Repentance and ForgivenessDeuteronomy 30 1 “And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, 2 and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. 4 If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. 5 And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. 6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. 7 And the LORD your God will put all these curses on your foes and enemies who persecuted you. 8 And you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today. 9 The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, 10 when you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
The Choice of Life and Death11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.
15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
Joshua to Succeed MosesDeuteronomy 31 1 So Moses continued to speak these words to all Israel. 2 And he said to them, “I am 120 years old today. I am no longer able to go out and come in. The Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not go over this Jordan.’ 3 The Lord your God himself will go over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, so that you shall dispossess them, and Joshua will go over at your head, as the Lord has spoken. 4 And the Lord will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when he destroyed them. 5 And the Lord will give them over to you, and you shall do to them according to the whole commandment that I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. 8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
The Reading of the Law9 Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, 13 and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
Joshua Commissioned to Lead Israel14 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, the days approach when you must die. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.” And Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tent of meeting. 15 And the Lord appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud. And the pillar of cloud stood over the entrance of the tent.
16 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. 17 Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ 18 And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods.
19 “Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. 20 For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. 21 And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give.” 22 So Moses wrote this song the same day and taught it to the people of Israel.
23 And the Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.”
24 When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the very end, 25 Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, 26 “Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against you. 27 For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Behold, even today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord. How much more after my death! 28 Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears and call heaven and earth to witness against them. 29 For I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly and turn aside from the way that I have commanded you. And in the days to come evil will befall you, because you will do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger through the work of your hands.”
The Song of Moses30 Then Moses spoke the words of this song until they were finished, in the ears of all the assembly of Israel:
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Many Mansions - Jonathan Edwards
[Sermon Date: "The Sabbath after the seating of the New Meeting House, Dec 25, 1737."]
IN these words may be observed two things,
1. The thing described, viz., Christ's Father's house. Christ spoke to his disciples in the foregoing chapter as one that was about to leave them. He told 'em, verse 31, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him," and then goes to giving of them counsel to live in unity and love one another, as one that was going from them. By which they seemed somewhat surprised and hardly knew what to make of it. And one of them, viz., Peter, asked him where he was going; verse 36, "Simon Peter said unto him, Lord whither goest thou?" Christ did not directly answer and tell him where he was going, but he signifies where in these words afterwards, in the verse 12, he tells 'em plainly that he was going to his Father.
2. We may observe the description given of it, viz., that in it there are many mansions. The disciples seemed very sorrowful at the news of Christ's going away, but Christ comforts 'em with that, that in his Father's house where he was going there was not only room for him, but room for them too. There were many mansions. There was not only a mansion there for him, but there were mansions enough for them all; there was room enough in heaven for them. When the disciples perceived that Christ was going away, they manifested a great desire to go with him, and particularly Peter. Peter in the latter part of the foregoing chapter asked him whither he went to that end that he might follow him. Christ told him that whither he went he could not follow him now, but that he should follow him afterwards. But Peter, not content with Christ, seemed to have a great mind to follow him now. "Lord," says he, "why cannot I follow thee now?" So that the disciples had a great mind still to be with Christ, and Christ in the words of the text intimates that they shall be with him. Christ signifies to 'em that he was going home to his Father's house, and he encourages 'em that they shall be with him there in due time, in that there were many mansions there. There was a mansion provided not only for him, but for them all (for Judas was not then present), and not only for them, but for all that should ever believe in him to the end of the world; and though he went before, he only went to prepare a place for them that should follow.
The text is a plain sentence; 'tis therefore needless to press any doctrine in other words from it: so that I shall build my discourse on the words of the text. There are two propositions contained in the words, viz.,
I. that heaven is God's house, and
II. that in this house of God there are many mansions.
Prop. I. Heaven is God's house. An house of public worship is an house where God's people meet from time to time to attend on God's ordinances, and that is set apart for that and is called God's house. The temple of Solomon was called God's house. God was represented as dwelling there. There he has his throne in the holy of holies, even the mercy seat over the ark and between the cherubims.
Sometimes the whole universe is represented in Scripture as God's house, built with various stories one above another: Amos 9:6, "It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven;" and Psalm 104:3, "Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters." But the highest heaven is especially represented in Scripture as the house of God. As to other parts of the creation, God hath appointed them to inferior uses; but this part he has reserved for himself for his own abode. We are told that the heavens are the Lord's, but the earth he hath given to the sons of men. God, though he is everywhere present, is represented both in Old Testament and New as being in heaven is a special and peculiar manner. Heaven is the temple of God. Thus we read of God's temple in heaven, Revelation 15:5. Solomon's temple was a type of heaven. The apostle Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews does from time to time call heaven the holy of holies, as being the antitype not only of the temple of Solomon, but of the most holy place in that temple, which was the place of God's most immediate residence: Hebrews 9:12, "He entered in once into the holy place;" verse 24, "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself." Houses where assemblies of Christians worship God are in some respects figures of this house of God above. When God is worshipped in them in spirit and truth, they become the outworks of heaven and as it were its gates. As in houses of public worship here there are assemblies of Christians meeting to worship God, so in heaven there is a glorious assembly, or Church, continually worshipping God: Hebrews 12:22,23, "But ye are come unto mount Sion, [and unto] the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, that are written in heaven."
Heaven is represented in Scripture as God's dwelling-house; Psalm 113:5, "Who is like [unto] the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high," and Psalm 123:1, "Unto thee I lift up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens." Heaven is God's palace. 'Tis the house of the great King of the universe; there he has his throne, which is therefore represented as his house or temple; Psalm 11:4, "The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven."
Heaven is the house where God dwells with his family. God is represented in Scripture as having a family; and though some of this family are now on earth, yet in so being they are abroad and not at home, but all going home: Ephesians 3:15, "Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named." Heaven is the place that God has built for himself and his children. God has many children, and the place designed for them is heaven; therefore the saints, being the children of God, are said to be of the household of God, Ephesians 2:19: "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." God is represented as a householder or head of a family, and heaven is his house.
Heaven is the house not only where God hath his throne, but also where he doth as it were keep his table, where his children sit down with him at his table and where they are feasted in a royal manner becoming the children of so great a King:
Luke 22:30, "That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom;" Matthew 26:29, "But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
God is the King of kings, and heaven is the place where he keeps his court. There are his angels and archangels that as the nobles of his court do attend upon him.
Prop. II. There are many mansions in the house of God. By many mansions is meant many seats or places of abode. As it is a king's palace, there are many mansions. Kings' houses are wont to be built very large, with many stately rooms and apartments. So there are many mansions in God's house.
When this is spoken of heaven, it is chiefly to be understood in a figurative sense, and the following things seem to be taught us in it.
1. There is room in this house of God for great numbers. There is room in heaven for a vast multitude, yea, room enough for all mankind that are or ever shall be; Luke 14:22, "Lord it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room."
It is not with the heavenly temple as it often is with houses of public worship in this world, that they fill up and become too small and scanty for those that would meet in them, so that there is not convenient room for all. There is room enough in our heavenly Father's house. This is partly what Christ intended in the words of the text, as is evident from the occasion of his speaking them. The disciples manifested a great desire to be where Christ was, and Christ therefore, to encourage them that it should be as they desired, tells them that in his Father's house where he was going were many mansions, i.e., room enough for them.
There is mercy enough in God to admit an innumerable multitude into heaven. There is mercy enough for all, and there is merit enough in Christ to purchase heavenly happiness for millions of millions, for all men that ever were, are or shall be. And there is a sufficiency in the fountain of heaven's happiness to supply and fill and satisfy all: and there is in all respects enough for the happiness of all.
2. There are sufficient and suitable accommodations for all the different sorts of persons that are in the world: for great and small, for high and low, rich and poor, wise and unwise, bond and free, persons of all nations and all conditions and circumstances, for those that have been great sinners as well as for moral livers; for weak saints and those that are babes in Christ as well as for those that are stronger and more grown in grace. There is in heaven a sufficiency for the happiness of every sort; there is a convenient accommodation for every creature that will hearken to the calls of the Gospel. None that will come to Christ, let his condition be what it will, need to fear but that Christ will provide a place suitable for him in heaven.
This seems to be another thing implied in Christ's words. The disciples were persons of very different condition from Christ: he was their Master, and there were his disciples; he was their Lord, and there were the servants; he was their Guide, and they were the followers; he was their Captain, and they the soldiers; he was the Shepherd, and they the sheep; [he was, as it were, the] Father, [and they the] children; he was the glorious, holy Son of God, they were the poor, sinful, corrupt men. But yet, though they were in such different circumstances from him, yet Christ encourages them that there shall not only be room in heaven for him, but for them too; for there were many mansions there. There was not only a mansion to accommodate the Lord, but the disciples also; not only the head, but the members; not only the Son of God, but those that are naturally poor, sinful, corrupt men: as in a king's palace there is not only a mansion or room of state built for the king himself and for his eldest son and heir, but there are many rooms, mansions for all his numerous household, children, attendants and servants.
3. It is further implied that heaven is a house that was actually built and prepared for a great multitude. When God made heaven in the beginning of the world, he intended it for an everlasting dwelling-place for a vast and innumerable multitude. When heaven was made, it was intended and prepared for all those particular persons that God had from eternity designed to save: Matthew 25:34, "Come, ye blessed [of my Father, inherit the Kingdom] prepared for you [from the foundation of the world]." And that is a very great and innumerable multitude: Revelation 7:9, "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes." Heaven being built designedly for these was built accordingly; it was built so as most conveniently to accommodate all this multitude: as a house that is built for a great family is built large and with many rooms in it; as a palace that is built for a great king that keeps a great court with many attendants is built exceeding great with a great many apartments; and as an house of public worship that is built for a great congregation is built very large with many seats in it.
4. When it is said, ["In my father's house are many mansions"], it is meant that there are seats of various dignity and different degrees and circumstances of honor and happiness. There are many mansions in God's house because heaven is intended for various degrees of honor and blessedness. Some are designed to sit in higher places there than others; some are designed to be advanced to higher degrees of honor and glory than others are; and, therefore, there are various mansions, and some more honorable mansions and seats, in heaven than others. Though they are all seats of exceeding honor and blessedness yet some are more so than others.
Thus a palace is built. Though every part of the palace is magnificent as becomes the palace of a king, yet there are many apartments of various honor, and some are more stately and costly than others, according to the degree of dignity. There is one apartment that is the king's presence-chamber; there are other apartments for the next heir to the crown; there are others for other children; and others for their attendants and the great officers of the household: one for the high steward, and another for the chamberlain, and others for meaner officers and servants.
Another image of this was in Solomon's temple. There were many mansions of different degrees of honor and dignity. There was the holy of holies, where the ark was that was the place of God's immediate residence, where the high priest alone might come; and there was another apartment called the holy place, where the other priests might come; and next to that was the inner court of the temple, where the Levites were admitted: and there they had many chambers or mansions built for lodging-rooms for the priests; and next to that was the court of Israel where the people of Israel might come; and next to that was the court of the Gentiles where the Gentiles, those that were called the "Proselytes of the Gate," might come.
And we have an image of this in houses built for the worship of Christian assemblies. In such houses of God there are many seats of different honor and dignity, from the most honorable to the most inferior of the congregation.
Not that we are to understand the words of Christ so much in a literal sense, as that every saint in heaven was to have a certain seat or room or place of abode where he was to be locally fixed. 'Tis not the design of the Scriptures to inform us much about the external circumstances of heaven or the state of heaven locally considered; but we are to understand what Christ says chiefly in a spiritual sense. Persons shall be set in different degrees of honor and glory in heaven, as is abundantly manifested in Scripture: which may fitly be represented to our imaginations by there being different seats of honor, as it was in the temple, as it is in kings' courts. Some seats shall be nearer the throne than others. Some shall sit next to Christ in glory: Matthew 20:23, "To sit on my right hand and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father."
Christ has doubtless respect to these different degrees of glory in the text. When he was going to heaven and the disciples were sorrowful at the thoughts of parting with their Lord, he lets them know that there are seats or mansions of various degrees of honor in his Father's house, that there was not only one for him, who was the Head of the Church and the elder brother, but also for them that were his disciples and younger brethren.
Christ also may probably have respect not only to different degrees of glory in heaven, but different circumstances. Though the employment and happiness of all the heavenly assembly shall in the general be the same, yet 'tis not improbable that there may be circumstantial difference. We know what their employment [is] in general, but not in particular. We know not how one may be employed to subserve and promote the happiness of another, and all to help one another. Some may there be set in one place for one office or employment, and others [in] another, as 'tis in the Church on earth. God hath set every one in the body as it hath pleased him; one is the eye, another the ear, another the head, etc. But because God has not been pleased expressly to reveal how it shall be in this respect, therefore I shall not insist upon it, but pass to make some IMPROVEMENT of what has been offered.
