Jesus Feeds the Four ThousandMark 8 1 In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
The Pharisees Demand a Sign11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.
The Leaven of the Pharisees and Herod14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” ‘Plainly’ or quite openly as the NRSV says it translates parrēsia, meaning ‘with freedom of speech’ or ‘openly’. There was to be no secret about this. The fact of his Messiahship had been secret, because its character had been misunderstood. The popular Messianic expectation was of a revolutionary political leader. John tells us that at the peak of Jesus’ Galilean popularity, after feeding the five thousand, the crowds had ‘intended to come and make him king by force’ (John 6:15). Now that the apostles had clearly recognized and confessed his identity, however, he could explain the nature of his Messiahship and do so openly. Peter rebuked him, horrified by the fate he had predicted for himself. But Jesus rebuked Peter in strong language. The same apostle who in confessing Jesus’ divine Messiahship had received a revelation from the Father (Matt. 16:17) had been deceived by the devil to deny the necessity of the cross. ‘Out of my sight, Satan!’ Jesus said, with a vehemence which must have astonished his hearers. ‘You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’ The Cross of Christ
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Mark 9Mark 9 1 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
The Transfiguration2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
Jesus Heals a Boy with an Unclean Spirit14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
Who Is the Greatest?33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
Anyone Not Against Us Is for Us38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
Temptations to Sin42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
What I'm Reading
The Proper Place of Love
By R.C. Sproul 8/01/2015
How many people do you know that have made it to the hall of fame in music, art, literature, or sports because of their love? We elevate people to the status of heroes because of their gifts, their talents, and their power, but not because of their love. Yet, from God’s perspective, love is the chief of all virtues. But what is love?
Love is said to make the world go round, and romantic love certainly makes the culture go round in terms of advertising and entertainment. We never seem to tire of stories that focus on romance. But we’re not referring to romantic love when we speak of the Christian virtue of love. We’re talking about a much deeper dimension of love, a virtue so paramount that it is to distinguish Christians from all other people. Moreover, love is so important to the Bible’s teachings that John tells us, “God is love” (1 John 4:7–8). Whatever else we say about the Christian virtue of love, we must be clear that the love God commands is a love that imitates His own. The love of God is utterly perfect. And we are called to reflect and mirror that love to perfection, to be perfect as He is perfect (Matt. 5:48). Now, of course, none of us loves perfectly, which is why we must be covered with the perfect righteousness of Christ by faith in Him alone. Nevertheless, it’s important for us to return time and again to Scripture to find out what love is supposed to look like, for we’re so easily satisfied with a sentimental, maudlin, romantic, or superficial understanding of love.
First Corinthians 13 plumbs the depths of what love really means. It’s a measuring rod by which we can examine ourselves carefully to see whether this love resides in our hearts and is manifested in our lives. Given that truth, I’m surprised that 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most popular passages in all of Scripture instead of being one of the most despised. I can’t think of any chapter in Scripture that more quickly reveals our sins than this chapter. It’s popularity may be due to its being one of the most misunderstood and least applied chapters in the Bible. There’s a sense in which we’re ambivalent toward it. We’re drawn to it because of the grandeur of its theme and the eloquence of its language, yet at the same time we’re repulsed by this chapter because it reveals our shortcomings. We want to keep some safe distance from it because it so clearly demonstrates to us our lack of real love.
This chapter is part of an Apostolic admonition to Christians who were torn apart by contentions in the church. They were behaving in an immature, fleshly manner, and at the heart of this ungodly behavior was a manifestation of certain talents, abilities, and gifts without the presence of love in their lives. In the opening verses, Paul speaks of love as the sine qua non of Christian virtue (1 Cor. 13:1–3). He’s speaking with hyperbole, intentionally exaggerating things to make his point. He starts off comparing love to the gift of tongues. Paul says, in effect, “I don’t care if you are fluent in fifty languages or if you have the gift to speak foreign languages miraculously. I don’t care if God has endowed you with the ability to speak the language of the heavenly host. If you don’t have love, the eloquence of your speech becomes noise. It becomes dissonance, an irritating and annoying racket.” He says here that if we speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, we become a sounding brass or a clanging symbol — mere noise. All the beauty of speech is lost when love is absent.
Paul then compares love to the gifts of prophecy and understanding, miraculous endowments that God gave to people during the Apostolic era. These tremendous gifts were nothing compared to love. The Apostle says that you can have a miraculous endowment, you can receive power from God the Holy Spirit, but it is to be used in the context of the grace of love. And without that love, the use of the divine power is a charade. Jesus had to warn even His own disciples about the danger of using a God-given gift without love. Jesus empowered His disciples to participate in His ministry of exorcism, and they went out on their mission and came back clicking their heels. They were so excited at the effectiveness of their ministry that they were rejoicing in the power Christ had given them. But what did Jesus say? Don’t rejoice because you have been given power over Satan, but rejoice that your names have been written in heaven (Luke 10:1–20). The disciples were caught up with the power instead of the grace that was underlying that power. They were intoxicated with the gift, and were forgetting the One who gave it.
The bottom line is that the gifts of God can be used without love. When that happens, their value is destroyed. The essence of love, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, is to seek the welfare of others. A person who reflects God’s love is driven to give of himself for others, not to wield his power for his own benefit. But we are people who are more interested in power, in doing rather than being. We’re more concerned to seize the supernatural power that God can give rather than the supernatural love that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). We have misplaced priorities. Thanks be to God that His love for us is greater than our love for Him. May He strengthen us to pursue love above all else, a love that reflects His love for us in Christ (5:8).
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 8/01/2015
There is a simple enough test to see if someone has actually read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. All you have to do is utter the words “Room 101” and look to see if the person shudders. Those who have merely heard of the book, or of that particular allusion may recognize it, but will not react viscerally to it. If you read through the account of Winston’s fateful trip to Room 101, its mere mention hits you in the gut.
Throughout Orwell’s novel, we are given a picture of a brutal future, ruled by the virtually omnipresent Big Brother. Every step is prescribed, every action watched, even every thought monitored. Our “hero,” however, out of an inchoate love for the fair Julia, becomes a rebel with a cause — to serve with his beloved against Big Brother in hopes of bringing him down. The two are caught in their revelries and placed under arrest. It turns out their purported contact with the underground was just another agent of Big Brother.
Orwell doesn’t dive right into Room 101. Rather, he leads us there slowly. Winston’s anguish begins first with hunger as he is jailed and given nothing to eat. What follows next is days, perhaps weeks, of interrogation and extreme torture. Over time, Winston confesses to all he has done and not done. He even confesses that the Party is the arbiter of all truth, indeed that 2+2=5. He is broken, beaten, a shell of his former self. All that he has left is peace in knowing that in all his confessing, in all his repenting, he never turned on Julia. There was still a hidden corner of his heart that Big Brother could not penetrate and make his own.
Which is just why Winston was brought to Room 101. There is nothing particularly unique in this room. Rather, each prisoner brought to Room 101 faces his own deepest fear. For Winston, it is rats. There are just two rats, and they are safely caged. The cage, however, has an odd design. It is a special apparatus that could be, indeed would be, strapped around Winston’s head with the door to each cage opening right at his eyes. The rats, having been starved, would escape through Winston. As the cage is brought closer, he does not merely scream in fright and beg for safety but pleads that someone else be given the cage, anyone else — even Julia. “Do it to Julia!” he screams, now fully and finally broken.
Which brings me to my deepest fear — my Room 101 betrayal. Persecution comes in as many sizes and shapes as there are Rooms 101. Some experience the comparatively petty persecution of mild social ostracism, others face death, and still others torture. What history teaches us, however, is that whatever form persecution takes, it is often our brothers who lead us there. That is, those believers who crave acceptance and safety are the first ones to throw their brothers under the bus. By doing so, they prove their loyalty to the regime and their distance from the family.
Consider two examples, one ancient, the other current. The Roman Empire did not have a careful and sophisticated taxonomy of the people they conquered. To them, the Jews were the Jews. The key reason the Pharisees hated Jesus so much was less that He was popular while they were not, less that He exposed their folly, and more that He was a danger. As the people looked to Jesus to throw off the yoke of Rome, the Pharisees understood that Roman reprisals for such a rebellion wouldn’t be nuanced. They would all be killed. So, they handed Jesus over to Pilate, insisting, “He’s not one of us.”
In our day, the danger is social ostracism, especially regarding the issue of sexual morality. With each passing day, the biblical sexual ethic is looked upon more and more as not merely quaint and old fashioned but oppressive, bigoted, and immoral. Which is why certain wings of the church have been, and will be, so quick to jump on the bandwagon. Which is why every week or so we read about another megachurch pastor coming out in favor of homosexual marriage. Which is why adultery and fornication and the fruit thereof — abortion — are dead issues in our pulpits. “We’re not like them. Hate those bigots down the street from us. We’re loving and accepting. Turn your bile on them, but give us a pass.”
What then do we do? Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. It is, remember, in the same sermon that Jesus calls us to seek His kingdom that He tells us we are blessed when we are persecuted for His name’s sake. The question is, will we believe it? Will we accept His shame as our honor, or will we honor them to our shame? Will we remember that love toward the world is hatred toward God (James 4:4)? Will we be the betrayers, or will we have the blessing of being the betrayed?
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Praying for Pastors’ Kids
By Barnabas Piper 8/01/2015
Why exactly is it that pastors’ kids (PKs) need prayer? What makes them so special? Actually, nothing. They are just like all their peers — the same weaknesses, the same proclivity to sin, and made in the image of God, too. All in all, PKs are a pretty normal bunch.
And there you have it, the reason they need prayer: they’re normal. Yet when you put normal people in uniquely challenging circumstances, things get difficult, and growing up in a family wherein the father’s vocation is full-time ministry is definitely uniquely difficult.
A pastor’s family often functions as the “first family” of the church, setting the bar in all things spiritual and moral. They are the exemplars of ministry and life. They’re always being observed, and with that comes expectations. The church expects certain behaviors and personas from their leaders’ families.
So you can see why it is that a pastor’s kid could use some extra prayer. Growing up is a challenge all by itself — learning, growing, hormones, identity crises, unrequited love, sports heartbreak, relational drama, school, spiritual life, siblings, parents, and more. Now imagine doing all that while a church watches, expecting you to be a good little Christian. Where can a PK hide? Where can she hide her mistakes and her insecurities? More deeply, where can she connect with Jesus deeply and genuinely, not as just another expectation?
Most people in the church love the pastor’s family. They have no intention of adding to the pressure or pain of PKs, so what can they do to ease the burden? More than anything, the church can pray.
That They Would Know Jesus
One of the most significant challenges PKs face is a true connection with Jesus Christ. All the knowledge and trivia and Bible memory doesn’t equal a saving relationship with Christ. On the contrary, sometimes knowing all that good stuff actually tricks PKs into thinking they have one. So many PKs know of Jesus, but all the morality, expectations, and knowledge blind them to His heart-transforming reality. Only a miracle of the Holy Spirit revealing Jesus to someone can truly save. Pray this miracle, that Jesus would be visible through all the stuff that happens in His name.
That They Would Find Their Identity in Jesus
When people grow up under significant expectations, it is natural to gauge themselves by those expectations. Am I what I am supposed to be? Am I pleasing the right people? PKs see themselves as what others want them to be instead of what God made them to be. For PKs, those standards often look very “Christiany,” very moral, very “churchy.” Christian kids know they are not to measure themselves by “worldly” standards but rather by biblical ones, and these churchy standards sure look biblical. But something is amiss. Meeting churchy standards still feels empty.
