Deuteronomy 32 - 34
Deuteronomy 32:1 “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak,
and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
2 May my teaching drop as the rain,
my speech distill as the dew,
like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
and like showers upon the herb.
3 For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
ascribe greatness to our God!
4 “The Rock, his work is perfect,
for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
just and upright is he.
5 They have dealt corruptly with him;
they are no longer his children because they are blemished;
they are a crooked and twisted generation.
6 Do you thus repay the Lord,
you foolish and senseless people?
Is not he your father, who created you,
who made you and established you?
7 Remember the days of old;
consider the years of many generations;
ask your father, and he will show you,
your elders, and they will tell you.
8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
9 But the Lord's portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.
10 “He found him in a desert land,
and in the howling waste of the wilderness;
he encircled him, he cared for him,
he kept him as the apple of his eye.
11 Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
that flutters over its young,
spreading out its wings, catching them,
bearing them on its pinions,
12 the Lord alone guided him,
no foreign god was with him.
13 He made him ride on the high places of the land,
and he ate the produce of the field,
and he suckled him with honey out of the rock,
and oil out of the flinty rock.
14 Curds from the herd, and milk from the flock,
with fat of lambs,
rams of Bashan and goats,
with the very finest of the wheat—
and you drank foaming wine made from the blood of the grape.
15 “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked;
you grew fat, stout, and sleek;
then he forsook God who made him
and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.
16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods;
with abominations they provoked him to anger.
17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods,
to gods they had never known,
to new gods that had come recently,
whom your fathers had never dreaded.
18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you,
and you forgot the God who gave you birth.
19 “The Lord saw it and spurned them,
because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters.
20 And he said, ‘I will hide my face from them;
I will see what their end will be,
for they are a perverse generation,
children in whom is no faithfulness.
21 They have made me jealous with what is no god;
they have provoked me to anger with their idols.
So I will make them jealous with those who are no people;
I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
22 For a fire is kindled by my anger,
and it burns to the depths of Sheol,
devours the earth and its increase,
and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.
23 “‘And I will heap disasters upon them;
I will spend my arrows on them;
24 they shall be wasted with hunger,
and devoured by plague
and poisonous pestilence;
I will send the teeth of beasts against them,
with the venom of things that crawl in the dust.
25 Outdoors the sword shall bereave,
and indoors terror,
for young man and woman alike,
the nursing child with the man of gray hairs.
26 I would have said, “I will cut them to pieces;
I will wipe them from human memory,”
27 had I not feared provocation by the enemy,
lest their adversaries should misunderstand,
lest they should say, “Our hand is triumphant,
it was not the Lord who did all this.”’
28 “For they are a nation void of counsel,
and there is no understanding in them.
29 If they were wise, they would understand this;
they would discern their latter end!
30 How could one have chased a thousand,
and two have put ten thousand to flight,
unless their Rock had sold them,
and the Lord had given them up?
31 For their rock is not as our Rock;
our enemies are by themselves.
32 For their vine comes from the vine of Sodom
and from the fields of Gomorrah;
their grapes are grapes of poison;
their clusters are bitter;
33 their wine is the poison of serpents
and the cruel venom of asps.
34 “‘Is not this laid up in store with me,
sealed up in my treasuries?
35 Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
for the time when their foot shall slip;
for the day of their calamity is at hand,
and their doom comes swiftly.’
36 For the Lord will vindicate his people
and have compassion on his servants,
when he sees that their power is gone
and there is none remaining, bond or free.
37 Then he will say, ‘Where are their gods,
the rock in which they took refuge,
38 who ate the fat of their sacrifices
and drank the wine of their drink offering?
Let them rise up and help you;
let them be your protection!
39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he,
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
40 For I lift up my hand to heaven
and swear, As I live forever,
41 if I sharpen my flashing sword
and my hand takes hold on judgment,
I will take vengeance on my adversaries
and will repay those who hate me.
42 I will make my arrows drunk with blood,
and my sword shall devour flesh—
with the blood of the slain and the captives,
from the long-haired heads of the enemy.’
43 “Rejoice with him, O heavens;
bow down to him, all gods,
for he avenges the blood of his children
and takes vengeance on his adversaries.
He repays those who hate him
and cleanses his people's land.”
Moses' Death Foretold48 That very day the Lord spoke to Moses, 49 “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel for a possession. 50 And die on the mountain which you go up, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, 51 because you broke faith with me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, and because you did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel. 52 For you shall see the land before you, but you shall not go there, into the land that I am giving to the people of Israel.”
33:1–6 Introductory blessing. Before his death Moses gave his blessing to the tribes of Israel. It is in some ways like the blessing which Jacob pronounced on his sons (the fathers of the tribes) at the end of his life ( Gn. 49 ). Isaac had also blessed Jacob and Esau ( Gn. 27:27–29, 39–40 ). It was properly a father’s privilege. Moses may be depicted here as a ‘father’ of Israel in a figurative sense. He had in any case a special authority to bless the people because he was the man of God, a term used for prophets ( 1 Ki. 17:18 ), among whom Moses himself was pre-eminent.
The blessing opens and closes with passages ( 2–5, 26–29 ) which praise God, and which focus especially on the story of the exodus from Egypt. This is the point of the Lord’s ‘coming’ from Sinai, where the law was given (usually called ‘Horeb’ in Deuteronomy ), and of the references to places in the desert on the way. The idea of the Lord’s love for the people belongs to the whole theology of choice or election (note again the closeness of choice and love in 7:6–7 ). That relationship was marked by the giving of the law through Moses, and the two things together — the powerful rescue of the people from slavery in Egypt and the giving of his law — establish the Lord as Israel’s king. J. Gordon McConville, “Deuteronomy,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 229.
Moses' Final Blessing on Israel
Deuteronomy 33:1 This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the people of Israel before his death. 2 He said,
“The Lord came from Sinai
and dawned from Seir upon us;
he shone forth from Mount Paran;
he came from the ten thousands of holy ones,
with flaming fire at his right hand.
3 Yes, he loved his people,
all his holy ones were in his hand;
so they followed in your steps,
receiving direction from you,
4 when Moses commanded us a law,
as a possession for the assembly of Jacob.
5 Thus the Lord became king in Jeshurun,
when the heads of the people were gathered,
all the tribes of Israel together.
6 “Let Reuben live, and not die,
but let his men be few.”
7 And this he said of Judah:
“Hear, O Lord, the voice of Judah,
and bring him in to his people.
With your hands contend for him,
and be a help against his adversaries.”
8 And of Levi he said,
“Give to Levi your Thummim,
and your Urim to your godly one,
whom you tested at Massah,
with whom you quarreled at the waters of Meribah;
9 who said of his father and mother,
‘I regard them not’;
he disowned his brothers
and ignored his children.
For they observed your word
and kept your covenant.
10 They shall teach Jacob your rules
and Israel your law;
they shall put incense before you
and whole burnt offerings on your altar.
11 Bless, O Lord, his substance,
and accept the work of his hands;
crush the loins of his adversaries,
of those who hate him, that they rise not again.”
12 Of Benjamin he said,
“The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety.
The High God surrounds him all day long,
and dwells between his shoulders.”
13 And of Joseph he said,
“Blessed by the Lord be his land,
with the choicest gifts of heaven above,
and of the deep that crouches beneath,
14 with the choicest fruits of the sun
and the rich yield of the months,
15 with the finest produce of the ancient mountains
and the abundance of the everlasting hills,
16 with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness
and the favor of him who dwells in the bush.
May these rest on the head of Joseph,
on the pate of him who is prince among his brothers.
17 A firstborn bull — he has majesty,
and his horns are the horns of a wild ox;
with them he shall gore the peoples,
all of them, to the ends of the earth;
they are the ten thousands of Ephraim,
and they are the thousands of Manasseh.”
18 And of Zebulun he said,
“Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out,
and Issachar, in your tents.
19 They shall call peoples to their mountain;
there they offer right sacrifices;
for they draw from the abundance of the seas
and the hidden treasures of the sand.”
20 And of Gad he said,
“Blessed be he who enlarges Gad!
Gad crouches like a lion;
he tears off arm and scalp.
21 He chose the best of the land for himself,
for there a commander's portion was reserved;
and he came with the heads of the people,
with Israel he executed the justice of the Lord,
and his judgments for Israel.”
22 And of Dan he said,
“Dan is a lion's cub
that leaps from Bashan.”
23 And of Naphtali he said,
“O Naphtali, sated with favor,
and full of the blessing of the Lord,
possess the lake and the south.”
24 And of Asher he said,
“Most blessed of sons be Asher;
let him be the favorite of his brothers,
and let him dip his foot in oil.
25 Your bars shall be iron and bronze,
and as your days, so shall your strength be.
26 “There is none like God, O Jeshurun,
who rides through the heavens to your help,
through the skies in his majesty.
27 The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
And he thrust out the enemy before you
and said, ‘Destroy.’
28 So Israel lived in safety,
Jacob lived alone,
in a land of grain and wine,
whose heavens drop down dew.
29 Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you,
a people saved by the Lord,
the shield of your help,
and the sword of your triumph!
Your enemies shall come fawning to you,
and you shall tread upon their backs.”
The Death of MosesDeuteronomy 34:1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3 the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the Valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. 4 And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” 5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, 6 and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. 7 Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. 8 And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.
9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10 And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
The Rich, Historic Roll Call of Great Christian Thinkers and Scientists
By J. Warner Wallace 3/2/2018
If you listen carefully to our increasingly secular culture, you might think science and reason are completely incompatible with Christian belief. Several notable scientists and thinkers in the past two hundred years have been atheists, and their ranks seem to have grown in direct proportion with our increase in scientific knowledge. Is a scientific understanding of the world incompatible with Christian Theism? Must rational thinkers and scientific investigators abandon their belief in God to discover scientific truth or contribute to the larger scientific enterprise? No. In fact, the historic roll call of scientists has included many great Christian believers. I thought it might be helpful to remind ourselves of the contribution offered by Christian theists throughout the history of scientific discovery (a much larger list provided the foundation for my summary):
John Philoponus (c.490 to c.570) | He theorized about the nature of light and stars and criticized Aristotelian physics
Bede, the Venerable (c.672 to 735) | He wrote two volumes on “Time and its Reckoning” that revealed a new understanding of the “progress wave-like” nature of tides
Pope Silvester II (c.950 to 1003) | He influenced and shaped the teaching of math and astronomy in Christian schools
Hermannus Contractus (1013 to 1054) | He wrote on geometry, mathematics, and the astrolabe (a historical astronomical instrument used by classical astronomers and navigators)
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
6. They now come to closer quarters, while they support their view by
passages of Scripture which they think clearly in their favour. 
Those who came to John's baptism confessed their sins, and James bids
us confess our sins one to another (James 5:16). It is not strange that
those who wished to be baptized confessed their sins. It has already
been mentioned, that John preached the baptism of repentance, baptized
with water unto repentance. Whom then could he baptize, but those who
confessed that they were sinners? Baptism is a symbol of the
forgiveness of sins; and who could be admitted to receive the symbol
but sinners acknowledging themselves as such? They therefore confessed
their sins that they might be baptized. Nor without good reason does
James enjoin us to confess our sins one to another. But if they would
attend to what immediately follows, they would perceive that this gives
them little support. The words are, "Confess your sins one to another,
and pray one for another." He joins together mutual confession and
mutual prayer. If, then, we are to confess to priests only, we are also
to pray for them only. What? It would even follow from the words of
James, that priests alone can confess. In saying that we are to confess
mutually, he must be addressing those only who can hear the confession
of others. He says, "allelous", mutually, by turns, or, if they prefer
it, reciprocally. But those only can confess reciprocally who are fit
to hear confession. This being a privilege which they bestow upon
priests only, we also leave them the office of confessing to each
other. Have done then with such frivolous absurdities, and let us
receive the true meaning of the apostle, which is plain and simple;
first, That we are to deposit our infirmities in the breasts of each
other, with the view of receiving mutual counsel, sympathy, and
comfort; and, secondly, That mutually conscious of the infirmities of
our brethren we are to pray to the Lord for them. Why then quote James
against us who so earnestly insist on acknowledgment of the divine
mercy? No man can acknowledge the mercy of God without previously
confessing his own misery. Nay, we pronounce every man to be anathema
who does not confess himself a sinner before God, before his angels,
before the Church; in short, before all men. "The Scripture has
concluded all under sin," "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the
world may become guilty before God," that God alone may be justified
and exalted (Gal. 3:22; Rom. 3:9, 19).
