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Judges 21     Acts 25     Jeremiah 35     Psalm 7-8


Judges 21

Wives Provided for the Tribe of Benjamin

Judges 21 1 Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah, “No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.” 2 And the people came to Bethel and sat there till evening before God, and they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. 3 And they said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?” 4 And the next day the people rose early and built there an altar and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. 5 And the people of Israel said, “Which of all the tribes of Israel did not come up in the assembly to the Lord?” For they had taken a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the Lord to Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.” 6 And the people of Israel had compassion for Benjamin their brother and said, “One tribe is cut off from Israel this day. 7 What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the Lord that we will not give them any of our daughters for wives?”

8 And they said, “What one is there of the tribes of Israel that did not come up to the Lord to Mizpah?” And behold, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh-gilead, to the assembly. 9 For when the people were mustered, behold, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there. 10 So the congregation sent 12,000 of their bravest men there and commanded them, “Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword; also the women and the little ones. 11 This is what you shall do: every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall devote to destruction.” 12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man by lying with him, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

13 Then the whole congregation sent word to the people of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon and proclaimed peace to them. 14 And Benjamin returned at that time. And they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead, but they were not enough for them. 15 And the people had compassion on Benjamin because the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

16 Then the elders of the congregation said, “What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?” 17 And they said, “There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel. 18 Yet we cannot give them wives from our daughters.” For the people of Israel had sworn, “Cursed be he who gives a wife to Benjamin.” 19 So they said, “Behold, there is the yearly feast of the Lord at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” 20 And they commanded the people of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in ambush in the vineyards 21 and watch. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and snatch each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. 22 And when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Grant them graciously to us, because we did not take for each man of them his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, else you would now be guilty.’” 23 And the people of Benjamin did so and took their wives, according to their number, from the dancers whom they carried off. Then they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and lived in them. 24 And the people of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance.

25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

No king, how many times has this been repeated in Judges!  Man in the first instant of the use of reason, finds natural principles within himself; directing and choosing them, he finds a distinction between good and evil; how could this be if there were not some rule in him to try and distinguish good and evil? If there was not such a law and rule in man, he could not sin; for where there is no law there is no transgression. If man were a law to himself, and his own will his law, there could be no such thing as evil; whatsoever he willed, would be good and agreeable to the law, and no action could be accounted sinful; the worst act would be as commendable as the best. Everything at man’s appointment would be good or evil. If there were no such law, how should men that are naturally inclined to evil disapprove of that which is unlovely, and approve of that good which they practise not?  The Existence and Attributes of God

Acts 25

Paul Appeals to Caesar

Acts 25 1 Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2 And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, 3 asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem — because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. 4 Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. 5 “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.”

6 After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. 7 When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. 8 Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” 9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” 10 But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

Paul Before Agrippa and Bernice

13 Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus. 14 And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix, 15 and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. 16 I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. 17 So when they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. 19 Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. 20 Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them. 21 But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.” 22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” said he, “you will hear him.”

23 So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all who are present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish people petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 But I found that he had done nothing deserving death. And as he himself appealed to the emperor, I decided to go ahead and send him. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him.”


Jeremiah 35

The Obedience of the Rechabites

Jeremiah 35 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: 2 “Go to the house of the Rechabites and speak with them and bring them to the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers; then offer them wine to drink.” 3 So I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, son of Habazziniah and his brothers and all his sons and the whole house of the Rechabites. 4 I brought them to the house of the Lord into the chamber of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, the man of God, which was near the chamber of the officials, above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, keeper of the threshold. 5 Then I set before the Rechabites pitchers full of wine, and cups, and I said to them, “Drink wine.” 6 But they answered, “We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, ‘You shall not drink wine, neither you nor your sons forever. 7 You shall not build a house; you shall not sow seed; you shall not plant or have a vineyard; but you shall live in tents all your days, that you may live many days in the land where you sojourn.’ 8 We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, to drink no wine all our days, ourselves, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, 9 and not to build houses to dwell in. We have no vineyard or field or seed, 10 but we have lived in tents and have obeyed and done all that Jonadab our father commanded us. 11 But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against the land, we said, ‘Come, and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and the army of the Syrians.’ So we are living in Jerusalem.”

12 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Go and say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will you not receive instruction and listen to my words? declares the Lord. 14 The command that Jonadab the son of Rechab gave to his sons, to drink no wine, has been kept, and they drink none to this day, for they have obeyed their father's command. I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me. 15 I have sent to you all my servants the prophets, sending them persistently, saying, ‘Turn now every one of you from his evil way, and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to serve them, and then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to you and your fathers.’ But you did not incline your ear or listen to me. 16 The sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have kept the command that their father gave them, but this people has not obeyed me. 17 Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, because I have spoken to them and they have not listened, I have called to them and they have not answered.”

18 But to the house of the Rechabites Jeremiah said, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father and kept all his precepts and done all that he commanded you, 19 therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Jonadab the son of Rechab shall never lack a man to stand before me.”


Psalm 7

In You Do I Take Refuge

A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning the words of Cush, a Benjaminite.

  See Psalm 7 article below   Psalm 7 1 O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
2 lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.

3 O Lord my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
4 if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
5 let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust. Selah

6 Arise, O Lord, in your anger;
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.
7 Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you;
over it return on high.

8 The Lord judges the peoples;
judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
9 Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
and may you establish the righteous—
you who test the minds and hearts,
O righteous God!
10 My shield is with God,
who saves the upright in heart.
11 God is a righteous judge,
and a God who feels indignation every day.

12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
13 he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies.
15 He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole that he has made.
16 His mischief returns upon his own head,
and on his own skull his violence descends.

17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.


Psalm 8

How Majestic Is Your Name

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

  See Psalm 8 article below   Psalm 8 1 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Psalm 7 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

     TITLE. "Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the Lord, concerning the word of Cush the Benjamite."—"Shiggaion of David." As far as we can gather from the observations of learned men, and from a comparison of this Psalm with the only other Shiggaion in the Word of God, (Habakkuk 3:1), this title seems to mean "variable songs," with which also the idea of solace and pleasure is associated. Truly our life-psalm is composed of variable verses; one stanza rolls along with the sublime metre of triumph, but another limps with the broken rhythm of complaint. There is much bass in the saint's music here below. Our experience is as variable as the weather in England.

     From the title we learn the occasion of the composition of this song. It appears probable that Cush the Benjamite had accused David to Saul of treasonable conspiracy against his royal authority. This the king would be ready enough to credit, both from his jealousy of David, and from the relation which most probably existed between himself, the son of Kish, and this Cush, or Kish, the Benjamite. He who is near the throne can do more injury to a subject than an ordinary slanderer.

     This may be called the SONG OF THE SLANDERED SAINT. Even this sorest of evils may furnish occasion for a Psalm. What a blessing it would be if we could turn even the most disastrous event into a theme for song, and so turn the tables upon our great enemy. Let us learn a lesson from Luther, who once said, "David made Psalms; we also will make Psalms, and sing them as well as we can to the honour of our Lord, and to spite and mock the devil."

     DIVISION. In the first and second verses the danger is stated, and prayer offered. Then the Psalmist most solemnly avows his innocence. (3, 4, 5). The Lord is pleaded with to arise to judgment (6, 7). The Lord, sitting upon his throne, hears the renewed appeal of the Slandered Supplicant (8, 9). The Lord clears his servant, and threatens the wicked (10, 11, 12, 13). The slanderer is seen in vision bringing a curse upon his own head, (14, 15, 16), while David retires from trial singing a hymn of praise to his righteous God. We have here a noble sermon upon that text: "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that riseth against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn."



EXPOSITION

     Verse 1. David appears before God to plead with him against the Accuser, who had charged him with treason and treachery. The case is here opened with an avowal of confidence in God. Whatever may be the emergency of our condition we shall never find it amiss to retain our reliance upon our God. "O Lord my God," mine by a special covenant, sealed by Jesus' blood, and ratified in my own soul by a sense of union to thee; "in thee," and in thee only, "do I put my trust," even now in my sore distress. I shake, but my rock moves not. It is never right to distrust God, and never vain to trust him. And now, with both divine relationship and holy trust to strengthen him, David utters the burden of his desire—"save me from all them that persecute me." His pursuers were very many, and any one of them cruel enough to devour him; he cries, therefore, for salvation from them all. We should never think our prayers complete until we ask for preservation from all sin, and all enemies. "And deliver me," extricate me from their snares, acquit me of their accusations, give a true and just deliverance in this trial of my injured character. See how clearly his case is stated; let us see to it, that we know what we would have when we are come to the throne of mercy. Pause a little while before you pray, that you may not offer the sacrifice of fools. Get a distinct idea of your need, and then you can pray with the more fluency of fervency.

     2. "Lest he tear my soul." Here is the plea of fear co-working with the plea of faith. There was one among David's foes mightier than the rest, who had both dignity, strength, and ferocity, and was, therefore, "like a lion." From this foe he urgently seeks deliverance. Perhaps this was Saul, his royal enemy; but in our own case there is one who goes about like a lion, seeking whom he may devour, concerning whom we should ever cry, "Deliver us from the Evil One." Notice the vigour of the description—"rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver." It is a picture from the shepherd-life of David. When the fierce lion had pounced upon the defenceless lamb, and had made it his prey, he would rend the victim in pieces, break all the bones, and devour all, because no shepherd was near to protect the lamb or rescue it from the ravenous beast. This is a soul-moving portrait of a saint delivered over to the will of Satan. This will make the bowels of Jehovah yearn. A father cannot be silent when a child is in such peril. No, he will not endure the thought of his darling in the jaws of a lion, he will arise and deliver his persecuted one. Our God is very pitiful, and he will surely rescue his people from so desperate a destruction. It will be well for us here to remember that this is a description of the danger to which the Psalmist was exposed from slanderous tongues. Verily this is not an overdrawn picture, for the wounds of a sword will heal, but the wounds of the tongue cut deeper than the flesh, and are not soon cured. Slander leaves a slur, even if it be wholly disproved. Common fame, although notoriously a common liar, has very many believers. Once let an ill word get into men's mouths, and it is not easy to get it fully out again. The Italians say that good repute is like the cypress, once cut it never puts forth leaf again; this is not true if our character be cut by a stranger's hand, but even then it will not soon regain its former verdure. Oh, 'tis a meanness most detestable to stab a good man in his reputation, but diabolical hatred observes no nobility in its mode of warfare. We must be ready for this trial, for it will surely come upon us. If God was slandered in Eden, we shall surely be maligned in this land of sinners. Gird up your loins, ye children of the resurrection, for this fiery trial awaits you all.

     Verses 3-5. The second part of this wandering hymn contains a protestation of innocence, and an invocation of wrath upon his own head, if he were not clear from the evil imputed to him. So far from hiding treasonable intentions in his hands, or ungratefully requiting the peaceful deeds of a friend, he had even suffered his enemy to escape when he had him completely in his power. Twice had he spared Saul's life; once in the cave of Adullam, and again when he found him sleeping in the midst of his slumbering camp: he could, therefore, with a clear conscience, make his appeal to heaven. He needs not fear the curse whose soul is clear of guilt. Yet is the imprecation a most solemn one, and only justifiable through the extremity of the occasion, and the nature of the dispensation under which the Psalmist lived. We are commanded by our Lord Jesus to let our yea be yea, and our nay, nay: "for whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil." If we cannot be believed on our word, we are surely not to be trusted on our oath; for to a true Christian his simple word is as binding as another man's oath. Especially beware, O unconverted men! of trifling with solemn imprecations. Remember the woman at Devizes, who wished she might die if she had not paid her share in a joint purchase, and who fell dead there and then with the money in her hand.

     Selah. David enhances the solemnity of this appeal to the dread tribunal of God by the use of the usual pause.

     From these verses we may learn that no innocence can shield a man from the calumnies of the wicked. David had been scrupulously careful to avoid any appearance of rebellion against Saul, whom he constantly styled "the Lord's anointed;" but all this could not protect him from lying tongues. As the shadow follows the substance, so envy pursues goodness. It is only at the tree laden with fruit that men throw stones. If we would live without being slandered we must wait till we get to heaven. Let us be very heedful not to believe the flying rumors which are always harassing gracious men. If there are no believers in lies there will be but a dull market in falsehood, and good men's characters will be safe. Ill-will never spoke well. Sinners have an ill-will to saints, and therefore, be sure they will not speak well of them.

