Peter Reports to the ChurchActs 11 1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6 Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
The Church in Antioch19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
James Killed and Peter ImprisonedActs 12 1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
Peter Is Rescued6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place.
18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.
The Death of Herod20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.
24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.
25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.
Barnabas and Saul Sent OffActs 13 1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Barnabas and Saul on Cyprus4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. 6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
Paul and Barnabas at Antioch in Pisidia13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, 14 but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” 16 So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said:
“Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. 17 The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18 And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19 And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ 23 Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’
26 “Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. 27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. 28 And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,
“ ‘You are my Son,
today I have begotten you.’
“ ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’35 Therefore he says also in another psalm,
“ ‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:
41 “ ‘Look, you scoffers,
be astounded and perish;
for I am doing a work in your days,
a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’ ”
44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
“ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
What I'm Reading
How Can I Trust the Gospel Accounts When Some Are Missing Important Details?
By J. Warner Wallace 4/11/2014
A visitor to ColdCaseChristianity.com wrote recently to express her concerns and growing doubts about Christianity. Raised in the Church, she finds herself questioning the reliability of the Gospel authors because some of them failed to mention important events in the life and ministry of Jesus. Why does only one Gospel writer mention the Raising of Lazarus? Why does only one writer mention the dead people who rose from the grave at Jesus’ crucifixion? There are many examples of singular, seemingly important events mentioned by only one of the four Gospel authors. Shouldn’t all of the alleged eyewitnesses have included these events, and doesn’t the absence of information in a particular Gospel cast doubt on whether or not the event actually occurred? My experience working with eyewitnesses may help you think clearly about these issues and objections. You can trust the Gospel eyewitness accounts, even though some are missing important details:
Eyewitness Accounts Vary Based on Their Scope
When I interview an eyewitness, I am very careful to set the parameter for the testimony before I begin. I usually frame the interview by saying something like, “Please tell me everything you saw from the moment the robber came in the bank, to the moment he left.” I make sure to set the constraints the same way for each and every witness. Without these parameters, the resulting testimony would vary wildly from person to person. Some would include details prior to or after the robbery, some would include only the highlights, and some would omit major elements in the event. If I want to be able to compare the testimony of two or three witnesses later, I’m going to have to make sure they begin with the same scope and framework in mind.
The Gospel authors clearly did not testify with the same initial instructions. There was no unifying investigator present to set the framework for their testimony, so their responses vary in the same way they would vary today if the scope of their testimony was not established from the onset. Mark, according to Papias, the 1st Century Bishop of Hierapolis, “became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had followed him, but later on, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord’s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.” More concerned about accuracy of individual events than the order in which they occurred, Mark offered details like many of my witnesses who are interviewed without a unified parameter. Mark is simply recording the preaching of Peter, and Peter only referred to portions of Jesus’ life and ministry, making no effort to order them for his listeners.
Eyewitness Accounts Vary Based on Their Perspective and Purpose
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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.
Why seminary can never qualify anyone for ministry
By Hershael York
“I do not have the authority to expel you, so I’m asking you, please withdraw and leave the seminary.” I realized the weight of my words and fully appreciated their potential effect. Only after several lengthy attempts to correct him, learning that he was not plugged into any local church, and then subsequently conferring with the dean did I let them fall so profoundly and heavily on his stunned ears. The young man had preached several sermons in my preaching practicum, each one more disturbing and irresponsible than the last. Finally he crossed the line from unbalanced to untrue and promoted something that I judged to be egregiously wrong, contrary to the gospel, and antithetical to everything Southern Seminary stands for. When he remained resolute in his position and belligerent at my attempts to reprove, I knew that the tragedy of his departure from the truth would be exponentially compounded with a seminary degree. So I asked him to leave, and he did.
While I still grieve that student’s departure from sound doctrine, I have never regretted the severity of my words to him. I could not stop him from preaching error, but it would be far worse if he did it with a degree from Southern.
My primary concern was not that someone would think he received his doctrine from my colleagues or me—though I certainly found that thought disquieting. My greater anxiety was that some church would mistakenly think him qualified to serve as pastor and would welcome him and embrace his false doctrine, simply because he had a degree from a seminary.
When it comes to qualification for ministry, ordination should carry much more weight and provide much greater evidence of a man’s readiness for service in the church than any seminary degree. A seminary alone is not sufficient to qualify anyone for ministry, no matter how faithful the faculty or how hard it tries. A seminary is a rigorous academic program, but that is very different from being a church in which the student can serve and demonstrate his gifts and calling while he is under its teaching, authority, and discipline.
A large portion of my life has been devoted to seminary education, both my own and that of thousands of others. I am committed to quality theological education in the seminary and believe it to be a marvelous way to learn the Scriptures from brilliant and devoted men and women of God whom he has raised up for this purpose. I love seminary and would encourage every young minister of the gospel who has the opportunity to enroll in seminary—especially in a residential program, but that is a subject for another time. I love and believe in seminary education, to be sure. Even so, something important needs to be said.
Hershael W. York serves as Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Seminary. He is also senior pastor at Buck Run Baptist Church.
Friendship in ‘Stranger Things’ Is a Buffer against Darkness
By Mike Cosper 11/10/2017
When Stranger Things 2 released last month, TV critic Alan Sepinwall said something to this effect on Twitter: “People will love it or hate it for the same reason; it’s just like the original.”
I think that hits the nail on the head.
When its debut season hit Netflix in the summer of 2016, Stranger Things was an instant critical and audience favorite. Heavy on 1980s nostalgia (everything from Atari to Gooniesto Winona Ryder), the show clicked with the generation who came of age on Steven Spielberg blockbusters and movies like Gremlins and Ghostbusters—which just so happens to be the generation most likely to subscribe to Netflix.
Naturally, the Duffer Brothers didn’t opt to mess with a formula that worked. But Stranger Things 2 is more than just a retread of the formula. It goes deeper with the characters and explores their bonds in ways that underscore how this is a show about more than just nostalgia and kitschy horror. It’s a show about friendship.
Trouble Isn't Over
Mike Cosper is director of The Harbor Institute for Faith and Culture in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the founder of Harbor Media, where he works to develop resources for Christians in a post-Christian world. At Harbor, he produces two podcasts – Cultivated: Conversations about Faith and Work, and The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Prior to launching Harbor, he served for 16 years as one of the founding pastors of Sojourn Church in Louisville, Kentucky, where he started Sojourn Music, a collective of musicians writing songs for the local church. You can follow him on Twitter. Mike Cosper Books:
- 1 Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World
- 2 Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel
- 3 The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth
- 4 Faithmapping: A Gospel Atlas for Your Spiritual Journey
- 5 Life in the Wild: Fighting For Faith in a Fallen World
Is There Academic Bias In the Sciences?
By Glen Smith 11/15/2017
I readily admit that I am not trained in any of the technical sciences, nor in math. Therefore I rarely comment on these fields, and usually then only to quote an expert who has published in the field. I hold that Christians would do ourselves better if we were to not comment in fields that we know little about. Likewise, atheist scientists would help themselves much more if they stopped commenting on fields where they know so little, such as religion and philosophy.
My career has been in human learning, perception, and studying the way people do the things they do. The concepts in these fields are ones that I am knowledgeable and can readily comment.
When people approach a problem with a mental paradigm, typically their research reinforces what they have already concluded to be the case. Anomalous data is ignored, but not because they consciously choose to bias their research, but because their minds do not perceive the data that goes against their views. They literally do not see the conflicting patterns. Why does it take so long for old scientific views to be disproved and replaced? There are several reasons, one of which is that humans do not perceive data that does not fit their worldview.
Another factor influencing human behavior is how much emotional attachment a person has to the views they hold. If a view of religion is held by a loved one, we tend to be attracted to that view. If a view of religion is held by someone whom has hurt us, we tend to be repelled by that view. Emotional attachments are strong, despite our best attempts otherwise.
I was at a major university, waiting in a lobby to meet with a committee that was to consider one of our Ratio Christi Christian apologetics clubs. In the same lobby was a physics professor who was scheduled to speak to the same committee, only he was speaking to the committee against our club. Since I am not a public figure, this man knew nothing of me, and only knew of our organization what he could glean from our website. I shook his hand and told him my name. In less than five seconds, this man began a quite lengthy emotional diatribe against me and the organization I was standing for. He barely stopped to breathe, keeping going on and on about how wrong we were. He was quite emotional. I attempted dialog, but made no progress, for he was not listening to anything I was saying. My few attempts at polite conversation merely increased his agitation. What was the root of his concern? The entire thing stemmed from a single sentence on our website that rejects theistic evolution.
Glen Smith bio
Blessed are the Pure in Heart
By Karen Holford 4/30/2012
In Matthew 5:8, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” But what does it really mean to be “pure in heart”? I read the verse in different versions of the Bible and I especially liked the way The Message paraphrase put it: “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”
So I needed to sort out my inside world—remove from it the clutter of impurities like self-centredness, resentment, anger, criticism and fear.
This meant having pure thoughts and pure motives, totally unblemished, totally unselfish, totally honest, totally loving and as transparent as glass. The happy reward of having a pure heart would mean that I would see God and others (and maybe even myself) in a more generous and loving light.
An Experiment | I decided I would try living by this precept for 28 days (with possibly more to follow) in order to truly understand it. But at the human level, Jesus’ instructions are more easily preached than performed. This was about changing my being, my very heart. I needed to sift everything I thought, did and said through the filter of absolute purity.
With a powerful challenge like that, I decided I needed a plan, so I wrote some goals for my month:
Should Nondiscrimination Laws Protect Cohabitation?
By Helen Alvaré 11/16/2017
Cohabitation is frequently examined in popular media as a moral and cultural phenomenon, but its legal aspects are usually overlooked. Even so, many would not be surprised to learn that earlier state laws banning nonmarital cohabitation have been overturned or generally go unenforced across the United States. It might be surprising to consider, however, that several states have moved to the other end of the spectrum: specially protecting cohabiting adults in laws which ban discrimination in employment, accommodations, and housing. This protection is part of “civil rights” legislation, which also shields citizens from discrimination based on factors like race, sex, and religion.
Landlords, hoteliers, and employers with religious conscientious objections to hiring or housing cohabitants are regularly caught by such nondiscrimination laws. And a legal literature has sprung up defending cohabitants’ rights and advocating their expansion under the umbrella of civil rights. Often, this literature ignores or fails to acknowledge some of the risks associated with cohabitation. It also overlooks the potential benefits of allowing conscientious objectors to avoid cooperating with cohabitation and to publicly signal the differences between cohabitation and marriage.
Beginning in the 1970s and continuing for a while into the 1980s, about 21 states added “marital status” to the list of categories upon which employers, landlords, and hotels could no longer base their decisions to exclude. To put it differently, employers, landlords, and hotels can decide against transacting with an applicant or customer based upon a wide variety of traits and circumstances—e.g. personality, profession, or credit history—but nondiscrimination laws forbid them from refusing to transact on the basis of a legislatively-determined list of factors like race, sex, religion, and in some jurisdictions, “marital status.”
Jurisdictions differ in their definition of “marital status”—either as a matter of statutory language or judicial interpretation. Some define “marital status” simply as the state of being married or single. They understand their laws as responding to business practices at the time of enactment, which often discriminated against single women. Other jurisdictions—usually through judicial interpretation—define “marital status” more broadly to include protection for cohabitants. They reason, for example, that an employer who fires a woman for cohabiting is punishing her for being “single” while she is cohabiting in a sexual relationship, while the employer would not fire a “married” woman doing likewise. Illustrative are the words of a recent case (Richardson v. Northwest Christian University) involving a private religious university in Oregon that had attempted to fire a pregnant, cohabiting teacher who had signed a pledge at hiring, promising to abide by the school’s religious convictions. The court ruled:
Even though both married and unmarried individuals may have sex outside of marriage, when single people have sex, it is always outside of marriage. I conclude that the conduct/status correlation here is close enough that a policy against extramarital sex/cohabitation effectively discriminates on the basis of marital status.
Helen Alvare’ is a Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law, and the co-founder of Women Speak for Themselves.