I. Here is encouragement for sinners that are concerned and exercised for the salvation of their souls, such as are afraid that they shall never go to heaven or be admitted to any place of abode there, and are sensible that they are hitherto in a doleful state and condition in that they are out of Christ, and so have no right to any inheritance in heaven, but are in danger of going to hell and having their place of eternal abode fixed there. You may be encouraged by what has been said, earnestly to seek heaven; for there are many mansions there. There is room enough there. Let your case be what it will, there is suitable provision there for you; and if you come to Christ, you need not fear that he will prepare a place for you; he'll see to it that you shall be well accommodated in heaven.
But II. I would improve this doctrine in a twofold exhortation.
1. Let all be hence exhorted earnestly to seek that they may be admitted to a mansion in heaven. You have heard that this is God's house; it is his temple. If David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah and in the land of Geshur and of the Philistines, so longed that he might again return into the land of Israel that he might have a place in the house of God here on earth, and prized a place there so much, though it was but that of a door-keeper, how great a happiness will it be to have a place in this heavenly temple of God! If they are looked upon as enjoying a high privilege that have a seat appointed them in kings' courts or in apartments in kings' palaces, especially those that have an abode there in the quality of the king's children, then how great a privilege will it be to have an apartment or mansion assigned to us in God's heavenly palace, and to have a place there as his children! How great is their glory and honor that are admitted to be of the household of God!
And seeing there are many mansions there, mansions enough for us all, our folly will be the greater if we neglect to seek a place in heaven, having our minds foolishly taken up about the worthless, fading things of this world. Here consider three things:
(1) How little a while you can have any mansion or place of abode in this world. Now you have a dwelling amongst the living. You have a house or mansion of your own, or at least one that is at present for your use, and now you have a seat in the house of God; but how little a while will this continue! In a very little while, and the place that now knows you in this world will know you no more. The habitation you have here will be empty of you; you will be carried dead out of it, or shall die at a distance from it, and never enter into it any more, or into any other abode in this world. Your mansion or place of abode in this world, however convenient or commodious it may be, is but as a tent that shall soon be taken down, but a lodge in a garden of cucumbers. Your stay is as it were but for a night. Your body itself is but a house of clay which will quickly moulder and tumble down, and you shall have no other habitation here in this world but the grave.
Thus God in his providence is putting you in mind by the repeated instances of death that have been in the town within the two weeks past, both in one house: in which death he has shown his dominion over old and young. The son was taken away first before the father, being in his full strength and flower of his days; and the father, who was then well and having no appearance of approaching death, followed in a few days: and their habitation and their seat in the house of God in this world will know them no more.
Take warning by these warnings of Providence to improve your time that you may have a mansion in heaven. We have a house of worship newly created amongst us which now you have a seat in, and probably are pleased with the ornaments of it; and though you have a place in so comely a house, yet you know not how little a while you shall have a place in this house of God. Here are a couple snatched away by death that had met in it but a few times, that have been snatched out of it before it was fully finished and never will have any more a seat in it. You know not how soon you may follow, and then of great importance will it be to you to have a seat in God's house above. Both of the persons lately deceased were much on their death-beds warning others to improve their precious time. The first of them was much in expressing his sense of the vast importance of an interest in Christ, as I was a witness, and was earnest in calling on others to improve their time, to be thorough, to get an interest in Christ, and seemed very desirous that young people might receive council and warning from him, as the words of a dying man, to do their utmost to make sure of conversion; and a little before he died left a request to me that I would warn the young people in his room. God had been warning of you in his death and the death of his father that so soon followed. The words of dying persons should be of special weight with us, for then they are in circumstances wherein they are most capable to look on things as they are and judge aright of 'em,--between both worlds as it were. Still that we must all be in.
Let our young people, therefore, take warning from hence, and don't be such fools as to neglect seeking a place and mansion in heaven. Young persons are especially apt to be taken with the pleasing things of this world. You are now, it may be, much pleased with hopes of your future circumstances in this world; [and you are now, it may be, much] pleased with the ornaments of that house of worship that you with others have a place in. But, alas, do you not too little consider how soon you may be taken away from all these things, and no more forever have any part in any mansion or house or enjoyment or happiness under the sun? Therefore let it be your main care to secure an everlasting habitation for hereafter.
(2) Consider when you die, if you have no mansion in the house of God in heaven, you must have your place of abode in the habitation of devils. There is no middle place between them, and when you go hence, you must go to one or the other of these. Some have a mansion prepared for them in heaven from the foundation [of the world]; others are sent away as cursed into everlasting burnings prepared for the [devil and his angels]. Consider how miserable those must be that shall have their habitation with devils to all eternity. Devils are foul spirits; God's great enemies. Their habitation is the blackness of darkness; a place of the utmost filthiness, abomination, darkness, disgrace and torment, O, how would you rather ten thousand times have no place of abode at all, have no being, than to have a place [with devils]!
(3) If you die unconverted, you will have the worse place in hell for having had a seat or place in God's house in this world. As there are many mansions, places of different degrees of honor in heaven, so there are various abodes and places or degrees of torment and misery in hell; and those will have the worst place there that [dying unconverted, have had the best place in God's house here]. Solomon speaks of a peculiarly awful sight that he had seen, that of a wicked man buried that had gone [from the place of the holy], Ecclesiastes 8:10. Such as have had a seat in God's house, have been in a sense exalted up to heaven, set on the gate of heaven, [if they die unconverted, shall be] cast down to hell.
2. The second exhortation that I would offer from what has been said is to seek a high place in heaven. Seeing there are many mansions of different degrees of honor and dignity in heaven, let us seek to obtain a mansion of distinguished glory. 'Tis revealed to us that there are different degrees of glory to that end that we might seek after the higher degrees. God offered high degrees of glory to that end, that we might seek them by eminent holiness and good works: 2 Corinthians 9:6, "He that sows sparingly [shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully]." It is not becoming persons to be over anxious about an high seat in God's house in this world, for that is the honor that is of men; but we can't too earnestly seek after an high seat in God's house above, by seeking eminent holiness, for that is the honor that is of God.
'Tis very little worth the while for us to pursue after honor in this world, where the greatest honor is but a bubble and will soon vanish away, and death will level all. Some have more stately houses than others, and some are in higher office than others, and some are richer than others and have higher seats in the meeting-house than others; but all graves are upon a level. One rotting, putrefying corpse is as ignoble as another; the worms are as bold with one carcass as another.
But the mansions in God's house above are everlasting mansions. Those that have seats allotted 'em there, whether of greater or lesser dignity, whether nearer or further from the throne, will hold 'em to all eternity. This is promised, Revelation 3:12 :"Him that overcometh I will make him a pillar in the temple [of my God, and he shall go no more out]." If it be worth the while to desire and seek high seats in the meeting-house, where you are one day in a week, and where you shall never come but few days in all; if it be worth the while much to prize one seat above another in the house of worship only because it is the pew or seat that is ranked first in number, and to be seen here for a few days, how will it be worth the while to seek an high mansion in God's temple and in that glorious place that is the everlasting habitation of God and all his children! You that are pleased with your seats in this house because you are seated high or in a place that is looked upon honorable by those that sit round about, and because many can behold you, consider how short a time you will enjoy this pleasure. And if there be any that are not suited in their seats because they are too low for them, let them consider that it is but a very little while before it will [be] all one to you whether you have sat high or low here. But it will be of infinite and everlasting concern to you where your seat is in another world. Let your great concern be while in this world so to improve your opportunities in God's house in this world, whether you sit high or low, as that you may have a distinguished and glorious mansion in God's house in heaven, where you may be fixed in your place in that glorious assembly in an everlasting rest.
Let the main thing that we prize in God's house be, not the outward ornaments of it, or a high seat in it, but the word of God and his ordinances in it. And spend your time here in seeking Christ, that he may prepare a place for you in his Father's house, that when he comes again to this world, he may take you to himself, that where he is, there you may be also.
The “Mind-Boggling” Trinity
By William Lane Craig
(The Question) I would consider myself agnostic but have a question regarding the probability of God as accepted by the majority of the Christian community: Aren't the odds of a triune god beyond astronomical? To accept that there is an omnipotent, eternal being is difficult enough, but three separate beings that possess this nature? The term "mind boggling" doesn't even begin to describe the unlikelihood... Thanks!
Thanks for your question, Steve! Before I address it, let’s be sure we state accurately what the doctrine of the Trinity is. It is not the doctrine that there are “three separate beings that possess this [divine] nature.” That would be polytheism. Christians hold that there is one tri-personal God.
Now this is admittedly mind-boggling. But don’t equate being mind-boggling with being improbable. Quantum mechanics is mind-boggling, but that doesn’t imply that it is improbable as an account of the physical world. We live in a universe that is so mind-boggling as almost to defy comprehension!
Books by William Lane Craig -
On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision
Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics
Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview
On Guard for Students: A Thinker's Guide to the Christian Faith
Five Views on Apologetics
God Over All: Divine Aseity and the Challenge of Platonism
The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology
Time and Eternity: Exploring God's Relationship to Time
The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge & Human Freedom
The Son Rises: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus
What is Concordism in Bible-Science Discussion?
By Scot McKnight 3/7/2017
From the forthcoming Dictionary of Christianity and Science, edited by Paul Copan, Tremper Longman III, Christopher L. Reese, and Michael G. Strauss.
CONCORDISM. Concordism refers to the position that the teaching of the Bible on the natural world, properly interpreted, will agree with the teaching of science (when it properly understands the data), and may in fact supplement science. The concordist not only believes that nature and Scripture will harmonize, but sees specific references in the Bible to current scientific understanding of the universe. The concordist, then, looks for those close parallels in order to show that Scripture concords or agrees with scientific conclusions.
Because the concordist holds Scripture as entirely truthful, there cannot be any ultimate contradiction between Scripture rightly interpreted and nature rightly interpreted. In both Scripture and nature, of course, there is the potential for error in the interpretation. Concordism, however, assumes that correlations can be made, believing in a degree of accuracy of interpretation (though not infallibility) in current science and in showing he Scripture supports clear scientific conclusions.
Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author or editor of more than fifty books, is the Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. Dr. McKnight has given interviews on radios across the nation, has appeared on television, and is regularly speaks at local churches, conferences, colleges, and seminaries in the USA and abroad. Dr. McKnight obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Nottingham (1986) and has been a professor for more than three decades.
Scot McKnight is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Society for New Testament Studies. He is the author of the award-winning The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others, which won the Christianity Today book of the year for Christian Living. His books include Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us, The Story of the Christ, Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today, The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus, A Community Called Atonement (Living Theology). He broadened his Jesus Creed project in writing a daily devotional: 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed. His studies in conversion were expanded with his newest book, Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy, a book he co-authored with his former student Hauna Ondrey. Other books are The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible and Fasting: The Ancient Practices, as well as A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God's Design for Life Together and Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church.
McKnight wrote a commentary on James (The Letter of James (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)), a book on discipleship (One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow), and a Jesus Creed book for high school students (with Syler Thomas and Chris Folmsbee) called The Jesus Creed for Students: Loving God, Loving Others. His research on gospel was published in the Fall of 2011 in a book called The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. Along with Joe Modica, McKnight co-edited Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not: Evaluating Empire in New Testament Studies. Also he published an e-book affirming the importance of the doctrine of perseverance in a book called A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance. His most recent commentary is Sermon on the Mount (The Story of God Bible Commentary). In the Fall of 2015 his book on heaven appeared: The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible's Truth About Life to Come, and he has a book appearing in 2017 The Hum of Angels: Listening for the Messengers of God Around Us.
He co-wrote with his daughter a Jesus Creed book for children: Sharing God's Love: The Jesus Creed for Chldren.
McKnight’s current projects is a commentary on Colossians (Eerdmans) as well as a book on the Holy Spirit.
Other books include Who Do My Opponents Say That I Am?: An Investigation of the Accusations Against the Historical Jesus (The Library of New Testament Studies), Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory, Light Among the Gentiles: Jewish Missionary Activity in the Second Temple Period by Scot McKnight (1991-04-02), A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context (Studying the Historical Jesus), Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels, Galatians (The NIV Application Commentary) and Galatians (The NIV Application Commentary), Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels (Guides to New Testament Exegesis), and he is a co-editor with J.B. Green and I.H. Marshall of the award-winning Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series) as well as the co-editor, with J.D.G. Dunn, The Historical Jesus in Recent Research. He regularly contributes chapter length studies to dictionaries, encyclopedias, books and articles for magazines and online webzines. McKnight’s books have been translated into Chinese, Korean, Russian, and Portuguese.
Scot McKnight was also ordained by Bishop Todd Hunter to the Diaconate in Churches for the Sake of Others, a segment of Anglican Churches of North America. He and Kris are active in their church, Church of the Redeemer.
McKnight blogs at Jesus Creed.
