that every believer may say with the Apostle, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20), is prominently presented in the Word of God. (Romans 6:5; Romans 7:4; John 14:19; Col. 3:3, 4.) The two great standing illustrations of this truth are the vine and the human body. The former is presented at length in John 15:1–8; the latter in 1 Corinthians 12:11–27; Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:22, 23; 4:15, 16; 5:30; Colossians 1:18; Col. 2:19; and frequently elsewhere. As the life of the vine is diffused through all the branches, sustaining and rendering them fruitful; and as the life of the head is diffused through all the members of the body making it one, and imparting life to all, so the life of Christ is diffused through all the members of his mystical body making them one body in Him; having a common life with their common head. This idea is urged specially in Ephesians 4:15, 16, where it is said that it is from Christ that the whole body fitly joined together, through the spiritual influence granted to every part according to its measure, makes increase in love. It is true that this is spoken of the Church as a whole. But what is said of Christ’s mystical body as a whole is true of all its members severally. He is the prophet, priest, and king of the Church; but He is also the prophet, priest, and king of every believer. Our relation to Him is individual and personal. The Church as a whole is the temple of God; but so is every believer. (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19.) The Church is the bride of Christ, but every believer is the object of that tender, peculiar love expressed in the use of that metaphor. The last verse of Paul Gerhardt’s hymn, “Ein Lammlein geht und tragt die Schuld,” every true Christian may adopt as the expression of his own hopes:—”Wann endlich ich soll treten ein In deines Reiches Freuden, So soll diess Blut mein Purpur seyn, Ich will mich darein kleiden; Es soll seyn meines Hauptes Kron’ In welcher ich will vor den Thron Des hochaten Vaters gehen, Und dir, dem er mich anvertraut, Als eine wohlgeschmückte Braut, An deiner Seiten stehen.”
  3. The Inward Work of the Spirit

    The indwelling, of the Holy Spirit thus secured by union with Christ becomes the source of a new spiritual life, which constantly increases in power until everything uncongenial with it is expelled, and the soul is perfectly transformed into the image of Christ. It is the office of the Spirit to enlighten the mind: or, as Paul expresses it, “to enlighten the eyes of the understanding” (Eph. 1:18), that we may know the things freely given to us of God (1 Cor. 2:12); i.e., the things which God has revealed; or, as they are called in v. 14, “The things of the Spirit of God.” These things, which the natural man cannot know, the Spirit enables the believer “to discern,” i.e., to apprehend in their truth and excellence; and thus to experience their power. The Spirit, we are taught, especially opens the eyes to see the glory of Christ, to see that He is God manifest in the flesh: to discern not only his divine perfections, but his love to us, and his suitableness in all respects as our Saviour, so that those who have not seen Him, yet believing on Him, rejoice in Him with joy unspeakable and full of glory. This apprehension of Christ is transforming; the soul is thereby changed into his image, from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord. It was this inward revelation of Christ by which Paul on his way to Damascus was instantly converted from a blasphemer into a worshipper and self-sacrificing servant of the Lord Jesus. It is not, however, only one object which the opened eye of the believer is able to discern.

    The Spirit enables him to see the glory of God as revealed in his works and in his word; the holiness and spirituality of the law; the exceeding sinfulness of sin; his own guilt, pollution, and helplessness; the length and breadth, the height and depth of the economy of redemption; and the reality, glory, and infinite importance of the things unseen and eternal The soul is thus raised above the world. It lives in a higher sphere. It becomes more and more heavenly in its character and desires. All the great doctrines of the Bible concerning God, Christ, and things spiritual and eternal, are so revealed by this inward teaching of the Spirit, as to be not only rightly discerned, but to exert, in a measure, their proper influence on the heart and life. Thus the prayer of Christ (John 17:17), “Sanctify them through thy truth,” is answered in the experience of his people.

  4. God calls the Graces of his People into Exercise

    The work of sanctification is carried on by God’s giving constant occasion for the exercise of all the graces of the Spirit. Submission, confidence, self-denial, patience, and meekness, as well as faith, hope, and love, are called forth, or put to the test, more or less effectually every day the believer passes on earth. And by this constant exercise he grows in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is, however, principally by calling his people to labour and suffer for the advancement of the Redeemer’s kingdom, and for the good of their fellow-men, that this salutary discipline is carried on. The best Christians are in general those who not merely from restless activity of natural disposition, but from love to Christ and zeal for his glory, labour most and suffer most in his service.

  5. The Church and Sacraments as means of Grace

    One great end of the establishment of the Church on earth, as the communion of saints, is the edification of the people of God. The intellectual and social life of man is not developed in isolation and solitude. It is only in contact and collision with his fellow-men that his powers are called into exercise and his social virtues are cultivated. Thus also it is by the Churchlife of believers, by their communion in the worship and service of God, and by their mutual good offices and fellowship, that the spiritual life of the soul is developed. Therefore the Apostle says, “Let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24, 25.)

    The Spirit renders the ordinances of God, the word, sacraments, and prayer, effectual means of promoting the sanctification of his people, and of securing their ultimate salvation These, however, must be more fully considered in the sequel.

  6. The Kingly Office of Christ

    In this connection, we are not to overlook or undervalue the constant exercise of the kingly office of Christ. He not only reigns over his people, but He subdues them to Himself, rules and defends them, and restrains and conquers all his and their enemies. These enemies are both inward and outward, both seen and unseen; they are the world, the flesh, and the devil. The strength of the believer in contending with these enemies, is not his own. He is strong only in the Lord, and in the power of his might. (Eph. 6:10.) The weapons, both offensive and defensive, are supplied by Him, and the disposition and the skill to use them are his gifts to be sought by praying without ceasing. He is an ever present helper. Whenever the Christian feels his weakness either in resisting temptation or in the discharge of duty, he looks to Christ, and seeks aid from Him. And all who seek find. When we fail, it is either from self-confidence, or from neglecting to call upon our ever present and almighty King, who is always ready to protect and deliver those who put their trust in Him. But there are dangers which we do not apprehend, enemies whom we do not see, and to which we would become an easy prey, were it not for the watchful care of Him who came into the world to destroy the works of the devil, and to bruise Satan under our feet. The Christian runs his race “looking unto Jesus;” the life he lives, he lives by faith in the Son of God; it is by the constant worship of Christ; by the constant exercise of love toward Him; by constant endeavours to do his will; and by constantly looking to Him for the supply of grace and for protection and aid, that he overcomes sin and finally attains the prize of the high-calling of God.