2 Chronicles 25
Amaziah Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 25 1 Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart. 3 And as soon as the royal power was firmly his, he killed his servants who had struck down the king his father. 4 But he did not put their children to death, according to what is written in the Law, in the Book of Moses, where the LORD commanded, “Fathers shall not die because of their children, nor children die because of their fathers, but each one shall die for his own sin.”
Amaziah’s Victories5 Then Amaziah assembled the men of Judah and set them by fathers’ houses under commanders of thousands and of hundreds for all Judah and Benjamin. He mustered those twenty years old and upward, and found that they were 300,000 choice men, fit for war, able to handle spear and shield. 6 He hired also 100,000 mighty men of valor from Israel for 100 talents of silver. 7 But a man of God came to him and said, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. 8 But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down.” 9 And Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?” The man of God answered, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this.” 10 Then Amaziah discharged the army that had come to him from Ephraim to go home again. And they became very angry with Judah and returned home in fierce anger. 11 But Amaziah took courage and led out his people and went to the Valley of Salt and struck down 10,000 men of Seir. 12 The men of Judah captured another 10,000 alive and took them to the top of a rock and threw them down from the top of the rock, and they were all dashed to pieces. 13 But the men of the army whom Amaziah sent back, not letting them go with him to battle, raided the cities of Judah, from Samaria to Beth-horon, and struck down 3,000 people in them and took much spoil.
Amaziah’s Idolatry14 After Amaziah came from striking down the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir and set them up as his gods and worshiped them, making offerings to them. 15 Therefore the LORD was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” 16 But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.”
Israel Defeats Amaziah17 Then Amaziah king of Judah took counsel and sent to Joash the son of Jehoahaz, son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, “Come, let us look one another in the face.” 18 And Joash the king of Israel sent word to Amaziah king of Judah, “A thistle on Lebanon sent to a cedar on Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son for a wife,’ and a wild beast of Lebanon passed by and trampled down the thistle. 19 You say, ‘See, I have struck down Edom,’ and your heart has lifted you up in boastfulness. But now stay at home. Why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?”
20 But Amaziah would not listen, for it was of God, in order that he might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they had sought the gods of Edom. 21 So Joash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-shemesh, which belongs to Judah. 22 And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home. 23 And Joash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh, and brought him to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem for 400 cubits, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate. 24 And he seized all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of God, in the care of Obed-edom. He seized also the treasuries of the king’s house, also hostages, and he returned to Samaria.
25 Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, lived fifteen years after the death of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel. 26 Now the rest of the deeds of Amaziah, from first to last, are they not written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel? 27 From the time when he turned away from the LORD they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish. But they sent after him to Lachish and put him to death there. 28 And they brought him upon horses, and he was buried with his fathers in the city of David.
2 Chronicles 26
Uzziah Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 26 1 And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah. 2 He built Eloth and restored it to Judah, after the king slept with his fathers. 3 Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. 4 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 5 He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper.
6 He went out and made war against the Philistines and broke through the wall of Gath and the wall of Jabneh and the wall of Ashdod, and he built cities in the territory of Ashdod and elsewhere among the Philistines. 7 God helped him against the Philistines and against the Arabians who lived in Gurbaal and against the Meunites. 8 The Ammonites paid tribute to Uzziah, and his fame spread even to the border of Egypt, for he became very strong. 9 Moreover, Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate and at the Valley Gate and at the Angle, and fortified them. 10 And he built towers in the wilderness and cut out many cisterns, for he had large herds, both in the Shephelah and in the plain, and he had farmers and vinedressers in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil. 11 Moreover, Uzziah had an army of soldiers, fit for war, in divisions according to the numbers in the muster made by Jeiel the secretary and Maaseiah the officer, under the direction of Hananiah, one of the king’s commanders. 12 The whole number of the heads of fathers’ houses of mighty men of valor was 2,600. 13 Under their command was an army of 307,500, who could make war with mighty power, to help the king against the enemy. 14 And Uzziah prepared for all the army shields, spears, helmets, coats of mail, bows, and stones for slinging. 15 In Jerusalem he made machines, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong.
Uzziah’s Pride and Punishment16 But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17 But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the LORD who were men of valor, 18 and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God.” 19 Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense. 20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the LORD had struck him. 21 And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king’s household, governing the people of the land.
22 Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, from first to last, Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz wrote. 23 And Uzziah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the burial field that belonged to the kings, for they said, “He is a leper.” And Jotham his son reigned in his place.
2 Chronicles 27
Jotham Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 27 1 Jotham was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jerushah the daughter of Zadok. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD according to all that his father Uzziah had done, except he did not enter the temple of the LORD. But the people still followed corrupt practices. 3 He built the upper gate of the house of the LORD and did much building on the wall of Ophel. 4 Moreover, he built cities in the hill country of Judah, and forts and towers on the wooded hills. 5 He fought with the king of the Ammonites and prevailed against them. And the Ammonites gave him that year 100 talents of silver, and 10,000 cors of wheat and 10,000 of barley. The Ammonites paid him the same amount in the second and the third years. 6 So Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God. 7 Now the rest of the acts of Jotham, and all his wars and his ways, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah. 8 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. 9 And Jotham slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David, and Ahaz his son reigned in his place.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
John Calvin's Letter to Cardinal Sadoleto (1539)
By John Calvin 1539
John Calvin to James Sadolet, Cardinal, -- health.
In the great abundance of learned men whom our age has produced, your excellent learning and distinguished eloquence having deservedly procured you a place among the few whom all, who would he thought studious of liberal arts, look up to and revere, it is with great reluctance I bring forward your name before the learned world, and address to you the following expostulation. Nor, indeed, would I have done it if I had not been dragged into this arena by a strong necessity. For I am not unaware how reprehensible it would be to show any eagerness in attacking a man who has deserved so well of literature, nor how odious I should become to all the learned were they to see me stimulated by passion merely, and not impelled by any just cause, turning my pen against one whom, for his admirable endowments, they, not without good reason, deem worthy of love and honor. I trust, however, that after explaining the nature of my undertaking, I shall not only be exempted from all blame, but there will not be an individual who will not admit that the cause which I have undertaken I could not on any account have abandoned without basely deserting my duty.
You lately addressed a Letter to the Senate and People of Geneva, in which you sounded their inclination as to whether, after having once shaken off the yoke of the Roman Pontiff, they would submit to have it again imposed upon them. In that letter, as it was not expedient to wound the feelings of these whose favor you required to gain your cause, you acted the part of a good pleader; for you endeavored to soothe them by abundance of flattery, in order that you might gain them over to your views. Any thing of obloquy and bitterness you directed against those whose exertions had produced the revolt from that tyranny. And here (so help you) you bear down full sail upon those who, under pretence of the gospel, have by wicked arts urged on the city to what you deplore as the subversion of religion and of the Church. I, however, Sadolet, profess to be one of those whom with so much enmity you assail and stigmatize. For though religion was already established, and the form of the Church corrected, before I was invited to Geneva, yet having not only approved by my suffrage, but studied as much as in me lay to preserve and confirm what had been done by Viret and Farel, I cannot separate my case from theirs. Still, if you had attacked me in my private character, I could easily have forgiven the attack in consideration of your learning, and in honor of letters. But when I see that my ministry, which I feel assured is supported and sanctioned by a call from God, is wounded through my side, it would be perfidy, not patience, were I here to be silent and connive.
In that Church I have held the office first of Doctor, and then of Pastor. In my own right, I maintain, that in undertaking these offices I had a legitimate vocation. How faithfully and religiously I have performed them, there is no occasion for now showing at length. Perspicuity, erudition, prudence, ability, not even industry, will I now claim for myself, but that I certainly labored with the sincerity which became me in the work of the Lord, I can in conscience appeal to Christ, my Judge, and all his angels, while all good men bear clear testimony in my favor. This ministry, therefore, when it shall appear to have been of God, (as it certainly shall appear, after the cause has been heard,) were I in silence to allow you to tear and defame, who would not condemn such silence as treachery? Every person, therefore, now sees that the strongest obligations of duty -- obligations which I cannot evade -- constrain me to meet your accusations, if I would not with manifest perfidy desert and betray a cause with which the Lord has entrusted me.
For though I am for the present relieved of the charge of the Church of Geneva, that circumstance ought not to prevent me from embracing it with paternal affection -- God, when he gave it to me in charge, having bound me to be faithful to it for ever. Now, then, when I see the worst snares laid for that Church, whose safety it has pleased the Lord to make my highest care, and grievous peril impending if not obviated, who will advise me to await the issue silent and unconcerned? How heartless, I ask, would it be to wink in idleness, and, as it were, vacillating at the destruction of one whose life you are bound vigilantly to guard and preserve? But more on this point were superfluous, since you yourself relieve me of all difficulty. For if neighborhood, and that not very near, has weighed so much with you, that while wishing to profess your love towards the Genevans, you hesitate not so bitterly to assail me and my fame, it will, undoubtedly, by the law of humanity, be conceded to me, while desiring to consult for the public good of a city entrusted to me by a far stronger obligation than that of neighborhood, to oppose your counsels and endeavors, which I cannot doubt tend to its destruction. Besides, without paying the least regard to the Genevan Church, (though assuredly I cannot cut off that charge any more than that of my own soul,) supposing I were not actuated by any zeal for it, still, when my ministry (which, knowing it to be from Christ, I am bound, if need be, to maintain with my blood) is assailed and falsely traduced, how can it he lawful for me to bear it as if I saw it not?
Wherefore, it is easy not only for impartial readers to judge, but for yourself, also, Sadolet, to consider how numerous and valid the reasons are which have compelled me to engage in this contest, if the name of contest should be given to a simple and dispassionate defense of my innocence against your calumnious accusations. I say my innocence, although I cannot plead for myself without, at the same time, including my colleagues, with whom all my measures in that administration were so conjoined, that whatever has been said against them I willingly take to myself. What the feelings are which I have had toward yourself in undertaking this cause, I will study to testify and prove by my mode of conducting it. For I will act so, that all may perceive that I have not only greatly the advantage of you in the goodness and justice of the cause, in conscientious rectitude, heartfelt sincerity, and candor of speech, but have also been considerably more successful in maintaining gentleness and moderation. There will doubtless be some things which will sting, or, it may be, speak daggers to your mind, but it will he my endeavor, first, not to allow any harsher expression to escape me than either the injustice of the accusations with which you have previously assailed me, or the necessity of the cue may extort; and, secondly, not to allow any degree of harshness which may amount to intemperance or passion, or which may, by its appearance of petulance, give offence to ingenuous minds.
And, first, if you had to do with any other person, he would, undoubtedly, begin with the very argument which I have determined altogether to omit. For, without much ado, he would discuss your design in writing, until he should make it plain that your object was anything but what you profess it to be. For, were it not for the great credit you formerly acquired for candor, it is somewhat suspicious that a stranger, who never before had any intercourse with the Genevans, should now suddenly profess for them so great an affection, though no previous sign of it existed, while, as one imbued, almost from a boy, with Romish arts, (such arts as am now learned in the Court of Rome, that forge of all craft and trickery,) educated, too, in the very bosom of Clement, and now, moreover, elected a cardinal, you have many things about you which, with most men, would in this matter subject you to suspicion. Then as to those insinuations by which you have supposed you might win your way into the minds of simple men, any one, not utterly stupid, might easily refute them. But things of this nature, though many will, perhaps, be disposed to believe them, I am unwilling to ascribe to you, because they seem to me unsuitable to the character of one who has been polished by all kinds of liberal learning. I will, therefore, in entering into discussion with you, give you credit for having written to the Genevans with the purest intention as becomes one of your learning, prudence, and gravity, and for having, in good faith, advised them to the course which you believed conducive to their interest and safety. But whatever may have been your intention, (I am unwilling, in this matter, to charge you with anything invidious,) when, with the bitterest and most contumelious expressions which you can employ, you distort, and endeavor utterly to destroy what the Lord delivered by our hands. I am compelled, whether I will or not, to withstand you openly. For then only do pastors edify the Church, when, besides leading docile souls to Christ, placidly, as with the hand, they are also armed to repel the machinations of those who strive to impede the work of God.
Although your Letter has many windings, its whole purport substantially is to recover the Genevans to the power of the Roman Pontiff, or to what you call the faith and obedience of the Church. But as, from the nature of the case, their feelings required to he softened, you preface with a long oration concerning the incomparable value of eternal life, You afterwards come nearer to the point, when you show that there is nothing more pestiferous to souls than a perverse worship of God; and again, that the best rule for the due worship of God is that which is prescribed by the Church, and that, therefore, there is no salvation for those who have violated the unity of the Church unless they repent. But you next contend, that separation from your fellowship is manifest revolt from the Church, and then that the gospel which the Genevans received from us is nothing but a large farrago of impious dogmas. From this you infer what kind of divine judgment awaits them if they attend not to your admonitions. But as it was of the greatest importance to your cause to throw complete discredit on our words, you labor to the utmost to fill them with sinister suspicions of the zeal which they saw us manifest for their salvation. Accordingly, you captiously allege that we had no other end in view than to gratify our avarice and ambition. Since, then, your device has been to cast some stain upon us, in order that the minds of your readers, being preoccupied with hatred, might give us no credit, I will, before proceeding to other matters, briefly reply to that objection.
I am unwilling to speak of myself, but since you do not permit me to he altogether silent, I will say what I can consistent with modesty. Had I wished to consult my own interest, I would never have left your party. I will not, indeed, boast that there the road to preferment had been easy to me. I never desired it, and I could never bring my mind to catch at it; although I certainly know not a few of my own age who have crept up to some eminence -- among them some whom I might have equalled, and others outstripped. This only I will be contented to say, it would not have been difficult for me to reach the summit of my wishes, viz., the enjoyment of literary ease with something of a free and honorable station. Therefore, I have no fear that any one not possessed of shameless effrontery will object to me, that out of the kingdom of the Pope I sought for any personal advantage which was not there ready to my hand.
And who dare object this to Farel? Had it been necessary for him to live by his own industry, he had already made attainments in literature, which would not have allowed him to suffer want, and he was of a more distinguished family than to require external aid. As to those of us to whom you pointed as with the finger, it seemed proper for us to reply in our own name. But since you seem to throw out indirect insinuations against all who in the present day are united with us in sustaining the same cause, I would have you understand, that not one can he mentioned for whom I cannot give you a better answer than for Farel and myself. Some of our Reformers are known to you by fame. As to them, I appeal to your own conscience. Think you it was hunger which drove them away from you, and made them in despair flee to that change as a means of bettering their fortunes? But not to go over a long catalogue, this I say, that of those who first engaged in this cause, there was none who with you might not have been in better place and fortune than require on such grounds to look out for some new plan of life.
But come and consider with me for a little what the honors and powers are which we have gained. All our bearers will bear us witness that we did not covet or aspire to any other riches or dignities than those which fell to our lot. Since in all our words and deeds they not only perceived no trace of the ambition with which you charge us; but, on the contrary, saw clear evidence of our abhorring it with our whole heart, you cannot hope that by one little word their minds are to he so fascinated as to credit a futile slander in opposition to the many certain proofs with which we furnished them. And to appeal to facts rather than words, the power of the sword, and other parts of civil jurisdiction, which bishops and priests, under the semblance of immunity, had wrested from the magistrate and claimed for themselves, have not we restored to the magistrate? All their usurped instruments of tyranny and ambition have not we detested, and struggled to abolish ? If there was any hope of rising, why did we not craftily dissemble, so that those powers might have passed to us along with the office of governing the Church? And why did we make such exertion to overturn the whole of that dominion, or rather butchery, which they exercised upon souls, without any sanction from the Word of God? How did we not consider that it was just so much lost to ourselves? In regard to ecclesiastical revenues, they are still in a great measure swallowed up by these whirlpools. But if there was a hope that they will one day he deprived of them, (as at length they certainly must,) why did we not devise a way by which they might come to us? But when with clear voice we denounced as a thief any bishop who, out of ecclesiastical revenues, appropriated more to his own use than was necessary for a frugal and sober subsistence; when we protested that the Church was exposed to a deadly poison, so long as pastors were loaded with an affluence under which they themselves might ultimately sink, when we declared it inexpedient that these revenues should fall into their possession; finally, when we counseled that as much should be distributed to ministers as might suffice for a frugality befitting their order, not superabound for luxury, and that the rest should be dispensed according to the practice of the ancient Church; when we showed that men of weight ought to be elected to manage these revenues, under an obligation to account annually to the Church and the magistracy, was this to entrap any of these for ourselves, or was it not rather voluntarily to shake ourselves free of them? All these things, indeed, demonstrate not what we are, but what we wished to be. But if these things are so plainly and generally known, that not one iota can be denied, with what face can you proceed to upbraid us with aspiring to extraordinary wealth and power, and this especially in the presence of men to whom none of those things are unknown? The monstrous lies which persons of your order spread against us among their own followers we are not surprised at, (for no man is present who can either reprimand or venture to refute them,) but where men have been eye-witnesses of all the things which we have above mentioned, to try to persuade them of the contrary is the part of a man of little discretion, and strongly derogates from Sadoleto’s reputation for learning, prudence, and gravity. But if you think that our intention must be judged by the result, it will be found that the only thing we aimed at was, that the kingdom of Christ might be promoted by our poverty and insignificance. So far are we from having abused His sacred name to purposes of ambition.
