Abraham Justified by FaithRomans 4 1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
The Promise Realized Through Faith13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Peace with God Through FaithRomans 5 1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Death in Adam, Life in Christ12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Dead to Sin, Alive to GodRomans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? First, we must understand that the nature of sin is not altered by the use God makes of it. Divine providence does not mean we can just go out and sin because, after all, God is overruling everything to His glory anyway. The will of God never contains permission for us to do that which runs contrary to His revealed will in the Bible. God’s will does not sanction our sin. Poison does not cease to be poison just because it may be part of a medicine that heals. Poison is still poison—and sin is still sin for which the sinner is responsible, even though God may choose to use that sin for the unfolding of His plan. God bears no blame for our sin. The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. ...the simplest way to think of antinomianism is that it denies the role of the law in the Christian life. Its big text is Romans 6:14: “You are not under law but under grace.” In contrast, the Confession of Faith taught that while the law is not a covenant of works for the believer, it nevertheless functions as a rule of life. The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance
Slaves to Righteousness15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Released from the LawRomans 7 1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
The Law and Sin7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
What I'm Reading
Why Shouldn’t We Trust the Non-Canonical “Gospel of the Savior”?
By J. Warner Wallace 11/23/2017
The Gospel of the Savior is an ancient text allegedly citing statements made by Jesus during his years with the disciples. But, is this non-biblical text reliable? Was it really written by an eyewitness who observed the ministry of Jesus and heard him speak? There are four attributes of reliable eyewitness testimony, and the first requirement is simply that the account be old enough to actually be written by someone who was present to see what he or she reported. The Gospel of the Savior was written too late in history to have been written by anyone who would have truly known Jesus, and like other late non-canonical texts, this fictional account was rejected by the early Church. In spite of this, The Gospel of the Savior still references accurate details related to Jesus. Although it is a legendary fabrication written by an author hoped to provide detail about the childhood and family history of Jesus, much can still be learned about the historic Jesus from this late text:
The Gospel of the Savior (120-180AD)
This Gnostic text was discovered by two American scholars in a Berlin museum. It is only a fragment, and scholars date the fragment to somewhere between the 4th and 7th century, although the date of writing has been attributed to the 2nd century. The manuscript was discovered on “calfskin” and only 15 pages remain from the original document which appears to have been damaged in a fire. It is a “sayings” document, much like The Gospel of Thomas, in which Jesus is quoted as the source for a number of statements.
Why Isn’t It Considered Reliable?
The Gospel of the Savior was originally written in Coptic. It contains a number of Gnostic statements and concepts related to the nature of Salvation and the material world, and numerous Gnostic terms commonly found in other heretical documents from the 2nd century. There is, therefore, good reason to believe that The Gospel of the Savior is yet another late Gnostic Gospel corrupted (like other Gnostic documents) by the prior heretical beliefs of Gnostic communities. The text clearly appears in history far too late to be a reliable eyewitness account of Jesus’ statements. Both Eusebius and Irenaeus were familiar with Gnostic groups (and their late texts), and considered Gnostic scriptures to be heretical forgeries. Tertullian believed that the Gnostics based their texts more on contemporary philosophy than Biblical revelation.
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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
By Russell E. Saltzman 11/21/12
Back in 1980 out in rural Nebraska I conducted my first Thanksgiving Day worship service. It was not a good week. Lucille had died the previous afternoon. I was at the hospital with her husband, her sisters, and her children when, at age forty-eight, she lost a three-year battle with cancer. For some little while before she died she had whispered the sursum corda: “Lift up your hearts.”
Lucille was one of those folks in that one-hundred-year-old congregation who had kept things going over the years. She was a respected figure. I had gotten to know her well in the four short months I had been there. Her death washed over the church and the community like an acid rain.
It was one of those weeks pastors dread. There was a wedding rehearsal that evening, a sermon to write for Thanksgiving Day, one for the wedding that Saturday night, a sermon for Sunday, and now tucked in between all that, Lucille’s funeral, Saturday afternoon. I decided to write them in order: Thanksgiving first, then wedding, then funeral and, finally, Sunday.
I got stuck at Thanksgiving. Thanks? Thanks for what? Now every Thanksgiving, since 1980—like clockwork—I tumble back to that week thirty-two years ago. The question nags at me like a stubborn hangnail. Thanks for what?
Having reached this point, someone, I know, is thinking: He should stop and count his blessings. Perhaps I should. Certainly there are blessings to count. Family, children, and I am especially grateful for living in a forty-five-year-old house conveniently located near many fine hardware and home supply outlets.
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The Collapse of American Protestantism
By Alastair Roberts 11/10/16
In an important essay that has sparked considerable conversation, Alan Jacobs raises a key question:
Half a century ago, such figures existed in America: serious Christian intellectuals who occupied a prominent place on the national stage. They are gone now. It would be worth our time to inquire why they disappeared, where they went, and whether—should such a thing be thought desirable—they might return.
Jacobs’s suggested answer is that Christian intellectuals “chose to disappear,” vanishing from public life either into a more privatized religious experience or, more significantly, into their own “subaltern counterpublics.” As they were less likely to be given space in the standard organs of public discourse—the magazines and newspapers, the talk shows and radio programs—they formed their own contexts and structures of discourse. As Jacobs observes, “Subaltern counterpublics are essential for those who have never had seats at the table of power, but they can also be immensely appealing to those who feel that their public presence and authority have waned.”
WHERE DID THE CHRISTIAN INTELLECTUALS GO?
These subaltern counterpublics—Christian colleges, publishing houses, journals, and so on—proved successful and nurtured many brilliant minds. But there was a problem: they weren’t driving the public conversation. What’s more, many Christian intellectuals wondered if gaining a seat at the table would be a hard struggle with limited rewards. The price of admission was simply too high now that the clarity of a Christian voice would be stifled by the operating rules of liberalism. So remaining in segregated Christian institutions appeared to be a more prudent course of action.
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My name is Alastair Roberts. I currently reside in the north of England. In addition to the subjects mentioned above, I am passionate about word games, English cricket, cathedral cities, long walks, and second hand bookstores.
A Harvard Psychiatrist Says 3 Things Are the Secret to Real Happiness
By Tanya Lewis 11/24/16
Happiness is one of the most important things in life, yet it’s also one of the hardest to study.
Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger is the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest and most complete studies of adult life ever conducted. Waldinger described some of the secrets to happiness revealed by the study in a recent TED talk.
The study followed two cohorts of white men for 75 years, starting in 1938:
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8 Theses That Helps Us Think Biblically about Transgenderism
By Michael J. Kruger 11/22/2016
The debate in our culture over sexuality has been raging for a while now. And sometimes it is difficult to find calm and clear voices who can cut through the rhetoric and the posturing and just provide solid biblical teaching on these complex issues.
For this reason, I am thankful for RTS Charlotte’s Dr. James Anderson, associate professor of theology and philosophy. In the video below, Dr. Anderson addresses our students at a lunch-time conversation on the issue of transgenderism. It is a wonderfully clear and concise treatment of this important subject.
James is one of the brightest minds in philosophical theology today. Check out his website here, and his latest book Why Should I Believe Christianity? If you are looking to study apologetics, philosophy, or theology, you need to come to Charlotte to study with him.
In this video, James lays out eight helpful theses about transgenderism, followed by some interesting Q&A. Here are the theses:
1. How you think about transgenderism will depend on your anthropology which in turn depends on your broader worldview.
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Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
The Early Text of the New Testament
Strong Women Laugh at the Days to Come
By Tessa Thompson 11/22/2017
When I was sixteen, the future appeared bleak. Due to a rare neurological disease, I had begun to lose my hearing, and the loss was progressing far more quickly than I had imagined when I received the diagnosis. My world of social gatherings and flirtatious wit suddenly became a world of social awkwardness and silence.
Perhaps worse than these present changes was the painful reality that things were only going to get worse. Making it through high school was one thing — but what about marriage? What about motherhood? What about all the things I wanted to do that would be hindered by deafness?
Around this time, a friend introduced me to Proverbs 31:25: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” When I looked at the apparent future, I wanted to cry; but here was a godly woman who looked into the future — unknowns, trials, and all — and simply laughed. And this laughter was not a doubt-filled, Sarah-like laughter of unbelief (see Genesis 18). This laughter was flowing out of a strong and wise woman who feared the Lord (Proverbs 31:25–30).
This was the laughter I needed, and this was the laughter I began to pursue.
A Valiant Vision of Strong Women | Women tend to be worriers. We worry about trivial things and not-so-trivial things.
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The Key to Spiritual Maturity
By John Piper 11/22/2017
Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14)
Now, this is amazing. Don’t miss it. It could save you years of wasted living.
What this verse is saying is that if you want to become mature and understand and appreciate the more solid teachings of the word, then the rich, nutritional, precious milk of God’s gospel promises must transform your moral senses — your spiritual mind — so that you can discern between good and evil.
Or, let me put it another way. Getting ready to feast on all God’s word is not first an intellectual challenge; it is first a moral challenge. If you want to eat the solid food of the word, you must exercise your spiritual senses so as to develop a mind that discerns between good and evil. This is a moral challenge, not just intellectual.
The startling truth is that, if you stumble over understanding Melchizedek in Genesis and Hebrews, it may be because you watch questionable TV programs. If you stumble over the doctrine of election, it may be because you still use some shady business practices. If you stumble over the God-centered work of Christ in the cross, it may be because you love money and spend too much and give too little.
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John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
THE CREDIBILITY OF SCRIPTURE SUFFICIENTLY PROVED IN SO FAR AS NATURAL REASON ADMITS.
This chapter consists of four parts. The first contains certain general proofs which may be easily gathered out of the writings both of the Old and New Testament--viz. the arrangement of the sacred volume, its dignity, truth, simplicity, efficacy, and majesty, sec. 1, 2. The second part contains special proofs taken from the Old Testament--viz. the antiquity of the books of Moses, their authority, his miracles and prophecies, sec. 3-7; also, the predictions of the other prophets and their wondrous harmony, sec. 8. There is subjoined a refutation of two objections to the books of Moses and the Prophets, sec. 9, 10. The third part exhibits proofs gathered out of the New Testament, e.g., the harmony of the Evangelists in their account of heavenly mysteries, the majesty of the writings of John, Peter, and Paul, the remarkable calling of the Apostles and conversion of Paul, sec. 11. The last part exhibits the proofs drawn from ecclesiastical history, the perpetual consent of the Church in receiving and preserving divine truth, the invincible force of the truth in defending itself, the agreement of the godly (though otherwise differing so much from one another), the pious profession of the same doctrine by many illustrious men; in fine, the more than human constancy of the martyrs, sec. 12, 13. This is followed by a conclusion of the particular topic discussed.
1. Secondary helps to establish the credibility of Scripture. I. The arrangement of the sacred volume. II. Its dignity. III. Its truth. IV. Its simplicity. V. Its efficacy.
2. The majesty conspicuous in the writings of the Prophets.
3. Special proofs from the Old Testament. I. The antiquity of the Books of Moses.
4. This antiquity contrasted with the dreams of the Egyptians. II. The majesty of the Books of Moses.
5. The miracles and prophecies of Moses. A profane objection refuted.
6. Another profane objection refuted.
7. The prophecies of Moses as to the sceptre not departing from Judah, and the calling of the Gentiles.
8. The predictions of other prophets. The destruction of Jerusalem; and the return from the Babylonish captivity. Harmony of the Prophets. The celebrated prophecy of Daniel.
9. Objection against Moses and the Prophets. Answer to it.
10. Another objection and answer. Of the wondrous Providence of God in the preservation of the sacred books. The Greek Translation. The carefulness of the Jews.
11. Special proofs from the New Testament. I. The harmony of the Evangelists, and the sublime simplicity of their writings. II. The majesty of John, Paul, and Peter. III. The calling of the Apostles. IV. The conversion of Paul.
12. Proofs from Church history. I. Perpetual consent of the Church in receiving and preserving the truth. II. The invincible power of the truth itself. III. Agreement among the godly, not withstanding of their many differences in other respects.
13. The constancy of the martyrs. Conclusion. Proofs of this description only of use after the certainty of Scripture has been established in the heart by the Holy Spirit.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 129They Have Afflicted Me from My Youth
129 A Song Of Ascents.
129:1 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”—
let Israel now say—
2 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,
yet they have not prevailed against me.
3 The plowers plowed upon my back;
they made long their furrows.”
4 The LORD is righteous;
he has cut the cords of the wicked.
5 May all who hate Zion
be put to shame and turned backward!
6 Let them be like the grass on the housetops,
which withers before it grows up,
7 with which the reaper does not fill his hand
nor the binder of sheaves his arms,
8 nor do those who pass by say,
“The blessing of the LORD be upon you!
We bless you in the name of the LORD!”
