The Parable of the SowerMatthew 15 1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
8 “ ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
What Defiles a Person10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
The Faith of a Canaanite Woman21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Jesus Heals Many29 Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.
Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand SignsMatthew 16 1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
The TransfigurationMatthew 17 1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.
The Temple Tax24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
What I'm Reading
Learning from Academics Who Left Mormonism
By J. Warner Wallace 10/3/2017
Most of my readers know my personal connection to Mormonism; I have six half-brothers and sisters who were raised in the Mormon faith. When I first become interested in Christianity, I investigated the claims of the gospels simultaneous to my investigation of the Book of Mormon. While the gospels passed the test I typically apply to eyewitnesses, the Book of Mormon did not. My journey led me to trust the Jesus of Christianity but reject the Jesus of Mormonism. As a result, I’m interested in the stories of others who have become similarly convinced Mormonism is evidentially false. That’s why a recent book, Leaving Mormonism: Why Four Scholars Changed Their Minds, caught my attention. I had the chance to interview one of it’s authors, Corey Miller, to see what motivated him to write the book.
J. Warner: | Corey, I know your work quite well, but there may be some in my audience who aren’t as familiar with you. Tell us about your current position with Ratio Christi and a bit about your ministry journey.
Corey: | I’m the President/CEO of Ratio Christi, which is a campus apologetics evangelism ministry. We desire to see lives transformed by thoughtful Christianity from campus to culture. I served on staff for several years at various churches, but have always had a passion for evangelism and a strategy to reclaim the voice of Christ in the university. I suppose you could say that this passion developed shortly after I left Mormonism and became a Christian. I was challenged in my newfound biblical faith and I encountered a short stint of skepticism. This led me into a trajectory to study philosophy and comparative religions and make an impact on the most influential institution of western civilization, The University.
J. Warner: | You’ve contributed to an interesting new book about your experience with Mormonism. Why did you want to be a part of this book, and how is this book different from other books about Mormonism?
Corey: | The book was an idea that captured me about a decade ago. But given some hostility that I faced in obtaining my PhD there was some delay. I noticed that there was a missing piece in the conversation between Evangelical and Mormons, namely, those who satisfied the criteria of being Christian scholars who once were Mormon insiders. There were but six I was aware of and four who decided to join the project. Speaking “Mormonese,” we use the language of experience and bear our testimonies in the book by sharing our stories. But we also have sections where we each give reasons relative to our disciplines and personal convictions as to why we reject Mormonism and pursue Jesus instead. Further, we offer a concluding chapter aimed at those in the Mormon exodus heading for neo-atheism. We want them to consider the proper detour, biblical Christianity.
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.
Impossible to Believe — Preaching in a Secular Culture
By Albert Mohler 1/23/2017
The question remains, what does preaching look like in the secular city?
The previous post in this series examined Peter Berger’s explanation for the progress of secularization in the Western world. In addition to Berger, Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has also carefully traced the influence and effects of secularization on the West. As he explains in his important book, The Secular Age, the way people hold to theological convictions and religious principles in the modern era is fundamentally different than how people believed in the past. Modernity has made religious belief provisional, optional, and far less urgent than it was in the pre-modern world.
I had this notion pressed upon me in some force when I was a doctoral student and I had the opportunity to attend a seminar with Heiko Oberman, a prestigious history professor from the University of Arizona and one of the world’s greatest scholars on the Reformation. Oberman was about seventy years old at the time; I was in my early twenties.
Halfway through the lecture, Oberman, through no fault of our own, became exasperated with the class. “Young men,” he said, “you will never understand Luther because you go to bed every night confident you will wake up healthy in the morning. In Luther’s day, people thought that every day could be their last. They had no antibiotics. They didn’t have modern medicine. Sickness and death came swiftly.” Oberman’s point was that when Luther closed his eyes at night terrified he was afraid he might wake up in hell. Luther recognized that every day might be his last and he could very quickly find himself either face to face with God or the devil.
Taylor makes the same point, although not as anecdotally as Oberman. As Taylor notes, on this side of modernity when people believe, they are making a choice to believe that previous generations did not make. Belief is now a provisional choice, an exercise of personal autonomy. When people identify as believers in Jesus Christ they are making a far more individualistic statement than was possible in years past. Furthermore, they are doing so in the face of alternative worldview options that were simply unavailable until very recently. In fact, as I was doing research for my book on atheism I learned that the very first use of “atheist” in English came from Miles Coverdale who invented the word during his time translating Scripture. The remarkable thing to notice is that Coverdale had to invent a term for someone who did not believe in God because he did not know anyone who actually held that conviction. No one in the Elizabethan age would have denied God’s existence.
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
Secularism, Preaching, and the Challenges of Modernity
By Albert Mohler 1/23/2017
The only authentic Christian response to the challenge of secularization is faithful, clear, and informed expository preaching
I began my chapter on preaching and postmodernism in We Cannot Be Silent with these words, “A common concern seems to emerge now wherever Christians gather: The task of truth-telling is stranger than it used to be. In this age, telling the truth is tough business and not for the faint-hearted. The times are increasingly strange.” As preachers we recognize how strange the times have become. Almost anyone seeking to carry out a faithful pulpit ministry recognizes that preachers must now ask questions we have not had to consider in the past. We recognize that preaching has been displaced from its once prominent position in the culture. Many of us are wondering, why is preaching more challenging in our cultural moment than it has been in other times? The answer to this question ultimately rests in this fact: we now live, move, and have our being in a secular age. As preachers, and even as Christians, we must understand the trends of secularization and advance that the only authentic Christian response to the challenge of secularization is faithful, clear, and informed expository preaching.
Secularization, as representative of an ideological and cultural change, was not possible until very recent times. Secularization rests on the shoulders of a number of other ideological shifts that have preceded it. Without the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and even without certain technological advances, secularization would have never been possible.
Once these intellectual and societal trends were charted, secularization theory began emerging as an academic discipline. Most of the contributors to this theory argued that secularization was the handmaiden to modernity. As these theorists explained, the modern age would necessarily and inevitably produce a secular society because modernity made God irrelevant. Modernism provided alternative answers to the most fundamental questions of life thereby rendering theism no longer necessary.
One of the most important theorists was professor Harvey Cox who, in 1965, published an enormously important book, The Secular City. The book was revolutionary for many Christians who had not yet recognized that society was fundamentally changing and growing more secular. Of course, many of the cultural signs pointing toward secularization were not as apparent then as they would be just a few decades later. Indeed, one need only consider that just ten years prior to the publication of Cox’s book, Dwight Eisenhower was baptized, making a public profession of faith in Christ while holding the office of President of the United States. This episode alone is enough to demonstrate just how significantly the culture and the political landscape has shifted between Eisenhower’s presidency and our own day. Despite this seeming evidence to the contrary, Cox revealed a tectonic cultural shift underway within Western society.With great foresight, Cox made the point that the future of the Western world, particularly its cities, was predominantly secular. As he made clear, this secularism was characterized by an eclipse of theism.
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
Souls Need Songs How God Shapes Us Through Singing
By Hayden Nesbit 10/8/2017
I don’t sing well — and that’s putting it generously. I can’t “carry a tune.” I can’t even hum the melody of a familiar song well enough for someone to recognize it. But nothing seems to draw out my heart’s emotions like singing. There are few things that refresh my soul like singing the doxology around the dinner table with my family, or singing catechisms and hymns to our daughter at bedtime.
God made our souls for song. Scripture brims with God’s call for his people to sing his praises. Something about singing refreshes and reorients our souls.
Teach and Admonish | In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he instructs the church to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). Paul desires the church members to instruct each other through various means, including through singing. But how can singing instruct?
Here’s where the transformative power of Scripture is crucial. Paul urges the believers to sing psalms — the inspired, God-breathed collection of praises and laments. He also advises them to sing hymns — a term that probably describes songs rich with theological truth. Finally, Paul even wants the Colossians to sing spiritual songs — which likely refers to spontaneous praises that overflow from the heart. All of which are able to instruct.
The Spirit-inspired Scriptures burst with power to convict us of sin and to build up our faith in God. I love that our church makes the effort to sing psalms. Nothing is more powerfully instructive than the word of God, and a beautifully engaging melody readies the heart to receive the word. When we sing hymns that artistically display the truths of Scripture, or spontaneous songs that arise from a deep indwelling of that truth, and especially when we sing the very words of Scripture, we draw on the teaching, reproving, correcting, and training ability of the word in a way that engages both heart and mind (2 Timothy 3:16).
By R.C. Sproul 1/1/1989
When I return to the first few chapters of Genesis, I’m able not only to review the events of early human history but also to see how humanity hasn’t outgrown our earliest aspirations. Perhaps most illustrative of my point is the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. We read in verse 1 that “the whole earth had one language and the same words.” Note the unity preserved from the original pre-fall creation. In the garden of Eden there were no translators; everyone spoke the same language. And even though sin intruded to destroy the harmony of the original creation, at least people could understand each other in the initial years of human expansion. They could speak the same language and communicate with some degree of harmony.
