The Remnant of IsraelRomans 11 1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written,
“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”
“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and bend their backs forever.”
Gentiles Grafted In11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
A Living SacrificeRomans 12 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Gifts of Grace3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Marks of the True Christian9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Submission to the AuthoritiesRomans 13 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Fulfilling the Law Through Love8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
What I'm Reading
A Brief Review of Explanations Offered for the Resurrection
By J. Warner Wallace 9/2/2013
If you’ve been following along with us at ColdCaseChristianity.com, you already know we offer a free downloadable Bible Insert every month (located in the right toolbar of the homepage). Our inserts are brief reviews (or outlines) of important issues related to Christian Case Making. Each resource is created as a graphic image you can print and trim it to fit in your Bible, or upload it to your phone or tablet. Many of you have already written to tell me you’re collecting these inserts on your mobile device. Last month I posted the first of two inserts reviewing the explanations typically offered for the Resurrection of Jesus, along with the deficiencies of each explanation. This month I’m posting the second half of that list.
The following brief summary of explanatory deficiencies is excerpted from my book, Cold Case Christianity. I’ve omitted larger observations from the book related to my own case work and experience as a detective; this abbreviated list is merely a summary of the historic observations related to each explanation. A more comprehensive examination is included in the chapter explaining the process of abductive reasoning. If we begin with a minimal list of evidences related to the Resurrection of Jesus (Jesus died on the cross and was buried, Jesus’s tomb was empty and no one ever produced His body, Jesus’s disciples believed that they saw Jesus resurrected from the dead, and Jesus’s disciples were transformed following their alleged resurrection observations), the following explanations, along with their deficiencies, must be evaluated:
Did Jesus Really Die on the Cross?
1. Many first-century and early second-century unfriendly Roman sources (i.e., Thallus, Tacitus, Mara Bar-Serapion, and Phlegon) and Jewish sources (i.e., Josephus and the Babylonian Talmud) affirmed and acknowledged that Jesus was crucified and died.
2. The Roman guards faced death if they allowed a prisoner to survive crucifixion. Would they really be careless enough to remove a living person from a cross?
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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.
God Can Restore Your Lost Years
By Colin Smith 7/18/2004
Money can be restored. Property can be restored—broken-down cars, stripped painting, old houses. Relationships can be restored. But one thing that can never be restored is time. Time flies and it does not return. Years pass and we never get them back.
Yet God promises the impossible: “I will restore the years that the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). The immediate meaning of this promise is clear. God’s people had suffered the complete destruction of their entire harvest through swarms of locusts that marched like an insect army through the fields, destroying the crops, multiplying their number as they went.
For four consecutive years, the harvest was completely wiped out. God’s people were brought to their knees in more ways than one. But “the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people.” God said, “Behold I am sending to you grain, wine and oil, and you will be satisfied (Joel 2:18-19).
In the coming years, God said, their fields would yield an abundance that would make up for what had been lost: “The threshing floor shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. . . . You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied” (Joel 2:24, 26).
This wonderful promise for those people meant that years of abundant harvests would follow the years of desolation brought about by the locusts.
Colin Smith is senior pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and a Council Member with The Gospel Coalition. For more resources by Colin Smith visit Unlocking the Bible, where you can request a free sample of LifeKEYS Daily devotional, listen to the radio program, or browse other gospel-centered, Christ-exalting resources. You can also follow Colin on Twitter.
Everything You (Might Have) Wanted to Know About Writing and Publishing
Jared C. Wilson 6/8/2016
Well, maybe not everything. But below are my answers to some pretty common questions. If I miss anything you’re interested in hearing me on, please use the comment section. Other writers’/editors’/publishers’ mileage may vary, and my responses are obviously limited to my own perspective and experience.
How difficult is it to get published?
Pretty difficult and becoming more so each year. The likelihood of your signing a book contract increases, however, if you are able to meet the three following standards to a significant degree:
1. A strong voice
2. A unique or needed message
3. A platform of some recognition
The stronger you are at #’s 1 and 2, the less #3 matters. The stronger you are at #3, the less #’s 1 and 2 matter.
Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church. Per Amazon, Jared C. Wilson is a pastor and an award-winning writer whose articles, essays, and short stories have appeared in numerous publications. A minister for over a decade, he has become known for his passionate gospel-centered teaching and strong calls for missional Christianity. Encounter his passion for the ongoing reformation of the evangelical church almost daily at www.gospeldrivenchurch.com.
Jared C. Wilson Books:
- 1 The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can't Get Their Act Together
- 2 The Explicit Gospel (Paperback Edition)
- 3 Romans: A 12-Week Study (Knowing the Bible)
- 4 The Pastor's Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry
- 5 The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo
- 6 The Story of Everything: How You, Your Pets, and the Swiss Alps Fit into God's Plan for the World
- 7 The Storytelling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables
- 8 Gospel Wakefulness
- 9 Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus
- 10 The Wonder-Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles
- 11 Your Jesus Is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior
- 12 Otherworld: A Novel
Six Reasons to Believe in the Prince of Peace: Jesus
By S.J. Thomason 11/24/2017
The best-selling book and blockbuster film entitled “The Da Vinci Code” may have stirred doubts among many Christians as its foundation was built on the assertion that Christians did not believe that Jesus was divine until Constantine pressured the Council of Nicaea to declare the deity of Jesus in 325 A.D.
The book’s antagonist, Dr. Leigh Teabing offered a line that cemented this assertion while helping two of the characters in their search for the Holy Grail: “Jesus’ establishment as the Son of God was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.”
One of the characters, Sophie, replied, “Hold on. You’re saying Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote?”
“A relatively close one at that,” Teabing responded.
The “Da Vinci Code” is entirely fictitious, as are the assertions by its antagonist. Teabing’s “relatively close vote” was actually 316 to 2 (Wand, 1990). Furthermore, by the time Constantine legalized Christianity in 313 A.D., millions of Christians had been worshipping Jesus as their Lord illegally (Wawro, 2008). The intention of the present blog is to offer six reasons we should not doubt Jesus’ divinity.
Per Amazon, S.J. Thomason lives with her two rambunctious, yet adorable sons, handsome hubby, and chief security officer/pooch, her schnauzer-mix dog. She works as a college professor, teaching business management courses in a medium-sized comprehensive university. That helps to pay the mortgage. In her spare time, she publishes academic articles on human resource selection, assessment, and performance, yet derives her greatest sense of satisfaction when writing on Christian themes.
She's spent the past few decades attempting to reconcile the logic and rationality of nature with the unexplained force of love within. World religions address the latter, yet none so perfectly and comprehensively as Christianity. By diving into the academic, literary, and church communities, she's found many answers to the complicated questions of life, strengthening her commitment and dedication to Christ.
She's also discovered that life's short, sometimes ugly, and there are no guarantees. Spreading the Christian message should be everyone's priority, but far too many are either apathetic or burdened with materialistic pursuits. If she were to be hit by a bus tomorrow (which might very well happen), she'll rest in peace knowing that a permanent record of her discoveries of the way, the truth, and the life exists for her family, friends, and anyone else interested.
She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sjthomason1225
S.J. Thomason Books:
Black and White Theology
By John Perkins 11/24/2017
Sometimes I look at the Bible and think all God is about is justice: “For the Lord loves justice” (Psalm 37:28); “I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy” (Psalm 140:12); “For the Lord is a God of justice” (Isaiah 30:18); “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). Clearly, justice matters to God. But what does it look like? When we talk about justice, what do we really mean?
Justice is an economic and stewardship issue. When Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,” that’s a justice statement. The way we utilize the resources we’ve been given determines whether we are being just.
In many ways, black theology and white theology in churches in America have been like two sides of a coin when it comes to thinking about justice and redemption. To put it in very general terms, white theology (especially white evangelical theology) has tended to focus on the personal side of redemption. Emphasis has been placed on evangelism, salvation, and individual spiritual growth and holiness—with the Bible being regarded as a devotional book that inspires believers individually. This focus is terribly important, of course, because it highlights the relationships between people and God. It also recognizes a crucial and painful truth about justice: apart from the blood of Christ, justice is bad news for sinful human beings. At least it’s bad news if we’re talking about the type of justice that demands that a penalty be paid when a wrong is done.
Black theology has a very different take on both redemption and justice, in part because much of it has been developed in response to white oppression. In terms of redemption—or liberation—black theology builds on the “Let my people go!” model of Moses. It celebrates God’s history of delivering His people from slavery and oppression and regards redemption as communal as well as individual. As black Christians, we almost always see religion as something that uplifts people, and the Bible is considered a textbook for living. Black theology doesn’t specify that blacks and whites should be separate, but sadly it has turned out that way.
We never should have needed or wanted black theology. If the church in America more generally had arrived at a theology that included an increased understanding of God’s redemptive work, we all would be better off. White theology, however, has a serious problem: because the church added “racial” to reconciliation as part of the gospel in an effort to accommodate racism, the stream was poisoned. Even today, many church leaders maintain that it is inappropriate or even evil to organize their congregations to get them to protest injustice. Thus, the struggle to understand biblical truth about justice and redemption continues.
Click here to go to source
John Perkins Books:
- 1 Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win
- 2 Welcoming Justice: God's Movement Toward Beloved Community (Resources for Reconciliation)
- 3 Restoring At-Risk Communities: Doing It Together and Doing It Right
- 4 He's My Brother: Former Racial Foes Offer Strategy for Reconciliation
- 5 Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development
- 6 Follow Me to Freedom: Leading and Following As an Ordinary Radical
- 7 A quiet revolution: The Christian response to human need, a strategy for today
- 8 Resurrecting Hope
- 9 A call to wholistic ministry
How I Got 100 Average Church Goers to Attend An Apologetics Conference
By Tim Arndt 11/19/2017
The Hardest Question For Apologists
I often attend apologetics events and my favorite part is always the Q&A. The apologists usually tackle the Ehrman references with ease and variations of the Problem of Evil with carefully thought out responses. But I have noticed one question that seems to stump them over and over again—a question the best apologists have wrestled with for years and often still don’t have a good answer to. “How do I get the people at my church to see the importance of apologetics?”
Whenever this question is asked, the crowd nods their head in sober agreement and understanding. It seems inevitable that anyone with a newfound love of apologetics soon finds that most of their brothers and sisters in Christ are neither excited nor impressed. “I just have faith.” “I just stick with the Bible.” “Just Jesus.” “Just.”
Well, I think I’ve finally found the key, solved the mystery, cracked the code… at least part of it.
Step One: Don’t Call It Apologetics | There are two main camps of people who will avoid apologetics. The first are people who think apologetics are useless or harmful. The second are people who have no interest in things that use big words they aren’t familiar with (which is most of us). I’m as lost as anyone on how to reach the first group, but I’ve come to a better understanding of the second.
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I love who I am when I'm learning and sharing what I've learned.
My hope is that as I'm learning and sharing, you might learn something too. Better yet, I would love to learn from you as well.
"ApoloThink" is a play on the word "Apologetics." Essentially, this is an apologetics blog, but the topic matter extends far more broadly than the study of apologetics proper.
In Study Smarts you will see some of what I'm learning from from a wide variety of books, lectures, etc.
Christian Ministry covers lessons I'm learning while engaging in church and campus ministries.
Fun Stuff is where I don my Christian worldview gear and interact with film, fiction, and any of the fun stuff in life.
The Obligatory Bio | My wife Alex and kids, MaryKate and Oliver, are the joys of my life. MK and Ollie have expanded my understanding of life. Without them, I would have never learned how many different things can be a slide.
I have a BA in Worldviews and Apologetics from Boyce College. I am a chapter director for Ratio Christi, a college campus apologetics ministry. I work at my church as an admin assistant. And I am easily recognizable as the tallest Filipino you will ever meet.
Morning, The Way The World Is
By Richard S. Adams 11/25/2017
This body is wearing down. It moves slower, thinks slower, talks slower. I find my breathing becoming more intentional, and yet time is moving faster. It isn’t like it seems to be moving faster, no, it really is moving faster. My brain tells me that that is not possible, but I learned long ago I can’t completely trust my brain, nor my heart for that matter.
Therefore, I take each day as the gift it really is. I am more and more aware it could be my last, not because the years are piling up, and they are, but because it is the way the world is. It is the way the world is, whether you are young or old. We would all do well to consider that one morning will come and not find us complaining. One morning will come and not find us praising God. Do you know, really know that the morning I am talking about will indeed come?
Even worse, that same morning will come for those you love and maybe before it comes for you. Again, age is not always the determining factor. What needs to be said today? What needs to be done today? Don't put off till some future morning a day you or yours may never see.
When my bride comes out of the bedroom each morning I tell her I love her, give her a hug and silently tell God thank you. We both know one morning will come and one of us won’t be here. Mornings have come and found loved ones gone. Did they know they were loved?
Someone said we come into this world with an expiration date imprinted in our genes. “It’s like the milk you buy at the store. There is a use before date stamped right on the carton.” We have learned how to extend life, but only to that use ‘before date’. The date does not change ... no matter what we do. Our best efforts to extend life only get us to the date God determined before we were born.
God told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; ... (Je 1:5)
God determined what I would do and what I would not do. People don’t like that, I don’t like that, and THAT, that is why the world is broken. We all fell in Adam. Judgment was pronounced on Adam and Eve and judgment was pronounced on the billions of people to come from them. You could say we are all born on death row, waiting for judgment. Neither Adam nor any of us escape our sentence because no one is innocent. Age does not make a difference.
