Wednesday, May 26, 2010

GOSPEL SONNETS - Chapter 5 - Section 2

By Ralph Erskine
Chapter 5

SECTION II. - A legal strain of doctrine discovered and discarded.

No wonder Paul the legal spirit curse,
Of fatal errors such a feeding nurse.
He, in Jehovah's great tremendous name,
Condemns perverters of the gospel scheme.
He damn'd the sophist rude, the babbling priest
Would venture to corrupt it in the least;
Yea, curs'd the heavenly angel down to hell
Who, daring, would another gospel tell. (1)
Which crime is charg'd on these that dare dispense
The self-same gospel in another sense.
  Christ is not preach'd in truth but in disguise,
If his bright glory half obscured lies.
When gospel soldiers that divide the word,
Scarce brandish any but the legal sword;
While Christ the Author of the law they press,
More than the End of it for righteousness;
Christ as a Seeker of our service trace,
More than a Giver of enabling grace;
The King commanding holiness they show
More than the Prince exalted to bestow:
Yea, more on Christ the sin-revenger dwell,
Than Christ Redeemer both from sin and hell.
  With legal spade the gospel-field he delves
Who thus drives sinners in unto themselves;
Halving the truth that should be all reveal'd,
The sweetest part of Christ is oft conceal'd.
We bid men turn from sin, but seldom say,
"Behold the Lamb that takes all sin away!"
Christ, by the gospel rightly understood,
Not only treats a peace, but makes it good.
Those suitors therefore of the bride, who hope
By force to drag her with the legal rope,
Nor use the drawing cord of conqu'ring grace,
Pursue with flaming zeal a fruitless chase;
In vain lame doings urge, with solemn awe,
To bribe the fury of the fiery law:
With equal success to the fool that aims
By paper walls to bound devouring flames.
The law's but mock'd by their most graceful deed,
Who wed not first the law-fulfilling Head;
It values neither how they wrought nor wept
Who slight the ark wherein alone 'tis kept.
Yet legalists "Do, Do," with ardour press,
And with prosperous zeal and warm address
Would seem the greatest friends to holiness;
But vainly, could such opposites accord,
Respect the law, and yet reject the Lord.
They shew not Jesus as the way to bliss,
But Judas like, betray him with a kiss
Of boasted works, or mere profession puft,
Law-boasters, proving but law-breakers oft.

(1) Gal. i. 7. 8.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

From the Inside Out

This past Lord's Day I was in a Reformed Baptist church and heard the Hillsong praise and worship song entitled, "From the Inside Out."  Since leaving the charismatic church in 2004/2005 I have primarily attended Reformed congregations where only hymns or psalms were sung.  I spoke to the pastor, and sought his permission to critique this song on my blog.  He revealed to me that there was at least one phrase in this song that he did not appreciate.  His suggestion in performing this critique is that we may find a way to transform this song espousing false doctrine into one which is biblically sound.  My desire is much simpler than that.  I propose that we scrap it, and stick with biblically sound music that has served the church well over the past centuries.

Here are the lyrics which I found freely on the internet.  I think "fair use" should allow me to copy them here for critiquing purposes.  My comments are in red.

A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace

The author's point here is that God's mercy and grace is everlasting and continues to forgive us of our sins.  This is true.  However, the danger we must guard ourselves against is an antinomian attitude that our sins do not matter and we may break God's law indiscriminately without any concern of recourse.  Consider this passage from Hebrews 6:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
(Hebrews 6:4-6)

So, we should be extremely cautious to have an attitude of, "I can sin the same sin a thousand times over, and I can always count on God's forgiveness."  You may just prove yourself to be reprobate if these thoughts are yours.

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame

Is God's "light" the only thing that never fades?  What about His Word?

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
(Isaiah 40:8)
Now, one may claim that God's Word is the "light."  However, this does not seem to be what is referenced in judging from the context of the rest of this song.  The "light" seems to be implied from the first verse as His mercy and grace.

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise, become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

This was the most troublesome verse to me when I heard this last Lord's Day.  First of all, we do not "give" God control of our heart and our soul.  He draws us to Himself.  To speak of giving Him control is to embrace an Arminian understanding of theology, hardly appropriate for a Reformed Baptist Church.  Secondly, what in the world does "consume me from the inside out Lord" mean?  Usually something that is consuming you from the inside out is a cancer.  It's a bad thing.  In trying to give the benefit of the doubt to this author I tried to think of any passage where consuming a person is referenced.  The best I could come up with is:

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
(John 6:53)
So we are commanded to "consume" Christ.  But nowhere are we taught to pray that He would consume us.  Thirdly, what is the emphasis of this part of the song?  (and it is the main part that is repeated over and over again.)  "I give..."  "Consume me..."  "become my..."  Words such as I, me, or my are tell tell evidence of who this song is really about.  Is it about Christ, or is it about "me?"  "I" seem to be the primary subject in this song.  There is a brief mention of longing for God's justice.  Believe me.  We should be loathe to cry out for God's justice.  I suggest that the author stick with the mercy plea in the first stanza.  God's justice demands hell for all eternity over a single sin.  Praise God that Christ has fulfilled the justice on our behalf.  Lastly, the words of "my embrace" and "love you from the inside out" are syrupy "Jesus is my boyfriend" type of "love songs" that real men would never sing.

Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise

For someone intent on "losing myself" this author sure spends a lot of time singing about "myself."  

The rest of the lyrics are simply a repeat of what has already been said, typical of the "7-11" style of today's worship music (seven words sang 11 times).

Certainly not all hymns are praiseworthy either.  We must be discerning when we select what we will sing in worship to the Lord.  In critiquing a song such as this one, it becomes clear why some churches embrace exclusive Psalmody.  When only the Psalms are sung, we can be assured that every word is doctrinally sound.

I do not believe that it is necessary to sing only Psalms.  However, if we are singing songs that are outside the infallible Word of God, we must be diligent to make sure that those songs are faithful to the teaching of scripture and consistent with Reformed orthodox doctrine.  What we don't want to do is to bring false doctrine into the meeting of the saints.  We must constantly be on guard against that.  Most of today's music gives us ample "target practice" for critiques such as this one.  In my opinion, it is best left out of worship altogether.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Unbelief Worse Than Sodomy

For the past seven weeks each Lord's Day I am reading a sermon from James Durham (1622-1658) concerning Isaiah 53 to my family.  This is from sermon 7 of Christ Crucified:  The Marrow of the Gospel in 72 Sermons on Isaiah 53.  Speaking on the dangers of unbelief, Mr. Durham declares:

"It thwarts with both the law and the gospel.  It thwarts with the commands of the first table, and so is a greater sin than murder or adultery, nay than sodomy, though these are great, vile and abominable sins.  Which may be thought strange,yet it is true.  It makes the person guilty of it more vile before God, than a pagan Sodomite; the nature of the sin being more heinous, as being against the first table of the law, in both the first and second commands thereof; it being by faith in God, that we make God our God, and worship God in Christ acceptably. Next, it is not only a sin against the law, but a sin against the gospel, and the prime flower (to speak so) of the gospel."

Friend, repent of your wicked sin of unbelief.  Turn your eyes toward Christ and throw yourself on His mercy.