Wes White, fellow Michigander, MARS graduate, and Presbyterian pastor is translating a French translation of Herman Witsius’ book: Practice of Christianity.
For the original post go HERE
Herman Witsius (1636-1708) is one of the greatest of the Reformed theologians in the latter half of the 17th century. He taught theology successively at Franeker, Utrecht, and then Leyden. He wrote many books on theological and philological matters. In addition, he was a pious man who wrote several shorter works of piety, including ‘Practice of Christianity’
Chapter 2 – On the True Religion
1. What is the principal thing that we learn in Holy Scripture?
We learn the true religion or service of God.
2. What do you mean by religion?
It is the proper way to know God and glorify Him as He has revealed Himself to us in His Word with a sure hope of divine reward.
3. Why do you speak of the true religion?
Because men by the craftiness of the devil and the fickleness of their own reason have forged an infinite number of ways to serve God such that almost everyone makes for himself a god and religion according to his taste. On the contrary, since there is only one God, there can also only be one proper way to serve Him. “There is only one Lord and one faith” (Eph. 4:5) from which all others defect, some more and others less.
4. What are the general marks by which someone can distinguish the true religion from all false ones?
The marks of the true religion are three in particular.
- The first mark is that it leads us and our service of God to the true God and to submit our consciences to Him alone.
- The second mark is that it shows us a way of serving God that God alone has prescribed and that He has never revoked.
- The third mark is that it shows us the proper way to satisfy the justice of God, reunite the sinner with a God whom he has offended, and lead him to eternal salvation.
5. Do all these marks agree with the Christian religion?
Yes, and they only agree with the Christian religion to the exclusion of all others.
6. How can you demonstrate this in regard to the first mark?
Because the Christian religion teaches us to know the true God, Creator of heaven and earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, one only divine essence in three persons, who has magnificently shown His divinity in His miracles, prophecies, and marvelous protection of His people. This religion teaches us to be submitted to this God alone, to glorify by religious homage God alone, and even to only fulfill the duties to which we are obligated toward our neighbors by principle of conscience, according to God’s will, and for His glory.
7. How can you demonstrate that the second mark agrees with the Christian religion?
Because the Son of God Himself has descended from heaven in the form of a man (Jn 3:13) and has taught us this religion (Phil. 2:7). The Father announced the coming of his Son thousands of years in advance (Gen. 3:15) and testified from heaven in the presence of many witnesses that this was His beloved Son with orders that they should obey Him in everything and without reservation (Mt. 3:17, 17:5). Further, He confirmed this religion by so many astonishing miracles that He performed before the eyes of everyone, both by Jesus Christ Himself as well as His first ministers, that the mere announcement and proclamation that they made without any ornament of worldly wisdom and without any use of compulsion, caused the name of Christ to be known, believed in, and worshiped by all. The Holy Spirit also has so powerfully assured hearts of the divinity of this religion that not only the apostles and the first disciples of Jesus Christ but also those in the following centuries, people of every sex and condition have embraced it with joy and suffered for it with joy the cruelest punishments and types of death on account of the expectation of a glory to come.
8. You said that it was not only necessary for the true religion to have been established by God but also that it never have been abolished. Why did you add that?
That is because of the Jewish religion, which was established in past times by Moses. For that religion was also established by God and in its time was the true religion. But since this religion contained certain things that were only ordained until the time of reformation (Heb. 9:10), that bound to the nation of the Jews (Dt 11:31-32, 13:1) and to their political state in their country, that by their coarseness held them under discipline like difficult children (Gal 3:24), and finally that prefigured the Messiah who was to come (Col 2:17), God wisely later because of His goodness abolished all these things. In their place, He announced Christian liberty under which the Church would live until the end of the world. That’s why the time of the coming of Jesus Christ is constantly called the last days (Acts 2:17, Heb 1:1), because we are not expecting any further change in religion.
9. How do you prove that the third mark agrees with the Christian religion?
Because the Christian religion is the only one that clearly sets forth the great mystery of godliness that God was manifested in the flesh (2 Tim 3:16) in that it teaches that the Son of God who is God and remains God became human so that He might be able to suffer in His human nature the punishments that man had merited and by His divinity sustain His human nature through it and give to those sufferings an infinite value. It teaches at the same time that we are so united to the to Jesus Christ by faith that we become as one body with Him such that all He had suffered and merited is all ours just as much as if we had done, suffered, and merited ourselves in our person. And this way is the only way to establish peace between a just God and a sinful man and to calm the anguished conscience. And the less such a means could have been imagined by man, the more it is worthy to be received (1 Tim 1:15) because God Himself has discovered it and made it known to us.