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Mark 9:35

Mark 9:35

Mark 9:35

“And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”” (Mark 9:35, NASB 2020)

Guileless Cohesion. Gregory of Nyssa: Let vanity be unknown among you. Let simplicity and harmony and a guileless attitude weld the community together. Let each remind himself that he is not only subordinate to the brother at his side, but to all.  If he knows this, he will truly be a disciple of Christ. On the Christian Mode of Life 8.1.

The Pursuit of Meekness. Chrysostom: If you are in love with precedence and the highest honor, pursue the things in last place, pursue being the least valued of all, pursue being the lowliest of all, pursue being the smallest of all, and pursue placing yourselves behind others. The Gospel of St. Matthew, Homily 58

πάντων ἔσχατος καὶ π. δίακονοςhe shall be last of all, and servant of all. This is the way to be great among the disciples of Jesus. It does not point out the penalty of ambition, as we might gather from the certain disapproval of the ordinary ambition by Jesus, but the way of satisfying Christian ambition. But the method is a paradox, like the beatification of sorrow. The Christian way to be first is to be last, to fall to the rear, to efface yourself. But it is not only humility that is demanded, but service. This again is a paradox, since primacy means dominion, the faculty not of serving, but of levying service on others. But these things, humility and service, in the kingdom of God, not only lead to greatness, they are greatness, i.e. they are the supreme marks of the Christian quality. And it is one of the signs that the world is becoming a seat of the kingdom of God, that rulers, leaders, employers, and others, are beginning to recognize this idea of service as the meaning of their position. Gould, E. P. (1922). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Gospel according to St. Mark (p. 174). New York: C. Scribner’s Sons. (Public Domain)

If any man desire to be first.—Comp. Matt. 23:12; 20:27; 18:4. Our clause seems in one formula to include two rules: whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; whosoever humbleth himself shall be exalted. Despotism makes man a slave; spiritual despotism makes him the lowest and most abject of all slaves, who must serve the most external and legal behests of a police for the internal kingdom of God. But voluntary service in the kingdom of love, and under the impulse of humility and self-denial, makes a man a spiritual power, and gives him an unconscious and blessed greatness in the kingdom of God, which does not complacently look at its own reflection. In this sense Christ came to minister unto all (symbol, the feet-washing), and has become Lord over all, Phil. 2:5–11. But the emphasis falls here obviously upon the second rule. Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., & Shedd, W. G. T. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Mark (p. 89). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain)

Servant (διάκονος). minister. Probably from διώκω, to pursue; to be the follower of a person; to attach one’s self to him. As distinguished from other words in the New Testament meaning servant, this represents the servant in his activity; while δοῦλος, slave, represents him in his condition or relation as a bondman. A διάκονος may be either a slave or a freeman. The word deacon is an almost literal transcription of the original. See Philip. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8, 12. The word is often used in the New Testament to denote ministers of the gospel. See 1 Cor. 3:5; Eph. 3:7; 1 Thess. 3:2, and elsewhere. Mark uses δοῦλος in 10:44.  Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 1, p. 210). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. (Public Domain)

Psalm 11

Psalm 11

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. In the Lord put I my trust: How say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, They make ready their arrow upon the string, That they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. If the foundations be destroyed, What can the righteous do? The Lord is in his holy temple, The Lord’s throne is in heaven: His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men. The Lord trieth the righteous: But the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, And an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; His countenance doth behold the upright.” (Psalm 11, KJV 1900)

The Psalmist is advised, by friends or foes, to escape by flight from the inextricable difficulties in which he finds himself involved, ver. 1–3. This he refuses to do, as inconsistent with his faith in the righteousness and grace of God, ver. 4–7. The logical relation of these parts makes the form of the whole somewhat dramatic, although this peculiarity is much less marked than in the second psalm. The language is not so much that of an historical person as of an ideal sufferer, representing the whole class of persecuted innocents. There is no specific reference to any incidents in David’s life, although some of the images were probably suggested by his recollections, both of Saul’s persecution and of Absalom’s rebellion. The general resemblance of this psalm to that before it, and the special resemblance of ver. 2 to Ps. 10:8, 9, may account for its position in the Psalter. The very difficulties of this psalm are proofs of its antiquity and strong corroborations of the title, which ascribes it to David.

1. To the chief musician, belonging to him as the performer, and to David, as the author. In Jehovah I have trusted, and do still trust. How will (or can) ye say to my soul, Flee (to) your mountain (as) a bird? The profession of confidence in God at the beginning is the ground of the following interrogation, which implies wonder and disapprobation. How can ye say so? really means, ye should not say so. The question seems to be addressed to timid or desponding friends, rather than to taunting and exulting enemies, as some suppose.—To my soul does not simply mean to me, but so as to affect my feelings. See above, on Ps. 3:3 (2). In the genuine text the verb flee is plural, because addressed to the whole class represented by the ideal sufferer in this case. Hence the frequent change of number throughout the psalm. See above, on Ps. 10:10. The exhortation to flee must be understood as implying that there is no longer any hope of safety.—To your mountain, as a customary place of refuge, not for birds, but for persecuted men. The comparison with a bird has no particular connection with this clause, but is a kind of after-thought, suggesting the idea of a solitary helpless fugitive. (Compare 1 Sam. 26:20, and Lam. 3:52). There may be an allusion to the words of the angel in Gen. 19:17, as there certainly is to one or both these places in our Lord’s exhortation to his followers, Matt. 24:16.

2. For lo, the wicked will tread (i.e. bend) the bow; they have fixed their arrow on the string, to shoot in darkness at the straightforward (upright) of heart. These are still the words of the advisers introduced in the preceding verse, assigning a reason for the advice there given.—Tread the bow; see above, on Ps. 7:13 (12). Will tread, are about to tread, are treading. The preterite which follows refers to a later point of time. The speakers are supposed to describe what they see actually passing. “They are bending the bow, (and now) they have fixed the arrow on the string.” The graphic vividness of the description is impaired, if not destroyed, by giving both the verbs a present form.—Fixed, i.e. in its proper place. The same verb occurs above, in Ps. 7:13 (12). Make ready is too vague in the case before us.—In darkness, in the dark, in secret, treacherously. See above, Ps. 10:8. 9.—The straight of heart, the upright and sincere. We do not use the adjective in this sense; but we have the cognate substantive, rectitude, which properly means straightness.

