11/20/2022 Yesterday Tomorrow
Acts 18 - 20
Paul in CorinthActs 18:1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16 And he drove them from the tribunal. 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.
Paul Returns to Antioch18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. 21 But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.
22 When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. 23 After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
Apollos Speaks Boldly in Ephesus24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
Paul in EphesusActs 19:1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
The Sons of Sceva11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
A Riot at Ephesus21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.
23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”
28 When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. 30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
35 And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 40 For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.
Paul in Macedonia and GreeceActs 20:1 After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. 3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 4 Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.
Eutychus Raised from the Dead7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. 9 And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” 11 And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. 12 And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.
13 But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. 15 And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.
Paul Speaks to the Ephesian Elders17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them:
“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
What I'm Reading
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
Introduction by The Rev. John Murray, M.A., Th.M.
THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD NATURALLY IMPLANTED IN THE HUMAN MIND.
1. The knowledge of God being manifested to all makes the reprobate without excuse. Universal belief and acknowledgement of the existence of God.
2. Objection--that religion and the belief of a Deity are the inventions of crafty politicians. Refutation of the objection. This universal belief confirmed by the examples of wicked men and Atheists.
3. Confirmed also by the vain endeavours of the wicked to banish all fear of God from their minds. Conclusion, that the knowledge of God is naturally implanted in the human mind.
1. That there exists in the human minds and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of Deity, we hold to be beyond dispute, since God himself, to prevent any man from pretending ignorance, has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead, the memory of which he constantly renews and occasionally enlarges, that all to a man being aware that there is a God, and that he is their Maker, may be condemned by their own conscience when they neither worship him nor consecrate their lives to his service. Certainly, if there is any quarter where it may be supposed that God is unknown, the most likely for such an instance to exist is among the dullest tribes farthest removed from civilisation. But, as a heathen tells us,  there is no nation so barbarous, no race so brutish, as not to be imbued with the conviction that there is a God. Even those who, in other respects, seem to differ least from the lower animals, constantly retain some sense of religion; so thoroughly has this common conviction possessed the mind, so firmly is it stamped on the breasts of all men. Since, then, there never has been, from the very first, any quarter of the globe, any city, any household even, without religion, this amounts to a tacit confession, that a sense of Deity is inscribed on every heart. Nay, even idolatry is ample evidence of this fact. For we know how reluctant man is to lower himself, in order to set other creatures above him. Therefore, when he chooses to worship wood and stone rather than be thought to have no God, it is evident how very strong this impression of a Deity must be; since it is more difficult to obliterate it from the mind of man, than to break down the feelings of his nature,--these certainly being broken down, when, in opposition to his natural haughtiness, he spontaneously humbles himself before the meanest object as an act of reverence to God.
2. It is most absurd, therefore, to maintain, as some do, that religion was devised by the cunning and craft of a few individuals, as a means of keeping the body of the people in due subjection, while there was nothing which those very individuals, while teaching others to worship God, less believed than the existence of a God. I readily acknowledge, that designing men have introduced a vast number of fictions into religion, with the view of inspiring the populace with reverence or striking them with terror, and thereby rendering them more obsequious; but they never could have succeeded in this, had the minds of men not been previously imbued with that uniform belief in God, from which, as from its seed, the religious propensity springs. And it is altogether incredible that those who, in the matter of religion, cunningly imposed on their ruder neighbours, were altogether devoid of a knowledge of God. For though in old times there were some, and in the present day not a few are found who deny the being of a God, yet, whether they will or not, they occasionally feel the truth which they are desirous not to know. We do not read of any man who broke out into more unbridled and audacious contempt of the Deity than C. Caligula,  and yet none showed greater dread when any indication of divine wrath was manifested. Thus, however unwilling, he shook with terror before the God whom he professedly studied to condemn. You may every day see the same thing happening to his modern imitators. The most audacious despiser of God is most easily disturbed, trembling at the sound of a falling leaf. How so, unless in vindication of the divine majesty, which smites their consciences the more strongly the more they endeavour to flee from it. They all, indeed, look out for hiding-places where they may conceal themselves from the presence of the Lord, and again efface it from their mind; but after all their efforts they remain caught within the net. Though the conviction may occasionally seem to vanish for a moment, it immediately returns, and rushes in with new impetuosity, so that any interval of relief from the gnawing of conscience is not unlike the slumber of the intoxicated or the insane, who have no quiet rest in sleep, but are continually haunted with dire horrific dreams. Even the wicked themselves, therefore, are an example of the fact that some idea of God always exists in every human mind.
3. All men of sound Judgment will therefore hold, that a sense of Deity is indelibly engraven on the human heart. And that this belief is naturally engendered in all, and thoroughly fixed as it were in our very bones, is strikingly attested by the contumacy of the wicked, who, though they struggle furiously, are unable to extricate themselves from the fear of God. Though Diagoras,  and others of like stamps make themselves merry with whatever has been believed in all ages concerning religion, and Dionysus scoffs at the Judgment of heaven, it is but a Sardonian grin; for the worm of conscience, keener than burning steel, is gnawing them within. I do not say with Cicero, that errors wear out by age, and that religion increases and grows better day by day. For the world (as will be shortly seen) labours as much as it can to shake off all knowledge of God, and corrupts his worship in innumerable ways. I only say, that, when the stupid hardness of heart, which the wicked eagerly court as a means of despising God, becomes enfeebled, the sense of Deity, which of all things they wished most to be extinguished, is still in vigour, and now and then breaks forth. Whence we infer, that this is not a doctrine which is first learned at school, but one as to which every man is, from the womb, his own master; one which nature herself allows no individual to forget, though many, with all their might, strive to do so. Moreover, if all are born and live for the express purpose of learning to know God, and if the knowledge of God, in so far as it fails to produce this effect, is fleeting and vain, it is clear that all those who do not direct the whole thoughts and actions of their lives to this end fail to fulfil the law of their being. This did not escape the observation even of philosophers. For it is the very thing which Plato meant (in Phoed. et Theact.) when he taught, as he often does, that the chief good of the soul consists in resemblance to God; i.e., when, by means of knowing him, she is wholly transformed into him. Thus Gryllus, also, in Plutarch (lib. guod bruta anim. ratione utantur), reasons most skilfully, when he affirms that, if once religion is banished from the lives of men, they not only in no respect excel, but are, in many respects, much more wretched than the brutes, since, being exposed to so many forms of evil, they continually drag on a troubled and restless existence: that the only thing, therefore, which makes them superior is the worship of God, through which alone they aspire to immortality.
 "Intelligi necesse est deos, quoniam insitas eorum vel potius innatas cognitiones habemus.--Quae nobis natura informationem deorum ipsorum dedit, eadem insculpsit in mentibus ut eos aeternos et beatos haberemus."--Cic. de Nat. Deor. lib. 1 c. 17.--"Itaque inter omnes omnium gentium summa constat; omnibus enim innatum est, et in animo quasi insculptum esse deos."--Lib. 2. c. 4. See also Lact. Inst. Div. lib. 3 c. 10.
 Suet. Calig. c. 51.
 Cic. De Nat. Deor. lib. 1 c. 23. Valer. Max. lib. 1. c. 1.
THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD STIFLED OR CORRUPTED, IGNORANTLY OR MALICIOUSLY.
1. The knowledge of God suppressed by ignorance, many falling away into superstition. Such persons, however, inexcusable, because their error is accompanied with pride and stubbornness.
2. Stubbornness the companion of impiety.
3. No pretext can justify superstition. This proved, first, from reason; and, secondly, from Scripture.
4. The wicked never willingly come into the presence of God. Hence their hypocrisy. Hence, too, their sense of Deity leads to no good result.
1. But though experience testifies that a seed of religion is divinely sown in all, scarcely one in a hundred is found who cherishes it in his heart, and not one in whom it grows to maturity so far is it from yielding fruit in its season. Moreover, while some lose themselves in superstitious observances, and others, of set purpose, wickedly revolt from God, the result is that, in regard to the true knowledge of him, all are so degenerate, that in no part of the world can genuine godliness be found. In saying that some fall away into superstition, I mean not to insinuate that their excessive absurdity frees them from guilt; for the blindness under which they labour is almost invariably accompanied with vain pride and stubbornness. Mingled vanity and pride appear in this, that when miserable men do seek after God, instead of ascending higher than themselves as they ought to do, they measure him by their own carnal stupidity, and, neglecting solid inquiry, fly off to indulge their curiosity in vain speculation. Hence, they do not conceive of him in the character in which he is manifested, but imagine him to be whatever their own rashness has devised. This abyss standing open, they cannot move one footstep without rushing headlong to destruction. With such an idea of God, nothing which they may attempt to offer in the way of worship or obedience can have any value in his sight, because it is not him they worship, but, instead of him, the dream and figment of their own heart. This corrupt procedure is admirably described by Paul, when he says, that "thinking to be wise, they became fools" (Rom. 1:22). He had previously said that "they became vain in their imaginations," but lest any should suppose them blameless, he afterwards adds that they were deservedly blinded, because, not contented with sober inquiry, because, arrogating to themselves more than they have any title to do, they of their own accord court darkness, nay, bewitch themselves with perverse, empty show. Hence it is that their folly, the result not only of vain curiosity, but of licentious desire and overweening confidence in the pursuit of forbidden knowledge, cannot be excused.
2. The expression of David (Psalm 14:1, 53:1), "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God," is primarily applied to those who, as will shortly farther appear, stifle the light of nature, and intentionally stupefy themselves. We see many, after they have become hardened in a daring course of sin, madly banishing all remembrance of God, though spontaneously suggested to them from within, by natural sense. To show how detestable this madness is, the Psalmist introduces them as distinctly denying that there is a God, because although they do not disown his essence, they rob him of his justice and providence, and represent him as sitting idly in heaven. Nothing being less accordant with the nature of God than to cast off the government of the world, leaving it to chance, and so to wink at the crimes of men that they may wanton with impunity in evil courses; it follows, that every man who indulges in security, after extinguishing all fear of divine Judgment, virtually denies that there is a God. As a just punishment of the wicked, after they have closed their own eyes, God makes their hearts dull and heavy, and hence, seeing, they see not. David, indeed, is the best interpreter of his own meaning, when he says elsewhere, the wicked has "no fear of God before his eyes," (Psalm 36:1); and, again, "He has said in his heart, God has forgotten; he hideth his face; he will never see it." Thus although they are forced to acknowledge that there is some God, they, however, rob him of his glory by denying his power. For, as Paul declares, "If we believe not, he abideth faithful, he cannot deny himself," (2 Tim. 2:13); so those who feign to themselves a dead and dumb idol, are truly said to deny God. It is, moreover, to be observed, that though they struggle with their own convictions, and would fain not only banish God from their minds, but from heaven also, their stupefaction is never so complete as to secure them from being occasionally dragged before the divine tribunal. Still, as no fear restrains them from rushing violently in the face of God, so long as they are hurried on by that blind impulse, it cannot be denied that their prevailing state of mind in regard to him is brutish oblivion.
3. In this way, the vain pretext which many employ to clothe their superstition is overthrown. They deem it enough that they have some kind of zeal for religion, how preposterous soever it may be, not observing that true religion must be conformable to the will of God as its unerring standard; that he can never deny himself, and is no spectra or phantom, to be metamorphosed at each individual's caprice. It is easy to see how superstition, with its false glosses, mocks God, while it tries to please him. Usually fastening merely on things on which he has declared he sets no value, it either contemptuously overlooks, or even undisguisedly rejects, the things which he expressly enjoins, or in which we are assured that he takes pleasure. Those, therefore, who set up a fictitious worship, merely worship and adore their own delirious fancies; indeed, they would never dare so to trifle with God, had they not previously fashioned him after their own childish conceits. Hence that vague and wandering opinion of Deity is declared by an apostle to be ignorance of God: "Howbeit, then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods." And he elsewhere declares, that the Ephesians were "without God" (Eph. 2:12) at the time when they wandered without any correct knowledge of him. It makes little difference, at least in this respect, whether you hold the existence of one God, or a plurality of gods, since, in both cases alike, by departing from the true God, you have nothing left but an execrable idol. It remains, therefore, to conclude with Lactantius (Instit. Div. lib 1:2, 6), "No religion is genuine that is not in accordance with truth."
