1 Corinthians 9
Paul Surrenders His Rights1 Corinthians 9:1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. 16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.
You are despising the gospel and failing to understand how the grace of God in the gospel works! There is no condemnation for you under the law because of your faith-union with Christ. But that same faith-union leads to the requirements of the law being fulfilled in you through the Spirit. Your real problem is not that you do not understand the law. It is that you do not understand the gospel. For Paul says that we are “in-lawed to Christ.” Our relationship to the law is not a bare legal one, coldly impersonal. No, our conformity to it is the fruit of our marriage to our new husband Jesus Christ. The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
1 Corinthians 10
Warning Against Idolatry1 Corinthians 10:1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
God’s Word promises us that we will never face a temptation for which He does not provide an exit, an escape route, “so that [we] can stand up under it” Now this is not a promise we can apply passively. It’s a promise of power to escape and overcome any temptation, but we still have to look for the exit. We need to deal decisively with temptation. I find it helpful to have five words in mind as I think about tackling temptation.14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
1. Deal with temptation immediately. Don’t wait until the little stream becomes a raging river that will sweep you away. The moment we become conscious of any sinful thought or desire, we need to ask God to help us reject the suggestion and dismiss it.
2. Deal with temptation realistically. God told Cain, “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you” (Genesis 4:7). If there is a lion on the other side of the door waiting to pounce on you, you’d better get realistic about the situation before you blithely open the door. Jesus said to His disciples, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41).
3. Deal with temptation ruthlessly. I would remind you here of Jesus’ graphic metaphors for dealing with sin (Mark 9:43–48). In the Falkland’s War, Margaret Thatcher ordered the bombing of the British runway in Port Stanley so as to prevent enemy aircraft from landing. That serves as a useful analogy.
4. Deal with temptation consistently. Establish patterns of resistance.
5. Deal with temptation confidently. The promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 gives us an unshakable confidence in facing temptation because its terms are absolute.
God always has a way out. The problem comes when we close our eyes to the escape route because we have allowed our desires to overwhelm our reason. The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances
Do All to the Glory of God23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 111 Corinthians 11 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
Head Coverings2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.
The Lord’s Supper17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.
What I'm Reading
Why Shouldn’t We Trust the Non-Canonical “Gospel of Basilides”?
By J. Warner Wallace 11/29/2017
There are a number of ancient, non-canonical texts used by sect leaders or heretical groups in the early history of Christianity. One of these is called The Gospel of Basilides. Is this non-biblical text reliable? Was it written by an eyewitness who accurately captured the actions and statements of Jesus? There are four attributes of reliable eyewitness testimony, and the first requirement is simply that the account be old enough to actually be written by someone who was present to see what he or she reports. The Gospel of Basilides was written too late in history to have been written by anyone who could have actually seen the ministry of Jesus, and like other late non-canonical texts, this errant document was rejected by the Church. In spite of this, The Gospel of Basilides may have contained small nuggets of truth related to Jesus. Although it is a legendary fabrication altered by an author who wanted to craft a version of the Jesus story that suited the purposes of his religious community, it likely reflected many truths about Jesus:
The Gospel of Basilides (120-130AD) | Nothing of this Gospel survives today. What little we do know about Basilides and his followers comes first from the letters of Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Hegemonius (all of whom described Basilides as a heretic). Basilides was an early Gnostic teacher in Alexandria, Egypt between 117-138AD. He taught among the Persians and wrote many commentaries on the orthodox Gospels (assembled as a volume known as Exegetica). The Gospel of Basilides is mentioned by Origen, Jerome, Ambrose, Philip of Side, and Venerable Bede.
Why Isn’t It Considered Reliable? | Although The Gospel of Basilides is mentioned by several early Church leaders, it is never described as anything other than heretical. Basilides is not an eyewitness to the life of Christ and does not begin teaching about Jesus until 100 years after Jesus’ life amongst the true eyewitnesses. In addition, it is clear from the writings of early Christians, that Basilides was a Gnostic heretic who reflected his theology in his writings.
How Does It Corroborate the Life of Jesus? | At the very least, what little we do know about Basilides’ work affirms that Jesus lived and his life was captured in a set of eyewitness Gospels (later referenced by Basilides in his own commentaries). These reliable Gospels were apparently in place and established well enough to provide the foundation for Basilides’ Exegetica. From the writing of Hippolytus, we can infer that Basilides acknowledged the virgin conception of Jesus, and the fact that the baby Jesus was visited by Magi who followed a star. Hippolytus also describes Basilides as acknowledging the fact that Jesus carefully controlled the timing of his ministry, quoting Jesus’ statement: “Mine hour is not yet come.”
Where (and Why) Does It Differ from the Reliable Accounts? | We know very little about Basilides’ views related to the life of Jesus, but what little we do know differs significantly from the teaching of the reliable Gospels. Hippolytus said that Basilides taught that the “Divine being” of God was not joined to Jesus until His baptism. In fact, Basilides believed that Jesus did not receive “the Gospel” from God until John the Baptist baptized Him. This seems consistent with the Gnostic idea that secret knowledge is the mechanism through which individuals are enlightened and saved.
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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
By Francesca Aran Murphy 11/30/2017
Once, as an impecunious PhD student, I decided I had to forgo my weekly Hill Street Blues in the interests of eating or paying rent to my brother. I put my TV up for sale. A simple soul arrived ready to offer a tenner for the set. “Does it have an antenna?” he naïvely inquired. My brother took control of the situation: “It’s an all-in-one,” he assured the poor rube, making a hand-gesture which spoke of integration. “Built into it.” Readers are right to condemn my complicity in this deceit. Even though, in those antediluvian times, there was no such thing as a “built-in antenna,” the TV did do its job of picking up the three or four channels that existed then.
The human soul is an embodied religious sense. That doesn’t mean it’s inherently “religious,” any more than your nose is smelly or your eyes are especially visible. The human soul is a religious sensor, an antenna which is constantly on the lookout for objects to worship. Even before Noah built his Ark, and right back to the Garden, our sensors had to figure out who or what was worth the price of worship.
To be a human soul is to be an embodied soul, and that featherless, biped condition is the best equipment for worship. The quadruped cannot kneel or prostrate itself so easily as the two-footed, upright creature. Only the legged creature, which does not lie flat on the ground like a snake, can meaningfully prostrate itself; when the two-legged creature gets down on its knees, it uses the full resources of its body to express self-offering. When we worship, we offer not a token piece of our munificence, but our whole selves. Acknowledging whom we will worship is the great, deciding question for the soul, so we do it with our entire bodies. It decides the bent of our souls.
To be religious is not to feel syrupy feelings of dependency—that’s all about me in the end. Religion is an intentional act, a relating of the self to something. Religious acts are acts of worship of someone. In religious acts we devote ourselves, give ourselves wholly and integrally, to someone or something. We pay obeisance; we bend the knee; we genuflect, or at least doff our cap. The human soul wants to worship—that is the underlying draw in all its varied actions. It is a built-in antenna for the adorandum, the one who is to be adored.
To define religiosity in terms of feelings of dependency alone misses the target, because religiosity is not simply “in” me. Rather, religiosity takes place between an embodied soul and its “adored one.” In defining religious feeling as our deepest sense of dependency, Schleiermacher was getting at half a truth, namely, the sense of creatureliness. The other half, which his definition elides, is the Creator. It’s true that the worshipping soul acknowledges its creatureliness—but that’s because it senses its Creator. Worshipping is not about “OMG I’m a creature!” It’s about “OMG you are the Creator!” “Creature-to-Creator” feelings are not the whole of the “sense for worship” in which the human soul consists. But they are a stand-out feature and not a bug.
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- 1 1 Samuel (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible)
- 2 Illuminating Faith: An Invitation to Theology (Illuminating Modernity)
- 3 Christ the Form of Beauty: A Study in Theology and Literature
- 4 The Comedy of Revelation: Paradise Lost and Regained in Biblical Narrative
- 5 God Is Not a Story: Realism Revisited
- 6 Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Étienne Gilson (The Eric Voegelin Institute Series in Political Philosophy)
- 7 Mary
- 8 Theology, University, Humanities: Initium Sapientiae Timor Domini
Church Plants Need Shepherds, Not Entrepreneurs
By Matt McCullough 11/22/2017
When I was first assessed as a church planter, people often asked if I thought of myself as an entrepreneurial type. I believe it was a fair question.
It was fair in part because of my background. Imagine the question asked with eyebrows raised: You think you’re an entrepreneur? At that point I’d never started anything in my life besides a long sequence of degree programs. My full-time work had been as a small cog in a large university wheel that didn’t need me to keep rolling.
Like most grad students, I was all too happy to keep reading and writing and teaching in the narrow lane of my chosen field, talking only to the few people already interested or the slightly larger crowd assigned to pay attention. Whatever a typical church planter may be, I didn’t fit the mold.
But that common question made sense, given my background, because of a common assumption that lies just beneath its surface. I believe we often assume church planting requires more entrepreneurial skills than other pastoral contexts.
Is that a fair assumption? Should church planters be entrepreneurs?
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Matt McCullough has been the pastor of Trinity Church since we began in 2010. He and his wife Lindsey first moved to Nashville for graduate school at Vanderbilt, where he completed a PhD in American religious history. He has also done some writing on the side, first as an academic and now on occasion for 9Marks and The Gospel Coalition. Matt and Lindsey are the parents of three little boys.
3 Arguments Critics Use to Judge Christianity
By Sheri Bell 11/29/2017
Christians, say critics, are primarily hypocritical, intolerant, and judging. That should bother us, dear Christ follower.
As Paul makes clear in his letter to the Corinthians, Christianity is a historical religion tied to the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. These claims are testable, in that anyone can determine historically whether they are reliable.
As we said in last week’s blog post, Christianity is primarily based not on “personal revelation” or “blind” faith, but on actual, factual events recording in numerous religious and secular historical documents. Jesus lived so that He could die to demonstrate God’s amazing love for us.
Then He asked us to do the same on a daily basis.
That’s where things get tricky. If God is so amazing, and Jesus’ sacrifice so amazing, then shouldn’t we Christians be an amazing force in today’s crazy world?
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Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt is an award-winning freelance writer who has contributed to "American Profile," "Family Circle," "HR Innovator," "Ladies Home Journal," and "The Washington Post." She is the author of "Art: Careers for the Twenty-First Century," "Law: Careers for the Twenty-First Century," and "Military: Careers for the Twenty-First Century." She lives in Buffalo, New York.
Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt Books:
Somebody Bigger Than You And I
By Mahalia Jackson
Who make the flowers
bloom in the spring
who writes the song
for the robin to sing
and who sends the rain
when the earth is dry
somebody bigger than you and I
He lights the way
when the road is long
and he'll keep you company
with love to guide you
he walks besides you
just like he walks with me
when i am weary
filled with despair
who gives me courage
to go on from there
who gives me faith
that will never, never will die
somebody bigger than you and I
The Great Wall of Cotton Why We Hit Snooze on God
By Greg Morse 8/14/2017
It was all so innocent.
A series of small compromises, a sequence of gentle taps. Most of them I couldn’t even remember. But after months of making them, their cumulative effect could not be ignored. My strength was depleted.
For years, I had dreamt of a button that, when pressed, would set my affections ablaze with unwavering passion for my Savior. That button didn’t exist. But a button does exist that, when forsaken, invigorates my walk with Jesus.
Pushing it makes muting best intentions so easy, ignoring God so simple. It feeds laziness, murders last night’s resolves, and seduces into spiritual slumber. It strips Christians of their morning armor and sends them out naked into a world with prowling lions and flaming darts.
Now, the button isn’t the problem — the love of this button is. Yawning hearts that adore the pleasure of “ten more minutes” take our souls hostage behind linen sheets. Our blankets stand as prison bars preventing us from the Comforter of our souls. Each morning, life, gladness, and increased holiness pass us by as we stay imprisoned behind the Great Wall of Cotton.
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Greg Morse is a content strategist for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
What's Changed Since Humane Vitae?
By George Weigel 11/29/2017
Throughout this academic year, Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University is hosting a series of lectures, billed as the “first interdisciplinary” study to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. The series promises to examine the “many problems” that have emerged in family life since Pope Paul wrote on the ethics of human love and the morally appropriate methods of family planning. And that could indeed be useful.
Yet the roster of series speakers is not replete with defenders of Paul VI’s teaching in Humanae Vitae, and at least one of the lecturers has telegraphed his revisionist theological punch by suggesting that today’s “new situation” is quite different from that addressed by Humanae Vitae.
On that, at least, he’s right: Today’s situation is far worse.
The Gregorian promises the involvement of both the social sciences and moral theology in its study, presumably to complement the work of a new historical commission on Humanae Vitae established by Pope Francis. So let’s look at some of the relevant social science.
