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     Nehemiah  7

Nehemiah 7

Nehemiah 7 1 Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, 2 I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. 3 And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.” 4 The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.

Lists of Returned Exiles

5 Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it:

6 These were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried into exile. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town. 7 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel: 8 the sons of Parosh, 2,172. 9 The sons of Shephatiah, 372. 10 The sons of Arah, 652. 11 The sons of Pahath-moab, namely the sons of Jeshua and Joab, 2,818. 12 The sons of Elam, 1,254. 13 The sons of Zattu, 845. 14 The sons of Zaccai, 760. 15 The sons of Binnui, 648. 16 The sons of Bebai, 628. 17 The sons of Azgad, 2,322. 18 The sons of Adonikam, 667. 19 The sons of Bigvai, 2,067. 20 The sons of Adin, 655. 21 The sons of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, 98. 22 The sons of Hashum, 328. 23 The sons of Bezai, 324. 24 The sons of Hariph, 112. 25 The sons of Gibeon, 95. 26 The men of Bethlehem and Netophah, 188. 27 The men of Anathoth, 128. 28 The men of Beth-azmaveth, 42. 29 The men of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, 743. 30 The men of Ramah and Geba, 621. 31 The men of Michmas, 122. 32 The men of Bethel and Ai, 123. 33 The men of the other Nebo, 52. 34 The sons of the other Elam, 1,254. 35 The sons of Harim, 320. 36 The sons of Jericho, 345. 37 The sons of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, 721. 38 The sons of Senaah, 3,930.

39 The priests: the sons of Jedaiah, namely the house of Jeshua, 973. 40 The sons of Immer, 1,052. 41 The sons of Pashhur, 1,247. 42 The sons of Harim, 1,017. 43 The Levites: the sons of Jeshua, namely of Kadmiel of the sons of Hodevah, 74. 44 The singers: the sons of Asaph, 148. 45 The gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, the sons of Shobai, 138.

46 The temple servants: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth, 47 the sons of Keros, the sons of Sia, the sons of Padon, 48 the sons of Lebana, the sons of Hagaba, the sons of Shalmai, 49 the sons of Hanan, the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, 50 the sons of Reaiah, the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, 51 the sons of Gazzam, the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, 52 the sons of Besai, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephushesim, 53 the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur, 54 the sons of Bazlith, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha, 55 the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Temah, 56 the sons of Neziah, the sons of Hatipha.

57 The sons of Solomon’s servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Sophereth, the sons of Perida, 58 the sons of Jaala, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel, 59 the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth-hazzebaim, the sons of Amon.

60 All the temple servants and the sons of Solomon’s servants were 392.

61 The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer, but they could not prove their fathers’ houses nor their descent, whether they belonged to Israel: 62 the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, the sons of Nekoda, 642. 63 Also, of the priests: the sons of Hobaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, the sons of Barzillai (who had taken a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by their name). 64 These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. 65 The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food until a priest with Urim and Thummim should arise.

Totals of People and Gifts

66 The whole assembly together was 42,360, 67 besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337. And they had 245 singers, male and female. 68 Their horses were 736, their mules 245, 69 their camels 435, and their donkeys 6,720.

70 Now some of the heads of fathers’ houses gave to the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1,000 darics of gold, 50 basins, 30 priests’ garments and 500 minas of silver. 71 And some of the heads of fathers’ houses gave into the treasury of the work 20,000 darics of gold and 2,200 minas of silver. 72 And what the rest of the people gave was 20,000 darics of gold, 2,000 minas of silver, and 67 priests’ garments.

73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel, lived in their towns.

And when the seventh month had come, the people of Israel were in their towns.

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Why Are You Thrilled to Be Loved by Jesus?

By John Piper 9/8/2011

     Believers in Jesus are precious to God (we’re his bride!). And he loves us so much that he will not allow our preciousness to become our god.

     God does indeed make much of us (adoption!), but he does so in a way that draws us out of ourselves to enjoy his greatness.

     Test yourself. If Jesus came to spend the day with you, sat down beside you on the couch, and said, “I really love you,” what would you focus on the rest of the day that you spend together?

     It seems to me that too many songs and sermons leave us with the wrong answer. They leave the impression that the heights of our joy would be in the recurrent feeling of being loved. “He loves me!” “He loves me!” This is joy indeed. But not the heights and not the focus.

     What are we saying with the words “I am loved”? What do we mean? What is this “being loved”?

Click here to go to source

     John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.

     John Piper Books | Go to Books Page

Pursuing God intellectually: Being honest about our questions

By Travis Dickinson, PhD

     In my last post, I gave an invitation to pursue God intellectually.

     Jesus identified the greatest commandment as loving God with our all of who we are, and Jesus specifically included loving God with our minds. But what does this mean? I suggested that we understand this as pursuing God intellectually in a way that is consonant with other relational pursuits. When we love someone, we want to know things. We are intellectually curious about what makes them tick.

     Now this was only intended as an analogy and all analogies break down somewhere. When it comes to God, we are not simply in the sort of love relationship as we are in, say, a marriage. Pursuing God intellectually has its own shape, its own approach.

     What does this approach look like?

     The first thing I want to suggest is that we be honest about where we are at intellectually on matters of faith. What I mean by this is that, we tend to act as if we have perfect confidence in all matters. Suppose you were asked, “when it comes to faith, what questions do you have?’ If there are not a ready handful of things that you are thinking about, then I want to suggest you are not intellectually pursuing God.

Click here to go to source

     Welcome to The Benefit of the Doubt where I talk about the art of dialogue, the value of doubts, and the virtue of Christian faith.

     I LOVE to dialogue about big ideas, especially with those with whom I disagree. But the tone of most discussions are, let’s call it, unproductive. I’m really interested in helping people with the art of dialoguing well.

     No one likes to doubt deeply cherished beliefs. However, I want to suggest that there is great value in our doubts. When handled properly, they lead to truth and knowledge, and even deeper faith.

     I’m convinced that Christianity is true, good and beautiful. I’m convinced that Jesus is peerless. Though faith is often disparaged, caricatured and deeply misunderstood, I’m convinced that Christian faith is the primary way to flourish as a human being.

     I am the author of Everyday Apologetics and co-author of Stand Firm: Apologetics and the Brilliance of the Gospel (B&H, forthcoming). He blogs at www.travisdickinson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.

An invitation to the intellectual pursuit of God

By Travis Dickinson, PhD

     Jesus commands us to love God with all of who we are—our hearts, souls and minds (Matt. 22:37). One might find this as a command problematic since love isn’t the sort of thing we can turn on or off. When something is lovely, we experience loving feelings and affections toward that thing. And when it is not, we don’t.

(Mt 22:37–40) 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ESV

     But this of course assumes that all Jesus had in mind was the mere feeling of love. What seems more plausible in context is that Jesus was not dictating certain feelings we ought to have but dictating a certain approach. He was telling us that we ought to turn our affections, the deepest part of us, and our minds toward the relational pursuit of God.

     I think we have at least a grasp of what it means to pursue God with our hearts and affections. Most Christians regularly pursue God in an impassioned way each week in a worship service. It’s perhaps less clear, but I think we have an idea of what’s involved with pursuing God with our souls. But I don’t think we have the first clue what it means to love God with our minds.

     I want to suggest that loving God with our minds is to pursue God intellectually.

     Okay, but what does it mean to pursue God intellectually? The picture that I’d like to paint is one where we bring our deep and difficult questions, our doubts, and our intellectual struggles into our pursuit of God. We need to think of this as a normal part of discipleship.

Click here to go to source

     Welcome to The Benefit of the Doubt where I talk about the art of dialogue, the value of doubts, and the virtue of Christian faith.

     I LOVE to dialogue about big ideas, especially with those with whom I disagree. But the tone of most discussions are, let’s call it, unproductive. I’m really interested in helping people with the art of dialoguing well.

     No one likes to doubt deeply cherished beliefs. However, I want to suggest that there is great value in our doubts. When handled properly, they lead to truth and knowledge, and even deeper faith.

     I’m convinced that Christianity is true, good and beautiful. I’m convinced that Jesus is peerless. Though faith is often disparaged, caricatured and deeply misunderstood, I’m convinced that Christian faith is the primary way to flourish as a human being.