Why? Because it is the wrong place to find one’s identity. A follower of Christ is a new creation in Jesus. With that comes freedom to live a life made full by honoring Jesus instead of a life made harried by meeting expectations.
That They Would Love Their Family
Pressure crushes things, and a cracking family is one of the devil’s favorite ways to undermine a pastor’s ministry. It’s an exploitable weakness and a nerve to be jabbed. When a PK crumbles under the pressure of ministry, she often blames her parents. (Sometimes they even deserve it for heaping that pressure on.) More subtly, the practice of being “just so” for the church can carry over into the home and stilt relationships. Instead of honesty, transparency, trust, and love, there is a void between family members.
That They Would Love the Church
PKs see more of the ugly in a church than anyone but the staff does. They see how ministry can pull apart their families. All the expectations can frustrate and embitter them. That’s why some PKs rebel and abandon church altogether. On the other hand, PKs get to see the best parts of the church too — deep friendships, changed lives, needs meet, souls transformed. Pray that the good would outweigh the bad, that they would recognize that there is bad everywhere humans gather, and that the church provides hope and richness like nowhere else.
People who grow up in church hear all about grace but often know very little of it. It is God’s grace that reveals Jesus and connects a PK to Him. It’s grace that overcomes and redeems the failures of family and church. It is God’s grace flowing through the church to the PK and through the PK to the church that enables the relationship to flourish. Grace is the thread that ties each of these needs together and the means by which God can grant them. Pray for the miraculous grace that covers a multitude of sins, restores the fallen and the bruised, and ties God’s people together.
That Others May Live
By Kevin Struyk 8/01/2015
One of the most elite special operations forces in the United States Air Force is the pararescuemen, often referred to as PJs. These men are responsible for going into hostile territory anywhere in the world and rescuing wounded soldiers at a moment’s notice. Their motto is, “That others may live.” This motto is part of a creed that all pararescuemen recite and live by, a reminder of their duty, privilege, and responsibility to save lives even at the expense of their own comfort and safety.
I believe the motto of the PJs provides a helpful illustration for the Christian. First and foremost, both understand their calling or mission as seeking to save those who are perishing. This directive comes from the top. Jesus Himself understood and followed His predetermined role in redeeming a people out of the world. The pactum salutis (covenant of redemption) was an agreement among the members of the Godhead made in eternity past, wherein they agreed that the heavenly Father would send Jesus on a mission to save His people.
In order for Jesus to save His people, He had to enter enemy territory. In doing so, He took the form of a bondservant and came in the likeness of men (Phil.2:6–7). Both earthly and spiritual powers targeted Him from the moment He was born (Matt. 2:13, 4:3). Despite the opposition, Jesus never failed in accomplishing His objective. As the second person of the Trinity, both fully God and fully man, Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, was obedient where Adam failed (Matt. 4:3–4; Heb. 4:15). In our place, Jesus resisted the temptations of Satan and perfectly fulfilled and kept the law and commandments of God so that His sacrificial death as the spotless Lamb of God would truly atone for the sins of His people (John 1:29).
Sin is a lethal force. The Bible says man in his natural state is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). Apart from the mercy and grace of God, a man left in his natural sinful state will never know abundant life now or eternal life to come. But God is rich in mercy and demonstrated His amazing love by sending Jesus to rescue the helpless and heal the sick. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
Those whom God calls and loves with an everlasting love will be rescued from eternal death and condemnation through faith in Jesus Christ. Such faith is possible only when a new heart is given to a dead man. This new heart is a result of the regenerating work of God’s Holy Spirit (Ezek. 36:26; John 3). It’s the Spirit who leads people to repent of their sins and it’s God who justifies, or declares righteous, all who believe and call upon the name of Jesus (Rom 5:1; 10:13). A Christian is thus a new creation who has been freed from the guilt and power of sin to worship, serve, and love God and neighbor.
A true disciple of Jesus will, by God’s grace and because of his new nature, imitate Jesus by loving the helpless, the wounded, and the lost. Our love will demonstrate itself through word-and-deed ministry—proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and discipling His people both to know and live in the light of God’s Word. Our deeds will show our willingness to leave behind earthly comforts, material goods, safety, even our very lives in order to save a soul from hell.
It has been said that the pastor’s life is a throwaway life, in that it is to be given over, body and soul, to the service of God. And in one sense, that’s the case for all true disciples of Jesus. Our lives, our energies, our resources, our time, our gifts ought to be used up or spent with the aim of fulfilling the Great Commission. Thus, when we breathe our last breath, I believe Jesus will welcome His children and individually say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:23).
We live in an increasingly hostile environment toward biblical Christianity where it may be tempting to retreat, circle the wagons, put up walls, and avoid the battle to win souls for Christ. Yet, we need to remember what Jesus prays in John 17, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (v. 18).
Take heart, Christian. We are sent into enemy territory by the One who has all power and authority. He will not let your foot slip. The victory is certain, Satan’s demise is sure, and Jesus is on His throne. We have been entrusted with the gospel; let us therefore faithfully proclaim it—so that others may live.
A Kingdom of Priests
By Kelly Kapic 8/01/2015
In February, a terrible beheading of twenty-one Egyptian Christians took place. They were executed because they were identified as “the people of the cross.” We are reminded of the possibility of martyrdom and the reality that this side of glory we are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11). Consequently, Christians often find themselves in a most difficult position. We are called to love our neighbors— even our neighbors who might better be described as our enemies (Matt. 5:43–45). And we are not to return evil for evil (Rom. 12:17; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9). While most believers do not face the imminent threat of death, testifying to Christ is often far from easy. How, then, are we to live faithfully amid challenging circumstances and among difficult people?
As sons and daughters of the One who is both the eternal King and High Priest, we have assurance that we will never be forgotten or abandoned. We do not need to be absorbed with self-preservation or self-promotion; we are free to live lives shaped by mercy and love for others. To appreciate this vision, we must understand that we are chosen as a people to be a blessing, and we carry out that work in a priestly manner.
Chosen to Be a Blessing
Peter gives his readers some powerful encouragement: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Peter here draws from a long and cherished tradition that is woven throughout the Old Testament.
When God called Abraham, He made it clear that from this man a great nation would arise. What is striking about the idea of election in this context is that the goal was gracious inclusion rather than hard-hearted exclusion. God chose Abraham and his offspring to serve as His representatives in the world. In this way, they functioned like a city on a hill, where others would be drawn to the light of the creator Lord. God’s people are never to forget that they are blessed in order to be a blessing (Gen. 12:1–2). That is at the heart of the biblical movement of election. But Peter reminds us that election and priesthood are meant to go together.
Peter appears to draw from Exodus 19:6, where we read of the promise that “you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Israel had specific people set apart to be ordained priests, but the promise was that all of God’s people would serve in some priestly ways.
As Peter draws on the great Old Testament promises to God’s people, he makes it clear that all who now have faith in Christ are part of this “chosen race” that is “a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” We are the true heirs of Abraham. Barriers between Jew and Gentile are meant to be demolished. What unites this people is not their ethnicity or culture, but their worship of Jesus. Even amid their serious diversity they become one in Christ. As those who are connected to the Great High Priest, His people now carry out His work of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18–19). All believers carry out two vital ministries as part of the royal priesthood.
First, in our priestly role, all Christians are to live sacrificially for others. We are people of the cross. Jesus laid down His life for sinners in desperate need of grace and love. As imitators of the crucified Lord, we now offer ourselves to Christ through sacrificial acts of love done in behalf of our neighbors, even the neighbors who consider us their enemies. We can be truly “honorable” through our works of grace and mercy, hoping that these very people may one day “glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). We do not make atonement for others, but through our lives, we point them to the Lamb of God who alone can bring reconciliation between a holy God and sinful humanity (v. 21).
Second, we are faithful in our priestly role as we offer intercession on behalf of others. Paul makes a similar point when he urges Timothy to offer “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” for ” all people, for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Tim. 2:1–2a). Part of living as the chosen people and a holy nation is that we are set apart to be instruments of God’s grace and reconciliation in this world. And this begins with prayers. We pray not just for those we love, nor even just for God’s people, but for the world, including dangerous emperors (1 Peter 2:16–17). How do we love our neighbor? We intercede for them, asking for the light of God’s mercy to overcome the looming darkness. Jesus did this even as He hung on the cross (Luke 23:34). You and I cannot change or save our neighbor, but the triune God can.
Jesus is the perfect Mediator who makes intercession on our behalf, offering Himself as the perfect and final sacrifice so that we might enjoy peace with God. We who have received mercy (1 Peter 2:10) are now His chosen vessels to be instruments of His grace and love to the world. This is what it means to live as part of the royal priesthood.
Kapic earned a Ph.D. in systematic and historical theology at King's College, University of London (United Kingdom), an M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, and a BA in philosophy and history from Wheaton College.
In addition to his books, Kapic has also published articles in various journals, such as the International Journal of Systematic Theology, Conversations in Religion and Theology, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Quarterly and Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care. Two samples of Kapic's work in contemporary theology are: "The Son's Assumption of a Human Nature: A Call for Clarity," IJST and "Trajectories of a Trinitarian Eschatology," in Trinitarian Soundings in Systematic Theology, edited by Paul Louis Metzger, cm. New York: T & T Clark International, 2005. He serves on the Board of Editorial Consultants for the Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care, as well as a contributing editor for Cultural Encounters: A Journal for the Theology of Culture.
- A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology
- Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering
- Communion with the Triune God
- Pocket Dictionary of the Reformed Tradition (Ivp Pocket Reference)
- God So Loved, He Gave: Entering the Movement of Divine Generosity
- Mapping Modern Theology: A Thematic and Historical Introduction
- Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice
- Becoming Whole: Why the Opposite of Poverty Isn't the American Dream
- Communion with God: The Divine and the Human in the Theology of John Owen
- Reading Christian Theology in the Protestant Tradition
- The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics
- A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology by Kelly M. Kapic (2012-08-03)
- The Ashgate Research Companion to John Owen's Theology (Ashgate Research Companions)
- The Devoted Life: An Invitation to the Puritan Classics
Study Bibles in the Church
By Victor Cruz 9/01/2015
When I was young in the Christian faith, I was asked to teach a Bible study every Saturday night for my church’s youth group. I felt honored, but at the same time I was terrified since I had never actually completed reading the entire Bible and did not have a clear idea about what to teach from Scripture. My first impulse was to find different topics that I thought were important to Christians, so I started looking for passages in the Bible that would teach about love, justice, forgiveness, salvation, and so on. It was a lot of work, until a friend told me about the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible and how it could help me to find every verse from every place in the Bible that addressed a particular topic. I was amazed and, for a long time, that was my “little secret.” That was my first experience with a study Bible, and to this very day, I see how the time I spent going through that Bible helped me to memorize Scripture and to have a general understanding of different topics in the Bible.
