infinite wisdom and power

Psalm 147 says, ‘Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.’

Plumer says, ‘There must be something exceedingly drivelling in the tendency of the human mind respecting divine things to have made it necessary for inspired writers so often to teach us that God is great, supreme, infinite.’ (p1200)

‘There is none above him, none with him, none like him, in power, or in any of his perfections. To the mind of God no subject is knotty, no truth mysterious. His mind embraces with infinite ease all the propositions which constitute universal truth.’ (p1198)

WS Plumer, Psalms: A Critical and Expository Commentary with Doctrinal and Practical Remarks. First published 1867. Reprinted Banner of Truth 2016.

the value of tradition

“Tradition, viewed as the past teaching of the church in its confessions, creeds, and representative theologians, effectively represents the sum total of the accumulated biblical exegesis of the Christian church. It is not on a par with Scripture – some of it may even mislead us – but we neglect it at our peril and use it to our great advantage. …

This is where the common misunderstanding of the post-Reformation slogan sola Scriptura can be confusing. When the slogan was devised, it was never intended to exclude the tradition of the church. Instead, it asserted that the Bible is the supreme authority. Adherence to the idea that the Bible is the only source to be followed was the mistake of the anti-Nicenes in the fourth century, the Socinians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the nineteenth century, and many other sects and heretics. Effectively, it says that my understanding of the Bible is superior to the accumulated wisdom of every generation of Christians that has ever lived. Enough said.”

Robert Letham, Systematic Theology (2019), p33-34

the three objects of faith

According to John Colquhoun (1748-1827):

John ColquhounThe objects which the eager hand of faith grasps and receives are strictly speaking three – a word, a person, and a thing; or a verbal object, a personal object, and a real object. The word brings the person near to us, and the person brings the thing near.

These three should, in our exercise of faith, be distinguished, but never divided. The man who has one of them possesses all; and he who has not all possesses none. Christ Jesus, the glorious person, with God in him, is, as an object of faith, between the word and the thing, and it is he alone who gives importance and value to both. The former is the Word of God, and the latter the righteousness of God.

We therefore may with full assurance of faith rely on both, and be as firmly persuaded that they can never fail us as that he is the only begotten Son of God, and God equal with the Father.

A View of Saving Faith, p98.

same as ever

Can’t remember if I’ve posted this quote before, but it won’t harm to repeat if so.

– From the introduction of a short piece by Thomas Goodwin, with the long but self-explanatory title, ‘The heart of Christ in heaven towards sinners on earth; or, a treatise demonstrating the gracious disposition and tender affection of Christ, in his human nature now in glory, unto his members, under all sorts of infirmities, either of sin or misery.’


“Having set forth [in a previous treatise] our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in all his [saving work], I shall now annex, as next in order, and accordant thereunto, this discourse that follows. [It] lays open the heart of Christ, as now he is in heaven, sitting at God’s right hand, and interceding for us. How it is affected and graciously disposed towards sinners on earth who come to him – how willing to receive them – how ready to entertain them – how tender to pity them in all their infirmities, both sins and miseries.

The scope and use whereof will be this: to animate and encourage believers to come more boldly to the throne of grace, under all their miseries, unto such a Saviour and High Priest, when they shall know how sweetly and tenderly his heart, though he is now in his glory, is inclined towards them.

[This will] remove that great stone of stumbling which we meet with (and yet it lies unseen in the thoughts of men in the way to faith) that Christ being now absent, and withal exalted to so high and infinite a distance of glory as to ‘sit at God’s right hand,’ etc, they therefore know not how to come to treat with him, about either their salvation (so freely, and with that hopefulness to obtain, as those poor sinners did who were here on earth with him) or for relief under other miseries.

Had our lot been (think they) but to have conversed with him in the days of his flesh, as Mary and Peter and his other disciples did here below, we could have thought to have been bold and familiar with him, and to have had anything at his hands. They beheld him before them – a man like unto themselves, and he was full of meekness and gentleness, being then himself made sin, and conscious of all sorts of miseries. But now he is gone into a far country, and hath put on glory and immortality. How his heart may be altered thereby, we know not.

