1 Samuel 16
David Anointed King1 Samuel 16 1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.” 4 Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord's anointed is before him.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.
David in Saul's Service14 Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him. 15 And Saul's servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” 17 So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me a man who can play well and bring him to me.” 18 One of the young men answered, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.” 19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me David your son, who is with the sheep.” 20 And Jesse took a donkey laden with bread and a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them by David his son to Saul. 21 And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. 22 And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight.” 23 And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.
Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another
Romans 14 1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”
Do Not Cause Another to Stumble13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
How Lonely Sits the City
Lamentations 1 1 How lonely sits the city
that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become,
she who was great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
has become a slave.
2 She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has none to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her;
they have become her enemies.
3 Judah has gone into exile because of affliction
and hard servitude;
she dwells now among the nations,
but finds no resting place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.
4 The roads to Zion mourn,
for none come to the festival;
all her gates are desolate;
her priests groan;
her virgins have been afflicted,
and she herself suffers bitterly.
5 Her foes have become the head;
her enemies prosper,
because the Lord has afflicted her
for the multitude of her transgressions;
her children have gone away,
captives before the foe.
6 From the daughter of Zion
all her majesty has departed.
Her princes have become like deer
that find no pasture;
they fled without strength
before the pursuer.
7 Jerusalem remembers
in the days of her affliction and wandering
all the precious things
that were hers from days of old.
When her people fell into the hand of the foe,
and there was none to help her,
her foes gloated over her;
they mocked at her downfall.
8 Jerusalem sinned grievously;
therefore she became filthy;
all who honored her despise her,
for they have seen her nakedness;
she herself groans
and turns her face away.
9 Her uncleanness was in her skirts;
she took no thought of her future;
therefore her fall is terrible;
she has no comforter.
“O Lord, behold my affliction,
for the enemy has triumphed!”
10 The enemy has stretched out his hands
over all her precious things;
for she has seen the nations
enter her sanctuary,
those whom you forbade
to enter your congregation.
11 All her people groan
as they search for bread;
they trade their treasures for food
to revive their strength.
“Look, O Lord, and see,
for I am despised.”
12 “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
which was brought upon me,
which the Lord inflicted
on the day of his fierce anger.
13 “From on high he sent fire;
into my bones he made it descend;
he spread a net for my feet;
he turned me back;
he has left me stunned,
faint all the day long.
14 “My transgressions were bound into a yoke;
by his hand they were fastened together;
they were set upon my neck;
he caused my strength to fail;
the Lord gave me into the hands
of those whom I cannot withstand.
15 “The Lord rejected
all my mighty men in my midst;
he summoned an assembly against me
to crush my young men;
the Lord has trodden as in a winepress
the virgin daughter of Judah.
16 “For these things I weep;
my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me,
one to revive my spirit;
my children are desolate,
for the enemy has prevailed.”
17 Zion stretches out her hands,
but there is none to comfort her;
the Lord has commanded against Jacob
that his neighbors should be his foes;
Jerusalem has become
a filthy thing among them.
18 “The Lord is in the right,
for I have rebelled against his word;
but hear, all you peoples,
and see my suffering;
my young women and my young men
have gone into captivity.
19 “I called to my lovers,
but they deceived me;
my priests and elders
perished in the city,
while they sought food
to revive their strength.
20 “Look, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my stomach churns;
my heart is wrung within me,
because I have been very rebellious.
In the street the sword bereaves;
in the house it is like death.
21 “They heard my groaning,
yet there is no one to comfort me.
All my enemies have heard of my trouble;
they are glad that you have done it.
You have brought the day you announced;
now let them be as I am.
22 “Let all their evildoing come before you,
and deal with them
as you have dealt with me
because of all my transgressions;
for my groans are many,
and my heart is faint.”
Blessed Are the ForgivenOf David. See Psalm 32 article below
A Maskil of David.
Psalm 32 1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
What I'm Reading
Unbelievable? Is There Enough Evidence Beyond the Gospels to Make Their Testimony Reliable?
By J. Warner Wallace 2 Years Ago
During an interview on Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley, a caller asked about corroboration and wanted to know if there was enough evidence beyond the Gospels to verify the reliability of their testimony. I began by helping him understand the nature of evidential corroboration and the limited information typically offered by such evidence. Every piece of corroborative evidence typically addresses (and verifies) only a “touchpoint”, a small aspect of the testimony from which we infer the “reasonability” of the larger account. Corroborative evidence is always limited; it only addresses a small aspect of the event under consideration. Even with these limits, however, the Gospels are still well corroborated. I’ve written a chapter about this in my book, Cold-Case Christianity, but here is a brief summary of the evidence “beyond the Gospels”:
Ancient “Reluctant Admissions” | Non-Christian authors and historians from antiquity mentioned Jesus or His followers repeatedly, even as they denied His Deity or the claims of His supporters. While these ancient sources were hostile to the claims of the New Testament, they reluctantly confirmed key elements of the Gospel narrative.
Josephus (37-101AD) | Even when examining the a modest, redacted version of Josephus’ ancient account, it’s clear that this Jewish historian reluctantly affirmed the following: Jesus lived in Palestine, was a wise man and a teacher, worked amazing deeds, was accused by the Jews, crucified under Pilate and had followers called Christians.
Thallus (52AD) | While Thallus appeared to deny the supernatural aspect of the gospel narratives, he did reluctantly repeat and affirm the following: Jesus lived, was crucified, and there was an earthquake and darkness at the point of his crucifixion.
Tacitus (56-120AD) | Cornelius Tacitus (known for his analysis and examination of historical documents and among the most trusted of ancient historians) described Nero’s response to the great fire in Rome and reluctantly affirmed the following: Jesus lived in Judea, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and had followers who were persecuted for their faith in Christ.
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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:
Psalm 32 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE. A Psalm of David, Maschil. That David wrote this gloriously evangelic Psalm is proved not only by this heading, but by the words of the apostle Paul, in Ro 4:6-8. "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, "&c. Probably his deep repentance over his great sin was followed by such blissful peace, that he was led to pour out his spirit in the soft music of this choice song. In the order of history it seems to follow the fifty-first. Maschil is a new title to us, and indicates that this is an instructive or didactic Psalm. The experience of one believer affords rich instruction to others, it reveals the footsteps of the flock, and so comforts and directs the weak. Perhaps it was important in this case to prefix the word, that doubting saints might not imagine the Psalm to be the peculiar utterance of a singular individual, but might appropriate it to themselves as a lesson from the Spirit of God. David promised in the fifty-first Psalm to teach transgressors the Lord's ways, and here he does it most effectually. Grotius thinks that this Psalm was meant to be sung on the annual day of the Jewish expiation, when a general confession of their sins was made.
DIVISION. In our reading we have found it convenient to note the benediction of the pardoned, Ps 32:1-2; David's personal confession, Ps 32:3-5; and the application of the case to others, Ps 32:6-7. The voice of God is heard by the forgiven one in Ps 32:8-9; and the Psalm then concludes with a portion for each of the two great classes of men, Ps 32:10-11.
Verse 1. Blessed. Like the sermon on the mount on the mount, this Psalm begins with beatitudes. This is the second Psalm of benediction. The first Psalm describes the result of holy blessedness, the thirty-second details the cause of it. The first pictures the tree in full growth, this depicts it in its first planting and watering. He who in the first Psalm is a reader of God's book, is here a suppliant at God's throne accepted and heard. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven. He is now blessed and ever shall be. Be he ever so poor, or sick, or sorrowful, he is blessed in very deed. Pardoning mercy is of all things in the world most to be prized, for it is the only and sure way to happiness. To hear from God's own Spirit the words, "absolvo te" is joy unspeakable. Blessedness is not in this case ascribed to the man who has been a diligent law keeper, for then it would never come to us, but rather to a lawbreaker, who by grace most rich and free has been forgiven. Self righteous Pharisees have no portion in this blessedness. Over the returning prodigal, the word of welcome is here pronounced, and the music and dancing begin. A full, instantaneous, irreversible pardon of transgression turns the poor sinner's hell into heaven, and makes the heir of wrath a partaker in blessing. The word rendered forgiven is in the original taken off or taken away, as a burden is lifted or a barrier removed. What a lift is here! It cost our Saviour a sweat of blood to bear our load, yea, it cost him his life to bear it quite away. Samson carried the gates of Gaza, but what was that to the weight which Jesus bore on our behalf? Whose sin is covered. Covered by God, as the ark was covered by the mercyseat, as Noah was covered from the flood, as the Egyptians were covered by the depths of the sea. What a cover must that be which hides away for ever from the sight of the all seeing God all the filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit! He who has once seen sin in its horrible deformity, will appreciate the happiness of seeing it no more for ever. Christ's atonement is the propitiation, the covering, the making an end of sin; where this is seen and trusted in, the soul knows itself to be now accepted in the Beloved, and therefore enjoys a conscious blessedness which is the antepast of heaven. It is clear from the text that a man may know that he is pardoned: where would be the blessedness of an unknown forgiveness? Clearly it is a matter of knowledge, for it is the ground of comfort. "Pause, my soul, adore and wonder,
Verse 2. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity. The word blessed is in the plural, oh, the blessednesses! the double joys, the bundles of happiness, the mountains of delight! Note the three words so often used to denote our disobedience: transgression, sin, and iniquity, are the three headed dog at the gates of hell, but our glorious Lord has silenced his barkings for ever against his own believing ones. The trinity of sin is overcome by the Trinity of heaven. Non imputation is of the very essence of pardon: the believer sins, but his sin is not reckoned, not accounted to him. Certain divines froth at the mouth with rage against imputed righteousness, be it ours to see our sin not imputed, and to us may there be as Paul words it, "Righteousness imputed without works." He is blessed indeed who has a substitute to stand for him to whose account all his debts may be set down. And in whose spirit there is no guile. He who is pardoned, has in every case been taught to deal honestly with himself, his sin, and his God. Forgiveness is no sham, and the peace which it brings is not caused by playing tricks with conscience. Self deception and hypocrisy bring no blessedness, they may drug the soul into hell with pleasant dreams, but into the heaven of true peace they cannot conduct their victim. Free from guilt, free from guile. Those who are justified from fault are sanctified from falsehood. A liar is not a forgiven soul. Treachery, double dealing, chicanery, dissimulation, are lineaments of the devil's children, but he who is washed from sin is truthful, honest, simple, and childlike. There can be no blessedness to tricksters with their plans, and tricks, and shuffling, and pretending: they are too much afraid of discovery to be at ease; their house is built on the volcano's brink, and eternal destruction must be their portion. Observe the three words to describe sin, and the three words to represent pardon, weigh them well, and note their meaning.
