Beware of the Leaven of the PhariseesLuke 12 1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
Have No Fear4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Acknowledge Christ Before Men8 “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, 9 but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
The Parable of the Rich Fool13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Do Not Be Anxious22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
You Must Be Ready35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
Not Peace, but Division49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Interpreting the Time54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
Settle with Your Accuser57 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”
Repent or PerishLuke 13 1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”
A Woman with a Disabling Spirit10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.
The Mustard Seed and the Leaven18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”
The Narrow Door22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
Lament over Jerusalem31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”
What I'm Reading
Is There Life Out There? (Interview with Jeff Zweerink)
By J. Warner Wallace 10/24/2017
Between novels, movies and television series, some of the most popular story lines involve extra-terrestrial beings living on exotic planets somewhere in the universe. The notion of alien life in the cosmos has captured our creative imagination and our scientific focus. If you’re like me, you’ve probably given the possibility of extra-terrestrial beings some serious thought. You may also have wondered if the existence of such beings would significantly impact the claims of Christianity. If aliens do live somewhere in the universe, would their existence disprove the Christian worldview? Well, Jeff Zweerink, an astrophysicist and Senior Research Scholar at Reasons to Believe, has written a new book that will inform and help Christians think clearly about the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. Is There Life Out There? is a fascinating and informative book, so I asked Jeff to answer a few questions:
J. Warner: | Jeff, can you tell our audience a little bit about your professional background and your ministry experience?
Jeff: | From my earliest memories, I have loved understanding how things work. Growing up, I planned to follow in my dad’s footsteps and pursue a chemistry career. While I find chemistry fascinating, I loved my first physics class in high school. So, I went to Iowa State University and received a BS in physics with minors in astronomy and mathematics. In graduate school, my focus shifted slightly to high-energy astrophysics where I investigated objects that emit gamma rays with millions of times more energy than those that produced the Incredible Hulk. I now work for Reasons to Believe (RTB)—an organization seeking to bring the gospel to those people interested in science. A large part of my job at RTB entails speaking and writing about intriguing topics where science and theology overlap, like my most recent book Is There Life Out There? ?
J. Warner: |This is a very interesting topic, but not one I’ve seen addressed in many books. Can you tell me why you decided to write an entire book about it?
Jeff: | Two things conspired to bring this topic to my attention. First, astronomers started finding planets outside the solar system just over two decades ago. Since the initial discovery in 1992, they have found thousands of planets orbiting distant suns. These advances bring us closer (from a scientific perspective) to having actual data regarding how unique life on Earth is. Second, it seems like the topic of life in the universe fascinates lots of people. I noted a common theme in many of those discussions. Many Christians and non-Christians seem to think that the discovery of life “out there” would seriously undermine the truth of Christianity. To my knowledge, there are no books that describe the incredible advances in the search for planets beyond the solar system and how those discoveries impact the Christian faith.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Is God a Megalomaniac?
By John Piper 10/25/2017
We have an email here from a mom named Coleen who is writing in on behalf of her son. And for the sake of anonymity of him, as a minor, I am not going to use his name here. Coleen, his mother, writes in to ask this. “Dear Pastor John, I am hoping you can help us with regards to the topic of God being a megalomaniac, which is what our fifteen-year-old son currently believes. We’ve talked about this, and he has said that you may be the only person who can change his thinking. Because of the Westminster Catechism’s answer to the chief end of man, he now believes that God is somehow weak and has an enormous ego, that he created human beings so they will worship him. That God is too ‘needy.’ My son wants to enjoy other things more than God and thinks ‘programming’ people to find their greatest happiness in worshiping him is coercive, mean, manipulative, and wrong.”
I don’t know Coleen’s son’s name, but for convenience sake, I’m going to call him Joe, and speak directly to him. According to his mom, Joe believes six things. What she doesn’t say, and if I were having a conversation with Joe, the first thing I would ask is probably, what are you basing your view of God on? Are you making it up? Are you trusting some human teacher? Are you deducing it from nature, and the logical use of nature? Or are you basing it on God’s word in Scripture? And how he answers that question would probably affect how I answer.
But, since I don’t know, I’m just going to rest my case with God’s word, since I regard all those other sources as very unlikely sources of reliable information about infinite reality, especially the source of my own head. I think if we are going to know anything about God for sure, God has to tell us. There’s no other way to know. We need both the word and the Spirit’s opening our hearts to see what’s really there. So let me say a word about the six things that I see Joe apparently believes about God.
Strong God | First, he believes God is somehow weak. According to Scripture, “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure” (Psalm 147:5). Job says, “The Almighty — we cannot find him; he is great in power” (Job 37:23). In fact, Job comes to the end of his book with this overriding conviction: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
In Isaiah 46:9–10, God himself puts it like this, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’”
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
For the Bible Tells Me So: Biblical Authority Denied … Again
By Albert Mohler 9/26/2016
“Jesus loves me — this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” This is a childish error?
Evangelical Christianity has a big problem, says Andy Stanley, and that problem is a reliance on the Bible that is both unwarranted and unhelpful. In a recent message delivered at North Point Community Church and posted online, Stanley identifies the evangelical impulse to turn to the Bible in our defense and presentation of Christianity as a huge blunder that must be corrected.
Some years ago, in light of another message Stanley preached at North Point, I argued that his apologetic ambition was, as we saw with Protestant liberalism a century ago, a road that will lead to disaster. No doubt, many Christians might be surprised to see an apologetic ambition identified as an entry point for theological liberalism, but this has held constant since Friedrich Schleiermacher, the father of modern theological liberalism, issued his book, Schleiermacher: On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) in 1799.
In the wake of the Enlightenment, Schleiermacher understood that the intellectual elites in Germany were already turning a skeptical eye to Christianity, if not dismissing it altogether. The Enlightenment worldview was hostile to supernatural claims, suspicious of any claims to absolute truth beyond empirical science, and dismissive of any verbal form of divine revelation.
No problem, Schleiermacher responded — we can still salvage spiritual and moral value out of Christianity while jettisoning its troublesome doctrinal claims, supernatural structure, and dependence upon the Bible. He was certain that his strategy would “save” Christianity from irrelevance.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
What is Lordship Salvation, and what do you think of it?
By John Hendryx 10/19/2017
I have read some critical remarks of Lordship salvation which have some validity. These criticisms have indeed been true with some erroneous presentations of Lordship that appear to be nothing more than a works-based based gospel which give the impression that salvation, at least partly, has to do with our commitment every bit as much as Christ's cross. However, just like any doctrine, things tend to go awry when humans are involved... but if understood rightly, biblically I believe that it actually conforms to the Reformed confessions and, more importantly, to the Bible's central message of salvation by grace alone in Christ alone. Because of this I wish to write a very short piece to bring some clarity to the issue.
What is Lordship? | When the Holy Spirit touches or quickens a person's heart, they recognize immediately that because of their sinful rebellion against a Holy God, that they justly deserve the His wrath and know sin to be their greatest burden and enemy. Yet being in captivity and bondage to it, they despair of all hope in their flesh (Phil 3:3), knowing there is nothing they can do to save themselves. So they appeal to Christ Jesus as their only hope to deliver them from both the guilt and power of sin. They know only He can save them from God's wrath and sin's captivity. That is why he is called the Savior.
The sinner whom the Spirit applies Christ's redemption does not say, "Jesus, forgive my sin but leave me in the grip of its power." That is a sure sign of a spurious conversion. No, a regenerate person who is united to Christ wants to be rid of that which breaks God's heart but know he is utterly helpless in himself to free himself. He knows Jesus alone has the power to free the captives. By the very calling on Jesus to deliver him from sin's tyranny, the quickened man reveals a renewed heart that no longer has allegiance to sin, but to Christ. Sin is no longer Lord, Jesus is Lord! In fact he will continually come to God in prayer knowing he has no strength in himself to fight sin, but appeals to Jesus to deliver him from it.
If a person simply wants their guilt removed so they can escape from hell but does not want to be rid of the sin which is what put them there in the first place, and this is the pattern of their life, it reveals an uncircumcised heart (Deut 29:4). The regenerate believer, who a new heart, loves God so will fight against sin and mourn over the breaking of God's law for the rest of his life (Deut 30:6). He will stumble, and know himself to daily woefully fall short of God's holy standard, but will never fall away altogether (Psalm 37:24) for the Spirit works in him a desire to confess sin and do that which is pleasing to God. (1 Cor 11:31-32) It is not the perfection of his life which determines that he yields to Christ as Lord, but the Spirit driven direction of his life. He trusts in Christ alone for his standing before God and trusts in Christ alone to enable him to fight sin. Jesus has conscripted you in His army against it, first in your own heart and then in the world.