Before you protest not fair, what about the innocent? Consider the offspring of the most repulsive insect you can imagine. Will their offspring be different? Besides, how can we call God terrible for pronouncing judgment on us when we murder millions before their first morning!
For my part, with age come the memories of things I thought which I wish I had not, things I said I wish I had not, things I did I wish I had not. I would say the world would be a better place if I had not lived, but ....
The Apostle Paul said, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good ... (Ro 8:28)
I consider my wife, my bride, my best friend, my children and grandchildren and others I deeply care about and I can only wonder how God brought about such good, not through, but despite the evil in my heart, despite my failures and despite my sin. As in the beginning, only God can make something out of nothing.
How I wish I had known when I was my sons’ age, what I know now, but even now I find myself in a conversation saying things I wish I would not, doing things I wish I would not and thinking things I wish I would not.
The Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, said, “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,” (2 Ti 3:2–4).
I love you Jesus, but I see those characteristics in my past and even today, maybe not to the extent they once were, but they are still there, desiring to swallow me whole.
Still again Paul nails my condition to the cross, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Ro 7:24–25).
Lord, please forgive this old sinner and enable me to “Keep my heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Pr 4:23) and I thank you for still another morning.
Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2008, on staff at Portland Seminary 2009 - 2018.
- Feb 5 Prosperity and the Camp Fire
- Feb 7 Job 6:14-23
- Feb 10 Spontaneous Generation
- Feb 14 Hindsight
- Feb 18 The Cure For Despair
- Feb 22 RE: Job's Friends
- Feb 23 Job 23:14
- Feb 25 No Time To Text
- Mar 5 Polemics and Caricature
- Apr 20 Death and My Master's Voice
- May 1 RE: The Anointing at Bethany
- May 10 Ruth | Relationships
- June 18 Lincoln City 6/2/18
- July 14 Tom - Gen & Revelation
- Nov 27 The Way The World Is
- Nov 30 The Renewal Of Israel
- Dec 11 Open Door
- Dec 20 Replacement Theology
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
ALL THE PRINCIPLES OF PIETY SUBVERTED BY FANATICS, WHO SUBSTITUTE REVELATIONS FOR SCRIPTURE.
1. The temper and error of the Libertines, who take to themselves the name of spiritual, briefly described. Their refutation. 1. The Apostles and all true Christians have embraced the written Word. This confirmed by a passage in Isaiah; also by the example and words of Paul. 2. The Spirit of Christ seals the doctrine of the written Word on the minds of the godly.
2. Refutation continued. 3. The impositions of Satan cannot be detected without the aid of the written Word. First Objection. The Answer to it.
3. Second Objection from the words of Paul as to the letter and spirit. The Answer, with an explanation of Paul's meaning. How the Spirit and the written Word are indissolubly connected.
1. Those who, rejecting Scripture, imagine that they have some peculiar way of penetrating to God, are to be deemed not so much under the influence of error as madness. For certain giddy men  have lately appeared, who, while they make a great display of the superiority of the Spirit, reject all reading of the Scriptures themselves, and deride the simplicity of those who only delight in what they call the dead and deadly letter. But I wish they would tell me what spirit it is whose inspiration raises them to such a sublime height that they dare despise the doctrine of Scripture as mean and childish. If they answer that it is the Spirit of Christ, their confidence is exceedingly ridiculous; since they will, I presume, admit that the apostles and other believers in the primitive Church were not illuminated by any other Spirit. None of these thereby learned to despise the word of God, but every one was imbued with greater reverence for it, as their writings most clearly testify. And, indeed, it had been so foretold by the mouth of Isaiah. For when he says, "My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever," he does not tie down the ancient Church to external doctrine, as he were a mere teacher of elements;  he rather shows that, under the reign of Christ, the true and full felicity of the new Church will consist in their being ruled not less by the Word than by the Spirit of God. Hence we infer that these miscreants are guilty of fearful sacrilege in tearing asunder what the prophet joins in indissoluble union. Add to this, that Paul, though carried up even to the third heaven, ceased not to profit by the doctrine of the law and the prophets, while, in like manner, he exhorts Timothy, a teacher of singular excellence, to give attention to reading (1 Tim. 4:13). And the eulogium which he pronounces on Scripture well deserves to be remembered--viz. that "it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect," (2 Tim. 3:16). What an infatuation of the devil, therefore, to fancy that Scripture, which conducts the sons of God to the final goal, is of transient and temporary use? Again, I should like those people to tell me whether they have imbibed any other Spirit than that which Christ promised to his disciples. Though their madness is extreme, it will scarcely carry them the length of making this their boast. But what kind of Spirit did our Saviour promise to send? One who should not speak of himself (John 16:13), but suggest and instil the truths which he himself had delivered through the word. Hence the office of the Spirit promised to us, is not to form new and unheard-of revelations, or to coin a new form of doctrine, by which we may be led away from the received doctrine of the gospel, but to seal on our minds the very doctrine which the gospel recommends.
2. Hence it is easy to understand that we must give diligent heed both to the reading and hearing of Scripture, if we would obtain any benefit from the Spirit of God (just as Peter praises those who attentively study the doctrine of the prophets (2 Pet. 1:19), though it might have been thought to be superseded after the gospel light arose), and, on the contrary, that any spirit which passes by the wisdom of God's Word, and suggests any other doctrine, is deservedly suspected of vanity and falsehood. Since Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, what authority can the Spirit have with us if he be not ascertained by an infallible mark? And assuredly he is pointed out to us by the Lord with sufficient clearness; but these miserable men err as if bent on their own destruction, while they seek the Spirit from themselves rather than from Him. But they say that it is insulting to subject the Spirit, to whom all things are to be subject, to the Scripture: as if it were disgraceful to the Holy Spirit to maintain a perfect resemblance throughout, and be in all respects without variation consistent with himself. True, if he were subjected to a human, an angelical, or to any foreign standard, it might be thought that he was rendered subordinate, or, if you will, brought into bondage, but so long as he is compared with himself, and considered in himself, how can it be said that he is thereby injured? I admit that he is brought to a test, but the very test by which it has pleased him that his majesty should be confirmed. It ought to be enough for us when once we hear his voice; but lest Satan should insinuate himself under his name, he wishes us to recognise him by the image which he has stamped on the Scriptures. The author of the Scriptures cannot vary, and change his likeness. Such as he there appeared at first, such he will perpetually remain. There is nothing contumelious to him in this, unless we are to think it would be honourable for him to degenerate, and revolt against himself.
3. Their cavil about our cleaving to the dead letter carries with it the punishment which they deserve for despising Scripture. It is clear that Paul is there arguing against false apostles (2 Cor. 3:6), who, by recommending the law without Christ, deprived the people of the benefit of the New Covenant, by which the Lord engages that he will write his law on the hearts of believers, and engrave it on their inward parts. The letter therefore is dead, and the law of the Lord kills its readers when it is dissevered from the grace of Christ, and only sounds in the ear without touching the heart. But if it is effectually impressed on the heart by the Spirit; if it exhibits Christ, it is the word of life converting the soul, and making wise the simple. Nay, in the very same passage, the apostle calls his own preaching the ministration of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:8), intimating that the Holy Spirit so cleaves to his own truth, as he has expressed it in Scripture, that he then only exerts and puts forth his strength when the word is received with due honour and respect.
There is nothing repugnant here to what was lately said (chap. 7) that we have no great certainty of the word itself, until it be confirmed by the testimony of the Spirit. For the Lord has so knit together the certainty of his word and his Spirit, that our minds are duly imbued with reverence for the word when the Spirit shining upon it enables us there to behold the face of God; and, on the other hand, we embrace the Spirit with no danger of delusion when we recognise him in his image, that is, in his word. Thus, indeed, it is. God did not produce his word before men for the sake of sudden display, intending to abolish it the moment the Spirit should arrive; but he employed the same Spirit, by whose agency he had administered the word, to complete his work by the efficacious confirmation of the word. In this way Christ explained to the two disciples (Luke 24:27), not that they were to reject the Scriptures and trust to their own wisdom, but that they were to understand the Scriptures. In like manner, when Paul says to the Thessalonians, "Quench not the Spirit," he does not carry them aloft to empty speculation apart from the word; he immediately adds, "Despise not prophesying," (1 Thess. 5:19, 20). By this, doubtless, he intimates that the light of the Spirit is quenched the moment prophesying fall into contempt. How is this answered by those swelling enthusiasts, in whose idea the only true illumination consists, in carelessly laying aside, and bidding adieu to the Word of God, while, with no less confidence than folly, they fasten upon any dreaming notion which may have casually sprung up in their minds? Surely a very different sobriety becomes the children of God. As they feel that without the Spirit of God they are utterly devoid of the light of truth, so they are not ignorant that the word is the instrument by which the illumination of the Spirit is dispensed. They know of no other Spirit than the one who dwelt and spake in the apostles--the Spirit by whose oracles they are daily invited to the hearing of the word.
 Lactantius: Coelestes literas corruperunt, ut novam sibi doctrinam sine ulla radice ac stabilitate componerent. Vide Calvin in Instruct. adv. Libertinos, cap. 9 and 10.
 For the Latin, "ac si elementarius esset," the French has, "comme s'ils eussent étépetis enfans a l'A, B, C;"--as if they were little children at their A, B, C.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 131I Have Calmed and Quieted My Soul
131 A Song Of Ascents. Of David.
131:1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.
Cultivating Virtue in Pursuit of Knowledge
By Derek Halvorson 5/01/2016
Scripture calls us to give our whole selves as living sacrifices to God (Rom. 12:1–2). Unfortunately, we are often tempted to go about that work such that our lives resemble groups of silos. We envision our lives divided neatly into aspects that have little or no bearing on one another. One such division that is particularly common is the perceived divide between moral and intellectual development. We too frequently view the cultivation of virtue and the pursuit of knowledge as separate tasks — at worst, at odds with one another; at best, simply unrelated to one another; but certainly not interconnected and mutually supportive.
In fact, the cultivation of virtue is essential to healthy intellectual life. The virtues make us better learners and better thinkers. Beyond the historic cardinal virtues — and one can easily envision how the practice of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice would aid one in the pursuit of knowledge — there are other Christian virtues that not only contribute to one’s sanctification but also are essential to the pursuit of knowledge.
The Virtue of HumilityPaul instructs us to adopt the humility modeled by Jesus Christ in His incarnation and crucifixion (Phil. 2:5–8). As Christians, we know the reality of God’s sovereignty, and we recognize that we cannot take credit for whatever intellectual gifts we have been given. In addition, we should not assume that we have all of the answers — except, of course, for those provided explicitly in Scripture. We should not jump to conclusions. We ought to humble ourselves and listen, even to those with whom we disagree. This attitude of humility is a surefire antidote for intellectual laziness and apathy. In light of it, we are obligated to work diligently to uncover insights in the views of others. We ought to assume that those whom we read or study have something of value to say — that they might possess some common - grace insight into the nature of reality. We ought not to dismiss others out of hand. We are ourselves, after all, finite and fallen people. Humbly acknowledging our limitations and allowing that others might have something to teach us ought to be natural for us as Christians. And doing so will make us more effective in our pursuit of God’s truth.
The Virtue of Self-denialWe begin our Christian walks by denying our self-righteousness, and this practice of self-denial should continue throughout our lives (Luke 9:23–24). As believers, we ought to be willing to risk something of ourselves — our desires, our ambitions, our comforts — and maybe even give up something of ourselves for the sake of truth. We should be prepared to abandon our own (perhaps cherished) beliefs in light of God’s truth revealed, either in special revelation or in general revelation. At times, the virtue of self-denial will require that we be willing to change our minds, which may even mean changing how we live. Sometimes we may have to deny ourselves in profound ways, but many times our practice of self-denial in pursuit of knowledge will be much more mundane. We may have to forgo something we really enjoy for the sake of pursuing the intellectual work to which God has called us. That sort of self-denial becomes much easier when the virtue of self-denial has become an integral aspect of our lives as followers of Christ.
The Virtue of CharityThe virtue of charity is a defining characteristic of those who serve a God who describes Himself as love (John 13:34–35; 1 John 4:7–12). The traditional Christian understanding of the term charity derives from the Latin caritas, which in turn derives from the Greek agapē. Our intellectual endeavors as Christians ought to be marked by selfless, other-focused, God-glorifying love. As Bernard of Clairvaux famously observed:
There are many who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is curiosity. There are others who desire to know in order that they may themselves be known: that is vanity. Others seek knowledge in order to sell it: that is dishonorable. But there are some who seek knowledge in order to edify others: that is caritas.
Our pursuit of knowledge ought to be motivated by love for those whom it might benefit, whether inside or outside of the church, living or not yet born. It ought also to be marked by love. The manner in which we treat those with whom we engage in our intellectual work — our classmates, our colleagues, those whom we study, those with whom we debate—ought to reflect the selfless love of the triune God.
It is critical that we not fall into the trap of dividing our lives into silos. We were created by God as integrated persons, and we are to give our whole selves to Him. The divorce of virtue and intellect has been a prominent feature of modernity, and it is one we should resist — not only because it is unnatural, but also because cultivating Christian virtues makes us better thinkers. As we apply biblical virtues such as humility, self-denial, and charity in our pursuit of knowledge, our ability to apprehend truth increases. Not only is cultivating virtue good for our souls, but it is good for our minds, because both are integral parts of the one self that we are giving to God. Dr. J. Derek Halvorson is president of Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Ga., and chair of the executive committee of Association of Reformed Colleges and Universities.
