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     Joshua   16 - 18


Joshua 16

The Allotment for Ephraim and Manasseh

Joshua 16 1 The allotment of the people of Joseph went from the Jordan by Jericho, east of the waters of Jericho, into the wilderness, going up from Jericho into the hill country to Bethel. 2 Then going from Bethel to Luz, it passes along to Ataroth, the territory of the Archites. 3 Then it goes down westward to the territory of the Japhletites, as far as the territory of Lower Beth-horon, then to Gezer, and it ends at the sea.

4 The people of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, received their inheritance.

5 The territory of the people of Ephraim by their clans was as follows: the boundary of their inheritance on the east was Ataroth-addar as far as Upper Beth-horon, 6 and the boundary goes from there to the sea. On the north is Michmethath. Then on the east the boundary turns around toward Taanath-shiloh and passes along beyond it on the east to Janoah, 7 then it goes down from Janoah to Ataroth and to Naarah, and touches Jericho, ending at the Jordan. 8 From Tappuah the boundary goes westward to the brook Kanah and ends at the sea. Such is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Ephraim by their clans, 9 together with the towns that were set apart for the people of Ephraim within the inheritance of the Manassites, all those towns with their villages. 10 However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.

Joshua 17

Joshua 17 1 Then allotment was made to the people of Manasseh, for he was the firstborn of Joseph. To Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, were allotted Gilead and Bashan, because he was a man of war. 2 And allotments were made to the rest of the people of Manasseh by their clans, Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher, and Shemida. These were the male descendants of Manasseh the son of Joseph, by their clans.

3 Now Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, had no sons, but only daughters, and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 4 They approached Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the leaders and said, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance along with our brothers.” So according to the mouth of the Lord he gave them an inheritance among the brothers of their father. 5 Thus there fell to Manasseh ten portions, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is on the other side of the Jordan, 6 because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance along with his sons. The land of Gilead was allotted to the rest of the people of Manasseh.

7 The territory of Manasseh reached from Asher to Michmethath, which is east of Shechem. Then the boundary goes along southward to the inhabitants of En-tappuah. 8 The land of Tappuah belonged to Manasseh, but the town of Tappuah on the boundary of Manasseh belonged to the people of Ephraim. 9 Then the boundary went down to the brook Kanah. These cities, to the south of the brook, among the cities of Manasseh, belong to Ephraim. Then the boundary of Manasseh goes on the north side of the brook and ends at the sea, 10 the land to the south being Ephraim's and that to the north being Manasseh's, with the sea forming its boundary. On the north Asher is reached, and on the east Issachar. 11 Also in Issachar and in Asher Manasseh had Beth-shean and its villages, and Ibleam and its villages, and the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, and the inhabitants of En-dor and its villages, and the inhabitants of Taanach and its villages, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; the third is Naphath. 12 Yet the people of Manasseh could not take possession of those cities, but the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. 13 Now when the people of Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.

14 Then the people of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the Lord has blessed me?” 15 And Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” 16 The people of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us. Yet all the Canaanites who dwell in the plain have chariots of iron, both those in Beth-shean and its villages and those in the Valley of Jezreel.” 17 Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, 18 but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”

Joshua 18

Allotment of the Remaining Land

Joshua 18 1 Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The land lay subdued before them.

2 There remained among the people of Israel seven tribes whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned. 3 So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you? 4 Provide three men from each tribe, and I will send them out that they may set out and go up and down the land. They shall write a description of it with a view to their inheritances, and then come to me. 5 They shall divide it into seven portions. Judah shall continue in his territory on the south, and the house of Joseph shall continue in their territory on the north. 6 And you shall describe the land in seven divisions and bring the description here to me. And I will cast lots for you here before the Lord our God. 7 The Levites have no portion among you, for the priesthood of the Lord is their heritage. And Gad and Reuben and half the tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan eastward, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave them.”

8 So the men arose and went, and Joshua charged those who went to write the description of the land, saying, “Go up and down in the land and write a description and return to me. And I will cast lots for you here before the Lord in Shiloh.” 9 So the men went and passed up and down in the land and wrote in a book a description of it by towns in seven divisions. Then they came to Joshua to the camp at Shiloh, 10 and Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the Lord. And there Joshua apportioned the land to the people of Israel, to each his portion.

The Inheritance for Benjamin

11 The lot of the tribe of the people of Benjamin according to its clans came up, and the territory allotted to it fell between the people of Judah and the people of Joseph. 12 On the north side their boundary began at the Jordan. Then the boundary goes up to the shoulder north of Jericho, then up through the hill country westward, and it ends at the wilderness of Beth-aven. 13 From there the boundary passes along southward in the direction of Luz, to the shoulder of Luz (that is, Bethel), then the boundary goes down to Ataroth-addar, on the mountain that lies south of Lower Beth-horon. 14 Then the boundary goes in another direction, turning on the western side southward from the mountain that lies to the south, opposite Beth-horon, and it ends at Kiriath-baal (that is, Kiriath-jearim), a city belonging to the people of Judah. This forms the western side. 15 And the southern side begins at the outskirts of Kiriath-jearim. And the boundary goes from there to Ephron, to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah. 16 Then the boundary goes down to the border of the mountain that overlooks the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, which is at the north end of the Valley of Rephaim. And it then goes down the Valley of Hinnom, south of the shoulder of the Jebusites, and downward to En-rogel. 17 Then it bends in a northerly direction going on to En-shemesh, and from there goes to Geliloth, which is opposite the ascent of Adummim. Then it goes down to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben, 18 and passing on to the north of the shoulder of Beth-arabah it goes down to the Arabah. 19 Then the boundary passes on to the north of the shoulder of Beth-hoglah. And the boundary ends at the northern bay of the Salt Sea, at the south end of the Jordan: this is the southern border. 20 The Jordan forms its boundary on the eastern side. This is the inheritance of the people of Benjamin, according to their clans, boundary by boundary all around.

21 Now the cities of the tribe of the people of Benjamin according to their clans were Jericho, Beth-hoglah, Emek-keziz, 22 Beth-arabah, Zemaraim, Bethel, 23 Avvim, Parah, Ophrah, 24 Chephar-ammoni, Ophni, Geba—twelve cities with their villages: 25 Gibeon, Ramah, Beeroth, 26 Mizpeh, Chephirah, Mozah, 27 Rekem, Irpeel, Taralah, 28 Zela, Haeleph, Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah and Kiriath-jearim—fourteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the people of Benjamin according to its clans.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Did the Gospel Authors Think They Were Writing Scripture?

By Michael J. Kruger 3/13/2017

     One of the most common misconceptions about the New Testament canon is that the authors of these writings had no idea that they were writing Scripture-like books. I dealt with this misconception on a general level here, showing that there was a clear apostolic self-awareness amongst the New Testament authors.

     While this apostolic self-awareness may be easy to show for authors like Paul, what about the gospels which, technically speaking, are formally anonymous? Do their authors exhibit awareness that they were writing something like Scripture? To explore this further, let us just consider just one of our gospels, namely the Gospel of Matthew.

     The first step is to get our expectations clear. We should not expect that Matthew would say something like, “I, Matthew, am writing Scripture as I write this book.” Gospels are a very different genre than epistles, and we would not expect the authors to provide the same type of direct and explicit statements about their own authority as Paul does in his letters. Indeed, the gospel authors are decidedly behind the scenes and only rarely make appearances within the flow of the story.

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Books by Michael J. Kruger -

Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
The Early Text of the New Testament

Do Our Churches Preach Cheap Grace?

By Matthew J. Tuininga 3/14/2017

     The gospel always leads to righteousness. Grace always leads to life. Having been reconciled to God by Jesus’ death, we are enabled to practice love, justice, mercy and peace through the indestructible power of his life.

     Grace that fails to produce such righteousness is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” It rests on the illusion that grace involves endless affirmation and endless forgiveness. It conflates salvation with justification, the gospel with the forgiveness of sins. It seems loving to us, but it expresses the easy kind of love that costs us nothing. It proclaims the comfort of the gospel but robs it of its power to give life.

     Christians often counter the danger of cheap grace by emphasizing that, having been saved through Christ, we are now called to demonstrate our gratitude to God by obeying his law. Yet emphasizing a return to the law merely distorts our understanding of the Christian life. It tempts us to view our practice of righteousness merely as a response to the gospel, rather than as the working of the gospel itself in our lives. It turns the practice of righteousness into a burden, an endless debt of gratitude that we can never possibly repay.

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     Matthew J. Tuininga: Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I received my Ph.D. in Religion, Ethics and Society at Emory University, writing my dissertation on John Calvin’s two kingdoms theory, and my M.Div. at Westminster Seminary California. I formerly served as a counter-terrorism intelligence analyst in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and as a legislative correspondent for Florida Congressman Dave Weldon. I preach and speak regularly and am available for requests via the Contact page on this blog.