Verses 3-5. David now gives us his own experience: no instructor is so efficient as one who testifies to what he has personally known and felt. He writes well who like the spider spins his matter out of his own bowels.
Verse 3. When I kept silence. When through neglect I failed to confess, or through despair dared not do so, my bones, those solid pillars of my frame, the stronger portions of my bodily constitution, waxed old, began to decay with weakness, for my grief was so intense as to sap my health and destroy my vital energy. What a killing thing is sin! It is a pestilent disease! A fire in the bones! While we smother our sin it rages within, and like a gathering wound swells horribly and torments terribly. Through my roaring all the day long. He was silent as to confession, but not as to sorrow. Horror at his great guilt, drove David to incessant laments, until his voice was no longer like the articulate speech of man, but so full of sighing and groaning, that it resembled to hoarse roaring of a wounded beast. None knows the pangs of conviction but those who have endured them. The rack, the wheel, the flaming fagot are ease compared with the Tophet which a guilty conscience kindles within the breast: better suffer all the diseases which flesh is heir to, than lie under the crushing sense of the wrath of almighty God. The Spanish inquisition with all its tortures was nothing to the inquest which conscience holds within the heart.
Verse 4. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me. God's finger can crush us — what must his hand be, and that pressing heavily and continuously! Under terrors of conscience, men have little rest by night, for the grim thoughts of the day dog them to their chambers and haunt their dreams, or else they lie awake in a cold sweat of dread. God's hand is very helpful when it uplifts, but it is awful when it presses down: better a world on the shoulder, like Atlas, than God's hand on the heart, like David. My moisture is turned into the drought of summer. The sap of his soul was dried, and the body through sympathy appeared to be bereft of its needful fluids. The oil was almost gone from the lamp of life, and the flame flickered as though it would soon expire. Unconfessed transgression, like a fierce poison, dried up the fountain of the man's strength and made him like a tree blasted by the lightning, or a plant withered by the scorching heat of a tropical sun. Alas! for a poor soul when it has learned its sin but forgets its Saviour, it goes hard with it indeed. Selah. It was time to change the tune, for the notes are very low in the scale, and with such hard usage, the strings of the harp are out of order: the next verse will surely be set to another key, or will rehearse a more joyful subject.
Verse 5. I acknowledged my sin unto thee. After long lingering, the broken heart bethought itself of what it ought to have done at the first, and laid bare its bosom before the Lord. The lancet must be let into the gathering ulcer before relief can be afforded. The least thing we can do, if we would be pardoned, is to acknowledge our fault; if we are too proud for this we double deserve punishment. And mine iniquity have I not hid. We must confess the guilt as well as the fact of sin. It is useless to conceal it, for it is well known to God; it is beneficial to us to own it, for a full confession softens and humbles the heart. We must as far as possible unveil the secrets of the soul, dig up the hidden treasure of Achan, and by weight and measure bring out our sins. I said. This was his fixed resolution. I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord. Not to my fellow men or to the high priest, but unto Jehovah; even in those days of symbol the faithful looked to God alone for deliverance from sin's intolerable load, much more now, when types and shadows have vanished at the appearance of the dawn. When the soul determines to lay low and plead guilty, absolution is near at hand; hence we read, And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Not only was the sin itself pardoned, but the iniquity of it; the virus of its guilt was put away, and that at once, so soon as the acknowledgment was made. God's pardons are deep and thorough: the knife of mercy cuts at the roots of the ill weed of sin. Selah. Another pause is needed, for the matter is not such as may be hurried over.
Ask, O why such love to me?
Grace has put me in the number
Of the Saviour's family.
Thanks, eternal thanks, to thee."
Verse 7. Thou art my hiding place. Terse, short sentences make up this verse, but they contain a world of meaning. Personal claims upon our God are the joy of spiritual life. To lay our hand upon the Lord with the clasp of a personal "my" is delight at its full. Observe that the same man who in the fourth verse was oppressed by the presence of God, here finds a shelter in him. See what honest confession and full forgiveness will do! The gospel of substitution makes him to be our refuge who otherwise would have been our judge. Thou shalt preserve me from trouble. Trouble shall do me no real harm when the Lord is with me, rather it shall bring me much benefit, like the file which clears away the rust, but does not destroy the metal. Observe the three tenses, we have noticed the sorrowful past, the last sentence was a joyful present, this is a cheerful future. Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. What a golden sentence! The man is encircled in song, surrounded by dancing mercies, all of them proclaiming the triumphs of grace. There is no breach in the circle, it completely rings him round; on all sides he hears music. Before him hope sounds the cymbals, and behind him gratitude beats the timbrel. Right and left, above and beneath, the air resounds with joy, and all this for the very man who, a few weeks ago, was roaring all the day long. How great a change! What wonders grace has done and still can do! Selah. There was a need of a pause, for love so amazing needs to be pondered, and joy so great demands quiet contemplation, since language fails to express it.
Verse 8. I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go. Here the Lord is the speaker, and gives the psalmist an answer to his prayer. Our Saviour is our instructor. The Lord himself deigns to teach his children to walk in the way of integrity, his holy word and the monitions of the Holy Spirit are the directors of the believer's daily conversation. We are not pardoned that we may henceforth live after our own lusts, but that we may be educated in holiness and trained for perfection. A heavenly training is one of the covenant blessings which adoption seals to us: "All thy children shall be taught by the Lord." Practical teaching is the very best of instruction, and they are thrice happy who, although they never sat at the feet of Gamaliel, and are ignorant of Aristotle, and the ethics of the schools, have nevertheless learned to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. I will guide thee with mine eye. As servants take their cue from the master's eye, and a nod or a wink is all that they require, so should we obey the slightest hints of our Master, not needing thunderbolts to startle our incorrigible sluggishness, but being controlled by whispers and love touches. The Lord is the great overseer, whose eye in providence overlooks everything. It is well for us to be the sheep of his pasture, following the guidance of his wisdom.
Verse 9. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding. Understanding separates man from a brute — let us not act as if we were devoid of it. Men should take counsel and advice, and be ready to run where wisdom points them the way. Alas! we need to be cautioned against stupidity of heart, for we are very apt to fall into it. We who ought to be as the angels, readily become as the beasts. Whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. It is much to be deplored that we so often need to be severely chastened before we will obey. We ought to be as a feather in the wind, wafted readily in the breath of the Holy Spirit, but alas! we lie like motionless logs, and stir not with heaven itself in view. Those cutting bits of affliction show how hard mouthed we are, those bridles of infirmity manifest our headstrong and wilful manners. We should not be treated like mules if there was not so much of the ass about us. If we will be fractious, we must expect to be kept in with a tight rein. Oh, for grace to obey the Lord willingly, lest like the wilful servant, we are beaten with many stripes. Calvin renders the last words, "Lest they kick against thee, "a version more probable and more natural, but the passage is confessedly obscure — not however, in its general sense.