During my years in seminary, I got to know other study Bibles that became wonderful tools for my theological understanding of different Christian traditions. The MacArthur Study Bible offered me a defined, comprehensive, and consistent position on different theological topics, especially because it represents the work and thought of Dr. John MacArthur. The Reformation Study Bible gave me easy access to a variety of Reformed scholars who share a common ground theologically. This Bible became a great resource for me to discover new authors who have since greatly influenced my theological convictions. As a pastor, I think that a good study Bible can encourage people in our congregations to discover new authors and ideas that can help them to have a deeper understanding of the gospel and its implications. A study Bible can also be the first step toward cherishing sound theology.
As a pastor and church planter, I recommend that new believers take a look at different study Bibles and other tools that are available, especially those that can be found on the Internet, such as Bible Gateway and Bible Hub. These two resources make it very exciting to study Scripture as they include studies of the Hebrew and Greek, along with maps, history charts, and many different commentaries that provide a world of scholarly information about the Bible and its interpretation. The problem for me in a Spanish-speaking country is that most of these study Bibles and other resources are available only in English, and that makes it hard for a lot of people in my congregation to take advantage of these resources.
In recent years, my interest in study Bibles has grown, so it always surprises me when I hear some people in the church boasting about how they “don’t read any commentaries or books about the Bible” and how they “just want to know the Scripture.” This may seem pious to some people, but I think these affirmations show that there is a lack of instruction in the church that prevents people from valuing the ministry of the Holy Spirit that we find expressed in the work of godly men who have taken the time to seriously study God’s Word. I believe that it is arrogant to reject the use of commentaries and Bibles with notes, as if our own first impression of a text could be just as good as careful study using reference tools.
Finally, I have found that study Bibles are also a great tool to encourage people in our congregations to renew their interest in reading the Bible. In the new church we recently started, we have implemented a Bible-reading program using Bible Gateway. This program provides different options that can help us read the Bible in new ways. You can read the Bible combining the Old and New Testaments (each day includes a passage from both the Old Testament and New Testament), chronologically (reading the Bible in the order in which its stories and events occurred), historically (reading the books of the Bible in their historical order according to the estimated date of their writing), and many more options. Some people in our church who had never previously completed reading the entire Bible have now read it three times in a three-year period. As a pastor, I believe that study Bibles can be the first step toward a renewed faith in the church.
One of the great lessons of the Reformation is that serious study of the Bible is essential for Christian growth. Martin Luther, for example, spent years studying and teaching through books of the Bible. In many ways, his lectures on Psalms, Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews provided the basis for the Reformation. His theological convictions were the result of careful and diligent biblical exposition.
Study Bibles can provide a first glance at the expository study of the biblical text. Then, by God’s grace and by the work of the Holy Spirit—as with Luther—people will find Jesus as a result of studying the Bible. This is what a pastor dreams of and works for—to see our congregations filled with the knowledge of the love of Christ.
When I Don’t Feel Forgiven
By Ian Hamilton 9/01/2015
The Christian life is a constant battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. If these forces had their way, it would destroy every single one of God’s blood-bought and dearly loved children. But our Lord Jesus assures us that not one of those for whom He shed His precious blood will be lost. Nothing and no one can snatch a Christian, even the weakest Christian, from the strong hands of our omnipotent heavenly Father (John 10:29–30). But this glorious truth does not mean that our Christian lives cannot be disturbed, even deeply disturbed by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
One of the most disturbing experiences a believer can face is losing the felt sense of God’s forgiveness. This desolating experience has touched the lives of many Christians throughout the ages. It can happen “all of a sudden.” In Ephesians 6:16, Paul writes about “the flaming darts of the evil one”—sudden, perhaps unexpected assaults on our standing in Christ. Or it may be that the loss of the felt sense of God’s forgiveness happens slowly over a period of time as we experience sore, unexpected providences.
Whether suddenly or slowly, this is an agonizing experience for any Christian to go through. What are believers to do when they do not feel forgiven?
Root out Sin
First, we must ask ourselves if we are harboring sin in our hearts. Sin natively dulls our hearts and minds to God’s grace in His Son. There may be a good and godly reason why we do not feel our Father’s forgiving love. It may be that our ever-gracious God is removing the sense of our Christ-won comforts from us in order to awaken us to the sin we are refusing to put to death in our members (Rom. 8:13). The words of Psalm 139:23–24 should never be far from our thoughts: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Remember the War
Second, we must remind ourselves that we are engaged in a relentless warfare with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The devil will use every strategy he can devise to rob us of our gospel comforts, turn us in upon ourselves, and so overwhelm us with our circumstances that God seems far off or even heartlessly unconcerned about our sad spiritual state (read Pss. 42–43). The Word of God never hides from us the potential costliness of faithful discipleship. In Isaiah 50, God’s prophet addresses the Messiah’s servants who “walk in darkness and have no light” (v.10). It is hard to imagine what it must be like to be a true believer and yet be so overwhelmed with “darkness” that not even a pinprick of light penetrates the gloom. This, of course, was the experience of the prototypical man of faith, our Savior Jesus Christ. All the lights went out in His life not because He was a disobedient Son but because He was a perfectly obedient Son. The Lord never promises that the life of faith will be a life of unbroken, unsullied communion with Him. The godly life is a natively embattled life, albeit an embattled life punctuated with “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
Recall Our Standing
Third, we must recall that our standing in Christ does not rest in anything in us (our feelings) or done by us (our works), but on the finished work of our Savior on the cross and His continuing work at God’s right hand as our Great High Priest. The Christian’s whole comfort lies outside of herself. Perhaps this has nowhere been more memorably expressed than in the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism:
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
God’s truth and the grace of Christ are not qualified, far less nullified, by our feelings. However we might feel, however desperately wretched we might be, if we have believed in God’s Son and are resting the whole weight of who we are on Him alone, we are the most blessed and privileged of beings in the cosmos, whether we feel it to be so or not. We are loved in Christ with an everlasting love (Rom. 8:37–39). So, “Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Isa. 50:10).
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 115To Your Name Give Glory
9 O Israel, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
10 O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
11 You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
12 The LORD has remembered us; he will bless us;
he will bless the house of Israel;
he will bless the house of Aaron;
13 he will bless those who fear the LORD,
both the small and the great.
14 May the LORD give you increase,
you and your children!
15 May you be blessed by the LORD,
who made heaven and earth!
16 The heavens are the LORD’s heavens,
but the earth he has given to the children of man.
17 The dead do not praise the LORD,
nor do any who go down into silence.
18 But we will bless the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.
Praise the LORD!
Chapter 4 | Papal PersecutionsFrom the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, to the French Revolution, in 1789
The persecutions occasioned by the revocation of the edict of Nantes took place under Louis XIV. This edict was made by Henry the Great of France in 1598, and secured to the Protestants an equal right in every respect, whether civil or religious, with the other subjects of the realm. All those privileges Louis the XIV confirmed to the Protestants by another statute, called the edict of Nismes, and kept them inviolably to the end of his reign.
On the accession of Louis XIV the kingdom was almost ruined by civil wars.
At this critical juncture, the Protestants, heedless of our Lord's admonition, "They that take the sword shall perish with the sword," took such an active part in favor of the king, that he was constrained to acknowledge himself indebted to their arms for his establishment on the throne. Instead of cherishing and rewarding that party who had fought for him, he reasoned that the same power which had protected could overturn him, and, listening to the popish machinations, he began to issue out proscriptions and restrictions, indicative of his final determination. Rochelle was presently fettered with an incredible number of denunciations. Montauban and Millau were sacked by soldiers. Popish commissioners were appointed to preside over the affairs of the Protestants, and there was no appeal from their ordinance, except to the king's council. This struck at the root of their civil and religious exercises, and prevented them, being Protestants, from suing a Catholic in any court of law. This was followed by another injunction, to make an inquiry in all parishes into whatever the Protestants had said or done for twenty years past. This filled the prisons with innocent victims, and condemned others to the galleys or banishment.
Protestants were expelled from all offices, trades, privileges, and employs; thereby depriving them of the means of getting their bread: and they proceeded to such excess in this brutality, that they would not suffer even the midwives to officiate, but compelled their women to submit themselves in that crisis of nature to their enemies, the brutal Catholics. Their children were taken from them to be educated by the Catholics, and at seven years of age, made to embrace popery. The reformed were prohibited from relieving their own sick or poor, from all private worship, and divine service was to be performed in the presence of a popish priest. To prevent the unfortunate victims from leaving the kingdom, all the passages on the frontiers were strictly guarded; yet, by the good hand of God, about 150,000 escaped their vigilance, and emigrated to different countries to relate the dismal narrative.
All that has been related hitherto were only infringements on their established charter, the edict of Nantes. At length the diabolical revocation of that edict passed on the eighteenth of October, 1685, and was registered the twenty-second, contrary to all form of law. Instantly the dragoons were quartered upon the Protestants throughout the realm, and filled all France with the like news, that the king would no longer suffer any Huguenots in his kingdom, and therefore they must resolve to change their religion. Hereupon the intendants in every parish (which were popish governors and spies set over the Protestants) assembled the reformed inhabitants, and told them they must, without delay, turn Catholics, either freely or by force. The Protestants replied, that they 'were ready to sacrifice their lives and estates to the king, but their consciences being God's they could not so dispose of them.'
Instantly the troops seized the gates and avenues of the cities, and placing guards in all the passages, entered with sword in hand, crying, "Die, or be Catholics!" In short, they practiced every wickedness and horror they could devise to force them to change their religion.
They hanged both men and women by their hair or their feet, and smoked them with hay until they were nearly dead; and if they still refused to sign a recantation, they hung them up again and repeated their barbarities, until, wearied out with torments without death, they forced many to yield to them.
Others, they plucked off all the hair of their heads and beards with pincers. Others they threw on great fires, and pulled them out again, repeating it until they extorted a promise to recant.
Some they stripped naked, and after offering them the most infamous insults, they stuck them with pins from head to foot, and lanced them with penknives; and sometimes with red-hot pincers they dragged them by the nose until they promised to turn. Sometimes they tied fathers and husbands, while they ravished their wives and daughters before their eyes. Multitudes they imprisoned in the most noisome dungeons, where they practised all sorts of torments in secret. Their wives and children they shut up in monasteries.
Such as endeavored to escape by flight were pursued in the woods, and hunted in the fields, and shot at like wild beasts; nor did any condition or quality screen them from the ferocity of these infernal dragoons: even the members of parliament and military officers, though on actual service, were ordered to quit their posts, and repair directly to their houses to suffer the like storm. Such as complained to the king were sent to the Bastile, where they drank the same cup. The bishops and the intendants marched at the head of the dragoons, with a troop of missionaries, monks, and other ecclesiastics to animate the soldiers to an execution so agreeable to their Holy Church, and so glorious to their demon god and their tyrant king.
In forming the edict to repeal the edict of Nantes, the council were divided; some would have all the ministers detained and forced into popery as well as the laity; others were for banishing them, because their presence would strengthen the Protestants in perseverance: and if they were forced to turn, they would ever be secret and powerful enemies in the bosom of the Church, by their great knowledge and experience in controversial matters. This reason prevailing, they were sentenced to banishment, and only fifteen days allowed them to depart the kingdom.
On the same day that the edict for revoking the Protestants' charter was published, they demolished their churches and banished their ministers, whom they allowed but twenty-four hours to leave Paris. The papists would not suffer them to dispose of their effects, and threw every obstacle in their way to delay their escape until the limited time was expired which subjected them to condemnation for life to the galleys. The guards were doubled at the seaports, and the prisons were filled with the victims, who endured torments and wants at which human nature must shudder.