     The purpose of this blog is to serve as a way for me to discuss my reflections on public issues of concern to Christians and the Christian church. While I will discuss the tradition of Christian political theological reflection from time to time, much of what I post will simply draw attention to events, problems, and books, suggesting ways to make sense of them. My aim is not to tell my readers what to think. Thoughtful Christians understand that no one has the expertise to provide authoritative interpretations or judgments regarding the complex events in the world around us. My hope, rather, is to offer reflections that serve as a guide, that point readers to the events and issues that matter, and that provide perspective informed by the Reformed and Christian traditions. I welcome feedback. The purpose of this blog is to raise questions and provoke reflection, not to function as an electronic pulpit.

If God knew that Satan would rebel, why did He create him?

By Got Questions.org

     Answer: This is a two-part question. The first part is “Did God know Satan would rebel?” We know from Scripture that God is omniscient, which literally means “all-knowing.” Job 37:16; Psalm 139:2–4, 147:5; Proverbs 5:21; Isaiah 46:9-10; and 1 John 3:19–20 leave no doubt that God’s knowledge is infinite and that He knows everything that has happened in the past, is happening now, and will happen in the future.

     Looking at some of the superlatives in these verses—“perfect in knowledge”; “his understanding has no limit”; “he knows everything”—it is clear that God’s knowledge is not merely greater than our own, but it is infinitely greater. He knows all things in totality. If God’s knowledge is not perfect, then there is a deficiency in His nature. Any deficiency in God’s nature means He cannot be God, for God’s very essence requires the perfection of all His attributes. Therefore, the answer to the first question is “yes, God knew that Satan would rebel.”

     Moving on to the second part of the question, “Why did God create Satan knowing ahead of time he was going to rebel?” This question is a little trickier because we are asking a “why” question to which the Bible does not usually provide comprehensive answers. Despite that, we should be able to come to a limited understanding. We have already seen that God is omniscient. So, if God knew that Satan would rebel and fall from heaven, yet He created him anyway, it must mean that the fall of Satan was part of God’s sovereign plan from the beginning. No other answer makes sense given what we’ve seen thus far.

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Why was Jesus Born To The Tribe Of Judah?

By One For Israel

     You can choose your friends, as they say, but you can’t choose your family. But actually, God could do exactly that! And that’s what he did. He chose his own family tree, ahead of time. First of all, he chose Abraham to carry his “seed”. He then chose Isaac (Abraham’s second born), and then Jacob (Isaac’s second born). Yet of all Jacob’s twelve sons, for some reason God goes for Judah – the fourth in line. If this seems a bit puzzling to you, you are not alone. The choice of Judah over all the other brothers is a bit of a mystery, and the Bible does not give an explicit reason for it.

     Some have suggested that the first three brothers disqualified themselves by their unrighteous behavior. Reuben, the firstborn, violated his father’s concubine, while Simeon and Levi went on to deceive and kill the men of Shechem in revenge for the rape of their sister; plundering their households. However, there are a few problems with thinking that righteousness “earns” the choice of God, or that lack of righteousness forfeits it. Firstly, their father Jacob was far from pure, yet he was clearly chosen. Secondly, Judah was not someone we could easily equate with righteousness either. Read what he does in Genesis 38… it’s scandalous! He ends up admitting to an unmarried woman with whom he had slept (having thought that she was a prostitute) that she was more righteous than he. Not ideal.

     It is true that we see a change in character for the better as the story progresses. In contrast to his earlier betrayal of Joseph, he later offers his own life as a pledge to his father that he will take care of Joseph’s little brother, Benjamin. In Genesis 44:33, he has to put his money where his mouth is, and offers to take Benjamin’s place when Joseph demands that he stays in Egypt as a slave: “Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers.” Judah’s self-sacrificial offer was a prelude to the Redeemer who would later take our place of punishment on the cross. Could it be that due to this act, Judah was chosen? But even if we are impressed with Judah’s character growth and see his actions as pointing to the Messiah, surely Joseph outstrips him on both counts!

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 31

Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit
31 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.

9 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away.

11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.

ESV Reformation Study

Why the Muratorian Fragment is a Big Deal and What You Need to Know About It

By Alisa Childers 3/13/2017

     ​In order to diminish the importance and relevance of the Bible, it's common for skeptics to point out that the early Christians didn't even have an official Bible. They claim that what we now call the "New Testament" wasn't compiled until hundreds of years after the life of Christ and the Apostles, when church councils convened to decide which books were "in" and which ones were "out." Famously, Dan Brown, in his best-selling book,The DaVinci Code, even alleged that the Emperor Constantine chose the books at the council of Nicaea in AD 325. (1)

     The Muratorian Fragment is a big deal because its very existence is evidence that these notions are not true.

     Sometimes called the "Muratorian Canon," the fragment is an ancient manuscript that includes a list of New Testament books. While the fragment itself dates from the 7th or 8th century, the list of biblical books it contains dates from around AD 180. (2) Other than a highly abridged collection by the heretic Marcion, it is the oldest list of New Testament books we have, and it affirms 22 out of the 27 books. This is remarkably early to have such a comprehensive canon.

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     I am currently a member of Grace Chapel Church in Franklin, TN and an artist in residence at Whitewater Crossing Christian Church in Cleves, Ohio.

     Feel free to contact me with any questions or subjects you would like me to write about.

Reviewing Rod Dreher’s “The Benedict Option”

By Jake Meador 3/14/2017

     Fair Warning: This is long. But I’ve tried to break it up with some header tags that make it easy to scan on an initial read. The review basically falls into three parts: The paragraphs between “Introduction” and “What is Rod’s strategy…” concern the general response to the book. From “What is Rod’s strategy…” to “Three Observations,” is a summary of the book. I have taken some pains to summarize it because the book has been billed as a kind of culture war manual when really it is something much simpler than that. Finally, from “Three Observations” to the end of the post is my critical interaction with Rod’s book. Hopefully this helps make a long post a bit easier to navigate and helps readers identify what parts they wish to read and what parts they can safely skim or skip.

     Introduction

     Though this line risks over-simplifying complex debates, one might argue that much of the furor over Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation is a matter of critics simply not reading well. As Collin Hansen noted in his brief summary for The Gospel Coalition, the book’s subtitle is actually rather modest: “A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.” A strategy. Some of Rod’s critics, primarily those who agree that we are in a post-Christian nation but do not agree with his proposals, would do well to simply take note of the modest claim in the subtitle and move along.

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     Jake Meador is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy, and son Wendell. Jake's writing has appeared in Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play.

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 5.

OF THE MODES OF SUPPLEMENTING SATISFACTION--VIZ. INDULGENCES AND PURGATORY.

Divisions of the chapter,--I. A summary description and refutation of Popish indulgences, sec. 1, 2. II. Confutation by Leo and Augustine. Answer to two objections urged in support of them, sec. 3, 4. A profane love of filthy lucre on the part of the Pope. The origin of indulgences unfolded, sec. 5. III. An examination of Popish purgatory. Its horrible impiety, sec. 6. An explanation of five passages of Scripture by which Sophists endeavor to support that dream, sec. 7, 8. Sentiments of the ancient Theologians concerning purgatory, sec. 10.

Sections.

1. The dogma of satisfaction the parent of indulgences. Vanity of both. The reason of it. Evidence of the avarice of the Pope and the Romish clergy: also of the blindness with which the Christian world was smitten

2. View of indulgences given by the Sophists. Their true nature. Refutation of them. Refutation confirmed by seven passages of Scripture.

3. Confirmed also by the testimony of Leo, a Roman Bishop, and by Augustine. Attempts of the Popish doctors to establish the monstrous doctrine of indulgences, and even support it by Apostolical authority. First answer.

4. Second answer to the passage of an Apostle adduced to support the dogma of indulgences. Answer confirmed by a comparison with other passages, and from a passage in Augustine, explaining the Apostle's meaning. Another passage from the same Apostle confirming this view.

5. The Pope's profane thirst for filthy lucre exposed. The origin of indulgences.

6. Examination of the fictitious purgatory of the Papists. 1. From the nature of the thing itself. 2. From the authority of God. 3. From the consideration of the merit of Christ, which is destroyed by this fiction. Purgatory, what it is. 4. From the impiety teeming from this fountain.

7. Exposition of the passages of Scripture quoted in support of purgatory. 1. Of the Impardonable sin, from which it is inferred that there are some sins afterwards to be forgiven. 2. Of the passage as to paying the last farthing.

8. 3. The passage concerning the bending of the knee to Christ by things under the earth. 4. The example of Judas Maccabaeus in sending an oblation for the dead to Jerusalem.

9. 5. Of the fire which shall try every man's work. The sentiment of the ancient theologians. Answer, containing a reductio ad absurdum. Confirmation by a passage of Augustine. The meaning of the Apostle. What to be understood by fire. A clear exposition of the metaphor. The day of the Lord. How those who suffer loss are saved by fire.

10. The doctrine of purgatory ancient, but refuted by a more ancient Apostle. Not supported by ancient writers, by Scripture, or solid argument. Introduced by custom and a zeal not duly regulated by the word of God. Ancient writers, as Augustine, speak doubtfully in commending prayer for the dead. At all events, we must hold by the word of God, which rejects this fiction. A vast difference between the more ancient and the more modern builders of purgatory. This shown by comparing them.