7. I wonder at their effrontery in venturing to maintain that the confession of which they speak is of divine authority. We admit that the use of it is very ancient; but we can easily prove that at one time it was free. It certainly appears, from their own records, that no law or constitution respecting it was enacted before the days of Innocent III. Surely if there had been a more ancient law they would have fastened on it, instead of being satisfied with the decree of the Council of Lateral, and so making themselves ridiculous even to children. In other matters, they hesitate not to coin fictitious decrees, which they ascribe to the most ancient Councils, that they may blind the eyes of the simple by veneration for antiquity. In this instance it has not occurred to them to practice this deception, and hence, themselves being witnesses, three centuries have not yet elapsed since the bridle was put, and the necessity of confession imposed by Innocent III. And to say nothing of the time, the mere barbarism of the terms used destroys the authority of the law. For when these worthy fathers enjoin that every person of both sexes (utriusque sexus) must once a year confess his sins to his own priest, men of wit humorously object that the precept binds hermaphrodites only, and has no application to any one who is either a male or a female. A still grosser absurdity has been displayed by their disciples, who are unable to explain what is meant by one's own priest (proprius sacerdos). Let all the hired ravers of the Pope babble as they may,  we hold that Christ is not the author of this law, which compels men to enumerate their sins; nay, that twelve hundred years elapsed after the resurrection of Christ before any such law was made, and that, consequently, this tyranny was not introduced until piety and doctrine were extinct, and pretended pastors had usurped to themselves unbridled license. There is clear evidence in historians, and other ancient writers, to show that this was a politic discipline introduced by bishops, not a law enacted by Christ or the Apostles. Out of many I will produce only one passage, which will be no obscure proof. Sozomen  relates,  that this constitution of the bishops was carefully observed in the Western churches, but especially at Rome; thus intimating that it was not the universal custom of all churches. He also says, that one of the presbyters was specially appointed to take charge of this duty. This abundantly confutes their falsehood as to the keys being given to the whole priesthood indiscriminately for this purpose, since the function was not common to all the priests, but specially belonged to the one priest whom the bishop had appointed to it. He it was (the same who at present in each of the cathedral churches has the name of penitentiary) who had cognizance of offenses which were more heinous, and required to be rebuked for the sake of example. He afterwards adds, that the same custom existed at Constantinople, until a certain matron, while pretending to confess, was discovered to have used it as a cloak to cover her intercourse with a deacon. In consequence of that crime, Nectarius, the bishop of that church--a man famous for learning and sanctity--abolished the custom of confessing. Here, then, let these asses prick up their ears. If auricular confession was a divine law, how could Nectarius have dared to abolish or remodel it? Nectarius, a holy man of God, approved by the suffrage of all antiquity, will they charge with heresy and schism? With the same vote they will condemn the church of Constantinople, in which Sozomen affirms that the custom of confessing was not only disguised for a time, but even in his own memory abolished. Nay, let them charge with defections not only Constantinople but all the Eastern churches, which (if they say true) disregarded an inviolable law enjoined on all Christians.
8. This abrogation is clearly attested in so many passages by Chrysostom, who lived at Constantinople, and was himself prelate of the church, that it is strange they can venture to maintain the contrary: "Tell your sins", says he, "that you may efface them: if you blush to tell another what sins you have committed, tell them daily in your soul. I say not, tell them to your fellow-servant who may upbraid you, but tell them to God who cures them. Confess your sins upon your bed, that your conscience may there daily recognize its iniquities." Again, "Now, however, it is not necessary to confess before witnesses; let the examination of your faults be made in your own thought: let the judgment be without a witness: let God alone see you confessing." Again, "I do not lead you publicly into the view of your fellow servants; I do not force you to disclose your sins to men; review and lay open your conscience before God. Show your wounds to the Lord, the best of physicians, and seek medicine from him. Show to him who upbraids not, but cures most kindly." Again, "Certainly tell it not to man lest he upbraid you. Nor must you confess to your fellow servant, who may make it public; but show your wounds to the Lord, who takes care of you, who is kind and can cure." He afterwards introduces God speaking thus: "I oblige you not to come into the midst of a theatre, and have many witnesses; tell your sins to me alone in private, that I may cure the ulcer."  Shall we say that Chrysostom, in writing these and similar passages, carried his presumption so far as to free the consciences of men from those chains with which they are bound by the divine law? By no means; but knowing that it was not at all prescribed by the word of God, he dares not exact it as necessary.
9. But that the whole matter may be more plainly unfolded, we shall first honestly state the nature of confession as delivered in the word of God, and thereafter subjoin their inventions--not all of them indeed (who could drink up that boundless sea?) but those only which contain summary of their secret confession. Here I am grieved to mention how frequently the old interpreter  has rendered the word confess instead of praise, a fact notorious to the most illiterate, were it not fitting to expose their effrontery in transferring to their tyrannical edict what was written concerning the praises of God. To prove that confession has the effect of exhilarating the mind, they obtrude the passage in the psalm, "with the voice of joy and praise," (Vulgate, confessionis) (Ps. 42:4). But if such a metamorphosis is valid, any thing may be made of any thing. But, as they have lost all shame, let pious readers reflect how, by the just vengeance of God, they have been given over to a reprobate mind, that their audacity may be the more detestable. If we are disposed to acquiesce in the simple doctrine of Scripture, there will be no danger of our being misled by such glosses. There one method of confessing is prescribed; since it is the Lord who forgives, forgets and wipes away sins, to him let us confess them, that we may obtain pardon. He is the physician, therefore let us show our wounds to him. He is hurt and offended, let us ask peace of him. He is the discerner of the heart, and knows all one thoughts; let us hasten to pour out our hearts before him. He it is, in fine, who invites sinners; let us delay not to draw near to him. "I acknowledge my sin unto thee," says David; "and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin," (Ps. 32:5). Another specimen of David's confessions is as follows: "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness," (Ps. 51:1). The following is Daniel's confession: "We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and thy judgments," (Dan. 9:5). Other examples every where occur in Scripture: the quotation of them would almost fill a volume. "If we confess our sins," says John, "he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins," (1 John 1:9). To whom are we to confess? to Him surely;--that is, we are to fall down before him with a grieved and humbled heart, and sincerely accusing and condemning ourselves, seek forgiveness of his goodness and mercy.
10. He who has adopted this confession from the heart and as in the presence of God, will doubtless have a tongue ready to confess whenever there is occasion among men to publish the mercy of God. He will not be satisfied to whisper the secret of his heart for once into the ear of one individual, but will often, and openly, and in the hearing of the whole world, ingenuously make mention both of his own ignominy, and of the greatness and glory of the Lord. In this way David, after he was accused by Nathan, being stung in his conscience, confesses his sin before God and men. "I have sinned unto the Lord," says he (2 Sam. 12:13); that is, I have now no excuse, no evasion; all must judge me a sinner; and that which I wished to be secret with the Lord must also be made manifest to men. Hence the secret confession which is made to God is followed by voluntary confession to men, whenever that is conducive to the divine glory or our humiliation. For this reason the Lord anciently enjoined the people of Israel that they should repeat the words after the priest, and make public confession of their iniquities in the temple; because he foresaw that this was a necessary help to enable each one to form a just idea of himself. And it is proper that by confession of our misery, we should manifest the mercy of our God both among ourselves and before the whole world.
11. It is proper that this mode of confession should both be ordinary in the Church, and also be specially employed on extraordinary occasions, when the people in common happen to have fallen into any fault. Of this latter description we have an example in the solemn confession which the whole people made under the authority and guidance of Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh. 1:6, 7). For their long captivity, the destruction of the temple, and suppression of their religion, having been the common punishment of their defection, they could not make meet acknowledgment of the blessing of deliverance without previous confession of their guilt. And it matters not though in one assembly it may sometimes happen that a few are innocent, seeing that the members of a languid and sickly body cannot boast of soundness. Nay, it is scarcely possible that these few have not contracted some taint, and so bear part of the blame. Therefore, as often as we are afflicted with pestilence, or war, or famine, or any other calamity whatsoever, if it is our duty to retake ourselves to mourning, fasting, and other signs of guiltiness, confession also, on which all the others depend, is not to be neglected. That ordinary confession which the Lord has moreover expressly commended, no sober man, who has reflected on its usefulness, will venture to disapprove. Seeing that in every sacred assembly we stand in the view of God and angels, in what way should our service begin but in acknowledging our own unworthiness? But this you will say is done in every prayer; for as often as we pray for pardon, we confess our sins. I admit it. But if you consider how great is our carelessness, or drowsiness, or sloth, you will grant me that it would be a salutary ordinance if the Christian people were exercised in humiliation by some formal method of confession. For though the ceremony which the Lord enjoined on the Israelites belonged to the tutelage of the Law, yet the thing itself belongs in some respect to us also. And, indeed, in all well ordered churches, in observance of an useful custom, the minister, each Lord's day, frames a formula of confession in his own name and that of the people, in which he makes a common confession of iniquity, and supplicates pardon from the Lord. In short, by this key a door of prayer is opened privately for each, and publicly for all.
12. Two other forms of private confession are approved by Scripture. The one is made on our own account, and to it reference is made in the passage in James, "Confess your sins one to another," (James 5:16); for the meaning is, that by disclosing our infirmities to each other, we are to obtain the aid of mutual counsel and consolation. The other is to be made for the sake of our neighbor, to appease and reconcile him if by our fault he has been in any respect injured. In the former, although James, by not specifying any particular individual into whose bosom we are to disburden our feelings, leaves us the free choice of confessing to any member of the church who may seem fittest; yet as for the most part pastors are to be supposed better qualified than others, our choice ought chiefly to fall upon them. And the ground of preference is, that the Lord, by calling them to the ministry, points them out as the persons by whose lips we are to be taught to subdue and correct our sins, and derive consolation from the hope of pardon. For as the duty of mutual admonition and correction is committed to all Christians, but is specially enjoined on ministers, so while we ought all to console each other mutually and confirm each other in confidence in the divine mercy, we see that ministers, to assure our consciences of the forgiveness of fins, are appointed to be the witnesses and sponsors of it, so that they are themselves said to forgive sins and loose souls (Mt. 16:19; 18:18). When you hear this attributed to them, reflect that it is for your use. Let every believer, therefore, remember, that if in private he is so agonized and afflicted by a sense of his sins that he cannot obtain relief without the aid of others, it is his duty not to neglect the remedy which God provides for him--viz. to have recourse for relief to a private confession to his own pastor, and for consolation privately implore the assistance of him whose business it is, both in public and private, to solace the people of God with Gospel doctrine. But we are always to use moderation, lest in a matter as to which God prescribes no certain rule, our consciences be burdened with a certain yoke. Hence it follows first, that confession of this nature ought to be free so as not to be exacted of all, but only recommended to those who feel that they have need of it; and, secondly, even those who use it according to their necessity must neither be compelled by any precept, nor artfully induced to enumerate all their sins, but only in so far as they shall deem it for their interest, that they may obtain the full benefit of consolation. Faithful pastors, as they would both eschew tyranny in their ministry, and superstition in the people, must not only leave this liberty to churches, but defend and strenuously vindicate it.
13. Of the second form of confession, our Savior speaks in Matthew. "If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there remember that thy brother has ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift," (Mt. 5:23, 24). Thus love, which has been interrupted by our fault, must be restored by acknowledging and asking pardon for the fault. Under this head is included the confession of those who by their sin have given offense to the whole Church (supra, sec. 10). For if Christ attaches so much importance to the offense of one individual, that he forbids the sacrifice of all who have sinned in any respect against their brethren, until by due satisfaction they have regained their favor, how much greater reason is there that he, who by some evil example has offended the Church should be reconciled to it by the acknowledgment of his fault? Thus the member of the Church of Corinth was restored to communion after he had humbly submitted to correction (2 Cor. 2:6). This form of confession existed in the ancient Christian Church, as Cyprian relates: "They practice repentance," says he, "for a proper time, then they come to confession, and by the laying on of the hands of the bishop and clergy, are admitted to communion." Scripture knows nothing of any other form or method of confessing, and it belongs not to us to bind new chains upon consciences which Christ most strictly prohibits from being brought into bondage. Meanwhile, that the flock present themselves before the pastor whenever they would partake of the Holy Supper, I am so far from disapproving, that I am most desirous it should be everywhere observed. For both those whose conscience is hindered may thence obtain singular benefit, and those who require admonition thus afford an opportunity for it; provided always no countenance is given to tyranny and superstition.
14. The power of the keys has place in the three following modes of confession,--either when the whole Church, in a formal acknowledgment of its defects,  supplicates pardon; or when a private individual, who has given public offense by some notable delinquency, testifies his repentance; or when he who from disquiet of conscience needs the aid of his minister, acquaints him with his infirmity. With regard to the reparation of offense, the case is different. For though in this also provision is made for peace of conscience, yet the principal object is to suppress hatred, and reunite brethren in the bond of peace. But the benefit of which I have spoken is by no means to be despised, that we may the more willingly confess our sins. For when the whole Church stands as it were at the bar of God, confesses her guilt, and finds her only refuge in the divine mercy, it is no common or light solace to have an ambassador of Christ present, invested with the mandate of reconciliations by whom she may hear her absolution pronounced. Here the utility of the keys is justly commended when that embassy is duly discharged with becoming order and reverence. In like manner, when he who has as it were become an alien from the Church receives pardon, and is thus restored to brotherly unity, how great is the benefit of understanding that he is pardoned by those to whom Christ said, "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them," (John 20:23). Nor is private absolution of less benefit or efficacy when asked by those who stand in need of a special remedy for their infirmity. It not seldom happens, that he who hears general promises which are intended for the whole congregation of the faithful, nevertheless remains somewhat in doubts, and is still disquieted in mind, as if his own remission were not yet obtained. Should this individual lay open the secret wound of his soul to his pastor, and hear these words of the Gospel specially addressed to him, "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee," (Mt. 9:2),  his mind will feel secure, and escape from the trepidation with which it was previously agitated. But when we treat of the keys, us must always beware of dreaming of any power apart from the preaching of the Gospel. This subject will be more fully explained when we come to treat of the government of the Church (Book 4 chap. 11, 12). There we shall see, that whatever privilege of binding and loosing Christ has bestowed on his Church is annexed to the word. This is especially true with regard to the ministry of the keys, the whole power of which consists in this, that the grace of the Gospel is publicly and privately sealed on the minds of believers by means of those whom the Lord has appointed; and the only method in which this can be done is by preaching.