Demographers tell us that a society must have a “Total Fertility Rate” (TFR) of slightly over 2.1 (the average number of children a woman has during her child-bearing years) in order to maintain its population over time. Here are the most recent Eurostat TFP figures for the countries of the European Union in 2014: Austria: 1.47; Belgium: 1.74; Bulgaria: 1.53; Croatia: 1.46; Cyprus: 1.31; Czech Republic: 1.53; Denmark: 1.69; Finland: 1.71; France: 2.01; Germany: 1.47; Great Britain: 1.81; Greece: 1.30; Hungary: 1.44; Ireland: 1.94; Italy: 1.37; Latvia: 1.54; Lithuania: 1.63; Luxembourg: 1.50; Malta: 1.42; Netherlands: 1.71; Poland: 1.32; Portugal: 1.23; Romania: 1.52; Spain: 1.32; Slovakia: 1.37; Slovenia: 1.58; Sweden: 1.88. Thus, the TFR for the European Union as a whole in 2014 was 1.58, well below population-replacement level and heading toward the demographic Niagara Falls that demographers call “lowest-low fertility.”
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George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
George Weigel Books:
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
IMPIETY OF ATTRIBUTING A VISIBLE FORM TO GOD.--THE SETTING UP OF IDOLS A DEFECTION FROM THE TRUE GOD.
There are three leading divisions in this chapter. The first contains a refutation of those who ascribe a visible form to God (s. 1 and 2), with an answer to the objection of those who, because it is said that God manifested his presence by certain symbols, use it as a defence of their error (s. 3 and 4). Various arguments are afterwards adduced, disposing of the trite objection from Gregory's expression, that images are the books of the unlearned (s. 5-7). The second division of the chapter relates to the origin of idols or images, and the adoration of them, as approved by the Papists (s. 8-10). Their evasion refuted (s. 11). The third division treats of the use and abuse of images (s. 12). Whether it is expedient to have them in Christian Churches (s. 13). The concluding part contains a refutation of the second Council of Nice, which very absurdly contends for images in opposition to divine truth, and even to the disparagement of the Christian name.
1. God is opposed to idols, that all may know he is the only fit witness to himself. He expressly forbids any attempt to represent him by a bodily shape.
2. Reasons for this prohibition from Moses, Isaiah, and Paul. The complaint of a heathen. It should put the worshipers of idols to shame.
3. Consideration of an objection taken from various passages in Moses. The Cherubim and Seraphim show that images are not fit to represent divine mysteries. The Cherubim belonged to the tutelage of the Law.
4. The materials of which idols are made, abundantly refute the fiction of idolaters. Confirmation from Isaiah and others. Absurd precaution of the Greeks.
5. Objection,--That images are the books of the unlearned. Objection answered, 1. Scripture declares images to be teachers of vanity and lies.
6. Answer continued, 2. Ancient Theologians condemn the formation and worship of idols.
7. Answer continued,--3. The use of images condemned by the luxury and meretricious ornaments given to them in Popish Churches. 4. The Church must be trained in true piety by another method.
8. The second division of the chapter. Origin of idols or images. Its rise shortly after the flood. Its continual progress.
9. Of the worship of images. Its nature. A pretext of idolaters refuted. Pretexts of the heathen. Genius of idolaters.
10. Evasion of the Papists. Their agreement with ancient idolaters.
11. Refutation of another evasion or sophism--viz. the distinction of dulia and latria.
12. Third division of the chapter--viz. the use and abuse of images.
13. Whether it is expedient to have images in Christian temples.
14. Absurd defence of the worship of images by the second so-called Council of Nice. Sophisms or perversions of Scripture in defence of images in churches.
15. Passages adduced in support of the worship of images.
16. The blasphemous expressions of some ancient idolaters approved by not a few of the more modern, both in word and deed.
1. As Scripture, in accommodation to the rude and gross intellect of man, usually speaks in popular terms, so whenever its object is to discriminate between the true God and false deities, it opposes him in particular to idols; not that it approves of what is taught more elegantly and subtilely by philosophers, but that it may the better expose the folly, nay, madness of the world in its inquiries after God, so long as every one clings to his own speculations. This exclusive definition, which we uniformly meet with in Scripture, annihilates every deity which men frame for themselves of their own accord--God himself being the only fit witness to himself. Meanwhile, seeing that this brutish stupidity has overspread the globe, men longing after visible forms of God, and so forming deities of wood and stone, silver and gold, or of any other dead and corruptible matter, we must hold it as a first principle, that as often as any form is assigned to God, his glory is corrupted by an impious lie. In the Law, accordingly, after God had claimed the glory of divinity for himself alone, when he comes to show what kind of worship he approves and rejects, he immediately adds, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth," (Exod. 20:4). By these words he curbs any licentious attempt we might make to represent him by a visible shape, and briefly enumerates all the forms by which superstition had begun, even long before, to turn his truth into a lie. For we know that the Sun was worshipped by the Persian. As many stars as the foolish nations saw in the sky, so many gods they imagined them to be. Then to the Egyptians, every animal was a figure of God.  The Greeks, again, plumed themselves on their superior wisdom in worshipping God under the human form (Maximum Tyrius Platonic. Serm. 38). But God makes no comparison between images, as if one were more, and another less befitting; he rejects, without exception, all shapes and pictures, and other symbols by which the superstitious imagine they can bring him near to them.
2. This may easily be inferred from the reasons which he annexes to his prohibition. First, it is said in the books of Moses (Deut. 4:15), "Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude in the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire, lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure," &c. We see how plainly God declares against all figures, to make us aware that all longing after such visible shapes is rebellion against him. Of the prophets, it will be sufficient to mention Isaiah, who is the most copious on this subjects (Isaiah 40:18; 41:7, 29; 45:9; 46:5), in order to show how the majesty of God is defiled by an absurd and indecorous fiction, when he who is incorporeal is assimilated to corporeal matter; he who is invisible to a visible image; he who is a spirit to an inanimate object; and he who fills all space to a bit of paltry wood, or stone, or gold. Paul, too, reasons in the same way, "Forasmuch, then, as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device," (Acts 17:29). Hence it is manifest, that whatever statues are set up or pictures painted to represent God, are utterly displeasing to him, as a kind of insults to his majesty. And is it strange that the Holy Spirit thunders such responses from heaven, when he compels even blind and miserable idolaters to make a similar confession on the earth? Seneca's complaint, as given by Augustine De Civit. Dei, c. 10, is well known. He says "The sacred immortal, and invisible gods they exhibit in the meanest and most ignoble materials, and dress them in the clothing of men and beasts; some confound the sexes, and form a compound out of different bodies, giving the name of deities to objects, which, if they were met alive, would be deemed monsters." Hence, again, it is obvious, that the defenders of images resort to a paltry quibbling evasion, when they pretend that the Jews were forbidden to use them on account of their proneness to superstition; as if a prohibition which the Lord founds on his own eternal essences and the uniform course of nature, could be restricted to a single nation. Besides, when Paul refuted the error of giving a bodily shape to God, he was addressing not Jews, but Athenians.
3. It is true that the Lord occasionally manifested his presence by certain signs, so that he was said to be seen face to face; but all the signs he ever employed were in apt accordance with the scheme of doctrine, and, at the same time, gave plain intimation of his incomprehensible essence. For the cloud, and smoke, and flame, though they were symbols of heavenly glory (Deut. 4:11), curbed men's minds as with a bridle, that they might not attempt to penetrate farther. Therefore, even Moses (to whom, of all men, God manifested himself most familiarly) was not permitted though he prayed for it, to behold that face, but received for answer, that the refulgence was too great for man (Exod. 33:20). The Holy Spirit appeared under the form of a dove, but as it instantly vanished, who does not see that in this symbol of a moment, the faithful were admonished to regard the Spirit as invisible, to be contented with his power and grace, and not call for any external figure? God sometimes appeared in the form of a man, but this was in anticipation of the future revelation in Christ, and, therefore, did not give the Jews the least pretext for setting up a symbol of Deity under the human form. The mercy-seat, also (Exod. 25:17, 18, 21), where, under the Law, God exhibited the presence of his power, was so framed, as to intimate that God is best seen when the mind rises in admiration above itself: the Cherubim with outstretched wings shaded, and the veil covered it, while the remoteness of the place was in itself a sufficient concealment. It is therefore mere infatuation to attempt to defend images of God and the saints by the example of the Cherubim. For what, pray, did these figures mean, if not that images are unfit to represent the mysteries of God, since they were so formed as to cover the mercy-seat with their wings, thereby concealing the view of God, not only from the eye, but from every human sense, and curbing presumption? To this we may add, that the prophets depict the Seraphim, who are exhibited to us in vision, as having their faces veiled; thus intimating, that the refulgence of the divine glory is so great, that even the angels cannot gaze upon it directly, while the minute beams which sparkle in the face of angels are shrouded from our view. Moreover, all men of sound Judgment acknowledge that the Cherubim in question belonged to the old tutelage of the law. It is absurd, therefore, to bring them forward as an example for our age. For that period of puerility, if I may so express it, to which such rudiments were adapted, has passed away. And surely it is disgraceful, that heathen writers should be more skilful interpreters of Scripture than the Papists. Juvenal (Sat. 14) holds up the Jews to derision for worshipping the thin clouds and firmament. This he does perversely and impiously; still, in denying that any visible shape of Deity existed among them, he speaks more accurately than the Papists, who prate about there having been some visible image. In the fact that the people every now and then rushed forth with boiling haste in pursuit of idols, just like water gushing forth with violence from a copious spring, let us learn how prone our nature is to idolatry, that we may not, by throwing the whole blame of a common vice upon the Jews, be led away by vain and sinful enticements to sleep the sleep of death.
4. To the same effect are the words of the Psalmist (Psalms 115:4, 135:15), "Their idols are silver and gold, the works of men's hands." From the materials of which they are made, he infers that they are not gods, taking it for granted that every human device concerning God is a dull fiction. He mentions silver and gold rather than clay or stone, that neither splendour nor cost may procure reverence to idols. He then draws a general conclusion, that nothing is more unlikely than that gods should be formed of any kind of inanimate matter. Man is forced to confess that he is but the creature of a day (see Book 3 c. 9 s. 2), and yet would have the metal which he has deified to be regarded as God. Whence had idols their origin, but from the will of man? There was ground, therefore, for the sarcasm of the heathen poet (Hor. Sat. I. 8), "I was once the trunk of a fig-tree, a useless log, when the tradesman, uncertain whether he should make me a stool, &c., chose rather that I should be a god." In other words, an earth-born creature, who breathes out his life almost every moment, is able by his own device to confer the name and honour of deity on a lifeless trunk. But as that Epicurean poet, in indulging his wit, had no regard for religion, without attending to his jeers or those of his fellows, let the rebuke of the prophet sting, nay, cut us to the heart, when he speaks of the extreme infatuation of those who take a piece of wood to kindle a fire to warm themselves, bake bread, roast or boil flesh, and out of the residue make a god, before which they prostrate themselves as suppliants (Isaiah 44:16). Hence, the same prophet, in another place, not only charges idolaters as guilty in the eye of the law, but upbraids them for not learning from the foundations of the earth, nothing being more incongruous than to reduce the immense and incomprehensible Deity to the stature of a few feet. And yet experience shows that this monstrous proceeding, though palpably repugnant to the order of nature, is natural to man. It is, moreover, to be observed, that by the mode of expression which is employed, every form of superstition is denounced. Being works of men, they have no authority from God (Isa. 2:8, 31:7; Hos. 14:3; Mic. 5:13); and, therefore, it must be regarded as a fixed principle, that all modes of worship devised by man are detestable. The infatuation is placed in a still stronger light by the Psalmist (Psalm 115:8), when he shows how aid is implored from dead and senseless objects, by beings who have been endued with intelligence for the very purpose of enabling them to know that the whole universe is governed by Divine energy alone. But as the corruption of nature hurries away all mankind collectively and individually into this madness, the Spirit at length thunders forth a dreadful imprecation, "They that make them are like unto them, so is every one that trusteth in them."  And it is to be observed, that the thing forbidden is likeness, whether sculptured or otherwise. This disposes of the frivolous precaution taken by the Greek Church. They think they do admirably, because they have no sculptured shape of Deity, while none go greater lengths in the licentious use of pictures. The Lord, however, not only forbids any image of himself to be erected by a statuary, but to be formed by any artist whatever, because every such image is sinful and insulting to his majesty.
5. I am not ignorant, indeed, of the assertion, which is now more than threadbare, "that images are the books of the unlearned." So said Gregory:  but the Holy Spirit goes a very different decision; and had Gregory got his lesson in this matter in the Spirit's school, he never would have spoken as he did. For when Jeremiah declares that "the stock is a doctrine of vanities," (Jer. 10:8), and Habakkuk, "that the molten image" is "a teacher of lies," the general doctrine to be inferred certainly is, that every thing respecting God which is learned from images is futile and false. If it is objected that the censure of the prophets is directed against those who perverted images to purposes of impious superstition, I admit it to be so; but I add (what must be obvious to all), that the prophets utterly condemn what the Papists hold to be an undoubted axiom--viz. that images are substitutes for books. For they contrast images with the true God, as if the two were of an opposite nature, and never could be made to agree. In the passages which I lately quoted, the conclusion drawn is, that seeing there is one true God whom the Jews worshipped, visible shapes made for the purpose of representing him are false and wicked fictions; and all, therefore, who have recourse to them for knowledge are miserably deceived. In short, were it not true that all such knowledge is fallacious and spurious, the prophets would not condemn it in such general terms. This at least I maintain, that when we teach that all human attempts to give a visible shape to God are vanity and lies, we do nothing more than state verbatim what the prophets taught.