I pass in silence many other invectives which you thunder out against us, (open mouthed,) as it is said. You call us crafty men, enemies of Christian unity and peace, innovators on things ancient and well established, seditious, alike pestiferous to souls, and destructive both publicly and privately to society at large. Had you wished to escape rebuke, you either ought not, for the purpose of exciting prejudice, to have attributed to us a magniloquent tongue, or you ought to have kept your own magniloquence considerably more under check. I am unwilling, however, to dwell on each of these points; only I would have you to consider how unbecoming, not to say illiberal, it is, thus in many words to accuse the innocent of things, which by one word can be instantly refuted; although to inflict injury on man is a small matter, when compared with the indignity of that contumely, which, when you come to the question, you offer to Christ and his word. When the Genevans, instructed by our preaching, escaped from the gulf of error in which they were immersed, and betook themselves to a purer teaching of the gospel, you call it defection from the truth of God; when they threw off the tyranny of the Roman Pontiff, in order that they might establish among themselves a better form of Church, you call it a desertion from the Church. Come, then, and let us discuss both points in their order.
As to your preface, which, in proclaiming the excellence of eternal blessedness, occupies about a third part of your Letter, it cannot he necessary for me to dwell long in reply. For although commendation of the future and eternal life is a theme which deserves to be sounded in our ears by day and by night, to be constantly kept in remembrance, and made the subject of ceaseless meditation, yet I know not for what reason you have so spun out your discourse upon it here, unless it were to recommend yourself by giving some indication of religious feeling. But whether, in order to remove all doubt concerning yourself, you wished to testify that a life of glory seriously occupies your thoughts, or whether you supposed that those to whom you wrote required to be excited and spurred on by a long commendation of it, (for I am unwilling to divine what your intention may have been,) it is not very sound theology to confine a man’s thoughts so much to himself, and not to set before him, as the prime motive of his existence, zeal to illustrate the glory of God. For we are born first of all for God, and not for ourselves. As all things flowed from him, and subsist in him, so, says Paul, (Rom. xi. 36,) they ought to be referred to him. I acknowledge, indeed, that the Lord, the better to recommend the glory of his name to men, has tempered zeal for the promotion and extension of it, by uniting it indissolubly with our salvation. But since he has taught that this zeal ought to exceed all thought and care for our own good and advantage, and since natural equity also teaches that God does not receive what is his own, unless he is preferred to all things, it certainly is the part of a Christian man to ascend higher than merely to seek and secure the salvation of his own soul. I am persuaded, therefore, that there is no man imbued with true piety, who will not consider as insipid that long and labored exhortation to zeal for heavenly life, a zeal which keeps a man entirely devoted to himself, and does not, even by one expression, arouse him to sanctify the name of God. But I readily agree with you that, after this sanctification, we ought not to propose to ourselves any other object in life than to hasten towards that high calling; for God has set it before us as the constant aim of all our thoughts, and words, and actions. And, indeed, there is nothing in which man excels the lower animals, unless it be his spiritual communion with God in the hope of a blessed eternity. And, generally, all we aim at in our discourses is to arouse men to meditate upon it, and aspire to it.
I have also no difficulty in conceding to you, that there is nothing more perilous to our salvation than a preposterous and perverse worship of God. The primary rudiments, by which we are wont to train to piety those whom we wish to gain as disciples to Christ, are these; viz., not to frame any new worship of God for themselves at random, and after their own pleasure, but to know that the only legitimate worship is that which he himself approved from the beginning. For we maintain, what the sacred oracle declared, that obedience is more excellent than any sacrifice (1 Sam. xv. 22.) In short, we train them, by every means, to be contented with the one rule of worship which they have received from his mouth, and bid adieu to all fictitious worship.
Therefore, Sadolet, when you uttered this voluntary confession, you laid the foundation of my defense. For if you admit it to be a fearful destruction to the soul, when, by false opinions, divine truth is turned into a lie, it now only remains for us to inquire which of the two parties retains that worship of God which is alone legitimate. In order that you may claim it for your party, you assume that the most certain rule of worship is that which is prescribed by the Church, although, as if we here opposed you, you bring the matter under consideration, in the manner which is usually observed in regard to doubtful questions. But, Sadolet, as I see you toiling in vain, I will relieve you from all trouble on this head. Your are mistaken in supposing that we desire to head away the people from that method of worshipping God which the Catholic Church always observed. You either labor under a delusion as to the term Church, or, at least, knowingly and willingly give it a gloss. I will immediately show the latter to be the case, though it may also be that you are somewhat in error. First, in defining the term, you omit what would have helped you, in no small degree, to the right understanding of it. When you describe it as that which in all parts, as well as at the present time, in every region of the earth, being united and consenting in Christ, has been always and everywhere directed by the one Spirit of Christ, what comes of the Word of the Lord, that clearest of all marks, and which the Lord himself, in pointing out the Church, so often recommends to us? For seeing how dangerous it would be to boast of the Spirit without the Word, he declared that the Church is indeed governed by the Holy Spirit, but in order that that government might not be vague and unstable, He annexed it to the Word. For this reason Christ exclaims, that those who are of God hear the word of God -- that his sheep are those which recognize his voice as that of their Shepherd, and any other voice as that of a stranger (John x. 27.) For this reason the Spirit, by the mouth of Paul, declares (Eph. ii. 20,) that the Church is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets. Also, that the Church is made holy to the Lord, by the washing of water in the word of life. The same thing is declared still more clearly by the mouth of Peter, when he teaches that people are regenerated to God by that incorruptible seed, (1 Pet. i. 23.) In short, why is the preaching of the gospel so often styled the kingdom of God, but because it is the scepter by which the heavenly King rules his people?
Nor will you find this in the Apostolic writings only, but whenever the Prophets foretell the renewal of the Church, or its extension over the whole globe, they always assign the first place to the Word. For they tell that from Jerusalem will issue forth living waters, which being divided into four rivers, will inundate the whole earth, (Zech. xiv. 8.) And what these living waters are, they themselves explain when they say, “That the law will come forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” (Is. ii. 3.) Well, then, does Chrysostom admonish us to reject all who, under the pretence of the Spirit, lead us away from the simple doctrine of the gospel -- the Spirit having been promised not to reveal a new doctrine, but to impress the truth of the gospel on our minds. And we, in fact, experience in the present day how necessary the admonition was. We are assailed by two sects, which seem to differ most widely from each other. For what similitude is there in appearance between the Pope and the Anabaptists? And yet, that you may see that Satan never transforms himself so cunningly, as not in some measure to betray himself, the principal weapon with which they both assail us is the same. For when they boast extravagantly of the Spirit, the tendency certainly is to sink and bury the Word of God, that they may make room for their own falsehoods. And you, Sadolet, by stumbling on the very threshold, have paid the penalty of that affront which you offered to the Holy Spirit, when you separated him from the Word. For, as if those who seek the way of God were standing where two ways meet, and destitute of any certain sign, you are forced to introduce them as hesitating whether it be more expedient to follow the authority of the Church, or to listen to those whom you call the inventors of new dogmas. Had you known, or been unwilling to disguise the fact, that the Spirit goes before the Church, to enlighten her in understanding the Word, while the Word itself is like the Lydian Stone, by which she tests all doctrines, would you have taken refuge in that most perplexing and thorny question? Learn, then, by your own experience, that it is no less unreasonable to boast of the Spirit without the Word, than it would be absurd to bring forward the Word itself without the Spirit. Now, if you can bear to receive a truer definition of the Church than your own, say, in future, that it is the society of all the saints, a society which, spread over the whole world, and existing in all ages, yet bound together by the one doctrine, and the one Spirit of Christ, cultivates and observes unity of faith and brotherly concord. With this Church we deny that we have any disagreement. Nay, rather, as we revere her as our mother, so we desire to remain in her bosom.
But here you bring a charge against us. For you teach that all which has been approved for fifteen hundred years or more, by the uniform consent of the faithful, is, by our headstrong rashness, torn up and destroyed. Here I will not require you to deal truly and candidly by us, (though this should be spontaneously offered by a philosopher, not to say a Christian.) I will only ask you not to stoop to an illiberal indulgence in calumny, which, even though we be silent, must be extremely injurious to your reputation with grave and honest men. You know, Sadolet, and if you venture to deny, I will make it palpable to all that you knew, yet cunningly and craftily disguised the fact, not only that our agreement with antiquity is far closer than yours, but that all we have attempted has been to renew that ancient form of the Church, which, at first sullied and distorted by illiterate men of indifferent character, was afterwards flagitiously mangled and almost destroyed by the Roman Pontiff and his faction.
I will not press you so closely as to call you back to that form which the Apostles instituted, (though in it we have the only model of a true Church, and whosoever deviates from it in the smallest degree is in error,) but to indulge you so for, place, I pray, before your eyes, that ancient form of the Church, such as their writings prove it to have been in the age of Chrysostom and Basil, among the Greeks, and of Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine, among the Latins; after so doing, contemplate the ruins of that Church, as now surviving among yourselves. Assuredly, the difference will appear as great as that which the Prophets describe between the famous Church which flourished under David and Solomon, and that which under Zedekiah and Jehoiakim had lapsed into every kind of superstition, and utterly vitiated the purity of divine worship. Will you here give the name of an enemy of antiquity to him who, zealous for ancient piety and holiness, and dissatisfied with the state of matters as existing in a dissolute and depraved Church, attempts to ameliorate its condition, and restore it to pristine splendor?
Since there are three things on which the safety of the Church is founded, viz., doctrine, discipline, and the sacraments, and to these a fourth is added, viz., ceremonies, by which to exercise the people in offices of piety, in order that we may be most sparing of the honor of your Church, by which of these things would you have us to judge her? The truth of Prophetical and Evangelical doctrine, on which the Church ought to be founded, has not only in a great measure perished in your Church, but is violently driven away by fire and sword. Will you obtrude upon me, for the Church, a body which furiously persecutes everything sanctioned by our religion, both as delivered by the oracles of God, and embodied in the writings of holy Fathers, and approved by ancient Councils? Where, pray, exist among you any vestiges of that true and holy discipline, which the ancient bishops exercised in the Church? Have you not scorned all their institutions? Have you not trampled all the Canons under foot? Then, your nefarious profanation of the sacraments I cannot think of without the utmost horror.
Of ceremonies, indeed, you have more than enough, but, for the most part, so childish in their import, and vitiated by innumerable forms of superstition, as to be utterly unavailing for the preservation of the Church. None of these things, you must be aware, is exaggerated by me in a captious spirit. They all appear so openly, that they may be pointed out with the finger wherever there are eyes to behold them. Now, if you please, test us in the same way. You will, assuredly, fall far short of making the charges which you have brought against us.
In the Sacraments, all we have attempted is to restore the native purity from which they had degenerated, and so enable them to resume their dignity. Ceremonies we have in a great measure abolished, but we were compelled to do so, partly because by their multitude they had degenerated into a kind of Judaism, partly because they had filled the minds of the people with superstition, and could not possibly remain without doing the greatest injury to the piety which it was their office to promote. Still we have retained those which seemed sufficient for the circumstances of the times.
That our discipline is not such as the ancient Church professed we do not deny. But with what fairness is a charge of subverting discipline brought against us by those who themselves have utterly abolished it, and in our attempts to re-instate it in its rights have hitherto opposed us? As to our doctrine, we hesitate not to appeal to the ancient Church. And since, for the sake of example, you have touched on certain heads, as to which you thought you had some ground for accusing us, I will briefly show how unfairly and falsely you allege that these are things which have been devised by us against the opinion of the Church.
Before descending to particulars, however, I have already cautioned you, and would have you again and again consider with what reason you can charge it upon our people, as a fault, that they have studied to explain the Scriptures. For you are aware, that by this study they have thrown such light on the Word of God, that, in this respect, even envy herself is ashamed to defraud them of all praise. You are just as uncandid when you aver that we have seduced the people by thorny and subtle questions, and so enticed them by that philosophy of which Paul bids Christians beware. What? Do you remember what kind of time it was when our Reformers appeared, and what kind of doctrine candidates for the ministry learned in the schools? You yourself know that it was mere sophistry, and sophistry so twisted, involved, tortuous, and puzzling, that scholastic theology might well be described as a species of secret magic. The denser the darkness in which any one shrouded a subject, the more he puzzled himself and others with preposterous riddles, the greater his fame for acumen and learning. And when those who had been formed in that forge wished to carry the fruit of their learning to the people, with what skill, I ask, did they edify the Church?
Not to go over every point, what sermons in Europe then exhibited that simplicity with which Paul wishes a Christian people to be always occupied? Nay, what one sermon was there from which old wives might not carry off more whimsies than they could devise at their own fireside in a month? For, as sermons were then usually divided, the first half was devoted to those misty questions of the schools which might astonish the rude populace, while the second contained sweet stories, or not unamusing speculations, by which the hearers might be kept on the alert. Only a few expressions were thrown in from the Word of God, that by their majesty they might procure credit for these frivolities. But as soon as our Reformers raised the standard, all these absurdities, in one moment, disappeared from amongst us. Your preachers, again, partly profited by our books, and partly compelled by shame and the general murmur, conformed to our example, though they still, with open throat, exhale the old absurdity. Hence, any one who compares our method of procedure with the old method, or with that which is still in repute among you, will perceive that you have done us no small injustice. But had you continued your quotation from Paul a little farther, any boy would easily have perceived that the charge which you bring against us is undoubtedly applicable to yourselves. For Paul there interprets “vain philosophy” (Col. ii. 8) to mean that which preys upon pious souls, by means of the constitutions of men, and the elements of this world: and by these you have ruined the Church.
Even you yourself afterwards acquit us by your own testimony; for among those of our doctrines which you have thought proper to assail, you do not adduce one, the knowledge of which is not essentially necessary for the edification of the Church.
You, in the first place, touch upon justification by faith, the first and keenest subject of controversy between us. Is this a knotty and useless question? Wherever the knowledge of it is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the Church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown. That doctrine, then, though of the highest moment, we maintain that you have nefariously effaced from the memory of men. Our books are filled with convincing proofs of this fact, and the gross ignorance of this doctrine, which even still continues in all your churches, declares that our complaint is by no means ill founded. But you very maliciously stir up prejudice against us, alleging that, by attributing every thing to faith, we leave no room for works.
I will not now enter upon a full discussion, which would require a large volume; but if you would look into the Catechism which I myself drew up for the Genevans, when I held the office of Pastor among them, three words would silence you. Here, however, I will briefly explain to you how we speak on this subject.
First, We bid a man begin by examining himself, and this not in a superficial and perfunctory manner, but to sift his conscience before the tribunal of God, and when sufficiently convinced of his iniquity, to reflect on the strictness of the sentence pronounced upon all sinners. Thus confounded and amazed at his misery, he is prostrated and humbled before God; and, casting away all self-confidence, groans as if given up to final perdition. Then we show that the only haven of safety is in the mercy of God, as manifested in Christ, in whom every part of our salvation is complete. As all mankind are, in the sight of God, lost sinners, we hold that Christ is their only righteousness, since, by his obedience, he has wiped off our transgressions; by his sacrifice, appeased the divine anger; by his blood, washed away our stains; by his cross, borne our curse; and by his death, made satisfaction for us. We maintain that in this way man is reconciled in Christ to God the Father, by no merit of his own, by no value of works, but by gratuitous mercy. When we embrace Christ by faith, and come, as it were, into communion with him, this we term, after the manner of Scripture, the righteousness of faith.
What have you here, Sadolet, to bite or carp at? Is it that we leave no room for works? Assuredly we do deny that, in justifying a man, they are worth one single straw. For Scripture everywhere cries aloud, that all are lost; and every mans’s own conscience bitterly accuses him. The same Scripture teaches, that no hope is left but in the mere goodness of God, by which sin is pardoned, and righteousness imputed to us. It declares both to be gratuitous, and finally concludes that a man is justified without works, (Rom. iv. 7.) But what notion, you ask, does the very term Righteousness suggest to us, if respect is not paid to good works ? I answer, if you would attend to the true meaning of the term justifying in Scripture, you would have no difficulty. For it does not refer to a man’s own righteousness, but to the mercy of God, which, contrary to the sinner’s deserts, accepts of a righteousness for him, and that by not imputing his unrighteousness. Our righteousness, I say, is that which is described by Paul, (2 Cor. v. 19,) that God bath reconciled us to himself in Jesus Christ. The mode is afterwards subjoined -- by not imputing sin. He demonstrates that it is by faith only we become partakers of that blessing, when he says that the ministry of reconciliation is contained in the gospel. But faith, you say, is a general term, and has a larger signification. I answer, that Paul, whenever he attributes to it the power of justifying, at the same time restricts it to a gratuitous promise of the divine favor, and keeps it far removed from all respect to works. Hence his familiar inference -- if by faith, then not by works. On the other hand -- if by works, then not by faith.