     Verse 6. We now listen to a fresh prayer, based upon the avowal which he has just made. We cannot pray too often, and when our heart is true, we shall turn to God in prayer as naturally as the needle to its pole.

     "Arise, O Lord, in thine anger." His sorrow makes him view the Lord as a judge who had left the judgment-seat and retired into his rest. Faith would move the Lord to avenge the quarrel of his saints. "Lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies"—a still stronger figure to express his anxiety that the Lord would assume his authority and mount the throne. Stand up, O God, rise thou above them all, and let thy justice tower above their villainies. "Awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded." This is a bolder utterance still, for it implies sleep as well as inactivity, and can only be applied to God in a very limited sense. He never slumbers, yet doth he often seem to do so; for the wicked prevail, and the saints are trodden in the dust. God's silence is the patience of longsuffering, and if wearisome to the saints, they should bear it cheerfully in the hope that sinners may thereby be led to repentance.

     Verse 7. "So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about." Thy saints shall crowd to thy tribunal with their complaints, or shall surround it with their solemn homage: "for their sakes therefore return thou on high." As when a judge travels at the assizes, all men take their cases to his court that they may be heard, so will the righteous gather to their Lord. Here he fortifies himself in prayer by pleading that if the Lord will mount the throne of judgment, multitudes of the saints would be blessed as well as himself. If I be too base to be remembered, yet, "for their sakes," for the love thou bearest to thy chosen people, come forth from thy secret pavilion, and sit in the gate dispensing justice among the people. When my suit includes the desires of all the righteous it shall surely speed, for, "shall not God avenge his own elect?"

     Verse 8. If I am not mistaken, David has now seen in the eye of his mind the Lord ascending to his judgment-seat, and beholding him seated there in royal state, he draws near to him to urge his suit anew. In the last two verses he besought Jehovah to arise, and now that he is arisen, he prepares to mingle with "the congregation of the people" who compass the Lord about. The royal heralds proclaim the opening of the court with the solemn words, "The Lord shall judge the people." Our petitioner rises at once, and cries with earnestness and humility, "Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me." His hand is on an honest heart, and his cry is to a righteous Judge.

     Verse 9. He sees a smile of complacency upon the face of the King, and in the name of all the assembled congregation he cries aloud, "Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just." Is not this the universal longing of the whole company of the elect? When shall we be delivered from the filthy conversation of these men of Sodom? When shall we escape from the filthiness of Mesech and the blackness of the tents of Kedar?

     What a solemn and weighty truth is contained in the last sentence of the ninth verse! How deep is the divine knowledge!—"He trieth." How strict, how accurate, how intimate his search!—"he trieth the hearts," the secret thoughts, "and reins," the inward affections. "All things are naked and opened to the eyes of him with whom we have to do."

     Verse 10. The judge has heard the cause, has cleared the guiltless, and uttered his voice against the persecutors. Let us draw near, and learn the results of the great assize. Yonder is the slandered one with his harp in hand, hymning the justice of his Lord, and rejoicing aloud in his own deliverance. "My defense is of God, which saveth the upright in heart." Oh, how good to have a true and upright heart. Crooked sinners, with all their craftiness, are foiled by the upright in heart. God defends the right. Filth will not long abide on the pure white garments of the saints, but shall be brushed off by divine providence, to the vexation of the men by whose base hands it was thrown upon the godly. When God shall try our cause, our sun has risen, and the sun of the wicked is set for ever. Truth, like oil, is ever above, no power of our enemies can drown it; we shall refute their slanders in the day when the trumpet wakes the dead, and we shall shine in honour when lying lips are put to silence. O believer, fear not all that thy foes can do or say against thee, for the tree which God plants no winds can hurt.

     Verse 11. "God judgeth the righteous," he hath not given thee up to be condemned by the lips of persecutors. Thine enemies cannot sit on God's throne, nor blot thy name out of his book. Let them alone, then, for God will find time for his revenge.

     "God is angry with the wicked every day." He not only detests sin, but is angry with those who continue to indulge in it. We have no insensible and stolid God to deal with; he can be angry, nay, he is angry to-day and every day with you, ye ungodly and impenitent sinners. The best day that ever dawns on a sinner brings a curse with it. Sinners may have many feast days, but no safe days. From the beginning of the year even to its ending, there is not an hour in which God's oven is not hot, and burning in readiness for the wicked, who shall be as stubble.

     Verse 12. "If he turn not, he will whet his sword." What blows are those which will be dealt by that long uplifted arm! God's sword has been sharpening upon the revolving stone of our daily wickedness, and if we will not repent, it will speedily cut us in pieces. Turn or burn is the sinner's only alternative. "He hath bent his bow and made it ready."

     Verse 13. Even now the thirsty arrow longs to wet itself with the blood of the persecutor. The bow is bent, the aim is taken, the arrow is fitted to the string, and what, O sinner, if the arrow should be let fly at thee even now! Remember, God's arrows never miss the mark, and are, every one of them, "instruments of death." Judgment may tarry, but it will not come too late. The Greek proverb saith, "The mill of God grinds late, but grinds to powder."

     Verse 14. In three graphic pictures we see the slanderer's history. A woman in travail furnishes the first metaphor. "He travaileth with iniquity." He is full of it, pained until he can carry it out, he longs to work his will, he is full of pangs until his evil intent is executed. "He hath conceived mischief." This is the original of his base design. The devil has had doings with him, and the virus of evil is in him. And now behold the progeny of this unhallowed conception. The child is worthy of its father, his name of old was,"the father of lies," and the birth doth not belie the parent, for he brought forth falsehood. Thus, one figure is carried out to perfection; the Psalmist now illustrates his meaning by another, taken from the stratagems of the hunter.

     Verse 15. "He made a pit, and digged it." He was cunning in his plans, and industrious in his labours. He stooped to the dirty work of digging. He did not fear to soil his own hands, he was willing to work in a ditch if others might fall therein. What mean things men will do to wreak revenge on the godly. They hunt for good men, as if they were brute beasts; nay, they will not give them the fair chase afforded to the hare or the fox, but must secretly entrap them, because they can neither run them down nor shoot them down. Our enemies will not meet us to the face, for they fear us as much as they pretend to despise us. But let us look on to the end of the scene. The verse says, he "is fallen into the ditch which he made." Ah! there he is, let us laugh at his disappointment. Lo! he is himself the beast, he has hunted his own soul, and the chase has brought him a goodly victim. Aha, aha, so should it ever be. Come hither and make merry with this entrapped hunter, this biter who has bitten himself. Give him no pity, for it will be wasted on such a wretch. He is but rightly and richly rewarded by being paid in his own coin. He cast forth evil from his mouth, and it has fallen into his bosom. He has set his own house on fire with the torch which he lit to burn a neighbour. He sent forth a foul bird, and it has come back to its nest.

     Verse 16. The rod which he lifted on high, has smitten his own back. He shot an arrow upward, and it has "returned upon his own head." He hurled a stone at another and it has "come down upon his own pate." Curses are like young chickens, they always come home to roost. Ashes always fly back in the face of him that throws them. "As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him." (Psalm 109:17.) How often has this been the case in the histories of both ancient and modern times. Men have burned their own fingers when they were hoping to brand their neighbour. And if this does not happen now, it will hereafter. The Lord has caused dogs to lick the blood of Ahab in the midst of the vineyard of Naboth. Sooner or later the evil deeds of persecutors have always leaped back into their arms. So it will be in the last great day, when Satan's fiery darts shall all be quivered in his own heart, and all his followers shall reap the harvest which they themselves have sown.

     Verse 17. We conclude with the joyful contrast. In this all these Psalms are agreed; they all exhibit the blessedness of the righteous, and make its colours the more glowing by contrast with the miseries of the wicked. The bright jewel sparkles in a black foil. Praise is the occupation of the godly, their eternal work, and their present pleasure. Singing is the fitting embodiment for praise, and therefore do the saints make melody before the Lord Most High. The slandered one is now a singer: his harp was unstrung for a very little season, and now we leave him sweeping its harmonious chords, and flying on their music to the third heaven of adoring praise.

The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)

     Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement. Among his published books are  Lectures To My StudentsThe Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set),  a devotional commentary on the Psalms;  All of Grace: Revised & updated , the first Christian pocket-paperback published in the United States; numerous volumes of topical sermon collections; and the best-selling  Morning And Evening (Daily Readings).

Psalm 8 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

TITLE. "To the Chief Musician upon Gittith, a Psalm of David." We are not clear upon the meaning of the word Gittith. Some think it refers to Gath, and may refer to a tune commonly sung there, or an instrument of music there invented, or a song of Obededom the Gittite, in whose house the ark rested, or, better still, a song sung over Goliath of Gath. Others, tracing the Hebrew to its root, conceive it to mean a song for the winepress, a joyful hymn for the treaders of grapes. The term Gittith is applied to two other Psalms, (81 and 84) both of which, being of a joyous character, it may be concluded, that where we find that word in the title, we may look for a hymn of delight.

     We may style this Psalm the Song of the Astronomer: let us go abroad and sing it beneath the starry heavens at eventide, for it is very probable that in such a position, it first occurred to the poet's mind. Dr. Chalmers says, "There is much in the scenery of a nocturnal sky; to lift the soul to pious contemplation. That moon, and these stars, what are they? They are detached from the world, and they lift us above it. We feel withdrawn from the earth, and rise in lofty abstraction from this little theatre of human passions and human anxieties. The mind abandons itself to reverie, and is transferred in the ecstasy of its thought to distant and unexplored regions. It sees nature in the simplicity of her great elements, and it sees the God of nature invested with the high attributes of wisdom and majesty."

     DIVISION. The first and last verses are a sweet song of admiration, in which the excellence of the name of God is extolled. The intermediate verses are made up of holy wonder at the Lord's greatness in creation, and at his condescension towards man. Poole, in his annotations, has well said, "It is a great question among interpreters, whether this Psalm speaks of man in general, and of the honour which God puts upon him in his creation; or only of the man Christ Jesus. Possibly both may be reconciled and put together, and the controversy if rightly stated, may be ended, for the scope and business of this Psalm seems plainly to be this: to display and celebrate the great love and kindness of God to mankind, not only in his creation, but especially in his redemption by Jesus Christ, whom, as he was man, he advanced to the honour and dominion here mentioned, that he might carry on his great and glorious work. So Christ is the principal subject of this Psalm, and it is interpreted of him, both by our Lord himself (Matthew 21:16), and by his holy apostle (1 Corinthians 15:27; Hebrews 2:6,7).


EXPOSITION

     Verse 1. Unable to express the glory of God, the Psalmist utters a note of exclamation. O Jehovah our Lord! We need not wonder at this, for no heart can measure, no tongue can utter, the half of the greatness of Jehovah. The whole creation is full of his glory and radiant with the excellency of his power; his goodness and his wisdom are manifested on every hand. The countless myriads of terrestrial beings, from man the head, to the creeping worm at the foot, are all supported and nourished by the Divine bounty. The solid fabric of the universe leans upon his eternal arm. Universally is he present, and everywhere is his name excellent. God worketh ever and everywhere. There is no place where God is not. The miracles of his power await us on all sides. Traverse the silent valleys where the rocks enclose you on either side, rising like the battlements of heaven till you can see but a strip of the blue sky far overhead; you may be the only traveler who has passed through that glen; the bird may start up affrighted, and the moss may tremble beneath the first tread of human foot; but God is there in a thousand wonders, upholding yon rocky barriers, filling the flowercups with their perfume, and refreshing the lonely pines with the breath of his mouth. Descend, if you will, into the lowest depths of the ocean. where undisturbed the water sleeps, and the very sand is motionless in unbroken quiet, but the glory of the Lord is there, revealing its excellence in the silent palace of the sea. Borrow the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost parts of the sea, but God is there. Mount to the highest heaven, or dive into the deepest hell, and God is in both hymned in everlasting song, or justified in terrible vengeance. Everywhere, and in every place, God dwells and is manifestly at work. Nor on earth alone is Jehovah extolled, for his brightness shines forth in the firmament above the earth. His glory exceeds the glory of the starry heavens; above the region of the stars he hath set fast his everlasting throne, and there he dwells in light ineffable. Let us adore him "who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea; who maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south." (Job 9:8, 9.) We can scarcely find more fitting words than those of Nehemiah, "Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee." Returning to the text we are led to observe that this Psalm is addressed to God, because none but the Lord himself can fully know his own glory. The believing heart is ravished with what it sees, but God only knows the glory of God. What a sweetness lies in the little word our, how much is God's glory endeared to us when we consider our interest in him as our Lord. How excellent is thy name! no words can express that excellency; and therefore it is left as a note of exclamation. The very name of Jehovah is excellent, what must his person be. Note the fact that even the heavens cannot contain his glory, it is set above the heavens, since it is and ever must be too great for the creature to express. When wandering among the Alps, we felt that the Lord was infinitely greater than all his grandest works, and under that feeling we roughly wrote these few lines:—

Yet in all these how great soe'er they be,
We see not Him. The glass is all too dense
And dark, or else our earthborn eyes too dim.
Yon Alps, that lift their heads above the clouds
And hold familiar converse with the stars,
Are dust, at which the balance trembleth not,
Compared with His divine immensity.
The snow-crown'd summits fail to set Him forth,
Who dwelleth in Eternity, and bears
Alone, the name of High and Lofty One.
Depths unfathomed are too shallow to express
The wisdom and the knowledge of the Lord.
The mirror of the creatures has no space
To bear the image of the Infinite.
'Tis true the Lord hath fairly writ his name,
And set his seal upon creation's brow.
But as the skilful potter much excels
The vessel which he fashions on the wheel,
E'en so, but in proportion greater far,
Jehovah's self transcends his noblest works.
Earth's ponderous wheels would break, her axles snap,
If freighted with the load of Deity.
Space is too narrow for the Eternal's rest,
And time too short a footstool for his throne.
E'en avalanche and thunder lack a voice,
To utter the full volume of his praise.
How then can I declare him? Where are words
With which my glowing tongue may speak his name?
Silent I bow, and humbly I adore.

