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Leviticus 24     Psalm 31     Ecclesiastes 7     2 Timothy 3


Leviticus 24

The Lamps

Leviticus 24:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil from beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning regularly. 3 Outside the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall arrange it from evening to morning before the LORD regularly. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. 4 He shall arrange the lamps on the lampstand of pure gold before the LORD regularly.

Bread for the Tabernacle

5 “You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. 6 And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. 7 And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD. 8 Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. 9 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the LORD’s food offerings, a perpetual due.”

Punishment for Blasphemy

10 Now an Israelite woman’s son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought in the camp, 11 and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. 12 And they put him in custody, till the will of the LORD should be clear to them.

13 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 14 “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. 15 And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

An Eye for an Eye

17 “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. 18 Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. 19 If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. 21 Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death. 22 You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the LORD your God.” 23 So Moses spoke to the people of Israel, and they brought out of the camp the one who had cursed and stoned him with stones. Thus the people of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.


Psalm 31

Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit

Psalm 31 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.

1  In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
2  Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!

3  For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
4  you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
5  Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

6  I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
but I trust in the LORD.
7  I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,
8  and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.

9  Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
10  For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away.

11  Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
12  I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
13  For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.

14  But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
15  My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16  Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
17  O LORD, let me not be put to shame,
for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go silently to Sheol.
18  Let the lying lips be mute,
which speak insolently against the righteous
in pride and contempt.

19  Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!
20  In the cover of your presence you hide them
from the plots of men;
you store them in your shelter
from the strife of tongues.

21  Blessed be the LORD,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
22  I had said in my alarm,
“I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
when I cried to you for help.

23  Love the LORD, all you his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24  Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the LORD!


Ecclesiastes 7

The Contrast of Wisdom and Folly

Ecclesiastes 7:1 A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
2  It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
3  Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
4  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
5  It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
than to hear the song of fools.
6  For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
so is the laughter of the fools;
this also is vanity.
7  Surely oppression drives the wise into madness,
and a bribe corrupts the heart.
8  Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,
and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
9  Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
10  Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
11  Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
an advantage to those who see the sun.
12  For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,
and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
13  Consider the work of God:
who can make straight what he has made crooked?

14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

15 In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. 16 Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.

19 Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.

20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.

23 All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. 24 That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?

25 I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness. 26 And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her. 27 Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher, while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things— 28 which my soul has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found. 29 See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.


2 Timothy 3

Godlessness in the Last Days

2 Timothy 3:1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

All Scripture Is Breathed Out by God

10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

The Antidote to Post-humanism

By Albert Mohler 7/1/2005

     Are you ready for the posthuman future? We are living in an age of radical transformations in science, technology, and worldview. Standing at the center of the worldview now dominant in our society is an affirmation that human beings have the right, if not the responsibility, to “improve” themselves in every way. In a culture that celebrates youth, attractiveness, and achievement, the idea of personal improvement is now being stretched beyond what previous generations could have imagined.

     “It is a natural human desire to manipulate our bodies to look better, feel better, and age better,” ethicist Wesley Smith explains. “We not only wish to be free of disease, but also deeply desire to remain youthful in appearance and physical vigor.” With “Botox parties” and cosmetic surgery now becoming routine, many Americans simply assume that personal enhancement is a basic right. Now, some want to push beyond natural biological barriers in order to achieve even greater “enhancements” in the future. We now face the undeniable truth that at least some of our fellow citizens are ready to use genetic enhancements, cloning technologies, and germ-line engineering to achieve what some now call a “posthuman” future.

     Genetic modifications and germ-line therapies differ from previous technologies of personal enhancement, Smith explains. Plastic surgery — even something as radical as sex-change procedures — affect only one individual’s body. Nothing from those surgeries impacts the genetic inheritance passed down to subsequent generations.

     All this changes when genetic modifications and germ-line technologies enter the picture. “What if a father could insert a gene to transform his daughter into the concert pianist he always wanted to be, or an atheist to likewise ensure that his children would be genetically predisposed (if it proves possible) to shun religious belief?” Smith asks, adding, “And what if these modifications passed down the generations?”

     Smith, and others, now warn that all this could lead to what some call a “posthuman race.” Others are now pushing for what they call transhumanism, which Smith warns is now “organizing with the intensity of a religious revival.”

     Once confined to academic debate and the literary world of science fiction, these proposals are now taken seriously by scientists, medical doctors, and ethical observers. As Smith notes, “While transhumanism is relatively new, the idea that we should apply the full array of new technologies to remake the natural human order has been bubbling up in radical bioethics and academic philosophical discourse for decades.”

     Reckless confidence in new scientific technologies is often translated into a sense that every new technology shifts from what is possible to what is necessary. Many of the proposals now taken seriously by the scientific establishment are simply breathtaking. Gregory E. Pence promotes human cloning as a means to allow parents to pass down a “wonderful genetic legacy” to future generations.

     Some see a day when the human species will branch off in different directions. In this new posthuman age, parents would order their children like designer products and would, like all informed and demanding consumers, insist upon the latest chromosomal enhancements.

     Gregory Pence goes so far as to argue that children will one day be chosen as we now choose pets. “When it comes to non-human animals we think nothing of trying to match the breed to the needs of the owner,” Pence asserts. Wouldn’t all this lead to a deep unfairness in terms of competition among human beings? Some advocate a form of “egalitarian eugenics” that would require government support, Smith explains, “to ensure that all parents have an equal choice to participate in the coming genetic arms race.”

     This is nothing less than an audacious attempt to redefine what it means to be human. As Smith understands, “The deeper one delves into the posthuman agenda, the clearer it becomes that dissatisfaction with natural humanity lies at its heart.”

     The biblical understanding of the human being begins with the fact that we are creatures made in the image of God and for His glory. The special status of human beings in the order of creation is not an accident of evolutionary development, but the sovereign will of the Creator, who made human beings in His own image. This biblical worldview stands in absolute and uncompromising opposition to the concepts of transhumanism and a posthuman vision of the race.

     East of Eden, human beings have often been frustrated with the limitations of our nature. The first sin was, after all, an attempt to defy God’s authority by claiming for human beings what had been forbidden. The new vision of humanity promised by the prophets of genetic engineering and biotechnology is, in reality, a nightmare.

     There is no higher vision of humanity than that revealed in the Bible — human beings as the image bearers of God. Keep that firmly in mind when you hear of a promised posthuman future.

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Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

Albert Mohler Books:

Confessing Faith

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 08/01/2005

     While it may be true that there are two kinds of people in the world, (those who like to divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don’t), there are in turn myriad places to draw these dividing lines. God Himself in Genesis 3 speaks of the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. As history moves forward toward the coming of the second Adam, the world is divided into Jews and Gentiles, who are, in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, ultimately brought together by the work of Christ, leaving us at the end of the story with two kinds of barnyard animals: sheep and goats.

     Sometimes, I’m afraid, we draw with crooked lines. J. D. Hunter, a sociologist at the University of Virginia and a professing Christian, wrote an incisive and insightful book a decade or so back called Culture Wars: The Struggle To Control The Family, Art, Education, Law, And Politics In America. He argued therein that the world is divided into two kinds of people, the progressives and the orthodox. The progressives, whether they were raw secularists, new age devotees, non-observant Jews or mainline Protestants, agreed on one thing, that God had not spoken. They denied together that there was any transcendent truth. The orthodox, on the other hand, again whether Muslim or Christian, Mormon or Christian Scientist, agreed that God had indeed spoken. They agreed that there was a transcendent source of truth and morality. They just couldn’t agree on what that source was.

     It’s a perfectly appropriate way to divide the world, as long as you realize that there are plenty of goats still on our side. Co-belligerancy in the culture wars may be a good thing, an appropriate battle strategy. Wisdom requires, however, that we remember that it comes with a peculiar temptation. It is all too easy to delight in what unites us, and diminish what divides us. It is all too easy to forget that our allies in the battle are our enemies in the war. That temptation is particularly grave when the barbarians are at the gate, when all the world is crumbling down around us.

     Charles Colson has argued that we have entered into a new dark age. But this time it’s different. The barbarians are no longer at the gate. Instead they sit upon thrones within. They aren’t marauding hordes, but polished assassins. What does a collapsing civilization look like? Because we are worldly we think it is found in the thundering hoof beats of Ghengis Khan and his army. We think it comes by way of Viking longboats, landing on our shores. We think we see civilization ebbing as the Roman army pulls back from the frontiers to defend the core. The truth of the matter, as the barbarian Pogo understood, is that we have met the enemy, and we are it. Here is the sign not of the coming destruction of civilization, but the current destruction: millions of dead babies, killed by medical professionals, hired by mothers, all enjoying the sanction and safety of the state. Judgment is here, and we are judged all the more that we do not know it.

     Saint Augustine rightly drew the line. He wrote, in the dusk of the Roman Empire, of two cities. Some were citizens of man’s city. But by God’s grace, some looked for a city whose builder and maker was God. What separated these two cities, and the citizens therein, however, wasn’t what we think. Man’s city wasn’t simply that place that would not acknowledge God. The city of God isn’t that place where everyone is a theist. Instead Augustine’s explanation of these two cities reflected another important part of Augustine’s work, his battle with the heretic Pelagius. The battle between Augustine and Pelagius was the same battle that rages between the two cities. What separates the citizens of these two cities is the same thing that separated the two men praying in the temple. One prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:12). The other prayed, “God be merciful to me, a sinner” (v. 13). There are, as such, two kinds of people in this world, those who know they are sinners, and those who think otherwise. This is the great divide.

     The culture wars call us to forget this distinction — to exchange it for another. This is why we keep finding ourselves embracing assorted power-grabbing schemes. Our neighbors hope in princes, and we hope with them. We are yoked with the unrepentant, which means we will always receive judgment. The penitent in Jesus’ parable, on the other hand, wasn’t a mere pietist. His prayer wasn’t merely private. He wasn’t so heavenly minded that he was no earthly good. Instead, this is the very power for the battle. We will not change the world by drawing perfect lines. We will only change the world by confessing that all we ever do is draw crooked lines. It is repentance that will bring down the walls of Jericho, that will establish the walls of Jerusalem. I tell you the truth, the penitent went out from the temple justified. Still more, he went out a soldier of the king. As Jesus ended this parable He reminded us of the weapons of His warfare: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

     We are a people of unclean lips, and we dwell in a land of unclean lips. What separates us from them is simply repentance. Our exaltation, after all, is simply to rule with Christ. It is His kingdom we seek, His glory that we pursue. And all these things will be added unto us.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Foundations of Political Action

By Albert Mohler 7/1/2005

     On August 24 of the year 410, the Visigoths under Alaric entered Rome, and they plundered the city for several days. Within weeks, word of the catastrophe had been conveyed throughout the Roman Empire, even to a small North African town called Hippo, which had been blessed with a bishop named Aurelius Augustine. The greatest theologian of the early church, Augustine was faced not only with the unthinkable reality of Rome’s fall, but also with the unique challenge that those in Rome blamed Christians for the empire’s demise. They claimed that Christianity had weakened the political will of Rome and distracted the empire’s leaders from their task. Christians, they claimed, had angered the pagan gods the Romans had once worshiped, and this was the inevitable result. Rome had fallen.