But, it seems, injury is done to Christ, if, under the pretence of his grace, good works are repudiated; he having come to prepare a people acceptable to God, zealous of good works, while, to the same effect, are many similar passages which prove that Christ came in order that we, doing good works, might, through him, be accepted by God. This calumny, which our opponents have ever in their mouths, viz., that we take away the desire of well-doing from the Christian life by recommending gratuitous righteousness, is too frivolous to give us much concern. We deny that good works have any share in justification, but we claim full authority for them in the lives of the righteous. For, if he who has obtained justification possesses Christ, and, at the same time, Christ never is where his Spirit in not, it is obvious that gratuitous righteousness is necessarily connected with regeneration. Therefore, if you would duly understand how inseparable faith and works are, look to Christ, who, as the Apostle teaches, (1 Cor. i. 30,) has been given to us for justification and for sanctification. Wherever, therefore, that righteousness of faith, which we maintain to be gratuitous, is, there too Christ is, and where Christ is, there too is the Spirit of holiness, who regenerates the soul to newness of life. On the contrary, where zeal for integrity and holiness is not in vigour, there neither is the Spirit of Christ nor Christ himself; and wherever Christ is not, there in no righteousness, nay, there is no faith; for faith cannot apprehend Christ for righteousness without the Spirit of sanctification.
Since, therefore, according to us, Christ regenerates to a blessed life those whom he justifies, and after rescuing them from the dominion of sin, hands them over to the dominion of righteousness, transforms them into the image of God, and so trains them by his Spirit into obedience to his will, there is no ground to complain that, by our doctrine, lust is left with loosened reins. The passages which you adduce have not a meaning at variance with our doctrine. But if you will pervert them in assailing gratuitous justification, see how unskillfully you argue. Paul elsewhere says (Eph. i. 4) that we were chosen in Christ, before the creation of the world, to be holy and unblameable in the sight of God through love. Who will venture thence to infer, either that election is not gratuitous, or that our love is its cause? Nay, rather, as the end of gratuitous election, so also that of gratuitous justification is, that we may lead pure and unpolluted lives before God. For the saying of Paul is true, (1 Thess. iv. 7,) we have not been called to impurity, but to holiness. This, meanwhile, we constantly maintain, that man is not only justified freely once for all, without any merit of works, but that on this gratuitous justification the salvation of man perpetually depends. Nor is it possible that any work of man can he accepted by God unless it be gratuitously approved. Wherefore, I was amazed when I read your assertion, that love is the first and chief cause of our salvation. O, Sadolet, who could ever have expected such a saying from you? Undoubtedly the very blind, while in darkness, feel the mercy of God too surely to dare to claim for their love the first cause of their salvation, while those who have merely one spark of divine light feel that their salvation consists in nothing else than their being adopted by God. For eternal salvation is the inheritance of the heavenly Father, and has been prepared solely for his children. Moreover, who can assign any other cause of our adoption than that which is uniformly announced in Scripture, viz., that we did not first love him, but were spontaneously received by him into favor and affection?
Your ignorance of this doctrine leads you on to the error of teaching that sins are expiated by penances and satisfactions. Where, then, will be that one expiatory victim, from which, if we depart, there remains, as Scripture testifies, no more sacrifice for sin? Search through all the divine oracles which we possess; if the blood of Christ alone is uniformly act forth as purchasing satisfaction, reconciliation, and ablution, how dare you presume to transfer so great an honor to your works? Nor have you any ground for ascribing this blasphemy to the Church of God. The ancient Church, I admit, had its satisfactions, not those, however, by which sinners might atone to God and ransom themselves from guilt, but by which they might prove that the repentance which they professed was not feigned, and efface the remembrance of that scandal which their sin had occasioned. For satisfactions were not regularly prescribed to all and sundry, but to those only who had fallen into some heinous wickedness.
In the case of the Eucharist, you blame us for attempting to confine the Lord of the universe, and his divine and spiritual power, (which is perfectly free and infinite,) within the corners of a corporeal nature with its circumscribed boundaries. What end, pray, will there be to calumny? We have always distinctly testified, that not only the divine power of Christ, but his essence also, is diffused over all, and defined by no limits, and yet you hesitate not to upbraid us with confining it within the corners of corporeal nature! How so? Because we are unwilling with you to chain down his body to earthly elements. But had you any regard for sincerity, assuredly you are not ignorant how great a difference there is between the two things -- between removing the local presence of Christ’s body from bread, and circumscribing his spiritual power within bodily limits. Nor ought you to charge our doctrine with novelty, since it was always held by the Church an acknowledged point. But as this subject alone would extend to a volume, in order that both of us may escape so toilsome a discussion, the better course will be for you to read Augustine’s Epistle to Dardanus, where you will find how one and the same Christ more than fills heaven and earth with the vastness of his divinity, and yet is not everywhere diffused in respect of his humanity.
We loudly proclaim the communion of flesh and blood, which is exhibited to believers in the Supper; and we distinctly show that that flesh is truly meat, and that blood truly drink -- that the soul, not contented with an imaginary conception, enjoys them in very truth. That presence of Christ, by which we are ingrafted in him, we by no means exclude from the Supper, nor shroud in darkness, though we hold that there must be no local limitation, that the glorious body of Christ must not be degraded to earthly elements; that there must be no fiction of transubstantiating the bread into Christ, and afterwards worshipping it as Christ. We explain the dignity and end of this solemn rite in the loftiest terms which we can employ, and then declare how great the advantages which we derive from it. Almost all these things are neglected by you. For, overlooking the divine beneficence which is here bestowed upon us, overlooking the legitimate use of so great a benefit, (the topics on which it were becoming most especially to dwell,) you count it enough that the people gaze stupidly at the visible sign, without any understanding of the spiritual mystery. In condemning your gross dogma of transubstantiation, and declaring that stupid adoration which detains the minds of men among the elements, and permits them not to rise to Christ, to be perverse and impious, we have not acted without the concurrence of the ancient Church, under whose shadow you endeavor in vain to hide the very vile superstitions to which you are here addicted.
In auricular confession we have disapproved of that law of Innocent, which enjoins every man once a year to pass all his sins in review before his priest. It would be tedious to enumerate all the reasons which induced us to abrogate it. But that the thing was nefarious is apparent even from this, that pious consciences, which formerly boiled with perpetual anxiety, have at length begun, after being freed from that dire torment, to rest with confidence in the divine favor; to say nothing, meanwhile, of the many disasters which it brought upon the Church, and which justly entitle us to hold it in execration. For the present, take this for our answer, that it was neither commanded by Christ, nor practiced by the ancient Church. We have forcibly wrested from the hands of the sophists all the passages of Scripture which they had contrived to distort in support of it, while the common books on ecclesiastical history show that it had no existence in an earlier age. The testimonies of the Fathers are to the same effect. It is, therefore, mere deception when you say, that the humility therein manifested was enjoined and instituted by Christ and the Church. For though there appears in it a certain show of humility, it is very far from being true, that every kind of abasement, which assumes the name of humility, is commended by God. Accordingly, Paul teaches, (Col. ii. 18,) that that humility only is genuine which is framed in conformity to the Word of God.
In asserting the intercession of the saints, if all you mean is, that they continually pray for the completion of Christ’s kingdom, on which the salvation of all the faithful depends, there is none of us who calls it in question. Accordingly, you have lost your pains in laboring this part so much, but, no doubt, you were unwilling to lose the opportunity of repeating the false asseveration which charges us with thinking that the soul perishes with the body. That philosophy we leave to your Popes and College of Cardinals, by whom it was for many years most faithfully cultivated, and ceases not to be cultivated in the present day. To them also your subsequent remark applies, viz., to live luxuriously, without any solicitude concerning a future life, and hold us miserable wretches in derision, for laboring so anxiously in behalf of the kingdom of Christ. But, in regard to the intercession of the saints, we insist on a point which it is not strange that you omit. For here innumerable superstitions were to be cut off, superstitions which had risen to such a height, that the intercession of Christ was utterly erased from men’s thoughts, saints were invoked as gods, the peculiar offices of Deity were distributed among them, and a worship paid to them which differed in nothing from that ancient idolatry which we all deservedly execrate.
As to purgatory, we know that ancient churches made some mention of the dead in their prayers, but it was done seldom and soberly, and consisted only of a few words. It was, in short, a mention in which it was obvious that nothing more was meant than to attest in passing the affection which was felt toward the dead. As yet, the architects were unborn, by whom your purgatory was built; and who afterwards enlarged it to such a width, and raised it to such a height, that it now forms the chief prop of your kingdom. You yourself know what a hydra of errors thence emerged; you know what tricks superstition has at its own hand devised, wherewith to disport itself; you know how many impostures avarice has here fabricated, in order to milk men of every class; you know how great detriment it has done to piety. For, not to mention how much true worship has in consequence decayed, the worst result certainly was, that while all, without any command from God, were vying with each other in helping the dead, they utterly neglected the congenial offices of charity, which are so strongly enjoined.
I will not permit you, Sadolet, by inscribing the name of Church on such abominations, both to defame her against all law and justice, and prejudice the ignorant against us, as if we were determined to wage war with the Church. For though we admit that in ancient times some seeds of superstition were sown, which detracted somewhat from the purity of the gospel, still you know, that it is not so long ago since those monsters of impiety with which we war were born, or, at least, grew to such a size. Indeed, in attacking, breaking down, and destroying your kingdom, we are armed not only with the energy of the Divine Word, but with the aid of the holy Fathers also.
That I may altogether disarm you of the authority of the Church, which, as your shield of Ajax, you ever and anon oppose to us, I will show, by some additional examples, how widely you differ from that holy antiquity.
We accuse you of overthrowing the ministry, of which the empty name remains with you, without the reality. As far as the office of feeding the people is concerned, the very children perceive that Bishops and Presbyters are dumb statues, while men of all ranks know by experience, that they are active only in robbing and devouring. We are indignant, that in the room of the sacred Supper has been substituted a sacrifice, by which the death of Christ is emptied of its virtues. We exclaim against the execrable traffic in masses, and we complain, that the Supper of the Lord, as to one of its halves, has been stolen from the Christian people. We inveigh against the accursed worship of images. We show that the sacraments are vitiated by many profane notions. We tell how indulgences crept in with fearful dishonor to the cross of Christ. We lament, that by means of human traditions, Christian liberty has been crushed and destroyed. Of these and simiar pests, we have been careful to purge the churches which the Lord has committed to us. Expostulate with us, if you can, for the injury which we inflicted on the Catholic Church, by daring to violate its sacred sanctions. The fact is now too notorious for you to gain anything by denying it, viz., that in all these points, the ancient Church is clearly on our side, and opposes you, not less than we ourselves do.
But here we are met by what you say, when, in order to palliate matters, you allege that though your manners should be irregular, that is no mason why we should make a schism in the holy Church. It is scarcely possible that the minds of the common people should not be greatly alienated from you by the many examples of cruelty, avarice, intemperance, arrogance, insolence, lust, and all sorts of wickedness, which are openly manifested by men of your order, but none of those things would have driven us to the attempt which we made under a much stronger necessity. That necessity was, that the light of divine truth had been extinguished, the word of God buried, the virtue of Christ left in profound oblivion, and the pastoral office subverted. Meanwhile, impiety so stalked abroad, that almost no doctrine of religion was pure from admixture, no ceremony free from error, no part, however minute, of divine worship untarnished by superstition. Do those who contend against such evils declare war against the Church, and not rather assist her in her extreme distress? And yet you would take credit for your obedience and humility in refraining, through veneration for the Church, from applying your hand to the removal of these abominations. What has a Christian man to do with that prevaricating obedience, which, while the word of God in licentiously contemned, yields its homage to human vanity? What has he to do with that contumacious and rude humility, which, despising the majesty of God, only looks up with reverence to men? Have done with empty names of virtue, employed merely as cloaks for vice, and let us exhibit the thing itself in its true colors. Ours be the humility, which, beginning with the lowest, and paying respect to each in his degree, yields the highest honor and respect to the Church, in subordination, however, to Christ the Church’s head; ours the obedience, which, while it disposes us to listen to our elders and superiors, tests all obedience by the word of God; in fine, ours the Church, whose supreme care it is humbly and religiously to venerate the word of God, and submit to its authority.
But what arrogance, you will say, to boast that the Church is with you alone, and to deny it to all the world besides! We, indeed, Sadolet, deny not that those over which you preside are Churches of Christ, but we maintain that the Roman Pontiff, with his whole herd of pseudo-bishops, who have seized upon the pastor’s office, are ravening wolves, whose only study has hitherto been to scatter and trample upon the kingdom of Christ, filling it with ruin and devastation. Nor are we the first to make the complaint. With what vehemence does Bernard thunder against Eugenius and all the bishops of his own age? Yet how much more tolerable was its condition then than now? For iniquity has reached its height, and now those shadowy prelates, by whom you think the Church stands or perishes, and by whom we say that she has been cruelly torn and mutilated, and brought to the very brink of destruction, can bear neither their vices nor the cure of them. Destroyed the Church would have been, had not God, with singular goodness, prevented. For in all places where the tyranny of the Roman Pontiff prevails, you scarcely see as many stray and tattered vestiges as will enable you to perceive that there Churches lie half buried. Nor should you think this absurd, since Paul tells you (2 Thess. ii. 4) that antichrist would have his seat in no other place than in the midst of God’s sanctuary. Ought not this single warning to put us on our guard against tricks and devices which may be practiced in the name of the church?
But whatever the character of the men still you say it is written, “What they tell you, do.” No doubt, if they sit in the chair of Moses. But when, from the chair of verity, they intoxicate the people with folly, it is written, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,” (Matt. xvi. 6.) It is not ours, Sadolet, to rob the Church of any right which the goodness of God not only has conceded to her, but strictly guarded for her by numerous prohibitions. For, as pastors are not sent forth by Him to rule the Church with a licentious and lawless authority, but are restricted to a certain rule of duty which they must not exceed, so the Church in ordered (1 Thess. v. 21; 1 John iv. 1) to see that those who am appointed over her on these terms faithfully accord with their vocation. But we must either hold the testimony of Christ of little moment, or must hold it impious to infringe in the least degree on the authority of those whom he has invested with such splendid titles! Nay, it is you who are mistaken in supposing that the Lord set tyrants over his people to rule them at pleasure, when he bestowed so much authority on those whom he sent to promulgate the gospel. Your error lies here, viz., in not reflecting that their power, before they were furnished with it, was circumscribed within certain limits. We admit, therefore, that ecclesiastical pastors are to be heard just like Christ himself, but they must be pastors who execute the office entrusted to them. And this office, we maintain, is not presumptuously to introduce whatever their own pleasure has rashly devised, but religiously and in good faith to deliver the oracles which they have received at the mouth of the Lord. For within these boundaries Christ confined the reverence which he required to be paid to the Apostles; nor does Peter (1 Pet. iv. 11) either claim for himself or allow to others anything more than that, as often as they speak among the faithful, they speak as from the mouth of the Lord. Paul, indeed, justly extols (2 Cor. xiii. 10) the spiritual power with which he was invested, but with this proviso, that it was to avail only for edification, was to wear no semblance of domination, was not to be employed in subjugating faith.
