The Priestly Order of MelchizedekHebrews 7 1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3 He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.
4 See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! 5 And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. 6 But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. 8 In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. 9 One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.
Jesus Compared to Melchizedek11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is witnessed of him,
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”
20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’ ”
23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
Jesus, High Priest of a Better CovenantHebrews 8 1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
8 For he finds fault with them when he says:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”
The Earthly Holy PlaceHebrews 9 1 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. 2 For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, 4 having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. 5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
Redemption Through the Blood of Christ11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Christ’s Sacrifice Once for AllHebrews 10 1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ ”
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
The Full Assurance of Faith19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
What I'm Reading
Five Reasons You Can Trust the Story of Christmas Is True
By J. Warner Wallace 12/18/2017
Detectives create lists. As a cold-case detective, I’m no different. When investigating an event in the distant past (in my case, an unsolved murder), I collect evidence, make lists and do my best to reach the most reasonable inference. When I began to investigate Christianity at the age of thirty-five, I approached the gospels the same way I approached my cold-case files. Lists were an important part of the process. One New Testament claim was particularly interesting to me: the conception and birth of Jesus. When I first read through the gospels, the birth narratives seemed incredible and unreasonable. I’m not the only person to express such a concern. In an article posted in the Herald Scotland, Reverend Andrew Frater called the Nativity story a “fanciful, fairy tale” and called on Christians to “disentangle the truth from the tinsel”. Frater is a minister and a believer, and even he doesn’t believe in the virgin conception of Jesus. As an atheist, I was even more skeptical. I rejected supernatural claims altogether, and the first Biblical claim about Jesus was a supernatural one. But as I collected the evidence and formed my lists, I found there were many good reasons to trust the story of Christmas. I’ve assembled them here with links to longer treatments of each topic:
Reason 1: | The Supernatural Nature of the Virgin Conception Shouldn’t Disqualify It When I began to investigate the virgin conception, I was actually investigating my own philosophical naturalism. I was, in essence, asking the following questions: “Is the natural world all that exists?” “Is there anything beyond the physical, material world we measure with our five senses?” “Are supernatural events possible or even reasonable?” In asking these questions, I was putting naturalism to the test. It would have been unfair, therefore, to begin by presupposing nothing supernatural could ever exist or occur. If we want to be fair about assessing the virgin conception or any other supernatural aspect of the nativity story, we cannot exclude the very possibility of the supernatural in the first place. Our presupposition against the supernatural would unfairly taint our examination of the claim.
Reason 2:The Claim of the Virgin Conception Appears Incredibly Early in Christian History It’s always easier to tell a lie once everyone who was alive to know the difference has already died. But if you’re going to make a claim early in an area where people are still available to debunk your claim, be prepared to have a difficult time getting away with misrepresentations. The virgin conception of Jesus is one of the earliest claims in Christian history. The students of the gospel authors cited the virgin conception as a true claim about Jesus. Ignatius, the student of John (an Apostle who chose not to write about the birth of Jesus in his own gospel), included it in his early writings to local churches. Other Church leaders repeated the claim through the earliest years of the Church, and the doctrine also appears in the most ancient Church creeds. Even early non-canonical documents include the virgin conception of Jesus.
Reason 3: | The Birth Narratives in Luke and Matthew Are Not Late Additions Critics, in an effort to argue the birth narratives in Luke and Matthew are not reliable, point to stylistic differences and “content shifting” within the gospels. Critics claim that the Greek language used in the birth narrative section of Luke’s gospel is far more Semitic than other sections. But the fact that this section of the gospel is stylistically or linguistically different than other sections does not mean it was a late addition. Luke told us he compiled the information for his gospel from a number of divergent sources (Luke 1:1-4). As a result, we should expect stylistic and linguistic differences within the gospel of Luke. In addition, any claim related to the late addition of the birth narratives defies all the manuscript evidence available to us; there is absolutely no evidence that the gospel of Matthew and Luke ever existed without the birth narratives. All manuscripts, translations, early Church documents and references to the gospels, along with every historic, reliable witness testifies to the fact that the birth narratives are ancient and part of the original record.
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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Buzzfeed Demands: ‘Are You Now or Have You Ever Been a Christian?’
By David French 12/01/16
Buzzfeed is willfully ignorant about the teachings of biblical Christianity.
It’s the question every social-justice warrior wants to ask. “Are you now or have you ever been a Christian?” Because if the answer is yes, then your response to the next question will determine whether you should enjoy the same economic, social, and cultural opportunities as any other American citizen. “Do you believe that hateful nonsense?”
On Wednesday, Buzzfeed ran one of the more despicable “news” articles I’ve ever read — a vicious attempt to attack Chip and Joanna Gaines for their (presumed) religious beliefs. Chip and Joanna are television hosts on HGTV, bestselling authors, and extraordinarily successful business owners. By all accounts, they’re lovely people. Oh, and they’re openly Christian.
So, naturally, Buzzfeed’s Kate Aurthur had to ask, “Are the Gaineses against gay marriage? And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show [as other HGTV stars have]?” Chip and Joanna didn’t respond to Aurthur’s inquiries, so she doubled down, declaring that “in the absence of a response from them or their representatives, it’s worth looking at the severe, unmoving position Seibert and Antioch take on same-sex marriage.”
Aurthur is referring to the Gaineses’ pastor, Jimmy Seibert, and their church, Antioch Community Church. And what is that “severe, unmoving” position? It’s basic, biblical Christianity. It turns out that Seibert believes that God defines marriage, not the state. He believes homosexual acts are a sin. He believes that people certainly struggle with temptation but can choose not to engage in homosexual acts. He recognizes the truth that many gay people come from backgrounds of terrible abuse. And, critically, he believes that Jesus can redeem us all — regardless of our temptations and past acts.
David French is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a staff writer for National Review, and an attorney.
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We Need to Talk About Cartoon Parents
By Steven D. Greydanus 11/30/16
By some measures, the heroine of Disney’s latest mammoth hit, Moana, has a pretty ideal family. She has both parents, to begin with — a rare advantage for a Disney heroine, or the young protagonist of any Hollywood animated film.
What’s more, both Dad and Mom are likable, sympathetic characters who enjoy pretty good relationships with their daughter. This is a big improvement on How to Train Your Dragon’s Hiccup and Stoick the Vast or The Little Mermaid’s Ariel and King Triton (to pick two other animated films with protagonists whose fathers are the leaders of their people).
In one crucial way, though, Moana’s relationship with her father is very much like Ariel’s relationship with Triton and Hiccup’s relationship with Stoick — and it’s something they have in common with a lot of animated protagonists, especially over the last decade or so. (The Little Mermaid is a sort of forerunner to this trend.)
Moana feels drawn to the ocean, as Ariel is attracted to the surface world and as Hiccup is compelled to try to understand dragons rather than kill them. Each protagonist’s father disapproves of these aspirations; in fact, they lay down ultimatums: Moana, no going out on the ocean; Ariel, no venturing near the surface world; Hiccup, kill that dragon.
These ultimatums aren’t simply the demands of one father for his own child, but represent broader social norms. None of Moana’s people are allowed to sail past the reef; all contact between humans and merfolk is forbidden; all Viking warriors are expected to kill dragons as a coming-of-age ritual.
Did Jesus Diminish His Divine Power to Become Human?
By John Piper 12/18/2017
The question comes from Matthew in Vienna, the capital of Austria. “Dear Pastor John, thank you for all your work over the years in ministry. My small group recently considered the subject of Jesus’s divinity and humanity. I looked through Desiring God’s resources and found a sermon that you delivered way back in 1981. In that sermon on Luke 2:52 you state, ‘Our text has important implications for understanding the divinity of Christ. It helps us understand what Paul meant when he said, “Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6–7). One of the things Christ emptied himself of was omniscience.’ Later, regarding the attributes of God, you said, ‘They were his potentially, and thus he was God; but he surrendered their use absolutely, and so he was man.’ My question is, how do you now understand Philippians 2:6–8 and Luke 2:52? Do these texts really necessitate that some attributes of the eternal divine nature of Jesus must have been given up at his incarnation?”