3. For the pillars (or foundations) will be (are about to be) destroyed: what has the righteous done, i.e. accomplished? The pillars or foundations are those of social order or society itself. These are said to be destroyed, when truth and righteousness prevail no longer, but the intercourse of men is governed by mere selfishness. The question in the last clause implies that the righteous has effected nothing, in opposition to the prevalent iniquity. The past tense represents this as a matter of actual experience, but as one which still continues. The substitution of any other form in the translation is gratuitous and ungrammatical. The true relation of the tenses is correctly given in the Prayer Book Version. For the foundations will be cast down, and what hath the righteous done?

4. Jehovah (is) in his palace (or temple) of holiness; Jehovah (or as to Jehovah), in the heavens (is) his throne. His eyes behold, his eyelids prove the sons of men. He is so exalted that he can see, and so holy that he must see and judge the conduct of his creatures. By an equally grammatical but less natural construction, the whole verse may be thrown into a single proposition. “Jehovah in his holy temple, Jehovah whose throne is in heaven, his eyes,” &c.—For the meaning of the word translated temple, see above on Ps. 5:8 (7).—Eyelids are mentioned as a poetical parallel to eyes, being the nearest equivalent afforded by the language.—Try or prove, as if by seeing through them. With the whole verse compare Ps. 102:20 (19).

5. Jehovah the righteous will prove, will prove the righteous, and the wicked and the lover of violence his soul hates. The sentence might also be divided thus: Jehovah will prove the righteous and the wicked, and the lover of violence his soul hates. Different from both is the masoretic interpunction, which seems, however to be rather musical than grammatical or logical.—The divine proof or trial of the righteous implies favor and approval like the knowledge spoken of in Ps. 1:6; but in neither case is it expressed. Violence, including the ideas of injustice and cruelty. See above, on Ps. 7:17 (16). His soul has hated and still hates. This is not simply equivalent to he hates, but denotes a cordial hatred. Odit ex animo. He hates with all his heart.

6. He will rain on wicked (men) snares, fire and brimstone, and a raging wind, the portion of their cup. The mixed metaphors shew that the whole description is a tropical one, in which the strongest figures elsewhere used, to signify destruction as an effect of the divine wrath, are combined. Rain is a natural and common figure for any copious communication from above, whether of good or evil. Snares are a favorite metaphor of David for inextricable difficulties. See above, 7:16 (15), 9:16 (15), 10:9.—Fire and brimstone are familiar types of sudden and complete destruction, with constant reference to the great historical example of Sodom and Gomorrah. See Gen. 19:24, and compare Ezek. 38:22, Job 18:16.—Raging wind, literally wind (or blast) of furies, is another natural but independent emblem of sudden irresistible inflictions. The second Hebrew word is elsewhere used for strong indignation (Ps. 119:53), and is once applied to the ragings (or ravages) of famine. (Lam. 5:10.)—The portion of their cup, or their cup-portion, something measured out for them to drink, according to the frequent Scriptural representation, both of God’s wrath and favor, as a draught, or as the cup containing it. Compare Ps. 16:5, 23:5, with Mat. 20:22, 23, 26:39. The meaning of the whole verse is that, notwithstanding the present security of the ungodly, they shall, sooner or later, be abundantly visited with every variety of destructive judgment.

7. For righteous (is) Jehovah; righteousness he loves; the upright (man) shall his face behold. The for suggests the intimate connection between God’s judgment on the wicked and his favor to the righteous. The second clause is a necessary inference from the first. The nature of God determines his judgments and his acts. He who is righteous in himself cannot but approve of righteousness in others. The righteousness of others is in fact nothing more than conformity to his will and nature. Nor does he merely approve of righteousness in the abstract; he rewards it in the person of the righteous man. This idea is expressed in the last clause, which admits of the several constructions. It may mean that the upright shall behold his face, i.e. enjoy his favorable presence, as in Ps. 17:15. But the collocation of the singular noun and the plural verb, with the analogy of ver. 4 above, is in favour of a different construction: his face shall behold (or does behold) the righteous, i.e. view them with favor and affection. Because the original expression is not properly his face, but their face or faces, Luther explains this as a reason why God loves the righteous, to wit, because their faces look upon (the) right, or that which is right. Another construction, founded on the same fact, is, the righteous shall behold (it with) their faces. It is better, however, to regard this as an instance of that remarkable idiom in Hebrew, which applies to the One True God, verbs, nouns, and pronouns in the plural, and which some explain as a pluralis majestaticus, like that employed by kings at present, and others as a form of speech transferred from polytheism to the true religion. Most probably, however, it was intended to express the fulness of perfection in the divine nature, not without a mystical allusion to the personal distinction in the Godhead. The most remarkable examples of this usage may be found in Gen. 1:26, 3:22, 11:7, Job. 35:10, Ps. 58:12, Eccles. 12:1, Isa. 6:8, 54:6.—The face is here, like the eyelids in ver. 4, a poetical equivalent to eyes, and the same parallelism reappears in Ps. 34:16, 17 (15, 16): “the eyes of Jehovah (are) towards the righteous;” “the face of Jehovah (is) against evil-doers.”[1]

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 52–55). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 10

Psalm 10

“Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble? The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: Let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined. For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, And blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth. The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. His ways are always grievous; Thy judgments are far above out of his sight: As for all his enemies, he puffeth at them. He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: For I shall never be in adversity. His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: Under his tongue is mischief and vanity. He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: In the secret places doth he murder the innocent: His eyes are privily set against the poor. He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: He lieth in wait to catch the poor: He doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net. He croucheth, and humbleth himself, That the poor may fall by his strong ones. He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: He hideth his face; he will never see it. Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up thine hand: Forget not the humble. Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? He hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it. Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, To requite it with thy hand: The poor committeth himself unto thee; Thou art the helper of the fatherless. Break thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man: Seek out his wickedness till thou find none. The Lord is King for ever and ever: The heathen are perished out of his land. Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: Thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear: To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, That the man of the earth may no more oppress.” (Psalm 10, KJV 1900)

The Psalmist complains of God’s neglect, and of the malice of his enemies, ver. 1–11. He prays that both these subjects of complaint may be removed, ver. 12–15. He expresses the most confident assurance that his prayer will be heard and answered, ver. 16–18.

