Greeting2 John 1 1 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2 because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:
3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.
Walking in Truth and Love4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. 5 And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
Final Greetings12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
13 The children of your elect sister greet you.
Greeting3 John 1 1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.
2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
Support and Opposition5 Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, 6 who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.
9 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.
11 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.
Final Greetings13 I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.
15 Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.
GreetingJude 1 1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Judgment on False Teachers3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jude, who wrote the Catholic Epistle, the brother of the sons of Joseph, and very religious, whilst knowing the near relationship of the Lord, yet did not say that he himself was His brother. But what said he?“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ,”—of Him as Lord; but “the brother of James.” For this is true; he was His brother, (the son) 4 of Joseph. “For certain men have entered unawares, ungodly men, who had been of old ordained and predestined to the judgment of our God;”not that they might become impious, but that, being now impious, they were ordained to judgment. “For the Lord God,” he says, 6 “who once delivered a people out of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not;”that is, that He might train them through punishment. For they were indeed punished, and they perished on account of those that are saved, until they turn to the Lord. “But the angels,” he says,“that kept not their own pre-eminence,” that, namely, which they received through advancement, “but left their own habitation,” meaning, that is, the heaven and the stars, became, and are called apostates. “He hath reserved these to the judgment of the great day, in chains, under darkness.” He means the place near the earth, 8 that is, the dark air. Now he called “chains” the loss of the honour in which they had stood, and the lust of feeble things; since, bound by their own lust, they cannot be converted. “As Sodom and Gomorrha,” he says. … By which the Lord signifies that pardon had been granted;10 and that on being disciplined they had repented. “Similarly to the same,” he says,12 “also those dreamers,”—that is, who dream in their imagination lusts and wicked desires, regarding as good not that which is truly good, and superior to all good,—“defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of majesty,” that is, the only Lord, who is truly our Lord, Jesus Christ, and alone worthy of praise. They “speak evil of majesty,” that is, of the angels. Clement of Alexandria: The Exhortation to the Greeks. The Rich Man's Salvation. To the Newly Baptized (fragment) (Loeb Classical Library)
5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.
“When Michael, the archangel, disputing with the devil, debated about the body of Moses.” Here he confirms the assumption of Moses. He is here called Michael, who through an angel near to us debated with the devil.
“But these,” he says, “speak evil of those things which they know not; but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves.” He means that they eat, and drink, and indulge in uncleanness, and says that they do other things that are common to them with animals, devoid of reason. Clement of Alexandria: The Exhortation to the Greeks. The Rich Man's Salvation. To the Newly Baptized (fragment) (Loeb Classical Library)
A Call to Persevere17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
“Woe unto them!” he says, “for they have gone in the way of Cain.” For so also we lie under Adam’s sin through similarity of sin. “Clouds,” he says,17 “without water; who do not possess in themselves the divine and fruitful word.” Wherefore, he says, “men of this kind are carried about both by winds and violent blasts.” “Trees,” he says, “of autumn, without fruit,”—unbelievers, that is, who bear no fruit of fidelity. “Twice dead,” he says: once, namely, when they sinned by transgressing, and a second time when delivered up to punishment, according to the predestined judgments of God; inasmuch as it is to be reckoned death, even when each one does not forthwith deserve the inheritance. “Waves,” he says,19 “of a raging sea.” By these words he signifies the life of the Gentiles, whose end is abominable ambition. “Wandering stars,”—that is, he means those who err and are apostates are of that kind of stars which fell from the seats of the angels,—“to whom,” for their apostasy, “the blackness of darkness is reserved for ever. Enoch also, the seventh from Adam,” he says, 21 “prophesied of these.” In these words he verifies the prophecy. Clement of Alexandria: The Exhortation to the Greeks. The Rich Man's Salvation. To the Newly Baptized (fragment) (Loeb Classical Library)
Doxology24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
“Those,” he says, “separating” the faithful from the unfaithful, be convicted according to their own unbelief. And again those separating from the flesh.23 He says, “Animal not having the spirit;” that is, the spirit which is by faith, which supervenes through the practice of righteousness.
“But ye, beloved,” he says, “building up yourselves on your most holy faith, in the Holy Spirit.” “But some,” he says,2 “save, plucking them from the fire;” “but of some have compassion in fear,” that is, teach those who fall into the fire to free themselves. “Hating,” he says,4 “that spotted garment, which is carnal:” that of the soul, namely; the spotted garment is a spirit polluted by carnal lusts.
“Now to Him,” he says, “who is able to keep you without stumbling, and present you faultless before the presence of His glory in joy.” In the presence of His glory: he means in the presence of the angels, to be presented faultless, having become angels.7 When Daniel speaks of the people and comes into the presence of the Lord, he does not say this, because he saw God: for it is impossible that any one whose heart is not pure should see God; but he says this, that everything that the people did was in the sight of God, and was manifest to Him; that is, that nothing is hid from the Lord.
Now, in the Gospel according to Mark, the Lord being interrogated by the chief of the priests if He was the Christ, the Son of the blessed God, answering, said, “I am; and ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power.”9 But powers mean the holy angels. Further, when He says “at the right hand of God,” He means the self-same [beings], by reason of the equality and likeness of the angelic and holy powers, which are called by the name of God. He says, therefore, that He sits at the right hand; that is, that He rests in pre-eminent honour. In the other Gospels, however, He is said not to have replied to the high priest, on his asking if He was the Son of God. But what said He? “You say.”11 Answering sufficiently well. For had He said, It is as you understand, he would have said what was not true, not confessing Himself to be the Son of God; [for] they did not entertain this opinion of Him; but by saying “You say,” He spake truly. For what they had no knowledge of, but expressed in words, that he confessed to be true. Clement of Alexandria: The Exhortation to the Greeks. The Rich Man's Salvation. To the Newly Baptized (fragment) (Loeb Classical Library)
What I'm Reading
Unbelievable? Is Luke’s Description of Quirinius Historically Inaccurate?
By J. Warner Wallace 8/16/2017
In an interview on Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley, I had the opportunity to speak with a skeptic who cited Luke’s description of Quirinius (Luke 2:1–3) as a historical contradiction. Luke wrote that Joseph and Mary returned to Bethlehem for a census and “this was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” The Jewish historian, Josephus, confirmed the existence of this governor, but placed Quirinius’ ruling term from AD 5 to AD 6. This period of time is too late, however, as Matthew wrote that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great (who according to Josephus, died nine years prior to the governorship of Quirinius). The authority of Josephus seems to be at odds with the accuracy of the Gospel writers, and like the account related to the execution of John the Baptist, we are left to decide which account is accurate (and which is not). Once again, it’s time to apply the overarching principles of witness reliability:
Principle One: Make Sure the Witnesses Were Present in the First Place
Both Luke and Josephus are historians relying on the observations and testimony of others (See Luke’s introduction in Luke 1:1-4), but Luke (writing in the late 50’s AD) has access to witnesses and sources far closer to the event than does Josephus (writing in the late 70’s AD and in the early 90’s AD). There is good reason to believe Luke is relying heavily on the testimony of Mark and Peter, and Mark’s Gospel is the earliest narrative of these events (written within 20 years of John’s execution); the case for the early dating of Luke’s text is cumulative and compelling. Luke’s account was, therefore, available to the early Christian and non-Christian observers of the life of Jesus. Interestingly, archaeological discoveries in the nineteenth century seem to confirm Quirinius (or someone with the same name) was also proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 BC to the death of Herod. Quirinius’s name has been discovered on a coin from this period of time (as cited by John McRay in Archaeology and the New Testament), and on the base of a statue erected in Pisidian Antioch (as cited by Sir William Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament). Quirinius may actually have ruled Syria during two separate periods and have taken two separate censuses. This is consistent with Luke’s account. In Luke 2:2, Luke refers to the “first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria” (describing Quirinius’ rule as the governor’s procurator), and in Acts 5:37, Luke describes a second census taken most likely between 6-7AD (as described by Josephus) when Quirinius was the formal governor of the region. Both Josephus and Luke link this second census to an uprising under Judas of Galilee. Only Luke’s sources were present during the actual events; as a result, Luke’s description of two separate censuses is reasonable.
Principle Two: Try to Find Some Corroboration for the Claims of the Witnesses
Historical accounts (like accounts from cold-case homicide witnesses) can be verified in a variety of ways. Sometimes we use physical evidence external to the account (like archaeological discoveries) and sometimes we use the testimony of other witnesses. While early skeptics of Luke’s account in the Book of Acts argued Luke to be unreliable (given he was the only ancient source for many of the events he described), archaeological discoveries quickly exonerated Luke as a historian. Luke accurately described a number of ancient people and locations (i.e. Lysanias, Pontius Pilate, Sergius Paulus, Gallio, Iconium and the Politarchs). In addition, Luke included a correct description of two ways to gain Roman citizenship (Acts 22:28), an accurate explanation of provincial penal procedure (Acts 24:1-9), a true depiction of invoking one’s roman citizenship, including the legal formula, de quibus cognoscere volebam (Acts 25:18), and an accurate account of being in Roman custody and the conditions of being imprisoned at one’s own expense (Acts 28:16 and Acts 28:30-31). Archaeologist and former Lukan skeptic, Sir William Ramsey investigated the archaeological discoveries relevant to Luke’s account and wrote, “(There are) reasons for placing the author of Acts among the historians of the first rank” (from St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen).