Scot McKnight was elected into the Hall of Honor at Cornerstone University in honor of his basketball accomplishments during his college career. He and his wife, Kristen, live in Libertyville, Illinois. They enjoy traveling, long walks, gardening, and cooking. They have two adult children, Laura (married to Mark Barringer) and Lukas (married to Annika Nelson), and two grandchildren: Aksel and Finley.
Godly Strategy in Response to Disney’s ‘Gay Moment’
By Tom Gilson 3/5/2017
Wow. Disney’s “gay moment” in the film Beauty and the Beast sure has stirred up feelings among Christians. Calls for boycotts. Closed doors. Angry urgings to quit being “nice.”
That last came from comments on my Stream article last week, The Beastly Beauty of Disney’s ‘Gay Moment’ — And How We Should Respond. Apparently some readers thought I was suggesting we back out of the conflict. I’m not. I’m talking about our strategy as followers of Christ.
Another comment on that article asked for more specific thoughts on what to do at a time like this. Jesus told His disciples to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) Our forays into pro-gay culture must likewise be marked with both strategic savvy and godly action.
Tom Gilson is a senior editor of The Stream, author of the new 2016 parent-friendly guide to keeping kids in the faith, titled Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents' Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens, the chief editor of True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism, and Peter Boghossian, Atheist Tactician: A Preliminary Response To "A Manual For Creating Atheists" the author/host of the Thinking Christian blog.He lives in southwest Ohio with Sara, his wife, and their two 20-something children. He has received a B.Mus. in Music Education with a specialty in performance from Michigan State University and an M.S. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Central Florida. When he’s not writing he loves drinking coffee, canoeing, walking in the woods, and playing his trombones.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 29Ascribe to the LORD Glory
29 A Psalm Of David.
1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.
3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD, over many waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
By Don Carson 6/26/2018
Reflect for a moment on the rich and diverse means that God granted to Israel to help them remember what he had done to deliver them, and the nature of the covenant they had pledged themselves to obey.
There was the tabernacle itself (later the temple), with its carefully prescribed rites and feasts: the covenant was not an abstract philosophical system, but was reflected in regular religious ritual. The nation was constituted in such a way that the Levites were distributed amongst the other tribes, and the Levites had the task of teaching the Law to the rest of the people. The three principal high feasts were designed to gather the people to the central tabernacle or temple, where both the ritual and the actual reading of the Law were to serve as powerful reminders (Deut. 31:11).
From time to time God sent specially endowed judges and prophets, who called the people back to the covenant. Families were carefully taught how to pass on the inherited history to their children, so that new generations that had never seen the miraculous display of God’s power at the time of the Exodus would nevertheless be fully informed of it and own it as theirs. Moreover, blessings from God would attend obedience, and judgment from God would attend disobedience, so that the actual circumstances of the community were supposed to elicit reflection and self-examination. Legislation was passed to foster a sense of separateness in the fledgling nation, erecting certain barriers so that the people would not easily become contaminated by the surrounding paganism. Unique events, like the antiphonal shouting at Mounts Gerizim and Ebal at the time of entering the land (see June 22 meditation), were supposed to foster covenant fidelity in the national memory.
But now God adds one more device. Precisely because God knows that in due course the people will rebel anyway, he instructs Moses to write a song of telling power that will become a national treasure — and a sung testimony against themselves (Deut. 31:19-22). Someone has said, “Let me write the songs of a nation, and I care not who writes its laws.” The aphorism is overstated, of course, but insightful nonetheless. That is the purpose of the next chapter, Deuteronomy 32. The Israelites will learn, as it were, a national anthem that will speak against them if they shut down all the other God-given calls to remember and obey.
What devices, in both Scripture and history, has God graciously given to help the heirs of the new covenant remember and obey? Meditate on them. How have you used them? What songs do we sing to put this principle into practice, that teach the people of God matters of irrevocable substance beyond mere sentimentalism?
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
Disabled by Design
By Daniel Ritchie 1/22/2018
Take a step back for a moment and imagine that you were born without arms.
You have to do everyday tasks with your feet. You write with your feet. You eat with your feet. You put gas in your car by lying down on the ground to lift the nozzle with your feet. You pay for a gallon of milk at the grocery store by carrying it to the checkout line with your teeth and then taking your debit card out of your shoe and swiping it through the credit card machine with your toes.
That’s my life. Every day is an exercise in the unusual, and the world recognizes that. I get stared at and hear rude comments on an almost daily basis. As a child and teen, being different than everyone else I knew was a terrible burden. I did not think my own life was precious, remarkable, or holy. I felt worthless and broken.
New Eyes | God rescued and redeemed me at the age of 15, and he slowly began to show me how precious my life is in spite of my disability. In particular, God used the story of the blind man in John 9 to show me the sanctity of all lives, even those with disabilities:
As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1–3)
Daniel Ritchie is a speaker and writer from Huntersville, North Carolina. He is a husband and father of two. His forthcoming book, My Affliction for His Glory, is set to release in the spring, and you can follow his writing at his blog.
Love Facebook? You’re Probably Depressed and Lonely
By Eric Lieberman 3/7/2017
The more time a young adult spends on social media, the more prone they are to feeling lonely, according to a new study.
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted a study and found that frequently browsing and engaging in social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat increases the probability of feeling socially isolated.
“This is an important issue to study because mental health problems and social isolation are at epidemic levels among young adults,” Brian A. Primack, director of Pittsburgh University’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, said Monday in an official press release.
Michael Schulson is a freelance journalist covering religion, science, and technology. He lives in Durham, N.C.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
PENITENCE, AS EXPLAINED IN THE SOPHISTICAL JARGON OF THE SCHOOLMEN, WIDELY DIFFERENT FROM THE PURITY REQUIRED BY THE GOSPEL. OF CONFESSION AND SATISFACTION.
The divisions of this chapter are,--I. The orthodox doctrine of repentance being already expounded, the false doctrine is refuted in the present chapter; a general summary survey being at the same time taken of the doctrine of the Schoolmen, sec. 1, 2. II. Its separate parts are afterwards examined. Contrition, sec. 2 and 3. Confession, sec. 4-20. Sanctification, from sec. 20 to the end of the chapter.
1. Errors of the Schoolmen in delivering the doctrine of repentance. 1. Errors in defining it. Four different definitions considered. 2. Absurd division. 3. Vain and puzzling questions. 4. Mode in which they entangle themselves.
2. The false doctrine of the Schoolmen necessary to be refuted. Of contrition. Their view of it examined.
3. True and genuine contrition.
4. Auricular confession. Whether or not of divine authority. Arguments of Canonists and Schoolmen. Allegorical argument founded on Judaism. Two answers. Reason why Christ sent the lepers to the priests.
5. Another allegorical argument. Answer.
6. A third argument from two passages of Scripture. These passages expounded.
7. Confession proved not to be of divine authority. The use of it free for almost twelve hundred years after Christ. Its nature. When enacted into a law. Confirmation from the history of the Church. A representation of the ancient auricular confession still existing among the Papists, to bear judgment against them. Confession abolished in the Church of Constantinople.
8. This mode of confession disapproved by Chrysostom, as shown by many passages.
9. False confession being thus refuted, the confession enjoined by the word of God is considered. Mistranslation in the old version. Proof from Scripture that confession should be directed to God alone.
10. Effect of secret confession thus made to God. Another kind of confession made to men.
11. Two forms of the latter confession--viz. public and private. Public confession either ordinary or extraordinary. Use of each. Objection to confession and public prayer. Answer.
12. Private confession of two kinds. 1. On our own account. 2. On account of our neighbor. Use of the former. Great assistance to be obtained from faithful ministers of the Church. Mode of procedure. Caution to be used.
13. The use of the latter recommended by Christ. What comprehended under it. Scripture sanctions no other method of confession.
14. The power of the keys exercised in these three kinds of confession. The utility of this power in regard to public confession and absolution. Caution to be observed.
15. Popish errors respecting confession. 1. In enjoining on all the necessity of confessing every sin. 2. Fictitious keys. 3. Pretended mandate to loose and bind. 4. To whom the office of loosing and binding committed.
16. Refutation of the first error, from the impossibility of so confessing, as proved by the testimony of David.
17. Refuted farther from the testimony of conscience. Impossible to observe this most rigid obligation. Necessarily leads to despair or indifference. Confirmation of the preceding remarks by an appeal to conscience.
18. Another refutation of the first error from analogy. Sum of the whole refutation. Third refutation, laying down the surest rule of confession. Explanation of the rule. Three objections answered.
19. Fourth objection--viz. that auricular confession does no harm, and is even useful. Answer, unfolding the hypocrisy, falsehood, impiety, and monstrous abominations of the patrons of this error.
20. Refutation of the second error. 1. Priests not successors of the Apostles. 2. They have not the Holy Spirit, who alone is arbiter of the keys.
21. Refutation of the third error. 1. They are ignorant of the command and promise of Christ. By abandoning the word of God they run into innumerable absurdities.
22. Objection to the refutation of the third error. Answers, reducing the Papists to various absurdities.
23. Refutation of the fourth error. 1. Petitio principii. 2. Inversion of ecclesiastical discipline. Three objections answered.
24. Conclusion of the whole discussion against this fictitious confession.
25. Of satisfaction, to which the Sophists assign the third place in repentance. Errors and falsehoods. These views opposed by the terms,--1. Forgiveness. 2. Free forgiveness. 3. God destroying iniquities. 4. By and on account of Christ. No need of our satisfaction.
26. Objection, confining the grace and efficacy of Christ within narrow limits. Answers by both John the Evangelist and John the Baptist. Consequence of these answers.
27. Two points violated by the fiction of satisfaction. First, the honor of Christ impaired. Secondly, the conscience cannot find peace. Objection, confining the forgiveness of sins to Catechumens, refuted.
28. Objection, founded on the arbitrary distinction between venial and mortal sins. This distinction insulting to God and repugnant to Scripture. Answer, showing the true distinction in regard to venial sin.
29. Objection, founded on a distinction between guilt and the punishment of it. Answer, illustrated by various passages of Scripture. Admirable saying of Augustine.
30. Answer, founded on a consideration of the efficacy of Christ's death, and the sacrifices under the law. Our true satisfaction.
31. An objection, perverting six passages of Scripture. Preliminary observations concerning a twofold judgment on the part of God. 1. For punishment. 2. For correction.
32. Two distinctions hence arising. Objection, that God is often angry with his elect. Answer, God in afflicting his people does not take his mercy from them. This confirmed by his promise, by Scripture, and the uniform experience of the Church. Distinction between the reprobate and the elect in regard to punishment.
33. Second distinction. The punishment of the reprobate a commencement of the eternal punishment awaiting them; that of the elect designed to bring them to repentance. This confirmed by passages of Scripture and of the Fathers.
34. Two uses of this doctrine to the believer. In affliction he can believe that God, though angry, is still favourable to him. In the punishment of the reprobate, he sees a prelude to their final doom.
35. Objection, as to the punishment of David, answered. Why all men here subjected to chastisement.
36. Objections, founded on five other passages, answered.
37. Answer continued.
38. Objection, founded on passages in the Fathers. Answer, with passages from Chrysostom and Augustine.
39. These satisfactions had reference to the peace of the Church, and not to the throne of God. The Schoolmen have perverted the meaning of some absurd statements by obscure monks.