Speaking the same language and having the same values, this humanity built a city: “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens” (v. 4). From the beginning, the dream of human progress, the dream of the human spirit has been to build a city of such magnificence that it reaches to the pinnacle of heaven itself. It’s part of our nature as human beings to build monuments to human accomplishment. We can go through the cities of this world and see magnificent human achievements. We can view the Eiffel Tower from almost any point in and around Paris. No tourist in New York City fails to look for the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. We can’t go to Asia without wanting to walk on the Great Wall of China. When we go to Egypt, to the pyramids, we see monuments of ancient kings. Brick and mortar, steel and glass—we use whatever we can to somehow say that we are important, that we are significant, that we want to be remembered long a er we are dead and gone.
Listen to the sentiment expressed in Genesis 11: “Let us make a name for ourselves” (v. 4). Friedrich Nietzsche, the nineteenth-century atheist philosopher, said the most fundamental drive of the human heart is the “will to power,” a lust for dominance. This is what drives fallen humanity. It’s the legacy of Eden, the living out of the serpent’s seduction when he said, “You shall be as gods.” Why should God get all the glory? Why should the monuments of this world only be to the praise and honor of the Creator? Can’t we share in that? Can’t we claim it for ourselves? Can’t we supplant Him as the Sovereign One? Let’s gather together and build a city. Let’s make monuments that even God cannot bring down, monuments that will endure forever: statues, walls, cathedrals, skyscrapers, and more.
I remember sitting transfixed and watching Walter Cronkite and some former astronauts describe the first landing of human beings on the moon. When I heard the words of Neil Arm- strong, “That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind,” I was as excited as anybody else by this incredible accomplishment, this conquest of a whole new frontier. But there was also something that bothered me when I heard those words. It sounded like the Tower of Babel all over again, a boasting in human achievement rather than bowing in prayer, saying, “This is for Your glory, O God. This is the fulfillment of the scientific enterprise You gave us in Eden to have dominion over the earth.”
We’ve been called to have dominion over the earth to the glory of God, but we want dominion for the glory of man. That’s what was going on at Babel—a distortion, an evil twisting of the legitimate task that God had given mankind. There’s nothing wrong with building. There’s nothing wrong with sowing and reaping. Those are the tasks God gave to us in creation, but they’re to be done under the authority of God. They’re to be done coram Deo, before the face of God, under the authority of God, and unto the glory of God.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 2/01/2015
Though it comes rather early in the story, I am convinced that Genesis 3:15 is not just the hinge of the Bible, but it is the very hinge of history. It is there that God responds to the serpent’s assault on Eden, promising that the seed of the woman would one day, at a terrible cost, crush the head of the serpent. This is God’s solemn declaration of war. The great war will last from that pregnant moment to the end of history when death, the last enemy, will be destroyed. Which means, of course, that today we are at war.
There is no option for peace. Indeed, in that same garden scene where God declares war on the serpent, He makes a startling announcement — that God will find and draft the soldiers for His army not from a mass of neutral humanity. Rather, God will pluck soldiers out of the devil’s army to serve in God’s army. He promises, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed.” We are therefore, as long as we are alive, fighting on one side or the other.
Well, that’s almost true. When we fought against the Lord and His anointed, we were indeed engaged in warfare twenty-four-seven. When, however, by His sovereign grace we are brought into His army, we now battle twenty-four-six. One day in seven, we enter into His rest.
I see this principle at work in a rather surprising place: Psalm 23. This great Psalm of David has been a comfort and an encouragement to God’s people since David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, penned it more than three thousand years ago. It begins with a rather bucolic scene, with a touching description of the lamb’s satisfaction in his Shepherd alone, and turns to the myriad ways the Great Shepherd cares for His lamb. There are still waters, green grass, and paths of righteousness. There is a reprieve from the fears of the outside world, for He is with us.
Suddenly, however, the nature of the scene seems to change. Now we are no longer in a lush countryside but are preparing for war. We seem to look across the future battlefield at our most hated enemies. Their armor is shined, their bows strung. Their warhorses strain against their halters. Slowly, we begin to descend into the valley of war, at first with tentative steps as the enemy descends to the opposite hillside. Our pace quickens as we move into marching, and soon we march double time into the coming maelstrom. As the two armies draw closer, the soldiers on each side draw their weapons, moving toward that first terrible clatter of steel against steel, toward the drawing of first blood. At just that moment, a split second before arrows fly and swords swoop our Captain, our Hero gives His signal. He directs us to sit, to rest, to eat at His table.
Our enemies froth and fume. They vainly swing their blades. They bend under the weight of their weapons. And we rest, safe, secure, and untouchable. For we are no longer in the battle. We have been taken to another place and another time. We dine with the king. We enter, when we come to His table, the true and eternal Mount Zion. We feast at the marriage feast of the Lamb. We rest.
When we turn the Sabbath into a set of rules of what we are allowed and forbidden to do, I fear we miss the whole spirit of the day. The rest to which we are called is less resting from our day-to-day jobs than it is rest from the battle. We are able to rest because we know He has already won. Sabbath is the good cheer to which we are called, knowing He has already overcome the world (John 16:33).
When we enter more fully into our rest, when we sit at His table, untouchable, victorious, are we not overcome with joy? Is it not true that our heads are anointed with oil, that our cups runneth over? Like soldiers who come home for rest and relaxation, we soldiers of the King are invited to go home, so that when we return to battle, we know where we are going. We drink deeply of His goodness so that we know that His goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives. We go back into the battle knowing, having been to and tasted the end of all things, that we will indeed dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
This is rest indeed because for six days a week we are at war indeed. The great irony, however, is that the more we rest, the more we battle. For it is our worship, our rest, our joy, and our peace that are the very weapons of our warfare. By joy, towers are toppled. By peace, ramparts are ruined. By singing forth the glory of His name, by heralding His glory, walls come tumbling down. We fight in peace because the war has already been won. We die in war because the peace has already been won. This is His kingdom that we seek.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
By Tom Ascol 2/01/2015
When an atom is split, its overall mass is reduced and a tremendous amount of energy is released. The results, graphically demonstrated by the two atomic bombs that ended World War II, can be massively destructive, with effects that linger for generations.
The reactions that result from atom splits have their counterparts in the spiritual realm with church splits. When a congregation experiences division, the consequences are often devastating, widespread, and long lasting.
The sinful severing of relationships always breeds betrayal and disillusionment. In a church, where members relate to each other as interdependent components of one body (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:12-30; Eph. 4:25), the pain caused by schism can also give rise to mistrust and cynicism, two emotional weeds that, if not uprooted, will prevent the kind of love and vulnerability that are essential to genuine gospel fellowship.
These negative consequences inevitably undermine a church’s mission to be a city on a hill that displays the glory of God to a lost and dying world. The message of reconciliation rings hollow when proclaimed by people who cannot get along with each other. Francis Schaeffer warned of the damning impact that divisiveness in churches has on evangelism.
The world looks, shrugs its shoulders, and turns away. It has not seen even the beginning of a living church in the midst of a dying culture. It has not seen the beginning of what Jesus indicates is the final apologetic — observable oneness among true Christians who are truly brothers in Christ.
No wonder the Bible places great emphasis on church unity and warns so strongly against church divisiveness. Nothing less than the glory of God, the spiritual health of believers, and the advance of the gospel are at stake when a church’s unity is threatened.
The Apostle Paul was once asked to help a church plagued with open immorality, arrogance, doctrinal error, and other problems. Though each of those problems is significant and has the potential to destroy a church, division in a congregation will prevent any of them from being resolved redemptively. That is why Paul gives it priority in his first letter to the church at Corinth.
After greeting them and expressing thanks for God’s grace in their lives, Paul directly confronts their disunity: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). Paul urges them to be unified in their testimony, understanding, and judgment in the things that pertain to Christ.
Paul’s admonition echoes Jesus’ prayer for the unity of His followers in John 17:11, 21-23. No church that seeks to honor Christ or heed Apostolic instruction can fail to make the pursuit of genuine unity an ever-urgent priority. Indeed, believers cannot live up to their high calling without walking in “humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3; see Phil. 1:27; 2:2).
Despite Scripture’s strong warnings against schism and repeated appeals for unity, sometimes churches — even good churches — experience unfortunate divisions. Paul and Barnabas had a “sharp disagreement” over the role of John Mark in their planned second missionary journey. Despite their genuine godliness and usefulness in the kingdom, their differences over this matter “separated [them] from each other” (Acts 15:39). Luke’s record of this sad event serves as a sober reminder that no fellowship of believers is immune to division.
When church unity is disrupted, how should members respond? Even in the most dire of circumstances, church members must always remember Christ, submit to His lordship, and obey His Word. Controversy is never an excuse to sin.
Our Lord was betrayed and abandoned by His own Apostles. Yet, He continued faithfully to do His Father’s will. Churches that bear His name and that exist under His authority and blessing can dishonor Him in many ways. Yet, He continues to love, nurture, and guide them while calling them to repent (Rev. 2-3). Like Him, His followers must continue to love the church — and particular churches particularly — even when division mars its witness.
When sorrows and disappointments tempt you to give up on the church, remember that our Lord shed His blood for His bruised and broken bride. Remember, also, that one day, because of His resurrection, every wrong will be made right and every sinful division will be healed. Sing often the words of Samuel John Stone’s hymn “The Church’s One Foundation,” especially the lesser-known fourth verse:
Though with a scornful wonder Men see her sore oppressed, By schisms rent asunder, By heresies distressed: Yet saints their watch are keeping, Their cry goes up, “How long?” And soon the night of weeping Shall be the morn of song!