1. From this dogma of satisfaction that of indulgences takes its rise. For the pretence is, that what is wanting to our own ability is hereby supplied; and they go the insane length of defining them to be a dispensation of the merits of Christ, and the martyrs which the Pope makes by his bulls. Though they are fitter for hellebore than for argument,--and it is scarcely worth while to refute these frivolous errors, which, already battered down, begin of their own accord to grow antiquated, and totter to their fall;--yet, as a brief refutation may be useful to some of the unlearned, I will not omit it. Indeed, the fact that indulgences have so long stood safe and with impunity, and wantoned with so much fury and tyranny, may be regarded as a proof into how deep a night of ignorance mankind were for some ages plunged. They saw themselves insulted openly, and without disguise, by the Pope and his bull-bearers; they saw the salvation of the soul made the subject of a lucrative traffic, salvation taxed at a few pieces of money, nothing given gratuitously; they saw what was squeezed from them in the form of oblations basely consumed on strumpets, pimps and gluttony, the loudest trumpeters of indulgences being the greatest despisers; they saw the monster stalking abroad, and every day luxuriating with greater license, and that without end, new bulls being constantly issued, and new sums extracted. Still indulgences were received with the greatest reverence, worshipped, and bought. Even those who saw more clearly than others deemed them pious frauds, by which, even in deceiving, some good was gained. Now, at length, that a considerable portion of the world have begun to rethink themselves, indulgences grow cool, and gradually even begin to freeze, preparatory to their final extinction.

2. But since very many who see the vile imposture, theft, and rapine (with which the dealers in indulgences have hitherto deluded and sported with us), are not aware of the true source of the impiety, it may be proper to show not only what indulgences truly are, but also that they are polluted in every part. [375] They give the name of treasury of the Church to the merits of Christ, the holy Apostles and Martyrs. They pretend, as I have said, that the radical custody of the granary has been delivered to the Roman bishop, to whom the dispensation of these great blessings belongs in such a sense, that he can both exercise it by himself, and delegate the power of exercising it to others. Hence we have from the Pope at one time plenary indulgences, at another for certain years; from the cardinals for a hundred days, and from the bishops for forty. These, to describe them truly, are a profanation of the blood of Christ, and a delusion of Satan, by which the Christian people are led away from the grace of God and the life which is in Christ, and turned aside from the true way of salvation. For how could the blood of Christ be more shamefully profaned than by denying its sufficiency for the remission of sins, for reconciliation and satisfaction, unless its defects, as if it were dried up and exhausted, are supplemented from some other quarter? Peter's words are: "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins," (Acts 10:43); but indulgences bestow the remission of sins through Peter, Paul, and the Martyrs. "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin," says John (1 John 1:7). Indulgences make the blood of the martyrs an ablution of sins. "He has made him to be sin (i.e. a satisfaction for sin) for us who knew no sin," says Paul (2 Cor. 5:21), "that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Indulgences make the satisfaction of sin to depend on the blood of the martyrs. Paul exclaimed and testified to the Corinthians, that Christ alone was crucified, and died for them (1 Cor. 1:13). Indulgences declare that Paul and others died for us. Paul elsewhere says that Christ purchased the Church with his own blood (Acts 20:28). Indulgences assign another purchase to the blood of martyrs. "By one offering he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified," says the Apostle (Heb. 10:14). Indulgences, on the other hand, insist that sanctification, which would otherwise be insufficient, is perfected by martyrs. John says that all the saints "have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb," (Rev. 7:14). Indulgences tell us to wash our robes in the blood of saints.

3. There is an admirable passage in opposition to their blasphemies in Leo, a Roman Bishop (ad Palæstinos, Ep. 81). "Although the death of many saints was precious in the sight of the Lord (Ps. 116:15), yet no innocent man's slaughter was the propitiation of the world. The just received crowns did not give them; and the fortitude of believers produced examples of patience, not gifts of righteousness: for their deaths were for themselves; and none by his final end paid the debt of another, except Christ our Lord, in whom alone all are crucified--all dead, buried, and raised up." This sentiment, as it was of a memorable nature, he has elsewhere repeated (Epist. 95). Certainly one could not desire a clearer confutation of this impious dogma. Augustine introduces the same sentiment not less appositely: "Although brethren die for brethren, yet no martyr's blood is shed for the remission of sins: this Christ did for us, and in this conferred upon us not what we should imitate, but what should make us grateful," (August. Tract. in Joann. 84). Again, in another passage: "As he alone became the Son of God and the Son of man, that he might make us to be with himself sons of God, so he alone, without any ill desert, undertook the penalty for us, that through him we mighty without good desert, obtain undeserved favor," (ad Bonif. Lib. 4, cap. 4). Indeed, as their whole doctrine is a patchwork of sacrilege and blasphemy, this is the most blasphemous of the whole. Let them acknowledge whether or not they hold the following dogmas: That the martyrs, by their death, performed more to God, and merited more than was necessary for themselves, and that they have a large surplus of merits which may be applied to others; that in order that this great good may not prove superfluous, their blood is mingled with the blood of Christ, and out of both is formed the treasury of the Church, for the forgiveness and satisfaction of sins; and that in this sense we must understand the words of Paul: "Who now rejoice in my sufferings, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the Church," (Col. 1:24). What is this but merely to leave the name of Christ, and at the same time make him a vulgar saintling, who can scarcely be distinguished in the crowd? He alone ought to be preached, alone held forth, alone named, alone looked to, whenever the subject considered is the obtaining of the forgiveness of sins, expiation, and sanctification. But let us hear their propositions. That the blood of martyrs may not be shed without fruit, it must be employed for the common good of the Church. Is it so? Was there no fruit in glorifying God by death? in sealing his truth with their blood? in testifying, by contempt of the present life, that they looked for a better? in confirming the faith of the Church, and at the same time disabling the pertinacity of the enemy by their constancy? But thus it is. They acknowledge no fruit if Christ is the only propitiation, if he alone died for our sins, if he alone was offered for our redemption. Nevertheless, they say, Peter and Paul would have gained the crown of victory though they had died in their beds a natural death. But as they contended to blood, it would not accord with the justice of God to leave their doing so barren and unfruitful. As if God were unable to augment the glory of his servants in proportion to the measure of his gifts. The advantage derived in common by the Church is great enough, when, by their triumphs, she is inflamed with zeal to fight.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

What Is the New Covenant Church?

By John Tweeddale 5/2014

     A churchless Christian is an oxymoron. As John Calvin famously said, echoing the church father Cyprian, “For those to whom God is Father the church may also be Mother.” While the notion of “mother church” may jolt some readers, a moment’s reflection will demonstrate the biblical rationale behind it. Under the new covenant established by Christ, the church is critical for the Christian life; without it, exhortations to worship, discipleship, missions, and fellowship would be meaningless. Indeed, an individual would be hard pressed to accommodate the gaggle of “one another” passages that populate the pages of the New Testament apart from participation in a local church.

     Most importantly, the church is central to the work of Christ. The great mystery of the gospel is that the Son of God left His Father in heaven in order to take for Himself an unworthy bride here on earth. He shed His blood for her. The church is not on the margin of God’s plan of redemption but at the center of it.

     Given the importance of the church to the Christian life and the work of Christ, we need to think carefully about the question of who comprises the church. One helpful answer is found in the Westminster Larger Catechism, which states, “The visible church is a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world do profess the true religion, and of their children” (Q&A 62). At least three aspects of this definition deserve our consideration.

     First, the visible church is the outward manifestation of God’s people on earth. The Westminster Divines (pastors and theologians) make a helpful distinction between the visible church as we see it and the invisible church as God sees it. These are not fundamentally two different churches, but one church seen from two vantage points. The visible church is known by those who claim the name of the triune God in baptism, who call themselves Christians by profession of faith, who sit under the preaching of God’s Word, who gather around the Lord’s Supper, who receive pastoral oversight from godly elders, who engage together in the grand work of the Great Commission, and so on.

     The invisible church, however, is not defined by those who simply profess faith in Christ but by those who actually possess it: those who have been elected, regenerated, justified, adopted, sanctified, and ultimately glorified in Christ. Not everyone who joins the ranks of the visible church belongs to the invisible church. The principle reflects Paul’s assertion that not all Israel is true Israel.This side of heaven, the visible church will always consist of wheat and tares.

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     Dr. John W. Tweeddale is academic dean and professor of theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Fla.

The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come;
Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream (Part 2)

By John Bunyan 1678

THE EIGHTH STAGE

     By this time they were got to the Enchanted Ground, where the air naturally tended to make one drowsy. And that place was all grown over with briars and thorns, excepting here and there, where was an enchanted arbor, upon which if a man sits, or in which if a man sleeps, it is a question, some say, whether ever he shall rise or wake again in this world. Over this forest, therefore, they went, both one and another, and Mr. Great-Heart went before, for that he was the guide; and Mr. Valiant-for-truth came behind, being rear-guard, for fear lest peradventure some fiend, or dragon, or giant, or thief, should fall upon their rear, and so do mischief. They went on here, each man with his sword drawn in his hand; for they knew it was a dangerous place. Also they cheered up one another as well as they could. Feeble-mind, Mr. Great-Heart commanded should come up after him; and Mr. Despondency was under the eye of Mr. Valiant.

