Paul Before Felix at CaesareaActs 24 1 And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul. 2 And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying:
“Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation, 3 in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude. 4 But, to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly. 5 For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6 He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him.”
9 The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so.
10 And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied:
“Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. 11 You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, 12 and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. 17 Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. 18 While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia— 19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 21 other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’ ”
Paul Kept in Custody22 But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.
24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” 26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. 27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.
Paul Appeals to CaesarActs 25 1 Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2 And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, 3 asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem—because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. 4 Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. 5 “So,” said he, “let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.”
6 After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. 7 When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. 8 Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” 9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” 10 But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”
Paul Before Agrippa and Bernice13 Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus. 14 And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix, 15 and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. 16 I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. 17 So when they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. 19 Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. 20 Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them. 21 But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.” 22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” said he, “you will hear him.”
23 So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all who are present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish people petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 But I found that he had done nothing deserving death. And as he himself appealed to the emperor, I decided to go ahead and send him. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him.”
Paul’s Defense Before AgrippaActs 26 1 So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense: 2 “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.
4 “My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. 5 They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! 8 Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?
9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
Paul Tells of His Conversion12 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” 24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”
30 Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. 31 And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
What I'm Reading
You Can Trust the Gospel Accounts, Even If They Don’t Agree
By J. Warner Wallace 4/4/2016
In the movie, God’s Not Dead 2, I was asked to defend the historicity of Jesus and the eyewitness reliability of the Gospels. Skeptics sometimes challenge the gospels because there appear to be differences between the accounts. As a skeptic myself, investigating the gospels for the first time at the age of thirty-five, I also observed the discrepancies between the gospels. These differences didn’t, however, automatically disqualify them for me. If there’s one thing my experience as a detective has revealed, it’s that witnesses often make conflicting and inconsistent statements when describing what they saw at a crime scene. They frequently disagree with one another and either fail to see something obvious or describe the same event in a number of conflicting ways. The more witnesses involved in a case, the more likely there will be points of disagreement. When I encounter apparent discrepancies between eyewitness accounts, I don’t automatically assume someone is lying or that the witnesses aren’t reliable. Instead, I accept my investigative responsibility and do my best to understand why the witnesses appear to disagree. Most of the time, I’m able to legitimately reconcile the testimony and arrive at the truth. You can trust eyewitnesses even if they appear to disagree. When I first began to investigate the gospels, I kept this truth in mind.
I can remember a particular homicide that occurred in a restaurant parking lot in our town, late one rainy night, well after our homicide team went home for the day. Patrol officers responded to the scene and discovered that the suspect was already long gone. The officers located three witnesses and interviewed them very briefly. They quickly recognized that the murder investigation would require the involvement of our team. Radio dispatch called our sergeant, and he began waking us up by telephone, summoning four of us to handle the investigation. It took me nearly an hour to get into a suit and drive to the location of the crime. When I got there, I discovered that the officers gathered the witnesses and put them in the backseat of their police unit so they wouldn’t get drenched in the rain. This simple act of kindness nearly ruined the case. I learned many years ago the importance of separating witnesses. If eyewitnesses are quickly separated from one another, they are far more likely to provide an uninfluenced, pure account of what they saw.
Yes, their accounts will inevitably differ from the accounts of others who witnessed the same event, but that is the natural result of a witness’s past experience, perspective, and worldview. I can deal with the inconsistencies; I expect them. But when witnesses are allowed to sit together (prior to being interviewed) and compare notes and observations, I’m likely to get one harmonized version of the event. Everyone will offer the same story. While this may be tidier, it will come at the sacrifice of some important detail that a witness is willing to forfeit in order to align his or her story with the other witnesses. I’m not willing to pay that price. I would far rather have three messy, apparently contradictory versions of the event than one harmonized version that has eliminated some important detail. I know in the end I’ll be able to determine the truth of the matter by examining all three stories. The apparent contradictions are usually easy to explain once I learn something about the witnesses and their perspectives (both visually and personally) at the time of the crime.
Jurors are cautioned about discrediting the testimony of eyewitnesses just because there may be an apparent discrepancy between the accounts:
“Do not automatically reject testimony just because of inconsistencies or conflicts. Consider whether the differences are important or not. People sometimes honestly forget things or make mistakes about what they remember. Also, two people may witness the same event yet see or hear it differently” (Section 105, Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions, 2006).
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
5 Ways to Doubt Your Doubts
By Tim Keller 11/7/16
Our most rigorous rational thinking is shot through with various forms of faith. Even skeptical doubt always contains an element of belief.
In his essay “The Critique of Doubt,” Michael Polanyi argues that doubt and belief are ultimately “equivalent.” Why? “The doubting of any explicit statement,” he writes, “denies [one] belief . . . in favor of other beliefs which are not doubted for the time being.” You can’t doubt belief A except on the basis of some belief B you’re believing instead at the moment.
So, for example, you cannot say, “No one can know enough to be certain about God and religion,” without assuming at that moment that you know enough about the nature of religious knowledge to be certain about that.
Doubt Your Doubts | Some years ago a man began attending our church. He had begun life with a general belief in God, but he had been assailed with doubts during his college years and had lived for decades without any religious faith. After a number of months of attending our congregation he told me that faith in God was looking much more plausible to him. When I asked how that was happening, he said a turning point had been a talk he heard me give on “doubting your doubts.” He said, “I had never realized there had to be some faith under my doubts. And when I looked at the things I did believe, I discovered I didn’t have good reasons for them. When I started to examine some of the bases for my doubts, faith in God didn’t seem so hard.”
What does it mean to do that? As I got to know this man and he became a friend and eventually a member of my church, I went through the series of the things that had triggered his first doubts. Later I discovered an atheist blogger who made an almost identical list:
Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, which he started in 1989 with his wife, Kathy, and three young sons. For over twenty years he has led a diverse congregation of young professionals that has grown to a weekly attendance of over 5,000.
He is also Chairman of Redeemer City to City, which starts new churches in New York and other global cities, and publishes books and resources for faith in an urban culture. In over ten years they have helped to launch over 250 churches in 48 cities. More recently, Dr. Keller’s books, including the New York Times bestselling The Reason for God and The Prodigal God, have sold over 1 million copies and been translated into 15 languages.
Christianity Today has said, “Fifty years from now, if evangelical Christians are widely known for their love of cities, their commitment to mercy and justice, and their love of their neighbors, Tim Keller will be remembered as a pioneer of the new urban Christians.
Dr. Keller was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He previously served as the pastor of West Hopewell Presbyterian Church in Hopewell, Virginia, Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, and Director of Mercy Ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America.Tim Keller Books | Go to Books Page
Reflections on the Revolution in Rome
By Kenneth L. Woodward 2/2013
As mediated by the journalists, the story of the Second Vatican Council was framed as a battle between traditionalists centered in the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s bureaucracy, and a core of progressive bishops, mostly from northern Europe. It was a facile political trope but one that did in fact mirror how important factions within the council understood themselves. Of the two, the progressives were far more open to journalists than the curial conservatives, who treated most reporters—Catholic or secular—as prying adversaries. It was a tactical mistake on their part, but one that did not materially alter either the coverage or the outcome of the council itself.
The prospect of change in the world’s largest Christian church is what brought reporters back to Rome for four straight years, and what kept resident news bureaus busy during the nine months between fall sessions. But the council’s fundamental impact on the media was this: It forced even the most secular of editors to recognize that theological ideas and Church history mattered. The council’s theological debates on issues like the relationship between Scripture and Church tradition turned out to be grave and timely issues that deserved in-depth reporting and merited front-page display.
Unfortunately, few of the media’s mediators had the requisite background. Which is why the New York Times hired John Cogley away from Commonweal; why Time dispatched Robert Blair Kaiser, a new hire and former Jesuit seminarian, to their Rome bureau; why a range of liberal magazines like the New Republic and the National Catholic Reporter published informed pieces by another ex-seminarian, Michael Novak; and why the New Yorker turned to the pseudonymous Xavier Rynne (Father Francis X. Murphy) for knowing inside-the-council pieces.
It is also, I have always thought, why Newsweek hired me when I walked in off the street. I was a journalist who was a Catholic: I even had a degree from Notre Dame. “Do you think you can be fair to the conservative bishops in writing about the council?” was the only question Newsweek’s legendary editor Osborne Elliott asked me before confirming my appointment. In truth, with two young children and a third on the way, I hadn’t given the goings-on in Rome that much thought.
The news media is, as I think of it, what we have because we no longer have public squares, salons, or even cafes—places where people used to gather and news was transmitted face to face. Media mediates. But unlike real conversation, the news media creates mass audiences or “publics,” which it addresses by marketing its various journalistic products. Journalists, in short, are skilled workers in what some sociologists in the early seventies usefully identified as “the knowledge industry.”
Kenneth L. Woodward has been Religion Editor at Newsweek for thirty-six years. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Smithsonian, Commonweal, The Nation, and America, among other publications. He is also the winner of a National Magazine Award.
Kenneth L. Woodward Books:
- 1 Getting Religion: Faith, Culture, and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Ascent of Trump
- 2 Making Saints: How The Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes A Saint, Who Doesn'T, And Why
- 3 The Book of Miracles: The Meaning of the Miracle Stories in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam
- 4 Grandparents/Grandchildren: The Vital Connection
Decline In Mainline Church Attendance Linked To Progressive Theology
By Wintery Knight 11/20/2016
I’m shocked and delighted to see this new study reported in the Weekly Standard, of all places. I guess everyone has an intuition that conservative churches that focus on the Bible have been growing in attendance. And progressive churches that focus on feelings and peer approval are in decline. But now we have some numbers that link the changes in attendance to specific theological beliefs.
A literal reading of scripture and faith in an interventionist God strengthen church attendance. According to a new academic study of what drives a mainline Protestant church to die out or succeed, preaching these two theological precepts makes all the difference.
The forthcoming article, entitled “Theology Matters,” confirms a truth universally acknowledged, or reasonably intuited anyway. The Christ-optional, Gospel-as-metaphor, liberal-progressive mainline Protestantism borne of our secular age keeps so loose a lock on wandering souls that they wander away—choosing boozy brunch, perhaps, over pew-sitting.
The authors, Drs. David Haskell, Kevin Flatt and Stephanie Burgoyne, used five years’ data gathered from 2,255 attendees of Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United Church of Canada parishes across the province of Ontario. (The United Church of Canada boasts an ongoing, unsurprising self-parody in an atheist minister no one seems to have ginned up the nerve to defrock.)
RE: Wintery Knight: For now, I prefer to keep anonymous, although I may add additional details to this page later.
My political views are a mixture of conservative and libertarian. I believe in free market capitalism and liberty, and especially in religious liberty. I favor a strong defense abroad, “peace through strength”, as Reagan would have it.
Theologically, I am a conservative evangelical Protestant Christian. I favor the old-earth (14 billion-year universe) perspective, and I am a firm supporter of intelligent design. Socially, I am pro-life, pro-chastity, pro-abstinence and pro-traditional-marriage.
You can read my story in more detail here.
Theological Liberalism and Street Cred
By Glen Peoples 11/19/2010
John Dominic Crossan, the late Robert Funk, John Shelby Spong, or New Zealand’s own Lloyd Geering. All call themselves Christians, none of them believe that God exists (except in some emotive or mythological manner), and all are adamant that Christianity should change. It should give up belief in a personal creator, in myths about miracles, in nonsense about bodily resurrections from the dead, and so on. Christianity must get with the times and become relevant, and in our day and age people just can’t believe in such silliness.
One of the goals of liberal theology is to give Christianity a modern acceptability. People can’t believe in ancient superstitions these days, we are told, but they can believe in “God” if by God we mean the goodness in the world. People can believe in the resurrection of Jesus, if by “resurrection” we mean the survival of (some of) his moral teachings in the lives of his followers, and so on.
These folks don’t want to abandon Christianity, according to them. Not at all. They want to see Christianity get real, they would tell us. They are making the Christian faith credible. Or are they?
Firstly, there’s a rather noticeable pointlessness at work here. Why do these men identify with Christianity? Given what they actually believe, why position themselves in the church? Take their belief that there is no being called God and that Jesus was a wonderful human teacher and nothing more. There already exist religions that teach this – certain forms of Buddhism, for example. What is it that actually distinguishes their view from other views by calling it Christian? Nothing, as far as I can tell.