4. To this fault they add a second--viz. that when they do think of God it is against their will; never approaching him without being dragged into his presence, and when there, instead of the voluntary fear flowing from reverence of the divine majesty, feeling only that forced and servile fear which divine Judgment extorts Judgment which, from the impossibility of escape, they are compelled to dread, but which, while they dread, they at the same time also hate. To impiety, and to it alone, the saying of Statius properly applies: "Fear first brought gods into the world," (Theb. lib. 1). Those whose inclinations are at variance with the justice of God, knowing that his tribunal has been erected for the punishment of transgression, earnestly wish that that tribunal were overthrown. Under the influence of this feeling they are actually warring against God, justice being one of his essential attributes. Perceiving that they are always within reach of his power, that resistance and evasion are alike impossible, they fear and tremble. Accordingly, to avoid the appearance of condemning a majesty by which all are overawed, they have recourse to some species of religious observance, never ceasing meanwhile to defile themselves with every kind of vice, and add crime to crime, until they have broken the holy law of the Lord in every one of its requirements, and set his whole righteousness at nought; at all events, they are not so restrained by their semblance of fear as not to luxuriate and take pleasure in iniquity, choosing rather to indulge their carnal propensities than to curb them with the bridle of the Holy Spirit. But since this shadow of religion (it scarcely even deserves to be called a shadow) is false and vain, it is easy to infer how much this confused knowledge of God differs from that piety which is instilled into the breasts of believers, and from which alone true religion springs. And yet hypocrites would fain, by means of tortuous windings, make a show of being near to God at the very time they are fleeing from him. For while the whole life ought to be one perpetual course of obedience, they rebel without fear in almost all their actions, and seek to appease him with a few paltry sacrifices; while they ought to serve him with integrity of heart and holiness of life, they endeavour to procure his favour by means of frivolous devices and punctilios of no value. Nay, they take greater license in their grovelling indulgences, because they imagine that they can fulfil their duty to him by preposterous expiations; in short, while their confidence ought to have been fixed upon him, they put him aside, and rest in themselves or the creatures. At length they bewilder themselves in such a maze of error, that the darkness of ignorance obscures, and ultimately extinguishes, those sparks which were designed to show them the glory of God. Still, however, the conviction that there is some Deity continues to exist, like a plant which can never be completely eradicated, though so corrupt, that it is only capable of producing the worst of fruit. Nay, we have still stronger evidence of the proposition for which I now contend--viz. that a sense of Deity is naturally engraven on the human heart, in the fact, that the very reprobate are forced to acknowledge it. When at their ease, they can jest about God, and talk pertly and loquaciously in disparagement of his power; but should despair, from any cause, overtake them, it will stimulate them to seek him, and dictate ejaculatory prayers, proving that they were not entirely ignorant of God, but had perversely suppressed feelings which ought to have been earlier manifested.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Sacramental Laurus
By Rod Dreher 3/29/2016
I was reading to the kids the other night from Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia, by Suzanne Massie. It’s a wonderfully written book. Here’s a passage that caught my eye. Christianity first came to Russia in 988, with the conversion of the Kievan Prince Vladimir to Orthodoxy. In this passage, Massie explains how the Slavs brought their own traditions into the forms handed to them from Byzantium:
For the Slavs, the destines of man, animals and plants were all blended into one; they blossomed and died together. For them, beauty lay primarily in an all-embracing, all-encompassing nature. To their church, the Russians brought this close feeling for nature. The Earth was the ideal of Eternal Womanhood, and so in Russia, there never was the extreme Latin veneration and cult of the Virgin as the Virgin of Purity but more importantly as the Virgin of Motherhood, fertility, and compassion; the Virgin was rarely portrayed without a child. Permeated by this sense of unity with nature and the earth, the Russians interpreted Christians rebirth quite literally as the beautifying and transfiguration of human life. The church building itself had a twofold meaning. It embodied the significance of the Resurrection and was also part of the natural world, blending harmoniously into the landscape.
The Orthodox believe that it is possible to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in a man and to convey it to others by artistic means. Therefore, the function of an icon painter had much in common with that of a priest, and although it was important for an icon painter to be a good artist, it was essential for him to be a good Christian. Those who painted icons had to prepare themselves spiritually: fast, pray, read religious texts, for it was a true test, not only a pictorial work in the usual sense.
… For an Orthodox worshiper, icons were far more than paintings; they were the palpable evidence of things hidden and a testimony to the possibility of man’s participation in the transfigured world which he sought to contemplate. The role of icons was not static but alive, a dynamic means by which man could actively enter into the spiritual world, a song of faith to man’s spiritual power to redeem himself by beauty and art.
Rod Dreher is an American writer and editor. He is a senior editor and blogger at The American Conservative and author of several books, including How Dante Can Save Your Life.
Rod Dreher Books:
- 1 Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature ... America (or at least the Republican Party)
- 2 How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem
- 3 The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life
- 4 The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation
The Churches We Need
By Gracy Olmstead 8/24/2016
Why aren’t people going to church? It could have more to do with the car drive than with philosophical agnosticism or disillusionment. Emma Green considers a new Pew survey on religious participation and church attendance over at The Atlantic:
While Americans on the whole are still going to church and other worship services less than they used to, many people are actually going more—and those who are skipping out aren’t necessarily doing it for reasons of belief.
… First, people who report going to worship services less frequently now than they used to overwhelmingly say the logistics of getting there are the biggest obstacle. Second, a significant number of people who said they’re not part of any particular religion expressed mistrust of religious institutions, suggesting these organizations’ reputations have something to do with why people are dropping out of public religious participation.
… While it’s easy to empathize with the hassle of trying to wake up and rally kids to go sit still for several hours every Sunday morning, this explanation is interesting for a slightly different reason: It suggests that many people view religious services as optional in a way they might not have in the past. Fifty or 60 years ago, churches, in particular, were a center of social and cultural life in America. For many people, that’s still the case, but the survey suggests that many people may be creating their social lives outside of a religious context—or perhaps forgoing that kind of social connection altogether.
To some degree, these findings are indicative of a society in which churches increasingly sit on the sidelines of cultural life. Geographically, they’re distanced from the actual places where people live and work (a consequence, some might argue, of suburban sprawl or consumer-centric urban planning). Culturally, they’ve grown increasingly segregated from the dominant political and artistic voices of our time. Communally, many churches have invested less in the needy and destitute than in building bigger church buildings or organizing short-term mission trips overseas (not to denigrate international ministry—but it does seem that many churches invest more internationally than they do locally).
Gracy Olmstead is an associate editor at TAC. In addition to The American Conservative, she has written for The Washington Times, the Idaho Press Tribune, The Federalist, and Acculturated. Follow Gracy on Twitter @GracyOlmstead, or e-mail at email@example.com.
The Churches We Need, Pt. II
By Gracy Olmstead 8/26/2016
TAC commenters are the best commenters. Thank you for all of you who offered thoughtful input and commentary on my last piece regarding the church and declining attendance.
Here are some responses to those comments—because they offered excellent food for thought, and I wanted to give some deeper thought to them. 1,000-or-so-word blog posts aren’t adequate to address the depth and complexity of the issues the U.S. church is facing, and it’s worth considering these issues in greater detail. So without further ado, here’s a look at some of the main objections I received Wednesday:
It’s About Catechesis, Not Community
This is true to some extent: don’t go to a heretical church, even if it’s just across the street. Don’t abandon doctrine or orthodoxy in your efforts to connect with a body of believers. When referring to “denominational difference” in the original piece, I was referring more to minor issues of worship or layout than core doctrinal considerations. If we’re considering two churches that are both Bible-preaching and doctrinally sound, then choosing between them becomes a matter of other, more gray issues: such as location, size, and communal integration.
Because we’re discussing this issue in the public sphere, and because logistics are what people pinpoint as keeping them from church on Sundays, I think it’s important not to simply say, “The right doctrine and sound preaching will keep people in the pews.” It should—that’s true. We would hope that, as one commenter points out, “the Church that preaches repentance and hope” would draw and keep a congregation. It’s about the Gospel, first and foremost.
Gracy Olmstead is an associate editor at TAC. In addition to The American Conservative, she has written for The Washington Times, the Idaho Press Tribune, The Federalist, and Acculturated. Follow Gracy on Twitter @GracyOlmstead, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on Blaise Pascal
By Kenneth R. Samples 4/19/16
Did you know that the first digital calculator was invented by a seventeenth-century French mathematician? In his brief time on Earth, Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) wore many hats and left an imprint on both modern science and Christian philosophy that lingers to this day. Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of Blaise Pascal—and why he still matters today.
Who Was Blaise Pascal?
Blaise Pascal lived during the scientific revolution and worked as a mathematician, physicist, inventor, polemicist, and writer. His invention of the calculator was one of the major achievements of the early scientific revolution and the precursor to the modern computer.
Pascal grew up as a nominal Catholic, but as an adult he had a dramatic religious experience that led him to commit his life to Christ and to put his remarkable mind to work for Christ’s kingdom. As a Christian philosopher, theologian, and apologist, Pascal provided a penetrating and provocative analysis of Christianity’s broader world-and-life view. In particular, Pascal’s wager argument was a key contribution to Christian apologetics. He accomplished all this before dying at the age of 39.
What Did Pascal Write?
Philosopher and theologian Kenneth Richard Samples has a great passion to help people understand the reasonableness and relevance of Christianity's truth claims. Through his writing and speaking as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), he encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical worldview level.
An intellectual even at a young age, Kenneth's journey to faith in Christ began in earnest during his teenage years as he wrestled with a deep sense of longing and restlessness. His older brother's suicide spurred his efforts to seek answers to life's "big questions." Eventually, he began reading the Bible and attending church, but it was his sister's gift of Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis that helped Kenneth to truly understand the Christian Gospel and to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying and deeply personal faith.
Today, Kenneth focuses on demonstrating the unique compatibility of Christianity's great doctrinal truths with reason and logic. He is the author of several books, including God Among Sages, Christian Endgame, 7 Truths That Changed the World, A World of Difference, and Without a Doubt. He leads RTB's Straight Thinking podcast and also writes Reflections, a weekly blog dedicated to exploring the Christian worldview. Kenneth has spoken at universities and churches around the world on such topics as religion and worldview, the identity of Jesus, and Christian apologetics. He also makes frequent guest appearances on radio programs such as The Frank Sontag Show, Issues Etc., and Stand to Reason, lectures as an adjunct professor at Biola University, and teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California.
An avid student of American history, Kenneth earned a BA in social science with an emphasis in history and philosophy from Concordia University and an MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. Prior to joining RTB in 1997, Kenneth worked for seven years as senior research consultant and correspondence editor at Christian Research Institute, where he regularly cohosted The Bible Answer Man, a popular call-in radio program founded by renowned apologist Dr. Walter Martin. In addition, Kenneth's articles have been published in Christianity Today, Christian Research Journal, and Facts for Faith, and he holds memberships in the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the International Society of Christian Apologetics.
Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan. They have three children.
Kenneth Richard Samples Books:
- 1 God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader
- 2 A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Reasons to Believe)
- 3 God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader
- 4 Christian Endgame: Careful Thinking about the End Times
- 5 Christianity's Most Dangerous Idea (Ebook Shorts)
By Don Carson 8/1/2018
One of the strangest accounts in the book of Acts concerns the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:11-20). Paul’s ministry in Ephesus lasted some considerable time, perhaps two and a half years, and during that time “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul”(19:11). The result is that various “competitors” tried to keep up with him. By itself, this was not surprising. It has always been so. When God especially empowered Moses to perform miracles before Pharaoh, the magicians of Egypt could reproduce most (though not all) of what he did.
So in Paul’s day some Jews steeped in syncretism traveled around, engaging in some kind of deliverance ministry. They had little idea what they were engaged in. When they saw what Paul was doing in the name of Jesus, they started to refer to that name too, as if it were nothing more than some magic talisman: “They would say, ‘In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’” (Acts 19:13).
The seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish priest, were particularly engaged in this operation. One day the evil spirit they were trying to exercise talked back to them: “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15). Then the man possessed by this spirit leaped on them and beat up all seven of them.
First, the result of this encounter was entirely beneficial. When the story circulated, many were seized with a healthy fear and an enlarged respect for the name of the Lord Jesus. This was a name so powerful that it could not be treated as a magic formula. This name could not be domesticated. The result was that infatuation with occult practices was curbed. Many confessed their evil deeds, and others brought their occult books and burned them, totaling an enormous value (Acts 19:17-19). “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (Acts 19:20).
Second, the really striking element is the utterance of the evil spirit: “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” One can understand why Jesus would be known among demonic powers. There is no surprise there. But Paul is known too! His ministry had been assaulting the powers of darkness. He was known to be protected and defended by the living Christ — there is no way the demon could have used the possessed man to beat him up. These other characters were another matter; as far as the demon was concerned, they were a bit of a joke, easily ignored, easily subdued and shamed. But Paul was known!
Christians engaging the Enemy will be known not only in the courts of heaven but in the courts of hell.
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 8/2/2018
Paul's address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:18-35) can be broken down into three parts. In the first (Acts 20:18-24), Paul talks about his own ministry in Ephesus and his own future. In the second (Acts 20:25-31), he uses his example of ministry as an encouragement to the elders in Ephesus to “keep watch” over themselves and over “all the flock” of God (Acts 20:28) of which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers, with special emphasis on the challenges ahead when people within the church will prove eager to gain disciples and be prepared to distort the truth. In the third (Acts 20:32-35), Paul not only commits these elders “to God and to the word of his grace” (Acts 20:32), but quietly testifies again to the exacting standards of personal probity in his own life when he served among them.
More commonly than not, when this passage is preached we lay the emphasis on the central section. But here I would like to draw attention to some of the features that characterized Paul’s ministry.
(1) The most obvious is the fact that Paul perceived how he lived and served to be a role model. Elsewhere he openly tells the Corinthians to imitate him, as he imitates Christ (1 Cor. 11). In Paul there is no trace of a double standard. Do what I teach but not what I do.
(2) Paul “served the Lord with great humility and with tears,” even though he was “severely tested” by the machinations of “the Jews” (Acts 20:19). In other words, opposition neither defeated him nor whipped him into a frenzy of retaliation. By contrast, how easy it is to get discouraged and quit, or get angry and destroy what is being built.
(3) Paul’s ministry was edifying, and conveyed in a mixture of public meeting and faithful visitation (Acts 20:20). One gets the impression that above all it was the ministry of the Word, communicated through a man set on fire by that Word.
(4) Paul did not flinch from dealing with the immutables of the Gospel, no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular they might be. As a result he boldly declared, to Jews and Gentiles alike, “that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21).
