1 Corinthians 1
Greeting1 Corinthians 1 1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Divisions in the Church10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Christ the Wisdom and Power of God18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 2
Proclaiming Christ Crucified1 Corinthians 2 1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Wisdom from the Spirit6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 3
Divisions in the Church1 Corinthians 3 1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
1 Corinthians 4
The Ministry of Apostles1 Corinthians 4 1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. 18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?
What I'm Reading
Why Shouldn’t We Trust the Non-Canonical “Gospel of Truth”?
By J. Warner Wallace 11/23/2017
he Gospel of Truth is an ancient text (written in the form of a sermon) making claims about Jesus and the message he preached. But, is this non-biblical text reliable? Was it really written by an eyewitness who observed the ministry of Jesus and heard him speak? There are four attributes of reliable eyewitness testimony, and the first requirement is simply that the account be old enough to actually be written by someone who was present to see what he or she reported. The Gospel of Truth was written too late in history to have been written by anyone who would have truly known Jesus, and like other late non-canonical texts, this fictional account was rejected by the early Church. In spite of this, The Gospel of Truth still references accurate details related to Jesus. Although it is a legendary fabrication written by an author hoped to provide detail about the childhood and family history of Jesus, much can still be learned about the historic Jesus from this late text:
The Gospel of Truth (140-180AD) | The Gospel of Truth was discovered alongside other Gnostic texts in the Nag Hammadi Library in Egypt (in 1945). Scholars have dated it to the 2nd century and have connected it with an early Gnostic teacher named Valentinus (who lived from 100-160AD). It is a poetic “homily” rather than a “gospel”, and is now considered one of the most artful Gnostic writings of all time.
Why Isn’t It Considered Reliable? | Irenaeus identified this book as heretical almost as soon as it appeared in history. He connected it to Valentinian Gnosticism and attributed it to one of Valentinus’ disciples, saying that The Gospel of Truth was filled with blasphemy and was not the product of any apostle or eyewitness to the life of Jesus. This is consistent with the fact that the Gospel appears far too late to be a reliable eyewitness document.
How Does It Corroborate the Life of Jesus? | Like other heretical accounts that claim to be authoritative The Gospel of Truth acknowledges canonical truths even while it twists the narrative to legitimize Gnostic beliefs and theology. The text presumes and affirms the existence and authority of a number of canonical letters and Gospels, serving as a Gnostic commentary on some of these texts. The Gospel of Truth references many of Paul’s letters (such as 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians), many letters from other New Testament writers (such as 1 John, Revelation and Hebrews) and some of the canonical Gospels (such as the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Matthew). It also acknowledges the fact that Jesus was a wise teacher who far surpassed the teachers of his day. He is referred to as “the Savior” who came to redeem those who did not yet know the Father. The Gospel of Truth also affirms the parable of the lost sheep and describes Jesus as the “shepherd”. It also acknowledges the fact that Jesus was nailed to a cross.
Where (and Why) Does It Differ from the Reliable Accounts?
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.
Preserved Poop Points the Way to General Hannibal's Historic Path
By Mindy Weisberger 4/5/2016
The question of precisely where the historically acclaimed general Hannibal and his army crossed the Alps into Italy to defeat the Romans — during the Second Punic War, around 218 to 201 B.C. — has perplexed historians for nearly 2,000 years.
Thanks to a new study, the first evidence pointing to an answer has finally been unearthed. Clues to Hannibal's secret military route were recently discovered — not in maps or letters, but in the geologic record.
But it wasn't exactly rocks that revealed the full story. Scientists dug up signs of Hannibal's passage in preserved poop deposits, from a churned-up stretch of boggy terrain that likely served as a watering hole and toilet for the army's resting animals. [In Photos: Ancient Roman Fort Discovered]
Even the ancient Romans couldn't agree on where Hannibal's crossing took place, and scholars around the world have debated the topic over the thousands of years since. Some proposed that the general traced a route through a narrow mountain pass called Col de la Traversette, to the southwest of Turin, Italy, but they couldn't produce any archaeological proof.
Solid evidence | Chris Allen, of Queen's University Belfast, and William Mahaney, of York University in Toronto, were conducting research near Col de la Traversette that was unrelated to Hannibal. That's when the 2,000-year-old question about the general's Alps route confronted them in the shape of a mire, a waterlogged area along the mountain passage, Allen told Live Science.
As a Senior Writer for Live Science, I cover the latest research and discoveries in paleontology and biology, as well as in earth sciences, technology, and human evolution, health, and behavior.
I've also produced, written, and directed more than 250 videos about science for the American Museum of Natural History: news videos highlighting recent discoveries and research, biographical films about notable scientists, videos of scientists at work, animations of scientific methods and results, data visualizations explaining dynamic processes on Earth and in space.
Not only do I enjoy crafting stories about science, I love sharing them. Connecting directly to readers and viewers through social media is a natural extension of the storytelling process, and one that I pursue with enthusiasm and with the implementation of frequently terrible puns.
Common Mistakes Critics Make When Approaching the Gospels
By chab123 2/20/2015
I have been plowing through Michael Wilkins, Craig A Evans, Darrell and Andreas J Köstenberger’s commentary called The Gospels and Acts The Holman Apologetics Commentary on the Bible, B&H Publishing Group. In it, they say these are the common mistakes that critics makes when they approach the Gospels:
They fail properly to account for literary and/ or historical contexts
miss hermeneutical (interpretational) signals about how the text should be read
assume that silence in one account equals contradiction to the non-silence in a parallel account,
assume that variation in detail between two or more accounts necessarily entails contradiction
Eric Chabot, Southern Evangelical Seminary, M.A. Religious Studies, 2010, Cross Examined, Apologetics Instructors Academy, Graduate, 2008, Memberships: The Evangelical Philosophical Society. Click here for his bio.
But Others Have It Worse
By Tim Challies 11/28/2017
I asked her about her illness, her pain, her suffering. She told me what she was going through, the difficulties she had already faced, and the rough road that lay ahead. She described the lingering pain, the powerful pills, the ugly side-effects, the inability to live normal life. Then she said, almost apologetically, “But I know other people have suffered so much more.” I spoke to him about his marriage and the severe trials he had endured at the hand of his wife. We spoke of his pain as he watched his marriage dissolve around him, his struggles with shame, his temptation toward bitterness. And he said it too: “But I know others have had it so much worse.”
This is our temptation in suffering, to compare it to what others have endured and to downplay our suffering in relation to theirs. “I can’t possibly complain when he has endured that much while I’ve only endured this much.” “Yes, it has been difficult, but then I think of what that other person has endured, and then who am I to complain…”
This isn’t entirely wrong, is it? Stubbing my toe doesn’t earn me the right to commiserate with someone who has lost a leg. Losing my dog doesn’t equate to losing a child. But that’s not the same as saying those things don’t matter or that they aren’t genuinely painful. That’s not the same as saying those things don’t comprise true suffering. And that’s certainly not the same as saying those things don’t matter to God.
It is in times of pain and turmoil, whether light, moderate, or severe, that it becomes especially important to remember that we relate to God as children to their father. A loving father does not demand agonizing misery before he will express heartfelt sympathy, but sympathizes with every pain and wipes away every tear. A loving parent does not demand a child’s pain grow more severe than that of his siblings before he takes him in his arms, but immediately sweeps him onto his knee with words of comfort and hands of mercy. Why would we think any less of God?
Tim Challies: I am a Christian, a husband to Aileen and a father to three children aged 10 to 16. I worship and serve as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. I am a book reviewer, co-founder of Cruciform Press.
I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.
Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.
Tim Challies Books | Go to Books Page
Satan’s Favorite Weapon Against You
By Jon Bloom 7/22/2016
Superman is almost unstoppable. I say “almost” because he does have one vulnerability. Kryptonite weakens him, and too much of it can destroy him. Tony Reinke is exactly right when he says, “unbelief is our Kryptonite” (Newton on the Christian Life).
Nothing on earth is more powerful than the Holy Spirit flowing through the faith of a born again disciple of Jesus (1 John 5:4). Nothing. It is the greatest superpower available to anyone anywhere. Through faith nothing is impossible (Matthew 17:20). When a Christian is full of Spirit-empowered faith, he cannot stop and cannot be stopped speaking about what he has seen and heard (Acts 4:20). Not even death can silence him (Hebrews 11:4).
This means that nothing is more humanly destructive to the domain of darkness than a faith-filled Christian. Through him, Jesus destroys the devil’s works (1 John 3:8). The only thing Satan’s forces fear more than the vibrant faith of a Christian is the unified, collaborative, vibrant faith of a community of Christians.
But we do have one vulnerability: unbelief. It weakens us and can destroy us. And Satan knows this very well.
Satan’s After Your Faith | “Nothing is more humanly destructive to the domain of darkness than a faith-filled Christian.” Tweet Share on Facebook Therefore, Satan’s primary goal in the thousands of his various attacks on us is to take down our faith. His primary goal against the church is to fragment the formidable force of united faith and isolate believers, weakening the church and making individuals more vulnerable (Hebrews 3:12–13, 10:25). His forces are hell-bent on these strategic objectives (Ephesians 6:11–12).
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.John Bloom Books | Go to Books Page
Kingdom of David and Solomon Supported by Growing Evidence
By David F. Coppedge 11/25/2017
The evidence is coming together to support the Biblical record of David and Solomon. An Israeli publication updates the latest finds.
In Haaretz, an Israeli news site, you can watch Bible stories rise from the dust. For decades, liberals critics have said that Biblical kings David and Solomon were mythical heroes invented by later Bible writers. It’s hard to say that any more. Philippe Bohstrom has done a service to those who prefer to trust the Bible over man’s changing opinions, pulling together in one place the latest findings that support the great kings of the united monarchy.
The headline is: “Did David and Solomon’s United Monarchy Exist? Vast Ancient Mining Operation May Hold Answers.” Bohstrom opens his survey of Davidic archaeology by sharing the latest findings from Timna, a copper mining site dating from Solomon’s time (1/12/17). “Archaeology has provided precious little evidence for the biblical account of a powerful Judaic kingdom 3,000 years ago, but the sheer extent of copper mining in Timna, when Egypt was in a state of collapse, is otherwise hard to explain.”
The opening paragraphs read as if written by a skeptic, complaining about the lack of evidence for “the grandeur described in the biblical accounts of David and Solomon.” But then Bohstrom starts putting the pieces together.
The Timna copper mining site was much larger than previously known. Located in the Arabah just north of the Gulf of Aqaba, archaeologists have recently found indications of a major operation going on when David and Solomon lived, including textiles, living quarters and even donkey dung that shows the animals lived well.
David worked at JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) as a system administrator for the Cassini Mission to Saturn from 1997 to 2011, and was Team Lead System Administrator for nine of those years
A Psalm of Life
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
IMPIETY OF ATTRIBUTING A VISIBLE FORM TO GOD.--THE SETTING UP OF IDOLS A DEFECTION FROM THE TRUE GOD.
There are three leading divisions in this chapter. The first contains a refutation of those who ascribe a visible form to God (s. 1 and 2), with an answer to the objection of those who, because it is said that God manifested his presence by certain symbols, use it as a defence of their error (s. 3 and 4). Various arguments are afterwards adduced, disposing of the trite objection from Gregory's expression, that images are the books of the unlearned (s. 5-7). The second division of the chapter relates to the origin of idols or images, and the adoration of them, as approved by the Papists (s. 8-10). Their evasion refuted (s. 11). The third division treats of the use and abuse of images (s. 12). Whether it is expedient to have them in Christian Churches (s. 13). The concluding part contains a refutation of the second Council of Nice, which very absurdly contends for images in opposition to divine truth, and even to the disparagement of the Christian name.
1. God is opposed to idols, that all may know he is the only fit witness to himself. He expressly forbids any attempt to represent him by a bodily shape.
2. Reasons for this prohibition from Moses, Isaiah, and Paul. The complaint of a heathen. It should put the worshipers of idols to shame.
3. Consideration of an objection taken from various passages in Moses. The Cherubim and Seraphim show that images are not fit to represent divine mysteries. The Cherubim belonged to the tutelage of the Law.
4. The materials of which idols are made, abundantly refute the fiction of idolaters. Confirmation from Isaiah and others. Absurd precaution of the Greeks.
5. Objection,--That images are the books of the unlearned. Objection answered, 1. Scripture declares images to be teachers of vanity and lies.
6. Answer continued, 2. Ancient Theologians condemn the formation and worship of idols.
7. Answer continued,--3. The use of images condemned by the luxury and meretricious ornaments given to them in Popish Churches. 4. The Church must be trained in true piety by another method.
8. The second division of the chapter. Origin of idols or images. Its rise shortly after the flood. Its continual progress.
9. Of the worship of images. Its nature. A pretext of idolaters refuted. Pretexts of the heathen. Genius of idolaters.
10. Evasion of the Papists. Their agreement with ancient idolaters.
11. Refutation of another evasion or sophism--viz. the distinction of dulia and latria.
12. Third division of the chapter--viz. the use and abuse of images.
13. Whether it is expedient to have images in Christian temples.
14. Absurd defence of the worship of images by the second so-called Council of Nice. Sophisms or perversions of Scripture in defence of images in churches.
