Jeremiah 1Jeremiah 1 1 The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, 2 to whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.
The Call of Jeremiah4 Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the LORD.”
“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”
13 The word of the LORD came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north.” 14 Then the LORD said to me, “Out of the north disaster shall be let loose upon all the inhabitants of the land. 15 For behold, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the LORD, and they shall come, and every one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. 16 And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. 17 But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. 18 And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you.”
Israel Forsakes the LORD
Jeremiah 2 1 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem,
Thus says the LORD,
“I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.
3 Israel was holy to the LORD,
the firstfruits of his harvest.
All who ate of it incurred guilt;
disaster came upon them,
declares the LORD.”
“What wrong did your fathers find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?
6 They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that none passes through,
where no man dwells?’
7 And I brought you into a plentiful land
to enjoy its fruits and its good things.
But when you came in, you defiled my land
and made my heritage an abomination.
8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the shepherds transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal
and went after things that do not profit.
9 “Therefore I still contend with you,
declares the LORD,
and with your children’s children I will contend.
10 For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see,
or send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has been such a thing.
11 Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for that which does not profit.
12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the LORD,
13 for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
14 “Is Israel a slave? Is he a homeborn servant?
Why then has he become a prey?
15 The lions have roared against him;
they have roared loudly.
They have made his land a waste;
his cities are in ruins, without inhabitant.
16 Moreover, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes
have shaved the crown of your head.
17 Have you not brought this upon yourself
by forsaking the LORD your God,
when he led you in the way?
18 And now what do you gain by going to Egypt
to drink the waters of the Nile?
Or what do you gain by going to Assyria
to drink the waters of the Euphrates?
19 Your evil will chastise you,
and your apostasy will reprove you.
Know and see that it is evil and bitter
for you to forsake the LORD your God;
the fear of me is not in you,
declares the Lord GOD of hosts.
20 “For long ago I broke your yoke
and burst your bonds;
but you said, ‘I will not serve.’
Yes, on every high hill
and under every green tree
you bowed down like a whore.
21 Yet I planted you a choice vine,
wholly of pure seed.
How then have you turned degenerate
and become a wild vine?
22 Though you wash yourself with lye
and use much soap,
the stain of your guilt is still before me,
declares the Lord GOD.
23 How can you say, ‘I am not unclean,
I have not gone after the Baals’?
Look at your way in the valley;
know what you have done—
a restless young camel running here and there,
24 a wild donkey used to the wilderness,
in her heat sniffing the wind!
Who can restrain her lust?
None who seek her need weary themselves;
in her month they will find her.
25 Keep your feet from going unshod
and your throat from thirst.
But you said, ‘It is hopeless,
for I have loved foreigners,
and after them I will go.’
26 “As a thief is shamed when caught,
so the house of Israel shall be shamed:
they, their kings, their officials,
their priests, and their prophets,
27 who say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’
and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth.’
For they have turned their back to me,
and not their face.
But in the time of their trouble they say,
‘Arise and save us!’
28 But where are your gods
that you made for yourself?
Let them arise, if they can save you,
in your time of trouble;
for as many as your cities
are your gods, O Judah.
29 “Why do you contend with me?
You have all transgressed against me,
declares the LORD.
30 In vain have I struck your children;
they took no correction;
your own sword devoured your prophets
like a ravening lion.
31 And you, O generation, behold the word of the LORD.
Have I been a wilderness to Israel,
or a land of thick darkness?
Why then do my people say, ‘We are free,
we will come no more to you’?
32 Can a virgin forget her ornaments,
or a bride her attire?
Yet my people have forgotten me
days without number.
33 “How well you direct your course
to seek love!
So that even to wicked women
you have taught your ways.
34 Also on your skirts is found
the lifeblood of the guiltless poor;
you did not find them breaking in.
Yet in spite of all these things
35 you say, ‘I am innocent;
surely his anger has turned from me.’
Behold, I will bring you to judgment
for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’
36 How much you go about,
changing your way!
You shall be put to shame by Egypt
as you were put to shame by Assyria.
37 From it too you will come away
with your hands on your head,
for the LORD has rejected those in whom you trust,
and you will not prosper by them.
Jeremiah 3 1 “If a man divorces his wife
and she goes from him
and becomes another man’s wife,
will he return to her?
Would not that land be greatly polluted?
You have played the whore with many lovers;
and would you return to me?
declares the LORD.
2 Lift up your eyes to the bare heights, and see!
Where have you not been ravished?
By the waysides you have sat awaiting lovers
like an Arab in the wilderness.
You have polluted the land
with your vile whoredom.
3 Therefore the showers have been withheld,
and the spring rain has not come;
yet you have the forehead of a whore;
you refuse to be ashamed.
4 Have you not just now called to me,
‘My father, you are the friend of my youth—
5 will he be angry forever,
will he be indignant to the end?’
Behold, you have spoken,
but you have done all the evil that you could.”
Faithless Israel Called to Repentance6 The LORD said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? 7 And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. 9 Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. 10 Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the LORD.”
11 And the LORD said to me, “Faithless Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. 12 Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say,
“ ‘Return, faithless Israel,
declares the LORD.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
declares the LORD;
I will not be angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your guilt,
that you rebelled against the LORD your God
and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree,
and that you have not obeyed my voice,
declares the LORD.
14 Return, O faithless children,
declares the LORD;
for I am your master;
I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
and I will bring you to Zion.
19 “ ‘I said,
How I would set you among my sons,
and give you a pleasant land,
a heritage most beautiful of all nations.
And I thought you would call me, My Father,
and would not turn from following me.
20 Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband,
so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel,
declares the LORD.’ ”
21 A voice on the bare heights is heard,
the weeping and pleading of Israel’s sons
because they have perverted their way;
they have forgotten the LORD their God.
22 “Return, O faithless sons;
I will heal your faithlessness.”
“Behold, we come to you,
for you are the LORD our God.
23 Truly the hills are a delusion,
the orgies on the mountains.
Truly in the LORD our God
is the salvation of Israel.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Augustine of Hippo
By Keith A. Mathison 11 -01-2014
St. Augustine (ISBN-13: 978-0520280410) was born in A.D. 354 in the town of Thagaste in North Africa to a pagan father and a Christian mother. From these inauspicious beginnings, he would eventually become one of the most influential thinkers in the history of the Church and Western civilization. The ramifications of his debates with the Donatists and the Pelagians are still felt to this day in the Church. His Confessions (ISBN-13: 978-0140441147) remains a spiritual classic among Christians of widely varying traditions. His magnum opus, The City of God (ISBN-13: 978-1598563375) laid down the political and religious foundations for the following 1000 years of medieval history. Those involved in serious theological debate continue to appeal to the writings of Augustine for support.
It is too easy, however, for those of us who live over 1500 years after his death to read his works in a vacuum, without taking into consideration the context in which they were written. We sometimes forget that Augustine was the Bishop of a small port town in North Africa called Hippo Regius and that he was living in a turbulent time in the waning days of the Western Roman Empire. We forget that he had to deal day in and day out with the pastoral pressures and distractions of a sinful congregation. We forget that he lived within a particular cultural, historical, religious and philosophical context that shaped his life and his work. Peter Brown has written a magnificent book (ISBN-13: 978-0520280410) that helps us to remember all of these things and to see Augustine within his own cultural context. The original edition of Brown’s biography was published in 1967, and since then it has attained the status of a modern classic. Brown was inspired to offer a new edition with an epilogue because of the discovery in 1975 and again in 1990 of a number of previously unknown letters and sermons of Augustine. He also desired to comment on the changing state of Augustinian studies in the last thirty years.
The body of the text has remained unchanged. Those interested in discovering where the author’s thought has either developed or changed altogether are directed to the two new epilogues.
The biography itself is a delight to read. In addition to having a prose style that is almost poetic at times, Brown’s mastery of the relevant materials makes it possible for him to effortlessly draw the reader into the everyday life and thought of the late fourth century. Drawing upon sources ranging from official legal documents to simple inscriptions on tombs, he paints a vivid portrait of the cultural air that Augustine breathed. Augustine is shown to be a flesh and blood human being with the same kinds of struggles and questions that many men and women throughout the centuries have faced.
Part One of the book presents a fascinating glimpse into Augustine’s early life — his relationship with his mother Monica, his education, his friendships, and his early devotion to Manichaeism. Because Augustine spent some nine years among the Manichees, Brown devotes a fair amount of space to explaining the origin and theology of this dualistic religion. He explains Augustine’s attraction to it as an answer to the problem of evil as well as the reasons for his ultimate disillusionment with this religion.
Part Two covers the years 386-395, from Augustine’s arrival in Milan to his consecration as coadjutor bishop of Hippo Regius in 395. In this section, Brown discusses Augustine’s introduction to Neo-Platonic thought, his conversion, his baptism, his important controversy with the Donatists, and the writing of the Confessions.
In Part Three, Brown discusses the years between 395 and 410. He goes into some detail detailing Augustine’s battle with the Donatists, a strict Pharisaical faction that advocated withdrawal and separation from the world. The goal of Augustine’s Catholic Christianity, in contrast, was to transform the world. The debate between the Donatists and the Catholics was one of the fiercest battles in the first centuries of the church, and its outcome would determine the very nature of the medieval church.
Part Four covers the final years of Augustine’s life from the years 410 to 420. The world changed dramatically in 410 when the barbarian Alaric entered Rome. This was the beginning of the end for the western half of the Roman Empire. The biggest immediate impact that this event had on Augustine was the flood of refugees who fled to North Africa. Pelagius himself, who would later become Augustine’s greatest nemesis, passed through Hippo at this time. Unfortunately (because it would have surely been an interesting encounter), Augustine was away at the time and never met him personally. In these chapters, Brown focuses much of his attention on Augustine’s battles with Pelagius and his followers, and he briefly discusses the later works of Augustine that included such books as the Retractions. (ISBN-13: 978-0813209708)
It is almost impossible to overstate Augustine’s influence upon the Christian Church. Peter Brown has done the Church a great service by providing the world with a wonderful portrayal of the man and his work. If there are any weaknesses in the book, they are almost inconsequential. One may hope, of course, that eventually the author will incorporate into the body of the text what he has learned in the 35 years since the publication of the first edition. He expresses the changes in his thoughts in the new epilogues, and it should be noted that these changes do not significantly detract from the overall worth of the book.