1. I come now to an examination of what the scholastic sophists teach concerning repentance. This I will do as briefly as possible; for I leave no intention to take up every point, lest this work, which I am desirous to frame as a compendium of doctrine, should exceed all bounds. They have managed to envelop a matter, otherwise not much involved, in so many perplexities, that it will be difficult to find an outlet if once you get plunged but a little way into their mire. And, first, in giving a definition, they plainly show they never understood what repentance means. For they fasten on some expressions in the writings of the Fathers which are very far from expressing the nature of repentance. For instance, that to repent is to deplore past sins and not commit what is to be deplored. Again that it is to bewail past evils and not to sin to do what is to be bewailed. Again, that it is a kind of grieving revenge, punishing in itself what it grieves to have committed. Again, that it is sorrow of heart and bitterness of soul for the evils which the individual has committed, or to which he has consented.  Supposing we grant that these things were well said by Fathers (though, if one were inclined to dispute, it were not difficult to deny it), they were not, however said with the view of describing repentance but only of exhorting penitents not again to fall into the same faults from which they had been delivered. But if all descriptions of this kind are to be converted into definitions, there are others which have as good a title to be added. For instance, the following sentence of Chrysostom: "Repentance is a medicine for the cure of sin, a gift bestowed from above, an admirable virtue, a grace surpassing the power of laws." Moreover, the doctrine which they  afterwards deliver is somewhat worse than their definition. For they are so keenly bent on external exercises, that all you can gather from immense volumes  is, that repentance is a discipline, and austerity, which serves partly to subdue the flesh, partly to chasten and punish sins: of internal renovation of mind, bringing with it true amendment of life, there is a strange silence.  No doubt, they talk much of contrition and attrition, torment the soul with many scruples, and involve it in great trouble and anxiety; but when they seem to have deeply wounded the heart, they cure all its bitterness by a slight sprinkling of ceremonies. Repentance thus shrewdly defined, they divide into contrition of the heart, confession of the mouth, and satisfaction of works.  This is not more logical than the definition, though they would be thought to have spent their whole lives in framing syllogisms.  But if any one argues from the definition (a mode of argument prevalent with dialecticians) that a man may weep over his past sins and not commit things that cause weeping; may bewail past evils, and not commit things that are to be bewailed; may punish what he is grieved for having committed, though he does not confess it with the mouth,--how will they defend their division? For if he may be a true penitent and not confess, repentance can exist without confession. If they answer, that this division refers to repentance regarded as a sacrament, or is to be understood of repentance in its most perfect form, which they do not comprehend in their definitions, the mistake does not rest with me: let them blame themselves for not defining more purely and clearly. When any matter is discussed, I certainly am dull enough to refer everything to the definition as the hinge and foundation of the whole discussion. But granting that this is a license which masters have, let us now survey the different parts in their order. In omitting as frivolous several things which they vend with solemn brow as mysteries, I do it not from ignorance. It were not very difficult to dispose of all those points which they plume themselves on their acuteness and subtilty in discussing; but I consider it a sacred duty not to trouble the reader to no purpose with such absurdities. It is certainly easy to see from the questions which they move and agitate, and in which they miserably entangle themselves, that they are pealing of things they know not. Of this nature are the following: Whether repentance of one sin is pleasing to God, while there is an obstinate adherence to other sins. Again, whether punishments divinely indicted are available for satisfaction. Again, whether repentance can be several times repeated for mortal sins, whereas they grossly and wickedly define that daily repentance has to do with none but venial sins. In like manner, with gross error, they greatly torment themselves with a saying of Jerome, that repentance is a second plank after shipwreck.  Herein they show that they have never awoke from brutish stupor, so as to obtain a distant view of the thousandth part of their sins.
2. I would have my readers to observe, that the dispute here relates not to a matter of no consequence;  but to one of the most important of all--viz. the forgiveness of sins. For while they require three things in repentance--viz. compunction of heart, confession of the mouth, and satisfaction of work  --they at the same time teach that these are necessary to obtain the pardon of sins. If there is any thing in the whole compass of religion which it is of importance to us to know, this certainly is one of the most important--viz. to perceive and rightly hold by what means, what rule, what terms, with what facility or difficulty, forgiveness of sins may be obtained. Unless our knowledge here is clear and certain, our conscience can have no rest at all, no peace with God, no confidence or security, but is continually trembling, fluctuating, boiling, and distracted; dreads, hates, and shuns the presence of God. But if forgiveness of sins depends on the conditions to which they bind it, nothing can be more wretched and deplorable than our situation. Contrition they represent as the first step in obtaining pardon; and they exact it as due, that is, full and complete: meanwhile, they decide not when one may feel secure of having performed this contrition in due measure. I admit that we are bound strongly and incessantly to urge every man bitterly to lament his sins, and thereby stimulate himself more and more to dislike and hate them. For this is the "repentance to salvation not to be repented of," (2 Cor. 7:10). But when such bitterness of sorrow is demanded as may correspond to the magnitude of the offense, and be weighed in the balance with confidence of pardon, miserable consciences are sadly perplexed and tormented when they see that the contrition due for sin is laid upon them, and yet that they have no measure of what is due, so as to enable them to determine that they have made full payment. If they say, we are to do what in us lies, we are always brought back to the same point;  for when will any man venture to promise himself that he has done his utmost in bewailing sin? Therefore, when consciences, after a lengthened struggle and long contests with themselves, find no haven in which they may rest, as a means of alleviating their condition in some degree, they extort sorrow and wring out tears, in order to perfect their contrition.
3. If they say that this is calumny on my part, let them come forward and point out a single individual who, by this doctrine of contrition, has not either been driven to despair, or has not, instead of true, opposed pretended fear to the justice of God. We have elsewhere observed, that forgiveness of sins never can be obtained without repentance, because none but the afflicted, and those wounded by a consciousness of sins, can sincerely implore the mercy of God; but we, at the same time, added, that repentance cannot be the cause of the forgiveness of sins: and we also did away with that torment of souls--the dogma that it must be performed as due. Our doctrine was, that the soul looked not to its own compunction or its own tears, but fixed both eyes on the mercy of God alone. Only we observed, that those who labour and are heavy laden are called by Christ, seeing he was sent "to preach good tidings to the meek;" "to bind up the broken-hearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;" "to comfort all that mourn."  Hence the Pharisees were excluded, because, full of their own righteousness, they acknowledged not their own poverty; and despisers, because, regardless of the divine anger, they sought no remedy for their wickedness. Such persons neither labour nor are heavy laden, are not broken-hearted, bound, nor in prison. But there is a great difference between teaching that forgiveness of sins is merited by a full and complete contrition (which the sinner never can give), and instructing him to hunger and thirst after the mercy of God, that recognizing his wretchedness, his turmoil, weariness, and captivity, you may show him where he should seek refreshment, rest, and liberty; in fine, teach him in his humility to give glory to God.
4. Confession has ever been a subject of keen contest between the Canonists and the Scholastic Theologians; the former contending that confession is of divine authority--the latter insisting, on the contrary, that it is merely enjoined by ecclesiastical constitution. In this contest great effrontery has been displayed by the Theologians, who have corrupted and violently wrested every passage of Scripture they have quoted in their favour.  And when they saw that even thus they could not gain their object, those who wished to be thought particularly acute had recourse to the evasion that confession is of divine authority in regard to the substance, but that it afterwards received its form from positive enactment. Thus the silliest of these quibblers refer the citation to divine authority, from its being said, "Adam, where art thou?" (Gen. 3:9, 12); and also the exception from Adam having replied as if excepting, "The women whom thou gavest to be with me," &c.; but say that the form of both was appointed by civil law. Let us see by what arguments they prove that this confession, formed or unformed, is a divine commandment. The Lord, they say, sent the lepers to the priests (Mt. 8:4). What? did he send them to confession? Who ever heard tell that the Levitical priests were appointed to hear confession? Here they resort to allegory. The priests were appointed by the Mosaic law to discern between leper and leper: sin is spiritual leprosy; therefore it belongs to the priests to decide upon it. Before I answer, I would ask, in passing, why, if this passage makes them judges of spiritual leprosy, they claim the cognizance of natural and carnal leprosy? This, for sooth, is not to play upon Scripture!  The law gives the cognizance of leprosy to the Levitical priests: let us usurp this to ourselves. Sin is spiritual leprosy: let us also have cognizance of sin. I now give my answer: There being a change of the priesthood, there must of necessity be a change of the law. All the sacerdotal functions were transferred to Christ, and in him fulfilled and ended (Heb. 7:12). To him alone, therefore, all the rights and honors of the priesthood have been transferred. If they are so fond then of hunting out allegories, let them set Christ before them as the only priest, and place full and universal jurisdiction on his tribunal: this we will readily admit. Besides, there is an incongruity in their allegory: it classes a merely civil enactment among ceremonies. Why, then, does Christ send the lepers to the priests? Lest the priests should be charged with violating the law, which ordained that the person cured of leprosy should present himself before the priest, and be purified by the offering of a sacrifice, he orders the lepers who had been cleansed to do what the law required. "Go and show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing according as Moses commanded for a testimony unto them." (Luke 5:17). And assuredly this miracle would be a testimony to them: they had pronounced them lepers; they now pronounce them cured. Whether they would or not, they are forced to become witnesses to the miracles of Christ. Christ allows them to examine the miracle, and they cannot deny it: yet, as they still quibble, they have need of a testimony. So it is elsewhere said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations," (Mt. 24:14). Again, "Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles," (Mt. 10:18); that is, in order that, in the judgment of Gods they might be more filly convicted. But if they prefer taking the view of Chrysostom (Hom. 12 de Muliere Cananæa), he shows that this was done by Christ for the sake of the Jews also, that he might not be regarded as a violator of the law. But we are ashamed to appeal to the authority of any man in a matter so clear, when Christ declares that he left the legal right of the priests entire, as professed enemies of the Gospel, who were always intent on making a clamour if their mouths were not stopped. Wherefore, let the Popish priests, in order to retain this privilege, openly make common cause with those whom it was necessary to restrain, by forcible means, from speaking evil of Christ.  For there is here no reference to his true ministers.
5. They draw their second argument from the same fountain,--I mean allegory; as if allegories were of much avail in confirming any doctrine. But, indeed, let them avail, if those which I am able to produce are not more specious than theirs. They say, then, that the Lord, after raising Lazarus, commanded his disciples to "loose him and let him go," (John 11:44). Their first statement is untrue: we nowhere read that the Lord said this to the disciples; and it is much more probable that he spoke to the Jews who were standing by, that from there being no suspicion of fraud the miracle might be more manifest, and his power might be the more conspicuous from his raising the dead without touching him, by a mere word. In the same way, I understand that our Lord, to leave no ground of suspicion to the Jews, wished them to roll back the stone, feel the stench, perceive the sure signs of death, see him rise by the mere power of a word, and first handle hint when alive. And this is the view of Chrysostom (Serm. C. Jud. Gent. et Haeret). But granting that it was said to the disciples, what can they gain by it? That the Lord gave the apostles the power of loosing? How much more aptly and dexterously might we allegorize and say, that by this symbol the Lord designed to teach his followers to loose those whom he raises up; that is, not to bring to remembrance the sins which he himself had forgotten, not to condemn as sinners those whom he had acquitted, not still to upbraid those whom he had pardoned, not to be stern and severe in punishing, while he himself was merciful and ready to forgive. Certainly nothing should more incline us to pardon than the example of the Judge who threatens that he will be inexorable to the rigid and inhumane. Let them go now and vend their allegories. 
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
1. The Word of Forgiveness
A.W. Pink from The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" Luke 23:34.
MAN HAD DONE HIS WORST. The one by whom the world was made had come into it, but the world knew him not. The Lord of glory had tabernacled among men, but he was not wanted. The eyes which sin had blinded saw in him no beauty that he should be desired. At his birth there was no room in the inn, which foreshadowed the treatment he was to receive at the hands of men. Shortly after his birth Herod sought to slay him, and this intimated the hostility his person evoked and forecast the cross as the climax of man’s enmity. Again and again, his enemies attempted his destruction. And now their vile desires are granted them. The Son of God had yielded himself up into their hands. A mock trial had been gone through, and though his judges found no fault in him, nevertheless, they had yielded to the insistent clamoring of those who hated him as they cried again and again "Crucify him".
He yielded himself up. He was not murdered. He was not a victim. He came to do His Father's will.
The fell deed had been done. No ordinary death would suffice his implacable foes. A death of intense suffering and shame was decided upon. A cross had been secured: the Saviour had been nailed to it. And there he hangs - silent. But presently his pallid lips are seen to move – is he crying for pity? No. What then? Is he pronouncing malediction upon his crucifiers? No. He is praying, praying for his enemies - "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
This first of the seven cross-sayings of our Lord presents him in the attitude of prayer. How significant! How instructive! His public ministry had opened with prayer (Luke 3:21), and here we see it closing in prayer. Surely he has left us an example! No longer might those hands minister to the sick, for they are nailed to the cross; no longer may those feet carry him on errands of mercy, for they are fastened to the cruel tree; no longer may he engage in instructing the apostles, for they have forsaken him and fled. How then does he occupy himself? In the ministry of prayer! What a lesson for us.
Perhaps these lines may be read by some who by reason of age and sickness are no longer able to work actively in the Lord’s vineyard. Possibly in days gone by, you were a teacher, you were a preacher, a Sunday-school teacher, a tract-distributor: but now you are bed-ridden. Yes, but you are still here on earth! Who knows but for what God is leaving you here a few more days is to engage in the ministry of prayer -and perhaps accomplish more by this than by all your past active service. If you are tempted to disparage such a ministry remember your Saviour. He prayed, prayed for others, prayed for sinners, even in his last hours.
In praying for his enemies not only did Christ set before us a perfect example of how we should treat those who wrong and hate us, but he also taught us never to regard any as beyond the reach of prayer. If Christ prayed for his murderers then surely we have encouragement to pray now for the very chief of sinners! Christian reader, never lose hope. Does it seem a waste of time for you to continue praying for that man, that woman, that wayward child of yours? Does their case seem to become more hopeless every day? Does it look as though they had gone beyond the reach of divine mercy? Perhaps that one you have prayed for so long has been ensnared by one of the Satanic cults of the day, or he may now be an avowed and blatant infidel, in a word, an open enemy of Christ. Remember then the cross. Christ prayed for his enemies. Learn then not to look on any as beyond the reach of prayer.
