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1 Samuel 5-6     Romans 5     Jeremiah 43     Psalm 19

1 Samuel 5

The Philistines and the Ark

1 Samuel 5 1 When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. 3 And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5 This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.

6 The hand of the Lord was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. 7 And when the men of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.” 8 So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” They answered, “Let the ark of the God of Israel be brought around to Gath.” So they brought the ark of the God of Israel there. 9 But after they had brought it around, the hand of the Lord was against the city, causing a very great panic, and he afflicted the men of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them. 10 So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. But as soon as the ark of God came to Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought around to us the ark of the God of Israel to kill us and our people.” 11 They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.” For there was a deathly panic throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there. 12 The men who did not die were struck with tumors, and the cry of the city went up to heaven.

1 Samuel 6

The Ark Returned to Israel

1 Samuel 6 1 The ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months. 2 And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us with what we shall send it to its place.” 3 They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but by all means return him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why his hand does not turn away from you.” 4 And they said, “What is the guilt offering that we shall return to him?” They answered, “Five golden tumors and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, for the same plague was on all of you and on your lords. 5 So you must make images of your tumors and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten his hand from off you and your gods and your land. 6 Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed? 7 Now then, take and prepare a new cart and two milk cows on which there has never come a yoke, and yoke the cows to the cart, but take their calves home, away from them. 8 And take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart and put in a box at its side the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as a guilt offering. Then send it off and let it go its way 9 and watch. If it goes up on the way to its own land, to Beth-shemesh, then it is he who has done us this great harm, but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that struck us; it happened to us by coincidence.”

10 The men did so, and took two milk cows and yoked them to the cart and shut up their calves at home. 11 And they put the ark of the Lord on the cart and the box with the golden mice and the images of their tumors. 12 And the cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went. They turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh. 13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden figures, and set them upon the great stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the Lord. 16 And when the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron.

17 These are the golden tumors that the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron, 18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages. The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the Lord is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh.

19 And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. 20 Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.”

Romans 5

Peace with God Through Faith

Romans 5 1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jeremiah 43

Jeremiah Taken to Egypt

Jeremiah 43 1 When Jeremiah finished speaking to all the people all these words of the Lord their God, with which the Lord their God had sent him to them, 2 Azariah the son of Hoshaiah and Johanan the son of Kareah and all the insolent men said to Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie. The Lord our God did not send you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to live there,’ 3 but Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may kill us or take us into exile in Babylon.” 4 So Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces and all the people did not obey the voice of the Lord, to remain in the land of Judah. 5 But Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces took all the remnant of Judah who had returned to live in the land of Judah from all the nations to which they had been driven— 6 the men, the women, the children, the princesses, and every person whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan; also Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch the son of Neriah. 7 And they came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the Lord. And they arrived at Tahpanhes.

8 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah in Tahpanhes: 9 “Take in your hands large stones and hide them in the mortar in the pavement that is at the entrance to Pharaoh's palace in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah, 10 and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will set his throne above these stones that I have hidden, and he will spread his royal canopy over them. 11 He shall come and strike the land of Egypt, giving over to the pestilence those who are doomed to the pestilence, to captivity those who are doomed to captivity, and to the sword those who are doomed to the sword. 12 I shall kindle a fire in the temples of the gods of Egypt, and he shall burn them and carry them away captive. And he shall clean the land of Egypt as a shepherd cleans his cloak of vermin, and he shall go away from there in peace. 13 He shall break the obelisks of Heliopolis, which is in the land of Egypt, and the temples of the gods of Egypt he shall burn with fire.’”

Psalm 19

The Law of the Lord Is Perfect

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.  See Psalm 19 article below

Psalm 19 1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Theology and Doxology

By Michael Haykin 2/01/2012

     In December 1967, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave an address to what was then known as the Puritan Conference, speaking on what some might have considered an esoteric topic: the teachings of a small eighteenth-century movement known as Sandemanianism. Ever a believer in the value of church history for guidance in the present, Lloyd-Jones argued that the errors of this movement had much to teach his hearers, for he felt that there were far too many in contemporary evangelical circles who were replicating the central Sandemanian error, namely, that true faith can be held without deeply felt affections.

     Robert Sandeman, the Scottish theologian after whom this error is named, maintained that saving faith is “bare belief of the bare truth.” Sandeman was insistent that faith becomes a work of human merit if it includes anything beyond simple assent to the truth of what God has done through Christ’s death and resurrection. In a genuine desire to exalt the utter freeness of God’s salvation, Sandeman sought to remove any vestige of human reasoning, willing, or desiring in the matter of saving faith. He was wrongly convinced that if the actions of the will or the affections are included in saving faith, then the Reformation assertion of “faith alone” is compromised. Thus, in the Sandemanian system, saving faith is reduced to intellectual assent to the gospel proclamation about Christ.

     It should occasion no surprise that many of those who embraced Sandeman’s intellectualist view of faith became stunted in their Christian lives. Andrew Fuller, the Baptist theologian whom Lloyd-Jones identified as the key opponent of Sandeman’s thought, could admit that there were “things worthy of imitation” among the Sandemanians, such as their diligence to study the Bible and live under its authority. Yet, he said, their spirituality “resembles a rickety child, whose growth is confined to certain parts.” Christmas Evans, an influential Welsh Baptist leader and a contemporary of Fuller, adopted Sandemanian views for a number of years in the late 1790s. He soon found himself in the grip of “a cold heart towards Christ, and his sacrifice, and the work of his Spirit,” and dwelling in the “sterile regions of spiritual frost.” Only with much effort and prayer was Evans thankfully freed from the grip of this cold intellectualist system.

     Of course, Sandemanianism did not go unopposed. A number of key eighteenth-century evangelical leaders wrote replies and rebuttals of this system, including the Arminian Methodist leader John Wesley, as well as William Williams of Pantycelyn, the ardent Welsh Calvinistic Methodist hymnwriter. It was Fuller, though, who drew up what is regarded as the definitive response to the system of Sandeman in his Strictures on Sandemanianism (1810).

     Essentially, Fuller argued that if faith and theological reflection concerned only the mind, there would be no way to distinguish genuine Christianity from nominal Christianity. A nominal Christian mentally assents to the truths of Christianity, but those truths do not grip his heart and so re-orient his affections to glory in God. The opposite of saving faith in Scripture, Fuller noted, is not “simple ignorance,” which it would be if the Sandemanian view of faith were correct. Its opposite is an ignorance that has its roots in a deep-seated hatred of the true God. Christ can therefore state that unbelief rejects Him because, in the words of John 3:19, “people [love] the darkness rather than the light.” Likewise, Ephesians 4:18 talks about the understanding of unbelievers being darkened “because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” Surely, Fuller reasoned, the ignorance in view here is much more than mere lack of knowledge. Does it not entail, he asked, a deepseated aversion to God and holy things?

     But if unbelief comprises much more than ignorance, then faith and right theology must entail more than knowledge. If unbelief involves an aversion to the truth and a forthright rejection of the gospel, then faith in and reflection on the truth must include a love for and joy in the truth.

     Twenty years before the publication of ASIN: B01BTTX976, during the winter of 1790–1791, Fuller paid a visit to a gifted, though quite unconventional, evangelical preacher named John Berridge, the vicar of the Anglican church in Everton, Bedfordshire. After conversing for a while, the two men prayed together. As he later reflected on this visit, Fuller noted that what deeply impressed him about Berridge’s prayers was what he described as “such sweet solemnity, such holy familiarity with God and such ardent love to Christ.” The affective and doxological element that is prominent in this description of Berridge’s prayers epitomizes Fuller’s understanding of some of the necessary elements of saving faith and biblical theology. Measured by this standard, Sandemanianism’s view of faith was a shadow of the real thing, for true faith and right theology are indeed passionately doxological.

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     Dr. Michael Haykin is professor of church history at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

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Salt of the Earth

By Phil Johnson 1/01/2012

     “You are the salt of the earth… . You are the light of the world… . Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:13–16).

     That text is often cited as if it were a mandate for the church to engage in political activism — lobbying, rallying voters, organizing protests, and harnessing the evangelical movement for political clout. I recently heard a well-known evangelical leader say, “We need to make our voices heard in the voting booth, or we’re not being salt and light the way Jesus commanded.”

     That view is pervasive. Say the phrase “salt and light,” and the typical evangelical starts talking politics as if by Pavlovian reflex.

     But look at Jesus’ statement carefully in its context. He was not drumming up boycotts, protests, or a political campaign. He was calling His disciples to holy living.

     The salt-and-light discourse is the culminating paragraph of the introduction to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It comes immediately after the Beatitudes. Jesus was pronouncing a formal blessing on the key traits of authentic godliness.

     What’s most notable about the Beatitudes is that the qualities Jesus blesses are not the same attributes the world typically thinks are worthy of praise. The world glorifies power and dominion, force and physical strength, status and class. By contrast, Jesus blesses humility, meekness, mercy, mourning, purity of heart, and even persecution for righteousness’ sake. Collectively, these qualities are the polar opposite of political clout and partisan power.

     In other words, Jesus blessed people who were willing to be oppressed and disenfranchised for righteousness’ sake — peacemakers, not protesters; poor in spirit, not proud; people who are persecuted, not the pompous and power-mongers.

     This is consistent with Jesus’ teaching throughout the New Testament. He said,

     You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:25–28)

     Notice, furthermore, that the clauses “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world” are statements of fact, not imperatives. He doesn’t command us to be salt; He says that we are salt and cautions us against losing our savor. He doesn’t command us to be light; He says that we are light and forbids us to hide under a bushel.

     Jesus was saying that a corrupt and sin-darkened society is blessed and influenced for good by the presence of the church when believers are faithful servants of their Master. The key to understanding what Jesus meant is verse 16: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Personal holiness, not political dominion, is what causes men to glorify our Father who is in heaven.

     Salt has several properties. Perhaps the most important is that it acts as a preservative. Raw meat can be cured and preserved with salt. Christians in the midst of an evil and decaying society have a similar preserving and purifying effect. God told Abraham that He would have preserved Sodom from judgment if there had been just ten righteous people — a little salt — in their midst.

     Salt is also an antiseptic, and it can be used in the treatment of wounds. Salt water is good medicine — albeit painful — for broken blisters. There may be an element of that idea as well in Jesus’ metaphor as well. The presence of believers in the world stings the consciences of the ungodly because it is a painful reminder that God requires holiness and that the wages of sin is death.

     But salt also gives flavor to food and causes thirst — and I believe that’s the main idea Jesus had in mind when He used this metaphor because He speaks of “its savor.” Remember, Jesus had just blessed those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (5:6), and this imagery suggests that the presence of conscientiously godly people in society will have the natural effect of arousing an appetite for God and a thirst for righteousness.

     Light, of course, simultaneously dispels darkness and illuminates whatever it reaches. When we properly let our light shine before others, they see our good works and glorify God.

     So this is not about wielding political clout. It’s not about organizing protests against ungodliness. It’s not about trying to make society righteous through legislation. It’s about how we live. It’s about exemplifying the same traits Jesus blessed in the Beatitudes. That’s how we let our light shine, and that’s the saltiness we inject into an otherwise decaying and tasteless society.

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     Phil Johnson is the Executive Director of Grace to You. He has been closely associated with John MacArthur since 1981 and edits most of John's major books. But he may be best known for several popular Web sites he maintains, including The Spurgeon Archive and The Hall of Church History.

     Phil has a bachelor's degree in theology from Moody Bible Institute (class of 1975) and was an editor at Moody Press before coming to Grace Community Church. He is an elder at Grace Community Church and pastors the GraceLife fellowship group. Phil and his wife, Darlene, have three adult sons, Jeremiah, Jedidiah, and Jonathan.

Revelation-Driven Life

By Tom Ascol 1/01/2012

     God wins. If I had to summarize the message of Revelation in just two words, those would be my choice. They not only convey the point of the book but also hint at its main storyline. Despite what some overly speculative interpreters would have us believe, the main character in the last book of the Bible is not the Dragon, Beast, or False Prophet; rather, it is God. Revelation is primarily about Christ, not the Antichrist. And the main point of the book is to demonstrate in graphic imagery the victory of God in Christ.

     Through the incarnate ministry of His Son, God has conquered the Devil and his demons; the world and its deceptions; and sin and its destruction. Through faith in Him, we are also victorious over all these enemies. Because He wins, we also win. His victory secures ours. This truth provides fuel for an ever-increasing joy on the part of every believer.

