Dedication to TheophilusLuke 1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Birth of John the Baptist Foretold5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Birth of Jesus Foretold26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
When the virgin staggered at the message of the angel, that she should “bear a Son,” he, in his answer, turns her to the creative power of God (Luke 1:35), “The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee;” which seems to be in allusion to the Spirit’s moving upon the face of the deep, and bringing a comely world out of a confused mass. Is it harder for God to make a virgin conceive a Son by the power of his Spirit, than to make a world? Why doth he reveal himself so often under the title of Almighty, and press it upon us, but that we should press it upon ourselves? The Existence and Attributes of God
36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Mary Visits Elizabeth39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
The Birth of John the Baptist57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.
Zechariah’s Prophecy67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Regarding today's reading
Theology and Doxology
By Michael Haykin 2/01/2012
In December 1967, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave an address to what was then known as the Puritan Conference, speaking on what some might have considered an esoteric topic: the teachings of a small eighteenth-century movement known as Sandemanianism. Ever a believer in the value of church history for guidance in the present, Lloyd-Jones argued that the errors of this movement had much to teach his hearers, for he felt that there were far too many in contemporary evangelical circles who were replicating the central Sandemanian error, namely, that true faith can be held without deeply felt affections.
Robert Sandeman, the Scottish theologian after whom this error is named, maintained that saving faith is “bare belief of the bare truth.” Sandeman was insistent that faith becomes a work of human merit if it includes anything beyond simple assent to the truth of what God has done through Christ’s death and resurrection. In a genuine desire to exalt the utter freeness of God’s salvation, Sandeman sought to remove any vestige of human reasoning, willing, or desiring in the matter of saving faith. He was wrongly convinced that if the actions of the will or the affections are included in saving faith, then the Reformation assertion of “faith alone” is compromised. Thus, in the Sandemanian system, saving faith is reduced to intellectual assent to the gospel proclamation about Christ.
It should occasion no surprise that many of those who embraced Sandeman’s intellectualist view of faith became stunted in their Christian lives. Andrew Fuller, the Baptist theologian whom Lloyd-Jones identified as the key opponent of Sandeman’s thought, could admit that there were “things worthy of imitation” among the Sandemanians, such as their diligence to study the Bible and live under its authority. Yet, he said, their spirituality “resembles a rickety child, whose growth is confined to certain parts.” Christmas Evans, an influential Welsh Baptist leader and a contemporary of Fuller, adopted Sandemanian views for a number of years in the late 1790s. He soon found himself in the grip of “a cold heart towards Christ, and his sacrifice, and the work of his Spirit,” and dwelling in the “sterile regions of spiritual frost.” Only with much effort and prayer was Evans thankfully freed from the grip of this cold intellectualist system.
Of course, Sandemanianism did not go unopposed. A number of key eighteenth-century evangelical leaders wrote replies and rebuttals of this system, including the Arminian Methodist leader John Wesley, as well as William Williams of Pantycelyn, the ardent Welsh Calvinistic Methodist hymnwriter. It was Fuller, though, who drew up what is regarded as the definitive response to the system of Sandeman in his Strictures on Sandemanianism (1810).
Essentially, Fuller argued that if faith and theological reflection concerned only the mind, there would be no way to distinguish genuine Christianity from nominal Christianity. A nominal Christian mentally assents to the truths of Christianity, but those truths do not grip his heart and so re-orient his affections to glory in God. The opposite of saving faith in Scripture, Fuller noted, is not “simple ignorance,” which it would be if the Sandemanian view of faith were correct. Its opposite is an ignorance that has its roots in a deep-seated hatred of the true God. Christ can therefore state that unbelief rejects Him because, in the words of John 3:19, “people [love] the darkness rather than the light.” Likewise, Ephesians 4:18 talks about the understanding of unbelievers being darkened “because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” Surely, Fuller reasoned, the ignorance in view here is much more than mere lack of knowledge. Does it not entail, he asked, a deepseated aversion to God and holy things?
But if unbelief comprises much more than ignorance, then faith and right theology must entail more than knowledge. If unbelief involves an aversion to the truth and a forthright rejection of the gospel, then faith in and reflection on the truth must include a love for and joy in the truth.
Twenty years before the publication of ASIN: B01BTTX976, during the winter of 1790–1791, Fuller paid a visit to a gifted, though quite unconventional, evangelical preacher named John Berridge, the vicar of the Anglican church in Everton, Bedfordshire. After conversing for a while, the two men prayed together. As he later reflected on this visit, Fuller noted that what deeply impressed him about Berridge’s prayers was what he described as “such sweet solemnity, such holy familiarity with God and such ardent love to Christ.” The affective and doxological element that is prominent in this description of Berridge’s prayers epitomizes Fuller’s understanding of some of the necessary elements of saving faith and biblical theology. Measured by this standard, Sandemanianism’s view of faith was a shadow of the real thing, for true faith and right theology are indeed passionately doxological.
Michael Haykin Books:
- 1 Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church
- 2 Eight Women of Faith
- 3 Owen on the Christian Life: Living for the Glory of God in Christ
- 4 To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin's Missional Vision and Legacy
- 5 Warfield on the Christian Life (Redesign): Living in Light of the Gospel
- 6 The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers
- 7 The Reformers and Puritans as Spiritual Mentors: Hope Is Kindled (Christian Mentor)
- 8 Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church by Michael A. G. Haykin (2011-03-02)
- 9 The Spirit of God: The Exegesis of 1 and 2 Corinthians in the Pneumatomachian Controversy of the Fourth Century (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae) by Michael A G Haykin (1994-08-01)
- 10 William E. Payne: A Memoir
Salt of the Earth
By Phil Johnson 1/01/2012
“You are the salt of the earth… . You are the light of the world… . Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:13–16).
That text is often cited as if it were a mandate for the church to engage in political activism — lobbying, rallying voters, organizing protests, and harnessing the evangelical movement for political clout. I recently heard a well-known evangelical leader say, “We need to make our voices heard in the voting booth, or we’re not being salt and light the way Jesus commanded.”
That view is pervasive. Say the phrase “salt and light,” and the typical evangelical starts talking politics as if by Pavlovian reflex.
But look at Jesus’ statement carefully in its context. He was not drumming up boycotts, protests, or a political campaign. He was calling His disciples to holy living.
The salt-and-light discourse is the culminating paragraph of the introduction to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It comes immediately after the Beatitudes. Jesus was pronouncing a formal blessing on the key traits of authentic godliness.
What’s most notable about the Beatitudes is that the qualities Jesus blesses are not the same attributes the world typically thinks are worthy of praise. The world glorifies power and dominion, force and physical strength, status and class. By contrast, Jesus blesses humility, meekness, mercy, mourning, purity of heart, and even persecution for righteousness’ sake. Collectively, these qualities are the polar opposite of political clout and partisan power.
In other words, Jesus blessed people who were willing to be oppressed and disenfranchised for righteousness’ sake — peacemakers, not protesters; poor in spirit, not proud; people who are persecuted, not the pompous and power-mongers.
This is consistent with Jesus’ teaching throughout the New Testament. He said,
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:25–28)
Notice, furthermore, that the clauses “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world” are statements of fact, not imperatives. He doesn’t command us to be salt; He says that we are salt and cautions us against losing our savor. He doesn’t command us to be light; He says that we are light and forbids us to hide under a bushel.
Jesus was saying that a corrupt and sin-darkened society is blessed and influenced for good by the presence of the church when believers are faithful servants of their Master. The key to understanding what Jesus meant is verse 16: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Personal holiness, not political dominion, is what causes men to glorify our Father who is in heaven.
Salt has several properties. Perhaps the most important is that it acts as a preservative. Raw meat can be cured and preserved with salt. Christians in the midst of an evil and decaying society have a similar preserving and purifying effect. God told Abraham that He would have preserved Sodom from judgment if there had been just ten righteous people — a little salt — in their midst.
Salt is also an antiseptic, and it can be used in the treatment of wounds. Salt water is good medicine — albeit painful — for broken blisters. There may be an element of that idea as well in Jesus’ metaphor as well. The presence of believers in the world stings the consciences of the ungodly because it is a painful reminder that God requires holiness and that the wages of sin is death.
But salt also gives flavor to food and causes thirst — and I believe that’s the main idea Jesus had in mind when He used this metaphor because He speaks of “its savor.” Remember, Jesus had just blessed those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (5:6), and this imagery suggests that the presence of conscientiously godly people in society will have the natural effect of arousing an appetite for God and a thirst for righteousness.
Light, of course, simultaneously dispels darkness and illuminates whatever it reaches. When we properly let our light shine before others, they see our good works and glorify God.
So this is not about wielding political clout. It’s not about organizing protests against ungodliness. It’s not about trying to make society righteous through legislation. It’s about how we live. It’s about exemplifying the same traits Jesus blessed in the Beatitudes. That’s how we let our light shine, and that’s the saltiness we inject into an otherwise decaying and tasteless society.
Phil has a bachelor's degree in theology from Moody Bible Institute (class of 1975) and was an editor at Moody Press before coming to Grace Community Church. He is an elder at Grace Community Church and pastors the GraceLife fellowship group. Phil and his wife, Darlene, have three adult sons, Jeremiah, Jedidiah, and Jonathan.
By Tom Ascol 1/01/2012
God wins. If I had to summarize the message of Revelation in just two words, those would be my choice. They not only convey the point of the book but also hint at its main storyline. Despite what some overly speculative interpreters would have us believe, the main character in the last book of the Bible is not the Dragon, Beast, or False Prophet; rather, it is God. Revelation is primarily about Christ, not the Antichrist. And the main point of the book is to demonstrate in graphic imagery the victory of God in Christ.
Through the incarnate ministry of His Son, God has conquered the Devil and his demons; the world and its deceptions; and sin and its destruction. Through faith in Him, we are also victorious over all these enemies. Because He wins, we also win. His victory secures ours. This truth provides fuel for an ever-increasing joy on the part of every believer.
But there is no victory without a contest, and Revelation makes it very clear that the battle between those who belong to Christ and those who oppose Him is real, intense, and deadly. The Devil never simply forfeits. Just as our Lord did not secure our salvation without severe trials and suffering, so His disciples should not be surprised when their devotion to Him invites brutal conflict.
