2 Chronicles 32
Sennacherib Invades Judah2 Chronicles 32 1 After these things and these acts of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah and encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them for himself. 2 And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and intended to fight against Jerusalem, 3 he planned with his officers and his mighty men to stop the water of the springs that were outside the city; and they helped him. 4 A great many people were gathered, and they stopped all the springs and the brook that flowed through the land, saying, “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water?” 5 He set to work resolutely and built up all the wall that was broken down and raised towers upon it, and outside it he built another wall, and he strengthened the Millo in the city of David. He also made weapons and shields in abundance. 6 And he set combat commanders over the people and gathered them together to him in the square at the gate of the city and spoke encouragingly to them, saying, 7 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. 8 With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
Sennacherib Blasphemes9 After this, Sennacherib king of Assyria, who was besieging Lachish with all his forces, sent his servants to Jerusalem to Hezekiah king of Judah and to all the people of Judah who were in Jerusalem, saying, 10 “Thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria, ‘On what are you trusting, that you endure the siege in Jerusalem? 11 Is not Hezekiah misleading you, that he may give you over to die by famine and by thirst, when he tells you, “The LORD our God will deliver us from the hand of the king of Assyria”? 12 Has not this same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, “Before one altar you shall worship, and on it you shall burn your sacrifices”? 13 Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of other lands? Were the gods of the nations of those lands at all able to deliver their lands out of my hand? 14 Who among all the gods of those nations that my fathers devoted to destruction was able to deliver his people from my hand, that your God should be able to deliver you from my hand? 15 Now, therefore, do not let Hezekiah deceive you or mislead you in this fashion, and do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or from the hand of my fathers. How much less will your God deliver you out of my hand!’ ”
16 And his servants said still more against the LORD God and against his servant Hezekiah. 17 And he wrote letters to cast contempt on the LORD, the God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, “Like the gods of the nations of the lands who have not delivered their people from my hands, so the God of Hezekiah will not deliver his people from my hand.” 18 And they shouted it with a loud voice in the language of Judah to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten and terrify them, in order that they might take the city. 19 And they spoke of the God of Jerusalem as they spoke of the gods of the peoples of the earth, which are the work of men’s hands.
The LORD Delivers Jerusalem20 Then Hezekiah the king and Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, prayed because of this and cried to heaven. 21 And the LORD sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he came into the house of his god, some of his own sons struck him down there with the sword. 22 So the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all his enemies, and he provided for them on every side. 23 And many brought gifts to the LORD to Jerusalem and precious things to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations from that time onward.
Hezekiah’s Pride and Achievements24 In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the LORD, and he answered him and gave him a sign. 25 But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. 26 But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.
27 And Hezekiah had very great riches and honor, and he made for himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of costly vessels; 28 storehouses also for the yield of grain, wine, and oil; and stalls for all kinds of cattle, and sheepfolds. 29 He likewise provided cities for himself, and flocks and herds in abundance, for God had given him very great possessions. 30 This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. 31 And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.
32 Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and his good deeds, behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 33 And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the upper part of the tombs of the sons of David, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honor at his death. And Manasseh his son reigned in his place.
2 Chronicles 33
Manasseh Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 33 1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had broken down, and he erected altars to the Baals, and made Asheroth, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem shall my name be forever.” 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. 6 And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. 7 And the carved image of the idol that he had made he set in the house of God, of which God said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever, 8 and I will no more remove the foot of Israel from the land that I appointed for your fathers, if only they will be careful to do all that I have commanded them, all the law, the statutes, and the rules given through Moses.” 9 Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel.
Manasseh’s Repentance10 The LORD spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. 11 Therefore the LORD brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. 12 And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.
14 Afterward he built an outer wall for the city of David west of Gihon, in the valley, and for the entrance into the Fish Gate, and carried it around Ophel, and raised it to a very great height. He also put commanders of the army in all the fortified cities in Judah. 15 And he took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built on the mountain of the house of the LORD and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside of the city. 16 He also restored the altar of the LORD and offered on it sacrifices of peace offerings and of thanksgiving, and he commanded Judah to serve the LORD, the God of Israel. 17 Nevertheless, the people still sacrificed at the high places, but only to the LORD their God.
18 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer to his God, and the words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of the LORD, the God of Israel, behold, they are in the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. 19 And his prayer, and how God was moved by his entreaty, and all his sin and his faithlessness, and the sites on which he built high places and set up the Asherim and the images, before he humbled himself, behold, they are written in the Chronicles of the Seers. 20 So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his house, and Amon his son reigned in his place.
Amon’s Reign and Death21 Amon was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. 22 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as Manasseh his father had done. Amon sacrificed to all the images that Manasseh his father had made, and served them. 23 And he did not humble himself before the LORD, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself, but this Amon incurred guilt more and more. 24 And his servants conspired against him and put him to death in his house. 25 But the people of the land struck down all those who had conspired against King Amon. And the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his place.
2 Chronicles 34
Josiah Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 34 1 Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 3 For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. 4 And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them. And he broke in pieces the Asherim and the carved and the metal images, and he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5 He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. 6 And in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins all around, 7 he broke down the altars and beat the Asherim and the images into powder and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem.
The Book of the Law Found8 Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had cleansed the land and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the house of the LORD his God. 9 They came to Hilkiah the high priest and gave him the money that had been brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the keepers of the threshold, had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim and from all the remnant of Israel and from all Judah and Benjamin and from the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 And they gave it to the workmen who were working in the house of the LORD. And the workmen who were working in the house of the LORD gave it for repairing and restoring the house. 11 They gave it to the carpenters and the builders to buy quarried stone, and timber for binders and beams for the buildings that the kings of Judah had let go to ruin. 12 And the men did the work faithfully. Over them were set Jahath and Obadiah the Levites, of the sons of Merari, and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to have oversight. The Levites, all who were skillful with instruments of music, 13 were over the burden-bearers and directed all who did work in every kind of service, and some of the Levites were scribes and officials and gatekeepers.
14 While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the LORD given through Moses. 15 Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. 16 Shaphan brought the book to the king, and further reported to the king, “All that was committed to your servants they are doing. 17 They have emptied out the money that was found in the house of the LORD and have given it into the hand of the overseers and the workmen.” 18 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it before the king.
19 And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes. 20 And the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 21 “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book.”
Huldah Prophesies Disaster22 So Hilkiah and those whom the king had sent went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter) and spoke to her to that effect. 23 And she said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, 24 Thus says the LORD, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book that was read before the king of Judah. 25 Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands, therefore my wrath will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched. 26 But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, 27 because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. 28 Behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place and its inhabitants.’ ” And they brought back word to the king. 29 Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30 And the king went up to the house of the LORD, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites, all the people both great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD. 31 And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. 32 Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin join in it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. 33 And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the LORD their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the LORD, the God of their fathers.
What I'm Reading
By Matt Boswell 9/01/2014
The church possesses two books to aid in worship: the Word of God and the hymnal. The Scriptures stand as the perfect and unwavering revelation of God throughout the ages. It is our rule, and the only infallible word on all matters of our faith and practice. The hymnal exists in submission to the authority of Scripture and assists the people of God in singing truth. Its songs are an ever-flowing stream, sung by people responding to God in worship.
Choosing hymns for the local church is a sacred task. Even when the hymnal used is electronic and lacks binding and pages, the practice of Christian singing remains vital. As Colossians 3:16 says,
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
In this text, Paul teaches the Colossians the importance of singing in the local church. The hymns we sing are not to be chosen clumsily, but with intentionality and with care. Hymns have the ability to teach us, to admonish us, and to provoke our hearts to worship our Savior with thankfulness.
CHOOSE HYMNS THAT TEACH
The hymns of the church ought to be built on, shaped by, and saturated with the Word of God. While the New Testament is silent on many of the specifics of corporate worship, Scripture is clear that the Word of Christ must be central. When the hymns we sing are aligned with the Word of God, our souls are nourished by its truth. Singing is a unique way to “let the word of Christ dwell richly” in us. One reason our songs should be closely tied to the Word of God is their didactic effects. Singing for the Christian is formative and responsive, and therefore must be informed by Scripture. We learn what we sing.
Let us think of singing as a form of exposition that uses poetry to teach the Word of God. When Isaac Watts published The Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs of Isaac Watts, his intention was not to sing Scripture line by line, but to create poetic and emotive renditions of Scripture that allow a church to sing the truths of Scripture. Songs are sermons. They don’t work like homiletical exegesis, but they articulate, exegete, and pronounce biblical truths. Our hymns teach and shape the way people view God, man, Christ, and how we are to live in light of the gospel.
One way to ensure our singing is biblical is to comb through our songs to see if we cover the breadth of themes presented throughout the canon of Scripture. Our songs should be held up to the light of God’s Word to ensure we are singing the glories of its truth.
CHOOSE HYMNS THAT ADMONISH
The songs we sing as a church are meant to teach and admonish. When we gather as the church on the Lord’s Day, we need to be admonished in various ways. Throughout the week, other things call for our praise, attention, and affection. Singing hymns of God’s character reminds us of His greatness. Singing hymns of our sin reminds us of the role of confession. By singing hymns of the atonement, we remind one another of the efficacy of the work of Jesus. Hymns of consecration remind us of the dependence of Christians upon the steadfast grace of God.
We sing to admonish the weak and the weary that their salvation is in God. We sing to admonish the doubting to believe and be renewed. We sing to admonish the suffering that they have a hope that is unwavering.
Our songs ought to exhort and admonish. Our songs ought to encourage and remind. In this practice of song, God’s people will be pointed to the Scriptures, reminded of truth, and rooted in the gospel of Christ.
CHOOSE HYMNS THAT PROVOKE THANKFUL HEARTS
We should choose hymns that provoke thankful hearts. When we sing robust theological truth, our hearts should erupt with praise. The aim of singing hymns is engaging both the head and the heart. The reason we read, study, and meditate on the Scriptures is not primarily so that we might amass knowledge, but so that our knowledge would lead to worship. The chief end of theology is doxology.
In choosing hymns for corporate worship, we should choose songs that make our hearts sing. From the content of the lyrics to the movement of the melody, we want beauty and transcendence to come together and serve the people of God. In our pursuit of theological precision, let us not neglect the pursuit of heartfelt response.
A church’s hymns are not a mere preamble to the sermon. Singing is not obligatory filler time to warm up a congregation. Singing is a holy practice. We sing because God has commanded it, and our songs should fill our hearts with thankfulness and delight in our great God.
Walking in Good Works
By Justin Holcomb 9/01/2014
Ephesians 2 is filled with the good news of grace for both our justification and sanctification. The chapter begins by describing our natural condition — trapped in sin and by sin, rebelling against God to pursue our own ends on the one hand and suffering as the victims of those ends on the other — and then moves to how God loved us and rescued us by His grace, His sheer goodwill.
The first half of the chapter focuses on what happened in the past — how God took pity on us and rescued His people, delivering us from our sin and His wrath. But the story doesn’t end there. As Peter O’Brien notes, salvation has already been described by Paul as relief from something negative: “a resurrection from the dead, a liberation from slavery, and a rescue from condemnation.” The chapter continues to verse 10, which centers on how God’s deliverance means we are created anew for lives of righteousness.
The theme of Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear: grace. This theme was already mentioned in 1:4, when Paul mentioned how God set His mind on delivering us before the foundations of the world, but what was then more of an undercurrent now becomes the main point. We are saved by His grace, not by anything we have done.
When you start to think that you’re absolved of all your sins not by virtue of your brainpower or your goodness or your good works, but by something entirely outside yourself, the unearned goodwill, benevolence, and favor of a God who decided to take an interest in your case and to invest heavily on your behalf at His expense — that’s humbling. At the same time, it should give you confidence that the God who saves you even when you are least worthy of being saved is capable of love on a scale that you can’t imagine. To bring up our efforts as a means of gaining God’s favor distorts our understanding of the God we worship.
But if our efforts don’t gain God’s favor, what are they for, and how (since we’re still very much prone to sin) do we go about living? Paul now moves in 2:10 to focus on “good works.” It is tempting at first glance to think that verses 8 and 9 are about grace and verse 10 is about works, as though grace sets up an account with God, and works put the money in the bank. But this would be to miss something very important that we easily neglect: God is the source of our entire salvation, from start to finish. Or, as one commentator puts it, “It is grace all the way.” So what does that mean, exactly?