     But there is no victory without a contest, and Revelation makes it very clear that the battle between those who belong to Christ and those who oppose Him is real, intense, and deadly. The Devil never simply forfeits. Just as our Lord did not secure our salvation without severe trials and suffering, so His disciples should not be surprised when their devotion to Him invites brutal conflict.

     At the very beginning of the book, God promises a blessing to everyone who “reads aloud the words of this prophecy” and to those “who hear, and who keep what is written in it” (1:3). That blessing includes at least two elements: a stubborn hope that breeds bold courage and an abiding joy that prompts unreserved worship.

     Too often, circumstances tempt us to despair by eclipsing those unseen realities that can be accessed only by faith. John surely faced this as he contemplated his exile on Patmos. But when “the revelation of Jesus Christ” came to him, visions of the risen, exalted, and enthroned Lord brought an eternal perspective to his present challenges. What he saw transformed his prison into a sanctuary. His circumstances did not change, but his perspective did.

     God revealed to John that history is moving toward a climatic conclusion that will be ushered in by the final conquest of our warrior God. This is signaled by the blast of the seventh trumpet that is followed by “loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever’” (11:15). Neither Rome nor her emperors will have the last say; nor will the United States, China, or any future political empire that this world might spawn. The Lord Jesus will reign and even now is ruling and overruling world events to orchestrate His eternal enthronement as the one, sovereign King over all.

     The most effective soldier is the one who fights with a clear objective and an unshakeable confidence that victory is assured. Revelation gives us both for the spiritual warfare we must endure. The mission of the church was mapped out by Jesus’ first coming. As the sacrificial Lamb, He was slain on the cross, and by His blood He “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” and “made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (5:9–10).

     Through His sufferings, our Savior secured the complete redemption of a vast multitude of people that “no man could number” (7:9). Our responsibility is to get the good news of His saving work to these people so that they can be reconciled to God through faith. Sometimes, discharging this duty can be costly.

     If Jesus shed His blood for individuals from every people group in the world, how can we who have been rescued by Him remain indifferent in the face of more than six thousand ethnolinguistic groups that have yet to be reached with the gospel? News of our great Savior and His redeeming exploits must be spread to the ends of the earth. Yes, the mission is dangerous. There will be casualties — martyrs who will be killed “for the word of God, and for the testimony” they bear (6:9–11). But the suffering of Christ’s followers will not be in vain because His kingdom will prevail. Victory is assured.

     The end of Revelation reminds us that the church relates to her King not only as an army engaged in spiritual warfare, but also as a bride preparing for her wedding day. The Lord has chosen us for Himself. At the conclusion of the age, when all of His enemies are defeated, the church of Jesus Christ will be fully cleansed, no longer having the spots, wrinkles, and blemishes that currently mar her beauty (Eph. 5:25–27). On that occasion, all who are in Christ will be presented to the One who died for them and will appear before Him as a bride clothed “with fine linen, bright and pure” at the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:7–9).

     Then our warfare will fully resolve into worship. There will be no complaints, no regrets, and no disappointments. Rather, there will be joyful, unending worship of the God who loved us and gave Himself for us.

     That eternal prospect transforms all who embrace it.

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     Dr. Tom Ascol is senior minister of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., and executive director of Founders Ministries.

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For Glory and Beauty

By R.C. Sproul 2/01/2012

     The week before Christmas, when I was in third grade, my grandmother took me to downtown Pittsburgh so that I could buy gifts for my family and, for the first time in my life, my girlfriend. I wanted to buy something romantic for her, so I selected a small decorative pin. It looked to me as if it was made of gold, but it really wasn’t. However, I was able to have her initials engraved on the pin, and the lady behind the counter gift-wrapped it for me. It made a nice gift, and when I gave it to my girlfriend, she giggled and swooned over it. That must have been a formative experience for me because, all these years later, I still love to give my then girlfriend-but-now-my-wife jewelry.

     It is interesting to me that people of all ages and from all civilizations and cultures are fascinated with jewels and precious metals for no reason other than their beauty. These things are precious to us not because we can eat them or use them as tools, but because they serve as adornments. By their inherent beauty, they enhance human beauty and the work of man’s hands.

     When God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt and led them to Sinai to receive His law, He dictated the building of the tabernacle, the first sanctuary. The instructions for this large, ornate tent are astonishing in their detail. God gave the Israelites precise measurements for each part of the tabernacle and extensive instructions about the materials that were to be used. But even before He gave these instructions, God commanded the Israelites to take up an offering for the sanctuary. Did God instruct the Israelites to give money to buy building materials? Did He tell them to donate canvas and wooden poles for the tent? No, He commanded them to bring very different materials. God said:

     Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. (Ex. 25:2–8)

     It is clear that most, if not all, of these items were not essential for the construction of a functional tent. Obviously, God did not want a tent that was merely functional. He commanded the Israelites to give items that would adorn and beautify the tabernacle.

     Later, God gave similarly detailed instructions for the garments that Aaron would wear as the high priest. In these instructions, God said something very interesting. He commanded Moses: “You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty” (Ex. 28:2). A utilitarian robe for Aaron would not do; God wanted him to minister in garments that were skillfully woven and beautifully adorned. Simply put, the God of heaven and earth is deeply concerned about and appreciative of beauty.

     The Christian faith is like a stool with three legs, but we have a tendency to make our stools with only one or two legs. The three legs that properly belong to the Christian faith, the three elements of the faith, are the good, the true, and the beautiful. It is obvious that God is concerned about goodness, for He is the fountainhead of everything that is good (Gen. 1:31; James 1:17). As His people, we are called to mirror and reflect who He is, which means we are called to reflect the good. Likewise, God is deeply concerned about truth, for He is Himself the essence of truth (Isa. 65:16; John 14:6). Therefore, we are to be people who love and practice truth. Finally, as we have seen, God is highly concerned about that which is beautiful. As we read and study the Scriptures, we have to come to the conclusion that there is an ultimate source of beauty — the character of God. Just as the normative standard for goodness and truth is God, so the ultimate standard of beauty is God, and He is very interested in beauty in His creation.

     However, we often fail to reflect this concern of His. We settle for the utilitarian and the functional in so many aspects of church life when we should be reaching for what is truly beautiful.

     When God built a church, He wanted it to be beautiful. That tells us that whatever we do in the church, we should do it tastefully. The life of the church should be adorned with beauty as a visible expression of our desire to honor God.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

Repairing the Ruins: An Interview with Cal Thomas

By Cal Thomas 2/01/2012

     Tabletalk: Evangelical Christians took center stage in American politics during the years when the Moral Majority was prominent. Was that a good thing or a bad thing for the Church? Why?

     Cal Thomas: As Ed Dobson and I wrote in our 1999 book Blinded by Might, there is no biblical command against believers voting. But followers of Jesus, whose kingdom is not of this world, should not think that having the “right” person in office will somehow restore righteousness to a fallen and sin-infested world. How can a fallen leader repair a fallen society? He (or she) can’t. Only God can do that through changed lives. And lives can be changed only by the transforming power of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it has always been so. As revivals of the past have shown us, the social impact was astounding. So if believers want to see a culture improved (fewer abortions, less drunkenness, fewer divorces, and so on), let their objective be to lead more people to Christ. Those converts will then be “transformed by the renewing of their minds,” and societal transformation will follow. It’s bubble- up, not trickle-down. The problems we face come from our forgetting God and worshipping the golden calf of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. In material things and pleasure we trust, not God. That’s why He gives us over to the consequences of an unrestrained lower nature. Politics can’t redeem us from that.

     TT: How can Christians be involved in the political process with out compromising their principles?

     CT: The entire nation has compromised God’s “principles.” That’s why so few genuine followers of Jesus hold high office. If a majority feared God and thus respected human life and marriage, as just two examples, we wouldn’t have allowed the aborting of more than 50 million babies and wouldn’t be flirting with same-sex “marriage.” The key for a believer who intends to run for office or serve in some other capacity in politics is to realize the limitations of politics and government. God’s power is unlimited. Man’s power is very limited. Too many Christians seem happy to settle for the lesser power because they think it is a shortcut to ratifying their beliefs and seeing them reflected in the public square. That is an illusion. The first thing we learn about Satan is that he is “crafty” or “subtle,” so isn’t it part of his strategy to get us to focus just a little less on Jesus and more on what he is doing? That’s what I would do if I were Satan. You can seduce far more people that way and make them ineffective in promoting God’s kingdom.

     TT: In light of the intense and ongoing partisan war, what helpful perspective could you offer Christians as we attempt to stand for our principles in the public square?

     CT: I once asked John Stott about this. As a reporter for a TV station in Houston, I covered a city council meeting at which zoning was being discussed. The issue was whether to allow “adult” bookstores in a certain neighborhood. A man testified before the council. He quoted from a King James Bible in opposition to the stores. He was mostly ignored. John Stott told me: “God’s principles work whether we acknowledge their source or not.” I took that to mean that the man with the Bible should have argued against the stores on the basis of their effect on the city. These would include a likely increase in crime, a lowering of tax revenue as upscale businesses might move, a greater police presence that would cost the city, and so forth. I think that’s a good strategy for those who actually want to achieve success, particularly with people for whom the Bible is not the authority it is for believers.

     TT: You have a well-known friendship with Bob Beckel, who tends to be more liberal than you politically. What have you learned from him about talking to those with whom we might disagree on many issues?

     CT: Bob sits with me in church (when he is not ministering to alcoholics on a Sunday), and we pray together there and when we travel. Before Bob’s conversion, we used to debate on TV and never change each other’s minds. Since his conversion, Bob has devoured the Bible and now sees many things from the Lord’s perspective. By listening to his story, I have a greater appreciation and respect for him as a man, a father, and a fellow American who loves this country as much as I do. We just sometimes have different approaches to making it better. I have come to understand why he holds many of his views and even embraced some of them, as he has mine. But it begins with a relationship — with God and with each other. Most of us know each other by labels — conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat. We speak of those with whom we disagree as being on “the other side.” Bob isn’t on the other side. The Taliban are on the other side. Bob is my brother in Christ and one of my dearest friends.

     TT: You speak and write on many subjects. For what are you most severely criticized?

     CT: The criticism isn’t always apparent. My wife and I aren’t invited many places. I think some people feel we will ruin a party by hauling out a Bible and preaching. That’s not my style, as those who know me will testify. Columns and commentaries that speak openly about Jesus Christ bring a lot of heat from the pagans and even some “ministers” who tell me Jesus isn’t the only way to heaven. But that is to be expected. If I weren’t being persecuted for the right reasons, I would be denying Jesus, who said I would be persecuted if I seriously followed Him. I don’t know why some believers get upset over persecution. Whatever persecution we experience in America is nothing compared to what believers endure in many other countries.

     TT: How does the current political sphere look in comparison to twentyfive years ago? In what direction do you believe it is currently moving?

     CT: Everything is right on schedule. The newspapers and TV tell of “wars and rumors of wars,” nation rising against nation, and so forth. Jesus said those are just the beginning of “birth pangs.” We haven’t yet started betraying our parents or turning each other in to the authorities. The gospel has yet to be preached to the entire world (though technology now makes that possible). The world is winding down, and while believers might ocassionally be able to slow the process by doing things God’s way (and not through the ballot box — see above), there is nothing anyone can do to reverse the process. We should not despair over this because it means each day brings us closer to that “new heaven and new earth” we all long to see, with the Tree of Life restored. And by the way, that is not fatalism, or giving in, but faith.

     TT: If you were the head of a major news organization, what changes (if any) would you make to the way information is disseminated to the public?

     CT: I’d restore my old show on Fox. Seriously, I would practice real diversity, which most of the media talk about but don’t practice. On important issues, I would make sure there was an honest discussion, with solutions given to problems, not just the shouting matches we often hear on TV. I would make sure that voices other than Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were heard when it comes to issues affecting the black community, and I would do stories on what works. We didn’t just crawl out of a cave and have to invent the wheel and discover fire. We have a history of what works — economically, morally, socially and religiously — and what doesn’t work. I would demand my staff report solutions, not repeat the same tired answers that never solve anything, especially in Washington. That, by the way, is one of the objectives of Bob Beckel’s and my bi-weekly USA Today column called “Common Ground.” I would hire more believers who are both smart and good reporters, thus encouraging more young people to follow me and the few other believers in the media (though there are more than some people think). They would be surprised at how many opportunities they have to reach people who are in great need of hearing that God loves them and has a plan for their lives beyond making money and being famous.