Augustine was undoubtedly the greatest theologian of the early church. As great as he was, however, he understood better than many of his heirs his own limitations. I can think of no better conclusion to this review than to remind readers from one of his newly discovered letters what Augustine himself had to say about his own authority and the authority of other non-scriptural works:
We, who preach and write books, write in a manner altogether different from the manner in which the canon of Scriptures has been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We dictate at the same time as we explore. We speak as we still knock for understanding… I urge your Charity, on my behalf and in my own case, that you should not take any previous book or preaching of mine as Holy Scripture… If anyone criticizes me when I have said what is right, he does not do right. But I would be more angry with the one who praises me and takes what I have written for Gospel truth (canonicum) than the one who criticizes me unfairly.
Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.Keith Mathison Books:
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
Abide in Me, and I in You John 15.4
By Andrew Murray (05-09-1828-01-18-1917)
When a new graft is placed in a vine and it abides there, there is a twofold process that takes place. The first is
in the wood. The graft shoots its little roots and fibers down into the stem, and the stem grows up into the graft, and what has been called the structural union is effected. The graft abides and becomes one with the vine, and even though the vine were to die, would still be one wood with it. Then there is the second process, in which
the sap of the vine enters the new structure, and uses it as a passage through which sap can flow up to show itself in young shoots and leaves and fruit. Here is the vital union. Into the graft which abides in the stock, the stock enters with sap to abide in it.
When our Lord says: “Abide in me, and I in you,” He points to something analogous to this. “Abide in me”: that refers more to that which we have to do. We have to trust and obey, to detach ourselves from all else, to reach out after Him and cling to Him, to sink ourselves into Him. As we do this, through the grace He gives, a character is formed, and a heart prepared for the fuller experience: “I in you,” God strengthens us with might by the Spirit in the inner man, and Christ dwells in the heart by faith.
Many believers pray and long very earnestly for the filling of the Spirit and the indwelling of Christ, and wonder that they do not make more progress. The reason is often this, the I in you cannot come because the abide in me is not maintained. There is one body and one spirit; before the Spirit can fill, there must be a body prepared. The graft must have grown into the stem, and be abiding in it before the sap can flow through to bring forth fruit. It is as in lowly obedience we follow Christ, even in external things, denying ourselves, forsaking the world, and even in the body seeking to be conformable to Him, as we thus seek to abide in Him, that we shall be able to receive and enjoy the I in you. The work enjoined on us: Abide in me, will prepare us for the work undertaken by Him: I in you.
In the two parts of the injunction have their unity in that central deep-meaning word in. There is no deeper word in Scripture. God is in all. God dwells in Christ. Christ lives in God. We are in Christ. Christ is in us: our life taken up into His; His life received into ours; in a divine reality that words cannot express, we are in Him and He in us. And the words, Abide in me and I in you, just tell us to believe it, this divine mystery, and to count upon our God the Husbandman, and Christ the Vine, to make it divinely true. No thinking or teaching or praying can grasp it; it is a divine mystery of love. As little as we can effect the union can we understand it. Let us just look upon this infinite, divine, omnipotent Vine loving us, holding us, working in us. Let us in the faith of His working abide and rest in Him, ever turning heart and hope to Him alone. And let us count upon Him to fulfill in us the mystery: Ye in me, and I in you.
Blessed Lord, Thou dost bid me abide in Thee. How can I, Lord, except Thou show Thyself to me, waiting to receive and welcome and keep me? I pray Thee show me how Thou as Vine undertaketh to do all. To be occupied with Thee is to abide in Thee. Here I am, Lord, a branch, cleansed and abidingresting in Thee, and awaiting the inflow of Thy life and grace.
By R.C. Sproul 12/01/2011
In 1948, the famous Harvard social historian Pitirim Sorokin wrote an essay in which he sounded an alarm about the rapid disintegration of the stability of the American culture. In this essay, Sorokin pointed out that in 1910 the divorce rate in America was ten percent. Yet from 1910 to 1948, the rate of divorce in America escalated from ten to twenty-five percent. Sorokin indicated that if a quarter of the homes in any given nation are broken by divorce, the stability of the nation cannot endure. Its culture is torn to shreds. Arguing that the family unit is the most basic and foundational unit of every society, he said that when that unit breaks, the society itself suffers a shattered continuity.
One wonders what Sorokin would think if he observed the situation that exists in America today. Since 1948, the divorce rate has gone from twenty-five percent up to and beyond fifty percent: that is, at least half of those marriages that are contracted in America end in divorce. This also means that at least half of the families that are united by marriage suffer a fracture; in a word, they are broken.
The fallout from this startling statistic includes the growing disenchantment with the institution of marriage itself in unprecedented numbers. From the beginning of time and the institution of marriage by God in the garden of Eden, matrimony has been pursued by nearly everyone. However, many people are now eschewing marriage and are choosing cohabitation without the covenant bond of marriage. This situation is not only dangerous but, from a biblical perspective, involves gross and heinous sin. Cohabitation without marriage is seen by God as sexual immorality.
Obviously, the majority in America is not concerned about departure from a biblical ethic. But what is even more disconcerting is that many young people who are members in good standing of evangelical Christian churches opt for cohabitations without fear of rebuke or discipline from church authorities. This says as much about the church as it does the people who are living in wanton sin. In addition to those cohabitating outside of marriage, we also see a multitude of young women who choose to be single parents without entering into marriage or even without cohabitating with the fathers of their children. The single mother is becoming almost an institution in American culture. This spells a serious situation of brokenness that affects the very fabric of American society.
The issue of divorce can be measured objectively by simply examining the statistics of marriages and dissolutions of marriages that are accomplished legally. But in addition to this objective statistic, we find other forms of brokenness within the context of marriage. It is not only divorce that breaks a home; when parents are addicted to illicit drugs or abuse other substances, the family structure is equally broken. The threat to the family unit is ultimately a manifestation of the fallenness of our human nature. Sin violates family unity. Sin is the force by which families are broken. And sinners have no power within themselves to repair that which is broken. The broken home seems to suffer a fate similar to Humpty Dumpty. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men were not able to repair the fracture that this poor mythical egg experienced.
The number of people seeking to survive within the context of brokenness has now reached multiple millions. The comforting factor is that if we are involved in such brokenness, our experience is not unique, anomalous, or something that takes place in solitary confinement. Rather, those of us who are involved in broken homes are surrounded by multitudes experiencing the same pain due to the dissolution of family stability. This is an area, of course, that not only asks for but screams for the church’s ministry.
The New Testament puts a priority on the church’s concern for widows and orphans. Widows and orphans are human beings who have suffered broken families not through divorce but through death. Obviously, the church’s concern must extend beyond those whose brokenness has been caused by death. Anyone who is involved in a broken family relationship needs the ministry and care of the church. One good thing that has come out of this destruction of the American family is the church’s awakening to the need to minister to single mothers and fathers, to recovering substance abusers, and to all who are trying to repair their lives after going through difficult divorces. Divorce can no longer be seen simply as an extreme case of marital failure. Since it has reached not only epidemic but pandemic proportions, it cries out for the application of the means of grace to those who suffer as a result of it.
A church that closes its doors and its hearts to those who are in broken situations cannot be considered a church at all. The church exists, principally, to minister to those who are broken. It was said of our Lord Himself that He would not break the bruised reed (Isa. 42:3). Victims of broken homes are bruised people; the bruises will not go away without help. This is a wound that time does not have the capacity to heal. It requires the healing of God Himself, which He often ministers through His church. This is our concern as Christians, and one we dare not neglect. How we handle these situations will have an eternal impact, not only for the individuals involved, but for cultures and nations whose structure is marred by brokenness.
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. 12/01/2011
Broken homes are created by broken people. That is, before we can offer the balm of Gilead to those living in broken homes, we need to be perfectly clear how they got that way. For all the pressures assaulting the family, for all the allure of the world, and for all the temptations of the Devil, it is the flesh, our own sin natures, that destroy our homes. We are so self-deluded, however, that we have lost sight of how selfdestructive we are. We think we are but victims, when the hard truth is that we are villains.
Wisdom tells us, for instance, that a wise woman builds her house, but a foolish woman, with her own hands, tears it down (Prov. 14). Wives, who are called to be keepers at home (Titus 2), too often become destroyers of homes. In like manner, Proverbs also highlights at least one way that men destroy their own lives. Folly, like a carnal woman, beckons us, offering all her pleasures. But, the Bible tells us, her household is the way of Sheol, going down to the chambers of death (Prov. 7:27). Our homes are in shambles because our lives are in shambles.
We don’t, of course, do this on purpose. No one gleefully plans to destroy his own home. No man, when he begins to allow his eye to wander, determines that he wants to destroy not only his own life but the lives of his wife and children as well. No one self-consciously drops a bomb on his own house when he starts looking at the pictures on the Internet. What we do instead is determine that God is a liar.
He tells us, after all, not only what we are supposed to do and supposed not to do; He also tells us the fruits of our actions. He tells us that as we love our wives and children, we will rejoice with them at the table, our children arrayed like olive plants (Ps. 128). He also tells us that the unfaithful man hates himself, that our sins will find us out, and that when we sow the wind, we will assuredly reap the whirlwind. God tells us, shows us the very pathway toward blessing and joy, and we proudly blaze our own trails. Then, we wonder how we came to be broken and bloodied after falling off a cliff.
Our homes, however, can only begin to heal of their brokenness as we come to accept and understand our own brokenness. When we face up to the reality of our sin, when we confess the kind of people we are, God in His goodness draws near. He does, after all, give grace to the humble. That grace will not likely come in the form of the eradication of all our temptations. It may come, however, in helping us to see them for what they are — invitations to death.
They might also take a whole different form. When we recognize our own brokenness, we in turn know that we can’t trust ourselves. When left to ourselves we will choose for ourselves, and, in so doing, choose foolishly. This is why God has ordained the church to call us to faithfulness. Through the right preaching of the Word, we are reminded of His wisdom. Through the right exercise of the sacraments, we not only remember our brokenness but His faithfulness. We not only look back to our Husband dying for us at Calvary, His body broken and His blood spilled, but we look forward to the marriage feast of the Lamb. We enter into eternity and taste that He is good.
Church discipline, however, is another grace from God’s hand that helps us not to break our own homes. The elders of the church are called to speak into our broken homes, to call unfaithful husbands to repentance, to admonish straying wives to return home. They are to remind the whole congregation that those who practice these things will by no means inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5). They are to exercise the power of the keys.
Sadly, too often churches fail families here. They cover wounds lightly and leave the broken broken because they will not discipline where they must. They fear men, whether in the form of a loss of reputation or of civil repercussions. Too often, those called to shepherd the flock prove to be mere hirelings who look away when wolves break up and destroy homes. Being “nice” is so much easier than being first responders when homes become broken. It’s safer to run away from the problem than to run to it.