     Now they had not gone far, but a great mist and darkness fell upon them all; so that they could scarce, for a great while, the one see the other. Wherefore they were forced, for some time, to feel one for another by words; for they walked not by sight. But any one must think, that here was but sorry going for the best of them all; but how much worse for the women and children, who both of feet and heart were but tender! Yet so it was, that through the encouraging words of him that led in the front, and of him that brought them up behind, they made a pretty good shift to wag along.

     The way also here was very wearisome, through dirt and slabbiness. Nor was there, on all this ground, so much as one inn or victualling-house wherein to refresh the feebler sort. Here, therefore, was grunting, and puffing, and sighing, while one tumbleth over a bush, another sticks fast in the dirt, and the children, some of them, lost their shoes in the mire; while one cries out, I am down; and another, Ho, where are you? and a third, The bushes have got such fast hold on me, I think I cannot get away from them.

     Then they came at an arbor, warm, and promising much refreshing to the pilgrims; for it was finely wrought above-head, beautified with greens, furnished with benches and settles. It also had in it a soft couch, whereon the weary might lean. This, you must think, all things considered, was tempting; for the pilgrims already began to be foiled with the badness of the way: but there was not one of them that made so much as a motion to stop there. Yea, for aught I could perceive, they continually gave so good heed to the advice of their guide, and he did so faithfully tell them of dangers, and of the nature of the dangers when they were at them, that usually, when they were nearest to them, they did most pluck up their spirits, and hearten one another to deny the flesh. This arbor was called The Slothful’s Friend, and was made on purpose to allure, if it might be, some of the pilgrims there to take up their rest when weary.

Luke 9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”   ESV

     I saw them in my dream, that they went on in this their solitary ground, till they came to a place at which a man is apt to lose his way. Now, though when it was light their guide could well enough tell how to miss those ways that led wrong, yet in the dark he was put to a stand. But he had in his pocket a map of all ways leading to or from the Celestial City; wherefore he struck a light (for he never goes without his tinder-box also), and takes a view of his book or map, which bids him to be careful in that place to turn to the right hand. And had he not been careful here to look in his map, they had all, in probability, been smothered in the mud; for just a little before them, and that at the end of the cleanest way too, was a pit, none knows how deep, full of nothing but mud, there made on purpose to destroy the pilgrims in.

     Then thought I with myself, Who that goeth on pilgrimage but would have one of these maps about him, that he may look, when he is at a stand, which is the way he must take?

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
  ESV


     Then they went on in this Enchanted Ground till they came to where there was another arbor, and it was built by the highway-side. And in that arbor there lay two men, whose names were Heedless and Too-bold. These two went thus far on pilgrimage; but here, being wearied with their journey, they sat down to rest themselves, and so fell fast asleep. When the pilgrims saw them, they stood still, and shook their heads; for they knew that the sleepers were in a pitiful case. Then they consulted what to do, whether to go on and leave them in their sleep, or to step to them and try to awake them; so they concluded to go to them and awake them, that is, if they could; but with this caution, namely, to take heed that they themselves did not sit down nor embrace the offered benefit of that arbor.

     So they went in, and spake to the men, and called each by his name, for the guide, it seems, did know them; but there was no voice nor answer. Then the guide did shake them, and do what he could to disturb them. Then said one of them, I will pay you when I take my money. At which the guide shook his head. I will fight so long as I can hold my sword in my hand, said the other. At that, one of the children laughed.

     Then said Christiana, What is the meaning of this? The guide said, They talk in their sleep. If you strike them, beat them, or whatever else you do to them, they will answer you after this fashion; or, as one of them said in old time, when the waves of the sea did beat upon him, and he slept as one upon the mast of a ship,

Prov. 23:34-35 You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
like one who lies on the top of a mast.
35 “They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt;
they beat me, but I did not feel it.
When shall I awake?
I must have another drink.”
  ESV


When I awake, I will seek it yet again. You know, when men talk in their sleep, they say any thing; but their words are not governed either by faith or reason. There is an incoherency in their words now, as there was before betwixt their going on pilgrimage and sitting down here. This, then, is the mischief of it: when heedless ones go on pilgrimage, ’tis twenty to one but they are served thus. For this Enchanted Ground is one of the last refuges that the enemy to pilgrims has; wherefore it is, as you see, placed almost at the end of the way, and so it standeth against us with the more advantage. For when, thinks the enemy, will these fools be so desirous to sit down as when they are weary? and when so like to be weary as when almost at their journey’s end? Therefore it is, I say, that the Enchanted Ground is placed so nigh to the land Beulah, and so near the end of their race. Wherefore let pilgrims look to themselves, lest it happen to them as it has done to these that, as you see, are fallen asleep, and none can awake them.

     Then the pilgrims desired with trembling to go forward; only they prayed their guide to strike a light, that they might go the rest of their way by the help of the light of a lantern. So he struck a light, and they went by the help of that through the rest of this way, though the darkness was very great.

2 Pet. 1:19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,   ESV

But the children began to be sorely weary, and they cried out unto him that loveth pilgrims, to make their way more comfortable. So by that they had gone a little further, a wind arose that drove away the fog, so the air became more clear. Yet they were not off (by much) of the Enchanted Ground; only now they could see one another better, and the way wherein they should walk.

     Now when they were almost at the end of this ground, they perceived that a little before them was a solemn noise, as of one that was much concerned. So they went on and looked before them: and behold they saw, as they thought, a man upon his knees, with hands and eyes lifted up, and speaking, as they thought, earnestly to one that was above. They drew nigh, but could not tell what he said; so they went softly till he had done. When he had done, he got up, and began to run towards the Celestial City. Then Mr. Great-Heart called after him, saying, Soho, friend, let us have your company, if you go, as I suppose you do, to the Celestial City. So the man stopped, and they came up to him. But as soon as Mr. Honest saw him, he said, I know this man. Then said Mr. Valiant-for-truth, Prithee, who is it? It is one, said he, that comes from whereabout I dwelt. His name is Standfast; he is certainly a right good pilgrim.

     So they came up to one another; and presently Standfast said to old Honest, Ho, father Honest, are you there? Aye, said he, that I am, as sure as you are there. Right glad am I, said Mr. Standfast, that I have found you on this road. And as glad am I, said the other, that I espied you on your knees. Then Mr. Standfast blushed, and said, But why, did you see me? Yes, that I did, quoth the other, and with my heart was glad at the sight. Why, what did you think? said Standfast. Think! said old Honest; what could I think? I thought we had an honest man upon the road, and therefore should have his company by and by. If you thought not amiss, said Standfast, how happy am I! But if I be not as I should, ’tis I alone must bear it. That is true, said the other; but your fear doth further confirm me that things are right betwixt the Prince of pilgrims and your soul. For he saith, “Blessed is the man that feareth always.”

Prov. 28:14 Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always,
but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
  ESV


     VALIANT. Well but, brother, I pray thee tell us what was it that was the cause of thy being upon thy knees even now: was it for that some special mercy laid obligations upon thee, or how?

     STAND. Why, we are, as you see, upon the Enchanted Ground; and as I was coming along, I was musing with myself of what a dangerous nature the road in this place was, and how many that had come even thus far on pilgrimage, had here been stopped and been destroyed. I thought also of the manner of the death with which this place destroyeth men. Those that die here, die of no violent distemper: the death which such die is not grievous to them. For he that goeth away in a sleep, begins that journey with desire and pleasure. Yea, such acquiesce in the will of that disease.

     HON. Then Mr. Honest interrupting him, said, Did you see the two men asleep in the arbor?

     STAND. Aye, aye, I saw Heedless and Too-bold there; and for ought I know, there they will lie till they rot.

Prov. 10:7 The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot.
  ESV


But let me go on with my tale. As I was thus musing, as I said, there was one in very pleasant attire, but old, who presented herself to me, and offered me three things, to wit, her body, her purse, and her bed. Now the truth is, I was both weary and sleepy. I am also as poor as an owlet, and that perhaps the witch knew. Well, I repulsed her once and again, but she put by my repulses, and smiled. Then I began to be angry; but she mattered that nothing at all. Then she made offers again, and said, if I would be ruled by her, she would make me great and happy; for, said she, I am the mistress of the world, and men are made happy by me. Then I asked her name, and she told me it was Madam Bubble.

     This set me further from her; but she still followed me with enticements. Then I betook me, as you saw, to my knees, and with hands lifted up, and cries, I prayed to Him that had said he would help. So, just as you came up, the gentlewoman went her way. Then I continued to give thanks for this my great deliverance; for I verily believe she intended no good, but rather sought to make stop of me in my journey.

