The First BeastRevelation 13 1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. 2 And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. 4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”
5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear:
10 If anyone is to be taken captive,
to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword,
with the sword must he be slain.
The Second Beast11 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13 It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. 16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.
The Lamb and the 144,000Revelation 14 1 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.
The Messages of the Three Angels6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” 8 Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”
9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”
12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
The Harvest of the Earth14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.
The Seven Angels with Seven PlaguesRevelation 15 1 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.
2 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. 3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
4 Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
The Seven Bowls of God’s WrathRevelation 16 1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.”
2 So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
3 The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.
4 The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say,
“Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,
for you brought these judgments.
6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
and you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!”
“Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
true and just are your judgments!”
10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.
12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 13 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. 14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) 16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
The Seventh Bowl17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.
What I'm Reading
Three M’s That Naturalism Can’t Provide
By J. Warner Wallace 2/17/2017
Everyone has a worldview; all of us experience and interpret the world through a collection of beliefs that guide our understanding. As an atheist, I accounted for my experiences through the lens of naturalism. I believed everything I experienced and observed could be explained in terms of natural causes and laws. I never thought deeply about the inconsistencies in my view of the world, or the fact that my naturalism failed to explain three characteristics of my daily experience:
If naturalism is true, some form of physicalism or materialism must rule the day. The “problem of mind” (as philosophers and researchers commonly describe it) is only a “problem” because the material limitations of naturalism strain to account for immaterial consciousness. Naturalism can explain the existence of the brain, but little more. Our “minds” are an illusion created by the physical processes that are occurring in our material brains. But if this is the case, our thoughts are merely the result of a series of physical causes (and resulting effects). You might believe you are thinking freely about what you just read, but in reality your “thoughts” are simply the consequences of neural “dominoes” falling, one against the next. In a world of strict causal physicalism, free will (and freely reasoned thoughts) are simply an illusion.
If naturalism is true, morality is nothing more than a matter of opinion. All of us, as humans, have simply come to embrace those cultural or personal mores that best promote the survival of the species. There is no transcendent, objective moral truth. Instead, cultures merely embrace the values and moral principles that “work” for them and have resulted in the flourishing of their particular people group. If this is the case, one group of evolved humans has no business trying to tell another evolved group what is truly right or wrong from a moral perspective. After all, each group has successfully arrived at their particular level of development by embracing their own accepted moral standards. Arguments over which moral truths provide for greater human flourishing are simply subjective disagreements; there is no transcendent, objective standard that can adjudicate such disagreements from a naturalistic perspective.
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.
God Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far
By Tony Reinke 01/02/17
John Newton’s hymn, “Amazing Grace,” is the most famous New Year’s Day hymn in Church history. Newton first unveiled the destined classic to his rural congregation on January 1, 1773.
The entire hymn is closely modeled after 1 Chronicles 17, a chapter that speaks of King David’s past, present, and future. Newton does the same, reflecting on past grace, present grace, and the hope of future grace. It was a fitting way to bring in the New Year, and it was his annual pattern.
At the start of every year, Newton set aside a day to reflect on life. He was at one time a hardened sailor in the slave trade. He was broken and humbled and redeemed. And he was aware of the ongoing grace upholding his life. And his future was completely in the hands of God’s mercy, too. Like David, Newton saw grace in 3D — past, present, and future.
New Year’s was a special time of reflection and worship, and the practice was embedded into his personal disciplines. It became a hallmark of his pastoral work. He penned new hymns and sermons and personal letters every year to urge his friends to take time at the unveiling of a new year to stop and reflect on grace. He would tell us to do the same at the start of 2017.
Past, Present, Future Grace | Newton’s most famous hymn “Amazing Grace” is the best example of this reflection. The hymn was first unveiled in his church on New Year’s Day (1773), and it’s a reflection on the new year: a look back on his past deliverances, a look around on his present deliverances, and a look forward to his future deliverances in Christ.
Tony Reinke is senior writer for Desiring God and author of three books. He hosts the Ask Pastor John podcast and lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and three children.
Tony Reinke Books:
Does God Get Your Leftovers?
By Bonnie McKernan 12/26/16
Prayer is hard. It’s always been the spiritual discipline I struggle with the most. I blame it on all sorts of things — my busy life, my easily distracted mind, my loud children, my personality, how I’m better at communicating through writing rather than verbally — the list goes on. “It’s not my gift,” I say. Some people are just gifted prayer warriors while I really love reading and studying God’s word, so God must have just wired us to serve different purposes and that’s okay, right?
A thousand times, no. I thought like that for a long time and believing that lie was a tragedy. It’s ignoring one of the greatest gifts ever given to us.
Prayer is the recognition of and participation with God in our life. Our deficiencies in prayer cannot simply be compensated by increased Bible reading, ministry, community, or listening to sermons. Nothing can take the unique place of prayer in the Christian life.
I can say from experience that a prayerless soul is a dead soul.
Bonnie McKernan lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and their four kids. You can read more of her writing at her blog.
The World's Only Hope This Christmas
By Robert D. Onley 12/22/16
News headlines throughout 2016 were unrelentingly mortifying, bleak and despairing. Just this week - a Russian ambassador assassinated live on camera in Turkey, shoppers run down at a Christmas market in Berlin, a shooting at a mosque in Switzerland, and the endless bombing of Syria. It is easy to conclude from these headlines that evil has triumphed emphatically over the forces of love, peace and hope, and it is no surprise that one of the trending hashtags to close out the year is simply "#f_ck2016" (you fill in the missing vowel).
Beyond the wishfully dismissive hashtag, the real problem is that no one actually thinks that 2017 will be any better. And why would it be? As families unite this week to celebrate Christmas hoping to bury the headlines under glad tidings of comfort and joy, many others are simply wondering aloud: Where does our hope come from? How will humanity ever find peace? And why are humans dead-set on killing each other no matter what? Is anyone realistically looking to Donald Trump for hope, peace, or greater global stability?
Amid the search for answers, it is no secret that "being religious" has gone out of style. But somehow, "being spiritual" is considered socially acceptable, so long as you do not push your particular interpretations on others. In Western society, the result is a mish-mash of relativist spiritual theories, and a deference to the Goddess of Blind Tolerance, whose belief system offers zero hard answers to the complex questions above.
In the spirit of tolerance, here is an idea for you to tolerate over the holidays: there is indeed hope for humanity, and there are answers to these questions, and both can be found through belief in Jesus Christ alone. For those who consider themselves 'spiritual, but not religious', the next logical question is: so who is Jesus Christ? This question is about far more than whether or not you 'go to church', and the answer cuts to the philosophical core of modern society.
Over 2000 years ago in a manger in Bethlehem, a baby boy, Jesus of Nazareth, was born. Jesus' existence is a historical fact, one that is as well documented as that of the life of Julius Caesar. The Islamic and Hindu traditions respect and revere Jesus, the former even regarding him as a prophet. Today, it is not a question of whether Jesus existed, but rather: do you believe what Jesus said?
