Peter and John Before the CouncilActs 4 1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
Some New Testament passages suggest that the apostle Paul was not an eloquent man either. We know from his own statements that, whether by choice or necessity, he did not come among the Corinthians “proclaiming . . . in lofty words or wisdom”; rather he came “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God” (1 Cor 2:1-5). Paul’s only confidence was in God speaking with him, electrifying his words, as it were, when he spoke.
It is significant, I believe, that those the Lord chose to bear his message and carry on his work were for the most part “uneducated and ordinary” people (Acts 4:13). The pattern seems to prove amply that in God’s selecting them there would be no mistake as to the source of their words and authority. God would use ordinary human beings and would dignify them by their association with him. But just as this is wholly suitable to his redemptive purposes, so it is wholly appropriate that everyone (especially the individuals involved) should be clear about the source of the power manifested.
There must be no misallocation of glory, not because God is a cosmic egotist but because that would destroy the order that’s in the blessedness of life in Christ. It would direct us away from God. Hence Paul writes, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:31). The success of the redemptive plan therefore requires that “not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1 Cor 1:26). Moses and Paul, two of the people most responsible for the human authorship of the Bible, were, accordingly, weak with words so that they might have the best chance of clinging constantly to their support in God, who spoke in union with them, and so that they might unerringly connect their hearers with God. Dallas Willard - Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
The Believers Pray for Boldness23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“ ‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
They Had Everything in Common32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Ananias and SapphiraActs 5 1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
Many Signs and Wonders Done12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
The Apostles Arrested and Freed17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
Seven Chosen to ServeActs 6 1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
Stephen Is Seized8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
What I'm Reading
The Perilous Pitfalls Facing “Tent-Making” Christian Case Makers
By J. Warner Wallace 1/8/2014
The rapid growth of the “tent-making” Christian Case Making community is a reflection of an apologetics “renaissance” here in America and abroad. Tent-makers make great Case Makers, but there are also a number of liabilities we face as bi-vocational Christian apologists. If you’ve taken the time to step out as a Christian Case Maker, you’re already familiar with some of the common pitfalls. If you’re still thinking about how you might begin your own personal journey as a “One Dollar Apologist”, let me prepare you for some of the challenges (and offer a few solutions):
The Lack of Formal Training | Many tent-making Christian Case Makers have completed graduate programs in apologetics, philosophy or theology, but most have not. Even those of us who have degrees are probably not experts in our field. As a result, “One Dollar Apologists” (ODA’s) may feel intimidated by their lack of formal education.
A Possible Solution: | Remember, you don’t have to be an expert witness to play an important role as an apologist. You’ve already got what it takes to make the case, but you’ve got to be strategic. Begin by specializing. If you have an interest in the Moral Argument, for example, learn all you can about the topic before you branch out into another area. Write about it, interact online in related discussions and “stay in your lane”. Once you’ve mastered this topic, move slowly into tangential areas, then into fresh territory after you feel competent. Remember, an advanced degree is typically a collection of hours spent studying, writing, reviewing and vetting ideas. Given the nature of the Internet, you can now spend thousands of hours working through a topic without ever leaving the comfort of your laptop. Study hard and take small, strategic steps.
The Temptation of Arrogance | Our common, fallen human nature predisposes us toward arrogance and pride, and many tent-making Case Makers (without the guidance of ministry leadership or the wisdom of an organizational board of directors) succumb to this temptation once we feel we have mastered a topic. This is a danger all of us face as ODA’s. We’ve all seen how “messy” the comment sections can get on apologetics websites, and much of the time it’s haughty Christians making the “mess”.
A Possible Solution: | Do your best to stay away from blogs or message boards dominated by angry internet trolls. You know they’re out there and they’re easy to identify. It’s tempting to aggressively defend the God we love so dearly, but remember, your character is as important (if not more important) than your content. I always ask myself: Would my wife, Susie, approve of what I just said or wrote? If you have someone like Susie in your life (a calmer, “better half”), evaluate your posts, comments and interactions through this filter.
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.
What Did Jesus Mean When He Said “Not an Iota, Not a Dot, Will Pass from the Law Until All Is Accomplished”?
By Brandon Crowe 11/12/2016
Matthew 5:17–18 is a key text for interpreting the Sermon on the Mount and the entire gospel of Matthew:
(Mt 5:17–18) 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. ESV
Here Jesus says that not one iota (jot) or dot (tittle) will pass away from the law. These most likely refer to the smallest strokes of the Hebrew alphabet, indicating that the Old Testament is completely trustworthy, even to the smallest detail. This is consistent with Jesus’ attitude elsewhere. Never do we find Jesus disagreeing with Scripture. Though some have argued that Jesus disagrees with Scripture in the so-called antitheses of Matthew 5:21–48, He explicitly instructs us otherwise in vv. 17–18. Jesus has not come to abolish the Mosaic law (or the Prophets), but to fulfill it. He does not disagree with “it is written” in vv. 21–48, but with “you have heard” (vv. 21, 27, 33, 38, 43; see also v. 31). Jesus critiques mistaken interpretations of Scripture, not the written words themselves.
Therefore, it is necessary to appreciate the abiding truthfulness of the law of Moses because Jesus is the fulfillment of this law (5:17; see Rom. 10:4). Jesus does not nullify it, but comes so that everything in it will be accomplished (Matt. 5:18). He does this through His entire representative obedience. Thus, though the teaching of Jesus is challenging to the core, Jesus did not come to encumber us with impossibly heavy burdens (11:28–30; see 23:4). Only Jesus, the last Adam and perfect Son of God, is able to fulfill God’s law perfectly (3:15) and therefore is able to pour out His blood for the forgiveness of sins (26:28; see 1:21; 20:28).
Brandon Crowe Books:
- 1 The Essential Trinity: New Testament Foundations and Practical Relevance
- 2 The Last Adam: A Theology of the Obedient Life of Jesus in the Gospels
- 3 The Message of the General Epistles in the History of Redemption: Wisdom from James, Peter, John, and Jude
- 4 THE OBEDIENT SON BZNW 188 (Beihefte Zur Zeitschrift F R die Neutestamentliche Wissensch)
- 5 Was Jesus Really Born of a Virgin? (Christian Answers to Hard Questions) (Apologia)
- 6 [(Was Jesus Really Born of a Virgin?)] [By (author) Brandon D Crowe] published on (August, 2013)
Where Do We Go From Here?
By Bill Brown 11/10/2016
I don’t think we were prepared for all that the election revealed. Here are my top three:
1. Christians are a footnote to current culture.
The media attempted to make Evangelical support for Trump (or Clinton) a story. But nobody cared. Times have changed.
During the 1980s, Evangelicals dominated political discourse. In 1989, Jerry Falwell proclaimed at the end of the decade-long arc of the Moral Majority, “Our goal has been achieved. … The religious right is solidly in place.” For a moment, the correct candidates held office and all was “right” with the nation.
In retrospect, the enterprise was a pyrrhic victory.
Bill Brown is the National Director of the Colson Fellows.
Freedom Or Tyranny: What Will America Choose?
By Sean McDowell 11/8/2016
America is deeply confused about freedom. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute, America is the land of the free. If anyone understands freedom it’s us!” We are certainly a nation who has historically fought for freedom, and we do have greater freedoms than many nations in the world, but as R.R. Reno points out in his recent book Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society, we have abandoned classical freedom and embraced a new understanding that will, in the end, bring tyranny.
Historically, Americans pursued a freedom that was aimed at serving the higher good and void of government overreach. There was a sense of collective responsibility and solidarity. Our freedom came from God and was based upon aligning ourselves with nature. We certainly fell short as a nation in living this ideal (e.g., racism and eugenics), but it’s the freedom we valued in principle and fought for.
But today we are embracing an entirely new understanding of freedom. Moral relativists encourage young people to be nonjudgmental. Students are encouraged to accept all lifestyles as equal and not to judge others. The only “sin” is to consider one’s lifestyle superior to another. Moral relativists talk about freedom, but it’s not the kind of freedom that encourages courage, forbearance, and sacrifice but the freedom to define moral truth for oneself. In other words, to the moral relativist, freedom means having no moral constraints.
The new understanding of freedom can also be seen in our cultural trend towards individualism. In The Beauty of Intolerance, my father and I describe the trend this way: “Moral truth comes from the individual; it is subjective and situational. This truth is known through choosing to believe it and through personal experience.” SCOTUS judge Anthony Kennedy famously expressed this individualistic view in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
Such a view seems liberating, but unchecked by God, nature, and custom, it will only lead to tyranny. In fact, untethered by any restraints, freedom becomes merely about freedom itself rather than what is best for the collective good. Reno observes:
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell
Sean McDowell Books:
Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
More Than a Carpenter
8 False Assumptions about Christianity
By Timothy W. Massaro 3/30/2017
1. Science has disproven Christianity.
Historically, Christianity has often led the way in scientific advancement. Many leading scientists today believe in a cosmology that is much more open to intelligent design and creation than most pundits assume. Science has not found evidence precluding the belief in God, miracles, or the resurrection of Jesus. Such fields are outside the competence of science and its methodology.
2. The Bible is based on myths.
History is integral to the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul, who wrote more than half of the New Testament, grounds faith in eyewitness testimony and verifiable events (1 Cor. 15). If these things are myths and fables, Christianity is not useful or good. The tone and tenor of the Scriptures are categorically different from that of Greek myths or Aesop’s Fables.
3. All Religions teach the same thing.
By Don Carson 7/17/2018
When Peter and John were released from their first whiff of persecution, they “went back to their own people” (Acts 4:23). The church gathered for prayer, using the words of Psalm 2 (Acts 4: 25-26). They understood that Old Testament text to be God’s speech (“You spoke”) by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of David (Acts 4:25).