Our calling, however, is to set aside our worries and to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. He is the true Shepherd. He guards the door to the kingdom. And we are called to fulfill His orders, no matter the cost. Little girls are looking to us, men, to rescue them from unfaithful daddies. Little boys are learning that men run when times get tough, first by watching their unfaithful daddies, then by watching their unfaithful elders. Husbands are left with no one and no way to correct wayward wives. And wives have no men to look after them. All because the church is broken. Repent, and seek His kingdom, His righteousness.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Being Black and Reformed: An Interview with Anthony Carter
By Anthony Carter 12/01/2011
Tabletalk: Why did you write the book On Being Black and Reformed?
Anthony Carter: When I first came into the knowledge of Reformed theology, I was excited and invigorated to share this truth with others. However, I quickly discovered that not everyone found Reformed theology as compelling as I did (go figure). This was particularly true within African American circles. Because of the caricatures of Reformed theology that have become popular in some Christian circles, and because of the unfortunate history of some within Reformed confessing Christianity, many African Americans find Reformed theology in general, and Reformed-minded Christians in particular, not very sympathetic to their history and culture. I wrote On Being Black and Reformed because I wanted to nix those thoughts and demonstrate that not only is Reformed theology biblically and historically consistent, but it is not antithetical to the African American Christian experience. In fact, Reformed theology makes the most sense of the world in general and the history of African Americans in particular.
TT: How did you first discover Reformed theology?
AC: When I was saved and sensed a call to ministry, I set my mind to study the Bible all I could and to learn the teachings contained in there. I had a lot of theological questions and would seek to find answers in a variety of quarters. However, what I discovered was that the vast majority of my answers were coming from guys who held to the Reformed theological tradition. I was not aware of what Reformed theology was at the time, but I knew that the answers I discovered were bathed in the Scriptures.
It was not until I discovered the teachings and writings of J.I. Packer and R.C. Sproul that I began to put the categories together and realized just how mentally compelling, heart-humbling, gospel-centering, and joy-producing Reformed theology could be.
TT: A number of American Reformed theologians were slave owners. How can a Christian who is black embrace the theology of men who owned slaves or who defended the slave trade?
AC: Indeed, this is one of the hurdles many (not all) African American Christians find hard to get over as they come to understand and embrace Reformed theology. I have often contended that the reticence that some African Americans have toward an embrace of Reformed theology is not as much the theology as it is the ones who have held to it. There are, however, a couple things to be said about this. First, the sordid, sinful, and tangled history of slavery in America was not just the property of Reformed Christians. Christians from practically every religious confession in America have a poor history of racism and even slave holding. To disregard any tradition that held slaves would be to disregard practically every theological tradition in America. Admittedly, the problem has often been that while other traditions have been quicker to acknowledge their sins in this regard, many in the Reformed tradition have been slow to and have even retreated into their own theological and cultural enclaves rather than deal publicly and forthrightly with the transgressions of the past. Consequently, Reformed Christians have been viewed as less vigorous in denouncing the sins of slavery and thus implying their approval of it. This perception is unfortunate, yet real.
Nevertheless, the question remains. To answer it, allow me to make it personal. How can I, a black man, embrace the theology of men who owned slaves? I can joyfully embrace it because I realize that I am embracing the theology of the Bible and not necessarily the frail, fallible men who teach it. I can embrace the theology because it allows me to point out the sins of such teachers and yet the grace that is greater than that sin.
How could the early Christians embrace the theology of the Apostle Paul when, as Saul of Tarsus, he pursued, persecuted, and even consented to many of their deaths? They could do it because they understood the gospel to be greater than not just their sins but also the sins of those who transgressed against them. I can embrace it because if we listen and learn only from those in history who have no theological blind spots, then to whom shall we listen and from whom shall we learn? Biblical theology must be larger, more grand than the imperfections of its teachers. I believe Reformed theology is.
TT: What is your opinion regarding the largely non-integrated state of local churches?
AC: For years, the evangelical church has decried the ethnic and cultural divide that is found in local churches. While we are comfortable with and even insistent upon integration in larger society, for some reason integration within the walls of our local churches is not something we have been able to achieve. God has given us a vision for it in the Scriptures and even in our hearts, but, apparently, He has not allowed that vision to come to full fruition in the vast majority of our congregations. The fact that the church is not the most integrated institution in society is troublesome when you consider that we have the one message and power to bring about true reconciliation, namely, the gospel and the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, I do understand the difficulty.
Most of us like comfort. We like to be around people with whom we are comfortable and have much in common. This is particularly true when it comes to those places that mean the most to us — home and church. Thus, not only are our churches not integrated, but even more rarely are our families integrated.
Still, this lack of integration is not something with which we should be comfortable. The vision of the Scriptures is clear. The vision in most of our minds is clear (I don’t know too many people who don’t want to see their churches more integrated). The question to consider is whether our churches are places where people sense Christ is celebrated — not culture, class, or ethnicity, but Christ. It is difficult to not celebrate culture, class, and ethnicity. Yet, this is what we are called to do. This is what we are called to strive after. The fact that our churches are not integrated is not as troublesome for me as is the fact that culture and ethnicity often trump the gospel, even in what we might believe to be the best of churches.
TT: What have you learned as a pastor that seminary did not prepare you for?
AC: When I went to seminary, I had a love for theology and the Scriptures. Being in seminary and working at Ligonier only enhanced both of those passions. However, what seminary did not prepare me for was the necessity of love and passion for people. Love is indispensible. Serving as an associate pastor under a godly and giving man, and now serving as lead pastor of a church plant, God has taught me that as important as my love for His Word is, I must also have a love for His people. This comes not from sitting in classrooms or poring over historical texts in the library but rather from sitting in living rooms, waiting rooms, and courtrooms. It comes from doing weddings and funerals. It comes from doing life together and realizing that the gospel is not just a message to be prepared every week; it is also a life to be lived and loved together every day.
TT: If you could study under any theologian in church history (excluding those in Scripture), who would it be and why?
AC: Having attended Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, and having worked at Ligonier for five years, I had the unbelievable blessing of being exposed to and taught by some great theologians. And so, if I not only exclude those from Scripture, but also, with respect, men like R.C., from whom I have learned as much if not more than anyone, I would say that I would be most excited to study under Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635–1711). Admittedly, most would not be familiar with Wilhelmus à Brakel and his theological magnum opus The Christian's Reasonable Service, 4 Vols., but I have never been so moved by theological reflection as I am with à Brakel. à Brakel seemingly had the unique ability to take heady theological reflection and not just make it pastoral, but even emotion-stirring. Coming from the rich Dutch Reformed tradition, his biblical theological reflections are keen, but he never just settles for keenness. His goal seems to be experiential — a rich, Reformed, experiential Christianity. That’s what I pray to have.
Having spent countless hours poring over à Brakel, I feel in some sense that I have studied under him. However, what a joy it would have been to be an eyewitness to the effect his theological insights had on his heart and the hearts of those to whom he was called to minister.
Anthony Carter is the pastor of East Point Church in East Point, Georgia. After completing studies at Atlanta Christian College, he attended Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, where he received his Master of Arts in Biblical Studies. While in Orlando, Pastor Carter also worked for Ligonier Ministries for several years. He is the author of On Being Black and Reformed: A New Look at the African-American Christian Experience and the editor of Experiencing the Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church and Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity.
Anthony Carter Books:
- 1 Black and Reformed: Seeing God's Sovereignty in the African-American Christian Experience
- 2 Experiencing the Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church
- 3 Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity
- 4 On Being Black and Reformed: A New Perspective on the African-American Christian Experience
- 5 Blood Work
- 6 What is the Gospel?: Life's Most Important Question
- 7 The Holiness of God: An Attribute First Among Equals
- 8 Fighting Sexual Temptation: An Attack of the Heart
- 9 Wolves Among the Sheep: Be Aware of False Prophets
Rest for Restless Hearts
By Scott Anderson 12/01/2011
Stroll into a bookstore these days and you will likely find a large area labeled “Self-Help,” “Motivation,” or “Personal Transformation.” Go ahead, browse the volumes found here. Some are curiously interesting, and some will just make you laugh. Several books will seek to convince you that your main problem in life is that you aren’t tapped into the secret power that dwells inside of you. Something — a child, a serpent, a Buddha, and, yes, even a dolphin — simply needs to be “awakened,” and then you will become happy, healthy, and wise.
Some of these titles are clearly aimed at a Christian, churchgoing market. Some are even written by professing believers. There is a disturbing similarity in emphasis between these books and those offered by various “enlightenment” groups. It makes you wonder whether the contemporary church has become so desperate for spiritual identity that she has turned to New Age ideology and pop psychology for help. Various teachers and authors seek to convince us that our cosmic purpose is found within ourselves. Each promises that we can locate the telos — the ultimate aim — of our spiritual satisfaction within our own hearts. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth or more dangerous to our souls.
The existence of these books points toward a distressing aspect of church life: for many believers, an ongoing sense of fulfillment in Christ can feel like an elusive hope. We often hear of Christians who struggle with a sense of purposelessness, living their lives day in and day out, feeling defeated and discouraged. (I write as one who has experienced times like this.) Sadly, we all probably know someone who has abandoned the fight of faith altogether.
For many, the promises of the Good Shepherd ring hollow and often don’t seem to correspond with reality. Jesus said: “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Really? Abundantly? For some, the “abundant life” promised by Christ has been reduced to a daily grind of “faithfulness.” The Christian walk has become a listless routine wherein spiritual disciplines are a duty and godliness is rote. Joy, fervency, and love for God have been burned away like a morning mist by the incessant sun of Christian routine. Within many hearts, there exists a sense of emptiness. How are we to understand this ache within and at the same time recognize that there is no final satisfaction to be found by looking within?
It begins by gaining a proper understanding of the purpose of our inner man. Scripture most frequently refers to our inner man as “the heart.” Bible scholars describe it as the totality of our being, the essence of who we really are. It includes the mind, will, and emotions. And within the hearts of everyone is created an intense desire for spiritual purpose — a longing, a yearning for meaning, a “space,” if you will, designed by God that can be filled only by God (Eccl. 3:11).
And this is the crucial part: life cannot and will not make sense or provide ongoing meaning and focus until your inner being (your “heart”) locks onto the telos of its God-given desire, namely, God Himself.