Robert D. Onley is a lawyer, working at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, who serves as the Executive Director, Co-Founder and Legal Counsel to the Young Diplomats of Canada, a Canadian non-profit youth-led organization whose mission is to build Canada's next generation of global leaders. Robert is also a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Community, where he serves as the Vice-Curator in the Ottawa Hub.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 148Praise the Name of the LORD
148 Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!
3 Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
5 Let them praise the name of the LORD!
For he commanded and they were created.
6 And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.
7 Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
8 fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!
9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!
13 Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the LORD!
Washington Post to Christians on Christmas Morning: Jesus Didn’t Exist
By William M. Briggs 12/26/2017
Early Christmas morning, the Washington Post thought it should stick its thumb in the eyes of those celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Its official “Post Opinions” Twitter account tweeted, “Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up.”
Many commented on the provocative timing. Publisher of Encounter books and author Roger Kimball said that the Post’s tweet was, “Really, all you need to know about that pathetic publication.” Conservative actor James Woods tweeted, “Why is this necessary today? Why insult people of a certain faith on the day they most cherish? It’s not a matter of being right or wrong, it’s a matter of simple courtesy. #Rude”. (He added a ruder hashtag as well.) Many others were affronted.
What “good reasons” does he have? Lataster claims that there are a “lack of early sources” about the life of Jesus. What about the Gospels?
The gibe was deliberate. It’s not like the story the Post touted was new. It contained no “breaking” news of some scholar unearthing new historical evidence. After all, the link in the Post’s tweet was to a three-year old, already-debunked opinion piece they published in December, 2014.
William M. Briggs is a Senior Contributor to The Stream. Author of Uncertainty, he is a writer, philosopher, and itinerant scientist living on a small but densely populated island in the Atlantic Ocean. He earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University in statistics. He studies the philosophy of science, the use and misuses of uncertainty, the corruption of science, and the uselessness of most predictions. He began life as a cryptologist for the Air Force, slipped into weather and climate forecasting, and matured into an epistemologist. He maintains an active and lively blog at wmbriggs.com.
Bible Before Books A New Year’s Resolution
By Nathan Milleson 12/27/2017
The season for choosing a New Year’s resolution is upon us. Christians find this time reinvigorating; the potential ahead to grow in our faith is promising. (Hab 2:14) 14 For the earth will be filled
One area in which Christians frequently strive to grow in their faith is through the consumption of God’s word. Seeking to read the Bible more consistently has been a commonly sought-after New Year’s resolution for Christians. But as a result of the growing world of Christian publication, Christians are more often resolving to read Bible-based books heading into the new year. And this can be a problem.
Christian books are far outnumbering the Bible on bookshelves these days. The decision whether we will read those books before the Bible is one we must make entering 2018. For example, instead of reading through the Bible in a year, one might resolve to read three Christ-exalting books. These new reading resolutions can be rewarding, especially since Christian books are based on Scripture. But before we make our reading resolutions, let’s consider the weight of the books we will read.
God’s Word over Man’s | Christian books are being produced today at an extremely high rate for good reason. The reason that so many Christ-exalting books are being produced is because authors desire for the earth to “be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).
with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea. ESV
(Hab 2:14) 14 For the earth will be filled
Nathan Milleson is working toward his M.Div. online through Fuller Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Courtney, live in Wilmington, North Carolina, and attend Port City Community Church. He writes at his blog, Looking to Christ.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
10. Here however, I must again repeat what I premised at the outset of
this chapter,  that he who is most deeply abased and alarmed, by
the consciousness of his disgrace, nakedness, want, and misery, has
made the greatest progress in the knowledge of himself. Man is in no
danger of taking too much from himself, provided he learns that
whatever he wants is to be recovered in God. But he cannot arrogate to
himself one particle beyond his due, without losing himself in vain
confidence, and, by transferring divine honour to himself, becoming
guilty of the greatest impiety. And, assuredly, whenever our minds are
seized with a longing to possess a somewhat of our own, which may
reside in us rather than in God, we may rest assured that the thought
is suggested by no other counsellor than he who enticed our first
parents to aspire to be like gods, knowing good and evil.  It is
sweet, indeed, to have so much virtue of our own as to be able to rest
in ourselves; but let the many solemn passages by which our pride is
sternly humbled, deter us from indulging this vain confidence: "Cursed
be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm." (Jer.
17:5). "He delighteth not in the strength of the horse; he taketh not
pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord taketh pleasure in those that
fear him, in those that hope in his mercy," (Ps. 147:10, 11). "He
giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth
strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men
shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their
strength," (Is. 40:29-31). The scope of all these passages is that we
must not entertain any opinion whatever of our own strength, if we
would enjoy the favour of God, who "resisteth the proud, but giveth
grace unto the humble," (James 4:6). Then let us call to mind such
promises as these, "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and
floods upon the dry ground," (Is. 44:3); "Ho, every one that thirsteth,
come ye to the waters," (Is. 55:1). These passages declare, that none
are admitted to enjoy the blessings of God save those who are pining
under a sense of their own poverty. Nor ought such passages as the
following to be omitted: "The sun shall no more be thy light by day;
neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the
Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory,"
(Is. 60:19). The Lord certainly does not deprive his servants of the
light of the sun or moon, but as he would alone appear glorious in
them, he dissuades them from confidence even in those objects which
they deem most excellent.
11. I have always been exceedingly delighted with the words of Chrysostom, "The foundation of our philosophy is humility;"  and still more with those of Augustine, "As the orator,  when asked, What is the first precept in eloquence? answered, Delivery: What is the second? Delivery: What the third? Delivery: so, if you ask me in regard to the precepts of the Christian Religion, I will answer, first, second, and third, Humility." By humility he means not when a man, with a consciousness of some virtue, refrains from pride, but when he truly feels that he has no refuge but in humility. This is clear from another passage,  "Let no man," says he, "flatter himself: of himself he is a devil: his happiness he owes entirely to God. What have you of your own but sin? Take your sin which is your own; for righteousness is of God." Again, "Why presume so much on the capability of nature? It is wounded, maimed, vexed, lost. The thing wanted is genuine confession, not false defence." "When any one knows that he is nothing in himself, and has no help from himself, the weapons within himself are broken, and the war is ended." All the weapons of impiety must be bruised, and broken, and burnt in the fire; you must remain unarmed, having no help in yourself. The more infirm you are, the more the Lord will sustain you. So, in expounding the seventieth Psalm, he forbids us to remember our own righteousness, in order that we may recognise the righteousness of God, and shows that God bestows his grace upon us, that we may know that we are nothing; that we stand only by the mercy of God, seeing that in ourselves eve are altogether wicked. Let us not contend with God for our right, as if anything attributed to him were lost to our salvation. As our insignificance is his exaltation, so the confession of our insignificance has its remedy provided in his mercy. I do not ask, however, that man should voluntarily yield without being convinced, or that, if he has any powers, he should shut his eyes to them, that he may thus be subdued to true humility; but that getting quit of the disease of self-love and ambition, filautiva kai; filoneikiva, under the blinding of which he thinks of himself more highly than he ought to think, he may see himself as he really is, by looking into the faithful mirror of Scripture.