The Soft Prosperity Gospel
By Erik Raymond 4/01/2016
What do you think of when you read the words prosperity gospel? Odds are that your stomach turns a bit as you think about the preachers on television who speak to very large crowds and appeal to even more people in their books. Queasiness is the reaction one should have to the brand of Christianity trumpeted by prosperity preachers. This is because the prosperity gospel is not a gospel at all but rather a damnable perversion of the true gospel. Its preachers herald a message of self-improvement that runs painfully contrary to several key biblical realities. They minimize the purpose of suffering, discourage self-denial, and make the Christian life about the accumulation of stuff. To do this they turn Jesus from the self-giving, sin-atoning, wrath-satisfying, guilt-removing Savior into an eager butler who fetches all of our desires and gives us our best life now.
The prosperity gospel shrinks the gospel down to an unfiltered pursuit of our desires. It shifts the message from the spiritual to the materialistic. Let’s be clear about this: the prosperity gospel is about us rather than God.
This is nothing new. Many have tried to avoid the clear instructions of Jesus that are forever etched on the doorpost of the church: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Jesus’ call to discipleship is a call to deny self. It’s a costly call that expects and embraces suffering.
Martin Luther vehemently opposed those who would seek to marginalize the experience of suffering and self-denial in the Christian life. His contrast between the “theology of glory” and the “theology of the cross” showed a fundamental difference in the starting point for Christian thought and experience. Theologians of glory build their theology on what they think God would be like, while theologians of the cross form their knowledge of God in light of the cross. On the one hand, the theology of glory will craft a god that looks like the theologian. On the other hand, the one who stares intently at the cross will learn about God through the lens of Calvary.
Doubtless, you can see how this intersects with prosperity thinking. There is no way that people can hold to prosperity theology when they have a front-row seat to the cross. There upon the tree, the perfect Son of God suffered the triune God’s accumulated wrath for all of His people. The Sinless One became a curse for us. As the hymn writer wrote, “Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood.” And we should hasten to add that the cross was not plan B. It was God’s plan all along — even from eternity past. Christ was focused with unrelenting precision upon the cross that He might accomplish the work that He had been given. And this work that He accomplished serves as an example for us (1 Pet. 2:20–25).
We would be naive to think that prosperity thinking is limited to those who cruise around in their expensive private jets or overtly speak in self-help platitudes fit for fortune cookies. No, prosperity thinking has gone viral today. Being more nuanced and subtle than you may think, prosperity thinking is very active in the church. And because it undermines our understanding and application of the gospel, its effect is cataclysmic. Like a computer virus, it drains the vitality and productivity of the covenant community. And you know the worst part? We may not even recognize where we’ve been affected by it.
Let’s call this the “soft” prosperity gospel. It is not so loud and ostentatious. It is more mainstream, polished, and even American. Here are a few ways that you can tell that you may be nibbling at the hook of a soft-prosperity gospel without, perhaps, even knowing it.
The Place of SufferingWhen you encounter suffering, do you have an unresolved answer to the question of why? Do you find yourself beginning to question God’s goodness? Or have you become somewhat bitter about what you are going through? The Christian, of all people, should know that suffering is part of the Christian life (John 15:20; Phil. 1:29). Let’s not forget that we follow a Savior who was crucified. The soft prosperity gospel has shaped our thinking to see that suffering is an intrusion in our lives. We ask questions such as, “Why is this happening? How could God let this happen?” It is happening because we live in a fallen, broken world. But, it is also happening because God uses suffering to strengthen and sanctify His people. He makes us more like Jesus through our suffering (Rom. 5:3–5; Heb. 5.7; James 1:2–4; 1 Peter 1:6–9). As Luther observed, it is suffering that God uses to fashion our understanding of the gospel. Far from an intrusion, suffering is an instrument from God for our good and His glory.
The Role of GodThe soft prosperity gospel teaches that if you work hard for God, then He should work hard for you. Many have bought into this lie. We go to church, keep our noses clean, and do whatever extra we can. Then we hope God will do His part and bless us with good kids, a nice house, a steady job, and plenty of money. But what happens when the company downsizes? When a kid starts taking drugs? When the 401(k) shrinks? We go into private litigation in our minds because God has not kept His end of the bargain. We want to sue God for the prosperity promises that we have signed on to. The trouble is, God does not stand behind this soft prosperity thinking; He stands behind His Word. And He has shown us how to understand His Word through the work of Christ. Do you think (even subtly) that God owes you?
The Shape of WorshipLet’s be honest, in one sense, the Lord’s Day gatherings for the church are very unspectacular. We sing, read, and respond to God’s Word together. We probably don’t walk out of church like we walk out of a movie saying, “Wow! That was spectacular! I can’t believe how it ended! I never saw that coming.” No, we do the same thing every week with some variation of songs or Scripture. We do this because God tells us to do it; He says it is good for us (Heb. 10:25). We trust Him. But sometimes we want a little more. Dissatisfied by preaching, prayer, and singing, we want worship to be a little more “our style” and to fit “our tastes.” Soon, we find ourselves looking for that perfect place for us rather than the faithful place to God. Somehow it becomes our show. This subtle shift shows that we are at least susceptible to soft prosperity thinking, if not fully on board with it.
The Focus of DevotionLet’s get right down to it: Christianity is spiritual before it is physical. If you are restless about what you see, you will never be content in the One whom you cannot see. There is an epidemic of Bible negligence and prayerlessness in the church today. It is not because we are too busy, too smart, or too whatever — it is because we do not want to have communion with God. I believe this is a demonstration of soft prosperity thinking. It is hard work and a real demonstration of faith and discipline to read your Bible and quiet your heart before the Lord in humble adoration, confession, and petition. We are very distracted by our stuff, and our craving for stuff, and not so drawn to God. Having or wanting stuff does not in itself indicate that we have accepted the prosperity gospel, but if we make the gospel and our faith all about material blessings on this side of heaven, we have bought into the prosperity heresy.
The Object of AffectionWhen so much of the emphasis is on the here and now and so little is placed on the New City that awaits us, we have to ask the question, “Do you even want to go to heaven?” Let’s say I had the ability to make you a deal where you could stay here on this world forever. You would never die and the ability to enjoy this world would not end. You could play all the video games, watch all the sunsets, drink and eat whatever you wanted; there would be football, hunting, shopping, and whatever else you would want. You could just ride the merry-go-round of this world forever without ever having to put in another quarter. The only catch is this: no God. That’s right—you can’t pray, read the Bible, go to church, or anything. It is on the shelf. Would you take it?
The very thing that makes heaven so heavenly is God. That which makes Christians long for heaven is the lack of God — God’s tangible presence here. Ultimately, we don’t want more rides on the merry-go-round; we want fellowship with God unhindered by our sinful flesh. Soft prosperity thinking has sold us a way of life that is so seemingly improved by their “gospel” that we don’t even want to go to heaven.
Many of us have been unwittingly lulled to sleep by prosperity thinking. In its subtlety, the soft prosperity gospel wears the uniform of honor, happiness, and achievement. These are all good things but not necessarily implications of the gospel. The entry point into following Jesus is a call for self-denial and cross-bearing. This is to be our ongoing expectation and priority. To the extent that we have dozed off and imbibed the assumptions of the soft prosperity gospel, we need to be awakened by the theology of the cross. Rev. Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church in Boston, Mass. He is author of Chasing Contentment and blogs at Ordinary Pastor on The Gospel Coalition.
Christ’s Call to Make Disciples
By R.C. Sproul 5/01/2016
One of the most exciting times of my life was when I was converted to Christ. I was filled with a zeal for evangelism. However, much to my consternation, when I told my friends about my conversion to Christ, they thought I was crazy. They were tragically amused, remaining unconvinced despite my sharing the gospel with them. Finally, they asked me, “Why don’t you start a class and teach us what you have learned about Jesus?” They were serious. I was elated. We scheduled a time to meet — but they never showed up.
Despite my profound desire for evangelism, I was a failure at it. This realization came to me early in my ministry. Yet, I also discovered that there are many people whom Christ has called and whom He has gifted by His Spirit to be particularly effective in evangelism. To this day, I’m surprised if anyone attributes their conversion in some part to my influence. In one respect, I’m glad that the Great Commission is not a commission principally to evangelism.
The words preceding Jesus’ commission were these: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). He then went on to say, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (v. 19). When Jesus gave this commission to the church, He was speaking authoritatively. He gave a mandate to the church of all ages not simply to evangelize but to make disciples. That raises a significant question: What is a disciple?
The simplest definition of disciple is one who directs his mind toward specific knowledge and conduct. So, we might say that a disciple is a learner or pupil. The Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle had disciples. Socrates described himself as a disciple of Homer, whom Socrates regarded as the greatest thinker in Greek history.
We tend to think of Homer as a poet rather than as a philosopher. But Socrates saw him as the supreme teacher of ancient Greece. Socrates had his own student — his chief disciple — whose name was Plato. Plato had his disciples, the chief one being Aristotle. Aristotle also had his disciples, the most famous being Alexander the Great. It is astonishing to think about how dramatically the ancient world was shaped by four men: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great. In fact, it is nearly impossible to understand the history of Western civilization without understanding the influence of those four individuals, who in their own way were each disciples of another.
Aristotle was known as a “peripatetic” philosopher. That is, he was a nomadic teacher who walked from place to place, not teaching in a fixed location. The students of Aristotle would follow him as he walked the streets of Athens. In one respect, Aristotle’s disciples lived life with him, learning from him in the course of a normal daily routine.
These concepts help illuminate the nature of discipleship. However, they fail to capture the full essence of biblical discipleship. Biblical discipleship involves walking with the Teacher and learning from His words, but it is more than that.
Jesus was a rabbi and, of course, the most important peripatetic teacher and disciple-maker in history. Wherever He walked, His students would follow. At the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, He chose particular individuals to be His disciples. They were required to memorize the teachings that He spoke as He walked. What’s more, people didn’t file an application to get into the School of Jesus. Jesus selected His disciples. He went to prospective disciples where they were and gave this simple command: “Follow me.” The command was literal — He called them to drop their present duties. They had to leave their work, their families, and their friends to follow Jesus.
Yet, Jesus was more than just a peripatetic teacher. His disciples called Him “Master.” Their entire way of life changed because they followed Jesus not merely as a great teacher but as the Lord of all. That’s the essence of discipleship — submitting fully to the authority of Christ, the One whose lordship goes beyond just the classroom. Jesus’ lordship encompasses all of life. The Greek philosophers learned from their teachers but then tried to improve on that teaching. Christ’s disciples have no such warrant. We are called to understand and teach only what God has revealed through Christ, including the Old Testament Scriptures, for they point to Christ; and the New Testament Scriptures, for they are the words of those whom Christ appointed to speak in His name.
The Great Commission is the call of Christ for His disciples to extend His authority over the whole world. We are to share the gospel with everyone so that more and more people might call Him “Master.” This calling is not simply a call to evangelism. It isn’t merely a call to get members for our churches. Rather, Christ calls us to make disciples. Disciples are people who have wholeheartedly committed to follow the thinking and conduct of the Master. Such discipleship is a lifelong experience of learning the mind of Christ and following the will of Christ, submitting ourselves in full obedience to His lordship.
Thus, when Jesus tells us to go to all nations, we are to go into all the world with His agenda, not our own. The Great Commission calls us to work with other believers in the church in order to produce disciples and flood this world with knowledgeable, articulate Christians who worship God and follow Jesus Christ passionately.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
Archbishop CranmerDr. Thomas Cranmer was descended from an ancient family, and was born at the village of Arselacton, in the county of Northampton. After the usual school education he was sent to Cambridge, and was chosen fellow Jesus College. Here he married a gentleman's daughter, by which he forfeited his fellowship, and became a reader in Buckingham College, placing his wife at the Dolphin Inn, the landlady of which was a relation of hers, whence arose the idle report that he was an ostler. His lady shortly after dying in childbed; to his credit he was re-chosen a fellow of the college before mentioned. In a few years after, he was promoted to be Divinity Lecturer, and appointed one of the examiners over those who were ripe to become Bachelors or Doctors in Divinity. It was his principle to judge of their qualifications by the knowledge they possessed of the Scriptures, rather than of the ancient fathers, and hence many popish priests were rejected, and others rendered much improved.
He was strongly solicited by Dr. Capon to be one of the fellows on the foundation of Cardinal Wolsey's college, Oxford, of which he hazarded the refusal. While he continued in Cambridge, the question of Henry VIII's divorce with Catharine was agitated. At that time, on account of the plague, Dr. Cranmer removed to the house of a Mr. Cressy, at Waltham Abbey, whose two sons were then educating under him. The affair of divorce, contrary to the king's approbation, had remained undecided above two or three years, from the intrigues of the canonists and civilians, and though the cardinals Campeius and Wolsey were commissioned from Rome to decide the question, they purposely protracted the sentence.