Let your Pontiff, then, boast as he may of the succession of Peter: even should he make good his title to it, he will establish nothing more than that obedience is due to him from the Christian people, so long as he himself maintains his fidelity to Christ, and deviates not from the purity of the gospel. For the Church of the faithful does not force you into any other order than that in which the Lord wished you to stand, when it tests you by that rule by which all your power is defined -- the order, I say, which the Lord himself instituted among the faithful, viz., that a Prophet holding the place of teacher should be judged by the congregation (1 Cor. xiv. 29.) Whoever exempts himself from this must first expunge his name from the list of Prophets. And here a very wide field for exposing your ignorance opens upon me, since, in matters of religious controversy, all that you leave to the faithful is to shut their own eyes, and to submit implicitly to their teachers. But since it is certain that every soul which depends not on God alone is enslaved to Satan, how miserable must they be who are imbued with such rudiments of faith? Hence, I observe, Sadolet, that you have too indolent a theology, as is almost always the case with those who have never had experience in serious struggles of conscience. For, otherwise, you would never place a Christian man on ground so slippery, nay, so precipitous, that he can scarcely stand a moment if even the slightest push is given him. Give me, I say not some unlearned man from among the people, but the rudest clown, and if he is to belong to the flock of God, he must be prepared for that warfare which He has ordained for all the godly. An armed enemy is at hand, on the alert to engage -- an enemy most skilful and unassailable by mortal strength; to resist him, with what guards must not that poor man be defended, with what weapons armed, if he is not to be instantly annihilated? Paul informs us, (Eph. vi. 17,) that the only sword with which he can fight is the word of the Lord. A soul, therefore, when deprived of the word of God, in given up unarmed to the devil for destruction. Now, then, will not the first machination of the enemy he to wrest the sword from the soldier of Christ? And what the method of wresting it, but to set him a doubting whether it be the word of the Lord that he is leaning upon, or the word of man? What will you do for this unhappy being? Will you bid him look round for learned men on whom reclining he may take his rest? But the enemy will not leave him so much as a breathing time in this subterfuge. For when once he has driven him to lean upon men, he will keep urging and repeating his blows until he throws him over the precipice. Thus he must either be easily overthrown, or he must forsake man, and look directly to God. So true it is, that Christian faith must not be founded on human testimony, not propped up by doubtful opinion, not reclined on human authority, but engraven on our hearts by the finger of the living God, so as not to be obliterated by any coloring of error. There is nothing of Christ, then, in him who does not hold the elementary principle, that it is God alone who enlightens our minds to perceive his truth, who by his Spirit seals it on our hearts, and by his sure attestation to it confirms our conscience. This is, if I may so express it, that full and firm assurance commended by Paul, and which, as it leaves no room for doubt, so not only does it not hesitate and waver among human arguments so to which party it ought to adhere, but maintains its consistency though the whole world should oppose.
Hence arises that power of judging which we attribute to the Church, and wish to preserve unimpaired. For how much soever the world may fluctuate and jar with contending opinions, the faithful soul is never so destitute am not to have a straight course to salvation. I do not, however, dream of a perspicacity of faith which never errs in discriminating between truth and falsehood, is never deceived, nor do I figure to myself an arrogance which looks down as from a height on the whole human race, waits for no man’s judgment, and makes no distinction between learned and unlearned. On the contrary, I admit that pious and truly religious minds do not always attain to all the mysteries of God, but am sometimes blind in the clearest matters -- the Lord, doubtless, so providing, in order to accustom them to modesty and submission. Again, I admit that they have such a respect for all good men, not to say the Church, that they do not easily allow themselves to be separated from any man in whom they have discovered a true knowledge of Christ; so that sometimes they choose rather to suspend their judgment than to rush, on slight grounds, into dissent. I only contend, that so long as they insist on the word of the Lord, they are never so caught as to he led away to destruction, while their conviction of the truth of the word of God is so clear and certain, that it cannot he overthrown by either men or angels. Away, then, with that nugatory simplicity (which you say becomes the rude and illiterate) of looking up and yielding to the beck of those who are more learned! For, besides that the name of faith is undeservedly bestowed on any religious persuasion, however obstinate, which rests anywhere but in God, who can give such a name to some (I know not what) wavering opinion, which is not only easily wrested from them by the arts of the devil, but fluctuates of its own accord with the temper of the times, and of which no other end can be hoped for than that it will at length vanish away?
As to your assertion, that our only aim in shaking off this tyrannical yoke was to set ourselves free for unbridled licentiousness after, (so help us!) casting away all thoughts of future life, let judgment be given after comparing our conduct with yours. We abound, indeed, in numerous faults, too often do we sin and fall; still, though truth would, modesty will not, permit me to boast how far we excel you in every respect, unless, perchance, you are to except Rome, that famous abode of sanctity, which having burst asunder the cords of pare discipline, and trodden all honor under foot, has so overflowed with all kinds of iniquity, that scarcely anything so abominable has ever been before. We behooved, forsooth, to expose our heads to so many perils and dangers that we might not, after her example, be placed under too severe constraint! But we have not the least objection that the discipline which was sanctioned by ancient canons should be in force in the present day, and be carefully and faithfully observed; nay, we have always protested that the miserable condition into which the Church had fallen was owing to nothing more than to its enervation by luxury and indulgence. For the body of the Church, to cohere well, must be bound together by discipline as with sinews. But how, on your part, is discipline either observed or desired? Where are those ancient canons with which, like a bridle, bishops and presbyters were kept to their duty? How are your bishops elected? after what trial? what examination? what care? what caution? How are they inducted to their office? with what order? what solemnity? They merely take an official oath that they will perform the pastoral office, and this apparently for no other end than that they may add perjury to their other iniquities. Since, then, in seizing upon ecclesiastical offices they seem to enter upon an authority restricted by no law, they think themselves free to do as they please, and hence it is that among pirates and robbers there is apparently more justice and regular government, more effect given to law, than by all your order.
But since, towards the end, a person has been introduced to plead our cause, and you have cited us as defenders to the tribunal of God, I have no hesitation in calling upon you there to meet me. For such is our consciousness of the truth of our doctrine, that it has [n]o dread of the heavenly Judge, from whom, we doubt not, that it proceeded. But it dwells not on those frivolities with which it has pleased you to amuse yourself; certainly very much out of place. For what more unseasonable than after you had come into the presence of God, to set about devising I know not what follies, and framing for us an absurd defense which must instantly fail. In pious minds, as often as that day is suggested, the impression made is too solemn to leave them at leisure so to disport themselves. Therefore, frivolity aside, let us think of that day, in expectation of which the minds of men ought ever to be on the watch. And let us remember, that while it is a day to be desired by the faithful, it is also one at which the ungodly and profane, and those who are despisers of God, may well be alarmed. Let us turn our ears to the clang of that trumpet which even the ashes of the dead shall hear in their tombs. Let us direct our thoughts and minds to that Judge who, by the mere brightness of his countenance, will disclose whatever lurks in darkness, lay open all the secrets of the human heart, and crush all the wicked by the mere breath of his mouth. Consider, now, what serious answer you are to make for yourself and your party: Our cause, as it is supported by the truth of God, will be at no loss for a complete defense. I speak not of our persons, whose safety will he found not in defense, but in humble confession and suppliant deprecation; but in so far as our ministry is concerned, there is none of us who will not be able thus to speak: --
“O Lord, I have, indeed, experienced how difficult and grievous it was to bear the invidious accusations with which I was harassed on the earth; but with the same confidence with which I then appealed to thy tribunal, I now appear before thee, because I know that in thy judgment truth always reigns -- that truth by whose assurance supported I first ventured to attempt -- with whose assistance provided I was able to accomplish whatever I have achieved in thy Church. They charged me with two of the worst of crimes -- heresy and schism. And the heresy was, that I dared to protest against dogmas which they received. But what could I have done? I heard from thy mouth that there was no other light of truth which could direct our souls into the way of life, than that which was kindled by thy Word. I heard that whatever human minds of themselves conceive concerning thy Majesty, the worship of thy Deity, and the mysteries of thy religion, was vanity. I heard that their introducing into the Church instead of thy Word, doctrines sprung from the human brain, was sacrilegious presumption. But when I turned my eyes towards men, I saw very different principles prevailing. Those who were regarded as the leaders of faith neither understood thy Word, nor greatly cared for it. They only drove unhappy people to and fro with strange doctrines, and deluded them with I know not what follies. Among the people themselves, the highest veneration paid to thy Word was to revere it at a distance, as a thing inaccessible, and abstain from all investigation of it. Owing to this supine state of the pastors, and this stupidity of the people, every place was filled with pernicious errors, falsehoods, and superstition. They, indeed, called thee the only God, but it was while transferring to others the glory which thou hast claimed for thy Majesty. They figured and had for themselves as many gods as they had saints, whom they chose to worship. Thy Christ was indeed worshipped as God, and retained the name of Saviour; but where he ought to have been honored, he was left almost without honor. For, spoiled of his own virtue, he passed unnoticed among the crowd of saints, like one of the meanest of them. There was none who duly considered that one sacrifice which he offered on the cross, and by which he reconciled us to thyself -- none who ever dreamed of thinking of his eternal priesthood, and the intercession depending upon it -- none who trusted in his righteousness only. That confident hope of salvation which is both enjoined by thy Word, and founded upon it, had almost vanished. Nay, it was received as a kind of oracle, that it was foolish arrogance, and, as they termed it, presumption for any one trusting to thy goodness, and the righteousness of thy Son, to entertain a sure and unfaltering hope of salvation. Not a few profane opinions plucked up by the roots, the first principles of that doctrine which thou but delivered to us in thy Word. The true meaning of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, also, were corrupted by numerous falsehoods. And then, when all, with no small insult to thy mercy, put confidence in good works, when by good works they strove to merit thy favor, to procure justification, to expiate their sins, and make satisfaction to thee, (each of these things obliterating and making void the virtue of Christ’s cross,) they were yet altogether ignorant wherein good works consisted. For, just as if they were not at all instructed in righteousness by thy law, they had fabricated for themselves many useless frivolities, as a means of procuring thy favor, and on these they so plumed themselves, that, in comparison of them, they almost contemned the standard of true righteousness which thy law recommended -- to such a degree had human desires, after usurping the ascendancy, derogated, if not from the belief, at least from the authority, of thy precepts therein contained. That I might perceive these things, thou, O Lord, didst shine upon me with the brightness of thy Spirit; that I might comprehend how impious and noxious they were, thou didst bear before me the torch of thy Word; that I might abominate them as they deserved, thou didst stimulate my soul. But in rendering an account of my doctrine, thou seest (what my own conscience declares) that it was not my intention to stray beyond those limits which I saw had been fixed by all thy servants. Whatever I felt assured that I had learned from thy mouth, I desired to dispense faithfully to the Church. Assuredly, the thing at which I chiefly aimed, and for which I most diligently labored, was, that the glory of thy goodness and justice, after dispersing the mists by which it was formerly obscured, might shine forth conspicuous, that the virtue and blessings of thy Christ (all glosses being wiped away) might be fully displayed. For I thought it impious to leave in obscurity things which we were born to ponder and meditate. Nor did I think that truths, whose magnitude no language can express, were to be maliciously or falsely declared. I hesitated not to dwell at greater length on topics on which the salvation of my hearers depended. For the oracle could never deceive which declares, (John xvii. 3,) ‘This is eternal life, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.’
“As to the charge of forsaking the Church, which they were wont to bring against me, there is nothing of which my conscience accuses me, unless, indeed, he is to he considered a deserter, who, seeing the soldiers routed and scattered, and abandoning the ranks, raises the leaders standard, and recalls them to their posts. For thus, O Lord, were all thy servants dispersed, so that they could not, by any possibility, hear the command, but had almost forgotten their leader, and their service, and their military oath. In order to bring them together, when thus scattered, I raised not a foreign standard, but that noble banner of thine whom we must follow, if we would be classed among thy people.
“Then I was assailed by those who, when they ought to have kept others in their ranks had led them astray, and when I determined not to desist, opposed me with violence. On this grievous tumults arose, and the contest blazed and issued in disruption. With whom the blame rests it is for thee, O Lord, to decide. Always, both by word and deed, have I protested how eager I was for unity. Mine, however, was a unity of the Church, which should begin with thee and end in thee. For as often as thou didst recommend to us peace and concord, thou, at the same time, didst show that thou wert the only bond for preserving it. But if I desired to be at peace with those who boasted of being the heads of the Church and pillars of faith, I behooved to purchase it with the denial of thy truth. I thought that anything was to be endured sooner than stoop to such a nefarious pact. For thy Anointed himself hath declared, that though heaven and earth should be confounded, yet thy word must endure forever, (Matth. xxiv. 35.) Nor did I think that I dissented from thy Church, because I was at war with those leaders; for thou hast forewarned me, both by thy Son and by the apostles, that that place would be occupied by persons to whom I ought by no means to consent. Christ had predicted not of strangers, but of men who should give themselves out for pastors, that they would he ravenous wolves and false prophets, and had, at the same time, cautioned to beware of them. Where Christ ordered me to beware, was I to lend my aid? And the apostles declared that there would be no enemies of thy Church more pestilential than those from within, who should conceal themselves under the title of pastors, (Matth. vii. 15; Acts xx. 29; 2 Pet. ii. 1; 1 John ii. 18.) Why should I have hesitated to separate myself from persons whom they forewarned me to hold as enemies? I had before my eyes the examples of thy prophets who i saw had a similar contest with the priests and prophets of their day, though these were undoubtedly the rulers of the Church among the Israelitish people. But thy prophets are not regarded as schismatics, bemuse, when they wished to revive religion which had fallen into decay, they desisted not, although opposed with the utmost violence. They still remained in the unity of the Church, though they were doomed to perdition by wicked priests, and deemed unworthy of a place among men, not to say saints. Confirmed by their example, I too persisted. Though denounced as a deserter of the Church, and threatened, I was in no respect deterred, or induced to proceed less firmly and boldly in opposing those who, in the character of pastors, wasted thy Church with a more than impious tyranny. My conscience told me how strong the zeal was with which I burned for the unity of thy Church, provided thy truth were made the bond of concord. As the commotions which followed were not excited by me, so there is no ground for imputing them to me.
“Thou, O Lord, knowest, and the fact itself has testified to men, that the only thing I asked was, that all controversies should be decided by thy word, that thus both parties might unite with one mind to establish thy kingdom; and I declined not to restore peace to the Church at the expense of my head, if I were found to have been unnecessarily the cause of tumult. But what did our opponents? Did they not instantly, and like madmen, fly to fires, swords, and gibbets? Did they not decide that their only security was in arms and cruelty? Did they not instigate all ranks to the same fury? Did they not spurn at all methods of pacification? To this it is owing that a matter, which might at one time have been settled amicably, has blazed into such a contest. But although, amidst the great confusion, the judgments of men were various, I am freed from all fear, now that we stand at thy tribunal, where equity, combined with truth, cannot but decide in favor of innocence.”
Such, Sadolet, is our pleading, not the fictitious one which you, in order to aggravate our case, were pleased to devise, but that the perfect truth of which is known to the good even now, and will be made manifest to all creatures on that day.
Nor will those who, instructed by our preaching, have adhered to our cause, be at a loss what to say for themselves, since each will be ready with this defense: --
“I, O Lord, as I had been educated from a boy, always professed the Christian faith. But at first I had no other reason for my faith than that which then everywhere prevailed. Thy word, which ought to have shone on all thy people like a lamp, was taken away, or at least suppressed as to us. And lest any one should long for greater light, an idea had been instilled into the minds of all, that the investigation of that hidden celestial philosophy was better delegated to a few, whom the others might consult as oracles -- that the highest knowledge befitting plebeian minds was to subdue themselves into obedience to the Church. Then, the rudiments in which I had been instructed were of a kind which could neither properly train me to the legitimate worship of thy Deity, nor pave the way for me to a sure hope of salvation, nor train me aright for the duties of the Christian life. I had learned, indeed, to worship thee only as my God, but as the true method of worshipping was altogether unknown to me, I stumbled at the very threshold. I believed, as I had been taught, that I was redeemed by the death of thy Son from liability to eternal death, but the redemption I thought of was one whose virtue could never reach me. I anticipated a future resurrection, but hated to think of it, as being an event most dreadful. And this feeling not only had dominion over me in private, but was derived from the doctrine which was then uniformly delivered to the people by their Christian teachers. They, indeed, preached of thy clemency towards men, but confined it to those who should show themselves deserving of it. They, moreover, placed this desert in the righteousness of works, so that he only was received into thy favor who reconciled himself to thee by works. Nor, meanwhile, did they disguise the fact, that we are miserable sinners, that we often fall through infirmity of the flesh, and that to all, therefore, thy mercy behooved to be the common haven of salvation; but the method of obtaining it, which they pointed out, was by making satisfaction to thee for offences. Then, the satisfaction enjoined was, first, after confessing all our sins to a priest, suppliantly to ask pardon and absolution; and, secondly, by good to efface from thy remembrance our bad actions. Lastly, in order to supply what was still wanting, we were to add sacrifices and solemn expiations. Then, because thou wert a stern judge and strict avenger of iniquity, they showed how dreadful thy presence must be. Hence they bade us flee first to the saints, that by their intercession thou mightest be rendered exorable and propitious to us.
