Thursday, May 30, 2013

Christian Scriver on the Lord's Supper

Christian Scriver (d. 1693), “The Holy Supper,” in Gottholds zufällige Andachten (1663, reprint Berlin: Evangelischer Bücher-Verein, 1853), no. 390.

On this occasion they went further and began to speak of the high dignity of the Holy Supper. I am amazed, said Gotthold, and my heart rejoices in all the wonders of the love of Jesus Christ, but in none of them more than in this wondrous Sacrament, in which He truly feeds us with His holy, life-giving flesh and gives us to drink of His precious blood. Just as the sun shines brightest at noon, so the love of the Son of God gleams most magnificently in this stupendous Meal. Here His divine heart has opened itself wide, like a rose in full bloom. He gives me not His clothes, not His image, not silver or gold, not crown or scepter, but Himself with all His merit, total righteousness, all of heaven, and blessedness.

In 2 Sam. 12:3, when the prophet Nathan wanted to show how much the man loved his lamb, he said, “It ate of his own food, and drank of his own cup, and slept in his bosom, and he considered it as a daughter.” My Jesus feeds me with the bread of life, with Himself. I drink not just from His cup, but even from His holy wounds. I sleep (find rest for my soul and joy for my troubled heart in His bosom) in His sweet grace and the assurance of His love. He considers me as His son and brother, even as His own heart. He binds Himself with me in an unspeakable way. He becomes my food, drink, life, power, strength, joy, consolation, and all. Here my soul is united, mixed, joined, and penetrated by His soul; my body with His body; my blood with His blood; my heart with His heart; my weakness, misery, need, and imperfection with His divinity, glory, and holiness. Incomprehensible, wondrous love! O Jesus! You are ever a sweet “Jesus” and Savior, but nowhere do Your faithful people taste and perceive Your sweetness and kindness as much as in this precious Meal of love! Therefore one of them says that the joy of all creatures, however much a heart could have, is nothing compared to the joy found in the enjoyment of this Meal.

When I approach it, I see You in spirit and faith with Your holy wounds, dripping with blood. I hear You call out, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you life; you shall find rest for your soul” ([cf.] Matt. 11:28–29). When I partake of it, I think that I am hearing You say to my soul: “You are in Me, and I am in you!” (John 14:20). When I walk back, my soul says, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His, and His turning is toward me” ([cf.] Song 2:16; 7:10). After this heavenly Meal, my “dessert,” if I may so speak, is the end of the golden, eighth chapter of Romans, from verse 31 to the end. How well I am then! How drunk my soul becomes! How confident my heart is! How bold I then am against Satan, sin, hell, death, and against the world with all of its amusements and vanity! Then it seems to me that I am no longer who I was; I am Christ, not personally, but Christ’s righteousness, victory, life, and all He has are my own. Then I do not know whether sin, misery, cross, need, death, or devil are in the world anymore; they only thing I know is that Jesus reigns over all and is mine.

But woe, woe! What has happened to this most holy institution? Mad reason wants to teach and correct its Lord and has turned the memorial of love into a meal of strife. Mockers and atheists laugh at it. Hypocrites dishonor it. The common crowd runs to it heedless, without repentance, faith, love, examination, preparation, without devotion and a holy intent. Godless, condemned world! What more should the kind, loving God do for you than He has already done? And how could you make it worse than you have already made it? He gave You His Son; you made Him into a servant of sin (Gal. 2:17). He offered you His grace, richly; you turned it into lasciviousness (Jude 4). He gave you His Word; you mocked it. He promised you forgiveness of sins; you took it as an opportunity to sin even more. He through His Son established a precious Meal of love; you turned it into an excuse for all hypocrisy and security. Now fulfill the measure of your malice. Soon the just and holy God will shake it out into your bosom.