12. I feel pleased with the well-known saying which has been borrowed from the writings of Augustine, that man's natural gifts were corrupted by sin, and his supernatural gifts withdrawn; meaning by supernatural gifts the light of faith and righteousness, which would have been sufficient for the attainment of heavenly life and everlasting felicity. Man, when he withdrew his allegiance to God, was deprived of the spiritual gifts by which he had been raised to the hope of eternal salvation. Hence it follows, that he is now an exile from the kingdom of God, so that all things which pertain to the blessed life of the soul are extinguished in him until he recover them by the grace of regeneration. Among these are faith, love to God, charity towards our neighbour, the study of righteousness and holiness. All these, when restored to us by Christ, are to be regarded as adventitious and above nature. If so, we infer that they were previously abolished. On the other hand, soundness of mind and integrity of heart were, at the same time, withdrawn, and it is this which constitutes the corruption of natural gifts. For although there is still some residue of intelligence and judgment as well as will, we cannot call a mind sound and entire which is both weak and immersed in darkness. As to the will, its depravity is but too well known. Therefore, since reason, by which man discerns between good and evil, and by which he understands and judges, is a natural gift, it could not be entirely destroyed; but being partly weakened and partly corrupted, a shapeless ruin is all that remains. In this sense it is said (John 1:5), that "the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not;" these words clearly expressing both points--viz. that in the perverted and degenerate nature of man there are still some sparks which show that he is a rational animal, and differs from the brutes, inasmuch as he is endued with intelligence, and yet, that this light is so smothered by clouds of darkness that it cannot shine forth to any good effect. In like manner, the will, because inseparable from the nature of man, did not perish, but was so enslaved by depraved lusts as to be incapable of one righteous desire. The definition now given is complete, but there are several points which require to be explained. Therefore, proceeding agreeably to that primary distinction (Book 1 c. 15 sec. 7 and 8), by which we divided the soul into intellect and will, we will now inquire into the power of the intellect.
To charge the intellect with perpetual blindness, so as to leave it no intelligence of any description whatever, is repugnant not only to the Word of God, but to common experience. We see that there has been implanted in the human mind a certain desire of investigating truth, to which it never would aspire unless some relish for truth antecedently existed. There is, therefore, now, in the human mind, discernment to this extent, that it is naturally influenced by the love of truth, the neglect of which in the lower animals is a proof of their gross and irrational nature. Still it is true that this love of truth fails before it reaches the goal, forthwith falling away into vanity. As the human mind is unable, from dullness, to pursue the right path of investigation, and, after various wanderings, stumbling every now and then like one groping in darkness, at length gets completely bewildered, so its whole procedure proves how unfit it is to search the truth and find it. Then it labours under another grievous defect, in that it frequently fails to discern what the knowledge is which it should study to acquire. Hence, under the influence of a vain curiosity, it torments itself with superfluous and useless discussions, either not adverting at all to the things necessary to be known, or casting only a cursory and contemptuous glance at them. At all events, it scarcely ever studies them in sober earnest. Profane writers are constantly complaining of this perverse procedure, and yet almost all of them are found pursuing it. Hence Solomon, throughout the Book of Ecclesiastes, after enumerating all the studies in which men think they attain the highest wisdom, pronounces them vain and frivolous.
13. Still, however, man's efforts are not always so utterly fruitless as not to lead to some result, especially when his attention is directed to inferior objects. Nay, even with regard to superior objects, though he is more careless in investigating them, he makes some little progress. Here, however, his ability is more limited, and he is never made more sensible of his weakness than when he attempts to soar above the sphere of the present life. It may therefore be proper, in order to make it more manifest how far our ability extends in regard to these two classes of objects, to draw a distinction between them. The distinction is, that we have one kind of intelligence of earthly things, and another of heavenly things. By earthly things, I mean those which relate not to God and his kingdom, to true righteousness and future blessedness, but have some connection with the present life, and are in a manner confined within its boundaries. By heavenly things, I mean the pure knowledge of God, the method of true righteousness, and the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom. To the former belong matters of policy and economy, all mechanical arts and liberal studies. To the latter (as to which, see the eighteenth and following sections) belong the knowledge of God and of his will, and the means of framing the life in accordance with them. As to the former, the view to be taken is this: Since man is by nature a social animal, he is disposed, from natural instinct, to cherish and preserve society; and accordingly we see that the minds of all men have impressions of civil order and honesty. Hence it is that every individual understands how human societies must he regulated by laws, and also is able to comprehend the principles of those laws. Hence the universal agreement in regard to such subjects, both among nations and individuals, the seeds of them being implanted in the breasts of all without a teacher or lawgiver. The truth of this fact is not affected by the wars and dissensions which immediately arise, while some, such as thieves and robbers, would invert the rules of justice, loosen the bonds of law, and give free scope to their lust; and while others (a vice of most frequent occurrence) deem that to be unjust which is elsewhere regarded as just, and, on the contrary, hold that to be praiseworthy which is elsewhere forbidden. For such persons do not hate the laws from not knowing that they are good and sacred, but, inflamed with headlong passion, quarrel with what is clearly reasonable, and licentiously hate what their mind and understanding approve. Quarrels of this latter kind do not destroy the primary idea of justice. For while men dispute with each other as to particular enactments, their ideas of equity agree in substance. This, no doubt, proves the weakness of the human mind, which, even when it seems on the right path, halts and hesitates. Still, however, it is true, that some principle of civil order is impressed on all. And this is ample proof, that, in regard to the constitution of the present life, no man is devoid of the light of reason.
14. Next come manual and liberal arts, in learning which, as all have some degree of aptitude, the full force of human acuteness is displayed. But though all are not equally able to learn all the arts, we have sufficient evidence of a common capacity in the fact, that there is scarcely an individual who does not display intelligence in some particular art. And this capacity extends not merely to the learning of the art, but to the devising of something new, or the improving of what had been previously learned. This led Plato to adopt the erroneous idea, that such knowledge was nothing but recollection.  So cogently does it oblige us to acknowledge that its principle is naturally implanted in the human mind. But while these proofs openly attest the fact of a universal reason and intelligence naturally implanted, this universality is of a kind which should lead every individual for himself to recognise it as a special gift of God. To this gratitude we have a sufficient call from the Creator himself, when, in the case of idiots, he shows what the endowments of the soul would be were it not pervaded with his light. Though natural to all, it is so in such a sense that it ought to be regarded as a gratuitous gift of his beneficence to each. Moreover, the invention, the methodical arrangement, and the more thorough and superior knowledge of the arts, being confined to a few individuals cannot be regarded as a solid proof of common shrewdness. Still, however, as they are bestowed indiscriminately on the good and the bad, they are justly classed among natural endowments.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Protected by the blood of Jesus
12/29/2017 Bob Gass
‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.’
