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8/3/2023     Yesterday     Tomorrow

Isaiah 28 - 30

Isaiah 28

Judgment on Ephraim and Jerusalem

Isaiah 28:1     Ah, the proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim,
and the fading flower of its glorious beauty,
which is on the head of the rich valley of those overcome with wine!
2  Behold, the Lord has one who is mighty and strong;
like a storm of hail, a destroying tempest,
like a storm of mighty, overflowing waters,
he casts down to the earth with his hand.
3  The proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim
will be trodden underfoot;
4  and the fading flower of its glorious beauty,
which is on the head of the rich valley,
will be like a first-ripe fig before the summer:
when someone sees it, he swallows it
as soon as it is in his hand.

5  In that day the LORD of hosts will be a crown of glory,
and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people,
6  and a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment,
and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.

7  These also reel with wine
and stagger with strong drink;
the priest and the prophet reel with strong drink,
they are swallowed by wine,
they stagger with strong drink,
they reel in vision,
they stumble in giving judgment.
8  For all tables are full of filthy vomit,
with no space left.

9  “To whom will he teach knowledge,
and to whom will he explain the message?
Those who are weaned from the milk,
those taken from the breast?
10  For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little.”

11  For by people of strange lips
and with a foreign tongue
the LORD will speak to this people,
12  to whom he has said,
“This is rest;
give rest to the weary;
and this is repose”;
yet they would not hear.
13  And the word of the LORD will be to them
precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little,
that they may go, and fall backward,
and be broken, and snared, and taken.

A Cornerstone in Zion

14  Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scoffers,
who rule this people in Jerusalem!
15  Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,
and with Sheol we have an agreement,
when the overwhelming whip passes through
it will not come to us,
for we have made lies our refuge,
and in falsehood we have taken shelter”;
16  therefore thus says the Lord GOD,
“Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion,
a stone, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:
‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
17  And I will make justice the line,
and righteousness the plumb line;
and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and waters will overwhelm the shelter.”
18  Then your covenant with death will be annulled,
and your agreement with Sheol will not stand;
when the overwhelming scourge passes through,
you will be beaten down by it.
19  As often as it passes through it will take you;
for morning by morning it will pass through,
by day and by night;
and it will be sheer terror to understand the message.
20  For the bed is too short to stretch oneself on,
and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in.
21  For the LORD will rise up as on Mount Perazim;
as in the Valley of Gibeon he will be roused;
to do his deed—strange is his deed!
and to work his work—alien is his work!
22  Now therefore do not scoff,
lest your bonds be made strong;
for I have heard a decree of destruction
from the Lord GOD of hosts against the whole land.

23  Give ear, and hear my voice;
give attention, and hear my speech.
24  Does he who plows for sowing plow continually?
Does he continually open and harrow his ground?
25  When he has leveled its surface,
does he not scatter dill, sow cumin,
and put in wheat in rows
and barley in its proper place,
and emmer as the border?
26  For he is rightly instructed;
his God teaches him.

27  Dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge,
nor is a cart wheel rolled over cumin,
but dill is beaten out with a stick,
and cumin with a rod.
28  Does one crush grain for bread?
No, he does not thresh it forever;
when he drives his cart wheel over it
with his horses, he does not crush it.
29  This also comes from the LORD of hosts;
he is wonderful in counsel
and excellent in wisdom.

Isaiah 29

The Siege of Jerusalem

Isaiah 29:1     Ah, Ariel, Ariel,
the city where David encamped!
Add year to year;
let the feasts run their round.
2  Yet I will distress Ariel,
and there shall be moaning and lamentation,
and she shall be to me like an Ariel.
3  And I will encamp against you all around,
and will besiege you with towers
and I will raise siegeworks against you.
4  And you will be brought low; from the earth you shall speak,
and from the dust your speech will be bowed down;
your voice shall come from the ground like the voice of a ghost,
and from the dust your speech shall whisper.

5  But the multitude of your foreign foes shall be like small dust,
and the multitude of the ruthless like passing chaff.
And in an instant, suddenly,
6  you will be visited by the LORD of hosts
with thunder and with earthquake and great noise,
with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire.
7  And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel,
all that fight against her and her stronghold and distress her,
shall be like a dream, a vision of the night.
8  As when a hungry man dreams, and behold, he is eating,
and awakes with his hunger not satisfied,
or as when a thirsty man dreams, and behold, he is drinking,
and awakes faint, with his thirst not quenched,
so shall the multitude of all the nations be
that fight against Mount Zion.

9  Astonish yourselves and be astonished;
blind yourselves and be blind!
Be drunk, but not with wine;
stagger, but not with strong drink!
10  For the LORD has poured out upon you
a spirit of deep sleep,
and has closed your eyes (the prophets),
and covered your heads (the seers).

11 And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” 12 And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.”

13  And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
14  therefore, behold, I will again
do wonderful things with this people,
with wonder upon wonder;
and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”

15  Ah, you who hide deep from the LORD your counsel,
whose deeds are in the dark,
and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?”
16  You turn things upside down!
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay,
that the thing made should say of its maker,
“He did not make me”;
or the thing formed say of him who formed it,
“He has no understanding”?

17  Is it not yet a very little while
until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest?
18  In that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book,
and out of their gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind shall see.
19  The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD,
and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
20  For the ruthless shall come to nothing
and the scoffer cease,
and all who watch to do evil shall be cut off,
21  who by a word make a man out to be an offender,
and lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate,
and with an empty plea turn aside him who is in the right.

22 Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:

“Jacob shall no more be ashamed,
no more shall his face grow pale.
23  For when he sees his children,
the work of my hands, in his midst,
they will sanctify my name;
they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
24  And those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding,
and those who murmur will accept instruction.”

Isaiah 30

Do Not Go Down to Egypt

Isaiah 30:1     “Ah, stubborn children,” declares the LORD,
“who carry out a plan, but not mine,
and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit,
that they may add sin to sin;
2  who set out to go down to Egypt,
without asking for my direction,
to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh
and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!
3  Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame,
and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.
4  For though his officials are at Zoan
and his envoys reach Hanes,
5  everyone comes to shame
through a people that cannot profit them,
that brings neither help nor profit,
but shame and disgrace.”

6 An oracle on the beasts of the Negeb.

Through a land of trouble and anguish,
from where come the lioness and the lion,
the adder and the flying fiery serpent,
they carry their riches on the backs of donkeys,
and their treasures on the humps of camels,
to a people that cannot profit them.
7  Egypt’s help is worthless and empty;
therefore I have called her
“Rahab who sits still.”

A Rebellious People

8  And now, go, write it before them on a tablet
and inscribe it in a book,
that it may be for the time to come
as a witness forever.
9  For they are a rebellious people,
lying children,
children unwilling to hear
the instruction of the LORD;
10  who say to the seers, “Do not see,”
and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right;
speak to us smooth things,
prophesy illusions,
11  leave the way, turn aside from the path,
let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”
12  Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel,
“Because you despise this word
and trust in oppression and perverseness
and rely on them,
13  therefore this iniquity shall be to you
like a breach in a high wall, bulging out and about to collapse,
whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant;
14  and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel
that is smashed so ruthlessly
that among its fragments not a shard is found
with which to take fire from the hearth,
or to dip up water out of the cistern.”

15  For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
But you were unwilling, 16 and you said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”;
therefore you shall flee away;
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”;
therefore your pursuers shall be swift.
17  A thousand shall flee at the threat of one;
at the threat of five you shall flee,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
like a signal on a hill.

The LORD Will Be Gracious

18  Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.

19 For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. 20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. 22 Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!”

23 And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. In that day your livestock will graze in large pastures, 24 and the oxen and the donkeys that work the ground will eat seasoned fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. 25 And on every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. 26 Moreover, the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the LORD binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.

27  Behold, the name of the LORD comes from afar,
burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke;
his lips are full of fury,
and his tongue is like a devouring fire;
28  his breath is like an overflowing stream
that reaches up to the neck;
to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction,
and to place on the jaws of the peoples a bridle that leads astray.

29 You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel. 30 And the LORD will cause his majestic voice to be heard and the descending blow of his arm to be seen, in furious anger and a flame of devouring fire, with a cloudburst and storm and hailstones. 31 The Assyrians will be terror-stricken at the voice of the LORD, when he strikes with his rod. 32 And every stroke of the appointed staff that the LORD lays on them will be to the sound of tambourines and lyres. Battling with brandished arm, he will fight with them. 33 For a burning place has long been prepared; indeed, for the king it is made ready, its pyre made deep and wide, with fire and wood in abundance; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of sulfur, kindles it.

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Our Ancient Foe

By Keith Mathison 5/01/2011

     Talk of the Devil and spiritual warfare makes some people roll their eyes. We live in an age of particle accelerators, microchips, and organ transplants. The Devil? Why, he’s nothing more than a medieval superstition created to scare naughty children. We can’t take any of that seriously.

     Martin Luther would have disagreed. He took it very seriously and wrote often of his ongoing battle with the Devil. He was very aware of the forces of evil. Most of us have heard the story about Luther throwing an inkwell at the Devil. Whether truth or legend, such an act would not have been out of character for Luther. It is also well known that Luther believed in using contempt to fight the Devil, and some of the things he said to and about the Devil were colorful, to say the least.

     According to the skeptics, Luther may have meant well, but his encounters with “the Devil” say more about his fragile mental state than they do about reality. This is what our demythologized world would have us believe, and, frankly, it is what the Devil himself would have us believe. As the French poet Charles Baudelaire said, “The devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist!”

     Luther’s language about the Devil wasn’t always crude. Sometimes he was more tactful. His hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is a magnificent description of spiritual warfare and our place in it.

A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

     The Devil is quite real, and there is a spiritual war going on every minute of every day (Rev. 12:17). It was foretold by God when He cursed the Serpent and said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring” (Gen. 3:15). This war is not a dualistic Manichaean battle between two essentially equal forces, good and evil, light and darkness. Satan is not omnipotent or omniscient. God alone is sovereign and all-powerful. All that the Devil does is done only by God’s permission and ultimately will be used by God for His own purposes.

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

     It is important for believers to understand that the outcome of this war is not uncertain. As God also said to the Serpent, “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The decisive battle has already been won at the cross. The Devil may have thought he had won when Jesus was crucified, but this was actually the point in redemptive history when his head was crushed. It was by means of His death on the cross that Jesus destroyed the Devil (Heb. 2:14).

     Some theologians have used World War II as an analogy of what happened. The cross was D-Day in the spiritual war. It was the decisive assault that sealed the doom of the enemy. The final victory, analogous to VE-Day, occurs at the final judgment when the Devil is cast into hell. Christians today live between D-Day and VE-Day. During this time, the armies advance against the enemy, slowly but surely, in a bloody and painful battle until Christ has put every last enemy under His feet. Some days see advances while other days see retreats, but overall there is an advance until the last day, the day of the enemy’s complete surrender.

And though this world,
with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

     The fact that we live between the decisive battle and the final battle explains why Peter must still warn his readers that the Devil prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). The Devil has suffered a fatal wound, but he is not dead. He remains dangerous, and we must remain watchful against his schemes. He does not always come at us looking as evil as he is. He and his servants can disguise themselves as angels of light (2 Cor. 11:14). In spite of this, because we are united with Jesus Christ, the One who crushed his head, we can resist the Devil, and he will flee from us.

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Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.

Keith Mathison Books:

The Rapture of the Church ... and then

By Robert Jeffress 2023

     The Greek word from which we get our word rapture means “to snatch away.” And for those who are left behind after the rapture of the church, that’s probably what the event will seem like. In a single moment, all Christians, from the time of Pentecost until the moment the rapture occurs, will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, Paul described it this way:

1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 (NASB95) 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

     There are four details in Paul’s description that bear examination. The first is that, while Jesus will descend from heaven, He will not come all the way to the earth. He will descend into the sky, and that’s where we will meet Him. The rapture will be a midair gathering.

     The second detail is that all Christians who have died since the day of Pentecost will be raised. When Christians die, our bodies remain on earth, but our spirits go to be with the Lord. That’s what Paul was talking about when he wrote, “To be absent from the body [is] to be at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). But our separation from our bodies is only temporary. When the rapture occurs, graves will be opened and the bodies of the saved will be raised.

2 Corinthians 5:8 (NASB95) we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

     The third detail is that Christians who are alive when the rapture occurs will meet the Lord in the air as living beings. That means an entire generation of believers will never experience death. They will pass directly from life in this world to life in the next.

