A Prayer For Study

Andreas Hyperius (1511 – 1564)

A prayer from Flemish theologian Andreas Hyperius:

Thou, most wise heavenly Father, art the fount and origin of all knowledge and wisdom: thou pourest into the minds of all men knowledge of thyself and of thy will, thou pourest understanding, weightiness of judgment, prudence, right counsel, and the other excellent gifts of the Holy Spirit, by which thou both unitest, in accordance with thy good pleasure, and teachest the minds not only of small children but even of babes and sucklings, and fashionest their mouths to exalt thee with praises. I therefore pray that thou wouldst render my natural disposition docile both to the discipline of piety and to all good arts, in order that, when, by means of the example and aid of thy Son Jesus Christ, I have made some progress in true wisdom and grace and age before thee and before men, I may continuously refer all my study and effort to magnifying and propagating the glory of thy name and of the same your Son and to the advantage of men, through the same our Lord Christ. Amen.

Thanks to Dr. Scott Swain for the notice, and Dr. E. Hutchinson for the translation.

A Prayer Before Study

Aside

Ineffable Creator,
Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom,
have established three hierarchies of angels,
have arrayed them in marvelous order
above the fiery heavens,
and have marshaled the regions
of the universe with such artful skill,

You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.

Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.

You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
The goodness of Your blessing.

Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.

May You
guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.

You Who are true God and true Man, who live and reign, world without end.
Amen.  
Creator ineffabilis,
qui de thesauris sapientiae tuae
tres Angelorum hierarchias designasti,
et eas super caelum empyreum
miro ordine collocasti,
atque universi partes elegantissime disposuisti,

tu inquam qui
verus fons
luminis et sapientiae diceris
ac supereminens principium infundere digneris
super intellectus mei tenebras
tuae radium claritatis,
duplices in quibus natus sum
a me removens tenebras,
peccatum scilicet et ignorantiam.

Tu, qui linguas infantium facis disertas,
linguam meam erudias
atque in labiis meis gratiam
tuae benedictionis infundas.

Da mihi
intelligendi acumen,
retinendi capacitatem,
addiscendi modum et facilitatem,
interpretandi subtilitatem,
loquendi gratiam copiosam.

Ingressum instruas,
progressum dirigas,
egressum compleas.

Tu, qui es verus Deus et homo,
qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum.
Amen.  

From Thomas Aquinas

Black Bartholomew’s Day

Today is a grim day. Reformed Christians have no true “holy-day” except the Lord’s Day (Rev 1:10), nevertheless there are seasons and days that are important.[1] Today is one of those important days to me, and it is a grim day.

St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, 1572
On August 24th, 1572, the St. Bartholomew’s Massacre was in full effect. Begun the night before with the attempted assassination of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, many of the wealthiest French Reformed Christians were in town for the wedding of Henry of Navarre. After a few days, as many as ten thousand were dead.

In Roman Catholic France, the Reformed faith was viewed as wicked and with suspicion, a foreign infection from Frenchman Jean Caulvin (John Calvin) inserting itself from Geneva. But despite the distrust of Protestant theology in Popish France, the Reformed faith was flourishing. In 1555, there were ten churches in all of France that held to Calvin’s Reformed theology. Just seven years later, there were 2,000 churches that were Reformed Protestant strongholds. These Reformed believers went forth boldly under that name “Huguenots.”

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A Dying Man’s Prayer

and make the death of thy Son Jesus Christ effectual to my redemption at the hour of my death

Samuel Johnson (b. 1709) is an interesting figure for a number of reasons, but I wanted to post a prayer he wrote in his dying days. Having held a variety of beliefs, and only coming around to biblical orthodoxy in his later years, to see him grapple with his beliefs and end in certainty on what the Scriptures say is gratifying to behold. As his positions on God, man, Christ, and the truth became more certain, his attending physicians noticed the change in his speech – about doctrine – and in his behavior. In the last week of his life, Johnson composed the following prayer:

Almighty and most merciful Father, I am now, as to human eyes, it seems, about to commemorate, for the last time, the death of thy Son Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer. Grant, O Lord, that my whole hope and confidence may be in his merits, and thy mercy; enforce and accept my imperfect repentance; make this commemoration available to the confirmation of my faith, the establishment of my hope, and the enlargement of my charity; and make the death of thy Son Jesus Christ effectual to my redemption. Have mercy upon me, and pardon the multitude of my offences. Bless my friends; have mercy upon all men. Support me, by thy Holy Spirit, in the days of weakness, and at the hour of death; and receive me, at my death, to everlasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jeremy Larson “Samuel Johnson and Presbyterianism” Pro Rege Vol XL, No 3 (March, 2012) p. 23.