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.
Does the Old Testament Predict Jesus’ Resurrection?
By Carey Bryant 9/27/2017
Part of Paul’s Gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15 is the phrase “that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” Have you ever wondered what Scriptures Paul had in mind?
When it comes to Jesus’ death, many rightly think of OT passages like Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. But when you look for OT references about Jesus’ resurrection, they are much more scarce and obscure. The first two passages that we will look at are debated among theologians as to whether or not they speak of Jesus’ resurrection, but the next three are much clearer. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Two Debatable Passages | On the Third Day |
(Ho 6:2) 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. ESV
Here Hosea is praying that God would restore Israel as a nation. The phrases “after two days” and “on the third day” simply denote a short period of time. For many Christians, the phrase “on the third day he will raise us up” seems to be a near perfect parallel to Jesus’ resurrection.
But many commentators seemed to be divided on this. Some think this refers to Jesus’ resurrection while others take this as dealing solely with Israel. The original context of the passage doesn’t seem to be Messianic, but the biggest problem I have is that no one references this passage in the NT. If Hosea was speaking about the Resurrection, I would think that the NT writers would be quoting this passage all over the place!
My name is Carey Bryant. I was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I married my beautiful wife, Brittany, on May 3, 2015. I graduated from Bryan College with a BA in Biblical Studies in 2012. I love playing the drums and listening to music. I also enjoy playing sports and being active (when I feel like it). I am an introvert who loves to read books, usually about topics that bore most people. I am extremely obsessed with all things related to Batman and I can actually be seen in the Dark Knight Rises (if you pause the movie at just the right moment and have a magnifying glass handy).
I am a follower of Christ and I seek to live out God’s Word as revealed to us in the Bible. God has given me a passion to study His Word and this blog is an outcome of this passion.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 145Great Is the LORD
145 A Song Of Praise. Of David.
10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
[The LORD is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.]
14 The LORD upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20 The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
10. Let us have done, then, with those who dare to inscribe the name of
God on their vices, because we say that men are born vicious. The
divine workmanship, which they ought to look for in the nature of Adam,
when still entire and uncorrupted, they absurdly expect to find in
their depravity. The blame of our ruin rests with our own carnality,
not with God, its only cause being our degeneracy from our original
condition. And let no one here glamour that God might have provided
better for our safety by preventing Adam's fall. This objection, which,
from the daring presumption implied in it, is odious to every pious
mind, relates to the mystery of predestination, which will afterwards
be considered in its own place (Tertull. de Præscript., Calvin, Lib. de
Predest). Meanwhile let us remember that our ruin is attributable to
our own depravity, that we may not insinuate a charge against God
himself, the Author of nature. It is true that nature has received a
mortal wound, but there is a great difference between a wound inflicted
from without, and one inherent in our first condition. It is plain that
this wound was inflicted by sin; and, therefore, we have no ground of
complaint except against ourselves. This is carefully taught in
Scripture. For the Preacher says, "Lo, this only have I found, that God
made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions," (Eccl.
7:29). Since man, by the kindness of God, was made upright, but by his
oven infatuation fell away unto vanity, his destruction is obviously
attributable only to himself (Athanas. in Orat. Cont. Idola).
11. We say, then, that man is corrupted by a natural viciousness, but not by one which proceeded from nature. In saying that it proceeded not from nature, we mean that it was rather an adventitious event which befell man, than a substantial property assigned to him from the beginning.  We, however call it natural to prevent any one from supposing that each individual contracts it by depraved habit, whereas all receive it by a hereditary law. And we have authority for so calling it. For, on the same grounds the apostle says, that we are "by nature the children of wrath," (Eph. 2:3). How could God, who takes pleasure in the meanest of his works be offended with the noblest of them all? The offence is not with the work itself, but the corruption of the work. Wherefore, if it is not improper to say, that, in consequence of the corruption of human nature, man is naturally hateful to God, it is not improper to say, that he is naturally vicious and depraved. Hence, in the view of our corrupt nature, Augustine hesitates not to call those sins natural which necessarily reign in the flesh wherever the grace of God is wanting. This disposes of the absurd notion of the Manichees, who, imagining that man was essentially wicked, went the length of assigning him a different Creator, that they might thus avoid the appearance of attributing the cause and origin of evil to a righteous God.
 The latter clause of this sentence is ommitted in the French.
 The French is, "Assavoir, si l'ame du fils procede de la substance de l'ame paternelle, veu que c'est en l'ame que reside le peché originel." That is, whether the soul of the child is derived from the substance of the soul of the parent, seeing it is in the soul that original sin resides.
 The French is, "Les enfans ne descendent point de la generation spirituelle qui les serviteurs de Diu ont du S. Esprit, mais de la generation charnelle qu'ils ont d'Adam." Children descend not from the spiritual generation which the servants of God have of the Holy Spirit, but the carnal generation which they have of Adam.
 Lib. contra Pelag. Coelest. See also Ep. 157, ad Gregor., Lib. 7. Ep. 53.
 The French adds, "Sans adjouster Originel:"--without adding Original.
 The French is, "Car en ce qui est d't, que par Adam nous sommes fait redevables au jugement de Dieu, ce ne'st pas a dire que nous soyons innocens, et que sans avoir merité aucune peine nous portions la folleenchere de son peché: mais pourceque par sa transgression nous sommes tous enveloppés de confusion, il est dit nous avoir tous obligez." For when it is said, that by Adam we are made liable to the judgment of God, the meaning is, not that we are innocent, and that without having deserved any punishment, we are made to pay dear for his sin, but because by his transgression we are covered with confusion, he is said to have bound us.
 In many passages, and especially in his treatise, De Peccatorum Merit. et Remiss Lib. 3 cap. 8.
 The French is, "Nous nions qu'elle soit de nature, afin de monstrer que c'est plutot une qualité survenue ? l'homme qu'une proprieté de sa substance, laquelle ait eté dés le commencement enracinée en lui;"--we deny that is is of nature, in order to show that it is rather a quality superadded to man than a property of his substance, which has been from the beginning rooted in him.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Email from Rob 2017
One may observe God's accuracy in the hatching of eggs…
those of the Canary in 14 days;
those of the Barnyard Hen in 21 days;
Eggs of Ducks and Geese in 28 days;
those of the Mallard in 35 days;
Eggs of the Parrot and the Ostrich hatch in 42 days.
(Notice, they are all divisible by seven,
the number of days in a week!)
See God's Wisdom in the making of an Elephant…
The four legs of this great beast
all bend forward in the same direction.
No other quadruped is so made.
God planned that this animal would have a huge body…
too large to live on two legs.
For this reason He gave it four fulcrums
so that it can rise from the ground easily.
The Horse rises from the ground on its two front legs first.
A Cow rises from the ground with its two hind legs first.
How wise the Lord is in all His works of Creation!
Each watermelon has an even number of stripes on the Rind.
Each orange has an even number of segments.
Each ear of corn has an even number of rows.
Each stalk of wheat has an even number of grains.
Every bunch of bananas has on its lowest row
an even number of bananas,
and each row decreases by one,
so that one row has an even number
and the next row an odd number.
The Waves of the sea roll in on shore
Twenty-six to the minute in all kinds of weather.
All grains are found in even numbers on the stalks..
God has caused the Flowers to Blossom
at certain specified times during the day.
Linnaeus, the great botanist,
once said that if he had a conservatory
containing the right kind of soil,
Moisture, and temperature,
he could tell the time of day or night
by the Flowers that were open
and those that were closed.
The lives of each of us
may be ordered by the Lord
in a beautiful way for His glory,
if we will only entrust Him with our Lives.
If we try to regulate our own lives,
we will have only Mess and failure.
who made our brains and hearts,
can successfully guide them to a profitable end.
Life without God is like an unsharpened pencil
- it has no Point.
By Megan Hill 4/01/2017
Recently, my husband and I visited the library archives at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. On our arrival, a cheerful librarian asked us if we were there to see the Jane Austen first edition or the Shakespeare folios. Neither, actually. Passing those famous volumes, we scanned the glass case for a different book: the John Eliot Bible. Printed in 1663, it was the first Bible published in the American Colonies, and it was written in the Massachusett language of the Algonquian language family. Whether archive visitors appreciate it or not, this modest-looking volume is the most important item in the college’s collection, a tangible reminder of God’s transforming work.
In 1646 John Eliot, a minister in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, began preaching in a local Native American community. At the meetings, he also prayed aloud in the Massachusett language “in proof that if they thus prayed, God could understand them.” And as Eliot faithfully ministered God’s Word, hundreds trusted Christ. Those Christians came to be known in the colony as “Praying Indians” and their settlements as “Praying Towns.” The distinguishing mark of Christ’s newborn children was obvious to all: they became praying people.Throughout redemptive history, corporate prayer has been a primary feature of the redeemed. From the godly descendants of Seth who “began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26) to the Israelites who worshiped God in His “house of prayer” (Isa. 56:7) to the first members of the early church who “devot[ed] themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14), God’s people have always been praying people.