So, in short, Lordship salvation is not our commitment that saves us but Christ who grants me a renewed heart which wants to be delivered from sin in all its forms. Where people tend to go wrong on this issue is when they have a low view of the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration on the one hand (no Lordship,antinomianism) or too high a view of the fallen sinners native ability to follow Christ (Moralism, Legalism). The opposite of "easy believism" is not "hard believism" but "impossible believism" (1 Cor 12:3, 1 Cor 2:14). But thanks be to God, "what is impossible with man is possible with God."(Luke 18:27) A regenerate man recognizes his own spiritual impotence but also that the power of the resurrected Christ in him gives him the the only resource to overcome sin.
- 1 The Biblical Doctrine of Regeneration
- 2 Twelve What Abouts: Answering Common Objections Concerning God's Sovereignty in Election
- 3 Intro to Reformed Theology: A Calvinist Survival Guide
- 4 Christ Our Sanctification: The Reformed View of Mortification and Vivification by Grace
- 5 Herman Bavinck: Selected Shorter Works
- 6 The Sermons of Charles Spurgeon: Sermons 1-200 (Vol 1 of 4) (The Sermons of Charles Spurgeon series)
20 Great ‘Protestant’ Films
By Brett McCracken 10/27/2017
The legacy of the Protestant Reformation—marking its 500th anniversary this month—has echoed down through the centuries in almost every area of life. But what about the movies? Where has the story and spirit of Protestantism been seen on screen?
Though there have been countless films with Protestant characters (sadly, often villains), a handful of movies about Martin Luther, and at least one recent documentary on Calvinism, what films have captured well, if less directly, the best parts of Protestantism?
I asked a handful of Christian film writers and scholars to consider this question and suggest films that seem either overtly Protestant or that provide a compelling picture of a Protestant principle, particularly sola gratia—the notion that salvation comes not by works but through the unmerited gift of grace.
Here are 20 we came up with: films that may not be “religious” but nevertheless spark theological reflection and speak to the Reformation’s big ideas:
Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1955): Shot in a slow, minimalist visual style that echoes the spare landscape, stern piety, and repressed emotions of its rural Denmark setting, Dreyer’s film is demanding but worth the effort. Ordet (Danish for “The Word”) visualizes the central Protestant idea that salvation consists in having a personal relationship with Jesus, not merely being a member of the “right” religious institution. Every Christian individual is called to devote his or her entire life to the radical pursuit of Christ, and Dreyer reminds us just how “insane”—indeed, how miraculous—such scandalous personal faith is bound to appear, even in a so-called “Christian culture.” [Watch on Filmstruck] — John McAteer (Ashford University)
By Jon Bloom 10/27/2017
If only I could find my soulmate to marry. If only my mate felt like my soulmate. If only I could find that friend who really understands and accepts me for who I am. If only I could pursue the career I really want. If only my church were more [fill in the blank]. If only I weren’t so [fill in the blank]. If only I lived [fill in the blank]. If only I had [fill in the blank]. If only my family [fill in the blank]. If only [fill in the blank] hadn’t happened to me.
What are your if only’s? We all have them, because if only’s are a form of regret, and regrets are simply unavoidable in our experience — though not all of them are unavoidable. Some are nothing more than delusions.
Either way, we must take care with our regrets, because, whether based on something real or fantastic, they can erode our faith in God by subtly shifting our faith from God to our regrets — and that is truly regrettable.
Real Regrets | When I say that some of our regrets are unavoidable, here’s what I mean:
1. We are sinners who, even as regenerate believers in Jesus, are committing or omitting sin in greater or lesser degrees all the time, and this scorns God and damages ourselves and others to greater or lesser degrees.
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.John Bloom Books | Go to Books Page
A gracious God and a neurotic monk
By Stephen J. Nichols 10/28/2017
One classic fable tells of a competition between the north wind and the sun: Who is stronger? Who can make a passing traveler remove his cloak? The north wind blows hard, but the traveler only wraps his cloak tighter around him. When the sun shines, though, the traveler takes off his cloak. Moral of the story: Persuasion is better than pressure, which is often true when humans are concerned. But Martin Luther knew that God uses both. Stephen J. Nichols, in The Legacy of Luther by R.C. Sproul (2016-10-03), a book he co-edited with R.C. Sproul (Reformation Trust, 2016), describes Luther as neurotically fearful and God as omnisciently gracious. God knew what pressure would get Luther’s attention, and make him understand that our problem is sin, not “sins in the plural. … If sin is quantified, then we look to merits or graces as the remedy.” Why is that so? Please read on. —Marvin Olasky
Erfurt: Becoming a Monk | During the course of his early studies, young Martin excelled, distinguishing himself from his classmates. These accomplishments opened the door for him to study at Erfurt. By the time Luther started there, the university was already more than a century old. The town, with a population hovering around twenty thousand, had industry, trade, and an extensive network of monasteries and churches. By 1502, Martin had earned his bachelor’s degree. Three years later, he took his master’s degree. He also took a Latinized form of his last name. He was now Martin Luther. He stayed in Erfurt, preparing for his doctorate in law.
Amid all of these academic accomplishments, Luther experienced intense struggles in his soul. No matter how much he experienced success, he could not escape the anxiety he felt. The German word for this anxiety is Anfechtung. It could be translated as “trial” or “affliction.” Roland Bainton expresses the difficulty in grasping this word when he observes, “There is no English equivalent.” Anfechtung refers to a deeply seated soul struggle. Bainton adds, “It may be a trial sent by God to test man, or an assault by the Devil to destroy man.”1 For Luther, we need to use the plural, Anfechtungen, as these crises of the soul came often. As his contemporaries did, Luther looked at spirituality and salvation as a contest between sins and merits. And it was a contest he nearly always lost.
In the summer of 1505, Luther traveled to his family’s home in Mansfeld for an extended visit. On his way back to Erfurt, he got caught in a violent thunderstorm. He presumed the storm to be God’s judgment on his soul. While at his family’s home, he more than likely spent time before the family altar, the shrine to St. Anne. Now, in the clutches of the storm, he cried out to her, “Help me, St. Anne, and I will become a monk!” She was the only mediator he knew.
A stone to the east of Stotternheim marks the place. Luther’s appeal to St. Anne is carved in the face of the granite. When Luther survived the storm and made his way back to Erfurt, he kept the words of promise. He turned his back on the law and became a monk.
Dr. Stephen J. Nichols Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 119119 HE
119:33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,
for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life!
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
CHAPTER VI | An Account of the Persecutions in Italy, Under the PapacyWe shall now enter on an account of the persecutions in Italy, a country which has been, and still is,
• 1. The center of popery.
• 2. The seat of the pontiff.
• 3. The source of the various errors which have spread themselves over other countries, deluded the minds of thousands, and diffused the clouds of superstition and bigotry over the human understanding.
In pursuing our narrative we shall include the most remarkable persecutions which have happened, and the cruelties which have been practised,
• 1. By the immediate power of the pope.
• 2. Through the power of the Inquisition.
• 3. By the bigotry of the Italian princes.
In the twelfth century, the first persecutions under the papacy began in Italy, at the time that Adrian, an Englishman, was pope, being occasioned by the following circumstances: A learned man, and an excellent orator of Brescia, named Arnold, came to Rome, and boldly preached against the corruptions and innovations which had crept into the Church. His discourses were so clear, consistent, and breathed forth such a pure spirit of piety, that the senators and many of the people highly approved of, and admired his doctrines. This so greatly enraged Adrian that he commanded Arnold instantly to leave the city, as a heretic. Arnold, however, did not comply, for the senators and some of the principal people took his part, and resisted the authority of the pope.
Adrian now laid the city of Rome under an interdict, which caused the whole body of clergy to interpose; and, at length he persuaded the senators and people to give up the point, and suffer Arnold to be banished. This being agreed to, he received the sentence of exile, and retired to Germany, where he continued to preach against the pope, and to expose the gross errors of the Church of Rome.
Adrian, on this account, thirsted for his blood, and made several attempts to get him into his hands; but Arnold, for a long time, avoided every snare laid for him. At length, Frederic Barbarossa arriving at the imperial dignity, requested that the pope would crown him with his own hand. This Adrian complied with, and at the same time asked a favor of the emperor, which was, to put Arnold into his hands. The emperor very readily delivered up the unfortunate preacher, who soon fell a martyr to Adrian's vengeance, being hanged, and his body burnt to ashes, at Apulia. The same fate attended several of his old friends and companions.
Encenas, a Spaniard, was sent to Rome, to be brought up in the Roman Catholic faith; but having conversed with some of the reformed, and having read several treatises which they put into his hands, he became a Protestant. This, at length, being known, one of his own relations informed against him, when he was burnt by order of the pope, and a conclave of cardinals. The brother of Encenas had been taken up much about the same time, for having a New Testament in the Spanish language in his possession; but before the time appointed for his execution, he found means to escape out of prison, and retired to Germany.
