Isaiah 54 - 58
The Eternal Covenant of Peace
Isaiah 54:1 “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than the children of her who is married,” says the LORD.
2 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations
and will people the desolate cities.
4 “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
5 For your Maker is your husband,
the LORD of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
6 For the LORD has called you
like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
says your God.
7 For a brief moment I deserted you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
8 In overflowing anger for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the LORD, your Redeemer.
9 “This is like the days of Noah to me:
as I swore that the waters of Noah
should no more go over the earth,
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you,
and will not rebuke you.
10 For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
11 “O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted,
behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
and lay your foundations with sapphires.
12 I will make your pinnacles of agate,
your gates of carbuncles,
and all your wall of precious stones.
13 All your children shall be taught by the LORD,
and great shall be the peace of your children.
14 In righteousness you shall be established;
you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
and from terror, for it shall not come near you.
15 If anyone stirs up strife,
it is not from me;
whoever stirs up strife with you
shall fall because of you.
16 Behold, I have created the smith
who blows the fire of coals
and produces a weapon for its purpose.
I have also created the ravager to destroy;
17 no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD
and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.”
The Compassion of the LORD
Isaiah 55:1 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12 “For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the LORD,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Salvation for Foreigners
Isaiah 56:1 Thus says the LORD:
“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my righteousness be revealed.
2 Blessed is the man who does this,
and the son of man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say,
“The LORD will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
“Behold, I am a dry tree.”
4 For thus says the LORD:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
5 I will give in my house and within my walls
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.
6 “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD,
and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
and holds fast my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
8 The Lord GOD,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
“I will gather yet others to him
besides those already gathered.”
Israel’s Irresponsible Leaders
9 All you beasts of the field, come to devour—
all you beasts in the forest.
10 His watchmen are blind;
they are all without knowledge;
they are all silent dogs;
they cannot bark,
dreaming, lying down,
loving to slumber.
11 The dogs have a mighty appetite;
they never have enough.
But they are shepherds who have no understanding;
they have all turned to their own way,
each to his own gain, one and all.
12 “Come,” they say, “let me get wine;
let us fill ourselves with strong drink;
and tomorrow will be like this day,
great beyond measure.”
Israel’s Futile Idolatry
Isaiah 57:1 The righteous man perishes,
and no one lays it to heart;
devout men are taken away,
while no one understands.
For the righteous man is taken away from calamity;
2 he enters into peace;
they rest in their beds
who walk in their uprightness.
3 But you, draw near,
sons of the sorceress,
offspring of the adulterer and the loose woman.
4 Whom are you mocking?
Against whom do you open your mouth wide
and stick out your tongue?
Are you not children of transgression,
the offspring of deceit,
5 you who burn with lust among the oaks,
under every green tree,
who slaughter your children in the valleys,
under the clefts of the rocks?
6 Among the smooth stones of the valley is your portion;
they, they, are your lot;
to them you have poured out a drink offering,
you have brought a grain offering.
Shall I relent for these things?
7 On a high and lofty mountain
you have set your bed,
and there you went up to offer sacrifice.
8 Behind the door and the doorpost
you have set up your memorial;
for, deserting me, you have uncovered your bed,
you have gone up to it,
you have made it wide;
and you have made a covenant for yourself with them,
you have loved their bed,
you have looked on nakedness.
9 You journeyed to the king with oil
and multiplied your perfumes;
you sent your envoys far off,
and sent down even to Sheol.
10 You were wearied with the length of your way,
but you did not say, “It is hopeless”;
you found new life for your strength,
and so you were not faint.
11 Whom did you dread and fear,
so that you lied,
and did not remember me,
did not lay it to heart?
Have I not held my peace, even for a long time,
and you do not fear me?
12 I will declare your righteousness and your deeds,
but they will not profit you.
13 When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you!
The wind will carry them all off,
a breath will take them away.
But he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land
and shall inherit my holy mountain.
Comfort for the Contrite
14 And it shall be said,
“Build up, build up, prepare the way,
remove every obstruction from my people’s way.”
15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
16 For I will not contend forever,
nor will I always be angry;
for the spirit would grow faint before me,
and the breath of life that I made.
17 Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry,
I struck him; I hid my face and was angry,
but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.
18 I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,
19 creating the fruit of the lips.
Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the LORD,
“and I will heal him.
20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea;
for it cannot be quiet,
and its waters toss up mire and dirt.
21 There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
True and False Fasting
Isaiah 58:1 “Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
3 ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 “Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.
13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the LORD honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14 then you shall take delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
What I'm Reading
A Future So Bright
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 10/01/2011
Because we believe it is our due, we are confident that even the darkest clouds have silver linings. When someone dies in old age, we rejoice that he had a long and full life. When someone is taken suddenly, we are comforted to know that he did not suffer long. When someone dies young but not so suddenly, we are glad he had the opportunity to say goodbye, to get his affairs in order. We find reasons to give thanks not only in death but in dying.
That is, when we are merely terminal but not yet terminated, we have this blessing: we can live each day as if it were our last. Sometimes the doctors seem to give us enough of a glimpse of the future — you have weeks, you have months — that we think it changes everything.
The truth is, of course, we are all terminal. A few years ago, I felt it prudent to herd my many children down to the basement as trees began to bow and debris began to race across our meadow. I explained as we marched down the stairs that it was possible a tornado was headed our way. My then five-year-old Maili earnestly asked, “Are we going to die, Daddy?” Forgive my theological precision, but I told her: “Of course we’re going to die, darling. But I don’t think it will be today.”
The future, or rather our knowledge of it, isn’t binary. That is, we are neither omniscient about what is to come nor utterly ignorant. Some things we know; some things we don’t. Most things we know only vaguely.
We know that we are going to die, but we don’t know when. We know that others we love are going to die, but we don’t know when. Neither do we usually know how. What we do know, however, is exactly what we need to know. What we ought to know is this: knowing more details about our future should not radically change our present.
“What would you do if you knew you had only a year, a month, a week, a day, an hour to live?” may make for an interesting parlor game, but the answer ought to be “The same thing I have been doing, hoping that I have decades left to live.”
On the one hand, we ought not to be living casual lives, walking through lackadaisical days on the brash assumption that we have plenty of time in front of us.
On the other hand, though, we don’t want to toss aside the wisdom of a calm, faithful, steady life on the grounds that it could all end tomorrow. If I were to die tomorrow, I only hope that I will have been faithful today.
Our calling, in short, is not grounded ultimately in our peculiar circumstances. We don’t have one set of obligations when we are healthy and looking forward to many more years and a different set when we are beset with illness and already feel the icy breath of death on the backs of our necks.
My own circumstances as I type this column are not easy. My dear wife is suffering from leukemia. By the time this article reaches your hands, we will find ourselves in one of three circumstances. The least likely is that we will still be in this great battle. One option is that her stem-cell transplant will have cured her. The third option is that she will be completely cured in her soul but that her body will be resting in the grave.
Whatever the future holds, my calling now is to love my wife faithfully. I did, after all, vow to love and to cherish her in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health. The whole point of the liturgy is to affirm that circumstances will not sever the commitment.
The same is true of each of us as we together constitute the bride of Christ. He calls us to love, honor, and obey Him in every and all circumstances. His pledged love to us is not that we would avoid suffering and death but that He would remain faithful. We, in turn, are called to be faithful to Him, to seek first and always, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, His kingdom and His righteousness.
Because we know this—that He is faithful—and we are called to be the same, we are able to do what we are called to do: to trust in Him. He is the perfect husband, and all that He sovereignly brings into our lives He brings for our good and His glory. He gifts us, as His bride, not with diamonds and pearls but with that which is far more valuable—the very fruit of the Spirit.
His promise is that He is making us more like Him, and we could wish for nothing greater. Because we know where we are going—that we will be like Him, that He will and does hold us, laugh with us, and dance with us—we can be at peace in all things. We can profess with deepest joy: “The Lord giveth. The Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
That the Scriptures Might Be Fulfilled
By John Piper 10/01/2011
The glory of Jesus Christ shines more clearly when we see Him in His proper relation to the Old Testament. He has a magnificent relation to all that was written. It is not surprising that this is the case, because He is called the Word of God incarnate (John 1:14). Would not the Word of God incarnate be the sum and consummation of the Word of God written? Consider these summary statements and the texts that support them.
1. All the Scriptures bear witness to Christ. Moses wrote about Christ (John 5:39, 46).
(Jn 5:39) 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, ESV
(Jn 5:46–47) 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” ESV
2. All the Scriptures are about Jesus Christ, even where there is no explicit prediction. That is, there is a fullness of implication in all Scripture that points to Christ and is satisfied only when He has come and done His work. Graeme Goldsworthy explains: “The meaning of all the Scriptures is unlocked by the death and resurrection of Jesus” (see Luke 24:27).
(Lk 24:27) 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. ESV
3. Jesus came to fulfill all that was written in the Law and the Prophets. All of it was pointing to Him even where it was not explicitly prophetic. He accomplished what the law required (Matt. 5:17–18).
(Mt 5:17–18) 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. ESV
4. All the promises of God in the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That is, when you have Christ, sooner or later you will have both Christ Himself and all else that God promised through Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).
(2 Co 1:20) 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. ESV
5. The law was kept perfectly by Christ. And all its penalties against God’s sinful people were poured out on Christ. Therefore, the Law is manifestly not the path to righteousness, Christ is. The ultimate goal of the Law is that we would look to Christ, not law-keeping, for our righteousness (Rom. 10:4).
(Ro 10:4) 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. ESV
Therefore with the coming of Christ virtually everything has changed:
1. The blood sacrifices ceased because Christ fulfilled all that they were pointing toward. He was the final, unrepeatable sacrifice for sins. Hebrews 9:12: “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”
2. The priesthood that stood between worshipper and God has ceased. Hebrews 7:23–24: “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.”
3. The physical temple has ceased to be the geographic center of worship. Now Christ Himself is the center of worship. He is the “place,” the “tent,” and the “temple” where we meet God. Therefore, Christianity has no geographic center, no Mecca, no Jerusalem. John 4:21–23: “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… . But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.’” John 2:19–21: “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ … He was speaking about the temple of his body.” Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
4. The food laws that set Israel apart from the nations have been fulfilled and ended in Christ. Mark 7:18–19: “[Jesus] said to them, ‘Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him…?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean).”
5. The establishment of civil law on the basis of an ethnically rooted people, who are ruled directly by God, has ceased. The people of God are no longer a unified political body, an ethnic group, or a nation-state, but are exiles and sojourners among all ethnic groups and all states. Therefore, God’s will for states is not taken directly from the Old Testament theocratic order, but should now be reestablished from place to place and from time to time by means that correspond to God’s sovereign rule over all peoples, and that correspond to the fact that genuine obedience, rooted as it is in faith in Christ, cannot be coerced by law.
The state is therefore grounded in God, but not expressive of God’s immediate rule. Romans 13:1: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” John 18:36: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting.”
Let us worship the wonder of Christ, who unleashed these massive changes in the world.
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
This Isn’t Going to Be As Easy As It Looks
By Keith Mathison 10/01/2011
I have an old newspaper comic strip in my desk that I cut out years ago (Mr. Boffo, for those who are interested in such things). I saved it because I think it’s funny. In the top left corner of the comic is a box with the words, “Finalist… World’s Greatest Optimist Competition.” The image itself shows two cowboys sitting behind a log with their guns drawn. A few hundred yards in front of them, thousands of Indians on horseback are rushing toward them over the crest of a hill. One of the cowboys has turned to the other, and he says, “This isn’t going to be as easy as it looks.”
I’ve felt like one of those two cowboys a few times in my life, and I suspect that if you are over the age of five, you too have experienced such moments. Those of you with actual combat experience in wartime may have experienced something like this a little bit too literally.
There are moments when we simply feel overwhelmed. This can happen with school, work, or family matters. It can happen as a result of any number of things — bad news from the doctor, a broken water pipe in your wall or attic, severe weather, or simply watching the fearmongering on the nightly news. Difficult situations arise on an almost daily basis. How we respond to these situations is the issue. Do we respond in fear or do we respond in faith?