It happened that Dr. Gardiner (secretary) and Dr. Fox, defenders of the king in the above suit, came to the house of Mr. Cressy to lodge, while the king removed to Greenwich. At supper, a conversation ensued with Dr. Cranmer, who suggested that the question whether a man may marry his brother's wife or not, could be easily and speedily decided by the Word of God, and this as well in the English courts as in those of any foreign nation. The king, uneasy at the delay, sent for Dr. Gardiner and Dr. Fox to consult them, regretting that a new commission must be sent to Rome, and the suit be endlessly protracted. Upon relating to the king the conversation which had passed on the previous evening with Dr. Cranmer, his majesty sent for him, and opened the tenderness of conscience upon the near affinity of the queen. Dr. Cranmer advised that the matter should be referred to the most learned divines of Cambridge and Oxford, as he was unwilling to meddle in an affair of such weight; but the king enjoined him to deliver his sentiments in writing, and to repair for that purpose to the earl of Wiltshire's, who would accommodate him with books,a nd everything requisite for the occasion.
This Dr. Cranmer immediately did, and in his declaration not only quoted the authority of the Scriptures, of general councils, and the ancient writers, but maintained that the bishop of Rome had no authority whatever to dispense with the Word of God. The king asked him if he would stand by this bold declaration, to which replying in the affirmative, he was deputed ambassador to Rome, in conjunction with the earl of Wiltshire, Dr. Stokesley, Dr. Carne, Dr. Bennet, and others, previous to which, the marriage was discussed in most of the universities of Christendom and at home.
When the pope presented his toe to be kissed, as customary, the earl of Wiltshire and his party refused. Indeed, it is affirmed that a spaniel of the earl's attracted by the littler of the pope's toe, made a snap at it, whence his holiness drew in his sacred foot, and kicked at the offender with the other.
Upon the pope demanding the cause of their embassy, the earl presented Dr. Cranmer's book, declaring that his learned friends had come to defend it. The pope treated the embassy honorably, and appointed a day for the discussion, which he delayed, as if afraid of the issue of the investigation. The earl returned, and Dr. Cranmer, by the king's desire, visited the emperor, and was successful in bringing him over to his opinion. Upon the doctor's return to England, Dr. Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, having quitted this transitory life, Dr. Cranmer was deservedly, and by Dr. Warham's desire, elevated to that eminent station.
In this function, it may be said that he followed closely the charge of St. Paul. Diligent in duty, he rose at five in the morning, and continued in study and prayer until nine: between then and dinner, he devoted to temporal affairs. After dinner, if any suitors wanted hearing, he would determine their business with such an affability that even the defaulters were scarcely displeased. Then he would play at chess for an hour, or see others play, and at five o'clock he heard the Common Prayer read, and from this until supper he took the recreation of walking. At supper his conversation was lively and entertaining; again he walked or amused himself until nine o'clock, and then entered his study.
He ranked high in favor with King Henry, and even had the purity and the interest of the English Church deeply at heart. His mild and forgiving disposition is recorded in the following instance. An ignorant priest, in the country, had called Cranmer an ostler, and spoken very derogatory of his learning. Lord Cromwell receiving information of it, the man was sent to the Fleet, and his case was told to the archbishop by a Mr. Chertsey, a grocer, and a relation of the priest's. His grace, having sent for the offender, reasoned with him, and solicited the priest to question him on any learned subject. This the man, overcome by the bishop's good nature, and knowing his own glaring incapacity, declined, and entreated his forgiveness, which was immediately granted, with a charge to employ his time better when he returned to his parish. Cromwell was much vexed at the lenity displayed, but the bishop was ever more ready to receive injury than to retaliate in any other manner than by good advice and good offices.
At the time that Cranmer was raised to be archbishop, he was king's chaplain, and archdeacon of Taunton; he was also constituted by the pope the penitentiary general of England. It was considered by the king that Cranmer would be obsequious; hence the latter married the king to Anne Boleyn, performed her coronation, stood godfather to Elizabeth, the first child, and divorced the king from Catharine. Though Cranmer received a confirmation of his dignity from the pope, he always protested against acknowledging any other authority than the king's, and he persisted in the same independent sentiments when before Mary's commissioners in 1555.
One of the first steps after the divorce was to prevent preaching throughout his diocese, but this narrow measure had rather a political view than a religious one, as there were many who inveighed against the king's conduct. In his new dignity Cranmer agitated the question of supremacy, and by his powerful and just arguments induced the parliament to "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's." During Cranmer's residence in Germany, 1531, he became acquainted with Ossiander, at Nuremberg, and married his niece, but left her with him while on his return to England. After a season he sent for her privately, and she remained with him until the year 1539, when the Six Articles compelled him to return her to her friends for a time.
It should be remembered that Ossiander, having obtained the approbation of his friend Cranmer, published the laborious work of the Harmony of the Gospels in 1537. In 1534 the archbishop completed the dearest wish of his heart, the removal of every obstacle to the perfection of the Reformation, by the subscription of the nobles and bishops to the king's sole supremacy. Only Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More made objection; and their agreement not to oppose the succession Cranmer was willing to consider at sufficient, but the monarch would have no other than an entire concession.
Not long after, Gardiner, in a privat einterview with the king, spoke inimically of Cranmer, (whom he maliciously hated) for assumiong the title of primate of all England, as derogatory to the supremacy of the king. This created much jealousy against Cranmer, and his translation of the Bible was strongly opposed by Stokesley, bishop of London. It is said, upon the demise of Queen Catharine, that her successor Anne Boleyn rejoiced-a lesson this to show how shallow is the human judgment! since her own execution took place in the spring of the following year, and the king, on the day following the beheading of this sacrificed lady, married the beautiful Jane Seymour, a maid of honor to the late queen. Cranmer was ever the friend of Anne Boleyn, but it was dangerous to oppose the will of the carnal tyrannical monarch.
In 1538, the Holy Scriptures were openly exposed to sale; and the places of worship overflowed everywhere to hear its holy doctrines expounded. Upon the king's passing into a law the famous Six Articles, which went nearly again to establish the essential tenets of the Romish creed, Cranmer shone forth with all the luster of a Christian patiot, in resisting the doctrines they contained, and in which he was supported by the bishops of Sarum, Worcester, Ely, and Rochester, the two former of whom resigned their bishoprics. The king, though now in opposition to Cranmer, still revered the sincerity that marked his conduct. The death of Lord Cromwell in the Tower, in 1540, the good friend of Cranmer, was a severe blow to the wavering Protestant cause, but even now Cranmer, when he saw the tide directly adverse to the truth, boldly waited on the king in person, and by his manly and heartfelt pleading, caused the Book of Articles to be passed on his side, to the great confusion of his enemies, who had contemplated his fall as inevitable.
Cranmer now lived in as secluded a manner as possible, until the rancor of Winchester preferred some articles against him, relative to the dangerous opinion he taught in his family, joined to other treasonable charges. These the king himself delivered to Cranmer, and believing firmly the fidelity and assertions of innocence of the accused prelate, he caused the matter to be deeply investigated, and Winchester and Dr. Lenden, with Thornton and Barber, of the bishop's household, were found by the papers to be the real conspirators. The mild, forgiving Cranmer would have interceded for all remission of publishment, had not Henry, pleased with the subsidy voted by parliament, let them be discharged. These nefarious men, however, again renewing their plots against Cranmer, fell victims to Henry's resentment, and Gardiner forever lost his confidence. Sir G. Gostwick soon after laid charges against the archbishop, which Henry quashed, and the primate was willing to forgive.
In 1544, the archbishop's palace at Canterbury was burnt, and his brother-in-law with others perished in it. These various afflictions may serve to reconcile us to a humble state; for of what happiness could this great and good man boast, since his life was constantly harassed either by political, religious, or natural crosses? Again the inveterate Gardfiner laid high charges against the meek archbishop and would have sent him to the Tower; but the king was his friend, gave him his signet that he might defend him, and in the Council not only declared the bishop one of the best affected men in his realm, but sharpoly rebuked his accusers for their calumny.
A peace having been made, Henry, and the French king, Henry the Great, were unanimous to have the Mass abolished in their kingdom, and Cranmer set about this great work; but the death of the English monarch, in 1546, suspended the precedure, and King Edwarrd his successor continued Cranmer in the same functions, upon whose coronation he delivered a charge that will ever honor his memory, for its purity, freedom, and truth. During this reign he prosecuted the glorious Reformation with unabated zeal, even in the year 1552, when he was seized with a severe ague, from which it pleased God to restore him that he might testify by his death the truth of that seed he had diligently sown.
The death of Edward, in 1553, exposed Cranmer to all the rage of his enemies. Though the archbishop was among those who supported Mary's accession, he was attainted at the meeting of parliament, and in November adjudged guilty of high treason at Guildhall, and degraded from his dignities. He sent a humble letter to Mary, explaining the cause of his signing the will in favor of Edward, and in 1554 he wrote to the Council, whom he pressed to obtain a pardon from the queen, by a letter delivered to Dr. Weston, but which the letter opened, and on seeing its contents, basely returned.
Treason was a charge quite inapplicable to Cranmer, who supported the queen's right; while others, who had favored Lady Jane were dismissed upon paying a small fine. A calumny was now spread against Cranmer that he complied with some of the popish ceremonies to ingratiate himself with the queen, which he dared publicly to disavow, and justified his articles of faith. The active part which the prelate had taken in the divorce of Mary's mother had ever rankled deeply in the heart of the queen, and revenge formed a prominent feature in the death of Cranmer.
We have in this work noticed the public disputations at Oxford, in which the talents of Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer shone so conspicuously, and tended to their condemnation. The first sentence was illegal, inasmuch as the usurped power of the pope had not yet been re-established by law.
Being kept in prison until this was effected, a commission was despatched from Rome, appointing Dr. Brooks to sit as the representative of his holiness, and Drs. Story and Martin as those of the queen. Cranmer was willing to bow to the authority of Drs. Story and Martin, but against that of Dr. Brooks he protested. Such were the remarks and replies of Cranmer, after a long examination, that Dr. Broks observed, "We come to examine you, and methinks you examine us."
Being sent back to confinement, he received a citation to appear at Rome within eighteen days, but this was impracticable, as he was imprisoned in England; and as he stated, even had he been at liberty, he was too poor to employ an advocate. Absurd as it must appear, Cranmer was condemned at Rome, and on February 14, 1556, a new commission was appointed, by which, Thirlby, bishop of Ely, and Bonner, of London, were deputed to sit in judgment at Christ-church, Oxford. By virtue of this instrument, Cranmer was gradually degraded, by putting mere rags on him to represent the dress of an archbishop; then stripping him of his attire, they took off his own gown, and put an old worn one upon him instead. This he bore unmoved, and his enemies, finding that severity only rendered him more determined, tried the opposite course, and placed him in the house of the dean of Christ-church, where he was treated with every indulgence.
This presented such a contrast to the three years' hard imprisonment he had received, that it threw him off his guard. His open, generous nature was more easily to be seduced by a liberal conduct than by threats and fetters. When Satan finds the Christian proof against one mode of attack, he tries another; and what form is so seductive as smiles, rewards, and power, after a long, painful imprisonment? Thus it was with Cranmer: his enemies promised him his former greatness if he would but recant, as well as the queen's favor, and this at the very time they knew that his death was determined in council. To soften the path to apostasy, the first paper brought for his signature was conceived in general terms; this once signed, five others were obtained as explanatory of the first, until finally he put his hand to the following detestable instrument:
"I, Thomas Cranmer, late archbishop of Canterbury, do renounce, abhor, and detest all manner of heresies and errors of Luther and Zuinglius, and all other teachings which are contrary to sound and true doctrine. And I believe most constantly in my heart, and with my mouth I confess one holy and Catholic Church visible, without which there is no salvation; and therefore I acknowledge the Bishop of Rome to be supreme head on earth, whom I acknowledge to be the highest bishop and pope, and Christ's vicar, unto whom all Christian people ought to be subject.
"And as concerning the sacraments, I believe and worship int he sacrament of the altar the body and blood of Christ, being contained most truly under the forms of bread and wine; the bread, through the mighty power of God being turned into the body of our Savior Jesus Christ, and the wine into his blood.
"And in the other six sacraments, also, (alike as in this) I believe and hold as the universal Church holdeth, and the Church of Rome judgeth and determineth.
"Furthermore, I believe that there is a place of purgatory, where souls departed be punished for a time, for whom the Church doth godily and wholesomely pray, like as it doth honor saints and make prayers to them.
"Finally, in all things I profess, that I do not otherwise believe than the Catholic Church and the Church of Rome holdeth and teacheth. I am sorry that I ever held or thought otherwise. And I beseech Almighty God, that of His mercy He will vouchsafe to forgive me whatsoever I have offended against God or His Church, and also I desire and beseech all Christian people to pray for me.
