The Promise of the Holy SpiritActs 1 1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
According to Bruce Chilton and J.I.H. McDonald in Jesus and the Ethics of the Kingdom the primary focus in Jesus' teaching was not God's love, but God's rule. Notice what Luke says above that in the forty days between the resurrection and the ascension Jesus spoke to his disciples about the Kingdom of God.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
The Ascension6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,
“ ‘May his camp become desolate,
and let there be no one to dwell in it’;
“ ‘Let another take his office.’21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
The Coming of the Holy SpiritActs 2 1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “ ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
“ ‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
The Fellowship of the Believers42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
The Lame Beggar HealedActs 3 1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
What I'm Reading
Is Jesus Simply a Retelling of the Horus Mythology?
By J. Warner Wallace 11/5/2016
What if I told you there was once an ancient religion whose God was conceived by a virgin named Meri and had a stepfather named Seb (Joseph)? What if I told you this God was born in a cave and his birth was announced by an angel, heralded by a star and attended by shepherds? He attended a special rite of passage at the age of twelve (although the ancient texts describing this God are silent about His life from the age of 12 to 30). At 30 years of age, this God was baptized in a river (His baptizer was later beheaded). He had 12 disciples, performed miracles, exorcized demons, raised someone from the dead, and even walked on water. They called Him “Iusa”, the “ever-becoming son” and the “Holy Child”. He delivered a “Sermon on the Mount”, and his followers recounted his sayings. He was transfigured on a mount and eventually crucified between two thieves. He was buried for three days in a tomb and rose from the dead. His followers called Him “Way”, “the Truth the Light”, “Messiah”, “God’s Anointed Son”, “Son of Man”, “Good Shepherd”, “Lamb of God”, “Word made flesh”, “Word of Truth”, “the KRST” or “Anointed One”. He was also known as “the Fisher” and was associated with the Fish, Lamb and Lion. According to this ancient religion, this God came to fulfill the Law and was supposed to reign one thousand years. Sounds a lot like Jesus doesn’t it? According to those who deny the existence of Jesus, however, this description is of a mythological precursor to Christianity, the Egyptian God named Horus. Skeptics sometimes use ancient deities like Horus, Mithras or Osiris as examples of dying and rising precursors to Jesus. They claim the mythology of Jesus was simply borrowed from pre-existing examples such as these.
Was Horus really like Jesus in all the ways skeptics often describe him? These similarities are startling. For many Christians (especially young believers who encounter this objection while in college) similarities such as these cast doubt on the historicity of Jesus. It’s important, therefore, to examine the truth of these claims to see what the real mythologies tell us about characters such as Horus. While it’s true there are a number of pre-Christian mythologies with dying saviors, they aren’t much like Jesus once you start to examine them closely. They often merely reflect the expectations and yearnings of ancient people for the God who truly did come to earth. A significant portion of what we just described about Horus is simply false and lacks any Egyptian historical or archeological support whatsoever. Much of what I described about Horus is simply a reflection of the effort of atheists to make Horus look as much like Jesus as possible.
Horus was worshiped principally in two Egyptian cultural centers (Bekhdet in the north and Idfu in the south). Little remains at the northern location, but there is still a large and well preserved Ptolemaic temple at Idfu; most of our information about Horus comes from this southern temple. Horus was usually represented as a falcon. He was the great sky God and the Son of Isis and Osiris. Let’s take a look at the claims we’ve already described and separate truth from fiction (for a more in depth examination of Horus and many other alleged Christian precursors, please visit David Anderson’s excellent website. I’m condensing much of his work in this brief blog post). We’ll also look at some of the reasonable expectations and motivations causing these mythologies to resemble Jesus:
Claim: Horus was conceived by a virgin mother named Meri, and had a stepfather named Seb (Joseph)
Truth: Horus was NOT conceived of a virgin. In fact, mural and textual evidence from Egypt indicates Isis (there is no evidence that “Meri” was ever part of her name) hovered over the erect penis (she created) of Osiris to conceive Horus. While she may have been a virgin before the conception, she utilized Osiris’ penis to conceive. She later had another son with Osiris as well. There is no evidence of three wise men as part of the Horus story at all. Seb was actually the “earth god”; He was not Horus’ earthly father. Seb is not the equivalent of Joseph and, in most cases, Seb is described as Osiris’ father.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
The Rescue – Why Did Jesus Come?
By Greg Koukl 11/1/16
Why It Matters
What follows is an excerpt from The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between. In this part of the Story I answer the second of the two most important questions anyone could ever ask about the remarkable man from Nazareth: Why did He come? It is a question there is far too much confusion about, even for those who call the Story their own.
In just a few weeks most of us will be hovering over a gastronomical feast preparing to eat much more than we should, appropriately celebrating the generosity of God towards us that is much more than we deserve.
Not long after, we will celebrate the most sublime example of that generosity, the greatest reason for giving such hearty thanks just weeks before—God come down. God getting low. God with us. Emmanuel.
Christmas starts the story of Jesus, the greatest tale ever told. But it is not really a tale at all, because the story is a true one. It is the most important part of the true Story of Reality.
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Greg Koukl: Founder and President, Stand to Reason
Greg started out thinking he was too smart to become a Christian and ended up giving his life for the defense of the Christian faith. A central theme of Greg's speaking and writing is that Christianity—if it's properly understood and properly communicated—makes the most sense of the world as we find it.
Greg has spoken on more than 70 college and university campuses both in the U.S. and abroad and has hosted his own call-in radio show for 27 years advocating “Christianity worth thinking about.” He’s debated atheist Michael Shermer on national radio and Deepak Chopra on national television on Lee Strobel's “Faith Under Fire.” He is an award-winning writer and best-selling author. Greg has been featured on Focus on the Family radio and has been interviewed for CBN and the BBC. He's been quoted in Christianity Today, the U.S. News & World Report, and the L.A. Times.
Greg received his Masters in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Talbot School of Theology, graduating with high honors, and his Masters in Christian Apologetics with honors from Simon Greenleaf University. He is an adjunct professor in Christian apologetics at Biola University. Greg Koukl Books:
The Myth of Hate
By Alan Shlemon 11/4/16
I’m told writing this post won’t matter. I can clarify until I’m blue in the face and nothing will change. It doesn’t matter what Christians actually think or believe about homosexuality. It seems the world will still believe what it wants to believe no matter what anyone says.
But I still have hope. So, I’m putting this out there. The most common misconception about Christians and homosexuality is that Christians hate homosexuals. Though there are some things Christians have done to contribute to this impression, it’s largely untrue.
Let me first speak for myself. I can honestly say I don’t hate or feel animosity towards people who identify as gay or lesbian. Keep in mind that I’m, allegedly, one of those right-wing fundamentalist fanatics who say homosexual sex is sin. I travel around the country teaching about the Christian worldview and often address the topic of homosexuality. I’m the one the media refers to as “a Christian minister who serves up homophobia to congregations across the country.” If there’s any kind of person who is supposed to hate homosexuals, it’s me. I’m the activist.
But I don’t. Not even a little. I have family and friends who identify as gay and lesbian and I love each of them. They come over and spend time with me. There’s no malice. I’m not angry. They're always welcome in my home.
I realize I don’t speak for every Christian, but I know and have met a lot of Christians across the country. I’ve been travelling and specifically talking about this topic for over a decade. I’ve met Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, Coptics, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, Seventh Day Adventists, Mennonites, Methodists, Anabaptists, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Orthodox, and others. Guess what? I don’t find they hate homosexuals. In fact, they’re often frustrated that no one believes them that they, as Christ commanded, love all people. Of course I’m not claiming to have performed a rigorous poll. But if hate largely represented the attitude of most Christians, you’d think I’d run into it when I spoke up on homosexuality.
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Women and Christianity
By Melinda Penner 10/2/14
Critics of Christianity consider it a patriarchal religion that relegates women to "second class citizens" at best. This isn't the case at all. Christianity values all humans equally, and the behavior and practices of the early church demonstrate that women were valued just as highly as men. And this was in stark contrast to the treatment of women in literally any other culture and religion at that time. Though the Bible teaches complementary roles in marriage, it elevated the status of women in marriage, placing equal value on each spouse. Christianity placed new obligations on husbands for the treatment of their wives and daughters. And this played out quite clearly in the early church.
Rodney Stark offers the evidence in his book ISBN-13: 978-0062007698 .
Because Jesus, the twelve apostles, Paul, and the prominent leaders in the early church in Jerusalem were all men, the impression prevails that early Christianity was primarily a male affair. Not so. From earliest days women predominated.