Now that we’ve discussed how good works don’t lead to salvation, the most perplexing verse might be the one that says that God prepared good works for us beforehand. Notice how God-centered Ephesians 2:10 is. It may be about our doing works, but it is still very centered on God. In the Greek, the first word in the sentence is “his,” which is an unusual placement and puts the emphasis squarely on God. We are “his workmanship.” We “are created [by God] in Christ Jesus” for good works. These good works were those “which God prepared beforehand.” Clearly, works are important to Paul, but his emphasis here is on God’s bringing them about within us.
We must always hold verse 10 together with verses 8-9. The Bible paints a holistic picture of the believer as one whose life is continually lived in grace that bears fruit, fruit that is used by God to bless others.
What does that look like? If our works are “prepared beforehand,” what do we do? Paul says we “walk in them,” the same phrase he used to describe our life in sin. Good works become as much a part of our lives as our own pursuits were before. In other words, at the most basic level, we show up. We abide in the vine of Jesus (John 15:4). We walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-25), obeying what God asks of our energy, money, and commitment even when it seems absurd or unfair; giving to the poor; surrendering our independence and pride; and forgiving the wrongs done to us. Make no mistake — what seems to be our part is hard and demanding. But the crucial thing to remember in the hard times is that it is not actually our part, but God’s kindness, that will end up allowing us to walk at all, transforming our desires, motivations, and behaviors.
“Walking in good works” means we do our best not to mess it up. Yet we will mess it up, and when we do, grace picks us up again. It’s like the old Rich Mullins lyric: “If I stand, let me stand on the promise that you will see me through, and if I can’t, let me fall on the grace that first brought me to you.”
Above all else, and before any discussion of what we should do, we must understand deeply in our bones who we are: the workmanship of God. You are His project, and He has only just begun His good work in you (Phil. 1:6-7).
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The Pillar of the Truth
By Steve Timmis 9/01/2014
At first reading, 1 Timothy 3:15 seems somewhat disconcerting. In it, Paul is explaining to Timothy why he is writing to him. It concerns the church: “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”
Did you catch what he wrote? “The church … a pillar and buttress of the truth.” As sound evangelicals, we know that Paul has to have that backwards, don’t we? Surely, the gospel is that which gives solidity and shape to the church? Isn’t the church built on the gospel and the product of the gospel?
Yes, undoubtedly yes. But that’s not the point Paul is making in this context. He wants Timothy to get the church in Ephesus back on gospel tracks because she has departed from the gospel. The Pastoral Epistles are not simply manuals for church order. They are an urgent call to arms. Timothy needs to go to war because the gospel is at stake in this city and region.
But critical to this strategy is the church herself. The church, formed by the gospel, is for the gospel, and by her life and witness, she commends the gospel and is the primary apologetic for the gospel before the world. John Stott, in his commentary on 1 Timothy and Titus, put it well when he wrote, “The church depends on the truth for its existence; the truth depends on the church for its defence and proclamation.”
In essence, Paul’s letter to Timothy shows us just how important the gospel is for the church, but equally how important the church is for the gospel. Which, given the comment by Jesus in Matthew 5, isn’t at all disconcerting. Just as Israel under the old covenant commended Yahweh to the surrounding nations by her covenant life, so the church of the new covenant commends Christ by her covenant life.
So here are the two takeaways:
ENSURE THAT THE GOSPEL IS AT THE HEART OF YOUR CHURCH
Nothing else gives shape or stability to the church. Nothing else will sustain or nurture her. Nothing else gives her life or purpose. The church is all about Christ, and she is created by the gospel for Christ. Out of a deep love for Him, her ambition and passion will be His honor, reputation, and glory. The gospel isn’t merely the way into the church; it is the means by which we remain the church and thrive as the church. Without the gospel of Christ, there is no church.
ENSURE THAT THE CHURCH IS AT THE HEART OF YOUR GOSPEL
Unless we are convinced biblically and theologically about the centrality of the church in God’s purposes, we won’t be committed to living out that identity together for the fame and glory of Jesus. But consider how the church puts the gospel on display by means of three cardinal gospel truths:
The church is the community of the justified. Unlike those who do not know Christ, we don’t need to justify ourselves by our relational performance. We relate to one another as brothers and sisters without fear or favor because Christ is our justification. Those relationships display that to a watching world.
As the forgiven, we become the forgivers. People understand the doctrine more when they see it displayed in real time, up close and personal, in messy, disordered lives.
It is in being reconciled to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit that we become a reconciled community. It is precisely because we are no longer strangers to God that we are no longer strangers to one another. When people witness our reconciliation, they see a tangible expression of what God has done for sinners in Christ.
SHOWING THE GLORY OF THE GOSPEL
When the church puts the gospel on display in this way, we draw people’s attention to the gospel. Like a diamond lying in the corner of a room, we glimpse it out of the corner of our eye even when we’re not looking for it. It catches our attention. So it is with the people of God. As we live out our shared life together in the public square and marketplace, at street level, others glimpse the glory of God even when they are not looking for it. That glimmer excites inquiry, and they begin to look for the reason for our hope.
In Jesus, truth was embodied. He did not merely speak the truth; He was the truth. He did not come to simply tell the world about God; He came as God. So it is with His people. We speak the truth of the gospel with our lips. We show the glory of the gospel by the manner in which we live life-on-life together on mission as His church.
The World and All
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 9/01/2014
The Sadducees and Pharisees were no dummies. They just weren’t as smart as their enemy. As we read through the gospel accounts, it seems their strategy was simple: they would put an end to Jesus by forcing Him to destroy Himself. They would silence Him by forcing Him to put His own foot in His own mouth. They posed trick questions: Should we pay taxes to Caesar? At the resurrection, who will be the husband of a woman who went through six levirate husbands after her first husband? In the first instance, they wanted Jesus to run afoul of the Romans; in the second, to run afoul of His own people. In both instances, Jesus escaped the trap. He who is the Word, who spoke the world into existence, is never at a loss.
It may well be that the most challenging question Jesus received, however, came neither from the Sadducees nor the Pharisees but from Pontius Pilate. Having been delivered over to be put to death, Jesus is asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?” That’s a dilemma. Answer “no” and Jesus would both be disappointing His followers and, more importantly, lying. Answer “yes” and He is sure to be put to death for sedition. Given this dilemma, it is all too easy for us to misunderstand Jesus’ answer. We are tempted to think that when Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” He was trying to walk a razor’s edge, to say to His followers, “yes,” but to say to Pilate: “But you have nothing to worry about with regard to My kingdom. You see, Pilate, when we say ‘kingdom,’ we mean something so intangible, so hidden away in our hearts, that you really have nothing to worry about. My ‘kingdom,’ as we like to call it, has no bearing on you, on Rome, on civil government. I’m the King of an invisible, spiritual kingdom only.”
It is true enough that Jesus distinguished His kingdom from the kingdoms of this world. The difference, however, is not dimensional or geographic. Rather, the difference is in terms of our weaponry. What sets apart the kingdom of God is that the soldiers of the King do not fight with swords and spears. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They are, however, mighty to tear down strongholds and every lofty thing that attempts to exalt itself against the knowledge of God.
When we forget the glorious truth that Jesus’ kingdom is everywhere, that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given unto Him, we end up dividing His realm. We think the real kingdom is where the church is, where it is doing “churchy” things. When we are praying, when we are giving and receiving the sacraments, when we are preaching or hearing sermons, then we have entered into His kingdom. When, however, we are making widgets, buying groceries, or coaching Little League, then we have left the safety of the kingdom and have ventured into the world.
The truth is, of course, that His reign is universal. We do not move into and out of His kingdom so much as we vacillate between recognizing it and failing to recognize it, manifesting it or failing to manifest it. When we leave the church, and enter into that which is para—alongside—the church, we are not crossing some kind of border, entering into Pilate’s realm. Because we are still within the kingdom of our Lord, we are still to be about our Lord’s business. We are to do all that we do as unto Him.
The plumber, then, if he serves our Lord, is a parachurch worker. He is most assuredly in ministry. And make no mistake about it: there is a Christian way to do plumbing. The Christian way to do plumbing, however, isn’t to drag it into the church, to sanctify the work by etching Bible verses on the pipes, or by passively praying away the nagging drip, drip, drip of the bathroom faucet. Rather, it is to serve your neighbor by exercising dominion over the flow of water through the house. It is to rule over every drop that eventually flows into the sea. It is to be diligent, honest, even cheerful. It is to do the work such that it proves not to be wood, hay, and stubble, but that it will last even to forever. It is to plumb in light of the knowledge that right now counts forever.
Jesus calls us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. He tells us not to worry about what we will eat or what we will wear, not because such concerns are unseemly, worldly, or tainted. Rather, we have no reason to fear because all these things are under the power and authority of our kingdom’s Sovereign. His kingdom is not of this world. It is this world—and the world to come, from everlasting to everlasting. There is no place where He does not reign. Let us then be of good cheer and be about the Master’s business. Let us till the King’s fields and tend His cattle on His thousand hills. And whatever we eat, whatever we drink, let us do so to the glory of the Master of the feast. This is our Brother’s world.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
The Blessing of Great Teachers
By R.C. Sproul 9/01/2014
Since I’ve spent the majority of my professional career as a teacher of Scripture, philosophy, and theology, I’ve often had the opportunity to think about matters of pedagogy and other issues related to instruction. One thing that’s always struck me as I have considered what it means to be an effective teacher is that most of the great teachers in history were themselves students of other great instructors. Socrates taught Plato; Plato taught Aristotle; and Aristotle taught Alexander the Great. The entire history of Western ideas has been affected by these four men. In theology, we see that Ambrose of Milan taught Augustine, and Augustine, through his writings, taught both Martin Luther and John Calvin. We owe a great debt to Ambrose, who by discipling Augustine got the ball rolling for the Reformation, in a manner of speaking.
That great teachers produce other great teachers tells us that we can’t take the search for a teacher lightly. In fact, our choices of the instructors under whom we sit are among the most crucial and life-altering decisions we will ever make. We should take great care in selecting our instructors, particularly when we’re considering those who will train us for our vocations. I’ve seen too many young people choose a school because it had a beautiful campus or national championship football team, or because of its location. I’ve seen too many young men and women not consider the faculty when they are evaluating different options for higher education. Yet it is the faculty that matters most. These are the people who have a definitive impact on our future. We have to think carefully about who will be teaching us and what they will teach us at every stage of life, but particularly during our college years.
Several teachers during my undergraduate and graduate years of study had an impact on me that resonates to this day. As an undergraduate student, I chose philosophy as my major because I had a great philosophy professor as my faculty advisor. I was drawn to this man, Dr. Thomas Gregory, for his erudition and kindness. I ultimately ended up majoring in philosophy more out of my respect for the man than out of an innate affection for philosophy. I took every course that Dr. Gregory taught and, under his personal influence, developed a love for the history of ideas and the importance of logical thought.
When I was in seminary, I was privileged to have yet another incredible instructor — Dr. John Gerstner — who became my mentor in theology. He was instrumental in my decision to pursue doctoral studies. He insisted that I pursue a doctorate, and though I was initially reluctant, I told him that I would go on to further studies only if I could sit under the best teachers available. Imagine my surprise when Dr. Gerstner identified those individuals as G.C. Berkouwer and the faculty at the Free University of Amsterdam. After talking with Dr. Gerstner at length about it that day, I booked my family’s journey to the Netherlands the next. That decision was one of the most important decisions I have ever made, and I don’t regret it.
Three years ago, Ligonier Ministries opened Reformation Bible College to provide formal training in the things of God for young men and women. When we were planning the college, I was insistent that we hire the best faculty possible because I knew the quality of our education and its faithfulness to Scripture would be determined finally by our instructors and the material they would present to our students.
It’s ultimately no surprise that great teachers produce other great teachers. That seems to be the way God has designed us. In Scripture, we are called again and again to be disciples, or more precisely, learners. We need teachers if we are to learn, and great teachers raise up great learners who can then go on to produce other great learners. Christ is our preeminent example of this. Because He was a great teacher, He knew what to do in order to take a ragtag bunch of fishermen, Zealots, and tax collectors, and make them into the most influential bunch of learners the world has ever known. From their ranks we have been blessed with great teachers — Matthew, John, Peter, and others whose work continues to impact the world to this day. Of course, these men were inspired by the Holy Spirit in a manner that other teachers aren’t. However, Christ’s use of them to make disciples of all nations remains a model of how great teachers produce other great teachers.