At the very beginning of the book, God promises a blessing to everyone who “reads aloud the words of this prophecy” and to those “who hear, and who keep what is written in it” (1:3). That blessing includes at least two elements: a stubborn hope that breeds bold courage and an abiding joy that prompts unreserved worship.
Too often, circumstances tempt us to despair by eclipsing those unseen realities that can be accessed only by faith. John surely faced this as he contemplated his exile on Patmos. But when “the revelation of Jesus Christ” came to him, visions of the risen, exalted, and enthroned Lord brought an eternal perspective to his present challenges. What he saw transformed his prison into a sanctuary. His circumstances did not change, but his perspective did.
God revealed to John that history is moving toward a climatic conclusion that will be ushered in by the final conquest of our warrior God. This is signaled by the blast of the seventh trumpet that is followed by “loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever’” (11:15). Neither Rome nor her emperors will have the last say; nor will the United States, China, or any future political empire that this world might spawn. The Lord Jesus will reign and even now is ruling and overruling world events to orchestrate His eternal enthronement as the one, sovereign King over all.
The most effective soldier is the one who fights with a clear objective and an unshakeable confidence that victory is assured. Revelation gives us both for the spiritual warfare we must endure. The mission of the church was mapped out by Jesus’ first coming. As the sacrificial Lamb, He was slain on the cross, and by His blood He “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” and “made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (5:9–10).
Through His sufferings, our Savior secured the complete redemption of a vast multitude of people that “no man could number” (7:9). Our responsibility is to get the good news of His saving work to these people so that they can be reconciled to God through faith. Sometimes, discharging this duty can be costly.
If Jesus shed His blood for individuals from every people group in the world, how can we who have been rescued by Him remain indifferent in the face of more than six thousand ethnolinguistic groups that have yet to be reached with the gospel? News of our great Savior and His redeeming exploits must be spread to the ends of the earth. Yes, the mission is dangerous. There will be casualties — martyrs who will be killed “for the word of God, and for the testimony” they bear (6:9–11). But the suffering of Christ’s followers will not be in vain because His kingdom will prevail. Victory is assured.
The end of Revelation reminds us that the church relates to her King not only as an army engaged in spiritual warfare, but also as a bride preparing for her wedding day. The Lord has chosen us for Himself. At the conclusion of the age, when all of His enemies are defeated, the church of Jesus Christ will be fully cleansed, no longer having the spots, wrinkles, and blemishes that currently mar her beauty (Eph. 5:25–27). On that occasion, all who are in Christ will be presented to the One who died for them and will appear before Him as a bride clothed “with fine linen, bright and pure” at the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:7–9).
Then our warfare will fully resolve into worship. There will be no complaints, no regrets, and no disappointments. Rather, there will be joyful, unending worship of the God who loved us and gave Himself for us.
That eternal prospect transforms all who embrace it.
Tom Ascol Books:
- 1 Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry
- 2 Truth and Grace Memory Book: Book 3
- 3 From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist Convention: What Hath Geneva to Do with Nashville
- 4 Reclaiming the Gospel and Reforming Churches
- 5 Founders Journal, Issue 19/20, Winter/Spring 1995: Southern Baptists at the Crossroad, Special SBC Sesquicentennial Issue, 1845-1995
- 6 Ministry By His Grace and for His Glory
- 7 THE FOUNDERS JOURNAL Committed to Historic Southern Baptist Principles (Issue 51-Winter 2003)
For Glory and Beauty
By R.C. Sproul 2/01/2012
The week before Christmas, when I was in third grade, my grandmother took me to downtown Pittsburgh so that I could buy gifts for my family and, for the first time in my life, my girlfriend. I wanted to buy something romantic for her, so I selected a small decorative pin. It looked to me as if it was made of gold, but it really wasn’t. However, I was able to have her initials engraved on the pin, and the lady behind the counter gift-wrapped it for me. It made a nice gift, and when I gave it to my girlfriend, she giggled and swooned over it. That must have been a formative experience for me because, all these years later, I still love to give my then girlfriend-but-now-my-wife jewelry.
It is interesting to me that people of all ages and from all civilizations and cultures are fascinated with jewels and precious metals for no reason other than their beauty. These things are precious to us not because we can eat them or use them as tools, but because they serve as adornments. By their inherent beauty, they enhance human beauty and the work of man’s hands.
When God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt and led them to Sinai to receive His law, He dictated the building of the tabernacle, the first sanctuary. The instructions for this large, ornate tent are astonishing in their detail. God gave the Israelites precise measurements for each part of the tabernacle and extensive instructions about the materials that were to be used. But even before He gave these instructions, God commanded the Israelites to take up an offering for the sanctuary. Did God instruct the Israelites to give money to buy building materials? Did He tell them to donate canvas and wooden poles for the tent? No, He commanded them to bring very different materials. God said:
Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. (Ex. 25:2–8)
It is clear that most, if not all, of these items were not essential for the construction of a functional tent. Obviously, God did not want a tent that was merely functional. He commanded the Israelites to give items that would adorn and beautify the tabernacle.
Later, God gave similarly detailed instructions for the garments that Aaron would wear as the high priest. In these instructions, God said something very interesting. He commanded Moses: “You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty” (Ex. 28:2). A utilitarian robe for Aaron would not do; God wanted him to minister in garments that were skillfully woven and beautifully adorned. Simply put, the God of heaven and earth is deeply concerned about and appreciative of beauty.
The Christian faith is like a stool with three legs, but we have a tendency to make our stools with only one or two legs. The three legs that properly belong to the Christian faith, the three elements of the faith, are the good, the true, and the beautiful. It is obvious that God is concerned about goodness, for He is the fountainhead of everything that is good (Gen. 1:31; James 1:17). As His people, we are called to mirror and reflect who He is, which means we are called to reflect the good. Likewise, God is deeply concerned about truth, for He is Himself the essence of truth (Isa. 65:16; John 14:6). Therefore, we are to be people who love and practice truth. Finally, as we have seen, God is highly concerned about that which is beautiful. As we read and study the Scriptures, we have to come to the conclusion that there is an ultimate source of beauty — the character of God. Just as the normative standard for goodness and truth is God, so the ultimate standard of beauty is God, and He is very interested in beauty in His creation.
However, we often fail to reflect this concern of His. We settle for the utilitarian and the functional in so many aspects of church life when we should be reaching for what is truly beautiful.
When God built a church, He wanted it to be beautiful. That tells us that whatever we do in the church, we should do it tastefully. The life of the church should be adorned with beauty as a visible expression of our desire to honor God.
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
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 117The LORD’s Faithfulness Endures Forever
117:17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the LORD.
18 The LORD has disciplined me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the LORD.
20 This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
23 This is the LORD’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we pray, O LORD!
O LORD, we pray, give us success!
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
The Persecution of Dr. AegidioDr. Aegidio was educated at the university of Alcala, where he took his several degrees, and particularly applied himself to the study of the sacred Scriptures and school divinity. When the professor of theology died, he was elected into his place, and acted so much to the satisfaction of every one that his reputation for learning and piety was circulated throughout Europe.
Aegidio, however, had his enemies, and these laid a complaint against him to the inquisitors, who sent him a citation, and when he appeared to it, cast him into a dungeon.
As the greatest part of those who belonged to the cathedral church at Seville, and many persons belonging to the bishopric of Dortois highly approved of the doctrines of Aegidio, which they thought perfectly consonant with true religion, they petitioned the emperor in his behalf. Though the monarch had been educated a Roman Catholic, he had too much sense to be a bigot, and therefore sent an immediate order for his enlargement.
He soon after visited the church of Valladolid, and did every thing he could to promote the cause of religion. Returning home he soon after fell sick, and died in an extreme old age.
The inquisitors having been disappointed of gratifying their malice against him while living, determined (as the emperor's whole thoughts were engrossed by a military expedition) to wreak their vengeance on him when dead. Therefore, soon after he was buried, they ordered his remains to be dug out of the grave; and a legal process being carried on, they were condemned to be burnt, which was executed accordingly.
The Persecution of Dr. ConstantineDr. Constantine, an intimate acquaintance of the already mentioned Dr. Aegidio, was a man of uncommon natural abilities and profound learning; exclusive of several modern tongues, he was acquainted with the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages, and perfectly well knew not only the sciences called abstruse, but those arts which come under the denomination of polite literature.
His eloquence rendered him pleasing, and the soundness of his doctrines a profitable preacher; and he was so popular that he never preached but to a crowded audience. He had many opportunities of rising in the Church, but never would take advantage of them; for if a living of greater value than his own was offered him, he would refuse it, saying, "I am content with what I have"; and he frequently preached so forcibly against simony, ( selling church offices ) that many of his superiors, who were not so delicate upon the subject, took umbrage at his doctrines upon that head.
Having been fully confirmed in Protestantism by Dr. Aegidio, he preached boldly such doctrines only as were agreeable to Gospel purity, and uncontaminated by the errors which had at various times crept into the Romish Church. For these reasons he had many enemies among the Roman Catholics, and some of them were fully determined on his destruction.
A worthy gentleman named Scobaria, having erected a school for divinity lectures, appointed Dr. Constantine to be reader therein. He immediately undertook the task, and read lectures, by portions, on the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles; ( Song of Solomon ) and was beginning to expound the Book of Job, when he was seized by the inquisitors.
Being brought to examination, he answered with such precaution that they could not find any explicit charge against him, but remained doubtful in what manner to proceed, when the following circumstances occurred to determine them.
Dr. Constantine had deposited with a woman named Isabella Martin, several books, which to him were very valuable, but which he knew, in the eyes of the Inquisition, were exceptionable.
This woman having been informed against as a Protestant, was apprehended, and, after a small process, her goods were ordered to be confiscated. Previous, however, to the officers coming to her house, the woman's son had removed away several chests full of the most valuable articles; among these were Dr. Constantine's books.
A treacherous servant gave intelligence of this to the inquisitors, and an officer was despatched to the son to demand the chests. The son, supposing the officer only came for Constantine's books, said, "I know what you come for, and I will fetch them to you immediately." He then fetched Dr. Constantine's books and papers, when the officer was greatly surprised to find what he did not look for. He, however, told the young man that he was glad these books and papers were produced, but nevertheless he must fulfill the end of his commission, which was to carry him and the goods he had embezzled before the inquisitors, which he did accordingly; for the young man knew it would be in vain to expostulate, or resist, and therefore quietly submitted to his fate.