Verse 10. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked. Like refractory horses and mules, they have many cuts and bruises. Here and hereafter the portion of the wicked is undesirable. Their joys are evanescent, their sorrows are multiplying and ripening. He who sows sin will reap sorrow in heavy sheaves. Sorrows of conscience, of disappointment, of terror, are the sinner's sure heritage in time, and then for ever sorrows of remorse and despair. Let those who boast of present sinful joys, remember the shall be of the future and take warning. But he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about. Faith is here placed as the opposite of wickedness, since it is the source of virtue. Faith in God is the great charmer of life's cares, and he who possesses it, dwells in an atmosphere of grace, surrounded with the bodyguard of mercies. May it be given to us of the Lord at all times to believe in the mercy of God, even when we cannot see traces of its working, for to the believer, mercy is as all surrounding as omniscience, and every thought and act of God is perfumed with it. The wicked have a hive of wasps around them, many sorrows; but we have a swarm of bees storing honey for us.
Verse 11. Be glad. Happiness is not only our privilege, but our duty. Truly we serve a generous God, since he makes it a part of our obedience to be joyful. How sinful are our rebellious murmurings! How natural does it seem that a man blest with forgiveness should be glad! We read of one who died at the foot of the scaffold of overjoy at the receipt of his monarch's pardon; and shall we receive the free pardon of the King of kings, and yet pine in inexcusable sorrow? "In the Lord." Here is the directory by which gladness is preserved from levity. We are not to be glad in sin, or to find comfort in corn, and wine, and oil, but in our God is to be the garden of our soul's delight. That there is a God and such a God, and that he is ours, ours for ever, our Father and our reconciled Lord, is matter enough for a never ending psalm of rapturous joy. And rejoice, ye righteous, redouble your rejoicing, peal upon peal. Since God has clothed his choristers in the white garments of holiness, let them not restrain their joyful voices, but sing aloud and shout as those who find great spoil. And shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart. Our happiness should be demonstrative; chill penury of love often represses the noble flame of joy, and men whisper their praises decorously where a hearty outburst of song would be far more natural. It is to be feared that the church of the present day, through a craving for excessive propriety, is growing too artificial; so that enquirers' cries and believers' shouts would be silenced if they were heard in our assemblies. This may be better than boisterous fanaticism, but there is as much danger in the one direction as the other. For our part, we are touched to the heart by a little sacred excess, and when godly men in their joy over leap the narrow bounds of decorum, we do not, like Michal, Saul's daughter, eye them with a sneering heart. Note how the pardoned are represented as upright, righteous, and without guile; a man may have many faults and yet be saved, but a false heart is everywhere the damning mark. A man of twisting, shifty ways, of a crooked, crafty nature, is not saved, and in all probability never will be; for the ground which brings forth a harvest when grace is sown in it, may be weedy and waste, but our Lord tells us it is honest and good ground. Our observation has been that men of double tongues and tricky ways are the least likely of all men to be saved: certainly where grace comes it restores man's mind to its perpendicular, and delivers him from being doubled up with vice, twisted with craft, or bent with dishonesty. Reader, what a delightful Psalm! Have you, in perusing it, been able to claim a lot in the goodly land? If so, publish to others the way of salvation.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement. Among his published books are Lectures To My Students; The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set), a devotional commentary on the Psalms; All of Grace: Revised & updated , the first Christian pocket-paperback published in the United States; numerous volumes of topical sermon collections; and the best-selling Morning And Evening (Daily Readings).
"Pause, my soul, adore and wonder,
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 91My Refuge and My Fortress
9 Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
Hope for the Unhappily Single
By Marshall Segal 8/11/2015
There is a new and widespread epidemic in our nation and even in our churches. It’s called the not-yet-married life.
Sure, there have always been unmarried people longing for marriage, but the statistics suggest that this group is growing at an unprecedented rate in American history. In 1956, according to the United States Census Bureau, the average age at which a man was married for the first time was 22.5. For women, it was 20.1. Those numbers climbed steadily for years, then more dramatically beginning in the 1970s. Recently, they reached the ages of 29.0 for men and 26.6 for women.
Now, singleness itself, for the Christian, is not necessarily something to be lamented. After all, Paul sings the praise of singleness when he lists the spiritual benefits of being spouse-free in 1 Corinthians 7. The single life can be (relatively) free from relational anxieties (1 Corinthians 7:32), worldly distractions (1 Corinthians 7:33), and wide open for worship, devotion, and ministry (1 Corinthians 7:35). If we have the gift, Paul says to skip the ceremony, literally, and enjoy “your undivided devotion to the Lord.”
So this relatively new demographic of not-yet-married men and women in their mid-to-late twenties has the real potential to be a potent vehicle for the worship of God and the spread of his gospel. This potential means we don’t necessarily need to sound an alarm as our young people get married later and later. Without a doubt, within this trend there will be complacencies to confront and immaturities to manage and even evils to fight. But ultimately it might merely be God’s means of freeing up a generation to take their devotion to Christ deeper and further into the broken world in which we live.
Will I Be Single Forever? | The hope for a freshly mobilized unmarried demographic is real, and singleness really can and should be celebrated when God uses it to win worship and joy and life in himself. But one of the implications of these recent statistics is that a growing number of people in the church desire marriage — even feel called to marriage — and yet they have to wait longer to experience it. As Christians, we believe the vast majority of people are wired by God to receive and express love in the context of a covenant, so we shouldn’t be surprised that this growing phenomenon is hard on lots of our young men and women.
Marshall Segal is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness and Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife Faye have a son and live in Minneapolis.
Living in the Shallows: The Decline of Thought
By John Horvat 8/12/2017
As I look upon the desolate landscape of sound bites, tweets and other social media, I cannot help but lament what has happened to our culture.
Almost all Americans have a high school education. And today more people than ever have college degrees. One would expect reading levels to be increasing. Real culture should be flourishing. Yet it’s no secret that people are connecting in ever more primitive ways. Everything must be quick and impulsive. It must be short and abbreviated. We prefer many short bursts back and forth. The message is: Let nothing be profound. Let everything be forgettable.
I blame this trend on the decline of thought.There’s plenty to blame for the downward trend. We’ve dumbed down education. The media have sped up. The culture suffers from the frenetic intemperance of promising everything instantly and easily. It all ends up creating a childish society that tries to avoid effort and depth.
Thought involves the calm observation of reality. A person ponders the surroundings and comes to conclusions that reflect a truth about the nature of things. Thought is profound. It requires an ability to look deeply at things and synthesize what one has seen with clarity and precision. Thought is logically built upon an edifice of premises and conclusions that allow us to take things to their final consequences.
Childish Behavior | Thought has declined because our habits have declined. We rarely ponder things in our fast-paced world. Everyone wants things now, without thought. The motto of so many virtual platforms today is: Don’t make me think. There’s no time to read, no time to write, no time to organize thoughts.
John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker and author of the book Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society--Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go. His writings have appeared worldwide including in The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Post, American Thinker, TheBlaze, Crisis, FOX News and The Washington Times, as well as other publications and websites. He gives more than 150 radio and TV interviews annually.
For more than two decades he has been researching and writing about what’s gone wrong with America’s culture and economy, an effort that culminated in the ground-breaking release of his award-winning book Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society--Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go.
Mr. Horvat is vice president and a member of the board of directors for the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), head of the TFP Commission for American studies, a TFP Sedes Sapientiae Institute instructor, and webmaster of the American TFP website (www.tfp.org). Additionally, Mr. Horvat is a member of the Association of Christian Economists, The Philadelphia Society, the National Association of Scholars and the Catholic Writers Guild, as well as an Acton University participant.
His research began in 1986 when he was invited by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, founder of the Brazilian TFP, to study the crisis of modern economy and to prepare a conservative response. Mr. Horvat continues studying and writing and is now one of the most sought after experts on the subject.
When he’s not writing, Mr. Horvat enjoys jogging and fencing. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania.
Empirical Evidence Finds Prayer Improves Intimate Relationships
By Joe Carter 8/9/2017
The Story: New research finds that petitionary prayer can improve intimate relationships with a spouse or friend. Should Christians consider such empirical evidence useful?
The Background: Several researchers led by Frank Fincham at Florida State University’s Family Institute wanted to learn whether petitionary prayer (i.e., a prayer where you request something) for someone’s romantic partner or close friend has “any objectively measurable effects on couples.” According to a summary of the evidence by Thomas Burnett, an assistant director of public engagement for the John Templeton Foundation, “Praying daily for one’s partner has been linked to numerous positive outcomes: increased relationship satisfaction, greater trust, cooperation, forgiveness and marital commitment. Many of these benefits apply both to the prayer as well as the one being prayed for.”
“The power of petitionary prayer applies not only to romantic partners but to close friends as well,” Burnett adds. “For instance, in experiments with undergraduates, researchers found that those who had been assigned to pray regularly with a close friend showed greater levels of trust, compared to control groups. Multiple studies suggest a causal relationship, not just correlational. Partner-focused prayer apparently causes people to become more satisfied with their marriages.”
Why It Matters: There will be many people who read only the headline of this article or a description of it and claim, “We don’t need scientific research to tell us that.” (Think I’m kidding? Look at the comments on Facebook and Twitter when this article is posted on social media.) Are they right?
Yes and no.
Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, the editor of the NIV, Lifehacks Bible, Hardcover: Practical Tools for Successful Spiritual Habits, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator. He serves as an elder at Grace Hill Church in Herndon, Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter.