     HON. Without doubt her designs were bad. But stay, now you talk of her, methinks I either have seen her, or have read some story of her.

     STAND. Perhaps you have done both.

     HON. Madam Bubble! Is she not a tall, comely dame, something of a swarthy complexion?

     STAND. Right, you hit it: she is just such a one.

     HON. Doth she not speak very smoothly, and give you a smile at the end of a sentence?

     STAND. You fall right upon it again, for these are her very actions.

     HON. Doth she not wear a great purse by her side, and is not her hand often in it, fingering her money, as if that was her heart’s delight.

     STAND. ’Tis just so; had she stood by all this while, you could not more amply have set her forth before me, nor have better described her features.

     HON. Then he that drew her picture was a good limner, and he that wrote of her said true.

     GREAT. This woman is a witch, and it is by virtue of her sorceries that this ground is enchanted. Whoever doth lay his head down in her lap, had as good lay it down on that block over which the axe doth hang;  and whoever lay their eyes upon her beauty are counted the enemies of God. This is she that maintaineth in their splendor all those that are the enemies of pilgrims.

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.   ESV

Yea, this is she that has bought off many a man from a pilgrim’s life. She is a great gossiper; she is always, both she and her daughters, at one pilgrim’s heels or another, now commending, and then preferring the excellences of this life. She is a bold and impudent slut: she will talk with any man. She always laugheth poor pilgrims to scorn, but highly commends the rich. If there be one cunning to get money in a place, she will speak well of him from house to house. She loveth banqueting and feasting mainly well; she is always at one full table or another. She has given it out in some places that she is a goddess, and therefore some do worship her. She has her time, and open places of cheating; and she will say and avow it, that none can show a good comparable to hers. She promiseth to dwell with children’s children, if they will but love her and make much of her. She will cast out of her purse gold like dust in some places and to some persons. She loves to be sought after, spoken well of, and to lie in the bosoms of men. She is never weary of commending her commodities, and she loves them most that think best of her. She will promise to some crowns and kingdoms, if they will but take her advice; yet many has she brought to the halter, and ten thousand times more to hell.  The spirit of Demas has ruined many a person.

     STAND. Oh, said Standfast, what a mercy is it that I did resist her; for whither might she have drawn me!

     GREAT. Whither? nay, none but God knows whither. But in general, to be sure, she would have drawn thee into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

1 Tim. 6:9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

’T was she that set Absalom against his father, and Jeroboam against his master. ’T was she that persuaded Judas to sell his Lord; and that prevailed with Demas to forsake the godly pilgrim’s life. None can tell of the mischief that she doth. She makes variance betwixt rulers and subjects, betwixt parents and children, betwixt neighbor and neighbor, betwixt a man and his wife, betwixt a man and himself, betwixt the flesh and the spirit. Wherefore, good Mr. Standfast, be as your name is, and when you have done all, stand.

     At this discourse there was among the pilgrims a mixture of joy and trembling; but at length they broke out and sang,

“What danger is the Pilgrim in!
How many are his foes!
How many ways there are to sin
No living mortal knows.

Some in the ditch are spoiled, yea, can
Lie tumbling in the mire:
Some, though they shun the frying-pan
Do leap into the fire.”

     Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.



  • 1 Peter 5:13–14
  • 1 Peter 5:12
  • Gospel Depths !!!

#1 John Piper | Desiring God

 

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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     The cure for worry
     3/15/2018    Bob Gass

     ‘Offer up your prayers and requests to God.’

(Php 4:6) do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ESV


     The Bible says, ‘With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then…God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel’ (vv. 6-7 CEV). When you pray more, you worry less. That means you have a choice: either pray about it or worry about it. In prayer you give the problem to God, therefore you experience more peace of mind. Does that mean you won’t worry about the problem at all? No. It means you’ll worry about it less. While your goal is to give it completely to God and not worry about it at all, you’ll only get there step by step. God’s not asking you to exist in a state of denial. ‘Don’t worry – be happy!’ fails to appreciate the seriousness of the concerns you have. God doesn’t expect you to suddenly stop caring. Instead He offers an alternative to the pointless and exhausting habit of worry: ‘Pray without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV). Does that mean a thirty-second prayer will rid you of all anxiety? No. It means start your day with prayer, and continue praying off and on throughout the day. Pray as you drive. Pray at work. Pray before your lunch break. Pray when you get that difficult phone call. Pray when you’re disappointed by something. Pray when surprises come. Pray when you triumph. Pray in the midst of painful news. Pray without ceasing – literally. Your heavenly Father, being deeply touched by your struggles, loves it when you come to Him asking for help. He’s right there, ready to step in. Just invite Him to do it.

Numbers 29-31
Mark 9:1-29

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     On this day, March 15, 1984, the Senate voted down voluntary silent prayer in public schools. President Ronald Reagan responded: “I am deeply disappointed that, although a majority of the Senate voted for it, the school prayer amendment fell short.” President Reagan later remarked: “In 1962, the Supreme Court… banned the… saying of prayers. In 1963, the Court banned the reading of the Bible in our public schools… a series of assaults were made in one court after another… Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience…. without God democracy will not and cannot long endure.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


Do you not know that there comes a midnight hour when everyone has to throw off his mask? Do you believe that life will always let itself be mocked? Do you think you can slip away a little before midnight in order to avoid this? Or are you not terrified by it? I have seen men in real life who so long deceived others that at last their true nature could not reveal itself;... In every man there is something which to a certain degree prevents him from becoming perfectly transparent to himself; and this may be the case in so high a degree, he may be so inexplicably woven into relationships of life which extend far beyond himself that he almost cannot reveal himself. But he who cannot reveal himself cannot love, and he who cannot love is the most unhappy man of all.
--- Soren Kierkegaard
Kierkegaard After MacIntyre: Essays on Freedom, Narrative, and Virtue


I have but one candle of life to burn,
and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness
than in a land flooded with light.
--- John Keith Falconer
Know Who You Believe

We always find that those who walked closest to Christ
were those who had to bear the greatest trials.
--- St. Teresa of Avila
Strength to Love

Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.
--- G.K. Chesterton
Robert Browning: "Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere."

... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 3/15
     University of Virginia Library 1994

     Chapter VIII.

     1761, 1762. Visits Pennsylvania, Shrewsbury, and Squan -- Publishes the Second Part of his Considerations on keeping Negroes -- The Grounds of his appearing in some Respects singular in his Dress -- Visit to the Families of Friends of Ancocas and Mount Holly Meetings -- Visits to the Indians at Wehaloosing on the River Susquehanna.

     HAVING felt my mind drawn towards a visit to a few meetings in Pennsylvania, I was very desirous to be rightly instructed as to the time of setting off. On the 10th of the fifth month, 1761, being the first day of the week, I went to Haddonfield Meeting, concluding to seek for heavenly instruction, and come home, or go on as I might then believe best for me, and there through the springing up of pure love I felt encouragement, and so crossed the river. In this visit I was at two quarterly and three monthly meetings, and in the love of truth I felt my way open to labor with some noted Friends who kept negroes. As I was favored to keep to the root, and endeavor to discharge what I believed was required of me, I found inward peace therein, from time to time, and thankfulness of heart to the Lord, who was graciously pleased to be a guide to me.

     Eighth month, 1761. -- Having felt drawings in my mind to visit Friends in and about Shrewsbury, I went there, and was at their Monthly Meeting, and their first-day meeting; I had also a meeting at Squan, and another at Squanquam, and, as way opened, had conversation with some noted Friends concerning their slaves. I returned home in a thankful sense of the goodness of the Lord.

     From the concern I felt growing in me for some years, I wrote part the second of a work entitled "Considerations on keeping Negroes," which was printed this year, 1762.

     When the overseers of the press had done with it, they offered to get a number printed, to be paid for out of the Yearly Meeting's stock, to be given away; but I being most easy to publish it at my own expense, and offering my reasons, they appeared satisfied.

     This stock is the contribution of the members of our religious society in general, among whom are some who keep negroes, and, being inclined to continue them in slavery, are not likely to be satisfied with such books being spread among a people, especially at their own expense, many of whose slaves are taught to read, and such, receiving them as a gift, often conceal them. But as they who make a purchase generally buy that which they have a mind for, I believed it best to sell them, expecting by that means they would more generally be read with attention. Advertisements were signed by order of the overseers of the press, and directed to be read in the Monthly Meetings of business within our own Yearly Meeting, informing where the books were, and that the price was no more than the cost of printing and binding them. Many were taken off in our parts; some I sent to Virginia, some to New York, some to my acquaintance at Newport, and some I kept, intending to give part of them away, where there appeared a prospect of service.