When a church splits, many people are inevitably hurt by sinful attitudes and actions. On such occasions, we must remember that our Master knows what this is like and has shown us how to respond (1 Peter 2:19-25). As those who have been forgiven, we must forgive. As those who may have participated in sin, we must repent, remembering that this is precisely why Jesus died.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 109Help Me, O LORD My God
109 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.
109:1 Be not silent, O God of my praise!
2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
speaking against me with lying tongues.
3 They encircle me with words of hate,
and attack me without cause.
4 In return for my love they accuse me,
but I give myself to prayer.
5 So they reward me evil for good,
and hatred for my love.
6 Appoint a wicked man against him;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
7 When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin!
Chapter 2 | The Ten Primitive Persecutions
The Eighth Persecution, Under Valerian, A.D. 257Began under Valerian, in the month of April, 257, and continued for three years and six months. The martyrs that fell in this persecution were innumerable, and their tortures and deaths as various and painful. The most eminent martyrs were the following, though neither rank, sex, nor age were regarded. Rufina and Secunda were two beautiful and accomplished ladies, daughters of Asterius, a gentleman of eminence in Rome. Rufina, the elder, was designed in marriage for Armentarius, a young nobleman; Secunda, the younger, for Verinus, a person of rank and opulence. The suitors, at the time of the persecution's commencing, were both Christians; but when danger appeared, to save their fortunes, they renounced their faith. They took great pains to persuade the ladies to do the same, but, disappointed in their purpose, the lovers were base enough to inform against the ladies, who, being apprehended as Christians, were brought before Junius Donatus, governor of Rome, where, A.D. 257, they sealed their martyrdom with their blood.
Stephen, bishop of Rome, was beheaded in the same year, and about that time Saturninus, the pious orthodox bishop of Toulouse, refusing to sacrifice to idols, was treated with all the barbarous indignities imaginable, and fastened by the feet to the tail of a bull. Upon a signal given, the enraged animal was driven down the steps of the temple, by which the worthy martyr's brains were dashed out.
Sextus succeeded Stephen as bishop of Rome. He is supposed to have been a Greek by birth or by extraction, and had for some time served in the capacity of a deacon under Stephen. His great fidelity, singular wisdom, and uncommon courage distinguished him upon many occasions; and the happy conclusion of a controversy with some heretics is generally ascribed to his piety and prudence. In the year 258, Marcianus, who had the management of the Roman government, procured an order from the emperor Valerian, to put to death all the Christian clergy in Rome, and hence the bishop with six of his deacons, suffered martyrdom in 258.
Let us draw near to the fire of martyred Lawrence, that our cold hearts may be warmed thereby. The merciless tyrant, understanding him to be not only a minister of the sacraments, but a distributor also of the Church riches, promised to himself a double prey, by the apprehension of one soul. First, with the rake of avarice to scrape to himself the treasure of poor Christians; then with the fiery fork of tyranny, so to toss and turmoil them, that they should wax weary of their profession. With furious face and cruel countenance, the greedy wolf demanded where this Lawrence had bestowed the substance of the Church: who, craving three days' respite, promised to declare where the treasure might be had. In the meantime, he caused a good number of poor Christians to be congregated. So, when the day of his answer was come, the persecutor strictly charged him to stand to his promise. Then valiant Lawrence, stretching out his arms over the poor, said: "These are the precious treasure of the Church; these are the treasure indeed, in whom the faith of Christ reigneth, in whom Jesus Christ hath His mansion-place. What more precious jewels can Christ have, than those in whom He hath promised to dwell? For so it is written, 'I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.' And again, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' What greater riches can Christ our Master possess, than the poor people in whom He loveth to be seen?"
O, what tongue is able to express the fury and madness of the tyrant's heart! Now he stamped, he stared, he ramped, he fared as one out of his wits: his eyes like fire glowed, his mouth like a boar formed, his teeth like a hellhound grinned. Now, not a reasonable man, but a roaring lion, he might be called.
"Kindle the fire (he cried)--of wood make no spare. Hath this villain deluded the emperor? Away with him, away with him: whip him with scourges, jerk him with rods, buffet him with fists, brain him with clubs. Jesteth the traitor with the emperor? Pinch him with fiery tongs, gird him with burning plates, bring out the strongest chains, and the fire-forks, and the grated bed of iron: on the fire with it; bind the rebel hand and foot; and when the bed is fire-hot, on with him: roast him, broil him, toss him, turn him: on pain of our high displeasure do every man his office, O ye tormentors."
The word was no sooner spoken, but all was done. After many cruel handlings, this meek lamb was laid, I will not say on his fiery bed of iron, but on his soft bed of down. So mightily God wrought with his martyr Lawrence, so miraculously God tempered His element the fire; that it became not a bed of consuming pain, but a pallet of nourishing rest.
In Africa the persecution raged with peculiar violence; many thousands received the crown of martyrdom, among whom the following were the most distinguished characters: Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, an eminent prelate, and a pious ornament of the Church. The brightness of his genius was tempered by the solidity of his judgment; and with all the accomplishments of the gentleman, he blended the virtues of a Christian. His doctrines were orthodox and pure; his language easy and elegant; and his manners graceful and winning: in fine, he was both the pious and polite preacher. In his youth he was educated in the principles of Gentilism, and having a considerable fortune, he lived in the very extravagance of splendor, and all the dignity of pomp.
About the year 246, Coecilius, a Christian minister of Carthage, became the happy instrument of Cyprian's conversion: on which account, and for the great love that he always afterward bore for the author of his conversion, he was termed Coecilius Cyprian. Previous to his baptism, he studied the Scriptures with care and being struck with the beauties of the truths they contained, he determined to practise the virtues therein recommended. Subsequent to his baptism, he sold his estate, distributed the money among the poor, dressed himself in plain attire, and commenced a life of austerity. He was soon after made a presbyter; and, being greatly admired for his virtues and works, on the death of Donatus, in A.D. 248, he was almost unanimously elected bishop of Carthage.
Cyprian's care not only extended over Carthage, but to Numidia and Mauritania. In all his transactions he took great care to ask the advice of his clergy, knowing that unanimity alone could be of service to the Church, this being one of his maxims, "That the bishop was in the church, and the church in the bishop; so that unity can only be preserved by a close connexion between the pastor and his flock."
In A.D. 250, Cyprian was publicly proscribed by the emperor Decius, under the appellation of Coecilius Cyprian, bishop of the Christrians; and the universal cry of the pagans was, "Cyprian to the lions, Cyprian to the beasts." The bishop, however, withdrew from the rage of the populace, and his effects were immediately confiscated. During his retirement, he wrote thirty pious and elegant letters to his flock; but several schisms that then crept into the Church, gave him great uneasiness. The rigor of the persecution abating, he returned to Carthage, and did everything in his power to expunge erroneous opinions. A terrible plague breaking out in Carthage, it was as usual, laid to the charge of the Christians; and the magistrates began to persecute accordingly, which occasioned an epistle from them to Cyprian, in answer to which he vindicates the cause of Christianity. A.D. 257, Cyprian was brought before the proconsul Aspasius Paturnus, who exiled him to a little city on the Lybian sea. On the death of this proconsul, he returned to Carthage, but was soon after seized, and carried before the new governor, who condemned him to be beheaded; which sentence was executed on the fourteenth of September, A.D. 258.
The disciples of Cyprian, martyred in this persecution, were Lucius, Flavian, Victoricus, Remus, Montanus, Julian, Primelus, and Donatian.
At Utica, a most terrible tragedy was exhibited: three hundred Christians were, by the orders of the proconsul, placed round a burning limekiln. A pan of coals and incense being prepared, they were commanded either to sacrifice to Jupiter, or to be thrown into the kiln. Unanimously refusing, they bravely jumped into the pit, and were immediately suffocated.
Fructuosus, bishop of Tarragon, in Spain, and his two deacons, Augurius and Eulogius, were burnt for being Christians.
Alexander, Malchus, and Priscus, three Christians of Palestine, with a woman of the same place, voluntarily accused themselves of being Christians; on which account they were sentenced to be devoured by tigers, which sentence was executed accordingly.
Maxima, Donatilla, and Secunda, three virgins of Tuburga, had gall and vinegar given them to drink, were then severely scourged, tormented on a gibbet, rubbed with lime, scorched on a gridiron, worried by wild beasts, and at length beheaded.
It is here proper to take notice of the singular but miserable fate of the emperor Valerian, who had so long and so terribly persecuted the Christians. This tyrant, by a stretagem, was taken prisoner by Sapor, emperor of Persia, who carried him into his own country, and there treated him with the most unexampled indignity, making him kneel down as the meanest slave, and treading upon him as a footstool when he mounted his horse. After having kept him for the space of seven years in this abject state of slavery, he caused his eyes to be put out, though he was then eighty-three years of age. This not satiating his desire of revenge, he soon after ordered his body to be flayed alive, and rubbed with salt, under which torments he expired; and thus fell one of the most tyrannical emperors of Rome, and one of the greatest persecutors of the Christians.
A.D. 260, Gallienus, the son of Valerian, succeeded him, and during his reign (a few martyrs excepted) the Church enjoyed peace for some years.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
(Oct 8) Bob Gass
‘A man who has friends must himself be friendly.’