Principles and Situations
By R.C. Sproul 6/01/2016
Every so often, I run across a news story that’s emblematic of our times. Recently, I read of a case wherein a woman contracted with a man to be a surrogate mother. The man agreed to pay her to bear the children, who were conceived by in vitro fertilization using the man’s sperm and eggs donated from another woman. Triplets were conceived, but the man wants to abort one of them, and the contract he signed gives him the legal right to do so. The woman does not want to abort the child, so she has sued to prevent it and has offered to raise the unwanted child herself. But the man does not want that, and now thinks it would be better to put the child up for adoption himself.
The commodification of children, the nonchalant manner in which the man wants to get rid of one of the babies, and other issues raised by this case send chills down one’s spine. Here we see the logical results of what happens when human beings have no fixed, objective standard of right and wrong.
Modern science and technology have introduced questions that the church has never had to deal with before. When it comes to many biomedical issues, we don’t have the advantage of two thousand years of careful research, debate, and insight into complex and weighty problems. The availability of life-support systems, cloning, in vitro fertilization, and other technologies have introduced new dilemmas and pose new ethical questions.
It’s not that we don’t have basic principles to apply to these issues, for Scripture does provide them. The difficulty lies in applying these principles to new situations we’ve never faced before. And we aren’t facing abstract theoretical questions but life-or-death questions that must be answered in concrete instances. Pastors, for example, are often called to help determine when to extend and when to end life support for a patient.
Without clear, normative principles, we’re left rudderless in these situations. Our decisions apply principles in specific situations, but the situations cannot dictate the decisions. And we can’t decide to make no decision. To make no decision is to make a decision.
We need principles that are absolute and normative; otherwise, the decisions we make will be arbitrary, and we’ll have no basis for distinguishing right decisions from wrong decisions. Our human-enacted laws can be helpful, but they can never provide absolute norms. This is particularly clear in societies where the laws are enacted according to popular will. We will find conflict and contradiction between the laws of one society wherein laws are made by an elected body and the laws of another society that makes laws in a similar way. In the United States, abortion is legal. In Chile, abortion is illegal. Does this mean that it is ethically right to abort American babies but wrong to abort Chilean babies? Was it ethically wrong to have an abortion before Roe v. Wade but ethically proper after Roe v. Wade? The answer is yes if popularly enacted laws and court decisions are the absolute norm.
Only the character of God as revealed in His law provides us with absolute norms for ethical issues. It gives us fixed principles to apply in specific situations. God’s law is both situational and non-situational. It’s situational because it must always be applied in specific situations, but it’s non-situational because the situation itself never dictates the good. The unchanging principle from the law determines the good.
In popular culture, we see a definition of right and wrong that says we must do what love requires in any situation. Why not let two men or two women get married? we are asked. After all, they love each other. How is it loving to bring a child into a situation of poverty? we are often asked in the abortion debate.
On the one hand, it’s correct that we must always do what love requires. Love is the linchpin of God’s law, the very fulfillment of the commandments (Rom. 13:10). But love isn’t a vacuous feeling; it’s something objective. Love is defined by God Himself, for Scripture tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). And the God who is love has given us a law that defines and applies what love looks like in concrete situations. For instance, Paul lays out the principle that we must “walk in love,” but then he immediately tells us that “sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Eph. 5:2–3). God defines love as being the rejection of sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness. Anything that includes such things cannot be love even if the designation of love is claimed.
In most ethical decisions, we must apply more than one principle. This requires wisdom, but we won’t be prepared to balance these principles unless we know them. That’s why we must continue to study the law and the principles revealed therein, principles that are not subject to the shifting sands of relativism. At the final judgment, we will have to answer for what we have done with this law, for we are the creatures and God is the Creator. He has the absolute right to demand from His creatures what He defines as right. The will of the creature must submit itself to the will of the Creator, and if we don’t bow to His lordship, we will be judged accordingly.
God’s law is the absolute, objective norm that is to govern the behavior of all people. It’s not a norm hidden from us, but it has been revealed. So, we have the responsibility to know and do what righteousness requires.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
Persecutions in the Diocese of CanterburyIn the month of February, the following persons were committed to prison: R. Coleman, of Waldon, laborer; Joan Winseley, of Horsley Magna, spinster; S. Glover, of Rayley; R. Clerk, of Much Holland, mariner; W. Munt, of Much Bentley, sawyer; Marg. Field, of Ramsey, spinster; R. Bongeor, currier; R. Jolley, mariner; Allen Simpson, Helen Ewire, C. Pepper, widow; Alice Walley (who recanted), W. Bongeor, glazier, all of Colchester; R. Atkin, of Halstead, weaver; R. Barcock, of Wilton, carpenter; R. George, of Westbarhonlt, laborer; R. Debnam of Debenham, weaver; C. Warren, of Cocksall, spinster; Agnes Whitlock, of Dover-court, spinster; Rose Allen, spinster; and T. Feresannes, minor; both of Colchester.
These persons were brought before Bonner, who would have immediately sent them to execution, but Cardinal Pole was for more merciful measures, and Bonner, in a letter of his to the cardinal, seems to be sensible that he had displeased him, for he has this expression: "I thought to have them all hither to Fulham, and to have given sentence against them; nevertheless, perceiving by my last doing that your grace was offended, I thought it my duty, before I proceeded further, to inform your grace." This circumstance verifies the account that the cardinal was a humane man; and though a zealous Catholic, we, as Protestants, are willing to render him that honor which his merciful character deserves. Some of the bitter persecutors denounced him to the pope as a favorer of heretics, and he was summoned to Rome, but Queen Mary, by particular entreaty, procured his stay. However, before his latter end, and a little before his last journey from Rome to England, he was strongly suspected of favoring the doctrine of Luther.
As in the last sacrifice four women did honor to the truth, so in the following auto da fe we have the like number of females and males, who suffered June 30, 1557, at Canterbury, and were J. Fishcock, F. White, N. Pardue, Barbary Final, widow, Bardbridge's widow, Wilson's wife, and Benden's wife.
Of this group we shall more particularly notice Alice Benden, wife of Edward Bender, of Staplehurst, Kent. She had been taken up in October, 1556, for non-attendance, and released upon a strong injunction to mind her conduct. Her husband was a bigoted Catholic, and publicly speaking of his wife's contumacy, she was conveyed to Canterbury Castle, where knowing, when she should be removed to the bishop's prison, she should be almost starved upon three farthings a day, she endeavored to prepare herself for this suffering by living upon twopence halfpenny per day.
On January 22, 1557, her husband wrote to the bishop that if his wife's brother, Roger Hall, were to be kept from consoling and relieving her, she might turn; on this account, she was moved to a prison called Monday's Hole. Her brother sought diligently for her, and at the end of five weeks providentially heard her voice in the dungeon, but could not otherwise relieve her, than by putting soe money in a loaf, and sticking it on a long pole. Dreadful must have been the situation of this poor victim, lying on straw, between stone walls, without a change of apparel, or the meanest requisites of cleanliness, during a period of nine weeks!
On March 25 she was summoned before the bishop, who, with rewards, offered her liberty if she would go home and be comfortable; but Mrs. Benden had been inured to suffering, and, showing him her contracted limbs and emaciated appearance, refused to swerve from the truth. She was however removed from this black hole to the West Gate, whence, about the end of April, she was taken out to be condemned, and then committed to the castle prison until the nineteenth of June, the day of her burning. At the stake, she gave her handkerchief to one John Banks, as a memorial; and from her waist she drew a white lace, desiring him to give it to her brother, and tell him that it was the last band that had bound her, except the chain; and to her father she returned a shilling he had sent her.
The whole of these seven martyrs undressed themselves with alacrity, and, being prepared, knelt down, and prayed with an earnestness and Christian spirit that even the enemies of the cross were affected. After invocation made together, they were secured to the stake, and, being encompassed with the unsparing flames, they yielded their souls into the hands of the living Lord.
Matthew Plaise, weaver, a sincere and shrewd Christian, of Stone, Kent, was brought before Thomas, bishop of Dover, and other inquisitors, whom he ingeniously teased by his indirect answers, of which the following is a specimen.
Dr. Harpsfield. Christ called the bread His body; what dost thou say it is?
Plaise. I do believe it was that which He gave them.
Dr. H. What as that?
P. That which He brake.
Dr. H. What did He brake?
P. That which He took.
Dr. H. What did He take?
P. I say, what He gave them, that did they eat indeed.
Dr. H. Well, then, thou sayest it was but bread which the disciples did eat.
P. I say, what He gave them, that did they eat indeed.
A very long disputation followed, in which Plaise was desired to humble himself to the bishop; but this he refused. Whether this zealous person died in prison, was executed, or delivered, history does not mention.
Rev. John HullierRev. John Hullier was brought up at Eton College, and in process of time became curate of Babram, three miles from Cambridge, and went afterward to Lynn; where, opposing the superstition of the papists, he was carried before Dr. Thirlby, bishop of Ely, and sent to Cambridge castle: here he lay for a time, and was then sent to Tolbooth prison, where, after three months, he was brought to St. Mary's Church, and condemned by Dr. Fuller. On Maunday Thursday he was brought to the stake: while undressing, he told the people to bear witness that he was about to suffer in a just cause, and exhorted them to believe that there was no other rock than Jesus Christ to build upon. A priest named Boyes, then desired the mayor to silence him. After praying, he went meekly to the stake, and being bound with a chain, and placed in a pitch barrel, fire was applied to the reeds and wood; but the wind drove the fire directly to his back, which caused him under the severe agony to pray the more fervently. His friends directed the executioner to fire the pile to windward of his face, which was immediately done.
A quantity of books were now thrown into the fire, one of which (the Communion Service) he caught, opened it, and joyfully continued to read it, until the fire and smoke deprived him of sight; then even, in earnest prayer, he pressed the book to his heart, thanking God for bestowing on him in his last moments this precious gift.
The day being hot, the fire burnt fiercely; and at a time when the spectators supposed he was no more, he suddenly exclaimed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," and meekly resigned his life. He was burnt on Jesus Green, not far from Jesus College. He had gunpowder given him, but he was dead before it became ignited. This pious sufferer afforded a singular spectacle; for his flesh was so burnt from the bones, which continued erect, that he presented the idea of a skeleton figure chained to the stake. His remains were eagerly seized by the multitude, and venerated by all who admired his piety or detested inhuman bigotry.
Simon Miller and Elizabeth CooperIn the following month of July, received the crown of martyrdom. Miller dwelt at Lynn, and came to Norwich, where, planting himself at the door of one of the churches, as the people came out, he requested to know of them where he could go to receive the Communion. For this a priest brought him before Dr. Dunning, who committed him to ward; but he was suffered to go home, and arrange his affairs; after which he returned to the bishop's house, and to his prison, where he remained until the thirteenth of July, the day of his burning.
Elizabeth Coope, wife of a pewterer, of St. Andrews, Norwich, had recanted; but tortured for what she had done by the worm which dieth not, she shortly after voluntarily entered her parish church during the time of the popish service, and standing up, audibly proclaimed that she revoked her former recantation, and cautioned the people to avoid her unworthy example. She was taken from her own house by Mr. Sutton the sheriff, who very reluctantly complied with the letter of the law, as they had been servants and in friendship together. At the stake, the poor sufferer, feeling the fire, uttered the cry of "Oh!" upon which Mr. Miller, putting his hand behind him towards her, desired her to be of a good courage, "for (said he) good sister, we shall have a joyful and a sweet supper." Encouraged by this example and exhortation, she stood the fiery ordeal without flinching, and, with him, proved the power of faith over the flesh.
Executions at ColchesterIt was before mentioned that twenty-two persons had been sent up from Colchester, who upon a slight submission, were afterward released. Of these, William Munt, of Much Bentley, husbandman, with Alice, his wife, and Rose Allin, her daughter, upon their return home, abstained from church, which induced the bigoted priest secretly to write to Bonner. For a short time they absconded, but returniong again, March 7, one Edmund Tyrrel, (a relation of the Tyrrel who murdered King Edward V and his brother) with the officers, entered the house while Munt and his wife were in bed, and informed them that they must go to Colchester Castle. Mrs. Munt at that time being very ill, requested her daughter to get her some drink; leave being permitted, Rose took a candle and a mug; and in returning through the house was met by Tyrrel, who cautioned her to advise her parents to become good Catholics. Rose briefly informed him that they had the Holy Ghost for their adviser; and that she was ready to lay down her own life for the same cause. Turning to his company, he remarked that she was willing to burn; and one of them told him to prove her, and see what she would do by and by. The unfeeling wretch immediately executed this project; and, seizing the young woman by the wrist, he held the lighted candle under her hand, burning it crosswise on the back, until the tendons divided from the flesh, during which he loaded her with many opprobrious epithets. She endured his rage unmoved, and then, when he had ceased the torture, she asked him to begin at her feet or head, for he need not fear that his employer would one day repay him. After this she took the drink to her mother.
This cruel act of torture does not stand alone on record.
Bonner had served a poor blind harper in nearly the same manner, who had steadily maintained a hope that if every joint of him were to be burnt, he should not fly from the faith. Bonner, upon this, privately made a signal to his men, to bring a burning coal, which they placed in the poor man's hand, and then by force held it closed, until it burnt into the flesh deeply.