15. What say the Roman theologians? That all persons of both sexes,  so soon as they shall have reached the years of discretion, must, once a year at least, confess all their sins to their own priest; that the sin is not discharged unless the resolution to confess has been firmly conceived; that if this resolution is not carried into effect when an opportunity offers, there is no entrance into Paradise; that the priest, moreover has the power of the keys, by which he can loose and bind the sinner; because the declaration of Christ is not in vain: "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven," (Mt. 18:18). Concerning this power, however they wage a fierce war among themselves. Some say there is only one key essentially--viz. the power of binding and loosing; that knowledge, indeed, is requisite for the proper use of it, but only as an accessory, not as essentially inherent in it. Others seeing that this gave too unrestrained license, have imagined two keys--viz. discernment and power. Others, again, seeing that the license of priests was curbed by such restraint, have forged other keys (infra, sec. 21), the authority of discerning to be used in defining, and the power to carry their sentences into execution; and to these they add knowledge as a counselor. This binding and loosing, however, they do not venture to interpret simply, to forgive and wipe away sins, because they hear the Lord proclaiming by the prophet, "I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no savior." "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions," (Isaiah 43:11, 25). But they say it belongs to the priest to declare who are bound or loosed, and whose sins are remitted or retained; to declare, moreover, either by confession, when he absolves and retains sins, or by sentence, when he excommunicates or admits to communion in the Sacraments. Lastly, perceiving that the knot is not yet untied, because it may always be objected that persons are often undeservedly bound and loosed, and therefore not bound or loosed in heaven; as their ultimate resource, they answer, that the conferring of the keys must be taken with limitations because Christ has promised that the sentence of the priest, properly pronounced, will be approved at his judgment-seat according as the bound or loosed asked what they merited. They say, moreover, that those keys which are conferred by bishops at ordination were given by Christ to all priests but that the free use of them is with those only who discharge ecclesiastical functions; that with priests excommunicated or suspended the keys themselves indeed remain, but tied and rusty. Those who speak thus may justly be deemed modest and sober compared with others, who on a new anvil have forged new keys, by which they say that the treasury of heaven is locked up: these we shall afterwards consider in their own place (chap. 5 sec. 2).
16. To each of these views I will briefly reply. As to their binding the souls of believers by their laws, whether justly or unjustly, I say nothing at present, as it will be seen at the proper place; but their enacting it as a law, that all sins are to be enumerated; their denying that sin is discharged except under the condition that the resolution to confess has been firmly conceived; their pretence that there is no admission into Paradise if the opportunity of confession has been neglected, are things which it is impossible to bear. Are all sins to be enumerated? But David, who, I presume, had honestly pondered with himself as to the confession of his sins, exclaimed, "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults," (Ps. 19:12); and in another passage, "Mine iniquities are gone over my head: as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me," (Ps. 38:4). He knew how deep was the abyss of our sins, how numerous the forms of wickedness, how many heads the hydra carried, how long a tail it drew. Therefore, he did not sit down to make a catalogue, but from the depth of his distress cried unto the Lord, "I am overwhelmed, and buried, and sore vexed; the gates of hell have encircled me: let thy right hand deliver me from the abyss into which I am plunged, and from the death which I am ready to die." Who can now think of a computation of his sins when he sees David's inability to number his?
17. By this ruinous procedure, the souls of those who were affected with some sense of God have been most cruelly racked. First, they retook themselves to calculation, proceeding according to the formula given by the Schoolmen, and dividing their sins into boughs, branches, twigs, and leaves; then they weighed the qualities, quantities, and circumstances; and in this way, for some time, matters proceeded. But after they had advanced farther, when they looked around, nought was seen but sea and sky; no road, no harbor. The longer the space they ran over, a longer still met the eye; nay, lofty mountains began to rise, and there seemed no hope of escape; none at least till after long wanderings. They were thus brought to a dead halt, till at length the only issue was found in despair. Here these cruel murderers, to ease the wounds which they had made, applied certain fomentations. Every one was to do his best. But new cares again disturbed, nay, new torments excruciated their souls. "I have not spent enough of time; I have not exerted myself sufficiently: many things I have omitted through negligence: forgetfulness proceeding from want of care is not excusable." Then new drugs were supplied to alleviate their pains. "Repent of your negligence; and provided it is not done supinely, it will be pardoned." All these things, however, could not heal the wound, being not so much alleviations of the sore as poison besmeared with honey, that its bitterness might not at once offend the taste, but penetrate to the vitals before it could be detected. The dreadful voice, therefore, was always heard pealing in their ears, "Confess all your sins," and the dread thus occasioned could not be pacified without sure consolation. Here let my readers consider whether it be possible to take an account of the actions of a whole year, or even to collect the sins committed in a single day, seeing every man's experience convinces him that at evening, in examining the faults of that single day, memory gets confused, so great is the number and variety presented. I am not speaking of dull and heartless hypocrites, who, after animadverting on three or four of their grosser offenses, think the work finished; but of the true worshipers of God, who, after they have performed their examination, feeling themselves overwhelmed, still add the words of John: "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things," (1 John 3:20); and, therefore, tremble at the thought of that Judge whose knowledge far surpasses our comprehension.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Is It Time for Evangelicals to Strategically Withdraw from the Culture?
By Christianity Today Editors 2/27/2017
Retreating from battle can be a failure of nerve, a sign of defeat, or a tactical move. In any case, it’s one of the most difficult military maneuvers to pull off with minimum loss of life.
In our March cover story, Rod Dreher argues that Christians have lost not merely a cultural battle but the war itself. In skirmish after skirmish—abortion, divorce law, public piety, and human sexuality—the nation has adopted sub-Christian and anti-Christian ways. Add to that the legal assault on our ability to freely express and live our faith—well, it feels to Dreher and others that while the war is over, the battle is more fierce than ever.
But it’s not as if “secular America” is the bad guy and “the church” is the good guy. Dreher recognizes that much of the church has been co-opted by the secular, and much of the secular has taken on the aura of religion. In the chaos of battle, it is sometimes hard to tell who is on whose side. Dreher calls for a Christian retreat in part to admit how badly the culture war has gone. But this retreat is not a failure of nerve nor a sign of defeat (Jesus is still Lord), but a tactical withdrawal to regroup the church for the days ahead.
By Gleason Archer Jr.
PART TWO | SPECIAL INTRODUCTION | 14 | Genesis (cont)
Can such an enormous time interval (five billion years or more, according to some estimates — made, of course, on uniformitarian assumptions) be reconciled with the six creative days of Genesis 1? This all depends upon the significance of the Hebrew word yôm (“day”). There are three alternative theories currently advocated by biblical scholars concerning these “days.”
1. The word yôm represents a literal, twenty-four-hour day, and Gen. 1:3–2:3 gives us a record of an exact week in which God completely restored from chaos a creation (recorded in Gen. 1:1 ) which had suffered a cosmic catastrophe (possibly at the time Satan and his angels were cast out of God’s presence). Support for this interpretation has assertedly been found in Isa. 45:18 where God is stated not to have created the earth “void” (bōhû, Hebrew, being the same as the “void” of Gen. 1:2 ). Therefore Genesis 1:1 must indicate a complete and perfect creation prior to the chaotic state mentioned in Gen. 1:2, for this is the only possible deduction from Isa. 45:18 when so interpreted. (Yet this interpretation encounters the difficulty that bōhû in v. 19 clearly means “in vain.”) It should be noted in this connection that the verb “was” (hāyeṯâ in Gen. 1:2 ) may quite possibly be rendered “became” and be thus construed to mean: “And the earth became formless and void.” Only a cosmic catastrophe could account for the introduction of chaotic confusion into the original perfection of God’s creation. This interpretation certainly seems to be exegetically tenable, but it encounters at least two major difficulties. (a) It means that the whole magnificent achievement of the original creation is dismissed with the bare statement in Gen. 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” All attention is then devoted to a reconstruction of a recently disturbed world order, and events that took place five or six thousand years ago. (b) It means also that the inspired Book of Origins has nothing to say about the order of the creative process, or indeed about anything that pertains to geology. There is no more any need to harmonize geology and Genesis, for they deal — according to this interpretation — with entirely different subject matter.
Perhaps it should be added that advocates of this theory have often embellished it with highly questionable speculations concerning the original status of Satan as presiding over the worship of Jehovah in a pre-catastrophe Eden beautified with gem-laden trees (equating the “prince of Tyre” in Ezek. 28 with Satan himself. Jeremiah 4:23–26 has also been fitted into this catastrophe theory on the ground that it contains the expression tōhû wabōhû (“without form and void”) found in Gen. 1:2. So construed, it indicates that prior to the catastrophe there must have been cities and men who were destroyed some time between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2 (even though Jer. 4:23–26 apparently sets forth a prophetic scene of a catastrophe which is yet to come).
2. Yôm represents a revelational day. That is, in six literal days (or possibly in a vision which represented to Moses the whole drama of creation in six visionary days). God described to His prophet the mystery of how He had brought creation into being, and the stages by which He did so. These stages did not necessarily represent strictly chronological sequence (since the making of the heavenly bodies is delayed until the fourth day, after the creation of vegetation which requires sunlight to exist). They are only in part chronological, and in part topical. That is to say, the various stages or phases of creation are introduced in a logical order, as they bear upon the human observer living on the earth. It is therefore more logical to describe first the earth’s surface upon which the observer must stand, before introducing the sun and moon which are to shine upon the earth and regulate the seasons.
This interpretation is perhaps tenable without surrendering the inerrancy of the Bible record. But it encounters several serious difficulties, chief among which is the complete absence of any hint or suggestion in the text of Genesis 1 that a mere vision is being described. It reads like perfectly straightforward history: In the beginning God created heaven and earth: on the first “day” He created light; on the second day He separated the waters into the upper and the lower, and so on. Second, it would seem highly improbable that it would require an entire twenty-four-hour period to convey to Moses the three verses pertaining to the creation of light. Third, since the initial creation spoken of in Gen. 1:1 is not apparently included in the first revelational “day,” the question arises whether it was included in this supposed vision granted Moses, or whether this was communicated in some nonvisionary manner. At any rate, if Genesis 1 was really only a vision (representing, of course, the actual events of primeval history) then almost any other apparently historical account in Scripture could be interpreted as a vision — especially if it relates to transactions not naturally observable to a human investigator or historian.
3. Yôm represents a geologic age or stage in the creative process. This was the explanation resorted to by nineteenth-century geologists who respected the authority of the Bible, notably J. W. Dawson (e.g., The Origin of the World According to Revelation and Science, 1877) and James Dana (Manual of Geology, 1875). According to this view the term yôm does not necessarily signify a literal twenty-four-hour day, but is simply equivalent to “stage.” It has often been asserted that yôm could not bear this meaning, but could only have implied a literal day to the Hebrew mind according to Hebrew usage. Nevertheless, on the basis of internal evidence, it is this writer’s conviction that yôm in Gen. 1 could not have been intended by the Hebrew author to mean a literal twenty-four-hour day.
In the first place, yôm is apparently used in Gen. 2:4 to refer to the whole creative process just described in Gen. 1 as taking up six days: “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth in the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven.” Since the stages in creating heaven and earth have just been described, it is legitimate to infer that the “day” here must refer to the whole process from day one through day six. In the second place, Gen. 1:27 states that after creating all the land animals on the sixth day, God created man, both male and female. Then, in the more detailed treatment of Gen. 2, we are told that God created Adam first, gave him the responsibility of tending the Garden of Eden for some time until He observed him to be lonely. He then granted him the fellowship of all the beasts and animals of earth, with opportunity to bestow names upon them all. Some undetermined period after that, God observed that Adam was still lonely and finally fashioned a human wife for him by means of a rib removed from him during a “deep sleep.” Then at last he brought Eve before Adam and presented her to him as his new life partner. Who can imagine that all of these transactions could possibly have taken place in 120 minutes of the sixth day (or even within twenty-four hours, for that matter)? And yet Gen. 1:27 states that both Adam and Eve were created at the very end of the final day of creation. Obviously the “days” of chapter 1 are intended to represent stages of unspecified length, not literal twenty-four-hour days.
As for the objection that the “days” of Gen. 1 are represented as consisting of an “evening” and a “morning,” and therefore must be understood as literal, it may be replied that the formula “evening and morning” serves only to indicate that the term day, albeit symbolical for a geological stage, is used in the sense of a twenty-four-hour cycle rather than “day” in contrast to “night” (as, for example, day is used in 1:5a ). In this connection it should be pointed out the New Testament references to Christ’s entombment as lasting “three days and three nights” are to be explained as equivalent to “during a period of three twenty-four-hour days,” rather than implying a literal three (daylight) days and three nights. In other words, Jesus died about 3:00 p.m. on Friday (a portion of the first twenty-four-hour day), remained in the tomb on Saturday, and rose early on Sunday (or during a third twenty-four-hour day). From the appearance of this expression in Gen. 1, “the evening and the morning,” as the Hebrew way of indicating a twenty-four-hour day, it was a logical procedure to speak of three such days as “three days and three nights.” (Thus we avoid the difficulties encountered by those who hold to a Wednesday theory of the crucifixion in the face of insurmountable evidence that it occurred on Friday.)