“When, however, I had performed all these things, though I had some intervals of quiet, I was still far off from true peace of conscience; for, whenever I descended into myself, or raised my mind to thee, extreme terror seized me -- terror which no expiations nor satisfactions could cure. And the more closely I examined myself, the sharper the stings with which my conscience was pricked, so that the only solace which remained to me was to delude myself by obliviousness. Still, as nothing better offered, I continued the course which I had begun, when, lo, a very different form of doctrine started up, not one which led us away from the Christian profession, but one which brought it back to its fountain head, and, as it were, clearing away the dross, restored it to its original purity. Offended by the novelty, I lent an unwilling ear, and at first, I confess, strenuously and passionately resisted; for (such is the firmness or effrontery with which it is natural to men to persist in the course which they have once undertaken) it was with the greatest difficulty I was induced to confess that I had all my life long been in ignorance and error. One thing, in particular, made me averse to those new teachers, viz., reverence for the Church. But when once I opened my ears, and allowed myself to he taught, I perceived that this fear of derogating from the majesty of the Church was groundless. For they reminded me how great the difference is between schism from the Church, and studying to correct the faults by which the Church herself was contaminated. They spoke nobly of the Church, and showed the greatest desire to cultivate unity. And lest it should seem they quibbled on the term Church, they showed it was no new thing for Antichrists to preside there in place of pastors. Of this they produced not a few examples, from which it appeared that they aimed at nothing but the edification of the Church, and in that respect were similarly circumstanced with many of Christ’s servants whom we ourselves included in the catalogue of saints. For inveighing more freely against the Roman Pontiff, who was reverenced as the Vicegerent of Christ, the Successor of Peter, and the Head of the Church, they excused themselves thus: Such titles as those are empty bugbears, by which the eyes of the pious ought not to be so blinded as not to venture to look at them, and sift the reality. It was when the world was plunged in ignorance and sloth, as in a deep sleep, that the Pope had risen to such an eminence; certainly neither appointed Head of the Church by the word of God, nor ordained by a legitimate act of the Church, but of his own accord, self-elected. Moreover, the tyranny which he let loose against the people of God was not to be endured, if we wished to have the kingdom of Christ amongst us in safety.
“And they wanted not most powerful arguments to confirm all their positions. First, they clearly disposed of everything that was then commonly adduced to establish the primacy of the Pope. When they had taken away all these props, they also, by the word of God, tumbled him from his lofty height. On the whole, they made it clear and palpable, to learned and unlearned, that the true order of the Church had then perished -- that the keys under which the discipline of the Church is comprehended had been altered very much for the worse -- that Christian liberty had fallen -- in short, that the kingdom of Christ was prostrated when this primacy was reared up. They told me, moreover, as a means of pricking my conscience, that I could not safely connive at these things as if they concerned me not; that so far art thou from patronizing any voluntary error, that even he who is led astray by mere ignorance does not err with impunity. This they proved by the testimony of thy Son, (Matth. xv. 14,) ‘If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.’ My mind being now prepared for serious attention, I at length perceived, as if light had broken in upon me, in what a sty of error I had wallowed, and how much pollution and impurity I had thereby contracted. Being exceedingly alarmed at the misery into which I had fallen, and much more at that which threatened me in the view of eternal death, I, as in duty bound, made it my first business to betake myself to thy way, condemning my past life, not without groans and tears. And now, O Lord, what remains to a wretch like me, but, instead of defense, earnestly to supplicate thee not to judge according to its deserts that fearful abandonment of thy word, from which, in thy wondrous goodness, thou hast at last delivered me.”
Now, Sadolet, if you please, compare this pleading with that which you have put into the mouth of your plebeian. It will be strange if you hesitate which of the two you ought to prefer. For the safety of that man hangs by a thread whose defense turns wholly on this -- that he has constantly adhered to the religion handed down to him from his forefathers. At this rate, Jews, and Turks, and Saracens, would escape the judgment of God. Away, then, with this vain quibbling at a tribunal which will be erected not to approve the authority of man, but to condemn all flesh of vanity and falsehood, and vindicate the truth of God only.
But were I disposed to contend with you in trifles, what picture might I paint, I say not, of a Pope, or a Cardinal, or any reverend Prelate whatsoever of your faction, (in what colors almost every man of them might, without any great stretch of ingenuity, he exhibited, you well know,) but of any, even the most select among your doctors? For his condemnation, there would, assuredly, be no need either to adduce doubtful conjectures against him, or devise false accusations. He would be burdened heavily enough with such as are certainly just. But that I may not seem to imitate what I blame in you, I decline this mode of pleading. I will only exhort these men to turn for once to themselves, and consider with what fidelity they feed the Christian people, who cannot have any other food than the Word of their God. And that they may not flatter themselves too much, because they now act their part with great applause, and for the most part, amid favorable acclamations, let them remember, that they have not yet come to the conclusion; at which, assuredly, they will not have a theatre on which to vend their awoke with impunity, and, by their tricks, ensnare credulous minds, but will stand or fall by the decision of God himself, whose judgment will not be regulated by the popular gale, but by his own inflexible justice; and who will not only inquire into each man’s deeds, but put to proof the hidden sincerity or iniquity of his heart. I dare not pronounce on all without exception; and yet, how many of them feel in their consciences, that, in contending against us, they are hiring out their services to men, rather than [giving them] to God?
While, throughout your Letter, you treat us without mercy, towards its conclusion, you pour out the venom of your bitterness upon us with open mouth. But though your invectives by no means hurt us, and have already been partly answered, I would yet ask, what could make you think of accusing us of avarice? Think you our Reformers were so dull as not to perceive from the very outset, that they were entering on a course most adverse to gain and lucre? And, when they charged you with greediness, did they not see that they were necessarily binding themselves to temperance and frugality, if they were not to become ridiculous even to children? When they showed that the method of correcting that greediness was to disburden pastors of their excessive wealth, in order that they might be more at liberty to care for the Church, did they not spontaneously shut against themselves the avenue to wealth? For what riches now remained to which they might aspire? What! Would not the shortest road to riches and honors have been to have transacted with you at the very first, on the terms which were offered? How much would your Pontiff then have paid to many for their silence? How much would he pay for it, even at the present day? If they are actuated in the least degree by avarice, why do they cut off all hope of improving their fortune, and prefer to be thus perpetually wretched, rather than enrich themselves without difficulty, and in a twinkling? But ambition, forsooth, withholds them! What ground you had for other insinuation I see not, since those who first engaged in this cause could expect nothing else than to be spurned by the whole world, and those who afterwards adhered to it exposed themselves knowingly and willingly to endless insults and reviling from every quarter. But where is this fraud and inward malice? No suspicion of ouch things cleaves to us. Talk of them rather in your sacred Consistory, where they are in operation every day.
As I hasten to a conclusion, I am compelled to pass by your calumny, that, leaning entirely to our own judgment, we find not in the whole Church one individual to whom we think deference is due. That it is a calumny, I have already sufficiently demonstrated. For, although we hold that the Word of God alone lies beyond the sphere of our judgment, and that Fathers and Councils are of authority only in so far as they accord with the rule of the Word, we still give to Councils and Fathers such rank and honor as it is meet for them to hold, under Christ.
But the most serious charge of all is, that we have attempted to dismember the Spouse of Christ. Were that true, both you and the whole world might well regard us as desperate. But I will not admit the charge, unless you can make out that the Spouse of Christ is dismembered by those who desire to present her as a chaste virgin to Christ, -- who are animated by a degree of holy zeal to preserve her spotless for Christ, -- who, seeing her polluted by base seducers, recall her to conjugal fidelity, -- who unhesitatingly wage war against all the adulterers whom they detect laying snares for her chastity. And what but this have we done? Had not your faction of a Church attempted nay, violated her chastity, by strange doctrines? Had she not been violently prostituted by your numberless superstitions? Had she not been defiled by that vilest species of adultery, the worship of images? And because, forsooth, we did not suffer you so to insult the sacred chamber of Christ, we are said to have lacerated his Spouse! But I tell you that that laceration, of which you falsely accuse us, is witnessed not obscurely among yourselves; a laceration not only of the Church, but of Christ himself, who is there beheld miserably mangled. How can the Church adhere to her Spouse, while she has him not in safety? For where is the safety of Christ, while the glory of his justice, and holiness, and wisdom, is transferred elsewhere?
But it seems, before we kindled the strife, all was tranquility and perfect peace! True! among pastors, and also among the common people, stupor and sloth had caused, that there were almost no controversies respecting religion. But in the schools, how lustily did sophists brawl? You cannot, therefore, take credit for a tranquil kingdom, when there was tranquility for no other reason than because Christ was silent. I admit, that, on the revival of the gospel, great disputes arose, where all was quietness before. But that is unjustly imputed to our Reformers, who, during the whole course of their proceedings, desired nothing more than that religion being revived, the Churches, which discord had scattered and dispersed, might be gathered together into true unity. And not to go back upon old transactions, what sacrifices did they, on a late occasion, decline to make, merely that they might procure peace to the Churches? But all their efforts are rendered vain by your opposition. For, while they desire peace, that along with it the kingdom of Christ may flourish, and you, on the other hand, think that all which is gained to Christ is lost to you, it is not strange that you strenuously resist. And you have arts by which you can in one day overturn all that they accomplish for the glory of Christ in many months. I will not overwhelm you with words, because one word will make the matter clear. Our Reformers offered to render an account of their doctrine. If overcome in argument, they decline not to submit. To whom, then, is it owing that the Church enjoys not perfect peace, and the light of truth? Go now, and charge us as seditious, in not permitting the Church to be quiet!
But, (that you might not omit anything which might tend to prejudice our cause,) since, during these few years many sects have sprung up, you, with your usual candor, lay the blame upon us. See with what fairness, or even with what plausibility! If we deserve hatred on that account, the Christian name also must, in times of old, have deserved it from the ungodly. Therefore, either cease to molest us on this subject, or openly declare that the Christian religion, which begets so many tumults in the world, ought to be banished from the memory of man! It ought not to hurt our cause in the least, that Satan has tried in all ways to impede the work of Christ. It were more to the point to inquire which party has devotedly opposed itself to all the sects which have arisen. It is plain, that while you were idle and fast asleep, we alone bore all the brunt.
The Lord grant, Sadolet, that you and all your party may at length perceive, that the only true bond of Ecclesiastical unity would exist if Christ the Lord, who hath reconciled us to God the Father, were to gather us out of our present dispersion into the fellowship of his body, that so, through his one Word and Spirit, we might join together with one heart and one soul.
Basel, September 1, 1539
Monergism Monergism.com is a free, comprehensive online theological library comprised of Reformed Christian resources designed to bring glory to Jesus Christ alone. The directory consists of original and aggregated content from around the world emphasizing the good news that salvation is God's free gift for guilty sinners, not a reward for the righteous.
Monergism is a wonderful web site and a great resource.
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 10/1/2007
It goes against my own principles to argue from the perspective of the pragmatic. Pragmatism, after all, is a worldly thing. We have been called to faithfulness. God tells us what to do, and we are to do it. The results we wisely leave in His hands. Strangely, however, from time to time, the two approaches intersect. That is, sometimes doing the principled thing is the same thing as the pragmatic thing.
Consider, for a moment, this command from God: “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (Prov. 26:5). Now I grant that the verse immediately preceding this verse is puzzling: “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.” How can we do both things? The key is this. We ought not ever to adopt the standards of fools. But we ought not to be afraid to use the standards of fools against fools. If, for instance, the promoter of the church-growth mentality holds out the size and budget of Seeker Church A as evidence of the wisdom of this approach, we would be foolish were we to respond by holding up the size and budget of Non-Seeker Church B as evidence of the folly of this approach. Everyone, no matter where they stand on this issue, if they agree that the standard is size and budget, is already a fool.
On the other hand, if God commands us to answer the pragmatist according to his pragmatism, lest he be wise in his own eyes, we, if we are principled, obey. And so I shall.
I trust that no one would really use the size and budget of a given church as a measure of effectiveness. If we did so, the largest denomination in America would not be the UMC or the SBC, but the NFL. We might, however, be tempted to measure a church’s success by the number of unbelievers it attracts. We would do this only if we were confused over the relationship between evangelism and worship. Sadly, such confusion is alive and well in the church. We do not jettison worship for the sake of evangelism, but evangelize for the sake of the worship. Nevertheless, if we agree with the fool that what we want on the Lord’s Day morning is a packed house of “seekers” what approach ought we to take? Counter-programming.
The world around us is awash in vacuity. We live in a virtual Inanity Fair. We are empty, suffering the unbearable lightness of being. The world, cutting itself off from the transcendent realm, has nothing of substance, nothing lasting to offer. If there were such a thing as a seeker, what would he be seeking? The church growth movement seems to believe he would be seeking more of the same. In a world consumed with lighthearted entertainment, we offer up less professional, less entertaining lighthearted entertainment? Why, I keep wondering, would a “seeker” get up on a Sunday morning, and travel to some giant box to hear a third rate rock band preceding a third rate comic giving a third rate “message” that leaves him in the same state that he arrived in?
If we were to design a worship service for the sake of the seeker (and remembering Proverbs 26:4, we wouldn’t want to), wouldn’t we design one that at least delivered something of what the market lacks? Shouldn’t we be filling gaps, rather than going head to head with the professionals? Wouldn’t it make sense, if you were ABC, to air Love Story while CBS is airing the Super Bowl, rather than airing a John Wayne marathon? Shouldn’t we be zigging while the whole world is zagging? A service that might attract the lost would be one that does not hide the transcendent, but reveals it. A service that might attract the lost would be one that does not deliver more of the same, but that shows forth the One. A service that might attract the lost would be one heaven bent on giving a map, rather than celebrating being lost. A service that might attract the lost would be one that panders to those who are sick of being pandered to, by refusing to pander. A service that might attract the lost would be one that offers discomfort to those who are sick and tired of being comfortable.
Of course the more we try to be pragmatic, the closer we get to the principle. If anyone is seeking, he is seeking what he has not found in the world. If anyone is seeking, he will never find, unless he seeks first the kingdom of God. We can only help them by being the kingdom of God.
Which brings us back to why we must not answer a fool according to his folly. We do not make decisions based on meeting numbers. We make decisions based on meeting God. Worship isn’t a means to an end, but the end of all means. We do not design it for the lost, nor for the found. We listen to the seeker of the lost, and do as He commands. We come to worship Him in spirit and in truth. We come to worship Him in the beauty of His holiness. We come to worship Him, for His is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. We come to worship Him, to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. And then, and only then, will all these things be added to us.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Good Intentions Gone Bad
By R.C. Sproul 10/1/2007
The adage tells us that there is a destination, the road to which is paved with good intentions. It is the destination that we would prefer not to reach. Good intentions can have disastrous results and consequences. When we look at the revolution of worship in America today, I see a dangerous road that is built with such intentions. The good purposes that have transformed worship in America have as their goal to reach a lost world—a world that is marked by baby boomers and Generation Xers who have in many ways rejected traditional forms and styles of worship. Many have found the life of the church to be irrelevant and boring, and so an effort to meet the needs of these people has driven some radical changes in how we worship God.
Perhaps the most evident model developed over the last half century is that model defined as the “seeker-sensitive model.” Seekers are defined as those people who are unbelievers and are outside of the church but who are searching for meaning and significance to their lives. The good intention of reaching such people with evangelistic techniques that include the reshaping of Sunday morning worship fails to understand some significant truths set forth in Scripture.
In Romans 3, Paul makes abundantly clear that unconverted people do not seek after God. Thomas Aquinas understood this and maintained that to the naked eye it may seem that unbelievers are searching for God or seeking for the kingdom of God, while they are in fact fleeing from God with all of their might. What Aquinas observed was that people who are unconverted seek the “benefits” that only God can give them, such as ultimate meaning and purpose in their lives, relief from guilt, the presence of joy and happiness, and things of this nature. These are benefits the Christian recognizes can only come through a vital, saving relationship with Christ. The gratuitous leap of logic comes when church leaders think that because people are searching for benefits only God can give them, they must therefore be searching after God. No, they want the benefits without the Giver of the benefits. And so structuring worship to accommodate unbelievers is misguided because these unbelievers are not seeking after God. Seeking after God begins at conversion, and if we are to structure our worship with a view to seekers, then we must structure it for believers, since only believers are seekers.
When we look at the early church, we see that the Christians of the first century gathered on the Lord’s day, devoting themselves to the study of the apostles’ doctrine, to fellowship, to prayer, and to the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42). This was not an assembly of unbelievers. It was an assembling together of believers. Of course, as our Lord warned, there are always present among believers people who have made false professions of faith. There are always the tares that grow alongside of the wheat (Matt. 13:36-43). But one does not structure the church to meet the felt needs and desires of the tares. The purpose of corporate assembly, which has its roots in the Old Testament, is for the people of God to come together corporately to offer their sacrifices of praise and worship to God. So the first rule of worship is that it be designed for believers to worship God in a way that pleases God.
