The Widow’s OfferingLuke 21 1 Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Jesus Foretells Destruction of the Temple5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” 7 And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” 8 And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. 9 And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”
Jesus Foretells Wars and Persecution10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.
Jesus Foretells Destruction of Jerusalem20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
The Coming of the Son of Man25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The Lesson of the Fig Tree29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Watch Yourselves34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
37 And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. 38 And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.
The Plot to Kill JesusLuke 22 1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.
Judas to Betray Jesus3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.
The Passover with the Disciples7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9 They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
Institution of the Lord’s Supper14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.
Who Is the Greatest?24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Scripture Must Be Fulfilled in Jesus35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
Peter Denies Jesus54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.
Jesus Is Mocked63 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. 64 They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 65 And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.
Jesus Before the Council66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, 67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I ask you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
What I'm Reading
How Churches in America’s Least Religious Region Talk About Sexuality
By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra 11/3/2016
Four Massachusetts churches filed a lawsuit against the state last month, arguing that public accommodation laws inhibit their religious practices. The Massachusetts legislature had added “gender identity” as a protected class, which the attorney general and state commission on discrimination interpreted to mean that churches must open bathroom facilities to people based on their self-identified gender identity.
The suit is the latest sally in an area widely acknowledged as the least religious in the country. Five of the six states that make up New England—Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut—sit at the bottom of Pew Research Group’s scale of most religious states. Two of them—New Hampshire and Massachusetts—are tied for dead last.
In other words, people living in the Northeast scored the lowest on believing in God, attending church, praying, and believing religion is very important. Only 9 percent of adults in Massachusetts belong to an evangelical denomination. Yet there are also signs of growth. The Southern Baptist Convention in particular has planted more than 115 New England churches—that’s one-third of its churches in the area—since 2010.
Allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify is the newest front in American culture’s conflict over sexuality. Beyond Target, the Obama administration told schools this summer that they can’t discriminate by gender identity; three months later, the order was put on hold by a federal court in Texas and then taken up by the Supreme Court. Last week, a lawsuit by an Iowa church was dropped after a judge clarified that churches were exempt from the state’s public bathroom anti-discrimination policy.
In New England, Does Anyone Care Anymore?
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra is senior writer for The Gospel Coalition and contributing editor at Christianity Today. She earned her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.
Killing the Canaanites: A Response to the New Atheism’s “Divine Genocide” Claims
By Clay Jones
The “new atheists” call God’s commands to kill the Canaanites “genocide,” but a closer look at the horror of the Canaanites’ sinfulness, exhibited in rampant idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality, reveals that God’s reason for commanding their death was not genocide but capital punishment. After all, the Old Testament unequivocally commands that those who do any one of these things deserves to die. Also, God made it clear in His conversation with Abraham regarding the Canaanite cities of Sodom and Gomorrah that He knows who would or would not repent, and in the case of those cities, not one person would heed the warning and even Lot’s family had to be forcibly pulled away from the coming destruction. In Leviticus 18 God then warns Israel that if they commit similar sins that the land would similarly “vomit” them out. Later when Israel disobeys God and allows the Canaanites to continue to live among them, the corruptive and seductive power of Canaanite sin results in the Canaanization of Israel. Subsequently, God sent prophets to warn Israel of their coming destruction, but they didn’t repent and God said that they became “like Sodom to me” and He visited destruction on Israel for committing the same sins. This again reveals that God’s motive isn’t genocide, but capital punishment. That we commit similar sins today renders us incapable of appropriate moral outrage against these sins and thus we accuse God of “genocide” to justify our own sinfulness.
Richard Dawkins and other new atheists herald God’s ordering of the destruction of Canaanite cities to be divine “ethnic cleansing” and “genocides.”1 With righteous indignation, Dawkins opines that the God of the Old Testament is “the most unpleasant character in all of fiction.”2 But was the killing of the Canaanites an example of divine genocide? If you think the Canaanites deserved to die because of their own wickedness, Dawkins will zealously compare you to acting like the Taliban.3 A closer look at several key facts will help explain God’s reason for the destruction of the Canaanites and reveal how our own sinfulness demonstrates our incapacity to judge rightly.
That atheists are incapable of judging spiritual matters leads some Christians to wonder why we even need to answer them at all, especially if they lack any objective, moral, or epistemological foundation for their claims. Moreover, most atheists do not customarily condemn the very practices that God condemns, for example, idolatry, adultery, and homosexuality. Predictably so, their values conflict with what God hates.
Concerning the destruction of the Canaanites, atheists especially like to exploit the Christian condemnation of genocide. They reason something along these lines: (1) Christians condemn genocide. (2) Yahweh’s command to kill the Canaanites was an act of divine genocide. (3) Therefore, Christians should condemn Yahweh for commanding genocide.
The second premise is false, however. Part of the goal of this essay is to offer evidence to show that God had good reason to command Israel to kill the Canaanites. In Leviticus 18 and elsewhere, for example, the Bible reveals that God punished the Canaanites for specific grievous evils. Also, this wasn’t the entire destruction of a race as God didn’t order that every Canaanite be killed but only those who lived within specific geographical boundaries (Josh. 1:4). Canaanite tribes (especially the Hittites) greatly exceeded the boundaries that Israel was told to conquer. And since, as we will see, He punished Israel when they committed the same sins, what happened to the Canaanites was not genocide, but capital punishment.
An Argument for God's Existence Based on Morality
In philosopher Stephen T. Davis's new book ISBN-13: 978-0830844746, he offers an argument for God's existence based on morality. He calls it "the genocide 1 argument for the existence of God." He writes:
"We can define genocide as the crime of intentionally destroying or trying to destroy an entire group of people, usually a racial, ethic, national or religious group. My argument presupposes moral objectivism-that is, the theory that certain things are morally right (things like compassion, truth telling and promise keeping) and that certain other things (things like lying, cruelty and murder) are morally wrong. It also assumes that genocide is one of the things that is morally wrong."2
The argument is as follows:
1. Genocide is a departure from the way that things ought to be.
2. If genocide is a departure from the way that things ought to be, then there is a way that things ought to be.
3. If there is a way that things ought to be, then there is a design plan for things.
4. If there is a design plan for things, then there is an author of the plan, a designer.
5. This designer we can call God.3
Davis goes on to explain:
8 Myths About China Today
By Joann Pittman 3/6/2012
In order to understand China today, it's helpful to understand this simple rule: nothing is as it seems. In fact, I would say this rule applies when observing and analyzing nearly all segments of life in China: politics, economy, social relationships, and even religion. To put it another way, whatever China seems to be at any given moment, it is in fact the opposite. This can be difficult for Westerners, because we tend to be dichotomist in our thinking, wanting something to be either this or that. We don't do well with this and that. Rob Gifford, in his book China Road, expresses well the confusion and bewilderment that await those engaged with China when he writes:
China messes with my head on a daily basis. One day I think that it is really going to take over the world and that the Chinese government is doing the most extraordinary thing the planet has ever witnessed. . . . The next day it will all seem built on sand and I expect it to all come tumbling down around us.
To illustrate this principle, I would like to highlight eight myths or misconceptions that abound regarding China today.
Myth #1: China is a communist country. | What I mean here by communism is a Communist or Marxist belief system. Although the Communist Party of China (CCP), with its 72 million members, remains firmly in power, the reality is that communism is no longer a unifying ideology. China today is essentially a consumer society. Every human being is hard-wired to want more stuff; the Chinese are no different. The economic reforms of the past 30 years have significantly raised the standard of living of most Chinese, and China's participation in the global economy means that anything can be purchased for a price. Most Chinese today are concerned with bettering their economic condition and/or accumulating wealth.
Myth #2: China is a capitalist country. | Capitalism here refers to a particular economic system where the means of production are in private hands. While private enterprise flourishes in China, many sectors remain under state control. These include key sectors such as education, media, resources, and transportation systems. The official line the Chinese use to describe their system is “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” When queried about this Chinese friends usually say, “It means capitalism, but we're still uncomfortable with the word.” What it really describes is a system where the economy is increasingly ordered along free market principles, but the political system remains authoritarian.
What It’s Really Like for China’s Urban Christians
By Brent Fulton 11/2/2016
By the end of the 1970s, many predicted Christianity in China was over. Mao Zedong’s decade-long Cultural Revolution, they insisted, had effectively wiped out Chinese Christianity.
They were wrong.
Today, the most conservative estimates place the number of Christians in China around 70 million, with other estimates claiming tens of millions more. And, as Brent Fulton notes in his book China’s Urban Christians: A Light that Cannot Be Hidden, the 500 million who have flocked to China’s cities over the last three decades are partly responsible for the astounding growth of Christianity in the country’s cultural and political centers.
Fulton—president of ChinaSource, an organization dedicated to offering the Christian community knowledge for collaborating with and serving the Chinese church; and editor of ChinaSource Quarterly—traces the effect of rapid urbanization combined with Christianity’s surprising growth. Such massive change presents many challenges and opportunities for China’s urban Christians, and Fulton ably explores their response. His more than 30 years of experience watching the Chinese church corrects misunderstandings and gives a holistic picture of Christianity in the country.