The drift of this discourse shall therefore be to ascertain to poor souls that Christ’s heart, in respect of pity and compassion, remains the same as it was on earth: that he intercedes there with the same heart he had here below, and that he is as meek, as gentle, as easy to be treated, as tender … So as that they may deal with him as fairly about the great matter of their salvation, and as hopefully, and on as easy terms obtain it of him, as they might if they had been on earth with him. And likewise, be as familiar in all their requests, as bold with him in all their needs.

Nothing can be more for the comfort and encouragement of those who have given over all other lives but that of faith, and whose souls pursue after strong and entire communion with their Saviour Christ.”


the risk

Still slowly working my way through the complete set of John Owen, currently in my custody until its rightful owners reclaim it, which hopefully won’t be any time too soon.


Faith is, actually, taking a leap. Not a leap into the unknown, though, but into the known, the truth. It’s still heart-stopping in its awfulness though, because of how your everything depends on the truth being true. Is it safe to take God’s word at face value? And look at all your stuff you’ve got to leave behind.


John Owen, Vol 9, p106:

In the midst of all our obedience which is our own, we must believe and accept of a righteousness which is not our own, nor at all wrought or procured by us – of which we have no assurance that there is any such thing, but by the faith we have in the promise of God: and thereupon, renouncing all that is in or of ourselves, we must merely and solely rest on that for righteousness and acceptance with God.

… [Paul] reckons up all his own duties – is encompassed with them – sees them lying in great abundance on every hand – every one of them offering its assistance, perhaps painting its face, and crying that it is gain. But saith the apostle, ‘You are all loss and dung – I look for another righteousness than any you can give me.’

Man sees and knows his own duty, his own righteousness and walking with God – he sees what it costs and stands him in. He knows what pains he has taken about it – what waiting, fasting, labouring, praying it hath cost him – how he hath cut himself short in his natural desires, and mortified his flesh in abstinence from sin. These are the things of a man, wrought in him, performed by him, and the spirit of a man knows them. And they will promise fair to the heart of any man that hath been sincere in them, for any end and purpose that he shall use them.

But now, for the righteousness of Christ – that is outside him. He sees it not, experiences it not – the spirit that is within him knows nothing of it. He has no acquaintance with it, but merely as it is revealed and proposed in the promises – wherein yet it is nowhere said to him, in particular, that it is his, and was provided for him, but only that it is so, to and for believers.

Now, for a man to cast away that which he hath seen, for that which he hath not seen – to refuse that which promises to give him a fair support in the presence of God, and which he is sure is his own, and cannot be taken from him, for that which he must venture on upon the word of promise, against ten thousand doubts, and fears, and temptations that it belongs not to him: – this the heart of a man is not easily brought unto.

Every man must make a venture for his future state and condition. The question only is, upon what he shall venture it? Our own obedience is at hand, and promises fairly to give assistance and help: for a man, therefore, wholly to cast it aside upon the naked promise of God to receive him in Christ, is a thing that the heart of man must be humbled unto. There is nothing in a man that will not dispute against this captivity of itself: innumerable proud reasonings and imaginations are set up against it, and when the mind and discursive, notional part of the mind is overpowered with the truth, yet the practical principle of the will and the affections exceedingly tumultuate against it.

But this is the law of God’s grace, which must be submitted unto, if we will walk with him. The most holy, wise, and zealous, who have yielded the most constant obedience unto God – whose good works and godly conversation have shone as lights in the world – must cast down all these crowns at the foot of Jesus, renounce all for him, and the righteousness that he hath wrought out for us. All must be sold for this pearl – all parted with for Christ.

In the strictest course of exactest obedience in us, we are to look for a righteousness wholly outside us.

faith in action

I’m part way through a new book by Malcolm Maclean, and thinking it would be a good idea to write a review once I’m finished (but not promising, because of my abysmal rate of both reading and reviewing). It’s Royal Company, a section-by-section discourse on the Song of Solomon. In advance, although it may turn out to be in lieu, of a review, here is an excerpt, with my recommendation on everything I’ve read of it so far.

On Song 2:3, ‘As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.’