God In The Hands Of Angry Sinners 2
By R.C. Sproul Excerpt from The Holiness of God
Jonathan Edwards preached another famous sermon that can be viewed as a sequel of sorts to “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He titled the sermon, “Men Naturally God’s Enemies.” If I can presume to improve Edwards’ title, I would suggest instead God in the Hands of Angry Sinners.
If we are unconverted, one thing is absolutely certain: We hate God. The Bible is unambiguous about this point. We are God’s enemies. We are inwardly sworn to His ultimate destruction. It is as natural for us to hate God as it is for rain to moisten the earth when it falls. Now our annoyance may turn to outrage. We heartily disavow what I have just written. We are quite willing to acknowledge that we are sinners. Who isn’t? We are quick to admit that we do not love God as much as we ought. But who among us will admit to hating God?
Romans 5 teaches clearly: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.…” The central motif of the New Testament is the theme of reconciliation. Reconciliation is not necessary for those who love each other. God’s love for us is not in doubt. The shadow of doubt hangs over us. It is our love for God that is in question. The natural mind of man, what the Bible calls the “carnal mind,” is at enmity with God.
We reveal our natural hostility for God by the low esteem we have for Him. We consider Him unworthy of our total devotion. We take no delight in contemplating Him. Even for the Christian, worship is often difficult and prayer a burdensome duty. Our natural tendency is to flee as far as possible from His presence. His Word rebounds from our minds like a basketball from a backboard.
By nature, our attitude toward God is not one of mere indifference. It is a posture of malice. We oppose His government and refuse His rule over us. Our natural hearts are devoid of affection for Him; they are cold, frozen to His holiness. By nature, the love of God is not in us.
As Edwards noted, it is not enough to say that natural man views God as an enemy. We must be more precise. God is our mortal enemy. He represents the highest possible threat to our sinful desires. His repugnance to us is absolute, knowing no lesser degrees. No amount of persuasion by men or argumentation from philosophers or theologians can induce us to love God. We despise His very existence and would do anything in our power to rid the universe of His holy presence.
If God were to expose His life to our hands, He would not be safe for a second. We would not ignore Him; we would destroy Him. This charge may seem extravagant and irresponsible until we examine once more the record of what happened when God did appear in Christ. Christ was not simply killed. He was murdered by the hands of malicious men. The crowds howled for His blood. It was not enough merely to do away with Him, but it had to be done with the accompaniment of scorn and humiliation. We know that His divine nature did not perish on the cross. It was His humanity that was put to death. Had God exposed the divine nature to execution, had He made His divine essence vulnerable to the executioner’s nails, then Christ would still be dead and God would be absent from heaven. Had the sword pierced the soul of God, the ultimate revolution would have been successful and man would now be king.
But we are Christians. We are lovers of God. We have experienced reconciliation. We have been born of the Spirit and have had the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. We are no longer enemies but friends. All of these things are true for the Christian. But we must take heed, remembering that with our conversion our natural human natures were not annihilated. There remains a vestige of our fallen nature with which we must struggle every day. There still resides a corner of the soul that takes no delight in God. We see its ragged edge in our continued sin and we can observe it in our lethargic worship. It manifests itself even in our theology.
It has been said that historically there have been only three generic types of theology competing for acceptance within the Christian church. These three are called Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and Augustinianism. Pelagianism is a naturalistic religion giving no credence to supernatural things. Its present manifestation is called liberalism. Semi-Pelagianism lives today in the form of Arminianism. Augustinianism is presently called Calvinism or Reformed Theology. Both Semi-Pelagianism and Augustinianism are positions argued and debated among believing Christians. Pelagianism is not Christian. It is not merely sub-Christian but positively anti-Christian. It is basically a theology of unbelief. That it has a stranglehold on many churches is testimony to the power of man’s natural enmity toward God. To the Pelagian or liberal there is no supernatural activity. There is no miracle in Scripture, no deity to Christ, no atonement, resurrection, ascension, or return of Jesus. In a word, there is no biblical Christianity to it. It is sheer paganism masquerading as piety.
What of Semi-Pelagianism? It is clearly Christian with its passionate confession of the deity of Christ and its confidence in the atonement, resurrection, and the rest. Semi-Pelagianism is the majority report among evangelical Christians and probably represents the theology of the vast majority of people who read this book. But I am convinced that with all of its virtues Semi-Pelagianism still represents a theology of compromise with our natural inclinations. It has a glaring defect in its understanding of God. Though it salutes the holiness of God and protests loudly that it believes in God’s sovereignty, it still entertains delusions about man’s ability to incline himself to God, to make “decisions” to be born again. It declares that fallen man who is at enmity with God can be persuaded to be reconciled even before his sinful heart is changed. It has people who are not born again seeing a kingdom Christ declared could not be seen and entering a kingdom that cannot be entered without rebirth. Evangelicals today have unconverted sinners who are dead in trespasses and sin bringing themselves to life by choosing to be born again. Christ made it clear that dead people cannot choose anything, that the flesh profits nothing and that a person must be born of the Spirit before he can even see the kingdom of God, let alone enter it. The failure of modern evangelicalism is the failure to understand the holiness of God. If that one point were grasped, there would be no more talk of mortal enemies of Christ coming to Jesus by their own power.
A sound theology must be a theology where grace is central to it. When we understand the character of God, when we grasp something of His holiness, then we begin to understand the radical character of our sin and helplessness. Helpless sinners can only survive by grace. Our strength is futile in itself; we are spiritually impotent without the assistance of a merciful God. We may dislike giving our attention to God’s wrath and justice, but until we incline ourselves to these aspects of God’s nature, we will never appreciate what has been wrought for us by grace. Even Edwards’ sermon on sinners in God’s hands was not designed to stress the flames of hell. The resounding accent falls not on the fiery pit but on the hands of the God who holds us and rescues us from it. The hands of God are gracious hands. They alone have the power to rescue us from certain destruction.
How can we love a holy God? The simplest answer I can give to this vital question is that we can’t. Loving a holy God is beyond our moral power. The only kind of God we can love by our sinful nature is an unholy god, an idol made by our own hands. Unless we are born of the Spirit of God, unless God sheds His holy love in our hearts, unless He stoops in His grace to change our hearts, we will not love Him. He is the One who takes the initiative to restore our souls. Without Him we can do nothing of righteousness. Without Him we would be doomed to everlasting alienation from His holiness. We can only love Him because He first loved us. To love a holy God requires grace, grace strong enough to pierce our hardened hearts and awaken our moribund souls.
If we are in Christ, we have been awakened already. We have been raised from spiritual death unto spiritual life. But we still have “sleepers” in our eyes, and at times we walk about like zombies. We retain a certain fear of drawing near to God. We still tremble at the foot of His holy mountain.
Yet as we grow in our knowledge of Him, we gain a deeper love for His purity and sense a deeper dependence upon His grace. We learn that He is altogether worthy of our adoration. The fruit of our growing love for Him is the increase of reverence for His name. We love Him now because we see His loveliness. We adore Him now because we see His majesty. We obey Him now because His Holy Spirit dwells within us. He is holy, holy, holy.…
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
Introduction by The Rev. John Murray, M.A., Th.M.
Prefatory Address To His Most Christian Majesty
The Most Mighty And Illustrious Monarch
Francis, King Of The French, His Sovereign
John Calvin Prays Peace And Salvation In Christ
Sire,--When I first engaged in this work, nothing was farther from my thoughts than to write what should afterwards be presented to your Majesty. My intention was only to furnish a kind of rudiments, by which those who feel some interest in religion might be trained to true godliness. And I toiled at the task chiefly for the sake of my countrymen the French, multitudes of whom I perceived to be hungering and thirsting after Christ, while very few seemed to have been duly imbued with even a slender knowledge of him. That this was the object which I had in view is apparent from the work itself, which is written in a simple and elementary form adapted for instruction.
But when I perceived that the fury of certain bad men had risen to such a height in your realm, that there was no place in it for sound doctrine, I thought it might be of service if I were in the same work both to give instruction to my countrymen, and also lay before your Majesty a Confession, from which you may learn what the doctrine is that so inflames the rage of those madmen who are this day, with fire and sword, troubling your kingdom. For I fear not to declare, that what I have here given may be regarded as a summary of the very doctrine which, they vociferate, ought to be punished with confiscation, exile, imprisonment, and flames, as well as exterminated by land and sea.
I am aware, indeed, how, in order to render our cause as hateful to your Majesty as possible, they have filled your ears and mind with atrocious insinuations; but you will be pleased, of your clemency, to reflect, that neither in word nor deed could there be any innocence, were it sufficient merely to accuse. When any one, with the view of exciting prejudice, observes that this doctrine, of which I am endeavouring to give your Majesty an account, has been condemned by the suffrages of all the estates, and was long ago stabbed again and again by partial sentences of courts of law, he undoubtedly says nothing more than that it has sometimes been violently oppressed by the power and faction of adversaries, and sometimes fraudulently and insidiously overwhelmed by lies, cavils, and calumny. While a cause is unheard, it is violence to pass sanguinary sentences against it; it is fraud to charge it, contrary to its deserts, with sedition and mischief.
That no one may suppose we are unjust in thus complaining, you yourself, most illustrious Sovereign, can bear us witness with what lying calumnies it is daily traduced in your presence, as aiming at nothing else than to wrest the sceptres of kings out of their hands, to overturn all tribunals and seats of justice, to subvert all order and government, to disturb the peace and quiet of society, to abolish all laws, destroy the distinctions of rank and property, and, in short, turn all things upside down. And yet, that which you hear is but the smallest portion of what is said; for among the common people are disseminated certain horrible insinuations--insinuations which, if well founded, would justify the whole world in condemning the doctrine with its authors to a thousand fires and gibbets. Who can wonder that the popular hatred is inflamed against it, when credit is given to those most iniquitous accusations? See, why all ranks unite with one accord in condemning our persons and our doctrine!
Carried away by this feeling, those who sit in judgment merely give utterance to the prejudices which they have imbibed at home, and think they have duly performed their part if they do not order punishment to be inflicted on any one until convicted, either on his own confession, or on legal evidence. But of what crime convicted? "Of that condemned doctrine," is the answer. But with what justice condemned? The very essence of the defence was, not to abjure the doctrine itself, but to maintain its truth. On this subject, however, not a whisper is allowed!
Justice, then, most invincible Sovereign, entitles me to demand that you will undertake a thorough investigation of this cause, which has hitherto been tossed about in any kind of way, and handled in the most irregular manner, without any order of law, and with passionate heat rather than judicial gravity.
Let it not be imagined that I am here framing my own private defence, with the view of obtaining a safe return to my native land. Though I cherish towards it the feelings which become me as a man, still, as matters now are, I can be absent from it without regret. The cause which I plead is the common cause of all the godly, and therefore the very cause of Christ--a cause which, throughout your realm, now lies, as it were, in despair, torn and trampled upon in all kinds of ways, and that more through the tyranny of certain Pharisees than any sanction from yourself. But it matters not to inquire how the thing is done; the fact that it is done cannot be denied. For so far have the wicked prevailed, that the truth of Christ, if not utterly routed and dispersed, lurks as if it were ignobly buried; while the poor Church, either wasted by cruel slaughter or driven into exile, or intimidated and terror--struck, scarcely ventures to breathe. Still her enemies press on with their wonted rage and fury over the ruins which they have made, strenuously assaulting the wall, which is already giving way. Meanwhile, no man comes forth to offer his protection against such furies. Any who would be thought most favourable to the truth, merely talk of pardoning the error and imprudence of ignorant men For so those modest personages  speak; giving the name of error and imprudence to that which they know to be  the infallible truth of God, and of ignorant men to those whose intellect they see that Christ has not despised, seeing he has deigned to intrust them with the mysteries of his heavenly wisdom.  Thus all are ashamed of the Gospel.
Your duty, most serene Prince, is, not to shut either your ears or mind against a cause involving such mighty interests as these: how the glory of God is to be maintained on the earth inviolate, how the truth of God is to preserve its dignity, how the kingdom of Christ is to continue amongst us compact and secure. The cause is worthy of your ear, worthy of your investigation, worthy of your throne.
