1 Samuel 1
The Birth of Samuel1 Samuel 1 1 There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. 2 He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
3 Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. 4 On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. 6 And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8 And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”
9 After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”
12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20 And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”
Samuel Given to the Lord21 The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever.” 23 Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the Lord establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. 24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”
And he worshiped the Lord there.
Romans 1 1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Longing to Go to Rome8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
The Righteous Shall Live by Faith16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
God's Wrath on Unrighteousness18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
(Ge 6:2–3) 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in ( or contend with ) man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” ESV
(Ps 78:39) 39 He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again.
(Ga 6:7) 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. ESV
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
... and today, in 2018 and before, we give approval to those who practice them.
The Fall of JerusalemJeremiah 39 1 In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 In the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, a breach was made in the city. 3 Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and sat in the middle gate: Nergal-sar-ezer of Samgar, Nebu-sar-sekim the Rab-saris, Nergal-sar-ezer the Rab-mag, with all the rest of the officers of the king of Babylon. 4 When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled, going out of the city at night by way of the king's garden through the gate between the two walls; and they went toward the Arabah. 5 But the army of the Chaldeans pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. And when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, at Riblah, in the land of Hamath; and he passed sentence on him. 6 The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah at Riblah before his eyes, and the king of Babylon slaughtered all the nobles of Judah. 7 He put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon. 8 The Chaldeans burned the king's house and the house of the people, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem. 9 Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, carried into exile to Babylon the rest of the people who were left in the city, those who had deserted to him, and the people who remained. 10 Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, left in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.
The Lord Delivers Jeremiah11 Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave command concerning Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, saying, 12 “Take him, look after him well, and do him no harm, but deal with him as he tells you.” 13 So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, Nebushazban the Rab-saris, Nergal-sar-ezer the Rab-mag, and all the chief officers of the king of Babylon 14 sent and took Jeremiah from the court of the guard. They entrusted him to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, that he should take him home. So he lived among the people.
15 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the guard: 16 “Go, and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day. 17 But I will deliver you on that day, declares the Lord, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. 18 For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the Lord.’”
How Long, O Lord?To the choirmaster. Of David. See Psalm 13 article below
Psalm 13 1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
The Fool Says, There Is No GodTo the choirmaster: Of David. See Psalm 14 article below
Psalm 14 1 The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread
and do not call upon the Lord?
5 There they are in great terror,
for God is with the generation of the righteous.
6 You would shame the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is his refuge.
7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
What I'm Reading
Psalm 13 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)OCCASION. The Psalm cannot be referred to any especial event or period in David's history. All attempts to find it a birthplace are but guesses. It was, doubtless, more than once the language of that much tried man of God, and is intended to express the feelings of the people of God in those ever-returning trials which beset them. If the reader has never yet found occasion to use the language of this brief ode, he will do so ere long, if he be a man after the Lord's own heart. We have been wont to call this the "How Long Psalm." We had almost said the Howling Psalm, from the incessant repetition of the cry "how long?"
DIVISION. This Psalm is very readily to be divided into three parts: the question of anxiety, 1, 2; the cry of prayer, 3, 4; the song of faith, 5, 6.
Verse 1. "How long?" This question is repeated no less than four times. It betokens very intense desire for deliverance, and great anguish of heart. And what if there be some impatience mingled therewith; is not this the more true a portrait of our own experience? It is not easy to prevent desire from degenerating into impatience. O for grace that, while we wait on God, we may be kept from indulging a murmuring spirit! "How long?" Does not the oft-repeated cry become a very HOWLING? And what if grief should find no other means of utterance? Even then, God is not far from the voice of our roaring; for he does not regard the music of our prayers, but his own Spirit's work in them in exciting desire and inflaming the affections.
"How long?" Ah! how long do our days appear when our soul is cast down within us!
"How wearily the moments seem to glide
O'er sadness! How the time
Delights to linger in its flight!"
Verse 2. "How long shall I take counsel, in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?" There is in the original the idea of "laying up" counsels in his heart, as if his devices had become innumerable but unavailing. Herein we have often been like David, for we have considered and reconsidered day after day, but have not discovered the happy device by which to escape from our trouble. Such store is a sad sore. Ruminating upon trouble is bitter work. Children fill their mouths with bitterness when they rebelliously chew the pill which they ought obediently to have taken at once. "How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?" This is like wormwood in the gall, to see the wicked enemy exulting while our soul is bowed down within us. The laughter of a foe grates horribly on the ears of grief. For the devil to make mirth of our misery is the last ounce of our complaint, and quite breaks down our patience; therefore let us make it one chief argument in our plea with mercy.
Thus the careful reader will remark that the question "how long?" is put in four shapes. The writer's grief is viewed, as it seems to be, as it is, as it affects himself within, and his foes without. We are all prone to play most on the worst string. We set up monumental stones over the graves of our joys, but who thinks of erecting monuments of praise for mercies received? We write four books of Lamentations and only one of Canticles, and are far more at home in wailing out a Misere than in chanting a Te Deum.
Verse 3. But now prayer lifteth up her voice, like the watchman who proclaims the daybreak. Now will the tide turn, and the weeper shall dry his eyes. The mercy-seat is the life of hope and the death of despair. The gloomy thought of God's having forsaken him is still upon the psalmist's soul, and he therefore cries, "Consider and hear me." He remembers at once the root of his woe, and cries aloud that it may be removed. The final absence of God is Tophet's fire, and his temporary absence brings his people into the very suburbs of hell. God is here entreated to see and hear, that so he may be doubly moved to pity. What should we do if we had no God to turn to in the hour of wretchedness?
Note the cry of faith, "O Lord MY God!" Is it not a very glorious fact that our interest in our God is not destroyed by all our trials and sorrows? We may lose our gourds, but not our God. The title-deed of heaven is not written in the sand, but in eternal brass.
"Lighten mine eyes:" that is, let the eye of my faith be clear, that I may see my God in the dark; let my eye of watchfulness be wide open, lest I be entrapped, and let the eye of my understanding be illuminated to see the right way. Perhaps, too, here is an allusion to that cheering of the spirits so frequently called the enlightening of the eyes because it causes the face to brighten, and the eyes to sparkle. Well may we use the prayer, "Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord!" for in many respects we need the Holy Spirit's illuminating rays. "Lest I sleep the sleep of death." Darkness engenders sleep, and despondency is not slow in making the eyes heavy. From this faintness and dimness of vision, caused by despair, there is but a step to the iron sleep of death. David feared that his trials would end his life, and he rightly uses his fear as an argument with God in prayer; for deep distress has in it a kind of claim upon compassion, not a claim of right, but a plea which has power with grace. Under the pressure of heart sorrow, the psalmist does not look forward to the sleep of death with hope and joy, as assured believers do, but he shrinks from it with dread, from which we gather that bondage from fear of death is no new thing.
Verse 4. Another plea is urged in the fourth verse, and it is one which the tried believer may handle well when on his knees. We make use of our arch-enemy for once, and compel him, like Samson, to grind in our mill while we use his cruel arrogance as an argument in prayer. It is not the Lord's will that the great enemy of our souls should overcome his children. This would dishonour God, and cause the evil one to boast. It is well for us that our salvation and God's honour are so intimately connected, that they stand or fall together.
Our covenant God will complete the confusion of all our enemies, and if for awhile we become their scoff and jest, the day is coming when the shame will change sides, and the contempt shall be poured on those to whom it is due.
Verse 5. What a change is here! Lo, the rain is over and gone, and the time of the singing of birds is come. The mercy-seat has so refreshed the poor weeper, that he clears his throat for a song. If we have mourned with him, let us now dance with him. David's heart was more often out of tune than his harp, He begins many of his psalms sighing, and ends them singing; and others he begins in joy and ends in sorrow; "so that one would think," says Peter Moulin, "that those Psalms had been composed by two men of a contrary humour." It is worthy to be observed that the joy is all the greater because of the previous sorrow, as calm is all the more delightful in recollection of the preceding tempest.
"Sorrows remembered sweeten present joy."Here is his avowal of his confidence: "But I have trusted in thy mercy." For many a year it had been his wont to make the Lord his castle and tower of defence, and he smiles from behind the same bulwark still. He is sure of his faith, and his faith makes him sure; had he doubted the reality of his trust in God, he would have blocked up one of the windows through which the sun of heaven delights to shine. Faith is now in exercise, and consequently is readily discovered; there is never a doubt in our heart about the existence of faith while it is in action: when the hare or partridge is quiet we see it not, but let the same be in motion and we soon perceive it. All the powers of his enemies had not driven the psalmist from his stronghold. As the shipwrecked mariner clings to the mast, so did David cling to his faith; he neither could nor would give up his confidence in the Lord his God. O that we may profit by his example and hold by our faith as by our very life!
Now hearken to the music which faith makes in his soul. The bells of the mind are all ringing, "My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation." There is joy and feasting within doors, for a glorious guest has come, and the fatted calf is killed. Sweet is the music which sounds from the strings of the heart. But this is not all; the voice joins itself in the blessed work, and the tongue keeps tune with the soul, while the writer declares, "I will sing unto the Lord."
"I will praise thee every day,
Now thine anger's past away;
Comfortable thoughts arise
From the bleeding sacrifice."
The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement. Among his published books are Lectures To My Students; The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set), a devotional commentary on the Psalms; All of Grace: Revised & updated , the first Christian pocket-paperback published in the United States; numerous volumes of topical sermon collections; and the best-selling Morning And Evening (Daily Readings).
Psalm 14 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE. This admirable ode is simply headed, "To the Chief Musician, by David." The dedication to the Chief Musician stands at the head of fifty-three of the Psalms, and clearly indicates that such psalms were intended, not merely for the private use of believers, but to be sung in the great assemblies by the appointed choir at whose head was the overseer, or superintendent, called in our version, "the Chief Musician," and by Ainsworth, "the Master of the Music." Several of these psalms have little or no praise in them, and were not addressed directly to the Most High, and yet were to be sung in public worship; which is a clear indication that the theory of Augustine lately revived by certain hymn-book makers, that nothing but praise should be sung, is far more plausible than scriptural. Not only did the ancient Church chant hallowed doctrine and offer prayer amid her spiritual songs, but even the wailing notes of complaint were put into her mouth by the sweet singer of Israel who was inspired of God. Some persons grasp at any nicety which has a gloss of apparent correctness upon it, and are pleased with being more fancifully precise than others; nevertheless it will ever be the way of plain men, not only to magnify the Lord in sacred canticles, but also, according to Paul's precept, to teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in their hearts unto the Lord.
As no distinguishing title is given to this Psalm, we would suggest as an assistance to the memory, the heading—CONCERNING PRACTICAL ATHEISM. The many conjectures as to the occasion upon which it was written are so completely without foundation, that it would be a waste of time to mention them at length. The apostle Paul, in Romans 3, has shown incidentally that the drift of the inspired writer is to show that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin; there was, therefore, no reason for fixing upon any particular historical occasion, when all of history reeks with terrible evidence of human corruption. With instructive alterations, David has given us in Psalm 53 a second edition of this humiliating psalm, being moved of the Holy Ghost thus doubly to declare a truth which is ever distasteful to carnal minds.
DIVISION. The world's foolish creed (verse 1); its practical influence in corrupting morals, 1, 2, 3. The persecuting tendencies of sinners, 4; their alarms, 5; their ridicule of the godly, 6; and a prayer for the manifestation of the Lord to his people's joy.