     The fourth detail is that our bodies will be changed from mortal to immortal. Paul said, “This mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53). At the rapture, believers will receive brand-new resurrection bodies from God that are free from pain, suffering, and sickness.

1 Corinthians 15:53 (NASB95) For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.

     Perhaps the most pertinent aspect of the rapture is its imminence. There are no prophecies that must take place before it can occur. In short, the rapture can happen at any moment.

The Judgment Seat of Christ

     Contrary to what some people believe, there is not one final judgment that includes both believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers will be judged at the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11–15), which we will look at in a moment. But Christians will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ, which probably occurs immediately after the rapture.

Revelation 20:11–15 (NASB95) 11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

     Paul described this coming evaluation of believers’ lives: “We also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:9–10).

2 Corinthians 5:9–10 (NASB95) 9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

     Believers will one day answer to Christ for every thought, word, action, and motivation of our earthly lives. But unlike the great white throne judgment for unbelievers, the purpose of the judgment seat of Christ is not condemnation but evaluation and commendation. At the judgment seat of Christ, our lives will be evaluated by Christ — not to determine our eternal destination, since that was sealed at the moment of our salvation, but to determine our rewards in heaven.

The Tribulation

     The tribulation is a seven-year period that will begin when a world leader, who is referred to in Scripture as the beast or antichrist, signs a peace treaty with Israel. The tribulation will end with the second coming of Christ.

     The seven-year timeframe of the tribulation is significant in biblical prophecy. It can be traced back to a promise God made in Daniel 9. When the Israelites were in exile in Babylon, the angel Gabriel revealed to Daniel that there were 490 years left on God’s stopwatch to finish His plan with Israel and usher in the millennium. The angel referred to the timeframe as seventy weeks, with each year represented as a day. Seventy weeks times seven years equals 490 years.

     However, there would be a separation between the first 483 years and the final seven years — that is, between the first sixty-nine weeks and the seventieth week. The angel Gabriel explained that God would start the countdown when a decree was issued for the Israelites to rebuild Jerusalem. We know from history that this decree was issued on March 14, 445 BC.

     According to Gabriel, the time from that decree until the Messiah was presented would be 483 years. On April 2, AD 32 — exactly 483 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem — Jesus rode on a donkey through the streets of Jerusalem, and people recognized Him as the Messiah. (Matt. 21:1–10).

Matthew 21:1–10 (NASB95) 1 When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,
2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me.
3 “If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:


6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them,
7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats.
8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road.
9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
Hosanna in the highest!”
10 When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”

Pre-, Mid-, Or Posttribulation: When Will The Rapture Occur?

     Not all Christians agree on when the rapture will take place. Many Christians, like myself, hold to a pretribulation rapture view. We believe the rapture will occur before the tribulation, that Christians will be spared the torment of those seven years because we are safe and secure from God’s wrath.

     Other Christians hold to a midtribulation rapture view. They believe Christians will be present during the first three and a half years of the tribulation, but they will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air before the most intense suffering occurs.

     Still other Christians hold to a posttribulation rapture view. They believe the snatching away of believers will occur at the end of the seven-year tribulation and will be almost concurrent with the second coming of Christ.

     One of the strongest arguments for the pretribulation view of the rapture is the twofold purpose of the tribulation: the salvation of Israel and the condemnation of unbelievers. Neither purpose is meant for the church. The church has already been saved, so we no longer need to fear the wrath of God. Romans 8:1 says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

     Since there is no need for the church to be on earth during the tribulation, proponents of the pretribulation view maintain that Jesus will snatch away His church to be with Him in heaven before the seven-year tribulation begins.

     Gabriel further explained that the Messiah would be cut off — or crucified. After that, there would be a gap of time before the final seven years commenced. That’s where we are right now. On God’s stopwatch, 483 years have passed. There are seven years left for God to complete His plan for Israel, which He will do during the tribulation. His stopwatch will begin again after the rapture, as soon as the antichrist signs a peace treaty with Israel.

     The tribulation will fulfill two purposes. The first is the salvation of Israel. At the beginning of the seven-year period, God will save 144,000 Jews, who will serve as His witnesses throughout the tribulation. Through the work and testimony of those witnesses, many Jews — and even some Gentiles — will be saved.

     The second purpose of the tribulation is the condemnation of unbelievers living on earth. The seven-year period will be a time of God’s unprecedented judgment against the world. In Revelation 6–19, John identified three series of judgments God will pour out on the earth — seal judgments, trumpet judgments, and bowl judgments — each more devastating than the last.

Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ

     According to Revelation 19, at the end of the tribulation, all the world’s military forces will gather on the plain of Megiddo in Israel to wage war against the antichrist and his forces. This final world conflict is called the battle of Armageddon.

     But as the armies prepare to destroy one another, suddenly their attention will be diverted upward to a sight they will never recover from — the second coming of Christ. Here’s how the apostle John described it: “I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. . . . And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written: ‘King of Kings, and Lord of Lords’” (Rev. 19:11, 14–16).

Robert Jeffress, What Every Christian Should Know: 10 Core Beliefs for Standing Strong in a Shifting World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2023)

Christian Exiles

By John Piper 5/1/2011

     In a profound sense, this world is not our home. When we are away from our bodies we will be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). We are not to be “conformed to this age” (Rom. 12:2). Our lives “are hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). We have been “transferred out of the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). We have “passed out of death and into life” (1 John 3:14). We are exiles and strangers here.

     The fact that we are exiles on the earth (1 Peter 2:11) does not mean that we don’t care what becomes of culture. However, it does mean that we exert our influence as very happy, brokenhearted outsiders. We are exiles. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14).

     Yet we are very happy sojourners because we have been commanded by our bloody Champion to rejoice in exile miseries: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11–12). We are happy because the apostle Paul showed us that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). We are happy because there are merciful foretastes everywhere in this fallen world, and God is glad for us to enjoy them (1 Tim. 4:3; 6:17). We are happy because we know that the exiles will one day inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). Christ died for sinners so that “all things” might one day belong to His people (Rom. 8:32).

     Nevertheless, our joy is a brokenhearted joy because Christ is worthy of so much better obedience than we Christians render. Our joy is a brokenhearted joy because so many people around the world have not heard the good news that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). Our joy is a brokenhearted joy because human culture — in every society — dishonors Christ, glories in its shame, and is bent on self-destruction.

     This includes America. American culture does not belong to Christians, neither in reality nor in biblical theology. It never has. The present tailspin toward Sodom is not a fall from Christian ownership. “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). It has since the fall, and it will until Christ comes in open triumph. God’s rightful ownership will be manifested in due time. The lordship of Christ over all creation is being manifest in stages: first the age of groaning, then the age of glory. “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). The exiles are groaning with the whole creation. We are waiting.

     However, Christian exiles are not passive. We do not smirk at the misery or the merrymaking of immoral culture. We weep. Or we should. This is my main point: being exiles does not mean being cynical. It does not mean being indifferent or uninvolved. The salt of the earth does not mock rotting meat. Where it can, it saves and seasons. Where it can’t, it weeps. And the light of the world does not withdraw, saying “good riddance” to godless darkness. It labors to illuminate. But not dominate.

     Being Christian exiles in American culture does not end our influence; it takes the swagger out of it. We don’t get cranky that our country has been taken away. We don’t whine about the triumphs of evil. We are not hardened with anger. We understand. This is not new. This was the way it was in the beginning — Antioch, Corinth, Athens, Rome. The Empire was not just degenerate, it was deadly. For three explosive centuries, Christians paid for their Christ-exalting joy with blood. Many still do. More will.

     It never occurred to those early exiles that they should rant about the ubiquity of secular humanism. The Imperial words were still ringing in their ears: “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13). This was a time for indomitable joy and unwavering ministries of mercy.

     Yes, it was a time for influence — as it is now, but not with huffing and puffing as if to reclaim our lost laws. Rather with tears, persuasion, and perseverance, knowing that the folly of racism, the exploitation of the poor, the de-Godding of education, the horror of abortion, and the collapse of heterosexual marriage are the tragic death-tremors of joy, not the victory of the left or the right.

     The greatness of Christian exiles is not success but service. Whether we win or lose, we witness to the way of truth, beauty, and joy. We don’t own culture, and we don’t rule it. We serve it with brokenhearted joy and longsuffering mercy, for the good of man and the glory of Jesus Christ.

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      (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Caring for Our Families

By John Piper 6/1/2011

     A few years ago I wrote a short book on justification that was published by Crossway under the title Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness?. In one section of it I ask, “Why would a pressured pastor with a family to care for … devote so much time and energy to the controversy over the imputation of Christ’s righteousness? Well, it is precisely because I have a family to care for, and so do hundreds of my people.” Here is part of the answer I wrote in chapter one of the book:

     Yes, I have a family to care for. Noël and I have one daughter at home, and we have four sons who are grown and out of the house. But they are not out of our lives. Every week, in person or on the phone, there are major personal, relational, vocational, theological issues to deal with. In every case the root issue comes back to this: What are the great truths revealed in Scripture that can give stability and guidance here? Listening and affection are crucial, but if they lack biblical substance, my counsel is hollow. Touchy-feely affirmation won’t cut it. Too much is at stake. These young men want rock under their feet.

     When my daughter, Talitha, was six years old, she and my wife and I were reading through Romans together. This was her choice after we finished Acts. She was just learning to read, and I was putting my finger on each word. She stopped me in mid-sentence at the beginning of chapter five and asked, “What does ‘justified’ mean?” What do you say to a sixyear- old? Do you say, There are more important things to think about, so just trust Jesus and be a good girl? Or do you say that it is very complex, and even adults are not able to understand it fully, so you can wait and deal with it when you are older? Or do you say that it simply means that Jesus died in our place so that all our sins might be forgiven?

     Or do you tell a story (which is what I did), made up on the spot, about two accused criminals, one guilty and one not guilty (one did the bad thing, and one did not do it)? The one who did not do the bad thing is shown, by all those who saw the crime, to be innocent. So the judge “justifies” him, that is, he tells him he is a law-abiding person and did not do the crime and can go free. But the other accused criminal, who really did the bad thing, is shown to be guilty, because all the people who saw the crime saw him do it. But then, guess what! The judge “justifies” him too and says, “I regard you as a lawabiding citizen with full rights in our country (not just a forgiven criminal who may not be trusted or fully free in the country).” At this point Talitha looks at me puzzled.

     She does not know how to put her finger on the problem but senses that something is wrong here. So I say, That’s a problem, isn’t it? How can a person who really did break the law and do the bad thing, be told by the judge that he is a law-keeper, a righteous person, with full rights to the freedoms of the country, and doesn’t have to go to jail or be punished? She shakes her head. Then I go back to Romans 4:5 and show her that God “justifies the ungodly.” Her brow is furrowed. I show her that she has sinned and I have sinned and we are all like this second criminal. And when God “justifies” us, He knows we are sinners and “ungodly” and “lawbreakers.” And I ask her, “What did God do so that it’s right for Him to say to us sinners: you are not guilty; you are law-keepers in my eyes; you are righteous; and you are free to enjoy all that this country has to offer?”

     She knows it has something to do with Jesus and His coming and dying in our place. That much she has learned. But what more do I tell her now? The answer to this question will depend on whether mom and dad have faithfully taught about the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Will they tell her that Jesus was the perfect law-keeper and never sinned, but did everything the judge and his country expected of Him? And will they tell her that when He lived and died, He not only took her place as a punishment-bearer but also stood in her place as a law-keeper? Will they say that He was punished for her and He obeyed the law for her? And if she will trust Him, the Judge, God, will let Jesus’ punishment and Jesus’ righteousness count for hers. So when God “justifies” her — says that she is forgiven and righteous (even though she was not punished and did not keep the law) — He does it because of Jesus. Jesus is her righteousness, and Jesus is her punishment. Trusting Jesus makes Jesus so much her Lord and Savior that He is her perfect goodness and her perfect punishment.

     There are thousands of Christian families in the world who never have conversations like this, not at six or sixteen. I don’t think we have to look far, then, for the weakness of the church: the fun-oriented superficiality of many youth ministries that contribute to the stunning fall-out rate after high school. But how shall parents teach their children if the message they get week in and week out from the pulpit is that doctrine is unimportant? So, yes, I have a family to care for, and therefore I must understand the central doctrines of my faith — understand them so well that they can be translated for all the different ages of my children.

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      (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Whitewashing History?

