1 Samuel 1
The Birth of Samuel1 Samuel 1 1 There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. 2 He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
3 Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the LORD. 4 On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. 6 And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. 7 So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8 And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”
9 After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”
12 As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20 And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the LORD.”
Samuel Given to the LORD21 The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the LORD and dwell there forever.” 23 Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the LORD establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. 24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the LORD. 27 For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the LORD. As long as he lives, he is lent to the LORD.”
And he worshiped the LORD there.
1 Samuel 2
Hannah’s Prayer1 Samuel 2 1 And Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the LORD;
my horn is exalted in the LORD.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
2 “There is none holy like the LORD:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the LORD is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
6 The LORD kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
8 He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,
and on them he has set the world.
9 “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
Eli’s Worthless Sons12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD. 13 The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, 14 and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. 15 Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give meat for the priest to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw.” 16 And if the man said to him, “Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish,” he would say, “No, you must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force.” 17 Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the LORD, for the men treated the offering of the LORD with contempt.
18 Samuel was ministering before the LORD, a boy clothed with a linen ephod. 19 And his mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20 Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the LORD give you children by this woman for the petition she asked of the LORD.” So then they would return to their home.
21 Indeed the LORD visited Hannah, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the LORD.
Eli Rebukes His Sons22 Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 And he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. 24 No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the LORD spreading abroad. 25 If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death.
26 Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man.
The LORD Rejects Eli’s Household27 And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Did I indeed reveal myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh? 28 Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel. 29 Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’ 30 Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. 31 Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. 32 Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed on Israel, and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. 33 The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out to grieve his heart, and all the descendants of your house shall die by the sword of men. 34 And this that shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day. 35 And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. 36 And everyone who is left in your house shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread and shall say, “Please put me in one of the priests’ places, that I may eat a morsel of bread.” ’ ”
1 Samuel 3
The LORD Calls Samuel1 Samuel 3 1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD in the presence of Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.
2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.
4 Then the LORD called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.
6 And the LORD called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
8 And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” 11 Then the LORD said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
15 Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” 17 And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him.”
19 And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD. 21 And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.
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What I'm Reading
How C. S. Lewis Put the Ontological Argument for God in Narnia
By Gavin Ortlund 1/25/2017
One of my favorite passages in all of literature is Puddleglum’s response to the Lady of the Green Kirtle in The Silver Chair. The Lady (an evil sorceress) has several characters trapped underground, and with the help of a little magic is trying to convince them that Narnia and Aslan and the rest of the “Overland” do not actually exist. The characters are on the verge of giving in when Puddleglum stomps on the magic fire in these words:
“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”
Some regard this passage as a sort of inversion of Plato’s famous allegory of the cave, but until recently I’d never thought about it as an application of the ontological argument, or a Platonic worldview more generally. Then recently I came across this statement by Lewis himself in an October 1963 letter to Nancy Warner. Warner had mentioned that her son referenced the presence of an “ontological argument” in The Silver Chair, and Lewis replied:
Gavin Ortlund (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, minister, and visiting scholar at Reasons to Believe, and author of several forthcoming books, including Ascending Toward the Beatific Vision: Heaven as the Climax of Anselm’s Proslogion (Brill). Gavin blogs regularly at Soliloquium. You can follow him on Twitter.
How Not to Help a Sufferer
By Gavin Ortlund 2/18/2017
Of all the Bible’s many colorful characters, none is quite so exasperating as Job’s friends. Herod might chop off your head, and Judas might stab you in the back, but Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar will hurt you with Bible verses.
Job’s actual losses take two brief chapters to recount (Job 1–2), but the tortuous dialogue that follows drones on for 35 chapters (Job 3–37). I wonder which agonized Job more: his initial suffering or the extended indictment that followed?
The problem with Job’s comforters isn’t that they’re heretics. Much of what they say is true. The problem is the moralistic worldview that governs their engagement with Job, and compels them to reason backward from suffering to sin.
Gavin Ortlund (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, minister, and visiting scholar at Reasons to Believe, and author of several forthcoming books, including Ascending Toward the Beatific Vision: Heaven as the Climax of Anselm’s Proslogion (Brill). Gavin blogs regularly at Soliloquium. You can follow him on Twitter.
The Problem of Evil Is a Problem for Everyone
By Gavin Ortlund 1/13/2017
If God is all-good and all-powerful, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?
This question, the age-old “problem of evil,” is probably the greatest argument of all time against the existence of God. And the question has both a “global” and a “local” presence—it’s a logical dilemma puzzled over by philosophers, and an emotional struggle every sufferer will face. It’s both academic and everyday.
When we are with someone who is suffering, it’s often best to avoid words altogether and stick with tears, silence, and prayers. In my pastoral role I often have the privilege of sitting with people in deep grief. In those moments, it usually does more harm than good to offer encouragements, or even interpretations. The best thing is simply to sit with them in the darkness. As my brother Dane puts it, “That Romans 8:28 comes before Romans 12:15 in the canon doesn’t mean it should in our counseling and friendships.”
Gavin Ortlund (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, minister, and visiting scholar at Reasons to Believe, and author of several forthcoming books, including Ascending Toward the Beatific Vision: Heaven as the Climax of Anselm’s Proslogion (Brill). Gavin blogs regularly at Soliloquium. You can follow him on Twitter.
3 Ways to Respond When Slandered
By Gavin Ortlund 10/21/2016
Slander is a serious sin. Like its cousin gossip, slander is incredibly destructive. It “lies in wait for blood” (Prov. 12:6), “destroys neighbors” (Prov. 11:9), and “separates close friends” (Prov. 16:28). But while both gossip and slander involve destructive speech, slander adds the additional element of dishonesty.
Gossip spreads the fire, but slander sparks it.
It’s acutely painful to be slandered, and pastors and ministry leaders are particularly easy targets. Precisely because it’s such a serious sin, we must be especially careful to guard our hearts when it happens to us. One of the easiest ways to be led into sin is when we’re sinned against.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 34Taste and See That the LORD Is Good
34 Of David, When He Changed His Behavior Before Abimelech, So That He Drove Him Out, And He Went Away.
15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
Talk to God About Your Anxiety
By Jon Bloom 11/11/2016
Anxiety is a species of fear. It’s the paralyzing fear of “what if.” It’s the fear that something we dread might possibly come true.
There’s only one solution to anxiety: the assurance everything is going to be okay.
But the world gives us no such assurances. We find ourselves surrounded by myriad real dangers resulting in an endless list of “what if.” It’s no wonder human beings are so afflicted with anxiety. And our anxieties only increase our misery by adding countless imagined dangers to the very real ones in front of us.
Antidote to Anxiety | But God. God the Son stepped into this dangerous, demonic world, where even man’s greatest efforts to ensure safety are ultimately and decidedly defeated by death. And when he did, he made the most audacious claim ever uttered by human lips: for every person who believes in him, everything is going to be ultimately, gloriously, eternally, inexpressibly, wonderfully okay (John 3:16; 11:25–26). Then to demonstrate the reality of his claim, and therefore its trustworthiness, he decidedly defeated death and announced “all authority in heaven and on earth” had been given to him (Matthew 28:18).
(Jn 3:16) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ESV
(Jn 11:25–26) 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” ESV
(Mt 28:18) 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. ESV
With this authority, he says to everyone who believes in him, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life” (Luke 12:22). Jesus — and all the promises that are now Yes in him (2 Corinthians 1:20) — is the antidote to anxiety. What he accomplishes for us and promises to us is the ultimate triumph over all that terrifies us. He does not promise us escape from misery in this world. He promises that he will redeem every misery (Romans 8:28), and that in him we will overcome the worst the world can do to us (John 16:33; Romans 8:35–39).