(Re 12:11) 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. ESV
Irene Park became a committed Christian. Her story is remarkable. She was once a high witch in the state of Florida, seducing boys and girls into occult activities. She stated that the children she could never reach were those whose parents protected them by praying over them in the name of Jesus, standing on the merits of Christ’s atoning blood. Today the occult has made its way into some of our public school systems under the guise of ‘pluralism’ and ‘free speech’. If you’re a parent, you should be concerned! It’s wise to give your child a mobile phone or pager so they can stay in touch with you. But the most powerful defence you can give them is praying over them in the name of Jesus and standing on the merits of His shed blood. Jesus defeated Satan at the cross. And today He’s saying to you, ‘My victory is your victory, and My authority is your authority – use it!’ You must acknowledge the existence of the devil, but you must not be afraid of him because ‘greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world’ (1 John 4:4 KJV). To deny the existence of Satan or underestimate his power gives him the advantage over you. But God has given you the key to overcoming Satan’s power in your life: ‘And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.’ Start declaring what the blood of Jesus has done on your behalf. When you do, you’ll begin to walk in victory.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
After nearly ten years of being its own nation, the Republic of Texas became the 28th State of the Union this day, December 29, 1845. It later joined the Confederacy, but was readmitted after the Civil War. The Preamble stated: “We, the people of the Republic of Texas, acknowledging, with gratitude the grace and beneficence of God, in permitting us to make a choice of our form of government, do… establish this Constitution.” It later added: “Nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Chapter 22 December 29
You know my history. You know why my withers are quite unwrung by the fear that I was bribed-that I was lured into Christianity by the hope of everlasting life. I believed in God before I believed in Heaven. And even now, even if-let's make an impossible supposition-His voice, unmistakably His, said to me, "They have misled you. I can do nothing of that sort for you. My long struggle with the blind forces is nearly over. I die, children. The story is ending," would that be a moment for changing sides? Would not you and I take the Viking way: "The Giants and Trolls win. Let us die on the right side, with Father Odin."
But if it is not so, if that other world is once admitted, how can it, except by sensual or bustling pre-occupations, be kept in the background of our minds? How can the "rest of Christianity"-what is this "rest"?-.-be disentangled from it? How can we untwine this idea, if once admitted, from our present experience, in which, even before we believed, so many things at least looked like "bright shoots of everlastingness"?
And yet … after all. I know. It is a venture. We don't know it will be. There is our freedom, our chance for a little generosity, a little sportsmanship.
Isn't it possible that many "liberals" have a highly illiberal motive for banishing the idea of Heaven? They want_ the gilt-edged security of a religion so contrived that no possible fact could ever refute it. In such a religion they have the comfortable feeling that, whatever the real universe may be like, they will not have "been had" or "backed the wrong horse." It is close to the spirit of the man who hid his talent in a napkin-"I know you are a hard man and I'm taking no risks." But surely the sort of religion they want would consist of nothing but tautologies?
About the resurrection of the body. I agree with you that the old picture of the soul reassuming the corpse-perhaps blown to bits or long since usefully dissipated through nature-is absurd. Nor is it what St. Paul's words imply. And I admit that if you ask me what I substitute for this, I have only speculations to offer.
The principle behind these speculations is this. We are not, in this doctrine, concerned with matter as such at all; with waves and atoms and all that. What the soul cries out for is the resurrection of the senses. Even in this life matter would be nothing to us if it were not the source of sensations.
Now we already have some feeble and intermittent power of raising dead sensations from their graves. I mean, of course, memory.
You see the way my thought is moving. But don't run away with the idea that when I speak of the resurrection of the body I mean merely that the blessed dead will have excellent memories of their sensuous experience on earth. I mean it the other way round: that memory as we now know it is a dim foretaste, a mirage even, of a power which the soul, or rather Christ in the soul (He went to "prepare a place" for us), will exercise hereafter. It need no longer be intermittent. Above all, it need no longer be private to the soul in which it occurs. I can now communicate to you the fields of my boyhood-they are building-estates to-day only imperfectly, by words. Perhaps the day is coming when I can take you for a walk through them.
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
We are not here to prove God answers prayer;
we are here to be living monuments of God’s grace.
--- Oswald Chambers
Answered Prayer: A True Story of a Woman's Personal Struggle for a Deeper Walk with God and How He Answered Her Deepest Prayer
The world is growing old in sin.
--- C.H. Spurgeon
Sermons of Rev. C.H. Spurgeon of London Volume v.15
I am not such an egotist as to believe that God has spared me because I am I. I believe there is work for me to do and that I am spared to do it, just as you are.
--- Eddie Rickenbacker
Seven Came Through - Rickenbackers Full Story
We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
--- Winston Churchill
One Life to Give: A Path to Finding Yourself by Helping Others
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
she can laugh at the days to come.
פ 26 When she opens her mouth, she speaks wisely;
on her tongue is loving instruction.
ץ 27 She watches how things go in her house,
not eating the bread of idleness.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Deserter or disciple?
From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.
--- John 6:66.
When God gives a vision by His Spirit through His word of what He wants, and your mind and soul thrill to it, if you do not walk in the light of that vision, you will sink into servitude to a point of view which Our Lord never had. Disobedience in mind to the heavenly vision will make you a slave to points of view that are alien to Jesus Christ. Do not look at someone else and say—‘Well, if he can have those views and prosper, why cannot I?’ You have to walk in the light of the vision that has been given to you and not compare yourself with others or judge them, that is between them and God. When you find that a point of view in which you have been delighting clashes with the heavenly vision and you debate, certain things will begin to develop in you—a sense of property and a sense of personal right, things of which Jesus Christ made nothing. He was always against these things as being the root of everything alien to Himself. “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth.” If we do not recognize this, it is because we are ignoring the undercurrent of Our Lord’s teaching.
We are apt to lie back and bask in the memory of the wonderful experience we have had. If there is one standard in the New Testament revealed by the light of God and you do not come up to it, and do not feel inclined to come up to it, that is the beginning of backsliding, because it means your conscience does not answer to the truth. You can never be the same after the unveiling of a truth. That moment marks you for going on as a more true disciple of Jesus Christ, or for going back as a deserter.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
He grew up into an emptiness
he was on terms with.
of language, that could name
what was not there, was accepted
by him. He was content, remembering
the unseen writing of Christ
on the ground, to interpret
it in his own way. Adultery
of the flesh has the divine
pardon. It is the mind,
catching itself in the act
that must cast no stone.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.
--- John 2:10.
Wherever God in Christ is working, the best wine is kept until the end. Wings of the Morning, The (The Morrison Classic Sermon Series)
Think first for a moment of Creation.
First there was chaos and the formless deep, then light and the ingathering of the waters, then the first dawn of life in lowliest form, mounting into the power of bird and beast. And always, under the working of that wisdom to which a thousand years are as a day, the path was upward from dull and shapeless horror to what was better, richer, and more beautiful. And then at last, not at the first, came Adam, capable of communion with his Maker, greater, by that spark of God within him, than sun and moon and all the host of heaven. And it is in human beings, so noble though so fallen, so touched with heaven although so soiled with hell, that we discover it is the way of God to keep the best wine until the end.