No matter how great our earthly teachers may be, they will err. We will have to weigh their words against the Spirit-inspired teachings of the Apostles and prophets. But we dare not think we can ever reach a point where we cannot benefit from the teaching of others. Great teachers who are faithful to God’s Word are a blessing to God’s church. He will use them to build us up so that we can build up others.
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 Derek Thomas 10/01/2014
According to Jesus, it is what we do in secret that matters most. Jesus is not suggesting that the outward is unimportant — far from it. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14).
The answer is emphatically no. Still, it is also possible to have outward works but no inner reality. In this instance, religion is a pretense. Six times in the Sermon on the Mount, alluding to three distinct exercises, Jesus employs the term secret:
Give “in secret…and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:4).
Pray “in secret…and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (v. 6).
Fast “in secret…and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (v. 18).
The Sermon on the Mount is addressing the issue of authenticity. Just how genuine is our relationship with the Lord Jesus? It is altogether possible to practice an outward display of piety — to “talk the talk” — without demonstrating any inner reality of godliness. This is true of every professing Christian, and it is especially true of those engaged in Christian ministry. Authentic Christianity requires an outward and discernible “work of faith” (1 Thess. 1:3; 2 Thess. 1:11). But it also requires genuine godly affections and an inner discipline of the heart.
There is a manner of ministry that is more about self-service than self-sacrifice, self-indulgence than self-discipline, and self-promotion than self-denial. There is also giving that is designed for recognition — plaques on walls intended to be read by generations to come, or press releases informing the world of “generous donations”; prayers in pristine Cranmerlike language of the sixteenth century suggesting depths of personal piety; fasting that is shown via open-necked T-shirts revealing a ribbed torso.
But all these outward demonstrations of piety may be no more than mere hypocrisy. The Greek word translated “hypocrites” (Matt. 6:2, 5) refers to the masks worn by ancient actors as symbols of pretense and show. Thus, give with fanfare; pray with pride; fast with notice. This ministry is inauthentic. It is a sham.
Inauthentic ministry was a charge leveled against Paul. The Corinthians said that there was discrepancy between the way he wrote his letters and the way he was in person: “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (2 Cor. 10:10). It is a serious charge, and in his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul spends almost the entire time defending himself. The critique came from jealousy and therefore bore no legitimacy. But the fact is, the charge can be true — not of Paul, but of us. Leadership calls for genuineness, authenticity and transparency.
True, there’s something of a cliché about the word authentic when applied to Christian ministry (add contemporary, intentional, relevant, and community to that list). If we really need to add the description authentic, we are probably trying too hard and therefore not being authentic at all. Nevertheless, hypocrisy lurks everywhere, not least in Christian ministry, and we ignore it at our peril.
Godliness must be found in the heart if it is to be genuine. The one who prays more in public than in private, or only gives at special events when likely to be thanked for it, or practices spiritual disciplines and lets everyone know just how difficult a spiritual routine he keeps, is more concerned about the outward appearance than a heart-relationship with Jesus.
Jonathan Edwards observed the pattern of the hypocrite with respect to prayer:
Perhaps they attend it on Sabbath days, and sometimes on other days. But they have ceased to make it a constant practice daily to retire to worship God alone, and to seek his face in secret places. They sometimes do a little to quiet conscience, and just to keep alive their old hope; because it would be shocking to them, even after all their subtle dealing with their consciences to call themselves converts, and yet totally to live without prayer. Yet the practice of secret prayer they have in a great measure left off.
There has been a rise in the use of “written prayers” in Presbyterian worship in the last decade. In part, it is a reflection of the desire to elevate worship. Liturgical, written, prepared prayers are certainly preferable to the (otherwise) paucity and emptiness of some extemporary prayers. But written prayers (drawn from The Valley of Vision, for example) may simply mask the emptiness of the heart.
And Thomas Cranmer seemed to understand the danger of wearing a mask of hypocrisy when he included the Collect of Purity in the Book of Common Prayer for the Anglican Church. Cranmer placed it just before the celebration of the Lord’s Supper:
Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord.
This is a prayer for all seasons.
Derek Thomas Books:
Derek Thomas Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Book 5 | Psalm 107Let the Redeemed of the LORD Say So
107:10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.
13 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
and burst their bonds apart.
15 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze
and cuts in two the bars of iron.
Setting a Course for Faithfulness: An Interview with Stephen J. Nichols
By Stephen Nichols 10/01/2014
Tabletalk: What are your responsibilities in your new roles as President of Reformation Bible College (RBC) and Chief Academic Officer for Ligonier Ministries?
Stephen J. Nichols: First, I need to say how humbling these appointments are. And, it’s also rather exciting. Under the supervision and direction of the board of directors, the president of Reformation Bible College governs all aspects of the college from the staff and faculty to the students and curriculum. I will not be alone in this, as I will be working alongside Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr., rector and chair of theology and philosophy, and Dr. Michael Morales, chair of biblical studies.
Ligonier is primarily a teaching ministry that delivers content in a variety of ways. As chief academic officer, I will be working with Chris Larson, Ligonier’s president, in maintaining the theological emphasis and voice of Ligonier, which has proven beneficial to so many in the church over these last four decades. In both of these positions, I will be reporting directly to Dr. R.C. Sproul.
So, as you can see, it is all rather humbling and exciting. Ultimately, the responsibility of both positions is to maintain theological fidelity. History abounds with tragic examples of ministries and colleges losing their moorings. Above all, institutions need God’s grace to stay true to Him, and they also need to be intentional and committed. Dr. Sproul has cast the vision and set the course. These two roles that I now fill, along with many other roles at Ligonier and RBC where others serve, are in place so that the next generation, and generations to come, may grow in their knowledge of God — to increase their zeal to serve God, and to glorify and enjoy God forever.
TT: What excites you most about the ministry of RBC?
SN: It would have to be both the potential of the faculty and the potential of the students. Gathered in Sanford, Fla., is a world-class collection of scholars. They are a delightful mix of seasoned and young faculty, all very capable. All are published, all have doctorates, and all are committed churchmen. Augustine once said that a good teacher is one who loves the subject, loves the students, and, above all, loves God. That is the RBC faculty, and they will be a substantial resource for the church for years to come.
Then there are the students. They will be taught the full range of biblical studies, the complete run of church history, doctrine, philosophy, and apologetics. On top of that, RBC has a great works curriculum, affording students the opportunity to engage classic texts from the early Greeks to the present day. And they are taught by godly men who love their subjects and are called to make disciples of their students. When you consider all of this, you can’t help but get excited about the potential of RBC.
TT: What would you like to see RBC accomplish over the next ten years? Twenty years? Fifty years?
SN: First and foremost would be faithfulness — faithfulness as an institution to the Reformed faith and to the particular theological emphases that have marked Ligonier Ministries since its inception forty years ago. That faithfulness also has to do with our students. They come to us, study with us, and eventually graduate. Commencement is not an end, however, but a beginning of a life of ministry, of work and vocation, and of family. What will be said of RBC students at the end of their life’s journey? If the answer is faithfulness, then RBC will have been used by God in their lives to accomplish something of lasting significance and of true substance.
TT: Why are you concerned with defending the doctrine of Scripture’s inerrancy in this day and age?
SN: Defending inerrancy is necessary precisely because it is being challenged and even jettisoned by many who would claim to be evangelicals. The doctrine of inerrancy reminds us that the Bible is God’s authoritative and trustworthy Word to us. My concern is with alternative views, and especially with the consequences of those alternatives. If you do not hold to inerrancy, what do you have? Essentially, you have limited inerrancy. That has the Bible submitting to us — to our judgment. That has it all topsy-turvy. The doctrine of Scripture is the first domino, so to speak. If it falls in the wrong direction, the whole chain of dominoes falls in the wrong direction.
TT: Why is it important to express and defend a biblical Christology?
SN: Christology encompasses the person and work of Christ. As for His person, we must confess the God-man, the hypostatic union of both the divine nature and human nature in one person. As for Christ’s work, we must confess His sinless life, His perfect obedience, His atoning death as a substitute in our place, His burial, His resurrection, and His ascension to the Father’s right hand. Sadly, many of these doctrines are also being challenged and jettisoned today. Consider this: Can we have the gospel without a biblical Christology? The answer, of course, is no. And without the gospel, we cease to be the church. We are called to proclaim the gospel and live out its ramifications. The heart and soul of the gospel is a biblical Christology. We must confess it, teach it, and defend it.
TT: Several of your writings focus on Jonathan Edwards. Why do you return to this early American preacher and theologian so often?
SN: I never find the time I spend with Edwards to be wasted time. I come away from reading him being challenged and with new ways of thinking about and living the Christian life. Just the other day, I was looking at the letter Sarah Edwards, his wife, wrote to their daughter after Jonathan died. She said, “What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud.” She clings to God’s holiness and goodness in a time of turmoil and suffering. Sarah’s reaction reflects what her husband lived, taught, and wrote. I go back to Edwards because I so need that perspective.
TT: What are two major lessons that American Christians need to learn from Christians who lived in centuries past?
SN: Track down a copy of Confessions (Penguin Classics). You will see that the first word in Latin is magnus. God is great. He is transcendent, infinitely above and over His creation. The corollary is that we are not. We are finite. I don’t think we reflexively think of God as great and of ourselves as small. But we must.
The second major lesson concerns suffering. The vast majority of voices from the past offer a far different perspective than we do on suffering. Perhaps it’s due to our living in the “entitlement age,” or due to our sense of overcoming so many diseases and ailments that once plagued previous generations. Whatever the reason, we see suffering as abnormal and to be avoided. What does Paul mean by participating in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings? We learn more about what that means when we look to the past than when we confine ourselves to the present.
TT: In what major ways has American culture distorted our understanding of Jesus?
SN: American culture’s distorting our understanding of Jesus offers a clear case where culture rushes in to fill the vacuum left when we disdain tradition. The Nicene and Chalcedonian creeds mark out helpful boundaries regarding the person of Christ. The Reformers mark out helpful boundaries for thinking of Christ’s work. When we neglect these resources, we are overly influenced by culture. In America’s Victorian age, Jesus was “feminized.” He was seen exclusively as meek and mild. Even the images of this era portray Jesus as feminine. In our day, Jesus has taken on any number of personae. I’ve seen images of Him in a boxing ring with gloves on, ready to fight the devil.
Scripture presents Jesus as a rather complex person. We can distort that image, constructing a Jesus who looks like us, and is there simply to affirm us. The creeds and the Reformation solas can go a long way in helping us think clearly and biblically about Jesus.
TT: Name a few inappropriate ways to read church history.
SN: I can name three. The first would be to not read it. Why cut yourself off from the riches of the past? The second concerns reading history with judgmental and dismissive attitudes. We can easily do this because we tend to think so highly of our own age, and we tend to be unaware of our own blind spots. The counter is to read church history with humility, not hubris. Third, we need to avoid “hagiography.” Our church history figures don’t need halos. The Scripture writers show the faults and flaws of the biblical figures. There is only one who ranks as the true hero: Christ. We can be so thankful for leaders from church history who so clearly and persuasively point us to Christ. But we must ultimately look to the One to whom they are pointing and not to them.
Dr. Stephen J. Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Fla., chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries, and a Ligonier teaching fellow. He previously served as research professor of Christianity and culture at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Pa. He earned a Ph.D. from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and he is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society. Dr. Nichols is author of several books, including For Us and for Our Salvation: The Doctrine of Christ in the Early Church, Jonathan Edwards: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought, and The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World.
Dr. Stephen J. Nichols Books | Go to Books Page
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
Edited by William Byron Forbush
This is a book that will never die - one of the great English classics. Interesting as fiction, because it is written with both passion and tenderness, it tells the dramatic story of some of the most thrilling periods in Christian history.
Reprinted here in its most complete form, it brings to life the days when "a noble army, men and boys, the matron and the maid," "climbed the steep ascent of heaven, 'mid peril, toil, and pain."
"After the Bible itself, no book so profoundly influenced early Protestant sentiment as the Book of Martyrs. Even in our time it is still a living force. It is more than a record of persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of romance, as well as a source of edification." --- James Miller Dodds, English Prose.