     Augustine gave his answer to these challenges in the most magnificent work of political theology ever undertaken by a Christian theologian. In City of God, Augustine said that there are two cities, each with a corresponding love and a separate destiny. The first of these cities, the city of God, is marked by a love of God and of divine things which orders all else. The other city, the city of man, is marked by the love of human beings — not so much the love of human beings for one another, but the love of human beings for themselves. Augustine argued that Rome fell because it was an unbelieving city, made up of people who acted as if the most important reality was the city of man, and who rejected the ultimacy of the city of God. Having lost sight of the heavenly city, they lost the security of the earthly city as well.

     Augustine’s notion of the two cities is very important. If there is a danger in our age, it is that our society, as well, would confuse the city of God for the city of man, exchanging the love that we should properly find in the heavenly city for the truncated, false love of the city of man. History is replete with examples of humanitarian philosophies, rooted only in the city of man, which turn out to be something other than humanitarian. Defining themselves against a horizon no larger than humanity itself, human beings have ended up building not Utopia but Dachau, Treblinka, and the killing fields of Pol Pot.

     There is an equal danger for Christians. If the liberal, humanistic temptation is to confuse the city of man for the city of God, it just might be that the conservative temptation is to ignore the city of man altogether. Both are forms of sin. Both are an abdication of Christian responsibility. As Christians, we understand that our earthly calling is only a foretaste of what is to come. It is a test of our discipleship, and it is a trial through which we are now passing. Yet just as we are to love the city of God, we are also to love those who are in the city of man. We are not to love both cities, but for the sake of the Creator, we are to love those whom He has created — the citizens of the kingdom of man.

     Scripture tells us how to maintain a proper perspective here. In Matthew 22:35–40, a lawyer came to Jesus and asked him, “Teacher what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” A proper understanding of how we are to relate to the city of man even as we find our ultimate citizenship in the city of God is to be found within this very text, and in these two commands — love of God and love of neighbor.

     Love of God and love of neighbor are tied inseparably together. Love of God leads us to love of our neighbors, and a proper love of our neighbors is one that is rooted in genuine love of God. If that is so, then our motivation for political engagement and cultural concern is first of all love of God, and second, love of neighbor.

     Loving our neighbors for the sake of our love for God is the most profound political philosophy one could possibly find, and it is rooted here in the authoritative revelation of Jesus Christ. As Christians, we do not engage in political action because we believe the conceit that politics is all-important, but neither do we believe the lie that politics is inconsequential. We are concerned for the culture not because we believe that our greatest fulfillment is to be found in the artifacts and achievements of culture, but precisely because we believe that love of neighbor compels us to be concerned for the common weal. We believe that love of neighbor compels us to be concerned for liberty. We believe that love of neighbor compels us to be concerned for freedom in every corner of the world. Our concern as Christians should be to see our neighbors saved from an immediate peril that we may have the opportunity to proclaim to them the Gospel so that they might be saved from an ultimate, eternal peril. Like Augustine, it is love of neighbor — rooted finally in love for God — that compels us to want and hope and pray for the good of our society.

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Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

Albert Mohler Books:

The Pelagian Controversy

By R.C. Sproul 08/01/2005

     “Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire.” This passage from the pen of Saint Augustine of Hippo was the teaching of the great theologian that provoked one of the most important controversies in the history of the church, and one that was roused to fury in the early years of the fifth century.

     The provocation of this prayer stimulated a British monk by the name of Pelagius to react strenuously against its contents. When Pelagius came to Rome sometime in the first decade of the fifth century, he was appalled by the moral laxity he observed among professing Christians and even among the clergy. He attributed much of this malaise to the implications of the teaching of Saint Augustine, namely that righteousness could only be achieved by Christians with the special help of divine grace.

     With respect to Augustine’s prayer, “Oh God, grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire,” Pelagius had no problems with the second part. He believed that God’s highest attribute was indeed His righteousness, and from that righteousness He had the perfect right Himself to obligate His creatures to obey Him according to His law. It was the first part of the prayer that exercised Pelagius, in which Augustine asked God to grant what He commands. Pelagius reacted by saying that whatever God commands implies the ability of the one who receives the command to obey it. Man should not have to ask for grace in order to be obedient.

     Now, this discussion broadened into further debates concerning the nature of Adam’s fall, the extent of corruption in our humanity that we describe under the rubric “original sin,” and the doctrine of baptism.

     It was the position of Pelagius that Adam’s sin affected Adam and only Adam. That is to say, as a result of Adam’s transgression there was no change wrought in the constituent nature of the human race. Man was born in a state of righteousness, and as one created in the image of God, he was created immutably so. Even though it was possible for him to sin, it was not possible for him to lose his basic human nature, which was capable always and everywhere to be obedient. Pelagius went on to say that it is, even after the sin of Adam, possible for every human being to live a life of perfect righteousness and that, indeed, some have achieved such status.

     Pelagius was not opposed to grace, only to the idea that grace was necessary for obedience. He maintained that grace facilitates obedience but is not a necessary prerequisite for obedience. There is no transfer of guilt from Adam to his progeny nor any change in human nature as a subsequence of the fall. The only negative impact Adam had on his progeny was that of setting a bad example, and if those who follow in the pathway of Adam imitate his disobedience, they will share in his guilt, Pelagius asserted, but only by being actually guilty themselves. There can be no transfer or imputation of guilt from one man to another according to the teaching of Pelagius. On the other side, Augustine argued that the fall seriously impaired the moral ability of the human race. Indeed, the fall of Adam plunged all of humanity into the ruinous state of original sin. Original sin does not refer to the first sin of Adam and Eve, but refers to the consequences for the human race of that first sin. It refers to God’s judgment upon the whole human race by which He visits upon us the effects of Adam’s sin by the thoroughgoing corruption of all of his descendents. Paul develops this theme in the fifth chapter of his epistle to the Romans.

     The key issue for Augustine in this controversy was the issue of fallen man’s moral ability — or lack thereof. Augustine argued that prior to the fall, Adam and Eve enjoyed a free will as well as moral liberty. The will is the faculty by which choices are made. Liberty refers to the ability to use that faculty to embrace the things of God. After the fall, Augustine said the will, or the faculty, of choosing remained intact; that is, human beings are still free in the sense that they can choose what they want to choose. However, their choices are deeply influenced by the bondage of sin that holds them in a corrupt state. And as a result of that bondage to sin, the original liberty that Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall was lost.

     The only way that moral liberty could be restored would be through God’s supernatural work of grace in the soul. This renewal of liberty is what the Bible calls a “royal” liberty (James 2:8). Therefore, the crux of the matter had to do with the issue of moral inability as the heart of original sin. The controversy yielded several church verdicts including the judgment of the church in a synod in the year 418, where the Council of Carthage condemned the teachings of Pelagius. The heretic was exiled to Constantinople in 429. And once again, Pelagianism was condemned by the church at the Council of Ephesus in 431. Throughout church history, again and again, unvarnished Pelagianism has been repudiated by Christian orthodoxy. Even the Council of Trent, which teaches a form of semi-Pelagianism, in its first three canons — especially in the sixth chapter on justification — repeats the church’s ancient condemnation of the teaching of Pelagius that men can be righteous apart from grace. Even as recently as the modern Roman Catholic catechism, that condemnation is continued.

     In our own day, the debate between Pelagianism and Augustinianism may be seen as the debate between humanism and Christianity. Humanism is a warmed-over variety of Pelagianism. However, the struggle within the church now is between the Augustinian view and various forms of semi-Pelagianism, which seeks a middle ground between the views of Pelagius and Augustine. Semi-Pelagianism teaches that grace is necessary to achieve righteousness, but that this grace is not imparted to the sinner unilaterally or sovereignly as is maintained by Reformed theology. Rather, the semi-Pelagian argues that the individual makes the initial step of faith before that saving grace is given. Thus, God imparts the grace of faith in conjunction with the sinner’s work in seeking God. It seems a little mixing of grace and works doesn’t worry the semi-Pelagian. It is our task, however, if we are to be faithful first to Scripture and then to the church’s ancient councils, to discern Augustine’s truth and defend it aright.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

R.C. Sproul Books:

Patrick: Missionary to Ireland

By George Grant 08/01/2005

     A small body of Christian believers has faithfully maintained a century-long Gospel legacy in the heart of the teeming city of Jakarta. Planted by Dutch missionaries during the colonial era, the Reformed Chapel has gracefully shown forth the love of Christ to the world’s largest Muslim nation in both word and deed. Though many of the members of the congregation had only recently been oppressed, tyrannized, and sent fleeing from their family homes on the island of Sumatra, they responded quickly to the tsunami disaster that swept many of their former persecutors into a horror of death, destruction, and loss. They have collected money for relief. They have sent doctors, nurses, technicians, and engineers to help. They have mobilized whatever help they could possibly muster. They have been quick in such a time of need to care for men and women they knew to be their enemies — and the enemies of God.

     That is the Gospel in action. It is the very essence of the missionary impulse. It always has been. It always will be. It was the sort of thing that Patrick of Ireland would have understood only too well. Indeed, it was in fact, the story of his life.

     Patrick was a younger contemporary of Augustine of Hippo and Martin of Tours — the fifth century heroes of the faith who laid the foundations for the great civilization of Christendom. He was apparently born into a patrician Roman family in one of the little Christian towns near present day Glasglow — either Bonavern or Belhaven. Although his pious parents, Calphurnius and Conchessa, nurtured him in the Christian faith, he later confessed that he much preferred the passing pleasures of sin. One day while playing by the sea as a teen, marauding pirates captured Patrick and sold him into slavery to a petty Celtic tribal king, named Milchu. During the next six years of captivity he suffered great adversity, hunger, nakedness, loneliness, and sorrow while tending his master’s flocks in the valley of the Braid and on the slopes of the Slemish.

     It was amidst such dire straits that Patrick began to remember the Word of God his mother had taught him. Regretting his past life of selfish pleasure-seeking, he turned to Christ as his Savior. Of his conversion he later wrote, “I was sixteen years old and knew not the true God and was carried away captive; but in that strange land the Lord opened my unbelieving eyes, and although late I called my sins to mind, and was converted with my whole heart to the Lord my God, who regarded my low estate, had pity on my youth and ignorance, and consoled me as a father consoles his children. Every day I used to look after sheep and I used to pray often during the day, the love of God and a holy fear of Him increased more and more in me. My faith began to grow and my spirit was ardently stirred. Often, I would pray as many as a hundred times in a single day — and nearly as many at night. Even when I was staying out in the woods or on the mountain, I would rise before dawn for prayer, in snow and frost and rain. I felt no ill effect and there was no slackness in me. As I now realize, it was because the Spirit was maturing and preparing me for a work yet to come.”

     Amazingly, Patrick came to love the very people who humiliated him, abused him, and taunted him. He yearned for them to know the blessed peace he had found in the Gospel of Christ. Eventually rescued through a remarkable turn of events, Patrick returned to his family in Britain. But his heart increasingly dwelt upon the fierce Celtic peoples he had come to know so well. He was stunned to realize that he actually longed to return to Ireland and share the Gospel with them.

     Though his parents were grieved to see him leave home once again, they reluctantly supported his efforts to gain theological training on the continent. His classical education had been interrupted by his captivity, so he was far behind his peers academically. But what he lacked in knowledge, he made up for in zeal. Before long he had secured a warrant to evangelize his former captors.