     In my youth I was used to hard labor, and though I was middling healthy, yet my nature was not fitted to endure so much as many others. Being often weary, I was prepared to sympathize with those whose circumstances in life, as free men, required constant labor to answer the demands of their creditors, as well as with others under oppression. In the uneasiness of body which I have many times felt by too much labor, not as a forced but a voluntary oppression, I have often been excited to think on the original cause of that oppression which is imposed on many in the world. The latter part of the time wherein I labored on our plantation, my heart, through the fresh visitations of heavenly love, being often tender, and my leisure time being frequently spent in reading the life and doctrines of our blessed Redeemer, the account of the sufferings of martyrs, and the history of the first rise of our Society, a belief was gradually settled in my mind, that if such as had great estates generally lived in that humility and plainness which belong to a Christian life, and laid much easier rents and interests on their lands and moneys, and thus led the way to a right use of things, so great a number of people might be employed in things useful, that labor both for men and other creatures would need to be no more than an agreeable employ, and divers branches of business, which serve chiefly to please the natural inclinations of our minds, and which at present seem necessary to circulate that wealth which some gather, might, in this way of pure wisdom, be discontinued. As I have thus considered these things, a query at times hath arisen: Do I, in all my proceedings, keep to that use of things which is agreeable to universal righteousness? And then there hath some degree of sadness at times come over me, because I accustomed myself to some things which have occasioned more labor than I believe Divine wisdom intended for us.

     From my early acquaintance with truth I have often felt an inward distress, occasioned by the striving of a spirit in me against the operation of the heavenly principle; and in this state I have been affected with a sense of my own wretchedness, and in a mourning condition have felt earnest longings for that Divine help which brings the soul into true liberty. Sometimes, on retiring into private places, the spirit of supplication hath been given me, and under a heavenly covering I have asked my gracious Father to give me a heart in all things resigned to the direction of his wisdom; in uttering language like this, the thought of my wearing hats and garments dyed with a dye hurtful to them, has made lasting impression on me.

     In visiting people of note in the Society who had slaves, and laboring with them in brotherly love on that account, I have seen, and the sight has affected me, that a conformity to some customs distinguishable from pure wisdom has entangled many, and that the desire of gain to support these customs has greatly opposed the work of truth. Sometimes when the prospect of the work before me has been such that in bowedness of spirit I have been drawn into retired places, and have besought the Lord with tears that he would take me wholly under his direction, and show me the way in which I ought to walk, it hath revived with strength of conviction that if I would be his faithful servant I must in all things attend to his wisdom, and be teachable, and so cease from all customs contrary thereto, however used among religious people.

     As he is the perfection of power, of wisdom, and of goodness, so I believe he hath provided that so much labor shall be necessary for men's support in this world as would, being rightly divided, be a suitable employment of their time; and that we cannot go into superfluities, or grasp after wealth in a way contrary to his wisdom, without having connection with some degree of oppression, and with that spirit which leads to self-exaltation and strife, and which frequently brings calamities on countries by parties contending about their claims.

     Being thus fully convinced, and feeling an increasing desire to live in the spirit of peace, I have often been sorrow-fully affected with thinking on the unquiet spirit in which wars are generally carried on, and with the miseries of many of my fellow-creatures engaged therein; some suddenly destroyed; some wounded, and after much pain remaining cripples; some deprived of all their outward substance and reduced to want; and some carried into captivity. Thinking often on these things, the use of hats and garments dyed with a dye hurtful to them, and wearing more clothes in summer than are useful, grew more uneasy to me, believing them to be customs which have not their foundation in pure wisdom. The apprehension of being singular from my beloved friends was a strait upon me, and thus I continued in the use of some things contrary to my judgment.

John Woolman's Journal

Proverbs 12:20-21
     by D.H. Stern

20     Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil,
but for those advising peace there is joy.
21     No harm can come to the righteous,
but the wicked are overwhelmed with disaster.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis

          4

     As the solid people came nearer still I noticed that they were moving with order and determination as though each of them had marked his man in our shadowy company. ‘There are going to be affecting scenes,’ I said to myself. ‘Perhaps it would not be right to look on.’ With that, I sidled away on some vague pretext of doing a little exploring. A grove of huge cedars to my right seemed attractive and I entered it. Walking proved difficult. The grass, hard as diamonds to my unsubstantial feet, made me feel as if I were walking on wrinkled rock, and I suffered pains like those of the mermaid in Hans Andersen. A bird ran across in front of me and I envied it. It belonged to that country and was as real as the grass. It could bend the stalks and spatter itself with the dew.

     Almost at once I was followed by what I have called the Big Man—to speak more accurately, the Big Ghost. He in his turn was followed by one of the bright people. ‘Don’t you know me?’ he shouted to the Ghost: and I found it impossible not to turn and attend. The face of the solid spirit—he was one of those that wore a robe—made me want to dance, it was so jocund, so established in its youthfulness.

     ‘Well, I’m damned,’ said the Ghost. ‘I wouldn’t have believed it. It’s a fair knock-out. It isn’t right, Len, you know. What about poor Jack, eh? You look pretty pleased with yourself, but what I say is, What about poor Jack?’

     ‘He is here,’ said the other. ‘You will meet him soon, if you stay.’

     ‘But you murdered him.’

     ‘Of course I did. It is all right now.’

     ‘All right, is it? All right for you, you mean. But what about the poor chap himself, laying cold and dead?’

     ‘But he isn’t. I have told you, you will meet him soon. He sent you his love.’

     ‘What I’d like to understand,’ said the Ghost, ‘is what you’re here for, as pleased as Punch, you, a bloody murderer, while I’ve been walking the streets down there and living in a place like a pigstye all these years.’

     ‘That is a little hard to understand at first. But it is all over now. You will be pleased about it presently. Till then there is no need to bother about it.’

     ‘No need to bother about it? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?’

     ‘No. Not as you mean. I do not look at myself. I have given up myself. I had to, you know, after the murder. That was what it did for me. And that was how everything began.’

     ‘Personally,’ said the Big Ghost with an emphasis which contradicted the ordinary meaning of the word, ‘Personally, I’d have thought you and I ought to be the other way round. That’s my personal opinion.’

     ‘Very likely we soon shall be,’ said the other. ‘If you’ll stop thinking about it.’

     ‘Look at me, now,’ said the Ghost, slapping its chest (but the slap made no noise). ‘I gone straight all my life. I don’t say I was a religious man and I don’t say I had no faults, far from it. But I done my best all my life, see? I done my best by everyone, that’s the sort of chap I was. I never asked for anything that wasn’t mine by rights. If I wanted a drink I paid for it and if I took my wages I done my job, see? That’s the sort I was and I don’t care who knows it.’

     ‘It would be much better not to go on about that now.’

     ‘Who’s going on? I’m not arguing. I’m just telling you the sort of chap I was, see? I’m asking for nothing but my rights. You may think you can put me down because you’re dressed up like that (which you weren’t when you worked under me) and I’m only a poor man. But I got to have my rights same as you, see?’

     ‘Oh no. It’s not so bad as that. I haven’t got my rights, or I should not be here. You will not get yours either. You’ll get something far better. Never fear.’

The Great Divorce   or   The Great Divorce

     C.S. Lewis

     C.S. Lewis Books |  Go to Books Page

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The discipline of dismay

And as they followed, they were afraid. --- Mark 10:32.

     At the beginning we were sure we knew all about Jesus Christ, it was a delight to sell all and to fling ourselves out in a hardihood of love; but now we are not quite so sure. Jesus is on in front and He looks strange. “Jesus went before them: and they were amazed.”

     There is an aspect of Jesus that chills the heart of a disciple to the core and makes the whole spiritual life gasp for breath. This strange Being with His face set like a flint and His striding determination strikes terror into me. He is no longer Counsellor and Comrade, He is taken up with a point of view I know nothing about, and I am amazed at Him. At first I was confident that I understood Him, but now I am not so sure. I begin to realize there is a distance between Jesus Christ and me; I can no longer be familiar with Him. He is ahead of me and He never turns round; I have no idea where He is going, and the goal has become strangely far off.

     Jesus Christ had to fathom every sin and every sorrow man could experience, and that is what makes Him seem strange. When we see Him in this aspect we do not know Him, we do not recognize one feature of his life, and we do not know how to begin to follow Him. He is on in front, a Leader Who is very strange, and we have no comradeship with Him.

     The discipline of dismay is an essential necessity in the life of discipleship. The danger is to get back to a little fire of our own and kindle enthusiasm at it (cf. Isaiah 50:10–11). When the darkness of dismay comes, endure until it is over, because out of it will come that following of Jesus which is an unspeakable joy.

My Utmost for His Highest

July 5, 1940
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           July 5, 1940

Nought that I would give today
Would half compare
With the long-treasured riches that somewhere
In the deep heart are stored.
Cloud and the moon and mist and the whole
Hoard of frail, white-bubbling stars,
And the cool blessing,
Like moth or wind caressing,
Of the fair, fresh rain-dipped flowers;
And all the spells of the sea, and the new green
Of moss and fern and bracken
Before their youth is stricken;
The thoughts of the trees at eventide, the hush
In the dark corn at morning,
And the wish
In your own heart still but dawning-
All of these,
A soft weight on your hands,
I would give now;
And lastly myself made clean
And white as the wave-washed sand,
If I knew how.