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     Cal Thomas is America’s most widely syndicated op-ed columnist, appearing in more than 500 national newspapers. Thomas is a forty-year veteran of broadcast and print journalism, and has authored more than ten books, including Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That Is Destroying America, co-authored with Bob Beckel. Thomas has worked for NBC, CNBC, PBS television, and the Fox News Channel, where he currently appears on the media critique show Fox News Watch.

Psalm 19 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

     SUBJECT. It would be idle to enquire into the particular period when this delightful poem was composed, for their is nothing in its title or subject to assist us in the enquiry. The heading, "To the Chief Musician, a Psalm of David," informs us that David wrote it, and that it was committed to the Master of the service of song in the sanctuary for the use of the assembled worshippers. In his earliest days the psalmist, while keeping his father's flock, had devoted himself to the study of God's two great books—nature and Scripture; and he had so thoroughly entered into the spirit of these two only volumes in his library that he was able with a devout criticism to compare and contrast them, magnifying the excellency of the Author as seen in both. How foolish and wicked are those who instead of accepting the two sacred tomes, and delighting to behold the same divine hand in each, spend all their wits in endeavouring to find discrepancies and contradictions. We may rest assured that the true "Vestiges of Creation" will never contradict Genesis, nor will a correct "Cosmos" be found at variance with the narrative of Moses. He is wisest who reads both the world-book, and the Word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them, "My Father wrote them both."

DIVISION. This song very distinctly divides itself into three parts, very well described by the translators in the ordinary heading of our version. The creatures show God's glory, 1-6. The word showeth his grace, 7-11. David prayeth for grace, 12-14. Thus praise and prayer are mingled, and he who here sings the work of God in the world without, pleads for a work of grace in himself within.


     Verse 1. "The heavens declare the glory of God." The book of nature has three leaves, heaven, earth, and sea, of which heaven is the first and the most glorious, and by its aid we are able to see the beauties of the other two. Any book without its first page would be sadly imperfect, and especially the great Natural Bible, since its first pages, the sun, moon, and stars, supply light to the rest of the volume, and are thus the keys, without which the writing which follows would be dark and undiscerned. Man walking erect was evidently made to scan the skies, and he who begins to read creation by studying the stars begins the book at the right place.

     The heavens are plural for their variety, comprising the watery heavens with their clouds of countless forms, the aerial heavens with their calms and tempests, the solar heavens with all the glories of the day, and the starry heavens with all the marvels of the night; what the Heaven of heavens must be hath not entered into the heart of man, but there in chief all things are telling the glory of God. Any part of creation has more instruction in it than human mind will ever exhaust, but the celestial realm is peculiarly rich in spiritual lore. The heavens declare, or are declaring, for the continuance of their testimony is intended by the participles employed; every moment God's existence, power, wisdom and goodness, are being sounded abroad by the heavenly heralds which shine upon us from above. He who would guess at divine sublimity should gaze upward into the starry vault; he who would imagine infinity must peer into the boundless expanse; he who desires to see divine wisdom should consider the balancing of the orbs; he who would know divine fidelity must mark the regularity of the planetary motions; and he who would attain some conceptions of divine power, greatness, and majesty, must estimate the forces of attraction, the magnitude of the fixed stars, and the brightness of the whole celestial train. It is not merely glory that the heavens declare, but the "glory of God," for they deliver to us such unanswerable arguments for a conscious, intelligent, planning, controlling, and presiding Creator, that no unpredjudiced person can remain unconvinced by them. The testimony given by the heavens is no mere hint, but a plain, unmistakable declaration; and it is a declaration of the most constant and abiding kind. Yet for all this, to what avail is the loudest declaration to a deaf man, or the clearest showing to one spiritually blind? God the Holy Ghost must illuminate us, or all the suns in the milky way never will.

     "The firmament sheweth his handy-work;" not handy in the vulgar use of that term, but hand-work. The expanse is full of the works of the Lord's skilful, creating hands; hands being attributed to the great creating Spirit to set forth his care and workmanlike action, and to meet the poor comprehension of mortals. It is humbling to find that even when the most devout and elevated minds are desirous to express their loftiest thoughts of God, they must use words and metaphors drawn from the earth. We are children, and must each confess, "I think as a child, I speak as a child." In the expanse above us God flies, as it were, his starry flag to show that the King is at home, and hangs out his escutcheon that atheists may see how he despises their denunciations of him. He who looks up to the firmament and then writes himself down an atheist, brands himself at the same moment as an idiot or a liar. Strange is it that some who love God are yet afraid to study the God-declaring book of nature; the mock-spirituality of some believers, who are too heavenly to consider the heavens, has given colour to the vaunts of infidels that nature contradicts revelation. The wisest of men are those who with pious eagerness trace the goings forth of Jehovah as well in creation as in grace; only the foolish have any fears lest the honest study of the one should injure our faith in the other. Dr. M'Cosh has well said, "We have often mourned over the attempts made to set the works of God against the Word of God, and thereby excite, propagate, and perpetuate jealousies fitted to separate parties that ought to live in closest union. In particular, we have always regretted that endeavours should have been made to depreciate nature with a view of exalting revelation; it has always appeared to us to be nothing else than the degrading of one part of God's work in the hope thereby of exalting and recommending another. Let not science and religion be reckoned as opposing citadels, frowning defiance upon each other, and their troops brandishing their armour in hostile attitude. They have too many common foes, if they would but think of it, in ignorance and prejudice, in passion and vice, under all their forms, to admit of their lawfully wasting their strength in a useless warfare with each other. Science has a foundation, and so has religion; let them unite their foundations, and the basis will be broader, and they will be two compartments of one great fabric reared to the glory of God. Let one be the outer and the other the inner court. In the one, let all look, and admire and adore; and in the other, let those who have faith kneel, and pray, and praise. Let the one be the sanctuary where human learning may present its richest incense as an offering to God, and the other the holiest of all, separated from it by a veil now rent in twain, and in which, on a blood-sprinkled mercy-seat, we pour out the love of a reconciled heart, and hear the oracles of the living God."

     Verse 2. "Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge." As if one day took up the story where the other left it, and each night passed over the wondrous tale to the next. The original has in it the thought of pouring out or welling over, with speech; as though days and nights were but as a fountain flowing evermore with Jehovah's praise. Oh to drink often at the celestial well, and learn to utter the glory of God! The witnesses above cannot be slain or silenced; from their elevated seats they constantly preach the knowledge of God, unawed and unbiased by the judgment of men. Even the changes of alternating night and day are mutely eloquent, and light and shade equally reveal the Invisible One; let the vicissitudes of our circumstances do the same, and while we bless the God of our days of joy, let us also extol him who giveth "songs in the night."

     The lesson of day and night is one which it were well if all men learned. It should be among our day-thoughts and night-thoughts, to remember the flight of time, the changeful character of earthly things, the brevity both of joy and sorrow, the preciousness of life, our utter powerlessness to recall the hours once flown, and the irresistible approach of eternity. Day bids us labour, night reminds us to prepare for our last home; day bids us work for God,and night invites us to rest in him; day bids us look for endless day, and night warns us to escape from everlasting night.

     Verse 3. "There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard." Every man may hear the voices of the stars. Many are the languages of terrestrials, to celestials there is but one, and that one may be understood by every willing mind. The lowest heathen are without excuse, if they do not discover the invisible things of God in the works which he has made. Sun, moon, and stars are God's traveling preachers; they are apostles upon their journey confirming those who regard the Lord, and judges on circuit condemning those who worship idols.

     The margin gives us another rendering, which is more literal, and involves less repetition; "no speech, no words, their voice is not heard;" that is to say, their teaching is not addressed to the ear, and is not uttered in articulate sounds; it is pictorial, and directed to the eye and heart; it touches not the sense by which faith comes, for faith cometh by hearing. Jesus Christ is called the Word, for he is a far more distinct display of Godhead than all the heavens can afford; they are, after all, but dumb instructors; neither star nor sun can arrive at a word, but Jesus is the express image of Jehovah's person, and his name is the Word of God.

     Verse 4. "Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." Although the heavenly bodies move in solemn silence, yet in reason's ear they utter precious teachings. They give forth no literal words, but yet their instruction is clear enough to be so described. Horne says that the phrase employed indicates a language of signs, and thus we are told that the heavens speak by their significant actions and operations. Nature's words are like those of the deaf and dumb, but grace tells us plainly of the Father. By their line is probably meant the measure of their domain which, together with their testimony, has gone out to the utmost end of the habitable earth. No man living beneath the copes of heaven dwells beyond the bounds of the diocese of God's Court- preachers; it is easy to escape from the light of ministers, who are as stars in the right hand of the Son of Man; but even then men, with a conscience yet unseared, will find a Nathan to accuse them, a Jonah to warn them, and an Elijah to threaten them in the silent stars of night. To gracious souls the voices of the heavens are more influential far, they feel the sweet influences of the Pleiades, and are drawn towards their Father God by the bright bands of Orion.

     "In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun." In the heavens the sun encamps, and marches like a mighty monarch on his glorious way. He has no fixed abode, but as a traveler pitches and removes his tent, a tent which will soon be taken down and rolled together as a scroll. As the royal pavilion stood in the centre of the host, so the sun in his place appears like a king in the midst of attendant stars.

     Verse 5. "Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber." A bridegroom comes forth sumptuously apparelled, his face beaming with a joy which he imparts to all around; such, but with a mighty emphasis, is the rising Sun. "And rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race." As a champion girt for running cheerfully addresses himself to the race, so does the sun speed onward with matchless regularity and unwearying swiftness in his appointed orbit. It is but mere play to him; there are no signs of effort, flagging, or exhaustion. No other creature yields such joy to the earth as her bridegroom the sun; and none, whether they be horse or eagle, can for an instant compare in swiftness with that heavenly champion. But all his glory is but the glory of God; even the sun shines in light borrowed from the Great Father of Lights.

"Thou sun, of this great world both eye and soul,
Acknowledge Him thy greater; sound his praise
Both when thou climb'st, and when high noon hast gained,
And when thou fall'st."

     Verse 6. "His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it." He bears his light to the boundaries of the solar heavens, traversing the zodiac with steady motion, denying his light to none who dwell within his range. "And there is nothing hid from the heat thereof." Above, beneath, around, the heat of the sun exercises an influence. The bowels of the earth are stored with the ancient produce of the solar rays, and even yet earth's inmost caverns feel their power. Where light is shut out, yet heat and other more subtle influences find their way.

     There is no doubt a parallel intended to be drawn between the heaven of grace and the heaven of nature. God's way of grace is sublime and broad, and full of his glory; in all its displays it is to be admired and studied with diligence; both its lights and its shades are instructive; it has been proclaimed, in a measure, to every people, and in due time shall be yet more completely published to the ends of the earth. Jesus, like a sun, dwells in the midst of revelation, tabernacling among men in all his brightness; rejoicing, as the Bridegroom of his church, to reveal himself to men; and, like a champion, to win unto himself renown. He makes a circuit of mercy, blessing the remotest corners of the earth; and there are no seeking souls, however degraded and depraved, who shall be denied the comfortable warmth and benediction of his love—even death shall feel the power of his presence, and resign the bodies of the saints, and this fallen earth shall be restored to its pristine glory.

     In the three following verses (7, 8, 9) we have a brief but instructive hexapla containing six descriptive titles of the word, six characteristic qualities mentioned and six divine effects declared. Names, nature, and effect are well set forth.

     Verse 7. "The law of the Lord is perfect;" by which he means not merely the law of Moses but the doctrine of God, the whole run and rule of sacred Writ. The doctrine revealed by God he declares to be perfect, and yet David had but a very small part of the Scriptures, and if a fragment, and that the darkest and most historical portion, be perfect, what must the entire volume be? How more than perfect is the book which contains the clearest possible display of divine love, and gives us an open vision of redeeming grace. The gospel is a complete scheme or law of gracious salvation, presenting to the needy sinner everything that his terrible necessities can possibly demand. There are no redundancies and no omissions in the Word of God, and in the plan of grace; why then do men try to paint this lily and gild this refined gold? The gospel is perfect in all its parts, and perfect as a whole: it is a crime to add to it, treason to alter it, and felony to take from it.

     "Converting the soul." Making the man to be returned or restored to the place from which sin had cast him. The practical effect of the Word of God is to turn the man to himself, to his God, and to holiness; and the turn or conversion is not outward alone, "the soul" is moved and renewed. The great means of the conversion of sinners is the Word of God, and the more closely we keep to it in our ministry the more likely we are to be successful. It is God's Word rather than man's comment on God's Word which is made mighty with souls. When the law drives and the gospel draws, the action is different but the end is one, for by God's Spirit the soul is made to yield, and cries, "Turn me, and I shall be turned." Try men's depraved nature with philosophy and reasoning, and it laughs your efforts to scorn, but the Word of God soon works a transformation.