(Pr 18:24) 24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. ESV
In order to have a good friend, you must first try to be a good friend. An unknown poet wrote, ‘I went out to find a friend, but could not find one there; I went out to be a friend, and friends were everywhere.’ Friendship doesn’t require having a dynamic personality. Even shy, quiet, and reserved individuals can learn to be friendly. It’s next to impossible to have no friends, if you yourself are friendly. And the opposite is also true. Psychologists asked a group of college students to jot down the initials of the people they disliked most. Some of the students could think of only one person, while others listed as many as fourteen. But an interesting fact that came out of the research was that those who disliked the largest number of people, were themselves the most widely disliked. You’ll find that the more likeable you are, the more likely you are to like other people and be liked by them. So here are five ways to make friends: 1) Maintain eye contact. When you talk to people, look them in the eye. 2) Smile! It takes seventy-two muscles to frown, only fourteen to smile - and a smile warms hearts and encourages conversation. 3) Call people by their names. Strangers are just that, strange, but a friend is known. 4) Talk to others about their favourite topic - themselves. 5) Find an occasion to give a word of encouragement, a compliment, or show an act of kindness. When you find a person with these five traits, you’ve found someone who has a reputation for being friendly.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
A race car driver, he served in France during World War I as chauffeur for General Pershing. With Germany’s Red Baron dominating the skies, he transferred to the 94th Aero Squadron, which shot down 69 enemy aircraft and earned him the Congressional Medal. His name was “Eddie” Rickenbacker, born this day, October 8, 1890. In his book, “The Flying Circus,” Eddie Rickenbacker recounts escaping death: “I am not such an egotist as to believe that God has spared me because I am I. I believe there is work for me to do and that I am spared to do it, just as you are.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
II. Then, secondly, as to prayer being the expression of the perennial new life of faith in the Cross. The Christian life is prayer without ceasing.
When we are told to pray without ceasing, it seems to many tastes to-day to be somewhat extravagant language. And no doubt that is true. Why should we be concerned to deny it? Measured language and the elegant mean is not the note of the New Testament at least. Mhoen zyan, said the Greek—too much of nothing. But can we love or trust God too much? Christian faith is one that overcomes and commands the world in a passion rather than balances it. It triumphs in a conclusive bliss, it does not play off one part against another. The grace of Christ is not but graciousness of nature, and He does not rule His Church by social act. The peace of God is not the calm of culture, it is not the charm of breeding. Every great forward movement in Christianity is associated with much that seems academically extravagant. Erasmus is always shocked with Luther. It is only an outlet of that essential extravagance which makes the paradox of the Cross, and keeps it as the irritant, no less than the life of the world—perhaps because it is the life of the world. There is nothing so abnormal, so unworldly, so supernatural, in human life as prayer, nothing that is more of an instinct, it is true, but also nothing that is less rational among all the things that keep above the level of the silly. The whole Christian life in so far as it is lived from the Cross and by the Cross is rationally an extravagance. For the Cross is the paradox of all things; and the action of the Spirit is the greatest miracle in the wor“ and yet it is the principle of the world. Paradox is but the expression of that dualism which is the moral foundation of a Christian world. I live who die daily. I live another’s life.
To pray without ceasing is not, of course, to engage in prayer without break. That is an impossible literalism. True, “They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who wert, and art, and art to come.” But it is mere poverty of soul to think of this as the iteration of a doxology. It is deep calling unto deep, eternity greeting eternity. The only answer to God’s eternity is an eternal attitude of prayer.
Nor does the phrase mean that the Church shall use careful means that the stream and sound of prayer shall never cease to flow at some spots of the earth, as the altar lamp goes not out. It does not mean the continuous murmur of the mass following the sun round the world, incessant relays of adoring priests, and functions going on day and night.
But it means the constant bent and drift of the soul—as the Word which was from the beginning (John i. 1) was hroe ton Qesn. All the current of its being set towards Him. It means being “in Christ,” being in such a moving, returning Christ—reposing in this godward, and not merely godlike life. The note of prayer becomes the habit of the heart, the tone and tension of its new nature; in such a way that when we are released from the grasp of our occupations the soul rebounds to its true bent, quest, and even pressure upon God. It is the soul’s habitual appetite and habitual food. A growing child of God is always hungry. Prayer is not identical with the occasional act of praying. Like the act of faith, it is a whole life thought of as action. It is the life of faith in its purity, in its vital action. Eating and speaking are necessary to life, but they are not living. And how hidden prayer may be—beneath even gaiety! If you look down on Portland Race you see but a shining sea; only the pilot knows the tremendous current that pervades the smiling calm.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Ambition is a gilded misery, a secret poison,
a hidden plague, the engineer of deceit,
the mother of hypocrisy, the parent of envy,
the original of vices, the moth of holiness,
the blinder of hearts,
turning medicines into maladies,
and remedies into diseases.
--- Thomas Brooks
We must not be too high-minded. I fancy we may sometimes be deterred from small prayers by a sense of our own dignity rather than of God's.
--- C.S. Lewis Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Apart from Jesus, there is no peace—not within a human heart, and not among human beings or nations. With Jesus, we can experience peace that passes our rational minds and settles deep within (Phil. 4:7).
--- Charles Stanley Preparing for Christ's Return
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
The Great Slaughters And Sacrilege That Were In Jerusalem.
1. Accordingly Simon would not suffer Matthias, by whose means he got possession of the city, to go off without torment. This Matthias was the son of Boethus, and was one of the high priests, one that had been very faithful to the people, and in great esteem with them; he, when the multitude were distressed by the zealots, among whom John was numbered, persuaded the people to admit this Simon to come in to assist them, while he had made no terms with him, nor expected any thing that was evil from him. But when Simon was come in, and had gotten the city under his power, he esteemed him that had advised them to admit him as his enemy equally with the rest, as looking upon that advice as a piece of his simplicity only; so he had him then brought before him, and condemned to die for being on the side of the Romans, without giving him leave to make his defense. He condemned also his three sons to die with him; for as to the fourth, he prevented him by running away to Titus before. And when he begged for this, that he might be slain before his sons, and that as a favor, on account that he had procured the gates of the city to be opened to him, he gave order that he should be slain the last of them all; so he was not slain till he had seen his sons slain before his eyes, and that by being produced over against the Romans; for such a charge had Simon given to Artanus, the son of Bamadus, who was the most barbarous of all his guards. He also jested upon him, and told him that he might now see whether those to whom he intended to go over would send him any succors or not; but still he forbade their dead bodies should be buried. After the slaughter of these, a certain priest, Ananias, the son of Masambalus, a person of eminency, as also Aristens, the scribe of the sanhedrim, and born at Emmaus, and with them fifteen men of figure among the people, were slain. They also kept Josephus's father in prison, and made public proclamation, that no citizen whosoever should either speak to him himself, or go into his company among others, for fear he should betray them. They also slew such as joined in lamenting these men, without any further examination.
2. Now when Judas, the son of Judas, who was one of Simon's under officers, and a person intrusted by him to keep one of the towers, saw this procedure of Simon, he called together ten of those under him, that were most faithful to him, [perhaps this was done partly out of pity to those that had so barbarously been put to death, but principally in order to provide for his own safety,] and spoke thus to them: "How long shall we bear these miseries? or what hopes have we of deliverance by thus continuing faithful to such wicked wretches? Is not the famine already come against us? Are not the Romans in a manner gotten within the city? Is not Simon become unfaithful to his benefactors? and is there not reason to fear he will very soon bring us to the like punishment, while the security the Romans offer us is sure? Come on, let us surrender up this wall, and save ourselves and the city. Nor will Simon be very much hurt, if, now he despairs of deliverance, he be brought to justice a little sooner than he thinks on." Now these ten were prevailed upon by those arguments; so he sent the rest of those that were under him, some one way, and some another, that no discovery might be made of what they had resolved upon. Accordingly, he called to the Romans from the tower about the third hour; but they, some of them out of pride, despised what he said, and others of them did not believe him to be in earnest, though the greatest number delayed the matter, as believing they should get possession of the city in a little time, without any hazard. But when Titus was just coming thither with his armed men, Simon was acquainted with the matter before he came, and presently took the tower into his own custody, before it was surrendered, and seized upon these men, and put them to death in the sight of the Romans themselves; and when he had mangled their dead bodies, he threw them down before the wall of the city.
3. In the mean time, Josephus, as he was going round the city, had his head wounded by a stone that was thrown at him; upon which he fell down as giddy. Upon which fall of his the Jews made a sally, and he had been hurried away into the city, if Caesar had not sent men to protect him immediately; and as these men were fighting, Josephus was taken up, though he heard little of what was done. So the seditious supposed they had now slain that man whom they were the most desirous of killing, and made thereupon a great noise, in way of rejoicing. This accident was told in the city, and the multitude that remained became very disconsolate at the news, as being persuaded that he was really dead, on whose account alone they could venture to desert to the Romans. But when Josephus's mother heard in prison that her son was dead, she said to those that watched about her, That she had always been of opinion, since the siege of Jotapata, [that he would be slain,] and she should never enjoy him alive any more. She also made great lamentation privately to the maid-servants that were about her, and said, That this was all the advantage she had of bringing so extraordinary a person as this son into the world; that she should not be able even to bury that son of hers, by whom she expected to have been buried herself. However, this false report did not put his mother to pain, nor afford merriment to the robbers, long; for Josephus soon recovered of his wound, and came out, and cried out aloud, That it would not be long ere they should be punished for this wound they had given him. He also made a fresh exhortation to the people to come out upon the security that would be given them. This sight of Josephus encouraged the people greatly, and brought a great consternation upon the seditious.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
they slide right down into the belly.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The exclusiveness of Christ
Come unto Me. --- Matthew 11:28.