The day-age theory, then, accounts for the six creative days as indicating the broad outlines of the creative work of God in fashioning the earth and its inhabitants up until the appearance of Adam and Eve. Modern geologists agree with Genesis 1 in the following particulars: (a) The earth began in a confused and chaotic form, which subsequently gave way to a more orderly state. (b) The proper conditions for the maintenance of life were brought into being: the separation of the thick vapor surrounding the earth into clouds above and rivers and seas below, with the evaporation - precipitation cycle, and also with the increasing penetration of the sunlight (for the previous creation of the sun is suggested by the first command: “Let there be light”) to the surface of the earth. (c) The separation of land from sea (or the emergence of dry land above the receding water level) preceded the appearance of life upon the soil. (d) Vegetable life had already made its appearance before the first emergence of animal life in the Cambrian period. As a matter of fact, all the invertebrate phyla appear contemporaneously with remarkable suddenness in the Cambrian strata, with no indication in any of the pre-Cambrian deposits as to how these various phyla, classes, and orders (represented by no less than 5,000 species) may have developed. (e) Both Genesis and geology agree that the simpler forms appeared first and the more complex later (f) Both agree that mankind appeared as the latest and highest product of the creative process.
Thus in its broad outlines, the sequence set forth in the Hebrew account is in harmony with that indicated by the data of geology. It is true that the mention of the fashioning of the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth creative day does not correspond with the quite conclusive evidence that the planet earth appeared subsequently to the creation of the sun. But inasmuch as the creation of light on the first “day” indicates the priority of the sun even in the Mosaic account, we are to understand on exegetical grounds that the emphasis on the fourth day was not the original creation of the heavenly bodies as such, but rather their becoming available for the purpose of regulating time and the cycles of the rotation and revolution of earth and moon. The specific verb for “create ex nihilo” (bārāʾ) is not used in Gen. 1:16, but rather the more general term, make (˓āsâ). The fair inference is that a dense vapor encompassing the earth had hitherto precluded this possibility, even though sufficient diffused light may have previously penetrated to support the growth of plant life. (Note that the Hebrew of Gen. 1:14 may be rendered, “Let luminaries in the firmament of heaven be for the purpose of separating between day and night, in order that they may be for signs.”)
Advocates of the literal-day theory have often pointed to the sanction of Ex. 20:11 for confirmation of literalness of the days. In confirming the sanctity of the Sabbath, Jehovah states: “For in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth … and rested on the seventh day.” But this does not necessarily presuppose literal, twenty-four hour days, for the seventh day is explicitly hallowed in terms of the completion of the work of creation. For this purpose of memorial observance, the only possible way in which the seventh age (the age of completion, according to the day-age theory) could be hallowed would be a literal seventh day of a seven-day week. It would certainly be impractical to devote an entire geologic age to the commemoration of a geologic age!
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Psalm 29Ascribe to the LORD Glory
29 A Psalm Of David.
7 The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the LORD give strength to his people!
May the LORD bless his people with peace!
By Don Carson 6/28/2018
How does the Pentateuch end (Deut. 34)?
At a certain level, perhaps one might speak of hope, or at least of anticipation. Even if Moses himself is not permitted to enter the Promised Land, the Israelites are on the verge of going in. The “land flowing with milk and honey” is about to become theirs. Joshua son of Nun, a man “filled with the spirit of wisdom”(Deut. 34:9), has been appointed. Even the blessing of Moses on the twelve tribes (Deut. 33) might be read as bringing a fitting closure to this chapter of Israel’s history.
Nevertheless, such a reading is too optimistic. Converging emphases leave the thoughtful reader with quite a pessimistic expectation of the immediate future. After all, for forty years the people have made promises and broken them, and have repeatedly been called back to covenantal faithfulness by the harsh means of judgment. In Deuteronomy 31, God himself predicts that the people will “soon forsake me and break the covenant I made with them” (Deut. 31:16). Moses, this incredibly courageous and persevering leader, does not enter the Promised Land because on one occasion he failed to honor God before the people.
In this respect, he serves as a negative foil to the great Hebrew at the beginning of this story of Israel: Abraham dies as a pilgrim in a strange land not yet his, but at least he dies with honor and dignity, while Moses dies as a pilgrim forbidden to enter the land promised to him and his people, in lonely isolation and shame. We do not know how much time elapsed after Moses’ death before this last chapter of Deuteronomy was penned, but it must have been substantial, for verse 10 reads, “Since then (i.e., since Moses’ death), no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses.” One can scarcely fail to hear overtones of the prophecy of the coming of a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15-18). By the time of writing, other leaders had arisen, some of them faithful and stalwart. But none like Moses had arisen — and this is what had been promised.
These strands make the reader appreciate certain points, especially if the Pentateuch is placed within the storyline of the whole Bible. (1) The law-covenant simply did not have the power to transform the covenant people of God. (2) We should not be surprised by more instances of catastrophic decline. (3) The major hope lies in the coming of a prophet like Moses. (4) Somehow this is tied to the promises at the front end of the story: we wait for someone of Abraham’s seed through whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Apologetics: Is Inerrancy A Modern Invention?
By Timothy Paul Jones 8/29/2016
“Inerrancy” is the belief that the Bible never errs. It’s another way of saying that the Old and New Testaments—as they were originally written—declare what is true and describe accurately what happened in the past. To say the Bible is inerrant is to say that the Scriptures do not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.
Some scholars have argued, however, that the notion of an inerrant Bible is a modern invention and that ancient Christians didn’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture at all.
So what did Christians in the first few centuries of the church’s story believe about the Bible?
It is true that the earliest Christians didn’t use the word “inerrancy.” And yet, from the earliest stages of Christian history, it’s also true that faithful church leaders treated the Old and New Testaments as God’s inerrant revelation of himself.
The Concept of Inerrancy in the Writings of the Earliest Christians | Take a look at these selections from the writings of church leaders in the first few centuries of Christian history:
On Gratitude and the Fifth Commandment
By Dr. Eric Hutchinson 3/8/2017
In my first two posts, we’ve seen what the classical two-kingdoms distinction was for the sixteenth century Reformers, whether “Lutheran” or “Reformed,” and also the way in which the Ten Commandments functioned in Protestant ethical reasoning, viz., as a sum of the moral law, which is equivalent in substance and principle to the natural law and which therefore applies to all people at all times.
As Melanchthon says, “Since these laws are the eternal rule of the mind of God, they always sounded forth in the church, even before the time of Moses, and they shall remain in force forever and apply also to the Gentiles.” These same principles are found to be reflected in other parts of the Mosaic code as well: “There are also many natural laws in the civil and ceremonial laws which also are perpetual, such as the law which prohibits incestuous practices, Leviticus 18, because the reverence for blood relationships pertains to these virtues.”
Of the Ten Commandments, it was the Fifth that was of chief importance for political reflection. One gets a glimpse of the reason for this in the Curate’s words in the scene below taken from Whit Stillman’s film Love and Friendship (along with a subtle correction of those traditions that follow the division of the commandments in the LXX rather than the Hebrew division)1:
Dr. Eric Hutchinson: B.A., Hillsdale College, M.A., Bryn Mawr College, Ph.D., Bryn Mawr College
Berthe M. Marti Fellowship in Latin 2005-2006 (affiliated fellowship, American Academy in Rome)
Whiting Fellowship in the Humanities 2007-2008 (declined to accept position at Hillsdale College)
NEH Summer Scholar, Summer Seminar 2010 (“The ‘Falls of Rome’: The Transformation of Rome in Late Antiquity”)
Why Understanding the Imago Dei is More Crucial than Ever
By Lenny Esposito 10/3/2014
In the very beginning of the Bible, it states that man is created in God's image. In fact, the phrase is repeated three times in Genesis 1:26-27, which is the ancient Jewish equivalent of typing in all caps to underscore the point. Theologians throughout the ages use the Latin imago Dei when speaking of this unique aspect of human creation, however most people are still a bit fuzzy as to what being made in the image of God means.
Some people misunderstand the concept of being made in God's image to mean that God modeled our physical attributes after his own. This is a mistake as Jesus clearly taught that God is not physical but a spirit (John 4:24). As I've explained elsewhere, bearing the image of God means that humans are fundamentally different from every other animal created on the earth. Part of the imago Dei is the capability we have to reason and the ability to exercise our free will and make meaningful choices.
Recently, though, asked a question that I expect many other Christians may have about this definition. A person asked "What about those who are mentally ill, though? How can they bear God's image if they lack the ability to reason or make decisions for themselves?" This is a good question that reveals bias of our modern culture that has larger implications across a variety of moral issues.
Lenny Esposito is president and founder of Come Reason Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization, and author of the popular www.comereason.org Web site. He has taught apologetics and Christian worldview for over 17 years and has authored hundreds articles dealing with intellectually strenuous topics such as the existence of God, theology, philosophy, social issues and Biblical difficulties.
Lenny is an in-demand speaker, teaching at conferences, churches, and schools across the nation. He is a contributor to the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Southern California Christian Times. He has debated many topics on faith and reason and the rationality of the Christian worldview; his most recent debate being against well-known atheists and author Dr. Richard Carrier on the question "Does God Exist?"
Lenny is a pioneer in online ministry efforts when he began using the Web to reach others near its beginnings in 1995. He produces one of the top 16 apologetics podcasts according to Apologetics 315 and his site has been viewed millions of times by visitors from nearly every country in the world.
Lenny is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.
How is Man Created in the Image of God?
By Lenny Esposito
I'm having a hard time understanding how humans are both born in sin and created in God's image. Are we physically created in God's image or are our spirits patterned after His?
If created physically after His image then what about those born with physical defects? If spiritually then what about those who happen to have very deranged minds, who are just ruthless and evil?
Whenever someone is being difficult, I'm able to brush it off by saying, "Well, God created them, too" but there are some whom it would be an insult to Him to say such a thing. I understand that we're all born in sin as a result of Adam and Eve, but how do theologians explain when God's impression on man begins and ends in the womb or even before conception?
Lenny Esposito is president and founder of Come Reason Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization, and author of the popular www.comereason.org Web site. He has taught apologetics and Christian worldview for over 17 years and has authored hundreds articles dealing with intellectually strenuous topics such as the existence of God, theology, philosophy, social issues and Biblical difficulties.
Lenny is an in-demand speaker, teaching at conferences, churches, and schools across the nation. He is a contributor to the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Southern California Christian Times. He has debated many topics on faith and reason and the rationality of the Christian worldview; his most recent debate being against well-known atheists and author Dr. Richard Carrier on the question "Does God Exist?"
Lenny is a pioneer in online ministry efforts when he began using the Web to reach others near its beginnings in 1995. He produces one of the top 16 apologetics podcasts according to Apologetics 315 and his site has been viewed millions of times by visitors from nearly every country in the world.
Lenny is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.
By James Orr 1907
IV. ALLEGED INCONSISTENCIES AND HISTORICAL INCREDIBILITIES OF THE PRIESTLY WRITING
Frequent references have been made in the course of these discussions to the inconsistencies, contradictions, duplicate narratives, incredibilities, and the like, which are said to prove that P is a distinct writing from JE, late in origin, and historically untrustworthy. If our contention is correct, it would be truer to say that it is the assumption that the documents in question are independent, and each complete in itself, which gives rise to most of the appearances of inconsistency and contradiction.
1. It was before indicated that only thus can it be made out, e.g., that P “knows nothing” of a fall, or of sacrifices of the patriarchs, or of incidents derogatory to the patriarchs — his narrative being, as Kuenen says, one “from which every trace of hostility between Abraham and Lot, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, has been carefully removed.” Is it credible, on the principles of the critical hypothesis itself, that P, with the JE history in his hands, and founding upon it, should have supposed his readers unacquainted with the fact that the patriarchs built altars and offered sacrifices, or should have intended to “make sacrifices to the deity begin with the Mosaic age”? One might as well argue that J, on his part, “knows nothing” of the deaths of the patriarchs! Again, if P gives only a “thread” — “the mere links and articulations” — of a narrative, and records practically nothing of the lives of Isaac and Joseph, where is the room for the assertion that he “carefully removes” this, or “avoids” that? Especially when the knowledge of the full patriarchal history is throughout presupposed. If P, e.g., gives us no life of Joseph at all, how can it be alleged that he has removed “every trace of hostility between Joseph and his brothers”? Can inferences be drawn from that which does not exist? On the other hand, as we have sought to show in the narratives of the flood, of the plagues in Egypt, of the spies, of the rebellion of Korah, when the narratives are taken in their completeness, nine-tenths of the allegations of inconsistency and contradiction fall of their own accord.