At one level, Psalm 2 is an enthronement Psalm. Once again, however, the David-typology is strong. The kings of the earth and the rulers gathered against the Lord and against his Anointed One (the Messiah) — and climactically so when “Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed” (Acts 4:27). These earliest of our brothers and sisters in Christ ask for three things (Acts 4:29-30); (a) that the Lord would consider the threats of their opponents; (b) that they themselves might be enabled to speak God’s word with boldness; and (c) that God would perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Jesus (which may mean, in their expectation, “through the apostles”; cf. Acts 2:4; Acts 3:6ff.; Acts 5:12).
But before making their requests, these prayer warriors, after mentioning the wicked conspiracy of Herod, Pilate, and the rest, calmly address God in a confession of staggering importance: “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (Acts 4:28).
Observe:First, God’s sovereignty over the death of Christ does not mitigate the guilt of the human conspirators. On the other hand, the malice of their conspiracy has not caught God flat-footed, as if he had not foreseen the cross, much less planned it. The text plainly insists that God’s sovereignty is not mitigated by human actions, and human guilt is not exculpated by appeal to divine sovereignty. This duality is sometimes called compatibilism: God’s utter sovereignty and human moral responsibility are compatible. Complex issues are involved, but there can be no serious doubt that this stance is either taught or presupposed by the biblical writers (see meditation for February 17).
Second, in this case it is doubly necessary to see how the two points hang together. If Jesus died solely as a result of human conspiracy, and not by the design and purpose of God, it is difficult to see how his death can be the long-planned divine response to our desperate need. If God’s sovereignty over Jesus’ death means that the human perpetrators are thereby exonerated, should this not also be true wherever God is sovereign? And then where is the sin that needs to be paid for by Jesus’ death? The integrity of the Gospel hangs on that element of Christian theism called compatibilism. Click here to go to source
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 7/18/2018
The account of Ananias and Sapphira, whose names are recorded in the earliest Christian records because of their deceit (Acts 5:1-11), is disturbing on several grounds. Certainly the early church thought so (Acts 5:5, 11). Four observations focus the issues:
First, revival does not guarantee the absence of sin in a community. When many people are converted and genuinely transformed, when many are renewed and truly learn to hate sin, others find it more attractive to be thought holy than to be holy. Revival offers many temptations to hypocrisy that would be less potent when the temper of the age is secularistic or pagan.
Second, the issue is not so much the disposition of the money that Ananias and Sapphira obtained when they sold a piece of property as the lie they told. Apparently there were some members who were selling properties and donating all of the proceeds to the church to help in its varied ministries, not least the relief of the needs of brothers and sisters in Christ. Indeed, the man called Barnabas was exemplary in this respect (Acts 4:36-37), and serves as a foil to Ananias and Sapphira. But these two sold their property, kept some of the proceeds for themselves, and pretended that they were giving everything.
It was this claim to sanctity and self-denial, this pretense of generosity and piety, that was so offensive. Left unchecked, it might well multiply. It would certainly place into positions of honor people whose conduct did not deserve it. But worse, it was a blatant lie against the Holy Spirit — as if the Spirit of God could not know the truth, or would not care. In this sense it was a supremely presumptuous act, betraying a stance so removed from the God-centeredness of genuine faith that it was idolatrous.
Third, another element of the issue was conspiracy. It was not enough that Ananias pulled this wicked stunt himself. He acted “with his wife’s full knowledge” (Acts 5:2); indeed, her lying was not only passive but active (Acts 5:8), betraying a shared commitment to deceive believers and defy God.
Fourth, in times of genuine revival, judgment may be more immediate than in times of decay. When God walks away from the church and lets the multiplying sin take its course, that is the worst judgment of all; it will inevitably end in irretrievable disaster. But when God responds to sin with prompt severity, lessons are learned, and the church is spared a worse drift. In this case, great fear fell not only on the church but also on all who heard of these events (Acts 5:5, 11).
It is written: “He whose walk is upright fears the LORD; but he in whose ways are devious despises him” (Prov. 14:2).
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 SIN AND SHIN
119:161 Princes persecute me without cause,
but my heart stands in awe of your words.
162 I rejoice at your word
like one who finds great spoil.
163 I hate and abhor falsehood,
but I love your law.
164 Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous rules.
165 Great peace have those who love your law;
nothing can make them stumble.
166 I hope for your salvation, O LORD,
and I do your commandments.
167 My soul keeps your testimonies;
I love them exceedingly.
168 I keep your precepts and testimonies,
for all my ways are before you.
Christ Will Build His Church
By David Stoddard 4/01/2016
Europe is the new “dark continent.” Africa now sends more missionaries to Europe than Europe sends to Africa. The health reports of the European church aren’t terribly encouraging. Churches are closing and are being converted into mosques, museums, bars, and book depositories. In most European countries, less than 5 percent of the population attend any church. In France, there are more practicing Muslims than baptized Catholics. In England, more than 70 percent have no intention of stepping into a church—ever. In Berlin, the city where we live, 95 percent of church plants fail.
Recently, I was asked two questions at a missions conference in the United States. First, what does it mean that Europe is post-Christian? Second, what hope does the church have in such an environment? The second question disturbed me. What hope does the church have? The question reflects an attitude of resignation in regard to what God is doing in Europe. I sometimes see this attitude on home ministry assignment. “Why should we support missionaries to Europe?” we are asked. “It’s expensive. We can get a better bang for our buck elsewhere. Besides, they already had their chance. God isn’t working there anymore.”
The Power of the Gospel
We miss the power of the gospel when we place problems before promises. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus promises Peter, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Christ is building His church. Every other religion in the world proclaims a message of acceptance, inclusion, and hope based on human works and striving. But Christianity is radically different. Eternal acceptance into a relationship with the Creator and the expansion of His kingdom are both based on Jesus’ works. That’s why Martin Luther wrote:
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing; were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His name, from age to age the same, And He must win the battle.
Just a few verses later, Peter forgets the promise of the gospel and sees only problems. Jesus declares that the battle will be won through His death. “You can’t die. That doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t fit our plan,” a befuddled Peter thinks. He forgets the promise that victory comes through the death of Christ on the cross, not in spite of it. Christ’s death is not only the foundation of the church, it is also the means to expand it. Christ is building His church in Europe. Salvation comes through suffering and sacrifice. It was true of Jesus and will be true of His church.
Problems as Platforms
We miss the opportunities for gospel proclamation when we fail to see problems as platforms for ministry.
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are unjustly thrown into a Roman jail. They are flogged, beaten, and humiliated. At midnight, Paul and Silas begin to sing. The skeptical onlookers don’t have categories for what they are witnessing. The Spirit comes and turns the Philippian jail into a spectacle of His power. Doors fly open, chains drop loose, a violent earthquake shakes the ground, and the jailer and his family come to faith. An arena of darkness and persecution becomes a platform for the proclamation of the gospel.
Europe is definitely hostile and post-Christian. But that’s not all. It’s also postscience, postmodern, postindustrial, postcolonial, postpolitical, postmaterialist, postcapitalist, and postsecular. There is a general cynicism toward everything and hope in nothing. As more people migrate to Europe, Europeans are becoming aware that highly educated and wealthy people can be deeply spiritual and happy. That undermines the secular humanist belief that the more educated one is, the less religious one will be. Young people are looking for new answers, new paradigms, and new hope.
There are a number of crises trending in Europe that are tremendous opportunities for the church. Unemployment in Spain and Greece is as high as it was in the United States during the Great Depression. Churches are responding by creating job centers. Human trafficking hits all major cities in Europe. Church members are walking red-light districts, serving those caught in trafficking webs, and opening people’s eyes to the prevalence of the problem. There are now more majority-world students studying in Europe than in the United States, and many more would love to come. Churches are creating international student ministries. More than four million people immigrate to one of the twenty-seven European Union countries per year. Many bring Christ with them. The problematic refugee situation is climaxing. Secular governments are so overwhelmed that they are open to receiving help from Christian organizations. These crises are a wide-open door for Christians to live missionally, to sing in the midst of darkness, and to serve in the face of injustice.
What hope does the church in Europe have? The promise that Christ Himself is building His church and using the gospel displayed in the lives of those who live sacrificially. It is true that nominal Christianity is in decline. That’s no big loss. However, Christ is raising up a generation of missionally minded church planters who see Europe’s problems as the church’s opportunities.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
CHAPTER X | General Persecutions in GermanyThe general persecutions in Germany were principally occasioned by the doctrines and ministry of Martin Luther. Indeed, the pope was so terrified at the success of that courageous reformer, that he determined to engage the emperor, Charles V, at any rate, in the scheme to attempt their extirpation.
To this end
• 1. He gave the emperor two hundred thousand crowns in ready money.
• 2. He promised to maintain twelve thousand foot, and five thousand horse, for the space of six months, or during a campaign.
• 3. He allowed the emperor to receive one half the revenues of the clergy of the empire during the war.
• 4. He permitted the emperor to pledge the abbey lands for five hundred thousand crowns, to assist in carrying on hostilities against the Protestants.
Thus prompted and supported, the emperor undertook the extirpation of the Protestants, against whom, indeed, he was particularly enraged himself; and, for this purpose, a formidable army was raised in Germany, Spain, and Italy.
The Protestant princes, in the meantime, formed a powerful confederacy, in order to repel the impending blow. A great army was raised, and the command given to the elector of Saxony, and the landgrave of Hesse. The imperial forces were commanded by the emperor of Germany in person, and the eyes of all Europe were turned on the event of the war.
At length the armies met, and a desperate engagement ensued, in which the Protestants were defeated, and the elector of Saxony and the landgrave of Hesse both taken prisoners. This fatal blow was succeeded by a horrid persecution, the severities of which were such that exile might be deemed a mild fate, and concealment in a dismal wood pass for happiness. In such times a cave is a palace, a rock a bed of down, and wild roots delicacies.
Those who were taken experienced the most cruel tortures that infernal imaginations could invent; and by their constancy evinced that a real Christian can surmount every difficulty, and despite every danger acquire a crown of martyrdom.
