Laborers in the VineyardMatthew 20 1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”
Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
A Mother’s Request20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus Heals Two Blind Men29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. 30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
The Triumphal EntryMatthew 21 1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”
Jesus Cleanses the Temple12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“ ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
The Authority of Jesus Challenged23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
The Parable of the Two Sons28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.
The Parable of the Tenants33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.
What I'm Reading
By Aimee Byrd 3/01/2015
“You’re kidding. You have to be kidding.” These were my wonderful words of comfort when my husband called me from the hospital with the news that he had appendicitis and was being scheduled for an emergency appendectomy. Selfishly, I was thinking there had to be a way that he could just suck it up and save his appendix problems for next month or something. The timing was ridiculous. My only hope was that he was pulling my leg.
That winter had taken its toll on my family. I kicked off all the fun with a case of walking pneumonia. First, I went through a couple of weeks of mom-denial: moms can’t get sick; we are needed. So, I thought a couple tablets of ibuprofen would take the edge of my fever while I tried not to hack all over the lunches I was packing and all the dishes of love I was serving up. But when my daughter got sick, I knew it was time for a doctor.
Over the next month, my three children and I had all been through the ringer with the first dose of antibiotics being ineffective, returning to the out-of-town doctors for something stronger, along with nebulizers, threats of the emergency room, and heaps of makeup work from school. In between, I was trying to make the best of it by coming up with some fun crafts to do with the kids in all our extra downtime. We were down to one remaining child to finish nursing to health when Matt began complaining of “uncomfortable pains” in his abdomen. I figured it was stress. Resolved to be a normal family again, I began baking chocolate chip cookies, which should make everything better. That’s when Matt called. That’s when I gave my less-than-compassionate response.
And that’s when I had to call in the big guns: my own mom. Her speedy arrival was like a strange combination of a Mafia flick and a “Cat and the Hat” episode. She was, in a sense, “the fixer.” Mom walked in with everything I needed to guiltlessly leave my sick child, have the energy to be by my husband’s side, and even to return home and unwind. Mom knows me well. She knows my kids well. And she knows how to be a mom. She showed up with a bag of my favorite coffee, all the ingredients to make chicken noodle soup, some reading material and stuff to do with my daughter, and an overnight bag. How she got here as quick as she did with all that is beyond me.
That was two years ago, and it had a powerful influence on me. Mothers are influential people. One reason I think their influence is so prevailing is because our mothers know us like no one else. From the day we discover we are with child, we begin to pray, to nurture, to learn, and to fix things.
We fix scraped knees, wounded egos, and sometimes even uncontrollable circumstances. We comfort and encourage. We love unconditionally, but not without standards, as we do all we can to shape our children in their formative years. We are preparing them for adult-hood, fixing them to leave. And mothers know that this kind of love doesn’t expire when their kids leave home.
While the compilation of these many acts of love certainly gives credibility to our position of influence, it’s our unseen confession of hope that helps us to persevere, pointing our children to the true fixer, Jesus Christ. Mothers know we need to rely on God’s strength. Our confession of hope is not in our own abilities to run the world. Motherhood is humbling, so we can identify with weakness. Our confession of hope is that Jesus is Lord. Our hope is in the One who fixes us. And He is no enabler. Jesus guarantees that there will be a cross to carry, even as He has redeemed us and is making us holy.
I wavered a little after my husband’s phone call two winters ago. I wish I could say that was the only time. But Christians are exhorted, “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23). Moms are to encourage and equip their children to fix their eyes on Christ.
That’s what my mom did when I returned home after a long evening. While we strive to be dependable, Christian mothers know that our children will never be satisfied in depending on us. The truth is, I needed more than chicken noodle soup and a baby sitter. I needed to be reminded of my confession of hope.
What I could see were sick kids, a husband recovering from surgery, and a growing backload of work. What I could feel were my very weary bones and tired eyes. And mom. She blessed me that day by giving me what I can’t see. She reminded me of my hope, my ultimate blessing, Jesus Christ. I was then able to be a blessing to my family. Now we see the cross, but one day our faith will be sight, and we will be in glory with our Lord in the new heavens and the new earth.
Jesus is Lord. Not mothers or circumstances. Our confession of hope influences how we handle our everyday lives, love our families, and in turn influence all those around us.
What Is Grace?
By R.C. Sproul 3/01/2015
A number of decades ago at the Ligonier Valley Study Center, we sent out a Thanksgiving card with this simple statement: “The essence of theology is grace; the essence of Christian ethics is gratitude.” In all the debates about our role versus God’s role in sanctification—our growth in holiness—we’d stay on the right track if we’d remember this grace-gratitude dynamic. The more we understand how kind God has been to us and the more we are overcome by His mercy, the more we are inclined to love Him and to serve Him.
Yet we can’t get the grace-gratitude dynamic right if we aren’t clear on what grace means. What is grace? The catechisms many of us learned as children give us the answer: “Grace is the unmerited favor of God.” The first thing that we understand about grace is what it’s not—it’s not something we merit. In fact, if that is all we ever understand about grace, I’m sure God will rejoice that we know His grace is unmerited. So, here’s our working definition of grace—it is unmerit.
Paul’s epistle to the Romans sheds light on what we mean when we say that grace is unmerit. In 1:18–3:20, the Apostle explains that on the final day, for the first time in our lives, we will be judged in total perfection, in total fairness, in absolute righteousness. Thus, every mouth will be stopped when we stand before the tribunal of God. This should provoke fear in the hearts of fallen people, as condemnation is the only possible sentence for sinful men and women: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23).
But those who trust in Christ Jesus have hope, for if we are in Him by faith, we have been “justified freely by His grace.” Note that justification is accomplished not by obligation, but freely through grace on account of the redemption purchased by Jesus alone. There’s no room for boasting, for we are justified not by our works but by grace alone through faith alone. Paul goes on to cite Abraham as the preeminent example of one who was justified by faith alone and therefore free from God’s sentence of condemnation. If the basis for Abraham’s salvation, his justification, was something that Abraham did—some good deed, some meritorious service that he performed, some obligation that he performed—if it were on the basis of works, Paul says, he would have had something about which to boast. But Abraham had no such merit. All he had was faith, and that faith itself was a gift: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (4:3; see Eph. 2:8–10).
Romans 4:4–8 is a key passage here:
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
That’s grace. Paul couldn’t say it any other way. To him who works, it’s debt; if you merit something, it means that someone is obligated to pay you. If I hire you as an employee and promise to pay you one hundred dollars if you work eight hours, I must pay you for working the eight hours. I’m not doing you a favor or giving you grace. You’ve earned your pay. You’ve fulfilled the contract, and I’m morally obliged to give you your wages.
With respect to the Lord, we are debtors who cannot pay. That’s why the Bible speaks of redemption in economic language—we were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20). Only someone else—Christ—can pay our debt. That’s grace. It’s not our good works that secure our rescue but only the works of Christ. It’s His merit, not ours. We don’t merit anything. He grants us His merit by grace, and we receive it only by faith. The essence of grace is its voluntary free bestowal. As soon as it’s a requirement, it’s no longer grace.
Grace should never cease to amaze us. God has an absolute, pure, holy standard of justice. That’s why we cling with all our might to the merit of Jesus Christ. He alone has the merit to satisfy the demands of God’s justice, and He gives it freely to us. We haven’t merited it. There’s nothing in us that elicits the Lord’s favor that leads to our justification. It’s pure grace.
And the more we understand what God has done for us as sinners, the more willing we are to do whatever He requires. The great teachers of the church say the first point of genuine sanctification is an increasing awareness of our own sinfulness. With that comes, at the same time, an increasing awareness of God’s grace. And with that, again, increasing love and increasing willingness to obey Him.
When we truly understand grace—when we see that God only owes us wrath but has provided Christ’s merit to cover our demerit—then everything changes. The Christian motivation for ethics is not merely to obey some abstract law or a list of rules; rather, our response is provoked by gratitude. Jesus understood that when He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” If I may have the liberty to paraphrase: “Keep My commandments not because you want to be just, but because you love Me.” A true understanding of grace—of God’s unmerited favor—always provokes a life of gratitude and obedience.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Speaking the Truth in Love
By Phil Johnson 3/01/2015
Sometimes the best way to love your neighbor is to challenge a false belief that is holding him in confusion, discouragement, or some worse state of spiritual bondage. The idea that it’s unloving to defend truth or confront lies is one of the arrogant opinions of this postmodern age that needs to be torn down (2 Cor. 10:5). Authentic love “rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6).
Love and truth are perfectly symbiotic. Love without truth has no character. Truth without love has no power. Nowhere in Scripture is the essential connection between these two cardinal virtues more clearly highlighted than in 2 John. Love and truth are the key words in that brief thirteen-verse epistle.
John is the perfect Apostle to write on this theme. Jesus had nicknamed John and his brother James “Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17)—doubtless because of their fiery zeal for the truth. At first, their passion was not always tempered with love, and we see a glimpse of that in Luke 9:54, when they wanted to call down fire from heaven upon a village of Samaritans who had rebued Christ.
In later years, however, John distinguished himself as the Apostle of Love, specially highlighting the theme of love in his gospel and in all three of his epistles.
And yet, as we see in all of his epistles, he never lost his zeal for the truth. He did, however, learn to keep it wedded to a proper, Christlike love. His second epistle is addressed to “the elect lady and her children”—most likely an esteemed Christian matriarch who had the means and the desire to make her home and hospitality available to itinerant missionaries, church planters, and teachers in the early church. Extending such hospitality was a tangible way she could fulfill the Lord’s new commandment (John 13:34).
She was probably familiar with John’s first epistle, where he warned “that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18; see v. 22; 4:3). Such men were “false prophets”—teachers who claimed to be believers but whose teaching undermined true faith. And many of them had already gone out all over the known world (4:1).
For someone whose ministry entailed showing kindness to strangers, those were unsettling words. Could she no longer show hospitality indiscriminately? What was the loving response to someone who claimed to be a brother in Christ but taught the doctrine of antichrist?
She had evidently written John personally to ask. The epistle is his reply. Verses 1–5 describe the symbiotic nature of love and truth, and John arms the primacy of love: “All who [genuinely] know the truth” do love (v. 1 is an echo of 1 John 3:14 and its cross-references). Love itself is at the heart of all truth because love is what the truth demands. Love is the perfect fulfillment of all our Lord’s commandments (Rom. 13:10; Gal. 5:14). So, in no way does John want this woman or any other reader of the epistle to think that what he is about to say denigrates the importance of love.
Then the epistle takes a dramatic turn. John reiterates the necessity of being on guard against deceivers and antichrists, for there are many (v. 7). He explains how to distinguish such people from authentic believers (v. 9).
All of this repeats in shorthand form things he had already said in 1 John. Verses 10–11 are the only completely new content in this epistle. This is therefore the main point John wants to address in this letter. It is John’s inspired answer to the question that seems to have prompted him to write in the first place:
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
He calls for a strict separation between the people of God and anyone who comes in Christ’s name but denies Christ’s essential teaching.
John isn’t talking about simple matters of disagreement between brothers and sisters in Christ. He is not giving a mandate for speaking rudely to people, being hateful to one’s theological adversaries, or anything else that would violate the principle of 2 Timothy 2:24–26: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrel-some but kind to everyone … correcting his opponents with gentleness.
“But there’s no mincing of words here. He instructs the woman to withhold both hospitality and honor from itinerant teachers who deny essential matters of the Christian faith. She is not to open her home to them; neither is she to bestow on them any favor or tribute that might encourage them in their evil mission.
Love—for the truth and for souls—demands such a response to dangerous falsehoods. To the postmodern mind that may seem like no love at all, but it embodies the best, deepest love for Christ. May we learn what it means to ground our love in the truth, and may we not succumb to the pressure of our age to spurn or subjugate Christ’s truth under a false and foggy notion of love.
Phil has a bachelor's degree in theology from Moody Bible Institute (class of 1975) and was an editor at Moody Press before coming to Grace Community Church. He is an elder at Grace Community Church and pastors the GraceLife fellowship group. Phil and his wife, Darlene, have three adult sons, Jeremiah, Jedidiah, and Jonathan.
It’s the Little Things
By Nicholas Batzig 3/01/2015
You probably wouldn’t see him doing so, but he’s faithfully hanging the church sign every Friday night and taking it down every Sunday. You probably wouldn’t see her doing so, but she’s faithfully coordinating with others to ensure that there will be enough food at church gatherings. You probably wouldn’t see them doing so, but they’re faithfully arriving early on Sunday morning to set up the hospitality table, the book table, and the sound equipment and to make coffee—making sure that everything is in place for the worship services. You probably wouldn’t see her doing so, but she’s faithfully cleaning her home hours before she opens it for a church small group. You probably wouldn’t see him doing so, but he’s faithfully making hymn schedules and arrangements for the music for the worship services. You probably wouldn’t see her doing so, but she’s faithfully lining up volunteers for the nursery, training others, and making sure that all the nursery needs are met. You probably wouldn’t see him doing so, but he’s faithfully keeping track of giving records for the members who themselves faithfully give to the work of the gospel ministry.
The list could go on and on, but the point is simple: it’s the little things that members of a church or church plant do that help the ministry thrive—and without which the growth of the local church would be greatly hindered.
During His earthly ministry, our Lord Jesus taught His disciples this principle: “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10). The New Testament gives us several examples of individuals who were faithful in small things, and yet whose faithfulness in small things aided the advancement of the gospel and brought great glory to Christ. Just consider the following:
At the wedding in Cana of Galilee, Jesus commanded the servants to “fill the water pots with water” (John 2:7). As Stephen Burch has observed, “Disobedience would have robbed them of wine; half-hearted obedience would have yielded them half of the wine. However, the servants’ faithfulness in something so trivial ended in their receiving 180 gallons of the best wine for the entire wedding party.” Additionally, Jesus’ glory was manifested in this first miracle, which showed forth the joy-imparting blessings of the new covenant.
The boy who gave Jesus his five loaves and two fish (John 6:6–14) was instrumental in the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. Additionally, twelve baskets were taken up to nourish each of the disciples for their subsequent ministerial labors. Thousands were fed and ministers were supported by one boy’s small sacrifice. More importantly, millions have spiritually fed on Christ by means of this inscripturated account of His miraculous power and grace.
The widow with the two mites (Mark 12:41–44) seemed to have given far less than what those who put in large amounts had given. Yet, Jesus said that by giving all that she possessed, she had put in more than all. Consider how many billions have been given to support gospel ministry throughout the new covenant era on account of this woman’s act. Her faithfulness in something seemingly small has encouraged others to give in sacrificial abundance for two millennia.