"And all such as have been deceived either by mine example or doctrine, I require them by the blood of Jesus Christ that they will return to the unity of the Church, that we may be all of one mind, without schism or division.
"And to conclude, as I submit myself to the Catholic Church of Christ, and to the supreme head thereof, so I submit myself unto the most excellent majesties of Philip and Mary, king and queen of this realm of England, etc., and to all other their laws and ordinances, being ready always as a faithful subject ever to obey them. And God is my witness, that I have not done this for favor or fear of any person, but willingly and of mine own conscience, as to the instruction of others."
"Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall!" said the apostle, and here was a falling off indeed! The papists now triumphed in their turn: they had acquired all they wanted short of his life. His recantation was immediately printed and dispersed, that it might have its due effect upon the astonished Protestants. But God counter worked all the designs of the Catholics by the extent to which they carried the implacable persecution of their prey. Doubtless, the love of life induced Cranmer to sign the above declaration: yet death may be said to have been preferable to life to him who lay under the stings of a goaded conscience and the contempt of every Gospel Christian; this principle he strongly felt in all its force and anguish.
The queen's revenge was only to be satiated by Cranmer's blood, and therefore she wrote an order to Dr. Pole, to prepare a sermon to be preached March 21, directly before his martyrdom, at St. Mary's, Oxford. Dr. Pole visited him the day previous, and was induced to believe that he would publicly deliver his sentiments in confirmation of the articles to which he had subscribed. About nine in the morning of the day of sacrifice, the queen's commissioners, attended by the magistrates, conducted the amiable unfortunate to St. Mary's Church. His torn, dirty garb, the same in which they habited him upon his degradation, excited the commiseration of the people. In the church he found a low mean stage, erected opposite to the pulpit, on which being placed, he turned his face, and fervently prayed to God.
The church was crowded with persons of both persuasions, expecting to hear the justification of the late apostasy: the Catholics rejoicing, and the Protestants deeply wounded in spirit at the deceit of the human heart. Dr. Pole, in his sermon, represented Cranmer as having been guilty of the most atrocious crimes; encouraged the deluded sufferer not to fear death, not to doubt the support of God in his torments, nor that Masses would be said in all the churches of Oxford for the repose of his soul. The doctor then noticed his conversion, and which he ascribed to the evident working of Almighty power and in order that the people might be convinced of its reality, asked the prisoner to give them a sign. This Cranmer did, and begged the congregation to pray for him, for he had committed many and grievous sins; but, of all, there was one which awfully lay upon his mind, of which he would speak shortly.
During the sermon Cranmer wept bitter tears: lifting up his hands and eyes to heaven, and letting them fall, as if unworthy to live: his grief now found vent in words: before his confession he fell upon his knees, and, in the following words unveiled the deep contrition and agitation which harrowed up his soul.
"O Father of heaven! O Son of God, Redeemer of the world! O Holy Ghost, three persons all one God! have mercy on me, most wretched caitiff and miserable sinner. I have offended both against heaven and earth, more than my tongue can express. Whither then may I go, or whither may I flee? To heaven I may be ashamed to lift up mine eyes and in earth I find no place of refuge or succor. To Thee, therefore, O Lord, do I run; to Thee do I humble myself, saying, O Lord, my God, my sins be great, but yet have mercy upon me for Thy great mercy. The great mystery that God became man, was not wrought for little or few offences. Thou didst not give Thy Son, O Heavenly Father, unto death for small sins only, but for all the greatest sins of the world, so that the sinner return to Thee with his whole heart, as I do at present. Wherefore, have mercy on me, O God, whose property is always to have mercy, have mercy upon me, O Lord, for Thy great mercy. I crave nothing for my own merits, but for Thy name's sake, that it may be hallowed thereby, and for Thy dear Son, Jesus Christ's sake. And now therefore, O Father of Heaven, hallowed be Thy name," etc.
Then rising, he said he was desirous before his death to give them some pious exhortations by which God might be glorified and themselves edified. He then descanted upon the danger of a love for the world, the duty of obedience to their majesties, of love to one another and the necessity of the rich administering to the wants of the poor. He quoted the three verses of the fifth chapter of James, and then proceeded, "Let them that be rich ponder well these three sentences: for if they ever had occasion to show their charity, they have it now at this present, the poor people being so many, and victual so dear.
"And now forasmuch as I am come to the last end of my life, whereupon hangeth all my life past, and all my life to come, either to live with my master Christ for ever in joy, or else to be in pain for ever with the wicked in hell, and I see before mine eyes presently, either heaven ready to receive me, or else hell ready to swallow me up; I shall therefore declare unto you my very faith how I believe, without any color of dissimulation: for now is no time to dissemble, whatsoever I have said or written in times past.
"First, I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, etc. And I believe every article of the Catholic faith, every word and sentence taught by our Savior Jesus Christ, His apostles and prophets, in the New and Old Testament.
"And now I come to the great thing which so much troubleth my conscience, more than any thing that ever I did or said in my whole life, and that is the setting abroad of a writing contrary to the truth, which now here I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and written for fear of death, and to save my life, if it might be; and that is, all such bills or papers which I have written or signed with my hand since my degradation, wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand hath offended, writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for when I come to the fire it shall first be burned.
"And as for the pope, I refuse him as Christ's enemy, and Antichrist, with all his false doctrine."
Upon the conclusion of this unexpected declaration, amazement and indignation were conspicuous in every part of the church. The Catholics were completely foiled, their object being frustrated, Cranmer, like Samson, having completed a greater ruin upon his enemies in the hour of death, than he did in his life.
Cranmer would have proceeded in the exposure of the popish doctrines, but the murmurs of the idolaters drowned his voice, and the preacher gave an order to "lead the heretic away!" The savage command was directly obeyed, and the lamb about to suffer was torn from his stand to the place of slaughter, insulted all the way by the revilings and taunts of the pestilent monks and friars.
With thoughts intent upon a far higher object than the empty threats of man, he reached the spot dyed with the blood of Ridley and Latimer. There he knelt for a short time in earnest devotion, and then arose, that he might undress and prepare for the fire. Two friars who had been parties in prevailing upon him to abjure, now endeavored to draw him off again from the truth, but he was steadfast and immovable in what he had just professed, and publicly taught. A chain was provided to bind him to the stake, and after it had tightly encircled him, fire was put to the fuel, and the flames began soon to ascend.
Then were the glorious sentiments of the martyr made manifest; then it was, that stretching out his right hand, he held it unshrinkingly in the fire until it was burnt to a cinder, even before his body wa sinjured, frequently exclaiming, "This unworthy right hand."
His body did abide the burning with such steadfastness that he seemed to have no more than the stake to which he was bound; his eyes were lifted up to heaven, and he repeated "this unworthy right hand," as long as his voice would suffer him; and using often the words of Stephen, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," in the greatness of the flame, he gave up the ghost.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
God loves them – you must too
11/25/2017 Bob Gass
‘God…doesn’t think anyone is unclean or unfit.’
(Ac 10:28) 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. ESV
From a Jewish point of view Cornelius, a Gentile, was a bad guy. He ate the wrong food, hung out with the wrong crowd, and swore allegiance to the wrong leader: Caesar. He didn’t quote the Torah or descend from Abraham. He was uncircumcised, unkosher, and unclean. Yet he did two things that got God’s attention. He prayed for spiritual enlightenment, and he was generous to the poor and needy. The Bible says he was ‘one who feared God with all his household…gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always’ (v. 2 NKJV). Up until this point the gospel had been preached only to the Jews. But God was about to change that. And to do it He used Peter, one of the most religiously biased people you’ll ever meet. In a vision, God showed Peter a sheet being let down from heaven; it was filled with all kinds of food Jews are forbidden to eat. Peter protested, ‘Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean’ (v. 14 NKJV). And since Peter was slow to understand, the sheet was let down three times. Finally a voice from heaven said, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common’ (v. 15 NKJV). As a result, Peter went to Cornelius’s house and preached the gospel. And before he could issue an invitation, the Holy Spirit fell on all who were present, confirming that this was God’s will. At that point Peter declared, ‘God has shown me that he doesn’t think anyone is unclean or unfit.’ Let God show you that too!
2 Pet 3
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Freed from slavery, Sojourner Truth heard “A voice from Heaven” and began traveling the North preaching emancipation for the slaves. During the Civil War she came to Washington, D.C. and help resettle ex-slaves. This day, November 25, 1883, was her last full day on earth. Sojourner Truth stated: “When I left the house of bondage I left everything behind. I wanted to keep nothing of Egypt on me, and so I went to the Lord and asked him to give me a new name…. I set up my banner, and… sing, and then folks always comes up ‘round me, and… I tells them about Jesus.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Now I am going to suggest that strictly causal thinking is even more inadequate when applied to the relation between God and man. I don't mean only when we are thinking of prayer, but whenever we are thinking about what happens at the Frontier, at the mysterious point of junction and separation where absolute being utters derivative being.
One attempt to define causally what happens there has led to the whole puzzle about grace and free will. You will notice that Scripture just sails over the problem. "Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling"-pure Pelagianism. But why? "For it is God who worketh in you"-pure Augustinianism. It is presumably only our presuppositions that make this appear nonsensical. We profanely assume that divine and human action exclude one another like the actions of two fellow-creatures so that "God did this" and "I did this" cannot both be true of the same act except in the sense that each contributed a share.
In the end we must admit a two-way traffic at the junction. At first sight no passive verb in the world would seem to be so utterly passive as "to be created." Does it not mean "to have been nonentity"? Yet, for us rational creatures, to be created also means "to be made agents." We have nothing that we have not received; but part of what we have received is the power of being something more than receptacles. We exercise it, no doubt, chiefly by our sins. But they, for my present argument, will do as well as anything else. For God forgives sins. He would not do so if we committed none-"whereto serves Mercy but to confront the visage of offence?" In that sense the divine action is consequent upon, conditioned by, elicited by, our behavior. Does this mean that we can "act upon" God? I suppose you could put it that way if you wanted. If you do, then we must interpret His "impassibility" in a way which admits this; for we know that God forgives much better than we know what "impassible" means. I would rather say that from before all worlds His providential and creative act (for they are all one) takes into account all the situations produced by the acts of His creatures. And if He takes our sins into account, why not our petitions?
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The feeling remains
that God is on the journey, too.
--- Saint Teresa of Avila
are where God divided by zero.
--- Steven Wright
All the world's a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.
--- Sean O'Casey
Death is an acquired trait.
--- Woody Allen
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
ADONAI gives light to the eyes of both.
14 If a king steadfastly gives justice to the poor,
his throne will be secure forever.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The concentration of spiritual energy
… save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. --- Gal. 6:14.
If you want to know the energy of God (i.e., the resurrection life of Jesus) in your mortal flesh, you must brood on the tragedy of God. Cut yourself off from prying personal interest in your own spiritual symptoms and consider bare-spirited the tragedy of God, and instantly the energy of God will be in you. “Look unto Me,” pay attention to the objective Source and the subjective energy will be there. We lose power if we do not concentrate on the right thing. The effect of the Cross is salvation, sanctification, healing, etc., but we are not to preach any of these, we are to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The proclaiming of Jesus will do its own work. Concentrate on God’s centre in your preaching, and though your crowd may apparently pay no attention, they can never be the same again. If I talk my own talk, it is of no more importance to you than your talk is to me; but if I talk the truth of God, you will meet it again and so shall I. We have to concentrate on the great point of spiritual energy, the Cross, to keep in contact with that centre where all the power lies, and the energy will he let loose. In holiness movements and spiritual experience meetings the concentration is apt to be put not on the Cross of Christ, but on the effects of the Cross.
The feebleness of the churches is being criticized to-day, and the criticism is justified. One reason for the feebleness is that there has not been this concentration of spiritual energy; we have not brooded enough on the tragedy of Calvary or on the meaning of Redemption.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
I want you to know how it was,
whether the Cross grinds into dust
under men's wheels or shines brightly
as a monument to a new era.
There was a church and one man
served it, and few worshipped
there in the raw light on the hill
in winter, moving among the stones
fallen about them like the ruins
of a culture they were too weak
to replace, too poor themselves
to do anything but wait
for the ending of a life
they had not asked for.
The Priest would come
and pull on the hoarse bell nobody
heard, and enter that place
of darkness, sour with the mould
of the years. And the spider would run
from the chalice, and the wine lie
there for a time, cold and unwanted
by all but he, while the candles
guttered as the wind picked
at the roof. And lie would see
over that bare meal his face
staring at him from the cracked glass
of the window, with the lips moving
like those of an inhabitant of
a world beyond this.