(2 Co 1:20) 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. ESV
(Ro 8:28) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ESV
(Jn 16:33) I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ESV
(Ro 8:35–39) 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ESV
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.John Bloom Books | Go to Books Page
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
5. But as Osiander has introduced a kind of monstrosity termed essential righteousness, by which, although he designed not to abolish free righteousness, he involves it in darkness, and by that darkness deprives pious minds of a serious sense of divine grace  ; before I pass to other matters, it may be proper to refute this delirious dream. And, first, the whole speculation is mere empty curiosity. He indeed, heaps together many passages of scripture showing that Christ is one with us, and we likewise one with him, a point which needs no proof; but he entangles himself by not attending to the bond of this unity. The explanation of all difficulties is easy to us, who hold that we are united to Christ by the secret agency of his Spirit, but he had formed some idea akin to that of the Manichees, desiring to transfuse the divine essence into men.  Hence his other notion, that Adam was formed in the image of God, because even before the fall Christ was destined to be the model of human nature. But as I study brevity, I will confine myself to the matter in hand. He says, that we are one with Christ. This we admit, but still we deny that the essence of Christ is confounded with ours. Then we say that he absurdly endeavors to support his delusions by means of this principle: that Christ is our righteousness, because he is the eternal God, the fountain of righteousness, the very righteousness of God. My readers will pardon me for now only touching on matters which method requires me to defer to another place. But although he pretends that, by the term essential righteousness, he merely means to oppose the sentiment that we are reputed righteous on account of Christ, he however clearly shows, that not contented with that righteousness, which was procured for us by the obedience and sacrificial death of Christ, he maintains that we are substantially righteous in God by an infused essence as well as
quality. For this is the reason why he so vehemently contends that not
only Christ but the Father and the Spirit dwell in us. The fact I admit
to be true, but still I maintain it is wrested by him. He ought to have
attended to the mode of dwelling--viz. that the Father and the Spirit
are in Christ; and as in him the fulness of the Godhead dwells, so in
him we possess God entire. Hence, whatever he says separately
concerning the Father and the Spirit, has no other tendency than to
lead away the simple from Christ. Then he introduces a substantial
mixture, by which God, transfusing himself into us, makes us as it were
a part of himself. Our being made one with Christ by the agency of the
Spirit, he being the head and we the members, he regards as almost
nothing unless his essence is mingled with us. But, as I have said, in
the case of the Father and the Spirit, he more clearly betrays his
views--namely, that we are not justified by the mere grace of the
Mediator, and that righteousness is not simply or entirely offered to
us in his person, but that we are made partakers of divine
righteousness when God is essentially united to us.
6. Had he only said, that Christ by justifying us becomes ours by an essential union, and that he is our head not only in so far as he is man, but that as the essence of the divine nature is diffused into us, he might indulge his dreams with less harm, and, perhaps, it were less necessary to contest the matter with him; but since this principle is like a cuttle-fish, which, by the ejection of dark and inky blood, conceals its many tails,  if we would not knowingly and willingly allow ourselves to be robbed of that righteousness which alone gives us full assurance of our salvation, we must strenuously resist. For, in the whole of this discussion, the noun righteousness and the verb to justify, are extended by Osiander to two parts; to be justified being not only to be reconciled to God by a free pardon, but also to be made just; and righteousness being not a free imputation, but the holiness and integrity which the divine essence dwelling in us inspires. And he vehemently asserts (see sec. 8) that Christ is himself our righteousness, not in so far as he, by expiating sins, appeased the Father, but because he is the eternal God and life. To prove the first point--viz. that God justifies not only by pardoning but by regenerating, he asks, whether he leaves those whom he justifies as they were by nature, making no change upon their vices? The answer is very easy: as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable. Whomsoever, therefore, God receives into his favor, he presents with the Spirit of adoption, whose agency forms them anew into his image. But if the brightness of the sun cannot be separated from its heat, are we therefore to say, that the earth is warmed by light and illumined by heat? Nothing can be more apposite to the matter in hand than this simile. The sun by its heat quickens and fertilizes the earth; by its rays enlightens and illumines it. Here is a mutual and undivided connection, and yet reason itself prohibits us from transferring the peculiar properties of the one to the other. In the confusion of a twofold grace, which Osiander obtrudes upon us, there is a similar absurdity. Because those whom God freely regards as righteous, he in fact renews to the cultivation of righteousness, Osiander confounds that free acceptance with this gift of regeneration, and contends that they are one and the same. But Scriptures while combining both, classes them separately, that it may the better display the manifold grace of God. Nor is Paul's statement superfluous, that Christ is made unto us "righteousness and sanctification," (1 Cor. 1:30). And whenever he argues from the salvation procured for us, from the paternal love of God and the grace of Christ, that we are called to purity and holiness, he plainly intimates, that to be justified is something else than to be made new creatures. Osiander on coming to Scripture corrupts every passage which he quotes. Thus when Paul says, "to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness," he expounds justifying as making just. With the same rashness he perverts the whole of the fourth chapter to the Romans. He hesitates not to give a similar gloss to the passage which I lately quoted, "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth." Here it is plain that guilt and acquittal simply are considered, and that the Apostle's meaning depends on the antithesis. Therefore his futility is detected both in his argument and his quotations for support from Scripture. He is not a whit sounder in discussing the term righteousness, when it is said, that faith was imputed to Abraham for righteousness after he had embraced Christ (who is the righteousness of Gad and God himself) and was distinguished by excellent virtues. Hence it appears that two things which are perfect are viciously converted by him into one which is corrupt. For the righteousness which is there mentioned pertains not to the whole course of life; or rather, the Spirit testifies, that though Abraham greatly excelled in virtue, and by long perseverance in it had made so much progress, the only way in which he pleased God was by receiving the grace which was offered by the promise, in faith. From this it follows, that, as Paul justly maintains, there is no room for works in justification.
7. When he objects that the power of justifying exists not in faith, considered in itself, but only as receiving Christ, I willingly admit it. For did faith justify of itself, or (as it is expressed) by its own intrinsic virtue, as it is always weak and imperfect, its efficacy would be partial, and thus our righteousness being maimed would give us only a portion of salvation. We indeed imagine nothing of the kind, but say, that, properly speaking, God alone justifies. The same thing we likewise transfer to Christ, because he was given to us for righteousness; while we compare faith to a kind of vessel, because we are incapable of receiving Christ, unless we are emptied and come with open mouth to receive his grace. Hence it follows, that we do not withdraw the power of justifying from Christ, when we hold that, previous to his righteousness, he himself is received by faith. Still, however, I admit not the tortuous figure of the sophist, that faith is Christ; as if a vessel of clay were a treasure, because gold is deposited in it.  And yet this is no reason why faith, though in itself of no dignity or value, should not justify us by giving Christ; Just as such a vessel filled with coin may give wealth. I say, therefore, that faith, which is only the instrument for receiving justification, is ignorantly confounded with Christ, who is the material cause, as well as the author and minister of this great blessing. This disposes of the difficulty--viz. how the term faith is to be understood when treating of justification.
8. Osiander goes still farther in regard to the mode of receiving Christ, holding, that by the ministry of the external word the internal word is received; that he may thus lead us away from the priesthood of Christ, and his office of Mediator, to his eternal divinity.  We, indeed, do not divide Christ, but hold that he who, reconciling us to God in his flesh, bestowed righteousness upon us, is the eternal Word of God; and that he could not perform the office of Mediator, nor acquire righteousness for us, if he were not the eternal God. Osiander will have it, that as Christ is God and man, he was made our righteousness in respect not of his human but of his divine nature. But if this is a peculiar property of the Godhead, it will not be peculiar to Christ, but common to him with the Father and the Spirit, since their righteousness is one and the same. Thus it would be incongruous to say, that that which existed naturally from eternity was made ours. But granting that God was made unto us righteousness, what are we to make of Paul's interposed statement, that he was so made by God? This certainly is peculiar to the office of mediator, for although he contains in himself the divine nature, yet he receives his own proper title, that he may be distinguished from the Father and the Spirit. But he makes a ridiculous boast of a single passage of Jeremiah, in which it is said, that Jehovah will be our righteousness (Jer. 23:6; 33:16). But all he can extract from this is, that Christ, who is our righteousness, was God manifest in the flesh. We have elsewhere quoted from Paul's discourse, that God purchased the Church with his own blood (Acts 20:28). Were any one to infer from this that the blood by which sins were expiated was divine, and of a divine nature, who could endure so foul a heresy? But Osiander, thinking that he has gained the whole cause by this childish cavil, swells, exults, and stuffs whole pages with his bombast, whereas the solution is simple and obvious--viz. that Jehovah, when made of the seed of David, was indeed to be the righteousness of believers, but in what sense Isaiah declares, "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many," (Isa. 53:11). Let us observe that it is the Father who speaks. He attributes the office of justifying to the Son, and adds the reason,--because he is "righteous." He places the method, or medium (as it is called), in the doctrine by which Christ is known. For the word () is more properly to be understood in a passive sense. Hence I infer, first, that Christ was made righteousness when he assumed the form of a servant; secondly, that he justified us by his obedience to the Father; and, accordingly that he does not perform this for us in respect of his divine nature, but according to the nature of the dispensation laid upon him. For though God alone is the fountain of righteousness, and the only way in which we are righteous is by participation with him, yet, as by our unhappy revolt we are alienated from his righteousness, it is necessary to descend to this lower remedy, that Christ may justify us by the power of his death and resurrection.