     Verse 2. Not only in the heavens above is the Lord seen, but the earth beneath is telling forth his majesty. In the sky, the massive orbs, rolling in their stupendous grandeur, are witnesses of his power in great things, while here below, the lisping utterances of babes are the manifestations of his strength in little ones. How often will children tell us of a God whom we have forgotten! How doth their simple prattle refute those learned fools who deny the being of God! Many men have been made to hold their tongues, while sucklings have borne witness to the glory of the God of heaven. It is singular how clearly the history of the church expounds this verse. Did not the children cry "Hosannah!" in the temple, when proud Pharisees were silent and contemptuous? and did not the Saviour quote these very words as a justification of their infantile cries? Early church history records many amazing instances of the testimony of children for the truth of God, but perhaps more modern instances will be the most interesting. Fox tells us, in the Foxe's Book of Martyrs (Pure Gold Classics), that when Mr. Lawrence was burnt in Colchester, he was carried to the fire in a chair, because through the cruelty of the Papists, he could not stand upright, several young children came about the fire, and cried as well as they could speak, "Lord, strengthen thy servant, and keep thy promise." God answered their prayer, for Mr. Lawrence died as firmly and calmly as any one could wish to breathe his last. When one of the Popish chaplains told Mr. Wishart, the great Scotch martyr, that he had a devil in him, a child that stood by cried out, "A devil cannot speak such words as yonder man speaketh." One more instance is still nearer to our time. In a postscript to one of his letters, in which he details his persecution when first preaching in Moorfields, Whitfield says, "I cannot help adding that several little boys and girls, who were fond of sitting round me on the pulpit while I preached, and handed to me people's notes—though they were often pelted with eggs, dirt, &c., thrown at me—never once gave way; but on the contrary, every time I was struck, turned up their little weeping eyes, and seemed to wish they could receive the blows for me. God make them, in their growing years, great and living martyrs for him who, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, perfects praise!" He who delights in the songs of angels is pleased to honour himself in the eyes of his enemies by the praises of little children. What a contrast between the glory above the heavens, and the mouths of babes and sucklings! yet by both the name of God is made excellent.

     Verses 3, 4. At the close of that excellent little manual entitled "The Solar System," written by Dr. Dick, we find an eloquent passage which beautifully expounds the text:—A survey of the solar system has a tendency to moderate the pride of man and to promote humility. Pride is one of the distinguishing characteristics of puny man, and has been one of the chief causes of all the contentions, wars, devastations, systems of slavery, and ambitious projects which have desolated and demoralized our sinful world. Yet there is no disposition more incongruous to the character and circumstances of man. Perhaps there are no rational beings throughout the universe among whom pride would appear more unseemly or incompatible than in man, considering the situation in which he is placed. He is exposed to numerous degradations and calamities, to the rage of storms and tempests, the devastations of earthquakes and volcanoes, the fury of whirlwinds, and the tempestuous billows of the ocean, to the ravages of the sword, famine, pestilence, and numerous diseases; and at length he must sink into the grave, and his body must become the companion of worms! The most dignified and haughty of the sons of men are liable to these and similar degradations as well as the meanest of the human family. Yet, in such circumstances, man—that puny worm of the dust, whose knowledge is so limited, and whose follies are so numerous and glaring—has the effrontery to strut in all the haughtiness of pride, and to glory in his shame.

     When other arguments and motives produce little effect on certain minds, no considerations seem likely to have a more powerful tendency to counteract this deplorable propensity in human beings, than those which are borrowed from the objects connected with astronomy. They show us what an insignificant being— what a mere atom, indeed, man appears amidst the immensity of creation! Though he is an object of the paternal care and mercy of the Most High, yet he is but as a grain of sand to the whole earth, when compared to the countless myriads of beings that people the amplitudes of creation. What is the whole of this globe on which we dwell compared with the solar system, which contains a mass of matter ten thousand times greater? What is it in comparison of the hundred millions of suns and worlds which by the telescope have been descried throughout the starry regions? What, then, is a kingdom, a province, or a baronial territory, of which we are as proud as if we were the lords of the universe and for which we engage in so much devastation and carnage? What are they, when set in competition with the glories of the sky? Could we take our station on the lofty pinnacles of heaven, and look down on this scarcely distinguishable speck of earth, we should be ready to exclaim with Seneca, "Is it to this little spot that the great designs and vast desires of men are confined? Is it for this there is so much disturbance of nations, so much carnage, and so many ruinous wars? Oh, the folly of deceived men, to imagine great kingdoms in the compass of an atom, to raise armies to decide a point of earth with the sword!" Dr. Chalmers, in his Astronomical Discourses, very truthfully says, "We gave you but a feeble image of our comparative insignificance, when we said that the glories of an extended forest would suffer no more from the fall of a single leaf, than the glories of this extended universe would suffer though the globe we tread upon, 'and all that it inherits, should dissolve.'"

     Verses 5-8. These verses may set forth man's position among the creatures before he fell; but as they are, by the apostle Paul, appropriated to man as represented by the Lord Jesus, it is best to give most weight to that meaning. In order of dignity, man stood next to the angels, and a little lower than they; in the Lord Jesus this was accomplished, for he was made a little lower than the angels by the suffering of death. Man in Eden had the full command of all creatures, and they came before him to receive their names as an act of homage to him as the viceregent of God to them. Jesus in his glory, is now Lord, not only of all living, but of all created things, and, with the exception of him who put all things under him, Jesus is Lord of all, and his elect, in him, are raised to a dominion wider than that of the first Adam, as shall be more clearly seen at his coming. Well might the Psalmist wonder at the singular exaltation of man in the scale of being, when he marked his utter nothingness in comparison with the starry universe.

     Thou madest him a little lower than the angels—a little lower in nature, since they are immortal, and but a little, because time is short; and when that is over, saints are no longer lower than the angels. The margin reads it, "A little while inferior to." Thou crownest him. The dominion that God has bestowed on man is a great glory and honour to him; for all dominion is honour, and the highest is that which wears the crown. A full list is given of the subjugated creatures, to show that all the dominion lost by sin is restored in Christ Jesus. Let none of us permit the possession of any earthly creature to be a snare to us, but let us remember that we are to reign over them, and not to allow them to reign over us. Under our feet we must keep the world, and we must shun that base spirit which is content to let worldly cares and pleasures sway the empire of the immortal soul.

     Verse 9.. Here, like a good composer, the poet returns to his key-note, falling back, as it were, into his first state of wondering adoration. What he started with as a proposition in the first verse, he closes with as a well proven conclusion, with a sort of quod erat demonstrandum. O for grace to walk worthy of that excellent name which has been named upon us, and which we are pledged to magnify!

     Thus the Psalm, like those which preceed it, shews the different estates of the godly and the wicked. O Lord, let us be numbered with thy people, both now and forever!


The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)

     Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement. Among his published books are  Lectures To My StudentsThe Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set),  a devotional commentary on the Psalms;  All of Grace: Revised & updated , the first Christian pocket-paperback published in the United States; numerous volumes of topical sermon collections; and the best-selling  Morning And Evening (Daily Readings).

Why “Let Go and Let God” Is a Bad Idea

By Andrew Naselli 8/1/2011

     What is “let-go-and-let-God” theology? It’s called Keswick theology, and it’s one of the most significant strands of second-blessing theology. It assumes that Christians experience two “blessings.” The first is getting “saved,” and the second is getting serious. The change is dramatic: from a defeated life to a victorious life; from a lower life to a higher life; from a shallow life to a deeper life; from a fruitless life to a more abundant life; from being “carnal” to being “spiritual”; and from merely having Jesus as your Savior to making Jesus your Master. People experience this second blessing through surrender and faith: “Let go and let God.”

     Keswick theology comes from the early Keswick movement. Keswick (pronounced KE H-zick) is a small town in the scenic Lake District of northwest England. Since 1875, it has hosted a weeklong meeting in July for the Keswick Convention. The movement’s first generation (about 1875– 1920) epitomized what we still call “Keswick theology” today.

     People who influenced Keswick theology include John Wesley, Charles Finney, and Hannah Whitall Smith. Significant proponents of Keswick theology include Evan H. Hopkins (Keswick’s formative theologian), H. Moule (Keswick’s scholar and best theologian), F. B. Meyer (Keswick’s international ambassador), Andrew Murray (Keswick’s foremost devotional author), J. Hudson Taylor and Amy Carmichael (Keswick’s foremost missionaries), Frances Havergal (Keswick’s hymnist), and W. H. Griffith Thomas, and Robert C. McQuilkin (leaders of the victorious life movement). People who were influenced by Keswick theology include leaders of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (A. B. Simpson), Moody Bible Institute (D. L. Moody and R. A. Torrey), and Dallas Seminary (Lewis Chafer and Charles Ryrie).

     Beginning in the 1920s, the Keswick Convention’s view of sanctification began to shift from the view promoted by the leaders of the early convention. William Scroggie (1877– 1958) led that transformation to a view of sanctification closer to the Reformed view. The official Keswick Convention that now hosts the annual Keswick conferences holds a Reformed view of sanctification and invites speakers who are confessionally reformed.

     Keswick theology is pervasive because countless people have propagated it in so many ways, especially in sermons and devotional writings. It is appealing because Christians struggle with sin and want to be victorious in that struggle now. Keswick theology offers a quick fix, and its shortcut to instant victory appeals to genuine longings for holiness.

     Keswick theology, however, is not biblically sound. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  1. Disjunction: It creates two categories of Christians. This is the fundamental, linchpin issue.
  2. Perfectionism: It portrays a shallow and incomplete view of sin in the Christian life.
  3. Quietism: It tends to emphasize passivity, not activity.
  4. Pelagianism: It tends to portray the Christian’s free will as autonomously starting and stopping sanctification.
  5. Methodology: It tends to use superficial formulas for instantaneous sanctification.
  6. Impossibility: It tends to result in disillusionment and frustration for the “have-nots.”
  7. Spin: It tends to misinterpret personal experiences.

     You can tell that Keswick theology has influenced people when you hear a Christian “testimony” like this: “I was saved when I was eight years old, and I surrendered to Christ when I was seventeen.”

     By “saved,” they mean that Jesus became their Savior and that they became a Christian. By “surrendered,” they mean that they gave full control of their lives to Jesus as their Master, yielded to do whatever He wanted them to do, and “dedicated” themselves through surrender and faith. That two-tiered view of the Christian life is let-go-and-let-God theology.

     The Keswick Convention commendably emphasized personal holiness and left a legacy of Christian service, but holy and fruitful living by no means distinguishes Keswick theology from other views. All of the major views on sanctification have adherents who are exemplary, inspiring Christians, and disagreeing with a particular view of sanctification in no way questions the devotion to Christ of those who hold that view.

