Unity in the Body of ChristEphesians 4 1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
The New Life17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Walk in LoveEphesians 5 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Wives and Husbands22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Children and Parents
Ephesians 6 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Bondservants and Masters5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. 9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
The Whole Armor of God10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
Final Greetings21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.
23 Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
The Reformation Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Why Shouldn’t We Trust the Non-Canonical “Sophia of Jesus Christ”?
By J. Warner Wallace 12/07/2017
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 Sophia of Jesus Christ. 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 Sophia of Jesus Christ 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 Sophia of Jesus Christ 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 Sophia of Jesus Christ (150-250AD)
The Sophia of Jesus Christ is yet another Gnostic text discovered in the Egyptian Nag Hammadi Library in 1945. The word “sophia” here is most likely to be understood as “wisdom”, as this text claims to be a conversation between Jesus and his disciples in which Jesus provides them with hidden wisdom, much like other Gnostic examples that value secret, esoteric knowledge as the mechanism through which one can escape the fallen, material body.
Why Isn’t It Considered Reliable?
Two copies of The Sophia of Jesus Christ were discovered at Nag Hammadi. They are strikingly similar to another text discovered there: “The Epistle of Eugnostos”, a Gnostic dialogue in which a character named “Eugnostos” (translated as “right thinking”) describes the nature of the cosmos in a very Gnostic manner. The thematic similarities between the Epistle of Eugnostos and The Sophia of Jesus Christ are so striking that scholars believe the Sophia to be a simple rewriting of the Epistle, intended for Christian audiences. If so, it would be a more explicit example of how Gnostic texts were commonly adapted in this manner. In any case, The Sophia of Jesus Christ was discovered along with other late, Gnostic texts and scholars date the text to the late 2nd-3rd century. The fact that the text is so similar to the Epistle of Eugnostos, and dates so late in history, invalidates it as a true eyewitness account of any conversation between Jesus and His disciples.
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.
Jesus, The Bible, The Quran, and The Law of Non-Contradiction
By Derrick Stokes 11/28/16
In the Quran, the Gospel, or Injil, is considered to be from God and is incorruptible. The Bible says scripture is God-breathed. Yet, they contrast on what they say about Jesus. In comes the Law of Non-Contradiction.
The Law of Non-Contradiction, or the law of the excluded middle, states that (A) cannot be both (A) and (non-A) simultaneously.
It is logical to have different aspects of (A), but not contradictory aspects. Example: John is a father. John is in New York. These are different aspects of the same person. However, logic demands that John cannot be in New York and not be in New York at the same time. This would be contradictory. This goes against logic.
According to the Bible, Jesus died a public death on the cross and rose three days later. All four Gospels testify to the crucifixion referenced below but for the sake of time we will look at John specifically:
Matthew 27:45-60 - Mark 15:33-39 - Luke 23:44-49
Danger! Sceptics Naively Asserting Contradictions Ahead!
By David Glass 01/04/13
It is often claimed that the birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are full of contradictions and so cannot be taken seriously. For example, in the 2011 Christmas issue of the New Statesman, Bart Ehrman claims that ‘these two versions of the events cannot be reconciled’.[i] Richard Dawkins likewise states that the ‘contradictions are glaring, but consistently overlooked by the faithful’,[ii] while the late Christopher Hitchens asserted that Matthew and Luke ‘flatly contradict each other on the Flight into Egypt’.[iii] The idea of a contradiction should be clear enough (you’d think). If Matthew claimed Jesus was born in Bethlehem and Luke said that it was Nazareth, we’d have a very obvious and major contradiction. Of course, we need to be careful with contradictions – it’s often the case that apparent contradictions can be resolved by taking into account context or use of metaphor (see Peter’s articles here and here). With that in mind let’s consider the ‘Flight into Egypt’.
Matthew tells us that after the visit of the Magi, Joseph is told in a dream to go to Egypt. What does Luke have to say about this? Nothing. He tells us that they return to Nazareth. And, of course, Nazareth is where they end up in Matthew’s account too. According to Ehrman, ‘if Matthew is right that the holy family fled to Egypt, Luke can scarcely be right that they returned home just a month after the birth’. This reference to a ‘month’ is based on an immediate return to Nazareth after Jesus’ presentation in the Temple. What the text says is, ‘When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned …’ (Luke 2:39). Granted, if we didn’t have Matthew’s account we would probably just assume that they returned straightaway. But is Ehrman seriously suggesting that the word ‘when’ must be understood as ‘immediately after’, that no flexibility is permitted and hence that Luke’s account could not be reconciled with additional information from another source? Even the most extreme biblical literalist would find this a ridiculous interpretation. It seems that a naïve approach to biblical interpretation is almost de rigueur in some brands of modern atheism.
So there really is no contradiction here at all. Luke simply doesn’t tell us about a flight to Egypt. Why? Who knows? Perhaps he didn’t know about it. Or perhaps he deliberately left it out because he didn’t think it was relevant for his intended readers. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter; a story included in one Gospel and not in another doesn’t amount to a contradiction. This happens frequently in the Gospels since the authors were selective in their accounts as any good biographer must be.
Let’s consider another case. Ehrman tells us that in Matthew, ‘Joseph and Mary live in Bethlehem before, during and after the birth’. Dawkins also claims that Matthew has ‘Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem all along’ whereas Luke ‘acknowledges that Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth before Jesus was born’. Now, of course, if Matthew really did say that they lived in Bethlehem all along (i.e. not in Nazareth) that would be a contradiction. What does the text actually say? Matthew’s first mention of Bethlehem is, ‘After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea …’(Matt. 2:1). Far from being a contradiction, this is in complete agreement with Luke: ‘While they were there [Bethlehem], the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son’ (Luke 2:6-7). If this is a contradiction, the laws of logic need to be re-written! As in the previous case there is a difference – Matthew doesn’t tell us about Mary and Joseph travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem – but a difference doesn’t amount to a contradiction.
There are other differences in the narratives too. For example, Luke doesn’t mention the Magi and the Star while Matthew doesn’t mention the shepherds. Differences? Yes. Contradictions? No. As in the earlier cases, there’s not even a hint of a contradiction. And it’s worth reminding ourselves that the accounts agree on such essential information as the place of birth, the virgin birth and that Jesus grows up in Nazareth. Interestingly, one difference that is rarely mentioned is that Luke interweaves the birth narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus, whereas Matthew doesn’t discuss John’s birth at all. Of course, it’s not at all unreasonable that Matthew should leave this story out, but given John’s importance in the Gospels and nature of his birth, isn’t it also reasonable that Luke should include it while leaving out other things?
Seven Sentimental Lies You Might Believe
By Matt Reagan 11/27/15
The Princess Bride (1987) spans the spectrum of film-lovers’ delights. It boasts one of the cleverest movie scripts of all time, and includes a great deal of refreshing honesty about life. In particular, one line from the grandfather and narrator has remained with me since my first watching — and has sunk deeper in my many re-watchings.
The young boy, sick in bed, stops his grandfather’s reading of The Princess Bride during a description of an especially unjust sequence where the princess is being forced to marry the evil prince. He indignantly declares, “It wouldn’t be fair.” His grandfather’s response drips with wisdom from above:
Well, who says life is fair? Where is that written?
Simple and brilliant. And much needed today. The underlying challenge is clear: Examine your assumptions. Our society carries hundreds of unquestioned assumptions, and we Christians ought to ask, astutely and often, “Who says? Does God say that? Is it biblical?”
1. “Things will work out.”
Saving the World, Revealing the Glory: Atonement Then and Now I
By N.T. Wright 10/17/16
The deft artistry and fathomless theology of John’s gospel is powerfully displayed in the footwashing scene in chapter John 13. In a few strokes of the pen we are offered a tableau intimate and touching on the one hand and scary and dangerous on the other. Having begun his masterpiece with the all-creative Word becoming flesh and revealing God’s glory – we shall return to his Prologue in a little while – John begins the shorter second half of his gospel with an acted parable of the same thing. Jesus removes his outer garments and kneels down to wash the disciples’ feet, summing up all that is to come in the astonishing act of divine humility, of loving redemption, of cleansing for service. This is a good place to begin this evening’s quest for a fresh glimpse of what we in the Western churches have traditionally called ‘the atonement’, my subject for tonight. For John, as indeed throughout the New Testament, Jesus’ vocation to rescue the world from its plight and in so doing to reveal the divine glory in action is focused, symbolized, encoded in an action simultaneously dramatic, fraught with cosmic significance, and gentle, tender with human emotion. If you want to understand the great mysteries of Christian theology, of Trinity, Incarnation, and atonement itself, you could do worse than spend time with this scene.
‘Having loved his own who were in the world’, John begins, ‘Jesus loved them to the end, to the uttermost’. Here we see what it means that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only son’: a love at once powerful, humble, sovereign and sensitive. As always, Jesus surprises his followers, as he was to do even more devastatingly at the climax of the story the following day. Peter tries to object – a Johannine equivalent, in a sense, of Peter’s protest in Matthew 16 – and Jesus waves away the objection: If I don’t wash you, he says, you have no part in me. This produces a typically Petrine over-reaction: well then, says Peter, not my feet only, but my hands and my head. Calm down, says Jesus: you are already clean, because I have washed you, and all you now need is the regular footwashing – a wonderful image in itself of the prior whole-person washing of the gospel itself, needing only the regular smaller-scale washing of dusty feet, but like everything else in John’s story pointing forwards to the great saving act to come in which the filth and mire of the centuries would be washed away in the torrent of water and blood. And then Jesus resumes his garments and explains at least the surface layer of meaning: as I have done this to you, you should do it for one another. As usual John gives the simple explanation in order to nudge his readers into the deeper ones, but this already points forward to the ministries of the gospel which will be unleashed through the outpoured Spirit in John 20: As the Father sent me, so I send you. Atonement then; atonement now. The theology of the cross is only ultimately complete when it issues in the footwashing and fruitbearing mission of Jesus’ followers. That is part of the point of the long discourses which follow John 13 and thereby prepare the way for the dramatic scene before Pilate and on the cross itself.
Into this scene of prophetic action and symbolic power John has woven the dark strand which explains why all this is necessary and how the great redemption is to be accomplished. The accuser, he says, had already put it into Judas’s heart to betray Jesus. The accuser – the satan – is the dark, sub-personal force that has dogged Jesus’ footsteps throughout his mission, rather as Gollum is never far away while Frodo and his companions undertake their fateful journey; and, indeed, I rather think Tolkein was tracking a profound biblical theme in that strand of his master-narrative, including its final denouement. Jesus knows of course that the satan would do this, and had already hinted that one of his own followers would act out the great Accusation, the charge that would take him to his death. It isn’t just that Judas is succumbing to a miscellaneous temptation; rather, the hate and shame of all the world, the raging howl that rises from all the accumulated forces of evil, of anti-creation, of tyranny and spite and sneering and lies, has gathered itself into one and has focused its deadly spotlight on the enfleshed Word, the living embodiment of the loving and wise creator. And love only makes it worse; it is after the footwashing, where Jesus warns that ‘you are already clean, though not all of you’, that the satan finally enters into Judas. ‘Do it quickly,’ says Jesus; and Judas goes out into the night. People sometimes say that St Luke was an artist; but if ever a biblical scene had all the elements of a great canvas, holding many different characters and moods within a single tableau, it is this footwashing scene in John 13.
