October 5: Warfield on the Religious Life of Seminary Students

Beware of Becoming Weary of God!

Continuing today our mini-series in review of B.B. Warfield’s address, THE RELIGIOUS LIFE OF THEOLOGICAL STUDENTS. Regrettably, our time is short today, and without introductory comment we must simply place before you another excerpt from Dr. Warfield’s message:


There is certainly something wrong with the religious life of a theological student who does not study. But it does not quite follow that therefore everything is right with his religious life if he does study. It is possible to study—even to study theology—in an entirely secular spirit. I said a little while ago that what religion does is to send a man to his work with an added quality of devotion. In saying that, I meant the word “devotion” to be taken in both its senses—in the sense of “zealous application,” and in the sense of “a religious exercise,” as the Standard Dictionary phrases the two definitions. A truly religious man will study anything which it becomes his duty to study with “devotion” in both of these senses. That is what his religion does for him: it makes him do his duty, do it thoroughly, do it “in the Lord.” But in the case of many branches of study, there is nothing in the topics studied which tends directly to feed the religious life, or to set in movement the religious emotions, or to call out specifically religious reaction. If we study them “in the Lord,” that is only because we do it “for his sake,” on the principle which makes “sweeping a room” an act of worship. With theology it is not so. In all its branches alike, theology has as its unique end to make God known: the student of theology is brought by his daily task into the presence of God, and is kept there. Can a religious man stand in the presence of God, and not worship? It is possible, I have said, to study even theology in a purely secular spirit. But surely that is possible only for an irreligious man, or at least for an unreligious man. And here I place in your hands at once a touchstone by which you may discern your religious state, and an instrument for the quickening of your religious life. Do you prosecute your daily tasks as students of theology as “religious exercises”? If you do not, look to yourselves: it is surely not all right with the spiritual condition of that man who can busy himself daily with divine things, with a cold and impassive heart. If you do, rejoice. But in any case, see that you do! And that you do it ever more and more abundantly. Whatever you may have done in the past, for the future make all your theological studies “religious exercises.” This is the great rule for a rich and wholesome religious life in a theological student. Put your heart into your studies; do not merely occupy your mind with them, but put your heart into them. They bring you daily and hourly into the very presence of God; his ways, his dealing with men, the infinite majesty of his Being form their very subject-matter. Put the shoes from off your feet in this holy presence!

We are frequently told, indeed, that the great danger of the theological student lies precisely in his constant contact with divine things. They may come to seem common to him, because they are customary. As the average man breathes the air and basks in the sunshine without ever a thought that it is God in his goodness who makes his sun to rise on him, though he is evil, and sends rain to him, though he is unjust; so you may come to handle even the furniture of the sanctuary with never a thought above the gross early materials of which it is made. The words which tell you of God’s terrible majesty or of his glorious goodness may come to be mere words to you—Hebrew and Greek words, with etymologies, and inflections, and connections in sentences. The reasonings which establish to you the mysteries of his saving activities may come to be to you mere logical paradigms, with premises and conclusions, fitly framed, no doubt, and triumphantly cogent, but with no further significance to you than their formal logical conclusiveness. God’s stately stepping in his redemptive processes may become to you a mere series of facts of history, curiously interplaying to the production of social and religious conditions, and pointing mayhap to an issue which we may shrewdly conjecture: but much like other facts occurring in time and space, which may come to your notice. It is your great danger. But it is your great danger, only because it is your great privilege. Think of what your privilege is when your greatest danger is that the great things of religion may become common to you! Other men, oppressed by the hard conditions of life, sunk in the daily struggle for bread perhaps, distracted at any rate by the dreadful drag of the world upon them and the awful rush of the world’s work, find it hard to get time and opportunity so much as to pause and consider whether there be such things as God, and religion, and salvation from the sin that compasses them about and holds them captive. The very atmosphere of your life is these things; you breathe them in at every pore; they surround you, encompass you, press in upon you from every side. It is all in danger of becoming common to you! God forgive you, you are in danger of becoming weary of God!

Words to Live By:
Become weary of God? Weary of worshiping the One who made us, who sent His Son to save us from our sins, that we might have eternal fellowship with Him? Weary of His presence? How could that ever be? And yet, in full display of our sinful nature, all too often it can happen. May our Lord deliver us from falling in that way. The Scriptures repeatedly talk of how God has made His works to be remembered, and this is key, I think, to helping us from falling into such a weariness, as we practice a daily remembrance of His grace, His many blessings, His many mercies, both as they are recorded on the pages of the Bible and as they are displayed in the lives of His children. Remembering His works serves to keep our hearts fresh and tender before Him.


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