Secondly there’s a palpable dishonesty at work here too. If you’re going to present ideas, it’s helpful to name them. But if you name them, you need to be conscious of the fact that some names are already taken, and already have meaning. Some of these names are covered by copyright (such as Coca Cola), so you wouldn’t be able to use those, but others aren’t. When you identify as a Christian theologian and say “I believe that God exists and that Jesus rose from the dead,” you’re using terminology and also theological phrases and concepts that have recognisable meaning. In a Christian context there’s an existing understanding of what those concepts are and what those terms mean. God is the being who created the Universe, and Jesus rose from the dead by coming back to life and exiting his tomb. That’s what Christians have always meant when they say those things. But how honest is it to say “I’m a Christian, God exists, and Jesus rose from the dead” when what you actually mean is “I have a healthy respect for the teachings of a man who was no saviour, I believe that there is such a thing as goodness, and Jesus’ teachings still have some relevance for today”? Surely the respectable thing to say is “Look, Christianity is false, there’s no God, but we can still gleam a thing or two from what Jesus said.”
Right Reason is the blog of Dr Glenn Peoples and home of the podcast Say Hello to my Little Friend. It primarily covers issues in philosophy, theology, biblical studies and social issues.
Say Hello to my Little Friend is the most widely listened to podcast on philosophy or theology in the southern hemisphere. You can find and listen to the episodes by browsing the blog (click on the “podcast” button over on the right to only see the posts that are in the podcast category), or you can subscribe to the podcast at the iTunes Store. The iTunes page for this podcast is here.
The subject areas that come up most frequently at the blog and podcast will continue to evolve as my interests evolve, but some that interest me are:
- Philosophy of religion in general, including arguments for and against theism, the (alleged) problem of miracles and the traditional issues covered in philosophy of religion.
- Meta-ethics, the question of moral foundations, and in particular defending models of ethics with a theological grounding (like certain types of natural law view or a divine command theory), along with defending the thesis that philosophical naturalism leads to moral nihilism.
- Theological / biblical hermeneutical issues including personal and corporate eschatology (heaven and hell, life after death, as well as theological/biblical questions surrounding the future of humanity and creation), biblical views of human nature, issues surrounding the charismatic/pentecostal phenomenon and various other areas of theological inquiry.
- The place of religious convictions in public and political life.
- Philosophy of mind, the questions surrounding the makeup of the human person and the relationship between the mind/soul and the body.
- Lastly (but never least!), general heckling of those with whom I happen to disagree, humour, capitalising on the political misfortune of others, music, and random comments that have no apparent causal explanation.
The Left’s Post-Trump Win Campaign of Terror
By John Zmirak 11/20/16
A few months back, I wondered aloud here why campus leftists would invite fellow students to bite the heads off fetus cookies. Or what purpose was served by hanging a Jesus dartboard in a dorm. The answer I found was simple. And alarming.
The left in America is engaged in what Catholic philosopher Thomas Molnar called “cultural terrorism.” As someone who survived both a Nazi concentration camp and post-war Stalinist Hungary, Molnar knew whereof he spoke. And the post-election actions of America’s left, from the streets of major cities to the halls of Congress itself, come straight from the radical playbook of Saul Alinsky and his disciples (which included both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton).
Cultural terrorism is designed to work much like the bombs-and-bullets variety, using words and symbols instead. Its objectives, laid out in Molnar’s classic, The Counter-Revolution, are
To shatter the sense of normalcy, peace, and civic order that make it possible to live a middle-class existence in a free society.
To profane the sacred spaces and shatter the pious conventions that hold citizens together by wholesome inertia.
Click here to go to source
John Zmirak Books:
- 1 The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins: A Vital Look at Virtue and Vice, With Quizzes and Activities for Saintly Self-Improvement (Bad Catholic's guides)
- 2 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism (The Politically Incorrect Guides)
- 3 The Grand Inquisitor (Crossroad Book)
- 4 The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Catechism: A Faithful, Fun-Loving Look at Catholic Dogmas, Doctrines, and Schmoctrines (Bad Catholic's guides)
- 5 The Race to Save Our Century: Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom, and a Culture Of Life
- 6 The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living: A Loving Look at the Lighter Side of Catholic Faith, with Recipes for Feasts and Fun
- 7 Wilhelm Ropke: Swiss Localist, Global Economist (Library of Modern Thinkers)
- 8 Choosing the Right College 2014-15: The Inside Scoop on Elite Schools and Outstanding Lesser-Known Institutions
- 9 The World Is On Fire: A Whole Life Reader
- 10 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration (The Politically Incorrect Guides)
- 11 The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey, & Song: A Spirited Look at Catholic Life & Lore from the Apocalypse to Zinfandel (Bad Catholic's guides)
- 12 All-American Colleges: Top Schools for Conservatives, Old-Fashioned Liberals, and People of Faith
- 13 Dollfuss: An Austrian Patriot
- 14 Wilhelm RFopke : Swiss localist, global economist
In biblical lands of Iraq, Christianity in peril after ISIS
By Moni Basu 11/21/2016
Bartella, Iraq (CNN)Behnam Lalo crunches over jagged glass and tiptoes around a fallen altar, burned Bibles and a decapitated porcelain Virgin Mary. He picks up a cross from a heap of rubble and wipes away ashes with his priest's robes.
He recognizes the cross immediately; he used it at confirmation ceremonies of so many boys and girls here at St. George Church. He no longer knows where some of them are. Or, if they are still alive.
This was a sanctuary once, a place of peace and love in the northern Iraqi town of Bartella, just 13 miles east of Mosul. Now everything is in disarray -- defaced and damaged, covered in soot and remnants of war. In the adjoining cemetery, a rocket launcher points east toward the front lines, and bullet-ridden gravestones stand as silent witnesses to the desecration.
A crushing sadness descends on Lalo.
He tightens his grip on the small cross as his face fills with resolve. He will build again with new bricks and mortar, replace pillaged pews and find a chandelier more beautiful than the one he had installed a few years ago.
Click here to go to source
She's been a journalist for more than three decades. From 2002 to 2013, she covered the Iraq war, which changed her life, led to national awards and an e-book, "Chaplain Turner's War". Since then, she has focused much of her work on people who survive immense loss and trauma.
Moni was born in Kolkata, India, and has straddled two cultures all her life. That explains her other interest: race and identity.
When she's not reporting, Moni loves to travel. Number one on her bucket list is to ride the Trans-Siberian Railway, from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg. One day soon...
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
9. We see there is no need of a long and laborious train of argument in
order to obtain proofs which illustrate and assert the Divine Majesty.
The few which we have merely touched, show them to be so immediately
within our reach in every quarter, that we can trace them with the eye,
or point to them with the finger. And here we must observe again (see
chap. 2 s. 2), that the knowledge of God which we are invited to
cultivate is not that which, resting satisfied with empty speculation,
only flutters in the brain, but a knowledge which will prove
substantial and fruitful wherever it is duly perceived, and rooted in
the heart. The Lord is manifested by his perfections. When we feel
their power within us, and are conscious of their benefits, the
knowledge must impress us much more vividly than if we merely imagined
a God whose presence we never felt. Hence it is obvious, that in
seeking God, the most direct path and the fittest method is, not to
attempt with presumptuous curiosity to pry into his essence, which is
rather to be adored than minutely discussed, but to contemplate him in
his works, by which he draws near, becomes familiar, and in a manner
communicates himself to us. To this the Apostle referred when he said,
that we need not go far in search of him (Acts 17:27), because, by the
continual working of his power, he dwells in every one of us.
Accordingly, David (Psalm 145), after acknowledging that his greatness
is unsearchable, proceeds to enumerate his works, declaring that his
greatness will thereby be unfolded. It therefore becomes us also
diligently to prosecute that investigation of God which so enraptures
the soul with admiration as, at the same time, to make an efficacious
impression on it. And, as Augustine expresses it (in Psalm 144), since
we are unable to comprehend Him, and are, as it were, overpowered by
his greatness, our proper course is to contemplate his works, and so
refresh ourselves with his goodness.
10. By the knowledge thus acquired, we ought not only to be stimulated to worship God, but also aroused and elevated to the hope of future life. For, observing that the manifestations which the Lord gives both of his mercy and severity are only begun and incomplete, we ought to infer that these are doubtless only a prelude to higher manifestations, of which the full display is reserved for another state. Conversely, when we see the righteous brought into affliction by the ungodly, assailed with injuries, overwhelmed with calumnies, and lacerated by insult and contumely, while, on the contrary, the wicked flourish, prosper, acquire ease and honour, and all these with impunity, we ought forthwith to infer, that there will be a future life in which iniquity shall receive its punishment, and righteousness its reward. Moreover, when we observe that the Lord often lays his chastening rod on the righteous, we may the more surely conclude, that far less will the unrighteous ultimately escape the scourges of his anger. There is a well-known passage in Augustine (De Civitat. Dei, lib. 1 c. 8), "Were all sin now visited with open punishment, it might be thought that nothing was reserved for the final Judgment; and, on the other hand, were no sin now openly punished, it might be supposed there was no divine providence." It must be acknowledged, therefore, that in each of the works of God, and more especially in the whole of them taken together, the divine perfections are delineated as in a picture, and the whole human race thereby invited and allured to acquire the knowledge of God, and, in consequence of this knowledge, true and complete felicity. Moreover, while his perfections are thus most vividly displayed, the only means of ascertaining their practical operation and tendency is to descend into ourselves, and consider how it is that the Lord there manifests his wisdom, power, and energy,--how he there displays his justice, goodness, and mercy. For although David (Psalm 92:6) justly complains of the extreme infatuation of the ungodly in not pondering the deep counsels of God, as exhibited in the government of the human race, what he elsewhere says (Psalm 40) is most true, that the wonders of the divine wisdom in this respect are more in number than the hairs of our head. But I leave this topic at present, as it will be more fully considered afterwards in its own place (Book I. c. 16, see. 6-9).
11. Bright, however, as is the manifestation which God gives both of himself and his immortal kingdom in the mirror of his works, so great is our stupidity, so dull are we in regard to these bright manifestations, that we derive no benefit from them. For in regard to the fabric and admirable arrangement of the universe, how few of us are there who, in lifting our eyes to the heavens, or looking abroad on the various regions of the earth, ever think of the Creator? Do we not rather overlook Him, and sluggishly content ourselves with a view of his works? And then in regard to supernatural events, though these are occurring every day, how few are there who ascribe them to the ruling providence of God--how many who imagine that they are casual results produced by the blind evolutions of the wheel of chance? Even when under the guidance and direction of these events, we are in a manner forced to the contemplation of God (a circumstance which all must occasionally experience), and are thus led to form some impressions of Deity, we immediately fly off to carnal dreams and depraved fictions, and so by our vanity corrupt heavenly truth. This far, indeed, we differ from each other, in that every one appropriates to himself some peculiar error; but we are all alike in this, that we substitute monstrous fictions for the one living and true God--a disease not confined to obtuse and vulgar minds, but affecting the noblest, and those who, in other respects, are singularly acute. How lavishly in this respect have the whole body of philosophers betrayed their stupidity and want of sense? To say nothing of the others whose absurdities are of a still grosser description, how completely does Plato, the soberest and most religious of them all, lose himself in his round globe?  What must be the case with the rest, when the leaders, who ought to have set them an example, commit such blunders, and labour under such hallucinations? In like manner, while the government of the world places the doctrine of providence beyond dispute, the practical result is the same as if it were believed that all things were carried hither and thither at the caprice of chance; so prone are we to vanity and error. I am still referring to the most distinguished of the philosophers, and not to the common herd, whose madness in profaning the truth of God exceeds all bounds.
12. Hence that immense flood of error with which the whole world is overflowed. Every individual mind being a kind of labyrinth, it is not wonderful, not only that each nation has adopted a variety of fictions, but that almost every man has had his own god. To the darkness of ignorance have been added presumption and wantonness, and hence there is scarcely an individual to be found without some idol or phantom as a substitute for Deity. Like water gushing forth from a large and copious spring, immense crowds of gods have issued from the human mind, every man giving himself full license, and devising some peculiar form of divinity, to meet his own views. It is unnecessary here to attempt a catalogue of the superstitions with which the world was overspread. The thing were endless; and the corruptions themselves, though not a word should be said, furnish abundant evidence of the blindness of the human mind. I say nothing of the rude and illiterate vulgar; but among the philosophers  who attempted, by reason and learning, to pierce the heavens, what shameful disagreement! The higher any one was endued with genius, and the more he was polished by science and art, the more specious was the colouring which he gave to his opinions. All these, however, if examined more closely, will be found to be vain show. The Stoics plumed themselves on their acuteness, when they said that the various names of God might be extracted from all the parts of nature, and yet that his unity was not thereby divided: as if we were not already too prone to vanity, and had no need of being presented with an endless multiplicity of gods, to lead us further and more grossly into error. The mystic theology of the Egyptians shows how sedulously they laboured to be thought rational on this subject.  And, perhaps, at the first glance, some show of probability might deceive the simple and unwary; but never did any mortal devise a scheme by which religion was not foully corrupted. This endless variety and confusion emboldened the Epicureans, and other gross despisers of piety, to cut off all sense of God. For when they saw that the wisest contradicted each others they hesitated not to infer from their dissensions, and from the frivolous and absurd doctrines of each, that men foolishly, and to no purpose, brought torment upon themselves by searching for a God, there being none: and they thought this inference safe, because it was better at once to deny God altogether, than to feign uncertain gods, and thereafter engage in quarrels without end. They, indeed, argue absurdly, or rather weave a cloak for their impiety out of human ignorance; though ignorance surely cannot derogate from the prerogatives of God. But since all confess that there is no topic on which such difference exists, both among learned and unlearned, the proper inference is, that the human mind, which thus errs in inquiring after God, is dull and blind in heavenly mysteries. Some praise the answer of Simonides, who being asked by King Hero what God was, asked a day to consider. When the king next day repeated the question, he asked two days; and after repeatedly doubling the number of days, at length replied, "The longer I consider, the darker the subject appears."  He, no doubt, wisely suspended his opinion, when he did not see clearly: still his answer shows, that if men are only naturally taught, instead of having any distinct, solid, or certain knowledge, they fasten only on contradictory principles, and, in consequence, worship an unknown God.