I begin with this scene partly because, knowing it will be impossible in one lecture to say very much of what I have tried to say in the book (which turned out to be much longer than I had expected or intended), I want at least to stir your imaginations so that your reflection on Jesus’ crucifixion is not a matter of theories, of schemes of thought to be played off against one another, but a matter of vivid historical reality captured in a story like the footwashing, as indeed in so many others, but with this one positioned with deliberate care by John to launch the final moves that will take us to the foot of the cross, and on, beyond, to the fresh morning in the garden and the warm breath of the outpoured Spirit. We will come presently and briefly to the theories, but the theories mean what they mean as interpretations of the story, the real-life narrative of the word made flesh, of the flesh made shameful, of the shame itself killed and buried. The theories are battered little signposts pointing towards that reality, and the gospels are written not to provide lively illustrations of those theories but to name and invoke the reality towards which they point. When Jesus wanted to explain to his followers what his death would mean he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal on the one hand and a dramatic action on the other. The Word became flesh, and it is in flesh – his flesh, and then, worryingly, our flesh – that the truth is revealed. God forgive us that we have answered rationalistic scepticism with rationalistic fideism. The Word – the Logos, the ultimate Reason in Person – became flesh, and it is in the flesh that the world was saved; it is in the flesh that the glory was and is revealed.
Because, when we pan back from John 13 and see this tableau within the larger context of the fourth Gospel as a whole, we quickly discover that the whole book is about the revelation of the divine glory precisely in the salvation of the world, and that the way to understand these large abstractions is to see them within the vast and sprawling story of Israel and the world as set out in scripture. Richard Hays, the great contemporary American New Testament scholar, has once again put us in his debt with his new book, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels; but even Hays would admit, I think, that there is far more still to be said about the ways in which the story of scripture resonates through all four gospels, particularly in their portrayal of the cross.
According to Wikipedia: Nicholas Thomas Wright (born 1 December 1948) is a leading British New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, and retired Anglican bishop. In academia, he is published as N. T. Wright, but is otherwise known as Tom Wright. Between 2003 and his retirement in 2010, he was the Bishop of Durham. He then became Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College in the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He writes prolifically about theology, Christian life, and the relationship of these two things. He advocates a biblical re-evaluation of and fresh approach to theological matters such as justification, women's ordination, and popular Christian views about life after death. He has also criticised the idea of a literal Rapture. Alternate source: Fulcrum website. The author of over seventy books, Wright is highly regarded in academic and theological circles primarily for his "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series.The third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God, is considered by many pastors and theologians to be a seminal Christian work on the resurrection of the historical Jesus, while the most recently released fourth volume, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, is hailed as Wright's magnum opus.[
He writes prolifically about theology, Christian life, and the relationship of these two things. He advocates a biblical re-evaluation of and fresh approach to theological matters such as justification, women's ordination, and popular Christian views about life after death. He has also criticised the idea of a literal Rapture. Alternate source: Fulcrum website. The author of over seventy books, Wright is highly regarded in academic and theological circles primarily for his "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series.The third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God, is considered by many pastors and theologians to be a seminal Christian work on the resurrection of the historical Jesus, while the most recently released fourth volume, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, is hailed as Wright's magnum opus.[N.T. Wright Books | Go to Books Page
We Do Not Know What God Is Doing
By Jon Bloom 12/08/2017
Have you ever stopped to ponder just how strange everything about the birth of Jesus was? Whatever people had imagined the coming of the Messiah would look like, no one imagined it to look like it did.
In all that he reveals to us about that strange first Christmas, God is saying very important things to us about how he wants us to view the perplexing, bewildering, glorious, frustrating, fearful, painful, unexpected, disappointing, and even tragic experiences of our lives. No one really understood all that was going as God the Son entered the world. No one really saw the big picture — no one except God.
An Unexpected Messiah | It began with the unexpected revelation of the Son of God. The existence of the Son in the Godhead was not clear to the Jews prior to his surprise appearance in Bethlehem. He was revealed in the Tanakh (Old Testament) in texts like 1 Chronicles 17:13, Psalm 2, Psalm 45:6–7, Psalm 110:1, Isaiah 53, and others, but most didn’t recognize him.
Those who perceived a messianic prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” didn’t take it to mean a virgin would miraculously become pregnant with God. They assumed a chaste young bride would conceive the Messiah in the, you know, standard manner. And no one believed “Immanuel” literally meant God would become flesh and dwell among them. God’s ways were much wilder than even his people had imagined.
From the Wrong Side of Town | Nor did anyone expect God choose the backwater town of Nazareth as the place for the Messiah to be conceived and raised to adulthood. First off, no prophet ever arose from Galilee (John 7:52). And second, everyone knew that Nazareth produced nothing good (John 1:46). Besides, didn’t the prophet say the Messiah would come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)?
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.John Bloom Books | Go to Books Page
God Is Working His Purpose Out
By Arthur Campbell Ainger 1894
1 God is working his purpose out,
as year succeeds to year,
God is working his purpose out,
and the time is drawing near;
nearer and nearer draws the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.
2 From utmost east to utmost west,
wherever feet have trod,
by the mouth of many messengers
goes forth the voice of God,
'Give ear to me, ye continents,
ye isles, give ear to me,
that the earth may be filled with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.'
3 What can we do to work God's work,
to prosper and increase
the love of God in all mankind,
the reign of the Prince of peace?
What can we do to hasten the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea?
- 1 God is working His purpose out (1894)
- 2 God of our Fathers, unto Thee (1906)
- 3 Let all our brethren join in one (1903)
- 4 Let God arise to lead forth those (1900)
- 5 Like a mighty man rejoicing in his strength (1901)
- 6 Not ours to mourn and weep (1903)
- 7 O God, Who, in the Days of Old (1902)
- 8 On them who here, O Lord (1903)
- 9 Praise the Lord: to-day we raise Hymns of thankfulness and praise (1902)
- 10 Praise the Lord! to-day we sing. Birthday of our Founder King (1891)
- 11 Uprose the stately temple (1891)
- 12 ASIN: B000OCM0FC
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
7. Whether or not each believer has a single angel assigned to him for
his defence, I dare not positively affirm. When Daniel introduces the
angel of the Persian and the angel of the Greeks, he undoubtedly
intimates that certain angels are appointed as a kind of presidents
over kingdoms and provinces.  Again, when Christ says that the
angels of children always behold the face of his Father, he insinuates
that there are certain angels to whom their safety has been entrusted.
But I know not if it can be inferred from this, that each believer has
his own angel. This, indeed, I hold for certain, that each of us is
cared for, not by one angel merely, but that all with one consent watch
for our safety. For it is said of all the angels collectively, that
they rejoice "over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and
nine just persons which need no repentance." It is also said, that the
angels (meaning more than one) carried the soul of Lazarus into
Abraham's bosom. Nor was it to no purpose that Elisha showed his
servant the many chariots of fire which were specially allotted him.
There is one passage which seems to intimate somewhat more clearly that each individual has a separate angel. When Peter, after his deliverance from prison, knocked at the door of the house where the brethren were assembled, being unable to think it could be himself, they said that it was his angel. This idea seems to have been suggested to them by a common belief that every believer has a single angel assigned to him. Here, however, it may be alleged, that there is nothing to prevent us from understanding it of any one of the angels to whom the Lord might have given the charge of Peter at that particular time, without implying that he was to be his, perpetual guardian, according to the vulgar imagination (see Calvin on Mark 5:9), that two angels a good and a bad, as a kind of genii, are assigned to each individual. After all, it is not worthwhile anxiously to investigate a point which does not greatly concern us. If any one does not think it enough to know that all the orders of the heavenly host are perpetually watching for his safety, I do not see what he could gain by knowing that he has one angel as a special guardian. Those, again, who limit the care which God takes of each of us to a single angel, do great injury to themselves and to all the members of the Church, as if there were no value in those promises of auxiliary troops, who on every side encircling and defending us, embolden us to fight more manfully.
8. Those who presume to dogmatize on the ranks and numbers of angels, would do well to consider on what foundation they rest. As to their rank, I admit that Michael is described by David as a mighty Prince, and by Jude as an Archangel.  Paul also tells us, that an archangel will blow the trumpet which is to summon the world to Judgment. But how is it possible from such passages to ascertain the gradations of honour among the angels to determine the insignia, and assign the place and station of each? Even the two names, Michael and Gabriel, mentioned in Scripture, or a third, if you choose to add it from the history of Tobit, seem to intimate by their meaning that they are given to angels in accommodation to the weakness of our capacity, though I rather choose not to speak positively on the point. As to the number of angels, we learn from the mouth of our Saviour that there are many legions, and from Daniel that there are many myriads. Elisha's servant saw a multitude of chariots, and their vast number is declared by the fact, that they encamp round about those that fear the Lord. It is certain that spirits have no bodily shape, and yet Scripture, in accommodation to us, describes them under the form of winged Cherubim and Seraphim; not without cause, to assure us that when occasion requires, they will hasten to our aid with incredible swiftness, winging their way to us with the speed of lightning. Farther than this, in regard both to the ranks and numbers of angels, let us class them among those mysterious subjects, the full revelation of which is deferred to the last day, and accordingly refrain from inquiring too curiously, or talking presumptuously.
9. There is one point, however, which though called into doubt by certain restless individuals, we ought to hold for certain--viz. that angels are ministering spirits (Heb. 1:14); whose service God employs for the protection of his people, and by whose means he distributes his favours among men, and also executes other works. The Sadducees of old maintained, that by angels nothing more was meant than the movements which God impresses on men, or manifestations which he gives of his own power (Acts 23:8). But this dream is contradicted by so many passages of Scriptures that it seems strange how such gross ignorance could have had any countenance among the Jews. To say nothing of the passages I have already quoted, passages which refer to thousands and legions of angels, speak of them as rejoicing, as bearing up the faithful in their hands, carrying their souls to rest, beholding the face of their Father, and so forth:  there are other passages which most clearly prove that they are real beings possessed of spiritual essence. Stephen and Paul say that the Law was enacted in the hands of angels. Our Saviour, moreover says that at the resurrection the elect will be like angels; that the day of Judgment is known not even to the angels; that at that time he himself will come with the holy angels. However much such passages may be twisted, their meaning is plain. In like manner, when Paul beseeches Timothy to keep his precepts as before Christ and his elect angels, it is not qualities or inspirations without substance that he speaks of, but true spirits. And when it is said, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that Christ was made more excellent than the angels, that the world was not made subject to them, that Christ assumed not their nature, but that of man, it is impossible to give a meaning to the passages without understanding that angels are blessed spirits, as to whom such comparisons may competently be made. The author of that Epistle declares the same thing when he places the souls of believers and the holy angels together in the kingdom of heaven. Moreover, in the passages we have already quoted, the angels of children are said to behold the face of God, to defend us by their protection, to rejoice in our salvation, to admire the manifold grace of God in the Church, to be under Christ their head. To the same effect is their frequent appearance to the holy patriarchs in human form, their speaking, and consenting to be hospitably entertained. Christ, too, in consequence of the supremacy which he obtains as Mediator, is called the Angel (Mal. 3:1). It was thought proper to touch on this subject in passing, with the view of putting the simple upon their guard against the foolish and absurd imaginations which, suggested by Satan many centuries ago, are ever and anon starting up anew.