May we all go to our final moment, before our eyes close, with such clear-sighted faith!

Twelve Rules for Promoting Harmony Among Church Members

From volume 5 of the works of Thomas Smyth (1808 – 1873), the following rules would help a lot of churches and Christians maintain the bond of peace. This advice is timely, even if it is around two hundred years old!

To remember that we are all subject ot failings and infirmities, of one kind or another
Matthew 7:1 – 5; Romans 2:21 – 23.

To bear with and not magnify each other’s infirmities.
Galatians 6:1

To pray one for another in our social meetings, and particularly in private.
James 5:16

To avoid going from house to house, for the purpose of hearing news, and interfering with other people’s business.
Leviticus 19:16

Always to turn a deaf ear to any slanderous report, and to allow no charge be brought against any person until well founded and proved.
Proverbs 25:23

If a member be in fault, to tell him of it in private, before it is mentioned to others.
Matthew 18:15

To watch against shyness of each other, and put the best construction on any action that has the appearance of opposition or resentment.
Proverbs 10:12

To observe the just rule of Solomon, that is, to leave off contention before it be meddled with.
Proverbs 17:14

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Witherspoon: The Spiritual Condition Is More Important Than Our Earthly Status

John Witherspoon (1723-1794) was a key Presbyterian minister during the Revolutionary War period in American history, and is regarded among the Founding Fathers. As the only active clergy to sign the Declaration of Independence, to sign the Articles of Confederation, approve the Constitution, and serve as Moderator of the General Assembly for American Presbyterians, Witherspoon established himself in sacred and secular history of this nation. He has an important treatise on the doctrine of being born again, or regeneration.

Witherspoon wrote movingly about preaching the Gospel to different socio-economic groups, especially the poor. Here is a longer passage, where after addressing the unique situation the Scriptures give to those suffering in poverty, he says:

But does not the Savior of sinners beseech you to be reconciled unto God? He entreats you to come unto Him that you may have life. He regardeth not the persons of men, but values a precious immortal spirit as much in a mean cottage as in a splendid palace. Your rags and nakedness can be no hindrance to your obtaining His favor. He counsels you “to buy of Him gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich, and white rainment that you may be clothed.”

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Tempering A Serrated Edge: Piper Responds to Wilson

Back in 2000 (twenty years ago!!), both John Piper and Doug Wilson were panelists at a Ligonier conference. Wilson made some remarks on rhetoric, satire, and taking the fight to the pagans. Strikingly – and from what I can tell, completely out of keeping with the rest of the kid-glove discussion – Piper challenges this at the 24:02 mark, “to balance it.”

Wilson published his book A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking in 2003, just shortly after this. In the subsequent seventeen years, I would argue that this satire has not had the triumphant effect that may have been desired.

A few remarks in light of the video:

Distinctions
Piper notes some important distinctions we must bear in mind. The first difference is between Christ as holy (in his divine nature & unfallen human nature) and my sinful inclinations (post-lapse humanity). Wilson had earlier noted how Jesus could skewer self-righteous Pharisees (many old Credenda readers or current Blog & Mablog subscribers will think of his “righteous horse laugh”). Piper’s point is valid, since Jesus possesses both the foresight and insight to know when such barbed rhetoric will be useful. It is precisely at this point where our sinful nature obscures us, making us liable to hurt more than help.

