Paul Sails for RomeActs 27 1 And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius. 2 And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. 3 The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. 4 And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. 5 And when we had sailed across the open sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7 We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. 8 Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.
9 Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.
The Storm at Sea13 Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. 17 After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. 18 Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. 19 And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.”
27 When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. 28 So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms. 29 And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. 30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.
33 As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 (We were in all 276 persons in the ship.) 38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.
The Shipwreck39 Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. 40 So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. 41 But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. 42 The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, 44 and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
Paul on MaltaActs 28 1 After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. 3 When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. 4 When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. 9 And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.
Paul Arrives at Rome11 After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13 And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. 16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.
Paul in Rome17 After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. 18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” 21 And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”
23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:
26 “ ‘Go to this people, and say,
“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
27 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
What I'm Reading
Two Hidden Science Facts in the Passion Week
By J. Warner Wallace 4/23/2014
I’ve been on the road for several weeks, training Christians in churches (and at conferences) prior to the Easter holiday. Much of this training has been focused on the Gospel accounts of the Passion Week. Why should we trust these accounts, and how might we evaluate their reliability? As I first examined the Gospels, I found two pieces of hidden science lending credibility to the eyewitness accounts. The Gospel authors included two incredulous observations, even though they didn’t completely understand what they had seen (or what had been seen by others) at the time of the initial writings. Only years later, as our understanding of biology increased, did these observations make any sense. When a witness adamantly testifies to an incomprehensible observation, only to have that observation explained by someone else many years later, the credibility of the original eyewitness is strengthened.
Let me give you an example. I once had a case in which an eyewitness, Debbie, claimed her mother’s jewelry had been stolen by a burglar. She told the police she came home early from school and caught the burglar in her home. The thief ran out the back door, with Debbie chasing close behind. Debbie said he vanished, however, the minute he entered her back yard, and although Debbie checked the fences around her parent’s property, the thief seemed to disappear into thin air. The responding police officer doubted her story, given the fact Debbie had been in trouble with the law before. The officer assumed she stole the jewelry and was lying about the “vanishing burglar”. Weeks later, another burglary occurred in the neighborhood, however, and this time the burglar was apprehended by the police. He confessed to taking the jewelry in the first theft and told investigators he immediately jumped under the house (through an open vent in the foundation) when he was chased by the young woman who saw him. He hid under the house for several hours until the police had come and gone. He then carefully snuck out of the yard. The confession of the burglar now explained Debbie’s observations; she became credible once her seemingly incredulous testimony was explained.
Two of the Gospel eyewitnesses (Luke and John) provide details of the Passion Week incredulous to the first readers of their accounts. Centuries later, when our understanding of human biology improved, these observations finally made sense. Luke, for example, describes the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane in which Jesus prayed prior to being taken captive:
Luke 22:41-44 | And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.
In the last line of this passage, we have a rather incredulous description of Jesus sweating drops of blood. It appears this was confusing for the first readers of Scripture as well; the Church Fathers weren’t quite sure what to make of it in their own writings. Many treated the line as poetic license on the part of Luke. Justin Martyr, when describing the verse in his own teaching, typically omitted this line altogether. The readers of the ancient world struggled to make sense of Luke’s description because they had never seen anything like this in their own personal experience. Today we understand the rare hidden science behind Luke’s observation. As Dr. Joseph Bergeron describes, “Psychogenic (fear induced) Hematidrosis has been observed in a handful of reported cases from fear of impending physical harm. Most of these reported cases were in individuals just prior to execution.” Luke’s report of Jesus sweating blood was not poetry; it was simply an example of hidden science lending credibility to the original observation. It’s unlikely the Luke would invent an unexplainable detail if he wanted the story to seem reasonable to the first hearers.
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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of: James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Scripture Speaks for the Unborn
By Pastor Mark Gullerud
January 22, 1973, is the infamous date in the history of our country when the United States Supreme Court handed down the Roe vs. Wade decisions, which legalized abortions in this country. With this standing as the law of the land, it has been reported that over the past 20 years there have been at least 28 million abortions in the United States. Although concerned citizens have diligently sought to have this decision overturned, this abominable law still stands.
A Call to Action | In the book of Proverbs, Solomon gives this exhortation to his readers concerning the innocent who are unjustly appointed to die, “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter” (24:11). As long as abortions continue to be permitted in this country, the unborn babies are in need of advocates who will speak in their behalf and in their defense. Since our country is a democracy, citizens of this land have the right, the privilege, and the responsibility to lawfully exert their influence to bring about change in laws for the betterment of all its citizens, both born and unborn. We recognize, of course, that morality cannot be legislated. People’s attitudes will not be changed by the mere revising of a civil law. But what the civil law cannot accomplish, the Word of God can. The Word of God is the most powerful means of changing people’s hearts and minds. In order that this powerful means might be used effectively, it is important for Christians to be as fully armed as possible with God’s Word of truth.
The following examination of Scripture is an attempt to help equip Christians to speak for the lives of unborn babies.
The Power to Conceive a Baby | While it is a biological fact that conception commonly requires the sexual union of a man and a woman, yet the power to conceive a child ultimately lies with God. The Lord either opens the womb of a woman, enabling her to conceive, or He closes her womb, thus preventing conception. This is seen as the case of Jacob’s wife, Rachel. When Rachel was unable to have children for a time, Jacob said to her, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” (Genesis 30:2). Later on when Rachel conceived a child, Scripture gives this explanation for it, “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. And she conceived and bore a son” (Genesis 30:22-23). Other portions of Scripture also assert the agency of God in conception (cf. 1 Samuel 1:6, 11, 19, 20 - Hannah).
God Creates All Human Life | Acts 17:24, 25. “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.”
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Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith
By Tim Challies 11/21/16
Few things are sadder to witness than people who once professed faith leaving it all behind. This is especially true when those people were raised in Christian homes by God-fearing parents. These children were given every opportunity to put their faith in Jesus but determined instead to turn their backs on him. Why would they make such a tragic choice?
Several years ago Tom Bisset carried out a study of people who had left the faith. Wanting this to be more than a statistical analysis, he actually sat down with people to interview them and ask for detailed information on when, why, and how they abandoned their faith. As he compiled his research he arrived at the four most prominent reasons that people raised in Christian homes eventually leave Christianity behind.
They leave because they have troubling, unanswered questions about the faith. Essentially, they come to doubt that Christianity offers compelling answers to the tough questions—questions related to science, suffering, sexuality, and a host of other crucial subjects. Their doubts may be intellectual or academic, theological or practical. Whatever the case, they became convinced that Christianity does not actually offer truth to those who seek it, that its answers are unreasonable, unrealistic, or just plain wrong. No longer satisfied with the answers and claims of Christianity, they opt for “intellectual honesty” and look elsewhere.
(A solution to this problem is to engage the difficult questions with our children and to show that Christianity offers a cohesive and compelling worldview that accounts for science, suffering, sexuality, and whatever else we find pressing or perplexing. We have nothing to fear from even our children’s most difficult questions.)
They leave because their faith is not working for them. Though they tried and perhaps even tried honestly and sincerely, they were not able to find the peace, joy, or meaning the Christian faith claims to offer them. Their personal experience of Christianity was never able to match what they had been taught to believe about it. Their experience was never able to match what they saw modeled by friends, pastors, or parents—people who expressed the joy and fulfillment that was theirs through a relationship with Christ Jesus. Out of discouragement they abandoned Christianity, sure its claims were exaggerated or just plain false.
Tim Challies: I am a Christian, a husband to Aileen and a father to three children aged 10 to 16. I worship and serve as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. I am a book reviewer, co-founder of Cruciform Press.
I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.
Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.
Tim Challies Books | Go to Books Page
Why are our children so bored at school, cannot wait, get easily frustrated and have no real friends?
By Victoria Prooday 5/2016
Dear readers, I published this article in May 2016. Within a year it has been read by six million people. The article was translated into 15 languages, I received thousands of comments from parents, teachers, and professionals sharing my concerns. The overwhelming response to my article proves that people all around the world share my concerns regarding the well-being of their children and change in the way we raise out children is inevitable. Thank you. --- Victoria Prooday
I am an occupational therapist with 10 years of experience working with children, parents, and teachers. In my practice, I have seen and continue to see a decline in kids’ social, emotional, and academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.
Today’s children come to school emotionally unavailable for learning, and there are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this. As we know, the brain is malleable. Through environment, we can make the brain “stronger” or make it “weaker”. I truly believe that, despite all our greatest intentions, we unfortunately remold our children’s brains in the wrong direction. Here is why:
1. Technology | Using technology as a “Free babysitting service” is, in fact, not free at all. The payment is waiting for you just around the corner. We pay with our kids’ nervous systems, with their attention, and with their ability for delayed gratification. Compared to virtual reality, everyday life is boring. When kids come to the classroom, they are exposed to human voices and adequate visual stimulation as opposed to being bombarded with the graphic explosions and special effects that they are used to seeing on the screens. After hours of virtual reality, processing information in a classroom becomes increasingly challenging for our kids because their brains are getting used to the high levels of stimulation that video games provide. The inability to process lower levels of stimulation leaves kids vulnerable to academic challenges. Technology also disconnects us emotionally from our children and our families. Parental emotional availability is the main nutrient for child’s brain. Unfortunately, we are gradually depriving our children of that nutrient.
2. Kids get everything they want the moment they want | “I am Hungry!!” “In a sec I will stop at the drive thru” “I am Thirsty!” “Here is a vending machine.” “I am bored!” “Use my phone!” The ability to delay gratification is one of the key factors for future success. We have the best intentions -- to make our children happy -- but unfortunately, we make them happy at the moment but miserable in the long term. To be able to delay gratification means to be able to function under stress. Our children are gradually becoming less equipped to deal with even minor stressors, which eventually become huge obstacles to their success in life.
Victoria Prooday is a registered Occupational Therapist, the founder and clinical director of a multidisciplinary clinic. Victoria is an internationally-known educator, motivational speaker and a popular blogger on modern-day parenting and high-tech lifestyle’s impact on a child nervous system. Victoria believes that the first step towards helping children begins from parents’ education. Victoria empowers parents with practical tools proven to facilitate positive changes in children and their families.
What Conservatives Can, and Should, Expect
By Rob Schwarzwalder 11/19/16
Let us say that conservatives get all they ever imagined from a Trump presidency, from the correction of Roe v. Wade and an originalist Supreme Court to a smaller government and a more robust military. For starters, that is.
