"...in a due use of the ordinary means..."

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KMK

Administrator
Staff member
WCF 1:7 All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them.

What falls under the umbrella of 'ordinary means'?

To understand the letter of Scripture we must know the language in which we read it, our natural powers must have reached some degree of maturity, and our minds must be unbiassed by prejudices and erroneous views. To understand the sprit of Scripture, and so to receive spritual profit from our reading, we must have spiritual discernment through the indwelling of the Spirit, and even by the spiritual man prayer must be used as a means to secure enlightenment. Rev John Macpherson

Would the list include:

Education
Maturity/discipling
Instruction
Holy Spirit's guidance through prayer

Wouldn't everything on the list of 'ordinary means' be the responsibility/goal of the church? Are there 'ordinary means' that the church would leave to the family or the state?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The "ordinary means" in this context would simply be any and all sensory acquisition of knowledge, as well as reason and contemplation. In other words,, using the faculties God gave us.

There may be different levels of ability or access to the tools of knowledge, but the point of the paragraph is, that despite disparities like those there is no essential barrier to gaining the "knowledge of the truth" (1Tim2:4, 2Tim 3:7, Heb10:26). In all cases, God will supply whatever is lacking, but it is just so the point: saving faith is not a matter of "wisdom". It is simple, even "foolish" facts which, once believed by the least "qualified" is sufficient unto salvation. Therefore, even young children may be redeemed.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I am thinking means of grace here, as in Word, Sacrament and prayer. I suppose one could probably add fellowship with other believers, since a great deal of our understanding of Scriptures comes from that.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
I am thinking means of grace here, as in Word, Sacrament and prayer. I suppose one could probably add fellowship with other believers, since a great deal of our understanding of Scriptures comes from that.

In our individualistic culture we might look at this phrase as applying to individuals, but don't the divines have in view the 'ordinary means' available to the church? And if any of those 'ordinary means' available to the church are marginalized, then the 'clearly propounded' doctrine of salvation is jeopardized.
 

Iconoclast

Puritan Board Junior
WCF 1:7 All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them.

What falls under the umbrella of 'ordinary means'?

To understand the letter of Scripture we must know the language in which we read it, our natural powers must have reached some degree of maturity, and our minds must be unbiassed by prejudices and erroneous views. To understand the sprit of Scripture, and so to receive spritual profit from our reading, we must have spiritual discernment through the indwelling of the Spirit, and even by the spiritual man prayer must be used as a means to secure enlightenment. Rev John Macpherson

Would the list include:

Education
Maturity/discipling
Instruction
Holy Spirit's guidance through prayer

Wouldn't everything on the list of 'ordinary means' be the responsibility/goal of the church? Are there 'ordinary means' that the church would leave to the family or the state?

I have heard it said that the section of 1 Cor.1:17-2:16 is an explanation by the Apostle Paul of how the scripture is to be used as the means of our sanctification, comparing spiritual things, with spiritual. Line upon line, verse to verse.
Although the section of scripture can be used to address an individual christian, it is as the other posts have alluded to, that as we gather together to discuss the things of the Lord we meet unto edification.
Many passages in both testaments speak of this among those who are faithful to God.

7But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

8Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

9But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

10But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

11For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

13Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

14But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

15But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

16For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.

I also think this passage from Malachi 3 speaks to this;
16Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.

17And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.

18Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
It would seem as if those described as fearing the Lord,and serving Him are the same ones who speak often to one another. The subject no doubt would be what God is doing in there lives and what they are learning from scripture as they grow in grace,and a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15
1We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

2Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.

3For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.

4For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

5Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:

6That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God

Many posts here on the puritanboard seem to address this topic,and I know Rich speaks about this alot. The need of making disciples.
We post often about "covenant" children. Sometimes it seems as if the focus should be given equally to covenant adults!
The healtiest churches I have had a chance to visit are full of people whose heart desire is to demonstrate a love to Christ,and His body.
In other churches a corresponding sowing to the flesh, has a corresponding lack of graces evident. [ hospitality, encouragement, Godly conversation,etc:think:
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
So 'ordinary means' does not have in view an individual's education or intellect or 'schooling'. It is refering to the means of grace given to the church corporate.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
I think what the divines were getting at is that the Bible is not some esoteric book which contains hidden mysteries unknowable to the ordinary layman without priestly instruction. The divines certainly understood and emphasized the value of Christ's gift to the church in providing pastors and teachers to feed the flock. There is a corporate aspect to understanding God's Word, 2 Peter 1.20, whereby there is no "private interpretation"; yet, at the same time, the Bible is God's Word to all sorts of people, both learned and unlearned. While babies and the mentally infirm may be unable to process that Word as we do and so are special cases, yet in the due use of ordinary means, God's Word is for all people. This, I think, includes both the personal aspects of one's mental gifts (ie., ability to read and comprehend), and their use in receiving the Word (approaching it reverently with the desire to hear the Shepard's voice and obey), the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, and the corporate gifts of pastors, teachers, commentators and even holy conferences, as the Puritans used to say, ie., one brother sharpening another like iron. Here is a list of the ordinary means as given by Richard Greenham:

A Profitable Treatise, Containing a Direction for the Reading and Understanding of the Holy Scriptures by Master Richard Grenham:

But that the reading of the Scriptures publicly in the Church of God, and privately by ourselves, is a special and ordinary means, if not to beget, yet to increase faith in us. It is likewise proved, Deut 6:6; Deut 11:18; Ps 1:2; John 5:39; Matt 14:15; Rom 15:14; 2 Pet 1:19; Neh 8:8; Acts 13:15; Acts 15:21. The manifold fruit which comes of the reading of the Scriptures proves the same.