And so we should ask: Is this a distinguishing mark of our churches today? Do our worship services devote time and attention to substantial prayer? Do our church calendars feature regular prayer meetings? Do our families and community groups prioritize calling on the name of the Lord together?
Brothers and sisters, like all the saints before us, we must be praying people.
We must be praying people, first, because we know that our only help is in the name of the Lord. It is the Lord who builds the house and watches over the city — who gives success to the church’s mission and spiritual life to its worship. In prayer together, we admit that we are helpless. In prayer together, we ask God to do the awakening, regenerating, maturing, and gifting that only He can do. In prayer together, we reach heavenward with what seventeenth-century theologian Thomas Manton called “the empty hand of the soul … [which] looketh for all from God.”
Daniel and his three friends were young Israelites taken to Babylon to serve in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. Separated from their families, given new names, trained in pagan culture, and counted among the magicians of the royal household, these four were daily surrounded by unyielding godlessness. And yet, Scripture tells us that they were not captive to its futility. When Nebuchadnezzar threatens him with death, Daniel’s response is markedly different from that of the franticly fawning sorcerers:
Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. (Dan. 2:17–18)
In the face of impending chaos, Daniel and his friends cast themselves on the Lord. In contrast to the pagan Babylonians, they were praying people.
Like Daniel and his companions, we, too, are strangers in a strange land. We are surrounded by a prevailing godlessness that believes our great hope rests in technology or medicine or money or human resourcefulness. But when we pray together, we testify — and remind one another—that our hope comes from somewhere else entirely. We are not wringing our hands, desperate for human solutions. We are praying people.
We also must be praying people because, in prayer together, we grow in love for an-other. When we walk into a prayer meeting and hear others praying words of deep affection for our covenant-keeping God, we find ourselves among friends. Each person who is united to Christ, everyone who loves Him and is loved by Him, is also bound together with us in love (Eph. 3:14–19. Any friend of Jesus is a friend of ours.
Praying together, then, is an expression of our love. We “bear one another’s burdens” to the throne of grace (Gal. 6:2). We “rejoice with those who rejoice [and] weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). We “remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them” (Heb. 13:3). We beat back our common enemy by “making supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18). Young and old, male and female, healthy and sick, wealthy and poor, mature believers and new converts bring one another’s concerns before the Lord. As praying people, we love one another.
And when we take up the task of praying people, we receive a precious gift. Christ Himself promises to be among us. No matter how small our group or how feeble our requests, the One who lives to make intercession prays alongside us (Heb. 7:25). Whenever His praying people gather in His name, Christ will attend every time.
Brothers and sisters, let us pray.
Are We There Yet?
By R. Carlton Wynne 4/01/2017
Nearly every summer, my parents loaded my siblings and me into the family car and embarked on that common vacation ritual known as “the road trip.” Years later, as the father to my own young children, I have a sense of what my parents experienced on those trips. I now often hear the question from the backseat that must have rung in my father’s ears as he drove us down the highway: “Are we there yet?” The answer, of course, is found in the asking. Yet my wife or I still reply from the front seat, “No, we are not there yet — we’ll let you know when we are.”
Unlike children’s recurring query on family road trips, the same question is one that every child of God ought to ask regarding his or her Christian life, a life that the Bible depicts as progressing toward a definite goal. For example, Scripture compares the Christian life to a race we must finish (1 Cor. 9:24; see 2 Tim. 4:7) and to a pilgrimage we must make toward the “city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). Christians are called to take up their cross and “follow” after Christ (Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34), to “walk” in fellowship with Him (Eph. 2:10), and to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).
In light of that biblical guidance, the question of whether Christians living today are “there yet” seems easy to answer. We are still running, walking, pressing on, and, as we do so, we face all manner of trials and sinful inclinations. We see, and to some extent experience, decay—both physical and moral—in this fallen world. Energy yields to enervation in our bodies as the years roll by. One imagines that if these stark realities could speak, they would shout back at our inquiring hearts, “No, you are not there yet—you’ll know when you are.” And yet, the Bible tells us that there is more to the story.
In mind-boggling and mysterious fashion, even as it portrays the Christian life as one that is on the move, Scripture declares that the supernatural power of our heavenly goal has broken into this fallen world through the person and work of Jesus Christ. In His opening sermon, He proclaimed that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17), and He verified the arrival of that kingdom by healing the sick and casting out demons (Matt. 12:28; Luke 9:11). Older saints who were “waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38) understood, as Jesus declared, that His arrival fulfilled centuries of Old Testament expectations (see Luke 4:21; 24:25–27). The healing events and the displays of His power over Satan’s minions culminated in His definitive triumph over sin and death through His own death and resurrection (John 12:31–33; Heb. 2:14–15). Even now, the preaching of the gospel testifies that God’s kingdom is here now and that any human being without exception may receive it by faith (Luke 16:16; see 18:17). This is why the author of Hebrews describes those who profess faith in Christ as having “tasted … the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 6:5). From that angle, as to their salvation, Christians have already arrived at their destination.
At the same time, Scripture teaches that the kingdom of heaven has not yet fully and finally arrived. The ultimate fulfillment of God’s saving purposes remains future. God still calls His church to “wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). For this reason, even as believers still face unanticipated obstacles, blind corners, and opposing forces in their pilgrimage through this world, they are to seek the kingdom above everything (Matt. 6:33) and to continue to pray for its full arrival on the earth (v. 10). To sum up, the promised kingdom of God has already dawned in Jesus Christ, and yet believers must await its ultimate revelation on the earth when Christ returns.
These biblical realities yield a more nuanced answer to the question “Are we there yet?” than that given to my children’s inquiry in the car. When sinners believe on Christ, the answer in a real sense is “Yes!” They are immediately united to Christ and, in Him, enjoy access to their future destination. The author of Hebrews announces that through faith in Christ believers have come “to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering” (Heb. 12:22). Similarly, Paul says that Christians are so joined to Christ that, in Him, they are already seated with Him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). And yet the answer to the question of whether we have arrived is also “No!” We are still waiting, still seeking, still walking by faith and not (yet) by sight (see 2 Cor. 5:7). The more complete answer to our question about Christians’ arriving is, therefore, “Yes and no!” That said, this paradoxical answer harbors a unified, glorious truth: it is because Christians have already come to Christ by faith that they can and should race toward the future with unbounded zeal. It is because they are already citizens of heaven that they can boldly await the return of their Savior to the earth (Phil. 3:20).
So, dear believer in Christ, whatever lies ahead, turn your eyes to Jesus and run with endurance the race that is set before you (Heb. 12:1). But do it knowing that you are counted among those “on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11). For Christ has brought the “end of the ages” to you, and soon He will come again for all who are eagerly waiting for him (Heb. 9:28).
The Revolution Demands Unconditional Surrender
By Albert Mohler 4/01/2017
Now that the moral revolutionaries are solidly in control, what is to be demanded of Christians who, on the basis of Christian conviction, cannot join the revolution? The demands have now been presented, and they represent unconditional surrender.
In a stunningly candid essay from May 2016, Harvard Law School professor Mark Tushnet declared a total liberal victory and chastised his fellow liberals for what he called a “defensive crouch liberal constitutionalism” that is now outdated. With liberals firmly in control of almost every power base in the culture—most importantly, the federal courts—there is no reason for liberals to play defense, he asserts.
Tushnet argued that liberal judges are now in the majority, and he expected that the Supreme Court, given the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, would be unlikely to reverse any liberal decisions handed down by lower courts. Federal judges, Tushnet argued, “no longer have to be worried about reversal by the Supreme Court if they take aggressively liberal positions.”
Tushnet called for liberal constitutionalists at every level to compile “lists of cases to be overruled at the first opportunity on the ground that they were wrong the day they were decided.” He also calls for liberal judges to “exploit the ambiguities and loopholes in unfavorable precedents that aren’t worth overruling.” He lists some of the decisions he targets and then goes on to criticize even some of the most liberal judges and justices, including Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for being too defensive and looking over their backs at conservative critics.
But in the most crucial section of his essay, Tushnet delivers the ultimatum to the losing side in the culture conflict, including evangelical Christians: “You lost, deal with it.” To his fellow revolutionaries Tushnet announces, “The culture wars are over; they lost, we won.” Then he goes for the kill:
For liberals, the question now is how to deal with the losers in the culture wars. That’s mostly a question of tactics. My own judgment is that taking a hard line (“You lost, live with it”) is better than trying to accommodate the losers, who—remember—defended, and are defending, positions that liberals regard as having no normative pull at all. Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War, nor after Brown [v. Board of Education]. (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.)
How to deal with the losers? Here we meet the reality of liberal judgment in a day of liberal ascendancy. Tushnet argues that conservatives should now be met with a hard line and a demand for total surrender—no accommodation whatsoever. Don’t even try to be nice to moral enemies, Tushnet commands, since their arguments have no normative authority of any kind.
