Stephen’s SpeechActs 7 1 And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” 2 And Stephen said:
“Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. 5 Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. 6 And God spoke to this effect — that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. 7 ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ 8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.
9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. 11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. 13 And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. 14 And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, 16 and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
17 “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. 20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.
23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.
30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’
35 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ — this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ 38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:
“ ‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices,
during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
43 You took up the tent of Moloch
and the star of your god Rephan,
the images that you made to worship;
and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’
49 “ ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
50 Did not my hand make all these things?’
The Stoning of Stephen54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Saul Ravages the ChurchActs 8 1 And Saul approved of his execution.
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city.
Simon the Magician Believes9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.
14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”
25 Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”
What I'm Reading
Why Would Anyone Get a Degree In Apologetics?
By J. Warner Wallace 6/24/2014
I feel honored to be a very small part of the faculty at Biola University (where I serve as an Adjunct Professor in the Master’s Degree program in Christian Apologetics). Two weeks ago I taught a class covering the material in Cold-Case Christianity and began by asking the seventy-four students in my class why they wanted an advance degree in apologetics. Thirty of these students said they were taking the class to grow in their faith. The remaining forty-four said they were either teaching apologetics locally or planned on teaching apologetics in the future. This latter group saw the Biola graduate degree as an important step of preparation. Not everyone agrees.
In fact, some people in the Christian community think an advanced degree in apologetics is largely a waste of time. Two people I deeply admire have come out publicly with this assertion: Max Andrews (of the Sententias Blog) and Glenn Peoples (of the Right Reason Blog) both wrote blog posts this year entitled, “Don’t Get a Degree in Apologetics”. Andrews and Peoples believe an academic degree in an advanced, specific discipline (i.e. biblical studies, history, historiography, theology, philosophy, physics, chemistry, etc.) is a far better choice than a broad degree in apologetics. Andrews writes:
“My advice is to pick a discipline and excel in that discipline. All the greatest apologists have a discipline: Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, William Lane Craig, NT Wright. etc. Don’t be a jack of all trades. Be a master of one and be skilled in many.”
Think about those who have reputations as being the best apologists out there (whether they use the word “apologetics” or not). Everyone’s list will be slightly different, but the list will probably include names like C. S. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, John Lennox, Peter Kreeft, Richard Bauckham and others. Do you want to be a great apologist? Great. Do you think these people are / were great apologists? I agree. OK, now ask yourself what all of these people – along with probably every other person you might add to this list – lack. They probably lack a whole lot of things, but one of the things they lack is a degree in apologetics.
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.
Is the Human Form Riddled With Bad Design? No, But This Darwinist Argument Is.
By Jonathan Witt 10/8/2016
King David had it right. The human body really is fearfully and wonderfully made.
“You have no idea how awful the human body is,” Matan Shelomi begins in a recentMedical Daily article. He goes on to argue that the human body is badly designed in many ways, and that this shows we’re the product of blind Darwinian trial-and-error evolution.
“To say that humans were ‘intelligently designed’ by a ‘creator’ is to insult God,” Shelomi writes, “because our bodies show no intelligent design at all.”
Wow, our bodies show no intelligent design at all? Even most atheist biologists grant that living things, including human beings, appear intelligently designed. Professional atheist Richard Dawkins, for instance, went so far as to define biology as the study of things in nature that have the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.
And it’s now common knowledge in biology that the human genome is such a sophisticated information-processing system that it makes our most powerful computers look like a Roman abacus by comparison.
Jonathan Witt is former managing editor of The Stream and now a senior fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He is the co-author of A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature.
Do You Have to Like God’s Commands?
By Sam Allberry 11/14/2016
A friend of mine once confessed she had a verse in the Bible she would gladly remove if given the choice. Which verse this happened to be was less interesting to me than the notion itself.
If we had the opportunity, would we happily remove any parts of the Bible?
This conversation came to mind recently when I heard someone say that while they obey what the Bible said about sexual ethics, they certainly don’t like it. And this wasn’t a fledgling believer but an established leader. It raises the question: Do we have to like the things God says in the Bible? Is it enough to just grit our teeth and obey, even when we’re really not happy with what we’re obeying?
While discipleship obviously requires obedience, it also behooves us to understand what we’re obeying and why we’re obeying it.
UNDERSTANDING GOD’S RATIONALE
Sam Allberry is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, a global speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and a pastor based in Maidenhead, UK. He is the author of a number of books, including Is God Anti-Gay? (Good Book, 2013), James For You, and most recently Why Bother with Church. He is a founding editor of Living Out, a ministry for those struggling with same-sex attraction. You can follow Sam on Twitter.
How Do I Give Wisely?
By Dr. Timothy Warren 12/29/14
n a 2012 Christianity Today article, “Cost-Effective Compassion,” economist Bruce Wydick laid out what his research suggested were the best use of funds for the poor. In order of effectiveness the top five are as follows:
Caring and Understanding
Caring and understanding are at the heart of Dr. Timothy Warren’s advice. The senior professor of Pastoral Ministries had this to say on the topic: “Giving wisely results from relationship. I give to the individuals and organizations with whom I have some level of relationship. The better I know people, the closer I am to their values, and the more I share their mission, the more likely I am to give.
“The opposite of that is that I don’t give to individuals or organizations with whom I have no relationship. If I don’t have some knowledge of their trustworthiness, there’s no chance I will contribute. For example, if people on the street ask me for money for food or a bus ride home, I will give only when I walk into a restaurant with them, or watch as they get on the bus. Otherwise, I don’t trust that my gift will be used as implied.
Timothy S. Warren | Senior Professor of Pastoral Ministries | BA, Cedarville College, 1969; MA, Bowling Green State University, 1973; ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1977; PhD, Ohio State University, 1987.
When Dr. Warren teaches pastoral ministries he draws from decades of personal experience. After serving as a chaplain's assistant in the U.S. Army and the Texas Air National Guard, he pastored churches in Texas and Ohio. He has held the position of adult ministry associate at his home church for twenty-five years, has taught a men's Bible study at the Cooper Aerobic Center for more than thirty years, and maintains an active speaking, writing, and teaching schedule.
A Professor’s Journey from Scientology to Christ
By Michael J. Svigel 12/29/2014
I was born in Minnesota to a working-class family of typical blue-collar workers like what you see in the “let’s-make-fun-of-Minnesota” movies. I grew up in a congregation that was a merge of liberal churches. My hometown of Keewatin couldn’t sustain two Protestant churches, so they got together. They sang what to me were the same indecipherable hymns and recited the same incomprehensible creeds. They smoked cheap cigarettes and drank weak coffee after worship. Neither church seemed to care all that much about the Bible, theology, or liturgy, so they merged to create Congregation of the Good Shepherd Church.
My parents were nominally Christian, and they didn’t pressure us kids to conform to any rigid standards. I sometimes went to church, often went to Sunday school, and generally engaged in only as much overt immorality as I could get away with and still judge my neighbors.
In my preteen years I clearly rejected Jesus Christ. I had watched enough of Garner Ted Armstrong’s The World Tomorrow (Worldwide Church of God cult propaganda) to conclude that the Trinity was a false doctrine and Jesus wasn’t really God. I had some Jewish atheist friends, too, who tried to convince me that there was no God. I never bought that. I needed to believe in some kind of God to help explain how anything could exist. But I kept him at a distance. The idea of God was as irrelevant to me as the idea of black holes or tachyon particles. Yet I had made some theological “progress”: I decided Jesus was only a moral teacher and that the Christian religion couldn’t possibly be true because it focused too much on that one man.
Dianetics and Dent
Without any kind of conviction, I embraced all kinds of crazy New Age philosophies, rebelled against my family, and got involved in unhealthy relationships. I take full responsibility. God bless my parents and friends for trying to snap me out of it. And bless those poor, deluded psychologists and counselors who tried to talk me (or drug me) out of it. But it just wasn’t going to work in my case, because the root of my problem wasn’t social, medical, mental, or emotional. It was spiritual. I was a dirty, rotten, selfish, indulgent sinner. Now, I knew that. And God knew that. But nobody else seemed to know it.
Dr. Michael J. Svigel (rhymes with “eagle”), department chair and associate professor of Theological Studies, has written numerous resources for Christian lay audiences. His book titles include RetroChristianity: Reclaiming the Forgotten Faith and Heroes and Heretics: Solving the Modern Mystery of the Ancient Church. He is also co-editor of the Exploring Christian Theology series. Many of Dr. Svigel’s written works, from scholarly to theological humor, can be found online at retrochristianity.org and bible.org.