The only answer to the vacuum in our hearts is a relationship with God: knowing the Father through the work of His Son as applied by the power of the Holy Spirit. And the nurturing of this relationship — resting in and rehearsing the gospel — is the great purpose of our inner man. It is the very reason our hearts were created: to know, love, and delight in the God who created us for His glory (Ps. 16:11; Isa. 43:7; Jer. 9:23–24). As Augustine prayed, “God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.”
Perhaps the clearest expression of the purpose of our inner man is found in the Great Commandment: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6 :4–5). God’s desire for His people is that we should love Him with the totality of our being. Christ echoed this sentiment when He stated that loving God with our whole heart was the first and greatest commandment (Matt. 22:38). Even the Apostle Paul’s prayer for believers reveals that the purpose of our inner being is profoundly related to knowing the love of Christ (Eph. 3:16–19). Loving God — and being loved by Him — is simply why we were created, and we will find ultimate satisfaction in nothing else.
So, as we seek to be the church in this world, let us not seek to pursue abiding satisfaction and spiritual purpose by gazing inward or by probing the cauldron of mixed motives and fickle emotions that lie within the recesses of our hearts. Instead, let us simply remember what our hearts were created and redeemed for: to look outward in faith and to rest in the finished work of the One who loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal. 2:20).
Scripture on Blessings
By Mike Mobley 11/22/16
It’s pretty incredible when you just stop and think for a moment about what God has done for us. Just take a moment out of your day, right now, and consider this…God actually sent His one and only Son down here to earth…who lived a perfect life…died on the cross and paid the penalty for our sins…and rose from the grave defeating death and sin in victory.
Regardless of what is going on in our lives…are we blessed? You tell me.
I don’t ever want to come across insensitive to what you might be experiencing in your own life right now, but oftentimes I think we all lose our perspective on what is most important. Even in the hardest of times, we can trust Jesus to carry us through it. He went through the toughest of trials and can sympathize with our every weakness (Hebrews 4:15).
And because of what Jesus has done, we are blessed. Not only are we forgiven for all eternity (which is quite the blessing), we are also made righteous through Him so that when God looks at us…He doesn’t even see our sin but sees us through Jesus Christ.
You are blessed. I am blessed. We are all blessed for following Jesus and having a relationship with the very God who created us. That is simply amazing!
Click here to go to source
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 87Glorious Things of You Are Spoken
87 A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah. A Song.
1 On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
2 the LORD loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
3 Glorious things of you are spoken,
O city of God. Selah
4 Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush—
“This one was born there,” they say.
5 And of Zion it shall be said,
“This one and that one were born in her”;
for the Most High himself will establish her.
6 The LORD records as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there.” Selah
7 Singers and dancers alike say,
“All my springs are in you.”
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
7/1/2016 The Object of Our Faith
We all struggle with doubt. Some Christians struggle with doubt from time to time, and others struggle with doubt every day. We sometimes doubt because of our indwelling sin or because of the weakness of our faith. We sometimes doubt our salvation. We sometimes doubt God’s love for us. We sometimes doubt our election. We sometimes doubt in times of trial. We sometimes doubt that God hears us when we pray. We sometimes doubt that God’s promises will come to pass. And we sometimes doubt that God is really working all things together for our good. Adam and Eve doubted when they ate of the fruit, Abraham doubted when he had no heir, Moses doubted when he stood before Pharaoh, Israel doubted when they made the golden calf, David doubted in anger and fear when he did not take the ark of the covenant home, and Thomas doubted when he heard about the risen Christ. Throughout all of Scripture we see stories of God’s people as they wrestled with doubt. Yet God was merciful to them, and He is merciful to us. So ought we to have mercy on others who doubt (Jude 22).
Doubt is real, and we should not pretend it doesn’t exist. We need to be honest about our doubts before God in prayer and before one another as we pray for one another. Nevertheless, we should not celebrate doubt. Doubt enters our minds for all sorts of reasons, but ultimately, doubt is fueled by the weakness of our flesh and the pride of our hearts. Worry, fear, and doubt are close companions, and they conspire together to try to destroy us. Doubt is one of the enemy’s chief weapons in his arsenal as he seeks to undo us.
Doubt is a result of sin, and we sin when we wallow in the mire of doubt. But when we doubt, we ought not despair, become fixated on our circumstances, or trust our ever-changing feelings. Rather, we ought to gaze upward at the cross. We must remember the unchanging promises of God. When we look at our sin, we must lift our weary heads and look to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. For our assurance of salvation is not based on our circumstances, our feelings, or our perfection—but on our doctrine. Our Father is the source of our assurance, Christ is the ground of our assurance, and the Spirit is the sustainer of our assurance. And our assurance is not established on the strength of our faith but on the object of our faith, Jesus Christ. Therefore, when we doubt, let us remember that when Abraham counted the stars, he was counting you, me, and all those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.
click here for article source
Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
“O Beautiful, For Spacious Skies, For Amber Waves of Grain…” Did you know this song, “America the Beautiful,” was so popular in the 1920’s that it almost became our National Anthem? It was written by Katherine Lee Bates, who was born this day, August 12, 1859. An American poet and educator, she was the daughter of a Congregational minister, taught highschool and then became professor of English literature at Wellesley College. In 1892, she journeyed to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado, and was so inspired by the view she penned the verse: “America, America, God shed His grace on thee.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
In Christ that name of God,
Justice, has more glorious satisfaction
than ever it will have
in the damnation of sinners.
Moral authority is never retained
by any attempt to hold on to it.
It comes without seeking
and is retained without effort.
Morality is contraband in war.
Morality is the basis of things
and truth is the substance of all morality.
Morality which depends upon the helplessness of a man or woman
has not much to recommend it.
Morality is rooted in the purity of our hearts.
--- Mohandas Gandhi
Think of stepping on shore, and finding it heaven!
Of taking hold of a hand, and finding it God’s hand,
Of breathing new air, and finding it celestial air;
Of feeling invigorated, and finding it immortality,
Of passing from storm and tempest to an unbroken calm,
Of waking up, and finding it Home!
I slept and dreamt that life was joy;
I woke and saw that life was service;
I acted, and behold, service was joy.
--- Rabindranath Tagore
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
Placidus Attempts To Take Jotapata And Is Beaten Off. Vespasian Marches Into Galilee.
1. And now Vespasian, with his son Titus, had tarried some time at Ptolemais, and had put his army in order. But when Placidus, who had overrun Galilee, and had besides slain a number of those whom he had caught, [which were only the weaker part of the Galileans, and such as were of timorous souls,] saw that the warriors ran always to those cities whose walls had been built by Josephus, he marched furiously against Jotapata, which was of them all the strongest, as supposing he should easily take it by a sudden surprise, and that he should thereby obtain great honor to himself among the commanders, and bring a great advantage to them in their future campaign; because if this strongest place of them all were once taken, the rest would be so affrighted as to surrender themselves. But he was mightily mistaken in his undertaking; for the men of Jotapata were apprized of his coming to attack them, and came out of the city, and expected him there. So they fought the Romans briskly when they least expected it, being both many in number, and prepared for fighting, and of great alacrity, as esteeming their country, their wives, and their children to be in danger, and easily put the Romans to flight, and wounded many of them, and slew seven of them; 4 because their retreat was not made in a disorderly manner, be-cause the strokes only touched the surface of their bodies, which were covered with their armor in all parts, and because the Jews did rather throw their weapons upon them from a great distance, than venture to come hand to hand with them, and had only light armor on, while the others were completely armed. However, three men of the Jews' side were slain, and a few wounded; so Placidus, finding himself unable to assault the city, ran away.
2. But as Vespasian had a great mind to fall upon Galilee, he marched out of Ptolemais, having put his army into that order wherein the Romans used to march. He ordered those auxiliaries which were lightly armed, and the archers, to march first, that they might prevent any sudden insults from the enemy, and might search out the woods that looked suspiciously, and were capable of ambuscades. Next to these followed that part of the Romans which was completely armed, both footmen and horsemen. Next to these followed ten out of every hundred, carrying along with them their arms, and what was necessary to measure out a camp withal; and after them, such as were to make the road even and straight, and if it were any where rough and hard to be passed over, to plane it, and to cut down the woods that hindered their march, that the army might not be in distress, or tired with their march. Behind these he set such carriages of the army as belonged both to himself and to the other commanders, with a considerable number of their horsemen for their security. After these he marched himself, having with him a select body of footmen, and horsemen, and pikemen. After these came the peculiar cavalry of his own legion, for there were a hundred and twenty horsemen that peculiarly belonged to every legion. Next to these came the mules that carried the engines for sieges, and the other warlike machines of that nature. After these came the commanders of the cohorts and tribunes, having about them soldiers chosen out of the rest. Then came the ensigns encompassing the eagle, which is at the head of every Roman legion, the king, and the strongest of all birds, which seems to them a signal of dominion, and an omen that they shall conquer all against whom they march; these sacred ensigns are followed by the trumpeters. Then came the main army in their squadrons and battalions, with six men in depth, which were followed at last by a centurion, who, according to custom, observed the rest. As for the servants of every legion, they all followed the footmen, and led the baggage of the soldiers, which was borne by the mules and other beasts of burden. But behind all the legions came the whole multitude of the mercenaries; and those that brought up the rear came last of all for the security of the whole army, being both footmen, and those in their armor also, with a great number of horsemen.
3. And thus did Vespasian march with his army, and came to the bounds of Galilee, where he pitched his camp and restrained his soldiers, who were eager for war; he also showed his army to the enemy, in order to affright them, and to afford them a season for repentance, to see whether they would change their minds before it came to a battle, and at the same time he got things ready for besieging their strong minds. And indeed this sight of the general brought many to repent of their revolt, and put them all into a consternation; for those that were in Josephus's camp, which was at the city called Garis, not far from Sepphoris, when they heard that the war was come near them, and that the Romans would suddenly fight them hand to hand, dispersed themselves and fled, not only before they came to a battle, but before the enemy ever came in sight, while Josephus and a few others were left behind; and as he saw that he had not an army sufficient to engage the enemy, that the spirits of the Jews were sunk, and that the greater part would willingly come to terms, if they might be credited, he already despaired of the success of the whole war, and determined to get as far as he possibly could out of danger; so he took those that staid along with him, and fled to Tiberias.
by D.H. Stern
make no hot-tempered man your companion.