The inquisitors being thus possessed of Constantine's books and writings, now found matter sufficient to form charges against him. When he was brought to a re-examination, they presented one of his papers, and asked him if he knew the handwriting? Perceiving it was his own, he guessed the whole matter, confessed the writing, and justified the doctrine it contained: saying, "In that, and all my other writings, I have never departed from the truth of the Gospel, but have always kept in view the pure precepts of Christ, as He delivered them to mankind."
After being detained upwards of two years in prison, Dr. Constantine was seized with a bloody flux, which put an end to his miseries in this world. The process, however, was carried on against his body, which, at the ensuing auto da fe, was publicly burnt.
The Life of William GardinerWilliam Gardiner was born at Bristol, received a tolerable education, and was, at a proper age, placed under the care of a merchant, named Paget.
At the age of twenty-six years, he was, by his master, sent to Lisbon to act as factor. Here he applied himself to the study of the Portuguese language, executed his business with assiduity and despatch, and behaved with the most engaging affability to all persons with whom he had the least concern. He conversed privately with a few, whom he knew to be zealous Protestants; and, at the same time cautiously avoided giving the least offence to any who were Roman Catholics; he had not, however, hitherto gone into any of the popish churches.
A marriage being concluded between the king of Portugal's son, and the Infanta of Spain, upon the wedding-day the bridegroom, bride, and the whole court went to the cathedral church, attended by multitudes of all ranks of people, and among the rest William Gardiner, who stayed during the whole ceremony, and was greatly shocked at the superstitions he saw.
The erroneous worship which he had seen ran strongly in his mind; he was miserable to see a whole country sunk into such idolatry, when the truth of the Gospel might be so easily obtained. He, therefore, took the inconsiderate, though laudable design, into his head, of making a reform in Portugal, or perishing in the attempt; and determined to sacrifice his prudence to his zeal, though he became a martyr upon the occasion.
To this end, he settled all his worldly affairs, paid his debts, closed his books, and consigned over his merchandise. On the ensuing Sunday he went again to the cathedral church, with a New Testament in his hand, and placed himself near the altar.
The king and the court soon appeared, and a cardinal began Mass, at that part of the ceremony in which the people adore the wafer. Gardiner could hold out no longer, but springing towards the cardinal, he snatched the host from him, and trampled it under his feet.
This action amazed the whole congregation, and one person, drawing a dagger, wounded Gardiner in the shoulder, and would, by repeating the blow, have finished him, had not the king called to him to desist.
Gardiner, being carried before the king, the monarch asked him what countryman he was: to which he replied, "I am an Englishman by birth, a Protestant by religion, and a merchant by occupation. What I have done is not out of contempt to your royal person, God forbid it should, but out of an honest indignation, to see the ridiculous superstitious and gross idolatries practiced here."
The king, thinking that he had been stimulated by some other person to act as he had done, demanded who was his abetter, to which he replied, "My own conscience alone. I would not hazard what I have done for any man living, but I owe that and all other services to God."
Gardiner was sent to prison, and a general order issued to apprehend all Englishmen in Lisbon. This order was in a great measure put into execution, (some few escaping) and many innocent persons were tortured to make them confess if they knew any thing of the matter; in particular, a person who resided in the same house with Gardiner was treated with unparalleled barbarity to make him confess something which might throw a light upon the affair.
Gardiner himself was then tormented in the most excruciating manner; but in the midst of all his torments he gloried in the deed. Being ordered for death, a large fire was kindled near a gibbet, Gardiner was drawn up to the gibbet by pulleys, and then let down near the fire, but not so close as to touch it; for they burnt or rather roasted him by slow degrees. Yet he bore his sufferings patiently and resigned his soul to the Lord cheerfully.
It is observable that some of the sparks that were blown from the fire, (which consumed Gardiner) towards the haven, burnt one of the king's ships of war, and did other considerable damage. The Englishmen who were taken up on this occasion were, soon after Gardiner's death, all discharged, except the person who resided in the same house with him, who was detained two years before he could procure his liberty.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Coping with a Rapidly Changing Culture
By Iain Campbell 10/01/2015
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compares His people to a city on a mountain (Matt. 5:14). It is a striking image, the point of which is that such a city, on such a prominent elevation, cannot be hidden. It is conspicuous. It stands out. It can be seen by all.
The application is arresting, immediate, and direct. Christians are manifest, observable, and pronounced. Like salt on a plate of food, or like light shining in a dark place, they are distinct in the way they live and regulate their lives from day to day.
The illustration serves at one and the same time to make a contrast and a comparison. The contrast is that the city is elevated, while those who observe it live elsewhere. The image works because the one reality—the salt, the light, and the city — is the very opposite of the other—the food, the darkness, and the valley.
But there is a point of comparison as well. The city belongs to the same territory as the valley. It is not over the horizon. It is engaged every day in the view of those who dwell nearby. Which is the point, surely, that Jesus is making in His great kingdom message. Christians, by definition, belong to the kingdom of Christ. The primary loyalty of every believer is to Jesus, and His claim on the lives of His people is absolute. He has given them a kingdom (Heb. 12:28) and an inheritance (1 Peter 1:3), as a consequence of which they are citizens of a heavenly world (Phil. 3:20), looking to things that are unseen and eternal (2 Cor. 4:17–18).
Yet, all around them the world changes. Cultural patterns shift. Fashions change, technology advances, science develops, lifestyles evolve. And notwithstanding the fact that His people are not of this world, Jesus specifically says to His Father, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world” (John 17:15).
The situation of the believer presents at least three unique challenges. First, it presents a challenge of faith. The Christian message can never be easily domesticated in the world; since the days of Jesus and the Apostles, there has been no culture that was ready to entertain the message of the crucified and exalted Messiah. To the Jews it was an offense, and to the Greeks it was utter folly (1 Cor. 1:22–23). Modern culture is no less and no more ready to welcome this radical message that demands repentance and faith in God.
To remain conspicuous as a city on a hill requires Christians to grow in their faith, to be able to articulate it and ready to profess it, and to be prepared to give a reason for the hope they have (1 Peter 3:15). It is precisely for that reason that the church is necessary — so that through the preaching of the Word and participation in the sacraments, we will be grounded in the faith we profess.
Second, the changing face of modern culture also presents a challenge of morality to the people of God. If the Sermon on the Mount articulates the parameters of kingdom life, then its ethic is one of righteousness, holiness, and integrity. More than that, it is not a surface ethic that pleases people, but a heart ethic that pleases God.
Interestingly, the issues Christ raises to illustrate this point are the very issues that surface in modern cultures everywhere. Issues of anger, lust, marriage, retaliation, charity, perjury — these are the issues of modern newspaper headlines. Cultures change, but sometimes they change in the way shop windows change, showing what is inside in new ways. Man’s heart is what shapes man’s culture, and changing cultural norms are often only new expressions of old heart problems.
Over against this, Christians are to be morally upright and blameless, living by the ethic of Christ’s kingdom and subject to His lordship. That can present its own unique challenges, but it is surely one of the reasons Christ teaches His people to pray “lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:13).
But there is a third challenge: the challenge of affection. One of the great hallmarks of modern culture is its isolationism; people e-mail or Skype to the other side of the world, but they do not know their neighbors. Some of the older folks in my community live for the visit of their home care aides, because they see virtually no one else all day long.
There is a reason that love is at the heart of the Christian ethic: because it is at the heart of redeeming our culture. Christians are to love one another (John 15:12), so the city on the hill ought to be a place of mutual love. But Christians are to love their neighbors, too (Matt. 19:19). More challenging still, perhaps, they are to love their enemies (5:44).
Perhaps in our interaction with the culture around us, these are the great tests of our discipleship, because it was the way of the Master.
Ultimately, of course, His culture received Him not. But who can doubt the good that He did for it and in it; or who can question whether He lived what He taught? He was the very embodiment of the city on the hill principle. May we be the same.
By R.C. Sproul 10/01/2015
One of the most frustrating aspects of teaching is encountering students who are not really teachable. Every pastor has had to deal with people who are settled in their opinions and not open to correction. Church elders must at times pursue church discipline all the way to excommunication because the person being disciplined is not teachable and refuses to repent.
It is bad enough when students or parishioners are not teachable, but there is something even worse. I’m talking about teachers who are not teachable. These are teachers who don’t think that the words of this biblical proverb apply to them: “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning” (Prov. 9:9). In fact, this verse might be more pertinent for those who seek to teach vocationally than for those who do not. If teachers are to impart knowledge and wisdom to their students, will not the best teachers seek to grow in their knowledge and wisdom so that they will have more to teach to others? Becoming a teacher does not mean that one has “arrived” in terms of knowledge; the best teachers understand where they are lacking and seek to be taught so that they will increase in wisdom and learning.
Most of us have been blessed to sit under great teachers, whether they were public or private school instructors, pastors, Sunday school teachers, parents, or others. It’s also likely that most of us have had at least one poor teacher, one who didn’t seek to learn more about his subject or grow in the skill of teaching. I’ve known teachers who did all their work the first year they had to teach and have been coasting ever since. They made lesson plans right out of college and have used those same plans for years without changing them. Needless to say, these teachers have not been great teachers.
It’s critical that teachers be lifelong learners. No great teacher gets everything right the first time. Excellent instructors keep on revising their material and adjusting their skills throughout their teaching careers. Simply put, they keep learning.
Spend any time with a good teacher, and it won’t be long before he tells you that one of the best ways to learn is to have to teach others. By way of personal example, I learned that principle in college before I was ordained to the full-time teaching ministry. During my undergraduate years, my college inaugurated a major in philosophy, and I was the first student to sign up. In fact, I was the only person in my graduating class to graduate with a degree in that major. Yet though I was the only senior to take the major, my philosophy courses were full of other students who took them as electives but were not philosophy majors themselves.