With absolute candor, Tushnet calls for moral conservatives of all stripes to be treated like Germany and Japan at the conclusion of Word War II. Both nations, having declared war on the United States and its allies, were required to submit to unconditional surrender and were subjected to occupation by the victors. We are to be treated like defeated Nazis and the Japanese high command.
Take a hard line, Tushnet openly advises, and take no prisoners. He concludes his point with these words:
I should note that LGBT activists in particular seem to have settled on the hard-line approach, while some liberal academics defend more accommodating approaches. When specific battles in the culture wars were being fought, it might have made sense to try to be accommodating after a local victory, because other related fights were going on, and a hard line might have stiffened the opposition in those fights. But the war’s over, and we won.
More than a year before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat had written that once the decision was handed down, the winning liberal side would “recognize its power.” There would be no negotiation then. “Instead, all that’s left is the timing of the final victory—and for the defeated to find out what settlement the victors will impose.”
Well, now we know. We really knew before the Tushnet essay appeared. Just ask the florists, photographers, and bakers who have been dragged before tribunals. Ask the former fire chief of Atlanta. Ask a Christian student at your local college or university.
Writing in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision on Obergefell v. Hodges, Jonathan Rauch, a proponent of same-sex marriage, wrote to his colleagues on what he was confident was the winning side. Some “on my side of the gay-equality question,” he wrote, “want to expunge discriminatory views.” This, he chided, was deeply wrong. “Now our duty is to protect others’ freedom to be wrong, the better to ensure society’s odds of being right.”
We now see that this was the road not taken. Instead, opponents of the moral revolution are to be treated with scorn, contempt, and worse. The terms of moral surrender have been delivered to us, and they are absolute and unconditional. Just ask Japan and Germany what that means.
Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
Which Laws Apply?
By R.C. Sproul 5/01/2017
To this day, the question of the role of the law of God in the Christian life provokes much debate and discussion. This is one of those points where we can learn much from our forebears, and John Calvin’s classic treatment of the law in his Institutes of the Christian Religion is particularly helpful. Calvin’s instruction comes down to us in what he calls the threefold use of the law with respect to its relevance to the new covenant.
The law, in its first use, reveals the character of God, and that’s valuable to any believer at any time. But as the law reveals the character of God, it provides a mirror to reflect to us our unholiness against the ultimate standard of righteousness. In that regard, the law serves as a schoolmaster to drive us to Christ. And one of the reasons that the Reformers and the Westminster divines thought that the law remained valuable to the Christian was because the law constantly drives us to the gospel. This also was one of the uses of the law that Martin Luther most strongly emphasized.
Second, the law functions as a restraint against sin. Now, on the one hand, the Reformers understood what Paul says in Romans 7 that in a sense the law prompts people to sin — the more of the law unregenerate people see, the more inclined they are to want to break it. Yet despite that tendency of the law, there still is a general salutary benefit for the world to have the restraints upon us that the law gives. Its warnings and threats restrain people from being as bad as they could be, and so civil order is preserved.
Third, and most important from Calvin’s perspective, is that the law reveals to us what is pleasing to God. Technically speaking, Christians are not under the old covenant and its stipulations. Yet, at the same time, we are called to imitate Christ and to live as people who seek to please the living God (Eph. 5:10; Col. 1:9–12). So, although in one sense I’m not covenantally obligated to the law or under the curse of the law, I put that out the front door and I go around the back door and I say, “Oh Lord, I want to live a life that is pleasing to You, and like the Old Testament psalmist, I can say, ‘Oh how I love Thy law.’” I can meditate on the law day and night because it reveals to me what is pleasing to God.
Let me give you a personal example. Several years ago, I was speaking in Rye, N.Y., at a conference on the holiness of God. After one of the sessions, the sponsors of the conference invited me to someone’s house afterward for prayer and refreshments. When I arrived at the house, there were about twenty-five people in the parlor praying to their dead relatives. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I said, “Wait a minute. What is this? We’re not allowed to do this. Don’t you know that God prohibits this, and that it’s an abomination in His sight and it pollutes the whole land and provokes His judgment?” And what was their immediate response? “That’s the Old Testament.” I said, “Yes, but what has changed to make a practice that God regarded as a capital offense during one economy of redemptive history now something He delights in?” And they didn’t have a whole lot to say because from the New Testament it is evident that God is as against idolatry now as He was then.
Of course, as we read Scripture, we see that there are some parts of the law that no longer apply to new covenant believers, at least not in the same way that they did to old covenant believers. We make a distinction between moral laws, civil laws, and ceremonial laws such as the dietary laws and physical circumcision. That’s helpful because there’s a certain sense in which practicing some of the laws from the Old Testament as Christians would actually be blasphemy. Paul stresses in Galatians, for example, that if we were to require circumcision, we would be sinning. Now, the distinction between moral, civil, and ceremonial laws is helpful, but for the old covenant Jew, it was somewhat artificial. That’s because it was a matter of the utmost moral consequences whether they kept the ceremonial laws. It was a moral issue for Daniel and his friends not to eat as the Babylonians did (Dan. 1). But the distinction between the moral, civil, and ceremonial laws means that there’s a bedrock body of righteous laws that God gives to His covenant people that have abiding significance and relevance before and after the coming of Christ.
During the period of Reformed scholasticism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Reformed theologians said that God legislates to Israel and to the new covenant church on two distinct bases: on the basis of divine natural law and on the basis of divine purpose. In this case, the theologians did not mean the lex naturalis, the law that is revealed in nature and in the conscience. By “natural law,” they meant those laws that are rooted and grounded in God’s own character. For God to abrogate these laws would be to do violence to His own person. For example, if God in the old covenant said, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” but now He says, “It’s OK for you to have other gods and to be involved in idolatry,” God would be doing violence to His own holy character. Statutes legislated on the basis of this natural law will be enforced at all times.
On the other hand, there is legislation made on the basis of the divine purpose in redemption, such as the dietary laws, that when their purpose is fulfilled, God can abrogate without doing violence to His own character. I think that’s a helpful distinction. It doesn’t answer every question, but it helps us discern which laws continue so that we can know what is pleasing to God.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Absorbing and Applying God’s Word
By Robert Ingram 5/01/2017
In The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis, there is a certain refrain: “In the presence of the Tisroc (may he live forever), the only acceptable response was the enforced litany, ‘To hear is to obey.’” Lewis repeats this refrain to convince his readers that the culture of Calormene, and in particular the capital city of Tashbaan, was one of unquestioned obedience.
Tashbaan is reminiscent of all that we envision of a premodern tenth-century Arabian kingdom. Immediate and full obedience to the bidding of the Tisroc (may he live forever), whether feigned, fearful, or willing, was the expected cultural norm.
Change the genre from children’s fantasy to adult fantasy literature, and Lewis sets The Screwtape Letters in the modernity of the 1940s. In his opening epistle, Screwtape advises his young charge Wormwood that times are now different.
That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning.
What was axiomatic in a former era (“to hear is to obey”) has become suspect, disconnected, and optional. Such is the prevailing curse of modernity that continues to inform our practice today. Modern and progressivist education has successfully driven a wedge between knowing and doing, and hearing and applying. Screwtape’s strategic agenda has succeeded to great and devastating effects even in the church. Thanks to modernity, believers will not, and perhaps can not, faithfully apply Scripture to their lives.
A conclusion might be drawn that there is no true understanding of the Scriptures without the necessity of “doing.” In order to encourage the loving obedience duly mandated in Scripture, the following considerations are offered. As moderns, we are tempted to see this problem in one of two ways: as a problem of theory, wherein people really don’t understand the Scriptures, or else they would apply them to their lives; or, as a problem of application. The latter suggests that people need a method or technique in order to reconnect their thinking with their doing. In reality, however, it is the whole theory-application model that is flawed.
If we hope to reconnect our thinking with our doing, we are going to have to change the model. Rather than seeing the Scriptures as primarily an object to understand, which we must in turn seek to apply by means of a technique or program, we must adopt something more akin to the posture of a subject of the Tisroc, albeit out of loving service rather than servile fear.
As a Christian classical educator, I propose that we are going to need a new grammar—a new way of speaking, a new way of reading, a new sense of authority, and a renewed anthropology.
A NEW WAY OF SPEAKINGWe require a new vocabulary whose images do not conjure up application as a method, program, or technique. We are prone to understand the application of Scripture to life in mechanical terms where passages are “applied” as fixes for broken and sinful aspects of life. The Bible becomes objectified and treated as a resource for enhancing life in a fallen world. Sanctification often suffers from reductionistic efforts to change first this, and then that, particular aspect of one’s life. Inadequate understanding of our holistic and integrated complexity as beings made in the image of God reinforces this truncated approach to application. The Scriptures are treated as a manual to repair our brokenness, with much of the application being devoted only to our theology and worldview.