The characteristic of a true sovereign is, to acknowledge that, in the administration of his kingdom, he is a minister of God. He who does not make his reign subservient to the divine glory, acts the part not of a king, but a robber. He, moreover, deceives himself who anticipates long prosperity to any kingdom which is not ruled by the sceptre of God, that is, by his divine word. For the heavenly oracle is infallible which has declared, that "where there is no vision the people perish" (Prov. 29:18).
Let not a contemptuous idea of our insignificance dissuade you from the investigation of this cause. We, indeed, are perfectly conscious how poor and abject we are: in the presence of God we are miserable sinners, and in the sight of men most despised--we are (if you will) the mere dregs and off--scourings of the world, or worse, if worse can be named: so that before God there remains nothing of which we can glory save only his mercy, by which, without any merit of our own, we are admitted to the hope of eternal salvation:  and before men not even this much remains,  since we can glory only in our infirmity, a thing which, in the estimation of men, it is the greatest ignominy even tacitly  to confess. But our doctrine must stand sublime above all the glory of the world, and invincible by all its power, because it is not ours, but that of the living God and his Anointed, whom the Father has appointed King, that he may rule from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the ends of the earth; and so rule as to smite the whole earth and its strength of iron and brass, its splendour of gold and silver, with the mere rod of his mouth, and break them in pieces like a potter's vessel; according to the magnificent predictions of the prophets respecting his kingdom (Dan. 2:34; Isaiah 11:4; Psalm 2:9).
Our adversaries, indeed, clamorously maintain that our appeal to the word of God is a mere pretext,--that we are, in fact, its worst corrupters. How far this is not only malicious calumny, but also shameless effrontery, you will be able to decide, of your own knowledge, by reading our Confession. Here, however, it may be necessary to make some observations which may dispose, or at least assist, you to read and study it with attention.
When Paul declared that all prophecy ought to be according to the analogy of faith (Rom. 12:6), he laid down the surest rule for determining the meaning of Scripture. Let our doctrine be tested by this rule and our victory is secure. For what accords better and more aptly with faith than to acknowledge ourselves divested of all virtue that we may be clothed by God, devoid of all goodness that we may be filled by Him, the slaves of sin that he may give us freedom, blind that he may enlighten, lame that he may cure, and feeble that he may sustain us; to strip ourselves of all ground of glorying that he alone may shine forth glorious, and we be glorified in him? When these things, and others to the same effect, are said by us, they interpose, and querulously complain, that in this way we overturn some blind light of nature, fancied preparatives, free will, and works meritorious of eternal salvation, with their own supererogations also;  because they cannot bear that the entire praise and glory of all goodness, virtue, justice, and wisdom, should remain with God. But we read not of any having been blamed for drinking too much of the fountain of living water; on the contrary, those are severely reprimanded who "have hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jer. 2:13). Again, what more agreeable to faith than to feel assured that God is a propitious Father when Christ is acknowledged as a brother and propitiator, than confidently to expect all prosperity and gladness from Him, whose ineffable love towards us was such that He "spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all" (Rom. 8:32), than to rest in the sure hope of salvation and eternal life whenever Christ, in whom such treasures are hid, is conceived to have been given by the Father? Here they attack us, and loudly maintain that this sure confidence is not free from arrogance and presumption. But as nothing is to be presumed of ourselves, so all things are to be presumed of God; nor are we stript of vainglory for any other reason than that we may learn to glory in the Lord. Why go farther? Take but a cursory view, most valiant King, of all the parts of our cause, and count us of all wicked men the most iniquitous, if you do not discover plainly, that "therefore we both labour and suffer reproach because we trust in the living God" (1 Tim. 4:10); because we believe it to be "life eternal" to know "the only true God, and Jesus Christ," whom he has sent (John 17:3). For this hope some of us are in bonds, some beaten with rods, some made a gazing--stock, some proscribed, some most cruelly tortured, some obliged to flee; we are all pressed with straits, loaded with dire execrations, lacerated by slanders, and treated with the greatest indignity.
Look now to our adversaries (I mean the priesthood, at whose beck and pleasure others ply their enmity against us), and consider with me for a little by what zeal they are actuated. The true religion which is delivered in the Scriptures, and which all ought to hold, they readily permit both themselves and others to be ignorant of, to neglect and despise; and they deem it of little moment what each man believes concerning God and Christ, or disbelieves, provided he submits to the judgment of the Church with what they call  implicit faith; nor are they greatly concerned though they should see the glow of God dishonoured by open blasphemies, provided not a finger is raised against the primacy of the Apostolic See and the authority of holy mother Church.  Why, then, do they war for the mass, purgatory, pilgrimage, and similar follies, with such fierceness and acerbity, that though they cannot prove one of them from the word of God, they deny godliness can be safe without faith in these things--faith drawn out, if I may so express it, to its utmost stretch? Why? just because their belly is their God, and their kitchen their religion; and they believe, that if these were away they would not only not be Christians, but not even men. For although some wallow in luxury, and others feed on slender crusts, still they all live by the same pot, which without that fuel might not only cool, but altogether freeze. He, accordingly, who is most anxious about his stomach, proves the fiercest champion of his faith. In short, the object on which all to a man are bent, is to keep their kingdom safe or their belly filled; not one gives even the smallest sign of sincere zeal.
Nevertheless, they cease not to assail our doctrine, and to accuse and defame it in what terms they may, in order to render it either hated or suspected. They call it new, and of recent birth; they carp at it as doubtful and uncertain; they bid us tell by what miracles it has been confirmed; they ask if it be fair to receive it against the consent of so many holy Fathers and the most ancient custom; they urge us to confess either that it is schismatical in giving battle to the Church, or that the Church must have been without life during the many centuries in which nothing of the kind was heard. Lastly, they say there is little need of argument, for its quality may be known by its fruits, namely, the large number of sects, the many seditious disturbances, and the great licentiousness which it has produced. No doubt, it is a very easy matter for them, in presence of an ignorant and credulous multitude, to insult over an undefended cause; but were an opportunity of mutual discussion afforded, that acrimony which they now pour out upon us in frothy torrents, with as much license as impunity,  would assuredly boil dry.
1. First, in calling it new, they are exceedingly injurious to God, whose sacred word deserved not to be charged with novelty. To them, indeed, I very little doubt it is new, as Christ is new, and the Gospel new; but those who are acquainted with the old saying of Paul, that Christ Jesus "died for our sins, and rose again for our justification" (Rom. 4:25), will not detect any novelty in us. That it long lay buried and unknown is the guilty consequence of man's impiety; but now when, by the kindness of God, it is restored to us, it ought to resume its antiquity just as the returning citizen resumes his rights.
2. It is owing to the same ignorance that they hold it to be doubtful and uncertain; for this is the very thing of which the Lord complains by his prophet, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider" (Isaiah 1:3). But however they may sport with its uncertainty, had they to seal their own doctrine with their blood, and at the expense of life, it would be seen what value they put upon it. Very different is our confidence--a confidence which is not appalled by the terrors of death, and therefore not even by the judgment--seat of God.
3. In demanding miracles from us, they act dishonestly; for we have not coined some new gospel, but retain the very one the truth of which is confirmed by all the miracles which Christ and the apostles ever wrought. But they have a peculiarity which we have not--they can confirm their faith by constant miracles down to the present day! Way rather, they allege miracles which might produce wavering in minds otherwise well disposed; they are so frivolous and ridiculous, so vain and false. But were they even exceedingly wonderful, they could have no effect against the truth of God, whose name ought to be hallowed always, and everywhere, whether by miracles, or by the natural course of events. The deception would perhaps be more specious if Scripture did not admonish us of the legitimate end and use of miracles. Mark tells us (Mark 16:20) that the signs which followed the preaching of the apostles were wrought in confirmation of it; so Luke also relates that the Lord "gave testimony to the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done" by the hands of the apostles (Acts 14:3). Very much to the same effect are those words of the apostle, that salvation by a preached gospel was confirmed, "The Lord bearing witness with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles" (Heb. 2:4). Those things which we are told are seals of the gospel, shall we pervert to the subversion of the gospel? What was destined only to confirm the truth, shall we misapply to the confirmation of lies? The proper course, therefore, is, in the first instance, to ascertain and examine the doctrine which is said by the Evangelist to precede; then after it has been proved, but not till then, it may receive confirmation from miracles. But the mark of sound doctrine given by our Saviour himself is its tendency to promote the glory not of men, but of God (John 7:18; 8:50). Our Saviour having declared this to be test of doctrine, we are in error if we regard as miraculous, works which are used for any other purpose than to magnify the name of God.  And it becomes us to remember that Satan has his miracles, which, although they are tricks rather than true wonders, are still such as to delude the ignorant and unwary. Magicians and enchanters have always been famous for miracles, and miracles of an astonishing description have given support to idolatry: these, however, do not make us converts to the superstitions either of magicians or idolaters. In old times, too, the Donatists used their power of working miracles as a battering-ram, with which they shook the simplicity of the common people. We now give to our opponents the answer which Augustine then gave to the Donatists (in Joan. Tract. 23), "The Lord put us on our guard against those wonder--workers, when he foretold that false prophets would arise, who, by lying signs and divers wonders, would, if it were possible, deceive the very elect" (Mt. 24:24). Paul, too, gave warning that the reign of antichrist would be "withall power, and signs, and lying wonders" (2 Thess. 2:9).
But our opponents tell us that their miracles are wrought not by idols, not by sorcerers, not by false prophets, but by saints: as if we did not know it to be one of Satan's wiles to transform himself "into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14). The Egyptians, in whose neighbourhood Jeremiah was buried, anciently sacrificed and paid other divine honours to him (Hieron. in Praef. Jerem). Did they not make an idolatrous abuse of the holy prophet of God? and yet, in recompense for so venerating his tomb, they thought  that they were cured of the bite of serpents. What, then, shall we say but that it has been, and always will be, a most just punishment of God, to send on those who do not receive the truth in the love of it, "strong delusion, that they should believe a lie"? (2 Thess. 2:11). We, then, have no lack of miracles, sure miracles, that cannot be gainsaid; but those to which our opponents lay claim are mere delusions of Satan, inasmuch as they draw off the people from the true worship of God to vanity.
4. It is a calumny to represent us as opposed to the Fathers (I mean the ancient writers of a purer age), as if the Fathers were supporters of their impiety. Were the contest to be decided by such authority (to speak in the most moderate terms), the better part of the victory would be ours.  While there is much that is admirable and wise in the writings of those Fathers, and while in some things it has fared with them as with ordinary men; these pious sons, forsooth, with the peculiar acuteness of intellect, and judgment, and soul, which belongs to them, adore only their slips and errors, while those things which are well said they either overlook, or disguise, or corrupt; so that it may be truly said their only care has been to gather dross among gold. Then, with dishonest clamour, they assail us as enemies and despisers of the Fathers. So far are we from despising them, that if this were the proper place, it would give us no trouble to support the greater part of the doctrines which we now hold by their suffrages. Still, in studying their writings, we have endeavoured to remember (1 Cor. 3:21-23; see also Augustin. Ep. 28), that all things are ours, to serve, not lord it over us, but that we axe Christ's only, and must obey him in all things without exception. He who does not draw this distinction will not have any fixed principles in religion; for those holy men were ignorant of many things, are often opposed to each other, and are sometimes at variance with themselves.
It is not without cause (remark our opponents) we are thus warned by Solomon, "Remove not the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set" (Prov. 22:28). But the same rule applies not to the measuring of fields and the obedience of faith. The rule applicable to the latter is, "Forget also thine own people, and thy father's house" (Ps. 45:10). But if they are so fond of allegory, why do they not understand the apostles, rather than any other class of Fathers, to be meant by those whose landmarks it is unlawful to remove? This is the interpretation of Jerome, whose words they have quoted in their canons. But as regards those to whom they apply the passage, if they wish the landmarks to be fixed, why do they, whenever it suits their purpose, so freely overleap them?
Among the Fathers there were two, the one of whom said, "Our God neither eats nor drinks, and therefore has no need of chalices and salvers;" and the other "Sacred rites do not require gold, and things which are not bought with gold, please not by gold." They step beyond the boundary, therefore, when in sacred matters they are so much delighted with gold, driver, ivory, marble, gems, and silks, that unless everything is overlaid with costly show, or rather insane luxury, they think God is not duly worshipped.