In his Epistle to the Romans, Paul begins with personal greetings to fifteen women and eighteen men who were prominent members of the Roman congregation. If we may assume that sufficient sex bias existed so that men were more likely than women to hold positions of leadership, then this very close sex ratio suggests a Roman congregation that was very disproportionately female. Indeed, the converts of Paul “we hear most about are women,” and many of them “leading women.” Thus, the brilliant Cambridge church historian Henry Chadwick (1920-2008) noted, “Christianity seems to have been especially successful among women. It was often through the wives that it penetrated the upper classes of society in the first instance.”…
The question persists, Why? The answer consists of two parts. First,…religious movements always attract more women than men…. Far more important is the second part of the answer, which suggests that Christianity was attractive to women far beyond the usual level of gender differences. Women were especially drawn to Christianity because it offered them a life that was so greatly superior to the life they otherwise would have led….
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Quakers and Constitutional Freedom
By Melinda Penner 8/21/14
You remember William Penn from history class. He was granted the colony of Pennsylvania by the king in payment for debts owed his father. Penn was a Quaker who converted to Christianity in his early 20s. Penn adhered to the biblical values of human equality and intrinsic value and dignity. These later influenced the governmental framework he proposed for Pennsylvania.
Because of his dissent from the Church of England, Penn was imprisoned in the Tower of London for his outspoken religious beliefs. Penn was close friends with George Fox, who founded Quakerism. By rejecting the church's authority over congregations, "Fox not only extended the Protestant Reformation more radically, but he helped extend the most important principle of modern political history – the rights of the individual – upon which modern democracies were later founded. Penn traveled frequently with Fox, through Europe and England. He also wrote a comprehensive, detailed explanation of Quakerism along with a testimony to the character of George Fox, in his introduction to the autobiographical Journal of George Fox. In effect, Penn became the first theologian, theorist, and legal defender of Quakerism, providing its written doctrine and helping to establish its public standing."
Penn's father banished him from his household for his religious beliefs. On his deathbed, Penn's father expressed his respect for his son's religious convictions and courage. He entreated the Duke of York, the future King of England, to protect his son.
Penn and other Quakers purchased land in America that became New Jersey. He encouraged a mass migration of Quakers to escape persecution and pursue practicing their religious freedom in peace. The King later granted Pennsylvania to Penn. "On March 4, 1681, the King signed the charter and the following day Penn jubilantly wrote, 'It is a clear and just thing, and my God who has given it me through many difficulties, will, I believe, bless and make it the seed of a nation.'"
Penn proposed a framework for the government of his colony that included some landmark features that influenced the U.S. Constitution a century later. He limited his own power under the legal framework. And he provided for amendments to allow the constitution to be changed over time. Other rights that were unique at the time:
Melinda Penner | Melinda graduated from Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska with her B.S. in Education, and then earned a B.A. in theology from Christ College in Irvine, CA. She also completed her M.A. in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Talbot School of Theology. She taught middle school in Christian schools until founding Stand to Reason with Greg Koukl. She is the executive director of Stand to Reason.
Euthanasia by Organ Harvesting
By Wesley J. Smith 4/1/16
Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder. —Leon Kass
The ethics of medicine aren’t what they used to be. Sanctity of life? That’s so passé. The Hippocratic Oath? Fuggettaboudit! The modern healthcare system is expected to embrace properly utilitarian perspectives.
Take euthanasia as just one example. Once society accepts that sick patients can be relieved of their suffering by being killed, it won’t take long to conclude that they can also be exploited for their no-longer-needed parts.
Euthanasia by lethal injection has already been coupled with organ donation in the Netherlands and Belgium. Since 2008, several articles have been published in respectable medical journals lauding this forming symbiosis. A 2011 article published by Applied Cardiopulmonary Pathophysiology was particularly chilling in its detached clinical description of the euthanasia killings of four patients in preparation for organ procurement:
Donors were admitted to the hospital a few hours before the planned euthanasia procedure. A central venous line was placed in a room adjacent to the operating room. Donors were heparinized [a drug to maintain organ viability] immediately before a cocktail of drugs was given by the treating physician who agreed to perform the euthanasia. The patient was announced dead on cardiorespiratory criteria by 3 independent physicians as required by Belgian legislation for every organ donor. . . . The deceased was then rapidly transferred, installed on the operating table, and intubated [in preparation for organ removal] . . .
Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism and is a consultant to the Patients Rights Council. His next book, Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, which will be published in May, 2016.
The Opposite of Love is not Hate
By Dr. Khaldoun A. Sweis
What is the opposite of love? It is not hate, but something far worse.
The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. For we can love and hate the same person at the same time, but we cannot love and be indifferent to the same person at the same time. Hate does not necessarily drive out love, but indifference does. Love is food. Plants and animals, children and adults all feed and grow on love. Hate is like poison, but indifference is like starvation. Even poisonous food can nourish (in small doses) but nothing never nourishes. That is why children from oppressive, tyrannical, or combative families sometimes grow into strong individuals. They have to fight for their identity, and they often win. But children from “I don’t care” families seldom learn to care themselves. They may have been cared for, but not cared about; so they care deeply about nothing. They neither love nor hate; for even hate is a form of caring. Hate is a disease, but indifference is a death….Fight is more right than flight; a scowl is closer to a smile tan a snore. It is at least a face. --- Peter Kreeft ISBN-13: 978-0898703924.
So God hates sin, evil, wickedness and yes, the sinner and the wicked.
But he is never indifferent to it or us.
Yes, at the same time he loves sinners.
Dr. Khaldoun Sweis earned his BA in Philosophy in 1996 at Eastern Illinois University. He completed his MA in Philosophy of Religion at Trinity International University in 2003. In 2007, he completed his PhD in Philosophy of Mind at the University of Hull. After teaching at Oxford University, Dr. Sweis went on to become Chair of the Humanities Department at the City Colleges of Chicago. He has spoken at conferences worldwide, including lectures at Oxford University, Berkeley, Cambridge, Hofstra University, University College London, as well as in Hong Kong, Austrailia, and Romania. In 2012, Dr. Sweis was promoted to Associate Professor of Philosophy. In 2013, he was awarded the Phi Theta Honor Society “Distinguished Faculty” award.
Khaldoun is the father of two amazing children and the husband of one beautiful wife! In his spare time, he is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Olive-Harvey College and tutor of Philosophy of Religion at Oxford University. Jordanian Arab-Christian philosopher Dr. Khaldoun Sweis is a respected professor, acclaimed author, and lecturer, who has a global perspective on major philosophical issues of our time. Dr. Sweis has made it his mission to spread hope through faith helping his audiences to overcome pain and suffering.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 119119 RESH
119:153 Look on my affliction and deliver me,
for I do not forget your law.
154 Plead my cause and redeem me;
give me life according to your promise!
155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
for they do not seek your statutes.
156 Great is your mercy, O LORD;
give me life according to your rules.
157 Many are my persecutors and my adversaries,
but I do not swerve from your testimonies.
158 I look at the faithless with disgust,
because they do not keep your commands.
159 Consider how I love your precepts!
Give me life according to your steadfast love.
160 The sum of your word is truth,
and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
Peaceful Polemics Online
By Tim Challies 4/01/2016
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. This wonderfully pessimistic French phrase roughly translates to “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” It points us to one of the undeniable facts about life in this world: that though times and contexts change, humanity remains the same.
Today, we find ourselves at a fascinating point in history, a point when we are witnessing a radical shift in the way we communicate. We are transitioning from old media to new media, from words on printed pages to words on pixelated screens, from words spoken face-to-face to words spoken to cameras and delivered instantly through screens ten thousand miles away. Such seismic shifts have occurred only a few times in history, and each shift has been accompanied by turmoil, by a time of learning to adapt to new abilities and new realities.
With this newest era and its groundbreaking technologies have come new capabilities as we carry out our age-old responsibility to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). God has called each one of His children to proclaim and defend the gospel. He has called each one of us to stand for truth and to stand against those who tamper with it or who outright deny it. Paul states:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph. 6:10–13)
This should be easier than ever in an age of widespread and instant communications. But with new capabilities come new temptations and new dangers.
If history were to end tomorrow, we would probably look back on the era of digital communications as an era of chaos. We have proven our deep depravity in our ability to speak too quickly, too strongly, and too harshly. All that Jesus and James and Solomon warned us about the power of the tongue can be extended to the power of our fingers as they dance over our keyboards and our thumbs as they tap out messages on our phones. Out of the overflow of the heart the fingers type.
God calls us to be people who speak the truth, but who speak the truth in love. Ephesians 4:15–16 illustrates:
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Even as we contend for the faith, we are to contend in love. Even as we speak out in defense of the One who has saved us, we must speak with patience, with respect, with self-control. We have proven ourselves both willing and able to speak, but we have a long way to go to prove that we can do it all in love.
Many years ago, John Stott pondered Paul’s command to the church in Ephesus that they were to speak the truth in love. Paul called on those Christians to prove their spiritual maturity by their desire and their ability to maintain unity even through disagreement, even through debate. The way to prove the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, wrote Paul, is not only to speak true words and not only to speak loving words, but to do both at the same time and in the same measure. Stott’s warning from his commentary on Ephesians is timeless, transcending all technological eras: “Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love; love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth.” I fear that for too many of us, our words are hard, untouched by the softening quality of love. And yet we gain nothing if we speak love at the expense of truth, if our love is untouched by the strengthening power of truth.