     I am the author of Everyday Apologetics and co-author of Stand Firm: Apologetics and the Brilliance of the Gospel (B&H, forthcoming). He blogs at www.travisdickinson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Forgiving the Wounds of a Friend

By Kristie Anyabwile 9/7/2017

     I thought we were friends. The pain behind those words can overshadow years of life, love, and memories. All the good times fade to black when a friendship is betrayed. Investment, down the drain. Vulnerability, restrained. Trust shattered. Love questioned.

     Friends hurt friends. It’s inevitable because every friend is a sinner, and sinners gon’ sin against one another and hurt one another — intentionally or unintentionally. Either way, it’s always harder to recover from the pain inflicted by a friend.

     The pain of conviction that comes through the godly rebuke of a friend who speaks truth in love is a real gift (Proverbs 27:6). But what if you’re the one sinned against, and you’re hurt because of unkind words, betrayal, or manipulation by a person you consider a friend? How do you address it with your friend, and how do you move past the pain and toward reconciliation?

(Pr 27:6) 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. ESV

     Overlook an Offense | In the midst of your hurt, trust that God is working in your relationship to grow you both in the grace and knowledge of Christ: “Trust in him at all times, O people” (Psalm 62:8).

(Ps 62:8) 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah ESV

     It is one’s glory (or beauty) to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11). This requires prudence, patience, maturity, and wisdom. Overlooking an offense adorns the gospel and is a loving response that demonstrates we are indeed Christ’s disciples (John 13:35).

(Pr 19:11) 11 Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. ESV

(Ps 62:8) 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah ESV

Click here to go to source

      (@kanyabwile) is a mother of three, reader, baker, cook, discipler, speaker, writer, and wife of Thabiti. They live in Washington, D.C.

Understanding the Times: An Interview with Carl Trueman

By Carl Trueman 9/1/2012

     Tabletalk: Please describe your conversion and your call to ministry.

     Carl Trueman: I first heard the gospel at a Billy Graham rally in Bristol, U.K., in 1984. I then started going to church and reading the Bible along with Christian literature. It was through God’s Words: Studies of Key Bible Themes that I really came to understand God’s grace.

     My call to ministry came much later. While teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary, I became convinced of the need to be under church oversight. Thus, I pursued ordination in the OPC. Last winter, the church where I also served as teacher voted to call me as pastor beginning in August 2012. I continue to serve at Westminster but also serve part-time at the church.

     I am a firm believer that the call to ministry needs both an internal component (one should desire it) but also an external dimension (one must be judged competent for it). Only the people who have to sit and listen to you can really know if you are meant to be a preacher.

     TT: What are your responsibilities as professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary?

     CT: As professor of church history, I teach master-of-divinity courses on the ancient and Reformation church periods. I also offer electives on various topics relating to Reformation and Presbyterian history and theology. Of course, few come to seminary to learn history; most come to do biblical studies or theology or counseling. With that in mind, I strive to make history more than names and dates. I strive to inculcate an attitude to the past and a way of reading history that provides students with critical skills for understanding their own culture and their place within it.

     TT: What is the chief role of the seminary, and how should seminaries relate to the church?

     CT: Westminster has three main purposes: to train men for ordained ministry; to train men and women for other leadership roles within the church; and to train men and women in theological and biblical research. Of these three, the first is our primary reason for existence.

     The relationship between church and seminary is important. Obviously, what is taught in the lecture theater will sooner or later find its way into the pulpit. So, seminaries have a responsibility to make sure that what they teach is orthodox. How that is ensured is more complicated. The story of Princeton is one of how the denomination went bad and pulled down the orthodoxy of the seminary. Yet, history is also full of independent seminaries that have gone bad, quite independent of any adverse denominational influence on them. In my time as vice president of academic affairs at Westminster, we moved to a position where all future faculty will have to be ordained as ministers in their first three years of appointment. We are an independent seminary, but that move keeps our professors accountable not only to the seminary’s board but also to the courts of the church.

     TT: What are three reasons why every Christian should have a basic understanding of church history?

     CT: You need to have some grasp of church history in order to know why the church thinks, speaks, and behaves the way she does.

     You need to have some grasp of church history in order to avoid reinventing the wheel—theological and/ or ecclesiastical—every few years.

     You need to have some grasp of church history in order to have an appreciation of how God has preserved and sustained the church over the generations.

     TT: What are two books on church history that every layperson should read?

     CT: This is tough. Only two? Well, I would have to say the first is Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther! It is a little dated but a great read and helpful in understanding what exactly was at stake in the Reformation.

     Second, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I have major issues with Murray’s interpretation of the career of MLJ in the 1960s and beyond, but this first volume is a marvelous story of one very influential man’s call to the ministry.

     TT: What is the “real scandal of the evangelical mind”?

     CT: Lack of historic orthodoxy. The evangelical world seems obsessed with “engaging culture” even as the average Christian’s knowledge of the basics of the faith diminishes. You can go to heaven without being able to offer a Christian appreciation of film, art, or music; one cannot go to heaven without knowing who Jesus Christ is and what He has done.

     TT: Why should Christians accurately represent the views of those with whom we disagree theologically, politically, and morally?

     CT: That is a simple ninth commandment issue. We should speak truthfully about others.

     TT: How can Christians be rightly concerned about how they are viewed by unbelievers without compromising the gospel?

     CT: Paul makes it clear in 1 Timothy that elders are to be models of behavior for other Christians and to be of good reputation with those outside. Thus, Christians must of necessity be so concerned. This clearly does not involve conforming to the world’s standards of, say, sexual morality, but it does mean that we will be very careful how we confront the world.  Paul is very clear that the church judges the church, not the world.  So the kind of hateful histrionics we often witness from Christians aimed at the world around us are not good examples of how to engage. Of course, some of this is the result of media hype and spin, but not all of it. Christians are not to mimic the world — no more in style of engagement than in sexual ethics.

     TT: How would you respond to those who criticize you for using humor in serious theological and cultural discussions?

     CT: Humor can be very serious as a pedagogical tool. It is not necessarily flippant or trivial. The Bible is full of humor. Church history is full of those who used humor for good. (Athanasius, Martin Luther, John Owen, Charles Spurgeon, and G.K. Chesterton spring to mind as just five of the more obvious examples.) Humor is often predicated on mental switches, on leading the mind one way and then suddenly springing a trap or doing something unexpected. In other words, it can make people think. (Parables function in a similar fashion.) As a professional teacher, I do not see my job as what many would call an information dump that simply fills people’s minds with facts and ideas. I want to provoke people to think for themselves. Humor is my favorite means for so doing.

     Humor, when used properly, also prevents pomposity. I try to make myself and my own sillinesses a regular target. It is also a well-attested survival mechanism. And anyone involved in church or theological education needs survival mechanisms in order to avoid despair or cynicism.

     Of course, humor is very subjective, both personally and culturally. What is hilarious to one person might be deeply offensive to another. The writer needs to bear that in mind, but so does the reader. My own tastes tend to be on the absurdist/ satirical end of things. If people are offended by what I write, then, once they have realized that is the case, it might be best if they simply avoided reading me.

     TT: What do you mean when you say that evangelicals need good, solid reasons for not being Roman Catholic?

     CT: Rome has chronological priority over any Protestant denomination. Thus, Protestantism was and is a movement of protest. We are by definition protesting against something: the claims of the papacy, the burying of the gospel under garbage, the denial of assurance to ordinary Christian believers. We must never forget these things. We should respect our Roman Catholic friends; we should rejoice in the great doctrine we hold in common; but we must not minimize that which divides us from each other.

Click here to go to source

     Per Amazon | Carl R. Trueman is Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary (PA).

     Carl Trueman Books | Go to Books Page

Mothers Show Us More of God

By Tyler Holley 9/7/2017

     I’ve had dozens of mothers. That may raise a few eyebrows around town, but it shouldn’t surprise us as Christians. After all, Jesus promised us much in following him (Mark 10:29–30). Clearly, motherhood is about more than just physically giving birth.

