Temptations to SinLuke 17 1 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Increase Our Faith5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
Unworthy Servants7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”
Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
The Coming of the Kingdom20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot — they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” 37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”
The Parable of the Persistent WidowLuke 18 1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Let the Children Come to Me15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
The Rich Ruler18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
Jesus Heals a Blind Beggar35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
What I'm Reading
Four Ways to Come Alongside Your Kids to Strengthen Their Faith
By J. Warner Wallace 10/23/2017
If you’re paying attention to what’s happening in America today, you’re probably aware of the challenges facing young Christians in their teens and twenties. It’s a simple fact: most young Christians will walk away from the Church during (or before) their college years. Like other Christian parents, I’m animated to work as hard as I can to address this dilemma, for my own kids and for the next generation of believers. I’ve authored books, written blogs, recorded podcasts and videos in an attempt to help young people evaluate the evidence for Christianity. I also speak to local congregations. Following a recent church presentation, I was approached by a mother who was concerned for her high school children. We began discussing several ways parents can prepare their kids before sending them off to college. Here are four simple guiding strategies:
Learn Alongside Your Kids | What would you say if your son or daughter asked you the following question: “If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why is there so much evil in the world? Is God unable to stop it? Is He unwilling?” Or, how about this question: “If God is the creator of everything, who created God?” These are common questions asked by skeptics and believers alike. Are you ready to answer them in a meaningful, reasonable way? If not, don’t feel bad, most Christian parents feel under-equipped to answer difficult objections to Christianity.
Let that kind of anxiety motivate you to learn alongside your kids. You don’t have to be an expert to lead your kids to the truth. In fact, you only need to be a few steps ahead of them. Cold-Case Christianity for Kids and God’s Crime Scene for Kids were written for children, with their parents in mind. You can learn from these books as your kids examine the evidence for God’s existence and the truth of Christianity. If you want to learn more, the adult versions of these books parallel the kid’s books chapter by chapter. Investigate about the evidence for Christianity, learn how to make the case for what is true, and do it alongside your kids.
Share Alongside Your Kids | If you’re like me, your friends and family already know what your passionate about. Why? Because I bet you talk about it whenever you get the chance. All of us do this; our conversations at dinner, while driving in the car, or even while walking the dog, give away what really matters to us. If you’ve passionately adopted a reasoned, rational approach to your faith, odds are good you’ll start sharing this interest with your kids during these moments of conversation. You can’t force this; it just happens.
So, if you really want to help your kids develop a strong, confident faith, you can be intentional and create opportunities, especially as your kids approach their teen years. My friend, Natasha Crain, has written a number of books to help you engage your kids in conversations about God. They are fantastic. Be passionate, take advantage of opportunities and resources like these, and speak up. Talk with your kids about the stuff that matters most.
- 1 Talking with Your Kids about God: 30 Conversations Every Christian Parent Must Have
- 2 Keeping Your Kids on God's Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith
- 3 Talking with Your Kids about God: 30 Conversations Every Christian Parent Must Have
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.
Battling Unbelief Together
By John Piper 9/18/1988
I survive and thrive in the ministry because God has surrounded me with people who pray for me and exhort me to press on in the fight of faith. If you don’t feel supported like this in your faith and work, we want to help change that. The Bible teaches that surviving and thriving in a life of faith and love depends on Christians intentionally building each other in faith and stirring each other up to love. Without intentional faith-building togetherness we lose our zeal, drift from God, become hardened in the deceitfulness of sin, and if someone doesn’t snatch us (James 5:19; Jude 23), we make shipwreck of our so-called faith and perish in unbelief.
I got a post card from a brother in the ministry a week or so ago that built my faith and gave me hope and encouragement to press on. It was not addressed to me. It was addressed to Christ. It was prayer.
Dear Lord, | Glorify yourself, our Savior, by moving us as a family of believers to pray as never before. May we find delight and enrichment in new intimacy of conversation with you. May our churches experience new health and vitality. And grant to us, by a fuller liberation of your power through mighty, multiplied intercession, to capture the strongholds of darkness in our country and around the world. That your name will everywhere be esteemed and revered. Give special guidance to your servant, John, as he wrestles with the discernment of urgent issues for Bethlehem’s future. Even in uncertainty provide such inner confidence of your ultimate leading that his peace will be unshakable. | Your servant Bill
It can happen through the mail. God means it to happen in person even more often. That’s what we want to look at this morning.
Battling Unbelief and Fighting the Fight of Faith | Last week we saw from Romans 4:20 that belief — belief that glorifies God — is future-oriented. It is a banking on the promises of God. All the promises of God were purchased for believing sinners by an act that happened in the past, namely, by the death and resurrection of Jesus. But God-glorifying belief doesn’t merely stare at those acts; it stands on them, and then looks forward to all the promises Jesus bought for us, and banks its hope on the promises, and moves out in a life of faith. Faith is future-oriented. It is heartfelt hope in the promises of God.
(Jud 23) 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. ESV
(Ro 4:20) 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,ESV
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
The Gospel of James Open Letter to Martin Luther
By David Mathis 3/16/2017
Dear Brother Martin, | Five hundred years ago this year, you nailed your 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. I am a happy twenty-first-century Protestant and thankful for the vital part you played in God’s good providence.
By all accounts, the medieval church was in desperate need of reform. The shining gem of justification by faith alone was obscured everywhere, and lost altogether in most quarters. And with it we could name dozens of other deceptions, lapses, and syncretistic missteps.
Under God, you were a spark that set ablaze the kindling of centuries of error and abuse.
You plainly were not afraid, unlike so many in our day, to express, without apology, deeply held differences in opinion, not just with your foes, but even friends. Many of us today who think of ourselves squarely as your friends take exception to some of your views — some in greater measure than others — and I expect you, of all people, would be least surprised to hear of it and receive it.
Epistle of Straw? | Not most troubling, but perhaps most in need of clarification today among some Lutherans and Reformed types, is what you said about the epistle of our Lord’s brother, James. You wrote in 1522, in the preface of your German translation of the New Testament, “St. James’s epistle is really a right strawy epistle, compared to these others [Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, 1 Peter, and 1 John], for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it.”
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.
What Is the Greatest of All Protestant “Heresies”?
By Sinclair Ferguson 10/30/2017
Let us begin with a church history exam question. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) was a figure not to be taken lightly. He was Pope Clement VIII’s personal theologian and one of the most able figures in the Counter-Reformation movement within sixteenth-century Roman Catholicism. On one occasion, he wrote: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is _______ .” Complete, explain, and discuss Bellarmine’s statement.
How would you answer? What is the greatest of all Protestant heresies? Perhaps justification by faith? Perhaps Scripture alone, or one of the other Reformation watchwords?
Those answers make logical sense. But none of them completes Bellarmine’s sentence. What he wrote was: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is assurance.”
A moment’s reflection explains why. If justification is not by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone — if faith needs to be completed by works; if Christ’s work is somehow repeated; if grace is not free and sovereign, then something always needs to be done, to be “added” for final justification to be ours. That is exactly the problem. If final justification is dependent on something we have to complete it is not possible to enjoy assurance of salvation. For then, theologically, final justification is contingent and uncertain, and it is impossible for anyone (apart from special revelation, Rome conceded) to be sure of salvation. But if Christ has done everything, if justification is by grace, without contributory works; it is received by faith’s empty hands — then assurance, even “full assurance” is possible for every believer.
No wonder Bellarmine thought full, free, unfettered grace was dangerous! No wonder the Reformers loved the letter to the Hebrews!
Best Friends Make the Worst Enemies
By Marshall Segal 10/25/2017
Our best friends always make the worst enemies. Opposition of any kind can make life miserable, but opposition of a particular kind multiplies the misery.
We rarely give our enemies enough latitude to really hurt us. They can hurl insults, stand in our way, and even inflict pain, but we always have our guard up. But with our friends and family, we let them through the gates, inside locked doors, to the most vulnerable places. And too often, those we let near in love leverage precious trust to serve themselves at our expense — to betray us.
The husband who leaves for another woman.
The wife who gossips about her husband’s weaknesses.
The son who walks away from the faith.
The daughter who keeps making destructive decisions.
The father who over-works to avoid the family.
The mother who relentlessly demands and condemns.
The friend who disappears when we need them most.
Have you been betrayed by the ones you love most? When we have, we can retreat for a season — to process, to recover, to repair, and to prepare to forgive. God has given us a safe place to hide and find the strength and hope we need to press on in love.
Our Worst Enemies | King David knew the bitter flavor of betrayal.
Marshall Segal is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness and Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife Faye have a son and live in Minneapolis.
Here We Stand
By Albert Mohler 10/30/2017
Martin Luther’s great moment of theological clarification came at the climax of a command performance. Facing the threat of martyrdom and execution, Luther appeared on trial at the Diet of Worms before the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Asked on what authority he dared to defy the Pope and the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church, Luther famously replied:
“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves–I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.”
To those words were added: “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me.”
The Diet of Worms was held in 1521. At the conclusion of his defense, Luther simply said, “I am finished.” There was good reason to believe that he was quite finished. He would be excommunicated from the church and he would live with the threat of martyrdom for the rest of his life. But now, 500 years after Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, the faith of the Reformation is still very much alive.
That moment of exquisite clarification came when Luther had nowhere to stand but on the authority of Scripture alone. Standing on biblical authority would not have been controversial, but the addition of that little sola changed everything. There is an infinite chasm between the authority of Scripture and the authority of Scripture alone.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
When Jesus Haunts Your Halloween
By David Mathis 10/28/2017
Unclean spirits stir. Demonic thrones and dominions gather. Cosmic powers over this present darkness come to attention. And the devil himself, ready to devour and destroy, ignites his fiery darts and stretches his legs for the lion’s prowl.
As All Hallows’ Eve draws nigh, the spiritual forces of evil align, and Satan prepares his hordes for the party of the year — that grand harvest festival, celebration of darkness and death, when they pretend to be their strongest.
Halloween is almost here. And so is their final defeat. Jesus haunts their Halloween.
One Little Word | As the demonic rulers and authorities make ready, the one who sits in the heavens laughs (Psalm 2:4). The devil is no threat, with all his orcs and goblins and the wickedest of witches. This is no evenly matched bout. If the incarnate Christ, in his humblest state, commands unclean spirits and they obey him (Mark 1:27) — how much more the risen and glorified Lord? It is Jesus who does the real haunting.
Even as his adversaries marshal their best, they can’t escape serving his purposes. It is all through him and for him. “By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth . . . whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). Jesus haunts their Halloween.