10. It remains to give warning against the superstition which usually begins to creep in, when it is said that all blessings are ministered and dispensed to us by angels. For the human mind is apt immediately to think that there is no honour which they ought not to receive, and hence the peculiar offices of Christ and God are bestowed upon them. In this ways the glory of Christ was for several former ages greatly obscured, extravagant eulogiums being pronounced on angels without any authority from Scripture. Among the corruptions which we now oppose, there is scarcely any one of greater antiquity. Even Paul appears to have had a severe contest with some who so exalted angels as to make them almost the superiors of Christ. Hence he so anxiously urges in his Epistle to the Colossians (Col. 1:16, 20), that Christ is not only superior to all angels, but that all the endowments which they possess are derived from him; thus warning us against forsaking him, by turning to those who are not sufficient for themselves, but must draw with us at a common fountain. As the refulgence of the Divine glory is manifested in them, there is nothing to which we are more prone than to prostrate ourselves before them in stupid adoration, and then ascribe to them the blessings which we owe to God alone. Even John confesses in the Apocalypse (Rev. 19:10; 22:8, 9), that this was his own case, but he immediately adds the answer which was given to him, "See thou do it not; I am thy fellow servant: worship God."
11. This danger we will happily avoid, if we consider why it is that Gods instead of acting directly without their agency, is wont to employ it in manifesting his power, providing for the safety of his people, and imparting the gifts of his beneficence. This he certainly does not from necessity, as if he were unable to dispense with them. Whenever he pleases, he passes them by, and performs his own work by a single nod: so far are they from relieving him of any difficulty. Therefore, when he employs them it is as a help to our weakness, that nothing may be wanting to elevate our hopes or strengthen our confidence. It ought, indeed, to be sufficient for us that the Lord declares himself to be our protector. But when we see ourselves beset by so many perils, so many injuries, so many kinds of enemies, such is our frailty and effeminacy, that we might at times be filled with alarm, or driven to despair, did not the Lord proclaim his gracious presence by some means in accordance with our feeble capacities. For this reason, he not only promises to take care of us, but assures us that he has numberless attendants, to whom he has committed the charge of our safety, that whatever dangers may impend, so long as we are encircled by their protection and guardianship, we are placed beyond all hazard of evil. I admit that after we have a simple assurance of the divine protection, it is improper in us still to look round for help. But since for this our weakness the Lord is pleased, in his infinite goodness and indulgence, to provide, it would ill become us to overlook the favour. Of this we have an example in the servant of Elisha (2 Kings 6:17), who, seeing the mountain encompassed by the army of the Assyrians, and no means of escape, was completely overcome with terror, and thought it all over with himself and his master. Then Elisha prayed to God to open the eyes of the servant, who forthwith beheld the mountain filled with horses and chariots of fire; in other words, with a multitude of angels, to whom he and the prophet had been given in charge. Confirmed by the vision he received courage, and could boldly defy the enemy, whose appearance previously filled him with dismay.
12. Whatever, therefore, is said as to the ministry of angels, let us employ for the purpose of removing all distrust, and strengthening our confidence in God. Since the Lord has provided us with such protection, let us not be terrified at the multitude of our enemies as if they could prevail notwithstanding of his aid, but let us adopt the sentiment of Elisha, that more are for us than against us. How preposterous, therefore, is it to allow ourselves to be led away from God by angels who have been appointed for the very purpose of assuring us of his more immediate presence to help us? But we are so led away, if angels do not conduct us directly to him--making us look to him, invoke and celebrate him as our only defender--if they are not regarded merely as hands moving to our assistance just as he directs--if they do not direct us to Christ as the only Mediator on whom we must wholly depend and recline, looking towards him, and resting in him. Our minds ought to give thorough heed to what Jacob saw in his vision (Gen. 28:12),--angels descending to the earth to men, and again mounting up from men to heaven, by means of a ladder, at the head of which the Lord of Hosts was seated, intimating that it is solely by the intercession of Christ that the ministry of angels extends to us, as he himself declares, "Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man," (John 1:51). Accordingly, the servant of Abraham, though he had been commended to the guardianship of an angel (Gen. 24:7), does not therefore invoke that angel to be present with him, but trusting to the commendation, pours out his prayers before the Lord, and entreats him to show mercy to Abraham. As God does not make angels the ministers of his power and goodness, that he may share his glory with them, so he does not promise his assistance by their instrumentality, that we may divide our confidence between him and them. Away, then, with that Platonic philosophy of seeking access to God by means of angels and courting them with the view of making God more propitious (Plat. in Epinomide et Cratylo),--a philosophy which presumptuous and superstitious men attempted at first to introduce into our religion, and which they persist in even to this day.
13. The tendency of all that Scripture teaches concerning devils is to put us on our guard against their wiles and machinations, that we may provide ourselves with weapons strong enough to drive away the most formidable foes. For when Satan is called the god and ruler of this world, the strong man armed, the prince of the power of the air, the roaring lion,  the object of all these descriptions is to make us more cautious and vigilant, and more prepared for the contest. This is sometimes stated in distinct terms. For Peter, after describing the devil as a roaring lion going about seeking whom he may devour, immediately adds the exhortation, "whom resist steadfast in the faith," (1 Pet. 5:9). And Paul, after reminding us that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places, immediately enjoins us to put on armour equal to so great and perilous a contest (Ephes. 6:12). Wherefore, let this be the use to which we turn all these statements. Being forewarned of the constant presence of an enemy the most daring, the most powerful, the most crafty, the most indefatigable, the most completely equipped with all the engines and the most expert in the science of war, let us not allow ourselves to be overtaken by sloth or cowardice, but, on the contrary, with minds aroused and ever on the alert, let us stand ready to resist; and, knowing that this warfare is terminated only by death, let us study to persevere. Above all, fully conscious of our weakness and want of skill, let us invoke the help of God, and attempt nothing without trusting in him, since it is his alone to supply counsel, and strength, and courage, and arms.
14. That we may feel the more strongly urged to do so, the Scripture declares that the enemies who war against us are not one or two, or few in number, but a great host. Mary Magdalene is said to have been delivered from seven devils by which she was possessed; and our Saviour assures us that it is an ordinary circumstance, when a devil has been expelled, if access is again given to it, to take seven other spirits, more wicked than itself, and resume the vacant possession. Nay, one man is said to have been possessed by a whole legion.  By this, then, we are taught that the number of enemies with whom we have to war is almost infinite, that we may not, from a contemptuous idea of the fewness of their numbers, be more remiss in the contest, or from imagining that an occasional truce is given us, indulge in sloth. In one Satan or devil being often mentioned in the singular number, the thing denoted is that domination of iniquity which is opposed to the reign of righteousness. For, as the Church and the communion of saints has Christ for its head, so the faction of the wicked and wickedness itself, is portrayed with its prince exercising supremacy. Hence the expression, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels," (Mt. 25:41).
15. One thing which ought to animate us to perpetual contest with the devil is, that he is everywhere called both our adversary and the adversary of God. For, if the glory of God is dear to us, as it ought to be, we ought to struggle with all our might against him who aims at the extinction of that glory. If we are animated with proper zeal to maintain the Kingdom of Christ, v. e must wage irreconcilable war with him who conspires its ruin. Again, if we have any anxiety about our own salvation, we ought to make no peace nor truce with him who is continually laying schemes for its destruction. But such is the character given to Satan in the third chapter of Genesis, where he is seen seducing man from his allegiance to God, that he may both deprive God of his due honour, and plunge man headlong in destruction. Such, too, is the description given of him in the Gospels (Mt. 13:28), where he is called the enemy, and is said to sow tares in order to corrupt the seed of eternal life. In one word, in all his actions we experience the truth of our Saviour's description, that he was "a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth," (John 8:44). Truth he assails with lies, light he obscures with darkness. The minds of men he involves in error; he stirs up hatred, inflames strife and war, and all in order that he may overthrow the kingdom of God, and drown men in eternal perdition with himself. Hence it is evident that his whole nature is depraved, mischievous, and malignant. There must be extreme depravity in a mind bent on assailing the glory of God and the salvation of man. This is intimated by John in his Epistle, when he says that he "sinneth from the beginning," (1 John 3:8), implying that he is the author, leader, and contriver of all malice and wickedness.
16. But as the devil was created by God, we must remember that this malice which we attribute to his nature is not from creation, but from depravation. Every thing damnable in him he brought upon himself, by his revolt and fall. Of this Scripture reminds us, lest, by believing that he was so created at first, we should ascribe to God what is most foreign to his nature. For this reason, Christ declares (John 8:44), that Satan, when he lies, "speaketh of his own," and states the reason, "because he abode not in the truth." By saying that he abode not in the truth, he certainly intimates that he once was in the truth, and by calling him the father of lies, he puts it out of his power to charge God with the depravity of which he was himself the cause. But although the expressions are brief and not very explicit, they are amply sufficient to vindicate the majesty of God from every calumny. And what more does it concern us to know of devils? Some murmur because the Scripture does not in various passages give a distinct and regular exposition of Satan's fall, its cause, mode, date, and nature. But as these things are of no consequence to us, it was better, if not entirely to pass them in silence, at least only to touch lightly upon them. The Holy Spirit could not deign to feed curiosity with idle, unprofitable histories. We see it was the Lord's purpose to deliver nothing in his sacred oracles which we might not learn for edification. Therefore, instead of dwelling on superfluous matters, let it be sufficient for us briefly to hold, with regard to the nature of devils, that at their first creation they were the angels of God, but by revolting they both ruined themselves, and became the instruments of perdition to others. As it was useful to know this much, it is clearly taught by Peter and Jude; "God," they say, "spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto Judgment," (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude ver. 6). And Paul, by speaking of the elect angels, obviously draws a tacit contrast between them and reprobate angels.
17. With regard to the strife and war which Satan is said to wage with God, it must be understood with this qualification, that Satan cannot possibly do anything against the will and consent of God. For we read in the history of Job, that Satan appears in the presence of God to receive his commands, and dares not proceed to execute any enterprise until he is authorised. In the same way, when Ahab was to be deceived, he undertook to be a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets; and on being commissioned by the Lord, proceeds to do so. For this reason, also, the spirit which tormented Saul is said to be an evil spirit from the Lord, because he was, as it were, the scourge by which the misdeeds of the wicked king were punished. In another place it is said that the plagues of Egypt were inflicted by God through the instrumentality of wicked angels. In conformity with these particular examples, Paul declares generally that unbelievers are blinded by God, though he had previously described it as the doing of Satan.  It is evident, therefore, that Satan is under the power of God, and is so ruled by his authority, that he must yield obedience to it. Moreover, though we say that Satan resists God, and does works at variance with His works, we at the same time maintain that this contrariety and opposition depend on the permission of God. I now speak not of Satan's will and endeavour, but only of the result. For the disposition of the devil being wicked, he has no inclination whatever to obey the divine will, but, on the contrary, is wholly bent on contumacy and rebellion. This much, therefore, he has of himself, and his own iniquity, that he eagerly, and of set purpose, opposes God, aiming at those things which he deems most contrary to the will of God. But as God holds him bound and fettered by the curb of his power, he executes those things only for which permission has been given him, and thus, however unwilling, obeys his Creator, being forced, whenever he is required, to do Him service.