George Eagles, tailor, was indicted for having prayed that 'God would turn Queen Mary's heart, or take her away'; the ostensible cause of his death was his religion, for treason could hardly be imagined in praying for the reformation of such an execrable soul as that of Mary. Being condemned for this crime, he was drawn to the place of execution upon a sledge, with two robbers, who were executed with him. After Eagles had mounted the ladder, and been turned off a short time, he was cut down before he was at all insensible; a bailiff, named William Swallow, then dragged him to the sledge, and with a common blunt cleaver, hacked off the head; in a manner equally clumsy and cruel, he opened his body and tore out the heart.
In all this suffering the poor martyr repined not, but to the last called upon his Savior. The fury of these bigots did not end here; the intestines were burnt, and the body was quartered, the four parts being sent to Colchester, Harwich, Chelmsford, and St. Rouse's. Chelmsford had the honor of retaining his head, which was affixed to a long pole in the market place. In time it was blown down, and lay several days in the street, until it was buried at night in the churchyard. God's judgment not long after fell upon Swallow, who in his old age became a beggar, and who was affected with a leprosy that made him obnoxious even to the animal creation; nor did Richard Potts, who troubled Eagles in his dying moments, escape the visiting hand of God.
Mrs. Joyce LewesThis lady was the wife of Mr. T. Lewes, of Manchester. She had received the Romish religion as true, until the burning of that pious martyr, Mr. Saunders, at Coventry. Understanding that his death arose from a refusal to receive the Mass, she began to inquire into the ground of his refusal, and her conscience, as it began to be enlightened, became restless and alarmed. In this inquietude, she resorted to Mr. John Glover, who lived near, and requested that he would unfold those rich sources of Gospel knowledge he possessed, particularly upon the subject of transubstantiation. He easily succeeded in convincing her that the mummery of popery and the Mass were at variance with God's most holy Word, and honestly reproved her for following too much the vanities of a wicked world. It was to her indeed a word in season, for she soon became weary of her former sinful life and resolved to abandon the Mass and dilatrous worship. Though compelled by her husband's violence to go to church, her contempt of the holy water and other ceremonies was so manifest, that she was accused before the bishop for despising the sacramentals.
A citation, addressed to her, immediately followed, which was given to Mr. Lewes, who, in a fit of passion, held a dagger to the throat of the officer, and made him eat it, after which he caused him to drink it down, and then sent him away. But for this the bishop summoned Mr. Lewest before him as well as his wife; the former readily submitted, but the latter resolutely affirmed, that, in refusing holy water, she neither offended God, nor any part of his laws. She was sent home for a month, her husband being bound for her appearance, during which time Mr. Glover impressed upon her the necessity of doing what she did, not from self-vanity, but for the honor and glory of God.
Mr. Glover and others earnestly exhorted Lewest to forfeit the money he was bound in, rather than subject his wife to certain death; but he was deaf to the voice of humanity, and delivered her over to the bishop, who soon found sufficient cause to consign her to a loathsome prison, whence she was several times brought for examination. At the last time the bishop reasoned with her upon the fitness of her coming to Mass, and receiving as sacred the Sacrament and sacramentals of the Holy Ghost. "If these things were in the Word of God," said Mrs. Lewes, "I would with all my heart receive, believe, and esteem them." The bishop, with the most ignorant and impious effrontery, replied, "If thou wilt believe no more than what is warranted by Scriptures, thou art in a state of damnation!" Astonished at such a declaration, this worthy sufferer ably rejoined that his words were as impure as they were profane.
After condemnation, she lay a twelvemonth in prison, the sheriff not being willing to put her to death in his time, though he had been but just chosen. When her death warrant came from London, she sent for some friends, whom she consulted in what manner her death might be more glorious to the name of God, and injurious to the cause of God's enemies. Smilingly, she said: "As for death, I think but lightly of. When I know that I shall behold the amiable countenance of Christ my dear Savior, the ugly face of death does not much trouble me." The evening before she suffered, two priests were anxious to visit her, but she refused both their confession and absolution, when she could hold a better communication with the High Priest of souls. About three o'clock in the morning, Satan began to shoot his fiery darts, by putting into her mind to doubt whether she was chosen to eternal life, and Christ died for her. Her friends readily pointed out to her those consolatory passages of Scripture which comfort the fainting heart, and treat of the Redeemer who taketh away the sins of the world.
About eight o'clock the sheriff announced to her that she had but an hour to live; she was at first cast down, but this soon passed away, and she thanked God that her life was about to be devoted to His service. The sheriff granted permission for two friends to accompany her to the stake-an indulgence for which he was afterward severely handled. Mr. Reniger and Mr. Bernher led her to the place of execution; in going to which, from its distance, her great weakness, and the press of the people, she had nearly fainted. Three times she prayed fervently that God would deliver the land from popery and the idolatrous Mass; and the people for the most part, as well as the sheriff, said Amen.
When she had prayed, she took the cup, (which had been filled with water to refresh her,) and said, "I drink to all them that unfeignedly love the Gospel of Christ, and wish for the abolition of popery." Her friends, and a great many women of the place, drank with her, for which most of them afterward were enjoined penance.
When chained to the stake, her countenance was cheerful, and the roses of her cheeks were not abated. Her hands were extended towards heaven until the fire rendered them powerless, when her soul was received int o the arms of the Creator. The duration of her agony was but short, as the under-sheriff, at the request of her friends, had prepared such excellent fuel that she was in a few minutes overwhelmed with smoke and flame. The case of this lady drew a tear of pity from everyone who had a heart not callous to humanity.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Spiritual growth (2)
11/27/2017 Bob Gass
‘When we grew up, we quit our childish ways.’
(1 Co 13:11) 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. ESV
People with strong faith can make you feel ‘less than’, when you compare yourself to them. One Bible teacher writes: ‘I admired those faith heroes whose flowery testimonies hung around the ceiling, like steam gathering in a shower. They seemed so changed, so sure, so stable. I thought God’s love was doled out according to a merit system. If I did well today, He loved me. If I failed, He didn’t. What a roller coaster! I didn’t realise everything that’s born needs time to grow and develop into maturity. I was expecting an immediate, powerful, all-inclusive metamorphosis that would transform me into perfection.’ Do you feel that way, as if there is something wrong with you because you never seem to measure up? If so, read this: ‘When we were children, we…reasoned as children…But when we grew up, we quit our childish ways.’ You start as a spiritual infant, then you become a spiritual child, then you become a spiritual adolescent, and eventually you become a spiritual adult. But you never ‘arrive’. And quick-fix, do-it-yourself righteousness will just make you try to impress others with a false sense of holiness. It will stop you from being honest before God and make you think you should be farther along than you are for your spiritual age. Do you remember when you were a child and you dressed up in your mum’s high heels or your dad’s work boots? No matter how much you wanted to fit into them, you couldn’t. That didn’t mean there was something wrong with you; it just meant you were exactly where you should have been for your age.
1 John 1
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
During World War I, Britain was at a great disadvantage in manufacturing explosives, that is, until there was a breakthrough in synthesizing acetone by a Jewish chemist named Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who was born this day, November 27, 1874. The British were so grateful that they issued the Balfour Declaration, establishing a national home for the Jewish people. Dr. Weizmann received the support of President Harry Truman, who wrote: “I want to tell you how happy and impressed I have been at the remarkable progress made by the new State of Israel.” Dr. Weizmann wrote: “I think that the God of Israel is with us.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
What we must fight against is Pope's maxim
the first Almighty Cause
Acts not by partial, but by general laws.
The odd thing is that Pope thought, and all who agree with him think, that this philosophical theology is an advance beyond the religion of the child and the savage (and the New Testament). It seems to them less naif and anthropomorphic. The real difference, however, is that the anthropomorphism is more subtly hidden and of a far more disastrous type.
For the implication is that there exists on the Divine level a distinction with which we are very familiar on our own: that between the plan (or the main plan) and its unintended but unavoidable by-products. Whatever we do, even if it achieves its object, will also scatter round it a spray of consequences which were not its object at all. This is so even in private life. I throw out crumbs for the birds and provide, incidentally, a breakfast for the rats. Much more so in what may be called managerial life. The governing body of the college alters the time of dinner in hall; our object being to let the servants get home earlier. But by doing so we alter the daily pattern of life for every undergraduate. To some the new arrangement will be a convenience, to others the reverse. But we had no special favour for the first lot and no spite against the second. Our arrangement drags these unforeseen and undesired consequences after it. We can't help this.
On Pope's view God has to work in the same way. He has His grand design for the sum of things. Nothing we can say will deflect it. It leaves Him little freedom (or none?) for granting, or even for deliberately refusing, our prayers. The grand design chums out innumerable blessings and curses for individuals. God can't help that. They're all by-products.
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
God is at home;
it is we who have gone for a walk.
--- Meister Eckhart
God is the God of the present as well as of the future...even here on earth, He reigneth, dispensing good and evil.
--- Alfred Edersheim
A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.
--- Winston Churchill
I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.
--- Galileo Galilei
... from here, there and everywhere
Robert M. McCheyne
When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.
When I hear the wicked call,
On the rocks and hills to fall,
When I see them start and shrink
On the fiery deluge brink,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.
When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see Thee as Thou art,
Love Thee with unsinning heart,
Then Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.
When the praise of Heav’n I hear,
Loud as thunders to the ear,
Loud as many waters’ noise,
Sweet as harp’s melodious voice,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.
Even on earth, as through a glass
Darkly, let Thy glory pass,
Make forgiveness feel so sweet,
Make Thy Spirit’s help so meet,
Even on earth, Lord, make me know
Something of how much I owe.
Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Savior’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show,
By my love, how much I owe.
Oft I walk beneath the cloud,
Dark, as midnight’s gloomy shroud;
But, when fear is at the height,
Jesus comes, and all is light;
Blessed Jesus! bid me show
Doubting saints how much I owe.
When in flowery paths I tread,
Oft by sin I’m captive led;
Oft I fall—but still arise—
The Spirit comes—the tempter flies;
Blessed Spirit! bid me show
Weary sinners all I owe.
Oft the nights of sorrow reign—
Weeping, sickness, sighing, pain;
But a night Thine anger burns—
Morning comes and joy returns;
God of comforts! bid me show
To Thy poor, how much I owe.
I heard Alistair Begg recite a few lines of this poem from the pulpit and I had to find it.
by D.H. Stern
yes, he will be your delight.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The consecration of spiritual energy
by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. --- Gal. 6:14.
If I brood on the Cross of Christ, I do not become a subjective pietist, interested in my own whiteness; I become dominantly concentrated on Jesus Christ’s interests. Our Lord was not a recluse nor an ascetic, He did not cut Himself off from society, but He was inwardly disconnected all the time. He was not aloof, but He lived in another world. He was so much in the ordinary world that the religious people of His day called Him a glutton and a wine-bibber. Our Lord never allowed anything to interfere with His consecration of spiritual energy.
The counterfeit of consecration is the conscious cutting off of things with the idea of storing spiritual power for use later on, but that is a hopeless mistake. The Spirit of God has spoiled the sin of a great many, yet there is no emancipation, no fullness in their lives. The kind of religious life we see abroad to-day is entirely different from the robust holiness of the life of Jesus Christ. “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” We are to be in the world but not of it; to be disconnected fundamentally, not externally.
We must never allow anything to interfere with the consecration of our spiritual energy. Consecration is our part, sanctification is God’s part; and we have deliberately to determine to be interested in that only in which God is interested. The way to solve perplexing problems is to ask—‘Is this the kind of thing which Jesus Christ is interested in, or the kind of thing the spirit that is the antipodes of Jesus is interested in?’
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Degas: Woman Combing
So the hair, too,
can be played?
She lets it down
and combs a sonata
from it: brown cello
of hair, with the arm
who with your quick
brush, gave us this silent
music, there is nothing
that you left out.
The blues and greens,
the abandoned snowfall
of her shift, the light
on her soft flesh tell us
from what score she performs.
R.S. Thomas, (Fayettesville: University of Arkansas Press), 1985.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
From here on I will begin to give you guidance with regard to the form of this training so that you should achieve this great end. The first thing that you should cause your soul to hold fast onto is that, while reciting the Shema, you should empty your mind of everything and pray thus. You should not content yourself with “being intent” while “reciting the first verse of Shema” and saying “the first benediction.” When this has been carried out correctly and has been practiced consistently for years, cause your soul, whenever you read or listen to the Torah, to be constantly directed—the whole of you and your thought—toward reflection on what you are listening to or reading. When this too has been practiced consistently for a certain time, cause your soul to be in such a way that your thought is always quite free of distraction and gives heed to all that you are reading of the other discourses of the Prophets and even when you read all the benedictions, so that you aim at meditating on what you are uttering and at considering its meaning. If, however, while performing these acts of worship you are free from distraction and not engaged in thinking upon any of the things pertaining to this world, cause your soul—after this has been achieved—to occupy your thought with things necessary for you or superfluous in your life, and in general with “worldly things,” while you eat or drink or bathe or talk with your wife and your small children or while you talk with the common run of people. Thus I have provided you with many and long stretches of time in which you can think all that needs thinking regarding property, the governance of the household, and the welfare of the body. On the other hand, while performing the actions imposed by the Law, you should occupy your thought only with what you are doing, just as we have explained.