Is it not humiliating to be told that we must come to Jesus! Think of the things we will not come to Jesus Christ about. If you want to know how real you are, test yourself by these words—“Come unto Me.” In every degree in which you are not real, you will dispute rather than come, you will quibble rather than come, you will go through sorrow rather than come; you will do anything rather than come the last lap of unutterable foolishness—“Just as I am.” As long as you have the tiniest bit of spiritual impertinence, it will always reveal itself in the fact that you are expecting God to tell you to do a big thing, and all He is telling you to do is to “come.”
“Come unto Me.” When you hear those words you will know that something must happen in you before you can come. The Holy Spirit will show you what you have to do, anything at all that will put the axe at the root of the thing which is preventing you from getting through. You will never get further until you are willing to do that one thing. The Holy Spirit will locate the one impregnable thing in you, but He cannot budge it unless you are willing to let Him.
How often have you come to God with your requests and gone away with the feeling—“Oh well, I have done it this time!’ And yet you go away with nothing, whilst all the time God has stood with outstretched hands not only to take you, but for you to take Him. Think of the invincible, unconquerable, unwearying patience of Jesus—
“Come unto Me.”
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
It will always win.
Other men will come as I have
To stand here and beat upon it
As on a door, and ask for love,
For compassion, for hatred even; for anything
Rather than this blank indifference,
Than the neutrality of its answers, if they can be called,
These grey skies, these wet fields,
With the wind's winding-sheet upon them.
And endlessly the days goes on
With their business. Lovers make their appearance
And vanish. The germ finds its way
From the grass to the snail to the liver to the grass.
The shadow of the tree falls
On our acres like a crucifixion,
With a bird singing in the branches
What its shrill species has always sung,
Hammering its notes home
One by one into our brief flesh.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
One’s tradition can be preserved by remaining behaviorally loyal to its values while nonetheless accepting the conflicting truth-claims of another system. This bifurcation is possible if the active, willing nature of man’s being is severed from its reflective, rational aspect: My knowledge does not get in the way of my practices. My wisdom never interferes with my will. The life of the mind is permanently shut off from the life of action.
This can be justified by a specific evaluation of the significance of moral action. Although morality is necessary for perfecting life in society, it is insufficient for perfecting the rational nature of man: The outer forms my actions take do not really matter so long as they are socially useful and provide the tradition with a proper way of establishing a well-ordered community. In my search for truth I do not look to the moral and ritual demands of tradition. On the contrary, even if my tradition justifies the authoritative bases for its norms and the significance of its rituals by adopting meaningless and false cognitive claims, I adopt its moral actions and rituals without being disturbed by its spurious knowledge. The truths of theoretical reason need not falsify the claims of practical reason. The theoretical is the ground for knowledge; the practical is the ground for orderly political society. The search for truth does not demand that I openly reject the false knowledge-claims that are part of the tradition. My pursuit of intellectual excellence will find its fulfillment in the lonely life of the mind, in the private aspect of my life. It is in the non-social and private moments of life that I will act out my true humanity which is theoretical perfection.
If I never allow the two to become confused, my actions within society need not be disturbed by my private life. The separation of the public from the private self follows from a denial of any cognitive significance to ethical action. Moral norms, having a social function divorced from the concern for truth, are not evaluated and judged by reason. The commitment to truth need not challenge a moral system whose aim is social and political. Truth leads to self-perfection; moral norms lead to communal well-being. The way of dualism places morality within a category of health whose questions are wholly pragmatic: Do these norms create a healthy body politic? Functional rationality must be separated from truth. The functional is measured by its usefulness whereas truth, possessing intrinsic significance, is desired regardless of its social value. Only through the pursuit of truth does man become essentially human. Moral systems merely provide the necessary political conditions to further the pursuit of individual excellence.
The way of dualism protects the tradition from counter truth-claims by preventing any possible interaction between thought and action, by severing any connection between individual and social perfection. The god of metaphysics and the god of history are never confused. Ethics, ritual, freedom, and a god of will are justified within political categories and must never be subject to the categories of truth. The individual gives society his body as long as he is allowed to keep his mind.
In order to secure the life of theoretical virtue, one has further to promise that the realm of truth will not disturb the well-being of the society. Philosophy, which creates a new orientation to the world, is able to claim a man rooted to a tradition by offering him an independent life of the mind which does not affect his position within a social reality. He gives lip service to the cognitive claims of his action system, even if it contradicts his personal truth-system. He feels justified in doing so because he recognizes that action does not define the essential perfection of man. Because the ultimate criterion in evaluating an action-system is only its functional value, the faulty theoretical ground of the tradition need not affect his loyalty to truth. Even if the God of his truth-system cannot act in history, cannot create a world, nor interfere in the historical process, this does not prevent him from committing himself to a way of life which presupposes a God who acts in history.
Man’s assent to this system and its theological claims is justified by its functionalism rather than by its truth. Knowing that he must live in community, he justifies the knowledge-claims of the community within political categories. Revelation and reason can coexist if revelation is placed within the practical domain and reason within a framework of truth. Socrates was the fool who confused philosophy with ethics and politics. Plato was naive to think that the philosopher can eliminate the darkness of the cave by his vision. Philosophy, with its emphasis upon theoretical virtue, must give up its intention of constructing a world based upon a system of truth. ( See aristotle: fundamentals of the history of his development)
This separation of the mind—theoretical virtue—from the body—political virtue—would be more readily accepted if political virtue made no truth-claims and, vice versa, if theoretical virtue did not demand a specific way of life. There would be a semblance of intellectual integrity if the two realms were neatly separated. But if a system of political virtue does make knowledge-claims, and if a theoretical system does demand a specific life of action, then such separation suggests dishonesty.
This dishonest separation may still be tolerated because of an awareness that submission to social and political virtue is the only way of living in a crude world of mass ignorance. One is then condemned to live in this social and political world as a philosophic Marrano. He acknowledges that society requires fictions—e.g., God is concerned with individuals and their actions—in order that it may order its life. The ground of norms for mass man must be sustained and propped up by myths—e.g., revelation of a divine law with its promises of reward and punishment—which, although untrue, are necessary and acceptable because of their motivational value. It would be catastrophic to demand that society order itself according to an ideal system of perfection which only a few can achieve.
This elitism is an expression of concern for and responsibility to community. The awareness of the differences in human potentialities promotes a life-style for the philosophic Marrano who does not feel that he is dishonest since the difference “between man and man is greater than the difference between man and animal.” The way of dualism is the way of aristocracy, of a responsible elite which does not perpetuate myths for its own perfection but for society. The essential feature which defines the way of dualism for a man committed to a specific tradition is a combination of openness to truth—regardless of the source and the implications of that truth—and complete behavioral loyalty to the norms of his tradition.
Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. --- Ecclesiastes 11:4.
Just as a person may fail through too much zeal, so may a person fail through too much caution. (Wings of the Morning, The (Kregel Classic Sermons))
Our text has notable application in the great work of national reform. A certain disregard of obvious difficulties and of all that would discourage lesser spirits has ever been one mark of great reformers, whether in the church or in the state. When told that Duke George of Saxony was lying in wait for him, “I would go,” said Luther, “if it rained Duke Georges.” The winds were bitter and the clouds black as midnight, and Luther planted and reaped because he disregarded them. It is an easy thing to sneer at fanatics and to say that they are the ruin of their cause. It is an easy thing to make fun of the enthusiasts who are so terribly in earnest that they are not wise. But I will tell you those who are a thousand times more fatal to any cause than the enthusiasts are those who always eye the clouds and spend their days in shrinking from the wind. It is better to try and fail than to do nothing. We snatch our triumphs from the brink of failure. It is so easy to stand aside and criticize and magnify difficulties and raise objections. But we are here to plant and we are here to reap, as Luther knew and as every brave woman and man knows. Whoever watches the wind will never plant, and whoever looks at the clouds will never reap.
Then, I want you to apply our text to the great matter of decision for Christ Jesus. I want you to go away thinking of Peter when he walked on the sea to get to Christ. “Lord, if it’s you, tell me come to you,” and Jesus across the water cried to Peter, “Come”; whereupon Peter leaped out of the ship and walked on the water to his Lord. Then he regarded the clouds—how the wild rack was flying! He observed the wind—how boisterous it was—and, observing them, he began to sink and had to cry, “Lord, save me.” Isn’t Christ saying “Come” to someone here tonight? Isn’t there someone like Peter who has heard his call? In such an hour the one thing that is fatal is to give heed to the uproar of the storm. O you of little faith, why do you doubt? He is mighty to save and powerful to keep. Disregard everything except the beckoning Savior, and by and by you will reap a hundred times what you planted.
--- George H. Morrison
What a Day!
Dwight L. Moody came to the Lord in a Boston shoe store while a teenager. Though poorly educated, he possessed boundless energy that quickly funneled itself into soul-winning. He moved to Chicago, took up children’s work, and grew his Sunday school to over a thousand pupils. But though outwardly flourishing, Moody was inwardly frustrated, sensing a lack of spiritual power, struggling with the notion that God wanted him to leave Chicago to become an itinerant evangelist, something he wasn’t willing to do.
