The following is a quote from David Calderwood’s (1575-1650) introduction to the Firstand Second Books of Discipline of the Church of Scotland (1560 and 1578 respectively). Here, we have a find statement of sound, Christian historiography. It really goes to the heart of unbelief as applied to the doing of history in our modern, secular age. “Let God arise, and His enemies be scattered!”
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“Is the Lord changed, because he changes the manner of his working? God forbid. For although he declares not in our times who belongs to him by miraculous fire sent from heaven, as in the days of Elijah; the earth opens not her mouth, as in the days of Korah; he rains not showers of brimstone upon the Sodomites of this age; he turns not such as look back into pillars of salt to season others; neither is his favour manifested towards his own secret ones in earthly and visible blessings, so wonderfully as of old; yet the God of Israel is our God, and the God of the old testament is the God of the new, and better testament, having still a secret and equivalent providence most wisely disposed, and framed for the weal of his kirk, according to the diversity of the ages succeeding one after another. So that no wise heart perceiving the course thereof could wish another than the present, howsoever the folly of infidelity blinds men to affect the miracles, ease, and outward prosperity of former generations, and if these fail, to cast themselves headlong in desperation, defection, or atheism. Yea, because he works not as before, in their haste they conclude that he works not at all.”
Here is a tremendous sermon Thomas Chalmers preached on the scourge of cholera in Britain in the year 1832. In it, we see God as the First Cause hearing and answering prayer either lower or higher up on the chain of secondary causes. Masterful – and instructive as the world watches the vicious spread of Ebola.
If you’ve never listened to Chalmers before, you might appreciate reading the short summary on the ‘Audio’ page.
“It is our fault, that we look upon God’s ways and works by halves and pieces; and so, we see often nothing but the black side, and the dark part of the moon. We mistake all, when we look upon men’s works by parts; a house in the building, lying in an hundred pieces; here timber, here a rafter, there a spar, there a stone; in another place, half a window, in another place, the side of a door: there is no beauty, no face of a house here. Have patience a little, and see them all by art compacted together in order, and you will see a fair building. When a painter draweth the half of a man; the one side of his head, one eye, the left arm, shoulder, and leg, and hath not drawn the other side, nor filled up with colours all the members, parts, limbs, in its full proportion, it is not like a man. So do we look on God’s works by halves or parts . . . yet do we not see, that in this dispensation, the other half of God’s work makes it a fair piece.”
-Samuel Rutherford, The Trial and Triumph of Faith (1645)