And so back
to the damp vestry to the book
where he would scratch his name and the date
he could hardly remember, Sunday
by Sunday, while the place sank
to its knees and the earth turned
from season to season like the wheel
of a great foundry to produce
you, friend, who will know what happened.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Leo Strauss understands the difference between the Mishneh Torah and the Guide, as well as the internal structure of the Guide, in terms of the fundamental distinction between thought and action:
To sum up, according to Maimonides the Mishneh Torah is devoted to fiqh, the essence of which is to deal with actions; while the Guide deals with the secrets of the Torah, i.e., primarily opinions or beliefs, which it treats demonstratively, or at least as demonstratively as possible. Demonstrated opinions or beliefs are, according to Maimonides, absolutely superior in dignity to good actions or to their exact determination. In other words, the chief subject of the Guide is Ma’aseh Merkavah, which is “a great thing,” while the chief subject of the Mishneh Torah is the precepts, which are “a small thing.” Consequently the subject of the Guide is, according to Maimonides, absolutely superior in dignity to the subject of the Mishneh Torah. Since the dignity of a book, caeteris paribus, corresponds to the dignity of its subject, and since, as is shown by a comparison of Maimonides’ own introductory remarks to the two books, he wrote the Guide with no less skill and care than his Code, we must conclude that he considered the Guide as absolutely superior in dignity.
The distinction between theoretical and practical virtue, however, is an inadequate model with which to explain a philosopher rooted in a tradition in which man’s relationship to God is mediated both by community and by a revealed law. The difference between thought and action (the one defining the spiritual life of the philosophic Jew, the other outlining the halakhic life of the community) does not do justice to Maimonides’ conception of spirituality. The distinction between different levels of religious worship, suggested in preceding chapters, cuts across the distinction between thought aid action. The analysis of Maimonides’ legal writings indicates that the difference between individual excellence and community is expressed not only in the way one understands God, but also in the way one acts. Din was seen as the practice of a community that understands God on the basis of legal authority; lifnim mi-shurat ha-din as the practice of those individuals whose understanding of God is based upon the study of physics and metaphysics. This approach to law and community, apparent in Maimonides’ legal writings, is also evident in the concluding chapters of The Guide of the Perplexed.
Maimonides recognizes an important difference between knowledge which serves the ideal of self-realization and knowledge which serves as a condition for man’s passionate love of God. (Philosophies of Judaism) For Maimonides, mastery of the disciplines contained in Ma’aseh Merkavah does not mean that one has attained the highest level of human development.
If, however, you have understood the natural things, you have entered the habitation and are walking in the antechambers. If, however, you have achieved perfection in the natural things and have understood Divine science, you have entered in the ruler’s palace “into the inner court,” and are with him in one habitation. This is the rank of the men of science; they, however, are of different grades of perfection.3
In his parable of the palace of the king, Maimonides explicitly indicates that this stage of perfection—of having mastered the natural and divine sciences—must not be accepted as the end of the individual’s aspirations:
But their having come into the inner part of the habitation does not mean that they see the ruler or speak to him. For after their coming into the inner part of the habitation, it is indispensable that they should make another effort; then they will be in the presence of the ruler, see him from afar or from nearby, or hear the ruler’s speech or speak to him.
The additional effort that one must make refers to the levels of worship to which one aspires after knowledge is attained. Without knowledge man cannot truly worship God; without knowledge he fails to grasp His true reality: (Knowledge of God;: A study in Maimonides' philosophy of religion)
As for someone who thinks and frequently mentions God, without knowledge, following a mere imagining or following a belief adopted because of his reliance on the authority of somebody else, he is to my mind outside the habitation and far away from it and does not in true reality mention or think about God. For that thing which is in his imagination and which he mentions in his speech does not correspond to any being at all and has merely been invented by his imagination, as we have explained in our discourse concerning the attributes.
If one’s conception of God is defined by imagination without knowledge, one’s religious life revolves around a belief in that which does not exist. Yet knowledge of metaphysics is a necessary but not sufficient condition for true religious worship:
If, however, you have apprehended God and His acts in accordance with what is required by the intellect, you should afterward engage in totally devoting yourself to Him, endeavor to come closer to Him, and strengthen the bond between you and Him—that is the intellect. Thus it says; “It has been clearly demonstrated to you that the Lord alone is God, and so on”; and it says: “Know therefore this day and keep in mind, and so on”; and it says: “Know you that the Lord He is God.” The Torah has made it clear that this last worship to which we have drawn attention in this chapter can only be engaged in after apprehension has been achieved. It says: “Loving the Lord your God and serving Him with all your heart and soul.” Now we have made it clear several times that love is proportionate to apprehension. After love comes this worship to which attention has been drawn by [the Sages], may their memory be blessed, who said: “This is the worship in the heart.” In my opinion it consists in setting thought to work on the first intelligible and in devoting oneself exclusively to this as far as this is within one’s capacity. Therefore you will find that David exhorted Solomon and fortified him in these two things, I mean his endeavor to apprehend Him and his endeavor to worship Him after apprehension has been achieved. He said: “And you, Solomon my son, know you the God of your father and serve Him, and so on. If you seek Him, He will be found of you, and so on.” The exhortation always refers to intellectual apprehensions not to imagination; for thought concerning imaginings is not called “knowledge” but that which comes into your mind. Thus it is clear that after apprehension, total devotion to Him and the employment of intellectual thought in constantly loving Him should be aimed at.
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 subject. The Excellency of Christ
Supreme obedience with supreme dominion over heaven and earth. Christ is the Lord of all things in two respects: as God-man and Mediator, his dominion is appointed, having it by delegation from God. But he is Lord of all things in another respect; since he is (by his original nature) God, he is by natural right the Lord of all and supreme over all as much as the Father. Thus, he has dominion over the world in his own right.
And yet in the same person is found the greatest obedience in the universe to the commands of God: “I do exactly what my Father commanded me” (John 14:31). Never anyone received commands from God of such difficulty and that were so great a trial of obedience as Jesus Christ. One of God’s commands to him was that he should yield himself to those dreadful sufferings that he underwent. And Christ was thoroughly obedient to this command of God: “He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). Never was there such an instance of obedience in human or angel as this, though he was at the same time supreme Lord of both angels and humans.
Absolute sovereignty and perfect submission. Christ, as he is God, is the absolute sovereign of the world, the sovereign disposer of all events. The decrees of God are all his sovereign decrees, and the work of creation and all God’s works of providence are his sovereign works. It is he who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.
Yet Christ was the most wonderful instance of submission that ever appeared in the world. He was absolutely and perfectly submissive when he had a near and immediate prospect of his terrible sufferings and the dreadful cup that he was to drink. The idea and expectation of this made his soul sorrowful even unto death, putting him into such agony that his sweat was like drops of blood, falling to the ground. But in such circumstances he was wholly submissive to the will of God: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39); “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (v. 42).
--- Jonathan Edwards
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The truth of the Bible is hard and clear as diamonds, providing a solid basis for both life and death. “You can’t argue with the Scriptures,” Jesus said in John 10:35. But you can argue with some of the legends and half-truths of church history. Take, for example, the remarkable story of Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
Born in the third century to a noble Christian family in Alexandria, the beautiful Catherine gave herself to Christ and refused to sacrifice to pagan gods. Emperor Maxentius, lusting after her, offered her pardon if she would sleep with him. She refused, saying she was the bride of Christ. Hoping to dissuade her, Maxentius summoned 50 brilliant scholars to debate her. She conquered all of them, winning all 50 to the Christian faith. They paid for their conversions by being burned alive, compliments of the emperor.
Catherine, meanwhile, converted the emperor’s wife, his top general, and 200 of his best troops. These, too, were immediately executed. Maxentius, enraged, ordered Catherine attached to a spiked wheel to be tortured and broken. When the wheel fell apart, Maxentius demanded the executioner behead her. Milk rather than blood flowed from her severed neck.
The virgin martyr became one of the most venerated women of antiquity, and November 25 was appointed Catherine’s feast day on the church calendar. She was admired and adored without measure by medieval worshipers, becoming the patron saint of young women, wheelwrights, attorneys, and scholars.
But how much of her story is true? Perhaps not much. Behind the legends, there may have been a beautiful martyr whose full story is known only in heaven. But the earliest mention of Catherine dates from the ninth century when her bones were reportedly transferred to the monastery of Mount Sinai, and the earliest biographies of her date from the tenth century. Though she was among the greatest heroes to the masses of the Middle Ages, there is scant evidence that Catherine of Alexandria ever existed.
Warn them to stop wasting their time on senseless stories and endless lists of ancestors. … You must teach people to have genuine love, as well as a good conscience and true faith. There are some who have given up these for nothing but empty talk.
--- 1 Timothy 1:4-6.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
God Is In The Manger (1)
Advent is rarely exactly four weeks long, and can in fact vary in length from year to year. It always begins four Sundays before Christmas (December 25), but since Christmas falls on a different day of the week each year, Advent can begin anywhere between November 27 on the early side and December 3 on the late side. The first four weeks of this devotional assume the earliest possible start date, so that if Advent falls on or around November 27, you will have four full weeks of devotions to see you through to Christmas Day.
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 25
“To preach deliverance to the captives.” --- Luke 4:18.
None but Jesus can give deliverance to captives. Real liberty cometh from him only. It is a liberty righteously bestowed; for the Son, who is Heir of all things, has a right to make men free. The saints honour the justice of God, which now secures their salvation. It is a liberty which has been dearly purchased. Christ speaks it by his power, but he bought it by his blood. He makes thee free, but it is by his own bonds. Thou goest clear, because he bare thy burden for thee: thou art set at liberty, because he has suffered in thy stead. But, though dearly purchased, he freely gives it. Jesus asks nothing of us as a preparation for this liberty. He finds us sitting in sackcloth and ashes, and bids us put on the beautiful array of freedom; he saves us just as we are, and all without our help or merit. When Jesus sets free, the liberty is perpetually entailed; no chains can bind again. Let the Master say to me, “Captive, I have delivered thee,” and it is done for ever. Satan may plot to enslave us, but if the Lord be on our side, whom shall we fear? The world, with its temptations, may seek to ensnare us, but mightier is he who is for us than all they who be against us. The machinations of our own deceitful hearts may harass and annoy us, but he who hath begun the good work in us will carry it on and perfect it to the end. The foes of God and the enemies of man may gather their hosts together, and come with concentrated fury against us, but if God acquitteth, who is he that condemneth? Not more free is the eagle which mounts to his rocky eyrie, and afterwards outsoars the clouds, than the soul which Christ hath delivered. If we are no more under the law, but free from its curse, let our liberty be practically exhibited in our serving God with gratitude and delight. “I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.” “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”
Evening - November 25
“For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” --- Romans 9:15.
In these words the Lord in the plainest manner claims the right to give or to withhold his mercy according to his own sovereign will. As the prerogative of life and death is vested in the monarch, so the Judge of all the earth has a right to spare or condemn the guilty, as may seem best in his sight. Men by their sins have forfeited all claim upon God; they deserve to perish for their sins—and if they all do so, they have no ground for complaint. If the Lord steps in to save any, he may do so if the ends of justice are not thwarted; but if he judges it best to leave the condemned to suffer the righteous sentence, none may arraign him at their bar. Foolish and impudent are all those discourses about the rights of men to be all placed on the same footing; ignorant, if not worse, are those contentions against discriminating grace, which are but the rebellions of proud human nature against the crown and sceptre of Jehovah. When we are brought to see our own utter ruin and ill desert, and the justice of the divine verdict against sin, we no longer cavil at the truth that the Lord is not bound to save us; we do not murmur if he chooses to save others, as though he were doing us an injury, but feel that if he deigns to look upon us, it will be his own free act of undeserved goodness, for which we shall for ever bless his name.
How shall those who are the subjects of divine election sufficiently adore the grace of God? They have no room for boasting, for sovereignty most effectually excludes it. The Lord’s will alone is glorified, and the very notion of human merit is cast out to everlasting contempt. There is no more humbling doctrine in Scripture than that of election, none more promotive of gratitude, and, consequently, none more sanctifying. Believers should not be afraid of it, but adoringly rejoice in it.
Morning and Evening
WE GATHER TOGETHER
Translation by Edward Kremser, 1838–1914
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2
Thanksgiving is not merely a day to be observed once each year; for the Christian it must be a way of daily living.
No Thanksgiving Day gathering would be complete without the singing of this traditional Dutch hymn. Today we sing this hymn as an expression of thanks to God as our defender and guide throughout the past year. The text was originally written by an anonymous author at the end of the 17th century to celebrate the Dutch freedom from the Spanish overlords, who had been driven from their land. Freedom was now theirs, both politically from Spain and religiously from the Catholic church.