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.
Difference Between Happiness and Pleasure
By R.C. Sproul
A big problem I had in my youth was that I did not quite understand the difference between happiness and pleasure. I would like to report to you that since I have become a man I have put away all childish things. Unhappily, that is not the case. There are still childish things that cling to my adult life. I still struggle with the difference between happiness and pleasure. I know the difference in my head but it has not yet reached my bloodstream.
I have committed many sins in my life. Not one of my sins has ever made me happy. None has ever added a single ounce of happiness to my life. On the other hand, sin has added an abundance of unhappiness to my life. I stand amazed at those famous personalities who in the course of television or magazine interviews declare that if they had their lives to live over they would do nothing differently. Such foolishness staggers my imagination. There are multitudes of things I would love to have the chance to do over. Now it is quite possible that with a second chance I would make the same foolish mistakes, but I’d still like the chance to try.
My sins have not brought me happiness. But my sins have brought me pleasure. I like pleasure. I am still very much attracted to pleasure. Pleasure can be great fun. And not all pleasures are sins. There is much pleasure to be found in righteousness. But the difference is still there. Sin can be pleasurable but it never brings happiness.
Now if I understand all this, why would I ever be tempted to sin? It seems silly that anyone who knows the difference between happiness and pleasure would continue to trade happiness for pleasure. It seems utterly stupid for a person to do something that he knows will rob him of his happiness. Yet we do it. The mystery of sin is not only that it is wicked and destructive but that it is so downright stupid.
I smoked cigarettes for years. I never really kept count, but my guess is that in that time hundreds of people called my attention to the fact that smoking was not a good thing for me to be doing. They were merely pointing out to me the obvious, telling me what every smoker in America already knows. Before I was ever converted to Christianity I knew full well that smoking was harmful to me. I knew it before the surgeon general ever put his warning label on cigarette packages. I knew it from the first cigarette I ever smoked. Yet I continued to do it. Sheer madness. That is what sin is.
Have you ever done anything that you felt like doing even though your head told you it was wrong? If you answer no to that question you are lying, deluded, or you have just qualified to be the savior of the world. We all fall into this trap. We do what we feel like doing rather than what we know we ought to do. No wonder we cry like Paul, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Our problem is that we have been called to be holy, and we are not holy. Yet again the question arises, if we are not holy why does the Bible call us “saints”?
The Bible calls us “holy ones” for two reasons: First we are holy because we have been consecrated to God. We have been set apart. We have been called to a life that is “different.” The Christian life is a life of nonconformity. The idea of nonconformity is expressed in Romans:
(Ro 12:1–2) 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ESV
In the Old Testament, worship centered around the altar with the presentations of sacrifices offered to God. For the most part these sacrifices of animals and various grains were made as sin offerings. In themselves the animal sacrifices had no power to atone for sins. They were symbols that pointed forward to the one great sacrifice that would be made on the cross. After the perfect Lamb was slain, the altar sacrifices ceased. The Christian church has no provision for animal sacrifices anymore because it has no need for such sacrifices. To offer them now would be to insult the perfection of the sacrifice of Christ.
Because the days of animal sacrifices are over, many assume that all sacrifices offered to God are abhorrent to Him. That is simply not true. Here the apostle Paul calls for a new kind of sacrifice, a living sacrifice of our bodies. We are to give not our grains or our animals, but we are to give ourselves to God. This new sacrifice is not an act of atonement: Neither is it a sin offering. The sacrifice of our bodies to God is a thank offering. It follows upon Paul’s word therefore.
When we see the word therefore in the text of Scripture, we are immediately alerted that a conclusion is coming. The word therefore links what has been previously said to what is about to be concluded. In Romans 12 the “therefore” harks back to all the apostle has set down in the previous chapters that spell out the saving work of Christ in our behalf. It drives us forward to the only proper conclusion we can draw from His work. In light of the gracious justification that Christ has achieved for us the only reasonable conclusion we can reach is that we ought to present ourselves totally to God as walking, breathing, living sacrifices.
What does the living sacrifice look like? Paul first describes it in terms of nonconformity. “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world.” Here is the point where many Christians have gone astray. It is clear that we are to be nonconformists. But it is difficult to understand precisely what kind of nonconformity is called for. Nonconformity is a tricky matter and can easily be reduced to superficiality.
It is a tragedy that the matter of nonconformity has been treated by Christians at a shallow level. The simplistic way of being nonconforming is to see what is in style in our culture and then do the opposite. If short hair is in vogue, the nonconformist wears long hair. If moviegoing is popular, then Christians avoid movies as “worldly.” The extreme case of this may be seen in sects that refuse to wear buttons or use electricity because such things too are worldly.
A superficial style of nonconformity is the classical pharisaical trap. The kingdom of God is not about buttons, movies, or dancing. The concern of God is not focused on what we eat or what we drink. The call of nonconformity is a call to a deeper level of righteousness that goes beyond externals. When piety is defined exclusively in terms of externals, the whole point of the teaching of the apostle has been lost. Somehow we have failed to hear the words of Jesus that it is not what goes into a man’s mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out of his mouth. We still want to make the kingdom a matter of eating and drinking.
Why are such distortions rampant in Christian circles? The only answer I can give is sin. Our marks of piety can actually be evidences of impiety. When we major in minors and blow insignificant trifles out of proportion, we imitate the Pharisees. When we make dancing and movies the test of spirituality, we are guilty of substituting a cheap morality for a genuine one. We do these things to obscure the deeper issues of righteousness. Anyone can avoid dancing or going to movies. These require no great effort of moral courage. What is difficult is to control the tongue, to act with integrity, to show forth the fruit of the Spirit.
I have never heard a sermon on coveting in my life. I have heard plenty of sermons about the evils of whiskey, but none on the evils of covetousness. Strange. To be sure, the Bible declares that drunkenness is sin, but it never made the top ten. The prohibition against coveting is one of the Ten Commandments! A true nonconformist is a person who stops coveting; he stops gossiping; he stops slandering; he stops hating and feeling bitter; he starts to practice the fruit of the Spirit.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their preoccupation with external matters:
(Mt 23:23–24) 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! ESV
The Holiness of God
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
Who was Rufus?
By Lydia McGrew
Most Christians are familiar with the part of the crucifixion story in which Simon of Cyrene is forced by the Roman soldiers to carry Jesus’ cross on the way to Golgotha. The incident emphasizes Jesus’ exhaustion and weakness as well as the conditions of life under Roman rule. It can hardly have been pleasant to be Simon, who presumably would have preferred to mind his own business and who seems to have been grabbed at random and coerced to participate in the brutal scene.
All three Synoptic Gospels mention Simon of Cyrene; Mark’s Gospel contains a unique detail.
(Mk 15:20–21) 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. 21 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. ESV
If one reads this carefully, the question immediately springs to mind, “Who are Rufus and Alexander, and why are they mentioned here?”
Richard Bauckham argues that Mark’s reference to Rufus and Alexander presupposes that these people were known to Mark’s audience. 16 I consider this conclusion defensible since these names come up in Mark’s Gospel “out of the blue” without further explanation and are attached to a person (Simon) who has no other role to play in the Gospel. This is not merely a matter of leaving out some particular, which might be merely the natural way in which witnesses talk without filling in explanatory details. It is a matter of including the names of people who have no role otherwise in the narrative, as if these names were meaningful in some special way. A valuable point in Bauckham’s discussion is that the phrase “of Cyrene” would presumably have been sufficient to distinguish this Simon from others, so that is not a likely explanation for Mark’s using the lengthier reference to Simon’s sons.
Bauckham’s points are well-taken, but here I want to note the coincidence between this passage and one of the greetings at the end of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.” (Rom 16.13)
(Ro 16:13) 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. ESV
By itself, this might just be a coincidence of names. Why think that the “Rufus” of Romans 16 is the same as the “Rufus” of Mark 15? It’s important to keep in mind that multiple, unconnected people could have the same name in Biblical times as in our own. Bauckham points out two pertinent facts that point in opposite directions on this question. (Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony) On the one hand, Paul’s reference to his close connection with Rufus’s mother as being in some sense (presumably metaphoric or spiritual) his own mother indicates that Rufus had gone to Rome from the eastern side of the Mediterranean (where Jerusalem was), since Paul had never been in Rome at the time that he wrote this epistle. While this would by no means necessitate the conclusion that the two are the same Rufus, it would slightly confirm it. On the other hand, Bauckham raises the caution that “Rufus” was not an uncommon name, being treated by the Jews as a Latin equivalent of “Reuben,” so the Rufus of Romans 16 could be a different person.
The greeting from Paul to a Christian Rufus in Rome is worth considering in this context chiefly because of a longstanding patristic tradition that Mark’s Gospel was originally written in Rome with inhabitants of Rome as its first audience. (See John Wenham Redating Matthew, Mark and Luke: A Fresh Assault on the Synoptic Problem (English and Ancient Greek Edition), for a summary of the patristic evidence.) With that fact in mind, we have three points of evidence coming together— the “out of nowhere” reference to Rufus and Alexander in Mark, as though perhaps they are known to the audience of the Gospel, the reference in Romans to a Rufus who was a Christian in Rome, and the tradition that Mark’s Gospel was written in Rome. In this way the reference to Rufus in Romans confirms, via a plausible conjecture, the unique reference to Rufus in Mark as the son of Simon of Cyrene and thereby confirms the historical reliability of Mark.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 119119 ZAYIN
119:49 Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life.
51 The insolent utterly deride me,
but I do not turn away from your law.
52 When I think of your rules from of old,
I take comfort, O LORD.
53 Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked,
who forsake your law.
54 Your statutes have been my songs
in the house of my sojourning.
55 I remember your name in the night, O LORD,
and keep your law.
56 This blessing has fallen to me,
that I have kept your precepts.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563To each of these propositions the Waldenses nobly replied in the following manner, answering them respectively:
• 1. That no considerations whatever should make them renounce their religion.
• 2. That they would never consent to commit their best and most respectable friends, to the custody and discretion of their worst and most inveterate enemies.
• 3. That they valued the approbation of the King of kings, who reigns in heaven, more than any temporal authority.
• 4. That their souls were more precious than their bodies.
These pointed and spirited replies greatly exasperated the parliament of Turin; they continued, with more avidity than ever, to kidnap such Waldenses as did not act with proper precaution, who were sure to suffer the most cruel deaths. Among these, it unfortunately happened, that they got hold of Jeffery Varnagle, minister of Angrogne, whom they committed to the flames as a heretic.