Isn’t this true also of our Christian calling? The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. Not all at once does Christ reveal himself, when we go forward determined to be his. The old life still struggles for the mastery, and we are in heaviness through manifold temptations. But the difference between Christ and the Devil is just this, that the Devil’s tomorrow is worse than his today; but the morrow of Christ, for everyone who trusts him, is always brighter and better than his yesterday. Every act of obedience that we do gives us a new vision of his love. Sorrow and trial reveal his might of sympathy, as the darkness of the night reveals the stars. And when at last the wrestling is over, and like tired children we lie down to sleep, and when we waken and see his face in the land where there is no more weariness, I think we will look back on it all and find new meanings in every hour of it, but I think also we will cry adoringly, “You have kept the best wine until now.”
--- George H. Morrison
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Philip Paul Bliss was born to singing parents in a log cabin in the northern Pennsylvania woods. He left home to work at age 11 and made a public confession of Christ at age 12. He spent his teen years in lumber camps and sawmills. But he loved to sing, and he did his best to get an education in music. His voice was remarkably full, resonant and elastic, with a range from low D-flat to high A.
With an old horse named Fanny and a twenty-dollar melodeon, Philip started traveling around as a professional music teacher. In 1858 he married Lucy Young, a musician and poet who encouraged him to develop his gifts. As a result he wrote and sold his first composition in 1864. It was well received, and he moved to Chicago the next year as an associate of music publishers Root & Cady. Presently he found himself in demand, conducting musical institutes, giving concerts, and composing Sunday school melodies. Moody championed his work, and Bliss wrote many of the Gospel songs we love today: Let the Lower Lights Be Burning; Man of Sorrows—What a Name!; Jesus Loves Even Me; The Light of the World Is Jesus!; Almost Persuaded; Wonderful Words of Life. He also wrote the music to such hymns as It Is Well with My Soul.
During the Christmas holidays of 1876 the Bliss family visited his mother in Pennsylvania. On December 29, 1876 they boarded the Pacific Express in Buffalo to return to Chicago. About eight o’clock that Evening in a blinding snowstorm as the train crossed a ravine, the wooden trestle collapsed. The cars, packed with holiday passengers, plunged 75 feet into the icy river and caught fire. Over a hundred people perished in the wreck, among them—Philip Bliss and his family. He was 38.
By coincidence, Philip’s trunk had been placed on another train and it arrived safely in Chicago. Inside, his friends found a last hymn:
I will sing of my Redeemer
And his wondrous love to me.
On the cruel cross he suffered
From the curse to set me free.
Tell everyone on this earth to sing happy songs in praise of the LORD. Make music for him on harps. Play beautiful melodies! Sound the trumpets and horns and celebrate with joyful songs for our LORD and King!
--- Psalm 98:4-6.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
and 1 Chronicles 9:2–17
The narrative content of this chapter is sparse, but interesting. In the same spirit as that of the previous chapter, the people respond to the need to repopulate the fortified city of Jerusalem. Since this was primarily for defensive purposes, the list of their leaders was drawn up with an eye on the forms of the musters of the conscript army of pre-exilic times. To this list, other material was added later, especially an idealized description of the province, based on the territorial pattern of the pre-exilic kingdom.
Attention may be briefly drawn to two points emerging from this. First, as in the case of Nehemiah (cf. chap. 7), so the people too recognized that buildings in themselves are lifeless. Once divorced from their purpose of providing a framework within which a community (be it town, Church, or family) may develop, they become nothing more than a liability. There can be little doubt that had the people not acted as they did they would soon have discovered, as the Church has subsequently, all too frequently to its cost, that the refortified city would have become a drain on their energy and resources, putting additional strains on the community’s cohesion. It was with a sure instinct that “the people blessed all those who volunteered to settle in Jerusalem” (v 2), and recorded their names with gratitude.
Second, it would be a mistake to dismiss the list of settlements in vv 25–36 just because it is a later addition and historically inaccurate. Its backward glance to former glories, and its conscious imposition upon them of the pattern of life in the wilderness is adequate testimony to the writer’s faith that the restrictions which he currently faced could not be God’s last word. The writer to the Hebrews, 11:13–16, speaks of earlier heroes of the faith who similarly looked for promises whose physical realization lay still in the future. To all who are thus conscious of a discrepancy between a vision of God’s future vouchsafed by revelation and a present frustration at the shortfall in realization, there comes the writer’s assurance that “God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 16, Ezra, Nehemiah
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - December 29
“Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." 1 Samuel 7:12.
The word “hitherto” seems like a hand pointing in the direction of the past. Twenty years or seventy, and yet, “hitherto the Lord hath helped!” Through poverty, through wealth, through sickness, through health, at home, abroad, on the land, on the sea, in honour, in dishonour, in perplexity, in joy, in trial, in triumph, in prayer, in temptation, “hitherto hath the Lord helped us!” We delight to look down a long avenue of trees. It is delightful to gaze from end to end of the long vista, a sort of verdant temple, with its branching pillars and its arches of leaves; even so look down the long aisles of your years, at the green boughs of mercy overhead, and the strong pillars of lovingkindness and faithfulness which bear up your joys. Are there no birds in yonder branches singing? Surely there must be many, and they all sing of mercy received “hitherto.”
But the word also points forward. For when a man gets up to a certain mark and writes “hitherto,” he is not yet at the end, there is still a distance to be traversed. More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; and then come sickness, old age, disease, death. Is it over now? No! there is more yet-awakening in Jesus’ likeness, thrones, harps, songs, Psalms, white raiment, the face of Jesus, the society of saints, the glory of God, the fulness of eternity, the infinity of bliss. O be of good courage, believer, and with grateful confidence raise thy “Ebenezer,” for—
He who hath helped thee hitherto
Will help thee all thy journey through.
When read in heaven’s light how glorious and marvellous a prospect will thy “hitherto” unfold to thy grateful eye!
Evening - December 29
“What think ye of Christ?” --- Matthew 22:42.
The great test of your soul’s health is, What think you of Christ? Is he to you “fairer than the children of men”—“the chief among ten thousand”—the “altogether lovely”? Wherever Christ is thus esteemed, all the faculties of the spiritual man exercise themselves with energy. I will judge of your piety by this barometer: does Christ stand high or low with you? If you have thought little of Christ, if you have been content to live without his presence, if you have cared little for his honour, if you have been neglectful of his laws, then I know that your soul is sick—God grant that it may not be sick unto death! But if the first thought of your spirit has been, how can I honour Jesus? If the daily desire of your soul has been, “O that I knew where I might find him!” I tell you that you may have a thousand infirmities, and even scarcely know whether you are a child of God at all, and yet I am persuaded, beyond a doubt, that you are safe, since Jesus is great in your esteem. I care not for thy rags, what thinkest thou of his royal apparel? I care not for thy wounds, though they bleed in torrents, what thinkest thou of his wounds? are they like glittering rubies in thine esteem? I think none the less of thee, though thou liest like Lazarus on the dunghill, and the dogs do lick thee—I judge thee not by thy poverty: what thinkest thou of the King in his beauty? Has he a glorious high throne in thy heart? Wouldest thou set him higher if thou couldest? Wouldest thou be willing to die if thou couldest but add another trumpet to the strain which proclaims his praise? Ah! then it is well with thee. Whatever thou mayest think of thyself, if Christ be great to thee, thou shalt be with him ere long.