By Carl R. Trueman 6/1/2011

     To borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, it is the best of times, the worst of times. That is how one might describe the current movie-saturated era. Certainly, from an entertainment perspective, it is the best of times. While I myself still prefer the classic films of the 40s and 50s, from The Maltese Falcon to The Searchers, it is hard not to be impressed by everything from the special effects in something like Inception to the sheer brilliance of acting in The King’s Speech. Yet therein lies the problem, that which makes it, in a sense, the worst of times. As our access to the past is increasingly shaped by, if not actually mediated through, such media as movies, the real past is too often sacrificed for the sake of a good story.

     Take The King’s Speech, for example. As every British schoolboy of a certain generation would know, Winston Churchill, great war leader though he was, was also an ardent supporter of the pro-Nazi Edward VIII in the abdication crisis. The great British hero was not quite so heroic, or astute, when it came to the slimy Edward. The movie, however, puts Mr. C on the other side. Which version, I wonder, will become the received narrative for future generations? More egregiously, a few years ago a movie was made about the American cracking of Adolf Hitler’s Enigma Code. Great story, I guess, if you are an American. The fact is, however, that it was the British who cracked the code.

     Of course, movies are not history. They are artistic constructions built (some more, some less) loosely on actual events. As I try never to compare a movie to the novel upon which it is based, since they are two separate works of art, so I should perhaps not demand too much accuracy of what are, in essence, pieces designed for entertainment — except, of course, when they claim to be “based on a true story.” The danger is that the audience might confuse a bit of fun for a factual representation of history.

     What is perhaps more interesting, however, is what such revision tells us about human nature. After all, both filmmakers and audience members are somewhat complicit in the activity: they give us what we want. It would appear that we like our stories simple, our heroes relatively flawless (an unflawed hero is boring, but one with too many flaws is just too complicated), and we like ourselves, or the people who represent us, to be center stage and the ultimate measure of the good and the true.

     This is a striking contrast to the kind of history we have in the Bible, and nowhere is this more graphically demonstrated than in Hebrews 11. I have been preaching through Judges for the last few years, and, frankly, the task would be much, much simpler if Hebrews 11 had never been written. The narrative of Judges is very clear on characters such as Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson: the first was a man who briefly emerged from idolatry and rapidly descended back into it after his military task was done; the second murdered his own daughter, a crime he could have avoided had he known the Word of God; and the third was a womanizer whose contempt for his Nazirite status apparently knew no bounds. Yet Hebrews 11 parades them before our eyes as heroes of the faith.

     The temptation is to use Hebrews 11 as the grid to smooth out the rough edges of the Judges narratives — to make it the means of cleaning up the heroes, as if Samson’s libido, Jephthah’s stupidity, and Gideon’s ephod are simply incidental to the story. But they are not; these things are central to the narratives of these men in the book of Judges. Take them out and there is almost nothing left.

     So how do we handle these things in an age when we like to rewrite history to suit our tastes, especially given the apparent sanction for so doing in these cases by Hebrews 11? Well, we must first avoid the fault of too many Christian historians and biographers, who treat their chosen subjects as if they were somehow exempt from the impact of fallen human nature. Such hagiographies might be fun to read, but they can leave us verging on the worship of the characters being considered or with unrealistic — and ultimately depressing — expectations of what the Christian life should be like.

     Second, we must understand what the writer of Hebrews is doing. If you know your judges, you know the faults of the men listed; and you therefore know that, whatever else the writer is doing, he is not commending these men as heroic examples of moral action. Instead, he commends them because, despite the fact that they were at best deeply flawed pieces of morally shattered humanity, they were blessed because it was not ultimately about them. Rather, it was about the kingdom and the Messiah to whom they looked. The writer of Hebrews is not rewriting history to suit his audience; he is pointing to the fact that, reprehensible though these people were, in Christ they were conquerors. And that should be far more encouraging to us than anything our own instinct to whitewash our heroes might produce.

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     Dr. Carl R. Trueman is Paul Woolley Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

Carl R. Trueman Books:

Our Secular Theodicy

By Matthew Rose 11/7/2017

     I live in Berkeley, one of the most religious cities in America. Its churches are being converted into mosques and Buddhist temples, but its one true faith endures. A popular yard sign states its creed: “In This House, We Believe: Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights are Human Rights, No Human is Illegal, Science is Real, Love is Love, and Kindness is Everything.” The sign is both profession and prophecy. Like the biblical Joshua whose promise it echoes (“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”), my neighbors are in a holy vanguard. They have seen the future America, have identified its present enemies, and are leading us into a promised land.

     The biblical politics of my secular neighbors would not have been lost on Ernst Bloch. Bloch was an atheist who believed Jesus was the Messiah, a Stalinist who disagreed with Marx, and a materialist who embraced natural law theory. For the moment you will have to take my word that this can make sense and that it is worth the modest effort to understand how. You would be within your rights to be skeptical. No doctrine has been refuted so often as Marxism, and the debates that consumed Bloch’s long life are dead. Yet the utopian spirit to which he gave original, sometimes brilliant, and more often bizarre expression has never been more alive, and to visit his work is to witness a moment when Christian faith began to transmute itself into the progressive creeds of today.

     In a series of books beginning in 1918 and ending shortly before his death in 1977, Bloch proposed that the central category for understanding politics is eschatology—our anticipation of a future society that will reveal the meaning of human history and redeem its fallen state. He named this kingdom “utopia” and argued that its arrival is the object of every human hope and the justification of every human suffering. Bloch lived under Hitler, Vichy, and the gaze of Walter Ulbricht, the Stalinist leader of East Germany, making his work an anguished commentary on the darkest moments of the twentieth century. But his millennial hopes, expressed in critical dialogue with Christian theology, continue to inspire many.

     Bloch is a guide into the concealed theology of contemporary liberalism, whose outlook remains profoundly, if paradoxically, biblical in one respect. Having rejected a Christian understanding of nature, it retains an intensely Christian understanding of history. It sees human history as goal-oriented and our advancement as a series of conversions and liberations, the outcome of which is the creation of a community that can redeem our fallen history. Bloch appreciated, as deeply as any modern thinker, that this is not a secular understanding of time. It is a biblical story, told in the misleading language of progressive politics. But how can history have a moral direction at all? And how did Christianity come to be placed on the wrong side of it? Bloch offers a fascinating explanation of this theological reversal, showing us how a politics Christian in origin could become anti-Christian in intention.

     The Principle of Hope, Vol. 1 (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought) is the greatest defense of Marxism ever attempted. Bloch wrote it during a decadelong exile in New York and Cambridge, completing it shortly before accepting a university appointment at Leipzig in 1948. It is, by unanimous consent, a repellently written book, composed of three volumes and 1,500 punishing pages of Marxist analysis. I do not casually recommend reading it. But for those with a tolerance for inscrutable syntax, opaque jokes, and clumsy neologisms, it is a work of extraordinary ambition.

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     Matthew Rose | Director and Senior Fellow at the Berkeley Institute. A scholar of religion, he was previously Ennis Fellow in Humanities at Villanova University, where he taught courses in philosophy, politics, and literature. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago after attending the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Ethics with Barth (Ashgate, 2010), as well as of articles in Political Theology, The Thomist, Logos, Pro Ecclesia, Studies in Christian Ethics, Journal of Catholic Moral Theology, First Things, National Affairs, and The Weekly Standard.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 81

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

11 “But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels.
13 Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
14 I would soon subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes.
15 Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him,
and their fate would last forever.
16 But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

ESV Study Bible

By John Walvoord

The Coming Destruction of Egypt and Her Allied Nations

     Ezekiel 31:1–18. In  Ezekiel 31, the prophecy concerning the destruction of Assyria illustrates the destruction of Egypt. The nation of Assyria, which was destroyed suddenly after her defeat by the Babylonians in 612 BC, was compared to a beautiful cedar tree that was cut down (vv.  10–12 ). God had destroyed Assyria by handing her over to “the most ruthless of foreign nations” (v.  12 ). It is described as an event that caused many nations and even the natural world to mourn (vv.  15–17 ). What happened to Assyria would also happen to Egypt.

     The nation that would destroy Egypt and her allies was Babylon, led by Nebuchadnezzar. The Assyrians earlier had destroyed some of the major cities of Egypt in 663 BC ( Nah. 3:8–10 ). The destruction of Egypt, following the destruction of Assyria, probably occurred around 571 BC when the armies of Babylon invaded Egypt.

     The widespread destruction of Egypt was indicated by the mention of these cities scattered throughout Egypt. Not only the country and its cities were destroyed but also its armies, referred to as “all his hordes” ( Ezek. 31:18 ). Ezekiel frequently refers to the hordes of Gentiles and in this case Egypt (cf.  Isa. 29:5, 7–8; Ezek. 30:10, 15; 31:2, 18; 32:12, 16, 18, 20, 24–26, 31–32; 38:7, 13; 39:11 ). The loss of thousands of soldiers was characteristic of the warfare of that day.

The Lament for Pharaoh

     Ezekiel 32:1–32. This chapter records a long lament for Pharaoh (vv.  1–16 ). The captives had heard of the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, and this prophecy was dated a year later. Prophesying the destruction of Egypt, this lament records the certainty of this destruction in the future. Previously,  Ezekiel had recorded laments similar to a funeral dirge for Judah ( Ezek. 19 ), Tyre ( 26:17–18; 27 ), and the king of Tyre ( 28:12–19 ). The lament is divided by the expression “This is what the Sovereign LORD says” ( 32:3, 11 ). A preliminary statement was given in verse  2.

     Egypt is compared to a lion and a monster (v.  2 ). The lion would be caught in a net (v.  3 ), exposed to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth (v.  4 ). The land would be drenched with blood (v.  6 ). Even the heavens would respond by dimming the light of the sun and moon and darkening the stars (vv.  7–8). People of the world would be appalled by the destruction of Egypt (vv.  9–10 ).

     The prophecy specifically refers to the “sword of the king of Babylon” (v.  11 ). The Egyptian soldiers and those whom they hired would be cut down (v.  12 ). Egypt’s cattle would be killed (v.  13 ) and the nation would be left desolate (v.  15 ). The world would join in the lament (v.  16 ). When they were killed, they would lie down with the uncircumcised (vv.  19, 21 ). This referred to a disgraceful death of being killed by the sword. The slain of Egypt would join the slain of Assyria in Sheol (vv.  21–23 ).

     Other nations such as Elam would also be in Sheol (v.  24 ). They were a people who settled east of Babylon and later were absorbed by the Persian Empire. They were conquered by both Assyria and Nebuchadnezzar ( Jer. 49:34–39 ). The thought of their dying with the uncircumcised, a disgraceful death, is mentioned frequently in this passage ( Ezek. 32:19, 21, 24–30 ). Meshech and Tubal are also in Hades (v.  26 ), referring to a people probably originally living in the area north of Turkey. They later became the subject of prophecy in  Ezekiel 38–39. In addition to all the people mentioned, Pharaoh would join them in Sheol. Also, there would be the Sidonians, described as “all the princes of the north” (v.  30 ), probably located north of Egypt. The concluding prophecy was that Pharaoh and his army would be there as well, having been killed by the swords. This was fulfilled in 663 and 571 BC.

Prophecy Of Future Blessings On Israel In  Ezekiel

     In previous chapters of  Ezekiel, prophecies were directed against Israel and revealed her future judgments because of her sin. These prophecies were confirmed because Jerusalem had now fallen to the Babylonians and had been destroyed. Because of the literal fulfillment of these prophecies, it gives credence to prophecies yet unfulfilled.

     In  Ezekiel 25–32, judgments were pronounced on the various nations surrounding Israel. Many of these are yet subject to future fulfillment.

     Beginning with  Ezekiel 33, the prophet predicted future blessing on Israel, some blessings to come relatively soon and others referring to the far distant restoration of Israel at the end of the great tribulation.

Ezekiel Commissioned as a Watchman

     Ezekiel 33:1–20. Ezekiel was warned to deliver the message of judgment to Israel just as a watchman would announce the coming of an enemy (vv.  1–6 ). Accordingly, Ezekiel was charged to warn the wicked of their coming judgment. If he did not, he would be held accountable.

     God instructed Ezekiel to tell Israel that He did not take pleasure in judging them. He wanted them to turn from their evil ways.

     God will honor the wicked who turn to the Lord if they turn from their wickedness, and He will judge the righteous who turn from their righteousness to sin. In effect, God offered forgiveness to all those who would come to Him in sincere repentance (vv.  13–16 ).

     If the Israelites blamed God, saying that He was not just, they would be judged for their sin (vv.  17–20 ). This was fulfilled in Ezekiel’s lifetime.

Report of Jerusalem’s Fall

     Ezekiel 33:21–22. Several months after Jerusalem fell in 586 BC, word of the city’s destruction reached Ezekiel (v.  21 ). Following this, the Lord, who had been keeping Ezekiel somewhat silent, “opened my mouth before the man came to me in the morning. So my mouth was opened and I was no longer silent” (v.  22 ).