     In my case, the main mother in my life has been my biological mom. It may be easy to romanticize motherhood, but only one person picked up after me when I was little and made the best PB&J ever created when I broke my arm — we still talk of that sandwich, never since reproduced. Stories of my mother’s love will fill annals in God’s library of unrecognized faithfulness, even though true motherhood is more broad than just that.

     God's Glory, Many Mothers | Motherhood reflects the glory of God. It is the particularly feminine shape of holiness that women of faith strive for. When Paul says that women are “saved through childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15), he does not mean that women can earn their salvation by giving birth, but that God is able to save them even as they endure the feminine part of sin’s curse (Genesis 3:16). Childbearing symbolizes the creational role of women because motherhood is the clearest example of the difference between men and women.

     When I was a child, a middle-aged woman slipped a torn corner of the church bulletin in my hand with a Bible reference penciled on it. She said it was her favorite passage and that I might like it too. And I remember a young lady with a felt board teaching a Sunday school class on baptism, and that’s when I learned what baptism meant. When I was in college, an older lady in my church would give me weekly hugs and tell me she was praying for me — those prayers would sometimes be accompanied by brownies.

     Mothers are everywhere, if we only have eyes to see them. Motherhood is woven into the very fabric of creation, and God says that all of creation tells about his glory (Psalms 19:1Romans 1:20). What, then, does God have to teach us about his glory through motherhood?

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      is a husband, seminary student at Bethlehem College & Seminary, and member of Cities Church in Minneapolis.

No One Follows Their Heart

By Jon Bloom 9/7/2017

     No one actually follows their heart. I know that sounds odd, given the prevalence of our cultural creed to "follow your heart." But if we think carefully about what the "heart" really is and how it functions, we will see that this creed doesn’t make sense, and why it ends up confusing and misleading people.

     A few years ago, I wrote an article titled, “Don’t Follow Your Heart,” in which I argued that, considering the heart’s pathologically selfish orientation, it is not a leader we should want to follow.

     Some readers objected, arguing that as Christians our hearts of stone have been replaced with new hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), and therefore should be reliable to follow. I understand the point, though I believe it to be naïve. Romans 7 (and much of the New Testament) bears witness to — and my extensive personal experience and observation confirms — an active, deceptive sin nature still infecting the regenerate person, requiring us to remain wary and vigilant.

     But in pursuing greater clarity, I'll push my argument one step further and say, No one follows their heart. Because God did not make the heart to work that way.

     What Is “the Heart”? | What do people mean when they say, “Follow your heart”? I doubt most have thought carefully about it. Since it’s always wise to know who one’s leader is before we decide whether it’s wise and safe to follow, we must ask, what is this immaterial thing we call “the heart”?

Click here to go to source

     Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.

     Jon Bloom Books | Go to Books Page

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 101

I Will Walk with Integrity
101 A Psalm Of David.

1 I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O LORD, I will make music.
2 I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
3 I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
4 A perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.

5 Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly
I will destroy.
Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart
I will not endure.

ESV Study Bible

  • Symposium on Youth Ministries I
  • ... Youth Ministry Part II
  • Part III

#1 Cheryl Crawford  
Gordon College


#2 Cheryl Crawford   
Gordon College


#3 Cheryl Crawford   
Gordon College


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The same year the United States won California from Mexico, some workers constructing a sawmill for John Sutter on the south fork of the American River, discovered gold. News spread like fire and soon “Forty-Niners,” as the prospectors were called, poured in from all parts of the world. Quickly populated, California became the thirty-first State on this day, September 9, 1850. The Constitution, which prohibited slavery, stated in its Preamble: “We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution.”

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Life is a culmination of the past,
an awareness of the present,
an indication of a future beyond knowledge,
the quality that gives a touch of divinity to matter.
--- Charles Lindbergh

Every human character appears only once in the history of human beings. And so does every event of love.
--- Isaac Bashevis Singer
Love and Exile: An Autobiographical Trilogy

At the bottom of the heart of every human being, from earliest infancy until the tomb, there is something that goes on indomitably expecting, in the teeth of all experience of crimes committed, suffered, and witnessed, that good and not evil will be done to him. It is this above all that is sacred in every human being. The good is the only source of the sacred. There is nothing sacred except the good and what pertains to it.
--- Simone Weil
Two Moral Essays: Draft for a Statement of Human Obligations, and, Human Personality

If our life is not a course of humility, self-denial, renunciation of the world, poverty of spirit, and heavenly affection, we do not live the lives of Christians.
--- William Law

... from here, there and everywhere
History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 7.

     How John Tyrannized Over The Rest; And What Mischiefs The Zealots Did At Masada. How Also Vespasian Took Gadara; And What Actions Were Performed By Placidus.

     1. By this time John was beginning to tyrannize, and thought it beneath him to accept of barely the same honors that others had; and joining to himself by degrees a party of the wickedest of them all, he broke off from the rest of the faction. This was brought about by his still disagreeing with the opinions of others, and giving out injunctions of his own, in a very imperious manner; so that it was evident he was setting up a monarchical power. Now some submitted to him out of their fear of him, and others out of their good-will to him; for he was a shrewd man to entice men to him, both by deluding them and putting cheats upon them. Nay, many there were that thought they should be safer themselves, if the causes of their past insolent actions should now be reduced to one head, and not to a great many. His activity was so great, and that both in action and in counsel, that he had not a few guards about him; yet was there a great party of his antagonists that left him; among whom envy at him weighed a great deal, while they thought it a very heavy thing to be in subjection to one that was formerly their equal. But the main reason that moved men against him was the dread of monarchy, for they could not hope easily to put an end to his power, if he had once obtained it; and yet they knew that he would have this pretense always against them, that they had opposed him when he was first advanced; while every one chose rather to suffer any thing whatsoever in war, than that, when they had been in a voluntary slavery for some time, they should afterward perish. So the sedition was divided into two parts, and John reigned in opposition to his adversaries over one of them: but for their leaders, they watched one another, nor did they at all, or at least very little, meddle with arms in their quarrels; but they fought earnestly against the people, and contended one with another which of them should bring home the greatest prey. But because the city had to struggle with three of the greatest misfortunes, war, and tyranny, and sedition, it appeared, upon the comparison, that the war was the least troublesome to the populace of them all. Accordingly, they ran away from their own houses to foreigners, and obtained that preservation from the Romans which they despaired to obtain among their own people.

     2. And now a fourth misfortune arose, in order to bring our nation to destruction. There was a fortress of very great strength not far from Jerusalem, which had been built by our ancient kings, both as a repository for their effects in the hazards of war, and for the preservation of their bodies at the same time. It was called Masada. Those that were called Sicarii had taken possession of it formerly, but at this time they overran the neighboring countries, aiming only to procure to themselves necessaries; for the fear they were then in prevented their further ravages. But when once they were informed that the Roman army lay still, and that the Jews were divided between sedition and tyranny, they boldly undertook greater matters; and at the feast of unleavened bread, which the Jews celebrate in memory of their deliverance from the Egyptian bondage, when they were sent back into the country of their forefathers, they came down by night, without being discovered by those that could have prevented them, and overran a certain small city called Engaddi:—in which expedition they prevented those citizens that could have stopped them, before they could arm themselves, and fight them. They also dispersed them, and cast them out of the city. As for such as could not run away, being women and children, they slew of them above seven hundred. Afterward, when they had carried every thing out of their houses, and had seized upon all the fruits that were in a flourishing condition, they brought them into Masada. And indeed these men laid all the villages that were about the fortress waste, and made the whole country desolate; while there came to them every day, from all parts, not a few men as corrupt as themselves. At that time all the other regions of Judea that had hitherto been at rest were in motion, by means of the robbers. Now as it is in a human body, if the principal part be inflamed, all the members are subject to the same distemper; so, by means of the sedition and disorder that was in the metropolis,. had the wicked men that were in the country opportunity to ravage the same. Accordingly, when every one of them had plundered their own villages, they then retired into the desert; yet were these men that now got together, and joined in the conspiracy by parties, too small for an army, and too many for a gang of thieves: and thus did they fall upon the holy places 11 and the cities; yet did it now so happen that they were sometimes very ill treated by those upon whom they fell with such violence, and were taken by them as men are taken in war: but still they prevented any further punishment as do robbers, who, as soon as their ravages [are discovered], run their way. Nor was there now any part of Judea that was not in a miserable condition, as well as its most eminent city also.

