Life in the SpiritRomans 8 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Heirs with Christ12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Future Glory18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. True, his love for me is not based on my qualification or my preparation. But it is misleading to say that God accepts us the way we are. Rather he accepts us despite the way we are. He receives us only in Christ and for Christ’s sake. Nor does he mean to leave us the way he found us, but to transform us into the likeness of his Son. Without that transformation and new conformity of life we do not have any evidence that we were ever his in the first place. ... while the theology of faith is simple, the experience of assurance is complex for two reasons. The first is that we are complex, not to say complicated, and assurance impacts on what moderns have tended to call the “self-image,” in this instance, “How do I think about myself in relation to God in Christ?” Full assurance is therefore a complex spiritual and psychological process by which confessing, “Christ died for sinners, and I rest on him,” becomes, “I am sure that nothing in all creation can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord.” In one individual that complexity may be so beautifully simplified that its intricacy goes unnoticed. In others the complexity of their self-consciousness needs to be pastorally untangled before the clear connection between believing in Christ and realizing the implications of that become clear. The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
God’s Everlasting Love31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
God’s Sovereign ChoiceRomans 9 1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”
Israel’s Unbelief30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Romans 10Romans 10 1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
The Message of Salvation to All5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”
“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”
“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
What I'm Reading
The Circumstantial Case For John’s Authorship
By J. Warner Wallace 11/18/2016
I am a big fan of Sententias, the ministry of Max Andrews, although I’ll admit there are times when I have to stop and read (and re-read) his blog posts to get my hands around his impressive reasoning skills. Max recently wrote a post that even I could quickly understand and appreciate, and he did an excellent of illustrating the process and power that results from assembling a circumstantial case.
Max focused on the case for the authorship of John’s gospel. He correctly noted that Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215) attributed the authorship of the fourth gospel to someone named John: “John, last of all … composed a spiritual Gospel” (quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 6.14.7). But who is this “John” described by Clement? As Max writes, “Those who doubt apostolic authorship take their point of departure from a quote of Papias (c. 60–130) by Eusebius (c. 260–340). Papias appeared to refer to a John other than the apostle: ‘And if anyone chanced to come who had actually been a follower of the elders, I would enquire as to the discourses of the elders, what Andrew or what Peter said, or what Philip, or what Thomas or James, or what John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples; and the things which Aristion and John the Elder, disciples of the Lord, say’ (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.39.4–5, emphasis added).”
Max then takes the time to assemble the evidence related to the authorship of this gospel, making the case in a fashion very similar to how I might make a case for a particular point in a criminal trial. Check out his reasoning:
1. The author identified himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (21:20, 24), a prominent figure in the Johannine narrative (13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20).
2. The author used the first person in 1:14, “we have seen his glory,” revealing that he was an eyewitness to the accounts contained in his Gospel.
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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Why Don’t We See Miracles Like the Apostles Did?
By Justin Holcomb 5/27/14
Many contemporary Christians feel disconnected from the vibrant, Spirit-filled ministries of the prophets and apostles described in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God seemingly took the people of Israel through miraculous event after miraculous event. In the New Testament, those who watched the ministry of Jesus were seized with amazement at the miracles he performed (Luke 5:25), and the apostles in the early church regularly performed signs and wonders among the people (Acts 5:12).
Yet today, such miraculous events seem rare and, when we do hear reports of miracles, many Christians are skeptical. At the very least, we feel there's something different about the way God worked in the Old and New Testament periods and the way he works today. This raises a valid question: Why don’t we experience today the miracles we read about in the New Testament?
To answer that question, we need to understand not only how God works through providence and common grace, but we must also understand the purpose of miracles in the Bible.
PURPOSE OF MIRACLES IN SCRIPTURE
Miracles in Scripture are acts of God that proclaim his sovereign power over creation as well as his commitment to the good of his people. Miracles are often significant because they serve a larger purpose in God’s redemptive plan, testifying to the authenticity of God’s messengers who bring his revelation to humanity. This is one of the primary functions of miracles in the scriptural narratives: “When miracles occur, they give evidence that God is truly at work and so serve to advance the gospel.” Miracles authenticate God’s message and his messengers.
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How Is God Working in the World? Understanding Miracles and Providence
By Justin Holcomb 1/16/14
The pages of the Bible are filled with miraculous acts of God, and those who believe in the trustworthiness of Scripture surely believe in miracles. Yet today, when someone claims to have witnessed a miracle, even evangelical Christians tend to chuckle inside, perhaps attributing the “miracle” to an overactive imagination or the advancements of modern science. We are faced with a difficult paradox: on the one hand, we long for miraculous signs and wonders like those in Scripture, but often when we see or hear of events worthy of being called “miraculous” we struggle to overcome our modern skepticism. Has God ceased to work in the world the way he did in biblical times?
In order to answer this question, we need to develop a theology of miracles that will help us rightly understand the way God works in the world today so that we avoid the extremes of making everything a miracle, on the one hand, or allowing nothing to be a miracle, on the other. We need to determine what a miracle is and is not.
WRONG VIEWS OF MIRACLES
Many false views of miracles persist today. For example, some people believe God created the world like a watch that just needed to be wound up, only to be left alone, operating according to a set of natural laws. In this view, God isn’t usually involved in the world, and miracles are those times when he chooses to interrupt the laws of nature. But this view squeezes God out of any ordinary, providential sustainment of the created order. That is, it assumes God doesn’t normally act in creation, which, as we’ll see, is not biblical.
A second wrong view of miracles also tries to squeeze any divine action out of the world, but in a different way. This view suggests that there are really no such things as miracles because, by definition, miracles violate the laws of nature. However, because we don’t have an exhaustive understanding of the laws of nature, how can we be sure any given miracle did in fact violate some such law? Ironically, this position happily admits some things that happen in the world surpass our comprehension—it just attributes those mysteries to science rather than to God.
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Six Messianic Expectations and One Messsiah
By Eric Chabot chab 123 12/18/2014
Jewish messianism is a concept study. The word “messiah” means “anointed one” and is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.” The Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod. 29:1-9 ), kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16). Also, when God anointed or authorized for leadership, in many cases he provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit to complete the task (1 Sam. 16:13; Isa. 61:1). However, just because someone was anointed in the Old Testament to perform a specific task doesn’t mean they are “the Messiah.” Hence, we can conclude that “anointed one” was not used as a title with a capital “M” in the Old Testament.
Also, there are hardly any texts in the Jewish Scriptures that say “When the Messiah comes, he will do x, y, and z. However, most Jewish people think there is going to be a messianic age. Let me give an example:
The only way to define “the Messiah” is as the king who will rule during what we call the Messianic age. The central criterion for evaluating a Messiah must therefore be a single question: Has the Messianic age come? It is only in terms of this question that “the Messiah” means anything. What, then, does the Bible say about the Messianic age? Here is a brief description by famous Christian scholar: “The recovery of independence and power, an era of peace and prosperity, of fidelity to God and his law and justice and fair- dealing and brotherly love among men and of personal rectitude and piety” (G.F. Moore, Judaism, II, P 324). If we think about this sentence for just a moment in the light of the history of the last two thousand years, we will begin to see what enormous obstacles must be overcome if we are to believe in the messianic mission of Jesus. If Jesus was the Messiah, why have suffering and evil continued and even increased in the many centuries since his death.” (1)
“The state of the world must prove that the Messiah has come; not a tract. Don’t you think that when the Messiah arrives, it should not be necessary for his identity to be subject to debate – for the world should be so drastically changed for the better that it should be absolutely incontestable! Why should it be necessary to prove him at all? If the Messiah has come, why should anyone have any doubt?” (Rabbi Chaim Richman, available at http://www.ldolphin.org/messiah.html).
Remember: the Jewish Scriptures don’t reveal an explicit, fully disclosed, monolithic “messianic concept.” To build on the comments stated here, Stanley Porter says:
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Chapter 11: The Eternal Now Pt 1
By Paul Tillich(Re 21:6) 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. ESV
It is our destiny and the destiny of everything in our world that we must come to an end.
Every end that we experience in nature and mankind speaks to us with a loud voice: you also
will come to an end! It may reveal itself in the farewell to a place where we have lived for a
long time, the separation from the fellowship of intimate associates, the death of someone
near to us. Or it may become apparent to us in the failure of a work that gave meaning to us,
the end of a whole period of life, the approach of old age, or even in the melancholy side of
nature visible in autumn. All this tells us: you will also come to an end.
Whenever we are shaken by this voice reminding us of our end, we ask anxiously -- what does it mean that we have a beginning and an end, that we come from the darkness of the "not yet" and rush ahead towards the darkness of the "no more"? When Augustine asked this question, he began his attempt to answer it with a prayer. And it is right to do so, because praying means elevating oneself to the eternal. In fact, there is no other way of judging time than to see it in the light of the eternal. In order to judge something, one must be partly within it, partly out of it. If we were totally within time, we would not be able to elevate ourselves in prayer, meditation and thought, to the eternal. We would be children of time like all other creatures and could not ask the question of the meaning of time. But as men we are aware of the eternal to which we belong and from which we are estranged by the bondage of time.
We speak of time in three ways or modes -- the past, present and future. Every child is aware of them, but no wise man has ever penetrated their mystery. We become aware of them when we hear a voice telling us: you also will come to an end. It is the future that awakens us to the mystery of time. Time runs from the beginning to the end, but our awareness of time goes in the opposite direction. It starts with the anxious anticipation of the end. In the light of the future we see the past and present. So let us first consider our going into the future and towards the end that is the last point that we can anticipate in our future.
The image of the future produces contrasting feelings in man. The expectation of the future gives one a feeling of joy. It is a great thing to have a future in which one can actualize one’s possibilities, in which one can experience the abundance of life, in which one can create something new -- be it new work, a new living being, a new way of life, or the regeneration of one’s own being. Courageously one goes ahead towards the new, especially in the earlier part of one’s life. But this feeling struggles with other ones: the anxiety about what is hidden in the future, the ambiguity of everything it will bring us, the shortness of its duration that decreases with every year of our life and becomes shorter the nearer we come to the unavoidable end. And finally the end itself, with its impenetrable darkness and the threat that one’s whole existence in time will be judged as a failure.
How do men, how do you, react to this image of the future with its hope and threat and inescapable end? Probably most of us react by looking at the immediate future, anticipating it, working for it, hoping for it, being anxious about it, while cutting off from our awareness the future which is farther away, and above all, by cutting off from our consciousness the end, the last moment of our future. Perhaps we could not live without doing so most of our time. But perhaps we will not be able to die if we always do so. And if one is not able to die, is he really able to live?
How do we react if we become aware of the inescapable end contained in our future? Are we able to bear it, to take its anxiety into a courage that faces ultimate darkness? Or are we thrown into utter hopelessness? Do we hope against hope, or do we repress our awareness of the end because we cannot stand it? Repressing the consciousness of our end expresses itself in several ways.
Many try to do so by putting the expectation of a long life between now and the end. For them it is decisive that the end be delayed. Even old people who are near the end do this, for they cannot endure the fact that the end will not be delayed much longer.
Many people realize this deception and hope for a continuation of this life after death. They expect an endless future in which they may achieve or possess what has been denied them in this life. This is a prevalent attitude about the future, and also a very simple one. It denies that there is an end. It refuses to accept that we are creatures, that we come from the eternal ground of time and return to the eternal ground of time and have received a limited span of time as our time. It replaces eternity by endless future.
But endless future is without a final aim; it repeats itself and could well be described as an image of hell. This is not the Christian way of dealing with the end. The Christian message says that the eternal stands above past and future. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end."
The Christian message acknowledges that time runs towards an end, and that we move towards the end of that time which is our time. Many people -- but not the Bible -- speak loosely of the "hereafter" or of the "life after death." Even in our liturgies eternity is translated by "world without end." But the world, by its very nature, is that which comes to an end. If we want to speak in truth without foolish, wishful thinking, we should speak about the eternal that is neither timelessness nor endless time. The mystery of the future is answered in the eternal of which we may speak in images taken from time. But if we forget that the images are images, we fall into absurdities and self-deceptions. There is no time after time, but there is eternity above time.
Chapter 11: The Eternal Now Pt 2
By Paul Tillich
We go towards something that is not yet, and we come from something that is no more. We are what we are by what we came from. We have a beginning as we have an end. There was a time that was not our time. We hear of it from those who are older than we; we read about it in history books; we try to envision the unimaginable billions of years in which neither we nor anyone was who could tell us of them. It is hard for us to imagine our "being-no more." It is equally difficult to imagine our "being-not-yet." But we usually don’t care about our not yet being, about the indefinite time before our birth in which we were not. We think: now we are; this is our time -- and we do not want to lose it. We are not concerned about what lies before our beginning. We ask about life after death, yet seldom do we ask about our being before birth. But is it possible to do one without the other? The fourth gospel does not think so. When it speaks of the eternity of the Christ, it does not only point to his return to eternity, but also to his coming from eternity. "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." He comes from another dimension than that in which the past lies. Those to whom he speaks misunderstand him because they think of the historical past. They believe that he makes himself hundreds of years old and they rightly take offense at this absurdity. Yet he does not say, "I was" before Abraham; but he says, "I am" before Abraham was. He speaks of his beginning out of eternity. And this is the beginning of everything that is -- not the uncounted billions of years -- but the eternal as the ultimate point in our past.
The mystery of the past from which we come is that it is and is not in every moment of our lives. It is, insofar as we are what the past has made of us. In every cell of our body, in every trait of our face, in every movement of our soul, our past is the present.
Few periods knew more about the continuous working of the past in the present than ours. We know about the influence of childhood experiences on our character. We know about the scars left by events in early years. We have rediscovered what the Greek tragedians and the Jewish prophets knew, that the past is present in us, both as a curse and as a blessing. For "past" always means both a curse and a blessing, not only for individuals, but also for nations and even continents.
History lives from the past, from its heritage. The glory of the European nations is their long, inexhaustibly rich tradition. But the blessings of this tradition are mixed with curses resulting from early splits into separated nations whose bloody struggles have filled century after century and brought Europe again and again to the edge of self-destruction. Great are the blessings this nation has received in the course of its short history. But from earliest days, elements have been at work that have been and will remain a curse for many years to come. I could refer, for instance, to racial consciousness, not only within the nation itself, but also in its dealings with races and nations outside its own boundaries. "The American way of life" is a blessing that comes from the past; but it is also a curse, threatening the future.