It was a Father who said, "He ate flesh freely on the day on which others abstained from it, because he was a Christian." They overleap the boundaries, therefore, when they doom to perdition every soul that, during Lent, shall have tasted flesh.
There were two Fathers, the one of whom said, "A monk not labouring with his own hands is no better than a violent man and a robber;" and the other, "Monks, however assiduous they may be in study, meditation, and prayer, must not live by others." This boundary, too, they transgressed, when they placed lazy gormandising monks in dens and stews, to gorge themselves on other men's substance.
It was a Father who said, "It is a horrid abomination to see in Christian temples a painted image either of Christ or of any saint." Nor was this pronounced by the voice era single individual; but an Ecclesiastical Council also decreed, "Let nought that is worshipped be depicted on walls." Very far are they from keeping within these boundaries when they leave not a corner without images.
Another Father counselled, "That after performing the office of humanity to the dead in their burial, we should leave them at rest." These limits they burst through when they keep up a perpetual anxiety about the dead.
It is a Father who testifies, "That the substance of bread and wine in the Eucharist does not cease but remains, just as the nature and substance of man remains united to the Godhead in the Lord Jesus Christ." This boundary they pass in pretending that, as soon as the words of our Lord are pronounced, the substance of bread and wine ceases, and is transubstantiated into body and blood.
They were Fathers, who, as they exhibited only one Eucharist to the whole Church, and kept back from it the profane and flagitious; so they, in the severest terms, censured all those who, being present, did not communicate How far have they removed these landmarks, in filling not churches only, but also private houses, with their masses, admitting all and sundry to be present, each the more willingly the more largely he pays, however wicked and impure he may be,--not inviting any one to faith in Christ and faithful communion in the sacraments, but rather vending their own work for the grace and merits of Christ!
There were two Fathers, the one of whom decided that those were to be excluded altogether from partaking of Christ's sacred supper, who, contented with communion in one kind, abstained from the other; while the other Father strongly contends that the blood of the Lord ought not to be denied to the Christian people, who, in confessing him, are enjoined to shed their own blood. These landmarks, also, they removed, when, by an unalterable law, they ordered the very thing which the former Father punished with excommunication, and the latter condemned for a valid reason. It was a Father who pronounced it rashness, in an obscure question, to decide in either way without clear and evident authority from Scripture. They forgot this landmark when they enacted so many constitutions, so many canons, and so many dogmatical decisions, without sanction from the word of God. It was a Father who reproved Montanus, among other heresies, for being the first who imposed laws of fasting. They have gone far beyond this landmark also in enjoining fasting under the strictest laws.
It was a Father who denied that the ministers of the Church should be interdicted from marrying, and pronounced married life to be a state of chastity; and there were other Fathers who assented to his decision. These boundaries they overstepped in rigidly binding their priests to celibacy.
It was a Father who thought that Christ only should be listened to, from its being said, "hear him;" and that regard is due not to what others before us have said or done, but only to what Christ, the head of all, has commanded. This landmark they neither observe themselves nor allow to be observed by others, while they subject themselves and others to any master whatever, rather than Christ.
There is a Father who contends that the Church ought not to prefer herself to Christ, who always judges truly, whereas ecclesiastical judges, who are but men, are generally deceived. Having burst through this barrier also, they hesitate not to suspend the whole authority of Scripture on the judgment of the Church.
All the Fathers with one heart execrated, and with one mouth protested against, contaminating the word of God with the subtleties sophists, and involving it in the brawls of dialecticians. Do they keep within these limits when the sole occupation of their lives is to entwine and entangle the simplicity of Scripture with endless disputes, and worse than sophistical jargon? So much so, that were the Fathers to rise from their graves, and listen to the brawling art which bears the name of speculative theology, there is nothing they would suppose it less to be than a discussion of a religious nature.
But my discourse would far exceed its just limits were I to show, in detail, how petulantly those men shake off the yoke of the Fathers, while they wish to be thought their most obedient sons. Months, nay, years would fail me; and yet so deplorable and desperate is their effrontery, that they presume to chastise us for overstepping the ancient landmarks!
5. Then, again, it is to no purpose they call us to the bar of custom. To make everything yield to custom would be to do the greatest injustice. Were the judgments of mankind correct, custom would be regulated by the good. But it is often far otherwise in point of fact; for, whatever the many are seen to do, forthwith obtains the force of custom. But human affairs have scarcely ever been so happily constituted as that the better course pleased the greater number. Hence the private vices of the multitude have generally resulted in public error, or rather that common consent in vice which these worthy men would have to be law. Any one with eyes may perceive that it is not one flood of evils which has deluged us; that many fatal plagues have invaded the globe; that all things rush headlong; so that either the affairs of men must be altogether despaired of, or we must not only resist, but boldly attack prevailing evils. The cure is prevented by no other cause than the length of time during which we have been accustomed to the disease. But be it so that public error must have a place in human society, still, in the kingdom of God, we must look and listen only to his eternal truth, against which no series of years, no custom, no conspiracy, can plead prescription. Thus Isaiah formerly taught the people of God, "Say ye not, A confederacy, to all to whom this people shall say, A confederacy;" i.e. do not unite with the people in an impious consent; "neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread" (Is. 8:12). Now, therefore, let them, if they will, object to us both past ages and present examples; if we sanctify the Lord of hosts, we shall not be greatly afraid. Though many ages should have consented to like ungodliness, He is strong who taketh vengeance to the third and fourth generation; or the whole world should league together in the same iniquity. He taught experimentally what the end is of those who sin with the multitude, when He destroyed the whole human race with a flood, saving Noah with his little family, who, by putting his faith in Him alone, "condemned the world" (Heb. 11:7). In short, depraved custom is just a kind of general pestilence in which men perish not the less that they fall in a crowd. It were well, moreover, to ponder the observation of Cyprian,  that those who sin in ignorance, though they cannot be entirely exculpated, seem, however, to be, in some sense, excusable; whereas those who obstinately reject the truth, when presented to them by the kindness of God, have no defence to offer.
6. Their dilemma does not push us so violently as to oblige us to confess, either that the Church was a considerable time without life, or that we have now a quarrel with the Church. The Church of Christ assuredly has lived, and will live, as long as Christ shall reign at the right hand of the Father. By his hand it is sustained, by his protection defended, by his mighty power preserved in safety. For what he once undertook he will undoubtedly perform, he will be with his people always, "even to the end of the world" (Mt. 28:20). With the Church we wage no war, since, with one consent, in common with the whole body of the faithful, we worship and adore one God, and Christ Jesus the Lord, as all the pious have always adored him. But they themselves err not a little from the truth in not recognising any church but that which they behold with the bodily eye, and in endeavouring to circumscribe it by limits, within which it cannot be confined.
The hinges on which the controversy turns are these: first, in their contending that the form of the Church is always visible and apparent; and, secondly, in their placing this form in the see of the Church of Rome and its hierarchy. We, on the contrary, maintain, both that the Church may exist without any apparent form, and, moreover, that the form is not ascertained by that external splendour which they foolishly admire, but by a very different mark, namely, by the pure preaching of the word of God, and the due administration of the sacraments. They make an outcry whenever the Church cannot be pointed to with the finger. But how oft was it the fate of the Church among the Jews to be so defaced that no comeliness appeared? What do we suppose to have been the splendid form when Elijah complained that he was left alone? (1 Kings 19:14). How long after the advent of Christ did it lie hid without form? How often since has it been so oppressed by wars, seditions, and heresies, that it was nowhere seen in splendour? Had they lived at that time, would they have believed there was any Church? But Elijah learned that there remained seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal; nor ought we to doubt that Christ has always reigned on earth ever since he ascended to heaven. Had the faithful at that time required some discernible form, must they not have forthwith given way to despondency? And, indeed, Hilary accounted it a very great fault in his day, that men were so possessed with a foolish admiration of Episcopal dignity as not to perceive the deadly hydra lurking under that mask. His words are (Cont. Auxentium), "One advice I give: Beware of Antichrist; for, unhappily, a love of walls has seized you; unhappily, the Church of God which you venerate exists in houses and buildings; unhappily, under these you find the name of peace. Is it doubtful that in these Antichrist will have his seat? Safer to me are mountains, and woods, and lakes, and dungeons, and whirlpools; since in these prophets, dwelling or immersed, did prophesy."
And what is it at the present day that the world venerates in its horned bishops, unless that it imagines those who are seen presiding over celebrated cities to be holy prelates of religion? Away, then, with this absurd mode of judging!  Let us rather reverently admit, that as God alone knows who are his, so he may sometimes withdraw the external manifestation of his Church from the view of men. This, I allow, is a fearful punishment which God sends on the earth; but if the wickedness of men so deserves, why do we strive to oppose the just vengeance of God?  It was thus that God, in past ages, punished the ingratitude of men; for after they had refused to obey his truth, and had extinguished his light, he allowed them, when blinded by sense, both to be deluded by lying vanities and plunged in thick darkness, so that no face of a true Church appeared. Meanwhile, however, though his own people were dispersed and concealed amidst errors and darkness, he saved them from destruction. No wonder; for he knew how to preserve them even in the confusion of Babylon and the flame of the fiery furnace.
But as to the wish that the form of the Church should be ascertained by some kind of vain pomp, how perilous it is I will briefly indicate, rather than explain, that I may not exceed all bounds. What they say is, that the Pontiff,  who holds the apostolic see, and the priests who are anointed and consecrated by him,  provided they have the insignia of fillets and mitres, represent the Church, and ought to be considered as in the place of the Church, and therefore cannot err. Why so? because they are pastors of the Church, and consecrated to the Lord. And were not Aaron and other prefects of Israel pastors? But Aaron and his sons, though already set apart to the priesthood, erred notwithstanding when they made the calf (Exod. 32:4). Why, according to this view, should not the four hundred prophets who lied to Ahab represent the Church? (1 Kings 22:11, &c.). The Church, however, stood on the side of Micaiah. He was alone, indeed, and despised, but from his mouth the truth proceeded. Did not the prophets also exhibit both the name and face of the Church, when, with one accord, they rose up against Jeremiah, and with menaces boasted of it as a thing impossible that the law should perish from the priest, or counsel from the wise, or the word from the prophet? (Jer. 18:18). In opposition to the whole body of the prophets, Jeremiah is sent alone to declare from the Lord (Jer. 4:9), that a time would come when the law would perish from the priest, counsel from the wise, and the word from the prophet. Was not like splendour displayed in that council when the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees assembled to consult how they might put Jesus to death? Let them go, then, and cling to the external mask, while they make Christ and all the prophets of God schismatics, and, on the other hand, make Satan's ministers the organs of the Holy Spirit!
But if they are sincere, let them answer me in good faith,--in what place, and among whom, do they think the Church resided, after the Council of Basle degraded and deposed Eugenius from the popedom, and substituted Amadeus in his place? Do their utmost, they cannot deny that that Council was legitimate as far as regards external forms, and was summoned not only by one Pontiff, but by two. Eugenius, with the whole herd of cardinals and bishops who had joined him in plotting the dissolution of the Council, was there condemned of contumacy, rebellion, and schism. Afterwards, however, aided by the favour of princes, he got back his popedom safe. The election of Amadeus, duly made by the authority of a general holy synod, went to smoke; only he himself was appeased with a cardinal's cap, like a piece of offal thrown to a barking dog. Out of the lap of these rebellious and contumacious schismatics proceeded all future popes, cardinals, bishops, abbots, and presbyters. Here they are caught, and cannot escape. For, on which party will they bestow the name of Church? Will they deny it to have been a general Council, though it lacked nothing as regards external majesty, having been solemnly called by two bulls, consecrated by the legate of the Roman See as its president, constituted regularly in all respects, and continuing in possession of all its honours to the last? Will they admit that Eugenius, and his whole train, through whom they have all been consecrated, were schismatical? Let them, then, either define the form of the Church differently, or, however numerous they are, we will hold them all to be schismatics in having knowingly and willingly received ordination from heretics. But had it never been discovered before that the Church is not tied to external pomp, we are furnished with a lengthened proof in their own conduct, in proudly vending themselves to the world under the specious title of Church, notwithstanding that they are the deadly pests of the Church. I speak not of their manners and of those tragical atrocities with which their whole life teems, since it is said that they are Pharisees who should be heard, not imitated. By devoting some portion of your leisure to our writings, you will see, not obscurely, that their doctrine--the very doctrine to which they say it is owing that they are the Church--is a deadly murderer of souls, the firebrand, ruin, and destruction of the Church.