Verse 1. "The fool." The Atheist is the fool pre-eminently, and a fool universally. He would not deny God if he were not a fool by nature, and having denied God it is no marvel that he becomes a fool in practice. Sin is always folly, and as it is the height of sin to attack the very existence of the Most High, so it is also the greatest imaginable folly. To say there is no God is to belie the plainest evidence, which is obstinacy; to oppose the common consent of mankind, which is stupidity; to stifle consciousness, which is madness. If the sinner could by his atheism destroy the God whom he hates there were some sense, although much wickedness, in his infidelity; but as denying the existence of fire does not prevent its burning a man who is in it, so doubting the existence of God will not stop the Judge of all the earth from destroying the rebel who breaks his laws; nay, this atheism is a crime which much provokes heaven, and will bring down terrible vengeance on the fool who indulges it. The proverb says, "A fool's tongue cuts his own throat," and in this instance it kills both soul and body for ever: would to God the mischief stopped even there, but alas! one fool makes hundreds, and a noisy blasphemer spreads his horrible doctrines as lepers spread the plague. Ainsworth, in his "Annotations," tells us that the word here used is Nabal, which has the signification of fading, dying, or falling away, as a withered leaf or flower; it is a title given to the foolish man as having lost the juice and sap of wisdom, reason, honesty, and godliness. Trapp hits the mark when he calls him "that sapless fellow, that carcase of a man, that walking sepulchre of himself, in whom all religion and right reason is withered and wasted, dried up and decayed. Some translate it the apostate, and others the wretch. With what earnestness should we shun the appearance of doubt as to the presence, activity, power and love of God, for all such mistrust is of the nature of folly, and who among us would wish to be ranked with the fool in the text? Yet let us never forget that all unregenerate men are more or less such fools.
The fool "hath said in his heart." May a man with his mouth profess to believe, and yet in heart say the reverse? Had he hardly become audacious enough to utter his folly with his tongue? Did the Lord look upon his thoughts as being in the nature of words to Him though not to man? Is this where man first becomes an unbeliever?—in his heart, not in his head? And when he talks atheistically, is it a foolish heart speaking, and endeavouring to clamour down the voice of conscience? We think so. If the affections were set upon truth and righteousness, the understanding would have no difficulty in settling the question of a present personal Deity, but as the heart dislikes the good and the right, it is no wonder that it desires to be rid of that Elohim, who is the great moral Governor, the Patron of rectitude and the Punisher of iniquity. While men's hearts remain what they are, we must not be surprised at the prevalence of scepticism; a corrupt tree will bring forth corrupt fruit. "Every man," says Dickson, "so long as he lieth unrenewed and unreconciled to God is nothing in effect but a madman." What wonder then if he raves? Such fools as those we are now dealing with are common to all time, and all countries; they grow without watering, and are found all the world over. The spread of mere intellectual enlightenment will not diminish their number, for since it is an affair of the heart, this folly and great learning will often dwell together. To answer sceptical cavillings will be labour lost until grace enters to make the mind willing to believe; fools can raise more objections in an hour than wise men can answer in seven years, indeed it is their mirth to set stools for wise men to stumble over. Let the preacher aim at the heart, and preach the all-conquering love of Jesus, and he will by God's grace win more doubters to the faith of the gospel than any hundred of the best reasoners who only direct their arguments to the head.
"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God," or "no God." So monstrous is the assertion, that the man hardly dared to put it as a positive statement, but went very near to doing so. Calvin seems to regard this saying, "no God," as hardly amounting to a syllogism, scarcely reaching to a positive, dogmatical declaration; but Dr. Alexander clearly shows that it does. It is not merely the wish of the sinner's corrupt nature, and the hope of his rebellious heart, but he manages after a fashion to bring himself to assert it, and at certain seasons he thinks that he believes it. It is a solemn reflection that some who worship God with their lips may in their hearts be saying, "no God." It is worthy of observation that he does not say there is no Jehovah, but there is no Elohim; Deity in the abstract is not so much the object of attack, as the covenant, personal, ruling and governing presence of God in the world. God as ruler, lawgiver, worker, Saviour, is the butt at which the arrows of human wrath are shot. How impotent the malice! How mad the rage which raves and foams against Him in whom we live and move and have our being! How horrible the insanity which leads a man who owes his all to God to cry out, "No God"! How terrible the depravity which makes the whole race adopt this as their hearts desire, "no God!" See the next article, Names of God.
"They are corrupt." This refers to all men, and we have the warrant of the Holy Ghost for so saying; see the third chapter of the epistle to the Romans. Where there is enmity to God, there is deep, inward depravity of mind. The words are rendered by eminent critics in an active sense, "they have done corruptly:" this may serve to remind us that sin is not only in our nature passively as the source of evil, but we ourselves actively fan the flame and corrupt ourselves, making that blacker still which was black as darkness itself already. We rivet our own chains by habit and continuance.
"They have done abominable works." When men begin with renouncing the Most High God, who shall tell where they will end? When the Master's eyes are put out, what will not the servants do? Observe the state of the world before the flood, as pourtrayed in Genesis 6:12, and remember that human nature is unchanged. He who would see a terrible photograph of the world without God must read that most painful of all inspired Scriptures, the first chapter of the epistle to the Romans. Learned Hindoos have confessed that the description is literally correct in Hindostan at the present moment; and were it not for the restraining grace of God, it would be so in England. Alas! it is even here but too correct a picture of things which are done of men in secret. Things loathsome to God and man are sweet to some palates.
"There is none that doeth good." Sins of omission must abound where transgressions are rife. Those who do the things which they ought not to have done, are sure to leave undone those things which they ought to have done. What a picture of our race is this! Save only where grace reigns, there is none that doeth good; humanity, fallen and debased, is a desert without an oasis, a night without a star, a dunghill without a jewel, a hell without a bottom. After over 126 years the status of man is so much worse than in Spurgeon's day. I can only pray that God's will be done ... and I know it will be.
Verse 2. "The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men." As from a watchtower, or other elevated place of observation, the Lord is represented as gazing intently upon men. He will not punish blindly, nor like a tyrant command an indiscriminate massacre because a rumour of rebellion has come up to his ears. What condescending interest and impartial justice are here imaged! The case of Sodom, visited before it was overthrown, illustrates the careful manner in which Divine Justice beholds the sin before it avenges it, and searches out the righteous that they perish not with the guilty. Behold then the eyes of Omniscience ransacking the globe, and prying among every people and nation, "to see if there were any that did understand and seek God." He who is looking down knows the good, is quick to discern it, would be delighted to find it; but as he views all the unregenerate children of men his search is fruitless, for of all the race of Adam, no unrenewed soul is other than an enemy to God and goodness. The objects of the Lord's search are not wealthy men, great men, or learned men; these, with all they can offer, cannot meet the demands of the great Governor: at the same time, he is not looking for superlative eminence in virtue, he seeks for any that understand themselves, their state, their duty, their destiny, their happiness; he looks for any that seek God, who, if there be a God, are willing and anxious to find him out. Surely this is not too great a matter to expect; for if men have not yet known God, if they have any right understanding, they will seek him. Alas! even this low degree of good is not to be found even by him who sees all things: but men love the hideous negation of "No God," and with their backs to their Creator, who is the sun of their life, they journey into the dreary region of unbelief and alienation, which is a land of darkness as darkness itself, and of the shadow of death without any order and where the light is as darkness.
Verse 3. "They are all gone aside." Without exception, all men have apostatized from the Lord their Maker, from his laws, and from all the eternal principles of right. Like stubborn heifers they have sturdily refused to receive the yoke, like errant sheep they have found a gap and left the right field. The original speaks of the race as a whole, as a totality; and humanity as a whole has become depraved in heart and defiled in life. "They have altogether become filthy;" as a whole they are spoiled and soured like corrupt leaven, or, as some put it, they have become putrid and even stinking. The only reason why we do not more clearly see this foulness is because we are accustomed to it, just as those who work daily among offensive odours at last cease to smell them. The miller does not observe the noise of his own mill, and we are slow to discover our own ruin and depravity. But are there no special cases, are all men sinful? "Yes," says the Psalmist, in a manner not to be mistaken, "they are." He has put it positively, he repeats it negatively, "There is none that doeth good, no, not one." The Hebrew phrase is an utter denial concerning any mere man that he of himself doeth good. What can be more sweeping? This is the verdict of the all-seeing Jehovah, who cannot exaggerate or mistake. As if no hope of finding a solitary specimen of a good man among the unrenewed human family might be harboured for an instant. The Holy Spirit is not content with saying all and altogether, but adds the crushing threefold negative, "none, no, not one." What say the opponents to the doctrine of natural depravity to this? Rather what do we feel concerning it? Do we not confess that we by nature are corrupt, and do we not bless the sovereign grace which has renewed us in the spirit of our minds, that sin may no more have dominion over us, but that grace may rule and reign?
Verse 4. Hatred of God and corruptness of life are the motive forces which produce persecution. Men who having no saving knowledge of divine things, enslave themselves to become workers of iniquity, have no heart to cry to the Lord for deliverance, but seek to amuse themselves with devouring the poor and despised people of God. It is hard bondage to be a "worker of iniquity;" a worker at the galleys, or in the mines of Siberia, is not more truly degraded and wretched; the toil is hard and the reward dreadful: those who have no knowledge choose such slavery, but those who are taught of God cry to be rescued from it. The same ignorance which keeps men bondsmen to evil, makes them hate the freeborn sons of God; hence they seek to eat them up "as they eat bread,"—daily, ravenously, as though it were an ordinary, usual, every-day matter to oppress the saints of God. As pikes in a pond, eat up little fish, as eagles prey on smaller birds, as wolves rend the sheep of the pasture, so sinners naturally and as a matter of course, persecute, malign, and mock the followers of the Lord Jesus. While thus preying, they forswear all praying, and in this act consistently, for how could they hope to be heard while their hands are full of blood?
Verse 5. Oppressors have it not all their own way, they have their fits of trembling and their appointed seasons of overthrow. There—where they denied God and hectored against his people; there—where they thought of peace and safety, they were made to quail. "There were they"—these very loud-mouthed, iron-handed, proud-hearted Nimrods and Herods, those heady, high-minded sinners—"there were they in great fear." A panic terror seized them: "they feared a fear," as the Hebrew puts it; an undefinable, horrible, mysterious dread crept over them. The most hardened of men have their periods when conscience casts them into a cold sweat of alarm. As cowards are cruel, so all cruel men are at heart cowards. The ghost of past sin is a terrible spectre to haunt any man, and though unbelievers may boast as loudly as they will, a sound is in their ears which makes them ill at ease.
"For God is in the generation of the righteous." This makes the company of godly men so irksome to the wicked because they perceive that God is with them. Shut their eyes as they may, they cannot but perceive the image of God in the character of his truly gracious people, nor can they fail to see that he works for their deliverance. Like Haman, they instinctively feel a trembling when they see God's Mordecais. Even though the saint may be in a mean position, mourning at the gate where the persecutor rejoices in state, the sinner feels the influence of the believer's true nobility and quails before it, for God is there. Let scoffers beware, for they persecute the Lord Jesus when they molest his people; the union is very close between God and his people, it amounts to a mysterious indwelling, for God is in the generation of the righteous.
Verse 6. Notwithstanding their real cowardice, the wicked put on the lion's skin and lord it over the Lord's poor ones. Though fools themselves, they mock at the truly wise as if the folly were on their side; but this is what might be expected, for how should brutish minds appreciate excellence, and how can those who have owl's eyes admire the sun? The special point and butt of their jest seems to be the confidence of the godly in their Lord. What can your God do for you now? Who is that God who can deliver out of our hand? Where is the reward of all your praying and beseeching? Taunting questions of this sort they thrust into the faces of weak but gracious souls, and tempt them to feel ashamed of their refuge. Let us not be laughed out of our confidence by them, let us scorn their scorning and defy their jeers; we shall need to wait but a little, and then the Lord our refuge will avenge his own elect, and ease himself of his adversaries, who once made so light of him and of his people.