Finally, Joseph of Arimathea gave Jesus a dignified burial in his own garden tomb. While it took enormous courage for Joseph to ask for the body of Christ, it was a relatively small thing for a rich man to give up a tomb. In this small act, Joseph played a role in the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9. Christ’s body was not thrown in a fire pit with the criminals next to whom He was crucified. By embalming the body of Jesus (John 19:38–42), Joseph participated in the fulfillment of Psalm 16:10–11 (see Acts 2:22–32).
What more could we say? Time would fail me to tell of the two disciples who prepared the upper room; the man who gave Jesus his donkey for His entry into Jerusalem; the individual who brought the imprisoned Apostle a pen and paper with which he wrote the letter to the Romans; Timothy, who brought Paul his cloak to keep him warm and books to keep him spiritually nourished; the women who opened their homes to the churches that met and worshiped in them; and the individual who hiked to the seven churches spread throughout Asia Minor in order to carry John’s Revelation to them.
God loves to bless the little things His people do. Sometimes they are small acts, and sometimes they only appear to be so. Jesus cares deeply about the little things that His people do to bless others in His church. He takes note of them as precious acts of service. He uses the little things that His people do to carry on His work in the world through His church. May God give all of us grace to cultivate faithfulness in the little things that we do.
By R.C. Sproul 4/01/2015
We all have those moments in our lives that we say were formative for the shaping of who we are today. We celebrate birthdays in our homes every year. We remember our wedding anniversaries and the dates on which we first met our spouses or made a life-changing career decision. Often, these events have sights and smells that are associated with them, or particular sights and smells bring to mind particular episodes or feelings. If your mother made you a special batch of chicken soup every time you got sick, smelling hot chicken broth might evoke fond memories of her and her care. Finding a treasured doll or stuffed animal from your childhood will likely take you back to those days and the experiences you enjoyed.
This human tendency to remember important events by means of tangible objects carries right over into the religious sphere. We understand that the life and worship of the church involves what we call “Word and sacrament.” In Protestant churches particularly, there has been a tremendous emphasis on the preaching of the Word, but historically, the celebration of the sacraments in Protestantism has also been vital. Sadly, there has been a neglect of the sacraments among modern evangelicals, though there are encouraging signs that this trend is being reversed. Nevertheless, the celebration of God-ordained sacraments has been a constant throughout the history of God’s people. From the days of the Old Testament all the way through the New Testament, God has been concerned not only to speak to His people through His Word, but also to communicate in other ways and in other methods, one of the most important of which is through the sacraments.
When we speak of the sacraments, we are usually referring specifically to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, those signs and seals instituted by Christ to remember His death and His work in cleansing His people from sin. But theologians also use terms such as sacrament or sacramental in a broader sense. Such terms can be applied to many ways in which God has communicated to His people through object lessons, through signs or ordinary symbols that take on extraordinary meaning. For example, we have the rainbow, which was the sign given to Noah that the Lord would never destroy the earth again with a flood. He used that common, natural phenomenon of the rainbow as a sign of an uncommon, special, divine promise of His persevering and preserving providence. Now, every time we see a rainbow, we are involved in the sacramental life of the faith, not in the technical sense of sacraments, but rather in the sense of the broader meaning of external objects that are used to enhance and support the communication of the verbal promises of God. Old covenant believers also had circumcision as a visible reminder that they had been cut out of the world to be the Lord’s holy people. Moreover, the prophets often dramatized the Word of God through visible signs such as a plumb line, a broken jar, or other such things. Perhaps the preeminent sacramental celebration under the old covenant was the Passover, the meal that was eaten to commemorate God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. Here we see the sign joined to the Word of God, as is to be the case whenever a God-ordained sacrament is celebrated. As the meal was being eaten, the families in Israel were to retell the story of the exodus, to recount the divinely sent plagues and God’s message to Israel through Moses that were part and parcel of the liberation from Egypt.
Under the new covenant, we remember, for example, the Lord’s Supper, when Jesus took the Old Testament sacrament of Passover and filled it with new meaning and new content. He took the bread and the wine of the Passover meal and made them signs and seals of His broken body and shed blood, which are the purchase price of our redemption. He said to eat the bread and wine in remembrance of Him. Jesus knew His people; He knew what we were like, that sometimes our faithfulness to Christ is only as intense and as strong as the vivacity of our recollection of our most recent blessing at the hands of God. But we come down from those mountaintop experiences and we tend to forget what God has done for us in the past. The sacraments represent the Lord accommodating Himself to this weakness of ours in order to assist us in remembering what He has done for us.
We are weak, sinful people who need all the assistance we can get in order to remember what the Lord has done for us. If we neglect the sacraments He has given His people and fail to understand the importance of the sacramental aspects of our faith, we are turning down precious helps that provide additional confirmation of His promises. When joined to the Word of God, the sacraments strengthen our faith, further our sanctification, and assure us of the Lord’s unwavering faithfulness to us—His forgetful and often unfaithful people.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
An Unlikely Convert: An Interview with Rosaria Butterfield
By Rosaria Butterfield 4/01/2015
Tabletalk: Your book is titled The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Could you explain some of your “secret thoughts,” and why you were an “unlikely convert”?
Rosaria Butterfield: I considered myself an atheist, having rejected my Catholic childhood and what I perceived to be the superstitions and illogic of the historic Christian faith. I found Christians to be difficult, sour, fearful, and intellectually unengaged people. In addition, since the age of twenty-eight, I had lived in monogamous lesbian relationships and politically supported LGBT causes. I coauthored Syracuse University’s first successful domestic partnership policy while working there as a professor of English and women’s studies. I was terrified to aliate on any level with a worldview that called me, my life, my community, my scholarly interest, and my relationship sin. Add to this that I was working on a book “exposing” the religious right from a lesbian feminist point of view. I approached the Bible with an agenda to tear it down because I firmly believed that it was threatening, dangerous, and irrational.
But when I came to Christ, I experienced what nineteenth-century Scottish theologian Thomas Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” At the time of my conversion, my lesbian identity and feelings did not vanish. As my union with Christ grew, the sanctification that it birthed put a wedge between my old self and my new one. In time, this contradiction exploded, and I was able to claim identity in Christ alone.
TT: How has your story been received by Christians?
RB: The protagonist of Secret Thoughts is Pastor Ken Smith, who modeled to me organic Christian hospitality and the life-sustaining action of neighboring. Christian readers have responded to Ken’s example and have been encouraged by it.
TT: How has your conversion to Christianity been received by your former colleagues?
RB: At the time of my conversion, my colleagues and students treated me with suspicion and confusion. Understandably, many friends felt betrayed, exposed, and criticized by my conversion and the changes in heart, life, and writing that this produced. When a person comes to Christ and repents of sin, this turning around makes enemies out of former allies. And while this aftershock eventually led to Bible studies and many opportunities to share the gospel, it also destroyed friendships and allegiances. The exclusivity of Christ has rugged consequences.
TT: How do you respond to someone who says that one can continue to live a homosexual lifestyle and yet also be a Christian?
RB: First, I always start by asking for clarification about what she means by “Christian,” often requesting that she share her testimony (and offering to share mine as well). She may tell me that she is a Christian because she believes in Jesus and said the sinner’s prayer at a certain moment in her childhood. She also may tell me that she has a “high view” of Scripture and believes that the historic Christian church has misrepresented the issue of homosexuality. As I listen, I pray for the Lord to give me not only the words to say, but a transparent kindness that can uphold the weight of these words. I say I am glad that she believes in Jesus, but I share that the Bible calls for more than that, as even the trembling demons believe in Jesus. The Bible defines a Christian in a fuller way, including an understanding that:
(1) God set me apart from before the foundations of the world.
(2) The Holy Spirit removed my heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh, leaving me with justifying faith.
(3) Jesus Christ infuses sanctifying grace through His hard-wrought love and blood.
(4) Repentance and belief go together, as both are gifts of God and fruit of Christian living. Without repentance there is no salvation.
Sometimes at this point in the conversation, she will ask me where she might meet this Jesus, because this is a different Jesus than the one that she knows. We open the Bible together, and I invite her to my house for dinner and church. Alternatively, if she tells me that she just interprets the Bible differently than I do, I then discuss how Jesus is inseparable from the Bible, and how the Bible is a unified revelation of God, fully true, inspired, and inerrant. At some point, if God allows, I suggest that we start reading the Bible together, reading systematically and not topically.
As you can see, I do not ask my questioner about why she identifies as lesbian or what this means to her, or when she first felt like a lesbian or had her first sexual experience. It is not that I don’t care, but if I start with her, I start in the wrong place. Instead, I start with the triune God, and call out the soul-orientation of any person with whom I speak.
TT: What is the biggest misconception that evangelicals have about those who are a part of the “homosexual community”?
RB: Reformed Christians know that God’s elect people are everywhere, but one big misconception evangelicals have is the wholesale writing off of all people who identify as gay as God-hating reprobates. Another misconception is that a person’s homosexuality is the biggest and most life-defining sin of her life. When Ken Smith, the pastor the Lord used in my conversion, first met me, he knew that being a lesbian was not my biggest sin. My biggest sin was that I was an unbeliever.
TT: What counsel would you give to Christians as they attempt to preach the gospel to those who experience same-sex attraction?
RB: First, we need to apologize for “gay jokes” that we said or condoned in silence.
Next, we must: (1) counsel people who have repented from homosexual sexual pasts and feel called to heterosexual marriage; (2) encourage people who live daily with unwanted homosexual desires and feel called through justifying faith to celibacy, helping these brothers and sisters to resist temptation, secure accountability, and rely on the Word and on the fellowship of the saints to renew minds and affections; (3) lift the unearned burden of guilt off of the parents of children who identity as gay or lesbian; and (4) create meaningful community from within the membership of the church. To offer intentional commitment to members who are lonely and isolated, the church must demonstrate in everyday ways how we care for each other from cradle to grave. In the LGBT community in the 1990s, I learned the power of accompanied suffering, of standing together in grief as we faced the AIDS virus. The hospitality gifts I use today as a pastor’s wife, I honed in my LGBT community.
Pastorally, the Westminster Standards give us much wisdom about sanctification and offer helpful correctives to the unbiblical teachings of our day. It is important to tell people who struggle with sexual sin that their struggle is not proof that God is not working sanctification in them, because God knows that sanctification is both imperfect and incomplete in this lifetime. For the church to lovingly counsel those who experience unwanted homosexual desire, she must steer clear of parachurch ministries that hold to a false understanding of sanctification (that it is complete in this lifetime) or an over-actualized eschatology (that God wants you to experience perfection this side of the second coming). The Reformed church is much more competent to counsel because of the systematic theology that informs our understanding of law and grace.
TT: What three things would you tell a Christian young person who is experiencing same-sex attraction and is tempted to selfidentify as a homosexual?
RB: (1) Don’t embrace labels that God doesn’t use. God does not rank-order His beloved sons and daughters. If you are a believer, then your identity is in Christ and Christ alone. Memorize Colossians 3:1–4, remembering that “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (v. 3). Meditate on what it means to take refuge in Christ. And remember that union with Christ and the communion of the saints go together, so don’t isolate.
(2) As you practice the ordinary means of grace—Bible reading, psalm singing, taking the sacraments—do so with the communion of the saints. Don’t isolate. Be a fully present member of your church. If you struggle with unwanted homosexual desires, tell your pastor, elders, and friends so that they know how to pray for you and love you. But don’t think that the fact of these feelings makes you a dangerous person. A dangerous person is someone who either does not know what sin pattern percolates within him or foolishly believes that if he hides it, he is controlling it.
(3) Know your enemy. Unwanted homosexual desire is not the unforgivable sin. It is a vestige of the fall, and as such, is a vestige of original sin, the ultimate “pre-existing” condition. Daily, I ask the Lord: Lord, how has my original sin distorted me, how is my indwelling sin manipulating me, and how is Satan enlisting me? Your temptation pattern does not define you, but you must be armed for the battle, knowing that victory is promised, in God’s timing, incomplete but powerful here on earth, and complete and full in eternity.
When Not to Take Communion
By Anthony Carter 4/01/2015
When I was growing up, I did not like going to church. For a young boy in a rural town, church was boring, long, and filled with old, stodgy people singing old, stodgy songs. I would have rather been playing and watching football. However, there was one Sunday out of every month in which I did look forward to church—the first Sunday.
The first Sunday was communion Sunday. The mothers (older women) of the church would dress in all white. The pastor would wear his white robe. The communion table, normally bare, would be draped in a white cloth under which was clearly the communionware containing the bread and the wine.
I was impressed with the ceremony involved and the care taken in preparing the table. There was care in handling and distributing the elements. The deacons wore white gloves and the trays were passed between them with a deliberate orchestration of movements and reverence. I really enjoyed the anticipation and celebration of the Lord’s Table. Unfortunately, for all the care taken with the elements of the table, similar care was not taken by the participants, those receiving the table.
Contrary to some assumptions, the Lord’s Table is not for everyone. It is a blessed sacrament, like baptism, given to the church as a sign of God’s faithfulness to His promises and an assurance in the heart of the one to whom the promises are given. With this in mind, we should understand that there are at least two groups of people who should be discouraged from partaking at the Lord’s Table, namely, the unconverted and the unrepentant.
The Unconverted. The Lord’s Table is for those who have professed true faith in the Lord. It is referred to variously in the church because it is referenced variously in the Scriptures. Besides being called the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20), it is also often referred to as communion. This is due to the fact that in 1 Corinthians 10:16, the bread and the cup are understood to be a “communion” or “sharing” in and with Christ.
Communion, or common union, is born out of union with Christ. Only those in union with Christ have fellowship with Him. They share in His body and His blood and are consequently united to Him (John 6:56). The unconverted has no fellowship with Christ. The unconverted has no union with Him. There is no promise of Christ’s abiding with him. He has no portion in the body of Christ broken or the blood of Christ shed. Consequently, there can be no sharing in the elements that signify the person and work of Christ for the church (1 Cor. 11:24). The converted, on the other hand, discern that such are the blessings of being united to Christ.
The converted understand that the bread and the cup are a proclamation of the Lord’s death (1 Cor. 11:26). The elements move the believer to reflect upon the sacrifice of Christ and the abiding blessedness of knowing that Christ is for us. The blood of Christ is the forgiveness of our sins (Matt. 26:28). The body is Christ broken, suffering in our place (1 Cor. 11:24). These are the blessings that belong to those united to Christ by grace alone through faith alone. Only the converted, the truly regenerate, can be assured of these truths communicated in and through the Lord’s Table.
