Monday, May 25, 2009

Year of Calvinism: America's Teacher

These, my dear brother, are some of my views of the calvinistic doctrines and their effects. These doctrines, in the main, I do believe to be evangelical...

Noah Webster, 1809

Yes--the man that wrote your 1828 dictionary was a Calvinist.

He was born-again by the power of the Spirit during the Second Great Awakening in 1808. The year of his conversion his two older daughters and wife attended the local Congregational church to his chagrin. They were attracted to the local revival. He disliked "enthusiasm" in religion, preferring a "rational religion" of being good to the neighbor and acknowledging a divine Being. He could not swallow the doctrines of Calvinism found in the confession of the Congregational church. He even desired to attend the Anglican church instead, yet he was torn to see his family thus divided. He rationalized his resistance to the revivals of the town,

"The impressions [religious concerns] however grew stronger till at length I could not pursue my studies without frequent interruptions. My mind was suddenly arrested...I closed my books, yielded to the influence, which could not be resisted or mistaken and was led by a spontaneous impulse to repentance, prayer and entire submission and surrender of myself to my maker and redeemer."

This account, written to his brother-in-law, explained that his life was radically changed by the sovereign power of the Spirit,

"This my dear friend, is a short but faithful narration of facts. That these impressions were not the effect of any of my own passions, nor of enthusiasm is to me evident, for I was in complete possession of all my rational powers, and that the influence was supernatural, is evident from this circumstance; it was not only independent of all volition but opposed to it. You will readily suppose that after such evidence of the direct operation of the divine spirit upon the human heart, I could no longer question or have a doubt respecting the Calvinistic and Christian doctrines of regeneration, of free grace and of the sovereignty of God. I now began to understand and relish many parts of the scriptures, which before appeared mysterious and unintelligible, or repugnant to my natural short my view of the scriptures, of religion, of the whole christian, scheme of salvation, and of God's moral government, are very much changed, and my heart yields with delight and confidence to whatever appears to be the divine will."

Such a change in his heart brought a public boldness missing today. The opening quote about Calvinism is found in the article, "Doctrines of the Gospel Explained and Defended," which was published in the Panoplist in 1809, two-hundred years ago. It highlights key doctrinal points, as summarized above, explaining in a newborn way the doctrines of special Providence (God is intimately involved in every-day life), regeneration and predestination and free-will. Webster concludes:

"I am therefore of opinion that the doctrines of divine sovereignty, the divinity of Christ, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and free grace through Christ, are fundamental in the gospel scheme of salvation. Those who reject these doctrines appear to me to tear out the vitals of Christianity, leaving nothing but a lifeless skeleton. The cold doctrines of Arminianism almost exclude the divine agency in man's salvation...In short, they never reach the heart, and appear not to alter the life and character."

He responded to a rebuttal of this article (under the pseudonym Calvinist) but ceased anymore public debate thereafter. Being a young Christian he felt unequal to the task. Yet such an attitude did not reflect a weak man. For soon after his conversion his fatherhood and career were radically changed. He began anew his domestic fatherhood with daily family worship. And he began anew his destined role as the father of American education.

[Biographical information from Notes on the Life of Noah Webster, p.44ff.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Malachi 4:6--Cotton Mather

Another historical figure giving a different sense to Malachi 4:6 than the one propagated among some homeschooling leaders, is the great American Cotton Mather. In the introduction to the third book of his Magnalia Christi Americana (p.234), he summarizes his exegesis of that passage:

“It was mentioned as the business and blessedness of John Baptist, 'To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.' After a deal of more ado about the sense of the passage thus translated, I contented my self with another translation, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers WITH the children;' because I find the preposition ‘epi [greek], as well as the prefix ‘bet’ [Hebrew], in Mal. iv.6, whence the passage is taken, to be rendered ‘with,’ rather than ‘to.’ The sense therefore I took to be, that John should convert both old and young. But further thought hath offered unto me a further gloss upon it: ‘to turn the hearts of the father to the children,' is to turn the children by putting the hearts of the fathers into them; to give them such hearts as were in Abraham, and others of their famous and faithful fathers.

“Reader, the book now in thy hands is to manage the design of a John Baptist, and convey the hearts of the fathers unto the children.”