Stott rightly points out:
The apostle calls us to hold the two together, which should not be difficult for Spirit-filled believers, since the Holy Spirit is himself “the spirit of truth,” and his first fruit is “love.” There is no other route than this to a fully mature Christian unity.
Our fast-paced, always-on, digital world brings us unparalleled opportunities to speak. It allows us to extend our voices around the world with the simple click of a single button. But it also offers unparalleled opportunities to do so poorly, to do so in ways that deny rather than display the fruit of the Spirit. Christian, God has called you to speak His truth, to contend for the faith. He has provided new and amazing media ideally suited to do this very thing. Your challenge and mine—the challenge of the church here in the twenty-first century—is the challenge to speak that truth in love, to contend with an equal measure of firmness and gentleness.
I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.
Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.
Tim Challies Books | Go to Books Page
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
CHAPTER IX | An Account of the Life and Persecutions of Martin LutherThis illustrious German divine and reformer of the Church was the son of John Luther and Margaret Ziegler, and born at Isleben, a town of Saxony, in the county of Mansfield, November 10, 1483. His father's extraction and condition were originally but mean, and his occupation that of a miner; it is probable, however, that by his application and industry he improved the fortunes of his family, as he afterward became a magistrate of rank and dignity. Luther was early initiated into letters, and at the age of thirteen was sent to school at Magdeburg, and thence to Eisenach, in Thuringia, where he remained four years, producing the early indications of his future eminence.
In 1501 he was sent to the University of Erfurt, where he went through the usual courses of logic and philosophy. When twenty, he took a master's degree, and then lectured on Aristotle's physics, ethics, and other parts of philosophy. Afterward, at the instigation of his parents, he turned himself to the civil law, with a view of advancing himself to the bar, but was diverted from this pursuit by the following accident. Walking out into the fields one day, he was struck by lightning so as to fall to the ground, while a companion was killed by his side; and this affected him so sensibly, that, without communicating his purpose to any of his friends, he withdrew himself from the world, and retired into the order of the hermits of St. Augustine.
Here he employed himself in reading St. Augustine and the schoolmen; but in turning over the leaves of the library, he accidentally found a copy of the Latin Bible, which he had never seen before. This raised his curiosity to a high degree: he read it over very greedily, and was amazed to find what a small portion of the Scriptures was rehearsed to the people.
He made his profession in the monastery of Erfurt, after he had been a novice one year; and he took priest's orders, and celebrated his first Mass in 1507. The year after, he was removed from the convent of Erfurt to the University of Wittenberg; for this university being just founded, nothing was thought more likely to bring it into immediate repute and credit, than the authority and presence of a man so celebrated, for his great parts and learning, as Luther.
In this University of Erfurt, there was a certain aged man in the convent of the Augustines with whom Luther, being then of the same order, a friar Augustine, had conference upon divers things, especially touching remission of sins; which article the said aged father opened unto Luther; declaring that God's express commandment is that every man should particularly believe his sins to be forgiven him in Christ: and further said that this interpretation was confirmed by St. Bernard: "This is the testimony that the Holy Ghost giveth thee in thy heart, saying, thy sins are forgiven thee. For this is the opinion of the apostle, that man is freely justified by faith."
By these words Luther was not only strengthened, but was also instructed of the full meaning of St. Paul, who repeateth so many times this sentence, "We are justified by faith." And having read the expositions of many upon this place, he then perceived, as well by the discourse of the old man, as by the comfort he received in his spirit, the vanity of those interpretations, which he had read before, of the schoolmen. And so, by little and little, reading and comparing the sayings and examples of the prophets and apostles, with continual invocation of God, and the excitation of faith by force of prayer, he perceived that doctrine most evidently. Thus continued he his study at Erfurt the space of four years in the convent of the Augustines.
In 1512, seven convents of his order having a quarrel with their vicar-general, Luther was chosen to go to Rome to maintain their cause. At Rome he saw the pope and the court, and had an opportunity of observing also the manners of the clergy, whose hasty, superficial, and impious way of celebrating Mass, he has severely noted. As soon as he had adjusted the dispute which was the business of his journey, he returned to Wittenberg, and was created doctor of divinity, at the expense of Frederic, elector of Saxony; who had often heard him preach, was perfectly acquainted with his merit, and reverenced him highly.
He continued in the University of Wittenberg, where, as professor of divinity, he employed himself in the business of his calling. Here then he began in the most earnest manner to read lectures upon the sacred books: he explained the Epistle to the Romans, and the Psalms, which he cleared up and illustrated in a manner so entirely new, and so different from what had been pursued by former commentators, that "there seemed, after a long and dark night, a new day to arise, in the judgment of all pious and prudent men."
Luther diligently reduced the minds of men to the Son of God: as John the Baptist demonstrated the Lamb of God that took away the sins of the world, even so Luther, shining in the Church as the bright daylight after a long and dark night, expressly showed that sins are freely remitted for the love of the Son of God, and that we ought faithfully to embrace this bountiful gift.
His life was correspondent to his profession; and it plainly appeared that his words were no lip-labor, but proceeded from the very heart. This admiration of his holy life much allured the hearts of his auditors.
The better to qualify himself for the task he had undertaken, he had applied himself attentively to the Greek and Hebrew languages; and in this manner was he employed, when the general indulgences were published in 1517.
Leo X who succeeded Julius II in March, 1513, formed a design of building the magnificent Church of St. Peter's at Rome, which was, indeed, begun by Julius, but still required very large sums to be finished. Leo, therefore, in 1517 published general indulgences throughout all Europe, in favor of those who contribute any sum to the building of St. Peter's; and appointed persons in different countries to preach up these indulgences, and to receive money for them. These strange proceedings gave vast offence at Wittenberg, and particularly inflamed the pious zeal of Luther; who, being naturally warm and active, and in the present case unable to contain himself, was determined to declare against them at all adventures.
Upon the eve of All-saints, therefore, in 1517, he publicly fixed up, at the church next to the castle of that town, a thesis upon indulgences; in the beginning of which he challenged any one to oppose it either by writing or disputation. Luther's propositions about indulgences were no sooner published, than Tetzel, the Dominican friar, and commissioner for selling them, maintained and published at Frankfort, a thesis, containing a set of propositions directly contrary to them. He did more; he stirred up the clergy of his order against Luther; anathematized him from the pulpit, as a most damnable heretic; and burnt his thesis publicly at Frankfort. Tetzel's thesis was also burnt, in return, by the Lutherans at Wittenberg; but Luther himself disowned having had any hand in that procedure.
In 1518, Luther, though dissuaded from it by his friends, yet, to show obedience to authority, went to the monastery of St. Augustine, at Heidelberg, while the chapter was held; and here maintained, April 26, a dispute concerning "justification by faith"; which Bucer, who was present at, took down in writing, and afterward communicated to Beatus Rhenanus, not without the highest commendations.
In the meantime, the zeal of his adversaries grew every day more and more active against him; and he was at length accused to Leo X as a heretic. As soon as he returned therefore from Heidelberg, he wrote a letter to that pope, in the most submissive terms; and sent him, at the same time, an explication of his propositions about indulgences. This letter is dated on Trinity Sunday, 1518, and was accompanied with a protestation, wherein he declared, that he did not pretend to advance or defend anything contrary to the Holy Scriptures, or to the doctrine of the fathers, received and observed by the Church of Rome, or to the canons and decretals of the popes: nevertheless, he thought he had the liberty either to approve or disapprove the opinions of St. Thomas, Bonaventure, and other schoolmen and canonists, which are not grounded upon any text.
The emperor Maximilian was equally solicitous, with the pope about putting a stop to the propagation of Luther's opinions in Saxony; troublesome both to the Church and empire. Maximilian, therefore, applied to Leo, in a letter dated August 5, 1518, and begged him to forbid, by his authority, these useless, rash, and dangerous disputes; assuring him also that he would strictly execute in the empire whatever his holiness should enjoin.
In the meantime Luther, as soon as he understood what was transacting about him at Rome, used all imaginable means to prevent his being carried thither, and to obtain a hearing of his cause in Germany. The elector was also against Luther's going to Rome, and desired of Cardinal Cajetan, that he might be heard before him, as the pope's legate in Germany. Upon these addresses, the pope consented that the cause should be tried before Cardinal Cajetan, to whom he had given power to decide it.
Luther, therefore, set off immediately for Augsburg, and carried with him letters from the elector. He arrived here in October, 1518, and, upon an assurance of his safety, was admitted into the cardinal's presence. But Luther was soon convinced that he had more to fear from the cardinal's power than from disputations of any kind; and, therefore, apprehensive of being seized if he did not submit, withdrew from Augsburg upon the twentieth. But, before his departure, he published a formal appeal to the pope, and finding himself protected by the elector, continued to teach the same doctrines at Wittenberg, and sent a challenge to all the inquisitors to come and dispute with him.
