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Judges 16     Acts 20     Jeremiah 29     Mark 15


Judges 16

Samson and Delilah

Judges 16 1 Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. 2 The Gazites were told, “Samson has come here.” And they surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. They kept quiet all night, saying, “Let us wait till the light of the morning; then we will kill him.” 3 But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron.

4 After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.” 6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you.”

7 Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9 Now she had men lying in ambush in an inner chamber. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he snapped the bowstrings, as a thread of flax snaps when it touches the fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.

10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Behold, you have mocked me and told me lies. Please tell me how you might be bound.” 11 And he said to her, “If they bind me with new ropes that have not been used, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 12 So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And the men lying in ambush were in an inner chamber. But he snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread.

13 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me how you might be bound.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web and fasten it tight with the pin, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 14 So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his head and wove them into the web. And she made them tight with the pin and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep and pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web.

15 And she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies.” 16 And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. 17 And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.”

18 When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up again, for he has told me all his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands. 19 She made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. 20 And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. 21 And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison. 22 But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.

The Death of Samson

23 Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.” 25 And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. 26 And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained.

28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. 30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. 31 Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had judged Israel twenty years.


Acts 20

Paul in Macedonia and Greece

Acts 20 1 After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. 3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews[a] as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 4 Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.

Eutychus Raised from the Dead

7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. 9 And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” 11 And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. 12 And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.

13 But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. 15 And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and[b] the day after that we went to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.

Paul Speaks to the Ephesian Elders

17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them:

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.[c] 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by[d] the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,[e] which he obtained with his own blood.[f] 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.


Jeremiah 29

Jeremiah's Letter to the Exiles

Jeremiah 29 1 These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem. 3 The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It said: 4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,[a] 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.

10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

15 “Because you have said, ‘The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,’ 16 thus says the Lord concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your kinsmen who did not go out with you into exile: 17 ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, behold, I am sending on them sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like vile figs that are so rotten they cannot be eaten. 18 I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, and will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, a terror, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, 19 because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the Lord, that I persistently sent to you by my servants the prophets, but you would not listen, declares the Lord.’ 20 Hear the word of the Lord, all you exiles whom I sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon: 21 ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying a lie to you in my name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall strike them down before your eyes. 22 Because of them this curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon: “The Lord make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire,” 23 because they have done an outrageous thing in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors' wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the Lord.’”

Shemaiah's False Prophecy

24 To Shemaiah of Nehelam you shall say: 25 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You have sent letters in your name to all the people who are in Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying, 26 ‘The Lord has made you priest instead of Jehoiada the priest, to have charge in the house of the Lord over every madman who prophesies, to put him in the stocks and neck irons. 27 Now why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth who is prophesying to you? 28 For he has sent to us in Babylon, saying, “Your exile will be long; build houses and live in them, and plant gardens and eat their produce.”’”

29 Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the hearing of Jeremiah the prophet. 30 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 31 “Send to all the exiles, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord concerning Shemaiah of Nehelam: Because Shemaiah had prophesied to you when I did not send him, and has made you trust in a lie, 32 therefore thus says the Lord: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah of Nehelam and his descendants. He shall not have anyone living among this people, and he shall not see the good that I will do to my people, declares the Lord, for he has spoken rebellion against the Lord.’”


Mark 15

Jesus Delivered to Pilate

Mark 15 1 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified

6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. 9 And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Jesus Is Mocked

16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

The Crucifixion

21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

The Death of Jesus

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

40 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

Jesus Is Buried

42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

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Holding the Line: An Interview with R. Albert Mohler Jr.

By Albert Mohler 4/01/2011

     Tabletalk: In 1993, shortly after your appointment as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, there was substantial faculty fallout and a sharp move in an orthodox direction. Would you give us a glimpse into that time for you and how a seminary could do an about-face in such a short span of time?

     Albert Mohler: My election as president of Southern Seminary came in the course of a larger movement within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) — a movement that was specifically an attempt to bring the denomination back to its theological roots and especially to ground the denomination and its schools in a very clear affirmation of biblical inerrancy. The seminaries of the SBC had drifted considerably to the left over the previous half-century to the point that, in many ways, they were almost indistinguishable from mainline Protestant institutions. My election in 1993 did not occur in a vacuum. It was very much a part of this effort, and everyone knew what was at stake. I think I was elected, at least in part, because I had a very clear plan for how to bring a theological correction to an institution like Southern Seminary, the mother seminary of our denomination. It would be costly, it would be controversial, and it would be extremely difficult. But the only way to reform an academic institution and to bring it back to a clear affirmation of biblical orthodoxy was to make clear that we were a confessional institution that held to those doctrinal parameters.

     It was indeed a very difficult time. The controversy and the conflict were, in human terms, almost unbearable, but it was clear to those who love biblical truth that it would be far better for the institution to die than for it to continue in the direction that it had been headed for several decades. Those of us who undertook this task understood it was a great risk, but we also understood that it simply had to be done. Institutions move left progressively, inch by inch. They move in a more liberal direction compromise by compromise. But you cannot correct an institution the same way. Confessional integrity is not something that can be accommodated to a progressive timeline. There is no way to say, “We are tolerating less and less heresy and false teaching.” If confessional integrity is to mean anything, it must stand as an absolute standard. For that reason, we went through five or six years of very intense controversy, and on the other side of it, we were able, by God’s grace, to emerge with a very clear confessional identity. We have a faculty of incredible scholars who are committed to teach within our confessional statement, and thousands of students have come to Southern knowing exactly where we stand.

     TT: In what ways can the church better prepare its members to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century?

     AM: For far too long, evangelical churches have simply assumed that it is our task to give our church members a basic level of biblical knowledge, to create opportunities for Christian fellowship, and to encourage parents in the Christian nurture of their children. But what we have failed to understand is that Christians in the twenty-first century are being thrown into a world in which just a little bit of Bible knowledge is simply not going to be enough. Simply having positive fellowship and nurturing experiences in the church and in the Christian family will not be enough. The church must prepare people to be able to think Christianly in a world where the intellectual rules have fundamentally changed. They are going to have to learn to be faithful in terms of everyday decision-making, in terms of profound moral questioning, and in terms of political, economic, and cultural issues. It is not that the church needs to be constantly talking about the culture; rather, it is that with the cultural challenge around us, we need to be talking more and more about the Bible and coming to a deeper understanding of the Scriptures. The church must equip its members to be deeply biblical so that the theological mode of thinking is something that comes naturally to believers. Such Christians will be saturated with biblical truth, sustained by the life of the congregation, and encouraged into faithfulness by the communion of the saints.

     TT: To what extent do you expect the church to influence the state, and vice versa, in this fallen world (i.e., what are the healthy parameters of this relationship)?

     AM: God clearly has a purpose for both the church and the state, even in a fallen world. The purpose of the church is eternal. God’s intended purpose for the state is temporal. The state has a responsibility to uphold justice and to create the set of conditions for an orderly civic life, but the modern state finds itself now exhausted by attempting to do far more than these things. The state has encroached upon the domain of the family and the roles of mediating institutions — those institutions between the individual and the state. The state increasingly threatens even the autonomy of the church and the freedom of the church to fulfill its ministry.

     I believe that the church must influence the state insofar as the church has the opportunity to bear witness to the gospel and the totality of biblical truth. That is to say, the church must produce Christians who, in a Romans 13 sense, are properly related to the state as agents for gospel influence. I do not expect that in a fallen world the state will submit itself to the church, but I am far more concerned that the church not submit itself to the state. Though the church’s relationship to the state must always be one of respect, the church must fulfill a prophetic role, understanding the church’s eternal responsibility as the people of God over against the state’s temporal responsibility. Healthy parameters of that relationship include Christian citizens understanding that their faithfulness to Christ supersedes their identification with the state, their allegiance to the state, and commitments that may be demanded by the state. The parameters of a proper Christian citizenship are established by gospel priorities and by the teaching of Scripture. Jesus made clear that we are to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. But Christ was also very clear in setting limitations upon the things that Caesar could claim.

     Over the history of the Christian church, there have been many lamentable moments of the church’s persecution by the state. But the more ignominious and disastrous moments are when the church has been servile to the state.

     TT: Although there are many, is there one lesson the Lord has taught you that you would care to share with us?

     AM: I think the one great lesson the Lord has taught me over these years is that the importance of the family and the local congregation supersedes every other relationship to which the Christian is called. Christians demonstrate the glory of God and the power of the gospel by the way we marry and stay married, by the way we raise our children, by the way we love each other, and by the way we live faithfully in the congregation of believers. In the end, I fear that far too much energy is devoted to and far too many hopes are invested in institutions, programs, and projects that will not last. The centrality of Christ’s purpose to glorify himself in His church and the blessings of God that are directed to the precious gift of the family — these far exceed our other allegiances.

     TT: What project(s) are you working on currently?

     AM: I am walking around with a set of ongoing writing projects, with top priority given to a book on the doctrine of creation, entitled Maker of Heaven and Earth. Two other projects include a book on Christians and social media and a book on leadership. These matters form the urgent part of my current writing. I am also working through longer-term projects on the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and a vision for Christian higher education. The reality is that my projects almost never turn out exactly as I intended because of what, humanly speaking, I might define as interruptions, but understood in terms of God’s providence are redirections of my energy and attention. In the end, these projects are always stronger because of those interventions.

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Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to his presidential duties, Mohler hosts Thinking in Public, an interview forum about frontline theological and cultural matters; and The Briefing, which seeks to enable Christians to think biblically about current events. He has served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches and came to the presidency of Southern Seminary from service as editor of The Christian Index, the oldest of the state papers serving the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Mohler has served in several offices in the SBC, including a term as chairman of the Committee on Resolutions, which is responsible for the denomination’s official statements on moral and doctrinal issues. In 2000, Dr. Mohler served on a panel that made recommendations to the SBC for revisions to the Baptist Faith and Message, the statement of faith most widely held among Southern Baptists. He currently serves as chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council of Seminary Presidents.

Albert Mohler Books:

The Victory Parade We Don’t Deserve

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/01/2011

     Though I didn’t think such was possible, my esteem for both my father and the Bible took a rather sudden spike. I was blessed to be sitting in a seminary class, while he stood, teaching. He mentioned, almost in passing, this notion that rocked my world. “Some scholars,” he said (and by the way he said it I had a strong suspicion that he was one of those scholars), “believe that the ‘man’ Joshua met outside the wall of Jericho was a pre-incarnate manifestation of the second person of the Trinity, a christophany.” I was blown away as he went on to make the case. He encouraged us to remember that Joshua bowed and worshiped. Had he been with an angel from God, the angel would have forbidden such worship. That the being received the worship made the case.