One other thought concerning this prayer of Christ. We are shown here the efficacy of prayer. This cross-intercession of Christ for his enemies met with a marked and definite answer. The answer is seen in the conversion of the three thousand souls on the day of Pentecost. I base this conclusion on Acts 3:17 where the apostle Peter says, "And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers." It is to be noted that Peter used the word "ignorance" which corresponds with our Lord’s "they know not what they do". Here then is the divine explanation of the 3,000 converted under a single sermon. It was not Peter’s eloquence which was the cause but the Saviour’s prayer. And, Christian reader, the same is true of us. Christ prayed for you and me long before we believed in him. Turn to John 17:20 for proof. "Neither pray I for these (the apostles) alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word" (John 17:20). Once more let us profit from the perfect exemplar. Let us too make intercession for the enemies of God, and if we pray in faith we also shall pray effectively unto the salvation of lost sinners.
(Jn 17:20–21) “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. ESV
(Ac 3:17) “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. ESV
To come now directly to our text:
"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
1. Here we see the fulfillment of the prophetic word.
How much God made known before hand of what should transpire on that day of days! What a complete picture did the Holy Spirit furnish of our Lord’s Passion with all the attendant circumstances! Among other things it had been foretold that the Saviour should "make intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). This did not have reference to the present ministry of Christ at God’s right hand. It is true that "he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25), but this speaks of what he is doing now for those who have believed on him, whereas Isaiah 53:12 had reference to his gracious act at the time of his crucifixion. Observe what his intercession for the transgressors is there linked with - "and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
(Is 53:12)Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors. ESV
(Heb 7:25) Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. ESV
That Christ should make intercession for his enemies was one of the items of the wonderful prophecy found in Isaiah 53. This chapter tells us at least ten things about the humiliation and suffering of the Redeemer. It declared that he should be despised and rejected of men; that he should be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; that he should be wounded, bruised and chastised; that he should be led, unresistingly, to slaughter; that he should be dumb before his shearers; that he should not only suffer at the hands of man but also be bruised by the Lord; that he should pour out his soul unto death; that he should be buried in a rich man’s tomb; and then it was added, that he would be numbered with transgressors; and finally, that he should make intercession for the transgressors. Here then was the prophecy - "and made intercession for the transgressors"; there was the fulfillment of it - "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do". He thought of his murderers. He pleaded for his crucifiers; he made intercession for their forgiveness.
"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross
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 STAGEWhen they came to the place where he was, they found him with one Feeble-mind in his hand, whom his servants had brought unto him, having taken him in the way. Now the giant was rifling him, with a purpose after that to pick his bones; for he was of the nature of flesheaters.
Well, so soon as he saw Mr. Great-Heart and his friends at the mouth of his cave, with their weapons, he demanded what they wanted.
GREAT. We want thee; for we are come to revenge the quarrels of the many that thou hast slain of the pilgrims, when thou hast dragged them out of the King’s highway: wherefore come out of thy cave. So he armed himself and came out, and to battle they went, and fought for above an hour, and then stood still to take wind.
SLAY. Then said the giant, Why are you here on my ground?
GREAT. To revenge the blood of pilgrims, as I told thee before. So they went to it again, and the giant made Mr. Great-Heart give back; but he came up again, and in the greatness of his mind he let fly with such stoutness at the giant’s head and sides, that he made him let his weapon fall out of his hand. So he smote him, and slew him, and cut off his head, and brought it away to the inn. He also took Feeble-mind the pilgrim, and brought him with him to his lodgings. When they were come home, they showed his head to the family, and set it up, as they had done others before, for a terror to those that should attempt to do as he hereafter.
Then they asked Mr. Feeble-Mind how he fell into his hands.
FEEBLE. Then said the poor man, I am a sickly man, as you see: and because death did usually once a day knock at my door, I thought I should never be well at home; so I betook myself to a pilgrim’s life, and have traveled hither from the town of Uncertain, where I and my father were born. I am a man of no strength at all of body, nor yet of mind, but would, if I could, though I can but crawl, spend my life in the pilgrim’s way. When I came at the gate that is at the head of the way, the Lord of that place did entertain me freely; neither objected he against my weakly looks, nor against my feeble mind; but gave me such things as were necessary for my journey, and bid me hope to the end. When I came to the house of the Interpreter, I received much kindness there: and because the hill of Difficulty was judged too hard for me, I was carried up that by one of his servants. Indeed, I have found much relief from pilgrims, though none were willing to go so softly as I am forced to do: yet still as they came on, they bid me be of good cheer, and said, that it was the will of their Lord that comfort should be given to the feeble-minded,
1 Thess. 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. ESV
and so went on their own pace.
When I was come to Assault-lane, then this giant met with me, and bid me prepare for an encounter. But, alas, feeble one that I was, I had more need of a cordial; so he came up and took me. I conceited he would not kill me. Also when he had got me into his den, since I went not with him willingly, I believed I should come out alive again; for I have heard, that not any pilgrim that is taken captive by violent hands, if he keeps heart whole towards his Master, is, by the laws of providence, to die by the hand of the enemy. Robbed I looked to be, and robbed to be sure I am; but I have, as you see, escaped with life, for the which I thank my King as the author, and you as the means. Other brunts I also look for; but this I have resolved on, to wit, to run when I can, to go when I cannot run, and to creep when I cannot go. As to the main, I thank him that loved me, I am fixed; my way is before me, my mind is beyond the river that has no bridge, though I am, as you see, but of a feeble mind.
HON. Then said old Mr. Honest, Have not you, sometime ago, been acquainted with one Mr. Fearing, a pilgrim?
FEEBLE. Acquainted with him! Yes, he came from the town of Stupidity, which lieth four degrees to the northward of the city of Destruction, and as many off of where I was born: yet we were well acquainted, for indeed he was my uncle, my father’s brother. He and I have been much of a temper: he was a little shorter than I, but yet we were much of a complexion.
HON. I perceive you knew him, and I am apt to believe also that you were related one to another; for you have his whitely look, a cast like his with your eye, and your speech is much alike.
FEEBLE. Most have said so that have known us both: and, besides, what I have read in him I have for the most part found in myself.
GAIUS. Come, sir, said good Gaius, be of good cheer; you are welcome to me, and to my house. What thou hast a mind to, call for freely; and what thou wouldst have my servants do for thee, they will do it with a ready mind.
Then said Mr. Feeble-mind, This is an unexpected favor, and as the sun shining out of a very dark cloud. Did giant Slay-good intend me this favor when he stopped me, and resolved to let me go no further? Did he intend, that after he had rifled my pockets I should go to Gaius mine host? Yet so it is.
Now, just as Mr. Feeble-mind and Gaius were thus in talk, there came one running, and called at the door, and said, that about a mile and a half off there was one Mr. Not-right, a pilgrim, struck dead upon the place where he was, with a thunderbolt.
FEEBLE. Alas! said Mr. Feeble-mind, is he slain? He overtook me some days before I came so far as hither, and would be my company-keeper. He was also with me when Slay-good the giant took me, but he was nimble of his heels, and escaped; but it seems he escaped to die, and I was taken to live.
“What one would think doth seek to slay outright,
Ofttimes delivers from the saddest plight.
That very Providence whose face is death,
Doth ofttimes to the lowly life bequeath.
I taken was, he did escape and flee;
Hands cross’d gave death to him and life to me.”
When they were to depart, Gaius made them a feast, and they did eat and drink, and were merry. Now the hour was come that they must be gone; wherefore Mr. Great-heart called for a reckoning. But Gaius told him, that at his house it was not the custom for pilgrims to pay for their entertainment. He boarded them by the year, but looked for his pay from the good Samaritan, who had promised him, at his return, whatsoever charge he was at with them, faithfully to repay him.
Luke 10:34-35 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ ESV
Then said Mr. Great-heart to him,
GREAT. Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers, who have borne witness of thy charity before the church, whom if thou yet bring forward on their journey, after a godly sort, thou shalt do well.
3 John 5-6 5 Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, 6 who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. ESV
Then Gaius took his leave of them all, and his children, and particularly of Mr. Feeble-mind. He also gave him something to drink by the way.
Now Mr. Feeble-mind, when they were going out of the door, made as if he intended to linger. The which, when Mr. Great-Heart espied, he said, Come, Mr. Feeble-mind, pray do you go along with us: I will be your conductor, and you shall fare as the rest.
FEEBLE. Alas! I want a suitable companion. You are all lusty and strong, but I, as you see, am weak; I choose, therefore, rather to come behind, lest, by reason of my many infirmities, I should be both a burden to myself and to you. I am, as I said, a man of a weak and feeble mind, and shall be offended and made weak at that which others can bear. I shall like no laughing; I shall like no gay attire; I shall like no unprofitable questions. Nay, I am so weak a man as to be offended with that which others have a liberty to do. I do not yet know all the truth: I am a very ignorant Christian man. Sometimes, if I hear some rejoice in the Lord, it troubles me because I cannot do so too. It is with me as it is with a weak man among the strong, or as with a sick man among the healthy, or as a lamp despised; so that I know not what to do. “He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease.”
Job 12:5 In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune;
it is ready for those whose feet slip. ESV
GREAT. But, brother, said Mr. Great-Heart, I have it in commission to comfort the feeble-minded, and to support the weak. You must needs go along with us; we will wait for you; we will lend you our help; we will deny ourselves of some things, both opinionative and practical, for your sake: we will not enter into doubtful disputations before you; we will be made all things to you, rather than you shall be left behind.
1 Thess. 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. ESV
Romans 14 1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Do Not Cause Another to Stumble13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. ESV
1 Cor. 8:9–13 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. ESV
1 Cor. 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. ESV
Now, all this while they were at Gaius’ door; and behold, as they were thus in the heat of their discourse, Mr. Ready-to-halt came by, with his crutches in his hand, and he also was going on pilgrimage.
FEEBLE. Then said Mr. Feeble-mind to him, Man, how camest thou hither? I was but now complaining that I had not a suitable companion, but thou art according to my wish. Welcome, welcome, good Mr. Ready-to-halt; I hope thou and I may be some help.
READY. I shall be glad of thy company, said the other; and, good Mr. Feeble-mind, rather than we will part, since we are thus happily met, I will lend thee one of my crutches.
FEEBLE. Nay, said he, though I thank thee for thy good-will, I am not inclined to halt before I am lame. Howbeit, I think when occasion is, it may help me against a dog.
READY. If either myself or my crutches can do thee a pleasure, we are both at thy command, good Mr. Feeble-mind.
Thus, therefore, they went on. Mr. Great-Heart and Mr. Honest went before, Christiana and her children went next, and Mr. Feeble-mind came behind, and Mr. Ready-to-halt with his crutches. Then said Mr. Honest,
HON. Pray, sir, now we are upon the road, tell us some profitable things of some that have gone on pilgrimage before us.
GREAT. With a good will. I suppose you have heard how Christian of old did meet with Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation, and also what hard work he had to go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Also I think you cannot but have heard how Faithful was put to it by Madam Wanton, with Adam the First, with one Discontent, and Shame; four as deceitful villains as a man can meet with upon the road.
HON.Yes, I have heard of all this; but indeed good Faithful was hardest put to it with Shame: he was an unwearied one.
GREAT. Aye; for, as the pilgrim well said, he of all men had the wrong name.
HON. But pray, sir, where was it that Christian and Faithful met Talkative? That same was also a notable one.
GREAT. He was a confident fool; yet many follow his ways.
HON. He had like to have beguiled Faithful.
GREAT. Aye, but Christian put him into a way quickly to find him out.
Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Give God your best
3/9/2018 Bob Gass
‘I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the LORD my God that have cost me nothing.’
(2 Sa 24:24) But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. ESV
Instead of trusting God for victory over his enemies, David decided of his own volition to count the number of troops in his army to see how strong he was. God considered it ‘a slap in the face’, and a plague hit Israel that wiped out seventy thousand people. In order to stop the plague, David was told: ‘Build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite’ (v.18 NLT). When Araunah realised what was happening, he offered his threshing floor and oxen to David free of charge. But David said: ‘“No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So, David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen. David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer…and the plague on Israel was stopped’ (vv. 24-25 NLT). The old Anglo-Saxon word for worship is worth-ship, which is the act of ascribing worth or value to a person or object. What’s the point? It’s this: when it comes to serving God, if it doesn’t cost – it doesn’t count! God knows we can’t all give the same amount. But what He’s asking for isn’t equal giving, but equal sacrifice! The Bible says, ‘Honour the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything’ (Proverbs 3:9 NLT). So, whether you’re worshipping, serving, or giving, make sure you’re giving God your best.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
On this date, March 9,1862, the historic Civil War battle took place between the Confederate iron-plated ship Merrimac, which had just destroyed two Union boats, and the Union’s ironclad vessel, the Monitor, designed by Swedish Immigrant John Ericsson. After 4 hours of bombardment, with cannon balls deflecting off their decks, the Confederate ship was crippled and withdrew to Virginia. Naval warfare was forever changed that day. When John Ericsson was offered payment for designing the Monitor, he replied: “Nothing could induce me to accept any remuneration… [It is] my contribution to the glorious… triumph… which freed 4,000,000 bondsmen.”