Cracks in the Progressive Left—Part 1
By Alastair Roberts 11/13/2016
My Pre-Election Reflections | Over the last week or two, in the run up to the American election, I wrote a number of pieces analysing the social phenomena that gave rise to a Trump presidency. I suggestedthat prominent evangelicals’ excuses for and celebrations of Trump leave evangelicalism facing a crisis of moral credibility and that we might need to reassess the movement and our places within it. I discussed the breakdown of trust that has produced a crisis of truth and authority, providing the context in which a figure such as Trump could emerge. I called upon Christian voters considering voting for Trump to step back from the polarized and polarizing discourse and, rather than letting the rhetoric and behaviour of Trump opponents drive them into his camp, converse with their own consciences and come to a self-defined morally responsible decision, rather than—what I still very much perceive it to be—an irresponsible socially reactive one.
I gave this counsel to those considering voting for Trump prior to the election because I felt many were being pushed in Trump’s direction by the behaviour of the progressive left. When other parties adopt polarizing behaviour and rhetoric and our own groups are becoming polarized and reactive, it is all the more important that we pursue self-defined and responsible behaviour, resisting the dynamics on both sides.
I did not want to foreground the responsibility of the progressive left prior to the election, because I felt it important to avoid fuelling any of the reactivity that was driving people towards Trump. However, after the election, I saw an alternative danger. In my immediate context of vocal #NeverTrump people, I feared that the response to the election risked slipping into narratives of evangelical guilt a little too completely. While evangelicalism undoubtedly bears its measure of responsibility, and must openly acknowledge this, it is no less important that we refuse to be the scapegoat that the progressives want us to be.
Politics of Guilt and Deference | The current politics of the progressive left is a politics of guilt and deference. In the hands of the progressive left, guilt is a tool for social dominance. The more that you can instil guilt and shame in your adversaries, the more you can crush their cultural spirit and render them abject and craven. People’s inability to deal with and atone for guilt renders it an immensely powerful instrument of control. Once a person who cannot appropriately deal with guilt has some guilt placed on their shoulders, the person to whom they owe a debt can act as a usurer, compounding that burden, unjustly laying on ever more guilt, until they are utterly ruined. The one who owes the debt entailed by their guilt can become the slave of their victim. It is imperative that Christians learn to live as a people who are not in the grip of and at the mercy of guilt. If we do not, we will swiftly be reduced to dhimmitude.
Part of the process of resisting the politics of guilt is to refuse the unjust assignment of guilt and shame to us. We definitely bear a burden of guilt, but we must not allow ourselves to become scapegoats, a means by which other guilty parties can displace their own guilt. Guilt must be assigned truthfully and justly. This means, in particular, that we must completely refuse to bear the guilt of progressive liberalism and must, rather, place the burden firmly at its door. We must throw a spanner in the operations of their politics of guilt and moral purity. For instance, we must not allow culturally privileged white progressive liberals to discharge the burden of guilt of the nation’s historic and continuing forms of racism upon the scapegoat of the white working class. They largely brought the election of Trump upon themselves and they were the oppressors.
Welcome to Alastair’s Adversaria. I previously blogged at alastair.adversaria and 40 Bicycles. This blog will provide a home for my occasional and various thoughts, links, and notes on my reading. While you may struggle to find a unifying theme here, my thoughts will frequently return to the subjects of biblical theology, the sacraments, and Christian ethics.
My name is Alastair Roberts. I currently reside in the north of England. In addition to the subjects mentioned above, I am passionate about word games, English cricket, cathedral cities, long walks, and second hand bookstores.
A Crisis of Discourse—Part 2: A Problem of Gender
By Alastair Roberts 11/17/2016
In my previous post (which I have renamed so that this flows more clearly from it), I observed a growing crisis for progressivism, as people across the political spectrum are rejecting its form of discourse. Within this post, I will venture into far more controversial territory. I will speak directly about some issues that we commonly politely skirt. It is not my intent to give offence, although I appreciate that may easily be taken. For this reason, I request your patience and charity. If we never talk directly about such issues, we will forever be falling into the same problems and little progress will be made.
There is an elephant in the room of our social discourse, one salient fact that goes a long way to explaining the tensions between different forms of social and political discourse and their relative sites and means of power and influence. However, this fact is a fact that progressive discourse necessarily dissembles, because it is taboo:
Men and women are different and their differences have an immense impact upon the climate of our social and political discourse.
Jonathan Haidt, writing on Heterodox Academy, describes a striking experience he had when addressing high school students about the importance of open and challenging discourse in the educational environment.
The discussion began, and it was the most unremittingly hostile questioning I’ve ever had. I don’t mind when people ask hard or critical questions, but I was surprised that I had misread the audience so thoroughly. My talk had little to do with gender, but the second question was “So you think rape is OK?” Like most of the questions, it was backed up by a sea of finger snaps—the sort you can hear in the infamous Yale video, where a student screams at Prof. Christakis to “be quiet” and tells him that he is “disgusting.” I had never heard the snapping before. When it happens in a large auditorium it is disconcerting. It makes you feel that you are facing an angry and unified mob—a feeling I have never had in 25 years of teaching and public speaking.
Welcome to Alastair’s Adversaria. I previously blogged at alastair.adversaria and 40 Bicycles. This blog will provide a home for my occasional and various thoughts, links, and notes on my reading. While you may struggle to find a unifying theme here, my thoughts will frequently return to the subjects of biblical theology, the sacraments, and Christian ethics.
My name is Alastair Roberts. I currently reside in the north of England. In addition to the subjects mentioned above, I am passionate about word games, English cricket, cathedral cities, long walks, and second hand bookstores.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 119119 TAW
119:169 Let my cry come before you, O LORD;
give me understanding according to your word!
170 Let my plea come before you;
deliver me according to your word.
171 My lips will pour forth praise,
for you teach me your statutes.
172 My tongue will sing of your word,
for all your commandments are right.
173 Let your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
174 I long for your salvation, O LORD,
and your law is my delight.
175 Let my soul live and praise you,
and let your rules help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.
When I Feel Stuck
By Neil Stewart 4/01/2016
When I was growing up in Ireland, we had more than our fair share of wet Wednesday afternoons. Trapped well between weekends, and with an evening full of homework ahead, I remember trudging back from school through a soaking drizzle. Weighed down with books, their pages wavy with dampness, and socks sodden with water that flowed in at the ankles and out at the toes, I was as happy as a cat in a bath (though not nearly so ferocious).
The soul knows its own wet Wednesday afternoons. All prodigals, we walk home through a world blighted by Adam’s choice. Fallenness dampens every joy. Burdens heavy with guilt, shame, and regret bite into our shoulders. Fears within and troubles without loom black like thunder. We yearn to hear more of the running footsteps of a welcoming father, his strong arms wrapped around, his tears warm and salty on our cheeks. But disappointed longings follow us as constant companions. Our best moments are always interrupted, and like the weekend for the midweek schoolboy, heaven can feel far enough away to seem forever away.
The worst of these times go unexplained. No particular sin, failure, or mistake stands out as the culprit. We feel “blah” and don’t know why (Ps. 42:5). In this far place, we fall easy prey to a dark theology built upon feelings. A depressing inevitability follows: We don’t feel God speaking, so we stop reading our Bibles. We don’t sense God listening, so we stop saying our prayers. Inertia dampens everything; we go nowhere. What to do?
First, remember: you are not alone. All God’s children have trodden these paths before. How often the psalmists felt abandoned, yet they still reached for God in song. David cried out: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Ps. 13:1). The Sons of Korah asked, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (42:1). These saints were coming before the Lord and asking how long God would hide His face from them. There is a lesson here: good men often feel worse than they are. These men begin in a moment of dark despair, but they do not end there. As the psalmists agonize, their hearts leak Scripture. In the darkness, back beneath the sense of dereliction, God is still there, giving them words, helping them Godward, inspiring the Bible. Yahweh is always nearer to us than we feel.
Second, ask God to search for any “grievous” way blocking your communion with Him (Ps.139:24).The roots of “grief” reach back to Adam’s bitter choice (“grief,” “toil,” and “pain” are all related Hebrew words; Gen. 3:16–17). In the garden, our first father started a family tradition of reaching for a better life beyond God. A world full of graveyards tells the story of his success. But don’t despair: the Good Physician died to cut the “willing” and the “doing” of such godless choices from you (Phil. 2:12–13).