Although the Halakhah, as stated in the Mishneh Torah, only requires that one have kavvanah (intent) during the first verse of the Shema and the first benediction of the Amidah, the philosophic Jew of the Guide is not satisfied with this minimal standard. The Shema is one of those commandments which, Maimonides claims, teaches the community correct opinions. For the man who has acquired demonstrative knowledge, the Shema is no longer purposeful in communicating correct opinions; rather it provides a discipline that trains the individual to focus all of his attention on God.
The philosopher appreciates Halakhah not only for political reasons, but also for its personal guidance in his quest for intellectual love of God. If the significance of Halakhah to the philosopher were solely its capacity to establish an orderly religious society, the philosopher would be satisfied with the minimal requirements the Halakhah establishes for all members of the community. If for Maimonides, the philosopher, the way of Halakhah is unimportant, why then does Maimonides insist that Halakhah be understood and observed differently by the Jew who has achieved philosophic excellence? By emphasizing that the observance of and perspective on Halakhah changes for the philosophic Jew, Maimonides clearly indicates that he does not adopt the way of dualism regarding tradition.
In addition to training the philosopher to empty his thought of everything but God, the Halakhah also serves to provide him with a discipline that can encompass both passionate love of God and the inevitable demands of human existence.
The Halakhah, according to Maimonides, is addressed to humans and not to disembodied intelligences; we remain corporeal creatures in spite of our intellectual capacities. Within Jewish tradition, Solomon is the archetype of one who was deceived into believing, that by virtue of his intellectual capacities, he transcended the problems of the body and therefore had no need for specific halakhot. The Torah never allows us to forget that our bodies must be ordered properly if we are to achieve the goal for which the intellect hungers. The philosophic Jew appreciates the Halakhah because he knows, in all humility, that: it is by all the particulars of the actions and through their repetition that some excellent men obtain such training that they achieve human perfection, so that they fear, and are in dread and in awe of, God, may He be exalted, and know who it is that is with them and as a result act subsequently as they ought to.
Maimonides knew that living continuously with intellectual love of God was possible only for Moses and the patriarchs, who symbolize the possibility of retaining such a passion regardless of the problems and claims of human life. Yet, Maimonides writes, “This rank is not a rank that, with a view to the attainment of which, someone like myself may aspire for guidance. But one may aspire to attain that rank which was mentioned before this one through the training that we described.” Humans who are distracted by the pressures and pains of existence require a disciplined mode and defined time for the expression of their passion for God. The philosopher needs a way of life which respects both the all-consuming yearning for intellectual love of God and the inescapable claims of normal human existence. Halakhah addressed itself to the human dilemma of being both intellect and body. The God of creation, who endowed man with the capacity for passionate intellectual love, provided him, at Sinai, with a way of life which makes this love humanly possible. The Halakhah makes it possible for the philosophic Jew to live within the human world while aspiring toward a passionate love for God.
Thus far, the analysis of Maimonides’ approach to the philosophic Jew’s understanding of Halakhah has been restricted to those halakhot that relate directly to the individual’s worship of God and allow him to develop and to give expression to his passionate love of God. Since the philosophic Jew is primarily concerned with the theocentric passion, it would appear that concern for community is not related to his quest for love of God. What remains to be explored, then, is the question of Maimonides’ attitude to community.
In order to understand the Maimonidean conception of the importance of community in the life of the philosophic Jew, one must remember the ascent-descent framework when analyzing different statements on this subject in the Guide.
In his discussion of the preconditions for becoming a prophet, Maimonides advises the aspiring prophet to view the community as a herd of cattle:
He should rather regard all people according to their various states with respect to which they are indubitably either like domestic animals or like beasts of prey. If the perfect man who lives in solitude thinks of them at all, he does so only with a view to saving himself from the harm that may be caused by those among them who are harmful if he happens to associate with them, or to obtaining an advantage that may be obtained from them if he is forced to it by some of his needs.
Taken out of context this statement suggests that both the prophet and, by implication, the philosophic Jew are essentially removed from community and that the community has no personal spiritual significance for them. The statement, however, is presented within the context of the training of individuals who wish to ascend to prophetic excellence. It is immediately preceded by:
It is likewise necessary for the thought of that individual should be detached from the spurious kinds of rulership and that his desire for them should be abolished—I mean the wish to dominate or to be held great by the common people and to obtain from them honor and obedience for its own sake.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
“See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah … has triumphed.…” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain.
--- Revelation 5:5–6.
There is an inclination in the creature not only to the adoration of a Lord and Sovereign, but to love and delight in someone as a friend and companion. The Excellency of Christ And God has so contrived that a divine person may be the object of this inclination. Such a one has taken our nature, has become one of us, and calls himself our friend, brother, and companion.
Would you want him to be a person of meekness and humility? Why, such is Christ! He has not only become human, but is by far the meekest and most humble of all, the greatest instance of these virtues that ever was or will be. And he has all other human virtues in perfection. These, indeed, are no proper addition to his divine virtues. Christ has no more excellence since his incarnation than he had before, for divine excellence is infinite and cannot be added to. Yet his human virtues are additional displays to us of his glory and excellence and are additional recommendations to our esteem and love. The glory of Christ in his human nature appears to us in virtues that invite our acquaintance and draw our affection. The glory of Christ as it shows in his divinity, though far brighter, more dazzles our eyes and exceeds the strength of our sight or our comprehension, but as it shines in the human virtues of Christ, it is brought more to a level with our conceptions and is more suitable to our nature and manner, yet retaining a semblance of the divine beauty and a savor of the divine sweetness. It tends to endear the divine majesty and holiness of Christ to us that these are attributes of one in our nature, one of us, who is our brother and is the meekest and humblest of our kind. How much more glorious and surprising do the meekness, the humility, obedience, resignation, and other human virtues of Christ appear when we consider that they are in so great a person as the eternal Son of God, the Lord of heaven and earth!
By your choosing Christ for your friend and portion, you will obtain these two infinite benefits: Christ will give himself to you, with all those various virtues that meet in him, to your full and everlasting enjoyment. He will ever after treat you as his dear friend. And you will before long be where he is and will see his glory and dwell with him, in most free and intimate communion and enjoyment.
--- Jonathan Edwards
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Earnest Presswood was born on the Canadian prairie in 1908 and came to Christ in a Sunday school class at age 11. Later, under the preaching of “Gipsy” Smith, he surrendered to Christian service. He enrolled in the Christian and Missionary Alliance Institute at Nyack, New York, and by 1930 he was in Borneo.
Rumors soon flew across the island of the young, white man whose message could turn evil men into good ones, drunken men into sober ones, violent men into men of God. Islanders called him Tuan Change, because his message changed lives. “When I heard,” said one man, “I could not sleep for desire. We all went to meet him. He preached the Resurrection. Right from the beginning it hit me. I was drinking it in. When I first heard I believed.”
Ernie, 25, crisscrossed mountain trails to remote villages. His feet became ulcerated by leech bites, but his passion was relentless. “What a time I have had,” he wrote after one tour. “Physically it has been hard, but the results have been glorious. Around 600 were reached with the message.” Another time he wrote, “From early Morning till late at night I have kept busy with scarcely a break. Pray for me for the strain is very great. I have baptized 130, and I expect at least twice as many more.”
Returning to America on furlough, Ernie fell in love with Laura Harmon, married her, and took her back to Borneo. She died suffering a miscarriage, and Ernie buried her in a coffin made with timbers from the house they were building. Then he pressed on, alone again.
His service was disrupted between 1940 and 1945 by war in the South Pacific. For five years Ernie wondered and worried about his suffering flock. On November 27, 1945, when he returned, he found the graves of many Christians, but the church in Borneo was triumphant. By now, Ernie was old beyond his 38 years, and he died three months later of pneumonia after a rafting accident—having planted a church and reaped a harvest that thrives to this day.
The LORD forgives our sins, heals us when we are sick, and protects us from death. His kindness and love are a crown on our heads. Each day that we live, he provides for our needs and gives us the strength of a young eagle.
--- Psalm 103:3-5.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
God Is In The Manger (Day 1)
The Advent Season Is a Season of Waiting
Jesus stands at the door knocking (Rev. 3:20. In total reality, he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us. Do you want to close the door or open it?
It may strike us as strange to see Christ in such a near face, but he said it, and those who withdraw from the serious reality of the Advent message cannot talk of the coming of Christ in their heart, either... .
Christ is knocking. It's still not Christmas, but it's also still not the great last Advent, the last coming of Christ. Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate runs the longing for the last Advent, when the word will be: "See, I am making all things new" (Rev. 21:5).
The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our whole life is an Advent season, that is, a season of waiting for the last Advent, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
"We can, and should also, celebrate Christmas despite the ruins around us.... I think of you as you now sit together with the children and with all the Advent decorations-as in earlier years you did with us. We must do all this, even more intensively because we do not know how much longer we have.
Letter to Bonhoeffer's parents,
November 29, 1943,
written from Tegel prison camp
Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.
--- Revelation 3:20.
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 27
“Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord.” --- Zechariah 3:1.
In Joshua the high priest we see a picture of each and every child of God, who has been made nigh by the blood of Christ, and has been taught to minister in holy things, and enter into that which is within the veil. Jesus has made us priests and kings unto God, and even here upon earth we exercise the priesthood of consecrated living and hallowed service. But this high priest is said to be “standing before the angel of the Lord,” that is, standing to minister. This should be the perpetual position of every true believer. Every place is now God’s temple, and his people can as truly serve him in their daily employments as in his house. They are to be always “ministering,” offering the spiritual sacrifice of prayer and praise, and presenting themselves a “living sacrifice.” But notice where it is that Joshua stands to minister, it is before the angel of Jehovah. It is only through a mediator that we poor defiled ones can ever become priests unto God. I present what I have before the messenger, the angel of the covenant, the Lord Jesus; and through him my prayers find acceptance wrapped up in his prayers; my praises become sweet as they are bound up with bundles of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia from Christ’s own garden. If I can bring him nothing but my tears, he will put them with his own tears in his own bottle for he once wept; if I can bring him nothing but my groans and sighs, he will accept these as an acceptable sacrifice, for he once was broken in heart, and sighed heavily in spirit. I myself, standing in him, am accepted in the Beloved; and all my polluted works, though in themselves only objects of divine abhorrence, are so received, that God smelleth a sweet savour. He is content and I am blessed. See, then, the position of the Christian—“a priest— standing—before the angel of the Lord.”
Evening - November 27
“The forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” --- Ephesians 1:7.
Could there be a sweeter word in any language than that word “forgiveness,” when it sounds in a guilty sinner’s ear, like the silver notes of jubilee to the captive Israelite? Blessed, for ever blessed be that dear star of pardon which shines into the condemned cell, and gives the perishing a gleam of hope amid the midnight of despair! Can it be possible that sin, such sin as mine, can be forgiven, forgiven altogether, and for ever? Hell is my portion as a sinner—there is no possibility of my escaping from it while sin remains upon me—can the load of guilt be uplifted, the crimson stain removed? Can the adamantine stones of my prison-house ever be loosed from their mortices, or the doors be lifted from their hinges? Jesus tells me that I may yet be clear. For ever blessed be the revelation of atoning love which not only tells me that pardon is possible, but that it is secured to all who rest in Jesus. I have believed in the appointed propitiation, even Jesus crucified, and therefore my sins are at this moment, and for ever, forgiven by virtue of his substitutionary pains and death. What joy is this! What bliss to be a perfectly pardoned soul! My soul dedicates all her powers to him who of his own unpurchased love became my surety, and wrought out for me redemption through his blood. What riches of grace does free forgiveness exhibit! To forgive at all, to forgive fully, to forgive freely, to forgive for ever! Here is a constellation of wonders; and when I think of how great my sins were, how dear were the precious drops which cleansed me from them, and how gracious was the method by which pardon was sealed home to me, I am in a maze of wondering worshipping affection. I bow before the throne which absolves me, I clasp the cross which delivers me, I serve henceforth all my days the Incarnate God, through whom I am this night a pardoned soul.
Morning and Evening
THANKS TO GOD!
August Ludvig Storm, 1862–1914
Translated by Carl E. Backstrom, 1901–
Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20
A thankful spirit, both for the good and the difficult, is one of the important indicators of a believer’s spiritual condition. To be able to say ---
I thank Thee, God, that all our joy is touched with pain, that shadows fall on brightest hours, that thorns remain;
So that earth’s bliss may be our guide, and not our chain. I thank Thee, Lord, that Thou has kept the best in store;
We have enough, but not too much to long for more—a yearning for a deeper peace, not known before.
--- Adelaide A. Procter
A prayer like this requires a life that knows and practices the intimate presence of Christ in daily living.
August Storm, the author of “Thanks to God!”, lived most of his life in Stockholm, Sweden. As a young man he was converted to Christ in a Salvation Army meeting. Soon he joined the Salvation Army Corps and in time became one of its leading officers. He wrote this hymn’s text for the Army’s publication, Stridsropet (The War Cry), on December 5, 1891. The original Swedish version had four stanzas, with each verse beginning with the word tack “thanks,” having a total of 32 “thanks” in all. The gratitude expressed to God ranges from the “dark and dreary fall” to the “pleasant, balmy springtime,” “pain as well as pleasure,” “thorns as well as roses.”
These words have come from the heart of one who lived and practiced what his lips and pen proclaimed:
Thanks, O God, for boundless mercy from Thy gracious throne above; thanks for ev’ry need provided from the fullness of Thy love! Thanks for daily toil and labor and for rest when shadows fall; thanks for love of friend and neighbor and Thy goodness unto all!