Is there a way of getting rid of such curses that threaten the life of nations and continents, and, more and more, of mankind as a whole? Can we banish elements of our past into the past so that they lose their power over the present? In man’s individual life this is certainly possible. One has rightly said that the strength of a character is dependent on the amount of things that he has thrown into the past. In spite of the power his past holds over him, a man can separate himself from it, throw it out of the present into the past in which it is condemned to remain ineffective -- at least for a time. It may return and conquer the present and destroy the person, but this is not necessarily so. We are not inescapably victims of our past. We can make the past remain nothing but past. The act in which we do this has been called repentance. Genuine repentance is not the feeling of sorrow about wrong actions, but it is the act of the whole person in which he separates himself from elements of his being, discarding them into the past as something that no longer has any power over the present.
Can a nation do the same thing? Can a nation or any other social group have genuine repentance? Can it separate itself from curses of the past? On this possibility rests the hope of a nation. The history of Israel and the history of the church show that it is possible and they also show that it is rare and extremely painful. Nobody knows whether it will happen to this nation. But we know that its future depends on the way it will deal with its past, and whether it can discard into the past elements which are a curse!
In each human life a struggle is going on about the past. Blessings battle with curses. Often we do not recognize what are blessings and what are curses. Today, in the light of the discovery of our unconscious strivings, we are more inclined to see curses than blessings in our past. The remembrance of our parents, which in the Old Testament is so inseparably connected with their blessings, is now much more connected with the curse they have unconsciously and against their will brought upon us. Many of those who suffer under mental afflictions see their past, especially their childhood, only as the source of curses. We know how often this is true. But we should not forget that we would not be able to live and to face the future if there were not blessings that support us and which come from the same source as the curses. A pathetic struggle over their past is going on almost without interruption in many men and women in our time. No medical healing can solve this conflict, because no medical healing can change the past. Only a blessing that lies above the conflict of blessing and curse can heal. It is the blessing that changes what seems to be unchangeable -- the past. It cannot change the facts; what has happened has happened and remains so in all eternity! But the meaning of the facts can be changed by the eternal, and the name of this change is the experience of "forgiveness." If the meaning of the past is changed by forgiveness, its influence on the future is also changed. The character of curse is taken away from it. It becomes a blessing by the transforming power of forgiveness.
There are not always blessings and curses in the past. There is also emptiness in it. We remember experiences that, at the time, were seemingly filled with an abundant content. Now we remember them, and their abundance has vanished, their ecstasy is gone, their fullness has turned into a void. Pleasures, successes, vanities have this character. We don’t feel them as curses; we don’t feel them as blessings. They have been swallowed by the past. They did not contribute to the eternal. Let us ask ourselves how little in our lives escapes this judgment.
The Eternal Now
Chapter 11: The Eternal Now Pt 3
By Paul Tillich
The mystery of the future and the mystery of the past are united in the mystery of the present. Our time, the time we have, is the time in which we have "presence." But how can we have "presence"? Is not the present moment gone when we think of it? Is not the present the evermoving boundary line between past and future? But a moving boundary is not a place to stand upon. If nothing were given to us except the "no more" of the past and the "not yet" of the future, we would not have anything. We could not speak of the time that is our time; we would not have "presence."
The mystery is that we have a present; and even more, that we have our future also because we anticipate it in ‘the present; and that we have our past also, because we remember it in the present. In the present our future and our past are ours. But there is no "present" if we think of the never-ending flux of time. The riddle of the present is the deepest of all the riddles of time. Again, there is no answer except from that which comprises all time and lies beyond it -- the eternal. Whenever we say "now" or "today," we stop the flux of time for us. We accept the present and do not care that it is gone in the moment that we accept it. We live in it and it is renewed for us in every new present." This is possible because every moment of time reaches into the eternal. It is the eternal that stops the flux of time for us. It is the eternal "now" which provides for us a temporal "now." We live so long as "it is still today" -- in the words of the letter to the Hebrews. Not everybody, and nobody all the time, is aware of this "eternal now" in the temporal "now." But sometimes it breaks powerfully into our consciousness and gives us the certainty of the eternal, of a dimension of time which cuts into time and gives us our time.
People who are never aware of this dimension lose the possibility of resting in the present. As the letter to the Hebrews describes it, they never enter into the divine rest. They are held by the past and cannot separate themselves from it, or they escape towards the future, unable to rest in the present. They have not entered the eternal rest which stops the flux of time and gives us the blessing of the present. Perhaps this is the most conspicuous characteristic of our period, especially in the western world and particularly in this country. It lacks the courage to accept "presence" because it has lost the dimension of the eternal.
"I am the beginning and the end." This is said to us who live in the bondage of time, who have to face the end, who cannot escape the past, who need a present to stand upon. Each of the modes of time has its peculiar mystery, each of them carries its peculiar anxiety. Each of them drives us to an ultimate question. There is one answer to these questions -- the eternal. There is one power that surpasses the all-consuming power of time -- the eternal: He Who was and is and is to come, the beginning and the end. He gives us forgiveness for what has passed. He gives us courage for what is to come. He gives us rest in His eternal Presence.
The Eternal Now
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
1. In vain were the authority of Scripture fortified by argument, or
supported by the consent of the Church, or confirmed by any other
helps, if unaccompanied by an assurance higher and stronger than human
Judgment can give. Till this better foundation has been laid, the
authority of Scripture remains in suspense. On the other hand, when
recognising its exemption from the common rule, we receive it
reverently, and according to its dignity, those proofs which were not
so strong as to produce and rivet a full conviction in our minds,
become most appropriate helps. For it is wonderful how much we are
confirmed in our belief, when we more attentively consider how
admirably the system of divine wisdom contained in it is arranged--how
perfectly free the doctrine is from every thing that savours of
earth--how beautifully it harmonises in all its parts--and how rich it
is in all the other qualities which give an air of majesty to
composition. Our hearts are still more firmly assured when we reflect
that our admiration is elicited more by the dignity of the matter than
by the graces of style. For it was not without an admirable arrangement
of Providence, that the sublime mysteries of the kingdom of heaven have
for the greater part been delivered with a contemptible meanness of
words. Had they been adorned with a more splendid eloquence, the wicked
might have cavilled, and alleged that this constituted all their force.
But now, when an unpolished simplicity, almost bordering on rudeness,
makes a deeper impression than the loftiest flights of oratory, what
does it indicate if not that the Holy Scriptures are too mighty in the
power of truth to need the rhetorician's art?
Hence there was good ground for the Apostle's declaration, that the faith of the Corinthians was founded not on "the wisdom of men," but on "the power of God," (1 Cor. 2:5), this speech and preaching among them having been "not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power," (1 Cor. 2:5). For the truth is vindicated in opposition to every doubt, when, unsupported by foreign aid, it has its sole sufficiency in itself. How peculiarly this property belongs to Scripture appears from this, that no human writings, however skilfully composed, are at all capable of affecting us in a similar way. Read Demosthenes or Cicero, read Plato, Aristotle, or any other of that class: you will, I admit, feel wonderfully allured, pleased, moved, enchanted; but turn from them to the reading of the Sacred Volume, and whether you will or not, it will so affect you, so pierce your heart, so work its way into your very marrow, that, in comparison of the impression so produced, that of orators and philosophers will almost disappear; making it manifest that in the Sacred Volume there is a truth divine, a something which makes it immeasurably superior to all the gifts and graces attainable by man.
2. I confess, however, that in elegance and beauty, nay, splendour, the style of some of the prophets is not surpassed by the eloquence of heathen writers. By examples of this description, the Holy Spirit was pleased to show that it was not from want of eloquence he in other instances used a rude and homely style. But whether you read David, Isaiah, and others of the same class, whose discourse flows sweet and pleasant; or Amos the herdsman, Jeremiah, and Zechariah, whose rougher idiom savours of rusticity; that majesty of the Spirit to which I adverted appears conspicuous in all. I am not unaware, that as Satan often apes God, that he may by a fallacious resemblance the better insinuate himself into the minds of the simple, so he craftily disseminated the impious errors with which he deceived miserable men in an uncouth and semi-barbarous style, and frequently employed obsolete forms of expression in order to cloak his impostures. None possessed of any moderate share of sense need be told how vain and vile such affectation is. But in regard to the Holy Scriptures, however petulant men may attempt to carp at them, they are replete with sentiments which it is clear that man never could have conceived. Let each of the prophets be examined, and not one will be found who does not rise far higher than human reach. Those who feel their works insipid must be absolutely devoid of taste.
3. As this subject has been treated at large by others, it will be sufficient here merely to touch on its leading points. In addition to the qualities already mentioned, great weight is due to the antiquity of Scripture (Euseb. Prepar. Evang. lib. 2 c. 1). Whatever fables Greek writers may retail concerning the Egyptian Theology, no monument of any religion exists which is not long posterior to the age of Moses. But Moses does not introduce a new Deity. He only sets forth that doctrine concerning the eternal God which the Israelites had received by tradition from their fathers, by whom it had been transmitted, as it were, from hand to hand, during a long series of ages. For what else does he do than lead them back to the covenant which had been made with Abraham? Had he referred to matters of which they had never heard, he never could have succeeded; but their deliverance from the bondage in which they were held must have been a fact of familiar and universal notoriety, the very mention of which must have immediately aroused the attention of all. It is, moreover, probable, that they were intimately acquainted with the whole period of four hundred years. Now, if Moses (who is so much earlier than all other writers) traces the tradition of his doctrine from so remote a period, it is obvious how far the Holy Scriptures must in point of antiquity surpass all other writings.
4. Some perhaps may choose to credit the Egyptians in carrying back their antiquity to a period of six thousand years before the world was created. But their garrulity, which even some profane authors have held up to derision, it cannot be necessary for me to refute. Josephus, however, in his work against Appion, produces important passages from very ancient writers, implying that the doctrine delivered in the law was celebrated among all nations from the remotest ages, though it was neither read nor accurately known. And then, in order that the malignant might have no ground for suspicion, and the ungodly no handle for cavil, God has provided, in the most effectual manner, against both dangers. When Moses relates the words which Jacob, under Divine inspiration, uttered concerning his posterity almost three hundred years before, how does he ennoble his own tribe? He stigmatises it with eternal infamy in the person of Levi. "Simon and Levi," says he, "are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly mine honour be not thou united," (Gen. 49:5, 6). This stigma he certainly might have passed in silence, not only that he might spare his own ancestor, but also save both himself and his whole family from a portion of the disgrace. How can any suspicion attach to him, who, by voluntarily proclaiming that the first founder of his family was declared detestable by a Divine oracle, neither consults for his own private interest, nor declines to incur obloquy among his tribe, who must have been offended by his statement of the fact? Again, when he relates the wicked murmuring of his brother Aaron, and his sister Miriam (Numb. 12:1), shall we say that he spoke his own natural feelings, or that he obeyed the command of the Holy Spirit? Moreover, when invested with supreme authority, why does he not bestow the office of High Priest on his sons, instead of consigning them to the lowest place? I only touch on a few points out of many; but the Law itself contains throughout numerous proofs, which fully vindicate the credibility of Moses, and place it beyond dispute, that he was in truth a messenger sent forth from God.
5. The many striking miracles which Moses relates are so many sanctions of the law delivered, and the doctrine propounded, by him.  His being carried up into the mount in a cloud; his remaining there forty days separated from human society; his countenance glistening during the promulgation of the law, as with meridian effulgence; the lightnings which flashed on every side; the voices and thunderings which echoed in the air; the clang of the trumpet blown by no human mouth; his entrance into the tabernacle, while a cloud hid him from the view of the people; the miraculous vindication of his authority, by the fearful destruction of Korah, Nathan, and Abiram, and all their impious faction; the stream instantly gushing forth from the rock when struck with his rod; the manna which rained from heaven at his prayer;--did not God by all these proclaim aloud that he was an undoubted prophet? If any one object that I am taking debatable points for granted, the cavil is easily answered. Moses published all these things in the assembly of the people. How, then, could he possibly impose on the very eye-witnesses of what was done? Is it conceivable that he would have come forward, and, while accusing the people of unbelief, obstinacy, ingratitude, and other crimes, have boasted that his doctrine had been confirmed in their own presence by miracles which they never saw?
6. For it is also worthy of remark, that the miracles which he relates are combined with disagreeable circumstances, which must have provoked opposition from the whole body of the people, if there had been the smallest ground for it. Hence it is obvious that they were induced to assent, merely because they had been previously convinced by their own experience. But because the fact was too ascribed them to magic (Exod. 9:11). But with what probability is a charge of magic brought against him, who held it in such abhorrence, that he ordered every one who should consult soothsayers and magicians to be stoned? (Lev. 20:27). Assuredly, no impostor deals in tricks, without studying to raise his reputation by amazing the common people. But what does Moses do? By crying out, that he and Aaron his brother are nothing (Exod. 16:7), that they merely execute what God has commanded, he clears himself from every approach to suspicion. Again, if the facts are considered in themselves, what kind of incantation could cause manna to rain from heaven every day, and in sufficient quantity to maintain a people, while any one, who gathered more than the appointed measure, saw his incredulity divinely punished by its turning to worms? To this we may add, that God then suffered his servant to be subjected to so many serious trials, that the ungodly cannot now gain anything by their glamour. When (as often happened) the people proudly and petulantly rose up against him, when individuals conspired, and attempted to overthrow him, how could any impostures have enabled clear to leave it free for heathen writers to deny that Moses did perform miracles, the father of lies suggested a calumny, and him to elude their rage? The event plainly shows that by these means his doctrine was attested to all succeeding ages.
7. Moreover, it is impossible to deny that he was guided by a prophetic spirit in assigning the first place to the tribe of Judah in the person of Jacob, especially if we take into view the fact itself, as explained by the event. Suppose that Moses was the inventor of the prophecy, still, after he committed it to writing, four hundred years pass away, during which no mention is made of a sceptre in the tribe of Judah. After Saul is anointed, the kingly office seems fixed in the tribe of Benjamin (1 Sam. 11:15; 16:13). When David is anointed by Samuel, what apparent ground is there for the transference? Who could have looked for a king out of the plebeian family of a herdsman? And out of seven brothers, who could have thought that the honour was destined for the youngest? And then by what means did he afterwards come within reach of the throne? Who dare say that his anointing was regulated by human art, or skill, or prudence, and was not rather the fulfilment of a divine prophecy? In like manner, do not the predictions, though obscure, of the admission of the Gentiles into the divine covenant, seeing they were not fulfilled till almost two thousand years after, make it palpable that Moses spoke under divine inspiration? I omit other predictions which so plainly betoken divine revelation, that all men of sound mind must see they were spoken by God. In short, his Song itself (Deut. 32) is a bright mirror in which God is manifestly seen.