Moses provides an instructive biblical example of a man who likely felt overwhelmed on more than one occasion. While shepherding a flock near Mt. Horeb, he found himself commissioned by God to confront Pharaoh, the most powerful man on earth at that time, and to lead well over six hundred thousand Israelites out of Egypt (Ex. 12:37).
(Ex 12:37) 37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. ESV
It was a daunting task to say the least, and Moses tried everything to talk his way out of it (Ex. 3–4). Eventually, he did as God instructed him, but after leading the people of Israel out of Egypt, Moses had to deal with their constant grumbling and complaining (Ex. 16, 17; Num. 11). At one point, he was so overwhelmed with the task of judging the people that his father-in-law had to step in and advise him on the necessity of delegating some responsibilities (Ex. 18). Moses also had to put down personal opposition from within his own family (Num. 12) and a rebellion led by Korah (Num. 16). More than once, the apostasy of Israel was so great that Moses had to intercede with God to spare the nation from destruction (Ex. 32; Num. 14). To put it mildly, Moses had quite a task on his hands, and even though he grew exasperated with the people at times, he remained faithful. He did not give in to despair. He did not throw in the towel. He trusted God, he prayed, and he obeyed.
Paul says, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4). These situations in the life of Moses can instruct us in two ways. Positively, Moses gives us (usually) an example of a godly way to respond to overwhelming situations. He prays. He seeks God’s will, and, upon discovering it, he obeys it. When he argues with God (Ex. 3–4) or when his exasperation and frustration get the best of him (Num. 20), God makes His displeasure known.
Negatively, we witness in the constant grumbling of Israel how not to respond to overwhelming situations. They grumble in fear as the armies of Pharaoh approach (Ex. 14). After God miraculously delivers them through the sea, they continue to grumble in the wilderness (Ex. 16–17). Note that they were not grumbling over minor, petty things. A welltrained army intent on your complete annihilation, potential starvation, and the lack of water in the middle of a desert: these are all very serious matters. The problem, however, is that the Israelites were forgetful of and ungrateful for God’s past deliverances, and lacked faith in God for any future deliverances. They fell prey to fear and gave up all hope.
Giving in to despair and cynicism is the easy way out when we feel overwhelmed by circumstances. On the other hand, casting our cares on God, refusing to worry, and doing what we need to do with faith, joy, and hope is difficult. We must trust God in such circumstances. We must remember what He has done for us in the past. We must trust that He loves us and that whatever circumstances He brings our way are for a reason. Finally, we must realize that responding faithfully is not as easy as it looks.
Now, the bad news is that because we are still sinners, we never respond to these situations perfectly. We get stressed. We worry. We grumble. We wonder how we are going to get through another day. We forget to seek God. We sin.
The good news is that if you are a believer in Jesus, His blood has covered these sins too. The good news is that no matter how overwhelming your circumstances might be right now, in Christ Jesus, there is rest, there is hope, and there is peace.
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
Death Does Not Have the Last Word
By R.C. Sproul 10/01/2011
The guns of secular naturalism, when aimed at the Christian faith, resemble not so much shotguns as carefully aimed rifles. The chief target of the naturalist is the biblical doctrine of creation. If the doctrine of creation falls, all of Judeo-Christianity falls with it. Every skeptic understands that. Thus the constant shooting at Genesis 1.
But along with the assault against divine creation comes an assault against the biblical teaching of a historical Adam who is involved in a historical fall, the result of which is the entrance of death into the world. If Adam can be confined to the genre of mythology and the fall set aside with him, then we see death as a purely natural phenomenon with no relationship to sin.
Much is at stake with the biblical teaching of the fall because this doctrine is linked to the doctrine of redemption. The historical function of the first Adam is matched and conquered by the historical life of the last Adam, Jesus Christ.
In the eighteenth century, when Jonathan Edwards wrote his lengthy treatise on original sin, he argued not simply from biblical teaching. He also maintained that if the Bible itself were completely silent about a historical fall, natural reason would have to suggest that idea based on the reality of the universal presence of sin. If sin is simply a result of bad decisions that some people make, we would assume that at least 50 percent of the people born in this world would choose the right path rather than the sinful one that is so damaging to our humanity. The fact that 100 percent of the human race falls into sin indicates that there must be an inherent moral defect in the race. Of course, Edwards points to the fall, a historical event, to account for this universal fatal flaw.
In the Genesis account, we are told that the soul that sins will die. In His warning to our original parents with respect to disobedience, God declared that “the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). But the record goes on to say that the day Adam and Eve disobeyed their Maker, they did not experience the fullness of what the Greek translation of the Old Testament calls thanatos—physical death. Because of this, some have argued that the death that God promised was not physical death but rather spiritual death.
To be sure, spiritual death set in the very day that Adam and Eve sinned. But the fact that they did not experience physical death that day was not a result of God being lax regarding His warnings and judgments. Rather, it was a result of God’s tempering His justice with mercy and allowing for the redemption of His fallen creatures, even though Adam and Eve were still ultimately destined to succumb to physical death.
Since the fall, every human being born into this world as a natural son of Adam arrives “DOA.” He is “dead on arrival” in a spiritual sense when he is born. But this spiritual death is not the same as biological death, though biological death is also the inevitable destiny of every sinning person. So, though we arrive “DOA” in a spiritual sense, we nevertheless arrive biologically alive. We live out our days on this planet on death row, living under the burden of the death sentence that is imposed on us for sin.
If we are born "DOA" what happens to the millions of babies who are murdered in America? Here is a great article.
In Romans 5, Paul links the entrance of death into the world to sin. In verses 12–14 he writes,
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned — for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
Later, in verse 17, Paul continues, “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” Here Paul is arguing that even though the Mosaic law had not yet appeared on tablets of stone at Mount Sinai, nevertheless God had written His law so indelibly on each human heart that this law was present even before the Ten Commandments. The reason that Paul argues for that reality is because death reigned from Adam until Moses. Since death is the penalty for sin, and sin is defined in terms of transgression of law, the conclusion the apostle stresses is that death came into the world because of the violation of the law of God.
When the contrast between the first Adam and the last Adam, Jesus Christ, is worked out in the New Testament, we see in the work of Christ the conquest over the last enemy — death. The Puritan Divine John Owen wrote a classic book titled The Death of Death in the Death of Christ: A Treatise in Which the Whole Controversy about Universal Redemption is Fully Discussed. Owen was saying that, in Christ’s death, He took upon Himself the curse that is inseparably linked to the punitive measure of death itself. Yet for those who put their trust in Christ, that curse is removed, so that now, for all who are in Christ, death is no longer a curse. Its sting has been removed. The mockery of the grave has been silenced and now death is merely a transition from this life to the next. The contrast that is given in the New Testament is not that this life is bad and the next life is good. On the contrary, the apostle Paul says that this life is good, but to die and to be with Christ is better. So death represents for the believer a gain, indeed, an extraordinary gain.
When we close our eyes in death, we do not cease to be alive; rather, we experience a continuation of personal consciousness. No person is more conscious, more aware, and more alert than when he passes through the veil from this world into the next. Far from falling asleep, we are awakened to glory in all of its significance. For the believer, death does not have the last word. Death has surrendered to the conquering power of the One who was resurrected as the firstborn of many brethren.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Pastor and the Funeral
By Harry Reeder 10/01/2011
The subject I have been asked to write about was one of my greatest fears upon entrance into pastoral ministry. But today I consider it one of my greatest privileges. Why? Because of the historicity and glorious message of the atoning death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Obviously, I do not delight in the fact of someone’s death. But I rejoice in the opportunity that the death of a believer opens for communicating the majesty of Christ and the glories of the gospel while comforting the family and friends and presenting salvation by grace to those who are lost but have come to “pay their respects.” But what about an unbeliever’s funeral? Believe it or not, I also count this an opportunity to appropriately, truthfully, and compassionately share the gospel. I am constantly amazed at how wide the door opens for effective gospel communication at the funeral of an unbeliever. Clearly, the preacher cannot “preach someone into heaven” or give false assurances, but there is a way to carefully turn everyone’s attention to the realities of eternity and their need of the Savior.
Let’s address the challenge of an unbeliever’s funeral first. How do you preach the gospel at funerals for unbelievers? First, you must be committed to doing it. Second, you have to be compassionate while doing it. The implications will be obvious to any who listen to what you are thoughtfully yet pointedly saying about the gospel. The eternal state of the unbeliever who has died is revealed by the truth of the gospel. Let’s be clear. We are not called to make pronouncements about a person’s soul any more than we are allowed to give false assurances concerning his eternal state. Why? God alone is in the position of knowing that person’s heart and making pronouncements concerning his eternal destination — we do not know if perhaps he experienced a deathbed conversion. Instead, we are to preach the gospel and direct all in attendance to their need of the Savior in light of eternity.
The question from some would be, “Don’t you have a responsibility to tell them that the unbeliever who died is under the judgment of God?” The answer is no. We have a responsibility to say that any and all who have not put their trust in Christ are rightly under the judgment of God. The individual’s heart, I do not know. God alone is able and positioned to disclose and declare the condition of his heart and his eternal destination. What I must do is make clear that entrance into eternal life is only through Christ.
So, what about the death of believers? I have a confession to make. It is all that I can do to sit in a funeral service where the preacher begins with clichés of sentimentality that we somehow think will comfort people. In funerals, pastors must preach as they would in any preaching opportunity. We are to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). To paraphrase a Puritan divine, “Truth without love is barbarity and love without truth is cruelty.” Here is a practical suggestion to assist in this objective: always encourage the family members to ask someone who knows the individual well and can testify to his Christianity as well as his lifetime contributions to give a brief eulogy. A well-given eulogy allows the preacher to focus on the gospel, the glorious truth of forgiveness because of the cross and the bodily resurrection of Christ. A family eulogy positions the preacher to comfort the family, encourage believers, and evangelize any who are lost.
Personal remarks in the sermon are necessary and helpful, but remember that all true and lasting comfort comes in the gospel promises of redemption and resurrection fulfilled in the death and bodily resurrection of Christ. Because Christ is risen, the one who has died is “home.” Everyone sitting in the funeral service is not. The question to them is, “Where will you spend eternity?” One other practical suggestion. I love to use the Bible of the one who has gone to be with the Lord. I enjoy searching through it, securing notes from it, and noting places in it where he has underlined or written thoughts. Then, I love to use it and let everyone know that I am using it in the funeral. At the graveside after the benediction, I always place the Bible into the hands of the spouse or closest relative while giving words of personal comfort.
The preeminence of Christ our Redeemer and the truth of the gospel with the glorious promise of the resurrection must be simply, thoughtfully, and clearly articulated. Your challenge is that everyone in attendance has to undergo a paradigm shift. Most of your listeners believe their loved one or friend has just gone from “the land of the living” to “the land of the dying.” You must proclaim to them that the exact opposite is actually true. They have not left the “land of the living” to go to the “land of the dying”; they have left the “land of the dying” to go to “the land of the living.” As D.L. Moody told a New York journalist concerning the truth of the gospel and his approaching death: “Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of East Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.”
The Anatomy of Doubt
By R.C. Sproul 1/1/1992
Spiritus sanctus non est skepticus — “The Holy Spirit is not a skeptic.” So Luther rebuked Erasmus of Rotterdam for his expressed disdain for making sure assertions. Luther roared, “The making of assertions is the very mark of the Christian. Take away assertions and you take away Christianity. Away now, with the skeptics!”
Doubt is the hallmark of the skeptic. The skeptic dares to doubt the indubitable. Even demonstrable proof fails to persuade him. The skeptic dwells on Mt. Olympus, far aloof from the struggles of mortals who care to pursue truth.
But doubt has other faces. It is the assailant of the faithful striking fear into the hearts of the hopeful. Like Edith Bunker, doubt nags the soul. It asks “Are you sure?” Then, “Are you sure you’re sure?”
Still doubt can appear as a servant of truth. Indeed it is the champion of truth when it wields its sword against what is properly dubious. It is a citadel against credulity. Authentic doubt has the power to sort out and clarify the difference between the certain and the uncertain, the genuine and the spurious.