     3. These things were told Vespasian by deserters; for although the seditious watched all the passages out of the city, and destroyed all, whosoever they were, that came thither, yet were there some that had concealed themselves, and when they had fled to the Romans, persuaded their general to come to their city's assistance, and save the remainder of the people; informing him withal, that it was upon account of the people's good-will to the Romans that many of them were already slain, and the survivors in danger of the same treatment. Vespasian did indeed already pity the calamities these men were in, and arose, in appearance, as though he was going to besiege Jerusalem, but in reality to deliver them from a [worse] siege they were already under. However, he was obliged first to overthrow what remained elsewhere, and to leave nothing out of Jerusalem behind him that might interrupt him in that siege. Accordingly, he marched against Gadara, the metropolis of Perea, which was a place of strength, and entered that city on the fourth day of the month Dystrus [Adar]; for the men of power had sent an embassage to him, without the knowledge of the seditious, to treat about a surrender; which they did out of the desire they had of peace, and for saving their effects, because many of the citizens of Gadara were rich men. This embassy the opposite party knew nothing of, but discovered it as Vespasian was approaching near the city. However, they despaired of keeping possession of the city, as being inferior in number to their enemies who were within the city, and seeing the Romans very near to the city; so they resolved to fly, but thought it dishonorable to do it without shedding some blood, and revenging themselves on the authors of this surrender; so they seized upon Dolesus, [a person not only the first in rank and family in that city, but one that seemed the occasion of sending such an embassy,] and slew him, and treated his dead body after a barbarous manner, so very violent was their anger at him, and then ran out of the city. And as now the Roman army was just upon them, the people of Gadara admitted Vespasian with joyful acclamations, and received from him the security of his right hand, as also a garrison of horsemen and footmen, to guard them against the excursions of the runagates; for as to their wall, they had pulled it down before the Romans desired them so to do, that they might thereby give them assurance that they were lovers of peace, and that, if they had a mind, they could not now make war against them.

     The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Proverbs 24:15-16
     by D.H. Stern

15     Don’t lurk like an outlaw near the home of the righteous,
     don’t raid the place where he lives.
16     For though he falls seven times, he will get up again;
     it’s the wicked who fail under stress.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Do it yourself

     Determinedly Discipline other Things.

     Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. ---
2 Cor. 10:5.

     This is another aspect of the strenuous nature of sainthood. Paul says—“I take every project prisoner to make it obey Christ.” (Moffatt.) How much Christian work there is to-day which has never been disciplined, but has simply sprung into being by impulse! In Our Lord’s life every project was disciplined to the will of His Father. There was not a movement of an impulse of His own will as distinct from His Father’s—
“The Son can do nothing of Himself.” Then take ourselves—a vivid religious experience, and every project born of impulse put into action immediately, instead of being imprisoned and disciplined to obey Christ.

     This is a day when practical work is over-emphasized, and the saints who are bringing every project into captivity are criticized and told that they are not in earnest for God or for souls. True earnestness is found in obeying God, not in the inclination to serve Him that is born of undisciplined human nature. It is inconceivable, but true nevertheless, that saints are not bringing every project into captivity, but are doing work for God at the instigation of their own human nature which has not been spiritualized by determined discipline.

     We are apt to forget that a man is not only committed to Jesus Christ for salvation; he is committed to Jesus Christ’s view of God, of the world, of sin and of the devil, and this will mean that he must recognize the responsibility of being transformed by the renewing of his mind.

My Utmost for His Highest
Those Others (Tares)
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                Those Others (Tares)

A gofid gwerin gyfan
  Yn fy nghri fel taerni tan.
      Dewi Emrys

I have looked long at this land,
  Trying to understand
  My place in it--why,
  With each fertile country
  So free of its room,
  This was the cramped womb
  At last took me in
  From the void of unbeing.

Hate takes a long time
  To grow in, and mine
  Has increased from birth;
  Not for the brute earth
  That is strong here and clean
  And plain in its meaning
  As none of the books are
  That tell but of the war

Of heart with head, leaving
  The wild birds to sing
  The best songs; I find
  This hate's for my own kind,
  For men of the Welsh race
  Who brood with dark face
  Over their thin navel
  To learn what to sell;

Yet not for them all either,
  There are still those other
  Castaways on a sea
  Of grass, who call to me,
  Clinging to their doomed farms;
  Their hearts though rough are warm
  And firm, and their slow wake
  Through time bleeds for our sake.

Selected poems, 1946-1968
Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     The two rabbis in our Midrash offer very different explanations of the ritual of the Red Heifer. In so doing, they actually present two very different approaches to the significance and meaning of religion. Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Zakkai admits to his students that the ritual is a great mystery and is beyond our comprehension and understanding. God decrees the ritual; therefore we obey. It is enough for us to know that in performing the ritual, we are following God’s will. The very act of going through all the prescribed steps should bring us closer to God. Why these particular steps is something that we can never fathom. And exactly what happens when we do these steps is also a secret. Having thus been drawn closer to God, we surrender ourselves over to the divine plan, confident that somehow all this is for the best. Rabbi Yoḥanan might tell us that “God is in the details.” Doing the ritual with all its particulars brings us into contact with the divine.

     Rabbi Aivu takes an entirely different approach. The meaning of the ritual, and the beauty of it, lie in its logic, which is simple. Sinning requires atonement; atonement comes through a sacrifice. Since the sin was committed with a (golden) calf, the atonement should come through the sacrifice of a (red) cow; the mother should clean up after her child!

     Applying this approach to religion in general, Rabbi Aivu might tell us that the goal of religion is not to have us surrender, but to push us to search. The ritual has a message to convey to us. If we perform it blindly, without thinking about its deeper meaning, we are missing the whole point. God gave us rituals pregnant with meaning. We perform them, and it is our search for “the message-that-lies-within” that helps to change us in very significant ways.

     The Red Heifer or cow was, in one way or another, about purification. The closest thing that we have today to such a ritual, in content (if not in form), is our observance of Yom Kippur. Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, sitting through the twenty-five hours of the Day of Atonement, might say to us: It’s the solemn mood of the day that makes Yom Kippur so powerful: the gathering at twilight, the wearing of the tallit after dark, the daylong fasting, the heart-wrenching melody of Kol Nidrei, the sadness of the Yizkor prayers for the dead, the confession of sins accompanied by the beating of the breast, and the terror of the words reminding us that God decides who will live and who will die. An overpowering, mysterious atmosphere is created, and, coming to synagogue, we are brought closer to God.

     Rabbi Aivu might see it differently. We’ve sinned, so we need to do teshuvah, to turn around our lives. We accomplish this by spending long hours sitting (or standing) and meditating on our shortcomings and how we might best make up for them. The prayers we recite, the melodies we hear, the RS Thomas we listen to, all inspire us to repent and become better human beings. It’s all very simple: We resolve to stop sinning and do better.

     Both approaches are committed to the rituals; where they differ is about the purpose of those rituals.


     At first blush, the story of the king, the servant woman, and her child may seem rather crude. The Hebrew word translated as “filth,” צוֹאָה/tzo-ah, also means “excrement.” The king can wave his hand and command, “Let his mother come and wipe up the filth.”

     However, on a deeper level, the parable may be less coarse than we think—if we reconsider the reaction of the king. He is not looking for blame. He does not ask, “Why did this happen?” He simply wants his palace cleaned up (and it would be improper for a king to do it himself). Were he a vengeful ruler, he could have said, “Off with the head of the child who sullied my palace!” Or “That mother did not watch over her son. Let her rot in jail!” Rather than focusing on blame, vengeance, or justice, the king instead asks, “Whose mess is it?” so that he or she may clean it up.

     The Rabbis often use “king parables” to speak of the relationship between God (the King) and the Jewish people (God’s subjects). If the king in the story is less concerned with finding fault than with righting the situation, then perhaps we should reassess our view of God. The Rabbis may be saying that God does not want to punish us for what’s wrong; rather, God wants to remind us to remedy the inequities. If this is God’s focus, then it should be ours as well.