The Unrepentant. While the Lord’s Table is only for the converted, it is also only for the convert who is living the examined and, consequently, repentant life. The sacrament is for believers. And yet, the admonition to believers is clear: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:28).
The Christian life is the examined life, the life that takes seriously the call to repentance and the promise of forgiveness (1 John. 1:8–9; 2:1). Unfortunately, there are those who deny the grace of repentance by hardening their hearts and refusing to forgive or be forgiven. Those who refuse to acknowledge their sin, but harbor bitterness, malice, and hatred in their hearts, and refuse godly counsel toward reconciliation with God and others, and thus neglect the grace of repentance—let them refrain from the Lord’s Table. Otherwise, to eat and to drink in such a state is to call forth the disciplining hand of God (1 Cor. 11:32).
Nevertheless, such a condition is not the desire of God for His people. Our God delights to forgive (Micah 7:18). Consequently, His people can be assured “of better things—things that belong to salvation” (Heb. 6:9), namely, the blessed union and communion with Christ. To you, Christ says, “Come!” (Isa. 55:1). To you, Christ says “Welcome!” To you, Christ says, “Enjoy!”
I have long come to appreciate that old rural church in which I was raised. Today, many of those old, stodgy saints have gone to be with the Lord. And many of those old, stodgy songs have become my favorites. One in particular reminds me that the Lord’s Table is a blessed invitation to all those who hunger and thirst for righteousness:
Come ye thirsty, come and welcome;
Gods free bounty glorify.
True belief and true repentance;
Every grace that brings you nigh.
And there is no more blessed grace than that of sweet communion with and in Christ.
Anthony Carter Books:
- 1 Black and Reformed: Seeing God's Sovereignty in the African-American Christian Experience
- 2 Experiencing the Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church
- 3 Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity
- 4 On Being Black and Reformed: A New Perspective on the African-American Christian Experience
- 5 Blood Work
- 6 What is the Gospel?: Life's Most Important Question
- 7 The Holiness of God: An Attribute First Among Equals
- 8 Fighting Sexual Temptation: An Attack of the Heart
- 9 Wolves Among the Sheep: Be Aware of False Prophets
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 109Help Me, O LORD My God
109 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.
109:16 For he did not remember to show kindness,
but pursued the poor and needy
and the brokenhearted, to put them to death.
17 He loved to curse; let curses come upon him!
He did not delight in blessing; may it be far from him!
18 He clothed himself with cursing as his coat;
may it soak into his body like water,
like oil into his bones!
19 May it be like a garment that he wraps around him,
like a belt that he puts on every day!
20 May this be the reward of my accusers from the LORD,
of those who speak evil against my life!
21 But you, O GOD my Lord,
deal on my behalf for your name’s sake;
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!
22 For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is stricken within me.
23 I am gone like a shadow at evening;
I am shaken off like a locust.
24 My knees are weak through fasting;
my body has become gaunt, with no fat.
25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they wag their heads.
Chapter 2 | The Ten Primitive Persecutions
The Tenth Persecution, Under Diocletian, A.D. 303
Under the Roman emperors, commonly called the Era of the Martyrs, was occasioned partly by the increasing number and luxury of the Christians, and the hatred of Galerius, the adopted son of Diocletian, who, being stimulated by his mother, a bigoted pagan, never ceased persuading the emperor to enter upon the persecution, until he had accomplished his purpose.
The fatal day fixed upon to commence the bloody work, was the twenty-third of February, A.D. 303, that being the day in which the Terminalia were celebrated, and on which, as the cruel pagans boasted, they hoped to put a termination to Christianity. On the appointed day, the persecution began in Nicomedia, on the morning of which the prefect of that city repaired, with a great number of officers and assistants, to the church of the Christians, where, having forced open the doors, they seized upon all the sacred books, and committed them to the flames.
The whole of this transaction was in the presence of Diocletian and Galerius, who, not contented with burning the books, had the church levelled with the ground. This was followed by a severe edict, commanding the destruction of all other Christian churches and books; and an order soon succeeded, to render Christians of all denomination outlaws.
The publication of this edict occasioned an immediate martyrdom, for a bold Christian not only tore it down from the place to which it was affixed, but execrated the name of the emperor for his injustice. A provocation like this was sufficient to call down pagan vengeance upon his head; he was accordingly seized, severely tortured, and then burned alive.
All the Christians were apprehended and imprisoned; and Galerius privately ordered the imperial palace to be set on fire, that the Christians might be charged as the incendiaries, and a plausible pretence given for carrying on the persecution with the greater severities. A general sacrifice was commenced, which occasioned various martyrdoms. No distinction was made of age or sex; the name of Christian was so obnoxious to the pagans that all indiscriminately fell sacrifices to their opinions. Many houses were set on fire, and whole Christian families perished in the flames; and others had stones fastened about their necks, and being tied together were driven into the sea. The persecution became general in all the Roman provinces, but more particularly in the east; and as it lasted ten years, it is impossible to ascertain the numbers martyred, or to enumerate the various modes of martyrdom.
Racks, scourges, swords, daggers, crosses, poison, and famine, were made use of in various parts to dispatch the Christians; and invention was exhausted to devise tortures against such as had no crime, but thinking differently from the votaries of superstition.
A city of Phrygia, consisting entirely of Christians, was burnt, and all the inhabitants perished in the flames.
Tired with slaughter, at length, several governors of provinces represented to the imperial court, the impropriety of such conduct. Hence many were respited from execution, but, though they were not put to death, as much as possible was done to render their lives miserable, many of them having their ears cut off, their noses slit, their right eyes put out, their limbs rendered useless by dreadful dislocations, and their flesh seared in conspicuous places with red-hot irons.
It is necessary now to particularize the most conspicious persons who laid down their lives in martyrdom in this bloody persecution.
Sebastian, a celebrated martyr, was born at Narbonne, in Gaul, instructed in the principles of Christianity at Milan, and afterward became an officer of the emperor's guard at Rome. He remained a true Christian in the midst of idolatry; unallured by the splendors of a court, untained by evil examples, and uncontaminated by the hopes of preferment. Refusing to be a pagan, the emperor ordered him to be taken to a field near the city, termed the Campus Martius, and there to be shot to death with arrows; which sentence was executed accordingly. Some pious Christians coming to the place of execution, in order to give his body burial, perceived signs of life in him, and immediately moving him to a place of security, they, in a short time effected his recovery, and prepared him for a second martyrdom; for, as soon as he was able to go out, he placed himself intentionally in the emperor's way as he was going to the temple, and reprehended him for his various cruelties and unreasonable prejudices against Christianity. As soon as Diocletian had overcome his surprise, he ordered Sebastian to be seized, and carried to a place near the palace, and beaten to death; and, that the Christians should not either use means again to recover or bury his body, he ordered that it should be thrown into the common sewer. Nevertheless, a Christian lady named Lucina, found means to remove it from the sewer, and bury it in the catacombs, or repositories of the dead.
The Christians, about this time, upon mature consideration, thought it unlawful to bear arms under a heathen emperor. Maximilian, the son of Fabius Victor, was the first beheaded under this regulation.
Vitus, a Sicilian of considerable family, was brought up a Christian; when his virtues increased with his years, his constancy supported him under all afflictions, and his faith was superior to the most dangerous perils. His father, Hylas, who was a pagan, finding that he had been instructed in the principles of Christianity by the nurse who brought him up, used all his endeavors to bring him back to paganism, and at length sacrificed his son to the idols, June 14, A.D. 303.
Victor was a Christian of a good family at Marseilles, in France; he spent a great part of the night in visiting the afflicted, and confirming the weak; which pious work he could not, consistently with his own safety, perform in the daytime; and his fortune he spent in relieving the distresses of poor Christians. He was at length, however, seized by the emperor Maximian's decree, who ordered him to be bound, and dragged through the streets. During the execution of this order, he was treated with all manner of cruelties and indignities by the enraged populace. Remaining still inflexible, his courage was deemed obstinacy. Being by order stretched upon the rack, he turned his eyes toward heaven, and prayed to God to endue him with patience, after which he underwent the tortures with most admirable fortitude. After the executioners were tired with inflicting torments on him, he was conveyed to a dungeon. In his confinement, he converted his jailers, named Alexander, Felician, and Longinus. This affair coming to the ears of the emperor, he ordered them immediately to be put to death, and the jailers were accordingly beheaded. Victor was then again put to the rack, unmercifully beaten with batoons, and again sent to prison. Being a third time examined concerning his religion, he persevered in his principles; a small altar was then brought, and he was commanded to offer incense upon it immediately. Fired with indignation at the request, he boldly stepped forward, and with his foot overthrew both altar and idol. This so enraged the emperor Maximian, who was present, that he ordered the foot with which he had kicked the altar to be immediately cut off; and Victor was thrown into a mill, and crushed to pieces with the stones, A.D. 303.
Maximus, governor of Cilicia, being at Tarsus, three Christians were brought before him; their names were Tarachus, an aged man, Probus, and Andronicus. After repeated tortures and exhortations to recant, they, at length, were ordered for execution.
Being brought to the amphitheater, several beasts were let loose upon them; but none of the animals, though hungry, would touch them. The keeper then brought out a large bear, that had that very day destroyed three men; but this voracious creature and a fierce lioness both refused to touch the prisoners. Finding the design of destroying them by the means of wild beasts ineffectual, Maximus ordered them to be slain by the sword, on October 11, A.D. 303.
Romanus, a native of Palestine, was deacon of the church of Caesarea at the time of the commencement of Diocletian's persecution. Being condemned for his faith at Antioch, he was scourged, put to the rack, his body torn with hooks, his flesh cut with knives, his face scarified, his teeth beaten from their sockets, and his hair plucked up by the roots. Soon after he was ordered to be strangled, November 17, A.D. 303.
Susanna, the niece of Caius, bishop of Rome, was pressed by the emperor Diocletian to marry a noble pagan, who was nearly related to him. Refusing the honor intended her, she was beheaded by the emperor's order.
Dorotheus, the high chamberlain of the household to Diocletian, was a Christian, and took great pains to make converts. In his religious labors, he was joined by Gorgonius, another Christian, and one belonging to the palace. They were first tortured and then strangled.
Peter, a eunuch belonging to the emperor, was a Christian of singular modesty and humility. He was laid on a gridiron, and broiled over a slow fire until he expired.
Cyprian, known by the title of the magician, to distinguish him from Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, was a native of Natioch. He received a liberal education in his youth, and particularly applied himself to astrology; after which he traveled for improvement through Greece, Egypt, India, etc. In the course of time he became acquainted with Justina, a young lady of Antioch, whose birth, beauty, and accomplishments, rendered her the admiration of all who knew her. A pagan gentleman applied to Cyprian, to promote his suit with the beautiful Justina; this he undertook, but soon himself became converted, burnt his books of astrology and magic, received baptism, and felt animated with a powerful spirit of grace. The conversion of Cyprian had a great effect on the pagan gentleman who paid his addresses to Justina, and he in a short time embraced Christianity. During the persecutions of Diocletian, Cyprian and Justina were seized upon as Chrisitans, the former was torn with pincers, and the latter chastised; and, after suffering other torments, both were beheaded.
Eulalia, a Spanish lady of a Christian family, was remarkable in her youth for sweetness of temper, and solidity of understanding seldom found in the capriciousness of juvenile years. Being apprehended as a Christian, the magistrate attempted by the mildest means, to bring her over to paganism, but she ridiculed the pagan deities with such asperity, that the judge, incensed at her behavior, ordered her to be tortured. Her sides were accordingly torn by hooks, and her breasts burnt in the most shocking manner, until she expired by the violence of the flames, December, A.D. 303.
In the year 304, when the persecution reached Spain, Dacian, the governor of Terragona, ordered Valerius the bishop, and Vincent the deacon, to be seized, loaded with irons, and imprisoned. The prisoners being firm in their resolution, Valerius was banished, and Vincent was racked, his limbs dislocated, his flesh torn with hooks, and he was laid on a gridiron, which had not only a fire placed under it, but spikes at the top, which ran into his flesh. These torments neither destroying him, nor changing his resolutions, he was remanded to prison, and confined ina small, loathsome, dark dungeon, strewed with sharp flints, and pieces of broken glass, where he died, January 22, 304. His body was thrown into the river.
The persecution of Diocletian began particularly to rage in A.D. 304, when many Christians were put to cruel tortures and the most painful and ignominious deaths; the most eminent and paritcular of whom we shall enumerate.
Saturninus, a priest of Albitina, a town of Africa, after being tortured, was remanded to prison, and there starved to death. His four children, after being variously tormented, shared the same fate with their father.
Dativas, a noble Roman senator; Thelico, a pious Christian; Victoria, a young lady of considerable family and fortune, with some others of less consideration, all auditors of Saturninus, were tortured in a similar manner, and perished by the same means.
Agrape, Chionia, and Irene, three sisters, were seized upon at Thessalonica, when Diocletian's persecution reached Greece. They were burnt, and received the crown of martyrdom in the flames, March 25, A.D. 304. The governor, finding that he could make no impression on Irene, ordered her to be exposed naked in the streets, which shameful order having been executed, a fire was kindled near the city wall, amidst whose flames her spirit ascended beyond the reach of man's cruelty.
Agatho, a man of a pious turn of mind, with Cassice, Philippa, and Eutychia, were martyred about the same time; but the particulars have not been transmitted to us.
Marcellinus, bishop of Rome, who succeeded Caius in that see, having strongly opposed paying divine honors to Diocletian, suffered martyrdom, by a variety of tortures, in the year 324, conforting his soul until he expired with the prospect of these glorious rewards it would receive by the tortures suffered in the body.
Victorius, Carpophorus, Severus, and Severianus, were brothers, and all four employed in places of great trust and honor in the city of Rome. Having exclaimed against the worship of idols, they were apprehended, and scourged, with the plumbetae, or scourges, to the ends of which were fastened leaden balls. This punishment was exercised with such excess of cruelty that the pious brothers fell martyrs to its severity.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
(Oct 10) Bob Gass
‘You can trust a friend who corrects you.’