Faninus, a learned layman, by reading controversial books, became of the reformed religion. An information being exhibited against him to the pope, he was apprehended, and cast into prison. His wife, children, relations, and friends visited him in his confinement, and so far wrought upon his mind, that he renounced his faith, and obtained his release. But he was no sooner free from confinement than his mind felt the heaviest of chains; the weight of a guilty conscience. His horrors were so great that he found them insupportable, until he had returned from his apostasy, and declared himself fully convinced of the errors of the Church of Rome. To make amends for his falling off, he now openly and strenuously did all he could to make converts to Protestantism, and was pretty successful in his endeavors. These proceedings occasioned his second imprisonment, but he had his life offered him if he would recant again. This proposal he rejected with disdain, saying that he scorned life upon such terms. Being asked why he would obstinately persist in his opinions, and leave his wife and children in distress, he replied, "I shall not leave them in distress; I have recommended them to the care of an excellent trustee." "What trustee?" said the person who had asked the question, with some surprise: to which Faninus answered, "Jesus Christ is the trustee I mean, and I think I could not commit them to the care of a better." On the day of execution he appeared remarkably cheerful, which one observing, said, "It is strange you should appear so merry upon such an occasion, when Jesus Christ himself, just before his death, was in such agonies, that he sweated blood and water." To which Faninus replied: "Christ sustained all manner of pangs and conflicts, with hell and death, on our accounts; and thus, by his sufferings, freed those who really believe in him from the fear of them." He was then strangled, his body was burnt to ashes, and then scattered about by the wind.
Dominicus, a learned soldier, having read several controversial writings, became a zealous Protestant, and retiring to Placentia, he preached the Gospel in its utmost purity, to a very considerable congregation. One day, at the conclusion of his sermon, he said, "If the congregation will attend to-morrow, I will give them a description of Antichrist, and paint him out in his proper colors."
A vast concourse of people attended the next day, but just as Dominicus was beginning his sermon, a civil magistrate went up to the pulpit, and took him into custody. He readily submitted; but as he went along with the magistrate, he made use of this expression: "I wonder the devil hath let me alone so long." When he was brought to examination, this question was put to him: "Will you renounce your doctrines?" To which he replied: "My doctrines! I maintain no doctrines of my own; what I preach are the doctrines of Christ, and for those I will forfeit my blood, and even think myself happy to suffer for the sake of my Redeemer." Every method was taken to make him recant for his faith, and embrace the errors of the Church of Rome; but when persuasions and menaces were found ineffectual, he was sentenced to death, and hanged in the market place.
Galeacius, a Protestant gentleman, who resided near the castle of St. Angelo, was apprehended on account of his faith. Great endeavors being used by his friends he recanted, and subscribed to several of the superstitious doctrines propogated by the Church of Rome. Becoming, however, sensible of his error, he publicly renounced his recantation. Being apprehended for this, he was condemned to be burnt, and agreeable to the order was chained to a stake, where he was left several hours before the fire was put to the fagots, in order that his wife, relations, and friends, who surrounded him, might induce him to give up his opinions. Galeacius, however, retained his constancy of mind, and entreated the executioner to put fire to the wood that was to burn him. This at length he did, and Galeacius was soon consumed in the flames, which burnt with amazing rapidity and deprived him of sensation in a few minutes.
Soon after this gentleman's death, a great number of Protestants were put to death in various parts of Italy, on account of their faith, giving a sure proof of their sincerity in their martyrdoms.
An Account of the Persecutions of Calabria
In the fourteenth century, many of the Waldenses of Pragela and Dauphiny, emigrated to Calabria, and settling some waste lands, by the permission of the nobles of that country, they soon, by the most industrious cultivation, made several wild and barren spots appear with all the beauties of verdure and fertility.
The Calabrian lords were highly pleased with their new subjects and tenants, as they were honest, quiet, and industrious; but the priests of the country exhibited several negative complaints against them; for not being able to accuse them of anythying bad which they did do, they founded accusations on what they did not do, and charged them,
• With not being Roman Catholics.
• With not making any of their boys priests.
• With not making any of their girls nuns.
• With not going to Mass.
• With not giving wax tapers to their priests as offerings.
• With not going on pilgrimages.
• With not bowing to images.
The Calabrian lords, however, quieted the priests, by telling them that these people were extremely harmless; that they gave no offence to the Roman Catholics, and cheerfully paid the tithes to the priests, whose revenues were considerably increased by their coming into the country, and who, of consequence, ought to be the last persons to complain of them.
Things went on tolerably well after this for a few years, during which the Waldenses formed themselves into two corporate towns, annexing several villages to the jurisdiction of them. At length they sent to Geneva for two clergymen; one to preach in each town, as they determined to make a public profession of their faith. Intelligence of this affair being carried to the pope, Pius the Fourth, he determined to exterminate them from Calabria.
To this end he sent Cardinal Alexandrino, a man of very violent temper and a furious bigot, together with two monks, to Calabria, where they were to act as inquisitors. These authorized persons came to St. Xist, one of the towns built by the Waldenses, and having assembled the people, told them that they should receive no injury, if they would accept of preachers appointed by the pope; but if they would not, they should be deprived both of their properties and lives; and that their intentions might be known, Mass should be publicly said that afternoon, at which they were ordered to attend.
The people of St. Xist, instead of attending Mass, fled into the woods, with their families, and thus disappointed the cardinal and his coadjutors. The cardinal then proceeded to La Garde, the other town belonging to the Waldenses, where, not to be served as he had been at St. Xist, he ordered the gates to be locked, and all avenues guarded. The same proposals were then made to the inhabitants of La Garde, as had previously been offered to those of St. Xist, but with this additional piece of artifice: the cardinal assured them that the inhabitants of St. Xist had immediately come into his proposals, and agreed that the pope should appoint them preachers. This falsehood succeeded; for the people of La Garde, thinking what the cardinal had told them to be the truth, said they would exactly follow the example of their brethren at St. Xist.
The cardinal, having gained his point by deluding the people of one town, sent for troops of soldiers, with a view to murder those of the other. He, accordingly, despatched the soldiers into the woods, to hunt down the inhabitants of St. Xist like wild beasts, and gave them strict orders to spare neither age nor sex, but to kill all they came near. The troops entered the woods, and many fell a prey to their ferocity, before the Waldenses were properly apprised of their design. At length, however, they determined to sell their lives as dear as possible, when several conflicts happened, in which the half-armed Waldenses performed prodigies of valor, and many were slain on both sides. The greatest part of the troops being killed in the different rencontres, the rest were compelled to retreat, which so enraged the cardinal that he wrote to the viceroy of Naples for reinforcements.
The viceroy immediately ordered a proclamation to be made thorughout all the Neapolitan territories, that all outlaws, deserters, and other proscribed persons should be surely pardoned for their respective offences, on condition of making a campaign against the inhabitants of St. Xist, and continuing under arms until those people were exterminated.
Many persons of desperate fortunes came in upon this proclamation, and being formed into light companies, were sent to scour the woods, and put to death all they could meet with of the reformed religion. The viceroy himself likewise joined the cardinal, at the head of a body of regular forces; and, in conjunction, they did all they could to harass the poor people in the woods. Some they caught and hanged up upon trees, cut down boughs and burnt them, or ripped them open and left their bodies to be devoured by wild beasts, or birds of prey. Many they shot at a distance, but the greatest number they hunted down by way of sport. A few hid themselves in caves, but famine destroyed them in their retreat; and thus all these poor people perished, by various means, to glut the bigoted malice of their merciless persecutors.
The inhabitants of St. Xist were no sooner exterminated, than those of La Garde engaged the attention of the cardinal and viceroy.
It was offered, that if they should embrace the Roman Catholic persuasion, themselves and families should not be injured, but their houses and properties should be restored, and none would be permitted to molest them; but, on the contrary, if they refused this mercy, (as it was termed) the utmost extremities would be used, and the most cruel deaths the certain consequence of their noncompliance.
Notwithstanding the promises on one side, and menaces on the other, these worthy people unanimously refused to renounce their religion, or embrace the errors of popery. This exasperated the cardinal and viceroy so much, that thirty of them were ordered to be put immediately to the rack, as a terror to the rest.
Those who were put to the rack were treated with such severity that several died under the tortures; one Charlin, in particular, was so cruelly used that his belly burst, his bowels came out, and he expired in the greatest agonies. These barbarities, however, did not answer the purposes for which they were intended; for those who remained alive after the rack, and those who had not felt the rack, remained equally constant in their faith, and boldly declared that no tortures of body, or terrors of mind, should ever induce them to renounce their God, or worship images.
Several were then, by the cardinal's order, stripped stark naked, and whipped to death iron rods; and some were hacked to pieces with large knives; others were thrown down from the top of a large tower, and many were covered over with pitch, and burnt alive.