To better understand some of these dynamics, I asked Fulton about life for Christians in China, what Western Christians can learn from their family there, and more.
Expository preaching and the recovery of Christian worship
By R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Evangelical Christians have been especially attentive to worship in recent years sparking a renaissance of thought and conversation about what worship really is and how it should be done. Even if this renewed interest has resulted in what some have called the “worship wars” in some churches, it seems that what A.W. Tozer once called the “missing jewel” of evangelical worship is being recovered.
Nevertheless, if most evangelicals would quickly agree that worship is central to the life of the church, there would be no consensus to an unavoidable question: “What is central to Christian worship?”
Though most evangelicals mention preaching of the Word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music — along with innovations such as drama and video presentations.
Christians often shop congregations in order to find the church that offers the worship style and experience that fits their expectation. In most communities, churches are known for their worship styles and musical programs. Those dissatisfied with what they find at one church can quickly move to another, sometimes using the language of self-expression to explain that the new church “meets our needs” or “allows us to worship.”
A concern for true biblical worship was at the very heart of the Protestant Reformation. But even Martin Luther, who wrote hymns and required his preachers to be trained in song, would not recognize this modern preoccupation with music as legitimate or healthy. Why? Because the Reformers were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship was the preaching of the Word of God.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
A Prelude to Joy: A Thanksgiving Meditation
By Nathan Rittenhouse 11/23/2016
I recently attended the birthday party of a little girl who was too young to read the notes written on her presents. She did not know which gifts came from which guests. I watched as she conferred with the adult beside her to determine who had given her each package. She then searched for the giver to thank them before opening the present. She seemed to have an inherent trust in the givers, assuming that the gifts were good and worthy of gratitude before knowing the contents.
This childish gratitude inspired me to consider the orientation of my heart and mind as I approach Thanksgiving. The simple truth is that in order to be grateful we must first acknowledge that we have been given a gift.
Our inability to see a giver behind our gifts leaves us with a temperament that gravitates toward complaint. Some complaints are legitimate, and others tempt us to complain about complainers. Complaint derives from not getting what we feel we deserve. The opposite of complaining is gratitude: acknowledging that we received something good that we did not deserve. There are ample reasons for sorrow, but we can quickly convince ourselves to despair if we consistently fail to see the good gifts scattered among the wreckage of our world.
One morning several months ago, I was feeling emotionally and spiritually sluggish. My suspicion was that I had a vitamin deficiency of gratitude, so I took my wife on a tour of our home and pointed out everything that we had been given. The gifts ranged from artwork, to kitchenware, to our favorite books and sporting equipment. The value was not just in the items, but in the fact that they reminded us of people who had invested in our lives. The gifts simply reminded us of the givers. Physical objects were not the only things that we had been given. There were also things that we were able to buy because we had been given the opportunity to work. We also own things that we have made because, for this moment, we have been given the good health to work with our hands. When you see everything you have as a gift, your perspective begins to change, and a strange sensation emerges. I call it joy.
It is a tragic situation when a gift has been given out of love, but the receiver does not know who gave it, or worst yet, does not care. In the case of a little girl at a birthday party, the search for the giver is easy. However, there are those in this world with a sense of thanksgiving without knowing whom to be thankful to. Millions of people this week will be thanks-givers, without slowing to ponder the identity of the Thanks-Receiver. We are temporarily thankful for the turkey on Thursday that will fuel our shopping sprees on Friday. We will buy more things at the suggestion of a consumer culture that tells us we actually do not have enough. We have thus commercialized the antithesis of the meaning of the holiday and distracted ourselves from asking the big questions of life that derive from being thankful. I am not suggesting that we should not shop. What I am saying is that we should keep in mind the old doxology “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” and delight not only in the gifts we have been given, but also in the knowledge that the Giver has made Himself known. Take a moment to be still and thank God.
Nathan has interests in topics of science and religion, church history, and systematic theology. He grew up in an active church and Christian family and developed an enthusiasm for Christ that has intensified with his academic studies. As a student, Nathan refreshed his mind by running track and cross-country and continues to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities with his wife and kids.
Nathan spent the last three years traveling and speaking in universities throughout New England, and is currently focusing on the Mid-Atlantic region.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 119119 TETH
119:65 You have dealt well with your servant,
O LORD, according to your word.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
for I believe in your commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep your word.
68 You are good and do good;
teach me your statutes.
69 The insolent smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
70 their heart is unfeeling like fat,
but I delight in your law.
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
72 The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
An Account of the Persecutions in the Marquisate of SalucesThe Marquisate of Saluces, on the south side of the valleys of Piedmont, was in A.D. 1561, principally inhabited by Protestants, when the marquis, who was proprietor of it, began a persecution against them at the instigation of the pope. He began by banishing the ministers, and if any of them refused to leave their flocks, they were sure to be imprisoned, and severely tortured; however, he did not proceed so far as to put any to death.
Soon after the marquisate fell into the possession of the duke of Savoy, who sent circular letters to all the towns and villages, that he expected the people should all conform to go to Mass. The inhabitants of Saluces, upon receiving this letter, returned a general epistle, in answer.
The duke, after reading the letter, did not interrupt the Protestants for some time; but, at length, he sent them word that they must either conform to the Mass, or leave his dominions in fifteen days. The Protestants, upon this unexpected edict, sent a deputy to the duke to obtain its revocation, or at least to have it moderated. But their remonstrances were in vain, and they were given to understand that the edict was absolute.
Some were weak anough to go to Mass, in order to avoid banishment, and preserve their property; others removed, with all their effects, to different countries; and many neglected the time so long that they were obliged to abandon all they were worth, and leave the marquisate in haste. Those, who unhappily stayed bheind, were seized, plundered, and put to death.
An Account of the Persecutions in the Valleys of Piedmont, in the Seventeenth CenturyPope Clement the Eighth, sent missionaries into the valleys of Piedmont, to induce the Protestants to renounce their religion; and these missionaries having erected monasteries in several parts of the valleys, became exceedingly troublesome to those of the reformed, where the monasteries appeared, not only as fortresses to curb, but as sanctuaries for all such to fly to, as had any ways injured them.
The Protestants petitioned the duke of Savoy against these missionaries, whose insolence and ill-usage were become intolerable; but instead of getting any redress, the interest of the missionaries so far prevailed, that the duke published a decree, in which he declared, that one witness should be sufficient in a court of law against a Protestant, and that any witness, who convicted a Protestant of any crime whatever, should be entitled to one hundred crowns.
It may be easily imagined, upon the publication of a decree of this nature, that many Protestants fell martyrs to perjury and avarice; for several villainous papists would swear any thing against the Protestants for the sake of the reward, and then fly to their own priests for absolution from their false oaths. If any Roman Catholic, of more conscience than the rest, blamed these fellows for their atrocious crimes, they themselves were in danger of being informed against and punished as favorers of heretics.
The missionaries did all they could to get the books of the Protestants into their hands, in order to burn them; when the Protestants doing their utmost endeavors to conceal their books, the missionaries wrote to the duke of Savoy, who, for the heinous crime of not surrendering their Bibles, prayer books, and religious treatises, sent a number of troops to be quartered on them. These military gentry did great mischief in the houses of the Protestants, and destroyed such quantities of provisions, that many families were thereby ruined.
To encourage, as much as possible, the apostasy of the Protestants, the duke of Savoy published a proclamation wherein he said, "To encourage the heretics to turn Catholics, it is our will and pleasure, and we do hereby expressly command, that all such as shall embrace the holy Roman Catholic faith, shall enjoy an exemption, from all and every tax for the space of five years, commencing from the day of their conversion." The duke of Savoy, likewise established a court, called the council for extirpating the heretics. This court was to enter into inquiries concerning the ancient privileges of the Protestant churches, and the decrees which had been, from time to time, made in favor of the Protestants. But the investigation of these things was carried on with the most manifest partiality; old charters were wrested to a wrong sense, and sophistry was used to pervert the meaning of everything, which tended to favor the reformed.
As if these severities were not sufficient, the duke, soon after, published another edict, in which he strictly commanded, that no Protestant should act as a schoolmaster, or tutor, either in public or private, or dare to teach any art, science, or language, directly or indirectly, to persons of any persuasion whatever.
This edict was immediately followed by another, which decreed that no Protestant should hold any place of profit, trust, or honor; and to wind up the whole, the certain token of an approaching persecution came forth in a final edict, by which it was positively ordered, that all Protestants should diligently attend Mass.
The publication of an edict, containing such an injunction, may be compared to unfurling the bloody flag; for murder and rapine were sure to follow. One of the first objects that attracted the notice of the papists was Mr. Sebastian Basan, a zealous Protestant, who was seized by the missionaries, confined, tormented for fifteen months, and then burnt.
Previous to the persecution, the missionaries employed kidnappers to steal away the Protestants' children, that they might privately be brought up Roman Catholics; but now they took away the children by open force, and if they met with any resistance, they murdered the parents.