R. S. Thomas and Elsi Eldridge were married in Llanycil, on the shore of Bala Lake on 5 July 1940. Among his unpublished manuscripts is the poem above, simply entitled "July 5th":

Teacher's Commentary
     A Nation: Numbers 1–10

     Here is where we see the first indication that the great mob of people who swarmed out of Egypt are now to be treated as a responsible nation. A census was taken, with the men of military age numbering 603,550. This figure is given in several different texts, though in some it is rounded off (Ex. 12:37; 38:26; Num. 1:46; 2:32; 11:21). The later census of Numbers 26:51 shows similarity, but also some change over the 38-year period. The total population of Israel now ready to leave Sinai probably ranged between 2 and 2 1/2 million people.

     Tribal marching and camping positions were set. The duties of the Levites were defined, and a system of trumpet calls was set to signal assembly, the order of departure, alarms, etc.

     As the people of Israel marched they were to respond to the direct leading of God. The pillar of cloud and fire which had appeared as Israel left Egypt (Exodus 13:21) now rested over the tabernacle. When the cloud rested, the people remained in camp. But when in the morning the cloud lifted up, the people set out and followed it as God led them where He chose. As the Bible says, “At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order in accordance with His command through Moses” (Numbers 9:23).

The Teacher's Commentary

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Berakhot 58a

     D’RASH

     A man sits in front of the television, his lottery ticket in hand. He listens attentively as the state lottery spokeswoman greets the viewers, and then begins to pick the winning numbers. 4. 17. 33. 38. 46 … and 61. The man watches and listens, staring in disbelief at the numbers on his ticket. They are identical! He cannot believe this has happened! He looks at the screen one more time as the numbers are listed. He checks his ticket a second, and then a third time. “Yes!” He has won the lottery. He gets down on his knees, on the floor, and looks up to the ceiling. “Thank you, God! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

     A year goes by, but the money he won turns out not to have been such a blessing. His marriage has broken up, and most of his old friends no longer talk to him. Much of the money is gone, squandered on silly extravagances and poor investments. What originally looked to be a great blessing turned out to be a real curse.

     A child sits by the front window, looking out at the pouring rain. There is an unmistakable expression of disappointment on her face. Today was the day of her birthday party picnic, which had to be postponed because of the weather. Her mother tries to explain that friends and family will all get together next weekend and try again, but those words bring no comfort. Today is her actual birthday, and she had her hopes set on this day for a marvelous celebration. She looks up at the heavens and angrily asks God: “What did I ever do to You to deserve Your doing this to me?”

     The next morning the family reads in the newspaper about a helicopter crash. The accident took place at the same site where the party was to be held and during the exact time that the family would have been gathered. What seemed yesterday like a curse today seems like a blessing in disguise.

     Perhaps this is the reason we are taught to bless God for the bad as well as the good: We never really know how things will ultimately turn out. Events, sometimes, are not what they first appear to be. It may be that it is quite short-sighted and quite self-centered for us to thank God for what seems good and to blame or ignore God for what appears to be bad. Perhaps the Rabbis were being more realistic when they advised us that we need to be careful with the good, for it can turn on us and become a curse. And we need to be patient with what seems to be bad: It may turn out to be a real blessing in the long run.

     Everything comes from God; that is what reciting a blessing reminds us. Everything, both good and bad, is just another opportunity. We cannot make much of opportunities until we are open enough to see them.

     What does a good guest say? How much trouble has my host gone to just for me!

     Text / The Rabbis taught: “One who sees a crowd of Israelites says: ‘Blessed is He who understands secrets.’ For each one’s mind is different, and each one’s face is different.” Ben Zoma once saw a crowd on the steps of the Temple Mount. He said: “Blessed is He who understands secrets, and blessed is He who created all these just to serve me!” He used to say: “How much trouble Adam had to go to just to get some bread to eat! He plowed, sowed, reaped, bound sheaves, threshed them, winnowed, selected, ground, sifted, kneaded and baked—and then he ate. And I simply get up and find all of these done for me. How much trouble did Adam go to in order to find clothes to wear! He sheared, cleaned the wool, beat it, spun it, weaved it—and then he had clothing to wear. And I simply get up and find all these done for me. All kinds of craftsmen anxiously come to my door, and I simply get up and find these done for me.” He used to say: “What does a good guest say? ‘How much trouble has my host gone to just for me! How much meat has he brought for me! How much wine has he brought for me! How much cake has he brought for me! All his trouble, he has done just for me!’ But what does a bad guest say? ‘How much trouble has my host gone to? I ate one slice of bread, I ate one piece of meat, I drank one cup of wine. All his trouble, he has done just for his wife and his children.’ ”

     Context / Blessings (in Hebrew, berakhot) are an important part of the Jewish tradition. The better known blessings are those for foods like wine and bread, but there are also blessings for various occasions like studying a traditional text, seeing a rainbow, and hearing good news or bad news. Judaism sees each of these occasions as an opportunity for us to witness God’s presence in the world. Thus, we acknowledge God as the giver of Torah, the One who remembers God’s covenant with Noah, and who is either good and beneficent, or the true Judge.

     This section of Gemara lists the proper blessings to be recited for certain foods and upon seeing specific people (like a king) or places (for example, where a miracle occurred). Ben Zoma feels that one should thank God not only for the individuality of each person (“Blessed is He Who understands secrets”) but also for each person’s labors on his behalf. Since these blessings are, in part, an attempt to formalize a sense of thankfulness, Ben Zoma believes that one should be thankful for the simple fact that one’s life is so easy. To prove this, Ben Zoma compares his life with that of Adam in the Garden of Eden. Adam had to work so much harder to produce food or clothing. “And I simply get up and find all of these done for me!”

     As a continuation of Ben Zoma’s thoughts on gratitude, a famous quote of his (“He used to say …”) is introduced. Just as we should be grateful and thank God for the food and clothing we have, we should also be grateful guests and thank our host for what he has done for us. Thus, a person should not think: “My host was making dinner anyway. He just added some water to the soup and a place setting at the table.” Rather, one should think: “My host went out of his way to provide for me. How privileged I am to have such a wonderful host.”

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Sixth Chapter / The Proving Of A True Lover

          THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     MY CHILD, you are not yet a brave and wise lover.

     THE DISCIPLE

     Why, Lord?

     THE VOICE OF CHRIST

     Because, on account of a slight difficulty you give up what you have undertaken and are too eager to seek consolation.

     The brave lover stands firm in temptations and pays no heed to the crafty persuasions of the enemy. As I please him in prosperity, so in adversity I am not displeasing to him. The wise lover regards not so much the gift of Him Who loves as the love of Him Who gives. He regards the affection of the Giver rather than the value of the gift, and sets his Beloved above all gifts. The noble lover does not rest in the gift but in Me Who am above every gift.

          All is not lost, then, if you sometimes feel less devout than you wish toward Me or My saints. That good and sweet feeling which you sometimes have is the effect of present grace and a certain foretaste of your heavenly home. You must not lean upon it too much, because it comes and goes. But to fight against evil thoughts which attack you is a sign of virtue and great merit. Do not, therefore, let strange fantasies disturb you, no matter what they concern. Hold strongly to your resolution and keep a right intention toward God.

     It is not an illusion that you are sometimes rapt in ecstasy and then quickly returned to the usual follies of your heart. For these are evils which you suffer rather than commit; and so long as they displease you and you struggle against them, it is a matter of merit and not a loss.

     You must know that the old enemy tries by all means in his power to hinder your desire for good and to turn you from every devotional practice, especially from the veneration of the saints, from devout meditation on My passion, and from your firm purpose of advancing in virtue. He suggests many evil thoughts that he may cause you weariness and horror, and thus draw you away from prayer and holy reading. A humble confession displeases him and, if he could, he would make you omit Holy Communion.

     Do not believe him or heed him, even though he often sets traps to deceive you. When he suggests evil, unclean things, accuse him. Say to him: “Away, unclean spirit! Shame, miserable creature! You are but filth to bring such things to my ears. Begone, most wretched seducer! You shall have no part in me, for Jesus will be my strength, and you shall be confounded. I would rather die and suffer all torments than consent to you. Be still! Be silent! Though you bring many troubles upon me I will have none of you. The Lord is my light, my salvation. Whom shall I fear? Though armies unite against me, my heart will not fear, for the Lord is my Helper, my Redeemer.”

     Fight like a good soldier and if you sometimes fall through weakness, rise again with greater strength than before, trusting in My most abundant grace. But beware of vain complacency and pride. For many are led into error through these faults and sometimes fall into almost perpetual blindness. Let the fall of these, who proudly presume on self, be a warning to you and a constant incentive to humility.

The Imitation Of Christ

Take Heart
     March 15

     O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
---
Psalm 96:9. KJV

     What is worship? (G. Campbell Morgan, “Worship, Beauty, Holiness,” downloaded from Tom Garner’s Web page; previously published in The Westminster Pulpit, vol. 2 (Westwood,) The essential meaning of the word is prostration, bowing down. Worship suggests the attitude that recognizes the throne, that recognizes superiority, that takes the low place of reverence in the presence of that which takes hold on the life and compels it. It is a word full of force, which constrains us and compels us to the attitude of reverence.