Consider Descartes. In his search for certainty, for clear and distinct ideas, he employed the application of a rigorous and systematic doubt process. He endeavored to doubt everything he could possibly doubt. He doubted what he saw with his eyes and heard with his ears. He realized that our senses can and do often deceive us. He doubted authorities, both civil and ecclesiastical, knowing that recognized authorities can be wrong. He would submit to no fides implicitum claimed by any human being or institution. Biographies usually declare that Descartes was a Frenchman but his works reveal that he was surely born in Missouri.
Descartes doubted everything he could possibly doubt until he reached the point where he realized there was one thing he couldn’t doubt. He could not doubt that he was doubting. To doubt that he was doubting was to prove that he was doubting. No doubt about it.
From that premise of indubitable doubt, Descartes appealed to the formal certainty yielded by the laws of immediate inference. Using impeccable deduction he concluded that to be doubting required that he be thinking, since thought is a necessary condition for doubting. From there it was a short step to his famous axiom, cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am.”
At last Descartes arrived at certainty, the assurance of his own personal existence. This was, of course, before Hume attacked causality and Kant argued that the self belongs to the unknowable noumenal realm that requires a “transcendental apperception” (whatever that is) to affirm at all. One wonders how Descartes would have responded to Hume and Kant had he lived long enough to deal with them. I have no doubt that the man of doubt would have prevailed.
There were clearly unstated assumptions lurking beneath the surface of Descartes’ logic. Indeed there was logic itself. To conclude that to doubt doubt is to prove doubt is a conclusion born of logic. It assumes the validity of the law of non-contradiction. If the law of non-contradiction is not a valid and necessary law of thought, then one could argue (irrationally to be sure) that doubt can be doubt and not be doubt at the same time and in the same relationship.
The second assumption was the validity of the law of causality (which, in the final analysis, is merely an extension of the law of non-contradiction). Descartes could not doubt that an effect not merely may, but must have an antecedent cause. Doubt, by logicial necessity, requires a doubter, even as thought requires a thinker. This is nothing more than arguing that action of any kind cannot proceed from non-being. Hume’s skepticism of causality was cogent insofar as he brilliantly displayed the difficulty of assigning a particular cause to a particular effect or event. But not even Hume was able to repeal the law of causality itself. It is one thing to doubt what the cause of a particular effect is, it is quite another to argue that the effect may have no cause at all. This is the fundamental error countless thinkers have made since Hume. I once read a critical review of Classical Apologetics in which the able and thoroughly Christian reviewer observed, “The problem with Sproul is that he refuses to acknowledge the possibility of an uncaused effect.”
I wrote to my reviewing collegue and pleaded guilty to the charge. Mea culpa. I do refuse to acknowledge even the most remote possibility of an uncaused effect. I have the same obstreperous stubbornness for circles that are not round and for married bachelors. I asked my friend to cite but one example, real or theoretical, of an uncaused effect and I would repent in dust and ashes. I’m still waiting for his reply. If he reads this perhaps it will jog his memory and induce him either to deliver the goods or admit his glaring error.
I certainly allow for uncaused being, namely God, but not for uncaused effects. An uncaused effect is an oxymoron, a veritable contradiction in terms, a statement patently and analytically false, which Descartes could refute in his Dutch oven without the benefit of empirical testing.
So how does this affect the Christian in his struggle with the doubts that assail faith? The content of Christianity, in all its parts, cannot be reduced simplistically to Cartesian syllogisms. The lesson we learn from Descartes is this: when assailed by doubt, it is time to search diligently for first principles that are certain. We build upon the foundation of what is sure. This affects the whole structure of apologetics. It is a matter of order. It seems astonishing to the lay person that anybody would go to the extremes Descartes insisted simply to discover that he existed. What could be more self-evident to a conscious being than one’s own self-consciousness? But Descartes was not on a fool’s errand. In a world of sophisticated skepticism, Descartes sought certainty for something that could serve as a foundation for much, much more. He moved from the certitude of self-consciousness to the certitude of the existence of God, no small matter for the doubt-ridden believer. Descartes and others like him understood that to prove the existence of God is prior to affirming the trustworthiness of Scripture and the birth and work of the person of Christ. Once it is certain that God exists and reveals Himself in Scripture, there is ground for a legitimate fides implicitum.
But the order of the process to destroy doubt is crucial. For example, the miracles of the Bible cannot and were never designed to prove the existence of God. The very possibility of a miracle requires that there first be a God who can empower it. In other words, it is not the Bible that proves the existence of God, it is God who through miracle attests that the Bible is His word. Thus proven, to believe the Bible implicitly is a virtue. To believe it gratuitously is not.
The most important certainty we can ever have is the foundational certainty of the existence of God. It is this matter that prompted Edwards to declare: “Nothing is more certain than that there must be an unmade and unlimited being” (Miscellany #1340).
On this bedrock of certainty rests the promises of that unmade, unlimited Being. On these promises we rest our faith. Doubting served Descartes well, but Edwards knew that ultimately, it is dubious to doubt the indubitable.
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
Nothing Like the Church
By Robert Rayburn 10/01/2011
It should come as no surprise that in Western culture, triumphantly individualistic as it is, institutions tend to suffer in people’s estimations. Christians, shaped too much by this culture, predictably have a diminished appreciation even for their very own institution. They may recognize a certain need for the church, but neither loyalty to and love for her, on the one hand, nor a conviction that an individual Christian’s fortunes are bound up with those of the church, on the other, is as central to Christian piety as in earlier ages. Christians nowadays do not typically sing songs in their worship that express the same sentiment as did the once treasured hymns “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” “The Church’s One Foundation,” or “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord.”
To be sure, it isn’t always easy to think the church glorious or to “prize her heavenly ways.” She has often disgraced herself, and many times, though our spiritual mother (Gal. 4:26), she has done her children more harm than good.
I grew up, like most every American boy, glorying in the achievements of the American military in the Second World War. As I grew older, I learned more, and much of what I learned was not to the credit of my boyhood heroes. Their victories in battles and the heroism of the sacrifices made by so many remained, but now I had to add these facts to my recollection of triumph: incompetent or vainglorious generals who kept mistresses throughout the war while their soldiers struggled to endure long separations from wives and sweethearts; stupid and often self-serving tactics that cost thousands upon thousands of lives unnecessarily; inter-service rivalries that sometimes seemed as bitter as the contest with the enemy; substandard equipment that made its manufacturers rich but left G.I.s to fight a better-equipped foe; vast quantities of such equipment siphoned off to the black market by soldiers hoping to profit from the war; and profane and ill-tempered soldiers, sailors, and airmen who must have often been as great a trial to put up with as the enemy himself. This was the military that won that war — and far too often, such has been the church.
Surely Martin Luther was right to say that there is no greater sinner than the church. It was, after all, the professed church that crucified the Lord of glory. Impossible as it seems, she was so theologically and spiritually corrupt that she thought she was serving God by putting the Son of God to death. And in the same blindness and stupidity, she has done similar things times without number. She has forsaken the Word of God and put obstacles in the way of her people’s reverence for the Bible; she has made peace with the unbelieving world around her; and she has persecuted those who have had the temerity to draw attention to her infidelity. It is one of the deep mysteries of divine providence that the visible church of the Lord Jesus Christ is not more impressive than she is.
It takes faith to love, admire, and respect the church. Her sins mount up before our eyes. But faith knows that the church’s failures are hardly the whole story. Augustine once said in a sermon that he had nowhere found better men and nowhere found worse than in monasteries. The same is true of the church at large, where despicable traitors and sterling saints jostle together. For all her failures — and they make for dismal reading — there is nothing like her in the world. As Archbishop William Temple once observed, the church is “the only cooperative society in the world that exists for the benefit of its non-members.” The church has done great things for the world. Anyone who reads church history knows how many exceptional people have belonged to her through the ages. The church’s hall of heroes must be very large indeed to have room for all who deserve to be remembered there. In addition, there are vast multitudes of simple people who lived in obscurity but who loved the Lord and lived lives of genuine faithfulness. Heaven knows their worth.
What Blaise Pascal said of the Word of God could just as well be said of the church of Jesus Christ: “There is enough brightness to illuminate the elect, and enough obscurity to humble them.” But then, we do not have to prove the church’s worth. The Lord Jesus has already done that by telling us that the church is His body, that He loved the church and gave Himself for her, that she is His bride, that He is head over all things for the church, and that He will not permit the gates of hell to prevail against her. Christians are duty-bound to think about things as their Lord and Savior does, and He has told us that the church is and remains the apple of His eye.
We must remember that there is but one institution in this world that will also exist in the world to come. It is not one’s country; it is not even one’s family. It is the church of God. It is disloyalty to Christ not to revere, serve, and prove loyal to His kingdom, His house, and His body, which is to say, His church.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 85Revive Us Again
85 To The Choirmaster: A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah.
1 LORD, you were favorable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you covered all their sin. Selah
3 You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.
4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us!
5 Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
6 Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,
and grant us your salvation.
8 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly.
9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
that glory may dwell in our land.
10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.
12 Yes, the LORD will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him
and make his footsteps a way.
The Good News
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 2/1/2009
I’ve got great news — I just saved a bundle on my car insurance. This pop-cultural punchline might just expose a real problem we have in our Christian sub-culture: we don’t know what the good news is.
The confusion, from one perspective, is understandable. God is good. God is gracious. We move from grace to grace, receiving gifts from Him all the time. God is in turn sovereign. He controls all things. When He tells us, therefore, that all things work together for good for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28), we can learn that it’s all good news. His coming, that’s good news. His dying, that’s good news. His ascending, that’s good news. His sending the Spirit, that’s good news. The Spirit applying all these things to His people, that’s good news. Even the trials we go through here and now, they are good news as well. We are, after all, to count it all joy.
That everything is good news, however, does not mean that everything is the good news. The authors of their respective gospels were not merely publishing everything they came upon. While each had their own peculiar focus, each of them together, on the other hand, were seeking to make known the good news. These four men, however, were not the first. Two other men before them labored diligently to make known the good news. One of those two was called the greatest man born of a woman by the Lord (Luke 7:28). The other was the Lord of glory Himself. If we would understand the Gospels, we would be wise to understand that the good news they were reporting was the good news proclaimed not just about Jesus, but by Jesus. The good news is that the kingdom has come. This is the message of Jesus: the kingdom of God is here.
On the other hand, the bad news is that the kingdom has come. The life, death, resurrection, ascension and return of Christ is to us who have been called, the very aroma of life. To those who are still outside the kingdom, it is the stench of death. It is the same kingdom either way, but for the seed of the woman (Christians) it is blessing, and for the seed of the serpent it is cursing. That this one kingdom can mean one thing for one group and the opposite for another can help explain how we have come to conflate some terms over time. That is, the difference between seeing the coming of the kingdom as an event of joy or of dread is found in one simple distinction — do we trust in the finished work of Christ alone or not? The seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent began in the same place, as enemies of the kingdom. We are all by nature children of wrath. But it is as we are gifted with repentance and believe that we move from darkness to light, that we are adopted into the very family of God. That’s good news. Better still, the king who has adopted us, He is now king indeed. That’s very good news.
Our gospel is a truncated shell of this great reality if the good news is merely that we don’t have to go to hell. It gets only slightly better if it means that our souls go to heaven. The fullness of the gospel is found in the fullness of the kingdom. Jesus is about the business of remaking all things. He is, after all, the first-born of the new creation. He is remaking all the created order that groans under the burden of our sin. He is remaking all the political order, as all kings everywhere learn to kiss the Son, lest He be angry (Ps. 2). He is remaking the church, His bride, removing from us corporately every blot and blemish. And He is remaking every one of us, reshaping us pots into vessels of grace.
We are a part of this good news precisely because He came and lived a life of perfect obedience in our place. We are a part of this precisely because He suffered the wrath of the Father that is due to us for our sins. We are a part of this because He has given us each a new heart that responds to His calling with repentance and faith. We bring nothing to the table but our need. Jesus has done it all. We are His workmanship, judged innocent by His death, judged righteous by His life.
