Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Covenant Protestant Reformed Church



Rev. Angus Stewart

Lord’s Day, 15 February, 2009


"Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep

the testimony of thy mouth" (Ps. 119:88)


Morning Service - 11:00 AM

The Holy Spirit in Ephesians (12)

Grieving the Holy Spirit     [download]

Ephesians 4:30

I. The Meaning

II. The Means

III. The Result

Psalms: 104:1-7; 17:1-7; 15:1-5; 73:21-28


Evening Service - 6:00 PM

Declaring God’s Glory Among the Gentiles     [download]

Isaiah 66:18-21

I. The Message

II. The Messengers

III. The Fruits

Psalms: 67:1-7; 17:8-15; 22:26-31; 96:1-7


Contact Sean Courtney ( for CDs of the sermons.


CPRC website:

Quote to Consider:

E. J. Young on Isaiah 66:19: "In the concluding clause the nature of biblical and missionary preaching is set forth with remarkable clarity; it is the making known among the nations of God’s glory. This is accomplished by the faithful preaching of the Gospel, the whole counsel of God. Thus, the primary aim in missionary and in all preaching is not the betterment of the hearer but the glory of God. When this aim is lost from sight, the work of the Church fails. When the glory of God is made known, all these other things are added unto us; man receives his highest blessing and well-being when God is glorified."

John Calvin on Isaiah 66:20: "... the Prophet simply declares that nothing shall hinder God from gathering his Church, and that he will have at his command all the necessary means, that none of the elect whom he has called may fail in the middle of the course."

Announcements (subject to God’s will):

On the back table today is a letter from Rev. Bruinsma, the PRC missionary in Pittsburgh and the February Covenant Reformed News.


Monday, 7:00 PM - Campbells at the manse

Tuesday, 10:15 AM - Beginners OT Class at the Murrays

Tuesday, 4:30 PM - Jacob Buchanan

Tuesday, 5:30 PM - Murrays

Tuesday, 6:45 PM - Hamills

Ladies’ Bible Study meets this Tuesday, 17 Feb., 10:15 AM, at the Murrays.

Stephen Rushton arrives on Wednesday morning. He will be staying at the manse until Monday, 23 February, and so will be able to attend Wednesday’s Bible Study, Friday’s lecture in Portadown, and the Lord’s Day services.

Midweek Bible Study meets on Wednesday, 7:45 PM at the manse. We will consider I Peter 2:1-3 on desiring the pure milk of the Word.

The Reformed Witness Hour next Lord’s Day (8:30-9:00 AM, on Gospel 846MW), is entitled "Grace For Today" (Matt. 6:34) by Rev. Haak.

Offerings: General Fund - £366.94. Donations: £50 (website).

Upcoming Lectures:

Portadown, Fri., 20 Feb., 8 PM - John Calvin’s Battle for the Reformation

Limerick, Fri., 6 March, 7:30 PM - John Calvin’s Battle for the Reformation

S. Wales, Fri., 20 March, 7:15 PM - John Calvin’s Battle for the Reformation

PRC News: Calvary PRC (Hull, IA) will call a pastor from a trio of Revs. Haak (Georgetown, MI), D. Kleyn (Holland, MI), and W. Langerak (Southeast, MI).

Luther’s Open Letter (II)

Last time we considered a practice and a heresy of the Roman church to understand better the great challenge Martin Luther faced in his battle with a church which had been corrupt for some time. Luther’s Open Letter of 1520 contained twenty-seven proposals for reform. The 25th of these proposals begins, "The universities also need a good, thorough reformation—I must say it no matter whom it vexes—for everything which the papacy has instituted and ordered is directed only towards the increasing of sin and error."

Please note that Luther proposes a "good, thorough reformation" of the universities. Luther did not make such proposals regarding many of the other problems which he observed in the Roman church. There are many instances in which Luther observes the corruption and horrible godlessness of Rome and calls for the eradication of unchristian practices and unscriptural teachings. However, for the universities, whose flaws were grave as we shall see, he calls for a thorough reformation, not eradication.

In his Open Letter, Luther does not tell the German nobility that there is no need for citizens to gain an education in the 16th century. Luther does not assert that the German people as a whole or Christians in particular would be better served if they were to abandon cities and villages and return to an agrarian lifestyle which would require no scholarship. Luther does not exhort Christian men to drop their books and take up the plough. Neither does Luther desire that universities be starved of students so the doors are forced to be closed due to lack of interest. He values education and therefore demands that Rome no longer be in charge of the education of Germany’s Christian youth.