A History of the lives, sufferings and triumphant deaths of the early Christian and Protestant martyrs.
"When one recollects that until the appearance of the Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations. the common people had almost no other reading matter except the Bible and Foxe's Book of Martyrs, we can understand the deep impression that this book produced; and how it served to mold the national character. Those who could read for themselves learned the full details of all the atrocities performed on the Protestant reformers; the illiterate could see the rude illustrations of the various instruments of torture, the rack, the gridiron, the boiling oil, and then the holy ones breathing out their souls amid the flames. Take a people just awakening to a new intellectual and religious life; let several generations of them, from childhood to old age, pore over such a book, and its stories become traditions as individual and almost as potent as songs and customs on a nation's life." --- Douglas Campbell, "The Puritan in Holland, England, and America"
"If we divest the book of its accidental character of feud between churches, it yet stands, in the first years of Elizabeth's reign, a monument that marks the growing strength of a desire for spiritual freedom, defiance of those forms that seek to stifle conscience and fetter thought." --- Henry Morley, "English Writers"
"After the Bible itself, no book so profoundly inflienced early Protestant sentiment as the Book of Martyrs. Even in our own time it is still a living force. It is more than a record of persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of romance, as well as a source of edification." James Miller Dodds, "English Prose"
Sketch of the AuthorJohn Fox (or Foxe) was born at Boston, in Lincolnshire, in 1517, where his parents are stated to have lived in respectable circumstances. He was deprived of his father at an early age; and notwithstanding his mother soon married again, he still remained under the parental roof. From an early display of talents and inclination to learning, his friends were induced to send him to Oxford, in order to cultivate and bring them to maturity.
During his residence at this place, he was distinguished for the excellence and acuteness of his intellect, which was improved by the emulation of his fellow collegians, united to an indefatigable zeal and industry on his part. These qualities soon gained him the admiration of all; and as a reward for his exertions and amiable conduct, he was chosen fellow of Magdalen College; which was accounted a great honor in the university, and seldom bestowed unless in cases of great distinction. It appears that the first display of his genius was in poetry; and that he composed some Latin comedies, which are still extant. But he soon directed his thoughts to a more serious subject, the study of the sacred Scriptures: to divinity, indeed, he applied himself with more fervency than circumspection, and discovered his partiality to the Reformation, which had then commenced, before he was known to its supporters, or to those who protected them; a circumstance which proved to him the source of his first troubles.
He is said to have often affirmed that the first matter which occasioned his search into the popish doctrine was that he saw divers things, most repugnant in their nature to one another, forced upon men at the same time; upon this foundation his resolution and intended obedience to that Church were somewhat shaken, and by degrees a dislike to the rest took place.
His first care was to look into both the ancient and modern history of the Church; to ascertain its beginning and progress; to consider the causes of all those controversies which in the meantime had sprung up, and diligently to weigh their effects, solidity, infirmities, etc.
Before he had attained his thirtieth year, he had studied the Greek and Latin fathers, and other learned authors, the transactions of the Councils, and decrees of the consistories, and had acquired a very competent skill in the Hebrew language. In these occupations he frequently spent a considerable part, or even the whole of the night; and in order to unbend his mind after such incessant study, he would resort to a grove near the college, a place much frequented by the students in the evening, on account of its sequestered gloominess. In these solitary walks he was often heard to ejaculate heavy sobs and sighs, and with tears to pour forth his prayers to God. These nightly retirements, in the sequel, gave rise to the first suspicion of his alienation from the Church of Rome. Being pressed for an explanation of this alteration in his conduct, he scorned to call in fiction to his excuse; he stated his opinions; and was, by the sentence of the college convicted, condemned as a heretic, and expelled.
His friends, upon the report of this circumstance, were highly offended, when he was thus forsaken by his own friends, a refuge offered itself in the house of Sir Thomas Lucy, of Warwickshire, by whom he was sent for to instruct his children. The house is within easy walk of Stratford-on-Avon, and it was this estate which, a few years later, was the scene of Shakespeare's traditional boyish poaching expedition. Fox died when Shakespeare was three years old.
In the Lucy house Fox afterward married. But the fear of the popish inquisitors hastened his departure thence; as they were not contented to pursue public offences, but began also to dive into the secrets of private families. He now began to consider what was best to be done to free himself from further inconvenience, and resolved either to go to his wife's father or to his father-in-law. (What's the difference between your wife's father and your father-in-law
His wife's father was a citizen of Coventry, whose heart was not alienated from him, and he was more likely to be well entreated, or his daughter's sake. He resolved first to go to him; and, in the meanwhile, by letters, to try whether his father-in-law would receive him or not. This he accordingly did, and he received for answer, "that it seemed to him a hard condition to take one into his house whom he knew to be guilty and condemned for a capital offence; neither was he ignorant what hazard he should undergo in so doing; he would, however, show himself a kinsman, and neglect his own danger. If he would alter his mind, he might come, on condition to stay as long as he himself desired; but if he could not be persuaded to that, he must content himself with a shorter stay, and not bring him and his mother into danger."
No condition was to be refused; besides, he was secretly advised by his mother to come, and not to fear his father-in-law's severity; "for that, perchance, it was needful to write as he did, but when occasion should be offered, he would make recompense for his words with his actions." In fact he was better received by both of them than he had hoped for.
By these means he kept himself concealed for some time, and afterwards made a journey to London, in the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII. Here, being unknown, he was in much distress, and was even reduced to the danger of being starved to death, had not Providence interfered in his favor in the following manner:
One day as Mr. Fox was sitting in St. Paul's Church, exhausted with long fasting, a stranger took a seat by his side, and courteously saluted him, thrust a sum of money into his hand, and bade him cheer up his spirits; at the same time informing him, that in a few days new prospects would present themselves for his future subsistence. Who this stranger was, he could never learn; but at the end of three days he received an invitation from the Duchess of Richmond to undertake the tuition of the children of the Earl of Surry who, together with his father, the Duke of Norfolk, was imprisoned in the Tower, by the jealousy and ingratitude of the king. The children thus confided to his care were, Thomas, who succeeded to the dukedom; Henry, afterwards Earl of Northampton; and Jane who became Countess of Westmoreland. In the performance of his duties, he fully satisfied the expectations of the duchess, their aunt.
These halcyon days continued during the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII and the five years of the reign of Edward VI until Mary came to the crown, who, soon after her accessiopn, gave all power into the hands of the papists.
At this time Mr. Fox, who was still under the protection of his noble pupil, the duke, began to excite the envy and hatred of many, particularly Dr. Gardiner, then Bishop of Winchester, who in the sequel became his most violent enemy.
Mr. Fox, aware of this, and seeing the dreadful persecutions then commencing, began to think of quitting the kingdom. As soon as the duke knew his intention, he endeavored to persuade him to remain; and his arguments were so powerful, and given with so much sincerity, that he gave up the thought of abandoning his asylum for the present.
At that time the Bishop of Winchester was very intimate with the duke (by the patronage of whose family he had risen to the dignity he then enjoyed,) and frequently waited on him to present his service when he several times requested that he might see his old tutor. At first the duke denied his request, at one time alleging his absence, at another, indisposition. At length it happened that Mr. Fox, not knowing the bishop was in the house, entered the room where the duke and he were in discourse; and seeing the bishop, withdrew. Gardiner asked who that was; the duke answered that he was "his physician, who was somewhat uncourtly, as being new come from the university." "I like his countenance and aspect very well," replied the bishop, "and when occasion offers, I will send for him." The duke understood that speech as the messenger of some approaching danger; and now himself thought it high time for Mr. Fox to quit the city, and even the country. He accordingly caused everything necessary for his flight to be provided in silence, by sending one of his servants to Ipswich to hire a bark, and prepare all the requisites for his departure. He also fixed on the house of one of his servants, who was a farmer, where he might lodge until the wind became favorable; and everything being in readiness, Mr. Fox took leave of his noble patron, and with his wife, who was pregnant at the time, secretly departed for the ship.
The vessel was scarcely under sail, when a most violent storm came on, which lasted all day and night, and the next day drove them back to the port from which they had departed. During the time that the vessel had been at sea, an officer, despatched by the bishop of Winchester, had broken open the house of the farmer with a warrant to apprehend Mr. Fox wherever he might be found, and bring him back to the city. On hearing this news he hired a horse, under the pretence of leaving the town immediately; but secretly returned the same night, and agreed with the captain of the vessel to sail for any place as soon as the wind should shift, only desired him to proceed, and not to doubt that God would prosper his undertaking. The mariner suffered himself to be persuaded, and within two days landed his passengers in safety at Nieuport.
After spending a few days in that place, Mr. Fox set out for Basle, where he found a number of English refugees, who had quitted their country to avoid the cruelty of the persecutors, with these he associated, and began to write his "History of the Acts and Monuments of the Church," which was first published in Latin at Basle in 1554, and in English in 1563.
In the meantime the reformed religion began again to flourish in England, and the popish faction much to decline, by the death of Queen Mary; which induced the greater number of the Protestant exiles to return to their native country.
Among others, on the accession of Elizabeth to the throne, Mr. Fox returned to England; where, on his arrival, he found a faithful and active friend in his late pupil, the Duke of Norfolk, until death deprived him of his benefactor: after which event, Mr. Fox inherited a pension bequeathed to him by the duke, and ratified by his son, the Earl of Suffolk.
Nor did the good man's successes stop here. On being recommended to the queen by her secretary of state, the great Cecil, her majesty granted him the prebendary of Shipton, in the cathedral of Salisbury, which was in a manner forced upon him; for it was with difficulty that he could be persuaded to accept it.
On his resettlement in England, he employed himself in revising and enlarging his admirable Martyrology. With prodigious pains and constant study he completed that celebrated work in eleven years. For the sake of greater correctness, he wrote every line of this vast book with his own hand, and transcribed all the records and papers himself. But, in consequence of such excessive toil, leaving no part of his time free from study, nor affording himself either the repose or recreation which nature required, his health was so reduced, and his person became so emaciated and altered, that such of his friends and relations as only conversed with him occasionally, could scarcely recognize his person. Yet, though he grew daily more exhausted, he proceeded in his studies as briskly as ever, nor would he be persuaded to diminish his accustomed labors. The papists, forseeing how detrimental his history of their errors and cruelties would prove to their cause, had recourse to every artifice to lessen the reputation of his work; but their malice was of signal service, both to Mr. Fox himself, and to the Church of God at large, as it eventually made his book more intrinsically valuable, by inducing him to weigh, with the most scrupulous attention, the certainty of the facts which he recorded, and the validity of the authorities from which he drew his information.
But while he was thus indefatigably employed in promoting the cause of truth, he did not neglect the other duties of his station; he was charitable, humane, and attentive to the wants, both spiritual and temporal, of his neighbors. With the view of being more extensively useful, although he had no desire to cultivate the acquaintance of the rich and great on his own account, he did not decline the friendship of those in a higher rank who proffered it, and never failed to employ his influence with them in behalf of the poor and needy. In consequence of his well-known probity and charity, he was frequently presented with sums of money by persons possessed of wealth, which he accepted and distributed among those who were distressed. He would also occasionally attend the table of his friends, not so much for the sake of pleasure, as from civility, and to convince them that his absence was not occasoned by a fear of being exposed to the temptations of the appetite. In short his character as a man and as a Christian was without reproach.
Although the recent recollection of the persecutions under Bloody Mary gave bitterness to his pen, it is singular to note that he was personally the most conciliatory of men, and that while he heartily disowned the Roman Church in which he was born, he was one of the first to attempt the concord of the Protestant brethren. In fact, he was a veritable apostle of toleration.
When the plague or pestilence broke out in England, in 1563, and many forsook their duties, Fox remained at his post, assisting the friendless and acting as the almsgiver of the rich. It was said of him that he could never refuse help to any one who asked it in the name of Christ. Tolerant and large-hearted he exerted his influence with Queen Elizabeth to confirm her intention to no longer keep up the cruel practice of putting to death those of opposing religious convictions. The queen held him in respect and referred to him as "Our Father Foxe."
Mr. Fox had joy in the fruits of his work while he was yet alive. It passed through four large editions before his decease, and it was orderred by the bishops to be placed in every cathedral church in England, where it was often found chained, as the Bible was in those days, to a lectern for the access of the people.