Henry Voes and John Esch, being apprehended as Protestants, were brought to examination. Voes, answering for himself and the other, gave the following answers to some questions asked by a priest, who examined them by order of the magistracy.
Priest. Were you not both, some years ago, Augustine friars?
Priest. How came you to quit the bosom of the Church at Rome?
Voes. On account of her abominations.
Priest. In what do you believe?
Voes. In the Old and New Testaments.
Priest. Do you believe in the writings of the fathers, and the decrees of the Councils?
Voes. Yes, if they agree with Scripture.
Priest. Did not Martin Luther seduce you both?
Voes. He seduced us even in the very same manner as Christ seduced the apostles; that is, he made us sensible of the frailty of our bodies, and the value of our souls.
This examination was sufficient. They were both condemned to the flames, and soon after suffered with that manly fortitude which becomes Christians when they receive a crown of martyrdom.
Henry Sutphen, an eloquent and pious preacher, was taken out of his bed in the middle of the night, and compelled to walk barefoot a considerable way, so that his feet were terribly cut. He desired a horse, but his conductors said, in derision, "A horse for a heretic! no no, heretics may go barefoot." When he arrived at the place of his destination, he was condemned to be burnt; but, during the execution, many indignities were offered him, as those who attended not content with what he suffered in the flames, cut and slashed him in a most terrible manner.
Many were murdered at Halle; Middleburg being taken by storm all the Protestants were put to the sword, and great numbers were burned at Vienna.
An officer being sent to put a minister to death, pretended, when he came to the clergyman's house, that his intentions were only to pay him a visit. The minister, not suspecting the intended cruelty, entertained his supposed guest in a very cordial manner. As soon as dinner was over, the officer said to some of his attendants, "Take this clergyman, and hang him." The attendants themselves were so shocked after the civility they had seen, that they hesitated to perform the commands of their master; and the minister said, "Think what a sting will remain on your conscience, for thus violating the laws of hospitality." The officer, however, insisted upon being obeyed, and the attendants, with reluctance, performed the execrable office of executioners.
Peter Spengler, a pious divine, of the town of Schalet, was thrown into the river, and drowned. Before he was taken to the banks of the stream which was to become his grave, they led him to the market place that his crimes might be proclaimed; which were, not going to Mass, not making confession, and not believing in transubstantiation. After this ceremony was over, he made a most excellent discourse to the people, and concluded with a kind hymn, of a very edifying nature.
A Protestant gentleman being ordered to lose his head for not renouncing his religion, went cheerfully to the place of execution. A friar came to him, and said these words in a low tone of voice, "As you have a great reluctance publicly to abjure your faith, whisper your confession in my ear, and I will absolve your sins." To this the gentleman loudly replied, "Trouble me not, friar, I have confessed my sins to God, and obtained absolution through the merits of Jesus Christ." Then turning to the executioner, he said, "Let me not be pestered with these men, but perform your duty," on which his head was struck off at a single blow.
Wolfgang Scuch, and John Huglin, two worthy ministers, were burned, as was Leonard Keyser, a student of the University of Wertembergh; and George Carpenter, a Bavarian, was hanged for refusing to recant Protestantism.
The persecutions in Germany having subsided many years, again broke out in 1630, on account of the war between the emperor and the king of Sweden, for the latter was a Protestant prince, and consequently the Protestants of Germany espoused his cause, which greatly exasperated the emperor against them.
The imperialists having laid siege to the town of Passewalk, (which was defended by the Swedes) took it by storm, and committed the most horrid cruelties on the occasion. They pulled down the churches, burnt the houses, pillaged the properties, massacred the ministers, put the garrison to the sword, hanged the townsmen, ravished the women, smothered the children, etc., etc.
A most bloody tragedy was transacted at Magdeburg, in the year 1631. The generals Tilly and Pappenheim, having taken that Protestant city by storm, upwards of twenty thousand persons, without distinction of rank, sex, or age, were slain during the carnage, and six thousand were drowned in attempting to escape over the river Elbe. After this fury had subsided, the remaining inhabitants were stripped naked, severely scourged, had their ears cropped, and being yoked together like oxen were turned adrift.
The town of Hoxter was taken by the popish army, and all the inhabitants as well as the garrison were put to the sword; the houses even were set on fire, the bodies being consumed in the flames.
At Griphenberg, when the imperial forces prevailed, they shut up the senators in the senate chamber, and surrounding it by lighted straw suffocated them.
Franhendal surrendered upon articles of capitulation, yet the inhabitants were as cruelly used as at other places; and at Heidelberg many were shut up in prison and starved.
The cruelties used by the imperial troops, under Count Tilly in Saxony, are thus enumerated.
Half strangling, and recovering the persons again repeatedly. Rolling sharp wheels over the fingers and toes. Pinching the thumbs in a vice. Forcing the most filthy things down the throat, by which many were choked. Tying cords round the head so tightly that the blood gushed out of the eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. Fastening burning matches to the fingers, toes, ears, arms, legs, and even the tongue. Putting powder in the mouth and setting fire to it, by which the head was shattered to pieces. Tying bags of powder to all parts of the body, by which the person was blown up. Drawing cords backwards and forwards through the fleshy parts. Making incisions with bodkins and knives in the skin. Running wires through the nose, ears, lips, etc. Hanging Protestants up by the legs, with their heads over a fire, by which they were smoke dried. Hanging up by one arm until it was dislocated. Hanging upon hooks by the ribs. Forcing people to drink until they burst. Baking many in hot ovens. Fixing weights to the feet, and drawing up several with pulleys. Hanging, stifling, roasting, stabbing, frying, racking, ravishing, ripping open, breaking the bones, rasping off the flesh, tearing with wild horses, drowning, strangling, burning, broiling, crucifying, immuring, poisoning, cutting off tongues, noses, ears, etc., sawing off the limbs, hacking to pieces, and drawing by the heels through the streets.
The enormous cruelties will be a perpetual stain on the memory of Count Tilly, who not only committed, but even commanded the troops to put them in practice. Wherever he came, the most horrid barbarities and cruel depredations ensued: famine and conflagration marked his progress: for he destroyed all the provisions he could not take with him, and burnt all the towns before he left them; so that the full result of his conquests were murder, poverty, and desolation.
An aged and pious divine they stripped naked, tied him on his back upon a table, and fastened a large, fierce cat upon his belly. They then pricked and tormented the cat in such a manner that the creature with rage tore his belly open, and gnawed his bowels.
Another minister and his family were seized by these inhuman monsters; they ravished his wife and daughter before his face; stuck his infant son upon the point of a lance, and then surrounding him with his whole library of books, they set fire to them, and he was consumed in the midst of the flames.
In Hesse-Cassel some of the troops entered an hospital, in which were principally mad women, when stripping all the poor wretches naked, they made them run about the streets for their diversion, and then put them all to death.
In Pomerania, some of the imperial troops entering a small town, seized upon all the young women, and girls of upwards of ten years, and then placing their parents in a circle, they ordered them to sing Psalms, while they ravished their children, or else they swore they would cut them to pieces afterward. They then took all the married women who had young children, and threatened, if they did not consent to the gratification of their lusts, to burn their children before their faces in a large fire, which they had kindled for that purpose.
A band of Count Tilly's soldiers meeting a company of merchants belonging to Basel, who were returning from the great market of Strassburg, attempted to surround them; all escaped, however, but ten, leaving their properties behind. The ten who were taken begged hard for their lives: but the soldiers murdered them saying, "You must die because you are heretics, and have got no money."
The same soldiers met with two countesses, who, together with some young ladies, the daughters of one of them, were taking an airing in a landau. The soldiers spared their lives, but treated them with the greatest indecency, and having stripped them all stark naked, bade the coachman drive on.
By means and mediation of Great Britain, peace was at length restored to Germany, and the Protestants remained unmolested for several years, until some new disturbances broke out in the Palatinate, which were thus occasioned:
The great Church of the Holy Ghost, at Heidelberg, had, for many years, been shared equally by the Protestants and Roman Catholics in this manner: the Protestants performed divine service in the nave or body of the church; and the Roman Catholics celebrated Mass in the choir. Though this had been the custom from time immemorial, the elector of the Palatinate, at length, took it into his head not to suffer it any longer, declaring, that as Heidelberg was the place of his residence, and the Church of the Holy Ghost the cathedral of his principal city, divine service ought to be performed only according to the rites of the Church of which he was a member. He then forbade the Protestants to enter the church, and put the papists in possession of the whole.
The aggrieved people applied to the Protestant powers for redress, which so much exasperated the elector, that he suppressed the Heidelberg catechism. The Protestant powers, however, unanimously agreed to demand satisfaction, as the elector, by this conduct, had broken an article of the treaty of Westphalia; and the courts of Great Britain, Prussia, Holland, etc., sent deputies to the elector, to represent the injustice of his proceedings, and to threaten, unless he changed his behavior to the Protestants in the Palatinate, that they would treat their Roman Catholic subjects with the greatest severity. Many violent disputes took place between the Protestant powers and those of the elector, and these were greatly augmented by the following incident: the coach of the Dutch minister standing before the door of the resident sent by the prince of Hesse, the host was by chance being carried to a sick person; the coachman took not the least notice, which those who attended the host observing, pulled him from his box, and compelled him to kneel; this violence to the domestic of a public minister was highly resented by all the Protestant deputies; and still more to heighten these differences, the Protestants presented to the deputies three additional articles of complaint.
• 1. That military executions were ordered against all Protestant shoemakers who should refuse to contribute to the Masses of St. Crispin.
• 2. that the Protestants were forbid to work on popish holy days, even in harvest time, under very heavy penalties, which occasioned great inconveniences, and considerably prejudiced public business.
• 3. That several Protestant ministers had been dispossessed of their churches, under pretence of their having been originally founded and built by Roman Catholics.