     "The testimony of the Lord is sure." God bears his testimony against sin, and on behalf of righteousness; he testifies of our fall and of our restoration; this testimony is plain, decided, and infallible, and is to be accepted as sure. God's witness in his Word is so sure that we may draw solid comfort from it both for time and eternity, and so sure that no attacks made upon it however fierce or subtle can ever weaken its force. What a blessing that in a world of uncertainties we have something sure to rest upon! We hasten from the quicksands of human speculations to the terra firma of Divine Revelation.

     "Making wise the simple." Humble, candid, teachable minds receive the word, and are made wise unto salvation. Things hidden from the wise and prudent are revealed unto babes. The persuadable grow wise, but the cavillers continue fools. As a law or plan the Word of God converts, and then as a testimony it instructs; it is not enough for us to be converts, we must continue to be disciples; and if we have felt the power of truth, we must go on to prove its certainty by experience. The perfection of the gospel converts, but its sureness edifies; if we would be edified it becomes us not to stagger at the promise through unbelief, for a doubted gospel cannot make us wise, but truth of which we are assured will be our establishment.

     Verse 8. "The statutes of the Lord are right." His precepts and decrees are founded in righteousness, and are such as are right or fitted to the right reason of man. As a physician gives the right medicine, and a counsellor the right advice, so does the Book of God. "Rejoicing the heart." Mark the progress; he who was converted was next made wise and is now made happy; that truth which makes the heart right then gives joy to the right heart. Free-grace brings heart-joy. Earthborn mirth dwells on the lip, and flushes the bodily powers; but heavenly delights satisfy the inner nature, and fill the mental faculties to the brim. There is no cordial of comfort like that which is poured from the bottle of Scripture.

     "Retire and read thy Bible to be gay."

     "The commandment of the Lord is pure." No mixture of error defiles it, no stain of sin pollutes it; it is the unadulterated milk, the undiluted wine. "Enlightening the eyes," purging away by its own purity the earthly grossness which mars the intellectual discernment: whether the eye be dim with sorrow or with sin, the Scripture is a skilful occulist, and makes the eye clear and bright. Look at the sun and it puts out your eyes, look at the more than sunlight of Revelation and it enlightens them; the purity of snow causes snow-blindness to the Alpine traveller, but the purity of God's truth has the contrary effect, and cures the natural blindness of the soul. It is well again to observe the gradation; the convert becomes a disciple and next a rejoicing soul, he now obtains a discerning eye and as a spiritual man discerneth all things, though he himself is discerned of no man.

     Verse 9. "The fear of the Lord is clean." The doctrine of truth is here described by its spiritual effect, viz., inward piety, or the fear of the Lord; this is clean in itself, and cleanses out the love of sin, sanctifying the heart in which it reigns. Mr. Godly-fear is never satisfied till every street, lane, and alley, yea, and every house and every corner of the town of Mansoul is clean rid of the Diablolonians who lurk therein. "Enduring for ever." Filth brings decay, but cleanness is the great foe of corruption. The grace of God in the heart being a pure principle, is also an abiding and incorruptible principle, which may be crushed for a time, but cannot be utterly destroyed. Both in the Word and in the heart, when the Lord writes, he says with Pilate, "What I have written, I have written;" he will make no erasures himself, much less suffer others to do so. The revealed will of God is never changed; even Jesus came not to destroy but to fulfil, and even the ceremonial law was only changed as to its shadow, the substance intended by it is eternal. When the governments of nations are shaken with revolution, and ancient constitutions are being repealed, it is comforting to know that the throne of God is unshaken, and his law unaltered.

     "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether;"—jointly and severally the words of the Lord are true; that which is good in detail is excellent in the mass; no exception may be taken to a single clause separately, or to the book as a whole. God's judgments, all of them together, or each of them apart, are manifestly just, and need no laborious excuses to justify them. The judicial decisions of Jehovah, as revealed in the law, or illustrated in the history of his providence, are truth itself, and commend themselves to every truthful mind; not only is their power invincible, but their justice is unimpeachable.

     Verse 10. "More to be desired are they than fine gold, yea, than much fine gold." Bible truth is enriching to the soul in the highest degree; the metaphor is one which gathers force as it is brought out;—gold—fine gold—much fine gold; it is good, better, best, and therefore it is not only to be desired with a miser's avidity, but with more than that. As spiritual treasure is more noble than mere material wealth, so should it be desired and sought after with greater eagerness. Men speak of solid gold, but what is so solid as solid truth? For love of gold pleasure is forsworn, ease renounced, and life endangered; shall we not be ready to do as much for love of truth? "Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." Trapp says, "Old people are all for profit, the young for pleasure; here's gold for the one, yea, the finest gold in great quantity; here's honey for the other, yea, live honey dropping from the comb." The pleasures arising from a right understanding of the divine testimonies are of the most delightful order; earthly enjoyments are utterly contemptible, if compared with them. The sweetest joys, yea, the sweetest of the sweetest falls to his portion who has God's truth to be his heritage.

     Verse 11. "Moreover by them is thy servant warned." We are warned by the Word both of our duty, our danger, and our remedy. On the sea of life there would be many more wrecks, if it were not for the divine storm-signals, which give to the watchful a timely warning. The Bible should be our Mentor, our Monitor, our Memento Mori, our Remembrancer, and the Keeper of our Conscience. Alas, that so few men will take the warning so graciously given; none but servants of God will do so, for they alone regard their Master's will. Servants of God not only find his service delightful in itself, but they receive good recompense; "In keeping of them there is great reward." There is a wage, and a great one; though we earn no wages of debt, we win great wages of grace. Saints may be losers for a time, but they shall be glorious gainers in the long run, and even now a quiet conscience is in itself no slender reward for obedience. He who wears the herb called heart's-ease in his bosom is truly blessed. However, the main reward is yet to come, and the word here used hints as much, for it signifies the heel, as if the reward would come to us at the end of life when the work was done;—not while the labour was in hand, but when it was gone and we could see the heel of it. Oh the glory yet to be revealed! It is enough to make a man faint for joy at the prospect of it. Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Then shall we know the value of the Scriptures when we swim in that sea of unutterable delight to which their streams will bear us, if we commit ourselves to them.

     Verse 12. "Who can understand his errors?" A question which is its own answer. It rather requires a note of exclamation than of interrogation. By the law is the knowledge of sin, and in the presence of divine truth, the psalmist marvels at the number and heinousness of his sins. He best knows himself who best knows the Word, but even such an one will be in a maze of wonder as to what he does not know, rather than on the mount of congratulation as to what he does know. We have heard of a comedy of errors, but to a good man this is more like a tragedy. Many books have a few lines of errata at the end, but our errata might well be as large as the volume if we could but have sense enough to see them. Augustine wrote in his older days a series of Retractations; ours might make a library if we had enough grace to be convinced of our mistakes and to confess them. "Cleanse thou me from secret faults." Thou canst mark in me faults entirely hidden from myself. It were hopeless to expect to see all my spots; therefore, O Lord, wash away in the atoning blood even those sins which my conscience has been unable to detect. Secret sins, like private conspirators, must be hunted out, or they may do deadly mischief; it is well to be much in prayer concerning them. In the Lateran Council of the Church of Rome, a decree was passed that every true believer must confess his sins, all of them, once a year to the priest, and they affixed to it this declaration, that there is no hope of pardon but in complying with that decree. What can equal the absurdity of such a decree as that? Do they suppose that they can tell their sins as easily as they can count their fingers? Why, if we could receive pardon for all our sins by telling every sin we have committed in one hour, there is not one of us who would be able to enter heaven, since, besides the sins that are known to us and that we may be able to confess, there are a vast mass of sins, which are as truly sins as those which we lament, but which are secret, and come not beneath our eye. If we had eyes like those of God, we should think very differently of ourselves. The transgressions which we see and confess are but like the farmer's small samples which he brings to market, when he has left his granary full at home. We have but a very few sins which we can observe and detect, compared with those which are hidden from ourselves and unseen by our fellow-creatures.

     Verse 13. "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me." This earnest and humble prayer teaches us that saints may fall into the worst of sins unless restrained by grace, and that therefore they must watch and pray lest they enter into temptation. There is a natural proneness to sin in the best of men, and they must be held back as a horse is held back by the bit or they will run into it. Presumptuous sins are peculiarly dangerous. All sins are great sins, but yet some sins are greater than others. Every sin has in it the very venom of rebellion, and is full of the essential marrow of traitorous rejection of God; but there be some sins which have in them a greater development of the essential mischief of rebellion, and which wear upon their faces more of the brazen pride which defies the Most High. It is wrong to suppose that because all sins will condemn us, that therefore one sin is not greater than another. The fact is, that while all transgression is a greatly grievous and sinful thing, yet there are some transgressions which have a deeper shade of blackness, and a more double scarlet-dyed hue of criminality than others. The presumptuous sins of our text are the chief and worst of all sins; they rank head and foremost in the list of iniquities. It is remarkable that though an atonement was provided under the Jewish law for every kind of sin, there was this one exception: "But the soul that sinneth presumptuously shall have no atonement; it shall be cut off from the midst of the people." And now under the Christian dispensation, although in the sacrifice of our blessed Lord there is a great and precious atonement for presumptuous sins, whereby sinners who have erred in this manner are made clean, yet without doubt, presumptuous sinners, dying without pardon, must expect to receive a double portion of the wrath of God, and a more terrible portion of eternal punishment in the pit that is digged for the wicked. For this reason is David so anxious that he may never come under the reigning power of these giant evils. "Then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression." He shudders at the thought of the unpardonable sin. Secret sin is a stepping-stone to presumptuous sin, and that is the vestibule of "the sin which is unto death." He who is not wilful in his sin, will be in a fair way to be innocent so far as poor sinful man can be; but he who tempts the devil to tempt him is in a path which will lead him from bad to worse, and from the worse to the worst.

     Verse 14. "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer." A sweet prayer, and so spiritual that it is almost as commonly used in Christian worship as the apostolic benediction. Words of the mouth are mockery if the heart does not meditate; the shell is nothing without the kernel; but both together are useless unless accepted; and even if accepted by man, it is all vanity if not acceptable in the sight of God. We must in prayer view Jehovah as our strength enabling, and our Redeemer saving, or we shall not pray aright, and it is well to feel our personal interest so as to use the word my, or our prayers will be hindered. Our near Kinsman's name, our Goel or Redeemer, makes a blessed ending to the Psalm; it began with the heavens, but it ends with him whose glory fills heaven and earth. Blessed Kinsman, give us now to meditate acceptably upon thy most sweet love and tenderness.

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 StudentsThe 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).

1 Samuel 5-6; Romans 5; Jeremiah 43; Psalm 19

By Don Carson 8/15/2018

     God is never amused at being treated with contempt, nor by having his explicit instructions ignored or defied. For then he would not be God.

     God is well able to defend himself. In 1 Samuel 5-6, the unfolding account can be as restrained as it is precisely because it is as obvious to the reader as it was to the Philistines that God himself is behind the tragic illnesses and deaths they were suffering. The surprises began with the capsizing of their fish god, Dagon. It soon spread to a plague of rats, an epidemic of tumors, multiplying deaths — and not only in the city of Ashdod, to which the ark of the covenant was first taken, but in other cities to which it was transported — Gath and Ekron. Panic ensued.

     But at the end of the day, all the phenomena the Philistines were experiencing could have been natural. That’s not what they thought, of course; but still, it was difficult to be sure. So the Philistine priests concoct a test so much against nature that should the test succeed, the people will be convinced that what they are suffering comes from the hand of “Israel’s god” (1 Sam. 6:5, 7-9). The cows are separated from their calves and draw along the cart to Beth Shemesh, on the Israelite side: God himself plays along with their superstitions and their fears.

     While the Israelites rejoice at the return of the ark of the covenant, “God struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they had looked into the ark of the LORD” (1 Sam. 6:19). There is no reason to think this happened instantaneously. If one had peeked into it and been struck down immediately, others would have been pretty quickly discouraged from doing so. There is no hint that a blinding and consuming light swept out of the opened box and melted the flesh off people, like some sort of ancient Harrison Ford film. Rather, seventy men from Beth Shemesh looked into the ark (which of course was strictly forbidden under pain of death), and doubtless saw what was there: the tablets of stone (apparently the pot of old manna and Aaron’s rod that budded had disappeared, perhaps removed by the Philistines). Then the deaths started, all premature, by whatever means — and the only commonality was that they were occurring among men who had looked into the ark. “Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God?” the people ask (1 Sam. 6:22) — not intending to learn the ways of holiness, but to get rid of the ark — precisely the same pattern as in the pagan cities.