Frustrated with your spouse? These scientists suggest a specific kind of prayer
By Thomas Burnett 8/7/2017
oes prayer affect our intimate relationships? Frank Fincham at Florida State University’s Family Institute, along with several collaborators, has conducted a series of empirical studies of how prayer can impact romantic couples. Fincham wanted to learn whether petitionary prayer—a prayer where you request something—for someone’s partner has any objectively measurable effects on couples. After numerous studies that spanned two decades and published in top journals like “Psychological Science,” the answer appears to be yes.
Praying daily for one’s partner has been linked to numerous positive outcomes: increased relationship satisfaction, greater trust, cooperation, forgiveness and marital commitment. Many of these benefits apply both to the prayer as well as the one being prayed for.
But to experience these benefits, not just any kind of prayer will do—it has to be praying specifically for one’s partner. Of course, prayer can take many forms: ritual, petitionary, colloquial and meditative, among others. The form studied by the researchers was petitionary, making specific requests during prayer. The focus of these prayers was for one’s partner, specifically for divine love, well-being and blessings. (Disclosure: The John Templeton Foundation, where I work, has funded some of Fincham’s studies.)
The positive effect of prayer was measured both in undergraduate, mostly white students in exclusive relationships, as well as African American couples who have been married for many years. To be confident that their findings would be accurate, researchers carefully designed experiments by randomly assigning their participants to treatment and control groups. Differences between the two groups could thereby be attributed to the effects of partner-focused prayer rather than to other factors. The control groups engaged in other activities that could theoretically improve relationships, such as self-focused prayer, self-help books, marriage enrichment programs and positive social interactions with one’s partner. Compared to these control groups, those who prayed for their partners consistently saw the greatest positive impact on their relationship.
In addition to these randomized control trials, Fincham and his collaborators added another feature to strengthen their findings. Social science research often relies on self-reporting, in which participants respond to surveys after engaging in an activity. But what if the participants are mistaken or don’t answer truthfully? To control for these factors, Fincham included third-party observers to watch the behavior of participants before and after testing. The observers found that those who prayed regularly for their spouses experienced better outcomes.
1 Samuel 16; Romans 14; Lamentations 1; Psalm 32
By Don Carson 8/24/2018
The anointing of David as King over Israel (1 Sam. 16:1–13), even though his enthronement is years away, is full of interest.
(1) Sometimes prophets and preachers are slower to let go of a bad leader than God Almighty (1 Sam. 16:1). This is not because we are more compassionate than God, but because inertia or nostalgia or personal bonds of affection blind us to the sheer damage the leader is doing. For all his compassion, God is never blinded.
(2) Saul was elevated to the throne by God’s sanction. Is he so foolish as to think that he can outwit God in order to keep it? It is terribly sad to find Samuel afraid to anoint the next king, because Saul will kill anyone, even a prophet of God, who threatens a dynasty that God himself has declared will never be established.
(3) Saul had looked very promising when he was first elevated to the throne. Now Samuel thinks he can detect kingly material in the sons of Jesse — Eliab, for instance, the firstborn. But God says, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
This is a lesson that must be learned afresh, especially in our day, for our day loves images more than reality. Even some preachers devote more thought to how “to dress for success” and how to develop a compelling and authoritative voice than they do to maintaining a pure heart.
(4) The most important factor in the life and service of David is that the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him “in power” (1 Sam. 16:13). This is the regular experience of those prophets, priests, kings, and a few other leaders, who were given special roles under the terms of the old covenant. However difficult it is to be discerning in such matters, one cannot say too often or too loudly that what the church needs are leaders with unction — a word favored by the Puritans. It simply means “anointing,” i.e., an anointing by the Spirit. Is that too much to ask, in an age when under the terms of the new covenant all of the covenant people of God receive the Spirit poured out at Pentecost?
(5) Those who know their Bibles cannot help but feel a thrill of excitement at the simple words of verse 12. There the Lord tells Samuel with respect to David, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” Indeed, David was the one. Here are the inauspicious beginnings of a major new step in the history of redemption, one that leads directly to David’s most eminent descendant — and his Lord.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).
Don Carson Books:
- 1 An Introduction to the New Testament
- 2 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 3 The Gospel according to John Pillar NT Commentary
- 4 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Hardcover: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 5 Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation
- 6 Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
- 7 Exegetical Fallacies
- 8 For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word, Volume 1
- 9 Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering
- 10 Matthew (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 11 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 12 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 13 How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 14 New Testament Commentary Survey
- 15 For the Love of God, Volume 2: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word
- 16 9: Matthew and Mark (The Expositor's Bible Commentary)
- 17 Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14
- 18 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 19 The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures
- 20 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: John 14-17
- 21 Introducing NT: A Short Guide to Its History and Message
- 22 Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson
- 23 Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes
- 24 Jesus' Sermon on the Mount: An Exposition of Matthew 5-10
- 25 The Intolerance of Tolerance
- 26 From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation
- 27 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 28 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspective in Tension
- 29 The Expositor's Bible commentary : Matthew, Mark, Luke Vol. 8
- 30 Christ and Culture Revisited
- 31 NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 32 The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 33 Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day
- 34 Gagging of God, The
- 35 The Gospel as Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices
- 36 The God Who Is There Leader's Guide: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 37 What Is the Gospel?
- 38 His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke
- 39 The Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the OT
- 40 Love in Hard Places
- 41 Coming Home: Essays on the New Heaven and New Earth
- 42 God's Love Compels Us: Taking the Gospel to the World
- 43 Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
- 44 Telling the Truth
- 45 God's Word, Our Story: Learning from the Book of Nehemiah
- 46 Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications
- 47 The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7
- 48 Sunsets: Reflections for Life's Final Journey
- 49 God with Us: Themes from Matthew
- 50 A Model of Christian Maturity: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13
- 51 NIV Zondervan Study Bible, Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message
- 52 The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry
- 53 Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World
- 54 Matthew, Vol.2 (Ch. 13-28), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 55 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 56 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story
- 57 Entrusted with the Gospel: Pastoral Expositions of 2 Timothy
- 58 Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension
- 59 The Holy Spirit
- 60 The Plan
- 61 Collected Writings on Scripture
- 62 The Inclusive-Language Debate: A Plea for Realism
- 63 Matthew, Vol.1 (Ch. 1-12), The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- 64 Essential Evangelicalism: The Enduring Influence of Carl F. H. Henry
- 65 The Restoration of All Things
- 66 Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times
- 67 Christ's Redemption
- 68 Exegetical Fallacies
- 69 Justification
- 70 Greek Accents: A Student's Manual
- 71 Gospel-Centered Ministry
- 72 The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
- 77 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 78 The Cross & Christian Ministry: An Exposition of Passages from 1 Corinthians
- 79 [(Christ and Culture Revisited)]
- 80 When Jesus Confronts the World: An Exposition of Matthew 8-10
- 81 The Church: God's New People
- 82 Letters Along the Way: A Novel of the Christian Life
- 83 Love in Hard Places
- 84 The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place In God'S Story
- 85 NT Commentary Survey
- 86 The Inclusive Language Debate
- 87 Exegetical Fallacies
- 88 The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14-17
- 89 NT Commentary Survey
- 90 How long, O Lord? (2nd edition): Reflections on Suffering and Evil
- 91 Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century
- 92 Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians
- 93 By D. A. Carson - Gagging of God
- 94 Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed
- 95 The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
- 96 A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers
- 97 A Call to Spiritual Reformation
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
7/1/2017 Discerning Entertainment
My maternal grandfather, James Robson Featherstone (1915–1995), was born in Wallsend, England, and immigrated to America when he was thirteen years old. A talented singer, he rose to prominence during the big band era in Chicago in the early 1940s. He lived his life among the rich and famous, cut many records, played poker with the Three Stooges, and along the way, lost his professed faith, his family, his fame, and his money. Jimmy Featherstone’s wife, my grandmother, who was also involved in entertainment in the 1940s, brought my mother into modeling when she was young. Coming from such a background, it was natural for my mother to see how I might do in entertainment, culminating in my short time as one of the first Backstreet Boys and my declining Lou Pearlman’s offer to be one of the first members of what became NSYNC.
Although I only caught a glimpse of the entertainment industry, it was enough to help me appreciate all that people must do to be successful in that world and, what’s more, to give me a deep sorrow and distaste for much of it. Through my experience in entertainment, God has heightened my sensitivity as I have attempted to lead my family in how we view and enjoy all types of entertainment: from TV shows to movies, from operas to music, from books to Broadway musicals, from bedtime stories to board games.
Entertainment of all sorts can be a wonderful way to rest and recuperate from the busyness, noise, and struggles of life. Entertainment allows our imaginations to travel the world and explore the universe, to go on adventures with hobbits and knights in shining armor, to go back in time and experience history, and to better understand people and our culture. But we must always guard our eyes and our hearts. For we cannot even begin to understand all the ways that Hollywood has affected us. Entertainment affects our minds, our homes, our culture, and our churches. Consequently, we must be vigilant as we use discernment in how we enjoy entertainment — looking to the light of God’s Word to guide us and inform our consciences.