“We Gather Together” must be understood and appreciated in its historical setting. For many years, Holland had been under the scourge of Spain, and in 1576, Antwerp was captured and sacked by the Spanish armies. Again, in 1585, it was captured by the Spanish and all of the Protestant citizens were exiled. Many other Dutch cities suffered similar fates. During the 17th century, however, there developed in Holland a time of great prosperity and rich post-reformation culture. Commerce was expanded around the world, and this was the period of great Dutch art, with such well-known painters as Rembrandt and Vermeer. In 1648 the Spanish endeavors to control Holland were finally destroyed beyond recovery.
One can readily see the references to these historical events throughout the hymn’s text: “The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing,” as well as the concern in the final stanza that God will continue to defend—“and pray that Thou still our defender will be.”
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing; He chastens and hastens His will to make known. The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing: Sing praises to His name—He forgets not His own.
Beside us to aide us, our God with us joining, ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine. So from the beginning the fight we were winning: Thou, Lord, wast at our side—all glory be Thine!
We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant, and pray that Thou still our defender wilt be; let Thy congregation escape tribulation: Thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
For Today: Psalm 5:11, 12; John 16:33; Romans 8:31; Hebrews 12:5–7
Share with others, perhaps your family members, how God has guided and protected your lives throughout this past year. Sing this hymn together before enjoying the Thanksgiving meal ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
III. he third thing, that God is good.
1. The more excellent anything is in nature, the more of goodness and kindness it hath. For we see more of love and kindness in creatures that are endued with sense, to their descendants, than in plants, that have only a principle of growth. Plants preserve their seeds whole that are enclosed in them; animals look to their young only after they are dropped from them; yet, after some time, take no more notice of them than of a stranger that never had any birth from them. But man, that hath a higher principle of reason, cherisheth his offspring, and gives them marks of his goodness while he lives, and leaves not the world at the time of his death without some testimonies of it: much more must God, who is a higher principle than sense or reason, be “good” and bountiful to all his offspring. The more perfect anything is, the more it doth communicate itself. The sun is more excellent than the stars, and, therefore, doth more sensibly , more extensively, disperse its liberal beams than the stars do. And the better any man is, the more charitable he is; God being the most excellent nature, having nothing more excellent than himself, because nothing more ancient than himself, who is the Ancient of Days: there is nothing, therefore, better and more bountiful than himself.
2. He is the cause of all created goodness; he must therefore himself be the Supreme Good. What good is in the heavens, is the product of some Being above the earth; and those varieties of goodness in the earth, and several creatures, are somewhere in their fulness and union: that, therefore, which possesses all those scattered goodnesses in their fulness, must be all good, all that good which is displayed in creatures; therefore sovereignly best. Whatsoever natural or moral goodness there is in the world, in angels, or men, or inferior creatures, is a line drawn from that centre, the bubblings of that fountain. God cannot but be better than all, since the goodness that is in creatures is the fruit of his own. If he were not good, he could produce no good: he could not bestow what he had not. If the creature be “good,” as the apostle says “every creature is” (1 Tim. 4:4), he must needs be better than all, because they have nothing but what is derived to them from him; and much more goodness than all, because finite beings are not capable of receiving into them, and containing in themselves, all that goodness which is in an Infinite Being; when we search for good in creatures, they come short of that satisfaction which is in God (Psalm 4:6). As the certainty of a first principle of all things, is necessarily concluded from the being of creatures, and the upholding and sustaining power and virtue of God is concluded from the mutability of those things in the world; whence we infer, that there must be some stable foundation of those tottering things, some firm hinge upon which those changeable things do move, without which there would be no stability in the kinds of things, no order, no agreement, or union among them: so from the goodness of everything, and their usefulness to us, we must conclude him good, who made all those things. And since we find distinct goodnesses in the creature, we must conclude that one principle whence they did flow, excels in the glory of goodness: all those little glimmerings of goodness which are scattered in the creatures, as the image in the glass, represent the face, posture, motion of him whose image it is, but not in the fulness of life and spirit, as in the original; it is but a shadow at the best, and speaks something more excellent in the copy. As God hath an infiniteness of being above them, so he hath a supremacy of goodness beyond them: what they have, is but a participation from him; what he hath, must be infinitely supereminent above them. If anything be good by itself, it must be infinitely good, it would set itself no bounds; we must make as many gods, as particulars of goodness in the world: but being good by the bounty of another, that from whence they flow must be the chief goodness. It is God’s excellency and goodness, which, like a beam, pierceth all things: he decks spirits with reason, endues matter with form, furnisheth everything with useful qualities. As one beam of the sun illustrates fire, water, earth; so one beam of God enlightens and endows minds, souls, and universal nature nothing in the world had its goodness from itself, any more than it had its being from itself: The cause must be richer than the effect.
But that which I intend is the defence of this goodness.
First, The goodness of God is not impaired by suffering sin to enter into the world, and man to fall thereby. It is rather a testimony of God’s goodness, that he gave man an ability to be happy, than any charge against his goodness, that he settled man in a capacity to be evil. God was first a benefactor to man, before man could be a rebel against God. May it not be inquired, whether it had not been against the wisdom of God, to have made a rational creature with liberty, and not suffer him to act according to the nature he was endowed with, and to follow his own choice for some time? Had it been wisdom to frame a free creature, and totally to restrain that creature from following its liberty? Had it been goodness, as it were, to force the creature to be happy against its will? God’s goodness furnished Adam with a power to stand; was it contrary to his goodness, to leave Adam to a free use of that power? To make a creature, and not let that creature act according to the freedom of his nature, might have been thought to have been a blot upon his wisdom, and a constraint upon the creature, not to make use of that freedom of his nature, which the Divine goodness had bestowed upon him. To what purpose did God make a law, to govern his rational creature, and yet resolve that creature should not have his choice, whether he would obey it or no? Had he been really constrained to observe it, his observation of it could no more have been called obedience, than the acts of brutes that have a kind of natural constraint upon them by the instinct of their nature, can be called obedience: in vain had God endowed a creature with so great and noble a principle as liberty. Had it been goodness in God, after he had made a reasonable creature, to govern him in the same manner as he does brutes by a necessary instinct? It was the goodness of God to the nature of men and angels, to leave them in such a condition, to be able to give him a voluntary obedience, a nobler offering than the whole creation could present him with; and shall this goodness be undervalued, and accounted mean, because man made an ill use of it, and turned it into wantonness? As the unbelief of man doth not diminish the redeeming grace of God (Rom. 3:3), so neither doth the fall of man lessen the creating goodness of God. Besides, why should the permission of sin be thought more a blemish to his goodness, than the providing a way of redemption for the destroying the works of sin and the devil, be judged the glory of it, whereby he discovered a goodness of grace that surpassed the bounds of nature? If this were a thing that might seem to obscure or deface the goodness of God, in the permission of the fall of angels and Adam, it was in order to bring forth a greater goodness in a more illustrious pomp, to the view of the world (Rom. 11:32): “God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” But if nothing could be alleged for the defence of his goodness in this, it were most comely for an ignorant creature not to impeach his goodness, but adore him in his proceedings, in the same language the apostle doth (ver. 33): “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”
Secondly, Nor is his goodness prejudiced, by not making all things the equal subjects of it.
1. It is true all things are not subjects of an equal goodness. The goodness of God is not so illustriously manifested in one thing as another. In the creation he hath dropped goodness upon some, in giving them beings and sense, and poured it upon others in endowing them with understanding and reason. The sun is full of light, but it hath a want of sense; brutes excel in the vigor of sense, but they are destitute of the light of reason; man hath a mind and reason conferred on him, but he hath neither the acuteness of mind, nor the quickness of motion equal with an angel. In providence also he doth give abundance, and opens his hand to some; to others he is more sparing: he gives greater gifts of knowledge to some, while he lets others remain in ignorance; he strikes down some, and raiseth others; he afflicts some with a continual pain, while he blesseth others with an uninterrupted health; he hath chosen one nation wherein to set up his gospel sun, and leaves another benighted in their own ignorance. “Known was God in Judea; they were a peculiar people alone of all the nations of the earth” (Deut. 14:2). He was not equally good to the angels: he held forth his hand to support some in their happy habitation, while he suffered others to sink in irreperrable ruin; and he is not so diffusive here of his goodness to his own as he will be in heaven. Here their sun is sometimes clouded, but there all clouds and shades will be blown away, and melted into nothing: instead of drops here, there will be above rivers of life. Is any creature destitute of the open marks of his goodness, though all are not enriched with those signal characters which he vouchsafes to others? He that is unerring, pronounced everything good distinctly in its production, and the whole good in its universal perfection (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). Though he made not all things equally good, yet he made nothing evil; and though one creature in regard of its nature may be better than another, yet an inferior creature, in regard of its usefulness in the order of the creation, may be better than a superior. The earth hath a goodness in bringing forth fruits, and the waters in the sea a goodness in multiplying food. That any of us have a being is goodness; that we have not so healthful a being as others is unequal, but not unjust goodness. He is good to all, though not in the same degree: “The whole earth is full of his mercy” (Psalm 119:64). A good man is good to his cattle, to his servants; he makes a provision for all, but he bestows not those floods of bounty upon them that he doth upon his children. As there are various gifts, but one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4), so there are various distributions, but from one goodness; the drops, as well as the fuller streams, are of the same fbuntain, and relish of the nature of it; and though he do not make all men partake of the riches of his grace after the corruption of their nature, is his goodness disgraced hereby? or doth he merit the title of cruelty? Will any diminish the goodness of a father for his not setting up his son after he hath foolishly and wilfully proved bankrupt; or not rather admire his liberality in giving him so large a stock to trade with when he first set him up in the world?
2. The goodness of God to creatures, is to be measured by their distinct usefulness to the common end. It were better for a toad or serpent to be a man, i. e. better for the creature itself, as it were advanced to a higher degree of being, but not better for the universe: he could have made every pebble a living creature, and every living creature a rational one; but that he made everything as we see, it was a goodness to the creature itself; but that he did not make it of a higher elevation in nature, was a part of his goodness to the rational creature. If all were rational creatures, there would have been wanting creatures of an inferior nature for their conveniency; there would have wanted the manifestation of the variety and “fulness of his goodness.” Had all things in the world been rational creatures, much of that goodness which he hath communicated to rational creatures would not have appeared: how could man have showed his skill in taming and managing creatures more mighty than himself? What materials would there have been to manifest the goodness of God, bestowed upon the reasonable creatures for framing excellent works and inventions? Much of the goodness of God had lain wrapt up from sense and understanding. All other things partake not of so great a goodness as man; yet they are so subservient to that goodness poured forth on man, that little of it could have been seen without them. Consider man, every member in his body hath a goodness in itself; but a greater goodness as referred to the whole, without which the goodness of the more noble part would not be manifested. The head is the most excellent member, and hath greater impressions of Divine goodness upon it, in regard that it is the organ of understanding: were every member of the body a head, what a deformed monster would man be! If he were all head, where would be feet for motion, and arms for action? Man would be fit only for thought, and not for exercise. The goodness of God in giving man so noble a part as the head, could not be known without a tongue , whereby to express the conception of his mind; and without feet and hands whereby to act much of what he conceives, and determines, and execute the resolves of his will; all those have a goodness in themselves, an honor, a comeliness from the goodness of God (1 Cor. 12:22, 23), but not so great a goodness as the nobler part: yet, if you consider them in their functions, and refer them to that excellent member which they serve, their inferior goodness is absolutely necessary to the goodness of the other; without which, the goodness of the head and understanding would he in obscurity, be insignificant to the whole world, and, in a great measure, to the person himself that wants such members.
3. “The goodness of God is more seen in this inequality.” If God were equally good to all, it would destroy commerce, unity, the links of human society, damp charity, and render that useless which is one of the noblest and delightfulest duties to be exercised here; it would cool prayer, which is excited by wants, and is a necessary demonstration of the creature’s dependence on God. But in this inequality every man hath enough in his enjoyments for praise, and in his wants, matter for his prayer. Besides the inequality of the creature is the ornament of the world; what pleasure could a garden afford if there were but one sort of flowers, or one sort of plants? far less than when there is variety to please the sight, and every other sense. Again, the freedom of Divine goodness, which is the glory of it, is evident hereby; had he been alike good to all, it would have looked like a necessary, not a free act; but by the inequality, it is manifest that he doth not do it by a natural necessity as the sun shines, but by a voluntary liberty, as being the entire Lord, and free disposer of his own goods; and that is the gift of the pleasure of his will, as well as the efflux of his nature, that he hath not a goodness without wisdom, but a wisdom as rich as his bounty.
