God Who Judges the EarthPsalm 58 TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO DO NOT DESTROY. A MIKTAM OF DAVID.
1 Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?
Do you judge the children of man uprightly?
2 No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;
your hands deal out violence on earth.
3 The wicked are estranged from the womb;
they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
4 They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
5 so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
or of the cunning enchanter.
6 O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!
7 Let them vanish like water that runs away;
when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.
8 Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,
like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.
9 Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,
whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!
10 The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
surely there is a God who judges on earth.”
Deliver Me from My EnemiesPsalm 59 TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO DO NOT DESTROY. A MIKTAM OF DAVID, WHEN SAUL SENT MEN TO WATCH HIS HOUSE IN ORDER TO KILL HIM.
1 Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
protect me from those who rise up against me;
2 deliver me from those who work evil,
and save me from bloodthirsty men.
3 For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
fierce men stir up strife against me.
For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD,
4 for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.
Awake, come to meet me, and see!
5 You, LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel.
Rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah
6 Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city.
7 There they are, bellowing with their mouths
with swords in their lips—
for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”
8 But you, O LORD, laugh at them;
you hold all the nations in derision.
9 O my Strength, I will watch for you,
for you, O God, are my fortress.
10 My God in his steadfast love will meet me;
God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.
11 Kill them not, lest my people forget;
make them totter by your power and bring them down,
O Lord, our shield!
12 For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips,
let them be trapped in their pride.
For the cursing and lies that they utter,
13 consume them in wrath;
consume them till they are no more,
that they may know that God rules over Jacob
to the ends of the earth. Selah
14 Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city.
15 They wander about for food
and growl if they do not get their fill.
16 But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
and a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love.
He Will Tread Down Our FoesPsalm 60 TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO SHUSHAN EDUTH. A MIKTAM OF DAVID; FOR INSTRUCTION; WHEN HE STROVE WITH ARAM-NAHARAIM AND WITH ARAM-ZOBAH, AND WHEN JOAB ON HIS RETURN STRUCK DOWN TWELVE THOUSAND OF EDOM IN THE VALLEY OF SALT.
1 O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses;
you have been angry; oh, restore us.
2 You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open;
repair its breaches, for it totters.
3 You have made your people see hard things;
you have given us wine to drink that made us stagger.
4 You have set up a banner for those who fear you,
that they may flee to it from the bow. Selah
5 That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer us!
6 God has spoken in his holiness:
“With exultation I will divide up Shechem
and portion out the Vale of Succoth.
7 Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet;
Judah is my scepter.
8 Moab is my washbasin;
upon Edom I cast my shoe;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.”
9 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
10 Have you not rejected us, O God?
You do not go forth, O God, with our armies.
11 Oh, grant us help against the foe,
for vain is the salvation of man!
12 With God we shall do valiantly;
it is he who will tread down our foes.
Lead Me to the RockPsalm 61 TO THE CHOIRMASTER: WITH STRINGED INSTRUMENTS. OF DAVID.
1 Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
2 from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
3 for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
4 Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
5 For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
6 Prolong the life of the king;
may his years endure to all generations!
7 May he be enthroned forever before God;
appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!
8 So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day.
My Soul Waits for God AlonePsalm 62 TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO JEDUTHUN. A PSALM OF DAVID.
1 For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
3 How long will all of you attack a man
to batter him,
like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
but inwardly they curse. Selah
5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7 On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah
9 Those of low estate are but a breath;
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
10 Put no trust in extortion;
set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, set not your heart on them.
11 Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
12 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
according to his work.
My Soul Thirsts for YouPsalm 63 A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN HE WAS IN THE WILDERNESS OF JUDAH.
1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
9 But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
they shall be a portion for jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
Hide Me from the WickedPsalm 64 TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID.
1 Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;
preserve my life from dread of the enemy.
2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
from the throng of evildoers,
3 who whet their tongues like swords,
who aim bitter words like arrows,
4 shooting from ambush at the blameless,
shooting at him suddenly and without fear.
5 They hold fast to their evil purpose;
they talk of laying snares secretly,
thinking, “Who can see them?”
6 They search out injustice,
saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.”
For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep.
7 But God shoots his arrow at them;
they are wounded suddenly.
8 They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them;
all who see them will wag their heads.
9 Then all mankind fears;
they tell what God has brought about
and ponder what he has done.
10 Let the righteous one rejoice in the LORD
and take refuge in him!
Let all the upright in heart exult!
O God of Our SalvationPsalm 65 TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID. A SONG.
1 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall vows be performed.
2 O you who hear prayer,
to you shall all flesh come.
3 When iniquities prevail against me,
you atone for our transgressions.
4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
the holiness of your temple!
5 By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
6 the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
7 who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
8 so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.
9 You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
What I'm Reading
Calvin & Culture, Reconsidered
By Gene Edward Veith 7/1/2009
One of the greatest social scientists credits John Calvin for the rise of capitalism and, by extension, modern Western culture itself. That is quite an influence and quite a tribute to Calvin. Nevertheless, though there is some truth to the claim, the specific scholarship behind it demonstrates a profound misunderstanding, not only of Calvin but of the Reformation.
In 1904, the German scholar Max Weber published PROTESTANT ETHIC & THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM : PENGUIN CLASSICS / PETER BAEH. Weber was exploring the observation that industrialism began mainly in countries that were Protestant rather than Roman Catholic or non-Christian. In doing so, he made a name for himself as the father of modern social science.
Weber argued that Christianity used to be otherworldly. The higher spiritual ideal, according to monasticism, was found in poverty rather than wealth, a life of prayer rather than a life in the world. The Reformation, though, taught the doctrine of vocation, in which the Christian life was to be lived out in the world, and, specifically, in productive labor.
In effect, said Weber, this meant displacing the monastic-style discipline, self-denial, and ascetics into secular life. Calvinist Christians expressed their religious zeal by working hard, which, in turn, meant accumulating wealth. But they still considered luxurious displays and lavish spending to be worldly and thus morally problematic. So instead of spending all of their hard-earned wealth, the Calvinists tended to save it. Calvinist businessmen plowed their profits back into their businesses or, through banks or stock arrangements, invested their money in other businesses. Thus was invented “capital” and thus “capitalism” became possible.
Followers of Calvin, according to Weber, had a particular incentive to work hard and be successful. Because of Calvin’s doctrine of election, Weber argued that Christians could not be certain whether or not they were saved. Christians could find assurance by finding evidence of their salvation in the fruits of their faith, that is, in their good works and in God’s blessings. Factoring in Calvin’s doctrine of providence, this meant that success in business was considered a sign of salvation.
Weber envisioned seventeenth-century Calvinists busily working hard, making money, and accumulating wealth so as to prove to themselves, and, importantly, their neighbors, that they were going to heaven.
Notice, however, what this “Weber Thesis” amounts to: Salvation turns out to be by works after all. Weber’s interpretation leaves out grace, Christ, and the gospel.
Followers of Calvin were not, as a whole, tormented with the worry that they might not be numbered with the elect. Rather, they treasured more than most other Christians the assurance of salvation. In fact, they understood the doctrine of election to ensure that assurance. If God has chosen me, my salvation is utterly secure.
Moreover, salvation is in Christ. Faith in Christ’s atoning work on the cross and the conviction that “He died for me” is the foundation of the Christian life. As Calvin taught and as his followers knew, but that Weber missed, we are justified by faith, not by speculations about election or by working hard on the job.
This faith, in turn, is to be lived out in vocation. But this does not primarily mean ‘job,’ as in our modern definition; rather, it has more to do with the relationships into which God calls us. We have vocations in the church, the state, and the family. In all vocations, including the workplace, the Reformers emphasized that their purpose is not to practice spiritually edifying discipline for one’s own sake but to love and serve one’s neighbor.
The Reformation did profoundly impact the culture but not for the reasons Weber gave. I do think the doctrine of vocation contributed to the “Protestant work ethic” and thus, eventually, to free-market economics.
But also factor in the social mobility made possible by education, newly made possible for all social classes due to the Reformation teaching that all Christians should read the Bible. A peasant who learns how to read the Bible can also read just about anything, giving him access to information that empowers him to leave the farm and, possibly, to make his fortune.
That the “puritans” Weber speaks of tended to be morally-upright and self-denying was not because they felt under pressure to prove how Christian they were. Puritans were the people who most denied that their works had anything to do with their salvation. And yet, they became so notorious for their moral rectitude that the word puritan has become a byword. But isn’t this evidence for what Calvin taught, that good works are the natural outgrowth of faith?
Some of Weber’s followers today think that Calvin started the shift, so the story goes, from a concentration on the spiritual realm to a concentration on the material realm, from the other world to this world.
The mistake is continuing to think in terms of the old monastic dichotomies. The cultural influence of the Reformation was not to swing away from the spiritual estates to the secular arena. Rather, it was overcoming the separation. Not laws and works but faith in Christ was brought out of the cloister into everyday life.
Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Gene Edward Veith Books | Go to Books Page
Where Is the Glory Found?
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 7/1/2009
As birthdays go, it’s a big one. It is fitting and appropriate that we would mark the five-hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. Trouble is, that occasion is being marked in at least two different ways. First, those who do not find Calvin to their liking will seek to paint the man as a sour-faced, power-mad, fundamentalist and extremist. The ghost of Servetus will be forced to dance for us once more, and those of us who are grateful for Calvin will be encouraged to repent for our stubborn ways.
On our side of the aisle we will celebrate. We will convene Calvin conferences, we will sponsor symposia, we will publish magazines all designed to honor the man. We will, as we ought, remember his accomplishments. We will, as we ought, take the time to map out the ripples from his life. Some, for instance, have rightly called Calvin the father of our country. Scholars on both sides of the aisle are willing, some even eager to affirm, that much of what makes America distinctively America can be traced back to this pastor of Geneva.
That is influence. That is impact. If these scholars are correct — and they are — that means one man, one very frail man, shaped what would become the most prosperous, powerful, faithful nation in the history of the world. It’s enough to make one want to shout oneself hoarse. We, of course, because we are Calvinists, will remember at least one caveat. We will remember that it was God who was at work in and through Calvin. Calvin was a vessel for the grace of God, first in the lives of those committed to Reformation in Switzerland, and later in Scotland, the Netherlands, England, and beyond. God, after all, not Calvin, is the sovereign one. Our celebration ought to be for the grace of God in this man’s life, more than merely for the man.