15. Passages adduced in support of the worship of images.
16. The blasphemous expressions of some ancient idolaters approved by not a few of the more modern, both in word and deed.
1. As Scripture, in accommodation to the rude and gross intellect of man, usually speaks in popular terms, so whenever its object is to discriminate between the true God and false deities, it opposes him in particular to idols; not that it approves of what is taught more elegantly and subtilely by philosophers, but that it may the better expose the folly, nay, madness of the world in its inquiries after God, so long as every one clings to his own speculations. This exclusive definition, which we uniformly meet with in Scripture, annihilates every deity which men frame for themselves of their own accord--God himself being the only fit witness to himself. Meanwhile, seeing that this brutish stupidity has overspread the globe, men longing after visible forms of God, and so forming deities of wood and stone, silver and gold, or of any other dead and corruptible matter, we must hold it as a first principle, that as often as any form is assigned to God, his glory is corrupted by an impious lie. In the Law, accordingly, after God had claimed the glory of divinity for himself alone, when he comes to show what kind of worship he approves and rejects, he immediately adds, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth," (Exod. 20:4). By these words he curbs any licentious attempt we might make to represent him by a visible shape, and briefly enumerates all the forms by which superstition had begun, even long before, to turn his truth into a lie. For we know that the Sun was worshipped by the Persian. As many stars as the foolish nations saw in the sky, so many gods they imagined them to be. Then to the Egyptians, every animal was a figure of God.  The Greeks, again, plumed themselves on their superior wisdom in worshipping God under the human form (Maximum Tyrius Platonic. Serm. 38). But God makes no comparison between images, as if one were more, and another less befitting; he rejects, without exception, all shapes and pictures, and other symbols by which the superstitious imagine they can bring him near to them.
2. This may easily be inferred from the reasons which he annexes to his prohibition. First, it is said in the books of Moses (Deut. 4:15), "Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude in the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire, lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure," &c. We see how plainly God declares against all figures, to make us aware that all longing after such visible shapes is rebellion against him. Of the prophets, it will be sufficient to mention Isaiah, who is the most copious on this subjects (Isaiah 40:18; 41:7, 29; 45:9; 46:5), in order to show how the majesty of God is defiled by an absurd and indecorous fiction, when he who is incorporeal is assimilated to corporeal matter; he who is invisible to a visible image; he who is a spirit to an inanimate object; and he who fills all space to a bit of paltry wood, or stone, or gold. Paul, too, reasons in the same way, "Forasmuch, then, as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device," (Acts 17:29). Hence it is manifest, that whatever statues are set up or pictures painted to represent God, are utterly displeasing to him, as a kind of insults to his majesty. And is it strange that the Holy Spirit thunders such responses from heaven, when he compels even blind and miserable idolaters to make a similar confession on the earth? Seneca's complaint, as given by Augustine De Civit. Dei, c. 10, is well known. He says "The sacred immortal, and invisible gods they exhibit in the meanest and most ignoble materials, and dress them in the clothing of men and beasts; some confound the sexes, and form a compound out of different bodies, giving the name of deities to objects, which, if they were met alive, would be deemed monsters." Hence, again, it is obvious, that the defenders of images resort to a paltry quibbling evasion, when they pretend that the Jews were forbidden to use them on account of their proneness to superstition; as if a prohibition which the Lord founds on his own eternal essences and the uniform course of nature, could be restricted to a single nation. Besides, when Paul refuted the error of giving a bodily shape to God, he was addressing not Jews, but Athenians.
3. It is true that the Lord occasionally manifested his presence by certain signs, so that he was said to be seen face to face; but all the signs he ever employed were in apt accordance with the scheme of doctrine, and, at the same time, gave plain intimation of his incomprehensible essence. For the cloud, and smoke, and flame, though they were symbols of heavenly glory (Deut. 4:11), curbed men's minds as with a bridle, that they might not attempt to penetrate farther. Therefore, even Moses (to whom, of all men, God manifested himself most familiarly) was not permitted though he prayed for it, to behold that face, but received for answer, that the refulgence was too great for man (Exod. 33:20). The Holy Spirit appeared under the form of a dove, but as it instantly vanished, who does not see that in this symbol of a moment, the faithful were admonished to regard the Spirit as invisible, to be contented with his power and grace, and not call for any external figure? God sometimes appeared in the form of a man, but this was in anticipation of the future revelation in Christ, and, therefore, did not give the Jews the least pretext for setting up a symbol of Deity under the human form. The mercy-seat, also (Exod. 25:17, 18, 21), where, under the Law, God exhibited the presence of his power, was so framed, as to intimate that God is best seen when the mind rises in admiration above itself: the Cherubim with outstretched wings shaded, and the veil covered it, while the remoteness of the place was in itself a sufficient concealment. It is therefore mere infatuation to attempt to defend images of God and the saints by the example of the Cherubim. For what, pray, did these figures mean, if not that images are unfit to represent the mysteries of God, since they were so formed as to cover the mercy-seat with their wings, thereby concealing the view of God, not only from the eye, but from every human sense, and curbing presumption? To this we may add, that the prophets depict the Seraphim, who are exhibited to us in vision, as having their faces veiled; thus intimating, that the refulgence of the divine glory is so great, that even the angels cannot gaze upon it directly, while the minute beams which sparkle in the face of angels are shrouded from our view. Moreover, all men of sound Judgment acknowledge that the Cherubim in question belonged to the old tutelage of the law. It is absurd, therefore, to bring them forward as an example for our age. For that period of puerility, if I may so express it, to which such rudiments were adapted, has passed away. And surely it is disgraceful, that heathen writers should be more skilful interpreters of Scripture than the Papists. Juvenal (Sat. 14) holds up the Jews to derision for worshipping the thin clouds and firmament. This he does perversely and impiously; still, in denying that any visible shape of Deity existed among them, he speaks more accurately than the Papists, who prate about there having been some visible image. In the fact that the people every now and then rushed forth with boiling haste in pursuit of idols, just like water gushing forth with violence from a copious spring, let us learn how prone our nature is to idolatry, that we may not, by throwing the whole blame of a common vice upon the Jews, be led away by vain and sinful enticements to sleep the sleep of death.
4. To the same effect are the words of the Psalmist (Psalms 115:4, 135:15), "Their idols are silver and gold, the works of men's hands." From the materials of which they are made, he infers that they are not gods, taking it for granted that every human device concerning God is a dull fiction. He mentions silver and gold rather than clay or stone, that neither splendour nor cost may procure reverence to idols. He then draws a general conclusion, that nothing is more unlikely than that gods should be formed of any kind of inanimate matter. Man is forced to confess that he is but the creature of a day (see Book 3 c. 9 s. 2), and yet would have the metal which he has deified to be regarded as God. Whence had idols their origin, but from the will of man? There was ground, therefore, for the sarcasm of the heathen poet (Hor. Sat. I. 8), "I was once the trunk of a fig-tree, a useless log, when the tradesman, uncertain whether he should make me a stool, &c., chose rather that I should be a god." In other words, an earth-born creature, who breathes out his life almost every moment, is able by his own device to confer the name and honour of deity on a lifeless trunk. But as that Epicurean poet, in indulging his wit, had no regard for religion, without attending to his jeers or those of his fellows, let the rebuke of the prophet sting, nay, cut us to the heart, when he speaks of the extreme infatuation of those who take a piece of wood to kindle a fire to warm themselves, bake bread, roast or boil flesh, and out of the residue make a god, before which they prostrate themselves as suppliants (Isaiah 44:16). Hence, the same prophet, in another place, not only charges idolaters as guilty in the eye of the law, but upbraids them for not learning from the foundations of the earth, nothing being more incongruous than to reduce the immense and incomprehensible Deity to the stature of a few feet. And yet experience shows that this monstrous proceeding, though palpably repugnant to the order of nature, is natural to man. It is, moreover, to be observed, that by the mode of expression which is employed, every form of superstition is denounced. Being works of men, they have no authority from God (Isa. 2:8, 31:7; Hos. 14:3; Mic. 5:13); and, therefore, it must be regarded as a fixed principle, that all modes of worship devised by man are detestable. The infatuation is placed in a still stronger light by the Psalmist (Psalm 115:8), when he shows how aid is implored from dead and senseless objects, by beings who have been endued with intelligence for the very purpose of enabling them to know that the whole universe is governed by Divine energy alone. But as the corruption of nature hurries away all mankind collectively and individually into this madness, the Spirit at length thunders forth a dreadful imprecation, "They that make them are like unto them, so is every one that trusteth in them."  And it is to be observed, that the thing forbidden is likeness, whether sculptured or otherwise. This disposes of the frivolous precaution taken by the Greek Church. They think they do admirably, because they have no sculptured shape of Deity, while none go greater lengths in the licentious use of pictures. The Lord, however, not only forbids any image of himself to be erected by a statuary, but to be formed by any artist whatever, because every such image is sinful and insulting to his majesty.
5. I am not ignorant, indeed, of the assertion, which is now more than threadbare, "that images are the books of the unlearned." So said Gregory:  but the Holy Spirit goes a very different decision; and had Gregory got his lesson in this matter in the Spirit's school, he never would have spoken as he did. For when Jeremiah declares that "the stock is a doctrine of vanities," (Jer. 10:8), and Habakkuk, "that the molten image" is "a teacher of lies," the general doctrine to be inferred certainly is, that every thing respecting God which is learned from images is futile and false. If it is objected that the censure of the prophets is directed against those who perverted images to purposes of impious superstition, I admit it to be so; but I add (what must be obvious to all), that the prophets utterly condemn what the Papists hold to be an undoubted axiom--viz. that images are substitutes for books. For they contrast images with the true God, as if the two were of an opposite nature, and never could be made to agree. In the passages which I lately quoted, the conclusion drawn is, that seeing there is one true God whom the Jews worshipped, visible shapes made for the purpose of representing him are false and wicked fictions; and all, therefore, who have recourse to them for knowledge are miserably deceived. In short, were it not true that all such knowledge is fallacious and spurious, the prophets would not condemn it in such general terms. This at least I maintain, that when we teach that all human attempts to give a visible shape to God are vanity and lies, we do nothing more than state verbatim what the prophets taught. 6. Moreover, let Lactantius and Eusebius  be read on this subject.  These writers assume it as an indisputable fact, that all the beings whose images were erected were originally men. In like manner, Augustine distinctly declares, that it is unlawful not only to worship images, but to dedicate them. And in this he says no more than had been long before decreed by the Libertine Council, the thirty-sixth Canon of which is, "There must be no pictures used in churches: Let nothing which is adored or worshipped be painted on walls." But the most memorable passage of all is that which Augustine quotes in another place from Varro, and in which he expressly concurs:--"Those who first introduced images of the gods both took away fear and brought in error." Were this merely the saying of Varro, it might perhaps be of little weight, though it might well make us ashamed, that a heathen, groping as it were in darkness, should have attained to such a degree of light, as to see that corporeal images are unworthy of the majesty of God, and that, because they diminish reverential fear and encourage error. The sentiment itself bears witness that it was uttered with no less truth than shrewdness. But Augustine, while he borrows it from Varro, adduces it as conveying his own opinion. At the outset, indeed, he declares that the first errors into which men fell concerning God did not originate with images, but increased with them, as if new fuel had been added. Afterwards, he explains how the fear of God was thereby extinguished or impaired, his presence being brought into contempt by foolish, and childish, and absurd representations.  The truth of this latter remark I wish we did not so thoroughly experience. Whosoever, therefore, is desirous of being instructed in the true knowledge of God must apply to some other teacher than images.
7. Let Papists, then, if they have any sense of shame, henceforth desist from the futile plea, that images are the books of the unlearned--a plea so plainly refuted by innumerable passages of Scripture. And yet were I to admit the plea, it would not be a valid defence of their peculiar idols. It is well known what kind of monsters they obtrude upon us as divine. For what are the pictures or statues to which they append the names of saints, but exhibitions of the most shameless luxury or obscenity? Were any one to dress himself after their model, he would deserve the pillory. Indeed, brothels exhibit their inmates more chastely and modestly dressed than churches do images intended to represent virgins. The dress of the martyrs is in no respect more becoming. Let Papists then have some little regard to decency in decking their idols, if they would give the least plausibility to the false allegation, that they are books of some kind of sanctity. But even then we shall answer, that this is not the method in which the Christian people should be taught in sacred places. Very different from these follies is the doctrine in which God would have them to be there instructed. His injunction is, that the doctrine common to all should there be set forth by the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments,--a doctrine to which little heed can be given by those whose eyes are carried too and fro gazing at idols. And who are the unlearned, whose rudeness admits of being taught by images only? Just those whom the Lord acknowledges for his disciples; those whom he honours with a revelation of his celestial philosophy, and desires to be trained in the saving mysteries of his kingdom. I confess, indeed, as matters now are, there are not a few in the present day who cannot want such books. But, I ask, whence this stupidity, but just because they are defrauded of the only doctrine which was fit to instruct them? The simple reason why those who had the charge of churches resigned the office of teaching to idols was, because they themselves were dumb. Paul declares, that by the true preaching of the gospel Christ is portrayed and in a manner crucified before our eyes (Gal. 3:1). Of what use, then, were the erection in churches of so many crosses of wood and stone, silver and gold, if this doctrine were faithfully and honestly preached--viz. Christ died that he might bear our curse upon the tree, that he might expiate our sins by the sacrifice of his body, wash them in his blood, and, in short, reconcile us to God the Father? From this one doctrine the people would learn more than from a thousand crosses of wood and stone. As for crosses of gold and silver, it may be true that the avaricious give their eyes and minds to them more eagerly than to any heavenly instructor.