Well, let’s hope. But let’s also inhale the sometimes unpleasant scent of reality.
Rob Schwarzwalder is a Senior Contributor at The Stream and a Senior Lecturer at Regent University. Raised in Washington State, he lived with his family in the suburban D.C. area for nearly 25 years until coming to Regent in the summer of 2016. Rob was Senior Vice-President at the Family Research Council for more than seven years, and previously served as chief-of-staff to two Members of Congress. He was also a communications and media aide to a U.S. Senator and senior speechwriter for the Hon. Tommy Thompson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For several years, he was Director of Communications at the National Association of Manufacturers. While on Capitol Hill, he served on the staffs of members of both Senate and House Armed Services Committees and the Senate Committee with oversight of federal healthcare policy.
Rob is focused on the intersection of theology, culture and politics. His background in public policy has been informed by his service on Capitol Hill, the private sector and various Christian ministries. His op-eds have been published in numerous national publications, ranging from TIME and U.S. News and World Report to Christianity Today, The Federalist and The Public Discourse, as well as scores of newspapers and opinion journals. He has been interviewed on National Public Radio, Fox News, and other leading television and radio programs. Rob’s scholarly publications include studies of such issues as fatherlessness, pornography, federal economic policy and national security.
Rob has done graduate work at George Washington University and holds an M.A. in theology from Western Seminary (Portland, Ore.) and an undergraduate degree from Biola University. He and his wife of 35 years, Valerie, make their home in Virginia Beach and have three children.
Why Does Faith Alone Matter?
By Silverio Gonzalez 11/21/2016
Justification by faith alone is hard to summarize, but Thomas Schreiner does a good job when he describes Martin’s Luther’s view in his book, Faith Alone---The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught...and Why It Still Matters (The Five Solas Series):
God’s radical grace was necessary for human beings to be right before God because human obedience could never qualify….Believers needed an imputed righteousness, a righteousness given to them instead of earned by them….Faith receives what God gives, and those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as the crucified and risen one are right with God. (p. 52)
To those of us who are already convinced, this sounds great, but many who read these words will wonder why it matters. I understand the concern. The two little words faith alone have caused a lot of controversy, splitting the church between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Anything that divides the church must matter—even if only to expose the issue as a pointless discussion that divides the church—but the teaching of justification by faith alone brings us to the very heart of the gospel.
In the introduction to his book, Schreiner explains it this way: “We are talking about standing before God on the last day, on the day of judgment, and sola fide [faith alone] answers that question: How will we stand before the Holy One of Israel?” (16). Justification by faith alone “reminds us of the grace of the gospel, testifying that ultimately our salvation, our standing and acceptance before God, is entirely of the Lord” (17). Schreiner captures the issue at stake: justification by faith alone is a matter of eternal consequence.
Here I want to develop what he touches on. I want you to see that justification by faith alone matters not just for eternity but also for the present. It makes a difference in how we relate to God and people.
Silverio Gonzalez is a member at Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Temecula, CA, with his wife, Lisa, and their daughter. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy and a Master of Divinity. He is a thinker, book reader, coffee drinker, and post-1950’s jazz aficionado. He likes words, people, and conversation, and spends most of his free time learning the new art of fatherhood.
The Right Balance
By Scott Redd 2/2015
One of the first things we learn about work is that we are to regularly stop doing it (Gen. 2:1-3). The creation account of Genesis 1 culminates in the Lord’s setting aside His creative labors in order to rest. That divine rest becomes a model for those made in the image of this working-and-resting God, which means that all humanity is likewise called to regularly rest from daily labor (Ex. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15). Human rest is first presented to us as God’s rest. He completes His creative work, sits back, looks at it, declares that it is good, and then He rests. Even for the Lord, rest springs naturally out of work.
(Ge 2:1–3)1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. ESV
God calls humans to work and rest not merely because these are helpful suggestions for a good life but because they mark what it means to be human, because they emanate together out of the divine character in whose image we have been made. We work and rest because God does, and we are crafted in His image. This is true for all human beings, whether they realize it or not. Work is the means by which we carry out our calling as God’s image-bearers in the world, and rest is the means by which we reflect the lordship of the Creator who made us in His image.
In theory, most people understand that work and rest go together. Due to the fall, however, we tend to emphasize one over the other, forgetting that we are called to pursue both in concert. We err when we privilege one over the other because we break apart this structure for life that the Lord has ordained. In our rebellion, we take a good created thing and we turn it into an idol.
Work idolatry is work without rest, or what is sometimes called “workaholism.” We fall into work idolatry when we engage in work without preparing for it with rest. Such work is ultimately meaningless and unsatisfying for people made in the image of God.
I live in Washington, D.C., a city whose citizens take much pride in their propensity to work hard. Our roads and transit system teem with laborers during rush hours that begin early in the morning and end late in the evening, and this is a point of gritty pride for us. I suspect most people living and working in America’s urban centers would consider sloth to be a sort of obvious sin, a glaring vice that should be avoided. If sloth is not a deadly sin for them, it is surely an embarrassing one.
Dr. Scott Redd is president and associate professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
THE NEED OF SCRIPTURE, AS A GUIDE AND TEACHER, IN COMING TO GOD AS A CREATOR.
1. God gives his elect a better help to the knowledge of himself--viz. the Holy Scriptures. This he did from the very first.
2. First, By oracles and visions, and the ministry of the Patriarchs. Secondly, By the promulgation of the Law, and the preaching of the Prophets. Why the doctrines of religion are committed to writing.
3. This view confirmed, 1. By the depravity of our nature making it necessary in every one who would know God to have recourse to the word; 2. From those passages of the Psalms in which God is introduced as reigning.
4. Another confirmation from certain direct statements in the Psalms. Lastly, From the words of our Saviour.
1. Therefore, though the effulgence which is presented to every eye, both in the heavens and on the earth, leaves the ingratitude of man without excuse, since God, in order to bring the whole human race under the same condemnation, holds forth to all, without exception, a mirror of his Deity in his works, another and better help must be given to guide us properly to God as a Creator. Not in vain, therefore, has he added the light of his Word in order that he might make himself known unto salvation, and bestowed the privilege on those whom he was pleased to bring into nearer and more familiar relation to himself. For, seeing how the minds of men were carried to and fro, and found no certain resting-place, he chose the Jews for a peculiar people, and then hedged them in that they might not, like others, go astray. And not in vain does he, by the same means, retain us in his knowledge, since but for this, even those who, in comparison of others, seem to stand strong, would quickly fall away. For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any books however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but, when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly. God therefore bestows a gift of singular value, when, for the instruction of the Church, he employs not dumb teachers merely, but opens his own sacred mouth; when he not only proclaims that some God must be worshipped, but at the same time declares that He is the God to whom worship is due; when he not only teaches his elect to have respect to God, but manifests himself as the God to whom this respect should be paid.
The course which God followed towards his Church from the very first, was to supplement these common proofs by the addition of his Word, as a surer and more direct means of discovering himself. And there can be no doubt that it was by this help, Adam, Noah, Abraham, and the other patriarchs, attained to that familiar knowledge which, in a manner, distinguished them from unbelievers. I am not now speaking of the peculiar doctrines of faith by which they were elevated to the hope of eternal blessedness. It was necessary, in passing from death unto life, that they should know God, not only as a Creator, but as a Redeemer also; and both kinds of knowledge they certainly did obtain from the Word. In point of order, however, the knowledge first given was that which made them acquainted with the God by whom the world was made and is governed. To this first knowledge was afterwards added the more intimate knowledge which alone quickens dead souls, and by which God is known not only as the Creator of the worlds and the sole author and disposer of all events, but also as a Redeemer, in the person of the Mediator. But as the fall and the corruption of nature have not yet been considered, I now postpone the consideration of the remedy (for which, see Book 2 c. 6 &c). Let the reader then remember, that I am not now treating of the covenant by which God adopted the children of Abraham, or of that branch of doctrine by which, as founded in Christ, believers have, properly speaking, been in all ages separated from the profane heathen. I am only showing that it is necessary to apply to Scripture, in order to learn the sure marks which distinguish God, as the Creator of the world, from the whole herd of fictitious gods. We shall afterward, in due course, consider the work of Redemption. In the meantime, though we shall adduce many passages from the New Testament, and some also from the Law and the Prophets, in which express mention is made of Christ, the only object will be to show that God, the Maker of the world, is manifested to us in Scripture, and his true character expounded, so as to save us from wandering up and down, as in a labyrinth, in search of some doubtful deity.
2. Whether God revealed himself to the fathers by oracles and visions,  or, by the instrumentality and ministry of men, suggested what they were to hand down to posterity, there cannot be a doubt that the certainty of what he taught them was firmly engraven on their hearts, so that they felt assured and knew that the things which they learnt came forth from God, who invariably accompanied his word with a sure testimony, infinitely superior to mere opinion. At length, in order that, while doctrine was continually enlarged, its truth might subsist in the world during all ages, it was his pleasure that the same oracles which he had deposited with the fathers should be consigned, as it were, to public records. With this view the law was promulgated, and prophets were afterwards added to be its interpreters. For though the uses of the law were manifold (Book 2 c. 7 and 8), and the special office assigned to Moses and all the prophets was to teach the method of reconciliation between God and man (whence Paul calls Christ "the end of the law," Rom. 10:4); still I repeat that, in addition to the proper doctrine of faith and repentance in which Christ is set forth as a Mediator, the Scriptures employ certain marks and tokens to distinguish the only wise and true God, considered as the Creator and Governor of the world, and thereby guard against his being confounded with the herd of false deities. Therefore, while it becomes man seriously to employ his eyes in considering the works of God, since a place has been assigned him in this most glorious theatre that he may be a spectator of them, his special duty is to give ear to the Word, that he may the better profit.  Hence it is not strange that those who are born in darkness become more and more hardened in their stupidity; because the vast majority instead of confining themselves within due bounds by listening with docility to the Word, exult in their own vanity. If true religion is to beam upon us, our principle must be, that it is necessary to begin with heavenly teaching, and that it is impossible for any man to obtain even the minutest portion of right and sound doctrine without being a disciple of Scripture. Hence, the first step in true knowledge is taken, when we reverently embrace the testimony which God has been pleased therein to give of himself. For not only does faith, full and perfect faith, but all correct knowledge of God, originate in obedience. And surely in this respect God has with singular Providence provided for mankind in all ages.