2. It is not greatly different with alleged duplicate narratives, some of which, as the stories of the creation and the flood, and the denial of their wives by the patriarchs, have already been dealt with. It was found earlier that several of the alleged duplicates fall within the limits of the same document, as the denials of their wives by Abraham and Isaac in J ( Gen. 12; 26:6 ff.), and two Korah stories, according to Wellhausen and others, in P ( Num. 16:2 ff.), and may therefore reasonably be supposed to have belonged to the original tradition. By far the greater number of instances we should deny to be “duplicates” in the proper sense at all — i.e., divergent traditions of the same incidents. The redactor (not to say the original authors) can hardly have regarded them as such, or he would have omitted one, or sought to combine them in his usual harmonistic way. We said before, in speaking of JE, that there was no good reason, as it appeared to us, for identifying the flight of Hagar, in Gen. 16 (J), with her expulsion by Sarah in chap. 21 (E), or even Abraham’s denials of his wife at Egypt (chap. 12 J) and at Gerar ( Gen. 20. E). So there is no good reason in the nature of the case for identifying the two revelations at Bethel — one before Jacob’s going to Paddan - Aram ( Gen. 28:10 ff. JE), the other on his return (chap. 35:9 ff. P); or the two revelations to Moses — one at the burning bush in Midian ( Ex. 3:1 ff. JE), the other in Egypt (chap. 6:2 ff. P), etc. On the contrary, in most of these narratives there are plain indications that the incidents are distinct, and that the later implies the earlier. In Gen. 21, e.g., Ishmael is already born, and old enough to “mock” Isaac; but only in Gen. 16:15, 16 (P) is his birth narrated. The second vision in Bethel is connected with the first by the word “again” ( Gen. 35:9 ), and is led up to by the revelations in chaps. 31:13, 35:1 (E), summoning Jacob back from Paddan - Aram, and recalling him to Bethel — histories admittedly known to P. Ex. 6:2 ff. introduces Moses and Aaron abruptly, and the earlier JE history is implied, explaining who Moses was, and how he came to be connected with the children of Israel and with Pharaoh in Egypt — a history again presumed, on the newer theory, to be known to P. Indeed, on the “omission” or “mutual mutilation” hypothesis of the critics, what right have we to suppose that in all these cases both stories were not found in the documents concerned, and that, as in so many other instances of parallel narratives, the suppression of one is not due to the redactor?
3. The “historical incredibilities” freely imputed to the Priestly Writing, as to other parts of the narrative of the Pentateuch, can only here be briefly touched on, though they form the real ground of much of the criticism directed against that work. There is, in truth, in this department, extremely little — hardly anything — with which those who have had to do with the subject have not been familiar since the days of the Deistical controversy, or which was not pressed home with skill and cogency by the earlier sceptical writers of last century, as Von Bohlen, etc. Only in those days it was not called “believing criticism” of the Bible, but destructive attack upon it! In modern times the writer chiefly relied on as having irretrievably shattered the historical credibility of the narratives in the Pentateuch — especially those proceeding from the Priestly Writer — is Bishop Colenso. The arguments of this authority are taken over practically en bloc by modern critical scholars, and treated as irrefragable demonstrations that the stories in Genesis, but particularly those of the Mosaic period, are throughout utterly unhistorical. On this subject, while we have no interest in arguing for a supernatural accuracy in chronological or historical matters in the Biblical narratives beyond what the soundness of his information enabled the sacred writer to attain, yet, as having lived through the Colenso storm, and read pretty fully into the literature it called forth, we desire to dissociate ourselves entirely from these extravagant estimates of the success of the Bishop’s destructive work. Colenso’s courage, honesty, and loyalty to truth, as he understood it, we shall not seek to dispute. But his work lacked from the commencement the first condition of success, — insight into the meaning, and sympathy with the spirit, of the books he was working with. The distinction between a supernatural and a purely natural history was one to which he allowed no weight — did not seem able even to appreciate; many real difficulties he emphasised, which others, perhaps, had passed over too lightly, but many more were the creation of a mind working in narrow arithmetical grooves, and bent on applying to a historical writing the canons of a rigorous literalism, which would be more justly described as “intolerable pedantry” than the work of the Priestly Writer to which it was applied. His book was keenly scrutinised, and manifoldly replied to, at the time; and those are widely mistaken who, on the strength of the laudations of the critics, persuade themselves that the victory was altogether his. We shall best show this by a rapid glance at his criticism.
(1) It would be unpardonable to resuscitate — were it not that they must be presumed to belong to those demonstrations of contradiction of the “universal laws of time and space” which Kuenen speaks of — the extraordinary computations by which Bishop Colenso proves to his satisfaction that “all the congregation” of Israel could not assemble at the door of the tabernacle, or that the Levitical laws could not be observed in their entirety in the wilderness. Who that has read his book will ever forget his wonderful calculations to show that, even excepting ex gratia such as may have been detained by sickness or other necessary causes, “the whole congregation” of nearly 2,000,000, could not have been squeezed into the court of the tabernacle, and, standing as closely as possible, in rows of nine, not merely at the door, but (another concession) at the end of the tabernacle, would have reached — the men alone for nearly 20 miles, all the people for nearly 60 miles! Or his reasoning that the Levitical law required the officiating priest “to carry on his back on foot” the carcase of the bullock of the sin - offering to “a clean place” without the camp — on one reckoning a distance of about ¾ of a mile, on another reckoning about 6 miles! Or his proof that the three priests in the wilderness could not have offered — not to say eaten — the 90,000 pigeons annually, or 88 per diem apiece, required by the law for the 250 cases of child-birth daily! Some least grain of common sense might be conceded to the Priestly Writer, who, whatever his faults, certainly did not mean to palm off upon his readers such crude absurdities as these. Most people will feel that the force of his language is abundantly satisfied by large and representative gatherings of the people at and around the tabernacle on solemn occasions; and will remember that, “according to the story,” to use the Bishop’s phrase, the priests had a whole tribe of Levites to assist them in their menial duties — though these, as formerly noticed, strangely enough, from the critical point of view, never appear in the laws in Leviticus. If the pigeons were not, as the Bishop says they would not be, obtainable in any large numbers in the wilderness, they would not be there to bring or eat; but the objection overlooks that the sacrificial system had specially in view the future settled habitation of the people (cf. Num. 15:2 ff.), and that in point of fact, it is represented as having been largely suspended during the years of wandering.
(2) No thoughtful reader will minimise the very real difficulties inhering in the Biblical narratives of the Exodus — the remarkable increase of the children of Israel in Egypt, the circumstances of the Exodus itself, the passage of the Red Sea, the care of the people in the wilderness and provision for them, etc. These facts, at the same time, are precisely among the best attested in the history of Israel; and, in dealing with them, justice requires that we treat them from the Bible’s own point of view, as events altogether exceptional in the history of that people, and, indeed, of mankind, accomplished by divine help, and, as respects the Exodus, under the highest exaltation of religious and patriotic consciousness of which a nation is capable. Many elements, also, which do not appear upon the surface of the narrative, have to be taken into account, e.g., that the patriarchs who went down to Egypt did so accompanied by extensive households. Colenso, in the work referred to, however, will admit none of these relieving considerations (nor even the “households”), insists on bringing everything to the foot-rule of the most ordinary experience — the birth-rate of London, e.g., or a lower rate, — eliminates wholly the supernatural element, founds upon the Biblical data where these suit his purpose, but rejects other statements which throw light upon the former; very often by his grotesque literalism creates difficulties which are not in the Biblical narrative at all. Thus, e.g., he will have it that “in one single day, the order to start was communicated suddenly, at midnight, to every single family of every town and village, throughout a tract of country as large as Hertfordshire, but ten times as thickly peopled”; that “they then came in from all parts of the land of Goshen to Rameses, bringing with them the sick and infirm, the young and the aged; further, that since receiving the summons, they had sent out to gather in all their flocks and herds, spread over so wide a district, and had driven them also to Rameses; and lastly, that having done all this, since they were roused at midnight, they were started again from Rameses that very same day and marched on to Succoth, not leaving a single sick or infirm person, a single woman in child-birth, or even ‘a single hoof’ behind them.” “This is undoubtedly,” he avers, “what the story in the Book of Exodus requires us to believe ( Ex. 12:31–41, 51 ).” “Incredibility,” truly! But the picture is a creation of the objector’s own imagination, of a piece with his persistence (in which many modern critics support him) that the passover is represented as taking place on the night of the same day in which the first command to observe it was given. Both objections fall together in view of the fact that the text on which the above assertion is based: “I will pass through the land of Egypt this night” ( Ex. 12:12 ), occurs in a law which expressly ordains that the lamb of the passover is to be chosen on the 10th day of the month, and kept till the 14th (vers. 3, 6 ); which, therefore, must have been given still earlier in the month, perhaps near its beginning.
(3) We do not propose to re-thresh the hundred times threshed straw of Colenso’s long catalogue of “incredibilities” — most of them retailed by others — but confine ourselves to two examples, which perhaps will be admitted to be fairly typical.
The first is the very old difficulty about Hezron and Hamul, the sons of Pharez, whose names are included in the list of threescore and ten who went down with Jacob to Egypt ( Gen. 46 ). A simple reckoning shows that Pharez, the father of this pair, cannot himself have been more than three or four years old at the time of the descent; his sons, therefore, must have been born, not in Canaan, but in Egypt. Dr. Driver, like Bishop Colenso, finds here “a grave chronological discrepancy between P and JE.” Yet the ordinary solution, viz., that Hezron and Hamul are here introduced (Colenso failed to observe, in a separate clause) as the legal representatives and substitutes of Er and Onan, who are said to have died in the land of Canaan, seems not only perfectly admissible, but even required by the peculiar construction of the passage. The story in Gen. 38, forbidding as it is, adequately explains the ground of this substitution. On genealogies generally it is to be remarked that they are commonly constructed on more or less technical principles, and have to be construed in that light. This table of seventy persons, e.g., is evidently one of heads of families, and includes in its enumeration, not only Jacob himself and his daughter Dinah, but Er and Onan, who died in Canaan (represented by Hezron and Hamul), and Joseph’s two sons, who, though expressly mentioned as born in the land of Egypt (ver. 20 ), are embraced in “the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt.”
Our second example is one usually regarded as among the most formidable — the number of the (male) firstborn in Israel as compared with the total number of males. The firstborn males are given in Num. 3:43 as 22,273 (a number whose accuracy is checked by comparison with that of the Levites). Assuming now the total number of males to be 900,000, we have a proportion of one firstborn to 42 males, which is interpreted to mean that “according to the story of the Pentateuch every mother in Israel must have had on the average 42 sons!” It may again occur that the Priestly Writer, who had at least a genius for manipulating and systematising figures, could hardly have been unaware of a discrepancy which has been so obvious to his critics from the beginning; and that the more likely explanation is, that he and his critics are proceeding on different principles in their reckonings. Nor is it hard, perhaps, to see where at least the main part of the solution lies; the solution is, in fact, as old as the difficulty itself. In the first place, it must be observed that the firstborn in a family would be as often a daughter as a son; this at once reduces the number of sons to each mother by one half. In the next place, it is on every ground unlikely that persons who were themselves married and heads of families would be reckoned as “firstborns.” It is more reasonable to suppose that the reckoning was confined, as it has been expressed, “to the rising generation — those who were still children in the houses of their parents” — and that it did not include all who had ever been firstborns in their own generation; fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers, if still alive. That this was the real nature of the reckoning seems established, among other considerations, by the analogy of the firstborns in Egypt, where certainly fathers, grandfathers, and more remote ancestors are not regarded as included in the judgment. This again practically limits the firstborns to those under twenty. These may have formed about a third of the total number, or, if regard be had to the longer ages of these times, may have been nearer a fourth. Instead of 42 sons to each mother, therefore, we are now brought down to nearly 5; and account has still to be taken of cases in which the firstborn of a family was dead, of polygamous marriages, or concubinage, where possibly only the firstborn of the house was reckoned, and of a probable diminished rate of marriage in the last years of the oppression, and in prospect of deliverance. These are not “harmonistic expedients,” but explanations that lie in the nature of the case, and are obviously suggested by the reckoning itself.
The conclusion of our inquiry, therefore, brings us back to the point we started from — strong confidence in the unity of the narrative, and in its essential historical credibility.
The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come;
Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream (Part 2)
By John Bunyan 1678
THE SIXTH STAGEThus they went on till they came to the place where Evangelist met with Christian and Faithful, and prophesied to them what should befall them at Vanity Fair. Then said their guide, Hereabouts did Christian and Faithful meet with Evangelist, who prophesied to them of what troubles they should meet with at Vanity Fair.
HON. Say you so? I dare say it was a hard chapter that then he did read unto them.
GREAT. It was so, but he gave them encouragement withal. But what do we talk of them? They were a couple of lion-like men; they had set their faces like a flint. Do not you remember how undaunted they were when they stood before the judge?
HON. Well: Faithful bravely suffered.
GREAT. So he did, and as brave things came on’t; for Hopeful, and some others, as the story relates it, were converted by his death.
HON. Well, but pray go on; for you are well acquainted with things.
GREAT. Above all that Christian met with after he had passed through Vanity Fair, one By-ends was the arch one.
HON. By-ends! what was he?
GREAT. A very arch fellow, a downright hypocrite; one that would be religious, whichever way the world went; but so cunning, that he would be sure never to lose or suffer for it. He had his mode of religion for every fresh occasion, and his wife was as good at it as he. He would turn from opinion to opinion; yea, and plead for so doing, too. But, so far as I could learn, he came to an ill end with his by-ends; nor did I ever hear that any of his children were ever of any esteem with any that truly feared God.
Now by this time they were come within sight of the town of Vanity, where Vanity Fair is kept. So, when they saw that they were so near the town, they consulted with one another how they should pass through the town; and some said one thing, and some another. At last Mr. Great-Heart said, I have, as you may understand, often been a conductor of pilgrims through this town. Now, I am acquainted with one Mr. Mnason,
Acts 21:16 And some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, bringing us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge. ESV
a Cyprusian by nation, an old disciple, at whose house we may lodge. If you think good, we will turn in there.
Content, said old Honest; Content, said Christiana; Content, said Mr. Feeble-mind; and so they said all. Now you must think it was eventide by that they got to the outside of the town; but Mr. Great-Heart knew the way to the old man’s house. So thither they came; and he called at the door, and the old man within knew his tongue as soon as ever he heard it; so he opened the door, and they all came in. Then said Mnason, their host, How far have ye come to-day? So they said, from the house of Gaius our friend. I promise you, said he, you have gone a good stitch. You may well be weary; sit down. So they sat down.