There is still more good news. We are not merely by the good news of His atonement made citizens of that kingdom we are called to seek. We are not merely judged righteous by His righteousness that we were called to seek. We are by the same Spirit made kings and queens with Him. We are not just subjects but rulers. We are seated even now with Him in the heavenly places. Our calling is to believe these promises. Our calling is to be of good cheer, for He has already overcome the world (John 16:33). We do not wait for His kingdom to come, for it is here. Instead, we strive to make it ever more visible, as we make all things subject to His glorious reign.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
The Continual Burnt Offering (John 7:37-39)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
August 9John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. ESV
The gift of the Holy Spirit, indwelling each believer, was dependent upon the glorification of the Lord Jesus, following His sacrificial death and His triumph and resurrection. The Spirit has come to witness to these great truths. He has taken up His abode in all who have believed the gospel, and henceforth He is the power of the new life and the One who leads us out in testimony to the world. On our part we need to be very careful to deal with anything that would grieve Him or dishonor the Lord Jesus whom He delights to glorify. For it is only when He is unhindered by hidden or overt sin that He is free to do the work in which He delights — revealing the precious things of Christ to the soul that they may be shared with others.
How changed is life since now I see—
O blessed truth — Christ lives in me!
His Spirit fills me day by day,
And, as I yield, directs my way.
I need not cry in times of strife
For Him to come into my life,
For He is there since I believed
And Christ’s atoning work received.
Yea, even when my coolness grieves,
God’s Holy Spirit never leaves.
A God Omnipotent and Great,
The Bless’d and Only Potentate,
The Lord of lords and King of kings,
Creator of all living things—
What humbling on my Saviour’s part
That He should dwell within my heart!
--- Barbara E. Cornet
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
By John Walvoord
The Promised Land in the Millennium
Ezekiel 47:1–48:35. In the last two chapters of Ezekiel, attention is directed to the river that will flow from the temple and to the various boundaries and divisions of the Promised Land. The river will flow from the south side of the temple ( 47:1 ). The river is pictured as one of considerable volume, so much so that he could not wade across it (vv. 3–6 ).
Trees will grow on the banks of the river (vv. 7–9 ), and fish and other living creatures are related to the river. This river will flow into what is now the Dead Sea and will restore its water without salt (v. 8 ). The river will reach the ocean to the south of Israel and flow into the Gulf of Aqaba. Though the Dead Sea itself will no longer be salt but will be characterized by fresh water, marshes will be left that have salt, an important ingredient in the mineral world that will be for the benefit of Israel.
The boundaries of the land were outlined for Ezekiel’s information, as they will exist in the millennial kingdom. Though some of the geographic places mentioned are not certain, it is quite clear the northern boundary will run beyond Sidon from the Mediterranean north of Damascus and then come southwest to the Jordan River below the Sea of Galilee, and hence down to the Dead Sea where a portion of the land south of the Dead Sea will reach the River of Egypt. The Mediterranean will be the western boundary of Israel.
As outlined by Ezekiel, the land will be distributed from north to south, giving Dan a portion, then Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, and Judah. Judah’s southern boundary will be marked out as the prince’s and priests’ portions. South of this will be Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, and Gad. There is no reason to question that these are literal places and situations. These prophecies have never been fulfilled in the past but will be fulfilled in the future millennial kingdom after the second coming of Christ.
The millennial Jerusalem is also described as a glorious city with twelve gates, three on each side. The gates will bear the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, the northern gates bearing the names of Reuben, Judah, and Levi; the eastern gates being named for Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan; the southern gates named after Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun; and the western gates named after Gad, Asher, and Naphtali ( 48:30–34 ).
Notably different from the present state of Jerusalem will be the fact that Jerusalem will in the millennium have the glorious presence of God (v. 35 ). The return of the visible glory of God to the city indicates God’s blessing on Israel and Jerusalem in the millennial state. The millennial Jerusalem is much smaller than the New Jerusalem in the new earth that will be the eternal city ( Rev. 21:15–17 ).
Though many attempts have been made to symbolize the prophecies of Ezekiel as if they were past or present, obviously, the simplest and best interpretation in keeping with the way the prophecy was presented is to take it in its literal form as a prophecy of future events.
Introduction To The Book Of Daniel
Among prophetic biblical books, Daniel has a special place that sets it apart as a unique and distinctive contribution. Written by Daniel, a Jewish captive carried off from Jerusalem to Babylon in 605 BC, the book records not only illuminating experiences of Daniel himself but also the remarkable prophecies God gave to him that provide a chronology both for the times of the Gentiles and for the future of Israel up to the second coming of Christ. Daniel lived longer than the seventy years of the captivity and was still a prominent character in 536 BC in the third year of Cyrus the Persian. Though the death of Daniel was not recorded, he probably lived to about 530 BC, which gave him ample time to complete the writing of the book of Daniel.
Though some have attacked the book of Daniel as not genuine Scripture, it is clear that the book itself claims to be a project of Daniel, as he is referred to in the first person in numerous passages in the second half of the book ( 7:2, 15, 28; 8:1, 15, 27; 9:2, 22; 10:2, 7, 11–12; 12:5 ). Daniel is also mentioned in Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 28:3, which would be quite natural as Ezekiel was a contemporary of Daniel, who as a primary official of the Babylonian Empire would, no doubt, be known by Ezekiel.
The authenticity of the book of Daniel went unchallenged from the time of its writing, before 530 BC, until the third century of the Christian era, or about eight hundred years. A pagan and atheistic writer by the name of Porphyry (third century AD) raised the question whether the book of Daniel was a genuine biblical prophecy on the premise that prophecy of the future is impossible.
Porphyry found that the book of Daniel was so accurate in describing future events that it must have been written after the event. He advanced the theory that the book was a forgery, written in the Maccabean period around 175 BC. His attack on the book of Daniel aroused immediate opposition and later caused Jerome (AD 347–420) to write his own commentary on Daniel in which he answered Porphyry in detail.
For another 1,300 years orthodox Christians and Jews considered Daniel a genuine book until modern liberalism arose in the seventeenth century. Critics of the Bible as the inspired Word of God picked up Porphyry’s idea and attempted to prove that Daniel was not a genuine book of the Bible. Their objections have been answered in full by many conservative scholars. The discovery of a book of Daniel in the Dead Sea Scrolls (ca. 100 BC), on the basis of premises entertained by the liberals themselves, proved that it was impossible for the book to have been written in the second century BC, and that it clearly was written many years before. Both Jewish and Christian scholars have attested to the genuine character of the book of Daniel, and the proof includes recognition of Christ Himself of “Daniel the prophet” ( Matt. 24:15 NASB).
Daniel is found in the Hebrew Bible in what is known as “The Writings” rather than “The Prophecy.” This has been explained by the fact that Daniel professionally was a government official rather than a prophet and because his book was so different compared with other prophetic writings. However, the prophetic character is recognized in the Septuagint and the Vulgate, and Luther classified Daniel as one of the major prophets. Early in the history of the church, Josephus put Daniel with the other prophetic books of the Old Testament.
The book of Daniel is often classified as apocalyptic from the Greek apokalypsis (meaning “to uncover, to unveil”) because many of its prophecies were revealed in symbolic form. However, the book of Daniel itself usually explained the symbols and gave them plain meaning. Other apocalyptic books such as Ezekiel and Zechariah take their place along with the book of Revelation in the New Testament.
The book of Daniel, unlike most Old Testament books, was written in two languages, beginning with Hebrew and then changing to Aramaic, beginning in 2:4 and ending at 7:28. As Aramaic was the standard language of Babylon, it was natural for this portion of the book that deals with Gentiles to be written in the language that was currently used among the Gentiles in Daniel’s time.
The book of Daniel has been often divided into the first section, Daniel 1–6 as primarily history, though it included prophetic revelation, and Daniel 7–12 as prophetic because in these chapters Daniel recorded visions that he himself had. Another approach has been to recognize Daniel 1 as Daniel’s personal background, chapters 2–7 as dealing with the times of the Gentiles, and chapters 8–12 as dealing with Gentile history as it relates to Israel.
The book of Daniel, more so than any other book in the Old Testament, reveals very specific prophecies concerning the future, so specific that those who believed that prophecy of the future was impossible have been forced to try to put the record of Daniel after the event. However, even a second-century Daniel could not explain some prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled. An outstanding illustration of detailed prophecy is Daniel 11:1–35, containing over one hundred specific prophecies, all of which have been fulfilled.
Because so many of Daniel’s prophecies have already been literally fulfilled, it gives substantial basis for faith that the prophecies not yet fulfilled will have the same literal fulfillment in God’s time. Accordingly, the book of Daniel is not only important as a key to understanding the past in God’s sovereign control of both Gentile and Jewish history, but it also gives insight concerning the future, and in particular it helps readers understand the symbolism in the book of Revelation.
In most respects, Daniel gave the most comprehensive and detailed picture of the times of the Gentiles of any book of the Bible as well as the future history of Israel from Daniel’s time to the second coming of Christ. Accordingly, the book of Daniel is the key to prophetic interpretation, and proper understanding of its revelation would do much to help the interpretation of other prophetic portions.
Prophecy Of The Times Of The Gentiles In Daniel
Daniel 1:1–21. The book of Daniel begins with the explanation of how Daniel and his companions were carried off to Babylon to be schooled in Babylonian religion and history in order to become servants of the king. Though Daniel 1 is not prophetic itself, it justifies the claim that Daniel was a prophet, and his interpretation of the prophetic vision of Nebuchadnezzar forms the basis for later, more detailed prophecy concerning the times of the Gentiles. The fact that Daniel stood the test of obeying Israel’s law rather than giving in to the dietary customs of the Babylonians made it possible for God to use him as a pure instrument through whom He could reveal His truth. Daniel and his three companions stood out as those who were true to God when other Jewish captives undoubtedly compromised, others whose names were lost to history.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Prophetic Image
Daniel 2:1–16. King Nebuchadnezzar had a series of dreams that deeply troubled him so that he could not sleep (v. 1 ). Even though it may not have been during an hour when the court was in session, he required his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers to appear before him to interpret the dream (v. 2 ). When they were assembled, they asked the king about the content of the dream (v. 4 ). He informed them, however, that he was not going to tell them the dream, and if they would not tell him the dream and its interpretation, they would be cut into pieces and their houses destroyed (v. 5 ). This was no idle threat, as ancient monarchs were known for cruel, unusual punishments.
Scholars are divided as to whether Nebuchadnezzar purposefully withheld knowledge of the dream or did not remember the dream well enough to communicate it to his counselors. There was a possibility that Nebuchadnezzar, a young ruler, who had inherited these counselors from his father, was somewhat impatient with their claims to supernatural powers and knowledge and wanted to test them.
Though the counselors pled with the king to inform them concerning the dream (v. 7 ), the king reaffirmed that if they did not tell him the dream and its interpretation, the penalty would be inflicted (vv. 8–9 ). When the astrologers protested that this was a request no king had ever demanded of his subjects (vv. 10–11 ), the king was so angry that he ordered their immediate execution. Daniel and his three companions, though classified as wise men, were apparently not in the company, but they were sought out for execution along with the others (v. 13 ).
When the commander of the king’s guard, Arioch, informed Daniel of the decree, “Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him” (v. 16 ). Apparently Nebuchadnezzar had cooled down, and the thought of this young servant, not yet twenty years of age, being able to interpret the dream no doubt intrigued him and set Daniel apart from the fawning counselors with whom the king had dealt first.
Daniel 2:17–18. Daniel shared his problem with his three companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (v. 17 ), and together they turned to the Lord in prayer that they might have the secret revealed to them.
Daniel 2:19–23. Daniel had the secret revealed to him in a night vision (v. 19 ) and immediately gave praise to the Lord in a remarkable poetic utterance.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
4/1/2016 Muslims Need Christ
Just before I sat down to write this article, the terrorist group known as ISIS claimed responsibility for another attack in the Middle East. In this latest incident, Muslim terrorists reportedly killed more than twelve people, injured more than twenty-five people, and took as many as fifty hostages. Sadly, we have grown accustomed to such horrendous news—so accustomed that we have almost come to expect such news every day. If we have not become desensitized to these sinful and shameful acts of terrorism, we feel a range of emotions, from anger to sadness, vengeance to helplessness, defensiveness to aggression.