Entertainment isn’t evil in itself, and we can enjoy it as we remember that in whatever we do, our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever as we live coram Deo, before the face of our omniscient and gracious God.
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)
by Bill Federer
Gutenberg means “Beautiful mountain.” An appropriate name Johannes Gutenberg, who invented the first moveable type printing press. His masterpiece was the Gutenberg Bible, around this day, August 24, 1455. No longer were Bibles painstakingly copied by hand and chained to pulpits. They were mass produced and accessible to the masses. Though millions were grateful, his business partner sued him and took his rights. Of his press, Gutenberg said: “Let us break the seal which seals up holy things and give wings to Truth in order that she may win every soul that comes into the world.”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Our hearts will be so resty or listless
that hardly we shall be induced to perform it [devotion]
when it is most necessary or useful for us.
--- Isaac Barrow
The questions that matter in life are remarkably few, and they are all answered by these words ‘Come unto Me.’ Not—‘Do this’ and ‘Don’t do that,’ but ‘Come.
--- Oswald Chambers
Our Brilliant Heritage / If You Will Be Perfect / Disciples Indeed: The Inheritance of God's Transforming Mind & Heart (OSWALD CHAMBERS LIBRARY)
I want to cultivate my relationship with God. I want all of life to be intimate – sometimes consciously – sometimes unconsciously – with the God who made , directs and loves me… I don’t want to live as a parasite on the first hand spiritual life of others, but to be personally involved with all my senses, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good… Usually for that to happen there must be a deliberate withdrawal from the noise of the day, a disciplined detachment from the insatiable self.
--- Eugene Peterson
The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction
Resurrection . . . means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater.
--- Tim Keller
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
How Taricheae Was Taken. A Description Of The River Jordan, And Of The Country Of Gennesareth.
1. And now Vespasian pitched his camp between this city and Taricheae, but fortified his camp more strongly, as suspecting that he should be forced to stay there, and have a long war; for all the innovators had gotten together at Taricheae, as relying upon the strength of the city, and on the lake that lay by it. This lake is called by the people of the country the Lake of Gennesareth. The city itself is situated like Tiberias, at the bottom of a mountain, and on those sides which are not washed by the sea, had been strongly fortified by Josephus, though not so strongly as Tiberias; for the wall of Tiberias had been built at the beginning of the Jews' revolt, when he had great plenty of money, and great power, but Taricheae partook only the remains of that liberality, Yet had they a great number of ships gotten ready upon the lake, that, in case they were beaten at land, they might retire to them; and they were so fitted up, that they might undertake a Sea-fight also. But as the Romans were building a wall about their camp, Jesu and his party were neither affrighted at their number, nor at the good order they were in, but made a sally upon them; and at the very first onset the builders of the wall were dispersed; and these pulled what little they had before built to pieces; but as soon as they saw the armed men getting together, and before they had suffered any thing themselves, they retired to their own men. But then the Romans pursued them, and drove them into their ships, where they launched out as far as might give them the opportunity of reaching the Romans with what they threw at them, and then cast anchor, and brought their ships close, as in a line of battle, and thence fought the enemy from the sea, who were themselves at land. But Vespasian hearing that a great multitude of them were gotten together in the plain that was before the city, he thereupon sent his son, with six hundred chosen horsemen, to disperse them.
2. But when Titus perceived that the enemy was very numerous, he sent to his father, and informed him that he should want more forces. But as he saw a great many of the horsemen eager to fight, and that before any succors could come to them, and that yet some of them were privately under a sort of consternation at the multitude of the Jews, he stood in a place whence he might be heard, and said to them, "My brave Romans! for it is right for me to put you in mind of what nation you are, in the beginning of my speech, that so you may not be ignorant who you are, and who they are against whom we are going to fight. For as to us, Romans, no part of the habitable earth hath been able to escape our hands hitherto; but as for the Jews, that I may speak of them too, though they have been already beaten, yet do they not give up the cause; and a sad thing it would be for us to grow wealthy under good success, when they bear up under their misfortunes. As to the alacrity which you show publicly, I see it, and rejoice at it; yet am I afraid lest the multitude of the enemy should bring a concealed fright upon some of you: let such a one consider again, who we are that are to fight, and who those are against whom we are to fight. Now these Jews, though they be very bold and great despisers of death, are but a disorderly body, and unskillful in war, and may rather be called a rout than an army; while I need say nothing of our skill and our good order; for this is the reason why we Romans alone are exercised for war in time of peace, that we may not think of number for number when we come to fight with our enemies: for what advantage should we reap by our continual sort of warfare, if we must still be equal in number to such as have not been used to war. Consider further, that you are to have a conflict with men in effect unarmed, while you are well armed; with footmen, while you are horsemen; with those that have no good general, while you have one; and as these advantages make you in effect manifold more than you are, so do their disadvantages mightily diminish their number. Now it is not the multitude of men, though they be soldiers, that manages wars with success, but it is their bravery that does it, though they be but a few; for a few are easily set in battle-array, and can easily assist one another, while over-numerous armies are more hurt by themselves than by their enemies. It is boldness and rashness, the effects of madness, that conduct the Jews. Those passions indeed make a great figure when they succeed, but are quite extinguished upon the least ill success; but we are led on by courage, and obedience, and fortitude, which shows itself indeed in our good fortune, but still does not for ever desert us in our ill fortune. Nay, indeed, your fighting is to be on greater motives than those of the Jews; for although they run the hazard of war for liberty, and for their country, yet what can be a greater motive to us than glory? and that it may never be said, that after we have got dominion of the habitable earth, the Jews are able to confront us. We must also reflect upon this, that there is no fear of our suffering any incurable disaster in the present case; for those that are ready to assist us are many, and at hand also; yet it is in our power to seize upon this victory ourselves; and I think we ought to prevent the coming of those my father is sending to us for our assistance, that our success may be peculiar to ourselves, and of greater reputation to us. And I cannot but think this an opportunity wherein my father, and I, and you shall be all put to the trial, whether he be worthy of his former glorious performances, whether I be his son in reality, and whether you be really my soldiers; for it is usual for my father to conquer; and for myself, I should not bear the thoughts of returning to him if I were once taken by the enemy. And how will you be able to avoid being ashamed, if you do not show equal courage with your commander, when he goes before you into danger? For you know very well that I shall go into the danger first, and make the first attack upon the enemy. Do not you therefore desert me, but persuade yourselves that God will be assisting to my onset. Know this also before we begin, that we shall now have better success than we should have, if we were to fight at a distance."
3. As Titus was saying this, an extraordinary fury fell upon the men; and as Trajan was already come before the fight began, with four hundred horsemen, they were uneasy at it, because the reputation of the victory would be diminished by being common to so many. Vespasian had also sent both Antonius and Silo, with two thousand archers, and had given it them in charge to seize upon the mountain that was over against the city, and repel those that were upon the wall; which archers did as they were commanded, and prevented those that attempted to assist them that way; And now Titus made his own horse march first against the enemy, as did the others with a great noise after him, and extended themselves upon the plain as wide as the enemy which confronted them; by which means they appeared much more numerous than they really were. Now the Jews, although they were surprised at their onset, and at their good order, made resistance against their attacks for a little while; but when they were pricked with their long poles, and overborne by the violent noise of the horsemen, they came to be trampled under their feet; many also of them were slain on every side, which made them disperse themselves, and run to the city, as fast as every one of them were able. So Titus pressed upon the hindmost, and slew them; and of the rest, some he fell upon as they stood on heaps, and some he prevented, and met them in the mouth, and run them through; many also he leaped upon as they fell one upon another, and trod them down, and cut off all the retreat they had to the wall, and turned them back into the plain, till at last they forced a passage by their multitude, and got away, and ran into the city.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
by D.H. Stern
of those who always fear God;
18 for then you will have a future;
what you hope for will not be cut off.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The spiritual index
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? --- Matthew 7:9.
The illustration of prayer that Our Lord uses here is that of a good child asking for a good thing. We talk about prayer as if God heard us irrespective of the fact of our relationship to Him (cf. Matthew 5:45.) Never say it is not God’s will to give you what you ask, don’t sit down and faint, but find out the reason, turn up the index. Are you rightly related to your wife, to your husband, to your children, to your fellow-students—are you a ‘good child’ there? ‘Oh, Lord, I have been irritable and cross, but I do want spiritual blessing.’ You cannot have it, you will have to do without until you come into the attitude of a good child.
We mistake defiance for devotion; arguing with God for abandonment. We will not look at the index. Have I been asking God to give me money for something I want when there is something I have not paid for? Have I been asking God for liberty while I am withholding it from someone who belongs to me? I have not forgiven someone his trespasses; I have not been kind to him; I have not been living as God’s child among my relatives and friends (see v. 12).