4. The goodness of God could not be equally communicated to all, after their settlement in their several beings,—because they have not a capacity in their natures for it: he doth bestow the marks of his goodness according to that natural capacity of fitness he perceives in his creatures; as the water of the sea fills every creek and gulf with different measures, according to the compass each have to contain it; and as the sun doth disperse light to the stars above, and the places below, to some more, to some less, according to the measures of their reception. God doth not do good to all creatures according to the greatness of his own power, and the extent of his own wealth, but according to the capacity of the subject; not so much good as he can do, but so much good as the creature can receive. The creature would sink, if God would pour out all his goodness upon it; as Moses would have perished, if God should have shown him all his glory (Exod. 33:18, 20). He doth manifest more good to his reasonable creatures, because they are more capable of acknowledging, and setting forth his goodness.
5. God ought to be allowed the free disposal of his own goodness. Is not God the Lord of his own gifts; and will you not allow him the privilege of having some more peculiar objects of his love and pleasure, which you allow without blame to man, and use yourself without any sense of a crime? Is a prince esteemed good, though he be not equally bountiful to all his servants, nor equally gracious in pardoning all his rebels; and shall the goodness of the great Sovereign of the world be impeached, notwithstanding those mighty distributions of it, because he will act according to his own wisdom and pleasure, and not according to men’s fancies and humors? Must purblind reason be the judge and director how God shall dispose of his own, rather than his own infinite wisdom and sovereign will? Is God less good, because there are numberless nothings, which he is able to bring into being? He could create a world of more creatures than he hath done: doth he, therefore, wish evil to them, by letting them remain in that nothing from whence he could draw them? No; but he denies that good to them, which he is able, if he pleased, to confer upon them. If God doth not give that good to a creature which it wants by its own demerit, can he be said to wish evil to it; or, only to deny that goodness which the creature hath forfeited, and which is at God’s liberty to retain or disperse? Though God cannot but love his own image where he finds it, yet when this image is lost, and the devil’s image voluntary received, he may choose whether he will manifest his goodness to such a one or no. Will you not account that man liberal, that distributes his alms to a great company, though he rejects some? Much more will you account him good, if he rejects none that implore him, but dispenseth his doles to every one upon their petition: and is he not good, because he will not bestow a farthing upon those that address not themselves to him? God is so good, that he denies not the best good to those that seek him: he hath promised life and happiness to them that do so. Is he less good, because he will not distribute his goodness to those that despise him? Though he be good, yet his wisdom is the rule of dispensing his goodness.
6. The severe punishment of offenders, and the afflictions he inflicts upon his servants, are no violations of his goodness. The notion of God’s vindictive justice is as naturally inbred, and implanted in the mind of man, as that of his goodness, and those two sentiments never shocked one another. The heathen never thought him bad, because he was just; nor unrighteous, because he was good. God being infinitely good, cannot possibly intend or act anything but what is good: “Thou art good, and thou doest good;” i. e. whatsoever thou dost is good, whatsoever it be, pleasant or painful to the creature (Psalm 119:68): punishments themselves are not a moral evil in the person that inflicts, though they are a natural evil in the person that suffers them. In ordering punishment to the wicked, good is added to evil; in ordering impunity to the wicked, evil is added to evil. To punish wickedness is right, therefore good: to leave men uncontrolled in their wickedness, is unrighteous, and therefore bad. But again shall his justice in some few judgments in the world, impeach his goodness, more than his wonderful patience to sinners is able to silence the calumnies against him? Is not his hand fuller of gracious doles, than of dreadful thunderbolts? Doth he not oftener seem forgetful of his justice, when he pours out upon the guilty the streams of his mercy, than to be forgetful of his goodness, when he sprinkles in the world some drops of his wrath?
First, God’s judgments in the world, do not infringe his goodness; for,
1. The justice of God is a part of the goodness of his nature. God himself thought so, when he told Moses he would make all his goodness pass before him (Exod. 33:19): he leaves not out in that enumeration of the parts of it, his resolution, by no means to clear the guilty, but to visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children (Exod. 34:7). It is a property of goodness to hate evil, and, therefore, a property of goodness to punish it: it is no less righteousness to give according to the deserts of a person in a way of punishment, than to reward a person that obeys his precepts in a way of recompense. Whatsoever is righteous is good; sin is evil; and, therefore, whatsoever doth witness against it, is good; his goodness, therefore, shines in his justice, for without being just he could not be good. Sin is a moral disorder in the world: every sin is injustice: injustice breaks God’s order in the world; there is a necessity therefore of justice to put the world in order. Punishment orders the person committing the injury, who, when he will not be in the order of obedience, must be in the order of suffering for God’s honor. The goodness of all things which God pronounced so, consisted in their order and beneficial helpfulness to one another: when this order is inverted, the goodness of the creature ceaseth: if it be a bad thing to spoil this order, is it not a part of Divine goodness to reduce them into order, that they may be reduced in some measure to their goodness? Do we ever account a governor less in goodness, because he is exact in justice, and punisheth that which makes a disorder in his government? and is it a diminution of the Divine goodness, to punish that which makes a disorder in the world? As wisdom without goodness would be a serpentine craft, and issue in destruction; so goodness without justice would be impotent indulgence, and cast things into confusion. When Abel’s blood cried out for engeance against Cain, it spake a good thing; Christ’s blood speaking better things than the blood of Abel, implies that Abel’s blood spake a good thing; the comparative implies a positive (Heb. 12:24). If it were the goodness of that innocent blood to demand justice, it could not be a badness in the Sovereign of the world to execute it. How can God sustain the part of a good and righteous judge, if he did not preserve human society? and how would it be preserved, without manifesting himself by public judgments against public wrongs? Is there not as great a necessity that goodness should have instruments of judgment, as that there should be prisons, bridewells, and gibbets, in a good commonwealth? Did not the thunderbolts of God sometimes roar in the ears of men, they would sin with a higher hand than they do, fly more in the face of God, make the world as much a moral, as it was at first a natural chaos: the ingenuity of men would be damped, if there were not something to work upon their fears, to keep them in their due order. Impunity of the innocent person is worse than any punishment. It is a misery to want medicines for the cure of a sharp disease; and a mark of goodness in a prince to consult for the security of the political body, by cutting off a gangrened and corrupting member: and what prince would deserve the noble title of good, if he did not restrain, by punishment, those evils which impair the public welfare? Is it not necessary that the examples of sin, whereby others have been encouraged to wickedness, should be made examples of justice, whereby the same persons and others may be discouraged from what before they were greedily inclined unto? Is not a hatred of what is bad and unworthy, as much a part of Divine goodness, as a love to what is excellent, and bears a resemblance to himself? Could he possibly be accounted good, that should bear the same degree of affection to a prodigious vice, as to a sublime virtue? and should behave himself in the same manner of carriage to the innocent and culpable? could you account him good, if he did always with pleasure behold evil, and perpetually suffer the oppressions of the innocent under unpunished wickedness? How should we know the goodness of the Divine nature, and his affection to the goodness of his creature, if he did not by some acts of severity witness his implacable aversion against sin, and his care to preserve the good government of the world? If corrupted creatures should always be exempt from the effects of his indignation, he would declare himself not to be infinitely good, because be would not be really righteous. No man thinks it a natural vice in the sun, by the power of its scorching heat, to dry up and consume the unwholesome vapors of the air; nor are the demonstrations of Divine justice any blots upon his goodness, since they are both for the defence and glory of his holiness, and for the preservation of the beauty and order of the world.
2. Is it not part of the goodness of God to make laws, and annex threatenings; and shall it be an impeachment of his goodness to support them? The more severe laws are made for deterring evil, the better is that prince accounted in making such provision for the welfare of the community. The design of laws, and the design of upholding the honor of those laws by the punishment of offenders, is to promote goodness and restrain evil; the execution of those laws must be therefore pursuant to the same design of goodness which first settled them. Would it not be contrary to goodness, to suffer that which was designed for the support of goodness, to be scorned and slighted? It would neither be prudence nor goodness, but folly and vice, to let laws, which were made to promote virtue, be broken with impunity. Would not this be to weaken virtue, and give a new life and vigor to vice? Not only the righteousness of the law itself, but the wisdom of the Lawgiver would be exposed to contempt, if the violations of it remained uncontrolled, and the violence offered by men passed unpunished. None but will acknowledge the Divine precepts to be the image of the righteousness of God, and beneficial for the common good of the world (Rom. 7:12): “The law is holy, just, and good,” and so is every precept of it; the law is for no other end, but to keep the creature in subjection to, and dependence on God; this dependence could not be preserved without a law, nor that law be kept in reputation, without a penalty; nor would that penalty be significant without an execution. Every law loseth the nature of a law, without a penalty; and the penalty loseth its vigor, without the infliction of it: how can those laws attain their end, if the transgressions of them be not punished? Would not the wickedness of the men’s hearts be encouraged by such a kind of uncomely goodness? and all the threatenings be to no other end, than to engender vain and fruitless fears in the minds of men? Is it good for the majesty of God to suffer itself to be trampled on by his vassals? to suffer men, by their rebellion, to level his law with the wickedness of their own hearts; and by impunity slight his own glory, and encourage their disobedience? Who would give any man, any prince, any father, that should do so, the name of a good governor? If it were a fruit of Divine goodness to make laws, is it contrary to goodness to support the honor of them? It is every whit as rational and as good to vindicate the honor of his laws by justice, as at first to settle them by authority; as much goodness to vindicate it from contempt, as at first to enact it; as it is as much wisdom to preserve a law, as at first to frame it: shall his precepts be thought by him unworthy of a support, that were not thought by him unworthy to be made?
The same reason of goodness that led him to enjoin them, will lead him to revenge them. Did evil appear odious to him, while he enacted this law; and would not his goodness, as well as his wisdom, appear odious to him, if he did never execute it? Would it not be a denial of his own goodness, to be led by the foolish and corrupt judgment of his creatures, and slight his own law, because his rebels spurn at it? Since he valued it before they could actually contemn it, would he not misjudge his own law and his own wisdom, discount from the true value of them, condemn his own acts, censure his precepts as unrighteous, and therefore evil and injurious? remove the differences between good and evil, look upon vice as virtue, and wickedness as righteousness, if he thought his commands unworthy a vindication? How can there be any support to the honor of his precepts, without sometimes executing the severity of his threatenings?
And as to his threatenings of punishment for the breach of his laws, are they not designed to discourage wickedness, as the promises of reward were designed to encourage goodness? Hath he not multiplied the one, to scare men from sin, as well as the other, to allure men to obedience? Is not the same truth engaged to support the one, as well as the other; and how could he be abundant in goodness, if he were not abundant in truth (Exod. 34:6)? both are linked together; if he neglected his truth, he would be out of love with his own goodness; since it cannot be manifested in performing the promises to the obedient, if it be not also manifested in executing his threatenings upon the rebellious. Had not God annexed threatenings to his laws, he would have had no care of his own goodness. The order between God and the creature, wherein the declaration of his goodness consisted, might have been easily broken by his creature; man would have freed himself from subjection to God; been unaccountable to him, had this consisted with that infinite goodness whereby he loves himself, and loves his creatures. As therefore the annexing threatenings to his law, was a part of his goodness; the execution of them is so far from being a blemish, that it is the honor of his goodness. The rewards of obedience, and the punishment of disobedience, refer to the same end, viz. the due manifestation of the valuation of his own law, the glorifying his own goodness, which enjoined so beneficial a law for man, and the support of that goodness in the creatures, which by that law he demands righteously and kindly of them.
3. Hence it follows, That not to punish evil, would be a want of goodness to himself. The goodness of God is an indulgent goodness, in a way of wisdom and reason; not a fond goodness, in a way of weakness and folly: would it not be a weakness, always to bear with the impenitent? a want of expressing a goodness to goodness itself? Would not goodness have more reason to complain, for a want of justice to rescue it, than men have reason to complain, for the exercise of justice in the vindication of it? If God established all things in order, with infinite wisdom and goodness, and God silently beheld, forever, this order broken, would he not either charge himself with a want of power, or a want of will, to preserve the marks of his own goodness? Would it be a kindness to himself to be careless of the breaches of his own orders? His throne would shake, yea, sink from under him, if justice, whereby he sentenceth, and judgment, whereby he executes his sentence, were not the supports of it (Psalm 89:14). “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne,” חכוק , the stability or foundation of thy throne. So, Psalm 92:2. Man would forget his relation to God; God would be unknown to be sovereign of the world, were he careless of the breaches of his own order (Psalm 9:16). “The Lord is known by the judgments which he executes;” is it not a part of his goodness, to preserve the indispensable order between himself and his creatures? His own sovereignty, which is good, and the subjection of the creature to him as sovereign, which is also good; the one would not be maintained in its due place, nor the other restrained in due limits, without punishment. Would it be a goodness in him to see goodness itself trampled upon constantly, without some time or other appearing for the relief of it? Is it not a goodness to secure his own honor, to prevent further evil? Is it not a goodness to discourage men by judgments, sometimes, from a contempt and ill use of his bounty; as well as sometimes patiently to bear with them, and wait upon them for a reformation? Must God be bad to himself, to be kind to his enemies? And shall it be acounted an unkindness, and a mark of evil in him, not to suffer himself to be always outraged and defied? The world is wronged by sin, as well as God is injured by it. How could God be good to himself, if he righted not his own honor? or be a good governor of the world, if he did not sometimes witness against the injuries it receives sometimes from the works of his hands? Would he be good to himself, as a God, to be careless of his own honor? or good, as the Rector of the world, and be regardless of the world’s confusion? That God should give an eternal good to that creature that declines its duty, and despiseth his sovereignty, is not agreeable to the goodness of his wisdom, or that of his righteousness. It is a part of God’s goodness to love himself. Would he love his sovereignty, if he saw it daily slighted, without sometimes discovering how much he values the honor of it? Would he have any esteem for his own goodness, if he beheld it trampled upon, without, any will to vindicate it? Doth mercy deserve the name of cruelty, because it pleads against a creature that hath so often abused it, and hath refused to have any pity exercised towards it in a righteous and regular way? Is sovereignty destitute of goodness, because it preserves its honor against one that would not have it reign over him? Would he not seem, by such a regardlessness, to renounce his own essence, undervalue and undermine his own goodness, if he had not an implacable aversion to whatsoever is contrary to it? If men turn grace into wantonness, is it not more reasonable he should turn his grace into justice? All his attributes, which are parts of his goodness, engage him to punish sin; without it, his authority would be vilified, his purity stained, his power derided, his truth disgraced , his justice scorned, his wisdom slighted; he would be thought to have dissembled in his laws; and be judged, according to the rules of reason, to be void of true goodness.