Thomas R. Kelly
I said his outward life became simplified, and used the passive voice intentionally. He didn't have to struggle, and renounce, and strain to achieve simplicity. He yielded to the Center and his life became simple. It was synoptic. It had singleness of eye. "If thine eye be single thy whole body shall be full of light." His many selves were integrated into a single true self, whose whole aim was humbly walking in the presence and guidance and will of God. There was no shouting down of a disgruntled minority by a majority vote among his selves. It was as if there were in him a presiding chairman who, in the solemn, holy silence of inwardness, took the sense of the meeting. I would suggest that the Quaker method of conducting business meetings is also applicable to the conducting of our individual lives, inwardly. The Holy One stood by, in the inner life of John Woolman, as did Jesus when He stood over against the treasury and watched men and women casting their gifts into the treasury.
And under the silent, watchful eye of the Holy One we all are standing, whether we know it or not. And in that Center, in that holy Abyss where the Eternal dwells at the base of our being, our programs, our gifts to Him, our offerings of duties performed are again and again revised in their values, Many of the things we are doing seem so important to us. We haven't been able to say No to .them, because they seemed so important. But if we center down, as the old phrase goes, and live in that holy Silence which is dearer than life, and take Our life program into the silent places of the heart, with complete openness, ready to do, ready to renounce according to His leading, then many of the things we are doing lose their vitality for us. I should like to testify to this, as a personal experience, graciously given. There is a re evaluation of much that we do or try to do, which is done for us, and we know what to do and what to let alone.
Let me talk very intimately and very earnestly with you about Him who is dearer than life. Do you really want to live your lives, every moment of your lives, in His Presence? Do you long for Him, crave Him? Do you love His Presence? Does every drop of blood in your body love Him? Does every breath you draw breathe a prayer, a praise to Him? Do you sing and dance within yourselves, as you glory in His love? Have you set yourselves to be His, and only His, walking every moment in holy obedience? I know I'm talking like an old-time evangelist. But I can't help that, nor dare I restrain myself and get prim and conventional. We have too long been prim and restrained. The fires of the love of God, of our love toward God, and of His love toward us, are very hot. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart' and soul and mind and strength." Do we really do it? Is love steadfastly directed toward God, in our minds, all day long? Do we intersperse our work with gentle prayers and praises to Him? Do we live in the steady peace of God, a peace down at the very depths of our souls, where all strain is gone and God is already victor over the world, already victor over our weaknesses?This life, this abiding, enduring peace that never fails, this serene power and unhurried conquest, inward conquest over ourselves, outward conquest over the world, is meant to be ours. It is a life that is freed from strain and anxiety and hurry, for something of the Cosmic Patience of God becomes ours. Are our lives unshakable, because we are clear down on bed rock, rooted and grounded in the love of God? This is the first and the great commandment.
A Testament of Devotion
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Pray as though everything depended on God.
Work as though everything depended on you.
--- Saint Augustine
Devotions from the Desert: Encountering God
Ah, there is nothing more beautiful than the difference between the thought about sinful creatures which is natural to a holy being, and the thought about sinful creatures which is natural to a self-righteous being. The one is all contempt; the other, all pity.
--- Alexander MacLaren
Sermons Preached In Union Chapel, Manchester
The Christian life that is joyless is a discredit to God and a disgrace to itself.
--- Maltbie D. Babcock
Thoughts for every-day living from the spoken and written words of Maltbie Davenport Babcock
For every vision there is an equal and opposite revision.
--- Kelvin Throop III
The Shark's Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation
... from here, there and everywhere
Care of Expanding Pluralism
Neuhaus ( The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America ) is also concerned that the new vacuum in the public square may be pushing us ever closer to the dangers of either anarchy or totalitarianism, mindless chaos or mind-chilling control." As a matter of fact, we may have taken the first, small steps into the darkness of this dilemma already. Our drug-infested, crime-ridden inner cities have become miniature workshops in which we can see how the inherent instability of our social order can easily lead to complete disorder. Where those who have no stake in the preservation of order are able to out-muscle those who do, where there is no dynamic operating except that of raw power, then either chaos is not far away or the outer limits of the permissible means of control and law enforcement are being tested. The knife edge between chaos and control is where democracy flourishes, but democracy without a common core of values with which to mediate and moderate the conflicts of competing special interests has yet to be tried. It is this vacuum in our social world, this emptiness, this awesome fragility, this demise of so much that has made Western civilization a truly great civilization that has opened the way for the emergence of pluralism. Among all of the fruits of modernization, it is pluralism, Berger ( The Precarious Vision A Sociologist Looks At Social Fictions And Christian Faith ) believes, that poses the most significant objection to Christian faith, and so we need briefly to get it in focus.
In society there is no longer any center of values that exerts a centripetal force on our collective life, and in religion the theological center that once held together thought and practice, private and publie, has likewise disappeared. The new emptiness at the heart of both society and religion has been filled by their respective forms of pluralization. What was once a single universe in each case has broken apart into a mass of smaller, independent worlds that are now moving away on their own trajectories. Since this pattern is being repeated in different ways, there are different kinds of pluralization.
In society, these "worlds" are made up of the small units of meaning — "sub-worlds" — in which we exist and through which we pass, perhaps even several times a day. ( The Precarious Vision A Sociologist Looks At Social Fictions And Christian Faith ) These worlds all have their own values, their own cognitive horizons, their own reasons for and ways of doing things, their own class interests. In many cases, the only things connecting these worlds are the people who shuttle among them. We move from the relationships and values of the family setting to an entirely different set of relationships and values in the workplace, from professional friends to whom we relate in one kind of way to personal friends to whom we relate in another, from service organizations to the larger business and bureaucratic structures in society that we must inhabit at least informauonally and psychologically, from the catastrophes and crises beamed into our consciousness each evening by the TV news programs to the soft-peddled amusements and hardcore pornography served up by the entertainment industry. Then we go to church. And lying across these worlds, sometimes identifying with them and sometimes disengaging from them, are the further subcultures associated with age, ethnic background, class interest, and occupation. To move among these multiple worlds smoothly, we have to master the many languages of survival. Not many will be able to surmount this cultural diversity without considerable cognitive dissonance. If society's emptiness produces what Durkheim called anomie, the breakdown of social cohesion and then of the meaning of things, then cognitive dissonance produces psychological confusion and anxiety. There was a time when both society and religion were held together by centripetal forces, but now each is being pulled apart by centrifugal forces, and this is significantly affecting the way in which we see our world.
While it seems to be the case that secularization is the cause and cultural pluralization is the effect, there can be little doubt that, as Berger has argued, each strengthens the other. Our experience of cultural pluralization produces a greater emptiness in the center, and the emptiness in the center in turn demands more pluralization. This constant pressure away from any unifying focus gives powerful impetus to yet another form of pluralization, the breakdown in the unity of our knowledge and the emergence in its place of a mass of specialized fields and disciplines, each with its own assumptions, procedures, and criteria for judgment.
This development has at least been a boon to the publishers of popular magazines. Since 1950, magazines have proliferated at twice the rate of the population's growth. They have served to create nationwide fraternities of people who do not know one another but who nonetheless share in a weekly communion of glossy layouts. Beautiful women, motorbikes, ski slopes, guns, and hundreds of other interests hold the various fraternities together. As entertainment and diversion, this experiment in specialization may not be problematic, but it becomes downright pernicious when we are trying to make sense out of our total world. We shop today in what Bryan Wilson has called a "random supermarket of knowledge." ( Religion in Secular Society: Fifty Years On ) It is the randomness, the lack of connection, the independence of these private worlds of knowing, that fractures reality. If we understand what the physicists are talking about, the sociologists make no sense to us; if we accept Carl Sagan's perspective on the world, we may not be able to enter into Solzhenitsyn's mind. The supermarket in which we shop for knowledge is at once a testimony to our genius in mastering the world and of our capacity for breaking up reality.
The psychological fallout from this constant barrage of changing experiences, changing scenarios, changing worlds, changing worldviews, and changing values — the multilingual commerce of our everyday experience — is dramatic. On the one hand, it greatly accentuates the importance of novelty and spontaneity, as with each new situation, each new opportunity, each new alternative we have to make a choice." We are, in fact, caught up in a whirlwind of choices that is tearing at the very foundations of our stability. If societies in Eastern Europe under the dominance of Marxist regimes languished for lack of choice, we languish from having too many choices to make. We sometimes define freedom not as the ability to choose but as the opportunity to avoid having to choose. Freedom means being able to "drop out." ( Heretical Imperative: Contemporary Possibilities of Religious Affirmation ) On the other hand, the relativity and impermanence of everything from values to possessions creates a deep sense of "homelessness," even of lostness, of not belonging, of not having roots in our world, of being unable to find a permanent niche into which we can fit. ( Beyond belief;: Essays on religion in a post-traditional world ) Amid the peals of freedom, these are the modern thunderclaps of damnation.
No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?
University of Virginia Library 1994
1760. Visit, in Company with Samuel Eastburn, to Long Island, Rhode Island, Boston, etc. -- Remarks on the Slave-Trade at New-port; also on Lotteries -- Some Observations on the Island of Nantucket.
FOURTH month, 1760. -- Having for some time past felt a sympathy in my mind with Friends eastward, I opened my concern in our Monthly Meeting, and, obtaining a certificate, set forward on the 17th of this month, in company with my beloved friend Samuel Eastburn. We had meetings at Woodbridge, Rahway, and Plainfield, and were at their Monthly Meeting of ministers and elders in Rahway. We labored under some discouragement, but through the invisible power of truth our visit was made reviving to the lowly-minded, with whom I felt a near unity of spirit, being much reduced in my mind. We passed on and visited most of the meetings on Long Island. It was my concern from day to day to say neither more nor less than what the spirit of truth opened in me, being jealous over myself lest I should say anything to make my testimony look agreeable to that mind in people which is not in pure obedience to the cross of Christ.
The spring of the ministry was often low, and through the subjecting power of truth we were kept low with it; from place to place they whose hearts were truly concerned for the cause of Christ appeared to be comforted in our labors, and though it was in general a time of abasement of the creature, yet through his goodness who is a helper of the poor we had some truly edifying seasons both in meetings and in families where we tarried; sometimes we found strength to labor earnestly with the unfaithful, especially with those whose station in families or in the Society was such that their example had a powerful tendency to open the way for others to go aside from the purity and soundness of the blessed truth.
At Jericho, on Long Island, I wrote home as follows: --
24th of the fourth month, 1760.
DEARLY BELOVED WIFE!
We are favored with health; have been at sundry meetings in East Jersey and on this island. My mind hath been much in an inward, watchful frame since I left thee, greatly desiring that our proceedings may be singly in the will of our Heavenly Father.
As the present appearance of things is not joyous, I have been much shut up from outward cheerfulness, remembering that promise, "Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord"; as this from day to day has been revived in my memory, I have considered that his internal presence in our minds is a delight of all others the most pure, and that the honest-hearted not only delight in this, but in the effect of it upon them. He regards the helpless and distressed, and reveals his love to his children under affliction, who delight in beholding his benevolence, and in feeling Divine charity moving in them. Of this I may speak a little, for though since I left you I have often an engaging love and affection towards thee and my daughter, and friends about home, and going out at this time, when sickness is so great amongst you, is a trial upon me; yet I often remember there are many widows and fatherless, many who have poor tutors, many who have evil examples before them, and many whose minds are in captivity; for whose sake my heart is at times moved with compassion, so that I feel my mind resigned to leave you for a season, to exercise that gift which the Lord hath bestowed on me, which though small compared with some, yet in this I rejoice, that I feel love unfeigned towards my fellow-creatures. I recommend you to the Almighty, who I trust, cares for you, and under a sense of his heavenly love remain,
Thy loving husband,
John Woolman's Journal
by D.H. Stern
but a person with a warped mind is treated with contempt.
9 Better to be despised and have a servant
than to boast of one’s status but have nothing to eat.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
“No, there is no escape. There is no heaven with a little of hell in it—no plan to retain this or that of the devil in our hearts or our pockets. Out Satan must go, every hair and feather.” --- GEORGE MACDONALD
Blake wrote the Marriage of Heaven and Hell. If I have written of their Divorce, this is not because I think myself a fit antagonist for so great a genius, nor even because I feel at all sure that I know what he meant. But in some sense or other the attempt to make that marriage is perennial. The attempt is based on the belief that reality never presents us with an absolutely unavoidable ‘either-or’; that, granted skill and patience and (above all) time enough, some way of embracing both alternatives can always be found; that mere development or adjustment or refinement will somehow turn evil into good without our being called on for a final and total rejection of anything we should like to retain. This belief I take to be a disastrous error. You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind. We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision. Even on the biological level life is not like a river but like a tree. It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good.
