John 19 - 21
Jesus Delivered to Be CrucifiedJohn 19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.
The CrucifixionSo they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
The Death of Jesus28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus’ Side Is Pierced31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
Jesus Is Buried38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
two others. Two criminals were crucified at the same time as Jesus, in fulfillment prophecy (Is. 53:12; Luke 22:37). This gave Christ the opportunity to show His saving power by reaching out and rescuing a man at the very edge of eternity.
19:19 the writing. The four Gospels recount the inscription of Pilate with minute differences, perhaps because the inscription was in three languages. John’s form, with the name “Jesus of Nazareth,” has a Semitic flavor. It was customary to attach an inscription stating the reason for execution. At the same time, Pilate’s notice was a public announcement of the kingship of Christ.
19:21, 22 the chief priests … said. They viewed the inscription as an offense to their nation, and Pilate may have meant it that way—but he refused to change it.
19:23 tunic. Such tunics were not uncommon in the ancient world. The point is not the tunic’s value, but the depth of Jesus’ humiliation, from whom everything was taken as He offered Himself. It is also the fulfillment of Ps. 22:18.
19:25 by the cross. “Clopas” may be the same as “Cleopas,” mentioned in Luke 24:18. The courage of the four women is noteworthy. Some are present again at Jesus’ burial (Matt. 27:61; Mark 15:47) and at the Resurrection (20:1–18; Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1).
19:26 Woman, behold your son. “Woman” is not a harsh form of address in Aramaic. Even in the midst of dying on the cross as the Mediator of the new covenant, Jesus fulfills his duty as the Son of Mary in a splendid example of obedience to the letter and spirit of the fifth commandment. In a time of intense physical pain and mental anguish, the Lord thought of others, as is shown in the first statements from the cross (Luke 23:34, 43).
19:28–30 all … accomplished. The worst ordeal, that of bearing in the place of His people the wrath of God against sin (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34), appears to be over. ESV Reformation Study Bible
The ResurrectionJohn 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away Pastor Bret says taken away in the original Greek means it was taken away, not rolled away. This stone weighing tons was taken away, not rolled away. from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” — and that he had said these things to her.
Jesus Appears to the Disciples19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Jesus and Thomas24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Purpose of This Book30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Jesus Appears to Seven DisciplesJohn 21:1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Jesus and Peter15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Jesus and the Beloved Apostle20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”
24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.
25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
What I'm Reading
Three Important Questions to Balance in the Wake of Gun Violence
By J. Warner Wallace 4/19/2017
Unsurprisingly, our national conversation about gun violence intensifies following any well-publicized shooting or murder, especially if it occurs in a school or public setting. These kinds of criminal acts are sometimes co-opted by people who want to make a point about a specific social issue that has been of interest to them for some time prior to the crime. But moments of crisis are seldom the right time to make important decisions that effect all of us for years to come. Instead, we need to allow reports of gun violence to inform our decision making while resisting emotional reactions. In an effort to do that, I’d like to propose three questions for our consideration:
The Question of Gun Control | Some will now argue that all gun ownership should be eliminated; some will argue that guns are not the problem and nothing should change. The truth is that we need a realistic compromise in the middle here. I am a police officer. I own guns; I carry them on-duty and off-duty. But I do think there are some reasonable restrictions that will not violate the spirit of the Second Amendment. Here are some questions we need to start asking: Who would we be willing to disqualify from gun ownership based on prior criminal behavior or documented mental illness? What should be legally required related to the security of gun collections (i.e. safes etc.)? What consequences should we enact for those who allow their guns to fall into the hands of someone other than the owner (i.e. their children or strangers)? What kinds of guns are essential for hunting or self-defense, and what kinds of guns are not? These are difficult and sometimes controversial questions, but the conversation must begin and seek a “middle ground” response.
The Question of Mental Illness | This issue simply cannot be ignored, although it typically is. Many killers who commit mass murders of this kind are simply crazy. Let’s be honest. We look for motives in some of these cases and discover that there aren’t any. Why not? Because the killer was mentally ill. We live in a society that is struggling to decide what to do about mental illness. We don’t want to lock people up unnecessarily and we don’t want to dedicate the financial resources that would be required if we did. Unless a mentally ill person commits a crime, there is no institution that seems prepared to respond. A blogger who calls herself the “Anarchist Soccer Mom” wrote a post about her son that is both compelling and heartbreaking. It describes the dilemma that parents of mentally ill children face every day. Go read it. Now. We simply must address the issue of mental illness. In times like this, it’s easy to say that this killing would never have occurred if the killer didn’t have access to guns. But it’s just as accurate to say that this killing would never have occurred if the mentally ill killer had been institutionalized. Our response needs to be balanced here. It’s going to involve answers to questions of gun control and mental illness.
The Question of God’s Sovereignty | Finally, each of us, as Christian Case Makers, will have to address the question of God’s sovereignty and goodness. Some will use this crime as a personal platform to rant against the existence of God (“Events like this demonstrate that there is no God”). Some will use it as a platform to complain about the removal of prayer or God from public schools (“We should be surprised that God has turned his back on us since we turned our back on him”). While these arguments and causes certainly must be addressed and are worthy of our examination, they seem wholly inappropriate in the immediate wake of any murderous event. While there is certainly a consequence awaiting any culture that denies a transcendent source of objective morality, these crimes may have little to do with that particular reality. And while there are many sound academic and philosophical responses to the problem of evil, few seem powerful (or even appropriate) when parents are mourning. Melinda Penner said it best when she wrote that “we may not know why God has allowed this evil thing to happen. But we do know that He has provided the answer for it: His Son Jesus.
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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
4 Reasons We Know Humans Have a Soul
By Jonathan Morrow
Does modern neuroscience show that there is no soul? Are you just your brain? Is belief in the soul just an outdated bronze-age myth? Contrary to what you may read in Time magazine online or see on the Discovery Channel, science has demonstrated no such thing.
For the record, that’s not a knock on science. Why? Because science is only one way we know about reality. In other words there is more to reality than what you can just touch or weigh.
How Do We Know We Have A Soul? | My goal here is not to lay out a detailed philosophical case for the soul (I’ve done that elsewhere). What I want to do is give you a couple of practical reasons you can understand and use in everyday conversations.
(1) Jesus–who was raised from the dead–believed and taught that there is a soul. This is highly significant. Especially in light of the powerful historical evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead. This fact gives him unprecedented authority to speak to this issue. Jesus doesn’t pull any punches:
(Mt 10:28) 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. ESV
While the Bible is not a book on philosophical anthropology, a common sense view of the human person is assumed throughout its pages. God created human beings to be embodied souls.
4 Reasons Every Christian Can Be Thankful Today
By Le Ann Trees 11/11/16
It’s not always easy to feel thankful. Christians around the world find themselves in a variety of circumstances. Millions of believers reside in places where they can worship Jesus freely while millions in other parts of the world face life-threatening persecution for their faith. Many believers experience conditions of extreme poverty while others live in abundance. There are believers who enjoy good health and those who endure short and longterm illnesses. Some Christians experience great sorrows while others seem to live relatively peaceful lives.
Despite these wide differences, all believers can rejoice in the Lord. As the apostle Paul reminds us,
(Ro 8:28) 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ESV
Paul also comforts us that we can rest in God’s sovereign will because the Lord is with us through all the ups and downs of life:
(Php 4:10–13) 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ESV
Here are four reasons every Christian can be thankful to God today:
1. You are still alive. | Because you are alive, God still has more purpose for your life here on earth. Be thankful for another day to grow in the knowledge of your beloved Lord. Also, each day you have is another opportunity to love and serve God and your neighbor:
By Charles C. Ryrie 1972
Capital punishment, like so many controversial subjects, has ramifications in many fields of thought and practice. Its implications reach into the fields of penology, sociology, law, justice, but above all, theology. Anything that touches life and death is, after all, theological, and any meaningful discussion must be so oriented. Indeed, one’s theological viewpoint (or, more broadly, his philosophical orientation) will slant, if not settle, his attitude toward such a matter as capital punishment.
Capital punishment is defined as “the death penalty for crime.” The concept includes the ideas that a crime has been committed and thus the person executed is guilty. It also assumes that the government that carries out the sentence has been duly constituted (though the form of that government may vary). The specific crimes to which capital punishment applies cannot be stated in a definition, for this is really a separate question. The only matter to be considered is whether or not the principle of capital punishment is authorized by the Scripture today.
The Current Debate
The arguments advanced today against the legitimacy of capital punishment are usually along these lines. Capital punishment cannot be harmonized with the love of God. The Christian gospel seeks the redemption of evil-doers which is the exact opposite of all that is involved in capital punishment. Jesus, one is told, “always recommended life and forgiveness over death and condemnation.” This is, generally speaking, a view that is an outworking of liberal theology which conveniently ignores Jesus’ teaching about condemnation ( Matt 5:21–26; Matt 10:28; Matt 12:32). It is often related to a societal redemption, rather than an individual redemption.
However, it is true that evangelicals are sometimes opposed to capital punishment for reasons unrelated to theology, such as the alleged impossibility of administering the matter fairly.
Humanitarianism and the dignity and worth of society are other bases for decrying capital punishment. Albert Camus asks for sympathy to be shown for the family of the victim of capital punishment stating that the death penalty strikes at the innocent (i.e., the family of the criminal). Ramsay Clark (while Deputy Attorney General) stated that “this nation is so great in its resources and too good in its purposes to engage in the light of recent understanding in the deliberate taking of human life as either a punishment or a deterrent to domestic crime.” Coupled with these arguments is the continuous debate on the question of whether or not capital punishment is a deterrent to crime. Perhaps the arguments against capital punishment (especially in a religious context) are best summarized in a resolution adopted in 1960 by the American Baptist Convention. It said:
• Because the Christian believes in the inherent worth of human personality and in the unceasing availability of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and redemptive power, and
• Because the Christian wholeheartedly supports the emphasis in modern penology upon the process of creative, redemptive rehabilitation rather than on punishment and primitive retribution, and
• Because the deterrent effects of capital punishment are not supported by available evidence, and
• Because the death penalty tends to brutalize the human spirit and the society which condones it, and
• Because human agencies of legal justice are fallible, permitting the possibility of the executing of the innocent,
• We, therefore, recommend the abolition of capital punishment and the re-evaluation of the parole system relative to such cases.
On the other hand, many still argue for capital punishment. Five reasons for saying that the opposition to capital punishment is not for the common good are that such opposition “sides with evil; shows more regard for the criminal than the victim of the crime; weakens justice and encourages murder; is not based on Scripture but on a vague philosophical system that makes a fetish of the idea that the taking of life is wrong, under every circumstance, and fails to distinguish adequately between killing and murder, between punishment and crime.” In this statement the author has touched the heart of the issue: what does the Scripture teach? One’s ethics are always based on one’s philosophy or theology which is ultimately related to one’s view of the authority of the Bible. Although there can be honest difference of opinion between those who hold to the authority of the Bible, there can be no true light on any subject without trying to discover what the Bible says; and this is certainly true of the issue of capital punishment.