I am a child of God only by regeneration, and as a child of God I am good only as I walk in the light. Prayer with most of us is turned into pious platitude, it is a matter of emotion, mystical communion with God. Spiritually we are all good at producing fogs. If we turn up the index, we will see very clearly what is wrong—that friendship, that debt, that temper of mind. It is no use praying unless we are living as children of God. Then, Jesus says—“Everyone that asketh receiveth.”
the Poetry of RS Thomas
H'm: Poems by R. S. Thomas
It was perfect. He could do
Nothing about it. Its waters
Were as clear as his own eye. The grass
Was his breath. The mystery
Of the dark earth was what went on
In himself. He loved and
Hated it with a parent's
Conceit, admiring his own
Work, resenting its
Independence. There were trysts
In the greenwood at which
He was not welcome. Youths and girls,
Fondling the pages of
A strange book, awakened
His envy. The mind achieved
What the heart could not. He began planning
The destruction of the long peace
Of the place. The machine appeared
In the distance, singing to itself
Of money. Its song was the web
They were caught in, men and women
Together. The villages were as flies
To be sucked empty.
A tear. Enough, enough,
He commanded, but the machine
Looked at him and went on singing.
Hillel is an example of a man who practiced what he preached. He reputedly came from humble origins, and even after he rose to greatness, he never lost the virtue of humility that he speaks about in our Midrash.
Hillel had a reputation for patience and gentleness. Once, the story goes, a man resolved to try to get Hillel to lose his temper. Arriving at Hillel’s house on a Friday afternoon, just when Hillel was shampooing his hair, the man approached him with a question: “Why are the heads of the Babylonians so round?” (Since Hillel himself was from Babylonia, this was meant as an insult.) Instead of yelling at the man for his insolence or chasing him away, Hillel provided a reasonable response: “Because the midwives there aren’t so skilled in delivering babies.”
The man left, returned a little while later, and again interrupted Hillel’s “shower”: “Why are the eyes of Palmyrians so bleary?” Again, Hillel offered a logical answer: “Because they live in a place that has sandstorms.”
The man came back a third time with another of his questions: “Why do Ethiopians have big feet?” One more time Hillel took the question seriously and provided a plausible response: “Because they live near swamps.”
Finally the man gave up, having learned that Hillel would not lose his temper, would not be insulted, and would not disparage another human being.
On another occasion, a non-Jew came to Shammai and Hillel with a request: “Teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Shammai saw the question as a sign that the man was not serious, and he drove him away with a stick. Hillel, on the other hand, saw the question as an opportunity. His answer is well known: “What is hateful to you, don’t do to someone else. All the rest is commentary. Go and learn.”
A second non-Jew came to Hillel with the intention of converting to Judaism as long as he could one day become Kohen Gadol, High Priest. A third non-Jew also came with a condition: He would accept only the Written Torah, not the Oral Torah. To each of these men, Hillel patiently explained Judaism and Jewish law and why their conditions couldn’t be honored. All three found their way to Judaism, and later said of their teacher: “Hillel’s gentleness brought us under the wings of the Divine Presence” [Shabbat 30b–31a].
Another time, Hillel met a poor man who had come from a family of some means. Hillel provided material support, and more: He saw to it that the man would live at the level to which he had been accustomed. That included a horse to ride on and a servant to run before him. Once, Hillel couldn’t find a servant; he himself ran before the man [Ketubot 67b].
In our world, we often think that you have to fight your way to the top, stepping on people along the way. Hillel, remembered as one of the greatest of our sages, reminds us that patience, gentleness, and humility are also roads to the summit. By lowering himself time after time, he was ultimately raised to the highest heights.
ANOTHER D’RASH / Humility may well be a virtue, but on the individual level it often falls short. What politician was elected (at least in the last fifty years) by being meek and unassuming? Does the timid and submissive high school student end up at the head of the class, offered a full scholarship to a leading university? Usually not. Quite the contrary: The person who gets ahead in real life is often the one who claws himself to the top of the heap.
Therefore, the Hillel story may be here to serve another purpose. Hillel lived during the second century C.E., a time of great political upheaval for the Jews of Israel. Perhaps Hillel is talking not about individual humility but of national humility. What the question that Hillel is answering is: “Why have the Jews, the ‘Chosen People,’ lost ‘favorednation status’ and a special place with God, living instead as a subjugated, persecuted people?” Hillel’s answer of “When I lower myself, I am raised, and when I raise myself, I am lowered” reflects that Rabbinic view that persecution and suffering are punishments from God for the nation’s sin of hubris.
Hillel taught: “It is better for a person to be told, ‘Go up!’ than to be told, ‘Go down!’ ” Going up is often a metaphor for going to Israel. Thus, a person moving to Israel “makes aliyah,” that is, goes up. Going down refers to leaving Israel. Hillel, who himself made aliyah, may also be warning the people not to do those things that will cause God to exile the Jewish people from their homeland. Thus seen, Hillel’s words may reflect a Rabbinic theology of the history of the Jewish people: God will ultimately redeem us, if—and only if—we are of the proper character, humble and modest.
The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. --- John 3:35.
Having everything, [Christ] has all the justice of God and all the righteousness of God in him.
(The RS Thomas And Other Practical Works Of The Late Reverend And Learned Mr. Ralph Erskine V9)You shall, in Christ, be more righteous in God’s sight than ever you were guilty in his sight—yes, you shall be the very righteousness of God in him. You shall not only be justified but find God to be just in justifying you, because the justice of God is in Christ, and it is satisfied, glorified, in him.
Having everything, he has all the mercy of God in his hands; all the infinite love, pity, and compassion of God. What is Christ but the love of God in flesh and blood? “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9–10). Do you wish to find mercy in the moment of death and mercy at the great day? Know that there is no mercy to be expected from God’s hands unless you look to his mercy in the hands of Christ, for he will never show mercy at the expense of his justice, and it is only in Christ that mercy and justice meet and embrace.
Having everything, he has all the faithfulness and truth of God. O, faithless and unfaithful sinner, who has many times lied to the God of truth—would you have your falsehood all done away and swallowed up in the truth of God and your salvation secured notwithstanding your falsehood? Here is a pillar on which you may stand fixed, amidst all changes, whether in your outward lot or your inward frame, for, “All men are like grass… but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa. 40:6, 8). The truth of God stands unalterably the same.
In a word, having everything, [Christ] has all the fullness of God in his hands. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Col. 1:19). Not only all the attributes of God, but all the fullness of all the divine attributes—not only the wisdom of God, but all the fullness of divine wisdom; not only the power of God, but all the fullness of divine power; all the fullness of divine holiness; divine righteousness; divine mercy; divine faithfulness; divine authority—not only is God in him, but all the fullness of the deity. Poor empty sinner! Here are unsearchable riches, everlasting salvation for you.
--- Ralph Erskine
The Tale of Two Cities August 24
Barbarian invaders stampeded across Europe like herds of elephants, trampling everything in their path. Roman legions, unable to defend their 10,000-mile frontier, collapsed; the intruders penetrated Italy to the gates of Rome itself. And on August 24, 410 the Eternal City fell to Alaric and his swarms. For three days Rome was plundered. Women were attacked, the wealthy slaughtered, art destroyed, and the city battered beyond recognition.
The world reeled in shock, and Christians suddenly found themselves blamed. The empire had, after all, been an invincible fortress of iron before becoming “Christianized” with Constantine’s conversion in 312. Now, less than a century later, the greatest city and empire in history were no more. The old gods had been offended and had withdrawn their protection.
Across the Mediterranean the world’s greatest theologian listened to the reports, saw the refugees, heard the charges, and spent 13 years writing a response. Augustine’s 22-volume The City of God was written as a defense of Christianity, and it became the first great work to shape and define the medieval mind.
The first volumes of The City of God declare that Rome was being punished, not for her new faith, but for her old sins—immorality and corruption. Augustine admitted that he himself had indulged in depravity before coming to Christ. But, he said, the original sin could be traced back to Adam and Eve, and we have but inherited the sinful nature unleashed by them.
Mary’s child, Jesus Christ, offers forgiveness, and Christ alone provides eternal salvation. “Through a woman we were sent to destruction; through a woman salvation was restored to us. Mankind is divided into two sorts: such as live according to man, and such as live according to God. These we call the ‘two cities,’ the one predestined to reign eternally with God, and the other condemned to perpetual torment with Satan.”
“The Heavenly City outshines Rome,” Augustine wrote. “There, instead of victory, is truth; instead of high rank, holiness; instead of life, eternity.”
Because Abraham had faith, he lived as a stranger in the promised land. … Abraham did this, because he was waiting for the eternal city that God had planned and built.
--- Hebrews 11:9,10.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 24
“The breaker is come up before them.”
--- Micah 2:13.