GREAT. Then said their guide, Come, what cheer, good sirs? I dare say you are welcome to my friend.
MNAS. I also, said Mr. Mnason, do bid you welcome; and whatever you want, do but say, and we will do what we can to get it for you.
HON. Our great want, a while since, was harbor and good company, and now I hope we have both.
MNAS. For harbor, you see what it is; but for good company, that will appear in the trial.
GREAT. Well, said Mr. Great-Heart, will you have the pilgrims up into their lodging?
MNAS. I will, said Mr. Mnason. So he had them to their respective places; and also showed them a very fair dining-room, where they might be, and sup together until the time should come to go to rest.
Now, when they were seated in their places, and were a little cheery after their journey, Mr. Honest asked his landlord if there was any store of good people in the town.
MNAS. We have a few: for indeed they are but a few when compared with them on the other side.
HON. But how shall we do to see some of them? for the sight of good men to them that are going on pilgrimage, is like the appearing of the moon and stars to them that are sailing upon the seas.
MNAS. Then Mr. Mnason stamped with his foot, and his daughter Grace came up. So he said unto her, Grace, go you, tell my friends, Mr. Contrite, Mr. Holy-man, Mr. Love-saints, Mr. Dare-not-lie, and Mr. Penitent, that I have a friend or two at my house who have a mind this evening to see them. So Grace went to call them, and they came; and after salutation made, they sat down together at the table.
Then said Mr. Mnason their landlord, My neighbors, I have, as you see, a company of strangers come to my house; they are pilgrims: they come from afar, and are going to Mount Zion. But who, quoth he, do you think this is? pointing his finger to Christiana. It is Christiana, the wife of Christian, the famous pilgrim, who, with Faithful his brother, was so shamefully handled in our town. At that they stood amazed, saying, We little thought to see Christiana when Grace came to call us; wherefore this is a very comfortable surprise. They then asked her of her welfare, and if these young men were her husband’s sons. And when she had told them they were, they said, The King whom you love and serve make you as your father, and bring you where he is in peace.
HON. Then Mr. Honest (when they were all sat down) asked Mr. Contrite and the rest, in what posture their town was at present.
CONT. You may be sure we are full of hurry in fair-time. ’T is hard keeping our hearts and spirits in good order when we are in a cumbered condition. He that lives in such a place as this is, and has to do with such as we have, has need of an item to caution him to take heed every moment of the day. As it is today. We do well to listen to the following:
Proverbs 4:20 My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
24 Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.
25 Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
26 Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil. ESV
HON. But how are your neighbors now for quietness?
CONT. They are much more moderate now than formerly. You know how Christian and Faithful were used at our town; but of late, I say, they have been far more moderate. I think the blood of Faithful lieth as a load upon them till now; for since they burned him, they have been ashamed to burn any more. In those days we were afraid to walk the street; but now we can show our heads. Then the name of a professor was odious; now, especially in some parts of our town, (for you know our town is large,) religion is counted honorable. Then said Mr. Contrite to them, Pray how fareth it with you in your pilgrimage? how stands the country affected towards you?
HON. It happens to us as it happeneth to wayfaring men: sometimes our way is clean, sometimes foul; sometimes up hill, sometimes down hill; we are seldom at a certainty. The wind is not always on our backs, nor is every one a friend that we meet with in the way. We have met with some notable rubs already, and what are yet behind we know not; but for the most part, we find it true that has been talked of old, A good man must suffer trouble.
CONT. You talk of rubs; what rubs have you met withal?
HON. Nay, ask Mr. Great-Heart, our guide; for he can give the best account of that.
GREAT. We have been beset three or four times already. First, Christiana and her children were beset by two ruffians, who they feared would take away their lives. We were beset by Giant Bloody-man, Giant Maul, and Giant Slay-good. Indeed, we did rather beset the last than were beset by him. And thus it was: after we had been some time at the house of Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, we were minded upon a time to take our weapons with us, and go see if we could light upon any of those that are enemies to pilgrims; for we heard that there was a notable one thereabouts. Now Gaius knew his haunt better than I, because he dwelt thereabout. So we looked, and looked, till at last we discerned the mouth of his cave: then we were glad, and plucked up our spirits. So we approached up to his den; and lo, when we came there, he had dragged, by mere force, into his net, this poor man, Mr. Feeble-mind, and was about to bring him to his end. But when he saw us, supposing, as we thought, he had another prey, he left the poor man in his hole, and came out. So we fell to it full sore, and he lustily laid about him; but, in conclusion, he was brought down to the ground, and his head cut off, and set up by the way-side for a terror to such as should after practise such ungodliness. That I tell you the truth, here is the man himself to affirm it, who was as a lamb taken out of the mouth of the lion.
FEEBLE. Then said Mr. Feeble-mind, I found this true, to my cost and comfort: to my cost, when he threatened to pick my bones every moment; and to my comfort, when I saw Mr. Great-Heart and his friends, with their weapons, approach so near for my deliverance.
HOLY. Then said Mr. Holy-man, There are two things that they have need to possess who go on pilgrimage; courage, and an unspotted life. If they have not courage, they can never hold on their way; and if their lives be loose, they will make the very name of a pilgrim stink.
LOVE. Then said Mr. Love-saints, I hope this caution is not needful among you: but truly there are many that go upon the road, who rather declare themselves strangers to pilgrimage, than strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
DARE. Then said Mr. Dare-not-lie, ’Tis true. They have neither the pilgrim’s weed, nor the pilgrim’s courage; they go not uprightly, but all awry with their feet; one shoe goeth inward, another outward; and their hosen are out behind: here a rag, and there a rent, to the disparagement of their Lord.
PEN. These things, said Mr. Penitent, they ought to be troubled for; nor are the pilgrims like to have that grace put upon them and their Pilgrim’s Progress as they desire, until the way is cleared of such spots and blemishes. Thus they sat talking and spending the time until supper was set upon the table, unto which they went, and refreshed their weary bodies: so they went to rest.
Now they staid in the fair a great while, at the house of Mr. Mnason, who in process of time gave his daughter Grace unto Samuel, Christian’s son, to wife, and his daughter Martha to Joseph.
The time, as I said, that they staid here, was long, for it was not now as in former times. Wherefore the pilgrims grew acquainted with many of the good people of the town, and did them what service they could. Mercy, as she was wont, labored much for the poor: wherefore their bellies and backs blessed her, and she was there an ornament to her profession. And, to say the truth for Grace, Phebe, and Martha, they were all of a very good nature, and did much good in their places. They were also all of them very fruitful; so that Christian’s name, as was said before, was like to live in the world.
While they lay here, there came a monster out of the woods, and slew many of the people of the town. It would also carry away their children, and teach them to suck its whelps. Now, no man in the town durst so much as face this monster; but all fled when they heard the noise of his coming.
The monster was like unto no one beast on the earth. Its body was like a dragon, and it had seven heads and ten horns. It made great havoc of children, and yet it was governed by a woman.
Rev. 17: And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. ESV
This monster propounded conditions to men; and such men as loved their lives more than their souls, accepted of those conditions. So they came under.
Now Mr. Great-Heart, together with those who came to visit the pilgrims at Mr. Mnason’s house, entered into a covenant to go and engage this beast, if perhaps they might deliver the people of this town from the paws and mouth of this so devouring a serpent.
Then did Mr. Great-Heart, Mr. Contrite, Mr. Holy-man, Mr. Dare-not-lie, and Mr. Penitent, with their weapons, go forth to meet him. Now the monster at first was very rampant, and looked upon these enemies with great disdain; but they so belabored him, being sturdy men at arms, that they made him make a retreat: so they came home to Mr. Mnason’s house again.
The monster, you must know, had his certain seasons to come out in, and to make his attempts upon the children of the people of the town. At these seasons did these valiant worthies watch him, and did still continually assault him; insomuch that in process of time he became not only wounded, but lame. Also he has not made that havoc of the townsmen’s children as formerly he had done; and it is verily believed by some that this beast will die of his wounds.
This, therefore, made Mr. Great-Heart and his fellows of great fame in this town; so that many of the people that wanted their taste of things, yet had a reverent esteem and respect for them. Upon this account, therefore, it was, that these pilgrims got not much hurt here. True, there were some of the baser sort, that could see no more than a mole, nor understand any more than a beast; these had no reverence for these men, and took no notice of their valor and adventures.
Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.
The Continual Burnt Offering
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
March 102 Kings 19:14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD.
Isaiah 37:14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. ESV
It was a “letter of blasphemy” sent from the God-defying Syrian leaders, in order to terrify good King Hezekiah and impress him with the hopelessness of attempting to defend Jerusalem against the vast armies of the cruel enemy. But Hezekiah found his resource in prayer. He laid the letter before the Lord and counted on Him to act for His own glory, and in a most wonderful way God intervened. Hezekiah knew who to turn to in the hour of stress. God has said, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). The promise was most blessedly fulfilled, as in every case where faith lays hold of the Lord and counts on Him to act for His own glory.
Psalm 50:15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” ESV
God’s delays are not denials,
He has heard your prayer;
He knows all about your trials,
Knows your every care.
God’s delays are not denials,
Help is on the way.
He is watching o’er life’s dials,
Bringing forth the day.
God’s delays are not denials.
You will find Him true,
Working through the darkest trials,
What is best for you.
--- Grace Troy
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Make prayer a priority
3/10/2018 Bob Gass
‘We will give ourselves…to prayer and…the word.'
(Ac 6:4) But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” ESV
In Disciplines of a Godly Man, pastor and author R. Kent Hughes says: ‘Jay Sidlow Baxter once shared a page from his own personal diary with a group of pastors who had inquired about the discipline of prayer. He began telling how…he entered the ministry determined he would be a real man of prayer. However, it wasn’t long before his increasing responsibilities, administrative duties, and the subtle subterfuges of pastoral life began to crowd prayer out. Moreover, he began to get used to it, making excuses for himself. Then one morning it all came to a head as he stood over his work-strewn desk and looked at his watch. The voice of the Spirit was calling him to pray. At the same time another velvety voice was telling him to be practical and get his letters answered, and that he ought to face the fact that he wasn’t one of the “spiritual sort” – only a few people could be like that. “That last remark,” says Baxter, “hurt like a dagger blade. I couldn’t bear to think it was true.” He was horrified by his ability to rationalise away the very ground of his ministerial vitality and power.’ Understand this: minutes invested in prayer will give you a greater return than hours spent in ceaseless activity. The New Testament apostles understood that. As the church grew bigger and they became busier, they made a life-changing decision: ‘We will give ourselves continually to prayer and…the word.’ As a result, the church grew and multiplied. So, make prayer a priority!
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
26-year-old William Penn received from King Charles the charter to Pennsylvania on this date, March 10, 1681, as repayment of a debt owed to his deceased father. An Oxford graduate, Penn converted to Quakerism and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. His colony became a refuge for the persecuted peoples of Europe. Penn wrote to the Indians, whom he insisted on treating fairly: “My Friends, There is one… God…. [and He] hath made… the king of the country where I live, give… unto me a great province therein, but I desire to enjoy it with your… consent, that we may always live together as… friends.”
Dr. John Stott
If we are right in saying that in the upper room Jesus was giving an advance dramatization of his death, it is important to observe what form the drama took. It did not consist of one actor on the stage, with a dozen in the audience. No, it involved them as well as him, so that they took part in it as well as he. True, he took, blessed and broke the bread, but then he explained its significance as he gave it to them to eat. Again he took and blessed the cup, but then he explained its meaning as he gave it to them to drink. Thus they were not just spectators of this drama of the cross; they were participants in it. They can hardly have failed to get the message. Just as it was not enough for the bread to be broken and the wine to be poured out, but they had to eat and drink, so it was not enough for him to die, but they had to appropriate the benefits of his death personally. The eating and drinking were, and still are, a vivid acted parable of receiving Christ as our crucified Saviour and of feeding on him in our hearts by faith. Jesus had already taught this in his great discourse on the Living Bread which followed his feeding of the five thousand:
‘I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink’. (John 6:53–55)
His words on that occasion and his actions in the upper room both bear witness to the same reality. For him to give his body and blood in death was one thing; for us to make the blessings of his death our own is another. Yet many have not learnt this distinction. I can still remember what a revelation it was to me as a young man to be told that any action on my part was necessary. I used to imagine that because Christ had died, the world had been automatically put right. When someone explained to me that Christ had died for me, I responded rather haughtily ‘everybody knows that’, as if the fact itself or my knowledge of the fact had brought me salvation. But God does not impose his gifts on us willy-nilly; we have to receive them by faith. Of both the divine gift and the human reception the Lord’s Supper remains the perpetual outward sign. It is intended to be ‘a participation in the body and blood of Christ’ (1 Cor. 10:16).
Thomas R. Kelly
Do you want to live in such an amazing divine Presence that life is transformed and transfigured and transmuted into peace and power and glory and miracle? If you do, then you can. But if you say you haven't the time to go down into the recreating silences, I can only say to you, "Then you don't really want to, you don't yet love God above all else in the world, with all your heart and soul and mind and strength." For, except for spells of sickness in the family and when the children are small, when terrific pressure comes upon us, we find time for what we really want to do.