Verse 6. Natural enough is this closing prayer, for what would so effectually convince atheists, overthrow persecutors, stay sin, and secure the godly, as the manifest appearance of Israel's great Salvation? The coming of Messiah was the desire of the godly in all ages, and though he has already come with a sin-offering to purge away iniquity, we look for him to come a second time, to come without a sin-offering unto salvation. O that these weary years would have an end! Why tarries he so long? He knows that sin abounds and that his people are down-trodden; why comes he not to the rescue? His glorious advent will restore his ancient people from literal captivity, and his SPIRITUAL seed from spiritual sorrow. Wrestling Jacob and prevailing Israel shall alike rejoice before him when he is revealed as their salvation. O that he were come! What happy, holy, halcyon, heavenly days should we then see! But let us not count him slack, for behold he comes, he comes quickly! Blessed are all they that wait for him.
Names of God
By Names of God:
EL, ELOAH [el, el-oh-ah]: God "mighty, strong, prominent" (Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 139:19) – etymologically, El appears to mean “power” and “might” (Genesis 31:29). El is associated with other qualities, such as integrity (Numbers 23:19), jealousy (Deuteronomy 5:9), and compassion (Nehemiah 9:31), but the root idea of “might” remains.
ELOHIM [el-oh-heem]: God “Creator, Mighty and Strong” (Genesis 17:7; Jeremiah 31:33) – the plural form of Eloah, which accommodates the doctrine of the Trinity. From the Bible’s first sentence, the superlative nature of God’s power is evident as God (Elohim) speaks the world into existence (Genesis 1:1).
EL SHADDAI [el-shah-dahy]: “God Almighty,” “The Mighty One of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 132:2,5) – speaks to God’s ultimate power over all.
ADONAI [ˌædɒˈnaɪ; ah-daw-nahy]: “Lord” (Genesis 15:2; Judges 6:15) – used in place of YHWH, which was thought by the Jews to be too sacred to be uttered by sinful men. In the Old Testament, YHWH is more often used in God’s dealings with His people, while Adonai is used more when He deals with the Gentiles.
YHWH / YAHWEH / JEHOVAH [yah-way / ji-hoh-veh]: “LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:4; Daniel 9:14) – strictly speaking, the only proper name for God. Translated in English Bibles “LORD” (all capitals) to distinguish it from Adonai, “Lord.” The revelation of the name is given to Moses “I Am who I Am” (Exodus 3:14). This name specifies an immediacy, a presence. Yahweh is present, accessible, near to those who call on Him for deliverance (Psalm 107:13), forgiveness (Psalm 25:11) and guidance (Psalm 31:3).
YAHWEH-JIREH [yah-way-ji-reh]: "The Lord Will Provide" (Genesis 22:14) – the name memorialized by Abraham when God provided the ram to be sacrificed in place of Isaac.
YAHWEH-RAPHA [yah-way-raw-faw]: "The Lord Who Heals" (Exodus 15:26) – “I am Jehovah who heals you” both in body and soul. In body, by preserving from and curing diseases, and in soul, by pardoning iniquities.
YAHWEH-NISSI [yah-way-nee-see]: "The Lord Our Banner" (Exodus 17:15), where banner is understood to be a rallying place. This name commemorates the desert victory over the Amalekites in Exodus 17.
YAHWEH-M'KADDESH [yah-way-meh-kad-esh]: "The Lord Who Sanctifies, Makes Holy" (Leviticus 20:8; Ezekiel 37:28) – God makes it clear that He alone, not the law, can cleanse His people and make them holy.
YAHWEH-SHALOM [yah-way-shah-lohm]: "The Lord Our Peace" (Judges 6:24) – the name given by Gideon to the altar he built after the Angel of the Lord assured him he would not die as he thought he would after seeing Him.
YAHWEH-ELOHIM [yah-way-el-oh-him]: "LORD God" (Genesis 2:4; Psalm 59:5) – a combination of God’s unique name YHWH and the generic “Lord,” signifying that He is the Lord of Lords.
YAHWEH-TSIDKENU [yah-way-tzid-kay-noo]: "The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:16) – As with YHWH-M’Kaddesh, it is God alone who provides righteousness (from the Hebrew word tsidkenu) to man, ultimately in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, who became sin for us “that we might become the Righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
YAHWEH-ROHI [yah-way-roh-hee]: "The Lord Our Shepherd" (Psalm 23:1) – After David pondered his relationship as a shepherd to his sheep, he realized that was exactly the relationship God had with him, and so he declares, “Yahweh-Rohi is my Shepherd. I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).
YAHWEH-SHAMMAH [yah-way-sham-mahw]: "The Lord Is There” (Ezekiel 48:35) – the name ascribed to Jerusalem and the Temple there, indicating that the once-departed glory of the Lord (Ezekiel 8—11) had returned (Ezekiel 44:1-4).
YAHWEH-SABAOTH [yah-way-sah-bah-ohth]: "The Lord of Hosts" (Isaiah 1:24; Psalm 46:7) – Hosts means “hordes,” both of angels and of men. He is Lord of the host of heaven and of the inhabitants of the earth, of Jews and Gentiles, of rich and poor, master and slave. The name is expressive of the majesty, power, and authority of God and shows that He is able to accomplish what He determines to do.
EL ELYON [el-el-yohn]: “Most High" (Deuteronomy 26:19) – derived from the Hebrew root for “go up” or “ascend,” so the implication is of that which is the very highest. El Elyon denotes exaltation and speaks of absolute right to lordship.
EL ROI [el-roh-ee]: "God of Seeing" (Genesis 16:13) – the name ascribed to God by Hagar, alone and desperate in the wilderness after being driven out by Sarah (Genesis 16:1-14). When Hagar met the Angel of the Lord, she realized she had seen God Himself in a theophany. She also realized that El Roi saw her in her distress and testified that He is a God who lives and sees all.
EL-OLAM [el-oh-lahm]: "Everlasting God" (Psalm 90:1-3) – God’s nature is without beginning or end, free from all constraints of time, and He contains within Himself the very cause of time itself. “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”
EL-GIBHOR [el-ghee-bohr]: “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6) – the name describing the Messiah, Christ Jesus, in this prophetic portion of Isaiah. As a powerful and mighty warrior, the Messiah, the Mighty God, will accomplish the destruction of God’s enemies and rule with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15).
From Pastor to President: An Interview with Philip Graham Ryken
By Philip Ryken 11/01/2011
Tabletalk: How did you make the difficult decision to leave the pastorate and enter the academy as president of Wheaton College?
Philip Graham Ryken: When the time finally came, making the decision was unexpectedly easy. Eventually God’s will became so clear that to do anything else would have been disobedience. The process leading up to the decision was difficult, though, as Lisa and I wrestled with God in prayer and asked for the grace to have only one agenda: to obey God’s calling, whether he called us to stay at Tenth Presbyterian Church or go to Wheaton College. Sharing this decision with the congregation we love was more difficult still — the most painful thing we have ever done.
It is important to say that I did not “leave the pastorate” but continue to exercise a gospel ministry that has the blessing of my denomination. My calling to a ministry of prayer and the Word of God (see Acts 6:4) is for life, and I could never leave it. What has changed is that I no longer serve a local congregation but the wider body of Christ through the work of Christian higher education.
TT: What is your hope for the future for the congregation of Tenth Presbyterian Church and the city of Philadelphia?
PGR: I praise God for the appointment of my friend Liam Goligher as Tenth’s next senior minister. Dr. Goligher is a gifted Bible expositor with a genuine zeal for evangelism, a deep love for the city, and a sound grasp of systematic theology. I have every confidence that God will bless his ministry in Philadelphia, as He has blessed it for many years in London, the United Kingdom, and beyond.
We remain in close contact with many friends from Tenth and take an ongoing interest in the church’s outreach to Philadelphia and the world. I expect we will always think of Tenth as our “home church.” In fact, most Sunday mornings we tune in to Tenth’s webcast while we are having breakfast as a family before walking over to College Church in Wheaton. Our prayer is that the congregation we love will continue to preach the Word of God, honor God with joyful praise, serve the city in gospel mercy, plant new churches that are faithful to Jesus Christ, and send out scores of missionaries to advance the kingdom of God.
TT: Are there any things you learned as a pastor that have been particularly helpful in your new role as president of Wheaton?
PGR: I would be hard-pressed to think of anything that could offer better preparation for what I do now than serving as senior pastor of a large, diverse, urban church. Perhaps the most obvious connection is that I draw on my experience as a Bible teacher every day as I preach in chapel, lead devotions for athletic teams, offer biblical perspectives on issues in higher education, write articles on spiritual themes for college publications, speak on Christian discipleship in student dorms, and work with the faculty to promote a Christ-centered vision for liberal-arts education.
The structure of my weekly schedule is surprisingly similar to the one I followed in Philadelphia: mornings for Bible study, writing, sermon preparation, and prayer; afternoons for team leadership, meetings, and a wide range of ministry connections. I find that the biggest problems on a college campus — like the biggest problems in a local church — always have a personal dimension. So it takes everything I have ever learned about discipleship to provide good leadership for a college that needs the grace of God as much as any college in America.
TT: At Wheaton you work with Christians from many theological traditions. In what ways can Christians from the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition work with Christians from other traditions to advance the gospel?
PGR: I have enjoyed and learned from the evangelical diversity of Wheaton College since I was a child. We live by a statement of faith that is fully compatible with Reformed theology and a community covenant that follows biblical principles for community life.
Generally speaking, we can work together with Christians from other traditions wherever we share a common faith in Jesus Christ and find common purpose in the specific calling God has given to each of us in the work of His kingdom. Biblically minded believers find countless ways to work together in Christian love, and a non-denominational Christian college is a place where many strong ministry connections are made.
TT: What is your understanding of the role of a Christian college in today’s world?
PGR: The mission of Wheaton College is to help develop whole and effective Christians who are able to build the church and improve society worldwide through excellence in programs of higher education.
Every aspect of this mission is appropriate for Christian learning institutions everywhere. Christ-centered colleges and universities have a unique responsibility to promote truth by developing the Christian mind. But we also develop students in a holistic way; the preparation we offer is not merely intellectual but also spiritual, social, physical, and emotional.
The impact of our graduates is twofold. First, they build up the church. In every congregation where I have served, there have been dozens of highly effective leaders who trained for work and ministry at Christian colleges. But whole and effective Christians also make a difference in the wider world. Wherever we go and whatever we do — whether we are working in the marketplace, performing in the arts, teaching at school, serving in medicine, or rebuilding the city — we seek to be a faithful presence that brings kingdom values to daily life.
TT: What place do academics have in the training and ministry of a pastor?
PGR: Many effective pastors have had little or no academic training. One thinks of Peter and John, for example (Acts 4:13). What is indispensable to effective ministry is not an academic degree but a vital relationship with Jesus Christ, with spiritual gifts for the ministry of the gospel.
Yet Reformed and Presbyterian churches rightly emphasize the value of a learned clergy, and for this there is no substitute for a rigorous education. A good example is the Apostle Paul, whose exceptional education prepared him for worldwide leadership in the church and a primary position in the development of Christian doctrine.
There are many pathways to ministry, but I will always be deeply grateful for my own intellectual preparation, starting with elementary education at a Christian grammar school and continuing with a liberal-arts curriculum at a Christ-centered college. Many students who plan on going to seminary focus on biblical studies during their undergraduate years. But I always encourage students to study literature, history, psychology, philosophy, or something else that they love.
Perhaps the most important thing to gain from college is a lively and curious mind. This is best cultivated through what John Milton called “a complete and generous education.” There will be time to study more theology later on. But a pastor who has received an education in the liberal arts is likely to be a more interesting conversationalist, a better communicator, a more sensitive reader of the biblical text — all things that are valuable to have in pastoral ministry.
TT: How has your father influenced your ministry?
PGR: My father’s influence in my life is so pervasive that this is hard to answer. Some of my earliest memories are of him reading me Bible stories at bedtime — especially about Nicodemus and the boy Samuel. God used these stories to give me the gift of the new birth and call me to gospel ministry.
Later on I studied literature with my father, taking various courses in British literature and the literature of the Bible. His sensitivity to literary genres helps me every time I open my Bible for personal study or public preaching.