9. If he objects that this work by its excellence transcends human, and therefore can only be ascribed to the divine nature; I concede the former point, but maintain, that on the latter he is ignorantly deluded. For although Christ could neither purify our souls by his own blood, nor appease the Father by his sacrifice, nor acquit us from the charge of guilt, nor, in short, perform the office of priest, unless he had been very God, because no human ability was equal to such a burden, it is however certain, that he performed all these things in his human nature. If it is asked, in what way we are justified? Paul answers, by the obedience of Christ. Did he obey in any other way than by assuming the form of a servant? We infer, therefore, that righteousness was manifested to us in his flesh. In like manner, in another passage (which I greatly wonder that Osiander does not blush repeatedly to quote), he places the fountain of righteousness entirely in the incarnation of Christ, "He has made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," (2 Cor. 5:21). Osiander in turgid sentences lays hold of the expression, righteousness of God, and shouts victory! as if he had proved it to be his own phantom of essential righteousness,  though the words have a very different meaning--viz. that we are justified through the expiation made by Christ. That the righteousness of God is used for the righteousness which is approved by God, should be known to mere tyros, as in John, the praise of God is contrasted with the praise of men  (John 12:43). I know that by the righteousness of God is sometimes meant that of which God is the author, and which he bestows upon us; but that here the only thing meant is, that being supported by the expiation of Christ, we are able to stand at the tribunal of God, sound readers perceive without any observation of mine. The word is not of so much importance, provided Osiander agrees with us in this, that we are justified by Christ in respect he was made an expiatory victim for us. This he could not be in his divine nature. For which reason also, when Christ would seal the righteousness and salvation which he brought to us, he holds forth the sure pledge of it in his flesh. He indeed calls himself "living bread," but, in explanation of the mode, adds, "my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed," (John 6:55). The same doctrine is clearly seen in the sacraments; which, though they direct our faith to the whole, not to a part of Christ, yet, at the same time, declare that the materials of righteousness and salvation reside in his flesh; not that the mere man of himself justifies or quickens, but that God was pleased, by means of a Mediator, to manifest his own hidden and incomprehensible nature. Hence I often repeat, that Christ has been in a manner set before us as a fountain, whence we may draw what would otherwise lie without use in that deep and hidden abyss which streams forth to us in the person of the Mediator.  In this way, and in this meaning, I deny not that Christ, as he is God and man, justifies us; that this work is common also to the Father and the Holy Spirit; in fine, that the righteousness of which God makes us partakers is the eternal righteousness of the eternal God, provided effect is given to the clear and valid reasons to which I have adverted.
10. Moreover, lest by his cavils he deceive the unwary, I acknowledge that we are devoid of this incomparable gift until Christ become ours. Therefore, to that union of the head and members, the residence of Christ in our hearts, in fine, the mystical union, we assign the highest rank, Christ when he becomes ours making us partners with him in the gifts with which he was endued. Hence we do not view him as at a distance and without us, but as we have put him on, and been ingrafted into his body, he deigns to make us one with himself, and, therefore, we glory in having a fellowship of righteousness with him. This disposes of Osiander's calumny, that we regard faith as righteousness; as if we were robbing Christ of his rights when we say, that, destitute in ourselves, we draw near to him by faith, to make way for his grace, that he alone may fill us. But Osiander, spurning this spiritual union, insists on a gross mixture of Christ with believers; and, accordingly, to excite prejudice, gives the name of Zuinglians  to all who subscribe not to his fanatical heresy of essential righteousness, because they do not hold that, in the supper, Christ is eaten substantially. For my part, I count it the highest honor to be thus assailed by a haughty man, devoted to his own impostures; though he assails not me only, but writers of known reputation throughout the world, and whom it became him modestly to venerate. This, however, does not concern me, as I plead not my own cause, and plead the more sincerely that I am free from every sinister feeling. In insisting so vehemently on essential righteousness, and an essential inhabitation of Christ within us, his meaning is, first, that God by a gross mixture  transfuses himself into us, as he pretends that there is a carnal eating in the supper; And, secondly that by instilling his own righteousness into us, he makes us really righteous with himself since, according to him, this righteousness is as well God himself as the probity, or holiness, or integrity of God. I will not spend much time in disposing of the passages of Scripture which he adduces, and which, though used in reference to the heavenly life, he wrests to our present state. Peter says, that through the knowledge of Christ "are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by them ye might be partakers of the divine nature," (2 Pet. 1:4);  as if we now were what the gospel promises we shall be at the final advent of Christ; nay, John reminds us, that "when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). I only wished to give my readers a slender specimen of Osiander, it being my intention to decline the discussion of his frivolities, not because there is any difficulty in disposing of them, but because I am unwilling to annoy the reader with superfluous labour.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
You Can Learn from Medieval Christians
By Gavin Ortlund 10/21/2016
Modern evangelical Christians aren’t known for valuing the medieval church. To tell the truth, we aren’t really known for valuing church history at all. But when we do engage church history, it tends to be our more recent (Protestant) history, with only occasional forays into the Church Fathers. A lot of evangelicals are talking about Jonathan Edwards, but you have to look around a bit to find evangelicals engaging Thomas Aquinas.
For Chris Armstrong, faculty member at Wheaton College and founding director of Opus: The Art of Work, “The chasm between us and our medieval forebears in the faith has less to do with any intrinsic oddness of the Christians of that time and more with certain philosophical and cultural presuppositions of our own” (3). His new book, Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians: Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age with C. S. Lewis, seeks not only to deepen our appreciation of the medieval church, but also to use medieval Christianity to redress various perceived problems and weaknesses with the modern church. To this end, he uses C. S. Lewis (someone already respected among evangelicals) as an entryway into the world of medieval Christianity.
Armstrong explores the medieval view of tradition, medieval theology and ethics, the medieval invention of the hospital, the medieval view of the heart and affections, and the medieval view of natural theology and the incarnation. Along the way, he deconstructs many popular misconceptions about the medieval world, such as the idea that all people believed the earth was flat (77) or that all sickness was caused by demons (127). He shows how much we can learn from medieval Christians, for example, in their courageous care for the sick during plagues (124), their devotional writing (170–84), their ascetic practices (214–30), their art (154–55), and their holistic approach to spiritual growth (224–33).
5 Ways to Make It through a Difficult Season
By Gavin Ortlund 10/21/2016
Institutions, like the weather, have different seasons. There are springtime harvests, summer droughts, autumn wanings, and winter freezes. They have “a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh” (Eccl. 3:3–4). Sometimes God calls us to be part of an institution when it’s passing through a season of extraordinary difficulty, decline, or dysfunction. This could be a family with young kids trying to make ends meet with both parents working; or a church growing so rapidly that its infrastructure can’t keep up with its numbers, leaving everyone overworked and stretched thin; or a work environment in which a dysfunctional transition is causing anger, suspicion, and mistrust among employees; or a business rapidly downsizing because of the economy.
It’s difficult to overstate how hard it can be to stay positive when we’re put in a negative or stressful environment. In such an atmosphere, unhappiness and even distrust can tend to spread exponentially; they gain the force of momentum. As C. S. Lewis observed in The Horse and His Boy, “When things go wrong, you’ll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start going right they often go on getting better and better.” It might seem like a simple statement, but I think it’s both true and profound. All other factors being equal, betterment tends to beget betterment; decline tends to produce decline.
What do we do when we’re in a negative season or environment? How do we keep from getting sucked into the stress and dysfunction? How do we stop the momentum of decline—in relationships, effectiveness, size, and so on? How do we retain the fruits of the Spirit when their opposites swirl all around us?
The Coming Prince
By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918
Chapter 6 The Prophetic YearIn English ears it must sound pedantic to speak of "weeks" in any other than the familiar acceptation of the term. But with the Jew it was far otherwise. The effect of his laws was fitted "to render the word week capable of meaning a seven of years almost as naturally as a seven of days. Indeed the generality of the word would have this effect at any rate. Hence its use to denote the latter in prophecy is not mere arbitrary symbolism, but the employment of a not unfamiliar and easily understood language." 
 Smith's Bib. Dict., III., 1726, "Week." Greek and Latin philosophers too have known of 'weeks of years. '" — PUSEY, Daniel, p. 167.Daniel's prayer referred to seventy years fulfilled: the prophecy which came in answer to that prayer foretold a period of seven times seventy still to come. But here a question arises which never has received sufficient notice in the consideration of this subject. None will doubt that the era is a period of years; but of what kind of year is it composed? That the Jewish year was lunisolar appears to be reasonably certain. If tradition may be trusted, Abraham preserved in his family the year of 360 days, which he had known in his Chaldean home.  The month dates of the flood (150 days being specified as the interval between the seventeenth day of the second month, and the same day of the seventh month) appear to show that this form of year was the earliest known to our race. Sir Isaac Newton states, that "all nations, before the just length of the solar year was known, reckoned months by the course of the moon, and years by the return of winter and summer, spring and autumn; and in making calendars for their festivals, they reckoned thirty days to a lunar month, and twelve lunar months to a year, taking the nearest round numbers, whence came the division of the ecliptic into 360 degrees." And in adopting this statement, Sir G. C. Lewis avers that "all credible testimony and all antecedent probability lead to the result that a solar year containing twelve lunar months, determined within certain limits of error, has been generally recognized by the nations adjoining the Mediterranean, from a remote antiquity." 
 Encyc. Brit. (6th ed.), title "Chronology." See also Smith's Bib. Dict., title "Chronology," p. 314.But considerations of this kind go no further than to prove how legitimate and important is the question here proposed. The inquiry remains whether any grounds exist for reversing the presumption which obtains in favor of the common civil year. Now the prophetic era is clearly seven times the seventy years of the "desolations" which were before the mind of Daniel when the prophecy was given. Is it possible then to ascertain the character of the years of this lesser era?