8. In regard to the origin of idols, the statement contained in the Book of Wisdom has been received with almost universal consent--viz. that they originated with those who bestowed this honour on the dead, from a superstitious regard to their memory. I admit that this perverse practice is of very high antiquity, and I deny not that it was a kind of torch by which the infatuated proneness of mankind to idolatry was kindled into a greater blaze. I do not, however, admit that it was the first origin of the practice. That idols were in use before the prevalence of that ambitious consecration of the images of the dead, frequently adverted to by profane writers, is evident from the words of Moses (Gen. 31:19). When he relates that Rachel stole her father's images, he speaks of the use of idols as a common vice. Hence we may infer, that the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols. There was a kind of renewal of the world at the deluge, but before many years elapse, men are forging gods at will. There is reason to believe, that in the holy Patriarch's lifetime his grandchildren were given to idolatry: so that he must with his own eyes, not without the deepest grief, have seen the earth polluted with idols--that earth whose iniquities God had lately purged with so fearful a Judgment. For Joshua testifies (Josh. 24:2), that Torah and Nachor, even before the birth of Abraham, were the worshipers of false gods. The progeny of Shem having so speedily revolted, what are we to think of the posterity of Ham, who had been cursed long before in their father? Thus, indeed, it is. The human mind, stuffed as it is with presumptuous rashness, dares to imagine a god suited to its own capacity; as it labours under dullness, nay, is sunk in the grossest ignorance, it substitutes vanity and an empty phantom in the place of God. To these evils another is added. The god whom man has thus conceived inwardly he attempts to embody outwardly. The mind, in this way, conceives the idol, and the hand gives it birth. That idolatry has its origin in the idea which men have, that God is not present with them unless his presence is carnally exhibited, appears from the example of the Israelites: "Up," said they, "make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wet not what is become of him," (Exod. 22:1). They knew, indeed, that there was a God whose mighty power they had experienced in so many miracles, but they had no confidence of his being near to them, if they did not with their eyes behold a corporeal symbol of his presence, as an attestation to his actual government. They desired, therefore, to be assured by the image which went before them, that they were journeying under Divine guidance. And daily experience shows, that the flesh is always restless until it has obtained some figment like itself, with which it may vainly solace itself as a representation of God. In consequence of this blind passion men have, almost in all ages since the world began, set up signs on which they imagined that God was visibly depicted to their eyes.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 132The LORD Has Chosen Zion
132 A Song Of Ascents.
132:8 Arise, O LORD, and go to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
and let your saints shout for joy.
10 For the sake of your servant David,
do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
11 The LORD swore to David a sure oath
from which he will not turn back:
“One of the sons of your body
I will set on your throne.
12 If your sons keep my covenant
and my testimonies that I shall teach them,
their sons also forever
shall sit on your throne.”
13 For the LORD has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his dwelling place:
14 “This is my resting place forever;
here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
15 I will abundantly bless her provisions;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation,
and her saints will shout for joy.
17 There I will make a horn to sprout for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.
18 His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on him his crown will shine.”
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
Cuthbert SymsonFew professors of Christ possessed more activity and zeal than this excellent person. He not only labored to preserve his friends from the contagion of popery, but he labored to guard them against the terrors of persecution. He was deacon of the little congregation over which Mr. Rough presided as minister.
Mr. Symson has written an account of his own sufferings, which he cannot detail better than in his own words:
"On the thirteenth of December, 1557, I was committed by the Council to the Tower of London. On the following Thursday, I was called into the ward-room, before the constable of the Tower, and the recorder of London, Mr. Cholmly, who commanded me to inform them of the names of those who came to the English service. I answered that I would declare nothing; in consequence of my refusal, I was set upon a rack of iron, as I judge for the space of three hours!
"They then asked me if I would confess: I answered as before.
After being unbound, I was carried back to my lodging. The Sunday after I was brought to the same place again, before the lieutenant and recorder of London, and they examined me. As I had answered before, so I answered now. Then the lieutenant swore by God I should tell; after which my two forefingers were bound together, and a small arrow placed between them, they drew it through so fast that the blood followed, and the arrow brake.
"After enduring the rack twice again, I was retaken to my lodging, and ten days after the lieutenant asked me if I would not now confess that which they had before asked of me. I answered, that I had already said as much as I would. Three weeks after I was sent to the priest, where I was greatly assaulted, and at whose hand I received the pope's curse, for bearing witness of the resurrection of Christ. And thus I commend you to God, and to the Word of His grace, with all those who unfeignedly call upon the name of Jesus; desiring God of His endless mercy, through the merits of His dear Son Jesus Christ, to bring us all to His everlasting Kingdom, Amen. I praise God for His great mercy shown upon us. Sing Hosanna to the Highest with me, Cuthbert Symson. God forgive my sins! I ask forgiveness of all the world, and I forgive all the world, and thus I leave the world, in the hope of a joyful resurrection!"
If this account be duly considered, what a picture of repeated tortures does it present! But even the cruelty of the narration is exceeded by the patient meekness with which it was endured. Here are no expressions of malice, no invocations even of God's retributive justice, not a complaint of suffering wrongfully! On the contrary, praise to God, forgiveness of sin, and a forgiving all the world, concludes this unaffected interesting narrative.
Bonner's admiration was excited by the steadfast coolness of this martyr. Speaking of Mr. Symson in the consistory, he said, "You see what a personable man he is, and then of his patience, I affirm, that, if he were not a heretic, he is a man of the greatest patience that ever came before me. Thrice in one day has he been racked in the Tower; in my house also he has felt sorrow, and yet never have I seen his patience broken."
The day before this pious deacon was to be condemned, while in the stocks in the bishop's coal-house, he had the vision of a glorified form, which much encouraged him. This he certainly attested to his wife, to Mr. Austen, and others, before his death.
With this ornament of the Christian Reformation were apprehended Mr. Hugh Foxe and John Devinish; the three were brought before Bonner, March 19, 1558, and the papistical articles tendered. They rejected them, and were all condemned. As they worshipped together in the same society, at Islington, so they suffered together in Smithfield, March 28; in whose death the God of Grace was glorified, and true believers confirmed!
Thomas Hudson, Thomas Carman, and William SeamenWere condemned by a bigoted vicar of Aylesbury, named Berry.
The spot of execution was called Lollard's Pit, without Bishipsgate, at Norwich. After joining together in humble petition to the throne of grace, they rose, went to the stake, and were encircled with their chains. To the great surprise of the spectators, Hudson slipped from under his chains, and came forward. A great opinion prevailed that he was about to recant; others thought that he wanted further time. In the meantime, his companions at the stake urged every promise and exhortation to support him. The hopes of the enemies of the cross, however, were disappointed: the good man, far from fearing the smallest personal terror at the approaching pangs of death, was only alarmed thathis Savior's face seemed to be hidden from him. Falling upon his knees, his spirit wrestled with God, and God verified the words of His Son, "Ask, and it shall be given." The martyr rose in an ecstasy of joy, and exclaimed, "Now, I thank God, I am strong! and care not what man can do to me!" With an unruffled countenance he replaced himself under the chain, joined his fellow-sufferers, and with them suffered death, to the comfort of the godly, and the confusion of Antichrist.
Berry, unsatiated with this demoniacal act, summoned up two hundred persons in the town of Aylesham, whom he compelled to kneel to the cross at Pentecost, and inflicted other punishments. He struck a poor man for a trifling word, with a flail, which proved fatal to the unoffending object. He also gave a woman named Alice Oxes, so heavy a blow with his fist, as she met him entering the hall when he was in an ill-humor, that she died with the violence. This priest was rich, and possessed great authority; he was a reprobate, and, like the priesthood, he abstained from marriage, to enjoy the more a debauched and licentious life. The Sunday after the death of Queen Mary, he was revelling with one of his concubines, before vespers; he then went to church, administered baptism, and in his return to his lascivious pastime, he was smitten by the hand of God. Without a moment given for repentance, he fell to the ground, and a groan was the only articulation permitted him. In him we may behold the difference between the end of a martyr and a persecutor.
The Story of Roger HollandIn a retired close near a field, in Islington, a company of decent persons had assembled, to the number of forty. While they were religiously engaged in praying and expounding the Scripture, twenty-seven of them were carried before Sir Roger Cholmly. Some of the women made their escape, twenty-two were committed to Newgate, who continued in prison seven weeks. Previous to their examination, they were informed by the keeper, Alexander, that nothing more was requisite to procure their discharge, than to hear Mass. Easy as this condition may seem, these martyrs valued their purity of conscience more than loss of life or property; hence, thirteen were burnt, seven in Smithfield, and six at Brentford; two died in prison, and the other seven were providentially preserved. The names of the seven who suffered were, H. Pond, R. Estland, R. Southain, M. Ricarby, J. Floyd, J. Holiday, and Roger Holland. They were sent to Newgate, June 16, 1558, and executed on the twenty-seventh.
This Roger Holland, a merchant-tailor of London, was first an apprentice with one Master Kemption, at the Black Boy in Watling Street, giving himself to dancing, fencing, gaming, banqueting, and wanton company. He had received for his master certain money, to the sum of thirty pounds; and lost every groat at dice. Therefore he purposed to convey himself away beyond the seas, either into France or into Flanders.
With this resolution, he called early in the morning on a discreet servant in the house, named Elizabeth, who professed the Gospel, and lived a life that did honor to her profession. To her he revealed the loss his folly had occasioned, regretted that he had not followed her advice, and begged her to give his master a note of hand from him acknowledging the debt, which he would repay if ever it were in his power; he also entreated his disgraceful conduct might be kept secret, lest it would bring the gray hairs to his father with sorrow to a premature grave.
The maid, with a generosity and Christian principle rarely surpassed, conscious that his imprudence might be his ruin, brought him the thirty pounds, which was part of a sum of money recently left her by legacy. "Here," said she, "is the sum requisite: you shall take the money, and I will keep the note; but expressly on this condition, that you abandon all lewd and vicious company; that you neither swear nor talk immodestly, and game no more; for, should I learn that you do, I will immediately show this note to your master. I also require, that you shall promise me to attend the daily lecture at Allhallows, and the sermon at St. Paul's every Sunday; that you cast away all your books of popery, and in their place substitute the Testament and the Book of Service, and that you read the Scriptures with reverence and fear, calling upon God for his grace to direct you in his truth. Pray also fervently to God, to pardon your former offences, and not to remember the sins of your youth, and would you obtain his favor ever dread to break his laws or offend his majesty. So shall God have you in His keeping, and grant you your heart's desire." We must honor the memory of this excellent domestic, whose pious endeavors were equally directed to benefit the thoughtless youth in this life and that which is to come. God did not suffer the wish of this excellent domestic to be thrown upon a barren soil; within half a year after the licentious Holland became a zealous professor of the Gospel, and was an instrument of conversion to his father and others whom he visited in Lancashire, to their spiritual comfort and reformation from popery.
His father, pleased with his change of conduct, gave him forty pounds to commence business with in London.
Then Roger repaired to London again, and came to the maid that lent him the money to pay his master withal, and said unto her, "Elizabeth, here is thy money I borrowed of thee; and for the friendship, good will, and the good counsel I have received at thy hands, to recompense thee I am not able, otherwise than to make thee my wife." And soon after they were married, which was in the first year of Queen Mary.
After this he remained in the congregations of the faithful, until, the last year of Queen Mary, he, with the six others aforesaid, were taken.
And after Roger Holland there was none suffered in Smithfield for the testimony of the Gospel, God be thanked.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Learn to live within your means
11/29/2017 Bob Gass
‘The borrower is servant to the lender.’
(Pr 22:7) 7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. ESV
Here’s an idea for getting out of debt, and staying out. Instead of referring to it as your ‘credit card’, start seeing it as your ‘debt card’, Next time you have an ‘itch’ to purchase something you don’t need or can’t pay for, that may just stop you from ‘scratching’ it. People generally fall into three categories: 1) the haves; 2) the have-nots; and 3) the have-not-paid-for-what-they-haves. The story is told of a handyman who’d been called out to a millionaire’s mansion to refinish the floors. The rich man’s wife said, ‘Be especially careful with this dining room table. It goes back to Louis XVI.’ The handyman said, ‘That’s nothing. If I don’t make a payment by next Friday, my whole living room set goes back to the furniture store!’ They say the average person today drives a bank-financed car, on petrol they bought with a credit card, to a department store to open another store account, so they can fill their house that’s mortgaged for thirty years to the bank, with furniture that’s been purchased on an instalment plan. Now, the Bible doesn’t condemn credit, but it cautions us about the use of it. ‘The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.’ It’s okay to borrow for necessities, but you should always pay for luxuries. So if at all possible, pay cash or don’t buy it. ‘The wicked borrows and does not repay’ (Psalm 37:21 NKJV). It’s not wrong to borrow money, it’s just wrong to borrow money and not repay it. So the word for you today is: learn to live within your means.