The Septuagint and Vulgate unite this with the ninth psalm as a single composition. But each is complete in itself, and the remarkable coincidences even of expression only shew that both were meant to form a pair or double psalm like the first and second, third and fourth, &c. From the same facts it is clear, that this psalm, though anonymous, is, like the ninth, the work of David, and that both were probably composed about the same time.

1. For what (cause), why, O Jehovah, wilt thou stand afar, wilt thou hide at times (when we are) in trouble? The question really propounded is, how this inaction can be reconciled with what was said of God in Ps. 9:10 (9).—To stand afar off, is to act as an indifferent, or, at the most, a curious spectator. Wilt thou hide, i.e. thyself or thine eyes, by refusing to see, as in Lev. 20:4, 1 Sam. 12:3. The futures imply present action and the prospect of continuance hereafter. The question is not merely why he does so, but why he still persists in doing so. The singular phrase, at times in trouble, occurs only here and in Ps. 9:10 (9), a strong proof of the intimate connection of the two psalms, and perhaps of their contemporary composition. This expostulation betrays no defect either of reverence or faith, but, on the contrary, indicates a firm belief that God is able, and must be willing, to deliver his own people. Such demands are never uttered either by skepticism or despair.

2. In the pride of the wicked burns the sufferer; they are caught in devices which they have contrived. This very obscure verse admits of several different constructions. The first verb sometimes means to persecute, literally to burn after, or pursue hotly. Gen. 31:36; 1 Sam. 17:53. In one case it seems to have this meaning even without the preposition after. Lam. 4:19. The sense would then be, in the pride of the wicked he will persecute, &c. But the collocation of the words seems to point out עָנִי as the subject, not the object, of the verb. The sufferer’s burning may denote either anger or anguish, or a mixed feeling of indignant sorrow.—The adjective עָנִי means afflicted, suffering, whether from poverty or pain. Poor is therefore too specific a translation. In the Psalms this word is commonly applied to innocent sufferers, and especially to the people of God, as objects of malignant persecution. It thus suggests the accessory idea, which it does not formally express, of righteousness or piety.—In the last clause there is some doubt as to the subject of the first verb. If referred to the wicked, the sense will be, that they are taken in their own devices. If to the poor, that they are caught in the devices of the wicked. The first is favored by the analogy of Ps. 7:15–17 (14–16), and Ps. 9:16, 17 (15, 16). But the other agrees better with the context, as a description of successful wickedness.

3. For a wicked (man) boasts of (or simply praises) the desire of his soul, and winning (i.e. when he wins), blesses, despises Jehovah. This seems to be a description of the last stage of corruption, in which men openly defend or applaud their own vices, and impiously thank God for their dishonest gains and other iniquitous successes.—The preterite forms, has praised, &c., denote that it always has been so, as a matter of familiar experience. The desire of his soul means his natural selfish inclination, his heart’s lust. And winning, i.e. when he wins or gains his end, with special reference to increase of wealth. Hence the word is sometimes used to signify the covetous or avaricious grasper after wealth by fraud or force. The same participle, joined with a cognate noun, is rendered “greedy of gain” in Prov. 1:19, 15:27, and “given to covetousness” in Jer. 6:3, 8:10. See also Hab. 2:9, where the true sense is given in the margin of the English Bible.—He who gains an evil gain blesses (and) despises Jehovah, i.e. expresses his contempt of him by thanking him, whether in jest or earnest, for his own success. He blesses God, and thereby shews that he despises him. An illustrative parallel is Zech. 11:4, 5. “Thus saith the Lord my God, Feed the flock of the slaughter, whose possessors slay them and hold themselves not guilty, and they that sell them say, Blessed is the Lord, for I am rich.” This parallel, moreover, shews that blesses, in the verse before us, does not mean blesses himself, as some suppose, but blesses God.

4. A wicked (man), according to his pride, will not seek. There is no God (are) all his thoughts. Pride is here expressed by one of its outward indications, loftiness of look, or as some suppose the Hebrew phrase to signify originally, elevation of the nose.—Will not seek, i.e. seek God in prayer (Ps. 34:4), or in the wider sense of worship (Ps. 14:2), or in that of inquiring the divine will (Gen. 25:22), all which religions acts are at variance with the pride of the human heart.—All his thoughts, not merely his opinions, but his plans, his purposes, which is the proper meaning of the Hebrew word. The language of his life is, that there is no God.—Another construction of the first clause is as follows. The wicked, according to his pride (says), He, i.e. God will not require, judicially investigate and punish, as in Ps. 9:13 (12), and in ver. 13 below, where there seems to be a reference to the words before us, as uttered by the wicked man himself.—A third construction thus avoids the necessity of supplying says.—‘As to the wicked in his pride—He will not require, there is no God—are all his thoughts.” This may be transferred into our idiom as follows: All the thoughts of the wicked in his pride are, that God will not require, or rather that there is no God. In favor of the first construction given is the fact that it requires nothing to be supplied like the second, and does not disturb the parallelism of the clauses like the third. Common to all is the imputation of proud self-confidence and practical atheism to the sinner.

5. His ways are firm, or will be firm, in all time, always. A height, or high thing, (are) thy judgments from before him, away from him, out of his sight. (As for) his enemies he will puff at them, as a natural expression of contempt, or he will blow upon them, i.e. blow them away, scatter them, with ease. This describes the prosperity and success of sinners, not only as a fact already familiar, but as something which is likely to continue. Hence the future forms, which indicate continuance hereafter, just as the preterites in ver. 3 indicate actual experience.—The only other sense which can be put upon the first clause is, his ways are twisted, i.e. his actions are perverse. But the Chaldee paraphrase, the cognate dialects, and the analogy of Job 20:21, are in favor of the rendering, his ways are strong, i.e. his fortunes are secure, his life is prosperous, which moreover agrees best with the remainder of the verse, as a description of the sinner’s outward state. Thus understood, the second clause describes him as untouched or unaffected by God’s providential judgments, and the third as easily ridding himself of all his human adversaries. Both together represent him as impregnable on all sides, in appearance equally beyond the reach of God and man. (Compare Luke 18:2, 4.) As this immunity from danger, strictly understood, could exist only in appearance, the whole verse may be regarded as an expression of the sinner’s own opinion rather than his true condition.