7. Lastly, they are far from candid when they invidiously number up the disturbances, tumults, and disputes, which the preaching of our doctrine has brought in its train, and the fruits which, in many instances, it now produces; for the doctrine itself is undeservedly charged with evils which ought to be ascribed to the malice of Satan. It is one of the characteristics of the divine word, that whenever it appears, Satan ceases to slumber and sleep. This is the surest and most unerring test for distinguishing it from false doctrines which readily betray themselves, while they are received by all with willing ears, and welcomed by an applauding world. Accordingly, for several ages, during which all things were immersed in profound darkness, almost all mankind  were mere jest and sport to the god of this world, who, like any Sardanapalus, idled and luxuriated undisturbed. For what else could he do but laugh and sport while in tranquil and undisputed possession of his kingdom? But when light beaming from above somewhat dissipated the darkness--when the strong man arose and aimed a blow at his kingdom--then, indeed, he began to shake off his wonted torpor, and rush to arms. And first he stirred up the hands of men, that by them he might violently suppress the dawning truth; but when this availed him not, he turned to snares, exciting dissensions and disputes about doctrine by means of his Catabaptists, and other portentous miscreants, that he might thus obscure, and, at length, extinguish the truth. And now he persists in assailing it with both engines, endeavouring to pluck up the true seed by the violent hand of man, and striving, as much as in him lies, to choke it with his tares, that it may not grow and bear knit. But it will be in vain, if we listen to the admonition of the Lord, who long ago disclosed his wiles, that we might not be taken unawares, and armed us with full protection against all his machinations. But how malignant to throw upon the word of God itself the blame either of the seditions which wicked men and rebels, or of the sects which impostors stir up against it! The example, however, is not new. Elijah was interrogated whether it were not he that troubled Israel. Christ was seditious, according to the Jews; and the apostles were charged with the crime of popular commotion. What else do those who, in the present day, impute to us all the disturbances, tumults, and contentions which break out against us? Elijah, however, has taught us our answer (1 Kings 18:17, 18). It is not we who disseminate errors or stir up tumults, but they who resist the mighty power of God.
But while this single answer is sufficient to rebut the rash charges of these men, it is necessary, on the other hand, to consult for the weakness of those who take the alarm at such scandals, and not unfrequently waver in perplexity. But that they may not fall away in this perplexity, and forfeit their good degree, let them know that the apostles in their day experienced the very things which now befall us. There were then unlearned and unstable men who, as Peter tells us (2 Pet. 3:16), wrested the inspired writings of Paul to their own destruction. There were despisers of God, who, when they heard that sin abounded in order that grace might more abound, immediately inferred, "We will continue in sin that grace may abound" (Rom. 6:1); when they heard that believers were not under the law, but under grace, forthwith sung out, "We will sin because we are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:15). There were some who charged the apostle with being the minister of sin. Many false prophets entered in privily to pull down the churches which he had reared. Some preached the gospel through envy and strife, not sincerely (Phil. 1:15)--maliciously even--thinking to add affliction to his bonds. Elsewhere the gospel made little progress. All sought their own, not the things which were Jesus Christ's. Others went back like the dog to his vomit, or the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. Great numbers perverted their spiritual freedom to carnal licentiousness. False brethren crept in to the imminent danger of the faithful. Among the brethren themselves various quarrels arose. What, then, were the apostles to do? Were they either to dissemble for the time, or rather lay aside and abandon that gospel which they saw to be the seed--bed of so many strifes, the source of so many perils, the occasion of so many scandals? In straits of this kind, they remembered that "Christ was a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence," "set up for the fall and rising again of many," and "for a sign to be spoken against" (Luke 2:34); and, armed with this assurance, they proceeded boldly through all perils from tumults and scandals. It becomes us to be supported by the same consideration, since Paul declares that it is a neverfailing characteristic of the gospel to be a "savour of death unto death in them that perish" (2 Cor. 2:16), although rather destined to us for the purpose of being a savour of life unto life, and the power of God for the salvation of believers. This we should certainly experience it to be, did we not by our ingratitude corrupt this unspeakable gift of God, and turn to our destruction what ought to be our only saving defence.
But to return, Sire. Be not moved by the absurd insinuations with which our adversaries are striving to frighten you into the belief that nothing else is wished and aimed at by this new gospel (for so they term it), than opportunity for sedition and impunity for all kinds of vice. Our God  is not the author of division, but of peace; and the Son of God, who came to destroy the works of the devil, is not the minister of sin. We, too, are undeservedly charged with desires of a kind for which we have never given even the smallest suspicion. We, forsooth, meditate the subversion of kingdoms; we, whose voice was never heard in faction, and whose life, while passed under you, is known to have been always quiet and simple; even now, when exiled from our home, we nevertheless cease not to pray for all prosperity to your person and your kingdom. We, forsooth, are aiming after an unchecked indulgence in vice, in whose manners, though there is much to be blamed, there is nothing which deserves such an imputation; nor (thank God) have we profited so little in the gospel that our life may not be to these slanderers an example of chastity, kindness, pity, temperance, patience, moderation, or any other virtue. It is plain, indeed, that we fear God sincerely, and worship him in truth, since, whether by life or by death, we desire his name to be hallowed; and hatred herself has been forced to bear testimony to the innocence and civil integrity of some of our people on whom death was inflicted for the very thing which deserved the highest praise. But if any, under pretext of the gospel, excite tumults (none such have as yet been detected in your realm), if any use the liberty of the grace of God as a cloak for licentiousness (I know of numbers who do), there are laws and legal punishments by which they may be punished up to the measure of their deserts--only, in the mean time, let not the gospel of God be evil spoken of because of the iniquities of evil men.
Sire, That you may not lend too credulous an ear to the accusations of our enemies, their virulent injustice has been set before you at sufficient length; I fear even more than sufficient, since this preface has grown almost to the bulk of a full apology. My object, however, was not to frame a defence, but only with a view to the hearing of our cause, to mollify your mind, now indeed turned away and estranged from us--I add, even inflamed against us--but whose good will, we are confident, we should regain, would you but once, with calmness and composure, read this our Confession, which we desire your Majesty to accept instead of a defence. But if the whispers of the malevolent so possess your ear, that the accused are to have no opportunity of pleading their cause; if those vindictive furies, with your connivance, are always to rage with bonds, scourgings, tortures, maimings, and burnings, we, indeed, like sheep doomed to slaughter, shall be reduced to every extremity; yet so that, in our patience, we will possess our souls, and wait for the strong hand of the Lord, which, doubtless, will appear in its own time, and show itself armed, both to rescue the poor from affliction, and also take vengeance on the despisers, who are now exulting so securely.
Most illustrious King, may the Lord, the King of kings, establish your throne in righteousness, and your sceptre in equity.
Basle, 1st August 1536.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 121My Help Comes from the LORD
121 A Song Of Ascents.
121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
CHAPTER XIII | An Account of the Life of John Calvind,This reformer was born at Noyon in Picardy, July 10, 1509. He was instructed in grammar, learning at Paris under Maturinus Corderius, and studied philosophy in the College of Montaign under a Spanish professor.
His father, who discovered many marks of his early piety, particularly in his reprehensions of the vices of his companions, designed him at first for the Church, and got him presented, May 21, 1521, to the chapel of Notre Dame de la Gesine, in the Church of Noyon. In 1527 he was presented to the rectory of Marseville, which he exchanged in 1529 for the rectory of Point l'Eveque, near Noyon. His father afterward changed his resolution, and would have him study law; to which Calvin, who, by reading the Scriptures, had conceived a dislike to the superstitions of popery, readily consented, and resigned the chapel of Gesine and the rectory of Pont l'Eveque, in 1534. He made a great progress in that science, and improved no less in the knowledge of divinity by his private studies. At Bourges he applied to the Greek tongue, under the direction of Professor Wolmar.
His father's death having called him back to Noyon, he stayed there a short time, and then went to Paris, where a speech of Nicholas Cop, rector of the University of Paris, of which Calvin furnished the materials, having greatly displeased the Sorbonne and the parliament, gave rise to a persecution against the Protestants, and Calvin, who narrowly escaped being taken in the College of Forteret, was forced to retire to Xaintonge, after having had the honor to be introduced to the queen of Navarre, who had raised this first storm against the Protestants.
Calvin returned to Paris in 1534. This year the reformed met with severe treatment, which determined him to leave France, after publishing a treatise against those who believed that departed souls are in a kind of sleep. He retired to Basel, where he studied Hebrew: at this time he published his Institutions of the Christian Religion; a work well adapted to spread his fame, though he himself was desirous of living in obscurity. It is dedicated to the French king, Francis I. Calvin next wrote an apology for the Protestants who were burnt for their religion in France. After the publication of this work, Calvin went to Italy to pay a visit to the duchess of Ferrara, a lady of eminent piety, by whom he was very kindly received.
From Italy he came back to France, and having settled his private affairs, he proposed to go to Strassburg or Basel, in company with his sole surviving brother, Antony Calvin; but as the roads were not safe on account of the war, except through the duke of Savoy's territories, he chose that road. "This was a particular direction of Providence," says Bayle; "it was his destiny that he should settle at Geneva, and when he was wholly intent upon going farther, he found himself detained by an order from heaven, if I may so speak."
At Geneva, Calvin therefore was obliged to comply with the choice which the consistory and magistrates made of him, with the consent of the people, to be one of their ministers, and professor of divinity. He wanted to ujndertake only this last office, and not the other; but in the end he was obliged to take both upon him, in August, 1536. The year following, he made all the people declare, upon oath, their assent to the confession of faith, which contained a renunciation of popery. He next intimated that he could not submit to a regulation which the canton of Berne had lately made. WShereupon the syndics of Geneva summoned an assembly of the people; and it was ordered that Calvin, Farel, and another minister should leave the town in a few days, for refusing to administer the Sacrament.
Calvin retired to Strassburg, and established a French church in that city, of which he was the first minister: he was also appointed to be professor of divinity there. Meanwhile the people of Geneva entreated him so earnestly to return to them that at last he consented, and arrived September 13, 1541, to the great satisfaction both of the people and the magistrates; and the first thing he did, after his arrival, was to establish a form of church discipline, and a consistorial jurisdiction, invested with power of inflicting censures and canonical punishments, as far as excommunication, inclusively.
It has long been the delight of both infidels and some professed Christians, when they wish to bring odium upon the opinions of Calvin, to refer to his agency in the death of Michael Servetus. This action is used on all occasions by those who have been unable to overthrow his opinions, as a conclusive argument against his whole system. "Calvin burnt Servetus!--Calvin burnt Servetus!" is a good proof with a certain class of reasoners, that the doctrine of the Trinity is not true-that divine sovereignty is Antiscriptural,--and Christianity a cheat.
We have no wish to palliate any act of Calvin's which is manifestly wrong. All his proceedings, in relation to the unhappy affair of Servetus, we think, cannot be defended. Still it should be remembered that the true principles of religious toleration were very little understood in the time of Calvin. All the other reformers then living approved of Calvin's conduct. Even the gentle and amiable Melancthon expressed himself in relation to this affair, in the following manner. In a letter addressed to Bullinger, he says, "I have read your statement respecting the blasphemy of Servetus, and praise your piety and judgment; and am persuaded that the Council of Geneva has done right in putting to death this obstinate man, who would never have ceased his blasphemies. I am astonished that any one can be found to disapprove of this proceeding." Farel expressly says, that "Servetus deserved a capital punishment." Bucer did not hesitate to declare, that "Servetus deserved something worse than death."