To give greater vigor to the persecution, the duke of Savoy called a general assembly of the Roman Catholic nobility and gentry when a solemn edict was published against the reformed, containing many heads, and including several reasons for extirpating the Protestants, among which were the following:
• 1. For the preservation of the papal authority.This severe edict was followed by a most cruel order, published on January 25, A.D. 1655, under the duke's sanction, by Andrew Gastaldo, doctor of civil laws. This order set forth, "That every head of a family, with the individuals of that family, of the reformed religion, of what rank, degree, or condition soever, none excepted inhabiting and possessing estates in Lucerne, St. Giovanni, Bibiana, Campiglione, St. Secondo, Lucernetta, La Torre, Fenile, and Bricherassio, should, within three days after the publication thereof, withdraw and depart, and be withdrawn out of the said places, and translated into the places and limits tolerated by his highness during his pleasure; particularly Bobbio, Angrogne, Vilario, Rorata, and the county of Bonetti.
• 2. That the church livings may be all under one mode of government.
• 3. To make a union among all parties.
• 4. In honor of all the saints, and of the ceremonies of the Church of Rome.
"And all this to be done on pain of death, and confiscation of house and goods, unless within the limited time they turned Roman Catholics."
A flight with such speed, in the midst of winter, may be conceived as no agreeable task, especially in a country almost surrounded by mountains. The sudden order affected all, and things, which would have been scarcely noticed at another time, now appeared in the most conspicuous light. Women with child, or women just lain-in, were not objects of pity on this order for sudden removal, for all were included in the command; and it unfortunately happened, that the winter was remarkably severe and rigorous.
The papists, however, drove the people from their habitations at the time appointed, without even suffering them to have sufficient clothes to cover them; and many perished in the mountains through the severity of the weather, or for want of food. Some, however, who remained behind after the decree was published, met with the severest treatment, being murdered by the popish inhabitants, or shot by the troops who were quartered in the valleys. A particular description of these cruelties is given in a letter, written by a Protestant, who was upon the spot, and who happily escaped the carnage. "The army (says he) having got footing, became very numerous, by the addition of a multitude of the neighboring popish inhabitants, who finding we were the destined prey of the plunderers, fell upon us with an impetuous fury. Exclusive of the duke of Savoy's troops, and the popish inhabitants, there were several regiments of French auxiliaries, some companies belonging to the Irish brigades, and several bands formed of outlaws, smugglers, and prisoners, who had been promised pardon and liberty in this world, and absolution in the next, for assisting to exterminate the Protestants from Piedmont.
"This armed multitude being encouraged by the Roman Catholic bishops and monks fell upon the Protestants in a most furious manner. Nothing now was to be seen but the face of horror and despair, blood stained the floors of the houses, dead bodies bestrewed the streets, groans and cries were heard from all parts. Some armed themselves, and skirmished with the troops; and many, with their families, fled to the mountains. In one village they cruelly tormented one hundred and fifty women and children after the men were fled, beheading the women, and dashing out the brains of the children. In the towns of Vilario and Bobbio, most of those who refused to go to Mass, who were upwards of fifteen years of age, they crucified with their heads downwards; and the greatest number of those who were under that age were strangled."
Sarah Ratignole des Vignes, a woman of sixty years of age, being seized by some soldiers, they ordered her to say a prayer to some saints, which she refusing, they thrust a sickle into her belly, ripped her up, and then cut off her head.
Martha Constantine, a handsome young woman, was treated with great indecency and cruelty by several of the troops, who first ravished, and then killed her by cutting off her breasts. These they fried, and set before some of their comrades, who ate them without knowing what they were. When they had done eating, the others told them what they had made a meal of, in consequence of which a quarrel ensued, swords were drawn, and a battle took place. Several were killed in the fray, the greater part of whom were those concerned in the horrid massacre of the woman, and who had practiced such an inhuman deception on their companions.
Some of the soldiers seized a man of Thrassiniere, and ran the points of their swords through his ears, and through his feet. They then tore off the nails of his fingers and toes with red-hot pincers, tied him to the tail of an ass, and dragged him about the streets; they finally fastened a cord around his head, which they twisted with a stick in so violent a manner as to wring it from his body.
Peter Symonds, a Protestant, of about eighty years of age, was tied neck and heels, and then thrown down a precipice. In the fall the branch of a tree caught hold of the ropes that fastened him, and suspended him in the midway, so that he languished for several days, and at length miserably perished of hunger.
Esay Garcino, refusing to renounce his religion, was cut into small pieces; the soldiers, in ridicule, saying, they had minced him. A woman, named Armand, had every limb separated from each other, and then the respective parts were hung upon a hedge. Two old women were ripped open, and then left in the fields upon the snow, where they perished; and a very old woman, who was deformed, had her nose and hands cut off, and was left, to bleed to death in that manner.
A great number of men, women, and children, were flung from the rocks, and dashed to pieces. Magdalen Bertino, a Protestant woman of La Torre, was stripped stark naked, her head tied between her legs, and thrown down one of the precipices; and Mary Raymondet, of the same town, had the flesh sliced from her bones until she expired.
Magdalen Pilot, of Vilario, was cut to pieces in the cave of Castolus; Ann Charboniere had one end of a stake thrust up her body; and the other being fixed in the ground, she was left in that manner to perish, and Jacob Perrin the elder, of the church of Vilario, and David, his brother, were flayed alive.
An inhabitant of La Torre, named Giovanni Andrea Michialm, was apprehended, with four of his children, three of them were hacked to pieces before him, the soldiers asking him, at the death of every child, if he would renounce his religion; this he constantly refused. One of the soldiers then took up the last and youngest by the legs, and putting the same question to the father, he replied as before, when the inhuman brute dashed out the child's brains. The father, however, at the same moment started from them, and fled; the soldiers fired after him, but missed him; and he, by the swiftness of his heels, escaped, and hid himself in the Alps.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Be a Shamgar (1)
(Nov 2) Bob Gass
‘Shamgar…struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad.’
(Jdg 3:31) 31 After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed 600 of the Philistines with an oxgoad, and he also saved Israel. ESV
Shamgar is mentioned only twice in Scripture, and his story takes up three lines and two verses. But his impact was amazing. And it’s a challenge to all those who think, ‘God would never use someone like me.’ He may have been the least qualified person to deliver Israel from the Philistines. For starters, he likely wasn’t even an Israelite. His name is Hurrian in the original. He could have rationalised inaction in a dozen different ways. ‘I don’t have the right weapon. I can’t do this by myself. These aren’t even my people.’ If you look for an excuse you will always find one. If you don’t, you won’t. When it comes to making excuses, we are infinitely creative. What if we channelled that creativity into finding solutions instead of finding excuses? If we did, God could use us as an instrument to fulfil His purposes just as He used Shamgar. When God stirs your spirit or moves your heart, you cannot sit back, you’ve got to step up and step in. And when you do, it can become a defining moment in your life. Don’t worry about the results. If it’s the right thing, the results are God’s responsibility. Focus on doing right things for the right reason, and don’t buy into the lie that it can’t be done! Yes, it will take all-out effort, but you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (see Philippians 4:13). A failed attempt is not failing. Failing is not trying. If you are trying, in God’s eyes you are succeeding. So grab your ox-goad – and go for it.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
After defeating the British, General George Washington resigned and returned to farming at Mount Vernon. On this day, November 2, 1783, he issued his Farewell Orders to his troops. “Before the Comdr in Chief takes his final leave,” he wrote, “he wishes… a slight review of the past…. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the… perseverance of the Armies of the U. States, through almost every possible suffering… for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.”American Minute
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
I can’t understand why you say that my view of church services is "man-centered” and too concerned with "mere edification." How does this follow from anything I said? Actually my ideas about the sacrament would probably be called "magical" by a good many modern theologians. Surely, the more fully one believes that a strictly supernatural event takes place, the less one can attach any great importance to the dress, gestures, and position of the priest? I agree with you that he is there not only to edify the people but to glorify God. But how can a man glorify God by placing obstacles in the way of the people? Especially if the slightest element of "clerical one-upmanship"-I owe the phrase to a cleric underlies some of his eccentricities? How right is that passage in the Imitation where the celebrant is told, "Consult not your own devotion but the edification of your flock." I've forgotten how the Latin runs.
Now, about the Rose Macaulay Letters. Like you, I was staggered by this continual search for more and more prayers. If she were merely collecting them as objets d'art I could understand it; she was a born collector. But I get the impression that she collected them in order to use them; that her whole prayer-life depended on what we may call "ready-made" prayers-prayers written by other people.
But though, like you, staggered, I was not, like you, repelled. One reason is that I had-and you hadn't-the luck to meet her. Make no mistake. She was the right sort; one of the most fully civilized people I ever knew. The other reason, as I have so often told you, is that you are a bigot. Broaden your mind, Malcolm, broaden your mind! It takes all sorts to make a world; or a church. This may be even truer of a church. If grace perfects nature it must expand all our natures into the full richness of the diversity which God intended when He made them, and Heaven will display far more variety than Hell. "One fold" doesn't mean "one pool." Cultivated roses and daffodils are no more alike than wild roses and daffodils. What pleased me most about a Greek Orthodox mass I once attended was that there seemed to be no prescribed behavior for the congregation. Some stood, some knelt, some sat, some walked; one crawled about the floor like a caterpillar. And the beauty of it was that nobody took the slightest notice of what anyone else was doing. I wish we Anglicans would follow their example. One meets people who are perturbed. because someone in the next pew does, or does not, cross himself. They oughtn't even to have seen, let alone censured. "Who art thou that judgest Another's servant?"