Judgment Pronounced on Those Who Remain in the Land

     Ezekiel 33:23–33. Those who remain in the land likened their possession of the land to Abraham possessing the land when he came from Ur of Chaldees ( Gen. 11:31; 12:1–5 ). God informed the people who were remaining in the land that their case was not the same as Abraham’s because Abraham was a righteous man, while they were still disobeying the Law, worshipping idols, eating meat with blood, and committing immorality ( Ezek. 33:23–26 ). God warned the people left in the land that they would perish by the sword, by wild animals, by plague, and they would experience the judgment of the Lord (vv.  27–29 ).

     God evaluated Ezekiel’s ministry to them, indicating that the people heard what He had to say, but they did not practice what they heard (vv.  30–33; James 1:22–25 ). This was fulfilled after the fall of Jerusalem.


Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times

The Continual Burnt Offering (John 1:30)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

August 3
John 1:30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’   ESV

     Few preachers have equalled John the Baptist in self-depreciation and Christ-exaltation. He sought to turn the attention of his hearers from himself to Jesus, and if he made disciples, it was only that they might be persuaded to leave him and follow Christ, the One who was preferred before him (John 1:15), because He was pre-existent. John was happy and content to be esteemed the Bridegroom’s friend, and rejoiced as he entered into His joy (John 3:29).

John 1:15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”)

John 3:29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.

Not I, but Christ, be honored, loved, exalted;
Not I, but Christ, be seen, be known, be loved;
Not I, but Christ, in every look and action;
Not I, but Christ, in every thought and word.

Not I but Christ, in lowly, silent labor;
Not I, but Christ, in humble, earnest toil;
Christ, only Christ, no show, no ostentation;
Christ, none but Christ, the Gatherer of the spoil.
--- A. A. F.

The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     BOOK 4

66. God keeps us united in the fellowship of Christ by means of Ecclesiastical and Civil government.

67. In Ecclesiastical government Three things are considered. 1. What is the Church? 2. How is it governed? 3. What is its power?

68. The Church is regarded in two points of view; as Invisible and Universal, which is the communion of saints; and as Visible and Particular. The Church is discerned by the pure preaching of the word, and by the lawful administration of the sacraments.

69. As to the government of the Church, there are Five points of inquiry. 1. Who rule? 2. What are they? 3. What is their calling? 4. What is their office? 5. What was the condition of the ancient Church?

70. They that rule are not Angels, but Men. In this respect, God declares his condescension towards us: we have a most excellent training to humility and obedience, and it is singularly fitted to bind us to mutual charity.

71. These are Prophets, Apostles, Evangelists, whose office was temporary; Pastors and Teachers, whose office is of perpetual duration.

72. Their calling is twofold; internal and external. The internal is from the Spirit of God. In the external there are Four things to be considered. 1. What sort of persons ought to be chosen? Men of sound doctrine and holy lives. 2. In what manner? With fasting and prayer. 3. By whom? Immediately, by God, as Prophets and Apostles. Mediately, with the direction of the word, by Bishops, by Elders, and by the people. 4. With what rite of ordination? By the laying on of hands, the use of which is threefold. 1. That the dignity of the ministry may be commended. 2. That he who is called may know that he is devoted to God. 3. That he may believe that the Holy Spirit will not desert this holy ministry.

73. The duty of Pastors in the Church is, to preach the Word, to administer the Sacraments, to exercise Discipline.

74. The condition of the ancient Church was distributed into Presbyters, Elders, Deacons, who dispensed the funds of the Church to the Bishops, the Clergy, the poor, and for repairing churches.

75. The power of the Church is viewed in relation to Doctrine, Legislation, and Jurisdiction.

76. Doctrine respects the articles of faith, none of which must be laid down without the authority of the word of God, but all must be directed to the glory of God and the edification of the Church. It respects also the application of the articles, which must agree with the analogy of faith.

77. Ecclesiastical laws, in precepts necessary to be observed, must be in accordance with the written word of God. In things indifferent, regard must be had to places, persons, times, with a due attention to order and decorum. Those constitutions ought to be avoided which have been laid down by pretended pastors instead of the pure worship of God, which bind the consciences by rigid necessity, which make void a commandment of God, which are useless and trifling, which oppress the consciences by their number, which lead to theatrical display, which are considered to be propitiatory sacrifices, and which are turned to the purposes of gain.

78. Jurisdiction is twofold. 1. That which belongs to the Clergy, which was treated of under the head of Provincial and General Synods. 2. That which is common to the Clergy and the people, the design of which is twofold, that scandals may be prevented, and that scandal which has arisen may be removed. The exercise of it consists in private and public admonitions, and likewise in excommunication, the object of which is threefold. 1. That the Church may not be blamed; 2. That the good may not be corrupted by intercourse with the bad; 3. That they who are excommunicated may be ashamed, and may begin to repent.

79. With regard to Times, Fasts are appointed, and Vows are made. The design of Fasts is, that the flesh may be mortified, that we may be better prepared for prayer, and that they may be evidences of humility and obedience. They consist of Three things, the time, the quality, and the quantity of food. But here we must beware lest we rend our garments only, and not our hearts, as hypocrites do, lest those actions be regarded as a meritorious performance, and lest they be too rigorously demanded as necessary to salvation.

80. In Vows we must consider; 1. To whom the vow is made--namely, to God. Hence it follows that nothing must be attempted but what is approved by his word, which teaches us what is pleasing and what is displeasing to God. 2. Who it is that vows--namely, a man. We must, therefore, beware lest we disregard our liberty, or promise what is beyond our strength or inconsistent with our calling. 3. What is vowed. Here regard must be had to time; to the past, such as a vow of thanksgiving and repentance; to the future, that we may afterwards be more cautious, and may be stimulated by them to the performance of duty. Hence it is evident what opinion we ought to form respecting Popish vows.

81. In explaining the Sacraments, there are Three things to be considered. 1. What a sacrament is--namely, an external sign, by which God seals on our consciences the promises of his good-will towards us, in order to sustain the weakness of our faith. We in our turn testify our piety towards him. 2. What things are necessary;--namely, the Sign, the Thing signified, the Promise, and the general Participation. 3. What is the number of them--namely, Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

82. The Sign in Baptism is water; the Thing Signified is the blood of Christ; the Promise is eternal life; the Communicants or Partakers are, adults, after making a confession of their faith, and likewise infants; for Baptism came in the place of Circumcision, and in both the mystery, promise, use, and efficacy, are the same. Forgiveness of sins also belongs to infants, and therefore it is likewise a sign of this forgiveness.

83. The end of Baptism is twofold. 1. To promote our faith towards God. For it is a sign of our washing by the blood of Christ, and of the mortification of our flesh, and the renewal of our souls in Christ. Besides, being united to Christ, we believe that we shall be partakers of all his blessings, and that we shall never fall under condemnation. 2. To serve as our confession before our neighbour; for it is a mark that we choose to be regarded as the people of God, and we testify that we profess the Christian religion, and that our desire is, that all the members of our body may proclaim the praise of God.

84. The Lord's Supper is a spiritual feast, by which we are preserved in that life into which God hath begotten us by his word.

85. The design of the Lord's Supper is threefold. 1. To aid in confirming our faith towards God. 2. To serve as a confession before men. 3. To be an exhortation to charity.

86. We must beware lest, by undervaluing the signs, we separate them too much from their mysteries, with which they are in some measure connected; and lest, on the other hand, by immoderately extolling them, we appear to obscure the mysteries themselves.

87. The parts are two. 1. The spiritual truth in which the meaning is beheld, consists in the promises; the matter, or substance, is Christ dead and risen; and the effect is our redemption and justification. 2. The visible signs are, bread and wine.

88. With the Lord's Supper is contrasted the Popish Mass. 1. It offers insult and blasphemy to Christ. 2. It buries the cross of Christ. 3. It obliterates his death. 4. It robs us of the benefits which we obtain in Christ. 5. It destroys the Sacraments in which the memorial of his death was left.

89. The Sacraments, falsely so called, are enumerated, which are, Confirmation, Penitence, Extreme Unction, Orders [which gave rise to the (seven) less and the (three) greater], and Marriage.

90. Next comes Civil government, which belongs to the external regulation of manners.

91. Under this head are considered Magistrates, Laws, and the People.

92. The Magistrate is God's vicegerent, the father of his country, the guardian of the laws, the administrator of justice, the defender of the Church.

93. By these names he is excited to the performance of duty. 1. That he may walk in holiness before God, and before men may maintain uprightness, prudence, temperance, harmlessness, and righteousness. 2. That by wonderful consolation it may smooth the difficulties of his office.

94. The kinds of Magistracy or Civil Government are, Monarchy, Aristocracy, Democracy.

95. As to Laws, we must see what is their constitution in regard to God and to men: and what is their equity in regard to times, places, and nations.

96. The People owe to the Magistrate, 1. Reverence heartily rendered to him as God's ambassador. 2. Obedience, or compliance with edicts, or paying taxes, or undertaking public offices and burdens. 3. That love which will lead us to pray to God for his prosperity.

97. We are enjoined to obey not only good magistrates, but all who possess authority, though they may exercise tyranny; for it was not without the authority of God that they were appointed to be princes.

98. When tyrants reign, let us first remember our faults, which are chastised by such scourges; and, therefore, humility will restrain our impatience. Besides, it is not in our power to remedy these evils, and all that remains for us is to implore the assistance of the Lord, in whose hand are the hearts of men and the revolutions of kingdoms.

99. In Two ways God restrains the fury of tyrants; either by raising up from among their own subjects open avengers, who rid the people of their tyranny, or by employing for that purpose the rage of men whose thoughts and contrivances are totally different, thus overturning one tyranny by means of another.

100. The obedience enjoined on subjects does not prevent the interference of any popular Magistrates whose office it is to restrain tyrants and to protect the liberty of the people. Our obedience to Magistrates ought to be such, that the obedience which we owe to the King of kings shall remain entire and unimpaired.


[693] * The One Hundred Aphorisms, with the various Tables and Indices, which must greatly facilitate reference, and enhance the utility and value of the present translation of The Institutes of the Christian Religion, have been kindly furnished by the Rev. William Pringle of Auchterarder.

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

  • Scriptural Imagination
  • Citizens of Heaven
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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     11/1/2015    Courage and Compassion

     Homosexual sin is a grievous and heinous sin. While it is indeed true that all sexual immorality is sin—adultery, fornication, pornography—homosexual sin is different. It is a more heinous and grievous sin because, as the Word of God makes clear, homosexual sin is contrary to nature (Rom. 1:26). Homosexual sin strikes against God’s created order in every way and mocks God’s design for procreation, thus making homosexuality logically self-defeating. Those who suggest the Bible is not clear about homosexual sin have never read the Bible or have not been given the ears to hear what the Bible plainly teaches.

     The Bible is clear, so we must be clear. We cannot and must not waver in the face of seemingly overwhelming opposition. Although the world is changing, the Word of God is not. We must stand our ground on the unchanging Word of God in the midst of an ever-changing culture. For even if the whole world says homosexuality is acceptable, we must stand our ground on the authority of God’s Word and insist that it is in fact unacceptable and unconscionable. We must speak the truth even if it means persecution and imprisonment. We must insist that homosexual sin is wrong, and like all sins, sexual or otherwise, it is deserving of God’s righteous wrath and condemnation.