The Old Testament has manifold examples of His severe displeasure that was provoked when the people decided to structure worship according to what they wanted rather than to that which God commanded. Perhaps the most vivid illustration of that is found in Leviticus 10, in the narrative account of the sudden execution of the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, for their attempts at offering strange fire upon the altar. These young priests “experimented” in a manner that was displeasing to God, and God’s response that He spoke to Aaron through Moses was this: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified” (Lev. 10:3). Corporate worship is not the place to celebrate the profane or the secular. It may be more attractive to Generation Xers to turn Sunday morning worship into an imitation of Starbucks, but it hardly can be thought to be pleasing to God.
Another erroneous assumption made in the attempt to restructure the nature of worship is that the modern generation has been so changed by cultural and contextual influences—such as the impact of the electronic age upon their lives—that they are no longer susceptible to traditional attempts of being reached by expository preaching. Early in the twentieth century, the liberal preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick pointed out that people were no longer interested in coming to church to hear what some apostle or prophet wrote a couple thousand years ago. Such words and messages were completely irrelevant according to Fosdick, and so the focus of preaching has moved in many cases away from an exposition of the Word of God. We assume this alteration is necessary if we’re to reach the people who have been trapped within the changes of our current culture. The erroneous assumption is that in the last fifty years, the constituent nature of humanity has changed, as if the heart can no longer be reached via the mind. It also assumes that the power of the Word of God has lost its potency, so that we must look elsewhere if we are to find powerful and moving experiences of worship in our church. Though the intentions may be marvelous, the results, I believe, are and will continue to be catastrophic.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Crossing the Channel
By R.C. Sproul 11/1/2007
The rapid spread of the Protestant Reformation from Wittenberg, Germany, throughout Europe and across the Channel to England was not spawned by the efforts of a globe-trotting theological entrepreneur. On the contrary, for the most part Martin Luther’s entire career was spent teaching in the village of Wittenberg at the university there. Despite his fixed position, Luther’s influence spread from Wittenberg around the world in concentric circles — like when a stone is dropped into a pond. The rapid expanse of the Reformation was hinted at from the very beginning when the Ninety-five Theses were posted on the church door (intended for theological discussion among the faculty). Without Luther’s knowledge and permission, his theses were translated from Latin into German and duplicated on the printing press and spread to every village in Germany within two weeks. This was a harbinger of things to come. Many means were used to spread Luther’s message to the continent and to England.
One of the most important factors was the influence of virtually thousands of students who studied at the University of Wittenberg and were indoctrinated into Lutheran theology and ecclesiology. Like Calvin’s academy in Geneva, Switzerland, the university became pivotal for the dissemination of Reformation ideas. Wittenberg and Geneva stood as epicenters for a worldwide movement.
The printing press made it possible for Luther to spread his ideas through the many books that he published, not to mention his tracts, confessions, catechisms, pamphlets, and cartoons (one of the most dramatic means of communication to the common people of the day was through messages encrypted in cartoons).
In addition to these methods of print, music was used in the Reformation to carry the doctrines and sentiments of Protestantism through the writing of hymns and chorales. Religious drama was used not in the churches but in the marketplace to communicate the central ideas of the movement — the recovery of the biblical Gospel.
Another overlooked aspect of the expansion of the Reformation is the impact of the fine arts on the church. Woodcuts and portraitures were produced by the great artists of the time — Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Peter Vischer. The portraits of the Reformers made their message more recognizable, as it was associated with their visage in the art world.
Students from England who studied at Wittenberg also had a major impact in bringing the Reformation across the Channel to Great Britain. Probably the most important person in the English Reformation was William Tyndale, whose translation of the Bible into English was of cataclysmic importance. In 1524, he left England for the continent and studied for a period of time at Wittenberg. His first edition of the New Testament was published in Flanders in 1526, five years after the fated Diet of Worms during which Luther gave his famous “Here I Stand” speech. Thousands of these Bibles were smuggled into England. Many were burned as the work of a heretic, but still others escaped the fire and produced a theological fire of their own.
Another important person was Robert Barnes, an Augustinian monk from Cambridge who was burned at the stake in 1540. Seven years before his martyrdom, he had matriculated at the University of Wittenberg. There also was Martin Bucer, an important Reformer who was invited by the English Protestants to come to Britain and become a professor at the University of Cambridge in 1551.
In addition to those who influenced the English Reformation directly from Luther’s Germany, were those whose influence came by a more circuitous route, that is, via Geneva, Switzerland. John Calvin himself had to flee from Paris because of the views he learned from his friends who had been influenced by the teachings of Martin Luther. This Frenchman found his refuge in Geneva, where his pulpit and teaching ministry became known around the world. Geneva became a city of refuge for exiles who fled there for safety from all over Europe. Of the countries that sent exiles to Calvin’s Geneva, none was more important than England and the British Isles. John Knox, who led the Reformation in Scotland, spent some time in Switzerland at the feet of Calvin, learning his Reformation theology there. Though Calvin was twenty-six years younger than Luther, Luther’s views made a dramatic impact on the young Calvin’s life while he was still in his twenties. Though Calvin is usually associated with the doctrine of predestination, it is often overlooked that there was nothing in Calvin’s view of predestination and election that was not first articulated by Luther, especially in Luther’s famous work The Bondage of the Will. This book is included on Lean-into-God. See the section in the accordian on the right, just above the videos. It started on April 19.
When Calvin was teaching in Geneva, Bloody Mary came to the throne of England. Under her reign, many Protestants were burned at the stake. Those who survived the stake fled in large numbers to Geneva. Some of the exiles from England under Calvin’s tutelage set upon the task of translating the Bible into English. This Bible, called the Geneva Bible, was the first Bible to have theological notes printed in the margin, which notes were heavily influenced by Calvin’s preaching. This Bible was the predominant Bible among the English for the next hundred years before it was supplanted by the popular King James Version. It was the original, official version of the Scottish Presbyterian Church. It was the Bible of Shakespeare, the Bible the Pilgrims brought with them on the Mayflower to America, and it was the Bible of choice among America’s early colonists.
From Wittenberg directly to England, or from Wittenberg to Geneva to England, in this roundabout route, the seeds of the Reformation that were planted in Germany sprouted into full bloom as they made their way into the English empire. To trace the pathway from Wittenberg to London, one must follow a series of circuitous routes, but the origin of that movement in Wittenberg is unmistakable, and its influence continues even to this day.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
He Who Has Ears
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 11/1/2007
Lord Acton was absolutely right that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. He may have been more right, however, if he had adapted a bit of biblical wisdom in articulating the dangers of power. What if he had said instead: “The love of power is the root of all kinds of evil.” Just as greed is not the exclusive province of the rich, so the hunger for power extends well beyond the powerful, and with it goes all manner of evil. Those without power often seek power by sidling up to the powerful. If you have no power, the next best thing may be to get close to those who do.
We see this principle worked out in spades in the English Reformation. As has been well covered in this issue, the Reformation came to England not because of a popular uprising of the people. It was not rooted in the heartfelt convictions of the clergy. The Reformation came to England because a king wanted a new wife, one who would bear him a son. The king thought he was pulling the strings of the clergy to get what he wanted, while the clergy believed they were pulling the strings of the king to get what they wanted. O, what a tangled web they weaved when the English Reformation was first conceived. At any given moment, the shape of the Reformation was determined not by the Word of God, but by who had the king’s ear. This inauspicious beginning laid the groundwork for what would ensue - centuries of confusion, death, and strife.
Trying to untangle the knots created by shifting alliances, convicted consciences, and the providence of those born to inherit thrones may make for an interesting historical survey. What may be better, however, would be for us to consider our own failures and weaknesses as we set about the business of reformation in our own lives. Whose ears do we seek access to, and to whom are we listening? Rather than trying to divine whether the church of England skewed too Romish or whether its problems grew out of its Erastianism may just be a distraction from examining our own lives.
Reformation, rightly understood, is nothing more than dominion. Adam and Eve, in being called to rule over the creation, were called to re-form the world. After the fall, the call to dominion abides, and so does the call to re-form. Now we are not merely turning jungle into garden, for we are at the same time turning sin into righteousness. Our re-formation is, by the power of the Holy Spirit, remaking the sinful dust of our fallen father, Adam, into the glorious gold of our elder brother, Jesus, the second Adam. The Reformation not only is not over, but it will not end until all things are brought into subjection. Those “all things” certainly includes the rulers of England, both ecclesiastical and civil. They certainly include all who rule here in these United States. They include our churches, our culture, our labors. But they begin with our families, ourselves, our hearts.
In the economy of God, we do not re-form by seeking power. We do not re-form by seeking the ear of those in power. The only way to re-form is to die. The dead have no lust for power. They have no ears to be tickled. They have no lips with which to seduce others. Indeed, this is where our power is found. By being powerless we are beyond the seducing power of power. By being dead, we strike fear in the hearts of the powerful, for their power has no sway over us.
In the economy of God, the great things that we do for the kingdom we do in peace and quietness. When we speak to our children of the things of God, we are bringing reformation. When we visit the widow on our block, we are bringing reformation. When we sit down in a moment of quiet and meditate on the powerful Word of God, we are bringing reformation. When we wash the dishes after sharing a feast with our fellow saints, we are bringing reformation. We bring reformation to the world in the very ordinary tenor of our lives.
We have no need to sit next to kings, for we are seated beside the King. Indeed, we are kings and queens with Him, seated in the heavenly places. We do not need to seize the engines of ecclesiastical authority, for we are already a royal priesthood. We need not seek positions of power and influence, that we might whisper in the ears of the powerful. Instead, we must make known our desires to the Almighty, Him whom we are instructed to call, “Our Father, who art in heaven….” We need not tear out the great weeds of unbelief that infest the church at large. We need only tear out the great weeds of unbelief that infest our tiny little hearts, that we might instead bear much of the fruit of the Spirit.
We must re-form our understanding of Reformation. The world is changed through service, not power. It is changed by service to “the least of these” rather than the powerful. Perhaps to understand this better, we ought to tell ourselves the next time we find ourselves changing a dirty diaper: “Be of good cheer. For in this deed we shall light a fire across the globe such as shall never be put out.” Perhaps that is what it means to play the man.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
By Don Carson 5/17/2018
At one level, Psalm 69 finds David pouring his heart out to God, begging for help as he faces extraordinary pressures and opponents. We may not be able to reconstruct all the circumstances that are presented here in poetic form, but David has been betrayed by people close to him, and his anguish is palpable.
At another level, this psalm is a rich repository of texts quoted or paraphrased by New Testament writers: “Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head” (69:4; see John 15:25); “I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother’s sons” (69:8; cf. John 7:5); “for zeal for your house consumes me” (69:9; see John 2:17); “and the insults of those who insult you fall on me” (69:9; see Rom. 15:3); “but I pray to you, O LORD, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation” (69:13; cf. Isa. 49:8); 2 Cor. 6:2); “they put gall in my food and gave me vinegar” (69:21; see Matt. 27:48; Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36); “they . . . gave me vinegar for my thirst” (69:21; see Matt. 27:34; Mark 15:23; John 19:28-30); “may their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents” (69:25; see Matt. 23:38; Acts 1:20); “may they be blotted out of the book of life” (69:28; cf. Luke 10:20).
For the sheer concentration of such citations and allusions in one chapter, this psalm is remarkable. Of course, they are not all of the same sort, and this brief meditation cannot possibly probe them all. But several of them fall into one important pattern. This is a psalm written by David. (There is no good reason to doubt this attribution from the superscription.) David is not only the head of the dynasty that issues in “great David’s greater Son” (as the hymn writer puts it), but in many ways he becomes a model for the king who is to come, a pattern for him — a type, if you will.
That is the reasoning of the New Testament authors. It is easy enough to demonstrate that the reasoning is well grounded. Here it is enough to glimpse something of the result. If King David could endure scorn for God’s sake (69:7), how much more the ultimate King — who certainly also suffers rejection by his brothers for God’s sake (69:8). If David is zealous for the house of the Lord, how could Jesus’ disciples possibly fail to see in his cleansing of the temple and related utterances something of his own zeal (John 2:17)? Indeed, in the minds of the New Testament authors, such passages link with the “Suffering Servant” theme that surfaces in Isaiah 53 — and is here tied to King David and his ultimate heir and Lord.
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
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 50God Himself Is Judge
50 A Psalm Of Asaph.
16 But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to recite my statutes
or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
18 If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
and you keep company with adulterers.
19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your brother;
you slander your own mother’s son.
21 These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!”
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
5. We now understand what offices in the government of the Church were
temporary, and what offices were instituted to be of perpetual
duration. But if we class evangelists with apostles, we shall have two
like offices in a manner corresponding to each other. For the same
resemblance which our teachers have to the ancient prophets pastors
have to the apostles. The prophetical office was more excellent in
respect of the special gift of revelation which accompanied it, but the
office of teachers was almost of the same nature, and had altogether
the same end. In like manner, the twelve, whom the Lord chose to
publish the new preaching of the Gospel to the world (Luke 6:13),
excelled others in rank and dignity. For although, from the nature of
the case, and etymology of the word, all ecclesiastical officers may be
properly called apostles, because they are all sent by the Lord and are
his messengers, yet as it was of great importance that a sure
attestation should be given to the mission of those who delivered a new
and extraordinary message, it was right that the twelve (to the number
of whom Paul was afterwards added) should be distinguished from others
by a peculiar title. The same name, indeed, is given by Paul to
Andronicus and Junia, who, he says, were "of note among the apostles"
(Rom. 16:7); but when he would speak properly, he confines the term to
that primary order. And this is the common use of Scripture. Still
pastors (except that each has the government of a particular church
assigned to him) have the same function as apostles. The nature of this
function let us now see still more clearly.
6. When our Lord sent forth the apostles, he gave them a commission (as has been lately said) to preach the Gospel, and baptise those who believed for the remission of sins. He had previously commanded that they should distribute the sacred symbols of his body and blood after his example (Mt. 28:19; Luke 22:19). Such is the sacred, inviolable, and perpetual law, enjoined on those who succeed to the place of the apostles,--they receive a commission to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. Whence we infer that those who neglect both of these falsely pretend to the office of apostles. But what shall we say of pastors? Paul speaks not of himself only but of all pastors, when he says, "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God" (I Cor. 4:1). Again, in another passage, he describes a bishop as one "holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers" (Tit. 1:9). From these and similar passages which everywhere occur, we may infer that the two principal parts of the office of pastors are to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. But the method of teaching consists not merely in public addresses, it extends also to private admonitions. Thus Paul takes the Ephesians to witness, "I kept back nothing that was profitable to you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." A little after he says, "Remember, that, for the space of three years, I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears" (Acts 20:20, 31). Our present purpose, however, is not to enumerate the separate qualities of a good pastor, but only to indicate what those profess who call themselves pastors--viz. that in presiding over the Church they have not an indolent dignity, but must train the people to true piety by the doctrine of Christ, administer the sacred mysteries, preserve and exercise right discipline. To those who are set as watchmen in the Church the Lord declares, "When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand" (Ezek. 3:18). What Paul says of himself is applicable to all pastors: "For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel" (1 Cor. 4:16). In short, what the apostles did to the whole world, every pastor should do to the flock over which he is appointed.
7. While we assign a church to each pastor, we deny not that he who is fixed to one church may assist other churches, whether any disturbance has occurred which requires his presence, or his advice is asked on some doubtful matter. But because that policy is necessary to maintain the peace of the Church, each has his proper duty assigned, lest all should become disorderly, run up and down without any certain vocation, flock together promiscuously to one spot, and capriciously leave the churches vacant, being more solicitous for their own convenience than for the edification of the Church. This arrangement ought, as far as possible, to be commonly observed, that every one, content with his own limits, may not encroach on another's province. Nor is this a human invention. It is an ordinance of God. For we read that Paul and Barnabas appointed presbyters over each of the churches of Lystra, Antioch, and Iconium (Acts 14:23); and Paul himself enjoins Titus to ordain presbyters in every town (Tit. 1:5). In like manner, he mentions the bishops of the Philippians, and Archippus, the bishop of the Colossians (Phil. 1:1; Col. 4:17). And in the Acts we have his celebrated address to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus (Acts 20:28). Let every one, then, who undertakes the government and care of one church, know that he is bound by this law of divine vocation, not that he is astricted to the soil (as lawyers speak), that is, enslaved, and, as it were, fixed, as to be unable to move a foot if public utility so require, and the thing is done duly and in order; but he who has been called to one place ought not to think of removing, nor seek to be set free when he deems it for his own advantage. Again, if it is expedient for any one to be transferred to another place, he ought not to attempt it of his own private motive, but to wait for public authority.