At length, having long served both the Church and the world by his ministry, by his pen, and by the unsullied luster of a benevolent, useful, and holy life, he meekly resigned his soul to Christ, on the eighteenth of April, 1587, being then in the seventieth year of his age. He was interred in the chancel of St. Giles', Cripplegate; of which parish he had been, in the beginning of Elizabeth's reign, for some time vicar. Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Listen carefully without interrupting!
(Oct 2) Bob Gass
‘Look with your eyes…hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you.’
(Eze 40:4) 4 And the man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes, and hear with your ears, and set your heart upon all that I shall show you, for you were brought here in order that I might show it to you. Declare all that you see to the house of Israel.” ESV
If you train yourself to listen carefully to what someone is saying, they will generally tell you who and what they are before you get into a relationship with them. Prevention is better than cure! But more times than not, when someone begins to warn us of their weaknesses and what to expect, we jump in with our motivational ‘Oh no, that can’t be true’ thoughts, and encourage them to move forward with us. We need to learn the priceless art of listening without interrupting. If you do, you’ll save yourself years of tears, secret disappointments, and negative experiences. Rather than using your optimism and persuasive style to coerce somebody into accepting your goals and objectives, you need to know when a person can’t become something just because you want them to or believe they can. They can’t run on your fuel! Your character and maturity won’t make up for their lack of it. Without your awareness of this principle, these high-maintenance relationships can weary you and drain your strength for years. In private or professional relationships, if you have to keep motivating to get started, you’ll have to keep motivating to maintain. On the other hand, if you look, listen, pray, and observe, you can decide whether it’s worth the effort to engage in the relationship in the first place. And if you ask God, He will guide you in this: His Word says, ‘Look with your eyes…hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here…that I might show them to you.’
1 Thess 1
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
“Oxford historian Arnold Joseph Toynbee died this day, October 2, 1975. He had worked for the British government doing foreign intelligence and research and was a delegate to the Paris Peace Conferences following World Wars I and II. Gaining international acclaim for his history books, Arnold Joseph Toynbee wrote: “The course of human history consists of a series of encounters… in which each man or woman or child… is challenged by God to make [the] free choice between doing God’s will and refusing to do it. When Man refuses, he is free to make his refusal and to take the consequences.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
CHAPTER III / The Moral Reactions of Prayer
All religion is founded on prayer, and in prayer it has its test and measure. To be religious is to pray, to be irreligious is to be incapable of prayer. The theory of religion is really the philosophy of prayer; and the best theology is compressed prayer. The true theology is warm, and it steams upward into prayer. Prayer is access to whatever we deem God, and if there is no such access there is no religion; for it is not religion to resign ourselves to be crushed by a brute power so that we can no more remonstrate than resist. It is in prayer that our real idea of God appears, and in prayer that our real relation to God shows itself. On the first levels of our religion we go to our God for help and boon in the junctures of our natural life; but, as we rise to supernatural religion, gifts becomes less to us than the Giver; they are not such as feed our egoism. We forget ourselves in a godly sort; and what we court and what we receive in our prayer is not simply a boon but communion—or if a boon, it is the boon which Christians call the Holy Spirit, and which means, above all else, communion with God. But lest communion subside into mere meditation it must concentrate in prayer. We must keep acquiring by such effort the grace so freely given. There is truly a subconscious communion, and a godliness that forgets God well, in the hourly life of taxing action and duty; but it must rise to seasons of colloquy, when our action is wholly with the Father, and the business even of His kingdom turns into heart converse, where the yoke is easy and the burden light. Duty is then absorbed in love—the deep, active union of souls outwardly distinct. Their connection is not external and (as we might say) inorganic; it is inward, organic, and reciprocal. There is not only action but interplay, not only need and gift but trust and love. The boon is the Giver Himself, and its answer is the self of the receiver. Cor ad cor loquitor. All the asking and having goes on in a warm atmosphere, where soul passes into soul without fusion, person is lost in person without losing personality, and thought about prayer becomes thought in prayer. The greatest, deepest, truest thought of God is generated in prayer, where right thought has its essential condition in a right will. The state and act of true prayer contains the very substance and summit of Christian truth, which is always there in solution, and becomes increasingly explicit and conscious. To grow in grace is to become more understanding in prayer. We make for the core of Christian reality and the source of Christian power.
Our atonement with God is the pregnant be-all and end-all of Christian peace and life; and what is that atonement but the head and front of the Saviour’s perpetual intercession, of the outpouring of His sin-laden soul unto death? Unto death! That is to say, it is its outpouring utterly. So that His entire self-emptying and His perfect and prevailing prayer is one. In this intercession our best prayer, broken, soiled, and feeble as it is, is caught up and made prayer indeed and power with God. This intercession prays for our very prayer, and atones for the sin in it. This is praying in the Holy Ghost, which is not necessarily a matter either of intensity or elation. This is praying “for Christ’s sake.” If it be true that the whole Trinity is in the Gospel of our salvation, it is also true that all theology lies hidden in the prayer which is our chief answer to the Gospel. And the bane of so much theology, old and new, is that it has been denuded of prayer and prepared in a vacuum.
Prayer draws on our whole personality; and not only so, but on the whole God.And it draws on a God who really comes home nowhere else. God is here, not as a mere presence as He is in Nature, nor is He a mere pressure as He closes in upon us in the sobering of life. We do not face Him in mere meditation, nor do we cultivate Him as life’s most valuable asset. But He is here as our Lover, our Seeker, our Visitant, our Interlocutor; He is our Saviour, our Truth, our Power, nay, our Spiritual World. In this supreme exercise of our personality He is at once our Respondent and our Spiritual Universe. Nothing but the experience of prayer can solve paradoxes like these. On every other level they are absurd. But here deep answers deep. God becomes the living truth of our most memorable and shaping experience, not its object only but its essence. He who speaks to us also hears in us, because He opens our inward ear (Rom. viii. 15; Gal. iv. 6). And yet He is Another, who so fully lives in us as to give us but the more fully to ourselves. So that our prayer is a soliloquy with God, a monologue a deux.
There is no such engine for the growth and command of the moral soul, single, or social, as prayer. Here, above all, he who will do shall know. It is the great organ of Christian knowledge and growth. It plants us at the very centre of our own personality, which gives the soul the true perspective of itself; it sets us also at the very centre of the world in God, which gives us the true hierarchy of things. Nothing, therefore, develops such “inwardness” and yet such self-knowledge and self-control. Private prayer, when it is made a serious business, when it is formed prayer, when we pray audibly in our chamber, or when we write our prayers, guided always by the day’s record, the passion of piety, and above all the truths of Scripture, is worth more for our true and grave and individual spirituality than gatherings of greater unction may be. Bible searching and searching prayer go hand in hand. What we receive from God in the Book’s message we return to Him with interest in prayer. Nothing puts us in living contact with God but prayer, however facile our mere religion may be. And therefore nothing does so much for our originality, so much to make us our own true selves, to stir up all that is in us to be, and hallow all we are. In life it is not hard work; it is faculty, insight, gift, talent, genius. And what genius does in the natural world prayer does in the spiritual. Nothing can give us so much power and vision. It opens a fountain perpetual and huminous at the centre of our personality, where we are sustained because we are created anew and not simply refreshed. For here the springs of life continually rise. And here also the eye discerns a new world because it has second sight. It sees two worlds at once. Hence, the paradoxes I spoke of. Here we learn to read the work of Christ which commands the world unseen. And we learn to read even the strategy of Providence in the affairs of the world. To pray to the Doer must help us to understand what is done. Prayer, as our greatest work, breeds in us the flair for the greatest work of God, the instinct of His kingdom and the sense of His track in Time.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
We quicken or deaden everything we see
by the life we live
and the sins that we commit.
--- George H. Morrison
Of the twenty-two civilizations that have appeared in history, nineteen of them collapsed when they reached the moral state the United States is in now.
--- Arnold J. Toynbee
No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.
--- Albert Einstein, in an interview by George Sylvester Viereck for The Saturday Evening Post (10/26/29)
The Christian may grow drowsy in the sun but will not fall asleep in the fire or the flood.
--- Alistair Begg
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
Titus When The Jews Were Not At All Mollified By His Leaving Off The Siege For A While, Set Himself Again To Prosecute The Same; But Soon Sent Josephus To Discourse With His Own Countrymen About Peace.
1. A Resolution was now taken by Titus to relax the siege for a little while, and to afford the seditious an interval for consideration, and to see whether the demolishing of their second wall would not make them a little more compliant, or whether they were not somewhat afraid of a famine, because the spoils they had gotten by rapine would not be sufficient for them long; so he made use of this relaxation in order to compass his own designs. Accordingly, as the usual appointed time when he must distribute subsistence money to the soldiers was now come, he gave orders that the commanders should put the army into battle-array, in the face of the enemy, and then give every one of the soldiers their pay. So the soldiers, according to custom, opened the cases wherein their arms before lay covered, and marched with their breastplates on, as did the horsemen lead their horses in their fine trappings. Then did the places that were before the city shine very splendidly for a great way; nor was there any thing so grateful to Titus's own men, or so terrible to the enemy, as that sight. For the whole old wall, and the north side of the temple, were full of spectators, and one might see the houses full of such as looked at them; nor was there any part of the city which was not covered over with their multitudes; nay, a very great consternation seized upon the hardiest of the Jews themselves, when they saw all the army in the same place, together with the fineness of their arms, and the good order of their men. And I cannot but think that the seditious would have changed their minds at that sight, unless the crimes they had committed against the people had been so horrid, that they despaired of forgiveness from the Romans; but as they believed death with torments must be their punishment, if they did not go on in the defense of the city, they thought it much better to die in war. Fate also prevailed so far over them, that the innocent were to perish with the guilty, and the city was to be destroyed with the seditious that were in it.
2. Thus did the Romans spend four days in bringing this subsistence-money to the several legions. But on the fifth day, when no signs of peace appeared to come from the Jews, Titus divided his legions, and began to raise banks, both at the tower of Antonia and at John's monument. Now his designs were to take the upper city at that monument, and the temple at the tower of Antonia; for if the temple were not taken, it would be dangerous to keep the city itself; so at each of these parts he raised him banks, each legion raising one. As for those that wrought at John's monument, the Idumeans, and those that were in arms with Simon, made sallies upon them, and put some stop to them; while John's party, and the multitude of zealots with them, did the like to those that were before the tower of Antonia. These Jews were now too hard for the Romans, not only in direct fighting, because they stood upon the higher ground, but because they had now learned to use their own engines; for their continual use of them one day after another did by degrees improve their skill about them; for of one sort of engines for darts they had three hundred, and forty for stones; by the means of which they made it more tedious for the Romans to raise their banks. But then Titus, knowing that the city would be either saved or destroyed for himself, did not only proceed earnestly in the siege, but did not omit to have the Jews exhorted to repentance; so he mixed good counsel with his works for the siege. And being sensible that exhortations are frequently more effectual than arms, he persuaded them to surrender the city, now in a manner already taken, and thereby to save themselves, and sent Josephus to speak to them in their own language; for he imagined they might yield to the persuasion of a countryman of their own.