The Teaching of Scripture
Genesis 9:6. That this verse established the principle of capital punishment is in itself not debated. Murder is clearly to be punished by death because of the sanctity of human life. The foundation for this drastic punishment is the fact that man was made in the image of God; therefore, when violence in the form of murder is done to a man, it is in effect an outrage against God. How punishment is to be carried out is stated to be “by man” —thus leaving some flexibility as to the actual instrumentality of punishment. But that the principle extends to the entire race seems apparent from the simple fact that Noah, to whom it was given, stood at the head of a new beginning of the human race. What was given to Noah (like the permission to eat meat and the promise of no further flood) was not confined to any group or family or cult.
The Mosaic Law. The death penalty was also incorporated into the Mosaic code with a very significant difference. Whereas Genesis 9:6 only sanctions it in cases of murder, the Mosaic code required it for other offenses. The list was as follows: murder ( Exod 21:12; Num 35:16–31 ), working on the Sabbath ( Exod 35:2 ), cursing father or mother ( Lev 20:9 ), adultery ( Lev 20:10 ), incest ( Lev 20:11–13 ), sodomy ( Lev 20:15–16 ), false prophesying ( Deut 13:1–10; Deut 18:20 ), idolatry ( Deut 17:2–7 ), incorrigible juvenile delinquency ( Deut 21:18–23 ), rape ( Deut 22:25 ), keeping an ox known to be dangerous if the ox had killed a human being ( Exod 21:29 ), kidnapping ( Exod 21:16 ), and intrusion of an alien into a sacred place or office ( Num 1:51; Num 3:10, 38; Num 18:7 ). The manner of execution is sometimes mentioned (such as stoning or burning); where it is not indicated, one is left entirely to conjecture as to what was used.
John 8:1–11. Although there is a critical problem concerning the genuineness of this passage to the text of Scripture, most scholars agree that this records a true incident in the life of Christ, and it is often used by opponents of capital punishment as indicating His abolition of it. Certain facts seem to be clear in the passage: (1) the Lord recognized the Mosaic command to stone adulteresses, for He invited anyone qualified in the crowd to begin the process ( John 8:7 ); (2) He Himself declined to do it because He alone could exercise the prerogative of forgiving her ( John 8:11 ); and (3) if He in the process also suspended or abrogated the death penalty by His action in this case, it can be used to teach such suspension in cases of adultery only. The incident does not speak to the question of the abolition of the death penalty in cases of murder.
Romans 13:1–7. Several important principles are established or reaffirmed in this passage: (1) human government is ordained by God ( Rom 13:1 ), yet it is a sphere of authority that is distinct from others like that of the home or the church; (2) human government is to be obeyed by the Christian because it is of God, because it opposes evil ( Rom 13:4 ), and because our consciences tell us to obey ( Rom 13:5 ); (3) the government has the right of taxation ( Rom 13:6–7 ); and (4) the government has the right to use force ( Rom 13:4 ), and this, of course, is the principle which impinges on our subject. The question is, what is included in its right to “bear the sword?”
Some understand that the sword does not mean the authority of government to practice capital punishment, but they negate that authority on the basis of phrases which precede and follow in the context, such as “recompense to no man evil for evil,” “avenge not yourselves,” and “love worketh no ill to his neighbor.” The exegetical difficulty with doing this is simply that it fails to recognize that these exhortations are directed to the individual in relation to his responsibility to other individuals within the body of Christ, while the teaching concerning the government’s bearing the sword is in an entirely different context of group action and responsibility.
Others feel that the sword does not necessarily include capital punishment in its representation. It may, for instance, simply mean a policeman’s pistol, and though it means that a governmental officer can bear arms, a court probably has no right to pass the death penalty.
Others unhesitatingly state that “the sword is the symbol of the magistrate’s power to put to death.” While it is true that “the sword” may also include other rightful restraints in the proper function of government (like fines, imprisonment, confiscation of property), it clearly includes execution of the death penalty. The word sword is significant, for the term “denotes (in opposition to … the poniard or straight-edged sword) a large knife with bent blade, like that carried by the chiefs in the Iliad, and with which they cut the neck of the victims, similar to our sabre. Paul by this expression does not here denote the weapon which the emperor and his pretorian prefect carried as a sign of their power of life and death,—the application would be too restricted,—but that which was worn at their side, in the provinces, by the superior magistrates, to whom belonged the right of capital punishment, and which they caused to be borne solemnly before them in public processions.”10 Godet goes on to point out, as have others, that it is impossible to exclude from the right of punishing the kind of punishment which the emblem (the sword) represents. If this verse only teaches the right of capital punishment without the practice of it, then presumably taxation, mentioned in the following verses, is only a symbol of the authority and does not refer to the actual taking of money from people. That, of course, is an impossible interpretation. Likewise, it is inconceivable to consider this verse as teaching only the government’s right to use capital punishment without the actual exercise of that right.
In summary, it may be said that Romans 13:4 does teach the right of government to take the life of a criminal (in what cases is not specified). The only possible modification of the use of this principle cannot be on the basis that it is unscriptural or unchristian but unnecessary if the government can fulfill by other means its God-appointed mandate to be a terror to evildoers and an executor of wrath on those who do evil (which is quite debatable).11 But the prerogative of capital punishment, established in Genesis 9:6, elaborated in the Mosaic code, not done away with in the teaching of Jesus, is affirmed in the doctrinal portion of the New Testament.
A Biblical Question. Does the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” ( Exod 20:13 ) abrogate the principle of capital punishment? The verb used in this verse occurs 49 times in the Old Testament and in every relevant use means “to murder,” especially with premeditation. It is never used of animals, God, angels, or enemies in battle. The New Testament always translates the sixth commandment with phoneuo which is never used in any other sense than “to murder.” The penalty for breaking the commandment was death ( Exod 21:12; Num 35:16–21 ). One can conclude that when the theocracy took the life of a murderer (i.e., one who violated this sixth commandment), the state (and particularly those who actually performed the execution) was not guilty of murder. Furthermore, God’s commanding Israel to kill their enemies during the conquest of Canaan could not have been a violation of this commandment either by God or by the individual soldiers who killed in battle. They were the instruments of the execution of divine judgment and not violators of the sixth commandment.
A Theological Question. Does an approach to the Scriptures that recognized the progress of revelation or dispensational distinctions forbid the use of Genesis 9:6 as a guideline for today? There are only two ways that the answer could be yes. One is if in the progress of revelation the New Testament declared a new ethic which would replace the Old Testament ethic concerning capital punishment. But it was already seen that neither the Lord nor the apostles introduced a replacement ethic for capital punishment; indeed, they did not disturb the Old Testament standard concerning this matter ( John 8:1–11; Rom 13:1–7 ).
The other way would be to understand that the ending of the Law in the New Testament carried with it the end of capital punishment which was an integral part of the Law. Dispensationalists are strong in their insistence that the Law has been done away with in Christ ( 2 Cor 3:7–11 ). This, of course, would mean that the capital punishment that was part of the Mosaic Law was superceded by the law of grace, but by no stretch of any dispensational imagination could this include Genesis 9:6. Dispensational distinctions do recognize that the law of capital punishment for certain crimes was done away with in Christ, but this does not include capital punishment for murder. If the New Testament gave a replacement for the standard of Genesis 9:6, then it would no longer be valid. But since it does not, then the dispensational teaching concerning the end of the Law is irrelevant to Genesis 9:6, and the principle of that verse apparently still applies today.
A Practical Question. What, after all, is the purpose of capital punishment? Numerous answers have been given and debated, but ultimately the biblical purpose seems to be the promotion of justice by civil government. It is the purpose of government to punish those who do evil ( 2 Pet 2:13 ), and capital punishment is evidently one of the ways this purpose is to be promoted. This raises the question of whether or not capital punishment is really a deterrent to crime? Great Britain’s experience indicates that it is. “There has been a sharp rise in armed robberies and violent crime throughout Britain since 1965, when the death penalty was dropped, and more criminals seem to carry guns now.”
J. Edgar Hoover adds his experienced appraisal: “The professional law enforcement officer is convinced from experience that the hardened criminal has been and is deterred from killing based on the prospect of the death penalty.”
In the view of these experts, at least, capital punishment does serve a purpose which is necessary to government carrying out its God-ordained function. Without it the sword of government would be sheathed.
Charles C. Ryrie Books
’13 Reasons Why’: A World without Hope
By Gina Dalfonzo 5/11/2017
Once upon a time, a young novelist wrote a Young Adult novel about suicide. It became, in the words of The New York Times, “a stealthy hit with surprising staying power.”
Then it became a Netflix series. And suddenly there was no longer anything stealthy about it. Jay Asher’s “13 Reasons Why” is now the story everyone is talking about. Like Hannah Baker, the suicide victim at the heart of the tale, “13 Reasons Why” has found a way to ensure its own immortality — for better or for worse.
As you probably know by now, the story begins after Hannah’s (Katherine Langford) suicide. While her fellow students are still creating memorials and taking selfies in front of her locker, a bombshell drops on her friend Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette). A shoebox full of cassette recordings that Hannah created before her death is left with him — recordings addressed to 13 different people whom she says gave her reasons to kill herself.
As Clay begins to listen, dreading the moment when he’ll hear his own name, the high school experience comes to life around him, through both flashbacks and present-day storylines — an experience that the viewer soon begins to wonder how anyone could survive. While their parents hover anxiously but helplessly on the sidelines, and teachers make fruitless sporadic efforts at guidance, the kids in their care endure a journey that makes “Lord of the Flies” look like “Gilligan’s Island.” Drugs and alcohol flow freely, bullying and sexual assault are facts of life, an innocent photograph or a few whispers can wreck a reputation, and the person who’s your best friend today could turn on you tomorrow.
“13 Reasons Why,” the book, was a sad and difficult read. “13 Reasons Why,” the series, is troubling at much deeper levels, in ways that have as much to do with its format as its content. In fact, it’s perhaps one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of Marshall McLuhan’s classic aphorism “The medium is the message.” In order to turn a 288-page novel into a 13-hour television show, a lot had to be added — subplots in which characters struggle for justice or vengeance or simply to silence each other, new character backgrounds and arcs, love interests and other new relationships — most of which simply adds bloat without substance. More to the point, it all makes the whole story darker and much more intense, enveloping us in a world where there’s little light or air or hope.
Gina Dalfonzo Books:
By Don Carson 3/30/2018
Thomas Gets A Lot Of Bad Press — “Doubting Thomas,” we call him. Yet the reason he doubts that Jesus has risen from the dead may have more to do with the fact that he was not present when Jesus first appeared to the apostolic band (John 20:19-25). It is entirely obvious that any of the others would have fared any better if they had been absent on the critical day?