3. For if we reflect how prone the human mind is to lapse into forgetfulness of God, how readily inclined to every kind of error, how bent every now and then on devising new and fictitious religions, it will be easy to understand how necessary it was to make such a depository of doctrine as would secure it from either perishing by the neglect, vanishing away amid the errors, or being corrupted by the presumptuous audacity of men. It being thus manifest that God, foreseeing the inefficiency of his image imprinted on the fair form of the universe, has given the assistance of his Word to all whom he has ever been pleased to instruct effectually, we, too, must pursue this straight path, if we aspire in earnest to a genuine contemplation of God;--we must go, I say, to the Word, where the character of God, drawn from his works is described accurately and to the life; these works being estimated, not by our depraved Judgment, but by the standard of eternal truth. If, as I lately said, we turn aside from it, how great soever the speed with which we move, we shall never reach the goal, because we are off the course. We should consider that the brightness of the Divine countenance, which even an apostle declares to be inaccessible (1 Tim. 6:16), is a kind of labyrinth,--a labyrinth to us inextricable, if the Word do not serve us as a thread to guide our path; and that it is better to limp in the way, than run with the greatest swiftness out of it. Hence the Psalmist, after repeatedly declaring (Psalm 93, 96, 97, 99, &c). that superstition should be banished from the world in order that pure religion may flourish, introduces God as reigning; meaning by the term, not the power which he possesses and which he exerts in the government of universal nature, but the doctrine by which he maintains his due supremacy: because error never can be eradicated from the heart of man until the true knowledge of God has been implanted in it.
4. Accordingly, the same prophet, after mentioning that the heavens declare the glory of God, that the firmament sheweth forth the works of his hands, that the regular succession of day and night proclaim his Majesty, proceeds to make mention of the Word:--"The law of the Lord," says he, "is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes," (Psalm 19:1-9). For though the law has other uses besides (as to which, see Book 2 c. 7, sec. 6, 10, 12), the general meaning is, that it is the proper school for training the children of God; the invitation given to all nations, to behold him in the heavens and earth, proving of no avail. The same view is taken in the 29th Psalm, where the Psalmist, after discoursing on the dreadful voice of God, which, in thunder, wind, rain, whirlwind, and tempest, shakes the earth, makes the mountains tremble, and breaks the cedars, concludes by saying, "that in his temple does every one speak of his glory," unbelievers being deaf to all God's words when they echo in the air. In like manner another Psalm, after describing the raging billows of the sea, thus concludes, "Thy testimonies are very sure; holiness becometh thine house for ever," (Psalm 93:5). To the same effect are the words of our Saviour to the Samaritan woman, when he told her that her nation and all other nations worshipped they knew not what; and that the Jews alone gave worship to the true God (John 4:22). Since the human mind, through its weakness, was altogether unable to come to God if not aided and upheld by his sacred word, it necessarily followed that all mankind, the Jews excepted, inasmuch as they sought God without the Word, were labouring under vanity and error.
 70 The French adds, "C'est à dire, temoignages celestes;"--that is to say, messages from heaven.
 Tertullian, Apologet. adv. Gentes: "Quae plenius et impressius tam ipsum quam dispositiones ejus et voluntates adiremus, instrumentum adjecit literature,"
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 127Unless the LORD Builds the House
127 A Song Of Ascents. Of Solomon.
127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
John Simpson and John ArdeleyJohn Simpson and John Ardeley were condemned on the same day with Mr. Carmaker and John Warne, which was the twenty-fifth of May. They were shortly after sent down from London to Essex, where they were burnt in one day, John Simpson at Rochford, and John Ardeley at Railey, glorifying God in His beloved Son, and rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer.
Thomas Haukes, Thomas Watts, and Anne AskewThomas Haukes, with six others, was condemned on the ninth of February, 1555. In education he was erudite; in person, comely, and of good stature; in manners, a gentleman, and a sincere Christian. A little before death, several of Mr. Hauke's friends, terrified by the sharpness of the punishment he was going to suffer, privately desired that in the midst of the flames he should show them some token, whether the pains of burning were so great that a man might not collectedly endure it. This he promised to do; and it was agreed that if the rage of the pain might be suffered, then he should lift up his hands above his head towards heaven, before he gave up the ghost. Not long after, Mr. Haukes was led away to the place appointed for slaughter by Lord Rich, and being come to the stake, mildly and patiently prepared himself for the fire, having a strong chain cast about his middle, with a multitude of people on every side compassing him about, unto whom after he had spoken many things, and poured out his soul unto God, the fire was kindled.
When he had continued long in it, and his speech was taken away by violence of the flame, his skin drawn together, and his fingers consumed with the fire, so that it was thought that he was gone, suddenly and contrary to all expectation, this good man being mindful of his promise, reached up his hands burning in flames over his head to the living God, and with great rejoicings as it seemed, struck or clapped them three times together. A great shout followed this wonderful circumstance, and then this blessed martyr of Christ, sinking down in the fire, gave up his spirit, June 10, 1555.
Thomas Watts, of Billerica, in Essex, of the diocese of London, was a linen draper. He had daily expected to be taken by God's adversaries, and this came to pass on the fifth of April, 1555, when he was brought before Lord Rich, and other commissioners at Chelmsford, and accused for not coming to the church.
Being consigned over to the bloody bishop, who gave him several hearings, and, as usual, many arguments, with much entreaty, that he would be a disciple of Antichrist, but his preaching availed not, and he resorted to his last revenge-that of condemnation.
At the stake, after he had kissed it, he spake to Lord Rich, charging him to repent, for the Lord would revenge his death. Thus did this good martyr offer his body to the fire, in defence of the true Gospel of the Savior.
Thomas Osmond, William Bamford, and Nicholas Chamberlain, all of the town of Coxhall, being sent up to be examined, Bonner, after several hearings, pronounced them obstinate heretics, and delivered them to the sheriffs, in whose custody they remained until they were delivered to the sheriff of Essex county, and by him were executed, Chamberlain at Colchester, the fourteenth of June; Thomas Osmond at Maningtree, and William Bamford, alias Butler, at Harwich, the fifteenth of June, 1555; all dying full of the glorious hope of immortality.
Then Wriotheseley, lord chancellor, offered Anne Askew the king's pardon if she would recant; who made this answer, that she came not thither to deny her Lord and Master. And thus the good Anne Askew, being compassed in with flames of fire, as a blessed sacrifice unto God, slept in the Lord, A.D. 1546, leaving behind her a singular example of Christian constancy for all men to follow.
Rev. John Bradford, and John Leaf, an ApprenticeRev. John Bradford was born at Manchester, in Lancashire; he was a good Latin scholar, and afterward became a servant of Sir John Harrington, knight. He continued several years in an honest and thriving way; but the Lord had elected him to a better function. Hence he departed from his master, quitting the Temple, at London, for the University of Cambridge, to learn, by God's law, how to further the building of the Lord's temple. In a few years after, the university gave him the degree of master of arts, and he became a fellow of Pembroke Hall.
Martin Bucer first urged him to preach, and when he modestly doubted his ability, Bucer was wont to reply, "If thou hast not fine wheat bread, yet give the poor people barley bread, or whatsoever else the Lord hath committed unto thee." Dr. Ridley, that worthy bishop of London, and glorious martyr of Christ, first called him to take the degree of a deacon and gave him a prebend in his cathedral Church of St. Paul.
In this preaching office Mr. Bradford diligently labored for the space of three years. Sharply he reproved sin, sweetly he preached Christ crucified, ably he disproved heresies and errors, earnestly he persuaded to godly life. After the death of blessed King Edward VI Mr. Bradford still continued diligent in preaching, until he was suppressed by Queen Mary.
An act now followed of the blackest ingratitude, and at which a pagan would blush. It has been recited, that a tumult was occasioned by Mr. Bourne's (then bishop of Bath) preaching at St. Paul's Cross; the indignation of the people placed his life in imminent danger; indeed a dagger was thrown at him. In this situation he entreated Mr. Bradford, who stood behind him. to speak in his place, and assuage the tumult. The people welcomed Mr. Bradford, and the latter afterward kept close to him, that his presence might prevent the populace from renewing their assaults.
The same Sunday in the afternoon, Mr. Bradford preached at Bow Church in Cheapside, and reproved the people sharply for their seditious misdemeanor. Notwithstanding this conduct, within three days after, he was sent for to the Tower of London, where the queen then was, to appear before the Council. There he was charged with this act of saving Mr. Bourne, which was called seditious, and they also objected against him for preaching. Thus he was committed, first to the Tower, then to other prisons, and, after his condemnation, to the Poultry Compter, where he preached twice a day continually, unless sickness hindered him. Such as his credit with the keeper of the king's Bench, that he permitted him in an evening to visit a poor, sick person near the steel-yard, upon his promise to return in time, and in this he never failed.
The night before he was sent to Newgate, he was troubled in his sleep by foreboding dreams, that on Monday after he should be burned in Smithfield. In the afternoon the keeper's wife came up and announced this dreadful news to him, but in him it excited only thankfulness to God. At night half a dozen friends came, with whom he spent all the evening in prayer and godly exercises.
When he was removed to Newgate, a weeping crowd accompanied him, and a rumor having been spread that he was to suffer at four the next morning, an immense multitude attended. At nine o'clock Mr. Bradford was brought into Smithfield. The cruelty of the sheriff deserves notice; for his brother-in-law, Roger Beswick, having taken him by the hand as he passed, Mr. Woodroffe, with his staff, cut his head open.
Mr. Bradford, being come to the place, fell flat on the ground, and putting off his clothes unto the shirt, he went to the stake, and there suffered with a young man of twenty years of age, whose name was John Leaf, an apprentice to Mr. Humphrey Gaudy, tallow-chandler, of Christ-church, London. Upon Friday before Palm Sunday, he was committed to the Compter in Bread-street, and afterward examined and condemned by the bloody bishop.
It is reported of him, that, when the bill of his confession was read unto him, instead of pen, he took a pin, and pricking his hand, sprinkled the blood upon the said bill, desiring the reader thereof to show the bishop that he had sealed the same bill with his blood already.
They both ended this mortal life, July 12, 1555, like two lambs, without any alteration of their countenances, hoping to obtain that prize they had long run for; to which may Almighty God conduct us all, through the merits of Christ our Savior!
We shall conclude this article with mentioning that Mr. Sheriff Woodroffe, it is said, within half a year after, was struck on the right side with a palsy, and for the space of eight years after, (until his dying day,) he was unable to turn himself in his bed; thus he became at last a fearful object to behold.