(Pr 27:6) 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. ESV
Here are two ‘superglue’ qualities that can permanently cement any friendship: honesty and loyalty. The Bible says, ‘You can trust a friend who corrects you, but kisses from an enemy are nothing but lies.’ A real friend may upset you by telling you the truth, but he or she will tell you the truth nonetheless. They may not always tell you what you want to hear, but if they truly love you, they’ll tell you what you need to hear. In the short run it may hurt, but in the long run it will help you. When you want to measure a relationship to determine whether it qualifies as a genuine friendship, here are two questions you should ask the other person: 1) Can I trust you enough to be totally honest with me? 2) Can I trust you enough to be totally honest with you? Only a true friendship expects and can survive such mutual honesty. The other quality involved in keeping a friend is loyalty. ‘There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother’ (Proverbs 18:24 NKJV). The word stick refers to how skin sticks to the bone. It’s a poignant picture of just how closely knit one friend should be to another. Loyalty is the one thing a person should never have to question about his or her friend. A true friend will always be your defence lawyer before he or she becomes your judge. There’s no such thing as ‘a fair-weather friend’. You don’t need friends in fair weather; you need them when the weather gets nasty. A fair-weather friend is no friend at all.
2 Thess 3
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Just two days before Columbus sighted land, his men were on the verge of mutiny. They had sailed the longest voyage ever out of the sight of land and wanting to turn back. The entry in Columbus’ Journal, October 10, 1492, stated: “Here the people could stand it no longer and complained of the long voyage; but the Admiral cheered them as best he could, holding out good hope of the advantages they would have. He added that it was useless to complain. He had come to the Indies, and so had to continue it until he found them, with the help of Our Lord.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
To cultivate the ceaseless spirit of prayer, use more frequent acts of prayer. To learn to pray with freedom, force yourself to pray. The great liberty begins in necessity.
Do not say, “I cannot pray, I am not in the spirit.” Pray till you are in the spirit. Think of analogies from lower levels. Sometimes when you need rest most you are too restless to lie down and take it. Then compel yourself to lie down, and to lie still. Often in ten minutes the compulsion fades into consent, and you sleep, and rise a new man.
Again, it is often hard enough to take up the task which in half an hour you enjoy. It is often against the grain to turn out of an Evening to meet the friends you promised. But once you are in their midst you are in your element.
Sometimes, again, you say, “I will not go to church. I do not feel that way.” That is where the habit of an ordered religious life comes in aid. Religion is the last region for chance desires. Do it as a duty, and it may open out as a blessing. Omit it, and you may miss the one thing that would have made an eternal difference. You stroll instead, and return with nothing but appetite—when you might have come back with an inspiration. Compel yourself to meet your God as you would meet your promises, your obligations, your fellow men.
So if you are averse to pray, pray the more. Do not call it lip-service. That is not the lip-service God disowns. It is His Spirit acting in your self-coercive will, only not yet in your heart. What is unwelcome to God is lip-service which is untroubled at not being more. As appetite comes with eating, so prayer with praying. Our hearts learn the language of the lips.
Compel yourself often to shape on your lips the detailed needs of your soul. It is not needful to inform God, but to deepen you, to inform yourself before God, to enrich that intimacy with ourself which is so necessary to answer the intimacy of God. To common sense the fact that God knows all we need, and wills us all good, the fact of His infinite Fatherhood, is a reason for not praying. Why tell Him what He knows? Why ask what He is more than willing to give? But to Christian faith and to spiritual reason it is just the other way. Asking is polar cooperation. Jesus turned the fact to a use exactly the contrary of its deistic sense. He made the all-knowing Fatherhood the ground of true prayer. We do not ask as beggars but as children. Petition is not mere receptivity, nor is it mere pressure; it is filial reciprocity. Love loves to be told what it knows already. Every lover knows that. It wants to be asked for what it longs to give. And that is the principle of prayer to the all-knowing Love. As God knows all, you may reckon that your brief and humble prayer will be understood (Matt. vi. 8). It will be taken up into the intercession of the Spirit stripped of its dross, its inadequacy made good, and presented as prayer should be. That is praying in the Holy Ghost. Where should you carry your burden but to the Father, where Christ took the burden of all the world? We tell God, the heart searcher, our heavy thoughts to escape from brooding over them. “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, Thou knewest my path.” (Ps. cxlii. 3). So Paul says the Spirit intercedes for us and gives our broken prayer divine effect (Rom. viii. 26). To be sure of God’s sympathy is to be inspired to prayer, where His mere knowledge would crush it. There is no father who would be satisfied that his son should take everything and ask for nothing. It would be thankless. To cease asking is to cease to be grateful. And what kills petition kills praise.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
And God has set up prayer in such a way that,
if you want to explain it away, you can.
That's the human mind.
God set it up like that for a reason,
which is this:
God ordained that people should be governed
in the end by what they want.
--- Dallas Willard
As a moth gnaws a garment, so doth envy consume a [person].
--- John Chrysostom
We have heard in these days a blasphemer stand on a public platform and say, “There is no God, and if there is a God,” taking out his watch, “let him strike me dead in five minutes.” When he still found himself alive, he argued that there was no God. The fact was, God was much too great to be put out of patience by such an insignificant wretch as he.
--- Charles Spurgeon
Thanks to Meir Yona
Containing The Interval Of About One Month. From The Great Extremity To Which The Jews Were Reduced To The Taking Of Jerusalem By Titus.
That The Miseries Still Grew Worse; And How The Romans Made An Assault Upon The Tower Of Antonia.
1. Thus did the miseries of Jerusalem grow worse and worse every day, and the seditious were still more irritated by the calamities they were under, even while the famine preyed upon themselves, after it had preyed upon the people. And indeed the multitude of carcasses that lay in heaps one upon another was a horrible sight, and produced a pestilential stench, which was a hinderance to those that would make sallies out of the city, and fight the enemy: but as those were to go in battle-array, who had been already used to ten thousand murders, and must tread upon those dead bodies as they marched along, so were not they terrified, nor did they pity men as they marched over them; nor did they deem this affront offered to the deceased to be any ill omen to themselves; but as they had their right hands already polluted with the murders of their own countrymen, and in that condition ran out to fight with foreigners, they seem to me to have cast a reproach upon God himself, as if he were too slow in punishing them; for the war was not now gone on with as if they had any hope of victory; for they gloried after a brutish manner in that despair of deliverance they were already in. And now the Romans, although they were greatly distressed in getting together their materials, raised their banks in one and twenty days, after they had cut down all the trees that were in the country that adjoined to the city, and that for ninety furlongs round about, as I have already related. And truly the very view itself of the country was a melancholy thing; for those places which were before adorned with trees and pleasant gardens were now become a desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down: nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change: for the war had laid all the signs of beauty quite waste: nor if any one that had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again; but though he were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it notwithstanding.
2. And now the banks were finished, they afforded a foundation for fear both to the Romans and to the Jews; for the Jews expected that the city would be taken, unless they could burn those banks, as did the Romans expect that, if these were once burnt down, they should never be able to take it; for there was a mighty scarcity of materials, and the bodies of the soldiers began to fail with such hard labors, as did their souls faint with so many instances of ill success; nay, the very calamities themselves that were in the city proved a greater discouragement to the Romans than those within the city; for they found the fighting men of the Jews to be not at all mollified among such their sore afflictions, while they had themselves perpetually less and less hopes of success, and their banks were forced to yield to the stratagems of the enemy, their engines to the firmness of their wall, and their closest fights to the boldness of their attack; and, what was their greatest discouragement of all, they found the Jews' courageous souls to be superior to the multitude of the miseries they were under, by their sedition, their famine, and the war itself; insomuch that they were ready to imagine that the violence of their attacks was invincible, and that the alacrity they showed would not be discouraged by their calamities; for what would not those be able to bear if they should be fortunate, who turned their very misfortunes to the improvement of their valor! These considerations made the Romans to keep a stronger guard about their banks than they formerly had done.
3. But now John and his party took care for securing themselves afterward, even in case this wall should be thrown down, and fell to their work before the battering rams were brought against them. Yet did they not compass what they endeavored to do, but as they were gone out with their torches, they came back under great discouragement before they came near to the banks; and the reasons were these: that, in the first place, their conduct did not seem to be unanimous, but they went out in distinct parties, and at distinct intervals, and after a slow manner, and timorously, and, to say all in a word, without a Jewish courage; for they were now defective in what is peculiar to our nation, that is, in boldness, in violence of assault, and in running upon the enemy all together, and in persevering in what they go about, though they do not at first succeed in it; but they now went out in a more languid manner than usual, and at the same time found the Romans set in array, and more courageous than ordinary, and that they guarded their banks both with their bodies and their entire armor, and this to such a degree on all sides, that they left no room for the fire to get among them, and that every one of their souls was in such good courage, that they would sooner die than desert their ranks; for besides their notion that all their hopes were cut off, in case these their works were once burnt, the soldiers were greatly ashamed that subtlety should quite be too hard for courage, madness for armor, multitude for skill, and Jews for Romans. The Romans had now also another advantage, in that their engines for sieges co-operated with them in throwing darts and stones as far as the Jews, when they were coming out of the city; whereby the man that fell became an impediment to him that was next to him, as did the danger of going farther make them less zealous in their attempts; and for those that had run under the darts, some of them were terrified by the good order and closeness of the enemies' ranks before they came to a close fight, and others were pricked with their spears, and turned back again; at length they reproached one another for their cowardice, and retired without doing any thing. This attack was made upon the first day of the month Panemus [Tamuz.] So when the Jews were retreated, the Romans brought their engines, although they had all the while stones thrown at them from the tower of Antonia, and were assaulted by fire and sword, and by all sorts of darts, which necessity afforded the Jews to make use of; for although these had great dependence on their own wall, and a contempt of the Roman engines, yet did they endeavor to hinder the Romans from bringing them. Now these Romans struggled hard, on the contrary, to bring them, as deeming that this zeal of the Jews was in order to avoid any impression to be made on the tower of Antonia, because its wall was but weak, and its foundations rotten. However, that tower did not yield to the blows given it from the engines; yet did the Romans bear the impressions made by the enemies' darts which were perpetually cast at them, and did not give way to any of those dangers that came upon them from above, and so they brought their engines to bear. But then, as they were beneath the other, and were sadly wounded by the stones thrown down upon them, some of them threw their shields over their bodies, and partly with their hands, and partly with their bodies, and partly with crows, they undermined its foundations, and with great pains they removed four of its stones. Then night came upon both sides, and put an end to this struggle for the present; however, that night the wall was so shaken by the battering rams in that place where John had used his stratagem before, and had undermined their banks, that the ground then gave way, and the wall fell down suddenly.
by D.H. Stern
and a stone will come back on the one who starts it rolling.
28 A lying tongue hates its victims,
and a flattering mouth causes ruin.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Whereby shall I know?
I thank Thee, O Father, … because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. --- Matthew 11:25.
In spiritual relationships we do not grow step by step, we are either there or we are not. God does not cleanse us more and more from sin, but when we are in the light, walking in the light, we are cleansed from all sin. It is a question of obedience, and instantly the relationship is perfected. Turn away for one second out of obedience, and darkness and death are at work at once.
All God’s revelations are sealed until they are opened to us by obedience. You will never get them open by philosophy or thinking. Immediately you obey, a flash of light comes. Let God’s truth work in you by soaking in it, not by worrying into it. The only way you can get to know is to stop trying to find out and by being born again. Obey God in the thing He shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. We read tomes on the work of the Holy Spirit, when one five minutes of drastic obedience would make things as clear as a sunbeam. ‘I suppose I shall understand these things some day!’ You can understand them now. It is not study that does it, but obedience. The tiniest fragment of obedience, and heaven opens and the profoundest truths of God are yours straight away. God will never reveal more truth about Himself until you have obeyed what you know already. Beware of becoming “wise and prudent.”
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
The Earth Does Its Best For Him
The paintings are under glass,
or in dry rooms it is difficult
to breathe in; they are tired
of returning the hard stare
of eyes. The sculptures are smooth
from familiarity. There is a smell
of dust, the precipitation
of culture from dead skies.
I return to Lleyn,
repository of the condescension
of time. Through the car's
open windows the scent of hay
comes. It is incense, the seasonally
renewed offering of the live earth.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
The fourth option regarding this conflict is one in which the individual takes both knowledge-claims seriously: the religious as grounded in revelation and in traditional authority, and the human as grounded in reason. He does not assume an either/or posture. He refuses to believe that man must choose between God’s mind and his own. “Your thoughts are not my thoughts” does not lead irrevocably to the complete severance of religious knowledge-claims and rational human-claims; it does not imply the impossibility of common areas of discourse.
Divine revelation need not be in discord with human understanding. In fact where they share a common domain, in principle, they are never in discord. Man’s rationality participates in the divine system of knowledge. There are not two truths.
This participation does not mean that man can grasp all that the divine mind knows. But to say that man does not know all that God knows is not to say that the divine mind can know, as truth, that which the human mind knows to be false. The two minds do not contradict one another. To say that God’s thoughts are not human thoughts is only to admit the limits of human understanding, and does not imply that the two contradict each other. The statement merely denies any claim of the human mind ultimately to judge what may count as true and as false. The human mind is not the sole source of knowledge. There are limits to human comprehension. Nevertheless, that which stretches beyond the limits of human understanding does not negate that which is within its limits. That which the human mind knows to be logically impossible from within its sphere of competence cannot be proven logically possible by the claim that the divine mind knows it to be true.
The human mind is prepared to admit limitations and yet claim absolute sovereignty within the legitimate scope of its understanding. This paradoxical gesture which admits both the absolute competence and limitations of human rationality is always operative within the fourth option—the way of integration—a gesture which may be called restrained self-confidence. Revelation, as mediated through the tradition, does not cause the individual to doubt that which can be known within the human sphere. He feels confident that he can maintain a posture of critical loyalty to the tradition because he knows that the tradition encourages and values the use of human reason. God does not play tricks nor does He deceive the human mind. God cannot square the circle. God cannot make possible that which is logically impossible. It is the human mind which defines the logically impossible that God’s mind never violates. The same logical rules that apply to human understanding apply to the divine mind as well. The individual within this fourth, integrative, option applies the principle of limit, which is not a principle of negation, to the religious knowledge-claims of his tradition.
When the individual discovers apparent contradictions between the claims of revelation and the claims of reason, does he doubt his own system of reasoning or the claims of tradition? He knows that what he knows is true. He knows that his religious posture does not demand of him to doubt his own mind’s rational credentials. If truth is not determined exclusively by tradition then he can demand that tradition make itself intelligible within the categories of the established truths of reason.