8. In the case of the other prophets the evidence is even clearer. I will only select a few examples, for it were too tedious to enumerate the whole. Isaiah, in his own day, when the kingdom of Judah was at peace, and had even some ground to confide in the protection of the Chaldeans, spoke of the destruction of the city and the captivity of the people (Isaiah 55:1). Supposing it not to be sufficient evidence of divine inspiration to foretell, many years before, events which, at the time, seemed fabulous, but which ultimately turned out to be true, whence shall it be said that the prophecies which he uttered concerning their return proceeded, if it was not from God? He names Cyrus, by whom the Chaldeans were to be subdued and the people restored to freedom. After the prophet thus spoke, more than a hundred years elapsed before Cyrus was born, that being nearly the period which elapsed between the death of the one and the birth of the other. It was impossible at that time to guess that some Cyrus would arise to make war on the Babylonians, and after subduing their powerful monarchy, put an end to the captivity of the children of Israel. Does not this simple, unadorned narrative plainly demonstrate that what Isaiah spoke was not the conjecture of man, but the undoubted oracle of God? Again, when Jeremiah, a considerable time before the people were led away, assigned seventy years as the period of captivity, and fixed their liberation and return, must not his tongue have been guided by the Spirit of God? What effrontery were it to deny that, by these evidences, the authority of the prophets is established, the very thing being fulfilled to which they appeal in support of their credibility! "Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them," (Isaiah 42:9). I say nothing of the agreement between Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who, living so far apart, and yet prophesying at the same time, harmonise as completely in all they say as if they had mutually dictated the words to one another. What shall I say of Daniel? Did not he deliver prophecies embracing a future period of almost six hundred years, as if he had been writing of past events generally known? (Dan. 9, &c). If the pious will duly meditate on these things, they will be sufficiently instructed to silence the cavils of the ungodly. The demonstration is too clear to be gainsaid.
9. I am aware of what is muttered in corners by certain miscreants, when they would display their acuteness in assailing divine truth. They ask, how do we know that Moses and the prophets wrote the books which now bear their names? Nay, they even dare to question whether there ever was a Moses. Were any one to question whether there ever was a Plato, or an Aristotle, or a Cicero, would not the rod or the whip be deemed the fit chastisement of such folly? The law of Moses has been wonderfully preserved, more by divine providence than by human care; and though, owing to the negligence of the priests, it lay for a short time buried,--from the time when it was found by good King Josiah (2 Kings 22:8; 2 Chron. 34:15),--it has continued in the hands of men, and been transmitted in unbroken succession from generation to generation. Nor, indeed, when Josiah brought it forth, was it as a book unknown or new, but one which had always been matter of notoriety, and was then in full remembrance. The original writing had been deposited in the temple, and a copy taken from it had been deposited in the royal archives (Deut. 17:18, 19); the only thing which had occurred was, that the priests had ceased to publish the law itself in due form, and the people also had neglected the wonted reading of it. I may add, that scarcely an age passed during which its authority was not confirmed and renewed. Were the books of Moses unknown to those who had the Psalms of David in their hands? To sum up the whole in one word, it is certain beyond dispute, that these writings passed down, if I may so express it, from hand to hand, being transmitted in an unbroken series from the fathers, who either with their own ears heard them spoken, or learned them from those who had, while the remembrance of them was fresh.
10. An objection taken from the history of the Maccabees (1 Macc. 1:57, 58) to impugn the credibility of Scripture, is, on the contrary, fitted the best possible to confirm it. First, however, let us clear away the gloss which is put upon it: having done so, we shall turn the engine which they erect against us upon themselves. As Antiochus ordered all the books of Scripture to be burnt, it is asked, where did the copies we now have come from? I, in my turn, ask, In what workshop could they have been so quickly fabricated? It is certain that they were in existence the moment the persecution ceased, and that they were acknowledged without dispute by all the pious who had been educated in their doctrine, and were familiarly acquainted with them. Nay, while all the wicked so wantonly insulted the Jews as if they had leagued together for the purpose, not one ever dared to charge them with having introduced spurious books. Whatever, in their opinion, the Jewish religion might be, they acknowledged that Moses was the founder of it. What, then, do those babblers, but betray their snarling petulance in falsely alleging the spuriousness of books whose sacred antiquity is proved by the consent of all history? But not to spend labour in vain in refuting these vile calumnies, let us rather attend to the care which the Lord took to preserve his Word, when against all hope he rescued it from the truculence of a most cruel tyrant as from the midst of the flames--inspiring pious priests and others with such constancy that they hesitated not, though it should have been purchased at the expense of their lives, to transmit this treasure to posterity, and defeating the keenest search of prefects and their satellites.
Who does not recognise it as a signal and miraculous work of God, that those sacred monuments which the ungodly persuaded themselves had utterly perished, immediately returned to resume their former rights, and, indeed, in greater honour? For the Greek translation appeared to disseminate them over the whole world. Nor does it seem so wonderful that God rescued the tables of his covenant from the sanguinary edicts of Antiochus, as that they remained safe and entire amid the manifold disasters by which the Jewish nation was occasionally crushed, devastated, and almost exterminated. The Hebrew language was in no estimation, and almost unknown; and assuredly, had not God provided for religion, it must have utterly perished. For it is obvious from the prophetical writings of that age, how much the Jews, after their return from the captivity, had lost the genuine use of their native tongue. It is of importance to attend to this, because the comparison more clearly establishes the antiquity of the Law and the Prophets. And whom did God employ to preserve the doctrine of salvation contained in the Law and the Prophets, that Christ might manifest it in its own time? The Jews, the bitterest enemies of Christ; and hence Augustine justly calls them the librarians of the Christian Church, because they supplied us with books of which they themselves had not the use.
11. When we proceed to the New Testament, how solid are the pillars by which its truth is supported! Three evangelists give a narrative in a mean and humble style. The proud often eye this simplicity with disdain, because they attend not to the principal heads of doctrine; for from these they might easily infer that these evangelists treat of heavenly mysteries beyond the capacity of man. Those who have the least particle of candour must be ashamed of their fastidiousness when they read the first chapter of Luke. Even our Saviour's discourses, of which a summary is given by these three evangelists, ought to prevent every one from treating their writings with contempt. John, again, fulminating in majesty, strikes down more powerfully than any thunderbolt the petulance of those who refuse to submit to the obedience of faith. Let all those acute censors, whose highest pleasure it is to banish a reverential regard of Scripture from their own and other men's hearts, come forward; let them read the Gospel of John, and, willing or unwilling, they will find a thousand sentences which will at least arouse them from their sloth; nay, which will burn into their consciences as with a hot iron, and check their derision. The same thing may be said of Peter and Paul, whose writings, though the greater part read them blindfold, exhibit a heavenly majesty, which in a manner binds and rivets every reader. But one circumstance, sufficient of itself to exalt their doctrine above the world, is, that Matthew, who was formerly fixed down to his money-table, Peter and John, who were employed with their little boats, being all rude and illiterate, had never learned in any human school that which they delivered to others. Paul, more over, who had not only been an avowed but a cruel and bloody foe, being changed into a new man, shows, by the sudden and unhoped-for change, that a heavenly power had compelled him to preach the doctrine which once he destroyed. Let those dogs deny that the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, or, if not, let them refuse credit to the history, still the very circumstances proclaim that the Holy Spirit must have been the teacher of those who, formerly contemptible among the people, all of a sudden began to discourse so magnificently of heavenly mysteries.
12. Add, moreover, that, for the best of reasons, the consent of the Church is not without its weight. For it is not to be accounted of no consequence, that, from the first publication of Scripture, so many ages have uniformly concurred in yielding obedience to it, and that, notwithstanding of the many extraordinary attempts which Satan and the whole world have made to oppress and overthrow it, or completely efface it from the memory of men, it has flourished like the palm tree and continued invincible. Though in old times there was scarcely a sophist or orator of any note who did not exert his powers against it, their efforts proved unavailing. The powers of the earth armed themselves for its destruction, but all their attempts vanished into smoke. When thus powerfully assailed on every side, how could it have resisted if it had trusted only to human aid? Nay, its divine origin is more completely established by the fact, that when all human wishes were against it, it advanced by its own energy. Add that it was not a single city or a single nation that concurred in receiving and embracing it. Its authority was recognised as far and as wide as the world extends--various nations who had nothing else in common entering for this purpose into a holy league. Moreover, while we ought to attach the greatest weight to the agreement of minds so diversified, and in all other things so much at variance with each other--an agreement which a Divine Providence alone could have produced--it adds no small weight to the whole when we attend to the piety of those who thus agree; not of all of them indeed, but of those in whom as lights God was pleased that his Church should shine.
13. Again, with what confidence does it become us to subscribe to a doctrine attested and confirmed by the blood of so many saints? They, when once they had embraced it, hesitated not boldly and intrepidly, and even with great alacrity, to meet death in its defence. Being transmitted to us with such an earnest, who of us shall not receive it with firm and unshaken conviction? It is therefore no small proof of the authority of Scripture, that it was sealed with the blood of so many witnesses, especially when it is considered that in bearing testimony to the faith, they met death not with fanatical enthusiasm (as erring spirits are sometimes wont to do), but with a firm and constant, yet sober godly zeal. There are other reasons, neither few nor feeble, by which the dignity and majesty of the Scriptures may be not only proved to the pious, but also completely vindicated against the cavils of slanderers. These, however, cannot of themselves produce a firm faith in Scripture until our heavenly Father manifest his presence in it, and thereby secure implicit reverence for it. Then only, therefore, does Scripture suffice to give a saving knowledge of God when its certainty is founded on the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit. Still the human testimonies which go to confirm it will not be without effect, if they are used in subordination to that chief and highest proof, as secondary helps to our weakness. But it is foolish to attempt to prove to infidels that the Scripture is the Word of God. This it cannot be known to be, except by faith. Justly, therefore, does Augustine remind us, that every man who would have any understanding in such high matters must previously possess piety and mental peace.
 Exod. 24:18; Exod. 34:29; Exod. 19:16; Exod. 40:34 Numb. 16:24; Numb. 20:10; Numb. 11:9
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 130My Soul Waits for the Lord
130 A Song Of Ascents.
130:1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
2 O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
8 And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.
Growing in Humility
By Geoffrey Thomas 5/01/2016
There is no other way of achieving humility than by looking unto Jesus. Paul tells us, “He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). The Son of God humbled Himself. That was something extraordinary. But there is more. He was made in human likeness. God the Son in a stable, His diapers being changed, and His being washed and fed by a young mother, Mary. But there is more. He took the very nature of a servant. God washing feet. But there is more. As Donald Macleod states in A Faith to Live By:
What did the angels think of it all? One day they blinked in astonishment as they saw their great Creator in a manger in Bethlehem. They must have found the spectacle incomprehensible. Then as the days and years moved on they saw a drama unfold which must have overloaded every circuit in their computers. One day word came that their Lord was in Gethsemane, and one of them had been sent to strengthen him. Hours later there came even more astonishing news: he was bleeding on the cross of Calvary. That, surely, was the bottom: the very worst! But no! The next thing was, the Father had forsaken him! The God whose whole impulse it was to wash away the tears from the eyes of his people not washing away the tears of his own Son! That’s how it was from beginning to end of the earthly life: down! The tremendous step from throne to stable, and then the incredible journey from the stable to the cross and beyond it the journey on the cross itself from the immolation to the dereliction. The angels must have been saying, “Will this never end? How low is he going to go? How low does he have to go?”
Notice three things about the structure of Paul’s comments on humility.
First, “He humbled himself.” Jesus quite deliberately took each step by Himself. In other words, there was not just a single plinth (platform) and then one step down from the throne to our redemption. No. There was a ladder that went down and down, and on each step were carved such words as these: conception, birth, stable, infantile weakness, refugee in Egypt, carpenter’s shop, baptism, wilderness temptations, Satan, constant travel, endless teaching, exhausting healings, betrayal, Gethsemane, flogging, crucifixion, dereliction, abandonment, death, burial. Christ goes down and down. On the cross, He plumbed the depths of the lake of fire when He entered into the cosmic incinerator of sin called Golgotha.
Second, Paul says that Jesus “became obedient to death.” The key word here is “obedient.” Christ’s sufferings were not fate. It was not that some great whirling wheel came crashing into the life of Jesus, and He was helpless before it. It was no calamity. It was not the accident of suffering. It was obedience to God’s appointing Him to become the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. So, it was obedience to all the implications of that—arrest, trial, scourging, mockery, unbearable pain.
God made Him to be sin who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21), and we are saying that at every stage the Son was obedient. The first Adam couldn’t even obey the simple command not to take a fruit from one tree in Paradise. The last Adam displayed a range of costly obediences year after year in the wilderness of this world. By the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners, and so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous. From Bethlehem to Golgotha, the God-man practiced obedience. It was vicarious obedience, and that obedience of Christ is the believing sinner’s righteousness. We are clothed with all the merit, all the eloquence, and all the discernment of the unfaltering obedience of the Son of God from the cradle to the cross. There was no moment in that whole experience when He was not the Redeemer. There was no day in that full life when He was not acting in a substitutionary capacity. Each moment had the glory of grace and truth, the glory of the staggering obedience of the incarnate God. That is what is imputed to us so that we are clothed with His merit and righteousness.
Finally, we are told that Jesus “became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” There is death, and then there is death. There is what Revelation calls the second death, but there is a death for the Christian that cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ. There is the anticipation of a death that means being absent from the body and present with the Lord. That death is without sting, a death without anathema and condemnation. But that is not the death referred to in Philippians 2. The death in Philippians 2 is the cursed death, the second death. He who knew no sin died as one to whom guilt and shame have been given. He died paying the wages of sin. He died as one made sin and not spared. He died with God’s absolute integrity confronting Him, and there was no mitigation. God doesn’t say, “How obedient He’s been, so I must spare Him.” God did not spare Him. All that our sin deserves went over His soul in this death. All consciousness of the divine favor was withdrawn from Him.
This is the example of Christ. So we are of the same mind, having the same love. We refuse to look to our own interests, but we are very concerned for the interests of others. Costly love. Hurting love. Golgotha love. Servant love. The world is to see that love in the Christian community, and that will make its own impact on them.
Seriousness in Worship
By Jason Helopoulos 5/01/2016
No experience on earth should delight the soul of the Christian more than corporate worship. It is the high point of our week and establishes the rhythm of our lives. As Christians, we live life from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day. We dare not “neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some” (Heb. 10:25).