One of the monks who attended the cardinal, being naturally of a savage and cruel disposition, requested of him that he might shed some of the blood of these poor people with his own hands; when his request being granted, the barbarous man took a large sharp knife, and cut the throats of fourscore men, women, and children, with as little remorse as a butcher would have killed so many sheep. Every one of these bodies were then ordered to be quartered, the quarters placed upon stakes, and then fixed in different parts of the country, within a circuit of thirty miles.
The four principal men of La Garde were hanged, and the clergyman was thrown from the top of his church steeple. He was terribly mangled, but not quite killed by the fall; at which time the viceroy passing by, said, "Is the dog yet living? Take him up, and give him to the hogs," when, brutal as this sentence may appear, it was executed accordingly.
Sixty women were racked so violently, that the cords pierced their arms and legs close to the bone; when, being remanded to prison, their wounds mortified, and they died in the most miserable manner. Many others were put to death by various cruel means; and if any Roman Catholic, more compassionate than the rest, interceded for any of the reformed, he was immediately apprehended, and shared the same fate as a favorer of heretics.
The viceroy being obliged to march back to Naples, on some affairs of moment which required his presence, and the cardinal being recalled to Rome, the marquis of Butane was ordered to put the finishing stroke to what they had begun; which he at length effected, by acting with such barbarous rigor, that there was not a single person of the reformed religion left living in all Calabria.
Thus were a great number of inoffensive and harmless people deprived of their possessions, robbed of their property, driven from their homes, and at length murdered by various means, only because they would not sacrifice their consciences to the superstitions of others, embrace idolatrous doctrines which they abhorred, and accept of teachers whom they could not believe.
Tyranny is of three kinds, viz., that which enslaves the person, that which seizes the property, and that which prescribes and dictates to the mind. The two first sorts may be termed civil tyranny, and have been practiced by arbitrary sovereigns in all ages, who have delighted in tormenting the persons, and stealing the properties of their unhappy subjects. But the third sort, viz., prescribing and dictating to the mind, may be called ecclesiastical tyranny: and this is the worst kind of tyranny, as it includes the other two sorts; for the Romish clergy not only do torture the body and seize the effects of those they persecute, but take the lives, torment the minds, and, if possible, would tyrannize over the souls of the unhappy victims.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Words to Live By in Troubled Times (1)
(Oct 29) Bob Gass
‘The word of our God stands forever.’
(Is 40:8) 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. ESV
For the next few days let’s renew our minds with some of the wonderful promises God has given to us through His Word. Let’s not just read them casually, but process them slowly, deeply, prayerfully and repeatedly, letting the truth of them change our thinking and strengthen our faith. 1) ‘No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD’ (Isaiah 54:17 NKJV). 2) ‘The LORD…is with you; never again will you fear any harm…he is mighty to save. He will…deal with all who oppressed you’ (Zephaniah 3:15-19 NIV 1984 Edition). 3) ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king…With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us…fight our battles’ (2 Chronicles 32:7-8 NIV 2011 Edition). 4) ‘My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my…fortress, I shall never be shaken’ (Psalm 62:1-2 NIV 1984 Edition). 5) ‘Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand’ (Philippians 4:6-7 TLB). 6) ‘For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39 NKJV).
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
October 29, 1929, the New York Stock Exchange crashed, panic selling ensued and America plunged into the Great Depression. President Herbert Hoover, in a nation-wide drive to aid the private relief agencies, stated: “Time and time again the American people have demonstrated a spiritual quality… of generosity… This is the occasion when we must arouse that idealism… This civilization… which we call American life, is builded and can alone survive upon the translation into individual action of that fundamental philosophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago… Modern society can not survive with the defense of Cain, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ ”American Minute
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
I am all in favor of your idea that we should go back to our old plan of having a more or less set subject – an agendum – for our letters. When we were last separated the correspondence languished for lack of it. How much better we did in our undergraduate days with our interminable letters on the Republic, and classical matters, and what was then the “new” psychology! Nothing makes an absent friend so present as disagreement.
Prayer, which you suggest, is a subject that is a good deal in my mind. I mean, private prayer. If you were thinking of corporate prayer, I won’t play. There is no subject in the world (always excepting sport) on which I have less to say than liturgiology. And the almost nothing which I have to say may as well be disposed of in this letter.
I think our business as laymen is to take what we are given and make the best of it. And I think we should find this a great deal easier if what we were given was always and everywhere the same.
To judge from their practice, very few Anglican clergy men take this view. It looks as if they believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications, and complications of the service. And it is probably true that a new, keen vicar will usually be able to form within his parish a minority who are in favor of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain-many give up churchgoing altogether-merely endure.
Is this simply because the majority are hide-bound? I think not. They have a good reason for their conservatism. Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don't go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best-if you like, it "works" best - when, through long familiarity, we don't have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don't notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
It were better to have no opinion of God at all,
than such an opinion as is unworthy of him.
--- Francis Bacon
What God does, He does well.
--- Jean de La Fontaine
But I always think
that the best way to know God
is to love many things.
--- Vincent van Gogh Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
How Vespasian Was Received At Rome; As Also How The Germans Revolted From The Romans, But Were Subdued. That The Sarmatians Overran Mysia, But Were Compelled To Retire To Their Own Country Again.
1. And now Titus Caesar, upon the news that was brought him concerning his father, that his coming was much desired by all the Italian cities, and that Rome especially received him with great alacrity and splendor, betook himself to rejoicing and pleasures to a great degree, as now freed from the solicitude he had been under, after the most agreeable manner. For all men that were in Italy showed their respects to him in their minds before he came thither, as if he were already come, as esteeming the very expectation they had of him to be his real presence, on account of the great desires they had to see him, and because the good-will they bore him was entirely free and unconstrained; for it was, desirable thing to the senate, who well remembered the calamities they had undergone in the late changes of their governors, to receive a governor who was adorned with the gravity of old age, and with the highest skill in the actions of war, whose advancement would be, as they knew, for nothing else but for the preservation of those that were to be governed. Moreover, the people had been so harassed by their civil miseries, that they were still more earnest for his coming immediately, as supposing they should then be firmly delivered from their calamities, and believed they should then recover their secure tranquillity and prosperity; and for the soldiery, they had the principal regard to him, for they were chiefly apprized of his great exploits in war; and since they had experienced the want of skill and want of courage in other commanders, they were very desirous to be free from that great shame they had undergone by their means, and heartily wished to receive such a prince as might be a security and an ornament to them. And as this good-will to Vespasian was universal, those that enjoyed any remarkable dignities could not have patience enough to stay in Rome, but made haste to meet him at a very great distance from it; nay, indeed, none of the rest could endure the delay of seeing him, but did all pour out of the city in such crowds, and were so universally possessed with the opinion that it was easier and better for them to go out than to stay there, that this was the very first time that the city joyfully perceived itself almost empty of its citizens; for those that staid within were fewer than those that went out. But as soon as the news was come that he was hard by, and those that had met him at first related with what good humor he received every one that came to him, then it was that the whole multitude that had remained in the city, with their wives and children, came into the road, and waited for him there; and for those whom he passed by, they made all sorts of acclamations, on account of the joy they had to see him, and the pleasantness of his countenance, and styled him their Benefactor and Savior, and the only person who was worthy to be ruler of the city of Rome. And now the city was like a temple, full of garlands and sweet odors; nor was it easy for him to come to the royal palace, for the multitude of the people that stood about him, where yet at last he performed his sacrifices of thanksgiving to his household gods for his safe return to the city. The multitude did also betake themselves to feasting; which feasts and drink-offerings they celebrated by their tribes, and their families, and their neighborhoods, and still prayed God to grant that Vespasian, his sons, and all their posterity, might continue in the Roman government for a very long time, and that his dominion might be preserved from all opposition. And this was the manner in which Rome so joyfully received Vespasian, and thence grew immediately into a state of great prosperity.