The sufferings of the ministers and others, who were sent to the galleys, seemed to exceed all. Chained to the oar, they were exposed to the open air night and day, at all seasons, and in all weathers; and when through weakness of body they fainted under the oar, instead of a cordial to revive them, or viands to refresh them, they received only the lashes of a scourge, or the blows of a cane or rope's end. For the want of sufficient clothing and necessary cleanliness, they were most grievously tormented with vermin, and cruelly pinched with the cold, which removed by night the executioners who beat and tormented them by day. Instead of a bed, they were allowed sick or well, only a hard board, eighteen inches broad, to sleep on, without any covering but their wretched apparel; which was a shirt of the coarsest canvas, a little jerkin of red serge, slit on each side up to the armholes, with open sleeves that reached not to the elbow; and once in three years they had a coarse frock, and a little cap to cover their heads, which were always kept close shaved as a mark of their infamy. The allowance of provision was as narrow as the sentiments of those who condemned them to such miseries, and their treatment when sick is too shocking to relate; doomed to die upon the boards of a dark hold, covered with vermin, and without the least convenience for the calls of nature. Nor was it among the least of the horrors they endured, that, as ministers of Christ, and honest men, they were chained side by side to felons and the most execrable villains, whose blasphemous tongues were never idle. If they refused to hear Mass, they were sentenced to the bastinado, of which dreadful punishment the following is a description.
Preparatory to it, the chains are taken off, and the victims delivered into the hands of the Turks that preside at the oars, who strip them quite naked, and stretching them upon a great gun, they are held so that they cannot stir; during which there reigns an awful silence throughout the galley. The Turk who is appointed the executioner, and who thinks the sacrifice acceptable to his prophet Mahomet, most cruelly beats the wretched victim with a rough cudgel, or knotty rope's end, until the skin is flayed off his bones, and he is near the point of expiring; then they apply a most tormenting mixture of vinegar and salt, and consign him to that most intolerable hospital where thousands under their cruelties have expired.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
If it’s God’s will - you can have it
(Oct 18) Bob Gass
‘If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.’
(1 Jn 5:14) 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. ESV
The story is told of three men marooned on a desert island with little hope of being rescued. One day they were walking around the island when one of them picked up an old, tarnished lamp. When he rubbed it, a genie appeared and offered to grant each man one wish. The first man said, ‘I wish I was back in my office in Boston.’ Puff! He was there. The second said, ‘I wish I was home with my family in London.’ Puff! He was there. The third man looked around and said, ‘It’s so lonely here, I wish my friends were back with me.’ The problem with wishing is that genies and magic lamps don’t exist. But God does! And since He is in control of your life and He’s more powerful than any genie, when your wishes become prayers that line up with His will, they can become a reality. ‘Does the Bible teach that?’ you ask. Yes; it says: ‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God…if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him’ (1 Jn 5:14). But even when your wish is in line with God’s will, you need one more thing - faith. Faith does two things: a) It opens your eyes to see that God’s promises are for you personally. b) It acts like a magnet, drawing the fulfilment of His promise into your life. So, what are you wishing for? If it’s God’s will - you can have it.
2 Tim 1
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Pilgrim leader Edward Winslow was born this day, October 18, 1595. He was an English agent for the Plymouth Colony and served as their Governor three separate terms, successfully making friendship with Indian chief, Massasoit. He later returned to England and served Oliver Cromwell in the English Civil War. In writing of the Pilgrims’ experiences, Edward Winslow recounted: “Drought and the like… moved not only every good man privately to enter into examination with his own estate between God and his conscience, and so to humiliation before Him, but also to humble ourselves together before the Lord by fasting and prayer.”
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The concentration, moreover, should correspond to the positivity of the Gospel and the Bible. Prayer should rise more out of God’s Word and concern for His kingdom than even out of our personal needs, trials, or desires. That is implied in prayer in Christ’s name or for Christ’s sake, prayer from His place in the midst of the Kingdom. Our Prayer-book, the Bible, does not prescribe prayer, but it does more—it inspires it. And prayer in Christ’s name is prayer inspired by His first interest—the Gospel. Do not use Christ simply to countersign your egoist petition by a closing formula, but to create, inspire, and glorify it. Prayer in Christ’s name is prayer for Christ’s object—for His Kingdom, and His promise of the Holy Ghost.
It we really pray for that and yet do not feel we receive it, probably enough we have it; and we are looking for some special form of it not ours, or not ours yet. We may be mistaking the fruits of the Spirit for His presence. Fruits come late. They are different from signs. Buds are signs, and so are other things hard to see. It is the Spirit that keeps us praying for the Spirit, as it is grace that keeps us in grace. Remember the patience of the missionaries who waited in the Spirit fifteen years for their first convert. If God gave His Son unasked, how much more will He give His Holy Spirit to them that ask it! But let us not prescribe the form in which He comes.
The true close of prayer is when the utterance expires in its own spiritual fullness. That is the true Amen. Such times there are. We feel we are at last laid open to God. We feel as though we “did see heaven opened, and the holy angels, and the great God Himself.” The prayer ends itself; we do not end it. It mounts to its heaven and renders its spirit up to God, saying, “It is finished.” It has its perfect consummation and bliss, its spiritually natural close and fruitation, whether it has answer or not.
Tomorrow begins CHAPTER VII, The Insistency of Prayer.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
The Soul of Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
True love of God is evident
in those whose only pleasure
is derived from drawing near to Him.
--- John Crowder
Life without commitment is not worth living.
--- Abraham Joshua Heschel
I am connected to the three generations that have gone before me, but I live my life in this world for the three generations who will come after me.
--- Dr. Richard Leo Twiss
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
4. Now it is true that on this day the Jews were so weary, and under such consternation, that they refrained from any attacks. But on the next day they gathered their whole force together, and ran upon those that guarded the outward court of the temple very boldly, through the east gate, and this about the second hour of the day. These guards received that their attack with great bravery, and by covering themselves with their shields before, as if it were with a wall, they drew their squadron close together; yet was it evident that they could not abide there very long, but would be overborne by the multitude of those that sallied out upon them, and by the heat of their passion. However, Caesar seeing, from the tower of Antonia, that this squadron was likely to give way, he sent some chosen horsemen to support them. Hereupon the Jews found themselves not able to sustain their onset, and upon the slaughter of those in the forefront, many of the rest were put to flight. But as the Romans were going off, the Jews turned upon them, and fought them; and as those Romans came back upon them, they retreated again, until about the fifth hour of the day they were overborne, and shut themselves up in the inner [court of the] temple.
5. So Titus retired into the tower of Antonia, and resolved to storm the temple the next day, early in the Morning, with his whole army, and to encamp round about the holy house. But as for that house, God had, for certain, long ago doomed it to the fire; and now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of ages; it was the tenth day of the month Lous, [Ab,] upon which it was formerly burnt by the king of Babylon; although these flames took their rise from the Jews themselves, and were occasioned by them; for upon Titus's retiring, the seditious lay still for a little while, and then attacked the Romans again, when those that guarded the holy house fought with those that quenched the fire that was burning the inner [court of the] temple; but these Romans put the Jews to flight, and proceeded as far as the holy house itself. At which time one of the soldiers, without staying for any orders, and without any concern or dread upon him at so great an undertaking, and being hurried on by a certain divine fury, snatched somewhat out of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier, he set fire to a golden window, through which there was a passage to the rooms that were round about the holy house, on the north side of it. As the flames went upward, the Jews made a great clamor, such as so mighty an affliction required, and ran together to prevent it; and now they spared not their lives any longer, nor suffered any thing to restrain their force, since that holy house was perishing, for whose sake it was that they kept such a guard about it.
6. And now a certain person came running to Titus, and told him of this fire, as he was resting himself in his tent after the last battle; whereupon he rose up in great haste, and, as he was, ran to the holy house, in order to have a stop put to the fire; after him followed all his commanders, and after them followed the several legions, in great astonishment; so there was a great clamor and tumult raised, as was natural upon the disorderly motion of so great an army. Then did Caesar, both by calling to the soldiers that were fighting, with a loud voice, and by giving a signal to them with his right hand, order them to quench the fire. But they did not hear what he said, though he spake so loud, having their ears already dimmed by a greater noise another way; nor did they attend to the signal he made with his hand neither, as still some of them were distracted with fighting, and others with passion. But as for the legions that came running thither, neither any persuasions nor any threatenings could restrain their violence, but each one's own passion was his commander at this time; and as they were crowding into the temple together, many of them were trampled on by one another, while a great number fell among the ruins of the cloisters, which were still hot and smoking, and were destroyed in the same miserable way with those whom they had conquered; and when they were come near the holy house, they made as if they did not so much as hear Caesar's orders to the contrary; but they encouraged those that were before them to set it on fire. As for the seditious, they were in too great distress already to afford their assistance [towards quenching the fire]; they were every where slain, and every where beaten; and as for a great part of the people, they were weak and without arms, and had their throats cut wherever they were caught. Now round about the altar lay dead bodies heaped one upon another, as at the steps 16 going up to it ran a great quantity of their blood, whither also the dead bodies that were slain above [on the altar] fell down.
7. And now, since Caesar was no way able to restrain the enthusiastic fury of the soldiers, and the fire proceeded on more and more, he went into the holy place of the temple, with his commanders, and saw it, with what was in it, which he found to be far superior to what the relations of foreigners contained, and not inferior to what we ourselves boasted of and believed about it. But as the flame had not as yet reached to its inward parts, but was still consuming the rooms that were about the holy house, and Titus supposing what the fact was, that the house itself might yet be saved, he came in haste and endeavored to persuade the soldiers to quench the fire, and gave order to Liberalius the centurion, and one of those spearmen that were about him, to beat the soldiers that were refractory with their staves, and to restrain them; yet were their passions too hard for the regards they had for Caesar, and the dread they had of him who forbade them, as was their hatred of the Jews, and a certain vehement inclination to fight them, too hard for them also. Moreover, the hope of plunder induced many to go on, as having this opinion, that all the places within were full of money, and as seeing that all round about it was made of gold. And besides, one of those that went into the place prevented Caesar, when he ran so hastily out to restrain the soldiers, and threw the fire upon the hinges of the gate, in the dark; whereby the flame burst out from within the holy house itself immediately, when the commanders retired, and Caesar with them, and when nobody any longer forbade those that were without to set fire to it. And thus was the holy house burnt down, without Caesar's approbation.
8. Now although any one would justly lament the destruction of such a work as this was, since it was the most admirable of all the works that we have seen or heard of, both for its curious structure and its magnitude, and also for the vast wealth bestowed upon it, as well as for the glorious reputation it had for its holiness; yet might such a one comfort himself with this thought, that it was fate that decreed it so to be, which is inevitable, both as to living creatures, and as to works and places also. However, one cannot but wonder at the accuracy of this period thereto relating; for the same month and day were now observed, as I said before, wherein the holy house was burnt formerly by the Babylonians. Now the number of years that passed from its first foundation, which was laid by king Solomon, till this its destruction, which happened in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, are collected to be one thousand one hundred and thirty, besides seven months and fifteen days; and from the second building of it, which was done by Haggai, in the second year of Cyrus the king, till its destruction under Vespasian, there were six hundred and thirty-nine years and forty-five days.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
is a man who strays from his home.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The key to the missionary devotion
For His name’s sake they went forth. --- 3 John 7.