     Thus, Patrick returned to Ireland. He preached to the pagan tribes in the Irish language he had learned as a slave. His willingness to take the Gospel to the least likely and the least lovely people imaginable was met with extraordinary success. And that success would continue for over the course of nearly half a century of evangelization, church planting, and social reform. He would later write that God’s grace had so blessed his efforts that “many thousands were born again unto God.” Indeed, according to the early-church chronicler W. D. Killen: “There can be no reasonable doubt that Patrick preached the Gospel, that he was a most zealous and efficient evangelist, and that he is entitled to be called the Apostle of Ireland” (Ecclesiastical History of Ireland, London, 1875).

     We know that the kingdom of heaven belongs to “those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness” (Matt. 5:10) and that great “blessings” and “rewards” eventually await those who have been “insulted,” “slandered,” and “sore vexed” who nevertheless persevere in their high callings (Matt. 5:12–13). We know that often it is in “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, sleeplessness, and hunger” (2 Cor. 6:4–5) that our real mettle is proven. Nevertheless, we often forget that these things are not simply to be endured. They actually frame our greatest calling. They lay the foundations for our most effective ministries. It is when, like Patrick, we come to love God’s enemies and ours that we are set free for great effectiveness.

     Jesus said, “Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who persecute you (Matt. 5:44); and again, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27). Therein is the missionary impulse. Patrick’s life, like that of those selfless believers in Jakarta, provides us with a stunning reminder of that remarkable Gospel paradox.

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     Dr. George Grant is pastor of Parish Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Franklin, Tenn., president of King’s Meadow Study Center, and founder of New College Franklin. He is the author of many books.

George Grant Books:

Leviticus 24; Psalm 31; Ecclesiastes 7; 2 Timothy 3

By Don Carson 4/20/2018

     David was in deep trouble. The exact circumstances may be obscure to us, as we who live three thousand years later probe the details. But we do know that David was shut up in a besieged city (Ps. 31:21) and felt trapped. He was so threatened that he flirted with despair. And that is when he felt abandoned by God himself: “In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from your sight!’” (31:22)

     That is the worst despair of all — to feel that God has abandoned you. It was part of Job’s torment. Job felt he could mount a case in his own defense, if only he could find God long enough to argue with him. But the heavens were silent, and the silence multiplied his despair.

     We have already reflected on the fact that it was fear of being abandoned by God that kept Jacob wrestling with the unknown man in the darkness (Gen. 32:22-32) and kept Moses pressing God to abandon his threat to remain outside the camp of the rebellious Israelites (Ex. 32 — 34). In a theistic universe, there can be nothing worse than being truly abandoned by God himself. The worst of hell’s torments is that men and women are truly abandoned by God. “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

     Yet the sad reality is that we who bear God’s image oscillate between fearing abandonment by God, and wanting to escape from his presence. The same David who wrote this psalm was not particularly eager to delight in the presence of God when he was lusting after Bathsheba and plotting to murder her husband. Too often we would like God to look the other way when we hanker to thumb our noses at him and insist on following our own paths, and we would like God to demonstrate his presence and his glory to us, and certainly get us out of trouble, when we find ourselves in desperate straits.

     What an incalculable blessing that God is better than our fears. He does not owe us succor, relief, or rescue. Even our cries of alarm — “I am cut off from your sight!” — may have more to do with desperate unbelief than with candid pleas for help. But David’s experience may prove an encouragement to us, for he quickly pens two more lines: “Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help” (31:22).

Love the LORD, all his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful,
but the proud he pays back in full.
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the LORD. (Ps. 31:23-24)

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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 40

My Help and My Deliverer
40 To The Choirmaster - A Psalm of David.

11 As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!
12 For evils have encompassed me
beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.

13 Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me!
O LORD, make haste to help me!
14 Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
who delight in my hurt!
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     6. Another rule of prayer is, that in asking we must always truly feel our wants, and seriously considering that we need all the things which we ask, accompany the prayer with a sincere, nay, ardent desire of obtaining them. Many repeat prayers in a perfunctory manner from a set form, as if they were performing a task to God, and though they confess that this is a necessary remedy for the evils of their condition, because it were fatal to be left without the divine aid which they implore, it still appears that they perform the duty from custom, because their minds are meanwhile cold, and they ponder not what they ask. A general and confused feeling of their necessity leads them to pray, but it does not make them solicitous as in a matter of present consequence, that they may obtain the supply of their need. Moreover, can we suppose anything more hateful or even more execrable to God than this fiction of asking the pardon of sins, while he who asks at the very time either thinks that he is not a sinner, or, at least, is not thinking that he is a sinner; in other words, a fiction by which God is plainly held in derision? But mankind, as I have lately said, are full of depravity, so that in the way of perfunctory service they often ask many things of God which they think come to them without his beneficence, or from some other quarter, or are already certainly in their possession. There is another fault which seems less heinous, but is not to be tolerated. Some murmur out prayers without meditation, their only principle being that God is to be propitiated by prayer. Believers ought to be specially on their guard never to appear in the presence of God with the intention of presenting a request unless they are under some serious impression, and are, at the same time, desirous to obtain it. Nay, although in these things which we ask only for the glory of God, we seem not at first sight to consult for our necessity, yet we ought not to ask with less fervor and vehemence of desire. For instance, when we pray that his name be hallowed--that hallowing must, so to speak, be earnestly hungered and thirsted after.

7. If it is objected, that the necessity which urges us to pray is not always equal, I admit it, and this distinction is profitably taught us by James: "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms," (James 5:13). Therefore, common sense itself dictates, that as we are too sluggish, we must be stimulated by God to pray earnestly whenever the occasion requires. This David calls a time when God "may be found," (a seasonable time); because, as he declares in several other passages, that the more hardly grievances, annoyances, fears, and other kinds of trial press us, the freer is our access to God, as if he were inviting us to himself. Still not less true is the injunction of Paul to pray "always," (Eph. 6:18); because, however prosperously according to our view, things proceed, and however we may be surrounded on all sides with grounds of joy, there is not an instant of time during which our want does not exhort us to prayer. A man abounds in wheat and wine; but as he cannot enjoy a morsel of bread, unless by the continual bounty of God, his granaries or cellars will not prevent him from asking for daily bread. Then, if we consider how many dangers impend every moment, fear itself will teach us that no time ought to be without prayer. This, however, may be better known in spiritual matters. For when will the many sins of which we are conscious allow us to sit secure without suppliantly entreating freedom from guilt and punishment? When will temptation give us a truce, making it unnecessary to hasten for help? Moreover, zeal for the kingdom and glory of God ought not to seize us by starts, but urge us without intermission, so that every time should appear seasonable. It is not without cause, therefore, that assiduity in prayer is so often enjoined. I am not now speaking of perseverance, which shall afterwards be considered; but Scripture, by reminding us of the necessity of constant prayer, charges us with sloth, because we feel not how much we stand in need of this care and assiduity. By this rule hypocrisy and the device of lying to God are restrained, nay, altogether banished from prayer. God promises that he will be near to those who call upon him in truth, and declares that those who seek him with their whole heart will find him: those, therefore, who delight in their own pollution cannot surely aspire to him. One of the requisites of legitimate prayer is repentance. Hence the common declaration of Scripture, that God does not listen to the wicked; that their prayers, as well as their sacrifices, are an abomination to him. For it is right that those who seal up their hearts should find the ears of God closed against them, that those who, by their hardheartedness, provoke his severity should find him inflexible. In Isaiah he thus threatens: "When ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood," (Isaiah 1:15). In like manner, in Jeremiah, "Though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them," (Jer. 11:7, 8, 11); because he regards it as the highest insult for the wicked to boast of his covenant while profaning his sacred name by their whole lives. Hence he complains in Isaiah: "This people draw near to me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me; but have removed their heart far from men" (Isaiah 29:13). Indeed, he does not confine this to prayers alone, but declares that he abominates pretense in every part of his service. Hence the words of James, "Ye ask and receive note because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts," (James 4:3). It is true, indeed (as we shall again see in a little), that the pious, in the prayers which they utter, trust not to their own worth; still the admonition of John is not superfluous: "Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments," (1 John 3:22); an evil conscience shuts the door against us. Hence it follows, that none but the sincere worshippers of God pray aright, or are listened to. Let every one, therefore, who prepares to pray feel dissatisfied with what is wrong in his condition, and assume, which he cannot do without repentance, the character and feelings of a poor suppliant.

8. The third rule to be added is: that he who comes into the presence of God to pray must divest himself of all vainglorious thoughts, lay aside all idea of worth; in short, discard all self- confidence, humbly giving God the whole glory, lest by arrogating any thing, however little, to himself, vain pride cause him to turn away his face. Of this submission, which casts down all haughtiness, we have numerous examples in the servants of God. The holier they are, the more humbly they prostrate themselves when they come into the presence of the Lord. Thus Daniel, on whom the Lord himself bestowed such high commendation, says, "We do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousness but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name." This he does not indirectly in the usual manner, as if he were one of the individuals in a crowd: he rather confesses his guilt apart, and as a suppliant betaking himself to the asylum of pardon, he distinctly declares that he was confessing his own sin, and the sin of his people Israel (Dan. 9:18-20). David also sets us an example of this humility: "Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified," (Psalm 143:2). In like manner, Isaiah prays, "Behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved. But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. But now, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever: Behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people." (Isa. 64:5-9). You see how they put no confidence in any thing but this: considering that they are the Lord's, they despair not of being the objects of his care. In the same way, Jeremiah says, "O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name's sake," (Jer. 14:7). For it was most truly and piously written by the uncertain author (whoever he may have been) that wrote the book which is attributed to the prophet Baruch, [464] "But the soul that is greatly vexed, which goeth stooping and feeble, and the eyes that fail, and the hungry soul, will give thee praise and righteousness, O Lord. Therefore, we do not make our humble supplication before thee, O Lord our God, for the righteousness of our fathers, and of our kings." "Hear, O Lord, and have mercy; for thou art merciful: and have pity upon us, because we have sinned before thee," (Baruch 2:18, 19; 3:2).