Many of these students asked me, the philosophy major, to tutor them in preparation for their exams. Some of them thought they were imposing on me to help them. What they didn’t realize was that they were helping me to learn philosophy as much as I was helping them to learn it. The best possible preparation I ever had for my own philosophy exams was to teach the material to someone else before I was tested on it. As I explained the content to others, I quickly became aware of those areas of weakness in my own understanding of the material. This encouraged me to study even further and to become more adept at articulating key philosophical concepts.
The point is that wise teachers learn not only from their preparation and not only from other teachers but also from their students. The insightful questions of my best students have made it possible for me to become a better and more biblical theologian. These questions have forced me to reconsider things from different angles and have opened up new avenues of study that I never considered before. I confess that at times this has been a painful process, forcing me to deal with my own pride. It can be humbling to learn from students, but it’s necessary and helpful.
Over the years, I’ve learned that if I as a teacher am threatened by the questions or knowledge of my students, I will never grow as a teacher. I’ve prayed that God would enable me never to become defensive, tentative, and ultimately unteachable. I’ve prayed that for my students as well, especially those who are called to vocational ministry. Those who are willing to see the questions and knowledge of their students as opportunities to expand their learning will become better, if not great, teachers.
The only teacher who has no need of learning is God Himself. A great teacher is teachable. If he is not, he will have precious little to teach. Flee from the teacher who knows it all, and look for instructors who are teachable.
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
The Gospel for the Hopeless: An Interview with John Barros
By John Barros 11/01/2015
Tabletalk: What is “Who Will Stand“? What led you to start this ministry??
John Barros: I’ve been ministering at the Orlando Women’s Center for eleven years. I’m blessed beyond anything I could have imagined as I have been able to see God turn the hearts of hundreds who saw no hope. I started the website whowillstand.net to encourage other men to “adopt” their local abortion clinics and see the Lord work there as He does here.
TT: What is a typical day of ministry like at the abortion clinic?
JB: We pray for those on their way to the clinic, asking God to work on their hearts. When they arrive, we introduce ourselves, letting them know we are here for them and that God sent us to call them to trust Him. We give them the “In the Womb” tract and a card to the local crisis pregnancy center, which will do an immediate ultrasound. God turns many hearts right away.
When others go into the clinic for their paperwork, I preach. The building is twenty-five feet from the sidewalk. They hear every word. God uses His Word to move people’s hearts and open ears. Usually within an hour, someone begins asking questions or chooses life.
We stay until the end. We have seen some literally “get off the table” and come out. God doesn’t work on our timetable.
TT: What is the most common misconception evangelical Christians have about men and women who procure abortions?
JB: That they don’t know what they’re doing. God has written His law on everyone’s heart. That’s why they’re so angry to find us here. Second Timothy 2:25–26 says, “In humility [correct] those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (NKJV). People come in knowing what they’re doing, yet are spiritually blind, caught in a trap laid by the devil.
Baby sacrifice has been with us throughout history. There’s a demonic battle that has gone on since the days of Baal worship. Ephesians 6:12 says, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” We come with the only answer to spiritual blindness: the gospel (Rom. 1:16). The Lord in His grace goes to the “gates of hell,” calling them to repentance. People respond to this almost every day.
TT: In the church’s response to the abortion crisis, what has the church done right? What has the church done wrong?
JB: I’m blessed to be a member of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., which has organized prayer support as well as Bible studies and groups that pray for the ministry at Orlando Women’s Center. All our pastors — R.C. Sproul, Burk Parsons, Don Bailey, and Kevin Struyk — preach against abortion, encouraging us to fight. They encourage us to get out on the street to love our neighbors and plead the cause of the widow and orphan. They even come to encourage us on the street. The students of Reformation Bible College are also encouraged to come. There’s not an hour that Orlando Women’s Center is open that a member of Saint Andrew’s isn’t there. When a woman chooses life, she’s turned over to a group of ladies from the church. They love and encourage her and see what her needs are. Sometimes a deacon is needed to see what kind of material needs there may be. We also have baby showers, etc. Many of the women live far from the church. We pick them up on Sunday mornings for worship. Saint Andrew’s serves them both physically and spiritually. We host a Bible study for those who have had an abortion and have come to Christ but wrestle with guilt.
Sadly, I think most churches don’t do anything. Francis Schaeffer said, “Every abortion clinic should have a sign in front stating, ‘Open by the permission of the church.’ ” If the church were to rise up with a united front, would there be any more abortions? Dr. James Pendergraft, the owner of the abortion clinic where I minister, said, “If it wasn’t for the evangelical church sending me their daughters, I’d be out of business.” Most people who come to kill their babies claim to be Christians. The church needs to repent of our apathy.
TT: How can Christians and churches serve women who are thinking about having an abortion? How can they serve women who have already had an abortion?
JB: First, the church needs to preach truth. Proverbs 6 says God hates the hands that shed innocent blood. It’s not a political theory of abortion that God hates. It’s the “hands,” the people involved in killing vulnerable babies. God is the author of life. God shows us that these little babies are precious gifts that He has a claim on. The church also has an obligation to serve the parents. If we want these babies to live, we must help with spiritual and tangible needs. Our deacons do the “nuts and bolts” work with those who need help—coming up with budgets, helping them to find services, and looking for jobs.
The church serves those who have had abortions by telling them the truth. If God has granted them repentance, they need to know that they’re forgiven, that 1 John 1:7 tells us the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us of all sin, including the sin of abortion.
TT: What objections do you hear most often from men and women when you are trying to persuade them not to proceed with an abortion? How do you answer those objections?
JB: First, ” ‘Thou shall not judge’ and you are judging me.” I tell them I love them and am there not to judge but to warn and help them. The close second is, “This is my choice, my legal right.” I explain that God’s law prohibits the muder of babies, that just because something is legal under man’s law doesn’t make it right.
TT: Suppose a local church wants to do more to combat abortion and minister to those who are considering going through with an abortion. Where do you start?
JB: The first step would be to find out when they’re open. Go before the clinic opens, offering help when the women arrive. I use the “In the Womb” tracts and a flier from a local crisis pregnancy center. Every abortion mill is different logistically, so they would have to adapt. I have some friends who minister at a clinic where they have to be some distance away. God’s been good; they see fruit even under these conditions. The main thing is to let the women know you love and care about them. The rest will fall into place.
TT: Tell us about someone to whom you have recently ministered who has been changed by the gospel.
JB: Last week, a young lady named Jenny pulled in. I offered her some brochures. She rolled down her window, and I told her about this place and that we could help. She listened as I warned her about what God says about abortion and how He sent me to call her to trust Him. She trembled, saying, “I’m not doing this.” I called the others to pray with her. After that, she wanted to talk more, saying she’s a Christian who’d fallen into sin. Her mother is a believer, and she was afraid to tell her of her baby. I said she could have gone to other clinics in Orlando, but God sent her to this one so that she could hear Him say, “Trust Me.” She sobbed uncontrollably and said she’d woken up that morning praying that God would send someone to stop her. She and her boyfriend later went to True Life Choice and had an ultrasound. They saw their baby together, and God touched her boyfriend too.
She called later, still nervous about her mother. I put her in touch with a dear lady in the church who agreed to go with Jenny to tell her mother. Before she could get there, Jenny called, grateful for our prayers and saying she’d told her mother and that everything went well. On Sunday, Jenny and the girl’s mother came to Saint Andrew’s to worship. Her mother thanked me for saving her grandbaby. I reminded her that only Jesus has the power to save. There is nothing like this ministry.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Learning to lead (3)
(Oct 23) Bob Gass
‘Correct, rebuke and encourage’
(2 Ti 4:2) 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. ESV
When you crave acceptance and approval, you end up being controlled by those you’re supposed to lead. Paul recognised this. That’s why he instructed Titus: ‘Teach…and encourage your people…correcting them when necessary as one who has every right to do so. Don’t let anyone think that what you say is not important’ (Titus 2:15 TLB). Afraid of causing upheaval in the ranks, insecure leaders agonise over decisions and assume responsibility for other people’s emotional reactions. They don’t realise that when you’re doing what you should be doing and others don’t agree, that’s their problem, unless you make it yours. A mature leader deals with disappointment and keeps a good attitude; they’re willing to face the music even when they don’t like the tune. Think: when you warn your children about putting their hand on a hot stove, it’s not your responsibility to make them enjoy hearing it, right? Hopefully, as they mature they’ll understand. But the truth is, some people won’t like hearing the word ‘no’ regardless of how old they get! But we all need to hear it from time to time; otherwise, we’ll never be happy with anything other than getting our own way - and that means getting nowhere, or getting into trouble. Paul, who was training Timothy for leadership, told him, ‘Correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction.’ Correct people when they’re wrong, rebuke them when they’re stubborn, encourage them when they struggle, be patient as they learn and grow, and make sure your instructions are clear and understandable. That’s what good leaders do - and the only way you learn it is by doing it.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
On October 23, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson issued a Proclamation of a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer. He wrote: “The season is at hand… to turn in praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for His manifold… blessings to us as a nation. The year that has just passed has been marked… by… His gracious and beneficent providence…. We have seen the practical completion of a great work at the Isthmus of Panama…. ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation’ and ‘peace on earth, good will towards men’ furnish the only foundation upon which can be built the lasting achievements of the human spirit.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
God’s object with us is not to give just so many things and withhold so many; it is to place us in the tissue of His kingdom. His best answer to us is to raise us to the power of answering Him. The reason why He does not answer our prayer is because we do not answer Him and His prayer. And His prayer was, as though Christ did beseech us, “Be ye reconciled.” He would lift us to confident business with Him, to commerce of loving wills. The painter wrestles with the sitter till he gives him back himself, and there is a speaking likeness. So man with God, till God surrender His secret. He gives or refuses things, therefore, with a view to that communion alone, and on the whole. It is that spiritual personal end, and not an iron necessity, that rules His course. Is there not a constant spiritual interaction between God and man as free spiritual beings? How that can be is one of the great philosophic problems. But the fact that it is is of the essence of faith. It is the unity of our universe. Many systems try to explain how human freedom and human action are consistent with God’s omnipotence and omniscience. None succeed. How secondary causes like man are compatible with God as the Universal and Ultimate Cause is not rationally plain. But there is no practical doubt that they are compatable. And so it is with the action of man on God in prayer. We may perhaps, for the present, put it thus, that we cannot change the will of God, which is grace, and which even Christ never changed but only revealed or effected; but we can change the intention of God, which is a manner of treatment, in the interest of grace, according to the situation of the hour.