     We shouldn’t determine our view of sanctification by counting up who we perceive to be the most holy Christians and seeing which view has the most. Scripture, and Scripture alone, must determine our view of sanctification.

     As John Murray reminds us, “The cause neither of truth nor of love is promoted by suppressing warranted criticism.” Constructively criticizing a faulty view of sanctification can actually advance the cause of truth and love.

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     (PhD, Bob Jones University; PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is associate professor of New Testament and theology at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota and an elder of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

The Unholy Pursuit of God in Moby Dick

By R.C. Sproul 8/1/2011

     It seems that every time a writer picks up a pen or turns on his word processor to compose a literary work of fiction, deep in his bosom resides the hope that somehow he will create the Great American Novel. Too late. That feat has already been accomplished and is as far out of reach for new novelists as is Joe DiMaggio’s fifty-six-game hitting streak or Pete Rose’s record of cumulative career hits for a rookie baseball player. The Great American Novel was written more than a hundred and fifty years ago by Herman Melville. This novel, the one that has been unsurpassed by any other, is Moby Dick.

     My personal copy of Moby Dick is a leather-bound collector’s edition produced by Easton Press under the rubric “The Hundred Greatest Books Ever Written.”

     Note that the claim here is not that Moby Dick is one of the hundred greatest books written in English, but rather that it is one of the hundred greatest books written in any language.

     Its greatness may be seen not in its sometimes cumbersome literary structure or its excursions into technicalia about the nature and function of whales (cetology). No, its greatness is found in its unparalleled theological symbolism. This symbolism is sprinkled abundantly throughout the novel, particularly in the identities of certain individuals who are assigned biblical names. Among the characters are Ahab, Ishmael, and Elijah, and the names Jeroboam and Rachel (“who was seeking her lost children”) are given to two of the ships in the story.

     In a personal letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne upon completing this novel, Melville said, “I have written an evil book.” What is it about the book that Melville considered evil? I think the answer to that question lies in the meaning of the central symbolic character of the novel, Moby Dick, the great white whale.

     Melville experts and scholars come to different conclusions about the meaning of the great white whale. Many see this brutish animal as evil because it had inflicted great personal damage on Ahab in an earlier encounter. Ahab lost his leg, which was replaced by the bone of a lesser whale. Some argue that Moby Dick is Melville’s symbol of the incarnation of evil itself. Certainly this is the view of the whale held by Captain Ahab himself. Ahab is driven by a monomaniacal hatred for this creature, this brute that left him permanently damaged both in body and soul. He cries out, “He heaps me,” indicating the depth of the hatred and fury he feels toward this beast. Some have accepted Ahab’s view that the whale is a monstrous evil as that of Melville himself.

     Other scholars have been convinced that the whale is not a symbol of evil but the symbol of God Himself. In this interpretation, Ahab’s pursuit of the whale is not a righteous pursuit of God but natural man’s futile attempt in his hatred of God to destroy the omnipotent deity. I favor this second view. It was the view held by one of my college professors—one of the five leading Melville scholars in the world at the time I studied under him. My senior philosophy research paper in college was titled “The Existential Implications of Melville’s Moby Dick.” In that paper, which I cannot reproduce in this brief article, I tried to set forth the theological structure of the narrative.

     I believe that the greatest chapter ever written in the English language is the chapter of Moby Dick titled “The Whiteness of the Whale.” Here we gain an insight into the profound symbolism that Melville employs in his novel. He explores how whiteness is used in history, in religion, and in nature. The terms he uses to describe the appearance of whiteness in these areas include elusive, ghastly, and transcendent horror, as well as sweet, honorable, and pure. All of these are descriptive terms that are symbolized in one way or another by the presence of whiteness. In this chapter Melville writes,

But not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness, and learned why it appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange and far more portentous—why, as we have seen, it is at once the most meaning symbol of spiritual things, nay, the very veil of the Christian’s Deity; and yet should be as it is, the intensifying agent in things the most appalling to mankind. Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a colour as the visible absence of colour; and at the same time the concrete of all colours; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows—a colourless, all-colour of atheism from which we shrink?
     He then concludes the chapter with these words: “And of all these things, the albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?”

     If the whale embodies everything that is symbolized by whiteness—that which is terrifying; that which is pure; that which is excellent; that which is horrible and ghastly; that which is mysterious and incomprehensible—does he not embody those traits that are found in the fullness of the perfections in the being of God Himself?

     Who can survive the pursuit of such a being if the pursuit is driven by hostility? Only those who have experienced the sweetness of reconciling grace can look at the overwhelming power, sovereignty, and immutability of a transcendent God and find there peace rather than a drive for vengeance. Read Moby Dick, and then read it again.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

The Days of the Dead

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 9/1/2011

     September 11, 2001, was, in many respects, a rather ordinary day. I began the day working at my desk, writing. But my plans quickly changed. Many of us spent hours staring not at our computer screens but at our television screens. We were stunned, staggered, overcome with disbelief.

     But others still managed to put in a full day’s work. American business continued on. American culture, though shocked, continued on. We were dismayed, terrorized, but we kept on. Because the business of America is business, we kept going.

     Among those keeping on, having productive days, were those who brutally murdered more than three thousand innocent people. It was all in a day’s work for them — an ordinary day’s work. The police were there, representing the full force and power of the government, protecting these men. On September 10, 2001, these men also took more than three thousand innocent human lives. On September 12, they did the same. Today, ten years later, they are still about their grisly work of butchering babies. Today, more than three thousand will die. Just like yesterday, and like tomorrow. That Muslim terrorists took more than three thousand lives on one day causes us to wring our hands, to weep and mourn, to implore heaven for answers. That abortionists do the same each and every day doesn’t even register with us. It is business as usual. Today it is happening again. It was Joseph Stalin who cynically quipped that one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is a statistic. He touched on a hard truth. We have a finite amount of compassion, a finite ability to enter into the suffering of others. It is the diabolical art of the propagandist to tap into and direct our compassion for his own purposes. What happened on September 11, 2001, was reprehensible, tragic, evil — a vile, unprovoked attack on civilians. We need not diminish this evil in order to better see the evil of every day. Neither, however, can we let that momentary evil distract us from everyday evil. We cannot, in fact, allow the evening news to establish our priorities, the shape of our thinking.

     My fear, however, is that the stunning gap between the time and energy Christians have devoted to 9/11 and the amount of energy we don’t devote to the evil of abortion is not a function ultimately of television’s priorities. Neither is it, I fear, due to the very ordinariness of abortion. My fear is that we are at ease about abortion and up in arms about militant Islam because, having already been born, we are not afraid of abortion while we are afraid of terrorist attacks. Our outrage is doled out not on the basis of the moral evil but on the basis of how likely we are to be victims. When others are in danger, we murmur about what a shame it is and move on. When the target is on our own backs, that’s when we know that something must be done.

     The evil of abortion, then, isn’t just something out there, something sinister abortionists and ignorant women are guilty of. We’re all guilty. The evil that drives terrorism and the evil that drives the abortion industry is the same evil that drives us to be more concerned for our own safety than for the least of these.

     Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount reminds us of at least three important truths. First, God is intimately involved in the smallest details of life. The hairs on our heads are numbered, and indeed it is He who knit us together in the womb. Second, God cares about the littlest things. He controls all things precisely because all things matter to Him. Because all things exist for the sake of the one thing — His glory — there are no small things. If He cares for the sparrows, and He does, how much more does He care for each of us, even those who are yet unborn?

     The third point is a little more difficult. Jesus doesn’t tell us that because God is concerned about everything, we can therefore be assured that He is concerned with what concerns us. Instead, He tells us that because God is concerned about everything, we are called to be concerned with what concerns Him. He is to set our agenda, not the world around us. The problem, rightly understood, with Muslim extremists isn’t that they kill us. The problem is they go to hell when they die. The problem with abortion isn’t that those involved in that grisly trade are so wicked but that we are so wicked. The solution, then, is to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

     We weep like the Pharisees prayed — to be seen by men. We contort our faces over one evil while we smile our way through the greater evil. We wring our hands over Islam and its bloody scimitar. We fail to notice the blood on our own hands and the bloody scalpels in our midst. One day we remember. Every other day we forget. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereunto. May He daily grant us the grace to see the evil, to repent, and to seek His kingdom, His righteousness.

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

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Judges 21; Acts 25; Jeremiah 35; Psalms 7-8

By Don Carson 8/7/2018

     The last wretched step in the violence precipitated by the rape and murder of the Levite’s concubine now plays out (Judg. 21). In a fury of vengeance, the Israelites have swept through the tribal territory of Benjamin, annihilating men, women, children, and cattle (Judg. 20:48). The only Benjamites left are 600 armed men who have holed up in a stronghold at Rimmon (Judg. 20:47). But now the rest of the nation is entertaining second thoughts. As part of their sanctions against Benjamin, they had vowed not to give any of their daughters to a Benjamine. If they keep their vow, Benjamites will die off: only male Benjamites are left.

     Their solution is as nauseating, cruel, and barbaric as anything they have done. They discover that one large town in Israel, Jabesh Gilead, never responded to the initial call to arm. Partly as punishment, partly as a way of finding Israelite women, the Israelite forces destroy Jabesh Gilead, killing all the men and all the women who are not virgins (Judg. 21:10-14). This tactic provides 400 wives for the 600 surviving Benjamites. The ruse for finding a further 200 is scarcely less evil.

     The remaining 200 Benjamites are given sanction to kidnap suitable women at a festival time in Shiloh, their fathers and brothers being warned off (Judg. 20:20-23). So the tribe of Benjamin, greatly reduced in numbers, survives. One can scarcely imagine the multiplied levels of bitterness, grief, fear, resentment, loneliness, retaliation, furious rage, and billowing bereavement that attended these “solutions.”

     By now it is clear that the Israelites face two kinds of problems in the book of Judges. The presenting problem, as often as not, is enslavement or repression from one or other of the Canaanite tribes that share much of the land or that live not far away. When the people cry to him, God repeatedly raises up a hero to rescue them. But the other problem is far deeper. It is the rebellion itself, the chronic and persistent abandonment of the God who rescued them from Egypt and who entered into a solemn covenant with them. This issues not only in more cycles of oppression from without, but in spiraling decadence and disorientation within.

     For the fifth and final time, the writer of Judges offers his analysis. “In those days Israel had no king, everyone did as he saw fit” (Judg. 21:25). How this nation needs a king — to order it, stabilize it, defend it, maintain justice, lead it, pull it together. But will he be a king who solves the problems, or whose dynasty becomes part of the problem? Thus a new chapter in Israel’s history opens. A new, royal institution soon becomes no less problematic — until he comes who is King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16).


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

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 84

My Soul Longs for the Courts of the LORD
84 To The Choirmaster: According To The Gittith. A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah.

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.

3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise! Selah

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.

ESV Study Bible

Where Is Your Hope?

By Marva Dawn 9/1/2011

     The story is told that a financially comfortable North American went to visit a mission church that was located in the village dump in a city in Africa. Wondering, he shadowed the pastor for much of the day until he finally burst out and said, “Where is your hope?” He could find no tools with which the pastor could work, no materials with which he could build, no food that he could pass on to the poverty-stricken people. “Where is your hope?”

     To the man’s utter astonishment, the local pastor responded with an enormous smile and brilliantly bright eyes. “My hope is Jesus Christ,” he confidently asserted, and he went on the rest of the day showing how that could be the case.

     Like the visitor, most of us living in North America can’t imagine how the African pastor could find hope in the terrible situation in which he worked. In fact, his location seems dangerous to the extreme. All sorts of diseases are rampant in a dump. People can get cut by the glass shards lying hidden there. Infections follow soon after. How can anyone find hope in such a situation?

     That is why we have to pay careful attention to the pastor’s language. He didn’t say that he found hope in that situation. Rather, he lived so joyfully because his hope was Jesus Christ.

     I’ve been writing and thinking about the nature of hope these days because at the moment there are so many disasters all over the United States. Monstrous tornadoes, torrential floods throughout the Mississippi basin, and now, starting in Montana because of the historic amounts of melted snow, severe droughts in other parts of the country — all these make for an enormous number of people displaced and homeless.

     Our natural tendency in the United States is to turn first to our human abilities to fix things. We begin planning how to solve the problems, assembling the materials we need, calling in the builders that the jobs require, and organizing the kinds of projects that can take care of the gargantuan needs.