6. He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved; to generation and generation, (I am one) who (shall) not (be) in evil, or as the same Hebrew phrase is rendered in the English version of Exod. 5:19, in evil case, i.e. in trouble, in distress. This is a natural expression of the proud security engendered in the natural man by great prosperity. He hath said, implying that the cause has already been in operation long enough to shew its natural effect. In his heart, to himself, in a spirit of self-gratulation and self-confidence. To age and age, throughout all ages or all generations. The strength of this expression shews that the speaker is not a real person, but the ideal type of a whole class. The sinner, who thus says in his heart, is not the sinner of one period or country, but the sinner of all times and places, one who never disappears, or ceases thus to feel and act.—The form of the last clause in Hebrew is peculiar and emphatic. He does not simply say, I shall never be in evil or adversity, but I am he, I am the man, who shall never be in evil, as if the very supposition of such a contingency, however justified by general experience, would be not only groundless but absurd in this one case. (Compare Isaiah 47:8–10.) There could scarcely be a stronger expression of the self-relying spirit of the sinner, as contrasted with the saints’ implicit confidence in God’s will and power, not only to preserve him from falling, but to raise him when he does fall.

7. (Of) cursing his mouth is full, and deceits, and oppression. Under his tongue (are) trouble and iniquity. He now gives a more particular description of the wicked man, beginning with his sins against his neighbor, and among these, with his sins of word or speech. If this be a correct view of the whole verse, the cursing, mentioned in the first clause, is most probably false swearing, or the invocation of God’s name, and imprecation of his wrath upon one’s self, in attestation of a falsehood. This kind of cursing is closely connected with the fraud and violence which follow. The Hebrew word תֹּךְ, to which the older writers gave the sense of fraud, is now commonly explained to mean oppression; so that with the noun preceding, it denotes injustice, injury to others, both by fraud and violence.—Under the tongue may have reference to the poison of serpents, or to the use of the tongue for speaking, as in Ps. 66:17, where the same phrase occurs in the original, though not in the common version.—Toil, labor, trouble, endured by others as the consequence of his deceits and violence.—For the meaning of the last word in the verse, see above, on Ps. 5:6 (5).—Oppression is here reckoned among sins of speech, because the latter may be made the means of violent injustice, by tyrannical command, by unjust judgment, or by instigating others to deprive the victim of his rights. If only fraud had been referred to, this description of the sins committed with the tongue would have been palpably defective.

8. He will sit in the lurking-place of villages; in the secret places he will slay the innocent; his eyes for the sufferer will hide, watch secretly, or lie in wait. From sins of word he now proceeds to those of deed or outward action. The wicked enemy is here represented as a robber. The futures, as in ver. 5, imply that what is now is likely to continue. Sitting implies patient waiting for his prey or victim. The lurking-place, the place where murderers and robbers usually lurk or lie in wait. Where such crimes are habitually practiced, there is commonly some spot especially associated with them, either as the scene of the iniquity itself, or as a place of refuge and resort to those who perpetrate it.—The mention of villages is no proof that the psalm relates to any specific case of lawless violence, but only that the Psalmist gives individuality to his description by traits directly drawn from real life. A slight change in the form of expression would convert it into a poetic simile. ‘As the robber sits in the lurking-place of villages,’ &c. The verb hide has the same sense as in Prov. 1:11, 18.—The word translated sufferer (חַֽלְכָה for חֵֽילְךָ) is peculiar to this psalm, and was not improbably coined for the occasion, as a kind of enigmatical description, in which David seems to have delighted. A Jewish tradition makes it mean thy host, i.e. the church of God; but this, besides being forced in itself, is forbidden by the use of the plural in ver. 10 below. Others derive it from an Arabic root, meaning to be black, dark, gloomy, sad, unhappy. A third hypothesis explains it as a compound of two Hebrew words, one meaning weak or sick, the other sad or sorrowful, and both together representing the object of the enemy’s malice, in the strongest light, as a sufferer both in mind and body.

9. He will lurk in the hiding-place as a lion in his den; he will lurk (or lie in wait) to catch the sufferer; he will catch the sufferer by drawing him into his net, or in drawing him (towards him) with his net. That the preceding verse contains a simile, and not a description of the enemy as an actual robber, is here rendered evident by the addition of two new comparisons, applied to the same object. In the first clause he is compared to a lion, in the second to a hunter. See above, on Ps. 7:16 (15), 9:16 (15), and below, on Ps. 35:7, 57:7 (6). The force of the futures is the same as in the foregoing verse.—His den, his shelter, covert, hiding-place. The Hebrew word is commonly applied to any temporary shed or booth, composed of leaves and branches. He lies in wait to seize the prey, and he succeeds, he accomplishes his purpose. A third possible construction of the last clause is, in his drawing (i.e. when he draws) his net. The whole verse, with the one before it, represents the wicked as employing craft no less than force for the destruction of the righteous.

10. And bruised he will sink; and by (or in, i.e. into the power of) his strong ones fall the sufferers, the victims. These are represented, in the first clause, by a collective singular, and in the second by a plural proper, that of the unusual word used in ver. 8 above. Its peculiar etymology and form might be imitated in an English compound, such as sick-sad, weak-sad, or the like. By his strong ones some would understand the strong parts of the lion, teeth, claws, &c.; others the same parts personified as warriors. But even in the foregoing verse, the figure of a lion is exchanged for that of a hunter; and this again gives place here to that of a military leader or a chief of robbers, thus insensibly returning to the imagery of ver. 8. These numerous and rapid changes, although not in accordance with the rules of artificial rhetoric, add greatly to the life of the description, and are not without their exegetical importance, as evincing that the whole is metaphorical, a varied tropical exhibition of one and the same object, the combined craft and cruelty of wicked men, considered as the enemies of God and of his people. According to this view of the passage, by his strong ones we may understand the followers of the hostile chief, those who help him and execute his orders, or the ideal enemy himself, before considered as an individual, but now resolved into the many individuals, of whom the class which he represents is really composed.