ISIS is a Muslim jihadist organization striving to establish a caliphate to rule over the entire Muslim civilization and, eventually, over the entire world. A caliphate is an Islamic body ruled by a single political and religious leader, called a caliph. The caliph is regarded as successor to Muhammad and the supreme leader of all Muslims. ISIS is, without question, a Muslim group striving to be faithful to its interpretation of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and to be faithful to Sharia, the moral code and religious law of Islam. However, not all who claim to be Muslims have the same interpretation of the Qur’an. Many Muslims throughout the world only follow certain aspects of the Qur’an and Sharia law. Some Muslims, particularly in the West, have denounced the actions of ISIS.
Islam is the second-largest religion in the world, but it is also one of the most divided religions in the world. Islam’s varied socio-religious expressions and Quranic interpretations can give the appearance of numerous Islamic religions. In fact, most of those who claim to be Muslims whom I have met over the years in Africa, Iran, Europe, the United Kingdom, and Central Florida (home to about thirty thousand Muslims) have never read the Qur’an and do not faithfully follow the Five Pillars of Islam. Most Muslims I have met are Muslims in name—cultural, familial, national Muslims—but they are not practicing, faithful Muslims. Nevertheless, all Muslims—whether they are nominal Muslims or fundamentalist Muslims, whether they are our next door neighbors or members of ISIS—need to hear the gospel and need to repent and trust Jesus Christ alone, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Although we do not worship the same God, we are all made in the image of the one and only triune God, Yahweh, who calls us to love Muslims and be ready to give an answer with gentleness and respect to those Muslims who ask us about the hope that is in us.
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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
The groans of a dying man kept him awake in the little inn outside New York. He was hardened to the cries because a college friend had persuaded him to be an atheist. The next Morning he learned the man who died in the night was none other than his college friend. His faith renewed, he became America’s first foreign missionary. His name was Adonirum Judson, born this day, August 9, 1788. Adonirum and his wife sailed for India, but were forced by the British East India Tea Company to flee to Burma. There they translated Scriptures, started schools, and their work grew to over a half-million people.
Compilation by Richard S. Adams
It was not the outer granduer of the Roman
but the inner simplicity of the Christian
that lived through the ages.
--- Charles Lindbergh
Until you have stopped trying to be good and being pleased with the evidences of holiness in yourself, you will never open the wicket gate that leads to the more excellent way. The life ‘hid with Christ in God’—that is the more excellent way.
--- Oswald Chambers
If Thou Wilt Be Perfect...
Just when my hopes have vanished, just when my friends forsake,
Just when the fight is thickest, just when with fear I shake,
Then comes a still small whisper, “Fear not my child, I’m near!”
Jesus brings peace and comfort; I love His voice to hear.
--- J. Bruce Evans
One leak will sink a ship, and one sin will destroy a sinner.
--- John Bunyan
The Pilgrim's Progress (Complete with an Introduction by Charles S. Baldwin)
The world of reason is unhinged from any ultimate purpose in life. This is the terrifying reality we face in a world of thinkers who think thinking is bereft of an ultimate thinker. This is the world of persons who believe that there is no ultimate person to whom personhood can look. This is the world of warfare among ideas, where good and bad are vacuous terms.
--- Ravi Zacharias
Light in the Shadow of Jihad: The Struggle for Truth
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
Josephus Makes An Attempt Upon Sepphoris But Is Repelled. itus Comes With A Great Army To Ptolemais.
1. Now the auxiliaries which were sent to assist the people of Sepphoris, being a thousand horsemen, and six thousand footmen, under Placidus the tribune, pitched their camp in two bodies in the great plain. The foot were put into the city to be a guard to it, but the horse lodged abroad in the camp. These last, by marching continually one way or other, and overrunning the parts of the adjoining country, were very troublesome to Josephus and his men; they also plundered all the places that were out of the city's liberty, and intercepted such as durst go abroad. On this account it was that Josephus marched against the city, as hoping to take what he had lately encompassed with so strong a wall, before they revolted from the rest of the Galileans, that the Romans would have much ado to take it; by which means he proved too weak, and failed of his hopes, both as to the forcing the place, and as to his prevailing with the people of Sepphoris to deliver it up to him. By this means he provoked the Romans to treat the country according to the law of war; nor did the Romans, out of the anger they bore at this attempt, leave off, either by night or by day, burning the places in the plain, and stealing away the cattle that were in the country, and killing whatsoever appeared capable of fighting perpetually, and leading the weaker people as slaves into captivity; so that Galilee was all over filled with fire and blood; nor was it exempted from any kind of misery or calamity, for the only refuge they had was this, that when they were pursued, they could retire to the cities which had walls built them by Josephus.
2. But as to Titus, he sailed over from Achaia to Alexandria, and that sooner than the winter season did usually permit; so he took with him those forces he was sent for, and marching with great expedition, he came suddenly to Ptolemais, and there finding his father, together with the two legions, the fifth and the tenth, which were the most eminent legions of all, he joined them to that fifteenth legion which was with his father; eighteen cohorts followed these legions; there came also five cohorts from Cesarea, with one troop of horsemen, and five other troops of horsemen from Syria. Now these ten cohorts had severally a thousand footmen, but the other thirteen cohorts had no more than six hundred footmen apiece, with a hundred and twenty horsemen. There were also a considerable number of auxiliaries got together, that came from the kings Antiochus, and Agrippa, and Sohemus, each of them contributing one thousand footmen that were archers, and a thousand horsemen. Malchus also, the king of Arabia, sent a thousand horsemen, besides five thousand footmen, the greatest part of which were archers; so that the whole army, including the auxiliaries sent by the kings, as well horsemen as footmen, when all were united together, amounted to sixty thousand, besides the servants, who, as they followed in vast numbers, so because they had been trained up in war with the rest, ought not to be distinguished from the fighting men; for as they were in their masters' service in times of peace, so did they undergo the like dangers with them in times of war, insomuch that they were inferior to none, either in skill or in strength, only they were subject to their masters.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
and giving to the rich yield only loss.
by Frank W. Boreham
I can see them now as they come, very slowly and in single file, down the winding old lane. The declining sun is shining through the tops of the poplars, the zest of daytime begins to soften into the hush and cool of evening, when they come leisurely sauntering through the grass that grows luxuriously beside the road. One after another they come quietly along—Cherry and Brindle, Blossom and Darkie, Beauty and Crinkle, Daisy and Pearl. A stranger watching them as they appear round the bend of the pretty old lane fancies each of them to be the last, and has just abandoned all hope of seeing another, when the next pair of horns makes its unexpected appearance. They never hurry home; they just come. A particularly tempting wisp in the long sweet grass under the hedge will induce an instant halt. The least thing passing along the road stops the whole procession; and they stare fixedly at the intruder till he is well on his way. And then, with no attempt to make up for lost time, they jog along at the same old pace once more. It is good to watch them. When the whirl of life is too much for me; when my brain reels and my temples throb; when the hurry around me distracts my spirit and disturbs my peace; when I get caught in the tumult and the bustle and the rush—then I like to throw myself back in my chair for a moment and close my eyes. I am back once more in the dear old lane among the haws and the filberts. I catch once more the smell of the brier. I see again the squirrel up there in the oak and the rabbit under the hedge. I listen as of old to the chirp of the grasshopper in the stubble, to the hum of the bees among the foxgloves, to the song of the blackbird on the hawthorn, and, best of all—yes, best of all for brain unsteadied and nerve unstrung—I see the cows coming home.
It is a great thing to be able to believe the whole day long that, when evening comes, the cows will all come home. That is the faith of the milkmaid. As the day drags on she looks through the lattice window and catches occasional glimpses of Cherry and Brindle, Blossom and Darkie, Beauty and Crinkle, Daisy and Pearl. They are always wandering farther and farther away across the fields; but she keeps a quiet heart. In her deepest soul she cherishes a lovely secret. She knows that, when the sunbeams slant through the tall poplar spires, the cows will all come home. She does not pretend to understand the mysterious instinct that will later on turn the faces of Cherry and Brindle towards her. She cannot explain the wondrous force that will direct Blossom and Darkie into the old lane, and guide them along its folds to the white gate down by the byre. But where she cannot trace she trusts. And all day long she clings to her sunny faith without wavering. She never doubts for a moment that the cows will all come home.
Is there anything in the wide world more beautiful than the confidence of a good woman in the salvation of her children? For years they cluster round her knee; she reads with them; prays with them; welcomes their childish confidences. Then, one by one, away they go! The heat of the day may bring waywardness, and even shame; but, like the milkmaid watching the cows through the lattice, she is sure they will all come home. Think of Susanna Wesley with her great family of nineteen children around her. What a wonderful story it is, the tale of her personal care and individual solicitude for the spiritual welfare of each of them! And what a picture it is that Sir A. T. Quiller-Couch has painted of the holy woman's deathbed! John arrives and is welcomed at the door by poor Hetty, the prodigal daughter.
'"The end is very near—a few hours perhaps!" Hetty tells him.
'"And she is happy?"
'"Ah, so happy!" Hetty's eyes brimmed with tears and she turned away.
'"Sister, that happiness is for you, too. Why have you, alone of us, so far rejected it?"
'Hetty stepped to the door with a feeble gesture of the hands. She knew that, worn as he was with his journey, if she gave him the chance he would grasp it and pause, even while his mother panted her last, to wrestle for and win a soul—not because she, Hetty, was his sister, but simply because hers was a soul to be saved. Yes, and she foresaw that sooner or later he would win; that she would be swept into the flame of his conquest. She craved only to be let alone; she feared all new experience; she distrusted even the joy of salvation. Life had been too hard for Hetty.' And on another page we have an extract from Charles's journal. 'I prayed by my sister, a gracious, tender, trembling soul; a bruised reed which the Lord will not break.'
The cows had all come home. The milkmaid's faith had not failed.
The happiest people in the world, and the best, are the people who go through life as the milkmaid goes through the day, believing that before night the cows will all come home. It is a faith that does not lend itself to apologetics, but, like the coming of the cows, it seems to work out with amazing regularity. It is what Myrtle Reed would call 'a woman's reasoning.' It is because it is. The cows will all come home because the cows will all come home.
'Good wife, what are you singing for?
you know we've lost the hay,
And what we'll do with horse and kye
is more than I can say;
While, like as not, with storm and rain,
we'll lose both corn and wheat.'
She looked up with a pleasant face,
and answered low and sweet,
There is a Heart, there is a Hand,
we feel but cannot see;
We've always been provided for,
and we shall always be.'
'That's like a woman's reasoning, we must because we must!'
She softly said, 'I reason not, I only work and trust;
The harvest may redeem the hay, keep heart whate'er betide;
When one door's shut I've always found another open wide.
There is a Heart, there is a Hand, we feel but cannot see
We've always been provided for, and we shall always be.'
The fact is that the milkmaid has a kind of understanding with Providence. She is in league with the Eternal. And Providence has a way of its own of keeping faith with trustful hearts like hers. I was reading the other day Commander J. W. Gambier's Links in my Life, and was amused at the curious inconsistency which led the author first to sneer at Providence and then to bear striking witness to its fidelity. As a young fellow the Commander came to Australia and worked on a way-back station, but he had soon had enough. 'I was to try what fortune could do for a poor man; but I believed in personal endeavour and the recognition of it by Providence. I did not know Providence.'
'I did not know Providence!' sneers our young bushman.
'The cows will all come home,' says the happy milkmaid.
But on the very same page that contains the sneer Commander Gambier tells this story. When he was leaving England the old cabman who drove him to the station said to him, 'If you see my son Tom in Australia, ask him to write home and tell us how he's getting on.' 'I explained,' the Commander tells us, 'that Australia was a big country, and asked him if he had any idea of the name of the place his son had gone to. He had not.' As soon as Commander Gambier arrived at Newcastle, in New South Wales, he met an exceptionally ragged ostler. As the ostler handed him his horse, Mr. Gambier felt an irresistible though inexplicable conviction that this was the old cabman's son. He felt absolutely sure of it; so he said:
'Your name is Fowles, isn't it?'
He looked amazed, and seemed to think that his questioner had some special reason for asking him, and was at first disinclined to answer. But Mr. Gambier pressed him and said, 'Your father, the Cheltenham cab-driver, asked me to look you up.'
He then admitted that he was the man, and Mr. Gambier urged him to write to his father. All this on the selfsame page as the ugly sneer about Providence!