Certainly Thomas does not lack courage. When Jesus purposes to return from Galilee to Judah to raise Lazarus from the dead, and the disciples, understanding the political climate, recognize how dangerous such a course of action will be, it is Thomas who quietly encourages his colleagues: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (11:16). On occasion Thomas articulates the question the entire band is wanting to ask. Thus, when Jesus insists he is going away, and that by now they really do know the way, Thomas is not just speaking for himself when he quietly protests, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (14:5).
But here in John 20, if he is the one caught out by his absence, at the second appearance of the resurrected Jesus to the apostolic band Thomas also triggers some dialogue of stellar importance. When Jesus shows up, through locked doors, he specifically turns to Thomas and displays the scars of his wounds: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (20:27). Thomas asks no further evidence. He erupts with one of the great christological confessions of the New Testament: “My Lord and my God!” (20:28).
Jesus responds with an utterance that illuminates the nature of Christian witness today: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (20:29). Jesus here casts his shadow forward down the meadows of history, envisaging the countless millions who will trust him without ever having seen him in the flesh, without ever having traced out the scars on his hands, feet, and side. Their faith is not inferior. Indeed, in the peculiar providence of God, the report of Thomas’s experience is one of the things the Spirit of God will use to bring them to faith. Jesus graciously provides the visual and tangible evidence to the one, so that the written report of Thomas’s faith and confession will spur to conversion those who have access only to text. Both Thomas and his successors believe in Jesus and have life in his name (20:30-31).
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
By Don Carson 3/31/2018
After the remarkable exchange that reinstates Peter, Jesus quietly tells him that this discipleship will someday cost him his life: “When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18). If the prediction itself has some ambiguity, by the time John records it here all ambiguities had disappeared: “Jesus said that to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God” (21:19). Tradition has it, probably rightly, that Peter was martyred in Rome, about the same time that Paul was executed, both under the Emperor Nero, in the first half of the 60’s.
Peter observes “the disciple whom Jesus loved” — none other than John the evangelist — following them as he and Jesus stroll along the beach (20:20). The designation “the disciple whom Jesus loved” should not be taken to mean that Jesus played a nasty game of arbitrary favorites. Small indications suggest that many people who followed Jesus felt specially loved by him. Thus when Lazarus lay seriously ill, his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent a message to Jesus saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick” (11:3). Even after the resurrection and ascension, Jesus’ followers have delighted in his love, his personal love for them. Thus Paul needs only to mention Jesus and the cross, and he may burst into spontaneous praise with an additional subordinate clause: “who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
In this case, however, there is still something of the old Peter left. Doubtless he was glad to be reinstated, to be charged with feeding Jesus’ lambs and sheep (John 21:15-17). On the other hand, the prospect of an ignominious death was less appealing. So when Peter sees John, he asks, “Lord, what about him?” (21:21).
We are in no position to criticize Peter. Most of us are constantly comparing service records. Green is a not uncommon color among ministers of the Gospel. Someone else has it a little easier, so we can explain away his or her superior fruitfulness. Their kids turn out better, their church is a little more prosperous, their evangelism more effective. Alternatively, we achieve a certain amount of “success” and find ourselves looking over our shoulders at those coming behind, making snide remarks about those who will soon displace us. But after all, they’ve had more advantages than we, haven’t they?
It is all so pathetic, so self-focused, so sinful. Jesus tells Peter, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (21:22). The diversity of gifts and graces is enormous; the only Master we must please is Jesus.
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 119119 QOPH
119:145 With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD!
I will keep your statutes.
146 I call to you; save me,
that I may observe your testimonies.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I hope in your words.
148 My eyes are awake before the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promise.
149 Hear my voice according to your steadfast love;
O LORD, according to your justice give me life.
150 They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose;
they are far from your law.
151 But you are near, O LORD,
and all your commandments are true.
152 Long have I known from your testimonies
that you have founded them forever.
By Trillia Newbell 3/01/2016
In the beginning, God created. He made the earth, sea, heavens, creatures, and He formed male and female. God did not have to create life. He didn’t need humans to inhabit the earth. But He chose to breathe life into us.
Don’t let the familiarity of this diminish its significance. Psalm 8:4 asks the question, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” And we should all wonder the same. As we know, God is holy and majestic. We agree with David in Psalm 8 that when we look at the heavens and see God’s handiwork, we are perplexed by His love and kindness to sinful man. God’s love for mankind cost Him His Son. Jesus died for those who would believe.
This awareness, an awareness of the love, kindness, and goodness of God toward people — His creation — ignites a different kind of conviction and fire in the Christian heart. If God created man, both male and female, in His image (Gen. 1:27), then shouldn’t we love the people He created? If Jesus would not discriminate between the types of sinners He would die for — people from every tribe, tongue, and nation; poor, orphan; men and women; and more — shouldn’t we be willing to view all men and all of life as immensely valuable?
These are some of the big questions with which we must wrestle when considering the pro-life position. Being pro-life is often exclusively linked to being anti-abortion. It isn’t less than that, but it’s so much more. The pro-life position encompasses all of life. It recognizes that babies are created and important in the womb, but it also upholds the dignity of every person throughout every stage of life regardless of disabilities (Ps. 139:13). Being pro-life means remembering the orphans and widows (James 1:27) as well as the elderly (Acts 20:35; 1 Tim. 5:1–8). Being pro-life also informs our views on suicide and assisted suicide. To be pro-life is to hold to a belief that all of life matters.
Ultimately, being pro-life is to obey the law summarized in the two great commands: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… . You shall love your neighbor as yourself ” (Matt. 22: 37–39).
I believe there’s an interesting example of what Jesus is saying about our love for our neighbor in how we approach social media. The increased use of social media has ushered the word narcissist into our daily language. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see the term referenced. Quite honestly, most people seem to be throwing stones: You are a narcissist if you take a picture of yourself — a “selfie” — and post it onto social media. You are a narcissist if you post anything about yourself at all.
Don’t express your feelings because if you do, you are a narcissist. Although I don’t think it’s good or right to throw stones and judge others, I do think the naysayers are onto something. Perhaps the missing link is that by nature we are all narcissists. This is why, I believe, the Lord called us to love others as we love ourselves, because we do love ourselves and we work hard to preserve ourselves. So, of all of the commandments in Scripture, the greatest are that we love our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves.
Love Does No Wrong to a NeighborThe gospel is the good news to a dying world. It is the news that saved me as I was walking blindly in my sin and towards eternal damnation. It is the gospel that brings salvation, but God’s redemption through Christ’s atoning work on the cross doesn’t stop at salvation. Once saved and for as long as I live (here and forevermore), I will be receiving the benefits of Christ’s work. And I will also be transformed more and more into His likeness until that day when I am face-to-face with my Savior and the sin that clings so closely is destroyed for good. But until that day, I live among other sinners just like me. Understanding Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf affects the way we treat others. Jesus is a friend to sinners, and it is by His blood that we can be, too. We have a treasure in the gospel, and this treasure is what motivates us to preserve life and serve others.
In 1 John, the Apostle John gives us a call to action based on the work that Christ did on our behalf. He says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). Jesus reveals His love for us through the cross. There is no greater evidence of God’s abundant love and compassion for us than that He placed His Son on the cross to die on our behalf. And there is no greater love than that which Christ has shown us by absorbing the full fury of His Father’s wrath for our sin.
Jesus did not fight for His rights to the throne of grace, where He rightly belonged. On the contrary, Jesus “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6–7). Christ laid down His life for His people, and because of His great sacrifice, we should be compelled to lay down our lives for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Lest we be confused by the call to love our brothers and sisters, God’s Word challenges us to love all people — even our enemies. This means we love the ninety-year-old woman in our congregation, the rambunctious and joyful child with autism, and the hostile non-Christian neighbor who struggles with depression. All life matters because all life matters to God. John again challenges us to look to the needs of others:
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:17–18)
Loving others is one of the many ways we put our faith into action. To show love and compassion to others in their times of need, we must be willing to die to our own needs, our preferences, and, in some cases, even our very own bodies and goods.
In the gospel of John, Jesus commands us to love one another just as He has loved us. The sacrificial love on display between Christians is a sign to all people that we are followers of Jesus Christ — by this all will know that we are His disciples (John 13:34–35). This sacrificial love to people who might otherwise be shunned or forgotten is an open invitation to the gospel. We must look to Jesus as our example of love, and we must cling to Jesus for the strength to love.
It may seem odd to speak so much of love, but one cannot truly be pro-life without a great love for others. Our lack of compassion for the defenseless and hurting — such as ignoring the widow and orphan or forgetting the elderly — can be equated to selfishness and self-absorption, which are not love. A holistic pro-life stance is an acknowledgment of and adherence to the second commandment. We are to love our neighbors and seek the good of our neighbors—“love does no wrong to a neighbor” (Rom. 13:10).
So, how do we live out our pro-life convictions? None of us is exempt from the temptation to be pro-life in word but not deed. Practically, our pro-life love for our neighbor is spiritual (through prayer) and tangible (through service). Prayer is not the lesser act. There is power in prayer, and it is our means of communicating with our Creator. We need to pray for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the elderly, the disabled, and all other people. We can ask God to work mightily in our midst and in their lives. We need to pray for national policies to change and for the humility of our elected officials. In addition to prayer, we can take practical steps through teaching what God’s Word says about the sanctity of life, and we can volunteer in the community and with organizations that are equipped to serve the orphans, the disabled, pregnant women in crisis, and the elderly.
But perhaps the most significant practical thing we can do is to be aware of the needs in our local congregations. We must ask the Lord to give us eyes to see those who are the least of these, those who are struggling with sin and temptation, and those who are alone. We need grace and the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to put our faith and pro-life convictions into action. Trillia J. Newbell is director of community outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention, a conference speaker, and author.
Trillia Newbell Books:
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563Lord Viscount Winceslaus, who had attained the age of seventy years, was equally respectable for learning, piety, and hospitality. His temper was so remarkably patient that when his house was broken open, his property seized, and his estates confiscated, he only said, with great composure, "The Lord hath given, and the Lord hath taken away." Being asked why he could engage in so dangerous a cause as that of attempting to support the elector Palatine Frederic against the power of the emperor, he replied, "I acted strictly according to the dictates of my conscience, and, to this day, deem him my king. I am now full of years, and wish to lay down life, that I may not be a witness of the further evils which are to attend my country. You have long thirsted for my blood, take it, for God will be my avenger." Then approaching the block, he stroked his long, grey beard, and said, "Venerable hairs, the greater honor now attends ye, a crown of martyrdom is your portion." Then laying down his head, it was severed from his body at one stroke, and placed upon a pole in a conspicuous part of the city.
Lord Harant was a man of good sense, great piety, and much experience gained by travel, as he had visited the principal places in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Hence he was free from national prejudices and had collected much knowledge.