My father has also set a good example for me in his commitment to the church. Growing up, our family was in church every Sunday morning and evening, including Sunday school, and generally sitting near the front for public worship. We also attended a Wednesday night home Bible study throughout most of my childhood. All of this helped to instill in me an appetite for good preaching and a deep satisfaction in the rhythms of congregational life.
Philip Ryken Books:
- 1 The Messiah Comes to Middle-Earth: Images of Christ's Threefold Office in The Lord of the Rings (Hansen Lectureship)
- 2 Courage to Stand: Jeremiah's Message for Post-Christian Times
- 3 The Message of Salvation: By God's Grace, for God's Glory (The Bible Speaks Today)
- 4 Pastors in the Classics: Timeless Lessons on Life and Ministry from World Literature
- 5 Exodus (ESV Edition): Saved for God's Glory (Preaching the Word)
- 6 Ryken's Bible Handbook
- 7 Galatians (Reformed Expository Commentary)
- 8 Discovering God in Stories from the Bible
- 9 Loving Jesus More
- 10 When Trouble Comes
- 11 Ecclesiastes (Redesign): Why Everything Matters (Preaching the Word)
- 12 Loving the Way Jesus Loves
- 13 Christian Worldview: A Student's Guide (Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition)
- 14 City on a Hill: Reclaiming the Biblical Pattern for the Church in the 21st Century
- 15 Art for God's Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts
- 16 1 Timothy (Reformed Expository Commentary)
- 17 When You Pray: Making the Lord's Prayer Your Own
- 18 1 Kings (Reformed Expository Commentary)
- 19 Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today's Moral Crisis
- 20 Our Triune God: Living in the Love of the Three-in-One
- 21 The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel
- 22 Is Jesus the Only Way? (Redesign) (Today's Issues)
- 23 Jeremiah and Lamentations (ESV Edition): From Sorrow to Hope (Preaching the Word)
- 24 What Is the Christian Worldview? (Basics of the Faith) (Basics of the Reformed Faith)
- 25 14 Words from Jesus
- 26 King Solomon: The Temptations of Money, Sex, and Power
- 27 Luke: 2 Volume Set (Reformed Expository Commentary)
- 28 Jeremiah and Lamentations: From Sorrow to Hope (Preaching the Word)
- 29 Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship
- 30 The Heart of the Cross
Holy People Are Happy People
By John Starke 12/01/2011
So much could be said of the consequences of sin and impurity for the Christian. And we should speak of them — the Bible certainly does. David, in Psalm 32, described the misery of unrepentant sin as his bones wasting away (v. 3). His energy was dried up as he felt God’s displeasure. But the warnings of misery for the backsliding believer should also be coupled with the joys of holiness. There is real joy when we turn from evil and delight in the Lord and His ways.
The Bible describes this delight in experiential terms — an existential reality that is meant to be tasted, felt, and seen. Proverbs 3:7–8 describes the experience like this:
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones (emphasis mine).
If you read this slowly, just slow enough to taste the truth as it goes by, don’t you crave this sense of refreshment? Not surprisingly, God’s designs for our sanctification are most satisfying. In contrast, a life in sin is tiring, placing joy just outside our reach.
There are particular realities to the Christian faith that we’d sometimes rather experience than expound, and so too it may be with the joy of holiness. But I believe the Bible gives us some indication of the nature of this joy and happiness that come from holiness. It isn’t simply a “you gotta experience it to believe it” reality. So, let’s ask the question: “Why does holiness bring happiness?” We could say, and I think we’d be right, that going along with God’s intentions for life brings us happy living. That’s not a difficult conclusion to come to, and the Bible is full of examples of the miseries of the foolish. But we should say more.
Holiness brings happiness because it creates a clearer vision of the fullness of Christ. Holiness clears our palette, so to speak, of the deceitfulness of sin. We cannot taste and see the goodness of the Lord if we are satisfying our sinful cravings. Sin is deceitful (Heb. 3:13), veiling our vision of Christ. It magnifies idols and self rather than Christ, who through the Holy Spirit, transforms us from one degree of glory to the next (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:2–3).
John Calvin illuminates the connection between holiness and happiness. “Indeed,” he writes, “we shall not say that God is known where there is no religion or piety.” Let me quickly rescue Calvin’s use of “piety.” I realize it comes fully loaded with confusion and abuse today, so we should give a definition. What Calvin means by “piety” has a lot to say about our discussion on happiness. Here’s how he defines it: “I call ‘piety’ that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces.” It’s interesting to note that Calvin’s view of piety is synonymous with holy living and depends upon our happiness in God. For “unless they establish their complete happiness in him,” says Calvin, “they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him.” In other words, unless we are holy, we will never be happy. But unless we find our happiness fully in the Lord, we will never be holy.
We must be careful at this point. If we allow the world to define our terms as opposed to the Bible, we can lose sight of a few very important things. We aren’t pursuing holiness in order to be happy with ourselves. No, our holiness focuses our vision on Christ, a vision that satisfies us with every glance, and clears away all that would ensnare us from looking.
The longer I live as a Christian the more it becomes apparent that the holy life — a life lived with a conscience before God — is a happy life. Sadly, it takes some misery to see it. Sin not only offends God, it disrupts the Christian’s communion with God and forces him to sense his Maker’s displeasure. This, of course, results in all sorts of unfortunate consequences, not the least of which is joylessness. There is no casual way to say it other than the pleasure that springs from a peaceful conscience and communion with God cannot exist while the Christian lives in sin.
This unhappy communion with God, so to speak, thankfully, is not one between a judge and the guilty, but of Father and child. That is really good news. And the rod that corrects is from the Good Shepherd, not a tyrant.
Nevertheless, the existential realities of the effects of sin are real, and we are better Christians when we let the wounds of our sin do their work, revealing the misery of sin and the pleasures of holiness.
So then, the line of logic goes like this: Real and lasting joy — a happiness that refreshes our bones — only comes from tasting and seeing the goodness of the Lord. Therefore, let us make every effort to put aside everything that entangles our affections and obscures our sight of Him.
Children of the Day I
By Albert Mohler 5/14/2015
“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” [1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 ESV]
To affirm the church is to affirm the Trinity. The church is a sign of the redemptive reciprocity of the Father and the Son, as the Father gives a redeemed people to the Son and as the Son will one day present the church without spot or blemish to the Father. The church exists by the power of the Holy Spirit and in the power of the Holy Spirit. These facts and these facts alone explain why the church has come to be, why the church has survived to this day, and why the church will be preserved throughout eternity to the glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
To affirm the church is to affirm the gospel of Jesus Christ, for without that gospel there would be no good news, no message of salvation, no redemption of sinners, and thus no redeemed people of God. Every true church is a gospel church and without the gospel there is no church. The church has received from Christ the commission to make the gospel known to all people, everywhere, with the confidence that whoever hears the gospel and believes will be saved.
To affirm the church is to affirm the authority of the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God. As Martin Luther rightly noted, the church is where the Word of God is rightly preached. Where the Word is not rightly preached, there is no church, plain and simple. Where the church is found, the Word of God is honored, preached, taught, cherished, obeyed, and believed.
To affirm the church is to affirm the ministry. God has given ministers to his church in order that the redeemed people of God may be fed, taught, counseled, instructed, edified, encouraged, corrected, and led. The Christian ministry was not an organizational invention of the early church, but the gift of God. The New Testament reveals that God calls ministers for his church and gifts them according to his call.
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:
- 1 God and the Transgender Debate
- 2 The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters
- 3 Live Smart: Preparing for the Future God Wants for You
- 4 God's Word Alone---The Authority of Scripture: ...and Why It Still Matters
- 5 Culture Shift: The Battle for the Moral Heart of America
- 6 Echoes of the Reformation
- 7 The Call to Ministry
- 8 A Guide to Church Revitalization
- 9 Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism
- 10 Living The Cross Centered Life Keeping The Gospel The Main Thing
- 11 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 12 Essential Reading on Preaching (Volume 1)
- 13 Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy
- 14 The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters
- 15 Unashamed of the Gospel
- 16 Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance
- 17 Culture Shift: The Battle for the Moral Heart of America
- 18 Gods of This Age Or... God of the Ages?
- 19 Acts 1-12: The Church is Born
- 20 More Faithful Service
- 21 The Disappearance of God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness
- 22 Preaching: The Centrality of Scripture
- 23 Theological Education in the Evangelical Tradition
- 24 More Faithful Service
1 Samuel 1; Romans 1; Jeremiah 39; Psalms 13-14
By Don Carson 8/11/2018
How Does The Wrath Of God manifest itself, according to the Scriptures?
There is no short answer to that question, because the answers are many, depending on an enormous array of circumstances. God’s wrath wiped out almost the entire human race at the Flood. Sometimes God’s punishment of his own covenant people is remedial. Sometimes it is immediate, not the least because it then tends to be instructive (like the defeat of the people at Ai after Achan stole some silver and fine Babylonian clothes): at other times, God forbears, which at one level is gracious, but granted the perversity of God’s image-bearers, is likely to let things get out of hand. The final display of God’s wrath is hell itself (see, for instance, Rev. 14:6ff.).
Romans 1:18ff pictures the revelation of God’s wrath in a slightly different way. What Paul presents here is not the only thing to say about God’s wrath — even in Paul — but it contributes something very important. Not only is God’s wrath being revealed against “all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Rom. 1:18), but it manifests itself in such sins — that is, in God’s giving people over to do what they want to do (Rom. 1:24-28).
In other words, instead of rebuking them in remedial judgment or curtailing their wickedness, God “gave them over”: to “shameful lusts” (1:26) and a “depraved mind” (Rom. 1:28). The result is multiplying “wickedness, evil, greed and depravity” (Rom. 1:29). The picture painted in the rest of the verses of Romans 1 is not a pretty one.
We must reflect a little further as to what this means. In our shortsightedness we sometimes think God is a little abrupt when in certain passages, not least in the Old Testament, he instantly chastens his people for their sins. But what is the alternative? Quite simply, it is not instantly chastening them. If chastening were merely a matter of remedial education to morally neutral people, the timing and severity would not matter very much; we would learn. But the Bible insists that this side of the Fall we are by nature and persistent choice rebels against God.
If we are chastened, we whine at God’s severity. If we are not chastened, we descend into debauchery until the very foundations of society are threatened. We may then cry to God for mercy. Well and good, but at least we should see that it would have been a mercy if we had not been permitted to descend so far down into the abyss.
Granted the shape and trends in Western culture, does this not argue that we are already under the severe wrath of God? Have mercy, Lord!
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:
- 1 An Introduction to the New Testament
- 2 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 3 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 4 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Hardcover: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 5 Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation
- 6 Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
- 7 Exegetical Fallacies
- 8 For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word, Volume 1
- 9 Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering
- 10 Matthew (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 11 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 12 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 13 How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 14 New Testament Commentary Survey
- 15 For the Love of God, Volume 2: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word
- 16 9: Matthew and Mark (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 17 Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14
- 18 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 19 The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures
- 20 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: John 14-17
- 21 Introducing NT: A Short Guide to Its History and Message
- 22 Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson
- 23 Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes
- 24 Jesus' Sermon on the Mount: An Exposition of Matthew 5-10
- 25 The Intolerance of Tolerance
- 26 From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation
- 27 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 28 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspective in Tension
- 29 The Expositor's Bible commentary : Matthew, Mark, Luke Vol. 8
- 30 Christ and Culture Revisited
- 31 NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 32 The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 33 Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day
- 34 Gagging of God, The
- 35 The Gospel as Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices
- 36 The God Who Is There Leader's Guide: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 37 What Is the Gospel?