The Protestant deputies at length became so serious as to intimate to the elector, that force of arms should compel him to do the justice he denied to their representations. This menace brought him to reason, as he well knew the impossibility of carrying on a war against the powerful states who threatened him. He therefore agreed that the body of the Church of the Holy Ghost should be restored to the Protestants. He restored the Heidelberg catechism, put the Protestant ministers again in possession of the churches of which they had been dispossessed, allowed the Protestants to work on popish holy days, and, ordered, that no person should be molested for not kneeling when the host passed by.
These things he did through fear; but to show his resentment to his Protestant subjects, in other circumstances where Protestant states had no right to interfere, he totally abandoned Heidelberg, removing all the courts of justice to Mannheim, which was entirely inhabited by Roman Catholics. He likewise built a new palace there, making it his place of residence; and, being followed by the Roman Catholics of Heidelberg, Mannheim became a flourishing place.
In the meantime the Protestants of Heidelberg sunk into poverty and many of them became so distressed as to quit their native country, and seek an asylum in Protestant states. A great number of these coming into England, in the time of Queen Anne, were cordially received there, and met with a most humane assistance, both by public and private donations.
In 1732, above thirty thousand Protestants were, contrary to the treaty of Westphalia, driven from the archbishopric of Salzburg. They went away in the depth of winter, with scarcely enough clothes to cover them, and without provisions, not having permission to take anything with them. The cause of these poor people not being publicly espoused by such states as could obtain them redress, they emigrated to various Protestant countries, and settled in places where they could enjoy the free exercise of their religion, without hurting their consciences, and live free from the trammels of popish superstition, and the chains of papal tyranny.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Pray for them!
(Nov 14) Bob Gass
‘Remember…those who are mistreated.’
(Heb 13:3) 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. ESV
The Bible tells us, ‘Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters’ (v. 1 NIV 2011 Edition). Then it gets specific: ‘Remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.’ On April 18, 2007, three Christians in Turkey were killed for their beliefs. Necati Aydin was one of them. He was a thirty-five-year-old pastor in the city of Malatya, and Max Lucado tells his story: ‘By the time Necati reached the office, his two colleagues had already received visitors; five young men who’d expressed an interest in the Christian faith. But the inquisitors brought more than questions. They brought guns, bread knives, ropes, and towels. The attackers brandished their weapons and told Necati to pray the Islamic prayer of conversion: “There is no God except Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.” When Necati refused, the torture began. For an agonising hour the assailants bound, interrogated, and cut Christians. Finally, with the police pounding on the door, they sliced the throats of their victims. The last word heard from the office was the cry of an unswerving Christian: “Messiah! Messiah!” Such stories have a way of silencing us. This morning’s traffic jam is no longer worth the mention…Such stories make us ask ourselves: “Would I make the sacrifice? Would I cry out, Messiah! Messiah? Would I give up my life?”’ When we complain about frivolous things, you have to wonder. The Bible says you’re to pray for your fellow Christians around the world who are suffering ‘as if [you yourself] were suffering.’
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Born a slave, he taught himself to read, and attended school after working all day. At age 25 he founded the Tuskegee Institute and recruited George Washington Carver to join the staff. At the time of his death, which occurred this day, November 14, 1915, the school had grown to over 1,500 students. His name was Booker T. Washington, and he was the first Black to have his picture on a U.S. postage stamp and a U.S. coin. He was also the first Black elected to the Hall of Fame. Booker T. Washington declared: “I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.”American Minute
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
It would be rash to say that there is any prayer which God never grants. But the strongest candidate is the prayer we might express in the single word encore. And how should the Infinite repeat Himself? All space and time are too little for Him to utter Himself in them once.
And the joke, or tragedy, of it all is that these golden moments in the past, which are so tormenting if we erect them into a norm, are entirely nourishing, wholesome, and enchanting if we are content to accept them for what they are, for memories. Properly bedded down in a past which we do not miserably try to conjure back, they will send up exquisite growths. Leave the bulbs alone, and the new flowers will come up. Grub them up and hope, by fondling and sniffing, to get last year's blooms, and you will get nothing. "Unless a seed die … “
I expect we all do much the same with the prayer for our daily bread. It means, doesn't it, all we need for the day - "things requisite and necessary as well for the body as for the soul." I should hate to make this clause "purely religious" by thinking of "spiritual" needs alone. One of its uses, to me, is to remind us daily that what Burnaby calls the naïf view of prayer is firmly built into Our Lord's teaching.
Forgive us … as we forgive. Unfortunately there's no need to do any festooning here. To forgive for the moment is not difficult. But to go on forgiving, to forgive the same offence again every time it recurs to the memory-there's the real tussle. My resource is to look for some action of my own which is open to the same charge as the one I'm resenting. If I still smart to remember how “A” let me down, I must still remember how I let “B” down. If I find it difficult to forgive those who bullied me at school, let me, at that very moment, remember, and pray for, those I bullied. (Not that we called it bullying, of course. That is where prayer with out words can be so useful. In it there are no names; therefore no aliases.)
I was never worried myself by the words lead us not into temptation, but a great many of my correspondents are. The words suggest to them what someone has called "a fiend-like conception of God," as one who first forbids us certain fruits and then lures us to taste them. But the Greek word (….) means "trial"-"trying circumstances"-of every sort; a far larger word than English "temptation." So that the petition essentially is "Make straight our paths.
Spare us, where possible, from all crises, whether of temptation or affliction." By the way, you yourself, though you've doubtless forgotten it, gave me an excellent gloss on it: years ago in the pub at Coton. You said it added a sort of reservation to all our preceding prayers. As if we said, "In my ignorance I have asked for A, B, and C. But don't give me them if you foresee that they would in reality be to me either snares or sorrows." And you quoted Juvenal, numinibus vota exau malignis, "enormous prayers which heaven in vengeance grants." For we make plenty of such prayers. If God had granted all the silly prayers I've made in my life, where should I be now?
I don’t often use the kingdom, the power, and the glory. When I do, I have an idea of the kingdom as sovereignty de jure; God, as good, would have a claim on my obedience even if He had no power. The power is the sovereignty de facto-He is omnipotent. And the glory is-well, the glory; the "beauty so old and new," the "light from behind the sun."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad
for eight years,
and I can say what most conductors can't say;
I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.
--- Harriet Tubman
Fill you mind with the meaningless stimuli of a world
preoccupied with meaningless things,
and it will not be easy to feel peace in your heart.
--- Marianne Williamson
When the ax entered the forest, the trees said, "The handle is one of us!"
--- Turkish proverb
Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
--- Martin Luther King Jr.
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
though a person may do wrong for a crust of bread.
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
Discovering divine designs
I being in the way, the Lord led me.… --- Genesis 24:27.
We have to be so one with God that we do not continually need to ask for guidance. Sanctification means that we are made the children of God, and the natural life of a child is obedience—until he wishes to be disobedient, then instantly there is the intuitive jar. In the spiritual domain the intuitive jar is the monition of the Spirit of God. When He gives the check, we have to stop at once and be renewed in the spirit of our mind in order to make out what God’s will is. If we are born again of the Spirit of God, it is the abortion of piety to ask God to guide us here and there. “The Lord led me,” and on looking back we see the presence of an amazing design, which, if we are born of God, we will credit to God.
We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the culture of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail. Never allow that the haphazard is anything less than God’s appointed order, and be ready to discover the Divine designs anywhere. Beware of making a fetish of consistency to your convictions instead of being devoted to God. ‘I shall never do that’—in all probability you will have to, if you are a saint. There never was a more inconsistent Being on this earth than Our Lord, but He was never inconsistent to His Father. The one consistency of the saint is not to a principle, but to the Divine life. It is the Divine life which continually makes more and more discoveries about the divine mind. It is easier to be a fanatic than a faithful soul, because there is something amazingly humbling, particularly to our religious conceit, in being loyal to God.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Well, I said, better to wait
for him on some peninsula
of the spirit. Surely for one
with patience he will happen by
once in a while. It was the heart
spoke. The mind, skeptical as always
of the anthropomorphisms
of the fancy, knew he must be put together
like a poem or a composition
in music, that what he conforms to
is art. A promontory is a bare
place; no God leans down
out of the air to take the hand
extended to him. The generations have
in vain. We are beginning to see
now it is matter is the scaffolding
of spirit; that the poem emerges
from morphemes and phonemes; that
as form in sculpture is the prisoner
of the hard rock, so in everyday life
it is the plain facts and natural happenings
that conceal God and reveal him to us
little by little under the mind's tooling.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Maimonides’ Guide was addressed to those who could not sever their understanding of nature from their relationship to God. Their religious sensibilities were nurtured by intelligibility and the capacity to understand Judaism through universal criteria of truth. To accept the claim that Jewish spirituality does not isolate them from the universal community of rational men, such individuals must be shown that nothing in Judaism violates that religious sensibility they acquired from Maimonides’ insistence that physics and metaphysics are part of Talmud. They cannot be satisfied with Maimonides’ explanation of ḥukkim in the Eight Chapters. As readers of the Guide, they know that as long as ḥukkim convey the same form of immediacy as miracles, they are blocked from approaching Torah through reason. They cannot locate the God of being within Torah as long as they confront norms which appear to suggest that God desires unconditional obedience rather than understanding. These students may not be repelled logically by appeals to the will of God to explain commandments since creation allows for the possibility of the unintelligible. However, their religious sensibilities would force them to look elsewhere for guidance in their spiritual lives.
Maimonides cannot separate the world of Halakhah from its relationship to God. In order, therefore, for one to relate to the Halakhah, he must first be drawn to the God of Halakhah. One who has been nurtured by the spiritual way of reason will find his individual way within the system of Torah law only if the God who is the ground of Halakhah draws men on the basis of reason. It is to this person that Maimonides addresses his chapters on the commandments in The Guide of the Perplexed. The central thrust of the Maimonidean theory of commandments is to show how the laws of the Torah reflect a rational lawgiver and not simply the will of a God who is primarily interested in submission and obedience. Maimonides’ method of revealing the wisdom of the lawgiver of the Torah, in part, is to explain the historical conditions at the time of the giving of Torah. Maimonides is not simply engaged in historically oriented biblical scholarship; many aspects of Torah law become intelligible in light of those conditions.