“The attitude of the woman here is a useful picture of faith being exercised by a believer. I would suggest that the order is important, in that believers need to find rest in Christ before they can feed on Christ. They need to sit down and discover afresh the rest of Jesus before they can taste his other benefits. They need to get rid of the distractions before proceeding to his attractions.

We can imagine a harassed believer being distressed by one or more of the things that we mentioned previously. He senses that he needs Jesus but cannot focus his mind on him. He needs to sit down and apply to himself appropriate promises from the Bible. As he does this, a sense of peace begins to develop.

Sometimes, the believer has been so weakened by the harassment that Jesus graciously throws, as it were, apples to the weary saint. As the Christian sits seeking rest from Jesus, he discovers that apples are faling into his lap or around him. Jesus sends to him by the Spirit specific details about himself. In this we see the compassion of Jesus.

At other times, they need to stretch out the hands of faith and choose particular pieces of fruit. Faith at times acts intelligently, choosing appropriate aspects of Christ to reflect on. It also acts innovatingly and attempts to discover new things about Jesus. Such attempts are ways to progress in the Christian life. Faith also acts increasingly because every apple on the tree is hers to enjoy, so faith moves on and picks as many apples as it can. And faith acts incessantly, because there are countless apples on this tree.”


Malcolm Maclean (2012), Royal Company: A Devotional on the Song of Solomon. Christian Focus. (Excerpt from p88.) Warmly recommended.

what, or who

By the Hugh Martin who wrote The Atonement, some reflections from a sermon on the verse at the start of Ephesians, ‘he has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.’


Consider the depository, the treasure-house, the trustee of all these blessings. It is Christ. … The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed him with all spiritual blessings in heavenly blessings in heavenly places. It has pleased the Father that in him all the fullness of the blessings should dwell.

‘How then,’ says unbelief – jealous, querulous, discontented, isolated unbelief – standing apart on its own and proudly standing its ground against grace and Christ and the Lord’s salvation – ‘how can he bless me with them if he has given them all to another, to Christ? I cannot see how they can be to me when they are all given to him. If they are all his, I must be poor indeed.’

‘But,’ says humble faith with a mind exactly the reverse, ‘it is enough if he has given them all to Christ. He has not thereby given them past me but given them to me. He has given them all to me if he has given them all to Christ. He has given them all to me because he has given them all to Christ, for the Christ who contains them all, him has he given to me freely.’…

How rich and glorious … is Christ, considered as the treasure-house of all spiritual blessings. … He is the Elect, the Son, the Beloved, the Redeemer, the Heir, the Anointed and Sealed of the Spirit. In him we find laid up for us election, adoption, acceptance, redemption, inheritance, the Spirit’s unction, seal, and earnest. We are elect in Christ the Elect one, sons in Christ the Son, accepted in the Beloved, redeemed in the Redeemer, heirs in the Elder Brother, anointed and sealed in the Christ. … While Paul speaks of the hope of his calling, of the riches of the glory of his inheritance, of the exceeding greatness of the power of grace working in them that believe, he  makes it apparent that all these are in Christ and that it is only in Christ that they can be found.”


From the volume, Christ For Us: Sermons of Hugh Martin, BOT 1998 (p216, p219).
(Hugh Martin’s dates were 1822-1885.)

found while spring cleaning

(Yes, spring cleaning of a Saturday evening. It was that or more lecture prep.)

Scribbled note of something John Colquhoun said:

“The objects which the hand of faith grasps and receives are strictly speaking three – a word, a person, and a thing; or a verbal object, a personal object, and a real object. The word brings the person near to us, and the person brings the thing near. These three should, in our exercise of faith, be distinguished, but never divided. The man who has one of them possesses all; and he who has not all, possesses none. Christ Jesus, the glorious person, with God in him, is, as an object of faith, between the word and the thing; and it is he alone who gives importance and value to both. The former is the Word of God, and the latter, the righteousness of God. We therefore may with full assurance of faith rely on both, and be as firmly persuaded that they can never fail us as that he is the only begotten Son of God, and God equal with the Father.”