A NEW WAY OF READINGJohn Calvin, in his treatment of Holy Scripture, proposes a new method of reading when he writes, “All right knowledge of God is born of obedience.” While this phrase is often quoted, the most common error in understanding Calvin results from our propensity to invert his clauses. Where he says right knowledge is born of obedience, we say that obedience is born of right knowledge. We must learn to see the Scriptures not primarily as texts to be interpreted in order to form our doctrinal understanding, however necessary that is, but as words addressed to the Lord’s disciples, words that to hear are to obey, and in the obeying of which comes true understanding and right knowledge. Like our first parents, our problem is not what we know or don’t know, but that we are disobedient.
A RENEWED SENSE OF AUTHORITYRightly did the angels begin their announcements, “Fear not!” We, however, no longer fear our Sovereign. No one disobeyed the Tisroc, but Jesus is dismissed with impunity. Our theology concludes with forgiveness on the cross, neglectful that Jesus rose, ascended, and is enthroned at the right hand of the Father from whence He judges the quick and the dead.
A RENEWED ANTHROPOLOGYA thoroughly biblical understanding of our humanity, one that refuses the theory-application model and the lure of technique, must be reasserted. We are a union of body and soul, mind, will, and affections, made in the image of God. We are able to hear and to obey, not from servile fear but from loving obedience. It is then that we may say with Calvin, “All right knowledge of God is born of obedience.” Rev. Robert F. Ingram is headmaster of the Geneva School in Winter Park, Fla., and a senior fellow of the Society for Classical Learning. He previously served as editor of Tabletalk.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
If Christ had not come
12/25/2017 Bob Gass
‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’
(Jn 1:29) 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! ESV
Scholars disagree as to the exact date of Christ’s birth. Nor do they know that the Church of the Nativity that’s visited every day by pilgrims in Bethlehem, is the exact location of His birth. Nor can any of us comprehend how by the Holy Spirit, a virgin girl could conceive a child. But here’s the good news: you don’t have to know when, where, or how Jesus was born, you just need to know why. ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16 KJV). Only four things matter: 1) If Christ had not come, God would be unknown to us. 2) If Christ had not come, our sins would be unforgiven. The name Jesus means ‘Jehovah saves!’ John the Baptist called Him ‘the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world’. 3) If Christ had not come, our prayers would be unanswered. In Bible days you needed a priest to petition God on your behalf. And Jesus is our High Priest who ‘understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most’ (Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT). 4) If Christ had not come the first time, we would have no assurance that He will come the second time and catch us away to heaven to be with Himself.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
In the first six months of the Revolution, the Continental Army was driven out of New York, across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. The troops dwindled from 17,000 down to 2000, and half of them were ready to quit. In a desperate act, Washington crossed the Delaware River this day, Christmas Day Evening, December 25, 1776, and attacked the Hessian troops at Trenton, who were sleeping off the effects of their Christmas partying. Capturing nearly a thousand of them, General Washington later wrote: “We have… abundant reasons to thank Providence… It has at times been my only dependence, for all other resources… failed.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Chapter 21 December 25
Betty is quite right-“all this about prayer and never a word on the practical problem: its irksomeness.” And she sees fit to add, “Anyone might think it was a correspondence between two saints!”
That was a barbed shaft and went home. And yet I don't really think we were being hypocritical. Doesn't the mere fact of putting something into words of itself involve an exaggeration? Prose words, I mean. Only poetry can speak low enough to catch the faint murmur of the mind, the "litel winde, unethe hit might be lesse." The other day I tried to describe to you a very minimal experience-the tiny wisps of adoration with which (sometimes) I salute my pleasures. But I now see that putting it down in black and white made it sound far bigger than it really is. The truth is, I haven't any language weak enough to depict the weakness of my spiritual life. If I weakened it enough it would cease to be language at ll. As when you try to turn the gas-ring a little lower still, and it merely goes out.
Then again, by talking at this length about prayer at all, we seem to give it a much bigger place in our lives than, I'm afraid, it has. For while we talk about it, all the rest of our experience, which in reality crowds our prayer into the mar gin or sometimes off the page altogether, is not mentioned. Hence, in the talk, an error of proportion which amounts to, though it was not intended for, a lie.
Well, let's now at any rate come clean. Prayer is irksome. An excuse to omit it is never unwelcome. When it is over, this casts a feeling of relief and holiday over the rest of the day. We are reluctant to begin. We are delighted to finish. While we are at prayer, but not while we are reading a novel or solving a cress-word puzzle, any trifle is enough to distract us.
And we know that we are not alone in this. The fact that prayers are constantly set as penances tells its own tale.
The odd thing is that this reluctance to pray is not confined to periods of dryness. When yesterday's prayers were full of comfort and exaltation, today's will still be felt as, in some degree, a burden.
Now the disquieting thing is not simply that we skimp and begrudge the duty of prayer. The really disquieting thing is it should have to be numbered among duties at all. For we believe that we were created "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." And if the few, the very few, minutes we now spend on intercourse with God are a burden to us rather than a delight, what then? If I were a Calvinist this symptom would fill me with despair. What can be done for-or what should be done with-a rose-tree that dislikes producing roses? Surely it ought to want to?
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for,
forgotten by everybody,
I think that is a much greater hunger,
a much greater poverty
than the person who has nothing to eat.
--- Mother Teresa
What is religion? It intends the subjugation of our natural propensities, the overcoming of our evil passions, the purification of our corrupt hearts, the discipline of wayward and rebellious minds. It demands that chastened and serious feeling should take the place of frivolity; prayer, the place of thoughtlessness; the love of God, the place of the love of fashion; and delight in devotion, the place of delight in amusement and ostentation. The nature of godliness is to stamp our lives in letters indelible, legible to all.
--- Albert Barnes
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been a few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
--- Dr. Viktor Frankl
A man who has nothing for which he willing to fight; nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety; is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
and from her earnings she plants a vineyard.
ח 17 She gathers her strength around her
and throws herself into her work.
ט 18 She sees that her business affairs go well;
her lamp stays lit at night.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
His birth and our new birth
Behold, a virgin shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
--- Isaiah 7:14.
His Birth in History. “Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not evolve out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being, He is a Being Who cannot be accounted for by the human race at all. He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate, God coming into human flesh, coming into it from outside. His life is the Highest and the Holiest, entering in at the lowliest door. Our Lord’s birth was an advent.
His Birth in Me. “Of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). Just as Our Lord came into human history from outside, so He must come into me from outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a ‘Bethlehem’ for the Son of God? I cannot enter into the realm of the Kingdom of God unless I am born from above by a birth totally unlike natural birth. “Ye must be born again.” This is not a command, it is a foundation fact. The characteristic of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that Christ is formed in me. Immediately Christ is formed in me, His nature begins to work through me.
God manifest in the flesh—that is what is made profoundly possible for you and me by the Redemption.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Who to believe?
The linnet sings bell-like,
a tinkling music. It says life
is contained here; is a jewel
in a shell casket, lying
among down. There is another
voice, far out in space,
whose persuasiveness is the distance
from which it speaks. Divided
mind, the message is always
in two parts. Must it be
on a cross it is made one?
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
--- Psalm 73:25–26.
God’s glory is our purpose. The Whole Works of the Late Reverend Thomas Boston, of Ettrick: Now First Collected and Reprinted Without Abridgement; Including His Memoirs, Written By Himself (Classic Reprint)
His glory is the purpose that God aimed at when he made the human race. “The LORD works out everything for his own ends” (Prov. 16:4); “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). Every rational being sets itself a purpose in working. Now God is the most perfect Being and his glory the noblest purpose. God is not actively glorified by all people, but he designed to have glory from them, either by them or on them, and so it will be. Happy are those who glorify him by their actions, that they may not glorify him by their eternal sufferings.
It is the purpose of humanity as God’s work. People were made fit for glorifying God. “God made mankind upright” (Eccl. 7:29), as a well-tuned instrument or as a house built for convenience.
It is that which we should aim at, the mark to which we should direct all we do. “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). This is what we should continually have in our eye, the grand design we should be carrying on in the world. “I have set the LORD always before me,” says David (Ps. 16:8).
God’s glory is our chief purpose.
His glory is that which God chiefly aimed at, the chief purpose of humankind as God’s work, and that which people should chiefly aim at. God made the human race for other purposes, as to govern, use, and dispose of other creatures in the earth, sea, and air, wisely, soberly, and mercifully (Gen. 1:26). We were fitted for these purposes, and we may propose them lawfully to ourselves, seeing God has set them before us, but still these are only subordinate means to his glory. There are some goals that people propose to themselves that are simply unlawful, such as to satisfy their revenge, their lust, their covetousness, and so on. These are not capable of subordination to the glory of God. But there are other intents that are indeed in themselves lawful yet become sinful if they are not set in their due place, that is, subordinate to the glory of God.
--- Thomas Boston
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Not all who sing Christmas carols are Christians. Superficial sentiment is sometimes substituted for genuine faith.
Take Clovis, for example. After the breakup of the Roman Empire, disorder reigned. Anarchy prevailed. Fifteen-year-old Clovis inherited a small kingdom in the corner of Gaul. King Clovis seized adjoining lands, united Gaul, moved his capital to Paris, and founded the nation of France.