     The only problem is that the mess is too massive. A collection of little jobs will not restore the thousands of homes, cars, and fields that have been devastated. The ruination in many sections of the country will necessitate a complete overhaul.

     One of the really good things that has come out of this multiplication of crises is that more and more people are winding up thankful to have their lives. They are discovering, in the losses of their homes and all their possessions, that what matters most is to still be alive.

     Oh, how I wish we could take them one step further. Over the last few decades, so many people in the United States have become Christians in name only. How I pray that more of those who lose everything and are grateful for their lives will also recognize from whom their lives came and seek a relationship with God. Could we get to the heart of the faith of that African pastor and be able to say, “My hope is Jesus Christ”?

     The difference in meaning is colossal. If we simply hope for a newly rebuilt home, we can run into all sorts of troubles that hinder our ambitions. Then, if truth be honestly told, we won’t be completely satisfied very long with the home that we have anyway.

     If our hopes are to restore certain valued possessions, we will discover the same truth. Nothing will ever mean as much to us as it once did. We will find ourselves chasing after the wind. Verily, the prophet in Ecclesiastes told us rightly: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity (1:2b).”

     No matter what our hopes are — if they are human hopes — we will wind up dissatisfied in some direction or another. The only hope that can ultimately fulfill our desires is Jesus Christ.

     The pastor in Africa was jubilant about his faith because he knew that Jesus Christ was just what he needed. Our problem here in North America is that we have too many other things. We start to rely on our abilities, our skills, our ingenuity — and that is only a quick step to relying on our possessions, our “stuff,” our money, our investments. It seems to be only within the range of a few special “holy” people to be able to depend entirely on Jesus Christ for everything.

     Why does it have to be this way? Could it instead be imaginable that we in wealthier countries could give up our pretensions? Would it be a possibility that we could give up our confidence in ourselves, in our own abilities, and in our own “stuff” so that we could put our trust in the only One who is worthy to have our hope, even more to be our hope?

     Might it really be possible for us to learn to depend entirely on Jesus Christ?

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     Marva J. Dawn serves the global Church as a theologian, author, musician, and educator under Christians Equipped for Ministry and as Teaching Fellow in Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. A scholar with four master's degrees and a Ph.D. in Christian Ethics and the Scriptures from the University of Notre Dame, Dr. Dawn has taught for clergy and worship conferences and at seminaries throughout the world. She is also well-known and highly appreciated as a preacher and speaker for all ages and sometimes contributes to worship by means of her musical gifts. She is the author of more than fifteen books and is happy married to Myron Sandberg; they reside in Washington State.


  • L8 Righteousness 3
  • L9 Works of Piety
  • L10 Piety Prayer

#1   Bill Mounce

 

#2    Bill Mounce

 

#3    Bill Mounce

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     3/1/2016    True Reformation

     Awakening is at the very heart of the Christian faith, and it is the reason we are Christians. Awakening is the powerful work of our sovereign and gracious God. When He awakens us, He doesn’t simply awaken us from sleep, but from death. Awakening is the glorious work of regeneration, revival, and reformation. When God awakens us, He regenerates our hearts, gives us the gift of new birth, and makes us alive. He says to us, “Live!” (Ezek. 16:6). The Holy Spirit invades, conquers, and persuades us. He rips out our stubborn, self-trusting hearts of stone and replaces our dead hearts with new, living hearts—hearts that are made willing and able to believe; hearts that are soft and pliable in the hands of our Father, united and lovingly enslaved to Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

     When God awakens, He always brings revival, whether it is the revival of a single soul, the revival of a family, the revival of a community, or the revival of a nation. When God brings revival, He always brings deep and convicting repentance that leads to a life of faith, repentance, and obedience. When God awakens, He always brings true and lasting reformation—reformation of hearts, lives, homes, and churches. However, we cannot schedule awakening, and we should not attempt to devise a superficial, formulaic scheme to bring about awakening. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “A revival never needs to be advertised; it always advertises itself.” Awakening happens only when God ordains it. He brings about awakening according to His sovereign plan. He brings about awakening where He wants, when He wants, and to whom He wants, all according to His good pleasure.

     Nevertheless, just as God ordains awakening, He ordains the means of awakening. God not only sovereignly ordains the ends of all things, He ordains the means of all ends as well. And the means that God has ordained to bring about awakening are the ordinary means He has already ordained for our regular weekly worship and daily growth in grace. The Word, prayer, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the ordinary means of grace God has given us. These are the means through which the Holy Spirit works to bring true conversion, true revival, and true reformation. God’s awakening power is not activated by our schemes and tactics, but by His Spirit and His ordinary means of awakening. And we must trust Him to do precisely what He pleases to do according to His sovereign wisdom, resting in the promise that the light of His countenance shines upon us as we live before His face, coram Deo.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The largest town in Kentucky had less than 2000 people, yet 25,000 arrived at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, this day, August 7, 1801, from as far away as Ohio and Tennessee, to hear the preaching of Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian ministers. Called “camp meetings,” Reverend Moses Hodge described: “Nothing that imagination can paint can make a stronger impression… Sinners dropping down on every hand, professors praying, [others] in raptures of joy!… There can be no question but it is of God, [as] the subjects… can give a clear and rational account of their conversion.”

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


A man who is intimate with God
will never be intimidated by men.
--- Greg Simas

     The aspect of the cross in discipleship is lost altogether in the present-day view of following Jesus. The cross is looked upon as something beautiful and simple instead of a stern heroism. Our Lord never said it was easy to be a Christian; He warned men that they would have to face a variety of hardships, which He termed bearing the cross.
--- Oswald Chambers
Approved Unto God

Joy is the flag which is flown from the castle of the heart when the King is in residence there.
--- Unknown

The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or even not at all perceived before. . . . Thus the Old Testament revelation of God is not corrected by the fuller revelation which follows it, but is only perfected, extended and enlarged.
--- B. B. Warfield Biblical Doctrines (New York: Oxford University Press, 1929), 141–42.

Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair. Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because he shows us both God and our own wretchedness.
--- Blaise Pascal Pensées (Dover Thrift Editions)

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 2.

     A Great Slaughter About Ascalon. Vespasian Comes To Ptolemais.

     1. Now the Jews, after they had beaten Cestius, were so much elevated with their unexpected success, that they could not govern their zeal, but, like people blown up into a flame by their good fortune, carried the war to remoter places. Accordingly, they presently got together a great multitude of all their most hardy soldiers, and marched away for Ascalon. This is an ancient city that is distant from Jerusalem five hundred and twenty furlongs, and was always an enemy to the Jews; on which account they determined to make their first effort against it, and to make their approaches to it as near as possible. This excursion was led on by three men, who were the chief of them all, both for strength and sagacity; Niger, called the Persite, Silas of Babylon, and besides them John the Essene. Now Ascalon was strongly walled about, but had almost no assistance to be relied on [near them], for the garrison consisted of one cohort of footmen, and one troop of horsemen, whose captain was Antonius.

     2. These Jews, therefore, out of their anger, marched faster than ordinary, and, as if they had come but a little way, approached very near the city, and were come even to it; but Antonius, who was not unapprized of the attack they were going to make upon the city, drew out his horsemen beforehand, and being neither daunted at the multitude, nor at the courage of the enemy, received their first attacks with great bravery; and when they crowded to the very walls, he beat them off. Now the Jews were unskillful in war, but were to fight with those who were skillful therein; they were footmen to fight with horsemen; they were in disorder, to fight those that were united together; they were poorly armed, to fight those that were completely so; they were to fight more by their rage than by sober counsel, and were exposed to soldiers that were exactly obedient; and did every thing they were bidden upon the least intimation. So they were easily beaten; for as soon as ever their first ranks were once in disorder, they were put to flight by the enemy's cavalry, and those of them that came behind such as crowded to the wall fell upon their own party's weapons, and became one another's enemies; and this so long till they were all forced to give way to the attacks of the horsemen, and were dispersed all the plain over, which plain was wide, and all fit for the horsemen; which circumstance was very commodious for the Romans, and occasioned the slaughter of the greatest number of the Jews; for such as ran away, they could overrun them, and make them turn back; and when they had brought them back after their flight, and driven them together, they ran them through, and slew a vast number of them, insomuch that others encompassed others of them, and drove them before them whithersoever they turned themselves, and slew them easily with their arrows; and the great number there were of the Jews seemed a solitude to themselves, by reason of the distress they were in, while the Romans had such good success with their small number, that they seemed to themselves to be the greater multitude. And as the former strove zealously under their misfortunes, out of the shame of a sudden flight, and hopes of the change in their success, so did the latter feel no weariness by reason of their good fortune; insomuch that the fight lasted till the Evening, till ten thousand men of the Jews' side lay dead, with two of their generals, John and Silas, and the greater part of the remainder were wounded, with Niger, their remaining general, who fled away together to a small city of Idumea, called Sallis. Some few also of the Romans were wounded in this battle.

     3. Yet were not the spirits of the Jews broken by so great a calamity, but the losses they had sustained rather quickened their resolution for other attempts; for, overlooking the dead bodies which lay under their feet, they were enticed by their former glorious actions to venture on a second destruction; so when they had lain still so little a while that their wounds were not yet thoroughly cured, they got together all their forces, and came with greater fury, and in much greater numbers, to Ascalon. But their former ill fortune followed them, as the consequence of their unskilfulness, and other deficiencies in war; for Antonius laid ambushes for them in the passages they were to go through, where they fell into snares unexpectedly, and where they were encompassed about with horsemen, before they could form themselves into a regular body for fighting, and were above eight thousand of them slain; so all the rest of them ran away, and with them Niger, who still did a great many bold exploits in his flight. However, they were driven along together by the enemy, who pressed hard upon them, into a certain strong tower belonging to a village called Bezedeh However, Antonius and his party, that they might neither spend any considerable time about this tower, which was hard to be taken, nor suffer their commander, and the most courageous man of them all, to escape from them, they set the wall on fire; and as the tower was burning, the Romans went away rejoicing, as taking it for granted that Niger was destroyed; but he leaped out of the tower into a subterraneous cave, in the innermost part of it, and was preserved; and on the third day afterward he spake out of the ground to those that with great lamentation were searching for him, in order to give him a decent funeral; and when he was come out, he filled all the Jews with an unexpected joy, as though he were preserved by God's providence to be their commander for the time to come.

     4. And now Vespasian took along with him his army from Antioch, [which is the metropolis of Syria, and without dispute deserves the place of the third city in the habitable earth that was under the Roman empire, 2 both in magnitude, and other marks of prosperity,] where he found king Agrippa, with all his forces, waiting for his coming, and marched to Ptolemais. At this city also the inhabitants of Sepphoris of Galilee met him, who were for peace with the Romans. These citizens had beforehand taken care of their own safety, and being sensible of the power of the Romans, they had been with Cestius Gallus before Vespasian came, and had given their faith to him, and received the security of his right hand, and had received a Roman garrison; and at this time withal they received Vespasian, the Roman general, very kindly, and readily promised that they would assist him against their own countrymen. Now the general delivered them, at their desire, as many horsemen and footmen as he thought sufficient to oppose the incursions of the Jews, if they should come against them. And indeed the danger of losing Sepphoris would be no small one, in this war that was now beginning, seeing it was the largest city of Galilee, and built in a place by nature very strong, and might be a security of the whole nation's [fidelity to the Romans].

          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 22:14
     by D.H. Stern

14     The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit;
the man with whom ADONAI is angry falls into it.


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

Mushrooms On The Moor
     by Frank W. Boreham

     VII | TRAMP! TRAMP! TRAMP

     Tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp! It was like the regular and rhythmic beat of a great machine. File after file, column after column, I watched the troops pass by. Tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp! On they went, and on, and on; all in perfect time and step; tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp! It reminded me of that haunting passage that tells us that 'all these men of war that could keep rank came with a perfect heart to make David king over all Israel.' They could keep rank! It is a suggestive record. There is more in it than appears on the surface. They could keep rank! Right! Left! Right! Left! Tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp! All these men of war that could keep rank came with a perfect heart to make David king over all Israel.