Beyond sin, we should also look for weeds in our hearts, toxic desires that choke life from the soul. Jesus identifies three in the parable of the sower: the busyness of life, the lies money tells, and the desire for other things (Mark 4:19). With weeds on the increase, we will never feel well. To kill them, the Spirit stands ready with the heavenly herbicide of richer thoughts of a better life (Rom. 8:5; Phil. 4:8; Col. 3:1–4). United to Christ, we walk in the newness of life (Rom. 6:1–14).
Third, examine yourself: Are you at peace with providence? It is hard to draw near to a God with whom you are secretly angry. Unwanted burdens can be the friend of prayer, exciting our desire and drawing us close (Ps. 55:22). But if we prefer to hold on to them, they crowd the prayer closet like unspoken elephants, dulling our desire to draw near. Be honest with God; He can carry every burden you have to give.
Acknowledging God as the first cause of every pang brings great peace. The breaking waves that drown us all belong to Him (Ps. 42:7). He is the principal actor in every difficulty (Ps. 66:10–12). Yet, even then, God is for us. Denial of self and submission to God’s will are the first and last lessons to be learned in the life of faith. But John Newton was right—few are willing to learn these lessons “without being trained awhile in the school of disappointment.”
What if the darkness does not lift? Often, the best path upward is simply to trust and obey. Consider the patience of Job (Job 23:8–12). In the teeth of a hostile darkness, watch him move from confusion (vv. 8–9) through conviction (v. 10) to consecration (vv. 11–12). In a fallen world, Job realizes he will always know more theology than he can feel. Faith bridges the gulf, taking him to a realm the hand of feelings cannot always touch (Heb. 11:1).
“He knows the way that I take, and when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Faith has a warrant for this journey that is truer than our worst fears, and so we keep clinging to Him, for He clings to us (vv. 11–12). Like a terrier with a toy, Job grips this truth for all it is worth. He can’t feel himself holding on to God, but faith sees a stronger hand holding on to him—a hand that will never let him go.
In the end, the best question for wet Wednesday afternoons is not “What do I feel?” but “What do I know?”
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
CHAPTER XI | An Account of the Persecutions in the NetherlandsThe light of the Gospel having successfully spread over the Netherlands, the pope instigated the emperor to commence a persecution against the Protestants; when many thousand fell martyrs to superstitious malice and barbarous bigotry, among whom the most remarkable were the following: Wendelinuta, a pious Protestant widow, was apprehended on account of her religion, when several monks, unsuccessfully, endeavored to persuade her to recant. As they could not prevail, a Roman Catholic lady of her acquaintance desired to be admitted to the dungeon in which she was confined, and promised to exert herself strenuously towards inducing the prisoner to abjure the reformed religion. When she was admitted to the dungeon, she did her utmost to perform the task she had undertaken; but finding her endeavors ineffectual, she said, "Dear Wendelinuta, if you will not embrace our faith, at least keep the things which you profess secret within your own bosom, and strive to prolong your life." To which the widow replied, "Madam, you know not what you say; for with the heart we believe to righteousness, but with the tongue confession is made unto salvation." As she positively refused to recant, her goods were confiscated, and she was condemned to be burnt. At the place of execution a monk held a cross to her, and bade her kiss and worship God. To which she answered, "I worship no wooden god, but the eternal God who is in heaven." She was then executed, but through the before-mentioned Roman Catholic lady, the favor was granted that she should be strangeled before fire was put to the fagots.
Two Protestant clergymen were burnt at Colen; a tradesman of Antwerp, named Nicholas, was tied up in a sack, thrown into the river, and drowned; and Pistorius, a learned student, was carried to the market of a Dutch village in a fool's coat, and committed to the flames.
Sixteen Protestants, having receive sentence to be beheaded, a Protestant minister was ordered to attend the execution. This gentleman performed the function of his office with great propriety, exhorted them to repentance, and gave them comfort in the mercies of their Redeemer. As soon as the sixteen were beheaded, the magistrate cried out to the executioner, "There is another stroke remaining yet; you must behead the minister; he can never die at a better time than with such excellent precepts in his mouth, and such laudable examples before him." He was accordingly beheaded, though even many of the Roman Catholics themselves reprobated this piece of treacherous and unnecessary cruelty.
George Scherter, a minister of Salzburg, was apprehended and committed to prison for instructing his flock in the knowledge of the Gospel. While he was in confinement he wrote a confession of his faith; soon after which he was condemned, first to be beheaded, and afterward to be burnt to ashes. On his way to the place of execution he said to the spectators, "That you may know I die a true Christian, I will give you a sign." This was indeed verified in a most singular manner; for after his head was cut off, the body lying a short space of time with the belly to the ground, it suddenly turned upon the back, when the right foot crossed over t he left, as did also the right arm over the left: and in this manner it remained until it was committed to the flames.
In Louviana, a learned man, named Percinal, was murdered in prison; and Justus Insparg was beheaded, for having Luther's sermons in his possession.
Giles Tilleman, a cutler of Brussels, was a man of great humanity and piety. Among others he was apprehended as a Protestant, and many endeavors were made by the monks to persuade him to recant. He had once, by accident, a fair opportunity of escaping from prison and being asked why he did not avail himself of it, he replied, "I would not do the keepers so much injury, as they must have answered for my absence, had I gone away." When he was sentenced to be burnt, he fervently thanked God for granting him an opportunity, by martyrdom, to glorify His name. Perceiving, at the place of execution, a great quanity of fagots, he desired the principal part of them might be given to the poor, saying, "A small quantity will suffice to consume me." The executioner offered to strangle him before the fire was lighted, but he would not consent, telling him that he defied the flames; and, indeed, he gave up the ghost with such composure amidst them, that he hardly seemed sensible of their effects.
In the year 1543 and 1544, the persecution was carried on throughout all Flanders in a most violent and cruel manner. Some were condemned to perpetual imprisonment, others to perpetual banishment; but most were put to death either by hanging, drowning, immuring, burning, the rack, or burying alive.
John de Boscane, a zealous Protestant, was apprehended on account of his faith, in the city of Antwerp. On his trial, he steadfastly professed himself to be of the reformed religion, which occasioned his immediate condemnation. The magistrate, however, was afraid to put him to death publicly, as he was popular through his great generosity, and almost universally beloved for his inoffensive life, and exemplary piety. A private execution being determined on, an order was given to drown him in prison. The executioner, accordinly, put him in a large tub; but Boscane struggling, and getting his head above the water, the executioner stabbed him with a dagger in several places, until he expired.
John de Buisons, another Protestant, was, about the same time, secretly apprehended, and privately executed at Antwerp. The numbers of Protestants being great in that city, and the prisoner much respected, the magistrates feared an insurrection, and for that reason ordered him to be beheaded in prison.
A.D. 1568, three persons were apprehended in Antwerp, named Scoblant, Hues, and Coomans. During their confinement they behaved with great fortitude and cheerfulness, confessing that the hand of God appeared in what had befallen them, and bowing down before the throne of his providence. In an epistle to some worthy Protestants, they expressed themselves in the following words: "Since it is the will of the Almighty that we should suffer for His name, and be persecuted for the sake of His Gospel, we patiently submit, and are joyful upon the occasion; though the flesh may febel against the spirit, and hearken to the council of the old serpent, yet the truths of the Gospel shall prevent such advice from being taken, and Christ shall bruise the serpent's head. We are not comfortless in confinement, for we have faith; we fear not affliction, for we have hope; and we forgive our enemies, for we have charity. Be not under apprehensions for us, we are happy in confinement through the promises of God, glory in our bonds, and exult in being thought worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ. We desire not to be released, but to be blessed with fortitude; we ask not liberty, but the power of perseverance; and wish for no change in our condition, but that which places a crown of martyrdom upon our heads."
Scoblant was first brought to his trial; when, persisting in the profession of his faith, he received sentence of death. On his return to prison, he earnestly requested the jailer not to permit any friar to come near him; saying, "They can do me no good, but may greatly disturb me. I hope my salvation is already sealed in heaven, and that the blood of Christ, in which I firmly put my trust, hath washed me from my iniquities. I am not going to throw off this mantle of clay, to be clad in robes of eternal glory, by whose celestial brightness I shall be freed from all errors. I hope I may be the last martyr to papal tyranny, and the blood already spilt found sufficient to quench the thirst of popish cruelty; that the Church of Christ may have rest here, as his servants will hereafter." On the day of execution, he to0ok a pathetic leave of his fellow prisoners. At the stake he fervently said the Lord's Prayer, and sung the Fortieth Psalm; then commending his soul to God, he was burnt alive.