Why does worship occupy such an important place in our lives? Because of what takes place in worship.
We often speak of worship in terms of giving and receiving. We receive mercy, grace, kindness, peace, love, truth, and joy from God in corporate worship. And though this is true, receiving is not the essence of worship. We also give to God in worship. We give Him adoration, praise, confession, love, and service. And though this is true, neither is giving the essence of worship. Corporate worship, rather than primarily consisting of receiving or giving, is about being. Above all else, worship is an encounter with the living, true, holy, sovereign, triune God of the universe. He chooses to meet with us by His Word and Spirit, and there is nothing as meaningful, rich, and glorious on earth as the church gathered together with its Lord and Savior in worship. In that moment, we are enjoying a foretaste of heaven to come, the greatest longing of our soul, and the very purpose for our creation.
Therefore, as we approach corporate worship, we must seek to do so with purpose. We dare not attend it casually. If there is one thing consistently observable in the Scriptures, it is surely the reality that meeting with a holy God is anything but casual.
When men and women come into God’s presence, they know it. Moses takes off his shoes (Ex. 3), Israel is struck with fear (Ex. 20), Isaiah quakes (Isa. 6), Job silences his lips (Job 40), John falls down as though dead (Rev. 1). Even the elders and angels, who are worshiping day in and day out before the throne, aren’t casual in their worship (Isa. 6; Rev. 4). Casual worship of the living, true, holy, sovereign God of the universe just doesn’t exist. There is a seriousness that must mark it, a solemnity and honor that must attend it, a gravity that must saturate it.
Yet the temptation to treat worship as something casual is great. As part of our weekly activity, it lends itself to being treated as common and routine. We easily go through the motions, sing the songs mindlessly, and get our worship attendance card punched. May it never be. We are on holy ground. As we attend corporate worship, let us attend it with seriousness. Here are four things to consider as we weekly gather on the Lord’s Day for corporate worship.
Start EarlyFirst, the seriousness with which we come to corporate worship begins far before we enter the doors of the church. Seize the rest of the week. Practice family and secret worship daily, knowing that it will inform and encourage your experience in corporate worship. Be boring on Saturday nights and go to bed early. Sleepy heads make for drowsy worshipers.
PrepareSecond, prepare your heart on Sunday morning before entering the doors of the church. Take the time and effort to do so—your soul will be the beneficiary. Rise early and spend time reading the Word, praying, and meditating. Cultivate a spirit of joy on Sunday mornings in your home. If this is the highlight of our week, then let’s act like it. For example, we can talk about how wonderful the day is going to be, wake the kids up with excitement, turn on good Christian music for the whole family to listen to, and put smiles on our faces. On the drive to church, we can talk about the passage that will be preached, sing a hymn together, and converse about the things of God. We can arrive at church early, so we can read through the bulletin, think through the songs, meditate on the Scripture readings, and pray before the service begins.
Remind YourselfThird, in worship, tend to your heart. As your mind drifts in the service (which happens to the best of us), remind yourself of the great privilege of corporate worship. My friends, we are meeting with the triune God of the universe—never lose sight of this. The Lord of glory is speaking to us and the grace of Christ is being extended to us. Nothing in all the earth is more significant, monumental, and remarkable than the reality that God chooses to meet with us week in and week out.
ReflectFinally, reflect on the worship service afterward. Ask each family member on the drive home to explain what they heard in the service, how the Lord convicted them, and what delighted their soul. Use the Lord’s Day afternoon to reread and pray through the passage preached. Plead with the Lord to reveal your own sin, teach you new truths, uncover your weaknesses, increase your faith, and bind your wounds.
Worship is one of the greatest gifts we enjoy. Attending to it with seriousness is paramount. That does not mean moroseness or in some kind of stiff formality, but rather with intention, attention, and delight. God chooses to meet with us. That reality should rattle the Christian’s soul with joy. Rev. Jason Helopoulos is associate pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Mich. He is author of The New Pastor’s Handbook and A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
The Vision of Three LaddersWhen Robert Samuel was brought forth to be burned, certain there were that heard him declare what strange things had happened unto him during the time of his imprisonment; to wit, that after he had famished or pined with hunger two or three days together, he then fell into a sleep, as it were one half in a slumber, at which time one clad all in white seemed to stand before him, who ministered comfort unto him by these words:
"Samuel, Samuel, be of good cheer, and take a good heart unto thee: for after this day shalt thou never be either hungry or thirsty."
No less memorable it is, and worthy to be noted, concerning the three ladders which he told to divers he saw in his sleep, set up toward heaven; of the which there was one somewhat longer than the rest, but yet at length they became one, joining (as it were) all three together.
As this godly martyr was going to the fire, there came a certain maid to him, which took him about the neck, and kissed him, who, being marked by them that were present, was sought for the next day after, to be had to prison and burned, as the very party herself informed me: howbeit, as God of His goodness would have it, she escaped their fiery hands, keeping herself secret in the town a good while after.
But as this maid, called Rose Nottingham, was marvellously preserved by the providence of God, so there were other two honest women who did fall into the rage and fury of that time. The one was a brewer's wife, the other was a shoemaker's wife, but both together now espoused to a new husband, Christ.
With these two was this maid aforesaid very familiar and well acquainted, who, on a time giving counsel to the one of them, that she should convey herself away while she had time and space, had this answer at her hand again: "I know well," saith she, "that it is lawful enough to fly away; which remedy you may use, if you list. But my case standeth otherwise. I am tied to a husband, and have besides young children at home; therefore I am minded, for the love of Christ and His truth, to stand to the extremity of the matter."
And so the next day after Samuel suffered, these two godly wives, the one called Anne Potten, the other called Joan Trunchfield, the wife of Michael Trunchfield, shoemaker, of Ipswich, were apprehended, and had both into one prison together. As they were both by sex and nature somewhat tender, so were they at first less able to endure the straitness of the prison; and especially the brewer's wife was cast into marvellous great agonies and troubles of mind thereby. But Christ, beholding the weak infirmity of His servant, did not fail to help her when she was in this necessity; so at the length they both suffered after Samuel, in 1556, February 19. And these, no dobut, were those two ladders, which, being joined with the third, Samuel saw stretched up into heaven. This blessed Samuel, the servant of Christ, suffered the thirty-first of August, 1555.
The report goeth among some that were there present, and saw him burn, that his body in burning did shine in the eyes of them that stood by, as bright and white as new-tried silver.
When Agnes Bongeor saw herself separated from her prison-fellows, what piteous moan that good woman made, how bitterly she wept, what strange thoughts came into her mind, how naked and desolate she esteemed herself, and into what plunge of despair and care her poor soul was brought, it was piteous and wonderful to see; which all came because she went not with them to give her life in the defence of her Christ; for of all things in the world, life was least looked for at her hands.
For that morning in which she was kept back from burning, had she put on a smock, that she had prepared only for that purpose. And also having a child, a little young infant sucking on her, whom she kept with her tenderly all the time that she was in prison, against that day likewise did she send away to another nurse, and prepared herself presently to give herself for the testimony of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. So little did she look for life, and so greatly did God's gifts work in her above nature, that death seemed a great deal better welcome than life. After which, she began a little to stay herself, and gave her whole exercise to reading and prayer, wherein she found no little comfort.
In a short time came a writ from London for the burning, which according to the effect thereof, was executed.
Hugh Laverick and John ApriceHere we perceive that neither the impotence of age nor the affliction of blindness, could turn aside the murdering fangs of these Babylonish monsters. The first of these unfortunates was of the parish of Barking, aged sixty-eight, a painter and a cripple. The other was blind, dark indeed in his visual faculties, but intellectually illuminated with the radiance of the everlasting Gospel of truth. Inoffensive objects like these were informed against by some of the sons of bigotry, and dragged before the prelatical shark of London, where they underwent examination, and replied to the articles propounded to them, as other Christian martyrs had done before. On the ninth day of May, in the consistory of St. Paul's, they were entreated to recant, and upon refusal, were sent to Fulham, where Bonner, by way of a dessert after dinner, condemned them to the agonies of the fire. Being consigned to the secular officers, May 15, 1556, they were taken in a cart from Newgate to Stratford-le-Bow, where they were fastened to the stake. When Hugh Laverick was secured by the chain, having no further occasion for his crutch, he threw it away saying to his fellow-martyr, while consoling him, "Be of good cheer my brother; for my lord of London is our good physician; he will heal us both shortly-thee of thy blindness, and me of my lameness." They sank down in the fire, to rise to immortality!
The day after the above martyrdoms, Catharine Hut, of Bocking, widow; Joan Horns, spinster, of Billerica; Elizabeth Thackwel, spinster, of Great Burstead, suffered death in Smithfield.
Thomas Dowry. We have again to record an act of unpitying cruelty, exercised on this lad, whom Bishop Hooper, had confirmed in the Lord and the knowledge of his Word. How long this poor sufferer remained in prison is uncertain.
By the testimony of one John Paylor, register of Gloucester, we learn that when Dowry was brought before Dr. Williams, then chancellor of Gloucester, the usual articles were presented him for subscription. From these he dissented; and, upon the doctor's demanding of whom and where he had learned his heresies, the youth replied, "Indeed, Mr. Chancellor, I learned from you in that very pulpit. On such a day (naming the day) you said, in preaching upon the Sacrament, that it was to be exercised spiritually by faith, and not carnally and really, as taught by the papists." Dr. Williams then bid him recant, as he had done; but Dowry had not so learned his duty. "Though you," said he, "can so easily mock God, the world, and your own conscience, yet will I not do so."
Preservation of George Crow and His TestamentThis poor man, of Malden, May 26, 1556, put to sea, to lade in Lent with fuller's earth, but the boat, being driven on land, filled with water, and everything was washed out of her; Crow, however, saved his Testament, and coveted nothing else. With Crow was a man and a boy, whose awful situation became every minute more alarming, as the boat was useless, and they were ten miles from land, expecting the tide should in a few hours set in upon them. After prayer to God, they got upon the mast, and hung there for the space of ten hours, when the poor boy, overcome by cold and exhaustion, fell off, and was drowned. The tide having abated, Crow proposed to take down the masts, and float upon them, which they did; and at ten o'clock at night they were borne away at the mercy of the waves. On Wednesday, in the night, Crow's companion died through the fatigue and hunger, and he was left alone, calling upon God for succor. At length he was picked up by a Captain Morse, bound to Antwerp, who had nearly steered away, taking him for some fisherman's buoy floating in the sea. As soon as Crow was got on board, he put his hand in his bosom, and drew out his Testament, which indeed was wet, but not otherwise injured. At Antwerp he was well received, and the money he had lost was more than made good to him.
Executions at Stratford-le-BowAt this sacrifice, which we are about to detail no less than thirteen were doomed to the fire.
Each one refusing to subscribe contrary to conscience, they were condemned, and the twenty-seventh of June, 1556, was appointed for their execution at Stratford-le-Bow. Their constancy and faith glorified their Redeemer, equally in life and in death.
Rev. Julius PalmerThis gentleman's life presents a singular instance of error and conversion. In the time of Edward, he was a rigid and obstinate papist, so adverse to godly and sincere preaching, that he was even despised by his own party; that this frame of mind should be changed, and he suffer persecution and death in Queen Mary's reign, are among those events of omnipotence at which we wonder and admire.
Mr. Palmer was born at Coventry, where his father had been mayor. Being afterward removed to Oxford, he became, under Mr. Harley, of Magdalen College, an elegant Latin and Greek scholar. He was fond of useful disputation, possessed of a lively wit, and a strong memory. Indefatigable in private study, he rose at four in the morning, and by this practice qualified himself to become reader in logic in Magralen College. The times of Edward, however, favoring the Reformation, Mr. Palmer became frequently punished for his contempt of prayer and orderly behavior, and was at length expelled the house.
He afterwards embraced the doctrines of the Reformation, which occasioned his arrest and final condemnation. A certain nobleman offered him his life if he would recant.
"If so," said he, "thou wilt dwell with me. And if thou wilt set thy mind to marriage, I will procure thee a wife and a farm, and help to stuff and fit thy farm for thee. How sayst thou?"
Palmer thanked him very courteously, but very modestly and reverently concluded that as he had already in two places renounced his living for Christ's sake, so he would with God's grace be ready to surrender and yield up his life also for the same, when God should send time.
When Sir Richard perceived that he would by no means relent:
"Well, Palmer," saith he, "then I perceive one of us twain shall be damned: for we be of two faiths, and certain I am there is but one faith that leadeth to life and salvation." Palmer: "O sir, I hope that we both shall be saved."
Sir Richard: "How may that be?"
Palmer: "Right well, sir. For as it hath pleased our merciful Savior, according to the Gospel's parable, to call me at the third hour of the day, even in my flowers, at the age of four and twenty years, even so I trust He hath called, and will call you, at the eleventh hour of this your old age, and give you everlasting life for your portion."
Sir Richard: "Sayest thou so? Well, Palmer, well, I would I might have thee but one month in my house: I doubt not but I would convert thee, or thou shouldst convert me."
Then said Master Winchcomb, "Take pity on thy golden years, and pleasant flowers of lusty youth, before it be too late."
Palmer: "Sir, I long for those springing flowers that shall never fade away."
He was tried on the fifteenth of July, 1556, together with one Thomas Askin, fellow prisoner. Askin and one John Guin had been sentenced the day before, and Mr. Palmer, on the fifteenth, was brought up for final judgment. Execution was ordered to follow the sentence, and at five o'clock in the same afternoon, at a place called the Sand-pits, these three martyrs were fastened to a stake. After devoutly praying together, they sung the Thirty-first Psalm.
When the fire was kindled, and it had seized their bodies, without an appearance of enduring pain, they continued to cry, "Lord Jesus, strengthen us! Lord Jesus receive our souls!" until animation was suspended and human suffering was past. It is remarkable, that, when their heads had fallen together in a mass as it were by the force of the flames, and the spectators thought Palmer as lifeless, his tongue and lips again moved, and were heard to pronounce the name of Jesus, to whom be glory and honor forever!
Joan Waste and OthersThis poor, honest woman, blind from her birth, and unmarried, aged twenty-two, was of the parish of Allhallows, Derby. Her father was a barber, and also made ropes for a living: in which she assisted him, and also learned to knit several articles of apparel. Refusing to communicate with those who maintained doctrines contrary to those she had learned in the days of the pious Edward, she was called before Dr. Draicot, the chancellor of Bishop Blaine, and Peter Finch, official of Derby.