13. Hence we must hold, that whosoever adulterates pure religion (and this must be the case with all who cling to their own views), make a departure from the one God. No doubt, they will allege that they have a different intention; but it is of little consequence what they intend or persuade themselves to believe, since the Holy Spirit pronounces all to be apostates, who, in the blindness of their minds, substitute demons in the place of God. For this reason Paul declares that the Ephesians were "without God," (Eph. 2:12), until they had learned from the Gospel what it is to worship the true God. Nor must this be restricted to one people only, since, in another place, he declares in general, that all men "became vain in their imaginations," after the majesty of the Creator was manifested to them in the structure of the world. Accordingly, in order to make way for the only true God, he condemns all the gods celebrated among the Gentiles as lying and false, leaving no Deity anywhere but in Mount Zion where the special knowledge of God was professed (Hab. 2:18, 20). Among the Gentiles in the time of Christ, the Samaritans undoubtedly made the nearest approach to true piety; yet we hear from his own mouth that they worshipped they knew not what (John 4:22); whence it follows that they were deluded by vain errors. In short, though all did not give way to gross vice, or rush headlong into open idolatry, there was no pure and authentic religion founded merely on common belief. A few individuals may not have gone all insane lengths with the vulgar; still Paul's declaration remains true, that the wisdom of God was not apprehended by the princes of this world (1 Cor. 2:8). But if the most distinguished wandered in darkness, what shall we say of the refuse? No wonder, therefore, that all worship of man's device is repudiated by the Holy Spirit as degenerate. Any opinion which man can form in heavenly mysteries, though it may not beget a long train of errors, is still the parent of error. And though nothing worse should happen, even this is no light sin--to worship an unknown God at random. Of this sin, however, we hear from our Saviour's own mouth (John 4:22), that all are guilty who have not been taught out of the law who the God is whom they ought to worship. Nay, even Socrates in Xenophon (lib. 1 Memorabilia), lauds the response of Apollo enjoining every man to worship the gods according to the rites of his country, and the particular practice of his own city. But what right have mortals thus to decide of their own authority in a matter which is far above the world; or who can so acquiesce in the will of his forefathers, or the decrees of the people, as unhesitatingly to receive a god at their hands? Every one will adhere to his own Judgment, sooner than submit to the dictation of others. Since, therefore, in regulating the worship of God, the custom of a city, or the consent of antiquity, is a too feeble and fragile bond of piety; it remains that God himself must bear witness to himself from heaven.
14. In vain for us, therefore, does Creation exhibit so many bright lamps lighted up to show forth the glory of its Author. Though they beam upon us from every quarter, they are altogether insufficient of themselves to lead us into the right path. Some sparks, undoubtedly, they do throw out; but these are quenched before they can give forth a brighter effulgence. Wherefore, the apostle, in the very place where he says that the worlds are images of invisible things, adds that it is by faith we understand that they were framed by the word of God (Heb. 11:3); thereby intimating that the invisible Godhead is indeed represented by such displays, but that we have no eyes to perceive it until they are enlightened through faith by internal revelation from God. When Paul says that that which may be known of God is manifested by the creation of the world, he does not mean such a manifestation as may be comprehended by the wit of man (Rom. 1:19); on the contrary, he shows that it has no further effect than to render us inexcusable (Acts 17:27). And though he says, elsewhere, that we have not far to seek for God, inasmuch as he dwells within us, he shows, in another passage, to what extent this nearness to God is availing. God, says he, "in times past, suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless, he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness," (Acts 14:16, 17). But though God is not left without a witness, while, with numberless varied acts of kindness, he woos men to the knowledge of himself, yet they cease not to follow their own ways, in other words, deadly errors.
15. But though we are deficient in natural powers which might enable us to rise to a pure and clear knowledge of God, still, as the dullness which prevents us is within, there is no room for excuse. We cannot plead ignorance, without being at the same time convicted by our own consciences both of sloth and ingratitude. It were, indeed, a strange defence for man to pretend that he has no ears to hear the truth, while dumb creatures have voices loud enough to declare it; to allege that he is unable to see that which creatures without eyes demonstrate, to excuse himself on the ground of weakness of mind, while all creatures without reason are able to teach. Wherefore, when we wander and go astray, we are justly shut out from every species of excuse, because all things point to the right path. But while man must bear the guilt of corrupting the seed of divine knowledge so wondrously deposited in his mind, and preventing it from bearing good and genuine fruit, it is still most true that we are not sufficiently instructed by that bare and simple, but magnificent testimony which the creatures bear to the glory of their Creator. For no sooner do we, from a survey of the world, obtain some slight knowledge of Deity, than we pass by the true God, and set up in his stead the dream and phantom of our own brain, drawing away the praise of justice, wisdom, and goodness, from the fountain-head, and transferring it to some other quarter. Moreover, by the erroneous estimate we form, we either so obscure or pervert his daily works, as at once to rob them of their glory and the author of them of his just praise.
 Augustinus: Astrologia magnum religiosis argumentum, tormentumque curiosis.
 See Aristot. Hist. Anim. lib. i. c. 17; Macrob. in Somn. Scip lib. 2 c. 12; Boeth. De Definitione.
 Aeneid, 6 724, sq. See Calvin on Acts 17:28 Manil. lib. 1. Astron.
 Dryden's Virgil, Æneid, Book 4 1. 980-990.
 Georgic 4. 220. Plat. in Tim. Arist. lib. 1 De Animo. See also Metaph. lib. 1. Merc. Trismegr. in Pimandro.
 Dryden's Virgil, Book 4. 1. 252-262.
 He maintains, in the beginning of the First Book, that nothing is produced of nothing, but that all things are formed out of certain primitive materials. He also perverts the ordinary course of generation into an argument against the existence of God. In the Fifth Book, however, he admits that the world was born and will die.
 Plato in Timaeos. See also Cic. De Nat. Deorum, lib. 1 ; Plut. De Philos Placitis, lib. i.
 Cicero : Qui deos esse dixerunt tanta sunt in varietate ac dissensione, ut eorum molestum sit enumerare sententias.--Cicero, De Nat Deorum, lib. 1 and 2. Lactant Inst. Div. lib. 1 &c.
 Plutarch. lib. De Iside et Osiride.
 Cicero, De Nat. Deor. lib. 1.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 126Restore Our Fortunes, O LORD
126 A Song Of Ascents.
126:1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad.
4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like streams in the Negeb!
5 Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
6 He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
CHAPTER XVI | Martyrdom of William HunterWilliam Hunter had been trained to the doctrines of the Reformation from his earliest youth, being descended from religious parents, who carefully instructed him in the principles of true religion.
Hunter, then nineteen years of age, refusing to receive the communion at Mass, was threatened to be brought before the bishop; to whom this valiant young martyr was conducted by a constable.
Bonner caused William to be brought into a chamber, where he began to reason with him, proimising him security and pardon if he would recant. Nay, he would have been content if he would have gone only to receive and to confession, but William would not do so for all the world.
Upon this the bishop commanded his men to put William in the stocks in his gate house, where he sat two days and nights, with a crust of brown bread and a cup of water only, which he did not touch.
At the two days' end, the bishop came to him, and finding him steadfast in the faith, sent him to the convict prison, and commanded the keeper to lay irons upon him as many as he could bear. He continued in prison three quarters of a year, during which time he had been before the bishop five times, besides the time when he was condemned in the consistory in St. Paul's, February 9, at which time his brother, Robert Hunter, was present.
Then the bishop, calling William, asked him if he would recant, and finding he was unchangeable, pronounced sentence upon him, that he should go from that place to Newgate for a time, and thence to Brentwood, there to be burned.
About a month afterward, William was sent down to Brentwood, where he was to be executed. On coming to the stake, he knelt down and read the Fifty-first Psalm, until he came to these words, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." Steadfast in refusing the queen's pardon, if he would become an apostate, at length one Richard Ponde, a bailiff, came, and made the chain fast about him.
William now cast his psalter into his brother's hand, who said, "William, think on the holy passion of Christ, and be not afraid of death." "Behold," answered William, "I am not afraid." Then he lifted up his hands to heaven, and said, "Lord, Lord, Lord, receive my spirit;" and casting down he head again into the smothering smoke, he yielded up his life for the truth, sealing it with his blood to the praise of God.
Dr. Robert FarrarThis worthy and learned prelate, the bishop of St. David's in Wales, having in the former reign, as well as since the accession of Mary, been remarkably zealous in promoting the reformed doctrines, and exploding the rrors of popish idolatry, was summoned, among others, before the persecuting bishop of Winchester, and other commissioners set apart for the abominable work of devastation and massacre.
His principal accusers and persecutors, on a charge of praemunire in the reign of Edward VI were George Constantine Walter, his servant; Thomas Young, chanter of the cathedral, afterward bishop of Bangor, etc. Dr. Farrar ably replied to the copies of information laid against him, consisting of fifty-six articles. The whole process of this trial was long and tedious. Delay succeeded delay, and after that Dr. Farrar had been long unjustly detained in custody under sureties, in the reign of King Edward, because he had been promoted by the duke of Somerset, whence after his fall he found fewer friends to support him against such as wanted his bishopric by the coming in of Queen Mary, he was accused and examined not for any matter of praemunire, but for his faith and doctrine; for which he was called before the bishop of Winchester with Bishop Hooper, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Bradford, Mr. Saunders, and others, February 4, 1555; on which day he would also with them have been condemned, but his condemnation was deferred, and he sent to prison again, where he continued until February 14, and then was sent into Wales to receive sentence. He was six times brought up before Henry Morgan, bishop of St. David's, who demanded if he would abjure; from which he zealously dissented, and appealed to Cardinal Pole; notwithstanding which, the bishop, proceeding in his rage, pronounced him a heretic excommunicate, and surrendered him to the secular power.
Dr. Farrar, being condemned and degraded, was not long after brought to the place of execution in the town of Carmathen, in the market-place of which, on the south side of the market-cross, March 30, 1555, being Saturday next before Passion Sunday, he most constantly sustained the torments of the fire.
Concerning his constancy, it is said that one Richard Jones, a knight's son, coming to Dr. Farrar a little before his death, seemed to lament the painfulness of the death he had to suffer; to whom the bishop answered that if he saw him once stir in the pains of his burning, he might then give no credit to his doctrine; and as he said, so did he maintain his promise, patiently standing without emotion, until one Richard Gravell with a staff struck him down.
Martyrdom of Rawlins WhiteRawlins White was by his calling and occupation a fisherman, living and continuing in the said trade for the space of twenty years at least, in the town of Cardiff, where he bore a very good name amongst his neighbors.
Though the good man was altogether unlearned, and withal very simple, yet it pleased God to remove him from error and idolatry to a knowledge of the truth, through the blessed Reformation in Edward's reign. He had his son taught to read English, and after the little boy could read pretty well, his father every night after supper, summer and winter, made the boy read a portion of the Holy Scriptures, and now and then a part of some other good book.
When he had continued in his profession the space of five years, King Edward died, upon whose decease Queen Mary succeeded and with her all kinds of superstition crept in. White was taken by the officers of the town, as a man suspected of heresy, brought before the Bishop Llandaff, and committed to prison in Chepstow, and at last removed to the castle of Cardiff, where he continued for the space of one whole year. Being brought before the bishop in his chapel, he counselled him by threats and promises. But as Rawlins would in no wise recant his opinions, the bishop told him plainly that he must proceed against him by law, and condemn him as a heretic.