Hues, soon after died in prison; upon which occasion Coomans wrote thus to his friends: "I am now deprived of my friends and companions; Scoblant is martyred, and Hues dead, by the visitation of the Lord; yet I am not alone, I have with me the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; He is my comfort, and shall be my reward. Pray unto God to strengthen me to the end, as I expect every hour to be freed from this tenement of clay."
On his trial he freely confessed himself of the reformed religion, answered with a manly fortitude to every charge against him, and proved the Scriptural part of his answers from the Gospel. The judge told him the only alternatives were recantation or death; and concluded by saying, "Will you die for the faith you profess?" To which Coomans replied, "I am not only willing to die, but to suffer the most excruciating torments for it; after which my soul shall receive its confirmation from God Himself, in the midst of eternal glory." Being condemned, he went cheerfully to the place of execution, and died with the most manly fortitude, and Christian resignation.
William of Nassau fell a sacrifice to treachery, being assassinated in the fifty-first year of his age, by Beltazar Gerard, a native of Ranche Compte, in the province of Burgundy. This murderer, in hopes of a reward here and hereafter, for killing an enemy to the king of Spain and an enemy to the Catholic religion, undertook to destroy the prince of Orange. Having procured firearms, he watched him as he passed through the great hall of his palace to dinner, and demanded a passport. The princess of Orange, observing that the assassin spoke with a hollow and confused voice, asked who he was, saying that she did not like his countenance. The prince answered that it was one that demanded a passport, which he should presently have.
Nothing further passed before dinner, but on the return of the prince and princness through the same hall, after dinner was over, the assassin, standing concealed as much as possible by one of the pillars, fired at the prince, the balls entering at the left side, and passing through the right, wounding in their passage the stomach and vital parts. On receiving the wounds, the prince only said, "Lord, have mercy upon my soul, and upon these poor people," and then expired immediately.
The lamentations throughout the United Provinces were general, on account of the death of the prince of Orange; and the assassin, who was immediately taken, received sentence to be put to death in the most exemplary manner, yet such was his enthusiasm, or folly, that when his flesh was torn by red-hot pincers, he coolly said, "If I was at liberty, I would commit such an action over again."
The prince of Orange's funeral was the grandest ever seen in the Low Countries, and perhaps the sorrow for his death the most sincere, as he left behind him the character he honestly deserved, viz., that of father of his people.
To conclude, multitudes were murdered in different parts of Flanders; in the city of Valence, in particular, fifty-seven of the principal inhabitants were butchered in one day, for refusing to embrace the Romish superstition; and great numbers were suffered to languish in confinement, until they perished through the inclemency of their dungeons.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Why go to church?
(Nov 15) Bob Gass
‘Christ loved the church.’
(Eph 5:25) 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, ESV
The story’s told of a mother, who woke her son one Sunday morning and said, ‘Get up – you’re late for church!’ He replied, ‘I don’t want to go. I’ve no friends there, the music’s awful, and the sermons are boring!’ The woman replied, ‘You’ve got to go – you’re the pastor!’ Seriously, why should you go to church? Because ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish’ (vv. 25-27 NIV 2011 Edition). Pastor and President Emeritus of Taylor University Dr Jay Kesler gives us five reasons for going to church: 1) It’s the only organisation that still deals with issues like salvation, death, judgment, grace, purpose, heaven, and hell. 2) It adds value and dignity to human life. We live in a secular culture that contributes to our sense of inner worthlessness. The church counteracts this negative message by preaching God’s love and acceptance. 3) It provides a moral and spiritual compass. Society has revised, resisted, and rejected absolutes, embracing relativism, but the church stands on the timeless bedrock of God’s Word. 4) It’s where you find compassion, healing, and community. There – we’re all on par. There – God’s Spirit is working to knit us together as believers, guaranteeing us all ‘equal access to the Father’ (Ephesians 2:18 MSG). 5) Unlike other institutions, it has motivated the most lasting, unselfish, essential, courageous endeavours on earth. Things like missions, schools, hospitals, food pantries, rehab centres, and orphanages. Why go to church? Because Jesus loves the church – and so should you.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
A member of the Continental Congress, he was the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence, and he lost two sons in the Revolutionary War. He was President of Princeton and taught nine of the men that wrote the Constitution, including James Madison. He served on over one hundred and twenty Congressional Committees. His name was Reverend John Witherspoon, and he died this day, November 15, 1794. Rev. Witherspoon wrote: “A Republic must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty…. Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy of his country.”American Minute
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
I can’t remember exactly what I said about not making the petition for our daily bread too "religious," and I'm not quite sure what you mean-nor how ironically-by asking if I've become "one of Vidler's young men"!
About Vidler. I never heard the program which created all that scandal, and naturally one wouldn't condemn a dog on newspaper extracts. But I have now read his essay in Soundings and I believe I go a good deal further with him than you would. Much of what he quotes from F. D. Maurice and Bonhoeffer seems to me very good; and so, I think, are his own arguments for the Establishment.
At any rate I can well understand how a man who is trying to love God and his neighbor should come to dislike the very word religion; a word, by the way, which hardly ever appears in the New Testament. Newman makes my blood run cold when he says in one of the Parochial and Plain Sermons that Heaven is like a church because, in both, "one single sovereign subject-religion-is brought before us." He forgets that there is no temple in the new Jerusalem.
He has substituted religion for God-as if navigation were substituted for arrival, or battle for victory, or wooing for marriage, or in general the means for the end. But even in this present life, there is danger in the very concept of religion. It carries the suggestion that this is one more department of life, an extra department added to the economic, the social, the intellectual, the recreational, and all the rest. But that whose claims are infinite can have no standing as a department. Either it is an illusion or else our whole life falls under it. We have no non-religious activities; only religious and irreligious.
Religion, nevertheless, appears to exist as a department, and, in some ages, to thrive as such. It thrives partly because there exists in many people a "love of religious observances," which I think Simone Weil is quite right in regarding as a merely natural taste. There exists also-Vidler is rather good on this-the delight in religious (as in any other) organization. Then all sorts of aesthetic, sentimental, historical, political interests are drawn in. Finally sales of work, the parish magazine, and bell-ringing, and Santa Claus.
None of them bad things. But none of them is necessarily of more spiritual value than the activities we call secular. And they are infinitely dangerous when this is not understood. This department of life, labeled "sacred," can become an end in itself; an idol that hides both God and my neighbors. ("When the means are autonomous they are deadly.") It may even come about that a man's most genuinely Christian actions fall entirely outside that part of his life which he calls religious.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Mere heathen morality,
and not Jesus Christ,
is preached in most of our churches.
--- George Whitefield
In some circles, God has been abridged, reduced, modified, edited, changed and amended until He is no longer the God whom Isaiah saw, high and lifted up.
--- A.W. Tozer
God has a master plan for your life, and that master plan does not change either. It is a plan designed specifically for you. It is a plan that God intends for you to live out fully, beginning at the moment of your birth and never ending until the moment of your death. --- Charles Stanley
Sirach 2:1 My child, when you come to serve the Lord,
prepare yourself for testing.
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
not knowing that want will overtake him.
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
What is that to thee?
Lord, what shall this man do?… What is that to thee? Follow thou Me. --- John 21:21, 22.
One of our severest lessons comes from the stubborn refusal to see that we must not interfere in other people’s lives. It takes a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God’s order for others. You see a certain person suffering, and you say—‘He shall not suffer, and I will see that he does not.’ You put your hand straight in front of God’s permissive will to prevent it, and God says—“What is that to thee?” If there is stagnation spiritually, never allow it to go on, but get into God’s presence and find out the reason for it. Possibly you will find it is because you have been interfering in the life of another; proposing things you had no right to propose; advising when you had no right to advise. When you do have to give advice to another, God will advise through you with the direct understanding of His Spirit; your part is to be so rightly related to God that His discernment comes through you all the time for the blessing of another soul.
Most of us live on the borders of consciousness—consciously serving, consciously devoted to God. All this is immature, it is not the real life yet. The mature stage is the life of a child which is never conscious; we become so abandoned to God that the consciousness of being used never enters in. When we are consciously being used as broken bread and poured-out wine, there is another stage to be reached, where all consciousness of ourselves and of what God is doing through us is eliminated. A saint is never consciously a saint; a saint is consciously dependent on God.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
I am given to slum
clearance; I have thrown my images
outside where they accumulate
in a huge pile. It is not true
I am the house of prayer.