Our Lord has told us how love to Him is to manifest itself. “Lovest thou Me?” “Feed My sheep”—identify yourself with My interests in other people, not, identify Me with your interests in other people. 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 gives the character of this love, it is the love of God expressing itself. The test of my love for Jesus is the practical one, all the rest is sentimental jargon.
Loyalty to Jesus Christ is the supernatural work of Redemption wrought in me by the Holy Ghost Who sheds abroad the love of God in my heart, and that love works efficaciously through me in contact with everyone I meet. I remain loyal to His name although every commonsense fact gives the lie to Him, and declares that He has no more power than a Morning mist.
The key to missionary devotion means being attached to nothing and no one saving Our Lord Himself, not being detached from things externally. Our Lord was amazingly in and out among ordinary things; His detachment was on the inside towards God. External detachment is often an indication of a secret vital attachment to the things we keep away from externally. The loyalty of a missionary is to keep his soul concentratedly open to the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. The men and women Our Lord sends out on His enterprises are the ordinary human stuff, plus dominating devotion to Himself wrought by the Holy Ghost.
My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
I engage with philosophy
in the Morning, with the garden
in the afternoon. Evenings I
fish or coming home empty-handed
put on the music of
Cesar Franck. It is enough,
this. I would be the mirror
of a mirror, effortlessly repeating
my reflections. But there is that
one who will not leave me
alone, writing to me
of her fear; and the news from the city
is not good. I am at the switchboard
of the exchanges of the people
of all time, receiving their messages
whether I will or no. Do you
love me? the voices cry.
And there is no answer; there are
only the treaties and take-overs,
and the vision of clasped
hands over the unquiet blood.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Before presenting his interpretation of olam ha-ba, Maimonides, in what appears as a digression, presents an extended simile of the methods which a teacher uses to motivate his student. However protracted, this simile helps illuminate what Maimonides believes to be a correct understanding of Jewish spirituality:
Now, O reader, understand the following simile of mine and then you will make it your aim to grasp my meaning throughout. Figure to yourself a child young in years brought to a teacher to be instructed by him in the Torah. This is the greatest good he can derive in respect of his attainment of perfection. But the child, on account of the fewness of his years and the weakness of his intellect, does not grasp the measure of that benefit, or the extent to which it leads him toward the attainment of [spiritual] perfection. The teacher, who is nearer to such perfection than the pupil, must therefore necessarily stimulate him to learning by means of things in which he delights by reason of his youth. Thus he says to him, “Read, and I shall give you nuts or figs, or a bit of sugar.” The child yields to this. He learns diligently, not indeed for the sake of the knowledge itself, as he does not know the importance of it, but merely to obtain that particular dainty—the eating of that dainty being more relished by him than study, and regarded as an unquestionably greater boon. And consequently he considers learning as a labor and a weariness to which he gives himself up in order, by its means, to gain his desired object which consists of a nut or a piece of sugar.
When he grows older and his intelligence strengthens, he thinks lightly of the trifle in which he formerly found joy and begins to desire something new. He longs for this newly chosen object[ive] of his, and his teacher now says to him, “Read, and I shall buy you pretty shoes or a coat of this kind!” Accordingly he again exerts himself to learn, not for the sake of the knowledge, but to acquire that coat; for the garment ranks higher in his estimation than the learning and constitutes the final aim of his studies. When, however, he reaches a higher stage of mental development, this prize also ranks little with him, and he sets his heart upon something of greater moment. So that when his teacher bids him “learn this section, or that chapter, and I shall give you a dinar or two,” he learns with zest in order to obtain that money which to him is of more value than the learning, seeing that it constitutes the final aim of his studies.
When, further, he reaches the age of greater discretion, this prize also loses its worth for him. He recognizes its paltry nature and sets his heart upon something more desirable. His teacher then says to him, “Learn, in order that you may become a Rabbi, or a Judge; the people will honor you and rise before you; they will be obedient to your authority, and your name will be great, both in life and after death, as in the case of so-and-so.” The pupil throws himself into ardent study, striving all the time to reach this stage of eminence. His aim is that of obtaining the honor of men, their esteem and commendation. But all these methods are blameworthy.
The obvious point, and one Maimonides appears to labor, is that people are generally motivated to study Torah by the expectations of extraneous benefits. Why pursue the point with so many examples of extraneous rewards? Why discuss the motivating power of nuts and figs, of pretty shoes, of money, honor, power? Maimonides’ elaborate discussion of different forms of gratification corresponding to different levels of appreciation stresses the persistent self-interested motivation of human behavior. What changes with time is not the quality of motivation, but only the different forms which self-interest takes. One does not easily overcome the egocentric responses of the child. If one can accept the necessity to appeal to extraneous rewards he will understand the importance that people ascribe to biblical and talmudic materialistic promises.
Maimonides’ method of integrating appeals to self-interest and disinterested philosophic worship is to treat them as two stages in a continuum of human development. There are no indications in the Bible that the blessings and curses of the covenant are related to a specific stage of religious worship. ( Torah and dogma / A New Sensitivity in Judiasm and the Christian Message (A Reprint from the Harvard Theological Review 61, April 1968) ) The Bible does not reveal the difference between the rather usual man whose psychological makeup requires motivational appeals to material self-interest and the more uncommon man who has another orientation to worship. Maimonides, however, turns to the talmudic tradition for an understanding of levels of worship.
The talmudic tradition is highly sensitive to the necessity to transcend self-interest for service to God:
The Sages warned us against this also, i.e., against a man making the attainment of some worldly object the end of his service to God, and his obedience to His precepts. And this is the meaning of the dictum of that distinguished and perfect man who understood the fundamental truth of things—Antigonus of Soko—“Be not like servants who minister to their master upon the condition of receiving a reward; but be like servants who minister to their master without the condition of receiving a reward.” They really meant to tell us by this that a man should believe in truth for truth’s sake. And this is the sense they wish to convey by their expression oved me-ahavah, “serving from motives of love,” and by their comment on the phrase “that delight in His commandments.” Rabbi Eliezer said “in His commandments,” and not “in the reward for performance of His commandments.” How strong a proof we have here of the truth of our argument, and how decisive! It is a clear confirmation of the text we have previously quoted. And we possess a stronger proof still in their remark in Sifre: “Per adventure thou mayest say, Verily I will learn the Torah in order that I may become rich or that I may be called Rabbi, or that I may receive a recompense in the future world. Therefore does Holy Writ say ‘to love the Lord thy God.’ Let everything that thou doest be done out of pure love for Him.”15
Although the rabbis disparaged the motive of self-interest, they recognized how rare the individual is who appreciates norms because of their intrinsic worth:
But our Sages knew how difficult a thing this was and that not everyone could act up to it. They knew that even the man who reached it would not at once accord with it and think it a true article of faith. For man only does those actions which will either bring him advantage or ward off loss. All other actions he holds vain and worthless. Accordingly, how could it be said to one who is learned in the Law—“Do these things, but do them not out of fear of God’s punishment, nor out of hope for His reward”? This would be exceedingly hard, because it is not everyone that comprehends truth, and becomes like Abraham our father.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. --- Psalm 139:23–24.
What is implied in the sincere petition contained in the text? Charles G. Finney: Sermons From The Penny Pulpit
First, it implies the realization of the omniscience of God. The psalmist was under a deep impression of the omnipresence and omniscience of God, that God understands our real hearts and is able to search us.
Second, it implies a sense of the moral purity or holiness of God. Observe, he prays to be searched—that his whole being may be exposed—to see if there was any offense in him. It is plainly implied that he had such a sense of the purity of God as to be convinced that God is infinitely opposed to all iniquity.
This petition implies a thorough wakefulness of mind to one’s moral or spiritual state. [The psalmist] is in an honest, searching state of mind—thoroughly in earnest to know all about himself; he is wide awake to his own spiritual condition and desires that all his errors may be rectified.
It implies an intense anxiety to be perfect as God would have him to be—conformed to the holy will of God. Observe, he prays to be led in the way everlasting, which plainly implies that he was willing to be led to abandon all iniquity.
Such a petition implies the assumption on the part of the petitioner that he or she needs to be deeply tried—penetrated with the light of truth to the deepest recesses of the soul. When we offer such a petition, we assume that there may be things about us that we have overlooked, and we ask for the scrutiny of God’s eye to search them out and to apply tests so that we may see them.
Such a petition implies a willingness to be subjected to any process of searching that God may see to be needed. [The psalmist] does not point out any particular way in which he desires to be searched and tried, but he leaves that to the divine discretion—he only asks that it may be done. When we ask to be searched—without any real design to be searched—there is an inclination to dictate the way in which it will be done, but this is not an acceptable way of offering such a petition.
An acceptable offering of such a petition implies of course that we are really willing to have it answered and will not resist any process through which God causes us to pass as the means by which it is answered.
--- Charles G. Finney
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Come Before Winter
Scottish Presbyterians cast long shadows. Catherine Robertson grew up in Scotland where her father owned the largest cotton factory in the world. She was refined, wealthy, passionately Christian, and strongly Presbyterian. She married a preacher-professor, and the two began ministry in rural Ohio. They had seven children, and the last one—Clarence Edward Noble Macartney—became one of the greatest Presbyterian leaders of the twentieth century.
Clarence excelled in both studies and debating, but he wrestled with doubt and suffered serious bouts of shyness. He enrolled in Princeton Seminary, and studied under Archibald Hodge and B. B. Warfield. During his long and distinguished career, Clarence pastored three churches in Pennsylvania. He averaged six hours a day in study and, as a pastime, wrote books and delivered lectures on the Civil War. He was a lifelong bachelor.
In 1924 he was named Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. He was described as dignified, eloquent, Napoleon-like, aloof. He wrote 57 books and was a staunch conservative in a liberal time. To those who denied the authority of Scripture, he thundered, “A deleted Bible results in a diluted Gospel. Protestantism, as it loses faith in the Bible, is losing its religion.” We can decaffeinate coffee, he said, and de-nicotine tobacco, but we can’t de-Christianize Christianity.
The pulpit was his throne, and he preached well-crafted sermons without notes. His best known message, repeated many times around the country, was an evangelistic sermon entitled “Come Before Winter,” taken from 2 Timothy 4:21 and first preached in Philadelphia October 18, 1915. It emphasized the need to receive Christ now, not later: The Holy Spirit, when he invites men to come to Christ, never says, “Tomorrow” but always “Today.” If you can find me one place in the Bible where the Holy Spirit says, “Believe in Christ tomorrow” or “Repent and be saved tomorrow” I will come out of the pulpit and stay out of it—for I would have no Gospel to preach.
Make good use of God’s kindness to you. In the Scriptures God says, “When the time came, I listened to you, and when you needed help, I came to save you.” That time has come. This is the day for you to be saved.
--- 2 Corinthians 6:1b,2.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 18
“Thy paths drop fatness.” --- Psalm 65:11.
Many are “the paths of the Lord” which “drop fatness,” but an especial one is the path of prayer. No believer, who is much in the closet, will have need to cry, “My leanness, my leanness; woe unto me.” Starving souls live at a distance from the mercy- seat, and become like the parched fields in times of drought. Prevalence with God in wrestling prayer is sure to make the believer strong—if not happy. The nearest place to the gate of heaven is the throne of the heavenly grace. Much alone, and you will have much assurance; little alone with Jesus, your religion will be shallow, polluted with many doubts and fears, and not sparkling with the joy of the Lord. Since the soul-enriching path of prayer is open to the very weakest saint; since no high attainments are required; since you are not bidden to come because you are an advanced saint, but freely invited if you be a saint at all; see to it, dear reader, that you are often in the way of private devotion. Be much on your knees, for so Elijah drew the rain upon famished Israel’s fields.