The day after Mr. Bradford and John Leaf suffered in Smithfield William Minge, priest, died in prison at Maidstone. With as great constancy and boldness he yielded up his life in prison, as if it had pleased God to have called him to suffer by fire, as other godly men had done before at the stake, and as he himself was ready to do, had it pleased God to have called him to this trial.
Rev. John Bland, Rev. John Frankesh, Nicholas Shetterden, and Humphrey MiddletonThese Christian persons were all burnt at Canterbury for the same cause. Frankesh and Bland were ministers and preachers of the Word of God, the one being parson of Adesham, and the other vicar of Rolvenden. Mr. Bland was cited to answer for his opposition to antichristianism, and underwent several examinations before Dr. Harpsfield, archdeacon of Canterbury, and finally on the twenty-fifth of June, 1555, again withstanding the power of the pope, he was condemned, and delivered to the secular arm. On the same day were condemned John Frankesh, Nicholas Shetterden, Humphrey Middleton, Thacker, and Crocker, of whom Thacker only recanted.
Being delivered to the secular power, Mr. Bland, with the three former, were all burnt together at Canterbury, July 12, 1555, at two several stakes, but in one fire, when they, in the sight of God and His angels, and before men, like true soldiers of Jesus Christ, gave a constant testimony to the truth of His holy Gospel.
Dirick Carver and John LaunderThe twenty-second of July, 1555, Dirick Carver, brewer, of Brighthelmstone, aged forty, was burnt at Lewes. And the day following John Launder, husbandman, aged twenty-five, of Godstone, Surrey, was burnt at Stening. Dirick Carver was a man whom the Lord had blessed as well with temporal riches as with his spiritual treasures. At his coming into the town of Lewes to be burnt, the people called to him, beseeching God to strengthen him in the faith of Jesus Christ; and, as he came to the stake, he knelt down, and prayed earnestly. Then his Book was thrown into the barrel, and when he had stripped himself, he too, went into a barrel. As soon as he was in, he took the Book, and threw it among the people, upon which the sheriff commanded, in the name of the king and queen, on pain of death , to throw in the Book again. And immediately the holy martyr began to address the people. After he had prayed a while, he said, "O Lord my God, Thou hast written, he that will not forsake wife, children, house, and every thing that he hath, and take up Thy cross and follow Thee, is not worthy of Thee! but Thou, Lord, knowest that I have forsaken all to come unto Thee. Lord, have mercy upon me, for unto Thee I commend my spirit! and my soul doth rejoice in Thee!" These were the last words of this faithful servant of Christ before enduring the fire. And when the fire came to him, he cried, "O Lord, have mercy upon me!" and sprang up in the fire, calling upon the name of Jesus, until he gave up the ghost.
James Abbes. This young man wandered about to escape apprehension, but was at last informed against, and brought before the bishop of Norwich, who influenced him to recant; to secure him further in apostasy, the bishop afterward gave him a piece of money; but the interference of Providence is here remarkable. This bribe lay so heavily upon his conscience, that he returned, threw back the money, and repented of his conduct. Like Peter, he was contrite, steadfast in the faith, and sealed it with his blood at Bury, August 2, 1555, praising and glorifying God.
John Denley, John Newman, and Patrick PackinghamMr. Denley and Newman were returning one day to Maidstone, the place of their abode, when they were met by E. Tyrrel, Esq., a bigoted justice of the peace in Essex, and a cruel persecutor of the Protestants. He apprehended them merely on suspicion. On the fifth of July, 1555, they were condemned, and consigned to the sheriffs, who sent Mr. Denley to Uxbridge, where he perished, August eighth, 1555. While suffering in agony, and singing a Psalm, Dr. Story inhumanly ordered one of the tormentors to throw a fagot at him, which cut his face severely, caused him to cease singing, and to raise his hands to his face. Just as Dr. Story was remarking in jest that he had spoiled a good song, the pious martyr again changed, spread his hands abroad in the flames, and through Christ Jesus resigned his soul into the hands of his Maker.
Mr. Packingham suffered at the same town on the twenty-eigth of the same month.
Mr. Newman, pewterer, was burnt at Saffron Waldon, in Essex, August 31, for the same cause, and Richard Hook about the same time perished at Chichester.
W. Coker, W. Hooper, H. Laurence, R. Colliar, R. Wright and W. StereThese persons all of Kent, were examined at the same time with Mr. Bland and Shetterden, by Thornton, bishop of Dover, Dr. Harpsfield, and others. These six martyrs and witnesses of the truth were consigned to the flames in Canterbury, at the end of August, 1555.
Elizabeth Warne, widow of John Warne, upholsterer, martyr, was burnt at Stratford-le-bow, near London, at the end of August, 1555.
George Tankerfield, of London, cook, born at York, aged twenty-seven, in the reign of Edward VI had been a papist; but the cruelty of bloody Mary made him suspect the truth of those doctrines which were enforced by fire and torture. Tankerfield was imprisoned in Newgate about the end of February, 1555, and on August 26, at St. Alban's, he braved the excruciating fire, and joyfully died for the glory of his Redeemer.
Rev. Robert Smith was first in the service of Sir T. Smith, provost of Eton; and was afterward removed to Windsor, where he had a clerkship of ten pounds a year. He was condemned, July 12, 1555, and suffered August 8, at Uxbridge. He doubted not but that God would give the spectators some token in support of his own cause; this actually happened; for, when he was nearly half burnt, and supposed to be dead, he suddenly rose up, moved the remaining parts of his arms and praised God, then, hanging over the fire, he sweetly slept in the Lord Jesus.
Mr. Stephen Harwood and Mr. Thomas Fust suffered about the same time with Smith and Tankerfield, with whom they were condemned. Mr. William Hale also, of Thorp, in Essex, was sent to Barnet, where about the same time he joined the ever-blessed company of martyrs.
George King, Thomas Leyes, and John Wade, falling sick in Lollard's Tower, were removed to different houses, and died. Their bodies were thrown out in the common fields as unworthy of burial, and lay until the faithful conveyed them away at night.
Mr. William Andrew of Horseley, Essex, was imprisoned in Newgate for heresy; but God chose to call him to himself by the severe treatment he endured in Newgate, and thus to mock the snaguinary expectations of his Catholic persecutors. His body was thrown into the open air, but his soul was received into the everlasting mansions of his heavenly Creator.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Small things matter
11/23/2017 Bob Gass
‘Who has despised the day of small things?’
(Zec 4:10) 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.” ESV
When God gave Gideon victory over the Midianites, He used an army of just three hundred to defeat an enemy that was hundreds of thousands strong (see Judges 7). That wasn’t because there weren’t more soldiers available; it was because God wanted to demonstrate His power in ‘the day of small things’. Jesus could have chosen any number of followers, but He handpicked twelve to reach the world with the gospel. One day He fed five thousand people with five bread rolls and two small fish from a child’s lunchbox. He compared God’s kingdom to a mustard seed – the smallest there is, yet it grows into a massive tree. He also likened His kingdom to yeast that’s barely discernible, yet it can raise an entire batch of dough. Then He went on to say, ‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much’ (Luke 16:10 NIV 2011 Edition). So if you’re asking God to make you bigger instead of better, you may be disappointed. All the prayers in the world won’t pressure Him into giving you what you are not ready to handle. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, ‘Most people would succeed in small things if they weren’t troubled with blind ambition.’ Your drive to be bigger can give you ulcers, keep you awake at night, and stop you from enjoying the blessings God has already given you. Better may be harder to measure and not as glamorous, but the inner stability that comes from gradual success is more valuable and lasting. So if you’re ‘in the day of small things’, rejoice and be confident that God has bigger and better things in mind for you.
2 Pet 1
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Two months before being elected America’s fourteenth President, his eleven year only son, Bennie, was killed as their campaign train rolled off the tracks. This happened to Franklin Pierce, who was born this day, November 23, 1804. Elected to Congress at age 29, he was a U.S. Senator at 33. After one term, he resigned and enlisted in the army as a private. Promoted to brigadier general, he served in General Winfield Scott’s campaign against Mexico City. President Franklin Peirce stated: “It must be felt that there is no national security but in the nation’s humble, acknowledged dependence upon God and His overruling providence.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Thank God. What a mare's nest! Or, more grimly, what a rehearsal! It is only twenty-four hours since I got Betty's wire, and already the crisis seems curiously far away. Like at sea. Once you have doubled the point and got into smooth water, the point doesn't take long to hide below the horizon.
And now, your letter. I'm not at all surprised at your feeling flattened rather than joyful. That isn't ingratitude. It's only exhaustion. Weren't there moments even during those terrible days when you glided into a sort of apathy-for the same reason? The body (bless it) will not continue indefinitely supplying us with the physical media of emotion.
Surely there's no difficulty about the prayer in Gethsemane on the ground that if the disciples were asleep they couldn't have heard it and therefore couldn't have recorded it? The words they did record would hardly have taken three seconds to utter. He was only "a stone's throw" away. The silence of night was around them. And we may be sure He prayed aloud. People did everything aloud in those days. You remember how astonished St. Augustine was-some centuries later in a far more sophisticated society-to discover that when St. Ambrose was reading (to himself) you couldn't hear the words even if you went and stood just beside him? The disciples heard the opening words of the prayer before they went to sleep. They record those opening words as if they were the whole.
There is a rather amusing instance of the same thing in Acts XXIV. The Jews had got down a professional orator called Tertullos to conduct the prosecution of St. Paul. The speech as recorded by St. Luke takes eighty-four words in the Greek, if I've counted correctly. Eighty-four words are impossibly short for a Greek advocate on a full-dress occasion. Presumably, then, they are a precis? But of those eighty-odd words forty are taken up with preliminary compliments to the bench-stuff which, in a precis on that tiny scale, ought not to have come in at all. It is easy to guess what has happened. St. Luke, though an excellent narrator, was no good as a reporter. He starts off by trying to memorise, or to get down, the whole speech verbatim. And he succeeds in reproducing a certain amount of the exordium (the style unmistakable. Only a practising rhetor ever talks that way). But he is soon defeated. The whole of the rest of the speech has to be represented by a ludicrously inadequate abstract. But he doesn't tell us what has happened, and thus seems to attribute to Tertullos a performance which would have spelled professional ruin.
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
God does not begin by asking us about our ability,
but only about our availability,
and if we then prove our dependability,
he will increase our capability!
--- Neal A. Maxwell
Hell is paved with priests' skulls.
--- John Chrysostom
And let your best be for your friend. If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also. For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live.
--- Kahlil Gibran
It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them---the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas.