The accusations against this nobleman, were, his being a Protestant, and having taken an oath of allegiance to Frederic, elector Palatine of the Rhine, as king of Bohemia. When he came upon the scaffold he said, "I have travelled through many countries, and traversed various barbarous nations, yet never found so much cruelty as at home. I have escaped innumerable perils both by sea and land, and surmounted inconceivable difficulties, to suffer innocently in my native place. My blood is likewise sought by those for whom I, and my forefathers, have hazarded our estates; but, Almighty God! forgive them, for they know not what they do." He then went to the block, kneeled down, and exclaimed with great energy, "Into Thy hands, O Lord! I commend my spirit; in Thee have I always trusted; receive me, therefore, my blessed Redeemer." The fatal stroke was then given, and a period put to the temporary pains of this life.
Lord Frederic de Bile suffered as a Protestant, and a promoter of the late war; he met his fate with serenity, and only said he wished well to the friends whom he left behind, forgave the enemies who caused his death, denied the authority of the emperor in that country, acknowledged Frederic to be the only true king of Bohemia, and hoped for salvation in the merits of his blessed Redeemer.
Lord Henry Otto, when he first came upon the scaffold, seemed greatly confounded, and said, with some asperity, as if addressing himself to the emperor, "Thou tyrant Ferdinand, your throne is established in blood; but if you will kill my body, and disperse my members, they shall still rise up in judgment against you." He then was silent, and having walked about for some time, seemed to recover his fortitude, and growing calm, said to a gentleman who stood near, "I was, a few minutes since, greatly discomposed, but now I feel my spirits revive; God be praised for affording me such comfort; death no longer appears as the king of terrors, but seems to invite me to participate of some unknown joys." Kneeling before the block, he said, "Almighty God! to Thee I commend my soul, receive it for the sake of Christ, and admit it to the glory of Thy presence." The executioner put this nobleman to considerable pain, by making several strokes before he severed the head from the body.
The earl of Rugenia was distinguished for his superior abilities, and unaffected piety. On the scaffold he said, "We who drew our swords fought only to preserve the liberties of the people, and to keep our consciences sacred: as we were overcome, I am better pleased at the sentence of death, than if the emperor had given me life; for I find that it pleases God to have his truth defended, not by our swords, but by our blood." He then went boldly to the block, saying, "I shall now be speedily with Christ," and received the crown of martyrdom with great courage.
Sir Gaspar Kaplitz was eighty-six years of age. When he came to the place of execution, he addressed the principal officer thus: "Behold a miserable ancient man, who hath often entreated God to take him out of this wicked world, but could not until now obtain his desire, for God reserved me until these years to be a spectacle to the world, and a sacrifice to himself; therefore God's will be done." One of the officers told him, in consideration of his great age, that if he would only ask pardon, he would immediately receive it. "Ask pardon, (exclaimed he) I will ask pardon of God, whom I have frequently offended; but not of the emperor, to whom I never gave any offence; should I sue for pardon, it might be justly suspected I had committed some crime for which I deserved this condemnation. No, no, as I die innocent, and with a clear conscience, I would not be separated from this noble company of martyrs:" so saying, he cheerfully resigned his neck to the block.
Procopius Dorzecki on the scaffold said, "We are now under the emperor's judgment; but in time he shall be judged, and we shall appear as witnesses against him." Then taking a gold medal from his neck, which was struck when the elector Frederic was crowned king of Bohemia, he presented it to one of the officers, at the same time uttering these words, "As a dying man, I request, if ever King Frederic is restored to the throne of Bohemia, that you will give him this medal. Tell him, for his sake, I wore it until death, and that now I willingly lay down my life for God and my king." He then cheerfully laid down his head and submitted to the fatal blow.
Dionysius Servius was brought up a Roman Catholic, but had embraced the reformed religion for some years. When upon the scaffold the Jesuits used their utmost endeavors to make him recant, and return to his former faith, but he paid not the least attention to their exhortations. Kneeling down he said, "They may destroy my body, but cannot injure my soul, that I commend to my Redeemer"; and then patiently submitted to martyrdom, being at that time fifty-six years of age.
Valentine Cockan, was a person of considerable fortune and eminence, perfectly pious and honest, but of trifling abilities; yet his imagination seemed to grow bright, and his faculties to improve on death's approach, as if the impending danger refined the understanding. Just before he was beheaded, he expressed himself with such eloquence, energy, and precision as greatly amazed those who knew his former deficiency in point of capacity.
Tobias Steffick was remarkable for his affability and serenity of temper.
He was perfectly resigned to his fate, and a few minutes before his death spoke in this singular manner, "I have received, during the whole course of my life, many favors from God; ought I not therefore cheerfully to take one bitter cup, when He thinks proper to present it? Or rather, ought I not to rejoice that it is his will I should give up a corrupted life for that of immortality!"
Dr. Jessenius, an able student of physic, was accused of having spoken disrespectful words of the emperor, of treason in swearing allegiance to the elector Frederic, and of heresy in being a Protestant. For the first accusation he had his tongue cut out; for the second he was beheaded; and for the third, and last, he was quartered, and the respective parts exposed on poles.
Christopher Chober, as soon as he stepped upon the scaffold said, "I come in the name of God, to die for His glory; I have fought the good fight, and finished my course; so, executioner, do your office." The executioner obeyed, and he instantly received the crown of martyrdom.
No person ever lived more respected or died more lamented than John Shultis. The only words he spoke, before receiving the fatal stroke, were, "The righteous seem to die in the eyes of fools, but they only go to rest. Lord Jesus! Thou hast promised that those who come to Thee shall not be cast off. Behold, I am come; look on me, pity me, pardon my sins, and receive my soul."
Maximilian Hostialick was famed for his learning, piety, and humanity.
When he first came on the scaffold, he seemed exceedingly terrified at the approach of death. The officer taking notice of his agitation, Hostialick said, "Ah! sir, now the sins of my youth crowd upon my mind, but I hope God will enlighten me, lest I sleep the sleep of death and lest mine enemies say we have prevailed." Soon after he said, "I hope my repentance is sincere, and will be accepted, in which case the blood of Christ will wash me from my crimes." He then told the officer he should repeat the Song of Simeon; at the conclusion of which the executioner might do his duty. He accordingly, said, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation;" at which words his head was struck off at one blow.
When John Kutnaur came to the place of execution, a Jesuit said to him, "Embrace the Roman Catholic faith, which alone can save and arm you against the terrors of death." To which he replied, "Your superstitious faith I abhor, it leads to perdition, and I wish for no other arms against the terrors of death than a good conscience." The Jesuit turned away, saying, sarcastically, "The Protestants are impenetrable rocks." "You are mistaken," said Kutnaur, "it is Christ that is the Rock, and we are firmly fixed upon Him."
This person not being born independent, but having acquired a fortune by a mechanical employment, was ordered to be hanged. Just before he was turned off, he said, "I die, not for having committed any crime, but for following the dictates of my own conscience, and defending my country and religion."
Simeon Sussickey was father-in-law to Kutnaur, and like him, was ordered to be executed on a gallows. He went cheerfully to death, and appeared impatient to be executed, saying, "Every moment delays me from entering into the Kingdom of Christ."
Nathaniel Wodnianskey was hanged for having supported the Protestant cause, and the election of Frederic to the crown of Bohemia. At the gallows, the Jesuits did all in their power to induce him to renounce his faith. Finding their endeavors ineffectual, one of them said, "If you will not adjure your heresy, at least repent of your rebellion?" To which Wodnianskey replied, "You take away our lives under a pretended charge of rebellion; and, not content with that, seek to destroy our souls; glut yourselves with blood, and be satisfied; but tamper not with our consciences."
Wodnianskey's own son then approached the gallows, and said to his father, "Sir, if life should be offered to you on condition of apostasy, I entreat you to remember Christ, and reject such pernicious overtures." To this the father replied, "It is very acceptable, my son, to be exhorted to constancy by you; but suspect me not; rather endeavor to confirm in their faith your brothers, sisters, and children, and teach them to imitate that constancy of which I shall leave them an example." He had so sooner concluded these words than he was turned off, receiving the crown of martyrdom with great fortitude.
Winceslaus Gisbitzkey, during his whole confinement, had great hopes of life given him, which made his friends fear for the safety of his soul. He, however, continued steadfast in his faith, prayed fervently at the gallows, and met his fate with singular resignation.
Martin Foster was an ancient cripple; the accusations against whom were, being charitable to heretics, and lending money to the elector Frederic. His great wealth, however, seemed to have been his principal crime; and that he might be plundered of his treasures was the occasion of his being ranked in this illustrious list of martyrs.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Difference or Contradiction?
By R.C. Sproul 3/01/2016
We live in a day when consistency of thought is demeaned by many people, and individuals maintain that contradiction is the hallmark of truth, particularly in religious matters. Yet, in practice, human beings seek consistency. Consider liberal Protestantism. Decades ago, most of the mainline denominations abandoned the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. Originally, these denominations thought they could continue affirming the other core tenets of Christianity. As the years passed, however, it became clear that the rejection of the infallibility and inerrancy of the Scriptures leads to the denial of Christian orthodoxy on other matters. Most churches that abandoned biblical inerrancy and infallibility eventually rejected the atonement, biblical sexual ethics, and other teachings. Those denominations had to do that for consistency’s sake. To deny that God’s Word is without error is to deny that we have a trustworthy revelation from Him. Thus, it doesn’t ultimately matter what the Bible says about anything.
When it comes to studying the actual consistency of Scripture, it’s not long before we have to deal with allegations that the Bible is full of contradictions. This can be devastating to the Christian faith, because we know that if the Bible has real contradictions, it’s not a consistent account, and if it’s not a consistent account, it can’t be divinely inspired.
The main thing I want to say about this issue is that most alleged contradictions turn out not to be contradictions at all. When I was a seminary student, my professors frequently taught the theories of “higher” critics who refused to affirm the infallibility of Scripture. One of my fellow seminarians, a brilliant fellow, struggled with these theories. He had come to seminary believing in Scripture’s consistency, but by the time he was a senior, he was one of the casualties of the exposure to this relentless skepticism about the Bible. I remember one discussion in the hallway of the seminary where he said: “R.C., how can you still believe in the inerrancy of Scripture after all we’ve gone through here? Don’t you see that the Bible is full of contradictions?”
At the time, he couldn’t list even ten examples of contradictions in the Bible. So I suggested he go home and come up with thirty contradictions that we could look at together. When we met the next day, he brought a list of about twenty. He gave me the first “contradiction,” and we looked at the apparently contradictory passages together, and we found that there was variation between the two accounts. But variation and contradiction aren’t the same thing. We’re familiar with how two eyewitnesses might see the same crime but report it differently. They remember different things about the event because of their different perspectives, but the details of the two accounts don’t conflict. In fact, the authorities like to have many witnesses to a crime because comparing the stories gives a fuller view of what happened. The same thing happens when historians research an event and read eyewitness accounts of it.