There is another especial path dropping with fatness to those who walk therein, it is the secret walk of communion. Oh! the delights of fellowship with Jesus! Earth hath no words which can set forth the holy calm of a soul leaning on Jesus’ bosom. Few Christians understand it, they live in the lowlands and seldom climb to the top of Nebo: they live in the outer court, they enter not the holy place, they take not up the privilege of priesthood. At a distance they see the sacrifice, but they sit not down with the priest to eat thereof, and to enjoy the fat of the burnt offering. But, reader, sit thou ever under the shadow of Jesus; come up to that palm tree, and take hold of the branches thereof; let thy beloved be unto thee as the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, and thou shalt be satisfied as with marrow and fatness. O Jesus, visit us with thy salvation!
Evening - October 18
“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” --- 1 Samuel 15:22.
Saul had been commanded to slay utterly all the Amalekites and their cattle. Instead of doing so, he preserved the king, and suffered his people to take the best of the oxen and of the sheep. When called to account for this, he declared that he did it with a view of offering sacrifice to God; but Samuel met him at once with the assurance that sacrifices were no excuse for an act of direct rebellion. The sentence before us is worthy to be printed in letters of gold, and to be hung up before the eyes of the present idolatrous generation, who are very fond of the fineries of will-worship, but utterly neglect the laws of God. Be it ever in your remembrance, that to keep strictly in the path of your Saviour’s command is better than any outward form of religion; and to hearken to his precept with an attentive ear is better than to bring the fat of rams, or any other precious thing to lay upon his altar. If you are failing to keep the least of Christ’s commands to his disciples, I pray you be disobedient no longer. All the pretensions you make of attachment to your Master, and all the devout actions which you may perform, are no recompense for disobedience. “To obey,” even in the slightest and smallest thing, “is better than sacrifice,” however pompous. Talk not of Gregorian chants, sumptuous robes, incense, and banners; the first thing which God requires of his child is obedience; and though you should give your body to be burned, and all your goods to feed the poor, yet if you do not hearken to the Lord’s precepts, all your formalities shall profit you nothing. It is a blessed thing to be teachable as a little child, but it is a much more blessed thing when one has been taught the lesson, to carry it out to the letter. How many adorn their temples and decorate their priests, but refuse to obey the word of the Lord! My soul, come not thou into their secret.
Morning and Evening
WHO IS ON THE LORD’S SIDE?
Frances R. Havergal, 1836–1879
… offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:13)
As Christians, we are to take our places in God’s army and not be ashamed to be counted as one of His. Believers are too often content to sit on the sidelines and merely observe the spectacle. The work of the Gospel, inviting individuals to be personally reconciled with God, is an urgent task, not a spectator sport. It demands our whole-hearted, zealous involvement.
This militant hymn text by Frances Havergal was originally titled “Home Missions,” and was written in October, 1877. It was based on the Scripture setting in 1 Chronicles 12:1–18, where a very select group of soldiers was preparing to join King David in warfare against the enemy. The poem later appeared in Loyal Responses, published by the author in 1878. “Who Is on the Lord’s Side?” has been used for more than a century to challenge Christians to make a definite commitment to follow Christ in spiritual warfare.
Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King? Who will be His helpers, other lives to bring? Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe? Who is on the Lord’s side? Who for Him will go?
Not for weight of glory, not for crown and palm, enter we the army, raise the warrior psalm; but for Love that claimeth lives for whom He died: He whom Jesus nameth must be on His side.
Jesus, Thou hast bought us, not with gold or gem, but with Thine own life-blood, for Thy diadem. With Thy blessing filling each who comes to Thee. Thou has made us willing; Thou hast made us free.
Fierce may be the conflict, strong may be the foe, but the King’s own army none can overthrow. Round His standard ranging, vict’ry is secure, for His truth unchanging makes the triumph sure.
1. Refrain: By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine,
2. By Thy love constraining, by Thy grace divine,
3. By Thy grand redemption, by Thy grace divine,
4. Joyfully enlisting, by Thy grace divine,
WE ARE ON THE LORD’S SIDE—SAVIOR, WE ARE THINE!
For Today: Joshua 24:15; 1 Chronicles 12:1–l8; Mark 8:24–38; 2 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Timothy 6:12
Determine to do or say something to a non-Christian that publicly identifies you as a follower/soldier of Christ. Carry this musical truth as a help ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
IV, The fourth thing is, wherein the wisdom of God appears. It appears, 1st, In creation. 2dly, In government. 3dly, In redemption.
First, In creation. As in a musical instrument there is first the skill of the workman in the frame, then the skill of the musician in
stringing it proper for such musical notes as he will express upon it, and after that the tempering of the strings, by various stops, to a
delightful harmony, so is the wisdom of God seen in framing the world, then in tuning it, and afterwards in the motion of the several
creatures. The fabric of the world is called the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:21): “After that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom
knew not God;” i. e., by the creation the world knew not God. The framing cause is there put for the effect and the work framed;
because the Divine wisdom stepped forth in the creatures, to a public appearance, as if it had presented itself in a visible shape to man,
giving instructions in and by the creatures, to know and adore him. What we translate (Gen. 1:1) “In the beginning God created the
heaven and the earth,” the Targum expresseth, “In wisdom God created the heaven and the earth.” Both bear a stamp of this
perfection on them; and when the apostle tells the Romans (Rom. 1:20) “The invisible things of God were clearly understood by the
things that are made,” the word he uses is ποιήμασι not ἒργοις; this signifies a work of labor, but ποίημα a work of skill, or a poem.
The whole creation is a poem, every species a stanza, and every individual creature a verse in it. The creation presents us with a
prospect of the wisdom of God, as a poem doth the reader with the wit and fancy of the composer: “By wisdom he created the earth”
(Prov. 3:19), “and stretched out the heavens by discretion” (Jer. 10:12). There is not anything so mean, so small, but glitters with a beam of Divine skill; and the consideration of them would justly make every man subscribe to that of the psalmist, “O Lord, how
manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all” (Psalm 104:24). All, the least as well as the greatest, and the meanest as
well as the noblest; even those creatures which seem ugly and deformed to us, as toads, &c., because they fall short of those
perfections which are the dowry of other animals: in these there is a footstep of Divine wisdom, since they were not produced by him
at random, but determined to some particular end, and designed to some usefulness, as parts of the world in their several natures and
stations. God could never have had a satisfaction in the review of his works, and pronounced them good or comely, as he did (Gen. 1:31), had they not been agreeable to that eternal original copy in his own mind. It is said he was refreshed, viz. with that review
(Exod. 31:17), which could not have been, if his piercing eye had found any defect in any thing which had sprung out of his hand, or
an unsuitableness to that end for which he created them. He seems to do as a man that hath made a curious and polite work, with
exact care to peer about every part and line, if he could perceive any imperfection in it, to rectify the mistake: but no defect was found
by the infinitely wise God upon this second examination. This wisdom of the creation appears,
1. In the variety. 2. In the beauty. 3. The fitness of every creature for its use. 4. The subordination of one creature to another, and the joint concurrence of all to one common end.
1. In the variety (Psalm 104:24): “O Lord, how manifold are thy works!” How great a variety is there of animals and plants, with a great variety of forms, shapes, figurations, colors, various smells, virtues, and qualities! and this rarity is produced from one and the same matter, as beasts and plants from the earth (Gen. 1:11, 24): “Let the earth bring forth living creatures; and the earth brought forth grass, and the herb yielding seed after his kind:” such diversity of fowl and fish from the water (Gen. 1:20): “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly;” such a beautiful and active variety from so dull a matter as the earth; so solid a variety from so fluid a matter as the water; so noble a piece as the body of man, with such variety of members fit to entertain a more-excellent soul as a guest, from so mean a matter as the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7). This extraction of such variety of forms out of one single and dull matter, is the chemistry of Divine wisdom. It is a greater skill to frame noble bodies of vile matter, as varieties of precious vessels of clay and earth, than of a nobler matter, as gold and silver. Again, all those varieties propagate their kind in every particular and quality of their nature, and uniformly bring forth exact copies according to the first pattern God made of the kind (Gen. 1:11, 12, 24). Consider, also, how the same piece of ground is garnished with plants and flowers of several virtues, fruits, colors, scents, without our being able to perceive any variety in the earth that breeds them, and not so great a difference in the roots that bear them. Add to this the diversities of birds of different colors, shapes, notes, consisting of various parts, wings like oars, to cut the air, and tails as the rudder of a ship, to guide their motion. How various, also, are the endowments of the creatures! some have vegetation, and the power of growth; others have the addition of sense, and others the excellency of reason; something wherein all agree, and something wherein all differ; variety in unity, and unity in variety: the wisdom of the workman had not been so conspicuous had there been only one degree of goodness: the greatest skill is seen in the greatest variety. The comeliness of the body is visible in the variety of members, and their usefulness to one another. What an inform thing had man been had he been all ear, or all eye! If God had made all the stars to be suns, it would have been a demonstration of his power, but, perhaps, less of his wisdom: no creatures, with the natures they now have, could have continued in being under so much heat: there was no less wisdom went to the frame of the least, than to the greatest creature. It speaks more art in a limner to paint a landscape exactly, than to draw the sun, though the sun be a more glorious body. might instance also, in the different characters and features imprinted upon the countenances of men and women, the differences of voices and statures, whereby they are distinguished from one another: these are the foundations of order and of human society, and administration of justice. What confusion would have been, if a grown-up son could not be known from his father, the magistrate from the subject, the creditor from the debtor, the innocent from the criminal! The laws God hath given to mankind could not have been put in execution: this variety speaks the wisdom of God.
2. The wisdom of the creation ap ears in the beauty, and order, and situation of the several creatures (Eccles. 3:11): “He hath made everything beautiful in his time.” As their being was a fruit of Divine power, so their order is a fruit of Divine wisdom. All creatures are as members in the great body of the world, proportioned to one another, and contributing to the beauty of the whole; so that if the particular forms of everything, the union of all for the composition of the world, and the laws which are established in the order of nature for its conservation, be considered, it would ravish us with an admiration of God.