     That the Father sent the Son further sanctified an already holy moment, as Joshua prepared for the first battle for the Promised Land. Better still, however, was the conversation itself. Joshua, you will remember, had only recently replaced Moses as the leader of God’s people. The wandering in the wilderness had come to an end. The Jordan had been crossed, and now between God’s people and the land stood Jericho and its impenetrable walls. Wouldn’t you have been frightened? Confused? Would you not have felt the weight of every brick in that wall on your back as you took up the mantle of leadership? In the midst of this turmoil, Joshua found himself facing a “man.” Joshua neither rashly attacked, nor did he shrink back. Instead, he asked what seems to us an utterly fitting question: “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”(Josh. 5:13).

     God the Son did not come, however, merely to honor the occasion. Neither was His goal merely to bring the victory. He came instead to sanctify His servant, to give Joshua the right perspective. To Joshua’s either/or question, God the Son replied, “No.” Just as Jesus would befuddle the Pharisees as they sought to trap Him with their questions, here He befuddles us. No? What does that mean? He then continued, “but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” He explained to Joshua this most fundamental truth: “The question, Joshua, is not whether or not I am on your side or theirs. The question is whether or not you are on My side.”

     Whether at war or at peace, in want or in plenty, whatever our circumstances, this is the question we all face each day. Indeed, when Jesus spoke from the Mount, He made much the same point. He did so because we, like Joshua, need to learn the same point. Like Joshua, we look at our obstacles in fear and confusion. Will we be able to win this struggle at work? Will we be able to tame this challenge in our homes? Will we be able to overcome this obstacle at our church? And in our prayer lives, as we meet with our Father, through God the Son, we ask — sometimes in hope, other times in despair — whether He is with us, whether He will come to our aid and win the battle for us. And in His grace and terrible sovereign power and authority, He tells us, “No.”

     God is not a witness to history, choosing sides and cheering His favorites on. God is Lord of history, moving history forward as what it is — His story. God’s grace to us isn’t that He sides with us, but that He has put enmity in our hearts against the Serpent and his seed. God’s grace isn’t that He fights for us but that He, by the power of the Holy Spirit, gives us life so that we might fight for Him.

     When Jesus tells us to stop worrying about what we will eat and what we will wear, reminding us that the Gentiles worry about such things, He, naturally, reasons in the same manner. His message isn’t “Don’t sweat it — God is for you. He’ll come to your aid to make sure you get what you want. God is on your side.” Instead, the command is not to worry about these things — our own interests and agenda — because we are called to passionately pursue the interests and agenda of the kingdom of God. He tells us, “No, but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” The Truth, the Wisdom, the Word — He does not change and neither does His message to us. What He spoke to Joshua, He speaks to us.

     Christ speaks the same message in both the Old and New Testaments because He is speaking to the same people — those who by faith are His. That He is Captain of the army of the Lord is grace to Joshua and grace to us because by the same grace we are made soldiers in that army. The same grace in turn ensures the victory. He is our Captain. He, not Joshua, brings down the walls of Jericho. He, not Joshua, brings His people into the Land of Promise. He, not Joshua, storms the very gates of hell. He, not Joshua, takes captivity captive. He, not Joshua, is Lord of lords and King of kings. And we, because He loves us, march in the victory parade with Him.

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

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Anselm

By R.C. Sproul 5/01/2011

     Anselm held the position of archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109. A Benedictine monk, philosopher, and theologian, he stands as one of the most significant thinkers in the history of the Western church.

     His influence is not due to the sheer volume of his writings but to his ability to expound profound subjects biblically and thoughtfully in just a few words. In general, the assumption exists that to make a significant contribution to the body of literature that shapes scholarly thought requires the production of massive tomes. Anselm’s impact completely overthrows this notion.

     His thought has had far-reaching consequences, even to this day. Anselm, more than any of the other thinkers of antiquity, plumbed the depths of the substitutionary, satisfaction view of the atonement. In his book Cur Deus Homo: Why God Became Man (Why the Godman?), he saw the work of Christ on the cross as an act of propitiation by which Jesus satisfied the demands of God’s justice. Neither the Devil nor human desires were satisfied, but God Himself. Neither was the wrath of God satisfied so much as His justice, which Anselm defined as His righteousness or rectitude.

     Paul writes that in the drama of justification, through the work of Christ, God is both “just and the justifier” (Rom. 3:26). He labors the point that in the atoning work of Jesus God does not simply overlook the sin of fallen humanity and give us a pass. Rather, He ensures His own character is not compromised and thereby establishes His justice. God requires the payment by Christ, as our substitute, to maintain His justice. The cross is simultaneously God’s foremost manifestation of justice and grace. His justice is displayed in that Jesus pays for sin, and His grace is seen in that redemption is offered to us through Jesus’ work. It is the perfect Mediator who satisfies God’s justice and saves God’s people.

     This truth impacted not only the church’s thinking about the atonement but also, unfortunately, the Roman Catholic Church’s understanding of the Mass as a repetition of the atoning work of Christ. Rome twisted Anselm’s thought to make it fit its sacerdotal system of salvation, using his words in ways Anselm never intended. Thus, the Mass is considered an unbloody sacrifice involving satisfaction.

     After Cur Deus Homo, the second work for which Anselm is famous is a little book called A New, Interpretive Translation of St. Anselm's Monologion and Proslogion. In this book, he seeks to answer the question of the relationship between faith and reason. He argues that since revelation is at the foundation of all truth, the Christian begins by believing and trusting in God’s revelation. In approaching revelation, the Christian does not abandon the intellect. Instead, he grasps the rational coherence of revelation. This is the ongoing task of the Christian thinker, the starting point of faith. We do not come to a rational understanding of God’s revelation before we are able to believe; rather, we must first put our trust in that revelation in order to see its coherence. Anselm’s famous slogan was Credo ut intelligam (“I believe in order that I may understand”).

     In this little book, following the process of faith seeking understanding, Anselm works out a cosmological argument for the existence of God. The essence of this argument is that only God, in His creative power, gives us sufficient reason for the existence of the universe. But the cosmological argument has been formulated in many ways and times by many different people.

     What makes Anselm stand out in the history of philosophy and apologetics is his extraordinary argument set forth in his third book, Proslogion: Discourse on the Existence of God. Anselm desired to give a simple and quick proof for the existence of God based on the nature of God’s being. Hence, this proof has been called the ontological argument for the existence of God. It flows from and rests upon an understanding of God’s being.

     Again basing his assumptions on the revelation by which God has made Himself known to all people, Anselm argues that every person has some idea of God. The idea that we have of God is not that of a mere mythical structure, but of a God who truly exists. There is a sense in which the very idea of God carries with it the idea of His existence. In an interesting twist of words, Anselm stated the argument this way: God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. Since we conceive of God, we must conceive of Him as existing in reality and not just in the mind. Anselm understood that the mind is able to consider things that do not exist, but the idea of God being that than which no greater can be conceived, cannot be conceived as nonexistent. If we are conceiving of God simply as a formal concept but not attributing to Him existence, we have not reached the idea of Anselm’s God. This is because there would still be a being greater than a being that exists only in the mind and not in reality. That being, than which no greater can be conceived, must exist in reality as well as the mind or it is not that being than which no greater can be conceived.

     This is the kind of argument that has given philosophers Excedrin headaches for centuries, but the impact of it remains powerful, as does the impact of the body of work of the ancient archbishop of Canterbury.

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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:

Human Trafficking in God’s World

By Justin Holcomb 5/01/2011

     Genesis 3 records the terrible day when humanity fell into sin and shalom was violated. This was a moment of cosmic treason, when Adam and Eve violated their relationship with God by rebelling against His command and fell into the severe ignobility we all experience.

     The entrance of sin wrecked the order and goodness of God’s world; it was the disintegration of peace. Sin inverted love for God, which in turn became idolatry, and inverted love for neighbor, which became exploitation of others.

     One clear way this exploitation of others takes place is human trafficking. Trafficking is modern-day slavery and is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. It is the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or taking of people by means of threat, force, coercion, abduction, fraud, or deception for the purpose of exploiting them.

     The United Nations estimates that 2.5 million people are trafficked annually. It deprives people of their human rights and freedoms, it is a global health risk, and it fuels organized crime.

     Victims of trafficking are forced or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. Labor trafficking ranges from domestic servitude and small-scale labor operations to large-scale operations such as farms, sweatshops, and major multinational corporations.

     Sex trafficking is one of the most profitable forms of trafficking and involves any form of sexual exploitation, such as prostitution, pornography, bride trafficking, and the commercial sexual abuse of children.

     The United States is a destination country for international trafficking: foreign women and children are transported into the United States for purposes of sexual and labor exploitation. The State Department estimates that approximately eighteen thousand foreign nationals are trafficked annually into the United States.

     Victims are brought to the United States from Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Africa. Most women and children brought to the United States find themselves forced to work in massage parlors, commercial or residential brothels, escort services, and strip clubs.

     Sex trafficking also happens to United States citizens residing within United States borders. An estimated three hundred thousand American children are at risk for trafficking into the sex industry annually.

     Traffickers coerce women and children to enter the commercial sex industry through a variety of recruitment techniques in strip clubs, street-based prostitution, and escort services.

     Domestic sex traffickers particularly target vulnerable young girls, such as runaway, homeless, and fostercare children. In the United States, the average age of entry into prostitution is thirteen. One reason many girls working in prostitution enter the trade in their early teens has to do with the age at which many were victims of incest. The average age of incest is twelve. Incest and other forms of abuse often drive children to run away from home, making them vulnerable to the slick tactics of sex traffickers.

     The pimp seduces a recruit with the lure of love, protection, wealth, designer clothes, fancy cars, and exclusive nightclubs. Pimps move from city to city looking for children and young women who are easy prey: alone, desperate, and alienated. Once a pimp moves a victim from her hometown into a strange city, the pimp can easily force her to work as a prostitute. Thousands of children and women are victimized in this way every year.

     Human trafficking is a sin against the victim and a sin against God. Evil is anti-creation, anti-life, and the force that seeks to oppose, deface, and destroy God, His good world, and His image bearers. Simply put, when someone defaces a human being — God’s image bearer — it is ultimately an attack against God Himself.

     Sexual violence is one of the most frequent and disturbing symbols of sin in the Bible. It is a complete distortion of relationship, a mockery and devastation of God’s intent in making us for relationships with Himself and others. By referring to sexual violence, God, through the biblical authors, communicates that sin has progressed so far that sex, an expression of union, peace, and love, is now used as a tool for violence.

     Far from being a peripheral issue in the Bible, exploitation is mentioned frequently throughout Scripture, is depicted as sin against God and neighbor, and symbolizes how badly sin has corrupted God’s good creation.

     The victim’s experience of trafficking is not ignored by God or minimized by the Bible, and it is not outside of the scope of healing and hope found in redemption. God’s response to evil and violence is redemption, renewal, and re-creation because of the gospel of Christ. And that should be the church’s response.