I should like to be mercilessly drastic in uncovering any sham pretense of being wholly devoted to the inner holy Presence, in singleness of love to God. But I must confess that it doesn't take time, or complicate your program. I find that a life of little whispered words of adoration, of praise, of prayer, of worship can be breathed all through the day. One can have a very busy day, outwardly speaking, and yet be steadily in the holy Presence. We do need a half-hour or an hour of quiet reading and relaxation. But I find that one can carry the recreating silences within oneself, well-nigh all the time. With delight I read Brother Lawrence, in his Practice of the Presence of God. At the close of the Fourth Conversation it is reported of him, "He was never hasty nor loitering, but did each thing in its season, with an even, uninterrupted composure and tranquility of spirit. 'The time of business,' he said, 'does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament:’ “ Our real problem, in failing to center down, is not a lack of time; it is, I fear, in too many of us, lack of joyful, enthusiastic delight in Him, lack of deep, deep-drawing love directed toward Him at every hour of the day and night.
I think it is clear that I am talking about a revolutionary way of living. Religion isn't something to be added to our other duties, and thus make our lives yet more complex. The life with God is the center of life, and all else is remodeled and integrated by it. It gives the singleness of eye. The most important thing is not to be perpetually passing out cups of cold water to a thirsty world. We can get so fearfully busy trying to carry out the second great commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," that we are under-developed in our devoted love to God. But we must love God as well as neighbor. These things ye ought to have done and not to have left the other only partially done.
A Testament of Devotion
Compiled by Rick Adams
What does love look like?
It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.
--- Saint Augustine
Koinonia: A Recipe for Authentic Fellowship (Bible Study)
Age is not all decay; it is the ripening, the swelling, of the fresh life within, that withers and bursts the husk.
--- George MacDonald
The Marquis of Lossie, Volume II
It's the generally accepted privilege of theologians to stretch the heavens, that is the Scriptures, like tanners with a hide.
--- Desiderius Erasmus
27/28: Literary and Educational Writings, volume 27 and volume 28: 5: Panegyricus / Moria / Julius exclusus / Institutio principis christiani . ... 6: Ciceronianus (Collected Works of Erasmus)
You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.
--- James Thurber
James Thurber: Writings & Drawings (including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) (Library of America)
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Library 1994
We crossed from the east end of Long Island to New London, about thirty miles, in a large open boat; while we were out, the wind rising high, the waves several times beat over us, so that to me it appeared dangerous, but my mind was at that time turned to Him who made and governs the deep, and my life was resigned to him; as he was mercifully pleased to preserve us I had fresh occasion to consider every day as a day lent to me, and felt a renewed engagement to devote my time, and all I had, to him who gave it.
We had five meetings in Narraganset, and went thence to Newport on Rhode Island. Our gracious Father preserved us in an humble dependence on him through deep exercises that were mortifying to the creaturely will. In several families in the country where we lodged, I felt an engagement on my mind to have a conference with them in private, concerning their slaves; and through Divine aid I was favored to give up thereto. Though in this concern I differ from many whose service in travelling is, I believe, greater than mine, yet I do not think hardly of them for omitting it; I do not repine at having so unpleasant a task assigned me, but look with awfulness to him who appoints to his servants their respective employments, and is good to all who serve him sincerely.
We got to Newport in the evening, and on the next day visited two sick persons, with whom we had comfortable sittings, and in the afternoon attended the burial of a Friend. The next day we were at meetings at Newport, in the fore-noon and afternoon; the spring of the ministry was opened, and strength was given to declare the Word of Life to the people.
The day following we went on our journey, but the great number of slaves in these parts, and the continuance of that trade from thence to Guinea, made a deep impression on me, and my cries were often put up to my Heavenly Father in secret, that he would enable me to discharge my duty faith-fully in such way as he might be pleased to point out to me.
We took Swansea, Freetown, and Taunton in our way to Boston, where also we had a meeting; our exercise was deep, and the love of truth prevailed, for which I bless the Lord. We went eastward about eighty miles beyond Boston, taking meetings, and were in a good degree preserved in an humble dependence on that arm which drew us out; and though we had some hard labor with the disobedient, by laying things home and close to such as were stout against the truth, yet through the goodness of God we had at times to partake of heavenly comfort with those who were meek, and were often favored to part with Friends in the nearness of true gospel fellowship. We returned to Boston and bad another comfortable opportunity with Friends there, and thence rode back a day's journey eastward of Boston. Our guide being a heavy man, and the weather hot, my companion and I expressed our freedom to go on without him, to which he consented, and we respectfully took our leave of him; this we did as believing the journey would have been hard to him and his horse.
In visiting the meetings in those parts we were measurably baptized into a feeling of the state of the Society, and in bowedness of spirit went to the Yearly Meeting at Newport, where we met with John Storer from England, Elizabeth Shipley, Ann Gaunt, Hannah Foster, and Mercy Redman, from our parts, all ministers of the gospel, of whose company I was glad. Understanding that a large number of slaves had been imported from Africa into that town and were then on sale by a member of our Society, my appetite failed, and I grew outwardly weak, and had a feeling of the condition of Habakkuk, as thus expressed, "When I heard, my belly trembled, my lips quivered, I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble." I had many cogitations, and was sorely distressed. I was desirous that Friends might petition the Legislature to use their endeavors to discourage the future importation of slaves, for I saw that this trade was a great evil, and tended to multiply troubles, and to bring distresses on the people for whose welfare my heart was deeply concerned. But I perceived several difficulties in regard to petitioning, and such was the exercise of my mind that I thought of endeavoring to get an opportunity to speak a few words in the House of Assembly, then sitting in town.
John Woolman's Journal
by D.H. Stern
but the wicked? Even his compassion is cruel.
11 He who farms his land will have plenty of food,
but he who follows futilities has no sense.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
I seemed to be standing in a busy queue by the side of a long, mean street. Evening was just closing in and it was raining. I had been wandering for hours in similar mean streets, always in the rain and always in evening twilight. Time seemed to have paused on that dismal moment when only a few shops have lit up and it is not yet dark enough for their windows to look cheering. And just as the evening never advanced to night, so my walking had never brought me to the better parts of the town. However far I went I found only dingy lodging houses, small tobacconists, hoardings from which posters hung in rags, windowless warehouses, goods stations without trains, and bookshops of the sort that sell The Works of Aristotle. I never met anyone. But for the little crowd at the bus stop, the whole town seemed to be empty. I think that was why I attached myself to the queue.
I had a stroke of luck right away, for just as I took my stand a little waspish woman who would have been ahead of me snapped out at a man who seemed to be with her, ‘Very well, then. I won’t go at all. So there,’ and left the queue. ‘Pray don’t imagine,’ said the man, in a very dignified voice, ‘that I care about going in the least. I have only been trying to please you, for peace sake. My own feelings are of course a matter of no importance, I quite understand that’—and suiting the action to the word he also walked away. ‘Come,’ thought I, ‘that’s two places gained.’ I was now next to a very short man with a scowl who glanced at me with an expression of extreme disfavour and observed, rather unnecessarily loudly, to the man beyond him, ‘This sort of thing really makes one think twice about going at all.’ ‘What sort of thing?’ growled the other, a big beefy person. ‘Well,’ said the Short Man, ‘this is hardly the sort of society I’m used to as a matter of fact.’ ‘Huh!’ said the Big Man: and then added with a glance at me, ‘Don’t you stand any sauce from him, Mister. You’re not afraid of him, are you?’ Then, seeing I made no move, he rounded suddenly on the Short Man and said, ‘Not good enough for you, aren’t we? Like your lip.’ Next moment he had fetched the Short Man one on the side of the face that sent him sprawling into the gutter. ‘Let him lay, let him lay,’ said the Big Man to no one in particular. ‘I’m a plain man that’s what I am and I got to have my rights same as anyone else, see?’ As the Short Man showed no disposition to rejoin the queue and soon began limping away, I closed up, rather cautiously, behind the Big Man and congratulated myself on having gained yet another step. A moment later two young people in front of him also left us arm in arm. They were both so trousered, slender, giggly and falsetto that I could be sure of the sex of neither, but it was clear that each for the moment preferred the other to the chance of a place in the bus. ‘We shall never all get in,’ said a female voice with a whine in it from some four places ahead of me. ‘Change places with you for five bob, lady,’ said someone else. I heard the clink of money and then a scream in the female voice, mixed with roars of laughter from the rest of the crowd. The cheated woman leaped out of her place to fly at the man who had bilked her, but the others immediately closed up and flung her out … So what with one thing and another the queue had reduced itself to manageable proportions long before the bus appeared.
It was a wonderful vehicle, blazing with golden light, heraldically coloured. The Driver himself seemed full of light and he used only one hand to drive with. The other he waved before his face as if to fan away the greasy steam of the rain. A growl went up from the queue as he came in sight. ‘Looks as if he had a good time of it, eh?… Bloody pleased with himself, I bet … My dear, why can’t he behave naturally?—Thinks himself too good to look at us … Who does he imagine he is?… All that gilding and purple, I call it a wicked waste. Why don’t they spend some of the money on their house property down here?—God! I’d like to give him one in the ear-’ole.’ I could see nothing in the countenance of the Driver to justify all this, unless it were that he had a look of authority and seemed intent on carrying out his job.
My fellow passengers fought like hens to get on board the bus though there was plenty of room for us all. I was the last to get in. The bus was only half full and I selected a seat at the back, well away from the others. But a tousle-haired youth at once came and sat down beside me. As he did so we moved off.
‘I thought you wouldn’t mind my tacking on to you,’ he said, ‘for I’ve noticed that you feel just as I do about the present company. Why on earth they insist on coming I can’t imagine. They won’t like it at all when we get there, and they’d really be much more comfortable at home. It’s different for you and me.’
‘Do they like this place?’ I asked.
‘As much as they’d like anything,’ he answered. ‘They’ve got cinemas and fish and chip shops and advertisements and all the sorts of things they want. The appalling lack of any intellectual life doesn’t worry them. I realised as soon as I got here that there’d been some mistake. I ought to have taken the first bus but I’ve fooled about trying to wake people up here. I found a few fellows I’d known before and tried to form a little circle, but they all seem to have sunk to the level of their surroundings. Even before we came here I’d had some doubts about a man like Cyril Blellow. I always thought he was working in a false idiom. But he was at least intelligent: one could get some criticism worth hearing from him, even if he was a failure on the creative side. But now he seems to have nothing left but his self-conceit. The last time I tried to read him some of my own stuff … but wait a minute, I’d just like you to look at it.’
Realising with a shudder that what he was producing from his pocket was a thick wad of type-written paper, I muttered something about not having my spectacles and exclaimed, ‘Hullo! We’ve left the ground.’
It was true. Several hundred feet below us, already half hidden in the rain and mist, the wet roofs of the town appeared, spreading without a break as far as the eye could reach.
The Great Divorce or The Great Divorce
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Have a message and be one
Preach the word. --- 2 Tim. 4:2.
We are not saved to be “channels only,” but to be sons and daughters of God. We are not turned into spiritual mediums, but into spiritual messengers; the message must be part of ourselves. The Son of God was His own message, His words were spirit and life; and as His disciples our lives must be the sacrament of our message. The natural heart will do any amount of serving, but it takes the heart broken by conviction of sin, and baptized by the Holy Ghost, and crumpled into the purpose of God, before the life becomes the sacrament of its message.
There is a difference between giving a testimony and preaching. A preacher is one who has realized the call of God and is determined to use his every power to proclaim God’s truth. God takes us out of our own ideas for our lives and we are “batter’d to shape and use,” as the disciples were after Pentecost. Pentecost did not teach the disciples anything; it made them the incarnation of what they preached—“Ye shall be witnesses unto Me.”
Let God have perfect liberty when you speak. Before God’s message can liberate other souls, the liberation must be real in you. Gather your material, and set it alight when you speak.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
An ordinary lot:
The sons dwindling from a rich
Father to a house in a terrace
And furniture of the cheap sort;
The daughters respectable, marrying
Approved husbands with clean shoes
And collars; as though dullness
And nonentity's quietness
Were virtues after the crazed ways
Of that huge man, their father,
Smiles, sailing his paper money
From windows of the Welsh hotel
He had purchased to drown in drink.
But one of them was drowned
Honorably. A tale has come down
From rescuers, forced to lie off
By the breakers, of men lined up
At the rail as the ship foundered,
Smoking their pipes and bantering.
Was of their company; his tobacco
Stings my eyes, who am ordinary too.
Ingrowing Thoughts (Poetry Wales poets)
Various responsibilities (Lev. 19).
Many of the regulations in this chapter expand on the basic Ten Commandments. Not only is a person not to kill, but also “not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life” (v. 16). Respect is to be shown for the elderly (v. 32), and aliens who live in the land are to be given the same consideration as those native-born.
But mixed with these regulations which show deep moral responsibility to others are also cultic rules: do not mate different kinds of animals, do not plant two kinds of seed in the same field (v. 19), do not “cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard” (v. 27).
In the Old Testament the cultic regulations which were designed simply to mark Israel as different, and the moral regulations which guard the value of every individual, are mixed together. When we move to the New Testament, the cultic is set aside. But the moral obligations that are expressed in Old Testament laws are repeated as life-principles for believers of every day and age.
Punishments (Lev. 20). This chapter established the death penalty for a number of different sins, with lesser penalties indicated by “he will be held responsible.” Does the death penalty here suggest a harsher society? No, for that penalty is imposed not for a private kind of criminal act like theft, but only for sins which threaten the whole community.
Sins which would shatter the integrity of the family as the basic unit of society are particularly in view here, as is spiritism, which draws the hearts of the people away from the Lord.