Well I’m glad this question is asked, and I’m glad they quote my old sermon because the first thing I would say is that I would speak today with more precision and care than I did in those sentences. As I read those (I went back and read them in context), I thought, “That was not very careful.”
When we say things about Jesus Christ after the incarnation of the eternal divine Son, we have to be careful not to give the impression that the divine nature of Christ has the same limitations that the human nature of Christ does. And I don’t think I made that distinction clear enough in 1981. I would not want to say, for example, that Christ in his divine nature emptied himself of any essential divine attribute. I think omniscience is an essential divine attribute.
Very God and Very Man | When in Matthew 24:36 Jesus says that not even the Son knows the time of Jesus’s return, I take him to mean that the Son — Jesus Christ, considered in his human nature — operates with a kind of limitation. But not the divine nature. Now, I know that sounds weird; that sounds strange. It is strange because the union of two natures in one person, one divine and one human, is beyond our experience and will always be beyond our personal experience. We’re never going to be God. And we may expect it to sound strange.
So how then do I understand Philippians 2:6–7 and the emptying of himself? Let me read the verses so that we all have it in front of us.
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John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
Should Evangelicals Evolve on Homosexuality?
By Phillip Holmes 12/18/2015
It was a beautiful day in Minneapolis. The sky was blanketed with grey clouds while weak rays of a sallow sun beamed through its cracks and crevices. I sat at the coffee shop waiting for Rosaria Butterfield. Her schedule was packed that day, but once she arrived you would have thought this was her first appointment.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d read with great interest about her life, both in articles and her published work. She had been a postmodern professor at Syracuse University and a lesbian and gay activist. But God saved her, and in recent years she’s become a great resource for the church as a thinker, speaker, and writer, helping the church more effectively engage the LGBT community.
I was a bit intimidated, but soon after she entered the room, I knew I could relax. I could tell right away I was in for a treat.
When Rosaria and I sat down to talk about “the new America,” the topic of homosexuality was at the forefront of our minds. The LGBT community has taken society by storm. The country’s view of homosexuals is rapidly evolving, and many are petitioning the church to follow suit.
ome think the church is iterating as well. At the beginning of this year, Time published a piece entitled, “How Evangelicals Are Changing Their Minds on Gay Marriage.” The article alleges,
Phillip Holmes (@PhillipMHolmes) served as a content strategist at desiringGod.org. He is the Director of Communications at Reformed Theological Seminary and a finance coach and blogger through his site Money Untangled. He and his wife, Jasmine, have a son, and they are members of Redeemer Church in Jackson, Mississippi.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 142You Are My Refuge
142 A Maskil Of David, When He Was In The Cave. A Prayer.
3 When my spirit faints within me,
you know my way!
In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
4 Look to the right and see:
there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.
5 I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
6 Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors,
for they are too strong for me!
7 Bring me out of prison,
that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me,
for you will deal bountifully with me.
Spurgeon’s 15 Tips for a Deep and Effective Prayer Life
By Kevin Halloran 12/13/2017
Spurgeon knew the power of prayer and his need for prayer. When asked the secret of his influential preaching ministry, Charles Spurgeon frequently responded, “My people pray for me.”
The following tips and quotes on praying effectively come from a new volume called Encouraged to Pray: Classic Sermons on Prayer (Rich Theology Made Accessible).
1. Be specific in your asking. | “To make prayer of any value, there should be definite objects for which to plead. My brethren, we often ramble in our prayers after this, that, and the other, and we get nothing because in each we do not really desire anything.”
“Do not merely plead with God for sinners in general, but always mention some in particular. If you are a Sunday-school teacher, don’t simply ask that your class may be blessed, but pray for your children definitely by name before the Most High. And if there be a mercy in your household that you crave, don’t go in a round-about way, but be simple and direct in your pleadings with God.”
2. You must pray in faith. | “Unless I believe my prayer to be effectual it will not be, for on my faith will it to a great extent depend.”
I am a graduate of Taylor University (BA) and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (MDiv) and now serve with Leadership Resources Internationalstrengthening the worldwide church for biblical ministry through training pastors in biblical exposition. I’m on the Latin America team and work in the communications department. Learn more about my ministry.
I’ve been featured on The Gospel Coalition (in English and Spanish), the Leadership Resources Blog (where I serve), For the Church, ChurchLeaders.com, the Unlocking the Bible blog, The Gospel Project blog, and other places.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
12. On the Providence of God, in so far as conducive to the solid
instruction and consolation of believers (for, as to satisfying the
curiosity of foolish men, it is a thing which cannot be done, and ought
not to be attempted), enough would have been said, did not a few
passages remain which seem to insinuate, contrary to the view which we
have expounded, that the counsel of God is not firm and stable, but
varies with the changes of sublunary affairs. First, in reference to
the Providence of God, it is said that he repented of having made man
(Gen. 6:6), and of having raised Saul to the kingdom (1 Sam. 15:11),
and that he will repent of the evil which he had resolved to inflict on
his people as soon as he shall have perceived some amendment in them
(Jer. 18:8). Secondly, his decrees are sometimes said to be annulled.
He had by Jonah proclaimed to the Ninevites, "Yet forty days and
Nineveh shall be overthrown," but, immediately on their repentance, he
inclined to a more merciful sentence (Jonah 3:4-10). After he had, by
the mouth of Isaiah, given Hezekiah intimation of his death, he was
moved by his tears and prayers to defer it (Is. 38:15; 2 Kings 20:15).
Hence many argue that God has not fixed human affairs by an eternal
decree, but according to the merits of each individual, and as he deems
right and just, disposes of each single year, and day, and hour. As to
repentance, we must hold that it can no more exist in God than
ignorance, or error, or impotence. If no man knowingly or willingly
reduces himself to the necessity of repentance, we cannot attribute
repentance to God without saying either that he knows not what is to
happen, or that he cannot evade it, or that he rushes precipitately and
inconsiderately into a resolution, and then forthwith regrets it. But
so far is this from the meaning of the Holy Spirit, that in the very
mention of repentance he declares that God is not influenced by any
feeling of regret, that he is not a man that he should repent. And it
is to be observed, that, in the same chapter, both things are so
conjoined, that a comparison of the passages admirably removes the
appearance of contradiction. When it is said that God repented of
having made Saul king, the term change is used figuratively. Shortly
after, it is added, "The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent;
for he is not a man, that he should repent," (1 Sam. 15:29). In these
words, his immutability is plainly asserted without figure. Wherefore
it is certain that, in administering human affairs, the ordination of
God is perpetual and superior to every thing like repentance. That
there might be no doubt of his constancy, even his enemies are forced
to bear testimony to it. For, Balaam, even against his will, behaved to
break forth into this exclamation, "God is not a man, that he should
lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: has he said, and
shall he not do it? or has he spoken, and shall he not make it good?"
13. What then is meant by the term repentance? The very same that is meant by the other forms of expression, by which God is described to us humanly. Because our weakness cannot reach his height, any description which we receive of him must be lowered to our capacity in order to be intelligible. And the mode of lowering is to represent him not as he really is, but as we conceive of him. Though he is incapable of every feeling of perturbation, he declares that he is angry with the wicked. Wherefore, as when we hear that God is angry, we ought not to imagine that there is any emotion in him, but ought rather to consider the mode of speech accommodated to our sense, God appearing to us like one inflamed and irritated whenever he exercises Judgment, so we ought not to imagine any thing more under the term repentance than a change of action, men being wont to testify their dissatisfaction by such a change. Hence, because every change whatever among men is intended as a correction of what displeases, and the correction proceeds from repentance, the same term applied to God simply means that his procedure is changed. In the meantime, there is no inversion of his counsel or will, no change of his affection. What from eternity he had foreseen, approved, decreed, he prosecutes with unvarying uniformity, how sudden soever to the eye of man the variation may seem to be.