     Evil and violence are not the final word. They are not capable of creating or ultimately defining reality. That is only God’s prerogative. However, evil and violence can pervert, distort, and destroy. They are parasitic on the original good of God’s creation. In this way, evil serves as the backdrop on the stage where God’s redemption shines with greater brilliance and pronounced drama. What evil uses to destroy, God uses to expose, excise, and then heal.

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     Dr. Justin Holcomb is canon for vocations in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, and he is an adjunct professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Fla.

Justin Holcomb Books:

The Children’s Crusade

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 5/01/2011

     The Devil delights in false dichotomies. When he persuades us that our choices are between this foolishness and that weakness — heads, he wins; tails, the kingdom loses. When we are lukewarm in our commitment, when we think the kingdom of God is just some ethereal thing that no one can see, the Devil encourages us in just this direction. We see the kingdom as only future, and so we sit on our hands waiting. Such is not, of course, a passionate seeking of His kingdom or His righteousness.

     The Devil is not afraid, however, of kingdom zealots. Those whose passion burns to make known the reign of Christ receive a whole different temptation from the Devil. These the Devil encourages to take up arms, to bear the sword. He seduces them into thinking they can make the kingdom come by force.

     The first option is a denial that we are at war. The second option is a denial that our weapons are not carnal. The biblical truth is that we are at war and that our armory is stocked with potent, spiritual weapons.

     Consider first the reality of the war. God promised in Genesis 3 that He would put enmity between the Serpent and the woman, between their respective seeds. Thus, we have an identifiable enemy — all those who are yet outside the kingdom of God. This enemy is, of course, actively fighting its war against us and our King. Thus, we are at war. We are called to tear down strongholds, to destroy every lofty thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. We are commanded not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed.

     We also have an objective. Our goal is to see the reign of our Captain made manifest the world over. We are seeking His kingdom, and His promise is that a day is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. Indeed, He will come from His throne, we are told, when all His enemies are made a footstool. The language of warfare fills the Word, from beginning to end, despite our crafty Enemy’s attempt to cry “peace, peace,” when there is no peace.

     Our Enemy, we would be wise to remember, is under no self-constraint not to use carnal weapons. Indeed, everything about his warfare is carnal. It was he whose spear pierced the side of our Lord. It was he who hurled the stones at Stephen. He worked through sundry caesars, leading the early Christians to the Colosseum for sport, lining the Appian Way with hundreds of crucified disciples of our crucified Lord. He animated the lies of Islam, whose scimitar first seized Jerusalem and later reached even into Europe.

     The Devil, however, rejoiced more over the counterattack on Jerusalem than he did the seizure of it. That is, the greater victory wasn’t the success of the sword on his side of the battle but the taking up of the sword on our side. He wins not by fighting with carnal weapons but by seducing us into fighting with carnal weapons. The Bible, of course, leaves room for legitimate use of force. The use of the sword in defense of our land or of our families is not only permissible but mandatory. But we do not build the kingdom with the sword. Our weapons are not carnal. The kingdom advanced far more potently through the humble martyrs’ deaths than it did through the fighting of the valiant soldiers of the Crusades. We don’t kill for the kingdom but die for it.

     We, too, have barbarians at our gates. Our walls are crumbling, and it seems in the West that a new dark age is coming. The evidence, however, is found less in the rhetoric of the radical left, the cultural degradation pouring from New York and Hollywood, and the sexually confused marching in our streets, and more in the church that has lost sight of its God-given weapons. We move from defeat to defeat because we fight with coalitions, with media campaigns, with slick marketing, with compromise. We have washed away all our saltiness because we have forgotten how the kingdom comes.

     We seek His kingdom as we seek His righteousness. The world is preserved, and the boundaries of the kingdom expand when we live as His children in simple, trusting obedience. The world is changed by changing diapers, by hugging wives, by doing chores diligently, and by singing joyfully. War is fought by peaceful countenances. Loyalty makes walls come tumbling down. We do not, as the crusaders did, leave our hearths and homes, our wives and children, cross land and sea, and hack and poke with sword and spear. We instead cross the room, pray blessing on our children, and dance with our wives. We sit at the table, eating the fat of the land, talking about the glory of His provision in all our days. We visit the orphan and the widow. We preach the Word in season and out. We break bread and we drink the cup. And the Serpent trembles in his bunker.

     As little children, we know it is the little things that change everything. The Serpent’s kingdom is brought low when the servants of the King are lifted on high, in worship. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the gates of hell come tumbling down.

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

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Judges 16; Acts 20; Jeremiah 29; Mark 15

By Don Carson 8/2/2018

     Paul's address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:18-35) can be broken down into three parts. In the first (Acts 20:18-24), Paul talks about his own ministry in Ephesus and his own future. In the second (Acts 20:25-31), he uses his example of ministry as an encouragement to the elders in Ephesus to “keep watch” over themselves and over “all the flock” of God (Acts 20:28) of which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers, with special emphasis on the challenges ahead when people within the church will prove eager to gain disciples and be prepared to distort the truth. In the third (Acts 20:32-35), Paul not only commits these elders “to God and to the word of his grace” (Acts 20:32), but quietly testifies again to the exacting standards of personal probity in his own life when he served among them.

     More commonly than not, when this passage is preached we lay the emphasis on the central section. But here I would like to draw attention to some of the features that characterized Paul’s ministry.

     (1) The most obvious is the fact that Paul perceived how he lived and served to be a role model. Elsewhere he openly tells the Corinthians to imitate him, as he imitates Christ (1 Cor. 11). In Paul there is no trace of a double standard. Do what I teach but not what I do.

     (2) Paul “served the Lord with great humility and with tears,” even though he was “severely tested” by the machinations of “the Jews” (Acts 20:19). In other words, opposition neither defeated him nor whipped him into a frenzy of retaliation. By contrast, how easy it is to get discouraged and quit, or get angry and destroy what is being built.

     (3) Paul’s ministry was edifying, and conveyed in a mixture of public meeting and faithful visitation (Acts 20:20). One gets the impression that above all it was the ministry of the Word, communicated through a man set on fire by that Word.

     (4) Paul did not flinch from dealing with the immutables of the Gospel, no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular they might be. As a result he boldly declared, to Jews and Gentiles alike, “that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21).

     (5) On occasion, Paul felt himself “compelled by the Spirit” to adopt a certain course without knowing exactly where that course would lead (Acts 20:22-24). Having enough illumination to decide on an action does not guarantee enough information to know how things will turn out. In this case he knows only that he is promised “prison and hardships”– and all he wants for himself is to complete the task the Lord Jesus has given him, “the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

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

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 81

Oh, That My People Would Listen to Me
81 To The Choirmaster: According To The Gittith. Of Asaph.

1 Sing aloud to God our strength;
shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
2 Raise a song; sound the tambourine,
the sweet lyre with the harp.
3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our feast day.

4 For it is a statute for Israel,
a rule of the God of Jacob.
5 He made it a decree in Joseph
when he went out over the land of Egypt.
I hear a language I had not known:
6 “I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
7 In distress you called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
8 Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
9 There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
10 I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     52. In considering Justification, which is the third effect of faith, the first thing that occurs is an explanation of the word. He is said to be justified who, in the judgment of God, is deemed righteous. He is justified by works, whose life is pure and blameless before God; and no such person ever existed except Christ. They are justified by faith who, shut out from the righteousness of works, receive the righteousness of Christ. Such are the elect of God.

53. Hence follows the strongest consolation; for instead of a severe Judge, we have a most merciful Father. Justified in Christ, and having peace, trusting to his power, we aim at holiness.

54. Next follows Christian liberty, consisting of three parts. 1. That the consciences of believers may rise above the Law, and may forget the whole righteousness of the Law. 2. That the conscience, free from the yoke of the Law, may cheerfully obey the will of God. 3. That they may not be bound by any religious scruples before God about things indifferent. But here we must avoid two precipices. 1. That we do not abuse the gifts of God. 2. That we avoid giving and taking offence.

55. The fourth effect of faith is Prayer; in which are considered its fruits, laws, faults, and petitions.

56. The fruit of prayer is fivefold. 1. When we are accustomed to flee to God, our heart is inflamed with a stronger desire to seek, love, and adore him. 2. Our heart is not a prey to any wicked desire, of which we would be ashamed to make God our witness. 3. We receive his benefits with thanksgiving. 4. Having obtained a gift, we more earnestly meditate on the goodness of God. 5. Experience confirms to us the Goodness, Providence, and Truth of God.

57. The laws are Four. 1. That we should have our heart framed as becomes those who enter into converse with God; and therefore the lifting up of the hands, the raising of the heart, and perseverance, are recommended. 2. That we should feel our wants. 3. That we should divest ourselves of every thought of our own glory, giving the whole glory to God. 4. That while we are prostrated amidst overwhelming evils, we should be animated by the sure hope of succeeding, since we rely on the command and promise of God.

58. They err who call on the Saints that are placed beyond this life. 1. Because Scripture teaches that prayer ought to be offered to God alone, who alone knows what is necessary for us. He chooses to be present, because he has promised. He can do so, for he is Almighty. 2. Because he requires that he be addressed in faith, which rests on his word and promise. 3. Because faith is corrupted as soon as it departs from this rule. But in calling on the saints there is no word, no promise; and therefore there is no faith; nor can the saints themselves either hear or assist.

59. The summary of prayer, which has been delivered to us by Christ the Lord, is contained in a Preface and two Tables.

60. In the Preface, the Goodness of God is conspicuous, for he is called our Father. It follows that we are his children, and that to seek supplies from any other quarter would be to charge God either with poverty or with cruelty; that sins ought not to hinder us from humbly imploring mercy; and that a feeling of brotherly love ought to exist amongst us. The power of God is likewise conspicuous in this Preface, for he is in Heaven. Hence we infer that God is present everywhere, and that when we seek him, we ought to rise above perceptions of the body and the soul; that he is far beyond all risk of change or corruption; that he holds the whole universe in his grasp, and governs it by his power.

61. The First Table is entirely devoted to the glory of God, and contains Three petitions. 1. That the name of God, that is, his power, goodness, wisdom, justice, and truth, may be hallowed; that is, that men may neither speak nor think of God but with the deepest veneration. 2. That God may correct, by the agency of his Spirit, all the depraved lusts of the flesh; may bring all our thoughts into obedience to his authority; may protect his children; and may defeat the attempts of the wicked. The use of this petition is threefold. (1). It withdraws us from the corruptions of the world. (2). It inflames us with the desire of mortifying the flesh. (3). It animates us to endure the cross. 3. The Third petition relates not to the secret will of God, but to that which is made known by the Scriptures, and to which voluntary obedience is the counterpart.