Getting that right, however, still leaves us with a fundamental problem in how we look at the phenomenon that was John Calvin. It’s good and right to see these ripples for what they actually were, great thundering tsunamis. It is in turn fitting that we should remember in the end that it is the Lord whom the wind and the waves obey, that what we are celebrating is what He has wrought. Let us not miss, however, how God brought this to pass in and through John Calvin.
Calvin was a man focused on a single goal. Though his life shaped our theology, our understanding of liberty, our conception of the state, our grasp of vocation, of the arts, of every “slice” of our lives, his goal was simple, uncluttered, alone. Calvin did not set out to reform our conceptions of this meta-theme or that. No, Calvin’s single concern was that God’s people would learn aright to worship the living and true God. Worship was what shaped him. Worship was what drove him. Worship was what formed Geneva and all that followed after. Please don’t misunderstand. Calvin didn’t believe that in order to remake the world, we must remake worship. Instead, Calvin understood that we must remake worship. Everything else is icing. To put it another way, Calvin understood that we must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, not so that we might have all these things added to us, but so that we might have the one needful thing — the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
We, the heirs of Calvin, have forgotten this lesson. We, if we think about worship at all, see it as a means to the end. The end we have in mind is the power and the glory. We want to build political coalitions that we might change the world. We want to overcome the powers of the Hollywood elite that we might change the world. We want to remake the economic landscape that we might change the world. What God wants is that we would bow down in repentance and give glory to His name. What God wants is what Calvin did.
When Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, He wasn’t telling us: “Now when you go about your life, when you pursue your goals, don’t forget the big picture. Don’t lose sight of why you do what you do.” Instead Jesus was telling us: “Seek this. Seek this alone. Forget about everything else. Have a single-minded passion and leave the rest alone. It is in my hands anyway.”
We, on the other hand, have it all upside down and backwards. We will, especially this year, look at the glory that once was Geneva because of the ministry of Calvin. We will, especially this year, look out at all the nations that felt the ripples of Calvin, moving from Geneva, to England, to these United States, then back out across the globe through the modern missionary movement. We will, especially this year, remember the great economic power that was unleashed with the spread of liberty that likewise redounds to Calvin. What we will miss is the true glory, the real story. What we will miss is the unvarnished beauty of a single congregation in one neighborhood of Geneva, bowing in prayer to the living God, lifting up their voices, singing the Psalms of God, receiving the Word preached, and receiving the Word as bread and wine. There is where the glory is found.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
By Philip Ryken 7/1/2009
As far as John Calvin was concerned, almost nothing was more urgent for the church than the reformation of pastoral ministry. For centuries, most ministers had been shockingly ignorant of the Scriptures and thus ill-equipped to preach the gospel. As Calvin said in one debate with a Catholic cardinal (pretending to defend the Protestant cause before God): “Those who were regarded as the leaders of faith neither understood Thy Word, nor greatly cared for it. They drove unhappy people to and fro with strange doctrines, and deluded them with I know not what follies.”
Calvin was determined to be different and thus to do everything he could to promote the ideal of the pastor-scholar — a minister who had a deep knowledge of the Scriptures and able to preach its doctrines to his people.
This commitment to scholarship came naturally, since Calvin had been trained as a legal scholar before he gave his life to Christ and entered the ministry. It was also his calling. Based on his reading of Ephesians 4:11, Calvin made a clear distinction between “shepherds” (who served as shepherds of a local church) and “teachers” (who served the wider church by interpreting God’s Word, defending true doctrine, and training other men for ministry, much like seminary professors today). But since Calvin held both of these offices, he set an example as a pastor-scholar that Reformation churches have followed ever since.
Calvin held a high view of the gospel ministry. Ministers are “God’s hands,” he said, to do his saving and sanctifying work in the world. When the church has “good and faithful teachers and others that labor to show us the way of salvation, it is a sign that our Lord Jesus Christ has not left us, nor forgotten us, but that he is present with us, and watches for our salvation.”
Evidently, God had not forgotten his people in Geneva, for the church there was blessed by Calvin’s preaching ministry for nearly thirty years. The Reformer’s work load was heavy. He preached almost daily, and twice on Sunday — roughly four thousand sermons in all, carefully transcribed and collected in forty-eight bound volumes. In addition to his preaching, Calvin was a prolific writer, producing personal letters, essays on the reformation of the church, theological treatises, commentaries on almost the entire Bible, and of course his famous The Institutes Of The Christian Religion.
Calvin’s goal in all his preaching and writing was to teach the Word of God faithfully so that the Holy Spirit could use his words to bring people to saving faith in Jesus Christ and to help them grow in godliness. He knew that only God could do the real work of the ministry. Preaching accomplishes nothing, he said, “unless the Spirit of God does inwardly touch the hearts of men.” Yet Calvin also believed that the Spirit’s work included his own best efforts to teach the Bible: “Through [the Spirit’s] inward operation [preaching] produces the most powerful effects.”
In order for his ministry to have this effect, the minister had to be faithful in interpreting and applying the Scriptures. This, in turn, required careful study. Although his preaching was not for a scholarly audience, Calvin took a scholarly approach to his preparation. Typically, he preached through whole books of the New Testament (or the Psalms) on Sundays and from the Old Testament the rest of the week. In both cases he preached directly from the Bible in its original languages.
Although Calvin usually preached for more than an hour, he spoke extemporaneously, without text or notes. He was not speaking “off the cuff,” however, because whatever he said was the product of his own careful, first-hand exegesis and wide reading in the early church fathers and other Bible commentators. As Calvin once remarked to his congregation: “If I should enter a pulpit without deigning to glance at a book, and frivolously imagine to myself, ‘Oh well, when I preach, God will give me enough to say’ — and come here without troubling to read, or thinking what I ought to declare, and do not carefully consider how I must apply Holy Scripture to the edification of the people — then I should be an arrogant upstart.”
Needless to say, Calvin was no such arrogant upstart, but a humble and rigorous expositor of the Word of God. If faith in Christ is a sure and certain knowledge of God’s grace in the gospel, and if that knowledge comes through the preaching of God’s Word, then every minister is called to be a diligent student of that Word. “The teaching of a minister,” Calvin once said, “should be approved on the sole ground of his being able to show that what he says comes from God.”
Calvin’s example as a pastor-scholar is instructive today. For pastors, his life serves as a call to work hard in ministry, giving our best efforts to understanding the Scriptures. For parishioners, Calvin’s ministry can help us understand the God-given calling of our pastors. In devoting their time to prepare for preaching, they are not serving themselves but Christ and His church.
But of course, the calling to study God’s Word is for all of us, all through life. Here Calvin should have the last word: “God will not have us trained in the gospel for two or three years only, but he will have us go through with it, so that if we lived a hundred years or more in this world yet we must remain scholars, and know that we have not yet approached our perfection, but have need to go forward still.”
Dr. Philip Graham Ryken is the president of Wheaton College, where he also teaches theology. He was formerly senior minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is the author or editor of more than twenty books and lives with his family in Illinois.
Philip Ryken Books | Go to Books Page
By R.C. Sproul 7/1/2009
Thinkers in the ancient world sought to plumb the depths of ultimate reality. With that quest for ultimate reality came the birth of the discipline of philosophy. Some philosophers focused on one particular aspect of philosophy called metaphysics (ultimate being). Others focused their attention on epistemology (the science of knowing). Still others stressed in their investigation the basic principles and elements of ethics (the study of the good and the right). And others focused on the ultimate foundations for aesthetics (the study of the beautiful). One philosopher stood out as being deeply involved in the study of all of these matters as well as others. His name was Aristotle. Because Aristotle’s philosophical investigation was so comprehensive that it encompassed all of the above concerns of philosophy, he earned for himself the supreme epithet, namely, “the Philosopher.” Among students of philosophy, if passing mention is made of the title “the Philosopher,” everybody understands that that title can be a reference to only one person — Aristotle.
In a similar manner, the study of theology historically has brought to the surface outstanding thinkers and scholars. Some are known for their specific ability to create a synthesis between theology and secular philosophy. Augustine, for example, was known for his ability to take precepts from the philosophy of Plato and blend them with biblical theology. Much of Augustine’s theology was therefore of a philosophical kind. The same could be said to a certain degree of Thomas Aquinas, who gave us a similar synthesis between Aristotelian philosophy and Christian thought. Among the sixteenth-century magisterial Reformers, we notice that Luther, being a brilliant student of language, brought to the theological table an uncanny ability to provide vignettes of insight into particular questions of truth. But Luther was not a systematician by nature, and so he could not be the theologian of theologians. He never developed a full-orbed systematic theology for the instruction of the church. That task in the sixteenth century was left to the genius of the Genevan theologian John Calvin.
Calvin brought to the study of theology a passion for biblical truth and a coherent understanding of the Word of God. Of all of the thinkers of the sixteenth century, Calvin was most noted for his ability to provide a systematic theological understanding of Christian truth. His magnum opus, The Institutes Of The Christian Religion, remains to this day a titanic work in the field of systematic theology. Luther did not live long enough to recognize the full impact of Calvin’s work, though he did see that Calvin would become a towering figure. It was left to one who knew Calvin and his work more extensively, namely, Philip Melancthon, Luther’s assistant and an impressive scholar in his own right, to give Calvin the sobriquet “the Theologian.” Thus, if one mentions “the Philosopher,” we understand that to mean a reference to Aristotle. On the other hand, if one mentions “the Theologian,” the heirs of the Reformation think exclusively of John Calvin.
In our day there seems to be an ongoing battle between advocates of systematic theology and advocates of biblical theology. We are living in a time of unprecedented antipathy toward rationality and logic. Where systematic theology used to reign supreme in theological seminaries, it has all but vanished, exiled to the perimeter of academic studies. This antipathy toward rationality and logic finds its nadir in the modern allergy against systematic theology, with nothing to fill its place except the expansion of biblical theology. A possible tendency exists in biblical theology to interpret the Bible atomistically without a concern for coherency and unity. This dichotomy between biblical theology and systematic theology is a classic example of the fallacy of the false dilemma, sometimes called the either-or fallacy. If we look to John Calvin, we see a scholar whose mastery of the content of Scripture was unparalleled. Calvin had a passion for the Bible, as well as a monumental knowledge of the Bible, and yet he is known as a systematic theologian. He was not a systematic theologian in the sense that he took some extra-biblical philosophical system and forced it upon the Bible. For him, a system was not a preconceived Procrustean bed to which the Bible was forced to conform. On the contrary, Calvin’s system of doctrine was the result of his attempt to find the coherent substance of the Bible itself. That is, Calvin worked out the system that is within Scripture, not a system that is imposed upon Scripture. Calvin was convinced that the Word of God is coherent and that God does not speak in contradictions or in illogical statements. It has been said a multitude of times that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. If that is in fact true, then one would have to come to the conclusion that the smallest mind in the universe is the mind of God, because God in His thinking is altogether consistent and altogether coherent. It is in that appreciation of the nature of God that Calvin sought passionately to set forth the unity of the Word of God. In that regard, he has done a masterful service to the history of Christian thought. Some people see Calvinism, bearing the name of John Calvin, as an odious distortion of the Word of God. Those who appreciate Calvin’s commitment to biblical truth see Calvinism as “a nickname for biblical Christianity,” as Spurgeon said.