The truth is, although Calvin had some hand in the arrest and imprisonment of Servetus, he was unwilling that he should be burnt at all. "I desire," says he, "that the severity of the punishment should be remitted." "We wndeavored to commute the kind of death, but in vain." "By wishing to mitigate the severity of the punishment," says Farel to Calvin, "you discharge the office of a friend towards your greatest enemy." "That Calvin was the instigator of the magistrates that Servetus might be burned," says Turritine, "historians neither anywhere affirm, nor does it appear from any considerations. Nay, it is certain, that he, with the college of pastors, dissuaded from that kind of punishment."
It has been often asserted, that Calvin possessed so much influence with the magistrates of Geneva that he might have obtained the release of Servetus, had he not been desirous of his destruction. This however, is not true. So far from it, that Calvin was himself once banished from Geneva, by these very magistrates, and often opposed their arbitrary measures in vain. So little desirous was Calvin of procuring the death of Servetus that he warned him of his danger, and suffered him to remain several weeks at Geneva, before he was arrested. But his language, which was then accounted blasphemous, was the cause of his imprisonment. When in prison, Calvin visited him, and used every argument to persuade him to retract his horrible blasphemies, without reference to his peculiar sentiments. This was the extent of Calvin's agency in this unhappy affair.
It cannot, however, be denied, that in this instance, Calvin acted contrary to the benignant spirit of the Gospel. It is better to drop a tear over the inconsistency of human nature, and to bewail those infirmities which cannot be justified. He declared he acted conscientiously, and publicly justified the act.
It was the opinion, that erroneous religious principles are punishable by the civil magistrate, that did the mischief, whether at Geneva, in Transylvania, or in Britain; and to this, rather than to Trinitarianism, or Unitarianism, it ought to be imputed.
After the death of Luther, Calvin exerted great sway over the men of that notable period. He was influential in France, Italy, Germany, Holland, England, and Scotland. Two thousand one hundred and fifty reformed congregations were organized, receiving from him their preachers.
Calvin, triumphant over all his enemies, felt his death drawing near. Yet he continued to exert himself in every way with youthful energy. When about to lie down in rest, he drew up his will, saying: "I do testify that I live and purpose to die in this faith which God has given me through His Gospel, and that I have no other dependence for salvation than the free choice which is made of me by Him. With my whole heart I embrace His mercy, through which all my sins are covered, for Christ's sake, and for the sake of His death and sufferings. According to the measure of grace granted unto me, I have taught this pure, simple Word, by sermons, by deeds, and by expositions of this Scripture. In all my battles with the enemies of the truth I have not used sophistry, but have fought the good fight squarely and directly."
May 27, 1564, was the day of his release and blessed journey home. He was in his fifty-fifth year.
That a man who had acquired so great a reputation and such an authority, should have had but a salary of one hundred crowns, and refuse to accept more; and after living fifty-five years with the utmost frugality should leave but three hundred crowns to his heirs, including the value of his library, which sold very dear, is something so heroical, that one must have lost all feeling not to admire. When Calvin took his leave of Strassburg, to return to Geneva, they wanted to continue to him the privileges of a freeman of their town, and the revenues of a prebend, which had been assigned to him; the former he accepted, but absolutely refused the other. He carried one of the brothers with him to Geneva, but he never took any pains to get him preferred to an honorable post, as any other possessed of his credit would have done. He took care indeed of the honor of his brother's family, by getting him freed from an adultress, and obtaining leave to him to marry again; but even his enemies relate that he made him learn the trade of a bookbinder, which he followed all his life after.
Calvin as a Friend of Civil LibertyThe Rev. Dr. Wisner, in his late discourse at Plymouth, on the anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims, made the following assertion: "Much as the name of Calvin has been scoffed at and loaded with reproach by many sons of freedom, there is not an historical proposition more susceptible of complete demonstration than this, that no man has lived to whom the world is under greater obligations for the freedom it now enjoys, than John Calvin."
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Confessions of a secret sinner (1)
11/17/2017 Bob Gass
‘You can’t hide behind a religious mask…sooner or later the mask will slip.’
(Lk 12:2) 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. ESV
Inspirational speaker and author Julie Ann Barnhill writes: ‘I tend to be a stealthy sinner – a cloistered screw-up. Most of my life I’ve managed to fly under the radar…to keep 99.9 per cent of such things hidden. As someone who attended church and appeared to manage a happy family, I avoided glaring attention to the shadow-side of my life – but at great cost. Lying about my spending led to financial problems in my marriage. Covetousness robbed me of friendships and contentment. The teenage anger that sent me reeling in fits of self-mutilation, exploded years later in outbursts of abusive anger towards my children. And when alcohol beckoned during periods of loneliness and depression, I heeded its call. Maybe you’re thinking, “So, you’ve told us a few secrets from your life – they don’t compare to mine.” Seeing who has the most horrifying secret isn’t the point; we need to embrace the truth that we aren’t alone in our secret places…Confession for confession’s sake easily turns into tabloid moments like daytime talk shows. It’s not enough to spill the beans. Genuine confession leads to radical forgiveness that’s only available through Christ. It covers whatever we’ve done, no matter how bad it is. Jesus knows our secrets and they can never stop Him from loving us. They can, however, create a barrier between us and the shame-free life He desires for us. We confess our sins so we can find redemption, rescue, and eternal life. We share our secret places with trusted friends so we might know the reality of divine healing through flesh-and-blood relationships with those we love.’
1 Pet 1
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
“Bloody Mary” condemned over 300 people to be burned alive. She had been Queen of England for five years after her father Henry VIII. Upon her death, this day, November 17, 1558, her half-sister Elizabeth became Queen and ruled forty-five years, during which time Sir Francis Drake destroyed the Spanish Armada, Sir Walter Raleigh discovered Virginia and Shakespeare advanced theater. Regarding her epitaph, Queen Elizabeth stated: “I am no lover of pompous title, but only desire… a line or two, which shall express my name, my virginity, the years of my reign, [and] the reformation of religion under it.”American Minute
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
I was interested in the things you said about forgive us our trespasses. Often, to be sure, there is something definite for which to ask forgiveness. This is plain sailing. But, like you, I often find one or other of two less manageable states: either a vague feeling of guilt or a sly, and equally vague, self-approval. What are we to do with these?
Many modern psychologists tell us always to distrust this vague feeling of guilt, as something purely pathological. And if they had stopped at that, I might believe them. But when they go on, as some do, to apply the same treatment to all guilt-feelings whatever, to suggest that one's feeling about a particular unkind act or a particular insincerity is also an equally untrustworthy- I can’t help thinking they are talking nonsense. One sees this the moment one looks at other people. I have talked to some who felt guilt when they jolly well ought to have felt it; they have behaved like brutes and know it. I've also met others who felt guilty and weren't guilty by any standard I can apply. And thirdly, I've met people who were guilty and didn't seem to feel guilt. And isn't this what we should expect? People can be malades imaginaires who are well and think they are ill; and others, especially consumptives, are ill and think they are well; and thirdly-far the largest class-people are ill and know they are ill. It would be very odd if there were any region in which all mistakes were in one direction.
Some Christians would tell us to go on rummaging and scratching till we find something specific. We may be sure, they say, that there are real sins enough to justify the guilt feeling or to overthrow the feeling that all is well. I think they are right in saying that if we hunt long enough we shall find, or think we have found, something. But that is just what wakens suspicion. A theory which could never by any experience be falsified can for that reason hardly be verified. And just as, when we are yielding to temptation, we make ourselves believe that what we have always thought a sin will on this occasion, for some strange reason, not be a sin, shan't we persuade ourselves that something we have always (rightly) thought to be innocent was really wrong? We may create scruples. And scruples are always a bad thing -if only because they usually distract us from real duties.
I don't at all know whether I'm right or not, but I have, on the whole, come to the conclusion that one can't directly do anything about either feeling. One is not to believe either indeed, how can one believe a fog? I come back to St. John: "if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart." And equally, if our heart flatter us, God is greater than our heart. I sometimes pray not for self-knowledge in general but for just so much self-knowledge at the moment as I can bear and use at the moment; the little daily dose.
Have we any reason to suppose that total self-knowledge, if it were given us, would be for our good? Children and fools, we are told, should never look at half-done work; and we are not yet, I trust, even half-done. You and I wouldn't, at all stages, think it wise to tell a pupil exactly what we thought of his quality. It is much more important that he should know what to do next.
If one said this in public one would have all the Freudians on one’s back. And, mind you, we are greatly indebted to them. They did expose the cowardly evasions of really useful self-knowledge which we had all been practicing from the beginning of the world. But there is also a merely morbid and fidgety curiosity about one's self-the slop-over from modern psychology-which surely does no good? The unfinished picture would so like to jump off the easel and have a look at itself! And analysis doesn't cure that. We all know people who have undergone it and seem to have made them selves a lifelong subject of research ever since.
If I am right, the conclusion is that when our conscience won't come down to brass-tacks but will only vaguely accuse or vaguely approve, we must say to it, like Herbert, "Peace, prattler"-and get on.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
What is the mark of a Christian? That he be purified of all defilement of the flesh and of the spirit in the Blood of Christ, perfecting sanctification in the fear of God and the love of Christ, and that he have no blemish nor spot nor any such thing; that he be holy and blameless and so eat the Body of Christ and drink His Blood; for 'he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgement to himself.' What is the mark of those who eat the Bread and drink the Cup of Christ? That they keep in perpetual remembrance Him who died for us and rose again.
--- St. Basil the Great
A comprehended god is no god.
--- John Chrysostom
The modern ignorance is in people's assumption that they can outsmart their own nature. It is in the arrogance that will believe nothing that cannot be proved, and respect nothing it cannot understand, and value nothing it cannot sell . . . The next hard time is just as real to him as the last, and so is the next blessing. The new ignorance is the same as the old, only less aware that ignorance is the same as the old, only less aware that ignorance is what it is. It is less humble, more foolish and frivolous, more dangerous. A man, Old Jack thinks, has no choice but to be ignorant, but he does not have to be a fool. He can know his place, and he can stay in it and be faithful.
--- Wendell Berry
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
but he who trusts in ADONAI will prosper.
26 He who trusts in himself is a fool,
but he who lives by wisdom will escape.
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
By Myself have I sworn, said the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, … that in blessing I will bless thee.…
--- Genesis 22:15–19.
Abraham has reached the place where he is in touch with the very nature of God, he understands now the reality of God.
‘My goal is God Himself …
At any cost, dear Lord, by any road.’
‘At any cost, by any road’ means nothing self-chosen in the way God brings us to the goal.
There is no possibility of questioning when God speaks if He speaks to His own nature in me; prompt obedience is the only result. When Jesus says—“Come,” I simply come; when He says—“Let go,” I let go; when he says—“Trust in God in this matter,” I do trust. The whole working out is the evidence that the nature of God is in me.
God’s revelation of Himself to me is determined by my character, not by God’s character.
‘Tis because I am mean,
Thy ways so oft look mean to me.’
By the discipline of obedience I get to the place where Abraham was, and I see Who God is. I never have a real God until I have come face to face with Him in Jesus Christ, then I know that “in all the world, my God, there is none but Thee, there is none but Thee.”
The promises of God are of no value to us until by obedience we understand the nature of God. We read some things in the Bible three hundred and sixty-five times and they mean nothing to us; then all of a sudden we see what God means, because in some particular we have obeyed God, and instantly His nature is opened up. “All the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen.” The “yea” must be born of obedience; when by the obedience of our lives we say “Amen” to promise, then that promise is ours.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Plato offered us little
the Aristotelians did not
take back. Later Spinoza
rationalized our approach;
we were taught that love
is an intellectual mode
of our being. Yet Hume questioned
the very existence of lover
or loved. The self he left us
with was what Kant
failed to transcend or Hegel
to dissolve: that grey subject
of dread that Soren Kierkegaard
depicted crossing its thousands
of fathoms; the beast that rages
through history; that presides smiling
at the councils of the positivists.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Chapters twenty-five and twenty-six of the Guide argue that there is a common approach which many people adopt in their understanding of both nature and the law. Those who refuse to recognize causality in nature approach the law as solely embodying the will of God:
Just as there is disagreement among the men of speculation among the adherents of Law whether His works, may He be exalted, are consequent upon wisdom or upon the will alone without being intended toward any end at all, there is also the same disagreement among them regarding our Laws, which He has given to us. Thus there are people who do not seek for them any cause at all, saying that all Laws are consequent upon the will alone. There are also people who say that every commandment and prohibition in these Laws is consequent upon wisdom and aims at some end and that all Laws have causes and were given in view of some utility.