9. In fine, supplication for pardon, with humble and ingenuous confession of guilt, forms both the preparation and commencement of right prayer. For the holiest of men cannot hope to obtain any thing from God until he has been freely reconciled to him. God cannot be propitious to any but those whom he pardons. Hence it is not strange that this is the key by which believers open the door of prayer, as we learn from several passages in The Psalms. David, when presenting a request on a different subject, says, "Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to thy mercy remember me, for thy goodness sake, O Lord," (Psalm 25:7). Again, "Look upon my affliction and my pain, and forgive my sins," (Psalm 25:18). Here also we see that it is not sufficient to call ourselves to account for the sins of each passing day; we must also call to mind those which might seem to have been long before buried in oblivion. For in another passage the same prophet, confessing one grievous crime, takes occasion to go back to his very birth, "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me," (Psalm 51:5); not to extenuate the fault by the corruption of his nature, but as it were to accumulate the sins of his whole life, that the stricter he was in condemning himself, the more placable God might be. But although the saints do not always in express terms ask forgiveness of sins, yet if we carefully ponder those prayers as given in Scripture, the truth of what I say will readily appear; namely, that their courage to pray was derived solely from the mercy of God, and that they always began with appeasing him. For when a man interrogates his conscience, so far is he from presuming to lay his cares familiarly before God, that if he did not trust to mercy and pardon, he would tremble at the very thought of approaching him. There is, indeed, another special confession. When believers long for deliverance from punishment, they at the same time pray that their sins may be pardoned; [465] for it were absurd to wish that the effect should be taken away while the cause remains. For we must beware of imitating foolish patients who, anxious only about curing accidental symptoms, neglect the root of the disease. [466] Nay, our endeavour must be to have God propitious even before he attests his favour by external signs, both because this is the order which he himself chooses, and it were of little avail to experience his kindness, did not conscience feel that he is appeased, and thus enable us to regard him as altogether lovely. Of this we are even reminded by our Savior's reply. Having determined to cure the paralytic, he says, "Thy sins are forgiven thee;" in other words, he raises our thoughts to the object which is especially to be desired--viz. admission into the favour of God, and then gives the fruit of reconciliation by bringing assistance to us. But besides that special confession of present guilt which believers employ, in supplicating for pardon of every fault and punishment, that general introduction which procures favour for our prayers must never be omitted, because prayers will never reach God unless they are founded on free mercy. To this we may refer the words of John, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," (1 John 1:9). Hence, under the law it was necessary to consecrate prayers by the expiation of blood, both that they might be accepted, and that the people might be warned that they were unworthy of the high privilege until, being purged from their defilements, they founded their confidence in prayer entirely on the mercy of God.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain      Institutes of the Christian Religion



  • 2 Thessalonians 2-3
  • 1 Timothy 2:1-3
  • 1 Timothy 2:2

#1 Brett Meador | Athey Creek

 

#2 First of All...Prayer | Brett Meador

 

#3 True Godliness | Brett Meador

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     5/1/2004    Love is in the Air

     Everyone talks about love. Just about everywhere we turn, someone is talking about love. In fact, it may very well be the most popular thing in our culture — we just love to talk about love, yet never before has love been more exploited, nor has it ever been more distorted. Love has become a meaningless word. And instead of standing firm in love, many Christians have been duped by the world’s definition of love, which proclaims self rather than sacrifice.

     According to the world, we love in order to be loved. According to the Word, we love because God first loved us. Whereas the world falls in love, God’s people are established in love. The love that we possess, however, is not a fleeting whim that comes and goes with every mood and circumstance; rather, it is a love that is beyond ourselves. Our love, true love, has meaning, meaning that cannot be stripped away by any thing, any one, or any feeling. Our love cannot be shaken because it is grounded not in self but in sacrifice.

     Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). In His once-for-all sacrifice, Jesus Christ demonstrated true love, the true love of God. By this great demonstration of love, love has been defined, and no worldly deception can seduce it.

     Nevertheless, many people have misunderstood God’s love. Whereas some believe that God loves everyone unconditionally, the Word of God teaches that God’s love has been poured out in the hearts of His people for whom Christ died, demonstrating His love. It is not that God’s love is limited. Indeed, His general love of benevolence is shown to all creation. His special love, however, is demonstrated to those He saves. His saving love is directly applied to His children, the sons and daughters of His kingdom.

     For many, this subject is a difficult one, and we, the editors of Tabletalk, hope that this issue will encourage God’s people to know His love in all its splendor. In Himself, God is love; through Him, love is manifested, and by Him, love is defined. Therefore, as we seek to live coram Deo, before the face of God, we are confronted by the brilliance of God’s love for us, and we realize that God’s command to love Him with our entire being is not an option. On the contrary, we love Him precisely because He loves us. For this reason we sing, “Oh, how I love Jesus, because He first loved me.”

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     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The Indians of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania had been ministered to by colonial missionary David Brainerd, born this day, April 20, 1718. With his interpreter, Moses Tinda Tautamy, he rode horseback along the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers, camping at night. David Brainerd contracted tuberculosis, was nursed at the home of Princeton University president Jonathan Edwards, and died at the age of 29. In his diary, which has inspired millions, David Brainerd wrote: "Oh, how precious is time, and how it pains me to see it slide away, while I do so little to any good purpose. Oh, that God would make me more fruitful."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


All born-again people are in training for rulership. Since the supreme law of that future social order, called the kingdom of God, is agape love, therefore their apprenticeship and training is for the learning of deep dimensions of this love. But deep dimensions of this love are only learned in the school of suffering. Purity is one thing, and maturity is another. The latter comes only through years of suffering. If we suffer, we shall also reign - because where there is little suffering, there is little love; no suffering, no love; no love, no rulership.
--- Paul Billheimer
Dont Waste Your Sorrows: Finding God's Purpose in the Midst of Pain

As the kernel of old humanity, Noah and his family, was once contained in the ark, which was tossed upon the waves of the deluge; so the kernel of the new humanity, of the new creation, Christ and His Apostles, in the little ship.
--- Richard Trench
On the Study of Words

It is while you are patiently toiling at the little tasks of life that the meaning and shape of the great whole of life dawn on you.
--- Phillips Brooks
Phillips Brooks year book : selections from the writings of Phillips Brooks

Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of faith is to see what we believe.
--- St. Augustine
The Complete Works of Saint Augustine: The Confessions, On Grace and Free Will, The City of God, On Christian Doctrine, Expositions on the Book Of Psalms, ... (50 Books With Active Table of Contents)

... from here, there and everywhere


The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Forty-Second Chapter / Peace Is Not To Be Placed In Men

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     MY CHILD, if you place your peace in any creature because of your own feeling or for the sake of his company, you will be unsettled and entangled. But if you have recourse to the ever-living and abiding Truth, you will not grieve if a friend should die or forsake you. Your love for your friend should be grounded in Me, and for My sake you should love whoever seems to be good and is very dear to you in this life. Without Me friendship has no strength and cannot endure. Love which I do not bind is neither true nor pure.

     You ought, therefore, to be so dead to such human affections as to wish as far as lies within you to be without the fellowship of men. Man draws nearer to God in proportion as he withdraws farther from all earthly comfort. And he ascends higher to God as he descends lower into himself and grows more vile in his own eyes. He who attributes any good to himself hinders God’s grace from coming into his heart, for the grace of the Holy Spirit seeks always the humble heart.

     If you knew how to annihilate yourself completely and empty yourself of all created love, then I should overflow in you with great grace. When you look to creatures, the sight of the Creator is taken from you. Learn, therefore, to conquer yourself in all things for the sake of your Maker. Then will you be able to attain to divine knowledge. But anything, no matter how small, that is loved and regarded inordinately keeps you back from the highest good and corrupts the soul.

The Imitation Of Christ

Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender
     Practical religion. The Christian life

     The Wretched Man

     Not only is the man who makes this confession a regenerate and an impotent man, but he is also a wretched man. He is utterly unhappy and miserable; and what is it that makes him so utterly miserable? It is because God has given him a nature that loves Himself. He is deeply wretched because he feels he is not obeying his God. He says, with brokenness of heart: "It is not I that do it, but I am under the awful power of sin, which is holding me down. It is I, and yet not I: alas! alas! it is myself; so closely am I bound up with it, and so closely is it intertwined with my very nature." Blessed be God when a man learns to say: "O wretched man that I am!" from the depth of his heart. He is on the way to the eighth chapter of Romans.

     There are many who make this confession a pillow for sin. They say that if Paul had to confess his weakness and helplessness in this way, what are they that they should try to do better? So the call to holiness is quietly set aside. Would God that every one of us had learned to say these words in the very spirit in which they are written here! When we hear sin spoken of as the abominable thing that God hates, do not many of us wince before the word? Would that all Christians who go on sinning and sinning would take this verse to heart. If ever you utter a sharp word say: "O wretched man that I am!" And every time you lose your temper, kneel down and understand that it never was meant by God that this was to be the state in which His child should remain. Would God that we would take this word into our daily life, and say it every time we are touched about our own honor, and every time we say sharp things, and every time we sin against the Lord God, and against the Lord Jesus Christ in His humility, and in His obedience, and in His self-sacrifice! Would to God you could forget everything else, and cry out: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

     Why should you say this whenever you commit sin? Because it is when a man is brought to this confession that deliverance is at hand.

     And remember it was not only the sense of being impotent and taken captive that made him wretched, but it was above all the sense of sinning against his God. The law was doing its work, making sin exceedingly sinful in his sight. The thought of continually grieving God became utterly unbearable--it was this that brought forth the piercing cry: "O wretched man!" As long as we talk and reason about our impotence and our failure, and only try to find out what Romans 7 means, it will profit us but little; but when once every sin gives new intensity to the sense of wretchedness, and we feel our whole state as one of not only helplessness, but actual exceeding sinfulness, we shall be pressed not only to ask: "Who shall deliver us?" but to cry: "I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord."


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 15:8-9
     by D.H. Stern

8     ADONAI detests the sacrifices of the wicked
but delights in the prayers of the upright.
9     ADONAI detests the way of the wicked
but loves anyone who pursues righteousness.


Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis

          13

     ‘I cannot be certain,’ he said, ‘that this is the crack ye came up through. But through a crack no bigger than that ye certainly came.’

     ‘But—but,’ I gasped with a feeling of bewilderment not unlike terror. ‘I saw an infinite abyss. And cliffs towering up and up. And then this country on top of the cliffs.’

     ‘Aye. But the voyage was not mere locomotion. That bus, and all you inside it, were increasing in size.’

     ‘Do you mean then that Hell—all that infinite empty town—is down in some little crack like this?’

     ‘Yes. All Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World. Look at yon butterfly. If it swallowed all Hell, Hell would not be big enough to do it any harm or to have any taste.’

     ‘It seems big enough when you’re in it, Sir.’

     ‘And yet all loneliness, angers, hatreds, envies and itchings that it contains, if rolled into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of the joy that is felt by the least in Heaven, would have no weight that could be registered at all. Bad cannot succeed even in being bad as truly as good is good. If all Hell’s miseries together entered the consciousness of yon wee yellow bird on the bough there, they would be swallowed up without trace, as if one drop of ink had been dropped into that Great Ocean to which your terrestrial Pacific itself is only a molecule.’

     ‘I see,’ said I at last. ‘She couldn’t fit into Hell.’

     He nodded. ‘There’s not room for her,’ he said. ‘Hell could not open its mouth wide enough.’

     ‘And she couldn’t make herself smaller?—like Alice, you know.’

     ‘Nothing like small enough. For a damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself. Good beats upon the damned incessantly as sound waves beat on the ears of the deaf, but they cannot receive it. Their fists are clenched, their teeth are clenched, their eyes fast shut. First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts, or their mouth for food, or their eyes to see.’

     ‘Then no one can ever reach them?’

     ‘Only the Greatest of all can make Himself small enough to enter Hell. For the higher a thing is, the lower it can descend—a man can sympathise with a horse but a horse cannot sympathise with a rat. Only One has descended into Hell.’

     ‘And will He ever do so again?’

     ‘It was not once long ago that He did it. Time does not work that way when once ye have left the Earth. All moments that have been or shall be were, or are, present in the moment of His descending. There is no spirit in prison to Whom He did not preach.’

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Can a saint slander God?

     For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen. ---
2 Cor. 1:20.

     Jesus told the parable of the talents recorded in
Matthew 25 as a warning that it is possible for us to misjudge our capacity. This parable has not to do with natural gifts, but with the Pentecostal gift of the Holy Ghost. We must not measure our spiritual capacity by education or by intellect; our capacity in spiritual things is measured by the promises of God. If we get less than God wants us to have, before long we will slander Him as the servant slandered his master: ‘You expect more than You give me power to do; You demand too much of me, I cannot stand true to You where I am placed.’ When it is a question of God’s Almighty Spirit, never say ‘I can’t.’ Never let the limitation of natural ability come in. If we have received the Holy Spirit, God expects the work of the Holy Spirit to be manifested in us.