In chapter two, it was shown that a key feature of Maimonides’ understanding of Halakhah revolves around his approach to levels of worship. The talmudic teachers and the divine lawgiver were cognizant of the various spiritual capacities which were prevalent in the community. This awareness enabled them to issue norms and statements which led from a lower to a higher level of worship. Maimonides applies the same orientation which he discovered in the Talmud’s approach to levels of worship to his understanding of biblical law. He begins the chapter in the Guide which attempts to show the relationship between history and revelation with a description of teleological patterns in nature:
If you consider the Divine actions—I mean to say the natural actions—the Deity’s wily graciousness and wisdom, as shown in the creation of living beings, in the gradation of the motions of the limbs, and the proximity of some of the latter to others, will through them become clear to you.… Similarly the Deity made a wily and gracious arrangement with regard to all the individuals of the living beings that suck. For when born, such individuals are extremely soft and cannot feed on dry food. Accordingly breasts were prepared for them so that they should produce milk with a view to their receiving humid food, which is similar to the composition of their bodies, until their limbs gradually and little by little become dry and solid. Many things in our Law are due to something similar to this very governance on the part of Him who governs, may He be glorified and exalted. For a sudden transition from one opposite to another is impossible. And therefore man, according to his nature, is not capable of abandoning suddenly all to which he was accustomed.… and as at that time the way of life generally accepted and customary in the whole world and the universal service upon which we were brought up consisted in offering various species of living beings in the temples in which images were set up, in worshiping the latter, and in burning incense before them—the pious ones and the ascetics being at that time, as we have explained, the people who were devoted to the service of the temples consecrated to the stars—His wisdom, may He be exalted, and His gracious ruse, which is manifest in regard to all His creatures, did not require that He give us a Law prescribing the rejection, abandonment, and abolition of all these kinds of worship. For one could not then conceive the acceptance of [such a Law], considering the nature of man, which always likes that to which it is accustomed. At that time this would have been similar to the appearance of a Prophet in these times who, calling upon the people to worship God, would say: “God has given you a Law forbidding you to pray to Him, to fast, to call upon Him for help in misfortune. Your worship should consist solely in meditation without any works at all.”
This statement reveals Maimonides’ attempt to indicate parallel structures within Torah and nature. The teleological patterns of nature are never far from the mind of the philosophic Jew who is seeking to understand the God of the Law. Just as the God of nature provides a nursing breast for the newborn child until it is able to digest heavier forms of food, so too does God in the Torah wean man from idolatry by allowing him to partake of those forms of worship (digestable food) which he could assimilate at his early stage of development.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” --- John 20:27.
What has been the church’s treatment of doubt? Classic Sermons on Faith and Doubt It has been very simple. “Burn the heretic!”
We have got past that physically; have we got past it morally? What does the modern church say to [the] skeptical? Not “Burn them!” but “Brand them!” Perhaps that is the treatment we are inclined to give to those who cannot see the truths of Christianity as we see them.
Contrast Christ’s treatment of doubt. [Consider] his partiality for outsiders—for the scattered heretics up and down the country, of the care with which he dealt with them and of the respect in which he held their intellectual difficulties. Christ never failed to distinguish between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is can’t believe, unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is looking for light, unbelief is content with darkness. Loving darkness rather than light—that is what Christ attacked. But for the intellectual questioning of Thomas, Philip, Nicodemus, and the many others who came to him to have their problems solved, he was respectful and generous and tolerant.
And how did he meet their doubts? “Teach them.” Thomas came to him and denied his very resurrection and stood before him waiting for scathing words for his unbelief. They never came! Christ gave him facts—facts! No one can go around facts. Christ said, “Look at my hands and my feet” (Luke 24:39). The great god of science is a fact. Its cry is, “Give me facts. Base anything you like on facts, and we will believe it.” The spirit of Christ was the scientific spirit. He founded his religion on facts, and he asked all people to found their religion on facts.
Take people to the facts. Theologies are human versions of divine truths and hence the varieties and inconsistencies of them. Allow people to select whichever version of this truth they like afterward, but ask them to begin with no version but go back to the facts and base their Christian lives on these.
That is the great lesson of Christ’s treatment of doubt. It is not “Brand them!” but teach them. Faith is never opposed to reason in the New Testament; it is opposed to sight. You will find that a principle worth thinking over.
--- Henry Drummond
Civil war erupted in the Congo (Zaire) in the 1960s, and among the missionaries caught in the crossfire was William McChesney with Worldwide Evangelization Crusade. Though only five foot two, 110 pounds, Bill had an outsized personality that radiated cheer wherever he went. His coworkers dubbed him “Smiling Bill.”
On November 14, 1964, suffering from malaria, Bill, 28, was seized by Congolese rebels. Ten days later he was beaten mercilessly, his clothing ripped off, and he was thrown into a filthy, crowded cell. Catholic priests gave him their garments, for he was shaking violently from malarial fever. The next day he was dragged from the cell and killed.
Before leaving for Africa, Bill had written a poem explaining his desire for overseas missions. It said, in part:
I want my breakfast served at eight,
With ham and eggs upon the plate;
A well-broiled steak I’ll eat at one,
And dine again when day is done.
I want an ultramodern home
And in each room a telephone;
Soft carpets, too, upon the floors,
And pretty drapes to grace the doors.
I want my wardrobe, too, to be
Of neatest, finest quality,
With latest style in suit and vest:
Why should not Christians have the best?
But then the Master I can hear
In no uncertain voice, so clear:
“I bid you come and follow Me,
The lowly Man of Galilee.”
If he be God, and died for me,
No sacrifice too great can be
For me, a mortal man, to make;
I’ll do it all for Jesus’ sake.
Yes, I will tread the path He trod,
No other way to please my God;
So, henceforth, this my choice shall be,
My choice for all eternity.
You cannot be my disciple unless you carry your own cross and come with me. --- Luke 14:27.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 14
“I will cut off them that worship and that swear by the Lord, and that swear by Malcham.” --- Zephaniah 1:5.
Such persons thought themselves safe because they were with both parties: they went with the followers of Jehovah, and bowed at the same time to Malcham. But duplicity is abominable with God, and hypocrisy his soul hateth. The idolater who distinctly gives himself to his false god, has one sin less than he who brings his polluted and detestable sacrifice unto the temple of the Lord, while his heart is with the world and the sins thereof. To hold with the hare and run with the hounds, is a dastard’s policy. In the common matters of daily life, a double- minded man is despised, but in religion he is loathsome to the last degree. The penalty pronounced in the verse before us is terrible, but it is well deserved; for how should divine justice spare the sinner, who knows the right, approves it, and professes to follow it, and all the while loves the evil, and gives it dominion in his heart?
My soul, search thyself this Morning, and see whether thou art guilty of double-dealing. Thou professest to be a follower of Jesus—dost thou truly love him? Is thy heart right with God? Art thou of the family of old Father Honest, or art thou a relative of Mr. By-ends? A name to live is of little value if I be indeed dead in trespasses and sins. To have one foot on the land of truth, and another on the sea of falsehood, will involve a terrible fall and a total ruin. Christ will be all or nothing. God fills the whole universe, and hence there is no room for another god; if, then, he reigns in my heart, there will be no space for another reigning power. Do I rest alone on Jesus crucified, and live alone for him? Is it my desire to do so? Is my heart set upon so doing? If so, blessed be the mighty grace which has led me to salvation; and if not so, O Lord, pardon my sad offence, and unite my heart to fear thy name.
Evening - November 14
“And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.” --- Genesis 29:26.
We do not excuse Laban for his dishonesty, but we scruple not to learn from the custom which he quoted as his excuse. There are some things which must be taken in order, and if we would win the second we must secure the first. The second may be the more lovely in our eyes, but the rule of the heavenly country must stand, and the elder must be married first. For instance, many men desire the beautiful and well-favoured Rachel of joy and peace in believing, but they must first be wedded to the tender-eyed Leah of repentance. Every one falls in love with happiness, and many would cheerfully serve twice seven years to enjoy it, but according to the rule of the Lord’s kingdom, the Leah of real holiness must be beloved of our soul before the Rachel of true happiness can be attained. Heaven stands not first but second, and only by persevering to the end can we win a portion in it. The cross must be carried before the crown can be worn. We must follow our Lord in his humiliation, or we shall never rest with him in glory.
My soul, what sayest thou, art thou so vain as to hope to break through the heavenly rule? Dost thou hope for reward without labour, or honour without toil? Dismiss the idle expectation, and be content to take the ill-favoured things for the sake of the sweet love of Jesus, which will recompense thee for all. In such a spirit, labouring and suffering, thou wilt find bitters grow sweet, and hard things easy. Like Jacob, thy years of service will seem unto thee but a few days for the love thou hast to Jesus; and when the dear hour of the wedding feast shall come, all thy toils shall be as though they had never been—an hour with Jesus will make up for ages of pain and labour.
Jesus, to win thyself so fair,
Thy cross I will with gladness bear:
Since so the rules of heaven ordain,
The first I’ll wed the next to gain.
REJOICE, YE PURE IN HEART
Edward H. Plumptre, 1821–1891
Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him. (Psalm 33:1)
The hallmark of the Christian life is a joyous spirit. The Bible teaches that “a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). And singing has an important part in the life of joy. It can be the mind’s greatest solace and can express its noblest inspiration. For the person who learns to enjoy it, singing has therapeutic value.
A joyous, singing spirit should not be limited to a Sunday worship experience. Every day is the time to rejoice. Let us never forget that “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” should be the ultimate goal of all human existence.
Edward H. Plumptre, the author of this hymn, was a graduate of Oxford University and a minister in the Anglican state church. He was recognized as a brilliant scholar and was appointed to be a member of the Old Testament Committee for the revision of the Authorized Version of the Bible. He authored a number of scholarly works, translated numerous Latin hymns, and had several volumes of his own poetry published.