25 If you do, you may learn his ways
and find yourself caught in a trap.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
by Frank W. Boreham
We get over things. It is the most amazing faculty that we possess. War or pestilence; drought or famine; fire or flood; it does not matter. However devastating the catastrophe, however frightful the slaughter, however total the eclipse, we surmount our sorrows and find ourselves still smiling when the storm is overpast. I remember once penetrating into the wild and desolate interior of New Zealand. From a jagged and lonely eminence I surveyed a landscape that almost frightened one. Not a house was in sight, nor a road, nor one living creature, nor any sign of civilization. I looked in every direction at what seemed to have been the work of angry Titans. Far as the eye could see, the earth around me appeared to have been a battle-field on which an army of giants had pelted each other with mountains. The whole country was broken, weird, precipitous, and grand. In every direction huge cliffs towered perpendicularly about you; bottomless abysses yawned at your feet; and every scarped pinnacle and beetling crag scowled menacingly at your littleness and scowled defiance at your approach. One wondered by what titanic forces the country had been so ruthlessly crushed and crumbled and torn to shreds. Did any startled eye witness this volcanic frolic? What a sight it must have been to have watched these towering ranges split and scattered; to have seen the placid snowclad heights shivered, like fragile vases, to fragments; to have beheld the mountains tossed about like pebbles; to have seen the valleys torn and rent and twisted; and the rivers flung back in terror to make for themselves new channels as best they could! It must have been a fearsome and wondrous spectacle to have observed the slumbering forces of the universe in such a burst of passion! Nature must have despaired of her quiet and sylvan landscape. 'It is ruined,' she sobbed; 'it can never be the same again!' No, it can never be the same again. The bright colours of the kaleidoscope do not form the same mosaic a second time. But Nature has got over her grief, for all that. For see! All up these tortured and angular valleys the great evergreen bush is growing in luxurious profusion. Every slope is densely clothed with a glorious tangle of magnificent forestry. From the branches that wave triumphantly from the dizzy heights above, to those that mingle with the delicate mosses in the valley, the verdure nowhere knows a break. Even on the steep rocky faces the persistent vegetation somehow finds for itself a precarious foothold; and where the trees fear to venture the lichen atones for their absence. Up through every crack and cranny the ferns are pushing their graceful fronds. It is a marvellous recovery. Indeed, the landscape is really better worth seeing to-day than in those tranquil days, centuries ago, before the Titans lost their temper, and began to splinter the summits.
Travellers in South America frequently comment upon the same phenomenon. Prescott tells us how Cortes, on his historic march to Mexico, passed through regions that had once gleamed with volcanic fires. The whole country had been swept by the flames, and torn by the fury of these frightful eruptions. As the traveller presses on, his road passes along vast tracts of lava, bristling in the innumerable fantastic forms into which the fiery torrent has been thrown by the obstacles in its career. But as he casts his eye down some steep slope, or almost unfathomable ravine, on the margin of the road, he sees their depths glowing with the rich blooms and enamelled vegetation of the tropics. His vision sweeps across plains of exuberant fertility, almost impervious from thickets of aromatic shrubs and wild flowers, in the midst of which tower up trees of that magnificent growth which is found only in these latitudes. It is an intoxicating panorama of brilliant colour and sweetest perfume. Kingsley and Wallace, too, remark upon these great volcanic rents and gashes that have been healed by verdure of rare magnificence and orchids of surpassing loveliness. 'Even the gardens of England were a desert in comparison! All around them were orange- and lemon-trees, the fruit of which, in that strange coloured light of the fireflies, flashed in their eyes like balls of burnished gold and emerald; while great white tassels, swinging from every tree in the breeze which swept the glade, tossed in their faces a fragrant snow of blossoms and glittering drops of perfumed dew.' It is thus that, like the oyster that conceals its scar beneath a pearl, Nature heals her wounds with loveliness. She gets over things.
And so do we. For, after all, the world about us is but a shadow, a transitory and flickering shadow, of the actual and greater world within us. Yes, the incomparably greater world within us; for what is a world of grass and granite compared with a world of blood and tears? What is the cleaving of an Alp compared with the breaking of a heart? What is the sweep of a tornado, the roar of a prairie-fire, or the booming thunder of an avalanche, compared with the cry of a child in pain?' All visible things,' as Carlyle has taught us, 'are emblems. What thou seest is not there on its own account; strictly speaking is not there at all. Matter exists only spiritually, and to represent some idea and body it forth.' The soul is liable to great volcanic processes. There come to it tragic and tremendous hours when all its depths are broken up, all its landmarks shattered, and all its streams turned rudely back. For weal or for woe everything is suddenly and strangely changed. Amidst the crash of ruin and the loss of all, the soul sobs out its pitiful lament. 'Everything has gone!' it cries. 'I can never be the same again! I can never get over it!' But Time is a great healer. His touch is so gentle that the poor patient is not conscious of its pressure. The days pass, and the weeks, and the months, and the years. Like the trees that start from the rocky faces, and the ferns that creep out of every cranny in the ruined horizon, new interests steal imperceptibly into life. There come new faces, new loves, new thoughts, and new sympathies. The heart responds to fresh influences and bravely declines to die. And whilst the days that are dead are embalmed in costliest spices, and lie in the most holy place of the temple of memory, the soul discovers with surprise that it has surmounted the cruel shock of earlier shipwreck, and can once more greet the sea.
I am writing in days of war. The situation is without precedent. A dozen nations are in death-grips with each other. Twenty million men are in the field. Every hour brings us news of ships that have been sunk, regiments that have been annihilated, thousands of brave men who have been slaughtered. Never since the world began were so many men writhing in mortal anguish, so many women weeping, so many children fatherless. And whilst a hundred thousand women know that they will see no more the face that was all the world to them, millions of others are sleepless with haunting fear and terrible anxiety. And every day I hear good men moan that the world can never be the same again. 'We shall never get over it!' they tell me. It is the old mistake, the mistake that we always make in the hour of our sad and bitter grief. 'We shall never get over it!' Of course we shall! And as the fields are sweeter, and the flowers exhale a richer perfume, after the thunder-clouds have broken and the storm has spent its strength, so we shall find ourselves living in a kindlier world when the anguish of to-day is over-past. Much of our old civilization, with its veneer of politeness and its heart of barbarism, will have been riven as the ranges were riven by the earthquake. But out of the wreckage shall come the healthier day. The wounds will heal as they always heal, and the scars will stay as they always stay; but they will stay to warn us against perpetuating our ancient follies. Empires will never again regard their militarism as their pride.
Surely this torrent of blood that is streaming through the trenches and crimsoning the seas is sacrificial blood! It is an ancient principle, and of loftiest sanction, that it is sometimes good for one man to die that many may be saved from destruction. If, out of its present agony, the world emerges into the peace and sunshine of a holier day, every man who laid down his life in the awful struggle will have died in that sacred and vicarious way. This generation will have wept and bled and suffered that unborn generations may go scatheless. It is the old story:
No mortal born without the dew
Of solemn pain on mother's brow;
No harvest's golden yield save through
The toil and tearing of the plough.
It was only through the Cross that the Saviour of men found a way into the joy that was set before Him, and the world therefore cannot expect to come to its own along a bloodless road.
The recuperative forces that lurk within us are the divinest things about us. I cut my hand; and, before the knife is well out of the gash, a million invisible agents are at work to repair the damage. It is our irrepressible faculty for getting over things. No minister can have failed, at some time or other, to stand in amazement before it. We have all known men who were not only wicked, but who bore in their body the marks of their vice. It was stamped upon the face; it was evident in the stoop of the frame; it betrayed itself in the shuffle that should have been a stride. We have known such men, I say, and heard their pitiful confessions. And the most heartrending thing about them was their despair. They could believe that the love of God was vast enough to find room for them; but just look! 'Look at me!' a man said to me one night, remembering what he once was and surveying the wreckage that remained, 'look at me!' And truly it was a sight to make angels weep. 'I can never be the same again,' he said in effect, 'I can never get over it!' But he did; and there is as much difference between the man that I saw that night and the man who greets me to-day as there was between the man whom he remembered and the man he then surveyed. It is wonderful how the old light returns to the eye, the old grace to the form, the old buoyancy to the step, and how, with these, a new softness creeps into the countenance and a new gentleness into the voice when the things that wound are thrown away and the healing powers get their chance. It is only then that we really discover the marvel of getting over things.
Indeed, unless we are on our guard this magical faculty will be our undoing. The tendency is, as we have seen, to return to our earlier state, to recover from the change. And the forces that work in that direction do not pause to ask if the change that has come about is a change for the better or a change for the worse. They only know that a cataclysmic change has been effected, and that it is their business to help us back to our first and natural condition. But there are changes that sometimes overtake us from which we do not wish to recover; and we must be on ceaseless vigil against the well-meaning forces that only live to abolish all signs of alteration. No man ever yet threw on his old self and entered into new life without being conscious that millions of invisible toilers were at work to undo the change that had been effected. They are helping him to get over it, and he must firmly decline their misdirected offices.
'"Father!" said young Dr. Ralph Dexter to the old doctor in The Spinner in the Sun, "father! it may be because I'm young, but I hold before me, very strongly, the ideals of our profession. It seems to me a very beautiful and wonderful life that is opening up before me, always to help, to give, to heal. I feel as though I had been dedicated to some sacred calling, some lifelong service. And service means brotherhood."
'"You'll get over that!" returned the old doctor curtly, yet not without a certain secret admiration. "You'll get over that when you've had to engage a lawyer to collect your modest wages for your uplifting work, the healed not being sufficiently grateful to pay the healer. When you've gone ten miles in the dead of winter, at midnight, to take a pin out of a squalling baby's back, why, you may change your mind!"'
And later on in the same story Myrtle Reed gives us another dialogue between the two doctors.
'"I may be wrong," remarked Ralph, "but I've always believed that nothing is so bad that it can't be made better."
'"The unfailing earmark of youth," the old man replies; "you'll get over that!"'
Old Dr. Dexter is quite right. Good or bad, the tendency is to get over things. Many a man has entered his business or profession with the highest and most roseate ideals, and the tragedy of his life lay in the fact that he recovered from them.
Yes, there is nothing that we cannot get over. Our recuperative faculties know no limit. None of our diseases are incurable. I knew an old lady who really thought that her malady was fatal. She fancied that she could never recover. She even told me that the doctor had informed her that her case was hopeless. She lay back upon her pillow, and her snowy hair shamed the whiteness about her. 'I shall never get over it,' she sighed, 'I shall never get over it!' But she did. We sang 'Rock of Ages' beside her sunlit grave this afternoon.
Mushrooms on the Moor
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The theology of rest
Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? --- Matthew 8:26.