 Astronomy of the Ancients, chap. 1 & 7. Are not the hundred and eighty days of the great feast of Xerxes intended to be equivalent to six months? (Esther 1:4.)
One of the characteristic ordinances of the Jewish law was, that every seventh year the land was to lie fallow, and it was in relation to the neglect of this ordinance that the era of the desolations was decreed. It was to last "until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths; for so long as she lay desolate, she kept Sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years." (2 Chronicles 36:21; cf. Leviticus 26:34-35) The essential element in the judgment was, not a ruined city, but a land laid desolate by the terrible scourge of a hostile invasion, (Compare Jeremiah 27:13; Haggai 2:17) the effects of which were perpetuated by famine and pestilence, the continuing proofs of the Divine displeasure. It is obvious therefore, that the true epoch of the judgment is not, as has been generally assumed, the capture of Jerusalem, but the invasion of Judea. From the time the Babylonian armies entered the land, all agricultural pursuits were suspended, and therefore the desolations may be reckoned from the day the capital was invested, namely, the tenth day of the tenth month in the ninth year of Zedekiah. This was the epoch as revealed to Ezekiel the prophet in his exile on the banks of the Euphrates, (Ezekiel 24:1-2) and for twenty-four centuries the day has been observed as a fast by the Jews in every land.
The close of the era is indicated in Scripture with equal definiteness, as "the four-and-twentieth day of the ninth month in the second year of Darius.  "Consider now" (the prophetic word declared) "from this day and upward — from the four-and- twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid — consider it: from this day I will bless you." Now from the tenth day of Tebeth B.C. 589,  to the twenty-fourth day of Chisleu B.C. 520,  was a period of 25, 202 days; and seventy years of 360 days contain exactly 25, 200 days. We may conclude, therefore, that the era of the "desolations" was a period of seventy years of 360 days, beginning the day after the Babylonian army invested Jerusalem, and ending the day before the foundation of the second temple was laid. 
 Haggai. 2:10, 15-19. The books of Haggai and Zechariah give in full the prophetic utterances which the narrative of Ezra (4:24; 5:1-5) mentions as the sanction and incentive under which the Jews returned to the work of setting up their temple.But this inquiry may be pressed still further. As the era of the "desolations" was fixed at seventy years, because of the neglect of the Sabbatic years, (2 Chronicles 36:21; Leviticus 26:34-35) we might expect to find that a period of seven times seventy years measured back from the close of the seventy years of "indignation against Judah," would bring us to the time when Israel entered into their full national privileges, and thus incurred their full responsibilities. And such in fact will be found upon inquiry to be the case. From the year succeeding the dedication of Solomon's temple, to the year before the foundation of the second temple was laid, was a period of 490 years of 360 days. 
 The ninth year of Zedekiah. See App. 1. post.
 The second year of Darius Hystaspes.
 The date of the Paschal new moon, by which the Jewish year is regulated, was the evening of the 14th March in B. C. 589, and about noon on 1st April B. C. 520. According to the phases the 1st Nisan in the former year was probably the 15th or 16th March, and in the latter the 1st or 2nd April.
 The temple was dedicated in the eleventh year of Solomon, and the second temple was founded in B. C. 520. The intervening period reckoned exclusively was 483 years = 490 lunisolar years of 360 days. It is noteworthy that the interval between the dedication of Solomon's temple and the dedication of the second temple (B. C. 515) was 490 years. A like period had elapsed between the entrance into Canaan and the foundation of the kingdom under Saul. These cycles of 70, and multiples of 70, in Hebrew history are striking and interesting. See App. 1.It must be admitted, however, that no argument based on calculations of this kind is final.  The only data which would warrant our deciding unreservedly that the prophetic year consists of 360 days, would be to find some portion of the era subdivided into the days of which it is composed. No other proof can be wholly satisfactory, but if this be forthcoming, it must be absolute and conclusive. And this is precisely what the book of the Revelation gives us.
 Though it is signally confirmed by the undoubted fact that the Jewish Sabbatical year was conterminous, not with the solar, but with the ecclesiastical year.The Coming Prince
and also at this website. https://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/The.Coming.Prince.html#1-2
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
12/2006 | Forgiven and Free
Someone recently said to me: “The older we get the harder it is to ask someone’s forgiveness.” I am not sure if that’s necessarily true, but the older and, perhaps, more stubborn we become it certainly seems more difficult to admit one’s fault and ask another’s forgiveness. However, as Christians it should be just the opposite. As we mature in Christ, we should become less and less stubborn in our selfish, impenitent obstinacy and more and more stubborn in our refusal not to let the sun go down on our own, or our brother’s, anger. As we age in life and become physically slower in all that we do, we should become spiritually quicker in all that we do. As the Holy Spirit continually makes us more sensitive to His pricking of our consciences, we ought to be all the more ready to act upon His prompting. Although we may feel bound by the Spirit’s unrelenting work in our lives, it is precisely by such means that the Father has ensured our freedom in the Son. It is exactly at those times in our lives when we experience the greatest spiritual pressure to repent and seek forgiveness when God Almighty is leading us to complete freedom in Christ.
By instilling humility within our minds, the Lord brings us to the end of loving ourselves so that we might love Him supremely. He forgives us in His mercy so that by His grace we might know Him, love Him, glorify Him, and enjoy Him forever. And He does this through the life and work of the incarnate Word, who came to save His people from their sins. It is somewhat ironic that we have forgiveness through one who never needed to ask for it. The Lord’s forgiveness of us through Christ sets us free to love Him, and our forgiveness of others sets us free to love our enemies. Therein lies the beauty of Gospel reconciliation.
It is no small reason the Lord taught us to pray, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). And it is no small reason that is the one petition on which the Lord expounds providing us with the unmistakable obligation to forgive just as we have been forgiven (6:14–15). Commenting on this passage, John Owen (1616–1683) wrote: “Our forgiving others will not procure forgiveness for ourselves; but our not forgiving others proves that we ourselves are not forgiven.” If we know God’s forgiveness, we will be known by our forgiveness of others, and we will be known by the watching world as those who live coram Deo, before the face of God.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
He was the grandson of the sixth president, John Quincy Adams, and the great-grandson of John Adams, the second President. His name was Henry Adams, and he died this day, March 27, 1918. An American philosopher and historian, Henry Adams authored a nine volume work, entitled, History of the United States. With insight from his unique heritage going back to the founding of the United States, Henry Adams wrote: “The Pilgrims of Plymouth, the Puritans of Boston, the Quakers of Pennsylvania, all avowed a moral purpose, and began by making institutions that consciously reflected a moral idea.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The man who says to me, "Believe as I do, or God will damn you," will presently say, "Believe as I do, or I shall assassinate you."
The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers
A test of a people is how it behaves toward the old. It is easy to love children. Even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children. But the affection and care for the old, the incurable, the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture.
--- Abraham Joshua Heschel
The Wisdom of Heschel
“Classic": A book which people praise but don't read.
--- Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Cleanliness becomes more important when godliness is unlikely.
--- P.J. O'Rourke
Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Libray 1994
We then went to Choptank and Third Haven, and thence to Queen Anne's. The weather for some days past having been hot and dry, and we having travelled pretty steadily and having hard labor in meetings, I grew weakly, at which I was for a time discouraged; but looking over our journey and considering how the Lord had supported our minds and bodies, so that we had gone forward much faster than I expected before we came out, I saw that I had been in danger of too strongly desiring to get quickly through the journey, and that the bodily weakness now attending me was a kindness; and then, in contrition of spirit, I became very thankful to my gracious Father for this manifestation of His love, and in humble submission to His will my trust in Him was renewed.
In this part of our journey I had many thoughts on the different circumstances of Friends who inhabit Pennsylvania and Jersey from those who dwell in Maryland, Virginia, and Carolina. Pennsylvania and New Jersey were settled by Friends who were convinced of our principles in England in times of suffering; these, coming over, bought lands of the natives, and applied to husbandry in a peaceable way, and many of their children were taught to labor for their living. Few of these, I believe, settled in any of the southern provinces; but by the faithful labors of travelling Friends in early times there was considerable convincement among the inhabitants of these parts. I also remembered having read of the warlike disposition of many of the first settlers in those provinces, and of their numerous engagements with the natives in which much blood was shed even in the infancy of the colonies. Some of the people inhabiting those places, being grounded in customs contrary to the pure truth, were affected with the powerful preaching of the Word of Life and joined in fellowship with our Society, and in so doing they had a great work to go through. In the history of the reformation from Popery it is observable that the progress was gradual from age to age. The uprightness of the first reformers in attending to the light and understanding given to them opened the way for sincere-hearted people to proceed further afterwards; and thus each one truly fearing God and laboring in the works of righteousness appointed for him in his day findeth acceptance with Him. Through the darkness of the times and the corruption of manners and customs, some upright men may have had little more for their day's work than to attend to the righteous principle in their minds as it related to their own conduct in life without pointing out to others the whole extent of that into which the same principle would lead succeeding ages. Thus, for instance, among an imperious, warlike people, supported by oppressed slaves, some of these masters, I suppose, are awakened to feel and to see their error, and through sincere repentance cease from oppression and become like fathers to their servants, showing by their example a pattern of humility in living, and moderation in governing, for the instruction and admonition of their oppressing neighbors; these, without carrying the reformation further, have, I believe, found acceptance with the Lord. Such was the beginning; and those who succeeded them, and who faithfully attended to the nature and spirit of the reformation, have seen the necessity of proceeding forward, and have not only to instruct others by their own example in governing well, but have also to use means to prevent their successors from having so much power to oppress others.