Let’s take a quick survey of education in the Middle Ages to understand just what Luther believed needed reforming. I gleaned information about education just before the Reformation from two sources. The first source was A Textbook in the History of Modern Elementary Education (Ginn and Company, 1912) by Samuel Chester Parker, who was an Associate Professor of Education and Dean of the College of Education of the University of Chicago. The second, and in my opinion the more readable book, was Luther on Education (Lutheran Publication Society, 1889) by Franklin Verzelius Newton Painter, professor of modern languages in Roanoke College. I see no reason to scorn texts with old copyright dates if the books provide the desired information and are well written. A good book is a good book, even if it is old. (If you wish, these books can be downloaded online from

Education at all levels during the Middle Ages was under the control of Rome. This could not have made the hope of Luther’s desire to reform the schools very bright. "[T]he Catholic Church provided the only education available during most of the Middle Ages. In order that this education might be orthodox the Church claimed a monopoly of teaching, and no one was privileged to teach (either in elementary or secondary schools or in the universities) without the express sanction of the cathedral authorities" (Parker, pp. 25-26).

Schools of the Middle Ages can be divided into two categories. There were vernacular schools in which instruction was given in the students’ native tongue. Vernacular schools were not in great demand except for commercial centres. Business and trade required educated people to handle the reading, writing and calculations necessary to carry on commerce. As the Reformation developed, however, people placed greater value on vernacular schools because the purpose of Reformed education was for students to be able to read the Bible in their own language.

There were also classic or Latin schools. As the name implies, education in these schools was in Latin. Latin was viewed as the language of the truly educated. Anything worth reading was written in Latin, and Latin had been the language of the Roman church for many years. At that time there simply was not enough literature available in vernacular languages to warrant any study. Officials associated with Latin schools viewed their institutions to be superior to vernacular schools.

Parker divides Latin schools into five types. Episcopal or Cathedral schools trained students for the clergy. Monastic schools were for those who were preparing to become monks. Guild schools, contrary to the implication of the name, were not for training in various types of skilled labour, but were for governing the community and doing such work as providing food for the poor. Guild schools were so named because they were often sponsored by local guilds. People also supported Chantry schools in which priests would chant prayers for the dead. Almshouses provided for the relief of the poor and often operated schools for instruction in Latin.

Universities for higher education existed for instruction in such areas as law, medicine, theology, canon law (law which governed the behaviour of Roman clergy, and about which Luther had a strong opinion), grammar, logic, music, physics, etc. "Most of the universities also maintained a faculty of arts, in which younger students were trained in the arts (grammar, rhetoric, logic, music, physics, metaphysics, psychology, ethics, politics, mathematics) either as a preparation for higher professional study or as the basis of a general education" (Parker, p. 16).

Parker says this about the purpose of schools at that time. "They were largely selective in purpose, that is, designed not to train the masses but to select and train those who were to be leaders in religious life" (p. 13). Painter states, "The Church regarded education as one of its exclusive functions, and under its direction nearly all instruction had an ecclesiastical character. The purely secular studies of the trivium—grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic—and of the quadrivium—music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy—were pursued chiefly in the interests of the Church" (p. 77).

Painter goes on to say, "A notable and lamentable fact in the educational arrangements of the Middle Ages was the neglect of the common people. No general effort was made to reach and elevate them by education. The ecclesiastical schools were designed chiefly for candidates for the priesthood; the parochial schools fitted the young for Church membership; the burgher schools were intended for the commercial and artisan classes of the cities; knightly education gave a training for chivalry. Thus the labouring classes were left to toil on in ignorance and want; they remained in a dependent and servile condition, their lives unillumined by intellectual pleasures. If here and there, as claimed by Roman Catholic writers, popular schools were established, they were too few in number and too weak in influence to deserve more than passing mention. Popular education was the outgrowth of the Reformation" (pp. 86-87).

Once the Reformation had begun to take root, the German theologian and close friend of Luther, Philip Melancthon, wrote this after he was ordered to visit churches and schools in part of Germany, "What can be offered in justification, that these poor people have hitherto been left in such great ignorance and stupidity? My heart bleeds when I regard this misery. Often when we have completed the visitation of a place, I go to one side and pour forth my distress in tears. And who would not mourn to see the faculties of man so utterly neglected, and that his soul, which is able to learn and grasp so much, does not even know anything of its Creator and Lord?" (Painter, pp. 87-88). Such were the consequences of the educational system provided by and for Rome.

Luther writes in his 25th proposal, "What else are the universities, if their present condition remains unchanged, than as the book of Maccabees says, 2 Macc. 4:9, 12: ‘Places for training youths in Greek glory,’ in which loose living prevails, the Holy Scriptures and the Christian faith are little taught, and the blind, heathen master Aristotle rules alone, even more than Christ."

Last month we had a glimpse of the condition of the Roman church by noting the unbiblical practice of kissing the Pope’s feet and the false doctrine which denied priests the right to marry. Now we are aware of the system of education established and maintained by the Roman church. Are we grateful for our good, Reformed, Christian schools, imperfect though they are? As the economic forecasters continue to predict grey and gloomy skies, are our schools worth our best efforts? Do we thank God for what He has provided for us and our covenant children?

Mr. Brian Dykstra, teacher at Hope Protestant Reformed Christian School