     The servant justified himself in everything he did and condemned his lord on every point—‘Your demand is out of all proportion to what you give.’ Have we been slandering God by daring to worry when He has said: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”? Worrying means exactly what this servant implied—‘I know You mean to leave me in the lurch.’ The person who is lazy naturally is always captious—‘I haven’t had a decent chance,’ and the one who is lazy spiritually is captious with God. Lazy people always strike out on an independent line.

     Never forget that our capacity in spiritual matters is measured by the promises of God. Is God able to fulfil His promises? Our answer depends on whether we have received the Holy Spirit.s


My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

The Rising of Glyndwr
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           The Rising of Glyndwr

Thunder-browed and shaggy-throated
All the men were there,
And the women with the hair
That is the raven's and the rook's despair.
Winds awoke, and vixen-footed
Firelight prowled the glade;
The stars were hooded and the moon afraid
To vex the darkness with her yellow braid.
Then he spoke, and anger kindled
In each brooding eye;
Swords and spears accused the sky,
The woods resounded with a bitter cry.
Beasts gave tongue and barn-owls hooted,
Every branch grew loud
With the menace of that crowd,
That thronged the dark, huge as a thundercloud.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Teacher's Commentary
     Joshua Victory Principles

     Overview / After the death of Moses, the people of Israel went on to conquer the Promised Land. This book tells the story, and demonstrates that God is well able to keep the promises He makes to His people.

     Joshua. Joshua, Israel's new leader, is the central personality in this book. He had always been the military leader in Israel (cf. Ex. 17:8–16). This has led some to believe that before the Exodus, Joshua was an Egyptian army officer. Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, reports a tradition that Joshua once led an Egyptian army against Ethiopia.

     Joshua played an important supportive role during Moses' leadership (Exodus 24:13; 32:17; 33:11), and was one of only two adults who left Egypt to live long enough to enter Canaan, a privilege he won by his total faithfulness to the Lord (cf. Numbers 14:6–9; 26:65; 32:11–12; Deuteronomy 1:34–40).

     Canaanites. At the time of the Conquest, a variety of peoples were settled in smaller city-states in Canaan. The cities were well fortified, and the people warlike. But the design of the buildings, with established drainage systems, shows a high level of development. Also the metalwork and pottery of the peoples were advanced. And they carried on extensive trade with other nations. Yet for all their material advancement, the religion and morals of Canaan were degraded. Deuteronomy 18:9–13 lists some of the religious practices for which this people must now be dispossessed.

     The diplomat paced the floor, thinking how to answer this latest dispatch from the East. How was he ever to sort out the conflicting reports! Which of the splinter parties was really loyal to his own nation? Was it the group in power now? Or were they just using the military and economic aid to feather their own nests? Of course they were corrupt, but would a different set of leaders prove any more effective? If he could only know which of the factions were under control of that other world power, then.…

     He continued pacing.

     If only he could see some light at the end of the tunnel.

     The man we're watching is no Kremlin diplomat concerned with the Middle East. He is an Egyptian diplomat, pacing in an office in the city of Akhetaton, about the time of the Hebrew conquest of Palestine! And it is Palestine that is his concern. Far to the north of Egypt, the last decades have seen the rise of a powerful rival empire—the Hittites. Egypt and the Hittites came into conflict when the Hittites removed parts of Syria and Phoenicia from Egyptian control.

     Syria and Palestine had been in Egypt's sphere of influence for some time. But now in many of the smaller city-states a nationalistic fervor was growing. Eager to cast off the imperialistic yoke of Egypt's influence, local princes already hoping to rebel and gain independence were encouraged by the Hittites. Conflict between rebels and loyalists broke out. Both sides sent letters to Egypt affirming their loyalty and accusing the other. Often both sides had lobbyists in the Egyptian court to look after their interests. Confused by the conflicting reports and the intrigue, the Egyptian state department seemed unable to distinguish between its friends and its foes.

     Soon the influence and power of Egypt in Asia were sapped. Confused and uncertain, hesitant and indecisive, this once-great world power, though still one of the strongest nations of the ancient world, lost her grip over her former territories.

     The Amarna Letters / This day in history, which sounds all too much like our own, is well known today because of the recovery of diplomatic correspondence between Egyptian government officials and various groups in Syria and Palestine. The ruins of Akhetaton, known now as Tell el-Amarna, have given up some 400 letters (written on clay tablets) since the first accidental discovery in 1887. In them, we get a revealing picture of an area which included the land that God's people, under the leadership of Joshua, were about to conquer.

     Earlier we traced Bible history from Creation through the Exodus. In Genesis we saw God choose Abraham and give him covenant promises (Genesis 12; 15; 17). The Abrahamic Covenant was God's announcement of His purposes in our world. Abraham would have a host of descendants, some of whom would be formed into a special people (the Jews) through whom God would work out His plan. God promised Abraham He would set aside the land of Palestine for this people. Through this people God promised, looking forward to the Messiah (Christ), that "all the peoples of the earth" would be blessed.

     The rest of Genesis tells the story of the line through which the promises would be fulfilled—Isaac, Abraham's son, and Jacob (later renamed Israel), Abraham's grandson. Genesis also tells how God providentially sent Joseph, 1 of Israel's 12 sons, down into Egypt to prepare that land for a coming famine, and to prepare a place for the family of Israel to stay and multiply.

     As we trace the history of the Israelites beyond the Book of Genesis, we see that the chosen people were in Egypt for more than 400 years. After a time they were enslaved, and for decades experienced great hardship. Finally God sent a specially prepared leader, Moses, to bring Israel out of servitude and lead them to the land promised to Abraham.

     Deliverance from Egypt was accomplished only by direct and miraculous divine intervention. God brought a series of plagues on Egypt in judgment. Finally Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt, did release Israel—only to change his mind and pursue them with an army. The army was destroyed at the Yam Suf (The Reed, or Red, Sea), which opened to permit the Israelites to cross, and then rushed together to drown the Egyptians. The now-freed slaves moved rejoicing out into the wilderness.

     But centuries of servitude had weakened the fiber of the people. They consistently resisted and rejected God and Moses' leadership. As an aid to discipline, and to reveal God's moral character and expectations for His people, the Israelites were led to Mount Sinai. There the Law was given. The people were promised that while disobedience would bring discipline and disappointment, obedience would lead to blessing. Israel willingly accepted God's standards and promised to obey.

     But Israel's promise was made too lightly. In fact, disobedience continued to distinguish the generation that came out of Egypt with Moses. Their rebellion reached a climax when the nation, poised on the border of the Promised Land, was commanded to go in. Moses sent 12 spies into the land to survey and to report. Ten of them returned, terrified by the strength of the fortified cities and by the stature of the inhabitants. Only 2, Joshua and Caleb, came back enthusiastic, confident that God would give them the land. Characteristically, the people of Israel listened to the 10 and doubted God. All the urging of Moses and Aaron and the insistence of Joshua and Caleb that they were well able to take the land went for nothing. The people would not obey.

     Israel had made a basic choice. Because this people would not trust God or obey Him, that generation could not enter the Promised Land. God forced them back out into the wilderness. There the people of Israel wandered for 38 years, until the generation of adults who had refused to trust God died in the wilderness. All but Joshua and Caleb. These two men of faith survived, and over the years the old generation was replaced by a new one.

     The new generation grew up with a greater trust in God. Tested in battle, they obeyed. Finally, as the Book of Deuteronomy describes, the new generation was once again camped outside the Promised Land, awaiting God's command to cross over the Jordan and to take their inheritance. In his last act as leader, Moses reviewed the love of God for His people and urged the new generation to keep His Law. This generation also stood, and made a personal commitment by accepting Law as their standard, and promising to obey the Lord. This time the promise was not made lightly. The discipline of the previous years had produced a committed band.


The Teacher's Commentary

Joshua Verse 1
     Pulpit Commentary

     JOSHUA’S COMMISSION.—Ver.1.—Now after the death of Moses. The form of the Hebrew is the usual historical one for the continuation of a narrative before commenced. The Book of Joshua is thus shown to be, and to be intended to be, a continuation of the Book of Deuteronomy, which ends with the death of Moses. This link of connection is lost in the English version. The question forces itself upon the critic, At what time was this consecutive narrative—written, as is admitted, in various styles, in the language of obviously distinct periods—first composed and palmed off upon the Jews as the genuine work of a writer contemporary, or nearly contemporary, with the events he describes?

     The servant of the Lord. This term (Keil) is applied to the heavens and the earth (
Psa. 119:91), to the angels (Job 4:18), to the prophets (Jer. 7:25, &c.), to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to the Jewish people (Exod. 19:5), to Zerubbabel (Hag. 2:23), and even to Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 25:9, &c.), as the appointed minister of God’s wrath, and to pious men in general (Gesenius; see Psa. 34:23, &c.). It is also applied to the Messiah (Zech. 3:8; comp. the word παῖς similarly applied in Acts 4:27). It originally implies the position of a slave, whether born in the house or bought with money (see Levit. 25:39; and Gen. 9:25; Exod. 13:3, 14). In all cases it expresses a closer and more familiar relation than the term minister below. Keil says that it is applied so frequently to Moses that it has become almost his “official title” (see Deut. 34:5, and the Book of Joshua passim, and cf. Heb. 3:5). It is, however, still more frequently applied to David. But it suits well with the special and peculiar mission which Moses had above the rest of mankind. He was, as it were, the household servant of the Most High, His steward and representative, ruling over the family of God in His name, and giving to them the directions of which they stood in need.

     That the Lord spake unto Joshua. Either by Urim and Thummim, which seems at least probable (see
Num. 27:21, and Josh. 9:14). But the great majority of commentators prefer the idea of an inward revelation, since the words are frequently used in this Book of God’s revelations to Joshua (Josh. 3:7; 4:1, 15; 5:2, 9; 6:2, &c.).

     The manner of these inward revelations is also a matter on which much difference of opinion exists. They, no doubt, were frequently made through a vision or dream, as to Abraham at Sodom (
Gen. 18:1), Jacob at Bethel, and Joshua himself (ch. 5:13). But it is by no means clear that they were always so. The voice of God in answer to prayer is recognised by Christians in a strong inward persuasion of the desirability or necessity of a particular course. Of this kind would seem to be the answer to St. Paul’s prayer in 2 Cor. 12:9. And it is quite possible that in passages such as Gen. 12:1, 22:1, 2, nothing more is meant than that the persuasion, by God’s permission or inspiration, was strongly felt within. And so it is possible that one so specially and divinely commissioned as Joshua discerned, in a strong and apparently irresistible conviction, the voice of God (cf. Acts 16:7; 2 Cor 1:17).

     Joshua’s name was originally Hoshea (like the prophet and the Israelitish king of that name). The name originally meant salvation, or deliverance, but it was changed, either when he entered into Moses’ service, or when he was about to fight the Amalekites (
Num. 13:8, 16; Deut. 32:44), into Jehoshua, or Joshua (either “God shall save,” or “God’s salvation”). It is not stated in Holy Writ when the name Joshua was given. In Exod. 17:9, where Joshua is named for the first time, he is called by the name Moses gave him, and is mentioned incidentally as a person well known to the writer and his readers. The reader need hardly be reminded that in the form Joshua (Gr. Ἰησον͂ς) it was the name of our Blessed Lord Himself, and that the Name which is now above all other names is used of Joshua in two places in the New Testament, in Acts 7:45, in Heb. 4:8. It was a common name in later times, as Col. 4:11 and Acts 13:6 will serve to show. In later Hebrew, as in Neh. 8:17, Joshua is called Jeshua, and the names of Joshua and Jeshua are given indiscriminately to the high priest, the son of Josedech, who was contemporary with the building of the second temple.