4. Punishment is not the primary intention of God. It is his goodness that he hath no mind to punish; and therefore he hath put a bar to evil, by his prohibitions and threatenings, that he might prevent sin, and, consequently, any occasions of severity against his creature. The principal intention of God, in his law, was to encourage goodness, that he might reward it; and when, by the commission of evil, God is provoked to punish, and takes the sword into his hand, he doth not act against the nature of his goodness, but against the first intention of his goodness in his precepts, which was to reward; as a good judge principally intends, in the exercise of his office, to protect good men from violence, and maintain the honor of the laws, yet, consequently, to punish bad men, without which the protection of the good would not be secured, nor the honor of the law be supported; and a good judge, in the exercise of his office, doth principally intend the encouragement of the good, and wisheth there were no wickedness that might occasion punishment; and, when he doth sentence a malefactor, in order to the execution of him, he doth not act against the goodness of his nature, but pursuant to the duty of his place, but wisheth he had no occasion for such severity. Thus God seems to speak of himself (Isa. 28:21); he calls the act of his wrath his “strange work, his strange act;” a work, not against his nature, as the Governor of the world, but against his first intention, as Creator, which was to manifest his goodness; therefore he moves with a slow pace in those acts, brings out his judgments with relentings of heart, and seems to cast out his thunderbolts with a trembling hand: “He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men” (Lam. 3:33); and therefore he “delights not in the death of a sinner” (Ezek. 33:11); not in death, as death; in punishment, as punishment; but as it reduceth the suffering creature to the order of his precept, or reduceth him into order under his power, or reforms others who are spectators of the punishment upon a criminal of their own nature; God only hates the sin, not the sinner; he desires only the destruction of the one, not the misery of the other; the nature of a man doth not displease him, because it is a work of his own goodness, but the nature of the sinner displeaseth him, because it is a work of the sinner’s own extravagance. Divine goodness pitcheth not its hatred primarily upon the sinner, but upon the sin: but since he cannot punish the sin without punishing the subject to which it cleaves, the sinner falls under his lash. Whoever regards a good judge as an enemy to the malefactor, but as an enemy to his crime, when he doth sentence and execute him?
5. Judgments in the world have a goodness in them, therefore they are no impeachments of the goodness of God.
(1.) A goodness in their preparations. He sends not judgments without giving warnings; his justice is so far from extinguishing his goodness, that his goodness rather shines out in the preparations of his justice; he gives men time, and sends them messengers, to persuade them to another temper of mind, that he may change his hand, and exercise his liberality where he threatened his severity. When the heathen had presages of some evil upon their persons or countries, they took them for invitations to repentance, excited themselves to many acts of devotion, implored his favor, and often experimented it. The Ninevites, upon the proclamation of the destruction of their city by Jonah, fell to petitioning him, whereby they signified, that they thought him good, though he were just, and more prone to pity than severity; and their humble carriage caused the arrows he bad ready against them to drop out of his hands (Jonah 3:9, 10). When he brandisheth his sword, he wishes for some to stand in that gap, to mollify his anger, that he might not strike the fatal blow (Ezek. 32:30); “I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me in the land, that I should not destroy it.” He was desirous that his creatures might be in a capacity to receive the marks of his bounty. This he signified, not obscurely, to Moses (Ex. 32:10), when he spoke to him to let him alone, that his anger might wax hot against the people, after they had made a golden calf and worshipped it. “Let me alone,” said God: not that Moses restrained him, saith Chrysostom, who spake nothing to him, but stood silent before him, and knew nothing of the people’s idolatry; but God would give him an occasion of praying for them, that he might exercise his mercy towards them; yet in such a manner, that the people, being struck with a sense of their crime, and the horror of Divine justice, they might be amended for the future, when they should understand that their death was riot averted by their own merit or intercession, but by Moses, his patronage of them, and pleading for them; as we see sometimes masters and fathers angry with their servants and children, and preparing themselves to punish them, but secretly wish some friend to intercede for them, and take them out of their hands: there is a goodness shining in the preparations of his judgments.
2. A goodness in the execution of them. They are good, as they chew God disaffected to evil, and conduce to the glory of his holiness, and deter others from presumptuous sins (Lev. 10:3): “I will be glorified in all that draw near unto me;”—in his judgment upon Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, for offering strange fire. By them God preserves the excellent footsteps of his own goodness in his creation and his law, and curbs the licentiousness of men, and contains them within the bounds ef their duty. “Thy judgments are good,” saith the Psalmist (119:39); i.e. thy judicial proceedings upon the wicked; for he desires God there to turn away, by some signal act, the reproach the wicked cast upon him. Can there be any thing more miserable than to live in a world full of wickedness, and void of the marks of Divine goodness and justice to repress it? Were there not judgments in the world, men would forget God, be insensible of his government of the world, neglect the exercises of natural and christian duties; religion would be at its last gasp, and expire among them, and men would pretend to break God’s precepts by God’s authority. Are they not good, then, as they restrain the creature from further evils; affright others from the same crimes which they were inclinable to commit? He strikes some, to reform others that are spectators; as Apollonius tamed pigeons by beating dogs before them. Punishments are God’s gracious warnings to others, not to venture upon the crimes which they see attended with such judgments. The censers of Corah, Dathan, and Abiram, were to be wrought into plates for a covering of the altar, to abide there as a memento to others, not to approach to the exercise of the priestly office without an authoritative call from God (Num. 16:38, 40); and those judgments exercised in the former ages of the world, were intended by Divine goodness for warnings, even in evangelical times. Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt, to prevent men from apostasy; that use Christ himself makes of it, in the exhortation against “turning back” (Luke 17:32, 33). And (Psalm 58:10): “The righteous shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.” When God shall drench his sword in the blood of the wicked, the righteous shall take occasion from thence, to purify themselves, and reform their ways, and look to the paths of their feet. Would not impunity be hurtful to the world, and men receive encouragement to sin, if severities sometimes did not bridle them from the practice of their inclinations? Sometimes the sinner himself is reformed, and sometimes removed from being an example to others. Though thunder be an affrightening noise, and lightning a scaring flash, yet they have a liberal goodness in them in shattering and consuming those contagious vapors which burden and infect the air, and thereby render it more clear and healthful. Again, there are few acts of Divine justice upon a people, but are in the very execution of them attended with demonstrations of his goodness to others; he is a protector of his own, while he is a revenger on his enemies; when he rides upon his horses in anger against some, his chariots are “chariots of salvation” to others (Hab. 3:8). Terror makes way for salvation; the overthrow of Pharaoh and the strength of his nation, completed the deliverance of the Israelites. Had not the Egyptians met with their destruction, the Israelites had unavoidably met with their ruin, against all the promises God had made to them, and to the defamation of his former justice, in the former plagues upon their oppressors. The death of Herod was the security of Peter, and the rest of the maliced christians. The gracious deliverance of good men is often occasioned by some severe stroke upon some eminent persecutor; the destruction of the oppressor is the rescue of the innocent. Again, where is there a judgment but leaves more criminals behind than it sweeps away, that deserved to be involved in the same fate with the rest? More Egyptians were left behind to possess and enjoy the goodness of their fruitful land, than they were that were hurried into another world by the overflowing waves; is not this a mark of goodness as well as severity? Again, is it not a goodness in Him not to pour out judgments according to the greatness of his power? to go gradually to work with those whom he might in a moment blow to destruction with one breath of his mouth? Again, he sometimes exerciseth judgments upon some, to form a new generation for himself; he destroyed an old world, to raise a new one more righteous, as a man pulls down his old buildings to erect a sounder and more stately fabric. To sum up what hath been said in this particular; how could God be a friend to goodness, if he were not an enemy to evil? how could he shew his enmity to evil, without revenging the abuse and contempt of his goodness? God would rather have the repentance of a sinner than his punishment; but the sinner would rather expose himself to the severest frowns of God, than pursue those methods wherein he hath settled the conveyances of his kindness; “You will not come to me that you might have life,” saith Christ. How is eternity of punishment inconsistent with the goodness of God? nay, how can God be good without it? If wickedness always remain in the nature of man, is it not fit the rod should always remain on the back of men? Is it a want of goodness that keeps an incorrigible offender in chains in a bridewell? While sin remains, it is fit it should be punished; would not God else be an enemy to his own goodness, and shew favor to that which doth abuse it, and is contrary to it? He hath threatened eternal flames to sinners, that he might the more strongly excite them to a reformation of their ways, and a practice of his precepts. In those threatenings he hath manifested his goodness; and can it be bad in him to defend what his goodness hath commanded, and execute what his goodness hath threatened? His truth is also a part of his goodness; for it is nothing but his goodness performing that which it obliged him to do. That is the first thing; severe judgments in the world are no impeachments of his goodness.
Secondly, The afflictions God inflicts upon his servants, are no violations of his goodness. Sometimes God afflicts men for their temporal and eternal good; for the good of their grace, in order to the good of their glory; which is a more excellent good, than afflictions can be an evil. The heathens reflected upon Ulysses’ hardship, as a mark of Jupiter’s goodness and love to him, that his virtue might be more conspicuous. By strong persecutions brought upon the church, her lethargy is cured, her chaff purged, the glorious fruit of the gospel brought forth in the lives of her children; the number of her proselytes multiply, and the strength of her weak ones is increased, by the testimonies of courage and constancy which the stronger present to them in their sufferings. Do these good effects speak a want of goodness in God, who brings them into this condition? By those he cures his people of their corruptions, and promotes their glory, by giving them the honor of suffering for the truth, and raiseth their spirits to a divine pitch.
The epistles of Paul to the Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, wrote by him while he was in Nero’s chains, seem to have a higher strain than some of those he wrote when he was at liberty. As for afflictions, they are marks of a greater measure of fatherly goodness than he discovers to those that live in an uninterrupted prosperity, who are not dignified with that glorious title of sons, as those are that “he chasteneth” (Heb. 12:6, 7). Can any question the goodness of the father that corrects his child to prevent his vice and ruin, and breed him up to virtue and honor? It would be a cruelty in a father leaving his child without chastisement, to leave him to that misery an ill education would reduce him to: “God judges us that we might not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor. 11:32). Is it not a greater goodness to separate us from the world to happiness by his scourge, than to leave us to the condemnation of the world for our sins? Is it not a greater goodness to make us smart here, than to see us scorched hereafter? As he is our Shepherd, it is no part of his enmity or ill-will to us, to make us feel sometimes the weight of his shepherd’s crook, to reduce us from our struggling. The visiting our transgressions with rods, and our iniquities with stripes, is one of the articles of the covenant of grace, wherein the greatest lustre of his goodness appears (Psalm 89:33). The advantage and gain of our afflictions is a greater testimony of his goodness to us, than the pain can be of his unkindness; the smart is well recompensed by the accession of clearer graces. It is rather a high mark of goodness, than an argument for the want of it, that he treats us as his children, and will not suffer us to run into that destruction we are more ambitious of, than the happiness he hath prepared for us, and by afflictions he fits us for the partaking of, by “imparting his holiness,” together with the inflicting his rod (Heb. 12:10). That is the third thing, God is good.
The Existence and Attributes of God
Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Romans 5 | Bruce Bickel
Romans 7 | Bruce Bickel
Romans 8 | Ben Reaoch
Doug Hayward | Biola University