With sophisitcal arguments and threats they endeavored to confound the poor girl; but she proffered to yield to the bishop's doctrine, if he would answer for her at the Day of Judgment, (as pious Dr. Taylor had done in his sermons) that his belief of the real presence of the Sacrament was true. The bishop at first answered that he would; but Dr. Draicot reminding him that he might not in any way answer for a heretic, he withdrew his confirmation of his own tenets; and she replied that if their consciences would not permit them to answer at God's bar for that truth they wished her to subscribe to, she would answer no more questions. Sentence was then adjudged, and Dr. Draicot appointed to preach her condemned sermon, which took place August 1, 1556, the day of her martyrdom. His fulminating discourse being finished, the poor, sightless object was taken to a place called Windmill Pit, near the town, where she for a time held her brother by the hand, and then prepared herself for the fire, calling upon the pitying multitude to pray with her, and upon Christ to have mercy upon her, until the glorious light of the everlasting Sun of righteousness beamed upon her departed spirit.
In November, fifteen martyrs were imprisoned in Canterbury castle, of whom all were either burnt or famished. Among the latter were J. Clark, D. Chittenden, W. Foster of Stonc, Alice Potkins, and J. Archer, of Cranbrooke, weaver. The two first of these had not received condemnation, but the others were sentenced to the fire. Foster, at his examination, observed upon the utility of carrying lighted candles about on Candlemas-day, that he might as well carry a pitchfork; and that a gibbet would have as good an effect as the cross.
We have now brought to a close the sanguinary proscriptions of the merciless Mary, in the year 1556, the number of which amounted to above EIGHTY-FOUR!
The beginning of the year 1557, was remarkable for the visit of Cardinal Pole to the University of Cambridge, which seemed to stand in need of much cleansing from heretical preachers and reformed doctrines. One object was also to play the popish farce of trying Martin Bucer and Paulus Phagius, who had been buried about three or four years; for which purpose the churches of St. Mary and St. Michael, where they lay, were interdicted as vile and unholy places, unfit to worship God in, until they were perfumed and washed with the pope's holy water, etc., etc. The trumpery act of citing these dead reformers to appear, not having had the least effect upon them, on January 26, sentence of condemnation was passed, part of which ran in this manner, and may serve as a specimen of proceedings of this nature: "We therefore pronounce the said Martin Bucer and Paulus Phagius excommunicated and anathematized, as well by the common law, as by letters of process; and that their memory be condemned, we also condemn their bodies and bones (which in that wicked time of schism, and other heresies flourishing in this kingdom, were rashly buried in holy ground) to be dug up, and cast far from the bodies and bones of the faithful, according to the holy canons, and we command that they and their writings, if any be there found, be publicly burnt; and we interdict all persons whatsoever of this university, town, or places adjacent, who shall read or conceal their heretical book, as well by the common law, as by our letters of process!"
After the sentence thus read, the bishop commanded their bodies to be dug out of their graves, and being degraded from holy orders, delivered them into the hands of the secular power; for it was not lawful for such innocent persons as they were, abhorring all bloodshed, and detesting all desire of murder, to put any man to death.
February 6, the bodies, enclosed as they were in chests, were carried into the midst of the market place at Cambrdige, accompanied by a vast concourse of people. A great post was set fast in the ground, to which the chests were affixed with a large iron chain, and bound round their centers, in the same manner as if the dead bodies had been alive. When the fire began to ascend, and caught the coffins, a number of condemned books were also launched into the flames, and burnt. Justice, however, was done to the memories of these pious and learned men in Queen Elizabeth's reign, when Mr. Ackworth, orator of the university, and Mr. J. Pilkington, pronounced orations in honor of their memory, and in reprobation of their Catholic persecutors.
Cardinal Pole also inflicted his harmless rage upon the dead body of Peter Martyr's wife, who, by his command, was dug out of her grave, and buried on a distant dunghill, partly because her bones lay near St. Fridewide's relics, held once in great esteem in that college, and partly because he wished to purify Oxford of heretical remains as well as Cambridge. In the succeeding reign, however, her remains were restored to their former cemetery, and even intermingled with those of the Catholic saint, to the utter astonishment and mortification of the disciples of his holiness the pope.
Cardinal Pole published a list of fifty-four articles, containing instructions to the clergy of his diocese of Canterbury, some of which are too ludicrous and puerile to excite any other sentiment than laughter in these days.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Spiritual growth (1)
11/26/2017 Bob Gass
‘In due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.’
(Ga 6:9) 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. ESV
A high-rise construction worker slipped and fell from a scaffold forty floors up. As he was plummeting past the twentieth-floor window, a woman in an office shouted out, ‘How are you doing?’ The man replied, ‘So far, so good!’ Seriously, some days spiritual growth feels like two steps forward and three steps back. It doesn’t come easily; that’s why Paul encourages us not to lose heart. Generally speaking, you don’t notice yourself getting older physically until you see an earlier photo, then it hits you. And it’s the same with spiritual growth; it’s hard to gauge how far you’ve come until you look back and see where you were before Jesus turned your life around. The Bible says, ‘As the Spirit…works within us, we become more…like him’ (2 Corinthians 3:18 TLB). But growing up involves growing pains! So when you get discouraged, remind yourself that you’re on a spiritual journey, you’re making progress in spite of your problems, and that the devil will always look for ways to remind you how far you still have to go. Don’t listen to him! Jesus said, ‘Everything he says is a lie’ (John 8:44 CEV). If you get discouraged and give up, Satan wins. The Bible says, ‘Capture…rebellious thoughts…teach them to obey Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NLT). Learn to live beyond your feelings, to dig down inside to where God’s Spirit lives. And take heart: it may not always look like it, but each day you’re maturing and growing stronger in Christ. So don’t even think about quitting.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
In 1789, President George Washington proclaimed the first National Day of Thanksgiving. He wrote: “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will… I do recommend… Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November… to be devoted by the People of these United States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” Washington continued: “that we may… humbly offer our prayers… to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national… transgressions.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
I see your point. But you must admit that Scripture doesn't take the slightest pains to guard the doctrine of Divine Impassibility. We are constantly represented as exciting the Divine wrath or pity-even as "grieving" God. I know this language is analogical. But when we say that, we must not smuggle in the idea that we can throw the analogy away and, as it were, get in behind it to a purely literal truth. All we can really substitute for the analogical expression is some theological abstraction. And the abstraction's value is almost entirely negative. It warns us against drawing absurd consequences from the analogical expression by prosaic extrapolations. By itself, the abstraction "impassible,., can get us nowhere. It might even suggest something far more misleading than the most naif Old Testament picture of a stormily emotional Jehovah. Either something inert, or something which was "Pure Act" in such a sense that it could take no account of events within the universe it had created.
I suggest two rules for exegetics: 1) Never take the images literally. 2) When the purport of the images-what they say to our fear and hope and will and affections-seems to conflict with the theological abstractions, trust the purport of the images every time. For our abstract thinking is itself a tissue of analogies: a continual modelling of spiritual reality in legal or chemical or mechanical terms. Are these likely to be more adequate than the sensuous, organic, and personal images of Scripture-light and darkness, river and well, seed and harvest, master and servant, hen and chickens, father and child? The footprints of the Divine are more visible in that rich soil than across rocks or slag-heaps. Hence what they now call "demythologising" Christianity can easily be "re-mythologising" it-and substituting a poorer mythology for a richer.
I agree that my deliberately vague expression about our prayers being "taken into account" is a retreat from Pascal's magnificent dictum ("God has instituted prayer so as to confer upon His creatures the dignity of being causes"). But Pascal really does suggest a far too explicit agent-and patient relation, with God as the patient. And I have another ground for preferring my own more modest formula. To think of our prayers as just "causes" would suggest that the whole importance of petitionary prayer lay in the achievement of the thing asked for. But really, for our spiritual life as a whole, the "being taken into account," or "considered," matters more than the being granted. Religious people don't talk about the "results" of prayer; they talk of its being "answered" or "heard." Someone said, "A suitor wants his suit to be heard as well as granted." In suits to God, if they are really religious acts at all and not merely attempts at magic, this is even more so. We can bear to be refused but not to be ignored. In other words, our faith can survive many refusals if they really are refusals and not mere disregards. The apparent stone will be bread to us if we believe that a• Father's hand put it into ours, in mercy or in justice or even in rebuke. It is hard and bitter, yet it can be chewed and swallowed. But if, having prayed for our heart's desire and got it, we then became convinced that this was a mere accident-that providential designs which had only some quite different end just couldn't help throwing out this satisfaction for us as a by-product-then the apparent bread would be come a stone. A pretty stone, perhaps, or even a precious stone. But not edible to the soul.
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
You are a man, not God;
you are human, not an angel.
How can you expect to remain
always in a constant state of virtue,
when this was not possible
even for an angel of heaven,
nor for the first man in the Garden?
--- Thomas à Kempis
It is a high Christian privilege to pray for one another within each local church body and then for other believers throughout the world. As a Christian minister, I have no right to preach to people I have not prayed for. That is my strong conviction.
--- A. W. Tozer
Tragedy in the Church: The Missing Gifts
It is easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.
--- Alfred Adler
Painting is an attempt to come to terms with life. There are as many solutions as there are human beings.
--- George Tooker
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
but a child left to himself brings shame on his mother.
16 When the wicked flourish, wrongdoing flourishes;
but the righteous will witness their downfall.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The secret of spiritual coherence
But God forbid that I should glory, … --- Gal. 6:14.
When a man is first born again, he becomes incoherent, there is an amount of unrelated emotion about him, unrelated phases of external things. In the apostle Paul there was a strong steady coherence underneath, consequently he could let his external life change as it liked and it did not distress him, because he was rooted and grounded in God. Most of us are not spiritually coherent because we are more concerned about being coherent externally. Paul lived in the basement; the coherent critics live in the upper storey of the external statement of things, and the two do not begin to touch each other. Paul’s consistency was down in the fundamentals. The great basis of his coherence was the agony of God in the Redemption of the world, viz., the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Re-state to yourself what you believe, then do away with as much of it as possible, and get back to the bedrock of the Cross of Christ. In external history the Cross is an infinitesimal thing; from the Bible point of view it is of more importance than all the empires of the world. If we get away from brooding on the tragedy of God upon the Cross in our preaching, it produces nothing. It does not convey the energy of God to man; it may be interesting but it has no power. But preach the Cross, and the energy of God is let loose. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” “We preach Christ crucified.”
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
It was quiet. What had the sentry
to cry, but that it was the ninth hour
and all was not well? The darkness
began to lift, but it was not the mind
was illumined. The carpenter
had done his work well to sustain
the carpenter's burden; the Cross an example
of the power of art to transcend timber.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
At the end of the “Book of Knowledge” of the Mishneh Torah, and in the Guide, Maimonides interpreted the Song of Songs as an expression of the all-consuming passion of love which claims the lover’s attention to the exclusion of every other concern. The religious philosopher is not content to know that were he asked he could demonstrate God’s existence. For Maimonides, knowledge of God is not a static fund of information, it is an activity wherein one actively reflects on God.
Those philosophers who aspire to worship God know that “The more they think of Him and of being with Him, the more their worship increases.” The religious philosopher’s goal is not to achieve intellectual expertise in the manner of the skillful scribe who spends only a part of his time actually writing. To describe the goal of individual excellence in Maimonides’ thought as “intellectual virtue” is to miss the passionate love characterizing the religious philosopher’s relationship to the object of his knowledge.11 To Maimonides, the importance of philosophy is that it enables one to become a passionate lover of God. Maimonides interprets Psalm 91 as referring to the philosopher’s level of worship of God:
“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high because he has known My name.” We have already explained in preceding chapters that the meaning of “knowledge of the name” is: apprehension of Him. It is as if [the psalm] said that this individual is protected because he has known Me and then passionately loved Me. You know the difference between the terms “one who loves [oheb]” and “one who loves passionately [ḥoshek]”; an excess of love [mahabbah], so that no thought remains that is directed toward a thing other than the beloved, is passionate love [ishq].
The intoxicated lover of God represents the philosopher who strives to eliminate any distraction from the joy of intellectual love of God.
In Maimonides’ description of the lover’s yearning for solitude one can sense the terrible emptiness the lover feels upon being separated from his beloved:
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. Mostly this is achieved in solitude and isolation. Hence every excellent man stays frequently in solitude and does not meet anyone unless it is necessary.
The religious passion which the intellect makes possible leads one to view ordinary social interactions as a burden:
When, however, you are alone with yourself and no one else is there and while you lie awake upon your bed you should take great care during these precious times not to set your thought to work on anything other than that intellectual worship consisting in nearness to God and being in His presence in that true reality that I have made known to you and not by way of affections of the imagination.
Once one recognizes that the highest spiritual ideal, according to Maimonides, is ḥoshek, the passionate activity of joyful contemplation of God, one must consider how the aspiration toward this ideal affects one’s total way of life.
The way of life of the philosophic lover of God, as it is expressed in the descent to the everyday world, is different from the way of life of one who aspires to knowledge of God. In preparing himself to “enter into the chambers of the king,” the philosopher has no difficulty accepting the physical needs entailed in living as a human being; the ascent is characterized by the attempt to limit the satisfaction of those needs only to necessities. In preparing for the ascent, the struggle is within the individual. Will excessive hungers draw him to a life of unrestrained pleasure-seeking, or will the intellect define his needs and his desires? Once intellectual love of God is the defining feature of one’s life, the problem is the elimination of any human involvement which impinges upon one’s active love of God. There is no difficulty in satisfying minimal physical needs when attempting to materialize intellectual capacities. But when one strives to reach the passion of intellectual love, even attending to human necessities becomes a burden:
Know that even if you were the man who knew most the true reality of the Divine science, you would cut that bond existing between you and God if you would empty your thought of God and busy yourself totally in eating the necessary or in occupying yourself with the necessary. You would not be with Him then, nor He with you. For that relation between you and Him is actually broken off at that time. It is for this reason that excellent men begrudge the times in which they are turned away from Him by other occupations and warn against this, saying: “Do not let God be absent from your thought.”
According to Maimonides, a person’s attitude to his physical needs changes when he becomes capable of intellectual love of God. It is important, therefore, when evaluating Maimonides’ writings, to ascertain whether he is discussing the necessary conditions for achieving intellectual understanding, or whether he is describing the life pattern of one who seeks to be actively engaged in passionate love for God (ḥoshek).
