Mark 15 - 16
Jesus Delivered to PilateMark 15:1 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. 9 And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
Jesus Is Mocked16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.
The Crucifixion21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.
The Death of Jesus33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
40 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.
Jesus Is Buried42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
The ResurrectionMark 16:1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
[SOME OF THE EARLIEST MANUSCRIPTS DO NOT INCLUDE 16:9–20.]
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene9 [[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
Jesus Appears to Two Disciples12 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.
The Great Commission14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]]
What I'm Reading
The Useful Delusion of Christian Belief
By J. Warner Wallace 3/18/2015
My father taught me how to attend church as a non-believer. He did it for many years in many different contexts with both his kids and grand kids. He was willing to attend Catholic Mass as a non-believer with my mother in the early 1960’s, and he did it again with his second family at the LDS church near his home. He attended Methodist services with my grandparents and Baptist services with my sister-in-law. He also attended the church I pastor several times. He even served once with us on a service project. He sang the songs and sat quietly during the prayers. If you didn’t know better, you would swear he was a believer. But as a happy atheist, he rejected Christianity (and Mormonism) while he simultaneously embraced these two religions. He rejected their claims related to the existence of God while embracing them as useful delusions. He liked the impact these religions had on his children, and for that he continues to be grateful.
In 2010, John Steinrucken wrote an article at The American Thinker entitled “Secularism’s Ongoing Debt to Christianity“. Many Christians have commented on this article because Steinrucken, as a committed atheist, acknowledged the debt that secularists have to the Judeo-Christian culture in America.
“Rational thought may provide better answers to many of life’s riddles than does faith alone. However, it is rational to conclude that religious faith has made possible the advancement of Western civilization. That is, the glue that has held Western civilization together over the centuries is the Judeo-Christian tradition. To the extent that the West loses its religious faith in favor of non-judgmental secularism, then to the same extent, it loses that which holds all else together.
Succinctly put: Western civilization’s survival, including the survival of open secular thought, depends on the continuance within our society of the Judeo-Christian tradition.”
Steinrucken acknowledged what my father has always believed. As an atheist, my father embraces my Christian values wholeheartedly, even while he rejects the God from whom these values come. He served for nearly thirty years in the same occupation in which I have served and now the same profession where his namesake, my son, proudly serves. All of us are cops. Yet my father still fails to see that his love of the law is ungrounded (and therefore unfounded) as an atheist. Steinrucken seems to understand the secular moral dilemma:
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.
Wealth and Stewardship: Key Biblical Principles
By Michael W. Austin 2/2016
Americans have a lot of stuff. Our houses are larger than ever and are full of more material goods than most people in past generations would have dreamed of owning. For many, the American Dream still revolves around better, bigger, and more things, including cars, houses, and expensive consumer goods. The average size of a single-family home in the United States has increased from a footprint of 1,650 square feet in 1978 to just below 2,500 square feet in recent years. Many Americans habitually upgrade their smartphones, computers, and home entertainment systems in pursuit of the latest and greatest technologies. We buy, use, upgrade, and dispose. At the other end of the spectrum, there are many who are espousing minimalism. For example, an entire industry and movement surrounding “tiny houses” (around 150 to 200 square feet) is gaining momentum.1 There are blogs, conferences, and books dedicated to this movement. Others are leaving suburbia and headed out on the open road with their families in pursuit of adventure and a richer family life.2
Biblical Principles Regarding Wealth. What should followers of Jesus make of all of this? What should guide our choices concerning material goods and wealth? Some Christians believe that it is immoral to have an abundance of wealth and possessions, especially when so many people on the planet suffer from extreme poverty. Others believe that if they earn their money, it is their right to do with it as they see fit. In this area of life, it is tempting to try to construct one hard and fast rule for everyone. But rather than taking this sort of approach, we need to understand some key biblical principles of stewardship and apply them to our lives. We need wisdom informed by Scripture and the counsel of the Holy Spirit as we navigate the issues surrounding the relationship of followers of Christ to their stuff.
What approach to money and things can we glean from the Bible? What are some key biblical principles and insights that can help us as we seek to be good stewards of our material blessings? As a foundational starting point, consider the following words from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matt. 6:19–21, 24 NIV)
There is a sharp contrast here that cuts to the heart of a proper Christian perspective on money and material wealth. We are not to serve it. In fact, it is impossible to serve God and money. When we serve money, when we orient our lives around it and give it pride of place in our hearts, we are no longer serving God. This is sobering to those of us who live, move, and have our being in a consumer-oriented culture. But we are to be countercultural, ordering our lives around God and His kingdom. Wealth and material goods are resources that we should employ for these ends. If our hearts are captured by the allure of things, if we focus on consumption and the accumulation of wealth, then God is crowded out of our hearts, and we fail to live for Him and His kingdom. The first important principle, then, is to set our hearts on God, cultivating devotion to Him rather than money and material goods.
Life Begins at Conception, Says Department of Health and Human Services
By Harvest Prude 10/13/2017
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) just released their 2018-2022 plan, which unequivocally states that life begins at conception and deserves protection. In the introduction it says,
“HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.”
The draft mentions conception five times total. The overwhelmingly pro-life stance in the draft is welcome news to many.
The debate over the personhood of unborn children has been a central issue of the abortion debate. Ever since Roe v. Wade in 1973, pro-life advocates have been trying to establish constitutionally protected rights for the unborn. In the ruling’s majority opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote that Roe v. Wade would collapse if “the fetus is a person.”
In support of the HHS’s draft, author and bioethics expert Wesley J. Smith wrote, “life ‘beginning at conception’ … is a fact of basic biological science.”
The Prosperity Gospel in Our Closet
By Jimmy Needham 10/21/2017
Christianity is the religion of delight. But not any delight — delight in God himself. Listen to Psalm 84:
A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. (Psalm 84:10)
On holidays as a child, I visited my cousin’s house up north. Year after year, I would wander into his bedroom to admire a poster he had on the wall. In the foreground was a row of supercars in private garages. Just beyond them, sitting on a hill overlooking the Pacific coastline was a Malibu mansion. The title of the poster read, “Justification for Higher Education.” I was enthralled.
Not so in Psalm 84. That poster bores the psalmist. He’s tasted too much happiness in the presence of God to let the things of this world have any decisive pull on his heart. This is what it means when he writes, “A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” A Christian is someone who knows no higher joy than God. No surplus of trinkets, no company-keeping among the powerful or wealthy, can compete with the appeal God has. They’ve seen what the world has to offer and have found it wanting.
Shiney stuff bores the saints.
Why We Can Rejoice in Suffering
By John Piper 10/23/1994
Suffering as a Christian
(1 Pe 4:12–19 ) 12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.ESV
Suffering and Christian Hedonism | It might seem strange to you that (1 Peter is one of my favorite biblical books — since it’s mostly about suffering and how to live in a hostile culture, while I am a card-carrying, full-blooded, unwavering Christian Hedonist. But it isn’t strange for people who have lived long enough to realize what Paul Brand, the missionary surgeon to India wrote in his book Gift of Pain, The:
I have come to see that pain and pleasure come to us not as opposites but as Siamese twins, strangely joined and intertwined. Nearly all my memories of acute happiness, in fact, involve some element of pain or struggle. (Christianity Today)
I have never heard anyone say, “The deepest and rarest and most satisfying joys of my life have come in times of extended ease and earthly comfort.” Nobody says that. It isn’t true. What’s true is what Samuel Rutherford said when he was put in the cellars of affliction: “The Great King keeps his wine there” — not in the courtyard where the sun shines. What’s true is what Charles Spurgeon said: “They who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls.”
Christian Hedonists will do anything to have the King’s wine and the rare pearls — even go to the cellars of suffering and dive in the sea of affliction. And so you can see that it is not strange that we love the epistle of (1 Peter — a handbook for Christian persecution and martyrdom.
A Story About a Joy - Seeking Missionary Family
When Bernie May was the head of Wycliffe Bible Translators he visited a young family in a Muslim nation. They had been there three years working with a people group of one hundred thousand people and no knowledge of Christ. This couple had three children under five years old.
The baby was covered with pox marks, some of which looked infected. He asked if the child had chicken pox. “No, those are ant bites,” the mother said. “We can’t keep the ants off him. Eventually, he will become immune to them.”
In a moment of honesty she confessed she felt guilty because she was suffering from stress. Stress! She and her young husband came there from mid-USA. Now they live in a place where the temperature is above 100 degrees most of the year. The children are covered with bites; a war is going on close by; their helpers are in danger for being their friends; many in the villages are suffering from hunger and disease; they can’t even let their supporters know what they are doing so that they can pray for them since they are in a “critical” area — and she feels guilty because she is under stress.
I told her she had every right to feel stressful. I had only been their three days and I was already beginning to come unglued. Yet this dedicated young couple are laughing and joking and filled with the joy of the Lord.
(First Peter is a letter mainly about how to be like that. Today’s text, in fact, commands us to be like that and gives at least six reasons why we should be and can be.
Keep on Rejoicing: Six Reasons to Do So
The command is found in verse (13: “To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing.” Keep on rejoicing. When you are thrown in the cellars of suffering, keep on rejoicing. When you dive in the sea of affliction, keep on rejoicing. In fact, keep on rejoicing not in spite of the affliction but even because of it. This is not a little piece of advice about the power of positive thinking. This is an utterly radical, abnormal, supernatural way to respond to suffering. It is not in our power. It is not for the sake of our honor. It is the way spiritual aliens and exiles live on the earth for the glory of the great King.
(“Count it all joy when you meet various trials,” is foolish advice, except for one thing — God. Peter gives six reasons why we can (“keep on rejoicing” when the suffering comes. They all relate to God.
1. Not a Surprise but a Plan
Keep on rejoicing because the suffering is not a surprise but a plan.
Verse (12: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.”
It isn’t strange. It isn’t absurd. It isn’t meaningless. It is purposeful. It is for your testing. Look at verse (19: “Let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.” “According to God’s will.” Suffering is not outside the will of God. It is in God’s will. This is true even when Satan may be the immediate cause. God is sovereign over all things, including our suffering, and including Satan.
By why? For what purpose? Compare verses (12 and (17. Verse (12 your fiery ordeal comes (“for your testing.” Verse (17 says, (“For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” The point is that God’s judgment is moving through the earth. The church does not escape. When the fire of judgment burns the church, it is a testing, proving, purifying fire. When it burns the world, it either awakens or destroys.
Verse (18: “And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?” Believers pass through the testing fire of God’s judgment — not because he hates us, but because he loves us and wills our purity. God hates sin so much and loves his children so much that he will spare us no pain to rid us of what he hates.
So reason number one is that suffering is not surprising, it is planned. It is a testing. It is purifying fire. It proves and strengthens real faith, and it consumes “performance faith.”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn had long been impressed with the patience and longsuffering of Russian believers. One night in prison in Siberia Boris Kornfeld, a Jewish doctor, sat up with Solzhenitsyn and told him the story of his conversion to Christ. The same night Kornfeld was clubbed to death. Solzhenitsyn said that Kornfeld’s last words were, “lay upon me as an inheritance . . . It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good . . . Bless you, prison, for having been my life.”
We have strong hope, therefore, that the sufferings of our own day will bring purity and life to many. Suffering is not surprising, it is purposeful.
2. Evidence of Union with Christ
Keep on rejoicing because your suffering as a Christian is an evidence of your union with Christ.
Verse (13a: “But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing.” In other words your sufferings are not merely your own. They are also Christ’s. This is cause for rejoicing because it means you are united to Christ. Joseph Tson, a Romanian pastor who stood up to Ceausescu’s repressions of Christianity, wrote,
This union with Christ is the most beautiful subject in the Christian life. It means that I am not a lone fighter here: I am an extension of Jesus Christ. When I was beaten in Romania, He suffered in my body. It is not my suffering: I only had the honor to share His sufferings. (“Martyrdom: The Psychology, Theology, and Politics of Self-Sacrifice (Contemporary Psychology (Praeger))”)
Keep on rejoicing, because your sufferings as a Christian are not merely yours but Christ’s and they give evidence of your union with him.
3. A Means to Attaining Greater Joy in Glory
Keep on rejoicing because this joy will strengthen your assurance that when Christ comes in glory, you will rejoice forever with him.
Verse (13b: “[As you share the sufferings of Christ] (keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of his glory, you may rejoice with exultation.” Notice: keep on rejoicing now, so that you may rejoice then. Our joy now through suffering is the means of attaining our joy then, a thousand-fold in glory.
First, there is suffering, then there is glory. (1 Peter 1:11, “The Spirit predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glory to follow” (see (1 Peter 5:1 ). Paul said, (“If we suffer with him we will be glorified with him.” First the suffering, and then the glory — both for Jesus and for those who are united to him.
If we become embittered at life and the pain it deals us, we are not preparing to rejoice at the revelation of Christ’s glory. Keep on rejoicing now in suffering in order that you might rejoice with exultation at the revelation of his glory.
4. The Spirit of Glory and of God Resting on You
Keep on rejoicing in suffering because then the Spirit of glory and of God rest upon you.
Verse (14: “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
This means that in the hour of greatest trial there is a great consolation. In great suffering on earth there is great support from heaven. You may think now that you will not be able to bear it. But if you are Christ’s, you will be able to bear it, because he will come to you and rest upon you. As Rutherford said, the Great King keeps his finest wine in the cellar of affliction. He does not bring it out to serve with chips and on sunny afternoons. He keeps it for extremities.
If you say, “What is this?” — the Spirit of glory and of God resting on me in suffering — the answer is simply this: you will find out when you need it. The Spirit will reveal enough of glory and enough of God to satisfy your soul, and carry you through.
Seek to be holy; seek to bring truth; seek to bear witness; and do not turn aside from risk. And sooner or later you will experience the Spirit of glory and of God resting upon you in suffering.
5. Glorifying God
Keep on rejoicing in suffering because this glorifies God.
Verse (16: “If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.”
Glorifying God means showing by your actions and attitudes that God is glorious to you — that he is valuable, precious, desirable, satisfying. And the greatest way to show that someone satisfies your heart is to keep on rejoicing in them when all other supports for your satisfaction are falling away. When you keep rejoicing in God in the midst of suffering, it shows that God, and not other things, is the great source of your joy.
I mentioned Paul Brand earlier — the missionary surgeon to India. He tells the story of his mother who was a missionary in India and who did something that symbolizes a life devoted through suffering to the glory of God and not self. Dr. Brand writes,
For Mother, pain was a frequent companion, as was sacrifice. I say it kindly and in love, but in old age, Mother had little of physical beauty left in her. The rugged conditions, combined with the crippling falls and her battles with typhoid, dysentery, and malaria, had made her a thin, hunched-over old woman. Years of exposure to wind and sun had toughened her facial skin into leather and furrowed it with wrinkles as deep and extensive as any I have seen on a human face . . . Mother knew that as well as anyone — for the last 20 years of her life she refused to keep a mirror in her house. (Christianity Today)
Twenty years of ministry without a mirror. Do you get it? She was the mirror. God was the light and the glory
6. God’s Faithfulness to Care for Your Soul
Finally, keep on rejoicing because your Creator is faithful to care for your soul.
Verse (19: “Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”
The degrees of suffering and the forms of affliction will differ for every one of us. But one thing we will all have in common till Jesus comes: we will all die. We will come to that awesome moment of reckoning. If you have time, you will see your whole life played before you as you ponder if it has been well-spent. You will tremble at the unspeakable reality that in just moments you will face God. And the destiny of your soul will be irrevocable.
Will you rejoice in that hour? You will if you entrust your soul to a faithful Creator. He created your soul for his glory. He is faithful to that glory and to all who love it and live for it. Now is the time to show where your treasure is — in heaven or on earth. Now is the time to shine with the glory of God. Trust him. And keep on rejoicing.
Moral Without Belief in God? Sure! But God Still Makes All the Difference
By Tom Gilson 10/20/2017
A new report out of Pew Research Center says that more Americans than ever agree you don’t have to believe in God to “be moral or have good values.” Agreement is rising even among evangelicals, Black Protestants and Catholics. The rise in these numbers tracks closely with increasing numbers of “nones” — people who don’t affiliate with any religion.
Not the Best Question | I’m surprised they asked the question that way. Every researcher knows not to ask “double-barreled questions” with two parts that a respondent might answer in two different ways. Vaguely worded terms are no help, either. Was the question about knowing what’s moral or about living that way? If it’s the latter, then how moral does a person need to be to qualify for a “yes” answer?
This is ambiguous, so it’s hard to know what to make of the survey.
Godless Morality is a Christian Belief | One way to answer is, of course a person can be moral without believing in God. That’s straight out of the Bible. In Romans 2:14-15, Paul writes, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts.”
Even Atheists know it’s wrong to torture children for the fun of it.
Tom Gilson is a senior editor of The Stream, author of the new 2016 parent-friendly guide to keeping kids in the faith, titled Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents' Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens, the chief editor of True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism, and Peter Boghossian, Atheist Tactician: A Preliminary Response To "A Manual For Creating Atheists" the author/host of the Thinking Christian blog.
He lives in southwest Ohio with Sara, his wife, and their two 20-something children. He has received a B.Mus. in Music Education with a specialty in performance from Michigan State University and an M.S. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Central Florida. When he’s not writing he loves drinking coffee, canoeing, walking in the woods, and playing his trombones.
All for the Gospel
By R.C. Sproul 10/21/2017
Martin Luther’s chief pastoral concern was that his people would know Christ and His gospel. To this end, Luther carried on a profoundly deep practice of intercessory prayer. He said:
Open your eyes and look into your life and the life of all Christians, particularly the spiritual estate, and you will find that faith, hope, love … are languishing…. Then you will see that there is need to pray throughout the world, every hour, without ceasing, with tears of blood.
Luther’s pastoral heart is seen not only in his prayers but most notably in his preaching. He was a doctor of the church, a professor, and an academic. In his role as a professor, his primary task was to teach. There is a clear difference between teaching and preaching. The teacher instructs; he imparts information to his students. But a theologian/preacher can never sever the two roles of teacher and preacher. The great teacher/preachers of history never taught as mere isolated spectators of the past. They combined exhortation with instruction—inspiration with education. In a word, at times their teaching turned to preaching. In like manner, the scholar/pastor mixes teaching with his preaching.
Luther mirrored this method in his preaching. He was concerned to inform his congregation as well as to exhort it. He insisted that his messages should be clear and simple enough that the unlearned could understand them. He said:
Infinite and unutterable is the majesty of the Word of God…. These words of God are not words of Plato or Aristotle, but God himself is speaking. And those preachers are the most suitable who very simply and plainly, without any airs or subtlety, teach the common people and youth, just as Christ taught the people with homespun parables.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 117The LORD’s Faithfulness Endures Forever
117:8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.
10 All nations surrounded me;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
12 They surrounded me like bees;
they went out like a fire among thorns;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
but the LORD helped me.
14 The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
15 Glad songs of salvation
are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
16 the right hand of the LORD exalts,
the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!”
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563The duke, before his departure, had ordered that heavy contributions should be levied upon the city in the following manner:
• 1. That the magistrates and principal inhabitants should pay a thousand crowns per month for the duke's table.
• 2. That every house should pay one pistole, which would monthly amount to 18,000 pistoles.
• 3. That every convent and monastery should pay a donative, proportionable to its riches and rents.
The two last contributions to be appropriated to the maintenance of the army.
The money levied upon the magistrates and principal inhabitants, and upon every house, was paid as soon as demanded; but when the persons applied to the heads of convents and monasteries, they found that the ecclesiastics were not so willing, as other people, to part with their cash.
Of the donatives to be raised by the clergy:
The College of Jesuits to pay - 2000 pistoles.
• Carmelites, - 1000
• Augustins, - 1000
• Dominicans, - 1000
M. de Legal sent to the Jesuits a peremptory order to pay the money immediately. The superior of the Jesuits returned for answer that for the clergy to pay money for the army was against all ecclesiastical immunities; and that he knew of no argument which could authorize such a procedure. M. de Legal then sent four companies of dragoons to quarter themselves in the college, with this sarcastic message. "To convince you of the necessity of paying the money, I have sent four substantial arguments to your college, drawn from the system of military logic; and, therefore, hope you will not need any further admonition to direct your conduct."
These proceedings greatly perplexed the Jesuits, who despatched an express to court to the king's confessor, who was of their order; but the dragoons were much more expeditious in plundering and doing mischief, than the courier in his journey: so that the Jesuits, seeing everything going to wreck and ruin, thought proper to adjust the matter amicably, and paid the money before the return of their messenger. The Augustins and Carmelites, taking warning by what had happened to the Jesuits, prudently went and paid the money, and by that means escaped the study of military arguments, and of being taught logic by dragoons.
But the Dominicans, who were all familiars of, or agents dependent on, the Inquisition, imagined that that very circumstance would be their protection; but they were mistaken, for M. de Legal neither feared nor respected the Inquisition. The chief of the Dominicans sent word to the military commander that his order was poor, and had not any money whatever to pay the donative; for, says he, "The whole wealth of the Dominicans consists only in the silver images of the apostles and saints, as large as life, which are placed in our church, and which it would be sacrilege to remove."
This insinuation was meant to terrify the French commander, whom the inquisitors imagined would not dare to be so profane as to wish for the possession of the precious idols.
He, however, sent word that the silver images would make admirable substitutes for money, and would be more in character in his possession, than in that of the Dominicans themselves, "For [said he] while you possess them in the manner you do at present, they stand up in niches, useless and motionless, without being of the least benefit to mankind in general, or even to yourselves; but, when they come into my possession, they shall be useful; I will put them in motion; for I intend to have them coined, when they may travel like the apostles, be beneficial in various places, and circulate for the universal service of mankind."
The inquisitors were astonished at this treatment, which they never expected to receive, even from crowned heads; they therefore determined to deliver their precious images in a solemn procession, that they might excite the people to an insurrection. The Dominican friars were accordingly ordered to march to de Legal's house, with the silver apostles and saints, in a mournful manner, having lighted tapers with them and bitterly crying all the way, "heresy, heresy."
M. de Legal, hearing these proceedings, ordered four companies of grenadiers to line the street which led to his house; each grenadier was ordered to have his loaded fuzee in one hand, and a lighted taper in the other; so that the troops might either repel force with force, or do honor to the farcical solemnity.
The friars did all they could to raise the tumult, but the common people were too much afraid of the troops under arms to obey them; the silver images were, therefore, of necessity delivered up to M. de Legal, who sent them to the mint, and ordered them to be coined immediately.
The project of raising an insurrection having failed, the inquisitors determined to excommunicate M. de Legal, unless he would release their precious silver saints from imprisonment in the mint, before they were melted down, or otherwise mutilated. The French commander absolutely refused to release the images, but said they should certainly travel and do good; upon which the inquisitors drew up the form of excommunication, and ordered their secretary to go and read it to M. de Legal.
The secretary punctually performed his commission, and read the excommunication deliberately and distinctly. The French commander heard it with great patience, and politely told the secretary that he would answer it the next day.
When the secretary of the Inquisition was gone, M. de Legal ordered his own secretary to prepare a form of excommunication, exactly like that sent by the Inquisition; but to make this alteration, instead of his name to put in those of the inquisitors.
The next morning he ordered four regiments under arms, and commanded them to accompany his secretary, and act as he directed.
The secretary went to the Inquisition, and insisted upon admittance, which, after a great deal of altercation, was granted. As soon as he entered, he read, in an audible voice, the excommunication sent by M. de Legal against the inquisitors. The inquisitors were all present, and heard it with astonishment, never having before met with any individual who dared to behave so boldly. They loudly cried out against de Legal, as a heretic; and said, "This was a most daring insult against the Catholic faith." But to surprise them still more, the French secretary told them that they must remove from their present lodgings; for the French commander wanted to quarter the troops in the Inquisition, as it was the most commodious place in the whole city.
The inquisitors exclaimed loudly upon this occasion, when the secretary put them under a strong guard, and sent them to a place appointed by M. de Legal to receive them. The inquisitors, finding how things went, begged that they might be permitted to take their private property, which was granted; and they immediately set out for Madrid, where they made the most bitter complaints to the king; but the monarch told them that he could not grant them any redress, as the injuries they had received were from his grandfather, the king of France's troops, by whose assistance alone he could be firmly established in his kingdom. "Had it been my own troops, [said he] I would have punished them; but as it is, I cannot pretend to exert any authority."
In the mean time, M. de Legal's secretary set open all the doors of the Inquisition, and released the prisoners, who amounted in the whole to four hundred; and among these were sixty beautiful young women, who appeared to form a seraglio for the three principal inquisitors.
This discovery, which laid the enormity of the inquisitors so open, greatly alarmed the archbishop, who desired M. de Legal to send the women to his palace, and he would take proper care of them; and at the same time he published an ecclesiastical censure against all such as should ridicule, or blame, the holy office of the Inquisition.
The French commander sent word to the archbishop, that the prisoners had either run away, or were so securely concealed by their friends, or even by his own officers, that it was impossible for him to send them back again; and, therefore, the Inquisition having committed such atrocious actions, must now put up with their exposure.
Some may suggest, that it is strange crowned heads and eminent nobles did not attempt to crush the power of the Inquisition, and reduce the authority of those ecclesiastical tyrants, from whose merciless fangs neither their families nor themselves were secure.
But astonishing as it is, superstition hath, in this case, always overcome common sense, and custom operated against reason. One prince, indeed, intended to abolish the Inquisition, but he lost his life before he became king, and consequently before he had the power so to do; for the very intimation of his design procured his destruction.
This was that amiable prince Don Carlos, son of Philip the Second, king of Spain, and grandson of the celebrated emperor Charles V. Don Carlos possessed all the good qualities of his grandfather, without any of the bad ones of his father; and was a prince of great vivacity, admirable learning, and the most amiable disposition. He had sense enough to see into the errors of popery, and abhorred the very name of the Inquisition. He inveighed publicly against the institution, ridiculed the affected piety of the inquisitors, did all he could to expose their atrocious deeds, and even declared, that if he ever came to the crown, he would abolish the Inquisition, and exterminate its agents.
These things were sufficient to irritate the inquisitors against the prince: they, accordingly, bent their minds to vengeance, and determined on his destruction.
The inquisitors now employed all their agents and emissaries to spread abroad the most artful insinuations against the prince; and, at length raised such a spirit of discontent among the people that the king was under the necessity of removing Don Carlos from court. Not content with this, they pursued even his friends, and obliged the king likewise to banish Don John, duke of Austria, his own brother, and consequently uncle to the prince; together with the prince of Parma, nephew to the king, and cousin to the prince, because they well knew that both the duke of Austria, and the prince of Parma, had a most sincere and inviolable attachment to Don Carlos.
Some few years after, the prince having shown great lenity and favor to the Protestants in the Netherlands, the Inquisition loudly exclaimed against him, declaring, that as the persons in question were heretics, the prince himself must necessarily be one, since he gave them countenance. In short, they gained so great an ascendency over the mind of the king, who was absolutely a slave to superstition, that, shocking to relate, he sacrificed the feelings of nature to the force of bigotry, and, for fear of incurring the anger of the Inquisition, gave up his only son, passing the sentence of death on him himself.
The prince, indeed, had what was termed an indulgence; that is, he was permitted to choose the manner of his death. Roman-like, the unfortunate young hero chose bleeding and the hot bath; when the veins of his arms and legs were opened, he expired gradually, falling a martyr to the malice of the inquisitors, and the stupid bigotry of his father.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Comments On The Cross
By A.W. TozerAll unannounced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental.
From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique-a new type of meeting and a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.
The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam's proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.
The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.
The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, "Come and assert yourself for Christ." To the egotist it says, "Come and do your boasting in the Lord." To the thrill seeker it says, "Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship." The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.
The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.
The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.
The race of Adam is under death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life.
That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die.
We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.
God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God's just sentence against him.
What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life? Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God's stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die.
Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.
To any who may object to this or count it merely a narrow and private view of truth, let me say God has set His hallmark of approval upon this message from Paul's day to the present. Whether stated in these exact words or not, this has been the content of all preaching that has brought life and power to the world through the centuries. The mystics, the reformers, the revivalists have put their emphasis here, and signs and wonders and mighty operations of the Holy Ghost gave witness to God's approval.
Dare we, the heirs of such a legacy of power, tamper with the truth? Dare we with our stubby pencils erase the lines of the blueprint or alter the pattern shown us in the Mount? May God forbid. Let us preach the old cross and we will know the old power.
Man - the Dwelling Place of God
The Continual Burnt Offering (Ephesians 3:14)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
October 22Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, ESV
Paul locates the whole redeemed family in two places. They are either in Heaven or on earth. This is the death blow to the idea of purgatory — a third state between Heaven and Hell. And it is also the perfect answer to soul-sleep theories of every kind. Paul does not say, “The whole family in the grave and on earth.” He declares they are either in Heaven or on earth. This agrees with many other Scriptures. Our loved ones in Christ, when they leave this scene are at once “absent from the body…present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). They depart to be with Christ, as Paul says in Philippians 1. It is only the tired, weary bodies of the saints that sleep until the resurrection morning when the dead will be raised and the living changed.
2 Corinthians 5:8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. ESV
Our Father’s home on high,
Home to our souls how dear!
E’en now, to faith’s transpiercing eye
Thy golden gates appear.
Our thirsty spirits faint
To reach the home we love,
The bright inheritance of saints—
And though there intervene
Rough seas and stormy skies,
Though by no mortal vision seen,
Thy glory fills our eyes.
There shall all clouds depart,
The wilderness shall cease,
And sweetly shall each gladdened heart
Enjoy eternal peace.
--- J. Montgomery
Counsels Of The Aged To The Young (1844)
By Archibald Alexander
1772 - 1851It is a matter of serious regret that young people are commonly so little disposed to listen to the advice of the aged. This was written in 1844, but now, in 2020, little has changed. I did counseling for almost ten years for a now very liberal seminary and I found that seminary students and pastors paid far more attention to what I had to say than my four sons. This prejudice seems to have its origin in an apprehension that austerity and rigor naturally belong to advanced years; and that the loss of all susceptibility of pleasure from those scenes and objects which afford delight to the young, produces something of an ill-natured or envious feeling towards them. Now it cannot be denied that some of the aged are chargeable with the fault of being too rigid in exacting from youth the same steady gravity which is fitting in those who have lived long, and have had much experience in the world: not remembering that the constitutional temperament of these two periods of human life is very different.