The fourth way makes possible an integration between the claims of tradition and the claims of reason by expanding the possible meanings of religious language to include symbolic meaning. A literal understanding of one’s religious language limits the possibility of its being modified by new intellectual claims. The key epistemological criteria used to determine whether one is to read the language literally or symbolically are defined by the claims of reason. Rational demonstrative truth has the power to alter the literal meaning of religious language. However in order for a reevaluation of religious language to be in harmony with tradition, and in order that it not appear as a total distortion, one must demonstrate that tradition itself justifies the use of symbolic interpretation. Unless the tradition has within it the category of symbolic language and an awareness that religious language can be understood in multiple ways, the encounter between demonstrative truth and tradition forces a total abandonment of the latter. In order to feel that the reevaluation is itself a traditional mode of understanding, one must show that the tradition has built into it the awareness that its own language can be taken symbolically.
The way of integration cannot be used by individuals who choose the first two options because they separate the individual’s trust of his own mind from his loyalty to community. In the first option, community defines the individual’s life; in the second, the individual and community reflect incompatible life-styles. The emphasis upon individual self-realization demands the severance of social excellence from individual perfection.
The way of integration requires not only a cognitive reinterpretation of tradition, but a recognition that the community itself points to the goal of individual excellence, a recognition that the normative system of the community encourages individuals to move ahead according to their spiritual capacities. What is involved in the way of integration, therefore, is a total attempt to reconstruct the meaning of the normative system. If the normative system does not point to individual excellence, then the way of integration has failed. The individual will still be acting within communal rather than individual categories.
The way of integration rejects the first option not only for its insistence on tradition as the criterion of truth, but for its concomitant behavioral emphasis on submission to authority. For the first option to succeed, for one to believe that the tradition claims both the actions and thoughts of an individual, one’s own understanding must not be allowed to question the criteria and content of tradition, as mediated through community. One must have an obedient nature to admit that authority defines truth. To encourage this total regard for authority, the tradition must develop the capacity for obedience through its norms. If, however, the individual is encouraged to think, and if the mind’s discovery of demonstrative truths is considered sufficient reason for rethinking the tradition, then something is set in motion. This is the individual who does not look upon obedience as the highest virtue, but recognizes that to understand is greater than to obey. The trust in human reason creates a new relationship to God: love based upon understanding. The way of integration will not revel in norms that are not reasonable, nor consider the soul to be spiritually nurtured when it is obedient to that which it doesn’t understand. On the contrary, actions which grow from understanding will be seen as the highest level of religious achievement.
A whole new way of life emerges when we maintain that community does not define the contents of truth. A whole new person emerges when one is encouraged to explore freely in the world of nature and to discover truths which are demonstrable to all men, and when traditional authority must justify itself to all rational creatures by rational method. Once tradition needs to justify itself in the court of universal reason, it can no longer demand obedience to itself as the highest virtue nor can it regard such obedience as the way to spiritual excellence. Obedience is the method which a community can use if it insists that it alone has the truth and does not have to justify or to explain itself in categories and to people outside the tradition. Arguments from authority presuppose acceptance of the authority which derives in turn from a loyalty to the community which legitimates that authority.
He who lives within the way of integration will attempt to discover methods of making his tradition intelligible within a universal framework of intelligibility. To the degree that one can render one’s tradition comprehensible to all people, to that degree one can argue that the way of reason and the way of tradition are harmonious. Even those areas which manifest the particular life-style of the tradition will be interpreted within categories that are intelligible to all reasonable men. It is not enough that the knowledge-claims of tradition be in harmony with universal claims of knowledge; the way of integration strives to make the practice of tradition comprehensible and meaningful to all men.
One last feature of the way of integration must be emphasized. As mentioned, the way of integration strives to harmonize reason and tradition within a framework of mutual enrichment. The spiritual values that the tradition holds to be important become enhanced through the way of reason. Reason provides both a guide to knowledge-claims within the tradition and an opportunity for the individual to realize the goal which the tradition holds to be important. The growth of knowledge moves one to a deeper understanding of the tradition; the goals which are present within the way of reason take on new dimensions as a result of the tradition.
There are trends within modern approaches to Maimonides which suggest that his thought should be understood from the perspective of dualism. Isaac Husik and Leo Strauss divide the works of Maimonides into two distinct parts: the philosophical, exemplified by The guide for the perplexed, and the legal, The Commentary to the Mishnah and the Mishneh Torah.
According to Husik, Maimonides never intended to communicate philosophy to those who were engaged in the study of law. Students of the Talmud were never bothered with the implications of philosophic thought:
Maimonides did not write his philosophy for the masses, nor did he compose his Guide of the Perplexed for the simple and the pious, though learned, students of the Talmud and the other rabbinic literature. They were satisfied with their simple faith, and Maimonides was not interested in disturbing it. For them he composed his Yad ha-Ḥazakah, the code of the rabbinic law. (I. Husik, The philosophy of Maimonides, (Maimonides octocentennial series))
According to Husik, Maimonides wrote two major legal works, which occupied most of his lifetime, in order to teach people with simple faith how to conduct their lives. Their minds were too naive to be bothered by the speculative problems of philosophy; these are the concern of the student of the Guide, and are not to be discovered in Maimonides’ legal writings. Husik believes, that in the Guide, Maimonides shows his true self, i.e., his Aristotelianism. The theoretical interests of Maimonides, however, run into conflict when he tries to apply Aristotelianism to specific Jewish concerns:
As we approach those problems in which the human interest is very strong and particularly as we draw nearer to specifically Jewish doctrines, we shall find that the measure of inconsistency increases, threatening to disrupt the entire system. The theoretical and practical parts of Maimonides’ teachings do not hang together satisfactorily. (I. Husik, The philosophy of Maimonides, (Maimonides octocentennial series))
Torah, with its concern for the way an individual acts before his God, cannot be integrated with a conception of the world that is concerned with the development of theoretical perfection. Husik marvels that Maimonides did not recognize the fundamental incompatibility between Aristotelianism and Torah:
Maimonides is an Aristotelian, and he endeavors to harmonize the intellectualism and theorism of the Stagirite with the diametrically opposed ethics and religion of the Hebrew Bible. And he is apparently unaware of the yawning gulf extending between them. The ethics of the Bible is nothing if not practical. No stress is laid upon knowledge and theoretical speculation as such.… That the pentateuchal law is solely concerned with practical conduct—religious, ceremonial, and moral—needs no saying. It is so absolutely clear and evident that one wonders how so clear-sighted a thinker like Maimonides could have been misled by the authority of Aristotle and the intellectual atmosphere of the day to imagine otherwise. (Husik, A History Of Mediaeval Jewish Philosophy)
Husik does not question the Aristotelian models of theoretical and practical virtue from which he tries to understand Maimonides. What he does question is Maimonides’ “naive” belief that Aristotelianism can live together with Torah. A further illustration of this approach can be found in an article by Harry Wolfson on Judah Halevi and Maimonides:
Maimonides was not a rabbi employing Greek logic and categories of thought in order to interpret Jewish religion; he was rather a true medieval Aristotelian using Jewish religion as an illustration of the Stagirite’s metaphysical supremacy. Maimonides adheres staunchly to the Law, of course, but his adherence is not the logical consequence of his system. It has its basis in his heredity and practical interests; it is not the logical implication of his philosophy. Judaism designated the established social order of life, in which Maimonides lived and moved and had his being; and it was logically as remote from his intellectual interests as he was historically remote from Aristotle. That, naturally, he was unaware of the dualism must be clear. Indeed he thought he had made a synthesis and had given scientific demonstrations of poetic conceptions. Therein he was like the Italian priest and astronomer, Pietro Angelo Secchi, who, while performing his religious services, dropped Copernican astronomy, and while in the observatory, dropped his church doctrines. Maimonides really saw no incompatibility between his Judaism and his philosophy; he was a Jew in letter and a philosopher in spirit throughout his life. (H. A. Wolfson, Maimonides and Halevi: a study in typical Jewish attitudes towards Greek philosophy in the Middles Ages)
Leo Strauss follows the approach of bifurcating Maimonides’ legal work from his philosophical work. (STUDIES IN MYSTICISM AND RELIGION, PRESENTED TO GERSHOM G. SCHOLEM ON HIS SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY BY PUPILS, COLLEAGUES AND FRIENDS = MEHKARIM BA-KABALAH UVE-TOLDOT HA-DATOT, MUGASHIM LE-GERSHOM SHALOM BI-MELOT LO SHIV`IM SHANAH) His effort at showing that the Guide, as opposed to the Mishneh Torah, reflects the true opinions of Maimonides is just a further elaboration, although a more sophisticated one, of the view that Maimonides separated theoretical from practical virtue. The relationship of Torah to philosophy must be understood, according to Strauss, in only one direction. Law aims at establishing the proper political order through which the philosopher is able to realize his individual quest for theoretical perfection. Just as a healthy body is a necessary condition for a healthy mind, so too is Torah a necessary condition for the establishment of a healthy political state. The creation of this healthy community is only a means to the further end of theoretical perfection.
The law of Sinai is a necessary station on the road leading to theoretical perfection. Once the individual enters into the domain of theoretical reason he never again reconsiders the meaning of his Torah observance. He goes through the required motions of political man: he obeys the law, but he knows that his true identity is defined by his quest for theoretical perfection.
According to Strauss, Maimonides’ insistence that the law commands us to philosophize is only a clever political ruse used to safeguard the philosopher from persecution. In order for a Jew to philosophize he must first gain approval and legitimacy from a legal system which has no use for philosophy. (ASIN: B005CIEPEM) To obviate the danger to Maimonides the Philosopher, Maimonides the Judge must show that the Torah commands one to philosophize. The community, however, must not be allowed to know Maimonides the Philosopher, but only Maimonides the observant Judge, for if it discovers the true opinions of Maimonides the Philosopher, it will recognize the fraud that Maimonides the Judge has perpetrated upon it. (STUDIES IN MYSTICISM AND RELIGION, PRESENTED TO GERSHOM G. SCHOLEM ON HIS SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY BY PUPILS, COLLEAGUES AND FRIENDS = MEHKARIM BA-KABALAH UVE-TOLDOT HA-DATOT, MUGASHIM LE-GERSHOM SHALOM BI-MELOT LO SHIV`IM SHANAH)
This dichotomy in Maimonides (judge-philosopher) explains the esoteric and exoteric character of his writings:
Exoteric literature presupposes that there are basic truths which would not be pronounced in public by any decent man because they would do harm to many people who, having been hurt, would naturally be inclined to hurt in turn him who pronounces the unpleasant truths.
According to Strauss, Maimonides writes in his legal work as a responsible judge for a community whose beliefs he rejects as a philosopher. In describing Maimonides, one must always distinguish between these two roles. What Maimonides qua philosopher says he will never, qua judge, admit. The philosopher-king of Plato, as understood by al-Farabi, is the model from which Strauss studies Maimonides’ understanding of the Torah.
Maimonides’ concern for Torah is to be understood within the model of political philosophy:
The exoteric teaching was needed for protecting philosophy. It was the armor in which philosophy had to appear. It was needed for political reasons. It was the form in which philosophy became visible to the political community.
Both Plato and Maimonides aimed at establishing a society which would not persecute those who strove for theoretical perfection. The philosopher-king knows that in order to maintain the well-being of the political state, it may be necessary to perpetuate noble lies; similarly, Maimonides, the Platonist, perpetuates noble myths, such as messianism, God of history, and reward and punishment, in order to harness the society and to motivate the members within it to be obedient to the law.
The political aspect of the Torah will be supported by beliefs which are untrue but necessary for those individuals who are not capable of living the life of a philosopher. The philosopher-king never reveals to the masses what only the few can know. Maimonides’ private speech to his single student in the Guide is never revealed to his public audience in the Mishneh Torah. He knows, however, that the public may read his Guide and discover the private thoughts of the king. Therefore he must write in such a way that only a few will be able to fully understand the Guide.14 One gains the impression from reading Strauss that the importance and excitement of studying Maimonides lies not in what he writes, for there is nothing essentially new in his philosophy that one could not discover in al-Farabi or Aristotle, but in the brilliant way in which Maimonides hides his true thoughts from the Jewish community. The art of his writing reveals to Strauss the essential gap that has always existed between a philosopher who searches for truth, and a society concerned with law and history.
Maimonides’ thought is important if placed within the framework of a sociology of philosophy which does not see the thinker reflecting his community but, rather, focuses on the gap between the individual and the public man. From the writings of Husik and Strauss we do not gain any sense of the Jewish importance of Maimonides’ works. As an Aristotelian, Maimonides contributes nothing to a deeper understanding of Judaism. Maimonides can only teach the believing Jew who has studied philosophy that his religious practices need not conflict with that study. He in no way shows how commitment to Torah can be deepened by philosophy. As long as the Jew needs to be a member of his society it is important for him to observe the law. His Torah observance continues as an appendage to his private Hellenistic spiritual development.
The approaches of Husik and Strauss to Maimonides reflect their understanding of the either/or decision that an individual must make regarding the conflict of reason and revelation. Either one chooses to be an Orthodox Jew who believes in revelation in a fundamentalist fashion, or one becomes an Aristotelian. Either one accepts the way of biblical man and learns to obey the will of God, or one follows the path of Greek philosophy and reflects on the wisdom of God. (Between Athens and Jerusalem: Philosophy, Prophecy, and Politics in Leo Strauss's Early Thought (Suny Series in the Thought and Legacy of Leo Strauss))
Athens, which is reason, and Jerusalem, which is revelation, are polarized by such thinkers and one is left with no alternative. As Strauss explicitly states:
Jews of the philosophic competence of Halevi and Maimonides took it for granted that being a Jew and being a philosopher are mutually exclusive.
If Maimonides accepted the virtue of critical rationality and individual excellence, and if he believed that the study of nature could provide one with knowledge of God independent of revelation, he could no longer return to the world view of Jerusalem.
Strauss, unlike Husik, believes that Maimonides was aware of the incompatibility between Jerusalem and Athens. Maimonides knew that he was a political-institutional Jew whose devotion to Torah was based upon practical, political interests which had no relationship to his personal, spiritual quest. Maimonides’ awareness of the incompatibility of being a Jew and a philosopher is the factor responsible for his writing exoteric and esoteric books. Strauss denies any possible philosophical connection between Maimonides’ legal and philosophical writings: These works are so bifurcated that any attempt at unity would be a violation of Maimonides’ true Aristotelianism. (How Farabi Read Plato's Laws)
The chapters that follow seek to prove that Maimonides chose the way of integration, and that his total philosophical endeavor was an attempt to show how the free search for truth, established through the study of logic, physics, and metaphysics, can live harmoniously with a way of life defined by the normative tradition of Judaism. The primacy of action is not weakened by the contemplative ideal; a deeper purpose for the normative structure is realized instead once the philosophic way is followed. The contemplative ideal is not insulated from Halakhah, but affects it in a new manner. Sinai is not a mere stage in man’s spiritual development, but the ultimate place to which man constantly returns—even when he soars to the heights of metaphysical knowledge.