     Make no mistake, this is not hate speech; it is love speech. We speak of the sinfulness of homosexual sin, sexual sin, and all sin not out of hate, but out of love. In fact, the most hateful thing we could do is not call sin what God calls sin. That would certainly be the easier path for us, but it is not the path of truth that leads to forgiveness and freedom. We love homosexuals just as we love adulterers and all sinners, which is precisely why we must speak the truth in love to them, just as we need the truth spoken in love to us about our own sins. The Bible calls us to be righteously vexed by sin and to hate sin—our sin and the sins of the world. The Bible also calls us to love sinners and to pray that they would repent of their sins and trust Jesus Christ, who is the Savior of repentant sinners. If only more Christians demonstrated Christian love as they should by praying for the sexually immoral of this world, by calling sin what God calls sin, and by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to the end that the sexually immoral might know their desperate need to repent and that, by the grace of God, they might cling to Christ and His righteousness. Then homosexuals might know how much we Christians love them. For we cannot love without speaking the truth, and we must not speak the truth without love. We must have compassion and courage as we live coram Deo, before the face of God, proclaiming His truth and His gospel to our homosexual neighbors, sexually immoral neighbors, and unrepentant, unbelieving neighbors, just as we preach the gospel to ourselves.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     “There are but 155 years left… at which time… the world will come to an end? wrote Christopher Columbus in his book Libro de Las Profecias.“The sign which convinces me that our Lord is hastening the end… is the preaching of the Gospel… in so many lands.” Though his predictions were off, Columbus described in detail his motivation for setting sail this day, August 3, 1492, with the Nina, Pinta and the Santa Maria. He carried a letter from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to the Gran Khan of India, with the instructions “to see the said princes and peoples… and the manner which should be used to bring about their conversion to our Holy Faith.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Love is my standard,
hope is my mandate,
faith is my lifestyle.
--- Brandon Lee

Let this encourage thy heart, O saint, in a dying hour, and not only make thee patient in death, but in a holy manner impatient till thou be gone; for whither is thy soul now going, but to that bosom of love whence Christ came? John 17: 24. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am:” and where is he but in that bosom of glory and love where he lay before the world was? ver. 5. O then let every believer encourage his soul; comfort ye one another with these words, I am leaving the bosom of a creature, I am going to the bosom of God.
--- John Flavel

Life comes before literature, as the material always comes before the work. The hills are full of marble before the world blooms with statues.
--- Phillips Brooks

Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.
--- John Bunyan

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     4. Hereupon the people of Taricheae loudly commended him; but those of Tiberias, with the rest of the company, gave him hard names, and threatened what they would do to him; so both sides left off quarrelling with Josephus, and fell on quarrelling with one another. So he grew bold upon the dependence he had on his friends, which were the people of Taricheae, and about forty thousand in number, and spake more freely to the whole multitude, and reproached them greatly for their rashness; and told them, that with this money he would build walls about Taricheae, and would put the other cities in a state of security also; for that they should not want money, if they would but agree for whose benefit it was to be procured, and would not suffer themselves to be irritated against him who procured it for them.

     5. Hereupon the rest of the multitude that had been deluded retired; but yet so that they went away angry, and two thousand of them made an assault upon him in their armor; and as he was already gone to his own house, they stood without and threatened him. On which occasion Josephus again used a second stratagem to escape them; for he got upon the top of his house, and with his right hand desired them to be silent, and said to them, "I cannot tell what you would have, nor can hear what you say, for the confused noise you make;" but he said that he would comply with all their demands, in case they would but send some of their number in to him that might talk with him about it. And when the principal of them, with their leaders, heard this, they came into the house. He then drew them to the most retired part of the house, and shut the door of that hall where he put them, and then had them whipped till every one of their inward parts appeared naked. In the mean time the multitude stood round the house, and supposed that he had a long discourse with those that were gone in about what they claimed of him. He had then the doors set open immediately, and sent the men out all bloody, which so terribly affrighted those that had before threatened him, that they threw away their arms and ran away.

     6. But as for John, his envy grew greater [upon this escape of Josephus], and he framed a new plot against him; he pretended to be sick, and by a letter desired that Josephus would give him leave to use the hot baths that were at Tiberias, for the recovery of his health. Hereupon Josephus, who hitherto suspected nothing of John's plots against him, wrote to the governors of the city, that they would provide a lodging and necessaries for John; which favors, when he had made use of, in two days' time he did what he came about; some he corrupted with delusive frauds, and others with money, and so persuaded them to revolt from Josephus. This Silas, who was appointed guardian of the city by Josephus, wrote to him immediately, and informed him of the plot against him; which epistle when Josephus had received, he marched with great diligence all night, and came early in the Morning to Tiberias; at which time the rest of the multitude met him. But John, who suspected that his coming was not for his advantage, sent however one of his friends, and pretended that he was sick, and that being confined to his bed, he could not come to pay him his respects. But as soon as Josephus had got the people of Tiberias together in the stadium, and tried to discourse with them about the letters that he had received, John privately sent some armed men, and gave them orders to slay him. But when the people saw that the armed men were about to draw their swords, they cried out; at which cry Josephus turned himself about, and when he saw that the swords were just at his throat, he marched away in great haste to the sea-shore, and left off that speech which he was going to make to the people, upon an elevation of six cubits high. He then seized on a ship which lay in the haven, and leaped into it, with two of his guards, and fled away into the midst of the lake.

     7. But now the soldiers he had with him took up their arms immediately, and marched against the plotters; but Josephus was afraid lest a civil war should be raised by the envy of a few men, and bring the city to ruin; so he sent some of his party to tell them, that they should do no more than provide for their own safety; that they should not kill any body, nor accuse any for the occasion they had afforded [of disorder]. Accordingly, these men obeyed his orders, and were quiet; but the people of the neighboring country, when they were informed of this plot, and of the plotter, they got together in great multitudes to oppose John. But he prevented their attempt, and fled away to Gischala, his native city, while the Galileans came running out of their several cities to Josephus; and as they were now become many ten thousands of armed men, they cried out, that they were come against John the common plotter against their interest, and would at the same time burn him, and that city which had received him. Hereupon Josephus told them that he took their good-will to him kindly, but still he restrained their fury, and intended to subdue his enemies by prudent conduct, rather than by slaying them; so he excepted those of every city which had joined in this revolt with John, by name, who had readily been shown him by these that came from every city, and caused public proclamation to be made, that he would seize upon the effects of those that did not forsake John within five days' time, and would burn both their houses and their families with fire. Whereupon three thousand of John's party left him immediately, who came to Josephus, and threw their arms down at his feet. John then betook himself, together with his two thousand Syrian runagates, from open attempts, to more secret ways of treachery. Accordingly, he privately sent messengers to Jerusalem, to accuse Josephus, as having to great power, and to let them know that he would soon come as a tyrant to their metropolis, unless they prevented him. This accusation the people were aware of beforehand, but had no regard to it. However, some of the grandees, out of envy, and some of the rulers also, sent money to John privately, that he might be able to get together mercenary soldiers, in order to fight Josephus; they also made a decree of themselves, and this for recalling him from his government, yet did they not think that decree sufficient; so they sent withal two thousand five hundred armed men, and four persons of the highest rank amongst them; Joazar the son of Nomicus, and Ananias the son of Sadduk, as also Simon and Judas the sons of Jonathan, all very able men in speaking, that these persons might withdraw the good-will of the people from Josephus. These had it in charge, that if he would voluntarily come away, they should permit him to [come and] give an account of his conduct; but if he obstinately insisted upon continuing in his government, they should treat him as an enemy. Now Josephus's friends had sent him word that an army was coming against him, but they gave him no notice beforehand what the reason of their coming was, that being only known among some secret councils of his enemies; and by this means it was that four cities revolted from him immediately, Sepphoris, and Gamala, and Gischala, and Tiberias. Yet did he recover these cities without war; and when he had routed those four commanders by stratagems, and had taken the most potent of their warriors, he sent them to Jerusalem; and the people [of Galilee] had great indignation at them, and were in a zealous disposition to slay, not only these forces, but those that sent them also, had not these forces prevented it by running away.

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

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

Proverbs 22:9
     by D.H. Stern

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

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Mushrooms On The Moor
     by Frank W. Boreham


     Changing your mind is for all the world like changing your clothes. You may easily make a mistake, especially if the process is performed in the dark. And, as a matter of fact, a man is usually more or less in the dark at the moment in which he changes his mind. An absent-minded friend of mine went upstairs the other day to prepare for a social function. To the consternation of his unhappy wife he came down again wearing his old gardening suit. A man may quite easily make a mistake. Before he enters upon the process of robing he must be sure of three things: (1) He must be quite clear that the clothes he proposes to doff are unsuitable. (2) He must be sure that his wardrobe contains more appropriate apparel. (3) And he must be certain that the folded garments that he takes from the drawer are actually those that he made up his mind to wear. It is a good thing, similarly, to change one's mind. But the thing must be done very deliberately, and even with scientific precision, or a man may make himself perfectly ridiculous. Let me produce a pair of illustrations, one from Boswell, which is good; and one from the Bible, which is better.

     (1) Dr. Samuel Johnson was a frequent visitor at the house of Mr. Richardson, the famous novelist. One day, whilst Johnson was there, Hogarth called. Hogarth soon started a discussion with Mr. Richardson as to the justice of the execution of Dr. Cameron. 'While he was talking, he perceived a person standing at a window in the room, shaking his head, and rolling himself about in a strange, ridiculous manner. He concluded that he was an idiot, whom his relations had put under the care of Mr. Richardson, as being a very good man. To his great surprise, however, this figure stalked forwards to where he and Mr. Richardson were sitting, and all at once took up the argument. He displayed such a power of eloquence that Hogarth looked at him with astonishment, and actually imagined that he was inspired.' Thus far Boswell.

     (2) Paul was shipwrecked, as everybody knows, at Malta. He was gathering sticks for the fire, when a viper, thawed by the warm flesh and the fierce flame, fastened on his finger. When the natives saw the snake hanging on his hand, they regarded it as a judgement, and said that no doubt he was a murderer. But when they saw that he was none the worse for the bite, 'they changed their minds, and said that he was a god!'

     Hogarth thought Johnson was a lunatic. He changed his mind, and said he was inspired!

     The Maltese thought Paul was a murderer. They changed their minds, and said he was a god!

     They were all wrong, and always wrong. It is the case of my poor absent-minded friend over again. It was quite clear that his clothes wanted changing, but he put on the wrong suit. It was evident that Hogarth's verdict on Johnson wanted revising, but he rushed from Scylla to Charybdis. It was manifest that the Maltese view of Paul needed correcting, but they swung, like a pendulum, from one ludicrous extreme to the opposite. In each case, the hero reappears, wearing the wrong clothes. In each case he only makes himself ridiculous. If my mind wants changing, I must be very cautious as to the way in which I do it.

     And, of course, a man must sometimes change both his clothes and his mind—his mind at any rate. How can you go to a conjuring entertainment, for example, without changing your mind a hundred times in the course of the performance? For a second you think that the vanished billiard ball is here. Then, in a trice, you change your mind, and conclude that it is there! First, you believe that, appearances notwithstanding, the magician really has no hat in his hand. Then, in a flash, you change your mind, and you fancy he has two! You think for a moment that the clever trick is done in this way, and then you become certain that it is done in that! I once witnessed in London a very clever artist, who walked up and down the stage, passing midway behind a screen. And as he reappeared on the other side, after having been hidden from sight for only a fraction of a second, he was differently dressed. He stepped behind the screen a soldier, and emerged a policeman. He disappeared a huntsman, he reappeared a clergyman. He went a convict, he came again a sailor. He wore a score of uniforms in almost as many seconds.

     I began by saying that changing your mind is for all the world like changing your clothes. It is less tedious, however. I have no idea how my London friend managed to change his garments many times in a minute. But many a magician has made me change my mind at a lightning pace. Yes, many a magician. For the universe is, after all, a kind of magic. The wand of the wizard is at its wonderful work. It is the highest type of legerdemain. It is very weird and very wonderful, a thing of marvel and of mystery. No man can sit down and gaze for five minutes with wide open eyes upon God's worlds without changing his mind at least five times. The man who never changes his mind will soon discover to his shame that he is draped in intellectual rags and tatters.

     I rather think that Macaulay's illustration is as good as any. 'A traveller,' he says in his essay on Sir James Mackintosh, 'falls in with a berry which he has never before seen. He tastes it, and finds it sweet and refreshing. He presses it, and resolves to introduce it into his own country. But in a few minutes he is taken violently sick; he is convulsed; he is at the point of death. He, of course, changes his mind, pronounces this delicious food a poison, blames his own folly in tasting it, and cautions his friends against it. After a long and violent struggle he recovers, and finds himself much exhausted by his sufferings, but free from chronic complaints which had been the torment of his life. He then changes his mind again, and pronounces this fruit a very powerful remedy, which ought to be employed only in extreme cases, and with great caution, but which ought not to be absolutely excluded from the Pharmacopoeia. Would it not be the height of absurdity to call such a man fickle and inconsistent because he had repeatedly altered his judgement?' Of course it would. A man cannot go all through life wearing the same suit of clothes. For two reasons. It will not always fit, and it will wear out. And, in precisely the same way, and for identically similar reasons, a man must sometimes change his opinions. It is refreshing to think of Augustine carefully compiling a list of the mistakes that had crept into his writings, so that he might take every opportunity of repudiating and correcting them. I never consult my copies of Archbishop Trench's great works on The Parables and The Miracles without glancing, always with a glow of admiration, at that splendid sentence with which the 'Publisher's Note' concludes: 'The author never allowed his books to be stereotyped, in order that he might constantly improve them, and permanence has only become possible now that his diligent hand can touch the work no more.' That always strikes me as being very fine.