11. He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten, he hath hidden his face, he hath not seen, doth not see, and will not see, forever. The opening words are the same, and have the same sense, as in ver. 6 above. The three parallel clauses which follow all express the same idea, namely, that God takes no note of human offences. This is first expressed by the figure of forgetfulness; then by that of deliberately refusing to see, as in ver. 1 above; then by a literal and direct affirmation that he does not see, either the sufferings of his people or the malice of their enemies; and that this is not a transient or occasional neglect, but one likely to continue forever.

12. Arise, Jehovah! Almighty (God), raise thy hand! Forget not sufferers (or the wretched)! The impious incredulity, expressed in the preceding verse, is now made the ground of an importunate petition. God is besought to do away with the appearance of inaction and indifference. See above, on Ps. 7:7 (6). Raise thy hand, exert thy power. The second name by which God is addressed (אֵל) is one expressive of omnipotence, and may be correctly rendered by our phrase, Almighty God. As the name Jehovah appeals to his covenant relation to his people, as a reason for granting their requests, so this invokes his power as necessary to their deliverance and the vindication of his own honor from the imputation of forgetfulness cast upon him by his enemies. This imputation he is entreated, in the last clause, to wipe off by shewing that he does remember. Forget not is, in this connection, tantamount to saying, shew that thou dost not forget. Here, as in Ps. 9:13 (12), the margin of the Hebrew Bible reads (ענוים) meek or humble, while the text has (עניים) suffering or afflicted. The Kethib, or textual reading, is regarded by the highest critical authorities as the more ancient, and therefore, except in some rare cases, entitled to the preference.

13. On what (ground) has the wicked contemned God, has he said in his heart, Thou wilt not require? The question implies the sin and folly of the conduct described. The past tense suggests the inquiry why it has been suffered to go on so long. Contemned, i.e. treated with contempt. The reference is not to inward feeling merely, but to its external manifestation. The second clause shews how the feeling has been manifested. Said in his heart, is here repeated for the third time in this psalm. See ver. 6, 11, above. The direct address to God in the last clause is peculiarly emphatic. The wicked man not only speaks irreverently of him, but insults him to his face. Thou wilt not require. The Hebrew verb includes the ideas of investigation and exaction. Thou wilt not inquire into my conduct, or require an account of it. See ver. 4 above, and compare Ps. 9:13 (12). The whole verse contains an indirect expostulation or complaint of the divine forbearance towards such high-handed and incorrigible sinners.

14. Thou hast seen (this particular instance of iniquity); for trouble, the suffering occasioned by such sins, and provocation, that afforded by such sins, thou wilt behold, it is thy purpose and thy habit to behold it, to give with thy hand a becoming recompense, or to give into thy hand, i.e. to lay it up there in reserve, as something to be recompensed hereafter. Upon thee the sufferer wilt leave (his burden), will rely. An orphan, here put for the whole class of innocent and helpless sufferers, thou hast been helping; God has ever been a helper of the friendless, and may therefore be expected to do likewise now. The whole verse is an argument drawn from the general course of the divine administration. Hence the preterite and future forms. Thou hast seen in this case, for thou always wilt see in such cases. For the meaning of trouble and provocation, see above, on Ps. 6:8 (7), 7:15 (14).

15. Break thou the arm, destroy the power, of the wicked, and the bad (man), or as to the bad man, thou wilt seek for his wickedness (and) not find it. This may either mean, thou wilt utterly destroy him and his wickedness, so that when sought for it cannot be found (Ps. 37:36), or thou wilt judicially investigate his guilt, and punish it till nothing more is left to punish. The Hebrew verb (דרש) has then the same sense as in ver. 4, 13, above, and there is a direct allusion to the sinner’s boast that God will not inquire into men’s acts or require an account of them. There may be a latent irony or sarcasm, as if he had said, Thou wilt find nothing, as he boasts, but in a very different sense; not because there is nothing worthy of punishment, but because there will be nothing left unpunished.

16. Jehovah (is) king! He is not dethroned, as his enemies imagine; he is still king, and will so remain, perpetuity and eternity, for ever and ever. Lost, perished, are nations, the heathen, i.e. hostile nations, from, out of, his land, the Holy Land, the Land of Israel, the land of which he is the king in a peculiar sense, distinct from that of providential ruler. The Psalmist sees Jehovah still enthroned, not only as the sovereign of the world, but as the sovereign of his people. (See Num. 23:21, Deut. 33:5). The stations or heathen of this verse may be either literal or spiritual gentiles (Jer. 9:25, Ezek. 16:3). The psalm is so framed as to express the feelings of God’s people in various emergencies. The preterite tense in the last clause represents the destruction of God’s enemies as already past, not only on account of its absolute certainty, but because the process of destruction, although not completed, is begun and will infallibly continue. Here, as often elsewhere, earnest prayer is followed by the strongest expression of confidence and hope.

17. The desire of the meek (or humble) thou hast heard, Jehovah! Their desire is already accomplished. And this not merely once for all. Thou wilt settle (or confirm) their heart, i.e. dispel their fears and give them courage, by new assurances of favor and repeated answers to their prayers. Thou wilt incline thine ear, or make it attentive, cause it to listen, to their future no less than their past petitions. The figure of a fixed or settled heart recurs more than once below. See Ps. 51:12 (10), 57:8 (7), 112:7. The essential idea is that of a firm resolution, as opposed to timid doubt and vacillation.