An analysis of Maimonides’ statements about Halakhah at the end of the Guide will indicate that the ascent-descent background is operative in Maimonides’ understanding and appreciation of the law. In the context of ascent, the Halakhah guides and educates the community toward knowledge of God. The law aims to eliminate idolatry and social wrongdoing and also to structure a communal way of life which would make possible the individual’s ascent toward intellectual love of God. The Torah leads the community toward love of God by cultivating moral habits, by abolishing wrongdoing in society, and by communicating correct opinions—God’s existence, unity, and eternity.
As distinct from this training, the Halakhah of the descent—after knowledge of God has been acquired, is a discipline which trains the philosopher to empty his thoughts of everything except God:
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.
As there is such an admirable meeting of diverse virtues in Christ, so there is everything in him to render him worthy of your love and choice and to win and engage it. The Excellency of Christ Whatever there is or can be desirable in a friend is in Christ and that to the highest degree that can be desired.
Would you choose for a friend a person of great dignity? [People like] to have those for their friends who are much above them, because they look on themselves honored by the friendship of such. Christ is infinitely above you and above all the princes of the earth, for he is the King of Kings. So honorable a person as this offers himself to you in the nearest and dearest friendship.
And would you choose to have a friend not only great but good? In Christ infinite greatness and infinite goodness meet together and receive luster and glory from one another. His greatness is rendered lovely by his goodness. And how glorious is the sight, to see him who is the great Creator and supreme Lord of heaven and earth, full of condescension, tender pity, and mercy toward the degraded and unworthy! His almighty power and infinite majesty and self-sufficiency render his great love and grace the more surprising. And his condescension and compassion endear his majesty, power, and dominion and render those attributes pleasant that would otherwise be only terrible.
Would you choose not only that the infinite greatness and majesty of your friend would be tempered and sweetened with condescension and grace, but would you also desire to have your friend brought nearer to you? Would you choose a friend far above you and yet on a level with you too? Thus is Christ. Though he is the great God, yet he has brought himself down to be on a level with you, to become human as you are, that he might not only be your Lord but your brother and that he might be the more fit to be a companion for such a worm of the dust. This is one purpose of Christ’s taking on him human nature, that his people might have the advantage of more familiar dealings with him than the infinite distance of the divine nature would allow. One design of God in the Gospel is to bring us to make God the object of our undivided respect, that he may engross our regard every way, that whatever natural inclination there is in our souls, he may be the center of it, that God may be all in all.
--- Jonathan Edwards
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
A Tiny Spark
The power of simple words is immense, as James 3:5 indicates: “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” Never was this truer than on November 26, 1095, the date of the most effective sermon ever preached by pope, preacher, or prince. It was Pope Urban II’s sermon in Clermont, France, launching the Crusades.
For many years, the Christian world had fretted over the capture of Palestine by the Muslim Turks. Finally Pope Urban addressed the subject at the church council in Clermont. He spoke in an open field to both clerics and the general public, passionately describing how the Turks, an “accursed race,” had devastated the kingdom of God by fire, pillage, and sword. Jerusalem, the “navel of the world,” was laid waste. Antioch was ruined. The Holy Land was in the hands of barbarians. It must be liberated.
The crowd, whipped into a frenzy, began chanting, “God wills it! God wills it!” Urban II replied, “It is the will of God. Let these words be your war cry when you unsheathe the sword. You are soldiers of the cross. Wear on your breasts or shoulders the blood-red sign of the cross.”
Thousands immedately sewed the cross on their clothing or had it branded with flaming irons to bare skin. The fervor swept across the Continent. A new era in European history began as the crusading passion, inspired by its pope, took hold of its people. The era of the Crusades stretched from 1096 to 1291, and in the light of history is seen as a horrible mistake. The kingdom of God cannot be furthered militarily. The Crusades, only partially and temporarily successful in “liberating” Palestine, produced 200 years of abuses, excesses, deaths, diseases, violence, cruelty, and reproach.
It takes only a spark to start a forest fire! The tongue is like a spark. It is an evil power that dirties the rest of the body and sets a person’s entire life on fire with flames that come from hell itself. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures can be tamed and have been tamed. But our tongues get out of control.
--- James 3:5b-8a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
God Is In The Manger (2)
In the book ... The four Advent weeks are arranged by theme-waiting, mystery, redemption, and incarnation-and are followed by devotions for the twelve days of Christmas, which stretch from Christmas Day until January 5, just before the liturgical feast of Epiphany. These last entries are dated, since the twelve days of Christmas always begin on December 25 and end on January 5, unlike the varying days of Advent. This book also includes a final reflection for January 6, the feast of Epiphany.
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 26
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” --- Ecclesiastes 9:10.
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,” refers to works that are possible. There are many things which our heart findeth to do which we never shall do. It is well it is in our heart; but if we would be eminently useful, we must not be content with forming schemes in our heart, and talking of them; we must practically carry out “whatsoever our hand findeth to do.” One good deed is more worth than a thousand brilliant theories. Let us not wait for large opportunities, or for a different kind of work, but do just the things we “find to do” day by day. We have no other time in which to live. The past is gone; the future has not arrived; we never shall have any time but time present. Then do not wait until your experience has ripened into maturity before you attempt to serve God. Endeavour now to bring forth fruit. Serve God now, but be careful as to the way in which you perform what you find to do—“do it with thy might.” Do it promptly; do not fritter away your life in thinking of what you intend to do to-morrow as if that could recompense for the idleness of to-day. No man ever served God by doing things to-morrow. If we honour Christ and are blessed, it is by the things which we do to-day. Whatever you do for Christ throw your whole soul into it. Do not give Christ a little slurred labour, done as a matter of course now and then; but when you do serve him, do it with heart, and soul, and strength.
But where is the might of a Christian? It is not in himself, for he is perfect weakness. His might lieth in the Lord of Hosts. Then let us seek his help; let us proceed with prayer and faith, and when we have done what our “hand findeth to do,” let us wait upon the Lord for his blessing. What we do thus will be well done, and will not fail in its effect.
Evening - November 26
“They shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel.” --- Zechariah 4:10.
Small things marked the beginning of the work in the hand of Zerubbabel, but none might despise it, for the Lord had raised up one who would persevere until the headstone should be brought forth with shoutings. The plummet was in good hands. Here is the comfort of every believer in the Lord Jesus; let the work of grace be ever so small in its beginnings, the plummet is in good hands, a master builder greater than Solomon has undertaken the raising of the heavenly temple, and he will not fail nor be discouraged till the topmost pinnacle shall be raised. If the plummet were in the hand of any merely human being, we might fear for the building, but the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in Jesus’ hand. The works did not proceed irregularly, and without care, for the master’s hand carried a good instrument. Had the walls been hurriedly run up without due superintendence, they might have been out of the perpendicular; but the plummet was used by the chosen overseer. Jesus is evermore watching the erection of his spiritual temple, that it may be built securely and well. We are for haste, but Jesus is for judgment. He will use the plummet, and that which is out of line must come down, every stone of it. Hence the failure of many a flattering work, the overthrow of many a glittering profession. It is not for us to judge the Lord’s church, since Jesus has a steady hand, and a true eye, and can use the plummet well. Do we not rejoice to see judgment left to him?
The plummet was in active use—it was in the builder’s hand; a sure indication that he meant to push on the work to completion. O Lord Jesus, how would we indeed be glad if we could see thee at thy great work. O Zion, the beautiful, thy walls are still in ruins! Rise, thou glorious Builder, and make her desolations to rejoice at thy coming.
Morning and Evening
THANK YOU, LORD
Words and Music by Seth Sykes, 1892–1950 and Bessie Sykes, 1905–
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15
The gift of salvation—a personal relationship with almighty God—what an indescribable gift! Yet how often do we sincerely thank our Lord for all that He has done in making this possible? Our lack of praise and thanksgiving for His gift of salvation can be likened to the response of the ten lepers after being miraculously healed by Christ (Luke 17:11–19). Only one returned to express gratitude. The interest of the other nine was centered more in what had happened to them personally than in remembering the One who had performed the miracle in their lives. Are we ever guilty of this same carelessness?
It is interesting to imagine the life-long remorse that characterized these nine ungrateful lives:
I meant to go back, but you may guess
I was filled with amazement, I cannot express
To think that after those horrible years,
that passion of loathing and passion of fears,
Of sores unendurable—eaten, defiled
—my flesh was as smooth as the flesh of a child.
I was drunken with joy; I was crazy with glee;
I scarcely could walk and I scarcely could see,
For the dazzle of sunshine where all had been black;
but I meant to go back, Oh, I meant to go back!
I had thought to return, when people came out;
there were tears of rejoicing and laughter and shout;
My cup was so full I seemed nothing to lack!
But I meant to go back, Oh, I meant to go back!
The words of this hymn have been greatly used of God since they were written in 1940 to allow believers to offer praise for the gift of their salvation ---
Some thank the Lord for friends and home, for mercies sure and sweet; but I would praise Him for His grace—in prayer I would repeat:
Some thank Him for the flow’rs that grow, some for the stars that shine. My heart is filled with joy and praise because I know He’s mine.
I trust in Him from day to day; I prove His saving grace; I’ll sing this song of praise to Him until I see His face.
Chorus: Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul; thank you, Lord, for making me whole. Thank you, Lord, for giving to me Thy great salvation so rich and free.
For Today: Psalm 100:4; 116:12, 14; 147:7; Philippians 4:6, 7; Colossians 2:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Pause even now and praise God for Himself and His gift of personal salvation on your behalf. Carry this musical prayer with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
IV. The fourth thing is the manifestation of this goodness in Creation, Redemption, and Providence.
First, In Creation. This is apparent from what hath been said before, that no other attribute could be the motive of his creating, but his goodness; his goodness was the cause that he made any thing, and his wisdom was the cause that he made every thing in order
and harmony. He pronounced “every thing good,” i.e. such as became his goodness to bring forth into being, and rested in them
more, as they were stamps of his goodness, than as they were marks of his power, or beams of his wisdom. And if all creatures were
able to answer to this question, What that was which created them? the answer would be, Almighty power, but employed by the
motion of infinite goodness. All the varieties of creatures are so many apparitions of this goodness. Though God be one, yet he cannot
appear as a God but in variety. As the greatness of power is not manifest but in variety of works, and an acute understanding not
discovered but in variety of reasonings, so an infinite goodness is not so apparent as in variety of communications.
1. The creation proceeds from goodness. It is the goodness of God to extract such multitutes of things from the depths of nothing. Because God is good, things have a being; if he had not been good, nothing could have been good: nothing could leave imparted that which it possessed not; nothing but goodness could have communicated to things an excellency, which before they wanted. Being is much more excellent than nothing. By this goodness, therefore, the whole creation was brought out of the dark womb of nothing; this formed their natures, this beautified them with their several ornaments and perfections, whereby everything was enabled to act for the good of the common world. God did not create things because he was a living Being, but because he was a good Being. No creature brought forth anything in the world merely because it is, but because it is good, and by a communicated goodness fitted for such a production. If God had been the creating principle of things only as he was a living Being, or as he was an understanding Being, then all things should have partaken of life and understanding, because all things were to bear some characters of the Deity upon them. If by understanding, solely, God were the Creator of all things, all things should have borne the mark of the Deity upon them, and should have been more or less understanding; but he created things as he was good, and by goodness he renders all things more or less like himself: hence everything is accounted more noble, not in regard of its being, but in regard of the beneficialness of its nature. The being of things was not the end of God in creating, but the goodness of their being. God did not rest from his works because they were his works, i.e. because they bad a being; but because they had a good being (Gen. 1.); because they were naturally useful to the universe: nothing was more pleasing to him, than to behold those shadows and copies of his own goodness in his works.
2. Creation was the first act of goodness without himself. When he was alone from eternity, he contented himself with himself, abounding in his own blessedness, delighting in that abundance; he was incomprehensively rich in the possession of an unstained felicity. This creation was the first efflux of his goodness without himself for the work of creation cannot be called a work of mercy. Mercy supposeth a creature miserable, but that which hath no being is subject to no misery; for to be miserable supposeth a nature in being, and deprived of that good which belongs to the pleasure and felicity of nature; but since there was no being, there could be no misery. The creation, therefore, was not an act of mercy, but an act of sole goodness; and, therefore, it was the speech of an heathen, that when God first set upon the creation of the world, he transformed himself into love and goodness, Είρ ρωτα μεταβλθαι τν θεὸν μέλλοιτα δημιουργεῖν. This led forth, and animated his power, the first moment it drew the universe out of the womb of nothing. And,
3. There is not one creature but hath a character of his goodness. The whole world is a map to represent, and a herald to proclaim this perfection. It is as difficult not to see something of it in every creature with the eye of our minds, as it is not to see the beams of the shining sun with those off our bodies. “He is good to all” (Psalm 145:9); he is, therefore, good in all; not a drop of the creation, but is a drop of his goodness. These are the colors worn upon the heads of every creature. As in every spark the light of the fire is manifested, so doth every grain of the creation wear the visible badges of this perfection. In all the lights, the Father of Lights hath made the riches of goodness apparent; no creature is silent in it; it is legible to all nations in every work of his hands. That, as it is said of Christ (Psalm 40:7), “In the volume of thy book it is written of me:” In the volume of the book of the Scripture it is written of me, and my goodness in redemption: so it may be said of God, In the volume of the book of the creature it is written of me, and my goodness in creation. Every creature is a page in this book, whose “line is gone through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:4); though, indeed, the less goodness in some is obscured by the more resplendent goodness he hath imparted unto others. What an admirable piece of goodness is it to communicate life to a fly! How should we stand gazing upon it, till we turn our eye inwards, and view our own frame, which is much more ravishing!
But let us see the goodness of God in the creation of man, —in the being and nature of man. God hath, with a liberal hand, conferred upon every creature the best being it was capable of in that station and order, and conducing to that end and use in the world he intended it for. But when you have run over all the measures of goodness God hath poured forth upon other creatures, you will find a greater fulness of it in the nature of man, whom he hath placed in a more sublime condition, and endued with choicer prerogatives, than other creatures: he was made but little lower than the angels, and much more loftily crowned with glory and honor than other creatures (Psalm 8:5). Had it not been for Divine goodness, that excellent creature had lain wrapt up in the abyss of nothing; or if he had called it out of nothing, there might have been less of skill and less of goodness displayed in the forming of it, and a lesser kind of being imparted to it, than what he hath conferred.