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future
to a known God.
--- Corrie Ten Boom
When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark,
you don't throw away the ticket and jump off.
You sit still and trust the engineer.
--- Corrie Ten Boom
My theology, briefly, is that the universe was dictated,
but not signed.
--- Christopher Morley
So if the form of a servant was taken on in such a way that the form of God was not lost, who can fail to see that in the form of God he [Christ] is greater than himself and in the form of a servant he is less than himself?
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
4. Now when Bassus had taken a full view of this place, he resolved to besiege it, by filling up the valley that lay on the east side; so he fell hard to work, and took great pains to raise his banks as soon as possible, and by that means to render the siege easy. As for the Jews that were caught in this place, they separated themselves from the strangers that were with them, and they forced those strangers, as an otherwise useless multitude, to stay in the lower part of the city, and undergo the principal dangers, while they themselves seized on the upper citadel, and held it, and this both on account of its strength, and to provide for their own safety. They also supposed they might obtain their pardon, in case they should [at last] surrender the citadel. However, they were willing to make trial, in the first place, whether the hopes they had of avoiding a siege would come to any thing; with which intention they made sallies every day, and fought with those that met them; in which conflicts they were many of them slain, as they therein slew many of the Romans. But still it was the opportunities that presented themselves which chiefly gained both sides their victories; these were gained by the Jews, when they fell upon the Romans as they were off their guard; but by the Romans, when, upon the others' sallies against their banks, they foresaw their coming, and were upon their guard when they received them. But the conclusion of this siege did not depend upon these bickerings; but a certain surprising accident, relating to what was done in this siege, forced the Jews to surrender the citadel. There was a certain young man among the besieged, of great boldness, and very active of his hand, his name was Eleazar; he greatly signalized himself in those sallies, and encouraged the Jews to go out in great numbers, in order to hinder the raising of the banks, and did the Romans a vast deal of mischief when they came to fighting; he so managed matters, that those who sallied out made their attacks easily, and returned back without danger, and this by still bringing up the rear himself. Now it happened that, on a certain time, when the fight was over, and both sides were parted, and retired home, he, in way of contempt of the enemy, and thinking that none of them would begin the fight again at that time, staid without the gates, and talked with those that were upon the wall, and his mind was wholly intent upon what they said. Now a certain person belonging to the Roman camp, whose name was Rufus, by birth an Egyptian, ran upon him suddenly, when nobody expected such a thing, and carried him off, with his armor itself; while, in the mean time, those that saw it from the wall were under such an amazement, that Rufus prevented their assistance, and carried Eleazar to the Roman camp. So the general of the Romans ordered that he should be taken up naked, set before the city to be seen, and sorely whipped before their eyes. Upon this sad accident that befell the young man, the Jews were terribly confounded, and the city, with one voice, sorely lamented him, and the mourning proved greater than could well be supposed upon the calamity of a single person. When Bassus perceived that, he began to think of using a stratagem against the enemy, and was desirous to aggravate their grief, in order to prevail with them to surrender the city for the preservation of that man. Nor did he fail of his hope; for he commanded them to set up a cross, as if he were just going to hang Eleazar upon it immediately; the sight of this occasioned a sore grief among those that were in the citadel, and they groaned vehemently, and cried out that they could not bear to see him thus destroyed. Whereupon Eleazar besought them not to disregard him, now he was going to suffer a most miserable death, and exhorted them to save themselves, by yielding to the Roman power and good fortune, since all other people were now conquered by them. These men were greatly moved with what he said, there being also many within the city that interceded for him, because he was of an eminent and very numerous family; so they now yielded to their passion of commiseration, contrary to their usual custom. Accordingly, they sent out immediately certain messengers, and treated with the Romans, in order to a surrender of the citadel to them, and desired that they might be permitted to go away, and take Eleazar along with them. Then did the Romans and their general accept of these terms; while the multitude of strangers that were in the lower part of the city, hearing of the agreement that was made by the Jews for themselves alone, were resolved to fly away privately in the night time; but as soon as they had opened their gates, those that had come to terms with Bassus told him of it; whether it were that they envied the others' deliverance, or whether it were done out of fear, lest an occasion should be taken against them upon their escape, is uncertain. The most courageous, therefore, of those men that went out prevented the enemy, and got away, and fled for it; but for those men that were caught within they were slain to the number of one thousand seven hundred, as were the women and children made slaves. But as Bassus thought he must perform the covenant he had made with those that surrendered the citadel, he let them go, and restored Eleazar to them.
5. When Bassus had settled these affairs, he marched hastily to the forest of Jarden, as it is called; for he had heard that a great many of those that had fled from Jerusalem and Machaerus formerly were there gotten together. When he was therefore come to the place, and understood that the former news was no mistake, he, in the first place, surrounded the whole place with his horsemen, that such of the Jews as had boldness enough to try to break through might have no way possible for escaping, by reason of the situation of these horsemen; and for the footmen, he ordered them to cut down the trees that were in the wood whither they were fled. So the Jews were under a necessity of performing some glorious exploit, and of greatly exposing themselves in a battle, since they might perhaps thereby escape. So they made a general attack, and with a great shout fell upon those that surrounded them, who received them with great courage; and so while the one side fought desperately, and the others would not yield, the fight was prolonged on that account. But the event of the battle did not answer the expectation of the assailants; for so it happened, that no more than twelve fell on the Roman side, with a few that were wounded; but not one of the Jews escaped out of this battle, but they were all killed, being in the whole not fewer in number than three thousand, together with Judas, the son of Jairus, their general, concerning whom we have before spoken, that he had been a captain of a certain band at the siege of Jerusalem, and by going down into a certain vault under ground, had privately made his escape.
6. About the same time it was that Caesar sent a letter to Bassus, and to Liberius Maximus, who was the procurator [of Judea], and gave order that all Judea should be exposed to sale 12 for he did not found any city there, but reserved the country for himself. However, he assigned a place for eight hundred men only, whom he had dismissed from his army, which he gave them for their habitation; it is called Emmaus, 13 and is distant from Jerusalem threescore furlongs. He also laid a tribute upon the Jews wheresoever they were, and enjoined every one of them to bring two drachmae every year into the Capitol, as they used to pay the same to the temple at Jerusalem. And this was the state of the Jewish affairs at this time.
by D.H. Stern
is like a downpour that sweeps away all the food.
4 Those who abandon Torah praise the wicked,
but those who keep Torah fight them.
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
Authority and independence
If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments.
--- John 14:15 (R.V.).
Our Lord never insists upon obedience; He tells us very emphatically what we ought to do, but He never takes means to make us do it. We have to obey Him out of oneness of spirit. That is why when Our Lord talked about discipleship, He prefaced it with an IF—you do not need to unless you like. “If any man will be My disciple, let him deny himself”; let him give up his right to himself to Me. Our Lord is not talking of eternal positions, but of being of value to Himself in this order of things, that is why He sounds so stern (cf. Luke 14:26). Never interpret these words apart from the One who uttered them.
The Lord does not give me rules, He makes His standard very clear, and if my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says without any hesitation. If I hesitate, it is because I love someone else in competition with Him, viz., myself. Jesus Christ will not help me to obey Him, I must obey Him; and when I do obey Him, I fulfil my spiritual destiny. My personal life may be crowded with small petty incidents, altogether unnoticeable and mean, but if I obey Jesus Christ in the haphazard circumstances, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God, and when I stand face to face with God I shall discover that through my obedience thousands were blessed. When once God’s Redemption comes to the point of obedience in a human soul, it always creates. If I obey Jesus Christ, the Redemption of God will rush through me to other lives, because behind the deed of obedience is the Reality of Almighty God.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Here I think of the centuries,
six million of them, they say.
Yesterday a fine rain fell;
today the warmth has brought out the crowds.