All the creatures are so many pictures or statues, exactly framed by line (Psalm 19:4): “Their line is gone through all the earth;” their “line,” a measuring line, or a carpenter’s rule, whereby he proportions several pieces to be exactly linked and coupled together. “Their line,” that is, their harmonious proportion, and the instruction from it, is gone forth through all the earth. Upon the account of this harmony, some of the ancient heathens framed the images of their gods with musical instruments in their hands, signifying that God wrought all things in a due proportion. The heavens speak this wisdom in their order. The revolutions of the sun and moon determine the seasons of the year, and make day and night in orderly succession. The stars beautify the heavens, and influence the earth, and keep their courses (Judges 5:20). They keep their stations without interfering with one another; and though they have rolled about for so many ages, they observe their distinct laws, and in the variety of their motions have not disturbed one another’s functions. The sun is set as the heart in the midst of this great body, to afford warmth to all: and had it been set lower, it had long since turned the earth into flame and ashes: had it been placed higher, the earth would have wanted the nourishment and refreshment necessary for it. Too much nearness had ruined the earth by parching heat, and too great a distance had destroyed the earth by starving it with cold. The sun hath also its appointed motion; had it been fixed without motion, half of the earth had been unprofitable; there had been a perpetual darkness in a moiety of it; nothing had been produced for nourishment, and so it had been rendered uninhabitable: but now, by its motion, it visits all the climates of the world, runs its circuit, so that “nothing is hid from the heat thereof” (Psalm 19:6). It imparts its virtue to every corner of the world in its daily and yearly visits. Had it been fixed, the fruits of the earth under it had been parched and destroyed before their maturity; but all those inconveniences are provided against by the perpetual motion of the sun. This motion is orderly; it makes its daily course from east to west, its yearly motion from north to south: it goes to the north, till it comes to the point God hath set it, and then turns back to the south, and gains some point every day: it never riseth nor sets in the same place one day, where it did the day before. The world is never without its light; some see it rising the same moment we see it setting. The earth also speaks the Divine wisdom; it is the pavement of the world, as the heaven is the ceiling of fretwork. It is placed lowermost, as being the heaviest body, and fit to receive the weightiest matter, and provided as an habitation proper for those creatures which derive the matter of their bodies from it, and partake of its earthly nature; and garnished with other creatures for the profit or pleasure of man. The sea also speaks the same Divine wisdom. “He strengthened the fountains of the deep, and gave the sea a decree that it should not pass his command” (Prov. 8:28, 29). He hath given it certain bounds that it should not overflow the earth (Job 28:11). It contains itself in the situation wherein God hath placed it, and doth not transgress its bounds. What if some part of a country, a little spot, hath been overflowed by it, and groaned under its waves? yet for the main, it retains the same channels wherein it was at first lodged. All creatures are clothed with an outward beauty, and endowed with an inward harmony; there is an agreement in all parts of this great body; every one is beautiful and orderly; but the beauty of the world results from all of them disposed and linked together.
3. This wisdom is seen in the fitness of everything for its end, and the usefulness of it. Divine wisdom is more illustrious in the fitness and usefulness of this great variety, than in the composure of their distinct parts: as the artificer’s skill is more eminent in fitting the wheels, and setting them in order for their due motion, than in the external fabric of the materials which compose the clock. After the most diligent inspection, there can be found nothing in the creation unprofitable; nothing but is capable of some service, either for the support of our bodies, recreation of our senses, or moral instruction of our minds: not the least creature but is formed, and shaped, and furnished with members and parts, in a due proportion for its end and service in the world; nothing is superfluous, nothing defective. The earth is fitted in its parts; the valleys are appointed for granaries, the mountains to shadow them from the scorching heat of the sun; the rivers, like veins, carry refreshment to every member of this body; plants and trees thrive on the face of the earth, and metals are engendered in the bowels of it, for materials for building, and other uses for the service of man. “There he causes the grass to grow for the cattle and herb for the service of man, that he may bring forth food out of the earth” (Psalm 114:14). The sea is fitted for use; it is a fish pond for the nourishment of man; a boundary for the dividing of lands and several dominions: it joins together nations far distant: a great vessel for commerce (Psalm 114:26), “there go the ships.” It affords vapors to the clouds, wherewith to water the earth, which the sun draws up, separating the finer from the salter parts, that the earth may be fruitful without being burdened with barrenness by the salt. The sea hath also its salt, its ebbs, and floods; the one as brine, the other as motion, to preserve it from putrefaction, that it may not be contagious to the rest of the world. Showers are appointed to refresh the bodies of living creatures, to open the womb of the earth, and “water the ground to make it fruitful” Psalm 104:3. The clouds, therefore, are called the chariots of God; he rides in them in the manifestation of his goodness and wisdom. Winds are fitted to purify the air, to preserve it from putrefaction, to carry the clouds to several parts, to refresh the parched earth, and assist her fruits: and also to serve for the commerce of one nation with another by navigation. God, in his wisdom and goodness, “walks upon the wings of the wind” (Psalm 104:3). Rivers are appointed to hathe the ground, and render it fresh and lively; they fortify cities, are the limits of countries, serve for commerce; they are the watering-pots of the earth, and the vessels for drink for the living creatures that dwell upon the earth. God cut those channels for the wild asses, the beasts of the desert, which are his creatures as well as the rest (Psalm 104:10, 12, 13). Trees are appointed for the habitations of birds, shadows for the earth, nourishment for the creatures, materials for building, and fuel for the relief of man against cold. The seasons of the year have their use; the winter makes the juice retire into the earth, fortifies plants, and fixes their roots: it moistens the earth that was dried before by the heat of summer. and cleanseth and prepares it for a new fruitfulness. The spring calls out the sap in new leaves and fruit. The summer consumes the superfluous moisture, and produceth nourishment for the inhabtants of the world. The day and night have also their usefulness: the day gives life to labor, and is a guide to motion and action (Psalm 104:24), “The sun ariseth, man goeth forth to his labor until the evening.” It warms the air, and quickens nature; without day the world would be a chaos, an unseen beauty. The night indeed casts a veil upon the bravery of the earth, but it draws the curtains from that of heaven; though it darkens below, it makes us see the beauty of the world above, and discovers to us a glorious part of the creation of God, the tapestry of heaven, and the motions of the stars, hid from us by the eminent light of the day. It procures a truce from labor, and refresheth the bodies of creatures, by recruiting the spirits which are scattered by watching. It prevents the ruin of life, by a reparation of what was wasted in the day. It takes from us the sight of flowers and plants, but it washeth their face with dews for a new appearance next morning. The length of the day and night is not without a mark of wisdom; were they of a greater length, as the length of a week or month, the one would too much dry, and the other too much moisten; and for want of action, the members would be stupified. The perpetual succession of day and night is an evidence of the Divine wisdom in tempering the travel and rest of crea. tures. Hence, the psalmist tells us (Psalm 84:16, 17), “The day is thine, and the night is thine; thou hast prepared the light of the sun, and made summer and winter;” i. e. they are of God’s framing, not without a wise counsel and end. Hence, let us ascend to the bodies of living creatures, and we shall find every member fitted for use. What a curiosity is there in every member! Every one fitted to a particular use in their situation, form, temper, and mutual agreement for the good of the whole: the eye to direct; the ear to receive directions from others; the hands to act; the feet to move. Every creature hath members fitted for that element wherein it resides; and in the body, some parts are appointed to change the food into blood, others to refine it, and others to distribute and convey it to several parts for the maintenance of the whole: the heart to mint vital spirits for preserving life, and the brain to coin animal spirits for life and motion; the lungs to serve for the cooling the heart, which else would be parched as the ground in summer. The motion of the members of the body by one act of the will, and also without the will by a natural instinct, is an admirable evidence of Divine skill in the structure of the body; so that well might the psalmist cry out (Psalm 139:14), “I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” But how much more of this Divine perfection is seen in the soul! A nature, furnished with a faculty of understanding to judge of things, to gather in things that are distant, and to reason and draw conclusions from one thing to another, with a memory to treasure up things that are past, with a will to apply itself so readily to what the mind judges fit and comely, and fly so speedily from what it judges ill and hurtful. The whole world is a stage; every creature in it hath a part to act, and a nature suited to that part and end it is designed for; and all concur in a joint language to publish the glory of Divine wisdom; they have a voice to proclaim the “glory of God” (Psalm 19:1, 3). And it is not the least part of God’s skill, in framing the creatures so, that upon man’s obedience, they are the channels of his goodness; and upon man’s disobedience, they can, in their natures, be the ministers of his justice for the punishing of offending creatures.
4. This wisdom is apparent in the linking of all these useful parts together, so that one is subordinate to the other for a common end. All parts are exactly suited to one another, and every part to the whole, though they are of different natures, as lines distant in themselves, yet they meet in one common centre, the good and the preservation of the universe; they are all jointed together, as the word translated framed (Heb. 11:2) signifies; knit by fit hands and ligaments to contribute mutual beauty, strength, and assistance to one another; like so many links of a chain coupled together, that though there be a distance in place, there is a unity in regard of connection and end, there is a consent in the whole (Hos. 2:21, 22). “The heavens hear the earth; and the earth hears the corn, and the wine, and the oil.” The heavens communicate their qualities to the earth, and the earth conveys them to the fruits she bears. The air distributes light, wind and rain to the earth; the earth and the sea render to the air exhalations and vapors, and altogether charitably give to the plants and animals that which is necessary for their nourishment and refreshment.
The influences of the heavens animate the earth; and the earth affords matter, in part, for the influences it receives from the regions above. Living creatures are maintained by nourishment; nourishment is conveyed to them by the fruits of the earth; the fruits of the earth are produced by means of rain and heat; matter for rain and dew is raised by the heat of the sun; and the sun by its motion distributes heat and quickening virtue to all parts of the earth. So colors are made for the pleasure of the eye, sounds for the delight of the ear; light is formed, whereby the eye may see the one, and air to convey the species of colors to the eye, and sound to the ear; all things are like the wheels of a watch compacted: and though many of the creatures be endowed with contrary qualities, yet they are joined in a marriage-knot for the public security, and subserviency to the preservation and order of the universe; as the variety of strings upon an instrument, sending forth various and distinct sounds, are tempered together, for the framing excellent and delightful airs. In this universal conspiring of the creatures together to one end, is the wisdom of the Creator apparent; in tuning so many contraries as the elements are, and preserving them in their order, which if once broken, the whole frame of nature would crack, and fall in pieces; all are so interwoven and inlaid together, by the Divine workmanship, as to make up one entire beauty in the whole fabric: as every part in the body of man hath a distinct comeliness, yet there is besides, the beauty of the whole, that results from the union of divers parts exactly fashioned to one another, and linked together.
By the way, Use. How much may we see of the perfection of God in everything that presents itself to our eyes! And how should we be convinced of our unworthy neglect of ascending to him with reverend and admiring thoughts, upon the prospect of the creatures! What dull scholars are we, when every creature is our teacher, every part of the creature a lively instruction! Those things that we tread under our feet, if used by us according to the full design of their creation, would afford rich matter, not only for our heads, but our hearts. As grace doth not destroy nature, but elevate it, so neither should the fresher and fuller discoveries of Divine wisdom in redemption deface all our thoughts of his wisdom in creation. Though the greater light of the sun obscures the lesser sparkling of the stars, yet it gives way in the night to the discovery of them, that God may seen, known, and considered, in all his works of wonder, and miracles of nature. No part of Scripture is more spiritual than the Psalms; none filled with clearer discoveries of Christ in the Old Testament; yet how often do the penmen consider the creation of God, and find their meditations on him to be sweet, as considered in his works (Psalm 104:34)! “My meditation of him shall be sweet.” When? why, after a short history of the goodness and wisdom of God in the frame of the world, and the species of the creatures.
Secondly. The wisdom of God appears in his government of his creatures. The regular motion of the creatures speaks for this perfection, as well as the exact composition of them. If the exquisiteness of the frame conducts us to the skill of the Contriver, the exactness of their order, according to his will and law, speaks no less the wisdom of the Governor. It cannot be thought that a rash and irrational power presides over a world so well disposed: the disposition of things hath no less characters of skill, than the creation of them. No man can hear an excellent lesson upon a lute, but must presently reflect upon the art of the person that touches it. The prudence of man appears in wrapping up the concerns of a kingdom m his mind, for the well-ordering of it; and shall not the wisdom of God shine forth, as he is the director of the world? I shall omit his government of inanimiate creatures, and confine the discourse to his government of man, as rational, as sinful, as restored.