Calvin in debate could draw on his encyclopedic knowledge of biblical passages, as well as the ability to quote at length from ancient thinkers such as Augustine and Cicero. But above all things, Calvin sought to be true to the Word of God. He was the biblical theologian par excellence who was at the same time a singularly gifted systematic theologian.
We owe a great debt to this man. He is God’s gift to the church, not only for the sixteenth century but for all time. We therefore join the multitudes who are celebrating the 500th birthday of John Calvin in the year 2009.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Glory of God
By Keith Mathison 7/1/2009
The year 2009 marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. A number of publishers are celebrating this “Calvin Quincentennial” by releasing new books on the life, work, and teaching of Calvin. Among these are a new book titled Living for God's Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel R. Beeke. Dr. Beeke is well qualified to edit and co-author such a volume. He is the president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and the pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has written, co-authored, or edited over fifty books, and he has also written fifteen hundred articles for various publications, including Tabletalk.
Beeke explains the reason for this book in his Introduction. He writes, “For many years, I have searched for a book that would cover the intellectual and spiritual emphases of Calvinism, the way it influences the church and everyday living, and its ethical and cultural implications. The book I had in mind would explain for today’s reader the biblical, God-centered, heartfelt, winsome, and practical nature of Calvinism, and would clearly convey how Calvinism earnestly seeks to meet the purpose for which we were created, namely, to live to the glory of God. By doing so, it would serve as a corrective to the many caricatures of Calvinism that still exist in North America and beyond.” Unable to find a single book that fit the bill, Dr. Beeke has written it himself, with the help of several co-authors.
Living for God’s Glory is divided into six parts with a total of twenty-eight chapters. Of these twenty-eight chapters, Beeke himself has contributed eighteen. The remaining ten chapters consist of contributions by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. James M. Grier, Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin, Dr. Nelson D. Kloosterman, Rev. Ray B. Lanning, Dr. Robert W. Oliver, Ray Pennings, and Dr. Derek W.H. Thomas. All of these men are gifted authors, and their chapters are consistently well-written.
Part One is titled “Calvinism in History” and contains two chapters. The first outlines briefly the historical origins of Calvinism in the Protestant Reformation and distinguishes it from other branches of the Reformation. In the second chapter, Beeke provides some basic information about some of the more important Reformed confessions and catechisms, including the Belgic Confession, the Westminster Standards, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort. These chapters provide a helpful context for the discussions in the remainder of the book.
In Part Two, “Calvinism in the Mind,” Beeke introduces some of the doctrinal distinctives of Calvinism. In chapter three, he discusses the debate over the central or core doctrine of Calvinism, concluding ultimately that it is the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. In chapters four through nine, Beeke introduces readers to the so-called Five Points of Calvinism. These chapters helpfully clear away misconceptions about these doctrines and show how they are grounded in the teaching of the Bible. Chapter ten provides a brief explanation of the five solas of the Reformation: sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), sola gratia (grace alone), sola fide (faith alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), and soli Deo Gloria (the glory of God alone). Part two concludes with a chapter by Dr. Grier explaining Calvin’s philosophical views.
Part Three is titled “Calvinism in the Heart.” In chapter 12, Michael Haykin discusses and explains the Calvinistic view of the means of grace. Beeke then looks at the theological, ecclesiastical, and practical dimensions of Calvin’s understanding of piety in chapter 13. In the final two chapters of Part Three, he looks at the puritan understanding of sanctification and how it was worked out in daily living. The six chapters in Part Four, “Calvinism in the Church” are devoted to an explanation of Reformed church polity, worship, preaching, and evangelism. I would recommend these chapters to all pastors. Chapters 18 and 19 on Reformed preaching are particularly important in this day and age.
“Calvinism in Practice” is the subject of the six chapters in Part Five. Here the authors explain the Reformed view of marriage, family, work, and the state. This section concludes with a helpful explanation of the theocentric view of ethics espoused by Calvinists. The book concludes with a chapter by Sinclair Ferguson on Calvinism’s goal entitled “Doxology.” When a man properly understands Reformed theology, he cannot help but give all glory and praise to our triune God.
Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.Keith Mathison Books:
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
Expository preaching and the recovery of Christian worship
By R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Evangelical Christians have been especially attentive to worship in recent years sparking a renaissance of thought and conversation about what worship really is and how it should be done. Even if this renewed interest has resulted in what some have called the “worship wars” in some churches, it seems that what A.W. Tozer once called the “missing jewel” of evangelical worship is being recovered.
Nevertheless, if most evangelicals would quickly agree that worship is central to the life of the church, there would be no consensus to an unavoidable question: “What is central to Christian worship?”
Though most evangelicals mention preaching of the Word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music — along with innovations such as drama and video presentations.
Christians often shop congregations in order to find the church that offers the worship style and experience that fits their expectation. In most communities, churches are known for their worship styles and musical programs. Those dissatisfied with what they find at one church can quickly move to another, sometimes using the language of self-expression to explain that the new church “meets our needs” or “allows us to worship.”
A concern for true biblical worship was at the very heart of the Protestant Reformation. But even Martin Luther, who wrote hymns and required his preachers to be trained in song, would not recognize this modern preoccupation with music as legitimate or healthy. Why? Because the Reformers were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship was the preaching of the Word of God.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 68God Shall Scatter His Enemies
68 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David. A Song.
15 O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan;
O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!
16 Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain,
at the mount that God desired for his abode,
yes, where the LORD will dwell forever?
17 The chariots of God are twice ten thousand,
thousands upon thousands;
the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary.
18 You ascended on high,
leading a host of captives in your train
and receiving gifts among men,
even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there.
19 Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation. Selah
20 Our God is a God of salvation,
and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.
21 But God will strike the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crown of him who walks in his guilty ways.
22 The Lord said,
“I will bring them back from Bashan,
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
23 that you may strike your feet in their blood,
that the tongues of your dogs may have their portion from the foe.”
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
6. As the Lord calls his promises covenants (Gen. 6:18; 9:9; 17:2), and
sacraments signs of the covenants, so something similar may be inferred
from human covenants. What could the slaughter of a hog effect, unless
words were interposed or rather preceded? Swine are often killed
without any interior or occult mystery. What could be gained by
pledging the right hand, since hands are not unfrequently joined in
giving battle? But when words have preceded, then by such symbols of
covenant sanction is given to laws, though previously conceived,
digested, and enacted by words. Sacraments, therefore, are exercises
which confirm our faith in the word of God; and because we are carnal,
they are exhibited under carnal objects, that thus they may train us in
accommodation to our sluggish capacity, just as nurses lead children by
the hand. And hence Augustine calls a sacrament a visible word (August.
in Joann. Hom. 89), because it represents the promises of God as in a
picture, and places them in our view in a graphic bodily form (August.
cont. Faust. Lib. 19). We might refer to other similitudes, by which
sacraments are more plainly designated, as when they are called the
pillars of our faith. For just as a building stands and leans on its
foundation, and yet is rendered more stable when supported by pillars,
so faith leans on the word of God as its proper foundation, and yet
when sacraments are added leans more firmly, as if resting on pillars.
Or we may call them mirrors, in which we may contemplate the riches of
the grace which God bestows upon us. For then, as has been said, he
manifests himself to us in as far as our dulness can enable us to
recognise him, and testifies his love and kindness to us more expressly
than by word.
7. It is irrational to contend that sacraments are not manifestations of divine grace toward us, because they are held forth to the ungodly also, who, however, so far from experiencing God to be more propitious to them, only incur greater condemnation. By the same reasoning, the gospel will be no manifestation of the grace of God, because it is spurned by many who hear it; nor will Christ himself be a manifestation of grace, because of the many by whom he was seen and known, very few received him. Something similar may be seen in public enactments. A great part of the body of the people deride and evade the authenticating seal, though they know it was employed by their sovereign to confirm his will; others trample it under foot, as a matter by no means appertaining to them; while others even execrate it: so that, seeing the condition of the two things to be alike, the appropriateness of the comparison which I made above ought to be more readily allowed. It is certain, therefore, that the Lord offers us his mercy, and a pledge of his grace, both in his sacred word and in the sacraments; but it is not apprehended save by those who receive the word and sacraments with firm faith: in like manner as Christ, though offered and held forth for salvation to all, is not, however, acknowledged and received by all. Augustine, when intending to intimate this, said that the efficacy of the word is produced in the sacrament, not because it is spoken, but because it is believed. Hence Paul, addressing believers, includes communion with Christ, in the sacraments, as when he says, "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27). Again, "For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body" (1 Cor. 12:13). But when he speaks of a preposterous use of the sacraments, he attributes nothing more to them than to frigid, empty figures; thereby intimating, that however the ungodly and hypocrites may, by their perverseness, either suppress, or obscure, or impede the effect of divine grace in the sacraments, that does not prevent them, where and whenever God is so pleased, from giving a true evidence of communion with Christ, or prevent them from exhibiting, and the Spirit of God from performing, the very thing which they promise. We conclude, therefore, that the sacraments are truly termed evidences of divine grace, and, as it were, seals of the good-will which he entertains toward us. They, by sealing it to us, sustain, nourish, confirm, and increase our faith. The objections usually urged against this view are frivolous and weak. They say that our faith, if it is good, cannot be made better; for there is no faith save that which leans unshakingly, firmly, and undividedly, on the mercy of God. It had been better for the objectors to pray, with the apostles, "Lord, increase our faith" (Luke 17:5), than confidently to maintain a perfection of faith which none of the sons of men ever attained, none ever shall attain, in this life. Let them explain what kind of faith his was who said, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24). That faith, though only commenced, was good, and might, by the removal of the unbelief, be made better. But there is no better argument to refute them than their own consciousness. For if they confess themselves sinners (this, whether they will or not, they cannot deny), then they must of necessity impute this very quality to the imperfection of their faith.