8. In giving the name of bishops, presbyters, and pastors, indiscriminately to those who govern churches, I have done it on the authority of Scripture, which uses the words as synonymous. To all who discharge the ministry of the word it gives the name of bishops. Thus Paul, after enjoining Titus to ordain elders in every city, immediately adds, "A bishop must be blameless," &c. (Tit. 1:5, 7). So in another place he salutes several bishops in one church (Phil. 1:1). And in the Acts, the elders of Ephesus, whom he is said to have called together, he, in the course of his address, designates as bishops (Acts 20:17). Here it is to be observed, that we have hitherto enumerated those offices only which consist in the ministry of the word; nor does Paul make mention of any others in the passage which we have quoted from the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians. But in the Epistle to the Romans, and the First Epistle to the Corinthians, he enumerates other offices, as powers, gifts of healing, interpretation, government, care of the poor (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28). As to those which were temporary, I say nothing, for it is not worth while to dwell upon them. But there are two of perpetual duration--viz. government and care of the poor. By these governors I understand seniors selected from the people to unite with the bishops in pronouncing censures and exercising discipline. For this is the only meaning which can be given to the passage, "He that ruleth with diligence" (Rom. 12:8). From the beginning, therefore, each church had its senate,  composed of pious, grave, and venerable men, in whom was lodged the power of correcting faults. Of this power we shall afterwards speak. Moreover, experience shows that this arrangement was not confined to one age, and therefore we are to regard the office of government as necessary for all ages.
9. The care of the poor was committed to deacons, of whom two classes are mentioned by Paul in the Epistle to the Romans, "He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity;" "he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness" (Rom. 12:8). As it is certain that he is here speaking of public offices of the Church, there must have been two distinct classes. If I mistake not, he in the former clause designates deacons, who administered alms; in the latter, those who had devoted themselves to the care of the poor and the sick. Such were the widows of whom he makes mention in the Epistle to Timothy (1 Tim. 5:10). For there was no public office which women could discharge save that of devoting themselves to the service of the poor. If we admit this (and it certainly ought to be admitted), there will be two classes of deacons, the one serving the Church by administering the affairs of the poor; the other, by taking care of the poor themselves. For although the term diakoni'a has a more extensive meaning, Scripture specially gives the name of deacons to those whom the Church appoints to dispense alms, and take care of the poor, constituting them as it were stewards of the public treasury of the poor. Their origin, institution, and office, is described by Luke (Acts 6:3). When a murmuring arose among the Greeks, because in the administration of the poor their widows were neglected, the apostles, excusing themselves that they were unable to discharge both offices, to preach the word and serve tables, requested the multitude to elect seven men of good report, to whom the office might be committed. Such deacons as the Apostolic Church had, it becomes us to have after her example.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
4/1/2009 Our Hope in Ages Past
Pray with your mouth, cry out with your heart, make petitions while you work, so that every day and night, every hour and moment, God may always assist you.” These are the words of the ninth-century, Christian noblewoman, Dhouda. She penned these words of admonition to her son William. She was concerned that her oldest son, a page in the court of Charles the Bald, would understand what it means to be a godly man. Dhouda’s Handbook for William contained wise counsel to her son concerning the necessity of daily prayer, his conduct in public worship, and the importance of his reverence in prayer, in worship, and in all of life.
This is but one example of the sort of writing that emerged from the ninth century. Early in the ninth century, a local pastor produced a catechism for laypeople so that they might understand the doctrinal formulations of Scripture. Near the middle of the century, Jonas, bishop of Orleans, wrote The Lay Way of Life, a catechism for laypeople concerning a vast array of matters pertaining to the Christian’s life and morals. In the latter part of the ninth century, Alfred the Great of England took part in the translation of Gregory’s classic work On Pastoral Care, and Alfred made certain that every pastor received a copy so that he might become better equipped to shepherd the flock of Christ.
Although many of these writings are replete with doctrinal errors, they reveal this one, undeniable truth — in the ninth century the Lord God Almighty was building His church, and the medieval gates of the Dark Ages could not prevail against it. Sure, there were divisive, ecclesiastical disputes in the ninth century, there was corruption among the leadership of the church, and doctrinal errors abounded — not much has changed. But thanks be to God that He Himself has not changed, nor can He. Our God has been our help in ages past, and He is our hope for years to come. He is faithful to His promise, and being the Sovereign God of promises He will continue to raise up, call forth, and send out His generation of faithful men and women in every generation in preparation for His return, when we will “cry out with our hearts” and our voices before His face, coram Deo, with that host of His elect from every century, every nation, and every tongue.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
Amazing! The first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court was also the president of the American Bible Society. Who was he? John Jay, who died this day, May 17, 1829. A member of the Continental Congress, even serving as its president, John Jay signed the Treaty of Paris with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, officially ending the Revolutionary War. He helped ratify the Constitution by writing the Federalist Papers with Madison and Hamilton. John Jay stated: "We have the highest reason to believe that the Almighty will not suffer slavery and the Gospel to go hand in hand. It cannot, it will not be."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
God is not what you imagine
or what you think you understand.
If you understand you have failed.
--- Saint Augustine
Marriage and Virginity (Vol. 1/9) (Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century)
God is not the name of God,
but an opinion about Him.
--- Pope Xystus I, The Ring
The Book of Catholic Wisdom: 2000 Years of Spiritual Writing
The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early Morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the Morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.
--- E.M. Bounds
E.M. Bounds on Prayer
Now that I am a Christian I do not have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.
--- C.S. Lewis
... from here, there and everywhere
Thomas A Kempis
Book Four - An Invitation To Holy Communion
The Ninth Chapter / We Should Offer Ourselves And All That We Have To God, Praying For All
ALL things in heaven and on earth, O Lord, are Yours. I long to give myself to You as a voluntary offering to remain forever Yours. With a sincere heart I offer myself this day to You, O Lord, to Your eternal service, to Your homage, and as a sacrifice of everlasting praise. Receive me with this holy offering of Your precious Body which also I make to You this day, in the presence of angels invisibly attending, for my salvation and that of all Your people.
O Lord, upon Your altar of expiation, I offer You all the sins and offenses I have committed in Your presence and in the presence of Your holy angels, from the day when I first could sin until this hour, that You may burn and consume them all in the fire of Your love, that You may wipe away their every stain, cleanse my conscience of every fault, and restore to me Your grace which I lost in sin by granting full pardon for all and receiving me mercifully with the kiss of peace.
What can I do for all my sins but humbly confess and lament them, and implore Your mercy without ceasing? In Your mercy, I implore You, hear me when I stand before You, my God. All my sins are most displeasing to me. I wish never to commit them again. I am sorry for them and will be sorry as long as I live. I am ready to do penance and make satisfaction to the utmost of my power.
Forgive me, O God, forgive me my sins for Your Holy Name. Save my soul which You have redeemed by Your most precious Blood. See, I place myself at Your mercy. I commit myself to Your hands. Deal with me according to Your goodness, not according to my malicious and evil ways.
I offer to You also all the good I have, small and imperfect though it be, that You may make it more pure and more holy, that You may be pleased with it, render it acceptable to Yourself, and perfect it more and more, and finally that You may lead me, an indolent and worthless creature, to a good and happy end.
I offer You also all the holy desires of Your devoted servants, the needs of my parents, friends, brothers, sisters, and all who are dear to me; of all who for Your sake have been kind to me or to others; of all who have wished and asked my prayers and Masses for them and theirs, whether they yet live in the flesh or are now departed from this world, that they may all experience the help of Your grace, the strength of Your consolation, protection from dangers, deliverance from punishment to come, and that, free from all evils, they may gladly give abundant thanks to You.
I offer You also these prayers and the Sacrifice of Propitiation for those especially who have in any way injured, saddened, or slandered me, inflicted loss or pain upon me, and also for all those whom I have at any time saddened, disturbed, offended, and abused by word or deed, willfully or in ignorance. May it please You to forgive us all alike our sins and offenses against one another.
Take away from our hearts, O Lord, all suspicion, anger, wrath, contention, and whatever may injure charity and lessen brotherly love. Have mercy, O Lord, have mercy on those who ask Your mercy, give grace to those who need it, and make us such that we may be worthy to enjoy Your favor and gain eternal life.
The Imitation Of Christ
Thanks to Meir Yona
8. As also [I shall relate] how they built walls about the neighboring cities; and how Nero, upon Cestius's defeat, was in fear of the entire event of the war, and thereupon made Vespasian general in this war; and how this Vespasian, with the elder of his sons made an expedition into the country of Judea; what was the number of the Roman army that he made use of; and how many of his auxiliaries were cut off in all Galilee; and how he took some of its cities entirely, and by force, and others of them by treaty, and on terms. Now, when I am come so far, I shall describe the good order of the Romans in war, and the discipline of their legions; the amplitude of both the Galilees, with its nature, and the limits of Judea. And, besides this, I shall particularly go over what is peculiar to the country, the lakes and fountains that are in them, and what miseries happened to every city as they were taken; and all this with accuracy, as I saw the things done, or suffered in them. For I shall not conceal any of the calamities I myself endured, since I shall relate them to such as know the truth of them.
9. After this, [I shall relate] how, When the Jews' affairs were become very bad, Nero died, and Vespasian, when he was going to attack Jerusalem, was called back to take the government upon him; what signs happened to him relating to his gaining that government, and what mutations of government then happened at Rome, and how he was unwillingly made emperor by his soldiers; and how, upon his departure to Egypt, to take upon him the government of the empire, the affairs of the Jews became very tumultuous; as also how the tyrants rose up against them, and fell into dissensions among themselves.
10. Moreover, [I shall relate] how Titus marched out of Egypt into Judea the second time; as also how, and where, and how many forces he got together; and in what state the city was, by the means of the seditious, at his coming; what attacks he made, and how many ramparts he cast up; of the three walls that encompassed the city, and of their measures; of the strength of the city, and the structure of the temple and holy house; and besides, the measures of those edifices, and of the altar, and all accurately determined. A description also of certain of their festivals, and seven purifications of purity, 5 and the sacred ministrations of the priests, with the garments of the priests, and of the high priests; and of the nature of the most holy place of the temple; without concealing anything, or adding anything to the known truth of things.
11. After this, I shall relate the barbarity of the tyrants towards the people of their own nation, as well as the indulgence of the Romans in sparing foreigners; and how often Titus, out of his desire to preserve the city and the temple, invited the seditious to come to terms of accommodation. I shall also distinguish the sufferings of the people, and their calamities; how far they were afflicted by the sedition, and how far by the famine, and at length were taken. Nor shall I omit to mention the misfortunes of the deserters, nor the punishments inflicted on the captives; as also how the temple was burnt, against the consent of Caesar; and how many sacred things that had been laid up in the temple were snatched out of the fire; the destruction also of the entire city, with the signs and wonders that went before it; and the taking the tyrants captives, and the multitude of those that were made slaves, and into what different misfortunes they were everyone distributed. Moreover, what the Romans did to the remains of the wall; and how they demolished the strong holds that were in the country; and how Titus went over the whole country, and settled its affairs; together with his return into Italy, and his triumph.
12. I have comprehended all these things in seven books, and have left no occasion for complaint or accusation to such as have been acquainted with this war; and I have written it down for the sake of those that love truth, but not for those that please themselves [with fictitious relations]. And I will begin my account of these things with what I call my First Chapter.
by D.H. Stern
5 He who mocks the poor insults his maker;
he who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished.
6 Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
while the glory of children is their ancestors.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
His ascension and our union
And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. --- Luke 24:51.
We have no corresponding experience to the events in Our Lord’s life after the Transfiguration. From then onwards Our Lord’s life was altogether vicarious. Up to the time of the Transfiguration He had exhibited the normal perfect life of a man; from the Transfiguration onwards—Gethsemane, the Cross, the Resurrection—everything is unfamiliar to us. His Cross is the door by which every member of the human race can enter into the life of God; by His Resurrection He has the right to give eternal life to any man, and by His Ascension Our Lord enters heaven and keeps the door open for humanity.
On the Mount of Ascension the Transfiguration is completed. If Jesus had gone to heaven from the Mount of Transfiguration, He would have gone alone; He would have been nothing more to us than a glorious Figure. But He turned His back on the glory, and came down from the Mount to identify Himself with fallen humanity.
The Ascension is the consummation of the Transfiguration. Our Lord does now go back into His primal glory; but He does not go back simply as Son of God: He goes back to God as Son of Man as well as Son of God. There is now freedom of access for anyone straight to the very throne of God by the Ascension of the Son of Man. As Son of Man Jesus Christ deliberately limited omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience in Himself. Now they are His in absolute full power. As Son of Man Jesus Christ has all power at the throne of God. He is King of kings and Lord of lords from the day of His Ascension until now.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Evans? Yes, many a time
I came down his bare flight
Of stairs into the gaunt kitchen
With its wood fire, where crickets sang
Accompaniment to the black kettle’s
Whine, and so into the cold
Dark to smother in the thick tide
Of night that drifted about the walls
Of his stark farm on the hill ridge.
It was not the dark filling my eyes
And mouth appalled me; not even the drip
Of rain like blood from the one tree
Weather-tortured. It was the dark
Silting the veins of that sick man
I left stranded upon the vast
And lonely shore of his bleak bed.
Selected Poems, 1946-68
Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai finds himself in the classic no-win situation: "Damned if you do, damned if you don't." He is faced with two choices, and no matter which one he makes there is a serious down side. What does one do in such a predicament?
At another juncture in his life, Yoḥanan ben Zakkai was faced with another such choice, only this time, the very fate of the Jewish people lay in the balance. According to the Talmud and Midrash, the Romans had set up a siege against the city of Jerusalem. The Zealots inside the city were prepared to fight the Romans to the death. Yoḥanan ben Zakkai saw that Jerusalem was doomed. He felt that the best hope for the future lay in abandoning the city, acknowledging the Romans as victors, and trying to sue for peace by negotiating with the enemy. Imagine how prospects must have looked at that critical moment: No matter what he did, he would lose. If he stayed in the city and fought with the Zealots, all the Jews would most likely be killed. If he fled the city and dealt with the Romans, he would probably be branded a collaborator and a traitor. What choice does one make in such a critical moment?
In both cases—what to teach the people about business ethics, and how to deal with the Roman threat—Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai looked beyond the moment to the future. He believed that what really mattered was not what happened in the short term, but what was better for his people in the long run. He taught about the seamy side of the marketplace, even though some people might use his words and go out and defraud others. And after having been smuggled out of Jerusalem in a coffin, he went to the Roman general and asked for the town of Yavneh as a new base of study; it was from Yavneh that Rabban Yoḥanan and the other Rabbis began to rebuild the Jewish religion and the Jewish people. Although at the time both of these options must have seemed to Yoḥanan ben Zakkai like no-win situations, history looks back upon him as a great hero who made the right choices.
In both cases, Yoḥanan ben Zakkai did not hesitate to confront the seamy side of life and to make the difficult compromises that were necessary. He could have remained in his ivory tower and lectured only about the ideals of Jewish business ethics, without describing the tricks that the deceivers used. Or he could have remained within the city of Jerusalem and fought heroically to the death with the Zealots. But he recognized that both of these choices were inadequate. Life has a dark side. Unless we acknowledge that and confront it, we are only deceiving ourselves. Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai teaches us to deal with reality but always to strive to do the very best we can. When confronted by two terrible options, we first accept the fact that with our choice we will pay a great price. Then we look beyond the present, try to regroup, and begin to build for a better future.
When our love was strong, we could sleep on the edge of a sword; now that our love is not strong, a bed sixty cubits wide is not big enough for us.
Text / There was a man who used to say: "When our love was strong, we could sleep on the edge of a sword; now that our love is not strong, a bed sixty cubits wide is not big enough for us." Rav Huna said: "This is found in verses. Of the early time, it is written: 'There I will meet with you, and I will impart to you—from above the cover' [Exodus 25:22], and it is taught: The Ark was nine [handbreadths] and the cover, one handbreadth, making ten, and it is written: 'The House which King Solomon built for the Lord was 60 cubits long, 20 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high' [1 Kings 6:2]. Of the later time, it is written: 'Thus said the Lord: The heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool: Where could you build a house for Me?' [Isaiah 66:1]."
Context / The cover of pure gold, known as the kaporet, was placed on top of the Ark in the Sanctuary and the Temple. The Ark contained the two stone tablets, on which was engraved the Ten Commandments.
Context / A tefaḥ, or handbreadth, was a basic standard of length, measuring across a clenched fist, or approximately 3 1/2 inches.
Context / The amah, or cubit, was the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, or approximately 18 inches.
Our epigram was originally meant to convey a description of human love. Rashi comments: " 'When our love was strong'—between myself and my wife." But the verses brought by Rav Huna show that he applied this statement to the relationship between God and the Jewish people. "Of the early time" refers to the beginning of the relationship, during the forty years when the Israelites were in the desert, having just been liberated from Egypt. Of this period, the prophet Jeremiah spoke nostalgically when he quoted God: "I accounted to your favor the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride—how you followed Me in the wilderness" (Jeremiah 2:2). During the wilderness period, the Israelites built the portable Sanctuary, and according to Exodus 25, God spoke to Moses from a position just on top of the kaporet, the cover of the Ark. The Rabbis figure this distance to be ten tefaḥim (or handbreadths) from the ground. The idea that God's presence was about a yard off the ground shows how close God was to the people. In the analogy, this is the period of great love, when the husband and wife could share a very small space together.