3. So Josephus went round about the wall, and tried to find a place that was out of the reach of their darts, and yet within their hearing, and besought them, in many words, to spare themselves, to spare their country and their temple, and not to be more obdurate in these cases than foreigners themselves; for that the Romans, who had no relation to those things, had a reverence for their sacred rites and places, although they belonged to their enemies, and had till now kept their hands off from meddling with them; while such as were brought up under them, and, if they be preserved, will be the only people that will reap the benefit of them, hurry on to have them destroyed. That certainly they have seen their strongest walls demolished, and that the wall still remaining was weaker than those that were already taken. That they must know the Roman power was invincible, and that they had been used to serve them; for, that in case it be allowed a right thing to fight for liberty, that ought to have been done at first; but for them that have once fallen under the power of the Romans, and have now submitted to them for so many long years, to pretend to shake off that yoke afterward, was the work of such as had a mind to die miserably, not of such as were lovers of liberty. Besides, men may well enough grudge at the dishonor of owning ignoble masters over them, but ought not to do so to those who have all things under their command; for what part of the world is there that hath escaped the Romans, unless it be such as are of no use for violent heat, or for violent cold? And evident it is that fortune is on all hands gone over to them; and that God, when he had gone round the nations with this dominion, is now settled in Italy. That, moreover, it is a strong and fixed law, even among brute beasts, as well as among men, to yield to those that are too strong for them; and to suffer those to have the dominion who are too hard for the rest in war; for which reason it was that their forefathers, who were far superior to them, both in their souls and bodies, and other advantages, did yet submit to the Romans, which they would not have suffered, had they not known that God was with them. As for themselves, what can they depend on in this their opposition, when the greatest part of their city is already taken? and when those that are within it are under greater miseries than if they were taken, although their walls be still standing? For that the Romans are not unacquainted with that famine which is in the city, whereby the people are already consumed, and the fighting men will in a little time be so too; for although the Romans should leave off the siege, and not fall upon the city with their swords in their hands, yet was there an insuperable war that beset them within, and was augmented every hour, unless they were able to wage war with famine, and fight against it, or could alone conquer their natural appetites. He added this further, how right a thing it was to change their conduct before their calamities were become incurable, and to have recourse to such advice as might preserve them, while opportunity was offered them for so doing; for that the Romans would not be mindful of their past actions to their disadvantage, unless they persevered in their insolent behavior to the end; because they were naturally mild in their conquests, and preferred what was profitable, before what their passions dictated to them; which profit of theirs lay not in leaving the city empty of inhabitants, nor the country a desert; on which account Caesar did now offer them his right hand for their security. Whereas, if he took the city by force, he would not save any of them, and this especially, if they rejected his offers in these their utmost distresses; for the walls that were already taken could not but assure them that the third wall would quickly be taken also. And though their fortifications should prove too strong for the Romans to break through them, yet would the famine fight for the Romans against them.
by D.H. Stern
an undeserved curse will come home to roost.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The sphere of humiliation
If Thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. --- Mark 9:22.
After every time of exaltation we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they are, where it is neither beautiful nor poetic nor thrilling. The height of the mountain top is measured by the drab drudgery of the valley; but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mount, but we never live for His glory there. It is in the sphere of humiliation that we find our true worth to God, that is where our faithfulness is revealed. Most of us can do things if we are always at the heroic pitch because of the natural selfishness of our hearts, but God wants us at the drab commonplace pitch, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship to Him. Peter thought it would be a fine thing for them to remain on the mount, but Jesus Christ took the disciples down from the mount into the valley—the place where the meaning of the vision is explained.
“If Thou canst do anything …” It takes the valley of humiliation to root the scepticism out of us. Look back at your own experience, and you will find that until you learned Who Jesus was, you were a cunning sceptic about His power. When you were on the mount, you could believe anything, but what about the time when you were up against facts in the valley? You may be able to give a testimony to sanctification, but what about the thing that is a humiliation to you just now? The last time you were on the mount with God, you saw that all power in heaven and in earth belonged to Jesus—will you be sceptical now in the valley of humiliation?
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Look, here are two cronies, let's
Listen to them as the wind
Creeps under their clothes and the rain
Mixes with the bright moisture
Of their noses. They are saying,
Each in his own way, 'I am dying
And want to live. I am alive
And wish to die'. And for the same
Reason, that they have no belief
In a God who made the world
For misery and for the streams of pain
To flow in. Mildew and pus and decay
They deal in, and feed on mucous
And wind, diet of a wet land. So
They fester and, met now by this tree,
Complain, voices of the earth, talking,
Not as we wanted it to talk,
Who have been reared on its reflections
In art or had its behaviour
Seen to. We must dip belief
Not in dew nor in the cool fountain
Of beech buds, but in seas
Of manure through which they squelch
To the bleakness of their assignations.
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God. --- Micah 6:8.
When, in England, William Wilberforce initiated his long campaign to outlaw slavery in the British empire, he did not act as a social reformer. He was moved by Christian compassion: he acted because he cared about those helpless chattels that the majority in his day viewed as scarcely human. In working for justice, in showing loving-kindness, in committing his health and fortune to the betterment of his oppressed fellowman, this man uniquely pleased and honored God.
It is not some utopian dream but a practical concern for people that drives us to seek justice.
2. It is tragically wrong to view the Christian’s concern for justice as something to be valued or devalued on the basis of its contribution to evangelism. The church has often done this. We have said, “Send doctors—that we might break the power of the witch doctor and win the lost.”
These statements implicitly assign to justice a value based on the end it is supposed to achieve. Thus “doing justice” is viewed as a means to an end, and when it does not seem to promote that end (evangelism), it is roughly thrust aside.
But is concern for the oppressed and the hungry a tool? How do we differ from the Pharisees if our commitment to do right by all men is conditional on whether we believe our actions will help us gain other ends? No, we “do justice” because it is right.
3. It’s an amazing thing that concern for people’s social and material needs is conceived as somehow intrinsically different from concern for their souls. But the Bible does not describe man as composed of an immaterial “soul” captured in a physical body. Instead it speaks of the breath of life breathed into the body God prepared so that “man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7, kjv). Human beings experience life as a unity: we do not separate our selves from our bodies, or from our souls.
It follows that when we come in contact with others, we are to reach out to them in love and love them fully. We are to care about their every need. There may be little we can do to change basic conditions in our society. But we are not to hold back in loving because one sort of need is “social” and another “spiritual.” If minority children in our neighborhood need tutoring, we do not ignore that need because such a thing in our church would not be “religious.” If an inner-city store gouges the poor who cannot shop elsewhere, we don’t keep silent because the injustice is only bodily and not related to the soul. If pornography is openly sold in a shop near a school, we don’t just ignore it.
Simply put, the Christian has a commitment to justice, simply because doing justice is right.
4. Probably the most compelling reason that Christians today need to be committed to doing right by others is this: that’s the kind of person God is. God Himself is just. He is committed to doing right by all. God, as the Old Testament clearly reveals, does care deeply when injustice and indifference to others are accepted elements in an individual’s or society’s lifestyle.
As the New Testament adds, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
Our study of the Old Testament prophets brings us face-to-face with a dimension of faith that our generation has tended to overlook. The prophets’ constant emphasis and God’s constant call to Israel teaches us that we need to have a concern for the whole person. A concern that God feels deeply, as He calls us today as then to “hate evil, love good, and maintain justice in the courts” (Amos 5:15).
Psalm 1:1–2 Deuteronomy 30:11–14
BIBLE TEXT / Psalm 1:1–2 / Happy is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the wicked, or stood in the path of sinners, or sat in the company of the insolent; Rather, the Torah of the Lord is his desire, and he studies that Torah day and night. [authors’ translation]
MIDRASH TEXT / Avodah Zarah 19a / Rabbi Avdimi son of Ḥama said: “All who are occupied with the Torah, the Holy One, praised is He, will fulfill their desires.”
BIBLE TEXT / Deuteronomy 30:11–14 / Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we maya observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.
MIDRASH TEXT / Eruvin 55a / Rabbi Avdimi son of Ḥama said: “What is the significance of the text ‘It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” (Deuteronomy 30:12) ‘It is not in heaven’—for if it were in heaven, you would have to go up there to get it.”
Having heard our Master, Rabbi Avdimi, speak so brilliantly in his Shabbat D’rashah about God holding Mount Sinai over the heads of the Israelites and forcing them to accept the Torah, I decided to sit in on his lecture in the study house.
I came in and slipped quietly into the last row of seats. Suddenly, everyone rose to their feet as the Rabbi entered; he smiled and motioned for us to sit down.
Rabbi Avdimi began the lesson by closing his eyes and quoting the first two verses of the Book of Psalms:
Happy is the man who has not walked
in the counsel of the wicked,
or stood in the path of sinners,
or sat in the company of the insolent;
Rather, the Torah of the Lord is his desire,
and he studies that Torah day and night. [Psalm 1:1–2, authors’ translation]
From the outset, a sense of inadequacy swept over me. First, that the Master could quote from memory these verses from the Bible that were so foreign to me. And second, that the verses seemed to say: You can either be a follower of the wicked, or a desirer of the Torah, and if the latter, you have to study it day and night. “I don’t belong here,” I told myself, and the only thing that kept me in my seat was the fear of being noticed and embarrassed were I to stand up and walk out.
But as if he were reading my mind, Rabbi Avdimi then asked: “Who among us is able to spend all day, every day, studying the Torah of the Lord, as the Psalmist implies?” The other listeners lowered their heads or grinned sheepishly, acknowledging their own limitations. The Master continued: “Rabbi Eliezer taught: ‘Israel said to the Holy One, praised is He: “Master of the World! We want to labor in the Torah day and night, but we don’t have the time!’ ” The Holy One, praised is He, said to them: ‘Fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin, and I will count it as if you labored night and day!’ ” [Midrash Tehillim 1, 17]
“Sometimes human beings, like the Psalmist, seem to expect a lot more of us than God does!”
All of us laughed, not only at the irony of the Rabbi’s statement, but in relief that we were not “wicked, insolent sinners.”
“What is the significance of the text in Deuteronomy where Moses tells Israel about the Torah, ‘It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it.’ ” If it were in heaven, you would have to go up there to get it. That’s how important the Torah is. But it is not in heaven, it is not beyond our reach!”
One of the men in the first row called out a question: “Rabbi Avdimi, will this devotion to the Torah be worth all of the effort that we put in to it?”
The Master smiled. “Go back to the verses from the Book of Psalms. It says: תּוֹרַת יי הֶפְצוֹ/ torat Adonai ḥeftzo, three words in the Hebrew that literally mean ‘The Torah of the Lord is His desire.’ But when we read the Bible, we have to look at more than just the letters and words that we see. Sometimes we have to read the spaces between the letters; sometimes we have to fill in the blanks between the words. That is the purpose of Midrash.
“I would re-read the verse this way:
All who are occupied with the Torah
the Holy One, praised is He—the Lord
will fulfill their desires.
“The P’shat of the text is: A good person desires the Lord’s Torah. The D’rash of the verse tells us more: The Lord will reward such a person.”
“Rabbi,” a man in the second row called out. “It sounds like magic. Study Torah and the Holy One, praised is He, will grant all that you desire. Is it that simple?”
“Yes …” the Rabbi replied, pausing as we stared at him in surprise, sitting on the edge of our benches. “The Torah is magic. And no, it’s not that simple. If your desire is Torah, then God will fulfill that desire. If you want to study, if you want to learn with all of your heart, all of your soul, and all of your might (the very words that are in the tefillin, the same mitzvah that the Holy One, praised is He, told us to fulfill!), then you will get it. As difficult as Torah may sometimes seem, it is yours. All you have to do is want it.”
As our lesson in Torah and Midrash came to an end, we all stood and recited the traditional prayer in praise of God, and in appreciation of the great gift that God had given us:
May God’s great name be praised.
May there be upon the people Israel,
and the students of their students,
and upon all those who engage in the study of Torah
in this place and in every other place,
upon them and upon you:
grace, kindness, and mercy,
long life, abundant sustenance and salvation
from their Father who is in heaven,
and let us say: Amen!
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
--- Romans 12:2. KJV
Having shown that each of us is a priest of our own flesh by our way of life, [Paul] mentions also the way we may accomplish all this. (A SELECT LIBRARY OF THE NICENE AND POST-NICENE FATHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH Volume XI: Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Romans.) What then is the way?
Do not be fashioned after this world, for the pattern of this world is groveling and worthless and only temporary, neither does it have anything of loftiness or lastingness or straightforwardness but is wholly perverted. If then you would walk upright (or aright), do not pattern yourself after the fashion of this present life. For in it there is nothing abiding or stable. For speak of riches, glory, beauty of person, luxury, or of whatever other of its seemingly great things you will, it is a fashion only, not reality, a show and a mask, not any abiding substance. But you, he says, do not conform, but be transformed, by the renewing of your mind. Virtue’s not an appearance but a kind of real form, with a natural beauty of its own, not the trickeries and fashions of outward things, which no sooner appear than they go to nothing. For all these things, even before they come to light, are dissolving. If then you throw the appearance aside, you will speedily come to the form. For nothing is more strengthless than vice, nothing so easily wears old. Then since it is likely that being human his hearers would sin every day, he consoles them by saying, renew yourself from day to day. This is what we do with houses, we keep constantly repairing them as they wear old, and so you do to yourself. Have you sinned today? Have you made your soul old? Do not despair, do not despond, but renew it by repentance and tears and confession and by doing good things. And never stop doing this.