- 38 His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke
- 39 The Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the OT
- 40 Love in Hard Places
- 41 Coming Home: Essays on the New Heaven and New Earth
- 42 God's Love Compels Us: Taking the Gospel to the World
- 43 Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
- 44 Telling the Truth
- 45 God's Word, Our Story: Learning from the Book of Nehemiah
- 46 Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications
- 47 The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7
- 48 Sunsets: Reflections for Life's Final Journey
- 49 God with Us: Themes from Matthew
- 50 A Model of Christian Maturity: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13
- 51 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 52 The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry
- 53 Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World
- 54 Matthew, Vol.2 (Ch. 13-28), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 55 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 56 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 57 Entrusted with the Gospel: Pastoral Expositions of 2 Timothy
- 58 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension
- 59 The Holy Spirit
- 60 The Plan
- 61 Collected Writings on Scripture
- 62 The Inclusive-Language Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 63 Matthew, Vol.1 (Ch. 1-12), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 64 Essential Evangelicalism: The Enduring Influence of Carl F. H. Henry
- 65 The Restoration of All Things
- 66 Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times
- 67 Christ's Redemption
- 68 Exegetical Fallacies
- 69 Justification
- 70 Greek Accents: A Student's Manual
- 71 Gospel-Centered Ministry
- 72 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 77 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 78 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 79 [(Christ and Culture Revisited)]
- 80 When Jesus Confronts the World: An Exposition of Matthew 8-10
- 81 The Church: God's New People
- 82 Letters Along the Way: A Novel of the Christian Life
- 83 Love in Hard Places
- 84 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place In God'S Story
- 85 NT Commentary Survey
- 86 The Inclusive Language Debate
- 87 Exegetical Fallacies
- 88 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14-17
- 89 NT Commentary Survey
- 90 How long, O Lord? (2nd edition): Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 91 Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century
- 92 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 93 By D. A. Carson - Gagging of God
- 94 Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed
- 95 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 96 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 97 A Call to Spiritual Reformation
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 86Great Is Your Steadfast Love
86 A Prayer Of David.
8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
9 All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant,
and save the son of your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
6/1/2016 Legalism vs. Gospel Religion
The word religion has fallen on hard times in recent years. Many have tried to pit religion against faith, saying that Christianity isn’t a religion but a relationship. That sounds nice, but that isn’t quite the case. Faith and religion are not mutually exclusive, they are complementary. Christianity is a religion founded on a relationship with Jesus Christ. In fact, Christianity is the only true religion in the world because it is the religion established by the one and only true God. The Christian religion is the all-encompassing life of trusting, worshiping, following, and loving God and loving our neighbor, enabled by the regenerating and empowering work of the Holy Spirit, and established on our relationship with Christ through the gospel by grace alone through faith alone.
Nevertheless, we rightly speak critically of religion when we speak of man-made religion. When we speak of such religion, we are either speaking of all the false religions of the world, such as Islam and Buddhism, or we are speaking of the religious rules that men add to Scripture and with which they attempt to bind our consciences. This latter type of religion was the religion of the Pharisees and later of the Judaizers. However, the fundamental problem of the Pharisees and Judaizers was not that they were overly zealous about religious orthodoxy, but that they invented their own religious orthodoxy. Based on their man-made legalistic inventions, they judged hearts and tyrannized those whom Christ had set free. And that is the precise problem with all forms of legalism in our churches today. We invent laws around God’s law. We attempt to turn our preferences into God’s principles. We say “you can’t” when God says “you can.”
At the same time, we must also understand what legalism is not. Legalism is not obedience to God and His law. Legalism is not learning to obey all that Christ has commanded us. Legalism is not pursuing holiness. Legalism is not striving to please God and glorify God in all that we do. Legalism is not being zealous in our good works and in bearing fruit in keeping with repentance.
Legalism is not an error of Christianity—it’s a different religion altogether. Legalism draws attention to us, but gospel religion draws attention to Jesus Christ. Legalism gives us glory, but gospel religion gives God glory. Legalism is rooted in self-worship, but gospel religion is rooted in the worship of God. And the ironic thing about legalism is that it doesn’t make people want to work harder, it makes them want to give up.
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.
by Bill Federer
On this day, August 11, 1984, Congress voted the Equal Access Act into law, allowing students who wish to conduct religious meetings the same access to schools as other groups. President Ronald Reagan stated: “In 1962, the Supreme Court… banned… prayers. In 1963, the Court banned the reading of the Bible… We had to pass a special law… to allow student prayer groups the same access to school rooms… that a Young Marxist Society… enjoys… Without God there is a coarsening of the society… If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
If you have God's presence,
you have favor.
One minute of God's presence
can accomplish more than 20 years of your striving.
--- Heidi Baker
What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.
--- Thomas Merton
Once my hands were always trying,
Trying hard to do my best;
Now my heart is sweetly trusting,
And my soul is all at rest.
--- A. B. Simpson
Sin, in the biblical perspective, is both an act and a state ….What should be borne in mind is that the bias of sin precedes the act of sin.
--- D.G. Bloesch
Essentials of Evangelical Theology Volume 1: God, Authority, & Salvation
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
4. Now when they are to go out of their camp, the trumpet gives a sound, at which time nobody lies still, but at the first intimation they take down their tents, and all is made ready for their going out; then do the trumpets sound again, to order them to get ready for the march; then do they lay their baggage suddenly upon their mules, and other beasts of burden, and stand, as at the place of starting, ready to march; when also they set fire to their camp, and this they do because it will be easy for them to erect another camp, and that it may not ever be of use to their enemies. Then do the trumpets give a sound the third time, that they are to go out, in order to excite those that on any account are a little tardy, that so no one may be out of his rank when the army marches. Then does the crier stand at the general's right hand, and asks them thrice, in their own tongue, whether they be now ready to go out to war or not? To which they reply as often, with a loud and cheerful voice, saying, "We are ready." And this they do almost before the question is asked them: they do this as filled with a kind of martial fury, and at the same time that they so cry out, they lift up their right hands also.
5. When, after this, they are gone out of their camp, they all march without noise, and in a decent manner, and every one keeps his own rank, as if they were going to war. The footmen are armed with breastplates and head-pieces, and have swords on each side; but the sword which is upon their left side is much longer than the other, for that on the right side is not longer than a span. Those foot-men also that are chosen out from the rest to be about the general himself have a lance and a buckler, but the rest of the foot soldiers have a spear and a long buckler, besides a saw and a basket, a pick-axe and an axe, a thong of leather and a hook, with provisions for three days, so that a footman hath no great need of a mule to carry his burdens. The horsemen have a long sword on their right sides, axed a long pole in their hand; a shield also lies by them obliquely on one side of their horses, with three or more darts that are borne in their quiver, having broad points, and not smaller than spears. They have also head-pieces and breastplates, in like manner as have all the footmen. And for those that are chosen to be about the general, their armor no way differs from that of the horsemen belonging to other troops; and he always leads the legions forth to whom the lot assigns that employment.
6. This is the manner of the marching and resting of the Romans, as also these are the several sorts of weapons they use. But when they are to fight, they leave nothing without forecast, nor to be done off-hand, but counsel is ever first taken before any work is begun, and what hath been there resolved upon is put in execution presently; for which reason they seldom commit any errors; and if they have been mistaken at any time, they easily correct those mistakes. They also esteem any errors they commit upon taking counsel beforehand to be better than such rash success as is owing to fortune only; because such a fortuitous advantage tempts them to be inconsiderate, while consultation, though it may sometimes fail of success, hath this good in it, that it makes men more careful hereafter; but for the advantages that arise from chance, they are not owing to him that gains them; and as to what melancholy accidents happen unexpectedly, there is this comfort in them, that they had however taken the best consultations they could to prevent them.
7. Now they so manage their preparatory exercises of their weapons, that not the bodies of the soldiers only, but their souls may also become stronger: they are moreover hardened for war by fear; for their laws inflict capital punishments, not only for soldiers running away from the ranks, but for slothfulness and inactivity, though it be but in a lesser degree; as are their generals more severe than their laws, for they prevent any imputation of cruelty toward those under condemnation, by the great rewards they bestow on the valiant soldiers; and the readiness of obeying their commanders is so great, that it is very ornamental in peace; but when they come to a battle, the whole army is but one body, so well coupled together are their ranks, so sudden are their turnings about, so sharp their hearing as to what orders are given them, so quick their sight of the ensigns, and so nimble are their hands when they set to work; whereby it comes to pass that what they do is done quickly, and what they suffer they bear with the greatest patience. Nor can we find any examples where they have been conquered in battle, when they came to a close fight, either by the multitude of the enemies, or by their stratagems, or by the difficulties in the places they were in; no, nor by fortune neither, for their victories have been surer to them than fortune could have granted them. In a case, therefore, where counsel still goes before action, and where, after taking the best advice, that advice is followed by so active an army, what wonder is it that Euphrates on the east, the ocean on the west, the most fertile regions of Libya on the south, and the Danube and the Rhine on the north, are the limits of this empire? One might well say that the Roman possessions are not inferior to the Romans themselves.
8. This account I have given the reader, not so much with the intention of commending the Romans, as of comforting those that have been conquered by them, and for the deterring others from attempting innovations under their government. This discourse of the Roman military conduct may also perhaps be of use to such of the curious as are ignorant of it, and yet have a mind to know it. I return now from this digression.
by D.H. Stern
and don’t crush the poor in court,
23 for ADONAI will plead their case for them
and withhold life from those who defraud them.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
by Frank W. Boreham
Just along the old rut-riddled road that winds through the bush on its way to Bulman's Gully there lives a poor old man who fancies that he is of no use in the world. I am going to send him an onion. I am convinced that it will cure him of his most distressing malady. I shall wrap it up in tissue paper, pack it in a dainty box, tie it with silk ribbons, and post it without delay. No gift could be more appropriate. The good man's argument is very plausible, but an onion will draw out all its defects. He thinks, because he never hears any voice trumpeting his fame or chanting his praise, that he is therefore without any real worth or value to his fellow men. Could anything be more preposterous? Who ever heard a panegyric in praise of onions? At what concert was the song of the onion sung? Roses and violets, daisies and daffodils, are the theme of every warbler; but when does the onion come in for adulation? Run through your great poets and show me the epic, or even the sonnet, addressed to the onion! Are we, therefore, to assume that onions have no value in a world like this? What a wealth of appetizing piquancy would vanish from our tables if the onion were to come no more! As a relish, as a food, and as a medicine, the onion is simply invaluable; yet no orator ever loses himself in rhetorical transports in honour of onions! It is clearly not safe to assume that because we are not much praised, we are therefore of not much profit. And so I repeat my suggestion that if any man is known to be depressed over his apparent uselessness, it would be a service to humanity in general, and to that member of the race in particular, to post him an onion.
'I always bless God for making anything so strong as an onion!' exclaimed William Morris, in a fine and characteristic burst of fervour. That is the point: an onion is so strong. The very strength of a thing often militates against applause. If a strong man lifted a bag of potatoes we should think no more about it; but if a schoolboy picked it up and ran off with it we should be speechless with amazement. We take the strength of the strong for granted; it is the strength of the weak that we applaud. If a man is known to be good or useful or great, we treat his goodness or usefulness or greatness as one of the given factors of life's intricate problem, and straightway dismiss it from our minds. It is when goodness or usefulness or greatness breaks out in unexpected places or in unexpected people that we vociferously shout our praise. We applaud the singers at a concert because it appeals to us as such an amazing and delightful incongruity that so practical and prosaic a creature as Man should suddenly burst into melody; but when the angels sang at Bethlehem the shepherds never thought of clapping. The onion is therefore in company with the angels. I am not surprised that the Egyptians accorded the onion divine honours and carved its image on their monuments. I am prepared to admit that onions do not move in the atmosphere of sentiment and of poetry. Tears have been shed over onions, as every housewife knows. Shakespeare speaks of the tears that live in an onion. But, as Shakespeare implies, they are crocodile tears—without tenderness and without emotion. Old John Wolcott, the satirist, tells how
. . . . . . Master Broadbrim
Pored o'er his father's will and dropped the onioned tear.