Thanks for thorns as well as roses; thanks for weakness and for health; thanks for clouds as well as sunshine; thanks for poverty and wealth! Thanks for pain as well as pleasure—all thou sendest day by day; and Thy Word, our dearest treasure, shedding light upon our way.
Thanks, O God, for home and fireside, here we share our daily bread; thanks for hours of sweet communion, when by Thee our souls are fed! Thanks for grace in time of sorrow and for joy and peace in Thee; thanks for hope today, tomorrow, and for all eternity!
For Today: Psalm 68:19; 103:1–10; 116:12; Revelation 7:12
“A grateful person is a happy one.” Become even more aware of God’s daily blessings in life. Carry this portion of today’s hymn with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
i. Goodness was the spring of redemption. All and every part of it owes only to this perfection the appearance of it in the world. This only excited wisdom to bring forth from so great an evil as the apostacy of man, so great a good as the recovery of him. When man fell from his created goodness, God would evidence that he could not fall from his infinite goodness: that the greatest evil could not surmount the ability of his wisdom to contrive, nor the riches of his bounty to present us a remedy for it. Divine Goodness would not stand by a spectator, without being reliever of that misery man had plunged himself into; but by astonishing methods it would recover him to happiness, who had wrested himself out of his hands, to fling himself into the most deplorable calamity: and it was the greater, since it surmounted those natural inclinations, and those strong provocations which he had to shower down the power of his wrath. What could be the source of such a procedure, but this excellency of Divine nature, since no violence could force him, nor was there any merit to persuade to such a restoration? This, under the name of his “love,” is rendered the sole cause of the redeeming death of the Son: it was to commend his love with the highest gloss, and in so singular a manner that had not its parallel in nature, nor in all his other works, and reaches in the brightness of it beyond the manifested extent of any other attribute (Rom. 5:8). It must be only a miraculous goodness that induced him to expose the life of his Son to those difficulties in the world, and death upon the cross, for the freedom of sordid rebels: his great end was to give such a demonstration of the liberality of his nature, as might be attractive to his creature, remove its shakings and tremblings, and encourage its approaches to him. It is in this he would not only manifest his love, but assume the name of “Love.” By this name the Holy Ghost calls him, in relation to this good will manifested in his Son (1 John 4:8, 9), “God is love.” In this is manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might “live through him.” He would take the name he never expressed himself in before. He was Jehovah, in regard of the truth of his promise; so he would be known of old: he is Goodness, in regard of the grandeur of his affection in the mission of his Son: and, therefore, he would be known by the name of Love now, in the days of the gospel.
ii. It was a pure goodness. He was under no obligation to pity our misery, and repair our ruins: he might have stood to the terms of the first covenant, and exacted our eternal death, since we had committed an infinite transgression: he was under no tie to put off the robes of a judge for the bowels of a father, and erect a mercyseat above his tribunal of justice. The reparation of man had no necessary connexion with his creation; it follows not, that because Goodness had extracted us from nothing by a mighty power, that it must lift us out of wilful misery by a mighty grace. Certainly that God who had no need of creating us, had far less need of redeeming us: for, since he created one world, he could have as easily destroyed it, and reared another. It had not been unbecoming the Divine Goodness or Wisdom, to have let man perpetually wallow in that sink wherein he had plunged himself, since he was criminal by his own will, and, therefore, miserable by his own fault: nothing could necessitate this reparation. If Divine Goodness could not be obliged by the angelical dignity to repair that nature, he is further from any obligation by the meanness of man to repair human nature. There was less necessity to restore man than to restore the fallen angels. What could man do to oblige God to a reparation of him, since he could not render him a recompense for his goodness manifested in his creation? He must be much more impotent to render him a debtor for the redemption of him from misery. Could it be a salary for anything we had done? Alas! we are so far from meriting it, that by our daily demerits, we seem ambitious to put a stop to any further effusions of it: we could not have complained of him, if he had left us in the misery we had courted, since he was bound by no law to bestow upon us the recovery we wanted. When the apostle speaks of the gospel of “redemption,” he giveth it the title of the “gospel of the blessed God” (2 Tim. 1:11). It was the gospel of a God abounding in his own blessedness, which received no addition by man’s redemption; if he had been blessed by it, it had been a goodness to himself, as well as to the creature: it was not an indigent goodness needing the receiving anything from us; but it was a pure goodness, streaming out of itself, without bringing anything into itself for the perfection of it: there was no goodness in us to be the motive of his love, but his goodness was the fountain of our benefit.
iii. It was a distinct goodness of the whole Trinity. In the creation of man we find a general consultation (Gen. 1:26), without those distinct labors and offices of each person, and without those raised expressions and marks of joy and triumph as at man’s restoration. In this there are distinct functions; the grace of the Father, the merit of the Son, and the efficacy of the Spirit. The Father makes the promise of redemption, the Son seals it with his blood, and the Spirit applies it. The Father adopts us to be his children, the Son redeems us to be his members, and the Spirit renews us to be his temples. In this the Father testifies himself well-pleased in a voice; the Son proclaims his own delight to do the will of God, and the Spirit hastens, with the wing of a dove, to fit him for his work, and afterwards, in his apparition in the likeness of fiery tongues, manifests his zeal for the propagation of the redeeming gospel.
iv. The effects of it proclaim His great goodness. It is by this we are delivered from the corruption of our nature, the ruin of our happiness, the deformity of our sins, and the punishment of our transgressions; he frees us from the ignorance wherewith we were darkened and from the slavery wherein we were fettered. When he came to make Adam’s process after his crime, instead of pronouncing the sentence of death he had merited, he utters a promise that man could not have expected; his kindness swells above his provoked justice, and, while he chaseth him out of paradise, he gives him hopes of regaining the same, or a better habitation; and is, in the whole, more ready to prevent him with the blessings of his goodness, than charge him with the horror of his crimes (Gen. 3:15). It is a goodness that pardons us more transgressions than there are moments in our lives, and overlooks as many follies as there are thoughts in our heart: he doth not only relieve our wants, but restores us to our dignity. It is a greater testimony of goodness to instate a person in the highest honors, than barely to supply his present necessity: it is an admirable pity whereby he was inclined to redeem us, and an incomparable affection whereby he was resolved to exalt us. What can be desired more of him than his goodness hath granted? He hath sought us out when we were lost, and ransomed us when we were captives; he hath pardoned us when we were condemned, and raised us when we were dead. In creation he reared us from nothing, in redemption he delivers our understanding from ignorance and vanity, and our wills from impotence and obstinacy, and our whole man from a death worse than that nothing he drew us from by creation.
v. Hence we may consider the height of this goodness in redemption to exceed that in creation. He gave man a being in creation, but did not draw him from inexpressible misery by that act. His liberality in the gospel doth infinitely surpass what we admire in the works of nature; his goodness in the latter is more astonishing to our belief, than his goodness in creation is visible to our eye. There is more of his bounty expressed in that one verse, “So God loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16), than there is in the whole volume of the world: it is an incomprehensible so; a so that all the angels in heaven cannot analyse; and few comment upon, or understand, the dimensions of this so. In creation he formed an innocent creature of the dust of the ground; in redemption he restores a rebellious creature by the blood of his Son: it is greater than that goodness manifested in creation.
1st. In regard of the difficulty in effecting it. In creation, mere nothing was vanquished to bring us into being; in redemption, sullen enmity was conquered for the enjoyment of our restoration; in creation, he subdued a nullity to make us creatures; in redemption, his goodness overcomes his omnipotent justice to restore us to felicity. A word from the mouth of Goodness inspired the dust of men’s bodies with a living soul; but the blood of his Son must be shed, and the laws of natural affection seems to be overturned, to lay the foundation of our renewed happiness. In the first, heaven did but speak, and the earth was formed; in the second, heaven itself must sink to earth, and be clothed with dusty earth, to reduce man’s dust to its original state.
2d. This goodness is greater than that manifested in creation, in regard of its cost. This was a more expensive goodness than what was laid out in creation. “The redemption of one soul is precious” (Psalm 49:8), much more costly than the whole fabric of the world, or as many worlds as the understandings of angels in their utmost extent can conceive to be created. For the effecting of this, God parts with his dearest treasure, and his Son eclipses his choicest glory. For this, God must be made man, Eternity must suffer death, the Lord of angels must weep in a cradle, and the Creator of the world must hang like a slave; he must be in a manger in Bethlehem, and die upon a cross on Calvary; unspotted righteousness must be made sin, and unblemished blessedness be made a curse. He was at no other expense than the breath of his mouth to form man; the fruits of the earth could have maintained innocent man without any other cost; but his broken nature cannot be healed without the invaluable medicine of the blood of God. View Christ in the womb and in the manger, in his weary steps and hungry bowels, in his prostrations in the garden, and in his clodded drops of bloody sweat; view his head pierced with a crown of thorns, and his face besmeared with the soldiers’ slabber; view him in his march to Calvary, and his elevation on the painful cross, with his head hanged down, and his side streaming blood; view him pelted with the scoffs of the governors, and the derisions of the rabble; and see, in all this, what cost Goodness was at for man’s redemption! In creation, his power made the sun to shine upon us, and, in redemption, his bowels sent a Son to die for us.
3d. This goodness of God in redemption is greater than that manifested in creation, in regard of man’s desert of the contrary. In the creation, as there was nothing without him to allure him to the expressions of his bounty, so there was nothing that did damp the inclinations of his goodness: the nothing from whence the world was drawn, could never merit, nor demerit a being, because it was nothing; as there was nothing to engage him, so there was nothing to disoblige him; as his favor could not be merited, so neither could his anger be deserved. But in this he finds ingratitude against the former marks of his goodness, and rebellion against the sweetness of his sovereignty, —crimes unworthy of the dews of goodness, and worthy of the sharpest strokes of vengeance; and therefore the Scripture advanceth the honor of it above the title of mere goodness, to that of “grace” (Rom. 1:2; Titus 2:11); because men were not only unworthy of a blessing, but worthy of a curse. An innocent nothing more deserves creation, than a culpable creature deserves an exemption from destruction. When man fell, and gave occasion to God to repent of his created work, his ravishing goodness surmounted the occasions he had of repenting, and the provocations he had to the destruction of his frame.
4th. It was a greater goodness than was expressed towards the angels.
1. A greater goodness than was expressed towards the standing angels. The Son of God did no more expose his life for the confirmation of those that stood, than for the restoration of those that fell; the death of Christ was not for the holy angels, but for simple man; they needed the grace of God to confirm them, but not the death of Christ to restore or preserve them; they had a beloved holiness to be established by the powerful grace of God, but not any abominable sin to be blotted out by the blood of God; they had no debt to pay but that of obedience; but we had both a debt of obedience to the precepts, and a debt of suffering to the penalty, after the fall. Whether the holy angels were confirmed by Christ, or no, is a question: some think they were, from Col. 1:20, where “things in heaven” are said to be “reconciled;” but some think, that place signifies no more than the reconciliation of things in heaven, if meant of the angels, to things on earth, with whom they were at enmity in the cause of their Sovereign; or the reconciliation of things in heaven to God, is meant the glorified saints, who were once in a state of sin, and whom the death of Christ upon the cross reached, though dead long before. But if angels were confirmed by Christ, it was by him not as a slain sacrifice, but as a sovereign Head of the whole creation, appointed by God to gather all things into one; which some think to be the intendment of Eph. 1:10, where all things, as well those in heaven, as those in earth, are said to be “gathered together in one, in Christ.” Where is a syllable in Scripture of his being crucified for angels, but only for sinners! Not for the confirmation of the one, but the reconciliation of the other; so that the goodness whereby God continued those blessed spirits in heaven, through the effusions of his grace, is a small thing to the restoring us to our forfeited happiness, through the streams of Divine blood. The preserving a man in life is a little thing, and a smaller benefit than the raising a man from death. The rescuing a man from an ignominious punishment, lays a greater obligation than barely to prevent him from committing a capital crime. The preserving a man standing upon the top of a steep hill, is more easy than to bring a crippled and phthisical man, from the bottom to the top. The continuance God gave to the angels, is not so signal a mark of his goodness as the deliverance he gave to us; since they were not sunk into sin, nor by any crime fallen into misery.