I am neither a voice
asking, nor is there an ear
that attends. If the best they can do
is to say I am the ghost
in the machine, I will lay
The facts are
these: I live in a contemporary
dwelling in country that
is being consumed. Nature regards
me with a distrust that is
well-founded; there is no room
for us both. Small and compact
the house I occupy sustains
pressures as of the air's
fathoms, but I am not
at the bottom of them. I am
neither down here, nor
up there. I am where
I am, a being with no
view but out upon the uncertainties
of the imperatives of science.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Maimonides supports his understanding of sacrifices by showing how the Bible gave expression to different levels of religious worship:
I return to my subject and say that, as this kind of worship—I mean the “sacrifices”—pertain to a second intention, whereas invocation, prayer, and similar practices and modes of worship come closer to the first intention and are necessary for its achievement, a great difference has been made between the two kinds. For one kind of worship—I mean the offering of sacrifices—even though it was done in His name, may He be exalted, was not prescribed to us in the way it existed at first; I mean to say in such a way that sacrifices could be offered in every place and at every time. Nor could a temple be set up in any fortuitous place, nor could any fortuitous man offer the sacrifice: “Whosoever would, he consecrated him.” On the contrary, He forbade all this and established one single house [as the temple], “to the site that the Lord will choose,” so that sacrifices should not be offered elsewhere: “Take care not to sacrifice your burnt offerings in any place you like.” Also only the offspring of one particular family can be “priests.” All this was intended to restrict this kind of worship, so that only the portion of it should subsist whose abolition is not required by His Wisdom. On the other hand, invocation and prayers are made in every place and by anyone whoever he may be.
The Bible weaned man from his attachment to idolatry by restricting the first form of worship—sacrifices—to the specific location of the temple and to specific persons—the priests. Along with communal worship by animal sacrifices there also existed verbal prayer practiced by individuals able to transcend pagan forms of worship. Since the restrictions of place and persons only applied to sacrifices and not to verbal prayer, Maimonides inferred that at the time of the Bible verbal prayer represented a higher form of worship.
Maimonides states in the Mishneh Torah that verbal prayer was individualistic and spontaneous during the biblical period. It lacked the formal structure of fixed times and texts which would have enabled verbal prayer to become a communal form of worship.59 After the exile of the community from its land, verbal prayer became formalized and emerged as the system of worship for community. The same relationship between communal and individual forms of worship which was present in the biblical period is present also when verbal prayer becomes the dominant mode of communal worship. In the Guide, Maimonides only claims that it would be as difficult for the prophet, in his time, to demand of the members of community that they serve God in contemplative prayer as it would have been for the prophet, during the biblical period, to insist on verbal prayer. At this stage in history, Maimonides suggests, the individual who can transcend the communal form of worship gives expression to his spiritual capacities through silent, contemplative prayer. Such silent, contemplative prayer at the time of exile reflects the same capacity of unique individuals to transcend the influence of their social environment as did verbal prayer at a time when the community was habituated to offer sacrifices.
Maimonides’ description of communal prayer in the Mishneh Torah suggests that the core element of verbal prayer is petitional:
The first three blessings consist of praises of God, the last three of thanksgiving to Him. The intermediate benedictions are petitions for the things which may stand as categories of all the desires of the individual and the needs of the community.
The thirteen petitional blessings reflect the needs of community and the outpourings of the Jew who turns to God out of crises. The important concern of the rabbinic period was to sustain the community’s relationship to God in spite of political exile and suffering; petitional prayer reinforces rabbinic refusal to interpret Jewish history from the secular perspective of brute power. Teshuvah and petitional prayer give expression to the belief that God has not abandoned Israel and that He is responsive to its suffering.
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.
How are we to deal with those who are in intellectual difficulty? Classic Sermons on Faith and Doubt
First, we make all the concessions to them that we conscientiously can. When doubters first encounter you, they pour out a deluge of abuse of churches and ministers and creeds and Christians. Nine-tenths of what they say is probably true. Make concessions. Agree with them. It does them good to unburden themselves of these things, and they are startled to find a Christian who almost entirely agrees with them. We are of course not responsible for everything that is said in the name of Christianity—a person does not give up medicine because there are quack doctors, and people do not have a right to give up their Christianity because there are spurious or inconsistent Christians. We ask them to accept Christ and the facts about Christ and the words of Christ. These people are in revolt against the kind of religion that we exhibit to the world—against the cant that is taught in the name of Christianity. And if they have never seen the real thing—if you could show them that, they would receive it as eagerly as you do.
Second, beg them to set aside, by an act of will, all unsolved problems such as the origin of evil, the problem of the Trinity, and so on—problems that have been investigated for thousands of years without result—as insoluble. In the meantime, just as a person who is studying mathematics may be asked to set aside the problem of squaring the circle, let them go on with what can be done and what has been done and leave out of sight the impossible. That will relieve the skeptic’s mind of a great deal of unnecessary cargo that has been in the way.
Third, talking about difficulties only aggravates them. Entire satisfaction to the intellect about any of the greater problems is unattainable, and if you try to get to the bottom, there is no bottom there; therefore you make the matter worse. Say what is known and what can be honestly, philosophically, and scientifically said about one or two of the difficulties that doubters raise, just to show that you are not merely groping in the dark yourself, but you have found whatever basis is possible. It would be a pity if all these problems could be solved. The joy of the intellectual life would be largely gone, and the whole intellectual world would be stale and unprofitable if we knew everything.
--- Henry Drummond
Oswald Chambers wrote one of Christianity’s greatest books, but he never knew it.
He had early displayed the gifts of an artist, and his future seemed assured by a scholarship to the leading art centers of Europe. But, being won to Christ by Charles Spurgeon, he declined the scholarship and enrolled in Dunoon Bible Training College, telling his family, “Do not be sorry that I cannot go for a university curriculum, maybe I shall be best without it. I will to the limit of my power educate myself for His sake.” He further explained in his diary: “From my childhood the persuasion has been that of a work strange and great, an experience deep and peculiar.”
While at Dunoon, Chambers heard Dr. F. B. Meyer speak about the Holy Spirit. He returned to his room feeling he knew nothing of spiritual power, and he was miserable. “Nothing but the grace of God and the kindness of friends kept me out of an asylum,” he said. “I knew that if what I had was all the Christianity there was, the thing was a fraud.”
Then he found a verse of Scripture—Luke 11:13: As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give the Holy Spirit to anyone who asks.
“I claimed the gift of the Spirit in dogged committal on Luke 11:13,” he said. “I had no vision of heaven or angels. I was dry and empty as ever, no power or realization of God. Then I was asked to speak at a meeting, and forty souls came to the front.” Chambers had found a power and peace in ministry that impacted the world both during and after his life.
He died suddenly in Egypt on November 15, 1917 while serving British troops during World War I, and was buried in Cairo under a headstone bearing the words of Luke 11:13. Only later did his widow, Gertrude Hobbs, compile his manuscripts, notes, lectures, and sermons into the classic My Utmost for His Highest, a book that challenges Christians to this day.
Which one of you would give your child a scorpion if the child asked for an egg? As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give the Holy Spirit to anyone who asks.
--- Luke 11:12,13.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 15
“The Lord’s portion is his people.” --- Deuteronomy 32:9.
How are they his? By his own sovereign choice. He chose them, and set his love upon them. This he did altogether apart from any goodness in them at the time, or any goodness which he foresaw in them. He had mercy on whom he would have mercy, and ordained a chosen company unto eternal life; thus, therefore, are they his by his unconstrained election.
They are not only his by choice, but by purchase. He has bought and paid for them to the utmost farthing, hence about his title there can be no dispute. Not with corruptible things, as with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord’s portion has been fully redeemed. There is no mortgage on his estate; no suits can be raised by opposing claimants, the price was paid in open court, and the Church is the Lord’s freehold for ever. See the blood-mark upon all the chosen, invisible to human eye, but known to Christ, for “the Lord knoweth them that are his”; he forgetteth none of those whom he has redeemed from among men; he counts the sheep for whom he laid down his life, and remembers well the Church for which he gave himself.
They are also his by conquest. What a battle he had in us before we would be won! How long he laid siege to our hearts! How often he sent us terms of capitulation! but we barred our gates, and fenced our walls against him. Do we not remember that glorious hour when he carried our hearts by storm? When he placed his cross against the wall, and scaled our ramparts, planting on our strongholds the blood-red flag of his omnipotent mercy? Yes, we are, indeed, the conquered captives of his omnipotent love. Thus chosen, purchased, and subdued, the rights of our divine possessor are inalienable: we rejoice that we never can be our own; and we desire, day by day, to do his will, and to show forth his glory.