After Christ, what? The molecules
are without redemption. My shadow
sunning itself on this stone
remembers the lava. Zeus looked down
on a brave world, but there was
no love there; the architecture
of their temples was less permanent
than these waves. Plato, Aristotle,
all those who furrowed the calmness
of their foreheads are responsible
for the bomb. I am charmed here
by the serenity of the reflections
in the sea's mirror. It is a window
as well. What I need
now is a faith to enable me to out-stare
the grinning faces of the inmates of its asylum,
the failed experiments God put away.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
The religious significance of the study of logic as a means of integrating an independent spiritual aspiration with a commitment to community is evident from Maimonides’ treatment of the difference between Akiva and Aḥer. It is also possible to respond to the perplexity which philosophical study creates for the halakhic Jew by rejecting the way of Athens rather than of Jerusalem. Maimonides does not educate toward an unquestioning acceptance of Aggadah. He therefore outlines his epistemological map for the general community of halakhic Jews. In “The Letter on Astrology” to the rabbis of Marseilles, Maimonides presents a clear demarcation between the domains of reason and traditional authority:
Know, my masters, that it is not proper for a man to accept as trustworthy anything other than one of these three things. The first is a thing for which there is a clear proof deriving from man’s reasoning—such as arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. The second is a thing that a man perceives through one of the five senses—such as when he knows with certainty that this is red and this is black and the like through the sight of his eye; or as when he tastes that this is bitter and this is sweet; or as when he feels that this is hot and this is cold; or as when he hears that this sound is clear and this sound is indistinct; or as when he smells that this is a pleasing smell and this is a displeasing smell and the like. The third is a thing that a man receives from the Prophets or from the righteous. Every reasonable man ought to distinguish in his mind and thought all the things that he accepts as trustworthy, and say: “This I accept as trustworthy because of tradition, and this because of sense perception, and this on the grounds of reason.” ( Medieval Political Philosophy: A Sourcebook (Agora Editions) )
After the rabbis are made to understand these three distinct criteria of knowledge, they are then introduced to an understanding of rabbinic Aggadah:
I know that you may search and find sayings of some individual Sages in the Talmud and midrashot whose words appear to maintain that at the moment of man’s birth the stars will cause such and such to happen to him. Do not regard this as a difficulty, for it is not fitting for a man to abandon the prevailing law and raise once again the counterarguments and replies [that preceded its enactment]. Similarly it is not proper to abandon matters of reason that have already been verified by proofs, shake loose of them, and depend on the words of a single one of the Sages from whom possibly the matter was hidden.… A man should never cast his reason behind him, for the eyes are set in front, not in back. “Now I have told you all my heart” on this subject.
Maimonides explains to the rabbis of Marseilles that talmudic authorities cannot make a spurious science, i.e., astrology, into a genuine science. The criteria of what is to count as legitimate, scientific truth is established by the canons of reason:
The position of the astrologers is given the lie by reason, for correct reasoning has already refuted, by means of lucid proofs, all those follies that they have maintained.
The rabbis are told to rely on the philosophers when they evaluate the claims of their rabbinic authorities. Throughout this important letter, which is addressed to students of the law, Maimonides does not hide his love for philosophy. He goes so far as to identify “the remnant … whom the Lord shall call” (Joel 3:5) with those philosophers who are able to provide criteria for distinguishing between the genuine science of astronomy and the spurious science of astrology.
The rabbis of Marseilles are shown how to use philosophic reason to support or supplement the teachings of Judaism. They are taught to recognize which principles of Judaism rest upon agreement with philosophic reason and which principles in Judaism rest upon the authority of tradition. Astrology is not only proven to be false on the basis of philosophy, but, as Maimonides writes:
It also is regarded as a falsehood by us because of the religious tradition, for if the matter stood thus, of what utility would the Torah and the commandment and the Talmud be to a particular individual? For in that event, every single individual would lack the power to do anything he set his mind to, since something else draws him on—against his will—to be this and not to be that; of what use then is the command or the Talmud? The roots of the religion of Moses, our Master, we find, refute the position of these stupid ones—in addition to reason’s doing so with all those proofs that the philosophers maintain to refute the position of the Chasdeans and the Chaldeans and their associates.
However when Maimonides deals with belief in individual providence which is based solely on the authority of the Torah and not on demonstrative reason, he writes:
The position of the philosophers who maintain that these things are due to chance is also regarded as a falsehood by us because of the religious tradition.
In contrast to astrology, which is rejected both by the claims of reason and of tradition, individual providence is accepted solely on the basis of tradition.
We have discussed “The Letter on Astrology” to indicate that Maimonides exposed his legal students and associates to the same epistemological principles which he established in the Guide. All of Maimonides’ students are encouraged to develop their rational faculties without fear of being contradicted by traditional authorities. Because Maimonides carefully and clearly differentiates the three types of criteria upon which one can base one’s knowledge, the student of Torah knows when he must demonstrate allegiance to his tradition and when he is free to follow independent reason. The integrity of man’s intellect will never be violated by the tradition since, according to Maimonides, the tradition distinguishes knowledge based upon sense, upon reason, and upon authority.
A factor in Maimonides’ anger with the Mutakallimun is that he viewed their method as a violation of the integrity of reason:
Now when I considered this method of thought, my soul felt a very strong aversion to it and had every right to do so. For every argument deemed to be a demonstration of the temporal creation of the world is accompanied by doubts and is not a cogent demonstration except among those who do not know the difference between demonstration, dialectics, and sophistic argument.
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
--- 1 Corinthians 2:8
It is easy to say that if the man was innocent, then let the heavens fall, but let justice be done. The Galilean Accent - Being Some Studies in the Christian Life Yet not so long ago, in our own empire, a mob gathered where they had been forbidden, a shot was fired, several shots, and a thrill of horror swept us. But when those in authority stated that not to have fired meant an uprising and ugly massacres over a widespread area, we settled down again, reflecting that it was a dreadful position in which they were placed, and no doubt they did what was best where nothing could be good—and said no more about it. They must judge, there on the spot. Pilate, too, had to judge on the spot. And, looking long at Jesus, slowly he brought himself to vote for peace.
And we had better think of that. For today we are all agog for peace—must have it. And it is little wonder, for those who have once seen war have no desire to see it again. The thing is an insanity. For, quite obviously, to hurl chunks of metal at each other can prove nothing regarding the original dispute. And we do well to labor zealously to make it a bad dream and a forgotten horror. For no one can imagine what another war, with all the devilments of science thrown in, would be.
Yet we can go too far in our pursuit of peace. Is our zeal for it altogether pure or that of a tired world that is not going to make any further sacrifices? Peace! Peace! we cry. Yet what about righteousness? Was Pilate right? And are we not beginning to slip into his mood? Two little nations snarl at each other. And we are very bold. Be off, we say, and they slink away, making faces at each other. But a great power bullies a little one and announces it will brook no interference, that this touches its national honor. And we all gaze the other way. We must have peace. What about righteousness? Was Pilate right? Ekken, a great Japanese philosopher, remarks that “if a man will not give his life for righteousness he does not know the relative values of righteousness and life.”
Pilate, too, tried to dodge trouble. But you can’t. Are we, too, trying that? Are we, too, sinking to that level? What if a day comes when you can’t have peace and righteousness? What if the gutters must just run with blood and our homes again be broken—and our hearts—or Christ be led to Calvary? What then?
--- Arthur John Gossip
Citywide conflagrations seldom happen today, having gone the way of the plague. But Christians of earlier eras often ministered and suffered amid such holocausts. Believers in Nero’s day were unjustly blamed for Rome’s fiery destruction. Eighty-nine churches perished in London’s 1666 fire. D. L. Moody lost virtually all his property in the great Chicago fire of 1871. But none of them exceeded the fire and fear that engulfed Canton during the days of Protestants’ first missionary to China.
Robert Morrison ministered in Canton despite the misgivings of the East India Company and the antagonism of the Chinese themselves. Yet he plodded on, finally baptizing his first convert after seven years of labor.
On Friday night, November 1, 1822, Morrison became aware of panic in the city. A fire, starting in a baker’s shop and driven by strong winds, was roaring like a furnace through acres of crowded, wooden houses. Multitudes fled in hysteria. The East India Company’s fire equipment was of little use, for the streets were clogged with fleeing humanity, and the water supply was poor.
Morrison, transfixed by the sea of flames, hurriedly penned a letter in Chinese before dawn on November 2, 1822 begging officials to pull down buildings in front of the fire to stop the inferno’s advance. But the Chinese refused to even read his letter, though he took it to the governor in person. By 8 A.M., the flames consumed the city’s manufacturing sectors. Shifting winds drove the fire along the riverfront, westward for a mile and a half. Multitudes were killed, burned, or left homeless. Thousands of shops and houses were destroyed. It was the end of the world in miniature.
Looters tried to beat the flames to abandoned valuables, and Morrison recorded that 28 people were trampled while scrambling for money after a robber cut open a man’s cash-stuffed backpack. The missionary himself was relatively fortunate. He lost nothing of great value beyond a hundred pounds of paper intended for a new edition of his translation of the New Testament.
The earth came out of water and was made from water. Later it was destroyed by the waters of a mighty flood. But God has commanded the present heavens and earth to remain until the day of judgment. Then they will be set on fire, and ungodly people will be destroyed.
--- 2 Peter 3:5b-7.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 2
“I am the Lord, I change not.” --- Malachi 3:6.
It is well for us that, amidst all the variableness of life, there is One whom change cannot affect; One whose heart can never alter, and on whose brow mutability can make no furrows. All things else have changed—all things are changing. The sun itself grows dim with age; the world is waxing old; the folding up of the worn-out vesture has commenced; the heavens and earth must soon pass away; they shall perish, they shall wax old as doth a garment; but there is One who only hath immortality, of whose years there is no end, and in whose person there is no change. The delight which the mariner feels, when, after having been tossed about for many a day, he steps again upon the solid shore, is the satisfaction of a Christian when, amidst all the changes of this troublous life, he rests the foot of his faith upon this truth—“I am the Lord, I change not.”
