Alexander Henderson: The Extent of Reformation: Whatsoever God Commands

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Anthology-volume1number1-sm.jpg “Use. When we consider of this, we have cause both to lament and rejoice; to lament, that through the working of corrupt churchmen so many things concerning the worship and house of God, should have been pressed upon the people of God, without or against his commandment. If Arminianism for the soul and life, and Popish service and ceremonies for the body of religion, had been received and admitted, as they were offered and obtruded, our condition had been more lamentable, than it is at this time, notwithstanding all our calamities and miseries. We have also cause to rejoice that in the one kingdom a course has been taken for doing everything in the house of God according to his commandment, and that in this kingdom it is ordered that a wise and holy assembly of divines [the Westminster Assembly, 1643–1652] shall search diligently into the Word of God, That whatsoever is commanded by the word of God of heaven, etc.

“The Extent of Reformation”

“(2) The extent of this reformation is, Whatsoever God hath commanded. For what God has commanded must be done; what he has forbidden must not be done, but abolished; and what is in the nature thereof indifferent must be regulated according to the commandment of God, which is no less plain and peremptory in our practice of things indifferent, than in other matters. Reformation therefore of religion must be thorough and perfect reformation. The particular reformations which were wrought by the Kings of Judah, are noted, and according to this rule, do they receive a testimony from God. Some only destroyed the Temples of Baal, some the golden calves of Dan and Bethel, and some also the groves and high places, and we know what approbation is given to Hezekiah and Josiah. There is a promise made to such a thorough reformation. Azariah says to Asa, Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded (2 Chron. 15:7). By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged and this is all the fruit to take his sin: when he maketh all the stones of the Altar as chalk stones that are beaten asunder (Isa. 27:9). The Lord has promised a more special blessing, I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counselors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city, etc. (Isa. 1:26–28).

“The reason, [1] because God is not honored by a begun, imperfect, and half reformation. He is ready to spew out the lukewarm person, family, or people [cf Rev. 3:16]. If we love the Lord with all our heart and strength, we will do everything that he commands. For what is it that hinders, but that our heart is parted or divided between two, and that we resolve to be almost, but not altogether godly. [2] Because a little leaven leaventh the whole lump, says the apostle to the Galatians (Gal. 5:7–9), reproving them that having run well they did halt and not thoroughly obey the truth, and telling them, that this persuasion did not come of him that called them. When any known corruption is kept, it becomes a snare, and like a nest egg that brings us back again. I know this is censured for preciseness by the world, but we see the best servants of God have been such precisians. Remember the hoof of Moses, Mordecai’s [not] bowing of his knee, Daniel’s abstaining from idolatrous meat, and the opening of his window, Paul’s hour and appearance of evil, with many more examples of this kind [Exodus 10:26; Esther 3:2; Daniel 1:8; 6:10; Galatians 2:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:22]. They are precisians indeed, who are liberal in the matters of God, and can find in their hearts to dispense with his commands, his truth and worship, but will not be content to want [lack] the least compliment of their own worldly honor and dignity, nor the smallest penny of their gain and worldly commodity. Although it is true, that some things in religion be fundamental, and absolutely necessary unto salvation, and other things not so, yet to be obstinate against revealed truth, or to misregard or despise smallest matters of religion, which are necessary to be received, if not for themselves, yet for the authority of Scripture (as some make the distinction), brings as certain a curse and condemnation as ignorance and error does in matters more substantial.”

Alexander Henderson, “Sermon to the House of Commons, December 27, 1643,” on Ezra 7:23, Sermons Preached Before the English Houses of Parliament by the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly of Divines 1643–1645 (Naphtali Press, 2011) 90–91. This title is now out of print. This sermon first appeared in the Naphtali Press An Anthology of Presbyterian & Reformed Literature, volume 1, number 1 (Winter 1988), which was the first NP publication. Now out of print and very rare.
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