In 493 Clovis married a Christian. When Queen Clothilde wanted to baptize their newborn son, Clovis agreed; but when the child died in his baptismal robe, Clovis blamed the Christian God. When a second child grew ill following baptism, Clothilde prayed earnestly, the child recovered, and the king was impressed.
When Clovis was 30, he was routed in battle. “Jesus Christ,” he cried, “Clothilde says you are the Son of God and can give victory to those who hope in you. Give me victory and I will be baptized!” The tide turned, and Clovis, true to his word, entered the Cathedral of Rheims on December 25, 496. “Worship what you once burned,” the priest told him, “and burn what you worshiped.”
On that day 3,000 troops followed Clovis in baptism. The army marched alongside a river where priests, chanting the baptismal formula, dipped branches into the stream and flung the water supposedly making them Christians.
This was a momentous day in church history, for it was the first of the great mass conversions that turned Europe into a “Christian” continent. Little change was detected in Clovis or his troops who were as pagan as ever, apparently viewing Christ merely as a war god who insured them victory. But the stage was set for many genuine believers who spread the message of the Babe of Bethlehem throughout emerging Europe.
The angel told Mary, “Don’t be afraid! God is pleased with you, and you will have a son. His name will be Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of God Most High. The Lord God will make him king, as his ancestor David was. He will rule the people of Israel forever, and his kingdom will never end.”
--- Luke 1:30-33.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
My Very Favorite Excerpt
I edited a segment of West Wing
to make this Christmas video for our veterans.
Christmas was first celebrated in the year 98, but it was forty years later before it was officially adopted as a Christian festival: nor was it until about the fifth century that the day of its celebration became permanently fixed on the 25th of December. Up to that time it had been irregularly observed at various times of the year—in December, in April, and in May, but most frequently in January.
Clovis, the first Christian King of France, was baptized on Christmas Day, 496. Gilles de Retz, of France, the original “Bluebeard,” was executed on Christmas Day, 1440, in atonement for a multitude of crimes, which included the killing of six wives, from which the popular nursery story is derived. The Pilgrim Fathers, who condemned all church festivals, spent their first Christmas in America working hard all day long amid cold and stormy weather, and commenced the building of the first house in Plymouth 1620.
It is a significant fact that no great battles were fought on Christmas Day. They have occurred on the 24th and 26th of December, but the anniversary of the advent of Peace on Earth has ever been observed by a cessation of hostilities.
In history Christmas has been a very remarkable day. It was on Christmas Day that Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the Holy Empire in the Cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelie. On Christmas Day, in the year 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey. —Current Anecdotes
Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations
Christmas card Ornamental card with a greeting sent at Christmas. The creator of the Christmas card was John Callcott Horsley, an English illustrator, who designed the first card in 1843. It showed three generations of an English family celebrating Christmas and carried the message, “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.” By 1870, the custom of exchanging Christmas cards had spread to the United States. It was promoted by Louis Prang, a Boston printer, who is known as the father of the American Christmas card.
Christmas Eve The night before Christmas, on which the Vigil of the Nativity is kept and watch-night services are often held. In popular lore, this is the time when children hang their stockings by the chimney.
Christmas tree Cut tree, such as spruce or fir, or an artificial tree, erected within a house or outside, with lights and decorations, now almost universally done during Christmastide. The custom is of German origin and was introduced into Britain by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. Martin Luther is reputed to have been the first to place candles on trees.
Nelson's New Christian Dictionary The Authoritative Resource On The Christian World
UNITY AND EXTENT
In approaching any piece of literature, it is important to know whether the work being studied is a complete text, an extract or a collection. Naturally, allowances will have to be made in interpretation according to the answers given to this preliminary question.
In the case of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, these issues are not easily resolved. Many scholars believe that they are only the conclusion of an originally much longer work which started with the books of Chronicles. Others maintain, on the basis of the apocryphal Greek book of 1 Esdras, that the work of the Chronicler originally concluded with Ezra 1–10 and Neh 8; the narrative concerning Nehemiah is thought to have been added only later.
While the evidence on which these opinions are based will naturally occupy our attention later, it is worth observing at the outset that none of them has tradition on its side. Jewish tradition is clear in its opinion that these two works were originally one, and that they were to be regarded as separate from other books. Ryle helpfully collects six strands of evidence that favor the unity of the two books in antiquity: (1) in order to make sense of Josephus’ enumeration of the biblical books (Contra Apionem §40), it must be assumed that he counted Ezra and Nehemiah as one. (2) Melito, Bishop of Sardis, quotes Jewish sources in Palestine which speak of the whole work as “Ezra”; cf. Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 4.26.14. (3) The Talmud includes the activities of Nehemiah in the book of Ezra and even asks, “Why, then, was the book not called by his name?” (BabSanh 93b; cf. B. Bat. 14b, where only Ezra is listed). (4) The Masoretes clearly regard the books as one because they count Neh 3:22 as the middle verse and add their annotations for the whole only at the end of Nehemiah. (5) The medieval Jewish commentators move directly from Ezra to Nehemiah without interruption; cf. the commentaries of lbn Ezra and Rashi adloc in any Rabbinic Bible, e.g. Biblia Rabbinica (Jerusalem: Makor, 1972). (6) In the earliest Hebrew manuscripts the books are not divided. To this list we should add that (7) in the earliest manuscripts of the LXX the two books are treated as one.
The separation between Ezra and Nehemiah, first attested by Origen (cf. Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 6.25.2, though with acknowledgment that in Hebrew tradition they are reckoned as one) and then by Jerome in the Vulgate (but as two books of Ezra rather than as Ezra and Nehemiah, although in his Prologus galeatus he too acknowledges their unity in Hebrew tradition), was probably effected in the Christian Church; it was adopted into Jewish tradition only in the Middle Ages, being attested first in the early printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. While the heading in Neh 1:1 makes this understandable, it is clear that it is a completely secondary division. The books themselves show that the work of the reformers is meant to be regarded as a unity and not in isolation; cf. Neh 12:26 and 47 and the interweaving of the narratives about Ezra and Nehemiah.
If this evidence for the unity of Ezra and Nehemiah is strong, the case for taking them as an integral part of the work of the Chronicler receives no external support in the textual history of the Hebrew Bible. In the ordering of the books of the third division of the canon, the Writings, they are generally listed toward the end but before Chronicles; in some traditions, Chronicles stands at the head of the Writings, with Ezra and Nehemiah last. We do not, however, find Chronicles placed immediately before Ezra and Nehemiah, as one might expect if they were to be regarded as one.
In the tradition of the Greek Bible, the LXX, the books were arranged according to a different principle, and this has affected the order adopted for most English translations. Here, the historical books are grouped together, and a chronological order is followed. Thus Ruth is placed between Judges and Samuel, Chronicles follows Kings, and then come Ezra-Nehemiah and Esther. Again, however, Ezra-Nehemiah is always treated separately, and this is underlined by the fact that frequently I Esdr stands between Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah; cf. H. B. Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek (Cambridge: University Press, 1902) 201–10.
This external attestation of the treatment of Ezra and Nehemiah in antiquity should not, of course, be accepted uncritically. Nevertheless, I have argued in some detail elsewhere (cf. Israel, 5–70; I and 2 Chronicles, 4–11) that in this case it is also fully justified on critical grounds, and with this a number of other scholars agree. Certainly if this position is accepted as a working hypothesis, then, as it is hoped this commentary as a whole will show, Ezra-Nehemiah can be understood without particular reference to Chronicles. Indeed, for some of its most important historical presuppositions, such as the centrality of the Exodus or the history of the northern kingdom of Israel, Ezra-Nehemiah is dependent upon aspects of the Deuteronomic history at points where Chronicles differs from it. Only in one or two parts of Ezra 1–6 can a particular affinity with Chronicles be detected, but this can be explained without recourse to the theory that these chapters, let alone the whole work, were once part of Chronicles; cf. JTS ns 34 (1983) 1–30. It may therefore be claimed that the present commentary reinforces the case already made elsewhere for the separate treatment of Ezra-Nehemiah.
There is only one piece of external evidence that has been held to offer support for the contrary view, and that is the Greek work known in English as I Esdras (3. Esra in German). This work is largely a Greek translation of 2 Chr 35–36; Ezra; and Neh 8:1–13. It includes some other material not found in the Hebrew Bible (most notably at I Esdr 3:1–5:6), and also rearranges the order of Ezra 1–4. Despite this, it has been claimed by some that this book is an important witness to the “original ending” of the work of the Chronicler.
Naturally, this case has been carefully examined in the course of the discussions referred to above, and so need not be dealt with again here. This commentary does, however, add two significant arguments whose force I had not previously appreciated. First, it will be maintained in Form at Ezra 2 below that the list of those returning from Babylon is borrowed directly from Neh 7, and that (as Ezra 3:1 shows) Neh 7 and 8 were already joined together. If this is correct, then 1 Esdr, which includes a translation of Ezra 2, must have already known a version of the Hebrew text which included Neh 7; it cannot, therefore, be used as evidence that Neh 8 once followed Ezra 10. Second, it will be argued at Neh 8 that that chapter is far more likely to have stood once between Ezra 8 and 9, not after Ezra 10. Indeed, it is questionable whether the latter option would ever have been entertained were it not for 1 Esdr. Again, if this argument is sound, it follows that 1 Esdr must be a secondary compilation. While we shall not, therefore, use 1 Esdr as an important witness in literary-critical issues, its value for the history of the text itself remains important and will be cited where appropriate in the Notes.