In youth, the spirits are buoyant, the susceptibilities lively, the affections ardent, and the hopes optimistic. To the young, everything in the world wears the garb of freshness; and the novelty and variety of the scenes presented keep up a constant excitement. These traits of youthful character, as long as sin and excess are avoided, are not only allowable, but amiable; and would in that age be badly exchanged for the more sedate and grave emotions which are the natural effects of increasing years, and of long and painful experience.
But it is greatly to be desired that the lessons of wisdom taught by the experience of one set of men should be made available for the instruction of those who come after them. We have, therefore, determined to address a few short hints of advice to the rising generation, on subjects of deep and acknowledged importance to all; but previously to commencing, we would assure them that it is no part of our object to interfere with their innocent enjoyments, or to deprive them of one pleasure which cannot be shown to be injurious to their best interests. We wish to approach you, dear youth, in the character of affectionate friends, rather than in that of dogmatic teachers or stern reprovers. We would therefore solicit your patient, candid and impartial attention to the following counsels:
1. Resolve to form your lives upon some certain principles, and to regulate your actions by fixed rules. Man was made to be governed by reason, and not by mere accident or caprice. It is important, therefore, that you begin early to consider and inquire what is the proper course of human conduct, and to form some plan for your future lives. The lack of such consideration is manifest in the conduct of multitudes. They are governed by the reckless impulses of the moment, heedless of consequences. Sounds like today. They have fixed no steady aim and have adopted no certain principles of action. Living thus at random—it would be a miracle if they went uniformly right. In order to your pursuing a right path, you must know what that path is, and to acquire this knowledge, you must divest yourselves of thoughtless giddiness, you must take time for serious reflection.
It will not sufficient, to adopt without consideration the opinions of your acquaintances, for they may have some sinister design in regard to you, or they may themselves be misled by error or prejudice. People already involved in dissipation or entangled in error, naturally desire to encourage themselves, by the number of followers whom they can seduce into the paths of vice. As reasonable creatures, therefore, judge for yourselves what course it is right and fitting that you should pursue. Exercise your own reason independently and impartially, and do not give yourselves up to be governed by mere caprice and fashion, or by the opinions of others.
2. While you are young, avail yourselves of every opportunity of acquiring useful KNOWLEDGE. Reason should guide us; but without correct knowledge reason is useless; just as the most perfectly formed eye would be useless without light. There is in every man a natural thirst for knowledge, which needs only to be cultivated and rightly directed. All have not equal opportunities of obtaining important knowledge: but all have more advantages for this object than they utilize. The sources of information are innumerable: the principal, however, are books and other people. In regard to the former, no age of the world which has passed was so favored with a multiplicity of books as our own. Indeed the very number and diversity of character and tendency of authors now create one of the most obvious difficulties to those who are destitute of wise advisers. It would be an unwise counsel to tell you to read indiscriminately whatever comes to hand. The press gives circulation not only to useful knowledge, but to error dressed up plausibly in the garb of truth. Many books are useless, others are on the whole injurious, and some are impregnated with a deadly poison. Waste not your time in works of idle fiction. Touch not the book which exhibits vice in an alluring form. Seek the advice of judicious friends in the choice of books.
But you may also learn much from listening to the conversation of the wise and godly. There is scarcely a person so ignorant, who has lived any time in the world, who cannot communicate some profitable hint to the young. Avail yourselves, then, of every opportunity of learning what you do not know; and let not pride prevent you from seeking instruction, lest by this means you should betray your ignorance. Nourish the desire of knowledge, and keep your mind constantly awake and open to instruction from every quarter.
But, especially, I would recommend to you the acquisition of self-knowledge. "Know yourself" was a precept held in such high esteem among the ancients, that the honor of inventing it was claimed for several of their wisest men; and not only so, but on account of its superlative excellence, it was believed by many to have been uttered by the oracle of Apollo at Delphi; at which place, as Pliny informs us, it was conspicuously written in letters of gold, over the door of the temple.
And this species of knowledge is also inculcated in the Christian Scriptures as most useful and necessary. "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Cor 13:5) And in the Old Testament the value of this knowledge is also fully recognized, where we are exhorted "to commune with our own hearts", (Psalm 4:4) and "to keep our hearts with all diligence". (Prov 4:23) And the possession of it is made an object of fervent prayer: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts" (Psalm 139:23)—"Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind." (Psalm 26:2)
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
Psalm 4:4 Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
Psalm 26:2 Prove me, O LORD, and try me;
test my heart and my mind. ESV
Psalm 119:130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple. ESV
Seize favorable opportunities of judging of the latent strength of your passions. The fact is that, until some new occasion elicits our feelings, we are as ignorant of what is within us, as other people.
Study also your constitutional temperament, and consider attentively the power which particular objects and circumstances have over you. You may often learn even from your enemies and calumniators what are the weak points in your character. They are sagacious in detecting faults, and generally have some shadow of truth for what they allege against us. We may therefore derive more benefit from the sarcasms of our foes, than from the flattery of our friends.
Learn, moreover, to form a correct estimate of your own abilities, as this is necessary to guide you in your undertakings.
3. Be careful to form good HABITS. Almost all permanent habits are contracted in youth, and these do in fact form the character of the man through life. It is Paley, I believe, who remarks that we act from habit nine times, where we do once from deliberation. Little do young people apprehend the momentous consequences of many of their most frequently repeated actions. Some habits are merely inconvenient, but have no moral quality; others affect the principles of our conduct, and become sources of good or evil to an incalculable degree. As to the former, they should be avoided, as detracting from our comfort and ultimately interfering with our usefulness; but the latter should be deprecated, as laying the foundation of a wicked character, and as standing in the way of all mental and moral improvement.
4. Be particular and select, in the company which you keep, and the FRIENDSHIPS which you form. "Tell me," says the proverb, "what company you keep, and I will tell you what you are." "Bad company ruins good morals." (1 Cor 15:33) Vice is more easily and extensively diffused by improper companions, than by all other means. As one infected sheep communicates disease to a whole flock, so one sinner often destroys much good, by corrupting all the youth who fall under his influence. When wicked men are possessed of wit and fascinating personality, their influence is most dangerous to the young. We would entreat you, dear young friends, to form an intimacy with no one whose principles are suspicious. The friendship of profligate men is exceedingly dangerous. Listen not to their fair speeches, and warm professions of attachment. Fly from contact with them, as from one infected with the plague! Form no close alliance with such. No more think of taking them to your bosom, than you would a viper! Gaze not on their beauty, nor allow yourselves to be charmed with their fascination of manners. Under these specious appearances, a deadly poison lurks!
1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” ESV
"Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers", (2 Cor 6:14) is the exhortation of Scripture. And what can be more unfitting and incongruous, than for an amiable and virtuous woman to be indissolubly united to an unprincipled debauchee? Or, for a good man to be married to a woman destitute of piety and virtue? Be especially careful, therefore, in forming alliances for life. Seek friendship with the wise and godly, and you will become wiser and better by converse with such.
2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? ESV
5. Endeavor to acquire and maintain a good REPUTATION. "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches." (Prov 22:1) A ruined fortune may be recovered, a lost reputation never. Young men are often laying the foundation of a bad reputation, while they are thinking of no such thing. They never dream that the character which they attain at school or college will probably be as lasting as life. The youth who is known to be addicted to falsehood, knavery, treachery, etc., when arrived at the age of man, will be viewed by those who know him with distrust. A stain on the character is not easily washed out; at a distant period the faults and follies of youth may be revived to a man's confusion and injury. But especially is the female character exquisitely delicate. A small degree of imprudence will often fix a stigma on the mirthful young lady, which no subsequent sobriety can completely erase.
Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold. ESV
6. Manage your FINANCIAL concerns with economy and discretion. Avoid the inconvenience, embarrassment, and vexation of being in debt. Conduct your business with attention and diligence; and have your accounts in such a condition, that you will be at no loss to ascertain the true state of your affairs. Men often become unjust, and injurious to others, without having intended any such thing, merely by a confused and careless manner of transacting their business. Such a man, after a while, feels an unconquerable aversion to a scrutiny into his affairs. He shuts his eyes against the ruin which he is bringing on himself, and heedlessly rushes forward in the path which habit or fashion has rendered agreeable. When, at length, an exigence arrives which constrains him to adopt some measure to extricate himself from his difficulties, he is placed under strong temptation to resort to a course which is not strictly honorable. He persuades himself that, if he can save his credit for the present, he will be able to rectify everything by diligence and good fortune, and to preserve his friends from suffering on his account. But these efforts to recover lost ground commonly prove ineffectual, and render the situation of the person more involved than before. He finds, at length, that he is sinking; and this discovery often produces a desperate recklessness. He plunges deeper and deeper into debt, and often drags to ruin, not only his own family, but some of his friends who confided too implicitly in his truth and integrity.
It is also too common for men who have failed in trade, to resort to means for the support of a helpless family, which a sound moral faculty never can approve. The temptation arising from the tender love of wife and children is indeed very strong, but not invincible. In the commercial world, there are many illustrious examples of merit, honor, and the strictest honesty in men who had it in their power to defraud their creditors, or deeply to involve their confiding friends; but who chose rather to look haggard poverty in the face, and to see their beloved families descending from affluence into the valley of obscurity, than to be guilty of a dishonorable act. And in the long run this turns out more to the benefit of those people, than any advantage obtained by a resort to shifts and evasions not entirely consistent with the highest integrity.
He who sacrifices reputation for present comfort buys it at too dear a rate. The merchant who, when he fails, loses his reputation for truth and integrity, will meet with but little favor from the world, and will have very little chance of rising again. But he who has been unfortunate, and yet maintains his integrity and preserves his character unsullied, is often able to enter again into business under favorable auspices; and is encouraged and aided in his attempts to gain a living, by men of wealth and standing. Such a man is often successful to such a degree, that he has it in his power to compensate those from whom benefit was derived in the day of his calamity.
Beware of being governed by ambition in your commercial enterprises. The pride of doing a large business, and of being considered as at the head of the profession, seduces many aspiring young merchants: and 'greediness of gain' tempts still more to engage in hazardous speculations, and to trade to an extent not authorized by the capital which they have at command. In this way bankruptcies become so common, that the event ceases to excite much surprise. Families delicately raised, and long accustomed to the luxuries as well as the comforts of life, are reduced to poverty.
Multitudes of such families are found in our large commercial cities, who are really more properly the objects of charity, than is the common beggar who clamorously solicits your charity. The real privations and sufferings of such are not fully known; for, from the desire of avoiding the contempt and the pity of vulgar minds, such people spread a decent veil over their indigence, and prefer to pine secretly in poverty, rather than to seek relief by a public disclosure of their necessities. The Christian philanthropist will, however, seek out such sufferers, and will contrive methods of bestowing relief upon them in a way consistent with the delicacy of their feelings.
The above remarks are particularly adapted to those who engage in commerce; but they are not inapplicable to others. It is true, integrity is the soul of a merchant; but it is a sterling quality which every man ought to possess; and all men are liable to be reduced to a state of indigence by a long series of adverse events. My counsel then is, that you commence and pursue business with prudence; and when unfortunate, that you so act as to preserve your integrity and your reputation, by resorting to no equivocal means of relief; but resolve to act in conformity with the strictest rules of justice and honor.
7. Aim at CONSISTENCY in your Christian character. There is a beauty in moral consistency, which resembles the symmetry of a well-proportioned building—where nothing is deficient, nothing excess. Consistency can only be acquired and maintained by cultivating every part of the Christian character. The circle of Christian virtues must be complete, without chasms or insincerity. A character which is well proportioned and nicely balanced in all its parts, we are not very frequently permitted to witness. For, while in one branch there is vigor and even exuberance, in another there may be the appearance of feebleness and fruitlessness. The man who is distinguished for virtues of a particular class, is apt to be deficient in those which belong to a different class.
This is so commonly the fact, that many entertain the opinion that the same person cannot excel in every virtue. Thus it is not expected that the man of remarkable firmness and courage should at the same time be distinguished for meekness and gentleness. But after making due allowance for a difference of constitutional temperament, we must maintain that there is not, nor can there be, any incompatibility between the several virtues of the Christian life. They are all branches of the same root, and the principle which affords nourishment to one, communicates its virtue to all.
As all truth is harmonious, however it may, on a superficial and partial view, seem to be contradictory; so all the exercises of moral goodness are not only consistent, but assist and adorn each other. This is so much the case, that symmetry of Christian character has, by some distinguished writers, been laid down as a necessary evidence of genuineness. And it has been insisted on, as probable, that where one virtue seems to exist in great strength, while others are remarkably lacking, it is a mark of spuriousness.
There is much reason in this view of the subject; for men are frequently found whose zeal blazes out ardently and conspicuously, so as to leave most others far back in their shadows, while they are totally destitute of that humility, meekness and brotherly kindness which form an essential part of the Christian character. Some men are conscientious and punctilious in the performance of all the external rites and duties connected with the worship of God — who are inattentive to the obligations of strict justice and veracity in their fellowship with men. And on the other hand, many boast of their morality, and yet are notoriously inattentive to the duties of religion.
Real Christians, too, are often chargeable with inconsistency, which arises from a lack of clear discernment of the rule of moral conduct in its application to particular cases; for while the general principles of duty are plain, and easily understood by all; the ability to discriminate between right and wrong in many complicated cases is extremely rare. This delicate and correct perception of moral relations can only be acquired by the divine blessing on our assiduous exertions. It is too commonly taken for granted that Christian morals are a subject so easy, that all close study of it is unnecessary. This is an injurious mistake. Many of the deficiencies and inconsistencies of Christians are owing to a lack of clear and correct knowledge of the exact rule of moral conduct. On no subject will you find a greater diversity of opinion, than in regard to the lawfulness or unlawfulness of particular practices. And even godly men are often thrown into difficulty and doubt respecting the proper course to be pursued.
But while many cases of inconsistency arise from ignorance of the exact standard of rectitude, more must be attributed to heedlessness and forgetfulness. Many Christian people do not act sufficiently from principle, but too much from custom, from fashion, and from habit. Thus many actions are performed without any inquiry into their moral character. There is an dullness in that person's moral sensibility, which permits evils to pass without censure.
Another cause of the inconsistency so commonly observed, is the prevalence which certain passions or appetites may obtain, in the time of temptation. The force of the internal principles of evil is not perceived when the objects and circumstances favorable to their exercise are absent. As the venomous adder seems to be harmless while chilled with cold, but soon manifests his malignity when brought near the fire — so sin often lies hid in the bosom, as though it were dead — until some exciting cause draws it forth into exercise. And then the person himself is surprised to find the strength of his own passions, above anything which he had before conceived. Thus men often act, in certain circumstances, in a way altogether contrary to the general tenor of their conduct.
It is by no means a fair inference from a single act of irregularity, that the person who is guilty of it has acted hypocritically in all the apparent good actions of his former life. The true explanation is, that principles of action which he has commonly been able to govern and restrain, acquire, in some unguarded moment, or under the power of some strong temptation, a force which his good principles are not at that moment strong enough to oppose. The man who is usually correct and orderly may thus be overtaken in a fault; and as all people are liable to the same frailties, there should exist a disposition to receive and restore an offending brother, when he gives sufficient evidence of penitence.
Man at his best estate in this world is an inconsistent * creature. The only people in whom this defect is not observed are the men who by grace live near to God, and exercise a constant jealousy and vigilance over themselves. But when faith is weak and inconstant, great inconsistencies will mar the beauty of the Christian character.
Will you agree that until Jesus Christ returns Satan is the prince of this world? So all the terrible evil we see is because of Satan, not God. Many so called acts of God are acts of Satan. Satan, as prince of this world, is why so many occult so called sciences do work on those who are far from God, but those who seek the Lord, those who call out to Jesus Christ do not react to this or that influence. They respond with the mind of Christ.
Almost forty years ago I practiced astrology. It was remarkable how well it worked until I emcountered someone devoted to Jesus Christ. Then all the Uranus squaring Mars on their ascendant meant nothing. I could take their entire astroogical chart and throw it out the window because they were ruled by Jesus Christ. Rather than react to influences they responded with the mind of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the answer to inconsistent living.
Young people ought, therefore, to begin early to exercise this vigilance, and to keep their hearts with all diligence, lest they be ensnared by their own passions, and overcome by the power of temptation. I counsel you then, my young friends, to aim at consistency. Cultivate assiduously every part of the Christian character, so that there may appear a beautiful proportion in your virtue.
The reflections to which I have been led in speaking of consistency of Christian character, suggest the importance of urging upon you the government of your passions. A man who has no control over his passions is justly compared to a ship at sea, which is driven by fierce winds, while she neither is governed by the rudder nor steered by the compass. By indulgence, the passions gain strength very rapidly; and when once the habit of indulgence is fixed, the moral condition of the sinner is most deplorable, and almost desperate.
To preserve consistency, it is necessary to be well acquainted with the weak points in our own character, to know something of the strength of our own passions, and to guard beforehand against the occasions and temptations which would be likely to cause us to act inconsistently with our Christian profession. Many men have successfully contended with their own passions, and although naturally of a hasty and irritable temper, have, by constant discipline, brought themselves into a habitual state of calmness — so that however they may be conscious of the strugglings of the natural passions, they are kept so completely under restraint — that to others they do not seem to exist!
The anecdote which is related of Socrates and the physiognomist is instructive on this point. When the latter, upon examining the lines of the philosopher's face, pronounced that he was a man of bad temper, and exceedingly irascible, the disciples of Socrates laughed him to scorn, as having betrayed the weakness of his art by so totally mistaking the true disposition of their master. But Socrates checked their ridicule by acknowledging that his natural temper had been truly represented by the physiognomist, but that by self-discipline, he had been able to acquire such a mastery over his passions, that their existence was not apparent.
To achieve a victory of this kind is more honorable than to conquer in the field of battle; according to that of the wise man, "Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his own spirit than he who takes a city." (Prov 16:32) And again, "He that has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls." (Prov 25:28) Learn then, my young friends, to bridle your passions, and govern your temper, from your earliest days.
Proverbs 16:32 Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
Proverbs 25:28 A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls. ESV
9. Let your fellowship with others be marked by a strict and conscientious regard to truth, honor, justice, kindness and courtesy. We should certainly have recommended politeness, as a happy means of polishing social fellowship, and affording pleasure to those with whom you are conversant; but many are accustomed to connect an unpleasant idea with this word. But surely, genuine politeness, if not itself a virtue, spreads a charm and a beauty over that which is virtuous. And certainly there is no merit in awkwardness and clownishness. But our chief object under this particular is to urge upon you a constant and meticulous regard to the social virtues. Be honest, be upright, sincere, men of your word, faithful to every trust, kind to everybody, respectful where respect is due, generous according to your ability, grateful for benefits received, and delicate in the mode of conferring favors. Let your integrity be unsuspected. Never resort to any base or underhand measure: but let your conduct and conversation be characterized by frankness and candor, by patience, and a spirit of generosity and forgiveness. In short, "do unto others, as you would have them do unto you". (Matt 7:12)
Matthew 7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. ESV
10. Do not live merely for yourselves, but also for the good of others. Selfishness contracts the soul, and hardens the heart. The man absorbed in selfish pursuits is incapable of the sweetest, noblest joys of which our nature is susceptible. The Author of our being has ordained laws, according to which the most exquisite pleasure is connected, not with the direct pursuit of our own happiness — but with the exercise of benevolence. On this principle it is, that he who labors wholly for the benefit of others, and as it were forgets himself — is far happier than the man who makes himself the center of all his affections, the sole object of all his exertions. On this principle it was, that our Savior said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35) Resolve, therefore, to lead lives of usefulness. Be indifferent to nothing which has any relation to the welfare of men. Be not afraid of diminishing your own happiness, by seeking that of others. Devise liberal things, and let not covetous or avarice shut up your hand from giving to him who has a genuine need, and to promote the cause of piety and humanity.
Acts 20:35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” ESV
11. Be faithful and conscientious in the discharge of all duties which arise out of the relations which you sustain to others. 'Relative duties' are far more numerous than all others, because the occasions requiring their performance are constantly occurring. The duties of parents, of children, of brothers and sisters, of neighbors, of masters and servants, of teachers and pupils, of magistrates and citizens, of the learned professions, of trade, of the rich and the poor—occupy a very large portion of the time and attention of every man. And these furnish the proper test of character. "He who is faithful in little — is faithful also in much." (Luke 16:10) And he who is not attentive to the daily recurring duties of his station Ah, my sweet Lily, such a servant to others. — in vain claims the reputation of virtue or piety by splendid acts of public beneficence. "Though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and have not love — it profits me nothing." (1 Cor 13:3)
Luke 16:10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.
1 Corinthians 13:3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. ESV
12. Exercise incessant vigilance against the dangers and TEMPTATIONS by which you are surrounded, and by which you will certainly be assailed. These dangers are too numerous to be specified in detail, but I will mention a few. Guard solicitously against all approaches towards infidelity. Reject unbelieving thoughts and skeptical doubts from the beginning. Even if the system of infidelity were true — it promises no comfort, and cannot possibly be serviceable to you. But the best security will be to study diligently the evidences of Christianity, and be ready to meet the cavils of infidelity at all points. Make yourselves well acquainted with the best authors on this subject, and let your faith rest on the firm ground of evidence.
Another danger against which you must be watchful is pleasure—sensual pleasure. Worldly amusements, however innocent they may appear, are replete with hidden dangers. These scenes exhilarate the spirits, and excite the imagination — until 'reason' and 'conscience' are hushed, and the real end of living is forgotten. For the sake of pleasure, everything important and sacred is neglected, and the most valuable part of human life wasted in unprofitable engagements. Beware then of the vortex of worldliness, and especially of the least approach towards the 'gulf of intemperance'. On that slippery ground, many strong men have fallen, never to rise.
The trophies of this insidious and destructive vice, are widely spread on every side, and the wise and the godly have come to the conclusion that there is no effectual security against this enemy, but in a resolute and persevering abstinence from inebriating drink. Seek your happiness, dear youth, in the pursuit of useful objects and in the performance of duty, and then you will be safe, and will have no reason to envy the votaries of sensual pleasure.
13. Govern your TONGUE! More sin, it is probable, is committed, and more mischief done, by this small member — than in all other ways. The faculty of speech is one of our most useful endowments, but it is exceedingly liable to abuse. He who knows how to bridle his tongue is, therefore, in Scripture, denominated "a perfect man." (James 3:2) Again, of him "who seems to be religious and bridles not his tongue", (James 1:26) it is declared that "this man's religion is vain". The words which we utter are a fair index of the moral state of the mind. "By your words," says our Lord, "shall you be justified, and by your words shall you be condemned." (Matt 12:37) Not only are sins of the tongue more numerous than others, but some of them are the most heinous of which man can be guilty. That one sin which has no forgiveness, is a sin of the tongue.
James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.
James 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
Matthew 12:37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” ESV
Not only should all profaneness, obscenity, and falsehood be put far away, but you should continually endeavor to render your conversation useful. Be ever ready to communicate godly knowledge, to suggest profitable ideas, to recommend virtue and piety, to rebuke sin, and to give glory to God. Beware of evil-speaking. A habit of criticism is one of the worst which you can contract — and is always indicative of an envious and malignant heart. Instead of prostituting this active and useful member to the purposes of slander, employ it in defending the innocent and the injured.
Permit me to suggest the following brief rules for the government of the tongue.
Avoid loquacity. "When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise." (Prov 10:19) If you have nothing to communicate which can be useful — then be silent.
Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. ESV
Especially, be cautious about uttering anything in the form of a promise, without consideration. Be conscientiously regardful of truth, even in the smallest things—in all that you say.
Never speak what will be likely to excite bad feelings of any kind in the minds of others. Be ready on all suitable occasions to give utterance to good sentiments, especially such as may be useful to the young.
Listen respectfully to the opinions of others, but never fail to give your testimony, modestly but firmly, against error. "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." (Col 4:6; Eph 4:29)
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. ESV
14. Keep a good CONSCIENCE. If wickedness had no other punishment than the stings of conscience which follow evil actions, it would be reason enough to induce every considerate man to avoid that which is productive of so much pain. No misery of which the human mind is susceptible, is so intolerable and so irremediable as remorse of conscience. The pain of conscience is liable to be renewed as often as the guilty action is distinctly recollected. It is true, the conscience, by means of error and repeated resistance to its dictates, may become callous— "seared as with a hot iron"; (1 Tim 4:2) but this apparent death of moral sensibility is no more than a sleep. At an unexpected time, and in circumstances the most inconvenient, conscience may be aroused, and may exert a more tremendous power than was ever before experienced. The increasing guilt of sins committed, while no notice seemed to be taken of them — now demand and enforce consideration. Oh Lord, how I pray all those resorting to violence would be overtaken by their long dormant conscience.
1 Timothy 4:2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, ESV
Joseph's brethren seemed to have almost forgotten their unnatural and cruel conduct in selling him as a slave into a foreign country; but when many years had elapsed, and they found themselves environed with difficulties and dangers in that very land, the remembrance of their crime painfully rushed upon their minds, and extorted from them mutual confessions of their guilt. "God," said they, "has found out the iniquity of your servants." (Gen 44:16) "And they said one to another, we are very guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore has this distress come upon us." (Gen 42:21)
Genesis 44:16 And Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we and he also in whose hand the cup has been found.”
Genesis 42:21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.”
Numbers 32:23 But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out. ESV
Men often endeavor to escape from the stings of a guilty conscience by a change of place, but the remedy is ineffectual. The transgressor may traverse the widest ocean, transcend the loftiest mountains, and bury himself in the dark recesses of the desert — but he cannot fly so far, nor conceal himself so effectually, as to escape from his tormentor. In some cases the agonies of remorse have been so intolerable, that the guilty perpetrator of great wickedness has preferred strangling and death, to the miserable life with a guilty conscience, and the suicide has rushed uncalled into the presence of his Judge! And in other cases, men guilty of bloody crimes have found the pangs of remorse so intolerable that they have voluntarily given themselves up to justice; and by a voluntary confession, have convicted themselves, when no human witnesses were competent to prove their guilt.
But what man is there who has not committed sins, the recollection of which gives him sensible pain? And such acts often stand out in sharpness, in the retrospect of the past. No effort can obliterate such things from the memory. We may turn away our eyes from the disagreeable object — but the painful idea will return again. And thus men whose consciences are not seared, are haunted by guilt as by a troublesome spirit; and often their sins find them out, and stare them in the face, when danger threatens, or when calamity has overtaken them. Why moral sensibility should be so much more exquisite at some times than others cannot be easily explained, but the fact is certain, and is probably familiar to the consciousness of all.
There may indeed exist a morbid susceptibility, an unreasonable scrupulousness and terror of conscience, which is a real and distressing disease, and which yields only to physical remedies judiciously applied. Melancholy is not the effect of religious impressions; but is a state of mind of a most unhappy kind, produced by a derangement of the physical system, and which leads the subject of it to fix his thoughts on those things which are most dreadful and gloomy. The same is true in regard to insanity. Many people entertain strong prejudices against experimental religion, because they wrongly think that it endangers the reason, and drives the timid and weak-minded into mania.
Now it is no doubt true that any strong emotion or passion may, when there exists a predisposition to the disease, disturb the regular exercise of reason; but that this danger is greater to people deeply exercised about religion than to others, is utterly without foundation. Fanaticism, it may be conceded, has a tendency to insanity. Indeed, it has long appeared to me that fanaticism, especially in its mildest forms, is nothing else than a species of insanity. I have upon no other hypothesis been able to account for the opinions and conduct of some people who have been led away into the excesses of enthusiasm.
But what is the most effectual preservative from this kind of mental derangement? Is it irreligion, vice, and infidelity? By no means. People who take refuge in such things find them to be "refuges of lies". (Isa 28:17) The only effectual remedy against the misery of a disturbed mind and a guilty conscience, is true religion. For this wound, the balm of Gilead, is the only medicine which is proved by experience to be efficacious. He who is able to cherish a lively hope of happiness beyond the grave, who can look up to God as a reconciled Father, and who feels good will to all men — has surely within him the ingredients of a settled peace of mind.
Isaiah 28:17 I will make justice the line,
and righteousness the plumb line;
and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and waters will overwhelm the shelter.” ESV
Hebrews 12:24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. ESV
A good conscience is always an enlightened conscience. Through error, a man may believe that he is doing God service — when he is persecuting His people; but such a conscience is not good. Men may act conscientiously and yet act very wickedly. I suppose that all the devotees of the most absurd and impious superstitions, act according to the dictates of conscience, even when they sacrifice human beings, and expose to death their own offspring, or themselves; but who would say that such a conscience was good? The correct knowledge of truth, therefore, lies at the foundation of a good conscience. Nothing is more important to man, than the truth; therefore "buy the truth and sell it not". (Prov 23:23)
Proverbs 23:23 Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. ESVBut too often conscience is not regarded when it correctly dictates what should be done or avoided. Amidst the cravings of sinful appetite, the storm of the passions, and the incessant bustle of the world — the whispers of conscience are not heeded. In multitudes of instances, where people do wrong, they have a premonition of the evil; or at least a suggestion that it is proper to inquire and consider what justice and duty demand. Some people are conscientious in great matters, who, in comparatively small concerns, seem to have no moral discernment.
The habit of consulting the moral sense in all things, is of great importance. Before you act, consider; and beware of the false coloring which passion and self-interest throw around the subjects of duty. Lean to the safe side. Where an action is of dubious character, do not venture upon it. Be fully persuaded in your own mind, "for whatever is not of faith is sin". (Rom 14:23) Some people are conscientious and punctilious about little things, but careless about the weightier matters of the law. This is the conscience of a hypocrite. Others have a mind ill at ease, because the festering wound of guilt has never been thoroughly probed and cleansed, but merely externally healed. Their repentance has not been deep enough, nor universal enough; or some secret sin is still too much indulged. Now while these are the facts, a good conscience is an impossible thing. Sincere penitence, humiliation and confession—are God's prescribed remedy. Where these are lacking, the conscience will not be at peace.
Romans 14:23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. ESV
Now whatever may be the infirmity or moral defect which cleaves to us, it is odious in the sight of God, and tends to grieve the Holy Spirit. In just judgment, we are left to darkness, barrenness, and misery, because we have not sufficiently desired deliverance from sin; but have made vain excuses for our own faults. I would then counsel you, especially, to nourish the motions of the Holy Comforter. By His divine influences alone, a good conscience can be maintained. And if you are sensible that you have grieved the Spirit, so that you are left comfortless, never rest until you again experience the peace and joy which is the fruit of His indwelling.
15. Cultivate PEACE. Next to the blessing of peace with God and in our own conscience, is that of peace with our fellow men. "As much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men." (Rom 12:18) And again, "Follow peace with all men." (Heb 12:14) The real source of all the wars, contentions, and disturbances which are in the world, is the pride, the envy, the covetousness, and other evil passions of our nature. Eradicate these, and in their place introduce pure and kind affections, and you will experience a double peace—peace within, and peace with others.
Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. ESV
Every Christian temper is friendly to peace. I know, indeed, that Christ says that He came not to bring peace but a sword. But He refers not to the nature of His religion—but to the reactions which He foresaw would occur from the perverse opposition of men—to that which is godly. The genuine spirit and tendency of the Gospel is beautifully and emphatically expressed in the angelic anthem, sung by the celestial choir at the nativity of our Savior—"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men." (Luke 2:14) All the adopted sons of God are sons of peace, and are peacemakers. "Live in peace," says Paul, "and the God of peace shall be with you." (2 Cor 13:11) Christian humility, meekness, and benevolence must, from the nature of the case, have a mighty influence in producing and maintaining peace. For, as the apostle Peter argues, "Who will harm you, if you be followers of that which is good"? (1 Pet 3:13)
Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
1 Peter 3:13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? ESV
No system was ever so well adapted to produce universal peace as Christianity, and the only reason why this effect has not followed its reception everywhere, is that its true tenor and spirit have not been imbibed. Just so far as this blessed system is cordially embraced, it cuts up by the roots all causes of contention, except that which has for its subjects, sin and error. It teaches us not only to love our friends and brethren, but also our bitterest enemies, to return blessing for cursing, and kindness for ill treatment. Endeavor then to cherish habitually those kind affections which lead to peace; and while you seek peace in your own souls, make it an object to promote peace in the world, and covet the blessedness which is pronounced to belong to peacemakers. Their high honor it is to be denominated "the sons of God".
16. As "man is born to sorrow as the sparks fly upwards"; (Job 5:7) as no situation is exempt from the arrows of adversity — I would give it as a necessary counsel, to learn to bear AFFLICTION with fortitude and resignation. To dream of escaping what is appointed unto all, would be to fall wilfully into a dangerous delusion. Every man is vulnerable in so many points, that nothing short of a perpetual miracle could shield any one from the strokes of adversity. Indeed, piety of the most exalted kind, does not secure its possessor from affliction and persecution. Christ Himself suffered while in the world, and has left His followers a perfect example of holy fortitude and filial submission to the will of God. When sorely pressed with the inconceivable load of our sins, so that His human soul could not have sustained it unless supported by the divine nature, His language was, "Not my will but may your will be done." (Luke 22:42)
Job 5:7 but man is born to trouble
as the sparks fly upward.
Those afflictions which are allotted to the people of God are necessary parts of beneficial discipline, intended to purify them from the dross of sin, and to prepare them for the service of God here, and the enjoyment of God in the world to come. They are, therefore, to them, not penal judgments, but Fatherly chastisements, which, though "not joyous but grievous" (Heb 12:11) for the present, "afterwards work for them the peaceable fruits of righteousness". But whatever may be our moral and spiritual condition, whether we are friends or enemies to God, we must be subject to various afflictions.
Hebrews 12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. ESV
This is a dying world. The nearest and dearest friends must part. Death sunders the tenderest ties, and often pierces the susceptible heart with a keener anguish, by directing the mortal stroke to a dear companion or child, than if it had fallen on our own head. When I see youth rejoicing in the optimistic hopes and brilliant prospects which the deceitful world spreads out before them — I am prevented from sympathizing with their happy feelings, by the foresight of a speedy end to all their earthly pleasures. Their laughter will be converted into mourning. Their day of bright sunshine will soon be overcast with dark clouds; all their brilliant prospects will be obscured, and the overwhelming gloom of sorrow will envelop them.
It is indeed no part of wisdom to torment our minds with vain terrors of evils which are merely possible. Many people suffer more in the apprehension of calamities, than they would if they were present. The imagination represents scenes of adversity in a hue darker than the reality. In regard to such evils, our Savior has taught us not to yield to useless anxieties about the future, but to trust to Providence. "Let tomorrow take care of itself." (Matt 6:34) But that to which I would bring my youthful readers, is a state of mind prepared for adversity, of whatever kind it may be; that they may not be taken by surprise when calamity falls upon them. And when the dark day of adversity arrives, be not dismayed — but put your trust in the Lord, and look to Him for strength to endure whatever may be laid upon you.
Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. ESV
Never permit yourselves to entertain hard thoughts of God on account of any of His dispensations. They may be painful, dark and mysterious — but they are all wise and good. What we cannot understand now, we shall be privileged to know hereafter. Exercise an uncomplaining submission to the will of God, as developed in the events of Providence. Believe steadfastly that all things are under the government of God's wisdom and goodness. Remember that whatever sufferings you may be called to endure, they are always less than your sins deserve.
Consider that these afflictive dispensations are fraught with rich, spiritual blessings. They are not only useful but necessary. We would perish with the wicked world, if a kind Father did not make use of the rod to reclaim us from our wanderings. Besides, there is no situation in which we can more glorify God than when in the furnace of affliction. The exercise of faith and humble resignation, with patience and fortitude, under the pressure of heavy calamity, is most pleasing to God, and illustrates clearly the excellency of that piety, which is able to bear up the mind, and even render it cheerful, in the midst of scenes of trouble. Bear then with cheerful submission the load which may be laid upon you, and learn from Paul to rejoice even in the midst of tribulation.
And not only bear your cross with cheerful resignation — but endeavor to extract from sorrow — a rich spiritual blessing. While enjoying such an effectual means of grace, improve it to the utmost, to promote growth in the divine life. Be willing to suffer any pain which will render you more holy. Although we naturally desire uninterrupted prosperity, yet if the desire of our hearts was always given to us — it would prove ruinous.
And when schooled in adversity, you will be better qualified to sympathize with the children of sorrow, and better skilled in affording them comfort, than if you had no experience of trouble.
17. My next counsel is that you set a high value upon your TIME. Time is short and its flight is rapid. The swiftness of the lapse of time is proverbial, in all languages. In Scripture, the life of man is compared to a multitude of things which quickly pass away after making their appearance; as to a runner, a weaver's shuttle, a vapor, a shadow, etc. All the works of man must be performed in time, and whatever acquisition is made of any good — it must be obtained in time. Time, therefore, is not only short, but precious. Everything is suspended on its improvement, and it can only be improved when present. It is no sooner present, than it is gone! So that whatever we do, must be done quickly. This precious gift is sparingly parceled out by 'moments', but the progression of these moments is rapid and uninterrupted. Nothing can impede or retard the current of 'the stream of time'. Whether we are awake or asleep, whether occupied or idle, whether we realize the fact or not — we are borne along by a silent but irresistible force!
Our progressive motion in time may be compared to the motion of the planet on which we dwell, of which we are entirely insensible; or to that of a swift-sailing ship, which produces the illusion that all other objects are in motion, while we seem to be stationary. So in the journey of life, we pass from stage to stage — from infancy to childhood — from childhood to youth — from youth to mature age — and finally, before we are aware of it, we find ourselves declining towards the last stage of earthly existence. The freshness and buoyancy of youth soon pass away: the autumn of life soon arrives; and next, and last, if disease or accident do not cut short our days — old age with its grey hairs, its wrinkles, its debility and pains, comes on quickly.
The period of old age, is described by the wise man as one in which men are commonly disposed to be grumbly and fretful, and to acknowledge that the days draw near in which they have no pleasure. "So remember your Creator while you are still young, before those dismal days and years come when you will say, "I don't enjoy life." That is when the light of the sun, the moon, and the stars will grow dim for you, and the rain clouds will never pass away. Then your arms, that have protected you, will tremble, and your legs, now strong, will grow weak. Your teeth will be too few to chew your food, and your eyes too dim to see clearly. Your ears will be deaf to the noise of the street. You will barely be able to hear the mill as it grinds or music as it plays, but even the song of a bird will wake you from sleep. You will be afraid of high places, and walking will be dangerous. Your hair will turn white; you will hardly be able to drag yourself along, and all desire will be gone. We are going to our final resting place, and then there will be mourning in the streets. The silver chain will snap, and the golden lamp will fall and break; the rope at the well will break, and the water jar will be shattered. Our bodies will return to the dust of the earth, and the breath of life will go back to God, who gave it to us." At 71 I certainly understand this paragraph all too well, but love for God, God's scripture, my beautiful wife, my family fill my heart with joy. (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7)
Ecclesiastes 12:1–7 1 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, 3 in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, 4 and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— 5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— 6 before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. ESV
Time wasted can never be recovered. No man ever possessed the same moment twice. We are, indeed, exhorted "to redeem the time", (Eph 5:16; Col 4:5) but this relates to a right improvement of that which is to come, for this is the only possible way by which we can redeem what is irrevocably past. The counsels which I would offer to the young on this subject are: Think frequently and seriously on the inestimable value of time. Never forget that all that is dear and worthy of pursuit, must be accomplished in the short span of time allotted to us here. Meditate also profoundly and often on the rapidity of the flight of time. Now, you are in the midst of youthful bloom, but soon this season will only exist in the dim shades of recollection, and unless it has been well improved, of bitter regret.
Ephesians 5:16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
Colossians 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. ESV
If you will make a wise improvement of your time, you must be prompt. Seize the fugitive moments as they fly; for otherwise they will pass away before you have commenced the work which is appropriated to them.
Diligence and constancy are essential to the right improvement of time. "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might." (Eccles 9:10) "Work while it is called today." (John 9:4) Walk while you have the light, for the dark night rapidly approaches when no work can be done.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
John 9:4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. ESV
Let everything be done in its season. There is a time for all things; and let all things be done in order. The true order of things may be determined by their relative importance, and by the urgency of the case, or the loss which would probably be sustained by neglect.
If you would make the most of your time, learn to do one thing at a time, and endeavor so to perform every work, as to accomplish it in the best possible manner. As you receive but one moment at once, it is a vain thing to think of doing more than one thing at one time; and if any work deserves your attention at all, it deserves to be well done. Confusion, hurry, and heedlessness often so mar a business, that it would have been better to omit it altogether.
Beware of putting off the duty of today — on tomorrow. This is called procrastination, which is said, justly, to be "the thief of time". Remember that every day and every hour has its own appropriate work; but if that which should be done this day is deferred until a future time, to say the least, there must be an inconvenient accumulation of duties in future. But as tomorrow is to everybody uncertain, to suspend the acquisition of an important object on such a contingency, may be the occasion of losing forever the opportunity of receiving it. The rule of sound discretion is, never to put off until tomorrow — what ought to be done today.
18. Cherish and diligently cultivate genuine piety. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Psalm 111:10; Prov 9:10)
Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!
Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. ESV
Think not, dear young people, that true piety will detract from your happiness. It is a reproach cast upon your Maker, to indulge such a thought. It cannot be. A God of goodness never required anything of his creatures which did not tend to their true felicity. Piety may indeed lead you to exchange the pleasures of the theater and ballroom—for the purer joys of the church and prayer-meeting. lol, remember, it is 1844. It may turn your attention from books of mere idle fancy and fiction — to the Word of God — which to a regenerated soul is found to be sweeter than honey, and more excellent than the choicest gold; but this will add to your happiness rather than diminish it.
We would then affectionately and earnestly exhort and entreat you to "remember now your Creator in the days of your youth". (Eccles 12:1) This will be your best security against all the dangers and temptations to which you are exposed; this will secure to you "the favor of God which is life, and His loving-kindness which is better than life". (Psalm 30:5; Psalm 63:3) Delay not your conversion. Every day is lost time, which is not spent in the service of God. Besides, procrastination has proved ruinous to many. Eternity is at hand; the judgment day must be met, and how can we appear there, without true piety? This is our only preparation and passport for heaven.
Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;
Psalm 30:5 For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 63:3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you. ESV
2 Corinthians 6:2 For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
19. Seek divine direction and aid—by incessant fervent prayer. You need grace to help you every day. Your own wisdom is folly, your own strength weakness, and your own righteousness altogether insufficient. "Lord, we know that people do not control their own destiny. It is not in their power to determine what will happen to them." (Jer 10:23) But if you lack wisdom, you are permitted to ask; and you have a gracious promise, that you shall receive. Whatever we need will be granted, if we humbly and believingly ask for it. "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you." (John 16:24; Matt 7:7; Luke 11:9) "Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." (Phil 4:6)
Jeremiah 10:23 I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself,
that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.
Matthew 7:7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Luke 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ESV
Faith and prayer are our chief resources, under all the various and heavy afflictions of this life. When all other refuges fail, God will hide His people who seek Him, in His secret pavilion, and shelter them under the shadow of His wings.
Prayer is essential to the existence and growth of the spiritual life. It is the breath of the new man. By this means he obtains quick relief from innumerable evils, and draws down from heaven blessings of the richest and sweetest kind. Possess your minds fully of the persuasion that prayer is efficacious, when offered in faith and with importunity, to obtain the blessings which we need. God has made Himself known as a Hearer of prayer: yes, He has promised that we shall have, as far as may be for His glory and our good—whatever we ask. The most important events may be brought about by prayer. One righteous man, by fervent and effectual prayer, has been able to shut heaven and open it again. How often did Moses by his prayers avert the divine wrath from the people of Israel! That man who has access to a throne of grace will never lack anything which is really needful. "God will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly." (Psalm 84:11) "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will allow the house of Israel to ask me to do this for them." (Ezek 36:37)
Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
Banish, as most unreasonable, the idea that prayer is a dull or melancholy business. Such a sentiment must have been invented by Satan; for it never could have been suggested by reason, or taught by experience. Fellowship with the greatest and best of all beings must be a source of exalted pleasure; and surely, man can have no greater honor and privilege conferred upon him, than to be admitted to converse intimately and confidentially with the God whom angels adore! The experience of every saint attests that "it is good to draw near to God"; (Psalm 73:28) and that "one day in his courts is better than a thousand". (Psalm 84:10) I need not be afraid, therefore, to counsel the young to cultivate the spirit of prayer and to be constant in its exercise. "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thess 5:17) "Be instant in prayer." (Rom 12:12)
Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
It will not spoil your pleasures, but will open for you new sources of enjoyment, far more refined and satisfactory than any which prayerless people can possess. Prayer is the only method by which fellowship between heaven and earth can be kept open. Often, too, in the performance of this duty, a taste of heaven is brought down to earth; and the pious worshiper anticipates, in some degree, those joys which are ineffable and eternal. Prayer will, moreover, be your most effectual guard against sin and the power of temptation:
For Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.
20. I conclude my counsels to the young by a serious and affectionate recommendation to everyone who reads these pages, to make immediate preparation for death. I know that mirthful youth are unwilling to hear us mention the subject of death. There is nothing which casts a greater damp upon their spirits than the solemn fact that death must be encountered, and that no earthly possessions or circumstances can secure us from becoming his victims, on any day.
But if it is acknowledged that this formidable evil is inevitable, and that the tenure by which we hold our grasp of life is very fragile, why should we act so unreasonably, and I may say, insanely, as to shut our eyes against the danger? If, indeed, there was no way of preparing to meet this solemn event, there might be some reason for turning away our thoughts from immediate destruction. But if by attention and exertion it is possible to make preparation for death, then nothing can be conceived more insane than to refuse to consider our latter end.
How often are we called to witness the decease of youth in the midst of all their pleasures and prospects! Such scenes have been exhibited within the observation of all of you. Dear friends and companions have been snatched away from the side of some of you. The grave has closed upon many whose prospects of long life were as favorable as those of their survivors. Now, my dear young friends, what has so frequently happened in relation to so many others—may take place with regard to some of you! This year you may be called to bid farewell to all your earthly prospects, and all your beloved relatives. The bare possibility of such an event ought to have the effect of engaging your most serious attention, and of leading you to immediate preparation.
Do you ask what preparation is necessary? I answer, reconciliation with God, and a fitness for the employments and enjoyments of the heavenly state. Preparation for death includes repentance towards God for all our sins, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and reliance on His atoning sacrifice, regeneration of heart, and reformation of life; and finally, a lively exercise of piety, accompanied with a comfortable assurance of the divine favor. In short, genuine and lively piety forms the essence of the needed preparation for death. With this your death will be safe, and your happiness after death secure.
But to render a deathbed not only safe but comfortable, you must have a strong faith, and clear evidence that your sins are forgiven, and that you have passed from death unto life. Be persuaded then, before you give sleep to your eyes, to commence your return unto God, from whom like lost sheep you have strayed. "Prepare to meet your God." (Amos 4:12) "So then, you also must always be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him!" (Matt 24:44)
Seek deliverance from the fear of death by a believing application to Him who came on purpose to deliver us from this bondage. With His presence and guidance we need fear no evil, even while passing through the gloomy valley and shadow of death. He is able by His rod and His staff to comfort us, and to make us conquerors over this last enemy!
Counsels Of The Aged To The Young...
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Learning to lead (2)
(Oct 22) Bob Gass
‘I have great confidence in you.’
(2 Co 7:4) 4 I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. ESV
When people feel ‘used’ they begin to drop out, but when they feel appreciated they’ll follow you anywhere. Paul, one of the finest leaders of all time, told the Corinthian believers, ‘I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged…my joy knows no bounds’ (vv. 3-4 NIV 1984 Edition). He was their biggest cheerleader. He didn’t just correct, he comforted. He didn’t just sharpen, he strengthened - all hallmarks of great leadership. Good leaders: 1) Are consistent. They set an example by walking the walk so everyone knows that what’s heard at the bottom is practised at the top. 2) Voice their appreciation, realising that people need to know they’re an important part of the team and the vision. 3) Always listen to suggestions, opinions, concerns, and ideas. They don’t prejudge, and they’re not dismissive. Author Betty Bender said: ‘It’s a mistake to surround yourself only with people just like you. Throw off that warm comforter and replace it with a crazy quilt of different and imaginative people. Then watch the ideas erupt!’ 4) Don’t see people as statistics. Businesswoman Mary Kay Ash said, ‘P and L doesn’t mean “profit and loss” - it means “people and love.”’ 5) Explain why they like things done a specific way. It lessens mistakes, and the resentment that can stem from feeling ‘ordered around’. Statesman Clarence Francis said, ‘You can buy a man’s time and physical presence at a certain place… But you can’t buy enthusiasm, initiative, loyalty, and the devotion of hearts, minds, and souls. You have to earn these things.’
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
October 22, 1836, General Sam Houston is sworn in as the first President of the Republic of Texas. The Texas Declaration of Independence stated: “When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty, and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and… becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression…. it is a… sacred obligation to their posterity to abolish such government, and create another in its stead… Conscious of the rectitude of our intentions, we fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the decision of the Supreme Arbiter of the destinies of nations.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
I. We are living, let us say, in a careless way; and God proposes a certain treatment of us according to our carelessness. But in the exercise of our spiritual freedom we are by some means brought to pray. We cease to be careless. We pray God to visit us as those who hear. Then He does another thing. He acts differently, with a change caused by our freedom and our change. The treatment for deafness is altered. God adopts another treatment—perhaps for weakness. We have by prayer changed His action, and, so far, His will (at any rate His intention) concerning us. As we pray, the discipline for the prayerless is altered to that for the prayerful. We attain the thing God did not mean to give us unless He had been affected by our prayer. We change the conduct, if not the will, of God to us, the Verhalten if not the Verhaltniss.
Again, we pray and pray, and no answer comes. The boon does not arrive. Why? Perhaps we are not spiritually ready for it. It would not be a real blessing. But the persistence, the importunity of faith, is having a great effect on our spiritual nature. It ripens. A time comes when we are ready for answer. We then present ourselves to God in a spiritual condition which reasonably causes His to yield. The new spiritual state is not the answer to our prayer, but it is its effect; and it is the condition which makes the answer possible. It makes the prayer effectual. The gift can be a blessing now. So God resists us no more. Importunity prevails, not as mere importunity (for God is not bored into answer), but as the importunity of God’s own elect, i.e. as obedience, as a force of the Kingdom, as increased spiritual power, as real moral action, bringing corresponding strength and fitness to receive. I have often found that what I sought most I did not get at the right time, not till it was too late, not till I had learned to do without it, till I had renounced it in principle (though not in desire). Perhaps it had lost some of its zest by the time it came, but it meant more as a gift and a trust. That was God’s right time—when I could have it as though I had it not. If it came, it came not to gratify me, but to glorify Him and be a means of serving Him.
One recalls here that most pregnant saying of Schopenhauer: “All is illusion—the hope or the thing hoped.” If it is not true for all it is true for very many. Either the hope is never fulfilled or else its fulfilment disappoints. God gives the hoped for thing, but sends leanness into the soul. The mother prays to have a son—and he breaks her heart, and were better dead. Hope may lie to us, or the thing hoped may dash us. But though He slay me I will trust. God does not fail. Amid the wreck of my little world He is firm, and I in Him. I justify God in the ruins; in His good time I shall arrive. More even than my hopes may go wrong. I may go wrong. But my Redeemer liveth; and, great though God is as my Fulfiller, He is greater as my Redeemer. He is great as my hope, but He is greater as my power. What is the failure of my hope from Him compared with the failure of His hope in me? If He continue to believe in me I may well believe in Him.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
If you give because it pays,
it won’t pay!
--- R.G. LeTourneau, industrialist
God comes to us disguised as our life…
--- Paul D’Arcy
Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer
The history of progress is written in the blood of men and women who have dared to espouse an unpopular cause, as, for instance, the black man's right to his body, or woman's right to her soul.
--- Emma Goldman
Thanks to Meir Yona
What Afterward Befell The Seditious When They Had Done A Great Deal Of Mischief, And Suffered Many Misfortunes; As Also How Caesar Became Master Of The Upper City.
1. And now the seditious rushed into the royal palace, into which many had put their effects, because it was so strong, and drove the Romans away from it. They also slew all the people that had crowded into it, who were in number about eight thousand four hundred, and plundered them of what they had. They also took two of the Romans alive; the one was a horseman, and the other a footman. They then cut the throat of the footman, and immediately had him drawn through the whole city, as revenging themselves upon the whole body of the Romans by this one instance. But the horseman said he had somewhat to suggest to them in order to their preservation; whereupon he was brought before Simon; but he having nothing to say when he was there, he was delivered to Ardalas, one of his commanders, to be punished, who bound his hands behind him, and put a riband over his eyes, and then brought him out over against the Romans, as intending to cut off his head. But the man prevented that execution, and ran away to the Romans, and this while the Jewish executioner was drawing out his sword. Now when he was gotten away from the enemy, Titus could not think of putting him to death; but because he deemed him unworthy of being a Roman soldier any longer, on account that he had been taken alive by the enemy, he took away his arms, and ejected him out of the legion whereto he had belonged; which, to one that had a sense of shame, was a penalty severer than death itself.
2. On the next day the Romans drove the robbers out of the lower city, and set all on fire as far as Siloam. These soldiers were indeed glad to see the city destroyed. But they missed the plunder, because the seditious had carried off all their effects, and were retired into the upper city; for they did not yet at all repent of the mischiefs they had done, but were insolent, as if they had done well; for, as they saw the city on fire, they appeared cheerful, and put on joyful countenances, in expectation, as they said, of death to end their miseries. Accordingly, as the people were now slain, the holy house was burnt down, and the city was on fire, there was nothing further left for the enemy to do. Yet did not Josephus grow weary, even in this utmost extremity, to beg of them to spare what was left of the city; he spake largely to them about their barbarity and impiety, and gave them his advice in order to their escape; though he gained nothing thereby more than to be laughed at by them; and as they could not think of surrendering themselves up, because of the oath they had taken, nor were strong enough to fight with the Romans any longer upon the square, as being surrounded on all sides, and a kind of prisoners already, yet were they so accustomed to kill people, that they could not restrain their right hands from acting accordingly. So they dispersed themselves before the city, and laid themselves in ambush among its ruins, to catch those that attempted to desert to the Romans; accordingly many such deserters were caught by them, and were all slain; for these were too weak, by reason of their want of food, to fly away from them; so their dead bodies were thrown to the dogs. Now every other sort of death was thought more tolerable than the famine, insomuch that, though the Jews despaired now of mercy, yet would they fly to the Romans, and would themselves, even of their own accord, fall among the murderous rebels also. Nor was there any place in the city that had no dead bodies in it, but what was entirely covered with those that were killed either by the famine or the rebellion; and all was full of the dead bodies of such as had perished, either by that sedition or by that famine.
3. So now the last hope which supported the tyrants, and that crew of robbers who were with them, was in the caves and caverns under ground; whither, if they could once fly, they did not expect to be searched for; but endeavored, that after the whole city should be destroyed, and the Romans gone away, they might come out again, and escape from them. This was no better than a dream of theirs; for they were not able to lie hid either from God or from the Romans. However, they depended on these under-ground subterfuges, and set more places on fire than did the Romans themselves; and those that fled out of their houses thus set on fire into the ditches, they killed without mercy, and pillaged them also; and if they discovered food belonging to any one, they seized upon it and swallowed it down, together with their blood also; nay, they were now come to fight one with another about their plunder; and I cannot but think that, had not their destruction prevented it, their barbarity would have made them taste of even the dead bodies themselves.
by D.H. Stern
the thoughtless go on and pay the penalty.
13 Seize his clothes
because he guaranteed a stranger’s loan;
take them as security for that unknown woman.
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
The witness of the Spirit
The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit …
--- Romans 8:16. (R.V.).
We are in danger of getting the barter spirit when we come to God, we want the witness before we have done what God tells us to do. ‘Why does not God reveal Himself to me?’ He cannot; it is not that He will not, but He cannot, because you are in the road as long as you won’t abandon absolutely to Him. Immediately you do, God witnesses to Himself; He cannot witness to you, but He witnesses instantly to His own nature in you. If you had the witness before the reality, it would end in sentimental emotion. Immediately you transact on the Redemption and stop the impertinence of debate, God gives you the witness. As soon as you abandon reasoning and argument, God witnesses to what He has done, and you are amazed at your impertinence in having kept Him waiting. If you are in debate as to whether God can deliver from sin, either let Him do it, or tell Him He cannot. Do not quote this and that person, try Matthew 11:28—“Come unto Me.” Come, if you are weary and heavy laden; ask if you know you are evil (Luke 11:13).
The simplicity that comes from our natural commonsense decisions is apt to be mistaken for the witness of the Spirit, but the Spirit witnesses only to His own nature and to the work of Redemption, never to our reason. If we try to make Him witness to our reason, it is no wonder we are in darkness and perplexity. Fling it all overboard, trust in God, and He will give the witness.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
All my life I tried to believe
in the importance of what Thomas
should say now, do next.
There was a context
in which I lived; unseen forces
acted upon me, or made their adjustments
in turn. There was a larger pattern
we worked at: they on a big
loom, I with a small needle,
drawing the thread
through my mind, coloring it
with my own thought.
Yet a power guided
my hand. If an invisible company
waited to see what I would do,
I in my own way asked for
direction, so we should journey together
a little nearer the accomplishment
of the design.
Impossible dreamer !
All those years the demolition
of the identity proceeded.
Fast as the cells constituted
themselves, they were replaced. It was not
I who lived, but life rather
that lived me. There was no developing
structure. There were only the changes
in the metabolism of a body
greater than mine, and the dismantling
by the self of a self it
could not reassemble.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
This description of how the halakhic Jew relates all of his activities to God is not a description of action grounded in legislative authority. The statement “Let all thy deeds be for the sake of God” is not a formula yielding precise legal norms of behavior. Its comprehensiveness reflects the aspiration of one who desires to sanctify every aspect of human conduct. Halakhic norms stemming from legislation are related to specific actions and specific times. “In all your ways acknowledge Him” embodies the aspirations of approaching God in any and every aspect of a person’s behavior. The statement “In all your ways acknowledge Him” reflects the aspiring movement from man to God, as opposed to the legislative movement from God to man. The attempt to endow all of human action with religious significance leads the individual to seek a perspective which would enable him to say “I have set the Lord before me continuously.”
This single-minded pursuit indicates that specific legal commandments addressed to community do not fully describe the Halakhah. In enhancing sleep and physical exercise with religious significance, one is not merely following a stated commandment. The all-pervasive longing for God—not simply obeying specified norms embodying His will—is the source of this comprehensive understanding of Halakhah.
In Maimonides’ Eight Chapters these two approaches to Halakhah are evident. In the fourth chapter, Maimonides discusses how the specific details of Halakhah develop a proper psychic balance for different virtues. He concludes his evaluation of the details of halakhic life with the following statement:
If a man will always carefully discriminate as regards his actions, directing them to the medium course, he will reach the highest degree of perfection possible to a human being, thereby approaching God, and sharing in His happiness. This is the most acceptable way of serving God which the Sages, too, had in mind when they wrote the words, “He who ordereth his course aright is worthy of seeing the salvation of God.”
After showing how the Halakhah, through its precepts, makes possible the realization of moderation, Maimonides, in the fifth chapter, discusses the single-minded quest for God. His evaluation of this approach is quite different from what he writes in chapter four:
Know that to live according to this standard is to arrive at a very high degree of perfection which, in consequence of the difficulty of attainment, only a few, after long and continuous perseverance on the paths of virtue, have succeeded in reaching. If there be found a man who has accomplished this—that is one who exerts all the faculties of his soul, and directs them toward the sole ideal of comprehending God, using all his powers of mind and body, be they great or small, for the attainment of that which leads directly or indirectly to virtue—I would place him in a rank not lower than that of the Prophets. Such a man, before he does a single act or deed, considers and reflects whether or not it will bring him to that goal, and if it will, then, and then only, does he do it.
There is a clear difference between Maimonides’ evaluation of halakhic prescriptions which develop moderation and his evaluation of the approach of one who follows a single-minded quest for God. He does not conclude his discussion of halakhic prescripts by claiming that “to live according to this standard is to arrive at a high degree of perfection which, in consequence of the difficulty of attainment, only a few, after long and continuous perseverance on the paths of virtue, have succeeded in reaching.” The perfection of which he wrote in chapter four can be realized by all of the community. Single-mindedness, however, reflects the approach to Halakhah of one who worships God not only in following defined commandments, but also in all activities he undertakes.
Maimonides’ distinction between the specific norms of Halakhah and the more comprehensive Halakhah of “In all your ways acknowledge Him” is similar to his distinction between messianism and olam ha-ba. The specific norms of Halakhah aim at establishing a community which lives in accordance with virtue. Yet there is a further task to be realized: the single-minded quest for knowledge of God. Just as messianism aims at making olam ha-ba possible for members of the community, so do halakhic prescriptions create the conditions necessary for realizing the goal that all of human life could reflect divine service.
Singular individuals understand that what God requires of man cannot be exhausted within a precise, delimited structure of norms. They are drawn to a God who inspires action not only on the basis of His authoritative will, but by His infinite perfection. They do not solely look to the practice of community to determine what is expected from them. Their personal quest for spiritual excellence is a source from which they derive guidance for their behavior:
His restraining agency lies in his very self, I mean in his human framework. When the latter becomes perfected it is exactly that which keeps him away from those things which perfection withholds from him and which are termed vices; and it is that which spurs him on to what will bring about perfection in him, i.e., virtue.
The difference between the unique individual and his community is not only reflected in his ability to develop a comprehensive understanding of Halakhah. Even within the circumscribed world of halakhic norms, one can discern both communal and individual orientation. The two halakhic categories reflecting this are 1) din—law which defines the line of legal requirement, and 2) lifnim mi-shurat ha-din—law which is beyond the line of legal requirement. The following examples from the Mishneh Torah indicate how the Halakhah distinguished between action obligatory for every member of the community (din) and action practiced by individuals who were not content simply to fulfill the requirements of the strict rules of law (lifnim mi-shurat ha-din):
If one finds a sack or a basket, the rule is as follows: If he is a scholar or a respected elder who is not accustomed to taking such things in his hand, he need not concern himself with them. He must, however, examine his own conscience. If he would have taken these things back for himself had they belonged to him, he must also return them when they belong to another. But if he would not have overlooked his dignity even had they belonged to him, he need not return them when they belong to another … If one follows the good and upright path and does more than the strict letter of the law requires [lifnim mi-shurat ha-din], he will return lost property in all cases, even if it is not in keeping with his dignity.
If the majority of the inhabitants are heathen, the rule is that if one finds lost property in a part of town which is chiefly frequented by Israelites, he must advertise it. But if he finds it in a public highway or a large square or in assembly halls or lecture halls frequented regularly by heathen or in any place frequented by the general public, whatever he finds belongs to him, even if an Israelite comes along and identifies it. For the owner will abandon hope of its recovery as soon as he loses the property, since he thinks that a heathen will find it. Yet even though it belongs to the finder, if he wishes to follow the good and the upright path and do more than the strict letter of the law requires [lifnim mi-shurat ha-din], he must return the lost property to an Israelite who identifies it.
If, on the road, one encounters a person whose animal is crouching under the weight of its burden, he is enjoined to unload the burden from the animal whether the burden is suited to it or too heavy for it. This is a positive commandment, for Scripture says, “You must nevertheless raise it with him” (Ex. 23:5). If the passerby is a Priest and the animal is crouching in a cemetery, he may not defile himself on its account, just as he may not defile himself in order to return lost property to its owner. Similarly, if one is an elder unaccustomed to loading or unloading, he is exempt, seeing that the act is not in keeping with his dignity. The general rule is as follows: In every case where if the animal were his own he would load or unload it, he must load or unload another’s. But if one is pious [a ḥasid] and does more than the letter of the law demands [lifnim mi-shurat ha-din], even if he is a prince of the highest rank, still if he sees another’s animal crouching under its burden of straw or sticks or the like, he should help unload and reload.
It is clear that the tradition distinguished between practice stemming from a uniform law obligatory for each member of the community, and practice expressing the spiritual capacities of certain individuals within the community.
From Maimonides’ characterization, the ḥasid differs from the am ha-areẓ in his approach to action as well as in his understanding of God. The former, in his practice, always goes beyond the strict requirement of law. The ḥasid understands God not only on the basis of the authority of Torah, but also from his study of physics and metaphysics. Since Maimonides claims that one cannot be a ḥasid without philosophical knowledge of God, one can infer that there is an important connection between always following the path of lifnim mi-shurat ha-din and theoretical knowledge of God. How then are we to understand the connection between the conceptions of God of the ḥasid and the am ha-areẓ and their respective approaches to Halakhah?
When Maimonides describes how an individual Jew should treat a non-Jewish servant he writes:
It is permitted to work a heathen slave with rigor. Though such is the rule, it is the quality of piety and the way of wisdom that a man be merciful and pursue justice and not make his yoke heavy upon the slave or distress him, but give him to eat and drink of all foods and drinks. The Sages of old were wont to let the slave partake of every dish that they themselves ate of and to give the meal of the cattle and of the slaves precedence over their own. Is it not said: “… as the eyes of servants to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maiden to the hand of her mistress” (Ps. 123:2)? Thus also the master should not disgrace them by hand or by word, because Scriptural law has delivered them only to slavery and not to disgrace. Nor should he heap upon the slave oral abuse and anger, but should rather speak to him softly and listen to his claims. So it is also explained in the good paths of Job, in which he prided himself: “If I did despise the cause of my manservant, or of my maidservant, when they contended with me … Did not He that made me in … the womb make him? And did not One fashion us in the womb” (Job 31:13, 15)?
Cruelty and effrontery are not frequent except with heathen who worship idols. The children of our father Abraham, however, i.e., the Israelites, upon whom the Holy One, blessed be He, bestowed the favor of the Law and laid upon them statutes and judgments, are merciful people who have mercy upon all. Thus also it is declared by the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He, which we are enjoined to imitate: “And His tender mercies are over all His works” (Ps. 145:9). Furthermore, whoever has compassion will receive compassion, as it is said: “And [He will] show you compassion; and in His compassion increase you” (Deut. 13:18).
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
He will lay open our temper to us and enable us to see whether we are impatient or otherwise, and he will show us whether we are ambitious—whether we desire to climb and scramble up some height from which we can look down with scorn or contempt on others.
God often gives us opportunities to show off, and, on the other hand, he often denies us such opportunities, to see if we will murmur and be envious of those who have them. Many people will be found often speaking against ostentation—when they do not have the means to indulge in it. They will be very loud in their censures on others who ride in their coaches and furnish their houses in a superior style. But give these sermonizers the means of doing the same, and see what they will do—see if they will not imitate and, perhaps, act more extravagantly than those whom they before condemned.
Sometimes God will deny you many things, to see if you will be satisfied with his provision. Do you bear poverty well, or are you envious at the rich? Are you, in your poverty, what Christ would have been in your circumstances? Thus riches and poverty, sickness and health, and a thousand other things are sent to try us and prove to us, and to those around us, what our real state is.
God often tests us to show if we are self-willed—to show if our wills are ready to submit to his will or whether we will make ourselves unhappy and wretched because God wills so concerning us. How often is it the case that people do not know they are self-willed; so long as the providence of God seems to favor them they are very pious and can talk about submission with the greatest apparent sincerity. But let God just drive across their path, lay his hand on them, blow their schemes to the winds of heaven, and see whether they will talk of submission then; see whether they are self-willed or whether they will instantly submit. How have [such things] affected you? What was the state of mind that you discovered in yourselves? God was searching you, applying the tests that would, without fail, show what was the working in your minds.
--- Charles G. Finney
The churches of northeastern America grew rapidly in the early 1800s, fueled by one revival after another. The new Christians had little theological education, yet many of them began to discuss details of biblical prophecy with great vigor. Speculation boiled over as to the exact day and year when Christ would return, and among the speculators was William Miller of New York.
Miller, when newly converted, had torn into the prophecies of Daniel, concluding in 1818 that Christ would return in 1843 or 1844. When he later began preaching, this became a keynote of his messages, and his listeners, finding him earnest, eloquent, and sincere, multiplied. He finally announced that Christ would return to earth on October 22, 1844.
The financial panic of 1839 contributed to the belief that the end of the world was approaching. Enthusiasm for Christ’s return became so great that prophetic charts were added alongside stock-market listings and current events in the newspapers. Miller’s teachings swept through New England, and large numbers espoused Millerism.
As the Morning of October 22, 1844 dawned, a sense of fear and foreboding fell over New England. People gathered on mountaintops and in churches. Normal activities ceased as everyone awaited the sudden rending of the skies and the end of the world. When the day passed uneventfully, many Christians grew disillusioned. The unsaved became cynical. The following years saw a decline in conversions, and the period of revivals came to an abrupt end. The event became known as “The Great Disappointment.”
Some of Miller’s followers, however, pressed on, and their efforts evolved into the Seventh Day Adventist movement.
No one knows the day or hour. The angels in heaven don’t know, and the Son himself doesn’t know. Only the Father knows. When the Son of Man appears, things will be just as they were when Noah lived. People were eating, drinking, and getting married right up to the day that the flood came and Noah went into the big boat. They didn’t know anything was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. That is how it will be when the Son of Man appears.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 22
“I will love them freely.” --- Hosea 14:4.
This sentence is a body of divinity in miniature. He who understands its meaning is a theologian, and he who can dive into its fulness is a true master in Israel. It is a condensation of the glorious message of salvation which was delivered to us in Christ Jesus our Redeemer. The sense hinges upon the word “freely.” This is the glorious, the suitable, the divine way by which love streams from heaven to earth, a spontaneous love flowing forth to those who neither deserved it, purchased it, nor sought after it. It is, indeed, the only way in which God can love such as we are. The text is a death-blow to all sorts of fitness: “I will love them freely.” Now, if there were any fitness necessary in us, then he would not love us freely, at least, this would be a mitigation and a drawback to the freeness of it. But it stands, “I will love you freely.” We complain, “Lord, my heart is so hard.” “I will love you freely.” “But I do not feel my need of Christ as I could wish.” “I will not love you because you feel your need; I will love you freely.” “But I do not feel that softening of spirit which I could desire.” Remember, the softening of spirit is not a condition, for there are no conditions; the covenant of grace has no conditionality whatever; so that we without any fitness may venture upon the promise of God which was made to us in Christ Jesus, when he said, “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” It is blessed to know that the grace of God is free to us at all times, without preparation, without fitness, without money, and without price! “I will love them freely.” These words invite backsliders to return: indeed, the text was specially written for such—“I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely.” Backslider! surely the generosity of the promise will at once break your heart, and you will return, and seek your injured Father’s face.
Evening - October 22
“He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.” --- John 16:15.
There are times when all the promises and doctrines of the Bible are of no avail, unless a gracious hand shall apply them to us. We are thirsty, but too faint to crawl to the water- brook. When a soldier is wounded in battle it is of little use for him to know that there are those at the hospital who can bind up his wounds, and medicines there to ease all the pains which he now suffers: what he needs is to be carried thither, and to have the remedies applied. It is thus with our souls, and to meet this need there is one, even the Spirit of truth, who takes of the things of Jesus, and applies them to us. Think not that Christ hath placed his joys on heavenly shelves that we may climb up to them for ourselves, but he draws near, and sheds his peace abroad in our hearts. O Christian, if thou art to-night labouring under deep distresses, thy Father does not give thee promises and then leave thee to draw them up from the Word like buckets from a well, but the promises he has written in the Word he will write anew on your heart. He will manifest his love to you, and by his blessed Spirit, dispel your cares and troubles. Be it known unto thee, O mourner, that it is God’s prerogative to wipe every tear from the eye of his people. The good Samaritan did not say, “Here is the wine, and here is the oil for you”; he actually poured in the oil and the wine. So Jesus not only gives you the sweet wine of the promise, but holds the golden chalice to your lips, and pours the life-blood into your mouth. The poor, sick, way-worn pilgrim is not merely strengthened to walk, but he is borne on eagles’ wings. Glorious Gospel! which provides everything for the helpless, which draws nigh to us when we cannot reach after it—brings us grace before we seek for grace! Here is as much glory in the giving as in the gift. Happy people who have the Holy Ghost to bring Jesus to them.
SOLDIERS OF CHRIST, ARISE
Charles Wesley, 1707–1788
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:10, 11)
Followers of Christ are also His soldiers—called to do battle with the forces of Satan and evil. Victories are never won while resting in the barracks. God’s soldiers must always be alert and dressed in full armor. That armor includes six important pieces: (Ephesians 6:10–20)
• The belt of truth (warriors with absolute integrity).
• The breastplate of righteousness (people must see our good works).
• Sandals of peace (though soldiers, we are called to be peacemakers).
• Shield of faith (for extinguishing all of Satan’s doubts and fears).
• Helmet of salvation (one of Satan’s chief attacks is the mind).
• Sword of the Spirit—the Word of God (our only offensive weapon).
In addition to wearing armor, the Christian soldier is to face every occasion with prayer and to remember the fellow saints in prayer (v. 18). Ultimately, however, the battle is not ours but God’s (2 Chronicles 20:15). He knows the battle plan. Our responsibility is only to be active and obedient in the small duty wherever He has placed us on the battlefield.
Charles Wesley knew much about the Christian life as warfare. Many times both John and Charles were physically abused for their evangelical ministries. This text was first published in 1749 and was titled “The Whole Armor of God—Ephesians VI.” The hymn has often been referred to as “the Christian’s bugle blast” for its strong call to arms.
Soldiers of Christ, arise and put your armor on, strong in the strength which God supplies thru His eternal Son; strong in the Lord of hosts and in His mighty pow’r: Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.
Stand then in His great might, with all His strength endued, and take, to arm you for the fight, the panoply of God; that having all things done, and all your conflicts past, ye may o’ercome thru Christ alone and stand entire at last.
Leave no unguarded place, no weakness of the soul; take ev’ry virtue, ev’ry grace, and fortify the whole. From strength to strength go on; Wrestle and fight and pray; tread all the pow’rs of darkness down and win the well-fought day.
For Today: 1 Corinthians 15:57, 58; Ephesians 6:10–20; Philippians 1:27–30; 1 Timothy 6:12
Reflect on the words of Maltbie D. Babcock— “We are not here to play, to dream, to drift; we have hard work to do, and loads to lift. Shun not the struggle; face it—’tis God’s gift.” Go forth in your full armor and in the power of His might. Carry this musical encouragement with you ---
III. The wisdom of God doth wonderfully appear in redemption. His wisdom in creature ravisheth the eye and understanding; his wisdom in government doth no less affect a curious observer of the links and concatenation of the means; but his wisdom in redemption mounts the mind to a greater astonishment. The works of creation are the footsteps of his wisdom; the wprk of redemption is the face of his wisdom.