As to Luther, Miltitius, the pope's chamberlain, had orders to require the elector to oblige him to retract, or to deny him his protection: but things were not now to be carried with so high a hand, Luther's credit being too firmly established. Besides, the emperor Maximilian happened to die upon the twelfth of this month, whose death greatly altered the face of affairs, and made the elector more able to determine Luther's fate. Miltitius thought it best, therefore, to try what could be done by fair and gentle means, and to that end came to some conference with Luther.
During all these treaties, the doctrine of Luther spread, and prevailed greatly; and he himself received great encouragement at home and abroad. The Bohemians about this time sent him a book of the celebrated John Huss, who had fallen a martyr in the work of reformation; and also letters, in which they exhorted him to constancy and perseverance, owning that the divinity which he taught was the pure, sound, and orthodox divinity. Many great and learned men had joined themselves to him.
In 1519, he had a famous dispute at Leipsic with John Eccius. But this dispute ended at length like all others, the parties not the least nearer in opinion, but more at enmity with each other's persons.
About the end of this year, Luther published a book, in which he contended for the Communion being celebrated in both kinds; which was condemned by the bishop of Misnia, January 24, 1520.
While Luther was laboring to excuse himself to the new emperor and the bishops of Germany, Eccius had gone to Rome, to solicit his condemnation; which, it may easily be conceived, was now become not difficult to be attained. Indeed the continual importunities of Luther's adversaries with Leo, caused him at length to publish a formal condemnation of him, and he did so accordingly, in a bull, dated June 15, 1520. This was carried into Germany, and published there by Eccius, who had solicited it at Rome; and who, together with Jerome Alexander, a person eminent for his learning and eloquence, was intrusted by the pope with the execution of it. In the meantime, Charles V of Spain, after he had set things to rights in the Low Countries, went into Germany, and was crowned emperor, October the twenty-first at Aix-la-Chapelle.
Martin Luther, after he had been first accused at Rome upon Maunday Thursday by the pope's censure, shortly after Easter speedeth his journey toward Worms, where the said Luther, appearing before the emperor and all the states of Germany, constantly stuck to the truth, defended himself, and answered his adversaries.
Luther was lodged, well entertained, and visited by many earls, barons, knights of the order, gentlemen, priests, and the commonalty, who frequented his lodging until night. He came, contrary to the expectation of many, as well adversaries as others. His friends deliberated together, and many persuaded him not to adventure himself to such a present danger, considering how these beginnings answered not the faith of promise made. Who, when he had heard their whole persuasion and advice, answered in this wise: "As touching me, since I am sent for, I am resolved and certainly determined to enter Worms, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; yea, although I knew there were as many devils to resist me as there are tiles to cover the houses in Worms."
The next day, the herald brought him from his lodging to the emperor's court, where he abode until six o'clock, for that the princes were occupied in grave consultations; abiding there, and being environed with a great number of people, and almost smothered for the press that was there. Then after, when the princes were set, and Luther entered, Eccius, the official, spake in this manner: "Answer now to the Emperor's demand. Wilt thout maintain all thy books which thou hast acknowledged, or revoke any part of them, and submit thyself?"
Martin Luther answered modestly and lowly, and yet not without some stoutness of stomach, and Christian constancy. "Considering your sovereign majesty, and your honors, require a plain answer; this I say and profess as resolutely as I may, without doubting or sophistication, that if I be not convinced by testimonies of the Scriptures (for I believe not the pope, neither his general Councils, which have erred many times, and have been contrary to themselves), my conscience is so bound and captivated in these Scriptures and the Word of God, that I will not, nor may not revoke any manner of thing; considering it is not godly or lawful to do anything against conscience. Hereupon I stand and rest: I have not what else to say. God have mercy upon me!"
The princes consulted together upon this answer given by Luther; and when they had diligently examined the same, the prolucutor began to repel him thus:
"The Emperor's majesty requireth of thee a simple answer, either negative or affirmative, whether thou mindest to defend all thy works as Christian, or no?" Then Luther, turning to the emperor and the nobles, besought them not to force or compel him to yield against his conscience, confirmed with the Holy Scriptures, without manifest arguments alleged to the contrary by his adversaries. "I am tied by the Scriptures."
Before the Diet of Worms was dissolved, Charves V caused an edict to be drawn up, which was dated the eighth of May, and decreed that Martin Luther be, agreeably to the sentence of the pope, henceforward looked upon as a member separated from the Church, a schismatic, and an obstinate and notorious heretic. While the bull of Leo X executed by Charles V was thundering throughout the empire, Luther was safely shut up in the castle of Wittenberg; but weary at length of his retirement, he appeared publicly again at Wittenberg, March 6, 1522, after he had been absent about ten months.
Luther now made open war with the pope and bishops; and, that he might make the people despise their authority as much as possible, he wrote one book against the pope's bull, and another against the order falsely called "The Order of Bishops." He published also a translation of the New Testament in the German tongue, which was afterward corrected by himself and Melancthon.
Affairs were now in great confusion in Germany; and they were not less so in Italy, for a quarrel arose between the pope and the emperor, during which Rome was twice taken, and the pope imprisoned. While the princes were thus employed in quarrelling with each other, Luther persisted in carrying on the work of the Reformation, as well by opposing the papists, as by combating the Anabaptists and other fanatical sects; which, having taken the advantage of his contest with the Church of Rome, had sprung up and established themselves in several places.
In 1527, Luther was suddenly seized with a coagulation of the blood about the heart, which had like to have put an end to his life. The troubles of Germany being not likely to have any end, the emperor was forced to call a diet at Spires, in 1529, to require the assistance of the princes of the empire against the Turks. Fourteen cities, viz., Strassburg, Nuremberg, Ulm, Constance, Retlingen, Windsheim, Memmingen, Lindow, Kempten, Hailbron, Isny, Weissemburg, Nortlingen, S. Gal, joined against the decree of the Diet protestation, which was put into writing, and published April, 1529. This was the famous protestation, which gave the name of "Protestants" to the reformers in Germany.
After this, the Protestant princes labored to make a firm league and enjoined the elector of Saxony and his allies to approve of what the Diet had done; but the deputies drew up an appeal, and the Protestants afterwards presented an apology for their "Confession"-that famous confession which was drawn up by the temperate Melancthon, as also the apology. These were signed by a variety of princes, and Luther had now nothing else to do, but to sit down and contemplate the mighty work he had finished: for that a single monk should be able to give the Church of Rome so rude a shock, that there needed but such another entirely to overthrow it, may be well esteemed a mighty work.
In 1533, Luther wrote a consolatory epistle to the citizens of Oschatz, who had suffered some hardships for adhering to the Augsburg confession of faith: and in 1534, the Bible translated by him into German was first printed, as the old privilege, dated at Bibliopolis, under the elector's own hand, shows; and it was published in the year after. He also published this year a book, "Against Masses and the Consecration of Priests."
In February, 1537, an assembly was held at Smalkald about matters of religion, to which Luther and Melancthon were called. At this meeting Luther was seized with so grievous an illness that there was no hope of his recovery. As he was carried along he made his will, in which he bequeathed his detestation of popery to his friends and brethren. In this manner was he employed until his death, which happened in 1546.
That year, accompanied by Melancthon, he paid a visit to his own country, which he had not seen for many years, and returned again in safety. But soon after, he was called thither again by the earls of Manfelt, to compose some differences which had arisen about their boundaries, where he was received by one hundred horsemen, or more, and conducted in a very honorable manner; but was at the same time so very ill that it was feared he would die. He said that these fits of sickness often came upon him, when he had any great business to undertake. Of this, however, he did not recover, but died in February 18, in his sixty-third year. A little before he expired, he admonished those that were about him to pray to God for the propagation of the Gospel, "Because," said he, "the Council of Trent, which had set once or twice, and the pope, will devise strange things against it." Feeling his fatal hour to approach, before nine o'clock in the morning, he commended himself to God with this devout prayer:
"My heavenly Father, eternal and merciful God! Thou hast manifested unto me Thy dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I have taught Him, I have known Him; I love Him as my life, my health and my redemption; Whom the wicked have persecuted, maligned, and with injury afflicted. Draw my soul to Thee."