62. The Second Table contains the Three remaining petitions, which relate to ourselves and our neighbours. 1. It asks everything which the body needs in this sublunary state; for we commit ourselves to the care and providence of God, that he may feed, foster, and preserve us. 2. We ask those things which contribute to the spiritual life, namely, the forgiveness of sins, which implies satisfaction, and to which is added a condition, that when we have been offended by deed or by word, we nevertheless forgive them their offences against us. 3. We ask deliverance from temptations, or, that we may be furnished with armour and defended by the Divine protection, that we may be able to obtain the victory. Temptations differ in their cause, for God, Satan, the world, and the flesh tempt; in their matter, for we are tempted, on the right hand, in respect of riches, honours, beauty, &c., and on the left hand, in respect of poverty, contempt, and afflictions: and in their end, for God tempts the godly for good, but Satan, the flesh, and the world, tempt them for evil.

63. Those Four effects of faith bring us to the certainty of election, and of the final resurrection.

64. The causes of election are these. The efficient cause is--the free mercy of God, which we ought to acknowledge with humility and thanksgiving. The material cause is--Christ, the well-beloved Son. The final cause is--that, being assured of our salvation, because we are God's people, we may glorify him both in this life and in the life which is to come, to all eternity. The effects are, in respect either of many persons, or of a single individual; and that by electing some, and justly reprobating others. The elect are called by the preaching of the word and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, are justified, and sanctified, that they may at length be glorified.

65. The final resurrection will take place. 1. Because on any other supposition we cannot be perfectly glorified. 2. Because Christ rose in our flesh. 3. Because God is Almighty.

__________________________________________________________________

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


  • Theological community?
  • Diaconal ministry
  • Boomers and church

#1 Mary Beth McGreevy  
Covenant Theological Seminary


 

#2 Greg Perry   
Covenant Theological Seminary


 

#3 Greg Perry   
Covenant Theological Seminary


 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     10/1/2015    The Perspicuity of Scripture

     One of the most important but often most overlooked parts of our order of service at Saint Andrew’s Chapel is the prayer of illumination. In our liturgy, the prayer of illumination is situated between the reading of Scripture and the sermon. In our prayer, we humbly ask God to illumine His Word to us by the Holy Spirit so that we would rightly hear, understand, and apply what the Lord is saying to us in His Word. The reason it is one of the most important elements of our service is because we desperately need the Holy Spirit to help us understand His Word. The reason it is perhaps the most overlooked part of our service is because we too easily forget how dependent we are on the Holy Spirit to help us grasp the glorious truths of God’s sacred Word.

     The Holy Spirit indwells us and enables us to interpret and apply His Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. We are utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit. Without Him, we cannot rightly understand anything in His Word. We don’t need to be great scholars to understand God’s Word, we simply need to be born-again, humble children indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Yet, even as believers, we know that not everything in Scripture is easy to understand.

     In theology, we speak of the perspicuity of Scripture. The word perspicuity, simply put, means “clarity.” Oddly enough, the word perspicuity is one of the more unclear words we could use to speak of clarity. What’s more, when we say we believe in the perspicuity of Scripture, people sometimes get the wrong impression that we are implying that everything in Scripture is entirely clear and easy to understand. But that’s not the case. We know this both from experience and because the Word of God itself tells us that not everything in it is easy to understand. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1.7) explains what we believe when we speak of the perspicuity of Scripture: “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all. Yet, those things that are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or another, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” In other words, not everything in Scripture is easy to understand, but what we must understand in order to be saved is clear. The hard sayings of Jesus aren’t found only in the Gospels, but throughout Scripture, since Jesus is the ultimate author of Scripture as the eternal Word of God.

     Fundamentally, what is so hard about the hard sayings of Jesus is not our inability to understand them fully but to believe them fully and obey them fully. That is why we need the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit to help us not only understand God’s Word but to obey it, love it, apply it, and proclaim it as we live coram Deo, before the face of God for His glory.

     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

     The Navy torpedo boat PT 109 was rammed this day, August 2, 1943, by a Japanese destroyer and sunk. The commander, who sustained permanent back injury, helped the survivors swim miles to shore, only to find that they far behind enemy lines in the Solomon Islands. After a daring rescue, he was awarded the Medal of heroism. Though his brother was killed in the war, this commander went on to become a Congressman, Senator, and America’s 35th President. His name was John F. Kennedy, who stated in his Inaugural Address: “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


We fear the silence.
So we struggle with prayer.
We long for noise and business,
Least we encounter God …
     And ourselves.
Richard Adams


We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.
--- Thomas Merton


Forgiveness—when God buries our sins and does not mark the grave.
--- Louis Paul Lehman

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 21.

     Concerning John Of Gichala. Josephus Uses Stratagems Against The Plots John Laid Against Him And Recovers Certain Cities Which Had Revolted From Him.

     1. Now as Josephus was thus engaged in the administration of the affairs of Galilee, there arose a treacherous person, a man of Gischala, the son of Levi, whose name was John. His character was that of a very cunning and very knavish person, beyond the ordinary rate of the other men of eminence there, and for wicked practices he had not his fellow any where. Poor he was at first, and for a long time his wants were a hinderance to him in his wicked designs. He was a ready liar, and yet very sharp in gaining credit to his fictions: he thought it a point of virtue to delude people, and would delude even such as were the dearest to him. He was a hypocritical pretender to humanity, but where he had hopes of gain, he spared not the shedding of blood: his desires were ever carried to great things, and he encouraged his hopes from those mean wicked tricks which he was the author of. He had a peculiar knack at thieving; but in some time he got certain companions in his impudent practices; at first they were but few, but as he proceeded on in his evil course, they became still more and more numerous. He took care that none of his partners should be easily caught in their rogueries, but chose such out of the rest as had the strongest constitutions of body, and the greatest courage of soul, together with great skill in martial affairs; as he got together a band of four hundred men, who came principally out of the country of Tyre, and were vagabonds that had run away from its villages; and by the means of these he laid waste all Galilee, and irritated a considerable number, who were in great expectation of a war then suddenly to arise among them.

     2. However, John's want of money had hitherto restrained him in his ambition after command, and in his attempts to advance himself. But when he saw that Josephus was highly pleased with the activity of his temper, he persuaded him, in the first place, to intrust him with the repairing of the walls of his native city, [Gischala,] in which work he got a great deal of money from the rich citizens. He after that contrived a very shrewd trick, and pretending that the Jews who dwelt in Syria were obliged to make use of oil that was made by others than those of their own nation, he desired leave of Josephus to send oil to their borders; so he bought four amphorae with such Tyrian money as was of the value of four Attic drachmae, and sold every half-amphora at the same price. And as Galilee was very fruitful in oil, and was peculiarly so at that time, by sending away great quantities, and having the sole privilege so to do, he gathered an immense sum of money together, which money he immediately used to the disadvantage of him who gave him that privilege; and, as he supposed, that if he could once overthrow Josephus, he should himself obtain the government of Galilee; so he gave orders to the robbers that were under his command to be more zealous in their thievish expeditions, that by the rise of many that desired innovations in the country, he might either catch their general in his snares, as he came to the country's assistance, and then kill him; or if he should overlook the robbers, he might accuse him for his negligence to the people of the country. He also spread abroad a report far and near that Josephus was delivering up the administration of affairs to the Romans; and many such plots did he lay, in order to ruin him.

     3. Now at the same time that certain young men of the village Dabaritta, who kept guard in the Great Plain laid snares for Ptolemy, who was Agrippa's and Bernice's steward, and took from him all that he had with him; among which things there were a great many costly garments, and no small number of silver cups, and six hundred pieces of gold; yet were they not able to conceal what they had stolen, but brought it all to Josephus, to Taricheae. Hereupon he blamed them for the violence they had offered to the king and queen, and deposited what they brought to him with Eneas, the most potent man of Taricheae, with an intention of sending the things back to the owners at a proper time; which act of Josephus brought him into the greatest danger; for those that had stolen the things had an indignation at him, both because they gained no share of it for themselves, and because they perceived beforehand what was Josephus's intention, and that he would freely deliver up what had cost them so much pains to the king and queen. These ran away by night to their several villages, and declared to all men that Josephus was going to betray them: they also raised great disorders in all the neighboring cities, insomuch that in the Morning a hundred thousand armed men came running together; which multitude was crowded together in the hippodrome at Taricheae, and made a very peevish clamor against him; while some cried out, that they should depose the traitor; and others, that they should burn him. Now John irritated a great many, as did also one Jesus, the son of Sapphias, who was then governor of Tiberias. Then it was that Josephus's friends, and the guards of his body, were so affrighted at this violent assault of the multitude, that they all fled away but four; and as he was asleep, they awaked him, as the people were going to set fire to the house. And although those four that remained with him persuaded him to run away, he was neither surprised at his being himself deserted, nor at the great multitude that came against him, but leaped out to them with his clothes rent, and ashes sprinkled on his head, with his hands behind him, and his sword hanging at his neck. At this sight his friends, especially those of Taricheae, commiserated his condition; but those that came out of the country, and those in their neighborhood, to whom his government seemed burdensome, reproached him, and bid him produce the money which belonged to them all immediately, and to confess the agreement he had made to betray them; for they imagined, from the habit in which he appeared, that he would deny nothing of what they suspected concerning him, and that it was in order to obtain pardon that he had put himself entirely into so pitiable a posture. But this humble appearance was only designed as preparatory to a stratagem of his, who thereby contrived to set those that were so angry at him at variance one with another about the things they were angry at. However, he promised he would confess all: hereupon he was permitted to speak, when he said, "I did neither intend to send this money back to Agrippa, nor to gain it myself; for I did never esteem one that was your enemy to be my friend, nor did I look upon what would tend to your disadvantage to be my advantage. But, O you people of Tarieheae, I saw that your city stood in more need than others of fortifications for your security, and that it wanted money in order for the building it a wall. I was also afraid lest the people of Tiberias and other cities should lay a plot to seize upon these spoils, and therefore it was that I intended to retain this money privately, that I might encompass you with a wall. But if this does not please you, I will produce what was brought me, and leave it to you to plunder it; but if I have conducted myself so well as to please you, you may if you please punish your benefactor."