18. To judge, or do justice to, the orphan and the bruised, or oppressed. See above, on Ps. 9:10 (9). This clause seems properly to form a part of the preceding verse; thou wilt incline thine ear to judge, &c. The remainder of the verse is a distinct proposition. He shall not add (or continue) any longer to resist, or defy, i.e. to set God at defiance. The subject of these verbs is placed last for the sake of greater emphasis. Man, frail man, from the earth, springing from it, and belonging to it; see Gen. 3:19. For the full sense of the word translated man, see above, on Ps. 8:5 (4), 9:20 (19), and compare the whole prayer in the latter passage with the one before us. The sense here is, that weak and short-lived man shall not continue to insult and defy Almighty God. It implies a wish or prayer, but is in form a strong expression of the Psalmist’s confident assurance that it will be so, and in connection with the similar expressions of the two preceding verses, forms a worthy and appropriate close of the entire composition. The original of this verse is commonly supposed to exhibit an example of the figure called paronomasia, an intentional resemblance, both in form and sound, between two words of very different meaning. The words supposed to be so related here are those translated to defy (ערץ) and earth (ארץ). This peculiarity of form, if really designed and significant, is one which cannot be completely reproduced in any version. There is reason to suspect, however, that in this, as in many other cases, the resemblance is fortuitous, like that which frequently occurs in a translation, without anything to match it in the original; e.g. in the Vulgate version of Gen. 8:22, æstus and æstas, and in that of Gen. 12:16, oves et boves.[1]

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 46–52). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

The Nature and Necessity of Regeneration

The Nature and Necessity of Regeneration

The Nature and Necessity of Regeneration

John 3:3. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

AS there is an essential distinction between divine and human knowledge, so is there a very great difference in the ways by which each of them is to be obtained; the one being attainable only by rational investigation, the other only by faith. Reason indeed must judge whether such or such things be revealed; but when that point is clearly ascertained, faith must receive the truth simply on the authority of God; and that too, no less when it lies beyond the sphere of our reason, than when it may easily be comprehended by it. The manner in which revealed truths are inculcated seems to imply this; for the prophets enforced their declarations, not with arguments, but with, “Thus saith the Lord:” and our Savior, with an authority which none but himself ever presumed to exercise, and which strongly marked his equality with the Father, disdained to use any other confirmation than that of his own assertion: this appears, as in numberless other passages, so particularly in his conversation with Nicodemus; when, instructing him in the mysterious doctrine of regeneration, he required a full assent to it upon the testimony of his own word. May we bow to his authority, while we consider,

I.    The nature of regeneration—

The mistakes which very generally obtain respecting this subject being first rectified, the truth will be more clearly seen—

Many suppose that baptism is the same with regeneration—

In the early ages of Christianity these terms were often used as synonymous, because it was taken for granted that none but truly regenerate persons would submit to a rite which engaged them to separate themselves from an ungodly world, and exposed them to the most imminent peril of their lives. But there is a wide difference between the two; regeneration being absolutely necessary to salvation, while baptism, as in the case of the dying thief, may under some circumstances be dispensed with. Besides, it was doubtless the great design of our Lord and his Apostles to regenerate and convert men: but were they so intent on administering the rite of baptism? Our Lord, we are told, “baptized no man;” and it is said of Paul, that “God sent him not to baptize;” yea, he himself “thanks God that he had baptized none but Crispus and Gaius:” but if he had regenerated none other, would he have thought that a proper ground for thanksgiving? Again, if baptism and regeneration be the same thing, we may use them altogether as synonymous terms: now it is said that “Whosoever is born of God overcometh the worlda,” and that “he neither doth sin nor can sin, because he is born of Godb.” But if we should say the same of all that are baptized, would not the worldly and sinful lives of many flatly contradict us? It appears then from the superior importance of regeneration, from the design of Christ and his Apostles respecting it, and from the properties ascribed to it in Scripture, that it neither is, nor can be, the same with baptism. Baptism is an outward work of man upon the body; regeneration is an inward work of God upon the soul.

Others think that regeneration imports no more than an outward reformation, or at most, a partial change of the inward man—

But can we conceive that, when a ruler of the Jews came to our Lord, acknowledging him to be a teacher sent from God, and desiring to be instructed in those things which he was come to reveal, our Lord would tell him that wicked men could not be saved without reforming their lives? Did Nicodemus need such information as that? Or, if this was all that our Lord meant, would this teacher in Israel have been so astonished at it? And would not our Lord have instantly rectified his misapprehension, and shewn him that there was no cause for astonishment? Can we imagine that our Lord would have confirmed the mistake, by representing this doctrine as an incomprehensible mystery, which man can no more fathom, than he can ascertain the hidden causes, or mark the exact boundaries, of the wind? Yea, would he have left this man so bewildered, saying, How can these things be! if he had meant no more than, that a wicked man must reform his life? Nor is it less evident that regeneration does not consist in a partial change even of the inward man. To what purpose should we boast of having experienced the illumination of Balaamc, the humiliation of Ahabd, the confession of Judase, the faith of Simon Magusf, the confidence of the unbelieving Jewsg, the attention of Ezekiel’s auditorsh, the reformation of Herodi, or (what perhaps includes all these together) the promising appearance of the stony-ground hearersk, if, like them, we rest in any partial change? Surely, if our righteousness exceed not theirs, we cannot hope that we shall be happier than they in our final doom.

In opposition to all such erroneous notions, the Scripture itself defines regeneration to be “a new creation, wherein old things pass away, and all things become newl.”

The author of this work is the Holy Spirit, who by a supernatural agency renews our inward man, and makes us partakers of a divine naturem. Our faculties indeed remain the same as they were before; but there is a new direction given to them all. Our understanding is enlightened, so that we behold ourselves, and Christ, and the world, yea, every thing else too, in a very different light from what we ever did beforen———Our will is changed, so that instead of following, or even desiring to follow, our own way, we surrender up ourselves altogether to God’s government, saying most unfeignedly, Not my will, but thine be doneo———Our affections also are exercised in a very different manner from what they were before, so that, instead of being called forth principally by the things of time and sense, they are set upon things spiritual and eternalp———We say not that this change is perfect in any man, (for there still are sad remains of the old and corrupt nature even in the best of men; the leprosy is never wholly removed till the walls be taken down.) But the change is universal in all the faculties, and progressive throughout our lives: nor can it be effected by any efforts of man, or by any other power than that of Godq.