14. Nor does the Sacred History, while it relates that the destruction which had been proclaimed to the Ninevites was remitted, and the life of Hezekiah, after an intimation of death, prolonged, imply that the decrees of God were annulled. Those who think so labour under delusion as to the meaning of threatenings, which, though they affirm simply, nevertheless contain in them a tacit condition dependent on the result. Why did the Lord send Jonah to the Ninevites to predict the overthrow of their city? Why did he by Isaiah give Hezekiah intimation of his death? He might have destroyed both them and him without a message to announce the disaster. He had something else in view than to give them a warning of death, which might let them see it at a distance before it came. It was because he did not wish them destroyed but reformed, and thereby saved from destruction. When Jonah prophesies that in forty days Nineveh will be overthrown, he does it in order to prevent the overthrow. When Hezekiah is forbidden to hope for longer life, it is that he may obtain longer life. Who does not now see that, by threatening of this kind, God wished to arouse those to repentance whom he terrified, that they might escape the Judgment which their sins deserved? If this is so, the very nature of the case obliges us to supply a tacit condition in a simple denunciation. This is even confirmed by analogous cases. The Lord rebuking King Abimelech for having carried off the wife of Abraham, uses these words: "Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife." But, after Abimelech's excuse, he thus speaks: "Restore the man his wife, for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live; and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou and all that art thine," (Gen. 20:3, 7). You see that, by the first announcement, he makes a deep impression on his mind, that he may render him eager to give satisfaction, and that by the second he clearly explains his will. Since the other passages may be similarly explained, you must not infer from them that the Lord derogated in any respect from his former counsel, because he recalled what he had promulgated. When, by denouncing punishment, he admonishes to repentance those whom he wishes to spare, he paves the way for his eternal decree, instead of varying it one whit either in will or in language. The only difference is, that he does not express, in so many syllables, what is easily understood. The words of Isaiah must remain true, "The Lord of hosts has purposed, and who shall disannul it? And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?" (Isaiah 14:27).
 "Here the words of Cicero admirably apply:L Nec si ego quod tu sis sequutus, non perspicio, idcirco minus existimo te nihil sine summa ratione fecisse."
 See Salvian. in Tract. de Vero Judicio et Providentia Dei. Also Bernard. De Interiore Domo, cap. 25. Also Luther in Epist. ad Fratres Antwerpienses.
 Cic. de Fato. "Recte Chrysippus, tam futile est medicum adhibere, quam convalescere."--See Luther on Genesis 3:7, against those who thus abuse the doctrine of Predestination.
 Ps. 55:23; 1 Pet. 5:7; Ps. 91:1; Zech. 2:8; Isaiah 26:1; 29:15
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
A Note of Thanks for R.C. Sproul
By Joni Eareckson Tada 12/15/2017 1 day after R.C. Sproul's Passing
Fifty years ago, when I snapped my neck under the weight of a dive into shallow water, quadriplegia smashed me up against the study of God. Lying in bed paralyzed, I had hard-hitting questions such as, “God, who’s behind all this suffering, You or the devil? Are You permitting this or ordaining it? I’m still a young Christian. If You’re so loving, why treat Your children so meanly?”
A well-meaning friend gave me a copy of The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination by Dr. Loraine Boettner. It was weighty and I had to turn its pages with a mouth stick, but reading it helped. Yet, I wondered, “Isn’t there something or someone out there who explains things more simply?” That’s when this same friend popped into my cassette player a tape by Dr. R.C. Sproul. I was hooked.
All during the summer of 1971, I’d park my wheelchair on the back porch of our Maryland farmhouse and listen to either Dr. John Gerstner or R.C. Up until then, God’s overarching decrees seemed scary. But Dr. S, as I liked to call him, presented God’s sovereignty as a truly comforting doctrine. It enlivened my spirit and elevated my faith to think that God had chosen me for the furnace of affliction (Isa. 48:10). R.C. helped me see that God had chosen me to be a quadriplegic for good reasons—not only good, but noble.
Fast-forward from the back porch to Joni and Friends, a California-based global ministry I began in order to reach for Christ people with disabilities and their families. Through thousands of wheelchairs and Bibles that we deliver, through every U.S. or overseas family retreat we hold for special-needs families, my heart’s desire is to help others find the same comfort and encouragement in the sovereignty of God. I want other disabled people to see that when God chooses them for the furnace, it’s a calling. It’s a privilege. I have R.C. to thank for that vision.
And I’ve told him so. It’s what began a truly sweet friendship between my husband, Ken, and me and R.C. and Vesta. Throughout the years, R.C. often asked me to speak at Ligonier conferences, and I was always a little breathless at the prospect. As a laywoman—and as a woman in a wheelchair—I was keenly aware of the weighty responsibility of presenting from a Ligonier platform, especially with R.C. “sitting over there with his critical ear.” But he had to know I was simply parroting the many lessons I had learned from him over the years.
Click here to go to source
Joni Eareckson Tada Books:
- 1 Joni: An Unforgettable Story
- 2 A Spectacle of Glory: God's Light Shining through Me Every Day
- 3 A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty
- 4 When God Weeps
- 5 Pearls of Great Price: 366 Daily Devotional Readings
- 6 Diamonds in the Dust: 366 Sparkling Devotions
- 7 Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story
- 8 LIFETIME OF WISDOM by EARECKSON TADA JONI (2009-03-09)
- 9 Heaven: Your Real Home
- 10 Beyond Suffering Bible NLT: Where Struggles Seem Endless, God's Hope Is Infinite
- 11 Joni Eareckson Tada: Her Story
- 12 A Step Further
- 13 Finding God in Hidden Places
- 14 A Thankful Heart In A World Of Hurt By Joni Eareckson Tada
- 15 More Precious Than Silver: 366 Daily Devotional Readings
- 16 Hope...the Best of Things
- 17 The God I Love: A Lifetime of Walking with Jesus
- 18 O Come All Ye Faithful: Hymns of Adoration and Joy to Celebrate His Birth (Great Hymns of Our Faith)
- 19 Beside Bethesda: 31 Days Toward Deeper Healing
- 20 Diagnosed with Breast Cancer: Life after Shock
- 21 No Longer Alone pamphlet by Joni Eareckson Tada
- 22 A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty [Hardcover]  (Author) Joni Eareckson Tada
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 12/01/2016
Ideas have consequences. It is absolutely true that as a man thinks in his heart, so he is (Prov. 23:7). It is also true, however, that God is true, and every man a liar (Rom. 3:4). That is why the ideas we deny having are so often the ones that carry such difficult consequences. We say, for instance, that we believe Jesus died for our sins, that in Him we have complete forgiveness, that He remembers our sins no more, that our sins are as far from us as the east is from the west. But, when things are going well, while we would never speak such blasphemy, we seem to think that He must be quite pleased with us. And when things are going poorly, when we have to repent of our sins before Him, we seem to think that He stays angry with us. We say we are totally depraved, but, should anyone ever accuse us of an actual sin, we tend to react angrily, to defend our own honor. Perhaps that is why the proverb doesn’t say, “As a man confesses with his lips, so he is,” but rather, “as a man thinks in his heart.”
We would do well to recognize the frequent disconnect and the great gap between what we confess with our lips and what we actually believe. The mind ought to inform the heart, but it seems too often that our hearts overrule our minds. And that is the time to remember.
Consider Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. His exposition of the law of God is not something radically new. The notion that the law extends beyond our actions and covers the heart as well is already contained in the Ten Commandments as they were given. What, after all, is the commandment forbidding covetousness but the heart application of the command forbidding the ? It is no stretch to grasp that the command against murder would include forbidding murder in our hearts. Jesus was less revealing a new law and more reminding God’s people of the law as it had always been. He was encouraging His hearers to remember.
When our hearts and minds are out of sync, our calling is to bring them into sync, to actually believe what we say we believe. We are to remind ourselves of what we know to be true. When pride rears its ugly head and I begin to think that I somehow earn God’s favor, I need to remember the man who beat his breast, crying, “Lord be merciful to me, a sinner.” When despair overwhelms me and I begin to think that my heavenly Father is distant from me because of my sin, I need to remember that He loves me with an everlasting love, that nothing can take me from His hands.