I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, ‘with backward mutters of dissevering power’—or else not. It is still ‘either-or’. If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) has not been lost: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in ‘the High Countries’. In that sense it will be true for those who have completed the journey (and for no others) to say that good is everything and Heaven everywhere. But we, at this end of the road, must not try to anticipate that retrospective vision. If we do, we are likely to embrace the false and disastrous converse and fancy that everything is good and everywhere is Heaven.
But what, you ask, of earth? Earth, I think, will not be found by anyone to be in the end a very distinct place. I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.
There are only two things more to be said about this small book. Firstly, I must acknowledge my debt to a writer whose name I have forgotten and whom I read several years ago in a highly coloured American magazine of what they call ‘Scientifiction’. The unbendable and unbreakable quality of my heavenly matter was suggested to me by him, though he used the fancy for a different and most ingenious purpose. His hero travelled into the past: and there, very properly, found raindrops that would pierce him like bullets and sandwiches that no strength could bite—because, of course, nothing in the past can be altered. I, with less originality but (I hope) equal propriety; have transferred this to the eternal. If the writer of that story ever reads these lines I ask him to accept my grateful acknowledgement. The second thing is this. I beg readers to remember that this is a fantasy. It has of course—or I intended it to have—a moral. But the transmortal conditions are solely an imaginative supposal: they are not even a guess or a speculation at what may actually await us. The last thing I wish is to arouse factual curiosity about the details of the after-world.
C. S. LEWIS April, 1945
The Great Divorce or The Great Divorce
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The time of relapse
Will ye also go away? --- John 6:67.
A penetrating question. Our Lord’s words come home most when He talks in the most simple way. We know Who Jesus is, but in spite of that He says—“Will ye also go away?” We have to maintain a venturing attitude toward Him all the time.
“From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.” They went back from walking with Jesus, not into sin, but they relapsed. Many to-day are spending and being spent in work for Jesus Christ, but they do not walk with Him. The one thing God keeps us to steadily is that we may be one with Jesus Christ. After sanctification the discipline of our spiritual life is along this line. If God gives a clear and emphatic realization to your soul of what He wants, do not try to keep yourself in that relationship by any particular method, but live a natural life of absolute dependence on Jesus Christ. Never try to live the life with God on any other line than God’s line, and that line is absolute devotion to Him. The certainty that I know I do not know—that is the secret of going with Jesus.
Peter only saw in Jesus Someone to minister salvation to him and to the world. Our Lord wants us to be yoke-fellows with Him.
John 6:70. Jesus answers the great lack in Peter. We cannot answer for others.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
This is the wrong Christmas
in the right place: mistletoe
water there is no kissing
under; the soused holly
of the wrack, and birds coming
to the bird-table with
no red on their breast. All
night it has snowed
foam on the splintering
beaches, but the dawn-
wind carries it away, load
after load, and look,
the sand at the year's
solstice is young flesh
on a green crib, product
of an immaculate conception.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
Regulations for Holiness in the People: Leviticus 18–20
Sexual regulation (Lev. 18). Sex is God’s invention. It is He who created human beings male and female; He who told the first pair to be fruitful and to multiply. The New Testament even calls teaching that believers are to refrain from marriage, “which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth,” the teachings of “demons” and “deceiving spirits” (1 Tim. 4:1–5).
But sex has a specific and wonderful function in human experience. While pleasurable and exciting, sex is designed as a bonding experience: an expression of union and oneness to be known by a man and woman who commit themselves to each other for life. Outside of this context of lifelong union, and outside the context of intimate self-giving, sexual activity will be destructive rather than constructive.
Leviticus 18 reflects this and even goes beyond it. It identifies certain sexual liaisons as “detestable things” which defile not only individuals but the society (“the land,” Leviticus 18:27). Included are sexual relations with blood relations and in-laws, sexual relations with animals, and homosexuality (Leviticus 18:7–23).
This last practice, which the Old Testament text calls “detestable,” is an issue today as gay men and women demand not just civil rights but to be recognized by society as persons who practice an acceptable “alternative lifestyle.” There are even openly homosexual clergy, who demand that their denominations affirm them as ministers of God and give congregations into their care.
The prohibition against homosexuality is not found solely in this one passage. Leviticus 20 expands on the sin and decrees the death penalty “if a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman” for “both of them have done what is detestable” (Hebrews 20:13).
The New Testament Book of Romans speaks of homosexual acts as a “degrading of their bodies with one another” and calls such passions “shameful lusts” that lead to “indecent acts” (Romans 1:24–27). Whatever moderns say about homosexuality, the Bible clearly identifies this sexual practice as sin.
I believe scripture is clear; however, does it make sense for someone who dishonors their parents, engages in adultery, defrauds their neighbor, blasphemes God, kills, steals, lies ... to pronounce judgment on someone else? Isn't Jesus the One Who judges? I see all the half price sales at the optical stores, but none offer splinter, log, beam removal. Maybe we should keep our eyes on Jesus and work on removing the ungodly from our own life first.
As Christians, living in a secular society rather than in Israel’s “society under God,” we can take a moral stand on what is right. But probably we will not be able to criminalize homosexuality. As for those outside the Christian community who practice it, their real spiritual need is for Jesus Christ. With them, we need to keep the focus not so much on this sin as on the message of forgiveness for all sins that comes with personal faith in the Saviour.
But those who claim to be Christians and still demand a right to be homosexual must be challenged with a vision of our Holy God, who insists that all who have a relationship with Him depart from their iniquity, to live a holy and godly life.
The disagreement of Abaye and Rava works on two levels. In one sense, it is about the recitation of the Sh’ma. How can we make sure that a person recites the Sh’ma regularly, at the right time, in the right state of mind and the proper dress?
Yet, Abaye and Rava are also talking about human expectations, about the excuses that all of us give at one time or another. They are asking: How much can realistically be expected from a Jew? Both sages speak out of love for God, Torah, and the Jewish people, yet each with a particular emphasis. According to Rav Ḥin’na, the son of Rav Ikka, Abaye seems much more concerned with the legal implications. Even if it creates a hardship and involves great personal sacrifice, the law nonetheless must be upheld, lest the man recite the Sh’ma in an improper condition. Rava, however, tilts the scale more towards the human dimension. The Torah does not expect the impossible, and reciting the Sh’ma, at the last possible moment, while immersed in water up to one’s neck, is as much as Rava can demand from a person. Any prohibition beyond that is too much for him. After all, the Torah was not given to angels, but to human beings!
Every one of us, at one time or another, has said: “This is impossible, and I can’t do it!” More than one has quoted the Yiddish proverb “Shver tzu zayn a Yid—It’s hard being a Jew.” We may think: “What does God want from me? I’m only human!” When we feel overwhelmed, we tell the world: “I can’t do any more than this. Your demands on me are too much.” Milton Steinberg, a well-known rabbi and preacher, collected a series of his sermons in a work called Only Human—The Eternal Alibi.… His point was that we use this excuse to excess; we plead humanity when we really mean laziness, forgetfulness, or indifference.
Rava’s words, “The Torah was not given to the ministering angels,” can be a great comfort to us today. They remind us that anything demanded of us by Judaism must, by its very nature, be possible, for the Torah was not given to angels, but to humans. Nevertheless, Rava’s words are a two-edged sword. Our sense of comfort is limited by the realization that we cannot run away from these demands or beg off with the words: “It’s not humanly possible!”
Just as Rava comforts us, he also challenges us: If it seems impossible, it is not, for the Torah was not given to the angels. Therefore, everything in it is achievable, although sometimes with tremendous effort. To see that life’s demands, which may seem overwhelming, can in reality be attained is both a great relief and a tremendous challenge.
His inside is not like his outside.
Text / It was taught: On that day, they dismissed the doorkeeper and gave permission for the students to enter. For Rabban Gamliel used to announce: “Any student whose inside is not like his outside should not enter the study house.” That day, they added seats. Rabbi Yoḥanan said: “There is a disagreement between Abba Yosef ben Dostai and the Rabbis. One said: ‘They added four hundred seats.’ The other said: ‘Seven hundred seats.’ Rabban Gamliel became upset and said: ‘Perhaps, God forbid, I have withheld Torah from Israel.’ He was seized by a dream in which he saw white jugs filled with ashes. But it was not so; that was only to appease him.”
Context / Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah is known to many as one of the rabbis mentioned in the traditional haggadah used at the Pesaḥ Seder. The Talmud, in the section immediately before our text above, relates what happened on “that day,” that is, the day he took over authority of the study house: Though Rabbi Elazar confessed to being “like a man of seventy years,” he was actually only eighteen years old at the time! Upon becoming head of the study house, he quickly learned about the awesome burdens of public office; his hair immediately turned gray and he remarked that he felt “like a man of seventy years.” Here is a case where, in a different sense, his inside was not like his outside: Rabbi Elazar was still quite young but looked (and apparently felt) quite old. Such is the price paid by many for leadership.
“That day” refers to the day on which Rabban Gamliel was overthrown as head of the study house in Yavneh and replaced by Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah. On “that day,” the students rebelled against Rabban Gamliel’s authority, installing this younger and apparently kinder teacher, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, in his stead. On “that day” there was a change not only of administration but also of attitude. Previously, admission to the study house had been highly selective. Rabban Gamliel had ruled that anyone whose qualities and attributes on the inside—his heart and soul—did not equal what was visible on the outside—his deeds and learning—should not enter the study house. A doorkeeper was posted to prevent undesirable students from entering. Rabbi Elazar changed that and allowed anyone who wanted to enter his school. On “that day,” hundreds of students took up his offer.
There is disagreement over the exact number of students, but it is clear that many new students came to the study house after Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah took over. Rabban Gamliel is saddened that his actions may have caused a decrease in Torah knowledge. His distress is lessened when he dreams of jugs filled with ashes. In talmudic times, dreams were often seen as signs or portents, and the image of ash-filled casks is taken by Rabban Gamliel to symbolize the new students. While their number may be great, they are not worthy students but hollow containers. However, the Gemara itself disagrees. Rabban Gamliel may feel better about his dream, but its meaning is not what he thinks. The purpose of the dream was only to appease Rabban Gamliel; the fact stands that he caused a diminution of Torah.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Thomas A Kempis
Book Two / The Interior Life
The Twelfth Chapter / The Royal Road Of The Holy Cross
TO MANY the saying, “Deny thyself, take up thy cross and follow Me,” 19 seems hard, but it will be much harder to hear that final word: “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” 20 Those who hear the word of the cross and follow it willingly now, need not fear that they will hear of eternal damnation on the day of judgment. This sign of the cross will be in the heavens when the Lord comes to judge. Then all the servants of the cross, who during life made themselves one with the Crucified, will draw near with great trust to Christ, the judge.
Why, then, do you fear to take up the cross when through it you can win a kingdom? In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life, in the cross is protection from enemies, in the cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness, in the cross is strength of mind, in the cross is joy of spirit, in the cross is highest virtue, in the cross is perfect holiness. There is no salvation of soul nor hope of everlasting life but in the cross.
Take up your cross, therefore, and follow Jesus, and you shall enter eternal life. He Himself opened the way before you in carrying His cross, and upon it He died for you, that you, too, might take up your cross and long to die upon it. If you die with Him, you shall also live with Him, and if you share His suffering, you shall also share His glory.
Behold, in the cross is everything, and upon your dying on the cross everything depends. There is no other way to life and to true inward peace than the way of the holy cross and daily mortification. Go where you will, seek what you will, you will not find a higher way, nor a less exalted but safer way, than the way of the holy cross. Arrange and order everything to suit your will and judgment, and still you will find that some suffering must always be borne, willingly or unwillingly, and thus you will always find the cross.
Either you will experience bodily pain or you will undergo tribulation of spirit in your soul. At times you will be forsaken by God, at times troubled by those about you and, what is worse, you will often grow weary of yourself. You cannot escape, you cannot be relieved by any remedy or comfort but must bear with it as long as God wills. For He wishes you to learn to bear trial without consolation, to submit yourself wholly to Him that you may become more humble through suffering. No one understands the passion of Christ so thoroughly or heartily as the man whose lot it is to suffer the like himself.
The cross, therefore, is always ready; it awaits you everywhere. No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever you go you take yourself with you and shall always find yourself. Turn where you will—above, below, without, or within—you will find a cross in everything, and everywhere you must have patience if you would have peace within and merit an eternal crown.