And a dozen pages farther on I came upon a still more striking story. Commander Gambier was very unfortunate, very homesick, and very miserable in Australia. He could not make up his mind whether to stay here or return to England. 'At last,' he says, 'I resolved to leave it to fate.' The only difference that I can discover between the 'Providence' whom Commander Gambier could not trust, and the 'fate' to which he was prepared to submit all his fortunes, is that the former is spelt with a capital letter and the latter with a small one! But to the story. 'On the road where I stood was a small bush grog-shop, and the coaches pulled up here to refresh the ever-thirsty bush traveller. At this spot the up-country and down-country coaches met, and I resolved that I would get into whichever came in first, leaving it to destiny to settle. Looking down the long, straight track over which the up-country coach must come, I saw a cloud of dust, and well can I remember the curious sensation I had that I was about to turn my back upon England for ever! But in the other direction a belt of scrub hid the view, the road making a sharp turn. And then, almost simultaneously, I heard a loud crack of a whip, and round this corner, at full gallop, came the down coach, pulling up at the shanty not three minutes before the other! I felt like a man reprieved, for my heart was really set on going home; and I jumped up into the down coach with a great sense of relief!' And thus Mr. Gambier returned to England, became a Commander in the British Navy, and one of the most distinguished ornaments of the service. He sneers at 'Providence,' yet trusts to 'fate,' and leaves everything to 'destiny'! The milkmaid's may be an inexplicable confidence; but this is an inexplicable confusion. Both are being guided by the same Hand—the Hand that leads the cows home. She sees it and sings. He scouts it and sneers. That is the only difference.
Carlyle spent the early years of his literary life, until he was nearly forty, among the mosshags and isolation of Craigenputtock. It was, Froude says, the dreariest spot in all the British dominions. The house was gaunt and hungry-looking, standing like an island in a sea of morass. When he felt the lure of London, and determined to fling himself into its tumult, he took 'one of the biggest plunges that a man might take.' But in that hour of crisis he built his faith on one great golden word. 'All things work together for good to them that love God,' he wrote to his brother. And, later on, when his mother was in great distress at the departure of her son, Alick, for America, Carlyle sent her the same text. 'You have had much to suffer, dear mother,' he wrote, 'and are grown old in this Valley of Tears; but you say always, as all of us should say, "Have we not many mercies too?" Is there not above all, and in all, a Father watching over us, through whom all sorrows shall yet work together for good? Yes, it is even so. Let us try to hold by that as an anchor both sure and steadfast.' Which is another way of saying, 'It is all right, mother mine. Let them wander as they will whilst the sun is high; when it slants through the poplars the cows will all come home!'
The homeward movement of the cows is part of the harmony of the universe. Man himself goeth forth, the psalmist says, unto his work and to his labour until the evening. Until the evening—and then, like the cows, he comes home. It is this sense of harmony between the coming of the cows on the one hand, and all their environment on the other, that gave Gray the opening thought for his 'Elegy in a Country Churchyard':
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Here are two pictures—the tired ploughman and the lowing herd both coming home; and the two together make up a perfect harmony. It is a stroke of poetic genius. We are made to feel the weariness of the tired ploughman in order that we may be able to appreciate the restfulness of the evening, the solitude of the quiet churchyard, and the cows coming slowly home. I blamed myself at the beginning for sometimes getting caught in the fever and tumult of life; but then, if I never knew such exhausting experiences, I should never be able to enjoy the delicious stillness of the evening, I should never be able to see the beauty of the herd winding so slowly o'er the lea. It is just because the ploughman has toiled so hard, and done his work so well, that his weariness blends so perfectly with the restfulness of the dusk. For it is only those who have bravely borne the burden and heat of the day who can relish the sweetness and peace of the twilight. It is a man's duty to keep things in their right place. I do not mean merely that he should keep his hat in the hall, and his book on the shelf. I mean that, as far as possible, a man ought to keep his toil to the daylight, and his rest to the dusk.
Dr. Chalmers held that our three-score years and ten are really seven decades corresponding with the seven days of the week. Six of them, he said, should be spent in strenuous endeavour.
But the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God, and should be spent in Sabbatic quiet. That ideal is not always capable of realization. For the matter of that, it is not always possible to abstain from work on the Lord's Day. But it is good to keep it before us as an ideal. We may at least determine that, on the Sunday, we will perform only deeds of necessity and mercy. And, in the same way, we may resolve that we will leave as little work as possible to be done in the twilight of life. It was one of the chiefest of the prophets who told us that 'it is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth.' If I were the director of a life insurance company, I should have that great word blazoned over the portal of the office. If, by straining an extra nerve in the heyday of his powers, a man may ensure to himself some immunity from care in the evening, he is under a solemn obligation to do so. The weary ploughman has no right to labour after the cows come home.
For, in some respects, the sweetest part of the day follows the coming of the cows. I have a notion that most of the old folk would say so. During the day they fancied that the cows had gone, to return no more. But they all came home. 'And now,' says old Margaret Ogilvy, 'and now it has all come true like a dream. I can call to mind not one little thing I ettled for in my lusty days that hasna' been put into my hands in my auld age. I sit here useless, surrounded by the gratification of all my wishes and all my ambitions; and at times I'm near terrified, for it's as if God had mista'en me for some other woman.' They wandered long, that is to say, and they wandered far. But they all came home—Cherry and Brindle, Blossom and Darkie, Beauty and Crinkle, Daisy and Pearl—they all came home. Happy are all they who sing in their souls the milkmaid's song, and never, never doubt that, when the twilight gathers round them, the cows will all come home!
Mushrooms on the Moor
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Prayer in the Father’s hearing
Father, I thank Thee that thou hast heard Me.
--- John 11:41.
When the Son of God prays, He has only one consciousness, and that consciousness is of His Father. God always hears the prayers of His Son, and if the Son of God is formed in me the Father will always hear my prayers. I have to see that the Son of God is manifested in my mortal flesh. “Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost,” the ‘Bethlehem’ of the Son of God. Is the Son of God getting His chance in me? Is the direct simplicity of the life of God’s Son being worked out exactly as it was worked out in His historic life? When I come in contact with the occurrences of life as an ordinary human being, is the prayer of God’s Eternal Son to His Father being prayed in me? “In that day ye shall ask in My name.…” What day? The day when the Holy Ghost has come to me and made me effectually one with my Lord.
Is the Lord Jesus Christ being abundantly satisfied in your life or have you got a spiritual ‘strut’ on? Never let common sense obtrude and push the Son of God on one side. Common sense is a gift which God gave to human nature; but common sense is not the gift of His Son. Supernatural sense is the gift of His Son; never enthrone common sense. The Son detects the Father; common sense never yet detected the Father and never will. Our ordinary wits never worship God unless they are transfigured by the indwelling Son of God. We have to see that this mortal flesh is kept in perfect subjection to Him and that He works through it moment by moment. Are we living in such human dependence upon Jesus Christ that His life is being “manifested in our mortal flesh”?
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
of the spirit! What
Century, love? I,
Too; you remember --
Brescia? This sunlight reminds
Of the brocade. I dined
Long. And now the music
Of darkness in your eyes
Sounds. But Brescia,
And the spreading foliage
Of smoke! With Yeats' birds
Of the years, is this
Your answer? The long dream
Unwound; we followed
Through time to the tryst
With ourselves. But wheels roll
Between and the shadow
Of the plane falls. The
Nameless on the tall
Steps. Master, I
Do not wish, I do not wish
Hearing isn’t like seeing.
BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 19:7–9 / Moses came and summoned the elders of the people and put before them all that the Lord had commanded him. All the people answered as one, saying, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the people’s words to the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, “I will come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.” Then Moses reported the people’s words to the Lord.…
MIDRASH TEXT / Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael, Yitro 2 / Then Moses reported.… Rabbi Elazar ben Parata says, “But what did the Omnipresent One say to Moses to tell Israel? And what did Israel tell Moses to say to the Omnipresent One? Since it says, ‘Moses went and repeated to the people [all the commands of the Lord and all the rules]’ (Exodus 24:3). He [Moses] said to them, ‘If you receive the punishments with joy, you also receive the reward. And if not, you’ll receive misfortunes.’ Thus, they received the punishments with joy.” Rabbi says, “But what did the Omnipresent One say to Moses to tell Israel? And what did Israel tell Moses to say to the Omnipresent One? They said, ‘We want to hear it directly from our king. Hearing from an underling is not like hearing from the king.’ The Omnipresent One said, ‘Give them what they asked for, “that the people may hear when I speak with you” ’ ” (Exodus 19:9). Another interpretation: They said, “We want to see our king. Hearing isn’t like seeing.” The Omnipresent One said, “Give them what they asked for, ‘for on the third day the Lord will come down, in the sight of all the people, on Mount Sinai’ ” (Exodus 19:11).
CONTEXT / When the Israelites stood at Sinai, ready to receive the Law from God, Moses acted as intermediary between God and the people. Moses tells the people God’s laws, and the people answer that they will faithfully observe these laws. Moses repeats this to God. (The Rabbis call God הַמָּקוֹם/Ha-Makom, “the Place,” because of the belief that God could be found in every place. Thus, we have translated Ha-Makom as “the Omnipresent One.”) Moses reports God’s instructions to the people and the people’s responses to God.
There is one interchange that particularly interested the Rabbis:
And the Lord said to Moses, “I will come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.” Then Moses reported the people’s words to the Lord.…
Rabbi Elazar ben Parata therefore asks, “But what did the Omnipresent One say to Moses to tell Israel?” God spoke to Moses, but there was no instruction to Moses to repeat these words to the people, nor does the text say—as it does explicitly elsewhere—that Moses reiterated God’s commands to the Israelites. In addition, “What did Israel tell Moses to say to the Omnipresent One?” The text says that “Moses reported the people’s words to the Lord,” How could Moses report what was not said, or at least not said explicitly in the text? (Elsewhere, we’re told exactly what the people said, and that Moses repeated those same words to God.)
Rabbi Elazar ben Parata then answers his own question: Since it says, ‘Moses went and repeated to the people [all the commands of the Lord and all the rules]’ (Exodus 24:3). Rabbi Elazar contends that these are the words that they shared. The exact conversation is simply not recorded in the Bible itself. Often, the Rabbis fill in details in the biblical text, based on either oral tradition or what they assumed happened. Rabbi Elazar offers a plausible conversation that “took place” between God, Moses, and the Israelites:
He [Moses] said to them, “If you receive the punishments with joy, you also receive the reward. And if not, you’ll receive misfortunes.” Thus, they received the punishments with joy.
Another explanation is given by Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi, the political head of the Jewish community of Israel in the third century and the codifier of the Mishnah. He envisions that they, the Israelites, said, “We want to hear it directly from our king. Hearing from an underling is not like hearing from the king.” The Omnipresent One said, “Give them what they asked for—and then, quoting a verse from this chapter—‘that the people may hear when I speak with you.’ ”
Another interpretation, this one anonymous: They, the Israelites, said, “We want to see our king. Hearing isn’t like seeing.” Rather than saying “We don’t want God’s agent,” they say, “We want to see—not only hear—God.” The Omnipresent One said, “Give them what they asked for. God agrees, and the proof for this can be found in verse 11, which states that “on the third day the Lord will come down, in the sight of all the people, on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:11).” God has agreed to “come down” to the people, not only to be heard but also to be seen by them.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
My lover is mine and I am his. --- Song of Songs 2:16.
This mystic union affords much comfort to believers in several cases. (The Essential Works of John Flavel)
In the case of the disrespect and unkindness of the world. Though we live in an unkind world, we have a kind husband. The Father’s love to Christ is the pattern of Christ’s love to his spouse. This love of Christ as far exceeds all created love as the sun outshines the light of a torch. Though the world hates me, Christ still loves me.
In the case of weakness of grace. You are the spouse of Christ, and he will bear with you as the weaker vessel. Will a husband divorce his wife because she is weak and sickly? This is the spouse’s comfort when she is weak. Her Husband can infuse strength into her: “My God has been my strength” (Isa. 49:5).
In the case of death. When believers die, they go to their husband. When a woman is engaged, she longs for the day of marriage. After the saints’ funerals, their marriage begins. God is wise; he lets us meet with changes and troubles here so that he may wean us from the world and make us long for death. When the soul is divorced from the body, it is married to Christ.