Before they proceeded to this extremity, the bishop proposed that prayer should be said for his conversion. "This," said White, "is like a godly bishop, and if your request be godly and right, and you pray as you ought, no doubt God will hear you; pray you, therefore, to your God, and I will pray to my God." After the bishop and his party had done praying, he asked Rawlins if he would now revoke. "You find," said the latter, "your prayer is not granted, for I remain the same; and God will strengthen me in support of this truth." After this, the bishop tried what saying Mass would do; but Rawlins called all the people to witness that he did not bow down to the host. Mass being ended, Rawlins was called for again; to whom the bishop used many persuasions; but the blessed man continued so steadfast in his former profession that the bishop's discourse was to no purpose. The bishop now caused the definitive sentence to be read, which being ended, Rawlins was carried again to Cardiff, to a loathsome prison in the town, called Cockmarel, where he passed his time in prayer, and in the singing of Psalms. In about three weeks the order came from town for his execution.
When he came to the place, where his poor wife and children stood weeping, the sudden sight of them so pierced his heart, that the tears trickled down his face. Being come to the altar of his sacrifice, in going toward the stake, he fell down upon his knees, and kissed the ground; and in rising again, a little earth sticking on his face, he said these words. "Earth unto earth, and dust unto dust; thou art my mother, and unto thee I shall return."
When all things were ready, directly over against the stake, in the face of Rawlins White, there was a stand erected, whereon stepped up a priest, addressing himself to the people, but, as he spoke of the Romish doctrines of the Sacraments, Rawlins cried out, "Ah! thou wicked hypocrite, dost thou presume to prove thy false doctrine by Scripture? Look in the text that followeth; did not Christ say, 'Do this in remembrance of me?'"
Then some that stood by cried out, "Put fire! set on fire!" which being done, the straw and reeds cast up a great and sudden flame. In which flame this good man bathed his hands so long, until such time as the sinews shrank, and the fat dropped away, saving that once he did, as it were, wipe his face with one of them. All this while, which was somewhat long, he cried with a loud voice, "O Lord, receive my spirit!" until he could not open his mouth. At last the extremity of the fire was so vehement against his legs that they were consumed almost before the rest of his body was hurt, which made the whole body fall over the chains into the fire sooner than it would have done. Thus died this good old man for his testimony of God's truth, and is now rewarded, no doubt, with the crown of eternal life.
The Rev. George MarshGeorge Marsh, born in the parish of Deane, in the county of Lancaster, received a good education and trade from his parents; about his twenty-fifth year he married, and lived, blessed with several children, on his farm until his wife died. He then went to study at Cambridge, and became the curate of Rev. Lawrence Saunders, in which duty he constantly and zealously set forth the truth of God's Word, and the false doctrines of the modern Antichrist.
Being confined by Dr. Coles, the bishop of Chester, within the precincts of his own house, he was dept from any intercourse with his friends during four months; his friends and mother, earnestly wished him to have flown from "the wrath to come;" but Mr. Marsh thought that such a step would ill agree with that profession he had during nine years openly made. He, however, secreted himself, but he had much struggling, and in secret prayer begged that God would direct him, through the advice of his best friends, for his own glory and to what was best. At length, determined by a letter he received, boldly to confess the faith of Christ, he took leave of his mother-in-law and other friends, recommending his children to their care and departed for Smethehills, whence he was, with others, conducted to Lathum, to undergo examination before the earl of Derby, Sir William Nores, Mr. Sherburn, the parson of Garpnal, and others. The various questions put to him he answered with a good conscience, but when Mr. Sherburn interrogated him upon his belief of the Sacrament of the altar, Mr. Marsh answered like a true Protestant that the essence of the bread and wine was not at all changed, hence, after receiving dreadful threats from some, and fair words from others, for his opinions, he was remanded to ward, where he lay two nights without any bed.
On Palm Sunday he underwent a second examination, and Mr. Marsh much lamented that his fear should at all have induced him to prevaricate, and to seek his safety, as long as he did not openly deny Christ; and he again cried more earnestly to God for strength that he might not be overcome by the subtleties of those who strove to overrule the purity of his faith. He underwent three examinations before Dr. Coles, who, finding him steadfast in the Protestant faith, began to read his sentence; but he was interrupted by the chancellor, who prayed the bishop to stay before it was too late. The priest then prayed for Mr. Marsh, but the latter, upon being again solicited to recant, said he durst not deny his Savior Christ, lest he lose His everlasting mercy, and so obtain eternal death. The bishop then proceeded in the sentence. He was committed to a dark dungeon, and lay deprived of the consolation of any one (for all were afraid to relieve or communicate with him) until the day appointed came that he should suffer. The sheriffs of the city, Amry and Couper, with their officers, went to the north gate, and took out Mr. George Marsh, who walked all the way with the Book in his hand, looking upon the same, whence the people said, "This man does not go to his death as a thief, nor as one that deserveth to die."
When he came to the place of execution without the city, near Spittal=Boughton, Mr. Cawdry, deputy chamberlain of Chester, showed Mr. Marsh a writing under a great seal, saying that it was a pardon for him if he would recant. He answered that he would gladly accept the same did it not tend to pluck him from God.
After that, he began to speak to the people showing the cause of his death, and would have exhorted them to stick unto Christ, but one of the sheriffs prevented him. Kneeling down, he then said his prayers, put off his clothes unto his shirt, and was chained to the post, having a number of fagots under him, and a thing made like a firkin, with pitch and tar in it, over his head. The fire being unskilfully made, and the wind driving it in eddies, he suffered great extremity, which notwithstanding he bore with Christian fortitude.
When he had been a long time tormented in the fire without moving, having his flesh so broiled and puffed up that they who stood before him could not see the chain wherewith he was fastened, and therefore supposed that he had been dead, suddenly he spread abroad his arms, saying, "Father of heaven have mercy upon me!" and so yielded his spirit into the hands of the Lord. Upon this, many of the people said he was a martyr, and died gloriously patient. This caused the bishop shortly after to make a sermon in the cathedral church, and therein he affirmed, that the said 'Marsh was a heretic, burnt as such, and is a firebrand in hell.' Mr. Marsh suffered April 24, 1555.
William FlowerWilliam Flower, otherwise Branch, was born at Snow-hill, in the county of Cambridge, where he went to school some years, and then came to the abby of Ely. After he had remained a while he became a professed monk, was made a priest in the same house, and there celebrated and sang Mass. After that, by reason of a visitation, and certain injunctions by the authority of Henry VIII he took upon him the habit of a secular priest, and returned to Snow-hill, where he was born, and taught children about half a year.
He then went to Ludgate, in Suffolk, and served as a secular priest about a quarter of a year; from thence to Stoniland; at length to Tewksbury, where he married a wife, with whom he ever after faithfully and honestly continued. After marriage he resided at Tewksbury about two years, and thence went to Brosley, where he practiced physic and surgery; but departing from those parts he came to London, and finally settled at Lambeth, where he and his wife dwelt together. However, he was generally abroad, excepting once or twice in a month, to visit and see his wife. Being at home upon Easter Sunday morning, he came over the water from lambeth into St. Margaret's Church at Westminster; when seeing a priest, named John Celtham, administering and giving the Sacrament of the alter to the people, and being greatly offended in his conscience with the priest for the same, he struck and wounded him upon the head, and also upon the arm and hand, with his wood knife, the priest having at the same time in his hand a chalice with the consecrated host therein, which became sprinkled with blood.
Mr. Flower, for this injudicious zeal, was heavily ironed, and put into the gatehouse at Westminster; and afterward summoned before bishop Bonner and his ordinary, where the bishop, after he had sworn him upon a Book, ministered articles and interrogatories to him.
After examination, the bishop began to exhort him again to return to the unity of his mother the Catholic Church, with many fair promises. These Mr. Flower steadfastly rejecting, the bishop ordered him to appear in the same place in the afternoon, and in the meantime to consider well his former answer; but he, neither apologizing for having struck the priest, nor swerving from his faith, the bishop assigned him the next day, April 20, to receive sentence if he would not recant. The next morning, the bishop accordingly proceeded to the sentence, condemning and excommunicating him for a heretic, and after pronouncing him to be degraded, committed him to the secular power.
On April 24, St. Mark's eve, he was brought to the place of martyrdom, in St. Margaret's churchyard, Westminster, where the fact was committed: and there coming to the stake, he prayed to Almighty God, made a confession of his faith, and forgave all the world.
This done, his hand was held up against the stake, and struck off, his left hand being fastened behind him. Fire was then set to him, and he burning therein, cried with a loud voice, "O Thou Son of God receive my soul!" three times. His speech being now taken from him, he spoke no more, but notwithstanding he lifted up the stump with his other arm as long as he could.
Thus he endured the extremity of the fire, and was cruelly tortured, for the few fagots that were brought being insufficient to burn him they were compelled to strike him down into the fire, where lying along upon the ground, his lower part was consumed in the fire, whilst his upper part was little injured, his tongue moving in his mouth for a considerable time.
The Rev. John Cardmaker and John WarneMay 30, 1555, the Rev. John Cardmaker, otherwise called Taylor, prebendary of the Church of Wells, and John Warne, upholsterer, of St. John's, Walbrook, suffered together in Smithfield. Mr. Cardmaker, who first was an observant friar before the dissolution of the abbeys, afterward was a married minister, and in King Edward's time appointed to be a reader in St. Paul's; being apprehended in the beginning of Queen Mary's reign, with Dr. Barlow, bishop of Bath, he was brought to London, and put in the Fleet prison, King Edward's laws being yet in force. In Mary's reign, when brought before the bishop of Winchester, the latter offered them the queen's mercy, if they would recant.
Articles having been preferred against Mr. John Warne, he was examined upon them by Bonner, who earnestly exhorted him to recant his opinions, to whom he answered, "I am persuaded that I am in the right opinion, and I see no cause to recant; for all the filthiness and idolatry lies in the Church of Rome."
The bishop then, seeing that all his fair promises and terrible threatenings could not prevail, pronounced the definitive sentence of condemnation, and ordered May 30, 1555, for the execution of John Cardmaker and John Warne, who were brought by the sheriffs to Smithfield. Being come to the stake, the sheriffs called Mr. Cardmaker aside, and talked with him secretly, during which Mr. Warne prayed, was chained to the stake, and had wood and reeds set about him.
The people were greatly afflicted, thinking that Mr. Cardmaker would recant at the burning of Mr. Warne. At length Mr. Cardmaker departed from the sheriffs, and came towards the stake, knelt down, and made a long prayer in silence to himself. He then rose up, put off his clothes to his shirt, and went with a bold courage unto the stake and kissed it; and taking Mr. Warne by the hand, he heartily comforted him, and was bound to the stake, rejoicing. The people seeing this so suddenly done, contrary to their previous expectation, cried out, "God be praised! the Lord strengthen thee, Cardmaker! the Lord Jesus receive thy spirit!" And this continued while the executioner put fire to them, and both had passed through the fire to the blessed rest and peace among God's holy saints and martyrs, to enjoy the crown of triumph and victory prepared for the elect soldiers and warriors of Christ Jesus in His blessed Kingdom, to whom be glory and majesty forever. Amen.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Use your common sense
11/22/2017 Bob Gass
‘God blesses everyone who has…common sense.’
(Pr 3:13) 13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, ESV
The key to success lies in doing the right thing at the right time. Theologian Tryon Edwards said, ‘Have a time and place for everything, and do everything in its time and place…you’ll not only accomplish more, but have far more leisure than those who are always hurrying.’ If you’re tired of living with constant stress, Theology professor Dr Howard Hendricks draws our attention to four major sources: 1) Saying yes to far too many things. Dr Lewis Sperry Chafer once said, ‘Much of our spiritual activity is little more than a cheap anaesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.’ All our ‘going and doing’ fails to address our core emptiness. 2) Not stopping to recharge our batteries. We dutifully pull out our day planner and fill the spaces between activities. But let’s not fool ourselves; avoiding overlapping activities isn’t planning. As a result, we’re a stressed-out, short-tempered crowd, commuting between poorly planned activities that add little to our spiritual well-being. 3) Failure to enjoy what we accomplish. ‘A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul’ (Proverbs 13:19 NKJV). With always too much to do, we dash off to the next obligation, often without finishing the previous one or taking time to stand back and savour a job well done. No wonder we worry that our existence seems meaningless. 4) Owing more than we can repay. Next time you’re faced with a credit card purchase – wait! Don’t necessarily say no. Just present your so-called ‘need’ to God and see what He says about it. If you’re serious about developing your spiritual life, use your common sense and put these four principles to work.