(5) On occasion, Paul felt himself “compelled by the Spirit” to adopt a certain course without knowing exactly where that course would lead (Acts 20:22-24). Having enough illumination to decide on an action does not guarantee enough information to know how things will turn out. In this case he knows only that he is promised “prison and hardships”– and all he wants for himself is to complete the task the Lord Jesus has given him, “the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
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
Perspectives on Social Ethics 3 - Christ’s Teachings on Social Ethics
By Charles C. Ryrie 1976
The image of Jesus Christ as an ethical Reformer has evoked a variety of responses. Some think this was His primary mission on earth; others suggest that He did not concern Himself at all with social questions. And of course, a whole spectrum of views exists between these two extremes. That He was a great Teacher of social ethics is supported by a distinguished Jewish scholar, J. Klausner, who states, “The main strength of Jesus lay in his ethical teaching. If we omitted the miracles and a few mystical sayings which tend to deify the Son of Man, and preserved only the moral precepts and parables, the Gospels would count as one of the most wonderful collections of ethical teachings in the world.”
Other scholars give little place to His ethical teaching. The index to Emil Brunner’s classic The Divine Imperative lists forty-six references to Luther, thirty-five to Calvin, twenty to Paul, and none to Jesus (though by diligent search one is able to find an occasional allusion by Brunner to Jesus’ views on ethics). In the popularly held image of dispensationalism, the teachings of Jesus are thought to have no relevance to the church; furthermore, since His emphasis was on personal redemption He is not to be considered a social Reformer at all. T. A. Hegre, for example, in a book entitled The Cross and Sanctification: Three Aspects of the Cross, heads one of the chapters “Have You Lost Your Bible?” He devotes two pages to the disastrous effects of liberalism on the Bible, but five pages to what he calls the “damaging” results of dispensationalism. C. Norman Kraus, an evangelical, misrepresents dispensationalism by insisting that in it “Jesus’ life and teachings are lost to the Church.” A typical contemporary statement concerning the importance of the teachings of Jesus as they relate to ethics is expressed by the late Georgia Harkness, of the Pacific School of Religion:
… we cannot find our primary authority for the demands of Christian decision in the general field of moral philosophy, or in the moral standards of Christendom, past or present, or in the ethical pronouncements of the churches, corporately or through the words of any one of its leaders, though from all of these sources important insights may be gleaned which we cannot afford to overlook or to discard. It was also said that Christian ethics is rooted in the Bible, but not equally in all parts of it, the New Testament being our more definitive point of reference. It was said, furthermore, that within the New Testament no final authority is to be located in particular words or passages but rather in the total picture it gives of the person and work of our Lord, the life, teachings, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ as the revelation of God.
However, this ordained Methodist minister believed that the Gospels are the product of the first-century church and that one cannot indiscriminately “take every word recorded as spoken by Jesus to be accurate or authoritative.” Nevertheless, she defined Christian ethics as “the systematic study of the way of life set forth by Jesus Christ, applied to the daily demands and decisions of our personal and social existence.”
In the final analysis, all the various appraisals of the ethics of Jesus are mainly of academic interest, since the obvious task at hand is to discover, correlate, interpret, and apply what He said on these subjects. The discovery and correlation is not a difficult task. Anyone can do it with the aid of a concordance. But the interpretation and application are more difficult. Interpretation can be greatly assisted by the many good commentaries available, but application involves one’s views on hermeneutics, progress of revelation, and systematic theology.
Passages dealing with the teachings of Christ present probably the most difficult problem of proper and consistent interpretation of any portion of Scripture. The reason is simple: Christ lived and taught in relation to three different stewardship arrangements. He actually lived under the dispensation of the Mosaic law which was still very much in force all during His earthly life. Thus many of His teachings pertained to that economy. Since the New Testament says unequivocally that the law has been done away for the Christian ( 2 Cor 3:7–11; Heb 7:12; Rom 10:4 ), how shall one interpret the sayings of Christ which had to do with that economy?
Christ also delivered teachings about the coming church which would be inaugurated “when the Spirit is come.” These are not usually difficult to isolate since they are clearly distinguished from the actual time in which He was ministering. Most of these sayings are found in the Upper Room Discourse in John’s Gospel.
In addition, Christ taught many things about the kingdom. These passages represent undoubtedly the greatest challenge to proper and consistent interpretation. Confusion at this point is not hard to document. For example, a great Scottish preacher and New Testament scholar wrote the following: “Jesus came preaching a kingdom, and the very use of that idea raised profound social issues … Either Jesus must be king everywhere, or he has no place at all.” The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ And again, “If the Kingdom was the rule of God in the world, it followed, first, that the kingdom of God was social, not individualistic …” In order to find one’s way through the maze of the Gospels, it is necessary to realize that the Lord came proclaiming the imminency of the Messianic (Davidic) kingdom promised in the Old Testament. He announced the need for repentance and explained in the Sermon on the Mount what that would involve for individuals. But the immediate establishment of the kingdom was dependent on the heart acceptance of His claims by His Jewish kinsmen, a thing they were unwilling to do. So the kingdom was not established at that time; instead, revelation of the coming church was given. However, the kingdom promises were not abrogated but merely postponed until His second coming. Clearly, some of the things Jesus taught do relate primarily to the kingdom which is yet to be established. Yet those precepts may (and should) readily be applied to God’s people today, which explains why the dispensationalist does not tear out these pages from his Bible!
Jesus on Poverty and Wealth
More than a dozen references to money can be found in Jesus’ teachings.
Now this frequency of allusion might seem surprising until we remember how inextricably the whole question of money gets mixed up with the lives and experience of ordinary men and women in this world, even against their will. It gets mixed up even with fine, spiritual things — like the love of parents for their children, or the compassion of a good Samaritan for the distress of his neighbor, or the thank offering a man makes to God. Now Jesus was no fanciful dreamer, dwelling in the clouds; Jesus was a realist and saw the facts as they were. Here, then, was a whole aspect of life which could not be ignored. Here was a clamant need for all the guidance he could give.
What directions did He give concerning the monetary aspect of societal life?
At Bethany Jesus uttered the well-known statement, “For you have the poor with you always” ( Mark 14:7 ). By this He affirmed the inevitability of poverty as a social phenomenon. The occasion was His anointing by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus ( John 12:3 ), with costly ointment of pure nard. These twelve ounces of highly aromatic perfume were worth the equivalent of a year’s wages for the average agricultural worker. When the disciples protested that the money might better have been given to the poor, the Lord made His well-known remark. The statement should never be understood callously, as if Christ were saving one need never concern himself with the alleviation of poverty. In effect, Christ was saying that opportunities always exist to do something for the poor, but not always to do what had just been done to Him since He was about to be put to death. To put it another way, Jesus was saying that on that occasion “an extravagant gift of perfumed ointment was more appropriate than a donation to the poor.”
Jesus’ statement furnishes a second principle: The mere presence of poverty does not necessarily constitute a call to action to alleviate that poverty. If poverty alone constituted a call to action, then no Christian could justify having anything but the barest necessities of life since the poor are constantly everywhere. In view of the fact that ten thousand people die of starvation or malignant malnutrition every day, how could anyone justify steak when he could eat hamburger, or even hamburger when he could eat cereal, and so on? If a person “were to follow the slogan, ‘The need constitutes the call,’ he would soon be a nervous and starved wreck! It is not the goodness or necessity of a work which determines whether we can enter into it, but whether it is the specific will of God for us to do it at this time.” Charismatic Approach to Social Action Or to be explicit, it may be in the will of God to own and properly use expensive perfume rather than give the equivalent amount of money to the poor. Then again, the converse may be equally true in a given situation.
A third principle suggested by Jesus’ words in Mark 14:7 is this: The Lord commended sacrificial giving and condemned selfish and showy giving. The object of commendation was a poverty-stricken widow who gave all she had ( Mark 12:41–44 ). The Lord had just finished teaching in the Court of the Gentiles. Passing through one of the nine gates in the dividing wall around the Temple proper, he walked into the Court of the Women where the treasury was. Throngs of people were casting their offerings into the thirteen trumpetlike receptacles placed there for receiving religious and charitable contributions. A destitute widow cast in two small coins, the least valuable of any denomination then in use but representing her entire means of sustenance. Her gift not only demonstrated the highest kind of sacrifice, but also showed her complete trust in God to sustain her and provide her with a means of earning more. Two observations may be noted here: (a) all should give, even the poor; and (b) people should give proportionately and generously. The test of true giving is not simply what is given but what is retained.
A fourth principle is this: While the poor are blessed, it is desirable to work for self-advancement. Luke’s account of the Beatitudes begins, “Blessed are the poor” ( Luke 6:20 ). This is different from Matthew’s account where the words “in spirit” are added. Undoubtedly, actual poverty is meant here. However, the Lord is not saying the state of poverty is more desirable, as if men should renounce all their possessions, for elsewhere He clearly commends those who work for self-betterment. It is possible that the beatitude should be applied only to the disciples, indicating that they were blessed in their poverty as it made them more dependent on God. The parable of the pounds commends trading and legitimate gain ( Luke 19:11–28 ). Apparently each man could have gained additional pounds, thus showing that God commends industry and profit.
From Jesus’ teaching on wealth, four principles can be derived. First, He did not say that possessions were necessarily or intrinsically wrong. His circle of friends included well-to-do people like Joseph of Arimathaea ( Matt 27:57 ), Nicodemus ( John 3:1 ), the centurion of Capernaum ( Luke 7:2 ), the family at Bethany ( Luke 10:38 ), and the women who “ministered unto him of their substance” ( Luke 8:3 ). When the Lord demanded the rich young ruler to sell everything he owned, He was testing the ruler’s claim to have kept the commandments, especially the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” The young man’s unwillingness to obey belied his claim of obedience from childhood, and showed him to be a sinner in need of salvation ( Matt 19:16–22 ).
Second, Jesus did say that riches make it more difficult for a man to enter the kingdom of God ( Matt 19:24 ). The needle referred to in this verse is a sewing needle, which accentuates the solemnity of the warning. Christ did not say that a rich man could not be saved, but only that it is more difficult since such a person seldom senses his personal need as readily as a poorer man does.
Third, the Lord warned that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions ( Luke 12:15 ). Life derives its value from the way one makes use of his possessions; its continuance depends solely on the will of God.
Actually, these principles concerning wealth say not one word about social responsibility. They are all couched in a personal context, not a societal one. Thus there is no scriptural support for a statement like this: “For the Christian the ‘war on poverty’ is not a political option. It is a lifelong battle based on the mandate of Christ, who loved the poor,” The Social Conscience of the Evangelical Luke 16:20 being cited as scriptural support for the statement.
Fourth, in the parable of the unjust steward ( Luke 16:1–13 ), Jesus instructed believers on how to use money in the service of others. The ingenuity of the dishonest steward in using his present opportunities to prepare for the future is commended by Christ to His followers. They too should be ingenious in using the “mammon of unrighteousness” (v. 9 ) to assure rewards in heaven. The admonition is clear: Use money wisely in this life, so that when it fails (not “when ye fail”), that is, when you can no longer use money because death occurs, they (those you have helped during life) may receive (i.e., welcome) you into heaven. Who are these who are the objects of charity in this parable? Unquestionably they are also believers, for both donor and donees are seen in the “everlasting habitations.” “What the steward did in his sphere in relation to people of his own quality, see that you do in yours toward those who belong like you to the world to come.” Commentary on St. Luke's Gospel, 2 Volume Set Faith alone opens heaven, but good works gain an abundant entrance. Thus the Lord taught that money should be rightly used by His followers to help other followers. No word is found here concerning the believer’s responsibility outside the circle of disciples. The elimination of poverty or the equalizing of wealth was not Jesus’ goal.
Jesus on Duties to All Men
Are there no universals in Jesus’ teachings? Does He not commend social service to all men? Has the believer no obligation to unbelievers other than preaching the gospel to them?
Being Salt and Light
Christ’s two metaphors, salt and light, are often used as evidence of the need for penetration by the church into the world. Wirt explains the metaphors as believers “imparting flavor and wisdom and lasting value to all of life.” The Social Conscience of the Evangelical Usually salt is explained as the preservative power of the followers of Christ in this world, and light is explained as the attraction of the life and witness of believers.
What is Christ’s intention in likening believers to salt? The idea of preservative power of Christians in the world is certainly inherent is Jesus’ words. Plummer makes this comment:
Perhaps the connecting thought is, that Christians, like the Prophets who saved Israel from corruption, must be ready to suffer persecution … But they must beware lest, instead of preserving others, they themselves become tainted with rottenness. The salt must be in close contact with that which it preserves; and too often, while Christians raise the morality of the world, they allow their own morality to be lowered by the world. An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Matthew
Salt preserves; salt gives flavor; salt cleanses; salt de-ices; salt creates thirst; and salt, when poured into a wound, stings. But how do followers of Christ, like salt, do these things? That question is answered by understanding the Old Testament significance of salt. Salt, in the Old Testament expression “covenant of salt” ( Num 18:19; 2 Chron 13:5 ), was a symbol of that which gave life. Salt symbolized a permanent covenant, since the eating of salt with another person signified that the two were bound together in loyalty ( Ezra 4:14 ). Elisha purified the spring at Jericho with salt in order that “neither death nor miscarriage [should] come from it” ( 2 Kings 2:19–22 ). Thus Christians are the salt of the earth as they give life and preservation to the world.