     Half the art of life lies in learning to keep step. It is a great thing—a very great thing—to be able to get on with other people. Let me indulge in a little autobiography. I once had a most extraordinary experience, an experience so altogether amazing that all subsequent experiences appear like the veriest commonplaces in comparison. The fact is, I was born. Such a thing had never happened to me before, and I was utterly bewildered. I did not know what to make of it. My first impression was that I was all alone and that I had the solar system all to myself. Like Robinson Crusoe, I fancied myself monarch of all I surveyed. But then, like Robinson Crusoe, I discovered a footprint, and found that the planet on which I had been so mysteriously cast was inhabited.. There were two of us—myself and The Other Fellow.

     As soon as I could devise means of locomotion, I set out, like Robinson Crusoe, to find out what The Other Fellow was like. I had a kind of instinct that sooner or later I should have to fight him. I found that he differed from me in one essential particular. He had hundreds of millions of heads; I had but one. He had hundreds of millions of feet; hundreds of millions of hands; hundreds of millions of ears and eyes; I had but two. But for all that, it never occurred to me that he was greater than I. Myself always appeared to me to be vastly more important than The Other Fellow. It was nothing to me that he starved so long as I had plenty of food. It was nothing to me that he shivered so long as I was wrapped up snugly. I do not remember that it ever once crossed my mind in the first six months of my existence that it would be a bad thing if he died, with all his hundreds of millions of heads, and left me all alone upon the planet. I was first, and he was nowhere. I was everything, and he was nothing. Why, dear me, I must have cut my first teeth before it occurred to me that there was room on the planet for both of us; and I must have cut my wisdom teeth before I discovered that the world was on the whole more interesting to me because of his presence on it. And since then I have spent some pains, in a blundering, unskilful kind of a way, in trying to make myself tolerable to him. And the longer I live the more clearly I see that, although he is an odd fellow at times, he is very quick to respond to and reciprocate such advances. He is discovering, as I am, that walking in step has a pleasure peculiar to itself.

     I said a moment ago that half the air of life lies in learning to keep step. Conversely, half the tragedy of life consists in our failure so to do. Here are Mr. and Mrs. Cardew. All lovers of Mark Rutherford know them well. They were both of them really excellent people; a minister and his wife; deeply attached to one another; and yet as wretched as wretched could be. How are you going to account for it? It is vastly important just because it is so common. Domestic difficulties rarely arise out of downright wickedness. Husband and wife may be as free from all outward fault as poor Mr. and Mrs. Cardew. Mark Rutherford thinks that Mr. Cardew was chiefly to blame, and his verdict is probably just. A man takes a considerably longer stride than a woman; but, for all that, it is still possible, even in these days of hobble skirts, for man and maid to walk in step, as all true lovers know. But it can only be managed by his moderating his ungainly stride to her more modest one, and, perhaps, by her unconsciously lengthening her step under the invigorating influence of his support. Which is a parable. Mark Rutherford says that 'Mr. Cardew had not learned the art of being happy with his wife; he did not know that happiness is an art; he rather did everything he could do to make the relationship intolerable. He demanded payment in coin stamped from his own mint, and if bullion and jewels had been poured before him he would have taken no heed of them. He did not take into account that what his wife said and what she felt might not be the same; that persons who have no great command over language are obliged to make one word do duty for a dozen; and that, if his wife was defective at one point, there were in her whole regions of unexplored excellence, of faculties never encouraged, and an affection to which he offered no response.' There is more philosophy in the cunning way in which those happy lovers in the lane accommodate their strides to the comfort of each other than we have been accustomed to suspect. It is done very easily; it is done almost unconsciously; but they must be very careful to go on doing it long after they have left the leafy old lane behind them.

     I do not mean to suggest that husbands and wives are sinners above all people on the face of the earth. By no means. Is there a club, a society, an office, or a church in the wide, wide world that does not shelter a most excellent individual whose one and only fault is that he cannot get on with anybody else? That is, of course, my way of putting it. It is not his. He would say that nobody else can get on with him. Which again takes our minds back to the troops. A raw Scotch lad joined the expeditionary force, and on the first parade day his mother and sister came proudly down to see him march. Jock, sad to say, was out of step. At least that is my way of putting it. But it is not the only way. 'Look, mother!' said his fond sister, 'look, they're a' oot o' step but our Jock!' It is not for me to decide whether Jock is right or whether the others are. But since the others are all in step with each other, I am afraid the presumptive evidence is rather heavily against Jock. And Jock is well known to all of us. Nobody likes him, and nobody knows why they don't like him. In many respects he is a paragon of goodness. He loves his church, or he would not have stuck to it year in and year out as he has done. He is not self-assertive; he is quite willing to efface his own personality and be invisible. He is generous to a fault. Nobody is more eager to do anything for the general good. And yet nobody likes him. The only thing against him is that he has never disciplined himself to get on with other people. He has never tried to accommodate himself to their stride. He can't keep rank. They're a' oot o' step but our Jock! Poor Jock!

     I know that out of all this a serious problem emerges. The problem is this: why should Jock destroy his own personality in order to render himself an exact replica of every other man in the regiment? Is individuality an evil thing that must be wiped out and obliterated? The answer to this objection is that Jock is not asked to sacrifice his personality; he is asked to sacrifice his angularity. The ideal of British discipline is, not to turn men into machines, but to preserve individuality and initiative; and yet, at the same time, to make each man of as great value to his comrades as is by any means possible. In the church we do the same. Brown means well, but he is all gush. You ask him to do a thing. 'Oh, certainly, with the greatest pleasure in the world!' But you have an awkward feeling that he will undertake a thousand other duties in the same airy way, and that the chances of his doing the work, and doing it well, are not rosy. Smith, on the other hand, is cautious. He, too, means well; but he is unduly scared of promising more than he can creditably fulfil; and, as a matter of fact, this bogy frightens him out of doing as much as he might and should. Now here you have Brown running and Smith crawling. You know perfectly well that Brown will exhaust himself quite prematurely, and that Smith will never get there. And between Brown's excited scamper and Smith's exasperating crawl the main host jogs along at a medium pace. Now Brown's personality is a delightful thing. You can't help loving him. His willingness is charming, and his enthusiasm contagious. And Smith's steady persistence and extreme conscientiousness are most admirable. They do us all good. But if, whilst preserving and developing their personalities, we could strip them of their angularities, and get them to walk in step at one steady and regular pace—tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp!—we should surely stand a better chance of making David king over all Israel!

     It is all a matter of discipline. The ploughman comes up from the country with a long ungainly stride. The city man, accustomed to crowded pavements, comes with a short and mincing step. They are drilled for a fortnight side by side, and away they go. Right! Left! Right! Left! Tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp! The harmony is perfect. Jock must submit himself to the same rigid process of training. He may be firmly convinced that the stride of the regiment is too short or too long. But if, on that ground, he adopts a different one, nobody but his gentle and admiring little sister will believe that he is right and they are wrong. Jock's isolated attitude invariably reflects upon himself. 'The whole regiment is out of step!' he declares, drawing attention to his different stride. That is too often the trouble with Jock. 'The members of our Church do not read the Bible!' he says. It may be sadly true; but it sounds, put in that way, like a claim that he is the one conscientious and regular Bible-reader among them. 'The members of our Church do not pray!' he exclaims sadly. It may be that a call to prayer is urgently needed; but poor Jock puts the thing in such a light that it appears to be a claim on his part that he alone knows the way to the Throne of Grace. 'Among the faithless faithful only he!' 'The members of our Church are not spiritually-minded!' he bemoans; but somehow, said as he says it, it sounds suspiciously like an echo of little Jack Horner's 'What a good boy am I!'

     In the correspondence of Elizabeth Fry there occurs a very striking and suggestive passage. When Mrs. Fry began to meet with great success in her work among the English prisons, some of the Quakers feared that her triumphs would engender pride in her own soul and destroy her spirituality. At last the thing became nauseous and intolerable, and she wrote, 'The prudent fears that the good have for me try me more than most things, and I find that it calls for Christian forbearance not to be a little put out by them. I am confident that we often see the Martha spirit of criticism enter in, even about spiritual things. O Lord, enable us to keep our ranks in righteousness!'

     Tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp!

     'And Enoch walked with God.'

     'And Noah walked with God.'

     'And Abraham walked with God.'

     'And Moses walked with God.'

     Tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp!

     'All these men of war that could keep rank came with a perfect heart to make David king over all Israel.'

     'O Lord, enable us to keep our ranks in righteousness!'

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


                Prayer in the Father’s house

     Wist ye not that I must be in My Father’s house?
--- Luke 2:49 (R.V.).

     Our Lord’s childhood was not immature manhood: our Lord’s childhood is an eternal fact. Am I a holy innocent child of God by identification with my Lord and Saviour? Do I look upon life as being in my Father’s house? Is the Son of God living in His Father’s house in me?

     The abiding Reality is God, and His order comes through the moments. Am I always in contact with Reality, or do I only pray when things have gone wrong, when there is a disturbance in the moments of my life? I have to learn to identify myself with my Lord in holy communion in ways some of us have not begun to learn as yet. “I must be about My Father’s business,”—live the moments in My Father’s house.

     Narrow it down to your individual circumstances—are you so identified with the Lord’s life that you are simply a child of God, continually talking to Him and realizing that all things come from His hands? Is the Eternal Child in you living in the Father’s house? Are the graces of His ministering life working out through you in your home, in your business, in your domestic circle? Have you been wondering why you are going through the things you are? It is not that you have to go through them, it is because of the relation into which the Son of God has come in His Father’s providence in your particular sainthood. Let Him have His way, keep in perfect union with Him.

     The vicarious life of your Lord is to become your vital simple life; the way He worked and lived among men must be the way He lives in you.


My Utmost for His Highest

Digest
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Digest

Mostly it was wars
  With their justification
  Of the surrender of values
  For which they fought. Between
  Them they laid their plans
  For the next, exempted
  From compact by the machine's
  Exigencies. Silence
  Was out of date; wisdom consisted
  In a revision of the strict code
  Of the spirit. To keep moving
  Was best; to bring the arrival
  Nearer departure; to synchronize
  The applause, as the public images
  Stepped on and off the stationary
  Aircraft. The labour of the years
  Was over; the children were heirs
  To an instant existence. They fed the machine
  Their questions, knowing the answers
  Already, unable to apply them.


H'm

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Exodus 14:10–15


     Honor your healer even before you need him!

     BIBLE TEXT /
Exodus 14:10–15 / As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites caught sight of the Egyptians advancing upon them. Greatly frightened, the Israelites cried out to the Lord. And they said to Moses, “Was it for want of graves in Egypt that you brought us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us be, and we will serve the Egyptians, for it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness’?” But Moses said to the people, “Have no fear! Stand by and witness the deliverance which the Lord will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The Lord will battle for you; you hold your peace.”

     Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.…”

     MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 21, 7 / Why do you cry out to Me? Thus it is written, “Did you pray before your trouble came?” (
Job 36:19, authors’ translation). Why is this so? Rabbi Elazar ben Pedat said, “As the maxim says, ‘Honor your healer even before you need him!’ ” And Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish says, “Prepare your prayer before Your Creator so that you won’t have adversaries above.”

     CONTEXT / In the story of the Israelites fleeing Egypt, there is an interesting juxtaposition of verses. Moses tells the Israelites to “Have no fear! Stand by and witness the deliverance which the Lord will work for you today.” In other words, God will save you. God, on the other hand, simply tells Moses and the Israelites, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.…” In other words, “Save yourselves. If you put more distance between yourselves and the Egyptians, then the crisis will be averted.”

     The Rabbis see Moses as calling out to God too soon. There is no real need for divine assistance; they have the answer in their hands. And the Rabbis quote a verse from Job to prove their point. Elihu, one of Job’s friends, attempts to put Job’s suffering into perspective, asking him, “Did you pray before your trouble came?” This is the same as Moses, who prayed too soon. The Rabbis ask, Why is this so? Why did Moses take it upon himself to pray before it was really necessary? Rabbi Elazar ben Pedat quotes a maxim that says ‘Honor your healer even before you need him!” Similarly, Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish extends the analogy: “Prepare your prayer before Your Creator so that you won’t have adversaries above.”

     In the liturgy, God is often called רוֹפֵא/rofeh, “healer.” In the weekday Amidah, recited three times daily, we address God as “the healer (רוֹפֵא/rofeh) of the sick of Israel.” Thus, the advice of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, to be prepared before God, flows directly from that of Rabbi Elazar ben Pedat. Rabbi Elazar says to show respect to your healer; Rabbi Shimon expands this to say that we should respect the “Divine Doctor,” whose aid and support we will someday need.


Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     August 7

     This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. --- Ephesians 5:32.

     Saints are married, united to Christ, who is the best husband, “outstanding among ten thousand” (Song 5:10). The Essential Works of John Flavel

     Christ is a husband who cannot be paralleled

     for tender care. The spouse cannot be as considerate of her own soul as Christ is considerate of her. If she wanders out of the way, he guides her. If she stumbles, he holds her hand. If she falls, he raises her. If she is sad, he comforts her with promises.

     for ardent affection. No husband loves like Christ. He has given real demonstrations of his love to his spouse. He has sent her a love letter—his Word—and he has given her a love token—his Spirit.

     Christ loves more than any other husband:

     He puts richer clothes on his bride. “He has clothed me with garments of salvation… a robe of righteousness” (Isa. 61:10). [Because of] this robe, God looks on us as if we had not sinned and we are reputed righteous—as righteous as Christ, “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

     He gives his bride not only his golden garments but his image. Christ imparts “the splendor of his holiness” (Ps. 29:2). “The splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect” (Ezek. 16:14). Christ never thinks he has loved his spouse enough till he can see his own face in her.

     Christ discharges those debts that no other husband can. Our sins are the worst debts we owe. If all the angels contributed money, they could not pay one of these debts, but Christ frees us from these. He says to justice what Paul said concerning Onesimus: “If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me” (
Philem. 18).

     Christ has suffered more for his spouse than any husband ever did for a wife. He suffered poverty and scandal. He who crowned the heavens with stars was himself crowned with thorns. He was regardless of his life; he leaped into the sea of his Father’s wrath to save his spouse from drowning.

     Christ’s love does not end with his life. He loves his spouse forever. Well may the apostle call it “this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19).
--- Thomas Watson


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

On This Day
     A Bathroom, a Leg, and $1.50  August 7

     What would you expect from a baby whose father abandoned her at birth, and whose mother died when she was three? Taken in by impoverished neighbors, Eleanor Chestnut was an unhappy child, lonely and hungry for a mother’s love. She didn’t get it. Nor was she offered much of an education. But she was stubborn; and when she discovered a school where she could earn her way through both the academy and college, she enrolled and did just that. She developed a yen for medicine. While in school she also joined a Presbyterian church and acquired a corresponding interest in missions.

     In 1888 Eleanor entered Woman’s Medical College in Chicago, where she completed the programs for both doctors and nurses while living in an attic and eating mostly oatmeal. Following that—a stint at Moody Bible Institute.

     On August 7, 1893 Eleanor was appointed a medical missionary and assigned to south China. Her work there was complicated by a poor grasp of the language and by impoverished conditions, and she continually found herself in arduous straits. On one occasion she became responsible for a demented patient who had ruined his brain with opium. “He thinks he is continually being pursued by demons,” she wrote a friend. “I have no place for him but my study. He is sometimes violent and has to be carefully watched. So I am sitting here on guard now.”

     But her affection for the people of Lien-chou was boundless. She used her own bathroom as an operating room, and once used skin from her own leg as a graft for a coolie whose own leg was healing poorly following surgery. She established a women’s hospital in Lien-chou, living on $1.50 a month so the rest of her salary could be used to buy bricks.

     She served China selflessly for ten years, then on October 29, 1905, her missions compound was attacked by an anti-foreign mob. Eleanor might have escaped had she not returned to aid her colleagues. Her final act of service was ripping a piece from her dress to bind a child’s wound.

     Then Jesus asked,
“Which one of these three people was a real neighbor to the man who was beaten up by robbers?” The teacher answered, “The one who showed pity.” Jesus said, “Go and do the same!”
--- Luke 10:36,37.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - August 7

     “The upright love thee” --- Song of Solomon 1:4.

     Believers love Jesus with a deeper affection then they dare to give to any other being. They would sooner lose father and mother than part with Christ. They hold all earthly comforts with a loose hand, but they carry him fast locked in their bosoms. They voluntarily deny themselves for his sake, but they are not to be driven to deny him. It is scant love which the fire of persecution can dry up; the true believer’s love is a deeper stream than this. Men have laboured to divide the faithful from their Master, but their attempts have been fruitless in every age. Neither crowns of honour, nor frowns of anger, have untied this more than Gordian knot. This is no every-day attachment which the world’s power may at length dissolve. Neither man nor devil have found a key which opens this lock. Never has the craft of Satan been more at fault than when he has exercised it in seeking to rend in sunder this union of two divinely welded hearts. It is written, and nothing can blot out the sentence, “The upright love thee.” The intensity of the love of the upright, however, is not so much to be judged by what it appears as by what the upright long for. It is our daily lament that we cannot love enough. Would that our hearts were capable of holding more, and reaching further. Like Samuel Rutherford, we sigh and cry, “Oh, for as much love as would go round about the earth, and over heaven—yea, the heaven of heavens, and ten thousand worlds—that I might let all out upon fair, fair, only fair Christ.” Alas! our longest reach is but a span of love, and our affection is but as a drop of a bucket compared with his deserts. Measure our love by our intentions, and it is high indeed; ’tis thus, we trust, our Lord doth judge of it. Oh, that we could give all the love in all hearts in one great mass, a gathering together of all loves to him who is altogether lovely!


          Evening - August 7

     “Satan hindered us.” --- 1 Thessalonians 2:18.

     Since the first hour in which goodness came into conflict with evil, it has never ceased to be true in spiritual experience, that Satan hinders us. From all points of the compass, all along the line of battle, in the vanguard and in the rear, at the dawn of day and in the midnight hour, Satan hinders us. If we toil in the field, he seeks to break the ploughshare; if we build the wall, he labours to cast down the stones; if we would serve God in suffering or in conflict—everywhere Satan hinders us. He hinders us when we are first coming to Jesus Christ. Fierce conflicts we had with Satan when we first looked to the cross and lived. Now that we are saved, he endeavours to hinder the completeness of our personal character. You may be congratulating yourself, “I have hitherto walked consistently; no man can challenge my integrity.” Beware of boasting, for your virtue will yet be tried; Satan will direct his engines against that very virtue for which you are the most famous. If you have been hitherto a firm believer, your faith will ere long be attacked; if you have been meek as Moses, expect to be tempted to speak unadvisedly with your lips. The birds will peck at your ripest fruit, and the wild boar will dash his tusks at your choicest vines. Satan is sure to hinder us when we are earnest in prayer. He checks our importunity, and weakens our faith in order that, if possible, we may miss the blessing. Nor is Satan less vigilant in obstructing Christian effort. There was never a revival of religion without a revival of his opposition. As soon as Ezra and Nehemiah begin to labour, Sanballat and Tobiah are stirred up to hinder them. What then? We are not alarmed because Satan hindereth us, for it is a proof that we are on the Lord’s side, and are doing the Lord’s work, and in his strength we shall win the victory, and triumph over our adversary.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     August 7

          I WANT A PRINCIPLE WITHIN

     Charles Wesley, 1707–1788

     So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. (Acts 24:16)

     Order my footsteps by Thy Word,
     And make my heart sincere;
     Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
     But keep my conscience clear.

--- Unknown

     The Bible has much to say about the importance of a Christian having a strong “inner man” (Ephesians 3:16). For instance the word conscience appears more than 30 times throughout the New Testament. The conscience has been described as the “rudder of the soul” or the believer’s “principle within.” One of the prime responsibilities of Christian living is to keep the conscience clear as to the things of God so that we might live worthy lives before our fellowmen. But the conscience must be continually enlightened and developed by an exposure to God’s Word if it is to serve as a reliable guide for our lives. A conscience that is allowed to become hardened and insensitive to sin will ultimately lead to spiritual and moral disaster. We must allow God to develop our consciences and then our consciences are able to develop us.

     Charles Wesley was very strong in his teaching about the necessity of an enlightened conscience for believers. Part of the Wesleyan concept for the doctrine of holiness was that God’s people should be so sensitive to sin that eventually they would be able to live without known sin in their lives.

     This song text first appeared in the 1749 edition of Wesley’s Hymns and Sacred Poems, with the title “For a Tender Conscience.” These words are still a worthy goal for our daily living:

     I want a principle within of watchful, Godly fear, a sensibility of sin, a pain to feel it near. Help me the first approach to feel of pride or wrong desire, to catch the wand’ring of my will and quench the Spirit’s fire.
     From Thee that I no more may stray, no more Thy goodness grieve, grant me the filial awe, I pray, the tender conscience give. Quick as the apple of an eye, O God, my conscience make! Awake my soul when sin is nigh and keep it still awake.
     Almighty God of truth and love, to me Thy pow’r impart; the burden from my soul remove, the hardness from my heart. O may the least omission pain my reawakened soul, and drive me to that grace again which makes the wounded whole.


     For Today: Acts 23:1; Romans 2:15; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:8, 9

     Ask God to give you a greater sensitivity to those attitudes and actions that could harden the response of your conscience. Carry this musical prayer with you ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

          DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

     3. Add to this union of contrary qualities, and the subserviency of one thing to another, the admirable variety and diversity of things in the world. What variety of metals, living creatures, plants! what variety and distinction in the shape of their leaves, flowers, smell, resulting from them! Who can number up the several sorts of beasts on the earth, birds in the air, fish in the sea? How various are their motions! Some creep, some go, some fly, some swim; and in all this variety each creature hath organs or members, fitted for their peculiar motion. If you consider the multitude of stars, which shine like jewels in the heavens, their different magnitudes, or the variety of colors in the flowers and tapestry of the earth, you could no more conclude they made themselves, or were made by chance, than you can imagine a piece of arras, with a diversity of figures and colors, either wove itself, or were knit together by hazard.

     How delicious is the sap of the vine, when turned into wine, above that of a crab! Both have the same womb of earth to conceive them, both agree in the nature of wood and twigs, as channels to con it into fruit. What is that which makes the one so sweet, the other so sour, or makes that sweet which was a few weeks before unpleasantly sharp? Is it the earth? No: they both have the same soil; the branches may touch each other; the strings of their roots may, under ground, entwine about one another. Is it the sun? both have the same beams. Why is not the taste and color of the one as gratifying as the other? Is it the root? the taste of that is far different from that of the fruit it bears. Why do they not, when they have the same soil, the same sun, and stand near one another, borrow something from one another’s natures? No reason can be rendered, but that there is a God of infinite wisdom hath determined this variety, and bound up the nature of each creature within itself. “Everything follows the law of its creation; and it is worthy observation, that the Creator of them hath not given that power to animals, which arise from different species, to propagate the like to themselves; as mules, that arise from different species. No reason can be rendered of this, but the fixed determination of the Creator, that those species which were created by him should not be lost in those mixtures which are contrary to the law of the creation? This cannot possibly be ascribed to that which is commonly called nature, but unto the God of nature, who will not have his creatures exceed their bounds or come short of them.

     Now since among those varieties there are some things better than other, yet all are good in their kind, and partake of goodness, there must be something better and more excellent than all those, from whom they derive that goodness, which inheres in their nature and is communicated by them to others: and this excellent Being must inherit, in an eminent way in his own nature, the goodness of all those varieties, since they made not themselves, but were made by another. All that goodness which is scattered in those varieties must be infinitely concentered in that nature, which distributed those various perfections to them (Ps. 104:9): “He that planted the ear, shall not he hear; he that formed the eye, shall not he see; he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?” The Creator is greater than the creature, and whatsoever is in his effects, is but an impression of some excellenty in himself: there is, therefore, some chief fountain of goodness whence all those various goodnesses in the world do flow.