1 Pet 5
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Shots rang out as President John F. Kennedy was assassinated this day, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. He was on his way to deliver a speech at the Dallas Trade Mart. The speech stated: “We in this country… are… the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask… that we may be worthy of our power… that we may achieve… the ancient vision of peace on earth, goodwill toward Man. President Kennedy’s speech concluded: “The righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago, ‘Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’ ”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Does not every movement in the Passion write large some common element in the sufferings of our race? First, the prayer of anguish; not granted. Then He turns to His friends. They are asleep-as ours, or we, are so often, or busy, or away, or preoccupied. Then He faces the Church; the very Church that He brought into existence. It condemns Him. This also is characteristic. In every Church, in every institution, there is something which sooner or later works against the very purpose for which it came into existence. But there seems to be another chance. There is the State in this case, the Roman state. Its pretensions are far lower than those of the Jewish church, but for that very reason it may be free from local fanaticisms. It claims to be just on a rough, worldly level. Yes, but only so far as is consistent with political expediency and raison d'etat. One becomes a counter in a complicated game. But even now all is not lost. There is still an appeal to the People-the poor and simple whom He had blessed, whom He had healed and fed and taught, to whom He Himself belongs. But they have become over-night (it is nothing unusual) a murderous rabble shouting for His blood. There is, then, nothing left but God. And to God, God's last words are "Why hast thou forsaken me?"
You see how characteristic, how representative, it all is. The human situation writ large. These are among the things it means to be a man. Every rope breaks when you seize it. Every door is slammed shut as you reach it. To be like the fox at the end of the run; the earths all staked.
As for the last dereliction of all, how can we either understand or endure it? Is it that God Himself cannot be Man unless God seems to vanish at His greatest need? And if so, why? I sometimes wonder if we have even begun to understand what is involved in the very concept of creation. If God will create, He will make something to be, and yet to be not Himself. To be created is, in some sense, to be ejected or separated. Can it be that the more perfect the creature is, the further this separation must at some point be pushed? It is saints, not common people, who experience the "dark night." It is men and angels, not beasts, who rebel. Inanimate matter sleeps in the bosom of the Father. The "hiddenness" of God perhaps presses most painfully on those who are in another way nearest to Him, and therefore God Himself, made man, will of all men be by God most forsaken? One of the seventeenth-century divines says, "By pretending to be visible God could only deceive the world." Perhaps He does pretend just a little to simple souls who need a full measure of "sensible consolation." Not deceiving them, but tempering the wind to the shorn lamb. Of course I'm not saying like Niebuhr that evil is inherent in finitude. That would identify the creation with the fall and make God the author of evil. But perhaps there is an anguish, an alienation, a crucifixion involved in the creative act. Yet He who alone can judge judges the far-off consummation to be worth it.
I am you see, a Job's comforter. Far from lightening the dark valley where you now find yourself, I blacken it. And you know why. Your darkness has brought back my own. But on second thoughts I don't regret what I have written. I think it is only in a shared darkness that you and I can really meet at present; shared with one another and, what matters most, with our Master. We are not on an untrodden path. Rather, on the main-road.
Certainly we were talking too lightly and easily about these things a fortnight ago. We were playing with counters. One used to be told as a child: "Think what you're saying." Apparently we need also to be told: "Think what you're thinking." The stakes have to be raised before we take the game quite seriously. I know this is the opposite of what is often said about the necessity of keeping all emotion out of our intellectual processes-"you can't think straight unless you are cool." But then neither can you think deep if you are. I suppose one must try every problem in both states. You remember that the ancient Persians debated everything twice: once when they were drunk and once when they were sober.
I know one of you will let me have news as soon as there is any.
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Anyway People are unreasonable,
illogical and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good,
people will accuse you of ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful
you win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for some underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help
but may attack you if you help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have
and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
--- Mother Teresa
Democracy, the deceitful theory that the Jew would insinuate. Namely that all men are created equal. -- Adolf Hitler Mein Kampf This idea, no, this attitude persists today.
Fascism and Democracy in the Human Mind: A Bridge Between Mind and Society By Israel W. Charny
It's good to know that if I behave strangely enough, society will take full responsibility for me.
--- Ashleigh Brilliant
A book should serve as an axe to the ice inside us.
--- Franz Kafka
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
but the wicked is unconcerned.
8 Scoffers can inflame a city,
but the wise can calm the fury.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Shallow and profound
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
--- 1 Cor. 10:31.
Beware of allowing yourself to think that the shallow concerns of life are not ordained of God; they are as much of God as the profound. It is not your devotion to God that makes you refuse to be shallow, but your wish to impress other people with the fact that you are not shallow, which is a sure sign that you are a spiritual prig. Be careful of the production of contempt in yourself, it always comes along this line, and causes you to go about as a walking rebuke to other people because they are more shallow than you are. Beware of posing as a profound person; God became a Baby.
To be shallow is not a sign of being wicked, nor is shallowness a sign that there are no deeps; the ocean has a shore. The shallow amenities of life, eating and drinking, walking and talking, are all ordained by God. These are the things in which Our Lord lived. He lived in them as the Son of God, and He said that “the disciple is not above his Master.”
Our safeguard is in the shallow things. We have to live the surface commonsense life in a commonsense way; when the deeper things come, God gives them to us apart from the shallow concerns. Never show the deeps to anyone but God. We are so abominably serious, so desperately interested in our own characters, that we refuse to behave like Christians in the shallow concerns of life.
Determinedly take no one seriously but God, and the first person you find you have to leave severely alone as being the greatest fraud you have ever known, is yourself.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Three kings? Not even one
any more. Royalty
has gone to ground, its journeyings
over. Who now will bring
gifts and to what place? In
the manger there are only the toys
and the tinsel. The child
has become a man. Far
off from his cross in the wrong
season he sits at table
with us with on his head
the fool's cap of our paper money.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
The preceding argument is based on the assumption that laws which were once intended to draw man away from idolatry but which have lost that significance should still be obeyed because there is a need for legal stability.
Up to this point, we have attempted to reconstruct the actual patterns of Maimonidean thought; we will now present our own validation for sacrifices. Although this explanation is built upon Maimonidean categories of thought, we do not intend to argue that it was actually considered by Maimonides as a reason for the continued observance of sacrifices. Yet we allow ourselves the liberty of this digression, for we believe that the profundity of a thinker can often be measured by the new insights his thought makes available. Thus, let us carefully examine the Guide and the Mishneh Torah, and see if these laws possess a permanent meaning even when the impulse to idolatry has disappeared.
Maimonides did not believe in the necessary progress of man. Although he recognized human changes within history (changes which he sketched in his characterization of the biblical, rabbinic, and messianic periods), he did not believe that such changes brought about qualitative transformations of human nature. After describing the Sabean way of life, Maimonides writes:
For these were the religious beliefs upon which they were brought up. If the belief in the existence of the Deity were not generally accepted at present to such an extent in the religious communities, our days in these times would be even darker than that epoch. However, their darkness is of different kinds.
This parenthetical remark reminds the reader that man’s move away from paganism does not indicate a change in human nature. For Maimonides, human nature is constant, as we see from his description of messianism. The same training and education that Torah offers to men under conditions of exile will also be necessary during the messianic period. Messianism simply provides the political and economic conditions that make it possible for the members of a community to achieve intellectual understanding of Torah and of God.
Maimonides rejected any romantic conception of human history. One is never secure from human weakness simply because of the era in which he lives. Given this understanding of human nature, we should be sensitive to the importance of those rituals that allow us to appreciate and to respect our own vulnerability to corruption. In his discussion of teshuvah, Maimonides suggests the same point regarding the individual’s approach to his sinful past. One of the requirements of repentance, according to the Halakhah, is confession of sins. Maimonides accepts the viewpoint of Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaacov when he codifies the following law:
Transgressions confessed on one Day of Atonement are again confessed on the next Day of Atonement, even if one has continued penitent, as it is said, “For I know my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me”
--- Ps. 51:5.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
“See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah … has triumphed.…” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain.
--- Revelation 5:5–6.
There meet in the person of Christ diverse qualities that would have been thought utterly incompatible in the same person. The Excellency of Christ These are brought together in no other person, either divine, human, or angelic.
Infinite glory and lowest humility. Infinite glory and the virtue of humility meet in no other person but Christ. They meet in no created person, for no created person has infinite glory, and they meet in no other divine person but Christ. For though the divine nature is infinitely abhorrent to pride, yet humility is not properly attributed to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, who exist only in the divine nature, because [humility] is a proper quality only of a created nature.
But in Jesus Christ, who is both God and human, those two diverse qualities are united. He is a person infinitely exalted in glory and dignity. There is equal honor due to him with the Father. God himself says to him, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever” (Heb. 1:8). And the same respect and worship is paid to him by the angels of heaven as to God the Father: “Let all God’s angels worship him” (v. 6).
But however he is thus above all, yet he is lowest of all in humility. None ever was so aware of the distance between God and him or had a heart so humble before God as the man Jesus (Matt. 11:29). When he was here on earth, what humility appeared in him, in all his behavior: in his contentment in his inferior outward condition, living in the family of Joseph the carpenter and Mary, his mother, for thirty years together and afterwards choosing outward commonness, poverty, and contempt rather than earthly greatness; in his washing his disciples’ feet and in all his speeches and behavior toward them; in his cheerfully taking the nature of a servant through his whole life and submitting to such immense humiliation at death!
Self-sufficiency and entire trust and reliance on God. As he is a divine person, he is self-sufficient, standing in need of nothing. All creatures are dependent on him; he is dependent on none but is absolutely independent.
Yet Christ entirely trusted in God—his enemies say that of him, “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him” (Matt. 27:43). And the apostle testifies, “He entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).
--- Jonathan Edwards
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
In November, 1873 Chicago lawyer Horatio G. Spafford took his wife and four daughters, Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie, to New York and boarded them on the luxurious French liner, S.hair. Ville du Havre. The Great Chicago Fire had destroyed everything they owned, and Spafford was sending his girls to an English Academy until the Chicago schools—and his own life—could be rebuilt. As he saw his family settled into their cabin, an unease filled his mind and he moved them to a room closer to the bow of the ship. Then he said goodbye, promising to join them later in France.
During the small hours of November 22, 1873, as the Ville du Havre glided over smooth seas, the passengers were suddenly thrown from their bunks in a jolt. The ship had collided with an iron sailing vessel, the Lochearn. Water poured in like Niagara, and the Ville du Havre tilted dangerously. Screams and prayers and oaths merged into a nightmare of unmeasured terror. Passengers, losing their footing, clung to posts, tumbled through darkness, and were drenched by powerful currents of icy, inrushing sea. Loved ones fell from each other’s grasp and disappeared into foaming blackness. Within two hours, the mighty ship vanished beneath the nocturnal waters. The 226 fatalities included Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie. Mrs. Spafford was found nearly unconscious, clinging to a piece of the wreckage. Nine days later when the survivors landed in Cardiff, Wales, she cabled her husband: “Saved Alone.”
He immediately booked passage to join his wife. On the way over, on a cold December night, the captain called him aside and said, “I believe we are now passing over the place where the Ville du Havre went down.” Spafford went to his cabin but found it hard to sleep. He said to himself, “It is well; the will of God be done,” and later wrote his famous hymn based on those words:
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Your vicious waves have swept over me Like an angry ocean or a roaring waterfall. Every day, you are kind, And at night you give me a song As my prayer to you, the living LORD God.
--- Psalm 42:7,8.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
God Is In The Manger (3)
For Bonhoeffer, waiting-one of the central themes of the Advent experience-was a fact of life during the war: waiting to be released from prison; waiting to be able to spend more than an hour a month in the company of his young fiancée, Maria von Wedemeyer; waiting for the end of the war. In his absence, friends and former students were killed in battle and his parents' home was bombed; there was little he could do about any of this except pray and wield a powerful pen. There was a helplessness in his situation that he recognized as a parallel to Advent, Christians' time of waiting for redemption in Christ. "Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent," Bonhoeffer wrote his best friend Eberhard Bethge as the holidays approached in 1943. "One waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other-things that are really of no consequence-the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 22
“Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.” --- Hosea 12:12.
Jacob, while expostulating with Laban, thus describes his own toil, “This twenty years have I been with thee. That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee: I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.” Even more toilsome than this was the life of our Saviour here below. He watched over all his sheep till he gave in as his last account, “Of all those whom thou hast given me I have lost none.” His hair was wet with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night. Sleep departed from his eyes, for all night he was in prayer wrestling for his people. One night Peter must be pleaded for; anon, another claims his tearful intercession. No shepherd sitting beneath the cold skies, looking up to the stars, could ever utter such complaints because of the hardness of his toil as Jesus Christ might have brought, if he had chosen to do so, because of the sternness of his service in order to procure his spouse ---
“Cold mountains and the midnight air,
Witnessed the fervour of his prayer;
The desert his temptations knew,
His conflict and his victory too.”