As noted, the concern for individual excellence is in direct opposition to a world view which emphasizes the ideal of a holy people. Therefore, the relationship of philosophy to Halakhah as it bears directly upon the question of the individual and community in Maimonidean thought must be considered. The claim that Maimonides attempted an integration of philosophy and the teachings of his tradition will rest upon an analysis of the manner in which he established a genuine harmony between commitment to community and intellectual love of God.
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” --- Luke 1:46–47.
Let us sing, first, because singing is the natural language of joy. Spurgeon's Sermons on Old Testament Women, Vol. 1: (C. H. Spurgeon Sermon Series) Are the jubilant songs all made for the ungodly and the dirges for us? Are they to lift high the festive strain and we to be satisfied with the “Dead March” or some such melancholy music as that? No, friends, if they have joy, much more have we. Their joy is like the crackling of thorns under a pot, but ours is the shining of a star that never will be quenched. Let us sing then, for our joy abounds and abides. When warriors win victories, they shout; haven’t we won victories through Jesus Christ our Lord? When people celebrate their festivals, they sing; are there any festivals equal to ours—our paschal supper, our passage of the Red Sea, our jubilee, our expectation of the coronation of our King, our hymn of victory over all the host of hell? Oh, surely, if the children of earth sing, the children of heaven ought to sing far more often, far more loudly, far more harmoniously than they do.
Let us sing, too, because singing is the language of heaven. It’s thus that they express themselves up yonder. Many of the songs and other sounds of earth never penetrate beyond the clouds. Sighs and groans and clamors have never reached those regions of serenity and purity, but they do sing there. Heaven is the home of sacred song, and we are the children of heaven. Heaven’s light is in us; heaven’s smile is on us; heaven’s all belongs to us.
Let us also sing because singing is sweet to the ear of God. I venture to say that even the song of birds is sweet to him, for in Psalm 104 where it is written, “May the LORD rejoice in his works” (v. 31), it is also mentioned the birds “sing among the branches” (v. 12). Is there anything sweeter in this world than to wake up about four or five o’clock in the Morning, just at this time of the year, and hear the birds singing as if they would burst their little throats and pouring out, in a contest of sweetness, their little hearts in joyous song? I believe that, in the wild places of the earth where no human foot has ever defiled the soil, God loves to walk. When I have been alone among the fir trees, inhaling their fragrance, or have wandered up the hill where the loudest voice could not be answered by another voice for no one was there, I have felt that God was there and that he loved to listen to the song of birds that he had created. Yes, even the harshly croaking ravens he hears when they cry.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Sixty Ounces of Blood
Little is known of the early life of Sir Archibald Johnston, otherwise known as Lord Warriston. He grew up in seventeenth-century Scotland and became active in the Scottish government and in Presbyterian church life, rising to a position of great respect. His mind was as sharp as any on the British islands, and he witnessed freely to world leaders of his faith. During the Puritan revolt, he sided with Cromwell as King Charles I was deposed and executed. When Charles II restored the British monarchy in 1660, Johnston found himself in danger; and on October 10, 1660 he was pronounced a condemned fugitive.
Johnston fled to the Continent, but while there became sick. As it happened, one of King Charles’s physicians, Dr. Bates, attended him. Intending to kill him, Dr. Bates injected him with poison and drew from him sixty ounces of blood. While Johnston didn’t die, he was permanently impaired in his mind and could never again remember what he had said or done a quarter hour before.
Aided by friends, Johnston fled to France; but Charles’s agents were looking for him there, too, and he was seized while at prayer. In January, 1663, he was returned to England and imprisoned in the Tower of London. At length, he was transported to Edinburgh for execution, though according to his nephew, “he was so disordered in body and mind that it was a reproach to any government to proceed against him.”
He slept well on the night before his execution, and he took his last lunch cheerfully, “hoping to sup in heaven, and to drink the next cup fresh in his Father’s kingdom.” At two o’clock he was taken from the prison to the scaffold. There he pulled a paper from his pocket, being unable to remember what he wanted to say. He read from it front and back; then as if in a rapture, he looked up and prayed: “Abba, Father! Accept this thy poor sinful servant, coming unto thee, through the merits of Jesus Christ.”
He was hanged, and his head was nailed beside that of James Guthrie on Netherbow Port.
Christ died for us at a time when we were helpless and sinful. No one is really willing to die for an honest person, though someone might be willing to die for a truly good person. But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful.
--- Romans 5:6-8.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 10
“Faultless before the presence of his glory.” --- Jude 24.
Revolve in your mind that wondrous word, “faultless!” We are far off from it now; but as our Lord never stops short of perfection in his work of love, we shall reach it one day. The Saviour who will keep his people to the end, will also present them at last to himself, as “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish.” All the jewels in the Saviour’s crown are of the first water and without a single flaw. All the maids of honour who attend the Lamb’s wife are pure virgins without spot or stain. But how will Jesus make us faultless? He will wash us from our sins in his own blood until we are white and fair as God’s purest angel; and we shall be clothed in his righteousness, that righteousness which makes the saint who wears it positively faultless; yea, perfect in the sight of God. We shall be unblameable and unreproveable even in his eyes. His law will not only have no charge against us, but it will be magnified in us. Moreover, the work of the Holy Spirit within us will be altogether complete. He will make us so perfectly holy, that we shall have no lingering tendency to sin. Judgment, memory, will—every power and passion shall be emancipated from the thraldom of evil. We shall be holy even as God is holy, and in his presence we shall dwell for ever. Saints will not be out of place in heaven, their beauty will be as great as that of the place prepared for them. Oh the rapture of that hour when the everlasting doors shall be lifted up, and we, being made meet for the inheritance, shall dwell with the saints in light. Sin gone, Satan shut out, temptation past for ever, and ourselves “faultless” before God, this will be heaven indeed! Let us be joyful now as we rehearse the song of eternal praise so soon to roll forth in full chorus from all the blood-washed host; let us copy David’s exultings before the ark as a prelude to our ecstasies before the throne.
Evening - October 10
“And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.” --- Jeremiah 15:21.
Note the glorious personality of the promise. I will, I will. The Lord Jehovah himself interposes to deliver and redeem his people. He pledges himself personally to rescue them. His own arm shall do it, that he may have the glory. Here is not a word said of any effort of our own which may be needed to assist the Lord. Neither our strength nor our weakness is taken into the account, but the lone I, like the sun in the heavens, shines out resplendent in all-sufficience. Why then do we calculate our forces, and consult with flesh and blood to our grievous wounding? Jehovah has power enough without borrowing from our puny arm. Peace, ye unbelieving thoughts, be still, and know that the Lord reigneth. Nor is there a hint concerning secondary means and causes. The Lord says nothing of friends and helpers: he undertakes the work alone, and feels no need of human arms to aid him. Vain are all our lookings around to companions and relatives; they are broken reeds if we lean upon them—often unwilling when able, and unable when they are willing. Since the promise comes alone from God, it would be well to wait only upon him; and when we do so, our expectation never fails us. Who are the wicked that we should fear them? The Lord will utterly consume them; they are to be pitied rather than feared. As for terrible ones, they are only terrors to those who have no God to fly to, for when the Lord is on our side, whom shall we fear? If we run into sin to please the wicked, we have cause to be alarmed, but if we hold fast our integrity, the rage of tyrants shall be overruled for our good. When the fish swallowed Jonah, he found him a morsel which he could not digest; and when the world devours the church, it is glad to be rid of it again. In all times of fiery trial, in patience let us possess our souls.
WORK, FOR THE NIGHT IS COMING
Annie L. Coghill, 1836–1907
As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent Me. Night is coming when no one can work. (John 9:4)
Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.
--- Phillips Brooks
Diligence is a law of life. We are to put forth our very best effort into whatever work God gives us to do. For the Christian, every occupation is sacred when it is done for God’s glory. What counts in God’s sight is not only the actual work we do, but the attitude with which we do it. The story is told of three men who worked on a large church building, all doing similar tasks. When asked what they were doing, one replied, “I’m making mortar.” Another, “I’m helping put up this great stone wall.” The third, “I’m building a cathedral for God’s glory.” The right attitude makes all the difference.
This hymn, which emphasizes the joy and dignity of work, especially Christian service, was written in 1854 by an 18 year-old Canadian girl, known then as Annie Louise Walker. (Annie married a wealthy merchant, Harry Coghill, in 1883.) Her poem was first published in a Canadian newspaper and later in her own book, Leaves From the Back Woods. Mrs. Coghill eventually attained prominence as a poet and author, producing several volumes which enjoyed wide circulation.
Philosophers and writers have made many profound statements about the intrinsic value of labor; but none has been able to state more simply and meaningfully the joy of being coworkers with God in worthy labor than has Annie Louise Coghill in this hymn text:
Work, for the night is coming. Work thru the Morning hours; work while the dew is sparkling; work ’mid springing flow’rs. Work when the day grows brighter. Work in the glowing sun; work for the night is coming, when man’s work is done.
Work, for the night is coming. Work thru the sunny noon; fill brightest hours with labor—rest comes sure and soon. Give ev’ry flying minute something to keep in store; work for the night is coming when man works no more.
Work, for the night is coming under the sunset skies: While their bright tints are glowing, work, for daylight flies. Work till the last beam fadeth, fadeth to shine no more; work, while the night is dark’ning, when man’s work is o’er.
For Today: Psalm 128:1, 2; Proverbs 6:6; 10:4; Isaiah 21:11; 61:1–3; Romans 10:14,15; Galatians 6:9
John Wesley once said: “Never be unemployed and never be triflingly employed.” See your work as a sacred trust from God. Use this musical reminder ---
Prop. III. God’s foreknowledge is not, simply considered, the cause of anything. It puts nothing into things, but only beholds them as present, and arising from their proper causes. The knowledge of God is not the principle of things, or the cause of their existence, but
directive of the action; nothing is because God knows it, but because God wills it, either positively or permissively; God knows all
things possible; yet, because God knows them they are not brought into actual existence, but remain still only as things possible;
knowledge only apprehends a thing, but acts nothing; it is the rule of acting, but not the cause of acting; the will is the immediate
principle, and the power the immediate cause; to know a thing is not to do a thing, for then we may be said to do everything that we
know: but every man knows those things which he never did, nor never will do; knowledge in itself is an apprehension of a thing, and
is not. the cause of it. A spectator of a thing is not the cause of that thing which he sees, that is, he is not the cause of it, as he beholds
it. We see a man write, we know before that he will write at such a time; but this foreknowledge is not the cause of his writing. We see
a man walk, but our vision of him brings no necessity of walking upon him; he was free to walk or not to walk. We foreknow that
death will seize upon all men, we foreknow that the seasons of the year will succeed one another, yet is not our foreknowledge the
cause of this succession of spring after winter, or of the death of all men, or any man? We see one man fighting with another; our
sight is not the cause of that contest, but some quarrel among themselves, exciting their own passions. As the knowledge of present
things imposeth no necessity upon them while they are acting, and present, so the knowledge of future things imposeth no necessity
upon them while the are coming. We are certain there will be men in the world to-morrow, and that the sea will ebb and flow; but is
this knowledge of ours the cause that those things will be so? I know that the sun will rise to-morrow, it is true that it shall rise; but it
is not true that my foreknowledge makes it to rise. If a physician prognosticates, upon seeing the intemperances and debaucheries of
men, that they will fall into such a distemper, is his prognostication any cause of their disease, or of the sharpness of any symptoms
attending it? The prophet foretold the cruelty of Hazael before he committed it; but who will say that the prophet was the cause of his
commission of that evil? And thus the foreknowledge of God takes not away the liberty of man’s will, no more than a foreknowledge
that we have of any man’s actions takes away his liberty. We may upon our knowledge of the temper of a man, certainly foreknow,
that if he falls into such company, and get among his cups; lie will be drunk; but is this foreknowledge the cause that he is drunk? No;
the cause is the liberty of his own will, and not resisting the temptation. God purposes to leave such a man to himself and his own
ways; and man being so left, God foreknows what will be done by him according to that corrupt nature which is in him; though the
decree of God of leaving a man to the liberty of his own will be certain, yet the liberty of man’s will as thus left, is the cause of all the
extravagances he doth commit. Suppose Adam had stood, would not God certainly have foreseen that he would have stood? yet it
would have been concluded that Adam had stood, not by any necessity of God’s foreknowledge, but by the liberty of his own will. Why
should then the foreknowledge of God add more necessity to his falling than to his standing? And though it be said sometimes in
Scripture, that such a thing was done “that the Scripture might be fulfilled,” as John 12:38, “that the saving of Esais might be fulfilled,
Lord, who hath believed our report?” the word that doth not infer that the prediction of the prophet was the cause of the Jews’ belief,
but infers this, that the prediction was manifested to be true by their unbelief, and the event answered the prediction; this prediction
was not the cause of their sin, but their foreseen sin was the cause of this prediction; and so the particle that is taken (Psalm 51:6),
“Against thee, thee only have I sinned, that thou mightest be justified,” &c.; the justifying God was not the end and intent of the sin,
but the event of it upon his acknowledgment.
Prop. IV. God foreknows things, because they will come to pass; but things are not future, because God knows them. Foreknowledge presupposeth the object which is foreknown; a thing that is to come to pass is the object of the Divine knowledge, but not the cause of the act of divine knowledge; and though the foreknowledge of God doth in eternity precede the actual presence of a thing which is foreseen as future, yet the future thing, in regard of its futurity, is as eternal as the foreknowledge of God: as the voice is uttered before it be heard, and a thing is visible before it be seen, and a thing knowable before it be known. But how comes it to be knowable to God? it must be answered, either in the power of God as a thing possible, or in the will of God as a thing future; he first willed, and then knew what he willed; he knew what he willed to effect, and he knew what he willed to permit; as he willed the death of Christ by a determinate counsel, and willed the permission of the Jew’s sin, and the ordering of the malice of their nature to that end (Acts 2:22). God decrees to make a rational creature, and to govern him by a law; God decrees not to hinder this rational creature from transgressing his law; and God foresees that what he would not hinder, would come to pass. Man did not sin because God foresaw him; but God foresaw him to sin, because man would sin. If Adam and other men would have acted otherwise, God would have foreknown that they would have acted well; God foresaw our actions because they would so come to pass by the motion of our freewill, which he would permit, which he would concur with, which he would order to his own holy and glorious ends, for the manifestation of the perfection of his nature. If I see a man lie in a sink, no necessity is inferred upon him from my sight to lie in that filthy place, but there is a necessity inferred by him that lies there, that I should see him in that condition if I pass by, and cast my eye that way.