18. God thus turning the unclean spirits hither and thither at his pleasure, employs them in exercising believers by warring against them, assailing them with wiles, urging them with solicitations, pressing close upon them, disturbing, alarming, and occasionally wounding, but never conquering or oppressing them; whereas they hold the wicked in thraldom, exercise dominion over their minds and bodies, and employ them as bond-slaves in all kinds of iniquity. Because believers are disturbed by such enemies, they are addressed in such exhortations as these: "Neither give place to the devil;" "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour; whom resist steadfast in the faith," (Eph. 4:27; 1 Pet. 5:8). Paul acknowledges that he was not exempt from this species of contest when he says, that for the purpose of subduing his pride, a messenger of Satan was sent to buffet him (2 Cor. 12:7). This trial, therefore, is common to all the children of God. But as the promise of bruising Satan's head (Gen. 3:15) applies alike to Christ and to all his members, I deny that believers can ever be oppressed or vanquished by him. They are often, indeed, thrown into alarm, but never so thoroughly as not to recover themselves. They fall by the violence of the blows, but they get up again; they are wounded, but not mortally. In fine, they labour on through the whole course of their lives, so as ultimately to gain the victory, though they meet with occasional defeats. We know how David, through the just anger of God, was left for a time to Satan, and by his instigation numbered the people (2 Sam. 24:1); nor without cause does Paul hold out a hope of pardon in case any should have become ensnared by the wiles of the devil (2 Tim. 2:26). Accordingly, he elsewhere shows that the promise above quoted commences in this life where the struggle is carried on, and that it is completed after the struggle is ended. His words are, "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly," (Rom. 16:20). In our Head, indeed, this victory was always perfect, because the prince of the world "had nothing" in him (John 14:30); but in us, who are his members, it is now partially obtained, and will be perfected when we shall have put off our mortal flesh, through which we are liable to infirmity, and shall have been filled with the energy of the Holy Spirit. In this way, when the kingdom of Christ is raised up and established, that of Satan falls, as our Lord himself expresses it, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven," (Luke 10:18). By these words, he confirmed the report which the apostles gave of the efficacy of their preaching. In like manner he says, "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils," (Luke 11:21, 22). And to this end, Christ, by dying, overcame Satan, who had the power of death (Heb. 2:14), and triumphed over all his hosts that they might not injure the Church, which otherwise would suffer from them every moment. For (such being our weakness, and such his raging fury), how could we withstand his manifold and unintermitted assaults for any period, however short, if we did not trust to the victory of our leader? God, therefore, does not allow Satan to have dominion over the souls of believers, but only gives over to his sway the impious and unbelieving, whom he deigns not to number among his flock. For the devil is said to have undisputed possession of this world until he is dispossessed by Christ. In like manner, he is said to blind all who do not believe the Gospel, and to do his own work in the children of disobedience. And justly; for all the wicked are vessels of wrath, and, accordingly, to whom should they be subjected but to the minister of the divine vengeance? In fine, they are said to be of their father the devil.  For as believers are recognised to be the sons of God by bearing his image, so the wicked are properly regarded as the children of Satan, from having degenerated into his image.
19. Having above refuted that nugatory philosophy concerning the holy angels, which teaches that they are nothing but good motions or inspirations which God excites in the minds of men, we must here likewise refute those who foolishly allege that devils are nothing but bad affections or perturbations suggested by our carnal nature. The brief refutation is to be found in passages of Scripture on this subject, passages neither few nor obscure. First, when they are called unclean spirits and apostate angels (Mt. 12:43; Jude, verse 6), who have degenerated from their original, the very terms sufficiently declare that they are not motions or affections of the mind, but truly, as they are called, minds or spirits endued with sense and intellect. In like manner, when the children of God are contrasted by John, and also by our Saviour, with the children of the devil, would not the contrast be absurd if the term devil meant nothing more than evil inspirations? And John adds still more emphatically, that the devil sinneth from the beginning (1 John 3:8). In like manner, when Jude introduces the archangel Michael contending with the devil (Jude, verse 9), he certainly contrasts a wicked and rebellious with a good angel. To this corresponds the account given in the Book of Job, that Satan appeared in the presence of God with the holy angels. But the clearest passages of all are those which make mention of the punishment which, from the Judgment of God, they already begin to feel, and are to feel more especially at the resurrection, "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" (Mt. 8:29); and again, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels," (Mt. 25:41). Again, "If God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto Judgment," &c. (2 Pet. 2:4). How absurd the expressions, that devils are doomed to eternal punishment, that fire is prepared for them, that they are even now excruciated and tormented by the glory of Christ, if there were truly no devils at all? But as all discussion on this subject is superfluous for those who give credit to the Word of God, while little is gained by quoting Scripture to those empty speculators whom nothing but novelty can please, I believe I have already done enough for my purpose, which was to put the pious on their guard against the delirious dreams with which restless men harass themselves and the simple. The subject, however, deserved to be touched upon, lest any, by embracing that errors should imagine they have no enemy and thereby be more remiss or less cautious in resisting.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 139Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart
139 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.
139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
The Frozen Chosen
By Guy Richard 8/01/2016
Most of us are familiar with the phrase the frozen chosen. Many will even have used it on occasion to describe themselves or some other group of Christians or to distinguish one tradition within Christianity from another. But what exactly does the phrase mean? And is it a helpful phrase? Or is it instead a misnomer and a contradiction in terms?
If we mean by frozen chosen that some Christian traditions are less externally expressive than others, then this phrase certainly could be a helpful way of conveying that idea. When my family and I moved from the United States to Scotland several years ago, one of the first things that we noticed was that many of our Scottish brothers and sisters are far more reserved in their outward expressions of faith than we are as Americans. If this is all that we are attempting to convey when we use the phrase frozen chosen, then I have no real objection to it. Moreover, if we mean that some traditions or some Christians tend to be more intellectual or more concerned about doctrine than others are, then, again, this phrase could possibly be helpful in communicating that idea.
But if we mean by the phrase frozen chosen that it is possible for people to be “chosen” (that is, to be genuinely Christian) and yet for there to be no visible, external manifestation of their faith in their lives, then I do not think this phrase is helpful at all. In fact, I would say that if this is what we mean by the phrase frozen chosen, then it is a complete falsehood and a clear contradiction in terms.
I say this for two main reasons. First, Jesus on several occasions teaches that genuine faith will manifest itself visibly in the life of the true Christian. In Matthew 7:15–20 and 12:33–37, for instance, Jesus appeals to the example of the tree and its fruit to teach that the inward condition of every tree is revealed by the kind of fruit that it produces: good trees produce good fruit and diseased trees produce bad fruit. The good fruit doesn’t make the tree good. The good roots do that. The good fruit simply demonstrates and proves that the tree does in fact have good roots and is, therefore, a good tree. The good roots manifest themselves in the fact that they produce good fruit, just as bad roots manifest themselves in the fact that they produce bad fruit.
In Matthew 12:36–37, Jesus associates not just the things that we do but also the words that we speak with the fruit that trees produce. Just as the fruit of the tree reveals the condition of its roots, so the words that we speak reveal the condition of our hearts, whether we genuinely believe and are justified or don’t and are condemned. It is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks (v. 34).
The whole point in these passages is that genuine faith manifests itself visibly in the things that we do and the words that we say. It may be hidden for a season, but it cannot remain that way. It will manifest itself visibly in our lives. In that sense, we cannot be “chosen” and remain in a “frozen” condition. There may be times when genuine Christians feel “frozen” or cold-hearted toward God and His Word and, at these times, our fruit may indeed be hidden or less visible. But this will not be a permanent condition. There is no such thing as secret Christianity. Sooner or later, either the secrecy will drive out whatever Christianity there may be, or the Christianity will drive out the secrecy. Genuine Christianity will always manifest itself visibly in our lives.
The second reason I say that the phrase frozen chosen is a contradiction in terms is because Jesus teaches that sound doctrine ought also to bear fruit in our lives. Not only should genuine faith produce visible fruit but sound theology ought to as well. This is one of the main points of the parable of the sower in Luke 8:4–15. The seed of the Word of God that is sown onto the good soil of the Christian heart does not remain hidden. It bears fruit, “thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:20). In other words, sound theology ought always to affect our lives visibly. It should affect our worship, our prayer lives, and the way we love our spouses, do our jobs, interact with other Christians, endure trials and tribulations, and reach out to the lost. If it doesn’t, there is something wrong with the doctrine (the seed), the soil, or both.
What is more, the doctrine of predestination itself—which is the basis upon which anyone would claim to be “chosen” in the first place—is intended to lead us to warm-hearted worship, not to cold-hearted complacency or pride. Paul tells us as much in Romans 9:22–24. His point is that everything God has done in regard to His decree of election is for the express purpose that those who are “chosen” might know and revel in “the riches of [God’s] glory” that are for us.
In other words, the doctrine of election ought to affect our lives. It ought to warm our hearts and lead us to worship and serve the Lord because of His great mercy toward us. It ought never lead us to a “frozen” condition but to cry out, with Paul, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” It ought to lead us to declare with our lips and our lives: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33, 36).
Guy Richard Books:
Fox's Book Of Martyrs (Chapter 18)
By John Foxe 1563
An Account of the Persecutions of Friends, Commonly Called Quakers, in the United StatesAbout the middle of the seventeenth century, much persecution and suffering were inflicted on a sect of Protestant dissenters, commonly called Quakers: a people which arose at that time in England some of whom sealed their testimony with their blood.
For an account of the above people, see Sewell's, or Gough's history of them. The principal points upon which their conscientious nonconformity rendered them obnoxious to the penalties of the law, were,
• 1. The Christian resolution of assembling publicly for the worship of God, in a manner most agreeable to their consciences.
• 2. Their refusal to pay tithes, which they esteemed a Jewish ceremony, abrogated by the coming of Christ.
• 3. Their testimony against wars and fighting, the practice of which they judged inconsistent with the command of Christ:
• "Love your enemies," Matt. 5:44.
• 4. Their constant obedience to the command of Christ: "Swear not at all," Matt. 5:34.
• 5. Their refusal to pay rates or assessments for building and repairing houses for a worship which they did not approve.
• 6. Their use of the proper and Scriptural language, "thou," and "thee," to a single person: and their disuse of the custom of uncovering their heads, or pulling off their hats, by way of homage to man. • 7. The necessity many found themselves under, of publishing what they believed to be the doctrine of truth; and sometimes even in the places appointed for the public national worship.
Their conscientious noncompliance in the preceding particulars, exposed them to much persecution and suffering, which consisted in prosecutions, fines, cruel beatings, whippings, and other corporal punishments; imprisonment, banishment, and even death.
To relate a particular account of their persecutions and sufferings, would extend beyond the limits of this work: we shall therefore refer, for that information, to the histories already mentioned, and more particularly to Besse's Collection of their sufferings; and shall confine our account here mostly to those who sacrificed their lives, and evinced, by their disposition of mind, constancy, patience, and faithful perseverance, that they were influenced by a sense of religious duty.
Numerous and repeated were the persecutions against them; and sometimes for transgressions or offences which the law did not contemplate or embrace.
Many of the fines and penalties exacted of them, were not only unreasonable and exorbitant, but as they could not consistently pay them, were sometimes distrained to several times the value of the demand; whereby many poor families were greatly distressed, and obliged to depend on the assistance of their friends.
Numbers were not only cruelly beaten and whipped in a public manner, like criminals, but some were branded and others had their ears cut off. Great numbers were long confined in loathsome prisons; in which some ended their days in consequence thereof. Many were sentenced to banishment; and a considerable number were transported. Some were banished on pain of death; and four were actually executed by the hands of the hangman, as we shall here relate, after inserting copies of some of the laws of the country where they suffered.