In like manner, when Jesus told His hearers to cease their worrying about what they would eat or what they would wear and instead to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, this was not only not a new message, but it was also not one that would have shocked anyone. Of course, we shouldn’t worry about such comparatively petty things. Of course, our hearts and minds should be focused on the eternal, on those things that will out-last the final fire. We know that. If you were to ask a thousand evangelicals, “Which is more important, what you eat or wear, or the kingdom of God?” you would be hard pressed to find even one who would affirm the former. Yet, if you were to tap into the worries and fears that keep those same thousand people up at night, chances are it has more to do with their station in life, their circumstances, than the kingdom of God. We are a forgetful people, failing to remember not only all that God has already done for us but to remember all that He has promised us.
Because we are called to remember, we of all people should be students of our own history. We would better remember all that His Word teaches us if we were to remember that it is our Word, our story — that because we who believe are the sons and daughters of Father Abraham, the Word tells us about God’s grace to our family. We would do well to remember that church history is also our family story. It is the story of all God’s people across the centuries crying out, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner,” and going home justified.
Because we are called to remember, we of all people should likewise be students of our future. We would better remember all that His Word promises for those who are in Christ. We would remember that just as during those dark days when our Lord lay in His tomb, that every dark providence is all a part of His sure plan for absolute victory. We would remember that the kingdom we are called to seek is an everlasting kingdom, unshakable, unstoppable, that even the gates of hell will not prevail against it. We would remember that when all things are brought into subjection under Christ, He will present the whole redeemed and remade world back to His Father. And we would remember that because we have been given His righteousness, we have been made joint heirs with Him. Because we have been given His righteousness, we have been adopted into the very family of God, made the children of our heavenly Father.
If we remembered these things, would we ever fear over the petty things? Would we squabble over our reputations and standing? Remembering drives us to joy and thanksgiving, which in turn push us to fulfill our true purpose — to worship and praise the living God, our Father.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Fox's Book Of Martyrs (Chapter 22)
By John Foxe 1563"My constitution seemed destroyed, and in a few days I became so weak as to be hardly able to walk to Mr. Judson's prison. In this debilitated state, I set off in a cart for Ava, to procure medicines, and some suitable food, leaving the cook to supply my place. I reached the house in safety, and for two or three days the disorder seemed at a stand; after which it attacked me violently, that I had no hopes of recovery left-and my anxiety now was, to return to Oung-pen-la to die near the prison. It was with the greatest difficulty that I obtained the medicine chest from the governor, and then had no one to administer medicine. I however got at the laundanum, and by taking two drops at a time for several hours, it so far checked the disorder as to enable me to get on board a boat, though so weak that I could not stand, and again set off for Oung-pen-la. The last four miles were in that painful conveyance, the cart, and in the midst of the rainy season, when the mud almost buries the oxen. You may form some idea of a Burmese cart, when I tell you their wheels are not constructed like ours, but are simply round thick planks with a hole in the middle, through which a pole that supports the body is thrust.
"I just reached Oung-pen-la when my strength seemed entirely exhausted. The good native cook came out to help me into the house but so altered and emaciated was my appearance that the poor fellow burst into tears at the first sight. I crawled on the mat in the little room, to which I was confined for more than two months, and never perfectly recovered, until I came to the English camp. At this period when I was unable to take care of myself, or look after Mr. Judson we must both have died, had it not been for the faithful and affectionate care of our Bengalee cook. A common Bengalee cook will do nothing but the simple business of cooking; but he seemed to forget his caste, and almost his own wants, in his efforts to serve us. He would provide, cook, and carry your brother's food, and then return and take care of me. I have frequently known him not to taste of food until near night, in consequence of having to go so far for wood and water, and in order to have Mr. Judson's dinner ready at the usual hour. He never complained, never asked for his wages, and never f or a moment hesitated to go anywhere, or to perform any act we required. I take great pleasure in speaking of the faithful conduct of this servant, who is still with us, and I trust has been well rewarded for his services.
"Our dear little Maria was the greatest sufferer at this time, my illness depriving her of her usual nourishment, and neither a nurse nor a drop of milk could be procured in the village. By making presents to the jailers, I obtained leave for Mr. Judson to come out of prison, and take the emaciated creature around the village, to beg a little nourishment from those mothers who had young children. Her cries in the night were heartrending, when it was impossible to supply her wants. I now began to think the very affliction of Job had come upon me. When in health, I could bear the various trials and vicissitudes through which I was called to pass. But to be confined with sickness, and unable to assist those who were so dear to me, when in distress, was almost too much for me to bear; and had it not been for the consolations of religion, and an assured conviction that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I must have sunk under my accumulated sufferings. Sometimes our jailers seemed a little softened at our distress, and for several days together allowed Mr. Judson to come to the house, which was to me an unspeakable consolation. Then again they would be as iron-hearted in their demands as though we were free from sufferings, and in affluent circumstances. The annoyance, the extortions, and oppressions, to which we were subject, during our six months residence in Oung-pen-la, are beyond enumeration or description.
"The time at length arrived for our release from that detested place, the Oung-pen-la prison. A messenger from our friend, the governor of the north gate of the palace, who was formerly Koung-tone, Myoo-tsa, informed us that an order had been given, the vening before, in the palace, for Mr. Judson's release. On the same evening an official order arrived; and with a joyful heart I set about preparing for our departure early the following morning. But an unexpected obstacle occurred, which made us fear that I should still retained as a prisoner. The avaricious jailers, unwilling to lose their prey, insisted that as my name was not included in the order, I should not go. In vain I urged that I was not sent there as a prisoner, and that they had no authority over me-they still determined I should not go, and forbade the villagers from letting me a cart. Mr. Judson was then taken out of prison, and brought to the jailer's house, where, by promises and threatenings, he finally gained their consent, on condition that we would leave the remaining part of our provisions we had recently received from Ava.
"It was noon before we were allowed to depart. When we reached Amarapora, Mr. Judson was obliged to follow the guidance of the jailer, who conducted him to the governor of the city. Having made all necessary inquiries, the governor appointed another guard, which conveyed Mr. Judson to the courthouse in Ava, to which place he arrived some time in the night. I took my own course, procured a boat, and reached our house before dark.
"My first object the next morning was to go in search of our brother, and I had the mortification to meet him again in prison, though not the death prison. I went immediately to my old friend the governor of the city, who was now raised to the rank of a Woon-gyee. He informed me that Mr. Judson was to be sent to the Burmese camp, to act as translator and interpreter; and that he was put in confinement for a short time only, until his affairs were settled. Early the following morning I went to this officer again, who told me that Mr. Judson had that moment received twenty tickals from government, with orders to go immediately on board a boat for Maloun, and that he had given him permission to stop a few moments at the house, it being on his way. I hastened back to the house, where Mr. Judson soon arrived; but was allowed to remain only a short time, while I could prepare food and clothing for future use. He was crowded into a little boat, where he had not room sufficient to lie down, and where his exposure to the cold, damp nights threw him into a violent fever, which had nearly ended all his sufferings. He arrived at Maloun on the third day, where, ill as he was, he was obliged to enter immediately on the work of translating. He remained at Maloun six weeks, suffering as much as he had at any time in prison, excepting that he was not in irons, nor exposed to the insults of those cruel jailers.
"For the first fortnight after his departure, my anxiety was less than it had been at any time previous, since the commencement of our difficulties. I knew the Burmese officers at the camp would feel the value of Mr. Judson's services too much to allow their using any measures threatening his life. I thought his situation, also, would be much more comfortable than it really was-hence my anxiety was less. But my health, which had never been restored, since that violent attack at Oung-pen-la, now daily declined, until I was seized with the spotted fever, with all its attendant horrors. I knew the nature of the fever from its commencement; and from the shattered state of my constitution, together with the want of medical attendants, I concluded it must be fatal. The day I was taken, a Burmese nurse came and offered her services for Maria. This circumstance filled me with gratitude and confidence in God; for though I had so long and so constantly made efforts to obtain a person of this description, I had never been able; when at the very time I most needed one, and without any exertion, a voluntary offer was made.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Pray that God will open their heart
Change this Bob Gass
‘As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart.’