1 John 3
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
His death went unnoticed, as he died the same day John F. Kennedy was shot, but his works are some of the most widely read in English literature. Originally an agnostic, he served in World War I and became a professor at Oxford and Cambridge. He wrote The Screwtape Letters and The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe. His name was C.S. Lewis born this day, November 29, 1898. In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote: “The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but a baby, and before that a fetus in a woman’s body.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
I see you won’t let me off. And the longer I look at it the less I shall like it. I must face-or else explicitly declinethe difficulties that really torment us when we cry for mercy in earnest. I have found no book that helps me with them all. I have so little confidence in my own power to tackle them that, if it were possible, I would let sleeping dogs lie. But the dogs are not sleeping. They are awake and snapping. We both bear the marks of their teeth. That being so, we had better share our bewilderments. By hiding them from each other we should not hide them from ourselves.
The New Testament contains embarrassing promises that what we pray for with faith we shall receive. Mark XI:24 is the most staggering. Whatever we ask for, believing that we'll get it, we'll get. No question, it seems, of confining it to spiritual gifts; whatever we ask for. No question of a merely general faith in God, but a belief that you will get the particular thing you ask. No question of getting either it or else something that is really far better for you; you'll get precisely it. And to heap paradox on paradox, the Greek doesn't even say "believing that you will get it." It uses the aorist, … which one is tempted to translate “believing that you got it.” But this final difficulty I will ignore. I don’t expect Aramaic had anything which we-brought up on Latin grammar-would recognize as tenses at all.
How is this astonishing promise to be reconciled (a) With the observed facts? and (b) With the prayer in Gethsemane, and (as a result of that prayer) the universally accepted view that we should ask everything with a reservation ("if it be Thy will")?
As regards (a), no evasion is possible. Every war, every famine or plague, almost every death-bed, is the monument to a petition that was not granted. At this very moment thousands of people in this one island are facing as a fait accompli the very thing against which they have prayed night and day, pouring out their whole soul in prayer, and, as they thought, with faith. They have sought and not found. They have knocked and it has not been opened. "That which they greatly feared has come upon them."
But (b), though much less often mentioned, is surely an equal difficulty. How is it possible at one and the same moment to have a perfect faith-an untroubled or unhesitating faith as St. James says (1:6)-that you will get what you ask and yet also prepare yourself submissively in advance for a possible refusal? If you envisage a refusal as. possible, how can you have simultaneously a perfect confidence that what you ask will not be refused? If you have that confidence, how can you take refusal into account at all?
It is easy to see why so much more is written about worship and contemplation than about "crudely" or "naively" petitionary prayer. They may be-l think they are-nobler forms of prayer. But they are also a good deal easier to write about.
As regards the first difficulty, I'm not asking why our petitions are so often refused. Anyone can see in general that this must be so. In our ignorance we ask what is not good for us or for others, or not even intrinsically possible. Or again, to grant one man's prayer involves refusing another's. There is much here which it is hard for our will to accept but nothing that is hard for our intellect to understand. The real problem is different; not why refusal is so frequent, but why the opposite result is so lavishly promised.
Shall we then proceed on Vidler's principles and scrap the embarrassing promises as "venerable archaisms" which have to be "outgrown"? Surely, even if there were no other objection, that method is too easy. If we are free to delete all inconvenient data we shall certainly have no theological difficulties; but for the same reason no solutions and no progress. The very writers of the detective stories, not to mention the scientists, know better. The troublesome fact, the apparent absurdity which can't be fitted in to any synthesis we have yet made, is precisely the one we must not ignore. Ten to one, it's in that cover the fox is lurking. There is always hope if we keep an unsolved problem fairly in view; there's none if we pretend it's not there.
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Talent is God given. Be humble.
Fame is man-given. Be grateful.
Conceit is self-given. Be careful.
--- John Wooden
You say they are sceptical where Jesus is concerned. I'll tell you when they are sceptical--when they see the caricature of Jesus in you and me.
--- Gipsy Smith
If there be a man before me who says that the wrath of God is too heavy a punishment for his little sin, I ask him, if the sin be little, why does he not give it up?
--- Charles Spurgeon
Some people are born mediocre, some people achieve mediocrity, and some people have mediocrity thrust upon them.
--- Joseph Heller
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
he may understand, but he won’t respond.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The absoluteness of Jesus Christ
He shall glorify Me. --- John 16:14.
The pietistic movements of to-day have none of the rugged reality of the New Testament about them; there is nothing about them that needs the death of Jesus Christ, all that is required is a pious atmosphere, and prayer and devotion. This type of experience is not supernatural nor miraculous, it did not cost the passion of God, it is not dyed in the blood of the Lamb, not stamped with the hall-mark of the Holy Ghost. It has not that mark on it which makes men say, as they look with awe and wonder—‘That is the work of God Almighty.’ That and nothing else is what the New Testament talks about.
The type of Christian experience in the New Testament is that of personal, passionate devotion to the Person of Jesus Christ. Every other type of Christian experience, so called, is detached from the Person of Jesus. There is no regeneration, no being born again into the Kingdom in which Christ lives, but only the idea that He is our Pattern. In the New Testament Jesus Christ is Saviour long before He is Pattern. To-day He is being despatched as the Figurehead of a religion, a mere Example. He is that, but He is infinitely more; He is salvation itself. He is the Gospel of God.
Jesus said—“When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, … He shall glorify Me.” When I commit myself to the revelation made in the New Testament, I receive from God the gift of the Holy Spirit Who begins to interpret to me what Jesus did, and does in me subjectively what Jesus Christ did for me objectively.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
I had forgotten
the old quest for truth
I was here for. Other cares
held me: urgencies
of the body; a girl
had never appeared
so ethereal; it was God's blood
circulating in the veins
of creation; I partook
of it like Communion, lost
myself on my way
home, with the varying voices
on call. Moving backward
into a receding
future, I lost the use
of perspective, borrowing poetry
to buy my children
their prose. The past was a poor
king, rendering his crown down
for the historian. Every day
I went on with that
metallic warfare in which
the one casualty is love.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Maimonides supports his evaluation of the various perfections by appealing to the prophets:
The Prophets too have explained to us and interpreted to us the selfsame notions—just as the philosophers have interpreted them—clearly stating to us that neither the perfection of possession nor the perfection of health nor the perfection of moral habits is a perfection of which one should be proud or that one should desire; the perfection of which one should be proud and that one should desire is knowledge of Him, may He be exalted, which is the true science. Jeremiah says concerning these four perfections: “Thus spoke the Lord: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me.”(Jeremiah 9:23.)
After explaining the order of perfections, however, Maimonides appears to contradict what he has just established when he writes:
As we have mentioned this verse and the wondrous notions contained in it, and as we have mentioned the saying of the Sages, may their memory be blessed, about it, we will complete the exposition of what it includes. For when explaining in this verse the noblest ends, he does not limit them only to the apprehension of Him, may He be exalted. For if this were his purpose, he would have said: “But let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me,” and have stopped there; or he would have said: “that he understands and knows Me that I am one”; or he would have said: “that I have no figure,” or “that there is none like Me,” or something similar. But he says that one should glory in the apprehension of Myself and in the knowledge of My attributes, by which he means His actions, as we have made clear with reference to its dictum; “let me know Your ways, and so on.” In this verse he makes it clear to us that those actions that ought to be known and imitated are “lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness.”
Previously, morality was presented as inferior to intellectual perfection; now morality appears as the end of knowledge of God and thus the highest perfection. Intellectual perfection, as distinct from moral perfection, does not require that one live in society or interact in any way with other men. To act with lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, however, one must be a part of society and act among others. Crucial to Maimonides’ paradoxical evaluation is the problem of whether community is an essential feature of human perfection.
Guttmann resolves this apparent paradox by suggesting that the morality “grounded in the knowledge of God is completely distinct from the morality which is prior to knowledge.” (Philosophy of Judaism: The History of Jewish Philosophy from Biblical Times to Franz Rosenzweig ) Although one may accept this distinction, one must disagree with Guttmann when he writes that, to Maimonides, “Ethics, though previously subordinate to knowledge, has now become the ultimate meaning and purpose of the knowledge of God.” (ibid) This approach can be questioned in the light of Maimonides’ constant emphasis on intellectual worship of God and in the light of his claims, repeated throughout his legal writings, that olam ha-ba represents the ultimate telos of Judaism. If the meaning and purpose of knowledge of God is ethics, why guide an individual toward a yearning for God that is consummated in a non-historical reality? Maimonides’ passion for olam ha-ba does not express the yearning of one who longs solely for moral perfection. According to Maimonides, man feels intellectually inadequate in comparison to cosmic intelligences whose knowledge has no ethical significance. This felt inadequacy would be unintelligible if the only meaning and purpose of knowledge of God was ethics. One must therefore, agree with Shlomo Pines, that knowledge of God is not primarily moral knowledge.
The difference between Maimonides’ two evaluations of morality is to be understood in the same way that one understands his description of the prophet’s attitude to the community. One who attempts to transcend the anthropocentric view of life understands the significance of morality as a means to the higher goal of the theocentric love of God. In this context, the yearning for God is of greater significance than moral actions. In the attempt to become a passionate lover of God, everything valued by human beings—possessions, physical strengths, and moral virtues — is insignificant in comparison to the yearning to be with God:
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
“See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah … has triumphed.…” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain.
--- Revelation 5:5–6.
When Christ was going to heaven, he comforted his disciples. The Excellency of Christ After a while he would come again and take them to him. And we are not to suppose that when the disciples got to heaven, they found him keeping a greater distance than he used to do. No, doubtless, he embraced them and welcomed them to his and their Father’s house and to his and their glory. Those who had been his friends in this world, who had been together with him and had shared in sorrows and troubles were welcomed by him to rest and to share in glory with him. He led them into his chambers and showed them all his glory: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory” (John 17:24). And he led them to his living fountains of waters and made them partake of his delights: “That they may have the full measure of my joy within them” (John 17:13). He sat them with him at his table in his kingdom and made them eat and drink with him, according to his promise (Luke 22:30), and led them into his banqueting house and gave them new wine to drink with him in the kingdom of his Father, as he foretold them when he instituted the Lord’s supper (Matt. 26:29).
Yes, the saints’ conversation with Christ in heaven will not only be as intimate and their access to him as free as of the disciples on earth, but in many respects much more so, for in heaven that union will be perfect which is very imperfect here. While the saints are in this world, sin and darkness disunite them from Christ, which will then all be removed.
When the saints see Christ’s glory in heaven, it will indeed possess their hearts with greater admiration and respect, but it will not awe them into separation. It will serve only to heighten their surprise and joy when they find Christ condescending to admit them to such intimate access, freely and fully communicating himself to them. So if we choose Christ for our friend and portion, we will hereafter be so received to him that nothing will hinder the fullest enjoyment of him, the satisfying of the utmost cravings of our souls. Christ will then say, as in Song of Songs 5:1: “Eat, O friends, and drink; drink your fill, O lovers.” There will never be any end of this happiness or anything to interrupt our enjoyment of it or in the least to molest us in it.
--- Jonathan Edwards
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
A Good One, Too
When James Gilmore sailed for China in 1870, he was young, strong, and in need of a wife. He plunged into reopening the London Missionary Society’s work in Mongolia, but with no one to lean on. “Companions I can scarcely hope to meet,” he wrote, “and the feeling of being alone comes over me.” As labors increased, so did loneliness. “Today I felt a good deal like Elijah in the wilderness,” he told his journal. “He prayed that he might die. … I felt drawn towards suicide. Two missionaries should always go together. Oh! the intense loneliness. … ”
The pain deepened when his proposal to a Scottish girl was rejected. “I then put myself and the direction of this affair—I mean the finding of a wife—into God’s hands, asking him to look me out one, a good one, too.”
In 1873 Gilmore visited friends in Peking, a Mr. and Mrs. Meech. Seeing a picture of Mrs. Meech’s sister, Emily Prankard, James asked about her. As his hostess described Emily, James found himself falling in love. He gazed at her picture, saw some of her letters, and asked more and more questions.
Early the next year, James wrote to Emily, proposing marriage in his first letter. By the same mail he informed his parents in Scotland: “I have written and proposed to a girl in England. It is true I have never seen her, and I know very little about her; but I have put the whole matter into the hands of God, asking him, if it be best, to bring her, if it be not best, to keep her away, and he can manage the whole thing well.”
Receiving Gilmore’s letter, Emily took it at once to the throne of grace. Later Gilmore recalled, “The first letter I wrote her was to propose, and the first letter she wrote me was to accept.” By autumn Emily was in China, arriving on this day, November 29, 1874. A week later they were married. Gilmore acquired both wife and colleague, and they labored faithfully side by side for years, reaching northern China for Christ.
“A man’s greatest treasure is his wife,” says Proverbs 18:22. “She is a gift from the LORD.”