2. But before this time, and while Vespasian was about Alexandria, and Titus was lying at the siege of Jerusalem, a great multitude of the Germans were in commotion, and tended to rebellion; and as the Gauls in their neighborhood joined with them, they conspired together, and had thereby great hopes of success, and that they should free themselves from the dominion of the Romans. The motives that induced the Germans to this attempt for a revolt, and for beginning the war, were these: In the first place, the nature [of the people], which was destitute of just reasonings, and ready to throw themselves rashly into danger, upon small hopes; in the next place, the hatred they bore to those that were their governors, while their nation had never been conscious of subjection to any but to the Romans, and that by compulsion only. Besides these motives, it was the opportunity that now offered itself, which above all the rest prevailed with them so to do; for when they saw the Roman government in a great internal disorder, by the continual changes of its rulers, and understood that every part of the habitable earth under them was in an unsettled and tottering condition, they thought this was the best opportunity that could afford itself for themselves to make a sedition, when the state of the Romans was so ill. Classicus 6 also, and Vitellius, two of their commanders, puffed them up with such hopes. These had for a long time been openly desirous of such an innovation, and were induced by the present opportunity to venture upon the declaration of their sentiments; the multitude was also ready; and when these men told them of what they intended to attempt, that news was gladly received by them. So when a great part of the Germans had agreed to rebel, and the rest were no better disposed, Vespasian, as guided by Divine Providence, sent letters to Petilius Cerealis, who had formerly had the command of Germany, whereby he declared him to have the dignity of consul, and commanded him to take upon him the government of Britain; so he went whither he was ordered to go, and when he was informed of the revolt of the Germans, he fell upon them as soon as they were gotten together, and put his army in battle-array, and slew a great number of them in the fight, and forced them to leave off their madness, and to grow wiser; nay, had he not fallen thus suddenly upon them on the place, it had not been long ere they would however have been brought to punishment; for as soon as ever the news of their revolt was come to Rome, and Caesar Domitian was made acquainted with it, he made no delay, even at that his age, when he was exceeding young, but undertook this weighty affair. He had a courageous mind from his father, and had made greater improvements than belonged to such an age: accordingly he marched against the barbarians immediately; whereupon their hearts failed them at the very rumor of his approach, and they submitted themselves to him with fear, and thought it a happy thing that they were brought under their old yoke again without suffering any further mischiefs. When therefore Domitian had settled all the affairs of Gaul in such good order, that it would not be easily put into disorder any more, he returned to Rome with honor and glory, as having performed such exploits as were above his own age, but worthy of so great a father.
3. At the very same time with the forementioned revolt of the Germans did the bold attempt of the Scythians against the Romans occur; for those Scythians who are called Sarmatians, being a very numerous people, transported themselves over the Danube into Mysia, without being perceived; after which, by their violence, and entirely unexpected assault, they slew a great many of the Romans that guarded the frontiers; and as the consular legate Fonteius Agrippa came to meet them, and fought courageously against them, he was slain by them. They then overran all the region that had been subject to him, tearing and rending every thing that fell in their way. But when Vespasian was informed of what had happened, and how Mysia was laid waste, he sent away Rubrius Gallus to punish these Sarmatians; by whose means many of them perished in the battles he fought against them, and that part which escaped fled with fear to their own country. So when this general had put an end to the war, he provided for the future security of the country also; for he placed more and more numerous garrisons in the place, till he made it altogether impossible for the barbarians to pass over the river any more. And thus had this war in Mysia a sudden conclusion.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
but a person [is tested] by [his reaction to] praise.
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
He hath made Him to be sin for us, … that we might be made the righteousness of God. --- 2 Cor. 5:21.
The modern view of the death of Jesus is that He died for our sins out of sympathy. The New Testament view is that He bore our sin not by sympathy, but by identification. He was made to be sin. Our sins are removed because of the death of Jesus, and the explanation of His death is His obedience to His Father, not His sympathy with us. We are acceptable with God not because we have obeyed, or because we have promised to give up things, but because of the death of Christ, and in no other way. We say that Jesus Christ came to reveal the Fatherhood of God, the loving-kindness of God; the New Testament says He came to bear away the sin of the world. The revelation of His Father is to those to whom He has been introduced as Saviour: Jesus Christ never spoke of Himself to the world as one Who revealed the Father, but as a stumbling-block (see John 15:22–24 ). John 14:9 was spoken to His disciples.
That Christ died for me, therefore I go scot free, is never taught in the New Testament. What is taught in the New Testament is that “He died for all” (not—He died my death), and that by identification with His death I can be freed from sin, and have imparted to me His very righteousness. The substitution taught in the New Testament is twofold: “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” It is not Christ for me unless I am determined to have Christ formed in me.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
The Small Country
Did I confuse the categories?
Was I blind?
Was I afraid of hubris
in identifying this land
with the kingdom? Those stories
about the far journeys, when it was here
at my door; the object
of my contempt that became
the toad with the jewel in its head!
Was a population so small
enough to be called, too many
to be chosen? I called it
an old man, ignoring the April
message proclaiming: Behold,
I make all things new.
The dinosaurs have gone their way
into the dark. The time-span
of their human counterparts
is shortened; everything
on this shrinking planet favours the survival
of the small people, whose horizons
are large only because
they are content to look at them
from their own hills.
I grow old,
bending to enter the promised
land that was here all the time,
happy to eat the bread that was baked
in the poets' oven, breaking my speech
from the perennial tree
of my people and holding it in my blind hand.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
After exhibiting concern that the prophet’s authority be accepted and followed at all costs, Maimonides qualifies his opinion by reference to an apparently trivial detail of Halakhah. The community is at war. Because of the command of the prophet, its members are plundering, killing, and being killed. Yet, within this context, Maimonides cautions one not to tie a permanent knot on the Sabbath unless it is necessary, for this act is prohibited by the Halakhah. Concern for this minute detail of religious ritual within the context of war appears absolutely absurd. The concern, however, expresses Maimonides’ feeling that obedience to the authority of the prophet must be circumscribed even in situations of stress. Obedience to the political authority of the prophet, under the conditions presented, could become total and lead to the reaction that everything else is permitted. In the situation described, a natural and human response to expect from the community would be the feeling that if some aspects of life are upset, everything, therefore, is permitted. But Maimonides insists that one must never relax one’s ability to discriminate. One obeys the prophet only to whatever degree is necessary. Beyond that, other obligations remain intact.
Though the authority given to the prophet is enormous, the prophet is powerless regarding issues not in his domain. His authority ceases when he participates in rational discourse with scholars. As a prophet, he may initiate a war, but he may not decide whether the Sabbath limit is to be one cubit more or less. The juxtaposition of minute details of Halakhah with the life-and-death command to war focuses attention on a crucial principle: Prophecy has a role in Judaism, yet this role is not limitless. Even if the limits of prophetic authority are manifested in seemingly trivial minutiae of Halakhah, one must conscientiously ensure that these limits are not overstepped.
Maimonides insists that the Jew must be aware of the exact scope of obedience to authority. He must not only discriminate among all the grounds of different norms, but he must also act on the basis of his discrimination. The security of routine or of a single type of response to religious norms is absent from the mind of the Halakhic Jew, according to Maimonides. The crux of his response is meticulous selectivity. He approaches Halakhah with principles for discriminating the scope and type of various commandments. Halakhic observance that is grounded in routine and uncritical obedience could not sustain the upsetting changes introduced by the prophet; people either would resist his demands or they would accept his disruptive demands in a manner which would destroy existing values. Only a reflective person could live with change in his religious life and still maintain an approach of discrimination as opposed to the all-or-nothing response of the uncritically obedient.
From Maimonides’ first major legal work, we recognize the Jew which he believed emerged from Halakhah. In comparing Halakhic man to philosophic man it is not correct to claim that the former reflects the virtue of unthinking obedience and the latter the value of critical reflection.42 The Halakhah itself develops a disciplined, discriminating approach. A person who follows the prophet to war yet who refuses to unnecessarily tie a knot on the Sabbath, or who refuses prophetic authority for halakhic laws which are open to human reasoning, is the type of person who critically evaluates the claims of authority. The personality which Halakhah cultivates, according to Maimonides, is the same as that which emerges when the Jew is exposed to philosophy. The same critical discrimination characterizes the Jew’s attitude toward beliefs. We can now analyze Maimonides’ approach to beliefs and show how the anthropology which emerges from Halakhah is also manifested in the cognitive claims of Judaism.
As a system which includes the notion of God’s revelation in history, Judaism is anchored, at least in part, on authoritarian claims. The belief in divine revelation—as well as numerous other principles which claim divine action in history—cannot be rationally demonstrated.43 Thus, among the fundamental principles of religion, there are those which must rely on the authority of tradition for their acceptance. Yet, according to Maimonides, other principles—such as God’s existence and non-corporeality—are capable of being demonstrated rationally.44
In his introduction to Ḥelek, Maimonides does not distinguish between the logical status of those principles of Judaism which can be established by reason and those which rest on the authority of tradition. However, Maimonides must account for the acceptance of principles grounded in the authority of tradition if he is to maintain that Aggadah be included within a universal framework of truth. In The Guide of the Perplexed Maimonides does clarify the situation by offering definite criteria which justify one’s acceptance of beliefs based on the authority of tradition. Simply stated, Maimonides claims that appeals to authority are justified when it can be shown that demonstrative reason is not able to offer certainty. This is the method he uses when he argues with those who claim that the eternity of the world has been demonstrated by Aristotle:
What I myself desire to make clear is that the world’s being created in time, according to the opinion of our Law—an opinion that I have already explained—is not impossible and that all those philosophic proofs from which it seems that the matter is different from what we have stated, all those arguments have a certain point through which they may be invalidated and the inference drawn from them against us shown to be incorrect. Now inasmuch as this is true in my opinion and inasmuch as this question—I mean to say that of the eternity of the world or its creation in time—becomes an open question, it should in my opinion be accepted without proof because of prophecy, which explains things to which it is not in the power of speculation to accede. For as we shall make clear, prophecy is not set at naught even in the opinion of those who believe in the eternity of the world.45
Truths based upon demonstrative certainty, however, can never be contradicted by an appeal to prophetic authority:
That the Deity is not a body has been demonstrated; from this it follows necessarily that everything that in its external meaning disagrees with this demonstration must be interpreted figuratively, for it is known that such texts are of necessity fit for figurative interpretation. However, the eternity of the world has not been demonstrated. Consequently, in this case, the texts ought not to be rejected and figuratively interpreted in order to make prevail an opinion whose contrary can be made to prevail by means of various sorts of arguments.