--- John Chrysostom
Protestants were slow to embrace the missionary cause. In the sixteenth century, they struggled to liberate themselves from moribund Catholicism. The seventeenth century was consumed with bloody efforts for liberty within the state. Not until the eighteenth century could their attention be drawn overseas. The Moravians were the first, sending missionaries to such fields as the West Indies and Labrador. But still there was no organized missionary enterprise supported by a strong home base.
Then came a failure-prone shoemaker named William Carey. His RS Thomas, conversations, and his book, Enquiry, finally nudged his fellow Baptists to adopt this resolution at an associational meeting: Resolved that a plan be prepared against the next Ministers’ meeting at Kettering, for forming a Baptist Society for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen.
Five months later, on Tuesday, October 2, 1792, 14 men huddled in the back parlor of widow Wallis’s house in Kettering, in a room 12 feet by 10. There were 12 ministers, a student, and a deacon. Carey, 31, reviewed the achievements of the Moravians and recounted the Bible’s missionary mandate. By and by, a resolution was worded: Humbly desirous of making an effort for the propagation of the Gospel amongst the Heathen, according to the recommendations of Carey’s Enquiry, we unanimously resolve to act in Society together for this purpose; and as, in the divided state of Christendom, each denomination, by exerting itself separately, seems likeliest to accomplish the great end, we name this the Particular Baptist Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Heathen.
Andrew Fuller passed around his snuff box with its picture of Paul’s conversion on the lid, taking up history’s first collection of pledges for organized, home-supported Protestant missions.
Suddenly missionary societies popped up everywhere, especially in London: in 1792 the British Missionary Society; in 1795 the London Missionary Society; in 1799 the Religious Tract Society and the Church Missionary Society. In 1804 the British and Foreign Bible Society came into being. The era of missions had begun, making the nineteenth century the “Great Century” in the advancement of the Gospel around the globe.
Afterwards, Jesus appeared to his eleven disciples as they were eating. He scolded them because they were too stubborn to believe the ones who had seen him after he had been raised to life. Then he told them: Go and preach the good news to everyone in the world.
--- Mark 16:14,15.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 2
“The hope which is laid up for you in heaven.” --- Colossians 1:5.
Our hope in Christ for the future is the mainspring and the mainstay of our joy here. It will animate our hearts to think often of heaven, for all that we can desire is promised there. Here we are weary and toilworn, but yonder is the land of rest where the sweat of labour shall no more bedew the worker’s brow, and fatigue shall be for ever banished. To those who are weary and spent, the word “rest” is full of heaven. We are always in the field of battle; we are so tempted within, and so molested by foes without, that we have little or no peace; but in heaven we shall enjoy the victory, when the banner shall be waved aloft in triumph, and the sword shall be sheathed, and we shall hear our Captain say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We have suffered bereavement after bereavement, but we are going to the land of the immortal where graves are unknown things. Here sin is a constant grief to us, but there we shall be perfectly holy, for there shall by no means enter into that kingdom anything which defileth. Hemlock springs not up in the furrows of celestial fields. Oh! is it not joy, that you are not to be in banishment for ever, that you are not to dwell eternally in this wilderness, but shall soon inherit Canaan? Nevertheless let it never be said of us, that we are dreaming about the future and forgetting the present, let the future sanctify the present to highest uses. Through the Spirit of God the hope of heaven is the most potent force for the product of virtue; it is a fountain of joyous effort, it is the corner stone of cheerful holiness. The man who has this hope in him goes about his work with vigour, for the joy of the Lord is his strength. He fights against temptation with ardour, for the hope of the next world repels the fiery darts of the adversary. He can labour without present reward, for he looks for a reward in the world to come.
Evening - October 2
“A man greatly beloved.” --- Daniel 10:11.
Child of God, do you hesitate to appropriate this title? Ah! has your unbelief made you forget that you are greatly beloved too? Must you not have been greatly beloved, to have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot? When God smote his only begotten Son for you, what was this but being greatly beloved? You lived in sin, and rioted in it, must you not have been greatly beloved for God to have borne so patiently with you? You were called by grace and led to a Saviour, and made a child of God and an heir of heaven. All this proves, does it not, a very great and superabounding love? Since that time, whether your path has been rough with troubles, or smooth with mercies, it has been full of proofs that you are a man greatly beloved. If the Lord has chastened you, yet not in anger; if he has made you poor, yet in grace you have been rich. The more unworthy you feel yourself to be, the more evidence have you that nothing but unspeakable love could have led the Lord Jesus to save such a soul as yours. The more demerit you feel, the clearer is the display of the abounding love of God in having chosen you, and called you, and made you an heir of bliss. Now, if there be such love between God and us let us live in the influence and sweetness of it, and use the privilege of our position. Do not let us approach our Lord as though we were strangers, or as though he were unwilling to hear us—for we are greatly beloved by our loving Father. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Come boldly, O believer, for despite the whisperings of Satan and the doubtings of thine own heart, thou art greatly beloved. Meditate on the exceeding greatness and faithfulness of divine love this Evening, and so go to thy bed in peace.
RESCUE THE PERISHING
Fanny J. Crosby, 1820–1915
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives … (Isaiah 61:1 KJV)
One of the most tragic words in our vocabulary is the word perishing. Yet it was a word that Jesus Himself often used (Matthew 18:14; Luke 13:3, 5) to describe people who are spiritually alienated from God.
Fanny Crosby, often called the “queen of Gospel music,” recalled how she wrote this challenging hymn:
I remember writing that hymn in the year 1869. Like many of my hymns, it was written following a personal experience at the New York City Bowery Mission. I usually tried to get to the mission at least one night a week to talk to “my boys.” I was addressing a large company of working men one hot summer Evening, when the thought kept forcing itself on my mind that some mother’s boy must be rescued that night or he might be eternally lost. So I made a pressing plea that if there was a boy present who had wandered from his mother’s home and teaching, he should come to me at the end of the service. A young man of 18 came forward ---
“Did you mean me, Miss Crosby? I promised my mother to meet her in heaven, but as I am now living, that will be impossible.”
We prayed for him and suddenly he arose with a new light in his eyes— “Now I am ready to meet my mother in heaven, for I have found God.”
A few days before, William Doane, composer of the music, had sent Fanny Crosby a tune for a new song to be titled “Rescue the Perishing.” It was to be based on the text “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter, feelings lie buried that grace can restore; touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness, chords that are broken will vibrate once more.
Rescue the perishing, duty demands it; strength for thy labor the Lord will provide; back to the narrow way patiently win them; tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died.
Refrain: Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.
For Today: Ezekiel 18:32; Luke 14:23; Romans 9:2, 3; 2 Peter 3:9
Reflect seriously that it is the divine image in every person (Genesis 1:26, 27) that gives life an intrinsic dignity and worth—regardless of race, color, sex, age, or social standing. That’s what makes each person worthy of being rescued from eternal damnation. Sing this musical challenge as you go ---
DISCOURSE VII - ON GOD’S OMNIPRESENCE
III. The third thing is, Propositions for the further clearing this doctrine from any exceptions.
1. This truth is not weakened by the expressions in Scripture, where God is said to dwell in heaven and in the temple.
(1.) He is indeed said to sit in heaven (Psalm 2:4), and to dwell on high (Psalm 113:5), but he is nowhere said to dwell only in the heavens, as confined to them. It is the court of his majestical presence, but not the prison of his essence: for when we are told that “the heaven is his throne,” we are told with the same breath that the “earth is his footstool” (Isa. 66:1). He dwells on high, in regard of the excellency of his nature, but he is in all places, in regard of the diffusion of his presence. The soul is essentially in all parts of the body, but it doth not exert the same operations in all; the more noble discoveries of it are in the head and heart. In the head where it exerciseth the chiefest senses for the enriching the understanding; in the heart, where it vitally resides, and communicates life and motion to the rest of the body. It doth not understand with the foot or toe, though it be in all parts of the body it informs; and so God may be said to dwell in heaven, in regard of the more excellent and majestic representations of himself, both to the creatures that inhabit the place, as angels and blessed spirits, and also in those marks of his greatness which he hath planted before, those spiritual natures which have a nobler stamp of God upon them, and those excellent bodies, as sun and stars, which, as so many topers, light us to behold his glory (Psalm 19:1), and astonish the minds of men when they gaze upon them. It is his court, where he hath the most solemn worship from his creatures, all his courtiers attending there with a pure love and glowing zeal. He reigns there in a special manner, without any opposition to his government; it is, therefore, called his “holy dwelling place” (2 Chron. 3:27). The earth hath not that title, since sin cast a stain and a ruining curse upon it. The earth is not his throne, because his government is opposed: but heaven is none of Satan’s precinct, and the rule of God is uncontradicted by the inhabitants of it. It is from thence also he hath given the greatest discoveries of himself; thence he sends the angels his messengers, his Son upon Redemption, his Spirit for sanctification. From heaven his gifts drop down upon our heads, and his grace upon our hearts (James 3:17). From thence the chiefest blessings of earth descend. The motions of the heavens fatten the earth; and the heavenly bodies are but stewards to the earthly comforts for man by their influence. Heaven is the richest, vastest, most steadfast, and majestic part of the visible creation. It is there where he will at last manifest himself to his people in a full conjunction of grace and glory, and be forever open to his people in uninterrupted expressions of goodness, and discoveries of his presence, as a reward of their labor and service; and in these respects it may peculiarly be called his throne. And this doth no more hinder his essential presence in all parts of the earth, than it doth his gracious presence in all the hearts of his people. God is in heaven, in regard of the manifestation of his glory; in hell, by the expressions of his justice; in the earth, by the discoveries of his wisdom, power, patience, and compassion; in his people, by the monuments of his grace; and in all, in regard of his substance.
(2.) He is said also to dwell in the ark and temple. It is called (Psalm 26:8) “the habitation of his house, and the place where his honor dwells;” and to dwell in Jerusalem as in his holy mountain, “The mountain of the Lord of Hosts” (Zech. 8:3), in regard of publishing his oracles, answering their prayers, manifesting more of his goodness to the Israelites, than to any other nation in the world; erecting his true worship among them, which was not settled in any part of the world besides: and his worship is principally intended in that Psalm. The ark is the place where his honor dwells. The worship of God is called the glory of God; “They changed the glory of God into an image made like to corruptible man” (Rom. 1:23), i. e., they changed the worship of God into idolatry; and to that also doth the place in Zechariah refer. Now, because he is said to dwell in heaven, is he essentially only there? Is he not as essentially in the temple and ark as he is in heaven, since there are as high expressions of his habitation there as of his dwelling in heaven? If he dwell only in heaven, how came he to dwell in the temple? both are asserted in Scripture, one as much as the other. If his dwelling in heaven did not hinder his dwelling in the ark, it could as little hinder the presence of his essence on the earth. To dwell in heaven, and in one part of the earth at the same time, is all one as to dwell in all parts of heaven, and all parts of earth. If he were in heaven, and in the ark and temple, it was the same essence in both, though not the same kind of manifestation of himself. If by his dwelling in heaven he meant his whole essence, why is it not also to be meant by his dwelling in the ark? It was not, sure, part of his essence that was in heaven, and part of his essence that was on earth; his essence would then be divided; and can it be imagined that he should be in heaven and the ark at the same time, and not in the spaces between? Could his essence be split into fragments, and a gap made in it, that two distant spaces should be filled by him, and all between be empty of him, so that God’s being said to dwell in heaven, and in the temple, is so far from impairing the truth of this doctrine, that it more confirms and evidences it.