They then solicited a considerable body of troops of the king of France, in order to exterminate the reformed entirely from the valleys of Piedmont; but just as the troops were going to march, the Protestant princes of Germany interposed, and threatened to send troops to assist the Waldenses, if they should be attacked. The king of France, not caring to enter into a war, remanded the troops, and sent word to the parliament of Turin that he could not spare any troops at present to act in Piedmont. The members of the parliament were greatly vexed at this disappointment, and the persecution gradually ceased, for as they could only put to death such of the reformed as they caught by chance, and as the Waldenses daily grew more cautious, their cruelty was obliged to subside, for want of objects on whom to exercise it.
After the Waldenses had enjoyed a few years tranquillity, they were again disturbed by the following means: the pope's nuncio coming to Turin to the duke of Savoy upon business, told that prince he was astonished he had not yet either rooted out the Waldenses from the valleys of Piedmont entirely, or compelled them to enter into the bosom of the Church of Rome. That he could not help looking upon such conduct with a suspicious eye, and that he really thought him a favorer of those heretics, and should report the affair accordingly to his holiness the pope.
Stung by this reflection, and unwilling to be misrepresented to the pope, the duke determined to act with the greatest severity, in order to show his zeal, and to make amends for former neglect by future cruelty. He, accordingly, issued express orders for all the Waldenses to attend Mass regularly on pain of death. This they absolutely refused to do, on which he entered the Piedmontese valleys, with a formidable body of troops, and began a most furious persecution, in which great numbers were hanged, drowned, ripped open, tied to trees, and pierced with prongs, thrown from precipices, burnt, stabbed, racked to death, crucified with their heads downwards, worried by dogs, etc.
Those who fled had their goods plundered, and their houses burnt to the ground: they were particularly cruel when they caught a minister or a schoolmaster, whom they put to such exquisite tortures, as are almost incredible to conceive. If any whom they took seemed wavering in their faith, they did not put them to death, but sent them to the galleys, to be made converts by dint of hardships.
The most cruel persecutors, upon this occasion, that attended the duke, were three in number, viz. 1. Thomas Incomel, an apostate, for he was brought up in the reformed religion, but renounced his faith, embraced the errors of popery, and turned monk. He was a great libertine, given to unnatural crimes, and sordidly solicitous for plunder of the Waldenses. 2. Corbis, a man of a very ferocious and cruel nature, whose business was to examine the prisoners. 3. The provost of justice, who was very anxious for the execution of the Waldenses, as every execution put money in his pocket.
These three persons were unmerciful to the last degree; and wherever they came, the blood of the innocent was sure to flow. Exclusive of the cruelties exercised by the duke, by these three persons, and the army, in their different marches, many local barbarities were committed. At Pignerol, a town in the valleys, was a monastery, the monks of which, finding they might injure the reformed with impunity, began to plunder the houses and pull down the churches of the Waldenses. Not meeting with any opposition, they seized upon the persons of those unhappy people, murdering the men, confining the women, and putting the children to Roman Catholic nurses.
The Roman Catholic inhabitants of the valley of St. Martin, likewise, did all they could to torment the neighboring Waldenses: they destroyed their churches, burnt their houses, seized their properties, stole their cattle, converted their lands to their own use, committed their ministers to the flames, and drove the Waldenses to the woods, where they had nothing to subsist on but wild fruits, roots, the bark of trees, etc.
Some Roman Catholic ruffians having seized a minister as he was going to preach, determined to take him to a convenient place, and burn him. His parishioners having intelligence of this affair, the men armed themselves, pursued the ruffians, and seemed determined to rescue their minister; which the ruffians no sooner perceived than they stabbed the poor gentleman, and leaving him weltering in his blood, made a precipitate retreat. The astonished parishioners did all they could to recover him, but in vain: for the weapon had touched the vital parts, and he expired as they were carrying him home.
The monks of Pignerol having a great inclination to get the minister of a town in the valleys, called St. Germain, into their power, hired a band of ruffians for the purpose of apprehending him. These fellows were conducted by a treacherous person, who had formerly been a servant to the clergyman, and who perfectly well knew a secret way to the house, by which he could lead them without alarming the neighborhood. The guide knocked at the door, and being asked who was there, answered in his own name. The clergyman, not expecting any injury from a person on whom he had heaped favors, immediately opened the door; but perceiving the ruffians, he started back, and fled to a back door; but they rushed in, followed, and seized him. Having murdered all his family, they made him proceed towards Pignerol, goading him all the way with pikes, lances, swords, etc. He was kept a considerable time in prison, and then fastened to the stake to be burnt; when two women of the Waldenses, who had renounced their religion to save their lives, were ordered to carry fagots to the stake to burn him; and as they laid them down, to say, "Take these, thou wicked heretic, in recompense for the pernicious doctrines thou hast taught us." These words they both repeated to him; to which he calmly replied, "I formerly taught you well, but you have since learned ill." The fire was then put to the fagots, and he was speedily consumed, calling upon the name of the Lord as long as his voice permitted.
As the troops of ruffians, belonging to the monks, did great mischief about the town of St. Germain, murdering and plundering many of the inhabitants, the reformed of Lucerne and Angrogne, sent some bands of armed men to the assistance of their brethren of St. Germain. These bodies of armed men frequently attacked the ruffians, and often put them to the rout, which so terrified the monks, that they left the monastery of Pignerol for some time, until they could procure a body of regular troops to guard them.
The duke not thinking himself so successful as he at first imagined he should be, greatly augmented his forces; he ordered the bands of ruffians, belonging to the monks, to join him, and commanded that a general jail-delivery should take place, provided the persons released would bear arms, and form themselves into light companies, to assist in the extermination of the Waldenses.
The Waldenses, being informed of the proceedings, secured as much of their properties as they could, and quitted the valleys, retired to the rocks and caves among the Alps; for it is to be understood that the valleys of Piedmont are situated at the foot of those prodigious mountains called the Alps, or the Alpine hills.
The army now began to plunder and burn the towns and villages wherever they came; but the troops could not force the passes to the Alps, which were gallantly defended by the Waldenses, who always repulsed their enemies: but if any fell into the hands of the troops, they were sure to be treated with the most barbarous severity.
A soldier having caught one of the Waldenses, bit his right ear off, saying, "I will carry this member of that wicked heretic with me into my own country, and preserve it as a rarity." He then stabbed the man and threw him into a ditch.
A party of the troops found a venerable man, upwards of a hundred years of age, together with his granddaughter, a maiden, of about eighteen, in a cave. They butchered the poor old man in the most inhuman manner, and then attempted to ravish the girl, when she started away and fled from them; but they pursuing her, she threw herself from a precipice and perished.
The Waldenses, in order the more effectually to be able to repel force by force, entered into a league with the Protestant powers of Germany, and with the reformed of Dauphiny and Pragela. These were respectively to furnish bodies of troops; and the Waldenses determined, when thus reinforced, to quit the mountains of the Alps, (where they must soon have perished, as the winter was coming on,) and to force the duke's army to evacuate their native valleys.
The duke of Savoy was now tired of the war; it had cost him great fatigue and anxiety of mind, a vast number of men, and very considerable sums of money. It had been much more tedious and bloody than he expected, as well as more expensive than he could at first have imagined, for he thought the plunder would have dischanged the expenses of the expedition; but in this he was mistaken, for the pope's nuncio, the bishops, monks, and other ecclesiastics, who attended the army and encouraged the war, sunk the greatest part of the wealth that was taken under various pretences. For these reasons, and the death of his duchess, of which he had just received intelligence, and fearing that the Waldenses, by the treaties they had entered into, would become more powerful than ever, he determined to return to Turin with his army, and to make peace with the Waldenses.
This resolution he executed, though greatly against the will of the ecclesiastics, who were the chief gainers, and the best pleased with revenge. Before the articles of peace could be ratified, the duke himself died, soon after his return to Turin; but on his deathbed he strictly enjoined his son to perform what he intended, and to be as favorable as possible to the Waldenses.
The duke's son, Charles Emmanuel, succeeded to the dominions of Savoy, and gave a full ratification of peace to the Waldenses, according to the last injunctions of his father, though the ecclesiastics did all they could to persuade him to the contrary.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Words to Live By in Troubled Times (3)
(Oct 31) Bob Gass
‘The word of our God stands forever.’
(Is 40:8) 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. ESV
Here are some more wonderful promises from the Bible that you can rely on when trouble comes: 1) ‘Because you have made the LORD…your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways’ (Psalm 91:9-11 NKJV). 2) ‘The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them’ (Psalm 34:7 NIV 2011 Edition). 3) ‘I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed’ (Psalm 57:1 NIV 2011 Edition). 4) ‘The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit’ (Psalm 34:18 NIV 2011 Edition). 5) ‘The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer’ (1 Peter 3:12 NIV 2011 Edition). 6) ‘He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me…he rescued me because he delighted in me’ (Psalm 18:16-19 NIV 2011 Edition). 7) ‘Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light’ (Micah 7:8 NIV 2011 Edition). 8) ‘You will have courage because you will have hope. You will take your time and rest in safety. You will lie down unafraid, and many will look to you for help’ (Job 11:18-19 TLB). 9) ‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us’ (Ephesians 3:20 NIV 2011 Edition).
(Ps 91:9–11) 9 Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— 10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. ESV
(Ps 34:7) 7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. ESV
(Ps 57:1) Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. ESV
(Ps 34:18) 18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. ESV
(1 Pe 3:12) 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” ESV
(Ps 18:16–19) 16 He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. 17 He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. 18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support. 19 He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. ESV
(Mic 7:8) 8 Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. ESV
(Job 11:18–19) 18 And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security. 19 You will lie down, and none will make you afraid; many will court your favor. ESV
(Eph 3:20) 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, ESV
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
On this day, October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the door of the Wittenberg Palace Church, thus beginning the Reformation. He was summoned to stand trial before the twenty-one year old Emperor Charles V and was declared an outlaw. Luther was protected by Frederick of Saxony in the Wartburg castle, where he translated the New Testament into German. Among his works, Martin Luther wrote: “I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth.”American Minute
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
As to the words of the service-liturgy in the narrower sense-the question is rather different. If you have a vernacular liturgy you must have a changing liturgy: otherwise it will finally be vernacular only in name. The ideal of "time less English" is sheer nonsense. No living language can be timeless. You might as well ask for a motionless river.
I think it would have been best, if it were possible, that necessary change should have occurred gradually and (to most people) imperceptibly; here a little and there a little; one obsolete word replaced in a century-like the gradual change of spelling in successive editions of Shakespeare. As things are, we must reconcile ourselves, if we can also reconcile government, to a new Book.