And Bernard Shaw writes of 'the undertaker's handkerchief, duly onioned with some pathetic phrase.' No, onions do not lend themselves to passion or to pathos. You would scarcely decorate the church with onions for your sister's wedding, or plant a row of onions on a hero's grave. And yet I scarcely know why. For, in a suitable setting, a touch of warm romance may light up even so apparently prosaic a theme. The coming of the swallows in the spring is scarcely a more delightful event in Cornwall than the annual arrival of the onion-sellers from Brittany. What a picturesque world we invade when we get among those dreamy old fishing-villages that dot the Cornish coast!
Gold mists upon the sea and sky,
The hills are wrapped in silver veils,
The fishing-boats at anchor lie,
Nor flap their idle orange sails.
The wild and rugged sea-front is itself suggestive of rich romance and reminiscent of bold adventure. The smugglers, the pirates, the wreckers, and the Spanish mariners knew every bluff and headland perfectly. And, however the world beyond may have changed, these tiny hamlets have triumphantly defied the teeth of time. They know no alteration. The brogue of the people is strange but rhythmic, and, though pleasant to hear, very hard for ordinary mortals to understand. The fisherfolk, with their strapping and stalwart forms, their bronzed and weather-beaten features, their dark, idyllic eyes, their tanned and swarthy skins, their odd and old-world garb, together with their general air of being the daughters of the ocean and the sons of the storm, seem to be a race by themselves. And he who tarries long enough among them to become infected by the charm of their secluded and well-ordered lives knows that one of the events of their uneventful year is the coming of the onion-sellers from over the sea. The historic connexion between Cornwall and Brittany is very ancient, and is a romance in itself. The English and French coasts, as they face each other there, are very much alike—broken, precipitous, and grand. The peoples live pretty much the same kind of lives on either side of the Channel. And when the onion-sellers come from France they are greeted with enthusiasm by the Cornish people, and although they speak their own tongue, they are perfectly understood. See! there is one of the Breton onion-sellers lounging among a knot of fishermen near the door of yonder picturesque old Cornish cottage, whilst the wife stands in the open doorway, arms a-kimbo, listening as the foreigner tells of the things that he has seen across the Channel since last he visited this coast. And up the hill there, on the rickety old settle, beneath the creaking signboard of the village inn, is another such group. As I gaze upon these masculine but kindly faces I am half inclined to withdraw my too hasty admission that onions have nothing about them of sentiment, poetry, or romance.
It always strikes me as a funny thing about onions that, however fond a man may be of the onions themselves, he detests things that are oniony. Give him onions, and he will devour them with magnificent relish. But, through some slip in the kitchen, let his porridge or his tea taste of onions, and his wry face is a sight worth seeing! A friend of mine keeps a large apiary. One summer he was in great glee at the immense stores of honey that his bees were collecting. Then, one dreadful day, he tasted it. The dainty little square of comb, oozing with the exuding fluid, was passed round the table. Horror sat upon every face! It turned out that the bees had discovered a large onion plantation some distance away, and had gathered their heavy stores from that odorous and tainted source! What could be more abominable, even to a lover of onions, than oniony honey? We remember Thackeray and his oniony sandwiches. Now why is it possible for me to love onions and to hate all things oniony? The fact is that the world has a few vigorous, decided, elementary things that absolutely decline to be modified or watered down. 'Onions is onions!' as a well-known character in fiction remarked on a memorable occasion, and there is a world of significance in the bald assertion. There are some things that are as old as the world, and as universal as man, and that are too vivid and pronounced to humble their pride or compromise their own distinctive glory. The exquisite shock of the bather as his naked body plunges into the flowing tide; the instinctive recoil on seeing for the first time a dead human body; the delicious thrill with which the lover presses for the first time his lady's lips; the terrifying roar of a lion, the flaunting scarlet of a poppy, and the inimitable flavour of an onion—these are among the world's most familiar quantities, the things that decline to be modified or changed. You might as well ask for an ice-cream with the chill off as ask for a diluted edition of any of these vivid and primitive things. Onions may be regarded by a man as simply delicious, but oniony honey or oniony tea! The bather's plunge is a rapture to every stinging and startled nerve in his body, but to stand ankle-deep in the surf, shivering with folded arms in the breeze that scatters the spray! Life is full of delightful things that are a transport to the soul if we take them as they are, but that become a torment and an abomination if we water them down. And it is just because Christianity itself is so distinctive, so outstanding, so boldly pronounced a thing, that we insist on its being unadulterated. Even a worldling feels that a Christian, to be tolerable, must be out and out. The man who waters down his religion is like the shivering bather who, feeling the cold, cold waters tickling his toes, cannot muster up the courage to plunge; he is like the man who wants an ice-cream with the chill off; he is like oniony honey or oniony tea!
A man cannot, of course, live upon onions. Onions have their place and their purpose, and, as I have said, are simply invaluable. But they must be kept to that place and to that purpose. The modern tendency is to eat nothing but onions. We are fast becoming the victims of a perfect passion for piquancy. Time was when we expected our newspapers to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We don't care a rap about the truth now, so long as they'll give us a thrill. We must have onions. We used to demand of the novelist a love-story; now he must be morbidly sexual and grimly sensational. Our grandfathers went to a magic lantern entertainment and thought it a furious frolic. And on Sundays they prayed. 'From lightning and tempest; from plague, pestilence, and famine; from battle and murder, and from sudden death, Good Lord, deliver us!' Their grandchildren pray, 'From all churches and chapels, Good Lord, deliver us!' And, during the week, they like to see all the blood-curdling horrors of lightning and tempest; of plague, pestilence, and famine; of battle, murder, and of sudden death, enacted before their starting eyes with never a flicker to remind them that the film is only a film. The dramas, the dances, and the dresses of the period fortify my contention. The cry is for onions, and the stronger the better. It is not a healthy sign. Mr. H. G. Wells, in his graphic description of the changes that overcame Bromstead, and turned it from green fields into filthy slums, says that he noticed that 'there seemed to be more boards by the railway every time I passed, advertising pills and pickles, tonics and condiments, and such-like solicitudes of a people with no natural health or appetite left in them.' The pills, that is to say, kept pace with the pickles. The more pickles Bromstead ate, the more pills Bromstead wanted. That is the worst of the passion for piquancy. The soul grows sick if fed on sensations. Onions are splendid things, but you cannot live upon onions. Pickles inevitably lead to pills.
But that is not all. For the trouble is that, if I develop an inordinate appetite for onions, I lose all relish for more delicately flavoured foods. The most impressive instance of such a dietary tragedy is recorded in my Bible. 'The children of Israel wept and said, "We remember the onions, but now there is nothing except this manna before our eyes!"' Onions seem to have a special connexion with Egypt. Herodotus tells us that the men who built the Pyramids fed upon onions, although the priests were forbidden to touch them. 'We remember the onions!' cried the children of Israel, looking wistfully back at Egypt, 'but now we have nothing but this manna!' The onions actually destroyed their appetite for angels' food! That, I repeat, is the most mournful aspect of our modern and insatiable passion for piquancy. If I let my soul absorb itself in the sensational novel, the hair-raising drama, and the blood-curdling film, I find myself losing appreciation for the finer and gentler things in life. I no longer glory, as I used to do, in the sweetness of the morning air and the glitter of the dew-drenched grass; in the purling stream and the fern-draped hills; in the curling waves and the twinkling stars. The bound of the hare and the flight of the sea-bird lose their charm for me. The world is robbed of its wonder and its witchery when my eyes grow accustomed to the gaudy blinding glare. Jenny Lind was asked why she renounced the stage. She was sitting at the moment on the sands by the seaside, with her Bible on her knee. She pointed her questioner to the setting sun, transforming the ocean into a sea of glory. 'I found,' she said, 'that I was losing my taste for that, and'—holding up her Bible—'my taste for this; so I gave it up!' She was a wise woman. Onions are fine things in their own way. God has undoubtedly left a place in His world for the strong, vivid, elemental things. But they must be kept to that place. God has strewn the ground around me with the food that angels eat, and I must allow nothing on earth to destroy my taste for such sublime and wondrous fare.
Mushrooms on the Moor
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
This experience must come
And he saw him no more. --- 2 Kings 2:12.
It is not wrong to depend upon Elijah as long as God gives him to you, but remember the time will come when he will have to go; when he stands no more to you as your guide and leader, because God does not intend he should. You say—‘I cannot go on without Elijah.’ God says you must.
Alone at your Jordan. v. 14. Jordan is the type of separation where there is no fellowship with anyone else, and where no one can take the responsibility for you. You have to put to the test now what you learned when you were with your Elijah. You have been to Jordan over and over again with Elijah, but now you are up against it alone. It is no use saying you cannot go; this experience has come, and you must go. If you want to know whether God is the God you have faith to believe Him to be, then go through your Jordan alone.
Alone at your Jericho. v. 15. Jericho is the place where you have seen your Elijah do great things. When you come to your Jericho you have a strong disinclination to take the initiative and trust in God, you want someone else to take it for you. If you remain true to what you learned with Elijah, you will get the sign that God is with you.
Alone at your Bethel. v. 23. At your Bethel you will find yourself at your wits’ end and at the beginning of God’s wisdom. When you get to your wits’ end and feel inclined to succumb to panic, don’t; stand true to God and He will bring His truth out in a way that will make your life a sacrament. Put into practice what you learned with your Elijah, use his cloak and pray. Determine to trust in God and do not look for Elijah any more.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
And having built it
I set about furnishing it
To my taste: first moss, then grass
Annually renewed, and animals
To divert me: faces stared in
From the wild. I thought up the flowers
Then birds. I found the bacteria
Sheltering in primordial
Darkness and called them forth
To the light. Quickly the earth
Teemed. Yet still an absence
Disturbed me. I slept and dreamed
Of a likeness, fastening it,
When I woke, to a slow
Music; in love with it
For itself, giving it freedom
To love me; risking the disappointment.
BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 20:1–2 / God spoke all these words, saying: I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods besides Me.
MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 29, 1 / I the Lord am your God. Thus it is written, “Has any people heard the voice of a god [elohim] speaking …?” [Deuteronomy 4:33]. Heretics asked Rabbi Simlai, “Are there many gods in the world?” He said to them, “Why do you say this?” “Because it is written, ‘Has any people heard the voice of a god [elohim] speaking?’ ” He said to them, “Then it would have said מְדַבְּרִים/medabrim [speaking, plural], rather than מְדַבֵּר/medaber [speaking, singular].” His students said to him, “Rabbi, you have dismissed them with a crushed reed! But what do you answer us?” Rabbi Levi responded, saying to them, “ ‘Has any people heard the voice of a god [elohim] speaking?’ How [is this to be understood]? If it had been written ‘The voice of the Lord is [equals] His power’ then the world could not exist! Rather, ‘The voice of the Lord is power’ [Psalm 29:4]—each [listener understanding] according to his power. The young according to their power, the old according to their power, children according to their power. The Holy One, praised is He, said to Israel, ‘Just because you heard many voices, don’t think that there are many gods in heaven. But know that I the Lord am your God, as it says, “I the Lord am your God” ’ ”
CONTEXT / This Midrash is based on an oddity in one of God’s Hebrew names. The word Elohim has the form of a Hebrew plural noun. (The singular, Eloah, is also used of God, though much less frequently.) Furthermore, because it is in the plural, the Hebrew word Elohim is also used in the Bible to describe foreign gods. Thus, in the phrase “You shall have no other gods besides Me,” the text uses this same word Elohim. The reader must figure out from context when Elohim is used to mean the one God or the many gods. At times, later commentators noted in the margins of the printed Bible whether the use was sacred or not.
This ambiguity in the Hebrew leads certain people to question if Elohim in our verse refers to foreign gods. Heretics asked Rabbi Simlai, “Are there many gods in the world?” The מִינִים/minim, or “heretics,” were any number of small groups of people who adopted non-normative (as far as the Rabbis were concerned) Jewish beliefs and practices. Rabbi Simlai answers, “Then it would have said מְדַבְּרִים/medabrim [speaking, plural], rather than מְדַבֵּר/medaber [speaking, singular].” The verb “speaking” in this sentence is in the singular, clearly indicating that the word Elohim refers to the one God, not gods.