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. --- 1 Corinthians 2:8
In thinking of [Judas] we must start from this, that Christ loved Judas. The Galilean Accent - Being Some Studies in the Christian Life Christ believed in Judas, Christ chose Judas, with prayer and deliberation, as one of the Twelve whom he loved best to have beside him and of whom he hoped the most. Judas was a great soul—or had the makings. And when we come upon that horror, scarcely human, lying mangled there at the cliff foot, we look up and, with a shudder, see how high he once walked and from what he fell.
The Gospel writers are, frankly, not fair to their fallen colleague. Always that ghastly end of his is there before their eyes, and from the very first they find it difficult to mention him without adding, “who betrayed him” (Matt. 10:4).
So doing, unconsciously they leave the impression that [Judas] was chosen for the traitor’s part, as an actor is cast to be the villain and is marked villain from the start. But it was far more terrible than that. It is a most noble nature that we watch crumble to ruin. How did it happen and Christ’s confident dreams and hopes for him go out in such a starless night?
Some say that Judas’s sin was rather this—that Christ’s prolonged delay amazed him—set his mind arguing, “Isn’t there here a lack of nerve? Doesn’t he see the tide is at the full, and he must launch out now? That it is turning, that if anything is ever to be done, then it must be at once?” And still Christ let chance after chance, as Judas judged, go by and waited—and for what? Things were not growing better but much worse. The opposition of the leaders had been given time to harden. The people had lost much of that first passion of enthusiasm with which, had it been seized at once and rightly used, anything might have been done. Christ was drifting, Judas felt, straight on the rocks. But vigorous action even yet might save the situation, and he planned to bring Christ to a test that he could not evade, to place him in a position that would lay compulsion on him to take action. He had lost patience with Christ, thought his plans were bungling and crude and clumsy and by far too slow. Judas was looking for a shortcut; he thought that he had found it; he took it—and it ended in that horror and the cross!
--- Arthur John Gossip
The Archbishop’s Arrow
Maurice Abbot was a clothier in a village 20 miles from London. One night his pregnant wife, Alice, dreamed that if she could catch a pike, her child would be a boy. She rushed to the nearby river and trapped a young pike in her pitcher. She cooked it, ate it, and on October 29, 1562, bore a son.
The story spread through the superstitious town, and many people offered to finance the boy’s education. Consequently, George entered Oxford at age 16. The Abbots were staunch Protestants, and the young man entered the ministry. His powerful, Puritan-leaning sermons, though often dull, were always scholarly. When King James approved a new version of the Bible, George became a translator of the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation.
In 1611, the year the King James Version was released, George became head of the Church of England, the archbishop of Canterbury—the only KJV translator to reach that office. When James died, it was Abbot who crowned the new king, Charles I. He thus became the only KJV translator to crown a monarch.
But he was also the only translator and the only archbishop of Canterbury ever to kill a man. It happened when he joined friends in a hunting party, midsummer of 1621. Abbot was stout, stodgy, and unfamiliar with bows. When a buck came into sight, he drew back his arrow and let it fly. It flew right into poor Peter Harkins who quickly bled to death. All England was stunned, and many were critical of the archbishop, who was himself doubled over in grief. A special council absolved him of guilt, more or less; and the king issued a pardon. But many churchgoers whispered doubts about the holiness of a man who had killed another. Abbot soon became ill with “the stone and gravel,” and with gout. He began fasting every Tuesday in sorrow for his poor marksmanship. But he was never again well—or well-accepted by the people. Yet he still speaks to us every time we read the Gospels, Acts, or Revelation in the King James Version of the Bible.
I am about to collapse from constant pain.
I told you my sins, and I am sorry for them.
Many deadly and powerful enemies hate me,
And they repay evil for good because I try to do right.
You are the LORD God!
Stay nearby and don’t desert me.
--- Psalm 38:17-21.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 29
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, etc.” --- Matthew 6:9.
This prayer begins where all true prayer must commence, with the spirit of adoption, “Our Father.” There is no acceptable prayer until we can say, “I will arise, and go unto my Father.” This child-like spirit soon perceives the grandeur of the Father “in heaven,” and ascends to devout adoration, “Hallowed be thy name.” The child lisping, “Abba, Father,” grows into the cherub crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” There is but a step from rapturous worship to the glowing missionary spirit, which is a sure outgrowth of filial love and reverent adoration—“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Next follows the heartfelt expression of dependence upon God—“Give us this day our daily bread.” Being further illuminated by the Spirit, he discovers that he is not only dependent, but sinful, hence he entreats for mercy, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors:” and being pardoned, having the righteousness of Christ imputed, and knowing his acceptance with God, he humbly supplicates for holy perseverance, “Lead us not into temptation.” The man who is really forgiven, is anxious not to offend again; the possession of justification leads to an anxious desire for sanctification. “Forgive us our debts,” that is justification; “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” that is sanctification in its negative and positive forms. As the result of all this, there follows a triumphant ascription of praise, “Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen.” We rejoice that our King reigns in providence and shall reign in grace, from the river even to the ends of the earth, and of his dominion there shall be no end. Thus from a sense of adoption, up to fellowship with our reigning Lord, this short model of prayer conducts the soul. Lord, teach us thus to pray.
Evening - October 29
“But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” --- Luke 24:16.
The disciples ought to have known Jesus, they had heard his voice so often, and gazed upon that marred face so frequently, that it is wonderful they did not discover him. Yet is it not so with you also? You have not seen Jesus lately. You have been to his table, and you have not met him there. You are in a dark trouble this Evening, and though he plainly says, “It is I, be not afraid,” yet you cannot discern him. Alas! our eyes are holden. We know his voice; we have looked into his face; we have leaned our head upon his bosom, and yet, though Christ is very near us, we are saying “O that I knew where I might find him!” We should know Jesus, for we have the Scriptures to reflect his image, and yet how possible it is for us to open that precious book and have no glimpse of the Wellbeloved! Dear child of God, are you in that state? Jesus feedeth among the lilies of the word, and you walk among those lilies, and yet you behold him not. He is accustomed to walk through the glades of Scripture, and to commune with his people, as the Father did with Adam in the cool of the day, and yet you are in the garden of Scripture, but cannot see him, though he is always there. And why do we not see him? It must be ascribed in our case, as in the disciples’, to unbelief. They evidently did not expect to see Jesus, and therefore they did not know him. To a great extent in spiritual things we get what we expect of the Lord. Faith alone can bring us to see Jesus. Make it your prayer, “Lord, open thou mine eyes, that I may see my Saviour present with me.” It is a blessed thing to want to see him; but oh! it is better far to gaze upon him. To those who seek him he is kind; but to those who find him, beyond expression is he dear!
WHERE CROSS THE CROWDED WAYS OF LIFE
Franklin Mason North, 1850–1935
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Psalm 82:3, 4)
Henry David Thoreau, noted American writer, philosopher, and naturalist of the past 19th century, once described the large city as “a place where people are lonely together.” This loneliness is not the result of an absence of people; rather, it is due to a lack of genuine caring relationships.
If Thoreau’s observation was true in the past, it has become increasingly true in the present, and the prediction is that it will become alarmingly more so in the near future. In 1950 there were only seven cities in the world with more than five million people. Only two of these were in the Third World. Today there are 34 cities with more than five million people, 22 of which are in the Third World. And by the middle of the 21st century, there will be nearly 100 cities with at least five million people, with 80 of these in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Twenty percent of the world’s population will be living in the slums and squatter settlements of Third World countries.
The author of this text, Franklin North, was a Methodist minister in New York City. He wrote this hymn in response to a request from the Methodist hymnal committee for a hymn about big city life, which Pastor North knew well and to which he was most sympathetic. The hymn first appeared in 1903 in the publication The Christian City, of which North was the editor. God help us to be people with sensitivity and compassion.
Where cross the crowded ways of life, where sound the cries of race and clan, above the noise of selfish strife, we hear Thy voice, O Son of man!
The cup of water giv’n for Thee still holds the freshness of Thy grace; yet long these multitudes to see the sweet compassion of Thy face.
O Master, from the mountain side, make haste to heal these hearts of pain; among these restless throngs abide; O tread the city streets again:
Till sons of men shall learn Thy love and follow where Thy feet have trod; till glorious, from Thy heav’n above, shall come the city of our God.