Here I was renewedly confirmed in my mind that the Lord (whose tender mercies are over all his works, and whose ear is open to the cries and groans of the oppressed) is graciously moving in the hearts of people to draw them off from the desire of wealth and to bring them into such an humble, lowly way of living that they may see their way clearly to repair to the standard of true righteousness, and may not only break the yoke of oppression, but may know him to be their strength and support in times of outward affliction.
We crossed Chester River, had a meeting there, and also at Cecil and Sassafras. My bodily weakness, joined with a heavy exercise of mind, was to me an humbling dispensation, and I had a very lively feeling of the state of the oppressed; yet I often thought that what I suffered was little compared with the sufferings of the blessed Jesus and many of his faithful followers; and I may say with thankfulness that I was made content. From Sassafras we went pretty directly home, where we found our families well. For several weeks after our return I had often to look over our journey; and though to me it appeared as a small service, and that some faithful messengers will yet have more bitter cups to drink in those southern provinces for Christ's sake than we have had, yet I found peace in that I had been helped to walk in sincerity according to the understanding and strength given to me.
John Woolman's Journal
Practical religion. The Christian life
Mankind Needs Love
Why is that so? That was the one great need of mankind, that was the thing which Christ's redemption came to accomplish: to restore love to this world.
When man sinned, why was it that he sinned? Selfishness triumphed--he sought self instead of God. And just look! Adam at once begins to accuse the woman of having led him astray. Love to God had gone, love to man was lost. Look again: of the first two children of Adam the one becomes a murderer of his brother.
Does not that teach us that sin had robbed the world of love? Ah! what a proof the history of the world has been of love having been lost! There may have been beautiful examples of love even among the heathen, but only as a little remnant of what was lost. One of the worst things sin did for man was to make him selfish, for selfishness cannot love.
The Lord Jesus Christ came down from Heaven as the Son of God's love. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). God's Son came to show what love is, and He lived a life of love here upon earth in fellowship with His disciples, in compassion over the poor and miserable, in love even to His enemies, and He died the death of love. And when He went to Heaven, whom did He send down? The Spirit of love, to come and banish selfishness and envy and pride, and bring the love of God into the hearts of men. "The fruit of the Spirit is love."
And what was the preparation for the promise of the Holy Spirit? You know that promise as found in the fourteenth chapter of John's Gospel. But remember what precedes in the thirteenth chapter. Before Christ promised the Holy Spirit, He gave a new commandment, and about that new commandment He said wonderful things. One thing was: "Even as I have loved you, so love ye one another." To them His dying love was to be the only law of their conduct and intercourse with each other. What a message to those fishermen, to those men full of pride and selfishness! "Learn to love each other," said Christ, "as I have loved you." And by the grace of God they did it. When Pentecost came, they were of one heart and one soul. Christ did it for them.
And now He calls us to dwell and to walk in love. He demands that though a man hate you, still you love him. True love cannot be conquered by anything in Heaven or upon the earth. The more hatred there is, the more love triumphs through it all and shows its true nature. This is the love that Christ commanded His disciples to exercise.
I am using the 1895 Public Domain version. Below is an Amazon link for a modern copy.
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
but the way of the treacherous is rough.
16 Every cautious person acts with knowledge,
but a fool parades his folly.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
‘Oh, that!’ said the Spirit. ‘That’ll soon come right. But you’re going in the wrong direction. It’s back there—to the mountains—you need to go. You can lean on me all the way. I can’t absolutely carry you, but you need have almost no weight on your own feet: and it will hurt less at every step.’
‘I’m not afraid of being hurt. You know that.’
‘Then what is the matter?’
‘Can’t you understand anything? Do you really suppose I’m going out there among all those people, like this?’
‘But why not?’
‘I’d never have come at all if I’d known you were all going to be dressed like that.’
‘Friend, you see I’m not dressed at all.’
‘I didn’t mean that. Do go away.’
‘But can’t you even tell me?’
‘If you can’t understand, there’d be no good trying to explain it. How can I go out like this among a lot of people with real solid bodies? It’s far worse than going out with nothing on would have been on Earth. Have everyone staring through me.’
‘Oh, I see. But we were all a bit ghostly when we first arrived, you know. That’ll wear off. Just come out and try.’
‘But they’ll see me.’
‘What does it matter if they do?’
‘I’d rather die.’
‘But you’ve died already. There’s no good trying to go back to that.’
The Ghost made a sound something between a sob and a snarl. ‘I wish I’d never been born,’ it said. ‘What are we born for?’
‘For infinite happiness,’ said the Spirit. ‘You can step out into it at any moment …’
‘But, I tell you, they’ll see me.’
‘An hour hence and you will not care. A day hence and you will laugh at it. Don’t you remember on earth—there were things too hot to touch with your finger but you could drink them all right? Shame is like that. If you will accept it—if you will drink the cup to the bottom—you will find it very nourishing: but try to do anything else with it and it scalds.’
‘You really mean?…’ said the Ghost, and then paused. My suspense was strained up to the height. I felt that my own destiny hung on her reply. I could have fallen at her feet and begged her to yield.
‘Yes,’ said the Spirit. ‘Come and try.’
Almost, I thought the Ghost had obeyed. Certainly it had moved: but suddenly it cried out, ‘No, I can’t. I tell you I can’t. For a moment, while you were talking, I almost thought … but when it comes to the point … You’ve no right to ask me to do a thing like that. It’s disgusting. I should never forgive myself if I did. Never, never. And it’s not fair. They ought to have warned us. I’d never have come. And now—please, please go away!”
‘Friend,’ said the Spirit. ‘Could you, only for a moment, fix your mind on something not yourself?’
‘I’ve already given you my answer,’ said the Ghost, coldly but still tearful.
‘Then only one expedient remains,’ said the Spirit, and to my great surprise he set a horn to his lips and blew. I put my hands over my ears. The earth seemed to shake: the whole wood trembled and dindled at the sound. I suppose there must have been a pause after that (though there seemed to be none) before I heard the thudding of hoofs—far off at first, but already nearer before I had well identified it, and soon so near that I began to look about for some place of safety. Before I had found one the danger was all about us. A herd of unicorns came thundering through the glades: twenty-seven hands high the smallest of them and white as swans but for the red gleam in eyes and nostrils and the flashing indigo of their horns. I can still remember the squelching noise of the soft wet turf under their hoofs, the breaking of the undergrowth, the snorting and the whinneyings; how their hind legs went up and their horned heads down in mimic battle. Even then I wondered for what real battle it might be the rehearsal. I heard the Ghost scream, and I think it made a bolt away from the bushes … perhaps towards the Spirit, but I don’t know. For my own nerve failed and I fled, not heeding, for the moment, the horrible going underfoot, and not once daring to pause. So I never saw the end of that interview.
The Great Divorce
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Vision by personal character
Come up hither, and I will shew thee things. --- Rev. 4:1.
An elevated mood can only come out of an elevated habit of personal character. If in the externals of your life you live up to the highest you know, God will continually say—‘Friend, go up higher.’ The golden rule in temptation is—‘Go higher.’ When you get higher up, you face other temptations and characteristics. Satan uses the strategy of elevation in temptation, and God does the same, but the effect is different. When the devil puts you into an elevated place, he makes you screw your idea of holiness beyond what flesh and blood could ever bear. It is a spiritual acrobatic performance, you are just poised and dare not move; but when God elevates you by His grace into the heavenly places, instead of finding a pinnacle to cling to, you find a great table-land where it is easy to move.
Compare this week in your spiritual history with the same week last year and see how God has called you up higher. We have all been brought to see from a higher standpoint. Never let God give you one point of truth which you do not instantly live up to. Always work it out, keep in the light of it.
Growth in grace is measured not by the fact that you have not gone back, but that you have an insight into where you are spiritually; you have heard God say ‘Come up higher,’ not to you personally, but to the insight of your character. “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” God has to hide from us what He does until by personal character we get to the place where He can reveal it.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
I look up; you pass.
