Great News!

Phase 2 of Early English Books Online has just been made publicly available on the net (ahead of schedule); the collection has over 35,000 volumes, including many reformed and puritan works.

To celebrate, we have updated and collated as many volumes as we could find from Phase 2 for these two pages:

Every Reformed Systematic Theology Online  175+

Reformation & Puritan Bible Commentaries  705+

We are working on updating the rest of our pages with the newly available works as time permits.  Hopefully this can be done before the end of the year.

 

 

How Far Human Laws Bind the Conscience

One of the most constantly relevant and important ethical questions in the Christian life is how far human laws and commands bind us.  We are constantly presented with commands in school, work, in the family, in the Church and in our State which are less than obviously, morally necessary.

The best strand of historic, reformed theology, including Perkins and Rutherford, has answered that only God’s natural, moral and positive laws can bind creatures.  Human, positive commands bind only insofar as they reflect God’s laws.

While we are to honor God-given human authorities (by God’s moral law, the 5th Commandment) and are to seek to prevent scandal (by God’s moral law, the 6th Commandment), yet human authorities can add no morally binding obligation whatsoever to a matter; rather, they are to use their God given office, station, power and resources to enforce God’s moral law, and in so doing, they exercise true authority from God’s Will.

Hence human laws and commands bind only insofar as they reflect God’s laws in the situation, and to that degree only.  As all authorities have only been given authority from God for good, truth and edification, any action other than that is outside the powers of their office (ultra vires) and does not inherently bind.

All this is to say that all persons and authorities are to obey God’s natural, moral and positive laws, even when authorities do not rule accurately according thereto, as God is to be obeyed before men and as He is the Lord of the conscience alone.

Learn from the best of reformed theology and walk more closely in the Lord’s paths:

How Far the Laws & Commands of Human Authorities Bind the Conscience

On Arbitrary Laws & Implicit Faith & Obedience

God’s Law is the only thing that can morally bind his creatures, as there is fundamentally only one Lawgiver (Isa. 33:22; James 4:12).

Hence, all human laws and commands, including from those who hold public offices of God, only oblige as far those commands reflect God’s Law inherent in the situation itself, and to that degree.

Yet persons and authorities often expect to be obeyed simply because they have so willed it.  When you are presented with this unpleasant situation, here is a page of reformed resources that will help you understand this error (and the truth it opposes) better, and it will confirm you in walking in this life as a servant of God, and not of men.

On Arbitrary Laws & Commands

Likewise, to give anyone besides God our implicit faith and obedience (if they demand of us to believe or obey anything wherein a sufficient moral reason is not perceived or given to our conscience) is against the 2nd and 7th Commandments:

It is written: “What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to…  love Him and to serve the Lord thy God…” (Dt. 10:12)  But to serve the will of man apart from being able to serve God’s will in the matter is idolatry, to enthrone service to the creature above God.  It is also to perversely give up our soul’s most precious inner-chamber, reserved for God alone, to be used by men.

On Implicit, or Blind Faith & Obedience

On Positive Laws

One of the most important ethical distinctions, extensively relevant to the Christian life and on which there is very little teaching in the Church today, is the difference between (1) Natural Law & (2) Positive Laws.

(1) Natural Law includes the inherent designs that God created into Creation, natural human inclinations and fundamental natural principles of obliging force.

(2) Positive Laws are all specific commands and laws of humans in society, which ought to be based on natural laws, though they inherently contain some amount of arbitrariness to them.

In necessity, Natural laws override Positive Laws.

A great familiarity with this distinction and its extensive relevance all around us is most needed during our societal response to COVID (some of which response is good and some of which is not adequately based on Natural Law), during riots and even in the very mundane issues of work and family life.

It also very much applies to the government of the Church and defending oneself under unjust Church discipline.

Further, the issue is theological:  God makes ethically binding positive laws, and He abrogates them.  Delve into the rich things of the Lord’s revelation and greatly expand your understanding.