The stability which the anchor gives the ship when it has at last obtained a hold-fast, is like that which the Christian’s hope affords him when it fixes itself upon this glorious truth. With God “is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” What ever his attributes were of old, they are now; his power, his wisdom, his justice, his truth, are alike unchanged. He has ever been the refuge of his people, their stronghold in the day of trouble, and he is their sure Helper still. He is unchanged in his love. He has loved his people with “an everlasting love”; he loves them now as much as ever he did, and when all earthly things shall have melted in the last conflagration, his love will still wear the dew of its youth. Precious is the assurance that he changes not! The wheel of providence revolves, but its axle is eternal love.
“Death and change are busy ever,
Man decays, and ages move;
But his mercy waneth never;
God is wisdom, God is love.”
Evening - November 2
“Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.” --- Psalm 119:53.
My soul, feelest thou this holy shuddering at the sins of others? for otherwise thou lackest inward holiness. David’s cheeks were wet with rivers of waters because of prevailing unholiness; Jeremiah desired eyes like fountains that he might lament the iniquities of Israel, and Lot was vexed with the conversation of the men of Sodom. Those upon whom the mark was set in Ezekiel’s vision, were those who sighed and cried for the abominations of Jerusalem. It cannot but grieve gracious souls to see what pains men take to go to hell. They know the evil of sin experimentally, and they are alarmed to see others flying like moths into its blaze. Sin makes the righteous shudder, because it violates a holy law, which it is to every man’s highest interest to keep; it pulls down the pillars of the commonwealth. Sin in others horrifies a believer, because it puts him in mind of the baseness of his own heart: when he sees a transgressor he cries with the saint mentioned by Bernard, “He fell to-day, and I may fall to-morrow.” Sin to a believer is horrible, because it crucified the Saviour; he sees in every iniquity the nails and spear. How can a saved soul behold that cursed kill-Christ sin without abhorrence? Say, my heart, dost thou sensibly join in all this? It is an awful thing to insult God to his face. The good God deserves better treatment, the great God claims it, the just God will have it, or repay his adversary to his face. An awakened heart trembles at the audacity of sin, and stands alarmed at the contemplation of its punishment. How monstrous a thing is rebellion! How direful a doom is prepared for the ungodly! My soul, never laugh at sin’s fooleries, lest thou come to smile at sin itself. It is thine enemy, and thy Lord’s enemy—view it with detestation, for so only canst thou evidence the possession of holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.
How marvellous the general apathy! they were all eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, till the awful Morning dawned. There was not one wise man upon earth out of the ark. Folly duped the whole race, folly as to self-preservation—the most foolish of all follies. Folly in doubting the most true God—the most malignant of fooleries. Strange, my soul, is it not? All men are negligent of their souls till grace gives them reason, then they leave their madness and act like rational beings, but not till then.
All, blessed be God, were safe in the ark, no ruin entered there. From the huge elephant down to the tiny mouse all were safe. The timid hare was equally secure with the courageous lion, the helpless cony as safe as the laborious ox. All are safe in Jesus. My soul, art thou in him?
HOLY GOD, WE PRAISE THY NAME
From the Te Deum, c. 4th century, Attributed to Ignace Franz, 1719–1790
English Translation by Clarence Walworth, 1820–1900
In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise Your name forever. (Psalm 44:8)
Much of the origin of this noble expression of praise and worship is lost in obscurity. Through the centuries the “Te Deum” has been one of the supreme triumphal expressions of praise used by the Christian Church.
The original setting of “Te Deum Laudamus” was likely composed by Bishop Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, Italy, in A.D. 387, and an important leader in the development of early church music. Paraphrases of this fourth century “Te Deum” have been written in many languages, including this text in German, from which it was later translated into English by an American Catholic priest, Clarence A. Walworth. The hymn is still an important part of the Morning service liturgy in Anglican churches and it is sung frequently in all Protestant churches.
The fourth stanza is one of the strongest hymn affirmations of the doctrine of the Triune Godhead. The Trinity was an important controversy in the early church. Arius, c. A.D. 250–336, was a proponent of the doctrine of Arianism, which maintained that “if the Father was God, then the Son was a creature of the Father”—a middle Being between God and the world—a divine Being but not to be worshiped as God. At the Council of Alexandria (A.D. 321) and later at the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325), this teaching was thoroughly branded as heresy. However, this controversy on the person and deity of Christ has continued even to the present time in the teachings of various cults.
Holy God, we praise Thy name—Lord of all, we bow before Thee! All on earth Thy scepter claim; all in heav’n above adore Thee: Infinite Thy vast domain, everlasting is Thy reign.
Hark, the loud celestial hymn angel choirs above are raising; cherubim and seraphim, in unceasing chorus praising, fill the heav’ns with sweet accord—Holy, holy, holy Lord!
Lo, the apostolic train joins Thy sacred name to hallow; prophets swell the glad refrain and the white-robed martyrs follow; and, from morn to set of sun, thru the Church the song goes on.
Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit, three we name Thee; while in essence only one, undivided God we claim Thee, and adoring bend the knee, while we sing our praise to Thee.
For Today: Numbers 14:21; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 107:8; Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 15:3
Take time to worship and praise the triune Godhead. Use these words to help ---
III. he third general thing is to declare, how the power of God appears in Creation, in Government, in Redemption. FIRST, IN CREATION. With what majestic lines doth God set for his power, in the giving being and endowments to all the creatures in the world (Job 38.)! All that is in heaven and earth is his, and shows the greatness of his power, glory, victory, and majesty (1 Chron. 29:11). The heaven being so magnificent a piece of work, is called emphatically, “the firmament of his power” (Psalm 150:1); his power being more conspicuous and unavailed in that glorious arch of the world. Indeed, “God exalts by his power” (Job 36:22), that is, exalts himself by his power in all the works of his hands; in the smallest shrub, as well as the most glorious sun. All his works of nature are truly miracles, though we consider them not, being blinded with two frequent and customary a sight of them; yet, in the neglect of all the rest, the view of the heavens doth more affect us with astonishment at the might of God’s arm: these declare his glory, and “the firmament showeth his handy work” (Psalm 19:1). And the Psalmist peculiarly calls them his heavens, and the work of his fingers (Psalm 8:3): these were immediately created by God, whereas many other things in the world were brought into being by the power of God, yet by the means of the influence of the heavens.
1. His power is the first thing evident in the story of the creation. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). There is no appearance of anything in this declaratory preface, but of power: the characters of wisdom march after in the distinct formation of things, and animating them with suitable qualities for an universal good. By heaven and earth, is meant the whole mass of the creatures: by heaven, all the airy region, with all the host of it; by the earth, is meant, all that which makes the entire inferior globe. The Jews observe, that in the first of Genesis, in the whole chapter, unto the finishing the work in six days, God is called ,אלהים which is a name of Power, and that thirty-two times in that chapter; but after the finishing the six days’ work, he is called ,האלחום which, according to their notion, is a name of goodness and kindness: his power is first visible in framing the world, before his goodness is visible in the sustaining and preserving it. It was by this name of Power and Almighty that he was known in the first ages of the world, not by his name, Jehovah (Exod. 6:3): “And I appeared unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by the name of God Almighty; but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them.” Not but that they were acquainted with the name, but did not experience the intent of the name, which signified his truth in the performance of his promises; they knew him by that name as promising, but they knew hin, not by that name, as performing. He would be known by his name Jehovah, true to his word, when he was about to effect the deliverance from Egypt; a type of the eternal redemption, wherein the truth of God, in performing of his first promise, is gloriously magnified. And hence it is that God is called Almighty more in the book of Job than in all the Scripture besides, I think about thirtytwo times, and Jehovah but once, which is Job 12:9, unless in Job 38, when God is introduced speaking himself; which is an argument of Job’s living before the deliverance from Egypt, when God was known more by his works of creation than by the performance of his promises, before the name Jehovah was formally published. Indeed, this attribute of his eternal power, is the first thing visible and intelligible upon the first glance of the eye upon the creatures (Rom. 1:20). Bring a man out of the cave where he hath been nursed, without seeing anything out of the confines of it, and let him lift up his eyes to the heavens, and take a prospect of that glorious body, the sun, then cast them down to the earth, and behold the surface of it, with its green clothing; the first notion which will start up in his mind from that spring of wonders, is that of power, which he will at first adore with a religious astonishment. The wisdom of God in them is not so presently apparent, till after a more exquisite consideration of his works and knowledge of the properties of their natures, the conveniency of their situations, and the usefulness of their functions, and the order wherein they are linked together for the good of the universe.
2. By this creative power God is often distinguished from all the idols and false gods in the world. And by this title he sets forth himself when he would act any great and wonderful work in the world (Psalm 135:5, 6): “He is great above all gods,” for “he hath done whatsoever he pleased in heaven and in earth.” Upon this is founded all the worship he challengeth in the world, as his peculiar, glory (Rev. 4:11): “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, honor, and power, for thou hast created all things.” And (Rev. 10:6) “I have made the earth, and created man upon it.” “I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded” (Isa. 45:12). What is the issue (ver. 16)? “They shall be ashamed and confounded, all of them, that are makers of idols.” And the weakness of idols is expressed by this title. “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth” (Jer. 10:11). “The portion of Jacob is not like them, for he is the former of all things” (ver. 16.) What is not that God able to do, that hath created so great a world? How doth the power of God appear in creation?