I have to reconcile your
existence and the meaning of it
with what I read: kings and queens
and their battles
for power. You have your battle,
too. I ask myself: Have
I been on your side? Lovelier
a dead queen than a live
wife? History worships
the fact but cannot remain
neutral. Because there are no kings
worthy of you; because poets
better than I are not here
to describe you; because time
is always too short, you must go by
now without mention, as unknown
to the future as to
the past, with one man's
eyes resting on you
in the interval of his concern.
I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: a star shall come forth out of Jacob. -- Numbers 24:17.
No star is visible except at night,
Until the sun goes down, no accurate north.
Day’s brightness hides what darkness
shows to sight,
The hour I go to sleep the bear strides forth.
I open my eyes to the cursed
but requisite dark,
The black sink that drains my cistern dry,
And see, not nigh, not now, the heavenly mark
Exploding in the quasar-messaged sky.
Out of the dark, behind my back, a sun
Launched light-years ago, completes its run;
The undeciphered skies of myth and story
Now narrate the cadenced runes of glory.
Lost pilots wait for night to plot their flight,
Just so diurnal pilgrims praise the midnight.
The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction
A couple has been planning a vacation for months. The day of the departure finally arrives. They finish packing their suitcases, hail a cab, and head for the airport. But upon checking in, they notice a flashing message next to their flight number on the departure screen: “Delayed.”
A woman has been scheduled for surgery to determine if the lump in her breast is benign or malignant. She has had two weeks to prepare herself mentally and physically for this traumatic moment. And then, an hour before checking into the hospital, the surgeon’s office phones: The doctor has been called away on a family emergency. The procedure has been postponed until the end of the week.
The family of a murder victim has been waiting for their day in court when they can, at last, confront the men who killed their daughter. They have gotten themselves emotionally ready for reliving all the pain and anguish of a year ago. And then, the night before the trial is to begin, they receive a call from the district attorney that the judge has granted the defense motion to delay the trial for another month.
We have all learned how important timing can be. It is not just that we are disappointed when things do not happen when we want them to. Many things in life require a great deal of preparation, either of a physical kind or of an emotional nature. We need to “psyche” ourselves up for certain events and experiences. An unexpected delay can be devastating, throwing our bodies and minds completely out of kilter.
Often, these matters are simply out of our control. Outside forces and events dictate where and when things will occur, and we are powerless to do anything but react—after the fact. On other occasions, things seem to come together at precisely the perfect moment. How wonderful it is when the timing is just right, when there are no delays, when things we have waited for and planned for take place at exactly the right moment.
But sometimes, it is more than just luck that determines when things take place. The Gemara shows us that the calendar dictated that Pesaḥ would begin on Saturday evening, right after Shabbat; the Torah determined when particular things had to be done; but it was the Rabbis who decided that certain mitzvot could be performed sooner, rather than later.
So it is in our lives: When it comes to timing, much is out of our hands. But there is also a great deal that we can determine. We do not have to remain totally passive. By being sensitive to time, by understanding the possibilities, and by stepping forward to make critical choices, we are able to shape many of the moments of our lives. And then we, too, with Rabbi Shimon, can say: “How precious it is!”
The cow wants to nurse more than the calf wants to suckle.
Text / Rabbi Akiva taught Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai five things while he was being held in prison. He [Shimon] had said to him: “Master, teach me Torah!” He [Akiva] said: “I will not teach you.” He said: “If you do not teach me, I will tell my father, Yoḥai, and you will be handed over to the government.” He said to him: “My son, the cow wants to nurse more than the calf wants to suckle.” He said to him: “And who is in danger? Is not the calf in danger?”
Context / Once the evil government decreed that the Jews should not learn Torah. Papus ben Yehudah came and found Rabbi Akiva gathering groups in public and teaching them Torah. He said to him: “Akiva, are you not afraid of the government?” He said to him: “I will give you a parable to show you what this is similar to: A fox was walking by the river; he saw schools of fish going from one place to another. He said to them: ‘What are you fleeing from?’ They said: ‘From the nets that humans throw.’ He said to them: ‘Why don’t you come up here on the dry land, and we’ll live together.’ They said: ‘Are you the one they call the wisest of the animals? You are stupid! If in our own element we are afraid, how much more so will we be in a place of death?’ So too with us. If, when we sit and study Torah, of which it is written ‘For thereby shall you have life’ (Deuteronomy 30:20) it is thus: when we go and neglect it, how much worse off will we be?” They said: It was not long after that Rabbi Akiva was captured and thrown in prison. (Berakhot 61b)
Shimon bar Yoḥai was one of Rabbi Akiva’s most zealous students. He was so committed to learning the Torah that he visited his teacher in prison and asked Akiva to teach him right there! Akiva at first refused to do so, knowing that it would place his student at great risk: Should the Romans discover them, Shimon, as well, would surely be thrown into prison. Shimon bar Yoḥai’s zeal for Torah is seen in the threat he hurls at his teacher: Either teach me, or I will see to it that the Romans get you in even more trouble! (It is hard for us to take this threat seriously. Shimon’s hatred for the Romans was as great as his love for Torah and for his teacher.) Akiva explains his reluctance: He would love nothing more than to teach Torah to Shimon, but he is trying to protect his beloved student. Akiva tells him: I want to teach you even more than you want to learn from me. The metaphor is a touching one: The teacher is like the mother cow, whose udder is filled with milk. The calf (Shimon) may be hungry for milk (Torah), but the cow (Akiva) has an even stronger desire to nurse the young one. The udder is heavy, and only by feeding her young can she find relief. More importantly, as a mother, the cow has an instinct to feed and nourish her precious calf.
Shimon answers: I am the calf, and it is the calf, not the cow who is at risk. I am willing to take my chances. Akiva relented and taught five lessons to his pupil.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
No Enchantment Against Israel
With Numbers 21 we begin a new and positive chapter in the history of redemption.
God’s people are not suddenly perfect. They still fail. But a new generation takes over from the old. The generation that would not trust or obey is dying out. In Numbers 26 we read about “those numbered by Moses and Aaron … in the wilderness of Sinai. For the Lord had said of them, ‘They shall die in the wilderness.’ There was not a man left of them, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun” (Numbers 26:64–65).
The new generation began to respond to God’s voice. And they made a great discovery. When God’s people live in right relationship with Him, they are fully protected!
Hope. There are two Hebrew words translated “hope” in the Old Testament. Each invites us to look ahead eagerly, with confident expectation. Each also calls for patience; the fulfillment of hope lies in the future. “Hope” in the Old Testament is based on relationship. It affirms trust in God. We are confident, not because we know the future, but because we know God is wholly trustworthy. The new generation we meet now in Numbers is confident, expecting victory, for this is a people with trust in the Lord.
The Story of Redemption. The last four books of Moses tell a single story: the story of redemption.
Commentary / There is a definite unity to the story of redemption related in the events of the Exodus. The experiences of God’s Old Testament people, in fact, parallel our individual experiences with God. The redemption they knew is ours too. And just as the new generation of Israel that we meet in Numbers 26 learned to anchor its faith in redemption history, we too need to anchor our faith in an understanding of what God has done for us.
So before we move on to look carefully at Numbers 21–36, we can profit from an overview of the four Old Testament books that tell redemption’s story, and an overview of their messages to you and to me.
Transition: Numbers 21–25
Lessons from the recent history of Israel provided a firm foundation for the new generation’s view of God. Yet there were still struggles. The old, untrusting generation was still with the new. In these transition chapters we see struggle: a struggle in which the tendency to reject God’s ways is matched against a tendency to respond. Sometimes the nation sins, sometimes it obeys. In the outcome of each course of action, the new generation is taught the results of sin—and given a taste of the fruit of obedience.
Numbers 21 shows the uncertainty and the fluctuations. First Israel vows to do battle “if You will deliver these people into our hands.” Confidently they go into battle—and win (Numbers 21:1–3).
Yet shortly after that the people became impatient and returned to their old habit of murmuring against Moses. In discipline God sent poisonous snakes among them. Many died. Then the Lord told Moses to erect an image of a serpent and lift it high up on a pole. Moses was to announce to all that anyone bitten could look at the bronze serpent and live (Numbers 21:4–9).
There was no healing power in the image. Clearly the healing was from God—and any individual who trusted God enough to seek out what must have seemed a ridiculous remedy actually was healed. Individuals as well as the nation had the power to choose.
The new generation was being taught that they had to take their destiny into their own hands!
The Teacher's Commentary
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Eighteenth Chapter / Temporal Sufferings Should Be Borne Patiently, After The Example Of Christ
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
MY CHILD, I came down from heaven for your salvation and took upon Myself your miseries, not out of necessity but out of love, that you might learn to be patient and bear the sufferings of this life without repining. From the moment of My birth to My death on the cross, suffering did not leave Me. I suffered great want of temporal goods. Often I heard many complaints against Me. Disgrace and reviling I bore with patience. For My blessings I received ingratitude, for My miracles blasphemies, and for My teaching scorn.