6. Moreover, let Lactantius and Eusebius  be read on this subject.  These writers assume it as an indisputable fact, that all the beings whose images were erected were originally men. In like manner, Augustine distinctly declares, that it is unlawful not only to worship images, but to dedicate them. And in this he says no more than had been long before decreed by the Libertine Council, the thirty-sixth Canon of which is, "There must be no pictures used in churches: Let nothing which is adored or worshipped be painted on walls." But the most memorable passage of all is that which Augustine quotes in another place from Varro, and in which he expressly concurs:--"Those who first introduced images of the gods both took away fear and brought in error." Were this merely the saying of Varro, it might perhaps be of little weight, though it might well make us ashamed, that a heathen, groping as it were in darkness, should have attained to such a degree of light, as to see that corporeal images are unworthy of the majesty of God, and that, because they diminish reverential fear and encourage error. The sentiment itself bears witness that it was uttered with no less truth than shrewdness. But Augustine, while he borrows it from Varro, adduces it as conveying his own opinion. At the outset, indeed, he declares that the first errors into which men fell concerning God did not originate with images, but increased with them, as if new fuel had been added. Afterwards, he explains how the fear of God was thereby extinguished or impaired, his presence being brought into contempt by foolish, and childish, and absurd representations.  The truth of this latter remark I wish we did not so thoroughly experience. Whosoever, therefore, is desirous of being instructed in the true knowledge of God must apply to some other teacher than images.
7. Let Papists, then, if they have any sense of shame, henceforth desist from the futile plea, that images are the books of the unlearned--a plea so plainly refuted by innumerable passages of Scripture. And yet were I to admit the plea, it would not be a valid defence of their peculiar idols. It is well known what kind of monsters they obtrude upon us as divine. For what are the pictures or statues to which they append the names of saints, but exhibitions of the most shameless luxury or obscenity? Were any one to dress himself after their model, he would deserve the pillory. Indeed, brothels exhibit their inmates more chastely and modestly dressed than churches do images intended to represent virgins. The dress of the martyrs is in no respect more becoming. Let Papists then have some little regard to decency in decking their idols, if they would give the least plausibility to the false allegation, that they are books of some kind of sanctity. But even then we shall answer, that this is not the method in which the Christian people should be taught in sacred places. Very different from these follies is the doctrine in which God would have them to be there instructed. His injunction is, that the doctrine common to all should there be set forth by the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments,--a doctrine to which little heed can be given by those whose eyes are carried too and fro gazing at idols. And who are the unlearned, whose rudeness admits of being taught by images only? Just those whom the Lord acknowledges for his disciples; those whom he honours with a revelation of his celestial philosophy, and desires to be trained in the saving mysteries of his kingdom. I confess, indeed, as matters now are, there are not a few in the present day who cannot want such books. But, I ask, whence this stupidity, but just because they are defrauded of the only doctrine which was fit to instruct them? The simple reason why those who had the charge of churches resigned the office of teaching to idols was, because they themselves were dumb. Paul declares, that by the true preaching of the gospel Christ is portrayed and in a manner crucified before our eyes (Gal. 3:1). Of what use, then, were the erection in churches of so many crosses of wood and stone, silver and gold, if this doctrine were faithfully and honestly preached--viz. Christ died that he might bear our curse upon the tree, that he might expiate our sins by the sacrifice of his body, wash them in his blood, and, in short, reconcile us to God the Father? From this one doctrine the people would learn more than from a thousand crosses of wood and stone. As for crosses of gold and silver, it may be true that the avaricious give their eyes and minds to them more eagerly than to any heavenly instructor.
8. In regard to the origin of idols, the statement contained in the Book of Wisdom has been received with almost universal consent--viz. that they originated with those who bestowed this honour on the dead, from a superstitious regard to their memory. I admit that this perverse practice is of very high antiquity, and I deny not that it was a kind of torch by which the infatuated proneness of mankind to idolatry was kindled into a greater blaze. I do not, however, admit that it was the first origin of the practice. That idols were in use before the prevalence of that ambitious consecration of the images of the dead, frequently adverted to by profane writers, is evident from the words of Moses (Gen. 31:19). When he relates that Rachel stole her father's images, he speaks of the use of idols as a common vice. Hence we may infer, that the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols. There was a kind of renewal of the world at the deluge, but before many years elapse, men are forging gods at will. There is reason to believe, that in the holy Patriarch's lifetime his grandchildren were given to idolatry: so that he must with his own eyes, not without the deepest grief, have seen the earth polluted with idols--that earth whose iniquities God had lately purged with so fearful a Judgment. For Joshua testifies (Josh. 24:2), that Torah and Nachor, even before the birth of Abraham, were the worshipers of false gods. The progeny of Shem having so speedily revolted, what are we to think of the posterity of Ham, who had been cursed long before in their father? Thus, indeed, it is. The human mind, stuffed as it is with presumptuous rashness, dares to imagine a god suited to its own capacity; as it labours under dullness, nay, is sunk in the grossest ignorance, it substitutes vanity and an empty phantom in the place of God. To these evils another is added. The god whom man has thus conceived inwardly he attempts to embody outwardly. The mind, in this way, conceives the idol, and the hand gives it birth. That idolatry has its origin in the idea which men have, that God is not present with them unless his presence is carnally exhibited, appears from the example of the Israelites: "Up," said they, "make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wet not what is become of him," (Exod. 22:1). They knew, indeed, that there was a God whose mighty power they had experienced in so many miracles, but they had no confidence of his being near to them, if they did not with their eyes behold a corporeal symbol of his presence, as an attestation to his actual government. They desired, therefore, to be assured by the image which went before them, that they were journeying under Divine guidance. And daily experience shows, that the flesh is always restless until it has obtained some figment like itself, with which it may vainly solace itself as a representation of God. In consequence of this blind passion men have, almost in all ages since the world began, set up signs on which they imagined that God was visibly depicted to their eyes.
9. After such a figment is formed, adoration forthwith ensues: for when once men imagined that they beheld God in images, they also worshipped him as being there. At length their eyes and minds becoming wholly engrossed by them, they began to grow more and more brutish, gazing and wondering as if some divinity were actually before them. It hence appears that men do not fall away to the worship of images until they have imbibed some idea of a grosser description: not that they actually believe them to be gods, but that the power of divinity somehow or other resides in them. Therefore, whether it be God or a creature that is imaged, the moment you fall prostrate before it in veneration, you are so far fascinated by superstition. For this reason, the Lord not only forbade the erection of statues to himself, but also the consecration of titles and stones which might be set up for adoration. For the same reason, also, the second commandment has an additional part concerning adoration. For as soon as a visible form is given to God, his power also is supposed to be annexed to it. So stupid are men, that wherever they figure God, there they fix him, and by necessary consequence proceed to adore him. It makes no difference whether they worship the idol simply, or God in the idol; it is always idolatry when divine honours are paid to an idol, be the colour what it may. And because God wills not to be worshipped superstitiously whatever is bestowed upon idols is so much robbed from him.
Let those attend to this who set about hunting for miserable pretexts in defence of the execrable idolatry in which for many past ages true religion has been buried and sunk. It is said that the images are not accounted gods. Nor were the Jews so utterly thoughtless as not to remember that there was a God whose hand led them out of Egypt before they made the calf. Indeed, Aaron saying, that these were the gods which had brought them out of Egypt, they intimated, in no ambiguous terms, that they wished to retain God, their deliverer, provided they saw him going before them in the calf. Nor are the heathen to be deemed to have been so stupid as not to understand that God was something else than wood and stone. For they changed the images at pleasure, but always retained the same gods in their minds;  besides, they daily consecrated new images without thinking they were making new gods. Read the excuses which Augustine tells us were employed by the idolaters of his time (August. in Ps. 113). The vulgar, when accused, replied that they did not worship the visible object, but the Deity which dwelt in it invisibly. Those, again, who had what he calls a more refined religion, said, that they neither worshipped the image, nor any inhabiting Deity, but by means of the corporeal image beheld a symbol of that which it was their duty to worship. What then? All idolaters whether Jewish or Gentile, were actuated in the very way which has been described. Not contented with spiritual understanding, they thought that images would give them a surer and nearer impression. When once this preposterous representation of God was adopted, there was no limit until, deluded every now and then by new impostures, they came to think that God exerted his power in images.  Still the Jews were persuaded, that under such images they worshipped the eternal God, the one true Lord of heaven and earth; and the Gentiles, also, in worshipping their own false gods, supposed them to dwell in heaven.
10. It is an impudent falsehood to deny that the thing which was thus anciently done is also done in our day. For why do men prostrate themselves before images? Why, when in the act of praying, do they turn towards them as to the ears of God? It is indeed true, as Augustine says (in Ps. 113), that no person thus prays or worships, looking at an image, without being impressed with the idea that he is heard by it, or without hoping that what he wishes will be performed by it. Why are such distinctions made between different images of the same God, that while one is passed by, or receives only common honour, another is worshipped with the highest solemnities? Why do they fatigue themselves with votive pilgrimages to images while they have many similar ones at home?  Why at the present time do they fight for them to blood and slaughter, as for their altars and hearths, showing more willingness to part with the one God than with their idols? And yet I am not now detailing the gross errors of the vulgar--errors almost infinite in number, and in possession of almost all hearts. I am only referring to what those profess who are most desirous to clear themselves of idolatry. They say, we do not call them our gods. Nor did either the Jews or Gentiles of old so call them; and yet the prophets never ceased to charge them with their adulteries with wood and stone for the very acts which are daily done by those who would be deemed Christians, namely, for worshipping God carnally in wood and stone.
11. I am not ignorant, however, and I have no wish to disguise the fact, that they endeavour to evade the charge by means of a more subtle distinction, which shall afterwards be fully considered (see infra, s. 16, and chap. 12 s. 2). The worship which they pay to their images they cloak with the name of eidolodulei'a (idolodulia), and deny to be eidololatrei'a (idolatria). So they speaks holding that the worship which they call dulia may, without insult to God, be paid to statues and pictures. Hence, they think themselves blameless if they are only the servants, and not the worshippers, of idols; as if it were not a lighter matter to worship than to serve. And yet, while they take refuge in a Greek term, they very childishly contradict themselves. For the Greek word latreu'ein having no other meaning than to worship, what they say is just the same as if they were to confess that they worship their images without worshipping them. They cannot object that I am quibbling upon words. The fact is, that they only betray their ignorance while they attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the simple. But how eloquent soever they may be, they will never prove by their eloquence that one and the same thing makes two. Let them show how the things differ if they would be thought different from ancient idolaters. For as a murderer or an adulterer will not escape conviction by giving some adventitious name to his crime, so it is absurd for them to expect that the subtle device of a name will exculpate them, if they, in fact, differ in nothing from idolaters whom they themselves are forced to condemn. But so far are they from proving that their case is different, that the source of the whole evil consists in a preposterous rivalship with them, while they with their minds devise, and with their hands execute, symbolical shapes of God.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain Institutes of the Christian Religion
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 134Come, Bless the LORD
134 A Song Of Ascents.
134:1 Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD,
who stand by night in the house of the LORD!
2 Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the LORD!
3 May the LORD bless you from Zion,
he who made heaven and earth!
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
Mrs. PrestFrom the number condemned in this fanatical reign, it is almost impossible to obtain the name of every martyr, or to embellish the history of all with anecdotes and exemplifications of Christian conduct. Thanks be to Providence, our cruel task begins to draw towards a conclusion, with the end of the reign of papal terror and bloodshed. Monarchs, who sit upon thrones possessed by hereditary right, should, of all others, consider that the laws of nature are the laws of God, and hence that the first law of nature is the preservation of their subjects. Maxims of persecutions, of torture, and of death, they should leave to those who have effected sovereignty by fraud or by sword; but where, except among a few miscreant emperors of Rome, and the Roman pontiffs, shall we find one whose memory is so "damned to everlasting fame" as that of Queen Mary? Nations bewail the hour which separates them forever from a beloved governor, but, with respect to that of Mary, it was the most blessed time of her whole reign. Heaven has ordained three great scourges for national sins-plague, pestilence, and famine. It was the will of God in Mary's reign to bring a fourth upon this kingdom, under the form of papistical persecution. It was sharp, but glorious; the fire which consumed the martyrs has undermined the popedom; and the Catholic states, at present the most bigoted and unenlightened, are those which are sunk lowest in the scale of moral dignity and political consequence. May they remain so, until the pure light of the Gospel shall dissipate the darkness of fanaticism and superstition! But to return.
Mrs. Prest for some time lived about Cornwall, where she had a husband and children, whose bigotry compelled her to frequent the abominations of the Church of Rome. Resolving to act as her conscience dictated, she quitted them, and made a living by spinning. After some time, returning home, she was accused by her neighbors, and brought to Exeter, to be examined before Dr. Troubleville, and his chancellor Blackston. As this martyr was accounted of inferior intellect, we shall put her in competition with the bishop, and let the reader judge which had the most of that knowledge conducive to everlasting life. The bishop bringing the question to issue, respecting the bread and wine being flesh and blood, Mrs. Prest said, "I will demand of you whether you can deny your creed, which says, that Christ doth perpetually sit at the right hand of His Father, both body and soul, until He come again; or whether He be there in heaven our Advocate, and to make prayer for us unto God His Father? If He be so, He is not here on earth in a piece of bread. If He be not here, and if He do not dwell in temples made with hands, but in heaven, what! shall we seek Him here? If He did not offer His body once for all, why make you a new offering? If with one offering He made all perfect, why do you with a false offering make all imperfect? If He be to be worshipped in spirit and in truth, why do you worship a piece of bread? If He be eaten and drunken in faith and truth, if His flesh be not profitable to be among us, why do you say you make His flesh and blood, and say it is profitable for body and soul? Alas! I am a poor woman, but rather than to do as you do, I would live no longer. I have said, Sir."