On October 8, 1871 Moody spoke to his Sunday school listeners, asking them to consider responding to Christ on the following Sunday—but they never got that chance. As services ended fire alarms sounded in the streets. The meeting closed in panic, and the young people left the building to find the city in terror. Flames leapt into the sky, swallowing whole buildings. Gas mains were exploding, and the streets became clogged with fleeing humanity. The Great Chicago Fire burned from Sunday to Wednesday, and Moody lost both his church building and his home.
Deeply shaken, Moody quickly left Chicago for New York seeking funds for rebuilding his work, but “my heart was not in the work of begging.” While walking down Wall Street, he had a spiritual experience so powerful that he seldom referred to it afterward. “I was crying all the time that God would fill me with His Spirit. Well, one day, in the city of New York—ah, what a day!—I cannot describe it. I seldom refer to it, it is almost too sacred an experience to name—Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years—I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand.”
From that day, whenever, wherever Moody preached, hundreds of people were saved, and he spent the rest his life traveling the globe as the most famous and effective evangelist for Christ in the nineteenth century.
God told us to announce clearly to the people that Jesus is the one he has chosen to judge the living and the dead. Every one of the prophets has said that all who have faith in Jesus will have their sins forgiven in his name.
--- Acts 10:42,43.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 8
“Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” --- Luke 5:4.
We learn from this narrative, the necessity of human agency. The draught of fishes was miraculous, yet neither the fisherman nor his boat, nor his fishing tackle were ignored; but all were used to take the fishes. So in the saving of souls, God worketh by means; and while the present economy of grace shall stand, God will be pleased by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. When God worketh without instruments, doubtless he is glorified; but he hath himself selected the plan of instrumentality as being that by which he is most magnified in the earth. Means of themselves are utterly unavailing. “Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing.” What was the reason of this? Were they not fishermen plying their special calling? Verily, they were no raw hands; they understood the work. Had they gone about the toil unskilfully? No. Had they lacked industry? No, they had toiled. Had they lacked perseverance? No, they had toiled all the night. Was there a deficiency of fish in the sea? Certainly not, for as soon as the Master came, they swam to the net in shoals. What, then, is the reason? Is it because there is no power in the means of themselves apart from the presence of Jesus? “Without him we can do nothing.” But with Christ we can do all things. Christ’s presence confers success. Jesus sat in Peter’s boat, and his will, by a mysterious influence, drew the fish to the net. When Jesus is lifted up in his Church, his presence is the Church’s power—the shout of a king is in the midst of her. “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” Let us go out this Morning on our work of soul fishing, looking up in faith, and around us in solemn anxiety. Let us toil till night comes, and we shall not labour in vain, for he who bids us let down the net, will fill it with fishes.
Evening - October 8
“Praying in the Holy Ghost.” --- Jude 20.
Mark the grand characteristic of true prayer—“In the Holy Ghost.” The seed of acceptable devotion must come from heaven’s storehouse. Only the prayer which comes from God can go to God. We must shoot the Lord’s arrows back to him. That desire which he writes upon our heart will move his heart and bring down a blessing, but the desires of the flesh have no power with him.
Praying in the Holy Ghost is praying in fervency. Cold prayers ask the Lord not to hear them. Those who do not plead with fervency, plead not at all. As well speak of lukewarm fire as of lukewarm prayer—it is essential that it be red hot. It is praying perseveringly. The true suppliant gathers force as he proceeds, and grows more fervent when God delays to answer. The longer the gate is closed, the more vehemently does he use the knocker, and the longer the angel lingers the more resolved is he that he will never let him go without the blessing. Beautiful in God’s sight is tearful, agonizing, unconquerable importunity. It means praying humbly, for the Holy Spirit never puffs us up with pride. It is his office to convince of sin, and so to bow us down in contrition and brokenness of spirit. We shall never sing Gloria in excelsis except we pray to God De profundis: out of the depths must we cry, or we shall never behold glory in the highest. It is loving prayer. Prayer should be perfumed with love, saturated with love—love to our fellow saints, and love to Christ. Moreover, it must be a prayer full of faith. A man prevails only as he believes. The Holy Spirit is the author of faith, and strengthens it, so that we pray believing God’s promise. O that this blessed combination of excellent graces, priceless and sweet as the spices of the merchant, might be fragrant within us because the Holy Ghost is in our hearts! Most blessed Comforter, exert thy mighty power within us, helping our infirmities in prayer.
ARE YE ABLE?” SAID THE MASTER
Earl Marlatt, 1892–1976
Can you drink the cup I am going to drink? (Matthew 20:22)
A Christian is a person who, when getting to the end of his/her rope, ties a knot and determines to hang on, realizing that human extremity now becomes God’s opportunity.
The mission for each Christian is to proclaim and live the good news of the Gospel and to urge individuals everywhere to be converted—to experience a personal reconciliation and relationship with God. This persuasion must always be done with openness and honesty. In our desire to have people make a decision for Christ, we must always be forthright with them. We cannot conceal the cost of discipleship involved in receiving God’s provision of salvation. And we must tell them of the importance of giving Jesus Christ His rightful place in every area of life and of becoming an active member of the believing community.
Earl Marlatt, a professor of religion at Boston University and later at Southern Methodist University, wrote this text in 1925 for a consecration service at the Boston University School of Religious Education. It was based on Christ’s pointed question to His disciples in Matthew 20:22: “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. The hymn was originally titled “Challenge.” And still today, as in generations past, “heroic spirits answer, ‘Lord, we are able.’ ”
“Are ye able,” said the Master, “to be crucified with Me?” “Yea,” the sturdy dreamers answered, “To the death we follow Thee:”
“Are ye able” to remember, when a thief lifts up his eyes, that his pardoned soul is worthy of a place in paradise?
“Are ye able?” still the Master whispers down eternity, and heroic spirits answer now as then in Galilee:
Chorus: “Lord, we are able”— our spirits are Thine; remold them — make us like Thee, divine: Thy guiding radiance above us shall be a beacon to God, to love and loyalty.
For Today: Ecclesiastes 12:7; Mark 10:35–40; Luke 14:27; 23:39–43; John 12:2
Are we sometimes at fault for giving the illusion to non-Christians that becoming a follower of Christ is the end of all of life’s difficulties? Should we not tell them about the cost of life-long discipleship? Seek to engage someone in conversation about the characteristics of true Christianity. Sing this truth as you go ---
DISCOURSE VIII - ON GOD’S KNOWLEDGE
1. Everything which is the object of God’s knowledge without himself was once only future. There was a moment when nothing was in being but himself: he knew nothing actually past, because nothing was past; nothing actually present, because nothing had any existence but himself; therefore only what was future. And why not everything that is future now, as well as only what was future and to come to pass just at the beginning of the creation? God indeed knows everything as present, but the things themselves known by him were not present, but future; the whole creation was once future, or else it was from eternity; if it begun in time, it was once future in itself, else it could never have begun to be. Did not God know what would be created by him, before it was created by him? Did he create he knew not what, and knew not before, what he should create? Was he ignorant before he acted, and in his acting, what his operation would tend to? or did he not know the nature of things, and the ends of them, till he had produced them and saw them in being? Creatures, then, did not arise from his knowledge, but his knowledge from them; he did not then will that his creatures should be, for he had then willed what he knew not, and knew not what he willed; they, therefore, must be known before they were made, and not known because they were made; he knew them to make them, and he did not make them to know them; By the same reason that he knew what creatures should be before they were, he knows still what creatures shall be before they are; for all things that are, were in God, not really in their own nature, but in him as a cause; so the earth and heavens were in him, as a model is in the mind of a workman, which is in his mind and soul, before it be brought forth into outward act.
2. The predictions of future things evidence this. There is not a prophecy of any thing to come, but is a spark of his foreknowledge, and bears witness to the truth of this assertion, in the punctual accomplishment of it; this is a thing challenged by God as his own peculiar, wherein he surmounts all the idols that man’s inventions have godded in the world (Isa. 41:21, 22): Let them bring them forth (speaking of the idols) and show us what shall happen, or declare us things to come: show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods. Such a fore-knowledge of things to come, is here ascribed to God by God himself, as a distinction of him from all false gods; such a knowledge, that if any could prove that they were possessors of, he would acknowledge them gods as well as himself: “that we may know that you are gods.” He puts his Deity to stand or fall apon this account, and this should be the point which should decide the controversy, whether he or the heathen idols were the true God; the dispute is managed by this medium,—He that knows things to come, is God; I know things to come, ergo, I am God; the idols know not things to come, therefore they are not gods; God submits the being of his Deity to this trial. If God know things to come no more than the heathen idols, which were either devils or men, he would be, in his own account, no more a God than devils or men, no more a God than the pagan idols he doth scoff at for this defect. If the heathen idols were to be stripped of their deity for want of this foreknowledge of things to come, would not the true God also fall from the same excellency if he were. defective in knowledge? He would, in his own judgment, no more deserve the title and character of a God than they. How could he reproach them for that, if it were wanting in himself? It cannot be understood of future things in their causes, when the effects necessarily arise from such causes, as light from the sun, and heat from the fire many of these men know; more of them angels and devils know if God, therefore, had not a higher and farther knowledge than this, he would not by this be proved to be God any more than angels and devils, who know necessary effects in their causes. The devils, indeed, did predict some things in the heathen oracles; but God is differenced from them here by the infiniteness of his knowledge, in being able to predict things to come that they knew not, or things in their particularities, things that depended on the liberty of man’s will, which the devils could lay no claim to a certain knowledge of.