We may therefore conclude by affirming that there is good reason to approach Ezra and Nehemiah as two parts of a single work and that this work is to be regarded as complete as it stands.
Ezra-Nehemiah, Volume 16 (Word Biblical Commentary)
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - December 25
“Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14.
Let us to-day go down to Bethlehem, and in company with wondering shepherds and adoring Magi, let us see him who was born King of the Jews, for we by faith can claim an interest in him, and can sing, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Jesus is Jehovah incarnate, our Lord and our God, and yet our brother and friend; let us adore and admire. Let us notice at the very first glance his miraculous conception. It was a thing unheard of before, and unparalleled since, that a virgin should conceive and bear a Son. The first promise ran thus, “The seed of the woman,” not the offspring of the man. Since venturous woman led the way in the sin which brought forth Paradise lost, she, and she alone, ushers in the Regainer of Paradise. Our Saviour, although truly man, was as to his human nature the Holy One of God. Let us reverently bow before the holy Child whose innocence restores to manhood its ancient glory; and let us pray that he may be formed in us, the hope of glory. Fail not to note his humble parentage. His mother has been described simply as “a virgin,” not a princess, or prophetess, nor a matron of large estate. True the blood of kings ran in her veins; nor was her mind a weak and untaught one, for she could sing most sweetly a song of praise; but yet how humble her position, how poor the man to whom she stood affianced, and how miserable the accommodation afforded to the new-born King!
Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendour.
Evening - December 25
“And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the Morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.” --- Job 1:5.
What the patriarch did early in the Morning, after the family festivities, it will be well for the believer to do for himself ere he rests tonight. Amid the cheerfulness of household gatherings it is easy to slide into sinful levities, and to forget our avowed character as Christians. It ought not to be so, but so it is, that our days of feasting are very seldom days of sanctified enjoyment, but too frequently degenerate into unhallowed mirth. There is a way of joy as pure and sanctifying as though one bathed in the rivers of Eden: holy gratitude should be quite as purifying an element as grief. Alas! for our poor hearts, that facts prove that the house of mourning is better than the house of feasting. Come, believer, in what have you sinned to-day? Have you been forgetful of your high calling? Have you been even as others in idle words and loose speeches? Then confess the sin, and fly to the sacrifice. The sacrifice sanctifies. The precious blood of the Lamb slain removes the guilt, and purges away the defilement of our sins of ignorance and carelessness. This is the best ending of a Christmas-day—to wash anew in the cleansing fountain. Believer, come to this sacrifice continually; if it be so good to-night, it is good every night. To live at the altar is the privilege of the royal priesthood; to them sin, great as it is, is nevertheless no cause for despair, since they draw near yet again to the sin-atoning victim, and their conscience is purged from dead works.
Gladly I close this festive day,
Grasping the altar’s hallow’d horn;
My slips and faults are washed away,
The Lamb has all my trespass borne.
Morning and Evening
THOU DIDST LEAVE THY THRONE
Emily E. S. Elliott, 1836–1897
I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
This spiritually enriching text differs from the usual Christmas songs since it focuses not only on Jesus’ birth but also on His life on earth, His suffering and death, and the ultimate triumph of His second advent.
This hymn was written by Emily Elliott to teach children the truths of the advent and nativity seasons. Emily’s life was filled with benevolent activities in rescue missions and in the work of the Sunday school movement of that time. Although she wrote this text for the children of her father’s church, St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Brighton, England, the easily understood wording, the poetic imagery, and the spiritual truths found in these excellent lines soon made the hymn a widespread favorite everywhere.
The clear message of each verse is accentuated by the use of contrasting sentences, each beginning with the word “but.” Then in the fifth stanza, the contrast is reversed with the rejoicing at Christ’s return and the prospects of being at His side throughout eternity. The refrain after each verse effectively personalizes the truth presented. This fine hymn has proved to be an inspiration not only to children but to adults as well, during the Christmas season and also throughout the entire year.
Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown when Thou camest to earth for me; but in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room for Thy holy nativity.
Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang, proclaiming Thy royal degree; but of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth, and in great humility.
The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest in the shade of the forest tree; but Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God, in the deserts of Galilee.
Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word that should set Thy people free; but with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn they bore Thee to Calvary.
When the heav’ns shall ring and the angels sing at Thy coming to victory, let Thy voice call me home, saying, “Yet there is room—there is room at My side for thee,” My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus, when thou comest and callest for me!
Refrain (vv. 1-4): O come to my heart, Lord Jesus— there is room in my heart for Thee!
For Today: Matthew 1:18–25; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:5–11
The Christmas story must become very personal in our individual lives. Carry this musical response with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
4. Since it is not for want of power over the creature, it is from a fulness of power over himself. This is in the text, “The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power;” it is a part of his dominion over himself, whereby he can moderate, and rule his own affections according to the holiness of his own will. As it is the effect of his power, so it is an argument of his power; the greatness of the effect demonstrates the fulness and sufficiency of the cause. The more feeble any man is in reason the less command he hath over his passions, and he is the more heady to revenge. Revenge is a sign of a childish mind; the stronger any man is in reason, the more command he hath over himself. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his own spirit, than he that takes a city” (Prov. 16:32); he that can restrain his anger, is stronger than the Caesars and Alexanders of the world, that have filled the earth with slain carcasses and ruined cities. By the same reason, God’s slowness to anger is a greater argument of his power than the creating a world, or the power of dissolving it by a word; in this he hath a dominion over creatures, in the other over himself; this is the reason he will not return to destroy; because “I am God, and not man” (Hos. 11:9); I am not so weak and impotent as man, that cannot restrain his anger. This is a strength possessed only by a God, wherein a creature is no more able to parallel him, than in any other; so that he may be said to be the Lord of himself; as it is in the verse before the text, that he is the Lord of anger, in the Hebrew, instead of “furious,” as we translate it; so he is the Lord of patience. The end why God is patient, is to show his power. “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?” (Rom. 11:22). To show his wrath upon sinners, and his power over himself in bearing such indignities, and forbearing punishment so long, when men were vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, of whom there was no hopes of amendment. Had he immediately broken in pieces those vessels, his power had not so eminently appeared as it hath done, in tolerating them so long, that had provoked him to take them off so often; there is indeed the power of his anger, and there is the power of his patience; and his power is more seen in his patience than in his wrath: it is no wonder that He that is above all, is able to crush all; but it is a wonder, that he that is provoked by all, doth not, upon the first provocation, rid his hands of all. This is the reason why he did bear such a weight of provocations from vessels of wrath, prepared for ruin, that he might γνωρίσαι τὸ δυνατὸν αὑτοῦ, show what he was able to do, the lordship and royalty he had over himself. The power of God is more manifest in his patience to a multitude of sinners, than it would be in creating millions of worlds out of nothing; this was the δυναιὸν αδτοῦ, a power over himself.
5. This patience being a branch of mercy, the exercise of it is founded in the death of Christ. Without the consideration of this, we can give no account why Divine patience should extend itself to us, and not to the fallen angels. The threatening extends itself to us as well as to the fallen angels; the threatening must necessarily have sunk man, as well as those glorious creatures, had not Christ stepped in to our relief. Had not Christ interposed to satisfy the justice of God, man upon his sin had been actually bound over to punishment, as well as the fallen angels were upon theirs, and been fettered in chains as strong as those spirits feel. The reason why man was not hurled into the same deplorable condition upon his sin, as they were, is Christ’s promise of taking our nature, and not theirs. Had God designed Christ’s taking their nature, the same patience had been exercised towards them, and the same offers would have been made to them, as are made to us. In regard to these fruits of this patience, Christ is said to buy the wickedest apostates from him: “Denying the Lord that bought them” (1 Pet. 2:1). Such were bought by him, as “bring upon themselves just destruction, and whose damnation slumbers not” (ver. 3); he purchased the continuance of their lives, and the stay of their execution, that offers of grace might be made to them. This patience must be either upon the account of the law, or the gospel; for there are no other rules, whereby God governs the world. A fruit of the law it was not; that spake nothing but curses after disobedience; not a letter of mercy was writ upon that, and therefore nothing of patience; death and wrath were denounced; no slowness to anger intimated. It must be therefore upon account of the gospel, and a fruit of the covenant of grace, whereof Christ was Mediator. Besides this perfection being God’s “waiting that he might be gracious” (Isa. 30:18), that which made way for God’s grace made way for his waiting to manifest it. God discovered not his grace, but in Christ; and therefore discovered not his patience but in Christ; it is in him he met with the satisfaction of his justice, that he might have a ground for the manifestation of his patience. And the sacrifices of the law, wherein the life of a beast was accepted for the sin of man, discovered the ground of his forbearance of them to be the expectation of the great Sacrifice, whereby sin was to be completely expiated (Gen. 8:21). The publication of his patience to the end of the world is presently after the sweet savor he found in Noah’s sacrifice. The promised and designed coming of Christ, was the cause of that patience God exercised before in the world; and his gathering the elect together, is the reason of his patience since his death.