As my friend and I looked at the first alleged biblical problem, we found it was possible for the two accounts to agree. Then, we looked at the rest of the “contradictions.” Some examples were more challenging than others, but what happened was this: in every example, we concluded together that there was no real contradiction.
Read the Bible carefully, and you’ll find variations of perspective. Consider the Gospels’ presentation of the resurrection. For example, Matthew 28:1–10 and Mark 16:1–8 say there was one angel at the empty tomb, while Luke 24:1–12 mentions the presence of two angels at Jesus’ grave. That was one of the “contradictions” my friend brought to me. So I said we should assume for the sake of argument that two angels were present. If so, would it not be possible for one eyewitness to be more concerned about who wasn’t there—Jesus—than he was about the number of angels present, especially if one of them did not speak? The disciple could have said, “I went there, and I saw an angel, who said x, y, and z,” without mentioning the second angel because the presence of two angels wasn’t that significant to the disciple who was writing. I asked my friend, “What word is conspicuously absent from this disciple’s report that must be there to have a true contradiction?” The answer was clear: the word only. If there were two angels, we know there had to be at least one; thus, since Mark and Matthew don’t say there was only one angel there, there’s no contradiction between them and Luke. Instead, there’s variation in perspectives because they’re relying on different eyewitness reports of the same event. Such variation is exactly what we should expect from independent accounts.
It took many centuries and many different writers to give us the Bible. It didn’t drop from heaven on a parachute. The doctrine of inspiration doesn’t mean we won’t find difficult-to-reconcile texts in Scripture. The Bible is a divine book—but it’s also a very human book, not in that it is filled with human errors but in that it reflects how human beings tell stories. No two people write in exactly the same way, and no two human beings report their perspectives on the same event identically. Two people can accurately represent the same event without covering all the same details. That’s the kind of thing we find in Scripture. Difference does not mean contradiction.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Continual Burnt Offering (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
November 122 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. ESV
Peace is more than joy, and is far deeper than happiness. It is that restful sense that all is well which comes from confiding in the Word of God. Christ Jesus is called “the Lord of peace.” He is the only man who ever walked through this world in perfect peace at all times — until in Gethsemane He faced the judgment He was to bear when taking the sinner’s place upon the cross. As a result of that work peace has been made between God and the needy sinner, a peace which is entered into by faith alone. But there is not only peace with God, which has to do with the sin question that has been settled forever; there is also the peace of God that is daily poured into the heart that learns to commit all to Him in prayer.
There is a calm — the calm of sins forgiven—
Through knowing sin on Christ by God was laid;
Through looking to and resting on His merit,
And knowing that our debt He fully paid.
And there’s a calm about the unknown future;
The earthly road; the fuller life above;
And things unknown — here, and in life’s hereafter—
Vex not the soul who knows that God is Love.
--- J. Danson Smith
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Overcoming your fears (2)
(Nov 12) Bob Gass
‘They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.'
(Ps 112:7) 7 He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. ESV
Let’s take a look at some of our most common fears and how we can overcome them. Fear of failure. This is the most common fear of all, and it keeps us from fulfilling any vision God may give us. If you look closely at the actual consequences of failure, chances are you’ll laugh at the power it wields. Not only are your mistakes survivable, they’re teaching tools that sharpen and make you a better person. So what if you make a mistake during your presentation? Nobody’s going to shoot you, right? So what if you miss the mark on the project, or make a mistake in your calculations? We all want to be perfect, but the fact is we’re all flawed. In reality, your irrational fear of failure and your refusal to embrace mistakes create far more errors in the long run. When people refuse to accept the possibility of making a mistake, often they’re reluctant to have someone else check their work or review the project they’re working on. Consequently they end up making more poor choices and mistakes, which in turn feeds their existing insecurities. The path to success is through multiple failures. Failing doesn’t make you a failure, quitting does; not learning from it does; refusing to get back up when you fall does. The psalmist says, ‘They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.’ Using the gifts God has given you, step out and take a risk based on faith, trusting Him for success. If you do, ‘You will have good success’ (Joshua 1:8 NKJV).
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
This day, November 12, 1620, was the Pilgrims’ first full day in America. It took over two months for the one hundred and three of them, cramped between decks on the tiny Mayflower, to cross the freezing North Atlantic. They had intended to sail to Jamestown, but were blown off course by violent storms and landed at Plymouth Rock instead. Governor William Bradford wrote: “Being thus arrived… they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils… again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth.”American Minute
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
I don’t very much like the job of telling you "more about my festoonings"-the private overtones I give to certain petitions. I make two conditions:
1. That you will in return tell me some of yours.
2. That you will understand I am not in the least recommending mine either to you or to anyone else. There could be many better; and my present festoons will very probably change.
I call them "festoons," by the way, because they don't (I trust) obliterate the plain, public sense of the petition but are merely hung on it.
What I do about "hallowed be thy name'' I told you a fortnight ago.
Thy kingdom come. That is, may your reign be realized here, as it is realized there. But I tend to take there on three levels. First, as in the sinless world beyond the horrors of animal and human life; in the behavior of stars and trees and water, in sunrise and wind. May there be here (in my heart) the beginning of a like beauty. Secondly, as in the best human lives I have known: in all the people who really bear the burdens and ring true, and in the quiet, busy, ordered life of really good families and really good religious houses. May that too be "here." Finally, of course, in the usual sense: as in Heaven, as among the blessed dead.
And here can of course be taken not only as "in my heart," but as "in this college"-in England-in the world in general. But prayer is not the time for pressing our own favorite social or political panacea. Even Queen Victoria didn't like ''being talked to as if she were a public meeting."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
What we can do for another
is the test of powers;
what we can suffer is the test of love.
--- Brooke Foss Westcott
To be full of things is to be empty of God.
To be empty of things is to be full of God.
--- Meister Eckhart
When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.
-- P. J. O'Rourke
I don't know exactly what democracy is. But we need more of it.
--- Anonymous Chinese Student, during protests in Tianamen Square, Beijing, 1989
Everyone is in a hurry. The persons whom I lead in worship, among whom I counsel, visit, pray, preach, and teach, want shortcuts. They want me to help them fill in the form that will get them instant credit (in eternity). They are impatient for results. They have adopted the lifestyle of a tourist and only want the high points. . . . The Christian life cannot mature under such conditions and in such ways. --- Al Mohler ISBN-13: 978-0764211256
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
flee to a pit; give him no support.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The transfigured life
If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. --- 2 Cor. 5:17.
What idea have you of the salvation of your soul? The experience of salvation means that in your actual life things are really altered, you no longer look at things as you used to; your desires are new, old things have lost their power. One of the touchstones of experience is—Has God altered the thing that matters? If you still hanker after the old things, it is absurd to talk about being born from above, you are juggling with yourself. If you are born again, the Spirit of God makes the alteration manifest in your actual life and reasoning, and when the crisis comes you are the most amazed person on earth at the wonderful difference there is in you. There is no possibility of imagining that you did it. It is this complete and amazing alteration that is the evidence that you are a saved soul.
What difference has my salvation and sanctification made? For instance, can I stand in the light of 1 Corinthians 13, or do I have to shuffle? The salvation that is worked out in me by the Holy Ghost emancipates me entirely, and as long as I walk in the light as God is in the light, He sees nothing to censure, because His life is working out in every particular, not to my consciousness, but deeper than my consciousness.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
In Great Waters
You are there also
at the foot of the precipice
of water that was too steep
for the drowned: their breath broke
and they fell. You have made an altar
out of the deck of the lost
trawler whose spars
are your cross. The sand crumbles
like bread; the wine is
the light quietly lying
in its own chalice. There is
a sacrament there more beauty
than terror whose ministrant
you are and the aisles are full
of the sea shapes coining to its celebration.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Only by grasping the whole chain of causality can one recognize the divine presence in the immediately given. For those who lack this understanding of the extended chain of causality, God’s immediacy can only be understood by the notion of an all-powerful will which performs miracles. The religious man in quest of a direct relationship with God would react to Maimonides’ natural explanations of phenomena as robbing him of the intimacy with God for which he longs.
While recognizing that not all would be prepared to accept his approach, Maimonides attempts to provide his readers with an understanding of the intimacy and immediacy with God within causal explanations of phenomena. Both in his legal and philosophic writings, Maimonides maintains that the halakhic way to God need not negate the concept of nature. The fact that Jews accept creation, and philosophers generally accept eternity, need not imply that the Jew’s sense of religious immediacy must be based on miracles. In opposing those who explain nature only in terms of the will of God, Maimonides writes:
For there is no incongruity in our saying that the existence and nonexistence of all these acts are consequent upon His wisdom, may He be exalted; we, however, are ignorant of many of the ways in which wisdom is found in His works. It is upon this opinion that the whole of “the Torah of Moses, our Master” is founded; it opens with it: “And God saw all that He had made, and found it very good.” And it concludes with it: “The Rock!—His deeds are perfect, and so on.” Know this. If you consider this opinion and the philosophic opinion, reflecting upon all the preceeding chapters in this treatise that are connected with this notion, you will not find any difference between them regarding any of the particulars of everything that exists. You will find no difference other than that which we have explained: namely, that they regard the world as eternal and we regard it as produced in time. Understand this.
Maimonides’ fundamental argument with the Mutakallimun (see chapter three) is based on his rejection of their understanding of the relationship of nature to God. In his first legal work, Maimonides writes:
As regards the theory generally accepted by people, and likewise found in rabbinic and prophetic writings, that man’s sitting and rising, and in fact all of his movements, are governed by the will and desire of God, it may be said that this is true only in one respect. Thus, for instance, when a stone is thrown into the air and falls to the ground, it is correct to say that the stone fell in accordance with the will of God, for it is true that God decreed that the earth and all that goes to make it up should be the center of attraction, so that when any part of it is thrown into the air, it is attracted back to the center. Similarly, all the particles of fire ascend according to God’s will which preordained that fire should go upward. But it is wrong to suppose that when a certain part of the earth is thrown upward, God wills at that very moment that it should fall. The Mutakallimun are, however, of a different opinion in this regard for I have heard them say that the Divine Will is constantly at work, decreeing everything from time to time. We do not agree with them, but believe that the Divine Will ordained everything at Creation, and that all things, at all times, are regulated by the laws of nature, and run their natural course, in accordance with what Solomon said, “As it was, so it will ever be, as it was made so it continues, and there is nothing new under the sun.”