2. His goodness in redemption is greater than any goodness expressed to the fallen angels. It is the wonder of his goodness to us, that he was mindful of fallen man, and careless of fallen angels; that he should visit man, wallowing in death and blood, with the dayspring from on high, and never turn the Egyptian darkness of devils into cheerful day; when they sinned, Divine thunder dashed them into hell; when man sinned, Divine blood wafts the fallen creature from his misery: the angels wallow in their own blood forever, while Christ is made partaker of our blood, and wallows in his blood, that we might not forever corrupt in ours; they tumbled down from heaven, and Divine goodness would not vouchsafe to catch them; man tumbles down, and Divine goodness holds out a hand drenched in the blood of Him, that was from the foundations of the world, to lift us up (Heb. 2:16). He spared not those dignified spirits, when they revolted; and spared not punishing his Son for dusty man, when he offended; when he might as well forever have let man lie in the chains wherein he had entangled himself, as them. We were as fit objects of justice as they, and they as fit objects of goodness as we; they were not more wretched by their fall than we; and the poverty of our nature rendered us more unable to recover ourselves, than the dignity of theirs did them; they were his Reuben, his first-born; they were his might, and the beginning of his strength; yet those elder sons he neglected, to prefer the younger; they were the prime and golden pieces of creation, not laden with gross matter, yet they lie under the ruins of their fall, while man, lead in comparison of them, is refined for another world. They seemed to be fitter objects of Divine goodness, in regard of the eminency of their nature above the human; one angel excelled in endowments of mind and spirit, vastness of understanding, greatness of power, all the sons of men; they were more capable to praise him, more capable to serve him; and because of the acuteness of their comprehension, more able to have a due estimate of such a redemption, had it been afforded them; yet that goodness which had created them so comely, would not lay itself out in restoring the beauty they had defaced. The promise was of bruising the serpent’s head for us, not of lifting up the serpent’s head with us; their nature was not assumed, nor any command given them to believe or repent; not one devil spared, not one apostate spirit recovered, not one of those eminent creatures restored; every one of them hath only a prospect of misery, without any glimpse of recovery; they were ruined under one sin, and we repaired under many. All His redeeming goodness was laid out upon man (Psalm 144:3); “What is man that thou takest knowledge of him; and the Son of man, that thou makest account of him?” Making account of him above angels; as they fell without any tempting them, so God would leave them to rise, without any assisting them. I know the schools trouble themselves to find out the reasons of this peculiarity of grace to man, and not to them; because the whole human nature fell, but only a part of the angelical; the one sinned by a seduction, and the other by a sullenness, without any tempter; every angel sinned by his own proper will, whereas Adam’s posterity sinned by the will of the first man, the common root of all. God would deprive the devil of any glory in the satisfaction of his envious desire to hinder man from attainment and possession of that happiness which himself had lost. The weakness of man below the angelical nature might excite the Divine mercy; and since all the things of the lower world were created for man, God would not lose the honor of his works, by losing the immediate end for which he framed them. And finally, because in the restoration of angels, there would have been only a restoration of one nature, that was not comprehensive of the nature of inferior things; but after all such conjectures, man must sit down, and acknowledge Divine goodness to be the only spring, without any other motive. Since Infinite Wisdom could have contrived a way for redemption for fallen angels, as well as for fallen man, and restored both the one and the other; why might not Christ have assumed their nature as well as ours, into the unity of the Divine person, and suffered the wrath of God in their nature for them, as well as in his human soul for us? It is as conceivable that two natures might have been assumed by the Son of God, as well as three souls be in man distinct, as some think there are.
3. To enhance this goodness yet higher; it was a greater goodness to us, than was for a time manifested to Christ himself. To demonstrate his goodness to man, in preventing his eternal ruin, he would for a while withhold his goodness from his Son, by exposing his life as the price of our ransom; not only subjecting him to the derisions of enemies, desertions of friends, and malice of devils, but to the inexpressible bitterness of his own wrath in his soul, as made an offering for sin. The particle so (John 3:16), seems to intimate this supremacy of goodness; He “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” He so loved the world, that he seemed for a time not to love his Son in comparison of it, or equal with it. The person to whom a gift is given is, in that regard, accounted more valuable than the gift or present made to him: thus God valued our redemption above the worldly happiness of the Redeemer, and sentenceth him to an humiliation on earth, in order to our exaltation in heaven; he was desirous to hear him groaning, and see him bleeding, that we might not groan under his frowns, and bleed under his wrath; he spared not him, that he might spare us; refused not to strike him, that he might be well pleased with us; drenched his sword in the blood of his Son, that it might not forever be wet with ours, but that his goodness might forever triumph in our salvation; he was willing to have his Son made man, and die, rather than man should perish, who had delighted to ruin himself; he seemed to degrade him for a time from what he was. But since he could not be united to any but to an intellectual creature, he could not be united to any viler and more sordid creature than the earthly nature of man: and when this Son, in our nature, prayed that the cup might pass from him, Goodness would not suffer it, to show how it valued the manifestation of itself, in the salvation of man, above the preservation of the life of so dear a person.
In particular, wherein this goodness appears:—
1st. The first resolution to redeem, and the means appointed for redemption, could have no other inducement but Divine goodness. We cannot too highly value the merit of Christ; but we must not so much extend the merit of Christ, as to draw a value to eclipse the goodness of God; though we owe our redemption and the fruits of it to the death of Christ, yet we owe not the first resolutions of redemption, and assumption of our nature, the means of redemption, to the merit of Christ. Divine goodness only, without the association of any merit, not only of man, but of the Redeemer himself, beat the first purpose of our recovery; he was singled out, and predestinated to be our Redeemer, before he took our nature to merit our redemption. “God sent his Son,” is a frequent expression in the Gospel of St. John (John 3:34; 5:24; 17:3). To what end did God send Christ, but to redeem? The purpose of redemption, therefore, preceded the pitching upon Christ as the means and procuring cause of it, i.e. of our actual redemption, but not of the redeeming purpose; the end is always in intention before the means. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son;” the love of God to the world was first in intention, and the order of nature, before the will of giving his Son to the world. His intention of saving was before the mission of a Saviour; so that this affection rose, not from the merit of Christ, but the merit of Christ was directed by this affection. It was the effect of it, not the cause. Nor was the union of our nature with his merited by him; all his meritorious acts were performed in our nature; the nature, therefore, wherein he performed it, was not merited; that grace which was not, could not merit what it was; he could not merit that humanity, which must be assumed before he could merit anything for us, because all merit for us must be offered in the nature which had offended. It is true “Christ gave himself,” but by the order of Divine goodness; he that begat him, pitched upon him, and called him to this great work (Heb. 5:5); he is therefore called “the Lamb of God,” as being set apart by God to be a propitiating and appeasing sacrifice. He is the “Wisdom of God,” since from the Father he reveals the counsel and order of redemption. In this regard he calls God “his God” in the prophet (Isa. 49:4), and in the evangelist (John 20:17); though he was big with affection for the accomplishment, yet he came not to do his “own will,” but the will of Divine goodness; his own will it was, too, but not principally, as being the first wheel in motion, but subordinate to the eternal will of Divine bounty. It was by the will of God that he came, and by his will he drank the dreggy cup of bitterness. Divine justice laid “upon him the iniquity of us all,” but Divine goodness intended it for our rescue; Divine goodness singled him out, and set him apart; Divine goodness invited him to it; Divine goodness commanded him to effect it, and put a law into his heart, to bias him in the performing of it; Divine goodness sent him, and Divine goodness moved justice to bruise him; and, after his sacrifice, Divine goodness accepted him, and caressed him for it. So earnest was it for our redemption, as to give out special and irreversible orders: death was commanded to be endured by him for us, and life commanded to be imparted by him to us (John 10:16, 18). If God had not been the mover, but had received the proposal from another, he might have heard it, but was not bound to grant it; his sovereign authority, was not under any obligation to receive another’s sponsion for the miserable criminal. As Christ is the head of man, so “God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:3); he did nothing but by his directions, as he was not a Mediator, but by the constitution of Divine goodness. As a “liberal man deviseth liberal things” (Isa. 2:8), so did a bountiful God devise a bountiful act, wherein his kindness and love as a Saviour appeared: he was possessed with the resolutions to manifest his goodness in Christ, “in the beginning of his way” (Prov. 8:22, 23), before he descended to the act of creation. This intention of goodness preceded his making that creature man, who, he foresaw, would fall, and, by his fall, disjoint and entangle the whole frame of the world, without such a provision.
2d. In God’s giving Christ to be our Redeemer, he gave the highest gift that it was possible for Divine goodness to bestow. As there is not a greater God than himself to be conceived, so there is not a greater gift for this great God to present to his creatures: never did God go farther, in any of his excellent perfections, than this. It is such a dole that cannot be transcended with a choicer; he is, as it were, come to the last mite of his treasure; and though he could create millions of worlds for us, he cannot give a greater Son to us. He could abound in the expressions of his power, in new creations of worlds, which have not yet been seen, and in the lustre of his wisdom in more stately structures; but if he should frame as many worlds as there are mites of dust and matter in this, and make every one of them as bright and glorious as the sun, though his power and wisdom would be more signalized, yet his goodness could not, since he hath not a choicer gift to bless those brighter worlds withal, than he hath conferred upon this: nor can immense goodness contrive a richer means to conduct those worlds to happiness, than he hath both invented for this world, and presented it with. It cannot be imagined, that it can extend itself farther than to give a gift equal with himself; a gift as dear to him as himself. His wisdom, had it studied millions of eternities (excuse the expression, since eternity admits of no millions, it being an interminable duration), it could have found out no more to give; this goodness could have bestowed no more, and our necessity could not have required a greater offering for our relief. When God intended, in redemption, the manifestation of his highest goodness, it could not be without the donation of the choicest gift; as, when he would insure our comfort, he swears “by himself,” because he cannot swear “by a greater” (Heb. 6:13): so, when we would insure our happiness, he gives us his Son, because he cannot give a greater, being equal with himself. Had the Father given himself in person, he had given one first in order, but not greater in essence and glorious perfections: it could have been no more than the life of God, and should then have been laid down for us; and so it was now, since the human nature did not subsist but in his Divine person.
1. It is a greater gift than worlds, or all things purchased by him. What was this gift but “the image of his person, and the brightness of his glory” (Heb. 1:3)? What was this gift but one as rich as eternal blessedness could make him? What was this gift, but one that possessed the fulness of earth, and the more immense riches of heaven? It is a more valuable present, than if he presented us with thousands of worlds of angels and inferior creatures, because his person is incomparably greater, not only than all conceivable, but inconceivable, creations; we are more obliged to him for it, than if he had made us angels of the highest rank in heaven, because it is a gift of more value than the whole angelical nature, because he is an infinite person, and therefore infinitely transcends whatsoever is finite, though of the highest dignity. The wounds of an Almighty God for us are a greater testimony of goodness, than if we had all the other riches of heaven and earth. This perfection had not appeared in such an astonishing grandeur, had it pardoned us without so rich a satisfaction; that had been pardon to our sin, not a God of our nature. “God so loved the world” that he ardoned it, had not sounded so great and so good, as God so love the world, that he “gave his only-begotten Son.” Est aliquid in Christo formosius Servatore. There is something in Christ more excellent and comely than the office of a Saviour; the greatness of his person is more excellent, than the salvation procured by his death: it was a greater gift than was bestowed upon innocent Adam, or the holy angels. In the creation, his goodness gave us creatures for our use: in our redemption, his goodness gives us what was dearest to him for our service, our Sovereign in office to benefit us, as well as in a royalty to govern us.
2. It was a greater gift, because it was his own Son, not an angel. It had been a mighty goodness to have given one of the lofty seraphims; a greater goodness to have given the whole corporation of those glorious spirits for us, those children of the Most High: but he gave that Son, whom he commands “all the angels to worship” Heb. 1:6), and all men to adore, and pay the “lowest homage to” (Psalm 2:12); that Son that is to be honored by us, as we “honor the Father” (John 5:23); that Son which was his “delight” (Prov. 8:30); his delights in the Hebrew, wherein all the delights of the Father were gathered in one, as well as of the whole creation; and not simply a Son, but an only-begotten Son, upon which Christ lays the stress with an emphasis (1 John 3:16). He had but one Son in heaven or earth, one Son from an unviewable eternity, and that one Son he gave for a degenerate world; this son he consecrated for “evermore a Priest” (Heb. 7:28). “The word of the oath makes the Son;” the peculiarity of his Sonship heightens the goodness of the Donor. It was no meaner a person that he gave to empty himself of his glory, to fulfil an obedience for us, that we might be rendered happy partakers of the Divine nature. Those that know the natural affection of a father to a son, must judge the affection of God the Father to the Son infinitely greater, than the affection of an earthly father to the son of his bowels. It must be an unparalleled goodness, to give up a Son that he loved with so ardent an affection, for the redemption of rebels: abandon a glorious Son to a dishonorable death, for the security of those that had violated the laws of righteousness, and endeavored to pull the sovereign crown from his head. Besides, being an only Son, all those affections centered in him, which in parents would have been divided among a multitude of children: so, then, as it was a testimony of the highest faith and obedience in “Abraham to offer up his only-begotten son to God” (Heb. 11:17); so it was the triumph of Divine goodness, to give so great, so dear a person, for so little a thing as man; and for such a piece of nothing and vanity, as a sinful world.
3. And this Son given to rescue us by his death. It was a gift to us; for our sakes he descended from his throne, and dwelt on earth; for our sakes he was “made flesh,” and infirm flesh; for our sakes he was “made a curse,” and scorched in the furnace of his Father’s wrath; for our sakes he went naked, armed only with his own strength, into the lists of that combat with the devils, that led us captive. Had he given him to be a leader for the conquest of some earthly enemies, it had been a great goodness to display his banners, and bring us under his conduct; but he sent him to lay down his life in the bitterest and most inglorious manner, and exposed him to a cursed death for our redemption from that dreadful curse, which would have broken us to pieces, and irreparably have crushed us. He gave him to us, to suffer for us as a man, and redeem us as a God; to be a sacrifice to expiate our sin by translating the punishment upon himself, which was merited by us. Thus was he made low to exalt us, and debased to advance us, “made poor to enrich us” (2 Cor. 8:9); and eclipsed to brighten our sullied natures, and wounded, that he might be a physician for our languishments. He was ordered to taste the bitter cup of death, that we might drink of the rivers of immortal life and pleasures: to submit to the frailties of the human nature, that we might possess the glories of the divine: he was ordered to be a sufferer, that we might be no longer captives; and to pass through the fire of Divine wrath, that he might purge our nature from the dross it had contracted. Thus was the righteous given for sin, the innocent for criminals, the glory of heaven for the dregs of earth, and the immense riches of a Deity expended to restock man.