6. The naturalness of his veracity and holiness, and the strictness of his justice, are no bars to the exercise of his patience.
(1.) His veracity. In those threatenings where the punishment is expressed, but not the time of inflicting it prefixed and determined in the threatening, his veracity suffers no damage by the delaying execution; so it be once done, though a long time after, the credit of his truth stands unshaken: as when God promises a thing without fixing the time, he is at liberty to pitch upon what time he pleases for the performance of it, without staining his faithfulness to his word, by not giving the thing promised presently. Why should the deferring of justice upon an offender be any more against his veracity than his delaying an answer to the petitions of a suppliant? But the difference will lie in the threatening. “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die the death” (Gen. 2:17). The time was there settled; “in that day thou shalt die;” some refer “day” to eating, not to dying; and render the sentence thus: I do not prohibit thee the eating this fruit for a day or two, but continually. In whatsoever day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die; but not understanding his dying that very day he should eat of it; referring “day” to the extensiveness of the prohibition, as to time. But to leave this as uncertain, it may be answered, that as in some threatenings a condition is implied, though not expressed, as in that positive denouncing of the destruction of Ninevah: “Yet forty days, and Ninevah shall be destroyed” (Jonah 3:4), the condition is implied; unless they humble themselves, and repent; for upon their repentance, the sentence was deferred. So here, “in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die the death,” or certainly die, unless there be a way found for the expiation of thy crime, and the righting my honor. This condition, in regard of the event, may as well be asserted to be implied in this threatening, as that of repentance was in the other; or rather, “thou shalt die,” thou shalt die spiritually, thou shalt lose that image of mine in thy nature, that righteousness which is as much the life of thy soul as thy soul is the life of thy body; that righteousness whereby thou art enabled to live to me and thy own happiness. What the soul is to the body, a quickening soul, that the image of God is to the soul, a quickening image. Or “thou shalt die the death,” or certainly die; thou shalt be liable to death. And so it is to be understood, not of an actual death of the body, but the merit of death, and the necessity of death; thou wilt be noxious to death, which will be avoided, if thou dost forbear to eat of the forbidden fruit; thou shalt be a guilty person, and so under a sentence of death, that I may, when I please, inflict it on thee. Death did come upon Adam that day, because his nature was vitiated; he was then also under an expectation of death, he was obnoxious to it, though that day it was not poured out upon him in the full bitterness and gall of it: as when the apostle with, “The body is dead because of sin” (Rom. 8:10), he speaks to the living, and yet tells them the body was dead because of sin; he means no more than that it was under a sentence, and so a necessity of dying, though not actually dead; so thou shalt be under the sentence of death that day, as certainly as if that day thou shouldst sink into the dust: and as by his patience towards man, not sending forth death upon him in all the bitter ingredients of it, his justice afterwards was more eminent upon man’s surety, than it would have been if it had been then employed in all its severe operations upon man. So was his veracity eminent also in making good this threatening, in inflicting the punishment included in it upon our nature assumed by a mighty Person, and upon that Person in our nature, who was infinitely higher than our nature.
(2.) His justice and righteousness are not prejudiced by his patience. There is a hatred of the sin in his holiness, and a sentence past against the sin in his justice, though the execution of that sentence be suspended, and the person reprieved by patience, which is implied (Eccles. 8:11): “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily; therefore, the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil;” sentence is past, but a speedy execution is stopped. Some of the heathens, who would not imagine God unjust, and yet, seeing the villanies and oppressions of men in the world remain unpunished, and frequently beholding prosperous wickedness, to free him from the charge of injustice, denied his providence and actual government of the world; for if he did take notice of human affairs, and concern himself in what was done upon the earth, they could not think an Infinite Goodness and Justice could be so slow to punish oppressors, and relieve the miserable, and leave the world in that disorder under the injustice of men: they judged such a patience as was exercised by him, if he did govern the world, was drawn out beyond the line of fit and just. Is it not a presumption in men to prescribe a rule of righteousness and conveniency to their Creator? It might be demanded of such, whether they never injured any in their lives; and when certainly they have one way or another, would they not think it a very unworthy, if not unjust, thing, that a person so injured by them should take a speedy and severe revenge on them?—and if every man should do the like, would there not be a speedy despatch made of mankind? Would not the world be a shambles, and men rush forwards to one another’s destructions, for the wrongs they have mutually received? If it be accounted a virtue in man, and no unrighteousness, not presently to be all on fire against an offence; by what right should any question the inconsistency of God’s patience with his justice? Do we praise the lenity of parents to children, and shall we disparage the long-suffering of God to men? We do not censure the righteousness of physicians and chirurgeons, because they cut not off a corrupt member this day as well as tomorrow? And is it just to asperse God, because he doth defer his vengeance which man assumes to himself a right to do? We never account him a bad governor that defers the trial, and consequently the condemnation and execution of a notorious offender for important reasons, and beneficial to the public, either to make the nature of his crime more evident, or to find out the rest of his complices by his discovery. A governor, indeed, were unjust, if he commanded that which were unrighteous, and forbade that which were worthy and commendable; but if he delays the execution of a convict offender for weighty reasons, either for the benefit of the state whereof he is the ruler, or for some advantage to the offender himself, to make him have a sense of, and a regret for his offence, we account him not unjust for this. God doth not by his patience dispense with the holiness of his law, nor cut off anything from its due authority. If men do strengthen themselves by his long-suffering against his law, it is their fault, not any unrighteousness in him; he will take a time to vindicate the righteousness of his own commands, if men will wholly neglect the time of his patience, in forbearing to pay a dutiful observance to his precept. If justice be natural to him, and he cannot but punish sin, yet he is not necessitated to consume sinners, as the fire doth stubble put into it, which hath no command over its own qualities to restrain them from acting; but God is a free agent, and may choose his own time for the distribution of that punishment his nature leads him to. Though he be naturally just, yet it is not so natural to him, as to deprive him of a dominion over his own acts, and a freedom in the exerting them what time he judgeth most convenient in his wisdom. God is necessarily holy, and is necessarily angry with sin; his nature can never like it, and cannot but be displeased with it; yet he hath a liberty to restrain the effects of this anger for a time, without disgracing his holiness, or being interpreted to act unrighteously; as well as a prince or state may suspend the execution of a law, which they will never break, only for a time and for a public benefit. If God should presently execute his justice, this perfection of patience, which is a part of his goodness, would never have an opportunity of discovery; part of his glory, for which he created the world, would lie in obscurity from the knowledge of his creature; his justice would be signal in the destruction of sinners, but this stream of his goodness would be stopped up from any motion. One perfection must not cloud another; God hath his seasons to discover all, one after another: “The times and seasons are in his own power” (Acts 1:7): the seasons of manifesting his own perfections as well as other things; succession of them, in their distinct appearance, makes no invasion upon the rights of any. If justice should complain of an injury from patience, because it is delayed, patience hath more reason to complain of an injury from justice, that by such a plea it would be wholly obscured and inactive: for this perfection hath the shortest time to act its part of any, it hath no stage but this world to move in; mercy hath a heaven, and justice, a hell, to display itself to eternity, but long-suffering hath only a short-lived earth for the compass of its operation. Again, justice is so far from being wronged by patience, that it rather is made more illustrious, and hath the fuller scope to exercise itself; it is the more righted for being deferred, and will have stronger grounds than before for its activity; the equity of it will be more apparent to every reason, the objections more fully answered against it, when the way of dealing with sinners by patience hath been slighted. When this dam of long-suffering is removed, the floods of fiery justice will rush down with more force and violence; justice will be fully recompensed for the delay, when, after patience is abused, it can spread itself over the offender with a more unquestionable authority; it will have more arguments to hit the sinner in the teeth with, and silence him; there will be a sharper edge for every stroke; the sinner must not only pay for the score of his former sins, but the score of abused patience, so that justice hath no reason to commence a suit against God’s slowness to anger: what it shall want by the fulness of mercy upon the truly penitent, it will gain by the contempt of patience on the impenitent abusers. When men, by such a carriage, are ripened for the stroke of justice, justice may strike without any regret in itself, or pull-back from mercy; the contempt of long-suffering will silence the pleas of the one, and spirit the severity of the other. To conclude: since God hath glorified his justice on Christ, as a surety for sinners, his patience is so far from interfering with the rights of his justice, that it promotes it; it is dispensed to this end, that God might pardon with honor, both upon the score of purchased mercy and contented justice; that by a penitent sinner’s return his mercy might be acknowledged free, and the satisfaction of his justice by Christ be glorified in believing: for he is long-suffering from an unwillingness “that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9); i. e. all to whom the promise is made, for to such the apostle speaks, and calls it “long-suffering to us-ward;” and repentance being an acknowledgment of the demerit of sin, and a breaking off unrighteousness, gives a particular glory to the freeness of mercy, and the equity of justice.
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