Light, the second metaphor, serves as a safeguard. Lest believers think they have light in themselves with which to enlighten the world, they should remember that they are only reflections of Him who is the ultimate light of the world ( John 8:12 ). Light both attracts and repels. The believers’ testimony concerning the One who is the light of the world attracts some and repels others ( 2 Cor 2:16 ). But their light must be set on a hill, far above and uncontaminated by the moral decay of the world, illuminating far and wide for all to see. The light shines because of good works; it affects unbelieving men; it glorifies God.
These two metaphors illustrate the believer’s responsibility to the whole world. Their character and works preserve, give life, affect men, and glorify the Father.
Loving One’s Neighbor
No discussion of ethics would be complete without including the parable of the Good Samaritan. Scribes were interpreters, teachers, and judges of the law. The one who evoked the story of the Good Samaritan came to Jesus to tempt Him. His question was simple, basic, and to the point: What must I do to inherit eternal life? Because the dispensation of grace had not yet been introduced, and men were still living under the law, the Lord asked him what the law demanded. The man’s answer was again simple, basic, and to the point, for he quoted the two greatest commandments. The Lord responded that if the man would continue to do this he would live. But of course, neither this man nor any other man could love the Lord with all his heart, and his neighbor as himself. In order to justify his inability to keep these basic commandments, the scribe seized on the one word in the commandments that was ambiguous, on which an argument could be raised. Playing to the grandstand, he asked for a definition of the word neighbor.
According to this story, who is one’s neighbor? He is the person in need who crosses one’s path. The man who was robbed was the Samaritan’s neighbor, and the Samaritan by his actions loved him as himself. But the Samaritan was also in need of concern, and he in turn was the neighbor of the Jewish scribe. Of course, the scribe refused to accept the fact. Since the scribe would not recognize the Samaritan as his neighbor (Samaritans were considered scum), he could not claim to have fulfilled the law. Rather, he needed to acknowledge his sin and cast himself on the mercy of God.
A second emphasis in the story is the extolling of good works done to those in need who cross one’s path. This may involve someone of different economic status, different race, different religion, or different political persuasion. Salt, light, and neighborliness are all part of the social ethic for Christians. The believer who shows these good works will be imitating his Lord “who went about doing good” ( Acts 10:38 ).
The Question of Matthew 25:31–46
Undoubtedly, the judgment scene in Matthew 25:31–46 is one of the most often - used passages in support of the idea that Christians are primarily responsible to feed and clothe the world. Liberals interpret the “brethren” (v. 40 ) to mean all men. Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote that Jesus “even said that at the judgment seat … human service to hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and imprisoned would prove the one passport to the favor of the Eternal.” Adventurous Religion and Other Essays Many evangelicals use the passage to promote general social concern on the part of believers. Wirt, for example, says that Christians should seek new ways for the earth to supply the necessities of man’s existence, and that such “opportunities are limited only by the stretch of human imagination and the time of the return of him who said, ‘Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.’“ The Social Conscience of the Evangelical Moberg clearly states, “The ‘brethren’ referred to here include all members of the human race, not solely those who are brothers in the added sense of being born again. Jesus identified Himself with the whole of humanity by carrying the burden of sin of all mankind.”
The brethren in this passage cannot be all mankind. After all, it is the Gentiles who are being judged for treatment of the “brethren,” obviously indicating some group other than those standing before the King. They must be the natural brethren of the King, the Jews (as in Rom 9:3 ). In the tribulation days, to render service to a persecuted Jew will be the most conclusive evidence of one’s own spiritual relationship to the Lord, for to do so will only be at the risk of one’s own life. While the passage does not teach that all men are a Christian’s social responsibility, it does teach that redeemed people of that future time will show to the world the grace of God by their good works to the “brethren.”
The common theme underlying these four ideas — salt, light, neighborliness, and treatment of the brethren — is that good works, the fruit of the redeemed life, will attract men to the One who is the Light of the world and who alone can save. The emphasis is on one-to-one activity. The passages, for example, say nothing about how to implement the principles if a believer should find one thousand victims of robbers lying along the Jericho Road!
Jesus on Priorities
No man can help every other person in the world. Even Christ did not help everyone He contacted, nor did He command His followers to do so. It is perfectly obvious that He did not heal everyone who needed it. In the recorded miracles of Christ performed on specific individuals or groups, one reads of thirty-nine instances of healing. Of these, only two (Malchus and the Syrophoenician’s daughter) involved individuals outside the commonwealth of Israel. It goes without saying that thousands more whom the Lord contacted during His earthly life needed phvsical healing. For example, “a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered” lay at the pool of Bethesda ( John 5:3 ), yet Christ threaded His way through the crowd to find a single individual to heal — a man, oddly enough, who exhibited no faith that he would be healed.
Neither did the Lord feed all those who were hungry. On two occasions He fed more than ten thousand people, but only for a single meal. He did not continue to supply them with food. Furthermore, the healings and feedings were not done primarily to benefit those who were healed and fed, but to glorify God or to teach the disciples or to confirm His claims of deity. It is as if the actual physical benefit was secondary to the spiritual lessons intended, for indeed His priorities were spiritual.
Neither did Jesus attempt to reform the Roman government under which He lived. He acknowledged the rule of Rome ( Matt 22:21 ). When faced with the question of the poll tax which was annually paid to Caesar, the Lord did not address Himself to the basic question of whether or not Rome had the right to occupy Palestine (and if not, whether the Jews should try to gain independence from Rome). He simply said that if one accepts the benefits of government (in this case by using the money they coined), then one is obligated to pay taxes. The particular denarius with which the poll tax was paid bore the emperor’s image and acclaimed him to be God. The inscription on the coin read “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the Divine Augustus.” Nor did Jesus address Himself to the question of idolatry which the people felt was involved in using these coins. He simply said, “Pay.” But He also said something else which indicates His priorities. He reminded His hearers that they had an obligation to God. The Lord was making a connection between the image of Caesar on the coin and the image of God which is stamped on every man. The point is clear: the Jews were subjects of Caesar. His image was stamped on the coin. What then did they owe Caesar? The tax. Members of the human race bear the stamp of the image of God. What then do they owe God? Themselves. The most important thing is not one’s relation to the government under which he lives, but his relation and obligation to God. Once again, His priorities were spiritual. Jesus Christ was not a political revolutionary; ‘but He certainly was a very radical religious one.
On another occasion the Lord was asked to settle a dispute between two brothers ( Luke 12:13–21 ). He refused to do so because He would not invade the sphere of constituted authority. The manner in which He addressed the questioner is severe and shows Jesus’ indignation at being asked to step out of His sphere of ministry (see v. 14 ). However, the Lord did not leave the matter there. He used the request as an occasion for a sermon on covetousness and, more importantly, on the priority of soul over substance (v. 20 ). Once again priority is given to the spiritual rather than to the material.
The incident concerning payment of the Temple tax ( Matt 17:24–27 ) points to Jesus’ priorities as a Reformer. The tax was based on the regulation recorded in Exodus 30:11–16 which required every Israelite who was to be enrolled in the census of the people to pay half a shekel as a ransom for his soul. Originally the silver collected was used for making the sockets which supported the boards of the tabernacle ( Exod 36:19–25; 38:25–31 ), the sockets of the pillars of the veil, the hooks for the pillars of the court, the capitals, and the connecting rods. Thus the ransom money was always in sight so long as the tabernacle stood. This tax, different from the Roman poll tax referred to in Matthew 22:17, was collected from every male Jew twenty years of age and older, including Jews living in foreign countries. In the time of Nehemiah a voluntary tax of one-third shekel was adopted ( Neh 10:32–33 ), but by Jesus’ time it was half a shekel. After the destruction of Jerusalem the tax still had to be paid to the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome as a punishment for the rebellion. It could be paid at any of the three great festivals. Apparently here in Matthew 17 the collectors were calling in the taxes at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles that had not previously been paid at Passover or Pentecost.
Seeking out Peter, either because he was the recognized leader of the Twelve or perhaps because he was the only one over twenty years of age, the collectors asked him if Jesus would pay. Peter gave a quick affirmative answer, but then had second thoughts by the time he got inside the house. The Lord, anticipating those misgivings, sought to instruct Peter further in the uniqueness of His person. Then follows the dialogue which results in the conclusion that the children are free. This cannot refer to the Jewish nation (for the Lord would then be teaching that the tax should not be imposed on any Jew) nor to Jesus and His disciples (for the account assumes that the disciples would pay; only Jesus’ payment is in question). Rather, this refers to Jesus alone as the unique Son of God. Jesus claimed exemption because of His deity. The money, a stater or four-drachma piece, was produced by a miracle and used to pay Peter’s and Jesus’ taxes. The miraculous demonstration of omniscience and omnipotence served to dispel any doubt Peter might have had that Jesus was the Son of God.
However, it is the reason why Christ paid that is so instructive — “lest we should offend them” ( Matt 17:27 ). The same verb is used in Romans 14:21 and 1 Corinthians 8:13 to show that Christians should sometimes surrender their freedom for the sake of others. In this incident at Capernaum the Lord practiced a good principle for all reformers to follow, as stated by Plummer:
[This principle is] the avoidance of actions which are not absolutely essential for the success of the reform, and which, because easily misunderstood, and so arousing prejudice, would make it more difficult for others to join in the good movement … Some who might otherwise have listened to Him would have turned away had He seemed by His example to teach that the Temple - services were not worth maintaining. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew (International Critical Commentary) Volume III (VOLUME 3)
On other occasions the Lord cleansed the Temple of the moneychangers and predicted the destruction of the Temple, but here He conformed to a Temple law which in actuality was not commanded in the Torah. Not offending took priority over insisting on His rights.
Reformers must be wise, and reformers must be humble. The example of humility demonstrated by Christ in paying the Temple tax is followed by a striking object lesson on the subject. Childlike character is Christlike character, and is a requirement for all of Christ’s followers in all their activities.
These examples clearly demonstrate that Jesus gave top priority to the spiritual needs of those around Him. Though not insensitive to physical needs, He ministered to relatively few of them. Though always obedient to government He led no attempt to reform the system. Though capable of correcting all injustices in the social order, His message was a call to personal repentance. These were His perspectives on social ethics.
Charles C. Ryrie Books
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 124Our Help Is in the Name of the LORD
124 A Song Of Ascents Of David.
124:1 If it had not been the LORD who was on our side—
let Israel now say—
2 if it had not been the LORD who was on our side
when people rose up against us,
3 then they would have swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us;
4 then the flood would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us;
5 then over us would have gone
the raging waters.
6 Blessed be the LORD,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth!
7 We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped!
8 Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
CHAPTER XVI | Persecutions in England During the Reign of Queen MaryThe premature death of that celebrated young monarch, Edward VI, occasioned the most extraordinary and wonderful occurrences, which had ever existed from the times of our blessed Lord and Savior's incarnation in human shape. This melancholy event became speedily a subject of general regret. The succession to the British throne was soon made a matter of contention; and the scenes which ensued were a demonstration of the serious affliction in which the kingdom was involved. As his loss to the nation was more and more unfolded, the remembrance of his government was more and more the basis of grateful recollection. The very awful prospect, which was soon presented to the friends of Edward's administration, under the direction of his counsellors and servants, was a contemplation which the reflecting mind was compelled to regard with most alarming apprehensions. The rapid approaches which were made towards a total reversion of the proceedings of the young king's reign, denoted the advances which were thereby represented to an entire resolution in the management of public affairs both in Church and state.
Alarmed for the condition in which the kingdom was likely to be involved by the king's death, an endeavor to prevent the consequences, which were but too plainly foreseen, was productive of the most serious and fatal effects. The king, in his long and lingering affliction, was induced to make a will, by which he bequeathed the English crown to Lady Jane, the daughter of the duke of Suffolk, who had been married to Lord Guilford, the son of the duke of Northumberland, and was the granddaughter of the second sister of King Henry, by Charles, duke of Suffolk. By this will, the succession of Mary and Elizabeth, his two sisters, was entirely superseded, from an apprehension of the returning system of popery; and the king's council, with the chief of the nobility, the lord-mayor of the city of London, and almost all the judges and the principal lawyers of the realm, subscribed their names to this regulation, as a sanction to the measure. Lord Chief Justice Hale, though a true Protestant and an upright judge, alone declined to unite his name in favor of the Lady Jane, because he had already signified his opinion that Mary was entitled to assume the reins of government. Others objected to Mary's being placed on the throne, on account of their fears that she might marry a foreigner, and thereby bring the crown into considerable danger. Her partiality to popery also left little doubt on the minds of any, that she would be induced to revive the dormant interests of the pope, and change the religion which had been used both in the days of her father, King Henry, and in those of her brother Edward: for in all his time she had manifested the greatest stubbornness and inflexibility of temper, as must be obvious from her letter to the lords of the council, whereby she put in her claim to the crown, on her brother's decease.
When this happened, the nobles, who had associated to prevent Mary's succession, and had been instrumental in promoting, and, perhaps, advising the measures of Edward, speedily proceeded to proclaim Lady Jane Gray, to be queen of England, in the city of London and various other populous cities of the realm. Though young, she possessed talents of a very superior nature, and her improvements under a most excellent tutor had given her many very great advantages.
Her reign was of only five days' continuance, for Mary, having succeeded by false promises in obtaining the crown, speedily commenced the execution of her avowed intention of extirpating and burning every Protestant. She was crowned at Westminster in the usual form, and her elevation was the signal for the commencement of the bloody persecution which followed.