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
he meets anger and ridicule without relief.
10 Men of blood hate those who are pure
and seek the life of the upright.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Distraction of antipathy
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. --- Psalm 123:3.
The thing of which we have to beware is not so much damage to our belief in God as damage to our Christian temper. “Therefore take heed to thy spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” The temper of mind is tremendous in its effects, it is the enemy that penetrates right into the soul and distracts the mind from God. There are certain tempers of mind in which we never dare indulge; if we do, we find they have distracted us from faith in God, and until we get back to the quiet mood before God, our faith in Him is nil, and our confidence in the flesh and in human ingenuity is the thing that rules.
Beware of “the cares of this world,” because they are the things that produce a wrong temper of soul. It is extraordinary what an enormous power there is in simple things to distract our attention from God. Refuse to be swamped with the cares of this life.
Another thing that distracts us is the lust of vindication. St. Augustine prayed—‘O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.’ That temper of mind destroys the soul’s faith in God. ‘I must explain myself; I must get people to understand.’ Our Lord never explained anything; He left mistakes to correct themselves.
When we discern that people are not going on spiritually and allow the discernment to turn to criticism, we block our way to God. God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
There is an island there is no going
to but in a small boat the way
the saints went, travelling the gallery
of the frightened faces of
the long-drowned, munching the gravel
of its beaches. So I have gone
up the salt lane to the building
with the stone altar and the candles
gone out, and kneeled and lifted
my eyes to the furious gargoyle
of the owl that is like a god
gone small and resentful. There
is no body in the stained window
of the sky now. Am I too late?
Were they too late also, those
first pilgrims? He is such a fast
God, always before us and
leaving as we arrive.
There are those here
not given to prayer, whose office
is the blank sea that they say daily.
What they listen to is not
hymns but the slow chemistry of the soil
that turns saints' bones to dust,
dust to an irritant of the nostril.
There is no time on this island.
The swinging pendulum of the tide
has no clock; the events
are dateless. These people are not
late or soon; they are just
here with only the one question
to ask, which life answers
by being in them. It is I
who ask. Was the pilgrimage
I made to come to my own
self, to learn that in times
like these and for one like me
God will never be plain and
out there, but dark rather and
inexplicable, as though he were in here?
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
The person who has done teshuvah must not live with the illusion that he has transcended the capacity to repeat his sin. By refusing to allow the individual to block past errors from his consciousness, the Halakhah prevents him from deluding himself with the belief that his human nature has changed.
The same halakhic principle which maintains that an individual must reenact the confession of his past sin, even though at present he is not guilty of this act, can also be applied to the community. One who knows the inner experience of Judaism is aware of the profound importance historical memory plays in Jewish ritual: “In every generation a man is bound to regard himself as though he personally had gone forth from Egypt.” Through its rituals Torah inculcates a collective memory in each Jew. The Halakhah unites all generations into one organic unit; the strong identification of every generation of Jews with the founding events of Judaism characterizes many features of Halakhah. If there is a dimension of mystic union in Jewish experience it is not necessarily with God, but with the entire historical drama of the people of Israel. It is correct to say that within the life-pattern of the observant Jew past, present, and future merge into a personal drama leading from Egypt to messianism. Therefore it is understandable when Maimonides uses the same principle to explain the confessions of both individual and community.
In explaining why sin-offerings consist of he-goats (se’irim), Maimonides writes:
However the Sages, may their memory be blessed, consider that the reason for which the congregation is constantly atoned for by means of se’irim is that the whole congregation of Israel committed their first act of disobedience with the help of a kid [se’ir] of goats. They refer to the sale of Joseph, the righteous, in whose story it is said: “… slaughtered a kid, and so on.” Do not regard this reason as feeble. For the end of all these actions is to establish firmly in the soul of every disobedient individual the constant need for remembering and making mention of his sin—as it is said: “And my sin is ever before me”—and that he, his descendants, and the descendants of his descendants, must seek forgiveness for the sin by an act of obedience belonging to the same species as the act of disobedience.
The same text, “And my sin is ever before me,” which supports the requirement that an individual remember his personal past is also used to explain the need for the community of Israel to remember the sins of its forefathers.
The same reason which explains the choice of specific animals for sacrifices can also be applied to explain the continuity of sacrifices as a form of religious worship. Just as the community must ever remain aware of man’s potential for cruelty by recalling the sale of Joseph by his brothers, so too must the community of Israel remember that its forefathers were subject to the attractions of paganism. “In the beginning, our forefathers were pagans” is an important memory that Jews retain as they grow in their relationship to God. Jews must not succumb to the illusion that they have transcended the need for a Halakhah—for a structure of behavior which supports their understanding of God. It was the law which weaned men away from paganism, but this “weaning” is not a necessary process in history.
By maintaining the laws of sacrifices, the Jew might be reminded of his human vulnerability to paganism. Thus, ample room exists for legitimatizing halakhic practices whose legislative rationale is no longer operative.
The preceding arguments attempt to show that Maimonides’ codification of sacrifices in the Mishneh Torah does not necessarily negate the approach to God which he later develops in the Guide. Maimonides, the judge, is still the philosopher when he codifies the Halakhah for the entire community.
Within this discussion, note must be taken of Gershom Scholem’s statement that the specific historical reasons Maimonides gives for the law, in the Guide, show that “to the philosopher, the Halakhah either had no significance at all, or one that was calculated to diminish rather than to enhance its prestige in his eyes.” However this is not the only conclusion one must reach after studying Maimonides’ reasons for the commandments. One must remember that, in the Guide, Maimonides’ purpose in offering reasons for commandments is not to make them relevant to his contemporaries. Scholem overlooks this when he writes, “he would be a bold man who would maintain that this theory of the mitzvot was likely to increase the enthusiasm of the faithful for their actual practice.”
We must distinguish between the question, “What meaning can commandments have for an individual with a particular spiritual outlook?” and the theological question, “Do the laws in the Torah reveal a God who acts by reasons which are intelligible to man?” The first question deals with the different meanings one can give to commandments. One need not claim that what one considers a pertinent explanation of a commandment is in fact what the divine lawgiver intended. The second question is more concerned with the purpose of commandments at the actual time of biblical legislation; the ground of this inquiry is to discover if nature and the Bible reveal compatible or incompatible models of God. Maimonides was pursuing the second form of inquiry in the Guide, but he recognized the significance of the former approach:
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
“See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah … has triumphed.…” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain.
--- Revelation 5:5–6.
There meet in the person of Christ [other] diverse qualities that would have been thought incompatible in the same person. The Excellency of Christ
Infinite majesty and transcendent meekness. These again are two qualities that meet together in no other person but Christ. Meekness is a virtue proper only to the creature, for by it seems to be signified calmness and quietness arising from humility in changeable beings [who] are naturally liable to be put into a ruffle by the assaults of an injurious world. But Christ, being both God and human, has both majesty and meekness.
Christ was a person of infinite majesty. It is he who is spoken of in Psalm 45:3: “Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.” It is he who is mighty, “who rides on the clouds” (68:4). It is he who is awesome in his sanctuary (68:35), who is “mightier than the breakers of the sea” (93:4), before whom a “fire goes… and consumes his foes on every side” (97:3); at whose presence the earth quakes and the hills melt (Nah. 1:5); who sits “above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers” (Isa. 40:22); who rebukes the sea and makes it dry (50:2); whose eyes are “like blazing fire” (Rev. 1:14); from whose presence and from whose power the wicked will be punished with everlasting destruction; who is “the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings” (1 Tim. 6:15); whose “kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and [whose] dominion endures through all generations” (Ps. 145:13).
And yet he was the most marvelous instance of meekness and humble quietness of spirit that ever was, agreeing with the prophecies of him: “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey” (Matt. 21:5). And, agreeing with what Christ declares of himself: “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29). And agreeing with what was seen in his behavior, for there never was such an instance seen on earth of a meek behavior under injuries and reproaches and toward enemies; “when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats” (1 Peter 2:23). He had a wonderful spirit of forgiveness, was ready to forgive his worst enemies and [even] prayed for them. With what meekness he appeared in the ring of soldiers [who] were scorning and mocking him; he was silent and “was led like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7). Thus is Christ a lion in majesty and a lamb in meekness.
--- Jonathan Edwards
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Short, Sick, and Spectacular
His was a short, sick, spectacular life. He died before reaching 40, yet not before leaving an enduring mark. Blaise Pascal, born in France in 1623, was educated in Paris and started making contributions to geometry, physics, and mathematics at age 16. His fame and wealth accumulated quickly, as did his religious inclinations. In January, 1646 his father fell and broke his leg. His nurses were devout Catholics, and Pascal, after extended conversations with them, began taking his Catholic faith seriously. His reputation in the Paris scientific community grew by leaps, and the more he studied nature the more evidence he saw of the Creator. On November 23, 1654, while reading John 17, he personally encountered Jesus Christ and jotted his impressions on a parchment: “From about half-past ten in the Evening until about half-past twelve, FIRE! God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and scholars. Certitude. Feelings. Joy. Peace. This is eternal life, that they might know thee, the only true God, and the one whom Thou hast sent, Jesus Christ.”
Pascal sewed the paper inside his coat lining and often in moments of temptation slipped his hand over it to press its message into his heart. His life changed, and he began giving much of his money to the poor. His scientific studies, world famous to this day, became second to his spiritual pursuits.
His books display great craftsmanship of words, and even the infidel Voltaire remarked that Pascal’s writings were the first work of genius to appear in France. He became France’s Shakespeare, its Dante, its Plato, its Euclid. He designed the world’s first calculator, the first “bus” service, and paved the way for the invention of the barometer and the theories of probability.
As his health failed, Pascal wanted to leave behind a final work, a defense of the Christian faith, challenging atheists and agnostics with the evidences for Christianity. He began making notes, but his headaches worsened. He died, leaving nearly 1,000 fragments which were soon assembled into one of the classics of Christian literature, the Pensées.
God has also said that he gave us eternal life and that this life comes to us from his Son. And so, if we have God’s Son, we have this life. But if we don’t have the Son, we don’t have this life.
--- 1 John 5:11,12.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
God Is In The Manger (4)
But the prison door was never opened for Bonhoeffer, not in life at least. As the Third Reich crumbled in April 1945, Hitler ordered the execution of some political prisoners who had conspired to overthrow him. Since papers had recently been discovered that confirmed Bonhoeffer's involvement in this anti-Nazi plot, the theologian was among those scheduled to be executed in one of' Hitler's final executive decrees. Bonhoeffer was hanged on April 8, 1945, just ten days before German forces began to surrender and less than three weeks before Hitler's own death by suicide. Bonhoeffer was just thirty-nine years old.