For Today: Zechariah 7:8; Matthew 10:42; 22:9; Luke 4:18; 1 Peter 2:21
Determine to become better acquainted with a person from another culture or race. Perhaps invite him or her to your home for dinner. Ask God to help you think globally, to understand and accept a multicultural world. Reflect on these musical thoughts as you go ---
Exhort. 3. Let none of us be proud of, or trust in our own wisdom. Man, by affecting wisdom out of the way of God, got a crack in his head, which hath continued five thousand years and upwards, and ever since our own wisdom and “knowledge hath perverted us” (Isa. 47:10). To be guided by this, is to be under the conduct of a blind leader, and follow a traitor and enemy to God and ourselves. Man’s prudence often proves hurtful to him: he often accomplisheth his ruin, while he designs his establishment; and finds his fall, where he thought to settle his fortune: such bad eyes hath human wisdom often in its own affairs. Those that have been heightened with a conceit of their own cunning, have at last proved the greatest fools. God delights to make “foolish the wisdom of this world” (1 Cor. 1:20). Thus God writ folly upon the crafty brains of Ahithophel, and simplicity upon the subtle projects of Herod against our Saviour; and the devil, the prince of carnal wisdom, was befooled into a furthering our redemption by his own projects to hinder it. Carnal policy, against the prescripts of Divine wisdom, ne ver prospers: it is like an ignis fatuus, which leads men out of the way of duty, and out of the way of security, and perverts them into the mire and dangerous precipices. When Jeroboam would coin a religion to serve his interest of state, he tore up the foundations both of his kingdom and family. The way the Jews took to prevent a fresh invasion of the Romans, by the crucifying Christ, brought the judgment more swift upon them (John 11:48). There is no man ruined here, or damned hereafter, but by his own wisdom and will. (Prov. 3:5, 7), “The fear of the Lord, and departure from evil, are inconsistent with an overweening conceit of our own wisdom;” and leaning to our own understanding, is inconsistent with a trusting in the Lord with all our hearts. It is as much a deifying ourselves, to trust to our own wit, as it is a deifying the creature to affect or confide in it, superior to God or equally with him. The true way to wisdom is to be sensible of our own folly (1 Cor. 3:18), “If any man be wise, let him become a fool.” He that distrusts his own guidance, will more securely and successfully follow the counsel of another in whom he confides. The more water, or any other liquor, is poured out of a vessel, the more air enters. The more we distrust our own wisdom, the more capable we are of the conduct of God’s. Had Jehoshaphat relied upon his own policy, he might have found a defeat when he met with a deliverance; but he disowned his own skill and strength in telling God, “We know not what to do, but our eyes are upon thee” (2 Chron. 20:12). Let us, therefore, with Agur, disesteem our own understanding to esteem Divine. Human prudence is like a spider’s web, easily blown away, and swept down by the besom of some unexpected revolution. God, by his infinite wisdom, can cross the wisdom of man, and make a man’s own prudence hang in his own light. (Isa. 29:14), “The understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”
Exhort. 4. Seek to God for wisdom. The wisdom we have by nature, is like the weeds the earth brings forth without tillage. Our wisdom since the fall, is the wisdom of the serpent, without the innocency of the dove: it flows from self-love, runs into self-interest. It is the wisdom of the flesh, and a prudence to manage means for the contending our lusts. Our best wisdom is imperfect, a mere nothing and vanity, in comparison of the Divine, as our beings are in comparison of his essence. We must go to God for a holy and innocent wisdom, and fill our cisterns from a pure fountain. The wisdom that was the glory of Solomon, was the donation of the Most High. (James 1:5), “If any man want wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” The faculty of understanding is from God by nature; but a heavenly light to direct the understanding is from God by grace. Children have an understanding, but stand in need of wise masters to rectify it, and form judicious notions in it. “There is a spirit in man, but the inspiration of the Almighty gives him understanding” (Job 32:8). We must beg of God, wisdom. The gospel is the wisdom of God; the concerns of it great and mysterious, not to be known without a “new understanding” (1 John 5:20). A new understanding is not to be had but from the Creator of the first. The Spirit of God is the “searcher of the deep things of God;” the revealer of them to us, and the enlightener of our minds to apprehend them; and, therefore, called a “Spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Eph. 1:17). Christ is made wisdom to us, as well as righteousness; not only by imputation, but effusion. Seek to God, therefore, for that wisdom which is like the sun, and not that worldly wisdom which is like a shadow: for that wisdom whose effects are not so outwardly glorious, but inwardly sweet, seek it from him, and seek it in his word, that is, the transcript of Divine wisdom; “through his precepts understanding is to be had” (Psalm 119:104). As the wisdom of men appears in their laws, so doth the wisdom of God in his statutes. By this means we arrive to a heavenly sagacity. If these be rejected, what wisdom can there be in us? a dream and conceit only (Jer. 8): “They have rejected the word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them?” Who knows how to order any concerns as he ought, or any one faculty of his soul? Therefore, desire God’s direction in outward concerns, in personal, family, in private and public. He hath not only a wisdom for our salvation, but for our outward direction. He doth not only guide us in the one, and leave Satan to manage us in the other. Those that go with Saul to a witch of Endor, go to hell for craft, and prefer the wisdom of the hostile serpent before the holy counsel of a faithful Creator. If you want health in your body, you advise with a physician; if direction for your estate, you resort to a lawyer; if passage for a voyage, you address to a pilot; why not much more yourselves, your all, to a wise God? As Pliny said, concerning a wise man, “O, Sir, how many Catos are there in that wise person!” how much more wisdom than men or angels possess, is infinitely centered in the wise God!
Exhort. 5. Submit to the wisdom of God in all cases. What else was inculcated in the first precept, forbidding man to eat of the fruit of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil,” but that he should take heed of the swelling of his mind against the wisdom of God? It is a wisdom incomprehensible to flesh and blood; we should adore it in our minds, and resign up ourselves to it in our practice. How unreasonable are repinings against God, whereby a creature’s ignorance indicts and judges a Creator’s prudence! Were God weak in wisdom, and only mighty in power, we might suspect his conduct. Power without wisdom and goodness is an unruly and ruinous thing in the world. But God being infinite in one, as well as the other, we have no reason to be jealous of him, and repine against his methods; why should we quarrel with him that we are not as high, or as wealthy as others; that we have not presently the mercy we want? If he be wise, we ought to stay his time, and wait his leisure, because “he is a God of judgment” (Isa. 30:18). Presume not to shorten the time which his discretion hath fixed; it is a folly to think to do it. By impatience we cannot hasten relief; we alienate him from us by debasing him to stand at our bar, disturb ourselves, lose the comfort of our lives, and the sweetness of his mercy. Submission to God we are in no case exempted from, because there is no case wherein God doth not direct all the acts of his will by counsel. Whatsoever is drawn by a straight rule must be right and straight; the rule that is right in itself, is the measure of the straightness of everything else; whatsoever is wrought in the world by God, must be wise, good, righteous; because God is essentially wisdom, goodness, and righteousness.
(1.) Submit to God, in his revelations.
1. Measure them not by reason: the truths of the gospel must be received with a self-emptiness and annihilation of the creature. If our reason seems to lift up itself against revelation, because it finds no testimony for it in its own light, consider how crazy it is in natural and obvious things, and therefore sure it is not strong enough to enter into the depths of Divine wisdom: the wisdom of God in the gospel is too great an ocean to be contained or laved out by a cockleshell. It were not infinite, if it were not beyond our finite reach; our reason must as well stoop to his wisdom, as our wills to his sovereignty. How great a vanity is it for a glow-worm to boast that it is as full of light as the sun in the firmament! for reason to leave its proper sphere, is to fall into confusion, and thicken its own darkness. We should settle ourselves in the belief of the Scripture, and confirm ourselves by a meditation on those many undeniable arguments for its Divine authority,—the fulfilling of its predictions, the antiquity of the writing, the holiness of the precepts, the heavenliness of the doctrine, the glorious effects it hath produced, and doth yet produce, different from human methods of success; and submit our reason to the voice of so high a majesty.
2. Not to be too curiously inquisitive into what is not revealed. There is something hid in whatsoever is revealed. We know the Son of God was begotten from eternity, but how he was begotten, we are ignorant. We know there is a union of the Divine nature with the human, and that the fulness of the Godhead dwells in him bodily; but the manner of its inhabitation we are in a great part ignorant of. We know that God hath chosen some and refused others, and that he did it with counsel; but the reason why he chose this man and not that, we know not; we can refer it to nothing but God’s sovereign pleasure. It is revealed that there will be a day wherein God shall judge the world; but the particular time is not revealed. We know that God created the world in time; but why he did not create the world millions of years before, we are, ignorant of, and our reasons would be bewildered in their too much curiosity. If we ask why he did not create it before, we may as well ask why he did create it then?