After this he said as ensueth, thrice: "I commend my spirit into Thy hands, Thou hast redeemed me, O God of Truth! 'God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have life everlasting.'" Having repeated oftentimes his prayers, he was called to God. So praying, his innocent ghost peaceably was separated from the earthly body.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Overcoming your fears (3)
(Nov 13) Bob Gass
‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’
(Heb 13:6) So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” ESV
Let’s look at two more common fears: 1) Fear of not being good enough. It’s not about being as good as others; it’s about being yourself! Stop comparing yourself to other people and instead spend your time discovering your God-given strengths. You were born for a purpose, and that purpose may be unlike anything you’ve ever encountered. 2) Fear of not being accepted. This is one of the greatest sources of loneliness in society today. And the Internet hasn’t solved the problem because deep down we all long for intimacy, not information. You’d be surprised at how many people go home to an empty flat, eat dinner for one, watch television, and climb into bed alone. Even when we’re surrounded by a crowd we still feel isolated – like an island in the middle of the sea. But, in truth, it doesn’t have to be that way – particularly if you’re a member of God’s redeemed family. The key to being accepted is to reach out and accept other members of your family. When you allow them into your private world, you’ll find they welcome you into theirs. Take a look at your life today. Nobody’s looking, and the person who’ll benefit most from it is you! Insecure people can be the most difficult to reach because they’re desperate to hide what they perceive as inadequacies and failures. If you need the help of a professional counsellor, doctor, or pastor, reach out and get it! You owe it to yourself! Rise up today and say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid of rejection, or of not being good enough.’
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
The Vietnam War Memorial was dedicated this day, November 13, 1982, honoring the 58,000 American troops who died. In 1966, Marine Sargent George Hutchings of the First Battalion Fifth Marine Division had over two hundred men killed around him during an ambush by the Viet Cong. Shot three times, he was bayoneted and left for dead, for which he received the Purple Heart. Of the Memorial, George Hutchings said: “On that wall is the name of Corporal Quinton Bice, who was hit in the chest with a rocket running a patrol in my place. A Christian, he had shared the Gospel with me, but I didn’t understand it till he gave his life in my place.”American Minute
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Thy will be done. My festoons on this have been added gradually. At first I took it exclusively as an act of submission, attempting to do with it what Our Lord did in Gethsemane. I thought of God's will purely as something that would come upon me, something of which I should be the patient. And I also thought of it as a will which would be embodied in pains and disappointments. Not, to be sure, that I supposed God's will for me to consist entirely of disagreeables. But I thought it was only the disagreeables that called for this preliminary submission-the agreeables could look after themselves for the present. When they turned up, one could give thanks.
This interpretation is, I expect, the commonest. And so it must be. And such are the miseries of human life that it must often fill our whole mind. But at other times other meanings can be added. So I added one more.
The peg for it is, I admit, much more obvious in the English version than in the Greek or Latin. No matter: this is where the liberty of festooning comes in. "Thy will be done." But a great deal of it is to be done by God's creatures; including me. The petition, then, is not merely that I may patiently suffer God's will but also that I may vigorously do it. I must be an agent as well as a patient. I am asking that I may be enabled to do it. In the long run I am asking to be given "the same mind which was also in Christ."
Taken this way, I find the words have a more regular daily application. For there isn't always-or we don't always have reason to suspect that there is-some great affliction looming in the near future, but there are always duties to be done; usually, for me, neglected duties to be caught up with. "Thy will be done-by me-now" brings one back to brass tacks.
But more than that, I am at this very moment contemplating a new festoon. Tell me if you think it a vain subtlety. I am beginning to feel that we need a preliminary act of submission not only towards possible future afflictions but also towards possible future blessings. I know it sounds fantastic; but think it over. It seems to me that we often, almost sulkily, reject the good that God offers us because, at that moment, we expected some other good. Do you know what I mean? On every level of our life-in our religious experience, in our gastronomic, erotic, aesthetic, and social experience-we are always harking back to some occasion which seemed to us to reach perfection, setting that up as a norm, and depreciating all other occasions by comparison. But these other occasions, I now suspect, are often full of their own new blessing, if only we would lay ourselves open to it. God shows us a new facet of the glory, and we refuse to look at it because we're still looking for the old one. And of course we don't get that. You can't, at the twentieth reading, get again the experience of reading Lycidas for the first time. But what you do get can be in its own way as good.
This applies especially to the devotional life. Many religious people lament that the first fervors of their conversion have died away. They think-sometimes rightly, but not, I believe, always-that their sins account for this. They may even try by pitiful efforts of will to revive what now seem to have been the golden days. But were those fervors-the operative word is those-ever intended to last?
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The style of God venerated in the church, mosque, or synagogue seems completely different from the style of the natural universe.
--- Alan Watts
When the depths are upheld by the Holy Spirit,
then the reaction is Christian.
--- E. Stanley Jones
100 per cent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased.
--- C.S. Lewis
Freedom comes from human beings, rather than from laws and institutions.
--- Clarence Seward Darrow
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
but he who follows futilities will have plenty of poverty.
20 A trustworthy person will receive many blessings,
but one rushing to get rich will not go unpunished.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Faith and experience
The Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. --- Gal. 2:20.
We have to battle through our moods into absolute devotion to the Lord Jesus, to get out of the hole-and-corner business of our experience into abandoned devotion to Him. Think Who the New Testament says that Jesus Christ is, and then think of the despicable meanness of the miserable faith we have—‘I haven’t had this and that experience!’ Think what faith in Jesus Christ claims—that He can present us faultless before the throne of God, unutterably pure, absolutely rectified and profoundly justified. Stand in implicit, adoring faith in Him, He is made unto us “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” How can we talk of making a sacrifice for the Son of God! Our salvation is from hell and perdition, and then we talk about making sacrifices!
We have to get out into faith in Jesus Christ continually; not a prayer meeting Jesus Christ, nor a book Jesus Christ, but the New Testament Jesus Christ, Who is God Incarnate, and Who ought to strike us to His feet as dead. Our faith must be in the One from Whom our experience springs. Jesus Christ wants our absolute abandon of devotion to Himself. We never can experience Jesus Christ, nor ever hold Him within the compass of our own hearts, but our faith must be built in strong emphatic confidence in Him.
It is along this line that we see the rugged impatience of the Holy Ghost against unbelief. All our fears are wicked, and we fear because we will not nourish ourselves in our faith. How can anyone who is identified with Jesus Christ suffer from doubt or fear! It ought to be an absolute psalm of perfectly irrepressible, triumphant belief.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
He had strange dreams
that were real
in which he saw God
showing him an aperture
of the horizon wherein
were flasks and test-tubes.
And the rainbow
ended there not in a pot
of gold, but in colours
that, dissected, had the ingredients of
the death ray.
Faces at the window
of his mind
had the false understanding
of flowers, but their eyes pointed
like arrows to
an imprisoning cell.
he dreamed on in curves
with the smell of saltpetre
in his nostrils, and saw the hole
in God's side that is the wound
of knowledge and
thrust his hand in it and believed.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
What Maimonides meant when he said that he reached the same goal as the Mutakallimun without abolishing the nature of existence is not simply that he had established a proof for the existence of God without negating Aristotelian physics. What is involved is his having secured a religious world view which does not negate the concept of nature in order to establish immediacy with God.
The crucial difference between Maimonidean man who seeks God in nature and one who requires miracles to confirm religious immediacy, above all, is a difference of religious sensibilities. ( ISBN-13: 978-0674664500 ) Once an individual admits that miracles are possible, as Maimonides does by accepting the doctrine of creation, then, from a strictly logical perspective, it makes no difference whether he admits one or one thousand miracles. Once eternal necessity is rejected, the approach to miracles will be determined by what is considered the most significant way of understanding God’s relationship to man.
The difference between religious sensibilities is discussed by Maimonides with reference to various descriptions of the development of the human fetus:
How great is the blindness of ignorance and how harmful! If you told a man who is one of those who deemed themselves “the Sages of Israel” that the Deity sends an angel, who enters the womb of a woman and forms the fetus there, he would be pleased with this assertion and would accept it and would regard it as a manifestation of greatness and power on the part of the Deity, and also of His wisdom, may He be exalted. Nevertheless he would also believe at the same time that the “angel” is a body formed of burning fire and that his size is equal to that of a third part of the whole world. He would regard all this as possible with respect to God. But if you tell him that God has placed in the sperm a formative force shaping the limbs and giving them their configuration and that this force is the “angel,” or that all the forms derive from the act of the Active Intellect and that the latter is the “angel” and the “prince of the world” constantly mentioned by the “Sages,” the man would shrink from this opinion. For he does not understand the notion of the true greatness and power that consists in the bringing into existence of forces active in a thing, forces that cannot be apprehended by any sense.
This description presents us with the two opposing spiritual sensibilities which Maimonides discussed in his Treatise on Resurrection. It is not only the unlearned masses who adopt this approach; it is also the supposed sages of Israel, the talmudists of the Treatise on Resurrection, who separate the revelation of Torah from the world of reason. Their only way of relating to God is by submitting to His will. They understand Aggadah literally, they are exclusively involved with details of law, and they thrive on miracles and unintelligible norms as a confirmation of God’s unique relationship with Israel. This orientation reflects the absence of the concept of independent reason and nature within one’s spiritual life.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” --- John 20:27.
We are born questioners. ASIN: B007RXLTPS Look at the wonderment in a little child’s eyes before it can speak. The child’s great word when it begins to speak is “Why?” Every child is full of questions about everything that moves and shines and changes in the little world in which he or she lives.