The Teacher's Commentary
Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Elazar offer two radically different approaches to life and to many of the situations we face. On the one hand, we have Rabban Gamliel who holds up a very high standard for scholars. Their insides should equal their outsides. Today, those who enter seminaries for religious study and ordination are often carefully scrutinized so that not only their intelligence—the outside—but also their personalities, moral qualities, and attributes like compassion and understanding—the inside—meet the highest standards.
On the other hand, we find those following the approach of Rabbi Elazar, who believes that anyone who wants to study should be welcome, at whatever level. Academies of learning—college, universities, adult education programs—cannot be only for those who are already knowledgeable. Part of the purpose of schooling is to help perfect the student who is, by definition, imperfect. How much poorer our Judaism would be today without the innumerable contributions of teachers like Rabbi Akiva whose learning, piety, and love of the Jewish people did not blossom until later in life!
Many of us have faced a similar dilemma when we have been forced to make a decision about health care: Which doctor should we choose? What standard should we use in making this choice? One option may be a physician who is proven by years of experience to be an expert diagnostician. Her knowledge and expertise are renowned, though she is a bit aloof and scholarly at times and lacks bedside manners. The other choice is a doctor who is known for her kindness and warmth rather than for being “the best in the field.” We know that we will find personal attention and kindness in this doctor, as well as competence, if not excellence. How can we make a proper decision?
The answer may lie in an interesting historical note: Some time after the rebellion, Rabban Gamliel was apparently reinstated as head of the study house, with Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah serving either under him or as a second dean. Perhaps the scholars of that era had come to some accommodation, realizing that not only was the standard of Rabban Gamliel too high, but that of Rabbi Elazar was too lenient; having both men in charge was an attempt to find the perfect balance.
When facing an important decision, we, much like the Rabbis in the study house, can try to find the same balance between the two extremes. The story of Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah shows us not only how these approaches play themselves out in real life, but also how we can use the positive standards of each position to make our own sound decisions.
The gates of tears are not closed.
Text / Rabbi Elazar said: “From the day the Temple was destroyed, the gates of prayer have been closed, as it says: ‘And when I shout and plead, He shuts out my prayer’ [Lamentations 3:8, author’s translation]. But even though the gates of prayer are closed, the gates of tears are open, as it says: ‘Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my appeal; do not disregard my tears’ [Psalms 39:13, author’s translation].
Context / Rabbi Elazar’s comment—“From the day the Temple was destroyed, the gates of prayer have been closed”—might be puzzling to the modern mind. We would expect just the opposite from the Rabbis, that the destruction of the Temple with its elaborate sacrificial system led to the development of prayer rather than its demise! In our minds, Jews who were no longer able to offer animal sacrifices on the altar turned to the gates of prayer, what the Rabbis called “service [worship] of the heart,” as opposed to worship by sacrifices (the same Hebrew word, avodah is used for both types of worship). The Rabbis, however, saw the Temple as a central focus of Jewish worship and its destruction as a diminution of the power of prayer.
Rabbi Elazar is commenting on the efficacy of prayer. He sees that many prayers go unanswered by God and presents as proof a verse from Lamentations, one of the saddest books of the Bible. After the destruction of the Temple, it appears that God does not listen to prayers. How else could the author cry and plead before God with no answer? However, when tears are added, as proved by the verse from Psalms, God cannot disregard prayer. Rashi and Tosafot, medieval commentators on the Talmud, note that Rabbi Elazar’s interpretation of the verse seems to be: God will automatically hear the prayer of one who prays with tears. Tears alone are enough for acceptance by God.
This is not to say that Rabbi Elazar would necessarily devalue all ritual and rote prayer. He simply adds that we cannot expect the prayers to have an impact on God if they are routine formulas that do not have personal involvement. Rabbi Elazar knows that tears symbolize the sincerity, emotions, and involvement of the worshiper. The gates of heaven are open to the person who not only says the right words, but also has the emotions to back up these words. Prayer is ultimately effective when accompanied by tears.
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The First Chapter / The Inward Conversation Of Christ With The Faithful Soul
I WILL hear what the Lord God will speak in me.” (Psalm 84:9)
Blessed is the soul who hears the Lord speaking within her, who receives the word of consolation from His lips. Blessed are the ears that catch the accents of divine whispering, and pay no heed to the murmurings of this world. Blessed indeed are the ears that listen, not to the voice which sounds without, but to the truth which teaches within. Blessed are the eyes which are closed to exterior things and are fixed upon those which are interior. Blessed are they who penetrate inwardly, who try daily to prepare themselves more and more to understand mysteries. Blessed are they who long to give their time to God, and who cut themselves off from the hindrances of the world.
Consider these things, my soul, and close the door of your senses, so that you can hear what the Lord your God speaks within you. “I am your salvation,” says your Beloved. “I am your peace and your life. Remain with Me and you will find peace. Dismiss all passing things and seek the eternal. What are all temporal things but snares? And what help will all creatures be able to give you if you are deserted by the Creator?” Leave all these things, therefore, and make yourself pleasing and faithful to your Creator so that you may attain to true happiness.
The Imitation Of Christ
I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.
--- Psalm 52:8. KJV.
Mercy as an attribute of God is not to be confounded with mere goodness. ( Charles G. Finney: Sermons on Gospel Themes ), Goodness may demand the exercise of justice. Mercy asks that justice be set aside. Mercy pardons the guilty. Justice treats all according to their deserts. Desert is never the rule that guides mercy, while it is precisely the rule of justice. Thus, mercy is exercised only where there is guilt.
Mercy can be exercised no farther than one deserves punishment. If great punishment is deserved, great mercy can be shown; if endless punishment is due, there is then scope for infinite mercy.
None can properly be said to trust in the mercy of God unless they have committed crimes and are conscious of this fact. Justice protects the innocent, and they may appeal to it. But for the guilty, nothing remains but to trust in mercy. Trusting in mercy implies a heartfelt conviction of personal guilt.
Trust in mercy implies understanding what mercy is. Many confuse mercy with grace, considered as mere favor to the undeserving. Grace may be shown where there is no mercy, the term mercy being applied to the pardon of crime. We all know that God shows grace to all on earth. He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends his rain on the unrighteous as well as on the righteous. But to trust in this general favor is not trusting in the mercy of God. Mercy is pardon for the crimes of the guilty.
Trust in God’s mercy implies a belief that he is merciful. We could not trust him if we had no such belief. This belief must lie at the foundation of trust. Faith, or belief, includes a committal of the soul to God and a trust in him.
Trusting in the mercy of God forever implies a conviction of deserving endless punishment. When therefore the psalmist trusts in the mercy of God forever he renounces all hope of being ever received to favor on the score of justice.
Trusting in mercy implies a cessation from all excuse making. The moment you trust in mercy, you give up all excuses, for these imply a reliance on God’s justice. An excuse is nothing more nor less that an appeal to justice, a plea designed to justify our conduct. Trusting in mercy forever implies that we have ceased from all excuses forever.
--- Charles G. Finney
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
It took John Newton to write the hymn Amazing Grace. “Let me not fail to praise that grace that could pardon,” he said, “such sins as mine.”
Newton had gone to sea at age 11, apprenticed on his father’s ship. He spent his teen years learning to be profane, irreligious, and indulgent. Female slaves being transported from Africa were at Newton’s disposal, and even seasoned sailors were alarmed at his corruption.
Newton’s life angered his father and disgusted his friends, and he was finally pressed into service for the British Navy. He deserted, but was arrested, stripped, and flogged. He became the property of a slave trader in Sierra Leone, who gave him to his sadistic mistress. John became a loathsome toy she tormented for over a year.
He finally boarded ship for Britain. On March 9, as he carelessly read a Christian book to pass the time, the thought came to him, “What if these things are true?” He snapped the book closed and shook off the question.
I went to bed in my usual indifference, but was awakened by a violent sea which broke on us. Much of it came down below and filled the cabin where I lay. This alarm was followed by a cry that the ship was going down. We had immediate recourse to the pumps, but the water increased against all our efforts. Almost every passing wave broke over my head. I expected that every time the vessel descended into the sea, she would rise no more. I dreaded death now, and my heart foreboded the worst, if the Scriptures, which I had long since opposed, were true.
The vessel survived the March 10, 1748 storm, and Newton began earnestly studying the Bible. He embraced Christ and eventually entered the ministry, becoming one of England’s best-loved preachers and a leader in the fight against slavery. He once recalled, That tenth of March is a day much remembered by me; and I have never suffered it to pass unnoticed since the year 1748—the Lord came from on high and delivered me out of deep waters.
From a sea of troubles I call to you, LORD.
Won’t you please listen as I beg for mercy?
But you forgive us, and so we will worship you.
--- Psalm 130:1,2,4.
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Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 10
“In my prosperity I said I shall never be moved.”
--- Psalm 30:6.
“Moab settled on his lees, he hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel.” Give a man wealth; let his ships bring home continually rich freights; let the winds and waves appear to be his servants to bear his vessels across the bosom of the mighty deep; let his lands yield abundantly: let the weather be propitious to his crops; let uninterrupted success attend him; let him stand among men as a successful merchant; let him enjoy continued health; allow him with braced nerve and brilliant eye to march through the world, and live happily; give him the buoyant spirit; let him have the song perpetually on his lips; let his eye be ever sparkling with joy—and the natural consequence of such an easy state to any man, let him be the best Christian who ever breathed, will be presumption; even David said, “I shall never be moved;” and we are not better than David, nor half so good. Brother, beware of the smooth places of the way; if you are treading them, or if the way be rough, thank God for it. If God should always rock us in the cradle of prosperity; if we were always dandled on the knees of fortune; if we had not some stain on the alabaster pillar; if there were not a few clouds in the sky; if we had not some bitter drops in the wine of this life, we should become intoxicated with pleasure, we should dream “we stand;” and stand we should, but it would be upon a pinnacle; like the man asleep upon the mast, each moment we should be in jeopardy.
We bless God, then, for our afflictions; we thank him for our changes; we extol his name for losses of property; for we feel that had he not chastened us thus, we might have become too secure. Continued worldly prosperity is a fiery trial.
“Afflictions, though they seem severe,
In mercy oft are sent.”
Evening - March 10
“Man … is of few days, and full of trouble.” --- Job 14:1.
It may be of great service to us, before we fall asleep, to remember this mournful fact, for it may lead us to set loose by earthly things. There is nothing very pleasant in the recollection that we are not above the shafts of adversity, but it may humble us and prevent our boasting like the Psalmist in our morning’s portion. “My mountain standeth firm: I shall never be moved.” It may stay us from taking too deep root in this soil from which we are so soon to be transplanted into the heavenly garden. Let us recollect the frail tenure upon which we hold our temporal mercies. If we would remember that all the trees of earth are marked for the woodman’s axe, we should not be so ready to build our nests in them. We should love, but we should love with the love which expects death, and which reckons upon separations. Our dear relations are but loaned to us, and the hour when we must return them to the lender’s hand may be even at the door. The like is certainly true of our worldly goods. Do not riches take to themselves wings and fly away? Our health is equally precarious. Frail flowers of the field, we must not reckon upon blooming for ever. There is a time appointed for weakness and sickness, when we shall have to glorify God by suffering, and not by earnest activity. There is no single point in which we can hope to escape from the sharp arrows of affliction; out of our few days there is not one secure from sorrow. Man’s life is a cask full of bitter wine; he who looks for joy in it had better seek for honey in an ocean of brine. Beloved reader, set not your affections upon things of earth: but seek those things which are above, for here the moth devoureth, and the thief breaketh through, but there all joys are perpetual and eternal. The path of trouble is the way home. Lord, make this thought a pillow for many a weary head!
Morning and Evening
SHEPHERD OF EAGER YOUTH
Clement of Alexandria, c. 170–c. 220
Translated by Henry Martyn Dexter, 1821–1890
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them!” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
Someone cried, “Where must the seed be sown to bring the most fruit when it is grown?”
The Master heard as He said and smiled, “Go plant it for Me in the heart of a child.”
It is vitally important that our children be led to a personal relationship with Christ and instructed in His Word when they are young. What truth there is in these familiar statements: “To save a child is to save a life,” or “Give me a child till he/she is seven and I care not who gets him after that.” D. L. Moody, the noted evangelist, once said: “If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God.”
Christian nurturing of our children requires consistent discipline. Webster defines discipline as “training which corrects, strengthens, and perfects.” Discipline goes far beyond merely being punitive. Discipline and training have done their job only when they result in a changed character and the desire to live with self-control. Although there may be times when our youth may rebel and react against their early Christian training, they can never get completely away from it (Proverbs 22:6).
“Shepherd of Eager Youth” is the oldest Christian hymn of which the authorship is known. Clement of Alexandria wrote this text in the Greek language sometime between A.D. 202 and the time of his death in A.D. 220. The title in the original Greek could literally be translated “Tamer of Steeds Unbridled.” It was evidently used as a hymn of Christian instruction for new young converts from heathenism.
Shepherd of eager youth, guiding in love and truth thru devious ways—Christ, our triumphant King, we come Thy name to sing; hither Thy children bring tributes of praise.
Thou art our Holy Lord, the all-subduing Word, healer of strife; Thou didst Thyself abase that from sin’s deep disgrace Thou mightest save our race and give us life.
Ever be near our side, our shepherd and our guide, our staff and song; Jesus, Thou Christ of God, by Thy enduring word lead us where Thou hast trod, make our faith strong.
For Today: Deuteronomy 32:46; 1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Peter 2:25.
Reflect on this truth: The prized possession of any church is its youth. Seek to speak a word of encouragement to some young person.
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