Bishop. I promise you, you are a jolly Protestant. I pray you in what school have you been brought up?
Mrs. Prest. I have upon the Sundays visited the sermons, and there have I learned such things as are so fixed in my breast, that death shall not separate them.
B. O foolish woman, who will waste his breath upon thee, or such as thou art? But how chanceth it that thou wentest away from thy husband? If thou wert an honest woman, thou wouldst not have left thy husband and children, and run about the country like a fugitive.
Mrs. P. Sir, I labored for my livingl; and as my Master Christ counselleth me, when I was persecuted in one city, I fled into another. B. Who persecuted thee?
Mrs. P. My husband and my children. For when I would have them to leave idolatry, and to worship God in heaven, he would not hear me, but he with his children rebuked me, and troubled me. I fled not for whoredom, nor for theft, but because I would be no partaker with him and his of that foul idol the Mass; and wheresoever I was, as oft as I could, upon Sundays and holydays. I made excuses not to go to the popish Church.
B. Belike then you are a good housewife, to fly from your husband the Church.
Mrs. P. My housewifery is but small; but God gave me grace to go to the true Church.
B. The true Church, what dost thou mean?
Mrs. P. Not your popish Church, full of idols and abominations, but where two or three are gathered together in the name of God, to that Church will I go as long as I live.
B. Belike then you have a church of your own. Well, let this mad woman be put down to prison until we send for her husband.
Mrs. P. No, I have but one husband, who is here already in this city, and in prison with me, from whom I will never depart.
Some persons present endeavoring to convince the bishop she was not in her right senses, she was permitted to depart. The keeper of the bishop's prisons took her into his house, where she either spun worked as a servant, or walked about the city, discoursing upon the Sacrament of the altar. Her husband was sent for to take her home, but this she refused while the cause of religion could be served. She was too active to be idle, and her conversation, simple as they affected to think her, excited the attention of several Catholic priests and friars. They teased her with questions, until she answered them angrily, and this excited a laugh at her warmth.
"Nay," said she, "you have more need to weep than to laugh, and to be sorry that ever you were born, to be the chaplains of that whore of Babylon. I defy him and all his falsehood; and get you away from me, you do but trouble my conscience. You would have me follow your doings; I will first lose my life. I pray you depart."
"Why, thou foolish woman," said they, "we come to thee for thy profit and soul's health." To which she replied, "What profit ariseth by you, that teach nothing but lies for truth? how save you souls, when you preach nothing but lies, and destroy souls?"
"How provest thou that?" said they.
"Do you not destroy your souls, when you teach the people to worship idols, stocks, and stones, the works of men's hands? and to worship a false God of your own making of a piece of bread, and teach that the pope is God's vicar, and hath power to forgive sins? and that there is a purgatory, when God's Son hath by His passion purged all? and say you make God and sacrifice Him, when Christ's body was a sacrifice once for all? Do you not teach the people to number their sins in your ears, and say they will be damned if they confess not all; when God's Word saith, Who can number his sins? Do you not promise them trentals and dirges and Masses for souls, and sell your prayers for money, and make them buy pardons, and trust to such foolish inventions of your imaginations? Do you not altogether act against God? Do you not teach us to pray upon beads, and to pray unto saints, and say they can pray for us? Do you not make holy water and holy bread to fray devils? Do you not do a thousand more abominations? And yet you say, you come for my profit, and to save my soul. No, no, one hath saved me. Farewell, you with your salvation."
During the liberty granted her by the bishop, before-mentioned, she went into St. Peter's Church, and there found a skilful Dutchman, who was affixing new noses to certain fine images which had been disfigured in King Edward's time; to whom she said, "What a madman art thou, to make them new noses, which within a few days shall all lose their heads?" The Dutchman accused her and laid it hard to her charge. And she said unto him, "Thou art accursed, and so are thy images." He called her a whore. "Nay," said she, "thy images are whores, and thou art a whore-hunter; for doth not God say, 'You go a whoring after strange gods, figures of your own making? and thou art one of them.'" After this she was ordered to be confined, and had no more liberty.
During the time of her imprisonment, many visited her, some sent by the bishop, and some of their own will, among these was one Daniel, a great preacher of the Gospel, in the days of King Edward, about Cornwall and Devonshire, but who, through the grievous persecution he had sustained, had fallen off. Earnestly did she exhort him to repent with Peter, and to be more constant in his profession.
Mrs. Walter Rauley and Mr. William and John Kede, persons of great respectability, bore ample testimony of her godly conversation, declaring, that unless God were with her, it were impossible she could have so ably defended the cause of Christ. Indeed, to sum up the character of this poor woman, she united the serpent and the dove, abounding in the highest wisdom joined to the greatest simplicity. She endured imprisonment, threatenings, taunts, and the vilest epithets, but nothing could induce her to swerve; her heart was fixed; she had cast anchor; nor could all the wounds of persecution remove her from the rock on which her hopes of felicity were built.
Such was her memory, that, without learning, she could tell in what chapter any text of Scripture was contained: on account of this singular property, one Gregory Basset, a rank papist, said she was deranged, and talked as a parrot, wild without meaning. At length, having tried every manner without effect to make her nominally a Catholic, they condemned her. After this, one exhorted her to leave her opinions, and go home to her family, as she was poor and illiterate. "True, (said she) though I am not learned, I am content to be a witness of Christ's death, and I pray you make no longer delay with me; for my heart is fixed, and I will never say otherwise, nor turn to your superstitious doing."
To the disgrace of Mr. Blackston, treasurer of the church, he would often send for this poor martyr from prison, to make sport for him and a woman whom he kept; putting religious questions to her, and turning her answers into ridicule. This done, he sent her back to her wretched dungeon, while he battened upon the good things of this world.
There was perhaps something simply ludicrous in the form of Mrs. Prest, as she was of a very short stature, thick set, and about fifty-four years of age; but her countenance was cheerful and lively, as if prepared for the day of her marriage with the Lamb. To mock at her form was an indirect accusation of her Creator, who framed her after the fashion He liked best, and gave her a mind that far excelled the transient endowments of perishable flesh. When she was offered money, she rejected it, "because (said she) I am going to a city where money bears no mastery, and while I am here God has promised to feed me."
When sentence was read, condemning her to the flames, she lifted up her voice and praised God, adding, "This day have I found that which I have long sought." When they tempted her to recant, "That will I not, (said she) God forbid that I should lose the life eternal, for this carnal and short life. I will never turn from my heavenly husband to my earthly husband; from the fellowship of angels to mortal children; and if my husband and children be faithful, then am I theirs. God is my father, God is my mother, God is my sister, my brother, my kinsman; God is my friend, most faithful."
Being delivered to the sheriff, she was led by the officer to the place of execution, without the walls of Exeter, called Sothenhey, where again the superstitious priests assaulted her. While they were tying her to the stake, she continued earnestly to exclaim "God be merciful to me, a sinner!" Patiently enduring the devouring conflagration, she was consumed to ashes, and thus ended a life which in unshaken fidelity to the cause of Christ, was not surpassed by that of any preceding martyr.
Richard Sharpe, Thomas Banion, and Thomas HaleMr. Sharpe, weaver, of Bristol, was brought the ninth day of March, 1556, before Dr. Dalby, chancellor of the city of Bristol, and after examination concerning the Sacrament of the altar, was persuaded to recant; and on the twenty-ninth, he was enjoined to make his recantation in the parish church. But, scarcely had he publicly avowed his backsliding, before he felt in his conscience such a tormenting fiend, that he was unable to work at his occupation; hence, shortly after, one Sunday, he came into the parish church, called Temple, and after high Mass, stood up in the choir door, and said with a loud voice, "Neighbors, bear me record that yonder idol (pointing to the altar) is the greatest and most abominable that ever was; and I am sorry that ever I denied my Lord God!" Notwithstanding the constables were ordered to apprehend him, he was suffered to go out of the church; but at night he was apprehended and carried to Newgate. Shortly after, before the chancellor, denying the Sacrament of the altar to be the body and blood of Christ, he was condemned to be burned by Mr. Dalby. He was burnt the seventh of May, 1558, and died godly, patiently, and constantly, confessing the Protestant articles of faith.With him suffered Thomas Hale, shoemaker, of Bristol, who was condemned by Chcnallor Dalby. These martyrs were bound back to back.
Thomas Banion, a weaver, was burnt on August 27, of the same year, and died for the sake of the evangelical cause of his Savior.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Our Attitude Toward the Pharisee
By David Strain 6/01/2016
Steering a course between the Scylla (rocks) of antinomianism on the one hand and the Charybdis (hard place) of legalism on the other is an unceasing responsibility of the Christian life. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that most of us find ourselves drawn more to the rocks on one side than the other. Perhaps we react to our upbringing, or to imbalanced preaching that once held sway in our churches, or to an earlier phase of our own Christian walk when we veered toward self-indulgence or self-righteousness. And while we must never disengage from the struggle to stay on course and avoid the dangerous reefs that always lurk just beneath the surface, we must also remember that there are other people who are making the journey as well, and our reactions as we see them chart an unsafe course may be shaped as much by our own history of wrong turns as by their present errors.
Those of us from a fundamentalist background who have come to know Christ may find ourselves in the throes of a reaction to legalism. Overly restrictive demands added unnecessary burdens to the light and easy yoke of Christ. But at some point, in the kind providence of God, we rediscovered the riches of sovereign grace. We grasped that having been justified freely, apart from our works, we stand clothed in the righteousness of Christ, utterly and immovably forgiven, accepted, and beloved. We have come to cling with gratitude to the wonderful truth of our adoption. In Christ, we who once were enemies of God are now His children, heirs of God and coheirs with Christ.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Rom. 8:16–17)
The shame we once felt when we failed to live up to the legalistic demands placed upon us has melted away as we appropriate anew our freedom as children of the King. We know now that we needn’t attempt to win a place for ourselves in the household of God by our own efforts since we have been adopted forever into His family.
But having rediscovered the joys of these precious gospel truths, we are nonetheless still in danger. Mercifully, the first danger is well known, and while it is pernicious, most of us are on guard against it. It’s the danger of overreaction. We know we mustn’t hear in the strong assurances of God’s rich grace a denial of the equally strong demands of God’s holy law. We know that by the works of the law no one will be justified (Gal. 2:16), yet we are not outside the law of God, but we live under the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21). The law, stripped of its condemning power, has become our friend. To continue the seafaring metaphor, the law becomes for a Christian like a ship’s pilot, steering the vessel through treacherous waters and plotting a safe course.
The second danger, however, is easily overlooked. Plotting a safe course for ourselves is one thing, but patience with fellow Christians who may be veering from that course is quite another. As recovering legalists, we need to recognize how quickly our patience with others can fail when they can’t yet see the looming rocks of legalism away from which we’re always so careful to steer. We wonder how they can be so blind as to miss altogether the razor rocks of self-righteousness and the hidden reefs of shame. How glad we are that we no longer make their mistakes. How naive they must be who can’t see the path of true gospel liberty.
But legalism takes a variety of forms, and one of its most subtle is exposed in our self-righteous boast that, unlike our poor legalistic brethren, we know better. And so, while we congratulate ourselves for our wisdom in safely navigating away from the dangers of excessive narrowness and burdensome, man-made restrictions, we nevertheless run aground on the very rocks we thought we had escaped. J. Gresham Machen, reflecting on Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:11), once pointed out this danger in his book What Is Faith? ?:
No doubt we think we can avoid the Pharisee’s error. God was not for him, we say, because he was contemptuous toward the publican; we will be tender to the publican, as Jesus taught us to be, and then God will be for us. It is no doubt a good idea; it is well that we are tender toward the publican. But what is our attitude toward the Pharisee? Alas, we despise him in a truly Pharisaical manner. We go up into the temple to pray; we stand and pray thus with ourselves: “God I thank thee that I am not as other men are, proud of my own righteousness, uncharitable toward publicans, or even as this—Pharisee.”
If we hope to save others from the rocks, it will not do to run aground ourselves. The practice of patience is the best defense against becoming a legalist about legalism and pharisaical toward Pharisees.
When Should You Not Take Communion?
By Anthony Carter 11/30/2018
When I was growing up, I did not like going to church. For a young boy in a rural town, church was boring, long, and filled with old, stodgy people singing old, stodgy songs. I would have rather been playing and watching football. However, there was one Sunday out of every month in which I did look forward to church—the first Sunday.
The first Sunday was communion Sunday. The mothers (older women) of the church would dress in all white. The pastor would wear his white robe. The communion table, normally bare, would be draped in a white cloth under which was clearly the communionware containing the bread and the wine.