In the case of passing sentence at the day of judgment. O Christian, your husband will be your judge. If the Devil brings indictments against you, Christ will obliterate your sins in his blood. Christ cannot pass sentence against his spouse without passing it against himself, for Christ and believers are one. Oh, what a comfort this is!
In the case of the saints’ suffering. The church of God is exposed in this life to many injuries, but she has a husband in heaven who is mindful of her. Now it is a time of mourning with the spouse because the Bridegroom is absent. But shortly she will end her mourning. Christ “will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces” (Isa. 25:8). Christ will comfort his spouse. He will solace her with his love; he will take away the cup of trembling and give her the cup of consolation. She will forget all her sorrows, being called into the banqueting house of heaven and having the banner of Christ’s love displayed over her.
--- Thomas Watson
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Cain Ridge Revival August 9
Christianity fell away following the American Revolution. A Scotsman traveling through the South saw “few religious people.” Francis Asbury found “not one in a hundred” concerned about religion. Alcoholism was rampant, and universalism and deism captivated the infant nation.
But in 1800 scattered revivals erupted like geysers in the backlands of Kentucky. People gathered under makeshift arbors while the Gospel was preached, sometimes accompanied by emotional outbursts. Barton Stone, pastor of the Presbyterian church at Cain Ridge (near Lexington), hearing of the camp meetings, witnessed one for himself—The scene was passing strange. Many fell down as slain in battle and continued for hours in an apparently motionless state—sometimes for a few moments reviving and exhibiting symptoms of life by a deep groan or by a prayer for mercy most fervently uttered.
His church at Cain Ridge immediately planned a camp meeting for the first weekend of August, 1801. The church could hold 500; but workers, fearing an oversized crowd, threw up a large tent. Church families opened homes, barns, and cabins to the expected visitors.
But they didn’t expect 20,000! Hordes arrived by horse, carriage, and wagon. Prayer and preaching continued around the clock on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Excitement mounted; cries and screams pierced the hazy summer air; men swooned; women were seized by spasms; children fell into ecstasy; so many fainted that the ground was covered with bodies like a battlefield. Then the “jerks” broke out. Their heads would jerk back suddenly, frequently causing them to yelp. I have seen their heads fly back and forward so quickly that the hair of females would crack like a whip.
On Monday, August 9, 1801, food and supplies were exhausted, and so were the worshipers. Many left; but others came to take their places. Four more days of singing, preaching, shrieking, and jerking continued before the geyser died down. Between 1,000 and 3,000 had been converted, and the news was the buzz of the region. People across the new nation began discussing the revival of Christianity, and the Cane Ridge Revival is considered one of the most important religious gatherings in American history.
Always be joyful and never stop praying. Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do. --- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 9
“The city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it.” --- Revelation 21:23.
Yonder in the better world, the inhabitants are independent of all creature comforts. They have no need of raiment; their white robes never wear out, neither shall they ever be defiled. They need no medicine to heal diseases, “for the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick.” They need no sleep to recruit their frames—they rest not day nor night, but unweariedly praise him in his temple. They need no social relationship to minister comfort, and whatever happiness they may derive from association with their fellows is not essential to their bliss, for their Lord’s society is enough for their largest desires. They need no teachers there; they doubtless commune with one another concerning the things of God, but they do not require this by way of instruction; they shall all be taught of the Lord. Ours are the alms at the king’s gate, but they feast at the table itself. Here we lean upon the friendly arm, but there they lean upon their Beloved and upon him alone. Here we must have the help of our companions, but there they find all they want in Christ Jesus. Here we look to the meat which perisheth, and to the raiment which decays before the moth, but there they find everything in God. We use the bucket to fetch us water from the well, but there they drink from the fountain head, and put their lips down to the living water. Here the angels bring us blessings, but we shall want no messengers from heaven then. They shall need no Gabriels there to bring their love-notes from God, for there they shall see him face to face. Oh! what a blessed time shall that be when we shall have mounted above every second cause and shall rest upon the bare arm of God! What a glorious hour when God, and not his creatures; the Lord, and not his works, shall be our daily joy! Our souls shall then have attained the perfection of bliss.
Evening - August 9
“He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.” --- Mark 16:9.
Mary of Magdala was the victim of a fearful evil. She was possessed by not one devil only, but seven. These dreadful inmates caused much pain and pollution to the poor frame in which they had found a lodging. Hers was a hopeless, horrible case. She could not help herself, neither could any human succour avail. But Jesus passed that way, and unsought, and probably even resisted by the poor demoniac, he uttered the word of power, and Mary of Magdala became a trophy of the healing power of Jesus. All the seven demons left her, left her never to return, forcibly ejected by the Lord of all. What a blessed deliverance! What a happy change! From delirium to delight, from despair to peace, from hell to heaven! Straightway she became a constant follower of Jesus, catching his every word, following his devious steps, sharing his toilsome life; and withal she became his generous helper, first among that band of healed and grateful women who ministered unto him of their substance. When Jesus was lifted up in crucifixion, Mary remained the sharer of his shame: we find her first beholding from afar, and then drawing near to the foot of the cross. She could not die on the cross with Jesus, but she stood as near it as she could, and when his blessed body was taken down, she watched to see how and where it was laid. She was the faithful and watchful believer, last at the sepulchre where Jesus slept, first at the grave whence he arose. Her holy fidelity made her a favoured beholder of her beloved Rabboni, who deigned to call her by her name, and to make her his messenger of good news to the trembling disciples and Peter. Thus grace found her a maniac and made her a minister, cast out devils and gave her to behold angels, delivered her from Satan, and united her for ever to the Lord Jesus. May I also be such a miracle of grace!
Morning and Evening
TAKE THE WORLD, BUT GIVE ME JESUS
Fanny J. Crosby, 1820–1915
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:36, 37)
In every believer there is a constant struggle between the old nature, which is attracted to the world, and the new nature, which responds to God. These two opposing natures will never cease to struggle as long as we are residents of this world. Worldliness can be described as anything that tends to draw us away from God and limits us from being all that He wants us to be. Separation from the world, however, does not mean that we are to live in isolation from individuals within the world, whether they be saint or sinner. We cannot represent our Lord if we remain aloof from the needs of those around us. There must always be that fine balance in our lives between a closeness and total commitment to Christ and an availability and helpful contact with those in our everyday world,.
A Christian’s goal in life is to “cease from sin” and thus starve the old nature, which tends to be selfish, hateful, and greedy. Although it is true that we will never achieve a sinless perfection until we reach heaven, this should never keep us from striving and saying with Fanny Crosby, “Take the world, but give me Jesus.” Like the blind poetess, the goal of someday having a “clearer, brighter vision” when we see our Lord face to face makes the struggles of this life all worthwhile.
Take the world, but give me Jesus—All its joys are but a name; but His love abideth ever, thru eternal years the same.
Take the world, but give me Jesus—Sweetest comfort of my soul; with my Savior watching o’er me, I can sing tho billows roll.
Take the world, but give me Jesus—Let me view His constant smile; then thruout my pilgrim journey light will cheer me all the while.
Take the world, but give me Jesus—In His cross my trust shall be; till, with clearer, brighter vision, face to face my Lord I see.
Chorus: O the height and depth of mercy! O the length and breadth of love! O the fullness of redemption—Pledge of endless life above!
For Today: Galatians 5:16–18; Ephesians 3:17–19; Philippians 1:20–24; 1 John 2:15
Reflect on your spiritual goals for life. Make a list of the activities and disciplines necessary for their achievement. Invite the Holy Spirit’s help. Carry this musical truth as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
1. There is a law in the minds of men which is a rule of good and evil. There is a notion of good and evil in the consciences of men, which is evident by those laws which are common in all countries, for the preserving human societies, the encouragement of human virtue, and discouragement of vice, what standard should they have for those laws but a common reason? the design of those laws was to keep man within the bounds of goodness for mutual commerce, whence the apostle calls the heathen magistrate a “minister of God for good” (Rom. 13:4): and “the Gentiles do by nature the things contained in the law” (Rom. 2:14).
(Ro 13:4) 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. ESV
(Ro 2:14) 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. ESV
Man in the first instant of the use of reason, finds natural principles within himself; directing and choosing them, he finds a distinction between good and evil; how could this be if there were not some rule in him to try and distinguish good and evil? If there was not such a law and rule in man, he could not sin; for where there is no law there is no transgression. If man were a law to himself, and his own will his law, there could be no such thing as evil; whatsoever he willed, would be good and agreeable to the law, and no action could be accounted sinful; the worst act would be as commendable as the best. Everything at man’s appointment would be good or evil. If there were no such law, how should men that are naturally inclined to evil disapprove of that which is unlovely, and approve of that good which they practise not?
No man but inwardly thinks well of that which is good, while he neglects it; and thinks ill of that which is evil, while he commits it. Those that are vicious, do praise those that practise the contrary virtues. Those that are evil would seem to be good, and those that are blameworthy yet will rebuke evil in others. This is really to distinguish between good and evil; whence doth this arise, by what rule do we measure this, but by some innate principle? And this is universal, the same in one man as in another, the same in one nation as in another; they are born with every man, and inseparable from his nature (Prov. 27:19):
(Pr 27:19) 19 As in water face reflects face,
so the heart of man reflects the man. ESV
as in water, face answers to face, so the heart of man to man. Common reason supposeth that there is some hand which hath fixed this distinction in man; how could it else be universally impressed? No law can be without a lawgiver: no sparks but must be kindled, by some other. Whence should this law then derive its original? Not from man; he would fain blot it out, and cannot alter it when he pleases. Natural generation never intended it; it is settled therefore by some higher hand, which, as it imprinted it, so it maintains it against the violence of men, who, were it not for this law, would make the world more than it is, an aceldama and field of blood; for had there not been some supreme good, the measure of all other goodness in the world, we could not have had such a thing as good. The Scripture gives us an account that this good was distinguished from evil before man fell, they were objecta scibilia; good was commanded and evil prohibited, and did not depend upon man. From this a man may rationally be instructed that there is a God; for he may thus argue: I find myself naturally obliged to do this thing, and avoid that; I have, therefore, a superior that doth oblige me; I find something within me that directs me to such actions, contrary to my sensitive appetite; there must be something above me, therefore, that puts this principle into man’s nature; if there were no superior, I should be the supreme judge of good and evil; were I the lord of that law which doth oblige me, I should find no contradiction within myself, between reason and appetite.
2. From the transgression of this law of nature, fears do arise in the consciences of men. Have we not known or heard of men struck by so deep a dart, that could not be drawn out by the strength of men, or appeased by the pleasure of the world; and men crying out with horror, upon a death-bed, of their past life, when “their fear hath come as a desolation, and destruction as a whirlwind?” (Prov. 1:27):
(Pr 1:27) 27 when terror strikes you like a storm
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you. ESV
and often in some sharp affliction, the dust hath been blown off from men’s consciences, which for a while hath obscured the writing of the law. If men stand in awe of punishment, there is then some superior to whom they are accountable; if there were no God, there were no punishment to fear. What reason of any fear, upon the dissolution of the knot between the soul and body, if there were not a God to punish, and the soul remained not in being to be punished? How suddenly will conscience work upon the appearance of an affliction, rouse itself from sleep like an armed man, and fly, in a man’s face before he is aware of it! It will “surprise the hypocrites” (Isa. 38:14):
(Is 38:14) 14 Like a swallow or a crane I chirp;
I moan like a dove.
My eyes are weary with looking upward.
O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety! ESV
it will bring to mind actions committed long ago, and set them in order before the face, as God’s deputy, acting by his authority and omniscience. As God hath not left himself without a witness among the creatures (Acts 14:17), so he hath not left himself without a witness in a man’s own breast.
(Ac 14:17) 17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” ESV
(1.) This operation of conscience hath been universal. No nation hath been any more exempt from it than from reason; not a man but hath one time or other more or less smarted under the sting of it. All over the world conscience hath shot its darts; it hath torn the hearts of princes in the midst of their pleasures; it hath not flattered them whom most men flatter; nor feared to disturb their rest, whom no man dares to provoke. Judges have trembled on a tribunal, when innocents have rejoiced in their condemnation. The iron bars upon Pharaoh’s conscience, were at last broke up, and he acknowledged the justice of God in all that he did, (Exod. 9:27): “I have sinned, the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.” Had they been like childish frights at the apprehension of bugbears, why hath not reason shaken them off? But, on the contrary, the stronger reason grows, the smarter those lashes are; groundless fears had been short- lived, age and judgment would have worn them off, but they grow sharper with the growth of persons.