     The word worship runs through the Bible, and the thought of worship is to be found from beginning to end. The thought of worship is the recognition of divine sufficiency, the recognition of our absolute dependence on the divine sufficiency, the confession that all we need in our lives we find in God. And the spoken answer to that conviction is worship. I worship in the presence of God as I recognize that in him I find everything that my life demands, that in myself I am incomplete. A sense of my need and his resource, a sense that my life finds its heights and its best and fulfills itself in relation to him produces the act and the attitude of worship. The attitude of worship is the attitude of a subject bent before a monarch; the attitude of a child yielding all its love to a parent; the attitude of the sheep that follows the shepherd and is content in all the pasturage that the shepherd appoints. It is the attitude of saying yes to everything that God says.

     The height of worship is expressed in the use of two words that have never been translated, which remain on the page of the Holy Scriptures and in the common language of the church as they were in the language where they originated: “Hallelujah” and “Amen.” When I have learned to say those two words with all my mind and heart and soul and being, I have found the highest place of worship and the fullest realization of my own life. Amen to his will, and Hallelujah, the offering of praise. I know it is but a simple symbol. I know it is only saying an old thing, but I address my own heart as much as any of you, and I say, Oh, soul of mine, have you learned to say “Amen” to him, and that on the basis of a deep and profound conviction of all his absolute perfection in government and method and providence? Can you say, as the quiet expression of a heart resting in the perfection of God, “Hallelujah” and “Amen”? Then that is worship, that is life.

--- G. Campbell Morgan

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

On This Day   March 15
     Dr. Livingstone, I Presume

     The Money Machine

     St. Peter’s is one of the most beautiful basilicas in the world, and the most famous. But it was built at a cost.

     The church in the early 1500s was beset with sin. Priests by the thousands, finding it impossible to live in celibacy, broke their vows. Monks enjoyed filthy talk, gluttony, and promiscuity; one observer noted that many “convents differ little from public brothels.”

     But forgiveness of sins, both by priests and laity, was easy to find. It could be purchased. The sale of indulgences—a kind of pardon for sins—was widespread. The chancellor of Oxford noted, “Sinners say nowadays: ‘I care not how many evils I do in God’s sight, for I can easily get remission of all guilt by the indulgence granted me by the pope.’ ”

     But forgiveness of sins, both by priests and laity, was easy to find. It could be purchased. The sale of indulgences—a kind of pardon for sins—was widespread. The chancellor of Oxford noted, “Sinners say nowadays: ‘I care not how many evils I do in God’s sight, for I can easily get remission of all guilt by the indulgence granted me by the pope.’ ”

     On March 15, 1517 Pope Leo X, needing money to rebuild St. Peter’s, announced a special sale of indulgences. Johann Tetzel, a middle-aged Dominican friar, became the principal agent of the sale. He took to his new role like P. T. Barnum, traveling through central Europe with a brass-bound chest and a bag of printed receipts. Beside him, an assistant carried Leo’s edict on a velvet cushion. The men would enter a village to the ringing of church bells. Crowds gathered and jugglers performed. Tetzel would bark, “I have here the passports to lead the human soul to the celestial joys of Paradise.”

     Any and every sin could be forgiven, he said. “The Holy Father has the power in heaven and earth to forgive the sin, and if he forgives it, God must do so also.” What’s more, he said, pardons could be purchased for deceased loved ones. “As soon as the coin rings in the bowl, the soul for whom it is paid will fly out of purgatory and straight to heaven.” Tetzel was a virtual money machine, exceeding his quota everywhere… until he entered the region of a young monk named Luther.

     All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus, he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins. God sent Christ to be our sacrifice. Christ offered his life’s blood, so that by faith in him we could come to God.
--- Romans 3:23-25.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - March 15

     “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
--- 2 Timothy 2:1.

     Christ has grace without measure in himself, but he hath not retained it for himself. As the reservoir empties itself into the pipes, so hath Christ emptied out his grace for his people. “Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” He seems only to have in order to dispense to us. He stands like the fountain, always flowing, but only running in order to supply the empty pitchers and the thirsty lips which draw nigh unto it. Like a tree, he bears sweet fruit, not to hang on boughs, but to be gathered by those who need. Grace, whether its work be to pardon, to cleanse, to preserve, to strengthen, to enlighten, to quicken, or to restore, is ever to be had from him freely and without price; nor is there one form of the work of grace which he has not bestowed upon his people. As the blood of the body, though flowing from the heart, belongs equally to every member, so the influences of grace are the inheritance of every saint united to the Lamb; and herein there is a sweet communion between Christ and his Church, inasmuch as they both receive the same grace. Christ is the head upon which the oil is first poured; but the same oil runs to the very skirts of the garments, so that the meanest saint has an unction of the same costly moisture as that which fell upon the head. This is true communion when the sap of grace flows from the stem to the branch, and when it is perceived that the stem itself is sustained by the very nourishment which feeds the branch. As we day by day receive grace from Jesus, and more constantly recognize it as coming from him, we shall behold him in communion with us, and enjoy the felicity of communion with him. Let us make daily use of our riches, and ever repair to him as to our own Lord in covenant, taking from him the supply of all we need with as much boldness as men take money from their own purse.


          Evening - March 15

     “He did it with all his heart and prospered." 2 Chronicles 31:21.

     This is no unusual occurrence; it is the general rule of the moral universe that those men prosper who do their work with all their hearts, while those are almost certain to fail who go to their labour leaving half their hearts behind them. God does not give harvests to idle men except harvests of thistles, nor is he pleased to send wealth to those who will not dig in the field to find its hid treasure. It is universally confessed that if a man would prosper, he must be diligent in business. It is the same in religion as it is in other things. If you would prosper in your work for Jesus, let it be heart work, and let it be done with all your heart. Put as much force, energy, heartiness, and earnestness into religion as ever you do into business, for it deserves far more. The Holy Spirit helps our infirmities, but he does not encourage our idleness; he loves active believers. Who are the most useful men in the Christian church? The men who do what they undertake for God with all their hearts. Who are the most successful Sabbath-school teachers?

     The most talented? No; the most zealous; the men whose hearts are on fire, those are the men who see their Lord riding forth prosperously in the majesty of his salvation. Whole-heartedness shows itself in perseverance; there may be failure at first, but the earnest worker will say, “It is the Lord’s work, and it must be done; my Lord has bidden me do it, and in his strength I will accomplish it.” Christian, art thou thus “with all thine heart” serving thy Master? Remember the earnestness of Jesus! Think what heart-work was his! He could say, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” When he sweat great drops of blood, it was no light burden he had to carry upon those blessed shoulders; and when he poured out his heart, it was no weak effort he was making for the salvation of his people. Was Jesus in earnest, and are we lukewarm?

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     March 15

          MORE SECURE IS NO ONE EVER

     Lina Sandell Berg, 1832–1903

     My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. (Psalm 62:7)

     A sincere love for God and a heart filled with gratitude following a miraculous healing experience prompted the tender lines of this hymn, set to a child-like Swedish folk melody.

     Lina Sandell was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor in Smöland, Sweden. Since early childhood she had been confined to bed with a paralysis that doctors considered hopeless. One Sunday morning, while her parents were at church, Lina began reading her Bible and praying. She was suddenly healed. With a thankful heart, Lina began writing verses that expressed her feelings for God. As a result, at the age of 16 she published her first book of meditations and poems. One of her earliest hymn texts during this time was “Tryggare Kan Ingen Vara” or “More Secure Is No One Ever.”

     In the following years Lina had experiences that must have tested her faith, as expressed in a stanza of this hymn—“What He takes or what He gives us …” When she was 26, Lina accompanied her father on a trip across Lake Vattern. When the ship lurched suddenly, Pastor Sandell was thrown overboard and drowned as his devoted daughter stood helplessly by. Then after her marriage to C. O. Berg, Lina met tragedy once more with the death of their first son at birth.

     Lina’s sweet trusting faith in her Lord did not seem shaken by the sorrows in her life. Instead, more songs than ever began to flow from her broken heart. In all, she wrote more than 650 hymns before her death in 1903. These heart-warming gospel songs had much influence on the powerful revival surge that swept the Scandinavian countries during the mid-19th century. And still today these words minister to our lives:

     More secure is no one ever than the loved ones of the Savior—not yon star on high abiding, nor the bird in home-nest hiding.
     Neither life nor death can ever from the Lord His children sever, for His love and deep compassion comforts them in tribulation.
     Little flock to joy then yield thee! Jacob’s God will ever shield thee; rest secure with this Defender—At His will all foes surrender.
     What He takes or what He gives us shows the Father’s love so precious; we may trust His purpose wholly—’Tis His children’s welfare solely.


     For Today: Matthew 18:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Peter 5:10, 11.

     Rest securely in the love and protection of your heavenly Father—much like a child in the arms of a parent. Allow this hymn to help you realize that ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions


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