“Bless our modest efforts” by Theodore Beza

“We are able to say, by the grace of God, that we have preached, and continue to preach, the pure truth contained in God’s holy Word. But alas, at what price?

Where is our zeal, our care, and our diligence as pastors? O Lord, support us therefore by Your infininte goodness. Preserve in us a good and right conscience.

Fill us with zeal for Your glory. Increase in us the knowledge, the wisdom, the love, and the endurance required for such a calling.

In sum, be pleased to bless our modest efforts.”

–Theodore Beza, Sermons sur l’histoire de la resurrection de nostre Seigneur Iesus Christ (Geneva: Jean le Preux, 1593), 568. As quoted in Scott Manetsch, Calvin’s Company of Pastors: Pastoral Care and the Emerging Reformed Church, 1536-1609 (Oxford: OUP, 2013), 307.

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“Mary’s Song” by Luci Shaw

Mary’s Song
By Luci Shaw

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest…
you who have had so far to come.)
Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.

His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world. Charmed by doves’ voices,
the whisper of straw, he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed who overflowed all skies,
all years. Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught
that I might be free, blind in my womb
to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

–Luci Shaw, “Mary’s Song,” in Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 29.

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“Live much in the smiles of God” by Robert Murray M’Cheyne

“Learn much of your own heart; and when you have learned all you can, remember you have seen but a few yards into a pit that is unfathomable.

‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ Jeremiah 17:9.

Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief!

Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in His beams. Feel His all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and repose in His almighty arms.

Cry after divine knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding. Seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasure, according to the word in Proverbs 2:4.

See that Proverbs 2:10 be fulfilled in you. Let wisdom enter into your hearts, and knowledge be pleasant to thy soul; so you will be delivered from the snares mentioned in the following verses.

Let your soul be filled with a heart-ravishing sense of the sweetness and excellency of Christ and all that is in Him.

Let the Holy Spirit fill every chamber of your heart; and so there will be no room for folly, or the world, or Satan, or the flesh.

I must now commend you all to God and the word of His grace. My dear people are just assembled for worship.

Alas! I cannot preach to them tonight. I can only carry them and you on my heart to the throne of grace. Write me soon.

Ever yours,

Robert Murray M’Cheyne”

–Robert Murray McCheyne, “Letter to Mr. George Shaw of Belfast (9/16/1840)” in Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, Ed. Andrew A. Bonar (Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894), 252.

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“They will bear all the weight we can lay on them” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, lastly, the firm grasp which the Virgin Mary had of Bible promises. She ends her hymn of praise by declaring that God has ‘blessed Israel in remembrance of His mercy,’ and that He has done ‘as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham and his seed forever.’

These words show clearly that she remembered the old promise made to Abraham, ‘In thee shall all nations of the earth be blessed.’ And it is evident that in the approaching birth of her Son she regarded this promise as about to be fulfilled.

Let us learn from this holy woman’s example, to lay firm hold on Bible promises. It is of the deepest importance to our peace to do so.

Promises are, in fact, the manna that we should daily eat, and the water that we should daily drink, as we travel through the wilderness of this world. We see not yet all things put under us. We see not Christ, and heaven, and the book of life and the mansions prepared for us.

We walk by faith, and this faith leans on promises. But on those promises we may lean confidently. They will bear all the weight we can lay on them.

We shall find one day, like the Virgin Mary, that God keeps His word, and that what He has spoken, so He will always in due time perform.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 1 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 38. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:46-56.

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“Regular and daily study” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us strive, every year we live, to become more deeply acquainted with Scripture. Let us study it, search into it, dig into it, meditate on it, until it dwell in us richly. (Coloss. 2:16.)

In particular, let us labor to make ourselves familiar with those parts of the Bible which, like the book of Psalms, describe the experience of the saints of old. We shall find it most helpful to us in all our approaches to God.

It will supply us with the best and most suitable language both for the expression of our wants and thanksgivings. Such knowledge of the Bible can doubtless never be attained without regular, daily study.

But the time spent on such study is never misspent. It will bear fruit after many days.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 1 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 35. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:46-56.

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“This precious and tender message about Christ” by Martin Luther

“The New Testament is a book in which are written the gospel and the promises of God, together with the history of those who believe and of those who do not believe them.

For ‘gospel’ [Euangelium] is a Greek word and means in Greek a good message, good tidings, good news, a good report, which one sings and tells with gladness.

For example, when David overcame the great Goliath, there came among the Jewish people the good report and encouraging news that their terrible enemy had been struck down and that they had been rescued and given joy and peace; and they sang and danced and were glad for it [I Sam. 18:6].