Prop. V. God did not only foreknow our actions, but the manner of our actions. That is, he did not only know that we would do such actions, but that we would do them freely; he foresaw that the will would freely determine itself to this or that; the knowledge of God takes not away the nature of things; though God knows possible things, yet they remain in the nature of possibility; and though God knows contingent things, yet they remain in the nature of contingencies; and though God knows free agents, yet they remain in the nature of liberty. God did not foreknow the actions of man, as necessary, but as free; so that liberty is rather established by this foreknowledge, than removed. God did not foreknow that Adam had not a power to stand, or that any man hath not a power to omit such a sinful action, but that he would not omit it. Man hath a power to do otherwise than that which God foreknows he will do. Adam was not determined by any inward necessity to fall, nor any man by any inward necessity to commit this or that particular sin; but God foresaw that he would fall, and fall freely; for he saw the whole circle of means and causes whereby such and such actions should be produced, and can be no more ignorant of the motions of our wills, and the manner of them, than an artificer can be ignorant of the motions of his watch, and how far the spring will let down the string in the space of an hour; he sees all causes leading to such events in their whole order, and how the free-will of man will comply with this, or refuse that; he changes not the manner of the creature’s operation, whatsoever it be.
Prop. VI. But what if the foreknowledge of God, and the liberty of the will, cannot be fully reconciled by man? shall we therefore deny a perfection in God to support a liberty in ourselves? Shall we rather fasten ignorance upon God, and accuse him of blindness, to maintain our liberty? That God doth foreknow everything, and yet that there is liberty in the rational creature, are both certain; but how fully to reconcile them, may surmount the understanding of man. Some truths the disciples were not capable of bearing in the days of Christ; and several truths our understandings cannot reach as long as the world doth last; yet, in the mean time, we must, on the one hand, take heed of conceiving God ignorant, and on the other hand, of imagining the creature necessitated; the one will render God imperfect, and the other will seem to render him unjust, in punishing man for that sin which he could not avoid, but was brought into by a fatal necessity. God is sufficient to render a reason of his own proceedings, and clear lip all at the day of judgment; it is a part of man’s curiosity, since the fall, to be prying into God’s secrets, things too high for him; whereby he singes his own wings, and confounds his own understanding. It is a cursed affectation that runs in the blood of Adam’s posterity, to know as God, though our first father smarted and ruined his posterity in that attempt; the ways and knowledge of God are as much above our thoughts and conceptions as the heavens are above the earth (Isa. 55:9), and so sublime, that we cannot comprehend them in their true and just greatness; his designs are so mysterious, and the ways of his conduct so profound, that it is not possible to dive into them. The force of our understandings is below his infinite wisdom, and therefore we should adore him with an humble astonishment, and cry out with the apostle (Rom. 11:33): “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” Whenever we meet with depths that we cannot fathom, let us remember that he is God, and we his creatures; and not be guilty of so great extravagance, as to think that a subject can pierce into all the secrets of a prince, or a work understand all the operations of the artificer. Let us only resolve not to fasten anything on God that is unworthy of the perfection of his nature, and dishonorable to the glory of his majesty; nor imagine that we can ever step out of the rank of creatures to the glory of the Deity, to understand fully everything in his nature. So much for the second general, what God knows.
III. The third is, how God knows all things. As it is necessary we should conceive God to be an understanding being, else he could not be God, so we must conceive his understanding to be infinitely more pure and perfect than ours in the act of it, else we liken him to ourselves, and debase him as low as his footstool. As among creatures there are degrees of being and perfection, plants above earth and sand, because they have a power of growth, beasts above plants, because to their power of growth there is an addition of excellency of sense, rational creatures above beasts, because to sense there is added the dignity of reason. The understanding of man is more noble than all the vegetative power of plants, or the sensative power of beasts: God therefore must be infinitely more excellent in his understanding, and therefore in the manner of it. As man differs from a beast in regard of his knowledge, so doth God also from man, in regard of his knowledge. As God therefore is in being and perfection, infinitely more above a man than a man is above a beast, the manner of his knowledge must be infinitely more above a man’s knowledge, than the knowledge of a man is above that of a beast; our understanding can clasp an object in a moment that is at a great distance from our sense; our eye, by one elevated motion, can view the heavens; the manner of God’s understanding must be unconceivably above our glimmerings; as the manner of his being is infinitely more perfect than all beings, so must the manner of his understanding be infinitely more perfect than all created understandings, Indeed, the manner of God’s knowledge can no more be known by us than his essence can be known by us; and the same incapacity in man, which renders him unable to comprehend the being of God, renders him as unable to comprehend the manner of God’s understanding. As there is a vast distance between the essence of God and our beings, so there is between the thoughts of God and our thoughts; the heavens are not so much higher than the earth, as the thoughts of God are above the thoughts of men, yea, and of the highest angel (Isa. 55:8, 9), yet though we know not the manner of God’s knowledge, we know that he knows; as though we know not the infiniteness of God, yet we know that he is infinite. It is God’s sole prerogative to know himself, what he is; and it is equally his prerogative to know how he knows; the manner of Gods knowledge therefore must be considered by us as free from those imperfections our knowledge is encumbered with. In general, God doth necessarily know all things; he is necessarily omnipresent, because of the immensity of his essence; so he is necessarily omniscient, because of the infiniteness of his understanding. It is no more at the liberty of his will, whether he will know all things, than whether he will be able to create all things; it is no more at the liberty of his will, whether he will be omniscient, than whether he will be holy; he can as little be ignorant, as he can be impure; he knows not all things, because he will know them, but because it is essential to his nature to know them. In particular,
Prop. I. God knows by his own essence; that is, he sees the nature of things in the ideas of his own mind, and the events of things in the decrees of his own will; he knows them not by viewing the things, but by viewing himself; his own essence is the mirror and book, wherein he beholds all things that he doth ordain, dispose and execute; and so he knows all things in their first and original cause; which is no other than his own essence willing, and his own essence executing what he wills; he knows them in his power, as the physical principle; in his will, as the moral principle of things, as some speak. He borrows not the knowledge of creatures from the creatures, nor depends upon them for means of understanding, as we poor worms do, who are beholden to the objects abroad to assist us with images of things, and to our senses to convey them into our minds; God would then acquire a perfection from those things which are below himself, and an excellency from those things which are vile; his knowledge would not precede the being of the creatures, but the creatures would be before the act of his knowledge. If he understood by images drawn from the creatures, as we do, there would be something in God which is not God, viz. the images of things drawn from outward objects: God would then depend upon creatures for that which is more noble than a bare being; for to be understanding, is more excellent than barely to be. Besides, if God’s knowledge of his creatures were derived from the creatures by the impression of anything upon him, as there is upon us, he could not know from eternity, because from eternity there was no actual existence of anything but himself; and therefore there could not be any images shot out from anything, because there was not anything in being but God; as there is no principle of being to anything. but by his essence; so there is no principle of the knowledge of anything by himself but his essence; if the knowledge of God were distinct from his essence, his knowledge were not eternal, because there is nothing eternal but his essence. His understanding is not a faculty in him as it is in us, but the same with his essence, because of the simplicity of his nature; God is not made up of various parts, one distinct from another, as we are, and therefore doth not understand by a part of himself, but by himself; so that to be, and to understand, is the same with God; his essence is not one thing, and the power whereby he understands another; he would then be compounded, and not be the most simple being. This is also necessary for the perfection of God; for the more perfect and noble the way and manner of knowing is, the more perfect and noble is the knowledge. The perfection of knowledge depends upon the excellency of the medium whereby we know. As a knowledge by reason, is a more noble way of knowing than knowledge by sense; so it is more excellent for God to know by his essence, than by anything without him, anything mixed with him; the first would render him dependent, and the other would demolish his simplicity. Again, the natures of all things are contained in God, not formally; for then the nature of the creatures would be God; but eminently, “He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?” (Psalm 94:9.) He hath in himself eminently the beauty, perfection, life and vigor of all creatures; he created nothing contrary to himself, but everything with some footsteps of himself in them; he could not have pronounced them good, as he did, had there been anything in them contrary to his own goodness; and therefore as his essence primarily represents itself, so it represents the creatures, and makes them known to him. As the essence of God is eminently all things, so by understanding his essence, he eminently understands all things. And therefore he hath not one knowledge of himself, and another knowledge of the creatures; but by knowing himself as the original and exemplary cause of all things, he cannot be ignorant of any creature which he is the cause of; so that he knows all things, not by an understanding of them, but by an understanding of himself; by understanding his own power as the efficient of them, his own will as the orderer of them, his own goodness as the adorner and beautifier of them, his own wisdom as the disposer of them, and his own holiness, to which many of their actions are contrary. As he sees all things possible in his own power, because he is able to produce them; so he sees all things future in his own will, decreeing to effect them, if they be good, or decreeing to permit them if they be evil. In this class he sees what he will give being to, and what he will suffer to fall into a deficiency, without looking out of himself, or borrowing knowledge from his creatures; he knows all things in himself. And thus his knowledge is more noble, and of a higher elevation than ours, or the knowledge of any creature can be; he knows all things by one comprehension of the causes in himself.
Prop. II. God knows all things by one act of intuition. This the schools call an intuitive knowledge. This follows upon the other; for if he know by his own essence, he knows all things by one act, there would be otherwise a division in his essence, a first and a last, a nearness and a distance. As what he made, he made by one word; so what he sees, he pierceth into by one glance from eternity to eternity: as he wills all things by one act of his will, so he knows all things by one act of his understanding: he knows not some things discursively from other things, nor knows one thing successively after another. As by one act he imparts essence to things; so by one act he knows the nature of things.
1. He doth not know by discourse, as we do;—that is, by deducing one thing from another, and from common notions drawing out other rational conclusions and arguing one thing from another, and springing up various consequences from some principle assented to. But God stands in no need of reasonings; the making inferences and abstracting things, would be stains in the infinite perfection of God; here would be a mixture of knowledge and ignorance; while he knew the principle, he would not know the consequence and conclusion, till he had actually deduced it; one thing would be known after another, and so he would have an ignorance, and then a knowledge; and there would be different conceptions in God, and knowledge would be multiplied according to the multitude of objects; as it is in human understandings. But God knows all things befcre they did exist, and never was ignorant of them (Acts 15:18) “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” He therefore knows them all at once; the knowledge of one thing was not before another, nor depended upon another, as it doth in the way of human reasomng. Though, indeed, some make a virtual discourse in God; that is, though God hath a simple knowledge, yet it doth virtually contain a discourse by the flowing of one knowledge from another; as from the knowledge of his own power, he knows what things are possible to be made by him; and from the knowledge of himself, he passes to the knowledge of the creatures; but this is only according to our conception, and because of our weakness they are apprehended as two distinct acts in God, one of which is the reason of another; as we say that one attribute is the reason of another; as his mercy may be said to be the reason of his patience; and his omnipresence to be the reason of the knowledge of present things done in the world. God, indeed, by one simple act, knows himself and the creatures; but when that act whereby he knows himself, is conceived by us to pass to the knowledge of the creatures, we must not understand it to be a new act, distinct from the other; but the same act upon different terms or objects; such an order is in our understandings and conceptions, not in God’s. 2. Nor doth he know successively as we do: that is, not by drops, one thing after another. This follows from the former; a knowledge of all things without discourse, is a knowledge without succession. The knowledge of one thing is not in God before another, one act of knowledge doth not beget another; in regard of the objects, one thing is before another, one year before another, one generation of men before another, one is the cause, the other is the effect; in the creatures there is such a succession, and God knows there will be such a succession; but there is no such order in God’s knowledge, for he knows all those successions by one glance, without any succession of knowledge in himself. Man, in his view of things, must turn sometimes his body, sometimes only his eyes, he cannot see all the contents of a letter at once; and though he beholds all the lines in the page of a book at once, and a whole country in a map, yet to know what is contained in them, he must turn his eye from word to word, and line to line, and so spin out one thing after another by several acts and motions. We behold a great part of the sea at once, but not all the dimensions of it; for to know the length of the sea, we move our eyes one way; to see the breadth of it, we turn our eyes another way; to behold the depth of it, we have another motion of them.
And when we cast our eyes up to heaven, we seem to receive in an instant, the whole extent of the hemisphere; yet there is but one object the eye can attentively pitch upon, and we cannot distinctly view what we see in a lump, without various motions of our eyes, which is not done without succession of time. And certainly the understanding of angels is bounded, according to the measure of their beings; so that it cannot extend itself at one time, to a quantity of objects, to make a distinct application of them, but the objects must present themselves one by one; but God is all eye, all understanding; as there is no succession in his essence, so there is none in his knowledge; his understanding in the nature and in the act, is infinite, as it is in the text. He therefore sees, eternally and universally, all things by one act, without any motion, much less various motions; the various changes of things, in their substance, qualities, places, and relations, withdraw not anything from his eye, nor bring any new thing to his knowledge; he doth not upon consideration of present things turn his mind from past; or when he beholds future things turn his mind from present; but he sees them not one after another, but all at once and all together; the whole circle of his own counsels, and all the various lines drawn forth from the centre of his will, to the circumference of his creatures; just as if a man were able in one moment to read a whole library; or, as if you should imagine a transparent crystal globe, hung up in the midst of a room, and so framed as to take in the images of all things in the room, the fretwork in the ceiling, the inlaid parts of the floor and the particular parts of the tapestry about it, the eye of a man would behold all the beauty of the room at once in it. As the sun by one light and heat frames sensible things, so God by one simple act knows all things; as he knows mutable things by an immutable knowledge, bodily things by a spiritual knowledge, so he knows many things by one knowledge (Heb.4:13): “All things are open and naked to him,” more than any one thing can be to us; and therefore he views all things at once, as well as we can behold and contemplate one thing alone. As he is the Father of lights, a God of infinite understanding, there is no variableness in his mind, nor any shadow of turning of his eye, as there is of ours, to behold various things (James 1:17); his knowledge being eternal, includes all times; there is nothing past or future with him, and therefore he beholds all things by one and the same manner of knowledge, and comprehends all knowable things by one act, and in one moment. This must needs be so,
(1.) Because of the eminency of God. God is above all, and therefore cannot but see the motions of all. He that sits in a theatre, or at the top of a place, sees all things, all persons; by one aspect he comprehends the whole circle of the place; whereas, he that sits below, when he looks before, he cannot see things behind; God being above all, about all, in all, sees at once the motions of all. The whole world, in the eye of God, is less than a point that divides one sentence from another in a book; as a cypher, a “grain of dust” (Isa. 40:15); so little a thing can be seen by man at once; and all things being as little in the eye of God, are seen at once by him. As all time is but a moment to his eternity, so all things are but as a point to the immensity of his knowledge, which he can behold with more ease than we can move or turn our eye.