4. And a Son that was exalted for what he had done for us by the order of Divine goodness. The exaltation of Christ was no less a signal mark of his miraculous goodness to us, than of his affection to him: since he was obedient by Divine goodness to die for us, his advancement was for his obedience to those orders. The name given to him “above every name” (Phil. 2:8, 9), was a repeated triumph of this perfection; since his passion was not for himself, he was wholly innocent, but for us who were criminal. His advancement was not only for himself as Redeemer, but for us as redeemed: Divine goodness centered in him, both in his cross and in his crown; for it was for the “purging our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3): and the whole blessed society of principalities and powers in heaven admire this goodness of God, and ascribe to him “honor, glory, and power” for advancing the “Lamb slain” (Rev. 5:11–13). Divine goodness did not only give him to us, but gave him power, riches, strength, and honor, for manifesting this goodness to us, and opening the passages for its fuller conveyances to the sons of men. Had not God had thoughts of a perpetual goodness, he would not have settled him so near him, to manage our cause, and testified so much affection to him on our behalf. This goodness gave him to be debased for us, and ordered him to be enthroned for us: as it gave him to us bleeding, so it would give him to us triumphing; that as we have a share by grace in the merits of his humiliation, We might partake also of the glories of his coronation; that, from first to last, we may behold nothing but the triumphs of Divine goodness to fallen man.
5. In bestowing this gift on us, Divine goodness gives whole God to us. Whatsoever is great and excellent in the Godhead, the Father gives us, by giving us his Son: the Creator gives himself to us in his Son Christ. In giving creatures to us, he gives the riches of earth; in giving himslf to us, he gives the riches of heaven, which surmount all understanding: it is in this gift he becomes our God, and passeth over the title of all that he is for our use and benefit, that every attribute in the Divine nature may be claimed by us; not to be imparted to us whereby we may be deified, but employed for our welfare, whereby we may be blessed. He gave himself in creation to us in the image of his holiness; but, in redemption, he gave himself in the image of his person: he would not only communicate the goodness without him, but bestow upon us the infinite goodness of his own nature; that that which was his own end and happiness might be our end and happiness, viz. himself. By giving his Son, he hath given himself; and in both gifts he hath given all things to us. The Creator of all things is eminently all things: “He hath given all things into the hands of his Son” (John 3:35); and, by consequence, given all things into the hands of his redeemed creatures, by giving them Him to whom he gave all things; whatsoever we were invested in by creation, whatsoever we were deprived of by corruption, and more, he hath deposited in safe hands for our enjoyment: and what can Divine goodness do more for us? What further can it give unto us, than what it hath given, and in that gift designed for us?
3d. This goodness is enhanced by considering the state of man in the first transgression, and since.
1. Man’s first transgression. If we should rip up every vein of that first sin, should we find any want of wickedness to excite a just indignation? What was there but ingratitude to Divine bounty, and rebellion against Divine sovereignty? The royalty of God was attempted; the supremacy of Divine knowledge above man’s own knowledge envied; the riches of goodness, whereby he lived and breathed, slighted. There is a discontent with God upon an unreasonable sentiment, that God had denied a knowledge to him which was his right and due, when there should have been an humble acknowledgment of that unmerited goodness, which had not only given him a being above other creatures, but placed him the governor and lord of those that were inferior to him. What alienation of his understanding was there from knowing God, and of his will from loving him! A debauch of all his faculties; a spiritual adultery, in preferring, not only one of God’s creatures, but one of his desperate enemies, before him; thinking him a wiser counsellor than Infinite Wisdom, and imagining him possessed with kinder affections to him than that God who had newly created him. Thus he joins in league with hell against heaven, with a fallen spirit against his bountiful Benefactor, and enters into society with rebels that just before commenced a war against his and their common Sovereign: he did not only falter in, but cast off, the obedience due to his Creator; endeavored to purloin his glory, and actually murdered all those that were virtually in his loins. “Sin entered into the world” by him, “and death by sin, and passed upon all men” (Rom. 5:12), taking them off from their subjection to God, to be slaves to the damned spirits, and heirs of their misery: and, after all this, he adds a foul imputation on God, taxing him as the author of his sin, and thereby stains the beauty of his holiness. But, notwithstanding all this, God stops not up the flood-gates of his goodness, nor doth he entertain fiery resolutions against man, but brings forth a healing promise; and sends not an angel upon commission to reveal it to him, but preaches it himself to this forlorn and rebellious creature (Gen. 3:15).
2. Could there be anything in this fallen creature to allure God to the expression of his goodness? Was there any good action in all his carriage that could plead for a re-admission of him to his former state? Was there one good quality left, that could be an orator to persuade Divine goodness to such a gracious procedure? Was there any moral goodness in man, after this debauch, that might be an object of Divine love? What was there in him, that was not rather a provocation than an allurement? Could you expect that any perfection in God should find a motive in this ungrateful apostate to open a mouth for him, and be an advocate to support him, and bring him off from a just tribunal? or, after Divine goodness had begun to pity and plead for man, is it not wonderful that it should not discontinue the plea, after it found man’s excuse to be as black as his crime (Gen. 3:12), and his carriage, upon his examination, to be as disobliging as his first revolt? It might well be expected, that all the perfections in the Divine nature would have entered into an association eternally to treat this rebel according to his deserts. What attractives were there in a silly worm, much less in such complete wickedness, inexcusable enmity, infamous rebellion, to design a Redeemer for him, and such a person as the Son of God to a fleshy body, an eclipse of glory, and an ignominious cross? The meanness of man was further from alluring God to it, than the dignity of angels.
3. Was there not a world of demerit in man, to animate grace as well as wrath against him? We were so far from deserving the opening any streams of goodness, that we had merited floods of devouring wrath. What were all men but enemies to God in a high manner? Every offence was infinite, as being committed against a being of infinite dignity; it was a stroke at the very being of God, a resistance of all his attributes; it would degrade him from the height and perfection of his nature; it would not, by its good will, suffer God to be God. If he that hates his brother is a murderer of his brother (1 John 3:15), he that hates his Creator is a murderer of the Deity, and every “carnal mind is enmity to God” (Rom. 8:7): every sin envies him his authority, by breaking his precept; and envies him his goodness, by defacing the marks of it: every sin comprehends in it more than men or angels can conceive: that God who only hath the clear apprehensions of his own dignity, hath the sole clear apprehensions of sin’s malignity. All men were thus by nature: those that sinned before the coming of the Redeemer had been in a state of sin; those that were to come after him would be in a state of sin by their birth, and be criminals as soon as ever they were creatures. All men, as well the glorified, as those in the flesh at the coming of the Redeemer, and those that were to be born after, were considered in a state of sin by God, when he bruised the Redeemer for them; all were filthy and unworthy of the eye of God; all had employed the faculties of their souls, and the members of their bodies, which they enjoyed by his goodness, against the interest of his glory. Every rational creature had made himself a slave to those creatures over whom he had been appointed a lord, subjected himself as a servant to his inferior, and strutted as a superior against his liberal Sovereign, and by every sin rendered himself more a child of Satan, and enemy of God, and more worthy of the curses of the law, and the torments of hell. Was it not, now, a mighty goodness that would surmount those high mountains of demerit, and elevate such creatures by the depression of his Son? Had we been possessed of the highest holiness, a reward had been the natural effect of goodness. It was not possible that God should be unkind to a righteous and innocent creature; his grace would have crowned that which had been so agreeable to him. He had been a denier of himself, had he numbered innocent creatures in the rank of the miserable; but to be kind to an enemy, to run counter to the vastness of demerit in man, was a superlative goodness, a goodness triumphing above all the provocations of men, and pleas of justice: it was an abounding goodness of grace; “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20), ὑπερεπερίσσευσεν; it swelled above the heights of sin, and triumphed more than all his other attributes.
4. Man was reduced to the lowest condition. Our crimes had brought us to the lowest calamity; we were brought to the dust, and prepared for hell. Adam had not the boldness to request, and therefore we may judge he had not the least hopes of pardon; he was sunk under wrath, and could have expected no better an entertainment than the tempter, whose solicitations he submitted to. We had cast the diadem from our heads, and lost all our original excellency; we were lost to our own happiness, and lost to our Creator’s service, when he was so kind as to send his Son to seek us (Matt. 18:11), and so liberal as to expend his blood for our cure and preservation. How great was that goodness that would not abandon us in our misery, but remit our crimes, and rescue our persons, and ransom our souls by so great a price from the rights of justice, and horrors of hell, we were so fitted for?
5. Every age multiplied provocations; every age of the world proved more degenerate. The traditions, which were purer and more lively among Adam’s immediate posterity, were more dark among his further descendants; idolatry, whereof we have no marks in the old world before the deluge, was frequent afterwards in every nation: not only the knowledge of the true God was lost, but the natural reverential thoughts of a Deity were expelled. Hence gods were dubbed according to men’s humors; and not only human passions, but brutish vices, ascribed to them: as by the fall we were become less than men, so we would fancy God no better than a beast, since beasts were worshipped as gods (Rom. 1:21); yea, fancied God no better than a devil, since that destroyer was worshipped instead of the Creator, and a homage paid to the powers of hell that had ruined them, which was due to the goodness of that Benefactor, who had made them and preserved them in the world. The vilest creatures were deified; reason was debased below common sense; and men adored one end of a “log,” while they “warmed themselves with the other” (Isa. 44:14, 16, 17); as if that which was ordained for the kitchen were a fit representation for God in the temple. Thus were the natural notions of a Deity depraved; the whole world drenched in idolatry; and though the Jews were free from that gross abuse of God, yet they were sunk also into loathsome superstitions, when the goodness of God brought in his designed Redeemer and redemption into the world.
6. The impotence of man enhanceth this goodness. Our own eye did scarce pity us, and it was impossible for our own hands to relieve us; we were insensible of our misery, in love with our death; we courted our chains, and the noise of our fettering lusts were our music, “serving divers lusts and pleasures” (Tit. 3:3). Our lusts were our pleasures; Satan’s yoke was as delightful to us to bear, as to him to impose: instead of being his opposers in his attempts against us, we were his voluntary seconds, and every whit as willing to embrace, as he was to propose, his ruining temptations. As no man can recover himself from death, so no man can recover himself from wrath; he is as unable to redeem, as to create himself; he might as soon have stripped himself of his being, as put an end to his misery; his captivity would have been endless, and his chains remediless, for anything he could do to knock them off; and deliver himself; he was too much in love with the sink of sin, to leave wallowing in it, and under too powerful a hand, to cease frying in the flames of wrath. As the law could not be obeyed by man, after a corrupt principle had entered into him, so neither could justice be satisfied by him after his transgression. The sinner was indebted, but bankrupt; as he was unable to pay a mite of that obedience he owed to the precept, because of his enmity, so he was unable to satisfy what he owed to the penalty, because of his feebleness: he was as much without love to observe the one, as “without strength” to bear the other: he could not, because of his “enmity, be subject to the law” (Rom. 8:7), or compensate for his sin, because he was “without strength” (Rom. 5:6). His strength to offend was great; but to deliver himself a mere nothing. Repentance was not a thing known by man after the fall, till he had hopes of redemption; and if he had known and exercised it, what compensation are the tears of a malefactor for an injury done to the crown, and attempting the life of his prince? How great was Divine goodness, not only to pity men in this state, but to provide a strong Redeemer for them! “O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer!” said the Psalmist (Psalm 19:14): when he found out a Redeemer for our misery, he found out a strength for our impotency. To conclude this: behold the “goodness of God,” when we had thus unhandsomely dealt with him; had nothing to allure his goodness, multitudes of provocations to incense him, were reduced to a condition as low as could be, fit to be the matter of his scoffs, and the sport of Divine justice, and so weak that we could not repair our own ruins; then did he open a fountain of fresh goodness in the death of his Son, and sent forth such delightful streams, as in our original creation we could never have tasted; not only overcame the resentments of a provoked justice, but magnified itself by our lowness, and strengthened itself by our weakness. His goodness had before created an innocent, but here it saves a malefactor; and sends his Son to die for us, as if the Holy of holies were the criminal, and the rebel the innocent. It had been a pompous goodness to have given him as a king; but a goodness of greater grandeur to expose him as a sacrifice for slaves and enemies. Had Adam remained innocent, and proved thankful for what he had received, it had been great goodness to have brought him to glory; but to bring filthy and rebellious Adam to it, surmounts, by inexpressible degrees, that sort of goodness he had experimented before; since it was not from a light evil, a tolerable curse unawares brought upon us, but from the yoke we had willingly submitted to, from the power of darkness we had courted, and the furnace of wrath we had kindled for ourselves. What are we dead dogs, that he should behold us with so gracious an eye? This goodness is thus enhanced, if you consider the state of man in his first transgression, and after.
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Erik Thoennes | Biola University
Attributes of God 1
Attributes of God 2
The Wrath of God
God and Culture
Walt Russell | Biola University
Genre in Biblical Interpretation 1
Genre in Biblical Interpretation 2
Genre in Biblical Interpretation 3
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Walt Russell | Biola University
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The Genre and Categories of Psalms
The Genre of the Epistles