This hymn was written for the annual choir festival at Peterborough Cathedral, England, May, 1865. It was used as a processional when the choirs from a number of different communities entered and sang in the great cathedral. The hymn first appeared in the 1868 appendix to Hymns Ancient and Modern, the well-known Anglican hymnal of the past century. These words still inspire believers to “rejoice, give thanks, and sing!”
Rejoice, ye pure in heart; rejoice, give thanks, and sing; your festal banner wave on high, the cross of Christ your King.
With all the angel choirs, with all the saints on earth, pour out the strains of joy and bliss, true rapture, noblest mirth!
Still lift your standard high, still march in firm array; as warriors through the darkness toil till dawns the golden day.
Yes, on through life’s long path, still chanting as you go; from youth to age, by night and day, in gladness and in woe.
Then on, ye pure in heart, rejoice, give thanks, and sing; your festal banner wave on high, the cross of Christ your King
Refrain: Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice give thanks, and sing!
For Today: Psalm 24:3, 4; 32:11; 33:1; 51:10–13
Say with the psalmist David: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Sing this musical reminder ---
(1). How severely Hath he punished his most noble creatures for it. The once glorious angels, upon whom he had been at greater cost than upon any other creatures, and drawn more lively lineaments of his own excellency, upon the transgression of his law, are thrown into the furnace of justice, without any mercy to pity them (Jude 6). And though there were but one sort of creatures upon the earth that bore his image, and were only fit to publish and keep up his honor below the heavens, yet, upon their apostasy, though upon a temptation from a subtle and insinuating spirit, the man, with all his posterity, is sentenced to misery in life, and death at last; and the woman, with all her sex, have standing punishments inflicted on them, which, as they begun in their persons, were to reach as far as the last member of their successive generations. So holy is God, that he will not endure a spot in his choicest work. Men, indeed, when there is a crack in an excellent piece of work, or a stain upon a rich garment, do not cast, it away; they value it for the remaining excellency, more than hate it for the contracted spot; but God saw no excellency in his creature worthy regarding, after the image of that which he most esteemed in himself was defaced.
(2). How detestable to him are the very instruments of sin! For the ill use the serpent, an irrational creature, was put to by the devil, as an instrument in the fall of man, the whole brood of those animals are cursed (Gen. 3:14), “cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field.” Not only the devil’s head is threatened to be for ever bruised, and, as some think, rendered irrecoverable upon this further testimony of his malice in the seduction of man, who, perhaps, without this new act, might have been admitted into the arms of mercy, notwithstanding his first sin; “though the Scripture gives us no account of this, only this is the only sentence we read of pronounced against the devil, which puts him into an irrecoverable state by a mortal bruising of his head.” But, I say, he is not only punished, but the organ, whereby he blew in his temptation, is put into a worse condition than it was before. Thus God hated the sponge, whereby the devil deformed his beautiful image: thus God, to manifest his detestation of sin, ordered the beast, whereby any man was slain, to be slain as well as the malefactor (Lev. 20:15). The gold and silver that had been abused to idolatry, and were the ornaments of images, though good in themselves, and incapable of a criminal nature, were not to be brought into their houses, but detested and abhorred by them, because they were cursed, and an abomination to the Lord. See with what loathing expressions this law is enjoined to them (Deut. 7:25, 26). So contrary is the holy nature of God to every sin, that it curseth everything that is instrumental in it.
(3.) How detestable is everything to him that is in the sinner’s possession! The very earth, which God had made Adam the proprietor of, was cursed for his sake (Gen. 3:17, 18). It lost its beauty, and lies languishing to this day; and, notwithstanding the redemption by Christ, hath not recovered its health, nor is it like to do, till the completing the fruits of it upon the children of God (Rom. 8:20–22). The whole lower creation was made subject to vanity, and put into pangs, upon the sin of man, by the righteousness of God detesting his offence. How often hath his implacable aversion from sin been shown, not only in his judgments upon the offender’s person, but by wrapping up, in the same judgment, those which stood in a near relation to them! Achan, with his children and cattle, are overwhelmed with stones, and burned together (Josh. 7:24, 25). In the destruction of Sodom, not only the grown malefactors, but the young spawn, the infants, at present incapable of the same wickedness, and their cattle, were burned up by the same fire from heaven; and the place where their habitations stood, is, at this day, partly a heap of ashes, and partly an infectious lake, that chokes any fish that swims into it from Jordan, and stifles, as is related , by its vapor, any bird that attempts to fly over it. O, how detestable is sin to God, that causes him to turn a pleasant land, as the “garden of the Lord” (as it is styled Gen. 13:10), into a lake of sulphur; to make it, both in his word and works, as a lasting monument of his abhorence of evil.
(4.) What design hath God in all these acts of severity and vindictive justice, but to set off the lustre of his holiness? He testifies himself concerned for those laws, which he hath set as hedges and limits to the lusts of men; and, therefore, when he breathes forth his fiery indignation against a people, he is said to get himself honor: as when he intended the hued Sea, should swallow up the Egyptian army (Exod. 14:17, 18), which Moses, in his triumphant song, echoes back again (Exod. 15:1): “Thou hast triumphed gloriously;” gloriously in his holiness, which is the glory of his nature, as Moses himself interprets it in the text. When men will not own the holiness of God, in a way of duty, God will vindicate it in a way of justice and punishment. In the destruction of Aaron’s sons, that were willworshippers, and would take strange fire, “sanctified” and “glorified” are coupled (Lev. 10:3): he glorified himself in that act, in vindicating his holiness before all the people, declaring that he will not endure sin and disobedience. He doth therefore, in this life, more severely punish the sins of his people, when they presume upon any act of disobedience, for a testimony that the nearness and dearness of any person to him shall not make him unconcerned in his holiness, or be a plea for impurity. The end of all his judgments is to witness to the world his abominating of sin. To punish and witness against men, are one and the same thing (Micah 1:2): “The Lord shall witness against you;” and it is the witness of God’s holiness (Hos. 5:5): “And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face:” one renders it the excellency of Israel, and understands it of God: the word נאון , which is here in our translation, “pride,” is rendered “excellency” (Amos 8:7): “The Lord God hath sworn by his excellency;” which is interpreted “holiness” (Amos 4:2) “The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness.” What is the issue or end of this swearing by “holiness,” and of his “excellency” testifying against them? In all those places, you will find them to be sweeping judgments: in one, Israel and Ephraim shall “fall in their iniquity;” in another, he will “take them away with hooks,” and “their posterity with fish-hooks;” and in another, he would “never forget any of their works.” He that punisheth wickedness in those he before used with the greatest tenderness, furnisheth the world with an undeniable evidence of the detestableness of it to him. Were not judgments sometimes poured out upon the world, it would be believed that God were rather an approver than an enemy to sin. To conclude, since God hath made a stricter law to guide men, annexed promises above the merit of obedience to allure them, and threatenings dreadful enough to affright men from disobedience, he cannot be the cause of sin, nor a lover of it. How can he be the author of that which he so severely forbids; or love that which he delights to punish; or be fondly indulgent to any evil, when he hates the ignorant instruments in the offences of his reasonable creatures?
Thirdly. The holiness of God appears in our restoration. It is in the glass of the gospel we behold the “glory of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18); that is, the glory of the Lord, into whose image we are changed; but we are changed into nothing, as the image of God, but into holiness: we bore not upon us by creation, nor by regeneration, the image of any other perfection: we cannot be changed into his omnipotence, omniscience , &c., but into the image of his righteousness. This is the pleasing and glorious sight the gospel mirror darts in our eyes. The whole scene of redemption is nothing else but a discovery of judgment and righteousness (Isa. 1:27): “Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.”
1. This holiness of God appears in the manner of our restoration, viz. by the death of Christ. Not all the vials of judgments, that have, or shall be poured out upon the wicked world, nor the flaming furnace of a sinner’s conscience, nor the irreversible sentence pronounced against the rebellious devils, nor the groans of the damned creatures, give such a demonstration of God’s hatred of sin, as the wrath of God let loose upon his Son. Never did Divine holiness appear more beautiful and lovely, than at the time our Saviour’s countenance was most marred in the midst of his dying groans. This himself acknowledges in that prophetical Psalm (22:1, 2), when God had turned his smiling face from him, and thrust his sharp knife into his heart, which forced that terrible cry from him, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He adores this perfection of holiness (ver. 3), “But thou art holy;” thy holiness is the spring of all this sharp agony, and for this thou inhabitest, and shalt forever inhabit, the praises of all thy Israel. Holiness drew the veil between God’s countenance and our Saviour’s soul. Justice indeed gave the stroke, but holiness ordered it. In this his purity did sparkle, and his irreversible justice manifested that all those that commit sin are worthy of death; this was the perfect index of his “righteousness” (Rom. 3:25), that is, of his holiness and truth; then it was that God that is holy, was “sanctified in righteousness” (Isa. 5:16). It appears the more, if you consider,
(1.) The dignity of the Redeemer’s person. One that had been from eternity; had laid the foundations of the world; had been the object of the Divine delight: he that was God blessed forever, become a curse; he who was blessed by angels, and by whom God blessed the world, must be seized with horror; the Son of eternity must bleed to death! When did ever sin appear so irreconcileable to God? Where did God ever break out so furiously in his detestation of iniquity? The Father would have the most excellent person, one next in order to himself, and equal to him in all the glorious perfections of his nature (Phil. 2:6), die on a disgraceful cross, and be exposed to the flames of Divine wrath, rather than sin should live, and his holiness remain forever disparaged by the violations of his law.