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
God Is In The Manger (Day 3)
Not Everyone Can Wait
Not everyone can wait: neither the sated nor the satisfied, nor those without respect can wait. The only ones who can wait are people who carry restlessness around with them and people who look up with reverence to the greatest in the world. Thus Advent can be celebrated only by those whose souls give them no peace, who know that they are poor and incomplete, and who sense something of the greatness that is supposed to come, before which they can only bow in humble timidity, waiting until he inclines himself toward us-the Holy One himself', God in the child in the manger. God is coming; the Lord Jesus is coming; Christmas is coming. Rejoice, 0 Christendom!
I think we're going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. The very tract that every outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words: "We're beggars; it's true." The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ's home on earth.
Letter to fiancee Maria von Wedemeyer,
December 1, 1943
Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
"Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
"Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
"Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude you, revile you,
and defame you on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy,
for surely your reward is great in heaven;
for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
"Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
"Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
"Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets."
--- Luke 6:20-26.
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 29
“Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people … Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.” --- Leviticus 19:16, 17.
Tale-bearing emits a threefold poison; for it injures the teller, the hearer, and the person concerning whom the tale is told. Whether the report be true or false, we are by this precept of God’s Word forbidden to spread it. The reputations of the Lord’s people should be very precious in our sight, and we should count it shame to help the devil to dishonour the Church and the name of the Lord. Some tongues need a bridle rather than a spur. Many glory in pulling down their brethren, as if thereby they raised themselves. Noah’s wise sons cast a mantle over their father, and he who exposed him earned a fearful curse. We may ourselves one of these dark days need forbearance and silence from our brethren, let us render it cheerfully to those who require it now. Be this our family rule, and our personal bond—SPEAK EVIL OF NO MAN.
The Holy Spirit, however, permits us to censure sin, and prescribes the way in which we are to do it. It must be done by rebuking our brother to his face, not by railing behind his back. This course is manly, brotherly, Christlike, and under God’s blessing will be useful. Does the flesh shrink from it? Then we must lay the greater stress upon our conscience, and keep ourselves to the work, lest by suffering sin upon our friend we become ourselves partakers of it. Hundreds have been saved from gross sins by the timely, wise, affectionate warnings of faithful ministers and brethren. Our Lord Jesus has set us a gracious example of how to deal with erring friends in his warning given to Peter, the prayer with which he preceded it, and the gentle way in which he bore with Peter’s boastful denial that he needed such a caution.
Evening - November 29
“Spices for anointing oil.” --- Exodus 35:8.
Much use was made of this anointing oil under the law, and that which it represents is of primary importance under the Gospel. The Holy Spirit, who anoints us for all holy service, is indispensable to us if we would serve the Lord acceptably. Without his aid our religious services are but a vain oblation, and our inward experience is a dead thing. Whenever our ministry is without unction, what miserable stuff it becomes! nor are the prayers, praises, meditations, and efforts of private Christians one jot superior. A holy anointing is the soul and life of piety, its absence the most grievous of all calamities. To go before the Lord without anointing is as though some common Levite had thrust himself into the priest’s office—his ministrations would rather have been sins than services. May we never venture upon hallowed exercises without sacred anointings. They drop upon us from our glorious Head; from his anointing we who are as the skirts of his garments partake of a plenteous unction. Choice spices were compounded with rarest art of the apothecary to form the anointing oil, to show forth to us how rich are all the influences of the Holy Spirit. All good things are found in the divine Comforter. Matchless consolation, infallible instruction, immortal quickening, spiritual energy, and divine sanctification all lie compounded with other excellencies in that sacred eye-salve, the heavenly anointing oil of the Holy Spirit. It imparts a delightful fragrance to the character and person of the man upon whom it is poured. Nothing like it can be found in all the treasuries of the rich, or the secrets of the wise. It is not to be imitated. It comes alone from God, and it is freely given, through Jesus Christ, to every waiting soul. Let us seek it, for we may have it, may have it this very Evening. O Lord, anoint thy servants.
Morning and Evening
JESUS CALLS US
Mrs. Cecil F. Alexander, 1818–1895
Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me. (John 12:26
God’s call for discipleship comes to every believer, not just a special few. Whether or not we hear God’s call depends on our spiritual sensitivity.
The last Sunday in November is known as St. Andrew’s Day. It has traditionally been an important day in the liturgical worship of the Anglican church. It commemorates the calling of Andrew by Jesus as recorded in Matthew 4:18–20 and Mark 1:16–l8. “At once they [Simon and his brother Andrew] left their nets and followed Him.” Andrew has become the patron saint of Scotland, and the oblique cross on which tradition says he was crucified is part of the Union Jack of the British flag.
This is another of the quality hymn texts written by Cecil Frances Alexander, recognized as one of England’s finest women hymn writers. It is one of the few of Mrs. Alexander’s hymns not specifically written for children; nearly all of her more than 400 poems and hymn texts were intended for reaching and teaching children with the Gospel.
Following her marriage in 1850 to the distinguished churchman, Dr. William Alexander, who later became archbishop for all of Ireland, Mrs. Alexander devoted her literary talents to helping her husband with his ministry, including writing appropriate poems that he could use with his sermons. One fall day, two years after their marriage, Dr. Alexander asked his wife if she could write a poem for a sermon he was planning to preach the following Sunday for his St. Andrew’s Day sermon. The pastor closed his sermon that day with the new poem written by his wife. These words have since been widely used in all churches to challenge God’s people to hear Christ’s call as Andrew did and then to follow, serve, and love Him “best of all.”
Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our life’s wild, restless sea; day by day His sweet voice soundeth, saying, “Christian, follow Me.”
Jesus calls us from the worship of the vain world’s golden store, from each idol that would keep us, saying, “Christian, love Me more.”
In our joys and in our sorrows, days of toil and hours of ease, still He calls, in cares and pleasures, “Christian, love Me more than these.”
Jesus calls us: by Thy mercies, Savior, may we hear Thy call, give our hearts to Thy obedience, serve and love Thee best of all.
For Today: Isaiah 6:8; Matthew 4:18–20; Mark 1:16–18; Luke 9:23
May we respond as Andrew did and become one of Christ’s faithful followers and a “fisher of men.” Carry this musical message as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
1. His goodness is seen in the end of it, which is a sealing the covenant of grace. The common nature and end of sacraments is to seal the covenant they belong to, and the truths of the promises of it. The legal sacraments of circumcision and the passover sealed the legal promises and the covenant in the Judicial administration of it; and the evangelical sacraments seal the evangelical promises, as a ring confirms a contract of marriage, and a seal the articles of a compact; by the same reason, circumcision is called a “seal of the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:11); other sacraments may have the same title; God doth attest, that he will remain firm in his promise, and the receiver attests he will remain firm in his faith. In all reciprocal covenants, there are mutual engagements, and that which serves for a seal on the part of the one, serves for a seal also on the part of the other; God obligeth himself to the performance of the promise, and man engageth himself to the performance of his duty. The thing confirmed by this sacrament is the perpetuity of this covenant in the blood of Christ, whence it is called “the New Testament,” or covenant “in the blood of Christ” (Luke 22:20). In every repetition of it, God, by presenting, confirms his resolution to us, of sticking to this covenant for the merit of Christ’s blood; and the receiver, by eating the body and drinking the blood, engageth himself to keep close to the condition of faith, expecting a full salvation and a blessed immortality upon the merit of the same blood alone. This sacrament could not be called the “New Testament, or Covenant,” if it had not some relation to the covenant; and what it can be but this, I do not understand. The covenant itself was confirmed “by the death of Christ” (Heb. 9:15), and thereby made unchangeable both in the benefits to us, and the condition required of us; but he seals it to our sense in a sacrament, to give us strong consolation; or, rather, the articles of the covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son, agreed on from eternity, were accomplished on Christ’s part by his death, on the Father’s part by his resurrection; Christ performed what he promised in the one, and God acknowledgeth the validity of it, and performs what he had promised in the other. The covenant of grace, founded upon this covenant of redemption, is sealed in the sacrament; God owns his standing to the terms of it, as sealed by the blood of the Mediator, by presenting him to us under those signs, and gives us a right upon faith to the enjoyment of the fruits of it. As the right of a house is made over by the delivery of the key, and the right of land translated by the delivery of a turf; whereby he gives us assurance of his reality, and a strong support to our confidence in him; not that there is any virtue and power of sealing in the elements themselves, no more than there is in a turf to give an enfeoffment in a parcel of land; but as the power of one is derived from the order of the law, so the confirming power of the sacrament is derived from the institution of God; as the oil wherewith kings were annointed, did not of itself confer upon them that royal dignity, but it was a sign of their investiture into office, ordered by Divine institution. We can with no reason imagine, that God intended them as naked signs or pictures, to please our eyes with the image of them, to represent their own figures to our eyes, but to confirm something to our understanding by the efficacy of the Spirit accompanying them: they convey to the believing receiver what they represent, as the great seal of a prince, fixed to the parchment, doth the pardon of a rebel as well as its own figure. Christ’s death, and the grace of the covenant is not only signified, but the fruits and merit of that death communicated also. Thus doth Divine goodness evidence itself, not only in making a gracious covenant with us, but fixing seals to it; not to strengthen his own obligation, which stood stronger than the foundations of heaven and earth, upon the credit of his word, but to strengthen our weakness, and support our security, by something which might appear more formal and solemn than a bare word. By this, the Divine goodness provides against our spiritual faintings, and shows us by real signs as well as verbal declarations, that the covenant sealed by the blood of Christ, is unalterable; and thereby would fortify and mount our hopes to degrees in some measure suitable to the kindness of the covenant, and the dignity of the Redeemer’s blood. And it is yet a further degree of this goodness, that he hath appointed us so often to celebrate it, whereby he shows how careful he is to keep up our tottering faith, and preserve us constant in our obedience; obliging himself to the performance of his promise, and obliging us to the payment of our duty.
2. His goodness is seen in the sacrament in giving us in it an union and communion with Christ. There is not only a commemoration of Christ dying, but a communication of Christ living. The apostle strongly asserts it by way of interrogation (1 Cor. 10:16), “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” In the cup there is a communication of the blood of Christ, a conveyance of a right to the merits of his death, and the blessedness of his life: we are not less by this made one body with Christ than we are by baptism (1 Cor. 12:13): and “put on Christ” living in this, as well as in baptism (Gal. 3:27); that as his taking our infirm flesh was a real incarnation, so the giving us his flesh to eat is a mystical incarnation in believers, whereby they become one body with him as crucified, and one body with him as risen; for if Christ himself be received by faith in the word (Col. 2:6), he is no less received by faith in the sacrament. When the Holy Ghost is said to be received, the graces or gifts of the Holy Ghost are received; so when Christ is received, the fruits of his death are really partaken of. The Israelites that ate of the sacrifices, did “partake of the altar” (1 Cor. 10:18), i. e. had a communion with the God of Israel, to whom they had been sacrificed; and those that “ate of the sacrifices” offered to idols, had a “fellowship with devils,” to whom those sacrifices were offered (ver. 20). Those that partake of the sacraments in a due manner, have a communion with that God to whom it was sacrificed, and a communion with that body which was sacrificed to God; not that the substance of that body and blood is wrapped up in the elements, or that the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ, but as they represent him, and by virtue of the institution are, in estimation himself, his own body and blood; by the same reason as he is called “Christ our passover,” he may be called “Christ our supper” (1 Cor. 5:7): for as they are so reckoned to an unworthy receiver, as if they were the real body and blood of Christ, because by his not discerning the Lord’s body in it, or making light of it as common bread, he is judged “guilty of the body and blood of Christ,” guilty of treating him in as base a manner as the Jews did when they crowned him with thorns (1 Cor. 11:27, 29): by the same reason they must be reckoned to a worthy receiver, as the very body and blood of Christ so that as the unworthy receiver “eats and drinks damnation,” the worthy receiver “eats and drinks” salvation. It would be an empty mystery, and unworthy of an institution by Divine goodness, if there were not some communion with Christ in it: there would be some kind of deceit in the precept, “Take, eat, and drink, this is my body and blood,” if there were not a conveyance of spiritual vital influences to our souls: for the natural end of eating and drinking is the nourishment and increase of the body, and preservation of life, by that which we eat and drink. The infinite wise, gracious, and true God, would never give us empty figures without accomplishing that which is signified by them, and suitable to them. How great is this goodness of God! he would have his Son in us, one with us, straitly joined to us, as if we were his proper flesh and blood: in the incarnation Divine goodness united him to our nature; in the sacrament, it doth in a sort unite him with his purchased privileges to our persons; we have not a communion with a part or a member of his body, or a drop of his blood, but with his whole body and blood, represented in every part of the elements. The angels in the heaven enjoy not so great a privilege; they have the honor to be under him as their Head, but not that of having him for their food; they behold him, but they do not taste him. And, certainly, that goodness that hath condescended so much to our weakness, would impart it to us in a very glorious manner, were we capable of it. But, because a man cannot behold the light of the sun in its full splendor by reason of the infirmities of his eyes, he must behold it by the help of a glass, and such a communication through a colored and opaque glass, is as real from the sun itself, though not so glorious, but more shrouded and obscure; it is the same light that shines through that medium, as spreads itself gloriously in the open air, though the one be masked, and the other open-faced. To conclude this, by the way, we may take notice of the neglect of this ordinance: if it be a token of Divine goodness to appoint it, it is no sign of our estimation of Divine goodness to neglect it. He that values the kindness of his friend, will accept of his invitation, if there be not some strong impediments in the way, or so much familiarity with him that his refusal upon a light occasion would not be unkindly taken. But though God put on the disposition of a friend to us, yet he looseth not the authority of a sovereign; and the humble familiarity he invites us to, doth not diminish the condition and duty of a subject. A sovereign prince would not take it well, if a favorite should refuse the offered honor of his table. The viands of God are not to be slighted. Can we live better upon our poor pittance than upon his dainties? Did not Divine goodness condescend in it to the weakness of our faith, and shall we conceit our faith stronger than God thinks it? If he thought fit by those seals to make a deed of gift to us, shall we be so unmannerly to him, and such enemies to the security he offers us over and above his word, as not to accept it? Are we unwilling to have our souls inflamed with love, our hearts filled with comfort, and armed against the attempts of our enemies? It is true, there is a guilt of the body and blood of Christ contracted by a slightness in the manner of attending; is it not also contracted by a refusal and neglect? What is the language of it? If it speaks not the death of Christ in vain; it speaks the institution of this ordinance as a remembrance of his death, to be a vanity, and no mark of Divine goodness. Let us, therefore, put such a value upon Divine goodness in this affair, as to be willing to receive the conveyances of his love, and fresh engagements of our duty; the one is due from us to the kindness of our friend, and the other belongs to our duty as his subjects.