8. But Philip, they say, replied to the eunuch who asked to be baptized, "If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest" (Acts 8:37). What room is there for a confirmation of baptism when faith fills the whole heart? I, in my turn, ask them, Do they not feel that a good part of their heart is void of faith--do they not perceive new additions to it every day? There was one who boasted that he grew old while learning. Thrice miserable, then, are we Christians if we grow old without making progress, we whose faith ought to advance through every period of life until it grow up into a perfect man (Eph. 4:13). In this passage, therefore, to believe with the whole heart, is not to believe Christ perfectly, but only to embrace him sincerely with heart and soul; not to be filled with him, but with ardent affection to hunger and thirst, and sigh after him. It is usual in Scripture to say that a thing is done with the whole heart, when it is done sincerely and cordially. Of this description are the following passages:--"With my whole heart have I sought thee" (Ps. 119:10); "I will confess unto thee with my whole heart," &c. In like manner, when the fraudulent and deceitful are rebuked, it is said "with flattering lips, and with a double heart, do they speak" (Ps. 12:2). The objectors next add--"If faith is increased by means of the sacraments, the Holy Spirit is given in vain, seeing it is his office to begin, sustain, and consummate our faith." I admit, indeed, that faith is the proper and entire work of the Holy Spirit, enlightened by whom we recognise God and the treasures of his grace, and without whose illumination our mind is so blind that it can see nothing, so stupid that it has no relish for spiritual things. But for the one Divine blessing which they proclaim we count three. For, first, the Lord teaches and trains us by his word; next, he confirms us by his sacraments; lastly, he illumines our mind by the light of his Holy Spirit, and opens up an entrance into our hearts for his word and sacraments, which would otherwise only strike our ears, and fall upon our sight, but by no means affect us inwardly.
9. Wherefore, with regard to the increase and confirmation of faith, I would remind the reader (though I think I have already expressed it in unambiguous terms), that in assigning this office to the sacraments, it is not as if I thought that there is a kind of secret efficacy perpetually inherent in them, by which they can of themselves promote or strengthen faith, but because our Lord has instituted them for the express purpose of helping to establish and increase our faith. The sacraments duly perform their office only when accompanied by the Spirit, the internal Master, whose energy alone penetrates the heart, stirs up the affections, and procures access for the sacraments into our souls. If he is wanting, the sacraments can avail us no more than the sun shining on the eyeballs of the blind, or sounds uttered in the ears of the deaf. Wherefore, in distributing between the Spirit and the sacraments, I ascribe the whole energy to him, and leave only a ministry to them; this ministry, without the agency of the Spirit, is empty and frivolous, but when he acts within, and exerts his power, it is replete with energy. It is now clear in what way, according to this view, a pious mind is confirmed in faith by means of the sacraments--viz. in the same way in which the light of the sun is seen by the eye, and the sound of the voice heard by the ear; the former of which would not be at all affected by the light unless it had a pupil on which the light might fall; nor the latter reached by any sound, however loud, were it not naturally adapted for hearing. But if it is true, as has been explained, that in the eye it is the power of vision which enables it to see the light, and in the ear the power of hearing which enables it to perceive the voice, and that in our hearts it is the work of the Holy Spirit to commence, maintain, cherish, and establish faith, then it follows, both that the sacraments do not avail one iota without the energy of the Holy Spirit; and that yet in hearts previously taught by that preceptor, there is nothing to prevent the sacraments from strengthening and increasing faith. There is only this difference, that the faculty of seeing and hearing is naturally implanted in the eye and ear; whereas, Christ acts in our minds above the measure of nature by special grace.
10. In this way, also, we dispose of certain objections by which some anxious minds are annoyed. If we ascribe either an increase or confirmation of faith to creatures, injustice is done to the Spirit of God, who alone ought to be regarded as its author. But we do not rob him of the merit of confirming and increasing faith; nay, rather, we maintain that that which confirms and increases faith, is nothing else than the preparing of our minds by his internal illumination to receive that confirmation which is set forth by the sacraments. But if the subject is still obscure, it will be made plain by the following similitude: Were you to begin to persuade a person by word to do something, you would think of all the arguments by which he may be brought over to your view, and in a manner compelled to serve your purpose. But nothing is gained if the individual himself possess not a clear and acute judgment, by which he may be able to weigh the value of your arguments; if, moreover, he is not of a docile disposition, and ready to listen to doctrine; if, in fine, he has no such idea of your faith and prudence as in a manner to prejudice him in your favour, and secure his assent. For there are many obstinate spirits who are not to be bent by any arguments; and where faith is suspected, or authority contemned, little progress is made even with the docile. On the other hand, when opposite feelings exist, the result will be, that the person whose interests you are consulting will acquiesce in the very counsels which he would otherwise have derided. The same work is performed in us by the Spirit. That the word may not fall upon our ear, or the sacraments be presented to our eye in vain, he shows that it is God who there speaks to us, softens our obdurate hearts, and frames them to the obedience which is due to his word; in short, transmits those external words and sacraments from the ear to the soul. Both word and sacraments, therefore, confirm our faith, bringing under view the kind intentions of our heavenly Father, in the knowledge of which the whole assurance of our faith depends, and by which its strength is increased; and the Spirit also confirms our faith when, by engraving that assurance on our minds, he renders it effectual. Meanwhile, it is easy for the Father of lights, in like manner as he illumines the bodily eye by the rays of the sun, to illumine our minds by the sacraments, as by a kind of intermediate brightness.
11. This property our Lord showed to belong to the external word, when, in the parable, he compared it to seed (Mt. 13:4; Luke 8:15). For as the seed, when it falls on a deserted and neglected part of the field, can do nothing but die, but when thrown into ground properly laboured and cultivated, will yield a hundred-fold; so the word of God, when addressed to any stubborn spirit, will remain without fruit, as if thrown upon the barren waste, but when it meets with a soul which the hand of the heavenly Spirit has subdued, will be most fruitful. But if the case of the seed and of the word is the same, and from the seed corn can grow and increase, and attain to maturity, why may not faith also take its beginning, increase, and completion from the word? Both things are admirably explained by Paul in different passages. For when he would remind the Corinthians how God had given effect to his labours, he boasts that he possessed the ministry of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4); just as if his preaching were inseparably connected with the power of the Holy Spirit, in inwardly enlightening the mind, and stimulating it. But in another passage, when he would remind them what the power of the word is in itself, when preached by man, he compares ministers to husbandmen, who, after they have expended labour and industry in cultivating the ground, have nothing more that they can do. For what would ploughing, and sowing, and watering avail, unless that which was sown should, by the kindness of Heaven, vegetate? Wherefore he concludes, that he that planteth, and he that watereth is nothing, but that the whole is to be ascribed to God, who alone gives the increase. The apostles, therefore, exert the power of the Spirit in their preaching, inasmuch as God uses them as instruments which he has ordained for the unfolding of his spiritual grace. Still, however, we must not lose sight of the distinction, but remember what man is able of himself to do, and what is peculiar to God.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Outlived or Lived Out?
By Gordon Reed 7/1/2009
Many years ago I was privileged to know several great men of faith in the generation just preceding my own. I regarded these men with deep respect and even held them in awe because of their great knowledge and even greater piety. Looking back, I realize that one of the many things they all held in common was a passionate love for the basics of biblical, Reformed doctrine. Because of this, they were dedicated students and teachers of that often neglected document known as the Westminster Shorter Catechism with Proof Texts (ESV): An aid for study of the Holy Bible. But beyond mere reference to it and frequent quotes from it, the doctrines contained in the Shorter Catechism saturated their minds and their ministries.
Two of them stand out in particular. Dr. Henry B. Dendy was my boyhood pastor of the First (and only) Presbyterian Church of Weaverville, North Carolina. He was a man with unlimited talent and abounding in energy. He was a quintessential pastor and preacher, the kind every church needs and wants. Dr. Dendy was also co-founder of the Presbyterian Journal and its editor for twenty-some years. This magazine was the forerunner of World magazine. Dr. Dendy loved Scripture and he loved, lived, and breathed the Shorter Catechism. He encouraged parents to teach the catechism to their children, and he helped them do this.
Another spiritual giant of his day was the late Dr. Darby Fulton, who for many years was the general secretary for foreign missions in the Presbyterian Church. Once, when Dr. Fulton was lecturing at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, a student asked him how he could be such a well read and brilliant theologian given his unending labors with the world missions efforts of the Presbyterian Church. Dr. Fulton’s reply surprised us all when he said, “I learned all my theology before I was twelve; my mother taught me to memorize the Shorter Catechism.” “But Dr. Fulton,” the student asked, “what did you learn of theology in seminary and graduate school?” His reply was classic. With a twinkle in his eye he said, “I learned how to say it so no one could understand it.” He was truly a brilliant scholar, but never did he preach over the head of the man in the pew. His skillful use of the catechism enabled him to preach the great truths of our faith in a lively and understandable way, even to little children.
The point of all this is to say that if young men in the ministry want to remain true to “the faith once delivered” (Jude 3), keep their ordination vows, and pass on this heritage to another generation, one of the best means of doing this is to mould their teaching and preaching around the Shorter Catechism. In this way they will preach the whole counsel of God. They will be beacons of truth and hope to their own and succeeding generations.
Let me offer some sound reasons why the use of the catechism as the foundation for your preaching and teaching is one of the best ways to be faithful to your vows and to your people, and how it may assist you in getting beyond shallowness and the latest fads that dominate most preaching — even in evangelical and Reformed churches.
The Shorter Catechism is biblical. As might be expected, there are Scripture references given for each question and answer as proof texts, but it is biblical in a far deeper sense. It is an apt summary of all the doctrines of the Bible, and the use of it as a guide in preaching will enable the preacher to ground his people in the truths of God’s Word.
I have heard people say that we need to revise the catechism to include references to the poor and disadvantaged, and even to include statements on our environmental duties. Utter nonsense! I spent the first several years of ministry in one of the deepest pockets of poverty in this country. I was called upon to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, transport the wheel-less, educate the ignorant, and shepherd the children and teach them how to play. In one week I rushed five mountain women to the hospital to have their babies (the last one was my own Miriam, but I was sure getting some strange looks from the nurses on the floor). I buried old folks, babies, and all ages in between, conducting the services and digging the graves. I did all this and more and did not need a revision of the catechism to tell me my duty. As for environmental concerns, being an avid outdoorsman helped me to understand the need for good stewardship of God’s creation and creatures, but again this does not require a revision of the catechism.
The catechism is intensely practical and deals with real issues of life and death. Often I hear fervent sermons about things that are only of contrived urgency based on what book the preacher is reading or what program on television he has been watching. But what is more practical than to discover and declare what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man?