(2.) The near relation he stood in to the Father. He was his “own Son that he delivered up” (Rom. 8:32); his essential image, as dearly beloved by him as himself; yet he would abate nothing of his hatred of those sins imputed to one so dear to him, and who never had done anything contrary to his will. The strong cries uttered by him could not cause him to cut off the least fringe of this royal garment, nor part with a thread the robe of his holiness was woven with. The torrent of wrath is opened upon him, and the Father’s heart beats not in the least notice of tenderness to sin, in the midst of his Son’s agonies. God seems to lay aside the bowels of a father, and put on the garb of an irreconcileable enemy, upon which account, probably, our Saviour in the midst of his passion gives him the title of God; not of Father, the title he usually before addressed to him with, (Matt. 27:46), “My God, my God;” not, My Father, my Father; “why hast thou forsaken me?” He seems to hang upon the cross like a disinherited son, while he appeared in the garb and rank of a sinner. Then was his head loaded with curses, when he stood under that sentence of “Cursed is every one that hangs upon a tree” (Gal. 3:13), and looked as one forlorn and rejected by the Divine purity and tenderness. God dealt not with him as if he had been one in so near a relation to him. He left him not to the will only of the instruments of his death; he would have the chiefest blow himself of bruising of him (Isa. 53:10): “It pleased the Lord to bruise him:” the Lord, because the power of creatures could not strike a blow strong enough to satisfy and secure the rights of infinite holiness. It was therefore a cup tempered and put into his hands by his Father; a cup given him to drink. In other judgments he lets out his wrath against his creatures; in this he lets out his wrath, as it were, against himself, against his Son, one as dear to him as himself. As in his making creatures, his power over nothing to bring it into being appeared; but in pardoning sin he hath power over himself; so in punishing creatures, his holiness appears in his wrath against creatures, against sinners by inherency; but by punishing sin in his Son, his holiness sharpens his wrath against him who was his equal, and only a reputed sinner; as if his affection to his own holiness surmounted his affection to his Son: for he chose to suspend the breakings out of his affections to his Son, and see him plunged in a sharp and ignominious misery, without giving him any visible token of his love, rather than see his holiness he groaning under the injuries of a transgressing world.
(3.) The value he puts upon his holiness appears further, in the advancement of this redeeming person, after his death. Our Saviour was advanced, not barely for his dying, but for the respect he had in his death to this attribute of God (Heb. 1:9): “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity: therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness,” &c. By righteousness is meant this perfection, because of the opposition of it to iniquity. Some think “therefore” to be the final cause; as if this were the sense, “Thou art anointed with the oil of gladness, that thou mightest love righteousness and hate iniquity.” But the Holy Ghost seeming to speak in this chapter not only of the Godhead of Christ but of his exaltation; the doctrine whereof he had begun in ver. 3, and prosecutes in the following verses, I would rather understand “therefore,” for “this cause, or reason, hath God anointed thee;” not “to this end.” Christ indeed had an unction of grace, whereby he was fitted for his mediatory work; he had also an unction of glory, whereby he was rewarded for it. In the first regard, it was a qualifying him for his office; in the second regard, it was a solemn inaugurating him in his royal authority. And the reason of his being settled upon a “throne for ever and ever,” is, “because he loved righteousness.” He suffered himself to be pierced to death, that sin, the enemy of God’s purity, might be destroyed, and the honor of the law, the image of God’s holiness, might be repaired and fulfilled in the fallen creature. He restored the credit of Divine holiness in the world, in manifesting, by his death, God an irreconcileable enemy to all sin; in abolishing the empire of sin, so hateful to God, and restoring the rectitude of nature, and new framing the image of God in his chosen ones. And God so valued this vindication of his holiness, that he confers upon him, in his human nature, an eternal royalty and empire over angels and men. Holiness was the great attribute respected by Christ in his dying, and manifested in his death; and for his love to this, God would bestow an honor upon his person, in that nature wherein he did vindicate the honor of so dear a perfection. In the death of Christ, he showed his resolution to preserve its rights; in the exaltation of Christ, be evinced his mighty pleasure for the vindication of it; in both, the infinite value he had for it, as dear to him as his life and glory.
(4.) It may be further considered, that in this way of redemption, his holiness in the hatred of sin seems to be valued above any other attribute. He proclaims the value of it above the person of his Son; since the Divine nature of the Redeemer is disguised, obscured, and vailed, in order to the restoring the honor of it. And Christ seems to value it above his own person, since he submitted himself to the reproaches of men, to clear this perfection of the Divine nature, and make it illustrious in the eyes of the world. You heard before, at the beginning of the handling this argument, it was the beauty of the Deity, the lustre of his nature, the link of all his attributes, his very life; he values it equal with himself, since he swears by it, as well as by his life; and none of his attributes would have a due decorum without it; it is the glory of power, mercy, justice, and wisdom, that they are all holy; so that though God had an infinite tenderness and compassion to the fallen creature, yet it should not extend itself in his relief to the prejudice of the rights of his purity: he would have this triumph in the tenderness of his mercy, as well as the severities of his justice. His merey had not appeared in its true colors, nor attained a regular end, without vengeance on sin. It would have been a compassion that would, in sparing the sinner, have encouraged the sin, and affronted holiness in the issues of it: had he dispersed his compassions about the world, without the regard to his hatred of sin, his mercy had been too cheap, and his holiness had been contemned; his mercy would not have triumphed in his own nature, whilst his holiness had suffered; he had exercised a mercy with the impairing his own glory; but now, in this way of redemption, the rights of both are secured, both have their due lustre: the odiousness of sin is equally discovered with the greatest of his compassions; an infinite abhorrence of sin, and an infinite love to the world, march hand in hand together. Never was so much of the irreconcileableness of sin to him set forth, as in the moment he was opening his bowels in the reconciliation of the sinner. Sin is made the chiefest mark of his displeasure, while the poor creature is made the highest object of Divine pity. There could have been no motion of mercy, with the least injury to purity and holiness. In this way mercy and truth, mercy to the misery of the creature, and truth to the purity of the law, “have met together;” the righteousness of God, and the peace of the sinner, “have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10).
2. The holiness of God in his hatred of sin appears in our justification, and the conditions he requires of all that would enjoy the benefit of redemption. His wisdom hath so tempered all the conditions of it, that the honor of his holiness is as much preserved, as the sweetness of his mercy is experimented by us; all the conditions are records of his exact purity, as well as of his condescending grace. Our justification is not by the imperfect works of creatures, but by an exact and infinite righteousness, as great as that of the Deity which had been offended: it being the righteousness of a Divine person, upon which account it is called the righteousness of God; not only in regard of God’s appointing it, and God’s accepting it, but as it is a righteousness of that person that was God, and is God. Faith is the condition God requires to justification; but not a dead, but an active faith, such a “faith as purifies the heart” (James 2:20; Acts 15:9). He calls for repentance, which is a moral retracting our offences, and an approbation of contemned righteousness and a violated law; an endeavor to gain what is lost, and to pluck out the heart of that sin we have committed. He requires mortification, which is called crucifying; whereby a man would strike as full and deadly a blow at his lusts, as was struck at Christ upon the cross, and make them as certainly die, as the Redeemer did. Our own righteousness must be condemned by us, as impure and imperfect: we must disown everything that is our own, as to righteousness, in reverence to the holiness of God, and the valuation of the righteousness of Christ. He hath resolved not to bestow the inheritance of glory without the root of grace. None are partakers of the Divine blessedness that are not partakers of the Divine nature: there must be a renewing of his image before there be a vision of his face (Heb. 12:14). He will not have men brought only into a relative state of happiness by justification, without a real state of grace by sanctification; and so resolved he is in it, that there is no admittance into heaven of a starting, but a persevering holiness (Rom. 2:7), “a patient continuance in well-doing:” patient, under the sharpness of affliction, and continuing, under the pleasures of prosperity. Hence it is that the gospel, the restoring doctrine, hath not only the motives of rewards to allure to good, and the danger of punishments to scare us from evil, as the law had; but they are set forth in a higher strain, in a way of stronger engagement; the rewards are heavenly, and the punishments eternal: and more powerful motives besides, from the choicer expressions of God’s love in the death of his Son. The whole design of it is to reinstate us in a resemblance to this Divine perfection; whereby he shows what an affection he hath to this excellency of his nature, and what a detestation he hath of evil, which is contrary to it.
3. It appears in the actual regeneration of the redeemed souls, and a carrying it on to a full perfection. As election is the effect of God’s sovereignty, our pardon the fruit of his mercy, our knowledge a stream from his wisdom, our strength an impression of his power; so our purity is a beam from his holiness. The whole work of sanctification, and the preservation of it, our Saviour begs for his disciples of his Father, under this title (John 17:11, 17): “Holy Father, keep them through thy own name,” and “sanctify them through thy truth;” as the proper source whence holiness was to flow to the creature: as the sun is the proper fountain whence light is derived, both to the stars above, and the bodies here below. Whence He is not only called Holy, but the Holy One of Israel (Isa. 43:15), “I am the Lord your Holy One, the Creator of Israel:” displaying his holiness in them, by a new creation of them as his Israel. As the rectitude of the creature at the first creation was the effect of his holiness, so the purity of the creature, by a new creation, is a draught of the same perfection. He is called the Holy One of Israel more in Isaiah, that evangelical prophet, in erecting Zion, and forming a people for himself; than in the whole Scripture besides. As he sent Jesus Christ to satisfy his justice for the expiation of the guilt of sin, so he sends the Holy Ghost for the cleansing of the filth of sin, and overmastering the power of it: Himself is the fountain, the Son is the pattern, and the Holy Ghost the immediate imprinter of this stamp of holiness upon the creature. God hath such a value for this attribute, that he designs the glory of this in the renewing the creature, more than the happiness of the creature; though the one doth necessarily follow upon the other, yet the one is the principal design, and the other the consequent of the former: whence our salvation is more frequently set forth, in Scripture, by a redemption from sin, and sanctification of the soul, than by a possession of heaven. Indeed, as God could not create a rational creature, without interesting this attribute in a special manner, so he cannot restore the fallen creature without it. As in creating a rational creature, there must be holiness to adorn it, as well as wisdom to form the design, and power to effect it; so in the restoration of the creature, as he could not inake a reasonable creature unholy, so he cannot restore a fallen creature, and put him in a meet posture to take pleasure in him, without communicating to him a resemblance of himself. As God cannot be blessed in himself without this perfection of purity, so neither can a creature be blessed without it. As God would be unlovely to himself without this attribute, so would the creature be unlovely to God, without a stamp and mark of it upon his nature. So much is this perfection one with God, valued by him, and interested in all his works and ways!