     God will not be treated with contempt, nor forever permit his covenant people to ignore his words.

Click here to go to source

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

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 89

I Will Sing of the Steadfast Love of the LORD
89 A Maskil Of Ethan The Ezrahite.

1 I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever;
with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
2 For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;
in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
3 You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
4 ‘I will establish your offspring forever,
and build your throne for all generations.’ ” Selah

5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD,
your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
6 For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD?
Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD,
7 a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones,
and awesome above all who are around him?
8 O LORD God of hosts,
who is mighty as you are, O LORD,
with your faithfulness all around you?
9 You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, you still them.
10 You crushed Rahab like a carcass;
you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
11 The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours;
the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.

ESV Study Bible

  • Jewish Jesus Divorce
  • Narrative in Preaching
  • Jewish Jesus Sabbath

#1 John P. Meier  
Yale University Divinity School


#2 Thomas G. Long   
Yale University Divinity School


#3 John P. Meier   
Yale University Divinity School


  Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     10/1/2016    Truth and True Peace

     On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He did so for the sake of the peace, purity, and unity of the church. His first thesis called the church to genuine and continual repentance, and among his last theses he called the church to true peace through Christ. Luther wasn’t a rebellious schismatic who sought to lead a revolt against Rome; he was an ardent herald and defender of the gospel who, due to his obstinate and unwavering faithfulness, drew Rome’s ire in the midst of its revolt against the truth, the gospel, and the true church. Luther wasn’t a divider, he was a peacemaker. For there to be true peace and true unity, there must first be truth, and truth divides before it can unite. Truth must conquer before it can liberate. Luther did not divide the church—Rome divided the church by infusing the church with the false doctrines of men. The Reformers didn’t leave Rome—Rome left them by leaving the truth, the gospel, and the church. The Reformers sought reform in Rome, and in return, Rome sought their heads. Rome divided the true church from the false church and kicked out the true church.

     The forerunners of the Reformation (such as Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, and Jan Hus) and the Magisterial Reformers of the sixteenth century (such as Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, and John Calvin) are rightly called Reformers, but they were Reformers in the most basic sense of the word. They sought reform in order to bring the church back to her original form. For something to be reformed, there must first be the form itself—and the form the Reformers sought was the original form of the church found in the only infallible guide for faith and life, namely, Scripture, and Scripture alone. Ultimately, the Reformers were not seeking to change the nature of the church, but to call the church back to her biblical identity and to who she must be in order to be the true church.

     The Reformers wanted peace, but not at the expense of truth, as Luther cried, “Peace if possible, but truth at all costs.” True peace only comes through true repentance. In calling Rome to repentance, Luther didn’t set out to divide the church but to unite the church and bring about real peace by proclaiming the truth. True peace is found only in the truth of Jesus Christ, and thus real peace and unity can only exist where truth reigns. The true church knows the truth, and the truth sets us free (John 8:32). And when we are free in Christ, we will also seek the truth and, in turn, the peace, purity, and unity of the church for the glory of God alone, soli Deo gloria.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     He conquered from Austria to Palestine, Holland to Egypt. He uncovered the Pyramid treasures and the Rosetta Stone. He sold a million square miles of land to U.S. to raise money for his army. His name was Napoleon Bonaparte, born this day, August 15, 1769. Though emperor for life, disasters in Russia and later Waterloo led to his banishment to the Island of Saint Helena. There Napoleon wrote: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires… upon force!… Christ founded His upon love; and at this hour millions… would die for Him.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Scratch the Christian
and you find the pagan - spoiled.
--- Israel Zangwill

Through the humbling dispensations of Divine Providence,
men are sometimes fitted for his service.
John Woolman's Journal

If your religion does not make you holy, it will damn you. It is simply painted pageantry to go to hell in.
--- Charles Spurgeon

He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.
The Complete Works of John Bunyan: With an Introduction (Classic Reprint)

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     12. Now the besieged had plenty of corn within the city, and indeed of all necessaries, but they wanted water, because there was no fountain in the city, the people being there usually satisfied with rain water; yet is it a rare thing in that country to have rain in summer, and at this season, during the siege, they were in great distress for some contrivance to satisfy their thirst; and they were very sad at this time particularly, as if they were already in want of water entirely, for Josephus seeing that the city abounded with other necessaries, and that the men were of good courage, and being desirous to protract the siege to the Romans longer than they expected, ordered their drink to be given them by measure; but this scanty distribution of water by measure was deemed by them as a thing more hard upon them than the want of it; and their not being able to drink as much as they would made them more desirous of drinking than they otherwise had been; nay, they were as much disheartened hereby as if they were come to the last degree of thirst. Nor were the Romans unacquainted with the state they were in, for when they stood over against them, beyond the wall, they could see them running together, and taking their water by measure, which made them throw their javelins thither the place being within their reach, and kill a great many of them.

     13. Hereupon Vespasian hoped that their receptacles of water would in no long time be emptied, and that they would be forced to deliver up the city to him; but Josephus being minded to break such his hope, gave command that they should wet a great many of their clothes, and hang them out about the battlements, till the entire wall was of a sudden all wet with the running down of the water. At this sight the Romans were discouraged, and under consternation, when they saw them able to throw away in sport so much water, when they supposed them not to have enough to drink themselves. This made the Roman general despair of taking the city by their want of necessaries, and to betake himself again to arms, and to try to force them to surrender, which was what the Jews greatly desired; for as they despaired of either themselves or their city being able to escape, they preferred a death in battle before one by hunger and thirst.

     14. However, Josephus contrived another stratagem besides the foregoing, to get plenty of what they wanted. There was a certain rough and uneven place that could hardly be ascended, and on that account was not guarded by the soldiers; so Josephus sent out certain persons along the western parts of the valley, and by them sent letters to whom he pleased of the Jews that were out of the city, and procured from them what necessaries soever they wanted in the city in abundance; he enjoined them also to creep generally along by the watch as they came into the city, and to cover their backs with such sheep-skins as had their wool upon them, that if any one should spy them out in the night time, they might be believed to be dogs. This was done till the watch perceived their contrivance, and encompassed that rough place about themselves.

     15. And now it was that Josephus perceived that the city could not hold out long, and that his own life would be in doubt if he continued in it; so he consulted how he and the most potent men of the city might fly out of it. When the multitude understood this, they came all round about him, and begged of him not to overlook them while they entirely depended on him, and him alone; for that there was still hope of the city's deliverance, if he would stay with them, because every body would undertake any pains with great cheerfulness on his account, and in that case there would be some comfort for them also, though they should be taken: that it became him neither to fly from his enemies, nor to desert his friends, nor to leap out of that city, as out of a ship that was sinking in a storm, into which he came when it was quiet and in a calm; for that by going away he would be the cause of drowning the city, because nobody would then venture to oppose the enemy when he was once gone, upon whom they wholly confided. 16. Hereupon Josephus avoided letting them know that he was to go away to provide for his own safety, but told them that he would go out of the city for their sakes; for that if he staid with them, he should be able to do them little good while they were in a safe condition; and that if they were once taken, he should only perish with them to no purpose; but that if he were once gotten free from this siege, he should be able to bring them very great relief; for that he would then immediately get the Galileans together, out of the country, in great multitudes, and draw the Romans off their city by another war. That he did not see what advantage he could bring to them now, by staying among them, but only provoke the Romans to besiege them more closely, as esteeming it a most valuable thing to take him; but that if they were once informed that he was fled out of the city, they would greatly remit of their eagerness against it. Yet did not this plea move the people, but inflamed them the more to hang about him. Accordingly, both the children and the old men, and the women with their infants, came mourning to him, and fell down before him, and all of them caught hold of his feet, and held him fast, and besought him, with great lamentations, that he would take his share with them in their fortune; and I think they did this, not that they envied his deliverance, but that they hoped for their own; for they could not think they should suffer any great misfortune, provided Josephus would but stay with them.

     17. Now Josephus thought, that if he resolved to stay, it would be ascribed to their entreaties; and if he resolved to go away by force, he should be put into custody. His commiseration also of the people under their lamentations had much broken that his eagerness to leave them; so he resolved to stay, and arming himself with the common despair of the citizens, he said to them, "Now is the time to begin to fight in earnest, when there is no hope of deliverance left. It is a brave thing to prefer glory before life, and to set about some such noble undertaking as may be remembered by late posterity." Having said this, he fell to work immediately, and made a sally, and dispersed the enemies' out-guards, and ran as far as the Roman camp itself, and pulled the coverings of their tents to pieces, that were upon their banks, and set fire to their works. And this was the manner in which he never left off fighting, neither the next day, nor the day after it, but went on with it for a considerable number of both days and nights.

          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 22:29
     by D.H. Stern

29     Do you see a man skilled at his work?
He will serve kings, not obscure people.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)

Mushrooms On The Moor
     by Frank W. Boreham

     VII | LILY

     I was once advised to write a novel. I scouted the suggestion at the time; I scout it still. If you write a novel, you run a great risk. One of these days somebody may read it—you never know what queer things people may do nowadays. And if somebody should read it, your secret is out, and the paucity of your imagination stands grimly exposed. No, I shall not write a novel, although this article will be something in the nature of a novelette. For I have found a heroine, and many a full-blown novelist, having found a heroine, would consider that he had come upon a novel ready made. My heroine is Lily; and Lily—to break the news gently—was a pig. I say was advisedly, for Lily is dead, and therein lies the pathos of my story. And so I have my heroine, and I have my story, and I have my strong suffusion of sentiment all ready to my hand; and really, I feel half inclined to write my novel after all. But let me state the facts—for which I am prepared to vouch—and then it will be time enough to see if we can weave them into a great and classical romance.

     Away on the top of a hill, in a rural district of Tasmania, there stands a quaint little cottage. Down the slopes around, and away along the distant valleys, are great belts of virgin bush. But here on the hill is our quaint little cottage, and in or about the cottage you will find a quaint little couple. They may not be able to discuss the latest aspects of the Balkan question, or the Irish crisis, or the Mexican embroglio; but they can discuss questions that are very much older and that are likely to last very much longer. For they can discuss fowls and sheep and pigs; and, depend upon it, fowls and sheep and pigs were discussed long before the Balkan question was dreamed of, and fowls and sheep and pigs will be discussed long after the Balkan question is forgotten. And so the old couple make you feel ashamed of your simpering superficiality; you are amazed that you can have grown so excited about the things of a moment; and you blush for your own ignorance of the things that were and are and shall be. Yes, John and Mary can discuss fowls, for they have a dozen of them, and they call each bird by name. Whilst poor Mary's back was turned for a moment the rooster flew on to the table.

     'Really, Tom, you naughty boy!' she cried, on discovering the outrage. 'I am ashamed of you!' And to impress the whole feathered community with the enormity of the offence, she proceeded to drive them all out of the kitchen.

     'Go on, Lucie,' she cried, a note of sadness betraying itself in her voice in spite of her assumed severity. 'Go on, Lucie,' and she flapped her apron to show that she meant it, much as an advancing army might defiantly flutter its flag. 'Go on; and you too, Minnie; and Nellie, and Kate, and Nancie; you must all go! It was a dreadful thing to do; I don't know what you were thinking of, Tom!' I said that John and Mary could discuss sheep; but their flock was a very limited one, for it consisted entirely of Birdie, the pet lamb. I cannot tell—probably through some defect in my imagination—why they called him 'Birdie,' nor, for the matter of that, why they called him a lamb. I can imagine that he may have been a lamb once; but of feathers I could discover no trace at all. Yes, after all, these are prosaic details, and only show how incompetent a novelist I should prove to be. I grovel when I ought to soar. John and Mary were very fond of Birdie, and Birdie was very fond of them. He came trotting up when he was called, wagging his long tail as though it were proof positive that he was still a lamb. It was scarcely a triumph of logic on Birdie's part, and yet it was just about as good as the artistic subterfuges by which lots of us try to convince the world and his wife that we are still in the charming stage of lamb-like simplicity. And then there was Lily.

     The old couple were very fond of Lily. How carefully they made her bed on cold nights! How considerately they fed her on boiled potatoes, skim milk, and other wondrous delicacies! She, too, came shambling up whenever she heard her name, and, with a grunt, acknowledged their bounty. 'Dear old Lily,' poor Mary exclaimed fervently, as Lily lifted her snout to be rubbed, and looked with queer, piggish eyes into those of her doting mistress.