Evening - November 15
“Strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.” --- Psalm 68:28.
It is our wisdom, as well as our necessity, to beseech God continually to strengthen that which he has wrought in us. It is because of their neglect in this, that many Christians may blame themselves for those trials and afflictions of spirit which arise from unbelief. It is true that Satan seeks to flood the fair garden of the heart and make it a scene of desolation, but it is also true that many Christians leave open the sluice-gates themselves, and let in the dreadful deluge through carelessness and want of prayer to their strong Helper. We often forget that the Author of our faith must be the Preserver of it also. The lamp which was burning in the temple was never allowed to go out, but it had to be daily replenished with fresh oil; in like manner, our faith can only live by being sustained with the oil of grace, and we can only obtain this from God himself. Foolish virgins we shall prove, if we do not secure the needed sustenance for our lamps. He who built the world upholds it, or it would fall in one tremendous crash; he who made us Christians must maintain us by his Spirit, or our ruin will be speedy and final. Let us, then, Evening by Evening, go to our Lord for the grace and strength we need. We have a strong argument to plead, for it is his own work of grace which we ask him to strengthen—“that which thou hast wrought for us.” Think you he will fail to protect and sustain that? Only let your faith take hold of his strength, and all the powers of darkness, led on by the master fiend of hell, cannot cast a cloud or shadow over your joy and peace. Why faint when you may be strong? Why suffer defeat when you may conquer? Oh! take your wavering faith and drooping graces to him who can revive and replenish them, and earnestly pray, “Strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.”
Thomas Ken, 1637–1711
I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever. (Psalm 86:12)
The lines of the “Doxology” have been the most frequently sung words of any known song for more than 300 years. Even today nearly every English-speaking Protestant congregation unites at least once each Sunday in this noble overture of praise. It has been said that the “Doxology” has done more to teach the doctrine of the Trinity than all the theology books ever written.
Instead of being merely a perfunctory hymn that is sung each week, the “Doxology” should be regarded by Christians as an offering or sacrifice of praise to God for all of His blessings in the past week (Hebrews 13:15). True worship always involves an offering. In the Old Testament period, Levitical priests offered blood sacrifices to God on behalf of their people. In this New Testament era, God wants our sacrifice of praise. Other sacrifices desired by God of New Testament believer-priests include: Our bodies (Roman 12:1); the service of our faith (Philippians 2:17); our material gifts (Philippians 4:18); our good works and communication (Hebrews 13:16).
The author of this text was a bold, outspoken 17th century Anglican bishop named Thomas Ken. Ken’s illustrious career in the ministry was stormy and colorful. He served for a time as the English chaplain at the royal court in the Hague, Holland. He was so outspoken, however, in denouncing the corrupt lives of those in authority at the Dutch capital that he was compelled to leave after a short stay.
Upon his return to England, he was appointed by King Charles II to be one of his chaplains. Ken continued to reveal the same spirit of boldness in rebuking the moral sins of his dissolute English monarch. Despite this, Charles always admired his courageous chaplain, calling him “the good little man.” The king rewarded Thomas Ken by appointing him to the bishopric of the Bath and Wales area. The historian Macaulay gave this tribute to Bishop Ken: “He came as near to the ideal of Christian perfection as human weakness permits.”
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; praise Him, all creatures here below: praise Him above, ye heav’nly host; praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.
For Today: Psalm 97:1; 100; 150:6
It has been said that a Christian’s theology must become his doxology. As a believer-priest, are you offering to God the sacrifices that He desires? Give Him your praise even now as you sing the “Doxology” ---
Prop. II. God’s holiness is not blemished by enjoining man a law, which he knew he would not observe.
1. The law was not above his strength. Had the law been impossible to be observed, no crime could have been imputed to the subject, the fault had lain wholly upon the Governor; the non-observance of it had been from a want of strength, and not from a want of will. Had God commanded Adam to fly up to the sun, when he had not given him wings, Adam might have a will to obey it, but his power would be too short to perform it. But the law set him for a rule, had nothing of impossibility in it; it was easy to be observed; the command was rather below, than above his strength; and the sanction of it was more apt to restrain and scare him from the breach of it, than encourage any daring attempts against it; he had as much power, or rather more, to conform to it, than to warp from it; and greater arguments and interest to be observant of it, than to violate it; his all was secured by the one, and his ruin ascertained by the other. The commands of God are not grievous (1 John 5:3); from the first to the last command, there is nothing impossible, nothing hard to the original and created nature of man, which were all summed up in a love to God, which was the pleasure and delight of man, as well as his duty, if he had not, by inconsiderateness, neglected the dictates and resolves of his own understanding. The law was suited to the strength of man, and fitted for the improvement and perfection of his nature; in which respect, the apostle calls it “good,” as it refers to man, as well as “holy,” as it refers to God (Rom. 7:12). Now, since God created man a creature capable to be governed by a law, and as a rational creature endued with understanding and will, not to be governed, according to his nature, without a law; was it congruous to the wisdom of God to respect only the future state of man, which, from the depth of his infinite knowledge, he did infallibly foresee would be miserable, by the wilful defection of man from the rule? Had it been agreeable to the wisdom of God, to respect only this future state, and not the present state of the creature; and therefore leave him lawless, because he knew be would violate the law? Should God forbear to act like a wise governor, because he saw that man would cease to act like an obedient subject? Shall a righteous magistrate forbear to make just and good laws, because he foresees, either from the dispositions of his subjects, their ill-humor, or some circumstances which will intervene, that multitudes of them will incline to break those laws, and fall under the penalty of them? No blame can be upon that magistrate who minds the rule of righteousness, and the necessary duty of his government, since he is not the cause of those turbulent affections of men, which he wisely foresees will rise up against his just edicts.
2. Though the law now be above the strength of man, yet is not the holiness of God blemished by keeping it up. It is true, God hath been graciously pleased to mitigate the severity and rigor of the law, by the entrance of the gospel; yet where men refuse the terms of the gospel, they continue themselves under the condemnation of the law, and are justly guilty of the breach of it, though they have no strength to observe it. The law, as I said before, was not above man’s strength, when he was possessed of original righteousness, though it be above man’s strength, since he was stripped of original righteousness. The command was dated before man had contracted his impotency, when he had a power to keep it as well as to break it. Had it been enjoined to man only after the fall, and not before, he might have had a better pretence to excuse himself, because of the impossibility of it; yet he would not have had sufficient excuse, since the impossibility did not result from the nature of the law, but from the corrupted nature of the creature. It was “weak through the flesh” (Rom. 8:3), but it was promulged when man had a strength proportioned to the commands of it. And now, since man hath unhappily made himself incapable of obeying it, must God’s holiness in his law be blemished for enjoining it? Must he abrogate those commands, and prohibit what before he enjoined, for the satisfaction of the corrupted creature? Would not this be his “ceasing to be holy,” that his creature might be unblameably unrighteous? Must God strip himself of his holiness, because man will not discharge his iniquity? He cannot be the cause of sin, by keeping up the law, who would be the cause of all the unrighteousness of men, by removing the authority of it. Some things in the law that are intrinsically good in their own nature, are indispensable, and it is repugnant to the nature of God not to command them. If he were not the guardian of his indispensable law, he would be the cause and countenancer of the creatures’ iniquity. So little reason have men to charge God with being the cause of their sin, by not repealing his law to gratify their impotence, that he would be unholy if he did. God must not lose his purity, because man hath lost his, and cast away the right of his sovereignty, because man hath cast away his power of obedience.