Maimonides accepted the view which sought to discover wisdom in the commandments. The qualitative difference between mishpatim and ḥukkim which Maimonides set down in his Eight Chapters is now presented as a difference between laws which are manifestly useful and laws whose usefulness can be discovered only after greater analysis and study:
In the case of some of them, it is clear to us in what way they are useful—as in the case of the prohibition of killing and stealing. In the case of others, their utility is not clear—as in the case of the interdiction of the “first products” [of trees] and of [sowing] “the vineyard with diverse seeds.” Those commandments whose utility is clear to the multitude are called mishpatim [judgments], and those whose utility is not clear to the multitude are called ḥukkim [statutes].
Before Maimonides explains how ḥukkim can be viewed as being useful, he suggests that further knowledge is necessary if the reader is to understand his explanations.
In chapter twenty-seven of the Guide Maimonides reiterates a theme that appears throughout his legal works, i.e., the two perfections of man: that of the soul and that of the body. The perfection of the soul is made possible by knowledge; the perfection of the body by the abolition of wrongdoing and the acquisition of moral qualities:
Know that as between these two aims, one is indubitably greater in nobility, namely, the welfare of the soul—I mean the procuring of correct opinions—while the second aim—I mean the welfare of the body—is prior in nature and time. The latter aim consists in the governance of the city and the well-being of the states of all its people according to their capacity. This second aim is the more certain one, and it is the one regarding which every effort has been made precisely to expound it and all its particulars. For the first aim can only be achieved after achieving this second one.
There is an interesting similarity between the above statement and the end of the fourth chapter of Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah in the Mishneh Torah. The law was precise and detailed not because Judaism was solely concerned with the historical well-being of community but, rather, because it realized that a healthy body politic is necessary for the unfolding of higher human capacities. In other words, messianism is a condition for olam ha-ba:
The true Law then, which as we have already made clear, is unique—namely, the Law of “Moses, our Master”—has come to bring us both perfections. I mean the welfare of the states of people in their relations with one another through the abolition of reciprocal wrongdoing and through the acquisition of a noble and excellent character. In this way the preservation of the population of the country and their permanent existence in the same order become possible, so that every one of them achieves his first perfection; I mean also the soundness of the beliefs and the giving of correct opinions through which ultimate perfection is achieved.
When he opened his eyes he could see nothing.
--- Acts 9:8.
There was a young man once, in Old Testament times, who was sorely frightened by an Assyrian army. The Afterglow of God: Sunday Evenings in a Glasgow Pulpit And the prophet, in pity for him, prayed to God, “Lord, open the young man’s eyes that he may see.” And when the eyes of that young man were opened, he saw a sight to make any coward brave, for the mountain was full of the chariots of the Lord. That is the fitting consequence of vision. It reveals to us what we never saw before. It shows us in common hearts unlooked-for things and in common scenes an undiscovered glory.
Suppose we think of the little frets of life, of the little pinpricks and unkindnesses that most people experience as they journey. There are folk who brood on such things as these until they practically see nothing else. They tend and water all their little grievances until their blossoms would take prizes at a show. And what I have noticed of such folk is that when through the mercy of God their eyes are opened, of all these little pinpricks they see nothing. Their eyes have been opened to what real suffering is. They were only playing before at being miserable. Their eyes have been opened to that larger life that is always given us in Christ. And the beautiful thing about that life is that worries that were overwhelming yesterday somehow have vanished so that we cannot see them in the love demonstrated on the cross. Every rock and ridge is clear and glistening in the Highland brook when it is low. But when the summer rain falls or the winter snow, then they become invisible. And I have found it so in many people’s lives when a new tide of being has possessed them. Things that were sharp and hard and hurt yesterday, somehow have become invisible today.
--- George H. Morrison
C. H. Mason
Charles H. Mason was born outside Memphis near the end of the Civil War to Jerry and Eliza Mason, freed slaves. Eliza prayed earnestly that her son would be dedicated to God. The child soaked up those prayers and was soon joining his mother at the throne of grace, asking for faith like that of the old slaves and of his parents.
When Charles was 12, yellow fever broke out in the area. The Masons packed their scant belongings and quickly moved to Plumersville, Arkansas, where they became tenant farmers on a swampy plantation. The plague followed them, took Jerry’s life, and, wrapping its deadly tentacles around young Charles, laid him low with chills and fever. His death seemed certain. But early one Sunday Morning “the glory of God appeared to Charles as never before,” as his wife later put it. “Being instantly healed by the divine presence, (he) got out of bed and walked outside all by himself. There under the Morning skies, he prayed and praised God for his healing. During these moments, (he) renewed his commitment to God.” Meanwhile his mother, who had risen to check on him, was astonished to find his bed empty. She discovered him outdoors, trotting and skipping and shouting, “Glory to God! Hallelujah! Praise his holy name!”
Not surprisingly, C. H. Mason grew up to become a preacher, but his holiness message rankled fellow Baptists. One day while walking down a street in Little Rock pondering 1 Thessalonians 2:14, a name came to mind: The Church of God in Christ. Mason and the Baptists parted company, and he began organizing his like-minded brethren into a new group. Between 1897 and 1906, the fledgling organization grew in fits and starts. Then in 1907, at the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, Mason received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He returned home with dramatic zeal, and the young denomination was reorganized and enflamed.
The Church of God in Christ was the first major denomination to emerge from the ardor of Azusa Street, and by Mason’s death on November 17, 1961, it was among America’s largest Pentecostal denominations.
We always thank God that you believed the message we preached. It came from him, and it isn’t something made up by humans. You accepted it as God’s message, and now he is working in you. My friends, you did just like God’s churches in Judea and like the other followers of Christ Jesus there.
--- 1 Thessalonians 2:13,14a.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 17
“To whom be glory for ever. Amen” --- Romans 11:36.
“To whom be glory for ever.” This should be the single desire of the Christian. All other wishes must be subservient and tributary to this one. The Christian may wish for prosperity in his business, but only so far as it may help him to promote this—“To him be glory for ever.” He may desire to attain more gifts and more graces, but it should only be that “To him may be glory for ever.” You are not acting as you ought to do when you are moved by any other motive than a single eye to your Lord’s glory. As a Christian, you are “of God, and through God,” then live “to God.” Let nothing ever set your heart beating so mightily as love to him. Let this ambition fire your soul; be this the foundation of every enterprise upon which you enter, and this your sustaining motive whenever your zeal would grow chill; make God your only object. Depend upon it, where self begins sorrow begins; but if God be my supreme delight and only object,
“To me ’tis equal whether love ordain
My life or death—appoint me ease or pain.”
Let your desire for God’s glory be a growing desire. You blessed him in your youth, do not be content with such praises as you gave him then. Has God prospered you in business? Give him more as he has given you more. Has God given you experience? Praise him by stronger faith than you exercised at first. Does your knowledge grow? Then sing more sweetly. Do you enjoy happier times than you once had? Have you been restored from sickness, and has your sorrow been turned into peace and joy? Then give him more music; put more coals and more sweet frankincense into the censer of your praise. Practically in your life give him honour, putting the “Amen” to this doxology to your great and gracious Lord, by your own individual service and increasing holiness.
Evening - November 17
“He that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.” --- Ecclesiastes 10:9.
Oppressors may get their will of poor and needy men as easily as they can split logs of wood, but they had better mind, for it is a dangerous business, and a splinter from a tree has often killed the woodman. Jesus is persecuted in every injured saint, and he is mighty to avenge his beloved ones. Success in treading down the poor and needy is a thing to be trembled at: if there be no danger to persecutors here there will be great danger hereafter.
To cleave wood is a common every-day business, and yet it has its dangers; so then, reader, there are dangers connected with your calling and daily life which it will be well for you to be aware of. We refer not to hazards by flood and field, or by disease and sudden death, but to perils of a spiritual sort. Your occupation may be as humble as log splitting, and yet the devil can tempt you in it. You may be a domestic servant, a farm labourer, or a mechanic, and you may be greatly screened from temptations to the grosser vices, and yet some secret sin may do you damage. Those who dwell at home, and mingle not with the rough world, may yet be endangered by their very seclusion. Nowhere is he safe who thinks himself so. Pride may enter a poor man’s heart; avarice may reign in a cottager’s bosom; uncleanness may venture into the quietest home; and anger, and envy, and malice may insinuate themselves into the most rural abode. Even in speaking a few words to a servant we may sin; a little purchase at a shop may be the first link in a chain of temptations; the mere looking out of a window may be the beginning of evil. O Lord, how exposed we are! How shall we be secured! To keep ourselves is work too hard for us: only thou thyself art able to preserve us in such a world of evils. Spread thy wings over us, and we, like little chickens, will cower down beneath thee, and feel ourselves safe!
FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH
Folliott S. Pierpoint, 1835–1917
Whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
One of the delights that we as adults have in being around children is to hear their squeals of pleasure as they observe and discover some ordinary object about them. No doubt our heavenly Father is also pleased when His children take time to observe and appreciate His creation and then to simply express joyous gratitude to Him for His countless blessings. Today’s hymn reminds us of the common blessings of life that many of us often take for granted—the beauties of nature, our parents, family, friends, church. The lyrics then direct our “grateful praise” to God Himself, the giver of every good and perfect gift.
Not much is known about Folliott Sandford Pierpoint, author of this lovely text. He was born in the intriguing old town of Bath, England. Even today Bath is most interesting and lovely, nestled in the hills surrounding this ancient city. Here one can still view the large pools of natural mineral baths for which the town was named. The inspiration for this hymn text is said to have come to this young author as he was strolling about his native town one day in the late spring, entranced by the beautiful countryside with the winding Avon River in the distance. His heart no doubt swelled up within him as he enjoyed the beauties of God’s creation—the sun, the flowers, the shining stars. Pierpoint also recalled his social blessings—friends and home—those relationships that bring such enriching dimensions to our lives. Above all, however, were the spiritual blessings as represented by the Church—God’s chosen agency for accomplishing His divine purposes in the world. Each of these blessings is then directed to God with a “hymn of grateful praise.”
For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies: CHRIST OUR GOD, TO THEE WE RAISE THIS OUR HYMN OF GRATEFUL PRAISE!
For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child, friends on earth and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild: CHRIST OUR GOD, TO THEE WE RAISE THIS OUR HYMN OF GRATEFUL PRAISE!
For Thy Church that evermore lifteth holy hands above, off’ring up on ev’ry shore her pure sacrifice of love: CHRIST OUR GOD, TO THEE WE RAISE THIS OUR HYMN OF GRATEFUL PRAISE!
For Today: Psalm 9:1, 2; 69:30, 31; 107:21, 22; John 1:3; James 1:17
Determine to fill your mind with things that are pure … Sing this musical prayer to the One who has made it all possible ---
(2.) Hence it follows, that an act, as an act, is one thing, and the viciousness another. The action is the efficacy of the faculty,
extending itself to some outward object; but the sinfulness of an act consists in a privation of that comeliness and righteousness which ought to be in an action; in a want of conformity of the act with the law of God, either written in nature, or revealed in the Word. Now, the sinfulness of an action is not the act itself, but is considered in it as it is related to the law, and is a deviation from it; and so it is something cleaving to the action, and therefore to be distinguished from the act itself, which is the subject of the sinfulness. When we say such an action is sinful, the action is the subject, and the sinfulness of the action is that which adheres to it. The action is not the sinfulness, nor the sinfulness the action; they are distinguished as the member, and a disease in the member, the arm and the palsy in it: the arm is not the palsy, nor is the palsy the arm; but the palsy is a disease that cleaves to the arm: so sinfulness is a deformity that cleaves to an action. The evil of an action is not the effect of an action, nor attends it as it is an action, but as it is an action so circumstantiated, and conversant about this or that object; for the same action done by two several persons, may be good in one, and bad in the other; as when two judges are in joint commission for the trial of a malefactor, both upon the appearance of his guilt condemn him. This action in both, considered as an action, is good; for it is an adjudging a man to death, whose crime deserves such a punishment. But this same act, which is but one joint act of both, may be morally good in one judge, and morally evil in the other: morally good in him that condemns him out of an unbiassed consideration of the demerit of his fact, obedience to the law, and conscious of the duty of his place; and morally evil in the other, who hath no respect to those considerations, but joins in the act of condemnation, principally moved by some private animosity against the prisoner, and desire of revenge for some injury he hath really received, or imagines that he hath received from him. The act in itself is the same materially in both; but in one it is an act of justice, and in the other an act of murder, as it respects the principles and motives of it in the two judges; take away the respect of private revenge, and the action in the ill judge had been as laudable as the action of the other. The substance of an act, and the sinfulness of an act, are separable and distinguishable; and God may concur with the substance of an act, without concurring with the sinfulness of the act: as the good judge, that condemned the prisoner out of conscience, concurred with the evil judge, who condemned the prisoner out of private revenge; not in the principle and motive of condemnation, but in the material part of condemnation. So God assists in that action of a man wherein sin is placed, but not in that which is the formal reason of sin, which is a privation of some perfection the action ought morally to have.