     Imagine the following: It’s Shabbat Morning, and the Torah scroll, in preparation for reading, is being taken out of the Ark. The gabbai hands the scroll to Bernie, the uncle of the Bat Mitzvah girl, who turns to face the congregation. All of a sudden, before anyone can do anything about it, Bernie stumbles and the Torah falls to the floor. What should happen next?

     Here’s what we don’t do next:

•     A discussion on why the sefer Torah fell and who was at fault.
•     A heated meeting on the side of the pulpit to discuss honors at future Bat Mitzvah ceremonies.
•     An angry explanation to all assembled that those with honors must pay attention to the three steps leading up to the Holy Ark.

     What should happen when a Torah scroll falls?

•     We pick it up!
•     After Shabbat, we fix the Torah if it needs repair.
•     During the week, we may fast or give to tzedakah as a sign of our communal remorse.

     We are saddened that this happened. Our first—and most important—reaction should be to right the wrong. Rabbi Yoḥanan is teaching us that we can be too focused on theory and philosophy. His approach reminds us: “If something is amiss, then clean it up!”

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     September 9

     They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. --- Hebrews 11:37–38.

     We have not even in dreams experienced the things among which those men and women spent their whole lives, always doing rightly and yet always afflicted.   (The Early Church Fathers: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series (The Early Church Fathers, First Series , So14))

     They had not even clothing, no city, no lodging place—the same as Christ, who had no place to lay his head. Not even when they had gained the wilderness were they at rest. Even there, they were driven out of even that which was uninhabitable. Wandering like exiles and outcasts, they found no refuge but must always be flying, seeking hiding places, always in terror.

     What then is the reward?

     They have not yet received it but are still waiting, and after thus dying in such great tribulation. They gained their victory so many ages ago and have not yet received it. And you who are yet in the conflict, are you vexed?

     How great a thing it is that Abraham should be sitting, and the apostle Paul, waiting till you have been perfected, that then they may receive their reward. For the Savior has told them that unless we also are present, he will not give it to them. And are you vexed that you have not yet received the reward? What then will Abel do, who is sitting uncrowned? And Noah? And they who lived in those times, seeing that they wait for you and those after you?

     For “God had planned something better for us.” In order that they might not seem to have the advantage over us from being crowned before us, he appointed one time of crowning for all, and those who gained the victory so many years before receive their crowns with you. See his tender carefulness?

     “That only together with us would they be made perfect.” They were before us as regards the conflicts but are not before us as regards the crowns. He didn’t wrong them, but he honored us. For if we are all one body, the pleasure becomes greater to this body when it is crowned altogether. The righteous are worthy of admiration in this, that they rejoice in our welfare as in their own. So this is their wish, to be crowned along with their own members. To be glorified all together is a great delight.
--- John Chrysostom

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     Jabez  September 9

     Mary Redfern lived in the small English village of Haddon in Derbyshire. Her mother was bedfast, and all the care for her eight younger siblings fell onto Mary’s shoulders. One day in 1769, she heard a commotion in the street. A little man was preaching before a crowd in the open. His name was John Wesley.

     Soon after, Richard Boardman, one of Wesley’s evangelists, came preaching. He had recently lost his wife, and his demeanor was tender and poignant. He spoke from 1 Chronicles 4:9 about Jabez, “the most respected son in his family.” Mary was deeply moved and never forgot the story of Jabez. She moved to Manchester, married, and named her firstborn Jabez. And when Wesley preached in Manchester’s Oldham Street Church Mary brought little Jabez. The great evangelist touched the child and blessed him.

     Little did he know he was blessing his future successor.

     Young Jabez often heard Wesley preach, and he developed a great love for the Gospel. As a lad he would walk miles to hear preaching, returning to deliver his own little RS Thomas to long-suffering sisters, using his father’s shirts as ministerial robes. When 19 he preached his first official sermon in Sodom, near Manchester, and shortly thereafter he was ordained to the ministry.

     Jabez quickly advanced in Methodism, but he often proved hardheaded and strong-willed. When he rose to leadership following Wesley’s death, he ruled with a strong hand. His slogan was: “Methodism hates democracy as it hates sin.” One of several controversies occurred on September 9, 1825, when the Brunswick Chapel opened in Leeds, England. A dispute arose over whether an organ should be installed. Many members opposed it, but Bunting and the leaders installed it anyway. The organ, it was later said, cost 1,000 pounds and 1,000 Methodists.

     Jabez was called the Pope of Methodism. But he preached a clear Gospel and brought Methodist theological training and world missions into their own. His influence lasts to this day.

     You must watch over everyone God has placed in your care. Do it willingly in order to please God, and not simply because you think you must. Don’t be bossy to those people who are in your care, but set an example for them.
--- 1 Peter 5:2b,3.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - September 9

     "I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not." --- Jeremiah 33:3.

     There are different translations of these words. One version renders it, “I will shew thee great and fortified things.” Another, “Great and reserved things.” Now, there are reserved and special things in Christian experience: all the developments of spiritual life are not alike easy of attainment. There are the common frames and feelings of repentance, and faith, and joy, and hope, which are enjoyed by the entire family; but there is an upper realm of rapture, of communion, and conscious union with Christ, which is far from being the common dwelling-place of believers. We have not all the high privilege of John, to lean upon Jesus’ bosom; nor of Paul, to be caught up into the third heaven. There are heights in experimental knowledge of the things of God which the eagle’s eye of acumen and philosophic thought hath never seen: God alone can bear us there; but the chariot in which he takes us up, and the fiery steeds with which that chariot is dragged, are prevailing prayers. Prevailing prayer is victorious over the God of mercy, “By his strength he had power with God: yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Beth-el, and there he spake with us.” Prevailing prayer takes the Christian to Carmel, and enables him to cover heaven with clouds of blessing, and earth with floods of mercy. Prevailing prayer bears the Christian aloft to Pisgah, and shows him the inheritance reserved; it elevates us to Tabor and transfigures us, till in the likeness of his Lord, as he is, so are we also in this world. If you would reach to something higher than ordinary grovelling experience, look to the Rock that is higher than you, and gaze with the eye of faith through the window of importunate prayer. When you open the window on your side, it will not be bolted on the other.

          Evening - September 9

     “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment.”
--- Revelation 4:4.

     These representatives of the saints in heaven are said to be around the throne. In the passage in Canticles, where Solomon sings of the King sitting at his table, some render it “a round table.” From this, some expositors, I think, without straining the text, have said, “There is an equality among the saints.” That idea is conveyed by the equal nearness of the four and twenty elders. The condition of glorified spirits in heaven is that of nearness to Christ, clear vision of his glory, constant access to his court, and familiar fellowship with his person: nor is there any difference in this respect between one saint and another, but all the people of God, apostles, martyrs, ministers, or private and obscure Christians, shall all be seated near the throne, where they shall for ever gaze upon their exalted Lord, and be satisfied with his love. They shall all be near to Christ, all ravished with his love, all eating and drinking at the same table with him, all equally beloved as his favourites and friends even if not all equally rewarded as servants.

     Let believers on earth imitate the saints in heaven in their nearness to Christ. Let us on earth be as the elders are in heaven, sitting around the throne. May Christ be the object of our thoughts, the centre of our lives. How can we endure to live at such a distance from our Beloved? Lord Jesus, draw us nearer to thyself. Say unto us, “Abide in me, and I in you”; and permit us to sing, “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.”

     O lift me higher, nearer thee,
     And as I rise more pure and meet,
     O let my soul’s humility
     Make me lie lower at thy feet;
     Less trusting self, the more I prove
     The blessed comfort of thy love.

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     September 9


     Walter Chalmers Smith, 1824–1908

     Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17

     In our enjoyment of a personal relationship with God, we sometimes lose sight of the awe and reverence that should also be part of our worship of Him. Often we tend to forget the supreme holiness and greatness of who God really is. In our hymnody and theology we can carelessly treat our Lord as merely “the friend upstairs.”

     Consider this ancient advice from a father to his son:

     First of all, my child, think magnificently of God. Magnify His providence; adore His power, pray to Him frequently and incessantly. Bear Him always in your mind. Teach your thoughts to reverence Him in every place for there is no place where He is not. Therefore, my child, fear and worship and love God; first and last, think magnificently of Him!
--- Paternus, Advice to a Son

     The author of the fine worshipful text of “Immortal, Invisible” was Walter Chalmers Smith, a pastor and an important leader of the Free churches of Scotland. He had various volumes of his poetry published, including several hymnals. “Immortal, Invisible” was first published in Smith’s 1867 hymnal, Hymns of Christ and the Christian Life.