And may not the same question be asked, if the world had been created millions of years before it was? That he created it in six days, and not in an instant, is revealed; but why he did not do it in a moment, since we are sure he was able to do it, is not revealed. Are the reasons of a wise man’s proceedings hid from us? and shall we presume to dive into the reason of the proceedings of an only wise God, which he hath judged not expedient to discover to us? Some sparks of his wisdom he hath caused to issue out, to exercise and delight our minds; others he keeps within the centre of his own breast; we must not go about to unlock his cabinet. As we cannot reach to the utmost lines of his power, so we cannot grasp the intimate reasons of his wisdom. We must still remember, that which is finite can never be able to comprehend the reasons, motives, and methods of that which is infinite. It doth not become us to be resty, because God hath not admitted us into the debates of eternity. We are as little to be curious at what God hath hid, as to be careless of what God hath manifested. Too great an inquisitiveness beyond our line, is as much a provoking arrogance, as a blockish negligence of what is revealed, is a slighting ingratitude.
(2.) Submit to God in his precepts and methods. Since they are the results of infinite wisdom, disputes against them are not tolerable; what orders are given out by infallible Wisdom are to be entertained with respect and reverence, though the reason of them be not visible to our purblind minds. Shall God have less respect from us than earthly princes, whose laws we observe without being able to pierce into the exact reason of them all? Since we know he hath not a will without an understanding, our observance of him must be without repining; we must not think to mend our Creator’s laws, and presume to judge and condemn his righteous statutes. If the flesh rise up in opposition, we must cross its motions, and silence its murmurings; his will should be an acceptable will to us, because it is a wise will in itself. God hath no need to impose upon us and deceive us; he hath just and righteous ways to attain his glory and his creatures’s good. To deceive us, would be to dishonor himself, and contradict his own nature. He cannot impose false injurious precepts, or unavailable to his subjects’ happiness; not false, because of his truth; not injurious, because of his goodness; not vain, because of his wisdom. Submit, therefore, to him in his precepts, and in his methods too. The honor of his wisdom, and the interest of our happiness, call for it. Had Noah disputed with God about building an ark, and listened to the scoffs of the senseless world, he had perished under the same fate, and lost the honor of a preacher and worker of righteousness. Had not the Israelites been their own enemies, if they had been permitted to be their own guides, and returned to the Egyptian bondage and furnaces, instead of a liberty and earthly felicity in Canaan? Had our Saviour gratified the Jews by descending from the cross, and freeing himself from the power of his adversaries, he might have had that faith from them which they promised him; but it had been a faith to no purpose, because without ground; they might have believed him to be the Son of God, but he could not have been the Saviour of the world. His death, the great ground and object of faith, had been unaccomplished; they had believed a God pardoning without a consent to his justice, and such a faith could not have rescued them from falling into eternal misery. The precepts and methods of Divine wisdom must be submitted to.
(3.) Submit to God in all crosses and revolutions. Infinite Wisdom cannot err in any of his paths, or step the least hair’s breadth from the way of righteousness: there is the understanding of God in every motion; an eye in every wheel, the wheel that goes over us and crusbeth us. We are led by fancy more than reason: we know no more what we ask, or what is fit for us, than the mother of Zebedee’s children did, when she petitioned Christ for her sons’ advancement, when he came into his temporal kingdom (Matt. 20:22): the things we desire might pleasure our fancy or appetite, but impair our health: one man complains for want of children, but knows not whether they may prove comforts or crosses: another for want of health, but knows not whether the health of his body may not prove the disease of his soul. We might lose in heavenly things, if we possess in earthly things what we long for. God, in regard of his infinite wisdom, is fitter to carve out a condition than we ourselves; our shallow reason and self-love, would wish for those things that are injurious to God, to ourselves, to the world; but God always chooses what is best for his glory, and what is best for his creatures, either in regard to themselves, or as they stand in relation to hire, or to others, as parts of the world.
We are in danger from our self-love, in no danger in complying with God’s wisdom: when Rachel would die, if she had no children, she had children, but death with one of them (Gen. 30:1). Good men may conclude, that whatsoever is done by God in them, or with them, is best and fittest for them; because by the covenant which makes over God to them, as their God, the conduct of his wisdom is assured to them as well as any other attribute: and, therefore, as God in every transaction appears as their God, so he appears as their wise Director, and by this wisdom he extracts good out of evil, makes the affliction which destroys our outward comforts consume our inward defilements; and the waves which threatened to swallow up the vessel, to cast it upon the shore: and when he hath occasion to manifest his anger against his people, his wisdom directs his wrath. In judgment he hath “a work to do upon Zion;” and when that work is done, he punishes the fruit of the “stout heart of the king of Assyria” (Isa. 10:12); as in the answers of prayer he doth give oftentimes “above what we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20), so in outward concerns he doth above what we can expect, or by our shortsightedness, conclude will be done. Let us, therefore, in all things, frame our minds to the Divine Wisdom, and say with the Psalmist (Psalm 47:4): “The Lord shall choose our inheritance and condition for us.”
Exhort. 6. Censure not God in any of his ways. Can we understand the full scope of Divine wisdom in creation, which is perfected before our eyes? Can we, by a rational knowledge, walk over the whole surface of the earth, and wade through the sea? Can we understand the nature of the heavens? Are all, or most, or the thousandth part of the particles of Divine skill, known by us, yea, or any of them thoroughly known? How can we, then, understand his deeper methods in things that are but of yesterday, that we have not ha d a time to view? We should not be too quick, or too rash, in our judgments of him: the best that we attain to, is but feeble conjectures at the designs of God. As there is something bid in what soever is revealed in his word, so there is something inaccessible to us in his works, as well as in his nature and Majesty. In our Saviour’s act in washing his disciples’ feet, he checked Peter’s contradiction (John 13:7): “What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.” God were not infinitely wise if the reason of all his acts were obvious to our shallowness. He is no profound statesman, whose inward intention can be sounded by vulgar heads at the first act he starts in his designed method. The wise God is, in this, like wise men, that have not breasts like glasses of crystal, to discover all that they intend.
There are “secrets of wisdom above our reach” (Job 11:6); nay, when we see all his acts, we cannot see all the draughts of his skill in them. An unskilful hearer of a musical lesson may receive the melody with his ear, and understand not the rarities of the composition as it was wrought by the musician’s mind. Under the Old Testament there was more of Divine power, and less of his wisdom apparent in his acts: as his laws, so his acts, were more fitted to their sense. Under the New Testament there is more of wisdom, and less of power; as his laws, so his acts, are more fitted to a spiritual mind; wisdom is less discernible than power. Our wisdom, therefore, in this case, as it doth other things, consists in silence and expectation of the end and event of a work. We owe that honor to God that we do to men wiser than ourselves, to imagine he hath reason to do what he doth, though our shallowness cannot comprehend it. We must suffer God to be wiser than ourselves, and acknowledge that there is something sovereign in his ways not to be measured by the feeble reed of our weak understandings. And, therefore, we should acquiesce in his proceedings; take heed we be not found slanderers of God, but be adorers instead of censurers; and lift up our heads in admiration of him and his ways, instead of citing him to answer it at our bar. Many things in the first appearance may seem to be rash and unjust, which, in the issue, appear comely and regular. If it had been plainly spoke before that the Son of God should die, that a most holy person should be crucified, it would have seemed cruel to expose a son to misery; unjust to inflict punishment upon one that was no criminal; to join together exact goodness and physical evil; that the sovereign should die for the malefactor, and the observer of the law for the violators of it. But when the whole design is unravelled, what an admirable connexion is there of justice and mercy, love and wisdom, which before would have appeared absurd to the muddied reason of man! We see the gardener pulling up some delightful flowers by the roots, digging up the earth, overwhelming it with dung; an ignorant person would imagine him wild, out of his wits, and charge him with spoiling his garden: but when the spring is arrived, the spectator will acknowledge his skill in his former operations. The truth is, the whole design and methods of God are not to be judged by us in this world; the full declaration of the whole contexture is reserved for the other world, to make up a part of good men’s happiness in the amazing views of Divine wisdom, as well as the other perfections of his nature. We can no more perfectly understand his wisdom than we can his mercy and justice, till we see the last lines of all drawn, and the full expressions of them; we should therefore be sober and modest in the consideration of God’s ways; “his judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out.” The riches of his wisdom are past our counting, his depths not to be fathomed, yet they are depths of righteousness and equity; though the full manifestation of that equity, the grounds and methods of his proceedings are unknown to us. As we are too short fully to know God, so we are too ignorant fully to comprehend the acts of God: since he is a God of judgment, we should wait till we see the issue of his works (Isa. 30:18). And in the meantime, with the apostle in the text, give him the glory of all, in the same expressions, “To the only wise God be glory, through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.”
The Existence and Attributes of God