“Faith, then, instead of being the condition of the covenant, is only a condition of connection in the covenant, a moral instrument or means of receiving Christ, and, in union with him, justification and sanctification. Instead of giving a right to eternal life, it receives the gift of the surety-righteousness, which gives all the right to it. Instead of giving a personal interest in the Saviour, it only receives that personal interest in him which is freely offered to sinners in the blessed gospel. It does not, strictly speaking, give possession of Jesus Christ, or of his righteousness and salvation; – but it takes possession of them. … [Someone] cannot take possession of Christ and of salvation other than by the instrumentality of faith. … Faith takes all that is in the promises, as a gift of immensely rich grace, but gives nothing of it.”

(A View of Saving Faith, p98 and p30)


what i read last week

… and kept not quite getting round to posting.

John Owen, talking about what kind of person is included in the promise. He says there are promises which sufficiently warrant a perplexed soul to go to Christ, “even when it can find in itself no other qualifications or conditions, but only such as render it every way unworthy to be accepted.”

“We do not say to a poor, naked, hungry, harbourless man, ‘Go, get thee clothes, get thee a habitation, and then I will give thee an alms.’ No, but ‘Because thou lackest all these, therefore I will give thee an alms.’ ‘Because thou art poor, blind, polluted, guilty, sinful, I will give thee mercy,’ says God.

… When did God give the great promise of Christ to Adam? Was it when he was sorrowing, repenting, qualifying his soul? No, but when he was fleeing, hiding, and had no thoughts but of separation from God. God calls him forth, and [all at the same time] tells him what he had deserved, pronounces the curse, and gives him the blessing. ‘I raised thee up,’ saith Christ, ‘under the apple tree; there thy mother brought thee forth.’ From the very place of sin Christ raiseth up the soul. So Isaiah 46 v 12: ‘Hearken to me, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness.’ Here are two notable qualifications, stout-heartedness and remoteness from righteousness! What saith God to them? Verse 13, he discourses to them of mercy and salvation, and, 55v1, ‘Buy,’ saith he, ‘wine and milk.’

‘Yea, but I have nothing to buy with, and these things require a price.’ Indeed, so they do, but take them ‘without money, and without price.’

‘But he calls on them only who are thirsty.’ True, but it is a thirst of indigency and total want, not a thirst of spiritual desires. … Nay, we may go one step further. Proverbs 9 v 4-5, Christ invites to his bread and wine them who have no heart. This, commonly, is the last objection that an unbelieving heart makes against itself – it hath no mind to Christ. Indeed he hath no heart to Christ. ‘But yet,’ saith Christ, ‘thou shalt not thus go off – I will not admit of this excuse. You that have no heart, turn in hither.’

Now, I say, this obviating of all objections by unexpected appearances of love, mercy, and compassion in the promises is a strong inducement unto steadfastness in believing. When a soul shall find that God takes for granted that all that is true which it can charge itself with – that its sin, folly, unbelief, heartlessness, is just as he apprehends it, and inconceivably worse than he can think – that he takes for granted all the aggravations of his sins, that lie so dismally in his eye – his backsliding, frowardness, greatness of sin, impotency, coldness and the present, not answering in affection to the convictions that are upon him – and notwithstanding all this, yet says, ‘Come, let us agree, accept of peace, close with Christ, receive him from my love’ – surely it cannot but in some measure engage the soul into a rest and acquiescence in the word of promise.”

(Vol 9, p48-49)

the evidence of things not seen

“Things of imagination, which maintain a value of themselves by darkness, will not bear a diligent search… They lose of their reputation on every serious inquiry. … But where things are real and substantial, the more they are inquired into, the more they evidence their being and subsistence. … There is no way, therefore, to strengthen faith to any degree but by a daily contemplation of the things themselves [ie spiritual/eternal things: the ‘things above’]. Faith … will give them a subsistence, not in themselves (which they have antecendent thereunto), but in us, in our hearts, in the minds of them that do believe. Imagination creates its own object; faith finds it prepared beforehand.”

Things of Christ, of God, of salvation, of heaven perhaps particularly: “The more we discern of the glory and excellency of them in their own nature; of their suitableness unto ours, as our only proper rest and blessednesss, as the prefection and complement of what is already begun in us by grace; of the restless tendency of all gracious dispositions and inclinations of our hearts towards their enjoyment – the more will faith be established in its cleaving unto them.”

John Owen, vol 7, p319-321