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 23
“Fellowship with him.” --- 1 John 1:6.
When we were united by faith to Christ, we were brought into such complete fellowship with him, that we were made one with him, and his interests and ours became mutual and identical. We have fellowship with Christ in his love. What he loves we love. He loves the saints—so do we. He loves sinners—so do we. He loves the poor perishing race of man, and pants to see earth’s deserts transformed into the garden of the Lord—so do we. We have fellowship with him in his desires. He desires the glory of God—we also labour for the same. He desires that the saints may be with him where he is—we desire to be with him there too. He desires to drive out sin—behold we fight under his banner. He desires that his Father’s name may be loved and adored by all his creatures—we pray daily, “Let thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven.” We have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings. We are not nailed to the cross, nor do we die a cruel death, but when he is reproached, we are reproached; and a very sweet thing it is to be blamed for his sake, to be despised for following the Master, to have the world against us. The disciple should not be above his Lord. In our measure we commune with him in his labours, ministering to men by the word of truth and by deeds of love. Our meat and our drink, like his, is to do the will of him who hath sent us and to finish his work. We have also fellowship with Christ in his joys. We are happy in his happiness, we rejoice in his exaltation. Have you ever tasted that joy, believer? There is no purer or more thrilling delight to be known this side heaven than that of having Christ’s joy fulfilled in us, that our joy may be full. His glory awaits us to complete our fellowship, for his Church shall sit with him upon his throne, as his well-beloved bride and queen.
Evening - November 23
“Get thee up into the high mountain.” --- Isaiah 40:9.
Each believer should be thirsting for God, for the living God, and longing to climb the hill of the Lord, and see him face to face. We ought not to rest content in the mists of the valley when the summit of Tabor awaits us. My soul thirsteth to drink deep of the cup which is reserved for those who reach the mountain’s brow, and bathe their brows in heaven. How pure are the dews of the hills, how fresh is the mountain air, how rich the fare of the dwellers aloft, whose windows look into the New Jerusalem! Many saints are content to live like men in coal mines, who see not the sun; they eat dust like the serpent when they might taste the ambrosial meat of angels; they are content to wear the miner’s garb when they might put on king’s robes; tears mar their faces when they might anoint them with celestial oil. Satisfied I am that many a believer pines in a dungeon when he might walk on the palace roof, and view the goodly land and Lebanon. Rouse thee, O believer, from thy low condition! Cast away thy sloth, thy lethargy, thy coldness, or whatever interferes with thy chaste and pure love to Christ, thy soul’s Husband. Make him the source, the centre, and the circumference of all thy soul’s range of delight. What enchants thee into such folly as to remain in a pit when thou mayst sit on a throne? Live not in the lowlands of bondage now that mountain liberty is conferred upon thee. Rest no longer satisfied with thy dwarfish attainments, but press forward to things more sublime and heavenly. Aspire to a higher, a nobler, a fuller life. Upward to heaven! Nearer to God!
“When wilt thou come unto me, Lord?
Oh come, my Lord most dear!
Come near, come nearer, nearer still,
I’m blest when thou art near.”
Morning and Evening
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856–1922
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3
For the Christian, gratitude should be a life attitude.
“Count Your Blessings” was written by one of the prolific Gospel song writers of the past century, a Methodist lay preacher named Johnson Oatman. In addition to his preaching and the writing of more than 5,000 hymn texts, Oatman was also a successful business man, engaged in a shipping business and in his later years as an administrator for a large insurance company in New Jersey.
It is good for each of us periodically to take time to rediscover the simple but profound truths expressed by Mr. Oatman in the four stanzas of this hymn. In the first two verses he develops the thought that counting our blessings serves as an antidote for life’s discouragements and in turn makes for victorious Christian living. The third stanza of this hymn teaches us that counting our blessings can be a means of placing material possessions in proper perspective when compared to the eternal inheritance awaiting believers. Then as we review our individual blessings, we certainly would have to agree with Mr. Oatman’s fourth verse: The provision of God’s help and comfort to the end of our earthly pilgrimage is one of our choicest blessings.
Each of us could spare ourselves much despair and inner tension if we would only learn to apply the practical teaching of this hymn to our daily living.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings—name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings—ev’ry doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by.
When you look at others with their lands and gold, think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold; count your many blessings—money cannot buy your reward in heaven nor your home on high.
So amid the conflict, whether great or small, do not be discouraged. God is over all; count your many blessings—angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
Chorus: Count your blessings—name them one by one; count your blessings—see what God hath done.
For Today: Psalm 28:7; 68:19; 69:30, 31; James 1:17
Make a list of God’s blessings. Share this list with your friends and family. ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
DISCOURSE XII - ON THE GOODNESS OF GOD
Mark 10:18.—And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.
THE words are part of a reply of our Saviour to the young man’s petition to him: a certain person came in haste, “running” as being eager for satisfaction, to entreat his directions, what he should do to inherit everlasting life; the person is described only in general (ver. 17), “There came one,” a certain man: but Luke describes him by his dignity (Luke 18:18), “A certain ruler;” one of authority among the Jews. He desires of him an answer to a legal question, “What he should do?” or, as Matthew hath it, “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life” (Matt. 19:16)? He imagined everlasting felicity was to be purchased by the works of the law; he had not the least sentiments of faith: Christ’s answer implies, there was no hopes of the happiness of another world by the works of the law, unless they were perfect, and answerable to every divine precept. He doth not seem to have any ill, or hypocritical intent in his address to Christ; not to tempt him, but to be instructed by him. He seems to come with an ardent desire, to be satisfied in his demand; he performed a solemn act of respect to him, he kneeled to him, γονυπετήσας, prostrated himself upon the ground; besides, Christ is said (ver. 21) to love him, which had been inconsistent with the knowledge Christ had of the hearts and thoughts of men, and the abhorrence he had of hypocrites, had he been only a counterfeit in this question. But the first reply Christ makes to him, respects the title of “Good Master,” which this ruler gave him in his salutation.
1st, Some think, that Christ hereby would draw him to an acknowledgment of him as God; you acknowledge me “good;” how come you to salute me with so great a title, since you do not afford it to your greatest doctors? Lightfoot, in loc. observes, that the title of Rabbi bone is not in all the Talmud. You must own me to be God, since you own me to be “good:” goodness being a title only due, and properly belonging, to the Supreme Being. If you take me for a common man, with what conscience can you salute me in a manner proper to God? since no man is “good,” no, not one, but the heart of man is evil continually. The Arians used this place, to back their denying the Deity of Christ: because, say they, he did not acknowledge himself “good,” therefore he did not acknowledge himself God. But he doth not here deny his Deity, but reproves him for calling him good, when he had not yet confessed him to be more than a man. You behold my flesh, but you consider not the fulness of my Deity; if you account me “good,” account me God, and imagine me not to be a simple and a mere man. He disowns not his own Deity, but allures the young man to a confession of it. Why callest thou me good, since thou dost not discover any apprehensions of my being more than a man? Though thou comest with a greater esteem to me than is commonly entertained of the doctors of the chair, why dost thou own me to be “good,” unless thou own me to be God? If Christ had denied himself in this speech to be “good,” he had rather entertained this person with a frown and a sharp reproof for giving him a title due to God alone, than have received him with that courtesy and complaisance as he did. Had he said, there is none “good” but the Father, he had excluded himself; but in saying, there is none “good” but God, he comprehends himself.
2d. Others say, that Christ had no intention to draw him to an acknowledgment of his Deity, but only asserts his divine authority or mission from God. For which interpretation Maldonat calls Calvin an Arianizer. He doth not here assert the essence of his Deity, but the authority of his doctrine; as if he should have said, You do without ground give me the title of “good,” unless you believe I have a Divine commission for what I declare and act. Many do think me an impostor, an enemy of God, and a friend to devils; you must firmly believe that I am not so, as your rulers report me, but that I am sent of God, and authorized by him; you cannot else give me the title of good, but of wicked. And the reason they give for this interpretation, is, because it is a question, whether any of the apostles understood him, at this time, to be God, which seems to have no great strength in it; since not only the devil had publicly owned him to be the “Holy One of God” (Luke 4:34), but John the Baptist had borne record, thal he was the “Son of God” (John 1:32, 34); and before this time Peter had confessed him openly, in the hearing of the rest of the disciples, that he was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). But I think Paroeus’ interpretation is best, which takes in both those; either you are serious or deceitful in this address; if you are serious, why do you call me “good,” and make bold to fix so great a title upon one you have no higher thoughts of than a mere man? Christ takes occasion from hence, to assert God to be only and sovereignly “good:” “There is none good but God.” God only hath the honor of absolute goodness, and none but God merits the name of “good.” A heathen could say much after the same manner; All other things are far from the nature of good; call none else good but God, for this would be a profane error: other things are only good in opinion, but have not the true substance of goodness: he is “good” in a more excellent way than any creature can be denominated “good.”
1. God is only originally good, good of himself. All created goodness is a rivulet from this fountain, but Divine goodness hath no spring; God depends upon no other for his goodness; he hath it in, and of, himself: man hath no goodness from himself, God hath no goodness from without himself: his goodness is no more derived from another than his being: if we were good by any external thing, that thing must be in being before him, or after him; if before him, he was not then himself from eternity; if after him, he was not good in himself from eternity. The end of his creating things, then, was not to confer a goodness upon his creatures, but to partake of a goodness from his creatures. God is good by and in himself, since all things are only good by him; and all that goodness which is in creatures, is but the breathing of his own goodness upon them: they have all their loveliness from the same hand they have their being from.
Though by creation God was declared good, yet he was not made good by any, or by all the creatures. He partakes of none, but all things partake of him. He is so good, that he gives all, and receives nothing; only good, because nothing is good but by him nothing hath a goodness but from him.
2. God only is infinitely good. A boundless goodness that knows no limits, a goodness as infinite as his essence, not only good, but best; not only good, but goodness itself, the supreme inconceivable goodness. All things else are but little particles of God, small sparks from this immense flame, sips of goodness to this fountain. Nothing that is good by his influence can equal him who is good by himself: derived goodness can never equal primitive goodness. Divine goodness communicates itself to a vast number of creatures in various degrees; to angels, glorified spirits, men on earth, to every creature; and when it hath communicated all that the present world is capable of, there is still less displayed, than left to enrich another world. All possible creatures are not capable of exhausting the wealth, the treasures, that Divine bounty is filled with.