In the Guide, Maimonides argues that the proofs offered by the Mutakallimun for God’s existence involve premises which run counter to the established nature of existence and rely on the presupposition that nothing has an established nature:
The proofs of the Mutakallimun, on the other hand, are derived from premises that run counter to the nature of existence that is perceived so that they resort to the affirmation that nothing has a nature in any respect. In this treatise, when speaking of the creation of the world in time, I shall devote for your benefit a chapter explaining to you some proof for the creation of the world in time. For I reach the goal that every Mutakallim desires, without abolishing the nature of existence and without disagreeing with Aristotle with regard to any point he has demonstrated. For whereas the proof, with the aid of which some Mutakallimun proved by inference the creation of the world in time and which is their most powerful proof, is not consolidated for them until they abolish the nature of all existence and disagree with everything that the philosophers have made clear, I reach a similar proof without running counter to the nature of existence and without having recourse to violating that which is perceived by the senses.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. --- Hebrews 10:32.
The illumination of the heart is love. The Weaving of Glory Just as the light of the intellect is truth, so the light of every heart is love. Without love the heart is always dark, and with love the heart is always light. The most common dwelling becomes a palace with it, and there is sunshine for the dreariest day. And all the wealth of Ormus and of Ind and all the joy of fame and whirl of fashion can never irradiate these hearts of ours like love. Whoever dwells in love dwells in God, and whoever dwells in God is in the ligh t. The luster of the heart is always there, but it is unlighted until love comes in. And now remember the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great fight of afflictions. Long years ago some of you mothers here gathered you firstborn child into your arms, and there was such gladness in these eyes of yours that every neighbor saw your life illuminated. And now as you look back on it all and think of all that has come and gone since then, you know the sorrows that have followed love. What sleepless nights—what hours of weary watching—what seasons of agony when death was near! What struggle to do what was hard to do, when wills were rebellious and lips untruthful. All this followed the illumination that came when the love of motherhood was born, and all this is the anguish of the light. Let people love their work, and in that light they will be led to many a weary wrestling. Let people love their land, and in that light they will take up burdens that are not easily borne. Let people love their risen and living Savior, and in that light their lives will be a battlefield, as they struggle daily not against flesh and blood but against the rulers and the powers of this dark world. Love has its triumphs, but it has its tortures. Love has its paradise and it has its purgatory. Love has its mountains of transfiguration and its love gardens where the sweat is blood. Love is the secret of the sweetest song that ever was uttered by human lips, and love is the secret of the keenest suffering that ever pierced the heart.
--- George H. Morrison
Pilgrim in the World
If The Imitation of Christ has a rival in sales, it is The The Pilgrim's Progress, written by John Bunyan. On November 12, 1660 Bunyan left home to conduct a small worship service in a friend’s house. Earlier that year King Charles II of England, Bible clutched to breast, had returned from exile to restore the monarchy and to return the Church of England to its position of authority. All non-Anglican houses of worship were closed, making Bunyan’s preaching of the Gospel now treasonous.
Arriving at the farmhouse, Bunyan learned that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. His friends urged flight. “No!” he replied. “I will not stir neither have the meeting dismissed. Let us not be daunted. To preach God’s Word is so good a work that we shall be well rewarded if we suffer for that.” The service was soon disrupted by the local constable, and Bunyan managed only a few parting words before being arrested. He spent the next 12 years imprisoned in Bedford, England, during which time his family suffered and his beloved blind daughter, Mary, passed away.
Bunyan supported his family by making laces in prison; but shortly he discovered a hidden gift—the ability to write. His fame as an imprisoned writer fueled sales of his books, and he eventually wrote 60 volumes, one for every year he lived. His most famous work, written during the final phase of incarceration, is The Pilgrim's Progress. It sold 100,000 copies during Bunyan’s lifetime and millions since. It joins The Imitation of Christ in being publishing history’s top bestseller, apart from Scripture.
Bunyan spent his final years in his little cottage in Bedford where visitors often found him studying, his library consisting only of a Bible and some of his own works. On his deathbed battling high fever, Bunyan rambled in tortured, fractured words; but even these were collected and published as Mr. Bunyan’s Dying Sayings. They include this one: The spirit of prayer is more precious than treasure of gold and silver. Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.
When people talk this way, it is clear that they are looking for a place to call their own. If they had been talking about the land where they had once lived, they could have gone back at any time. But they were looking forward to a better home in heaven.
--- Hebrews 11:14-16a.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 12
“The trial of your faith.” --- 1 Peter 1:7.
Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith, and it is likely to remain dwarfish so long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbour; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too. Let the winds rush howling forth, and let the waters lift up themselves, then, though the vessel may rock, and her deck may be washed with waves, and her mast may creak under the pressure of the full and swelling sail, it is then that she makes headway towards her desired haven. No flowers wear so lovely a blue as those which grow at the foot of the frozen glacier; no stars gleam so brightly as those which glisten in the polar sky; no water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the desert sand; and no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity. Tried faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God’s strength had you not been supported amid the water-floods. Faith increases in solidity, assurance, and intensity, the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too.
Let not this, however, discourage those who are young in faith. You will have trials enough without seeking them: the full portion will be measured out to you in due season. Meanwhile, if you cannot yet claim the result of long experience, thank God for what grace you have; praise him for that degree of holy confidence whereunto you have attained: walk according to that rule, and you shall yet have more and more of the blessing of God, till your faith shall remove mountains and conquer impossibilities.
Evening - November 12
“And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” --- Luke 6:12.
If ever one of woman born might have lived without prayer, it was our spotless, perfect Lord, and yet none was ever so much in supplication as he! Such was his love to his Father, that he loved much to be in communion with him: such his love for his people, that he desired to be much in intercession for them. The fact of this eminent prayerfulness of Jesus is a lesson for us—he hath given us an example that we may follow in his steps. The time he chose was admirable, it was the hour of silence, when the crowd would not disturb him; the time of inaction, when all but himself had ceased to labour; and the season when slumber made men forget their woes, and cease their applications to him for relief. While others found rest in sleep, he refreshed himself with prayer. The place was also well selected. He was alone where none would intrude, where none could observe: thus was he free from Pharisaic ostentation and vulgar interruption. Those dark and silent hills were a fit oratory for the Son of God. Heaven and earth in midnight stillness heard the groans and sighs of the mysterious Being in whom both worlds were blended. The continuance of his pleadings is remarkable; the long watches were not too long; the cold wind did not chill his devotions; the grim darkness did not darken his faith, or loneliness check his importunity. We cannot watch with him one hour, but he watched for us whole nights. The occasion for this prayer is notable; it was after his enemies had been enraged—prayer was his refuge and solace; it was before he sent forth the twelve apostles—prayer was the gate of his enterprise, the herald of his new work. Should we not learn from Jesus to resort to special prayer when we are under peculiar trial, or contemplate fresh endeavours for the Master’s glory? Lord Jesus, teach us to pray.
I WILL PRAISE HIM!
Margaret J. Harris, 19th century
To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father—to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 1:5b–6)
An attitude of happiness in life is a matter of our will. Abraham Lincoln once stated that “most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Closely related to a Christian’s happiness is the determination to live a life of praise to God. The goal of every believer should be the overflowing of praise, regardless of the circumstances. Knowing God in Christ is the most compelling reason to have such a life. Each day is a new opportunity for offering a praise sacrifice to God. Instead of dwelling on the negatives of our lives, we should seek fresh reasons daily for praising our Lord.
Praise is our highest spiritual exercise. There is more said in the Scriptures about our praise life than even our times of prayer. In prayer it is possible to approach God out of selfish motives; in praise, we worship Him for what He is Himself. Praise is also an encouragement to our fellowmen—“the afflicted hear and rejoice” (Psalm 34:2). Weak hearts will be strengthened and trembling saints revived when they hear our testimonies of praise.
One of the most important times to sing praise to God is when we feel imprisoned by the circumstances of life. Like the experience of Paul and Silas in the Roman prison (Acts 16:24, 25), it is often uncanny how prayer and praise open the doors of our lives to new dimensions of opportunity and spiritual power.
When I saw the cleansing fountain, open wide for all my sin, I obeyed the Spirit’s wooing when He said, “Wilt thou be clean?”
Tho the way seemed straight and narrow, all I claimed was swept away; my ambitions, plans and wishes at my feet in ashes lay.
Then God’s fire upon the altar of my heart was set aflame: I shall never cease to praise Him—Glory, glory to His name!
Blessed be the name of Jesus! I’m so glad He took me in: He’s forgiven my transgressions; He has cleansed my heart from sin.
Glory, glory to the Father! Glory, glory to the Son! Glory, glory to the Spirit! Glory to the Three in One!
Chorus: I will praise Him! I will praise Him! Praise the Lamb for sinners slain; give Him glory, all ye people, for His blood can wash away each stain.
For Today: Psalm 34:1; 86:12; 145:2; Romans 11:36; 1 Timothy 1:17
Begin searching your life for fresh reasons to rejoice and sing praise to God. Allow this musical truth to be your theme ---
2. God is only absolutely holy; “There is none holy as the Lord” (1 Sam. 2:2); it is the peculiar glory of his nature; as there is none good but God, so none holy but God. No creature can be essentially holy, because mutable; holiness is the substance of God, but a quality and accident in a creature. God is infinitely holy, creatures finitely holy. He is holy from himself, creatures are holy by derivation from him. He is not only holy, but holiness; holiness in the highest degree, is his sole prerogative. As the highest heaven is called the heaven of heavens, because it embraceth in its circle all the heavens, and contains the magnitude of them, and hath a greater vastness above all that it encloseth, so is God the Holy of holies; he contains the holiness of all creatures put together, and infinitely more. As all the wisdom, excellency, and power of the creatures if compared with the wisdom, excellency, and power of God, is but folly, vileness, and weakness; so the highest created purity, if set in parallel with God, is but impurity and uncleanness (Rev. 15:4): “Thou only art holy” It is like the light of a glow-worm to that of the sun (Job 13:15); “The heavens are not pure in his sight, and his angels he charged with folly” (Job 4:18). Though God hath crowned the angels with an unspotted sanctity, and placed them in a habitation of glory, yet, as illustrious as they are, they have an unworthiness in their own nature to appear before the throne of so holy a God; their holiness grows dim and pale in his presence. It is but a weak shadow of that Divine purity, whose light is so glorious, that it makes them cover their faces out of weakness to behold it, and cover their feet out of shame in themselves. They are not pure in his sight, because, though they love God (which is a principle of holiness) as much as they can, yet, not so much as he deserves; they love him with the intensest degree, according to their power; but not with the intensest degree, according to his own amiableness; for they cannot infinitely love God, unless they were as infinite as God, and had an understanding of his perfections equal with himself, and as immense as his own knowledge. God, having an infinite knowledge of himself, can only have an infinite love to himself, and, consequently, an infinite holiness without any defect; because he loves himself according to the vastness of his own amiableness, which no finite being can. Therefore, though the angels be exempt from corruption and soil, they cannot enter into comparison with the purity of God, without acknowledgment of a dimness in themselves.