     But the thing must be done methodically. Let me not rush upstairs and change either my clothes or my mind for the mere sake of making a change. Nor must I tumble into the first suit that I happen to find—in either wardrobe. When I reappear, the change must commend itself to the respect, if not the admiration, of my fellows. I do not want men to laugh at my change as we have laughed at these Maltese natives, at old Hogarth, and at my absent-minded friend. I want to be quite sure that the clothes that I doff are the wrong clothes, and that the clothes that I don are the right ones.

     Mr. Gladstone once thought out very thoroughly this whole question as to how frequently and how radically a man may change his mental outfit without forfeiting the confidence of those who have come to value his judgements. And, as a result of that hard thinking, the great man reached half a dozen very clear and very concise conclusions. (1) He concluded that a change of front is very often not only permissible but creditable. 'A change of mind,' he says, 'is a sign of life. If you are alive, you must change. It is only the dead who remain the same. I have changed my point of view on a score of subjects, and my convictions as to many of them.' (2) He concluded that a great change, involving a drastic social cleavage, not unlike a change in religion, should certainly occur not more than once in a lifetime. (3) He concluded that a great and cataclysmic change should never be sudden or precipitate. (4) He concluded that no change ought to be characterized by a contemptuous repudiation of old memories and old associations. (5) He concluded that no change ought to be regarded as final or worthy of implicit confidence if it involved the convert in temporal gain or worldly advantage. (6) And he concluded that any change, to command respect, must be frankly confessed, and not be hooded, slurred over, or denied.

     All this is good, as far as it goes. But even Mr. Gladstone must not be too hard on sudden and cataclysmic changes. What about Saul on the road to Damascus? What about Augustine that morning in his garden? What about Brother Laurence and the dry tree? What about Stephen Grellet in the American forest? What about Luther on Pilate's staircase? What about Bunyan and Newton, Wesley and Spurgeon? What about the tales that Harold Begbie tells? And what about the work of General Booth? Professor James, in his The Varieties Of Religious Experience: A Study In Human Nature, has a good deal to say that would lead Mr. Gladstone to yet one more change of mind concerning the startling suddenness with which the greatest of all changes may be precipitated.

     And this, too, must be said. Every wise man has, locked away in his heart, a few treasures that he will never either give or sell or exchange. It is a mistake to suppose that all our opinions are open to revision. They are not. There are some things too sacred to be always open to scrutiny and investigation. No self-respecting man will spend his time inquiring as to his wife's probity and honour. He makes up his mind as to that when he marries her; and henceforth that question is settled. It is not open to review. He would feel insulted if an investigation were suggested. It is only the small things of life that we are eternally questioning. We are reverently restful and serenely silent about the biggest things of all. A man does not discuss his wife's virtue or his soul's salvation on the kerbstone. The martyrs all went to their deaths with brave hearts and morning faces, because they were not prepared to reconsider or review the greatest decision they had ever made. There are some things on which no wise man will think of changing his mind. And he will decline to contemplate a change because he knows that his wardrobe holds no better garb. It is of no use doffing the robes of princes to don the rags of paupers. 'Eighty and six years have I served Christ,' exclaimed the triumphant Polycarp; and he mounted the heavens in wreathing smoke and leaping flame rather than change his mind after so long and so lovely an experience.

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

                The big compelling of God

     Behold, we go up to Jerusalem. --- Luke 18:31.

     Jerusalem stands in the life of Our Lord as the place where He reached the climax of His Father’s will. “I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me.” That was the one dominating interest all through Our Lord’s life, and the things He met with on the way, joy or sorrow, success or failure, never deterred Him from His purpose. “He stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.”

     The great thing to remember is that we go up to Jerusalem to fulfil God’s purpose, not our own. Naturally, our ambitions are our own; in the Christian life we have no aim of our own. There is so much said to-day about our decisions for Christ, our determination to be Christians, our decisions for this and that, but in the New Testament it is the aspect of God’s compelling that is brought out. “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” We are not taken up into conscious agreement with God’s purpose, we are taken up into God’s purpose without any consciousness at all. We have no conception of what God is aiming at, and as we go on it gets more and more vague. God’s aim looks like missing the mark because we are too short-sighted to see what He is aiming at. At the beginning of the Christian life we have our own ideas as to what God’s purpose is—‘I am meant to go here or there’; ‘God has called me to do this special work’; and we go and do the thing, and still the big compelling of God remains. The work we do is of no account, it is so much scaffolding compared with the big coming of God. “He took unto Him the twelve,” He takes us all the time. There is more than we have got at as yet.

My Utmost for His Highest

     the Poetry of RS Thomas


And one voice says: Come
Back to the rain and manure
Of Siloh, to the small talk,
Of the wind, and the chapel's

Temptation; to the pale,
Sickly half-smile of
The daughter of the village
Grover. The other says: Come.

To the streets, where the pound
Sings and the doors open
To its music, with life
Like an express train running

To time. And I stay
Here, listening to them, blowing
On the small soul in my
Keeping with such breath as I have.


Richard S. Adams
     Have You Noticed

Have you noticed?
Circumstances prune the unprepared.
Why do you lean on moonlight
Instead of walking
By the light of day?

No wonder you fall
And fall often.

Are you the artist,
Too embarrassed
To walk the gallery
Of your own creativity?

You forbid visitors
To the cellar of your heart
And wonder why
Your dawn fed days
Melt in the silence
Of the audience
That never showed.

You have an audience of One.
He bled for you.

     Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction. On staff at George Fox 1/2009 to 7/2018.


Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Exodus 13:17–19

     By the measure that a person measures, so is he measured.

Exodus 13:17–19 / Now when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer; for God said, “The people may have a change of heart when they see war, and return to Egypt.” So God led the people roundabout, by way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds.

     Now the Israelites went up armed out of the land of Egypt. And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph, who had exacted an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will be sure to take notice of you: then you shall carry up my bones from here with you.”

     MIDRASH TEXT / Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael, Be-shallaḥ 1 / By the measure that a person measures, so is he measured. Miriam waited for Moses a while, as it says, “And his sister stationed herself at a distance …” (
Exodus 2:4). And in the wilderness, God caused the Ark, the Shekhinah, the Kohanim, all of Israel, and the seven clouds of glory to wait for her, as it says, “And the people did not march on until Miriam was readmitted” (Numbers 12:15).

     Joseph [alone] was worthy of burying his father, since none of his brothers was greater than he, as it says, “So Joseph went up to bury his father.… Chariots, too, and horsemen …” (
Genesis 50:7, 9). Who is greater than Joseph, for none other than Moses occupied himself with burying Joseph’s bones? Moses occupied himself with Joseph’s bones, for none is greater than him in Israel, as it says, “And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph.” Who is greater than Moses, for none other than the Holy One, praised is He, occupied Himself with him, as it says, “He [God] buried him [Moses] in the valley” (Deuteronomy 34:6)? And what’s more: The officials of Pharaoh and senior members of his court went up with Jacob, as it says, “And with him went up all the officials of Pharaoh, the senior members of his court” (Genesis 50:7), while the Ark, the Shekhinah, the Kohanim, Levi’im, all of Israel, and the seven clouds of glory went up with Joseph. Not only that, but the coffin אֲרוֹן/aron] of Joseph went alongside the Ark [אֲרוֹן/aron] of the Life of the World.

     CONTEXT / The Rabbis found great comfort in seeing the world as an orderly place, with God’s divine justice prevailing. Thus, they teach that by the measure that a person measures, so is he measured. We are treated the same way we treat others—good or bad. Miriam waited for her brother Moses a while when he was an infant. In order to save Moses’ life, his mother placed him in a wicker basket in the Nile, as it says “And his sister stationed herself at a distance to learn what would befall him” (
Exodus 2:4). Miriam showed kindness and patience toward her infant brother, saving his life. Later, this kindness would be repaid to her. Miriam is afflicted with a scaly-white skin disease as punishment for having spoken out against Moses’ Cushite wife. And in the wilderness, God caused the Ark, the Shekhinah, God’s Divine Presence and its manifestation in the Israelite camp, the Kohanim, all of Israel, and the seven clouds of glory, a rabbinic reading of the cloud that came over the mishkan or Tabernacle, to wait for her, as it says, “So Miriam was shut up [with this disease] for seven days, and the people did not march on until Miriam was readmitted” (Numbers 12:15). The kindness and patience she showed another was repaid to her in kind.

     Just as Joseph showed kindness to his father, Moses showed kindness to Joseph. At the death of his father, Jacob, Joseph was already a great man in Egypt. The text does not emphasize that Jacob’s family went to bury him in Canaan, but rather that Joseph [alone] was worthy of burying his father, since none of his brothers is greater than he, as it says, “So Joseph went up to bury his father.…” Since Joseph is mentioned as the central figure of this verse, the Rabbis can ask, Who is greater than Joseph, for none other than Moses, also a great man, occupied himself with burying Joseph’s bones? This is seen by the Rabbis as a repayment, measure-for-measure, for Joseph’s act of kindness to his father, Jacob.

     Moses occupied himself with Joseph’s bones, for none is greater than him in Israel.… Clearly, no one was a greater leader than Moses. If Moses was to be repaid measure-for-measure, then only God could repay this act of kindness! For none other than the Holy One, praised is He, occupied Himself with him, as it says, “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there, in the land of Moab, at the command of the Lord. He, God, buried him in the valley” (
Deuteronomy 34:6).

     The Rabbis conclude by returning to the transfer of the coffin of Joseph. Since Jacob received an honor guard—And what’s more: The officials of Pharaoh and senior members of his court went up with Jacob, as it says, “And with him went up all the officials of Pharaoh, the senior members of his court …”—so too Joseph also deserved an honor guard: the Ark, the Shekhinah, the Kohanim, Levi’im, all of Israel, and the seven clouds of glory went up with Joseph, an even greater entourage. Not only that, but the coffin [אֲרוֹן/aron] of Joseph went alongside the Ark [אֲרוֹן/aron] of the Life of the World, that is, God. The same Hebrew word, אֲרוֹן/aron, can mean both “coffin” and “Ark.” The Rabbis use the repetition of the word aron to show the great honor given to Joseph: Just as something holy and notable was being carried in one אֲרוֹן/aron, God’s “Ark of the Covenant,” so too something holy and notable was being carried in the other אֲרוֹן/aron, the bones of Joseph. No greater honor could be bestowed upon a human being.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 3

     Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.
--- Habakkuk 2:3.

     Faith, hope, love, these are great gifts. Classic Sermons on Hope (Kregel Classic Sermons Series) Yet not all of them together will bring you through with honor. For that, something more is needed. Remember, says Saint Anthony, of all the virtues, perseverance alone wins the crown. Have you the courage that, checked and beaten back, can hold its ground and never think of giving way? For that is often what I need in those who would serve me, says God. Though it linger, wait.

     “We all thought,” said Baxter, speaking of the Civil War, “that one battle would end it, but we were all very much mistaken.” And so most of us expected that our spiritual lives would move on much faster than they have. We knew we had certain temptations, but we were going to knock them on the head and put an end to that; yet perhaps some of them visit us to this day. We were aware that we were prone to this and that sin and weakness. But Christ would break them for us. Yet, perhaps, some of them persist.

     We saw the glory of life as Christ led it, and our hearts ran out to that eagerly. But it has proved difficult to weave our characters into his likeness! We too have need of Paul’s prayer for his friends—that our faith may become a thing of power. For it seems sometimes curiously ineffective, doesn’t it?

     Perhaps you are haunted by a feeling that after all your faith and efforts you are painfully little changed, that if Christ were really in your life surely there would be more to show. Look, your heart cries, how it was in his time! Everywhere he went were extraordinary happenings, there for all to see. But I, what can I show?

     Into a liquid is dropped one drop, a second, and there is no result—another and another—and then one more, precisely like the rest, and all of a sudden everything is changed! And day by day doggedly we pray and hope and toil and believe. And what is there to show for it? Not much, to outward appearance. Yet, is far more going on than our eyes see? And one day, one other prayer, one other ordinary act of ordinary faith, one more looking toward Jesus Christ, may bring the long process to its culmination, and we waken satisfied because we are in his likeness—at last!
--- Arthur John Gossip

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

On This Day
     The Boxer Rebellion  August 3

     Between 1830 and 1949, China became the largest Protestant mission field in the world, occupying up to 8,000 missionaries at any one time. It also became the scene of Protestant mission’s largest massacre when, in 1900, a rabidly anti-Christian group known as the Society of Harmonious Fists, or the Boxers, waged a virtual war against believers. Nearly 200 missionary adults and children and 30,000 national Chinese Christians perished. Among them was missionary Lizzie Atwater who wrote her family on August 3, 1900:

     Dear ones, I long for a sight of your dear faces, but I fear we shall not meet on earth. I am preparing for the end very quietly and calmly. The Lord is wonderfully near, and he will not fail me. I was very restless and excited while there seemed a chance of life, but God has taken away that feeling, and now I just pray for grace to meet the terrible end bravely. The pain will soon be over, and oh the sweetness of the welcome above!