vi. By this redemption God restores us to a more excellent condition than Adam had in innocence. Christ was sent by Divine goodness, not only to restore the life Adam’s sin had stripped us of, but to give it more abundantly than Adam’s standing could have conveyed it to us (John 10:10), “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” More abundantly for strength, more abundantly for duration, a life abounding with greater felicity and glory: the substance of those better promises of the new covenant than what attended the old. There are fuller streams of grace by Christ than flowed to Adam, or could flow from Adam. As Christ never restored any to health and strength while he was in the world, but he gave them a greater measure of both than they had before; so there is the same kindness, no question, manifested in our spiritual condition. Adam’s life might have preserved us, but Adam’s death could not have rescued either himself or his posterity; but, in our redemption, we have a Redeemer, who hath “died to expiate our sins,” and so crowned with life to save, and forever preserve our persons (Rom. 5:10), “Because I live, ye shall live also:” so that by redeeming goodness the life of a believer is as perpetual as the life of the Redeemer Christ (John 14:19). Adam, though innocent, was under the danger of perishing; a believer, though culpable, is above the fears of mutability. Adam had a holiness in his nature, but capable of being lost; by Christ believers have a holiness bestowed, not capable of being rifled, but which will remain till it be at last fully perfected: though they have a power to change in their nature, yet they are above an actual final change by the indulgence of Divine grace. Adam stood by himself; believers stand in a root, impossible to be shaken or corrupted: by this means the “promise is sure to all the seed” (Rom. 4:16). Christ is a stronger person than Adam, who can never break covenant with God, and the truth of God will never break covenant with him. We are united to a more excellent Head than Adam: instead of a root merely human, we have a root Divine as well as human. In him we had the righteousness of a creature merely human; in this we have a righteousness divine, the righteousness of God-man; the stock is no longer in our own hands, but in the hands of One that cannot embezzle it, or forfeit it: Divine goodness hath deposited it strongly for our security. The stamp we receive, by the Divine goodness, from the second Adam, is more noble than that we should have received from the first, had he remained in his created state Adam was formed of the dust of the earth, and the new man is formed by the incorruptible seed of the word; and at the resurrection, the body of man shall be endued with better qualities than Adam had at creation: they shall be like that glorious Body which is in heaven, in union with the person of the “Son of God” (Phil. 3:21). Adam, at the best, had but an earthly body, but the Lord from heaven hath a “heavenly body,” the image of which shall be borne by the redeemed ones, as they have borne the image of the earthly (1 Cor. 15:47–49). Adam had the society of beasts; redeemed ones expect, by Divine goodness in redemption, a commerce with angels; as they are reconciled to them by his death, they shall certainly come to converse with them at the consummation of their happiness; as they are made of one family, so they will have a peculiar intimacy: Adam had a paradise, and redeemed ones a heaven provided for them; a happier place with a richer furniture. It is much to give so complete a paradise to innocent Adam; but more to give heaven to an ungrateful Adam, and his rebellious posterity: it had been abundant goodness to have restored us to the same condition in that paradise from whence we were ejected; but a superabundant goodness to bestow upon us a better habitation in heaven, which we could never have expected. How great is that goodness, when by sin we were fallen to be worse than nothing, that He should raise us to be more than what we were; that restored us, not to the first step of our creation; but to many degrees of elevation beyond it! not only restores us, but prefers us; not only striking off our chains, to set us free, but clothing us with a robe of righteousness, to render us honorable; not only quenching our hell, but preparing a heaven; not re-garnishing an earthly, but providing a richer palace: his goodness was so great, that, after it had rescued us, it would not content itself with the old furniture, but makes all new for us in another world; a new wine to drink; a new heaven to dwell in; a more magnificent structure for our habitation: thus hath Goodness prepared for us a straiter union, a stronger life, a purer righteousness, an unshaken standing, and a fuller glory; all more excellent than was within the compass of innocent Adam’s possession.
vii. This goodness in redemption extends itself to the lower creation. It takes in, not only man, but the whole creation, except the fallen angels, and gives a participation of it to insensible creatures; upon the account of this redemption the sun, and all kind of creatures, were preserved, which otherwise had sunk into destruction upon the sin of man, and ceased from their being, as man had utterly ceased from his happiness (Col. 1:17): “By him all things consist.” The fall of man brought, not only a misery upon himself, but a vanity upon the creature; the earth groaned under a curse for his sake. They were all created for the glory of God, and the support of man in the performance of his duty, who was obliged to use them for the honor of Him that created them both. Had man been true to his obligations, and used the creatures for that end to which they were dedicated by the Creator; as God would have then rejoiced in his works, so his works would have rejoiced in the honor of answering so excellent an end: but when man lost his integrity, the creatures lost their perfection; the honor of them was stained when they were debased to serve the lusts of a traitor, instead of supporting the duty of a subject, and employed in the defence of the vices of men against the precepts and authority of their common Sovereign. This was a vilifying the creature, as it would be a vilifying the sword of a prince, which is, for the maintenance of justice, to be used for the murder of an innocent; and a dishonoring a royal mansion, to make it a storehouse for a dunghill. Had those things the benefit of sense, they would groan under this disgrace, and rise up in indignation against them that offered them this affront, and turned them from their proper end. When sin entered, the heavens that were made to shine upon man, and the earth that was made to bear and nourish an innocent creature, were now subjected to serve a rebellious creature; and as man turned against God, so he made those instruments against God, to serve his enmity, luxury, sensuality. Hence the creatures are said to groan (Rom. 8:22); “The whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.” They would really groan, had they understanding to be sensible of the outrage done them. “The whole creation.” — It is the pang of universal nature, the agony of the whole creation, to be alienated from the original use for which they were intended, and be disjointed from their end to serve the disloyalty of a rebel. The drunkard’s cup, and the glutton’s table, the adulterer’s bed, and the proud man’s purple, would groan against the abuser of them. But when all the fruits of redemption shall be completed, the goodness of God shall pour itself upon the creatures, deliver them from the “bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21); they shall be reduced to their true end, and returned in their original harmony. As the creation doth passionately groan under its vanity, so it doth “earnestly expect and wait for its deliverance at the time of the manifestation of the sons of God” (ver. 19). The manifestation of the sons of God is the attainment of the liberty of the creature. They shall be freed from the vanity under which they are enslaved; as it entered by sin, it shall vanish upon the total removal of sin. What use they were designed for in paradise they will have afterwards, except that of the nourishment of men, who shall be as “angels, neither eating nor drinking:” the glory of God shall be seen and contemplated in them. It can hardly be thought that God made the world to be little a moment after he had reared it, sullied by the sin of man, and turned from its original end, without thoughts of a restoration of it to its true end, as well as man to his lost happiness. The world was made for man: man hath not yet enjoyed the creature in the first intention of them; sin made an interruption in that fruition. As redemption restores man to his true end, so it restores the creatures to their true use. The restoration of the world to its beauty and order was the design of the Divine goodness in the coming of Christ, as it is intimated in Isa. 11:6–9; as he “came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it,” so he came not to destroy the creatures, but to repair them: to restore to God the honor and pleasure of the creation, and restore to the creatures their felicity in restoring their order: the fall corrupted it, and the full redemption of men restores it. The last time is called, not a time of destruction, but a “time of restitution,” and that “of all things” (Acts 3:21) of universal nature, the main part of the creation at least. All those things which were the effects of sin will be abolished; the removal of the cause beats down the effect. The disorder and unruliness of the creature, arising from the venom of man’s transgression, all the fierceness of one creature against another shall vanish. The world shall be nothing but an universal smile; nature shall put on triumphant vestments: there shall be no affrighting thunders, choking mists, venomous vapors, or poisonous plants. It would not else be a restitution of all things. They are now subject to be wasted by judgments for the sin of their possessor, but the perfection of man’s redemptions shall free them from every misery. They have an advancement at the present, for they are under a more glorious Head, as being the possession of Christ, the heavenly Adam, much superior to the first: as it is the glory of a person to be a servant to a prince, rather than a peasant. And afterwards, they shall be elevated to a better state, sharing in man’s happiness, as well as they did in his misery: as servants are interested in the good fortune of their master, and bettered by his advance in his prince’s favor. As man in his first creation was mutable and liable to sin, so the creatures were liable to vanity; but as man by grace shall be freed from the mutability, so shall the creatures be freed from the fears of an invasion, by the vanity that sullied them before. The condition of the servants shall be suited to that of their Lord, for whom they were designed: hence, all creatures are called upon to rejoice upon the perfection of salvation, and the appearance of Christ’s royal authority in the world. If they were to be destroyed, there would be no ground to invite them to triumph (Psalm 96:11, 12; 118:7, 8). Thus doth Divine goodness spread its kind arms over the whole creation.
Thirdly. The third thing is the goodness of God in his Government. That goodness that despised not their creation, doth not despise their conduct. The same goodness that was the head that framed them, is the helm that guides them; his goodness hovers over the whole frame, either to prevent any wild disorders unsuitable to his creating end, or to conduct them to those ends which might illustrate his wisdom and goodness to his creatures. His goodness doth no less incline him to provide for them, than to frame them. It is the natural inclination of man to love what is purely the birth of his own strength or skill. He is fond of preserving his own inventions, as well as laborious in inventing them. It is the glory of a man to preserve them, as well as to produce them. God loves everything which he hath made, which love could not be without a continued diffusiveness to them suitable to the end for which he made them. It would be a vain goodness, if it did not interest itself in managing the world, as well as erecting it: without his government everything in the world would jostle against one another: the beauty of it would be more defaced, it would be an unruly mass, a confused chaos rather than a Κόσμος, a comely world. If Divine goodness respected it when it was nothing, it would much more respect it when it was something, by the sole virtue of his power and good-will to it, without any motive from anything else than himself, because there was nothing else but himself. But since he sees his own stamp in things without himself in the creature, which is a kind of motive or moving object to Divine goodness to preserve it, when there was nothing without himself that could be any motive to Him to create it: as when God hath created a creature, and it falls into misery, that misery of the creature, though it doth not necessitate his mercy, yet meeting with such an affection as mercy in his nature, is a moving object to excite it; as the repentance of Nineveh drew forth the exercise of his pity and preserving goodness. Certainly, since God is good, he is bountiful; and if bountiful, he is provident. He would seem to envy and malign his creatures, if he did not provide for them, while he intends to use them: but infinite goodness cannot be effected with envy; for all envy implies a want of that good in ourselves, which we regard with so evil an eye in another. But God, being infinitely blessed, hath not the want of any good that can be a rise to such an uncomely disposition. The Jews thought that Divine goodness extended only to them in an immediate and particular care, and left all other nations and things to the guidance of angels. But the Psalmist (Psalm 107, a psalm calculated for the celebration of this perfection, in the continued course of his providence throughout all ages of the world) ascribes to Divine goodness immediately all the advantages men meet with. He helps them in their actions, presides over their motions, inspects their several conditions, labors day and night in a perpetual care of them. The whole life of the world is linked together by Divine goodness. Everything is ordered by him in the place where he hath set it, without which the world would be stripped of that excellency it hath by creation.