If we were-if thank my stars I'm not-in a position to give its authors advice, would you have any advice to give them? Mine could hardly go beyond unhelpful cautions: "Take care. It is so easy to break eggs without making omelets."
Already our liturgy is one of the very few remaining elements of unity in our hideously divided Church. The good to be done by revision needs to be very great and very certain before we throw that away. Can you imagine any new Book which will not be a source of new schism?
Most of those who press for revision seem to wish that it should serve two purposes: that of modernizing the language in the interests of intelligibility, and that of doctrinal improvement. Ought the two operations-each painful and each dangerous-to be carried out at the same time? Will the patient survive?
What are the agreed doctrines which are to be embodied in the new Book and how long will agreement on them continue? I ask with trepidation• because I read a man the other day who seemed to wish that everything in the old book which was inconsistent with orthodox Freudianism should be deleted.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
I discovered later,
and I'm still discovering right up to this moment,
that it is only by living completely in this world
that one learns to have faith.
I mean living unreservedly in life's duties,
problems, successes and failures.
In so doing
we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God,
not our own sufferings,
but those of God in the world.
That, I think, is faith.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Cost of Discipleship
Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.
--- William James
The world is a kind of spiritual kindergarten where millions of bewildered infants are trying to spell "God" with the wrong blocks.
--- Edwin Arlington Robinson
Robinson: Poems (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets Series)
One who has been touched by grace will no longer look on those who stray as "those evil people" or "those poor people who need our help." Nor must we search for signs of "loveworthiness." Grace teaches us that God loves because of who God is, not because of who we are. --- Phillips Brooks
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
4. Now all the soldiery marched out beforehand by companies, and in their several ranks, under their several commanders, in the night time, and were about the gates, not of the upper palaces, but those near the temple of Isis; for there it was that the emperors had rested the foregoing night. And as soon as ever it was day, Vespasian and Titus came out crowned with laurel, and clothed in those ancient purple habits which were proper to their family, and then went as far as Octavian's Walks; for there it was that the senate, and the principal rulers, and those that had been recorded as of the equestrian order, waited for them. Now a tribunal had been erected before the cloisters, and ivory chairs had been set upon it, when they came and sat down upon them. Whereupon the soldiery made an acclamation of joy to them immediately, and all gave them attestations of their valor; while they were themselves without their arms, and only in their silken garments, and crowned with laurel: then Vespasian accepted of these shouts of theirs; but while they were still disposed to go on in such acclamations, he gave them a signal of silence. And when every body entirely held their peace, he stood up, and covering the greatest part of his head with his cloak, he put up the accustomed solemn prayers; the like prayers did Titus put up also; after which prayers Vespasian made a short speech to all the people, and then sent away the soldiers to a dinner prepared for them by the emperors. Then did he retire to that gate which was called the Gate of the Pomp, because pompous shows do always go through that gate; there it was that they tasted some food, and when they had put on their triumphal garments, and had offered sacrifices to the gods that were placed at the gate, they sent the triumph forward, and marched through the theatres, that they might be the more easily seen by the multitudes.
5. Now it is impossible to describe the multitude of the shows as they deserve, and the magnificence of them all; such indeed as a man could not easily think of as performed, either by the labor of workmen, or the variety of riches, or the rarities of nature; for almost all such curiosities as the most happy men ever get by piece-meal were here one heaped on another, and those both admirable and costly in their nature; and all brought together on that day demonstrated the vastness of the dominions of the Romans; for there was here to be seen a mighty quantity of silver, and gold, and ivory, contrived into all sorts of things, and did not appear as carried along in pompous show only, but, as a man may say, running along like a river. Some parts were composed of the rarest purple hangings, and so carried along; and others accurately represented to the life what was embroidered by the arts of the Babylonians. There were also precious stones that were transparent, some set in crowns of gold, and some in other places, as the workmen pleased; and of these such a vast number were brought, that we could not but thence learn how vainly we imagined any of them to be rarities. The images of the gods were also carried, being as well wonderful for their largeness, as made very artificially, and with great skill of the workmen; nor were any of these images of any other than very costly materials; and many species of animals were brought, every one in their own natural ornaments. The men also who brought every one of these shows were great multitudes, and adorned with purple garments, all over interwoven with gold; those that were chosen for carrying these pompous shows having also about them such magnificent ornaments as were both extraordinary and surprising. Besides these, one might see that even the great number of the captives was not unadorned, while the variety that was in their garments, and their fine texture, concealed from the sight the deformity of their bodies. But what afforded the greatest surprise of all was the structure of the pageants that were borne along; for indeed he that met them could not but be afraid that the bearers would not be able firmly enough to support them, such was their magnitude; for many of them were so made, that they were on three or even four stories, one above another. The magnificence also of their structure afforded one both pleasure and surprise; for upon many of them were laid carpets of gold. There was also wrought gold and ivory fastened about them all; and many resemblances of the war, and those in several ways, and variety of contrivances, affording a most lively portraiture of itself. For there was to be seen a happy country laid waste, and entire squadrons of enemies slain; while some of them ran away, and some were carried into captivity; with walls of great altitude and magnitude overthrown and ruined by machines; with the strongest fortifications taken, and the walls of most populous cities upon the tops of hills seized on, and an army pouring itself within the walls; as also every place full of slaughter, and supplications of the enemies, when they were no longer able to lift up their hands in way of opposition. Fire also sent upon temples was here represented, and houses overthrown, and falling upon their owners: rivers also, after they came out of a large and melancholy desert, ran down, not into a land cultivated, nor as drink for men, or for cattle, but through a land still on fire upon every side; for the Jews related that such a thing they had undergone during this war. Now the workmanship of these representations was so magnificent and lively in the construction of the things, that it exhibited what had been done to such as did not see it, as if they had been there really present. On the top of every one of these pageants was placed the commander of the city that was taken, and the manner wherein he was taken. Moreover, there followed those pageants a great number of ships; and for the other spoils, they were carried in great plenty. But for those that were taken in the temple of Jerusalem, 9 they made the greatest figure of them all; that is, the golden table, of the weight of many talents; the candlestick also, that was made of gold, though its construction were now changed from that which we made use of; for its middle shaft was fixed upon a basis, and the small branches were produced out of it to a great length, having the likeness of a trident in their position, and had every one a socket made of brass for a lamp at the tops of them. These lamps were in number seven, and represented the dignity of the number seven among the Jews; and the last of all the spoils, was carried the Law of the Jews. After these spoils passed by a great many men, carrying the images of Victory, whose structure was entirely either of ivory or of gold. After which Vespasian marched in the first place, and Titus followed him; Domitian also rode along with them, and made a glorious appearance, and rode on a horse that was worthy of admiration.
6. Now the last part of this pompous show was at the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, whither when they were come, they stood still; for it was the Romans' ancient custom to stay till somebody brought the news that the general of the enemy was slain. This general was Simon, the son of Gioras, who had then been led in this triumph among the captives; a rope had also been put upon his head, and he had been drawn into a proper place in the forum, and had withal been tormented by those that drew him along; and the law of the Romans required that malefactors condemned to die should be slain there. Accordingly, when it was related that there was an end of him, and all the people had set up a shout for joy, they then began to offer those sacrifices which they had consecrated, in the prayers used in such solemnities; which when they had finished, they went away to the palace. And as for some of the spectators, the emperors entertained them at their own feast; and for all the rest there were noble preparations made for feasting at home; for this was a festival day to the city of Rome, as celebrated for the victory obtained by their army over their enemies, for the end that was now put to their civil miseries, and for the commencement of their hopes of future prosperity and happiness.
7. After these triumphs were over, and after the affairs of the Romans were settled on the surest foundations, Vespasian resolved to build a temple to Peace, which was finished in so short a time, and in so glorious a manner, as was beyond all human expectation and opinion: for he having now by Providence a vast quantity of wealth, besides what he had formerly gained in his other exploits, he had this temple adorned with pictures and statues; for in this temple were collected and deposited all such rarities as men aforetime used to wander all over the habitable world to see, when they had a desire to see one of them after another; he also laid up therein those golden vessels and instruments that were taken out of the Jewish temple, as ensigns of his glory. But still he gave order that they should lay up their Law, and the purple veils of the holy place, in the royal palace itself, and keep them there.
by D.H. Stern
and pay attention to your herds.
24 For wealth doesn’t last forever,
neither does a crown through all generations.
25 When the hay has been mown, and the new grass appears,
and the mountain greens have been gathered;
26 the lambs will provide your clothing,
the goats will sell for enough to buy a field,
27 and there will be enough goat’s milk
to [buy] food for you and your household
and maintenance for your servant-girls.
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
Discernment of faith
Faith as a grain of mustard seed.… --- Matthew 17:20.
We have the idea that God rewards us for our faith, it may be so in the initial stages; but we do not earn anything by faith. Faith brings us into right relationship with God and gives God His opportunity. God has frequently to knock the bottom board out of your experience if you are a saint in order to get you into contact with Himself. God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith, not a life of sentimental enjoyment of His blessings. Your earlier life of faith was narrow and intense, settled around a little sun-spot of experience that had as much of sense as of faith in it, full of light and sweetness; then God withdrew His conscious blessings in order to teach you to walk by faith. You are worth far more to Him now than you were in your days of conscious delight and thrilling testimony.
Faith by its very nature must be tried, and the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character has to be cleared in our own minds. Faith in its actual working out has to go through spells of unsyllabled isolation. Never confound the trial of faith with the ordinary discipline of life. Much that we call the trial of faith is the inevitable result of being alive. Faith in the Bible is faith in God against every thing that contradicts Him—‘I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do.’ “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”—this is the most sublime utterance of faith in the whole of the Bible.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
I rubbed it
and the spirit appeared
(of history) : What you will,
it said. Die, I said.
But it would not.
Old gods are no good;
they are smaller than
they promise, or else they are large
like mountains, leaning over
the soul to admire themselves.
I put the bone back
in its place and went on
with my journey. History
went at my right side
hungry for the horizon.
Were there towns I came
to? The sky over
them was without expression.
No God there. I would have
passed on, but a music
detained me in one of
blood flowing, where two
people side by side
under the arc lamps
lay, from one to the other.
Amos R. Wells
--- Amos R. Wells
I supposed I knew my Bible
Reading piecemeal, hit and miss,
Now a bit of John or Matthew,
Now a snatch of Genesis,
Certain chapters of Isaiah
Certain Psalms (the twenty-third!);
Twelfth of Romans, First of Proverbs—
Yes, I thought I knew the Word!