"At a General Court Held at Boston, the Fourteenth of October, 1656"
"Whereas, there is a cursed sect of heretics, lately risen up in the world, which are commonly called Quakers, who take upon them to be immediately sent from God, and infallibly assisted by the Spirit, to speak and write blasphemous opinions, despising government, and the order of God, in the Church and commonwealth, speaking evil of dignities, reproaching and reviling magistrates and ministers, seeking to turn the people from the faith, and gain proselytes to their pernicious ways: this court taking into consideration the premises, and to prevent the like mischief, as by their means is wrought in our land, doth hereby order, and by authority of this court, be it ordered and enacted, that what master or commander of any ship, bark, pink, or ketch, shall henceforth bring into any harbor, creek, or cove, within this jurisdiction, any Quaker or Quakers, or other blasphemous heretics, shall pay, or cause to be paid, the fine of one hundred pounds to the treasurer of the country, except it appear he want true knowledge or information of their being such; and, in that case, he hath liberty to clear himself by his oath, when sufficient proof to the contrary is wanting: and, for default of good payment, or good security for it, shall be cast into prison, and there to continue until the said sum be satisfied to the treasurer as foresaid.
"And the commander of any ketch, ship, or vessel, being legally convicted, shall give in sufficient security to the governor, or any one or more of the magistrates, who have power to determine the same, to carry them back to the place whence he brought them; and, on his refusal so to do, the governor, or one or more of the magistrates, are hereby empowered to issue out his or their warrants to commit such master or commander to prison, there to continue, until he give in sufficient security to the content of the governor, or any of the magistrates, as aforesaid.
"And it is hereby further ordered and enacted, that what Quaker soever shall arrive in this country from foreign parts, or shall come into this jurisdiction from any parts adjacent, shall be forthwith committed to the House of Correction; and, at their entrance, to be severely whipped, and by the master thereof be kept constantly to work, and none suffered to converse or speak with them, during the time of their imprisonment, which shall be no longer than necessity requires.
"And it is ordered, if any person shall knowingly import into any harbor of this jurisdiction, any Quakers' books or writings, concerning their devilish opinions, shall pay for such book or writing, being legally proved against him or them the sum of five pounds; and whosoever shall disperse or conceal any such book or writing, and it be found with him or her, or in his or her house and shall not immediately deliver the same to the next magistrate, shall forfeit or pay five pounds, for the dispersing or concealing of any such book or writing.
"And it is hereby further enacted, that if any persons within this colony shall take upon them to defend the heretical opinions of the Quakers, or any of their books or papers, shall be fined for the first time forty shillings; if they shall persist in the same, and shall again defend it the second time, four pounds; if notwithstanding they again defend and maintain the said Quakers' heretical opinions, they shall be committed to the House of Correction until there be convenient passage to send them out of the land, being sentenced by the court of Assistants to banishment.
"Lastly, it is hereby ordered, that what person or persons soever, shall revile the persons of the magistrates or ministers, as is usual with the Quakers, such person or persons shall be severely whipped or pay the sum of five pounds.
"This is a true copy of the court's order, as attests "EDWARD RAWSON, SEC."
"At a General Court Held at Boston, the Fourteenth of October, 1657"
"As an addition to the late order, in reference to the coming or bringing of any of the cursed sect of the Quakers into this jurisdiction, it is ordered that whosoever shall from henceforth bring, or cause to be brought, directly, or indirectly, any known Quaker or Quakers, or other blasphemous heretics, into this jurisdiction, every such person shall forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds to the country, and shall by warrant from any magistrate be committed to prison, there to remain until the penalty be satisfied and paid; and if any person or persons within this jurisdiction, shall henceforth entertain and conceal any such Quaker or Quakers, or other blasphemous heretics, knowing them so to be, every such person shall forfeit to the country forty shillings for every hour's entertainment and concealment of any Quaker or Quaker, etc., as aforesaid, and shall be committed to prison as aforesaid, until the forfeiture be fully satisfied and paid.
"And it is further ordered, that if any Quaker or Quakers shall presume, after they have once suffered what the law requires, to come into this jurisdiction, every such male Quaker shall, for the first offence, have one of his ears cut off, and be kept at work in the House of Correction, until he can be sent away at his own charge; and for the second offence, shall have his other ear cut off; and every woman Quaker, that has suffered the law here, that shall presume to come into this jurisdiction, shall be severely whipped, and kept at the House of Correction at work, until she be sent away at her own charge, and so also for her coming again, she shall be alike used as aforesaid.
"And for every Quaker, he or she, that shall a third time herein again offend, they shall have their tongues bored through with a hot iron, and be kept at the House of Correction close to work, until they be sent away at their own charge.
"And it is further ordered, that all and every Quaker arising from among ourselves, shall be dealt with, and suffer the like punishment as the law provides against foreign Quakers.
"EDWARD RAWSON, Sec."
"An Act Made at a General Court, Held at Boston, the Twentieth of
Whereas, there is a pernicious sect, commonly called Quakers, lately risen, who by word and writing have published and maintained many dangerous and horrid tenets, and do take upon them to change and alter the received laudable customs of our nation, in giving civil respects to equals, or reverence to superiors; whose actions tend to undermine the civil government, and also to destroy the order of the churches, by denying all established forms of worship, and by withdrawing from orderly Church fellowship, allowed and approved by all orthodox professors of truth, and instead thereof, and in opposition thereunto, frequently meeting by themselves, insinuating themselves into the minds of the simple, or such as are at least affected to the order and government of church and commonwealth, whereby divers of our inhabitants have been infected, notwithstanding all former laws, made upon the experience of their arrogant and bold obtrusions, to disseminate their principles amongst us, prohibiting their coming into this jurisdiction, they have not been deferred from their impious attempts to undermine our peace, and hazard our ruin.
"For prevention thereof, this court doth order and enact, that any person or persons, of the cursed sect of the Quakers, who is not an inhabitant of, but is found within this jurisdiction, shall be apprehended without warrant, where no magistrate is at hand, by any constable, commissioner, or selectman, and conveyed from constable to constable, to the next magistrate, who shall commit the said person to close prison, there to remain (without bail) until the next court of Assistants, where they shall have legal trial.
"And being convicted to be of the sect of the Quakers, shall be sentenced to banishment, on pain of death. And that every inhabitant of this jurisdiction, being convicted to be of the aforesaid sect, either by taking up, publishing, or defending the horrid opinions of the Quakers, or the stirring up mutiny, sedition, or rebellion against the government, or by taking up their abusive and destructive practices, viz. denying civil respect to equals and superiors, and withdrawing from the Church assemblies; and instead thereof, frequenting meetings of their own, in opposition to our Church order; adhereing to, or approving of any known Quaker, and the tenets and practices of Quakers, that are opposite to the orthodox received opinions of the godly; and endeavoring to disaffect others to civil government and Church order, or condemning the practice and proceedings of this court against the Quakers, manifesting thereby their complying with those, whose design is to overthrow the order established in Church and state: every such person, upon conviction before the said court of Assistants, in manner aforesaid, shall be committed to close prison for one month, and then, unless they choose voluntarily to depart this jurisdiction, shall give bond for their good behavior and appear at the next court, continuing obstinate, and refusing to retract and reform the aforesaid opinions, they shall be sentenced to banishment, upon pain of death. And any one magistrate, upon information given him of any such person, shall cause him to be apprehended, and shall commit any such person to prison, according to his discretion, until he come to trial as aforesaid."
It appears there were also laws passed in both of the then colonies of New Plymouth and New Haven, and in the Dutch settlement at New Amsterdam, now New York, prohibiting the people called Quakers, from coming into those places, under severe penalties; in consequence of which, some underwent considerable suffering.
The two first who were executed were William Robinson, merchant, of London, and Marmaduke Stevenson, a countryman, of Yorkshire. These coming to Boston, in the beginning of September, were sent for by the court of Assistants, and there sentenced to banishment, on pain of death. This sentence was passed also on Mary Dyar, mentioned hereafter, and Nicholas Davis, who were both at Boston. But William Robinson, being looked upon as a teacher, was also condemned to be whipped severely; and the constable was commanded to get an able man to do it. Then Robinson was brought into the street, and there stripped; and having his hands put through the holes of the carriage of a great gun, where the jailer held him, the executioner gave him twenty stripes, with a threefold cord whip. Then he and the other prisoners were shortly after released, and banished, as appears from the following warrant:
"You are required by these, presently to set at liberty William Robinson, Marmaduke Stevenson, Mary Dyar, and Nicholas Davis, who, by an order of the court and council, had been imprisoned, because it appeared by their own confession, words, and actions, that they are Quakers: wherefore, a sentence was pronounced against them, to depart this jurisdiction, on pain of death; and that they must answer it at their peril, if they or any of them, after the fourteenth of this present month, September, are found within this jurisdiction, or any part thereof.
"Boston, September 12, 1659."
Though Mary Dyar and Nicholas Davis left that jurisdiction for that time, yet Robinson and Stevenson, though they departed the town of Boston, could not yet resolve (not being free in mind) to depart that jurisdiction, though their lives were at stake. And so they went to Salem, and some places thereabouts, to visit and build up their friends in the faith. But it was not long before they were taken and put again into prison at Boston, and chains locked to their legs. In the next month, Mary Dyar returned also. And as she stood before the prison, speaking with one Christopher Holden, who was come thither to inquire for a ship bound for England, whither he intended to go, she was also taken into custody.
Thus, they had now three persons, who, according to their law, had forfeited their lives. And, on the twentieth of October, these three were brought into court, where John Endicot and others were assembled. And being called to the bar, Endicot commanded the keeper to pull off their hats; and then said, that they had made several laws to keep the Quakers from amongst them, and neither whipping, nor imprisoning, nor cutting off ears, nor banishment upon pain of death, would keep them from amongst them. And further, he said, that he or they desired not the death of any of them. Yet, notwithstanding, his following words, without more ado were, "Give ear, and hearken to your sentence of death." Sentence of death was also passed upon Marmaduke Stevenson, Mary Dyar, and William Edrid. Several others were imprisoned, whipped, and fined.
We have no disposition to justify the Pilgrims for these proceedings, but we think, considering the circumstances of the age in which they lived, their conduct admits of much palliation.
The fathers of New England, endured incredible hardships in providing for themselves a home in the wilderness; and to protect themselves in the undisturbed enjoyment of rights, which they had purchased at so dear a rate, they sometimes adopted measures, which, if tried by the more enlightened and liberal views of the present day, must at once be pronounced altogether unjustifiable. But shall they be condemned without mercy for not acting up to principles which were unacknowledged and unknown throughout the whole of Christendom? Shall they alone be held responsible for opinions and conduct which had become sacred by antiquity, and which were common to Christians of all other denominations? Every government then in existence assumed to itself the right to legislate in matters of religion; and to restrain heresy by penal statutes. This right was claimed by rulers, admitted by subjects, and is sanctioned by the names of Lord Bacon and Montesquieu, and many others equally famed for their talents and learning. It is unjust, then, to 'press upon one poor persecuted sect, the sins of all Christendom.' The fault of our fathers was the fault of the age; and though this cannot justify, it certainly furnishes an extenuation of their conduct. As well might you condemn them for not understanding and acting up to the principles of religious toleration. At the same time, it is but just to say, that imperfect as were their views of the rights of conscience, they were nevertheless far in advance of the age to which they belonged; and it is to them more than to any other class of men on earth, the world is indebted for the more rational views that now prevail on the subject of civil and religious liberty.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Don’t ‘go it alone’
Change this Bob Gass
‘"It is…by my Spirit,” says the LORD.’