Besides, he charges them with folly, and puts no trust in them; because they have the power of sinning, though not the act of sinning; they have a possible folly in their own nature to be charged with. Holiness is a quality separable from them, but it is inseparable from God. Had they not at first a mutability in their nature, none of them could have sinned, there had been no devils; but because some of them sinned, the rest might have sinned. And though the standing angels shall never be changed, yet they are still changeable in their own nature, and their standing is due to grace, not to nature; and though they shall be for ever preserved, yet they are not, nor ever can be, immutable by nature, for then they should stand upon the same bottom with God himself; but they are supported by grace against that changeableness of nature which is essential to a creature; the Creator only hath immortality, that is, immutability (1 Tim. 3:16). It is as certain a truth, that no creature can be naturally immutable and impeccable, as that God cannot create any anything actually polluted and imperfect. It is as possible that the highest creature may sin, as it is possible that it may be annihilated; it may become not holy, as it may become not a creature, but nothing. The holiness of a creature may be reduced into nothing, as well as his substance; but the holiness of the Creator cannot be diminished, dimmed, or overshadowed (James 1:17): “He is the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness or shadow of turning.” It is as impossible his holiness should be blotted, as that his Deity should be extinguished: for whatsoever creature hath essentially such or such qualities, cannot be stripped of them, without being turned out of its essence. As a man is essentially rational; and if he ceaseth to be rational, he ceaseth to be man. The sun is essentially luminous; if it should become dark in its own body, it would cease to be the sun. In regard to this absolute and only holiness of God, it is thrice repeated by the seraphims (Isa. 6:3). The three-fold repetition of a word notes the certainty or absoluteness of the thing, or the irreversibleness of the resolve; as (Ezek. 21:27), “I will overturn, overturn, overturn,” notes the certainty of the judgment; also, (Rev. 8:8), “Woe, woe, woe;” three times repeated, signifies the same. The holiness of God is so absolutely peculiar to him, that it can no more be expressed in creatures, than his omnipotence, whereby they may be able to create a world; or his omniscience, whereby they may be capable of knowing all things, and knowing God as he knows himself:
3. God is so holy, that he cannot possibly approve of any evil done by another, but doth perfectly abhor it; it would not else be a glorious holiness (Psalm 5:3). “He hath no pleasure in wickedness.” He doth not only love that which is just, but abhor, with a perfect hatred, all things contrary to the rule of righteousness. Holiness can no more approve of sin than it can commit it: to be delighted with the evil in another’s act, contracts a guilt, as well as the commission of it; for approbation of a thing is a consent to it. Sometimes the approbation of an evil in another is a more grievous crime than the act itself, as appears in Rom. 1:32, who knowing the judgment of God, “not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do it;” where the “not only” manifests it to be a greater guilt to take pleasure in them. Every sin is aggravated by the delight in it; to take pleasure in the evil of another’s action, shows a more ardent affection and love to sin, than the committer himself may have. This, therefore, can as little fall upon God, as to do an evil act himself; yet, as a man may be delighted with the consequences of another’s sin, as it may occasion some public good, or private good to the guilty person, as sometimes it may be an occasion of his repentance, when the horridness of a fact stares him in the face, and occasions a self-reflection for that, and other crimes, which is attended with an indignation against them, and sincere remorse for them; so God is pleased with those good things his goodness and wisdom bring forth upon the occasion of sin. But in regard of his holiness, he cannot approve of the evil, whence his infinite wisdom drew forth his own glory, and his creature’s good. His pleasure is not in the sinful act of the creature, but in the act of his own goodness and skill, turning it to another end than what the creature aimed at.
(1.) He abhors it necessarily. Holiness is the glory of the Deity, therefore necessary. The nature of God is so holy, that he cannot but hate it (Hab. 1:13): “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:” he is more opposite to it than light to darkness, and, therefore, it can expect no countenance from him. A love of holiness cannot be without a hatred of everything that is contrary to it.
As God necessarily loves himself, so he must necessarily hate everything that is against himself: and as he loves himself for his own excellency and holiness, he must necessarily detest whatsoever is repugnant to his holiness, because of the evil of it. Since he is infinitely good, he cannot but love goodness, as it is a resemblance to himself, and cannot but abhor unrighteousness, as being most distant from him, and contrary to him. If he have any esteem for his own perfections, he must needs have an implacable aversion to all that is so repugnant to him, that would, if it were possible, destroy him, and is a point directed, not only against his glory, but against his life. If he did not hate it, he would hate himself: for since righteousness is his image, and sin would deface his image; if he did not love his image, and loathe what is against his image, he would loathe himself, he would be an enemy to his own nature. Nay, if it were possible for him to love it, it were possible for him not to be holy, it were possible then for him to deny himself, and will that he were no God, which is a palpable contradiction. Yet this necessity in God of hating sin, is not a brutish necessity, such as is in mere animals, that avoid, by a natural instinct, not of choice, what is prejudicial to them; but most free, as well as necessary, arising from an infinite knowledge of his own nature, and of the evil nature of sin, and the contrariety of it to his own excellency, and the order of his works.
(2.) Therefore intensely. Nothing do men act for more than their glory. As he doth infinitely, and therefore perfectly know himself, so he infinitely, and therefore perfectly knows what is contrary to himself, and, as according to the manner and measure of his knowledge of himself, is his love to himself, as infinite as his knowledge, and therefore inexpressible and unconceivable by us: so, from the perfection of his knowledge of the evil of sin, which is infinitely above what any creature can have, doth arise a displeasure against it suitable to that knowledge. In creatures the degrees of affection to, or aversion from a thing, are suited to the strength of their apprehensions of the good or evil in them. God knows not only the workers of wickedness, but the wickedness of their works (Job 11:11), for “he knows vain men, he sees wickedness also.” The vehemency of this hatred is expressed variously in Scripture; he loathes it so, that he is impatient of beholding it; the very sight of it affects him with detestation (Hab. 1:13); he hates the first spark of it in the imagination (Zech. 8:17); with what variety of expressions doth he repeat his indignation at their polluted services (Amos 5:21, 22); “I hate, I detest, I despise, I will not smell, I will not regard; take away from me the noise of thy songs, I will not hear.” So, (Isa. 1:14), “My soul hates, they are a trouble to me, I am weary to bear them.” It is the abominable thing that he hates (Jer. 44:4); he is vexed and fretted at it (Isa. 63:10; Ezek. 16:33). He abhors it so, that his hatred redounds upon the person that commits it. (Psalm 5:5), “He hates all workers of iniquity.” Sin is the only primary object of his displeasure: he is not displeased with the nature of man as man, for that was derived from him; but with the nature of man as sinful, which is from the sinner himself. When a man hath but one object for the exercise of all his anger, it is stronger than when diverted to many objects: a mighty torrent, when diverted into many streams, is weaker than when it comes in a full body upon one place only. The infinite anger and hatred of God, which is as infinite as his love and mercy, has no other object, against which he directs the mighty force of it, but only unrighteousness. He hates no person for all the penal evils upon him, though they were more by ten thousand times than Job was struck with, but only for his sin. Again, sin being only evil, and an unmixed evil, there is nothing in it that can abate the detestation of God, or balance his hatred of it; there is not the least grain of goodness in it, to incline him to the least affection to any part of it. This hatred cannot but be intense; for as the more any creature is sanctified, the more is he advanced in the abhorrence of that which is contrary to holiness; therefore, God being the highest, most absolute and infinite holiness, doth infinitely, and therefore intensely, hate unholiness; being infinitely righteous, doth infinitely abhor unrighteousness; being infinitely true, doth infinitely abhor falsity, as it is the greatest and most deformed evil. As it is from the righteousness of his nature that he hath a content and satisfaction in righteousness (Psalm 11:7), “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness;” so it is from the same righteousness of his nature, that he detests whatsoever is morally evil: as his nature therefore is infinite, so must his abhorrence be.
(3.) Therefore universally, because necessarily and intensely. He doth not hate it in one, and indulge it in another, but loathes it wherever he finds it; not one worker of iniquity is exempt from it (Psalm 5:5): “Thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” For it is not sin, as in this or that person, or as great or little; but sin, as sin is the object of his hatred; and, therefore, let the person be never so great, and have particular characters of his image upon him, it secures him not from God’s hatred of any evil action he shall commit. He is a jealous God, jealous of his glory (Exod. 20:5); a metaphor, taken from jealous husbands, who will not endure the least adultery in their wives, nor God the least defection of man from his law.
Every act of sin is a spiritual adultery, denying God to be the chief good, and giving that prerogative by that act to some vile thing. He loves it no more in his own people than he doth in his enemies; he frees them not from his rod, the testimony of his loathing their crimes: whosoever sows iniquity, shall reap affliction. It might be thought that he affected their dross, if he did not refine them, and loved their filth, if he did not cleanse them; because of his detestation of their sin, he will not spare them from the furnace, though because of love to their persons in Christ, he will exempt them from Tophet. How did the sword ever and anon drop down upon David’s family, after his unworthy dealing in Uriah’s case, and cut off ever and anon some of the branches of it? He doth sometimes punish it more severely in this life in his own people, than in others. Upon Jonah’s disobedience a storm pursues him, and a whale devours him, while the profane world lived in their lusts without control. Moses, for one act of unbelief, is excluded from Canaan, when greater sinners attained that happiness. It is not a light punishment, but a vengeance he takes on their inventions (Psalm 99:8), to manifest that he hates sin as sin, and not because the worst persons commit it. Perhaps, had a profane man touched the ark, the hand of God had not so suddenly reached him; but when Uzzah, a man zealous for him, as may be supposed by his care for the support of the tottering ark, would step out of his place, he strikes him down for his disobedient action, by the side of the ark, which he would indirectly (as not being a Levite) sustain (2 Sam. 6:7). Nor did our Saviour so sharply reprove the Pharisees, and turn so short from them as he did from Peter, when he gave a carnal advice, and contrary to that wherein was to be the greatest manifestation of God’s holiness, viz. the death of Christ (Matt. 16:23). He calls him Satan, a name sharper than the title of the devil’s children wherewith he marked the Pharisees, and given (besides him) to none but Judas, who made a profession of love to him, and was outwardly ranked in the number of his disciples. A gardener hates a weed the more for being in the bed with the most precious flowers. God’s hatred is universally fixed against sin, and he hates it as much in those whose persons shall not fall under his eternal anger, as being secured in the arms of a Redeemer, by whom the guilt is wiped off, and the filth shall be totally washed away: though he hates their sin, and cannot but hate it, yet he loves their persons, as being united as members to the Mediator and mystical Head. A man may love a gangrened member, because it is a member of his own body, or a member of a dear relation, but he loathes the gangrene in it more than in those wherein he is not so much concerned. Though God’s hatred of believers’ persons is removed by faith in the satisfactory death of Jesus Christ, yet his antipathy against sin was not taken away by that blood; nay, it was impossible it should. It was never designed, nor had it any capacity to alter the unchangeable nature of God, but to manifest the unspottedness of his will, and his eternal aversion to anything that was contrary to the purity of his Being, and the righteousness of his laws.