Having obtained the sword of authority, she was not sparing in its exercise. The supporters of Lady Jane Gray were destined to feel its force. The duke of Northumberland was the first who experienced her savage resentment. Within a month after his confinement in the Tower, he was condemned, and brought to the scaffold, to suffer as a traitor. From his varied crimes, resulting out of a sordid and inordinate ambition, he died unpitied and unlamented.
The changes, which followed with rapidity, unequivocally declared that the queen was disaffected to the present state of religion. Dr. Poynet was displaced to make room for Gardiner to be bishop of Winchester, to whom she also gave the important office of lord-chancellor. Dr. Ridley was dismissed from the see of London, and Bonne introduced. J. Story was put out of the bishopric of Chichester, to admit Dr. Day. J. Hooper was sent prisoner to the Fleet, and Dr. Heath put into the see of Worcestor. Miles Coverdale was also excluded from Exeter, and Dr. Vesie placed in that diocese. Dr. Tonstall was also promoted to the see of Durham. These things being marked and perceived, great heaviness and discomfort grew more and more to all good men's hearts; but to the wicked great rejoicing. They that could dissemble took no great care how the matter went; but such, whose consciences were joined with the truth, perceived already coals to be kindled, which after should be the destruction of many a true Christian.
The Words and Behavior of the Lady Jane upon the ScaffoldThe next victim was the amiable Lady Jane Gray, who, by her acceptance of the crown at the earnest solicitations of her friends, incurred the implacable resentment of the bloody Mary. When she first mounted the scaffold, she spoke to the specators in this manner: "Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact against the queen's highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but, touching the procurement and desire thereof by me, or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency before God, and the face of you, good Christian people, this day:" and therewith she wrung her hands, wherein she had her book. Then said she, "I pray you all, good Christian people, to bear me witness, that I die a good Christian woman, and that I do look to be saved by no other mean, but only by the mercy of God in the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ: and I confess that when I did know the Word of God, I neglected the same, loved myself and the world, and therefore this plague and punishment is happily and worthily happened unto me for my sins; and yet I thank God, that of His goodness He hath thus given me a time and a respite to repent. And now, good people, while I am alive, I pray you assist me with your prayers." And then, kneeling down, she turned to Feckenham, saying, "Shall I say this Psalm?" and he said, "Yea." Then she said the Psalm of Miserere mei Deus, in English, in a most devout manner throughout to the end; and then she stood up, and gave her maid, Mrs. Ellen, her gloves and handkerchief, and her book to Mr. Bruges; and then she untied he gown, and the executioner pressed upon her to help her off with it: but she, desiring him to let her alone, turned towards her two gentlewomen, who helped her off therewith, and also with her frowes, paaft, and neckerchief, giving to her a fair handkerchief to put about her eyes.
Then the executioner kneeled down, and asked her forgiveness, whom she forgave most willingly. Then he desired her to stand upon the straw, which doing, she saw the block. Then she said, "I pray you, despatch me quickly." Then she kneeled down, saying, "Will you take it off before I lay me down?" And the executioner said, "No, madam." Then she tied a handkerchief about her eyes, and feeling for the block, she said, "What shall I do? Where is it? Where is it?" One of the standers-by guiding her therunto, she laid her head upon the block, and then stretched forth her body, and said, "Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit;" and so finished her life, in the year of our Lord 1554, the twelfth day of February, about the seventeenth year of her age.
Thus died Lady Jane; and on the same day Lord Guilford, her husband, one of the duke of Northumberland's sons, was likewise beheaded, two innocents in comparison with them that sat upon them. For they were both very young, and ignorantly accepted that which others had contrived, and by open proclamation consented to take from others, and give to them.
Touching the condemnation of this pious lady, it is to be noted that Judge Morgan, who gave sentence against her, soon after he had condemned her, fell mad, and in his raving cried out continually to have the Lady Jane taken away from him, and so he ended his life.
On the twenty-first day of the same month, Henry, duke of Suffolk, was beheaded on Tower-hill, the fourth day after his condemnation: about which time many gentlemen and yeomen were condemned, whereof some were executed at London, and some in the country. In the number of whom was Lord Thomas Gray, brother to the said duke, being apprehended not long after in North Wales, and executed for the same. Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, also, very narrowly escaped.
John Rogers, Vicar of St. Sepulchre's, and Reader of St. Paul's, LondonJohn Rogers was educated at Cambridge, and was afterward many years chaplain to the merchant adventurers at Antwerp in Brabant. Here he met with the celebrated martyr William Tyndale, and Miles Coverdale, both voluntary exiles from their country for their aversion to popish superstition and idolatry. They were the instruments of his conversion; and he united with them in that translation of the Bible into English, entitled "The Translation of Thomas Matthew." From the Scriptures he knew that unlawful vows may be lawfully broken; hence he married, and removed to Wittenberg in Saxony, for the improvement of learning; and he there learned the Dutch language, and received the charge of a congregation, which he faithfully executed for many years. On King Edward's accession, he left Saxony to promote the work of reformation in England; and, after some time, Nicholas Ridley, then bishop of London, gave him a prebend in St. Paul's Cathedral, and the dean and chapter appointed him reader of the divinity lesson there. Here he continued until Queen Mary's succession to the throne, when the Gospel and true religion were banished, and the Antichrist of Rome, with his superstition and idolatry, introduced.
The circumstance of Mr. Rogers having preached at Paul's cross, after Queen Mary arrived at the Tower, has been already stated. He confirmed in his sermon the true doctrine taught in King Edward's time, and exhorted the people to beware of the pestilence of popery, idolatry, and superstition. For this he was called to account, but so ably defended himself that, for that time, he was dismissed. The proclamation of the queen, however, to prohibit true preaching, gave his enemies a new handle against him. Hence he was again summoned before the council, and commanded to keep his house. He did so, though he might have escaped; and though he perceived the state of the true religion to be desperate. Heknew he could not want a living in Germany; and he could not forget a wife and ten children, and to seek means to succor them. But all these things were insufficient to induce him to depart, and, when once called to answer in Christ's cause, he stoutly defended it, and hazarded his life for that purpose.
After long imprisonment in his own house, the restless Bonner, bishop of London, caused him to be committed to Newgate, there to be lodged among thieves and murderers.
After Mr. Rogers had been long and straitly imprisoned, and lodged in Newgate among thieves, often examined, and very uncharitably entreated, and at length unjustly and most cruelly condemned by Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, the fourth day of February, in the year of our Lord 1555, being Monday in the morning, he was suddenly warned by the keeper of Newgate's wife, to prepare himself for the fire; who, being then sound asleep, could scarce be awaked. At length being raised and awaked, and bid to make haste, then said he, "IKf it be so, I need not tie my points." And so was had down, first to bishop Bonner to be degraded: which being done, he craved of Bonner but one petition; and Bonner asked what that should be. Mr. Rogers replied that he might speak a few words with his wife before his burning, but that could not be obtained of him.
When the time came that he should be brought out of Newgate to Smithfield, the place of his execution, Mr. Woodroofe, one of the sheriffs, first came to Mr. Rogers, and asked him if he would revoke his abominable doctrine, and the evil opinion of the Sacrament of the altar. Mr. Rogers answered, "That which I have preached I will seal with my blood." Then Mr. Woodroofe said, "Thou art an heretic." "That shall be known," quoth Mr. Rogers, "at the Day of Judgment." "Well," said Mr. Woodroofe, "I will never pray for thee." "But I will pray for you," said Mr. Rogers; and so was brought the same day, the fourth of February, by the sheriffs, towards Smithfield, saying the Psalm Miserere by the way, all the people wonderfully rejoicing at his constancy; with great praises and thanks to God for the same. And there in the presence of Mr. Rochester, comptroller of the queen's household, Sir Richard Southwell, both the sheriffs, and a great number of people, he was burnt to ashes, washing his hands in the flame as he was burning. A little before his burning, his pardon was brought, if he would have recanted; but he utterly refused it. He was the first martyr of all the blessed company that suffered in Queen Mary's time that gave the first adventure upon the fire. His wife and children, being eleven in number, ten able to go, and one sucking at her breast, met him by the way, as he went towards Smithfield. TGhis sorrowful sight of his own flesh and blood could nothing move him, but that he constantly and cheerfully took his death with wonderful patience, in the defence and quarrel of the Gospel of Christ."
The Rev. Lawrence SaundersMr. Saunders, after passing some time in the school of Eaton, was chosen to go to King's College in Cambridge, where he continued three years, and profited in knowledge and learning very much for that time. Shortly after he quitted the university, and went to his parents, but soon returned to Cambridge again to his study, where he began to add to the knowledge of the Latin, the study of the Greek and Hebrew tongues, and gave himself up to the study of the Holy Scriptures, the better to qualify himself for the office of preacher.
In the beginning of King Edward's reign, when God's true religion was introduced, after license obtained, he began to preach, and was so well liked of them who then had authority that they appointed him to read a divinity lecture in the College of Forthringham. The College of Fothringham being dissolved he was placed to be a reader in the minster at Litchfield. After a certain space, he departed from Litchfield to a benefice in Leicestershire, called Church-langton, where he held a residence, taught diligently, and kept a liberal house. Thence he was orderly called to take a benefice in the city of London, namely, All-hallows in Bread-street. After this he preached at Northhampton, nothing meddling with the state, but boldly uttering his conscience against the popish doctrines which were likely to spring up again in England, as a just plague for the little love which the English nation then bore to the blessed Word of God, which had been so plentifully offered unto them.
The queen's party who were there, and heard him, were highly displeased with him for his sermon, and for it kept him among them as a prisoner. But partly for love of his brethren and friends, who were chief actors for the queen among them, and partly because there was no law broken by hbis preaching, they dismissed him.
Some of his friends, perceiving such fearful menacing, counselled him to fly out of the realm, which he refused to do. But seeing he was with violence kept from doing good in that place, he returned towards London, to visit his flock.
In the afternoon of Sunday, October 15, 1554, as he was reading in his church to exhort his people, the bishop of London interrupted him, by sending an officer for him.
His treason and sedition the bishop's charity was content to let slip until another time, but a heretic he meant to prove him, and all those, he said, who taught and believed that the administration of the Sacraments, and all orders of the Church, are the most pure, which come the nearest to the order of the primitive Church.
After much talk concerning this matter, the bishop desired him to write what he believed of transubstantiation. Lawrence Saunders did so, saying, "My Lord, you seek my blood, and you shall have it: I pray God that you may be so baptized in it that you may ever after loathe blood-sucking, and become a better man." Upon being closely charged with contumacy, the severe replies of Mr. Saunders to the bishop, (who had before, to get the favor of Henry VIII written and set forth in print, a book of true obedience, wherein he had openly declared Queen Mary to be a bastard) so irritated him that he exclaimed, "Carry away this frenzied fool to prison."
After this good and faithful martyr had been kept in prison one year and a quarter, the bishops at length called him, as they did his fellow-prisoners, openly to be examined before the queen's council.
His examination being ended, the officers led him out of the place, and stayed until the rest of his fellow-prisoners were likewise examined, that they might lead them all together to prison.
After his excommunication and delivery over to the secular power, he was brought by the sheriff of London to the Compter, a prison in his own parish of Bread-street, at which he rejoiced greatly, both because he found there a fellow-prisoner, Mr. Cardmaker, with whom he had much Christian and comfortable discourse; and because out of prison, as before in his pulpit, he might have an opportunity of preaching to his parishioners. On the fourth of February, Bonner, bishop of London, came to the prison to degrade him; the day following, in the morning the sheriff of London delivered him to certain of the queen's guard, who were appointed to carry him to the city of Coventry, there to be burnt.
When they had arrived at Coventry, a poor shoemaker, who used to serve him with shoes, came to him, and said, "O my good master, God strengthen and comfort you." "Good shoemaker," Mr. Saunders replied, "I desire thee to pray for me, for I am the most unfit man for this high office, that ever was appointed to it; but my gracious God and dear Father is able to make me strong enough." The next day, being the eighth of February, 1555, he was led to the place of execution, in the park, without the city. He went in an old gown and a shirt, barefooted, and oftentimes fell flat on the ground, and prayed. When he was come to nigh the place, the officer, appointed to see the execution done, said to Mr. Saunders that he was one of them who marred the queen's realm, but if he would recant, there was pardon for him. "Not I," replied the holy martyr, "but such as you have injured the realm. The blessed Gospel of Christ is what I hold; that do I believe, that have I taught, and that will I never revoke!" Mr. Saunders then slowly moved towards the fire, sank to the earth and prayed; he then rose up, embraced the stake, and frequently said, "Welcome, thou cross of Christ! welcome everlasting life!" Fire was then put to the fagots, and, he was overwhelmed by the dreadful flames, and sweetly slept in the Lord Jesus.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
The Continual Burnt Offering (2 Timothy 4:6)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
November 202 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. ESV
What a word to come from a dungeon death cell. Lacking all that ordinary men consider necessary to make life worthwhile, Paul the prisoner of Jesus Christ was able to rejoice in the Lord as he looked back over all the way he had come. And he looked forward to the glad hour when he would lay his armor down at the Redeemer’s feet and receive from His hand the crown of righteousness, that blessed award which is reserved for all who love His appearing. The apostle’s wish, expressed some years before (Acts 20:24), that he might finish his course with joy, had been gloriously fulfilled. He had fought in the good conflict for truth and righteousness. He had kept the faith and now he anticipated his home - call with joyful confidence. To him Christ was all and Christ was enough!
Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. ESV
Ask those who now their palm of victory wave,
Conquerors through Him, who died the lost to save,
If now they murmur at their former lot,
Or wish they had escaped one mournful spot?
No, you would hear such grateful pilgrim tell,
That vale of grief was blessing’s richest well:
The pools of trouble, filled with heavenly rain,
Turned into myrtles every thorn of pain.
--- J. G. Deck
- Why Study
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Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Confessions of a secret sinner (4)
11/20/2017 Bob Gass
‘You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.’
(Ps 32:5) I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah ESV
David said, ‘I confessed all my sins to you…And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.’ Julie Ann Barnhill writes: ‘If you’re tired of pretending you have it all together, it’s time to act. For too long Christian women in particular have believed they’re the only ones dealing with shameful issues, agonising regrets, and skeletons in their closet. Once we open up to God, ourselves, and others, we experience exhilarating freedom and peace. A woman wrote to me: “I had an abortion when I was eighteen. Nobody knows. For years I marked the date on my calendar and grieved for the child nobody knew about, and the young woman who bore the guilt alone. No more! Now I know I’m not alone, and for the first time in my life I truly believe God is bigger than my secret – and He’s willing to forgive.” Secrets only hold power when they’re hidden. Once they’re revealed in the light of God’s love they lose their control. However, there are some things to consider before opening up to someone: 1) If that person repeats things others have shared in confidence, guess who’s up next for discussion? 2) Beware of someone who’s apt to offer unsolicited advice, then take offence when it’s ignored. 3) Stay away from somebody who tries to “fix” you, and tells you not to worry about your secrets. Instead, look for someone who: a) has good sense and knows when to “back off” and/or move forward when you’re upset; b) is up-front about their own struggles; c) is quick to listen and slow to speak; d) undergirds their words and counsel with scriptural truths.’
1 Pet 3
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
When the Supreme Court declared prayer in schools unconstitutional in 1962, Senator Majority Leader Robert Byrd from West Virginia, who was born this day, November 20, 1917, gave a moving address to Congress. He stated: “On the south banks of Washington’s Tidal Basin, Thomas Jefferson still speaks: ‘God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?’ ” Senator Byrd concluded: “[Jefferson’s words are] a… warning that to remove God from this country will destroy it.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
What froth and bubble my last letter must have seemed to you I had hardly posted it when I got Betty's card with the disquieting news about George-turning my jocular reference to his descendants into a stab (at least I suppose it did) and making our whole discussion on prayer seem to you, as it now does to me, utterly unreal. The distance between the abstract "Does God hear petitionary prayers?" and the concrete "Will He-can He-grant our prayers for George?" is apparently infinite.
Not of course that I can pretend for a moment to be able to feel it as you do. If I did, you would say to yourself (like the man in Macbeth), "He has no children." A few years ago when I was in my own trouble you said as much to me. You wrote, "I know I'm outside. My voice can hardly reach you." And that was one reason why your letter was more like the real grasp of a real hand than any other I got.
The temptation is to attempt reassurances: to remind you how often a G.P.'s preliminary diagnosis is wrong, that the symptoms are admittedly ambiguous, that threatened men sometimes live to a ripe old age. And it would all in fact be true. But what, in that way, could I say which you are not saying to yourself every hour? And you would know my motive. You’d know how little real scientific candor-or knowledge-lay behind my words. And if, which God forbid, your suspense ended as terribly as mine did, these re assurances would sound like mockeries. So at least I found. The memory of the false hopes was an additional torment. Even now certain remembered moments of fallacious comfort twist my heart more than the remembered moment of despair.
All may yet be well. This is true. Meanwhile you have the waiting-waiting till the X rays are developed and till the specialist has completed his observations. And while you wait, you still have to go on living-if only one could go underground, hibernate, sleep it out. And then (for me-I believe you are stronger) the horrible by-products of anxiety; the incessant, circular movement of the thoughts, even the Pagan temptation to keep watch for irrational omens. And one prays; but mainly such prayers as are themselves a form of anguish.
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
--- Teilhard de Chardin
Those who know how to think
need no teachers.
--- Mohandas Gandhi
No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.
--- William Blake
Acceptance is a virtuous way to treat people and one that is consistent with how Christ taught us to be with one another. But acceptance without direction contributes to a therapeutic culture that seems content to discard truth – – or at least to leave it vague and undefined. Skills are important; they help people cope and find peace in the midst of life’s turmoil. But teaching skills without compassion overlook the relational nature of our wounds and of healing, and skills without moral substance easily devolve into functional relativism – – truth is defined by whatever makes someone feel better. Moral guidance is essential (and counselors always offer it whether or not they know or admit it), but if moral guidance is offered without relational sensitivity the result can be more demoralizing than moralizing. And giving moral guidance without teaching skills is suggesting people change without helping them know how to change. Acceptance and skills and moral guidance are all essential facets of Christian counseling. They come together at the intersection of grace and truth.
--- Mark McMinn (Sin and Grace In Christian Counseling)
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
but a patron of prostitutes wastes his wealth.
4 A king gives stability to a country by justice,
but one who overtaxes it brings it to ruin.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The forgiveness of God
In whom we have … the forgiveness of sins. --- Eph. 1:7.
Beware of the pleasant view of the Fatherhood of God—God is so kind and loving that of course He will forgive us. That sentiment has no place whatever in the New Testament. The only ground on which God can forgive us is the tremendous tragedy of the Cross of Christ; to put forgiveness on any other ground is unconscious blasphemy. The only ground on which God can forgive sin and reinstate us in His favour is through the Cross of Christ, and in no other way. Forgiveness, which is so easy for us to accept, cost the agony of Calvary. It is possible to take the forgiveness of sin, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and our sanctification with the simplicity of faith, and to forget at what enormous cost to God it was all made ours.
Forgiveness is the divine miracle of grace; it cost God the Cross of Jesus Christ before He could forgive sin and remain a holy God. Never accept a view of the Fatherhood of God if it blots out the Atonement. The revelation of God is that He cannot forgive; He would contradict His nature if He did. The only way we can be forgiven is by being brought back to God by the Atonement. God’s forgiveness is only natural in the super-natural domain.
Compared with the miracle of the forgiveness of sin, the experience of sanctification is slight. Sanctification is simply the marvellous expression of the forgiveness of sins in a human life, but the thing that awakens the deepest well of gratitude in a human being is that God has forgiven sin. Paul never got away from this. When once you realize all that it cost God to forgive you, you will be held as in a vice, constrained by the love of God.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
The Film of God
Sound, too? The recorder
that picks up everything picked
up nothing but the natural
background. What language
does the god speak? And the camera's
lens, as sensitive to
an absence as to a presence,
saw what? What is the colour
of his thought?
It was blank, then,
the screen, as far as he
was concerned? It was a bare
landscape and harsh, and geological
its time. But the rock was
bright, the illuminated manuscript
of the lichen. And a shadow,
as we watched, fell, as though
of an unseen writer bending over
It was not cloud
because it was not cold,
and dark only from the candlepower
behind it. And we waited
for it to move, silently
as the spool turned, waited
for the figure that cast it
to come into view for us to
identify it, and it
didn't and we are still waiting.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
The biblical text (Deut. 4:6) establishes the compatibility of both the cognitive and legal claims of Judaism with universal criteria of evaluation. To Maimonides, one who understands nature from the perspective of independent reason will insist on understanding Halakhah from the same perspective. Once one believes that independent reason can provide an understanding of God, an insulated approach to Jewish spirituality can no longer be tolerated.
The theory of history, outlined in chapter thirty-two of the Guide, provides a model for understanding Torah and divine action in history which does not require an appeal to miracles or to non-rational laws to make sense of God’s relationship to Israel:
“God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer, and so on. But God led the people roundabout, by the way of the wilderness at the Red Sea [Sea of Reeds].” Just as God perplexed them in anticipation of what their bodies were naturally incapable of bearing—turning them away from the high road toward which they had been going, toward another road so that the first intention should be achieved—so did He in anticipation of what the soul is naturally incapable of receiving, prescribe the Laws that we have mentioned so that the first intention should be achieved: namely, the apprehension of Him, may He be exalted, and the rejection of idolatry.
Just as it is not in the nature of man that, after having been brought up in slavish service occupied with clay, bricks, and similar things, he should all of a sudden wash the dirt deriving from them from his hands and proceed immediately to fight against “the children of Anak,” so is it also not in his nature that, after having been brought up upon very many modes of worship and of customary practices—which the souls find so agreeable that they become as it were a primary notion—he should abandon them all of a sudden. And just as the Deity used a gracious ruse in causing them to wander perplexedly in the desert until their souls became courageous—it being well known that life in the desert and lack of comforts for the body necessarily develop courage, whereas the opposite circumstances necessarily develop cowardice—and until, moreover, people were born who were not accustomed to humiliation and servitude—all this having been brought about by Moses, our Master, by means of Divine commandments: “On a sign from the Lord they made camp and on a sign from the Lord they broke camp; they observed the Lord’s mandate at the Lord’s bidding through Moses”—so did this group of Laws derive from a Divine Grace, so that they should be left with the kind of practices to which they were accustomed and so that consequently the belief, which constitutes the first intention, should be validated in them.
Maimonides’ aversion to miracles derives not only from his perception of nature, but also from his perception of Torah. The model of God which emerges from the Bible is that of an educator who acts in response to the capacities of his students. If God does not work within structures of nature, i.e., if He functions by the power of His independent will alone, why then does He not will man into perfection? The fact that God gives man a Torah which attempts to change man through a behavioral process of education is an indication that God works through—and not independently of—man. The giving of Torah and the sending of prophets would be superfluous if supernatural grace were the way God brings man to perfection:
For if it were His will that the nature of any human individual should be changed because of what He, may He be exalted, wills from that individual, sending of Prophets and all giving of a Law would have been useless.
The application of the teleological principle in nature to explain Torah is not a Hellenization of Judaism but is a clear articulation of the implicit dynamic of a tradition that feels God’s love for man through His giving of the law. Although the event of Sinai may be classified as a miracle, the particular way of life which emerges from Sinai can only be understood if we abandon the category of miracle as the defining feature of Jewish spirituality. The ongoing process of a Torah way of life is in harmony, therefore, with reason’s understanding of nature.
The purpose of Maimonides’ treatment of commandments in the Guide is to convince his reader that “Indeed, all things proceed from one Deity and one Agent and ‘have been given from one Shepherd.’ ” By establishing orderly patterns within Torah law, by showing parallel structures between Torah and nature, and by explaining the rational purpose of many ḥukkim, Maimonides eliminates the obstacle which prevents the philosophically trained Jew from being spiritually at home within Halakhah. The awareness that the God of the Bible took into account the historical nature of this community when He issued norms and guided the community in the desert, reconfirms the philosophic Jew’s love for a God who appeals to man’s understanding. The philosophically trained Jew need not put on an obedience-cap when he meets the God of Israel. The God of the Halakhah, the God mediated by the community of Israel, can therefore be loved with the same passion as the God of being.
It can be argued that what has been shown about Maimonides’ historical approach to commandments obscures the most important danger it creates for the halakhic Jew. Does not Maimonides destroy his own attempt to eliminate an obedience-orientation to Halakhah by explaining the reasons for many laws in terms of the attraction to idolatry which existed at a specific period in the past? Does not his codification of these laws create an obedient personality insofar as he demands that Jews live by laws that have outlived their usefulness? This inconsistency can lead to the claim that Maimonides the philosopher, who understands the laws from the context of the struggle against idolatry, cannot be identified with Maimonides the judge, who codifies animal sacrifices and ḥukkim for Jews to obey at all times—even during the messianic era. Various responses can be offered to this problem of inconsistency.
Regarding the claim that a historical interpretation of the commandments implies that these commandments ought to become void under different historical conditions, one must realize that change is a complex procedure within the context of a legal system. Maimonides believed that the legal system as a whole would be weakened if laws were to be altered every time historical conditions changed:
In view of this consideration, it also will not be possible that the laws be dependent on changes in the circumstances of the individuals and of the times, as is the case with regard to medical treatment, which is particularized for every individual in conformity with his present temperament. On the contrary, governance of the Law ought to be absolute and universal, including everyone, even if it is suitable only for certain individuals and not suitable for others; for if it were made to fit individuals, the whole would be corrupted and “you would make out of it something that varies.” For this reason, matters that are primarily intended in the Law ought not to be dependent on time or place; but the decrees ought to be absolute and universal, according to what He, may He be exalted, says “There shall be one law [ḥukkah] for you.…”
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.
--- Psalm 85:10.
Such different virtues are expressed in [Christ] toward us that otherwise would have seemed impossible, particularly these three: justice, mercy, and truth. The Excellency of Christ
The strict justice of God, and even his revenging justice, against human sins never was so gloriously displayed as in Christ. He showed an infinite regard to God’s justice in that, when he had a mind to save sinners, he was willing to undergo such extreme sufferings rather than that their salvation should injure the honor of [God’s justice]. And as he is the judge of the world, he himself exercises strict justice; “he does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exod. 34:7).
Yet how wonderfully is mercy toward sinners displayed in him! And what grace and love have been and are exercised by him toward sinful people! Though he is the judge of a sinful world, yet he is also the Savior of the world. Though he is a consuming fire to sin, yet he is the light and life of sinners: “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25–26).