Were it only a conjectural knowledge that is here meant, the devils might answer, they can conjecture, and so their deity was as good as God’s; for, though God might know more things, and conjecture nearer to what would be, yet still it would be but conjectural, and therefore not a higher kind of knowledge than what the devils might challenge. How much, then, is God beholden to the Socinians for denying the knowledge of all future things to him, upon which here he puts the trial of his Deity? God asserts his knowledge of things to come, as a manifest evidence of his Godhead; those that deny, therefore, the argument that proves it, deny the conclusion too; for this will necessarily follow, that if he be God, because he knows future things then he that doth not know future things is not God; and if God knows not future things but only by conjecture, then there is no God, because a certain knowledge, so as infallibly to predict things to come, is an inseparable perfection of the Deity: it was, therefore, well said of Austin, that it was as high a madness to deny God to be, as to deny him the foreknowledge of things to come. The whole prophetic part of Scripture declares this perfection of God; every prophet’s candle was lighted at this torch; they could not have this foreknowledge of themselves; why might not many other men have the same insight, if it were nature? It must be from some superior Agent; and all nations owned prophecy as a beam from God, a fruit of Divine illumination. Prophecy must be totally expunged if this be denied; for the subjects of prophecy are things future, and no man is properly a prophet but in prediction. Now prediction is nothing but foretelling, and things foretold are not yet come, and the foretelling of them supposeth them not to be yet, but that they shall be in time; several such predictions we have in Scripture, the event whereof hath been certain. The years of famine in Egypt foretold that he would order second causes for bringing that judgment upon them; the captivity of his people in Babylon, the calling of the Gentiles, the rejection of the Jews. Daniel’s revelation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; that prince refers to God as the revealer of secrets (Dan. 2:47). By the same reason that he knows one thing future by himself, and by the infiniteness of his knowledge before any causes of them appear, he doth know all things future.
3. Some future things are known by men; and we must allow God a greater knowledge than any creature. Future things in their causes may be known by angels and men, (as I said before); whosoever knows necessary causes, and the efficacy of them, may foretell the effects; and when he sees the meeting and concurrence of several causes together, he may presage what the consequent effect will be of such a concurrence: so physicians foretel the progress of a disease, the increase or diminution of it by natural signs; and astronomers foretel eclipses by their observation of the motion of heavenly bodies, many years before they happen; can they be hid from God, with whom are the reasons of all things? An expert gardener, by knowing the root in the depth of winter, can tell what flowers and what fruit it will bear, and the month when they will peep out their heads; and shall not God much more, that knows the principles of all his creatures, and is exactly privy to all their natures and qualities, know what they will be, and what operations shall be from those principles? Now, if God did know things only in their causes, his knowedge would not be more excellent than the knowledge of angels and men, though he might know more than they of the things that will come to pass, from every cause singly, and from the concurrence of many. Now, as God is more excellent in being than his creature, so he is more excellent in the objects of his knowledge, and the manner of his knowledge; well, then, shall a certain knowledge of something future, and a conjectural knowledge of many things, be found among men? and shall a determinate and infallible knowledge of things to come be found nowhere, in no being? If the conjecture of future things savours of ignorance, and God knows them only by conjecture, there is, then, no such thing in being as a perfect intelligent Being, and so no God.
4. God knows his own decree and will, and therefore must needs know all future things. If anything be future, or to come to pass, it must be from itself or from God: not from itself, then it would be independent and absolute: if it hath its futurity from God, then God must know what he hath decreed to come to pass; those things that are future, in necessary causes, God must know, because he willed them to be causes of such effects; he, therefore, knows them, because he knows what he willed. The knowledge of God cannot arise from the things themselves, for then the knowledge of God would have a cause without him; and knowledge, which is an eminent perfection, would be conferred upon him by his creatures. But as God sees things possible in the glass of his own power, so he sees things future in the glass of his own will; in his effecting will, if he hath decreed to produce them; in his permitting will, as he hath decreed to suffer them and dispose of them; nothing can pass out of the rank of things merely possible into the order of things future, before some act of God’s will hath passed for its futurition. It is not from the infiniteness of his own nature, simply considered, that God knows things to be future; for as things are not future because God is infinite (for then all possible things should be future), so neither is any thing known to be future only because God is infinite, but because God hath decreed it; his declaration of things to come, is founded upon his appointment of things to come. In Isaiah 44:7, it is said, “And who, as I, shall call and declare it, since I appointed the ancient people, and the things that are coming?” Nothing is created or ordered in the world but what God decreed to be created and ordered. God knows his own decree, and therefore all things which he hath decreed to exist in time; not the minutest part of the world could have existed without his will, not an action can be done without his will; as life, the principle, so motion, the fruit of that life, is by and from God; as he decreed life to this or that thing, so he decreed motion as the effect of life, and decreed to exert his power in concurring with them, for producing effects natural from such causes; for without such a concourse they could not have acted anything, or produced anything; and therefore as for natural things, which we call necessary causes, God foreseeing them all particularly in his own decree, foresaw also all effects which must necessarily flow from them, because such causes cannot but act when they are furnished with all things necessary for action: he knows his own decrees, and therefore necessarily knows what he hath decreed, or else we must say things come to pass whether God will or no, or that he wills he knows not what; but this cannot be, for “known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). Now this necessarily, flows from that principle first laid down, that God knows himself, since nothing is future without God’s will; if God did not know future things, he would not know his own will; for as things possible could not be known by him, unless he knew the fulness of his own power, so things future could not be known by his understanding, unless he knew the resolves of his own will. Thus the knowledge of God differs from the knowledge of men; God’s knowledge of his works precedes his works; man’s knowledge of God’s works follows his works, just as an artificer’s knowledge of a watch, instrument, or engine, which he would make, is before his making of it; he knows the motion of it, and the reason of those motions before it is made, because he knows what he hath determined to work; he knows not those motions from the consideration of them after they were made, as the spectator doth, who, by viewing the instrument after it is made, gains a knowledge from the sight and the consideration of it, till he understands the reason of the whole; so we know things from the consideration of them after we see them in being, and therefore we know not future things: but God’s knowledge doth not arise from things because they are, but because he wills them to be; and therefore he knows everything that shall be, because it cannot be without his will, as the Creator and maintainer of all things; knowing his own substance,. he knows all his works.
5. If God did not know all future things, he would be mutable in his knowledge. If he did not know all things that ever were or are to be, there would be upon the appearance of every new object, an addition of light to his understanding, and therefore such a change in him as every new knowledge causes in the mind of a man, or as the sun works in the world upon its rising every morning, scattering the darkness that was upon the face of the earth; if he did not know them before they came, he would gain a knowledge by them when they came to pass, which he had not before they were effected; his knowledge would be new according to the newness of the objects, and multiplied according to the multitude of the objects. If God did know things to come as perfectly as he knew things present and past, but knew those certainly, and the others doubtfully and conjecturally, he would suffer some change, and acquire some perfection in his knowledge, when those future things should cease to be future, and become present; for he would know it more perfectly when it were present, than he did when it was future, and so there would be a change from imperfection to a perfection; but God is every way immutable. Besides, that perfection would not arise from the nature of God, but from the existence and presence of the thing; but who will affirm that God acquires any perfection of knowledge from his creatures, any more than he doth of being? he would not then have that knowledge, and consequently that perfection from eternity, as he had when he created the world, and will not have a full perfection of the knowledge of his creature till the end of the world, nor of immortal souls, which will certainly act as well as live to eternity; and so God never was, nor ever will be, perfect in knowledge; for when you have conceived millions of years, wherein angels and souls live and act, there is still more coming than you can conceive, wherein they will act. And if God be always changing to eternity, from ignorance to knowledge, as those acts come to be exerted by his creatures, he will not be perfect in knowledge, no, not to eternity, but will always be changing from one degree of knowledge to another; a very unworthy conceit to entertain of the most blessed, perfect, and infinite God! Hence, then, it follows, that:
(1.) God foreknows all his creatures. All kinds which he determined to make; all particulars that should spring out of every species; the time when they should come forth of the womb; the manner how; “In thy Book all my members were written” (Psalm 139:16). Members is not in the Heb. whence some refer all, to all living creatures whatsoever, and all the parts of them which God did foresee; he knew the number of creatures with all their parts; they were written in the book of his foreknowledge; the duration of them, how long they shall remain in being, and act upon the stage; he knows their strength, the links of one cause with another, and what will follow in all their circumstances, and the series and combinations of effects with their causes. The duration of everything is foreknown, because determined (Job 14:5); “seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee; thou hast appointed his bounds, that he cannot pass;” bounds are fixed, beyond which none shall reach; he speaks of days and months, not of years, to give us notice of God’s particular foreknowledge of everything, of every day, month, year, hour of a man’s life.
(2.) All the acts of his creatures are foreknown by him. All natural acts, because he knows their causes; voluntary acts I shall speak of afterwards.