     For Joshua as a type of Christ the reader may consult a deep passage in ‘Pearson on the Creed,’ Art. II., from which some of the most striking parts are here quoted:—“First, it was he alone, of all which passed out of Egypt, who was designed to lead the children of Israel into Canaan, which land, as it is a type of heaven, so is the person which brought the Israelites into that place of rest a type of Him who only can bring us into the presence of God, and there prepare our mansions for us. Besides, it is further observable, not only what Joshua did, but what Moses could not do. The hand of Moses and Aaron brought them out of Egypt, but left them in the wilderness. Joshua, the successor, only could effect that in which Moses failed. Moses must die that Joshua may succeed (
Rom. 3:20–22). The command of circumcision was not given to Moses, but to Joshua; nor were the Israelites circumcised in the wilderness under the conduct of Moses and Aaron, but in the land of Canaan under their successor. Which speaketh Jesus to be the true circumciser, the author of another circumcision than that of the flesh (Rom. 2:29; Col. 2:11).

     If we look on Joshua as the ‘minister of Moses,’ he is even in that a type of Christ, ‘the minister of the circumcision for the truth of God.’ If we look on him as the successor of Moses, in that he represented Jesus, inasmuch as ‘the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’ If we look on him as judge and ruler of Israel, there is scarce an action which is not predictive of our Saviour. He begins his office at the banks of Jordan, where Christ was baptized and enters upon the public exercise of His prophetical office; he chooseth there twelve men out of the people to carry twelve stones over with them, as our Jesus thence began to choose His twelve apostles, those foundation-stones in the Church of God (
Rev. 21:14). Joshua smote the Amalekites and subdued the Canaanites, by the first making way to enter the land, by the second giving possession of it. And Jesus in like manner goeth in and out before us against our spiritual enemies, subduing sin and Satan, and so opening and clearing our way to heaven; destroying the last enemy, death, and so giving us possession of eternal life.”

     Pearson quotes Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Theodoret, and others as justifying his view of the history. Theodoret, moreover, in his ‘Questions on Joshua,’ remarks on the coincidence between
Josh. 1:17 and John 5:46. And Origen, in his first ‘Homily on Joshua,’ remarks on the fact that the first time the sacred name meets us in the Book of God, it is as the leader of an army (Exod. 17:9).

     Another way in which Joshua was a type of Christ is this. Under Moses there are constant murmurings and disputings, for “the law made nothing perfect” (
Heb. 7:19). Under Joshua all is confidence and triumph, for “by one offering Jesus hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).

     Moses’ minister. This word is principally used of service in the house of God. Thus it is used of Aaron and his sons,
Exod. 28:43; 39:41, &c.: of Samuel, 1 Sam. 2:11; 3:1, &c.: of the priests and Levites, 1 Chron. 6:32; 16:4; Ezek. 14:5; Joel 1:9, &c. In these places it seems to be equivalent to the LXX. λδειτονργός. But it is by no means confined to such service. In Exod. 33:11, where it is applied to Joshua, it is rendered in the LXX. by θεράπων, and it is quite clear that Joshua’s service to Moses was not exclusively of a religious character. Some commentators have suggested the word aide-de-camp, but this would be equally incorrect in the opposite direction, since Joshua’s services (see Exod. 24:13; 33:11) were clearly not rendered only in time of war. The word is used of Abishag the Shunamite, 1 Kings 1:4, 5; and of Elisha, 1 Kings 19:21.

The pulpit commentary: edited by the Very Rev. H. D. M. Spence ... and by the Rev. Joseph S. Exell [v.17 ][189-? ]

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Yevamot 106a

     D’RASH

     In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky wrote:

     If you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality, not only love but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be dried up.

     Dostoevsky's view is an extreme one, but it seems clear that most human beings are looking for a kind of immortality, something that lives on forever. Many people are quite literal about the soul living on, accepting religious beliefs that promise immortality through faith in a certain god or prophet. The Indian ruler Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal as an eternal memorial to his favorite wife; she would not die but would live on in this majestic structure. Some bequeath large estates, with specific instructions on how to use only the interest so that the principal will remain in perpetuity.

     To the traditional Jew, eternal life can be simpler. It does not require a system of beliefs, but one of actions. No great monument has to be erected; no trust funds need be established. The Jew sees eternity through the ongoing teachings of the tradition. The words of the Bible and Talmud are ageless and timeless. When we quote them, we attain a degree of immortality. When we live our lives by their values and traditions, we connect ourselves with an "eternal people" and an undying tradition. Individual Jews die; Judaism lives on. And, more important, many of the ideals and patterns of behavior of Judaism are so old and time-tested that even if their origin is in a specific era in the ancient past, they are called "eternal."

     The Rabbis were very aware that when a teacher is invoked by name by a student or by the student's student, the master's words continue to live, the lips "whispering from the grave." Therefore, there was an accepted practice of quoting what one learned b'shem om'ro, "in the name of the one who said it." Teachers today also find great comfort in knowing that their lessons continue to educate and inspire beyond the point when the student leaves the classroom, even beyond the point when the teacher leaves this world.

     When we quote our mentors and loved ones, their lives continue through us. True immortality comes not from statues or inheritances but from statutes and heritages that live beyond the grave. Edgar Lee Masters wrote:

     Immortality is not a gift,
     Immortality is an achievement;
     And only those who strive mightily
     Shall possess it.

     Centuries before, Rav Yehudah and Rabbi Yoḥanan taught this same concept on two levels. First, when we invoke our ancestors, they live on in us and through us. Second, and equally important, we have to live our lives in such a way that future generations will call on us. It is ours to strive mightily to achieve immortality by living out those ageless values that were passed on to us. Then, some day in the future, our lips, too, may whisper from the grave.

     We force him until he says: "I want to!"

     Text / The Rabbis taught: Deceptive ḥalitzah is valid; a deceptive get is invalid. Forced ḥalitzah is invalid; a forced get is valid. How is this so? If he said: "I want to," even for ḥalitzah, if he did not say: "I want to," even for a get, it is so. No, this is what it means: Deceptive ḥalitzah is always valid, and a deceptive get is always invalid; forced ḥalitzah or a forced get, sometimes it is valid and sometimes it is invalid. In one case, he said: "I want to," in another case he did not say: "I want to." And it is taught: "He shall make his offering" [Leviticus 1:3], teaching us that we force him. Can this mean even against his will? The text says "by his will" [author's translation]—we force him until he says "I want to!" And similarly we find with a woman's get, we force him until he says "I want to!"

     Context / A man takes a wife and possesses her. She fails to please him because he finds something obnoxious about her, and he writes her a bill of divorcement, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house; she leaves his household and becomes the wife of another man; then this latter man rejects her, writes her a bill of divorcement, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house; or the man who married her last dies. Then the first husband who divorced her shall not take her to wife again, since she has been defiled—for that would be abhorrent to the Lord. You must not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a heritage. (Deuteronomy 24:1–4)

     When brothers dwell together and one of them dies and leaves no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married to a stranger, outside the family. Her husband's brother shall unite with her: take her as his wife and perform the levir's duty. The first son that she bears shall be accounted to the dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out in Israel. But if the man does not want to marry his brother's widow, his brother's widow shall appear before the elders in the gate and declare: "My husband's brother refuses to establish a name in Israel for his brother; he will not perform the duty of a levir." The elders of his town shall then summon him and talk to him. If he insists, saying: "I do not want to marry her," his brother's widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, pull the sandal off his foot, spit in his face, and make this declaration: Thus shall be done to the man who will not build up his brother's house! And he shall go in Israel by the name of "the family of the unsandaled one." (Deuteronomy 25:5–10)

     In order to understand this section of text, we must have a clear picture of two laws relating to marriage and divorce. In the first, the Torah (Deuteronomy 24) says that if a man finds something that he dislikes about his wife, he may write a bill of divorcement for her. Thus, a formal document, called a get in rabbinic literature, is required to end the marriage. The first question of the Gemara, above, is whether a get given under coercion or based on deception is valid.

     The second law is outlined in Deuteronomy 25. If a man died without having fathered a child but he left a surviving brother, then that brother is obligated to marry his deceased brother's widow in order to carry on the family line. This is called "Levirate marriage" or yibum in Hebrew. However, if the brother refuses to marry his widowed sister-in-law, a ceremony called ḥalitzah, "removing" the shoe, is performed: The widow takes her brother-in-law to the elders at the city gate, where his refusal is publicly acknowledged. She then removes his sandal, spits in his face and says: "Thus shall be done to the man who will not build up his brother's house!" The second question of the Gemara is whether an act of ḥalitzah done under coercion or based on deception is valid.

     Thus, the Gemara is asking a number of critical questions: What if the get was forced on the husband (for example, by a court)? Does this fulfill the obligation? Or what if the ḥalitzah was performed through an act of deception? For example, what if the deceased husband's brother is unacceptable to the widow, and her family offers him money to choose ḥalitzah (the refusal to marry her) rather than yibum (the obligation to marry his brother's wife)? And what if this money has not yet been paid, but the ḥalitzah has already taken place? Is this ḥalitzah valid, or is it deceptive because the money was promised but not yet delivered?

     At least one opinion of the Gemara says that we can coerce a man into doing these acts. "We force him until he says 'I want to!' " Some later commentators explain that such coercion is allowed because the husband is being forced to do his obligation under the law. Thus, it is only partial coercion. In simpler terms, the husband is saying: "I want to do the upright and proper thing, even if I have to be forced to admit it."

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Jewish History from Alexander to Hadrian
     The Maccabean Revolt

     Armed resistance to Antiochus IV’s decrees quickly gravitated around the priestly family of Hashmonay (hence, “Hasmoneans”). Following the death of the family’s patriarch Mattathias in 166, his son Judas Maccabaeus assumed leadership of the insurgency. Over the next two years, Judas distinguished himself in battle against local Seleucid commanders. But it was not until 164 that Lysias himself undertook a full-scale expedition to stamp out the revolt. The Seleucid vizier combined his military efforts against Judas with diplomatic overtures toward other Jewish groups. In spite of the success of these negotiations, Judas fought on.

     On the military front, Lysias’ expedition failed to achieve its goal. He besieged Judas in the strategic town of Beth Zur, but withdrew to Antioch before taking it. This withdrawal enabled Judas to enter Jerusalem and take control of the Temple Mount, which he appointed priests to cleanse and rededicate. The joint decision by “Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel” (1 Macc. 4:59) to commemorate the event as an annual festival, and his garrisoning of Jerusalem and Beth Zur, indicate that by the end of 164 Judas had acquired recognition by a significant segment of his countrymen.

     The death of Antiochus IV constrained Lysias to devote the better part of the following year to consolidating his power as guardian of the royal heir. This respite gave Judas and his brothers an opportunity to launch expeditions into the surrounding territories where Jews were a vulnerable minority in need of protection. One result of these raids was the relocation of Jewish refugees to Judea, thus increasing Judas’ reservoir of potential recruits for his growing forces. Early in 162, Judas felt his position strong enough to launch a direct attack against the Akra.