(Zec 4:6) 6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. ESV
Zerubbabel was called to rebuild the temple. It was a huge undertaking, so God told him, ‘“It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD…“Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way”’ (vv. 6-7 NLT). When God calls you, you need to know: 1) You may have to walk alone. When God uses you, people often assume you’re strong and don’t need anything. They don’t realise you’re just a regular person who’s half scared to death at times, and who’s more amazed by your success than they are. And when nobody stands with you or ministers to you, you become vulnerable to discouragement. 2) You need God’s help or you’re in trouble. Samson discovered this: ‘He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him. Then the Philistines seized him’ (Judges 16:20-21 NIV 2011 Edition). God stepped back and let Samson see that it was the Lord doing it, and not himself. So you must live with a sense of dependence on God. 3) It’s God’s power, not yours, that makes the difference. If you’re waiting for God to give you exceptional equipment before you decide to get into the fight, you’re not going to experience victory. God’s ‘strength is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV). The way you know you’re truly anointed is when God takes substandard equipment and performs supernatural feats. And that only happens when you say, ‘Lord, I don’t see how You could do this through me, but I’m trusting You to.’ That’s when He gets involved!
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
The Treaty ending Spanish American War was signed this day, December 10, 1898. Spain renounced all claims to Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. The War, which began when the Battleship Maine blew up in Havana Harbor, ended only a few months later as Commodore George Dewey destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, and Santiago, Cuba was captured with the help of Teddy Roosevelt. President William McKinley stated: “At a time…of… unprecedented success… it is fitting that we should… bow before the throne of divine grace and give devout praise to God, who holdeth the nations in the hollow of His hands.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Chapter 15 December 10
And you may well say "act." For what I call "myself" (for all practical, everyday purposes) is also a dramatic construction; memories, glimpses in the shaving glass, and snatches of the very fallible activity called "introspection" are the principal ingredients. Normally I call this construction "me," and the stage set "the real world."
Now the moment of prayer is for me-or involves for me as its condition-the awareness, the reawakened awareness, that this "real world" and "real self" are very far from being rock-bottom realities. I cannot, in the flesh, leave the stage, either to go behind the scenes or to take my seat in the pit; but I can remember that these regions exist. And I also re member that my apparent self-this clown or hero or super-under his grease-paint is a real person with an off-stage life. The dramatic person could not tread the stage unless he concealed a real person: unless the real and unknown I existed, I would not even make mistakes about the imagined me. And in prayer this real I struggle to speak, for once, from his real being, and to address, for once, not the other actors, but-what shall I call Him? The Author, for He invented us all? The Producer, for He controls all? Or the Audience, for He watches, and will judge, the performance?
The attempt is not to escape from space and time and from my creaturely situation as a subject facing objects. It is more modest: to re-awake the awareness of that situation. If that can be done, there is no need to go anywhere else. This situation itself is, at every moment, a possible theophany. Here is the holy ground; the Bush is burning now.
Of course this attempt may be attended with almost every degree of success or failure. The prayer preceding all prayers is "May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to." Infinitely various are the levels from which we pray. Emotional intensity is in itself no proof of spiritual depth. If we pray in terror we shall pray earnestly; it only proves that terror is an earnest emotion. Only God Himself can let the bucket down to the depths in us. And, on the other side, He must constantly work as the iconoclast. Every idea of Him we form, He must in mercy shatter. The most blessed result of prayer would be to rise thinking "But I never knew before. I never dreamed . . ." I suppose it was at such a moment that Thomas Aquinas said of all his own theology, "It reminds me of straw."
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
‘Blessed are the paupers in spirit,’
that is the first principle in the kingdom of God.
The bedrock in Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty,
not decisions for Jesus Christ,
but a sense of absolute futility—
‘I cannot begin to do it.’
--- Oswald Chambers
One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles
possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.
--- Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
There are two good things in life, freedom of thought and freedom of action.
--- William Somerset Maugham
The Saint's are the sinners that keep on trying.
--- Robert Louis Stevenson
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
or he will curse you, and you will deserve it.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Similar to Antiochus III
Of the kings in Daniel, Belshazzar might with most plausibility be viewed as a cipher for the sacrilegious Antiochus Epiphanes (see 1 Macc 1:20–64; also Heliodorus in 2 Macc 3); the careers of Antiochus III and his son (cf. 11:10–19, 21–45) correspond to those of Nebuchadnezzar and his son, and the pattern of father and son in chaps. 4–5 may lie behind that in chap. 11. Thus Davies regards chap. 5 as the youngest of the stories; yet Müller (U 1  86) sees chaps. 4 and 5 as the oldest stories in content. There is no specific indication that chaps. 4–5 were themselves written in the light of the experience of Antiochus. The parallels are general; sacrilege and idolatry were not a distinctively second-century phenomenon. For the latter, cf. the Nab Prayer of Nabonidus from Qumran Cave 4, while Antiochus only plunders the temple; he does not misuse vessels in a religious connection. Once again the dispersion and as likely the Persian as the Greek period is the story’s natural historical setting. As with other chapters, scholars have argued that chap. 5 as we know it came into existence by a process of redaction during different periods, though opinions vary as to the nature of this process.
Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 30, Daniel (goldingay), 408pp
The decree signed into law by Darius became public knowledge. But Daniel, knowing of the decree, followed his customary practice (just as he had done before) of going to his own upstairs room… . three times each day to pray to … God (cf Ps. 55:17). He prayed toward Jerusalem (cf Ps. 5:7; 2 Chron. 6:21, 34, 38).
Daniel’s prayer was first a prayer of thanksgiving (Dan. 6:10) as he acknowledged God’s goodnesses to him. His prayer was also a prayer for guidance and help (v 11). Doubtless the responsibility of high office rested heavily on Daniel and he sought God’s wisdom in the decisions he had to make. Daniel was more than 80 years old at this time (539 b.c.); he was about 16 when he was taken captive 66 years earlier (605 b.c.). So because of his years he may have also sought God for physical strength to carry on his heavy duties. Daniel made no attempt to hide his devotion to or his dependence on God, even though it now meant disobeying a governmental decree (cf Acts 5:29). Daniel would not and could not look to Darius for the guidance and strength he knew God alone could supply. Apparently his opponents knew where and when he prayed, so they went (lit, rushed) to his room at the time and, as expected, found him praying.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty [New Testament Edition]
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The offering of the natural
Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
--- Galatians 4:22.
Paul is not dealing with sin in this chapter of Galatians, but with the relation of the natural to the spiritual. The natural must be turned into the spiritual by sacrifice, otherwise a tremendous divorce will be produced in the actual life. Why should God ordain the natural to be sacrificed? God did not. It is not God’s order, but His permissive will. God’s order was that the natural should be transformed into the spiritual by obedience; it is sin that made it necessary for the natural to be sacrificed.
Abraham had to offer up Ishmael before he offered up Isaac. Some of us are trying to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God before we have sacrificed the natural. The only way in which we can offer a spiritual sacrifice to God is by presenting our bodies a living sacrifice. Sanctification means more than deliverance from sin, it means the deliberate commitment of myself whom God has saved, to God, and I do not care what it costs.
If we do not sacrifice the natural to the spiritual, the natural life will mock at the life of the Son of God in us and produce a continual swither. This is always the result of an undisciplined spiritual nature. We go wrong because we stubbornly refuse to discipline ourselves, physically, morally or mentally. ‘I wasn’t disciplined when I was a child.’ You must discipline yourself now. If you do not, you will ruin the whole of your personal life for God.
God is not with our natural life while we pamper it; but when we put it out in the desert and resolutely keep it under, then God will be with it; and He will open up wells and oases, and fulfil all His promises for the natural.
My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Was she planned?
Or is this one of life's
throw-offs? Small, taken from school
young; put to minister
to a widowed mother, who keeps
her simple, she feeds the hens,
speaks their language, is one
of them, quick, easily
frightened, with sharp
eyes, ears. When I have
been there, she keeps her perch
on my mind. I would
stroke her feathers, quieten
her, say: 'Life is
like this.' But have I
the right, who has seen plainer
women with love
in abundance, with
freedom, with money to
hand? If there is one thing
she has, it is a bird's
as a bird. But even
as those among whom she
lives and moves, who look at her
with their expectant
glances, song is denied her.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. --- Luke 22:14.
What further may be inferred from this sitting of Christ with his disciples at the table?
Till He Come
First, there may be inferred from it the equality of all the saints. There were twelve apostles here. When the Lord’s supper was celebrated after all the apostles had gone to heaven, was there to be any alteration because the apostles had gone? Not at all. Believers are to do this in remembrance of their Lord until he comes.
It is only in the church of God that the words liberty, equality, and fraternity can ever be any more than a dream. You have them where Jesus is—not in a republic but in the kingdom of our Lord, where all rule and dominion are vested in him, all of us willingly acknowledge him as our glorious head, and we all are brothers and sisters. Do not think that what the Lord worked in the early saints cannot be worked in you. The grace of God sustained the apostles; that grace is not less today than it was then. There is the same table for you, and the same food is there in emblem, and grace can make you like those holy men, for you are bought with the same blood and made alive by the same Spirit.
Another inference is that the needs of the church in all ages will be the same, and the supplies for the church’s needs will never vary. There will be the table still, with the same provisions—bread still, nothing more than bread for food; wine still, nothing less than wine for drink. The church will always need the same food, the same Christ, the same Gospel.
Lastly, there is in this truth a prophecy that this will be the portion of all his people forever. In heaven there cannot be less of privilege than on earth. It cannot be that in the celestial state believers will be degraded from what they have been below. What were they, then, below? Table companions. What will they be in heaven above? Table companions still, and blessed are they who will eat bread in the kingdom of God. And the Lord Jesus will be at the head of the table. Now, what will his table of joy be? Set your imagination to work, and think what will be his festival of soul when his reward will be all before him and his triumph all achieved. Can you imagine it? Whatever it is, you will share in it.
In the anticipation of the joy that will be yours, forget your present troubles, rise to the difficulties of the hour, and if you cannot rejoice in the present, yet rejoice in the future, which shall so soon be your own.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Moses persevered, says Hebrews 11, because he saw him who is invisible. The word persevere comes from the prefix per meaning “through” and “severe”—to press by faith through severe circumstances. Consider, for example, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, missionaries to native Americans in the American Northwest.
Marcus, born in New York in 1802, was converted and eventually joined a Presbyterian church. He studied medicine and felt God calling him as a missionary physician to the Indians of the West. His girlfriend, Narcissa, shared his burden, and on the day after their wedding they set out for Oregon. Narcissa became the first white woman to cross America; and she was awed by the splendor of God’s creation. Her heart was in a vast adventure, and there, somewhere between Elkhorn and the Loup, she became pregnant.
After 2,000 rugged miles, the Whitmans reached Oregon, settling down among the fierce Cayuse. Marcus built a hut for himself and his pregnant wife, and on December 10, 1835, they moved in. Daughter Alice was born three months later.
Marcus and Narcissa worked themselves to exhaustion building a mission compound, developing agriculture, treating the sick, and sharing their faith. Unbelievable hardship and sorrow overwhelmed them. They became overworked, tired, and sometimes discouraged. Relationships with other missionaries deteriorated. Worst of all, little Alice, one day during her second year, wandered away while her dad was reading, fell into a nearby stream, and drowned. But the Whitmans pressed on, ministering selflessly to orphans, to the diseased, to the disinterested, and to whoever would listen.
Their passion cost them their lives. In 1847 several Indians died during an outbreak of measles, and Marcus was blamed. Late on a dark fall day, the mission was attacked by a band of Cayuse. Marcus and Narcissa died by tomahawk, with a dozen coworkers. But the Gospel had been planted on the American frontier by a couple willing to remain faithful through severe circumstances. They had persevered, seeing him who is invisible.
