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Posts Tagged ‘Value of History’

The Sovereign Lord of History

In Reformation Today, Under the Sun (Nothing New!), Wm. Stanford Reid on 26/06/2011 at 13:34

So frequently throughout Scripture that we tend to overlook it by its very frequency, our Lord God does time and time again instruct us–charge us–command us–to remember His works. It is one of His appointed means by which we can keep our hearts tender and fresh in the love of our Lord and Savior. John Flavel’s excellent treatise, THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE is a wonderful exposition of this same truth. Here in the article below, William Stanford Reid adds his own insight on the importance of history for the Christian.


by William Stanford Reid
Reformation Today (Montreal, Canada), 2.4 (February 1953): 11, 17.]

History is God’s possession. This is the repeated assertion of the Scriptures. Whether dealing with individuals such as Pharaoh, Cyrus and Judas, or with nations such as the Jews or with kingdoms such as Babylon, Egypt or Rome, this is always the point of view. Every item, every event of history is worked out according to the purpose and plan of God, “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Moreover, this plan and purpose finds its culmination in redemption, accomplished by Christ and to be made complete at history’s final day.

The implications of this point of view for the history of the Church since apostolic days are numerous. The most important is, however, that Christ, who is “head over all things to the Church” is guiding and ruling His people. He is bringing His elect into the Church and punishing those professing Christians who prove unfaithful. In this way the history of the Church has for the Church a twofold objective. It is a warning of what befalls those who are not obedient. This is mentioned repeatedly in the New Testament. (2 Tim. 3:8; Heb. 3:17-19; Rev. 2,3). At the same time the history of the Church is a means of instruction, whereby it is warned, encouraged and strengthened. (Rom. 4, 9-11; Heb. 11; 1 Cor. 10:11).

For this reason the Christian has a very real obligation to the Church’s history. He, and the Church as a whole, must take it seriously, regarding it as part of God’s means of guiding and directing the Church by the Spirit into all truth. (John 14:26; 16:13). For this reason history is not to be discarded, nor disregarded. It is the revelation of how God deals with His people, which is also the fundamental message of the Bible. The only difference is that the Church does not have since Apostolic days, an inspired record, nor an inspired interpretation. Therefore, it is the Church’s obligation, not only to understand its own history, but also to evaluate and interpret it in the light of God’s Word.

There are, however, dangers at this point. If one adopts a proper point of view, they may not be great, but there is always a tendency towards traditionalism and conservativism. Because this, that or the other doctrine has been believed, or because this, that or the other practice has been followed, such must still be the case. This can only lead to aridity and pharasaism which will bring the Church to the grave.

The greatest danger, however, amongst present day Christians, is in the other direction. They tend to disregard the Church’s history. They adopt the attitude that it is unimportant “Let’s not have Calvin or Wesley or Machen,” they say, “But let us get back to the Scriptures. Only then shall we know the truth.” In this way they are adopting the position, that before this age no one has ever really wrestled with problems of the faith, and what is even more important, no one has ever found a solution. They imply that their problems, their needs and their ideas are absolutely new. Therefore history cannot help. Read the rest of this entry »

Was Calvin a Presbyterian?

In Reformation Today, Wm. Stanford Reid on 25/06/2011 at 08:57

Having mentioned William Stanford Reid in the previous post, it seemed appropriate to post an article by him. This too is from Reid’s little magazine, REFORMATION TODAYBack before “Calvin against the Calvinists,” I guess people were asking this question:

Was Calvin a Presbyterian?
by William Stanford Reid
Reformation Today (Montreal, Canada), 1.10 (July-August 1952): 11-12.]

Calvin a Presbyterian? Why of course, many will say, he was the founder of the Presbyterian Church. Therefore, when you quote Calvin, you are quoting, not a Protestant theologian, you are quoting a denominational apologist. We have even had this said to us concerning quotations in articles in this magazine. Consequently we feel that it is time that Calvin was somewhat better understood.

In order that we do this properly, it must be remembered that Calvin was, first and foremost, a Biblical expositor. His chief interest was in bringing men back to a proper understanding and application of the Word of God. He wrote commentaries on all but two of the books of the Bible. At the same time, he realized that only as men understood the teachings of the Word of God as a whole, could they be thoroughly furnished. He therefore, was the first of the Christian writers to set forth systematically what the Word of God had to say concerning God and man’s relation to Him. He did this in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.

Since Calvin’s day, his views have been accepted most completely by the Reformed and Presbyterian churches throughout the world. But they have done this, not because Calvin was Frenchman, nor because he wrote well, nor because he built up a strong church in Geneva. They have done this because they believed that his views were the most thoroughly Biblical of any so far set forth. Calvin was not a Presbyterian, but real Presbyterians are fundamentally Calvinists.

In the same way Evangelical Anglicans, if they adhere to their Thirty-Nine Articles, are also basically Calvinists. A study of the history of the formulation of the Articles will show quite clearly that Calvin’s was the dominant influence in the statement of doctrine prepared for the Elizabethan church. One man has made the comment that Calvin’s Institutes was the best known theological work in England during the last half of the sixteenth century. What is more, if one follows the history of Evangelical Anglicanism down through the succeeding years, he will find that Calvinism was its very motive power: George Whitefield, Hannah More, the Earl of Shaftesbury and many others were all strong Calvinists. It would seem that real Anglicans are also fundamentally Calvinists.

The same might be said of the Baptists. Some ten years after the formulation of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the present confession of the Presbyterian Church, the Baptists in the Savoy articles accepted the Calvinistic position, by adopting the Confession, although rejecting the doctrine of infant baptism and Presbyterian government. So down through the years Calvinistic Baptists have been numerous and a power for God in their communion: John Bunyan and Charles Haddon Spurgeon are but two who might be mentioned.

The same could be said of the Congregationalists, who were at variance with Calvin only on the point of church organization. But what about people like Methodists who hated a great number of his teachings? Even they, whether they realized it or not, were heavily indebted to Calvin. The stress upon the doctrine of Justification by Faith, upon the sovereign righteousness of God and upon similar doctrines was largely owing to the work and teaching of Calvin. Even their individualism, high-lightng the doctrine of man’s individual relationship to God could really be based only upon Calvin’s doctrine of covenant-election. Their one difficulty was that they allowed their reason at times to sit in judgment on God’s Word.

Now, we would not have it thought that Calvin was always right, but we do believe that basically he was closest to the Word of God, of any thinker who has written since the days of the Apostle Paul. He had his failings, he made his mistakes as any other man, net blessed with prophetic or apostolic power, might do. Yet he stands so far above all others who have written since the days of the inspired writers that we feel no shame in quoting and referring to him. For we believe that God raised him up at a special time, endowing him as he has few other men since apostolic days, with insight into the meaning of His Divine Revelation. Let none of us, therefore, forget the rock from which we were hewn.