Thus this gospel of God or New Testament is a good story and report, sounded forth into all the world by the apostles, telling of a true David who strove with sin, death, and the devil, and overcame them, and thereby rescued all those who were captive in sin, afflicted with death, and overpowered by the devil.

Without any merit of their own He made them righteous, gave them life, and saved them, so that they were given peace and brought back to God. For this they sing, and thank and praise God, and are glad forever, if only they believe firmly and remain steadfast in faith.

This report and encouraging tidings, or evangelical and divine news, is also called a New Testament. For it is a testament when a dying man bequeaths his property, after his death, to his legally defined heirs.

And Christ, before His death, commanded and ordained that His gospel be preached after His death in all the world [Luke 24:44–47]. Thereby He gave to all who believe, as their possession, everything that He had.

This included: His life, in which He swallowed up death; His righteousness, by which He blotted out sin; and His salvation, with which He overcame everlasting damnation.

A poor man, dead in sin and consigned to hell, can hear nothing more comforting than this precious and tender message about Christ. From the bottom of his heart he must laugh and be glad over it, if he believes it true.”

–Martin Luther, “Preface to the New Testament (1522)” in Luther’s Works, Vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 35 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 358–359.

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“The crucified, resurrected, and exalted Christ” by Herman Bavinck

“It is the crucified but also the resurrected and exalted Christ whom the apostles proclaim. From that vantage point of the exaltation of Christ, they view and describe His earthly life, suffering, and death.

For the work He now carries out as the exalted mediator, He laid the foundations in His cross. In His battle with sin, the world, and Satan, the cross has been His only weapon.

By the cross He triumphed in the sphere of justice over all powers that are hostile to God. But in the state of exaltation, consequently, He has also been given the divine right, the divine appointment, the royal power and prerogatives to carry out the work of re-creation in full, to conquer all His enemies, to save all those who have been given Him, and to perfect the entire kingdom of God.

On the basis of the one, perfect sacrifice made on the cross, He now—in keeping with the will of the Father—distributes all His benefits. Those benefits are not the physical or magical aftereffect of His earthly life and death; the history of the kingdom of God is not an evolutionistic process.

It is the living and exalted Christ, seated at the right hand of God, who deliberately and with authority distributes all these benefits, gathers His elect, overcomes His enemies, and directs the history of the world toward the day of His parousia.

He is still consistently at work in heaven as the mediator. He not only was but still is our chief prophet, our only high priest, and our eternal king. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

There is, of course, an enormous difference between the work Christ did in His humiliation and what He accomplishes in His exaltation. Just as after the resurrection, His person appeared in another form, so also His work assumed another form.

He is now no longer a servant but Lord and Ruler, and His work is now no longer a sacrifice of obedience, but the conduct of royal dominion until He has gathered all His own and put all His enemies under His feet.

Nevertheless, His mediatorial work is continued in heaven. Christ did not ascend to heaven in order to enjoy a quiet vacation at the right hand of God, for, like the Father, He always works (John 5:17).

He went to heaven to prepare a place for His own there and to fill them here on earth with the fullness that He acquired by His perfect obedience. What He received as a reward for His labor for Himself and what He received for His own cannot be separated. He is all and in all (Col. 3:11).

The pleroma (fullness) that dwells in Christ must also dwell in the church. It is being filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19; Col. 2:2, 10).

It is God whose fullness fills Christ (Col. 1:19), and it is Christ whose fullness in turn fills the church (Eph. 1:23). The church can therefore be described as His pleroma, that which He perfects and gradually, from within Himself, fills with himself (Eph. 4:10), and is therefore itself being filled by degrees.

As the church does not exist apart from Christ, so Christ does not exist without the church. He is ‘the head over all things’ (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18), and the church is the body (σωμα) formed from Him and from Him receives its growth (Eph. 4:16; Col. 2:19), thus growing to maturity ‘to the measure of the full stature of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13).

The union between Christ and the church is as close as that between the vine and the branches, between bridegroom and bride, husband and wife, cornerstone and building.

Together with Him it can be called the one Christ (1 Cor. 12:12). It is to perfect the church that He is exalted to the Father’s right hand.

Just as through His suffering and death Christ was exalted in His resurrection and ascension to be head of the church, so now the church has to be formed into the body of Christ.

The work of the Mediator is one grand, mighty, divine work that began in eternity and will only be completed in eternity.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3Ed. John Bolt, and trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 473–475.

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