Monday, May 11, 2009

God Bless You & Your New Baby Girl

Your daughter is a miracle,
part of God's special plan,
A gift that he has had in mind
since the world began.

He chose the color of her eyes,
her smile, her talents too...
And as her parents, you must be
so thankful God chose you!

[a hallmark poem sent by a friend...]

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Prayer of Expecting Moms--Comenius

Form of Prayer for pregnant matrons.

"Omnipotent God, Creator of all things visible and invisible, of whom all the whole family in heaven and on earth is named; to Thee, most revered and beloved Father, we, Thy rational creatures, have recourse, inasmuch as Thou, with special counsel and deliberation, didst found our race, forming the body with wonderful wisdom from the dust of the earth, and inspiring the soul from Thyself, that we might be Thine image; and although Thou mightest have produced us all at the same time, even as (Thou didst) the angels, yet it seemed otherwise to Thy wisdom, so that a human race might be multiplied by male and female, in accordance with holy wedlock instituted by Thee; therefore Thou didst deign to bless them that they might increase and multiply, and fill not only the earth, but also the choirs of angels.

"O eternal God and Father! may praise and glory be to Thy name because of all thy wonderful works in us. I likewise give grateful thanks to Thy clemency that Thou hast willed that I should not only be born of this thy celebrated creature (so that I also should fill up the number of the elect), but likewise hath deigned to bless me by placing me in the matrimonial state, and given unto me the fruit of the womb. The gift is Thine, the paternal grace is Thine, O Lord, Father of spirits and of all flesh! wherefore, with humble heart, seeking counsel and aid, I fly to Thee alone, that what Thou hast formed in my womb may be guarded with Thy strength, and preserved to a happy delivery. For I know, O Lord, that man's steps are not in his own power, and no one is able (of himself) to direct his way ; since then we are weak and infirm, we ought to guard against all the snares which, by thy permission, the evil spirit lays for us, and to prevent the calamities into which we are precipitated through our own inconsiderateness. With Thee, however, wisdom is infinite; Thou renderest safe and secure from all evil whomsoever Thou wishest well, through Thine angels.

"Wherefore I also betaking myself to Thee in this my necessity, 0 Father, full of mercy, beg that Thou wouldst look upon me with the eye of Thy mercy, and preserve me safe from every dangerous accident. Be Thou a consolation to me and my beloved husband, O God of all consolation! so that we, having seen Thy blessing, may, with joyful heart, adore Thy fatherly love, and with all willingness servo Thee. I complain not of the chastisement which thou hast imposed upon our sex, that our conceptions and birth are accompanied with pain. I humbly beg this only, that Thou wouldst enable me to bear Thy chastisement, and do Thou grant a happy issue. If our prayers in this behalf be heard, and Thou dost grant to us offspring sound and perfect in its members, we promise to consecrate and return it to Thee; so that Thou may continue to be our and our offspring's most clement Lord and Father, as we, with our posterity, purpose to remain Thy faithful children.

"Hear, O most merciful Father, the prayer of Thy very humble handmaid and the desire of our hearts; for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who, for our sakes, being made an infant, deigned to assume flesh in the womb of the blessed Virgin; now lives with Thee, and with the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, God blessed for evermore."


[The School of Infancy, p.20, c. 1633]

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


No cigar to smoke.
No gum to chew.
No more nails to gnaw.

Pre-labor all weekend.
No sleep.
False start on Monday.
Now the real thing.


A baby brought by Almighty.
A precious soul to wait upon.

The Real Thing takes patience.
The Real Thing takes time.

I pace; I race.
I walk.
I trekked a trench in the hardwood floor.
My feet pounded the ground into powder.


God be praised I'm here to wait.
To learn patience. To endure for another.
As God was longsuffering with me.

To wait for our little Nora Renee.

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, May 1, 2009

Vindication of Sunday School...?

"In conclusion, I have only to say, that the more I reflect on the power and salutary influence of the Sunday-school system, the more am I convinced, that it has been raised up by a benignant Providence to be one of the most effective engines in over¬throwing the kingdom of Satan, and promoting a general reformation in society, especially in that class of people who have evaded the influence of other means of improvement. If what I have written may contribute in some small degree to the furtherance of this good cause, I shall think that my time was well employed, and that I have received a rich remuneration for my labour."

Archibald Alexander, Suggestions in Vindication of Sunday School..., p.32, 1829