          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 22:9
     by D.H. Stern

9     He who is generous is blessed,
because he shares his food with the poor.


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

     II | GOG AND MAGOG

     Gog and Magog, let it be dearly understood, are the two tall poplar-trees that keep ceaseless vigil by my gate. I state this fact baldly and unequivocally at the very outset in order to set at rest, once and for ever, all controversies and disputations on that fascinating point. Historians will reach down the ponderous and dusty tomes that litter up their formidable shelves, and will tell me that Gog and Magog were two famous British giants whose life-sized statues, fourteen feet high, have stood for more than two hundred years in the Guildhall in London. But that is all that the historians know about it! Theologians, and especially theologians of a certain school, will remind me that Gog and Magog are biblical characters. Are they not mentioned in the prophecy of Ezekiel and in the Book of Revelation? And then, looking gravely over their spectacles, these learned-looking gentlemen will ask me if I am seriously of opinion that the inspired writers were referring to my pair of lofty poplars. I hasten to assure these nervous and unimaginative gentlemen that I propose to commit myself to no such heresy. Like Mrs. Gamp, I would not presume. For ages past these cryptic titles have provided my excellent friends with ground for interminable speculation, and for the most ingenious exploits of interpretation. How could I have the heart to exclusively allocate to these stately sentinels that guard my gate the titles that have afforded the interpreters such endless pleasure? I would as soon attempt to snatch from a boy his only peg-top, or from a girl her only doll, as embark upon so barbarous an atrocity. How could they ever again declare, with the faintest scrap of confidence, that Gog and Magog represented any particular pair of princes or potentates if I deliberately anticipate them by walking off with both labels and coolly attaching them to my two poplar-trees? The thing is absurd upon the face of it. And so I repeat that for the purposes of this article, and for the purposes of this article only, Gog and Magog are the two tall poplar-trees that keep ceaseless vigil by my gate.

     Trees are very lovable things. We all like Beaconsfield the better because he was so passionately devoted to the trees at Hughenden. He was so fond of them that he directed in his will that none of them should ever be cut down. So I am not ashamed of my tenderness for Gog and Magog. There they stand, down at the gate; the one on the one side, and the other on the other. Huge giants they are, with a giant's strength and a giant's stature, but with more than a giant's grace. From whichever direction I come, they always seem to salute me with a welcome as soon as I come round the bend in the road. It is always pleasant when home has something about it that can be seen at a distance. The last half-mile on the homeward road is the half-mile in which the climax of weariness is reached. It is like the last straw that breaks the camel's back. But if there is a light at the window, or some clear landmark that distinguishes the spot, the very sight of the familiar object lures the traveller on, and in actual sight of home he forgets his fatigue.

     It is a very pleasant thing to have two glorious poplars at your gate. They always seem to be craning, straining, towering upward to catch the first glimpse of you; and they make home seem nearer as soon as you come within sight of them. Gog and Magog are such companionable things. They always have something to say to you. It is true that they talk of little but the weather; but then, that is what most people talk about. I like to see them in August, when a certain olive sheen mantles their branches and tells you that the swallows will soon be here. I like to see them in October, when they are a towering column of verdure, every leaf as bright as though it has just been varnished. I even like to see them in April, when they strew the paths with a rustling litter of bronze and gold. They tell me that winter is coming, with its long evenings, its roaring fires, and its insistence on the superlative attractions of home. There never dawns a day on which Gog and Magog are not well worth looking at and well worth listening to.

     But although I have been speaking of Gog and Magog as though they were as much alike as two peas, the very reverse is the case. No two things—not even the two peas—are exactly alike. When God makes a thing He breaks the mould. The two peas do not resemble each other under a microscope. Macaulay, in his essay on Madame D'Arblay, declares that this extraordinary range of distinctions within very narrow limits is one of the most notable things in the universe. 'No two faces are alike,' he says, 'and yet very few faces deviate very widely from the common standard. Among the millions of human beings who inhabit London, there is not one who could be taken by his acquaintance for another; yet we may walk from Paddington to Mile End without seeing one person in whom any feature is so overcharged that we turn round to stare at it. An infinite number of varieties lies between limits which are not very far asunder. The specimens which pass those limits on either side form a very small minority.'

     So is it with trees. When you first drive up an avenue of poplars you regard each tree as the exact duplicate of all the others. There is certainly a general similarity, just as, in some households, there is a striking family likeness. But just as, after spending a few days with that household, you no longer mistake Jack for Charlie, or Jessie for Jean, and even laugh at yourself for ever having been so stupid, so, when you get to know the poplars better, you no longer suppose that they are all alike. You soon detect the marks of individuality among them; and, if one were felled and brought you, you could describe with perfect accuracy the two trees between which it stood. That is particularly the case with Gog and Magog. A casual visitor would remark, as he approached the house, that we had a pair of gigantic poplars at the front gate. It does not occur to him to distinguish between them. For aught he knows, or for aught he cares, Gog might be Magog, or Magog might be Gog. But to us the thing is absurd. We know them so well that we should as soon think of mistaking one of the children for another as of mistaking Gog for Magog, or Magog for Gog. We salute the tall trees every morning when we rise; we pass them with mystic greetings of our own a dozen times a day; and, before retiring at night, we like to peep from the front windows and see their gigantic forms grandly silhouetted against the evening sky. Gog is Gog, and Magog is Magog; and the idea of mistaking the one for the other seems ludicrous in the extreme. The solar system is as full of mysteries as a conjurer's portmanteaux; but, of all the mysteries that it contains, the mystery of individuality is surely the most inscrutable of all.

     'What is the difference between Gog and Magog?' somebody wants to know; and I am glad that somebody asked the question, for it gives me the opportunity of pointing out that between Gog and Magog there is all the difference in the world. There is a difference in girth; there is a difference in height; and there is a difference in fibre. I have just run a tape round both trees. Magog gives a measurement of just six feet; whilst Gog puts those puny proportions to shame with a record of seven feet six inches. I have not attempted to climb the trees; but I can see at a glance that Gog is at least eight feet taller than his brother. Nor do these measurements sum up the whole of Gog's advantage. For you cannot glance at the twins without seeing that Gog is incalculably the sturdier. In the trunk of Magog there is a huge cavity into which a child could creep and be perfectly concealed; but Gog is as sound as a bell. Any one who has seen two brothers grow up side by side—the one sturdy, masculine, virile, and full of health; the other, puny, delicate, fragile, and threatened with disease—knows how I feel whenever I pass between these two sentries at the gate. I am full of admiration for the glorious strength of Gog; I am touched to tenderness by the comparative frailty of poor Magog. It is odd that two trees of the same age, growing together under precisely identical conditions, should have turned out so differently. There must be a reason for it. Is there? There is!

     The fact is, Gog gets all the wind. I have often watched the storm come sweeping down on the two tall trees, and it is grand to watch them. The huge things sway and bend like tossing plumes, and sometimes you almost fancy that they will break like reeds before the fury of the blast. Great branches are torn off; smaller boughs and piles of twigs are scattered all around like wounded soldiers on a hotly contested field; but the trees outlive the storm, and you love them all the better for it. But, all the time, you can see that it is Gog that is doing the fighting. The fearful onslaught breaks first upon him; and the force of the attack is broken by the time it reaches Magog. It may be that Gog is very fond of Magog, and, pitying his frailty, seeks to shelter him. It certainly looks like it. But, if so, it is a mistaken kindness. It is just because Gog has had to bear the brunt of so many attacks that he has sent down his roots so deeply and has become so magnificently strong. It is because Magog has always been protected and sheltered that he is so feeble, and cuts so sorry a figure beside his stouter brother.

     And now I find myself sitting at the feet of Gog and Magog, not only literally but metaphorically, and they begin to teach me things. It is not half a bad thing to be living in a world that has some fight in it. It is a good thing for a man to be buffeted and knocked about. I fancy that Gog and Magog could say some specially comforting things to parents. The tendency among us is to try to secure for our children the kind of life that Magog leads, hidden, sheltered, and protected. Yet nobody can take a second glance at poor Magog—his shorter stature, his smaller girth, his softer fibre—without entertaining the gravest doubts concerning the wisdom of so apparently considerate a choice. It is perfectly natural, and altogether creditable to the fond hearts and earnest solicitude of doting parents, that they should seek to rear their children like hot-house plants, protected from the nipping frosts and frigid blasts of a chilling world. But it can be overdone. A great meeting, attended by five thousand people, was recently held in London to deal with the White Slave question. And I was greatly struck by the fact that one of the most experienced and observant of the speakers—the Rev. J. Ernest Rattenbury, of the West London Mission—declared with deep emotion and impressive emphasis that 'it is the girls who come from the sheltered homes who stand in the greatest peril.' Perhaps I shall render the most practical service if I put the truth the other way. Instead of dwelling so much on Magog, look at Gog. I know fathers and mothers who are inclined to break their hearts because their boys and girls have had to go out from the shielding care of their homes into the rough and tumble of the great world. Look at Gog, I say again, look at Gog!

     Was it not Alfred Russel Wallace who tried to help an emperor-moth, and only harmed it by his ill-considered ministry? He came upon the creature beating its wings and struggling wildly to force its passage through the narrow neck of its cocoon. He admired its fine proportions, eight inches from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other, and thought it a pity that so handsome a creature should be subjected to so severe an ordeal. He therefore took out his lancet and slit the cocoon. The moth came out at once; but its glorious colours never developed. The soaring wings never expanded. The indescribable hues and tints and shades that should have adorned them never appeared. The moth crept moodily about; drooped perceptibly; and presently died. The furious struggle with the cocoon was Nature's wise way of developing the splendid wings and of sending the vital fluids pulsing through the frame until every particle blushed with their beauty. The naturalist had saved the little creature from the struggle, but had unintentionally ruined and slain it in the process. It is the story of Gog and Magog over again.

     In my college days I used to go down to a quaint little English village for the week-end in order to conduct services in the village chapel on Sunday. I was always entertained by a little old lady whose face haunts me still. It was so very human, and so very wise, and withal so very beautiful; and the white ringlets on either side completed a perfect picture. She dwelt in a modest little cottage on top of the hill. It was a queer, tumble-down old place with crooked rafters and crazy lattice windows.

     Roses and honeysuckle clambered all over the porch, straggled along the walls, and even crept under the eaves into the cottage itself. The thing that impressed me when I first went was the extraordinary number of old Bessie's visitors. On Saturday nights they came one after another, young men and sedate matrons, old men and tripping maidens, and each desired to see her alone. She was very old; she had known hunger and poverty; the deeply furrowed brow told of long and bitter trouble. She was a great sufferer, too, and daily wrestled with her pitiless disease. But, like the sturdier of the poplars by my gate, she had gathered into herself the force of all the cruel winds that had beaten so savagely upon her. And the result was that her own character had become so strong and so upright and so beautiful that she was recognized as the high-priestess of that English countryside, and every man and maiden who needed counsel or succour made a beaten path to her open door.

Mushrooms on the Moor
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers


                The discipline of difficulty

     In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. --- John 16:33.

     An average view of the Christian life is that it means deliverance from trouble. It is deliverance in trouble, which is very different. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High … there shall no evil befall thee”—no plague can come nigh the place where you are at one with God.

     If you are a child of God, there certainly will be troubles to meet, but Jesus says do not be surprised when they come. “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world, there is nothing for you to fear.” Men who before they were saved would scorn to talk about troubles, often become ‘fushionless’ after being born again because they have a wrong idea of a saint.