(Ac 16:14) 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. ESV
Some of us think that successful people are difficult to win to Christ because they don’t have the same needs as others. But they do. Everyone has an emptiness within them that only God can fill, and He wants to use you to fill it. Consider the story of Lydia. ‘One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth…As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She and her household were baptised, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed’ (vv. 14-15 NLT). Not only did Lydia respond to the gospel, she opened her home so that others could come and hear it too. In many cases it’s easier to reach successful people with the gospel. Why? Because they know that to be successful you must be open to new ideas and concepts. And they understand that in order to enjoy continued success, you must stay open to change. Don’t let the fact that someone is not your social peer keep you from telling them about Jesus. Note the words, ‘As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart.’ It’s your job to tell them, and it’s God’s job to open their heart! So sow the seed of His Word into their life when you have an opportunity, and believe that the ‘Lord of the harvest’ will do the rest.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Driven into Pennsylvania by the British, it was on this day, December 19, in the freezing winter of 1777, that the Continental Army set up camp at Valley Forge. Lacking supplies, soldiers died at the rate of twelve per day. General Washington, who was seen kneeling in prayer in the snow, recorded: “To see men without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lay on, without shoes, by which their marches might be traced by the blood from their feet… and at Christmas taking up their… quarters within a day’s march of the enemy… is a mark of patience and obedience which in my opinion can scarce be paralleled.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Chapter 19 December 19
Tell Betty that if you hadn't whisked me off onto the subject of repentance, I was just going to say the very thing she blames me for not saying. I was going to say that in adoration, more than in any other kind of prayer, the public or communal act is of the utmost importance. One would lose incomparably more by being prevented from going to church on Easter than on Good Friday. And, even in private, adoration should be communal-"with angels and archangels and all the company," all the transparent publicity of Heaven. On the other hand, I find that the prayers to which I can most fully attend in church are always those I have most often used in my bedroom.
I deny, with some warmth, the charge of being "choosy about services." My whole point was that any form will do me if only I'm given time to get used to it. The idea of allowing myself to be put off by mere inadequacy-an ugly church, a gawky server, a badly turned-out celebrant-is horrible. On the contrary, it constantly surprises me how •little these things matter, as if
never anything can be amiss
When simpleness and duty tender it.
One of the golden Communions of my life was in a Nissen hut. Sometimes the cockney accent of a choir has a singularly touching quality. A tin mug for a chalice, if there were good reason for it, would not distress me in the least. (I wonder what sort of crockery was used at the Last Supper?)
You ask me why I've never written anything about the Holy Communion. For the very simple reason that I am not good enough at Theology. I have nothing to offer. Hiding any light I think I've got under a bushel is not my besetting sin! I am much more prone to prattle unseasonably. But there is a point at which even I would gladly keep silent. The trouble is that people draw conclusions even from silence. Someone said in print the other day that I seemed to "admit rather than welcome" the sacraments.
I wouldn't like you and Betty to think the same. But as soon as I try to tell you anything more, I see another reason for silence. It is almost impossible to state the negative effect which certain doctrines have on me-my failure to be nourished by them-without seeming to mount an attack against them. But the very last thing I want to do is to unsettle in the mind of any Christian, whatever his denomination, the concepts-for him traditional-by which he finds it profitable to represent to himself what is happening when he receives the bread and wine. I could wish that no definitions had ever been felt to be necessary; and, still more, that none had been allowed to make divisions between churches.
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd'st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.
--- Charlotte Elliott
It is a blessing to die for a cause,
because you can so easily die for nothing.
--- Andrew Young
Anger is never without a reason,
but seldom with a good one.
--- Benjamin Franklin
Nearly all men can withstand adversity; If you want to test a man's character, give him power.
--- Abraham Lincoln
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
four of stately gait—
30 the lion, mightiest of beasts,
which turns aside for no one;
31 the greyhound, the billy-goat
and the king when his army is with him.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
What to Concentrate On
I came not to send peace, but a sword. --- Matthew 10:34.
Never be sympathetic with the soul whose case makes you come to the conclusion that God is hard. God is more tender than we can conceive, and every now and again He gives us the chance of being the rugged one that He may be the tender One. If a man cannot get through to God it is because there is a secret thing he does not intend to give up—‘I will admit I have done wrong, but I no more intend to give up that thing than fly.’ It is impossible to deal sympathetically with a case like that: we have to get right deep down to the root until there is antagonism and resentment against the message. People want the blessing of God, but they will not stand the thing that goes straight to the quick.
If God has had His way with you, your message as His servant is merciless insistence on the one line, cut down to the very root, otherwise there will be no healing. Drive home the message until there is no possible refuge from its application. Begin to get at people where they are until you get them to realize what they lack, and then erect the standard of Jesus Christ for their lives—‘We never can be that!’ Then drive it home: ‘Jesus Christ says you must.’ ‘But how can we be?’ ‘You cannot, unless you have a new Spirit’ (Luke 11:13).
There must be a sense of need before your message is of any use. Thousands of people are happy without God in this world. If I was happy and moral till Jesus came, why did He come? Because that kind of happiness and peace is on a wrong level; Jesus Christ came to send a sword through every peace that is not based on a personal relationship to Himself.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
In this desert of language
we find ourselves in,
with the sign-post with the word 'God'
and the distance ...?
Pity the simpleton
with his mouth open crying:
How far is it to God?
And the wiseacre says: Where you were,
You know that smile
as the machine that thinks it has outpaced
I am one of those
who sees from the arms opened
to embrace the future
the shadow of the Cross fall
on the smoothest of surfaces
causing me to stumble.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. --- Acts 17:27.
That there is much more near us than we understand or know, that we are every hour on the brink of doing things and being things that we never do or are gives life a restlessness and inspiration. Phillips Brooks, “The Nearness of God,” downloaded from the Web site The Unofficial Episcopal Preaching Resource Page, at www.edola.org/clergy/episcopalpreaching.html, accessed Aug. 21, 2001. We seem to ourselves, sometimes, like people who walk in the dark up and down a large, richly furnished house.
There comes in life to most people a sense of fumbling, a consciousness of this vague living in the dark. And out of it there come the universal characteristics of the human race—the unquenched hope, the sense that nothing is quite impossible, the self-pity and pathos with which people regard their own lives when they are thoughtful, the self-reproach that lies in wait just under the surface of our complacent vanity. All of these come from people vaguely knowing that they are always missing the things that they need most, things lying in the dark that they cannot see.
And suppose it were possible for a being with a sight that could see through the darkness to watch our fumbling. What would his feeling be about this humanity forever missing helps and chances it needed, often only by a finger’s breadth? How solemn his sight of us would be! He saw how hearts came and went in this world, always just touching on, just missing, the great comforting truths of a personal immortality, till Christ with his Gospel brought it to light. He has seen how souls have gone through life burdened, distressed, perplexed, when the river flowed so close that it seemed as if they could not move without finding their hot and tired souls bathed in its rich waters—the faith they wanted, the Water of Life that their deaths were crying out for.
What must be the feeling of such a being about human life? Pity and awe. A blended sense of the vast endowment humanity has and, at the same time, of the terrible thing it is to miss so much. There is not merely pity for the sinner who can be so wicked, but reverence for the child of God who might be so good, blended into that perfect unity of saving love with which Jesus stoops to lift even the vilest and most insignificant of us out of our sin.
--- Phillips Brooks
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Cards and Dice
Hugh Latimer, English Reformer, was asked to preach on December 19, 1529 at St. Edward’s in Cambridge. The students loved playing cards, so Latimer decided to preach about the cards God deals us, using the example of John the Baptist. He suggested that we must all answer the question the Jews asked John—Who are you? Without Christ, the answer is: “I am under condemnation because of sin.” But through repentance and forgiveness, we can answer, “I am a Christian.” Then as we study the New Testament, it is like turning over cards, one at a time, to learn how God wants us to live.
Latimer ascended the little hexagonal pulpit in the church on December 19. His clear voice pealed out the Scripture in Latin, translated it into English, then plunged into his sermon.
A friar named Buckenham preached a counter sermon using the idea of a pair of dice. He called it “Cinque-quatre”—Five, Four—saying that God’s dice have landed with five on one and four on the other. He attacked the Reformation using five Scripture passages and four church doctors: Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory. Buckenham ridiculed Latimer’s call for an English translation of Scripture. “The common man will not understand the figurative language of Scripture,” Buckenham asserted. For example, when the Bible speaks of plucking out one’s eye, some may do it literally.