I was impressed with the ceremony involved and the care taken in preparing the table. There was care in handling and distributing the elements. The deacons wore white gloves and the trays were passed between them with a deliberate orchestration of movements and reverence. I really enjoyed the anticipation and celebration of the Lord’s Table. Unfortunately, for all the care taken with the elements of the table, similar care was not taken by the participants, those receiving the table.
Contrary to some assumptions, the Lord’s Table is not for everyone. It is a blessed sacrament, like baptism, given to the church as a sign of God’s faithfulness to His promises and an assurance in the heart of the one to whom the promises are given. With this in mind, we should understand that there are at least two groups of people who should be discouraged from partaking at the Lord’s Table, namely, the unconverted and the unrepentant.
The Unconverted. The Lord’s Table is for those who have professed true faith in the Lord. It is referred to variously in the church because it is referenced variously in the Scriptures. Besides being called the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20), it is also often referred to as communion. This is due to the fact that in 1 Corinthians 10:16, the bread and the cup are understood to be a “communion” or “sharing” in and with Christ.
Communion, or common union, is born out of union with Christ. Only those in union with Christ have fellowship with Him. They share in His body and His blood and are consequently united to Him (John 6:56). The unconverted has no fellowship with Christ. The unconverted has no union with Him. There is no promise of Christ’s abiding with him. He has no portion in the body of Christ broken or the blood of Christ shed. Consequently, there can be no sharing in the elements that signify the person and work of Christ for the church (1 Cor. 11:24). The converted, on the other hand, discern that such are the blessings of being united to Christ.
The converted understand that the bread and the cup are a proclamation of the Lord’s death (1 Cor. 11:26). The elements move the believer to reflect upon the sacrifice of Christ and the abiding blessedness of knowing that Christ is for us. The blood of Christ is the forgiveness of our sins (Matt. 26:28). The body is Christ broken, suffering in our place (1 Cor. 11:24). These are the blessings that belong to those united to Christ by grace alone through faith alone. Only the converted, the truly regenerate, can be assured of these truths communicated in and through the Lord’s Table.
The Unrepentant. While the Lord’s Table is only for the converted, it is also only for the convert who is living the examined and, consequently, repentant life. The sacrament is for believers. And yet, the admonition to believers is clear: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:28).
The Christian life is the examined life, the life that takes seriously the call to repentance and the promise of forgiveness (1 John. 1:8–9; 2:1). Unfortunately, there are those who deny the grace of repentance by hardening their hearts and refusing to forgive or be forgiven. Those who refuse to acknowledge their sin, but harbor bitterness, malice, and hatred in their hearts, and refuse godly counsel toward reconciliation with God and others, and thus neglect the grace of repentance—let them refrain from the Lord’s Table. Otherwise, to eat and to drink in such a state is to call forth the disciplining hand of God (1 Cor. 11:32).
Nevertheless, such a condition is not the desire of God for His people. Our God delights to forgive (Micah 7:18). Consequently, His people can be assured “of better things—things that belong to salvation” (Heb. 6:9), namely, the blessed union and communion with Christ. To you, Christ says, “Come!” (Isa. 55:1). To you, Christ says “Welcome!” To you, Christ says, “Enjoy!”
I have long come to appreciate that old rural church in which I was raised. Today, many of those old, stodgy saints have gone to be with the Lord. And many of those old, stodgy songs have become my favorites. One in particular reminds me that the Lord’s Table is a blessed invitation to all those who hunger and thirst for righteousness:
Come ye thirsty, come and welcome;
Gods free bounty glorify.
True belief and true repentance;
Every grace that brings you nigh.
And there is no more blessed grace than that of sweet communion with and in Christ.
Anthony Carter Books:
- 1 Black and Reformed: Seeing God's Sovereignty in the African-American Christian Experience
- 2 Experiencing the Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church
- 3 Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity
- 4 On Being Black and Reformed: A New Perspective on the African-American Christian Experience
- 5 Blood Work
- 6 What is the Gospel?: Life's Most Important Question
- 7 The Holiness of God: An Attribute First Among Equals
- 8 Fighting Sexual Temptation: An Attack of the Heart
- 9 Wolves Among the Sheep: Be Aware of False Prophets
The Continual Burnt Offering (Hebrews 10:12)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
December 1Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. ESV
There is no mention of a chair or seat of any kind in the sanctuary of old. The work of the priests was never done; they were constantly occupied presenting the many sacrifices offered all day long. But when our Lord Jesus had offered His own all-sufficient sacrifice, never to be repeated, He sat down as evidence that His work was done. In virtue of that propitiatory sacrifice all who are set apart to God through faith in Him are perfected forever. In view of this how blasphemous is the claim that a “continual unbloody sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead” is offered in the celebration of the Mass. This is to ignore the perfection of Christ’s one offering on the cross which has satisfied every claim of God’s righteous throne and never needs to be repeated.
Settled forever! Sin’s tremendous claim!
Glory to Jesus! Blessed be His Name!
No part-way measures doth His grace provide,
Finished the work when Christ the Saviour died.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Be a peacemaker
12/1/2017 Bob Gass
‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’
(Mt 5:9) 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. ESV
Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar told of a little guy who was confronted by three big bullies, any one of whom could have flattened him. And clearly, that’s what they had in mind. But the little guy was very bright. He backed away, drew a line in the dirt, backed up a few more steps, looked into the eyes of the biggest bully and said, ‘I dare you to step across that line!’ The guy did. Then the little boy grinned and said, ‘Good, now we’re both on the same side!’ When you find yourself in the midst of conflict, you can decide to do one of two things: become a troublemaker or a peacemaker. You can add to the stress or try to bring a solution. Peacemakers look for common ground and try to get everyone onto it. Their goal is to find a win-win solution. Barnabas, whose name means ‘Son of Consolation’, stood up for the newly-converted Saul of Tarsus. The leaders of the church felt threatened by him, and you could hardly blame them. But Barnabas wasn’t thinking about Paul’s violent background; he was considering his value to God. In essence, he was thinking, ‘If we can harness and direct this guy, he can win the race for us.’ And he was proved right. Saul the persecutor became Paul the apostle. But not until Barnabas put his credibility on the line (see Acts 9:26-30). Peacemaking calls for taking risks. It means evaluating people by their best moments and qualities. Peacemakers are ‘big picture’ thinkers who are governed by grace, not petty opinions and temporary conditions. So be a peacemaker.
1 John 5
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
The Confederates won the Second Battle of Bull Run, crossed the Potomac River in to Maryland and captured Harper’s Ferry. After the bloodiest day of fighting, the Confederate drive was halted at the Battle of Antietam. Abraham Lincoln responded by issuing his Emancipation Proclamation. On this day, December 1, 1862, President Lincoln stated in his Second Annual Message to Congress: “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free… We shall nobly save - or meanly lose - the last, best hope of earth… The way is plain… which if followed the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
My experience is the same as yours. I have never met a book on prayer which was much use to people in our position. There are many little books of prayers, which may be helpful to those who share Rose Macaulay's approach, but you and I wouldn't know what to do with them. It's not words we lack! And there are books on prayer, but they nearly all have a strongly conventual background. Even the Imitation is sometimes, to an almost comic degree, "not addressed to my condition." The author assumes that you will want to be chatting in the kitchen when you ought to be in your cell. Our temptation is to be in our studies when we ought to be chatting in the kitchen. (Perhaps if our studies were as cold as those cells it would be different.)
You and I are people of the foothills. In the happy days when I was still a walker, I loved the hills, and even mountain walks, but I was no climber. I hadn't the head. So now, I do not attempt the precipices of mysticism. On the other hand, there is, apparently, a level of prayer-life lower even than ours. I don't mean that the people who occupy it are spiritually lower than we. They may far excel us. But their praying is of an astonishingly undeveloped type.
I have only just learned about it-from our Vicar. He assures me that, so far as he has been able to discover, the overwhelming majority of his parishioners mean by "saying their prayers" repeating whatever little formula they were taught in childhood by their mothers. I wonder how this can come about. It can't be that they are never penitent or thankful-they’re dear people, many of them-or have no needs. Is it that there is a sort of water-tight bulk-head between their "religion" and their "real life," in which case the part of their life which they call "religious" is really the irreligious part?
But however badly needed a good book on prayer is, I shall never try to write it. Two people on the foothills comparing notes in private are all very well. But in a book one would inevitably seem to be attempting, not discussion, but instruction. And for me to offer the world instruction about prayer would be imprudence.
About the higher level-the crags up which the mystics vanish out of my sight-the glaciers and the aiguilles-I have only two things to say. One is that I don't think we are all "called" to that ascent. "If it were so, He would have told us.”
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
I find that to be a fool as to worldly wisdom,
and to commit my cause to God,
not fearing to offend men,
who take offence at the simplicity of truth,
is the only way to remain unmoved
at the sentiments of others.
--- John Woolman
The Journal and Major Essays of John Woolman
He that loveth little
he that loveth much
The Best of Fenelon
And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.
--- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East
Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.
--- Benjamin Whorf
The Ruby Way
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
will in the end be ungrateful.
22 Angry people stir up strife;
hot-tempered people commit many crimes.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The law and the Gospel
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. --- James 2:10.
The moral law does not consider us as weak human beings at all, it takes no account of our heredity and infirmities, it demands that we be absolutely moral. The moral law never alters, either for the noblest or for the weakest, it is eternally and abidingly the same. The moral law ordained by God does not make itself weak to the weak, it does not palliate our shortcomings, it remains absolute for all time and eternity. If we do not realize this, it is because we are less than alive; immediately we are alive, life becomes a tragedy. “I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” When we realize this, then the Spirit of God convicts us of sin. Until a man gets there and sees that there is no hope, the Cross of Jesus Christ is a farce to him. Conviction of sin always brings a fearful binding sense of the law, it makes a man hopeless—“sold under sin.” I, a guilty sinner, can never get right with God, it is impossible. There is only one way in which I can get right with God, and that is by the death of Jesus Christ. I must get rid of the lurking idea that I can ever be right with God because of my obedience—which of us could ever obey God to absolute perfection!
We only realize the power of the moral law when it comes with an ‘if.’ God never coerces us. In one mood we wish He would make us do the thing, and in another mood we wish He would leave us alone. Whenever God’s will is in the ascendant, all compulsion is gone. When we choose deliberately to obey Him, then, with all His almighty power, He will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand to assist us.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
and there the scarecrow walked
over the surface of the brown
breakers tattered like Christ
himself and the man went
at his call with the fathoms
under him and because
of his faith in the creation
of his own hands he was
buoyed up floundering
but never sinking scalded
by the urine of the skies deaf
to the voices calling from
the high road telling him
his Savior's face was of straw.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
When Maimonides describes morality as an imitation of God’s actions he is describing a morality which has its roots in an intellectual understanding of God. The ground of this morality is neither specific rules nor principles but, rather, the actions of God as they are manifest in nature. The key difference between the morality of the multitude and the morality of the religious philosopher is that the former is rule-dominated and based in the juridical authority of God, the latter an imitation of the God of creation. Knowledge of God based on the study of nature reveals lovingkindness, righteousness, and judgment as constant features of being. The constancy of God’s ḥesed, reflected in being, guides the religious philosopher to act with ḥesed toward men even though they have no claim on him.
Maimonides ends the Guide exactly as he began his earliest legal work. By distinguishing between morality before and after knowledge of God, Maimonides is expressing a key theme of his philosophy: theoretical knowledge of God affects practice.
This essay began by showing that in his first legal work, Maimonides claimed that without the theoretical knowledge of God derived from the study of nature one cannot become a ḥasid. It continued with an explanation of how different orientations to Halakhah are a function of different conceptions of God. Knowledge of God derived from the study of physics and metaphysics is necessary in order to transcend the motive of self-interest and to become a person whose actions reflect the principle of lifnim mi-shurat ha-din.
To Maimonides, practice is affected not only by moral knowledge. Practice also changes when one adopts a different orientation to life. “Man does not sit, move, and occupy himself when he is alone in his house, as he sits, moves, and occupies himself when he is in the presence of a great king.” It is not that a person who is alone is ignorant of or violates moral rules of behavior, but that intellectual worship of God and the awareness of being in His presence provide man with a different orientation to the significance of practice. The framework of life within which one locates oneself—anthropocentric or theocentric—will influence one’s characteristic patterns of behavior. The practice of the ḥasid results from a perspective on life where olam ha-ba is the telos of human history and of human existence. The ḥasid severs his attachment to what people ordinarily consider valuable, e.g., possessions and physical pleasures, as a direct result of his understanding of the purpose of life. Lifnim mi-shurat ha-din becomes the characteristic response of one who defines himself by the theocentric perspective. Anyone, at any given time, may perform an action that is beyond the strict requirement of Halakhah. Yet, to the ḥasid, such acts are not isolated moments of religious fervor; they derive from the nature of his intellectual love of God.