If we are guided by the Bible we have much ground for this view of prayer. Does not Christ set more value upon importunity than on submission? “Knock, and it shall be opened.” I would refer also not only to the parable of the unjust judge, but to the incident of the Syrophenician woman, where her wit, faith, and importunity together did actually change our Lord’s intention and break His custom. There there is Paul beseeching the Lord thrice for a boon; and urging us to be instant, insistent, continual in prayer. We have Jacob wrestling. We have Abraham pleading, yea, haggling, with God for Sodom. We have Moses interceding for Israel and asking God to blot his name out of the book of life, if that were needful to save Israel. We have Job facing God, withstanding Him, almost bearding Him, and extracting revelation. And we have Christ’s own struggle with the Father in Gethsemane.
It is a wrestle on the greatest scale—all manhood taxed as in some great war, or some great negotiation of State. And the effect is exhaustion often. No, the result of true, prayer is not always peace.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
He who wept beside the grave of Lazarus
could never be the antagonist of tears.
--- George H. Morrison
Human life includes some necessary suffering.
--- Carl Young
I just did what I did and I still am. It makes you unpopular, maybe for a lifetime, but I'd rather do that than be popular and doubt what I am.
--- Robert Barnes
Thanks to Meir Yona
How Caesar Raised Banks Round About The Upper City [Mount Zion] And When They Were Completed, Gave Orders That The Machines Should Be Brought. He Then Possessed Himself Of The Whole City.
1. Now when Caesar perceived that the upper city was so steep that it could not possibly be taken without raising banks against it, he distributed the several parts of that work among his army, and this on the twentieth day of the month Lous [Ab]. Now the carriage of the materials was a difficult task, since all the trees, as I have already told you, that were about the city, within the distance of a hundred furlongs, had their branches cut off already, in order to make the former banks. The works that belonged to the four legions were erected on the west side of the city, over against the royal palace; but the whole body of the auxiliary troops, with the rest of the multitude that were with them, [erected their banks] at the Xystus, whence they reached to the bridge, and that tower of Simon which he had built as a citadel for himself against John, when they were at war one with another.
2. It was at this time that the commanders of the Idumeans got together privately, and took counsel about surrendering up themselves to the Romans. Accordingly, they sent five men to Titus, and entreated him to give them his right hand for their security. So Titus thinking that the tyrants would yield, if the Idumeans, upon whom a great part of the war depended, were once withdrawn from them, after some reluctancy and delay, complied with them, and gave them security for their lives, and sent the five men back. But as these Idumeans were preparing to march out, Simon perceived it, and immediately slew the five men that had gone to Titus, and took their commanders, and put them in prison, of whom the most eminent was Jacob, the son of Sosas; but as for the multitude of the Idumeans, who did not at all know what to do, now their commanders were taken from them, he had them watched, and secured the walls by a more numerous garrison, Yet could not that garrison resist those that were deserting; for although a great number of them were slain, yet were the deserters many more in number. They were all received by the Romans, because Titus himself grew negligent as to his former orders for killing them, and because the very soldiers grew weary of killing them, and because they hoped to get some money by sparing them; for they left only the populace, and sold the rest of the multitude, 28with their wives and children, and every one of them at a very low price, and that because such as were sold were very many, and the buyers were few: and although Titus had made proclamation beforehand, that no deserter should come alone by himself, that so they might bring out their families with them, yet did he receive such as these also. However, he set over them such as were to distinguish some from others, in order to see if any of them deserved to be punished. And indeed the number of those that were sold was immense; but of the populace above forty thousand were saved, whom Caesar let go whither every one of them pleased.
3. But now at this time it was that one of the priests, the son of Thebuthus, whose name was Jesus, upon his having security given him, by the oath of Caesar, that he should be preserved, upon condition that he should deliver to him certain of the precious things that had been reposited in the temple 29 came out of it, and delivered him from the wall of the holy house two candlesticks, like to those that lay in the holy house, with tables, and cisterns, and vials, all made of solid gold, and very heavy. He also delivered to him the veils and the garments, with the precious stones, and a great number of other precious vessels that belonged to their sacred worship. The treasurer of the temple also, whose name was Phineas, was seized on, and showed Titus the coats and girdles of the priests, with a great quantity of purple and scarlet, which were there reposited for the uses of the veil, as also a great deal of cinnamon and cassia, with a large quantity of other sweet spices, 30 which used to be mixed together, and offered as incense to God every day. A great many other treasures were also delivered to him, with sacred ornaments of the temple not a few; which things thus delivered to Titus obtained of him for this man the same pardon that he had allowed to such as deserted of their own accord.
4. And now were the banks finished on the seventh day of the month Gorpieus, [Elul,] in eighteen days' time, when the Romans brought their machines against the wall. But for the seditious, some of them, as despairing of saving the city, retired from the wall to the citadel; others of them went down into the subterranean vaults, though still a great many of them defended themselves against those that brought the engines for the battery; yet did the Romans overcome them by their number and by their strength; and, what was the principal thing of all, by going cheerfully about their work, while the Jews were quite dejected, and become weak. Now as soon as a part of the wall was battered down, and certain of the towers yielded to the impression of the battering rams, those that opposed themselves fled away, and such a terror fell upon the tyrants, as was much greater than the occasion required; for before the enemy got over the breach they were quite stunned, and were immediately for flying away. And now one might see these men, who had hitherto been so insolent and arrogant in their wicked practices, to be cast down and to tremble, insomuch that it would pity one's heart to observe the change that was made in those vile persons. Accordingly, they ran with great violence upon the Roman wall that encompassed them, in order to force away those that guarded it, and to break through it, and get away. But when they saw that those who had formerly been faithful to them had gone away, [as indeed they were fled whithersoever the great distress they were in persuaded them to flee,] as also when those that came running before the rest told them that the western wall was entirely overthrown, while others said the Romans were gotten in, and others that they were near, and looking out for them, which were only the dictates of their fear, which imposed upon their sight, they fell upon their face, and greatly lamented their own mad conduct; and their nerves were so terribly loosed, that they could not flee away. And here one may chiefly reflect on the power of God exercised upon these wicked wretches, and on the good fortune of the Romans; for these tyrants did now wholly deprive themselves of the security they had in their own power, and came down from those very towers of their own accord, wherein they could have never been taken by force, nor indeed by any other way than by famine. And thus did the Romans, when they had taken such great pains about weaker walls, get by good fortune what they could never have gotten by their engines; for three of these towers were too strong for all mechanical engines whatsoever, concerning which we have treated above.
5. So they now left these towers of themselves, or rather they were ejected out of them by God himself, and fled immediately to that valley which was under Siloam, where they again recovered themselves out of the dread they were in for a while, and ran violently against that part of the Roman wall which lay on that side; but as their courage was too much depressed to make their attacks with sufficient force, and their power was now broken with fear and affliction, they were repulsed by the guards, and dispersing themselves at distances from each other, went down into the subterranean caverns. So the Romans being now become masters of the walls, they both placed their ensigns upon the towers, and made joyful acclamations for the victory they had gained, as having found the end of this war much lighter than its beginning; for when they had gotten upon the last wall, without any bloodshed, they could hardly believe what they found to be true; but seeing nobody to oppose them, they stood in doubt what such an unusual solitude could mean. But when they went in numbers into the lanes of the city with their swords drawn, they slew those whom they overtook without and set fire to the houses whither the Jews were fled, and burnt every soul in them, and laid waste a great many of the rest; and when they were come to the houses to plunder them, they found in them entire families of dead men, and the upper rooms full of dead corpses, that is, of such as died by the famine; they then stood in a horror at this sight, and went out without touching any thing. But although they had this commiseration for such as were destroyed in that manner, yet had they not the same for those that were still alive, but they ran every one through whom they met with, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many of the houses was quenched with these men's blood. And truly so it happened, that though the slayers left off at the Evening, yet did the fire greatly prevail in the night; and as all was burning, came that eighth day of the month Gorpieus [Elul] upon Jerusalem, a city that had been liable to so many miseries during this siege, that, had it always enjoyed as much happiness from its first foundation, it would certainly have been the envy of the world. Nor did it on any other account so much deserve these sore misfortunes, as by producing such a generation of men as were the occasions of this its overthrow.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
might just as well have cursed him.
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: Quality Paperback Edition
Not a bit of it!
If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away. --- 2 Cor. 5:17.
Our Lord never nurses our prejudices, He mortifies them, runs clean athwart them. We imagine that God has a special interest in our particular prejudices; we are quite sure that God will never deal with us as we know He has to deal with other people. ‘God must deal with other people in a very stern way, but of course He knows that my prejudices are all right.’ We have to learn—‘Not a bit of it!’ Instead of God being on the side of our prejudices, He is deliberately wiping them out. It is part of our moral education to have our prejudices run straight across by His providence, and to watch how He does it. God pays no respect to anything we bring to Him; there is only one thing He wants of us, and that is our unconditional surrender. When we are born again, the Holy Spirit begins to work His new creation in us, and there will come a time when there is not a bit of the old order left; the old solemnity goes, the old attitude to things goes, and “all things are of God.” How are we going to get the life that has no lust, no self-interest, no sensitiveness to pokes, the love that is not provoked, that thinketh no evil, that is always kind? The only way is by allowing not a bit of the old life to be left, but only simple perfect trust in God, such trust that we no longer want God’s blessings, but only want Himself. Have we come to the place where God can withdraw His blessings and it does not affect our trust in Him? When once we see God at work, we will never bother our heads about things that happen, because we are actually trusting in our Father in Heaven Whom the world cannot see.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
I think he sits at that strange table
of Eddington's, that is not a table
at all, but nodes and molecules
pushing against molecules
and nodes; and he writes there
in invisible handwriting the instructions
the genes follow. I imagine his
face that is more the face
of a clock, and the time told by it
is now, though Greece is referred
to and Egypt and empires
not yet begun.