Lastly, how far do positive laws bind the conscience?  In contrast to the fuzziness and lack of clarity on this point in the modern Church, there was a large puritan consensus on the matter which is both clear, precise and dead-on right.

Read the Introduction on the page and grow in your walking before the Lord and men:

On Positive Laws & Ordinances, & the Law of Nations

Church Ordinances & Order

The Reformation recognized that numerous commands in Scripture were for the good-order of the Church in their given context, and were not absolutely binding, without qualification, on all times and societies.

This Scriptural category of ‘Church ordinances’ was a common-place in Reformation theology, though it is virtually unrecognized in the conservative, reformed Church, especially among Biblicists.

With Churches adapting to the Corona outbreak, it is more necessary than ever to understand the ethical theology undergirding Church ordinances.  What is their binding nature?  May they be broken without guilt?

Read the Introduction and explore our Lord’s instruction with these reformed resources:

On the Ordinances, Order & Policy of the Church

Needless to say, it does not appear that any other significant collection on this topic exists on the net.  You will look in vain for a detailed discussion on this subject in modern systematic theologies, or any other theological book for that matter.

Tread in the old paths that were derived from the Word of God and have stood firm through many generations.

May the Magistrate Forbid Church Assemblies in a Time of a Severe, Spreading Disease?

May the Magistrate rightly quarantine and restrain assemblies, including those of the Church, upon sufficient natural and civil warrant?

Rutherford’s answer to that question was ‘Yes’, along with other reformed figures in that era, including the civil government of the Netherlands during the time of the Synod of Dort (1619).

The Reformation, Puritan and presbyterian doctrine, that the Church is subject to the Magistrate in legitimate civil laws and matters circa sacra (around the sacred) is evidenced even in our own day by civil governments (rightly) enforcing fire codes, zoning laws and sound ordinances, etc. upon churches.

See many theological points related to this topic documented from the Reformation and puritan eras, especially from Gillespie and Rutherford, on this new page:

On the Civil Magistrate’s Just Authority for Restraining the Congregating of Citizens, even the Church, and Quarantining, etc., with Sufficient Natural Warrant, according to God’s Moral Law

(The page does not address every issue that ought to be considered in relation to the current response to the Corona virus, such as, what churches should do if the magistrate does not have sufficient natural and moral warrant to forbid their assembly.)

The Puritans on Social Distancing & the Adaptation of the Church under Spreading Disease

The puritans very well knew about infection and had time-tested, common sense and effective protocols and practices for lawfully adapting and preserving the Church, according to God’s Word, in an epidemic.

There is nothing new under the sun, and their advice is still very good and effective in our day.  Glean wisdom from our godly fathers.

And if you have any love for the Church of Jesus Christ in this earth, share this webpage and help make it go viral:

Historic Reformed Quotes on Social Distancing & the Adaptation of the Church in a Time of Spreading Disease

In addition to these materials, we have also gathered material on the very related topics of:

On Works of Necessity & Mercy on the Sabbath  (including during Plagues)

On the Relations Between the 1st & 2nd Tables of the Law  (respecting public worship ordinances and our moral duty unto our fellow man)

The Puritans on Spreading Diseases

The puritans suffered through many spreading diseases and plagues and have given us:

(1) Careful and even handed, cautionary advice in such situations,
(2) noble and heroic examples to follow, and
(3) a wealth of moving and poignant spiritual treasure on this topic.

Feed your soul upon Christ during these times, and remember to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” Mt. 22:36-38

On Spreading Diseases & Plagues

 

On the Apocrypha & Pseudepigrapha

Why should a Christian read a significant portion of the apocryphal literature?

Because falsehood and deception breeds on ignorance. The Truth does not fear the unknown, or anything at all; rather, it exposes darkness for what it is. Do not found your faith on ignorance. Have you found God’s Word to be true in view of every other option?