Maimonides’ description of the relationship of philosophy to Halakhah has its roots in his understanding of the structure of Torah. Torah does not begin with the account of Sinai but with God’s relationship to the universe. For Maimonides the juridical moment of Sinai is only fully internalized by individuals who interpret Sinai from the perspective of creation:
God, may His mention be exalted, wished us to be perfected and the state of our societies to be improved by His laws regarding actions. Now this can come about only after the adoption of intellectual beliefs, the first of which being His apprehension, may He be exalted, according to our capacity. This, in its turn, cannot come about except through Divine science, and this Divine science cannot become actual except after a study of natural science. This is so since natural science borders on Divine science, and its study precedes that of Divine science in time as has been made clear to whoever has engaged in speculation on these matters. Hence God, may He be exalted, caused His book to open with the “Account of the Beginning,” which as we have made clear, is natural science.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. --- Luke 12:32
The prophet Isaiah foretold the appearance of Jesus in the character of a shepherd: “The Sovereign LORD… tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isa. 40:10–11). Short Sermons On Important Subjects Accordingly, when our Lord appeared in human nature, he said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:14). Jesus feeds his flock with truth and consolation. They have many powerful enemies, but he is an all-powerful friend.
Sheep are striking emblems of true Christians. Like them, the Christian is harmless, meek, and inoffensive. The malignant and violent dispositions [of our] natural beings are brought into subjection by Scriptural conversion. Thus, the lion becomes a gentle lamb; arrogant, mischievous, and turbulent human dispositions become humble, useful, meek, and gentle. A society of such people may be compared to a flock of sheep because they love to dwell together and to feed in the same pastures. In times of danger, they form themselves into a close body and look up for protection to the great Shepherd of the sheep.
The followers of Jesus are a little flock. One would have supposed from the purity of Jesus’ conduct, the wisdom displayed in his discourses, and his mighty works that the whole Jewish nation would have received him as their shepherd. This, however, was so far from being the case that he had only a few obscure individuals in his flock.
The number of genuine Christians has been very small when compared with the great mass of humanity. It does not follow that this will always be the case. There can be no doubt that Jesus will finally conquer his enemies.
The flock of Jesus are not to be afraid. Every follower of Jesus has the promise of a kingdom. With that prospect, who can yield to doubts and fears? “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not… graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). What God gives is given with pleasure. He takes delight in making us happy, and our happiness and his glory are inseparably connected.
Therefore, commit yourselves to his pastoral care. You will soon be conducted to his heavenly fold. There all his sheep will spend a blessed eternity with their heavenly Shepherd.
--- Jonathan Edmondson
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Thunderstorm Over Canterbury
Henry II was among England’s most remarkable kings, forceful and brilliant. But he is best known for his quarrel with close friend Thomas Becket. Becket was born in London in 1118. His father was a Crusader, his mother a princess. He was Henry’s equal in appearance—handsome, tall, commanding, affable, athletic, and alert. Henry appointed Becket, 37, chancellor of England, the highest civil post in the land, and for seven years Becket lived in splendor, traveled in style, and ruled in power. He became de facto king, Henry’s closest ally.
In 1162 Henry wanted to appoint Thomas as archbishop of Canterbury. Becket warned him he would lose a friend, but Henry nonetheless made him head of England’s church. The change in Becket was immediate. He traded his splendid clothes for rags and wandered through his cloisters shedding tears for past sins. He whipped himself, read the Bible, and spent hours in prayer. And to Henry’s horror, Becket endlessly sided with church against crown. The frantic king finally banished him from the country.
On December 1, 1170 Becket returned, electrifying all England. Henry, foaming with rage, shouted, “By the eyes of God, is there none of my cowardly courtiers who will deliver me from this turbulent priest?” Four knights took up the challenge, and on December 29 they fell on Becket during Evening vespers. “In the name of Christ and for the defense of his church, I am ready to die,” Becket uttered as the blows fell. “Lord, receive my spirit.” The attackers slashed at his head, spilling his blood and brains on the floor. A violent thunderstorm broke over the cathedral.
The Christian world reeled with horror, and Henry saw the tide turn against him. Walking through Canterbury’s streets with bleeding feet, he entered the cathedral, kissed the spot where Becket had died, and placed his head and shoulders on Becket’s tomb. There he was flogged by the priests. But the rest of his days were calamitous, and he died broken in spirit, cursing his life.
Controlling your temper is better than being a hero Who captures a city. We make our own decisions, But the LORD alone determines what happens.
--- Proverbs 16:32,33.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
God Is In The Manger (Day 5)
A Soft, Mysterious Voice
In the midst of the deepest guilt and distress of the people, a voice speaks that is soft and mysterious but full of the blessed certainty of salvation through the birth of a divine child (Isa. 9:6-7). It is still seven hundred years until the time of fulfillment, but the prophet is so deeply immersed in God's thought and counsel that he speaks of the future as if he saw it already, and he speaks of the salvific hour as if he already stood in adoration before the manger of Jesus. "For a child has been born for us." What will happen one day is already real and certain in God's eyes, and it will be not only for the salvation of future generations but already for the prophet who sees it coming and for his generation, indeed, for all generations on earth. "For a child has been born for us." No human spirit can talk like this on its own. How are we who do not know what will happen next year supposed to understand that someone can look forward many centuries? And the times then were no more transparent than they are today. Only the Spirit of God, who encompasses the beginning and end of the world, can in such a way reveal to a chosen person the mystery of the future, so that he must prophesy for strengthening believers and warning unbelievers. This individual voice ultimately enters into the nocturnal adoration of the shepherds (Luke 2:15-20) and into the full jubilation of the Christ-believing community: "For a child has been born for us, a son given to us." A shaking of heads, perhaps even an evil laugh, must go through our old, smart, experienced, self-assured world, when it hears the call of salvation of believing Christians "For a child has been born for us, a son given to us."
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - December 1
“Thou hast made summer and winter.” --- Psalm 74:17.
My soul begin this wintry month with thy God. The cold snows and the piercing winds all remind thee that he keeps his covenant with day and night, and tend to assure thee that he will also keep that glorious covenant which he has made with thee in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to his Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor sin-polluted world, will not prove unfaithful in his dealings with his own well-beloved Son.
Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee: but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: he casteth forth his ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, he is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord’s sending, and come to us with wise design. Frosts kill noxious insects, and put a bound to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soul. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!
How we prize the fire just now! how pleasant is its cheerful glow! Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw nigh to him, and in him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of his promises, and go forth to labours which befit the season, for it were ill to be as the sluggard who will not plough by reason of the cold; for he shall beg in summer and have nothing.
Evening - December 1
“O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men.” --- Psalm 107:8.
If we complained less, and praised more, we should be happier, and God would be more glorified. Let us daily praise God for common mercies—common as we frequently call them, and yet so priceless, that when deprived of them we are ready to perish. Let us bless God for the eyes with which we behold the sun, for the health and strength to walk abroad, for the bread we eat, for the raiment we wear. Let us praise him that we are not cast out among the hopeless, or confined amongst the guilty; let us thank him for liberty, for friends, for family associations and comforts; let us praise him, in fact, for everything which we receive from his bounteous hand, for we deserve little, and yet are most plenteously endowed. But, beloved, the sweetest and the loudest note in our songs of praise should be of redeeming love. God’s redeeming acts towards his chosen are for ever the favourite themes of their praise. If we know what redemption means, let us not withhold our sonnets of thanksgiving. We have been redeemed from the power of our corruptions, uplifted from the depth of sin in which we were naturally plunged. We have been led to the cross of Christ—our shackles of guilt have been broken off; we are no longer slaves, but children of the living God, and can antedate the period when we shall be presented before the throne without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Even now by faith we wave the palm-branch and wrap ourselves about with the fair linen which is to be our everlasting array, and shall we not unceasingly give thanks to the Lord our Redeemer? Child of God, canst thou be silent? Awake, awake, ye inheritors of glory, and lead your captivity captive, as ye cry with David, “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” Let the new month begin with new songs.
Morning and Evening
HOW TEDIOUS AND TASTELESS THE HOURS
John Newton, 1725–1807
Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire beside You. (Psalm 73:25
The Gospel of Jesus Christ revolves around the two Advents of the Savior: The first when He came as the humble baby in Bethlehem’s manger (Philippians 2:6–8); the second when He returns as King of kings with power and great glory to establish His eternal kingdom (Luke 21:27). Christ’s first coming assures us that we now have a God who identified Himself with us in every aspect of life from birth to death. The anticipation of His second coming assures us that we will live and reign with Him forever. Such a hope keeps this life from becoming “tedious and tasteless”—regardless of the seasons or situations.
The ultimate source of inner joy is God Himself, not our circumstances. Without an intimate sense of His daily presence, however, our lives can easily become wintry and frigid.
“BUT WHEN I AM HAPPY WITH HIM, DECEMBER’S AS PLEASANT AS MAY.”
“How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours” is another of the fine hymns by John Newton. It first appeared in his 1779 collection titled The Olney Hymns. The hymn was originally titled “Fellowship with Christ”—based on Psalm 73:25. These words still speak vividly to us of the importance of maintaining a close personal relationship with our Lord:
How tedious and tasteless the hours when Jesus no longer I see! Sweet prospects, sweet birds, and sweet flowers have all lost their sweetness to me. The mid-summer sun shines but dim; the fields strive in vain to look gay; but when I am happy with Him, December’s as pleasant as May.
Content with beholding His face, my all to His pleasure resigned, no changes of season or place would make any change in my mind: While blest with a sense of His love, a palace a toy would appear; and prisons would palaces prove, if Jesus would dwell with me there.
Dear Lord, if indeed I am Thine, if Thou art my sun and my song, say, why do I languish and pine, and why are my winters so long? Oh, drive these dark clouds from my sky; Thy soul-cheering presence restore; or take me unto Thee on high, where winter and clouds are no more.
For Today: Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 9:2; 70:4; Romans 14:17, 18
God has made you a steward of this day, regardless of the weather or circumstances. May it count for Him. Consciously practice His presence. Reflect on this musical truth ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
5th. We do contemn or abuse his goodness by omissions of duty. These sometimes spring from injurious conceits of God, which end in desperate resolutions. It was the crime of a good prophet in his passion (2 Kings 6:33): “This evil is of the Lord, why should I wait on the Lord any longer?” God designs nothing but mischief to us, and we will seek him no longer. And the complaint of those in Malachi (Mal. 3:14) is of the same nature; “Ye have said, It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinances?” We have all this while served a hard Master, not a Benefactor, and have not been answered with advantages proportionable to our services; we have met with a hand too niggardly to dispense that reward which is due to the largeness of our offerings. When men will not lift up their eyes to heaven, and solicit nothing but the contrivance of their own brain, and the industry of their own heads, they disown Divine goodness, and approve themselves as their own gods, and the spring of their own prosperity. Those that run not to God in their necessity, to crave his support, deny either the arm of his power, or the disposition of his will, to sustain and deliver them: they must have very mean sentiments, or none at all, of this perfection, or think him either too empty to fill them, or too churlish to relieve them; that he is of a narrow and contracted temper, and that they may sooner expect to be made better and happier by anything else than by him: and as we contemn his goodness by a total omission of those duties which respect our own advantage and supply, as prayer; so we contemn him as the chiefest good, by an omission of the due manner of any act of worship which is designed purely for the acknowledgment of him. As every omission of the material part of a duty is a denial of his sovereignty as commanding it, so every omission of the manner of it, not performing it with due esteem and valuation of him, a surrender of all the powers of our soul to him, is a denial of him as the most amiable object. But certainly to omit those addresses to God which his precept enjoins, and his excellency deserves, speaks this language, that they can be well enough, and do well enough, without God, and stand in no need of his goodness to maintain them. The neglect or refusal in a malefactor to supplicate for his pardon, is a wrong to, and contempt of, the prince’s goodness: either implying that he hath not a goodness in his nature worthy of an address, or that he scorns to be obliged to him for any exercise of it.
6th. The goodness of God is contemned, or abused, in relying upon our services to procure God’s good will to us. As, when we stand in need either of some particular mercy, or special assistance; when pressures are heavy, and we have little hopes of ease in an ordinary way; when the devotions in course have not prevailed for what we want; we engage ourselves by extraordinary vows and promises to God, hereby to open that goodness which seems to be locked up from us. Sometimes, indeed, vows may proceed from a sole desire to engage ourselves to God, from a sense of the levity and inconstancy of our spirits; binding ourselves to God by something more sacred and inviolable than a common resolution. But many times the vowing the building of a temple, endowing a hospital, giving so much in alms if God will free them from a fit of sickness, and spin out the thread of their lives a little longer (as hath been frequent among the Romanists), arises from an opinion of laziness and a selfishness in the Divine goodness; that it must be squeezed out by some solemn promises of returns to him, before it will exercise itself to take their parts. Popular vows are often the effects of an ignorance of the free and bubbling nature of this perfection of the generousness and royalty of Divine goodness: as if God were of a mean and mechanic temper, not to part with anything unless he were in some measure paid for it; and of so bad a nature as not to give passage to any kindness to his creature without a bribe. It implies also that he is of an ignorant as well as contracted goodness; that he hath so little understanding, and so much weakness of judgment, as to be taken with such trifles, and ceremonial courtships, and little promises; and meditated only low designs, in imparting his bounty: it is just as if a malefactor should speak to a prince,—Sir, if you will but bestow a pardon upon me, and prevent the death I have merited for this crime, I will give you this rattle. All vows made with such a temper of spirit to God, are as injurious and abusive to his goodness, as any man will judge such an offer to be to a majestic and gracious prince; as if it were a trading, not a free and royal goodness.