1st. In his government of man as a rational creature.
1. In the law he gives to man. Wisdom framed it, though will enacted it. The will of God is the rule of righteousness to us, but the wisdom of God is the foundation of that rule of righteousness which he prescribes us. The composure of a musician is the rule of singing to his scholars; yet the consent and harmony in that composure derives not itself from his will, but from his understanding; he would not be a musician if his composures were contrary to the rules of true harmony: so the laws of men are composed by wisdom, though they are enforced by will and authority. The moral law, which was the law of nature, the law imprinted upon Adam, is so framed as to secure the rights of God as supreme, and the rights of men in their distinctions of superiority and equality: it is therefore called “holy and good” (Rom. 7:12); holy, as it prescribes our duty to God in his worship; good, as it regulates the offices of human life, and reserves the common interest of mankind.
(1.) It is suite to the nature of man. As God hath given a law of nature, a fixed order to inanimate creatures, so he hath given a law of reason to rational creatures: other creatures are not capable of a law differencing good and evil, because they are destitute of faculties and capacities to make distinction between them. It had not been agreeable to the wisdom of God to propose any moral law to them, who had neither understanding to discern, nor will to choose. It is therefore to be observed, that whilst Christ exhorted others to the embracing his doctrine, yet he exhorted not little children, though he took them in his arms, because, though they had faculties, yet they were not come to such a maturity as to be capable of a rational instruction. But there was a necessity for some command for the government of man; since God had made him a rational creature, it was not agreeable to his wisdom to govern him as a brute, but as a rational creature, capable of knowing his precepts, and voluntarily walking in them; and without a law, he had not been capable of any exercise of his reason in services respecting God. He therefore gives him a law, with a covenant annexed to it, whereby man is obliged to obedience, and secured of a reward. This was enforced with severe penalties, death, with all the horrors attending it, to deter him from transgression (Gen. 2:17); wherein is implied a promise of continuance of life, and all its felicities, to allure him to a mindfulness of his obligation. So perfect a hedge did Divine wisdom set about him, to keep him within the bounds of that obedience, which was both his debt and security, that wheresoever he looked, he saw either something to invite him, or something to drive him to the payment of his duty, and perseverance in it. Thus the law was exactly framed to the nature of man; man had twisted in him a desire of happiness; the promise was suited to cherish this natural desire. He had also the passion of fear; the proper object of this was any thing destructive to his being, nature, and felicity; this the threatening met with. In the whole it was accommodated to man as rational; precepts to the law in his mind, promises to the natural appetite, threatemngs to the most prevailing affection, and to the implanted desires of preserving both his being and happiness in that being. These were rational motives, fitted to the nature of Adam, which was above the life God had given plants, and the sense he had given animals. The command given man in innocence was suited to his strength and power. God gave him not any command but what he had ability to observe: and since we want not power to forbear an apple in our corrupted and impotent state, he wanted not strength in his state of integrity. The wisdom of God commanded nothing but what was very easy to be observed by him, and inferior to his natural ability. It had been both unjust and unwise to have commanded him to fly up to the sun, when he had not wings; or stop the course of the sea, when he had not strength.
(2.) It is suited to the happiness and benefit of man. God’s laws are not an act of mere authority respecting his own glory, but of wisdom and goodness respecting man’s benefit. They are perfective of man’s nature, conferring a wisdom upon him, “rejoicing his heart, enlightening his eyes” (Psalm 19:7, 8), affording him both a knowledge of God and of himself. To be without a law, is for men to be as beasts, without justice and without religion: other things are for the good of the body, but the laws of God for the good of the soul; the more perfect the law, the greater the benefit. The laws given to the Jews were the honor and excellency of that nation (Deut. 1:8); “What nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous?” They were made statesmen in the judicial law, ecclesiastics in the ceremonial, honest men in the second table, and divine in the first. All his laws are suited to the true satisfaction of man, and the good of human society. Had God framed a law only for one nation, there would have been the characters of a particular wisdom; but now an universal wisdom appears, in accommodating his law, not only to this or that particular society or corporation of men, but to the benefit of all mankind, in the variety of climates and countries wherein they live; everything that is disturbing to human society is provided against; nothing is enjoined but what is sweet, rational, and useful: it orders us not to attempt anything against the life of our neighbor, the honor of his bed, propriety in his goods, and the clearness of his reputation; and, if well observed, would alter the face of the world, and make it look with another hue. The world would be altered from a brutish to a human world; it would change lions and wolves, men of lionlike and wolfish disposition, into reason and sweetness. And because the whole law is summed up in love, it obligeth us to endeavor the preservation of one another’s beings, the favoring of one another’s interests, and increasing the goods, as much as justice will permit, and keeping up one another’s credits, because love, which is the soul of the law, is not shown by a cessation from action, but signifies an ardor, upon all occasions, in doing good. I say, were this law well observed, the w orld would be another thing than it is: it would become a religious fraternity; the voice of enmity, and the noise of groans and cursings, would not be heard in our streets; peace would be in all borders; plenty of charity in the midst of cities and countries; joy and singing would sound in all habitations. Man’s advantage was designed in God’s laws, and doth naturally result from the observance of them. God so ordered them, by his wisdom, that the obedience of man should draw forth his goodness, and prevent those smarting judgments which were necessary to reduce the creature to order that would not voluntarily continue in the order God had appointed. The laws of men are often unjust, oppressive, cruel, sometimes against the law of nature; but an universal wisdom and righteousness glitters in the Divine law; there is nothing in it but is worthy of God, and useful for the creature; so that we may well say, with Job, “Who teaches like God?” (Job 36:22) or as some render it, “Who is a lawgiver like God?” Who can say to him, Thou hast wrought iniquity or folly among men? His precepts were framed for the preservation of man in that rectitude wherein he was created, in that likeness to God wherein he was first made, that there might be a correspondence between the integrity of the creature and the goodness of his Creator, by the obedience of man; that man might exercise his faculties in operation worthy of him, and beneficial to the world.
(3.) The wisdom of God is seen in suiting his laws to the consciences as well as the interests of all mankind (Rom. 2:14); “The Gentiles do, by nature, the things contained in the law;” so great an affinity there is between the wise law and the reason of man. There is a natural beauty emerging from them, and darting upon the reasons and consciences of men, which dictates to them that this law is worthy to be observed in itself. The two main principles of the law, the love and worship of God, and doing as we would be done by, have an indelible impression in the consciences of all men in regard of the principle, though they are not suitably expressed in the practice. Where there no law outwardly ublished, yet every man’s conscience would dictate to him that God. Was to be acknowledged, worshipped, loved, as naturally as his reason would acquaint him that there was such a being as God. This suitableness of them to the consciences of men is manifest, in that the laws of the best governed nations among the heathen have bad an agreement with them. Nothing can be more exactly composed, according to the rules of right and exact reason, than this; no man but approves of something in it, yea, of the whole, when he exerciseth that dim reason which he hath. Suppose any man, not an absolute atheist, he cannot but acknowledge the reasonableness of worshipping God. Grant him to be a spirit, and it will presently appear absurd to represent him by any corporeal image, and derogate from his excelleency by so mean a resemblance; with the same easiness he will grant a reverence due to the name of God; that we must not serve our turn of him, by calling him to witness to a lie in a solemn oath; that as worship is due to him, so is some stated time a circumstance necessary to the performance of that worship. And as to the second table, will any man, in his right reason, quarrel with that command that engageth his inferiors to honor him, that secures his being from a violent murder, and his goods from unjust rapine? and though, by the fury of his lusts, he break the laws of wedlock himself, yet he cannot but approve of that law, as it prohibits every man from doing him the like injury and disgrace. The suitableness of the law to the consciences of men is further evidenced by those furious reflections, and strong alarms of conscience, upon a transgression of it, and that in all parts of the world, more or less, in all men; so exactly hath Divine wisdom fitted the law to the reason and consciences of men, as one tally to another: indeed, without such an agreement, no man’s conscience could have any ground for a hue and cry; nor need any man be startled with the records of it. This manifests the wisdom of God in framing his laws so that the reasons and consciences of all men do, one time or other, subscribe to it. What governor in the world is able to make any law distinct from this revealed by God, that shall reach all places, all persons, all hearts? We may add to this the extent of his commands, in ordering goodness at the root, not only in action, but affection; not only in the motion of the members, but the disposition of the soul; which suiting a law to the inward frame of man, is quite out of the compass of the wisdom of any creature.
(4.) His wisdom is seen in the encouragements he gives for the studying and observing his will (Psalm 19:11); “In keeping thy commandments there is great reward.” The variety of them; there is not any particular genius in man but may find something suitable to win upon him in the revealed will of God.
There is a strain of reason to satisfy the rational; of eloquence, to gratify the fanciful; of interest, to allure the selfish; of terror, to startle the obstinate. As a skilful angler stores himself with baits, according to the appetites of the sorts of fish he intends to catch, so in the word of God there are varieties of baits, according to the varieties of the inclinations of men; threatenings to work upon fear; promises to work upon love; examples of holy men set out for imitation; and those plainly; neither his threatenings nor his promises are dark, as the heathen oracles; but peremptory, as becomes a sovereign lawgiver; and plain, as was necessary for the understanding of a creature. As he deals graciously with men in exhorting and encouraging them, so he deals wisely herein, by taking away all excuse from them if they ruin the interest of their souls, by denying obedience to their Sovereign. Again, the rewards God proposeth are accommodated, not to the brutish parts of man, his carnal sense and fleshly appetite, but to the capacity of a spiritual soul, which admits only of spiritual gratifications; and cannot, in its own nature, without a sordid subjection to the humors of the body, be moved by sensual proposals. God backs his precepts with that which the nature of man longed for, and with spiritual delights, which can only satisfy a rational appetite; and thereby did as well gratify the noblest desires in man, as oblige him to the noblest service and work. Indeed, virtue and holiness being perfectly amiable, ought chiefly to affect our understandings, and by them draw our wills to the esteem and pursuit of them. But since the desire of happiness is inseparable from the nature of man, as impossible to be disjoined as an inclination to descend to be severed from heavy bodies, or an instinct to ascend from light and airy substances; God serves himself of the inclination of our natures to bappiness, to enjender in us an esteem and affection to the holiness he doth require. He proposeth the enjoyment of a supernatural good and everlasting glory, as a bait to that insatiable longing our natures have for happiness, to receive the impression of holiness into our souls. And, besides, he doth proportion rewards according the degrees of men’s industry, labor, and zeal for him; and weighs out a recompense, not only suited to, but above the service. He that improves five talents, is to be ruler over five cities; that is, a greater proportion of honor and glory than another (Luke 19:17, 18); as a wise father excites the affection of his children to things worthy of praise, by varieties of recompenses according to their several actions. And it was the wisdom of the steward, in the judgment of our Saviour, to give every one the “portion that belonged to him” (Luke 12:42). There is no part of the word wherein we meet not with the will and wisdom of God, varieties of duties, and varieties of encouragement, mingled together.
The Existence and Attributes of God