That is the commencement of doubt in human nature. Respect doubt for its origin. It is an inevitable thing. It is not a thing to be crushed. It is a part of humanity as God made us. Heresy is truth in the making, and doubt is the prelude of knowledge.
Further, the world is a Sphinx—an unfathomable mystery—and on every side there is temptation to questioning. In every leaf, in every cell of every leaf, there are a hundred problems. Someone spends ten years investigating what is in a leaf and five years more investigating the things that are in the things that are in the leaf. God planned the world to incite us to intellectual activity.
But the instrument with which we investigate truth is impaired. Some say it fell, and the glass is broken. Some say prejudice, heredity, or sin has spoiled its sight and has blinded our eyes and deadened our ears. In any case, the instruments with which we work on truth, even in the strongest people, are feeble and inadequate to their task.
And all religious truths are doubtable. There is no absolute proof for any one of them. Even the fundamental truth—the existence of a God—no one can prove by reason. The ordinary proof for the existence of God involves either an assumption, an argument in a circle, or a contradiction. The impression of God is kept up by experience, not by logic. And thus when the experience of religion of an individual, of a community, or of a nation wanes—their idea of God grows indistinct, and that individual, community, or nation becomes infidel.
This brief account of the origin of doubt teaches us intellectual humility. It teaches us sympathy and toleration with all who venture after truth to find their own paths. Let us never think evil of those who do not see as we do. Let us pity them and take them by the hand and spend time and thought over them and try to lead them to the true light.
--- Henry Drummond
The Synod of Dort
One of the things Christians disagree about is the importance of their disagreements, observed C. S. Lewis. Today many “Calvinists” and “Arminians” work hand in hand, but for hundreds of years they battled one another as bitterest foes.
The Arminians derive their name from Jacobus Arminius, who was born in the Dutch village of Oudewater in 1559 or 1560. He received a good education, but his studies at the University of Marburg were interrupted by tragedy. Spanish troops attacked his hometown of Oudewater, and Jacob, hearing the news, immediately returned home to find his family massacred.
He spent the next several years wandering through Europe, going from university to university, soaking up knowledge like a sponge. In 1587 he finally settled in Amsterdam, having been appointed a pastor there by city fathers. Arminius, who understood suffering better than most, made a good pastor. He visited the sick even during outbreaks of the plague, admonished the wayward, and counseled tolerance in theological matters. His sermons were powerful and popular.
After several years Jacob moved to Leiden to teach at the university, and there his six remaining years became embroiled in conflict with the prevailing interpretation given to Calvinism by Theodore Beza, Calvin’s successor at Geneva. Beza hardened Calvin’s belief that God decrees to save and damn certain individuals by his own sovereign pleasure. Arminius, worrying that Beza’s position made God the author of sin, insisted that election to salvation is conditioned by faith. The controversy became so acute that the Dutch national assembly asked both sides to submit their positions in writing.
Arminius died before responding, but the controversy was just beginning. A war of pamphlets, books, and sermons so divided Holland that the national assembly convened the Synod of Dort, which began November 13, 1618. From the beginning the synod regarded the followers of Arminius as heretics, and on January 14, 1619 the Arminians were condemned. All two hundred Arminian pastors in Holland were thrown from office, and any who would not be silent were banished from the country. But the issue wasn’t settled. Christians have been arguing these doctrines—and about their importance—ever since.
Peter said, “Turn back to God! Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven. Then you will be given the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and your children. It is for everyone our Lord God will choose, no matter where they live.”
--- Acts 2:38,39.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 13
“The branch cannot bear fruit of itself.” --- John 15:4.
How did you begin to bear fruit? It was when you came to Jesus and cast yourselves on his great atonement, and rested on his finished righteousness. Ah! what fruit you had then! Do you remember those early days? Then indeed the vine flourished, the tender grape appeared, the pomegranates budded forth, and the beds of spices gave forth their smell. Have you declined since then? If you have, we charge you to remember that time of love, and repent, and do thy first works. Be most in those engagements which you have experimentally proved to draw you nearest to Christ, because it is from him that all your fruits proceed. Any holy exercise which will bring you to him will help you to bear fruit. The sun is, no doubt, a great worker in fruit-creating among the trees of the orchard: and Jesus is still more so among the trees of his garden of grace. When have you been the most fruitless? Has not it been when you have lived farthest from the Lord Jesus Christ, when you have slackened in prayer, when you have departed from the simplicity of your faith, when your graces have engrossed your attention instead of your Lord, when you have said, “My mountain standeth firm, I shall never be moved”; and have forgotten where your strength dwells—has not it been then that your fruit has ceased? Some of us have been taught that we have nothing out of Christ, by terrible abasements of heart before the Lord; and when we have seen the utter barrenness and death of all creature power, we have cried in anguish, “From him all my fruit must be found, for no fruit can ever come from me.” We are taught, by past experience, that the more simply we depend upon the grace of God in Christ, and wait upon the Holy Spirit, the more we shall bring forth fruit unto God. Oh! to trust Jesus for fruit as well as for life.
Evening - November 13
“Men ought always to pray.” --- Luke 18:1.
If men ought always to pray and not to faint, much more Christian men. Jesus has sent his church into the world on the same errand upon which he himself came, and this mission includes intercession. What if I say that the church is the world’s priest? Creation is dumb, but the church is to find a mouth for it. It is the church’s high privilege to pray with acceptance. The door of grace is always open for her petitions, and they never return empty-handed. The veil was rent for her, the blood was sprinkled upon the altar for her, God constantly invites her to ask what she wills. Will she refuse the privilege which angels might envy her? Is she not the bride of Christ? May she not go in unto her King at every hour? Shall she allow the precious privilege to be unused? The church always has need for prayer. There are always some in her midst who are declining, or falling into open sin. There are lambs to be prayed for, that they may be carried in Christ’s bosom? the strong, lest they grow presumptuous; and the weak, lest they become despairing. If we kept up prayer-meetings four-and-twenty hours in the day, all the days in the year, we might never be without a special subject for supplication. Are we ever without the sick and the poor, the afflicted and the wavering? Are we ever without those who seek the conversion of relatives, the reclaiming of back-sliders, or the salvation of the depraved? Nay, with congregations constantly gathering, with ministers always preaching, with millions of sinners lying dead in trespasses and sins; in a country over which the darkness of Romanism is certainly descending; in a world full of idols, cruelties, devilries, if the church doth not pray, how shall she excuse her base neglect of the commission of her loving Lord? Let the church be constant in supplication, let every private believer cast his mite of prayer into the treasury.
Fanny J. Crosby, 1820–1915
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:22, 23)
Beware of despairing about yourself. You are commanded to put your trust in God, and not in yourself.
--- St. Augustine
Some people claim to have accepted Christ as Savior, yet they live in the tragic uncertainty of doubting their personal relationship with God. The Scriptures teach, however, that we can know with absolute confidence that we have the life of God within us (1 John 5:13). This confidence is not based on inner feelings or outer signs. Rather, this assurance is founded upon the promises of a faithful God and His inspired Word. It depends not on the amount of our faith but on the object of our faith—Christ Himself.
Though blinded at six weeks of age through improper medical treatment, Fanny Crosby wrote more than 8,000 Gospel songs texts in her lifetime of 95 years. Her many favorites such as “Blessed Assurance” have been an important part of evangelical worship for the past century. Only eternity will disclose the host of individuals whose lives have been spiritually enriched through the texts of Fanny Crosby’s many hymns. Engraved on Fanny J. Crosby’s tombstone at Bridgeport, Connecticut, are these significant words taken from our Lord’s remarks to Mary, the sister of Lazarus, after she had anointed Him with costly perfume—“She hath done what she could” (Mark 14:8).
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
Perfect submission, perfect delight! Visions of rapture now burst on my sight; angels descending bring from above echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Perfect submission—all is at rest; I in my Savior am happy and blest; watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
Chorus: This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long; this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.
For Today: Isaiah 12:2; Romans 8:16, 17; 15:13; Titus 2:l3, 14; 1 John 5:13; Revelation 1:5, 6
If you have accepted Christ as personal Savior, live with the absolute conviction and triumphant faith that the apostle Paul had when he exclaimed—“I know whom (not merely what) I have believed … (2 Timothy 1:12). Carry Fanny Crosby’s musical praise with you ---
6. God cannot act any evil, in or by himself. If he cannot approve of sin in others, nor excite any to iniquity, which is less, he cannot commit evil himself, which is greater; what he cannot positively will in another, can never be willed in himself; he cannot do evil through ignorance, because of his infinite knowledge; nor through weakness, because of his infinite power; nor through malice, because of his infinite rectitude. He cannot will any unjust thing, because, having an infinitely perfect understanding, he cannot judge that to be true which is false; or that to be good which is evil: his will is regulated by his wisdom. If he could will any unjust and irrational thing, his will would be repugnant to his understanding; there would be a disagreement in God, will against mind, and will against wisdom; he being the highest reason, the first truth, cannot do an unreasonable, false, defective action. It is not a defect in God that he cannot do evil, but a fulness and excellency of power; as it is not a weakness in the light, but the perfection of it, that it is unable to produce darkness; “God is the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness” (James 1:17). Nothing pleases him, nothing is acted by him, but what is beseeming the infinite excellency of his own nature; the voluntary necessity whereby God cannot be unjust, renders him a God blessed forever; he would hate himself for the chief good, if, in any of his actions, he should disagree with his goodness. He cannot do any unworthy thing, not because he wants an infinite power, but because he is possessed of an infinite wisdom, and adorned with an infinite purity; and being infinitely pure, cannot havc the least mixture of impurity. As if you can suppose fire infinitely hot, you cannot suppose it to have the least mixture of coldness; the better anything is, the more unable it is to do evil; God being the only goodness, can as little be changed in his goodness as in his essence.