When every other alternative is surveyed and found out, it is seen that there are no competitors to God’s Word, no part of God’s Word has been lost, and necessarily, no other book will ever be added to the Canon of the inspired Word of God.

Here is a large collection of resources on the Apocrypha and Pseudepigraphia, demonstrating that the apocryphal books are not the Word of God, with an Introduction.

On the Apocrypha & Pseudepigrapha

And yet, nonetheless, many reformed theologians from the Reformation and puritan eras thought that the Apocrypha had some value both historically speaking and for religious edification (just as other religious books may have today).

Here is the start of a collection of commentaries on the Apocrypha, including from historic, reformed theologians (mainly in Latin):

Commentaries on the Apocrypha

Continuing Instant in Prayer

It is a joy at Thanksgiving to be around friends and family, giving thanks unto the Lord for his goodness to us.

As God wants us to be “continuing instant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12), may we long continue being stirred up giving Him the affections of our heart in converse with Him.

Unto that end, we have collected many resources on prayer which we hope will kindle much love and devotion to Him who ought to always have the first place in our hearts.

For pastors, we hope these resources will be of great assistance to you in leading your people to be “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit”. (Eph. 6:18)

Prayer

Who was the most in preaching on prayer?  From what has been handed down to us, and from what we have seen, Charles Spurgeon comes in first, Thomas Boston second, and Jonathan Edwards follows.

Works Against the Roman Apologist Bellarmine

The Jesuit Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) was the most important apologist in all of Church history for the Romanist Church.  Responses to his works numbered into the several hundreds.

As Bellarmine’s volumes of disputations covered most doctrines of the Christian faith in an orderly way, so full responses to them are virtually protestant systematic theologies.

This collection of over 155 works against Bellarmine serves as a full refutation of all the twisted doctrines of Romanism, the Antichrist.  Here you will find immensely helpful reformed treatises on the whole gamut of theology in both English and Latin.

Works Against the Roman Apologist Robert Bellarmine

New Translation from Rutherford

For the first time, here is over a hundred pages translated into English from Rutherford’s Examination of Arminianism in Latin, for free and online.

Rutherford’s Examination was the closest thing he wrote to systematic theology.  As Arminians erred on nearly every point of theology, refuting their rising, popular system gave Rutherford the opportunity to survey nearly the whole gamut of theology.  Rutherford addresses topics here nowhere addressed in his books written in English.

The level of depth, detail and Scriptural, theological accuracy in this work far surpasses nearly anything available in English today.  Learn theology from the greatest Scottish theologian in Church history.

Rutherford, Samuel – Rutherford’s Examination of Arminianism: the Tables of Contents with Excerpts from Every Chapter  trans. Charles Johnson & Travis Fentiman  1668 / 2019  135 pp.

The Covenant of Grace

We have recently beefed up our webpage on the Covenant of Grace.  Here you will find 30+ puritan treatises on the subject.  We will add more in the future.

There is much blessing to be found in this rich literature on God’s Covenant for those who have a tender spirit before their God and treasure his promises:

The Covenant of Grace

“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them his covenant.”

Ps. 25:14

Are Good Works Necessary for Salvation?

While historic Reformed Christianity has tenaciously held to Justification by faith alone, its consistent answer to the above question regarding the whole of our salvation has been: Yes.  The concept is inherent in numerous parts of the Westminster standards.

The new webpage below contains many resources on this subject (the most that is anywhere available, it is believed) that will be helpful to further understanding the Bible’s teaching that good works are necessary to salvation.

The Introduction on the webpage is rather full and walks through the numerous Biblical and historical issues surrounding the question and introduces one to the many distinctions that Reformed Orthodoxy from the 1600’s made about it.  The Introduction also distinguishes how the Biblical and orthodox teaching differs from modern heresies such as the Federal Vision, Norman Sherphardism and the New Perspective on Paul.

Numerous quotes have been translated for the first time from Latin from numerous of the older reformed theologians.  You will likely learn a lot.  May it be a blessing to you, and may we be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).