Preaching and teaching from the catechism keeps us linked to the generations who have gone before us and passes on their wisdom and godliness to succeeding generations. There is a tendency in each generation to think we are the beginning and end of all things. We tend to think that wisdom and godliness will perish with us. They won’t, and the wise and wide use of the catechism will enable us to take our part in the flow of truth, faith, and life from generation to generation.
After fifty years in pastoral ministry, Dr. Gordon K. Reed has “retired” into a supply pastorate at Longtown Presbyterian Church in Ridgeway, South Carolina.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
7/1/2012 | Dividing Walls That Unite
“Be not ashamed of your faith; remember it is the ancient gospel of the martyrs, confessors, reformers and saints. Above all, it is the truth of God, against which the gates of Hell cannot prevail. Let your lives adorn your faith, let your example adorn your creed.” These words from C.H. Spurgeon’s foreword to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith are as poignant now as in 1855.
As the church at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we desperately need to return to our historic creeds and confessions, and we need to remember the ancient gospel of our forefathers as we contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). However, if we’re to contend earnestly for the faith, we must discern where to build appropriate fences and necessary walls, and we must do so according to the never-changing Word of God, not according to the ever-changing relativistic feelings of our tolerant-of-anything-but-biblical-truth society. Moreover, as we determine which fences and walls to erect, we must also discern which old fences need mending and which man-made walls are unbiblical and must, therefore, be destroyed.
As we maintain the orthodox walls of our historic creeds, we are drawing necessary doctrinal lines. We draw lines precisely because God has drawn lines. We draw lines because of our love for God’s glory, God’s truth, God’s image bearers, and God Himself. God’s love for us is the foundation of our love for Him, and such love, in turn, leads to love for our neighbor. Although our neighbor may despise the doctrinal lines of the church, and although he may deride us as dogmatic or divisive, we must always show our genuine love for his eternal soul and, thus, stand our ground and draw the line in the sand between biblical doctrine and false doctrine, between Christ and the world, between heaven and hell. Doctrine does indeed divide because sin divides. It divides angels and demons, saints and sinners, sheep and goats. Nevertheless, doctrine can eternally unite sinners saved by the sovereign grace of God, as we share one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.
We must stand our ground as we draw each and every necessary doctrinal line—for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of the purity and consequent peace of the church, for the sake of our children and the next generation, and for the sake of our own souls. We must not give mere lip service to what we say we believe, we must be prepared to give our lives. And if we earnestly believe, we must earnestly contend for it.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
His travels were exceeded only by Lewis and Clark. He led expeditions up the Missouri River, discovered the South Pass through the Rockies and the first land route to California. He led settlers across the Santa Fe Trail, the Mojave Desert and up the Oregon Coast. His name was Jedediah Smith, born this day, June 24, 1798. In a letter to his brother, Jedediah Smith wrote: “Many Hostile… Indians inhabit this Space…. In August…. ten Men… with me lost their lives by the Amuchabas Indians… in July… fifteen… by the Umpquah Indians… I have need of your Prayers… to bear me up before the Throne of Grace.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Man is born broken.
He lives by mending.
The grace of God is glue.
--- Eugene O'Neill
Great God Brown, the Fountain, the Moon of the Caribbees and Other Plays
This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created heaven and earth… [But] for the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; [and] as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.
--- Robert Jastrow
God and the Astronomers (New and Expanded Edition)
We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream … It may be so at the moment of death.
--- Nathaniel Hawthorne
Mourning in the Mountains
Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear. --- Albert Camus
Notebooks, 1935-1942 (Volume 1)
... from here, there and everywhere
CHAPTER 13 / R. Zadok Hakohen of Lublin on
“You Shall Love”
Our love for God is the source, albeit “concealed,” of the other two loves. For without it, our love for Israel—that is, for our fellow Jews—is merely a social phenomenon, our natural craving for human community or ethnic fellowship with no redeeming transcendent dimension. And our love for Torah without an accompanying love for God is merely a quest to satisfy our intellectual curiosity and is devoid of any true spiritual content.
Scriptural history provides graphic illustrations of these forms of deep but imperfect attachment. The Generation of the Flood (Gen. 7:1–8:7)—whose wickedness brought upon the world the deluge that wiped out all life except Noah and his ark-borne menagerie—knew no “love of Israel”; (4) there was mutual enmity aplenty. Their utter wickedness reveals neither love of God nor love of man. However, R. Zadok discovers in the Zohar (III, 216b) a source that speaks of their “love of Torah.” The reference is not to Torah as such, which had not yet been revealed; rather, “Torah” here symbolizes a love of knowledge and learning. Indeed, so enamored were they of the search for wisdom, the Zohar teaches, that this generation would have been worthy to receive the Torah, were it not for their total lack of obedience to and love for God. It was this lack of faith that led them, despite their intellectual superiority, to widespread debauchery and ultimately to destruction.
(4) R. Zadok’s use of the term “love of Israel” for a generation that long preceded the emergence of Israel as a people is not an anachronism due to the author’s oversight. It does indicate, rather, that the term ahavat Yisrael, the love of Israel, is a paradigm for love of humankind; otherwise, this entire passage makes no sense. Similarly, as we shall see presently, he uses the term “Torah” for knowledge in general.
The Generation of the Tower (Gen. 11:1–9)—who, after the Flood, attempted to build a skyscraper to reach Heaven—experienced “love of Israel,” i.e., human fellowship and communal solidarity, but no love of God; indeed, their intent was to dethrone God. Their punishment fit their crime: since their love for each other was hollow at its core, God “confounded their language” so that they could not communicate with each other and “scattered them from thence upon the face of all the earth,” thus undoing their community altogether. Social cohesiveness and mutual responsibility are inadequate without a religious anchor.
The Children of Israel, however, as “the seed of Abraham,” have implanted in them—genetically, as it were—the love for God. (This idea recalls R. Shneur Zalman’s assertion that Jews exemplify all human beings who are innately religious.) This love expresses the sefirah of Keter, “Crown,” the highest of the ten sefirot, the unfolding self-revelation of the Ein Sof—the Infinite One God who, in His self-contained essence, is beyond all characterization. Keter, which stands above the sefirot of Ḥokhmah and Binah, “Wisdom” and “Understanding,” is, by virtue of this priority and its closeness to the Ein Sof, mysterious and beyond reason. This supreme love is the source that vitalizes, for the Jew, the other two loves—the love of Torah, which is parallel to Wisdom, and the love of Israel, parallel to Understanding. As in the classical sefirotic structure, Wisdom and Understanding derive their vitality and very existence from (the Ein Sof via) the Crown. Indeed, the love for God is unmovable and unassailable; it is beyond intellect, functioning in the realm of faith at its most mysterious and sublime, and cannot be destroyed even by sin itself: as the Talmud teaches, “an Israelite, even if he sins, remains an Israelite” (Berakhot 6b). Hence, only by means of ahavat Hashem, love for God, can we attain the other two loves in an enduring and pure manner.
Thus we reach an interesting conclusion: that our love of God naturally leads us to love of Israel and love of Torah. We find this proposition affirmed in the verse following the commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God,” i.e., “And you shall teach them diligently to your children”: that is, the love for God leads to the love of Torah. The causal connection between the love for God and the love of Israel is self-evident on the basis of R. Zadok’s analysis.
Indeed, elsewhere,5 R. Zadok quotes an interesting responsum of Maharil (R. Jacob Molin, 1360–1427, one of the most important figures in Ashkenazic Jewry), who discusses a question that was asked of his father:
(5) In his Peri Tzaddik, vol. III, Kedoshim, p. 74b.
The Talmud relates: “Simon of Amson would interpret homiletically every et [a word that has no innate meaning but precedes every noun that is a direct object] in the Torah. However, when he came to the verse, et Hashem Elohekha tira, ‘You shall fear et the Lord your God’ (Deut. 6:13 and 10:20), he desisted” (Pesaḥim 22b) [because one may fear none but God]. Question: why did he not desist when he came upon the verse, “You shall love et the Lord your God”
(Deut. 6:4)? Answer: there is no limit to love, and one can love every single Jew, as it is written, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).
In other words, fear is exclusive: fearing any other source or sovereign diminishes our fear of God. Love, however, is inclusive: loving God leads to love of our neighbors and our fellow human beings. (6) Simon of Amson therefore had no hesitation in interpreting the et in that verse too.
(6) This, of course, is reminiscent of Maimonides’ original distinction between love and fear as representing, respectively, the outgoing, centrifugal quest for God and His wisdom, and the centripetal motion of withdrawal and retreat as the reaction of awe to the divine power; see chapter 10.
R. Zadok’s interpretation of “You shall love the Lord your God” thus expands its scope. Without in the least diminishing the leading role in our own lives of our love for God, he interprets this command as embracing as well as love of learning and, most importantly, love of mankind.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
How Eurycles 40 Calumniated The Sons Of Mariamne; And How Euaratus Of Cos's Apology For Them Had No Effect.
1. Now a little afterward there came into Judea a man that was much superior to Arehelaus's stratagems, who did not only overturn that reconciliation that had been so wisely made with Alexander, but proved the occasion of his ruin. He was a Lacedemonian, and his name was Eurycles. He was so corrupt a man, that out of the desire of getting money, he chose to live under a king, for Greece could not suffice his luxury. He presented Herod with splendid gifts, as a bait which he laid in order to compass his ends, and quickly received them back again manifold; yet did he esteem bare gifts as nothing, unless he imbrued the kingdom in blood by his purchases. Accordingly, he imposed upon the king by flattering him, and by talking subtlely to him, as also by the lying encomiums which he made upon him; for as he soon perceived Herod's blind side, so he said and did every thing that might please him, and thereby became one of his most intimate friends; for both the king and all that were about him had a great regard for this Spartan, on account of his country.