It is sweet to dwell upon the spiritual parallel of Laban having required all the sheep at Jacob’s hand. If they were torn of beasts, Jacob must make it good; if any of them died, he must stand as surety for the whole. Was not the toil of Jesus for his Church the toil of one who was under suretiship obligations to bring every believing one safe to the hand of him who had committed them to his charge? Look upon toiling Jacob, and you see a representation of him of whom we read, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd.”
Evening - November 22
“The power of his resurrection.” --- Philippians 3:10.
The doctrine of a risen Saviour is exceedingly precious. The resurrection is the corner-stone of the entire building of Christianity. It is the key-stone of the arch of our salvation. It would take a volume to set forth all the streams of living water which flow from this one sacred source, the resurrection of our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; but to know that he has risen, and to have fellowship with him as such—communing with the risen Saviour by possessing a risen life—seeing him leave the tomb by leaving the tomb of worldliness ourselves, this is even still more precious. The doctrine is the basis of the experience, but as the flower is more lovely than the root, so is the experience of fellowship with the risen Saviour more lovely than the doctrine itself. I would have you believe that Christ rose from the dead so as to sing of it, and derive all the consolation which it is possible for you to extract from this well-ascertained and well-witnessed fact; but I beseech you, rest not contented even there. Though you cannot, like the disciples, see him visibly, yet I bid you aspire to see Christ Jesus by the eye of faith; and though, like Mary Magdalene, you may not “touch” him, yet may you be privileged to converse with him, and to know that he is risen, you yourselves being risen in him to newness of life. To know a crucified Saviour as having crucified all my sins, is a high degree of knowledge; but to know a risen Saviour as having justified me, and to realize that he has bestowed upon me new life, having given me to be a new creature through his own newness of life, this is a noble style of experience: short of it, none ought to rest satisfied. May you both “know him, and the power of his resurrection.” Why should souls who are quickened with Jesus, wear the grave-clothes of worldliness and unbelief? Rise, for the Lord is risen.
Morning and Evening
COME, YE THANKFUL PEOPLE, COME
Henry Alford, 1810–1871
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most high. (Psalm 92:1 KJV)
Our early American leaders wisely realized the importance of having a special day each year in which people could recount their blessings and express gratitude to God for all of His goodness.
The first thanksgiving was decreed by Governor Bradford in 1621 to commemorate the Pilgrims’ harvest. Later George Washington proclaimed November 26, 1789, as a national day of thanksgiving, but the holiday was not repeated on a national basis until Abraham Lincoln named it a national Harvest Festival on November 26, 1861. After that time, the holiday was proclaimed annually by the President and the governors of each state. Finally in 1941, Congress passed a bill naming the fourth Thursday of each November as Thanksgiving Day.
The first stanza of this harvest hymn is an invitation and an exhortation to give thanks to God in His earthly temple—our local church—for the heavenly care and provision of our earthly need. The following two stanzas are an interesting commentary on the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares as recorded in Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43. The final stanza is a prayer for the Lord’s return—“the final harvest home.”
Come, ye thankful people, come—raise the song of harvest home; all is safely gathered in ere the winter storms begin. God, our Maker, doth provide for our wants to be supplied: Come to God’s own temple, come—raise the song of harvest home.
All the world is God’s own field, fruit unto His praise to yield: Wheat and tares together sown, unto joy or sorrow grown. First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear: Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.
For the Lord our God shall come and shall take His harvest home: From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away—give His angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast, but the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.
Even so, Lord, quickly come to Thy final harvest-home: gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin; there, forever purified, in Thy presence to abide: come, with all Thine angels, come—raise the glorious harvest-home.
For Today: 1 Chronicles 16:8, 9; Psalm 68:19; Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43; Hebrews 13:15
The worship most acceptable to God comes from a thankful heart. Carry this musical truth with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Exhort. 2. Is holiness a perfection of the Divine nature? Is it the glory of the Deity? Then let us glorify this holiness of God. Moses
glorifies it in the text, and glorifies it in a song, which was a copy for all ages. The whole corporation of seraphims have their mouths
filled with the praises of it. The saints, whether militant on earth, or triumphant in heaven, are to continue the same acclamation,
“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts” (Rev. 4:8). Neither angels nor glorified spirits exalt at the same rate the power which formed
them creatures, nor goodness which preserves them in a blessed immortality, as they do holiness, which they bear some beams of in
their own nature, and whereby they are capacitated to stand before His throne. Upon the account of this, a debt of praise is demanded
of all rational creatures by the Psalmist (Psalm 99:3), “Let them praise tby great and terrible name, for it is holy.” Not So much for the
greatness of his Majesty, or the treasures of his justice; but as they are considered in conjunction with his holiness, which renders
them beautiful; “for it is holy.” Grandeur and majesty, simply in themselves, are not objects of praise, nor do they merit the
acclamations of men, when destitute of righteousness: this only renders everything else adorable; and this adorns the Divine greatness
with an amiableness (Isa. 12:6): “Great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee;” and makes his might worthy of praise (Luke
1:49). In honoring this, which is the soul and spirit of all the rest, we give a glory to all the perfections which constitute and beautify
his nature: and without the glorifying this we glorify nothing of them, though we should extol every other single attribute a thousand
times. He values no other adoration of his creatures, unless this be interested, nor accepts anything as a glory from them (Lev. 10:3)
“I will be sanctified in them that come near me, and I will be glorified:” as if he had said, In manifesting my name to be holy, you
truly, you only honor me. And as the Scripture seldom speaks of this perfection without a particular emphasis, it teaches us not to
think of it without a special elevation of heart: by this act only, while we are on earth, can we join consort with the angels in heaven;
he that doth not honor it, delight in it, and in the meditation of it, hath no resemblance of it; he hath none of the image, that delights
not in the original.
Everything of God is glorious, but this most of all. If he built the world principally for anything, it was for the communication of his goodness, and display of his holiness. He formed the rational creature to manifest his holiness in that law whereby he was to be governed: then deprive not God of the design of his own glory. We honor this attribute,
1. When we make it the ground of our love to God. Not because he is gracious to us, but holy in himself. As God honors it, in loving himself for it, we should honor it, by pitching our affections upon him chiefly for it. What renders God amiable to himself, should render him lovely to all his creatures (Isa. 42:21): “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake.” If the hatred of evil be the immediate result of a love to God, then the peculiar object or term of our love to God, must be that perfection which stands in direct opposition to the hatred of evil (Psalm 97:10): “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.” When we honor his holiness in every stamp and impression of it: his law, not principally because of its usefulness to us, its accommodateness to the order of the world, but for its innate purity; and his people, not for our interest in them, so much as for bearing upon them this glittering mark of the Deity, we honor then the purity of the Lawgiver, and the excellency of the Sanctifier.
2. We honor it, when we regard chiefly the illustrious appearance of this in his judgments in the world. In a case of temporal judgment, Moses celebrates it in the text; in a case of spiritual judgments, the angels applaud it in Isaiah. All his severe proceedings are nothing but the strong breathings of this attribute. Purity is the flash of his revenging sword. If he did not hate evil, his vengeance would not reach the committers of it. He is a “refiner’s fire” in the day of his anger (Mal. 3:2). By his separating judgments, “he takes away the wicked of the earth like dross” (Psalm 119:119). How is his holiness honored, when we take notice of his sweeping out the rubbish of the world; how he suits punishment to sin, and discovers his hatred of the matter and circumstances of the evil, in the matter and circumstances of the judgment. This perfection is legible in every stroke of his sword; we honor it when we read the syllables of it, and not by standing amazed only at the greatness and severity of the blow, when we read how holy he is in his most terrible dispensations: for as in them God magnifies the greatness of his power, so he sanctifies himself; that is, declares the purity of his nature as a revenger of all impiety (Ezek.38:22, 23); “And I will plead against him with pestilence, and with blood: and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the people that are with him, an overflowing rain and great hailstones; fire, and brimstone. Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself.”
3. We honor this attribute, when we take notice of it in every accomplishment of his promise, and every grant of a mercy. His truth is but a branch of his righteousness, a slip from this root. He is glorious in holiness in the account of Moses, because he “led forth his people whom he had redeemed” (Exod. 15:13); his people by a covenant with their fathers, being the God of Moses, the God of Israel, and the God of their fathers (ver. 2). “My God, and my father’s God, I will exalt thee.” For what? for his faithfulness to his promise.
The holiness of God, which Mary (Luke 1:49) magnifies, is summed up in this, the help he afforded his servant Israel in the “remembrance of his mercy, as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham and his seed forever” (ver. 54, 55). The certainty of his covenant mercy depends upon an unchangeableness of his holiness. What are “sure mercies,” (Isa. 55:3), are holy mercies in the Septuagint, and in Acts 13:34, which makes that translation canonical. His nearness to answer us, when we call upon him for such mercies, is a fruit of the holiness of his name and nature (Psalm 165:17). “The Lord is holy in all his works; the Lord is nigh to all them that call upon him.” Hannah, after a return of prayer, sets a particular mark upon this, in her song (1 Sam. 2:2); “There is none holy as the Lord;” separated from all dross, firm to his covenant, and righteous in it to his suppliants, that confide in him, and plead his word.
When we observe the workings of this in every return of prayer, we honor it; it is a sign the mercy is really a return of prayer, and not a mercy of course, bearing upon it only the characters of a common providence. This was the perfection David would bless, for the catalogue of mercies in Psalm 103:1; “Bless his holy name.” Certainly, one reason why sincere prayer is so delightful to him, is because it puts him upon the exercise of this his beloved perfection, which he so much delighteth to honor. Since God acts in all those as the governor of the world, we honor him not, unless we take notice of that righteousness which fits him for a governor, and is the inward spring of all his motions (Gen. 18:25). “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” It was his design in his pity to Israel, as well as the calamities he intended against the heathens, to be “sanctified in them; that is, declared holy in his merciful as well as his judicial procedure” (Ezra 36:21, 23). Hereby God credits his righteousness, which seemed to be forgotten by the one, and contemned by the other; he removes, by this, all suspicion of unfaithfulness in him.
4. We honor this attribute, when we trust his covenant, and promise against outward appearances. Thus our Saviour, in the prophecy of him (Psalm 22:2–4), when God seemed to bar up the gates of his palace against the entry of any snore petitions, this attribute proves the support of the Redeemer’s soul; “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel:” as it refers to what goes before, it has been twice explained; as it refers to what follows, it is a ground of trust; “Thou inhabitest the praises of Israel:” thou hast had the praises of Israel for many ages, for thy holiness. How? “Our fathers trusted in thee, and thou didst deliver them;” they honored thy holiness by their trust, and thou didst honor their faith by a deliverance; thou always hadst a purity that would not shame nor confound them. I will trust in thee as thou art holy, and expect the breaking out of this attribute for my good as well as my predecessors; “Our fathers trusted in thee,”
5. We honor this attribute, when we show a greater affection to the marks of his holiness in times of the greatest contempt of it. As the Psalmist (Psalm 119:127); “They have made void thy law, therefore I love thy commandments above gold;” while they spurn at the purity of thy law, I will value it above the gold they possess; I will esteem it as gold, because others count it as dross; by their scorn of it, my love to it shall be the warmer; and my hatred of iniquity shall be the sharper: the disdain of others should inflame us with a zeal and fortitude to appear in behalf of his despised honor. We honor this holiness many other ways; by preparation for our addresses to him, out of a sense of his purity; when we imitate it: as He honors us by “teaching us his statutes” (Psalm 119:135), so we honor him by learning and observing them. When we beg of him to show himself a refiner of us, to make us more conformable to him in holiness, and bless him for any communication of it to us, it renders us beautiful and lovely in his sight. To conclude: to honor it, is the way to engage it for us; to give it the glory of what it hath done, by the arm of power for our rescue from sin, and beating down our corruptions at his feet, is the way to see more of its marvellous works, and behold a clearer brightness. As unthankfulness makes him withdraw his grace (Rom. 1:21, 24), so glorifying him causes him to impart it. God honors men in the same way they honor him; when we honor him by acknowledging his purity, he will honor us by communicating of it to us. This is the way to derive a greater excellency to our souls.
Exhort. 3. Since holiness is an eminent perfection of the Divine nature, let us labor after a conformity to God in this perfection. The nature of God is presented to us in the Scripture, both as a pattern to imitate, and a motive to persuade the creature to holiness (1 John 3:3; Matt. 5:48; Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:15, 16).