As the Scriptures give this extensive view of regeneration, so they fully declare,

II.   The necessity of it—

“The kingdom of God” sometimes imports the kingdom of grace on earth, and sometimes the kingdom of glory in heaven. Indeed both are one and the same kingdom, subject to the same Head, composed of the same members, and governed by the same laws: grace is glory begun; glory is grace consummated. But for the purpose of illustrating our subject, we observe that, without regeneration,

1.   We cannot enter into God’s kingdom of grace—

There are many duties to be performed, and many privileges to be enjoyed, by the subjects of God’s spiritual kingdom, which an unregenerate man can neither perform nor enjoy. Who can doubt whether it be our duty to “repent in dust and ashes,” to “live by faith on the Son of God,” or to “crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts?” But can an unregenerate man do these things? We acknowledge that he may restrain in many respects his outward conduct; but can he root out from his heart the love of the world, and the love of sin? Can he truly lothe and abhor himself as well for the unhallowed corruptions of his heart, as for the grosser transgressions of his life? As well may he attempt to create a world as to effect these things by any power of his own. Again; it is the Christian’s privilege to enjoy that “peace of God which passeth all understanding,” to “abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost,” and to be transported with that “joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.” But can an unregenerate man possess that peace, when his iniquities are not forgiven? Can he look forward with delight to the coming of the day of Christ, when all his desires and pursuits terminate in this lower world? Can he be so elevated with holy joy, when there is nothing in his state which does not rather call for rivers of tears? But if any one doubt what answer he must return to these questions, let him go to his chamber, and see whether he be competent to form his mind to these sublime employments; and he will soon find that no power but that which created our souls at first, can form them anew after the Divine image.

2.   We cannot enter into the kingdom of glory—

There is a meetness for the heavenly inheritancer, which every one must attain, before he can enjoy the felicity of the saints in light. As, on earth, no occupation can afford us pleasure, if we have not an inward taste and relish for it, so, in heaven, we must have dispositions suited to the state of those above. But where is this disposition to be obtained, if not in this life? Can it be thought that there shall be “repentance in the grave,” and that we shall become regenerate in a future state? Shall he, who never supremely loved his God, become at once inflamed with devout affection towards him? Shall not he, who never was renewed after the Divine image, rather behold with dread and horror the holiness of God, and tremble at the sight of that Lamb, whose dying love he despised, and whose blood he trampled under foot? Shall he, who never sought one hour’s communion with God in secret, delight to have no other employment to all eternity? No; “as the tree falleth, so it lieth;” “he that was unjust will be unjust still; and he that was filthy will be filthy still.” As there is this reason on the part of man, so is there a still more cogent reason on the part of God. God has declared, with repeated and most solemn asseverations, that “except a man be born again, he shall never enter into his kingdom.” And has he spoken thus merely to alarm us? “Is he a man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should repent?” Will he dishonor himself to favor us? Will he violate the rights of justice, holiness, and truth, in order to save those, who, to their dying hour, rejected and despised his proffered mercy? If all the world tell you that you shall be admitted into heaven, believe them not: for the Judge of quick and dead has with the strongest possible asseverations declared, you never shall. Let us not then deceive ourselves with such vain hopes: for they can terminate in nothing but disappointment and ruin.

Address—

1.   The unregenerate—

You cannot surely be at a loss to know your real state, if you will examine candidly whether you have ever experienced such a change in your views, desires, and pursuits, as has been before described? O, let every one put home to his conscience this question, Am I born again? And know that neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision will avail you any thing, but a new creations. You must be born again, or perish———

2.   The regenerate—

St. Peter, writing to such persons under the severest persecution, begins his Epistle with congratulationst: and St. Paul bids us under the heaviest calamities to be thankful for renewing graceu. Do ye then bless God in every state, and “shew forth the virtues of him who hath called you to his kingdom and gloryx”———Let your renovation be progressive; and never think that you have attained any thing as long as any thing remains to be attained.[1]

 

 

a 1 John 5:4.

b 1 John 3:9.

c Numb. 24:4.

d 1 Kings 21:29.

e Matt. 27:4.

f Acts 8:13, 21, 23.

g John 8:41, 42.

h Ezek. 33:31.

i Mark 6:20, 27.

k Matt. 13:20, 21.

l 2 Cor. 5:17.

m 2 Pet. 1:4.

n Acts 2:37–47.

o Acts 9:6.

p Col. 3:2.

q John 1:13.

r Col. 1:12.

s Gal. 6:15.

t 1 Pet. 1:1, 3, 4.

u Col. 1:11–13.

x Ἀρετὰς. 1 Pet. 2:9.

[1] Simeon, C. (1833). Horae Homileticae: Luke XVII to John XII (Vol. 13, pp. 245–250). London: Holdsworth and Ball. (Public Domain)

 

Divinity of Christ

Divinity of Christ

Divinity of Christ

John 1:1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

WHAT astonishing majesty and dignity are displayed in these brief but comprehensive words! The other Evangelists commence their histories at the period of our Savior’s incarnation: but St. John carries us back to eternity itself; and informs us, not only what Christ did and suffered, but who he was. He calls him by a very peculiar name; “The Word;” and, in other places, “The Word of Lifea;” “The Word of Godb.” This name, as applicable to the Messiah, was not altogether unknown to the Jewsc: and it seems peculiarly proper to the Son, because it is by the Son that God has in all ages revealed his mind to man. And perhaps this very explanation of the term was intended to be conveyed to us by St. John, when he says, within a few verses after my text, “No man hath seen God at any time: the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of his Father, he hath declared himd.”

But, without dwelling upon matters of conjecture, let us consider,

I.    The testimony here given to the Lord Jesus Christ—

The beloved Apostle, speaking of the Lord Jesus, here declares,

1.   His eternal existence—

“In the beginning was the Word,” even before the creature existed, either in heaven or on earth: and from him every created being derived its existencee. So St. Paul also informs us: “By him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things; and by him all things consistf.” Though he was born into the world in time, yet in his divine nature he existed from eternity: “He was the same yesterday, to-day, and foreverg:” “His goings-forth were of old from everlastingh:” “He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the lasti.”