Latimer assured Buckenham that the English were smart enough to understand metaphors. To laughter, he said, “For example, when a painter pictures a fox in a friar’s cowl, no one supposes an actual fox preaching. What he means is the hypocrisy, craft, and subtle dissimulation that often lie hidden in a friar’s cowl.”
John Foxe later said: Friar Buckenham with this sermon was so dashed that never after he durst peep out of the pulpit against Master Latimer.
Now that God has accepted us because Christ sacrificed his life’s blood, we will also be kept safe from God’s anger. Even when we were God’s enemies, he made peace with us, because his Son died for us. Yet something even greater than friendship is ours. Now that we are at peace with God, we will be saved by his Son’s life.
--- Romans 5:9,10.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
God Is In The Manger (Day 2)
Human Beings Become Human
Because God Became Human
The figure of Jesus Christ takes shape in human beings. Human beings do not take on an independent form of their own. Rather, what gives them form and maintains them in their new form is always and only the figure of Jesus Christ himself. It is therefore not an imitation, not a repetition of his form, but their own form that takes shape in human beings. Human beings are not transformed into a form that is foreign to them, not into the form of God, but into their own form, a form that belongs to them, not into the form of God, but into their own form, a form that belongs to them and is essential to them. Human beings become human because God became human, but human beings do not become God. They could not and cannot bring about that change in their form, but God himself changes his form into human form, so that human beings -- though not becoming God -- can become human.
In Christ the form of human beings before God was created anew. It was not a matter of place, of time, of climate, of race, of the individual, of society, of religion, or of taste, but rather a question of the life of humanity itself that it recognized in Christ its image and its hope. What happened to Christ happened to humanity.
The whole Christian story is strange. Frederick Buechner describes the Incarnation as "a kind of vast joke whereby the creator of the ends of the earthcomes among us in diapers." He concludes, "Until we too have taken the idea of the God-man seriously enough to be scandalized by it, we have not taken it as seriously as it demands to be taken.
But we have taken the idea as seriously as a child can. America is far from spiritually monolithic, but the vast backdrop of our culture is Christian, and for most of us it is the earliest faith we know. The "idea of the God-man" is not strange or scandalous, because it first swam in milk and butter on the top of our oatmeal decades ago. At that age, many things were strange, though most were more immediately palpable. A God-filled baby in a pile of straw was a plesant image, but somewhat theoretical compared with the heart-stopping exhilaration of a visit from Santa Claus. The way a thunderstorm ripped the night sky, the hurtling power of the automobile Daddy drove so bravely, the rapture of ice cream -- how could the distant Incarnation compare with those?
We grew up with the Jesus story, until we outgrew it. The last day we walked out of Sunday School may be the last day we seriously engaged this faith.
At the Corner of East and Now: A Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy
"The Government upon the Shoulders of a Child," Christmas 1940
(1 Co 1:11–12) 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
“A great crisis experience of Jesus Christ, as important and eternally valuable as this is, is not a shortcut to emotional health. It is not a quickie cure for personality problems.”
“Isn’t it true that by their fruits ye shall know them? (Matt. 7:16) Yes, but it is also true that by their roots you shall understand, and not judge them.”
Healing for Damaged Emotions (David Seamands Series)
And The Myrtle Trees
The Bible opens up a whole new world to its readers; one with which it often finds itself unfamiliar. The biblical world is populated by spiritual beings-angels, cherubim, demons and monsters. Because our own world is so different from the ancient one, we will have trouble appreciating the horror that these images aroused in those who heard about them. The ancient Near Eastern cultural background to the imagery of the Bible is particularly evident in its references to monsters.
In the Old Testament three terms are found for monsters that symbolize the threat to the divine order of the world: Leviathan (liwyātān), Rahab (rahab) and dragon or sea monster (tannîn). Rahab (boisterous one) is not found in any text outside the Bible; the biblical parallels suggest it is another name for Leviathan. Leviathan is described as the coiling and twisting serpent (Is 27:1), as is Rahab (Job 26:12–13); Rahab is also parallel to dragon (Is 51:9), a term also used for Leviathan in Isaiah 27:1. This imagery is significant for understanding biblical language about creation, God’s wars against the nations, and the ultimate conflict that will lead to a new created order.
The Threat of the Sea Monster. In the ancient Near East a monster is a common symbol to represent a watery chaos that threatens life in the world. The chaos monster is variously depicted as a composite creature (half lion and half eagle), as a serpent or as a seven-headed monster. In a cylinder seal from Mari in the Akkadian Period (2350–2150 B.C.), a god (possibly El) is seated on a mountain in the midst of the sources of the two oceans. Two goddesses embodying vegetation rise out of the two rivers that originate at the foot of the mountain, while another god (possibly Baal-Hadad, god of the storm) combats the unruly waters with his spear. In a Syrian cylinder seal (18th-17th centuries B.C.) the tree of life, depicting the world, is attacked by a chaos serpent, which is killed by Baal-Hadad as he strides over the mountains brandishing a mace. In a Hittite limestone relief the coiled fiery serpent, whose body depicts the breaking of the mighty waves, is attacked by the god of storm and fertility with the help of the celestial rain gods. In a gray stone cylinder seal from the Akkadian period, two gods attack a seven-headed dragon; three of the seven heads are limp, one is being attacked, and three other heads hiss dangerously. The flames rising from the dragon’s back indicate that he simultaneously symbolizes searing heat and destructive masses of water.
In Egypt the monstrous serpent Apophis is the embodiment of the dark sea, the Evening clouds and the Morning haze. A papyrus of the twenty-first dynasty (1085–950 B.C.) portrays the sun god Re at the point of leaving the sky; a serpent stylized as wild waves pits himself against Re but is rendered harmless by Seth, the helper of Re. Helpful jackal and cobra demons draw the ship of the sun across the sluggish floods of the netherworld. In the ancient Near East the empirical world points beyond its superficial reality to spheres of divine intensive life and bottomless devastating lostness. The symbolism of the chaos threat indicates that there was no ultimate basis for security in the present sphere of existence.
The ancient Near Eastern depictions of creation provide a background for its iconography and language. The Egyptian view is known only from fragments in the alien setting of texts of the dead or from hymns and similar texts. There are numerous and varied Egyptian conceptions of creation from the primal sea, the Nun, which was unbounded, unmoved and full of potential fertility without being creative. Four pairs of gods, whose names vary, embody the world before creation: unboundedness, lightlessness, timelessness and nothingness. All take part in creating from the sea, beginning with a first piece of firm land, the “primal hill.” In another version a god flew over the water in the form of a bird and laid the primal egg upon it. Very little is said about the creation of humans, other than that they arose out of the creators’ tears.
The Akkadian creation epic Enu̱ma elish (“When on High”), consisting of almost 900 lines on seven tablets, introduces us to the battle with chaos in creation. It first reports the creation of the gods by the primal couple Apsuï (primeval sweet-water ocean) and Tiaïmat (salt water ocean), whose waters mingled in an immense undefined mass. The uproar among the younger gods robbed aged Apsuï of his repose, and he decides to destroy them; but he encounters the opposition of Tiaïmat. Apsuï is killed, and Tiaïmat then seeks to take vengeance for her consort. Marduk enters into combat with Tiaïmat and out of her slain body creates the cosmos, the heavens and the earth. As the reward for his victory, he is made lord over the gods and the cosmos. In this version of creation the primeval waters are a dangerous and threatening force.
A variation of the battle with the sea is found in the Ugaritic Baal myth (c. 15th century B.C.). The reconstruction of the epic is uncertain due to the fragmentary state of the tablets, but it seems to consist of six tablets that follow the cycle of Baal according to the annual seasons, beginning in the fall. If this is correct, Baal, the god of the storm and fertility, loses his rule to Yam (sea), the god of the winter storms. Baal enters into battle with Yam, gains the victory and builds a palace for his rule, providing for the spring rains. Baal then succumbs to Mot (death), the season of summer heat and harvest. Finally Baal escapes the realm of the netherworld and again ascends his throne at the time of the new year. The new year is a microcosmic reflection of the first day of creation and may be regarded as a repetition of the conquering of the primordial chaos.