His students said to him, “Rabbi, you have dismissed them with a crushed reed! But what do you answer us?” The words of Rabbi Simlai’s students, which seem like a compliment for their teacher, are actually a challenge. They likely mean, “You gave them a flimsy explanation, and they took it!” These students demand a much more substantive answer. The Midrash brings an answer in the name of Rabbi Levi, “Has any people heard the voice of a god [Elohim] speaking?” He quotes a verse from Psalm 29: “The voice of the Lord is power.” Had the verse read “The voice of the Lord is His power,” then God’s voice would equal all of God’s power, which would destroy the entire world. Instead, the verse reads, “The voice of the Lord is power.” As the Rabbis interpret it, the word “power” refers not to God’s capabilities but to the capabilities of the Israelites listening to the voice of God. In other words, “the voice of the Lord is [in the] power”—in the power of each person to hear God in his or her own way.
The Rabbis interpret this to mean that even though God speaks in many voices and each person hears God uniquely, there is still only one Deity. “Just because you heard many voices, don’t think that there are many gods.” As the verse from the Bible text asserts, “I”—in the singular—“the Lord am your God.”
My lover is mine and I am his. --- Song of Songs 2:16.
Let me press [two more] duties on those who have this marriage union with Christ. (The Essential Works of John Flavel)
1. Adorn this marriage relationship, so that you may be a crown to your husband.
Wear a veil. We read of the spouse’s veil (Song 5:7). This veil is humility.
Put on your jewels. These are the graces that for their luster are compared to rows of jewels and chains of gold (Song 1:10 KJV). These precious jewels distinguish Christ’s bride from strangers.
Behave as becomes Christ’s spouse in chastity. Be chaste in your judgments; do not defile yourselves with error. Error corrupts the mind (1 Tim. 6:5). It is one of Satan’s devices first to defile the judgment, then the conscience.
Behave as becomes Christ’s spouse in sanctity. It is not for Christ’s spouse to behave like harlots. An exposed body and impure speech do not become a saint. Christ’s bride must shine forth in Gospel purity, so though we can bring Christ no dowry, yet he expects us to keep ourselves pure.
2. Love your husband, Christ (Song 2:5). Love him though he is reproached and persecuted. A wife loves her husband when [he is] in prison. To kindle your love toward Christ, consider
Nothing else is fit for you to love. If Christ is your husband, it is not fit to have other lovers who would make Christ grow jealous.
He is worthy of your love. He is unparalleled in beauty: “altogether lovely” (Song 5:16).
How fervent is Christ’s love toward you! He loves you in your worst condition, he loves you in affliction. He loves you notwithstanding your fears and blemishes. The saints’ infirmities cannot wholly remove Christ’s love from them. Oh, then, how the spouse should delight in her love to Christ! This will be the excellence of heaven: Our love will then be like the sun in its full strength.
--- Thomas Watson
A Curious Romance August 11
Theirs was a curious romance, spiritual but not sexual, ministerial but not marital. Francis and Clare were celibates, evidently in love but unable to marry, who joined forces for Christ.
Clare was born in Assisi, Italy, in 1194, growing up in a palace. When 16, she heard St. Francis preach and was deeply moved. She sought him out, and he spoke to her of spiritual things. For two years he visited often in her home.
On Palm Sunday, 1211, Clare pulled off her beautiful clothes, donned an ash-colored robe, and slipped from an unused gate on her parent’s estate. She found her way through the darkening woods to a spot where Francis awaited her. There she joined a group of Benedictine nuns. Francis prepared a home for her in the Chapel of St. Damian just outside Assisi, and according to some biographers, Clare never left the cloister for the remaining 40 years of her life, entertaining those seeking spiritual help. Francis, too, visited often.
She grieved deeply at his death, but lived another 30 years, confined to a bench from a leg disease. But from that bench, she taught, counseled, and prayed while sewing linens for churches.
In 1249, her cloister was attacked by marauders intent on ransacking and burning it. Showing no fear, she had herself carried to the door where she prayed resolutely for protection. The invaders scrambled from the walls and retreated.
Another tradition, an odd one, developed from her deathbed. From her room in San Damian, she reportedly saw and heard solemn midnight Mass being conducted in a basilica miles away. In 1958, citing this ability to receive images and sound over distance, Pope Pius XII proclaimed her the patron saint of television.
Her more common title has been “The Little Flower of St. Francis.”
She died on August 11, 1253, but her sisters, the Poor Clares, are serving the needy to this day.
God blesses those people who depend only on him. They belong to the kingdom of heaven! God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort! God blesses those people who are humble. The earth will belong to them!
--- Matthew 5:3-5.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 11
“Oh that I were as in months past.” --- Job 29:2.
Numbers of Christians can view the past with pleasure, but regard the present with dissatisfaction; they look back upon the days which they have passed in communing with the Lord as being the sweetest and the best they have ever known, but as to the present, it is clad in a sable garb of gloom and dreariness. Once they lived near to Jesus, but now they feel that they have wandered from him, and they say, “O that I were as in months past!” They complain that they have lost their evidences, or that they have not present peace of mind, or that they have no enjoyment in the means of grace, or that conscience is not so tender, or that they have not so much zeal for God’s glory. The causes of this mournful state of things are manifold. It may arise through a comparative neglect of prayer, for a neglected closet is the beginning of all spiritual decline. Or it may be the result of idolatry. The heart has been occupied with something else, more than with God; the affections have been set on the things of earth, instead of the things of heaven. A jealous God will not be content with a divided heart; he must be loved first and best. He will withdraw the sunshine of his presence from a cold, wandering heart. Or the cause may be found in self-confidence and self-righteousness. Pride is busy in the heart, and self is exalted instead of lying low at the foot of the cross. Christian, if you are not now as you “were in months past,” do not rest satisfied with wishing for a return of former happiness, but go at once to seek your Master, and tell him your sad state. Ask his grace and strength to help you to walk more closely with him; humble yourself before him, and he will lift you up, and give you yet again to enjoy the light of his countenance. Do not sit down to sigh and lament; while the beloved Physician lives there is hope, nay there is a certainty of recovery for the worst cases.
Evening - August 11
“Everlasting consolation.” --- 2 Thessalonians 2:16.
“Consolation.” There is music in the word: like David’s harp, it charms away the evil spirit of melancholy. It was a distinguished honour to Barnabas to be called “the son of consolation”; nay, it is one of the illustrious names of a greater than Barnabas, for the Lord Jesus is “the consolation of Israel.” “Everlasting consolation”—here is the cream of all, for the eternity of comfort is the crown and glory of it. What is this “everlasting consolation”? It includes a sense of pardoned sin. A Christian man has received in his heart the witness of the Spirit that his iniquities are put away like a cloud, and his transgressions like a thick cloud. If sin be pardoned, is not that an everlasting consolation? Next, the Lord gives his people an abiding sense of acceptance in Christ. The Christian knows that God looks upon him as standing in union with Jesus. Union to the risen Lord is a consolation of the most abiding order; it is, in fact, everlasting. Let sickness prostrate us, have we not seen hundreds of believers as happy in the weakness of disease as they would have been in the strength of hale and blooming health? Let death’s arrows pierce us to the heart, our comfort dies not, for have not our ears full often heard the songs of saints as they have rejoiced because the living love of God was shed abroad in their hearts in dying moments? Yes, a sense of acceptance in the Beloved is an everlasting consolation. Moreover, the Christian has a conviction of his security. God has promised to save those who trust in Christ: the Christian does trust in Christ, and he believes that God will be as good as his word, and will save him. He feels that he is safe by virtue of his being bound up with the person and work of Jesus.
THY WORD HAVE I HID IN MY HEART
Words and Music by Ernest O. Sellers, 1869–1952
The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (John 6:63)
O cleansing Word, O precious Word, Your promises are true;
They keep and purify my heart; Your truths are ever new.
God has made provision for each believer to live holy and pure lives—regardless of his or her environment. That provision is the power of His Word. The ability to live above the filth and evil in the daily world around us can be achieved only through listening to and responding to the truth of the Scriptures.
Portions of the wonderful 119th Psalm, with the majority of its 176 verses speaking pointedly regarding the importance of God’s Word, were paraphrased by Ernest O. Sellers and set to a melody in 1908 to provide us with a hymn that still has an important place in our hymnals.
The first stanza of this hymn is based on verse 105: “Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” Stanza two is based on verses 89 and 90: “Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: Thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.” The third stanza is taken from the 44th, the 62nd, and the 164th verses of this psalm: “Seven times a day do I praise Thee, because of Thy righteous judgments. At midnight, I will rise to give thanks unto Thee, because of Thy righteous judgments. So shall I keep Thy law continually forever and ever.” The final stanza is based on the 41st verse: “Let Thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even Thy salvation according to Thy Word.”
For the chorus of his hymn, Mr. Sellers used the words directly from Psalm 119:11. They provide a strong closing summary for the reason we hide God’s Word in our hearts: “Thy Word have I hid in my heart—that I might not sin against Thee.”
Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path alway, to guide and to save me from sin and show me the heav’nly way.
Forever, O Lord, is Thy Word established and fixed on high; Thy faithfulness unto all men abideth forever nigh.
At Morning, at noon, and at night I ever will give Thee praise; for Thou art my portion, O Lord, and shall be thru all my days!
Thru Him whom Thy Word hath foretold, the Savior and Morning Star, salvation and peace have been brought to those who have strayed afar.
Chorus: Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.
For Today: Psalm 119:11, 41, 44, 62, 89, 90, 105, 164; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17
Take one of these choice verses from Psalm 119 and let it saturate your life. Carry with you verse 11 in this musical form ---
DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Secondly, It is pernicious to the atheist himself. If he fear no future punishment, he can never expect any future reward: all his hopes must be confined to a swinish and despicable manner of life, without any imaginations of so much as a drachm of reserved happiness.
He is in a worse condition than the silliest animal, which hath something to please it in its life: whereas an atheist can have nothing here to give him a full content, no more than any other man in the world, and can have less satisfaction hereafter. He deposeth the noble end of his own being, which was to serve a God and have a satisfaction in him, to seek a God and be rewarded by him; and he that departs from his end, recedes from his own nature. All the content any creature finds, is in performing its end, moving according to its natural instinct; as it is a joy to the sun to run its race. In the same manner it is a satisfaction to every other creature, and its delight to observe the law of its creation. What content can any man have that runs from his end, opposeth his own nature, denies a God by whom and for whom he was created, whose image he bears, which is the glory of his nature, and sinks into the very dregs of brutishness? How elegantly it is described by Bildad, “His own counsel shall cast him down, terrors shall make him afraid on every side, destruction shall be ready at his side, the first-born of death shall devour his strength, his confidence shall be rooted out, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors. Brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation; he shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world.
They that come after him shall be astonished at his day, as they that went before were affrighted. And this is the place of him that knows not God.” If there be a future reckoning (as his own conscience cannot but sometimes inform him of), his condition is desperate, and his misery dreadful and unavoidable. It is not righteous a hell should entertain any else, if it refuse him.
Use II. How lamentable is it, that in our times this folly of atheism should be so rife! That there should be found such monsters in human nature, in the midst of the improvements of reason, and shinings of the gospel, who not only make the Scripture the matter of their jeers, but scoff at the judgments and providences of God in the world, and envy their Creator a being, without whose goodness they had none themselves; who contradict in their carriage what they assert to be their sentiment, when they dreadfully imprecate damnation to themselves! Whence should that damnation they so rashly wish be poured forth upon them, if there were not a revenging God? Formerly atheism was as rare as prodigious, scarce two or three known in an age; and those that are reported to be so in former ages, are rather thought to be counted so for mocking at the senseless deities the common people adored, and laying open their impurities. A mere natural strength would easily, discover that those they adored for gods, could not deserve that title, since their original was known, their uncleanness manifest and acknowledged by their worshippers. And probably it was so; since the Christians were termed ἄθεοι, because they acknowledged not their vain idols.