     One can reflect at length on the greatness of God as described by these words:

     Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes, most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty, victorious—Thy great name we praise.
     Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might; Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
     To all, life Thou givest—to both great and small; in all life Thou livest—the true life of all; we blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, and wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.
     Great Father of glory, pure Father of light, Thine angels adore Thee all veiling their sight; all praise we would render—O help us to see ’tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee!

     For Today: Job 37:21–24; Psalm 36:5, 6; 104:1–5; Colossians 1:15–17, 19; Revelation 21:23

     J. P. Phillips, in his book Your God Is Too Small, reminds us that our concept of God is generally too limited. Reflect on this truth as you sing ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock


     Use II. shall be for examination. Let us try ourselves concerning the manner of our worship. We are now in the end of the world, and the dregs of time; wherein the apostle predicts there may be much of a form, and little of the power of godliness (2 Tim. 3:1, 5); and, therefore, it stands us in hand to search into ourselves, whether it be not thus with us? whether there be as much reverence in our spirits as there may be devotion in our countenances and outward carriages.

     1. How, therefore, are our hearts prepared to worship? Is our diligence greater to put our hearts in an adoring posture, than our bodies in a decent garb? or are we content to have a muddy heart, so we may have a dressed carcass? To have a spirit a cage of unclean birds, while we wipe the filth from the outside of the platter, is no better than a pharisaical devotion, and deserves no better a name than that of a whited sepulchre. Do we take opportunities to excite and quicken our spirits to the performance, and cry aloud with David, “Awake, awake, my glory!” Are not our hearts asleep when Christ knocks? When we hear the voice of God, “Seek my face;” do we answer him with warm resolutions, “Thy face, Lord, we will seek?” (Psalm 27:8.) Do we comply with spiritual motions, and strike whilst the iron is hot? Is there not more of reluctancy than readiness? Is there a quick rising of the soul in reverence to the motion, as Eglon to Ehud; or a sullen hanging the head at the first approach of it? Or if our hearts seem to be engaged and on fire, what are the motives that quicken that fire? Is it only the blast of a natural conscience, fear of hell, desires of heaven, as abstracted from God? or is it an affection to God; an obedient will to please him; longings to enjoy him, as a holy and sanctifying God in his ordinances, as well as a blessed and glorified God in heaven? What do we expect in our approaches from him? that which may make divine impressions upon us, and more exactly conform us to the Divine nature? or do we design nothing but an empty formality, a rolling eye, and a filling the air with a few words, without any openings of heart to receive the incomes, which, according to the nature of the duty, might be conveyed to us? Can this be a spiritual worship? The soul then closely waits upon him, when its expectation is only from him (Psalm 62:6). Are our hearts seasoned with a sense of sin; a sight of our spiritual wants; raised notions of God; lowing affections to him; strong appetite after a spiritual fulness Do we rouse up our sleepy spirits, and make a covenant with all that is within us to attend upon him? So much as we want of this, so much we come short of a spiritual worship. In Psalm 57:7 (“My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed”), David would fix his heart, before he would engage in a praising act of worship. He appeals to God about it, and that with doubling the expression, as being certain of an inward preparedness. Can we make the same appeals in a fixation of spirit?

     2. How are our hearts fixed upon him; how do they cleave to him in the duty? Do we resign our spirits to God, and make them an entire holocaust, a whole burnt-offering in his worship? or do we not willingly admit carnal thoughts to mix themselves with spiritual duties, and fasten our minds to the creature, under pretences of directing them to the Creator? Do we not pass a mere compliment upon God, by some superficial act of devotion; while some covetous, envious, ambitious, voluptuous imagination may possess our minds? Do we not invert God’s order, and worship a lust instead of God with our spirits, that should not have the least service, either from our souls or bodies, but with a spiritual disdain be sacrificed to the just indignation of God? How often do we fight against his will, while we cry, “Hail, Master!” instead of crucifying our own thoughts, crucifying the Lord of our lives; our outward carriage plausible, and our inward stark naught! Do we not often regard iniquity more than God in our hearts, in a time of worship? — roll some filthy imagination as a sweet morsel under our tongues, and taste more sweetness in that than in God? Do not our spirits smell rank of earth, while we offer to heaven; and have we not hearts full of thick clay, as their “hands were full of blood?” (Isa. 1:15.) When we sacrifice, do we not wrap up our souls in communion with some sordid fancy, when we should entwine our spirits about an amiable God? While we have some fear of him, may we not have a love to something else above him? This is to worship, or swear by the Lord, and by Malcham (Zeph. 1:5). How often doth an apish fancy render a service inwardly ridiculous, under a grave outward posture; skipping to the shop, warehouse, counting- house, in the space of a short prayer! and we are before God as a Babel, a confusion of internal languages; and this in those parts of worship which are, in the right use, most agreeable to God, profitable for ourselves, ruinous to the kingdom of sin and Satan, and means to bring us into a closer communion with the Divine Majesty. Can this be a spiritual worship?

     3. How do we act our graces in worship? Though the instrument be strung, if the strings be not wound up, what melody can be the issue? All readiness and alacrity discover a strength of nature; and a readiness in spirituals discovers a spirituality in the heart. As unaffecting thoughts of God are not spiritual thoughts, so unaffecting addresses to God are not spiritual addresses. Well, then, what awakenings, and elevations of faith and love have we? What strong outflowings of our souls to him? What indignation against sin? What admirations of redeeming grace? How low have we brought our corruptions to the footstool of Christ, to be made his conquered enemies? How straitly have we clasped our faith about the cross and throne of Christ, to become his intimate spouse? Do we in hearing hang upon the lips of Christ; in prayer take hold of God, and will not let him go; in confessions rend the caul of our hearts, and indite our souls before him with a deep humility? Do we act more by a soaring love than a drooping fear? So far as our spirits are servile, so far they are legal and carnal; so much as they are free and spontaneous, so much they are evangelical and spiritual. As men under the law are subject to the constraint of “bondage all their life- time” (Heb. 2:15), in all their worship; so under the gospel they are under a constraint of love (2 Cor. 5:14): how then are believing affections exercised, which are alway accompanied with holy fear; a fear of his goodness that admits us into his presence, and a fear to offend him in our act of worship? So much as we have of forced or feeble affection, so much we have of carnality.

     4. How do we find our hearts after worship? By an after carriage we may judge of the spirituality of it.

     (1.) How are we as to inward strength? When a worship is spiritually performed, grace is more strengthened, corruption more mortified; the soul, like Samson after his awakening, goes out with a renewed strength; as the inward man is renewed day by day, that is, every day; so it is renewed in every worship. Every shower makes the grass and fruit grow in good ground where the root is good, and the weeds where the ground is naught; the more prepared the heart is to obedience in other duties after worship, the more evidence there is that it hath been spiritual in the exercise of it. It is the end of God in every dispensation, as in that of John Baptist, “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17): when the heart is by worship prepared for fresh acts of obedience, and hath a more exact watchfulness against the encroachments of sin. As carnal men after worship sprout up in spiritual wickedness, so do spiritual worshippers in spiritual graces; spiritual fruits are a sign of a spiritual frame. When men are more prone to sin after duty, it is a sign there was but little communion with God in it; and a greater strength of sin, because such an act is contrary to the end of worship which is the subduing of sin. It is a sign the physic hath wrought well, when the stomach hath a better appetite to its appointed food; and worship hath been well performed, when we have a stronger inclination to other acts well pleasing to God, and a more sensible distaste of those temptations we too much relished before. It is a sign of a good concoction, when there is a greater strength in the vitals of religion, a more eager desire to know God. When Moses had been praying to God, and prevailed with him, he puts up a higher request to “behold his glory” (Exod. 33:13, 18): when the appetite stands strong to fuller discoveries of God, it is a sign there hath been a spiritual converse with him.