“Though all the world my choice deride,
Yet Jesus shall my portion be;
For I am pleased with none beside,
The fairest of the fair is he”
Morning and Evening
THERE’LL BE NO DARK VALLEY
William O. Cushing, 1823–1902
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
There is a land of pure delight, where saints immortal reign;
Eternal day excludes the night, and pleasures banish pain.
--- Isaac Watts
In every life there will be some “dark valleys.” Difficult days cannot be avoided. In fact, the lives of some believers seem to be filled with affliction and suffering. But for the child of God, there is glorious relief just ahead … the return of Christ and the promise of a land of endless delight. The prospect of Gods’ tomorrow also means a time of joyous reunion with loved ones who have preceded us. Truly “there’ll be songs of greeting when Jesus comes …”
William Orcutt Cushing knew the meaning of “dark valleys” in his life. After more than 20 years of successfully pastoring Disciples of Christ churches in the state of New York, he suddenly lost the ability to speak. Then his wife died at the age of 47. During this “valley period” Cushing became interested in hymn writing and wrote more than 300 hymn texts, including such other favorites as: “Under His Wings,” “When He Cometh,” and “Hiding in Thee.”
Ira David Sankey, the hymn’s composer, worked as a soloist and songleader with evangelist D. L. Moody for nearly 30 years in campaigns throughout the United States and the British Isles. “There’ll Be No Dark Valley” was widely used by Sankey in many of these meetings. The hymn’s simple repetitive message and singable melody still provide encouragement and comfort to God’s people.
There’ll be no dark valley when Jesus comes; there’ll be no dark valley when Jesus comes; there’ll be no dark valley when Jesus comes to gather His loved ones home.
There’ll be no more sorrow when Jesus comes; there’ll be no more sorrow when Jesus comes; but a glorious morrow when Jesus comes to gather His loved ones home.
There’ll be songs of greeting when Jesus comes; there’ll be songs of greeting when Jesus comes; and a joyful meeting when Jesus comes to gather His loved ones home.
Refrain: To gather His loved ones home, to gather His loved ones home; there’ll be no dark valley when Jesus comes to gather His loved ones home.
For Today: 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; 2 Peter 3:13, 14; Revelation 22:5, 12
Hear these words of encouragement “I will come back and take you to be with me …” (John 14:1–3). Carry this musical truth with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
3. He doth exercise patience for the propagation of mankind. If God punished every sin presently, there would not only be a period put to churches, but to the world; without patience, Adam had sunk into eternal anguish the first moment of his provocation, and the whole world of mankind, in his loins, had perished with him, and never seen the light. If this perfection had not interposed after the first sin, God had lost his end in the creation of the world, which he “created not in vain, but formed it to be inhabited” (Isa. 45:18). It had been inconsistent with the wisdom of God to make a world to be inhabited, and destroy it upon sin, when it had but two principal inhabitants in it; the reason of his making this earth had been insignificant; he had not had any upon earth to glorify him, without erecting another world, which might have proved as sinful and as quickly wicked as this; God should have always been pulling down down and rearing up, creating and annihilating; one world would have come after another, as wave after wave in the sea. His patience stepped in to support the honor of God, and the continuance of men, without which one had been in part impaired, and the other totally lost.
4. He doth exercise patience for the continuance of the church. If he be not patient toward sinners, what stock would there be for believers to spring up from? He bears with the provoking carriage of men, evil men, because out of their loins he intends to extract others, which he will form for the glory of his grace. He hath some unborn that belong to the election of grace, which are to be the seed of the worst of men; Jeroboam, the chief incendiary of the Israelites to idolatry, had an Abijah, in whom was found “some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel” (1 Kings 14:13). Had Ahaz been snapped in the first act of his wickedness, the Israelites had wanted so good a prince and so good a man as Hezekiah, a branch of that wicked predecessor. What gardener cuts off the thorns from the rose-brush till he hath gathered the roses? and men do not use to burn all the crab-tree, but preserve a stock to engraft some sweet fruit upon. There could not have been a saint in the earth, nor, consequently, in heaven, had it not been for this perfection: he did not destroy the Israelites in the wilderness, that he might keep up a church among them, and not extinguish the whole seed that were heirs of the promises and covenant made with Abraham. Had God punished men for their sins as soon as they had been committed, none would have lived to have been better, none could have continued in the world to honor him by their virtues. Manasseh had never been a convert, and many brutish men had never been changed from beasts to angels, to praise and acknowledge their Creator. Had Peter received his due recompense upon the denial of his Master, he had never been a martyr for him; nor had Paul been a preacher of the gospel; nor any else: and so the gospel had not shined in any part of the world. No seed would have been brought into Christ; Christ is beholding immediately to this attribute for all the seed he hath in the world: it is for his name’s sake that he doth defer his anger; and for his praise that he doth refrain from “cutting us off” (Isa. 48:9): and in the next chapter follows a prophecy of Christ. To overthrow mankind for sin, were to prevent the spreading a church in the world: a woman that is guilty of a capital crime, and lies under a condemning sentence, is reprieved from execution for her being with child; it is for the child’s sake the woman is respited, not for her own: it is for the elect’s sake, in the loins of transgressors, that they are a long time spared, and not for their own (Isa. 55:8): “As the new wine is found in a cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it, so will I do for my servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy them all;” as a husbandman spares a vine for some good clusters in it. He had spoke of vengeance before, yet he would reserve some from whom he would bring forth those that should be “inheritors of his mountains,” that he might make up his church of Judea; Jerusalem being a mountainous place, and the type of the church in all ages. What is the reason he doth not level his thunder at the heads of those for whose destruction he receives so many petitions from the “souls under the altar?” (Rev. 6:9, 10). Because God had others to write a testimony for him in their own blood, and perhaps out of the loins of those for whom vengeance was so earnestly supplicated; and God, as the master of a vessel, lies patiently at anchor, till the last passenger he expects be taken in.