Inasmuch as Jesus has gone before us, things remain not as they would have been had he never passed that way. He has conquered every foe that obstructed the way. Cheer up now thou faint-hearted warrior. Not only has Christ travelled the road, but he has slain thine enemies. Dost thou dread sin? He has nailed it to his cross. Dost thou fear death? He has been the death of Death. Art thou afraid of hell? He has barred it against the advent of any of his children; they shall never see the gulf of perdition. Whatever foes may be before the Christian, they are all overcome. There are lions, but their teeth are broken; there are serpents, but their fangs are extracted; there are rivers, but they are bridged or fordable; there are flames, but we wear that matchless garment which renders us invulnerable to fire. The sword that has been forged against us is already blunted; the instruments of war which the enemy is preparing have already lost their point. God has taken away in the person of Christ all the power that anything can have to hurt us. Well then, the army may safely march on, and you may go joyously along your journey, for all your enemies are conquered beforehand. What shall you do but march on to take the prey? They are beaten, they are vanquished; all you have to do is to divide the spoil. You shall, it is true, often engage in combat; but your fight shall be with a vanquished foe. His head is broken; he may attempt to injure you, but his strength shall not be sufficient for his malicious design. Your victory shall be easy, and your treasure shall be beyond all count.
“Proclaim aloud the Saviour’s fame,
Who bears the Breaker’s wond’rous name;
Sweet name; and it becomes him well,
Who breaks down earth, sin, death, and hell.”
Evening - August 24
“If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.” --- Exodus 22:6.
But what restitution can he make who casts abroad the fire-brands of error, or the coals of lasciviousness, and sets men’s souls on a blaze with the fire of hell? The guilt is beyond estimate, and the result is irretrievable. If such an offender be forgiven, what grief it will cause him in the retrospect, since he cannot undo the mischief which he has done! An ill example may kindle a flame which years of amended character cannot quench. To burn the food of man is bad enough, but how much worse to destroy the soul! It may be useful to us to reflect how far we may have been guilty in the past, and to enquire whether, even in the present, there may not be evil in us which has a tendency to bring damage to the souls of our relatives, friends, or neighbours.
The fire of strife is a terrible evil when it breaks out in a Christian church. Where converts were multiplied, and God was glorified, jealousy and envy do the devil’s work most effectually. Where the golden grain was being housed, to reward the toil of the great Boaz, the fire of enmity comes in and leaves little else but smoke and a heap of blackness. Woe unto those by whom offences come. May they never come through us, for although we cannot make restitution, we shall certainly be the chief sufferers if we are the chief offenders. Those who feed the fire deserve just censure, but he who first kindles it is most to blame. Discord usually takes first hold upon the thorns; it is nurtured among the hypocrites and base professors in the church, and away it goes among the righteous, blown by the winds of hell, and no one knows where it may end. O thou Lord and giver of peace, make us peacemakers, and never let us aid and abet the men of strife, or even unintentionally cause the least division among thy people.
O TO BE LIKE THEE!
Thomas O. Chisholm, 1866–1960
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10)
Great Master, teach us with Your skillful hand;
Let not the music that is in us die!
Great Sculptor, hew and polish us; nor let
Hidden and lost, Your form within us lie!
--- Horatius Bonar
The Bible teaches that God’s goal for His people is that they “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). We are to daily “put on Christ”—His love and character—even as we put on our garments (Romans 13:14). Christ-likeness is more than a religious profession or a weekly visit to church. It must become our total way of life. The Scriptures further teach that we are to carry the fragrance of Christ wherever we go—to unbelievers, the smell of death and to fellow believers, the fragrance of life (2 Corinthians 2:14–16).
Our society is in desperate need of more Christ-like believers. The only thing many people will ever know about God is what they see of His radiance reflected in our daily lives. Our ability to represent our Lord worthily is only possible through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.
This hymn text by Thomas Chisholm is one of his more than 1,200 fine poems, many of which have been set to music and have become enduring hymns of the church. This one, published in 1897, was his first hymn to be widely received.
O to be like Thee! blessed Redeemer. This is my constant longing and prayer; gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures, Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
O to be like Thee! full of compassion, loving, forgiving, tender and kind; helping the helpless, cheering the fainting, seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.
O to be like Thee lowly in spirit, holy and harmless, patient and brave; meekly enduring cruel reproaches, willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading, pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love; make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling; fit me for life and heaven above.
Chorus: O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee, Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art! Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness; stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
For Today: Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Titus 3:3
Reflect on this statement: “He who does not long to know more of Christ really knows nothing of Him yet!” Carry this musical message with you ---
DISCOURSE II - ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM
1. This is worse than idolatry. The grossest idolater commits not a crime so heinous, by changing his glory into the image of creeping things and senseless creatures, as the imagining God to be as one of our sinful selves, and likening him to those filthy images we erect in our fancies. One makes him an earthly God, like an earthly creature; the other fancies him an unjust and impure God, like a wicked creature. One sets up an image of him in the earth, which is his footstool; the other sets up an image of him in the heart, which ought to be his throne.
2. It is worse than absolute atheism, or a denial of God. “Dignius credimus non esse, quodcunque non ita fuerit, ut esse deberet,” was the opinion of Tertullian. It is more commendable to think him not to be, than to think him such a one as is inconsistent with his nature. Better to deny his existence, than deny his perfection. No wise man but would rather have his memory rot, than be accounted infamous, and would be more obliged to him that should deny that ever he had a being in the world, than to say he did indeed live, but he was a sot, a debauched person, and a man not to be trusted. When we apprehend God deceitful in his promises, unrighteous in his threatenmgs, unwilling to pardon upon repentance, or resolved to pardon notwithstanding impenitency: these are things either unworthy of the nature of God, or contrary to that revelation he hath given of himself. Better for a man never to have been born than be forever miserable; so better to be thought no God, than represented impotent or negligent, unjust or deceitful; which are more contrary to the nature of God than hell can be to the greatest criminal. In this sense perhaps the apostle affirms the Gentiles (Eph. 2:12) to be such as are “without God in the world;” as being more atheists in adoring God under such notions as they commonly did, than if they had acknowledged no God at all.
3. This is evident by our natural desire to be distant from him, and unwillingness to have any acquaintance with him. Sin set us first at a distance from God; and every new act of gross sin estrangeth us more from him, and indisposeth us more for him: it makes us both afraid and ashamed to be near him.
Sensual men were of this frame that Job discourseth of (ch. 21:7–9, 14, 15). Where grace reigns, the nearer to God the more vigorous the motion; the nearer anything approaches to us, that is the object of our desires, the more eagerly do we press forward to it: but our blood riseth at the approaches of anything to which we have an aversion. We have naturally a loathing of God’s coming to us or our return to him: we seek not after him as our happiness; and when he offers himself, we like it not, but put a disgrace upon him in choosing other things before him. God and we are naturally at as great a distance, as light and darkness, life and death, heaven and hell. The stronger impression of God anything hath, the more we fly from it. The glory of God in reflection upon Moses’ face scared the Israelites; they. who had desired God to speak to them by Moses, when they saw a signal impression of God upon his countenance, were afraid to come near him, as they were before unwilling to come near to God. Not that the blessed God is in his own nature a frightful object; but our own guilt renders him so to us, and ourselves indisposed to converse with him; as the light of the sun is as irksome to a distempered eye, as it is in its own nature desirable to a sound one. The saints themselves have had so much frailty, that they have cried out, that they were undone, if they had any more than ordinary discoveries of God made unto them; as if they wished him more remote from them. Vileness cannot endure the splendor of majesty, nor guilt the glory of a judge. We have naturally,
1. No desire of remembrance of him,
2. Or converse with him,
3. Or thorough return to him,
4. Or close imitation of him:
as if there were not any such being as God in the world; or as if we wished there were none at all; so feeble and spiritless are our thoughts of the being of a God.
1. No desire for the remembrance of him. How delightful are other things in our minds! How burdensome the memorials of God, from whom we have our being! With what pleasure do we contemplate the nature of creatures, even of flies and toads, while our minds tire in the search of Him, who hath bestowed upon us our knowing and meditating faculties! Though God shows himself to us in every creature, in the meanest weed as well as the highest heavens, and is more apparent in them to our reasons than themselves can be to our sense; yet though we see them, we will not behold God in them: we will view them to please our sense, to improve our reason in their natural perfections; but pass by the consideration of God’s perfections so visibly beaming from them. Thus we play the beasts and atheists in the very exercise of reason, and neglect our Creator to gratify our sense, as though the pleasure of that were more desirable than the knowledge of God. The desire of our souls is not towards his name and the remembrance of him, when we set not ourselves in a posture to feast our souls with deep and serious meditations of him; have a thought of him, only by the bye and away, as if we were afraid of too intimate acquaantance with him. Are not the thoughts of God rather our invaders than our guests; seldom invited to reside and take up their home in our hearts? Have we not, when they have broke in upon us, bid them depart from us, and warned them to come no more upon our ground; sent them packing as soon as we could, and were glad when they were gone? And when they have departed, have we not often been afraid they, should return again upon us, and therefore looked about for other inmates, things not good, or if good, infinitely below God, to possess the room of our hearts before any thoughts of him should appear again? Have we not often been glad of excuses to shake off resent thoughts of him, and when we have wanted real ones, found out pretences to keep God and our hearts at a distance? Is not this a part of atheism, to be so unwilling to employ our faculties about the giver of them, to refuse to exercise them in a way of a grateful remembrance of him; as though they were none of his gift, but our own acquisition; as though the God that truly gave them had no right to them, and he that thinks on us every day in a way of providence, were not worthy, to be thought on by us in a way of special remembrance? Do not the best, that love the remembrance of him, and abhor this natural averseness, find, that when they would think of God, many things tempt them and turn them to think elsewhere? Do they not find their apprehensions too feeble, their motions too dull, and the impressions too slight? This natural atheism is spread over human nature.