And I would have
things to say to this God
at the judgement, storming at him,
as Job stormed, with the eloquence
of the abused heart. But there will be
no judgement other than the verdict
of his calculations, that abstruse
geometry that proceeds eternally
in the silence beyond right and wrong.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
In Maimonides’ description of the law of the heathen slave, there is a marked difference between action based on the legislative authority of God (din), and action stemming from the imitation of the God of creation. If an individual were to conduct himself on the basis of the strict requirements of the law, he would only refrain from treating the Hebrew slave harshly. The ethical responsibility toward the non-Jewish slave results from understanding how God is related to all of creation. The legal category of din channels one’s perception of God within the particular juridical relationship of God to Israel. The boundaries of one’s obligations are circumscribed by God’s legal revelation to the community of Israel. When the boundaries of man’s perception of God are expanded, he discovers that the very existence of all men reflects an ethical attribute of God. The boundaries of his ethical obligations, therefore, also change; he then finds himself unable to restrict his ethical responsibilities only to individuals who participate in the juridical relationship with God.
The shift in man’s understanding of God which we have discussed in connection with the law of the non-Hebrew slave should serve as an explanatory model for the lifnim mi-shurat ha-din practice of the ḥasid. Knowledge of God as the Creator of all life affects halakhic practice both in terms of the scope of obligation (lifnim mi-shurat ha-din) and the motives for observance of the commandments (ahavah).
He who lacks this knowledge of God is motivated to fulfill the commandments on the basis of the expectation of rewards and to follow only the strict requirements of din.
The halakhic category of din can be understood as reflecting the behavior of one who cannot transcend the motivating principle of self-interest (yirah). Reciprocal responsibility defines the boundaries of one’s understanding of obligation. Within this structure, the individual understands the meaning of responsibility to God and to other human beings to the extent that he can be shown that his own welfare is enhanced by such behavior. The am ha-areẓ knows that by conforming to the din, he is entitled to claim similar behavior from others. The am ha-areẓ, both in his theology and his halakhic practice, reflects the principle of reciprocity. Disinterested morality and disinterested love of God are beyond his comprehension. His God and his fellowmen must be bound to reciprocate to him for, otherwise, he cannot comprehend why he should be obligated to fulfill the law.
The halakhic category of lifnim mi-shurat ha-din reflects the behavior of one who has transcended the motivating principles of self-interest and legal obligations based upon reciprocity. Philosophical knowledge of God can—in a number of ways—help one to transcend the principle of reciprocity, which is an important feature of din. By transforming the individual into a person whose highest joy consists in knowing God—and not in material self-interest—the ground for requiring reciprocity as a ground for motivation becomes meaningless. The entire world view of the theocentric world of philosophic reason draws the individual to serve God not only because of His juridical authority, but also because of His perfection.
An understanding of the God of being would reveal that the principle of ḥesed (“overflow”) is the organizing principle of reality. The entire chain of being, beginning with God and descending to lesser beings, is founded on the notion of overflow. This image—overflow—captures the idea of action yielding benefits to others, not on the basis of legal claims or reciprocal actions, but as a result of the benefits which spill over due to an excess of perfection. Maimonides, in the Guide, writes:
We have already explained in the commentary on Avot that the meaning of ḥesed is excess in whatever manner excess is practiced. In most cases, however, it is applied to excess in beneficence. Now it is known that beneficence includes two notions, one of them consisting in the exercise of beneficence toward one who has no right at all to claim this from you, and the other consisting in the exercise of beneficence toward one who deserves it, but in a greater measure than he deserves it. In most cases the prophetic books use the word ḥesed in the sense of practicing beneficence toward one who has no right at all to claim this from you. Therefore every benefit that comes from Him, may He be exalted, is called ḥesed. Thus it says: “I will make mention of the lovingkindnesses [ḥasdei] of the Lord.” Hence this reality as a whole—I mean that He, may He be exalted, has brought it into being—is ḥesed. Thus it says: “The world is built up in lovingkindness [ḥesed]”; the meaning of which is “The building up of the world is lovingkindness.” And He, may He be exalted, says in an enumeration of His attributes: And abundant in lovingkindness.
In the Guide Maimonides adopts the principle of overflow as the most adequate model for understanding God’s relationship to nature.60 The ḥasid’s understanding of nature—as reflecting God’s ḥesed—directs him to bestow benefits on others who have no legal claim on him.
Observing the commandments for their own sake and acting for the benefit of those from whom one does not expect a similar response derives from a commitment to the law influenced by the ḥasid’s understanding of God’s revelation in nature. One who acts beyond the strict line of the law cannot know if others will act in the same manner toward him. The ḥasid has no way of knowing whether others will treat his lost property with the same degree of concern as he treats theirs. Only law within the rubric of din can give this security, since all norms constituted by din are capable of being enforced by the courts. (The Sages) The ḥasid is not bothered by a lack of certainty because his actions toward others spring from his commitment to imitate the God of ḥesed.
Maimonides’ characterization of how a ḥasid responds to the way others treat him, is also the paradigm of a person who has completely transcended the idea of reciprocity. To Maimonides, lifnim mi-shurat ha-din is not only a description of types of legal behavior, but is also used to describe the nature of one’s moral disposition and character structure. The ḥasid’s self-understanding is based on his philosophic knowledge of God. The way others within the community respond to him, therefore, is not as crucial for his self-respect as is his growth of knowledge and his ability to enter into the theocentric world of reason. Since he does not define himself in the manner by which others respond to him, his self-respect does not suffer when others treat him with disdain. Maimonides, in Avot, presents a graphic picture of the extent to which an individual can sustain his dignity irrespective of the behavior of others toward him:
The difference between the unique individual and his community is not only reflected in his ability to develop a comprehensive understanding of Halakhah. Even within the circumscribed world of halakhic norms, one can discern both communal and individual orientation. The two halakhic categories reflecting this are 1) din—law which defines the line of legal requirement, and 2) lifnim mi-shurat ha-din—law which is beyond the line of legal requirement. The following examples from the Mishneh Torah indicate how the Halakhah distinguished between action obligatory for every member of the community (din) and action practiced by individuals who were not content simply to fulfill the requirements of the strict rules of law (lifnim mi-shurat ha-din):
I have seen in a certain book from among the books on ethics where it was asked of one of the esteemed saintly men—it was said to him, “Of all your days, in which day did you most rejoice?” He said; “On the day that I was traveling on a ship, and my place was in the lowliest of the places on the ship, [that is] among the bundles of clothes. On the ship were merchants and wealthy men. I was lying in my place and one of the men on the ship arose to urinate. I was insignificant and contemptible in his sight because in his sight I was very low, until he uncovered his nakedness and urinated on me. I was astonished at the firmness of the disposition of brazenness in his soul. As the Lord lives, my soul was not pained at his deed at all, nor was my power [to react in anger] aroused within me. Instead, I rejoiced greatly when I attained the limit where the contempt of that deficient man did not pain me and that my soul was not stirred up toward him.” There is no doubt that this is the ultimate of humbleness of spirit—in order that one may remove from pride.
The ḥasid has no need to seek revenge or to retaliate, for his dignity does not have its source in the response of others: “The practice of the righteous is to suffer contumely and not inflict it; to hear themselves reproached, not retort; to be impelled in what they do by love, and to rejoice in suffering.”64 He is beyond community in the sense that he is unaffected by the fears and threats which accompany the ordinary man’s feelings of self-worth.
The law entitles a sage to safeguard his honor:
To safeguard his honor, the ḥakham may himself excommunicate a boor who treated him disrespectfully. For this, neither witnesses nor previous warning are necessary. The ban is not removed until the offender has appeased the ḥakham.
Maimonides, however, qualifies this legal right when he writes:
Although a ḥakham has the right to pronounce the ban to safeguard his honor, it is not creditable for a scholar to accustom himself to this procedure. He should rather close his ears to the remarks of the illiterate and take no notice of them, as Solomon in his wisdom, said, “Also pay no heed to all the words that are spoken.” Such too was the way of the ancient saints. They heard themselves reviled and made no reply. Yet more, they forgave the reviler and pardoned him. Great sages, glorying in their commendable practices, said that they never, for the sake of personal honor, imposed on anyone the lighter or severer ban. This is the way of scholars, which it is right to follow.
The excessive humility of the ḥasid has its source not in self-debasement and weakness, but in the dignity and strength derived from one’s knowledge of God. Moses, to Maimonides, is the model of one who achieved both the highest degree of philosophic knowledge and the highest degree of humility. The ḥasid’s method of response to others and to the law represents the development of a renewed man who has liberated himself from the tyranny of self-interest. He who has never left the orbit of community has no dignity or identity independent of the modes of response of others to him. The eyes of the am ha-areẓ are always focused on that which is external to him in order for him to know who he is and how he ought to act. Only from God’s promises of reward and punishment is he able to discern the difference between right and wrong. He feels obligated to perform norms to the degree that he can observe that all members of the society are required equally to obey the same norms. He symbolizes political man who has not yet discovered the meaning of action based on individual excellence.
Maimonides was able, therefore, to find traditional support for a philosophical understanding of God both in the Aggadah of Talmud and in the behavior of the ḥasid. Maimonides recognized, that for a religious Jew, changing patterns of action must result from changes in his understanding of God. The conception of God as legislator is not adequate by itself to explain the ḥasid’s approach to Halakhah. The unification of the legislative model of Sinai with the model of God as the creator and the sustainer of life explains, for Maimonides, the movement from an approach to Halakhah by one who follows the strict requirements of the law to an approach to Halakhah by one who goes beyond the strict rule of law.
From our analyses of the talmudic categories of love and fear, and of the halakhic categories of din and lifnim mi-shurat ha-din, we have shown that Maimonides believed that the talmudic tradition was fully aware of the differences between the capacities of the community and of the unique individual. The distinction made in the Talmud between messianism and olam ha-ba enabled Maimonides to maintain that Jewish spirituality was not indifferent to the non-historical quest for God. The distinction between love and fear enabled him to recognize that the tradition did not address itself to one audience. Spiritual ideals in the tradition were understood in a way that would enable Judaism to contain and to give support to different people with different spiritual capacities. There were those who were encouraged by the sages to perform commandments even if their motivation for action was based upon self-interest. Serving God from fear, and not from pure motives, was but the first rung in the ladder of spiritual growth.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. --- Psalm 139:23–24.