1st. This goodness is evident in the care he hath of all creatures. There is a peculiar goodness to his people; but this takes not away his general goodness to the world: though a master of a family hath a choicer affection to those that have an affinity to him in nature, and stand in a nearer relation, as his wife, children, servants; yet he hath a regard to his cattle, and other creatures he nourisheth in his house. All things are not only before his eyes; but in his bosom; he is the nurse of all creatures, supplying their wants, and sustaining them from that nothing they tend to. The “earth is full of his riches” (Psalm 104:24); not a creek or cranny but partakes of it. Abundant goodness daily hovers over it, as well as hatched it. The whole world swims in the rich bounty of the Creator, as the fish do in the largeness of the sea, and birds in the spaciousness of the air. The goodness of God is the river that waters the whole earth. As a lifeless picture casts its eye upon every one in the room, so doth a living God upon everything in the world. And as the sun illuminates all things which are capable of partaking of its light, and diffuseth its beams to all things which are capable of receiving them, so doth God spread his wings over the whole creation, and neglects nothing, wherein he sees a mark of his first creating goodness.
1. His goodness is seen, in preserving all things. “O Lord, thou preservest man and beast” (Psalm 36:6). Not only man, but beasts, and beasts as well as men; man, as the most excellent creature, and beasts as being serviceable to man, and instruments of his worldly happiness. He continues the species of all things, concurs with them in their distinct offices, and quickens the womb of nature. He visits man every day, and makes him feel the effects of his providence, in giving him “fruitful seasons, and filling his heart with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17), as witnesses of his liberality and kindness to man. “The earth is visited and watered by the river of God. He settles the furrows of the earth, and makes it soft with showers,” that the corn may be nourished in its womb, and spring up to maturity. “He crowns the year with his goodness, and his paths drop fatness. The little hills rejoice on every side; the pastures are clothed with flocks, and the valleys are covered over with corn,” as the Psalmist elegantly says (Psalm 65:9, 10; 107:35, 36). He waters the ground by his showers, and preserves the little seed from the rapine of animals. “He draws not out the evil arrows of famine,” as the expression is (Ezek. 5:16). Every day shines with new beams of his Divine goodness. The vastness of this city, and the multitudes of living souls in it, is an astonishing argument. What streams of nourishing necessaries are daily conveyed to it! Every mouth hath bread to sustain it; and among all the number of poor in the bowels and skirts of it, how rare is it to hear of any starved to death for want of it! Every day he “spreads a table” for us, and that with varieties, and “fills our cups” (Psalm 23:5). He shortens not his hand, nor withdraws his bounty: the increase of one year by his blessing, restores what was spent by the former. He is the “strength of our life” (Psalm 27:1), continuing the vigor of our limbs, and the health of our bodies; secures us from “terrors by night, and the arrows of diseases that fly by day” (Psalm 91:5); “sets a hedge about our estates” (Job 1:10), and defends them against the attempts of violence; preserves our houses from flames that might consume them, and our persons from the dangers that lie in wait for them; watcheth over us “in our goings out, and our comings in” (Psalm 121:8), and way-lays a thousand dangers we know not of: and employs the most glorious creatures in heaven in the service of mean “men upon earth” (Psalm 91:11): not by a faint order, but a pressing charge over them, to “keep them in all his ways.” Those that are his immediate servants before his throne, he sends to minister to them that were once his rebels. By an angel he conducted the affairs of Abraham (Gen. 24:7): and by an angel secured the life of Ishmael (Gen. 21:17): glorious angels for mean man, holy angels for impure man, powerful angels for weak man. How in the midst of great dangers, doth his sudden light dissipate our great darkness, and create a deliverance out of nothing! How often is he found a present help in time of trouble! When all other assistance seems to stand at a distance, he flies to us beyond our expectations, and raises us up on the sudden from the pit of our dejectedness, as well as that of our danger, exceeding our wishes, and shooting beyond our desires as well as our deserts. How often, in the time of confusion, doth he preserve an indefensible place from the attacks of enemies, like a bark in the midst of a tempestuous sea! the rage falls upon other places round about them, and, by a secret efficacy of Divine goodness, is not able to touch them. He hath peculiar preservations for his Israel in Egypt, and his Lots in Sodom, his Daniels in the lions’ dens, and his children in a fiery furnace. He hath a tenderness for all, but a peculiar affection to those that are in covenant with him.
2. The goodness of God is seen in taking care of the animals and inanimate things. Divine goodness embraceth in its arms the lowest worm as well as the loftiest cherubim: he provides food for the “crying ravens” (Psalm 147:9), and a prey for the appetite of the “hungry lion” (Psalm 104:21): “He opens his hand, and fills with good those innumerable creeping things, both small and great beasts; they are all waiters upon him, and all are satisfied by their bountiful Master” (Psalm 104:25–28). They are better provided for by the hand of heaven, than the best favorite is by an earthly prince: for “they are filled with good.” He hath made channels in the wildest deserts, for the watering of beasts, and trees for the nests and “habitation of birds” (Psalm 104:10, 12, 17). As a Lawgiver to the Jews, he took care that the poor beast should not be abused by the cruelty of man: he provided for the ease of the laboring beast in that command of the Sabbath, wherein he provided for his own service: the cattle was to do “no work” on it (Exod. 20:10). He ordered that the mouth of the ox should not be muzzled while it trod out the corn (Deut. 25:4, it being the manner of those countries to separate the corn from the stalk by that means, as we do in this by thrashing), regarding it as a part of cruelty to deprive the poor beast of tasting, and satisfying itself with that which he was so officious by his labor to prepare for the use of man. And when any met with a nest of young birds, though they might take the young to their use, they were forbidden to seize upon the dam, that she might not lose the objects of her affection and her own liberty in one day (Deut. 22:6).
And see how God enforceth this precept with a threatening of a shortness of life, if they transgressed it (Deut. 22:7)! “Thou shalt let the dam go, that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days.” He would revenge the cruelty to dumb creatures with the shortness of the oppressor’s life: nor would he have cruelty used to creatures that were separated for his worship: he therefore provides that a cow, or an ewe, and their young ones, should “not be killed for sacrifice in one day” (Lev. 22:28). All which precepts, say the Jews, are to teach men mercifulness to their beasts; so much doth Divine goodness bow down itself, to take notice of those mean creatures, which men have so little regard to, but for their own advantage; yea, he is so good, that he would have worship declined for a time in favor of a distressed beast; the “helping a sheep, or an ox, or an ass, out of a pit,” was indulged them even “on the Sabbath-day,” a day God had peculiarly sanctified and ordered for his service (Matt. 12:11; Luke 14:5): in this case he seems to remit for a time the rights of the Deity for the rescue of a mere animal. His goodness extends not only to those kind of creatures that have life, but to the insensible ones; he clothes the grass, and “arrays the lilies of the field” with a greater glory than Solomon had upon his throne (Matt. 6:28, 29); and such care he had of those trees which bore fruit for the maintenance of man or beast, that he forbids any injury to be offered to them, and bars the rapine and violence, which by soldiers used to be practised (Deut. 20:19), though it were to promote the conquest of their enemy. How much goodness is it, that he should think of so small a thing as man! How much more that he should concern himself in things that seem so petty as beasts and trees! Persons seated in a sovereign throne, think it a debasing of their dignity to regard little things: but God, who is infinitely greater in majesty above the mightiest potentate, and the highest angel, yet is so infinitely good, as to employ his divine thoughts about the meanest things. He who possesses the praises of angels, leaves not off the care of the meanest creatures: and that majesty that dwells in a pure heaven, and an inconceivable light, stoops to provide for the ease of those creatures that lie and lodge in the dirt and dung of the earth. How should we be careful not to use those unmercifully, which God takes such care of in his law, and not to distrust that goodness, that opens his hand so liberally to creatures of another rank!
3. The goodness of God is seen in taking care of the meanest rational creatures; as servants and criminals. He provided for the liberty of slaves, and would not have their chains continue longer than the seventh year, unless they would voluntarily continue under the power of their masters; and that upon pain of his displeasure, and the withdrawing his blessing (Deut. 15:18). And though, by the laws of many nations, masters had an absolute power of life and death over their servants, yet God provided that no member should be lamed, not an eye, no, nor a tooth, struck out, but the master was to pay for his folly and fury the price of the “liberty of his servant” (Exod. 21:26, 27): he would not suffer the abused servant to be any longer under the power of that man that had not humanity to use him as one of the same kindred and blood with himself. And though those servants might be never so wicked, yet, when unjustly afflicted, God would interest himself as their guardian in their protection and delivery. And when a poor slave had been provoked, by the severity of his master’s fury, to turn fugitive from him, he was, by Divine order, not to be delivered up again to his master’s fury, but dwell in that city, and with that person, to whom he had “fled for refuge” (Deut. 23:15, 16). And when public justice was to be admininistered upon the lesser sort of criminals, the goodness of God ordered the “number of blows” not to exceed forty, and left not the fury of man to measure out the punishment to excess (Deut. 25:3). And in any just quarrel against a provoking and injuring enemy, he ordered them not to ravage with the sword till they had summoned a rendition of the place (Deut. 20:10). And as great a care he took of the poor, that they should have the gleanings both of the vineyard and field (Lev. 19:10; 23:22), and not be forced to pay “usury for the money lent them” (Exod. 22:25).
4. His goodness is seen in taking care of the wickedest persons. “The earth is full of his goodness” (Psalm 37:5). The wicked as well as the good enjoy it; they that dare lift up their hands against heaven in the posture of rebels, as well as those that lift up their eyes in the condition of suppliants. To do good to a criminal, far surmounts that goodness that flows down upon an innocent object: now God is not only good to those that have some degrees of goodness, but to those that have the greatest degrees of wickedness, to men that turn his liberality into affronts of him, and have scarce an appetite to anything but the violation of his authority and goodness. Though, upon the fall of Adam, we have lost the pleasant habitation of paradise, and the creatures made for our use are fallen from their original excellency and sweetness; yet he hath not left the world utterly incommodious for us, but yet stores it with things not only for the preservation, but delight of those that make their whole lives invectives against this good God. Manna fell from heaven for the rebellious as well as for the obedient Israelites. Cain as well as Abel, and Esau as well as Jacob, had the influences of his sun, and the benefits of his showers. The world is yet a kind of paradise to the veriest beasts among mankind; the earth affords its riches, the heavens its showers, and the sun its light, to those that injure and blaspheme him: “He makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). The wickedest breathe in his air, walk upon his earth, and drink of his water, as well as the best. The sun looks with as pleasant and bright an eye upon a rebellious Absalom, as a righteous David; the earth yields its plants and medicines to one as well as to the other; it is seldom that He deprives any of the faculties of their souls, or any members of their bodies. God distributes his blessings where he might shoot his thunders; and darts his light on those who deserve an eternal darkness; and presents the good things of the earth to those that merit the miseries of hell; for “the earth, and the fulness thereof, is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1); everything in it is his in propriety, ours in trust; it is his corn, his wine (Hos. 2:8); he never divested himself of the propriety, though he grants us the use; and by those good things he supports multitudes of wicked men, not one or two, but the whole shoal of them in the world; for he is “the Saviour of all men,” i. e. is the preserver of all men (1 Tim. 4:10). And as he created them, when he foresaw they would be wicked; so he provides for them, when he beholds them in their ungodliness. The ingratitude of men stops not the current of his bounty, nor tires his liberal hand; howsoever unprofitable and injurious men are to him, he is liberal to them; and his goodness is the more admirable, by how much the more the unthankfulness of men is provoking: he sometimes affords to the worst a greater portion of these earthly goods; they often swim in wealth, when others pine away, their lives in poverty. And the silk-worm yields its bowels to make purple for tyrants, while the oppressed scarce have from the sheep wool enough to cover their nakedness; and though he furnish men with those good things, upon no other account than what princes do, when they nourish criminals in a prison till the time of their execution, it is a mark of his goodness. Is it not the kindness of a prince to treat his rebels deliciously? to give them the liberty of the prison, and the enjoyments of the delights of the place, rather than to load their legs with fetters, and lodge them in a dark and loathsome dungeon, till he orders them, for their crime, to be conducted to the scaffold or gibbet? Since God is thus kind to the vilest men, whose meanness, by reason of sin, is beyond that of any other creature, as to shoot such rays of goodness upon them; how inexpressible would be the expressions of his goodness, if the Divine image were as pure and bright upon them as it was upon innocent Adam!
2d. His goodness is evident in the preservation of human society. It belongs to his power that he is able to do it, but to his goodness that he is willing to do it.
1. This goodness appears in prescribing rules for it. The moral law consists but of ten precepts, and there are more of them ordered for the support of human society, than for the adoration and honor of himself (Exod. 20:1, 2); four for the rights of God, and six for the rights of man, and his security in his authority, relations, life, goods, and reputation; superiors not to be dishonored, life not to be invaded, chastity not to be stained, goods not to be filched, good name not to be cracked by false witness, nor anything belonging to our neighbor to be coveted; and in the whole Scripture, not only that which was calculated for the Jews, but compiled for the whole world; he hath fixed rules for the ordering all relations, magistrates, and subjects; parents and children; husbands and wives; masters and servants; rich and poor, find their distinct qualifications and duties. There would be a paradisiacal state, if men had a goodness to observe what God hath had a goodness to order for the strengthening the sinews of human society; the world would not groan under oppressing tyrants, nor princes tremble under discontented subjects, or mighty rebels; children would not be provoked to anger by the unreasonableness of their parents, nor parents sink under grief by the rebellion of their children; masters would not tyrannize over the meanest of their servants, nor servants invade the authority of their masters.