(4.) Perpetually: this must necessarily follow upon the others. He can no more cease to hate impurity than he can cease to love holiness: if he should in the least instant approve of anything that is filthy, in that moment he would disapprove of his own nature and being; there would be an interruption in his love of himself, which is as eternal as it is infinite. How can he love any sin which is contrary to his nature, but for one moment, without hating his own nature, which is essentially contrary to sin? Two contraries cannot be loved at the same time; God must first begin to hate himself before he can approve of any evil which is directly opposite to himself. We, indeed, are changed with a temptation, sometimes bear an affection to it, and sometimes testify an indignation against it; but God is always the same without any shadow of change, and “is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11), that is, uninterruptedly in the nature of his anger, though not in the effects of it. God indeed may be reconciled to the sinner, but never to the sin; for then he should renounce himself, deny his own essence and his own divinity, if his inclinations to the love of goodness, and his aversion from evil, could be changed, if he suffered the contempt of the one, and encouraged the practice of the other.
4. God is so holy, that he cannot but love holiness in others. Not that he owes anything to his creature, but from the unspeakable holiness of his nature, whence affections to all things that bear a resemblance of him do flow; as light shoots out from the sun, or any glittering body: it is essential to the infinite righteousness of his nature to love righteousness wherever he beholds it (Psalm 11:7): “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” He cannot, because of his nature, but love that which bears some agreement with his nature, that which is the curious draught of his own wisdom and purity: he cannot but be delighted with a copy of himself: he would not have a holy nature, if he did not love holiness in every nature: his own nature would be denied by him, if he did not affect everything that had a stamp of his own nature upon it. There was indeed nothing without God, that could invite him to manifest such goodness to man, as he did in creation: but after he had stamped that rational nature with a righteousness convenient for it, it was impossible but that he should ardently love that impression of himself, because he loves his own Deity, and consequently all things which are any sparks and images of it: and were the devils capable of an act of righteousness, the holiness of his nature would incline him to love it, even in those dark and revolted spirits.
5. God is so holy, that he cannot positively will or encourage sin in any. How can he give any encouragement to that which he cannot in the least approve of, or look upon without loathing, not only the crime, but the criminal? Light may sooner be the cause of darkness than holiness itself be the cause of unholiness, absolutely contrary to it: it is a contradiction, that he that is the Fountain of good should be the source of evil; as if the same fountain should bubble up both sweet and bitter streams, salt and fresh (James 3:11); since whatsoever good is in man acknowledges God for its author, it follows that men are evil by their own fault. There is no need for men to be incited to that to which the corruption of their own nature doth so powerfully bend them. Water hath a forcible principle in its own nature to carry it downward; it needs no force to hasten the motion: “God tempts no man, but every man is drawn away by his own lust” (James 1:13, 14). All the preparations for glory are from God (Rom. 9:23); but men are said to “be fitted to destruction” (ver. 22); but God is not said to fit them; they, by their iniquities, fit themselves for ruin, and he, by his long-suffering, keeps the destruction from them for awhile.
(1.) God cannot command any unrighteousness. As all virtue is summed up in a love to God, so all iniquity is summed up in an enmity to God: every wicked work declares a man an enemy to God (Col. 1:21): “enemies in your minds by wicked works.” If he could command his creature anything which bears an enmity in its nature to himself, he would then implicitly command the hatred of himself, and he would be, in some measure, a hater of himself: he that commands another to deprive him of his life, cannot be said to bear any love to his own life. God can never hate himself, and therefore cannot command anything that is hateful to him and tends to a hating of him, and driving the creature further from him; in that very moment that God should command such a thing, he would cease to be good. What can be more absurd to imagine, than that Infinite Goodness should enjoin a thing contrary to itself, and contrary to the essential duty of a creature, and order him to do anything that bespeaks an enmity to the nature of the Creator, or a deflouring and disparaging his works? God cannot but love himself, and his own goodness; he were not otherwise good; and, therefore, cannot order the creature to do anything opposite to this goodness, or anything hurtful to the creature itself, as unrighteousness is.
(2.) Nor can God secretly inspire any evil into us. It is as much against his nature to incline the heart to sin as it is to command it as it is impossible but that he should love himself, and therefore impossible to enjoin anything that tends to a hatred of himself; by the same reason it is as impossible that he should infuse such a principle in the heart, that might carry a man out to any act of enmity against him. To enjoin one thing, and incline to another, would be an argument of such insincerity, unfaithfulness, contradiction to itself, that it cannot be conceived to fall within the compass of the Divine nature (Deut. 32:4), who is a “God without iniquity,” because “a God of truth” and sincerity, “just and right is he.” To bestow excellent faculties upon man in creation, and incline him, by a sudden impulsion, to things contrary to the true end of him, and induce an inevitable ruin upon that work which he had composed with so much wisdom and goodness, and pronounced good with so much delight and pleasure, is inconsistent with that love which God bears to the creature of his own framing: to incline his will to that which would render him the object of his hatred, the fuel for his justice, and sink him into deplorable misery, it is most absurd, and unchristian-like to imagine.
(3.) Nor can God necessitate man to sin. Indeed sin cannot be committed by force; there is no sin but is in some sort voluntary; voluntary in the root, or voluntary in the branch; voluntary by an immediate act of the will, or voluntary by a general or natural inclination of the will. That is not a crime to which a man is violenced, without any concurrence of the faculties of the soul to that act; it is indeed not an act, but a passion; a man that is forced is not an agent, but a patient under the force: but what necessity can there be upon man from God, since he hath implanted such a principle in him, that he cannot desire anything but what is good, either really or apparently; and if a man mistakes the object, it is his own fault; for God hath endowed him with reason to discern, and liberty of will to choose upon that judgment. And though it is to be acknowledged that God hath an absolute sovereign dominion over his creature, without any limitation, and may do what he pleases, and dispose of it according to his own will, as a “potter doth with his vessel” (Rom. 9:21); according as the church speaks (Isa. 64:8), “We are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand;” yet he cannot pollute any undefiled creature by virtue of that sovereign power, which he hath to do what he will with it; because such an act would be contrary to the foundation and right of his dominion, which consists in the excellency of his nature, his immense wisdom, and unspotted purity; if God should therefore do any such act, he would expunge the right of his dominion by blotting out that nature which renders him fit for that dominion, and the exercise of it. Any dominion which is exercised without the rules of goodness, is not a true sovereignty, but an insupportable tyranny. God would cease to be a rightful Sovereign if he ceased to be good; and he would cease to be good, if he did command, necessitate, or by any positive operation, incline inwardly the heart of a creature directly to that which were morally evil, and contrary to the eminency of his own nature. But that we may the better conceive of this, let us trace man in his first fall, whereby he subjected himself and all his posterity to the curse of the law and hatred of God; we shall find no footsteps, either of precept, outward force, or inward impulsion. The plain story of man’s apostasy dischargeth God from any interest in the crime as an encouragement, and excuseth him from any appearance of suspicion, when he showed him the tree he had reserved, as a mark of his sovereignty, and forbad him to eat of the fruit of it; he backed the prohibition with the threatening the greatest evil, viz. death; which could be understood to imply nothing less than the loss of all his happiness; and in that couched an assurance of the perpetuity of his felicity, if he did not, rebelliously, reach forth his hand to take and “eat of the fruit” (Gen. 2:16, 17). It is true God had given that fruit an excellency, “a goodness for food, and a pleasantness to the eye” (Gen. 3:6). He had given man an appetite, whereby he was capable of desiring so pleasant a fruit; but God had, by creation, arranged it under the command of reason, if man would have kept it in its due obedience; he had fixed a severe threatening to bar the unlawful excursions of it; he had allowed him a multitude of other fruits in the garden, and given him liberty enough to satisfy his curiosity in all, except this only. Could there be anything more obliging to man, to let God have his reserve of that one tree, than the grant of all the rest; and more deterring from any disobedient attempt than so strict a command, spirited with so dreadful a penalty? God did not solicit him to rebel against him; a solicitation to it, and a command against it, were inconsistent. The devil assaults him, and God permitted it, and stands, as it were, a spectator of the issue of the combat. There could be no necessity upon man to listen to, and entertain the suggestions of the serpent; he had a power to resist him, and he had an answer ready for all the devil’s arguments, had they been multiplied to more than they were; the opposing the order of God had been a sufficient confutation of all the devil’s plausible reasonings; that Creator, who hath given me my being, hath ordered me not to eat of it. Though the pleasure of the fruit might allure him, yet the force of his reason might have quelled the liquorishness of his sense; the perpetual thinking of, and sounding out, the command of God, had silenced both Satan and his own appetite; had disarmed the tempter, and preserved his sensitive part in its due subjection. What inclination can we suppose there could be from the Creator, when, upon the very first offer of the temptation, Eve opposes to the tempter the prohibition and threatening of God, and strains it to a higher peg than we find God had delivered it in? For in Gen. 2:17, it is, “You shall not eat of it;” but she adds (Gen. 3:3), “Neither shall you touch it;” which was a remark that might have had more influence to restrain her. Had our first parents kept this fixed upon their understandings and thoughts, that God had forbidden any such act as the eating of the fruit, and that he was true to execute the threatening he had uttered, of which truth of God they could not but have a natural notion, with what ease might they have withstood the devil’s attack, and defeated his design! And it had been easy with them, to have kept their understandings by the force of such a thought, from entertaining any contrary imagination. There is no ground for any jealousy of any encouragements, inward impulsions, or necessity from God in this affair. A discharge of God from this first sin will easily induce a freedom of him from all other sins which follow upon it. God doth not then encourage, or excite, or incline to sin. How can he excite to that which, when it is done, he will be sure to condemn? How can he be a righteous Judge to sentence a sinner to misery for a crime acted by a secret inspiration from himself? Iniquity would deserve no reproof from him, if he were any way positively the author of it. Were God the author of it in us, what is the reason our own consciences accuse us for it, and convince us of it? that, being God’s deputy, would not accuse us of it, if the sovereign power by which it acts, did incline us to it. How can he be thought to excite to that which be hath enacted such severe laws to restrain, or incline man to that which he hath so dreadfully punished in his Son, and which it is impossible but the excellency of his nature must incline him eternally to hate? We may sooner imagine, that a pure flame shall engender cold, and darkness be the offspring of a sunbeam, as imagine such a thing as this. “What shall we say, is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.” The apostle execrates such a thought (Rom. 9:14.)
The Existence and Attributes of God
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Christ Is Risen 1
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Keep Going Peter
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The Greatest Three Words
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The Light At The Cross
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The Family Tree
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Finding Fulfillment In The Father
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What Is That To Thee?
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John 20:1-10, 19-20
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Reconciled To The Father
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The Resurrection: Establishing The Foundation
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Jesus Condemned to be Crucified
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