The Tone of Joy

Writes theologian B. B. Warfield (Works, 7:114):

We are sinners and we know ourselves to be sinners, lost and helpless in ourselves. But we are saved sinners; and it is our salvation which gives the tone to our life, a tone of joy which swells in exact proportion to the sense we have of our ill-desert; for it is he to whom much is forgiven who loves much, and who, loving, rejoices much.

Adolf Harnack declares that this mood was brought into Christianity by Augustine. Before Augustine the characteristic frame of mind of Christians was the racking unrest of alternating hopes and fears. Augustine, the first of the Evangelicals, created a new piety of assured rest in God our Savior, and the psychological form of this new piety was, as Harnack phrases it, “solaced contrition,” — affliction, for sin, yes, the deepest and most poignant remorse for sin, but not unrelieved remorse, but appeased remorse.

There is no other joy on earth like that of appeased remorse: it is not only in heaven but on earth also that the joy over one sinner that repents surpasses that over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance.

The Savior

B. B. Warfield, The Saviour of the World (1914), 247–49:

He came to save every age, says Irenæus, and therefore He came as an infant, a child, a boy, a youth, and a man. And there is no age that cannot find its example in Him.

We see Him, the properest child that ever was given to a mother’s arms, through all the years of childhood at Nazareth “subjecting Himself to His parents.”

We see Him a youth, laboring day by day contentedly at His father’s bench, in this lower sphere, too, with no other thought than to be “about His father’s business.”

We see Him in His holy manhood, going, “as His custom was,” Sabbath by Sabbath, to the synagogue,—God as He was, not too good to worship with His weaker brethren. And then the horizon broadens.

We see Him at the banks of Jordan, because it became Him to fulfill every righteousness, meekly receiving the baptism of repentance for us.

We see Him in the wilderness, calmly rejecting the subtlest trials of the evil one: refusing to supply His needs by a misuse of His divine power, repelling the confusion of tempting God with trusting God, declining to seek His Father’s ends by any other than His Father’s means.

We see Him among the thousands of Galilee, anointed of God with the Holy Ghost and power, going about doing good:

with no pride of birth, though He was a king;
with no pride of intellect, though omniscience dwelt within Him;
with no pride of power, though all power in heaven and earth was in His hands;
with no pride of station, though the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Him bodily;
with no pride of superior goodness or holiness:

but in lowliness of mind esteeming every one better than Himself,

healing the sick,
casting out devils,
feeding the hungry,
and everywhere breaking to men the bread of life.

We see Him everywhere offering to men His life for the salvation of their souls: and when, at last, the forces of evil gathered thick around Him, walking, alike without display and without dismay, the path of suffering appointed for Him, and giving His life at Calvary that through His death the world might live.

Church Attendance: What Would Jesus Do?

B.B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings (P&R, 1970), 1:421–422:

If ever there was one who might justly plead that the common worship of the community had nothing to offer him it was the Lord Jesus Christ. But every Sabbath found him seated in his place among the worshipping people, and there was no act of stated worship which he felt himself entitled to discard.

Even in his most exalted moods, and after his most elevating experiences, he quietly took his place with the rest of God’s people, sharing with them in the common worship of the community. Returning from that great baptismal scene, when the heavens themselves were rent to bear him witness that he was well pleasing to God; from the searching trials of the wilderness, and from that first great tour in Galilee, prosecuted, as we are expressly told, “in the power of the Spirit”; he came back, as the record tells, “to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and” — so proceeds the amazing narrative — “he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue, on the Sabbath day.”

“As his custom was!”

Jesus Christ made it his habitual practice to be found in his place on the Sabbath day at the stated place of worship to which he belonged. “It is a reminder,” as Sir William Robertson Nicoll well insists, “of the truth which, in our fancied spirituality, we are apt to forget — that the holiest personal life can scarcely afford to dispense with stated forms of devotion, and that the regular public worship of the church, for all its local imperfections and dullness, is a divine provision for sustaining the individual soul.”

“We cannot afford to be wiser than our Lord in this matter. If any one could have pled that his spiritual experience was so lofty that it did no require public worship, if any one might have felt that the consecration and communion of is personal life exempted him from what ordinary mortals needed, it was Jesus. But he made no such plea. Sabbath after Sabbath even he was found in the place of worship, side by side with God’s people, not for the mere sake of setting a good example, but for deeper reasons. Is it reasonable, then, that any of us should think we can safely afford to dispense with the pious custom of regular participation with the common worship of our locality?”

Is it necessary for me to exhort those who would fain be like Christ, to see to it that they are imitators of him in this?