2. Now as soon as this fellow perceived the rotten parts of the family, and what quarrels the brothers had one with another, and in what disposition the father was towards each of them, he chose to take his lodging at the first in the house of Antipater, but deluded Alexander with a pretense of friendship to him, and falsely claimed to be an old acquaintance of Archelaus; for which reason he was presently admitted into Alexander's familiarity as a faithful friend. He also soon recommended himself to his brother Aristobulus. And when he had thus made trial of these several persons, he imposed upon one of them by one method, and upon another by another. But he was principally hired by Antipater, and so betrayed Alexander, and this by reproaching Antipater, because, while he was the eldest son he overlooked the intrigues of those who stood in the way of his expectations; and by reproaching Alexander, because he who was born of a queen, and was married to a king's daughter, permitted one that was born of a mean woman to lay claim to the succession, and this when he had Archelaus to support him in the most complete manner. Nor was his advice thought to be other than faithful by the young man, because of his pretended friendship with Archelaus; on which account it was that Alexander lamented to him Antipater's behavior with regard to himself, and this without concealing any thing from him; and how it was no wonder if Herod, after he had killed their mother, should deprive them of her kingdom. Upon this Eurycles pretended to commiserate his condition, and to grieve with him. He also, by a bait that he laid for him, procured Aristobulus to say the same things. Thus did he inveigle both the brothers to make complaints of their father, and then went to Antipater, and carried these grand secrets to him. He also added a fiction of his own, as if his brothers had laid a plot against him, and were almost ready to come upon him with their drawn swords. For this intelligence he received a great sum of money, and on that account he commended Antipater before his father, and at length undertook the work of bringing Alexander and Aristobulus to their graves, and accused them before their father. So he came to Herod, and told him that he would save his life, as a requital for the favors he had received from him, and would preserve his light [of life] by way of retribution for his kind entertainment; for that a sword had been long whetted, and Alexander's right hand had been long stretched out against him; but that he had laid impediments in his way, prevented his speed, and that by pretending to assist him in his design: how Alexander said that Herod was not contented to reign in a kingdom that belonged to others, and to make dilapidations in their mother's government after he had killed her; but besides all this, that he introduced a spurious successor, and proposed to give the kingdom of their ancestors to that pestilent fellow Antipater:—that he would now appease the ghosts of Hyrcanus and Mariamne, by taking vengeance on him; for that it was not fit for him to take the succession to the government from such a father without bloodshed: that many things happen every day to provoke him so to do, insomuch that he can say nothing at all, but it affords occasion for calumny against him; for that if any mention be made of nobility of birth, even in other cases, he is abused unjustly, while his father would say that nobody, to be sure, is of noble birth but Alexander, and that his father was inglorious for want of such nobility. If they be at any time hunting, and he says nothing, he gives offense; and if he commends any body, they take it in way of jest. That they always find their father unmercifully severe, and have no natural affection for any of them but for Antipater; on which accounts, if this plot does not take, he is very willing to die; but that in case he kill his father, he hath sufficient opportunities for saving himself. In the first place, he hath Archelaus his father-in-law to whom he can easily fly; and in the next place, he hath Caesar, who had never known Herod's character to this day; for that he shall not appear then before him with that dread he used to do when his father was there to terrify him; and that he will not then produce the accusations that concerned himself alone, but would, in the first place, openly insist on the calamities of their nation, and how they are taxed to death, and in what ways of luxury and wicked practices that wealth is spent which was gotten by bloodshed; what sort of persons they are that get our riches, and to whom those cities belong upon whom he bestows his favors; that he would have inquiry made what became of his grandfather [Hyrcanus], and his mother [Mariamne], and would openly proclaim the gross wickedness that was in the kingdom; on which accounts he should not be deemed a parricide.
3. When Eurycles had made this portentous speech, he greatly commended Antipater, as the only child that had an affection for his father, and on that account was an impediment to the other's plot against him. Hereupon the king, who had hardly repressed his anger upon the former accusations, was exasperated to an incurable degree. At which time Antipater took another occasion to send in other persons to his father to accuse his brethren, and to tell him that they had privately discoursed with Jucundus and Tyrannus, who had once been masters of the horse to the king, but for some offenses had been put out of that honorable employment. Herod was in a very great rage at these informations, and presently ordered those men to be tortured; yet did not they confess any thing of what the king had been informed; but a certain letter was produced, as written by Alexander to the governor of a castle, to desire him to receive him and Aristobulus into the castle when he had killed his father, and to give them weapons, and what other assistance he could, upon that occasion. Alexander said that this letter was a forgery of Diophantus. This Diophantus was the king's secretary, a bold man, and cunning in counterfeiting any one's hand; and after he had counterfeited a great number, he was at last put to death for it. Herod did also order the governor of the castle to be tortured, but got nothing out of him of what the accusations suggested.
4. However, although Herod found the proofs too weak, he gave order to have his sons kept in custody; for till now they had been at liberty. He also called that pest of his family, and forger of all this vile accusation, Eurycles, his savior and benefactor, and gave him a reward of fifty talents. Upon which he prevented any accurate accounts that could come of what he had done, by going immediately into Cappadocia, and there he got money of Archelaus, having the impudence to pretend that he had reconciled Herod to Alexander. He thence passed over into Greece, and used what he had thus wickedly gotten to the like wicked purposes. Accordingly, he was twice accused before Caesar, that he had filled Achaia with sedition, and had plundered its cities; and so he was sent into banishment. And thus was he punished for what wicked actions he had been guilty of about Aristobulus and Alexander.
5. But it will now be worth while to put Euaratus of Cos in opposition to this Spartan; for as he was one of Alexander's most intimate friends, and came to him in his travels at the same time that Eurycles came; so the king put the question to him, whether those things of which Alexander was accused were true? He assured him upon oath that he had never heard any such things from the young men; yet did this testimony avail nothing for the clearing those miserable creatures; for Herod was only disposed and most ready to hearken to what made against them, and every one was most agreeable to him that would believe they were guilty, and showed their indignation at them.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
and blows for the backs of fools.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Reconciling one’s self to the fact of sin
This is your hour, and the power of darkness. --- Luke 22:53.
It is not being reconciled to the fact of sin that produces all the disasters in life. You may talk about the nobility of human nature, but there is something in human nature which will laugh in the face of every ideal you have. If you refuse to agree with the fact that there is vice and self-seeking, something downright spiteful and wrong in human beings, instead of reconciling yourself to it when it strikes your life, you will compromise with it and say it is of no use to battle against it. Have you made allowance for this hour and the power of darkness, or do you take a recognition of yourself that misses out sin? In your bodily relationships and friendships do you reconcile yourself to the fact of sin? If not, you will be caught round the next corner and you will compromise with it. If you reconcile yourself to the fact of sin, you will realize the danger at once—‘Yes, I see what that would mean.’ The recognition of sin does not destroy the basis of friendship; it establishes a mutual regard for the fact that the basis of life is tragic. Always beware of an estimate of life which does not recognize the fact that there is sin.
Jesus Christ never trusted human nature, yet He was never cynical, never suspicious, because He trusted absolutely in what He could do for human nature. The pure man or woman, not the innocent, is the safeguarded man or woman. You are never safe with an innocent man or woman. Men and women have no business to be innocent; God demands that they be pure and virtuous. Innocence is the characteristic of a child; it is a blameworthy thing for a man or woman not to be reconciled to the fact of sin.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Degas- Musicians in the Orchestra
Heads together, pulling
upon music's tide-
it is not their ears
but their eyes their conductor
has sealed, lest they behold
on the stage's shore
the skirts' rising and falling
that turns men to swine.
God and humans are so different that there is a custom: when referring to both in the same sentence, it is traditional to insert the word לְהַבְדִּיל/l’havdil, “to differentiate” between God and humans. The Rabbis of the Midrash did not do that. While they spoke of humility, and perhaps their lives exhibited humility, their writing shows a genuine hubris, comparing God to humans. How else can these Rabbis—Rabbi Tanḥuma in the name of Rabbi Yehudah bar Simon and Rabbi Menaḥama in the name of Rabbi Eliezer bar Yosé—say that “the Holy One, praised is He, loves His fellow craftsman,” as if God were really like a human craftsman? The blasphemous nature of this text is so clear. God is referred to, by analogy, as just another worker.
The Rabbinic conceit and arrogance exists, in part, because the Rabbis saw humans as God’s agents in the world. We learn from this text that we humans are equal to God as “craftsmen of the world.” If we are equal to God, can we ever aspire to see God face-to-face? In a literal sense, it may happen when the righteous die. The Rabbis of the Talmud and the Midrash, unlike the Bible, have developed a concept of the afterlife and the reward that awaits the righteous when they die.
On a metaphorical level, the upright behold God’s face when they bring a sense of godliness into the world. This does not happen by accident. Godliness is crafted; each and every one of us, like God, can craft a better world. In Les Miserables, one of the characters sings:
“To love another person
Is to see the face of God.”
Thus, godliness is not stumbled upon. It is created by our actions. We don’t have to die to see God, but we do need to live a dedicated life. When we make this world a heaven-on-earth, then we truly do see God.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
W. W. Wiersbe
"“And [the fish] vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” What an ignominious way for a distinguished prophet to arrive on shore! In chapter 1, the sailors treated Jonah like dangerous cargo to be thrown overboard, and now he’s treated like a foreign substance to be disgorged from the fish’s body. But when Jonah ceased to be an obedient prophet, he cheapened himself, so he’s the one to blame. We can be sure that he was duly humbled as he once again stood on dry land.
The miracle. Few miracles in Scripture have been attacked as much as this one, and Christian scholars have gathered various kinds of evidence to prove that it could happen. Since the Bible doesn’t tell us what kind of fish swallowed Jonah, we don’t have to measure sharks and whales or comb history for similar incidents. It was a “prepared” fish (1:17), designed by God for the occasion, and therefore it was adequate for the task. Jesus didn’t question the historicity of the miracle, so why should we?
The sign (Matt. 12:39; 16:4; Luke 11:29). The “sign of Jonah” is seen in his experience of “death,” burial, and resurrection on the third day, and it was the only sign Jesus gave to the nation of Israel. At Pentecost, Peter preached the Resurrection (Acts 2:22–26) and so did Paul when he preached to the Jews in other nations (13:26–37). In fact, the emphasis in the Book of Acts is on the resurrection of Jesus Christ; for the apostles were “witnesses of the Resurrection” (2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39).
Some students are troubled by the phrase “three days and three nights,” especially since both Scripture and tradition indicate that Jesus was crucified on Friday. In order to protect the integrity of the Scripture, some have suggested that the Crucifixion be moved back to Thursday or even Wednesday. But to the Jews, a part of a day was treated as a whole day, and we need not interpret “three days and three nights” to mean seventy-two hours to the very second. For that matter, we can’t prove that Jonah was in the fish exactly seventy-two hours. The important thing is that centuries after the event, Jonah became a “sign” to the Jewish people and pointed them to Jesus Christ.
Jonah was now free to obey the Lord and take God’s message to Nineveh, but he still had lessons to learn.)
The Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: Boxed Five Volume Set
The difficulties which confront the reader in the matter of what are known as the imprecatory Psalms have occasioned much misgiving in regard to the Inspiration of these passages. The same is the case with the instructions given to the people of Israel to destroy the Canaanites. If such passages are considered merely as the outcome of human vindictiveness, and if the narratives of Israel’s treatment of other nations are regarded simply as national zeal for the acquisition of territory, or as lust for conquest, in other words, if the history is viewed from a purely naturalistic point of view, then the objection is valid and the possibility of Inspiration is ruled out.
Another light, however, is thrown upon these passages if they are considered in their relationship to the whole scheme of divine revelation as contained in the Scriptures. The problem has, for instance, to be viewed in connection with the broader subjects of the attitude of God toward evil, and His dealings with regard to the people of Israel.
The divine revelation given to Abraham, hundreds of years before Israel entered Canaan, concerning the character of the Canaanitish nations, gives a clue. What Scripture itself reveals of their condition shows that for such a period to elapse before the divine judgment fell upon them through the instrumentality of Israel was after all only an example of the longsuffering of God.
“God permits men to go far in wickedness, because He is longsuffering and gives time for repentance, as in the days of Noah (1 Pet. 3:20, cp. 2 Pet. 3:9, Rom. 2:4). On the other hand, God permits the evil things He sees in a man, or in a nation, to grow and develop until they become manifest to other eyes than His own, that thus the righteousness of His judgments, when they do come, may be put beyond dispute (see Ps. 89:2, 14). Gabriel ascribed this reason for the delay of the divine retribution (Dan. 8:23); and the Lord warned the leaders of Israel itself that they were pursuing the same infatuated course that involved their fathers in disaster and exile” (Matt. 23:32). *
The reason given why Abraham’s descendants were not to come into the land of promise was that the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. There is an intimation in this of the abominable character of that people. Yet God would extend His mercy toward them until their condition was such that to withhold the execution of divine judgment was no longer possible. At the date of the Israelitic conquests the iniquity of the Canaanites had reached such a climax that their destruction became necessary, not only retributively but preventatively. For similar reasons destruction had fallen upon Sodom and Gomorrah in the period in which the revelation was given to Abraham. In such cases destruction is in the interests of humanity.
Concerning these moral difficulties, Professor Orr writes as follows: “In facing this problem, our first duty is to beware of solutions which are not really, or only very partially, such. We do not solve the problem by denying that these lower forms of morality were, for that age and stage of development, really wrong, or did involve elements of evil.” Again, he rightly takes exception to the arguments based on evolutionary theories by which it is attempted to show “that there are numerous intermediate grades between no morality and the highest morality; that the moral idea is only gradually developed, and that, till it is developed, such practices as slavery, polygamy, unchastity, mercilessness in war, etc., are not really sinful; that there can be no wrong, therefore, in recognizing and sanctioning them.” This, he rightly says, “like the whole evolutionary conception of a necessary development of humanity through evil, is a dangerous line of defense; it is, moreover, repugnant to the genuine Christian point of view. Jesus did not, e.g., regard the Mosaic Law of divorce as per se right even for the Jews. It was given them, He said, for the hardness of their hearts, and He referred them back to the purer primitive idea of marriage.”
On the other hand, to take the critical view, and put the passages containing these moral difficulties down to the mistaken notions and feelings of the writers, or to consider the narratives as merely legendary, provides us with no help whatever. While these suppositions may remove an imputation against the character of God, they are after all only a denial of the reality of the revelation. There has been a tendency, too, to exaggerate the difficulties and to lower the character of Old Testament morality, as when Israel is charged with being devoid of human feelings toward others than their fellow-nationals, and that they were governed purely by considerations of expediency. Such accusations are not borne out by the history of the Old Testament.
Word Biblical Commentary Vol., 14, 1 Chronicles (braun), 359pp
Chronicles and 2 Samuel 10
For this portion of its account of David’s wars with the Ammonites, Chronicles is dependent upon 2 Sam 10, with which it is often in verbatim agreement. Apart from the customary differences due to minor textual errors and style and the desire to update the text the writer has shown relatively little interest in the narrative. Indeed, some alterations adopted for the sake of brevity appear to be rather clumsily done, and have the effect of confusing the text. Otherwise, the only Tendenz apparent is that of somewhat magnifying David’s stature: (1) By placing him in a somewhat more aggressive light (v 17). (2) By adding to the value and number of the forces opposed to him and the numbers which fell to him. Hence Chronicles adds a thousand talents of silver used by the Ammonites to hire their Aramean allies (v 6) and with them they secure, not just thirty-three thousand foot soldiers as in Samuel, but thirty-two thousand chariots, apparently plus other unnumbered people (v 7). Chronicles also speaks of David’s destruction of "seven thousand charioteers and forty thousand foot soldiers" (v 18), while Samuel lists seven hundred charioteers and forty thousand horsemen (v 18). (3) By indicating that the Arameans made peace, not with Israel (2 Sam 10:19), but with David himself (v 19).
Apart from this tendency toward hyperbole, other indications of the writer’s Tendenz are noticeably absent.
Although not made explicit here, Chronicles recounts David’s wars primarily to indicate God’s blessing upon him. The only significant alterations to the text point in that same direction. Thus the theme of retribution continues. God blesses David for his faithfulness, and that blessing is seen in his military victories.
Once again, we must realize that we are here dealing with a stereotype, with theology expressed in narrative form, and that we cannot conclude from this that every battle won is due to the victor’s faithfulness, nor that every battle lost is due to the loser’s unfaithfulness. We must be content with the general principle that God blesses his people and punishes those who disobey him. To go farther agrees neither with the principle of the analogy of faith nor with human experience.
Word Biblical Commentary Vol., 14, 1 Chronicles (braun), 359pp
O daughter, consider and give ear:… The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. --- Psalm 45:10–11.
This psalm is called the song of loves, the most pure and spiritual loves, namely, those that are between Christ and his church. (Christ the best husband: or an earnest invitation to young women to come and see Christ. A sermon preached to a society of young women, in Fetter-lane. By George Whitefield, ...)
If you are married to Christ, you know and speak with him. You will endeavor to promote his interest and advance his name in the world. Surely this is the only desirable marriage, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the only lover who is worth seeking after.
Do you desire one who is great? He is the glory of heaven, admired by angels, dreaded by devils, and adored by saints. For you to be married to so great a king—what honor will you have by this marriage?
Do you desire one who is rich? The fullness of the earth belongs to Christ. You will share in his riches, and you will hereafter be admitted to glory and will live with this Jesus to all eternity.
Do you desire one who is wise? There is none comparable to Christ for wisdom. His knowledge is infinite, and his wisdom is correspondent to it. And if you are married to Christ, he will guide and counsel you.
Do you desire one who is potent, who may defend you against your enemies and all the insults and reproaches of the Pharisees of this generation? There is none who can equal Christ in power, for the Lord Jesus Christ has all power.
Do you desire one who is good? There is none like Christ. Others may have some goodness, but it is imperfect; Christ is full of goodness and in him dwells no evil.
Do you desire one who is beautiful? Christ is the most lovely person of all others in the world.
Do you desire one who can love you? None can love you like Christ.
For you who are married to him, he underwent death on the cross; can you hear this and not be concerned to think that the blessed Jesus underwent this for such sinful creatures as you and I? Surely, then, none is so deserving as the Lord Jesus Christ for you to engage yourselves to; if you are married to Christ he is yours, all that he is, all that he has; you will have his heart and share in the choicest expressions of his love.
The Lord Jesus Christ implores you to be his spouse. We ministers have a commission to invite you, in his name, to this very thing.
--- George Whitefield
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Bones in the Rafters | June 24
Movements often suffer more from friends than from foes, and the devil often slips his extremists among God’s servants. The Anabaptists, for example, were a peaceful people who believed in baptism as a symbol of salvation and opposed the baptism of infants. They originated the idea of the “free church”—a church separate from the state. And they provided the roots for such groups today as the Mennonites, the Amish, and the Brethren in Christ. But the Anabaptist movement itself never recovered from a fanatic named Jan van Leiden.
It happened in Munster, Germany. In the 1530s Munster attracted many with Anabaptist sentiments, and in a series of elections, Anabaptists gained control of the city council. Into the picture emerged 28-year-old Jan van Leiden. Charismatic and zealous, he seized power and stirred up the citizenry with soaring visions, calling Munster the “New Jerusalem” and himself “King David.” He took multiple wives and passed laws permitting polygamy, there being six times as many women as men in the city.
Jan predicted the world would soon end but that his followers would be spared. He forced people to be baptized and introduced communization of property. The Catholic world was shocked by his hedonistic orgies. The whole city was jolted when, in a fit of frenzy, he beheaded one of his four wives with his own hands in the marketplace.
On June 24, 1535, after 24 months of chaos and corruption, the besieged city fell to Francis of Waldeck and Anabaptists were butchered. “King David” was captured and tortured, red-hot pinchers clawing every inch of his body. Then he was hung in a cage in the tower of the Church of St. Lambert in Munster’s chief marketplace. His remains swung in the cage from the church rafters for 400 years until finally removed in the twentieth century.
The Munster fiasco was the most serious aberration of sixteenth-century Anabaptism, and it strengthened the position of those wanting to persecute the Anabaptist cause. Rulers determined to rid Europe of every vestige of Anabaptism, and multitudes of good people suffered endlessly because of a handful of extremists.
You were doing so well until someone made you turn from the truth. And that person was certainly not sent by the one who chose you. A little yeast can change a whole batch of dough. --- Galatians 5:7-9.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - June 24
“A certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” --- Luke 11:27, 28.
It is fondly imagined by some that it must have involved very special privileges to have been the mother of our Lord, because they supposed that she had the benefit of looking into his very heart in a way in which we cannot hope to do. There may be an appearance of plausibility in the supposition, but not much. We do not know that Mary knew more than others; what she did know she did well to lay up in her heart; but she does not appear from anything we read in the Evangelists to have been a better-instructed believer than any other of Christ’s disciples. All that she knew we also may discover. Do you wonder that we should say so? Here is a text to prove it: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant.” Remember the Master’s words—“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” So blessedly does this Divine Revealer of secrets tell us his heart, that he keepeth back nothing which is profitable to us; his own assurance is, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” Doth he not this day manifest himself unto us as he doth not unto the world? It is even so; and therefore we will not ignorantly cry out, “Blessed is the womb that bare thee,” but we will intelligently bless God that, having heard the Word and kept it, we have first of all as true a communion with the Saviour as the Virgin had, and in the second place as true an acquaintance with the secrets of his heart as she can be supposed to have obtained. Happy soul to be thus privileged!
Evening - June 24
"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said … Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods." --- Daniel 3:16, 18.