When we are in fear we can do nothing less than pray to God, but Our Lord has a right to expect that those who name His Name should have an understanding confidence in Him. God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in any crisis they are the reliable ones. Our trust is in God up to a certain point, then we go back to the elementary panic prayers of those who do not know God. We get to our wits’ end, showing that we have not the slightest confidence in Him and His government of the world; He seems to be asleep, and we see nothing but breakers ahead.
“O ye of little faith!” What a pang must have shot through the disciples—‘Missed it again!’ And what a pang will go through us when we suddenly realize that we might have produced downright joy in the heart of Jesus by remaining absolutely confident in Him, no matter what was ahead.
There are stages in life when there is no storm, no crisis, when we do our human best; it is when a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon whom we rely. If we have been learning to worship God and to trust Him, the crisis will reveal that we will go to the breakingpoint and not break in our confidence in Him.
We have been talking a great deal about sanctification—what is it all going to amount to? It should work out into rest in God which means oneness with God, a oneness which will make us not only blameless in His sight but a deep joy to Him.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
And the dogfish, spotted like God's face,
Looks at him, and the seal's eye-
Ball is cold. Autumn arrives
With birds rattling in brown showers
From hard skies. He holds out his two
Hands, calloused with the long failure
Of prayer: Take my life, he says
To the bleak sea, but the sea rejects him
Like wrack. He dungs the earth with
His children and the earth yields him
Its stone. Nothing he does, nothing he
Says is accepted, and the thin dribble
Of his poetry dries on the rocks
Of a harsh landscape under an ailing sun.
In the search for God, some ask, “Why don’t we hear God speak today?” God does speak; we are sometimes unable to hear God’s “words.” Our challenge is to find God, “each according to his or her power,” in the variety of ways in which God speaks. Some find God through prayer, others in study. Some see the divine imprint in nature—the sun, moon, stars, the order of the universe. Others find God in quiet serenity.
Our reading of the Bible may have conditioned us to think of God only as majestic, powerful, and awesome. God is seen in the plagues against Egypt, in the splitting of the Sea, in the thundering voice at Sinai. Yet, the prophet Elijah experienced God in a totally different way, according to his own capability.
Pursued by Ahab, king of Israel, and his wife Jezebel, Elijah flees into the desert near Beer-sheba. There, an angel commands Elijah to eat. “And with the strength from that meal he walked forty days and forty nights,” until he came to Horeb, another name for Sinai. God tells Elijah to stand on the mountain.
And lo, the Lord passed by. There was a great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind—an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake—fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire—a soft murmuring sound. (1 Kings 19:11–12)
God may not be in this “soft murmuring sound” (translated by others as a “still small voice”), but Elijah senses God’s presence through it and because of it. When Elijah arrived at Horeb/Sinai, was he expecting another revelation, with God’s voice thundering forth again? Was he looking for God in the great wind and the mighty earthquake, where most of us would expect to find God? Probably. After all, Elijah the prophet was only human. And Elijah surely knew the story of Moses on Sinai! Perhaps just before, in his zeal for God, Elijah had wanted the Holy One, praised is He, to score a resounding victory—a loud, noisy, show of force—against Jezebel and the prophets of Baal. But this time, God was not to be found in the powerful and magnificent. For Elijah, God was in the quiet and understated.
In our search for God, we may be surprised to find the divine in unexpected places. Sometimes, we find God in a whisper. Each person has to find God according to his or her own power. That is the challenge, and the ultimate beauty, of the search for the divine in our lives.
Morris is a retired tailor, living off his monthly Social Security check. Ever since he stopped working, he has become a regular at the synagogue’s Morning and Evening services. Every day, right after the Amidah, Morris pulls a small change purse out of his pocket and holds it in the palm of his left hand. With the thumb and forefinger of his right hand, he fishes out fifty cents. When the shammes, the sexton, walks by with the pushke, Morris quietly slips the coins into the charity box. Fifty cents in the Morning, fifty cents at night—a dollar each weekday, approximately three hundred weekdays a year. Except for the shammes, no one knows how much Morris gives or how often. A few of the younger men notice his worn leather change purse and chuckle; how rare to see a man these days who still carries one of those, they think. When most of them come to services, they pull out a wallet and offer a dollar bill to the pushke.
Murray is a retired businessman. He owned a very successful appliance store, which he sold a few years back for several million dollars. He has a winter home in Florida where he resides from Thanksgiving to Passover; from April to November he lives in New York. He’s been a member of the same synagogue as Morris for thirty-five years. Every year, a week before Rosh Hashanah, the rabbi and the president of the synagogue visit Murray. They shmooze for a bit, asking about his health, his family, and his golf game. And then Murray pulls out his checkbook and gives the synagogue his annual contribution of $18,000—eighteen, of course, being the Hebrew number that stands for “life.”
There are several plaques in the temple that acknowledge Murray’s generosity and benevolence. The social hall is named for his parents, the library for his in-laws; there is a stained glass window in honor of his children. He has been honored by the synagogue at its annual dinner dance, by the men’s club at its man-of-the-year breakfast, and by Israel Bonds and UJA-Federation. The walls of his homes are covered with tributes and testimonials he has received for his philanthropy.
One year, the rabbi approached the board of directors with a proposal: “We have a number of members who have been very generous to our temple; Murray is at the top of the list. But we also have members who don’t have the same resources as a Murray, but whose dedication is just as strong. What message are we sending if we honor only the rich people? Why can’t we honor each year a worthy congregant who has given to the synagogue to the best of his abilities? I’m thinking, as an example, of one of our retirees, Morris. He’s here every single day, helping out with the minyans. And when the curtains in the Ark ripped, Morris took them home and sewed them up like new. You know, he gives each day to tzedakah; I wouldn’t be surprised if he gives a higher percentage of his income to the shul than Murray does, with all his money. The Jewish community has to realize that every person offers something unique and different. We should encourage all of those offerings, not just the monetary ones. And we should do that by honoring not only the ‘heavy hitters,’ but also our ‘small’ devoted givers. How much you give is not the crucial thing; that you give is. As the Midrash says, ‘each according to his power.’ ”
And he brought him to Jesus. --- John 1:42.
While people sketch out imaginary designs, they frequently miss actual opportunities. (Spurgeon's Sermons on New Testament Men, Book 2) They would not build because they could not erect a palace. They therefore shiver in the winter’s cold. They were not content to do a little and therefore did nothing.
Andrew was a commonplace disciple, a man of average capacity, and an ordinary believer. Yet Andrew became a useful minister, an thus the servants of Jesus Christ are not excused from endeavoring to extend the boundaries of his kingdom by saying, “I have no remarkable talent or singular ability.” If you are only like a firefly’s lamp, do not hide your light, for there is an eye predestined to see by your light, a heart ordained to find comfort by your faint gleam.
Awake and render service to the lover of your souls. Make no excuse, for no excuse can be valid from those who are bought with so great a price. Your business requires so much of your thoughts—I know it does. Then use your business in such a way as to serve God. There must be some opportunities for aiming at conversions. If you can reach but one, do not let that one remain unsought. Time is hastening and people are perishing. The world is growing old in sin.
O that I had the power to stir the hearts and souls of all other Christians by a description of this huge city wallowing in iniquity, by a picture of cemeteries fattening on corpses, by a portrayal of that lake of fire to which multitudes yearly descend. O that I could set before you the Redeemer on the cross dying to ransom souls! O that I could depict the heaven that sinners lose and their remorse when they shall find themselves self-excluded!
To bring people to Jesus—let this be your aim and mine! Not to bring them to baptism nor to the church building nor to adopt our form of worship, but to bring them to his dear feet who alone can say, “Your many sins are forgiven. Go in peace.”
As we believe Jesus is the very center of the Christian religion, those who do not have Christ do not have true godliness. Determine in your spirit that you will never cease to labor for them until you have reason to believe that they are trusting in Jesus, loving Jesus, in the hope that they shall be conformed to the image of Jesus and dwell with him, world without end.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
I Am a Christian! August 12
The firestorm against the early Christians created a belief that martyrdom was the norm, something to be expected and even desired. When Emperor Diocletian forbade possession of Scriptures, Euplius, a Christian in Sicily, a deacon and a Bible owner, worried that he might escape persecution. To forestall such a calamity, he stood outside the governor’s office one day shouting, “I am a Christian! I desire to die for the name of Christ.”
When ushered before the governor, he was found to have a manuscript of the Gospels. “Where did these come from?” he was asked. “Did you bring them from your home?”
“I have no home, as my Lord Jesus Christ knows,” replied Euplius.
“Read them,” said the prosecutor. So Euplius began reading the words: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10, KJV). He turned to another passage: “Whosoever will come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me.”
The judge interrupted him. “Why haven’t you surrendered these books?” Euplius replied that it was better to die than to give them up. “In these is eternal life,” he said, “and whoever gives them up loses eternal life.” The governor signaled that he had heard enough, and Euplius got what he wanted. He was subjected to a series of horrible tortures, then executed on this day, August 12, 304, with his Gospels tied around his neck. His last words, repeatedly uttered, were “Thanks be to Thee, O Christ. O Christ, help. It is for Thee that I suffer.”
The Bible nowhere tells us to deliberately seek persecution, and some of the early Christians undoubtedly overglorified the pursuit of martyrdom. Yet given the choice it is surely better to shout, “I am a Christian!” than to hide our testimony from those around us in this world.
I am proud of the good news! It is God’s powerful way of saving all people who have faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. The good news tells how God accepts everyone who has faith, but only those who have faith. It is just as the Scriptures say, “The people God accepts because of their faith will live.” --- Romans 1:16,17.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 12
“The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.” --- Psalm 97:1.
Causes for disquietude there are none so long as this blessed sentence is true. On earth the Lord’s power as readily controls the rage of the wicked as the rage of the sea; his love as easily refreshes the poor with mercy as the earth with showers. Majesty gleams in flashes of fire amid the tempest’s horrors, and the glory of the Lord is seen in its grandeur in the fall of empires, and the crash of thrones. In all our conflicts and tribulations, we may behold the hand of the divine King.
“God is God; he sees and hears
All our troubles, all our tears.
Soul, forget not, ’mid thy pains,
God o’er all for ever reigns.”
In hell, evil spirits own, with misery, his undoubted supremacy. When permitted to roam abroad, it is with a chain at their heel; the bit is in the mouth of behemoth, and the hook in the jaws of leviathan. Death’s darts are under the Lord’s lock, and the grave’s prisons have divine power as their warder. The terrible vengeance of the Judge of all the earth makes fiends cower down and tremble, even as dogs in the kennel fear the hunter’s whip.