But I found that thorough reading
Was a different thing to do,
And the way was unfamiliar
When I read the Bible through.
Oh, the massive, mighty volume!
Oh, the treasures manifold!
Oh, the beauty of the wisdom
And the grace it proved to hold!
As the story of the Hebrews
Swept in majesty along,
As it leaped in waves prophetic,
As it burst to sacred song,
As it gleamed with Christly omens,
The Old Testament was new,
Strong with cumulative power,
When I read the Bible through.
Ah! Imperial Jeremiah,
With his keen, coruscant mind;
And the blunt old Nehemiah,
And Ezekiel refined!
Newly came the Minor Prophets
Each with his distinctive robe,
Newly came the Song idyllic,
And the tragedy of Job;
Deuteronomy, the regal,
To a towering mountain grew,
With its comrade peaks around it,
When I read the Bible through.
What a radiant procession
As the pages rise and fall,
James the sturdy, John the tender
O the myriad-minded Paul!
Vast apocalyptic glories
Wheel and thunder, flash and flame,
While the church triumphant raises
One incomparable Name.
Ah, the story of the Saviour
Never glows supremely true
Till you read it whole and swiftly,
Till you read the Bible through.
You who like to play at Bible,
Dip and dabble, here and there,
Just before you kneel, aweary,
And yawn thro’ a hurried prayer;
You who treat the Crown of Writings
As you treat no other book—
Just a paragraph disjointed,
Just a crude, impatient look—
Try a worthier procedure,
Try a broad and steady view;
You will kneel in very rapture
When you read the Bible through!
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
The categories of loyalty and disloyalty do not enter into disagreements based on reasoned argument.
There is a common logic that unites Aggadah and Halakhah. The methods that the law student uses to understand when reason, in relation to authority, may apply in legal issues are similar to his approach to the speculative claims of his tradition.
The Aggadah of Judaism can be found both in the Talmud and the Bible. The same biblical text that Maimonides uses to reject a fundamentalist approach to rabbinic Aggadah is used to justify a nonliteral understanding of prophetic Aggadah. All Aggadah, both rabbinic and prophetic, must take cognizance of universal criteria of truth. When one studies Aggadah susceptible to demonstrative certainty, loyalty is to reason not to authority. The certainties of demonstrative reason transcend the logic of communal authority.
Maimonides’ attempt at reconciling the Aggadah of Judaism with Aristotle’s physics is not based upon his loyalty to Athens, but upon his commitment to truth. Once a truth has been established through demonstrative reason, it ceases to have any logically significant relationship to the one who established it. The acceptance of truths based upon demonstrative reason does not in any way reveal the cultural or historical loyalties of an individual. The approach of modern thinkers who view knowledge as being historically and culturally determined should not confuse our understanding of how Maimonides perceived the science of Athens. Not only in the Guide but also in the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides expresses this:
As regards the logic for all these calculations—why we have to add a particular figure or deduct it, how all these rules originated, and how they were discovered and proved—all this is part of the sciences of astronomy and mathematics, about which many books have been composed by Greek sages—books that are still available to the scholars of our time. But the books which had been composed by the Sages of Israel, of the tribe of Issachar, who lived in the time of the Prophets, have not come down to us. But since all these rules have been established by sound and clear proofs, free from any flaw and irrefutable, we need not be concerned about the identity of their authors, whether they be Hebrew Prophets or Gentile sages. For when we have to do with rules and propositions which have been demonstrated by good reasons and have been verified to be true by sound and flawless proofs, we rely upon the author who has discovered them or transmitted them only because of his demonstrated proofs and verified reasoning. ( ASIN: B000PWBT9O )
Just as there is no “Jewish” astronomy so there is no “Greek” physics. Demonstrative truths claim assent on the basis of their content, and not by the appeal of their author. In his attempt at reconciling the science of his day with Torah, Maimonides did not see himself as attempting to merge two cultural loyalties. He was loyal to the Jewish tradition; he did not believe that this demanded the denial of universal truths. Maimonides was loyal to the authority of Moses and Abraham; he was intellectually open to the rational arguments of Aristotle and al-Farabi. From the perspective of his general position that demonstrative truths are not subject to arguments from authority, we can understand Maimonides’ astonishing claim that there always was an oral tradition of philosophic knowledge in Judaism:
Know that the many sciences devoted to establishing the truth regarding these matters that have existed in our religious community have perished because of the length of the time that has passed, because of our being dominated by the pagan nations, and because, as we have made clear, it is not permitted to divulge these matters to all people.… Now if there was insistence that the legalistic science of law should not, in view of the harm that will be caused by such a procedure, be perpetuated in a written compilation accessible to all the people, all the more could none of the “mysteries of the Torah” have been set down in writing and be made accessible to the people. On the contrary, they were transmitted by a few men belonging to the elite to a few of the same kind, just as I made clear to you from their sayings: “The mysteries of the Torah may only be transmitted to a counselor, wise in crafts, and so on.” This was the cause that necessitated the disappearance of these great roots of knowledge from the nation.
Maimonides is showing his student, who is concerned about the conflict of reason with authority, that just as there is—in Judaism—an oral legal tradition which claims his assent on the basis of authority, so, too, there is an oral tradition—in philosophy—which claims his assent on the basis of demonstrative argument. What appears as an exaggerated, provincialistic claim actually states that Judaism always recognized that philosophic truths transcended loyalty to authority. One shows allegiance to the tradition by refusing to allow for the possibility of a contradiction between teachings based upon authority, and demonstrative truths. By maintaining that Judaism from Sinai onward contained both a legal and philosophical oral tradition, Maimonides enables the student of the Guide to realize that one remains a traditional Jew by joining loyalty to the oral law with loyalty to reason. The unity of Halakhah and Aggadah, within the tradition, makes it possible for an individual to unite allegiance to community with respect for truth regardless of the source of the truth. Maimonides’ philosophic explanation of prophetic Aggadah is a traditional mode of explanation since the tradition always recognized the difference between arguments from authority and arguments from reason. Biblical Aggadah is not misinterpreted if it is understood from the perspective of universal criteria of knowledge: The Bible never intended to speak from authority when demonstrative reason was capable of establishing truth.
The task of the Jewish philosopher, as understood by Maimonides, is to provide the believing Jew with epistemological guidelines which enable him to identify those beliefs which his community accepts on the basis of authority, and those beliefs his community shares with the universal community of rational men. The Jewish philosopher makes it possible for the Jew to believe that it can be compatible to be both a philosopher and a traditional Jew. To do this, he must establish and justify the legitimate place occupied by beliefs based on authority. Beliefs accepted on the basis of authority become legitimate when one realizes that the human intellect has limitations and that demonstrative reason alone is not a sufficient source of knowledge:
Do not think that what we have said with regard to the insufficiency of the human intellect and its having a limit at which it stops is a statement made in order to conform to Law. For it is something that has already been said and truly grasped by the philosophers without their having concern for a particular doctrine or opinion. And it is a true thing that cannot be doubted except by an individual ignorant of what has already been demonstrated.
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
--- 1 Corinthians 2:8
Pilate [was] as pathetic a figure as [exists] in human history. The Galilean Accent - Being Some Studies in the Christian Life A Roman, with a Roman’s sense of justice, he knew at once that these charges against Christ were faked. With a question or two, he had the poor, bribed, muddled witnesses tripping over their own stories or contradicting one another at all points, quite evidently twisting innocent words into sinister meanings that they did not carry in the accused’s mouth. Tools, thought the man on the judgment seat, and looked contemptuously at the hot faces showing through the doors, shouting and bawling, half beside themselves with rage, though they would come no further into a Gentile court, these holy men on this holy day, lest they might be polluted! How he despised and hated them! Being quite clear that there was nothing against the strange, silent prisoner, he tried hard to get him off. And yet he signed the order for the crucifixion and goes down in history hooted and pelted with the infamy of every race. Why didn’t he leap to his feet and cry, “This is mere malice and not a substantial charge. The prisoner is acquitted! And as for you, be off with you, for fear that you stand in his place!” Why, like a noble creature caught in a trap, does he only snarl and show his teeth and struggle and long to hurl himself at his taunting enemies, yet cannot break free?
They say old sins troubled him, past failures that made things difficult for him now. He had been too hectoring and domineering—at least these impossible people said so—though he himself denied it. At all events, protesting to Rome, they had won the emperor’s ear and humbled their governor. And that must not happen again. Ah, me! is not life a fearsome thing? Take care! take care! For if you sin a sin, be sure that somehow you will pay for it. And it may be a hideous price! So Pilate found in his day; so you, too, will find in ours.
Our acts follow us from afar,
And what we have been makes us what we are.
Pilate was curt and domineering to the Jews one day. And because of that, months later, his unwilling hands set up the cross of Christ; unwilling—but they did it. Take care! For sin is merciless. If you have had the sweet, sin will see to it that you drink the bitter—to the very dregs. Think, think, and take care!
--- Arthur John Gossip
In 1517 Pope Leo X, empty-pocketed and needing funds to rebuild St. Peter’s basilica, issued a special “sale” of indulgences. The very word “indulgence” tends to convey dubious moral connotations, but these indulgences were particularly questionable. What was an “indulgence”? It was a special sort of forgiveness for sins issued by the pope in consideration of various acts of merit, in this case donations to Leo’s treasury. Indulgences could even be “purchased” on behalf of loved ones in purgatory.
Dominican friar Johann Tetzel became the pontiff’s peddler, a P. T. Barnum traveling around with a brass-bound chest, a bag of printed receipts, and an enormous cross draped with a papal banner. Whenever Tetzel came to a town, church bells peeled, crowds gathered, and street performers kicked up their heels. Tetzel would set up shop in the nave of the local church, open his bags, and shout, “I have here the passports to lead the human soul to the celestial joys of Paradise. As soon as the coin rings in the bowl, the soul for whom it is paid will fly from purgatory and straight to heaven.”
He usually exceeded his quota.
But many were troubled, and when the hard eyes of Martin Luther fell on the indulgences purchased by fellow villagers in Wittenberg, he studied them carefully and pronounced them frauds. At high noon on October 31, 1517, Luther, a 33-year-old university professor, walked to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and tacked to it a document. The door served as the town bulletin board, and Martin Luther had an announcement to post. He called for a “disputation on the power and efficacy of indulgences.”
A few curious passersby drew near and scanned the words: “Out of love for the faith and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg under the chairmanship of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology. … ” There followed a list of 95 items.
Luther did not yet know what mighty blows he had struck.
God is our mighty fortress, always ready to help in times of trouble. Nations rage! Kingdoms fall! But at the voice of God the earth itself melts. The LORD All-Powerful is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress.
--- Psalm 46:1,6,7.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 31
“Renew a right spirit within me.” --- Psalm 51:10.
A backslider, if there be a spark of life left in him will groan after restoration. In this renewal the same exercise of grace is required as at our conversion. We needed repentance then; we certainly need it now. We wanted faith that we might come to Christ at first; only the like grace can bring us to Jesus now. We wanted a word from the Most High, a word from the lip of the loving One, to end our fears then; we shall soon discover, when under a sense of present sin, that we need it now. No man can be renewed without as real and true a manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s energy as he felt at first, because the work is as great, and flesh and blood are as much in the way now as ever they were. Let thy personal weakness, O Christian, be an argument to make thee pray earnestly to thy God for help. Remember, David when he felt himself to be powerless, did not fold his arms or close his lips, but he hastened to the mercy-seat with “renew a right spirit within me.” Let not the doctrine that you, unaided, can do nothing, make you sleep; but let it be a goad in your side to drive you with an awful earnestness to Israel’s strong Helper. O that you may have grace to plead with God, as though you pleaded for your very life—“Lord, renew a right spirit within me.” He who sincerely prays to God to do this, will prove his honesty by using the means through which God works. Be much in prayer; live much upon the Word of God; kill the lusts which have driven your Lord from you; be careful to watch over the future uprisings of sin. The Lord has his own appointed ways; sit by the wayside and you will be ready when he passes by. Continue in all those blessed ordinances which will foster and nourish your dying graces; and, knowing that all the power must proceed from him, cease not to cry, “Renew a right spirit within me.”
Evening - October 31
“I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.” --- Hosea 13:5.
Yes, Lord, thou didst indeed know me in my fallen state, and thou didst even then choose me for thyself. When I was loathsome and self-abhorred, thou didst receive me as thy child, and thou didst satisfy my craving wants. Blessed for ever be thy name for this free, rich, abounding mercy. Since then, my inward experience has often been a wilderness; but thou hast owned me still as thy beloved, and poured streams of love and grace into me to gladden me, and make me fruitful. Yea, when my outward circumstances have been at the worst, and I have wandered in a land of drought, thy sweet presence has solaced me. Men have not known me when scorn has awaited me, but thou hast known my soul in adversities, for no affliction dims the lustre of thy love. Most gracious Lord, I magnify thee for all thy faithfulness to me in trying circumstances, and I deplore that I should at any time have forgotten thee and been exalted in heart, when I have owed all to thy gentleness and love. Have mercy upon thy servant in this thing!
My soul, if Jesus thus acknowledged thee in thy low estate, be sure that thou own both himself and his cause now that thou art in thy prosperity. Be not lifted up by thy worldly successes so as to be ashamed of the truth or of the poor church with which thou hast been associated. Follow Jesus into the wilderness: bear the cross with him when the heat of persecution grows hot. He owned thee, O my soul, in thy poverty and shame—never be so treacherous as to be ashamed of him. O for more shame at the thought of being ashamed of my best Beloved! Jesus, my soul cleaveth to thee.
“I’ll turn to thee in days of light,
As well as nights of care,
Thou brightest amid all that’s bright!
Thou fairest of the fair!”
A MIGHTY FORTRESS
Words and Music by Martin Luther, 1483–1546
English Translation by Frederick H. Hedge, 1805–1890
God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. (Psalm 46:1, 2)
October 31, 1517, is perhaps the most important day in Protestant history. This was the day when Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk and a professor of theology, posted on the doors of the Cathedral of Wittenberg, Germany, his 95 theses (complaints) against the teachings and practices of the medieval Roman Church. With this event, the 16th century Protestant Reformation was formally born.
The Protestant Reformation movement was built on three main tenets:
• The re-establishment of the Scriptures.
• Clarifying the means of salvation.
• The restoration of congregational singing.
“A Mighty Fortress” was written and composed by Martin Luther. The date of the hymn cannot be fixed with any exact certainty. It is generally believed, however, to have been written for the Diet of Spires in 1529 when the term “protestant” was first used. The hymn became the great rallying cry of the Reformation.
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe—His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide our striving would be losing, were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He—Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same—and He must win the battle.
And tho this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph thru us. The prince of darkness grim—we tremble not for Him; His rage we can endure; for lo! his doom is sure—One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly pow’rs—no thanks to them—abideth; the Spirit and the gifts are ours thru Him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still—His kingdom is forever.
For Today: Deuteronomy 33:27; 2 Samuel 22:2; Psalm 46; Isaiah 26:4
Breathe a prayer of thanks to God for reformers such as Martin Luther, who laid the foundations for our evangelical faith. Praise Him on this Reformation Day for this truth ---
5. The power of God gives activity to all the other perfections of his nature, and is of a larger extent and efficacy, in regard of its
objects, than some perfections of his nature. I put them both together.
(1.) It contributes life and activity to all the other perfections of his nature. How vain would be his eternal counsels, if power did not step in to execute them! His mercy would be a feeble pity, if he were destitute of power to relieve; and his justice a slighted scarecrow, without power to punish; his promises an empty sound, without power to accomplish them. As holiness is the beauty, so power is the life of all his attributes in their exercise; and as holiness, so power, is an adjunct belonging to all, a term that may be given to all. God hath a powerful wisdom to attain his ends without interruption: he hath a powerful mercy to remove our misery; a powerful justice to lay all misery upon offenders: he hath a powerful truth to perform his promises; an infinite power to bestow rewards, and inflict penalties. It is to this purpose power is first put in the two things which the Psalmist had heard (Psalm 62:11, 12). “Twice have I heard,” or two things have I heard; first power, then mercy and justice, included in that expression, “Thou renderest to every man according to his work:” in every perfection of God he heard of power. This is the arm, the hand of the Deity, which all his other attributes lay hold on, when they would appear in their glory; this hands them to the world: by this they act, in this they triumph. Power framed every stage for their appearance in creation, providence, redemption.
(2.) It is of a larger extent, in regard of its objects, than some other attributes. Power doth not alway suppose an object, but constitutes an object. It supposeth an object in the act of preservation, but it makes an object in the act of creation; but mercy supposeth an object miserable, yet doth not make it so. Justice supposeth an object criminal, but doth not constitute it so: mercy supposeth him miserable, to relieve him; justice supposeth him criminal, to punish him: but power supposeth not a thing in real existence, but as possible; or rather, it is from power that any thing hath a possibility, if there be no repugnancy in the nature of the thing. Again, power extends further than either mercy or justice. Mercy hath particular objects, which justice shall not at last be willing to punish; and justice hath particular objects, which mercy at last shall not be willing to refresh: but power doth, and alway will, extend to the objects of both mercy and justice. A creature, as a creature, is neither the object of mercy nor justice, nor of rewarding goodness: a creature, as innocent, is the object of rewarding goodness; a creature, as miserable, is the object of compassionate mercy; a creature, as criminal, is the object of revenging justice: but all of them the objects of power, in conjunction with those attributes of goodness, mercy, and justice, to which they belong. All the objects that mercy, and justice, and truth, and wisdom, exercise themselves about, hath a possibility and an actual being from this perfection of Divine power. It is power first frames a creature in a capacity of nature for mercy or justice, though it doth not give an immediate qualification for the exercise of either. Power makes man a rational creature, and so confers upon him a nature mutable, which may be miserable by its own fault, and punishable by God’s justice; or pitiable by God’s compassion, and relievable by God’s mercy but it doth not make him sinful, whereby he becomes miserable and punishable. Again, power runs through all the degrees of the states of a creature. As a thing is possible, or may be made, it is the object of absolute power; as it is factibile, or ordered to be made, it is the object of ordinate power: as a thing is actually made, and brought into being, it is the object of preserving power.
So that power doth stretch out its arms to all the works of God, in all their circumstances, and at all times. When mercy ceaseth to relieve a creature, when justice ceaseth to punish a creature, power ceaseth not to preserve a creature. The blessed in heaven, that are out of the reach of punishing justice, are forever maintained by power in that blessed condition: the damned in hell, that are cast out of the bosom of entreating mercy, are forever sustained in those remediless torments by the Arm of Power.
6. This power is originally and essentially in the nature of God, and not distinct from his essence. It is originally and essentially in God. The strength and power of great kings is originally in their people, and managed and ordered by the authority of the prince for the common good. Though a prince hath authority in his person to command, yet he hath not sufficient strength in his person, without the assistance of others, to make his commands to be obeyed. He hath not a single strength in his own person to conquer countries and kingdoms, and increase the number of his subjects: he must make use of the arms of his own subjects, to overrun other places, and yoke them under his dominion: but the power of all things that ever were, are, or shall be, is originally and essentially in God. It is not derived from any thing without him, as the power of the greatest potentates in the world is: therefore (Psalm 62:11) it is said, “Power belongs unto God,” that is, solely and to none else. He hath a power to make his subjects, and as many as he pleases; to create worlds, to enjoin precepts, to execute penalties, without calling in the strength of his creatures to his aid. The strength that the subjects of a mortal prince have, is not derived to them from the prince, though the exercise of it for this or that end, is ordered and directed by the authority of the prince: but what strength soever any thing hath to act as a means, it hath from the power of God as Creator, as well as whatsoever authority it hath to act is from God, as a Rector and Governor of the world. God hath a strength to act without means, and no means can act any thing without his power and strength communicated to them. As the clouds, in ver. 8, before the text, are called God’s clouds, “his clouds:” so all the strength of creatures may be called, and truly is, God’s strength and power in them: a drop of power shot down from heaven, originally only in God. Creatures have but a little mite of power; somewhat communicated to them, somewhat kept and reserved from them, of what they are capable to possess. They have limited natures, and therefore a limited sphere of activity. Clothes can warm us, but not feed us; bread can nourish us, but not clothe us. One plant hath a medicinal quality against one disease, another against another; but God is the possessor of universal power, the common exchequer of this mighty treasure. He acts by creatures, as not needing their power, but deriving power to them: what he acts by them, he could act himself without them: and what they act as from themselves, is derived to them from him through invisible channels. And hence it will follow, that because power is essentially in God, more operations of God are possible than are exerted. And as power is essentially in God, so it is not distinct from his essence. It belongs to God in regard of the inconceivable excellency and activity of his essence. And omnipotent is nothing but the Divine essence efficacious ad extra. It is his essence as operative, and the immediate principle of operation: as the power of enlightening in the sun, and the power of heating in the fire, are not things distinct from the nature of them; but the nature of the sun bringing forth light, and the nature of the fire bringeth forth heat. The power of acting is the same with the substance of God, though the action from that power be terminated in the creature. If the power of God were distinct from his essence, he were then compounded of substance and power, and would not be the most simple being. As when the understanding is informed in several parts of knowledge, it is skilled in the government of cities and countries, it knows this or that art: it learns mathematics, philosophy; this, or that science. The understanding hath a power to do this; but this power, whereby it learns those excellent things, and brings forth excellent births, is not a thing distinct from the understanding itself; we may rather call it the understanding powerful, than the power of the understanding; and so we may rather say, God powerful, than say, the power of God; because his power is not distinct from his essence. From both these, it will follow, that this omnipotence is incommunicable to any creature; no creature can inherit it, because it is a contradiction for any creature to have the essence of God. This omnipotence is a peculiar right of God, wherein no creature can share with him. To be omnipotent is to be essentially God. And for a creature to be omnipotent, is for a creature to be its own Creator. It being therefore the same with the essence of the Godhead, it cannot be communicated to the humanity of Christ, as the Lutherans say it is, without the communication of the essence of the Godhead; for then the humanity of Christ would not be humanity, but Deity. If omnipotence were communicated to the humanity of Christ, the essence of God were also communicated to his humanity, and then eternity would be communicated. His humanity then was not given him in time; his humanity would be uncompounded, that is, his body would be no body, his soul no soul. Omnipotence is essentially in God; it is not distinct from the essence of God, it is his essence, omnipotent, able to do all things.