Because of his faith, Moses left Egypt. Moses had seen the invisible God and wasn’t afraid of the king’s anger. His faith also made him celebrate Passover. He sprinkled the blood of animals on the doorposts, so that the first-born sons of the people of Israel would not be killed by the destroying angel. Because of their faith, the people walked through the Red Sea on dry land.
--- Hebrews 11:27-29a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
God Is In The Manger (Day 7)
An Unfathomable Mystery
In an incomprehensible reversal of all righteous and pious thinking, God declares himself guilty to the world and thereby extinguishes the guilt of the world. God himself takes the humiliating path of reconciliation and thereby sets the world free. God wants to be guilty of our guilt and takes upon himself the punishment and suffering that this guilt brought to us. God stands in for godlessness, love stands in for hate, the Holy One for the sinner. Now there is no longer any godlessness, any hate, any sin that God has not taken upon himself, suffered, and atoned for. Now there is no more reality and no more world that is not reconciled with God and in peace. That is what God did in his beloved Son Jesus Christ. Ecce homo -- see the incarnate God, the unfathomable mystery of the love of God for the world. God loves human beings. God loves the world - not ideal human beings but people as they are, not an ideal world but the real world.
We prepare to witness a mystery. More to the point, we prepare to witness the Mystery, the God made flesh. While it is good that we seek to know the Holy One, it is probably not so good to presume that we ever complete the task, to suppose that we ever know anything about him except what he has made known to us. The prophet Isaiah helps us to remember our limitations when he writes, "To whom then will you compare me ... ? says the Holy One...." Think of it like this: he cannot be exhausted by our ideas about him, but he is everywhere suggested. He cannot be comprehended, but he can be touched. His coming in the flesh-this Mystery we prepare to glimpse again-confirms that he is to be touched.
God With Us:Rediscovering The Meaning Of Christmas
See Isaiah 40:18, 21-23 God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - December 10
“So shall we ever be with the Lord." 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
Even the sweetest visits from Christ, how short they are—and how transitory! One moment our eyes see him, and we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, but again a little time and we do not see him, for our beloved withdraws himself from us; like a roe or a young hart he leaps over the mountains of division; he is gone to the land of spices, and feeds no more among the lilies.
“If to-day he deigns to bless us
With a sense of pardoned sin,
He to-morrow may distress us,
Make us feel the plague within.”
Oh, how sweet the prospect of the time when we shall not behold him at a distance, but see him face to face: when he shall not be as a wayfaring man tarrying but for a night, but shall eternally enfold us in the bosom of his glory. We shall not see him for a little season, but
“Millions of years our wondering eyes,
Shall o’er our Saviour’s beauties rove;
And myriad ages we’ll adore,
The wonders of his love.”
In heaven there shall be no interruptions from care or sin; no weeping shall dim our eyes; no earthly business shall distract our happy thoughts; we shall have nothing to hinder us from gazing for ever on the Sun of Righteousness with unwearied eyes. Oh, if it be so sweet to see him now and then, how sweet to gaze on that blessed face for aye, and never have a cloud rolling between, and never have to turn one’s eyes away to look on a world of weariness and woe! Blest day, when wilt thou dawn? Rise, O unsetting sun! The joys of sense may leave us as soon as they will, for this shall make glorious amends. If to die is but to enter into uninterrupted communion with Jesus, then death is indeed gain, and the black drop is swallowed up in a sea of victory.
Evening - December 10
“Whose heart the Lord opened.” --- Acts 16:14.
In Lydia’s conversion there are many points of interest. It was brought about by providential circumstances. She was a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, but just at the right time for hearing Paul we find her at Philippi; providence, which is the handmaid of grace, led her to the right spot. Again, grace was preparing her soul for the blessing—grace preparing for grace. She did not know the Saviour, but as a Jewess, she knew many truths which were excellent stepping-stones to a knowledge of Jesus. Her conversion took place in the use of the means. On the Sabbath she went when prayer was wont to be made, and there prayer was heard. Never neglect the means of grace; God may bless us when we are not in his house, but we have the greater reason to hope that he will when we are in communion with his saints. Observe the words, “Whose heart the Lord opened.” She did not open her own heart. Her prayers did not do it; Paul did not do it. The Lord himself must open the heart, to receive the things which make for our peace. He alone can put the key into the hole of the door and open it, and get admittance for himself. He is the heart’s master as he is the heart’s maker. The first outward evidence of the opened heart was obedience. As soon as Lydia had believed in Jesus, she was baptized. It is a sweet sign of a humble and broken heart, when the child of God is willing to obey a command which is not essential to his salvation, which is not forced upon him by a selfish fear of condemnation, but is a simple act of obedience and of communion with his Master. The next evidence was love, manifesting itself in acts of grateful kindness to the apostles. Love to the saints has ever been a mark of the true convert. Those who do nothing for Christ or his church, give but sorry evidence of an “opened” heart. Lord, evermore give me an opened heart.
Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
WHAT CHILD IS THIS?
William C. Dix, 1837–1898
When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child … (Luke 2:17)
The question asked in this well-loved carol must have been uppermost in the minds of those present at Jesus’ birth. We can almost hear the question being asked from one to another as they gazed into the humble manger. How difficult it must have been for them to understand that the babe who lay in “such mean estate” was truly the promised Messiah. And through the centuries men have continued to ponder who Christ really is—how can He be fully God and still fully man? Only through divine faith comes the revealed answer.
He who is the Bread of Life began His ministry hungering. He who is the Water of Life ended His ministry thirsty. Christ hungered as man, yet fed the multitudes as God. He was weary, yet He is our rest. He prayed, yet He hears prayers. He was sold for 30 pieces of silver, yet He redeems sinners. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, yet He is the Good Shepherd. He died, and by dying destroyed death.
How beautifully the triumphant answer to this imposing question bursts forth in the refrain—“This, this is Christ the King.”
This thoughtful text was written by William Dix, one of our finest lay hymn writers. While a successful insurance salesman in Glasgow, Scotland, he was stricken with a sudden serious illness at the age of 29. Dix was confined to bed for an extended period and suffered deep depression until he called out to God and “met Him in a new and real way.” Out of this spiritual experience came many artistic and distinctive hymns, including this delightful carol. It was taken from a longer Christmas poem, “The Manger Throne,” written by William Dix about 1865. The melody “Green Sleeves” is a traditional English folk tune.
What Child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?
Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian, fear—for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh—come, rich and poor, to own Him; the King of kings salvation brings—let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Refrain: This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing: Haste, haste to bring Him laud—the Babe, the Son of Mary.
For Today: Matthew 2:1–12; Luke 1:26–28; 2:6–20
As you read and study the Gospel account about Christ, begin a study of both His claims and demonstrations that prove that He was truly God—truly deity, the Messiah sent from heaven. Sing this musical truth as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
(1.) It is not from want of strength in himself. The power of God is unquestionably able to strike off the chains of unbelief from all; he could surmount the obstinacy of every child of wrath, and inspire every son of Adam with faith as well as Adam himself. He wants not a virtue superior to the greatest resistance of his creature; a victorious beam of light might be shot into their understandings, and a flood of grace might overspread their wills with one word of his mouth, without putting forth the utmost of his power. What hindrance could there be in any created spirit, which cannot be easily pierced into and new moulded by the Father of spirits? Yet he only breathes this efficacious virtue into some, and leaves others under that insensibility and hardness which they love, and suffer them to continue in their benighting ignorance, and consume themselves in the embraces of their dear, though deceitful Delilahs. He could have conquered the resistance of the Jews, as well as chased away the darkness and ignorance of the Gentiles. No doubt but he could overpower the heart of the most malicious devil, as well as that of the simplest and weakest man. But the breath of the Almighty Spirit is in his own power, to breathe “where he lists” (John 3:8). It is at his liberty whether he will give to any the feelings of the invincible efficacy of his grace; he did not want strength to have kept man as firm as a rock against the temptation of Satan, and poured in such fortifying grace, as to have made him impregnable against the powers of hell, as well as he did secure the standing of the angels against the sedition of their fellows: but it was his will to permit it to be otherwise.
(2.) Nor is it from any prerogative in the creature. He converts not any for their natural perfection, because he seizeth upon the most ignorant; nor for their moral perfection, because he converts the most sinful; nor for their civil perfection, because he turns the most despicable.
[1.] Not for their natural perfection of knowledge. He opened the minds and hearts of the more ignorant. Were the nature of the Gentiles better manured than that of the Jews, or did the tapers of their understandings burn clearer? No; the one were skilled in the prophecies of the Messiah, and might have compared the predictions they owned with the actions and sufferings of Christ, which they were spectators of. He let alone those that had expectations of the Messiah, and expectations about the time of Christ’s appearance, both grounded upon the oracles wherewith he had entrusted them. The Gentiles were unacquainted with the prophets, and therefore destitute of the expectations of the Messiah (Eph. 2:12): they were “without Christ;” without any revelation of Christ, because “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world,” without any knowledge of God, or promises of Christ. The Jews might sooner, in a way of reason, have been wrought upon than the Gentiles, who were ignorant of the prophets, by whose writings they might have examined the truth of the apostles’ declarations. Thus are they refused that were the kindred of Christ, according to the flesh, and the Gentiles, that were at a greater distance from him, brought in by God; thus he catcheth not at the subtle and mighty devils, who had an original in spiritual nature more like to him, but at weak and simple man.
[2.] Not for any moral perfection, because he converts the most sinful: the Gentiles, steeped in idolatry and superstition. He sowed more faith among the Romans than in Jerusalem; more faith in a city that was the common sewer of all the idolatry of the nations conquered by them, than in that city which had so signally been owned by him, and had not practised any idolatry since the Babylonish captivity. He planted saintship at Corinth, a place notorious for the infamous worship of Venus, a superstition attended with the grossest uncleanness; at Ephesus, that presented the whole world with a cup of fornication in their temple of Diana; among the Colossians, votaries to Cybele in a manner of worship attended with beastly and lascivious ceremonies. And what character had the Cretians from one of their own poets, mentioned by the apostle to Titus, whom he had placed among them to further the progress of the gospel, but the vilest and most abominable? (Titus 1:12): “liars,” not to be credited; “evil beasts,” not to be associated with; “slow bellies,” fit for no service. What prerogative was there in the nature of such putrefaction? as much as in that of a toad to be elevated to the dignity of an angel. What steam from such dunghills could be welcome to him, and move him to cast his eye on them, and sweeten them from heaven? What treasures of worth were here to open the treasures of his grace! Were such filthy snuffs fit of themselves to be kindled by, and become a lodging for, a gospel beam? What invitements could he have from lying, beastliness, gluttony, but only from his own sovereignty? By this he plucked firebrands out of the fire, while he left straighter and more comely sticks to consume to ashes.
[3.] Not for any civil perfection, because he turns the most despicable. He elevates not nature to grace upon the account of wealth, honor, or any civil station in the world: he dispenseth not ordinarily those treasures to those that the mistaken world foolishly admire and dote upon (1 Cor. 1:26); “Not many mighty, not many noble:” a purple robe is not usually decked with this jewel; he takes more of mouldy clay than refined dust to cast into his image; and lodges his treasures more in the earthly vessels than in the world’s golden ones; he gives out his richest doles to those that are the scorn and reproach of the world. Should he impart his grace most to those that abound in wealth or honor, it had been some foundation for a conception that he had been moved by those vulgarly esteemed excellencies to indulge them more than others. But such a conceit languisheth when we behold the subjects of his grace as void originally of any allurements, as they are full of provocations. Hereby he declares himself free from all created engagements, and that he is not led by any external motives in the object.