1 Jn 3:3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. ESV
Mt 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ESV
Lev 11:44 For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. ESV
1 Pet 1:15-16 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” ESV
Since it is, therefore, the nature of God, the more our natures are beautified with it, the more like we are to the Divine nature. It is not the pattern of angels, or archangels, that our Saviour, or his apostle, proposeth for our imitation; but the original of all purity, God himself; the same that created us, to be imitated by us. Nor is an equal degree of purity enjoined us; though we are to be pure, and perfect, and merciful as God is, yet not essentially so; for that would be to command us an impossibility in itself; as much as to order us to cease to be creatures, and commence gods. No creature can be essentially holy but by participation from the chief Fountain of Holiness; but we must have the same kind of holiness, the same truth of holiness. As a short line may be as straight as another, though it parallel it not in the immense length of it; a copy may have the likeness of the original, though not the same perfection; we cannot be good, without eyeing some exemplar of goodness as the pattern. No pattern is so suitable as that which is the highest goodness and purity. That limner that would draw the most excellent piece, fixes his eyes upon the most perfect pattern. He that would be a good orator, or poet, or artificer, considers some person most excellent in each kind, as the object of his imitation. Who so fit as God to be viewed as the pattern of holiness, in our intendment of, and endeavor after holiness? The Stoics, one of the best sects of philosophers, advised their disciples to pitch upon some eminent example of virtue, according to which to form their lives; as Socrates, &c. But true holiness doth not only endeavor to live the life of a good man, but chooses to live a divine life; as before the man was “alienated from the life of God” (Eph. 4:19), so, upon his return, he aspires after the life of God. To endeavor to be like a good man is to make one image like another; to set our clocks by other clocks, without regarding the sun: but true holiness consists in a likeness to the most exact sampler. God being the first purity, is the rule as well as the spring of all purity in the creature, the chief and first object of imitation. We disown ourselves to be his creatures, if we breathe not after a resemblance to him in what he is imitable. There was in man, as created according to God’s image, a natural appetite to resemble God: it was at first planted in him by the Author of his nature. The devil’s temptation of him by that motive to transgress the law, had been as an arrow shot against a brazen wall, had there not been a desire of some likeness to his Creator engraven upon him (Gen. 3:5): it would have had no more influence upon him, than it could have had upon a mere animal. But man mistook the term; he would have been like God in knowledge, whereas, he should have affected a greater resemblance of him in purity. O that we could exemplify God in our nature! Precepts may instruct us more, but examples affect us more; one directs us, but the other attracts us. What can be more attractive of our imitation, than that which is the original of all purity, both in men and angels? This conformity to him consists in an imitation of him,
1. In his law. The purity of his nature was first visible in this glass; hence, it is called a “holy” law (Rom. 7:12); a “pure” law (Psalm 19:8). Holy and pure, as it is a ray of the pure nature of the Lawgiver. When our lives are a comment upon his law, they are expressive of his holiness: we conform to his holiness when we regulate ourselves by his law, as it is a transcript of his holiness: we do not imitate it, when we do a thing in the matter of it agreeable to that holy rule, but when we do it with respect to the purity of the Lawgiver beaming in it. If it be agreeable to God’s will, and convenient for some design of our own, and we do anything only with a respect to that design, we make not God’s holiness discovered in the law our rule, but our own conveniency: it is not a conformity to God, but a conformity of our actions to self. As in abstinence from intemperate courses, not because the holiness of God in his law hath prescribed it, but because the health of our bodies, or some noble contentments of life, require it; then it is not God’s holiness that is our rule, but our own security, convemency, or something else which we make a God to ourselves. It must be a real conformity to the law: our holiness should shine as really in the practice, as God’s purity doth in the precept. God hath not a pretence of purity in his nature, but a reality: it is not only a sudden boiling up of an admiration of him, or a starting wish to be like him, from some sudden impression upon the fancy, which is a mere temporary blaze, but a settled temper of soul, loving everything that is like him, doing things out of a firm desire to resemble his purity in the copy he hath set; not a resting in negatives, but aspiring to positives; holy and harmless are distinct things: they were distinct qualifications in our High Priest in his obedience to the law (Heb. 7:26), so they must be in us.
2. In his Christ. As the law is the transcript, so Christ is the image of his holiness: the glory of God is too dazzling to be beheld by us: the acute eye of an angel is too weak to look upon that bright sun without covering his face: we are much too weak to take our measures from that purity which is infinite in his nature. But he hath made his Son like us, that by the imitation of him in that temper, and shadow of human flesh, we may arrive to a resemblance of him (2 Cor. 3:18). Then there is a conformity to him, when that which Christ did is drawn in lively colors in the soul of a Christian; when, as he died upon the cross, we die to our sins; as he rose from the grave, we rise from our lusts; as he ascended on high, we mount our souls thither; when we express in our lives what shined in his, and exemplify in our hearts what he acted in the world, and become one with him, as he was separate from sinners. The holiness of God in Christ is our ultimate pattern: as we are not only to believe in Christ, but “by Christ in God” (John 14:1), so we are not only to imitate Christ, but the holiness of God as discovered in Christ. And, to enforce this upon us, let us consider,
(1.) It is this only wherein he commands our imitation of him. We are not commanded to be mighty and wise, as God is mighty and wise: but “be holy, as I am holy.” The declarations of his power are to enforce our subjection; those of his wisdom, to encourage our direction by him; but this only to attract our imitation. When he saith, “I am holy,” the immediate inference he makes, is, “Be ye so too,” which is not the proper instruction from any other perfection. Man was created by Divine power, and harmonized by Divine wisdom, but not after them, or according to them, as the true image; this was the prerogative of Divine holiness, to be the pattern of his rational creature: wisdom and power were subservient to this, the one as the pencil, the other as the hand that moved it. The condition of a creature is too mean to have the communications of the Divine essence; the true impressions of his righteousness and goodness we are only capable of. It is only in those moral perfections we are said to resemble God. The devils, those impure and ruined spirits, are nearer to him in strength and knowledge than we are; yet in regard of that natural and intellectual perfection, never counted like him, but at the greatest distance from him, because at the greatest distance from his purity. God values not a natural might, nor an acute understanding, nor vouchsafes such perfeetions the glorious title of that of his image. Plutarch saith, God is angry with those that imitate his thunder or lightning, his works of majesty, but delighted with those that imitate his virtue. In this only we can never incur any reproof from him, but for falling short of him and his glory. Had Adam endeavored after an imitation of this, instead of that of Divine knowledge, he had escaped his fall, and preserved his standing; and had Lucifer wished himself like God in this, as well as his dominion, he had still been a glorious angel, instead of being now a ghastly devil: to reach after a union with the Supreme Being, in regard of holiness, is the only generous and commendable ambition.
(2.) This is the prime way of honoring God. We do not so glorify God by elevated admirations, or eloquent expressions, or pompous services of him, as when we aspire to a conversing with him with unstained spirits, and live to him in living like him. The angels are not called holy for applauding his purity, but conforming to it. The more perfect any creature is in the rank of beings, the more is the Creator honored; as it is more for the honor of God to create an angel or man, than a mere animal; because there are in such clearer characters of Divine power and goodness, than in those that are inferior. The more perfect any creature is morally, the more is God glorified by that creature; it is a real declaration, that God is the best and most amiable Being; that nothing besides him is valuable, and worthy to be object of our imitation. It is a greater honoring of him, than the highest acts of devotion, and the most religious bodily exercise, or the singing this song of Moses in the text, with a triumphant spirit; as it is more the honor of a father to be imitated in his virtues by his son, than to have all the glavering commendations by the tongue or pen of a vicious and debauched child. By this we honor him in that perfection which is dearest. to him, and counted by him as the chiefest glory of his nature. God seems to accept the glorifying this attribute, as if it were a real addition to that holiness which is infinite in his nature, and because infinite, cannot admit of any increase: and, therefore, the word sanctified is used instead of glorified. (Isa. 8:13), “Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” And (Isa. 29:23), “They shall sanctify the holy One of Jacob, and fear the God of Israel.” This sanctification of God is by the fear of him, which signifies in the language of the Old Testament, a reverence of him, and a righteousness before him. He doth not say, when he would have his power or wisdom glorified, Empower me or make me wise; but when he would have his holiness glorified by the creature, it is, Sanctify me; that is, manifest the purity of my nature by the holiness of your lives: but he expresseth it in such a term, as if it were an addition to this infinite perfection; so acceptable it is to him, as if it were a contribution from his creature for the enlarging an attribute so pleasing to him, and so glorious in his eye. It is, as much as in the creature lies, a preserving the life of God, since this perfection is his life; and that he would as soon part with his life as part with his purity. It keeps up the reputation of God in the world, and attracts others to a love of him; whereas, unworthy carriages defame God in the eyes of men, and bring up an ill report of him, as if he were such an one as those that profess him, and walk unsuitably to their profession, appear to be.
(3.) This is the excellency and beauty of a creature. The title of “beauty” is given to it in Psalm 110:3; “beauties,” in the plural number, as comprehending it in all other beauties whatsoever. What is a Divine excellency cannot be a creature’s deformity: the natural beauty of it is a representation of the Divinity; and a holy man ought to esteem himself excellent in being such in his measure as his God is, and puts his principal felicity in the possession of the same purity in truth. This is the refined complexion of the angels that stand before his throne. The devils lost their comeliness when they fell from it. It was the honor of the human nature of our Saviour, not only to be united to the Deity, but to be sanctified by it. He was “fairer than all the children of men,” because he had a holiness above the children of men: “grace was poured into his lips” (Psalm 45:2). It was the jewel of the reasonable nature in paradise: conformity to God was man’s original happiness in his created state; and what was naturally so, cannot but be immutably so in its own nature. The beauty of every copied thing consists in its likeness to the original; everything hath more of loveliness, as it hath greater impressions of its first pattern in this regard holiness hath more of beauty on it than the whole creation, because it partakes of a greater excellency of God than the sun, moon, and stars. No greater glory can be, than to be a conspicuous and visible image of the invisible, and holy, and blessed God. As this is the splendor of all the Divine attributes, so it is the flower of all a christian’s graces, the crown of all religion: it is the glory of the Spirit. In this regard the king’s daughter is said to be “all glorious within” (Psalm 45:13). It is more excellent than the soul itself, since the greatest soul is but a deformed piece without it a “diamond without lustre.” What are the noble faculties of the soul without it, but as a curious rusty watch, a delicate heap of disorder and confusion? It is impossible there can be beauty where there are a multitude of “spots and wrinkles” that blemish a countenance (Eph. 5:27). It can never be in its true brightness but when it is perfect in purity; when it regains what it was possessed of by creation, and dispossessed of by the fall, and recovers its primitive temper. We are not so beautiful by being the work of God, as by having a stamp of God upon us. Worldly greatness may make men honorable in the sight of creeping worms. Soft lives, ambitious reaches, luxurious pleasures, and a pompous religion, render no man excellent and noble in the sight of God: this is not the excellency and nobility of the Deity which we are bound to resemble; other lines of a Divine image must be drawn in us to render us truly excellent.
(4.) It is our life. What is the life of God is truly the life of a rational creature. The life of the body consists not in the perfection of its members, and the integrity of its organs; these remain when the body becomes a carcass; but in the presence of the soul, and its vigorous animation of every part to perform the distinct offices belonging to each of them. The life of the soul consists not in its being, or spiritual substance, or the excellency of its faculties of understanding and will, but in the moral and becoming operations of them. The spirit is only “life because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:10). The faculties are turned by it, to acquit themselves in their functions, according to the will of God; the absence of this doth not only deform the soul, but, in a sort, annihilate it, in regard of its true essence and end. Grace gives a Christian being, and a want of it is the want of a true being (1 Cor. 15:10). When Adam divested himself of his original righteousness, he came under the force of the threatening, in regard of a spiritual death; every person is “morally dead while he lives” an unholy life (1 Tim. 5:6). What life is to the body, that is righteousness to the spirit; and the greater measure of holiness it hath, the more of life it hath, because it is in a greater nearness, and partakes more fully of the fountain of life. Is not that the most worthy life, which God makes most account of, without which his life could not be a pleasant and blessed life, but a life worse than death? What a miserable life is that of the men of the world, that are carried, with greedy inclinations, to all manner of unrighteousness, whither their interests or their lusts invite them! The most beautiful body is a carcass, and the most honorable person hath but a brutish life (Psalm 49:20); miserable creatures when their life shall be extinct without a Divine rectitude, when all other things will vanish as the shadows of the night at the appearance of the sun! Holiness is our life.