The Necessity of Good Works

What Hour was Christ Crucified on?

Two well known Christians have recently left Christianity, in part citing as a reason contradictions in the Bible. If Christianity is a farce, or is true, it is better to find out now rather than later.
 
One of the most notable and difficult seeming discrepancies in the New Testament is that Mk. 15:25 says that Christ was crucified at the third hour. Jn. 19:14 says that Jesus’ trial was not yet over at the sixth hour.
 
Is this a contradiction or can it be harmonized?  Find out:
 

A Book of Comfort for Difficult Times

The 1500’s Spanish reformer, Juan Perez, wrote a lengthy tract seeking to confirm and comfort protestants in the heart-breaking circumstances of living under the fear of the Spanish Inquisition.

This work has been newly translated into English by Charles F. Johnson and will be especially encouraging to anyone going through difficult times.  May this old book bring us hope for this life and the next.

“For there is no Jesus Christ without a cross,
nor a true and blessed cross without Jesus Christ.”

.

Perez, Juan – The Epistle of Consolation to Those Imprisoned by the Inquisition 1560  130 pp.  Translated from Spanish by Charles Johnson, with a biographical preface about Perez.

Perez (c.1500-1567) was a Spanish reformer who spent time in Geneva and also translated the New Testament and Psalms into Spanish.

Wedding Rings

Many of the early puritans refused to wear wedding rings as Romanism in their day had caused wedding rings to bear a commonly superstitious meaning.  To wear them was to affirm that meaning, and was hence scandalous.  Some persons today teach that it is wrong to wear wedding rings.

However, as wedding rings in many cultures do not bear that superstitious meaning today, nor is it even known that they ever did bear that meaning, to prohibit wedding rings on this account is to revive the knowledge of idolatry, which is contrary to the purpose of Scriptural teaching.

Learn more about this subject and what Scripture and the Westminster documents have to say about it, here:

Wedding Rings

Whole New Testament Commentaries in Latin

We are humbled and thankful to God to be able to present to you a webpage of most of the major whole New Testament Commentaries (or the majority thereof, 75+) in Latin throughout Church history which have been preserved and are on the net.
 
The titles have been translated into English.
 
These include commentaries from the Early Church, Medieval Church, the Reformed Church (20+), the Lutheran Church, critical commentaries, etc.
 
“Search the scriptures…  they are they which testify of Me.” (Jn. 5:39) 
 
Please share this with those who will have an interest in this treasure which Christ has gifted to us (Eph. 4:11-13).
 

What Day was Christ Crucified On?

On what day of the week was Christ crucified?

The answer greatly affects how one understands the events of Christ’s whole Last Week (which events form a significant share of the Gospels).

The options are Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.  Wednesday is a bit fringe, but surprisingly popular.  The Thursday view has risen greatly in popularity in the last several decades amongst evangelical scholars.

This webpage provides in-depth resources defending the majority view of Church History, that Christ ate the Passover on Thursday, the 14th of Nisan, and was crucified on Friday the 15th of Nisan.

Christ was Crucified on Friday, the 15th of Nisan

Whole Old Testament Commentaries in Latin & Trelcatius

Here are the most significant whole Old Testament commentaries from Church history in Latin.  The works are subdivided into Early Church, Medieval Church, Reformed, Lutheran, etc.:

Whole Old Testament Commentaries

And, as a bonus, here is a brief section on Prolegomena from one of the reformed orthodox writers, Lucas Trelcatius, Jr., which is otherwise unavailable on the net:

Trelcatius, Jr., Lucas – ‘Of the Principles of Sacred Divinity’  1610  5 pp from A Brief Institution of the Common Places of Sacred Divinity, pp. 1-11.

Trelcatius, Jr. (1573-1607) was a professor of theology at the University of Leiden, Netherlands and one of the key participants in a number of debates with Jacob Arminius.