“Fear not death, nor Satan’s thrusts,
God defends who in him trusts;
Soul, remember, in thy pains,
God o’er all for ever reigns.”
In heaven none doubt the sovereignty of the King Eternal, but all fall on their faces to do him homage. Angels are his courtiers, the redeemed his favourites, and all delight to serve him day and night. May we soon reach the city of the great King!
“For this life’s long night of sadness
He will give us peace and gladness.
Soul, remember, in thy pains,
God o’er all for ever reigns.”
Evening - August 12
“The bow shall be seen in the cloud.” --- Genesis 9:14.
The rainbow, the symbol of the covenant with Noah, is typical of our Lord Jesus, who is the Lord’s witness to the people. When may we expect to see the token of the covenant? The rainbow is only to be seen painted upon a cloud. When the sinner’s conscience is dark with clouds, when he remembers his past sin, and mourneth and lamenteth before God, Jesus Christ is revealed to him as the covenant Rainbow, displaying all the glorious hues of the divine character and betokening peace. To the believer, when his trials and temptations surround him, it is sweet to behold the person of our Lord Jesus Christ—to see him bleeding, living, rising, and pleading for us. God’s rainbow is hung over the cloud of our sins, our sorrows, and our woes, to prophesy deliverance. Nor does a cloud alone give a rainbow, there must be the crystal drops to reflect the light of the sun. So, our sorrows must not only threaten, but they must really fall upon us. There had been no Christ for us if the vengeance of God had been merely a threatening cloud: punishment must fall in terrible drops upon the Surety. Until there is a real anguish in the sinner’s conscience, there is no Christ for him; until the chastisement which he feels becomes grievous, he cannot see Jesus. But there must also be a sun; for clouds and drops of rain make not rainbows unless the sun shineth. Beloved, our God, who is as the sun to us, always shines, but we do not always see him—clouds hide his face; but no matter what drops may be falling, or what clouds may be threatening, if he does but shine there will be a rainbow at once. It is said that when we see the rainbow the shower is over. Certain it is, that when Christ comes, our troubles remove; when we behold Jesus, our sins vanish, and our doubts and fears subside. When Jesus walks the waters of the sea, how profound the calm!
DEEPER AND DEEPER
Words and Music by Oswald J. Smith, 1890–1986
I delight to do Thy will, O my God: Yea, Thy law is within my heart. (Psalm 40:8)
These beautifully worded lines with their soulful melody flowed from the heart of Oswald J. Smith after many difficult experiences during the early years of his ministry. He related in his book, The Story of My Life, that he was carried through these troublesome times by what he called his “Morning watch.”
It was when I walked alone with God that I learned the lessons He would teach. I set aside a time and a place to meet Him, and I have never been disappointed.
Dr. Smith was one of the great evangelical preachers and missionary statesmen of the 20th century. For many years he was the pastor of a church he founded, the People’s Church in Toronto, Canada. He described the inspiration that came to him for “Deeper and Deeper:”
Arriving in Woodstock, Ontario, I was invited to preach one Sunday Morning in the largest Methodist Church in that city. As I walked along the street on my way to the church, the melody of this hymn sang itself into my heart and with the words, “Into the heart of Jesus, deeper and deeper I go.” I can still recall the joy and buoyancy of youth, the bright sunshine overhead, and the thrill with which I looked forward to my service that Sunday Morning, as again and again I hummed over the words. After preaching, I returned to my rented room, and the first thing I did was to write out the melody as God had given it to me. The verses were much more difficult. It was three years later, in the First Presbyterian Church of South Chicago, of which I pastor, that I completed them. The writing of the hymn afforded me much joy. I still love it and always will, for it was the child of my youth. It proves conclusively that God can impart His deepest truths to the hearts of the young, for I doubt if I have ever written anything more profound since.
* * * *
Into the heart of Jesus deeper and deeper I go, seeking to know the reason why He should love me so—Why He should stoop to lift me up from the miry clay, saving my soul, making me whole, tho I had wandered away.
Into the joy of Jesus deeper and deeper I go, rising, with soul enraptured, far from the world below; joy in the place of sorrow, peace in the midst of pain, Jesus will give, Jesus will give—He will uphold and sustain!
Into the love of Jesus deeper and deeper I go, praising the One who brought me out of my sin and woe; and thru eternal ages gratefully I shall sing, “O how He loved! O how He loved! Jesus, my Lord and my King!”
For Today: Psalm 42; 16:8, 11; Lamentations 3:26; Isaiah 40:31; 54:2; 1 John 2:17
Determine to know God in a deeper way than ever before. Sing as you go ---
DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Use III. If it be the atheist’s folly to deny or doubt of the being of God, it is our wisdom to be firmly settled in this truth, that God is. We should never be without our arms in an age wherein atheism appears barefaced without a disguise. You may meet with suggestions to it, though the devil formerly never attempted to demolish this notion in the world, but was willing to keep it up, so the worship due to God might run in his own channel, and was necessitated to preserve it, without which he could not have erected that idolatry, which was his great design in opposition to God; yet since the foundations of that are torn up, and never like to be rebuilt, he may endeavor, as his last refuge, to banish the notion of God out of the world, that he may reign as absolutely without it, as he did before by the mistakes about the divine nature. But we must not lay all upon Satan; the corruption of our own hearts ministers matter to such spa rks. It is not said Satan hath suggested to the fool, but “the fool hath said in his heart,” there is no God. But let them come from what principle soever, silence them quickly, give them their dismiss; oppose the whole scheme of nature to fight against them, as the stars did against Sisera. Stir up sentiments of conscience to oppose sentiments of corruption. Resolve sooner to believe that yourselves are not, than that God is not; and if you suppose they at any time come from Satan, object to him that you know he believes the contrary to what he suggests. Settle this principle firmly in you, “let us behold Him that is invisible,” as Moses did; let us have the sentiments following upon the notion of a God, to be restrained by a fear of him, excited by a love to him, not to violate his laws and offend his goodness. He is not a God careless of our actions, negligent to inflict punishment, and bestow rewards, “he forgets not the labor of our love,” nor the integrity of our ways; he were not a God, if he were not a governor; and punishments and rewards are as essential to government, as a foundation to a building. His being and his government in rewarding, which implies punishment, (for the neglects of him are linked together) are not to be separated in our thoughts of him.
1. Without this truth fixed in us, we can never give him the worship due to his name. When the knowledge of anything is fluctuating and uncertain, our actions about it are careless. We regard not that which we think doth not much concern us. If we do not firmly believe there is a God, we shall pay him no steady worship; and if we believe not the excellency of his nature, we shall offer him but a slight service. The Jews call the knowledge of the being of God the foundation and pillar of wisdom. The whole frame of religion is dissolved without this apprehension, and totters if this apprehension be wavering. Religion in the heart is as water in a weatherglass, which riseth or falls according to the strength or weakness of this belief. How can any man worship that which he believes not to be, or doubts of? Could any man omit the paying a homage to one, whom he did believe to be an omnipotent, wise being, possessing (infinitely above our conceptions) the perfections of all creatures? He must either think there is no such being, or that he is an easy, drowsy, inobservant God, and not such an one as our natural notions of him, if listened to, as well as the Scripture, represents him to be.
2. Without being rooted in this, we cannot order our lives. All our baseness, stupidity, dulness, wanderings, vanity, spring from a wavering and unsettledness in this principle. This gives ground to brutish pleasures, not only to solicit, but conquer us. Abraham expected violence in any place where God was not owned (Gen. 20:11), “Surely the fear of God is not in this place, and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.” The natural knowledge of God firmly impressed, would choke that which would stifle our reason and deface our souls. The belief that God is, and what he is, would have a mighty influence to persuade us to a real religion, and serious consideration, and casting about how to be like to him and united with him.
3. Without it we cannot have any comfort of our lives. Who would willingly live in a stormy world, void of a God? If we waver in this principle, to whom should we make our complaints in our afflictions? Where should we meet with supports? How could we satisfy ourselves with the hopes of a future happiness? There is a sweetness in the meditation of his existence, and that he is a Creator. Thoughts of other things have a bitterness mixed with them: houses, lands, children, now are, shortly they will not be; but God is, that made the world: his faithfulness as he is a Creator, is a ground to deposit our souls and concerns in our innocent sufferings. So far as we are weak in the acknowledgment of God, we deprive ourselves of our content in the view of his infinite perfections.
4. Without the rooting of this principle, we cannot have a firm belief of Scripture. The Scripture will be a slight thing to one that hath weak sentiments of God. The belief of a God must necessarily precede the belief of any revelation; the latter cannot take place without the former as a foundation. We must firmly believe the being of a God, wherein our happiness doth consist, before we can believe any means which conduct us to him. Moses begins with the Author of creation, before he treats of the promise of redemption. Paul preached God as a Creator to a university, before he preached Christ as Mediator. What influence can the testimony of God have in his revelation upon one that doth not firmly assent to the truth of his being? All would be in vain that is so often repeated, “Thus saith the Lord,” if we do not believe there is a Lord that speaks it. There could be no awe from his sovereignty in his commands, nor any comfortable taste of his goodness in his promises. The more we are strengthened in this principle, the more credit we shall be able to give to divine revelation, to rest in his promise, and to reverence his precept; the authority of all depends upon the being of the Revealer.
To this purpose, since we have handled this discourse by natural arguments, 1. Study God in the creatures as well as in the Scriptures. The primary use of the creatures, is to acknowledge God in them; they were made to be witnesses of himself in his goodness, and heralds of his glory, which glory of God as Creator “shall endure forever” (Psalm 104:31): that whole Psalm is a lecture of creation and providence. The world is a sacred temple; man is introduced to contemplate it, and behold with praise the glory of God in the pieces of his art. As grace doth not destroy nature, so the book of redemption blots not out that of creation. Had he not shown himself in his creatures, he could never have shown himself in his Christ; the order of things required it. God must be read wherever he is legible; the creatures are one book, wherein he hath writ a part of the excellencey of his name, as many artists do in their works and watches. God’s glory, like the filings of gold, is too precious to be lost wherever it drops: nothing so vile and base in the world, but carries in it an instruction for man, and drives in further the notion of a God. As he said of his cottage, Enter here, Sunt hic etiam Dii, God disdains not this place: so the least creature speaks to man, every shrub in the field, every fly in the air, every limb in a body; Consider me, God disdains not to appear in me; he hath discovered in me his being and a part of his skill, as well as in the highest. The creatures manifest the being of God and part of his perfections. We have indeed a more excellent way, a revelation setting him forth in a more excellent manner, a firmer object of dependence, a brighter object of love, raising our hearts from self-confidence to a confidence in him.