II. . The next inquiry is, The proof that God is holy, or the manifestation of it. Purity is as requisite to the blessedness of God, as to the being of God; as he could not be God without being blessed, so he could not be blessed without being holy. He is called by the title of Blessed, as well as by that of holy (Mark 14:61); “Art thou the Christ, the son of the Blessed?” Unrighteousness is a misery and turbulencv in any spirit wherein it is; for it is a privation of an excellency which ought to be in every intellectual being, and what can follow upon the privation of an excellency but unquietness and grief, the moth of happiness? An unrighteous man, as an unrightcous man, can never be blessed, though he were in a local heaven. Had God the least spot upon his purity, it would render him as miserable in the midst of his infinite sufficiency, as iniquity renders a man in the confluence of his earthly enjoyments. The holiness and felicity of God are inseparable in him. The apostle intimates that the heathen made an attempt to sully his blessedness, when they would liken him to corruptible, mutable, impure man (Rom. 1:23, 25): “They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image, made like to corruptible man;” and after, he entitles God a “God blessed forever.” The gospel is therefore called, “The glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11), in regard of the holiness of the gospel precepts, and in regard of the declaration of the holiness of God in all the streams and branches, wherein his purity, in which his blessedness consists, is as illustrious as any other perfection of the Divine Being. God hath highly manifested this attribute in the state of nature; in the legal administration; in the dispensation of the gospel. His wisdom, goodness, and power, are declared in creation; his sovereign authority in his law; his grace and mercy in the gospel, and his righteousness in all. Suitable to this threefold state, may be that eternal repetition of his holiness in the prophecy (Isa. 6:3); holy, as Creator and Benefactor; holy, as Lawgiver and Judge; holy, as Restorer and Redeemer.
First, His holiness appears, as he is Creator, in framing man in a perfect uprightness. Angels, as made by God, could not be evil; for God beheld his own works with pleasure, and could not have pronounced them all good, had some been created pure, and others impure; two moral contrarieties could not be good. The angels had a first estate, wherein they were happy (Jude 6); and had they not left their own habitation and state, they could not have been miserable. But, because the Scripture speaks only of the creation of man, we will consider, that the human nature was well strung and tuned by God, according to the note of his own holiness (Eccles. 7:29); “God hath made man upright:” he had declared his power in other creatures, but would declare in his rational creature, what he most valued in himself; and, therefore, created him upright, with a wisdom which is the rectitude of the mind, with a purity which is the rectitude of the will and affections. He had declared a purity in other creatures, as much as they were capable of, viz. in the exact tuning them to answer one another. And that God, who so well tuned and composed other creatures, would not make man a jarring instrument, and place a cracked creature to be Lord of the rest of his earthly fabric. God, being holy, could not set his seal upon any rational creature, but the impression would be like himself, pure and holy also; he could not be created with an error in his understanding; that had been inconsistent with the goodness of God to his rational creature; if so, the erroneous motion of the will, which was to follow the dictates of the understanding, could not have been imputed to him as his crime, because it would have been, not a voluntary, but a necessary effect of his nature; had there been an error in the first wheel, the error of the next could not have been imputed to the nature of that, but to the irregular motion of the first wheel in the engine. The sin of men and angels, proceeded not from any natural defect in their understandings, but from inconsideration; he that was the author of harmony in his other creatures, could not be the author of disorder in the chief of his works. Other creatures were his footsteps, but man was his image (Gen. 1:26, 27): “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;” which, though it seems to imply no more in that place, than an image of his dominion over the creatures, yet the apostle raises it a peg higher, and gives us a larger interpretation of it (Col. 3:10): “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him;” making it to consist in a resemblance to his righteousness. Image, say some, notes the form, as man was a spirit in regard of his soul; likeness, notes the quality implanted in his spiritual nature; the image of God was drawn in him, both as he was a rational, and as he was a holy creature. The creatures manifested the being of a superior power, as their cause, but the righteousness of the first man evidenced, not only a sovereign power, as the donor of his being, but a holy power, as the pattern of his work. God appeared to be a holy God in the righteousness of his creature, as well as an understanding God in the reason of his creature, while he formed him with all necessary knowledge in his mind and all necessary uprightness in his will. The law of love to God, with his whole soul, his whole mind, his whole heart and strength, was originally written upon his nature; all the parts of his nature were framed in a moral conformity with God, to answer this law, and imitate God in his purity, which consists in a love of himself, and his own goodness and excellency. Thus doth the clearness of the stream point us to the purer fountain, and the brightness of the beam evidence a greater splendor in the sun which shot it out.
Secondly, His holiness appears in his laws, as he is a Lawgiver and a Judge. Since man was bound to be subject to God, as a creature, and had a capacity to be ruled by the law, as an understanding and willing creature; God gave him a law, taken from the depths of his holy nature, and suited to the original faculties of man. The rules which God hath fixed in the world, are not the resolves of bare will, but result particularly from the goodness of his nature; they are nothing else but the transcripts of his infinite detestation of sin, as he is the unblemished governor of the world. This being the most adorable property of his nature, he hath impressed it upon that law which he would have inviolably observed as a perpetual rule for our actions, that we may every moment think of this beautiful perfection. God can command nothing but what hath some similitude with the rectitude of his own nature; all his laws, every paragraph of them, therefore, scent of this, and glitter with it (Deut. 4:8): “What nation hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law I set before you this day?” and, therefore, they are compared to fine gold, that hath no speck or dross (Psalm 19:10).
This purity is evident — 1. In the moral law, or law of nature. 2. In the ceremonial law. 3. In the allurements annexed to it, for keeping it, and the affrightments to restrain from the breaking of it. 4. In the judgments inflicted for the violation of it.
1. In the moral law: which is therefore dignified with the title of Holy, twice in one verse (Rom. 7:12): “Wherefore, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, just, and good;” it being the express image of God’s will, as our Saviour was of his person, and bearing a resemblance to the purity of his nature. The tables of this law were put into the ark, that, as the mercy seat was to represent the grace of God, so the law was to represent the holiness of God (Psalm 19:1). The Psalmist, after he had spoken of the glory of God in the heavens, wherein the power of God is exposed to our view, introduceth the law, wherein the purity of God is evidenced to our minds (ver. 7, 8, &c.): “Perfect, pure, clean, righteous,” are the titles given to it. It is clearer in holiness than the sun is in brightness; and more mighty in itself, to command the conscience, than the sun is to run its race. As the holiness of the Scripture demonstrates the divinity of its Author; so the holiness of the law doth the purity of the Lawgiver.
(1.) The purity of this law is seen in the matter of it. It prescribes all that becomes a creature towards God, and all that becomes one creature towards another of his own rank and kind. The image of God is complete in the holiness of the first table, and the righteousness of the second; which is intimated by the apostle (Eph. 4:24), the one being the rule of what we owe to God, the other being the rule of what we owe to man: there is no good but it enjoins, and no evil but it disowns. It is not sickly and lame in any part of it; not a good action, but it gives it its due praise; and not an evil action, but it sets a condemning mark upon. The commands of it are frequently in Scripture called judgments, because they rightly judge of good and evil; and are a clear light to inform the judgment of man in the knowledge of both. By this was the understanding of David enlightened to know every false way, and to “hate it” (Psalm 119:104). There is no case can happen, but may meet with a determination from it; it teaches men the noblest manner of living a life like God himself; honorably for the Lawgiver, and joyfully for the subject. It directs us to the highest end; sets us at a distance from all base and sordid practices; it proposeth light to the understanding, and goodness to the will. It would tune all the strings, set right all the orders of mankind: it censures the least mote, countenanceth not any stain in the life. Not a wanton glance can meet with any justification from it (Matt. 5:28); not a rash anger but it frowns upon (ver. 22). As the Lawgiver wants nothing as an addition to his blessedness, so his law wants nothing as a supplement to its perfection (Deut. 4:2). What our Saviour seems to add, is not an addition to mend any defects, but a restoration of it from the corrupt glosses, wherewith the Scribes and Pharisees had eclipsed the brightness of it: they had curtailed it, and diminished part of its authority, cutting off its empire over the least evil, and left its power only to check the grosser practices. But Christ restores it to the due extent of its sovereignty, and shows it those dimensions in which the holy men of God considered it as “exceeding broad” (Psalm 119:96), reaching to all actions, all motions, all circumstances attending them; full of inexhaustible treasures of righteousness. And though this law, since the fall, doth irritate sin, it is no disparagement, but a testimony to the righteousness of it; which the apostle manifests by his “Wherefore (Rom. 7:8), sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence;” and repeating the same sense (ver. 11), subjoins a, “Wherefore” (ver. 12), “Wherefore the law is holy.” The rising of men’s sinful hearts against the law of God, when it strikes with its preceptive and minatory parts upon their consciences, evidenceth the holiness of the law and the Lawgiver. In its own nature it is a directing rule, but the malignant nature of sin is exasperated by it; as an hostile quality in a creature will awaken itself at the appearance of its enemy. The purity of this beam, and transcript of God, bears witness to a greater clearness and beauty in the sun and original. Undefiled streams manifest an untainted fountain.