     (2.) How is it especially as to humility? The Pharisees’ worship was, without dispute, carnal; and we find them not more humble after all their devotions, but overgrown with more weeds of spiritual pride; they performed them as their righteousness.  What men dare plead before God in his day, they plead before him in their hearts in their day; but this men will do at the day of judgment: “We have prophesied in thy name,” &c. (Matt. 7:21). They show what tincture their services left upon their spirits; that which excludes them from any acceptation at the last day, excludes them from any estimation of being spiritual in this day. The carnal worshippers charge God with injustice in not rewarding them, and claim an acceptation as a compensation due to them (Isa. 58:3): “Wherefore have we afflicted our souls, and thou takest no knowledge?” A spiritual worshipper looks upon his duties with shame, as well as he doth upon his sins with confusion; and implores the mercy of God for the one as well as the other. In Psalm 143:2, the prophet David, after his supplications, begs of God not to enter into judgment with him; and acknowledges any answer that God should give him, as a fruit of his faithfulness to his promise, and not the merit of his worship: “In thy faithfulness answer me,” &c. Whatsoever springs from a gracious principle, and is the breath of the Spirit, leaves a man more humble; whereas, that which proceeds from a stock of nature, hath the true blood of nature running in the veins of it; viz., that pride which is naturally derived from Adam.  The breathing of the Divine Spirit is, in everything, to conform us to our Redeemer; that being the main work of his office, is his work in every particular christian act influenced by him.

     Now Jesus Christ, in all his actions, was an exact pattern of all humility. After the institution and celebration of the supper, a special act of worship in the church, though he had a sense of all the authority his Father had given him, yet he “humbles himself to wash his disciples’ feet” (John 13:2–4); and after his sublime prayer (John 17.), “He humbles himself to the death, and offers himself” to his murderers, because of his Father’s pleasure. (John 18:1): “When he had spoken those words, he went over the brook Kedron into the garden.”  What is the end of God in appointing worship, is the end of a spiritual heart in offering it; not his own exaltation, but God’s glory.  Glorifying the name of God is the fruit of that evangelical worship the Gentiles were in time to give to God (Psalm 86:9): “All nations which thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord, and shall glorify thy name.” Let us examine, then, what debasing ourselves there is in a sense of our own vileness, and distance from so glorious a Spirit.

      Self-denial is the heart of all gospel grace. Evangelical, spiritual worship cannot be without the ingredient of the main evangelical principle.

     (3.) What delight is there after it? What pleasure is there, and what is the object of that pleasure? Is it the communion we have had with God, or a fluency in ourselves? Is it something which hath touched our hearts, or tickled our fancies? As the strength of sin is known by the delightful thoughts of it after the commission; so is the spirituality of duty, by the object of our delightful remembrance after the performance. It was a sign David was spiritual in the worship of God in the tabernacle, when he enjoyed it, because he longed for the spiritual part of it, when he was exiled from it; his desires were not only for liberty to revisit the tabernacle, but to see the “power and glory of God in the sanctuary,” as he had seen it before (Psalm 63:2): his desires for it could not have been so ardent, if his reflection upon what had past had not been delightful; nor could his soul be poured out in him, for the want of such opportunities, if the remembrance of the converse he had had with God, had not been accompanied with a delightful relish (Psalm 42:4). Let us examine what delight we find in our spirits after worship.

     Use III. is of comfort. And it is very comfortable to consider, that the smallest worship with the heart and spirit, flowing from a principle of grace, is more acceptable than the most pompous veneration; yea, if the oblation were as precious as the whole circuit of heaven and earth without it. That God that values a cup of cold water given to any as his disciple, will value a sincere service above a costly sacrifice. God hath his eye upon them that honor his nature; he would not “seek such to worship him,” if he did not intend to accept such a worship from them; when we therefore invoke him, and praise him, which are the prime parts of religion, he will receive it as a sweet savor from us, and overlook infirmities mixed with the graces. The great matter of discomfort, and that which makes us question the spirituality of worship, is the many starts of our spirits, and rovings to other things. For answer to which,

     1. It is to be confessed that these starts are natural to us. Who is free from them? We bear in our bosoms a nest of turbulent thoughts, which, like busy gnats, will be buzzing about us while we are in our most inward and spiritual converses. Many wild beasts lurk in a man’s heart, as in a close and covert wood, and scarce discover themselves but at our solemn worship. No duty so holy, no worship so spiritual, that can wholly privilege us from them; they will jog ua in our most weighty employments, that, as God said to Cain, sin lies at the door, and enters in, and makes a riot in our souls. As it is said of wicked men, “they cannot sleep” for multitude of thoughts (Eccles. 5:12); so it may be of many a good man, he cannot worship for multitude of thoughts; there will be starts, and more in our religious than natural employments; it is natural to man. Some therefore think, the bells tied to Aaron’s garments, between the pomegranates, were to warn the people, and recall their fugitive minds to the present service, when they heard the sound of them, upon the least motion of the high-priest. The sacrifice of Abraham, the father or the faithful, was not exempt from the fowls pecking at it (Gen. 15:11). Zechariah himself was drowsy in the midst of his visions, which being more amazing, might cause a heavenly intentness (Zech. 4:1): “The angel that talked with me, came again and awaked me, as a man is awaked out of sleep.” He had been roused up before, but he was ready to drop down again; his heart was gone, till the angel jogged him. We may complain of such imaginations, as Jeremiah doth of the enemies of the Jews (Lam. 4:19).

     Our persecutors are swifter than eagles; they light upon us with as much speed as eagles upon a carcass; they pursue us upon the mountain of divine institutions, and they lay wait for us in the wilderness, in our retired addresses to God. And this will be so while,

     (1.) There is natural corruption in us. There are in a godly man two contrary principles, flesh and spirit, which endeavor to hinder one another’s acts, and are alway stirring upon the offensive or defensive part (Gal. 5:17). There is a body of death, continually exhaling its noisome vapors: it is a body of death in our worship, as well as in our natures; it snaps our resolutions asunder (Rom. 7:19); it hinders us in the doing good, and contradicts our wills in the stirring up evil. This corruption being seated in all the faculties, and a constant domestic in them, has the greater opportunity to trouble us, since it is by those faculties that we spiritually transact with God; and it stirs more in the time of religious exercises, though it be in part mortified; as a wounded beast, though tired, will rage and strive to its utmost, when the enemy is about to fetch a blow at it. All duties of worship tend to the wounding of corruption; and it is no wonder to feel the striving of sin to defend itself and offend us, when we have our arms in our hands to mortify it, that the blow may be diverted which is directed against it. The apostles had aspiring thoughts; and being persuaded of an earthly kingdom, expected a grandeur in it; and though we find some appearance of it at other times, as when they were casting out devils, and gave an account of it to their Master, he gives them a kind of a check (Luke 10:20), intimating that there was some kind of evil in their rejoicing upon that account; yet this never swelled so high, as to break out into a quarrel who should be greatest, until they had the most solemn ordinance, the Lord’s supper, to quell it (Luke 22:24). Our corruption is like lime, which discovers not its fire by any smoke or heat, till you cast water, the enemy of fire, upon it; neither doth our natural corruption rage so much, as when we are using means to quench and destroy it.