If you carry the cross willingly, it will carry and lead you to the desired goal where indeed there shall be no more suffering, but here there shall be. If you carry it unwillingly, you create a burden for yourself and increase the load, though still you have to bear it. If you cast away one cross, you will find another and perhaps a heavier one. Do you expect to escape what no mortal man can ever avoid? Which of the saints was without a cross or trial on this earth? Not even Jesus Christ, our Lord, Whose every hour on earth knew the pain of His passion. “It behooveth Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead, … and so enter into his glory.” (Luke 24:46, 26) How is it that you look for another way than this, the royal way of the holy cross?
The whole life of Christ was a cross and a martyrdom, and do you seek rest and enjoyment for yourself? You deceive yourself, you are mistaken if you seek anything but to suffer, for this mortal life is full of miseries and marked with crosses on all sides. Indeed, the more spiritual progress a person makes, so much heavier will he frequently find the cross, because as his love increases, the pain of his exile also increases.
Yet such a man, though afflicted in many ways, is not without hope of consolation, because he knows that great reward is coming to him for bearing his cross. And when he carries it willingly, every pang of tribulation is changed into hope of solace from God. Besides, the more the flesh is distressed by affliction, so much the more is the spirit strengthened by inward grace. Not infrequently a man is so strengthened by his love of trials and hardship in his desire to conform to the cross of Christ, that he does not wish to be without sorrow or pain, since he believes he will be the more acceptable to God if he is able to endure more and more grievous things for His sake.
It is the grace of Christ, and not the virtue of man, which can and does bring it about that through fervor of spirit frail flesh learns to love and to gain what it naturally hates and shuns.
To carry the cross, to love the cross, to chastise the body and bring it to subjection, to flee honors, to endure contempt gladly, to despise self and wish to be despised, to suffer any adversity and loss, to desire no prosperous days on earth—this is not man’s way. If you rely upon yourself, you can do none of these things, but if you trust in the Lord, strength will be given you from heaven and the world and the flesh will be made subject to your word. You will not even fear your enemy, the devil, if you are armed with faith and signed with the cross of Christ.
Set yourself, then, like a good and faithful servant of Christ, to bear bravely the cross of your Lord, Who out of love was crucified for you. Be ready to suffer many adversities and many kinds of trouble in this miserable life, for troublesome and miserable life will always be, no matter where you are; and so you will find it wherever you may hide. Thus it must be; and there is no way to evade the trials and sorrows of life but to bear them.
Drink the chalice of the Lord with affection it you wish to be His friend and to have part with Him. Leave consolation to God; let Him do as most pleases Him. On your part, be ready to bear sufferings and consider them the greatest consolation, for even though you alone were to undergo them all, the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come.
When you shall have come to the point where suffering is sweet and acceptable for the sake of Christ, then consider yourself fortunate, for you have found paradise on earth. But as long as suffering irks you and you seek to escape, so long will you be unfortunate, and the tribulation you seek to evade will follow you everywhere. If you put your mind to the things you ought to consider, that is, to suffering and death, you would soon be in a better state and would find peace.
Although you were taken to the third heaven with Paul, you were not thereby insured against suffering. Jesus said: “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”(Acts 9:16) To suffer, then, remains your lot, if you mean to love Jesus and serve Him forever.
If you were but worthy to suffer something for the name of Jesus, what great glory would be in store for you, what great joy to all the saints of God, what great edification to those about you! For all men praise patience though there are few who wish to practice it.
With good reason, then, ought you to be willing to suffer a little for Christ since many suffer much more for the world.
Realize that you must lead a dying life; the more a man dies to himself, the more he begins to live unto God.
No man is fit to enjoy heaven unless he has resigned himself to suffer hardship for Christ. Nothing is more acceptable to God, nothing more helpful for you on this earth than to suffer willingly for Christ. If you had to make a choice, you ought to wish rather to suffer for Christ than to enjoy many consolations, for thus you would be more like Christ and more like all the saints. Our merit and progress consist not in many pleasures and comforts but rather in enduring great afflictions and sufferings.
If, indeed, there were anything better or more useful for man’s salvation than suffering, Christ would have shown it by word and example. But He clearly exhorts the disciples who follow Him and all who wish to follow Him to carry the cross, saying: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)
When, therefore, we have read and searched all that has been written, let this be the final conclusion—that through much suffering we must enter into the kingdom of God.
The Imitation Of Christ
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
--- Psalm 103:13.
The father will have compassion on his children to remove their dreads. ( Spurgeon's Sermons, 5 Volumes ) Some people seem to take delight in frightening children with bogey stories so that they hardly dare go out at night, but a kind father, if he finds his children frightened so, explains it all to them—he does not like to see them blanched with fear or haunted with terror. It may be that some here present are suffering because they are afraid. Are any of you under a dread of some boding evil? Be sure of this: your heavenly Father feels compassion for you.
Some hymns speak of death as associated with pains and groans and agonizing strife. Very much of that is old bogey. How many of God’s people have we seen die without pains or groans or dying strife! I remember one who all her lifetime was afraid of death; she retired as usual to bed one night, and when they went to call her in the morning, there she lay with a sweet smile on her face; she had gone to heaven in her sleep. It was evident she never knew anything about it.
Are God’s people by their observation of other saints driven to conclude that death is always the terrible thing the world says it is? There may be some whom God puts to bed in the dark, as we sometimes do our children, but usually he takes the candle with him and sits and talks with his children till they fall asleep. And [when they] wake up, there they are among the angels. God kisses the souls of his saints out of their bodies.
Go to your heavenly Father and tell him you are frightened, and he has ways of taking away these fears. For though they may be ridiculous to some, a child’s dreads are never too frivolous for the sympathy of a loving father, but he meets them as if there were some great reality in them and so sets them aside.
Whatever then your need, your woe, your grief, go to your Father and he will give you comfort. Believe from this night forward that God does pity all those who fear him, and whatever he sees of weakness in their nature and of sorrow in their lot he will help them. So may you find it now and evermore, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Father of Revivalism
One day a lawyer in Adams, New York, grew disturbed about his soul. He retreated to a nearby forest, climbed a fence, knelt by a log for prayer, and experienced a dramatic conversion. Waves of liquid love, he later said, rolled over him. The next day, Charles Finney resigned from the bar to preach the gospel, saying he was now on retainer for Jesus Christ.
His tall frame, riveting eyes, shaggy brows, beaklike nose, and powerful voice brought many to Christ. His preaching reflected a legal mind, for he presented the case for Christ as if convincing a jury. And he was dramatic. Audiences seemed to smell smoke whenever he spoke of hell, as he frequently did.
The highlight of Finney’s career occurred on March 9, 1831, when he successfully concluded a six-month series of meetings at the Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York. The city was dramatically transformed by his preaching. One hundred thousand people were reportedly converted, including many of the city’s leaders—bankers, lawyers, physicians, judges. Stores in Rochester closed so people could attend Finney’s meetings, and the taverns went out of business. The theater became a livery stable, and the crime rate dropped by two-thirds. The city jail was virtually empty for the next two years. The Rochester meetings have been called “the world’s greatest single revival campaign,” and 1831 is known as the greatest year of spiritual awakening in American history.
Finney pastored for a year in New York City while recovering from cholera. Then, suffering from respiratory problems, he accepted a teaching position at Oberlin College in Ohio, later becoming its president. He left school every year at the end of the term to conduct crusades, and according to some estimates, a half million were converted during his lifetime. His innovative methods (like asking seekers to come forward) paved the way for later evangelists like D. L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham.
We were sent to speak for Christ, and God is begging you to listen to our message. We speak for Christ and sincerely ask you to make peace with God. --- 2 Corinthians 5:20.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 9
“Yea, he is altogether lovely.” --- Song of Solomon 5:16.
The superlative beauty of Jesus is all-attracting; it is not so much to be admired as to be loved. He is more than pleasant and fair, he is lovely. Surely the people of God can fully justify the use of this golden word, for he is the object of their warmest love, a love founded on the intrinsic excellence of his person, the complete perfection of his charms. Look, O disciples of Jesus, to your Master’s lips, and say, “Are they not most sweet?” Do not his words cause your hearts to burn within you as he talks with you by the way? Ye worshippers of Immanuel, look up to his head of much fine gold, and tell me, are not his thoughts precious unto you? Is not your adoration sweetened with affection as ye humbly bow before that countenance which is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars? Is there not a charm in his every feature, and is not his whole person fragrant with such a savour of his good ointments, that therefore the virgins love him? Is there one member of his glorious body which is not attractive?—one portion of his person which is not a fresh lodestone to our souls?—one office which is not a strong cord to bind your heart? Our love is not as a seal set upon his heart of love alone; it is fastened upon his arm of power also; nor is there a single part of him upon which it does not fix itself. We anoint his whole person with the sweet spikenard of our fervent love. His whole life we would imitate; his whole character we would transcribe. In all other beings we see some lack, in him there is all perfection. The best even of his favoured saints have had blots upon their garments and wrinkles upon their brows; he is nothing but loveliness. All earthly suns have their spots: the fair world itself hath its wilderness; we cannot love the whole of the most lovely thing; but Christ Jesus is gold without alloy-light without darkness—glory without cloud—“Yea, he is altogether lovely.”
Evening - March 9
“Abide in me.” --- John 15:4.
Communion with Christ is a certain cure for every ill. Whether it be the wormwood of woe, or the cloying surfeit of earthly delight, close fellowship with the Lord Jesus will take bitterness from the one, and satiety from the other. Live near to Jesus, Christian, and it is a matter of secondary importance whether thou livest on the mountain of honour or in the valley of humiliation. Living near to Jesus, thou art covered with the wings of God, and underneath thee are the everlasting arms. Let nothing keep thee from that hallowed intercourse, which is the choice privilege of a soul wedded to THE WELL-BELOVED. Be not content with an interview now and then, but seek always to retain his company, for only in his presence hast thou either comfort or safety. Jesus should not be unto us a friend who calls upon us now and then, but one with whom we walk evermore. Thou hast a difficult road before thee: see, O traveller to heaven, that thou go not without thy guide. Thou hast to pass through the fiery furnace; enter it not unless, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, thou hast the Son of God to be thy companion. Thou hast to storm the Jericho of thine own corruptions: attempt not the warfare until, like Joshua, thou hast seen the Captain of the Lord’s host, with his sword drawn in his hand. Thou art to meet the Esau of thy many temptations: meet him not until at Jabbok’s brook thou hast laid hold upon the angel, and prevailed. In every case, in every condition, thou wilt need Jesus; but most of all, when the iron gates of death shall open to thee. Keep thou close to thy soul’s Husband, lean thy head upon his bosom, ask to be refreshed with the spiced wine of his pomegranate, and thou shalt be found of him at the last, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Seeing thou hast lived with him, and lived in him here, thou shalt abide with him forever.
Morning and Evening
THE LORD’S MY SHEPHERD
Scottish Psalter, 1650
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow Me. (John 10:27)
I will commit my way, O Lord, to Thee, nor doubt Thy love, though dark the way may be; Nor murmur, for the sorrow is from God, and there is comfort even in Thy rod.
One of the characteristics of the relationship that exists between a shepherd and his flock is that sheep can always distinguish the voice of their particular shepherd. The sheep’s responsibility is simply to listen and follow.
As Christians, we worship and acknowledge God as our Creator and Redeemer. But how comforting it is to realize that this same great God is also “my Shepherd.” In time of stress, I can rest securely in His strong arms. With the Good Shepherd leading, even death’s dark vale need not be feared since death to the believer is simply a release to God’s eternal home.
As members of Christ’s flock, we too must recognize our heavenly Shepherd’s voice. To do so, we must always remain close enough to hear it.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
This lovely setting of the 23rd Psalm was originally put in stanza form for the Scottish Psalter of 1650, a collection that contained only the 150 psalms arranged in metrical form for congregational singing. The charming and child-like tune has only recently begun to appear in American hymnals. “The Lord’s My Shepherd” … for many children the first Bible verse learned and often the last repeated before entering “death’s dark vale.” A psalm of priceless heritage!
The Lord’s my Shepherd—I’ll not want; He makes me down to lie in pastures green. He leadeth me the quiet waters by.
My soul He doth restore again, and me to walk doth make within the paths of righteousness, e’en for His own name’s sake.
Yea, tho I walk thru death’s dark vale, yet will I fear no ill, for Thou art with me, and Thy rod and staff me comfort still.
My table Thou hast furnished in presence of my foes; my head Thou dost with oil anoint, and my cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy all my life shall surely follow me, and in God’s house forevermore my dwelling place shall be.
For Today: Psalm 23; 78:52; Jeremiah 29:11; John 10:1–6; Hebrews 13:20, 21; 1 Peter 5:7.
Be sensitive to God’s inner voice with directions for your life. Determine to follow wherever He indicates. Abandon yourself to His divine guidance. Sing as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions