Mark — The second Gospel presents Jesus as the Servant who came to “give His life a ransom for many.” In the beginning of His ministry He was a servant to the multitudes, but as His departure grew near, Jesus concentrated on teaching and ministering to His disciples. A full 37 percent of this gospel is devoted to the events of His last and most important week. --- Talk Thru the Bible: A Quick Guide to Help You Get More Out of the Bible
The Plot to Kill JesusMark 14:1 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”
Jesus Anointed at Bethany3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
Judas to Betray Jesus10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Tuesday and Wednesday: Mark 14:1–11 Jesus passed the two days between His confrontation with the Jewish leaders and His final day on earth with friends in Bethany. There He was anointed by a woman who poured expensive perfume on His head. This was a “beautiful thing” done in preparation “for My burial.” The woman may not have understood, but she did love the Lord and expressed that love by giving. Judas, on the other hand, “went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them” for the promise of money. What a contrast. The woman gave generously because she loved Jesus: Judas betrayed Jesus because he loved money. --- The Teacher's Commentary
The Passover with the Disciples12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
The Passover was observed on the fourteenth day of the first month which is the Jewish month Nisan and corresponds to our April. “In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover” ( Lev. 23:5 ). Then the Feast of Unleavened Bread was on the fifteenth day of the same month, and it continued for seven days thereafter. “And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread” ( Lev. 23:6 ). It was, I think, the intention of these eleven rulers to take Jesus at the end of the Passover season, after the crowds had left Jerusalem, and then put Him to death.
They decided they would not do it on the feast day — that is, during the Passover season, which is the Feast of Unleavened Bread and which extended for seven days. You see, at the end of that seven days the people would begin to leave Jerusalem and then they would reach out and put their hands upon Him. The reason they didn’t want to touch Him during the feast days was that they feared an uproar or a riot. The crowds were in Jerusalem for the feast and the people held Jesus in high esteem. The common people heard Him gladly. He fed and healed them. --- Thru the Bible: Genesis through Revelation (Thru the Bible 5 Volume Set)
Institution of the Lord’s Supper22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus43 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 And they all left him and fled.
A Young Man Flees51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
Jesus Before the Council53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.
Peter Denies Jesus66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
What I'm Reading
Updated: Are Young People Really Leaving Christianity?
By J. Warner Wallace 10/20/2017
Much has been written about both the Biblical illiteracy of teenage believers and the flight of young people from the Church. Many have observed this trend, and I too have witnessed it anecdotally as a youth pastor (and shamefully, I contributed to the trend for some time before I changed course). Some writers and Christian observers deny the flight of young people altogether, but the growing statistics should alarm us enough as Church leaders to do something about the dilemma. My hope in this post is to simply consolidate some of the research (many of the summaries are directly quoted) so you can decide for yourself. I’m going to organize the recent findings in a way that illuminates the problem:
Research Related to Spiritual Life of Teenagers: | Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Oxford University Press, 2005
Book Findings: | The majority of teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about their faith, religious beliefs and practices, and its place in their lives. The de facto dominant religion among contemporary U.S. teenagers is what they call ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’: A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth; God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions; the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself; God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem; and good people go to heaven when they die.
Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church
Kenda Creasy Dean, Oxford University Press, 2010
Book Findings: | Dean affirms what Soul Searching called ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’ “If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation.”
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Thursday: Mark 14:12-15:1
By Lawrence O. Richards
The Passover meal ( Mark 14:12–26 ). That Thursday Jesus and His followers met in a room in a house in Jerusalem’s upper city.
John’s Gospel tells us in great detail what Jesus taught His disciples there. Mark simply tells us that Jesus, seated at the table, told the Twelve that one of them was about to betray Him. Judas then slipped away to go to the chief priests.
Mark tells us that then Jesus broke bread and told the disciples, “This is My body.” And He took the cup, saying, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” After they sang a hymn, they left the house where they had eaten and went to the Mount of Olives.
It was night, and the little party probably went down steps that still lead down the steep hillside near the house of Caiaphas into the valley. Traveling back along the Hinnom Valley into the Kidron, they moved up a path that climbed the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane.
Peter’s denial predicted ( Mark 14:27–31 ). On the way Jesus remarked that soon all the disciples would desert Him. Peter was incensed. “Even if I have to die with You, I will never disown You.” But Jesus told Peter that that very night he would disown Christ three times—three times before the rooster crowed.
Gethsemane ( Mark 14:32–42 ). It was now late at night. The tired disciples could hardly stay awake. But Jesus was in anguish, so tormented by His knowledge of what was about to come that He was “overwhelmed with sorrow.” Jesus needed their companionship, but the disciples’ eyes were so heavy they kept nodding off.
Finally Jesus wakened them. At the base of the hill, torches could be seen, and the sounds of a mob stumbling up the hill could be heard.
Jesus arrested ( Mark 14:43–52 ). Judas was leading the armed crowd that had been sent by the religious leaders to seize Jesus. He identified Christ with a kiss, and the men roughly grabbed hold of the Lord.
Other Gospels tell us that it was Peter who then bravely drew a sword and struck out. His blade grazed the head of a servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Again, another Gospel tells us that Jesus picked up the severed ear and replaced it. As Jesus rebuked the mob, His terrified disciples all slipped away and fled.
Most believe that the “young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment” who was following Jesus was John Mark himself, the author of this Gospel. When the mob seized Jesus, Mark was so terrified he fled “leaving his garment behind him.”
On trial before Annas. Jesus was taken back through the Kidron Valley and up the Hinnom to the steps that led up the hill toward Caiaphas’ house. John tells us that He was taken first to Annas, who is also called the high priest. In fact, Annas was high priest emeritus, and was the father-in-law of the current high priest, Caiaphas. He exerted such influence that Luke, in Acts 4, spoke of Annas as high priest.
After a preliminary examination in which Jesus was struck in the face ( John 18:22 ), Christ was sent on to Caiaphas.
On trial before Caiaphas ( Mark 14:55–65 ). The home of the high priest was large, with a handsome courtyard. There the leadership gathered to determine how they might get rid of Jesus. The leaders interviewed those who volunteered to give false testimony against Jesus, but their testimony was not consistent.
Finally the high priest asked Jesus bluntly, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus answered, “I am.” To the leaders this was blasphemy: Jesus had claimed to be God Himself! And the penalty for blasphemy was death.
Jesus had not yet been officially condemned. The “trial” had been more of a hearing, but a hearing before those who would soon serve as judges. By the time the Sanhedrin met in official session the verdict would be settled.
In the meantime, some began to spit at Jesus, and to strike Him with their fists. In the Jerusalem house that tradition says was that of Caiaphas there is a dark, dungeon-like basement. It may be that the guards who Mark tells us then beat Christ took Him down into that shadowy room.
Peter denies Jesus ( Mark 14:66–72 ). Peter alone of all the disciples had followed the mob that took Jesus all the way back into Jerusalem. There some recognized Peter as one of Jesus’ followers. And when Peter spoke, his accent betrayed him as a Galilean. The frightened Peter swore again and again that he did not even know “this Man you’re talking about.”
It was then the cock crowed … and Peter remembered that Jesus had known about his denial. Crushed, Peter “broke down and wept.”
On trial before the Sanhedrin ( Mark 15:1 ). Mark 15:1 sums up what Luke 22:66–71 describes. Early in the morning, just before dawn, Jesus was brought back before the Sanhedrin, now officially constituted. Jesus was asked again if He were the Christ, the Son of God. Again Jesus affirmed that He is.
Luke 22:66–71 (ESV) 66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, 67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I ask you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
Now the verdict was officially passed. Jesus was guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be God.
There was only one problem, not recognized by the Sanhedrin. Jesus is God. The court had met, and had condemned — itself.
The Wrath of God Was Satisfied: Substitutionary Atonement and the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention
By Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. 8/12/2013
Current controversy over the nature of Christ’s atonement for sin points to a truth many younger evangelicals may not know, i.e., the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death on the cross was a major issue in the Conservative Resurgence that took place within the Southern Baptist Convention in the last quarter of the twentieth century.
The issue of biblical inerrancy stood at the forefront of Southern Baptist debates during those years of conflict and controversy, but other issues drew major concern. Moderates and conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention were divided over controversial issues, including abortion rights, the exclusivity of the Gospel, and the nature of the atonement. As might be expected, most of these debates followed the same or very similar lines of division. As in the Reformation of the sixteenth century, to be divided over the formal principle of the authority of the Bible was, inevitably, to be divided over the material principles of doctrine as well.
In its earliest phase, modern theological liberalism developed open antipathy to the substitutionary nature of the atonement. Theologians such as Friedrich Schleiermacher, the father of theological liberalism, rejected the claim that the death of Christ is substitutionary or vicarious. Christ did not die in the place of sinners, bearing the wrath of a righteous God, Schleiermacher insisted. Instead, Christ’s death and resurrection demonstrated God’s love so that human beings might rightly love him. Albrecht Ritschl proposed a similar form of the moral influence theory of the atonement—Christ died as a revelation of the depth of God’s love toward sinners.
As theological liberalism spread to the United States, the Protestant liberals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries adopted the German model, rejecting any substitutionary or vicarious understanding of the atonement and proposing variations of the moral influence theory. Others, following the pattern set by Rudolf Bultmann, proposed existentialist understandings of the cross and resurrection. Most of the adherents to these theories denied the wrath of God against sinners at the cross, which was presented as a political act with a great moral lesson. Many of them denied as mere myth the historical reality of the bodily resurrection of Christ.
While the vast majority of Southern Baptists resisted the temptation to revise the faith in order to meet the demands of the modern liberal worldview, some within the Southern Baptist academy were doing their best to shift the denomination to a more liberal position. Ground zero for this effort was New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The seminary in New Orleans was by no means the most liberal of the Southern Baptist seminaries at the time, and it would not tolerate such teaching now, but its faculty once included a trio of professors who attempted to shift Southern Baptists away from the advocacy of penal substitutionary atonement. These three men, over the course of three successive generations, influenced a host of young seminarians and many pastors beyond the seminary’s campus.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
Answers to 9 Questions About the Devil and His Demons: 1
By Mark Driscoll 10/16/2017
Have you ever used this one, “the devil made me do it”?
If we are honest, many of us have, even if half joking.
But did he? Did the devil make you do whatever it is?
In a day when science on one hand often dismisses the supernatural altogether, and cultural pluralism tells us that all spirituality is equally desirable it is increasingly harder to find anyone who believes both in the spirit world and evil.
Anyone who opens the Bible with any integrity must admit that it is a book that consistently presents a worldview in which there is a very real war between the real God and his holy angels verses the fallen angel Satan the Devil and unholy demons. Sinners, including you and me, are taken as captives in this spiritual war (e.g. Col. 1:13; 2 Tim. 2:25–26).
How to remember the Bible passages you memorize
By Scott Slayton
The discipline of memorizing Bible verses pays great dividends in the life of a Christian. Having Scripture stored up in our hearts helps us to remember God’s promises in tough times, flee from sin in moments of temptation, possess greater confidence in sharing the gospel, and give fresh words of encouragement to struggling Christians.
The problem for us is that while memorizing a verse presents a challenge, remembering it in three months is a great difficulty. We often find ourselves wanting to quote something we spent two days memorizing but cannot remember the exact wording of the verse or the precise reference to save our lives.
How can we remember the Bible verses that we memorized a week, a month, or a year ago?
FOR THE LONG HAUL | We often fail to learn Bible verses well the first time we memorize them. We can’t remember them a month later because we never really got them into our minds and hearts.
When you memorize a Bible verse, make sure that you are learning the precise wording of the verse and the exact reference. Do not be content with forgetting whether the verse says “so that” or “in order to.” The scholars who worked on the translation that you use made the choices they did for good reasons, so learn it as it is printed on the page.
6 reasons church is not optional for seminary students
By Hershael York
Whenever I hire a staff member, I will always get around to asking what he did in seminary. Where did he go to church? How did he serve when no one was paying him to do the job? If the Holy Spirit and a man’s calling don’t compel him to love and serve the church, he won’t do it well for a paycheck either.
One could probably enumerate dozens of reasons why a seminary student’s faithfulness to a church during his years of training matter, but I offer six that stand out.
1. OBEDIENCE | Many of God’s commands can only be fulfilled in a local church. “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some” (Heb. 10:24-25). “Obey your elders and submit to them for they are keeping watch over your souls . . . ” (Heb. 13:17). “Unto Him be glory in the church . . . ” (Eph. 3:21). Church membership and participation are not optional for followers of Christ. The church is God’s Plan A for teaching, training, accountability, correction, and a host of other essential activities in a Christian’s life.
2. WORSHIP | While I enjoy and delight in private worship or in small groups, nothing can supplant the corporate worship of the saints assembled together to exalt the name of Jesus in psalms and hymns and to hear the Word preached. The angels watch in eager wonder when the church is assembled, but surely they must scratch their angelic heads in disdainful amazement at anyone who claims to be redeemed and even called to ministry who thinks so lightly of Christ and his bride that he considers church attendance optional. Corporate worship establishes a mental soundtrack for my week as the gospel songs we sing continue to play in my head. The Holy Spirit uses the preached Word to effect change toward Christlikeness. I need weekly worship to make the rhythm of the new creation beat smoothly.
3. EXPERIENCE | The first week I was in seminary, I visited local church pastors, introduced myself and learned about them and their congregations. One pastor in particular resonated with my heart. We placed our membership in that church and Tanya and I volunteered for any jobs in the church that we could do.
Renowned Chemist Says Evolutionists Do Not Understand the Origin of Life
By Garrett Haley 10/13/2014
HOUSTON – A prominent chemist who was recognized this year as one of the 50 most influential scientists in the world says most scientists do not understand how evolution could explain the existence of life.
Dr. James Tour is a well-known professor at Rice University, specializing in chemistry, nanoengineering, and computer science. Over the last 30 years, Tour has authored over 500 research publications, and he was recognized as one of “The 50 Most Influential Scientists in the World Today” by TheBestSchools.org. Tour has also received awards and recognitions from the American Chemical Society, Thomson Reuters, Honda, NASA, and others.
In a video released in late 2012, Tour explained that he has had extensive experience studying the origin of life.
“I will tell you as a scientist and a synthetic chemist,” Tour said, “if anybody should be able to understand evolution, it is me, because I make molecules for a living, and I don’t just buy a kit, and mix this and mix this, and get that. I mean, ab initio, I make molecules. I understand how hard it is to make molecules.”
Despite his experiences and expertise, Tour admits that he does not understand how evolution could account for life’s existence.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 117The LORD’s Faithfulness Endures Forever
117:1 Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
2 For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD!
His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
118 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
4 Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me free.
6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
7 The LORD is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
An Account of the Cruel Handling and Burning of Nicholas Burton, an English Merchant, in SpainThe fifth day of November, about the year of our Lord 1560, Mr. Nicholas Burton, citizen sometime of London, and merchant, dwelling in the parish of Little St. Bartholomew, peaceably and quietly, following his traffic in the trade of merchandise, and being in the city of Cadiz, in the party of Andalusia, in Spain, there came into his lodging a Judas, or, as they term them, a familiar of the fathers of Inquisition; who asking for the said Nicholas Burton, feigned that he had a letter to deliver into his own hands; by which means he spake with him immediately. And having no letter to deliver to him, then the said promoter, or familiar, at the motion of the devil his master, whose messenger he was, invented another lie, and said he would take lading for London in such ships as the said Nicholas Burton had freighted to lade, if he would let any; which was partly to know where he loaded his goods, that they might attach them, and chiefly to protract the time until the sergeant of the Inquisition might come and apprehend the body of the said Nicholas Burton; which they did incontinently.
He then well perceiving that they were not able to burden or charge him that he had written, spoken, or done any thing there in that country against the ecclesiastical or temporal laws of the same realm, boldly asked them what they had to lay to his charge that they did so arrest him, and bade them to declare the cause, and he would answer them.
Notwithstanding they answered nothing, but commanded him with threatening words to hold his peace, and not speak one word to them.
And so they carried him to the filthy common prison of the town of Cadiz where he remained in irons fourteen days amongst thieves.
All which time he so instructed the poor prisoners in the Word of God, according to the good talent which God had given him in that behalf, and also in the Spanish tongue to utter the same, that in that short space he had well reclaimed several of those superstitiuous and ignorant Spaniards to embrace the Word of God, and to reject their popish traditions.
Which being known unto the officers of the Inquisition, they conveyed him laden with irons from thence to a city called Seville, into a more cruel and straiter prison called Triana, where the said fathers of the Inquisition proceeded against him secretly according to their accustomable cruel tyranny, that never after he could be suffered to write or speak to any of his nation: so that to this day it is unknown who was his accuser.
Afterward, the twentieth of December, they brought the said Nicholas Burton, with a great number of other prisoners, for professing the true Christian religion, into the city of Seville, to a place where the said inquisitors sat in judgment which they called auto, with a canvas coat, whereupon in divers parts was painted the figure of a huge devil, tormenting a soul in a flame of fire, and on his head a copping tank of the same work.
His tongue was forced out of his mouth with a cloven stick fastened upon it, that he should not utter his conscience and faith to the people, and so he was set with another Englishman of Southampton, and divers other condemned men for religion, as well Frenchmen as Spaniards, upon a scaffold over against the said Inquisition, where their sentences and judgments were read and pronounced against them.
And immediately after the said sentences given, they were carried from there to the place of execution without the city, where they most cruelly burned them, for whose constant faith, God is praised.
This Nicholas Burton by the way, and in the flames of fire, had so cheerful a countenance, embracing death with all patience and gladness, that the tormentors and enemies which stood by, said, that the devil had his soul before he came to the fire; and therefore they said his senses of feeling were past him.
It happened that after the arrest of Nicholas Burton aforesaid, immediately all the goods and merchandise which he brought with him into Spain by the way of traffic, were (according to their common usage) seized, and taken into the sequester; among which they also rolled up much that appertained to another English merchant, wherewith he was credited as factor. Whereof as soon as news was brought to the merchant as well of the imprisonment of his factor, as of the arrest made upon his goods, he sent his attorney into Spain, with authority from him to make claim to his goods, and to demand them; whose name was John Fronton, citizen of Bristol.
When his attorney was landed at Seville, and had shown all his letters and writings to the holy house, requiring them that such goods might be delivered into his possession, answer was made to him that he must sue by bill, and retain an advocate (but all was doubtless to delay him,) and they forsooth of courtesy assigned him one to frame his supplication for him, and other such bills of petition, as he had to exhibit into their holy court, demanding for each bill eight reals, albeit they stood him in no more stead than if he had put up none at all. And for the space of three or four months this fellow missed not twice a day attending every morning and afternoon at the inquisitors' palace, suing unto them upon his knees for his despatch, but especially to the bishop of Tarracon, who was at that very time chief of the Inquisition at Seville, that he of his absolute authority would command restitution to be made thereof; but the booty was so good and great that it was very hard to come by it again.
At length, after he had spent four whole months in suits and requests, and also to no purpose, he received this answer from them, that he must show better evidence, and bring more sufficient certificates out of England for proof of this matter, than those which he had already presented to the court. Whereupon the party forthwith posted to London, and with all speed returned to Seville again with more ample and large letters testimonial, and certificates, according to their requests, and exhibited them to the court.
Notwithstanding, the inquisitors still shifted him off, excusing themselves by lack of leisure, and for that they were occupied in more weighty affairs, and with such answers put him off, four months after.
At last, when the party had well nigh spent all his money, and therefore sued the more earnestly for his despatch, they referred the matter wholly to the bishop, of whom, when he repaired unto him, he made answer, 'That for himself, he knew what he had to do, howbeit he was but one man, and the determination appertained to the other commissioners as well as unto him;' and thus by posting and passing it from one to another, the party could obtain no end of his suit. Yet for his importunity's sake, they were resolved to despatch him: it was on this sort: one of the inquisitors, called Gasco, a man very well experienced in these practices, willed the party to resort unto him after dinner.
The fellow being glad to hear this news, and supposing that his goods should be restored unto him, and that he was called in for that purpose to talk with the other that was in prison to confer with him about their accounts, rather through a little misunderstanding, hearing the inquisitors cast out a word, that it should be needful for him to talk with the prisoner, and being thereupon more than half persuaded, that at length they meant good faith, did so, and repaired thither about the evening. Immediately upon his coming, the jailer was forthwith charged with him, to shut him up close in such a prison where they appointed him.
The party, hoping at the first that he had been called for about some other matter, and seeing himself, contrary to his expectation, cast into a dark dungeon, perceived at length that the world went with him far otherwise than he supposed it would have done.
But within two or three days after, he was brought into the court, where he began to demand his goods: and because it was a device that well served their turn without any more circumstance, they bid him say his Ave Maria: Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum, benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui Jesus Amen.
The same was written word by word as he spake it, and without any more talk of claiming his goods, because it was needless, they commanded him to prison again, and entered an action against him as a heretic, forasmuch as he did not say his Ave Maria after the Romish fashion, but ended it very suspiciously, for he should have added moreover; Sancta Maria mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus: by abbreviating whereof, it was evident enough (said they) that he did not allow the mediation of saints.
Thus they picked a quarrel to detain him in prison a longer season, and afterward brought him forth upon their stage disguised after their manner; where sentence was given, that he should lose all the goods which he sued for, though they were not his own, and besides this, suffer a year's imprisonment.
Mark Brughes, an Englishman, master of an English ship called the Minion, was burned in a city in Portugal.
William Hoker, a young man about the age of sixteen years, being an Englishman, was stoned to death by certain young men in the city of Seville, for the same righteous cause.
Some Private Enormities of the Inquisition Laid Open, by a Very Singular Occurrence
When the crown of Spain was contested for in the beginning of the present century, by two princes, who equally pretended to the sovereignty, France espoused the cause of one competitor, and England of the other.
The duke of Berwick, a natural son of James II who abdicated England, commanded the Spanish and French forces, and defeated the English at the celebrated battle of Almanza. The army was then divided into two parts; the one consisting of Spaniards and French, headed by the duke of Berwick, advanced towards Catalonia; the other body, consisting of French troops only, commanded by the duke of Orleans, proceeded to the conquest of Arragon.
As the troops drew near to the city of Arragon, the magistrates came to offer the keys to the duke of Orleans; but he told them haughtily that they were rebels, and that he would not accept the keys, for he had orders to enter the city through a breach.
He accordingly made a breach in the walls with his cannon, and then entered the city through it, together with his whole army. When he had made every necessary regulation here, he departed to subdue other places, leaving a strong garrison at once to overawe and defend, under the command of his lieutenant-general M. de Legal. This gentleman, though brought up a Roman Catholic, was totally free from superstition; he united great talents with great bravery; and was the skilful officer, and accomplished gentleman.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
The Continual Burnt Offering (Ephesians 2:14)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
October 21Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility ESV
Christ Himself—crucified, risen, and now exalted to God’s right hand in glory—is our peace. On the cross He made peace by the shedding of His blood. Before returning to Heaven He said, “Peace be unto you.” Now “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). He undertook to settle the sin question by making atonement for iniquity. God is satisfied with His finished work. When the Father raised His Son from the dead He bore witness to the perfection of His work. Now the troubled soul looks up to the throne by the eye of faith and sees the Man, who was once on the tree forsaken of God, crowned with honor and glory. He could not be there if the sin question had not been disposed of. So the believer can exultingly say, “He is my peace.”
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. ESV
I hear the words of love,
I gaze upon the blood,
I see the mighty sacrifice,
And I have peace with God.
‘Tis everlasting peace!
Sure as Jehovah’s name;
‘Tis stable as His steadfast throne,
For evermore the same.
My love is ofttimes low,
My joy still ebbs and flows;
But peace with Him remains the same,
No change Jehovah knows.
--- Horatius Bonar
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Learning to lead (1)
(Oct 21) Bob Gass
‘You cannot handle it alone.’
(Ex 18:18) 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. ESV
President Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.’ Bottom line: unless you learn to delegate, your leadership will deteriorate and your vision will stagnate. In Exodus, Moses was wearing himself out physically, emotionally, and spiritually trying to keep up with the demands of two million Israelites and be ‘the answer man’ for every problem. That’s when his father-in-law told him, ‘You cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice’ (vv. 18-19 NIV 2011 Edition). It takes wisdom, maturity, and humility to ask for help. And it’s a sign of strength, not weakness. That’s hard to come to terms with, for those of us who take pride in our ability to ‘do it all’. The truth is, what Moses was doing was neither good for him nor the people depending on him. As a leader, it’s easy to overestimate your own importance and competence. That’s why Paul cautions, ‘[Don’t] think you are better than you really are. Use good sense’ (Romans 12:3 CEV). God has placed people around you who have certain gifts and talents. When you recognise and involve these people, they’re fulfilled and the job gets done right. God created us to be interdependent, not independent. Delegating authority to the right people strengthened Moses for the task of leading as God intended. When you try to be ‘all things to all people’, you end up frustrated. You’re not called to do it all, but to get it done through others. That’s what leadership is about.
(Ex 18:19) Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, ESV
(Ro 12:3–8) 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. ESV
2 Tim 4
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
On this day, October 21, 1805, in one of the greatest naval battles in history, British Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated the combined Spanish and French fleets in the Battle of Trafalgar off the coast of Spain. This ended Napoleon’s power on the sea. The cannonades and musket shot ripped apart the ships at point blank range, killing or wounding nearly ten thousand men. In the fighting that ensued, Admirable Nelson was fatally shot in the spine. He was carried below deck to the ship’s surgeon where he died. Admiral Horatio Nelson’s last words were: “Thank God I have done my duty.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
I. As to the first point. If this is not believed the earnestness goes out of prayer. It becomes either a ritual, or a soliloquy only overheard by God; just as thought with the will out of it degenerates into dreaming or brooding, where we are more passive than active. Prayer is not merely the meeting of two moods or two affections, the laying of the head on a divine bosom in trust and surrender. That may have its place in religion, but it is not the nerve and soul of prayer. Nor is it religious reverie. Prayer is an encounter of wills—till one will or the other give way. It is not a spiritual exercise merely, but in its maturity it is a cause acting on the course of God’s world.7 It is, indeed, by God’s grace that prayer is a real cause, but such it is. And of course there must be in us a faith corresponding to the grace. Of course also there is always, behind all, the readiness to accept God’s will without a murmur when it is perfectly evident and final. “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Yes, but there is also the repeated effort to alter its form according to our sanctified needs and desires. You will notice that in Paul’s case the power to accept the sufficiency of God’s grace only came in the course of an importunate prayer aiming to turn God’s hand. Paul ended, rather than began, with “Thy will be done.” The peace of God is an end and not a beginning.
“Thy will be done” was no utterance of mere resignation; thought it has mostly come to mean this in a Christianity which tends to canonize the weak instead of strengthening them. As prayer it was a piece of active cooperation with God’s will. It was a positive part of it. It is one thing to submit to a stronger will, it is another to be one with it. We submit because we cannot resist it; but when we are one with it we cannot succumb. It is not a power, but our power. But the natural will is not one with God’s; and so we come to use these words in a mere negative way, meaning that we cease to resist. Our will does not accept God’s, it just stops work. We give in and lie down. But is that the sense of the words in the Lord’s Prayer? Do they mean that we have no objection to God’s will being done? or that we do not withstand any more? or even that we accept it gladly? Do they not mean something far more positive—that we actively will God’s will and aid it, that it is the whole content of our own, that we put into it all the will that there can be in prayer, which is at last the great will power of the race? It is our heart’s passion that God’s will be done and His kingdom come. And can His kingdom come otherwise than as it is a passion with us? Can His will be done? God’s will was not Christ’s consent merely, nor His pleasure, but His meat and drink, the source of His energy and the substance of His work.
Observe, nothing can alter God’s grace, His will in that sense, His large will and final purpose—our racial blessing, our salvation, our redemption in Jesus Christ. But for that will He is an infinite opportunist. His ways are very flexible. His intentions are amenable to us if His will is changeless. The steps of His process are variable according to our freedom and His.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
There is no moral virtue in obedience
unless there is a recognition
of a higher authority
in the one who dictates.
--- Oswald Chambers
I know my own soul, how feeble and puny it is: I know the magnitude of this ministry, and the great difficulty of the work; for more stormy billows vex the soul of the priest than the gales which disturb the sea.
--- John Chrysostom
Nothing can be more abhorrent to democracy than to imprison a person or keep him in prison because he is unpopular. This is really the test of civilization.
--- Winston Churchill
Fear, lest, by forgetting what you are by nature, you also forget the need that you have of continual pardon, support, and supplies from the Spirit of grace, and so grow proud of your own abilities, or of what you have received from God.
--- John Bunyan
Thanks to Meir Yona
How The Romans Carried Their Ensigns To The Temple, And Made Joyful Acclamations To Titus. The Speech That Titus Made To The Jews When They Made Supplication For Mercy. What Reply They Made Thereto; And How That Reply Moved Titus's Indignation Against Them.
1. And now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple 24 and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator 25 with the greatest acclamations of joy. And now all the soldiers had such vast quantities of the spoils which they had gotten by plunder, that in Syria a pound weight of gold was sold for half its former value. But as for those priests that kept themselves still upon the wall of the holy house,26 there was a boy that, out of the thirst he was in, desired some of the Roman guards to give him their right hands as a security for his life, and confessed he was very thirsty. These guards commiserated his age, and the distress he was in, and gave him their right hands accordingly. So he came down himself, and drank some water, and filled the vessel he had with him when he came to them with water, and then went off, and fled away to his own friends; nor could any of those guards overtake him; but still they reproached him for his perfidiousness. To which he made this answer: "I have not broken the agreement; for the security I had given me was not in order to my staying with you, but only in order to my coming down safely, and taking up some water; both which things I have performed, and thereupon think myself to have been faithful to my engagement." Hereupon those whom the child had imposed upon admired at his cunning, and that on account of his age. On the fifth day afterward, the priests that were pined with the famine came down, and when they were brought to Titus by the guards, they begged for their lives; but he replied, that the time of pardon was over as to them, and that this very holy house, on whose account only they could justly hope to be preserved, was destroyed; and that it was agreeable to their office that priests should perish with the house itself to which they belonged. So he ordered them to be put to death.
2. But as for the tyrants themselves, and those that were with them, when they found that they were encompassed on every side, and, as it were, walled round, without any method of escaping, they desired to treat with Titus by word of mouth. Accordingly, such was the kindness of his nature, and his desire of preserving the city from destruction, joined to the advice of his friends, who now thought the robbers were come to a temper, that he placed himself on the western side of the outer [court of the] temple; for there were gates on that side above the Xystus, and a bridge that connected the upper city to the temple. This bridge it was that lay between the tyrants and Caesar, and parted them; while the multitude stood on each side; those of the Jewish nation about Sinran and John, with great hopes of pardon; and the Romans about Caesar, in great expectation how Titus would receive their supplication. So Titus charged his soldiers to restrain their rage, and to let their darts alone, and appointed an interpreter between them, which was a sign that he was the conqueror, and first began the discourse, and said, "I hope you, sirs, are now satiated with the miseries of your country, who have not had any just notions, either of our great power, or of your own great weakness, but have, like madmen, after a violent and inconsiderate manner, made such attempts, as have brought your people, your city, and your holy house to destruction. You have been the men that have never left off rebelling since Pompey first conquered you, and have, since that time, made open war with the Romans. Have you depended on your multitude, while a very small part of the Roman soldiery have been strong enough for you? Have you relied on the fidelity of your confederates? And what nations are there, out of the limits of our dominion, that would choose to assist the Jews before the Romans? Are your bodies stronger than ours? nay, you know that the [strong] Germans themselves are our servants. Have you stronger walls than we have? Pray, what greater obstacle is there than the wall of the ocean, with which the Britons are encompassed, and yet do adore the arms of the Romans. Do you exceed us in courage of soul, and in the sagacity of your commanders? Nay, indeed, you cannot but know that the very Carthaginians have been conquered by us. It can therefore be nothing certainly but the kindness of us Romans which hath excited you against us; who, in the first place, have given you this land to possess; and, in the next place, have set over you kings of your own nation; and, in the third place, have preserved the laws of your forefathers to you, and have withal permitted you to live, either by yourselves, or among others, as it should please you: and, what is our chief favor of all we have given you leave to gather up that tribute which is paid to God 27 with such other gifts that are dedicated to him; nor have we called those that carried these donations to account, nor prohibited them; till at length you became richer than we ourselves, even when you were our enemies; and you made preparations for war against us with our own money; nay, after all, when you were in the enjoyment of all these advantages, you turned your too great plenty against those that gave it you, and, like merciless serpents, have thrown out your poison against those that treated you kindly. I suppose, therefore, that you might despise the slothfulness of Nero, and, like limbs of the body that are broken or dislocated, you did then lie quiet, waiting for some other time, though still with a malicious intention, and have now showed your distemper to be greater than ever, and have extended your desires as far as your impudent and immense hopes would enable you to do it. At this time my father came into this country, not with a design to punish you for what you had done under Cestius, but to admonish you; for had he come to overthrow your nation, he had run directly to your fountain-head, and had immediately laid this city waste; whereas he went and burnt Galilee and the neighboring parts, and thereby gave you time for repentance; which instance of humanity you took for an argument of his weakness, and nourished up your impudence by our mildness. When Nero was gone out of the world, you did as the wickedest wretches would have done, and encouraged yourselves to act against us by our civil dissensions, and abused that time, when both I and my father were gone away to Egypt, to make preparations for this war. Nor were you ashamed to raise disturbances against us when we were made emperors, and this while you had experienced how mild we had been, when we were no more than generals of the army. But when the government was devolved upon us, and all other people did thereupon lie quiet, and even foreign nations sent embassies, and congratulated our access to the government, then did you Jews show yourselves to be our enemies. You sent embassies to those of your nation that are beyond Euphrates to assist you in your raising disturbances; new walls were built by you round your city, seditions arose, and one tyrant contended against another, and a civil war broke out among you; such indeed as became none but so wicked a people as you are. I then came to this city, as unwillingly sent by my father, and received melancholy injunctions from him. When I heard that the people were disposed to peace, I rejoiced at it; I exhorted you to leave off these proceedings before I began this war; I spared you even when you had fought against me a great while; I gave my right hand as security to the deserters; I observed what I had promised faithfully. When they fled to me, I had compassion on many of those that I had taken captive; I tortured those that were eager for war, in order to restrain them. It was unwillingly that I brought my engines of war against your walls; I always prohibited my soldiers, when they were set upon your slaughter, from their severity against you. After every victory I persuaded you to peace, as though I had been myself conquered. When I came near your temple, I again departed from the laws of war, and exhorted you to spare your own sanctuary, and to preserve your holy house to yourselves. I allowed you a quiet exit out of it, and security for your preservation; nay, if you had a mind, I gave you leave to fight in another place. Yet have you still despised every one of my proposals, and have set fire to your holy house with your own hands. And now, vile wretches, do you desire to treat with me by word of mouth? To what purpose is it that you would save such a holy house as this was, which is now destroyed? What preservation can you now desire after the destruction of your temple? Yet do you stand still at this very time in your armor; nor can you bring yourselves so much as to pretend to be supplicants even in this your utmost extremity. O miserable creatures! what is it you depend on? Are not your people dead? is not your holy house gone? is not your city in my power? and are not your own very lives in my hands? And do you still deem it a part of valor to die? However, I will not imitate your madness. If you throw down your arms, and deliver up your bodies to me, I grant you your lives; and I will act like a mild master of a family; what cannot be healed shall be punished, and the rest I will preserve for my own use."
3. To that offer of Titus they made this reply: That they could not accept of it, because they had sworn never to do so; but they desired they might have leave to go through the wall that had been made about them, with their wives and children; for that they would go into the desert, and leave the city to him. At this Titus had great indignation, that when they were in the case of men already taken captives, they should pretend to make their own terms with him, as if they had been conquerors. So he ordered this proclamation to be made to them, That they should no more come out to him as deserters, nor hope for any further security; for that he would henceforth spare nobody, but fight them with his whole army; and that they must save themselves as well as they could; for that he would from henceforth treat them according to the laws of war. So he gave orders to the soldiers both to burn and to plunder the city; who did nothing indeed that day; but on the next day they set fire to the repository of the archives, to Acra, to the council-house, and to the place called Ophlas; at which time the fire proceeded as far as the palace of queen Helena, which was in the middle of Acra; the lanes also were burnt down, as were also those houses that were full of the dead bodies of such as were destroyed by famine.
4. On the same day it was that the sons and brethren of Izates the king, together with many others of the eminent men of the populace, got together there, and besought Caesar to give them his right hand for their security; upon which, though he was very angry at all that were now remaining, yet did he not lay aside his old moderation, but received these men. At that time, indeed, he kept them all in custody, but still bound the king's sons and kinsmen, and led them with him to Rome, in order to make them hostages for their country's fidelity to the Romans.
by D.H. Stern
so that I can answer my critics.
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
Direction by impulse
Building up yourselves on your most holy faith.
--- Jude 20.
There was nothing either of the nature of impulse or of coldbloodedness about Our Lord, but only a calm strength that never got into panic. Most of us develop our Christianity along the line of our temperament, not along the line of God. Impulse is a trait in natural life, but Our Lord always ignores it, because it hinders the development of the life of a disciple. Watch how the Spirit of God checks impulse, His checks bring a rush of self-conscious foolishness which makes us instantly want to vindicate ourselves. Impulse is all right in a child, but it is disastrous in a man or woman; an impulsive man is always a petted man. Impulse has to be trained into intuition by discipline.
Discipleship is built entirely on the supernatural grace of God. Walking on the water is easy to impulsive pluck, but walking on dry land as a disciple of Jesus Christ is a different thing. Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus, but he followed Him afar off on the land. We do not need the grace of God to stand crises, human nature and pride are sufficient, we can face the strain magnificently; but it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours in every day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple, to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Moving away is only to the boundaries
of the self. Better to stay here,
I said, leaving the horizons
clear. The best journey to make
is inward. It is the interior
that calls. Eliot heard it.
Wordsworth turned from the great hills
of the north to the precipice
of his own mind, and let himself
down for the poetry stranded
on the bare ledges.
it is all darkness; for me, too,
it is dark. But there are hands
there I can take, voices to hear
solider than the echoes
without. And sometimes a strange light
shines, purer than the moon,
casting no shadow, that is
the halo upon the bones
of the pioneers who died for truth.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Biblical eschatology is collective. Olam ha-ba as presented in the Mishnah is also formulated in communal terms: “All Israel have a share in the world to come.” To Maimonides, all of Israel could share in the perfection implicit in olam ha-ba, but only if historical conditions were such that men were not overly concerned and burdened with the basic problems of survival. An individual’s spiritual potential cannot be properly evaluated when the individual lives in social and economic hardship. This historical realism explains, for Maimonides, the biblical concern with man’s material condition. The biblical description of the God of history is therefore compatible with the theocentric world view of philosophic reason. The concern for messianism supports the ideal of intellectual love of God:
The Sages and Prophets did not long for the days of the Messiah that Israel might exercise dominion over the world, or rule over the heathens, or be exalted by the nations, or that it might eat and drink and rejoice. Their aspiration was that Israel be free to devote itself to the Law and its wisdom, with no one to oppress or disturb it, and thus be worthy of life in the world to come.
In that era there will be neither famine nor war, neither jealousy nor strife. Blessings will be abundant, comforts within the reach of all. The one preoccupation of the whole world will be to know the Lord. Hence Israelites will be very wise, they will know the things that are now concealed and will attain an understanding of their Creator to the utmost capacity of the human mind, as it is written: “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:9).37
As stated in chapter one, the way of Sinai does not emerge in competition to the way of Abraham, but as a support for it. Without the structure of Sinai, the way of Abraham could not be realized for the community. The Torah trains the community to withstand the seduction of pagan environments. The goal of Torah is not only the abolition of idolatry, but also the positive ideal of love of God.38 Law alone cannot bring about this ideal when the pressures of physical survival make it nearly impossible for a person to discover the joy of loving God for His own sake. One must alter the physical conditions of human history before one can hope for the liberating influence of reason to have any effect on community.
The Bible reflects this realism in its account of the exodus from Egypt. The liberation from Egypt preceded the revelation at Sinai. God does not address and challenge the community to become a holy people until the chains of slavery are broken. One must first be concerned with the political and economic conditions of the oppressed before one can expose them to higher aspirations.
Although singular individuals can realize their capacities despite adverse social conditions, Judaism did not construct a conception of what is possible based on what the elite few can achieve. To Maimonides, Torah was given to Moses despite the fact that the tribe of Levi was able to withstand the influences of Egyptian paganism.39 Similarly, the ideal of love of God and olam ha-ba are provided with the support of political and social conditions, i.e., messianism, which would make this ideal realizable for the community. Just as the “tribe of Levi” leaves Egypt with the entire community and stands before Mount Sinai, so too does it await the coming of the messianic age—as does all of Israel. All of Israel longs for messianism because all of Israel has a share in olam ha-ba.
Maimonides’ allegiance to messianism reflects his refusal to restrict olam ha-ba to the elite.40 His conception of philosophical excellence was not insulated from his commitment to Torah and to community. Nowhere in Maimonides do we find anything parallel to the problem faced by the philosopher in Plato’s Republic who must decide whether to return to the cave of community.41
Although community was central to Maimonides’ thinking this did not imply that either he or the teachers of the Talmud accepted that everyone can achieve the same level of spiritual excellence. There are levels of worship, just as there are levels of intellectuality. The unique individual does have a place within the Torah community since the understanding of man in the Talmud is not based only on what is possible for the community. The talmudic teachers did not evaluate the potential of a community by the standard of the elite few; nor did they ignore what such people could achieve when the talmudists established a way of life for community. The Lonely Man of Faith
This is why messianism plays such a crucial role in Maimonides’ legal works, as distinct from The Guide of the Perplexed. The legal works are primarily addressed to those members of the community who are subject to the influences of material conditions of history. The Guide, however, is addressed to individuals capable of realizing the ideal of love of God despite the political conditions of their community. The Guide is an attempt to train the individual to achieve the essential telos of messianism, olam ha-ba, within a non-messianic world. As a unit, the Guide and the Mishneh Torah reflect how the pursuit of individual excellence was meant to be cultivated along with a deep commitment to community.
We have shown how the talmudic models of love and fear and the eschatological categories of olam ha-ba and messianism were used by Maimonides. He developed an approach to Judaism capable of dynamically integrating two theological models which emerged from the study of nature and the study of Sinai. We are now prepared to examine how the halakhic observances of the am ha-areẓ and the ḥasid reflect these two models.
Chapter one established, that according to Maimonides, the Halakhah and Aggadah of the Talmud reflect the tradition’s way of guiding the community and the individual toward God. One can claim, as Strauss does, that Halakhah, more than the Aggadah, reflects the true picture of the Jewish tradition. In emphasizing the primacy of Aggadah, therefore, Maimonides does not reflect the spirit of the tradition. However, the Aggadah was not Maimonides’ only basis for establishing the significance of philosophy for the tradition. There are differences between the community and the uncommon individual—both in their understanding of Aggadah and in their practice of Halakhah.
Of course, there are many subtle distinctions within the internal system of halakhic obligation, but we will simply attempt to illustrate here two conceptions of Halakhah which reflect the practices of community and of the singular individual.
The concept of halakhic obligation in the tradition has both a collective and a singular meaning. Halakhah is a system of laws prescribing actions which every member of the community must follow. The obligatory character of the system is based upon the acceptance by Jews of the legislative authority of God and of those human authorities who are recognized as His legitimate agents. Obligations based on the legal authority of God do not exhaust the scope of the Halakhah. Besides the precise, detailed system of standards which obligates every individual in the community to specific actions, in Maimonides’ Hilkhot De’ot there is another description of the essence of halakhic life:
A man should aim to maintain physical health and vigor, in order that his soul may be upright, in a condition to know God. For it is impossible for one to understand sciences and meditate upon them, when he is hungry or sick, or when any of his limbs is aching. And in cohabitation, one should set one’s heart on having a son who may become a Sage and a great man in Israel. Whoever throughout his life follows this course will be continually serving God, even while engaged in business and even during cohabitation, because his purpose in all that he does will be to satisfy his needs, so as to have a sound body with which to serve God. Even when he sleeps and seeks repose, to calm his mind and rest his body, so as not to fall sick and be incapacitated from serving God, his sleep is service of the Almighty. In thise sense, our wise men charged us, “Let all thy deeds be for the sake of God” (Avot 2:17). And Solomon, in his wisdom, said, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Prov. 3:6) The Sages
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. --- Psalm 139:23–24.
I will mention some [more] ways in which God answers these petitions. Charles G. Finney: Sermons From The Penny Pulpit
How often when individuals pray to be searched and tried, God gives them opportunities to prove if they love their neighbors as themselves—to see if they will share the profits where there is money to be made, or whether they will dip their hands into their neighbors’ pockets. These are golden opportunities for us to know ourselves and are designed to search us to the bottoms of our hearts.
Often, God so arranges it that [you] can take advantage of others without danger to [your] own reputation. Now is the time of trial—see whether it is the love of God or the fear of society that motivates you. Suppose that someone has, at your store, paid too much, and it is never likely to be found out, or suppose you have found something in the street, and you can keep it or restore it as you please. These are searchings from God, and how completely such circumstances show your true character! Now suppose that instead of finding the Spirit of Christ exhibiting himself, you demonstrate the opposite spirit and resort to some selfish reasonings to quiet your conscience. Well, it is written upon you, Mene, Mene, Tekel—weighed on the scales and found wanting (see Dan. 5:25, 27).
God often allows people to accumulate property that they may have an opportunity to extend the cause of truth and righteousness in the earth. Those who profess Christianity acknowledge themselves to be only stewards for God—that everything they possess is his and, consequently, is at his disposal. Now [do] these people act in harmony with their professions? Well, God often tries them to see if they are acting the hypocrite or not.
God in his providence often causes us to suffer losses by some means, just to see whether we will regard these losses as God’s or our own. Look at someone who once had large property to manage and by some means lost it all, and that person goes about saying, I have sustained such and such great losses. We may profess that it belongs to God and even deceive ourselves into the belief that we are sincere, but when a loss occurs, it often shows us that we did not regard it as God’s but our own.
--- Charles G. Finney
My God, I Am Thine
James Hannington grew up peacefully enough near Brighton, England, working in his father’s countinghouse. But then he entered the ministry and offered himself to the Church Missionary Society. His first trip to Africa was interrupted by sickness. After recovering, he made a second attempt and arrived off the African coast July 23, 1884. He started inland toward Uganda, but he unwittingly chose the most dangerous path imaginable. Compatriots sent runners after him, but they arrived too late. Hannington was seized by warriors of the lawless Mwanga tribe. His small diary, crammed with tiny handwriting, is among the most moving missionary documents on record.
October 21, 1885. About 20 ruffians set upon us. They violently threw me to the ground. Twice I nearly broke away from them, then grew faint from struggling and was dragged by the legs over the ground, my clothes torn to pieces, wet through, strained in every limb, expecting death.
October 22. In a fair-sized hut, but with no ventilation, floor covered with rotting banana peel and leaves and lice, fearfully shaken, scarce power to hold a small Bible. Shall I live through it? My God, I am Thine.
October 23. I woke full of pain and weak. I don’t see how I can stand all this, yet I don’t want to give in.
October 27. I am very low; it looks so dark. I don’t know what to think, and would say from the heart, “Let the Lord do what seemeth Him good.”
October 28. A terrible night, first with my drunken guard and secondly with insects, which have found my tent and swarm. I don’t think I got one hour’s sleep, and woke with fever fast developing. O Lord, do have mercy upon me and release me. I am quite broken down and brought low. Comforted by reading Psalm 27.
October 29. I was held up by Psalm 30, which came with great power. A hyena howled near me last night, smelling a sick man, but I hope it is not to have me.
That was his last entry. That day they killed him.
You, LORD, are the light that keeps me safe.
I am not afraid of anyone.
You protect me, and I have no fears.
Brutal people may attack and try to kill me,
But they will stumble. …
Armies may surround me, but I won’t be afraid;
War may break out, but I will trust you.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 21
“The love of Christ constraineth us.” --- 2 Corinthians 5:14.
How much owest thou unto my Lord? Has he ever done anything for thee? Has he forgiven thy sins? Has he covered thee with a robe of righteousness? Has he set thy feet upon a rock? Has he established thy goings? Has he prepared heaven for thee? Has he prepared thee for heaven? Has he written thy name in his book of life? Has he given thee countless blessings? Has he laid up for thee a store of mercies, which eye hath not seen nor ear heard? Then do something for Jesus worthy of his love. Give not a mere wordy offering to a dying Redeemer. How will you feel when your Master comes, if you have to confess that you did nothing for him, but kept your love shut up, like a stagnant pool, neither flowing forth to his poor or to his work. Out on such love as that! What do men think of a love which never shows itself in action? Why, they say, “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” Who will accept a love so weak that it does not actuate you to a single deed of self-denial, of generosity, of heroism, or zeal! Think how he has loved you, and given himself for you! Do you know the power of that love? Then let it be like a rushing mighty wind to your soul to sweep out the clouds of your worldliness, and clear away the mists of sin. “For Christ’s sake” be this the tongue of fire that shall sit upon you: “for Christ’s sake” be this the divine rapture, the heavenly afflatus to bear you aloft from earth, the divine spirit that shall make you bold as lions and swift as eagles in your Lord’s service. Love should give wings to the feet of service, and strength to the arms of labour. Fixed on God with a constancy that is not to be shaken, resolute to honour him with a determination that is not to be turned aside, and pressing on with an ardour never to be wearied, let us manifest the constraints of love to Jesus. May the divine loadstone draw us heavenward towards itself.
Evening - October 21
“Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?” --- Luke 24:38.
“Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest O Israel, my way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?” The Lord cares for all things, and the meanest creatures share in his universal providence, but his particular providence is over his saints. “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him.” “Precious shall their blood be in his sight.” “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose.” Let the fact that, while he is the Saviour of all men, he is specially the Saviour of them that believe, cheer and comfort you. You are his peculiar care; his regal treasure which he guards as the apple of his eye; his vineyard over which he watches day and night. “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Let the thought of his special love to you be a spiritual pain-killer, a dear quietus to your woe: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” God says that as much to you as to any saint of old. “Fear not, I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” We lose much consolation by the habit of reading his promises for the whole church, instead of taking them directly home to ourselves. Believer, grasp the divine word with a personal, appropriating faith. Think that you hear Jesus say, “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not.” Think you see him walking on the waters of thy trouble, for he is there, and he is saying, “Fear not, it is I; be not afraid.” Oh, those sweet words of Christ! May the Holy Ghost make you feel them as spoken to you; forget others for awhile—accept the voice of Jesus as addressed to you, and say, “Jesus whispers consolation; I cannot refuse it; I will sit under his shadow with great delight.”
FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT WITH ALL THY MIGHT
John S. B. Monsell, 1811–1875
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12)
As Christians, one of our chief characteristics should be courage, especially when it involves our spiritual defense of the Gospel. How easily, however, our noble intentions for this kind of fortitude are changed into attitudes of despair and defeat because of annoying circumstances, the secular media, or disappointment in others. To avoid these courage-defeating forces, we must have our “inner man” renewed daily with spiritual nourishment. We cannot be truly strong if we do not gain the inner strength that comes from God.
When John Monsell wrote this hymn text, he provided ten strong imperatives for a triumphant Christian life: 1) Fight the good fight; 2) Lay hold of life; 3) Run the straight race; 4) Lift up thine eyes; 5) Seek His face; 6) Cast care aside; 7) Lean on thy Guide; 8) Trust and prove; 9) Faint not nor fear; and 10) Only believe. Each of these is worthy of further pondering.
John Monsell was an Anglican clergyman who published a hymnal in 1863 titled Love and Praise for the Church Year. In that song book this hymn first appeared under the title “The Fight for Faith.” This respected man of the pulpit was also known as a strong advocate of vigorous congregational singing, constantly persuading his people that congregational singing should be fervent and joyous. “We are too distant and reserved in our praises,” he would say. “We sing, but not as we should sing to Him who is the chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely.” Perhaps there is a stronger relationship between our times of joyous praise and our ability to “fight the good fight” than we generally realize.
Fight the good fight with all thy might! Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right; lay hold on life, and it shall be thy joy and crown eternally.
Run the straight race through God’s good grace. Lift up thine eyes and seek His face; life with its way before us lies; Christ is the path and Christ the prize.
Cast care aside, lean on thy Guide; His boundless mercy will provide; trust and thy trusting soul shall prove Christ is its life and Christ its love.
Faint not nor fear; His arms are near; He changeth not, and thou art dear; only believe, and thou shalt see that Christ is all in all to thee.
For Today: Deuteronomy 31:6; Romans 8:36–39; 1 Corinthians 16:13
Allow God to renew your inner man through quiet meditation with His Word and a time of communion with Him. Reflect on these musical truths ---
3dly. The wisdom of God appears in the government of man in his conversion and return to him. If there be a counsel in framing the
lowest creature, and in the minutest passages of providence, there must needs be a higher wisdom in the government of the creature to a supernatural end, and framing the soul to be a monument of his glory. The wisdom of God is seen with more admirations, and in more varieties, by the angels, in the church than in the creation (Eph. 3:10); that is, in forming a church out of the rubbish of the world, out of contrarieties and contradictions to him, which is greater than the framing a celestial and elementary world out of a rude chaos. The most glorious bodies in the word, even those of the sun, moon, and stars, have not such stamps of Divine skill upon them as the soul of man; nor is there so much of wisdom in the fabric and faculties of that, as in the reduction of a blind, wilful, rebellious soul, to its own happiness, and God’s glory (Eph. 1:11, 12); “He worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will, that we should be for the praise of his glory.” If all things, then this, which is none of the least of his works; to the praise of the glory of his goodness in his work, and to the praise of the rule of his work, his counsel, in both the act of his will, and the act of his wisdom. The restoring of the beauty of the soul, and its fitness for its true end, speaks no less wisdom than the first draught of it in creation: and the application of redemption, and bringing forth the fruits of it, is as well an act of his prudence, as the contrivance was of his counsel. Divine wisdom appears,
1. In the subjects of conversion. His goodness reigns in the very dust, and he erects the walls and ornaments of his temple from the clay and mud of the world. He passes over the wise, and noble, and mighty, that may retend some grounds of boasting in their own natural or acquire endowments; and pitches upon the most contemptible materials, wherewith to build a spiritual tabernacle for himself (1 Cor. 1:26, 27), “the foolish, and weak things of the world;” those that are naturally most unfit for it, and most refractory to it. Herein lies the skill of an architect, to render the most knotty, crooked, and inform pieces, by his art, subservient to his main purpose and design. Thus God hath ordered, from the beginning of the world, contrary tempers, various humors, diverse nations, as stones of several natures. to be a building for himself, fitly framed together, and to be his own family (1 Cor. 3:9). Who will question the skill that alters a black jet into a clear crystal, a glow-worm into a star, a lion into a lamb, and a swine into a dove? The more intricate and knotty any business is, the more eminent is any man’s ability and prudence, in untying the knots and bringing it to a good issue. The more desperate the disease, the more admirable is the physician’s skill in the cure. He pitches upon men for his service, who have natural dispositions to serve him in such ways as he disposeth of them, after their conversion: so Paul was naturally a conscientious man; what he did against Christ was from the dictates of an erroneous conscience, soaked in the Pharisaical interpretations of the Jewish law: he had a strain of zeal to prosecute what his depraved reason and conscience did inform him in. God pitches upon this man, and works him in the fire for his service. He alters not his natural disposition, to make him of a constitution and temper contrary to what he was before; but directs it to another object, claps in another bias into the bowl, and makes his ill-governed dispositions move in a new way of his own appointment, and guides that natural heat to the service of that interest which he was before ambitious to extirpate; as a high-mettled horse, when left to himself, creates both disturbance and danger, but under the conduct of a wise rider, moves regularly; not by a change of his natural fierceness, but a skilful management of the beast to the rider’s purpose.
2. In the means of conversion. The prudence of man consists in the timing the executions of his counsels; and no less doth the wisdom of God consist in this. As he is a God of judgment or wisdom, he waits to introduce his grace into the soul in the fittest season. This attribute, Paul, in the story of his own conversion, puts a particular remark upon, which he doth not upon any other; in that catalogue he reckons up (1 Tim. 1:17), “Now, unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.” A most solemn doxology, wherein wisdom sits upon the throne above all the rest, with a special Amen to the glory of it, which refers to the timing of his mercy so to Paul, as made most for the glory of his grace, and the encouragement of others from him as the pattern. God took him at a time when he was upon the brink of hell; when he was ready to devour the newborn infant church at Damascus; when he was armed with all the authority from without, and fired with all the zeal from within, for the prosecution of his design: then God seizeth upon him, and runs him in a channel for his own honor, and his creatures’ happiness.
It is observable how God set his eye upon Paul all along in his furious course, and lets him have the reins, without putting out his hand to bridle him; yet no motion he could take, but the eye of God runs along with him: he suffered him to kick against the pricks of miracles, and the convincing discourse of Stephen at his martyrdom. There were many that voted for Stephen’s death, as the witnesses that flung the stones first at him; but they are not named, only Saul, who testified his approbation as well as the rest, and that by watching the witnesses’ clothes while they were about that bloody work (Acts 7:58); “the witnesses laid their clothes at a young man’s feet, named Saul.” Again, though multitudes were consenting to his death, yet (Acts 8:1) Saul only is mentioned. God’s eye is upon him, yet he would not at that time stop his fury. He goes on further, and makes “havoc of the church” (Acts 8:3.) He had surely many more complices, but none are named (as if none regarded with any design of grace but Saul: yet God would not reach out his hand to change him, but eyes him, waiting for a fitter opportunity, which in his wisdom he did foresee. And, therefore (Acts 9:1) the Spirit of God adds a yet: “Saul yet breathing out threatenings.” It was not God’s time yet, but it would be shortly. But, when Saul was putting in execution his design against the church of Damascus, when the devil was at the top of his hopes, and Saul in the height of his fury, and the Christians sunk into the depth of their fears, the wisdom of God lays hold of the opportunity, and by Paul’s conversion at this season, defeats the devil, disappoints the high priests, shields his people, discharges their fears, by pulling Saul out of the devil’s hands, and forming Satan’s instruments to a holy activity against him.
3. The wisdom of God appears in the manner of conversion. So great a change God makes, not by a destruction, but with a preservation of, and suitableness to nature. As the devil tempts us, not by offering violence to our natures, but by proposing things convenient to our corrupt natures, so doth God solicit us to a return by proposals suited to our faculties. As he doth in nature convey nourishment to men, by means of the fruits of the earth, and produceth the fruits of the earth by the influences of heaven; the influences of heaven do not force the earth, but excite that natural virtue and strength which is in it. So God produceth grace in the soul by the means of the word, fitted to the capacity of man, as man, and proportioned to his rational faculties, as rational. It would be contrary to the wisdom of God to move man like a stone, to invert the order and privilege of that nature which he settled in creation; for then God would in vain have given man understanding and will: because, without moving man according to those faculties, they would remain unprofitable and unuseful in man. God doth not reduce us to himself, as logs, by a mere force, or as slaves forced by a cudgel, to go forth to that place, and do that work which they have no stomach to: but he doth accommodate himself to those foundations he hath laid in our nature, and guides us in a way agreeable thereunto, by an action as sweet as powerful; clearing our understandings of dark principles, whereby we may see his truth, our own misery, and the seat of our happiness; and bending our wills according to this light, to desire and move conveniently to this end of our calling; efficaciously, yet agreeably; powerfully, yet without imposing on our natural faculties; sweetly, without violence, in ordering the means; but effectually, without failing, in accomplishing the end. And therefore the Scripture calleth it, teaching (John 6:45), alluring (Hos. 2:15), calling us to seek the Lord (Psalm 27:8). Teaching is an act of wisdom; alluring, an act of love; calling, an act of authority: but none of them argue a violent constraint. The principle that moves the will is supernatural; but the will, as a natural faculty, concurs in the act or motion. God doth not act in this in a way of absolute power, without an infinite wisdom, suiting himself to the nature of the things he acts upon: he doth not change the physical nature, though he doth the moral. As in the government of the world, he doth not make heavy things ascend, nor light things descend, ordinarily, but guides their motions according to their natural qualities: so God doth not strain the faculties beyond their due pitch. He lets the nature of the faculty remain, but changes the principle in it: the understanding remains understanding, and the will remains will. But where there was before folly in the understanding, he puts in a spirit of wisdom; and where there was before a stoutness in the will, he forms it to a pliableness to his offers. He hath a key to fit every ward in the lock, and opens the will without injuring the nature of the will. He doth not change the soul by an alteration of the faculties, but by an alteration of something in them: not by an inroad upon them, or by mere power, or a blind instinct, but by proposing to the understanding something to be known, and informing it of the reasonableness of his precepts, and the innate goodness and excellency of his offers, and by inclining the will to love and embrace what is proposed. And things are proposed under those notions, which usually move our wills and affections. We are moved by things as they are good, pleasant, profitable; we entertain things as they make for us, and detest things as they are contrary to us. Nothing affects us but under such qualities, and God suits his encouragements to these natural affections which are in us: his power and wisdom go hand in hand together; his power to act what his wisdom orders, and his wisdom to conduct what his power executes. He brings men to him in ways suited to their natural dispositions. The stubborn he tears like a lion, the gentle he wins like a turtle, by sweetness; he hath a hammer to break the stout, and a cord of love to draw the more pliable tempers: be works upon the more rational in a way of gospel reason; upon the more ingenuous in a way of kindness, and draws them by the cords of love. The wise men were led to Christ by a star, and means suited to the knowledge and study that those eastern nations used, which was much in astronomy: he worketh upon others by miracles accommodated to every one’s sense, and so proportions the means according to the nature of the subjects he works upon.
4. The wisdom of God is apparent in his discipline and penal evils. The wisdom of human governments is seen in the matter of their laws, and in the penalties of their laws, and in the proportion of the punishment to the offence, and in the good that redounds from the punishment either to the offender, or to the community. The wisdom of God is seen in the penalty of death upon the transgression of his law; both in that it was the greatest evil that man might fear, and so was a convenient means to keep him in his due bound, and also in the proportion of it to the transgression. Nothing less could be in a wise justice inflicted upon an offender for a crime against the highest Being and the Supreme Excellency: but this hath been spoken of before in the wisdom of his laws. I shall only mention some few; it would be too tedious to run into all.
(1.) His wisdom appears in judgments, in the suiting them to the qualities of persons, and nature of sins. He deviseth evil (Jer. 18:11); his judgments are fruits of counsel. “He also is wise, and will bring evil” (Isa. 31:2),—evil suitable to the person offending, and evil suitable to the offence committed: as the husbandman doth his threshing instruments to the grain: he hath a rod for the cummin, a tenderer seed, and a flail for the harder; so hath God greater judgments for the obdurate sinner, and lighter for those that have something of tenderness in their wickedness (Isa. 28:27, 29): “Because he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working;” so some understand the place, “With the froward, he will show himself froward.” He proportions punishment to the sin, and writes the cause of the judgment in the forehead of the judgment itself. Sodom burned in lust, and was consumed by fire from heaven. The Jews sold Christ for thirty pence; and at the taking of Jerusalem, thirty of them were sold for a penny. So Adoni-bezek cut off the thumbs and great toes of others, and he is served in the same kind (Judges 1:7). The Babel builders designed an indissoluble union, and God brings upon them an unintelligible confusion. And in Exod. 9:9, the ashes of the furnace where the Israelites burnt the Egyptian bricks, sprinkled towards heaven, brought boils upon the Egyptian bodies, that they might feel in their own, what pain they had caused in the Israelites’ flesh; and find, by the smart of the inflamed scab, what they had made the Israelites endure.
The waters of the river Nilus are turned into blood, wherein they had stifled the breath of the Israelites’ infants: and at last the prince, and the flower of their nobility, are drowned in the Red Sea. It is part of the wisdom of justice to proportion punishment to the crime, and the degrees of wrath to the degrees of malice in the sin. Afflictions also are wisely proportioned: God, as a wise physician, considers the nature of the humor and strength of the patient, and suits his medicines both to the one and the other (1 Cor. 10:13).