     My little baby will go with me. I think God will give it to me in Heaven, and my dear mother will be so glad to see us. I cannot imagine the Savior’s welcome. Oh, that will compensate for all these days of suspense. Dear ones, live near God and cling less closely to earth. There is no other way by which we can receive that peace from God which passeth understanding. …

     … I just keep calm these hours. I do not regret coming to China, but am sorry I have done so little. My married life, two precious years, has been so very full of happiness. We will die together, my dear husband and I. I send my love to you all, the dear friends who remember me.

     Twelve days later the Atwaters perished. But it was not for nothing. When tensions subsided the missionary army returned, remaining until expelled by the Communists in 1949. The number of Chinese Christians grew to about 5 to 7 million by 1980, and has since mushroomed to an estimated 50 million—and counting.

     Our people defeated Satan because of the blood of the Lamb and the message of God. They were willing to give up their lives.
--- Revelation 12:11.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 3

     “The Lamb is the light thereof.” --- Revelation 21:23.

     Quietly contemplate the Lamb as the light of heaven. Light in Scripture is the emblem of joy. The joy of the saints in heaven is comprised in this: Jesus chose us, loved us, bought us, cleansed us, robed us, kept us, glorified us: we are here entirely through the Lord Jesus. Each one of these thoughts shall be to them like a cluster of the grapes of Eshcol. Light is also the cause of beauty. Nought of beauty is left when light is gone. Without light no radiance flashes from the sapphire, no peaceful ray proceedeth from the pearl; and thus all the beauty of the saints above comes from Jesus. As planets, they reflect the light of the Sun of Righteousness; they live as beams proceeding from the central orb. If he withdrew, they must die; if his glory were veiled, their glory must expire. Light is also the emblem of knowledge. In heaven our knowledge will be perfect, but the Lord Jesus himself will be the fountain of it. Dark providences, never understood before, will then be clearly seen, and all that puzzles us now will become plain to us in the light of the Lamb. Oh! what unfoldings there will be and what glorifying of the God of love! Light also means manifestation. Light manifests. In this world it doth not yet appear what we shall be. God’s people are a hidden people, but when Christ receives his people into heaven, he will touch them with the wand of his own love, and change them into the image of his manifested glory. They were poor and wretched, but what a transformation! They were stained with sin, but one touch of his finger, and they are bright as the sun, and clear as crystal. Oh! what a manifestation! All this proceeds from the exalted Lamb. Whatever there may be of effulgent splendour, Jesus shall be the centre and soul of it all. Oh! to be present and to see him in his own light, the King of kings, and Lord of lords!

          Evening - August 3

     “But as he went.” --- Luke 8:42.

     Jesus is passing through the throng to the house of Jairus, to raise the ruler’s dead daughter; but he is so profuse in goodness that he works another miracle while upon the road. While yet this rod of Aaron bears the blossom of an unaccomplished wonder, it yields the ripe almonds of a perfect work of mercy. It is enough for us, if we have some one purpose, straightway to go and accomplish it; it were imprudent to expend our energies by the way. Hastening to the rescue of a drowning friend, we cannot afford to exhaust our strength upon another in like danger. It is enough for a tree to yield one sort of fruit, and for a man to fulfil his own peculiar calling. But our Master knows no limit of power or boundary of mission. He is so prolific of grace, that like the sun which shines as it rolls onward in its orbit, his path is radiant with lovingkindness. He is a swift arrow of love, which not only reaches its ordained target, but perfumes the air through which it flies. Virtue is evermore going out of Jesus, as sweet odours exhale from flowers; and it always will be emanating from him, as water from a sparkling fountain. What delightful encouragement this truth affords us! If our Lord is so ready to heal the sick and bless the needy, then, my soul, be not thou slow to put thyself in his way, that he may smile on thee. Be not slack in asking, if he be so abundant in bestowing. Give earnest heed to his word now, and at all times, that Jesus may speak through it to thy heart. Where he is to be found there make thy resort, that thou mayst obtain his blessing. When he is present to heal, may he not heal thee? But surely he is present even now, for he always comes to hearts which need him. And dost not thou need him? Ah, he knows how much! Thou Son of David, turn thine eye and look upon the distress which is now before thee, and make thy suppliant whole.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     August 3


     Benjamin Schmolck, 1672–1737

     Translated by Jane L. Borthwick, 1813–1897

     I desire to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart. (Psalm 40:8)

     My will is not my own till Thou has made it Thine; if it would reach the monarch’s throne it must its crown resign. It only stands unbent amid the clashing strife, till on Thy bosom it has leant and found in Thee its life.
--- George Matheson

     Following the decision to accept God’s provision for salvation, our next most important decision is to do God’s will, regardless of what the future may bring. Often, however, we have difficulty in discerning God’s will. George Mueller, one of the great men of prayer, has given these insights from his own life regarding this matter:

•     Seek to get your heart in such a condition that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Do not depend upon feelings or impressions.
•     Seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God.
•     Take into account providential circumstances.
•     Ask God in prayer to reveal His will clearly.

     Thus, through prayer to God, the study of His Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. I have found this method always effective.

     “My Jesus, As Thou Wilt!” first appeared in a German hymnal in 1704. Later it was translated into English by Jane Borthwick and appeared in the collection Hymns from the Land of Luther, published in 1820. These words have since reminded believers that it is only as we yield our wills to God that He can empower us for living victoriously for Him:
     My Jesus, as Thou wilt! O may Thy will be mine! Into Thy hand of love I would my all resign. Through sorrow or through joy, conduct me as Thine own; and help me still to say, “My Lord, Thy will be done.”
     My Jesus, as Thou wilt! Though seen through many a tear, let not my star of hope grow dim or disappear. Since Thou on earth hast wept, and sorrowed oft alone, if I must weep with Thee, My Lord, Thy will be done.
     My Jesus, as Thou wilt! All shall be well for me; each changing future scene I gladly trust with Thee. Straight to my home above I travel calmly on, and sing, in life or death, “My Lord, Thy will be done.”

     For Today: Matthew 6:10; Ephesians 5:17; Colossians 1:9; Hebrews 13:21; 1 John 2:17

     How do you try to discern God’s will for your life? Are you willing to accept and do whatever He may reveal to you? Use this hymn to help in your reflection ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock


     To conclude this, is it not folly for any man to deny or doubt of the being of a God, to dissent from all mankind, and stand in contradiction to human nature? What is the general dictate of nature is a certain truth. It is impossible that nature can naturally and universally lie. And therefore those that ascribe all to nature, and set it in the place of God, contradict themselves, if they give not credit to it in that which it universally affirms. A general consent of all nations is to be esteemed as a law of nature. Nature cannot plant in the minds of all men an assent to a falsity, for then the laws of nature would be destructive to the reason and minds of men. How is it possible, that a falsity should be a persuasion spread through all nations, engraven upon the minds of all men, men of the most towering, and men of the most creeping understanding; that they should consent to it in all places, and in those places where the nations have not had any known commerce with the rest of the known world? a consent not settled by any law of man to constrain people to a belief of it: and indeed it is impossible that any law of man can constrain the belief of the mind. Would not he deservedly be accounted a fool, that should deny that to be gold which hath been tried and examined by a great number of knowing goldsmiths, and hath passed the test of all their touch-stones? What excess of folly would it be for him to deny it to be true gold, if it had been tried by all that had skill in that metal in all nations in the world!

     Secondly, It hath been a constant and uninterrupted consent. It hath been as ancient as the first age of the world; no man is able to mention any time, from the beginning of the world, wherein this notion hath not been universally owned; it is as old as mankind, and hath run along with the course of the sun, nor can the date be fixed lower than that.

     1. In all the changes of the world, this hath been maintained. In the overturnings of the government of states, the alteration of modes of worship, this hath stood unshaken. The reasons upon which it was founded were, in all revolutions of time, accounted satisfactory and convincing, nor could absolute atheism in the changes of any laws ever gain the favor of any one body of people to be established by a law. When the honor of the heathen idols was laid in the dust, this suffered no impair. The being of one God was more vigorously owned when the unreasonableness of multiplicity of gods was manifest; and grew taller by the detection of counterfeits. When other parts of the law of nature have been violated by some nations, this hath maintained its standing. The long series of ages hath been so far from blotting it out, that it hath more strongly confirmed it, and maketh further progress in the confirmation of it. Time, which hath eaten out the strength of other things, and blasted mere inventions, hath not been able to consume this. The discovery of all other impostures, never made this by any society of men to be suspected as one. It will not be easy to name any imposture that hath walked perpetually in the world without being discovered, and whipped out by some nation or other. Falsities have never been so universally and constantly owned without public control and question. And since the world hath detected many errors of the former age, and learning been increased, this hath been so far from being dimmed, that it hath shone out clearer with the increase of natural knowledge, and received fresh and more vigorous confirmations.

     2. The fears and anxieties in the consciences of men have given men sufficient occasion to root it out, had it been possible for them to do it. If the notion of the existence of God had been possible to have been dashed out of the minds of men, they would have done it rather than have suffered so many troubles in their souls upon the commission of sin; since there did not want wickedness and wit in so many corrupt ages to have attempted it and prospered in it, had it been possible. How comes it therefore to pass, that such a multitude of profligate persons that have been in the world since the fall of man, should not have rooted out this principle, and dispossessed the minds of men of that which gave birth to their tormenting fears? How is it possible that all should agree together in a thing which created fear, and an obligation against the interest of the flesh, if it had been free for men to discharge themselves of it? No man, as far as corrupt nature bears sway in him, is willing to live controlled.

     The first man would rather be a god himself than under one: why should men continue this notion in them, which shackled them in their vile inclinations, if it had been in their power utterly to deface it? If it were an imposture, how comes it to pass, that all the wicked ages of the world could never discover that to be a cheat, which kept them in continual alarms? Men wanted not will to shake off such apprehensions; as Adam, so all his posterity are desirous to hide themselves from God upon the commission of sin, and by the same reason they would hide God from their souls. What is the reason they could never attain their will and their wish by all their endeavors? Could they possibly have satisfied themselves that there were no God, they had discarded their fears, the disturbers of the repose of their lives, and been unbridled in their pleasures. The wickedness of the world would never have preserved that which was a perpetual molestation to it, had it been possible to be razed out.

     But since men under the turmoils and lashes of their own consciences could never bring their hearts to a settled dissent from this truth, it evidenceth, that as it took its birth at the beginning of the world, it cannot expire, no not in the ashes of it, nor in anything but the reduction of the soul to that nothing from whence it sprung. This conception is so perpetual, that the nature of the soul must be dissolved before it be rooted out, nor can it be extinct while the soul endures.

     3. Let it be considered also by us that own the Scripture, that the devil deems it impossible to root out this sentiment. It seems to be so perpetually fixed, that the devil did not think fit to tempt man to the denial of the existence of a Deity, but persuaded him to believe he might ascend to that dignity and become a god himself; Gen. 3:1, “Hath God said?” and he there owns him (ver. 5), “Y e shall become as gods.” He owns God in the question he asks the woman, and persuades our first parents to be gods themselves. And in all stories, both ancient and modern, the devil was never able to tincture men’s minds with a professed denial of the Deity, which would have opened a door to a world of more wickedness than hath been acted, and took away the bar to the breaking out of that evil, which is naturally in the hearts of men, to the greater prejudice of human societies. He wanted not malice to raze out all the notions of God, but power: he knew it was impossible to effect it, and therefore in vain to attempt it. He set up himself in several places of the ignorant world as a god, but never was able to overthrow the opinion of the being of a God. The impressions of a Deity were so strong as not to be struck out by the malice and power of hell.

     What a folly is it then in any to contradict or doubt of this truth, which all the periods of time have not been able to wear out; which all the wars and quarrels of men with their own consciences have not been able to destroy; which ignorance and debauchery, its two greatest enemies, cannot weaken; which all the falsehoods and errors which have reigned in one or other part of the world, have not been able to banish; which lives in the consents of men in spite of all their wishes to the contrary, and hath grown stronger, and shone clearer, by the improvements of natural reason!