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The Lorica

A lōrīca in the Latin world was armor, often the breastplate. As Christianity grew in the Roman empire, a lorica increasingly referred to a protective prayer, often recited as the soldier equipped and strapped on his armor. Celtic Christianity, which I’m noting today on St. Patrick’s Day, especially continued this tradition, and I list three loricas below.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me

A few things stand out from these prayers for protection. First, these prayers within the Protestant, Reformed tradition are noted for their reference to the Triune Lord, and not angels or saints (as most loricae were). Second, the prayers are very tactile and sensory; no Gnosticism here, they drip and hum from living in the Creator’s world. Third, notice how ancient these prayers are; our piety did not begin in the 1950’s, or at the Reformation. As Belgic Confession article 27 reminds us, the Church of Christ has existed from “the beginning of the world.” Fourth, there is an unmistakable desire for holiness and sanctity. Whether it is heavenly conversation (no Gaelic filth here!), or desires aligned by Divine power and vision, these prayers are not talismans of power, but instruments for sanctification. Especially in what would become “Be Thou My Vision,” there is an obvious (albeit unnamed) understanding of our union with Christ.

Fifth, I would concede there is something lacking in the piety of these prayers. I believe that what is lacking is an emphasis (certainly not the absence) of the Cross, and the Spirit’s power to make us cruciform, to make us Christ-like. It might be a quibble, or it might be a matter of emphasis, but the prayers of something like The Valley of Vision or Rutherford’s letters show (in my opinion) a maturation of piety.

Without further ado, three prayers of protection:

Lorica of St. Fursey (c. 650)
The arms of God be around my shoulders
The touch of the Holy Spirit upon my head,
The sign of Christ’s cross upon my forehead,
The sound of the Holy Spirit in my ears,
The fragrance of the Holy Spirit in my nostrils,
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Prayers For the New Year

NewYearPrayerOf course, Christians are commanded to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17), and that grace should be pursued all the more at the start of a new year. May the following prayers encourage you for the year ahead!

“O LORD,
Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed
in thy presence, in thy service, to thy glory.
Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains,
sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from thee,
but may rely on thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire
to show forth thy praise,
testify thy love,
advance thy kingdom.
I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with thee, O Father, as my harbor,
thee, O Son, at my helm,
thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.
Give me thy grace to sanctify me,
thy comforts to cheer,
thy wisdom to teach,
thy right hand to guide,
thy counsel to instruct,
thy law to judge,
thy presence to stabilize.
May thy fear be my awe,
thy triumphs my joy.

—Arthur Bennett, editor. The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, 1999 (first published in 1975), p. 112. ISBN 0-85151-228-3.

“Most Merciful Lord, the Ancient of Days,
Moved by your grace, we devote ourselves to you at the beginning of this year desiring to employ it better than we have done in the years that are past. And since this day also warns us that our years pass away like a flood, like a dream, give us grace that we may seriously number our days, that we may have a heart of wisdom, that we may discern the vanity of this life, and that we may aspire to that better life, when days and months and years shall be counted no more, forever. While we continue in the flesh, may we more and more live, not according to its desires, but according to your will. And grant, O God, that when our years shall come to an end, and the day of our death arrives, we may depart in the peace that passes all understanding and in the sure hope of life everlasting. Favorably hear us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Personal prayer from Psalm 90 (source)
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Athanasius: Christ Drives Out Fear of Death

Sometimes you run out of room or time in your Lord’s Day sermon, and so “Monday Morning Pulpit” is a chance to expand upon or reinforce ideas you didn’t have a chance to finish during the sermon.

On Resurrection Sunday, I preached from Hebrews 2:14 – 15; “that through death Christ might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” The following Athanasius quote is MONEY for the sanctification of the fear of death, but I wasn’t able to read the whole quote in the sermon. Enjoy!

“For that death is destroyed, and that the Cross is become the victory over it, and that it has no more power but is verily dead, this is no small proof, or rather an evident warrant, that it is despised by all Christ’s disciples, and that they all take the aggressive against it and no longer fear it; but by the sign of the Cross and by faith in Christ tread it down as dead. For of old, before the divine sojourn of the Saviour took place, even to the saints death was terrible, and all wept for the dead as though they perished. But now that the Saviour has raised His body, death is no longer terrible; for all who believe in Christ tread him under as no naught, and choose rather to die than to deny their faith in Christ. For they verily know that when they die they are not destroyed, but actually [begin to] live, and become incorruptible through the Resurrection. And that devil that once maliciously exulted in death, now that its pains were loosed, remained the only one truly dead. Continue reading