3. God’s foreknowledge that his law would not be observed, lays no blame upon him. Though the foreknowledge of God be infallible, yet it doth not necessitate the creature in acting. It was certain from eternity, that Adam would fall, that men would do such and such actions, that Judas would betray our Saviour; God foreknew all those things from eternity; but, it is as certain that this foreknowledge did not necessitate the will of Adam, or any other branch of his posterity, in the doing those actions that were so foreseen by God; they voluntarily run into such courses, not by any impulsion. God’s knowledge was not suspended between certainty and uncertainty; he certainly foreknew that his law would be broken by Adam; he foreknew it in his own decree of not hindering him, by giving Adam the efficacious grace which would infallibly have prevented it; yet Adam did freely break this law, and never imagined that the foreknowledge of God did necessitate him to it; he could find no cause of his own sin, but the liberty of his own will; he charges the occasion of his sin upon the woman, and consequently upon God in giving the woman to him (Gen. 3:12). He could not be so ignorant of the nature of God, as to imagine him without a foresight of future things: since his knowledge of what was to be known of God by creation, was greater than any man’s since, in all probability. But, however, if he were not acquainted with the notion of God’s foreknowledge, he could not be ignorant of his own act; there could not have been any necessity upon him, any kind of constraint of him in his action, that could have been unknown to him; and he would not have omitted a plea of so strong a nature, when he was upon his trial for life or death; especially when he urgeth so weak an argument, to impute his crime to God, as the gift of the woman; as if that which was designed him for a help, were intended for his ruin. If God’s prescience takes away the liberty of the creature, there is no such thing as a free action in the world (for there is nothing done but is foreknown by God, else we render God of a limited understanding), nor ever was, no, not by God himself, ad extra; for whatsoever he hath done in creation, whatsoever he hath done since the creation, was foreknown by him: he resolved to do it, and, therefore, foreknew that he would do it. Did God do it, therefore, necessarily, as necessity is opposed to liberty? As he freely decrees what he will do, so he effects what he freely decreed. Foreknowledge is so far from intrenching upon the liberty of the will, that predetermination, which in the notion of it speaks something more, doth not dissolve it; God did not only foreknow, but determine the suffering of Christ (Acts 4:27, 28). It was necessary, therefore, that Christ should suffer, that God might not be mistaken in his foreknowledge, or come short of his determinate decree; but did this take away the liberty of Christ in suffering? (Eph. 5:2) “Who offered himself up to God;” that is, by a voluntary act, as well as designed to do it by a determinate counsel. It did infallibly secure the event, but did not annihilate the liberty of the action, either in Christ’s willingness to suffer, or the crime of the Jews that made him suffer. God’s prescience is God’s provision of things arising from their proper causes; as a gardener foresees in his plants the leaves and the flowers that will arise from them in the spring, because he knows the strength and nature of their several roots which he under ground; but his foresight of these things is not the cause of the rise and appearance of those flowers. If any of us see a ship moving towards such a rock or quicksand, and know it to be governed by a negligent pilot, we shall certainly foresee that the ship will be torn in pieces by the rock, or swallowed up by the sands; but is this foresight of ours from the causes, any cause of the effect; or can we from hence be said to be the authors of the miscarriage of the ship, and the loss of the passengers and goods? The fall of Adam was foreseen by God to come to pass by the consent of his free will, in the choice of the proposed temptation. God foreknew Adam would sin, and if Adam would not have sinned, God would have foreknown that he would not sin. Adam might easily have detected the serpents fraud, and made a better election; God foresaw that he would not do it; God’s foreknowledge did not make Adam guilty or innocent: whether God had foreknown it or no, he was guilty by a free choice, and a willing neglect of his own duty. Adam knew that God foreknew that he might eat of the fruit, and fall and die, because God had forbidden him; the foreknowledge that he would do it, was no more a cause of his action, than the foreknowledge that he might do it. Judas certainly knew that his Master foreknew that he would betray him, for Christ had acquainted him with it (John 13:21, 26); yet he never charged this foreknowledge of Christ with any guilt of his treachery.
Prop. III. The holiness of God is not blemished by decreeing the eternal rejection of some men. Reprobation, in its first notion, is an act of preterition, or passing by man is not made wicked by the the act of God; but it supposeth him wicked; and so it is nothing else but God’s leaving a man in that guilt and filth wherein he beholds him. In its second notion, it is an ordination, not to a crime, but to a punishment (Jude 4): “an ordaining to condemnation.” And though it be an eternal act of God, yet, in order of nature, it follows upon the foresight of the transgression of man, and supposeth the crime. God considers Adam’s revolt, and views the whole mass of his corrupted posterity, and chooses some to reduce to himself by his grace, and leaves others to he sinking in their ruins. Since all mankind fell by the fall of Adam, and have corruption conveyed to them successively by that root, whereof they are branches; all men might justly be left wallowing in that miserable condition to which they are reduced by the apostasy of their common head; and God might have passed by the whole race of man, as well as he did the fallen angels, without any hope of redemption. He was no more bound to restore man, than to restore devils, nor bound to repair the nature of any one son of Adam; and had he dealt with men as he dealt with the devils, they had had, all of them, as little just ground to complain of God; for all men deserved to be left to themselves, for all were concluded under sin; but God calls out some to make monuments of his grace, which is an act of the sovereign mercy of that dominion, whereby “he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy” (Rom. 9:18); others he passes by, and leaves them remaining in that corruption of nature wherein they were born. If men have a power to dispose of their own goods, without any unrighteousness, why should not God dispose of his own grace, and bestow it upon whom he pleases; since it is a debt to none, but a free gift to any that enjoy it? God is not the cause of sin in this, because his operation about this is negative; it is not an action, but a denial of action, and therefore cannot be the cause of the evil actions of men. God acts nothing, but withholds his power; he doth not enlighten their minds, nor incline their wills so powerfully, as to expel their darkness, and root out those evil habits which possess them by nature. God could, if he would, savingly enlighten the minds of all men in the world, and quicken their hearts with a new life by an invincible grace; but in not doing it, there is no positive act of God, but a cessation of action. We may with as much reason say, that God is the cause of all the sinful actions that are committed by the corporation of devils, since their first rebellion, because he leaves them to themselves, and bestows not a new grace upon them,—as say, God is the cause of the sins of those that he overlooks and leaves in that state of guilt wherein he found them. God did not pass by any without the consideration of sin; so that this act of God is not repugnant to his holiness, but conformable to his justice.
Prop. IV. The holiness of God is not blemished by his secret will to suffer sin to enter into the world. God never willed sin by his preceptive will. It was never founded upon, or produced by any word of his, as the creation was. He never said, Let there be sin under the heaven, as he said, “Let there be water under the heaven.” Nor doth he will it by infusing any habit of it, or stirring up inclinations to it; no, “God tempts no man” (James 1:13). Nor doth he will it by his approving will; it is detestable to him, nor ever can he be otherwise; he cannot approve it either before commission or after.
1. The will of God is in some sort concurrent with sin. He doth not properly will it, but he wills not to hinder it, to which, by his omnipotence, he could put a bar. If he did positively will it, it might be wrought by himself, and so could not be evil. If he did in no sort will it, it would not be committed by his creature; sin entered into the world, either God willing the permission of it, or not willing the permission of it. The latter cannot be said; for then the creature is more powerful than God, and can do that which God will not permit. God can, if he be pleased, banish all sin in a moment out of the world: he could have prevented the revolt of angels, and the fall of man; they did not sin whether he would or no: he might, by his grace, have stepped in the first moment, and made a special impression upon them of the happiness they already possessed, and the misery they would incur by any wicked attempt. He could as well have prevented the sin of the fallen angels, and confirmed them in grace, as of those that continued in their happy state: he might have appeared to man, informed him of the issue of his design, and made secret impressions upon his heart, since he was acquainted with every avenue to his will. God could have kept all sin out of the world, as well as all creatures from breathing is it; he was as well able to bar sin forever out of the world, as to let creatures be in the womb of nothing, wherein they were first wrapped. To say God doth will sin as he doth other things, is to deny his holiness; to say it entered without anything of his will, is to deny his omnipotence. If he did necessitate Adam to fall, what shall we think of his purity? If Adam did fall without any concern of God’s will in it, what shall we say of his sovereignty? The one taints his holiness, and the other clips his power. If it came without anything of his will in it, and he did not foresee it, where is his omniscience If it entered whether he would or no, where is his omnipotence (Rom. 9:19)? “Who hath resisted his will?” There cannot be a lustful act in Abimelech, if God will withhold his power (Gen. 20:6); “I withheld thee:” nor a cursing word in Balaam’s mouth, unless God give power to speak it (Num. 22:38): “Have I now any power at all to say anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that shall I speak.” As no action could be sinful, if God had not forbidden it; so no sin could be committed, if God did not will to give way to it.