Though the appearance of God in the one be clearer than in the other, yet neither is to be neglected. The Scripture directs us to nature to view God; it had been in vain else for the apostle to make use of natural arguments. Nature is not contrary to Scripture, nor Scripture to nature; unless we should think God contrary to himself who is the Author of both.
2. View God in your own experiences of him. There is a taste and sight of his goodness, though no sight of his essence. By the taste of his goodness you may know the reality of the fountain, whence it springs and from whence it flows; this surpasseth the greatest capacity of a mere natural understanding. Experience of the sweetness of the ways of Christianity is a mighty preservative against capacity of a mere natural understanding. Experience of the sweetness of the ways of Christianity is a mighty preservative against atheism. Many a man knows not how to prove honey to be sweet by his reason, but by his sense; and if all the reason in the world be brought against it, he will not be reasoned out of what he tastes. Have not many found the delightful illapses of God into their souls, often sprinkled with his inward blessings upon their seeking of him; had secret warnings in their approaches to him; and gentle rebukes in their consciences upon their swervings from him? Have not many found sometimes an invisible hand raising them up when they were dejected; some unexpected providence stepping in for their relief; and easily perceived that it could not be a work of chance, nor many times the intention of the instruments he hath used in it? You have often found that he is, by finding that he is a rewarder, and can set to your seals that he is what he hath declared himself to be in his word (Isa. 34:12) “I have declared, and have saved; therefore you are my witnesses, with the Lord, that I am God.” The secret touches of God upon the heart, and inward converses with him, are a greater evidence of the existence of a supreme and infinitely good Being, than all nature.
Use IV. Is it a folly to deny or doubt of the being of God? It is a folly also not to worship God, when we acknowledge his existence; it is our wisdom then to worship him. As it is not indifferent whether we believe there is a God or no; so it is not indifferent whether we will give honor to that God or no. A worship is his right as he is the Author of our being, and fountain of our happiness. By this only we acknowledge his Deity; though we may profess his being, yet we deny that profession in neglects of worship. To deny him a worship is as great a folly, as to deny his being. He that renounceth all homage to his Creator, envices him the being which he cannot deprive him of. The natural inclination to worship is as universal as the notion of a God; idolatry else had never gained footing in the world. The existence of God was never owned in any nation, but a worship of him was appointed. And many people who have turned their backs upon some other parts of the law of nature, have paid a continual homage to some superior and invisible being. The Jews give a reason why man was created in the evening of the Sabbath, because he should begin his being with the worship of his Maker. As soon as ever he found himself to be a creature, his first solemn act should be a particular respect to his Creator. “To fear God and keep his commandment,” is the whole of man, or is whole man he is not a man but a beast, without observance of God. Religion is as requisite as reason to complete a man: he were not reasonable if he were not religious; because by neglecting religion, he neglects the chiefest dictate of reason. Either God framed the world with so much order, elegancy, and variety to no purpose, or this was his end at least, that reasonable creatures should admire him in it, and honor him for it. The notion of God was not stamped upon men, the shadows of God did not appear in the creatures, to be the subject of an idle contemplation, but the motive of a due homage to God. He created the world for his glory, a people for himself, that he might have the honor of his works; that since we live and move in him, and by him, we should live and move to him and for him. It was the condemnation of the heathen world, that when they knew there was a God, they did not give him the glory due to him. He that denies his being, is an atheist to his essence: he that denies his worship, is an atheist to his honor.
If it be a folly to deny the being of God, it will be our wisdom, then, since we acknowledge his being, often to think of him. Thoughts are the first issue of a creature as reasonable: He that hath given us the faculty whereby we are able to think, should be the principal object about which the power of it should be exercised. It is a justice to God, the author of our understandings, a justice to the nature of our understandings, that the noblest faculty should be employed about the most excellent object. Our minds are a beam from God; and, therefore, as the beams of the sun, when they touch the earth, should reflect back upon God. As we seem to deny the being of God not to think of him; we seem also to unsoul our souls in misemploying the activity of them any other way, like flies, to be oftener on dunghills than flowers. It is made the black mark of an ungodly man, or an atheist, that “God is not in all his thoughts” (Psalm 10:4). What comfort can be had in the being of God without thinking of him with reverence and delight? A God forgotten is as good as no God to us.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXV. — THE third passage is that in Isaiah xl. 2. — “She hath received at the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” — “Jerome (says the Diatribe) interprets this concerning the divine vengeance, not concerning His grace given in return for evil deeds.” —
I hear you. — Jerome says so: therefore, it is true! — I am disputing about Isaiah, who here speaks in the clearest words, and Jerome is cast in my teeth; a man, (to say no worse of him) of neither judgment nor application. Where now is that promise of ours, by which we agreed at the outset, ‘that we would go according to the Scriptures, and not according to the commentaries of men?’ The whole of this chapter of Isaiah, according to the testimony of the evangelists, where they mention it as referring to John the Baptist, “the voice of one crying,” speaks of the remission of sins proclaimed by the Gospel. But we will allow Jerome, after his manner, to thrust in the blindness of the Jews for an historical sense, and his own trifling vanities for an allegory; and, turning all grammar upside down, we will understand this passage as speaking of vengeance, which speaks of the remission of sins. — But, I pray you, what vengeance is fulfilled in the preaching of Christ? Let us, however, see how the words run in the Hebrew.
“Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, (in the vocative) or, My people (in the objective) saith your God.” — He, I presume, who commands to “comfort,” is not executing vengeance! It then follows.
“Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and cry unto her.” (Isa. xl. 1-2). — “Speak ye to the heart” is a Hebraism, and signifies to speak good things, sweet things, and alluring things. Thus, Shechem, Gen. xxxiv. 3, speaks to the heart of Dinah, whom he defiled: that is, when she was heavy-hearted, he comforted her with tender words, as our translator has rendered it. And what those good and sweet things are, which are commanded to be proclaimed to their comfort, the prophet explains directly afterwards: saying,
“That her warfare is accomplished, her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” — “Her warfare,” (militia,) which our translators have rendered “her evil,” (malitia), is considered by the Jews, those audacious grammarians, to signify an appointed time. For thus they understand that passage Job vii. 1. “Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth?” that is, his time is determinately appointed. But I receive it simply, and according to grammatical propriety, as signifying “warfare.” Wherefore, you may understand Isaiah, as speaking with reference to the race and labour of the people under the law, who are, as it were, fighting on a platform. Hence Paul compares both the preachers and the hearers of the word to soldiers: as in the case of Timothy, 2 Tim. ii. 3, whom he commands to be “a good soldier,” and to “fight the good fight.” And, 1 Cor. ix. 24, he represents them as running “in a race:” and observes also, that “no one is crowned except he strive lawfully.” He equips the Ephesians and Thessalonians with arms, Ephes. vi. 10-18. And he glories, himself, that he had “fought the good fight,” 2 Tim. iv. 7.: with many like instances in other places. So also at 1 Samuel ii. 22, it is in the Hebrew, “And the sons of Eli slept with the women who fought (militantibus) at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:” of whose fighting, Moses makes mention in Exodus. And hence it is, that the God of that people is called the “Lord of Sabaoth:” that is, the Lord of warfare and of armies.
Isaiah, therefore, is proclaiming, that the warfare of the people under the law, who are pressed down under the law as a burthen intolerable, as Peter saith, Acts xv. 7-10, is to be at an end; and that they being freed from the law, are to be translated into the new warfare of the Spirit. Moreover, this end of their most hard warfare, and this translation to the new and all-free warfare, is not given unto them on account of their merit, seeing that, they could not endure it; nay, it is rather given unto them on account of their demerit; for their warfare is ended, by their iniquities being freely forgiven them.
The words are not ‘obscure or ambiguous’ here. He saith, that their warfare was ended, by their iniquities being forgiven them: manifestly signifying, that the soldiers under the law, did not fulfil the law, and could not fulfil it: and that they only carried on a warfare of sin, and were soldier-sinners. As though God had said, I am compelled to forgive them their sins, if I would have My law fulfilled by them; nay, I must take away My law entirely when I forgive them; for I see they cannot but sin, and the more so the more they fight; that is, the more they strive to fulfil the law by their own powers. For in the Hebrew, “her iniquity is pardoned” signifies, its being done in gratuitous good-will. And it is thus that the iniquity is pardoned; without any merit, nay, under all demerit; as is shewn in what follows, “for she hath received at the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” — That is, as I said before, not only the remission of sins, but an end of the warfare: which is nothing more or less than this: — the law being taken out of the way, which is “the strength of sin,” and their sin being pardoned, which is “the sting of death,” they reign in a two-fold liberty by the victory of Jesus Christ: which is what Isaiah means when he says, “from the hand of the Lord:” for they do not obtain it by their own powers, or on account of their own merit, but they receive it from the conqueror and giver, Jesus Christ.
And that which is, according to the Hebrew, “in all her sins,” is, according to the Latin, “for all her sins,” or, “on account of all her sins.” As in Hosea xii. 12, “Israel served in a wife:” that is, “for a wife.” And so also in Psalm lix. 3, “They lay in wait in my soul;” that is, “for my soul.” Isaiah therefore is here pointing out to us those merits of ours, by which we imagine we are to obtain the two-fold liberty; that of the end of the law-warfare, and that of the pardon of sin; making it appear to us, that they were nothing but sins, nay, all sins.
Could I, therefore, suffer this most beautiful passage, which stands invincible against “Free-will,” to be thus bedaubed with Jewish filth cast upon it by Jerome and the Diatribe? — God forbid! No! My Isaiah stands victor over “Free-will”; and clearly shews, that grace is given, not to merits or to the endeavours of “Free-will,” but to sins and demerits; and that “Free-will” with all its powers, can do nothing but carry on a warfare of sin; so that, the very law which it imagines to be given as a help, becomes intolerable to it, and makes it the greater sinner, the longer it is under its warfare.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Broken Cisterns Jeremiah 2:12-13
s1-306 | 06-04-2006
Only audio available | click here
m1-315 | 06-07-2006
Only audio available | click here
Backsliding's A Bummer Jeremiah 2:19
s1-307 | 06-11-2006
Only audio available | click here
m1-316 | 06-14-2006
Only audio available | click here
Look In The Mirror Jeremiah 2:32
s1-308 | 06-18-2006
Only audio available | click here