Saints who ask to be searched must be willing to submit to anything that God sees fit to lay on them. Charles G. Finney: Sermons From The Penny Pulpit
Saints should be prepared to receive answers to prayer in their own persons. Perhaps God lets them fall ill just when they had some very great object in view. Well, it is intended for their good, therefore they ought not to brood or murmur but receive with thankfulness the good that is intended for them.
It is necessary that these trials should be awarded us, for it will not do that God should always feed his children on sweets. We need severe discipline; it makes us good soldiers. A mere silken religion that passes through no trials has little productiveness in it. These providential trials take away the dross and tin and make us strong in the Lord. How lovely is the character of the Christian who has patiently endured the trials through which she or he has had to pass. These individuals quiet themselves under all the dispensations of providence; they receive everything as bestowed on them from their Father. The more holy Christians become, the more necessary they find it to lay their whole hearts before him and ask him that he may search them and purify them, until he is satisfied with his own work. Christians, are you in the habit of asking the Lord to satisfy himself, to do that which will bring you into a condition that will please him? Don’t you long for the pruning knife to be applied, to be purged of all your selfishness and everything that is offensive to God, so that you may stand before him in meekness and love, while he looks on you and says, this is my handiwork, and it is very good. Ask God to search you, then, and do not be afraid to have it done. Look on all the trials of life as coming from your heavenly Father, in order that if you are really self-deceived you may know it, and if you are not, that you may grow up into the likeness of the Son of God.
--- Charles G. Finney
A Priceless Bible
Among Christianity’s greatest treasures is the Codex Alexandrinus, a manuscript of the Greek Bible written in the early 400s. It contains virtually the entire Bible, along with the Apocrypha, some hymns, and letters written by Clement of Rome.
It was housed in Alexandria until 1627, when Cyril Lucar, the patriarch of Alexandria, presented it to England’s King Charles I, who placed it in his Royal Library at St. James Place. But when the Puritan Revolution occurred, Charles was beheaded, and troops were quartered at St. James’s. The books in his library lay on the floor in heaps, subject to rain and dust and rats.
The monarchy was restored in 1660 under Charles II, but conditions at the Royal Library didn’t improve. In 1693 Richard Bentley, a brilliant classical scholar, temporarily took the Alexandrian Manuscript to his own lodgings for safekeeping.
In the early 1700s the Royal Library was moved to Cotton House, and the priceless Bible was kept in a narrow, damp room with only a small window at each end. Christopher Wren considered the building so ruinous that most of it “should be demolished,” and the library “purged of much useless trash.” In 1730 the Royal Library was moved into Ashburnham House which, on Saturday Morning, October 23, 1731, caught fire. The alarm was given, and Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons, came across from his nearby residence to direct the rescue. Many precious volumes were thrown from the windows in an effort to save them, but the invaluable Codex Alexandrinus was treated with better care. An eyewitness told of the learned Dr. Bentley “in nightgown and great wig” fleeing the building with the Codex Alexandrinus under his arm.
The disastrous fire drew public attention to the plight of the Royal Library, and a generation later it found a home in the newly founded British Museum, where today the Codex Alexandrinus is securely displayed.
Many people have tried to tell the story of what God has done among us. They wrote what we had been told by the ones who were there in the beginning and saw what happened. So I made a careful study of everything and then decided to write and tell you exactly what took place. …
--- Luke 1:1-3a.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 23
“Will ye also go away?” --- John 6:67.
Many have forsaken Christ, and have walked no more with him; but what reason have YOU to make a change? Has there been any reason for it in the past? Has not Jesus proved himself all-sufficient? He appeals to you this Morning—“Have I been a wilderness unto you?” When your soul has simply trusted Jesus, have you ever been confounded? Have you not up till now found your Lord to be a compassionate and generous friend to you, and has not simple faith in him given you all the peace your spirit could desire? Can you so much as dream of a better friend than he has been to you? Then change not the old and tried for new and false. As for the present, can that compel you to leave Christ? When we are hard beset with this world, or with the severer trials within the Church, we find it a most blessed thing to pillow our head upon the bosom of our Saviour. This is the joy we have to-day that we are saved in him; and if this joy be satisfying, wherefore should we think of changing? Who barters gold for dross? We will not forswear the sun till we find a better light, nor leave our Lord until a brighter lover shall appear; and, since this can never be, we will hold him with a grasp immortal, and bind his name as a seal upon our arm. As for the future, can you suggest anything which can arise that shall render it necessary for you to mutiny, or desert the old flag to serve under another captain? We think not. If life be long—he changes not. If we are poor, what better than to have Christ who can make us rich? When we are sick, what more do we want than Jesus to make our bed in our sickness? When we die, is it not written that “neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” We say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
Evening - October 23
“Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” --- Luke 22:46.
When is the Christian most liable to sleep? Is it not when his temporal circumstances are prosperous? Have you not found it so? When you had daily troubles to take to the throne of grace, were you not more wakeful than you are now? Easy roads make sleepy travellers. Another dangerous time is when all goes pleasantly in spiritual matters. Christian went not to sleep when lions were in the way, or when he was wading through the river, or when fighting with Apollyon, but when he had climbed half way up the Hill Difficulty, and came to a delightful arbour, he sat down, and forthwith fell asleep, to his great sorrow and loss. The enchanted ground is a place of balmy breezes, laden with fragrant odours and soft influences, all tending to lull pilgrims to sleep. Remember Bunyan’s description: “Then they came to an arbour, warm, and promising much refreshing to the weary pilgrims; for it was finely wrought above head, beautified with greens, and furnished with benches and settles. It had also in it a soft couch, where the weary might lean.” “The arbour was called the Slothful’s Friend, and was made on purpose to allure, if it might be, some of the pilgrims to take up their rest there when weary.” Depend upon it, it is in easy places that men shut their eyes and wander into the dreamy land of forgetfulness. Old Erskine wisely remarked, “I like a roaring devil better than a sleeping devil.” There is no temptation half so dangerous as not being tempted. The distressed soul does not sleep; it is after we enter into peaceful confidence and full assurance that we are in danger of slumbering. The disciples fell asleep after they had seen Jesus transfigured on the mountain top. Take heed, joyous Christian, good frames are near neighbours to temptations: be as happy as you will, only be watchful.
GOD OF OUR FATHERS
Daniel C. Roberts, 1841–1907
If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
After what I owe to God, nothing should be more dear or more sacred to me than the love and respect I owe my country.
----- Jacques Auguste de Thou
We need to be reminded that a nation can receive God’s blessing only when He is recognized as ruler and Lord. Christian people in every land have an awesome responsibility—to be models of God’s righteousness—“salt” and “light” for a sinful and hurting society. The moral strength of a nation rests upon the knees of God’s people.
“God of Our Fathers” also reminds us that concerned citizens of the heavenly kingdom should also be involved citizens of their earthly kingdom. The hymn text was written in 1876, the year that America was preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Daniel Crane Roberts, a 35-year-old rector of a small Episcopal church in Brandon, Vermont, felt that the country should have a new national hymn for the occasion. His new song was sung for the first time by the parishioners of the Brandon village church for their worship service on July 4th, 1876.
Later, at the time of the actual National Centennial Observance commemorating the adoption of the Constitution, Roberts’ hymn text was chosen as the official hymn for that event. These words remind us well that the God who has so richly blessed our land in the past is the One still needed to be “our ruler, guardian, guide, and stay.”
God of our fathers, whose almighty hand leads forth in beauty all the starry band; of shining worlds in splendor thru the skies, our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.
Thy love divine hath led us in the past, in this free land by Thee our lot is cast; be thou our ruler, guardian, guide and stay, Thy word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.
From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence, be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense; Thy true religion in our hearts increase; Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.
Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way. Lead us from night to never ending day; fill all our lives with love and grace divine, and glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.
For Today: Exodus 3:15; Psalm 33:12; Proverbs 14:34
Breathe a prayer of thanks for the heritage of Christianity and for God’s continued guidance of our land.
2. The wisdom of God appears in the subject or person wherein these were accorded; the Second Person is the blessed Trinity. There was a congruity in the Son’s undertaking and effecting it rather than any other person, according to the order of the persons, and the several functions of the persons, as represented in Scripture. The Father, after creation, is the lawgiver, and presents man with the image of his own holiness and the way to his creatures’ happiness; but after the fall, man was too impotent to perform the law, and too polluted to enjoy a felicity. Redemption was then necessary; not that it was necessary for God to redeem man, but it was necessary for man’s happiness that he should be recovered. To this the Second Person is appointed, that by communion with him, man might derive a happiness, and be brought again to God. But since man was blind in his understanding, and an enemy in his will to God, there must be the exerting of a virtue to enlighten his mind, and bend his will to understand, and accept of this redemption; and this work is assigned to the Third Person, the Holy Ghost.
(1.) It was not congruous that the Father should assume human nature, and suffer in it for the redemption of man. He was first in order; he was the lawgiver, and therefore to be the judge. As lawgiver, it was not convenient he should stand in the stead of the lawbreaker; and as judge, it was as little convenient he should be reputed a malefactor. That he who had made a law against sin denounced a penalty upon the commission of sin, and whose part it was actually to punish the sinner, should become sin for the wilful transgressor of his law. He being the rector, how could he be an advocate and intercessor to himself? How could he be the judge and the sacrifice? a judge, and yet a mediator to himself? If he had been the sacrifice, there must be some person to examine the validity of it, and pronounce the sentence of acceptance. Was it agreeable that the Son should sit upon a throne of judgment, and the Father stand at the bar, and be responsible to the Son? That the Son should be in the place of a governor, and the Father in the place of the criminal? That the Father should be bruised (Isa. 53:10) by the Son, as the Son was by the Father (Zech. 13:70)? that the Son should awaken a sword against the Father, as the Father did against the Son? That the Father should be sent by the Son, as the Son was by the Father (Gal. 4:4)? The order of the persons in the blessed Trinity had been inverted and disturbed. Had the Father been sent, he had not been first in order; the sender is before the person sent: as the Father begets, and the son is begotten (John 1:14), so the Father sends, and the son is sent. He whose orders is to send, cannot properly send himself.