O Lord, because You were patient in life, especially in fulfilling the design of the Father, it is fitting that I, a most miserable sinner, should live patiently according to Your will, and, as long as You shall wish, bear the burden of this corruptible body for the welfare of my soul. For though this present life seems burdensome, yet by Your grace it becomes meritorious, and it is made brighter and more endurable for the weak by Your example and the pathways of the saints. But it has also more consolation than formerly under the old law when the gates of heaven were closed, when the way thereto seemed darker than now, and when so few cared to seek the eternal kingdom. The just, the elect, could not enter heaven before Your sufferings and sacred death had paid the debt.
Oh, what great thanks I owe You, Who have shown me and all the faithful the good and right way to Your everlasting kingdom! Your life is our way and in Your holy patience we come nearer to You Who are our crown. Had You not gone before and taught us, who would have cared to follow? Alas, how many would have remained far behind, had they not before their eyes Your holy example! Behold, even we who have heard of Your many miracles and teachings are still lukewarm; what would happen if we did not have such light by which to follow You?
The Imitation Of Christ
Balak in the extremity of his fear sends beyond the limits of his own people, into distant Mesopotamia, to secure the help of one supposed to be endowed with supernatural gifts, in special relation to the invisible powers, able to “curse and to bless” (ver. 6). A striking illustration of that blind instinct of human nature by virtue of which it believes ever in the interposition of Deity in the world’s affairs. All idolatrous rites, oracles, divinations, incantations, sacerdotal benedictions and maledictions, rest ultimately on this basis. It is this makes the sway of the priest and the supposed “prophet of the Invisible” so mighty in every land and age. Christianity teaches us to lay hold on the substantial truth that underlies these distorted forms of superstition. It enlightens this blind instinct; reveals the righteous “God that judgeth in the earth;” leads humanity to Him who is at once its “Prophet, Priest, and King.”
THE WITNESS FOR GOD THAT MAY BE FOUND IN THE SOUL OF A DEPRAVED MAN, even of one whose inward dispositions and whole habit of life are most opposed to his will. Balaam practised an art that was “an abomination unto the Lord” (Deut. 18:12), and his way was altogether “perverse” (ver. 32), and yet God was near to him. God spoke to him, and put the spirit of prophecy into his heart, and a word into his mouth. He “heard the words and saw the vision of the Almighty.” Whether his knowledge of God was the result of dim traditions of a purer faith handed down from his forefathers, or of influences that had spread in his own time into the land of his birth, we at least see how scattered rays of Divine light then penetrated the deep darkness of heathendom. So now God is often nearer to men than we or they themselves suppose. He does not leave himself without a witness, even in the most ignorant and vile. The light in them is never totally extinguished. They have their gleams of higher thought, their touches of nobler, purer feeling. Conscience rebukes their practical perversity, and the Spirit strives with them to lead them into a better way. When God is absolutely silent in a man’s soul, all hope of guiding him by outward persuasions into the path of righteousness is gone.
THE PROSTITUTION OF NOBLE POWERS TO BASE USES. Here is a man whose widespread fame was the result, probably, to a great extent of real genius. His native capacity—mental insight, influence over men, poetic gift—was the secret of this fame. Like Simon Magus, he “bewitched the people,” so that they all “gave heed to him, from the least unto the greatest, saying. This man is the great power of God.” But these extraordinary powers are perverted to the furtherance of an unhallowed cause; he makes them the servants of his own base ambition and desire for gain. “He loved the wages of unrighteousness.” It was in his heart to obey the behest of Balak and secure the offered prize. There is a tone of disappointment in the words, “The Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you.” He lets “I dare not” wait upon “I would.” And notwithstanding all his poetic inspiration and his passing raptures of devout and pious feeling,
“Yet in the prophet’s soul the dreams of avarice stay.”
How full is all human history of examples of the waste of noble faculties, the prostitution to evil uses of God-given powers! The darkest deeds have ever been done and the deepest miseries inflicted on the world by those who were most fitted by nature to yield effective service to the cause of truth and righteousness, and to confer blessings on mankind. And it is generally some one base affection—the fust of the flesh, self-love, avarice, an imperious will, &c.—that turns the rich tide of their life in a false direction. As the spreading sails of a ship only hasten its destruction when the helm fails, so is it with the noblest faculties of a man when he has lost the guidance of a righteous purpose.
THE DIVINE RESTRAINT OF MAN’S LIBERTY TO DO EVIL. “And God said, Thou shalt not go with them,” &c. The spell of a higher Power is over him. In a sense contrary to that of Paul the Apostle, he “cannot do the thing that he would.” So are wicked men often made to feel that there is after all a will stronger than their will; that, free as they seem to be, some invisible hand is holding them in check, limiting their range of action, thwarting their purposes, compelling them to do the very thing they would fain avoid, turning their curses into blessings, so that in the end they serve the cause they meant to destroy. The hope of the world lies in the absolute mastery of the Will that is “holy, and just, and good” over all conceivable opposing forms of human and Satanic power.—W.
The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. --- Matthew 5:14.
This passage of Scripture implies that there is a difference between Christians and other people. ( The American National Preacher, Volumes 7-8 ) It is a radical and permanent distinction as regards their principles of action.
The principles of Christian piety will be in fact developed in the life. By this I mean that those who are truly Christians in their hearts will be in their lives. Now that this will be the case it does not require many words to prove. For the nature of the change is such that it cannot but develop itself. Regeneration effects no direct revolution in the intellect, but it does in the heart—none in the essential stamina of the mind, but it does in the principles of action and in the volitions, desires, and preferences of the individual. Nor is it a slight change. It is so great as to make it proper to apply to it the terms new creation, new birth, and life from the dead. There is no other change in the human mind like it—none so deep, so thorough, so abiding. This is so clear in the Bible as to need no further proof.
The change in someone’s religious views and feelings in regeneration is one that affects that individual not in any one department of life but in all. It is not a revolution whose effects we expect simply in the church or in the family, in the external conduct or in the abandonment of vices, but in all the appropriate circumstances of life. If a revolution like that exist, it will be seen. It will constitute that person a new creation in Christ Jesus.
The world is fitted to develop human principles. The whole arrangement of God’s moral government is to show what humanity is and to make the sentence of the day of judgment be seen to be just. People are permitted to become learned, to see whether they are disposed to employ their learning for the welfare of the universe. They are permitted to accumulate wealth, that the native propensities of the heart may be brought out. Objects of fame, of ambition, of pleasure pass before the mind. It is not that God may know, but that a fair trial may be made. Before that trial, condemnation would appear to be unfair. When people have been fairly tried, when virtue and vice, honor and dishonor have been fairly brought before them, it is right that God should address them and say to each, “Bear that character with you to eternity.”
--- Albert Barnes
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Old Jeffrey March 27
In 1697 Samuel and Susanna Wesley assumed responsibility for the church in Epworth, England, and they soon filled the parsonage with children. Susanna gave birth to 19 in all—among them, John, the future founder of Methodism. The Epworth years were hard, days of poverty, disagreement, and discouragement. The difficulties increased in December, 1716, when an unexpected visitor arrived—a ghost. The parsonage came alive with mysterious sounds. Groaning. Loud knockings. Feet on the stairs. Bottles breaking. Chains rattling. The house sometimes shook from top to bottom. No explanation could be found, but strange apparitions were occasionally seen.
The ghost (or demon, or whatever it was) became most agitated during family devotions when Rev. Wesley prayed for the royal family. Terrible poundings came from upstairs, which so provoked the minister that he prayed with increasing defiance and volume. Losing all patience, he once shouted, “Thou deaf and dumb devil, why dost thou frighten the children? Come to me in my study that am a man.” Afterward, it constantly annoyed Wesley in his study.
At first, Susanna had attributed the noises to rats. But when strange horns began blaring throughout the house, she grew convinced that no human or animal could make such sounds. On March 27, 1717 she wrote to her skeptical son Samuel, away at school, “I cannot imagine how you should be so curious about our unwelcome guest. For my part, I am tired with hearing or speaking of it; but if you come, you will find enough to satisfy all your scruples, and perhaps you may hear or see it yourself.”
The family eventually named their ghost “Old Jeffrey.” The children grew accustomed to him, finding they could tease and anger him with personal remarks. His antics finally died down, but years later John, then a world-famous evangelist, wrote an account of him for a magazine. It seems the devil had overplayed his hand. Seeking to frighten or destroy the future evangelist, Old Jeffrey had instead convinced John that the battle was not against flesh and blood, but against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world.
We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. So put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm.
--- Ephesians 6:12,13.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 27
"Then all the disciples forsook him and fled." --- Matthew 26:56.