     This bold move provoked Lysias to lead a substantial force into Judea in May of that year with the boy-king Antiochus V in tow. Judas’ forces were overwhelmed and forced to retreat, while Lysias and the king pressed on to Jerusalem and besieged the Temple Mount. Within two months, however, news of an insurrection at Antioch by a rival general brought the siege to a standstill. A truce with the Temple’s defenders was affected, but Judas’ fortifications were demolished. The absence of Judas from 1 Maccabees’ narrative of events following his defeat by Lysias is conspicuous. Second Maccabees claims he was received by the king in conjunction with the truce; but this account also denies that Judas was defeated, thus casting suspicion on its reliability. Either way, the events of 162 were a setback for the Maccabean movement.

     The deterioration of Judas’ position continued. Later that same year, a new aspirant to the Seleucid throne, Demetrius I, seized power in Syria and executed Lysias along with Antiochus V. This abrupt regime change prompted an embassy from the Jews led by one Alcimus, who obtained from Demetrius the high priesthood (Menelaus having been done away with by Antiochus V). Alcimus received military assistance in subjugating Judas and his agitators. This precipitated a series of military engagements between Syrian forces and Alcimus’ Jewish opponents, culminating in Judas’ death in the spring of 161.

     It was in the midst of these campaigns, immediately following a dramatic victory over Demetrius’ general, Nicanor, that Judas is said to have sent an embassy to Rome seeking friendship and alliance. According to 1 Maccabees, the Senate acceded to Judas’ request, conferring a treaty of mutual assistance and delivering a heated letter of condemnation to Demetrius (1 Macc. 8:23–31). The authenticity of the treaty and its attendant letter has had its share of detractors, but there are no persuasive reasons for rejecting either document out of hand. The more pertinent question is why Judas would have appealed to Rome in the first place. Second Maccabees reports the involvement of Roman envoys in negotiations conducted between Lysias and the Jews three years earlier, but their role appears to have been marginal (2 Macc. 11:34–38); it supplied no obvious precedent for Judas’ action in 161. Nor is it likely that Judas seriously expected Roman arms to defend the Maccabean cause. A more plausible interpretation would see the overture as a propaganda ploy on Judas’ part to shore up his claim to act as representative and defender of the Jewish people. Conversely, a senatorial rebuke of Demetrius, casting him in the role of aggressor, would serve to discredit Alcimus’ regime. Whatever its intent, Judas’ Roman mission had no tangible impact on the ground. It did, however, set in motion a tradition of diplomacy that Judas’ successors would intermittently draw upon as part of their arsenal of legitimation.

     Alcimus died (seemingly of natural causes) not long after Judas’ own demise. Demetrius made no move to appoint a new high priest, and apparently no candidates stepped forward. This anomalous state of affairs would persist for seven years, indicating that the contending Jewish factions had reached some kind of stalemate. During this period, Judas’ surviving supporters gathered around his brother Jonathan, who continued to agitate the status quo. The stalemate broke down around 158, when Jonathan’s enemies summoned a Seleucid force to eliminate his guerilla band. The plan backfired when the commander of this force made peace with Jonathan and returned to Antioch. But the position of the Maccabean group did not change dramatically until 153.

     In that year, the rule of Demetrius was challenged by a pretender, Alexander Balas, who established himself at Ptolemais. This development strategically positioned Judea as a potential asset to both contenders. Jonathan exploited the situation, eventually siding with Balas, who appointed him high priest and friend of the king. Alexander’s final victory over Demetrius in 152 or 151 further strengthened Jonathan’s authority as a Seleucid appointee, securing him immunity from domestic rivals. Subsequent struggles for the Seleucid throne over the next decade replayed this scenario. For Jonathan, the downfall of one monarch merely meant the prospect of new honors from the next. Local “renegades” occasionally attempted to stir up trouble for him, but they could be dealt with by bribery. In short, Jonathan maintained his legitimacy through exactly the same methods employed by his high-priestly predecessors—Jason, Menelaus, and Alcimus. Jonathan is often thought to be the “Wicked Priest” referred to in the biblical commentaries (pesharim) from Qumran. The “wickedness” in question, however, has to do with his opposition to the sectarian leader known as the Teacher of Righteousness, not with his political machinations.

     In 143, Jonathan fell victim to the game of kings in which he had embroiled himself. His brother Simon took up his mantle by rejoining the fray, obtaining the high priesthood from Demetrius II, son of the monarch whom Judas had fought against. Like other Seleucids before him, Demetrius sweetened the deal with numerous concessions, releasing Judea from tribute, acknowledging Simon’s possession of all Maccabean strongholds, and inviting Jewish troops to enroll in the royal forces. For these achievements, Simon was credited with the “removal of the yoke of the Gentiles” (1 Macc. 13:41). Notably though, Demetrius’ concessions did not cede control over the Akra. But by June of 141, Simon had starved its inhabitants into submission, thus bringing all of Jerusalem under his power. The last memorial of Antiochus IV’s infamy had been swept away.

     The following year, a great assembly of the Jewish people commemorated Simon, who had “fought off the enemies of Israel and established its freedom” (1 Macc. 14:26). In recognition of these achievements, a resolution was passed that Simon

      … should be their leader and high priest indefinitely (until a trustworthy prophet should arise), and that he should be their general, and that he should be given custodianship of the sanctuary and that he should appoint men over its functions and over the countryside and over the weapons and over the fortresses, and that he should be obeyed by all, and that all contracts in the country should be written in his name, and that he should wear purple and gold. And it shall be forbidden for anyone of the people or of the priests to abrogate any of these things or to oppose things said by him or to convene an assembly in the country without him or to wear purple or to put on a golden buckle, and whoever acts contrary to these things or abrogates any of them shall be liable for punishment. (1 Macc. 14:41–45)

     The pro-Maccabean narrative in which this decree is embedded presents it as a spontaneous, voluntary, unanimous expression of the popular will. The dictatorial character of the privileges bestowed upon Simon belie that image, indicating the presence (or prospect) of significant internal challenges to his leadership. Simon’s death at the hands of a would-be usurper half a decade later lends weight to this interpretation, as does the extradition clause in a Roman diplomatic missive penned on his behalf (1 Macc. 15:16–21). The Simon decree signals a shift in the orientation of the Maccabean movement toward de facto monarchy.

     Beyond the cleansing of the Temple, the repeal of Antiochus IV’s decrees, and the removal of the Akra garrison, it is notoriously difficult to discern what the ultimate aims of the Maccabean revolt actually were. Resistance to Seleucid authority cannot be disentangled from the Maccabees’ struggles against native rivals who enjoyed Seleucid support. Once the possibility of negotiation with the Macedonian overlord had become a viable option, Judas and his brothers embraced it wholeheartedly as a tool of entrenchment against their Jewish adversaries. In time, the descendants of Simon would achieve enduring political independence from Seleucid suzerainty; but this achievement was ultimately a function of Seleucid weakness, not of Hasmonean strength.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

John 10-12 Death and My Master's Voice
     Richard S. Adams


     The following is an email I receive from different family and friends several times a year. It is worth thinking about.


     Death and my Master’s Voice

     A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said,

     'Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.'

     Very quietly, the doctor said, 'I don't know..'

     'You don't know? You're, a Christian man, and don't know what's on the other side?'

     The doctor was holding the handle of the door; On the other side came a sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.

     Turning to the patient, the doctor said,

     'Did you notice my dog? He's never been in this room before. He didn't know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing... I know my Master is there and that is enough.'


     

Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2008, on staff at Portland Seminary since 2009.

Articles
Take Heart
     April 20

     Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. --- Isaiah 50:10.

     [Darkness and suffering and tears] furnish an occasion for God to bestow his grace. ( A Quest For Souls ) If I may so put it, they give God a platform on which to stand and do his great work. For example, there is a lawyer, well trained in the schools, who has received a diploma and is ready for the noble calling. Now, if the lawyer is to evince skill in legal learning, that lawyer must have a case. Even so, the Lord Jesus Christ, if he is to show people what he can do for them in the black Fridays, in the darkest vales, in the most dreadful hour, then the hour of trouble and darkness must come, that he may come and extricate us from it.

     [Trouble] is the strange way of preparing such a friend of God to be a helper of others as she or he otherwise never could have been. There is no teacher like experience. Paul says God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Cor. 1:4).

     Oh, my friends, suffering is often the way by which we are fitted to help a broken, bruised, sinning, suffering world as we never otherwise could help it!

     Many a time, [suffering] is necessary discipline for us in the building of our own characters. Mark you, God’s great concern is for what we are, not what we seem to be, for our inner, deeper selves. Again and again, trouble is God’s disciplinary teacher to give us the experience that will refine us, teach us, cleanse us, and fit us, that we may be and do in God’s sight what he desires. You and I are the pupils at school, and God has many teachers. One of his teachers that comes robed in black is suffering, is trial, is deepest, darkest testing. David said, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (Ps. 119:71). Oh, we need, my friends, to be disenchanted! Ease is the bane of everything that is good. We need to be disenchanted, so that our trust will not be in the flesh nor in the world, but fixed firmly on the living God.
--- George W. Truett


Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day
     The Devil’s Dungeons  April 20

     Paul rightly warned of those who only pretend to be apostles of Christ. Some of them, wrapped in religious robes, have been diabolical beyond belief. Take the Inquisitors for example. The word inquisition, akin to inquire and inquest, refers to the judicial machinery authorized by the medieval church to uproot heresy. In earlier centuries the church had excommunicated heretics, but most church leaders had opposed physical punishment. But as bureaucracy grew and heresy flourished, attitudes changed.

     During the 1100s and early 1200s, stronger measures evolved; and on April 20, 1233 Pope Gregory IX issued two edicts, delegating the prosecution of heresy to the Dominican order. The Inquisitors roamed the countryside, admonishing heretics to confess. Those who didn’t were brought to trial, the Inquisition serving as a special court with broad and frightening powers.

     In 1252 Pope Innocent IV allowed the use of torture, and the Inquisition soon became the most “terrible engine of oppression that the mind of man or devil ever conceived.” Suspects were flogged, burned, slashed, frozen, stretched, and suspended by their limbs. Their feet were slowly roasted over fiery coals. Devilish inventions filled the dungeons and dens of the church: thumbscrews for crushing thumbs, boots for slowly crushing feet, and the dreaded Jungfer, or “iron maid.” This device enfolded the victim with metal arms, crushed him in a spiked hug, then opened and let him fall, bleeding from countless stab wounds, bones all broken, to die slowly in an underground hole of revolving knives and spears.

     Children and the elderly could be “lightly” tortured, and only pregnant women were exempt—until after delivery. The Inquisition operated in Germany, thrived in France and Italy, and reached its zenith in Spain. It wrought its destruction against Jews, Waldensians, Blacks, and Protestants. It made a show of being religious, but in its grim dungeons was the very enemy of the One in whose robes it was wrapped.

     They are no more than false apostles and dishonest workers. They only pretend to be apostles of Christ. And it is no wonder. Even Satan tries to make himself look like an angel of light. So why does it seem strange for Satan’s servants to pretend to do what is right? Someday they will get exactly what they deserve.
--- 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.


On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 20

     “That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death.” --- Hebrews 2:14.