5. For the sake of his church he is patient to wicked men. The tares are patiently endured till the harvest, for fear in the plucking up the one, there might be some prejudice done to the other. Upon this account he spares some, who are worse than others whom he crusheth by signal judgments: the Jews had committed sins worse than Sodom, for the confirmation of which we have God’s oath (Ezek. 16:48); and more by half than Samaria, or the ten tribes had done (ver. 51): yet God spared the Jews, though he destroyed the Sodomites. What was the reason, but a larger remnant of righteous persons, more clusters of good grapes, were found among them than grew in Sodom? (Isa. 1:9). A few more righteous in Sodom had damped the fire and brimstone designed for that place, and a “remnant of such in Judea” was a bar to that fierceness of anger, which otherwise would have quickly consumed them. Had there been but “ten righteous in Sodom,” Divine patience had still bound the arms of Justice, that it should not have prepared its brimstone, notwithstanding the clamor of the sins of the multitude. Judea was ripe for the sickle, but God would put a lock upon the torrent of his judgments, that they should not flow down upon that wicked place, to make them a desolation and a curse, as long as tender-hearted Josiah lived, “who had humbled himself” at the threatening, and wept before the Lord (1 Kings 22:19, 20). Sometimes he bears with wicked men, that they might exercise the patience of the saints (Rev. 14:12): the whole time of the “forbearance of antichrist” in all his intrusions into the temple of God, invasions of the rights of God, usurpations of the office of Christ, and besmearing himself with the blood of the saints, was to give them an opportunity of patience. God is patient towards the wicked, that by their means he might try the righteous. He burns not the wisp till he hath scoured his vessels; nor lays by the hammer, till he hath formed some of his matter into an excellent fashion. He useth the worst men as rods to correct his people, before he sweeps the twigs out of his house. God sometimes uses the thorns of the world, as a hedge to secure his church, sometimes as instruments to try and exercise it. Howsoever he useth them, whether for security or trial, he is patient to them for his church’s advantage.
6. When men are not brought to repentance by his patience, he doth longer exercise it, to manifest the equity of his future justice upon them. As wisdom is justified by her obedient children, so is justice justified by the rebels against patience; the contempt of the latter is the justification of the former. The “apostles were unto God a sweet savor of Christ in them that perish,” as well as in them that were saved by the acceptation of their message (2 Cor. 2:15). Both are fragrant to God; his mercy is glorified by the one’s acceptance of it, and his justice freed from any charge against it by the other’s refusal. The cause of men’s ruin cannot be laid upon God, who provided means for their salvation, and solicited her compliance with him. What reason can they have to charge the Judge with any wrong to them, who reject the tenders he makes, and who hath forborne them with so much patience, when he might have censured them by his righteous justice, upon the first crime they committed, or the first refusal of his gracious offers? “Quanto Dei magis judicium tardum est tanto magis justum.” After the despising of patience, there can be no suspicion of an irregularity in the acts of justice. Man hath no reason to fall foul in his charge upon God, if he were punished for his own sin, considering the dignity of the injured person, and the meanness of himself, the offender; but his wrath is more justified when it is poured out upon those whom he hath endured with much long-suffering. There is no plea against the shooting of his arrows into those, for whom this voice hath been loud, and his arms open for their return. As patience, while it is exercised, is the silence of his justice, so when it is abused, it silenceth men’s complaints against his justice. The “riches of his forbearance” made way for the manifesting the “treasures of his wrath.” If God did but a little bear with the insolencies of men, and cut them off after two or three sins, he would not have opportunity to show either the power of his patience, or that of his wrath; but when he hath a right to punish for one sin, and yet bears with them for many, and they will not be reclaimed, the sinner is more inexcusable, Divine justice less chargeable, and his wrath more powerful. (Rom. 9:22), “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction?” The proper and immediate end of his long-suffering is to lead men to repentance; but after they have by their obstinacy fitted themselves for destruction, he bears longer with them, to “magnify his wrath” more upon them; and if it is not the finis operantis, it is at least the finis operis, where patience is abused. Men are apt to complain of God, that he deals hardly with them; the Israelites seem to charge God with too much severity, to cast them off, when so many promises were made to the fathers for their perpetuity and preservation, which is intimated, Hos. 2:2. “Plead with your mother, plead:” by the double repetition of the word “plead;” do not accuse me of being false or too rigorous, but accuse your mother, your church, your magistracy, your ministry, for their spiritual fornications which have provoked me; for their נאפופיה, intimating the greatness of their sins by the reduplication of the word, “lest I strip her naked.” I have borne with her under many provocations, and I have not yet taken away all her ornaments, or said to her, according to the rule of divorce, Res tuas tibi habeto. God answers their impudent charge: “She is not my wife, nor am I her husband;” he doth not say first, I am not her husband, but she is not my wife; she first withdrew from her duty by breaking the marriage covenant, and then I ceased to be her husband. No man shall be condemned, but he shall be convinced of the due desert of his sin, and the justice of God’s proceeding. God will lay open men’s guilt, and repeat the measures of his patience to justify the severity of his wrath (Hos. 7:10), “Sins will testify to their face.” What is in its own nature a preparation for glory, men by their obstinacy make a preparation for a more indisputable punishment. We see many evidences of God’s forbearance here, in sparing men under those blasphemies which are audible, and those profane carriages which are visible, which would sufficiently justify an act of severity; yet when men’s secret sins, both in heart and action, and the vast multitude of them, far surmounting what can arrive to our knowledge here, shall be discovered, how great a lustre will it add to God’s bearing with them, and make his justice triumph without any reasonable demur from the sinner himself! He is long-suffering here, that his justice may be more public hereafter.
Use IV. For instruction. How is this patience of God abused! The Gentiles abused those testimonies of it, which were written in showers and fruitful seasons. No nation was ever stripped of it, under the most provoking idolatries, till after multiplied spurns at it not a person among us but hath been guilty of the abuse of it. How have we contemned that which demands a reverence from us! How have we requited God’s waitings with rebellions, while he hath continued urging and expecting our return! Saul relented at David’s forbearing to revenge himself, when he had his prosecuting and industrious enemy in his power. (1 Sam. 24:17), “Thou art more righteous than I; thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil:” and shall we not relent at God’s wonderful long-suffering, and silencing his anger so much? He could puff away, our lives, but he will not, and yet we endeavor to strip him of his being, though we cannot.
1. Let us consider the ways, how slowness to anger is abused.
(1.) It is abused by misinterpretations of it, when men slander his patience to be only a carelessness and neglect of his providence; as Averroes argued from his slowness to anger, a total neglect of the government of the lower world: or when men from his long-suffering charge him with impurity, as if his patience were a consent to their crimes; and because he suffered them, without calling them to account, he were one of their partisans, and as wicked as themselves (Psalm 50:21): “Because I kept silence, thou thoughtest I was altogether such a one as thyself.” His silence makes them conclude him to be an abettor of, and a consort in their sins; and think him more pleased with their iniquity than their obedience. Or when they will infer from his forbearance a want of his omniscience; because he suffers their sins, they imagine he forgets them (Psalm 10:11): “He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten:” thinking his patience proceeds not from the sweetness of his nature, but a weakness of his mind. How base is it, instead of admitting him, to disparage him for it; and because he stands in so advantageous a posture towards us, not to own the choicest prerogatives of his Deity! This is to make a perfection, so useful to us, to shadow and extinguish those others, which are the prime flowers of his crown.