     From all this it follows, if there be an order, and harmony, there must be an Orderer: one that “made the earth by his power, established the world by his wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by his discretion” (Jer. 10:12). Order being the effect, cannot be the cause of itself: order is the disposition of things to an end, and is not intelligent, but implies an intelligent Orderer; and, therefore, it is as certain that there is a God, as it is certain there is order in the world. Order is an effect of reason and counsel; this reason and counsel must have its residence in some being before this order was fixed: the things ordered are always distinct from that reason and counsel whereby they are ordered, and also after it, as the effect is after the cause. No man begins a piece of work but he hath the model of it in his own mind: no man builds a house, or makes a watch, but he hath the idea or copy of it in his own head. This beautiful world bespeaks an idea of it, or a model: since there is such a magnificent wisdom in the make of each creature, and the proportion of one creature to another, this model must be before the world, as the pattern is always before the thing that is wrought by it. This, therefore, must be in some intelligent and wise agent, and this is God. Since the reason of those things exceed the reason and all the art of man, who can ascribe them to any inferior cause? Chance it could not be; the motions of chance are not constant, and at set seasons, as the motions of creatures are. That which is by chance is contingent, this is necessary; uniformity can never be the birth of chance. Who can imagine that all the parts of a watch can meet together and put themselves in order and motion by chance? “Nor can it be nature only, which indeed is a disposition of second causes. If nature hath not an understanding, it cannot work such effects. If nature therefore uses counsel to begin a thing, reason to dispose it, art to effect it, virtue to complete it, and power to govern it, why should it be called nature rather than God” Nothing so sure as that which hath an end to which it tends, hath a cause by which it is ordered to that end. Since therefore all things are ordered in subserviency to the good of man, they are so ordered by Him that made both man and them; and man must acknowledge the wisdom and goodness of his Creator, and act in subserviency to his glory, as other creatures act in subserviency to his good. Sensible objects were not made only to gratify the sense of man, but to hand something to his mind as he is a rational creature: to discover God to him as an object of love and desire to be enjoyed. If this be not the effect of it, the order of the creature, as to such an one, is in vain, and falls short of its true end.

     To conclude this: As when a man comes into a palace, built according to the exactest rule of art, and with an unexceptionable conveniency for the inhabitants, he would acknowledge both the being and skill of the builder; so whosoever shall observe the disposition of all the parts of the world, their connection, comeliness, the variety of seasons, the swarms of different creatures, and the mutual offices they render to one another, cannot conclude less, than that it was contrived by an infinite skill, effected by infinite power, and governed by infinite wisdom. None can imagine a ship to be orderly conducted without a pilot; nor the parts of the world to perform their several functions without a wise guide; considering the members of the body cannot perform theirs, without the active presence of the soul. The atheist, then, is a fool to deny that which every creature in his constitution asserts, and thereby renders himself unable to give a satisfactory account of that constant uniformity in the motions of the creatures.

     Thirdly, As the production and harmony, so particular creatures, pursuing and attaining their ends, manifest that there is a God. All particular creatures have natural instincts, which move them for some end. The intending of an end is a property of a rational creature; since the lower creatures cannot challenge that title, they must act by the understanding and direction of another; and since man cannot challenge the honor of inspiring the creatures with such instincts, it must be ascribed to some nature infinitely above any creature in understanding. No creature doth determine itself. Why do the fruits and grain of the earth nourish us, when the earth which instrumentally gives them that fitness, cannot nourish us, but because their several ends are determined by one higher than the world?

     1. Several creatures have several natures. How soon will all creatures, as soon as they see the light, move to that whereby they must live, and make use of the natural arms God hath given their kind, for their defence, before they are grown to any maturity to afford them that defence! The Scripture makes the appetite of infants to their milk a foundation of the divine glory, (Ps. 8:3), “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength” that is, matter of praise and acknowledgment of God, in the natural appetite they have to their milk and their relish of it. All creatures have a natural affection to their young ones; all young ones by a natural instinct, move to, and receive the nourishment that is proper for them; some are their own physicians, as well as their own caterers, and naturally discern what preserves them in life, and what restores them when sick. The swallow flies to its celandine, and the toad hastens to its plantain. Can we behold the spider’s nets, or silkworm’s web, the bee’s closets, or the ant’s granaries, without acknowledging a higher being than a creature who hath planted that genius in them? The consideration of the nature of several creatures God commended to Job, (chap. 39, where he discourseth to Job of the natural instincts of the goat, the ostrich, horse, and eagle, &c.) to persuade him to the acknowledgment and admiration of God, and humiliation of himself. The spider, as if it understood the art of weaving, fits its web both for its own habitation, and a net to catch its prey. The bee builds a cell which serves for chambers to reside in, and a repository for its provision. Birds are observed to build their nests with a clammy matter without, for the firmer duration of it, and with a soft moss and down within, for the conveniency and warmth of their young. “The stork knows his appointed time,” (Jer. 8:7),

     (Je 8:7) 7  Even the stork in the heavens
     knows her times,
          and the turtledove, swallow, and crane
     keep the time of their coming,
          but my people know not
     the rules of the LORD.

and the swallows observe the time of their coming; they go an return according to the seasons of the year; this they gain not by consideration, it descends to them with their nature; they neither gain nor increase it by rational deductions. It is not in vain to speak of these. How little do we improve by meditation those objects which daily offer themselves to our view, full of instructions for us! And our Saviour sends his disciples to spell God in the lilies. It is observed also, that the creatures offensive to man go single; if they went by troops, they would bring destruction upon man and beast; this is the nature of them, for the preservation of others.

     2. They know not their end. They have a law in their natures, but have no rational understanding, either of the end to which they are appointed, or the means fit to attain it; they naturally do what they do, and move by no counsel of their own, but by a law impressed by some higher hand upon their natures. What plant knows why it strikes its root into the earth? doth it understand what storms it is to contest with? Or why it shoots up its branches towards heaven? doth it know it needs the droppings of the clouds to preserve itself, and make it fruitful? These are acts of understanding; the root is downward to preserve its own standing, the branches upward to preserve other creatures; this understanding is not in the creature itself, but originally in another. Thunders and tempests know not why they are sent; yet by the direction of a mighty hand, they are instruments of justice upon a wicked world. Rational creatures that act for some end, and know the end they aim at, yet know not the manner of the natural motion of the members to it. When we intend to look upon a thing, we take no counsel about the natural motion of our eyes, we know not all the principles of their operations, or how that dull matter whereof our bodies are composed, is subject to the order of our minds. We are not of counsel with our stomachs about the concoction of our meat, or the distribution of the nourishing juice to the several parts of the body. Neither the mother nor the foetus sit in council how the formation should be made in the womb. We know no more than a plant knows what stature it is of, and what medicinal virtue its fruit hath for the good of man; yet all those natural operations are perfectly directed to their proper end, by an higher wisdom than any human understanding is able to conceive, since they exceed the ability of an inanimate or fleshly nature, yea, and the wisdom of a man. Do we not often see reasonable creatures acting for one end, and perfecting a higher than what they aimed at or could suspect? When Joseph’s brethren sold him for a slave, their end was to be rid of an informer; but the action issued in preparing him to be the preserver of them and their families. Cyrus’s end was to be a conqueror, but the action ended in being the Jews’ deliverer (Prov. 16:9).

          (Pr 16:9) 9  The heart of man plans his way,
          but the LORD establishes his steps.

“A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”

     3. Therefore there is some superior understanding and nature which so acts them. That which acts for an end unknown to itself, depends upon some overruling wisdom that knows that end. Who should direct them in all those ends, but He that bestowed a being upon them for those ends; who knows what is convenient for their life, security and propagation of their natures? An exact knowledge is necessary both of what is agreeable to them, and the means whereby they must attain it, which, since it is not inherent in them, is in that wise God, who puts those instincts into them, and governs them in the exercise of them to such ends. Any man that sees a dart flung, knows it cannot hit the mark without the skill and strength of an archer; or he that sees the hand of a dial pointing to the hours successively, knows that the dial is ignorant of its own end, and is disposed and directed in that motion by another. All creatures ignorant of their own natures, could not universally in the whole kind, and in every climate and country, without any difference in the whole world, tend to a certain end, if some overruling wisdom did not preside over the world and guide them: and if the creatures have a Conductor, they have a Creator; all things are “turned round about by his counsel, that they may do whatsoever he commands them, upon the face of the world in the earth.” So that in this respect the folly of atheism appears. Without the owning a God, no account can given of those actions of creatures, that are an imitation of reason. To say the bees, &c. are rational, is to equal them to man: nay, make them his superiors, since they do more by nature than the wisest man can do by art: it is their own counsel whereby they act, or another’s; if it be their own, they are reasonable creatures; if by another’s, it is not mere nature that is necessary; then other creatures would not be without the same skill, there would be no difference among them. If nature be restrained by another, it hath a superior; if not, it is a free agent; it is an understanding Being that directs them; and then it is something superior to all creatures in the world; and by this, therefore, we may ascend to the acknowledgment of the necessity of a God.

     Fourthly. Add to the production and order of the world and the creatures acting for their end, the preservation of them. Nothing can depend upon itself in its preservation, no more than it could in its being. If the order of the world was not fixed by itself, the preservation of that order cannot be continued by itself. Though the matter of the world after creation cannot return to that nothing whence it was fetched, without the power of God that made it, (because the same power is as requisite to reduce a thing to nothing as to raise a thing from nothing,) yet without the actual exerting of a power that made the creatures, they would fall into confusion. Those contesting qualities which are in every part of it, could not have preserved, but would have consumed, and extinguished one another, and reduced the world to that confused chaos, wherein it was before the Spirit moved upon the waters: as contrary parts could not have met together in one form, unless there had been one that had conjoined them; so they could not have kept together after their conjunction unless the same hand had preserved them. Natural contrarieties cannot be reconciled. It is as great power to keep discords knit, as at first to link them. Who would doubt but that an army made up of several nations and humors, would fall into a civil war and sheathe their swords in one another’s bowels, if they were not under the management of some wise general; or a ship dash against the rocks without the skill of a pilot? As the body hath neither life nor motion without the active presence of the soul, which distributes to every part the virtue of acting, sets every one in the exercise of its proper function, and resides in every part; so there is some powerful cause which doth the like in the world, that rules and tempers it. There is need of the same power and action to preserve a thing, as there was at first to make it. When we consider that we are preserved, and know that we could not preserve ourselves, we must necessarily run to some first cause which doth preserve us. All works of art depend upon nature, and are preserved while they are kept by the force of nature, as a statue depends upon the matter whereof it is made, whether stone or brass; this nature, therefore, must have some superior by whose influx it is preserved. Since, therefore, we see a stable order in the things of the world, that they conspire together for the good and beauty of the universe; that they depend upon one another; there must be some principle upon which they do depend; something to which the first link of the chain is fastened, which himself depends upon no superior, but wholly rests in his own essence and being. It is the title of God to be the “Preserver of man and beast.” The Psalmist elegantly describeth it, (Psalm 104:24, &c.) “The earth is full of his riches: all wait upon him, that he may give them their meat in due season.

     When he opens his hand, he fills them with good; when he hides his face they are troubled; if he take away their breath, they die, and return to dust. He sends forth his Spirit, and they are created, and renews the face of the earth. The glory of the Lord shall endure forever; and the Lord shall rejoice in his works.” Upon the consideration of all which, the Psalmist (ver. 34) takes a pleasure in the meditation of God as the cause and manager of all those things; which issues into a joy in God, and a praising of him. And why should not the consideration of the power and wisdom of God in the creatures produce the same effect in the hearts of us, if he be our God? Or, as some render it, “My meditation shall be sweet,” or acceptable to him, whereby I find matter of praise in the things of the world, and offer it to the Creator of it.


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

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


     Sect. CX. — IN the same way also it so continually repeats this: — “If man do nothing, there is no place for merit, and where there is no place for merit, there can be no place either for punishment or for reward.” —

     Here again, it does not see, that by these carnal arguments, it refutes itself more directly than it refutes us. For what do these conclusions prove, but that all merit is in the power of “Free-will?” And then, where is any room for grace? Moreover, supposing “Free-will” to merit a certain little, and grace the rest, why does “Free-will” receive the whole reward? Or, shall we suppose it to receive but a certain small portion of reward? Then, if there be a place for merit, in order that there might be a place for reward, the merit must be as great as the reward.

     But why do I thus lose both words and time upon a thing of nought? For, even supposing the whole were established at which the Diatribe is aiming, and that merit is partly the work of man, and partly the work of God; yet it cannot define that work itself, what it is, of what kind it is, or how far it is to extend; therefore, its disputation is about nothing at all. Since, therefore, it cannot prove any one thing which it asserts, nor establish its interpretation nor contradiction, nor bring forward a passage that attributes all to man; and since all are the phantoms of its own cogitation, Paul’s similitude of the “potter” and the “clay,” stands unshaken and invincible — that it is not according to our “Free-will,” what kind of vessels we are made. And as to the exhortations of Paul, “If a man purify himself from these,” and the like, they are certain models, according to which, we ought to be formed; but they are not proofs of our working power, or of our desire. Suffice it to have spoken thus upon these points, the HARDENING OF PHARAOH, the CASE OF ESAU, and the SIMILITUDE OF THE POTTER.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library


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