The narrative of the manly courage and marvellous deliverance of the three holy children, or rather champions, is well calculated to excite in the minds of believers firmness and steadfastness in upholding the truth in the teeth of tyranny and in the very jaws of death. Let young Christians especially learn from their example, both in matters of faith in religion, and matters of uprightness in business, never to sacrifice their consciences. Lose all rather than lose your integrity, and when all else is gone, still hold fast a clear conscience as the rarest jewel which can adorn the bosom of a mortal. Be not guided by the will-o’-the-wisp of policy, but by the pole-star of divine authority. Follow the right at all hazards. When you see no present advantage, walk by faith and not by sight. Do God the honour to trust him when it comes to matters of loss for the sake of principle. See whether he will be your debtor! See if he doth not even in this life prove his word that “Godliness, with contentment, is great gain,” and that they who “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, shall have all these things added unto them.” Should it happen that, in the providence of God, you are a loser by conscience, you shall find that if the Lord pays you not back in the silver of earthly prosperity, he will discharge his promise in the gold of spiritual joy. Remember that a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of that which he possesseth. To wear a guileless spirit, to have a heart void of offence, to have the favour and smile of God, is greater riches than the mines of Ophir could yield, or the traffic of Tyre could win. “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and inward contention therewith.” An ounce of heart’s-ease is worth a ton of gold.
Morning and Evening
Clara Tear Williams, 1858–1937
For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
The lie of the secularist is the notion that contentment in life is dependent upon material possessions. The going expression is “if I only had just a little more.” One of the important lessons that we should learn early in life is this: “If I am not satisfied with what I have, I will never be satisfied with what I want.” But contentment is an attitude that must be learned and developed. It is foreign to our human behavior. The apostle Paul was shut up in Nero’s dungeon in Rome when he penned these words: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation …” (Philippians 4:12). Paul’s contentment was a personal relationship with his Lord. Money can buy many wonderful things, but it never provides this kind of permanent satisfaction. Only an intimate daily relationship with our Creator can truly satisfy the human heart.
In his book Songs That Lift the Heart George Beverly Shea tells of his first meeting with the author of this hymn text, Mrs. Clara Tear Williams. It occurred while he was walking one day with his dad:
“That,” said Dad, “was Mrs. Clara Tear Williams. She writes hymns.” There was a near reverence in his voice, and though I was only eight years old, I was duly impressed. When Dad and I got home that afternoon, I told Mother about meeting Mrs. Williams, the hymn writer. She smiled knowingly and nodded her head. Then she went to the piano bench and found a hymnal that contained one of Clara Tear Williams’ compositions. She explained that Mrs. Williams—a Wesleyan Methodist like us—had written the words, but that the music had been written by Ralph E. Hudson, an Ohio publisher who also was an evangelistic singer. A few years later, when I was in my teens and began to sing solos, I memorized the hymn that Mother played that day and sang it. It was entitled, “Satisfied.”
* * * *
All my life long I had panted for a draught, from some clear spring, that I hoped would quench the burning of the thirst I felt within.
Feeding on the husks around me, till my strength was almost gone, longed my soul for something better, only still to hunger on.
Poor I was, and sought for riches, something that would satisfy, but the dust I gathered round me only mocked my soul’s sad cry.
Well of water, ever springing, bread of life so rich and free, untold wealth that never faileth, my Redeemer is to me.
Chorus: Hallelujah! I have found Him whom my soul so long has craved! Jesus satisfies my longings—Thru His blood I now am saved.
For Today: Psalm 42:1; 81:16; 103:5; Proverbs 13:4; Philippians 4:11, 12.
Reflect on this question—“What is the true source of my daily satisfaction?” Then sing this musical testimony as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LXV. — THE Diatribe next argues — “If what is commanded be not in the power of every one, all the numberless exhortations in the Scriptures, and also all the promises, threatenings, expostulations, reproofs, asseverations, benedictions and maledictions, together with all the forms of precepts, must of necessity stand coldly useless.” —
The Diatribe is perpetually forgetting the subject point, and going on with that which is contrary to its professed design: and it does not see, that all these things make with greater force against itself than against us. For from all these passages, it proves the liberty and ability to fulfil all things, as the very words of the conclusion which it draws necessarily declare: whereas, its design was, to prove ‘that “Free-will” is that, which cannot will any thing good without grace, and is a certain endeavour that is not to be ascribed to its own powers.’ But I do not see that such an endeavour is proved by any of these passages, but that as I have repeatedly said already, that only is required which ought to be done’ unless it be needful to repeat it again, as often as the Diatribe harps upon the same string, putting off its readers with a useless profusion of words.
About the last passage which it brings forward out of the Old Testament, is that of Deut. xxx. 11-14. “This commandment which I command thee this day, is not above thee, neither is it far off. Neither is it in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who of us shall ascend up into heaven and bring it down unto us, that we may hear it and do it. But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” The Diatribe contends — ‘that it is declared by this passage, that what is commanded is not only placed in us, but is down-hill work, that is, easy to be done, or at least, not difficult.’ —
I thank the Diatribe for such wonderful erudition! For if Moses so plainly declare, that there is in us, not only an ability, but also a power to keep all the commandments with ease, why have I been toiling all this time! Why did I not at once produce this passage and assert “Free-will” before the whole world! What need now of Christ! What need of the Spirit! We have now found a passage which stops the mouths of all, and, which not only plainly asserts the liberty of the will, but teaches that the observance of all the commandments is easy! — What need was there for Christ to purchase for us, even with His own blood, the Spirit, as though necessary, in order that He might make the keeping of the commandments easy unto us, when we were already thus qualified by nature! Nay, here, the Diatribe itself recants its own assertions, where it affirmed, that ‘“Freewill” cannot will any thing good without grace,’ and now affirms, that “Free-will” is of such power, that it can, not only will good, but keep the greatest, nay, all the commandments, with ease.
Only observe, I pray, what a mind does, where the heart is not in the cause, and how impossible it is that it should not expose itself! And can there still be any need to confute the Diatribe? Who can more effectually confute it, than it confutes itself! This truly, is that beast that devours itself! How true is the proverb, that ‘A liar should have a good memory!’
I have already spoken upon this passage of Deuteronomy, I shall now treat upon it briefly; if indeed, there be any need so far to set aside Paul, who, Rom. x. 5-11, so powerfully handles this passage. — You can see nothing here to be said, nor one single syllable to speak, either of the ease or difficulty, of the power or impotency of “Free-will” or of man, either to keep or not to keep the commandments. Except that those, who entangle the Scriptures in their own conclusions and cogitations, make them obscure and ambiguous to themselves, that they might thus make of them what they please. But, if you cannot turn your eyes this way, turn your ears, or feel out what I am about to say with your hands. — Moses saith, “it is not above thee,” “neither is it far from thee,” “neither is it in heaven,” “neither is it beyond the sea.” Now, what is the meaning of this, “above thee?” What, of this “far from thee?” What, of this “in heaven?” What, of this “beyond the sea?” Will they then make the most commonly used terms, and even grammar so obscure unto us, that we shall not be able to speak any thing to a certainty, merely that they might establish their assertion, that the Scriptures are obscure?
According to my grammar, these terms signify neither the quality nor the quantity of human powers, but the distance of places only. For “above thee” does not signify a certain power of the will, but a certain place which is above us. So also “far from thee,” “in heaven,” “beyond the sea,” do not signify any thing of ability in man, but a certain place at a distance above us, or on our right hand, or on our left hand, or behind us, or over against us. Some one may perhaps laugh at me for disputing in so plain a way, thus setting, as it were, a ready-marked-out lesson before such great men, as though they were little boys learning their alphabet, and I were teaching them how to put syllables together — but what can I do, when I see darkness to be sought for in a light so clear, and those studiously desiring to be blind, who boastingly enumerate before us such a series of ages, so much talent, so many saints, so many martyrs, so many doctors, and who with so much authority boast of this passage, and yet will not deign to look at the syllables, or to command their cogitations so far, as to give the passage of which they boast one consideration? Let the Diatribe now go home and consider, and say, how it can be, that one poor private individual should see that, which escaped the notice of so many public characters, and of the greatest men of so many ages. This passage surely, even in the judgment of a school-boy, proves that they must have been blind not very unfrequently!
What therefore does Moses mean by these most plain and clear words, but, that he has worthily performed his office as a faithful law-giver; and that therefore, if all men have not before their eyes and do not know all the precepts which are enjoined, the fault does not rest with him; that they have no place left them for excuse, so as to say, they did not know, or had not the precepts, or were obliged to seek them elsewhere; that if they do not keep them, the fault rests not with the law, or with the law-giver, but with themselves, seeing that the law is before them, and the law-giver has taught them; and that they have no place left for excusation of ignorance, only for accusation of negligence and disobedience? It is not, saith he, necessary to fetch the laws down from heaven, nor from lands beyond the sea, nor from afar, nor can you frame as an excuse, that you never had them nor heard them, for you have them nigh unto you; they are they which God hath commanded, which you have heard from my mouth, and which you have had in your hearts and in your mouths continually; you have heard them treated on by the Levites in the midst of you, of which this my word and book are witnesses; this, therefore only remains — that you do them. — What, I pray you, is here attributed unto “Free-will?” What is there, but the ‘demanding that it would do the laws which it has, and the taking away from it the excuse of ignorance and the want of the laws?
These passages are the sum of what the Diatribe brings forward out of the Old Testament in support of “Free-will,” which being answered, there remains nothing that is not answered at the same time, whether it have brought forward, or wished to bring forward more; seeing that, it could bring forward nothing but imperative, or conditional, or optative passages, by which is signified, not what we can do, or do do, (as I have so often replied, to the so often repeating Diatribe) but what we ought to do, and what is required of us, in order that we might come to the knowledge of our impotency, and that there might be wrought in us the knowledge of our sin. Or, if they do prove any thing, by means of the appended conclusions and similitudes invented by human reason, they prove this: — that “Free-will” is not a certain small degree of endeavour or desire only, but a full and free ability and power to do all things, without the grace of God, and without the Holy Spirit.
Thus, nothing less is proved by the whole sum of that copious, and again and again reiterated and inculcated argumentation, than that which was aimed at to be proved, that is, the PROBABLE OPINION; by which, “Free-will” is defined to be of that impotency, ‘that it cannot will any thing good without grace, but is compelled into the service of sin; though it has an endeavour, which, nevertheless, is not to be ascribed to its own powers.’ — A monster truly! which, at the same time, can do nothing by its own power, and yet, has an endeavour within its own power: and thus, stands upon the basis of a most manifest contradiction!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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