III. The third thing I am to do, is to lay down some proposition in the defence of God’s holiness in all his acts, about, or concerning sin. It was a prudent and pious advice of Camero, not to be too busy and rash in inquiries and conclusions about the reason of God’s providence in the matter of sin. The Scripture hath put a bar in the way of such curiosity, by telling us, that the ways of God’s wisdom and righteousness in his judgments are “unsearchable” (Rom. 11:33): much more the ways of God’s holiness, as he stands in relation to sin, as a Governor of the world; we cannot consider those things without danger of slipping: our eyes are too weak to look upon the sun without being dazzled: too much curiosity met with a just check in our first parent. To be desirous to know the reason of all God’s proceedings in the matter of sin, is to second the ambition of Adam, to be as wise as God, and know the reason of his actings equally with himself. It is more easy, as the same author saith, to give an account of God’s providence since the revolt of man, and the poison that hath universally seized upon human nature, than to make guesses at the manner of the fall of the first man. The Scripture hath given us but a short account of the manner of it, to discourage too curious inquiries into it. It is certain that God made man upright; and when man sinned in paradise, God was active in sustaining the substantial nature and act of the sinner while he was sinning, though not in supporting the sinfulness of the act: he was permissive in suffering it: he was negative in witholding that grace which might certainly have prevented his crime, and consequently his ruin; though he withheld nothing that was sufficient for his resistance of that temptation wherewith he was assaulted. And since the fall of man, God, as a wise governor, is directive of the events of the transgression, and draws the choicest good out of the blackest evil, and limits the sins of men, that they creep not so far as the evil nature of men would urge them to; and as a righteous Judge, he takes away the talent from idle servants, and the light from wicked ones, whereby they stumble and fall into crimes, by the inclinations and proneness of their own corrupt natures, leaves them to the bias of their own vicious habits, denies that grace which they have forfeited, and have no right to challenge, and turns their sinful actions into punishments, both to the committers of them and others.
Prop. I. God’s holiness is not chargeable with any blemish for his creating man in a mutable state. It is true, angels and men were created with a changeable nature; as though there was a rich and glorious stamp upon them by the hand of God, yet their natures were not incapable of a base and vile stamp from some other principle: as the silver which bears upon it the image of a great prince, is capable of being melted down, and imprinted with no better an image than that of some vile and monstrous beast. Though God made man upright, yet he was capable of seeking “many inventions” (Eccl. 7:29); yet the hand of God was not defiled by forming man with such a nature. It was suitable to the wisdom of God to give the rational creature, whom he had furnished with a power of acting righteously, the liberty of choice, and not fix him in an unchangeable state without a trial of him in his natural; that if he did obey, his obedience might be the more valuable; and if he did freely offend, his offence might be more inexcusable.
1. No creature can be capable of immutability by nature. Mutability is so essential to a creature, that a creature cannot be supposed without it; you must suppose it a Creator, not a creature, if you allow it to be of an immutable nature. Immutability is the property of the Supreme Being. God “only hath immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16); immortality, as opposed not only to a natural, but to a sinful death; the word only appropriates every sort of immortality to God, and excludes every creature, whether angel or man, from a partnership with God in this by nature. Every creature, therefore, is capable of a death in sin. “None is good but God,” and none is naturally free from change but God, which excludes every creature from the same prerogative; and certainly, if one angel sinned, all might have sinned, because there was the same root of mutability in one as well as another: It is as possible for a creature to be a Creator, as for a creature to have naturally an incommunicable property of the Creator. All things, whether angels or men, are made of nothing, and therefore, capable of defection; because a creature being made of nothing, cannot be good, per essentiam, or essentially good, but by participation from another. Again, every rational creature, being made of nothing, hath a superior which created him and governs him, and is capable of a precept; and, consequently, capable of disobedience as well as obedience to the precept, to transgress it, as well as obey it. God cannot sin, because he can have no superior to impose a precept on him. A rational creature, with a liberty of will and power of choice, cannot be made by nature of such a mould and temper, but he must be as well capable of choosing wrong, as of choosing right; and, therefore, the standing angels, and glorified saints, though they are immutable, it is not by nature that they are so, but by grace, and the good pleasure of God; for though they are in heaven, they have still in their nature a remote power of sinning, but it shall never be brought into act, because God will always incline their wills to love him, and never concur with their wills to any evil act. Since, therefore, mutability is essential to a creature as a creature, this changeableness cannot properly be charged upon God as the author of it; for it was not the term of God’s creating act, but did necessarily result from the nature of the creature, as unchangeableness doth result from the essence of God. The brittleness of a glass is no blame to the art of him that blew up the glass into such a fashion; that imperfection of brittleness is not from the workman, but the matter; so, though unchangeableness be an imperfection, yet it is so necessary a one, that no creature can be naturally without it; besides, though angels and men were mutable by creation, and capable to exercise their wills, yet they were not necessitated to evil, and this mutability did not infer a necessity that they should fall, because some angels, which had the same root of changeableness in their natures with those that fell, did not fall, which they would have done, if capableness of changing, and necessity of changing, were one and the same thing.
2. Though God made the creature mutable, yet he made him not evil. There could be nothing of evil in him that God created after his own image, and pronounced “good” (Gen. 1:27, 31). Man had an ability to stand, as well as a capacity to fall: he was created with a principal of acting freely, whereby he was capable of loving God as his chief good, and moving to him as his last end; there was a beam of light in man’s understanding to know the rule he was to conform to, a harmony between his reason and his affections, an original righteousness: so that it seemed more easy for him to determine his will to continue in obedience to the precept, than to swerve from it; to adhere to God as his chief good, than to listen to the charms of Satan. God created him with those advantages, that he might with more facility have kept his eyes fixed upon the Divine beauty, than turn his back upon it, and with greater ease have kept the precept God gave him, than have broken it. The very first thought darted, or impression made, by God, upon the angelical or human nature, was the knowledge of himself as their Author, and could be no more than such whereby both angels and men might be excited to a love of that adorable Being, that had framed them so gloriously out of nothing; and if they turned their wills and affections to another object it was not by the direction of God, but contrary to the impression God had made upon them, or the first thought he flashed into them. They turned themselves to the admiring their own excellency, or affecting an advantage distinct from that which they were to look for only from God (1 Tim. 3:6). Pride was the cause of the condemnation of the devil. Though the wills of angels and men were created mutable, and so were imperfect, yet they were not created evil. Though they might sin, yet they might not sin, and, therefore, were not evil in their own nature. What reflection, then, could this mutability of their nature be upon God? So far is it from any, that he is fully cleared, by storing up in the nature of man sufficient provision against his departure from him. God was so far from creating him evil, that he fortified him with a knowledge in his understanding, and a strength in his nature to withstand any invasion. The knowledge was exercised by Eve, in the very moment of the serpent’s assaulting her (Gen. 3:3); Eve said to the serpent, “God hath said, ye shall not eat of it:” and had her thoughts been intent upon this, “God hath said,” and not diverted to the motions of the sensitive appetite and liquorish palate, it had been sufficient to put by all the passes the devil did, or could have made at her. So that you see, though God made the creature mutable, yet he made him not evil. This clears the holiness of God.
3. Therefore it follows, That though God created man changeable, yet he was not the cause of his change by his fall. Though man was created defectible, yet he was not determined by God influencing his will by any positive act to that change and apostasy. God placed him in a free posture, set life and happiness before him on the one hand, misery and death on the other; as he did not draw him into the arms of perpetual blessedness, so he did not drive him into the gulf of his misery. He did not incline him to evil. It was repugnant to the goodness of God to corrupt the righteousness of those faculties he had so lately beautified him with. It was not likely he should deface the beauty of that work he had composed with so much wisdom and skill. Would he, by any act of his own, make that bad, which, but a little before, he had acquiesced in as good? Angels and men were left to their liberty and conduct of their natural faculties; and if God inspired them with any motions, they could not but be motions to good, and suited to that righteous nature he had endued them with. But it is most probable that God did not, in a supernatural way, act inwardly upon the mind of man, but left him wholly to that power, which he had, in creation, furnished him with. The Scripture frees God fully from any blame in this, and lays it wholly upon Satan, as the tempter, and upon man, as the determiner of his own will (Gen. 3:6); Eve “took of the fruit, and did eat;” and Adam took from her of the fruit, “and did eat.” And Solomon (Eccles. 7:29) distinguisheth God’s work in the creation of man “upright,” from man’s work in seeking out those ruining inventions. God created man in a righteous state, and man cast himself into a forlorn state. As he was a mutable creature, he was from God; as he was a changed and corrupted creature, it was from the devil seducing, and his own pliableness in admitting. As silver, and gold, and other metals, were created by God in such a form and figure, yet capable of receiving other forms by the industrious art of man; when the image of a man is put upon a piece of metal, God is not said to create that image, though he created the substance with such a property, that it was capable of receiving it; this capacity is from the nature of the metal by God’s creation of it, but the carving the figure of this or that man is not the act of God, but the act of man. As images, in Scripture, are called the work of men’s hands, in regard of the imagery, though the matter, wood or stone, upon which the image was carved, was a work of God’s creative power.
When an artificer frames an excellent instrument, and a musician exactly tunes it, and it comes out of their hands without a blemish, but capable to be untuned by some rude hand, or receive a crack by a sudden fall, if it meet with a disaster, is either the workman or musician to be blamed? The ruin of a house, caused by the wastefulness or carelessness of the tenant, is not to be imputed to the workman that built it strong, and left it in a good posture.
The Existence and Attributes of God