     God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength. Overcome your own timidity and take the step, and God will give you to eat of the tree of life and you will get nourishment. If you spend yourself out physically, you become exhausted; but spend yourself spiritually, and you get more strength. God never gives strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the minute. The temptation is to face difficulties from a commonsense standpoint. The saint is hilarious when he is crushed with difficulties because the thing is so ludicrously impossible to anyone but God.


My Utmost for His Highest

Echoes
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Echoes

What is this? said God. The obstinacy
  Of its refusal to answer
  Enraged him. He struck it
  Those great blows it resounds
  With still. It glowered at
  Him, but remained dumb,
  Turning on its slow axis
  Of pain, reflecting the year
  In its seasons. Nature bandaged
  Its wounds. Healing in
  The smooth sun, it became
  Fair. God looked at it
  Again, reminded of
  An intention. They shall answer
  For you, he said. And at once
  There were trees with birds
  Singing, and through the trees
  Animals wandered, drinking
  Their own scent, conceding
  An absence. Where are you?
  He called, and riding the echo
  The shapes came, slender
  As trees, but with white hands,
  Curious to build. On the altars
  They made him the red blood
  Told what he wished to hear.


H'm

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     D’RASH


     The English author and Anglican clergyman Sydney Smith, in the early nineteenth century, wrote that “Praise is the best diet for us, after all.” Smith was right; we are often too quick to criticize others for the jobs they do. We think that praising another might cause a bloated sense of self or a swelled head. And we especially decry praising an “underling,” someone in an inferior position, as demeaning.

     The reality, though, is that most people work better when they receive praise rather than criticism (or no comment at all). But this is only half the picture: Most people also work better when they give praise. Just as a compliment does wonders for the other, its also improves us. Lauding another can and should give us a good sense, making us more optimistic and cheerful. A few words of approval allow us not to take things, or people, for granted.

     In the Talmud, Ṙabbi Meir holds that a person should recite one hundred blessings each day! Perhaps this is why Jewish tradition incorporated so many blessings into everyday life. We need them much more than God does: Birkat ha-Mazon, the blessings after a meal, may not change God, but it should sensitize us to an appreciation of the everyday blessing of food. Birkhot ha-Shaḥar, the Morning blessings, thank God for the most basic gifts of each day—consciousness upon waking, the ability to stand up and get dressed, the fact that we are created in God’s image and that we are free. It’s possible that God’s day would be much the same without our reciting these words; our day, on the other hand, would be significantly diminished.

     ANOTHER D’RASH

     Why was the traditional Jewish greeting to someone who had done well יִישַׁר כֹּחֲךָ/yishar ko-ḥa-kha (or in its Yiddishized form, Yoshr koyaḥ)? Of all the things we could say to them, of all the blessings we could bestow upon them, why a phrase that means “May your strength be straight?”

     A clue may be found in the Bible, which provides us with many stories of human beings struggling with strength. Samson is famous for his physical strength. The Book of Judges relates several tales of his prowess: He tore apart a lion with his bare hands; he carried off the gate of the city of Gaza on his shoulders; he killed a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass. Yet, despite the fact that Samson lived at a time when the Philistines were oppressing the Israelites, he didn’t use his great strength to help his people. He squandered the gift that God had blessed him with, and instead used his power to settle personal scores with people he never should have been involved with in the first place. Only in dying did he use his strength to defeat the enemy and free his nation.

     David had many strengths—fighter, musician, poet, politician, but none was as great as his charisma. David had the almost magical ability to attract people to him. He used his gift to unify the tribes of Israel into a mighty nation-state. Kings and princes, prophets and commoners all adored him. So did married women. David used his powerful position to conduct an illicit and ultimately destructive affair with Bathsheba.

     Solomon’s great strength was of a different kind: He was known as the wisest of men. He used his wisdom for much good. It enabled him to judge the difficult cases that came before him, the most famous being of the two mothers who claimed the same baby as their own. He used his intellectual strength to build a Temple to expand his nation into a world power, and to compose three thousand proverbs and more than a thousand songs. However, in the end, Solomon applied his great wisdom to further his own glory and ambition. He imposed a complex bureaucracy upon the people that included heavy taxes and forced labor. He had a thousand wives; many of these marriages were entered into to seal alliances with foreign powers. His lavish life-style so drained the nation who paid for it that it sowed the seeds of the splitting of the kingdom into two nations.

     Strength, we are taught, is morally neutral. It can be used for good, if it is controlled and kept straight, or it can be bent and twisted for evil. יִישַׁר כֹּחֲךָ/Yishar ko-ḥa-kha is both an acknowledgment of the strength in another person, as well as an exhortation to use it in a morally appropriate and straight way.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 2

     Delight yourself in the LORD.
--- Psalm 37:4.

     [This delight in prayer is] a delight in the things asked. Works of Stephen Charnock (5 Volume Set) This heavenly cheerfulness is most in heavenly things. What delight others have in asking worldly goods, a gracious heart has in begging the light of God’s face. Souls cannot be dull in prayer who seriously consider they pray for no less than heaven and happiness, no less than the glory of the great God. A gracious person is never weary of spiritual things, as people are never weary of the sun; though spiritual things are enjoyed every day, yet we long for them to rise again. From this delight in the matter of prayer, the saints have redoubled and repeated their petitions and redoubled the Amen at the end of prayer, to show the great affections to those things they have asked. The soul loves to think of those things the heart is set on, and frequent thoughts express a delight.

     [Delight in prayer is] a delight in those graces and affections that are exercised in prayer. A gracious heart is most delighted with that prayer in which grace has been more stirring, and gracious affections have been boiling over. The soul desires not only to speak to God, but to make melody to God; the heart is the instrument, but graces are the strings, and prayer is touching them, and therefore the soul is more displeased with the flagging of its graces than with missing an answer. There may be a delight in gifts, in a person’s own gifts, in the gifts of another, in the pomp and varnish of devotion, but a delight in exercising spiritual graces is an ingredient in this true delight. The Pharisees are marked by Christ to make long prayers, self-glorifying in an outward bravery of words, as if they were playing the courtiers with God and complimenting him; the publican had a short prayer but more grace: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” There is reliance and humility. A gracious heart labors to bring flaming affections, and if it cannot bring flaming grace, it will bring smoking grace; Christians desire the preparation of their hearts as well as the answer of their prayers.
--- Stephen Charnock


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

On This Day
     Arrow from Nowhere  August 2

     William the Conqueror may have conquered England during the Norman Invasion of 1066, but he never conquered his own appetites. He was ruthless, harsh, wrathful—and always hungry. He grew so stout that his coffin proved too small for him, and on his death attendants had trouble stuffing the corpse into place. It burst open during the effort.

     His son Rufus moved quickly to seize the throne. He inherited all his father’s vices, none of his virtues, and is remembered as one of history’s worst men. He was officially William II, but commonly called Rufus because of his red hair, or, some say, his red face. He had reason to be red-faced. His cruelty was sadistic, and he derived perverse pleasure by watching animals tortured and innocent men subjected to screaming degrees of pain.

     Rufus was incorrigible. Once while recovering from a severe illness he vowed never to become a good man. His sexual appetite was unquenchable. It was said he rose a worse man every Morning and lay down a worse man every night.

     Rufus passionately hated Christ, Christianity, and the clergy. His profane and blasphemous words continually shocked his contemporaries. He plundered churches, robbing them of their offerings and treasuries. He sold church positions to the highest bidder. He kept the archbishopric of Canterbury vacant before finally appointing good Anselm to the office. And he converted sacred cemeteries into royal parks to satisfy his thirst for hunting.

     It was this last indiscretion that took his life. He had seized land for a hunter’s paradise called New Forest. On August 2, 1100, while hot on the chase, he was struck by a powerful arrow that flew from nowhere. He died quickly, and to no one’s sorrow. No church bells tolled, no prayers were said for him, no alms given in his memory, no monuments built to his name. His eternal damnation was taken for granted by England, and his younger brother Henry reigned in his stead.

     Send your sharp arrows through enemy hearts and make all nations fall at your feet. During the fighting a soldier shot an arrow without even aiming, and it hit Ahab where two pieces of his armor joined. Dogs licked Ahab’s blood off the ground, just as the Lord had warned.
--- Psalm 45:5; 1 Kings 22:34a,38b.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 2

     “Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” --- Ephesians 1:11.

     Our belief in God’s wisdom supposes and necessitates that he has a settled purpose and plan in the work of salvation. What would creation have been without his design? Is there a fish in the sea, or a fowl in the air, which was left to chance for its formation? Nay, in every bone, joint, and muscle, sinew, gland, and blood-vessel, you mark the presence of a God working everything according to the design of infinite wisdom. And shall God be present in creation, ruling over all, and not in grace? Shall the new creation have the fickle genius of free will to preside over it when divine counsel rules the old creation? Look at Providence! Who knoweth not that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father? Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. God weighs the mountains of our grief in scales, and the hills of our tribulation in balances. And shall there be a God in providence and not in grace? Shall the shell be ordained by wisdom and the kernel be left to blind chance? No; he knows the end from the beginning. He sees in its appointed place, not merely the corner-stone which he has laid in fair colours, in the blood of his dear Son, but he beholds in their ordained position each of the chosen stones taken out of the quarry of nature, and polished by his grace; he sees the whole from corner to cornice, from base to roof, from foundation to pinnacle. He hath in his mind a clear knowledge of every stone which shall be laid in its prepared space, and how vast the edifice shall be, and when the top-stone shall be brought forth with shoutings of “Grace! Grace! unto it.” At the last it shall be clearly seen that in every chosen vessel of mercy, Jehovah did as he willed with his own; and that in every part of the work of grace he accomplished his purpose, and glorified his own name.


          Evening - August 2

     “So she gleaned in the field until even.” --- Ruth 2:17.

     Let me learn from Ruth, the gleaner. As she went out to gather the ears of corn, so must I go forth into the fields of prayer, meditation, the ordinances, and hearing the word to gather spiritual food. The gleaner gathers her portion ear by ear; her gains are little by little: so must I be content to search for single truths, if there be no greater plenty of them. Every ear helps to make a bundle, and every Gospel lesson assists in making us wise unto salvation. The gleaner keeps her eyes open: if she stumbled among the stubble in a dream, she would have no load to carry home rejoicingly at eventide. I must be watchful in religious exercises lest they become unprofitable to me; I fear I have lost much already—O that I may rightly estimate my opportunities, and glean with greater diligence. The gleaner stoops for all she finds, and so must I. High spirits criticize and object, but lowly minds glean and receive benefit. A humble heart is a great help towards profitably hearing the Gospel. The engrafted soul-saving word is not received except with meekness. A stiff back makes a bad gleaner; down, master pride, thou art a vile robber, not to be endured for a moment. What the gleaner gathers she holds: if she dropped one ear to find another, the result of her day’s work would be but scant; she is as careful to retain as to obtain, and so at last her gains are great. How often do I forget all that I hear; the second truth pushes the first out of my head, and so my reading and hearing end in much ado about nothing! Do I feel duly the importance of storing up the truth? A hungry belly makes the gleaner wise; if there be no corn in her hand, there will be no bread on her table; she labours under the sense of necessity, and hence her tread is nimble and her grasp is firm; I have even a greater necessity, Lord, help me to feel it, that it may urge me onward to glean in fields which yield so plenteous a reward to diligence.


Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     August 2

          NOTHING BETWEEN

     Words and music by Charles A. Tindley, 1851–1933

     If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him. (1 John 3:21, 22)

     Born to slave parents and separated from them when only five years of age, Charles Tindley was a most remarkable individual. He learned to read and write on his own at the age of 17, attended night school, completed seminary training through correspondence, and was ordained to the Methodist ministry. While attending Evening school, young Tindley supported himself as the janitor of the Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. In 1902, Charles Tindley was called to pastor this prestigious church where he had once been the janitor. The Calvary Methodist Church prospered greatly under his leadership. Eventually several larger sanctuaries had to be built to accommodate the crowds of all races that came to hear this humble preacher. In 1924, in spite of Tindley’s protests, the new church building was renamed the Tindley Temple Methodist Church.

     Charles Tindley expresses a concern in this hymn for many of the practices and attitudes that must be rejected if Christians are to be pleasing to their Lord. The hymn reminds us that we must watch out for those allurements and temptations that can easily disrupt our spiritual courses: “Delusive dreams, sinful-worldly pleasures, habits, pride, self or friends.” The Bible teaches that we are not to be conformed to this world but should know the transforming power of a spiritually renewed mind (Romans 12:1, 2).

     Nothing between my soul and the Savior, naught of this world’s delusive dream: I have renounced all sinful pleasure—Jesus is mine! There’s nothing between.
     Nothing between, like worldly pleasure! Habits of life, tho harmless they seem, must not my heart from Him ever sever—He is my all! There’s nothing between.
     Nothing between, like pride or station: Self or friends shall not intervene; tho it may cost me much tribulation, I am resolved! There’s nothing between.
     Nothing between, e’en many hard trials, tho the whole world against me convene; watching with prayer and much self denial—Triumph at last, with nothing between!
     Chorus: Nothing between my soul and the Savior, so that His blessed face may be seen. Nothing preventing the least of His favor: Keep the way clear! Let nothing between.


     For Today: Psalm 51:10; 2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 13:6; 1 John 3:18–24

     Reflect on this truth: “The price of spiritual power is a purity of heart.” Ask God to reveal anything that might hinder His flow of power in your life. ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

          DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

     I shall further premise this, That the folly of atheism is evidenced by the light of reason. Men that will not listen to Scripture, as having no counterpart of it in their souls, cannot easily deny natural reason, which riseth up on all sides for the justification of this truth. There, is a natural as well as a revealed knowledge, and the book of the creatures is legible in declaring the being of a God, as well as the Scriptures are in declaring the nature of a God; there are outward objects in the world, and common principles in the conscience, whence it may be inferred.

     For, 1. God in regard of his existence is not only the discovery of faith, but of reason. God hath revealed not only his being, but some sparks of his eternal power and godhead in his works, as well as in his word. (Rom. 1:19, 20), “God hath showed it unto them,”—how? in his works; by the things that are made, it is a discovery to our reason, as shining in the creatures; and an object of our faith as breaking out upon us in the Scriptures: it is an article of our faith, and an article of our reason. Faith supposeth natural knowledge, as grace supposeth nature. Faith indeed is properly of things above reason, purely depending upon revelation. What can be demonstrated by natural light, is not so properly the object of faith; though in regard of the addition of a certainty by revelation it is so. The belief that God is, which the apostle speaks of, is not so much of the bare existence of God, as what God is in relation to them that seek him, viz. a rewarder. The apostle speaks of the faith of Abel, the faith of Enoch, such a faith that pleases God: but the faith of Abel testified in his sacrifice, and the faith of Enoch testified in his walking with God, was not simply a faith of the existence of God. Cain in the time of Abel, other men in the world in the time of Enoch, believed this as well as they: but it was a faith joined with the worship of God, and desires to please him in the way of his own appointment; so that they, believed that God was such as he had declared himself to be in his promise to Adam, such an one as would be as good as his word, and bruise the serpent’s head. He that seeks to God according to the mind of God, must believe that he is such a God that will pardon sin, and justify a seeker of him; that he is a God of that ability and will, to justify a sinner in that way he hath appointed for the clearing the holiness of his nature, and vindicating the honor of his law violated by man. No man can seek God or love God, unless he believe him to be thus; and he cannot seek God without a discovery of his own mind how he would be sought. For it is not a seeking God in any way of man’s invention, that renders him capable of this desired fruit of a reward. He that believes God as a rewarder, must believe the promise of God concerning the Messiah. Men under the conscience of sin, cannot tell without a divine discovery, whether God will reward, or how he will reward the seekers of him; and therefore cannot act towards him as an object of faith. Would any man seek God merely because he is, or love him because he is, if he did not know that he should be acceptable to him? The bare existence of a thing is not the ground of affection to it, but those qualities of it and our interest in it, which render it amiable and delightful. How can men, whose consciences fly in their faces, seek God or love him, without this knowledge that he is a rewarder? Nature doth not show any way to a sinner, how to reconcile God’s provoked justice with his tenderness. The faith the apostle speaks of here is a faith that eyes the reward as an encouragement, and the will of God as the rule of its acting; he doth not speak simply of the existence of God.

     I have spoken the more of this place, because the Socinians  ( Definition of Socinian. : an adherent of a 16th and 17th century theological movement professing belief in God and adherence to the Christian Scriptures but denying the divinity of Christ and consequently denying the Trinity. )  use this to decry any natural knowledge of God, and that the existence of God is only to be known by revelation, so that by that reason any one that live without the Scripture hath no ground to believe the being of a God. The Scripture ascribes a knowledge of God to all nations in the world (Rom. 1:19); not only a faculty of knowing, if they had arguments and demonstrations, as an ignorant man in any art hath a faculty to know; but it ascribes an actual knowledge (ver.10) “manifest in them;” (ver. 21) “They knew God;” not they might know him; they knew him when they did not care for knowing him. The notices of God are as intelligible to us by reason, as any object in the world is visible; he is written in every letter. 2. We are often in the Scripture sent to take a prospect of the creatures for a discovery of God. The apostles drew arguments from the topics of nature, when they discoursed with those that owned the Scripture (Rom. 1:19), as well as when they treated with those that were ignorant of it, as Acts 14:16, 17. And among the philosophers of Athens (Acts 17:27, 29), such arguments the Holy Ghost in the apostles thought sufficient to convince men of the existence, unity, spirituality, and patience of God. Such arguments had not been used by them and the prophets from the visible things in the world to silence the Gentiles with whom they dealt, had not this truth, and much more about God, been demonstrable by natural reason: they knew well enough that probable arguments would not satisfy piercing and inquisitive minds.

     In Paul’s account, the testimony of the creatures was without contradiction. God himself justifies this way of proceeding by his own example, and remits Job to the consideration of the creatures, to spell out something of his divine perfections. And this is so convincing an argument of the existence of God, that God never vouchsafed any miracle, or put forth any act of omnipotency, besides what was evident in the creatures, for the satisfaction of the curiosity of any atheist, or the evincing of his being, as he hath done for the evidencing those truths which were not written in the book of nature, or for the restoring a decayed worship, or the protection or deliverance of his people. Those miracles in publishing the gospel, indeed, did demonstrate the existence of some supreme power; but they were not seals designedly affixed for that, but for the confirmation of that truth, which was above the ken of purblind reason, and purely the birth of divine revelation. Yet what proves the truth of any spiritual doctrine, proves also in that act the existence of the Divine Author of it. The revelation always implies a revealer, and that which manifests it to be a revelation, manifests also the supreme Revealer of it. By the same light the sun manifests other things to us, it also manifests itself. But what miracles could rationally be supposed to work upon an atheist, who is not drawn to a sense of the truth proclaimed aloud by so many wonders of the creation? Let us now proceed to the demonstration of the atheist’s folly.

     It is a folly to deny or doubt of a Sovereign Being, incomprehensible in his nature, infinite in his essence and perfections, independent in his operations, who hath given being to the whole frame of sensible and intelligible creatures, and governs them according to their several natures, by an unconceivable wisdom; who fills the heavens with the glory of his majesty, and the earth with the influences of his goodness.

     It is a folly inexcusable to renounce, in this case, all appeal to universal consent, and the joint assurances of the creatures. Reason I. ’Tis a folly to deny or doubt of that which hath been the acknowledged sentiment of all nations, in all places and ages. There is no nation but hath owned some kind of religion, and, therefore, no nation but hath consented in the notion of a Supreme Creator and Governor.

     1. This hath been universal. 2. It hath been constant and uninterrupted. 3. Natural and innate. First, It hath been universally assented to by the judgments and practices of all nations in the world.

     1. No nation hath been exempt from it. All histories of former and latter ages have not produced any one nation but fell under the force of this truth. Though they have differed in their religions, they have agreed in this truth; here both heathen, Turk, Jew, and Christian, centre without any contention. No quarrel was ever commenced upon this score; though about other opinions wars have been sharp, and enmities irreconcilable. The notion of the existence of a Deity was the same in all, Indians as well as Britons, Americans as well as Jews. It hath not been an opinion peculiar to this or that people, to this or that sect of philosophers; but hath been as universal as the reason whereby men are differenced from other creatures, so that some have rather defined man by animal religiosum, than animal rationale. ’Tis so twisted with reason that a man cannot be accounted rational, unless he own an object of religion; therefore he that understands not this, renounceth his humanity when he renounceth a Divinity. No instance can be given of any one people in the world that disclaimed it. It hath been owned by the wise and ignorant, by the learned and stupid, by those who had no other guide but the dimmest light of nature, as well as those whose candles were snuffed by a more polite education, and that without any solemn debate and contention. Though some philosophers have been known to change their opinions in the concerns of nature, yet none can be proved to have absolutely changed their opinion concerning the being of a God.