1. How much of goodness is visible in his body! God drew out some part of the dust of the ground, and copied out this perfection, as well as that of his power, on that mean matter, by erecting it into the form of a man, quickening that earth by the inspiration of a “living soul” (Gen. 2:7): of this matter he composed an excellent body, in regard of the majesty of the face, erectness of its stature, and grace of every part. How neatly hath he wrought this “tabernacle of clay, this earthly house,” as the apostle calls it (2 Cor. 5:1)! a curious wrought piece of needle-work, a comely artifice (Psalm 139:10), an embroidered case for an harmonious lute. What variety of members, with a due proportion, without confusion , beautiful to sight, excellent for use, powerful for strength! It hath eyes to conduct its motion, to serve in matter for the food, and delight of the understanding; ears to let in the pleasure of sound, to convey intelligence of the affairs of the world, and the counsels of heaven, to a more noble mind. It hath a tongue to express and sound forth what the learned inhabitant in it thinks; and hands to act what the inward counsellor directs; and feet to support the fabric. It is tempered with a kindly heat, and an oily moisture for motion, and endued with conveyances for air, to qualify the fury of the heat, and nourishment to supply the decays of moisture. It is a cabinet fitted by Divine goodness for the enclosing a rich jewel; a palace made of dust, to lodge in it the viceroy of the world; an instrument disposed for the operations of the nobler soul which he intended to unite to that refined matter. What is there in the situation of every part, in the proportion of every member, in the usefulness of every limb and string to the offices of the body, and service of the soul; what is there in the whole structure that doth not inform us of the goodness of God?
2. But what is this to that goodness which shines in the nature of the soul? Who can express the wonders of that comeliness that is wrapped up in this mask of clay? A soul endued with a clearness of understanding and freedom of will: faculties no sooner framed, but they were able to produce the operation they were intended for; a soul that excelled the whole world, that comprehended the whole creation; a soul that evidenced the extent of its skill in giving names to all that variety of creatures which had issued out of the hand of Divine Power (Gen. 2:19); a soul able to discover the nature of other creatures, and manage and conduct their motions. In the ruins of a palace we may see the curiosity displayed, and the cost expended in the building of it; in the ruins of this fallen structure, we still find it capable of a mighty knowledge; a reason able to regulate affairs, govern states, order more mighty and massy creatures, find out witty inventions; there is still an understanding to irradiate the other faculties, a mind to contemplate its own Creator, a judgment to discern the differences between good and evil, vice and virtue, which the goodness of God hath not granted to any lower creature. These excellent faculties, together with the power of self-reflection, and the swiftness of the mind in running over the things of the creation, are astonishing gleams of the vast goodness of that Divine Hand which ennobled this frame. To the other creatures of this world, God had given out some small mites from his treasury; but in the perfections of man, he hath opened the more secret parts of his exchequer, and liberally bestowed those doles, which he hath not expended upon the other creatures on earth.
3. Besides this, he did not only make man so noble a creature in his frame, but “he made him after his own image in holiness.” He imparted to him a spark of his own comeliness, in order to a communion with himself in happiness, had man stood his ground in his trial, and used those faculties well, which had been the gift of his Bountiful Creator: he “made man after his image,” after his own image (Gen. 1:26, 27); that as a coin bears the image of the prince, so did the soul of man the “image of God:” not the image of angels, though the speech be in the plural number: “Let us make man.” It is not to a creature, but to a Creator; let “us,” that are his makers, make him in the image of his makers. God created man, angels did not create him; God created man in his “own” image, not, therefore, in the image of angels: the nature of God, and the nature of angels, are not the same. Where, in the whole Scripture, is man said to be made after the image of angels? God made man not in the image of angels, to be conformed to them as his prototype, but in the image of the blessed God, to be conformed to the Divine nature: that as he, was conformed to the image of his holiness, he might also partake of the image of his blessedness, which, without it, could not be attained: for as the felicity of God could not be clear without an unspotted holiness, so neither can there be a glorious happiness without purity in the creature; this God provided for in his creation of man, giving him such accomplishments in those two excellent pieces of soul and body, that nothing was wanting to him but his own will, to instate him in an invariable felicity. He was possessed with such a nature by the hand of Divine Goodness, such a loftiness of understanding, and purity of faculties, that he might have been for ever happy as welt as the standing angels: and he was placed in such a condition, that moved the envy of fallen spirits; he had as much grace bestowed upon him, as was proportionable to that covenant God then made with him: the tenor of which was, that his life should continue so long as his obedience, and his happiness endure so long as his integrity: and as God, by creation, had given him an integrity of nature, so he had given him a power to persist in it, if he would. Herein is the goodness of God displayed, that he made man after his own image.
4. As to the life of man in this world, God, by an immense goodness, copied out in him the whole creation, and made him an abridgment of the higher and lower world, —a little world in a greater one. The link of the two worlds, of heaven and earth, as the spiritual and corporeal natures are united in him, the earth in the dust of his body, and the heavens in the crystal of his soul: he hath the upper springs of the life of angels in his reason, and the nether springs of the life of animals in his sense. God displayed those virtues in man, which he had discovered in the rest of the lower creation; but, besides the communication which he had with earth in his nature, God gave him a participation with heaven in his spirit. A mere bodily being he hath given to the heavens, earth, elements; a vegetative life, or a life of growth, he hath vouchsafed to the plants of the ground: he hath stretched out his liberality more to animals and beasts, by giving them sense. All these hath his goodness linked in man, being, life, sense, with a richer dole than any of those creatures have received in a rational, intellectual life, whereby he approacheth to the nature of angels. This some of the Jews understood (Gen. 2:7): “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life , and man became a living soul,” חיום , breath of lives, in the Hebrew; not one sort of life, but that variety of lives which he had imparted to other creatures: all the perfections scattered in other creatures do unitedly meet in man: so that Philo might well call him “every creature, the model of the whole creation:” his soul is heaven, and his body is earth. So that the immensity of his goodness to man, is as great as all that goodness you behold in sensitive and intelligible things.
5. All this was free goodness. God eternally possessed his own felicity in himself, and had no need of the existence of anything without himself for his satisfaction. Man, before his being, could have no good qualities to invite God to make him so excellent a fabric: for, being nothing, he was as unable to allure and merit, as to bring himself into being; nay, he created a multitude of men, who, he foresaw would behave themselves in as ungrateful a manner, as if they had not been his creatures, but had bestowed that rich variety upon themselves without the hand of a superior Benefactor. How great is this goodness, that hath made us models of the whole creation, tied together heaven and earth in our nature, when he might have ranked us among the lower creatures of the earth, made us mere bodies as the stones, or mere animals as the brutes, and denied us those capacious souls, whereby we might both know him and enjoy him! What could man have been more, unless he had been the original, which was impossible? He could not be greater than to be an image of the Deity, an epitome of the whole. Well may we cry out with the Psalmist (Psalm 8:1, 4), “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name,” the name of thy goodness, “in all the earth!” How, more particularly in man! “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” What is a little God of earth and dust, that thou shouldst ennoble him with so rich a nature, and engrave upon him such characters of thy immense Being?
6. The goodness of God appears in the conveniences he provided for, and gave to man. As God gave him a being morally perfect in regard of righteousness, so he gave him a being naturally perfect in regard of delightful conveniences, which was the fruit of excellent goodness; since there was no quality in man, to invite God to provide him so rich a world, nor to bestow upon him so comely a being.
(1). The world was made for man. Since angels have not need of anything in this world, and are above the conveniences of earth and air, it will follow, that man, being the noblest creature on the earth, was the more immediate end of the visible creation. All inferior things are made to be subservient to those that have a more excellent prerogative of nature; and, therefore, all things for man, who exceeds all the rest in dignity: as man was made for the honor of God, so the world was made for the support and delight of man, in order to his performing the service due from him to God. The empire God settled man in as his lieutenant over the works of his lands, when he gave him possession of paradise, is a clear manifestation of it: God put all things under his feet, and gave him a deputed dominion over the rest of the creatures under himself, as the absolute sovereign (Psalm 8:6–8); “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen; yea, and the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea; yea, and whatsoever passeth over the paths of the sea.” What less is witnessed to by the calamity all creatures were subjected to by the corruption of man’s nature? Then was the earth cursed, and a black cloud flung upon the beauty of the creation, and the strength and vigor of it languisheth to this day under the curse of God (Gen. 2:17, 18), and groans under that vanity the sin of man subjected it to (Rom. 8:20, 22). The treasons of man against God brought misery upon that which was framed for the use of man: as when the majesty of a prince is violated by the treason and rebellion of his subjects, all that which belongs to them, and was, before the free gift of the prince to them, is forfeit; their habitations, palaces, cattle, all that belongs to them bear the marks of his sovereign fury: had not the delicacies of the earth been made for the use of man, they had not fallen under the indignation of God upon the sin of man. God crowned the earth with his goodness to gratify man; gave man a right to serve himself of the deliglitful creatures he had provided (Gen. 1:28–30); yea, and after man had forfeited all by sin, and God had washed again the creature in a deluge, he renews the creation, and delivers it again into the hand of man, binding all creatures to pay a respect to him, and recognise him as their Lord, either spontaneously, or by force; and commissions them all to fill the heart of man with “food and gladness” (Gen. 9:2, 3): and he loves all creatures as they conduce to the good of, and are serviceable to, his prime creature, which he set up for his own glory: and therefore, when he loves a person, he loves what belongs to him: he takes care of Jacob and his cattle: of penitent Nineveh and their cattle (Jonah 4:11): as when he sends judgments upon men he destroys their goods.
2. God richly furnished the world for man. He did not only erect a stately palace for his habitation, but provided all kind of furniture as a mark of his goodness, for the entertainment of his creature, man he arched over his habitation with a bespangled heaven, and floored it with a solid earth, and spread a curious wrought tapestry upon the ground where he was to tread, and seemed to sweep all the rubbish of the chaos to the two uninhabitable poles. When at the first creation of the matter the waters covered the earth, and rendered it uninhabitable for man, God drained them into the proper channels he had founded for them, and set a bound that they might not pass over, that they turn not again to “cover the earth” (Gen. 1:9.) They fled and hasted away to their proper stations (Psalm 104:7–9), as if they were ambitious to deny their own nature, and content themselves with an imprisonment for the convenient habitation of Him who was to be appointed Lord of the world. He hath set up standing lights in the heaven, to direct our motion, and to regulate the seasons: the sun was created, that man might see to “go forth to his labor” (Psalm 104:22, 23): both sun and moon, though set in the heaven, were formed to “give light” on the earth (Gen. 1:1, 17). The air is his aviary, the sea and rivers his fish-ponds, the valleys his granary, the mountains his magazine; the first afford man creatures for nourishment, the other metals for perfection: the animals were created for the support of the life of man; the herbs of the ground were provided for the maintenance of their lives; and gentle dews, and moistening showers, and, in some places, slimy floods appointed to render the earth fruitful, and capable to offer man and beast what was fit for their nourishment. He hath peopled every element with a variety of creatures both for necessity and delight; all furnished with useful qualities for the service of man. There is not the most despicable thing in the whole creation but it is endued with a nature to contribute something for our welfare: either as food to nourish us when we are healthful; or as medicine to cure us when we are distempered; or as a garment to clothe us when we are naked, and arm us against the cold of the season; or as a refreshment when we are weary; or as a delight when we are sad: all serve for necessity or ornament, either to spread our table, beautify our dwellings, furnish our closets, or store our wardrobes (Psalm 104:24): “The whole earth is full of his riches.” Nothing but by the rich goodness of God is exquisitely accommodated, in the numerous brood of things, immediately or mediately for the use of man; all, in the issue, conspire together to render the world a delightful residence for man; and, therefore, all the living creatures were brought by God to attend upon man after his creation, to receive a mark of his dominion over them, by the “imposition of their names” (Gen. 2:19, 20). He did not only give variety of senses to man, but provided variety of delightful objects in the world for every sense; the beauties of light and colors for our eye, the harmony of sounds for our ear, the fragrancy of odors for our nostrils, and a delicious sweetness for our palates: some have qualities to pleasure; all, everything, a quality to pleasure, one or other: he doth not only present those things to our view, as rich men do in ostentation their goods, he makes us the enjoyers as well as the spectators, and gives us the use as well as the sight; and, therefore, he hath not only given us the sight, but the knowledge of them: he hath set up a sun in the heavens, to expose their outward beauty and conveniences to our sight; and the candle of the Lord is in us, to expose their inward qualities and conveniences to our knowledge, that we might serve ourselves of, and rejoice in, all this furniture wherewith he hath garnished the world, and have wherewithal to employ the inquisitiveness of our reason, as well as gratify the pleasures of our sense; and, particularly, God provided for innocent man a delightful mansion-house, a place of more special beauty and curiosity, the garden of Eden, a delightful paradise, a model of the beauties and pleasures of another world, wherein he had placed whatsoever might contribute to the felicity of a rational and animal life, the life of a creature composed of mire and dust, of sense and reason (Gen. 2:9). Besides the other delicacies consigned, in that place, to the use of man, there was a tree of life provided to maintain his being, and nothing denied, in the whole compass of that territory, but one tree, that of the knowledge of good and evil, which was no mark of an ill-will in his Creator to him, but a reserve of God’s absolute sovereignty, and a trial of man’s voluntary obedience. What blur was it to the goodness of God, to reserve one tree for his own propriety, when he had given to man, in all the rest, such numerous marks of his rich bounty and goodness? What Israel, after man’s fall, enjoyed sensibly, Nehemiah calls “great goodness” (Neh. 9:25). How inexpressible, then, was that goodness manifested to innocent man, when so small a part of it, indulged to the Israelites after the curse upon the ground, is called, as truly it merits, such great goodness! How can we pass through any part of this great city, and cast our eyes upon the well-furnished shops, stored with all kinds of commodities, without reflections upon this goodness of God starting up before our eyes in such varieties, and plainly telling us that he hath accommodated all things for our use, suited things, both to supply our need, content a reasonable curiosity, and delight us in our aims at, and passage to, our supreme end!