Myth and ritual in the ancient Near East in similar ways portray the threat of chaos to the ordered fertility of creation. It is possible that elements of the Baal myth have influenced the Babylonian epic of creation, which is a composite of various influences. Various similarities exist between Baal’s battle with the sea and the battle of Marduk with Tiaïmat: both incorporate elements of the storm, and the name Marduk seems to have the meaning “son of the storm.” In the Syrian (Ugaritic) texts there is no mention of the splitting of the sea or the creating of heaven and earth out of it as in the Mesopotamian epic. The sea is considered a continuous danger in present times, as it was when the world was created; the enemy is presently an entity on earth. It is this distinct language and imagery of the Ugaritic texts that is found in the Bible to describe God’s providence in creation.
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - December 19
“The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord." Proverbs 16:33.
If the disposal of the lot is the Lord’s whose is the arrangement of our whole life? If the simple casting of a lot is guided by him, how much more the events of our entire life—especially when we are told by our blessed Saviour: “The very hairs of your head are all numbered: not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father.” It would bring a holy calm over your mind, dear friend, if you were always to remember this. It would so relieve your mind from anxiety, that you would be the better able to walk in patience, quiet, and cheerfulness as a Christian should. When a man is anxious he cannot pray with faith; when he is troubled about the world, he cannot serve his Master, his thoughts are serving himself. If you would “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” all things would then be added unto you. You are meddling with Christ’s business, and neglecting your own when you fret about your lot and circumstances. You have been trying “providing” work and forgetting that it is yours to obey. Be wise and attend to the obeying, and let Christ manage the providing. Come and survey your Father’s storehouse, and ask whether he will let you starve while he has laid up so great an abundance in his garner? Look at his heart of mercy; see if that can ever prove unkind! Look at his inscrutable wisdom; see if that will ever be at fault. Above all, look up to Jesus Christ your Intercessor, and ask yourself, while he pleads, can your Father deal ungraciously with you? If he remembers even sparrows, will he forget one of the least of his poor children? “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
My soul, rest happy in thy low estate,
Nor hope nor wish to be esteem’d or great;
To take the impress of the Will Divine,
Be that thy glory, and those riches thine.
Evening - December 19
“And there was no more sea.” --- Revelation 21:1.
Scarcely could we rejoice at the thought of losing the glorious old ocean: the new heavens and the new earth are none the fairer to our imagination, if, indeed, literally there is to be no great and wide sea, with its gleaming waves and shelly shores. Is not the text to be read as a metaphor, tinged with the prejudice with which the Oriental mind universally regarded the sea in the olden times? A real physical world without a sea it is mournful to imagine, it would be an iron ring without the sapphire which made it precious. There must be a spiritual meaning here. In the new dispensation there will be no division—the sea separates nations and sunders peoples from each other. To John in Patmos the deep waters were like prison walls, shutting him out from his brethren and his work: there shall be no such barriers in the world to come. Leagues of rolling billows lie between us and many a kinsman whom to-night we prayerfully remember, but in the bright world to which we go there shall be unbroken fellowship for all the redeemed family. In this sense there shall be no more sea. The sea is the emblem of change; with its ebbs and flows, its glassy smoothness and its mountainous billows, its gentle murmurs and its tumultuous roarings, it is never long the same. Slave of the fickle winds and the changeful moon, its instability is proverbial. In this mortal state we have too much of this; earth is constant only in her inconstancy, but in the heavenly state all mournful change shall be unknown, and with it all fear of storm to wreck our hopes and drown our joys. The sea of glass glows with a glory unbroken by a wave. No tempest howls along the peaceful shores of paradise. Soon shall we reach that happy land where partings, and changes, and storms shall be ended! Jesus will waft us there. Are we in him or not? This is the grand question.
Morning and Evening
WHILE BY OUR SHEEP
German carol, Translated by Theodore Baker, 1851–1934
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:20)
It was a cold, clear night. The stars twinkled above and an air of peaceful serenity settled calmly over the field outside of Bethlehem. The fire was burning low as the shepherds sprawled out to rest among their sheep. “What is the meaning of that star?” asked one of the younger boys. As some turned to look, the star seemed to sparkle with a glorious glow, almost hanging over Bethlehem. Then suddenly they were blinded by a brilliant light! They cried out in fright and hid their faces on the ground. The consoling voice of an angel calmed their spirits as they listened in rapture to the blessed announcement of the long-awaited Messiah. How great was their joy!
Have you ever wondered why these simple, uncouth shepherds without wealth, power, or social position were the first to receive heaven’s glorious message? Prophecy foretold that salvation would be offered first to Israel. Thus the Jewish shepherds were allowed to adore the Savior before the arrival of the Gentile wise men. Perhaps the humble shepherds were also chosen to receive the angels’ message because God wanted to send His only Son to be associated with the seemingly unimportant of this world rather than among the proud and wealthy. Also God knew that these lowly shepherds would receive His news of salvation with open hearts and would return with great joy to share what they had heard and seen.
Originating as it does from 17th century Germany, this vivid description of the first Christmas night reminds us of the various lands and cultures that have provided our many lovely carols, giving us a rich musical and spiritual heritage.
While by our sheep we watched at night, glad tidings bro’t an angel bright:
There shall be born, so he did say, in Bethlehem a Child today:
There shall the Child lie in a stall, this Child who shall redeem us all:
This gift of God we’ll cherish well—Jesus, our Lord Emmanuel:
Refrain: How great our joy! (Great our joy!) Joy, joy, joy! (Joy, joy, joy!) Praise we the Lord in heav’n on high! (Praise we the Lord in heav’n on high!)
For Today: Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 31:10; Luke 2:8–20
Take your place with the shepherds when the heavenly announcement was given. Move with them to the manger and worship in awe. Return with the song of praise upon your lips (hear the gentle echo in the night’s stillness). Share your joy with others.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
2. It would make us diligent in worship. The consideration of God, as the Supreme Lord, is the foundation of all religion: “Our Father, which art in heaven,” prefaceth the Lord’s prayer; “Father” is a name of authority; “in heaven,” the place where he hath fixed his throne, notes his government; not “my Father,” but “our Father,” notes the extent of this authority. In all worship we acknowledge the object of our worship our Lord, and ourselves his vassals; if we bear a sense that he is our Sovereign King, it would draw us to him in every exigence, and keep us with him in a reverential posture, in every address; when we come, we should be careful not to violate his right, but render him the homage due to his royalty. We should not appear before him with empty souls, but filled with holy thoughts: we should bring him the best of our flock, and present him with the prime of our strength; were we sensible we hold all of him, we should not withhold anything from him which is more worthy than another. Our hearts would be framed into an awful regard of him, when we consider that glorious and “fearful name, the Lord our God” (Deut. 28:58). We should look to our feet when we enter into his house; if we considered him in heaven upon his throne, and ourselves on earth at his footstool (Eccles. 5:2), lower before him than a worm before an angel, it would hinder garnishness and lightness. The Jews, saith Capel, on 1 Tim. 1:17, repeat this expression, מלך העולם, King of worlds, or Eternal King; probably the first original of it might be to stake them down from wandering. When we consider the majesty of God, clothed with a robe of light, sitting upon his high throne, adorned with his royal ensigns, we should not enter into the presence of so great a Majesty with the sacrifice of fools, with light motions and foolish thoughts, as if he were one of our companions to be drolled with. We should not hear his word as if it were the voice of some ordinary peasant. The consideration of majesty would engender reverence in our service; it would also make us speak of God with honor and respect, as of a great and glorious king, and not use defaming expressions of him, as if he were an infamous being. And were he considered as a terrible majesty, he would not be frequently solicited by some to pronounce a damnation upon them upon every occasion.