(Ex 9:27) 27 Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, “This time I have sinned; the LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. ESV
The Scripture informs us they have been of as ancient a date as the revolt of the first man, (Gen. 3:10): “I was afraid,” saith Adam, “because I was naked” which was an expectation of the judgment of God. All his posterity inherit his fears, when God expresseth himself in any tokens of his majesty and providence in the world. Every man’s conscience testifies that he is unlike what he ought to be, according to that law engraven upon his heart. In some, indeed, conscience may be seared or dimmer; or suppose some men may be devoid of conscience, shall it be denied to be a thing belonging to the nature of man? Some men have not their eyes, yet the power of seeing the light is natural to man, and belongs to the integrity of the body. Who would argue that, because some men are mad, and have lost their reason by a distemper of the brain, that therefore reason hath no reality, but is an imaginary thing? But I think it is a standing truth that every man hath been under the scourge of it, one time or other, in a less or a greater degree; for, since every man is an offender, it cannot be imagined, conscience, which is natural to man, and an active faculty, should always lie idle, without doing this part of its office. The apostle tells us of the thoughts accusing or excusing one another, (or by turns,) according as the actions were. Nor is this truth weakened by the corruption in the world, whereby many have thought themselves bound in conscience to adhere to a false and superstitious worship and idolatry, as much as any have thought themselves bound to adhere to a worship commanded by God. This very thing infers that all men have a reflecting principle in them; it is no argument against the being of conscience, but only infers that it may err in the application of what it naturally owns. We can no more say, that because some men walk by a false rule, there is no such thing as conscience, than we can say that because men have errors in their minds, therefore they have no such faculty as an understanding; or because men will that which is evil, they have no such faculty as a will in them.
(2.) These operations of conscience are when the wickedness is most secret. These tormenting fears of vengeance have been frequent in men, who have had no reason to fear man, since their wickedness being unknown to any but themselves, they could have no accuser but themselves. They have been in many acts which their companions have justified them in; persons above the stroke of human laws, yea, such as the people have honored as gods, have been haunted by them. Conscience hath not been frighted by the power of princes, or bribed by the pleasures of courts. David was pursued by his horrors, when he was, by reason of his dignity, above the punishment of the law, or, at least, was not reached by the law; since, though the murder of Uriah was intended by him, it was not acted by him. Such examples are frequent in human records; when the crime hath been above any punishment by man, they have had an accuser, judge, and executioner in their own breasts. Can this be originally from a man’s self? He who loves and cherishes himself, would fly from anything that disturbs him; it is a greater power and majesty from whom man cannot hide himself, that holds him in those fetters. What should affect their minds for that which can never bring them shame or punishment in this world, if there were not some supreme judge to whom they were to give an account, whose instrument conscience is? Doth it do this of itself? hath it received an authority from the man himself to sting him? It is some supreme power that doth direct and commission it against our wills. Charnock died in 1680, but he is so much wiser than most of us today. His logic is spot on.
(3.) These operations of conscience cannot be totally shaken off by man. If there be no God, why do not men silence the clamors of their consciences, and scatter those fears that disturb their rest and pleasures? How inquisitive are men after some remedy against those convulsions! Sometimes they would render the charge insignificant, and sing a rest to themselves, though they “walk in the wickedness of their own hearts.” How often do men attempt to drown it by sensual pleasures, and perhaps overpower it for a time; but it revives, reinforceth itself, and acts a revenge for its former stop. It holds sin to a man’s view, and fixes his ayes upon it, whether he will or no. “The wicked are like a troubled sea, and cannot rest,” (Isa. 57:20): they would wallow in sin without control, but this inward principle will not suffer it; nothing can shelter men from those blows. What is the reason it could never be cried down? Man is an enemy to his own disquiet; what man would continue upon the rack, if it were in his power to deliver himself? Why have all human remedies been without success, and not able to extinguish those operations, though all the wickedness of the heart hath been ready to assist and second the attempt? It hath pursued men notwithstanding all the violence used against it; and renewed its scourges with more severity, as men deal with their resisting slaves. Man can as little silence those thunders in his soul, as he can the thunders in the heavens; he must strip himself of his humanity, before he can be stripped of an accusing and affrighting conscience; it sticks as close to him as his nature; since man cannot throw out the process it makes against him, it is an evidence that some higher power secures its throne and standing. Who should put this scourge into the hand of conscience, which no man in the world is able to wrest out?
(4.) We may add, the comfortable reflections of conscience. There are excusing, as well as accusing reflections of conscience, when things are done as works of the “law of nature,” (Rom. 2:15):
(Ro 2:15) 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them ESV
as it doth not forbear to accuse and torture, when a wickedness, though unknown to others, is committed; so when a man hath done well, though he be attacked with all the calumnies the wit of man can forge, yet his conscience justifies the action, and fills him with a singular contentment. As there is torture in sinning, so there is peace and joy in well-doing. Neither of those it could do, if it did not understand a Sovereign Judge, who punishes the rebels, and rewards the well-doer. Conscience is the foundation of all religion; and the two pillars upon which it is built, are the being of God, and the bounty of God to those that “diligently seek him.” This proves the existence of God. If there were no God, conscience were useless; the operations of it would have no foundation, if there were not an eye to take notice, and a hand to punish or reward the action. The accusations of conscience evidence the omniscience and the holiness of God; the terrors of conscience, the justice of God; the approbations of conscience, the goodness of God. All the order in the world owes itself, next to the providence of God, to conscience; without it the world would be a Golgotha. As the creatures witness, there was a first cause that produced them, so this principle in man evidenceth itself to be set by the same hand, for the good of that which it had so framed. There could be no conscience if there were no God, and man could not be a rational creature, if there were no conscience. As there is a rule in us, there must be a judge, whether our actions be according to the rule. And since conscience in our corrupted state is in some particular misled, there must be a power superior to conscience, to judge how it hath behaved itself in its deputed office; we must come to some supreme judge, who can judge conscience itself. As a man can have no surer evidence that he is a being, than because he thinks he is a thinking being; so there is no surer evidence in nature that there is a God, than that every man hath a natural principle in him, which continually cites him before God, and puts him in mind of him, and makes him one way or other fear him, and reflects upon him whether he will or no. A man hath less power over his conscience, than over any other faculty; he may choose whether he will exercise his understanding about, or move his will to such an object; but he hath no such authority over his conscience: he cannot limit it, or cause it to cease from acting and reflecting; and therefore, both that, and the law about which it acts, are settled by some Supreme Authority in the mind of man, and this is God.
Fourthly. The evidence of a God results from the vastness of desires in man, and the real dissatisfaction he hath in everything below himself. Man hath a boundless appetite after some sovereign good; as his understanding is more capacious than anything below, so is his appetite larger. This affection of desire exceeds all other affections. Love is determined to something known; fear, to something apprehended: but desires approach nearer to infiniteness, and pursue, not only what we know, or what we have a glimpse of, but what we find wanting in what we already enjoy. That which the desire of man is most naturally carried after is bonum; some fully satisfying good. We desire knowledge by the sole impulse of reason, but we desire good before the excitement of reason; and the desire is always after good, but not always after knowledge. Now the soul of man finds an imperfection in everything here, and cannot scrape up a perfect satisfaction and felicity. In the highest fruitions of worldly things it is still pursuing something else, which speaks a defect in what it already hath. The world may afford a felicity for our dust, the body, but not for the inhabitant in it; it is too mean for that. Is there any one soul among the sons of men, that can upon a due inquiry say it was at rest and wanted no more, that hath not sometimes had desires after an immaterial good? The soul “follows hard after” such a thing, and hath frequent looks after it (Ps. 63:8).
(Ps 63:8) 8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me. ESV
Man desires a stable good, but no sublunary thing is so; and he that doth not desire such a good, wants the rational nature of a man. This is as natural as understanding, will, and conscience. Whence should the soul of man have those desires? how came it to understand that something is still wanting to make its nature more perfect, if there were not in it some notion of a more perfect being which can give it rest? Can such a capacity be supposed to be in it without something in being able to satisfy it? if so, the noblest creature in the world is miserablest, and in a worse condition than any other.
Other creatures obtain their ultimate desires, “they are filled with good,” (Ps. 104:28):
(Ps 104:28) 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. ESV
and shall man only have a vast desire without any possibility of enjoyment? Nothing in man is in vain; he hath objects for his affections, as well as affections for objects; every member of his body hath its end, and doth attain it; every affection of his soul hath an object, and that in this world; and shall there be none for his desire, which comes nearest to infinite of any affection planted in him? This boundless desire had not its original from man himself; nothing would render itself restless; something above the bounds of this world implanted those desires after a higher good, and made him restless in everything else. And since the soul can only rest in that which is infinite, there is something infinite for it to rest in; since nothing in the world, though a man had the whole, can give it a satisfaction, there is something above the world only capable to do it, otherwise the soul would be always without it, and be more in vain than any other creature. There is, therefore, some infinite being that can only give a contentment to the soul, and this is God. And that goodness which implanted such desires in the soul, would not do it to no purpose, and mock it in giving it an infinite desire of satisfaction, without intending it the pleasure of enjoyment, if it doth not by its own folly deprive itself of it. The felicity of human nature must needs exceed that which is allotted to other creatures.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXII. — “MY Spirit shall not always judge in man; for he is flesh.” These are, verbatim, the words of Moses: and if we would away with our own dreams, the words as they there stand, are, I think, sufficiently plain and clear. And that they are the words of an angry God, is fully manifest, both from what precedes, and from what follows, together with the effect — the flood! The cause of their being spoken, was, the sons of men taking unto them wives from the mere lust of the flesh, and then, so filling the earth with violence, as to cause God to hasten the flood, and scarcely to delay that for “an hundred and twenty years,” (Gen. vi. 1-3,) which, but for them, He would never have brought upon the earth at all. Read and study Moses, and you will plainly see that this is his meaning.
But it is no wonder that the Scriptures should be obscure, or that you should be enabled to establish from them, not only a free, but a divine will, where you are allowed so to trifle with them, as to seek to make out of them a Virgilian patch-work. And this is what you call, clearing up difficulties, and putting an end to all dispute by means of an interpretation! But it is with these trifling vanities that Jerome and Origen have filled the world: and have been the original cause of that pestilent practice — the not attending to the simplicity of the Scriptures.
It is enough for me to prove, that in this passage, the divine authority calls men “flesh;” and flesh, in that sense, that the Spirit of God could not continue among them, but was, at a decreed time, to be taken from them. And what God meant when He declared that His Spirit should not “always judge among men,” is explained immediately afterwards, where He determines “an hundred and twenty years” as the time that He would still continue to judge.
Here He contrasts “spirit” with “flesh:” shewing that men being flesh, receive not the Spirit: and He, as being a Spirit, cannot approve of flesh: ‘wherefore it is, that the Spirit, after “an hundred and twenty years,” is to be withdrawn. Hence you may understand the passage of Moses thus — My Spirit, which is in Noah and in the other holy men, rebukes those impious ones, by the word of their preaching, and by their holy lives, (for to “judge among men,” is to act among them in the office of the word; to reprove, to rebuke, to beseech them, opportunely and importunely,) but in vain: for they, being blinded and hardened by the flesh, only become the worse the more they are judged. — And so it ever is, that wherever the Word of God comes forth in the world, these men become the worse, the more they hear of it. And this is the reason why wrath is hastened, even as the flood was hastened at that time: because, they now, not only sin, but even despise grace: as Christ saith, “Light is come into the world, and men hate the light.” (John iii. 19.)
Since, therefore, men, according to the testimony of God Himself, are “flesh,” they can savour of nothing but flesh; so far is it from possibility that “Free-will” should do any thing but sin. And if, even while the Spirit of God is among them calling and teaching, they only become worse, what will they do when left to themselves without the Spirit of God!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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