7. Hence it follows, that this power is infinite (Eph. 1:19); “What is the exceeding greatness of his power,” &c. “according to the working of his mighty power.” God were not omnipotent, unless his power were infinite; for a finite power is a limited power, and a limited power cannot effect everything that is possible. Nothing can be too difficult for the Divine power to effect; he hath a fullness of power, an exceeding strength, above all human capacities; it is a “mighty power” (Eph. 1:19), “able to do above all that we can ask or think” (Eph. 3:20): that which he acts, is above the power of any creature to act. Infinite power consists in the bringing things forth from nothing. No creature can imitate God in this prerogative of power. Man indeed can carve various forms, and erect various pieces of art, but from pre- existent matter. Every artificer hath the matter brought to his hand, he only brings it forth in a new figure. Chemists separate one thing from another, but create nothing, but sever those things which were before compacted and crudled together: but when God speaks a powerful word, nothing begins to be something: things stand forth from the womb of nothing, and obey his mighty command, and take what forms he is pleased to give them. The creating one thing, though never so small and minute, as the least fly, cannot be but by an infinite power; much less can the producing of such variety we see in the world. His power is infinite, in regard it cannot be resisted by anything that he hath made; nor can it be confined by anything he can will to make. “His greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3). It is a greatness, not of quantity, but quality. The greatness of his power hath no end: it is a vanity to imagine any limits can be affixed to it, or that any creature can say, “Hitherto it can go, and no further.” It is above all conception, all inquisition of any created understanding. No creature ever had, nor ever can have, that strength of wit and understanding, to conceive the extent of his power, and how magnificently he can work.
First, His essence is infinite. As in a finite subject there is a finite virtue, so in an infinite subject there must be an infinite virtue. Where the essence is limited, the power is so: where the essence is unlimited, the power knows no bounds. Among creatures, the more excellency of being and form anything hath, the more activity, vigor, and power it hath, to work according to its nature. The sun hath a mighty power to warm, enlighten, and fructify, above what the stars have; because it hath a vaster body, more intense degrees of light, heat, and vigor. Now, if you conceive the sun made much greater than it is, it would proportionably have greater degrees of power to heat and enlighten than it hath now: and were it possible to have an infinite heat and light, it would infinitely heat and enlighten other things; for everything is able to act according to the measures of its being: therefore, since the essence of God is unquestionably infinite, his power of acting must be so also. His power (as was said before) is one and the same with his essence: and though the knowledge of God extends to more objects than his power, because he knows all evils of sin, which because of his holiness he cannot commit, yet it is as infinite as his knowledge, because it is as much one with his essence, as his knowledge and wisdom is: for as the wisdom or knowledge of God is nothing but the essence of God, knowing, so the power of God is nothing but the essence of God, able.
The objects of Divine power are innumerable. The objects of Divine power are not essentially infinite; and therefore we must not measure the infiniteness of Divine power by an ability to make an infinite being; because there is an incapacity in any created thing to be infinite; for to be a creature and to be infinite; to be infinite and yet made, is a contradiction. To be infinite, and to be God, is one and the same thing. Nothing can be infinite but God; nothing but God is infinite. But the power of God is infinite, because it can produce infinite effects, or innumerable things, such as surpass the arithmetic of a creature; nor yet doth the infiniteness consist simply in producing innumerable effects; for that a finite cause can produce. Fire can, by its finite and limited heat, burn numberless combustible things and parcels; and the understanding of man hath an infinite number of thoughts and acts of intellection, and thoughts different from one another. Who can number the imaginations of his fancy, and thoughts of his mind, the space of one month or year? much less of forty or an hundred years; yet all these thoughts are about things that are in being, or have a foundation in things that are in being. But the infiniteness of God’s power consists in an ability to produce infinite effects, formally distinct, and diverse from one another; such as never had being, such as the mind of man cannot conceive: “Able to do above what we can think” (Eph. 3:20). And whatsoever God hath made, or is able to make, he is able to make in an infinite manner, by calling them to stand forth from nothing. To produce innumerable effects of distinct natures, and from so distant a term as nothing, is an argument of infinite power. Now, that the objects of Divine power are innumerable , appears, because God can do infinitely more than he hath done, or will do. Nothing that God hath done can enfeeble or dull his power; there still resides in him an ability beyond all the settled contrivances of his understanding and resolves of his will, which no effects which he hath wrought can drain and put to a stand. As he can raise stones to be children to Abraham (Matt. 3:9); so with the same mighty word, whereby he made one world, he can make infinite numbers of worlds to be the monuments of his glory. After the prophet Jeremiah (ch. 32:17), had spoke of God’s power in creation, he adds, “And there is nothing too hard for thee.” For one world that he hath made, he can create millions: for one star which he hath beautified the heavens with, he could have garnished it with a thousand, and multiplied, if he had pleased, every one of those into millions, “for he can call things that are not” (Rom. 4:17); not some things, but all things possible. The barren womb of nothing can no more resist his power now to educe a world from it, than it could at first: no doubt, but for one angel which he hath made, he could make many worlds of angels. He that made one with so much ease, as by a word, cannot want power to make many more, till he wants a word. The word that was not too weak to make one, cannot be too weak to make multitudes. If from one man he hath, in a way of nature, multiplied so many in all ages of the world, and covered with them the whole face of the earth; he could, in a supernatural way, by one word, multiply as many more. “It is the breath of the Almighty that gives life” (Job 33:4). He can create infinite species and kinds of creatures more than he hath created, more variety of forms: for since there is no searching of his greatness, there is no conceiving the numberless possible effects of his power. The understanding of man can conceive numberless things possible to be, more than have been or shall be. And shall we imagine, that a finite understanding of a creature hath a greater omnipotency to conceive things possible, than God hath to produce things possible? When the understanding of man is tired in its conceptions, it must still be concluded, that the power of God extends, not only to what can be conceived, but infinitely beyond the measures of a finite faculty. “Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out; he is excellent in power and in judgment” (Job 36:23). For the understanding of man, in its conceptions of more kind of creatures, is limited to those creatures which are: it cannot, in its own imagination; conceive anything but what hath some foundation in and from something already in being. It may frame a new kind of creature, made up of a lion, a horse, an ox; but all those parts whereof its conception is made, have distinct beings in the world, though not in that composition as his mind mixes and joins them; but no question but God can create creatures that have no resemblance with any kind of creatures yet in being. It is certain that if God only knows those things which he hath done, and will do, and not all things possible to be done by him, his knowledge were finite; so if he could do no more than what he hath done, his power would be finite.
(I.) Creatures have a power to act about more objects than they do. The understanding of man can frame from one principle of truth, many conclusions and inferences more than it doth. Why cannot, then, the power of God frame from one first matter, an infinite number of creatures more than have been created? The Almightiness of God in producing real effects, is not inferior to the understanding of man in drawing out real truths. An artificer that makes a watch, supposing his life and health, can make many more of a different form and motion; and a limner can draw many draughts, and frame many pictures with a new variety of colors, according to the richness of his fancy. If these can do so, that require a pre- existent matter framed to their hands, God can much more, who can raise beautiful structures from nothing. As long as men have matter, they can diversify the matter, and make new figures from it; so long as there is nothing, God can produce out of that nothing whatsoever he pleases. We see the same. in inanimate creatures. A spark of fire hath a vast power in it: it will kindle other things, increase and enlarge itself; nothing can be exempt from the active force of it. It will alter, by consuming or refining , whatsoever you offer to it. It will reach all, and refuse none; and by the efficacious power of it, all those new figures which we see in metals, are brought forth; when you have exposed to it a multitude of things , still add more, it will exert the same strength; yea, the vigor is increased rather than diminished. The more it catcheth, the more fiercely and irresistibly it will act; you cannot suppose an end of its operation, or a decrease of its strength, as long as you can conceive its duration and continuance: this must be but a weak shadow of that infinite power which is in God. Take another instance, in the sun: it hath power every year to produce flowers and plants from the earth; and is as able to produce them now, as it was at the first lighting it and rearing it in that sphere wherein it moves. And if there were no kind of flowers and plants now created, the sun hath a power residing in it, ever since its first creation, to afford the same warmth to them for the nourishing and bringing them forth. Whatsoever you can conceive the sun to be able to do in regard of plants, that can God do in regard of worlds; produce more worlds than the sun doth plants every year, without weariness, without languishment. The sun is able to influence more things than it doth, and produce numberless effects; but it doth not do so much as it is able to do, because it wants matter to work upon. God, therefore, who wants no matter, can do much more than he doth; he can either act by second causes if there were more, or make more second causes if he pleased.