He never deserted them, but they in cowardly fear of their lives, fled from him in the very beginning of his sufferings. This is but one instructive instance of the frailty of all believers if left to themselves; they are but sheep at the best, and they flee when the wolf cometh. They had all been warned of the danger, and had promised to die rather than leave their Master; and yet they were seized with sudden panic, and took to their heels. It may be, that I, at the opening of this day, have braced up my mind to bear a trial for the Lord’s sake, and I imagine myself to be certain to exhibit perfect fidelity; but let me be very jealous of myself, lest having the same evil heart of unbelief, I should depart from my Lord as the apostles did. It is one thing to promise, and quite another to perform. It would have been to their eternal honour to have stood at Jesus’ side right manfully; they fled from honour; may I be kept from imitating them! Where else could they have been so safe as near their Master, who could presently call for twelve legions of angels? They fled from their true safety. O God, let me not play the fool also. Divine grace can make the coward brave. The smoking flax can flame forth like fire on the altar when the Lord wills it. These very apostles who were timid as hares, grew to be bold as lions after the Spirit had descended upon them, and even so the Holy Spirit can make my recreant spirit brave to confess my Lord and witness for his truth.
What anguish must have filled the Saviour as he saw his friends so faithless! This was one bitter ingredient in his cup; but that cup is drained dry; let me not put another drop in it. If I forsake my Lord, I shall crucify him afresh, and put him to an open shame. Keep me, O blessed Spirit, from an end so shameful.
Evening - March 27
"And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table."Matthew 15:27.
This woman gained comfort in her misery by thinking GREAT THOUGHTS OF CHRIST. The Master had talked about the children’s bread: “Now,” argued she, “since thou art the Master of the table of grace, I know that thou art a generous housekeeper, and there is sure to be abundance of bread on thy table; there will be such an abundance for the children that there will be crumbs to throw on the floor for the dogs, and the children will fare none the worse because the dogs are fed.” She thought him one who kept so good a table that all that she needed would only be a crumb in comparison; yet remember, what she wanted was to have the devil cast out of her daughter. It was a very great thing to her, but she had such a high esteem of Christ, that she said, “It is nothing to him, it is but a crumb for Christ to give.” This is the royal road to comfort. Great thoughts of your sin alone will drive you to despair; but great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace. “My sins are many, but oh! it is nothing to Jesus to take them all away. The weight of my guilt presses me down as a giant’s foot would crush a worm, but it is no more than a grain of dust to him, because he has already borne its curse in his own body on the tree. It will be but a small thing for him to give me full remission, although it will be an infinite blessing for me to receive it.” The woman opens her soul’s mouth very wide, expecting great things of Jesus, and he fills it with his love. Dear reader, do the same. She confessed what Christ laid at her door, but she laid fast hold upon him, and drew arguments even out of his hard words; she believed great things of him, and she thus overcame him. SHE WON THE VICTORY BY BELIEVING IN HIM. Her case is an instance of prevailing faith; and if we would conquer like her, we must imitate her tactics.
Morning and Evening
WE’RE MARCHING TO ZION
Isaac Watts, 1674–1748
You have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.
Should we sing psalms or hymns in our church services? This was the controversy stirring many congregations during the 17th and 18th centuries. Isaac Watts was the life-long champion of the “humanly composed” hymn while the majority of the English-speaking churches insisted on the traditional psalm settings. Tempers frequently flared, and some churches actually split in the heat of this decidedly inharmonious musical conflict. In some churches a compromise was reached. The psalm setting would be sung in the early part of the service with a hymn used at the close, during which time the parishioners could leave or simply refuse to sing.
Isaac Watts’ “Come, We That Love the Lord” was no doubt written in part to refute his critics, who termed his hymns “Watts’ Whims,” as well as to provide some subtle barbs for those who refused to sing his hymns: “Let those refuse to sing who never knew our God; but children of the heavenly King may speak their joys abroad.” The hymn first appeared in Watts’ Hymns and Spiritual Songs of 1707 and was titled “Heavenly Joy on Earth.”
Still today there exists a controversy within some evangelical congregations regarding the use of traditional versus contemporary sacred music. Although we may each have our own preference, cultural differences such as this should never be a cause for disrupting the unity of any group of believers. This epigram by Augustine, the early church theologian, is still worthy of our earnest consideration: “Let there be in the essentials, unity. In all non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”
Come, we that love the Lord, and let our joys be known; join in a song with sweet accord, and thus surround the throne.
Let those refuse to sing who never knew our God; but children of the heav’nly King may speak their joys abroad.
The hill of Zion yields a thousand sacred sweets before we reach the heav’nly fields, or walk the golden streets.
Then let our songs abound and ev’ry tear be dry; we’re marching thru Immanuel’s ground to fairer worlds on high.
Chorus: We’re marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion; we’re marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God.
For Today: Psalm 149:1; Isaiah 35:10; Habakkuk 3:17, 18; 1 Peter 4:13.
Determine to follow the suggestion of this hymn: “Let our joys [not our minor differences] be known and thus surround the throne.” Rejoice in the truth that the best is yet to come—“fairer worlds on high.” ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)
This Prayer a Doxology, an Expression of Unmixed Praise to God
Secondly, we examine its nature. It is a tribute of praise. In this prayer the apostle is not making supplication to God, but rather is offering adoration to Him! This is as much our privilege and duty as it is to spread our needs before Him; yea, the one should ever be accompanied by the other. It is “with thanksgiving” that we are bidden to let our “requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). And that is preceded by the exhortation, “Rejoice in the Lord alway,” which rejoicing is to find its expression in gratitude and by the ascribing of glory to Him. If we be suitably affected by God's bounties, we cannot but bless the Bestower of them. In verse 2, Peter had mentioned some of the most noteworthy and comprehensive of all the Divine benefits, and this exclamation, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” is the echo, or better, the reflex of the Apostle Peter's heart in response to God's amazing grace toward himself and his brethren. This particular doxology is also to be regarded as a devout acknowledgment of the inestimable favors that God had bestowed on His elect, as enlarged upon in verse 3. As the apostle reflected upon the glorious blessings conferred on hell-deserving sinners, his heart was drawn out in fervent worship to the benign Author of them.
Thus it should be, thus it must be, with Christians today. God has no dumb children (Luke 17:7). Not only do they cry to Him day and night in their distress, but they frequently praise Him for His excellency and give thanks for His benefits. As they meditate upon His abundant mercy in having begotten them to a living hope, as they anticipate by faith the glorious inheritance that is reserved for them in heaven, and as they realize that these flow from the sovereign favor of God to them through the death and resurrection of His dear Son, well may they exclaim, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Doxologies, then, are expressions of holy joy and adoring homage. Concerning the particular term blessed, Ellicott most helpfully remarks,
“This form of Greek word is consecrated to God alone: Mark 14:61; Romans 9:5; 2 Corinthians 11:31. It is a completely different word from the ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’ of the Beatitudes and different from the ‘blessed’ of our Lord's mother in Luke 1:28, 42. This form of it [in 1 Peter 1:3] implies that blessing is always due on account of something inherent in the person, while that only implies a blessing has been received.”
Thus we see again how minutely discriminating and accurate is the language of Holy Writ.
The Glorious Object of Praise
Thirdly, we behold its Object. This doxology is addressed to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” which is explained by Calvin thus:
“For as formerly, by calling Himself the God of Abraham, He designed to mark the difference between Him and all fictitious gods; so after He has manifested Himself in His own Son, His will is, not to be known otherwise than in Him. Hence they who form their ideas of God in His naked majesty apart from Christ, have an idol instead of the true God, as the case is with the Jews and the Turks [that is, the Mohammedans, to which we may add the Unitarians]. Whosoever, then, seeks really to know the only true God, must regard Him as the Father of Christ.”
Moreover, in Psalm 72:17, it is foretold of Christ that “men shall be blessed in him” and that “all nations shall call him blessed.” Whereupon the sacred singer breaks forth into this adoring praise: “Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things” (v. 18). That was the Old Testament form of doxology (cf. 1 Kings 1:48; 1 Chron. 29:10); but the New Testament doxology (2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3) is expressed in accordance with the self-revelation the Deity has made in the Person of Jesus Christ: “He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (John 5:23).
God the Father is not here viewed absolutely but relatively, that is, as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord Himself is contemplated in His mediatonal character, that is, as the eternal Son vested with our nature. As such, the Father appointed and sent Him forth on His redeeming mission. In that capacity and office the Lord Jesus owned and served Him as His God and Father. From the beginning He was engaged in His Father's business, ever doing those things that were pleasing in His sight. By God's Word He was regulated in all things. Jehovah was His “portion” (Ps. 16:5), His “God” (Ps. 22:1), His “All.” Christ was under Him (John 6:38; 14:28): “the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). In a covenant way, too, He was and is the God and Father of Christ (John 20:17), not only so while Christ was here on earth, but even now that He is in heaven. This is clear from Christ's promise after His ascension: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God. . .” (Rev. 3:12, ital. mine). Yet this official subordination of Christ to God the Father in no wise militates against nor modifies His essential equality with Him (John 1:1-3; 5:23; 10:30-33).
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8 Knowing God As Father
9 Scribes Lord's Prayer
10 Cure For Anxiety
12 Ultimate Choices
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