So the changeless truth of God in the punishments threatened in his law against human sins was never so displayed as it is in Jesus Christ, for there never was any greater trial of the unchangeableness of the truth of God as when sin was charged to his own Son. And then in Christ has been seen already an actual, complete accomplishment of those threats, which never has been nor will be seen in any other instance, because the eternity that will be taken up in fulfilling those threats on others never will be finished. Christ showed an infinite regard to this truth of God in his sufferings. And, in his judging the world, he makes the covenant of works that contains those dreadful threats his rule of judgment. He will see to it that it is not infringed in the least jot or tittle: he will do nothing contrary to the threats of the law and their complete fulfillment. And yet in him we have many great and precious promises, promises of perfect deliverance from the penalty of the law. And this is what he promised us—eternal life. And in him all the promises of God are Yes and Amen.
--- Jonathan Edwards
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
A Doctor’s Vow
On November 20, 1759 the Arundel approached an unknown ship in the waters off the West Indies. The tense, tanned sailors stood by their guns as Captain Charles Middleton sent a boarding party to investigate. The Swift proved to be a slaver bound for Guinea. It carried the plague.
Middleton summoned his surgeon, James Ramsay, a young man he had led to Christ. The doctor clambered aboard the Swift and reeled in horror. The holds were jammed with naked slaves, chained row upon row, writhing and groaning and sweating and dying of the plague. The stench was unbearable, the filth unbelievable. Ramsay left the Swift vowing to do his utmost for slaves.
Shortly afterward he retired from naval service and became pastor on the West Indies island of St. Kitt. He purchased ten slaves from tyrants, and Ramsay became their servant, teaching them Scripture and treating them medically. His hatred of slavery grew as he visited nearby plantations, treating wounds inflicted by whips and branding irons. Owners threatened him when he advocated humane treatment of slaves; and when Ramsay called for the abolition of slavery, he was attacked in the local papers, censured by the citizens, and driven from the island.
Ramsay took a pastorate in the English countryside of Kent. Though only 48, he looked old and drawn. Day and night, the cries of slaves haunted him, and the memories of November 20, 1759 never left him. He put his feelings into print and braced himself for another storm. It came, but this time he had an ally—his old captain, Charles Middleton, now a member of Parliament. Middleton joined Ramsay’s crusade, but looked around for a younger, more eloquent member of Parliament to be leader. He chose William Wilberforce.
Wilberforce’s lifelong crusade to abolish slavery in Britain is well known. But few remember that it can be traced back to a quiet Christian doctor who made a vow on a November’s day in 1759.
Jesus went back to Nazareth, … and went to the meeting place on the Sabbath. When he stood up to read from the Scriptures, he was given the book of Isaiah the prophet. He opened it and read, “The Lord’s Spirit has come to me, because he has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor. The Lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners.”
--- Luke 4:16-18a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 20
“0 Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul.” --- Lamentations 3:58.
Observe how positively the prophet speaks. He doth not say, “I hope, I trust, I sometimes think, that God hath pleaded the causes of my soul”; but he speaks of it as a matter of fact not to be disputed. “Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul.” Let us, by the aid of the gracious Comforter, shake off those doubts and fears which so much mar our peace and comfort. Be this our prayer, that we may have done with the harsh croaking voice of surmise and suspicion, and may be able to speak with the clear, melodious voice of full assurance. Notice how gratefully the prophet speaks, ascribing all the glory to God alone! You perceive there is not a word concerning himself or his own pleadings. He doth not ascribe his deliverance in any measure to any man, much less to his own merit; but it is “thou”—“O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life.” A grateful spirit should ever be cultivated by the Christian; and especially after deliverances we should prepare a song for our God. Earth should be a temple filled with the songs of grateful saints, and every day should be a censor smoking with the sweet incense of thanksgiving. How joyful Jeremiah seems to be while he records the Lord’s mercy. How triumphantly he lifts up the strain! He has been in the low dungeon, and is even now no other than the weeping prophet; and yet in the very book which is called “Lamentations,” clear as the song of Miriam when she dashed her fingers against the tabor, shrill as the note of Deborah when she met Barak with shouts of victory, we hear the voice of Jeremy going up to heaven—“Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life.” O children of God, seek after a vital experience of the Lord’s lovingkindness, and when you have it, speak positively of it; sing gratefully; shout triumphantly.
Evening - November 20
“The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks.” --- Proverbs 30:26.
Conscious of their own natural defencelessness, the conies resort to burrows in the rocks, and are secure from their enemies. My heart, be willing to gather a lesson from these feeble folk. Thou art as weak and as exposed to peril as the timid cony, be as wise to seek a shelter. My best security is within the munitions of an immutable Jehovah, where his unalterable promises stand like giant walls of rock. It will be well with thee, my heart, if thou canst always hide thyself in the bulwarks of his glorious attributes, all of which are guarantees of safety for those who put their trust in him. Blessed be the name of the Lord, I have so done, and have found myself like David in Adullam, safe from the cruelty of my enemy; I have not now to find out the blessedness of the man who puts his trust in the Lord, for long ago, when Satan and my sins pursued me, I fled to the cleft of the rock Christ Jesus, and in his riven side I found a delightful resting-place. My heart, run to him anew to-night, whatever thy present grief may be; Jesus feels for thee; Jesus consoles thee; Jesus will help thee. No monarch in his impregnable fortress is more secure than the cony in his rocky burrow. The master of ten thousand chariots is not one whit better protected than the little dweller in the mountain’s cleft. In Jesus the weak are strong, and the defenceless safe; they could not be more strong if they were giants, or more safe if they were in heaven. Faith gives to men on earth the protection of the God of heaven. More they cannot need, and need not wish. The conies cannot build a castle, but they avail themselves of what is there already: I cannot make myself a refuge, but Jesus has provided it, his Father has given it, his Spirit has revealed it, and lo, again to-night I enter it, and am safe from every foe.
Morning and Evening
Philip P. Bliss, 1838–1876
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7, 8)
The text for “My Redeemer,” though a joyful note of praise, was found in the wreckage of a train accident which had just claimed the life of its author, Philip P. Bliss.
Philip Bliss was influential in promoting the growth of early Gospel hymnody in this country. In addition to being known as a man with a commanding stature and impressive personality for leading congregational singing, Philip Bliss was highly regarded by his fellow colleagues. George Stebbins, also a noted Gospel song writer of this time, once paid Bliss this tribute: “There has been no writer of verse since his time who has shown such a grasp of the fundamental truths of the Gospel, or such a gift for putting them into poetic and singable form.”
Yet, at the age of 38, at the very height of his fruitful music ministry, Bliss’ life was suddenly ended in a tragic train accident. He had visited his mother at his childhood home in Rome, Pennsylvania, during the Christmas season of 1876 and was returning by train to Chicago on December 29 with his wife Lucy when a railroad bridge near Ashtabula, Ohio, collapsed. Their train plunged into a ravine 60 feet below and caught fire. One hundred passengers perished miserably. Bliss survived the fall and escaped through a window but frantically returned to the wreckage in an attempt to rescue his wife. As a result, he perished with her in the fire. Neither body was ever recovered.
Quite miraculously, however, among Bliss’ belongings in the train wreckage was found a manuscript on which Bliss had been working. It contained these significant words:
I will sing of my Redeemer and His wondrous love to me; on the cruel cross He suffered, from the curse to set me free.
I will tell the wondrous story, how, my lost estate to save, in His boundless love and mercy, He the ransom freely gave.
I will praise my dear Redeemer, His triumphant pow’r I’ll tell, how the victory He giveth over sin and death and hell.
I will sing of my Redeemer and His heav’nly love to me; He from death to life hath bro’t me, Son of God with Him to be.
Chorus: Sing, O sing of my Redeemer; with His blood He purchased me; on the cross He sealed my pardon, paid the debt and made me free.
For Today: Isaiah 53:4–12; 2 Corinthians 2:14, 15; Galatians 2:20
Make this musical truth your desire as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
9. It is a contemning the holiness of God, when we charge the law of God with rigidness. We cast dirt upon the holiness of God
when we blame the law of God, because it shackles us, and prohibit our desired pleasures; and hate the law of God, as they did the
prophets, because they did not prophesy smooth things; but called to them, to “get” them “out of the way, and turn aside out of the
path, and cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before them” (Isa. 30:10, 11). Put us no more in mind of the holiness of God,
and the holiness of his law; it is a troublesome thing for us to hear of it: let him be gone from us , since he will not countenance our
vices, and indulge our crimes; we would rather hear there is a God, than you would tell us of a holy one. We are contrary to the law,
when we wish it were not so exact; and, therefore, contrary to the holiness of God, which set the stamp of exactness and righteousness
upon it. We think him injurious to our liberty, when, by his precept he thwarts our pleasure; we wish it of another frame, more mild,
more suitable to our minds: it is the same, as if we should openly blame God for consulting with his own righteousness, and not with
our humors, before be settled his law; that he should not have drawn from the depths of his righteous nature, but squared it to
accommodate our corruption.
This being the language of such complaints, is a reproving God, because he would not be unholy, that we might be unrighteous with impunity. Had the Divine law been suited to our corrupt state, God must have been unholy to have complied with his rebellious creature. To charge the law with rigidness, either in language or practice, is the highest contempt of God’s holiness; for it is an implicit wish, that God were as defiled, polluted, disorderly, as our corrupted selves.
10. The holiness of God is injured opinionatively. (1). In the opinion of venial sins. The Romanists divide sins into venial and mortal: mortal, are those which deserve eternal death; venial, the lighter sort of sins, which rather deserve to be pardoned than punished; or if punished, not with an eternal, but temporal punishment. This opinion hath no foundation in, but is contrary to, Scripture. How can any sin be in its own nature venial, when the due “wages of every sin is death” (Rom. 6:23)? and he who “continues not in every thing that the law commands,” falls under a “curse” (Gal. 3:10). It is a mean thought of the holiness and majesty of God to imagine, that any sin which is against an infinite majesty, and as infinite a purity both in the nature of God and the law of God, should not be considered as infinitely heinous. All sins are transgressions of the eternal law, and in every one the infinite holiness of God is some way slighted.
(2). In the opinion of works of supererogation. That is, such works as are not commanded by God, which yet have such a dignity and worth in their own nature, that the performers of them do not only merit at God’s hands for themselves, but fill up a treasure of merits for others, that come short of fulfilling the precepts God hath enjoined. It is such a mean thought of God’s holiness, that the Jews, in all the charges brought against them in Scripture, were never guilty of. And if you consider what pitiful things they are, which are within the compass of such works, you have sufficient reason to bewail the ignorance of man, and the low esteem he hath of so glorious a perfection. The whipping themselves often in a week, extraordinary watchings, fastings, macerating their bodies, wearing a capuchin’s habit, &c. arc pitiful things to give content to an Infinite Purity. As if the precept of God required only the inferior degrees of virtue, and the counsels the more high and excellent; as if the law of God, which the Psalmist counts “perfect” (Psalm 19:7), did not command all good, and forbid all evil; as if the holiness of God had forgotten itself in the framing the law, and made it a scanty and defective rule; and the righteousness of a creature were not only able to make an eternal righteousness, but surmount it. As man would be at first as knowing as God, so some of his posterity would be more holy than God; set up a wisdom against the wisdom of God, and a purity above the Divine purity. Adam was not so presumptuous; he intended no more than an equalling God in knowledge; but those would exceed him in righteousness, and not only presume to render a satisfaction for themselves to the holiness they have injured, but to make a purse for the supply of others that are indigent, that they may stand before the tribunal of God with a confidence in the imaginary righteousness of a creature. How horrible is it for those that come short of the law of God themselves, to think that they can have enough for a loan to their neighbors! An unworthy opinion.
Inform. 2. It may inform us, how great is our fall from God, and how distant we are from him. View the holiness of God, and take a prospect of the nature of man, and be astonished to see a person created in the Divine image, degenerated into the image of the devil. We are as far fallen from the holiness of God, which consists in a hatred of sin, as the lowest point of the earth is from the highest point of the heavens. The devil is not more fallen from the rectitude of his nature and likeness to God, than we are; and that we are not in the same condition with those apostate spirits, is not from anything in our nature, but from the mediation of Christ, upon which account God hath indulged in us a continuance of some remainders of that which Satan is wholly deprived of. We are departed from our original pattern; we were created to live the “life of God,” that that is, a life of “holiness;” but now we are “alienated from the life of God” (Eph.4:18), and of a beautiful piece we are become deformed, daubed over with the most defiling mud: we “work uncleanness with greediness,” according to our ability, as creatures; as God doth work “holiness” with affection and ardency, according to his infiniteness, as Creator. More distant we are from God by reason of sin, than the vilest creature, the most deformed toad, or poisonous serpent, is from the highest and most glorious angel. By forsaking our innocence, we departed from God as our original copy. The apostle might well say (Rom. 3:23), that by sin “we are come short of the glory of God.” Interpreters trouble themselves much about that place, “Man is come short of the glory of God,” that is, of the holiness of God, which is the glory of the Divine nature, and was pictured in the rational, innocent creature. By the “glory of God,” is meant the holiness of God; (as 1 Cor. 3:18), “Beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory;” that is the glory of God in the text, into the image of which we are changed; but the Scripture speaks of no other image of God, but that of holiness; “we are come short of the glory of God;” of the holiness of God, which is the glory of God; and the image of it, which was the glory of man. By sin, which is particular in opposition to the purity of God, man was left many leagues behind any resemblance to God; he stripped off that which was the glory of his nature, and was the only means of glorifying God as his Creator. The word ὑστεροῦνται, the apostle uses, is very significant,—postponed by sin an infinite distance from any imitation of God’s holiness, or any appearance before him in a garb of nature pleasing to him. Let us lament our fall and distance from God.