A man is better known by the features of his face, than by the prints of his feet. We, with “open face,” or a revealed face, “beholding the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). Face, there, refers to God, not to us; the glory of God’s wisdom is now open, and no longer covered and veiled by the shadows of the law. As we behold the light glorious as scattered in the air before the appearance of the sun, but more gloriously in the face of the sun when it begins its race in our horizon. All the wisdom of God in creation, and government in his variety of laws, was like the light the three first days of the creation, dispersed about the world; but the fourth day it was more glorious, when all gathered into the body of the sun (Gen. 1:4, 16). So the light of Divine wisdom and glory was scattered about the world, and so more obscure, till the fourth divine day of the world, about the four thousandth year, it was gathered into one body, the Sun of Righteousness, and so shone out more gloriously to men and angels. All things are weaker the thinner they are extended, but stronger the more they are united and compacted in one body and appearance. In Christ, in the dispensation by him, as well as his person, were “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Some doles of wisdom were given out in creation, but the treasures of it opened in redemption, the highest degrees of it that ever God did exert in the world. Christ is therefore called the “wisdom of God,” as well as the “power of God” (1 Cor. 1:24); and the gospel is called the “wisdom of God.” Christ is the wisdom of God principally, and the gospel instrumentally, as it is the power of God instrumentally to subdue the heart to himself. This is wrapped up in the appointing Christ as Redeemer, and opened to us in the revelation of it by the gospel.
1. It is a hidden wisdom. In this regard God is said, in the text, to be only wise: and it is said to be a “hidden wisdom” (1 Tim. 1:17), and “wisdom in a mystery” (1 Cor. 2:7), incomprehensible to the ordinary capacity of an angel, more than the obstruse qualities of the creatures are to the understanding of man. No wisdom of men or angels is able to search the veins of this mine, to tell all the threads of this web, or to understand all the lustre of it; they are as far from an ability fully to comprehend it, as they were at first to contrive it. That wisdom that invented it can only comprehend it. In the uncreated understanding only there is a clearness of light without any shadow of darkness. We come as short of full apprehensions of it, as a child doth of the counsel of the wisest prince. It is so hidden from us, that, without revelation, we could not have the least imagination of it; and though it be revealed to us, yet, without the help of an infiniteness of understanding, we cannot fully fathom it: it is such a tractate of divine wisdom, that the angels never before had seen the edition of it, till it was published to the world (Eph. 3:10): “to the intent that now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” Now made known to them, not before; and now made known to them “in the heavenly places.” They had not the knowledge of all heavenly mysteries, though they had the possession of heavenly glory: they knew the prophecies of it in the word, but attained not a clear interpretation of those prophecies till the things that were prophesied of came upon the stage.
2. Manifold wisdom: so it is called. As manifold as mysterious: variety in the mystery, and mystery in every part of the variety. It was not one single act, but a variety of counsels met in it; a conjunction of excellent ends and excellent means. The glory of God, the salvation of man, the defeat of the apostate angels, the discovery of the blessed Trinity in their nature, operations, their combined and distinct acts and expressions of goodness. The means are the conjunction of two natures, infinitely distinct from one another; the union of eternity and time, of mortality and immortality: death is made the way to life, and shame the path to glory. The weakness of the cross is the reparation of man, and the creature is made wise by the “foolishness of preaching;” fallen man grows rich by the poverty of the Redeemer, and man is filled by the emptiness of God; the heir of hell made a son of God, by God’s taking upon him the “form of a servant;” the son of man advanced to the highest degree of honor, by the Son of God becoming of “no reputation.” It is called (Eph. 1:8) “abundance of wisdom and prudence.” Wisdom, in the eternal counsel, contriving a way; prudence, in the temporary revelation, ordering all affairs and occurrences in the world for the attaining the end of his counsel. Wisdom refers to the mystery; prudence, to the manifestation of it in fit ways and convenient seasons. Wisdom, to the contrivance and order; prudence, to the execution and accomplishment. In all things God acted as became him, as a wise and just Governor of the world (Heb. 2:10). Whether the wisdom of God might not have found out some other way, or whether he were, in regard of the necessity and naturalness of his justice, limited to this, is not the question; but that it is the best and wisest way for the manifestation of his glory, is out of question.
This wisdom will appear in the different interests reconciled by it: in the subject, the second person in the Trinity, wherein they were reconciled: in the two natures, wherein he accomplished it; whereby God is made known to man in his glory, sin eternally condemned, and the repenting and believing sinner eternally rescued the honor and righteousness of the law vindicated both in the precept and penalty: the devil’s empire overthrown by the same nature he had overturned, and the subtilty of hell defeated by that nature he had spoiled: the creature engaged in the very act to the highest obedience and humility, that, as God appears as a God upon his throne, the creature might appear in the lowest posture of a creature, in the depths of resignation and dependence: the publication of this made in the gospel, by ways congruous to the wisdom which appeared in the execution of his counsel, and the conditions of enjoying the fruit of it, most wise and reasonable.
1. The greatest different interests are reconciled, justice in punishing, and mercy in pardoning. For man had broken the law, and plunged himself into a gulf of misery: the sword of vengeance was unsheathed by justice, for the punishment of the criminal; the bowels of compassion were stirred by mercy, for the rescue of the miserable. Justice severely beholds the sin, and mercy compassionately reflects upon the misery. Two different claims are entered by those concerned attributes: justice votes for destruction, and mercy votes for salvation. Justice would draw the sword, and drench it in the blood of the offender; mercy would stop the sword, and turn it from the breast of the sinner. Justice would edge it, and mercy would blunt it. The arguments are strong on both sides. (1.) Justice pleads. I arraign, before thy tribunal, a rebel, who was the glorious work of thy hands, the centre of thy rich goodness, and a counterpart of thy own image; be is indeed miserable, whereby to excite thy compassion; but he is not miserable, without being criminal. Thou didst create him in a state, and with ability to be otherwise: the riches of thy bounty aggravate the blackness of his crime. He is a rebel, not by necessity, but will. What constraint was there upon him to listen to the counsels of the enemy of God? What force could there be upon him, since it is without the compass of any creature to work upon, or constrain the will? Nothing of ignorance can excuse him; the law was not ambiguously expressed, but in plain words, both as to precept and penalty; it was writ in his nature in legible characters: had he received any disgust from thee after his creation, it would not excuse his apostasy, since, as a Sovereign, thou wert not obliged to thy creature. Thou hadst provided all things richly for him; he was crowned with glory and honor: thy infinite power had bestowed upon him an habitation richly furnished, and varieties of servants to attend him. Whatever he viewed without, and whatever he viewed within himself, were several marks of thy Divine bounty, to engage him to obedience: had there been some reason of any disgust, it could not have balanced that kindness which had so much reason to oblige him: however, he had received no courtesy from the fallen angel, to oblige him to turn into his camp. Was it not enough, that one of thy creatures would have stripped thee of the glory of heaven, but this also must deprive thee of thy glory upon earth, which was due from him to thee as his Creator? Can he charge the difficulty of the command? No: it was rather below, than above his strength. He might rather complain that it was no higher, whereby his obedience and gratitude might have a larger scope, and a more spacious field to move in than a precept so light; so easy, as to abstain from one fruit in the garden. What excuse can he have, that would prefer the liquorishness of his sense before the dictates of his reason, and the obligations of his creation? The law thou didst set him was righteous and reasonable; and shall righteousness and reason be rejected by the supreme and infallible reason, because the rebellious creature hath trampled upon it? What! must God abrogate his holy law, because the creature hath slighted it? What reflection will this be upon the wisdom that enacted it, and upon the equity of the command and sanction of it? Either man must suffer, or the holy law be expunged, and forever out of date. And is it not better man should eternally smart under his crime, than any dishonorable reflections of unrighteousness be cast upon the law, and of folly, and want of foresight upon the Lawgiver? Not to punish, would be to approve the devil’s lie, and justify the creature’s revolt. It would be a condemnation of thy own law as unrighteous, and a sentencing thy own wisdom as imprudent. Better man should forever bear the punishment of his offence, than God bear the dishonor of his attributes: better man should be miserable than God should be unrighteous, unwise, false, and tamely bear the denial of his sovereignty. But what advantage would it be to gratify mercy by pardomng the malefactor? Besides the irreparable dishonor to the law, the falsifying thy veracity in not executing the denounced threatenings, he would receive encouragement by such a grace to spurn more at thy sovereignty, and oppose thy holiness by running on in a course of sin with hopes of impunity. If the creature be restored, it cannot be expected that he that hath fared so well, after the breach of it, should be very careful of a future observance: his easy readmission would abet him in the repetition of his offence, and thou shalt soon find him cast off all moral dependence on thee. Shall he be restored without any condition, or covenant? He is a creature not to be governed without a law, and a law is not to be enacted without a penalty. What future regard will he have to thy precept, or what fear will he have of thy threatening, if his crime be so lightly past over? Is it the stability of thy word? What reason will he have to give credit to that, which he hath found already disregarded by thyself? Thy truth in future threatenings will be of no force with him, who hath experienced thy laying it aside in the former. It is necessary, therefore, that the rebellious creature should be punished for the preservation of the honor of the law, and the honor of the Lawgiver, with all those perfections that are united in the composure of it.
(2.) Mercy doth not want a plea. It is true, indeed, the sin of man wants not its aggravations: he hath slighted thy goodness, and accepted thy enemy as his counsellor, but it was not a pure act of his own, as the devil’s revolt was: he had a tempter, and the devil had none: he had, I acknowledge, an understanding to know thy will, and a power to obey it; yet he was mutable, and had a capacity to fall. It was no difficult task that was set him, nor a hard yoke that was laid upon him; yet he had a brutish part, as well as a rational, and sense as well as soul; whereas the fallen angel was a pure intellectual spirit. Did God create the world to suffer an eternal dishonor, in letting himself be outwitted by Satan, and his work wrested out of his hands? Shall the work of eternal counsel presently sink into irreparable destruction, and the honor of an almighty and wise work be lost in the ruin of the creature? This would seem contrary to the nature of thy goodness, to make man only to render him miserable: to design him in his creation for the service of the devil, and not for the service of his Creator. What else could be the issue, if the chief work of thy hand, defaced presently after the erecting, should forever remain in this marred condition? What can be expected upon the continuance of his misery, but a perpetual hatred, and enmity of thy creature against thee? Did God in creation design his being hated, or his being loved by his creature? Shall God make a holy law, and have no obedience to that law from that creature whom it was made to govern? Shall the curious workmanship of God, and the excellent engravings of the law of nature in his heart, be so soon defaced, and remain in that blotted condition forever? This fall thou couldst not but in the treasures of thy in finite knowledge foresee. Why hadst thou goodness then to create him in an integrity, if thou wouldst not have mercy to pity him in misery? Shall thy enemy forever trample upon the honor of thy work, and triumph over the glory of God, and applaud himself in the success of his subtilty? Shall thy creature only passively glorify thee as an avenger, and not actively as a compassionater? Am not I a perfection of thy nature as well as justice? Shall justice engross all, and I never come into view? It is resolved already, that the fallen angels shall be no subjects for me to exercise myself upon; and I have now less reason than before to plead for them: they fell with a full consent of will, without any motion from another; and not content with their own apostasy they envy thee, and thy glory upon earth, as well as in heaven, and have drawn into their party the best part of the creation below. Shall Satan lunge the whole creation in the same irreparable ruin with himself? If the creature be restored, will he contract a boldness in sin by impurity?
Hast thou not a grace to render him ingenuous in obedience, as well as a compassion to recover him from misery? What will hinder, but that such a grace, which hath established the standing angels, may establish this recovered creature? If I am utterly excluded from exercising myself on men, as I have been from devils, a whole species is lost; nay, I can never expect to appear upon the stage: if thou wilt quite ruin him by justice, and create another world, and another man, if he stand, thy bounty will be eminent, yet there is no room for mercy to act, unless by the commission of sin, he exposeth himself to misery; and if sin enter into another world, I have little hopes to be heard then, if I am rejected now. Worlds will be perpetually created by goodness, wisdom, and power; sin entering into these worlds, will be perpetually punished by justice; and mercy, which is a perfection of thy nature, will forever be commanded silence, and lie wrapt up in an eternal darkness. Take occasion now, therefore, to expose me to the knowledge of thy creature, since without misery, mercy can never set foot into the world. Mercy pleads, if man be ruined, the creation is in vain; justice pleads, if man be not sentenced, the law is in vain; truth backs justice, and grace abets mercy. What shall be done in this seeming contradiction? Mercy is not manifested, if man be not pardoned; justice will complain, if man be not punished.
(3.) An expedient is found out, by the wisdom of God, to answer these demands, and adjust the differences between them. The wisdom of God answers, I will satisfy your pleas. The pleas of justice shall be satisfied in punishing, and the pleas of mercy skall be received in pardoning. Justice shall not complain for want of punishment, nor mercy for want of compassion. I will have an infinite sacrifice to content justice; and the virtue and fruit of that sacrifice shall delight mercy. Here shall justice have punishment to accept, and mercy shall have pardon to bestow. The rights of both are preserved, and the demands of both amicably accorded in punishment and pardon, by transferring the punishment of our crimes upon a surety, exacting a recompense from his blood by justice, and conferring life and salvation upon us by mercy without the expense of one drop of our own. Thus is justice satisfied in its severities, and mercy in its indulgences. The riches of grace are twisted with the terrors of wrath. The bowels of mercy are wound about the flaming sword of justice, and the sword of justice protects and secures the bowels of mercy.
Thus is God righteous without being cruel, and merciful without being unjust; his righteousness inviolable, and the world recoverable. Thus is a resplendent mercy brought forth in the midst of all the curses, confusions, and wrath threatened to the offender. This is the admirable temperament found out by the wisdom of God: his justice is honored in the sufferings of man’s surety; and his mercy is honored in the application of the propitiation to the offender (Rom. 3:24, 25): “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” Had we in our persons been sacrifices to justice, mercy had forever been unknown; had we been solely fostered by mercy, justice had forever been secluded; had we, being guilty, been absolved, mercy might have rejoiced, and justice might have complained; had we been solely punished, justice would have triumphed, and mercy grieved. But by this medium of redemption, neither hath ground of complaint; justice hath nothing to charge, when the punishment is inflicted; mercy hath whereof to boast when the surety is accepted. The debt of the sinner is transferred upon the surety, that the merit of the surety may be conferred upon the sinner; so that God now deals with our sins in a way of consuming justice, and with our persons in a way of relieving mercy. It is highly better, and more glorious, than if the claim of one had been granted, with the exclusion of the demand of the other; it had then been either an unrighteous mercy, or a merciless justice; it is now a righteous mercy, and a merciful justice.
The Existence and Attributes of God
Christ For All Nations
Going Forth With Good News
Already Rolled Away!
Already Rolled Away!
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
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