O Lord Jesus! Let me be among the few who hold all that You speak, order, do, and give as high, precious, and worthy! Let your venerable Supper be my heaven on earth, until I come to heaven!
Copyright 2013 Benjamin T. G. Mayes. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Summary of Gerhard's Hermeneutic

Johann Gerhard summarizes (very briefly) the necessary tools for interpreting Scripture (Loci Theologici, loc. 2, De interpretatione Scripturae Sacrae, Cotta: Tubingen: 1762):

§ 71. Let us sum up our claims about the true interpretation of Scripture.
(1) In understanding and interpreting the Scriptures our mind is blind and lacking the light of the Holy Spirit.
(2) In addition to the inborn blindness of all men, some are blinded by their own wickedness and stubborn impudence even though the Holy Spirit opened or wanted to open their eyes.
(3) Because our mind is blinded there is need to implore the Holy Spirit’s light through prayer.
(4) Moreover, the Holy Spirit does not work this illumination of the mind apart from means, but it happens through the light of the Word when it is heard and meditated.
(5) The dogmas that are necessary for one to know for his salvation are laid out in proper, clear, and perspicuous words.
(6) From these the rest of the passages of Scripture are elucidated.
(7) This is why the rule of faith is assembled from the clear passages of Scripture, and one’s exposition of the other passages must conform to it..
(8) Even if we do not always arrive at the most proper and natural sense of every single passage, it is enough not to say anything contrary to the analogy of the faith when interpreting them.
(9) Nevertheless, it is still beneficial to interpret even the more obscure passages of Scripture rightly and skillfully. This will happen if we apply the suitable remedies for alleviating obscurities.
(10) In order to find these remedies, we have to seek out the sources of obscurity.
(11) Some passages of Scripture are obscure in themselves and when taken on their own, while others are so when compared with other passages—that is, when they seem to contradict other passages. The reconciliation of passages is a good aid for this kind of obscurity.
(12) Things that are obscure in and of themselves are discerned as such due to the subject matter or to the words. Having some certain axioms in every article of the faith brings relief to the obscurity of subject matter. These axioms should be followed as a guiding star.
(13) Obscurity on account of words is serviced by grammatical explanation of the vocables, rhetorical exposition of tropes and figures, dialectic observation of the order and circumstances, and finally  by a physical understanding of things in nature. It will prove especially helpful in all of these to wisely and carefully compare passages of Scripture where the same vocables and phrases are used, or even where different ones are used for the same things, or the same are used to express different ideas.

§ 72. Let this be said in general about the requisite means for legitimately interpreting Scripture. The supreme and authoritative interpreter of Scripture is, as we assert, the Holy Spirit. It is He who lays out the dogmas that are necessary for one to know for salvation in proper and clear words in Scripture. As for everything else in the Scriptures that is more obscure, to skillfully interpret them we need prayer, knowledge of the languages the Holy Spirit used as His amanuenses, to observe the order and circumstances in a given passage, to wisely and carefully compare passages, and above all we need to follow the rule of faith lest we say anything that is contrary to it when interpreting passages that are rather obscure.
(Translation © 2013 Joshua Hayes. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Gerhard on why we can have pure doctrine

From a forthcoming volume on interpreting scripture:

§ 26. “The very thing that the prophets and apostles set forth to their hearers is the same thing that they put into the Scriptures by God’s will. It is not something different,” says Irenaeus (Adversus haer., bk. 3, ch. 1). Therefore just as those who heard the prophets and apostles could perceive from their words what the will of God was and what the mind and thinking of the Holy Spirit was, so we too can read the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures and from their books perceive what the will of God is and what is the mind and thinking of the Holy Spirit. The act of preaching and the act of writing are external accidents that do not change the essence of a thing. Just as oral speaking is the expression [ἀπεικόνισμα] of the mind’s thoughts, so writing is the expression the words from one’s mouth. The philosopher [Aristotle] discusses this (περὶ ἑρμην., ch. 1): “Spoken words are symbols of the perceptions of one’s consciousness, and written words are symbols of spoken words.”