(2.) Nor was it congruous that the Spirit should be sent upon this affair. If the Holy Ghost had been sent to redeem us, and the Son to apply that redemption to us, the order of the Persons had also been inverted; the Spirit, then, who was third in order, had been second in operation. The Son would then have received of the Spirit, as the Spirit doth now of Christ, “and shew it unto us” (John 1:15). As the Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son, so the proper function and operation of it was in order after the operations of the Father and the Son. Had the Spirit been sent to redeem us, and the Son sent by the Father, and the Spirit to apply that redemption to us, the Son in his acts had proceeded from the Father and the Spirit; the Spirit, as sender, had been in order before the Son; whereas, the Spirit is called “the Spirit of Christ,” as sent by Christ from the “Father” (Gal. 4:6; John 15:27). But as the order of the works, so the order of the Persons is preserved in their several operations. Creation, and a law to govern the creature, precedes redemption. Nothing, or that which hath no being, is not capable of a redeemed being. Redemption supposeth the existence and the misery of a person redeemed. As creation precedes redemption, so redemption precedes the application of it. As redemption supposeth the being of the creature, so application of redemption supposeth the efficacy of redemption. According to the order of these works, is the order of the operations of the Three Persons. Creation belongs to the Father, the first person; redemption, the second work, is the function of the Son, the second person; application, the third work, is the office of the Holy Ghost, the third person. The Father orders it, the Son acts it, the Holy Ghost applies it. He purifies our souls to understand, believe, and love these mysteries. He forms Christ in the womb of the soul, as he did the body of Christ in the womb of the Virgin. As the Spirit of God moved upon the waters, to garnish and adorn the world, after the matter of it was formed (Gen. 1:2), so he moves upon the heart, to supple it to a compliance with Christ, and draws the lineaments of the new creation in the soul, after the foundation is laid. The Son pays the price that was due from us to God, and the Spirit is the earnest of the promises of life and glory purchased by the merit of that death. It is to be observed, that the, Father, under the dispensation of the law, proposed the commands, with the promises and threatenings, to the understandings of men; and Christ, under the dispensation of grace, when he was upon the earth, proposeth the gospel as the means of salvation, exhorts to faith as the condition of salvation; but it was neither the functions of the one or the other to display such an efficacy in the understanding and will to make men believe and obey; and, therefore, there were such few conversions in the time of Christ, by his miracles. But this work was reserved for the fuller and brighter appearance of the Spirit, whose office it was to convince the world of the necessity of a Redeemer, because of their lost condition; of the person of the Redeemer, the Son of God; of the sufficiency and efficacy of redemption, because of his righteousness and acceptation by the Father. The wisdom of God is seen in preparing and presenting the objects, and then in making impression of them upon the subject he intends. And thus is the order of the Three Persons preserved.
(3.) The Second Person had the greatest congruity, in this work. He by whom God created the world was most conveniently employed in restoring the defaced world (John 1:4): who more fit to recover it from its lapsed state than he that had erected it in its primitive state (Heb. 1:2)? He was the light of men in creation, and therefore it was most reasonable he should be the light of men in redemption. Who fitter to reform the Divine image than he that first formed it? Who fitter to speak for us to God than he who was the Word (John 1:1)? Who could better intercede with the Father than he who was the only begotten and beloved Son? Who so fit to redeem the forfeited inheritance as the Heir of all things? Who fitter and better to prevail for us to have the right of children than he that possessed it by nature? We fell from being the sons of God, and who fitter to introduce us into an adopted state than the Son of God? Herein was an expression of the richer grace, because the first sin was immediately against the wisdom of God, by an ambitious affectation of a wisdom equal to God, that that person, who was the wisdom of God, should be made a sacrifice for the expiation of the sin against wisdom.
3. The wisdom of God is seen in the two natures of Christ, whereby this redemption was accomplished. The union of the two natures was the foundation of the union of God and the fallen creature.
1st. The union itself is admirable: “The Word is made flesh” (John 1:14), one “equal with God in the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7). When the apostle speaks of “God manifested in the flesh,” he speaks “the wisdom of God in a mystery” (1 Tim. 3:16); that which is incomprehensible to the angels, which they never imagined before it was revealed, which perhaps they never knew till they beheld it. I am sure, under the law, the figures of the cherubims were placed in the sanctuary, with their “faces looking towards the propitiatory,” in a perpetual posture of contemplation and admiration (Exod. 37:9), to which the apostle alludes (1 Pet. 1:12). Mysterious is the wisdom of God to unite finite and infinite, almightiness and weakness, immortality and mortality, immutability, with a thing subject to change; to have a nature from eternity, and yet a nature subect to the revolutions of time; a nature to make a law, and a nature to be subjected to the law; to be God blessed forever, in the bosom of his Father, and an infant exposed to calamities from the womb of his mother: terms seeming most distant from union, most uncapable of conjunction, to shake hands together, to be most intimately conjoined; glory and vileness, fulness and emptiness, heaven and earth; the creature with the Creator; he that made all things, in one person with a nature that is made; Immanuel, God, and man in one; that which is most spiritual to partake of that which is carnal flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14); one with the Father in his Godhead, one with us in his manhood; the Godhead to be in him in the fullest perfection, and the manhood in the greatest purity; the creature one with the Creator, and the Creator one with the creature. Thus is the incomprehensible wisdom of God declared in the “Word being made flesh.”
2d. In the manner of this union. A union of two natures, yet no natural union. It transcends all the unions visible among creatures: it is not like the union of stones in a building, or two pieces of timber fastened together, which touch one another only in their superficies and outside, without any intimacy with one another. By such a kind of union God would not be a man: the Word could not so be made flesh. Nor is it a union of parts to the whole, as the members and the body; the members are parts, the body is the whole; for the whole results from the parts, and depends upon the parts: but Christ, being God, is independent upon anything. The parts are in order of nature before the whole, but nothing can be in order of nature before God. Nor is it as the union of two liquors, as when wine and water are mixed together, for they are so incorporated as not to be distinguished from one another; no man can tell which particle is wine, and which is water. But the properties of the Divine nature are distinguishable from the properties of the human. Nor is it as the union of the soul and body, so as that the Deity is the form of the humanity, as the soul is the form of the body: for as the soul is but a part of the man, so the Divinity would be then but a part of the humanity; and as a form, or the soul, is in a state of imperfection, without that which it is to inform, so the Divinity of Christ would have been imperfect till it had assumed the humanity, and so the perfection of an eternal Deity would have depended on a creature of time. This union of two natures in Christ is incomprehensible: and it is a mystery we cannot arrive to the top of, how the Divine nature, which is the same with that of the Father and the Holy Ghost, should be united to the human nature, without its being said that the Father and the Holy Ghost were united to the flesh; but the Scripture doth not encourage any such notion; it speaks only of the Word, the person of the Word being made flesh, and in his being made flesh, distinguisheth him from the Father, as “the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). The person of the Son was the term of this union.
(1.) This union doth not confound the properties of the Deity and those of the humanity. They remain distinct and entire in each other. The Deity is not changed into flesh, nor the flesh transformed into God: they are distinct, and yet united; they are conjoined, and yet unmixed: the dues of either nature are preserved. It is impossible that the majesty of the Divinity can receive an alteration. It is as impossible that the meanness of the humanity can receive the impressions of the Deity, so as to be changed into it, and a creature be metamorphosed into the Creator, and temporary flesh become eternal, and finite mount up into infinity: as the soul and body are united, and make one person, yet the soul is not changed into the effections of the body, nor the body into the perfections of the soul. There is a change made in the humanity, by being advanced to a more excellent union, but not in the Deity, as a change is made in the air, when it is enlightened by the sun, not in the sun, which communicates that brightness to the air. Athanasius makes the burning bush to be a type of Christ’s incarnation (Exod. 3:2): the fire signifying the Divine nature, and the bush the human. The bush is a branch springing up from the earth, and the fire descends from heaven; as the bush was united to the fire, yet was not hurt by the flame, nor converted into fire, there remained a difference between the bush and the fire, yet the properties of the fire shined in the bush, so that the whole bush seemed to be on fire. So in the incarnation of Christ, the human nature is not swallowed up by the Divine, nor changed into it, nor confounded with it, but so united, that the properties of both remain firm: two are so become one, that they remain two still: one person in two natures, containing the glorious perfections of the Divine, and the weaknesses of the human. The “fulness of the Deity dwells bodily in Christ” (Col. 2:9).
(2.) The Divine nature is united to every part of the humanity. The whole Divinity to the whole humanity; so that no part but may be said to be the member of God, as well as the blood is said to be the “blood of God” (Acts 20:28). By the same reason, it may be said, the hand of God, the eye of God, the arm of God. As God is infinitely present everywhere, so as to be excluded from no place, so is the Deity hypostatically everywhere in the humanity. not excluded from any part of it; as the light of the sun in every part of the air; as a sparkling splendor in every part of the diamond. Therefore, it is concluded, by all that acknowledge the Deity of Christ, that when his soul was separated from the body, the Deity remained united both to soul and body, as light doth in every part of a broken crystal.
(3.) Therefore, perpetually united (Col. 2:9). The “fulness of the Godhead dwells in him bodily.” It dwells in him, not lodges in him, as a traveller in an inn: it resides in him as a fixed habitation. As God describes the perpetuity of his presence in the ark by his habitation or dwelling in it (Exod. 29:44), so doth the apostle the inseparable duration of the Deity in the humanity, and the indissoluble union of the humanity with the Deity. It was united on earth; it remains united in heaven. It was not an image or an apparition, as the tongues wherein the Spirit came upon the apostles, were a temporary representation, not a thing united perpetually to the person of the Holy Ghost.
(4.) It was a personal union. It was not an union of persons, though it was a personal union; so Davenant expounds (Col. 2:9), Christ did not take the person of man, but the nature of man into subsistence with himself. The body and soul of Christ were not united in themselves, had no subsistence in themselves, till they were united to the person of the Son of God. If the person of a man were united to him, the human nature would have been the nature of the person so united to him, and not the nature of the Son of God (Heb.2:14, 16), “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, be also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” He took flesh and blood to be his own nature, perpetually to subsist in the person of the Αόγος, which must be by a personal union, or no way the Deity united to the humanity, and both natures to be one person. This is the mysterious and manifold wisdom of God.
The Existence and Attributes of God