1st. In making the world of nothing. When we say, the world was made of nothing, we mean, that there was no matter existent for God to work upon, but what he raised himself in the first act of creation. In this regard, the power of God in creation surmounts his power in providence. Creation supposeth nothing, providence supposeth something in being. Creation intimates a creature making, providence speaks a thing already made, and capable of government, and in government. God uses second causes to bring about his purposes.
1. The world was made of nothing. The earth which is described as the first matter, without any form or ornament, without any distinction or figures, was of God’s forming in the bulk, before he did adorn it with his pencil (Gen. 1:1, 2). God, in the beginning, creating the heaven and the earth, includes two things: First. That those were created in the beginning of time, and before all other things. Secondly. That God begun the creation of the world from those things. Therefore before the heavens and the earth there was nothing absolutely created, and therefore no matter in being before an act of creation passed upon it. It could not be eternal, because nothing can be eternal but God; it must therefore have a beginning. If it had a beginning from itself, then it was before it was. If it acted in the making itself before it was made , then it had a being before it had a being; for that which is nothing, can act nothing: the action of anything supposeth the existence of the thing which acts. It being made, it was not before it was made; for to be made is to be brought into being. It was made, then, by another, and that Maker is God. It is necessary that the First Original of things was from nothing: when we see one thing to arise from another, we must suppose an original of the first of each kind; as, when we see a tree spring up from a seed, we know that seed came out of the bowels of another tree; it had a parent, it had a master; we must come to some first, or else we run into an endless maze: we must come to some first tree, some first seed that had no cause of the same kind, no matter of it, but was mere nothing. Creation doth suppose a production from nothing; because, if you suppose a thing without any real or actual existence, it is not capable of any other production than from nothing: nothing must be supposed before the world, or we must suppose it eternal , and that is to deny it to be a creature, and make it God. The creation of spiritual substances, such as angels and souls, evince this; those things that are purely spiritual, and consist not of matter, cannot pretend to any original from matter, and therefore they rose up from nothing. If spiritual things arose from nothing, much more may corporeal, because they are of a lower nature than spiritual; and he that can create a higher nature of nothing, can create an inferior nature of nothing. As bodily things are more imperfect than spiritual, so their creation may be supposed easier than that of spiritual. There was as little need of any matter to be wrought to his hands, to contrive into this visible fabric, as there was to erect such an excellent order as the glorious cherubims.
2. This creation of things from nothing speaks an infinite power. The distance between nothing and being hath been alway counted so great, that nothing but an Infinite Power can make such distances meet together, either for nothing to pass into being, or being to return to nothing. To have a thing arise from nothing, was so difficult a text to those that were ignorant of the Scripture, that they knew not how to fathom it, and therefore laid it down as a certain rule, that of nothing, nothing is made; which is true of a created power, but not of an uncreated and Almighty Power. A greater distance cannot be imagined than that which is between nothing and something; that which hath no being, and that which hath; and a greater power cannot be imagined than that which brings something out of nothing. We know not how to conceive a nothing, and afterwards a being from that nothing; but we must remain swallowed up in admiration of the Cause that gives it being, and acknowledge it to be without any bounds and measures of greatness and power. The further anything is from being, the more immense must that power be which brings it into being: it is not conceivable that the power of all the angels in one can give being to the smallest spire of grass. To imagine, therefore, so small a thing as a bee, a fly, a grain of corn, or an atom of dust, to be made of nothing, would stupefy any creature in the consideration of it, much more to behold the heavens, with all the troop of stars; the earth, with all its embroidery; and the sea, with all her inhabitants of fish; and man, the noblest creature of all, to arise out of the womb of mere emptiness.
Indeed, God had not acted as an almighty Creator, if he had stood in need of any materials but of his own framing: it had been as much as his Deity was worth, if he had not had all within the compass of his own power that was necessary to operation; if he must have been beholden to something without himself, and above himself, for matter to work upon: had there been such a necessity, we could not have imagined him to be omnipotent, and, consequently, not God.
3. In this the power of God exceeds the power of all natural and rational agents. Nature, or the order of second causes, hath a vast power; the sun generates flies and other insects, but of some matter, the slime of the earth or a dunghill; the sun and the earth bring forth harvests of corn, but from seed first sown in the earth; fruits are brought forth, but from the sap of the plant; were there no seed or plants in the earth , the power of the earth would be idle, and the influence of the sun insignificant; whatsoever strength either of them had in their nature, must be useless without matter to work upon. All the united strength of nature cannot produce the least thing out of nothing; it may multiply and increase things, by the powerful blessing God gave it at the first erecting of the world, but it cannot create. The word which signifies creation, used in Gen. 1:1, is not ascribed to any second cause, but only to God; a word, in that sense, as incommunicable to anything else as the action it signifies. Rational creatures can produce admirable pieces of art from small things, yet still out of matter created to their hands. Excellent garments may be woven, but from the entrails of a small silkworm. Delightful and medicinal spirits and essences maybe extracted, by ingenious chemists, but out of the bodies of plants and minerals. No picture can be drawn without colors; no statue engraven without stone; no building erected without timber, stones, and other materials: nor can any man raise a thought without some matter framed to his hands, or cast into him.
Matter is, by nature, formed to the hands of all artificers; they bestow a new figure upon it, by the help of instruments, and the product of their own wit and skill, but they create not the least particle of matter; when they want it, they must be supplied or else stand still, as well as nature, for none of them, or all together, can make the least mite or atom: and when they have wrought all that they can, they will not want some to find a flaw and defect in their work. God, as a Creator, hath the only prerogative to draw what he pleases from nothing, without any defect, without any imperfection: he can raise what matter he please; ennoble it with what form he pleases. Of nothing, nothing can be made, by any created agent: but the omnipotent Architect of the world is not under the same necessity, nor is limited to the same rule, and tied by so short a tedder as created nature, or an ingenious, yet feeble artificer. 2d. It appears, in raising such variety of creatures from this barren womb of nothing, or from the matter which he first commanded to appear out of nothing. Had there been any pre-existent matter, yet the bringing forth such varieties and diversities of excellent creatures, some with life, some with sense, and others with reason superadded to the rest, and those out of indisposed and undigested matter, would argue an infinite power resident in the first Author of this variegated fabric. From this matter be formed that glorious sun, which every day displays its glory, scatters its beams, clears the air, ripens our fruits, and maintains the propagation of creatures in the world. From this matter he lighted those torches which he set in the heaven to qualify the darkness of the night: from this he compacted those bodies of light, which, though they seem to us as little sparks, as if they were the glow-worms of heaven, yet some of them exceed in greatness this globe of the earth on which we live and the highest of them hath so quick a motion, that some tell us they run, in the space of every hour, 42,000,000 of leagues. From the same matter he drew the earth on which we walk; from thence he extracted the flowers to adorn it, the hills to secure the valleys, and the rocks to fortify it against the inundations of the sea; and on this dull and sluggish element he bestowed so great a fruitfulness, to maintain, feed, and multiply so many seeds of different kinds, and conferred upon those little bodies of seeds a power to multiply their kinds, in conjunction with the fruitfulness of the earth, to many thousands. From this rude matter, the slime or dust of the earth, he kneaded the body of man, and wrought so curious a fabric, fit to entertain a soul of a heavenly extraction, formed by the breath of God (Gen. 2:7). He brought light out of thick darkness, and living creatures, fish and fowl, out of inanimate waters (Gen. 1:20), and gave a power of spontaneous motion to things arising from that matter which had no living motion. To convert one thing into another , is an evidence of infinite power, as well as creating things of nothing; for the distance between life and not life is next to that which is between being and not being. God first forms matter out of nothing, and then draws upon, and from this indisposed chaos, many excellent portraitures. Neither earth nor sea were capable of producing living creatures without an infinite power working upon it, and bringing into it such variety and multitude of forms; and this is called, by some, mediate creation, as the producing the chaos , which was without form and void, is called immediate creation. Is not the power of the potter admirable in forming, out of tempered clay, such varieties of neat and curious vessels, that, after they are fashioned and past the furnace, look as if they were not of any lain to the matter they are formed of? and is it not the same with the glass-maker, that, from a little melted jelly of sand and ashes, or the dust of flint, can blow up so pure a body as glass, and in such varieties of shapes? and is not the power of God more admirable, because infinite in speaking out so beautiful a world out of nothing, and such varieties of living creatures from matter utterly indisposed, in its own nature, for such forms?