2. No desire of converse with him. The word “remember” in the command for keeping holy the Sabhath-day, including all the duties of the day, and the choicest of our lives, implies our natural unwillingness to them, and forgetfulness of them. God’s pressing this command with more reasons than the rest, manifests that man hath no heart for spiritual duties. No spiritual duty, which sets us immediately face to face with God, but in the attempts of it we find naturally a resistance from some powerful principle; so that every one may subscribe to the speech of the apostle, that “when we would do good, evil is present with them.” No reason of this can be rendered, but the natural temper of our souls, and an affecting a distance from God under any consideration: for though our guilt first made the breach, yet this aversion to a converse with him steps up without any actual reflections apon our guilt, which may render God terrible to us as an offended judge. Are we not often also, in our attendance upon him, more pleased with the modes of worship which gratify our fancy, than to have our souls inwardly delighted with the object of worship himself? This is a part of our natural atheism. To cast such duties off by total neglect, or in part, by affecting a coldness in them, is to cast off the fear of the Lord. Not to call upon God, and not to know him, are one and. the same thing (Jer. 10:25). Either we think there is no such Being in the world, or that he is so slight a one, that he deserves not the respect he calls for; or so impotent and poor, that he cannot supply what our necessities require.
3. No desire of a thorough return to him. The first man fled from him after his defection, though he had no refuge to fly to but the grace of his Creator. Cain went from his presence, would be a fugitive from God rather than a suppliant to him; when by faith in, and application of the promised Redeemer, he might have escaped the wrath to come for his brother’s blood, and mitigated the sorrows he was justly sentenced to bear in the world. Nothing will separate prodigal man from commoning with swine; and make him return to his father, but an empty trough: have we but husks to feed on, we shall never think of a father’s presence. It were well if our sores and indigence would drive us to him; but when our strength is devoured, we will not “return to the Lord our God, nor seek him for all this.” Not his drawn sword, as a God of judgment, nor his mighty power, as a Lord, nor his open arms, as the Lord their God, could move them to turn their eyes and their hearts towards him. The more he invites us to partake of his grace, the further we run from him to provoke his wrath: the louder God called them by his prophets, the closer they stuck to their Baal. We turn our backs when he stretches out his hand, stop our ears when he lifts up his voice. We fly from him when he courts us, and shelter ourselves in any bush from his merciful hand that would lay hold upon us; nor will we set our faces towards him, till our way be hedged up with thorns, and not a gap left to creep out any by-way. Whosoever is brought to a return, puts the Holy Ghost to the pain of striving; he is not easily brought to a spiritual subjection to God, nor persuaded to a surrender at a summons, but sweetly overpowered by storm, and victoriously drawn into the arms of God. God stands ready, but the heart stands off; grace is full of entreaties, and the soul full of excuses; Divine love offers, and carnal selflove rejects. Nothing so pleases us as when we are farthest from him; as if anything were more amiable, anything more desirable, than himself.
4. No desire of any close imitation of him. When our Saviour was to come as a refiner’s fire, to purify the sons of Levi, the cry, is, “Who shall abide the day of his coming?” (Mal. 3:2, 3.) Since we are alienated from the life of God, we desire no more naturally to live the life of God, than a toad, or any other animal, desires to live the life of a man. No heart that knows God but hath a holy ambition to imitate him. No soul that refuseth him for a copy, but is ignorant of his excellency. Of this temper is all mankind naturally, Man in corruption is as loth to be like God in holiness, as Adam, after his creation, was desirous to be like God in knowledge; his posterity are like their father, who soon turned his back upon his original copy. What can be worse than this? Can the denial of his being be a greater injury than this contempt of him; as if he had not goodness to deserve our, remembrance, nor amiableness fit for our converse; as if he were not a Lord fit for our subjection, nor had a holiness that deserved our imitation? For the use of this:—
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXXVII. — BUT it is most excellent to observe how well this gloss, “nothing” may be understood to signify ‘that which is in degree,” cofisists with itself: yet the Diatribe says, — ‘that in this sense of the passage, it is most true that we can do nothing without Christ: because, He is speaking of evangelical fruits, which cannot be produced but by those who remain in the vine, which is Christ.’ —
Here the Diatribe itself confesses, that fruit cannot be produced but by those who remain in the vine: and it does the same in that ‘convenient interpretation,’ by which it proves, that “nothing” is the same as in degree, and imperfect. But perhaps, its own adverb ‘cannot,’ ought also to be conveniently interpreted, so as to signify, that evangelical fruits can be produced without Christ in degree and imperfectly. So that we may preach, that the ungodly who are without Christ can, while Satan reigns in them, and wars against Christ, produce some of the fruits of life: that is, that the enemies of Christ may do something for the glory of Christ. — But away with these things.
Here however, I should like to be taught, how we are to resist heretics, who, using this rule throughout the Scriptures, may contend that nothing and not are to be understood as signifying that which is imperfect. Thus — Without Him “nothing” can be done; that is a little. — “The fool hath said in his heart there is not a God;” that is, there is an imperfect God. — “He hath made us, and not we ourselves;” that is, we did a little towards making ourselves. And who can number all the passages in the Scripture where ‘nothing’ and ‘not’ are found?
Shall we then here say that a ‘convenient interpretation’ is to be attended to? And is this clearing up difficulties — to open such a door of liberty to corrupt minds and deceiving spirits? Such a license of interpretation is, I grant, convenient to you who care nothing whatever about the certainty of the Scripture; but as for me who labour to establish consciences, this is an inconvenience; than which, nothing can be more inconvenient, nothing more injurious, nothing more pestilential. Hear me, therefore, thou great conqueress of the Lutheran Achilles! Unless you shall prove, that ‘nothing’ not only may be, but ought to be understood as signifying a ‘little,’ you have done nothing by all this profusion of words or examples, but fight against fire with dry straw. What have I to do with your may be, which only demands of you to prove your ought to be? And if you do not prove that, I stand by the natural and grammatical signification of the term, laughing both at your armies and at your triumphs.
Where is now that ‘probable opinion’ which determined, ‘that “Free-will” can will nothing good?’ But perhaps, the ‘convenient interpretation’ comes in here, to say, that ‘nothing good’ signifies, something good — a kind of grammar and logic never before heard of; that nothing, is the same as something: which, with logicians, is an impossibility, because they are contradictions. Where now then remains that article of our faith; that Satan is the prince of the world, and, according to the testimonies of Christ and Paul, rules in the wills and minds of those men who are his captives and servants? Shall that roaring lion, that implacable and ever-restless enemy of the grace of God and the salvation of man, suffer it to be, that man, his slave and a part of his kingdom, should attempt good by any motion in any degree, whereby he might escape from his tyranny, and that he should not rather spur and urge him on to will and do the contrary to grace with all his powers? especially, when the just, and those who are led by the Spirit of God, and who will and do good, can hardly resist him, so great is his rage against them?
You who make it out, that the human will is a something placed in a free medium, and left to itself, certainly make it out, at the same time, that there is an endeavour which can exert itself either way; because, you make both God and the devil to be at a distance, spectators only, as it were, of this mutable and “Free-will”; though you do not believe, that they are impellers and agitators of that bondage will, the most hostilely opposed to each other. Admitting, therefore, this part of your faith only, my sentiment stands firmly established, and “Free-will” lies prostrate; as I have shewn already. — For, it must either be, that the kingdom of Satan in man is nothing at all, and thus Christ will be made to lie; or, if his kingdom be such as Christ describes, “Free-will” must be nothing but a beast of burden, the captive of Satan, which cannot be liberated, unless the devil be first cast out by the finger of God.
From what has been advanced I presume, friend Diatribe, thou fully understandest what that is, and what it amounts to, where thy Author, detesting the obstinate way of assertion in Luther, is accustomed to say — ‘Luther indeed pushes his cause with plenty of Scriptures; but they may all by one word, be brought to nothing.’ Who does not know, that all Scriptures may, by one word, be brought to nothing? I knew this full well before I ever heard the name of Erasmus. But the question is, whether it be sufficient to bring a Scripture, by one word, to nothing. The point in dispute is, whether it be rightly brought to nothing, and whether it ought to be brought to nothing. Let a man consider these points, and he will then see, whether or not it be easy to bring Scriptures to nothing, and whether or not the obstinacy of Luther be detestable. He will then see, that not one word only is ineffective, but all the gates of hell cannot bring them to nothing!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library