(2.) Because all the perfections of knowing are united in God. As particular senses are divided in man,—by one he sees, by another he smells, yet all those are united in one common sense, and this common sense comprehends all, —so the various and distinct ways of knowledge in the creatures are all eminently united in God. A man when he sees a grain of wheat, understands at once all things that can in time proceed from that seed; so God, by beholding his own virtue and power, beholds all things which shall in time be unfolded by him. We have a shadow of this way of knowledge in our own understanding; the sense only perceives a thing present, and one object only proper and suitable to it; as the eye sees color, the ear hears sounds; we see this and that man, one time this, another minute that; but the understanding abstracts a notion of the common nature of man, and frames a conception of that nature wherein all men agree; and so in a manner beholds and understands all men at once, by understanding the common nature of man, which is a degree of knowledge above the sense and fancy; we may then conceive an infinite vaster perfection in the understanding of God. As to know, is simply better than not to know at all; so to know by one act comprehensive, is a greater perfection than to know by divided acts, by succession to receive information, and to have an increase or decrease of knowledge; to be like a bucket, always descending into the well, and fetching water from thence. It is a man’s weakness that he is fixed on one object only at a time; it is God’s perfection that he can behold all at once, and is fixed upon one no more than upon another.
Prop. III. God knows all things independently. This is essential to an infinite understanding. He receives not his knowledga from anything without him; he hath no tutor to instruct him, or book to inform him: “Who hath been his counsellor?” saith the prophet (Isa. 40:13); he hath no need of the counsels of others, nor of the instructions of others. This follows upon the first and second propositions; if he knows things by his essence, then, as his essence is independent from the creatures, so is his knowledge; he borrows not any images from the creature; hath no species or pictures of things in his understanding, as we have; no beams from the creature strike apon him to enlighten him, but beams from him upon the world; the earth sends not light to the sun, but the sun to the earth. O ur knowledge, indeed, depends upon the object, but all created objects depend upon God’s knowledge and will; we could not know creatures unless they were; but creatures could not be unless God knew them. As nothing that he wills is the cause of his will, so nothing that he knows is the cause of his knowledge; he did not make things to know them, but he knows them to make them: who will imagine that the mark of the foot in the dust is the cause that the foot stands in this or that particular place? If his knowledge did depend upon the things, then the existence of things did precede God’s knowledge of them: to say that they are the cause of God’s knowledge, is to say that God was not the cause of their being; and if he did create them, it was effected by a blind and ignorant power; he created he knew not what, till he had produced it. If he be beholden for his knowledge to the creatures he hath made, he had then no knowledge of them before he made them. If his knowledge were dependent upon them, it could not be eternal, but must have a beginning when the creatures had a beginning, and be of no longer a date than since the nature of things was in actual existence; for whatsoever is a cause of knowledge, doth precede the knowledge it causes, either in order of time, or order of nature: temporal things, therefore, cannot be the cause of that knowledge which is eternal. His works could not be foreknown to him, if his knowledge commenced with the existence of his works (Acts 15:18): if he knew them before he made them, he could not derive a knowledge from them after they were made. He made all things in wisdom (Psalm 104:24). How can this be imagined, if the things known where the cause of his knowledge, and so before his knowledge, and therefore before his action. God would not then be the first in the order of knowing agents, because he would not act by knowledge, but act before he knew, and know after he had acted; and so the creature which he made would be before the act of his understanding, whereby he knew what he made. Again, since knowledge is a perfection, if God’s knowledge of the creatures depended upon the creatures, he would derive an excellency from them, they would derive no excellency from any idea in the Divine mind; he would not be infinitely perfect in himself; if his perfection in knowledge were gained from anything without himself and below himself; he would not be sufficient of himself, but be under an indigence, which wanted a supply from the things he had made, and could not be eternally perfect till he had created and seen the effects of his own power, goodness, and wisdom, to render him more wise and knowing in time than he was from eternity. Who can fancy such a God as this without destroying the Deity he pretends to adore? for if his understanding be perfected by something without him, why may not his essence be perfected by something without him; that, as he was made knowing by something without him, he might be made God by something without him? How could his understanding be infinite if it depended upon a finite object, as upon a cause? Is the majesty of God to be debased to a mendicant condition, to seek for a supply from things inferior to himself? Is it to be imagined that a fool, a toad, a fly, should be assistant to the knowledge of God? that the most noble being should be perfected by things so vile; that the Supreme Cause of all things should receive any addition of knowledge, and be determined in his understanding, by the notion of things so mean? To conclude this particular, all things depend upon his knowledge, his knowledge depends upon nothing, but is as independent as himself and his own essence.
Prop. IV. God knows all things distinctly. His understanding is infinite in regard of clearness; “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (John 1:5); he sees not through a mist or cloud; there is no blemish in his understanding, no mote or beam in his eye, to render any thing obscure to him. Man discerns the surface and outside of things; little or nothing of the essence of things; we see the noblest thing but “as in a glass darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12); the too great nearness, as well as the too great distance of a thing, hinders our sight; the smallness of a mote escapes our eye, and so our knowledge; also the weakness of our understanding is troubled with the multitude of things, and cannot know many things but confusedly: but God knows the forms and essence of things, every circumstance; nothing is so deep, but he sees to the bottom; he sees the mass, and sees the motes of beings; his understanding being infinite, is not offended with a multitude of things, or distracted with the variety of them; he discerns every thing infinitely more clearly and perfectly than Adam or Solomon could any one thing in the circle of their knowledge; what knowledge they had, was from him; he hath, therefore, infinitely a more perfect knowledge than they were capable in their natures to receive a communication of. All things are open to him (Heb. 4:13); the least fibre, in its nakedness and distinct frame, is transparent to him, as, by the help of glasses, the mouth, feet, hands, of a small insect, are visible to a man, which seem to the eye, without that assistance, one entire piece, not diversified into parts. All the causes, qualities, natures, properties of things, are open to him; “he brings out the host of heaven by number, and calleth them by names” (Isa. 40:26); he numbers the hairs of our heads: what more distinct than number? Thus God beholds things in every unity, which makes up the heap; he knows, and none else can, every thing in its true and intimate causes, in its original and intermediate causes; in himself, as the cause of every particular of their being, every property in their being. Knowledge by the causes is the most noble and perfect knowledge, and most suited to the infinite excellency of the Divine Being; he created all things, and ordered them to a universal and particular end; he, therefore, knows the essential properties of every thing, every activity of their nature, all their fitness for those distinct ends, to which he orders them, and for which he governs and disposeth them, and understands their darkest and most hidden qualities infinitely clearer than any eye can behold the clear beams of the sun. Ife knows all things as he made them; he made them distinctly, and therefore knows them distinctly, and that every individual; therefore God is said (Gen. 1:31) to see every thing that he had made; he took a review of every particular creature he had made, and upon his view pronounced it good. To pronounce that good, which was not exactly known in every creek, in every mite of its nature, had not consisted with his veracity; for every one that speaks truth ignorantly, that knows not that he speaks truth, is a liar in speaking that which is true. God knows every act of his own will, whether it be positive or permissive, and therefore every effect of his will. We must needs ascribe to God a perfect knowledge; but a confused knowledge cannot challenge that title. To know things only in a heap is unworthy of the Divine perfection; for if God knows his own ends in the creation of things, he knows distinctly the means whereby he will bring them to those ends for which he hath appointed them: no wise man intends an end, without a knowledge of the means conducing to that end; an ignorance, then, of any thing in the world, which falls under the nature of a means to a Divine end (and there is nothing in the world but doth), would be inconsistent with the perfection of God; it would ascribe to him a blind providence in the world. As there can be nothing imperfect in his being and essence, so there can be nothing imperfect in his understanding and knowledge, and therefore not a confused knowledge, which is an imperfection. “Darkness and light are both alike to him” (Psalm 139:12); he sees distinctly into the one, as well as the other; what is darkness to us, is not so to him.
Prop. V. God knows all things infallibly. His understanding is infinite in regard of certainty; every tittle of what he knows is as far from failing as what he speaks; our Saviour affirms the one (Matt. 5:18), and there is the same reason of the certainty of one as well as the other; his essence is the measure of his knowledge; whence it is as impossible that God should be mistaken in the knowledge of the lezst thing in the world, as it is that he should be mistaken in his own essence; for, knowing himself comprehensively, he must know all others things infallibly; since he is essentially omniscient, he is no more capable of error in his understanding than of imperfection in his essence; his counsels are as unerring as his essence is perfect, and his knowledge as infallible as his essence is free from defect. Again, since God knows all things with a knowledge of vision, because he wills them, his knowledge must be as infallible as his purpose; now his purpose will certainly be effected “what he hath thought shall come to pass, and what he hath purposed shall stand” (Isa. 14:24); “his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure” (Isa. 46:10). There may be interruptions of nature, the foundation of it may be out of course, but there can be no bar upon the Author of nature; he hath an infinite power to carry on and perfect the resolves of his own will; he can effect what he pleases by a word. Speech is one of the least motions; yet when God said, “Let there be light, there was light” arising from darkness. No reason can be given why God knows a thing to be, but because he infallibly wills it to be. Again, the schools make this difference between the knowledge of the good and bad angels, that the good are never deceived; for that is repugnant to their blessed state; for deceit is an evil and an imperfection inconsistent with that perfect blessedness the good angels are possessed of; and would it not much more be a stain upon the blessedness of that God, that is blessed forever, to be subject to deceit? His knowledge therefore is not an opinion, for an opinion is uncertain; a man knows not what to think, but leans to one part of the question proposed, rather than to the other. If things did not come to pass therefore as God knows them, his knowledge would be imperfect; and since he knows by his essence, his essence also would be imperfect, if God were exposed to any deceit in his knowledge; he knows by himself, who is the highest truth; and therefore it is impossible he should err in his understanding.
Prop. VI. God knows immutably. His understanding else could not be infinite; everything and every act that is mutable, is finite, it hath its bounds;for there is a term from which it changeth, and a term to which it changes. There is a change in the understanding, when we gain the knowledge of a thing, which was unknown to us before; or when we actually consider a thing which we did not know before, though we had the principles of the knowledge of it; or, when we know that distinctly, which we before knew confusedly. None of these can be ascribed to God without a manifest disparagement of his infiniteness. Our knowledge indeed is alway arriving to us or flowing from us; we pass from one degree to another; from worse to better, or from better to worse; but God loses nothing by the ages that are run, nor will gain anything by the ages that are to come. If there were a variation in the knowledge of God, by the daily and hourly changes in the world, he would grow wiser than he was, he was not then perfectly wise before. A change in the objects known, infers not any change in the understanding exercised about them;the wheel moves round, the spokes that are lowest are presently highest, and presently return to be low again; but the eye that beholds them changes not with the motions of the wheels. God’s knowledge admits no more of increase or decrease, than his essence doth; since God knows by his essence, and the essence of God is God himself, his knowledge must be void of any change. The knowledge of possible things, arising from the knowledge of his own power, cannot be changed unless his power be changed, and God become weak and impotent; the knowledge of future things cannot be changed, because that knowledge ariseth from his will, which is irreversible, “the counsel of the Lord that shall stand” (Prov. 19:21); so that if God can never decay into weakness, and never turn to inconstancy, there can be no variation of his knowledge. He knows what he can do, and he knows what he will do; and both these being immutable, his knowledge must, consequently, be so too: It was not necessary that this or that creature should be, and therefore it was not necessary that God should know this or that creature with a knowledge of vision; but after the will of God had determined the existence of this or that creature, his knowledge being then determined to this or that object, did necessarily continue unchangeable. God, therefore, knows no more now than he did before; and at the end of the world, he shall know no more than he doth now; and from eternity, he knows no less than he doth now, and shall do to eternity. Though things pass into being and out of being, the knowledge of God doth not vary with them,. for he knows them as well before they were, as when they are, and knows them as well when they are past, as when they are present.
Prop. VII. God knows all things perpetually, i. e, in act. Since he knows by his essence, he always knows, because his essence never ceaseth, but is a pure act; so that he doth not know only in habit, but in act. Men that have the knowledge of some art or science, have it always in habit, though when they are asleep they have it not in act: a musician hath the habit of music, but doth not so much as think of it when his senses are bound up. But God is an unsleepy eye; he never slumbers nor sleeps; he never slumbers, in regard of his providence, and therefore never slumbers in regard of his knowledge. He knows not himself, nor any other creature more perfectly at one time than at another; he is perpetually in the act of knowing, as the sun is in the act of shining; the sun never ceased to shine in one or other part of the world, since it was first fixed in the heavens; nor God to be in the act of knowledge, since he was God; and therefore since he always was, and always will be God, he always was and always will be in the act of knowledge; always knowing his own essence, he must alway actually know what hath been gone and ceased from being, and what shall come and arise into being; as a watchmaker knows what watch he intends to make, and after he hath made it, though it be broken to pieces, or consumed by the fire, he still knows it, because he knows the copy of it in his own mind. Some, therefore, in regard of this perpetual act of the Divine knowledge, have called God not intellectus, but the intellection of intellections; we have no proper English word to express the act of the understanding; as his power is co-eternal with him, so is his knowledge; all times past, present, and to come, are embraced in the bosom of his understanding; he fixed all things in their seasons, that nothing new comes to him, nothing old passes from him. What is done in a thousand years, is actually present with his knowledge, as what is done in one day, or in one watch in the night, is with ours; since a “thousand years are no more to God than a day,” or a “watch in the night” is to us (Psalm 90:4). God is in the highest degree of being, and therefore in the highest degree of understanding. Knowledge is one of the most perfect acts in any creature. God therefore hath all actual, as well as essential and habitual knowledge; his understanding is infinite.
The Existence and Attributes of God