2. God doth not will directly, and by an efficacious will. He doth not directly will it, because he hath prohibited it by his law, which is a discovery of his will: so that if he should directly will sin, and directly prohibit it, he would will good and evil in the same manner, and there would be contradictions in God’s will: to will sin absolutely, is to work it (Psalm 115:3): “God hath done whatsoever hes pleased.” God cannot absolutely will it, because he cannot work it. God wills good by a positive decree, because he hath decreed to effect it. He wills evil by a private decree, because he hath decreed not to give that grace which would certainly prevent it. God doth not will sin simply, for that were to approve it, but he wills it, in order to that good his wisdom will bring forth from it. He wills not sin for itself, but for the event. To will sin as sin, or as purely evil, is not in the capacity of a creature, neither of man nor devil. The will of a rational creature cannot will anything but under the appearance of good, of some good in the sin itself, or some good in the issue of it. Much more is this far from God, who, being infinitely good, cannot will evil as evil; and being infinitely knowing, cannot will that for good which is evil. Infinite wisdom can be under no error or mistake: to will sin as sin, would be an unanswerable blemish on God; but to will to suffer it in order to good, is the glory of his wisdom; it could never have peeped up its head, unless there had been some decree of God concerning it. And there had been no decree of God concerning it, had he not intended to bring good and glory out of it. If God did directly will the discovery of his grace and mercy to the world, he did in some sort will sin, as that without which there could not have been any appearance of mercy in the world; for an innocent creature is not the object of mercy, but a miserable creature and no rational creature but must be sinful before it be miserable.
3. God wills the permission of sin. He doth not positively will sin, but he positively wills to permit it. And though he doth not approve of sin, yet he approves of that act of his will, whereby he permits it. For since that sin could not enter into the world without some concern of God’s will about it, that act of his will that gave way to it, could not be displeasing to him: God could never be diseased with his own act: “He is not as man, that he should repent” (1 Sam. 15:29). What God cannot repent of, he cannot but approve of: it is contrary to the blessedness of God to disapprove of; and be displeased with any act of his own will. If he hated any act of his own will, he would hate himself, he would be under a torture every one that hates his own acts, is under some disturbance and torment for them. That which is permitted by him, is in itself, and in regard of the evil of it, hateful to him: but as the prospect of that good which he aims at in the permission of it is pleasing to him, so that act of his will, whereby he permits it, is ushered in by an approving act of his understanding. Either God approved of the permission, or not; if he did not approve his own act of permission, he could not have decreed an act of permission. It is inconceivable that God should decree such an act which he detested, and positively will that which he hated. Though God hated sin, as being against his holiness, yet he did not hate the permission of sin, as being subservient by the immensity of his wisdom to his own glory. He could never be displeased with that which was the result of his eternal counsel, as this decree of permitting sin was, as well as any other decree, resolved upon in his own breast. For as God acts nothing in time, but what he decreed from eternity, so he permits nothing in time but what he decreed from eternity to permit. To speak properly, therefore, God doth not will sin, but he wills the permission of it, and this will to permit is active and positive in God. 4. This act of permission is not a mere and naked permission, but such an one as is attended with a certainty of the event. The decrees of God to make use of the sin of man for the glory of his grace in the mission and passion of his Son, hung upon this entrance of sin. Would it consist with the wisdom of God to decree such great and stupendous things, the event whereof should depend upon an uncertain foundation which he might be mistaken in? God would have sat in counsel from eternity to no purpose, if he had only permitted those things to be done, without any knowledge of the event of this permission.
God would not have made such provision for redemption to no purpose, or an uncertain purpose, which would have been, if man had not fallen; or if it had been an uncertainty with God whether he would fall or no. Though the will of God about sin was permissive, yet the will of God about that glory he would promote by the defect of the creature, was positive; and, therefore, he would not suffer so many positive acts of his will to hang upon an uncertain event; and, therefore, he did wisely and righteously order all things to the accomplishment of his great and gracious purposes.
5. This act of permission doth not taint the holiness of God. That there is such an act as permission, is clear in Scripture (Acts 14:16): “Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.” But that it doth not blemish the holiness of God, will appear, 1st. From the nature of this permission.
1. It is not a moral permission, a giving liberty of toleration by any law to commit sin with impunity; when, what one law did forbid, another law doth leave indifferent to be done or not, as a man sees good in himself. As when there is a law made among men, that no man shall go out of such a city or country without license, to go out without license is a crime by the law; but when that law is repealed by another, that gives liberty for men to go and come at their pleasure, it doth not make their going or coming necessary, but leaves those which were before bound, to do as they see good in themselves. Such a permission makes a fact lawful, though not necessary; a man is not obliged to do it, but he is left to his own discretion to do as he pleases, without being chargeable with a crime for doing it. Such a permission there was granted by God to Adam of eating of the fruits of the garden, to choose any of them for food, except the tree of “knowledge of good and evil.” It was a precept to him, not to “eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil;” but the other was a permission, whereby it was lawful for him to feed upon any other that was most agreeable to his appetite but there is not such a permission in the case of sin; this had been an indulgence of it, which had freed man from any crime, and, consequently, from punishment; because, by such a permission by law, he would have had authority to sin if he please God did not remove the law, which he had before placed as a bar against evil, nor ceased that moral impediment of his threatening: such a permission as this, to make sin lawful or indifferent, had been a blot upon God’s holiness.
2. But this permission of God, in the case of sin, is no more than the not hindering a sinful action, which he could have prevented. It is not so much an action of God, as a suspension of his influence, which might have hindered an evil act, and a forbearing to restrain the faculties of man from sin; it is, properly, the not exerting that efficacy which might change the counsels that are taken, and prevent the action intended; as when one man sees another ready to fall, and can preserve him from falling by reaching out his hand, he permits him to fall, that is, he hinders him not from falling. So God describes his act about Abimelech (Gen. 20:6); “I withheld thee from sinning against me, therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.” If Abimelech had sinned, he had sinned by God’s permission; that is, by God’s not hindering, or not restraining him by making any impressions upon him. So that permission is only a withholding that help and grace, which, if bestowed, would have been an effectual remedy to prevent a crime; and it is rather a suspension, or cessation, than properly a permission, and sin may be said to be committed, not without God’s permission, rather than by his permission. Thus, in the fall of man, God did not hold the reins strict upon Satan, to restrain him from laying the bait, nor restrain Adam from swallowing the bait: he kept to himself that efficacious grace which he might have darted out upon man to prevent his fall. God left Satan to his malice of tempting, and Adam to his liberty of resisting, and his own strength, to use that sufficient grace he had furnished him with, whereby he might have resisted and overcome the temptation. As he did not drive man to it, so he did not secretly restrain him from it. So, in the Jews crucifying our Saviour, God did not imprint upon their minds, by his Spirit, a consideration of the greatness of the crime, and the horror of his justice due to it; and, being without those impediments, they run furiously, of their own accord, to the commission of that evil; as, when a man lets a wolf or dog out upon his prey, he takes off the chain which held them, and they presently act according to their natures. In the fall of angels and men, God’s act was leaving them to their own strength; in sins after the fall, it is God’s giving them up to their own corruption; the first is a pure suspension of grace; the other hath the nature of a punishment (Psalm 81:12): “So I gave them up to their own hearts’ lusts.” The first object of this permissive will of God was to leave angels and men to their liberty, and the use of their free will, which was natural to them, not adding that supernatural grace which was necessary, not that they should not at all sin, but that they should infallibly not sin: they had a strength sufficient to avoid sin, but not sufficient infallibly to avoid sin; a grace sufficient to preserve them, but not sufficient to confirm them.
3. Now this permission is not the cause of sin, nor doth blemish the holiness of God. It doth not intrench upon the freedom of men, but supposeth it, establisheth it, and leaves man to it. God acted nothing, but only ceased to act; and therefore could not be the efficient cause of man’s sin. As God is not the author of good, but by willing and effecting it, so he is not the author of evil, but by willing and effecting it, but he doth not positively will evil, nor effect it by any efficacy of his own. Permission is no action, nor the cause of that action which is permitted; but the will of that person who is permitted to do such an action is the cause. God can no more be said to be the cause of sin, by suffering a creature to act as it will, than he can be said to be the cause of the not being of any creature, by denying it being, and letting it remain nothing; it is not from God that it is nothing, it is nothing in itself. Though God be said to be the cause of creation, yet he is never by any said to be the cause of that nothing which was before creation. This permission of God is not the cause of sin, but the cause of not hindering sin. Man and angels had a physical power of sinning from God, as they were created with freewill, and supported in their natural strength; but the moral power to sin was not from God; he counselled them not to it, laid no obligation upon them to use their natural power for such an end; he only left them to their freedom, and not hindered them in their acting what he was resolved to permit.
The Existence and Attributes of God