(3.) The goodness of God appears in the laws he hath given to man, the covenant he hath made with him. It had not been agreeable to the goodness of God to let a creature, governable by a law, be without a law to regulate him; his goodness then which had broke forth in the creation, had suffered an eclipse and obscurity in his government. As infinite goodness was the motive to create, so infinite goodness was the motive of his government. And this appears,
[1.] In the fitting the law to the nature of man. It was rather below than above his strength; he had an integrity in his nature to answer the righteousness of the precept. God created “man upright” (Eccles. 7:29); his nature was suited to the law, and the law to his nature; it was not above his understanding to know it, nor his will to embrace it, nor his passions to be regulated by it. The law and his nature were like to exact straight lines, touching one another in every part when joined together. God exacted no more by his law than what was written by nature in his heart: he had a knowledge by creation to observe the law of his creation, and he fell not for want of a righteousness in his nature: he was enabled for more than was commanded him, but wilfully indisposed to less than he was able to perform. The precepts were easy, not only becoming the authority of a sovereign to exact, but the goodness of a father to demand, and the ingenuity of a creature and a son to pay. “His commands are not grievous” (1 John 5:3); the observance of them had filled the spirit of man with an extraordinary contentment. It had been no less a pleasure and a delightful satisfaction to have kept the law in a created state, than it is to keep it in some measure in a renewed state. The renewed nature finds a suitableness in the law to kindle a “delight” (Psalm 1:2): it could not then have anywise shook the nature of an upright creature, nor have been a burden too heavy for his shoulders to bear. Though he had not a grace given him above nature, yet he had not a law given him that surmounted his nature: it did not exceed his created strength, and was suited to the dignity and nobility of a rational nature. It was a “just law” (Rom. 7:12), and, therefore, not above the nature of the subject that was bound to obey it. And had it been impossible to be observed, it had been unrighteous to be enacted: it had not been a matter of Divine praise, and that seven times a day; as it is, “Seven times a day do I praise thee, because of thy righteous judgments” (Psalm 119:164). The law was so righteous, that Adam had every whit as much reason to bless God in his innocence for the righteousness of it, as David had with the relics of enmity against it: his goodness shines so much in his law, as merits our praise of him, as he is a sovereign Lawgiver, as well as a gracious Benefactor, in the imparting to us a being.
[2.] In fitting it for the happiness of man. For the satisfaction of his soul, which finds a reward in the very act of keeping it, (Psalm 119:160), “Great peace in the loving it;” for the preservation of human society, wherein consists the external felicity of man. It had been inconsistent with the Divine goodness to enjoin man anything that should be oppressive and uncomfortable. Bitterness cannot come from that which is altogether sweet: goodness would not have obliged the creature to anything, but what is not only free from damaging him, but wholly conducing to his welfare, and perfective of his nature. Infinite wisdom could not order anything but what was agreeable to infinite goodness. As his laws are the most rational as being the contrivance of infinite wisdom; so they are the best, as being the fruit of infinite goodness. His laws are not only the acts of his sovereign authority, but the effluxes of his loving-kindness, and the conductors of man to an enjoyment of a greater bounty he minds as well the promotion of his creatures’ felicity, as the asserting his own authority; as good princes make laws for their subjects’ benefit as well as their own honor. What was said of a more difficult and burdensome law long after man’s fall, may much more be said of the easy law of nature in the state of man’s innocence, that it was ‘for our good’ (Deut. 10:12, 13). He never pleaded with the Israelites for the observation of his commands upon the account of his authority, so much as upon the score of their benefit by them (Deut. 4:40; 12:28). And when his precepts were broken, he seems sometimes to be more grieved for men’s impairing their own felicity by it, than for their violating his authority: “O, that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments, then had thy peace been as a river!” (Isa. 48:18). Goodness cannot prescribe a thing prejudicial: whatsoever it enjoins, is beneficial to the spiritual and eternal happiness of the rational creature: this was both the design of the law given, and the end of the law. Christ, in his answer to the young man’s question, refers him to the moral law, which was the law of nature in Adam, as that whereby eternal life was to be gained: which evidenceth, that when the law was first given as the covenant of works, it was for the happiness of man; and the end of giving it was, that man might have eternal life by it: there would else be no strength or truth in that answer of Christ to that Ruler. And, therefore, Stephen calls the law given by Moses, which was the same with the law of nature in Adam, “the living oracles” (Acts 7:38). He enjoined men’s services to them not simply for his own glory, but his glory in men’s welfare: as if there were any being better than himself, his goodness and righteousness would guide him to love that better than himself; because it is good and righteous to love that best which is most amiable: so, if there were any that could do us more good, and shower down more happiness upon us than himself, he would be content we should obey that as sovereign, and steer our course according to his laws: “If God be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). If the observance of the precepts of Baal be more beneficial to you; if you can advance your nature by his service, and gain a more mighty crown of happiness than by mine, follow him with all my heart: I never intended to enjoin you anything to impair, but increase your happiness. The chief design of God in his law is the happiness of the subject; and obedience is intended by him as a means for the attaining of happiness, as well as preserving his own sovereignty: this is the reason why he wished that Israel had walked in his ways, “that their time might have endured forever” (Psalm 81:13, 15, 16). And by the same reason, this was his intendment in his law given to man, and his covenant made with man at the creation, that he might be fed with the finest part of his bounty, and be satisfied with honey out of the eternal Rock of Ages. To paraphrase his expression there: — The goodness of God appears further,
[3.] In engaging man to obedience by promises and threatenings. A threatening is only mentioned (Gen. 2:17), but a promise is implied: if eternal death were fixed for transgression, eternal life was thereby designed for obedience: and that it was so, the answer of Christ to the Ruler evidenceth, that the first intendment of the precept was the eternal life of the subject, ordered to obey it.
1st. God might have acted, in settling his law, only as a sovereign. Though he might have dealt with man upon the score of his absolute dominion over him as his creature, and signified his pleasure upon the right of his sovereignty, threatening only a penalty if man transgressed, without the promising a bountiful acknowledgment of his obedience by a reward as a benefactor: yet he would treat with man in gentle methods, and rule him in a track of sweetness as well as sovereignty: he would preserve the rights of his dominion in the authority of his commands, and honor the condescensions of his goodness in the allurements of a promise. He that might have solely demanded a compliance with his will, would kindly article with him, to oblige him to observe him out of love to himself as well as duty to his Creator; that he might have both the interest of avoiding the threatened evil to affright him, and the interest of attaining the promised good to allure him to obedience. How doth he value the title of Benefactor above that of a Lord, when he so kindly solicits, as well as commands; and engageth to reward that obedience which he might have absolutely claimed as his due, by enforcing fears of the severest penalty! His sovereignty seems to stoop below itself for the elevation of his goodness; and he is pleased to have his kindness more taken notice of than his authority. Nothing imported more condescension than his bringing forth his law in the nature of a covenant, whereby he seems to humble himself, and veil his superiority to treat with man as his equal, that the very manner of his treatment might oblige him in the richest promises he made to draw him, and the startling threatenings he pronounced to link him to his obedience: and, therefore, is it observable, that when after the transgression of Adam God comes to deal with him, he doth not do it in that thundering rigor, which might have been expected from an enraged sovereign, but in a gentle examination (Gen. 3:11, 13): “Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat?” To the woman, he said no more than, “What is this that thou hast done?” And in the Scripture we find, when he cites the Israelites before him for their sin, he expostulates with them not so much upon the absolute right he had to challenge their obedience, as upon the equity and reasonableness of his law which they had transgressed; that by the same argument of sweetness, wherewith he would attract them to their duty, he might shame them after their offence (Isa. 1:2; Ezek. 18:25).
2d. By the threatenings he manifests his goodness as well as by his promises. He promises that he might be a rewarder, and threatens that he might not be a punisher; the one is to elevate our hope, and the other to excite our fear, the two passions whereby the nature of man is managed in the world. He imprints upon man sentiments of a misery by sin, in his thundering commination, that he might engage him the more to embrace and be guided by the motives of sweetness in his gracious promises. The design of them was to preserve man in his due bounds, that God might not have occasion to blow upon him the flames of his justice; to suppress those irregular passions, which the nature of man (though created without any disorder) was capable of entertaining upon the appearance of suitable objects; and to keep the waves from swelling upon any turning wind, that so man, being modest in the use of the goodness God had allowed him, might still be capable of fresh streams of Divine bounty, without ever falling under his righteous wrath for any transgression. What a prospect of goodness is in this proceeding, to disclose man’s happiness to be as durable as his innocence; and set before a rational creature the extremest misery due to his crime, to affright him from neglecting his Creator, and making unworthy returns to his goodness! What could be done more by goodness to suit that passion of fear which was implanted in the nature of man, than to assure him he should not degenerate from the righteousness of his nature, and violate the authority of his Creator, without falling from his own happiness, and sinking into the most deplorable calamity!
3d. The reward he promised manifests yet further his goodness to man. It was his goodness to intend a reward to man; no necessity could oblige God to reward man, had he continued obedient in his created state: for in all rewards which are truly merited, beside some kind of equality to be considered between the person doing service and the person rewarding, and also between the act performed and the reward bestowed, there must also be considered the condition of the person doing the service, that he is not obliged to do it as a duty, but is at his own choice whether to offer it or no. But man, being wholly dependent on God in his being and preservation, having nothing of his own, but what he had received from the hands of Divine bounty, his service was due by the strongest obligation to God (1 Cor. 4:7). But there was no natural engagement on God to return a reward to him; for man could return nothing of his own but that only which he had received from his Creator. It must be pure goodness that gives a gracious reward for a due debt, to receive his own from man, and return more than he had received. A Divine reward doth far surmount the value of a rational service. It was, therefore, a mighty goodness to stipulate with man, that upon his obedience he should enjoy an immortality in that nature. The article on man’s part was obedience, which was necessarily just, and founded in the nature of man; he had been unjust, ungrateful, and violated all laws of righteousness, had he committed any act unworthy of one that had been so great a subject of Divine liberality. But the article on God’s part, of giving a perpetual blessedness to innocent man, was not founded upon rules of strict justice and righteousness, for that would have argued God to be a debtor to man; but that God cannot be to the work of his hands, that had received the materials of his being and acting from hire, as the vessel doth from the potter. But this was founded only on the goodness of the Divine nature, whereby he cannot but be kind to an innocent and holy creature. The nature of God inclined him to it by the rules of goodness, but the service of man could not claim it by the rules of justice without a stipulation; so that the covenant whereby God obliged himself to continue the happiness of man upon the continuance of his obedience, in the original of it, springs from pure goodness; though the performance of it, upon the fulfilling condition required in the creature, was founded upon the rules of righteousness and truth, after Divine goodness had brought it forth. God did create man for a reward and happiness; now God’s implanting in the nature of man a desire after happiness, and some higher happiness than he had in creation invested him in, doth evidence that God did not create man only for his own service, but for his attaining a greater happiness. All rational creatures are possessed with a principle of seeking after good, the highest good, and God did not plant in man this principle in vain; it had not been goodness to put this principle in man, if he had designed never to bestow a happiness on man for his obedience: this had been repugnant to the goodness and wisdom of God; and the Scripture doth very emphatically express the felicity of man to be the design of God in the first forming him and moulding him a creature, as well as working him a new creature; “He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God” (2 Cor. 5:1, 5): he framed this earthly tabernacle for a residence in an eternal habitation, and a better habitation than an earthly paradise. What we expect in the resurrection, that very same thing God did in creation intend us for; but since the corruption of our natures, we must undergo a dissolution of our bodies, and may have just reason of a despondency, since sin hath seemed to change the course of God’s bounty, and brought us under a curse. He hath given us the earnest of his Spirit, as an assurance that he will perform that very self-same thing, the conferring that happiness upon renewed creatures for which he first formed man in creation, when he compacted his earthly tabernacle of the dust of the ground, and reared it up before him.
4th. It was a mighty goodness that God should give man an eternal reward. That an eternity of reward was promised, is implied in the death that was threatened upon transgression: whatsoever you conceive the threatened death to be, either for nature, or duration upon transgression; of the same nature and duration you must suppose the life to be, which is implied upon his constancy in his integrity. As sin would render him an eternal object of God’s hatred, so his obedience would render him an eternally amiable object to his Creator, as the standing angels are preserved and confirmed in an entire felicity and glory. Though the threatening be only expressed by God (Gen. 2:17),
Gen. 2:17 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” ESV
yet the other is implied, and might easily be concluded from it by Adam. And one reason why God only expressed the threatening, and not the promise, was, because man might collect some hopes and expectations of a perpetual happiness from that image of God which he beheld in himself, and from the large provision he had made for him in the world, and the commission given him to increase and multiply, and to rule as a lord over his other works; whereas he could not so easily have imagined himself capable of being exposed to such an extraordinary calamity as an eternal death, without some signification of it from God. It is easily concludable, that eternal life was supposed to be promised, to be conferred upon him if he stood, as well as eternal death to be inflicted on him if he rebelled. Now this eternal life was not due to his nature, but it was a pure beam, and gift of Divine goodness; for there was no proportion between man’s service in his innocent estate, and a reward so great both for nature and duration: it was a higher reward than can be imagined either due to the nature of man, or upon any natural right claimable by his obedience. All that could be expected by him was but a natural happiness, not a supernatural: as there was no necessity upon the account of natural righteousness, so there was no necessity upon the account of the goodness of God to elevate the nature of man to a supernatural happiness, merely because he created him: for though it be necessary for God, when he would create, in regard of his wisdom, to create for some end, yet it was not necessary that end should be a supernatural end and happiness, since a natural blessedness had been sufficient for man. And though God, in creating angels and men intellectual and rational creatures, did make them necessary for himself and his own glory, yet it was not necessarily for him to order either angels or men to such a felicity as consists in a clear vision, and so high a fruition, of himself: for all other things are made by him for himself, and yet not for the vision of himself; God might have created man only for a natural happiness, according to the perfection of his natural faculties, and had dealt bountifully with him, if he had never intended him a supernatural blessedness and an eternal recompense: but what a largeness of goodness is here, to design man, in his creation, for so rich a blessedness as an eternal life, with the fruition of himself! He hath not only given to man all things which are necessary, but designed for man that which the poor creature could not imagine: he garnished the earth for him, and garnished him for an eternal felicity, had he not, by slighting the goodness of God, stripped himself of the present, and forfeited his future blessedness.
Secondly, The manifestation of this goodness in Redemption. The whole gospel is nothing but one entire mirror of Divine goodness the whole of redemption is wrapped up in that one expression of the angels’ song (Luke 2:14), “Good-will towards men.” The angels sang but one song before, which is upon record, but the matter of it seems to be the wisdom of God chiefly in creation (Job 38:7; compare chap. 9:5, 6, 8, 9). The angels are there meant by the “morning stars;” the visible stars of heaven were not distinctly formed when the foundations of the earth were laid: and the title of the sons of God verifies it, since none but creatures of understanding are dignified in Scripture with that title. There they celebrate his wisdom in creation; here his goodness in redemption, which is the entire matter of the song.
The Existence and Attributes of God