7th. The goodness of God is abused when we give up our souls and affections to those benefits we have from God; when we make those things God’s rivals, which were sent to woo us for him, and offer those affections to the presents themselves, which they were sent to solicit for the Master. This is done, when either we place our trust in them, or glue our choicest affections to them. This charge God brings against Jerusalem, the trusting in her own beauty, glory, and strength, though it was a comeliness put upon her by God (Ezek. 16:14, 15). When a little sunshine of prosperity breaks out upon us, we are apt to grasp it with so much eagerness and closeness, as if we had no other foundation to settle ourselves upon, no other being that might challenge from us our sole dependence. And the love of ourselves, and of creatures above God, is very natural to us: “Lovers of themselves, and lovers of pleasure more than of God” (2 Tim. 3:2, 4). Self love is the root, and the love of pleasures the top branch, that mounts its head highest against heaven. It is for the love of the world that the dangers of the sea are passed over, that men descend into the bowels of the earth, pass nights without sleep, undertake suits without intermission, wade through many inconveniences, venture their souls, and contemn God; in those things men glory, and foolishly grow proud by them, and think themselves safe and happy in them. Now to love ourselves above God, is to own ourselves better than God, and that we transcend him in an amiable goodness; or, if we love ourselves equal with God, it at least manifests that we think God no better than ourselves; and think ourselves our own chief good, and deny anything above us to outstrip us in goodness, whereby to deserve to be the centre of our affections and actions, and to love any other creature above him, is to conclude some defect in God; that he hath not so much goodness in his own nature as that creature hath, to complete our felicity; that God is a slighter thing than that creature. It is to account God, what all the things in the world are,—an imaginary happiness, a goodness of clay; and them what God is,—a Supreme Goodness. It is to value the goodness of a drop above that of the spring, and the goodness of the spark above that of the sun. As if the bounty of God were of a less alloy than the advantages we immediately receive from the hands of a silly worm. By how much the better we think a creature to be, and place our affections chiefly upon it, by so much the more deficient and indigent we conclude God; for God wants so much in our conception, as the other thing hath goodness above him in our thoughts. Thus is God lessened below the creature, as if he had a mixture of evil in him, and were capable of an imperfect goodness. He that esteems the sun that shines upon him, the clothes that warm him, the food that nourisheth him, or any other benefit above the Donor, regards them as more comely and useful than God himself; and behaves himself as if he were more obliged to them than to God, who bestowed those advantageous qualities upon them.
8th. The Divine goodness is contemned, in sinning more freely upon the account of that goodness, and employing God’s benefits in a drudgery for our lusts. This is a treachery to his goodness, to make his benefits serve for an end quite contrary to that for which he sent them. As if God had been plentiful in his blessings, to hire them to be more fierce in their rebellions, and fed them to no other purpose, but that they might more strongly kick against him; this is the fruit which corrupt nature produceth. Thus the Egyptians, who had so fertile a country, prove unthankful to the Creator, by adoring the meanest creatures, and putting the sceptre of the Monarch of the world into the hands of the sottishest and cruellest beasts. And the Romans multiply their idols, as God multiplied their victories. This is also the complaint of God concerning Israel: “She did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal” (Hos. 2:8). They ungratefully employed the blessings of God in the worship of an idol against the will of the Donor. So in Hos. 10:1; “According to the multitude of his fruit, he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land, they have made goodly images.” They followed their own inventions with the strength of my outward blessings; as their wealth increased, they increased the ornaments of their images; so that what were before of wood and stone, they advanced to gold and silver. And the like complaint you may see Ezek. 16, 17. Thus,
[1.] The benefits of God are abused to pride, when men standing upon a higher ground of outward prosperity, vaunt it loftily above their neighbors; the common fault of those that enjoy a worldly sunshine, which the apostle observes in his direction to Timothy; “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded” (1 Tim. 6:17). It is an ill use of Divine blessings to be filled by them with pride and wind. Also,
[2.] When men abuse plenty to ease; because they have abundance, spend their time in idleness, and make no other use of Divine benefits than to trifle away their time, and be utterly useless to the world.
[3.] When they also abuse peace and other blessing to security, as they which would not believe the threatenings of judgment, and the storm coming from a far country, because the Lord was in Sion, and her King in her; “Is not the Lord in Sion, is not her King in her” (Jer. 8:19)? thinking they might continue their progress in their sin, because they had the temple, the seat of the Divine glory, Sion, and the promise of an everlasting kingdom to David; abusing the promise of God to presumption and security, and turning the grace of God into wantonness.
[4.] Again, when they abuse the bounty of God to sensuality and luxury, misemploying the provisions God gives them, in resolving to live like beasts, when by a good improvement of them, they might attain the life of angels. Thus is the light of the sun abused to conduct them, and the fruits of the earth abused to enable them to their prodigious debauchery: as we do, saith one, with the Thames, which rings us in provision, and we soil it with our rubbish. The more God sows his gifts, the more we sow our cockle and darnel. Thus we make our outward happiness the most unhappy part of our lives, and by the strength of Divine blessings, exceed all laws of reason and religion too. How unworthy a carriage is this, to use the expressions of Divine goodness as occasions of a greater outrage and affront of him; when we stab his honor by those instruments he puts into our hands to glorify him! as if a favorite should turn that sword into the bowels of his prince, wherewith he knighted him; and a servant, enriched by a lord, should hire by that wealth, murderers to take away his life! How brutish is it, the more God courts us with his blessings, the more to spurn at him with our feet; like the mule that lifts up his heel against the dam, as soon as ever it hath sucked her! We never beat God out of our hearts, but by his own gifts; he receives no blows from men, but by those instruments he gave them to promote their happiness. While man is an enjoyer, he makes God a loser, by his own blessings; inflames his rebellion by those benefits which should kindle his love; and runs from him by the strength of those favors which should endear the donor to him: “Do you thus requite the Lord, O foolish people, and unwise?” is the expostulation (Deut. 32:6.) Divine goodness appears in the complaint of the abuse of it, in giving them titles below their crime, and complaining more of their being unfaithful to their own interest, than enemies to his glory: “foolish and unwise” in neglecting their own happiness; a charge below the crime, which deserved to be “abominable, ungrateful people to a prodigy.” All this carriage towards God, is as if a man should knock the chirurgeon on the head, as soon as he hath set and bound up his dislocated members. So God compares the ungrateful behavior of the Israelites against him: “Though I have bound and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me” (Hos. 7:15): a metaphor taken from a chirurgeon that applies corroborating plasters to a broken limb.
9th. We contemn the goodness of God, in ascribing our benefits to other causes than Divine goodness. Thus Israel ascribed her felicity, plenty, and success, to her idols, as “rewards which her lovers had given her” (Hos. 2:5, 12). And this charge Daniel brought home upon Belshazzar: “Thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, and brass, and iron; and the God in whose hand is thy breath, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified” (Dan. 5:23). The God who hath given success to the arms of thy ancestors, and conveyed by their hands so large a dominion to thee, thou hast not honored in the same rank with the sordidest of thy idols. It is the same case, when we own him not as the author of any success in our affairs, but by an overweaning conceit of our own sagacity, applaud and admire ourselves, and overlook the hand that conducted us, and brought our endeavors to a good issue. We eclipse the glory of Divine goodness, by setting the crown that is due to it upon the head of our own industry; a sacrilege worse than Belshazzar’s drinking of wine with his lords and concubines in the sacred vessels pilfered from the temple; as in that place of Daniel. This was the proud vaunt of the Assyrian conqueror, for which God threatens to punish the fruit of his stout heart: “By the strength of my hand, I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent;” and, “I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures;” and, “I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man” (Isa. 10:12–14). Not a word of Divine goodness and assistance in all this, but applauding his own courage and conduct. This is a robbing of God, to set up ourselves, and making Divine goodness a footstool, to ascend into his throne. And as it is unjust, so it is ridiculous, to ascribe to ourselves, or instruments, the chief honor of any work; as ridiculous as if a soldier, after a victory, should erect an altar to the honor of his sword; or an artificer offer sacrifices to the tools whereby he completed some excellent and useful invention: a practice that every rational man would disdain, where he should see it. It is a discarding any thoughts of the goodness of God, when we imagine, that we chiefly owe anything in this world to our own industry or wit, to friends or means, as though Divine goodness did not open its hand to interest itself in our affairs, support our ability, direct our counsels, and mingle itself with anything we do. God is the principal author of any advantage that accrues to us, of any wise resolution we fix upon, or any proper way we take to compass it; no man can be wise in opposition to God, act wisely, or well without him; his goodness inspires men with generous and magnificent counsels, and furnisheth them with fit and proportionable means; when he withdraws his hand, men’s heads grow foolish, and their hands feeble; folly and weakness drop upon them, as darkness upon the world upon the removal of the sun; it is an abuse of Divine goodness not to own it, but erect an idol in its place. Ezra was of another mind when he ascribed to the good hand of God the “providing ministers for the temple,” and not to his own care and diligence (chap. 8:18); and Nehemiah, the “success he had with the king” in the behalf of his nation, and not solely to his favor with the prince, or the arts he used to please him (chap. 2:8).
2. The second information is this: If God be so good, it is a certain argument that man is fallen from his original state. It is the complaint of man, sometimes, that other creatures have more of earthly happiness than men have; live freer from cares and trouble, and are not racked with that solicitousness and anxiety as man is: have not such distempers to embitter their lives. It is a good ground for man to look into himself, and consider whether he hath not, some ways or other, disobliged God more than other creatures can possibly do. We often find that the creatures men have need of in this state, do not answer the expectation of man: “Cursed be the ground for thy sake” (Gen. 3:17). A fruitful land is made barren; thorns and thistles triumph upon the face of the earth, instead of good fruit. Is it likely that that goodness, which is as infinite as his power, and knows no more limits than his Almightiness, should imprint so many scars upon the world, if he had not been heinously provoked by some miscarriage of his creature? Infinite Goodness could never move Infinite Justice to inflict punishment upon creatures, if they had not highly merited it; we cannot think that any creature was blemished with a principle of disturbance, as it came first out of the hand of God. All things were certainly settled in a due order and dependence upon one another; nothing could be ungrateful and unuseful to man by the original law of their creation; if there had, it had not been goodness, but evil and baseness, that had created the world. When we see, therefore, the course of nature overturned, the order Divine goodness had placed, disturbed; and the creatures pronounced good and useful to man, employed as instruments of vengeance against him; we must conclude some horrible blot upon human nature, and very odious to a God of infinite goodness; and that this blot was dashed upon man by himself, and his own fault; for it is repugnant to the infinite goodness of God to put into the creature a sinning nature, to hurry him into sin, and then punish him for that which he had impressed upon him. The goodness of God inclines him to love goodness wherever he finds it; and not to punish any that have not deserved it by their own crimes. The curse we therefore see the creatures groan under, the disorders in nature, the frustrating the expectations of man in the fruits of the earth and plentiful harvests, the trouble he is continually exposed to in the world, which tedders down his spirit from more generous employments, shows that man is not what he was when Divine goodness first erected him; but hath admitted into his nature something more uncomely in the eye of God; and so heinous, that it puts his goodness sometimes to a stand, and makes him lay aside the blessings his hand was filled with, to take up the arms of vengeance, wherewith to fight against the world. Divine goodness would have secured his creatures from any such invasions, and never used those things against man, which he designed in the first frame for man’s service, were there not some detestable disorder risen in the nature of man which makes God withhold his liberality and change the dispensation of his numerous benefits into legions of judgments. The consideration of the Divine goodness, which is a notion that man naturally concludes to be inseparable from the Deity, would, to an unbiassed reason, verify the history of those punishments settled upon man in the third chapter of Genesis, and make the whole seem more probable to reason at the first relation. This instruction naturally flows from the doctrine of Divine goodness: if God be so good, it is a certain argument that man is fallen from his original state.
3. The third information is this: If God be infinitely good, there can be no just complaint against God, if men be punished for abusing his goodness. Man had nothing, nay, it was impossible he could have anything, from Infinite Goodness to disoblige him, but to engage him. God never did, nay, never could, draw his sword against man, till man had slighted him and affronted him by the strength of his own bounty. It is by this God doth justify his severest proceedings against men, and very seldom charges them with any else as the matter of their provocations (Hos. 2:9): “Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax.” And in Ezek. 16., after he had drawn out a bill of complaint against them, and inserted only the abuse of his benefits, as a justification of what he intended to do; he concludes (ver. 27), “Behold, therefore, I have stretched out my hand over thee, and diminished thy ordinary food, and delivered thee unto the will of them that hate thee.” When men suffer, they suffer justly; they were not constrained by any violence, or forced by any necessity, nor provoked by any ill usage, to turn head against God, but broke the bands of the strongest obligations and most tender allurements. What man, what devil, can justly blame God for punishing them, after they had been so intolerably bold, as to fly in the face of that goodness that had obliged them, by giving them beings of a higher elevation than to inferior creatures, and furnishing them with sufficient strength to continue in their first habitation? Man seems to have less reason to accuse God of rigor than devils; since, after his unreasonable revolt, a more express goodness than that which created him hath solicited him to repentance, courted him by melting promises and expostulations, added undeniable arguments of bounty, and drawn out the choicest treasures of heaven, in the gift of his Son, to prevail over men’s perversity. And yet man, after he might arrive to the height and happiness of an angel, will be fond of continuing in the meanness and misery of a devil; and more strongly link himself to the society of the damned spirits, wherein, by his first rebellion, he had incorporated himself. Who can blame God for vindicating his own goodness from such desperate contempts, and the extreme ingratitude of man? If God be good, it is our happiness to adhere to him; if we depart from him, we depart from goodness; and if evil happen to us, we cannot blame God, but ourselves, for our departure. Why are men happy? because they cleave to God. Why are men miserable? because they recede from God. It is then our own fault that we are miserable; God cannot be charged with any injustice if we be miserable, since his goodness gave means to prevent it, and afterwards added means to recover us from it, but all despised by us. The doctrine of Divine goodness justifies every stone laid in the foundation of hell, and every spark in that burning furnace, since it is for the abuse of infinite goodness that it was kindled.