3. God is only perfectly good, because only infinitely good. He is good without indigence, because he hath the whole nature of goodness, not only some beams that may admit of increase of degree. As in him is the whole nature of entity, so in him is the whole nature of excellency. As nothing hath an absolute perfect being but God, so nothing hath an absolutely perfect goodness but God; as the sun hath a perfection of heat in it, but what is warmed by the sun is but imperfectly hot, and equals not the sun in that perfection of heat wherewith it is naturally endued. The goodness of God is the measure and rule of goodness in everything else.
4. God only is immutably good. Other things may be perpetually good by supernatural power, but not immutably good in their own nature. Other things are not so good, but they may be bad; God is so good, that he cannot be bad. It was the speech of a philosopher, that it was a hard thing to find a good man, yea, impossible; but though it were possible to find a good man, he would be good but for some moment, or a short time: for though he should be good at this instant, it was above the nature of man to continue in a habit of goodness, without going awry and warping. But “the goodness of God endureth forever” (Psalm 52:1). God always glitters in goodness, as the sun, which the heathens called the visible image of the Divinity, doth with light. There is not such a perpetual light in the sun as there is a fulness of goodness in God; “no variableness” in him, as he is the “Father of Lights” (James 1:17).
Before I come to the doctrine, that is, the chief scope of the words, some remarks may be made upon the young man’s question and carriage: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
1. The opinion of gaining eternal life by the outward observation of the law, will appear very unsatisfactory to an inquisitive conscience. This ruler armed, and certainly did confidently believe, that he had fulfilled the law (ver. 20): “All this have I observed from my youth;” yet he had not any full satisfaction in his own conscience; his heart misgave, and started upon some sentiments in him, that something else was required, and what he had done might be too weak, too short to shoot heaven’s lock for him. And to that purpose he comes to Christ, to receive instructions for the piecing up whatsoever was defective. Whosoever will consider the nature of God, and the relation of a creature, cannot with reason think, that eternal life was of itself due from God as a recompense to Adam, had he persisted in a state of innocence. Who can think so great a reward due, for having performed that which a creature in that relation was obliged to do? Can any man think another obliged to convey an inheritance of a thousand pounds per annum upon his payment of a few farthings, unless any compact appears to support such a conceit? And if it were not to be expected in the integrity of nature, but only from the goodness of God, how can it be expected since the revolt of man, and the universal deluge of natural curruption? God owes nothing to the holiest creature; what he gives is a present from his bounty, not the reward of the creature’s merit. And the apostle defies all creatures, from the greatest to the least, from the tallest angel to the lowest shrub, to bring out any one creature that hath first given to God (Rom. 11:35); “Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again?” The duty of the creature, and God’s gift of eternal life, is not a bargain and sale. God gives to the creature, he doth not properly repay; for he that repays hath received something of an equal value and worth before. When God crowns angels and men, he bestows upon them purely what is his own, not what is theirs by merit and and natural obligation: though indeed, what God gives by virtue of a promise made before, is, upon the performance of the condition, due by gracious obligation. God was not indebted to man in innocence, but every man’s conscience may now mind him that he is not upon the same level as in the state of integrity; and that he cannot expect anything from God, as the salary of his merit, but the free gift of Divine liberality. Man is obliged to the practice of what is good, both from the excellency of the Divine precepts, and the duty he owes to God; and cannot, without some declaration from God, hope for any other reward, than the satisfaction of having well acquitted himself.
2. It is the disease of human nature, since its corruption, to hope for eternal life by the tenor of the covenant of works. Though this ruler’s conscience was not thoroughly satisfied with what he had done, but imagined he might, for all that, fall short of eternal life, yet he still hugs the imagination of obtaining it by doing (ver. 17); “What shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?” This is natural to corrupted man.
Cain thought to be accepted for the sake of his sacrifice; and, when he found his mistake, he was so weary of seeking happiness by doing, that he would court misery by murdering. All men set too high a value upon their own services. Sinful creatures would fain make God a debtor to them, and be purchasers of felicity: they would not have it conveyed to them by God’s sovereign bounty, but by an obligation of justice upon the value of their works. The heathens thought God would treat men according to the merit of their services; and it is no wonder they should have this sentiment, when the Jews, educated by God in a wiser school, were wedded to that notion. The Pharisees were highly fond of it: it was the only argument they used in prayer for Divine blessing. You have one of them boasting of his frequency in fasting, and his exactness in paying his tithes (Luke 19:12); as if God had been beholden to him, and could not, without manifest wrong, deny him his demand. And Paul confesseth it to be his own sentiment before his conversion; he accounted this “righteousness of the law gain to him” (Phil. 3:7); he thought, by this, to make his market with God. The whole nation of the Jews affected it, encompassing sea and land to make out a righteousness of their own, as the Pharisees did to make proselytes.
The Papists follow their steps, and dispute for justification by the merit of works, and find out another key of works of supererogation, to unlock heaven’s gate, than whatever the Scripture informed us of. It is from hence, also, that men are so ready to make faith, as a work, the cause of our justification. Man foolishly thinks he hath enough to set up himself after he hath proved bankrupt, and lost all his estate. This imagination is born with us, and the best Christians may find some sparks of it in themselves, when there are springings up of joy in their hearts, upon the more close performance of one duty than of another; as if they had wiped off their scores, and given God a satisfaction for their former neglects. “We have forsaken all, and followed thee,” was the boast of his disciples: “What shall we have, therefore?” was a branch of this root (Matt. 19:27). Eternal life is a gift, not by any obligation of right, but an abundance of goodness; it is owing, not to the dignity of our works, but the magnificent bounty of the Divine nature, and must be sued for by the title of God’s promise, not by the title of the creature’s services. We may observe,
3. How insufficient are some assents to Divine truth, and some expressions of affection to Christ, without the practice of christian precepts. This man addressed Christ with a profound respect, acknowledging him more than an ordinary person, with a more reverential carriage than we read any of his disciples paid to him in the days of his flesh; he fell down at his feet, kissed his knees, as the custom was, when they would testify the great respect they had to any eminent person, especially to their rabbins. All this some think to be included in the word γονυπετήσας, He seems to acknowledge him the Messiah by giving him the title of “Good,” a title they did not give to their doctors of the chair; he breathes out his opinion, that he was able to instruct him beyond the ability of the law; he came with a more than ordinary affection to him, and expectation of advantage from him, evident by his departing sad, when his expectations were frustrated by his own perversity; it was a sign he had a high esteem of him from whom he could not part without marks of his grief. What was the cause of his refusing the instructions he pretended such an affection to receive? He had possessions in the world. How soon do a few drops of worldly advantages quench the first sparks of an ill-grounded love to Christ! How vain is a complimental and cringing devotion, without a supreme preference of God, and valuation of Christ above every outward allurement. We may observe this,
4. We should never admit anything to be ascribed to us, which is proper to God. “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” If you do not acknowledge me God, ascribe not to me the title of Good. It takes off all those titles which fawning flatterers give to men, “mighty,” “invincible” to princes, “holiness” to the pope. We call one another good, without considering how evil; and wise, without considering how foolish; mighty, without considering how weak, and knowing, without considering how ignorant. No man, but hath more of wickedness than goodness; of ignorance than knowledge; of weakness than strength. God is a jealous God of his own honor; he will not have the creature share with him in his royal titles. It is a part of idolatary to give men the titles which are due to God; a kind of a worship of the creature together with the Creator. Worms will not stand out, but assault Herod in his purple, when he usurps the prerogative of God, and prove stiff and invincible vindicators of their Creator’s honor, when summoned to arms by the Creator’s word (Acts 12:22, 23).
Doctrine. The observation which I intend to prosecute, is this: — Pure and perfect goodness is only the royal prerogative of God; goodness is a choice perfection of the Divine nature. This is the true and genuine character of God; he is good, he is goodness, good in himself, good in his essence, good in the highest degree, possessing whatsoever is comely, excellent, desirable; the highest good, because first good: whatsoever is perfect goodness, is God; whatsoever is truly goodness in any creature, is a resemblance of God. All the names of God are comprehended in this one of good. All gifts, all variety of goodness, are contained in him as one common good.
He is the efficient cause of all good, by an overflowing goodness of his nature, he refers all things to himself, as the end, for the representation of his own goodness; “Truly God is good” (Psalm 73:1). Certainly, it is an undoubted truth; it is written in his works of nature, and his acts of grace (Exod. 34:6). “He is abundant in goodness.” And every thing is a memorial, not of some few sparks, but of his greater goodness (Psalm 145:7). This is often celebrated in the Psalms, and men invited more than once, to sing forth the praises of it (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31). It may better be admired than sufficiently spoken of, or thought of, as it merits. It is discovered in all his works, as the goodness of a tree in all its fruits; it is easy to be seen, and more pleasant to be contemplated. In general,
1. All nations in the world have acknowledged God good; Τγαθwν as one of the names the Platonists expressed him by; and good and God, are almost the same words in our language. All as readily consented in the notion of his goodness, as in that of his Deity. Whatsoever divisions or disputes there were among them in the other perfections of God, they all agreed in this without dispute, saith Synesius. One calls him Venus, in. regard of his loveliness. Another calls him Ἔρωιτα love, as being the band which ties all things together. No perfection of the Divine nature is more eminently, nor more speedily visible in the whole book of the creation, than this. His greatness shines not in any part of it, where his goodness doth not as gloriously glister: whatsoever is the instrument of his work, as his power; whatsoever is the orderer of his work, as his wisdom; yet nothing can be adored as the motive of his work, but the goodness of his nature. This only could induce him to resolve to create his wisdom then steps in, to dispose the methods of what he resolved; and his power follows to execute, what his wisdom hath disposed, and his goodness designed. His power in making, and his wisdom in ordering, are subservient to his goodness; and this goodness, which is the end of the creation, is as visible to the eyes of men, as legible to the understanding of men, as his power in forming them, and his wisdom in tuning them. And as the book of creation, so the records of his government must needs acquaint them with a great part of it, when they have often beheld him, stretching out his hand, to supply the indigent, relieve the oppressed, and punish the oppressors, and give them, in their distresses, what might “fill their hearts with food and gladness.” It is this the apostle (Rom. 1:20, 21) means by his Godhead, which he links with his eternity and power, as clearly seen in the things that are made, as in a pure glass, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” The Godhead which comprehends the whole nature of God as discoverable to his creatures, was not known, yea, was impossible to be known, by the works of creation. There had been nothing then reserved to be manifested in Christ: but his goodness, which is properly meant there by his Godhead, was as clearly visible as his power. The apostle upbraids them with their unthankfulness, and argues their inexcusableness, because the arm of his power in creation made no due impression of fear upon their spirits, nor the beams of his goodness wrought in them sufficient sentiments of gratitude. Their not glorifying God, was a contempt of the former; and their not being thankful, was a slight of the latter. God is the object of honor, as he is powerful, and the object of thankfulness properly as he is bountiful. All the idolary of the heathens, is a clear testimony of their common sentiment of the goodness of God: since the more emmently useful any person was in some advantageous invention for the benefit of mankind, they thought he merited a rank in the number of their deities. The Italians esteemed Pithagoras a god, because he was Φ ιλαιθρωπόιατος: to be good and useful, was an approximation to the Divine nature. Hence it was, that when the Lystrians saw a resemblance of the Divine goodness in the charitable and miraculous cure of one of their crippled citizens, presently they mistook Paul and Barnabas for gods, and inferred from thence their right to divine worship, inquiring into nothing else but the visible character of their goodness and usefulness, to capacitate them for the honor of a sacrifice (Acts 14:8–11). Hence it was, that they adored those creatures that were a common benefit, as the sun and moon, which must be founded upon a preexistent notion, not only of a Being, but of the bounty and goodness of God, which was naturally implanted in them, and legible in all God’s works. And the more beneficial anything was to them, and the more sensible advantages they received from it, the higher station they gave it in the rank of their idols, and bestowed upon it a more solemn worship: an absurd mistake to think everything that was sensibly good to them, to be God, clothing himself in such a form to be adored by them. And upon this account the Egyptians worshipped God under the figure of an ox; and the East Indians, in some parts of their country, deify a heifer, intimating the goodness of God, as their nourisher and preserver, in giving them corn, whereof the ox is an instrument in serving for ploughing, and preparing the ground.