(3.) This foreknowledge was certain. For it is an unworthy notion of God to ascribe to him a conjectural knowledge; if there were only a conjectural knowledge, he could but conjecturally foretel anything; and then it is possible the events of things might be contrary to his predictions. It would appear then that God were deceived and mistaken, and then there could be no rule of trying things, whether there were from God or no; for the rule God sets down to discern his words from the words of false prophets, is the event and certain accomplishment of what is predicted (Deut. 18:21) to that question, “How shall we know whether God hath spoken or no?” he answers, that “if the thing doth not come to pass, the Lord hath not spoken.” If his knowledge of future things were not certain, there were no stability in this rule, it would fall to the ground: we never yet find God deceived in any prediction, but the event did answer his forerevelation; his foreknowledge, therefore, is certain and infallible. We cannot make God uncertain in his knowledge, but we must conceive him fluctuating and wavering in his will; but if his will be not yea and nay, but yea, his knowledge is certain, because he doth certainly will and resolve.
(4.) This foreknowledge was from eternity. Seeing he knows things possible in his power, and things future in his will; if his power and resolves were from eternity, his knowledge must be so too, or else we must make him ignorant of his own power, and ignorant of his own will from eternity; and consequently not from eternity blessed and perfect. His knowledge of possible things must run parallel with his power, and his knowledge of future things run parallel with his will. If he willed from eternity, he knew from eternity what he willed; but that he did will from eternity, we must grant, unless we would render him changeable, and conceive him to be made in time of not willing, willing. The knowledge God hath in time, was always one and the same, because his understanding is his proper essence, and of an immutable nature. And indeed the actual existence of a thing is not simply necessary to its being perfectly known; we may see a thing that is past out of being, when it doth actually exist; and a carpenter may know the house he is to build, before it be built, by the model of it in his own mind; much more we may conceive the same of God whose decrees were before the foundation of the world; and to be before time was, and to be from eternity, hath no difference. As God in his being exceeds all beginning of time, so doth his knowledge all motions of time.
(5.) God foreknows all things as present with him from eternity. As he knows mutable things with an immutable and firm knowledge, so he knows future things with a present knowledge; not that the things which are produced in time, were actually and really present with him in their own beings from eternity; for then they could not be produced in time; had they a real existence, then they would not be creatures, but God; and had they actual being, then they could not be future, for future speaks a thing to come that is not yet. If things had been actually present with him, and yet future, they had been made before they were made, and had a being before they had a being; but they were all present to his knowledge as if they were in actual being, because the reason of all things that were to be made, was present with him. The reason of the will of God that they shall be, was aqually eternal with him, wherein he saw what, and when, and how he would create things, how he would govern them, to what ends he would direct them. Thus all things are present to God’s knowledge, though in their own nature they may be past or future, not in esse reali, but in esse intelligibili, objectively, not actually present for as the unchangeableness and infiniteness of God’s knowledge of changeable and finite things, doth not make the things he knows immutable and infinite, so neither doth the eternity of his knowledge make them actually present with him from eternity; but all things are present to his understanding, because he hath at once a view of all successions of times; and his knowledge of future things is as perfect as of present things, or what is past; it is not a certain knowledge of present things, and an uncertain knowledge of future, but his knowledge of one is as certain and unerring as his knowledge of the other; as a man that beholds a circle with several lines from the centre, beholds the lines as they are joined in the centre, beholds them also as they are distant and severed from one another, beholds them in their extent and in their point all at once, though they may have a great distance from one another. He saw from the beginning of time to the last minute of it, all things coming out of their causes, marching in their order according to his own appointment; as a man may see a multitude of ants, some creeping one way, some another, employed in several businesses for their winter provision. The eye of God at once runs through the whole circle of time; as the eye of man upon a tower sees all the passengers at once, though some be past, some under the tower, some coming at a farther distance. “God,” saith Job, “looks to the end of the earth, and sees under the whole heaven” (Job 28:24); the knowledge of God is expressed by sight in Scripture, and futurity to God is the same thing as distance to us; we can with a perspective-glass make things that are afar off appear as if they were near; and the sun, so many thousand miles distant from us, to appear as if it were at the end of the glass: why, then, should future things be at so great a distance from God’s knowledge, when things so far from us may be made to approach so near to us? God considers all things in his own simple knowledge, as if they were now acted; and therefore some have chosen to call the knowledge of things to come, not prescience, or foreknowledge, but knowledge; because God sees all things in one instant, scientià nunquam deficientis instantiæ. Upon this account, things that are to come, are set down in Scripture as present, and sometimes as past (Isa. 9:6): “Unto us a child is born,” though not yet born; so of the sufferings of Christ (Isa. 53:4: “He hath borne our griefs, he was wounded for our transgressions, he was taken from prison,” &c., not shall be; and (Psalm 22:18): “they part my garments among them,” as if it were present; all to express the certainty of God’s foreknowledge, as if things were actually present before him.
(6.) This is proper to God, and incommunicable to any creature. Nothing but what is eternal can know all things that are to come. Suppose a creature might know things that are to come, after he is in being, he cannot know things simply as future, because there were things future before he was in being. The devils know not men’s heart, therefore cannot foretel their actions with any certainty; they may indeed have a knowledge of some things to come, but it is only conjectural, and often mistaken; as the devil was in his predictions among the heathen, and in his presage of “Job’s cursing God to his face” upon his pressing calamities (Job 1:11). Sometimes, indeed, they have a certain knowledge of something future by the revelation of God, when he uses them as instruments of his vengeance, or for the trial of his people, as in the case of Job, when he gave him a commission to strip him of his goods; or, as the angels have, when he uses them as instruments of the deliverance of his people.
(7.) Though this be certain, that God foreknows all things and actions, yet the manner of his knowing all things before they come, is not so easily resolved. We must not, therefore, deny this perfection in God, because we understand not the manner how he hath the knowledge of all things. It were unworthy for us to own no more of God than we can perfectly conceive of him; we should then own no more of him than that he doth exist. “Canst thou,” saith Job, “by searching, find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” (Job 11:7). Do we not see things unknown to inferior creatures, to be known to ourselves? Irrational creatures do not apprehend the nature of a man, nor what we conceived of them when we look upon them; nor do we know what they fancy of us when they look wistly upon us; for ought as I know, we understand as little the manner of their imaginations, as they do of ours; and shall we ascribe a darkness in God as to future things, because we are ignorant of them, and of the manner how he should know them? shall we doubt whether God doth certainly know those things which we only conjecture? As our power is not the measure of the power of God, so neither is our knowledge the judge of the knowledge of God, no better nor so well as an irrational nature can be the judge of our reason. Do we perfectly know the manner how we know? shall we therefore deny that we know anything? We know we have such a faculty which we call understanding, but doth any man certainly know what it is? and became he doth not, shall he deny that which is plain and evident to him? Because we cannot ascertain ourselves of the causes of the ebbing and flowing of the sea, of the manner how minerals are engendered in the earth, shall we therefore deny that which our eyes convince us of? And this will be a preparation to the last thing.
Fifthly, God knows all future contingencies, that is, God knows all things that shall accidentally happen, or, as we say, by chance; and he knows all the free motions of men’s wills that shall be to the end of the world. If all things be open to him (Heb. 4:13), then all contingencies are, for they are in the number of things; and as, according to Christ’s speech, those things that are impossible to man, are possible to God, so those things which are unknown to man, are known to God; because of the infinite fulness and perfection of the divine understanding. Let us see what a contingent is. That is contingent which we commonly call accidental, as when a tile falls suddenly upon a man’s head as he is walking in the street; or when one letting off a musket at random shoots another he did not intend to hit; such was that arrow whereby Ahab was killed, shot by a soldier at a venture (1 Kings 22:39); this some call a mixed contingent, made up partly of necessity, and partly of accident; it is necessary the bullet, when sent out of the gun, or arrow out of the bow, should fly and light somewhere; but it is an accident that it hits this or that man, that was never intended by the archer. Other things, as voluntary actions, are purely contingents, and have nothing of necessity in them; all free actions that depend upon the will of man, whether to do, or not to do, are of this nature, because they depend not upon a necessary cause, as burning doth upon the fire, moistening upon water, or as descent or falling down is necessary to a heavy body; for those cannot in their own nature do otherwise; but the other actions depend upon a free agent, able to turn to this or that point, and determine himself as he pleases. Now we must know, that what is accidental in regard of the creature, is not so in regard of God; the manner of Ahab’s death was accidental, in regard of the hand by which he was slain, but not in regard of God who foretold his death, and foreknew the shot, and directed the arrow; God was not uncertain before of the manner of his fall, nor hovered over the battle to watch for an opportunity to accomplish his own prediction; what may be or not be, in regard of us, is certain in regard of God; to imagine that what is accidental to us, is so to God, is to measure God by our short line. How many events following upon the results of princes in their counsels, seem to persons, ignorant of those counsels, to be a haphazard, yet were not contingencies to the prince and his assistants, but foreseen by him as certainly to issue so as they do, which they knew before would be the fruit of such causes and instruments they would knit together! That may be necessary in regard of God’s foreknowledge, which is merely accidental in regard of the natural disposition of the immediate causes which do actually produce it; contingent in its own nature, and in regard of us, but fixed in the knowledge of God. One illustrates it by this similitude; a master sends two servants to one and the same place, two several ways, unknown to one another; they meet at the place which their master had appointed them; their meeting is accidental to them, one knows not of the other, but it was foreseen by the master that they should so meet; and that in regard of them it would seem a mere accident, till they came to explain the business to one another; both the necessity of their meeting, in regard of their master’s order, and the accidentalness of it in regard of themselves, were in both their circumstances foreknown by the master that employed them. For the clearing of this, take it in this method.
The Existence and Attributes of God