Thursday, February 18, 2010


(The following is taken from my "'Under God's Rainbow')

With one foot in the grave the Scotsman Sir Walter Scott (1731-1832) asked his son-in-law to read to him. Lockhart asked from which book? ‘There is only one Book!’ Scott is said to have replied. A talisman? Some treat the Bible as such. Hold a Bible in your hand when you die and Peter will see it and let you through the pearly gates? Never! First off, it’s nothing to do with Peter whether you enter heaven or not. And secondly, notice that Sir Walter wanted to hear the words read from the Book. His interest was in the words of everlasting life, the Good News! The Good News? Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).

No doubt many homes have a ‘Family Bible’ that has been passed down from one generation to the next. The trouble is that it is no good when it is only collecting dust. Its words need to permeate the home and your whole being for the Book to be of any use. The Spirit works with the Word to convict, convert and then to edify.

Before his conversion Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was interested in rhetoric, so he went to hear the Christian preacher Ambrose. Thus Augustine heard the same Good News that Sir Walter Scott heard. Some time later while under conviction Augustine was asking God to purify his unclean thoughts and habits. He heard a child singing outdoors, the kind of song that you or I might hear children sing when they are playing skipping rope. The words of the song were, ‘Pick it up and read it. Pick it up and read it.’ So, Augustine picked up the Book and read it! The first passage his eyes fell upon said, ‘Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts’ Romans 13:13-14. Thus, Augustine turned from his sins and put on Christ, i.e., he repented and believed in the Gospel of salvation. Years later, as death began crouching at the foot of his bed just waiting to pounce on him, Augustine had some of the Psalms of David hung around his bedroom walls. Good luck charms? Absolutely not! Augustine wanted the Word of God before his eyes to read before he went to be with the Lord. He died of a fever in 430.

The Scotsman David Livingstone (1813-1873) was a great missionary and explorer. Livingstone was sick and lay in a shack while a man kept watch outside his door. Some came seeking to see Livingstone. The watcher told the group that David couldn’t be disturbed. He could see that Dr Livingstone was on his knees in prayer. ‘The White Doctor is ill. Besides, he is praying to his God and must not be disturbed.’ Turns out, Livingstone had died there on his knees at his bedside in prayer!

In great illness of health that great Reformer of the Church the Frenchman John Calvin (1509-64) would respond to his friends’ urges that he should rest, with ‘What! Would you have the Lord find me idle when He comes?’ As he was dying he handed his friend Farel a letter, containing the following, ‘Since it is God’s will that you should outlive me, remember our friendship. It was useful to God’s church and its fruits await us in heaven. I do not want you to tire yourself on my account. I draw my breath with difficulty and expect each moment to breathe my last. It is enough that I live and die for Christ, who is to all His followers a gain both in life and in death’ (see THL Parker). Calvin was buried in an unmarked grave on Sunday 28th May, 1564.

Augustine, Scott, Livingstone, and Calvin were united in, by, and through Christ. Indeed, all were Augustinians or Calvinists. Therefore, as a testimony against the following caustic and fallacious statement, ‘the doctrines of Calvinism will deaden and kill anything: prayer, faith, zeal, holiness,’ (Vance) we may hold up the lives of at least the four aforementioned saints. Each by grace through faith had ‘put on Christ.’

To live and die for Christ, as Calvin says, is gain both in life and death. It’s as the Apostle Paul says, ‘For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ and ‘we are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord’ (Phil. 1:21 & 2 Cor. 5:8). Calvinism? Calvinism is about doing all things to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). ‘He who believes in God without reserve and is determined that God shall be God to him in all his thinking, feeling and willing – in the entire compass of his life activities, intellectual, moral and spiritual – throughout all his individual social and religious relations, is, by force of that strictest of all logic which presides over the outworking of principles into thought and life, by the very necessity of the case, a Calvinist’ (Warfield).

‘While Calvinism is much more than a mind-set, it nevertheless begins with a mind that is enlightened by the truth of the Gospel’ (Ryken). Therefore, ‘Pick it up and read it’. Let that old Family Bible collect dust no more! ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom’ Colossians 3:16.

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