2. The notion of goodness is inseparable fiom the notion of a God. We cannot own the existence of God, but we must confess also the goodness of his nature. Hence, the apostle gives to his goodness the title of his Godhead, as if goodness and godhead were convertible terms (Rom. 1:20). As it is indissolubly linked with the being of a Deity, so it cannot be severed from the notion of it: we as soon, undeify him by denying him good, as by denying him great: Optimus, Maximus, the best, greatest, was the name whereby the Romans entitled Him. His nature is as good, as it is majestic; so doth the Psalmist join them (Psalm 145:6, 7), “I will declare my greatness; they shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness.” They considered his goodness before his greatness, in putting Optimus before Maximus; greatness without sweetness, is an unruly and affrighting monster in the world; like a vast turbulent sea, always casting out mire and dirt. Goodness is the brightness and loveliness of our majestical Creator. To fancy a God without it, is to fancy a miserable, scanty, narrow-hearted, savage God, and so an unlovely, and horrible being: for he is not a God that is not good; he is not a God that is not the highest good: infinite goodness is more necessary to, and more straitly joined with an infinite Deity, than infinite power and infinite wisdom: we cannot conceive him God, unless we conceive him the highest good, having nothing superior to himself in goodness, as he hath nothing superior to himself in excellency and perfection. No man can possibly form a notion of God in his mind and yet form a notion of something better than God; for whoever thinks anything better than God, fancieth a God with some defect: by how much the better he thinks that thing to be, by so much the more imperfect he makes God in his thoughts. This notion of the goodness of God was so natural, that some philosophers and others, being startled at the evil they saw in the world, fancied, besides a good God, an evil principle, the author of all punishments in the world. This was ridiculous; for those two must be of equal power, or one inferior to the other; if equal, the good could do nothing, but the evil one would restrain him; and the evil one could do nothing, but the good one would contradict him; so they would be always contending, and never conquering: if one were inferior to the other, then there would be nothing but what that superior ordered. Good, if the good one were superior; and nothing but evil, if the bad one were superior. In the prosecution of this, let us see.
I What this goodness is.
II. Some propositions concerning the nature of it.
III. That God is good.
IV. The manifestation of it in creation, providence, and redemption.
V. The use.
I. What this goodness is. There is a goodness of being, which is the natural perfection of a thing; there is the goodness of will, which is the holiness, and righteousness of a person; there is the goodness of the hand, which we call liberality, or beneficence, a doing good to others.
1. We mean not by this, the goodness of his essence, or the perfection of his nature. God is thus good, because his nature is infinitely perfect; he hath all things requisite to the completing of a most perfect and sovereign Being. All good meets in his essence, as all water meets in the ocean. Under this notion all the attributes of God, which are requisite to so illustrious a Being, are comprehended. All things that are, have a goodness of being in them, derived to them by the power of God, as they are creatures; so the devil is good, as he is a creature of God’s making: he hath a natural goodness, but not a moral goodness: when he fell from God, he retained his natural goodness as a creature; because he did not cease to be, he was not reduced to that nothing, from whence he was drawn; but he ceased to be morally good, being stripped of his righteousness by his apostasy; as a creature, he was Gods work; as a creature, he remains still God’s work; and, therefore, as a creature, remains still good, in regard of his created being. The more of being anything hath, the more of this sort of natural goodness it hath; and so the devil hath more of this natural goodness than men have; because he hath more marks of the excellency of God upon him, in regard of the greatness of his knowledge, and the extent of his power, the largeness of his capacity, and the acuteness of his understanding, which are natural perfections belonging to the nature of an angel, though he hath lost his moral perfections. God is sovereignly and infinitely good in this sort of goodness. He is unsearchably perfect (Job 11:7); nothing is wanting to his essence, that is necessary to the perfection of it; yet this is not that which the Scripture expresseth under the term of goodness, but a perfection of God’s nature as related to us, and which he poureth forth upon all his creatures, as goodness which flows from this natural perfection of the Deity.
2. Nor is it the same with the blessedness of God, but something flowing from his blessedness. Were he not first infinitely blessed, and full in himself, he could not be infinitely good and diffusive to us; had he not an infinite abundance in his own nature, he could not be overflowing to his creatures; had not the sun a fulness of light in itseif, and the sea a vastness of water, the one could not enrich the world with its beams, nor the other fill every creek with its waters.
3. Nor is it the same with the holiness of God. The holiness of God is the rectitude of his nature, whereby he is pure, and without spot in himself; the goodness of God is the efflux of his will, whereby he is beneficial to his creatures: the holiness of God is manifest in his rational creatures; but the goodness of God extends to all the works of his hands. His holiness beams most in his law; his goodness reacheth to everything that had a being from him (Psalm 145:9): “The Lord is good to all.” And though he be said in the same Psalm (ver. 17) to be “holy in all his works,” it is to be understood of his bounty, bountiful in all his works; the Hebrew word signifying both holy and liberal, and the margin of the Bible reads it “merciful” or “bountiful.”
4. Nor is this goodness of God the same with the mercy of God. Goodness extends to more objects than mercy; goodness stretcheth itself out to all the works of his hands; mercy extends only to a miserable object: for it is joined with a sentiment of pity, occasioned by the calamity of another. The mercy of God is exercised about those that merit punishment; the goodness of God is exercised upon objects that have not merited anything contrary to the acts of his bounty. Creation is an act of goodness, not of mercy; providence in governing some part of the world, is an act of goodness, not of mercy. The heavens, saith Austin, need the goodness of God to govern them, but not the mercy of God to relieve them; the earth is full of the misery of man, and the compassions of God; but the heavens need not the mercy, of God to pity them, because they are not miserable; though they need the goodness and power of God to sustain them; because, as creatures, they are impotent without him. God’s goodness extends to the angels, that kept their standing, and to man in innocence, who in that state stood not in need of mercy. Goodness and mercy are distinct, though mercy be a branch of goodness; there may be a manifestation of goodness, though none of mercy. Some think Christ had been incarnate, had not man fallen: had it been so, there had been a manifestation of goodness to our nature, but not of mercy, because sin had not made our natures miserable. The devils are monuments of God’s creating goodness, but not of his pardoning compassions. The grace of God respects the rational creature; merey the miserable creature; goodness all his creatures, brutes, and the senseless plants, as well as reasonable man.
5. By goodness, is meant the bounty of God. This is the notion of goodness in the world; when we say a good man, we mean either a holy man in his life, or a charitable and liberal man in the management of his goods. A righteous man, and a good man, are distinguished (Rom. 5:7). “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet for a good man one would even dare to die;” for an innocent man, one as innocent of the crime as himself would scarce venture his life; but for a good man, a liberal, tender-hearted man, that had been a common good in the place where he lived, or had done another as great a benefit as life itself amounts to, a man out of gratitude might dare to die. “The goodness of God is his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures.” It is that whereby he wills there should be something besides himself for his own glory. God is good himself, and to himself, i. e. highly amiable to himself; and, therefore, some define it a perfection of God, whereby he loves himself and his own excellency; but as it stands in relation to his creatures, it is that perfection of God whereby he delights in his works, and is beneficial to them. God is the highest goodness, because he doth not act for his own profit, but for his creatures’ welfare, and the manifestation of his own goodness. He sends out his beams, without receiving any addition to himself, or substantial advantage from his creatures. It is from this perfection that he loves whatsoever is good, and that is whatsoever he hath made, “for every creature of God is good” (1 Tim. 4:4); every creature hath some communications from him, which cannot be without some affection to them; every creature hath a footstep of Divine goodness upon it; God, therefore, loves that goodness in the creature, else he would not love himself. God hates no creature, no, not the devils and damned, as creatures; he is not an enemy to them, as they are the works of his hands; he is properly an enemy, that doth simply and absolutely wish evil to another; but God doth not absolutely wish evil to the damned; that justice that he inflicts upon them, the deserved punishment of their sin, is part of his goodness, as shall afterwards be shown. This is the most pleasant perfection of the Divine nature; his creating power amazes us; his conducting wisdom astonisheth us; his goodness, as furnishing us with all conveniences, delights us; and renders both his amazing power, and astonishing wisdom, delightful to us. As the sun, by effecting things, is an emblem of God’s power; by discovering things to us, is an emblem of his wisdom; but by refreshing and comforting us, is an emblem of his goodness; and without this refreshing virtue it communicates to us, we should take no pleasure in the creatures it produceth, nor in the beauties it discovers. As God is great and powerful, he is the object of our understanding; but as good and bountiful, he is the object of our love and desire.
The Existence and Attributes of God