I question whether there ever was, or can be in the world, an uninterrupted and internal denial of the being of God, or that men (unless we can suppose conscience utterly dead) can arrive to such a degree of impiety; for before they can stifle such sentiments in them (whatsoever they may assert), they must be utter strangers to the common conceptions of reason, and despoil themselves of their own humanity. He that dares to deny a God with his lips, yet sets up something or other as a God in his heart. Is it not lamentable that this sacred truth, consented to by all nations, which is the band of civil societies, the source of all order in the world, should be denied with a bare face, and disputed against in companies, and the glory of a wise Creator ascribed to an unintellient nature, to blind chance? Are not such worse than heathens? They worshipped many gods, these none; they preserved a notion of God in the world under a disguise of images, these would banish him both from earth and heaven, and demolish the statutes of him in their own consciences; they degraded him, these would destroy him; they coupled creatures with him— (Rom. 1:25), “Who worshipped the creature with the Creator,” as it may most properly be rendered—and these would make him worse than the creature, a mere nothing. Earth is hereby become worse than hell.
Atheism is a persuasion which finds no footing anywhere else. Hell, that receives such persons, in this point reforms them: they can never deny or doubt of his being, while they feel his strokes. The devil, that rejoices at their wickedness, knows them to be in an error; for he “believes, and trembles at the belief.”
This is a forerunner of judgment. Boldness in sin is a presage of vengeance, especially when the honor of God is more particularly concerned therein; it tends to the overturning human society, taking off the bridle from the wicked inclinations of men and God appears not in such visible judgments against sin immediately committed against himself, as in the case of those sins that are destructive to human society. Besides, God, as Governor of the world, will uphold that, without which all his ordinances in the world would be useless. Atheism is point blank against all the glory of God in creation, and against all the glory of God in redemption, and pronounceth at one breath, both the Creator, and all acts of religion and divine institutions, useless and insignificant. Since most have had, one time or other, some risings of doubt, whether there be a God, though few do in expressions deny his being, it may not be unnecessary to propose some things for the further impressing this truth, and guarding themselves against such temptations.
1. It is utterly impossible to demonstrate there is no God. He can choose no medium, but will fall in as a proof for his existence, and a manifestation of his excellency, rather than against it. The pretences of the atheist are so ridiculous, that they are not worth the mentioning. They never saw God, and therefore know not how to believe such a being; they cannot comprehend him. He would not be a God, if he could fall within the narrow model of a human understanding; he would not be infinite, if he were comprehensible, or to be terminated by our sight. How small a thing must that be which is seen by a bodily eye, or grasped by a weak mind! If God were visible or comprehensible, he would be limited. Shall it be a sufficient demonstration from a blind man, that there is no fire in the room, because he sees it not, though he feel the warmth of it? The knowledge of the effect is sufficient to conclude the existence of the cause. Who ever saw his own life? Is it sufficient to deny a man lives, because he beholds not his life, and only knows it by his motion?
He never saw his own soul, but knows he hath one by his thinking power. The air renders itself sensible to men in its operations, yet was never seen by the eye. If God should render himself visible, they might question as well as now, whether that which was so visible were God, or some delusion. If he should appear glorious, we can as little behold him in his majestic glory, as an owl can behold the sun in its brightness: we should still but see him in his effects, as we do the sun by his beams.
If he should show a new miracle, we should still see him but by his works; so we see him in his creatures, every one of which would be as great a miracle as any can be wrought, to one that had the first prospect of them. To require to see God, is to require that which is impossible (1 Tim. 6:16): “He dwells in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see.” It is visible that he is, “for he covers himself with light as with a garment” (Psalm 104:2); it is visible what he is, “for he makes darkness his secret place” (Psalm 18:11). Nothing more clear to the eye than light, and nothing more difficult to the understanding than the nature of it: as light is the first object obvious to the eye, so is God the first object obvious to the understanding. The arguments from nature do, with greater strength; evince his existence, than any pretences can manifest there is no God. No man can assure himself by any good reason there is none; for as for the likeness of events to him that is righteous, and him that is wicked; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not (Eccles. 9:2): it is an argument for a reserve of judgment in another state, which every man’s conscience dictates to him, when the justice of God shall be glorified in another world, as much as his patience is in this.
2. Whosoever doubts of it, makes himself a mark, against which all the creatures fight. All the stars fought against Sisera for Israel: all the stars in heaven, and the dust on earth, fight for God against the atheist. He hath as many arguments against him as there are creatures in the whole compass of heaven and earth. He is most unreasonable, that denies or doubts of that whose image and shadow he sees round about him; he may sooner deny the sun that warms him, the moon that in night walks in her brightness, deny the fruits he enjoys from the earth, yea, and deny that he doth exist. He must tear his own conscience, fly from his own thoughts, be changed into the nature of a stone, which hath neither reason nor sense, before he can disengage himself from those arguments which evince the being of a God. He that would make the natural religion professed in the world a mere romance, must give the lie to the common sense of mankind; he must be at an irreconcilable enmity with his own reason, resolve to hear nothing that it speaks, if he will not hear what it speaks in this case, with a greater evidence than it can ascertain anything else. God hath so settled himself in the reason of man, that he must vilify the noblest faculty God hath given him, and put off nature itself, before he can blot out the notion of a God.
3. No question but those that have been so bold as to deny that there was a God, have sometimes been much afraid they have been in an error, and have at least suspected there was a God, when some sudden prodigy hath presented itself to them, and roused their fears; and whatsoever sentiments they might have in their blinding prosperity, they have had other kind of motions in them in their stormy afflictions, and, like Jonah’s mariners, have been ready to cry to him for help, whom they disdained to own so much as in being, while they swam in their pleasures. The thoughts of a Deity cannot be so extinguished, but they will revive and rush upon a man, at least under some sharp affliction. Amazing judgments will make them question their own apprehensions. God sends some messengers to keep alive the apprehension of him as a Judge, while men resolve not to own or reverence him as a Governor. A man cannot but keep a scent of what was born with him; as a vessel that hath been seasoned first with a strong juice will preserve the scent of it, whatsoever liquors are afterwards put into it.
4. What is it for which such men rack their wits, to form notions that there is no God? Is it not that they would indulge some vicious habit, which hath gained the possession of their soul, which they know “cannot be favored by that holy God,” whose notion they would raze out? Is it not for some brutish affection, as degenerative of human nature, as derogatory to the glory of God; a lust as unmanly as sinful? The terrors of God are the effects of guilt; and therefore men would wear out the apprehensions of a Deity, that they might be brutish without control. They would fain believe there were no God, that they might not be men, but beasts. How great a folly is it to take so much pains in vain, for a slavery and torment; to cast off that which they call a yoke, for that which really is one! There is more pains and toughness of soul requisite to shake off the apprehensions of God, than to believe that he is, and cleave constantly to him. What a madness is it in any to take so much pains to be less than a man, by razing out the apprehensions of God, when, with less pains, he may be more than an earthly man, by cherishing the notions of God, and walking answerably thereunto?
5. How unreasonable is it for any man to hazard himself at this rate in the denial of a God! The atheist saith he knows not that there is a God; but may he not reasonably think there may be one for aught he knows? and if there be, what a desperate confusion will he be in, when all his bravadoes shall prove false! What can they gain by such an opinion? A freedom, say they, from the burdensome yoke of conscience, a liberty to do what they list, that doth not subject them to divine laws. It is a hard matter to persuade any that they can gain this. They can gain but a sordid pleasure, unworthy the nature of man. But it were well that such would argue thus with themselves: If there be a God, and I fear and obey him, I gain a happy eternity; but if there be no God, I lose nothing but my sordid lusts, by firmly believing there is one. If I be deceived at last, and find a God, can I think to be rewarded by him, for disowning him? Do not I run a desperate hazard to lose his favor, his kingdom, and endless felicity for an endless torment? By confessing a God I venture no loss; but by denying him, I run the most desperate hazard, if there be one. He is not a reasonable creature, that will not put himself upon such a reasonable arguing. What a doleful meeting will there be between the God who is denied, and the atheist that denies him, who shall meet with reproaches on God’s part, and terrors on his own! All that he gains is a liberty to defile himself here, and a certainty to be despised hereafter, if he be in an error, as undoubtedly he is.
6. Can any such person say he hath done all that he can to inform himself of the being of God, or of other things which he denies? Or rather they would fain imagine there is none, that they may sleep securely in their lusts, and be free (if they could from the thunder-claps of conscience. Can such say they have used their utmost endeavors to instruct themselves in this, and can meet with no satisfaction? Were it an abstruse truth it might not be wondered at; but not to meet with satisfaction in this which everything minds us of, and helpeth, is the fruit of an extreme negligence, stupidity, and a willingness to be unsatisfied, and a judicial process of God against them. It is strange any man should be so dark in that upon which depends the conduct of his life, and the expectation of happiness hereafter. I do not know what some of you may think, but believe these things are not useless to be proposed for ourselves to answer temptations; we know not what wicked temptation in a debauched and skeptic age, meeting with a corrupt heart, may prompt men to; and though there may not be any atheist here present, yet I know there is more than one, who have accidentally met with such, who openly denied a Deity; and if the like occasion happen, these considerations may not be unuseful to apply to their consciences. But I must confess, that since those that live in this sentiment, do not judge themselves worthy of their own care, they are not worthy of the care of others; and a man must have all the charity of the christian religion, which they despise, not to condemn them, and leave them to their own folly. As we are to pity madmen, who sink under an unavoidable distemper, we are as much to abominate them, who wilfully hug this prodigious frenzy.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXIV. — ANOTHER passage is that of Gen. viii. 21, “The thought and imagination of man’s heart, is evil from his youth.” And that also Gen. vi. 5, “Every imagination of man’s heart is only evil continually.” These passages it evades thus: — “The proneness to evil which is in most men, does not, wholly, take away the freedom of the will.” —
Does God, I pray you, here speak of ‘most men,’ and not rather of all men, when, after the flood, as it were repenting, He promises to those who were then remaining, and to those who were to come, that He would no more bring a flood upon the earth “for man’s sake:” assigning this as the reason: — because man is prone to evil! As though He had said, If I should act according to the wickedness of man, I should never cease from bringing a flood. Wherefore, henceforth, I will not act according to that which he deserves, &c. You see, therefore, that God, both before and after the flood, declares that man is evil: so that what the Diatribe says about ‘most men,’ amounts to nothing at all.
Moreover, a proneness or inclination to evil, appears to the Diatribe, to be a matter of little moment; as though it were in our own power to keep ourselves upright, or to restrain it: whereas the Scripture, by that proneness, signifies the continual bent and impetus of the will, to evil. Why does not the Diatribe here appeal to the Hebrew? Moses says nothing there about proneness. But, that you may have no room for cavillation, the Hebrew, (Gen. vi. 5), runs thus: — “CHOL IETZER MAHESCHEBOTH LIBBO RAK RA CHOL HAIOM:” that is, “Every imagination of the thought of the heart is only evil all days.” He does not say, that he is intent or prone to evil; but that, evil altogether, and nothing but evil, is thought or imagined by man throughout his whole life. The nature of his evil is described to be that, which neither does nor can do any thing but evil, as being evil itself: for, according to the testimony of Christ, an evil tree can bring forth none other than evil fruit. (Matt. vii. 17-18).
And as to the Diatribe’s pertly objecting — “Why was time given for repentance, then, if no part of repentance depend on Free-will, and all things be conducted according to the law of necessity.” —
I answer: You may make the same objection to all the precepts of God; and say, Why does He command at all, if all things take place of necessity? He commands, in order to instruct and admonish, that men, being humbled under the knowledge of their evil, might come to grace, as I have fully shewn already. — This passage, therefore, still remains invincible against the freedom of the will!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library