(2.) In the seasons of punishments and afflictions. He stays till sin be ripe, that his justice may appear more equitable, and the offender more inexcusable (Dan. 9:14); he watches upon the evil to bring it apon men; to bring it in the just season and order for his righteous and gracious purpose; his righteous purpose on the enemies, and his gracious purpose on his people. Jerusalem’s calamity came upon them, when the city was full of people at the solemnity of the passover, that he might mow down his enemies at once, and time their destruction to such a moment wherein they had timed the crucifixion of his Son. He watched over the clouds of his judgments, and kept them from pouring down, till his people, the Christians, were provided for, and had departed out of the city to the chambers and retiring places God had provided for them. He made not Jerusalem the shambles of his enemies, till he had made Pella, and other places, the arks of his friends. As Pliny tells us, “The evidence of God holds the sea in a calm for fifteen days, that the halcyons, little birds that frequent the shore, may build their nests, and hatch up their young.” The judgment apon Sodom was suspended for some hours, till Lot was secured. God suffered not the church to be invaded by violent persecutions, till she was established in the faith: he would not expose her to so great combats, while she was weak and feeble, but gave her time to fortify herself, to be rendered more capable of bearing up under them. He stifled all the motions of passion the idolaters might have for their superstition, till religion was in such a condition, as rather to be increased and purified, than extinguished by opposition. Paul was secured from Nero’s chains, and the nets of his enemies, till he had broke off the chain of the devil from many cities of the Gentiles, and catched them by the net of the gospel out of the sea of the world. Thus the wisdom of God is seen in the seasons of judgments and afflictions.
(3.) It is apparent in the gracious issue of afflictions and penal evils. It is a part of wisdom to bring good out of evil of punishment, as well as to bring good out of sin. The church never was so like to heaven, as when it was most persecuted by hell: the storms often cleansed it and the lance often made it more healthful. Job’s integrity had not been so clear, nor his patience so illustrious, had not the devil been permitted to afflict him. God, by his wisdom, outwits Satan; when he by his temptations intends to pollute us and buffet us, God orders it to purify us; he often brings the clearest light out of the thickest darkness, makes poisons to become medicines. Death itself, the greatest punishment in this life, and the entrance into hell in its own nature, he hath by his wise contrivance, made to his people the gate of heaven, and the passage into immortality. Penal evils in a nation often end in a public advantage troubles and wars among a people are many times not destroying, but medicinal, and cure them of that degeneracy, luxury, and effeminateness, they contracted by a long peace.
(4.) This wisdom is evident in the various ends which God brings about by afflictions. The attainment of various ends by one and the same means, is the fruit of the agent’s prudence. By the same affliction, the wise God corrects sometimes for some base affection, excites some sleepy grace, drives out some lurking corruption, refines the soul, and ruins the lust; discovers the greatness of a crime, the vanity of the creature, and the sufficiency in himself. The Jews bind Paul, and by the judge he is sent to Rome; while his mouth is stopped in Judea, it is opened in one of the greatest cities of the world, and his enemies unwittingly contribute to the increase of the knowledge of Christ by those chains, in that city (Acts 28:31) that triumphed over the earth. And his afflictive bonds added courage and resolution to others (Phil. 1:14): “Many waxing confident by my bonds;” which could not in heir own nature produce such an effect, but by the order and contrivance of Divine wisdom: in their own nature, they would rather make them disgust the doctrine he suffered for, and cool their zeal in the propagatlng of it, for fear of the same disgrace and hardship they saw him suffer. But the wisdom of God changed the nature of these fetters, and conducted them to the glory of his name, the encouragement of others, the increase of the gospel, and the comfort of the apostle himself (Phil. 1:12, 13, 18). The sufferings of Paul at Rome confirmed the Philippians, a people at a distance from thence, in the doctrine they had already received at his hands. Thus God makes sufferings sometimes, which appear like judgments, to be like the viper on Paul’s hand (Acts 28:6), a means to clear up innocence, and procure favor to the doctrine among those barbarians.
How often hath he multiplied the church by death and massacres, and increased it by those means used to annihilate it!
(5.) The Divine wisdom is apparent in the deliverances he affords to other parts of the world, as well as to his church. There are delicate composures, curious threads in his webs, and he works them like an artificer: a goodness wrought for them, curiously wrought (Psalm 31:19),
[1.] In making the creatures subservient in their natural order to his gracious ends and purposes. He orders things in such a manner, as not to be necessitated to put forth an extraordinary power in things, which some part of the creation might accomplish. Miraculous productions would speak his power; but the ordering the natural course of things, to occasion such effects they were never intended for, is one part of the glory of his wisdom. And that his wisdom may be seen in the course of nature, he conducts the motions of creatures, and acts them in their own strength; and doth that by various windings and turnings of them, which he might do in an instant by his power, in a supernatural way. Indeed, sometimes he hath made invasions on nature, and suspended the order of their natural laws for a season, to show himself the absolute Lord and Governor of nature: yet if frequent alterations of this nature were made, they would impede the knowledge of the nature of things, and be some bar to the discovery and glory of his wisdom, which is best seen by moving the wheels of inferior creatures in an exact regularity to his own ends. He might, when his little church in Jacob’s family was like to starve in Canaan, have, for their preservation, turned the stones of the country into bread; but he sends them down to Egypt to procure corn, that a way might be opened for their removal into that country; the truth of his prediction in their captivity accomplished, and a way made after the declaration of his great name, Jehovah, both in the fidelity of his word and the greatness of his power, in their deliverance from that furnace of affliction. He might have struck Goliath, the captain of the Philistine’s army, with a thunderbolt from heaven, when he blasphemed his name, and scared his people; but he useth the natural strength of a stone, and the artificial motion of a sling, by the arm of David, to confront the giant, and thereby to free Judea from the ravage of a potent enemy. He might have delivered the Jews from Babylon by as strange miracles as he used in their deliverance from Egypt: he might have plagued their enemies, gathered his people into a body, and protected them by the bulwark of a cloud and a pillar of fire, against the assaults of their enemies. But he uses the differences between the Persians and those of Babylon, to accomplish his ends. How sometimes hath the veering about of the wind on a sudden been the loss of a navy, when it hath been put upon the point of victory, and driven back the destruction upon those which intended it for others! and the accidental stumbling, or the natural fierceness of a horse, flung down a general in the midst of a battle, where he hath lost his life by the throng, and his death hath brought a defeat to his army, and deliverance to the other party, that were upon the brink of ruin! Thus doth the wisdom of God link things together according to natural order, to work out his intended preservation of a people.
[2.] In the season of deliverance. The timing of affairs is a part of the wisdom of man, and an eminent part of the wisdom of God. It is in due season he sends the former and the latter rain, when the earth is in the greatest indigence, and when his influences may most contribute to the bringing forth and ripening the fruit. The dumb creatures have their meat from him in due season (Psalm 104:27): and in his due season have his darling people their deliverance. When Paul was upon his journey to Damascus with a persecuting commission, he is struck down for the security of the church in that city. The nature of the lion is changed in due season, for the preservation of the lambs from worrying. The Israelites are miraculously rescued from Egypt, when their wits were at a loss, when their danger to human understanding was unavoidable; when earth and sea refused protection, then the wisdom and power of heaven stepped in to effect that which was past the skill of the conductors of that multitude. And when the lives of the Jews lay at the stake, and their necks were upon the block at the mercy of their enemies’ swords by an order from Shushan, not only a reprieve, but a triumph, arrives to the Jews, by the wisdom of God guiding the affair, whereby of persons designed to execution, they are made conquerors, and have opportunity to exercise their revenge instead of their atience, proving triumphers where they expected to be sufferers (Esth. 8:9). How strangely doth God, by secret ways, bow the hearts of men and the nature of things to the execution of that which he designs, notwithstanding all the resistance of that which would traverse the security of his people! How often doth he trap the wicked in the work of their own bands, make their confidence to become their ruin, and ensnare them in those nets they wrought and laid for others (Psalm 9:16)! “The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. He scatters the proud in the imagination of their hearts” (Luke 1:51), in the height of their hopes, when their designs have been laid so deep in the foundation, and knit and cemented so close in their superstructure, that no human power or wisdom could rase them down: he hath then disappointed their projects, and befooled their craft. How often hath he kept back the fire, when it hath been ready to devour; broke the arrows when they have been prepared in the bow; turned the spear into the bowels of the bearera, and wounded them at the very instant they were ready to wound Others!
[3.] In suiting instruments to his purpose. He either finds them fit, or makes them on a sudden fit for his gracious ends. If he hath a tabernacle to build, he will fit a Bezaleel and an Aholiab with the spirit of wisdom and understanding in all cunning workmanship (Exod. 31:3, 6). If he finds them crooked pieces, he can, like a wise architect, make them straight beams for the rearing his house, and for the honor of his name. He sometimes picks out men according to their natural tempers, and employs them in his work. Jehu, a man of a furious temper, and ambitious spirit, is called out for the destruction of Ahab’s house. Moses, a man furnished with all Egyptian wisdom, fitted by a generous education, prepared also by the affliction he met with in his flight, and one who had had the benefit of conversation with Jethro, a man of more than an ordinary wisdom and goodness, as appears by his prudent and religious counsel; this man is called out to be the head and captain of an oppressed people, and to rescue them from their bondage, and settle the first national church in the world. So Elijah, a high- spirited man, of a hot and angry temper, one that slighted the frowns, and undervalued the favor of princes, is set up to stem the torrent of Israelitish idolatry. So Luther, a man of the same temper, is drawn out by the same wisdom to encounter the corruptions in the church, against such opposition, which a milder temper would have sunk under. The earth, in Rev. 12:16, is made an instrument to help the woman: when the grandees of that age transferred the imperial power upon Constantine, who became afterwards a protecting and nursing father to the church, an end which many of his favorers never designed, nor ever dreamt of: but God, by his infinite wisdom, made these several designs, like several arrows shot at rovers, meet in one mark to which he directed them, viz., in bringing forth an instrument to render peace to the world and security and increase to his church.
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