3d. And this conducts to a third thing, wherein the power of God appears, in that he did all this with the greatest ease and facility. 1. Without instruments. As God made the world without the advice, so without the assistance, of any other: “He stretched forth the heavens alone, and spread abroad the earth by himself” (Isa. 44:24). He had no engine, but his word; no pattern or model, but himself. What need can he have of instruments, that is able to create what instruments he pleases? Where there is no resistance in the object, where no need of preparation or instrumental advantage in the agent; there the actual determination of the will is sufficient to a production. What instrument need we to the thinking of a thought, or an act of our will? Men, indeed, cannot act anything without tools; the best artificer must be beholden to something else for his noblest works of art. The carpenter cannot work without his rule, and axe, and saw, and other instruments; the watch-maker cannot act without his file and pliers; but in creation, there is nothing necessary to God’s bringing forth a world, but a simple act of his will, which is both the principal cause, and instrumental. He had no scaffolds to rear it, no engines to polish it, no hammers or mattocks to God and work it together. It is a miserable error to measure the actions of an Infinite Cause by the imperfect model of a finite, since, by his own “power and out-stretched arm, he made the heaven and the earth” (Jer. 32:17). What excellency would God have in his work above others, if he needed instruments, as feeble men do? Every artificer is counted more admirable, that can frame curious works with the less matter, fewer tools, and assistances. God uses instruments in his works of providence, not for necessity, but for the display of his wisdom in the management of them; yet those instruments were originally framed by him without instruments. Indeed, some of the Jews thought the angels were the instruments of God in creating man, and that those words, “Let us make man in our own image” (Gen. 1:26), were spoken to angels. But certainly the Scripture, which denies God any counsellor in the model of creation (Isa. 40:12–14), doth not join any instrument with him in the operation, which is everywhere ascribed to himself “without created assistance” (Isa. 45:18). It was not to angels God spake in that affair; if so, man was made after the image of angels, if they were companions with God in that work; but it is everywhere said, that “Man was made after the image of God” (Gen. 1:27). Again, the image wherein man was created, was that of dominion over the lower creatures, as appears ver. 26, which we find not conferred upon angels; and it is not likely that Moses should introduce the angels, as God’s privy counsel, of whose creation he had not mentioned one syllable. “Let us make man,” rather signifies the Trinity, and not spoken in a royal style, as some think. Which of the Jewish kings wrote in the style, We? That was the custom of later times; and we must not measure the language of Scripture by the style of Europe, of a far later date than the penning the history of the creation. If angels were his counsellors in the creation of the material world, what instrument had he in the creation of angels? If his own wisdom were the director, and his own will the producer of the one; why should we not think, that he acted by his sole power in the other? It is concluded by most, that the power of creation cannot be derived to any creature, it being a work of omnipotency; the drawing something out from nothing, cannot be communicated without a communication of the Deity itself. The educing things from nothing exceeds the capacity of any creature, and the creature is of too feeble a nature to be elevated to so high a degree. It is very unreasonable to think, that God needed any such aid.
If an instrument were necessary for God to create the world, then he could not do it without that instrument: if he could not, he were not then all-sufficient in himself, if he depended upon anything without himself, for the production or consummation of his works. And it might be inquired, how that instrument came into being; if it begun to be, and there was a time when it was not, it must have its being from the power of God; and then, why could not God as well create all things without an instrument, as create that instrument without an instrument? For there was no more power necessary to a producing the whole without instruments, than to produce one creature without an instrument. No creature can, in its own nature, be an instrument of creation. If any such instrument were used by God, it must be elevated in a miraculous and supernatural way; and what is so an instrument, is, in effect, no instrument; for it works nothing by its own nature, but from an elevation by a superior nature, and beyond its own nature. All that power in the instrument is truly the power of God, and not the power of the instrument; and, therefore, what God doth by an instrument, he could do as well without. If you should see one apply straw to iron, for the cutting of it, and effect it, you would not call the straw an instrument in that action, because there was nothing in the nature of the straw to do it. It was done wholly by some other force, which might have done it as well without the straw as with it. The narrative of the creation in Genesis, removes any instrument from God. The plants which are preserved and propagated by the influence of the sun, were created the day before the sun, viz. on the “third day,” whereas, the light was collected into the body of the sun on the “fourth day” (Gen. 1:11, 16); to show, that though the plants do instrumentally owe their yearly beauty and preservation to the sun, yet they did not in any manner owe their creation to the instrumental heat and vigor of it.
2. God created the world by a word, by a simple act of his will. The whole creation is wrought by a word; “God said, Let there be light;” and “God said, Let there be a firmament.” Not that we should understand it of a sensible word, but understand it of a powerful order of his own will, which is expressed by the Psalmist in the nature of a command (Psalm 33:9): “He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast;” and (Psalm 148:5), “He commanded, and they were created.” At the same instant that he willed them to stand forth, they did stand forth. The efficacious command of the Creator was the original of all things: the insensibility of nothing obeyed the act of his will. Creation is therefore entitled a calling (Rom. 4:17): “He calls those things which are not, as if they were.” To create is no more with God, than to call; and what he calls, presents itself before him in the same posture that he calls it. He did with more ease make a world, than we can form a thought. It is the same ease to him to create worlds, as to decree them; there needs no more than a resolve to have things wrought at such a time, and they will be, according to his pleasure. This will is his power; “Let there be light,” is the precept of his will; and “there was light,” is the effect of his precept. By a word, was the matter of the heavens and the earth framed; by a word, things separate themselves from the rude mass into their proper forms; by a word, light associates itself into one body, and forms a sun; by a word, are the heavens, as it were, bespangled with stars, and the earth dressed with flowers; by a word, is the world both ceiled and floored: one act of his will, formed the world, and perfected its beauty. All the variety and several exploits of his power were not caused by distinct words or acts of power. God uttered not distinct words for distinct species; as, let there be an elephant, and let there be a lion; but as he produced those various creatures out of one matter, so by one word. By one single command, those varieties of creatures, with their clothing, ornaments, distinct notes, qualities, functions, were brought forth (Gen. 1:11): by one word, all the seeds of the earth, with their various virtues: by one word, all the fish of the sea, and fowls of the air, in their distinct natures, instincts, colors (Gen. 1:20): by one word, all the beasts of the field, with their varieties (Gen. 1:24). Heaven and earth, spiritual and corporeal creatures, mortal and immortal, the greater and the less, visible and invisible, were formed with the same ease: a word made the least, and a word made the greatest. It is as little difficulty to him to produce the highest angel, as the lightest atom. It is enough for the existence of the stateliest cherubim, for God only to will his being. It was enough for the forming and fixing the sun, to will the cornpacting of light into one body. The creation of the soul of man is expressed by inspiration (Gen. 2:7); to show, that it is as easy with God to create a rational soul, as for man to breathe. Breathing is natural to man, by a communication of God’s goodness; and the creation of the soul is as easy to God, by virtue of his Almighty word. As there was no proportion between nothing and being, so there was as little proportion between a word and such glorious effects. A mere voice, coming from an Omnipotent will, was capable to produce such varieties, which angels and men have seen in all ages of the world, and this without weariness. What labor is there in willing? what pain could there be in speaking a word? (Isa. 40:28), “The Creator of the ends of the earth is not weary.” And though he be said to rest after the creation, it is to be meant a rest from work, not a repose from weariness. So great is the power of God, that without any matter, without any instruments, he could create many worlds, and with the same ease as he made this.
4th. I might add also, the appearance of this power in the instantateous production of things. The ending of his word was not only the beginning, but the perfection of every thing he spake into being; not several words to several parts and members, but one word, one breath of his mouth, one act of his will, to the whole species of the creatures, and to every member in each individual. Heaven and earth were created in a moment; six days went to their disposal; and that comely order we observe in the world was the work of a week: the matter was formed as soon as God had spoken the word; and in every part of the creation, as soon as God spake the word, “Let it be so” (Gen. 1.), the answer immediately is, “It was so;” which notes the present standing up of the creature according to the act of his will: and, therefore, one observes, that “Let there be light, and there was light;” in the Hebrew are the same words, without any alteration of letter or point, only the conjunctive particle added, אור ויחי אור יחי “Let there be light, and let there be light,” to show, that the same instant of the speaking the Divine word, was the appearance of the creature: so great was the authority of his will. SECONDLY, We are to show God’s power in the GOVERNMENT of the world. As God decreed from eternity the creation of things in time, so he decreed from eternity the particular ends of creatures, and their operation respecting those ends. Now, as there was need of his power to execute his decree of creation, there is also need of his power to execute his decree about the manner of government. All government is an act of the understanding, will, and power. Prudence to design belongs to the understanding; the election of the means belongs to the will; and the accomplishment of the whole is an act of power. It is a hard matter to determine which is most necessary: wisdom stands in as much need of power to perfect, as power doth of wisdom, to model and draw out a scheme; though wisdom directs, power must effect. Wisdom and power are distinct things among men: a poor man in a cottage may have more prudence to advise, than a privy counsellor; and a prince more power to act, than wisdom to conduct. A pilot may direct though he be lame, and cannot climb the masts, and spread the sails: but God is wanting in nothing; neither in wisdom to design, nor in will to determine, nor in power to accomplish.
His wisdom is not feeble, nor his power foolish: a feeble wisdom could not act what it would, and a foolish power would act more than it should. The power expressed in his government is shadowed forth in the living creatures, which are God’s instruments in it. It is said, “Every one of them had four faces” (Ezek. 1:10); that of a man to signify wisdom; of a lion, eagle, the strongest among birds, to signify their courage and strength to perform their offices. This power is evident in the natural, moral, gracious government. There is a natural providence, which consists in the preservation of all things, propogation of them by corruptions and generations, and in a co-operation with them in their motions to attain their ends. Moral government is of the hearts and actions of men. Gracious government, as respecting the Church.
The Existence and Attributes of God