Inform. 3. All unholinesss is vile, and opposite to the nature of God. It is such a loathsome thing, that the “purity of God’s eye is averse from beholding” (Hab. 1:3). It is not said there, that he will not, but he cannot, look on evil; there cannot be any amicableness between God and sin, the natures of both are so directly and unchangeably contrary to one another. Holiness is the life of God; it endures as long as his life; he must be eternally averse from sin, he can live no longer than he lives in the hatred and loathing of it. If he should for one instant cease to hate it, he would cease to live. To be a holy God, is as essential to him, as to be a living God; and he would not be a living God, but a dead God, if he were in the least point of time an unholy God. He cannot look on sin without loathing it; he cannot look on sin but his heart riseth against it; it must needs be most odious to him, as that which is against the glory of his nature, and directly opposite to that which is the lustre and varnish of all his other perfbctions. It is the “abominable thing which his soul hates” (Jer.44:4); the vilest terms imaginable are used to signify it. Do you understand the loathsomeness of a miry swine, or the nauseousness of the vomit of a dog? these are emblems of sin (2 Peter 2:22). Can you endure the steams of putrefied carcasses from an open sepulchre (Rom. 3:23)? is the smell of the stinking sweat or excrements of a body delightful? the word υπαρίανi n James 1:21, signifies as much. Or is the sight of a body overgrown with scabs and leprosy grateful to you?
So vile, so odious is sin, in the sight of God. It is no light thing, then, to fly in the face of God; to break his eternal law; to dash both the tables in pieces: to trample the transcript of God’s own nature under our feet; to cherish that which was inconsistent with his honor; to lift up our heels against the glory of his nature; to join issue with the devil in stab in his heart, and depriving him of his life. Sin, in every part of it, is an opposition to the holiness of God, and consequently an envying him a being and life, as well as a glory. If sine such a thing, “ye that love the Lord, hate evil”
Inform. 4. Sin cannot escape a due punishment. A hatred of unrighteousness, and consequently a will to punish it, is as essential to God as a love of righteousness. Since he is not as an heathen idol, but hath eyes to see, and purity to hate every iniquity, he will have an infinite justice to punish whatsoever is against infinite holiness. As he loves everything that is amiable, so he loathes everything that is filthy, and that constantly, without any change; his whole nature is set, against it; he abhors nothing but this. It is not the devil’s knowledge or activity that his hatred is terminated in, but the malice and unholiness of his nature; it is this only is the object of his severity; it is in the recompense of this only that there can be a manifestation of his justice. Sin must be punished; for,
1. This detestation of sin must be manifested. How should we certainly know his loathing of it, if he did not manifest, by some act, how ungrateful it is to him? As his love to righteousness would not appear, without rewarding it; so his hatred of iniquity would be as little evidenced, without punishing it; his justice is the greaat witness to his purity. The punishment, therefore, inflicted on the wicked, shall be, in some respect, as great as the rewards bestowed upon the righteous. Since the hatred of sin is natural to God, it is as natural to him to show, one time or other, his hatred ot it. And since men have a conceit that God is like them in impurity, there is a necessity of some manifestation of himself to be infinitely distant from those conceits they have of him (Ps. 50:21); “I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.” He would else encourage the injuries done to his holiness, favor the extragavances of the creature, and condemn, or at least slight, the righteousness both of his own nature, and his sovereign law. What way is there for God to manifest his hatred, but by threatening the sinner? and what would this be but a vain affrightment, and ridiculous to the sinner, if it were never to be put in execution? There is an indissoluble connection between his hatred of sin, and punishment of the offender (Ps. 11:5, 6); “The wicked, his soul hates. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone,” &c. He cannot approve of it without denying himself; and a total impunity would be a degree of approbation. The displeasure of God is eternal and irreconcileable against sin; for sin being absolutely contrary to his holy nature, he is eternallly contrary to it; if there be not, therefore, a way to separate the sin from the sinner, the sinner must lie under the displeasure of God; no displeasure can be manifested without some marks of it upon the person that lies under the displeasure. The holiness of God will right itself of the wrongs done to it, and scatter the profaners of it at the greatest distance from him, which is the greatest punishment that can be inflicted; to be removed far from the Fountain of Life is the worst of deaths; God can so soon lay aside his purity, as always forebear his displeasure against an impure person; it is all one not to hate it, and not to manifest his hatred of it.
2. As his holiness is natural and necessary, so is the punishment of unholiness necessary to him. It is necessary that he should abominate sin, and therefore necessary he should discountenance it. The severities of God against sin are not vain scare-crows; they have their foundation in the righteousness of his nature; it is because he is a righteous and holy God, that he “will not forgive our transgressions and sins” (Josh. 24:19), that is, that he will punish them. The throne of his “holiness is a fiery flame” (Dan. 7:9); there is both a pure light and a scorching heat. Whatsoever is contrary to the nature of God, will fall under the justice of God; he would else violate his own nature, deny his own perfection, seem to be out of love with his own glory and life. He doth not hate it out of choice, but from the immutable propension of his nature; it is not so free an act of his will, as the creation of man and angels, which he might have forborne as well as effected. As the detestation of sin results from the universal rectitude of his nature, so the punishment of sin follows upon that, as he is the righteous Governor of the world: it is as much against his nature not to punish it, as it is against his nature not to loathe it; he would cease to be holy if he ceased to hate it, and he would cease to hate it if he ceased to punish it. Neither the obedience of our Saviour’s life, nor the strength of his cries, could put a bar to the cup of his passion; God so hated sin, that when it was but imputed to his Son, without any commission of it, he would bring a hell upon his soul.
Certainly if God could have hated sin without punishing it, his Son had never felt the smart of his wrath; his love to his Son had been strong enough to have caused him to forbear, had not the holiness of his nature been stronger to move him to inflict a punishment according to the demerit of his sin. God cannot but be holy, and therefore cannot but be just, because injustice is a part of unholiness.
3. Therefore there can be no communion between God and unholy spirits. How is it conceivable, that God should hate the sin, and cherish the sinner, with all his filth in his bosom? that he should eternally detest the crime, and eternally fold the sinner in his arms? Can less be expected from the purity of his nature, than to separate an impure soul, as long as it remains so? Can there be any delightful communion between those whose natures are contrary? Darkness and light may as soon kiss each other, and become one nature: God and the devil may as soon enter into an eternal league and covenant together. For God to have pleasure in wickedness, and to admit evil to dwell with him, are equally impossible to his nature (Psalm 5:4): while he hates impurity, he cannot have communion with an impure person. It may as soon be expected, that God should hate himself, offer violence to his own nature, lay aside his purity as an abominable thing, and blot his own glory, as love an impure person, entertain him as his delight, and set him in the same heaven and happiness with himself, and his holy angels. He must needs loathe him, he must needs banish him from his presence, which is the greatest punishment. God’s holiness and hatred of sin necessarily infer the punishment of it.
Inform. 5. There is, therefore, a necessity of the satisfaction of the holiness of God by some sufficient mediator. The Divine purity could not meet with any acquiescence in all mankind after the fall sin was hated; the sinner would be ruined, unless some way were found out to repair the wrongs done to the holiness of God; either the sinner must be condemned for ever, or some satisfaction must be made, that the holiness of the Divine nature might eternally appear in its full lustre. That it is essential to the nature of God to hate all unrighteousness, as that which is absolutely repugnant to his nature, none do question. That the justice of God is so essential to him, as that sin could not be pardoned without satisfaction, some do question; though this latter seems rationally to follow upon the former. That holiness is essential to the nature of God, is evident; because, else, God may as much be conceived without purity, as he might be conceived without the creating the sun or stars. No man can, in his right wits, frame a right notion of a Deity without purity. It would be less blasphemy against the excellency of God, to conceit him not knowing, than to imagine him not holy: and, for the essentialness of his justice, Joshua joins both his holiness and his jealousy as going. hand in hand together (Josh. 24:19); “He is a holy God, he is a jealous God, he will not forgive your sin.” But consider only the purity of God, since it is contrary to sin, and, consequently, hating the sinner; the guilty person cannot be reduced to God, nor can the holiness of God have any complacency in a filthy person, but as fire hath in stubble, to consume it. How the holy God should be brought to delight in man without a salvo for the rights of his holiness, is not to be conceived without an impeachment of the nature of God. The law could not be abolished; that would reflect, indeed, upon the righteousness of the Lawgiver: to abolish it, because of sin, would imply a change of the rectitude of his nature. Must he change his holiness for the sake of that which was against his holiness, in a compliance with a profane and unrighteous creature? This should engage him rather to maintain his law, than to null it; and to abrogate his law as soon as he had enacted it, since sin stepped into the world presently after it, would be no credit to his wisdom. There must be a reparation made of the honor of God’s holiness; by ourselves it could not be without condemnation; by another it could not be without a sufficiency in the person: no creature could do it. All the creatures being of a finite nature, could not make a compensation for the disparagements of Infinite Holiness. He must have despicable and vile thoughts of this excellent perfection, that imagines that a few tears, and the glavering fawnings at the death of a creature, can be sufficient to repair the wrongs, and restore the rights of this attribute. It must, therefore , be such a compensation as might be commensurate to the holiness of the Divine nature and the Divine law, which could not be wrought by any, but Him that was possessed of a Godhead to give efficacy and exact congruity to it. The Person designed and appointed by God for so great an affair, was “one in the form of God, one equal with God,” (Phil. 2:6), who could not be termed by such a title of dignity, if he had not been equal to God in the universal rectitude of the Divine nature, and therefore in his holiness. The punishment due to sin is translated to that person for the righting Divine holiness, and the righteousness of that Person is communicated to the sinner for the pardon of the offending creature. If the sinner had been eternally damned, God’s hatred of sin had been evidenced by the strokes of his justice; but his mercy to a sinner had lain in obscurity. If the sinner had been pardoned and saved without such a reparation, mercy had been evident; but his holiness had hid its head for ever in his own bosom. There was therefore a necessity of such a way to manifest his purity, and yet to bring forth his mercy: that mercy might not alway sigh for the destruction of the creature, and that holiness might not mourn for the neglect of its honor. pg 289
The Existence and Attributes of God
William Lane Craig
Doctrine of God Part 1
Doctrine of God Part 2
Doctrine of God Part 3
Doctrine of God Part 4
Doctrine of God Part 5
Doctrine of God Part 6
Doctrine of God Part 7
Doctrine of God Part 8
Doctrine of God Part 9
Doctrine of God Part 10
Doctrine of God Part 11
William Lane Craig | Reasonable Faith
Calvary Chapel NM
Calvary Chapel NM
Calvary Chapel NM
Calvary Chapel NM
Calvary Chapel NM
Calvary Chapel NM
Skip Heitzig | Calvary Chapel NM
Seeing Our City
08-02-1992 | Jon Courson
His Promise And His Presence
08-09-1992 | Jon Courson
Have Ye Received The Spirit?
08-23-1992 | Jon Courson
08-26-1992 | Jon Courson
09-02-1992 | Jon Courson
The Danger Of Drowsiness
09-06-1992 | Jon Courson
09-09-1992 | Jon Courson
09-16-1992 | Jon Courson
Feeding Or Beating?
09-20-1992 | Jon Courson
09-23-1992 | Jon Courson
Shed Blood . . . Shared Blood
09-27-1992 | Jon Courson
09-30-1992 | Jon Courson
What's So Special About This?
09-16-2018 | Jon Courson
Jon Courson | Jon Courson
Acts 18 pt 1
Concluding Paul's 2nd Missionary Journey
Acts 18 pt 2
The Gift of Apollos
Acts 19 pt 1
The Power of the Holy Spirit
Acts 19 pt 2
I Surrender All
Acts 19 pt 3
Speaking the Truth in Love
Acts 20 pt 1
New Life in Christ
Acts 20 pt 2
God's Blueprint for the Church
Paul LeBoutillier | Calvary Chapel Ontario
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Synopsis | In tonight’s through-the-Bible study, we learn about the beginnings of the Corinthian church, the time Paul spent ministering there and the couple, Priscilla and Aquila, who would be important partners in Paul’s life and ministry.
m1-515 | 08-25-2010
Only audio available | click here
Synopsis | As Paul ministers in the city of Ephesus, we see a city transformed by the teaching of the Word. In addition to Acts 19, we also spend some time in Psalm 119 to delve into the life-changing power of the Bible.
The Word's Powerful Impact
s1-501 | 08-29-2010
Only audio available | click here
Synopsis | Acts 19 teaches us more about Paul’s ministry to the city of Ephesus. It was a unique time as the Lord worked mightily in such a spiritually dark area. Paul encountered false prophets, sorcery, witchcraft and even rioting. But the Holy Spirit moved powerfully in the lives of the new believers and the entire region of Asia was reached with the Good News, “so mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed.”
m1-516 | 09-01-2010
Only audio available | click here
Synopsis | In this passage from Acts 20, Paul describes how he ministered to the church at Ephesus. He sets a perfect example for us today as we are ALL called to be ministers of the gospel.
s1-502 | 09-05-2010
Only audio available | click here
Synopsis | Acts 20 is a chapter that is packed full of insights about the early church. There is much to be learned from Paul’s farewell address to the leaders of the church at Ephesus.
m1-517 | 09-08-2010
Only audio available | click here