     Yes, Lily was a pig, but she was none the worse for that; and if any ridiculous person objects to my taking a pig for my heroine, I shall take offence and write no more novels. Lily, I repeat, was none the worse for being a pig. And I am sure that John and Mary were none the worse for loving her. It is always safe to love, for if you love that which cannot profit by your love, your love comes back to you, like Noah's dove, and you yourself are none the poorer. But I am not at all sure that affection was wasted on Lily. Why should it be? There is no disgrace in being born a pig. It did not even show bad taste on Lily's part, for Lily was not asked. She came; and found, on arrival, that she was what men called a pig; and as a pig she performed her part so well that those who knew her grew very fond of her. What more can the best of us do? And, after all, why this squeamishness? Why this revulsion of feeling when I announce that my heroine is a pig? I aver that it is a species of snobbery—a very contemptible species of snobbery. Booker Washington used to declare that a high-grade Berkshire boar, or a Poland China sow, is one of the finest sights on this planet. And one of our own philosophers has gone into rhapsodies over the pig. 'Pigs,' he says, 'always seem to me like a fallen race that has seen better days. They are able, intellectual, inquisitive creatures. When they are driven from place to place, they are not gentle or meek, like cows and sheep, who follow the line of least resistance. The pig is suspicious and cautious; he is sure that there is some uncomfortable plot on foot, not wholly for his good, which he must try to thwart if he can. Then, too, he never seems quite at home in his deplorably filthy surroundings; he looks at you, up to the knees in ooze, out of his little eyes as if he would live in a more cleanly way if he were permitted. Pigs always remind me of the mariners of Homer, who were transformed by Circe; there is a dreadful humanity about them, as if they were trying to endure their base conditions philosophically, waiting for their release.' All this I entreat my critic to lay well to heart before he judges me too severely for selecting Lily as my heroine.

     I suppose the truth is, if only my supercilious critics could be trusted to tell the whole truth, that Lily is not good-looking enough for them. But that, again, is all a question of taste. Beauty is relative and not absolute. My critics may themselves be at fault. The real trouble may be, not want of comeliness in Lily, but a sad lack of appreciation in themselves. I notice that the champion Yorkshire sow at the Sydney Show this year was Mr. E. Jenkins' 'Queen of Beauty'; and as I gazed upon her photograph and noted her alluring name, I thought once more of Lily and laughed in my sleeve at my critics. I once spent a week with an old Lincolnshire gentleman at Kirwee, in New Zealand; and almost before I had been able to bolt the meal that awaited my arrival, he begged me to come and see the pigs. And at the very first animal to which we came my happy host rubbed his hands in an ecstasy of pride, whilst his eyes fairly sparkled. 'Bean't he a beauty?' he asked me excitedly. And I answered confidently that he was. I could see at a glance that the pig was a beauty to him; and if he was a beauty to him, he was a beauty, and there remained no more to be said. I remember reading a story of two ministers who met beneath the hospitable roof of an old-fashioned English farm-house. One of them no sooner approached the table than he uttered an exclamation of delight. Picking up one of the cups, he spoke of the wonderful beauty of the china. He held the plates up to the light and asked the others to see how thin they were, and went into ecstasies over the wondrous old china that had been in the farm-house for many generations. The other took little interest in his talk, and could not be aroused to enthusiasm over the china; but when the farmer took out of his cupboard some old books, one of which was a black-letter commentary, he became excited. He turned the pages over lovingly, and pointed to the quaint initials, and became eloquent over their beauties. The farmer thought both men silly. Neither the china nor the books seemed precious to him. 'What a heap o' nonsense ye be talking surely,' he said. 'Now if ye want to see something worth seeing, come along o' me, and I'll show you the finest litter o' pigs in the country.'

     I know, of course, that, beaten at every other point, my critics will take their stand on dietetic grounds. 'How can you have a pig for your heroine?' they will ask, with their noses turned up in disgust. 'See what a pig eats!' Now I confess that this objection did appear to me to be serious until I went into the matter a little more carefully. Before abandoning poor Lily, and consigning her to everlasting obscurity, it seemed to me that I owed it to her, as a matter of common gallantry, to investigate this charge. An author has no more right than any other man to toy with feminine affections; and having pledged myself to Lily as my heroine, I dared not commit a breach of promise, save on most serious grounds. Into this matter of Lily's diet I therefore plunged, with results that have surprised myself. I find that Lily is the most fastidious of eaters. Experiments made in Sweden show that, out of 575 plants, the goat eats 449, and refuses 126; the sheep, out of 528 plants, eats 387, and refuses 141; the cow, out of 494 plants, eats 276, and refuses 218; the horse, out of 474 plants, eats 262, and refuses 212; whilst the pig, out of 243 plants, eats 72, and refuses 171. From all these fiery ordeals my heroine, therefore, emerges triumphant, and her critics cut a sorry figure. Theirs is the melancholy fate of all those who will insist on judging from appearances. It is the oldest mistake in the world, and it is certainly the saddest. Many, like Lily, have been judged hastily and falsely, and, as in Lily's case, the evil thought has clung to them as though it were a charge established, and under that dark cloud they have lived shadowed and embittered lives. Half the pathos of the universe lies just there.

     One thing affords me unbounded pleasure. If I take Lily for my heroine after all, I shall be following a noble precedent—Michael Fairless, in The Roadmender, did something very much like it. 'In early spring,' she says, 'I took a long tramp. Towards afternoon, tired and thirsty, I sought water at a little lonely cottage. Bees worked and sang over the thyme and marjoram in the garden; and in a homely sty lived a solemn black pig, a pig with a history. It was no common utilitarian pig, but the honoured guest of the old couple who lived there; and the pig knew it. A year before, their youngest and only surviving child, then a man of five-and-twenty, had brought his mother the result of his savings in the shape of a fine young pig. A week later he lay dead of the typhoid. Hence the pig was sacred, cared for, and loved by this Darby and Joan.

     '"'E be mos' like a child to me and the mother, an' mos' as sensible as a Christian, 'e be," the old man said.'

     What a world of illusion this is, to be sure! It takes a good pair of eyes to see through its good-humoured trickery. You see a pig turning this way and that way as he wanders aimlessly about the yard, and you never dream of romance. And yet that pig is none other than Lily! You see another pig in a commonplace sty, and you never dream of pathos; but old Joan wipes a tear from her eye with her apron when she remembers how that pig came into her possession. There is a world of poetry in pig-sties. Yes, and pathos, too, of its kind. For, as I said, Lily is dead. It was this way.

     John and Mary are not rich; and a pig is a pig.

     'What about Lily, Mary?' John asked awkwardly one day. 'You see, Mary, she's got to die. If we keep her, she'll die. And if we sell her, she'll only die. If we keep her, Mary, she may die of some disease, and we shall see her in pain. If we sell her, she will die suddenly, and feel no pain. And then, Mary,' he continued slowly, as though afraid to introduce so prosaic an aspect of so pathetic a theme, 'and then, Mary, if she dies here, look at the loss, for Lily's a pig, you know! And if we sell her, look at the gain! And with part of the money we can get another pet, and be just as fond of it.'

     There were protests and there were tears, but Lily went to market.

     Awhile afterwards John came home from the city with a parcel. 'Mary,' he said hesitatingly, 'I've brought ye home a bit o' Lily! I thought I'd like to see how she'd eat.'

     Next morning at breakfast they neither of them ate heartily, but they both tasted. There is food that is too sacred for a glut of appetite.

     'Ah, well,' said John, at last, 'those who eat Lily will none of them say anything but good of her, that's one comfort.'

     And Mary went silently off to see if she could find another.

     This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org

Mushrooms on the Moor

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Signs of the new birth

     Ye must be born again. --- John 3:7.

     The answer to the question “How can a man be born when he is old?” is—When he is old enough to die—to die right out to his ‘rag rights,’ to his virtues, to his religion, to everything, and to receive into himself the life which never was there before. The new life manifests itself in conscious repentance and unconscious holiness.

     “As many as received Him.” (John 1:12.) Is my knowledge of Jesus born of internal spiritual perception, or is it only what I have learned by listening to others? Have I something in my life that connects me with the Lord Jesus as my personal Saviour? All spiritual history must have a personal knowledge for its bedrock. To be born again means that I see Jesus.

     “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3.) Do I seek for signs of the Kingdom, or do I perceive God’s rule? The new birth gives a new power of vision whereby I begin to discern God’s rule. His rule was there all the time, but true to His nature; now that I have received His nature, I can see His rule.

     “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin,”
(1 John 3:9.) Do I seek to stop sinning or have I stopped sinning? To be born of God means that I have the supernatural power of God to stop sinning. In the Bible it is never—Should a Christian sin? The Bible puts it emphatically—A Christian must not sin. The effective working of the new birth life in us is that we do not commit sin, not merely that we have the power not to sin, but that we have stopped sinning. 1 John 3:9 does not mean that we cannot sin; it means that if we obey the life of God in us, we need not sin.

My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

     the Poetry of RS Thomas


There were people around;
  I would have spoken with them.
  But the situation had got beyond
  Language. Machines were invented
  To cope, but they also were limited
  By our expectations. Men stared
  With a sort of growing resentment
  At life that was ubiquitous and
  Unseizable. A sense of betrayal
  At finding themselves alive at all
  Maddened the young; the older,
  Following the narrowing perspectives
  Of art, squinted at where a god died.
  Between fierce alternatives
  There was need as always of a third
  Way. History was the proliferation
  Of the offerers of such. Fortunes were made
  On the ability to disappoint.


Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Exodus 21:18–19

     BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 21:18–19 / When men quarrel and one strikes the other with stone or fist, and he does not die but has to take to his bed—if he then gets up and walks outdoors on his staff, the assailant shall go unpunished, except that he must pay for his idleness and his cure.

     MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 30, 17 / Rabbi Shimon says, “There are many warnings written here, as it says, ‘When men quarrel and one strikes the other.’ No good thing, and no peace, ever come from arguing. Cain slew his brother only because of an argument, ‘And one strikes the other with stone or fist.’ God adds a warning here, as it says, ‘if he then gets up and walks outdoors.’

     Why is [the name] ‘God/Elohim’ mentioned in each case? Because the creatures are steeped in the Evil Urge, as it says, ‘Since the devisings of man’s mind are evil from his youth’ (
Genesis 8:21). If the Holy One, praised is He, were to swallow up the Evil Urge, everyone would come under His wings. And the Holy One, praised is He, would then put it [the Evil Urge] to death. You will find that the Evil Urge is what causes humans to sin, and it [the Evil Urge] is the one who slays him, as it says, ‘They make their own laws and rules’ (Habakkuk 1:7). Therefore, the Holy One, praised is He, warns us about the rules in the Torah, as it says, ‘These are the rules’ (Exodus 21:1). The Holy One, praised is He, said, ‘Observe the rule in this world, and I will save you from the rule of Geihinnom.’ ”

     CONTEXT / Noting the many laws and regulations in this chapter, Rabbi Shimon says, “There are many warnings written here, and he focuses on one of them, as it says, ‘When men quarrel and one strikes the other.’ ” Rabbi Shimon comments that no good thing, and no peace, ever come from arguing. As proof, he cites the example of Cain and Abel, where Cain slew his brother only because of an argument. In the Genesis story, Cain becomes jealous of his brother. The Rabbis assume that some argument ensued and that Cain slew Abel as a result of this quarrel. Thus, the verse in
Exodus 21 is applied by the Rabbis directly to Cain and Abel: “And one strikes the other with a stone or fist.” The Rabbis interpret the verse to mean even more than a prohibition against murder: God adds a warning here, as it says, “if he then gets up and walks outdoors.” Even if you do not kill him but only hit the person, and he is still able to walk around, you will still have to compensate him for his injury.

     Why is [the name] “God/Elohim,” the divine appellation that the Rabbis associated with justice, mentioned in each case, that is, in so many of the criminal cases cited in
Exodus 21–22? The name Elohim usually means God, but in these cases, we know from the context that the word means human judges. Why, then, is Elohim used, rather than a more common word, shofetim, for judges? Because the creatures are steeped in [שְׁטוּפִים/shetufim] the Evil Urge, as it says, “Since the devisings of man’s mind are evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). In choosing the word שְׁטוּפִים/shetufim, “steeped in,” the Rabbis are setting up a wordplay: שְׁטוּפִים/shetufim sounds like שׁוֹפְטִים/shofetim, “judges.” This play on letters serves to make a point: Since human beings are inherently inclined to do evil, human judges alone might not be sufficient to assure justice in the world. Therefore, the Bible uses the word Elohim when it means judges to tell us that God is an integral part of the judicial process.