     Thirdly, Natural and innate; which pleads strongly for the perpetuity of it. It is natural, though some think it not a principle writ in the heart of man; it is so natural that every man is born with a restless instinct to be of some kind of religion or other, which implies some object of religion. The impression of a Deity is as common as reason, and of the same age with reason. It is a relic of knowledge after the fall of Adam, like fire under ashes, which sparkles as soon as ever the heap of ashes is opened. A notion sealed up in the soul of every man; else how could those people who were unknown to one another, separate by seas and mounts, differing in various customs and manner of living, had no mutual intelligence one with another, light upon this as a common sentiment, if they had not been guided by one uniform reason in all their minds, by one nature common to them all: though their climates be different, their tempers and constitutions various, their imaginations in some things as distant from one another as heaven is from earth, the ceremonies of their religion not all of the same kind; yet wherever you find human nature, you find this settled persuasion. So that the notion of a God seems to be twisted with the nature of man, and is the first natural branch of common reason, or upon either the first inspection of a man into himself and his own state and constitution, or upon the first sight of any external visible object. Nature within man, and nature without man, agree upon the first meeting together to form this sentiment, that there is a God. It is as natural as anything we call a common principle. One thing which is called a common principle and natural is, that the whole is greater than the parts. If this be not born with us, yet the exercise of reason essential to man settles it as a certain maxim; upon the dividing anything into several parts, he finds every part less than when they were altogether. By the same exercise of reason, we cannot cast our eyes upon anything in the world, or exercise our understandings upon ourselves, but we must presently imagine, there was some cause of those things, some cause of myself and my own being; so that this truth is as natural to man as anything he can call most natural or a common principle.

     It must be confessed by all, that there is a law of nature writ upon the hearts of men, which will direct them to commendable actions, if they will attend to the writing in their own consciences. This law cannot be considered without the notice of a Lawgiver. For it is but a natural and obvious conclusion, that some superior hand engrafted those principles in man, since he finds something in him twitching him upon the pursuit of uncomely actions, though his heart be mightily inclined to them; man knows he never planted this principle of reluctancy in his own soul; he can never be the cause of that which he cannot be friends with. If he were the cause of it, why doth he not rid himself of it? No man would endure a thing that doth frequently molest and disquiet him, if he could cashier it. It is therefore sown in man by some hand more powerful than man, which riseth so high, and is rooted so strong, that all the force that man can use cannot pull it up. If therefore this principle be natural in man, and the law of nature be natural, the notion of a Lawgiver must be as natural, as the notion of a printer, or that there is a printer, is obvious upon the sight of a stamp impressed. After this the multitude of effects in the world step in to strengthen this beam of natural light, and the direct conclusion from thence is, that that power which made those outward objects, implanted this inward principle. This is sown in us, born with us, and sprouts up with our growth, or as one with; it is like letters carved upon the bark of a young plant, which grows up together with us, and the longer it grows the letters are more legible.

     This is the ground of this universal consent, and why it may well be termed natural. This will more evidently appear to be natural, because, 1. This consent could not be by mere tradition. 2. Nor by any mutual intelligence of governors to keep people in awe, which are two things the atheist pleads; the first hath no strong foundation, and that other is as absurd and foolish as it is wicked and abominable. 3. Nor was it fear first introduced it.

     First, It could not be by mere tradition. Many things indeed are entertained by posterity which their ancestors delivered to them, and that out of a common reverence to their forefathers, and an opinion that they had a better prospect of things than the increase of the corruption of succeeding ages would permit them to have. But if this be a tradition handed from our ancestors, they also must receive it from theirs; we must then ascend to the first man, we cannot else escape a confounding ourselves with running into infinite. Was it then the only tradition he left to them? Is it not probable he acquainted them with other things in conjunction with this, the nature of God, the way to worship him, the manner of the world’s existence, his own state? We may reasonably suppose him to have a good stock of knowledge; what is become of it? It cannot be supposed, that the first man should acquaint his posterity with an object of worship, and leave them ignorant of a mode of worship and of the end of worship. We find in Scripture his immediate posterity did the first in sacrifices, and without doubt they were not ignorant of the other: how come men to be so uncertain in all other things, and so confident of this, if it were only a tradition? How did debates and irreconcilable questions start up concerning other things, and this remain untouched, but by a small number? Whatsoever tradition the first man left besides this, is lost, and no way recoverable, but by the revelation God hath made in his Word. How comes it to pass this of a God is longer lived than all the rest which we may suppose man left to his immediate descendants? How come men to retain the one and forget the other? What was the reason this survived the ruin of the rest, and surmounted the uncertainties into which the other sunk? Was it likely it should be handed down alone without other attendants on it at first? Why did it not expire among the Americans, who have lost the account of their own descent, and the stock from whence they sprung, and cannot reckon above eight hundred or a thousand years at most? Why was not the manner of the worship of a God transmitted as well as that of his existence? How came men to dissent in their opinions concerning his nature, whether he was corporeal or incorporeal, finite or infinite, omnipresent or limited? Why were not men as negligent to transmit this of his existence as that of his nature? No reason can be rendered for the security of this above the other, but that there is so clear a tincture of a Deity upon the minds of men, such traces and shadows of him in the creatures, such indelible instincts within, and invincible arguments without to keep up this universal consent. The characters are so deep that they cannot possibly be rased out, which would have been one time or other, in one nation or other, had it depended only upon tradition, since one age shakes off frequently the sentiments of the former. I cannot think of above one which may be called a tradition, which indeed was kept up among all nations, viz. sacrifices, which could not be natural but instituted. What ground could they have in nature, to imagine that the blood of beasts could expiate and wash off the guilt and stains of a rational creature? Yet they had in all places (but among the Jews, and some of them only) lost the knowledge of the reason and end of the institution, which the Scripture acquaints us was to typify and signify the redemption by the Promised Seed. This tradition hath been superannuated and laid aside in most parts of the world, while this notion of the existence of a God hath stood firm. But suppose it were a tradition, was it likely to be a mere intention and figment of the first man? Had there been no reason for it, this posterity would soon have found out the weakness of its foundation. What advantage had it been to him to transmit so great a falsehood to kindle the fears or raise the hopes of his posterity, if there were no God? It cannot be supposed he should be so void of that natural affection men in all ages bear to their descendants, as so grossly to deceive them, and be so contrary to the simplicity and plainness which appears in all things nearest their original.

     Secondly, Neither was it by any mutual intelligence of governors among themselves to keep people in subjection to them. If it were a political design at first, it seems it met with the general nature of mankind very ready to give it entertainment. 1. It is unaccountable how this should come to pass. It must be either by a joint assembly of them, or a mutual correspondence. If by an assembly, who were the persons? Let the name of any one be mentioned. When was the time? Where was the place of this appearance? By what authority did they meet together? Who made the first motion, and first started this great principle of policy? By what means could they assemble from such distant parts of the world? Human histories are utterly silent in it, and the Scripture, the ancientest history, gives an account of the attempt of Babel, but not a word of any sign of this nature. What mutual correspondence could such have, whose interests are for the most part different, and their designs contrary to one another? How could they, who were divided by such vast seas, have this mutual converse? How could those who were different in their customs and manners, agree so unanimously together in one thing to gull the people? If there had been such a correspondence between the governors of all nations, what is the reason some nations should be unknown to the world till of late times? How could the business be so secretly managed, as not to take vent, and issue in a discovery to the world? Can reason suppose so many in a joint conspiracy, and no man’s conscience in his life under sharp afflictions, or on his death-bed, when conscience is most awakened, constrain him to reveal openly the cheat that beguiled the world? How came they to be so unanimous in this notion, and to differ in their rites almost in every country? why could they not agree in one mode of worship throughout all the world, as well as in this universal notion? If there were not a mutual intelligence, it cannot be conceived how in every nation such a state-engineer should rise up with the same trick to keep people in awe. What is the reason we cannot find any law in any one nation to constrain men to the belief of the existence of a God, since politic stratagems have been often fortified by laws? Besides, such men make use of principles received to effect their contrivances, and are not so impolitic as to build designs upon principles that have no foundation in nature. Some heathen lawgivers have pretended a converse with their gods, to make their laws be received by the people with a greater veneration, and fix with stronger obligation the observance and perpetuity of them; but this was not the introducing a new principle, but the supposition of an old received notion, that there was a God, and an application of that principle to their present design. The pretence had been vain had not the notion of a God been ingrafted. Politicians are so little possessed with a reverence of God, that the first mighty one in the Scripture (which may reasonably gain with the atheist the credit of the ancientest history in the world), is represented without any fear of God. An invader and oppressor of his neighbors, and reputed the introducer of a new worship, and being the first that built cities after the flood (as Cain was the first builder of them before the flood), built also idolatry with them, and erected a new worship, and was so far from strengthening that notion the people had of God, that he endeavored to corrupt it. The first idolatry in common histories being noted to proceed from that part of the world; the ancientest idol being at Babylon, and supposed to be first invented by this person: whence, by the way, perhaps Rome is in the Revelations called Babylon, with respect to that similitude of their saint-worship, to the idolatry first set up in that place. ’Tis evident politicians have often changed the worship of a nation, but it is not upon record that the first thoughts of an object of worship ever entered into the minds of people by any trick of theirs.

     But to return to the present argument, the being of a God is owned by some nations that have scarce any form of policy among them. ’Tis as wonderful how any wit should hit upon such an invention, as it is absurd to ascribe it to any human device, if there were not prevailing arguments to constrain the consent. Besides, how is it possible they should deceive themselves? What is the reason the greatest politicians have their fears of a Deity upon their unjust practices, as well as other men they intend to befool? How many of them have had forlorn consciences upon a death-bed, upon the consideration of a God to answer an account to in another world? Is it credible they should be frighted by that wherewith they knew they beguiled others? No man satisfying his pleasures would impose such a deceit upon himself to render and make himself more miserable than the creatures he hath dominion over.

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

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

     Sect. CVI. — THE other absurd objection, the Diatribe gathers from Madam Reason; who is called, Human Reason — that the fault is not to be laid on the vessel, but on the potter: especially, since He is such a potter, who creates the clay as well as attempers it. — “Whereas, (says the Diatribe) here the vessel is cast into eternal fire, which merited nothing: except that it had no power of its own.” —

     In no one place does the Diatribe more openly betray itself, than in this. For it is here heard to say, in other words indeed, but in the same meaning, that which Paul makes the impious to say, “Why doth He yet complain? for who hath resisted His will?” (Rom. ix. 19). This is that which Reason cannot receive, and cannot bear. This is that, which has offended so many men renowned for talent, who have been received through so many ages. Here they require, that God should act according to human laws, and do what seems right unto men, or cease to be God! ‘His secrets of Majesty, say they, do not better His character in our estimation. Let Him render a reason why He is God, or why He wills and does that, which has no appearance of justice in it. It is as if one should ask a cobbler or a collar-maker to take the seat of judgment.’

     Thus, flesh does not think God worthy of so great glory, that it should believe Him to be just and good, while He says and does those things which are above that, which the volume of Justin and the fifth book of Aristotle’s Ethics, have defined to be justice. That Majesty which is the Creating Cause of all things, must bow to one of the dregs of His creation: and that Corycian cavern must, vice versa, fear its spectators. It is absurd that He should condemn him; who cannot avoid the merit of damnation. And, on account of this absurdity, it must be false, that “God has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and hardens whom He will.” (Rom. ix. 18). He must be brought to order. He must have certain laws prescribed to Him, that he damn not any one but him, who, according to our judgment, deserves to be damned.

     And thus, an effectual answer is given to Paul and his similitude. He must recall it, and allow it to be utterly ineffective: and must so attemper it, that this potter (according to the Diatribe’s interpretation) make the vessel to dishonour from merit preceding: in the same manner in which He rejected some Jews on account of unbelief, and received Gentiles on account of faith. But if God work thus, and have respect unto merit, why do those impious ones murmur and expostulate? Why do they say, “Why doth He find fault? for who hath resisted His will?” (Rom. ix. 19). And what need was there for Paul to restrain them? For who wonders even, much less is indignant and expostulates, when any one is damned who merited damnation? Moreover where remains the power of the potter to make what vessel He will, if, being subject to merit and laws, He is not permitted to make what He will, but is required to make what He ought? The respect of merit militates against the power and liberty of making what He will: as is proved by that “good man of the house,” who, when the workmen murmured and expostulated concerning their right, objected in answer, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?” — These are the arguments, which will not permit the gloss of the Diatribe to be of any avail.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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