Reading rather establisheth, than derogateth from preaching: for none can be profitable hearers of preaching, that have not been trained up in reading the Scriptures, or hearing them read.
...
Again reading helpeth men's judgments, memories and affections, but especially it serveth for the confirmation of our faith: which may be proved by the example of the men of Berea, Acts 17:13; it serveth to discern the spirits of men, 1 John 4 to make sounder confession of our faith, to stop the mouths of our adversaries, and to answer the temptations of Satan and the wicked.

But because men sin, not only in neglect of hearing and reading, but also in hearing and reading amiss: therefore the properties of reverent and faithful reading and hearing are to be set down, which are these that follow: they be eight in number.

1. Diligence.

2. Wisdom.

3. Preparation.

4. Meditation.

5. Conference.

6. Faith.

7. Practice.

8. Prayer.

The three first go before reading and preaching. The four next come after them. The last must go before, and be with them, and come after them.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I certainly would not want to exclude the corporate aspects of the means of grace. Sacrament, of course, is done in an exclusively corporate setting. One does not get baptized (at least normally; Scripture does have an exception to this!) on one's own. Word and prayer have both individual aspects and corporate aspects, since both are done in both settings. Certainly, Ken, you raise a good point: our spiritual growth in knowledge and application of Scriptures' truths happens in a community. Certainly, in my own life, it has been other people who have taught me far far more than I have ever learned just by myself. Even books can be considered corporate, since one is joining the conversation that has extended for many long centuries.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
I think what the divines were getting at is that the Bible is not some esoteric book which contains hidden mysteries unknowable to the ordinary layman without priestly instruction. The divines certainly understood and emphasized the value of Christ's gift to the church in providing pastors and teachers to feed the flock. There is a corporate aspect to understanding God's Word, 2 Peter 1.20, whereby there is no "private interpretation"; yet, at the same time, the Bible is God's Word to all sorts of people, both learned and unlearned. While babies and the mentally infirm may be unable to process that Word as we do and so are special cases, yet in the due use of ordinary means, God's Word is for all people. This, I think, includes both the personal aspects of one's mental gifts (ie., ability to read and comprehend), and their use in receiving the Word (approaching it reverently with the desire to hear the Shepard's voice and obey), the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, and the corporate gifts of pastors, teachers, commentators and even holy conferences, as the Puritans used to say, ie., one brother sharpening another like iron. Here is a list of the ordinary means as given by Richard Greenham:

A Profitable Treatise, Containing a Direction for the Reading and Understanding of the Holy Scriptures by Master Richard Grenham:

But that the reading of the Scriptures publicly in the Church of God, and privately by ourselves, is a special and ordinary means, if not to beget, yet to increase faith in us. It is likewise proved, Deut 6:6; Deut 11:18; Ps 1:2; John 5:39; Matt 14:15; Rom 15:14; 2 Pet 1:19; Neh 8:8; Acts 13:15; Acts 15:21. The manifold fruit which comes of the reading of the Scriptures proves the same.

Reading rather establisheth, than derogateth from preaching: for none can be profitable hearers of preaching, that have not been trained up in reading the Scriptures, or hearing them read.
...
Again reading helpeth men's judgments, memories and affections, but especially it serveth for the confirmation of our faith: which may be proved by the example of the men of Berea, Acts 17:13; it serveth to discern the spirits of men, 1 John 4 to make sounder confession of our faith, to stop the mouths of our adversaries, and to answer the temptations of Satan and the wicked.

But because men sin, not only in neglect of hearing and reading, but also in hearing and reading amiss: therefore the properties of reverent and faithful reading and hearing are to be set down, which are these that follow: they be eight in number.

1. Diligence.

2. Wisdom.

3. Preparation.

4. Meditation.

5. Conference.

6. Faith.

7. Practice.

8. Prayer.

The three first go before reading and preaching. The four next come after them. The last must go before, and be with them, and come after them.

That's excellent stuff, Andrew! Now I will have to get out my OED and discover exactly what Grenham means by some of the words.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
I certainly would not want to exclude the corporate aspects of the means of grace. Sacrament, of course, is done in an exclusively corporate setting. One does not get baptized (at least normally; Scripture does have an exception to this!) on one's own. Word and prayer have both individual aspects and corporate aspects, since both are done in both settings. Certainly, Ken, you raise a good point: our spiritual growth in knowledge and application of Scriptures' truths happens in a community. Certainly, in my own life, it has been other people who have taught me far far more than I have ever learned just by myself. Even books can be considered corporate, since one is joining the conversation that has extended for many long centuries.

The same could be said of PB!
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
That's excellent stuff, Andrew! Now I will have to get out my OED and discover exactly what Grenham means by some of the words.

Hmm, I thought he was perspicuous, but I reckon the OED counts as one of the ordinary means for understanding Puritan writings. :think::lol:
 
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