     (2.) While there is a devil, and we in his precinct. As he accuseth us to God, so he disturbs us in ourselves; he is a bold spirit, and loves to intrude himself when we are conversing with God: we read, that when the angels presented themselves before God, Satan comes among them (Job 1:6). Motions from Satan will thrust themselves in with our most raised and angelical frames; he loves to take off the edge of our spirits from God; he acts but after the old rate; he from the first envied God an obedience from man, and envied man the felicity of communion with God; he is unwilling God should have the honor of worship, and that we should have the fruit of it; he hath himself lost it, and therefore is unwilling we should enjoy it; and being subtle, he knows how to make impressions upon us suitable to our inbred corruptions, and assault us in the weakest part. He knows all the avenues to get within us (as he did in the temptation of Eve), and being a spirit, he wants not a power to dart them immediately upon our fancy; and being a spirit, and therefore active and nimble, he can shoot those darts faster than our weakness can beat them off. He is diligent also, and watcheth for his prey, and seeks to devour our services as well as our souls, and snatch our best morsels from us. We know he mixed himself with our Saviour’s retirements in the wilderness, and endeavored to fly-blow his holy converse with his Father in the preparation to his mediatory work. Satan is God’s ape, and imitates the Spirit in the office of a remembrancer; as the Spirit brings good thoughts and divine promises to mind, to quicken our worship, so the devil brings evil things to mind, and endeavors to fasten them in our souls to disturb us; and though all the foolish starts we have in worship are not purely his issue, yet being of kin to him, he claps his hands, and sets them on like so many mastiffs, to tear the service in pieces. And both those distractions, which arise from our own corruption and from Satan, are most rife in worship, when we are under some pressing affliction. This seems to be David’s case, Psalm 86: when in ver. 11 he prays God to unite his heart to fear and worship his name; he seems to be under some affliction, or fear of his enemies: “O free me from those distractions of spirit, and those passions which arise in my soul, upon considering the designs of my enemies against me, and press upon me in my addresses to thee, and attendances on thee.” Job also in his affliction complains (Job 17:11) that “his purposes were broken off;” he could not make an even thread of thoughts and resolutions; they were frequently snapt asunder, like rotten yarn when one is winding it up. Good men and spiritual worshippers have lain under this trouble. Though they are a sign of weakness of grace, or some obstructions in the acting of strong grace, yet they are not always evidences of a want of grace; what ariseth from our own corruption, is to be matter of humiliation and resistance; what ariseth from Satan, should edge our minds to a noble conquest of them. If the apostle did comfort himself with his disapproving of what rose from the natural spring of sin within him, with his consent to the law, and dissent from his lust; and charges it not upon himself, but upon the sin that dwelt in him, with which he had broken off the former league, and was resolved never to enter into amity with it; by the same reason we may comfort ourselves, if such thoughts are undelighted in, and alienate not our hearts from the worship of God by all their busy intrusions to interrupt us.

     2. These distractions (not allowed) may be occasions, by an holy improvement, to make our hearts more spiritual after worship, though they disturb us in it, by answering those ends for which we may suppose God permits them to invade us. And that is, First, When they are occasions to humble us,

The Existence and Attributes of God

The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. CXLIII. — cccccccccccccccccccccc BUT many elude and evade Paul, by saying, that he here calls the ceremonial works, works of the law; which works, after the death of Christ, were dead.

     I answer: This is that notable error and ignorance of Jerome which, although Augustine strenuously resisted it, yet, by the withdrawing of God and the prevailing of Satan, has found its way throughout the world, and has continued down to this day. By means of which, it has come to pass, that it has been impossible to understand Paul, and the knowledge of Christ has, consequently, been obscured. Therefore, if there had been no other error in the church, this one might have been sufficiently pestilent and powerful to destroy the Gospel: for which, Jerome, if peculiar grace did not interpose, has deserved hell rather than heaven: so far am I from daring to canonize him, or call him a saint! But however, it is not truth that Paul is here speaking of the ceremonial works only: for if that be the case, how will his argument stand good, whereby he concludes, that all are unrighteous and need grace? But perhaps you will say — Be it so, that we are not justified by the ceremonial works, yet one might be justified by the moral works of the decalogue. By this syllogism of yours then, you have proved, that to such, grace is not necessary. If this be the case, how very useful must that grace be, which delivers us from the ceremonial works only, the easiest of all works, which may be extorted from us through mere fear or self-love!

     And this, moreover, is erroneous — that ceremonial works are dead and unlawful, since the death of Christ. Paul never said any such thing. He says, that they do not justify, and that they profit the man nothing in the sight of God, so as to make him free from unrighteousness. Holding this truth, any one may do them, and yet do nothing that is unlawful. Thus, to eat and to drink are works, which do not justify or recommend us to God; and yet, he who eats and drinks does not, therefore, do that which is unlawful.

     These men err also in this. — The ceremonial works, were as much commanded and exacted in the old law, and in the decalogue, as the moral works: and therefore, the latter had neither more nor less force than the former. For Paul is here speaking, principally, to the Jews, as he saith, Rom. i.: wherefore, let no one doubt, that by the works of the law here, all the works of the whole law are to be understood. For if the law be abrogated and dead, they cannot be called the works of the law; for an abrogated or dead law, is no longer a law; and that Paul knew full well. Therefore, he does not speak of the law abrogated, when he speaks of the works of the law, but of the law in force and authority: otherwise, how easy would it have been for him to say, The law is now abrogated? And then, he would have spoken openly and clearly.

     But let us bring forward Paul himself, who is the best interpreter of himself. He saith, Gal. iii. 10, “As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” You see that Paul here, where he is urging the same point as he is in his epistle to the Romans, and in the same words, speaks, wherever he makes mention of the works of the law, of all the laws that are written in the Book of the Law.

     And what is still more worthy of remark, Paul himself cites Moses, who curses those that continue not in the law; whereas, he himself curses those who are of the works of the law; thus adducing a testimony of a different scope from that of his own sentiment; the former being in the negative, the latter in the affirmative. But this he does, because the real state of the case is such in the sight of God, that those who are the most devoted to the works of the law, are the farthest from fulfilling the law, as being without the Spirit, who only is the fulfiller of the law, which such may attempt to fulfil by their own powers, but they will effect nothing after all. Wherefore, both declarations are truth — that of Moses, that they are accursed who continue not in the works of the law; and that of Paul, that they are accursed who are of the works of the law. For both characters of persons require the Spirit, without which, the works of the law, how many and excellent soever they may be, justify not, as Paul saith; wherefore neither character of persons continue in all things that are written, as Moses saith.

     Sect. CXLIV. — IN a word: Paul by this division of his, fully confirms that which I maintain. For he divides law-working men into two classes, those who work after the spirit, and those who work after the flesh, leaving no medium whatever. He speaks thus: “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Rom. iii. 20). What is this but saying, that those whose works, profit them not, work the works of the law without the Spirit, as being themselves flesh; that is, unrighteous and ignorant of God. So, Gal. iii. 2, making the same division, he saith, “received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Again Rom. iii. 21, “but now, the righteousness of God is manifest without the law.” And again Rom. iii. 28, “We conclude, therefore, that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law.”

     From all which it is manifest and clear, that in Paul, the Spirit is set in opposition to the works of the law, as well as to all other things which are not spiritual, including all the powers of, and every thing pertaining to the flesh. So that, the meaning of Paul, is evidently the same as that of Christ, John iii. 6, that every thing which is not of the Spirit is flesh, be it never so specious, holy and great, nay, be they works of the divine law the most excellent, and wrought by all the powers imaginable; for the Spirit of Christ is wanting; without which, all things are nothing short of being damnable.

     Let it then be a settled point, that Paul, by the works of the law, means not the ceremonial works, but the works of the whole law; then, this will be a settled point also, that in the works of the law, every thing is condemned that is without the Spirit. And without the Spirit, is that power of “Free-will,” (for that is the point in dispute), — that most exalted faculty in man! For, to be “of the works of the law,” is the most exalted state in which man can be. The apostle, therefore, does not say, who are of sins, and of ungodliness against the law, but who are “of the works of the law;” that is, who are the best of men, and the most devoted to the law: and who are, in addition to the power of “Free-will,” even assisted, that is, instructed and roused into action, by the law itself.

     If therefore “Free-will” assisted by the law and exercising all its powers in the law, profit nothing and justify not, but be left in sin and in the flesh, what must we suppose it able to do, when left to itself without the law!

     “By the law (saith Paul) is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. iii. 20). Here he shews how much, and how far the law profits: — that “Free-will” is of itself so blind, that it does not even know what is sin, but has need of the law for its teacher. And what can that man do towards taking away sin, who does not even know what is sin? All that he can do, is, to mistake that which is sin for that which is no sin, and that which is no sin for that which is sin. And this, experience sufficiently proves. How does the world, by the medium of those whom it accounts the most excellent and the most devoted to righteousness and piety, hate and persecute the righteousness of God preached in the Gospel, and brand it with the name of heresy, error, and every opprobrious appellation, while it boasts of and sets forth its own works and devices, which are really sin and error, as righteousness and wisdom? By this Scripture, therefore, Paul stops the mouth of “Free-will” where he teaches, that by the law its sin is discovered unto it, of which sin it was before ignorant; so far is he from conceding to it any power whatever to attempt that which is good.

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