4. The fourth information: Here is a certain argument, both for God’s fitness to govern the world, and his actual government of it.
(1.) This renders him fit for the government of the world, and gives him a full title to it. This perfection doth the Psalmist celebrate throughout the 107th Psalm, where he declares God’s works of providence (ver. 8, 15, 21, 32). Power without goodness would deface, instead of preserving; ruin is the fruit of rigor without kindness; but God, because of his infinite and immutable goodness, cannot do anything unworthy of himself, and uncomely in itself, or destructive to any moral goodness in the creature. It is impossible he should do anything that is base, or act anything but for the best, because he is essentially and naturally, and, therefore, necessarily good. As a good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit, so a good God cannot produce evil acts, no more than a pure beam of the sun can engender so much as a mite of darkness, or infinite heat produce any particle of cold. As God is so much light, that he can be no darkness, so he is so much good, that he can have no evil; and because there is no evil in him, nothing simply evil can be produced by him. Since he is good by nature, all evil is against his nature, and God can do nothing against his nature; it would be a part of impotence in him to will that which is evil; and, therefore, the misery man feels, as well as the sin whereby he deserves that misery, are said to be from himself (Hos. 13:9): “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself!” And though God sends judgments upon the world, we have shown these to be intended for the support and vindication of his goodness. And Hezekiah judged no otherwise, when, after the threatening of the devastation of his house, the plundering his treasures, and captivity of his posterity, he replies, “Good is the word of the Lord, which thou hast spoken” (Isa. 39:8). God cannot act anything that is base and cruel, because his goodness is as infinite as his power, and his power acts nothing but what his wisdom directs, and his goodness moves him to. Wisdom is the head in government, omniscience the eye, power the arm, and goodness the heart and spirit in them, that animates all.
(2.) As goodness renders Him fit to govern the world, so God doth actually govern the world. Can we understand this perfection aright, and yet imagine that he is of so morose a disposition as to neglect the care of his creatures? that his excellency, which was displayed in framing the world, should withdraw and wrap up itself in his own bosom, without looking out, and darting itself out in the disposal of them? Can that which moved him first to erect a world, suffer him to be unmindful of his own work? Would he design first to display it in creation, and afterwards obscure the honor of it? That cannot be entitled an infinite permanent goodness, which should be so indifferent as to let the creatures tumble together as they please, without any order, after he had moulded them in his hand. If goodness be diffusive and communicative of itself, can it consist with the nature of it, to extend itself to the giving the creatures being, and then withdraw and contract itself, not caring what becomes of them? It is the nature of goodness, after it hath communicated itself, to enlarge its channels; that fountain that springs up in a little hollow part of the earth, doth in a short progress increase its streams, and widen the passages through which it runs; it would be a blemish to Divine goodness, if it did desert what it made, and leave things to wild confusions, which would be, if a good hand did not manage them, and a good mind preside over them. This is the lesson intended to us by all his judgments (Dan. 4:17), “That the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdoms of men.” If he doth not actually govern the world, he must have devolved it somewhere, either to men or angels; not to men, who naturally want a goodness and wisdom to govern themselves, much more to govern others exactly. And, besides the misinterpretations of actions, they are liable to the want of patience, to bear with the provocations of the world; since some of the best at one time in the world, and, in the greatest example of meekness and sweetness, would have kindled a fire in heaven to have consumed the Samaritans, for no other affront than a non-entertainment of their Master and themselves (Luke 9:54). Nor hath he committed the disposal of things to angels, either good or bad; though he useth them as instruments in his government, yet they are not the principal pilots to steer the world. Bad angels certainly are not; they would make continual ravages, meditate ruin, never defeat their own counsels, which they manage by the wicked as the instruments in the world, nor fill their spirits with disquiet and restlessness when they are engaged in some ruinous design, as often is experienced: nor hath he committed it to the good angels, who, for aught we know, are not more numerous than the evil ones are; but besides, we can scarcely think their finite nature capable of so much goodness, as to bear the innumerable debaucheries, villanies, blasphemies, vented in one year, one week, one day, one hour, throughout the world; their zeal for their Creator might well be supposed to move them to testify their affection to him in a constant and speedy righting of his injured honor upon the heads of the offenders. The evil angels have too much cruelty, and would have no care of justice, but take pleasure in the blood of the most innocent, as well as the most criminal; and the good angels have too little tenderness to suffer so many crimes: since the world, therefore, continues without those floods of judgments, which it daily merits; since, notwithstanding all the provocations, the order of it is preserved; it is a testimony that an Infinite Goodness holds the helm in his hands, and spreads its warm wings over it.
5. The fifth information is this: Hence we may infer the ground of all religion; it is this perfection of goodness. As the goodness of God is the lustre of all his attributes, so it is the foundation and link of all true religious worship: the natural religion of the heathens was introduced by the consideration of Divine goodness, in the being he had bestowed upon them, and the provisions that were made for them. Divine bounty was the motive to erect altars, and present sacrifices, though they mistook the object of their worship, and offered the dues of the Creator to the instruments whereby he conveyed his benefits to them: and you find, that the religion instituted by him among the Jews, was enforced upon them by the consideration of their miraculous deliverance from Egypt, the preservation of them in the wilderness, and the enfeoffing them in a land flowing with milk and honey. Every act of bounty and success the heathens received, moved them to appoint new feasts, and repeat their adorations of those deities they thought the authors and promoters of their victories and welfare. The devil did not mistake the common sentiment of the world in Divine service, when he alleged to God, that “Job did not fear him for nought,” i. e. worship him for nothing (Job 1:9). All acts of devotion take their rise from God’s liberality, either from what they have or from what they hope; praise speaks the possession, and prayer the expectation, of some benefit from his hand: though some of the heathens made fear to be the prime cause of the acknowledgment and worship of a deity, yet surely something else besides and beyond this established so great a thing as religion in the world; an ingenuous religion could never have been born into the world without a notion of goodness, and would have gaped its last as soon as this notion should have expired in the minds of men. What encouragement can fear of power give, without sense of goodness? just as much as thunder hath, to invite a man to the lace where it is like to fall, and crush him. The nature of “fear” is to drive from, and the nature of “goodness” to allure to, the object: the Divine thunders, prodigies, and other armies of his justice in the world, which are the marks of his power, could conclude in nothing but a slavish worship: fear alone would have made men blaspheme the Deity; instead of serving him, they would have fretted against him; they might have offered him a trembling worship; but they could never have, in their minds, thought him worthy of an adoration; they would rather have secretly complained of him, and cursed him in their heart, than inwarly have admired him: the issue would have been the same, which Job’s wife advised him to, when God withdrew his protection from his goods and body: “Curse God, and die” (Job 2:9). It is certainly the common sentiment of men, that he that acts cruelly and tyrannically, is not worthy of an integrity to be retained towards him in the hearts of his subjects; but Job fortifies himself against this temptation from his bosom friend, by the consideration of the good he had received from God, which did more deserve a worship from him than the present evil had reason to discourage it. Alas! what is only feared, is hated, not adored. Would any seek to an irreconcileable enemy? would any person affectionately list himself in the service of a man void of all good disposition? would any distressed person put up a petition to that prince, who never gave any experiment of the sweetness of his nature, but always satiated himself with the blood of the meanest criminals? All affection to service is rooted up when hopes of receiving good are extinguished: there could not be a spark of that in the world, which is properly called religion, without a notion of goodness; the existence of God is the first pillar, and the goodness of God in rewarding the next, upon which coming to him (which includes all acts of devotion) is established (Heb. 11:6); “He that comes unto God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him:” if either of those pillars be not thought to stand firm, all religion falls to the ground. It is this, as the most agreeable motive, that the apostle James uses, to encourage men’s approach to God, because “he gives liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1:5). A man of a kind heart and a bountiful hand shall have his gate thronged with suppliants, who sometimes would be willing to lay down their lives; “for a good man one would even dare to die:” when one of a niggardly or tyrannical temper shall be destitute of all free and affectionate applications. What eyes would be lifted up to heaven? what hands stretched out, if there were not a knowledge of goodness there to enliven their hopes of speeding in their petitions? Therefore Christ orders our prayers to be directed to God as a Father, which is a title of tenderness, as well as a “Father in heaven,” a mark of his greatness; the one to support our confidence, as well as the other to preserve our distance. God could not be ingenuously adored and acknowledged, if he were not liberal as well as powerful; the goodness of God is the foundation of all ingenuous religion, devotion and worship.
6. The sixth instruction: The goodness of God renders God amiable. His goodness renders him beautiful, and his beauty renders him lovely; both are linked together (Zech. 9:17): “How great is his goodness! and how great is his beauty!” This is the most powerful attractive, and masters the affections of the soul: it is goodness only supposed, or real, that is thought worthy to demerit our affections to anything. If there be not a reality of this, or at least an opinion and estimation of it in an object, it would want a force and vigor to allure our will. This perfection of God is the loadstone to draw us, and the centre for our spirits to rest in.
1. This renders God amiable to himself. His goodness is his “Godhead” (Rom. 1:20): by his Godhead is meant his goodness; if he loves his Godhead for itself, he loves his goodness for itself; he would not be good, if he did not love himself; and if there were anything more excellent, and had a greater goodness than himself, he would not be good if he did not love that greater goodness above himself; for not only a hatred of goodness is evil, but an indifferent or cold affection to goodness hath a tincture of evil in it. If God were not good, and yet should love himself in the highest manner, he would be the greatest evil, and do the greatest evil in that act; for he would set his love upon that which is not the proper object of such an affection, but the object of aversion: his own infinite excellency, and goodness of his nature, renders him lovely and delightful to himself; without this he could not love himself in a commendable and worthy way, and becoming the purity of a Deity; and he cannot but love himself for this; for, as creatures, by not loving him as the supreme good, deny him to be the choicest good, so God would deny himself, and his own goodness, if he did not love himself, and that for his goodness. But the apostle tells us, that “God cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). Self-love, upon this account, is the only prerogative of God, because there is not anything better than himself that can lay any just claim to his affections: he only ought to love himself, and it would be an injustice in him to himself, if he did not. He only can love himself for this: an infinite goodness ought to be infinitely loved, but he only being infinite, can only love himself according to the due merit of his own goodness. He cannot be so amiable to any man, to any angel, to the highest seraphim, as he is to himself; because he is only capable in regard of his infinite wisdom, to know the infiniteness of his own goodness. And no creature can love him as he ought to be loved, unless it had the same infinite capacity of understanding to know him, and of affection to embrace him. This first renders God amiable to himself.
2. It ought therefore to render him amiable to us. What renders him lovely to his own eye, ought to render him so to ours; and since, by the shortness of our understandings, we cannot love him as he merits, yet we should be induced by the measures of his bounty, to love him as we can. If this do not present him lovely to us, we own him rather a devil than a God: if his goodness moved him to frame creatures, his goodness moved him also to frame creatures for himself and his own glory. It is a mighty wrong to him not to look with a delightful eye upon the marks of it, and return an affection to God in some measure suitable to his liberality to us; we are descended as low as brutes, if we understand him not to be the perfect good; and we are descended as low as devils, if our affections are not attracted by it.
The Existence and Attributes of God
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Synopsis | In I Corinthians 9, Paul tells the church why, as a pastor, he has a right to receive payment and a right to refuse payment. Today many pastors leave the ministry because they are unhappy. Pastor Brett explains that it is important to ask why.
1 Corinthians 9
m1-549 | 05-04-2011
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Synopsis | This morning we learn whatever we do, God should be glorified through our lives.
Glory To God
1 Corinthians 10:31
s1-532 | 05-08-2011
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Synopsis | Tonight, we take a closer look at 1 Corinthians 10, where Paul discusses certain truths with the church and uses Old Testament pictures to back these truths up. Paul gives us a list of things that we should look out for including lusting, idolatry, fornication and more.
1 Corinthians 10
m1-550 | 05-11-2011
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Synopsis | This morning we take a closer look at 1 Corinthians 11 as Pastor Brett teaches on communion. In this chapter, we see Paul share with the Corinthians the importance of communion. Also, we learn of key meals throughout the Bible that ultimately, create pictures of Jesus and what He has done for us.
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
s1-533 | 05-15-2011
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Synopsis | Tonight we study the first part of 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul discusses gender roles within the church. While some of the Corinthians were doing well and being submissive to what the Bible says, others were displaying immorality and promiscuity. The Bible clearly defines this behavior as sin. In this chapter, Paul tells the church in Corinth why.
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
m1-551 | 05-18-2011
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