     O child of God, death hath lost its sting, because the devil’s power over it is destroyed. Then cease to fear dying. Ask grace from God the Holy Ghost, that by an intimate knowledge and a firm belief of thy Redeemer’s death, thou mayst be strengthened for that dread hour. Living near the cross of Calvary thou mayst think of death with pleasure, and welcome it when it comes with intense delight. It is sweet to die in the Lord: it is a covenant-blessing to sleep in Jesus. Death is no longer banishment, it is a return from exile, a going home to the many mansions where the loved ones already dwell. The distance between glorified spirits in heaven and militant saints on earth seems great; but it is not so. We are not far from home—a moment will bring us there. The sail is spread; the soul is launched upon the deep. How long will be its voyage? How many wearying winds must beat upon the sail ere it shall be reefed in the port of peace? How long shall that soul be tossed upon the waves before it comes to that sea which knows no storm? Listen to the answer, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” Yon ship has just departed, but it is already at its haven. It did but spread its sail and it was there. Like that ship of old, upon the Lake of Galilee, a storm had tossed it, but Jesus said, “Peace, be still,” and immediately it came to land. Think not that a long period intervenes between the instant of death and the eternity of glory. When the eyes close on earth they open in heaven. The horses of fire are not an instant on the road. Then, O child of God, what is there for thee to fear in death, seeing that through the death of thy Lord its curse and sting are destroyed? and now it is but a Jacob’s ladder whose foot is in the dark grave, but its top reaches to glory everlasting.


          Evening - April 20

     “Fight the Lord’s battles.” 1 Samuel 18:17.

     The sacramental host of God’s elect is warring still on earth, Jesus Christ being the Captain of their salvation. He has said, “Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Hark to the shouts of war! Now let the people of God stand fast in their ranks, and let no man’s heart fail him. It is true that just now in England the battle is turned against us, and unless the Lord Jesus shall lift his sword, we know not what may become of the church of God in this land; but let us be of good courage, and play the man. There never was a day when Protestantism seemed to tremble more in the scales than now that a fierce effort is making to restore the Romish antichrist to his ancient seat. We greatly want a bold voice and a strong hand to preach and publish the old gospel for which martyrs bled and confessors died. The Saviour is, by his Spirit, still on earth; let this cheer us. He is ever in the midst of the fight, and therefore the battle is not doubtful. And as the conflict rages, what a sweet satisfaction it is to know that the Lord Jesus, in his office as our great Intercessor, is prevalently pleading for his people! O anxious gazer, look not so much at the battle below, for there thou shalt be enshrouded in smoke, and amazed with garments rolled in blood; but lift thine eyes yonder where the Saviour lives and pleads, for while he intercedes, the cause of God is safe. Let us fight as if it all depended upon us, but let us look up and know that all depends upon him.

     Now, by the lilies of Christian purity, and by the roses of the Saviour’s atonement, by the roes and by the hinds of the field, we charge you who are lovers of Jesus, to do valiantly in the Holy War, for truth and righteousness, for the kingdom and crown jewels of your Master. Onward! “for the battle is not yours but God’s.”

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 20

          ALL GLORY, LAUD AND HONOR

     Theodolph of Orleans, 760–82l
     Translated by John M. Neale, 1818–1866

     The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” (John 12:12, 13)

     The triumphant procession began after the disciples obtained the colt (Luke 19:30). They were implicitly obedient in following their Lord’s command, even though it no doubt seemed to be a trivial request. And still today—obedience is the key to our effective service for God.

     The Palm Sunday procession also teaches us that our Lord is still leading His people—“bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10), our heavenly Jerusalem, “whose architect builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Our responsibility is to be His faithful follower and to extol His name with our daily praises.

     This Palm Sunday hymn was written approximately A.D. 820 by Bishop Theodolph of Orleans, France, while he was imprisoned at the monastery of Angers. Theodolph was well known in his day as a poet, pastor, and beloved bishop of Orleans. When Emperor Charlemagne died in 814, the bishop was put into a monastic prison by Charlemagne’s son and successor, Louis I the Pious, for allegedly plotting against him. A well-known legend has long been associated with this hymn. It is believed by many that a short time before the bishop’s death in 821, Louis was visiting in the area where the bishop was imprisoned and by chance passed under his cell. The bishop is said to have been singing and worshiping by himself. When the emperor heard this particular text being sung, he was so moved by the incident that he immediately ordered the bishop’s release.

     All glory, laud and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King, to whom the lips of children make sweet hosannas ring: Thou art the King of Israel, Thou David’s royal Son, who in the Lord’s name comest, the King and blessed One!

     The company of angels are praising Thee on high, and mortal men and all things created make reply: The people of the Hebrews with palms before Thee went; our praise and prayer and anthems before Thee we present.

     To Thee, before Thy passion, they sang their hymns of praise; to Thee, now high exalted, our melody we raise: thou didst accept their praises—accept the praise we bring, who in all good delightest, Thou good and gracious King!


     For Today: Matthew 21:1–17; Mark 11:10; Luke 19:37, 38; John 12:1–16.

     During this special week, let us consider seriously whether we truly love and serve Christ for any other reason other than for who He is. Let us exalt Him with this hymn ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


          Introduction

     Martin Luther, to the venerable D. Erasmus of Rotterdam, wishing Grace and Peace in Christ.

     That I have been so long answering your diatribe on free-will, venerable Erasmus, has happened contrary to the expectation of all, and contrary to my own custom also. For hitherto, I have not only appeared to embrace willingly opportunities of this kind for writing, but even to seek them of my own accord. Some one may, perhaps, wonder at this new and unusual thing, this forbearance or fear, in Luther, who could not be roused up by so many boasting taunts, and letters of adversaries, congratulating Erasmus on his victory and singing to him the song of Triumph — What that Maccabee, that obstinate assertor, then, has at last found an Antagonist a match for him, against whom he dares not open his mouth!

     But so far from accusing them, I myself openly concede that to you, which I never did to any one before: — that you not only by far surpass me in the powers of eloquence, and in genius, (which we all concede to you as your desert, and the more so, as I am but a barbarian and do all things barbarously,) but that you have damped my spirit and impetus, and rendered me languid before the battle; and that by two means. First, by art: because, that is, you conduct this discussion with a most specious and uniform modesty; by which you have met and prevented me from being incensed against you. And next, because, on so great a subject, you say nothing but what has been said before: therefore, you say less about, and attribute more unto “Free-will,” than the Sophists have hitherto said and attributed: (of which I shall speak more fully hereafter.) So that it seems even superfluous to reply to these your arguments, which have been indeed often refuted by me; but trodden down, and trampled underfoot, by the incontrovertible Book of Philip Melancthon “Concerning Theological Questions:” a book, in my judgment, worthy not only of being immortalized, but of being included in the ecclesiastical canon: in comparison of which, your Book is, in my estimation, so mean and vile, that I greatly feel for you for having defiled your most beautiful and ingenious language with such vile trash; and I feel an indignation against the matter also, that such unworthy stuff should be borne about in ornaments of eloquence so rare; which is as if rubbish, or dung, should he carried in vessels of gold and silver. And this you yourself seem to have felt, who were so unwilling to undertake this work of writing; because your conscience told you, that you would of necessity have to try the point with all the powers of eloquence; and that, after all, you would not be able so to blind me by your colouring, but that I should, having torn off the deceptions of language, discover the real dregs beneath. For, although I am rude in speech, yet, by the grace of God, I am not rude in understanding. And, with Paul, I dare arrogate to myself understanding and with confidence derogate it from you; although I willingly, and deservedly, arrogate eloquence and genius to you, and derogate it from myself.

     Wherefore, I thought thus — If there be any who have not drank more deeply into, and more firmly held my doctrines, which are supported by such weighty Scriptures, than to be moved by these light and trivial arguments of Erasmus, though so highly ornamented, they are not worthy of being healed by my answer. Because, for such men, nothing could be spoken or written of enough, even though it should be in many thousands of volumes a thousands times repeated: for it is as if one should plough the seashore, and sow seed in the sand, or attempt to fill a cask, full of holes, with water. For, as to those who have drank into the teaching of the Spirit in my books, to them, enough and an abundance has been administered, and they at once contemn your writings. But, as to those who read without the Spirit, it is no wonder if they be driven to and fro, like a reed, with every wind. To such, God would not have said enough, even if all his creatures should be converted into tongues. Therefore it would, perhaps, have been wisdom, to have left these offended at your book, along with those who glory in you and decree to you the triumph.

     Hence, it was not from a multitude of engagements, nor from the difficulty of the undertaking, nor from the greatness of your eloquence, nor from a fear of yourself; but from mere irksomeness, indignation, and contempt, or (so to speak) from my judgment of your Diatribe, that my impetus to answer you was damped. Not to observe, in the mean time, that, being ever like yourself, you take the most diligent care to be on every occasion slippery and pliant of speech; and while you wish to appear to assert nothing, and yet, at the same time, to assert something, more cautious than Ulysses, you seem to be steering your course between Scylla and Charybdis. To meet men of such a sort, what, I would ask, can be brought forward or composed, unless any one knew how to catch Proteus himself? But what I may be able to do in this matter, and what profit your art will be to you, I will, Christ cooperating with me, hereafter shew.

     This my reply to you, therefore, is not wholly without cause. My brethren in Christ press me to it, setting before me the expectation of all; seeing that the authority of Erasmus is not to be despised, and the truth of the Christian doctrine is endangered in the hearts of many. And indeed, I felt a persuasion in my own mind, that my silence would not be altogether right, and that I was deceived by the prudence or malice of the flesh, and not sufficiently mindful of my office, in which I am a debtor, both to the wise and to the unwise; and especially, since I was called to it by the entreaties of so many brethren.

     For although our cause is such, that it requires more than the external teacher, and, beside him that planteth and him that watereth outwardly, has need of the Spirit of God to give the increase, and, as a living Teacher, to teach us inwardly living things, (all which I was led to consider;) yet, since that Spirit is free, and bloweth, not where we will, but where He willeth, it was needful to observe that rule of Paul, “Be instant in season, and out of season.” (2 Tim. iv. 2.) For we know not at what hour the Lord cometh. Be it, therefore, that those who have not yet felt the teaching of the Spirit in my writings, have been overthrown by that Diatribe — perhaps their hour was not yet come.

     And who knows but that God may even condescend to visit you, my friend Erasmus, by me His poor weak vessel; and that I may (which from my heart I desire of the Father of mercies through Jesus Christ our Lord) come unto you by this Book in a happy hour, and gain over a dearest brother. For although you think and write wrong concerning “Free-will,” yet no small thanks are due unto you from me, in that you have rendered my own sentiments far more strongly confirmed, from my seeing the cause of “Free-will” handled by all the powers of such and so great talents, and so far from being bettered, left worse than it was before which leaves an evident proof, that “Free- will” is a downright lie; and that, like the woman in the gospel, the more it is taken in hand by physicians, the worse it is made. Therefore the greater thanks will be rendered to you by me, if you by me gain more information, as I have gained by you more confirmation. But each is the gift of God, and not the work of our own endeavours. Wherefore, prayer must be made unto God, that He would open the mouth in me, and the heart in you and in all; that He would be the Teacher in the midst of us, who may in us speak and hear.

     But from you, my friend Erasmus, suffer me to obtain the grant of this request; that, as I in these matters bear with your ignorance, so you in return, would bear with my want of eloquent utterance. God giveth not all things to each; nor can we each do all things. Or, as Paul saith, “there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” (1 Cor. xii. 4.) It remains, therefore, that these gifts render a mutual service; that the one, with his gift, sustain the burden and what is lacking in the other; so shall we fulfil the law of Christ (Gal. vi. 2.)

The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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