(3.) It will appear further in this, that hence it follows that the action, and the viciousness of the action, may have two distinct causes. That may be a cause of the one that is not the cause of the other, and hath no hand in the producing of it. God concurs to the act of the mind as it counsels, and to the external action upon that counsel, as he preserves the faculty, and gives strength to the mind to consult, and the other parts to execute; yet he is not in the least tainted with the viciousness of the action. Though the action be from God as a concurrent cause, yet the ill quality of the action is solely from the creature with whom God concurs. The sun and the earth concur to the production of all the plants that are formed in the womb of the one, and midwifed by the other. The sun distributes heat, and the earth communicates sap; it is the same heat dispersed by the one, and the same juice bestowed by the other: it hath not a sweet juice for one, and a sour juice for another. This general influx of the sun and earth is not the immediate cause that one plant is poisonous, and another wholesome; but the sap of the earth is turned by the nature and quality of each plant: if there were not such an influx of the sun and earth, no plant could exert that poison which is in its nature; but yet the sun and earth are not the cause of that poison which is in the nature of the plant. If God did not concur to the motions of men, there could be no sinful action, because there could be no action at all; yet this concurrence is not the cause of that venom that is in the action, which ariseth from the corrupt nature of the creature, no more than the sun and earth are the cause of the poison of the plant, which is purely the effect of its own nature upon that general influx of the sun and earth. The influence of God pierceth through all subjects; but the action of man done by that influence is vitiated according to the nature of its own corruption. As the sun equally shines through all the quarrels in the window; if the glass be bright and clear, there is a pure splendor; if it be red or green, the splendor is from the sun; but the discoloring of that light upon the wall, is from the quality of the glass. But to be yet plainer: the soul is the image of God, and by the acts of the soul, we may come to the knowledge of the acts of God; the soul gives motion to the body and every member of it, and no member could move without a concurrent virtue of the soul; if a member be paralytic or gouty, whatsoever motion that gouty member hath, is derived to it from the soul; but the goutiness of the member was not the act of the soul, but the fruit of ill humors in the body; the lameness of the member, and the motion of the member, have two distinct causes; the motion is from one cause, and ill motion from another. As the member could not move irregularly without some ill humor or cause of that distemper, so it could not move at all without the activity of the soul: so, though God concur to the act of understanding, willing, and execution, why can he not be as free from the irregularity in all those, as the soul is free from the irregularity of the motion of the body, while it is the cause of the motion itself? There are two illustrations generally used in this case, that are not unfit; the motion of the pen in writing is from the hand that holds it, but the blurs by the pen are from some fault in the pen itself: and the music of the instrument is from the hand that touches it, but the jarring from the faultiness of the strings; both are the causes of the motion of the pen and strings, but not the blurs or jarrings.
(4). It is very congruous to the wisdom of God, to move his creatures according to their particular natures; but this motion makes him not the cause of sin. Had our innocent nature continued, God had moved us according to that innocent nature; but when the state was changed for a corrupt one, God must either forbear all concourse, and so annihilate the world, or move us according to that nature he finds in us. If he had overthrown the world upon the entrance of sin, and created another upon the same terms, sin might have as soon defaced his second work, as it did the first; and then it would follow, that God would have been alway building and demolishing. It was not fit for God to cease from acting as a wise governor of his creature, because man did cease from his loyalty as a subject. Is it not more agreeable to God’s wisdom as a governor, to concur with his creature according to his nature, than to deny his concurrence upon every evil determination of the creature? God concurred with Adam’s mutable nature in his first act of sin; he concurred to the act, and left him to his mutability. If Adam had put out his hand to eat of any other unforbidden fruit, God would have supported his natural faculty then, and concurred with him in his motion. When Adam would put out his hand to take the forbidden fruit, God concurred to that natural action, but left him to the choice of the object, and to the use of his mutable nature and when man became apostate, God concurs with him according to that condition wherein he found him, and cannot move him otherwise, unless he should alter that nature man had contracted. God moving the creature as he found him, is no cause of the ill motion of the creature: as when a wheel is broken the space of a foot, it cannot but move ill in that part till it be mended. He that moves it, uses the same motion (as it is his act) which he would have done had the wheel been sound; the motion is good in the mover, but bad in the subject: it is not the fault of him that moves it, but the fault of that wheel that is moved, whose breaches came by some other cause. A man doth not use to lay aside his watch for some irregularity, as long as it is capable of motion, but winds it up: why should God cease from concurring with his creature in its vital operations and other actions of his will, because there was a flaw contracted in that nature, that came right and true out of his hand? And as he that winds up his disordered watch, is in the same manner the cause of its motion then, as he was when it was regular, yet, by that act of his, he is not the cause of the false motion of it, but that is from the deficiency of some part of the watch itself: so, though God concurs to that action of the creature, whereby the wickedness of the heart is drawn out, yet is not God therefore as unholy as the heart.
(5.) God hath one end in his concurrence, and man another in his action: so that there is a righteous, and often a gracious end in God, when there is a base and unworthy end in man. God concurs to the substance of the act; man produceth the circumstance of the act, whereby it is evil. God orders both the action wherein he concurs, and the sinfulness over which he presides, as a governor, to his own ends. In Joseph’s case, man was sinful, and God merciful; his brethren acted “envy,” and God designed “mercy” (Gen. 45:4, 5). They would be rid of him as an eye-sore, and God concurred with their action to make him their preserver (Gen. 1:20), “Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.” God concurred to Judas his action of betraying our Saviour; he supported his nature while he contracted with the priests , and supported his members while he was their guide to apprehend him; God’s end was the manifestation of his choicest love to man, and Judas’ end was the gratification of his own covetousness. The Assyrian did a divine work against Jerusalem, but not with a Divine end (Isa. 10:5–7). He had a mind to enlarge his empire, enrich his coffers with the spoil, and gain the title of a conqueror; he is desirous to invade his neighbors, and God employs him to punish his rebels; but he means not so, nor doth his heart think so; he intended not as God intended. The axe doth not think what the carpenter intends to do with it. But God used the rapine of ambitious nature as an instrument of his justice; as the exposing malefactors to wild beasts was an ancient punishment, whereby the magistrates intended the execution of justice, and to that purpose used the natural fierceness of the beasts to an end different from what those ravaging creatures aimed at. God concurred with Satan in spoiling Job of his goods, and scarifying his body; God gave Satan licence to do it, and Job acknowledges it to be God’s act (Job 1:12–21); but their ends were different; God concurred with Satan for the clearing the integrity of his servant, when Satan aimed at nothing but the provoking him to curse his Creator. The physician applies leeches to suck the superfluous blood, but the leeches suck to glut themselves, without any regard to the intention of the physician, and the welfare of the patient. In the same act where men intend to hurt, God intends to correct; so that his concurrence is in a holy manner, while men commit unrighteous actions. A judge commands the executioner to execute the sentence of death, which he hath justly pronounced against a malefactor, and admomsheth him to do it out of love to justice; the executioner hath the authority of the judge for his commission, and the protection of the judge for his security; the judge stands by to countenance and secure him in the doing of it; but if the executioner hath not the same intention as the judge, viz. a love to justice in the performance of his office, but a private hatred to the offender, the judge, though he commanded the fact of the executioner, yet did not command this error of his in it; and though he protects him in the fact, yet he owns not this corrupt disposition in him in the doing what was enjoined him, as any act of his own.
To conclude this. Since the creature cannot act without God, cannot lift up a hand, or move his tongue, without God’s preserving and upholding the faculty, and preserving the power of action, and preserving every member of the body in its actual motion, and in every circumstance of its motion, we must necessarily suppose God to have such a way of concurrence as doth not intrench upon his holiness. We must not equal the creature to God, by denying his dependence on him; nor must we imagine such a concurrence to the sinfulness of an act, as stains the Divine purity, which is, I think, sufficiently salved by distinguishing the matter of the act from the evil adhering to it; for since all evil is founded in some good, the evil is distinguishable from the good, and the deformity of the action from the action itself; which, as it is a created act, hath a dependence on the will and influence of God; and as it is a sinful act, is the product of the will of the creature.
Prop. VI. The holiness of God is not blemished by proposing objects to a man, which he makes use of to sin. There is no object proposed to man, but is directed by the providence of God, which influenceth all the motions in the world; and there is no object proposed to man, but his active nature may, according to the goodness or badness of his disposition, make a good or an ill use of: That two men, one of a charitable, the other of a hard-hearted disposition, meet with an indigent and necessitous object, is from the providence of God; yet this indigent person is relieved by the one, and neglected by the other. There could be no action in the world, but about some object; there could be no object offered to us but by Divine Providence; the active nature of man would be in vain, if there were not objects about which it might be exercised. Nothing could present itself to man as an object, either to excite his grace, or awaken his corruption, but by the conduct of the Governor of the world. That David should walk upon the battlements of his palace, and Bathsheba be in the bath at the same time, was from the Divine Providence which orders all the affairs of the world (2 Sam. 11:7); and so some understand (Jer. 6:21): “Thus saith the Lord, I will lay stumbling-blocks before this people, and the fathers and sons together shall fall upon them.” Since they have offered sacrifices without those due qualifications in their hearts, which were necessary to render them acceptable to me, I will lay in their way such objects, which their corruption will use ill to their farther sin and ruin; so (Psalm 105:25), “He turned their heart to hate his people;” that is , by the multiplying his people, he gave occasion to the Egyptians of hating them, instead of caressing them, as they had formerly done. But God’s holiness is not blemished by this; for,
1. This proposing or presenting of objects invades not the liberty of any man. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, set in the midst of the garden of Eden,—had no violent influence on man to force him to eat of it; his liberty to eat of it, or not, was reserved entire to himself; no such charge can be brought against any object whatsoever. If a man meet accidentally at a table with meat that is grateful to his palate, but hurtful to the present temper of his body, doth the presenting this sort of food to him strip him of his liberty to decline it, as well as to feed of it? Can the food have any internal influence upon his will, and lay the freedom of it asleep whether he will or no? Is there any charm in that, more than in other sorts of diet? No; but it is the habit of love which he hath to that particular dish, the curiosity of his fancy, and the strength of his own appetite, whereby he is brought into a kind of slavery to that particular meat, and not anything in the food itself. When the word is proposed to two persons, it is embraced by the one, rejected by the other; is it from the word itself, which is the object, that these two persons perform different acts? The object is the same to both, but the manner of acting about the object is not the same; is there any invasion of their liberty by it? Is the one forced by the word to receive it, and the other forced by the word to reject it? Two such contrary effects cannot proceed from one and the same cause; outward things have only an objective influence, not an inward; if the mere proposal of things did suspend or strike down the liberty of man, no angels in heaven, no man upon earth, no, not our Saviour himself; could do anything freely, but by force; objects that are ill used are of God’s creation, and though they have allurements in them, yet they have no compulsive power over the will. The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was pleasing to the sight; it had a quality to allure; there had not else needed a prohibition to bar the eating of it; but it could not have so much power to allure, as the Divine threatening to deter.
The Existence and Attributes of God