3. It would make us charitable to others. Since he is our Lord, the great Proprietor of the world, it is fit he should have a part of our goods, as well as our time: he being the Lord both of our goods and time. The Lord is to be honored with our substance (Prov. 3:9); kings were not to be approached to without a present; tribute is due to kings: but because he hath no need of any from us to bear up his state, maintain the charge of his wars, or pay his military officers and hosts, it is a debt due to him to acknowledge him in his poor, to sustain those that are a part of his substance; though he stands in no need of it himself, yet the poor, that we have always with us, do; as a seventh part of our weekly time, so some part of our weekly gains, are due to him. There was to be a weekly laying by in store somewhat of what God had prospered them, for the relief of others (1 Cor. 16:1, 2); the quantity is not determined, that is left to every man’s conscience, “according as God hath prospered him” that week. If we did consider God as the Donor and Proprietor, we should dispose of his gifts according to the design of the true owner, and act in our places as stewards entrusted by him, and not purse up his part, as well as our own, in our coffers. We should not deny him a small quit rent, as an acknowledgement that we have a greater income from him; we should be ready to give the inconsiderable pittance he doth require of us, as an acknowledgment of his propriety, as well as liberality.
4. It would make us watchful, and arm us against all temptations. Had Eve stuck to her first argument against the serpent, she had not been instrumental to that destruction which mankind yet feel the smart of (Gen. 3:3): “God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it;” the great Governor of the world hath laid his sovereign command upon us in this point. The temptation gained no ground till her heart let go the sense of this for the pleasure of her eye and palate. The repetition of this, the great Lord of the world hath said or ordered, had both unargumented and disarmed the tempter. A sense of God’s dominion over us would discourage a temptation, and put it out of countenance; it would bring us with a vigorous strength to beat it back to a retreat. If this were as strongly urged as the temptation, it would make the heart of the tempted strong, and the motion of the tempter feeble.
5. It would make us entertain afflictions as they ought to be entertained, viz., with a respect to God. When men make light of any affliction from God, it is a contempt of his sovereignty, as to contemn the frown, displeasure, and check of a prince, is an affront to majesty: it is as if they did not care a straw what God did with them, but dare him to do his worst. There is a “despising the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:17). To be unhumbled under his hand, is as much, or more, affront to him, than to be impatient under it. Afflictions must be entertained as a check from heaven, as a frown from the great Monarch of the world; under the feeling of every stroke, we are to acknowledge his sovereignty and bounty; to despise it, is to make light of his authority over us; as to despise his favors is to make light of his kindness to us. A sense of God’s dominion would make us observe every check from him, and not diminish his authority by casting off a due sense of his correction.
6. This dominion of God would make us resign up ourselves to God in everything. He that considers himself a thing made by God, a vassal under his authority, would not expostulate with him, and call him to an account why he hath dealt so or so with him. It would stab the vitals of all pleas against him. We should not then contest with him, but humbly lay our cause at his feet, and say with Eli, (1 Sam. 3:18), “It is the Lord, let him do what seems good.” We should not commence a suit against God, when he doth not answer our prayers presently, and send the mercy we want upon the wings of the wind; he is the Lord, the Sovereign. The consideration of this would put an end to our quarrels with God; should I expect that the Monarch of the world should wait upon me; or I, a poor worm, wait upon him? Must I take state upon me before the throne of heaven, and expect the King of kings should lay by his sceptre, to gratify my humor? Surely Jonah thought God no more than his fellow, or his vassal, at that time when he told him to his face he did well to be angry, as though God might not do what he pleased with so small a thing as a gourd; he speaks as if he would have sealed a lease of ejectment, to exclude him from any propriety in anything in the world.
7. This dominion of God would stop our vain curiosity. When Peter was desirous to know the fate of John, the beloved disciple, Christ answereth no more than this: (John 21:22), “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.” Consider your duty, and lay aside your curiosity, since it is my pleasure not to reveal it. The sense of God’s absolute dominion would silence many vain disputes in the world. What if God will not reveal this or that? the manner and method of his resolves should humble the creature under intruding inquiries.
Use V. Of exhortation.
1. The doctrine of the dominion of God may teach us humility. We are never truly abased, but by the consideration of the eminence and excellency of the Deity. Job never thought himself so pitiful a thing, so despicable a creature, as after God’s magnificent declamation upon the theme of his own sovereignty (Job 42:5, 6). When God’s name is regarded as the most excellent and sovereign name in all the earth, then is the soul in the fittest temper to lie low; and cry out, What is man, that so great a Majesty should be mindful of him? When Abraham considers God as the supreme Judge of all the earth, he then owns “himself but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:25, 27). Indeed, how can vile and dusty man vaunt before God, when angels, far more excellent creatures, cannot stand before him, but with a veil on their faces? How little a thing is man in regard of all the earth! How mean a thing is the earth in regard of the vaster heavens!
How poor a thing is the whole world in comparison of God! How pitiful a thing is man, if compared with so excellent a Majesty! There is as great a distance between God and man, as between being and not being; and the more man considers the Divine royalty, the more disesteem he will have of himself; it would make him stoop and disrobe himself, and fall low before the throne of the King of kings, throwing down before his throne any crown he gloried in (Rev. 4:10).
(1). In regard of authority. How unreasonable is pride in the presence of majesty! How foolish is it for a country justice of peace to think himself as great as his prince that commissioned him! How unreasonable is pride in the presence of the greatest sovereignty! What, is human greatness before Divine? The stars discover no light when the sun appears, but in a humble posture withdraw in their lesser beams, to give the sole glory of enlightening the world to the sun, who is, as it were, the sovereign of those stars, and imparts a light unto them. The greatest prince is infinitely less, if compared with God, than the meanest scullion in his kitchen can be before him. As the wisdom, goodness, and holiness of a man is a mere mote compared to the goodness and holiness of God, so is the authority of a man a mere trifle in regard of the sovereignty of God: and who but a simple child would be proud of a mote or trifle? Let man be as great as he can, and command others, he is still a subject to One greater than himself. Pride would then vanish like smoke at the serious consideration of this sovereignty. One of the kings of this country did very handsomely shame the flattery of his courtiers, that cried him up as lord of sea and land, by ordering his chair to be set on the sand of the sea shore, when the tide was coming in, and commanding the waters not to touch his feet, which when they did without any regard to his authority, he took occasion thereby to put his flatterers out of countenance, and instruct himself in a lesson of humility. [See,] saith he, [how I rule all things, when so mean a thing as the water will not obey me!] It is a ridiculous pride that the Turk and Persian discover in their swelling titles. What poor sovereigns are they, that cannot command a cloud, give out an effectual order for a drop of rain, in a time of drought, or cause the bottles of heaven to turn their mouth another way in a time of too much moisture! Yet their own prerogatives are so much in their minds, that they jostle out all thoughts of the supreme prerogative of God, and give thereby occasion to frequent rebellions against him.
(2). In regard of propriety. And this doctrine is no less an abatement of pride in the highest, as well as in the meanest; it lowers pride in point of propriety, as well as in point of authority. Is any proud of his possessions? how many lords of those possessions have gone before you! how many are to follow you! Your dominion lasts but a short time, too short to be a cause of any pride and glory in it. God by a sovereign power can take you from them, or them from you, when he pleaseth. The traveller refresheth himself in the heat of summer under a shady tree; how many have done so before him the same day he knows not, and how many will have the benefit after before night comes, he is as much ignorant of; he, and the others that went before him and follow after him, use it for their refreshment, but none of them can say, that they are the lords of it; the property is invested in some other person, whom perhaps they know not. The propriety of all you have is in God, not truly in yourselves. Doth not that man deserve scorn from you, who will play the proud fool in gay clothes and attire, which are known to be none of his own, but borrowed? Is it not the same case with every proud man, though he hath a property in his goods by the law of the land? Is anything you have your own truly? Is it not lent you by the great Lord? Is it not the same vanity in any of you, to be proud of what you have as God’s loan to you, as for such a one to be proud of what he hath borrowed of man? And do you not make yourselves as ridiculous to angels and good men, who know that though it is yours in opposition to man, yet it is not yours in opposition to God? they are granted you only for your use, as the collar of esses and sword, and other ensigns of the chief magistrate in the city, pass through many hands in regard of the use of them, but the propriety remains in the community and body of the city: or as the silver plate of a person that invites you to a feast is for your use during the time of the invitation. What ground is there to be proud of those things you are not the absolute lords and proprietors of, but only have the use of them granted to you during the pleasure of the Sovereign of the world!
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