[4.] It is not from any obligation which lies upon him. He is indebted to none: disobliged by all. No man deserves from him any act of grace, but every man deserves what the most deplorable are left to suffer. He is obliged by the children of wrath to nothing else but showers of wrath; owes no more a debt to fallen man, than to fallen devils, to restore them to their first station by a superlative grace. How was he more bound to restore them, than he was to preserve them; to catch them after they fell, than to put a bar in the way of their falling? God, as a sovereign, gave laws to men, and a strength sufficient to keep those laws. What obligation is there upon God to repair that strength man wilfully lost, and extract him out of that condition into which be voluntarily plunged himself? What if man sinned by temptation, which is a reason alleged by some, might not many of the devils do so too? Though there was a first of them that sinned without a temptation, yet many of them might be seduced into rebellion by the ringleader. Upon that account he is no more bound to give grace to all men, than to devils. If he promised life upon obedience, he threatened death upon transgression. By man’s disobedience God is quit of his promise, and owes nothing but punishment upon the violation of his law. Indeed man may pretend to a claim of sufficient strength from him by creation, as God is the author of nature, and he had it; but since he hath extinguished it by his sin, he cannot in the least pretend any obligation on God for a new strength. If it be a “peradventure” whether he will “give repentance,” as it is 2 Tim. 2:25, there is no tie in the case; a tie would put it beyond a peradventure with a God that never forfeited his obligation. No husbandman thinks himself obliged to bestow cost and pains, manure and tillage, upon one field more than another; though the nature of the ground may require more, yet he is at his liberty whether he will expend more upon one than another. He may let it be fallow as long as he please. God is less obliged to till and prune his creatures, than man is obliged to his field or trees. If a king proclaim a pardon to a company of rebels, upon the condition of each of them paying such a sum of money; their estates before were capable of satisfying the condition, but their rebellion hath reduced them to an indigent condition; the proclamation itself is an act of grace, the condition required is not impossible in itself: the prince, out of a tenderness to some, sends them that sum of money, he hath by his proclamation obliged them to pay, and thereby enabled them to answer the condition be requires; the first be doth by a sovereign authority, the second he doth by a sovereign bounty. He was obliged to neither of them; punishment was a debt due to all of them; if he would remit it upon condition, he did relax his sovereign right; and if he would by his largess make any of them capable to fulfil the condition, by sending them presently a sufficient sum to pay the fine, he acted as proprietor of his own goods, to dispose of them in such a quantity to those to whom he was not obliged to bestow a mite.
[5.] It must therefore be an act of his mere sovereignty. This can only sit arbitrator in every gracious act. Why did he give grace to Abel and not to Cain, since they both lay in the same womb, and equally derived from their parents a taint in their nature; but that he would show a standing example of his sovereignty to the future ages of the world in the first posterity of man? Why did he give grace to Abraham, and separate him from his idolatrous kindred, to dignify him to be the root of the Messiah? Why did he confine his promise to Isaac, and not extend it to Ishmael, the seed of the same Abraham by Hagar, or to the children he had by Keturah after Sarah’s death? What reason can be alleged for this but his sovereign will? Why did he not give the fallen angels a moment of repentance after their sin, but condemned them to irrevocable pains? Is it not as free for him to give grace to whom he please, as create what worlds he please; to form this corrupted clay into his own image, as to take such a parcel of dust from all the rest of the creation whereof to compact Adam’s body? Hath he not as much jurisdiction over the sinful mass of his creatures in a new creation, as he had over the chaos in the old? And what reason can be rendered, of his advancing this part of matter to the nobler dignity of a star, and leaving that other part to make up the dark body of the earth; to compact one part into a glorious sun, and another part into a hard rock, but his royal prerogative? What is the reason a prince subjects one malefactor to punishment, and lifts up another to a place of trust and profit? that Pharaoh honored the butler with an attendance on his person, and remitted the baker to the hands of the executioner? It was his pleasure. And is not as great right due to God, as is allowed to the worms of the earth? What is the reason he hardens a Pharaoh, by a denying him that grace which should mollify him, and allows it to another? It is because he will. “Whom he will he hardens” (Rom. 9:18). Hath not man the liberty to pull up the sluice, and let the water run into what part of the ground he pleases? What is the reason some have not a heart to understand the beauty of his ways? Because the Lord doth not give it them (Deut. 29:4). Why doth he not give all his converts an equal measure of his sanctifying grace? some have mites and some have treasures. Why doth he give his grace to some sooner, to some later? some are inspired in their infancy, others not till a full age, and after; some not till they have fallen into some gross sin, as Paul; some betimes, that they may do him service: others later, as the thief upon the cross, and presently snatcheth them out of the world? Some are weaker, some stronger in nature, some more beautiful and lovely, others more uncomely and sluggish. It is so in supernaturals. What reason is there for this, but his own will? This is instead of all that can be assigned on the part of God. He is the free disposer of his own goods, and as a Father may give a greater portion to one child than to another. And what reason of complaint is there against God? may not a toad complain that God did not make it a man, and give it a portion of reason? or a fly complain that God did not make it an angel, and give it a garment of light; had they but any spark of understanding; as well as man complain that God did not give him grace as well as another? Unless he sincerely desired it, and then was denied it, he might complain of God, though not as a sovereign, yet as a promiser of grace to them that ask it. God doth not render his sovereignty formidable; he shuts not up his throne of grace from any that seek him; he invites man; his arms are open, and the sceptre stretched out; and no man continues under the arrest of his lusts, but he that is unwilling to be otherwise, and such a one hath no reason to complain of God.
3. His sovereignty is manifest in disposing the means of grace to some, not to all. He hath caused the sun to shine bright in one place, while he hath left others benighted and deluded by the devil’s oracles. Why do the evangelical dews fall in this or that place, and not in another? Why was the gospel published in Rome so soon, and not in Tartary? Why hath it been extinguished in some places, as soon almost as it had been kindled in them? Why hath one place been honored with the beams of it in one age, and been covered with darkness the next? One country hath been made a sphere for this star, that directs to Christ, to move in; and afterwards it hath been taken away, and placed in another; sometimes more clearly it hath shone, sometimes more darkly, in the same place; what is the reason of this? It is true something of it may be referred to the justice of God, but much more to the sovereignty of God. That the gospel is published later, and not sooner, the apostle tell us is “according to the commandment of the everlasting God” (Rom. 16:26).
(1.) The means of grace, after the families from Adam became distinct, were never granted to all the world. After that fatal breach in Adam’s family by the death of Abel, and Cain’s separation, we read not of the means of grace continued among Cain’s posterity; it seems to be continued in Adam’s sole family, and not published in societies till the time of Seth. “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26). It was continued in that family till the deluge, which was 1523 years after the creation, according to some, or 1656 years, according to others. After that, when the world degenerated, it was communicated to Abraham, and settled in the posterity that descended from Jacob; though he left not the world without a witness of himself, and some sprinklings of revelations in other parts, as appears by the Book of Job, and the discourses of his friends.
(2.) The Jews had this privilege granted them above other nations, to have a clearer revelation of God. God separated them from all the world to honor them with the depositum of his oracles (Rom. 3:2): “To them were committed the oracles of God.” In which regard all other nations are said to be “without God” (Eph. 2:12), as being destitute of so great a privilege. The Spirit blew in Canaan when the lands about it felt not the saving breath of it. “He hath not dealt so with any nation; and as for his judgments, they have not known them” (Psalm 147:20). The rest had no warnings from the prophets, no dictates from heaven, but what they had by the light of nature, the view of the works of creation, and the administration of Providence, and what remained among them of some ancient traditions derived from Noah, which, in tract of time, were much defaced. We read but of one Jonah sent to Nineveh, but frequent alarms to the Israelites by a multitude of prophets commissioned by God. It is true, the door of the Jewish church was open to what proselytes would enter themselves, and embrace their religion and worship; but there was no public proclamation made in the world; only God, by his miracles in their deliverance from Egypt (which could not but be famous among all the neighbor nations), declared them to be a people favored by heaven: but the tradition from Adam and Noah was not publicly revived by God in other parts, and raised from that grave of forgetfulness wherein it had lain so long buried. Was there any reason in them for this indulgence? God might have been as liberal to any other nation, yea, to all the nations in the world, if it had been his sovereign pleasure: any other people were as fit to be entrusted with his oracles, and be subjects for his worship, as that people; yet all other nations, till the rejection of the Jews, because of their rejection of Christ, were strangers from the covenant of promise. These people were part of the common mass of the world: they had no prerogative in nature above Adam’s posterity. Were they the extract of an innocent part of his loins, and all the other nations drained out of his putrefaction? Had the blood of Abraham, from whom they were more immediately descended, any more precious tincture than the rest of mankind? They, as well as other nations, were made of “one blood” (Acts 17:26); and that corrupted both in the spring and in the rivulets. Were they better than other nations, when God first drew them out of their slavery? We have Joshua’s authority for it, that they had complied with the Egyptian idolatry, “and served other gods,” in that place of their servitude (Josh. 24:14). Had they had an abhorrency of the superstition of Egypt, while they remained there, they could not so soon have erected a golden calf for worship in imitation of the Egyptian idols. All the rest of mankind had as inviting reasons to present God with, as those people had. God might have granted the same privilege to all the world, as well as to them, or denied it them, and endowed all the rest of the world with his statutes: but the enriching such a small company of people with his Divine showers, and leaving the rest of the world as a barren wilderness in spirituals, can be placed upon no other account originally than that of his unaccountable sovereignty, of his love to them: there was nothing in them to merit such high titles from God as his first-born, his peculiar treasure, the apple of his eye. He disclaims any righteousness in them, and speaks a word sufficient to damp such thoughts in them, by charging them with their wickedness, while he “loaded them with his benefits” (Deut. 9:4, 6). The Lord “gives thee not” this land for “thy righteousness;” for thou art a stiff-necked people. It was an act of God’s free pleasure to “choose them to be a people to himself” (Deut. 7:6).
(3.) God afterwards rejected the Jews, gave them up to the hardness of their hearts, and spread the gospel among the Gentiles. He hath cast off the children of the kingdom, those that had been enrolled for his subjects for many ages, who seemed, by their descent from Abraham, to have a right to the privileges of Abraham; and called men from the east and from the west, from the darkest corners in the world, to “sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven,” i. e. to partake with them of the promises of the gospel (Matt. 8:11). The people that were accounted accursed by the Jews enjoy the means of grace, which have been hid from those that were once dignified this 1600 years; that they have neither ephod, nor teraphim, nor sacrifice, nor any true worship of God among them (Hos. 3:4). Why he should not give them grace to acknowledge and own the person of the Messiah, to whom he had made the promises of him for so many successive ages, but let their “heart be fat,” and “their ears heavy” (Isa. 6:10)? — why the gospel at length, after the resurrection of Christ, should be presented to the Gentiles, not by chance, but pursuant to the resolution and prediction of God, declared by the prophets that it should be so in time? — why he should let so many hundreds of years pass over, after the world was peopled, and let the nations all that while soak in their idolatrous customs?—why he should not call the Gentiles without rejecting the Jews, and bind them both up together in the bundle of life? — why he should acquaint some people with it a little after the publishing it in Jerusalem, by the descent of the Spirit, and others not a long time after? — some in the first ages of Christianity enjoyed it; others have it not, as those in America, till the last age of the world;—can be referred to nothing but his sovereign pleasure.
The Existence and Attributes of God
Various | Biola University