(5.) It is this only fits us for communion with God. Since it is our beauty and our life, without it what communion can an excellent God have with deformed creatures; a living God with dead creatures? “Without holiness none shall see God” (Heb. 12:14). The creature must be stripped of his unrighteousness, or God of his purity, before they can come together. Likeness is the ground of communion, and of delight in it: the opposition between God and unholy souls is as great as that between “light and darkness”(1 John 1:6). Divine fruition is not so much by a union of presence as a union of nature. Heaven is not so much an outward as an inward life; the foundation of glory is laid in grace; a resemblance to God is our vital happiness, without which the vision of God would not be so much as a cloudy and shadowy happiness, but rather a torment than a felicity; unless we be of a like nature to God, we cannot have a pleasing fruition of him. Some philosophers think that if our bodies were of the same nature with the heavens, of an ethereal substance, the nearness to the sun would cherish, not scorch us. Were we partakers of a Divine nature, we might enjoy God with delight; whereas, remaining in our unlikeness to him, we cannot think of him, and approach to him without terror. As soon as sin had stripped man of the image of God, he was an exile from the comfortable presence of God, unworthy for God to hold any correspondence with: he can no more delight in a defiled person than a man can take a toad into intimate converse with him; he would hereby discredit his own nature, and justify our impurity. The holiness of a creature only prepares him for an eternal conjunction with God in glory. Enoch’s walking with God was the cause of his being so soon wafted to the place of a full fruition of him; he hath as much delight in such as in heaven itself; one is his habitation as well as the other; the one is his habitation of glory, and the other is the house of his pleasure: if he dwell in Zion, it must be a “holy mountain” (Joel 3:17), and the members of Zion must be upheld in their rectitude and integrity before they be “set before the face of God forever” (Psalm 41:12.) Such are styled his jewels, his portion, as if he lived upon them, as a man upon his inheritance. As God cannot delight in us, so neither can we delight in God without it. We must purify ourselves “as he is pure,” if we expect to “see him as he is,” in the comfortable glory and beauty of his nature (1 John 3:2, 3), else the sight of God would be terrible and troublesome: we cannot be satisfied with the likeness of God at the resurrection, unless we have a righteousness wherewith to “behold his face” (Psalm 17:15). It is a vain imagination in any to think that heaven can be a place of happiness to him, in whose eye the beauty of holiness which fills and adorns it, is an unlovely thing; or that any can have a satisfaction in that Divine purity which is loathsome to him in the imitations of it. We cannot enjoy him, unless we resemble him; nor take any pleasure in him, if we were with him, without something of likeness to him. Holiness fits us for communion with God.
(6.) We can have no evidence of our election and adoption without it. Conformity to God, in purity, is the fruit of electing love (Eph. 1:4); “He hath chosen us that we should be holy.” The goodness of the fruit evidenceth the nature of the root: this is the seal that assures us the patent is the authentic grant of the Prince. Whatsoever is holy, speaks itself to be from God; and whosoever is holy, speaks himself to belong to God. This is the only evidence that “we are born of God” (1 John 2:29). The subduing our souls to him, the forming us into a resemblance to himself, is a more certain sign we belong to him, than if we had, with Isaiah, seen his glory in the vision, with all his train of angels about him. This justifies us to be the seed of God, when he hath, as it were, taken a slip from his own purity, and engrafted it in our spirits: he can never own us for his children without his mark, the stamp of holiness. The devil’s stamp is none of God’s badge. Our spiritual extraction from him is but pretended, unless we do things worthy of so illustrious a birth, and becoming the honor of so great a rather: what evidence can we else have of any child-like love to God, since the proper act of love is to imitate the object of our affections? And that we may be in some measure like to God in this excellent perfection.
1st. Let us be often viewing and ruminating on the holiness of God, especially as discovered in Christ. It is by a believing meditation on him, that we are “changed into the same image” (2 Cor. 3:18). We can think often of nothing that is excellent in the world, but it draws our faculties to some kind of suitable operation; and why should not such an excellent idea of the holiness of God in Christ perfect our understandings, and awaken all the powers of our souls to be formed to actions worthy of him? A painter employed in the limning some excellent piece, has not only his pattern before his eyes, but his eye frequently upon the pattern, to possess his fancy to draw forth an exact resemblance. He that would express the image of God, must imprint upon his mind the purity of his nature; cherish it in his thoughts, that the excellent beauty of it may pass from his understanding to his affections, and from his affections to his practice. How can we arise to a conformity to God in Christ, whose most holy nature we seldom glance upon, and more rarely sink our souls into the depths of it by meditation! Be frequent in the meditation of the holiness of God.
2d. Let us often exercise ourselves in acts of love to God, because of this perfection. The more adoring thoughts we have of God, the more delightfully we shall aspire to, and more ravishingly catch after, anything that may promote the more full draught of his Divine image in our hearts. What we intensely affect, we desire to be as near to as we can, and to be that very thing, rather than ourselves. All imitations of others arise from an intense love to their persons or excellency. When the soul is ravished with this perfection of God, it will desire to be united with it; to have it drawn in it, more than to have its own being continued to it: it will desire and delight in its own being, in order to this heavenly and spiritual work. The impressions of the nature of God upon it, and the imitations of the nature of God by it, will be more desirable than any natural perfection whatsoever. The will in loving is rendered like the object beloved; is turned into its nature, and imbibes its qualities. The soul, by loving God, will find itself more and more transformed into the Divine image; whereas, slighted ensamples are never thought worthy of imitation.
3d. Let us make God our end. Every man’s mind forms itself to a likeness to that which it makes its chief end. An earthly soul is as drossy as the earth he gapes for; an ambitious soul is as elevated as the honor he reaches at; the same characters that are upon the thing aimed at, will be imprinted upon the spirit of him that aims at it. When God and his glory are made our end, we shall find a silent likeness pass in upon us; the beauty of God will by degrees enter upon our souls.
4th. In every deliberate action, let us reflect upon the Divine purity as a pattern. Let us examine whether anything we are prompted unto bear an impression of God apon it; whether it looks like a thing that God himself would do in that case, were he in our natures and in our circumstances. See whether it hath the livery of God upon it, how congruous it is to his nature; whether, and in what manner, the holiness of God can be glorified thereby; and let us be industrious in all this; for can such an imitation be easy which is resisted by the constant assaults of the flesh, which is discouraged by our own ignorance, and depressed by our faint and languishing desires after it? O! happy we, if there were such a heart in us!
Exhort. 4. If holiness be a perfection belonging to the nature of God; then, where there is some weak conformity to the holiness of God, let us labor to grow up in it, and breathe after fuller measures of it. The more likeness we have to him, the more love we shall have from him. Communion will be suitable to our imitation; his love to himself in his essence, will cast out beams of love to himself in his image. If God loves holiness in a lower measure, much more will he love it in a higher degree, because then his image is more illustrious and beautiful, and comes nearer to the lively, lineaments of his own infinite purity.
Perfection in anything is more lovely and amiable than imperfection in any state; and the nearer anything arrives to perfection, the further are those things separated from it which might cool an affection to it. An increase in holiness is attended with a manifestation of his love (John 14:21): “He that hath my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me, and he shall be loved of, my Father, and I will love him, and I will manifest myself to ham.” It is a testimony of love to God, and God will not be behind - hand with the creature in kindness; he loves a holy man for some resemblance to him in his nature; but when there is an abounding in sanctified dispositions suitable to it, there is an increase of favor; the more we resemble the original, the more shall we enjoy the blessedness of that original as any partake more of the Divine likeness, they partake more of the Divine happiness.
Exhort. 5. Let us carry ourselves holily, in a spiritual manner, in all our religious approaches to God (Psalm 93:5); “Holiness becomes thy house, O Lord, for ever.” This attribute should work in us a deep and reverential respect to God. This is the reason rendered why we should “worship at his footstool,” in the lowest posture of humility prostrate before him, because “he is holy” (Psalm 99:5). Shoes must be put off from our feet (Exod. 3:5), that is, lusts from our affections, everything that our souls are clogged and bemired with, as the shoe is with dirt. He is not willing we should offer to him an impure soul, mired hearts, rotten carcasses, putrefied in vice, rotten in iniquity; our services are to be as free from profaneness, as the sacrifices of the law were to be free from sickliness or any blemish. Whatsoever is contrary to his purity, is abhorred by him, and unlovely in his sight; and can meet with no other success at his hands, but a disdainful turning away both of his eye and ear (Isa. 1:15). Since he is an immense purity, he will reject from his presence, and from having any communion with him, all that which is not conformable to him; as light chases away the darkness of the night, and will not mix with it. If we “stretch out” our “hands towards him,” we must “put iniquity far away from us” (Job 11:13, 14); the fruits of all service will else drop off to nothing. “Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant to the Lord”: when? when the heart is purged by Christ sitting as a “purifier of silver” (Mal. 3:3, 4). Not all the incense of the Indies yield him so sweet a savor, as one spiritual act of worship from a heart estranged from the vileness of the world, and ravished with an affection to, and a desire of imitating, the purity of his nature.
Exhort. 6. Let us address for holiness to God, the fountain of it. As he is the author of bodily life in the creature, so he is the author of his own life, the life of God in the soul. By his holiness he makes men holy, as the sun by his light enlightens the air. He is not only the Holy One, but our Holy One (Isa. 43:15); “The Lord that sanctifies us” (Lev. 20:8). As he hath mercy to pardon us, so he hath holiness to purify us, the excellency of being a sun to comfort us, and a shield to protect us, giving “grace and glory” (Psalm 74:11). Grace whereby we may have communion with him to our comfort, and strength against our spiritual enemies for our defence; grace as our preparatory to glory, and grace growing up till it ripen in glory. He only can mould us into a Divine frame; the great original can only derive the excellency of his own nature to us. We are too low, too lame, to lift up ourselves to it; too much in love with our own deformity, to admit of this beauty without a heavenly power inclining our desires for it, our affections to it, our willingness to be partakers of it. He can as soon set the beauty of holiness in a deformed heart, as the beauty of harmony in a confused mass, when he made the world. He can as soon cause the light of purity to rise out of the darkness of corruption, as frame glorious spirits out of the insufficiency of nothing. His beauty doth not decay; he hath as much in himself now as he had in his eternity; he is as ready to impart it, as he was at the creation; only we must wait upon him for it, and be content to have it by small measures and degrees. There is no fear of our sanctification, if we come to him as a God of holiness, since he is a God of peace, and the breach made by Adam is repaired by Christ (1 Thess. 5:23): “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly,” &c. He restores the sanctifying Spirit which was withdrawn by the fall, as he is a God pacified, and his holiness righted by the Redeemer. The beauty of it appears in its smiles upon a man in Christ, and is as ready to impart itself to the reconciled creature, as before justice was to punish the rebellious one. He loves to send forth the streams of this perfection into created channels, more than any else. He did not design the making the creature so powerful as he might, because power is not such an excellency in his own nature, but as it is conducted and managed by some other excellency. Power is indifferent, and may be used well or ill, according as the possessor of it is righteous or unrighteous. God makes not the creature so powerful as he might, but he delights to make the creature that waits upon him as holy as it can be; beginning it in this world, and ripening it in the other. It is from him we must expect it, and from him that we must beg it, and draw arguments from the holiness of his nature, to move him to work holiness in our spirits; we cannot have a stronger plea. Purity is the favorite of his own nature, and delights itself in the resemblances of it in the creature. Let us also go to God, to preserve what he hath already wrought and imparted. As we cannot attain it, so we cannot maintain it without him. God gave it Adam, and he lost it; when God gives it us, we shall lose it without his influencing and preserving grace; the channel will be without a stream, if the fountain do not bubble it forth; and the streams will vanish, if the fountain doth not constantly supply them. Let us apply ourselves to him for holiness, as he is a God glorious in holiness; by this we honor God, and advantage ourselves.
The Existence and Attributes of God
John MacArthur | Grace to you
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Synopsis | Paul is summoned to speak to Felix and his wife, Drusilla. Felix is shaken by Paul’s words. Yet, rather than respond, Felix sends Paul away. Today’s teaching is a deeper look at what Paul shared regarding righteousness, temperance and the judgment to come. Hopefully we will take the time to consider Paul’s teaching, and respond prayerfully and thoughtfully, unlike this foolish pair.
Felix the Rat
s1-505 | 09-26-2010
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Synopsis | Acts 24-25 sets the scene for the final stage of Paul’s life. In tonight’s study, we look at his trials before Felix and Festus as he answers the false charges made against him by the Jews.
m1-520 | 09-29-2010
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Synopsis | As Herod listens to Paul share the gospel story with him, he is so close to responding. Even Paul can sense it. However, he has some sins in his life he refuses to let go of in order to fully embrace Christianity. Are there things in our lives that we hold onto too tightly that may hinder us from salvation? Or from the abundant life the Lord has for us? We can learn a thing or two from the tragic decision Herod made.
s1-506 | 10-03-2010
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Synopsis | Tonight’s teaching is a deeper look at Paul’s testimony before Herod Agrippa. As we examine this rich text, we see Paul’s amazing testimony and the special calling the Lord placed on his life.
m1-521 | 10-06-2010
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