(2.) God is the most free agent. Every free agent can do more than he will do. Man being a free creature, can do more than ordinarily he doth will to do. God is most free, as being the spring of liberty in other creatures; he acts not by a necessity of nature, as the waves of the sea, or the motions of the wind; and, therefore, is not determined to those things which he hath already called forth into the world. If God be infinitely wise in contrivance, he could contrive more than he hath, and therefore, can effect more than he hath effected. He doth not act to the extent of his power upon all occasions. It is according to his will that he works (Eph. 1.). It is not according to his work that he wills; his work is an evidence of his will, but not the rule of his will. His power is not the rule of his will, but his will is the disposer of his power, according to the light of his infinite wisdom, and other attributes that direct his will; and therefore his power is not to be measured by his actual will. No doubt, but he could in a moment have produced that world which he took six days’ time to frame; he could have drowned the old world at once, without prolonging the time till the revolution of forty days; he was not limited to such a term of time by any weakness, but by the determination of his own will. God doth not do the hundred thousandth part of what he is able to do, but what is convenient to do, according to the end which he hath proposed to himself.
Jesus Christ, as man, could have asked legions of angels; and God, as a sovereign, could have sent them (Matt. 26:53). God could raise the dead every day if he pleased, but he doth not: he could heal every diseased person in a moment, but he doth not. As God can will more than he doth actually will, so he can do more than he hath actually done; he can do whatsoever he can will; he can will more worlds, and therefore can create more worlds. If God hath not ability to do more than he will do, he then can do no more than what he actually hath done; and then it will follow, that he is not a free, but a natural and necessary agent, which cannot be supposed of God.
Second. This power is infinite in regard of action. As he can produce numberless objects above what he hath produced, so he could produce them more magnificently than he hath made them. As he never works to the extent of his power in regard of things, so neither in regard of the manner of acting; for he never acts so but he could act in a higher and perfecter manner.
(1.) His power is infinite in regard of the independency of action: he wants no instrument to act. When there was nothing but God, there was no cause of action but God; when there was nothing in being but God, there could be no instrumental cause of the being of anything. God can perfect his action without dependence on any thing; and to be simply independent, is to be simply infinite. In this respect it is a power incommunicable to any creature, though you conceive a creature in higher degrees of perfection than it is. A creature cannot cease to be dependent, but it must cease to be a creature; to be a creature and independent, are terms repugnant to one another.
(2.) But the infiniteness of Divine power consists in an ability to give higher degrees of perfection to everything which he hath made. As his power is infinite extensive, in regard of the multitude of objects he can bring into being, so it is infinite intensive, in regard of the manner of operation, and the endowments he can bestow upon them. Some things, indeed, God doth so perfect, that higher degrees of perfection cannot be imagined to be added to them. As the humanity of Christ cannot be united more gloriously than to the person of the Son of God, a greater degree of perfection cannot be conferred upon it. Nor can the souls of the blessed have a nobler object of vision and fruition than God himself, the infinite Being: no higher than the enjoyment of himself can be conferred upon a creature, respectu termini. This is not want of power; he cannot be greater, because he is greatest; not better, because he is best; nothing can be more than infinite. But as to the things which God hath made in the world, he could have given them other manner of being than they have, A human understanding may improve a thought or conclusion; strengthen it with more and more force of reason; and adorn it with richer and richer elegancy of language: why, then, may not the Divine providence produce a world more perfect and excellent than this? He that makes a plain vessel, can embellish it more, engrave more figures upon it, according to the capacity of the subject: and cannot God do so much more with his works. Could not God have made this world of a larger quantity, and the sun of a greater bulk and proportionable strength, to influence a bigger world? so that this world would have been to another that God might have made, as a ball or a mount, this sun as a star to another sun that he might have kindled. He could have made every star a sun, every spire of grass a star, every grain of dust a flower, every soul an angel. And though the angels be perfect creatures, and inexpressibly more glorious than a visible creature, yet who can imagine God so confined, that he cannot create a more excellent kind, and endow those which he hath made with excellency of a higher rank tban he invested them with at the first moment of their creation? Without question God might have given the meaner creatures more excellent endowments, put them into another order of nature for their own good and more diffusive usefulness in the world. What is made use of by the prophet (Mal. 2:15) in another case, may be used in this: “Yet had he a residue of Spirit.” The capacity of every creature might have been enlarged by God; for no work of his in the world doth equal his power, as nothing that he hath framed doth equal his wisdom. The same matter which is the matter of the body of a beast, is the matter of a plant and flower; is the matter of the body of a man; and so was capable of a higher form and higher perfections, than God hath been pleased to bestow upon it. And he had power to bestow that perfection on one part of matter which he denied to it, and bestowed on another part. If God cannot make things in a greater perfection, there must be some limitation of him: he cannot be limited by another, because nothing is superior to God. If limited by himself, that limition is not from a want of power, but a want of will. He can, by his own power, raise stones to be children to Abraham (Matt. 3:9): he could alter the nature of the stones, form them into human bodies, dignify them with rational souls, inspire those souls with such graces that may render them the children of Abraham. But for the more fully understanding the nature of this power, we may observe,
[1.] That though God can make everything with a higher degree of perfection, yet still within the limits of a finite being. No creature can be made infinite, because no creature can be made God. No creature can be so improved as to equal the goodness and perfection of God; yet there is no creature but we may conceive a possibility of its being made more perfect in that rank of a creature than it is: as we may imagine a flower or plant to have greater beauty and richer qualities imparted to it by Divine power, without rearing it so high as to the dignity of a rational or sensitive creature. Whatsoever perfections may be added by God to a creature, are still finite perfections; and a multitude of finite excellences can never amount to the value and honor of infinite: as if you add one number to another as high as you can, as much as a large piece of paper can contain, you can never make the numbers really infinite, though they may be infinite in regard of the inability of any human understanding to count them. The finite condition of the creature suffers it not to be capable of an infinite perfection. God is so great, so excellent, that it is his perfection not to have any equal; the defect is in the creature, which cannot be elevated to such a pitch; as you can never make a gallon measure to hold the quantity of a butt, or a butt the quantity of a river, or a river the fulness of the sea.
[2.] Though God hath a power to furnish every creature with greater and nobler perfections than he hath bestowed upon it, yet he hath framed all things in the perfectest manner, and most convenient to that end for which he intended them. Everything is endowed with the best nature and quality suitable to God’s end in creation, though not in the best manner for itself. In regard of the universal end, there cannot be a better; for God himself is the end of all things, who is the Supreme Goodness. Nothing can be better than God, who could not be God if he were not superlatively best, or optimus; and he hath ordered all things for the declaration of his goodness or justice, according to the behaviors of his creatures. Man doth not consider what strength or power he can put forth in the means he useth to attain such an end, but the suitableness of them to his main design, and so fits and marshals them to his grand purpose. Had God only, created things that are most excellent, he had created only angels and men; how, then, would his wisdom have been conspicuous in other works in the subordination and subserviency of them to one another? God therefore determined his power by his wisdom: and though his absolute power could have made every creature better, yet his ordinate power, which in every step was regulated by his wisdom , made everything best for his designed intention. A musician hath a power to wind up a string on a lute to a higher and more perfect note in itself, but in wisdom he will not do it, because the intended melody would be disturbed thereby if it were not suited to the other strings on the instrument; a discord would mar and taint the harmony which the lutenist designed. God, in creation, observed the proportions of nature: he can make a spider as strong as a lion; but according to the order of nature which he hath settled, it is not convenient that a creature of so small a compass should be as strong as one of a greater bulk. The absolute power of God could have prepared a body for Christ as glorious as that he had after his resurrection; but that had not been agreeable to the end designed in his humiliation: and, therefore, God acted most perfectly by his ordinate power, in giving him a body that wore the livery of our infirmities.
God’s power is alway regulated by his wisdom and will; and though it produceth not what is most perfect in itself, yet what is most perfect and decent in relation to the end he fixed. And so in his providence, though he could rack the whole frame of nature to bring about his ends in a more miraculous way and astonishment to mortals, yet his power is usually and ordinarily confined by his will to act in concurrence with the nature of the creatures, and direct them according to the laws of their being, to such ends which he aims at in their conduct, without violencing their nature.
[3.] Though God hath an absolute power to make more worlds, and infinite numbers of other creatures, and to render every creature a higher mark of his power, yet in regard of his decree to the contrary, he cannot do it. He hath a physical power, but after his resolve to the contrary, not a moral power: the exercise of his power is subordinate to his decree, but not the essence of his power. The decree of God takes not away any power from God, because the power of God is his own essence, and incapable of change; and is as great physically and essentially after his decree, as it was before; only his will hath put in a bar to the demonstration of all that power which he is able to exercise. As a prince that can raise 100,000 men for an invasion, raises only 20 or 30,000; he here, by his order, limits his power, but doth not divest himself of his authority and power to raise the whole number of the forces of his dominions if he pleases: the power of God hath more objects than his decree hath; but since it is his perfection to be immutable, and not to change his decree, he cannot morally put forth his power upon all those objects, which, as it is essentially in him, he hath ability to do. God hath decreed to save those that believe in Christ, and to judge unbelievers to everlasting perdition: he cannot morally damn the first, or save the latter; yet he hath not divested himself of his absolute power to save all or damn all. Or suppose God hath decreed not to create more worlds than this we are now in, doth his decree weaken his strength to create more if he pleased? His not creating more is not a want of strength, but a want of will: it is an act of liberty, not an act of impotency. As when a man solemnly resolves not to walk in such a way, or come at such a place, his resolution deprives him not of his natural strength to walk thither, but fortifies his will against using his strength in any such motion to that place. The will of God hath set bounds to the exercise of his power, but doth not infringe that absolute power which still resides in his nature: he is girded about with more power than he puts forth (Psalm 65:6).
[4.] As the power of God is infinite in regard of his essence, in regard of the objects, in regard of action, so, fourthly, in regard of duration. The apostle calls it “an eternal power” (Rom. 1:20). His eternal power is collected and concluded from the things that are made: they must needs be the products of some Being which contains truly in itself all power, who wrought them without engines, without instruments; and, therefore, this power must be infinite, and possessed of an unalterable virtue of acting. If it be eternal, it must be infinite, and hath neither beginning nor end; what is eternal hath no bounds. If it be eternal, and not limited by time, it must be infinite, and not to be restrained by any finite object: his power never begun to be, nor ever ceaseth to be; it cannot languish; men are fain to unbend themselves, and must have some time to recruit their tired spirits: but the power of God is perpetually vigorous, without any interrupting qualm (Isa. 40:28): “Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?” That might which suffered no diminution from eternity, but hatched so great a world by brooding upon nothing, will not suffer any dimness or decrease to eternity. This power being the same with his essence, is as durable as his essence, and resides for ever in his nature.
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