(2.) His patience is abused by continuing in a course of sin under the influences of it. How much is it the practical language of men, Come, let us commit this or that iniquity; since Divine patience hath suffered worse than this at our hands! Nothing is remitted to their sensual pleasures, and eagerness in them. How often did the Israelites repeat their murmurings against him, as if they would put his patience to the utmost proof, and see how far the line of it could extend! They were no sooner satisfied in one thing, but they quarrelled with him about another, as if he had no other attribute to put in motion against them. They tempted him as often as he relieved them, as though the declaration of his name to Moses (Exod. 34.), “to be a God gracious, and long-suffering,” had been intended for no other purpose but a protection of them in their rebellions. Such a sort of men the prophet speaks of, that were “settled in their lees,” or dregs (Zeph. 1:12): they were congealed, and frozen in their successful wickedness. Such an abuse of Divine patience is the very dregs of sin; God chargeth it highly upon the Jews (Isa. 57:11): “I have held my peace, even of old, and thou fearest me not;” my silence made thee confident, yea, impudent in thy sin.
(3.) His patience is abused by repeating sin, after God hath, by an act of his patience, taken off some affliction from men. As metals melted in the fire remain fluid under the operations of the flames, yet when removed from the fire, they quickly return to their former hardness, and sometimes grow harder than they were before; so men who, in their afflictions, seem to be melted, like Ahab confess their sins, he prostrate before God, and seek him early; yet, if they be brought from under the power of their afflictions, they return to their old nature, and are as stiff against God, and resist the blows of the Spirit as much as they did before. They think they have a new stock of patience to sin upon. Pharaoh was somewhat thawed under judgments, and frozen again under forbearance (Exod. 9:27, 34). Many will howl when God strikes them, and laugh at him when he forbears them. Thus that patience which should melt us, doth often harden us, which is not an effect natural to his patience, but natural to our abusing corruption.
(4.) His patience is abused, by taking encouragement from it to mount to greater degrees of sin. Because God is slow to anger, men are more fierce in sin, and not only continue in their old rebellions, but heap new upon them. If he spare them for three transgressions, they will commit four, as is intimated in the first and second of Amos; “Men’s hearts are fully set in them to do evil, because sentence against an evil work is not speedily executed” (Eccles. 8:11). Their hearts are more desperately bent; before they had some waverings, and pull-backs, but after a fair sunshine of Divine patience, they entertain more unbridled resolutions, and pass forward with more liberty and licentiousness. They make his long-suffering subservient to turn out all those little relentings and regrets they had before, and banish all thoughts of barring out a temptation. No encouragement is given to men by God’s patience, but they force it by their presumption. They invert God’s order, and bind themselves stronger to iniquity by that which should bind them faster to their duty. A happy escape at sea makes men go more confidently into the deeps afterward. Thus we deal with God as debtors do with good-natured creditors: because they do not dun them for what they owe, they take encouragement to run more upon the score, till the sum amounts above their ability of payment.
But let it be considered, 1st. That this abuse of patience is a high sin. As every act of forbearance obligeth us to duty, so every act of it abused, increaseth our guilt. The more frequent its solicitations of us have been, the deeper aggravations our sin receives by it. Every sin, after an act of Divine patience, contracts a blacker guilt. The sparing us after the last sin we committed, was a superadded act of long-suffering, and a laying out more of his riches upon us: and, therefore, every new act committed is a despite against greater riches expended, and greater cost upon us, and against his preserving us from the hand of justice for the last transgression. It is disingenuous not to have a due resentment of so much goodness, and base to injure him the more, because he doth not right himself. Shall he receive the more wrongs from us, by how much the sweeter he is to us? No man’s conscience but will tell him it is vile to prefer the satisfaction of a sordid lust, before the counsel of a God of so gracious a disposition. The sweeter the nature, the fouler is the injury that is done unto it. 2d. It is dangerous to abuse his patience. Contempt of kindness is most irksome to an ingenuous spirit; and he is worthy to have the arrows of God’s indignation lodged in his heart, who despiseth the riches of his long-suffering. For,
[1.] The time of patience will have an end. Though his Spirit strives with man, yet it shall “not always strive” (Gen. 6:3). Though there be a time wherein Jerusalem might “know the things that concerned her peace,” yet there is another period wherein they should be “hid from her eyes” (Luke 19:43): “O that thou hadst known in this thy day!” Nations have their day, and persons have their day; and the day of most persons is shorter than the day of nations. Jerusalem had her day of forty years; but how many particular persons were taken off before the last or middle hours of that day were arrived! “Forty years was God grieved” with the generation of the Israelites (Heb. 3:11). One carcass dropped after another in that limited time, and at the end not a man but fell under the judicial stroke, except Caleb and Joshua. One hundred and twenty years was the term set to the mass of the old world, but not to every man in the old world; some fell while the ark was preparing, as well as the whole stock when the ark was completed. Though he be patient with most, yet he is not in the same degree with all; every sinner hath his time of sinning, beyond which he shall proceed no further, be his lusts never so impetuous, and his affections never so imperious. The time of his patience is, in Scripture, set forth sometimes by years; three years he came to find fruit on the fig-tree: sometimes by days; some men’s sins are sooner ripe, and fall. There is a measure of sin (Jer. 2:13), which is set forth by the ephah (Zech. 5:8), which, when it is filled, is sealed up, and a weight of lead cast upon the mouth of it. When judgments are preparing, once and twice the Lord is prevailed with by the intercession of the prophet: the prepared grass-hoppers are not sent to devour, and the kindled fire is not blown up to consume (Amos 7:1–8). But at last God takes the plumb-line, to suit and measure punishment to their sin, and would not pass by them any more; and when their sin was ripe, represented by a “basket of summer-fruit,” God would withhold his hand no longer, but brought such a day upon them, wherein “the songs of the Temple should be howlings, and dead bodies be in every place” (Amos 8:2, 3). He lays by any further thoughts of patience to speed their ruin. God had borne long with the Israelites, and long it was before he gave them up. He would first brake the “bow in Jezreel” (Hos. 1:5); take away the strength of the nation by the death of Zechariah, the last of Jehu’s race, which introduced civil dissentions and ambitious murders, for the throne, whereby in weakening one part they weakened the whole; or, as some think, alluding to Tiglah Pilezar, who carried captive two tribes and a half. If this would not reclaim them, then follows “Lo-ruhamah, I will not have mercy,” I will sweep them out of the land (ver. 6). If they did not repent, they should be “Lo-ammi” (ver. 9), “You are not my people,” and “I will not be your God.” They should be discovenanted, and stripped of all federal relation. Here patience forever withdrew from them, and wrathful anger took its place. And, for particular persons, the time of life, whether shorter or longer, is the only time of long-suffering. It hath no other stage than the present state of things to act upon; there is none else to be expected after but giving account of what hath been done in the body, not of anything done after the soul is fled from the body: the time of patience ends with the first moment of the soul’s departure from the body. This time only is the “day of salvation;” i. e. the day wherein God offers it, and the day wherein God waits for our acceptance of it: it is at his pleasure to shorten or lengthen our day, not at ours; it is not our long-suffering, but his; he hath the command of it.
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