(2.) It is seen in the manner of its precepts. As it prescribes all good, and forbids all evil, so it doth enjoin the one, and banish the other as such. The laws of men command virtuous things; not as virtuous in themselves, but as useful for human society; which the magistrate is the conservator of, and the guardian of justice. The laws of men contain not all the precepts of virtue, but only such as are accommodated to their customs, and are useful to preserve the ligaments of their government. The design of them is not so much t o render the subjects good men, as good citizens: they order the practice of those virtues that may strengthen civil society, and discountenance those vices only which weaken the sinew’s of it: but God, being the guardian of universal righteousness, doth not only enact the observance of all righteousness, but the observance of it as righteousness. He commands that which is just in itself, enjoins virtues as virtues, and prohibits vices as vices: as they are profitable or injurious to ourselves, as well as to others. Men command temperance and justice; not as virtues in themselves, but as they prevent disorder and confusion in a commonwealth; and forbid adultery and theft, not as vices in themselves, but as they are intrenchments upon property; not as hurtful to the person that commits them, but as hurtful to the person against whose right they are committed. Upon this account, perhaps, Paul applauds the holiness of the law of God in regard of its own nature, as considered in itself; more than he doth the justice of it in regard of man, and the goodness and conveniency of it to the world (Rom. 7:12); the law is holy twice, and just and good but once.
(3.) In the spiritual extent of it. The most righteous powers of the world do not so much regard in their laws what the inward affections of their subjects are: the external acts are only the objects of their decrees, either to encourage them if they be useful, or discourage them if they be hurtful to the community. And, indeed, they can do no other, for they have no power proportioned to inward affections, since the inward disposition falls not under their censure; and it would be foolish for any legislative power to make such laws, which it is impossible for it to put in execution. They can prohibit the outward acts of theft and murder, but they cannot command the love of God, the hatred of sin, the contempt of the world; they cannot prohibit unclean thoughts, and the atheism of the heart. But the law of God surmounts in righteousness all the laws of the best-regulated commonwealths in the world: it restrains the licentious heart, as well as the violent hand; it damps the very first bubblings of corrupt nature, orders a purity in the spring, commands a clean fountain, clean streams, clean vessels. It would frame the heart to an inward, as well as the life to an outward righteousness, and make the inside purer than the outside. It forbids the first belchings of a murderous or adulterous intention: it obligeth a man as a rational creature, and therefore exacts a conformity of every rational faculty, and of whatsoever is under the command of them. It commands the private closet to be free from the least cobweb, as well as the outward porch to be clean from mire and dirt. It frowns upon all stains and pollutions of the most retired thoughts: hence the apostle calls it a “spiritual law” (Rom. 7:14), as not political, but extending its force further than the frontiers of the man; placing its ensigns in the metropolis of the heart and mind, and curbing with its sceptre the inward motions of the spirit, and commanding over the secrets of every man’s breast.
(4). In regard of the perpetuity of it. The purity and perpetuity of it are linked together by the Psalmist (Psalm 19:9): “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever;” the fear of the Lord, that is, that law which commands the fear and worship of God, and is the rule of it. And, indeed, God values it at such a rate, that rather than part with a tittle, or let the honor of it he in the dust, he would not only let “heaven and earth pass away,” but expose his Son to death for the reparation of the wrong it had sustained. So holy it is, that the holiness and righteousness of God cannot dispense with it, cannot abrogate it, without despoiling himself of his own being: it is a copy of the eternal law. Can he ever abrogate the command of love to himself, without showing some contempt of his own excellency and very being? Before he can enjoin a creature not to love him, he must make himself unworthy of love, and worthy of hatred; this would be the highest unrighteousness, to order us to hate that which is only worthy of our highest affections. So God cannot change the first command, and order us to worship many gods; this would be against the excellency and unity of God: for God cannot constitute another God, or make anything worthy of an honor equal with himself. Those things that are good, only because they are commanded, are alterable by God those things that are intrinsically and essentially good, and therefore commanded, are unalterable as long as the holiness and righteousness of God stand firm. The intrinsic goodness of the moral law, the concern God hath for it; the perpetuity of the precepts of the first table, and the care he hath had to imprint the precepts of the second upon the minds and consciences of men, as the Author of nature for the preservation of the world, manifests the holiness of the Lawmaker and Governor.
2. His holiness appears in the ceremonial law: in the variety of sacrifices for sin, wherein he writ his detestation of unrighteousness in bloody characters. His holiness was more constantly expressed in the continual sacrifices, than in those rarer sprinklings of judgments now and then upon the world; which often reached, not the worst, but the most moderate sinners, and were the occasions of the questioning of the righteousness of his providence both by Jews and Gentiles. In judgments his purity was only now and then manifest: by his long patience, he might be imagined by some reconciled to their crimes, or not much concerned in them; but by the morning and evening sacrifice he witnessed a perpetual and uninterrupted abhorrence of whatsoever was evil. Besides those, the occasional washings and sprinklings upon ceremonial defilements, which polluted only the body, gave an evidence, that everything that had a resemblance to evil, was loathsome to him. Add, also, the prohibitions of eating such and such creatures that were filthy; as the swine that wallowed in the mire, a fit emblem for the profane and brutish sinner; which had a moral signification, both of the loathsomeness of sin to God, and the aversion themselves ought to have to everything that was filthy.
3. This holiness appears in the allurements annexed to the law for keeping it, and the affrightments to restrain from the breaking of it. Both promises and threatenings have their fundamental root in the holiness of God, and are both branches of this peculiar perfection. As they respect the nature of God, they are declarations of his hatred of sin, and his love of righteousness; the one belong to his threatenings, the other to his promises; both join together to represent this divine perfection to the creature, and to excite to an imitation in the creature. In the one, God would render sin odious, because dangerous, and curb the practice of evil, which would otherwise be licentious; in the other, he would commend righteousness, and excite a love of it, which would otherwise be cold. By there God suits the two great affections of men, fear and hope; both the branches of self-love in man: the promises and threatenings are both the branches of holiness in God. The end of the promises is the same with the exhortation the apostle concludes from them (2 Cor. 7:1); “Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
As the end of precept is to direct, the end of threatenings is to deter from iniquity, so that the promises is to allure to obedience. Thus God breathes out his love to righteousness in every promise; his hatred of sin in every threatening. The rewards offered in the one, are the smiles of pleased holiness; and the curses thundered in the other, are the sparklings of enraged righteousness.
4. His holiness appears in the judgment inflicted for the violation of this law. Divine holiness is the root of Divine justice, and Divine justice is the triumph of Divine holiness. Hence both are expressed in Scripture by one word of righteousness, which sometimes signifies the rectitude of the Divine nature, and sometimes the vindicative stroke of his arm (Psalm 103:6); “The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.” So (Dan. 9:7) “Righteousness (that is, justice) belongs to thee.” The vials of his wrath are filled from his implacable aversion to iniquity. All penal evils shower down upon the heads of wicked men, spread their root in, and branch out from, this perfection. All the dreadful storms and tempests in the world are blown up by it. Why doth he “rain snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest!” Because “the righteous Lord loveth righteousness” (Psalm 11:6, 7). And, as was observed before, when he was going about the dreadfulest work that ever was in the world, the overturning the Jewish state, hardening the hearts of that unbelieving people, and cashiering a nation, once dear to him, from the honor of his protection; his holiness, as the spring of all this, is applauded by the seraphims (Isa. 6:3, compared with ver. 9–11), &c. Impunity argues the approbation of a crime, and punishment the abhorrency of it. The greatness of the crime, and the righteousness of the Judge, are the first natural sentiments that arise in the minds of men upon the appearance of Divine judgments in the world, by those that are near them; as, when men see gibbets erected, scaffolds prepared, instruments of death and torture provided, and grievous punishments inflicted, the first reflection in the spectator is the malignity of the crime, and the detestation the governors are possessed with.
The Existence and Attributes of God