     The Rabbis do not answer the implied question, “Why doesn’t God simply destroy the Evil Urge?” Instead, they focus on our part in the equation: Humans die because of their own sins, and “it,” the Evil Urge, slays “him,” man, for those sins. As it says, “They make their own laws and rules” (
Habakkuk 1:7). Those who make their own laws—as opposed to following God’s rules—cause their own demise. Therefore, the Holy One, praised is He, warns us about the rules in the Torah, as it says, “These are the rules”
Exodus 21:1). The Holy One, praised is He, said, “Observe the rule in this world, and I will save you from the rule of Geihinnom,” the place, according to the Rabbis, where the wicked are punished after death.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 15

     By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to beknown as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He choseto be mistreated along with the people of God ratherthan to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ asof greater value than the treasures of Egypt,because he was looking ahead to his reward.
--- Hebrews 11:24–26.

     As though [the writer of Hebrews] said, “No one of you has left a palace… nor such treasures, nor, when you might have been a king’s son, have you despised this, as Moses did.” (The Early Church Fathers--Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series: 14 Volumes (The Early Church Fathers, First Series , So14)) And that he did not simply leave, [the writer] expressed by saying, he “refused,” that is, he hated, he turned away. For when heaven was set before him, it was needless to admire an Egyptian palace.

     And [the writer] did not say Moses regarded heaven and the things in heaven of greater value than the treasures of Egypt but—what? Disgrace for the sake of Christ he counted better than being at ease, and this itself was reward.

     “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” He called unwillingness to be mistreated with the rest “sin.” If then he counted it sin not to be ready to be mistreated with the rest, it follows that suffering must be a great good, since he threw himself into it from the royal palace.

     But this he did seeing some great things before him. “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ of greater value than the treasures of Egypt.” What is “disgrace for the sake of Christ”? It is being disgraced in such ways as that [which] Christ endured, or that [which Moses] endured for Christ’s sake. It is disgrace for the sake of Christ when you are reproached by those of your own family or by those whom you are benefiting.

     In these words [the writer of Hebrews] encouraged [his readers], by showing that even Christ suffered these things, and Moses also, two illustrious persons. But neither did the one send forth lightning nor the other feel any [anger], but he was reviled and endured all things. Since therefore it was probable that [the readers] also would bear such things and would long for the reward, [the writer] says that even Christ and Moses had suffered the like. So then ease is [the reward] of sin, but to be disgraced, of Christ. For what then do you wish? Disgrace for the sake of Christ, or ease?
--- John Chrysostom

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

On This Day
     My Victory  August 15

     Rev. William Anderson of Philadelphia’s North United Presbyterian Church saw a boy dart into a grocery store. He followed him, asking, “Where do you go to Sabbath school?” Nine-year-old Robert McQuilkin replied, “Nowhere.” Anderson invited him. “And I can promise you a wonderful teacher, too,” he added. “William Parker. He has a fine class of boys.”

     At age 12, Robert united with the church, saying, “When I grow up I am going to be a minister; the Lord wants me.” But as a teen, he grew dissatisfied with his Christian experience. Though active among his church’s youth, he wrestled with anxiety and doubt. On Christmas Eve, 1904, he wrote, “Have come much closer to Christ, advanced spiritually but not near enough.” He entered the University of Pennsylvania and the following summer took time to attend a missionary conference on the New Jersey coast. The speaker, Dr. Charles Trumbull, shared his testimony, admitting that there had been great fluctuations in his own spiritual life. But he had discovered that “the resources of the Christian life, my friends, are just—Jesus Christ. That is all. But that is enough.”

     McQuilkin sought out Trumbull, the two talked, and on August 15, 1911, McQuilkin entered a prayer room. There came to me this impression: I am going into that room, and I do not want to come out before this matter is settled, and I have taken Christ as my Victory for daily living.

     McQuilkin knelt and consciously surrendered every sector of his life to Christ—his sins, his “doubtful things,” his doubts, his loved ones, his fiancée, his past failures, his future. When I finished, I had no special emotion, and I saw no vision. But it did seem for the first time consciously in my life that there were just two persons in the universe—my Lord and I, and nothing else mattered except the will of that other person.

     For the next 40 years, the Holy Spirit flowed through McQuilkin like rivers of living water—and out of his ministry came Columbia Bible College/Columbia International University in South Carolina, today one of the great Christian and missionary training centers on earth.

     Every child of God can defeat the world, and our faith is what gives us this victory. No one can defeat the world without having faith in Jesus as the Son of God. ---
1 John 5:4,5.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 15

     “Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide.” --- Genesis 24:63.

     Very admirable was his occupation. If those who spend so many hours in idle company, light reading, and useless pastimes, could learn wisdom, they would find more profitable society and more interesting engagements in meditation than in the vanities which now have such charms for them. We should all know more, live nearer to God, and grow in grace, if we were more alone. Meditation chews the cud and extracts the real nutriment from the mental food gathered elsewhere. When Jesus is the theme, meditation is sweet indeed. Isaac found Rebecca while engaged in private musings; many others have found their best beloved there.

     Very admirable was the choice of place. In the field we have a study hung round with texts for thought. From the cedar to the hyssop, from the soaring eagle down to the chirping grasshopper, from the blue expanse of heaven to a drop of dew, all things are full of teaching, and when the eye is divinely opened, that teaching flashes upon the mind far more vividly than from written books. Our little rooms are neither so healthy, so suggestive, so agreeable, or so inspiring as the fields. Let us count nothing common or unclean, but feel that all created things point to their Maker, and the field will at once be hallowed.

     Very admirable was the season. The season of sunset as it draws a veil over the day, befits that repose of the soul when earthborn cares yield to the joys of heavenly communion. The glory of the setting sun excites our wonder, and the solemnity of approaching night awakens our awe. If the business of this day will permit it, it will be well, dear reader, if you can spare an hour to walk in the field at eventide, but if not, the Lord is in the town too, and will meet with thee in thy chamber or in the crowded street. Let thy heart go forth to meet him.

          Evening - August 15

     “And I will give you an heart of flesh.” --- Ezekiel 36:26.

     A heart of flesh is known by its tenderness concerning sin. To have indulged a foul imagination, or to have allowed a wild desire to tarry even for a moment, is quite enough to make a heart of flesh grieve before the Lord. The heart of stone calls a great iniquity nothing, but not so the heart of flesh.

     “If to the right or left I stray,
     That moment, Lord, reprove;
     And let me weep my life away,
     For having grieved thy love”

     The heart of flesh is tender of God’s will. My Lord Will-be-will is a great blusterer, and it is hard to subject him to God’s will; but when the heart of flesh is given, the will quivers like an aspen leaf in every breath of heaven, and bows like an osier in every breeze of God’s Spirit. The natural will is cold, hard iron, which is not to be hammered into form, but the renewed will, like molten metal, is soon moulded by the hand of grace. In the fleshy heart there is a tenderness of the affections. The hard heart does not love the Redeemer, but the renewed heart burns with affection towards him. The hard heart is selfish and coldly demands, “Why should I weep for sin? Why should I love the Lord?” But the heart of flesh says; “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee; help me to love thee more!” Many are the privileges of this renewed heart; “’Tis here the Spirit dwells, ’tis here that Jesus rests.” It is fitted to receive every spiritual blessing, and every blessing comes to it. It is prepared to yield every heavenly fruit to the honour and praise of God, and therefore the Lord delights in it. A tender heart is the best defence against sin, and the best preparation for heaven. A renewed heart stands on its watchtower looking for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Have you this heart of flesh?

Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

Amazing Grace
     August 15


     Adelaide A. Pollard, 1862–1934

     Yet, O Lord, you are our Father, We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

     An elderly woman at a prayer meeting one night pleaded, “It really doesn’t matter what you do with us, Lord, just have your way with our lives.” At this meeting was Adelaide Pollard, a rather well-known itinerant Bible teacher who was deeply discouraged because she had been unable to raise the necessary funds for a desired trip to Africa to do missionary service. She was moved by the older woman’s sincere and dedicated request of God.

     At home that Evening Miss Pollard meditated on Jeremiah 18:3, 4:

     Then I went down to the potter’s house, and behold, he wrought a work on the wheels, and the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

     Before retiring that Evening, Adelaide Pollard completed the writing of all four stanzas of this hymn as it is sung today. The hymn first appeared in published form in 1907.

     Often into our lives come discouragements and heartaches that we cannot understand. As children of God, however, we must learn never to question the ways of our sovereign God—but simply to say:

     Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
     Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
     Mold me and make me after Thy will,
     while I am waiting, yielded and still.
     Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
     Search me and try me, Master, today!
     Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
     as in Thy presence humbly I bow.
     Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
     Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
     Power, all power, surely is Thine!
     Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!
     Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
     Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
     Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
     Christ only, always, living in me!

     For Today: Psalm 27:14; Romans 6:13, 14; 9:20, 21; Galatians 2:20

     Breathe this ancient prayer: “I am willing, Lord, to receive what Thou givest, to lack what Thou withholdest, to relinquish what Thou takest, to surrender what Thou claimest, to suffer what Thou ordainest, to do what Thou commandest, to wait until Thou sayest ‘Go.’ ” Reflect on these words again as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock


     The notion of the sovereignty of God bears the same date with the notion of his Godhead; and by the same way that he reveals himself, he reveals his authority over us: whether it be by creatures without, or conscience within. All authority over rational creatures consists in commanding and directing: the duty of rational creatures in compliance with that authority consists in obeying. Where there is therefore a careless neglect of those means which convey the knowledge of God’s will and our duty, there is an utter disowning of God as our Sovereign and our rule.

     (2.) When any part of the mind and will of God breaks in upon men, they endeavor to shake it off: as a man would a sergeant that comes to arrest him, “they like not to retain God in their knowledge” (Rom. 1:28). “A natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God;” that is, into his affection; he pusheth them back as men do troublesome and importunate beggars: they have no kindness to bestow upon it: they thrust with both shoulders against the truth of God, when it presseth in upon them; and dash as much contempt upon it as the Pharisees did upon the doctrine our Saviour directed against their covetousness. As men naturally delight to be without God in the world, so they delight to be without any offspring of God in their thoughts. Since the spiritual palate of man is depraved, divine truth is unsavory and ungrateful to us, till our taste and relish is restored by grace: hence men damp and quench the motions of the Spirit to obedience and compliance with the dictates of God; strip them of their life and vigor, and kill them in the womb. How unable are our memories to retain the substance of spiritual truth; but like sand in a glass, put in at one part and runs out at the other! Have not many a secret wish, that the Scripture had never mentioned some truths, or that they were blotted out of the Bible, because they face their consciences, and discourage those boiling lusts they would with eagerness and delight pursue? Methinks that interruption John gives our Saviour when he was upon the reproof of their pride, looks little better than a design to divert him from a discourse so much against the grain, by telling him a story of their prohibiting one to cast out devils, because he followed not them. How glad are men when they can raise a battery against a command of God, and raise some smart objection whereby they may shelter themselves from the strictness of it!

     (3.) When men cannot shake off the notices of the will and mind of God, they have no pleasure in the consideration of them; which could not possibly be, if there were a real and fixed design to own the mind and law of God as our rule. Subjects or servants that love to obey their prince and master, will delight to read and execute their orders. The devils understand the law of God in their minds, but they loathe the impressions of it upon their wills: those miserable spirits are bound in chains of darkness, evil habits in their wills, that they have not a thought of obeying that law they know. It was an unclean beast under the law that did not chew the cud: it is a corrupt heart that doth not chew truth by meditation. A natural man is said not to know God, or the things of God; he may know them nationally, but he knows them not affectionately. A sensual soul can have no delight in a spiritual law. To be sensual and not to have the Spirit are inseparable (Jude 19). Natural men may indeed meditate upon the law and truth of God, but without delight in it; if they take any pleasure in it, it is only as it is knowledge, not as it is a rule; for we delight in nothing that we desire, but upon the same account that we desire it. Natural men desire to know God and some part of his will and law, not out of a sense of their practical excellency, but a natural thirst after knowledge: and if they have a delight, it is in the act of knowing, not in the object known, not in the duties that stream from that knowledge; they design the furnishing their understandings, not the quickening their affections,—like idle boys that strike fire, not to warm themselves by the heat, but sport themselves with the sparks; whereas a gracious soul accounts not only his meditation, or the operations of his soul about God and his will to be sweet, but he hath a joy in the object of that meditation. Many have the knowledge of God, who have no delight in him or his will. Owls have eyes to perceive that there is a sun, but by reason of the weakness of their sight have no pleasure to look upon a beam of it: so neither can a man by nature love, or delight in the will of God, because of his natural corruption. That law that riseth up in men for conviction and instruction, they keep down under the power of corruption; making their souls not the sanctuary, but prison of truth (Rom. 1:18). They will keep it down in their hearts, if they cannot keep it out of their heads, and will not endeavor to know and taste the spirit of it.