2. Nor do the expressions of God’s coming to us, or departing from us, impair this doctrine of his omnipresence. God is said to hide his face from his people (Psalm 10:1); to be far from the wicked; and the Gentiles are said to be afar off, viz. from God (Prov. 15:29; Eph. 2:17), and upon the manifestation of Christ made near. These must not be understood of any distance or nearness of his essence, for that is equally hear to all persons and things; but of some other special way and manifestation of his presence. Thus, God is said to be in believers by love, as they are in him (1 John 4:15); “He that abides in love, abides in God, and God in him.” He that loves, is in the thing beloved; and when two love one another, they are in one another. God is in a righteous man by a special grace, and far from the wicked in regard of such special works; and God is said to be in a place by a special manifestation, as when he was in the bush (Exod. 3), or manifesting his glory upon Mount Sinai (Exod. 24:16); “The glory of the Lord abode about Mount Sinai.” God is said to hide his face when he withdraws his comforting presence, disturbs the repose of our hearts, flasheth terror into our consciences, when he puts men under the smart of the cross; as though he had ordered his mercy utterly to depart from them, or when he doth withdraw his special assisting providence from us in our affairs; so he departed from Saul, when he withdrew his direction and protection from him in the concerns of his government (1 Sam. 16:14); “The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul,” i. e. the spirit of government. God may be far from us in one respect, and near to us in another; far from us in regard of comfort, yet near to us in regard of support, when his essential presence continues the same: this is a necessary consequent upon the infiniteness of God, the other is an act of the will of God; so he was said to forsake Christ, in regard of his obscuring his glory from his human nature, and inflicting his wrath, though he was near to him in regard of his grace, and preserved him from contracting any spot in his sufferings. We do not say the sun is departed out of the heavens when it is bemisted; it remains in the same part of the heavens, passes on its course, though its beams do not reach us by reason of the bar between us and it. The soul is in every part of the body, in regard of its substance, and constantly in it, though it doth not act so sprightly and vigorously at one time as at another in one and the same member, and discover itself so sensibly in its operations; so all the various effects of God towards the sons of men, are but divers operations of one and the same essence. He is far from us, or near to us, as he is a judge or a benefactor. When he comes to punish, it notes not the approach of his essence, but the stroke of his justice; when he comes to benefit, it is not by a new access of his essence, but an efflux of his grace: he departs from us when he leaves us to the frowns of his justice; he comes to us when he encircles us in the arms of his mercy; but he was equally present with us in both dispensations, in regard of his essence. And, likewise, God is said to come down (Gen. 11:5, “And the Lord came down to see the city”), when he doth some signal and wonderful works which attract the minds of men to the acknowledgment of a Supreme Power and Providence in the world, who judged God absent and careless before.
3. Nor is the essential presence of God with all creatures any disparagement to him. Since it was no disparagement to create the heaven and the earth, it is no disparagement to him to fill them; if he were essentially present with them when he created them, it is no dishonor to him to be essentially present with them to support them; if it were his glory to create them by his essence, when they were nothing, can it be his disgrace to be present by his essence, since they are something, and something good, and very good in his eye (Gen. 1:31)? God saw every thing, and behold it was very good, or mighty good; all ordered to declare his goodness wisdom, power, and to make him adorable to man, and therefore took complacency in them. There is a harmony in all things, a combination in them for those glorious ends for which God created them; and is it a disgrace for God to be present with his own harmonious composition? Is it not a musician’s glory to touch with his fingers the treble, the least and tenderest string, as well as the strongest and greatest bass? Hath not everything some stamp of God’s own being upon it, since he eminently contains in himself the perfections of all his works? Whatsoever hath being, hath a footstep of God upon it, who is all being; everything in the earth is his footstool, having a mark of his foot upon it; all declare the being of God, because they had their being from God; and will God account it any disparagement to him to be present with that which confirms his being, and the glorious perfections of his nature, to his intelligent creatures? The meanest things are not without their virtues, which may boast God’s being the Creator of them, and rank them in the midst of his works of wisdom as well as power. Doth God debase himself to be present by his essence, with the things he hath made, more than he doth to know them by his essence? Is not the least thing known by him? How? not by a faculty or act distinct from his essence, but by his essence itself. How is anything disgraceful to the essential presence of God, that is not disgraceful to his knowledge by his essence? Besides, would God make anything that should be an invincible reason to him to part with his own infiniteness, by a contraction of his own essence into a less compass than before? it was immense before, it had no bounds; and would God make a world that he would be ashamed to be present with, and continue it to the diminution and lessening of himself, rather than annihilate it to avoid the disparagement? This were to impeach the wisdom of God, and cast a blemish upon his infinite understanding, that he knows not the consequences of his work, or is well contented to be impaired in the immensity of his own essence by it. No man thinks it a dishonor to light, a most excellent creature, to be present with a toad or serpent; and though there be an infinite disproportion between light, a creature, and the Father of lights, the Creator: yet God, being a Spirit, knows how to be with bodies as if they were not bodies; and being jealous of his own honor, would not, could not do any thing that might impair it.
4. Nor will it follow, That because God is essentially everywhere, that everything is God. God is not everywhere by any conjunction, composition or mixture with anything on earth. When light is in every part of a crystal globe, and encircles it close on every side, do they become one? No; the crystal remains what it is, and the light retains its own nature; God is not in us as a part of us, but as an efficient and preserving cause; it is not by his essential presence, but his efficacious presence, that he brings any person into a likeness to his own nature; God is so in his essence with things, as to be distinct from them, as a cause from the effect; as a Creator different from the creature, preserving their nature, not communicating his own; his essence touches all, is in conjunction with none; finite and infinite cannot be joined; he is not far from us, therefore near to us; so near that we live and move in him (Acts 17:28). Nothing is God because it moves in him, any more than a fish in the sea, is the sea, or a part of the sea, because it moves in it. Doth a man that holds a thing in the hollow of his hand, transform it by that action, and make it like his hand? The soul and body are more straitly united, than the essence of God is, by his presence, with any creature. The soul is in the body as a form in matter, and from their union doth arise a man; yet in this near conjunction, both body and soul remain distinct; the soul is not the body, nor the body the soul; they both have distinct natures and essences; the body can never be changed into a soul, nor the soul into a body; no more can God into the creature, or the creature into God. Fire is in heated iron in every part of it, so that it seems to be nothing but fire; yet is not fire and iron the same thing. But such a kind of arguing against God’s omnipresence, that if God were essentially present, everything would be God, would exclude him from heaven as well as from earth. By the same reason, since they acknowledge God essentially in heaven, the heaven where he is should be changed into the nature of God; and by arguing against his presence in earth, upon this ground they run such an inconvenience, that they must own him to be nowhere, and that which is nowhere is nothing. Doth the earth become God, because God is essentially there, any more than the heavens, where God is acknowledged by all to be essentially present? Again, if where God is essentially, that must be God; then if they place God in a point of the heavens, not only that point must be God, but all the world; because if that point be God, because Gcd is there, then the point touched by that point must be God, and so consequently as far as there are any points, touched by one another. We live and move in God, so we live and move in the air; we are no more God by that, than we are mere air because we breathe in it, and it enters into all the pores of our body; nay, where there was a straiter union of the divine nature to the human in our Saviour, yet the nature of both was distinct, and the humanity was not changed into the divinity, nor the divinity into the humanity.
5. Nor doth it follow, that because God is everywhere, therefore a creature may be worshipped without idolatry. Some of the heathens who acknowledged God’s omnipresence, abused it to the countenancing idolatry; because God was resident in everything, they thought everything might be worshipped; and some have used it as an argument against this doctrine; the best doctrines may by men’s corruption be drawn out into unreasonable and pernicious conclusions. Have you not met with any, that from the doctrine of God’s free mercy, and our Saviour’s satisfactory death, have drawn poison to feed their lusts, and consume their souls?—a poison composed by their own corruption, and not offered by those truths. The Apostle intimates to us, that some did, or at least were ready to be more lavish in sinning, because God was abundant in grace; “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” when he prevents an objection that he thought might be made by some: but as to this case, since though God be present in everything, yet everything retains its nature distinct from the nature of God; therefore it is not to have a worship due to the excellency of God. As long as anything remains a creature, it is only to have the respect from us, which is due to it in the rank of creatures. When a prince is present with his guard, or if he should go arm in arm with a peasant, is, therefore, the veneration and honor due to the prince to be paid to the peasant, or any of his guard? Would the presence of the prince excuse it, or would it not rather aggravate it? He acknowledged such a person equal to me, by giving him my rights, even in my sight.
Though God dwelt in the temple, would not the Israelites have been accounted guilty of idolatry had they worshipped the images of the cherubims, or the ark, or the altar, as objects of worship, which were erected only as means for his service? Is there not as much reason to think God was as essentially present in the temple as in heaven, since the same expressions are used of the one and the other? The sanctuary is called the glorious high throne (Jer. 17:13); and he is said to dwell between the cherubims (Psalm 80:1), i. e. the two cherubims that were at the two ends of the mercy seat, appointed by God as the two sides of his throne in the sanctuary (Exod. 25:18), where he was to dwell (ver. 8), and meet, and commune, with his people (ver. 22). Could this excuse Manasseh’s idolatry in bringing in a carved image into the house of God (1 Chron. 33:7)? had it been a good answer to the charge, God is present here, and therefore everything may be worshipped as God? If he be only essentially in heaven, would it not be idolatry to direct a worship to the heavens, or any part of it as a due object, because of the presence of God there? Though we look up to the heavens, where we pray and worship God, yet heaven is not the object of worship; the soul abstracts God from the creature.
6. Nor is God defiled by being present with those creatures which seem filthy to us. Nothing is filthy in the eye of God as his creature; he could never else have pronounced all good; whatsoever is filthy to us, yet, as it is a creature, it owes itself to the power of God: his essence is no more defiled by being present with it, than his power by producing it: no creature is foul in itself, though it may seem so to us. Doth not an infant lie in a womb of filthiness and rottenness? yet is not, the power of God present with it, in working it curiously in the lower parts of the earth? Are his eyes defiled by seeing the substance when it is yet imperfect? or his hand defiled by writing every member in his book (Psalm 139:15, 16)? Have not the vilest and most noisome things excellent medicinal virtues? How are they endued with them? How are those qualities preserved in them? by anything without God, or no? Every artificer looks with pleasure upon the work he hath wrought with art and skill. Can his essence be defiled by being present with them, any more than it was in giving them such virtues, and preserving them in them? God measures the heavens and the earth with his hand; is his hand defiled by the evil influences of the planets, or the corporeal impurities of the earth? Nothing can be filthy in the eye of God but sin, since everything else owes its being to him. What may appear deformed and unworthy to us, is not so to the Creator; he sees beauty where we see deformity; finds goodness where we behold what is nauseous to us. All creatures being the effects of his power, may be the objects of his presence. Can any place be more foul than hell, if you take it either for the hell of the damned, or for the grave where there is rottenness? yet there he is (Psalm 139:8). When Satan appeared before God, and God spake with him (Job 1:7), could God contract any impurity by being present where that filthy spirit was, more impure than any corporeal, noisome, and defiling thing can be? No; God is purity to himself in the midst of noisomeness; a heaven to himself in the midst of hell. Whoever heard of a sunbeam stained by shining upon a quagmire, any more than sweetened by breaking into a perfumed room? Though the light shines upon pure and impure things, yet it mixes not itself with either of them; so though God be present with devils and wicked men, yet without any mixture; he is present with their essence to sustain it and support it; not in their defection, wherein lies their defilement, and which is not a physical, but a moral evil; bodily filth can never touch an incorporeal substance. Spirits are not present with us in the same manuer that one body is present with another; bodies can by a touch only, defile bodies. Is the glory of an angel stained by being in a coal-mine? or could the angel that came into the lion’s den to deliver Daniel, be any more disturbed by the stench of the place, than he could be scratched by the paws, or torn by the teeth, of the beasts (Dan. 6:22)? Their spiritual nature secures them against any infection when they are ministering spirits to persecuted believers in their nasty prisons (Acts 12:7). The soul is straitly united with the body, but it is not made white or black by the whiteness or blackness of its habitation. Is it infected by the corporeal impurities of the body, while it continually dwells in a sea of filthy pollution? If the body be cast into a common shore, is the soul filed by it? Can a diseased body derive a contagion to the spirit that animates it? Is it not often the purer by grace, the more the body is infected by nature? Hezekiah’s spirit was scarce ever more fervent with God, than when the sore, which some think to be a plague sore, was upon him (Isa. 38:3). How can any corporeal filth impair the purity of the divine essence? It may as well be said, that God is not present in battles and fights for his people (Joshua 23:10), because he would not be disturbed by the noise of cannons, and clashing of swords, as that he is not present in the world because of the ill scents. Let us therefore conclude this with the expresssion of a learned man of our own: “To deny the omnipresence of God, because of ill scented places, is to measure God rather by the nicety of sense, than by the sagacity of reason.”
The Existence and Attributes of God