Category Archives: Truth

“The Word did everything” by Martin Luther

“The Word created heaven and earth and all things [Ps. 33:6]; the Word must do this thing, and not we poor sinners.

In short, I will preach it, teach it, write it, but I will constrain no man by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion. Take myself as an example.

I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing.

And while I slept [cf. Mark 4:26–29], or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philips and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it.

I did nothing; the Word did everything.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 51: Sermons I (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 51; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 77.

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“Bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colourless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity” by J.C. Ryle

“The times require at our hands distinct and decided views of Christian doctrine. I cannot withhold my conviction that the professing Church of the nineteenth century is as much damaged by laxity and indistinctness about matters of doctrine within, as it is by skeptics and unbelievers without.

Myriads of professing Christians now-a-days seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. Like people afflicted with colour-blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound.

If a preacher of religion is only clever and eloquent and earnest, they appear to think he is all right, however strange and heterogeneous his sermons may be. They are destitute of spiritual sense, apparently, and cannot detect error.

Popery or Protestantism, an atonement or no atonement, a personal Holy Ghost or no Holy Ghost, future punishment or no future punishment, High Church or Low Church or Broad Church, Trinitarianism, Arianism, or Unitarianism, nothing comes amiss to them: they can swallow all, if they cannot digest it!

Carried away by a fancied liberality and charity, they seem to think everybody is right and nobody is wrong, every clergyman is sound and none are unsound, everybody is going to be saved and nobody going to be lost.

Their religion is made up of negatives; and the only positive thing about them is, that they dislike distinctness, and think all extreme and decided and positive views are very naughty and very wrong!

These people live in a kind of mist or fog. They see nothing clearly, and do not know what they believe. They have not made up their minds about any great point in the Gospel, and seem content to be honorary members of all schools of thought.

For their lives they could not tell you what they think is truth about justification, or regeneration, or sanctification, or the Lord’s Supper, or baptism, or faith, or conversion, or inspiration, or the future state. They are eaten up with a morbid dread of CONTROVERSY and an ignorant dislike of PARTY SPIRIT.

And yet they really cannot define what they mean by these phrases. The only point you can make out is that they admire earnestness and cleverness and charity, and cannot believe that any clever, earnest, charitable man can ever be in the wrong!

And so they live on undecided; and too often undecided they drift down to the grave, without comfort in their religion, and, I am afraid, often without hope.
The explanation of this boneless, nerveless, jelly-fish condition of soul is not difficult to find.

To begin with, the heart of man is naturally in the dark about religion,—has no intuitive sense of truth,—and really NEEDS instruction and illumination. Besides this, the natural heart in most men hates exertion in religion, and cordially dislikes patient painstaking inquiry.

Above all, the natural heart generally likes the praise of others, shrinks from collision, and loves to be thought charitable and liberal. The whole result is that a kind of broad religious “agnosticism” just suits an immense number of people, and specially suits young persons.

They are content to shovel aside all disputed points as rubbish, and if you charge them with indecision, they will tell you,—“I do not pretend to understand controversy; I decline to examine controverted points. I daresay it is all the same in the long run.”

Who does not know that such people swarm and abound everywhere? Now I do beseech all who read this paper to beware of this undecided state of mind in religion. It is a pestilence which walketh in darkness, and a destruction that killeth in noon-day.

It is a lazy, idle frame of soul, which, doubtless, saves men the trouble of thought and investigation; but it is a frame of soul for which there is no warrant in the Bible, nor yet in the Articles or Prayer-book of the Church of England.

For your own soul’s sake dare to make up your mind what you believe, and dare to have positive distinct views of truth and error. Never, never be afraid to hold decided doctrinal opinions.

And let no fear of man and no morbid dread of being thought party-spirited, narrow, or controversial, make you rest contented with a bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colourless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity.

Mark what I say. If you want to do good in these times, you must throw aside indecision, and take up a distinct, sharply-cut, doctrinal religion. If you believe little, those to whom you try to do good will believe nothing.

The victories of Christianity, wherever they have been won, have been won by distinct doctrinal theology:

  • by telling men roundly of Christ’s vicarious death and sacrifice
  • by showing them Christ’s substitution on the cross, and His precious blood
  • by teaching them justification by faith, and bidding them believe on a crucified Saviour
  • by preaching ruin by sin, redemption by Christ, regeneration by the Spirit
  • by lifting up the brazen serpent
  • by telling men to look and live,—to believe, repent, and be converted.