     (4.) There is, further, a rising and swelling of the heart against the will of God. 1st. Internal. God’s law cast against a hard heart, is like a ball thrown against a stone wall, by reason of the resistance rebounding the further from it; the meeting of a divine truth and the heart of man, is like the meeting of two tides, the weaker swells and foams. We have a natural antipathy against a divine rule, and therefore when it is clapped close to our consciences, there is a snuffing at it, high reasonings against it, corruption breaks out more strongly: as water poured on lime sets it on fire by an antiperistasis, and the more water is cast upon it, the more furiously it burns; or as the sunbeams shining upon a dunghill make the steams the thicker, and the stench the noisomer, neither being the positive cause of the smoke in the lime, or the stench in the dunghill, but by accident the causes of the eruption: (Rom. 7:8), “But sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence, for without the law sin was dead.” Sin was in a languishing posture, as if it were dead, like a lazy garrison in a city, till, upon an alarm from the adversary, it takes arms, and revives its courage; all the sin in the heart gathers together its force to maintain its standing, like the vapors of the night, which unite themselves more closely to resist the beams of the rising sun. Deep conviction often provokes fierce opposition; sometimes disputes against a divine rule end in blasphemies: (Acts 13:45), “contradicting and blaspheming” are coupled together. Men naturally desire things that are forbidden, and reject things commanded, from the corruption of nature, which affects an unbounded liberty, and is impatient of returning under that yoke it hath shaken off, and therefore rageth against the bars of the law, as the waves roar against the restraint of a bank. When the understanding is dark, and the mind ignorant, sin lies as dead; “A man scarce knows he hath such motions of concupiscence in him, he finds not the least breath of wind, but a full calm in his soul; but when he is awakened by the law, then the viciousness of nature being sensible of an invasion of its empire, arms itself against the divine law, and the more the command is urged, the more vigorously it bends its strength, and more insolently lifts up itself against it;” he perceives more and more atheistical lusts than before; “all manner of concupiscence,” more leprous and contagious than before. When there are any motions to turn to God, a reluctancy is presently perceived; atheistical thoughts bluster in the mind like the wind, they know not whence they come, nor whither they go; so unapt is the heart to any acknowledgment of God as his ruler, and any re-union with him. Hence men are said to resist the Holy Ghost (Acts 7:51), to fall against it, as the word signifies, as a stone, or any ponderous body falls against that which lies in its way: they would dash to pieces, or grind to powder that very motion which is made for their instruction, and the Spirit too which makes it, and that not from a fit of passion, but an habitual repugnance; “Ye always resist,” &c. 2d. External. It is a fruit of atheism in the fourth verse of this Psalm, “Who eat up my people as they eat bread.” How do the revelations of the mind of God meet with opposition! and the carnal world like dogs bark against the shining of the moon; so much men hate the light, that they spurn at the lanthorns that bear it; and because they cannot endure the treasure, often fling the earthen vessels against the ground wherein it is held. If the entrance of truth render the market worse for Diana’s shrines, the whole city will be in an uproar. When Socrates upon natural principles confuted the heathen idolatry, and asserted the unity of God, the whole cry of Athens, a learned university, is against him; and because he opposed the public received religion, though with an undoubted truth, he must end his life by violence. How hath every corner of the world steamed with the blood of those that would maintain the authority of God in the world! The devil’s children will follow the steps of their father, and endeavor to bruise the heel of divine truth, that would endeavor to break the head of corrupt lust.

     (5.) Men often seem desirous to be acquainted with the will of God, not out of any respect to his will, and to make it their rule, but upon some other consideration. Truth is scarce received as truth. There is more of hypocrisy than sincerity in the pale of the church, and attendance on the mind of God. The outward dowry of a religious profession, makes it often more desirable than the beauty. Judas was a follower of Christ for the bag, not out of any affection to the divine revelation. Men sometime pretend a desire to be acquainted with the will of God, to satisfy their own passions, rather than to conform to God’s will; the religion of such is not the judgment of the man, but the passion of the brute. Many entertain a doctrine for the person’s sake, rather than a person for the doctrine’s sake, and believe a thing because it comes from a man they esteem, as if his lips were more canonical than Scripture. The Apostle implies in the commendation he gives the Thessalonians, that some receive the word for human interest, not as it is in truth the word and will of God to command and govern their consciences by its sovereign authority; or else they have the “truth of God” (as St. James speaks of the faith of Christ) “with respect of persons;” and receive it not for the sake of the fountain, but of the channel; so that many times the same truth delivered by another, is disregarded, which, when dropping from the fancy and mouth of a man’s own idol, is cried up as an oracle. This is to make not God, but man the rule; for though we entertain that which materially is the truth of God, yet not formally as his truth, but as conveyed by one we affect; and that we receive a truth and not an error, we owe the obligation to the honesty of the instrument, and not to the strength and clearness of our own judgment. Wrong considerations may give admittance to an unclean, as well as a clean beast into the ark of the soul. That which is contrary to the mind of God, may be entertained, as well as that which is agreeable. It is all one to such that have no respect to God, what they have, as it is all one to a sponge to suck up the foulest water or the sweetest wine, when either is applied to it.

     (6). Many that entertain the notions of the will and mind of God, admit them with unsettled and wavering affections. There is a great levity in the heart of man. The Jews that one day applaud our Saviour with hosannahs as their king, vote his crucifixion the next, and use him as a murderer. We begin in the Spirit, and end in the flesh. Our hearts, like lute-strings, are changed with every change of weather, with every appearance of a temptation; scarce one motion of God in a thousand prevails with us for a settled abode. It is a hard task to make a signature of those truths upon our affections, which will with ease pass current with our understandings; our affections will as soon lose them, as our understandings embrace them. The heart of man is “unstable as water.” Some were willing to rejoice in John’s light, which reflected a lustre on their minds; but not in his heat, which would have conveyed a warmth to their hearts; and the light was pleasing to them but for a season, while their corruptions lay as if they were dead, not when they were awakened. Truth may be admitted one day, and the next day rejected; as Austin saith of a wicked man, he loves the truth shining, but he hates the truth reproving. This is not to make God, but our own humor, our rule and measure.

     (7.) Many desire an acquaintance with the law and truth of God, with a design to improve some lust by it; to turn the word of God to be a pander to the breach of his law. This is so far from making God’s will our rule, that we make our own vile affections the rule of his law. How many forced interpretations of Scripture have been coined to give content to the lusts of men, and the vine rule forced to bend, and be squared to men’s loose and carnal apprehensions! It is a part of the instability or falseness of the heart, to “wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction;” which they could not do, if they did not first wring them to countenance some detestable error or filthy crime. In Paradise the first interpretation made of the first law of God, was point blank against the mind of the Lawgiver, and venomous to the whole race of mankind. Paul himself feared that some might put his doctrine of grace to so ill a use, as to be an altar and sanctuary to shelter their presumption (Rom. 6:1, 15): “Shall we then continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Poisonous consequences are often drawn from the sweetest truths; as when God’s patience is made a topic whence to argue against his providence, or an encouragement to commit evil more greedily; as though because he had not presently a revenging hand, he had not an all-seeing eye or when the doctrine of justification by faith is made use of to depress a holy life; or God’s readiness to receive returning sinners, an encouragement to defer repentance till a death-bed. A liar will hunt for shelter in the reward God gave the midwives that lied to Pharaoh for the preservation of the males of Israel, and Rahab’s saving the spies by false intelligence. God knows how to distinguish between grace and corruption, that may lie close together; or between some thing of moral goodness and moral evil, which may be mixed; we find their fidelity rewarded, which was a moral good; but not their lie approved, which was a moral evil. Nor will Christ’s conversing with sinners, be a plea for any to thrust themselves into evil company. Christ conversed with sinners, as a physician with diseased persons, to cure them, not approve them; others with profligate persons, to receive infection from them, not to communicate holiness to them. Satan’s children have studied their father’s art, who wanted not perverted Seripture to second his temptations against our Saviour. How often do carnal hearts turn divine revelation to carnal ends, as the sea fresh water into salt! As men subject the precepts of God to carnal interests, so they subject the truths of God to carnal fancies. When men will allegorize the word, and make a humorous and crazy fancy the interpreter of divine oracles, and not the Spirit speaking in the word; this is to enthrone our own imaginations as the rule of God’s law, and depose his law from being the rule of our reason; this is to rifle truth of its true mind and intent. ’Tis more to rob a man of his reason, the essential constitutive part of man, than of his estate; this is to refuse an intimate acquaintance with his will. We shall never tell what is the matter of a precept, or the matter of a promise, if we impose a sense upon it contrary to the plain meaning of it; thereby we shall make the law of God to have a distinct sense according to the variety of men’s imaginations, and so make every man’s fancy a law to himself. Now that this unwillingness to have a spiritual acquaintance with divine truth is a disowning God as our rule, and a setting up self in his stead, is evident; because this unwillingness respects truth.

The Existence and Attributes of God

The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. CXVIII. — BUT let us dispatch these hobgoblins of glosses, and take Isaiah’s words as they are. “The people (he saith) is grass.” “People” does not signify flesh merely, or the infirm condition of human nature, but it comprehends every thing that there is in people — the rich, the wise, the just, the saints. Unless you mean to say, that the pharisees, the elders, the princes, the nobles, and the rich men, were not of the people of the Jews! The “flower of grass” is rightly called their glory, because it was in their kingdom, their government, and above all, in the law, in God, in righteousness, and in wisdom, that they gloried: as Paul shews, Rom. ii.iii. and ix.

     When, therefore, Isaiah saith, “All flesh,” what else does he mean but all “grass,” or, all “people?” For he does not say “flesh” only, but “all flesh.” And to “people” belong soul, body, mind, reason, judgment, and whatever is called or found to be most excellent in man. For when he says “all flesh is grass,” he excepts nothing but the spirit which withereth it. Nor does he omit any thing when he says, “the people is grass.” Speak, therefore, of “Free-will,” speak of anything that can be called the highest or the lowest in the people, — Isaiah calls the whole “flesh and grass!” Because, those three terms “flesh,” “grass,” and “people,” according to his interpretation who is himself the writer of the book, signify in that place, the same thing.

     Moreover, you yourself affirm, that the wisdom of the Greeks and the righteousness of the Jews which were withered by the Gospel, were “grass” and “the flower of grass.” Do you then think, that the wisdom which the Greeks had was not the most excellent? and that the righteousness which the Jews wrought was not the most excellent? If you do, shew us what was more excellent. With what assurance then is it, that you, Philip-like, flout and say,

     - “If any one shall contend, that that which is most excellent in the nature of man, is nothing else but “flesh;” that is, that it is impious, I will agree with him, when he shall have proved his assertion by testimonies from the Holy Scripture?” —

     You have here Isaiah, who cries with a loud voice that the people, devoid of the Spirit of the Lord, is “flesh;” although you will not understand him thus. You have also your own confession, where you said, (though unwittingly perhaps), that the wisdom of the Greeks was “grass,” or the glory of grass; which is the same thing as saying, it was “flesh.” — Unless you mean to say, that the wisdom of the Greeks did not pertain to reason, or to the EGEMONICON, as you say, that is, the principal part of man. If, therefore, you will not deign to listen to me, listen to yourself; where, being caught in the powerful trap of truth, you speak the truth.

     You have moreover the testimony of John, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John iii. 6). You have, I say, this passage, which makes it evidently manifest, that what is not born of the Spirit, is flesh: for if it be not so, the distinction of Christ could not subsist, who divides all men into two distinct divisions, “flesh” and “spirit.” This passage you floutingly pass by, as if it did not give you the information you want, and betake yourself somewhere else, as usual; just dropping as you go along an observation, that John is here saying, that those who believe are born of God, and are made the sons of God, nay, that they are gods, and new creatures. You pay no regard, therefore, to the conclusion that is to be drawn from this division, but merely tell us at your ease, what persons are on one side of the division: thus confidently relying upon your rhetorical maneuver, as though there were no one likely to discover an evasion and dissimulation so subtlely managed.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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