     One died for asserting one God; none, in the former ages upon record, hath died for asserting no God. Go to the utmost bounds of America, you may find people without some broken pieces of the law of nature, but not without this signature and stamp upon them, though they wanted commerce with other nations, except as savage as themselves, in whom the light of nature was as it were sunk into the socket, who are but one remove from brutes, who clothe not their bodies, cover not their shame, yet were they as soon known to own a God, as they were known to be a people. They were possessed with the notion of a Supreme Being, the author of the world; had an object of religious adoration; put up prayers to the deity they owned for the good things they wanted, and the diverting the evils they feared. No people so untamed where absolute perfect atheism had gained a footing. No one nation of the world known in the time of the Romans that were without their ceremonies, whereby they signified their devotion to a deity. They had their places of worship, where they made their vows, presented their prayers, offered their sacrifices, and implored the assistance of what they thought to be a god; and in their distresses run immediately, without any deliberation, to their gods: so that the notion of a deity was as inward and settled in them as their own souls, and, indeed, runs in the blood of mankind. The distempers of the understanding cannot utterly deface it; you shall scarce find the most distracted bedlam, in his raving fits, to deny a God, though he may blaspheme, and fancy himself one.

     2. Nor doth the idolatry and multiplicity of gods in the world weaken, but confirm this universal consent. Whatsoever unworthy conceits men have had of God in all nations, or whatsoever degrading representations they have made of him, yet they all concur in this, that there is a Supreme Power to be adored. Though one people worshipped the sun, others the fire,—and the Egyptians, gods out of their rivers, gardens, and fields; yet the notion of a Deity existent, who created and governed the world, and conferred daily benefits upon them, was maintained by all, though applied to the stars, and in part to those sordid creatures. All the Dagons of the world establish this truth, and fall down before it. Had not the nations owned the being of a God, they had never offered incense to an idol: had there not been a deep impression of the existence of a Deity, they had never exalted creatures below themselves to the honor of altars: men could not so easily have been deceived by forged deities, if they had not had a notion of a real one. Their fondness to set up others in the place of God, evidenced a natural knowledge that there was One who had a right to be worshipped. If there were not this sentiment of a Deity, no man would ever have made an image of a piece of wood, worshipped it, prayed to it, and said, “Deliver me, for thou art my God.” They applied a general notion to a particular image. The difference is in the manner, and immediate object of worship, not in the formal ground of worship. The worship sprung from a true principle, though it was not applied to a right object: while they were rational creatures, they could not deface the notion; yet while they were corrupt creatures it was not difficult to apply themselves to a wrong object from a true principle. A blind man knows he hath a way to go as well as one of the clearest sight; but because of his blindness he may miss the way and stumble into a ditch. No man would be imposed upon to take a Bristol stone instead of a diamond, if he did not know that there were such things as diamonds in the world: nor any man spread forth his hands to an idol, if he were altogether without the sense of a Deity. Whether it be a false or a true God men apply to, yet in both, the natural sentiment of a God is evidenced; all their mistakes were grafts inserted in this stock, since they would multiply gods rather than deny a Deity. How should such a general submission be entered into by all the world, so as to adore things of a base alloy, if the force of religion were not such, that in any fashion a man would seek the satisfaction of his natural instinct to some object of worship? This great diversity confims this consent to be a good argument, for it evidenceth it not to be a cheat, combination or conspiracy to deceive, or a mutual intelligence, but every one finds it in his climate, yea in himself. People would never have given the title of a God to men or brutes had there not been a pre-existing and unquestioned persuasion, that there was such a being;—how else should the notion of a God come into their minds?—the notion that there is a God must be more ancient.

     3. Whatsoever disputes there have been in the world, this of the existence of God was never the subject of contention. All other thing have been questioned. What jarrings were there among philosophers about natural things! into how many parties were they split! with what animosities did they maintain their several judgments! but we hear of no solemn controversies about the existence of a Supreme Being: this never met with any considerable contradiction: no nation, that hath but other things to question, would ever suffer this to be disparaged so much as by a public doubt. We find among the heathen contentions about the nature of God and the number of gods, some asserted an innumerable multitude of gods, some armed him to be subject to birth and death, some affirmed the entire world was God; others fancied him to be a circle of a bright fire; others that he was a spirit diffused through the whole world: yet they unanimously concurred in this, as the judgment of universal reason, that there was such a sovereign Being: and those that were skeptical in everything else, and asserted that the greatest certainty was that there was nothing certain, professed a certainty in this. The question was not whether there was a First Cause, but what it was. It is much the same thing, as the disputes about the nature and matter of the heavens, the sun and planets, though there be great diversity of judgments, yet all agree that there are heavens, sun, planets; so all the contentions among men about the nature of God, weaken not, but rather confirm, that there is a God, since there was never a public formal debate about his existence. Those that have been ready to pull out one another’s eyes for their dissent from their judgments, sharply censured one another’s sentiments, envied the births of one another’s wits, always shook hands with an unanimous consent in this; never censured one another for being of this persuasion, never called it into question; as what was never controverted among men professing Christianity, but acknowledged by all, though contending about other things, has reason to be judged a certain truth belonging to the christian religion; so what was never subjected to any controversy, but acknowledged by the whole world, hath reason to be embraced as a truth without any doubt.

     4. This universal consent is not prejudiced by some few dissenters. History doth not reckon twenty professed atheists in all ages in the compass of the whole world: and we have not the name of any one absolute atheist upon record in Scripture; yet it is questioned, whether any of them, noted in history with that infamous name, were downright deniers of the existence of God, but rather because they disparaged the deities commonly worshipped by the nations where they lived, as being of a clearer reason to discern that those qualities, vulgarly attributed to their gods, as lust and luxury, wantonness and quarrels, were unworthy of the nature of a god. But suppose they were really what they are termed to be, what are they to the multitude of men that have sprung out of the loins of Adam? not so much as one grain of ashes is to all that were ever turned into that form by any fires in your chimneys. And many more were not sufficient to weigh down the contrary consent of the whole world, and bear down an universal impression. Should the laws of a country, agreed universally to by the whole body of the people, be accounted vain, because an hundred men of those millions disapprove of them, when not their reason, but their folly and base interest, persuades them to dislike them and dispute against them? What if some men be blind, shall any conclude from thence that eyes are not natural to men? shall we say that the notion of the existence of God is not natural to men, because a very small number have been of a contrary opinion? shall a man in a dungeon, that never saw the sun, deny that there is a sun, because one or two blind men tell him there is none, when thousands assure him there is. Why should then the exceptions of a few, not one to millions, discredit that which is voted certainly true by the joint consent of the world? Add this, too, that if those that are reported to be atheists had had any considerable reason to step aside from the common persuasion of the whole world, it is a wonder it met not with entertainment by great numbers of those, who, by reason of their notorious wickedness and inward disquiets, might reasonably be thought to wish in their hearts that there were no God. It is strange if there were any reason on their side, that in so long a space of tine as hath run out from the creation of the world, there could not be engaged a considerable number to frame a society for the profession of it. It hath died with the person that started it, and vanished as soon as it appeared.


The Existence and Attributes of God, Volume 7 of 50 Greatest Christian Classics, 2 Volumes in 1

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


     Sect. CV. — BUT it is worth while to hear the Diatribe make out, how it is that the argument of Paul does not exclude “Free-will” by that similitude: for it brings forward two absurd objections: the one taken from the Scriptures, the other from Reason. From the Scriptures it collects this objection.

     — When Paul, 2 Tim. ii. 20, had said, that “in a great house there are vessels of gold and silver, wood and earth, some to honour and some to dishonour,” he immediately adds, “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, &c.” (21.) — Then the Diatribe goes on to argue thus: — “What could be more ridiculous than for any one to say to an earthen chamber-convenience, If thou shalt purify thyself, thou shalt be a vessel unto honour? But this would be rightly said to a rational earthen vessel, which can, when admonished, form itself according to the will of the Lord.” — By these observations it means to say, that the similitude is not in all respects applicable, and is so mistaken, that it effects nothing at all.

     I answer: (not to cavil upon this point:) — that Paul does not say, if any one shall purify himself from his own filth, but “from these;” that is, from the vessels unto dishonour: so that the sense is, if any one shall remain separate, and shall not mingle himself with wicked teachers, he shall be a vessel unto honour. Let us grant also that this passage of Paul makes for the Diatribe just as it wishes: that is, that the similitude is not effective. But how will it prove, that Paul is here speaking on the same subject as he is in Rom. ix. 11-23, which is the passage in dispute? Is it enough to cite a different passage without at all regarding whether it have the same or a different tendency? There is not (as I have often shewn) a more easy or more frequent fall in the Scriptures, than the bringing together different Scripture passages as being of the same meaning. Hence, the similitude in those passages, of which the Diatribe boasts, makes less to its purpose than our similitude which it would refute.

     But (not to be contentious), let us grant, that each passage of Paul is of the same tendency; and that a similitude does not always apply in all respects; (which is without controversy true; for otherwise, it would not be a similitude, nor a translation, but the thing itself; according to the proverb, ‘A similitude halts, and does not always go upon four feet;’) yet the Diatribe errs and transgresses in this: — neglecting the scope of the similitude, which is to be most particularly observed, it contentiously catches at certain words of it: whereas, ‘the knowledge of what is said, (as Hilary observes,) is to be gained from the scope of what is said, not from certain detached words only.’ Thus, the efficacy of a similitude depends upon the cause of the similitude. Why then does the Diatribe disregard that, for the purpose of which Paul uses this similitude, and catch at that, which he says is unconnected with the purport of the similitude? That is to say, it is an exhortation where he saith, “If a man purge himself from these;” but a point of doctrine where he saith, “In a great house, there are vessels of gold, &c.” So that, from all the circumstances of the words and mind of Paul, you may understand that he is establishing the doctrine concerning the diversity and use of vessels.

     The sense, therefore, is this: — seeing that so many depart from the faith, there is no comfort for us but the being certain that “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And let every one that calleth upon the name of the Lord depart from evil.” (2 Tim. ii. 19). This then is the cause and efficacy of the similitude — that God knows His own! Then follows the similitude — that there are different vessels, some to honour and some to dishonour. By this it is proved at once, that the vessels do not prepare themselves, but that the Master prepares them. And this is what Paul means, where he saith, “Hath not the potter power over the clay, &c.” (Rom. ix. 21). Thus, the similitude of Paul stands most effective: and that to prove, that there is no such thing as “Free-will” in the sight of God.

     After this, follows the exhortation: “If a man purify himself from these,” &c. and for what purpose this is, may be clearly collected from what we have said already. It does not follow from this, that the man can purify himself. Nay, if any thing be proved hereby it is this: — that “Free-will” can purify itself without grace. For he does not say, if grace purify a man; but, “if a man purify himself.” But concerning imperative and conditional passages, we have said enough. Moreover, the similitude is not set forth in conditional, but in indicative verbs — that the elect and the reprobate, are as vessels of honour and of dishonour. In a word, if this fetch stand good, the whole argument of Paul comes to nothing. For in vain does he introduce vessels murmuring against God as the potter, if the fault plainly appear to be in the vessel, and not in the potter. For who would murmur at hearing him damned, who merited damnation!


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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