Later, when Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, the dimensions of "God's abode" grew. The size of the Temple was approximately ninety feet long, thirty feet across, and forty-five feet high. Finally, we have a verse from the days of the prophet Isaiah, after the destruction of the Temple (which according to rabbinic theology took place because the people sinned and were estranged from God). Here, God says that no Temple could possibly hold God. In our analogy, this is the husband and wife no longer in love, uncomfortable being together on a bed some ninety feet wide.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
This chapter contains Mark's longest report of any connected discourse by Jesus. It closely parallels the report in Matthew 24 and 25.
Jesus warned of terrible tragedies which will be part of human experience while He is away. Finally there will come events foretold in the Book of Daniel and by other Old Testament prophets (Mark 13:14–32). As the end nears there will be "days of distress unequaled from the beginning when God created the world, until now" (Mark 13:19).
That day will close with "the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory" (Mark 13:26).
Jesus concluded His predictions about the future with the statement, "This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened" (Mark 13:30). Since that generation is long dead, what could Jesus have meant?
The term translated "generation" here can mean those currently living. But it also can mean a family or national line. Jesus had begun His discourse by predicting the destruction of the temple in which the Jews took such pride. Within the lifespan of the generation then living, the temple Herod had spent 40 years beautifying and expanding was destroyed completely. It was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 in response to yet another Jewish rebellion. The generation that had heard Jesus teach and witnessed His miracles—and had rejected the Son of God—lived to see their city razed and their temple destroyed.
What happened to the Jewish people then? For thousands of years they were scattered throughout the world, with no homeland to call their own. And yet they survived. And they maintained their separate identity. That "generation," as represented in the Jewish people (the family and national line) "will certainly not pass away" until all the things Jesus spoke of actually take place.
But what about those who believe in Jesus during the interim? Jesus gives His followers this warning: "Be on guard! Be alert!" No one knows when the Lord will come, so each of us must be alert and about his assigned task.
And what, then, must we be alert for? Why, we must be alert that the very things which crept into the religion of Israel and sapped it of its vitality do not slip into the practice of our faith!
How good it is to know that, until Jesus does return, you and I can worship Him, with others, in Spirit and in truth.
The Teacher's Commentary
Judaism in the Land of Israel
The surviving evidence exhibits a richness and diversity in Judaism of the Second Temple era, a diversity so great that some have resorted to the neologism “Judaisms” to express it. Yet, despite the undoubted diversity present in the texts, there are fundamental beliefs and practices that would have been accepted by virtually all Jews during those centuries and that justify retaining the singular noun Judaism.
There were some Jews who rejected this doctrine, but the data, both Jewish and foreign, indicate that belief in one God was a defining characteristic of Judaism. Jews confessed that God was one and that he was the creator and sustainer of all, and non-Jews recognized monotheism as a trait that made Jews different from most others. In obedience to the second commandment, Jews made no representation of the God they worshiped, and in this regard, too, they were distinctive. The Temple in Jerusalem was unusual in that it contained no visible representation of the deity; he was thought to be enthroned upon the Ark of the Covenant between the cherubim, but there was no object representing him.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. --- Ephesians 1:7–8.
Grace is not a prevalent word in modern speech, and its rare occurrence may be explained by the partial disappearance of the word sin from our vocabulary. (Classic RS Thomas on the Grace of God (Kregel Classic RS Thomas Series) ) If we exile the one we will not long retain the other. Grace haunts the place where pangs are endured and tears are shed because of the sense of indwelling sin.
Sin is a word whose meanings are like sharp fangs, and they bite deep. We are busy creating easier and less distressing phrases, phrases without teeth, that we can apply to our perversities without occasioning any pain.
Sin is inevitable, says prevalent philosophy, so long as we are bound to a physical body. But if people were to be stripped of their bodies, the realm of sin would still remain, envy would remain, and malice and wrath, and so would thought and desire and will. What philosophy and personal inclination are disposed to extenuate, the Christian religion seeks to deepen and revive. Its endeavor is not to abate the sense of sin but to drive the teeth into still more sensitive parts. There is no delicacy in the way in which it describes the natural conditions of my life. Its sentences are clear and uncompromising. Sin reigns in me. The guest has become the master and determines the arrangements of the house. He is my tyrant. I am dead in sin—not a boat with power to encounter adverse winds and to ride on the storm, but a piece of driftwood, its self-initiative and self-direction gone, the pitiless prey of the hostile wind and waves.
And now to this sin-burdened and sin-poisoned race there flows, in infinite plenitude, the riches of his grace. What are the contents of the gracious flood? When grace possesses the life, it brings a threefold power. It brings “redemption,” the powers of liberation; it brings “wisdom,” the power of illumination; it brings “understanding,” the power of applying the illumination to the difficulties of life.
How do we come into the marvelous effluence of the grace of God? “In him we have.” That is the standing ground. I know no other. To be in him, in the Christ, is to be in the abiding place of this superlative energy. To be associated with the Savior by faith, in the fellowship of spiritual communion, is to dwell at the springs of eternal life.
--- John Henry Jowett
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
How about “Hallelujah!” May 17
William Grimshaw was born in rural England in 1708, educated at Cambridge, and ordained to the ministry in 1731 without knowing Christ. Three years later while pastoring in Todmorden, he felt deep concern about his soul. He ceased his hunting, fishing, card-playing, and merrymaking, and began pleading with God for light. After several more years, the scales completely fell from his eyes. The Gospel became real and the Bible came alive. He told a friend that “if God had drawn up his Bible to heaven and sent me down another, it could not have been newer to me.”
He moved to Haworth in Yorkshire and began a 21-year ministry. Had he been in London, claim his biographers, he would have become one of the most famous preachers of the eighteenth century. As it was, Haworth was rough and uncivilized, a long narrow village of brown stone. The main street was so steep that carriages traveled it at their own risk. Here Grimshaw labored in obscurity, but with great zeal. He gathered listeners wherever he could, in barns, fields, quarries, and pressed on them the Gospel.
He once said, “When I die I shall then have my greatest grief and my greatest joy—my greatest grief that I have done so little for Jesus, and my greatest joy that Jesus has done so much for me.”
But William Grimshaw’s heart was broken by his son John who, rejecting Christ, lived a careless, intemperate life. When William lay dying, John visited him. “Take care what you do,” said William, “for you are not fit to die.” Those words evidently haunted the young man, for one day he met a Haworth inhabitant who said, “I see you are riding the old parson’s horse.”
“Yes,” replied John. “Once he carried a great saint, and now he carries a great sinner.” But not for long, for John soon heeded his father’s dying pleas and gave his heart to Christ. He died shortly afterward on May 17, 1766, saying, “What will my old father say when he sees I have got to heaven?”
How about “Hallelujah!”
If any of you has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, what will you do? Won’t you leave the ninety-nine in the field and go look for the lost sheep until you find it? Jesus said, “In the same way there is more happiness in heaven because of one sinner who turns to God than over ninety-nine good people who don’t need to.”
--- Luke 15:4,7.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - May 17
“So to walk even as he walked.”
--- 1 John 2:6.
Why should Christians imitate Christ? They should do it for their own sakes. If they desire to be in a healthy state of soul—if they would escape the sickness of sin, and enjoy the vigour of growing grace, let Jesus be their model. For their own happiness’ sake, if they would drink wine on the lees, well refined; if they would enjoy holy and happy communion with Jesus; if they would be lifted up above the cares and troubles of this world, let them walk even as he walked. There is nothing which can so assist you to walk towards heaven with good speed, as wearing the image of Jesus on your heart to rule all its motions. It is when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you are enabled to walk with Jesus in his very footsteps, that you are most happy, and most known to be the sons of God. Peter afar off is both unsafe and uneasy. Next, for religion’s sake, strive to be like Jesus. Ah! poor religion, thou hast been sorely shot at by cruel foes, but thou hast not been wounded one-half so dangerously by thy foes as by thy friends. Who made those wounds in the fair hand of Godliness? The professor who used the dagger of hypocrisy. The man who with pretences, enters the fold, being nought but a wolf in sheep’s clothing, worries the flock more than the lion outside. There is no weapon half so deadly as a Judas-kiss. Inconsistent professors injure the Gospel more than the sneering critic or the infidel. But, especially for Christ’s own sake, imitate his example. Christian, lovest thou thy Saviour? Is his name precious to thee? Is his cause dear to thee? Wouldst thou see the kingdoms of the world become his? Is it thy desire that he should be glorified? Art thou longing that souls should be won to him? If so, imitate Jesus; be an “epistle of Christ, known and read of all men.”
Evening - May 17
“Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee.” --- Isaiah 41:9.
If we have received the grace of God in our hearts, its practical effect has been to make us God’s servants. We may be unfaithful servants, we certainly are unprofitable ones, but yet, blessed be his name, we are his servants, wearing his livery, feeding at his table, and obeying his commands. We were once the servants of sin, but he who made us free has now taken us into his family and taught us obedience to his will. We do not serve our Master perfectly, but we would if we could. As we hear God’s voice saying unto us, “Thou art my servant,” we can answer with David, “I am thy servant; thou hast loosed my bonds.” But the Lord calls us not only his servants, but his chosen ones—“I have chosen thee.” We have not chosen him first, but he hath chosen us. If we be God’s servants, we were not always so; to sovereign grace the change must be ascribed. The eye of sovereignty singled us out, and the voice of unchanging grace declared, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” Long ere time began or space was created God had written upon his heart the names of his elect people, had predestinated them to be conformed unto the image of his Son, and ordained them heirs of all the fulness of his love, his grace, and his glory. What comfort is here! Has the Lord loved us so long, and will he yet cast us away? He knew how stiffnecked we should be, he understood that our hearts were evil, and yet he made the choice. Ah! our Saviour is no fickle lover. He doth not feel enchanted for awhile with some gleams of beauty from his church’s eye, and then afterwards cast her off because of her unfaithfulness. Nay, he married her in old eternity; and it is written of Jehovah, “He hateth putting away.” The eternal choice is a bond upon our gratitude and upon his faithfulness which neither can disown.
Morning and Evening
THE COMFORTER HAS COME
Frank Bottome, 1823–1894
And I will ask the Father. and He will give you another counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. (John 14:16)
One of the important days worthy of every Christian’s recognition is Pentecost Sunday—an observance of the advent of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost Sunday occurs 50 days after Easter. The church color for this season is red, and the symbol is generally that of the dove. Other symbols for the Holy Spirit include:
Oil—It is the Holy Spirit that anoints and sets a believer apart for service.
Water—It is the Holy Spirit that cleanses us from the power of sin.
Light—It is the Holy Spirit that guides us in steps of truth and righteousness.
Fire— It is the Holy Spirit that purges and sets our devotion for God ablaze.
Wind—It is the Holy Spirit that refreshes our often parched hearts.
Jesus also referred to the Holy Spirit as the counselor—the Comforter—the “paraclete”—the one who would reside in each believer and always be ready to help and guide in times of need.
Following Christ’s resurrection, the disciples’ awareness of the Holy Spirit in their lives changed them from fearful, discouraged disciples into powerful proclaimers of the good news. This same awareness and appropriation of the Holy Spirit’s enabling power is still a most necessary ingredient for effective representation of our Lord.
The text for this hymn, written by Frank Bottome, an American Methodist pastor, first appeared in the hymnal Precious Times of Refreshing and Revival in 1890.
O spread the tidings ’round, wherever man is found, wherever human hearts and human woes abound; let ev’ry Christian tongue proclaim the joyful sound: The Comforter has come!
The long, long night is past; the Morning breaks at last, and hushed the dreadful wail and fury of the blast, as o’er the golden hills the day advances fast! The Comforter has come!
O boundless love divine! How shall this tongue of mine to wond’ring mortals tell the matchless grace divine—that I, a child of hell, should in His image shine! The Comforter has come!
Chorus: The Comforter has come, the Comforter has come! The Holy Ghost from heav’n—the Father’s promise giv’n; O spread the tidings round, wherever man is found—The Comforter has come!
For Today: John 7:39; John 15:26; Acts 2:1, 4, 38; 1 Thessalonians 4:8.
Live in the conscious awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power. Ask Him to lead you as you witness to someone about Christ. Remember this truth as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XXVII. — THESE observations have I made upon the heads of your PREFACE, which, indeed, themselves, may more properly be said to embrace the whole subject, than the following body of the book. But however, the whole of these observations in reply, might have been summed up and made in this one short compendious answer to you. — Your Preface complains, either of the Words of God, or of the word of men. If of the words of men, the whole is written in vain; if of the Words of God, the whole is impious. Wherefore, it would have saved much trouble, if it had been plainly mentioned, whether we were disputing concerning the Words of God, or the words of men. But this, perhaps, will be handled in the EXORDIUM which follows, or in the body of the discussion itself.
But the hints which you have thrown together in the conclusion of your Preface, have no weight whatever.
— Such as, your calling my doctrines ‘fables, and useless:’ and saying, ‘that Christ crucified should rather be preached, after the example of Paul: that wisdom is to be taught among them that are perfect that the language of Scripture is attempered to the various capacities of hearers: and your therefore thinking, that it should be left to the prudence and charity of the teacher, to teach that which may be profitable to his neighbour’ —
All this you advance senselessly, and away from the purpose. For rather do we teach anything but Christ crucified. But Christ crucified, brings all these things along with Himself, and that ‘wisdom also among them that are perfect:’ for there is no other wisdom to be taught among Christians, than that which is ‘hidden in a mystery:’ and this belongs to the ‘perfect,’ and not to the sons of the Jewish and legal generation, who, without faith, glory in their works, as Paul, 1 Cor. ii., seems to think! Unless by preaching Christ crucified, you mean nothing else but calling out these words — Christ is crucified!
And as to your observing — ‘that, God is represented as being angry, in a fury, hating, grieving, pitying, repenting, neither of which, nevertheless, ever takes place in Him’ —
This is only purposely stumbling on plain ground. For these things neither render the Scriptures obscure, nor necessary to be attempered to the various capacities of hearers. Except that, many like to make obscurities where there are none. For these things are no more than grammatical particulars, and certain figures of speech, with which even school-boys are acquainted. But we, in this disputation, are contending, not about grammatical figures, but about doctrines of truth.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
9 “You Prepare a Table Before Me . . .”
Unknown to me, the first sheep ranch I owned had a rather prolific native strand of both blue and white cammas. The blue cammas were a delightful sight in the spring when they bloomed along the beaches. The white cammas, though a much less conspicuous flower, were also quite attractive but a deadly menace to sheep. If lambs, in particular, ate or even just nibbled a few of the lily-like leaves as they emerged in the short grass during spring, it would spell certain death. The lambs would become paralyzed, stiffen up like blocks of wood, and simply succumb to the toxic poisons from the plants.
My youngsters and I spent days and days going over the ground plucking out these poisonous plants. It was a recurring task that was done every spring before the sheep went on these pastures. Though tedious and tiring with all of the bending, it was a case of “preparing the table in the presence of my enemies.” And if my sheep were to survive, it simply had to be done.
A humorous sidelight on this chore was the way I hit on the idea of making up animal stories to occupy the children’s minds as we worked together this way for long hours, often down on our hands and knees. They would become so engrossed in my wild fantasies about bears and skunks and raccoons that the hours passed quite quickly. Sometimes both of them would roll in the grass with laughter as I added realistic action to enliven my tales. It was one way to accomplish an otherwise terribly routine task.
All of this sort of thing was in the back of David’s mind as he penned these lines. I can picture him walking slowly over the summer range ahead of his flock. His eagle eye is sharp for any signs of poisonous weeds that he would pluck before his sheep got to them. No doubt he had armfuls to get rid of for the safety of his flock.
The parallel in the Christian life is clear. Like sheep, and especially lambs, we somehow feel that we have to try everything that comes our way. We have to taste this thing and that, sampling everything just to see what it’s like. And we may very well know that some things are deadly. They can do us no good. They can be most destructive. Still somehow we give them a whirl anyway.
To forestall our getting into grief of this sort, we need to remember our Master has been there ahead of us, coping with every situation that would otherwise undo us.
A classic example of this was the incident when Jesus warned Peter that Satan desired to tempt him and sift him like wheat. But Christ pointed out that He had prayed that Peter’s faith might not fail during the desperate difficulty he would encounter. And so it is even today. Our great Good Shepherd is going ahead of us in every situation, anticipating what danger we may encounter, and praying for us that in it we might not succumb.
Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” ESV
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