2. The goodness of God in the preserving human society, is seen in setting a magistracy to preserve it. Magistracy is from God in its original; the charter was drawn up in paradise; civil subordination must have been had man remained in innocence; but the charter was more explicitly renewed and enlarged at the restoration of the world after the deluge, and given out to man under the broad seal of heaven; “Whoso sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Gen. 9:6). The command of shedding the blood of a murderer was a part of his goodness, to secure the lives of those that bore his image. Magistrates are “the shields of the earth,” but they “belong to God” (Psalm 47:9). They are fruits of his goodness in their original, and authority; were there no magistracy, there would be no government, no security to any man under his own vine and fig tree; the world would be a den of wild beasts preying upon one another; every one would do what seems good in his eyes; the loss of government is a judgment God brings upon a nation when men become “as the fishes of the sea,” to devour one another, because they “have no ruler over them” (Hab. 1:14). Private dissensions will break out into public disorders and combustions.
3. The goodness of God in the preservation of human society, is seen in the restraints of the passions of men. He sets bounds to the passions of men as well as to the rollings of the sea; “He stilleth the noise of the waves, and the tumults of the people” (Psalm 65:7). Though God hath erected a magistracy to stop the breaking out of those floods of licentiousness, which swell in the hearts of men; yet, if God should not hold stiff reins on the necks of those tumultuous and foaming passions, the world would be a place of unruly confusion, and hell triumph upon earth; a crazy state would be quickly broke in pieces by boisterous nature. The tumults of a people could no more be quelled by the force of man, than the rage of the sea by a puff of breath; without Divine goodness, neither the wisdom nor watchfulness of the magistrates, nor the industry of officers, could preserve a state. The laws of men would be too slight to curb the lusts of men, if the goodness of God did not restrain them by a secret hand, and interweave their temporal security with observance of those laws. The sons of Belial did murmur when Saul was chosen king; and that they did no more was the goodness of God, for the preservation of human society. If God did not restrain the impetuousness of men’s lusts, they would be the entire ruin of human society; their lusts would render them as bad as beasts, and change the world into a savage wilderness.
4. The goodness of God is seen in the preservation of human society, in giving various inclinations to men for public advantage. If all men had an inclination to one science or art, they would all stand idle spectators of one another; but God hath bestowed various dispositions and gifts upon men, for the promoting the common good, that they may not only be useful to themselves, but to society. He will have none idle, none unuseful, but every one acting in a due place, according to their measures, for the good of others.
5. The goodness of God is seen in the witness he bears against those sins that disturb human society. In those cases he is pleased to interest himself in a more signal manner, to cool those that make it their business to overturn the order he hath established for the good of the earth. He doth not so often in this world punish those faults committed immediately against his own honor, as those that put the world into a hurry and confusion: as a good governor is more merciful to crimes against himself, than those against his community. It is observed that the most turbulent seditious persons in a state come to most violent ends, as Corah, Adonijah, Zimri: Ahithopel draws Absalom’s sword against David and Israel, and the next is, he twists a halter for himself: Absalom heads a party against his father, and God, by a goodness to Israel, hangs him up, and prevents not its safety by David’s indulgence, and a future rebellion, had life been spared by the fondness of his father. His providence is more evident in discovering disturbers, and the causes that move them, in defeating their enterprises, and digging the contrivers out of their caverns and lurking holes: in such cases, God doth so act, and use such methods, that he silenceth any creature from challenging any partnership with him in the discovery. He doth more severely in this world correct those actions that unlink the mutual assistance between man and man, and the charitable and kind correspondence he would have kept up. The sins for which the “wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience” (Col. 3:5, 6) in this world are of this sort; and when princes will be oppressing the people, God will be “pouring contempt on the princes, and set the poor on high from affliction” (Psalm 107:40, 41). An evidence of God’s care and kindness in the preserving human society, is those strange discoveries of murders, though never so clandestine and subtilly committed, more than of any other crime among men: Divine care never appears more than in bringing those hidden and injurious works of darkness to light, and a due punishment.
6. His goodness is seen in ordering mutual offices to one another against the current of men’s passions. Upon this account he ordered, in his laws for the government of the Israelites, that a man should reduce the wandering beast of his enemy to the hand of his rightful proprietor, though he were a provoking enemy; and also “help the poor beast that belonged to one that hated him, when he saw him sink under his burden” (Exod. 23:4, 5). When mutual assistance was necessary, he would not have men considered as enemies, or considered as wicked, but as of the same blood with ourselves, that we might be serviceable to one another for the preservation of life and goods.
7. His goodness is seen in remitting something of his own right, for the preserving a due dependence and subjection. He declines the right he had to the vows of a minor, or one under the power of another, waving what he might challenge by the voluntary obligation of his creature, to keep up the due order between parents and children, husbands and wives, superiors and inferiors; those that were under the power of another, as a child under his parents, or a wife under her husband, if they had [vowed a vow unto the Lord,] which concerned his honor and worship, it was void without the approbation of that person under whose charge they were (Num. 30:3, 4,). Though God was the Lord of every man’s goods, and men but his stewards; and though he might have taken to himself what another had offered by a vow, since whatsoever could be offered was God’s own, though it was not the parties’ own who offered it; yet God would not have himself adored by his creature to the prejudice of the necessary ties of human society; he lays aside what he might challenge by his sovereign dominion, that there might not be any breach of that regular order which was necessary for the preservation of the world. If Divine goodness did not thus order things, he would not do the part of a Rector of the world; the beauty of the world would be much defaced, it would be a confused mass of men and women, or rather, beasts and bedlams. Order renders every city, every nation, yea, the whole earth, beautiful: this is an effect of Divine goodness.
3d. His goodness is evident in encouraging anything of moral goodness in the world. Though moral goodness cannot claim an eternal reward, yet it hath been many times rewarded with a temporal happiness; he hath often signally rewarded acts of honesty, justice, and fidelity, and punished the contrary by his judgments, to deter man from such an unworthy practice, and encourage others to what was comely, and of a general good report in the world. Ahab’s humiliation put a demurrer to God’s judgments intended against him; and some ascribe the great victories and success of the Romans to that justice which was observed among themselves. Baruch was but an amanuensis to the Prophet Jeremy to write his prophecy, and very despondent of his own welfare (Jer. 38:13); God upon that account provides for his safety, and rewards the industry of his service with the security of his person; he was not a statesman, to declare against the corrupt counsels of them that sat at the helm, nor a prophet, to declare against their profane practices, but the prophet’s scribe; and as he writes in God’s service the prophecies revealed to the prophet, God writes his name in the roll of those that were designed for preservation in that deluge of judgments which were to come upon that nation. Epicurus complained of the administration of God, that the virtuous moralist had not sufficient smiles of Divine favor, nor the swinish sensualist frowns of Divine indignation. But what if they have not always that confluence of outward wealth and pleasures, but remain in the common level? yet they have the happiness and satisfaction of a clear reputation, the esteem of men, and the secret applauses of their very enemies, besides the inward ravishments upon an exercise of virtue, and the commendatory subscription of their own hearts, a dainty the vicious man knows not of; they have an inward applause from God as a reward of Divine goodness, instead of those racks of conscience upon which the profane are sometimes stretched. He will not let the worst men do him any service (though they never intended in the act of service him, but themselves) without giving them their wages: he will not let them hit him in the teeth as if he were beholden to them. If Nebuchadnezzar be the instrument of God’s judgments against Tyrus and Israel, he will not only give him that rich city, but a richer country, Egypt, the granary for her neighbors, a wages above his work. In this is Divine goodness eminent, since, in the most moral actions, as there is something beautiful, so there is something mixed, hateful to the infinitely exact holiness of the Divine nature; yet he will not let that which is pleasing to him go unrewarded, and defeat the expectations of men, as men do with those they employ, when, for one flaw in an action, they deny them the reward due for the other part. God encouraged and kept up morality in the cities of the Gentiles for the entertainment of a further goodness in the doctrine of the gospel when it should be published among them.
4th. Divine goodness is eminent in providing a Scripture as a rule to guide us, and continuing it in the world. If man be a rational creature, governable by a law, can it be imagined there should be no revelation of that law to him? Man, by the light of reason, must needs confess himself to be in another condition than he was by creation, when he came first out of the hands of God; and can it be thought, that God should keep up the world under so many sins against the light of nature, and bestow so many providential influences, to invite men to return to him, and acquaint no men in the world with the means of that return? Would he exact an obedience of men, as their consciences witness he doth, and furnish them with no rules to guide them in the darkness they cannot but acknowledge that they have contracted? No; Divine goodness hath otherwise provided: this Bible we have is his word and rule. Had it been a falsity and imposture, would that goodness, that watches over the world, have continued it so long? That goodness that overthrew the burdensome rites of Moses, and expelled the foolish idolatry of the Pagans, would have discovered the imposture of this, had it not been a transcript of his own will. Whatever mistakes he suffers to remain in the world, what goodness had there been to suffer this anciently amongst the Jews, and afterwards to open it to the whole worlds, to abuse men in religion and worship, which so nearly concerned himself and his own honor, that the world should be deceived by the devil without a remedy in the morning of its appearance? It hath been honored and admired by some heathens, when they have cast their eyes upon it, and their natural light made them behold some footsteps of a Divinity in it. If this, therefore, be not a Divine prescript, let any that deny it, bring as good arguments for any book else, as can be brought for this. Now, the publishing this is an argument of Divine goodness: it is designed to win the affections of beggarly man, to be espoused to a God of eternal blessedness and immense riches. It speaks words in season: no doubts but it resolves; no spiritual distemper but it cures; no condition but it hath a comfort to suit it. It is a garden which the hand of Divine bounty hath planted for us; in it he condescends to shadow himself in those expressions that render him in some manner intelligible to us. Had God wrote in a loftiness of style suitable to the greatness of his majesty, his writing had been as little understood by us, as the brightness of his glory can be beheld by us. But he draws phrases from our affairs, to express his mind to us; he incarnates himself in his word to our minds, before his Son was incarnate in the flesh to the eyes of men: he ascribes to himself eyes, ears, hands, that we might have, from the consideration of ourselves, and the whole human nature, a conception of his perfections: he assumes to himself the members of our bodies, to direct our understandings in the knowledge of his Deity; this is his goodness. Again, though the Scripture was written upon several occasions, yet in the dictating of it, the goodness of God cast his eye upon the last ages of the world (1 Cor. 10:11): “They are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” It was given to the Israelites, but Divine goodness intended it for the future Gentiles. The old writings of the prophets were thus designed, much more the later writings of the apostles. Thus did Divine goodness think of us, and prepare his records for us, before we were in the world: these he hath written plain for our instruction, and wrapped up in them what is necessary for our salvation: it is clear to inform our understanding, and rich to comfort us in our misery; it is a light to guide us, and a cordial to refresh us; it is a lamp to our feet, and a medicine for our diseases; a purifier of our filth, and a restorer of us in our faintings. He hath by his goodness sealed the truth of it, by his efficacy on multitudes of men: he hath made it the “word of regeneration” (James 1:18). Men, wilder and more monstrous than beasts, have been tamed and changed by the power of it: it hath raised multitudes of dead men from a grave fuller of horror than any earthly one. Again, Goodness was in all ages sending his letters of advice and counsel from heaven, till the canon of the Scripture was closed; sometimes he wrote to chide a froward people, sometimes to cheer up an oppressed and disconsolate people, according to the state wherein they were; as we may observe by the several seasons wherein parts of Scripture were written. It was His goodness that he first revealed anything of his will after the fall; it was a further degree of goodness, that he would add more cubits to its stature; before he would lay aside his pencil, it grew up to that bulk wherein we have it. And his goodness is further seen in the preserving it; he hath triumphed over the powers that opposed it, and showed himself good to the instruments that propagated it: he hath maintained it against the blasts of hell, and spread it in all languages against the obstructions of men and devils. The sun of his word is by his kindness preserved in our horizon, as well as the sun in the heavens. How admirable is Divine goodness! He hath sent his Son to die for us, and his written word to instruct us, and his Spirit to edge it for an entrance into our souls: he hath opened the womb of the earth to nourish us, and sent down the records of heaven to direct us in our pilgrimage: he hath provided the earth for our habitation, while we are travellers, and sent his word to acquaint us with a felicity at the end of our journey, and the way to attain in another world what we want in this, viz. a happy immortality.
5th. His goodness in his government is evident, in conversions of men. Though this work be wrought by his power, yet his power was first solicited by his goodness. It was his rich goodness that he would employ his power to pierce the scales of a heart as hard as those of the “leviathan.” It was this that opened the ears of men to hear him, and draws them from the hurry of worldly cares, and the charms of sensual pleasures, and, which is the top of all, the impostures and cheats of their own hearts. It is this that sends a spark of his wrath into men’s consciences, to put them to a stand in sin, that he might not send down a shower of brimstone eternally to consume their persons. This it was that first showed you the excellency of the Redeemer, and brought you to taste the sweetness of his blood, and find your security in the agonies of his death. It is his goodness to call one man and not another, to turn Paul in his course, and lay hold of no other of his companions. It is his goodness to call any, when he is not bound to call one.
306 The Existence and Attributes of God