This,—this is the only teaching which for eighteen centuries God has honoured with success, and is honouring at the present day both at home and abroad.

Let the clever advocates of a broad and undogmatic theology,—the preachers of the Gospel of earnestness, and sincerity and cold morality,—let them, I say, show us at this day any English village or parish, or city, or town, or district, which has been evangelized without ‘dogma,’ by their principles.

They cannot do it, and they never will. Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing. It may be beautiful to some minds, but it is childless and barren. There is no getting over facts. The good that is done in the earth may be comparatively small.

Evil may abound, and ignorant impatience may murmur, and cry out that Christianity has failed. But, depend on it, if we want to ‘do good’ and shake the world, we must fight with the old apostolic weapons, and stick to ‘dogma.’ No dogma, no fruits! No positive Evangelical doctrine, no evangelization!”

–J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 416–419.

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“Delight in assertions” by Martin Luther

“It is not the mark of a Christian mind to take no delight in assertions. On the contrary, a man must delight in assertions or he will be no Christian.

And by assertion— in order that we may not be misled by words– I mean a constant adhering, affirming, confessing, maintaining, and an invincible persevering. Nor, I think, does the word mean anything else either as used by the Latins or by us in our time.

I am speaking, moreover, about the assertion of those things which have been divinely transmitted to us in the sacred writings… Nothing is better known or more common among Christians than assertion. Take away assertions and you take away Christianity.”

–Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, in Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation, Eds. E. Gordon Rupp and Philip Watson (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969), 105-106.

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“Sustained and diligent study is indispensable” by John Murray

“I take it for granted that we all believe the Bible to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. I take it for granted that we all read the Bible with regularity. What I am going to plead for, however, is concentrated, sustained, devoted study of the Bible, the kind of study that is not fulfilled by the perfunctory reading of some passages each day…

What I am going to stress is the necessity for diligent and persevering searching of the Scriptures; study whereby we shall turn and turn again the pages of Scripture; the study of prolonged thought and meditation by which our hearts and minds may become soaked with the truth of the Bible and by which the deepest springs of thought, feeling and action may be stirred and directed; the study by which the Word of God will grip us, bind us, hold us, pull us, drive us, raise us up from the dunghill, bring us down from our high conceits and make us its bondservants in all of thought, life and conduct.

The Word of God is a great deep. The commandment is exceeding broad. And so we cannot by merely occasional, hurried and perfunctory use of it understand its meaning and power. Sustained and diligent study of the Bible is indispensable.”

–John Murray, “The Study of the Bible,” in The Collected Writings of John Murray, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1991), 3-4.

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“Our faith is a Person” by Charles H. Spurgeon

“Our faith is a Person. The gospel that we have to preach is a Person. And go wherever we may, we have something solid and tangible to preach. If you had asked the twelve apostles, in their day, ‘What do you believe in?’ they would not have needed to go round about with a long reply, but they would have pointed to their Master, and they would have said, ‘We believe Him.’

‘But what are your doctrines?’ ‘There they stand incarnate.’ ‘But what is your practice?’ ‘There, stands our practice. He is our example.’ ‘What, then, do you believe?’ Hear ye the glorious answer of the apostle Paul: ‘We preach Christ crucified.’

Our creed, our body of divinity, our whole theology is summed up in the person of Christ Jesus. The apostle preached doctrine; but the doctrine was Christ. He preached practice; but the practice was all in Christ.

There is no summary of the faith of a Christian that can compass all he believes, except that word Christ. And that is the Alpha and the Omega of our creed, that is the first and the last rule of our practice– Christ, and Him crucified.

To spread the faith, then, is to spread the knowledge of Christ crucified. It is, in fact, to bring men, through the agency of God’s Spirit, to feel their need of Christ, to seek Christ, to believe in Christ, to love Christ, and then to live for Christ.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Vol. 3 (1856-1878), Eds. Susannah Spurgeon and Joseph Harrald (New York: Fleming Revell Co., 1899), 42-43. From the lecture, “De Propaganda Fide,” delivered on January 4, 1859, to the Young Men’s Christian Association in Exeter Hall.

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“Truth and culture” by D.A. Carson

“No truth which human beings may articulate can ever be articulated in a culture-transcending way– but that does not mean that the truth thus articulated does not transcend culture.”

–D.A. Carson, “Maintaining Scientific and Christian Truths in a Postmodern World,” Science & Christian Belief, vol. 14, no. 2 (October 2002): 107-122, http://www.scienceandchristianbelief.org/articles/carson.pdf.

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