2.   His distinct personality—

From all eternity “he was with God;” “having a glory with him before the worlds were madek;” and having a perfect participation of all that the Father possessed, whether of wisdom and knowledgel, or of authority and powerm. This appears from the council held, as it were, between the Father and the Son, respecting the formation of mann; and man’s consequent expulsion from Paradiseo; and the confounding of the projects of man’s apostate race by changing their language at Babelp. Hence the Lord Jesus is said to have “come forth from Godq,” even “from his bosom,” where had been his everlasting abode. The importance of this truth is marked by the repetition of it by St. John, in the words following my text, “The same was in the beginning with God.”

3.   His proper deity—

“The Word was God,” even “the mighty Godr,” “the great Gods,” “God over all, blessed for evert.” “He was in the form of God; and thought it no robbery to be equal with Godu;” and was therefore rightly “named Emmanuel, God with usx;” and is with truth declared to be “God manifest in the fleshy.”

Now, that this is not a mere speculative subject, I will proceed to shew, by pointing out,

II.   The deep interest we have in it—

On the very face of the question, “Whether our Savior be God, or only a created being?” it cannot fail of appearing a subject of extreme importance. Know, then, that Christ is truly God, as well as man: and on this truth depends,

1.   The efficacy of all that he did and suffered for us on earth—

Had he been only a creature, he could only have done what was his duty to do; and therefore he could have merited nothing at the hands of God: or, at all events, could have merited only for himself. But being God, his whole undertaking was gratuitous; there was no obligation lying upon him, to do any thing, or suffer any thing, for us. What he did and suffered, therefore, may well be put to our account; more especially since it was so concerted between him and his Father, when he undertook to redeem our ruined race. His sufferings, though only for a season, may well be regarded as equivalent to the eternal sufferings of man; and his obedience to the law be justly considered as if all mankind had obeyed it. On both the one and the other his Deity stamps an infinite value; so that, “he having been made sin for us, we may well be made the righteousness of God in himz.”

2.   The efficacy of all that he is yet doing for us in heaven—

There is our adorable Savior seated at the right hand of God; and all judgment is committed to him, that he may complete for his people the work which he began on earth. He is appointed “Head over all things to the Churcha.” But supposing him to be a mere creature, how can he attend to all at once, and supply the necessities of all, in every quarter of the universe, at the same instant of time? But there is no room for such a question as that, seeing he is the omnipresent, omniscient, Almighty God. “Our help is, indeed, laid upon One that is mightyb,” upon One that is Almighty, “in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodilyc.” We need not fear, therefore, however great our necessities; but be fully assured, that “he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by himd.”

Behold then, brethren,

1.   How inconceivably great is the condescension of our God!

I wonder not at the unbelief of those who call in question the Divinity of Christ: for if it were not so fully revealed, as that it is impossible for a truly enlightened man to doubt it, I should be ready to doubt it myself; so inconceivable does it appear, that God should become a man, and make himself the surety and substitute of his own rebellious creatures. But he is God, and therefore can do it: he is God, and therefore cannot be judged by the finite capacity of man. In doing what he has done, he has acted like himself. He is God, and therefore I believe all that he has done for sinful man. Though himself eternal, he has been born in time: though eternally with God, he has come down and tabernacled with man: though himself the true and Living God, he has become a man, yea, and died for man upon the cross. I believe it, because he has revealed it. I believe it, because nothing less than this would have been adequate to my necessities. And were this not true, I should most gladly take my portion for ever under rocks and mountains.

2.   What unbounded consolation has he provided for sinful man!.

This doctrine meets my every want. I have guilt, which nothing less than “the blood of God” can wash awaye. I have corruptions, which none but the Spirit of God can subdue and mortify. I have wants, which none but the all-sufficient God can supply. But, having Jehovah for my friend, my surety, my righteousness, my all, I fear nothing. I hope in him; and believe in him; and glory in him; and make him “all my salvation and all my desire.” Trusting in him, I will defy all my enemiesf: and, “believing in him,” I will anticipate in my soul all the glory and blessedness of heaveng.[1]

 

 

a 1 John 1:1, 2.

b Rev. 19:13.

c See Bishop Pearson on the Creed, pp. 117, 118.

d ver. 18.

e ver. 3.

f Col. 1:16, 17.

g Heb. 13:8.

h Mic. 5:2.

i Rev. 1:8, 11.

k John 17:5.

l Matt. 11:27.

m John 5:17.

n Gen. 1:26.

o Gen. 3:22.

p Gen. 11:7.

q John 16:27, 28.

r Isai. 9:6.

s Tit. 2:13.

t Rom. 9:5.

u Phil. 2:6.

x Matt. 1:23.

y 1 Tim. 3:16.

z 2 Cor. 5:21.

a Eph. 1:22.

b Ps. 89:19.

c Col. 2:9.

d Heb. 7:25.

e Acts 20:28.

f Rom. 8:31.

g 1 Pet. 1:8.

[1] Simeon, C. (1833). Horae Homileticae: Luke XVII to John XII (Vol. 13, pp. 186–189). London: Holdsworth and Ball. (Public Domain)

Security of Christ's Sheep

Security of Christ's Sheep

Security of Christ's Sheep

John 10:27, 28. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

WHILST we acknowledge with gratitude the powers of reason in investigations of a speculative or temporal nature, we must be very jealous of its conclusions in matters that are purely spiritual or practical. In whatever relates to God and to the soul, its decisions are apt to be biased by prejudice, or interest, or passion; and it yields, or withholds, assent, not so much according to the weight of evidence adduced, as according to the dispositions which are called forth into exercise. This was peculiarly manifest amongst the persons who attended on the ministry of our Lord: some were so wrought upon by the greatness of his miracles, and the impressive wisdom of his discourses, that they could not but receive him as the Messiah; whilst others were always complaining of want of evidence, and always caviling at his words. In the preceding context we are told, that “the Jews came round about him, and said, How long dost thou make us to doubt? if thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you; and ye believed not.” He then informs them what the source was of their unbelief; “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep:” you are destitute of those gracious qualities which would have fitted you for receiving my word: had you been given to me by the Father, and possessed the dispositions which characterize my sheep, you would have both believed in me, and reaped all the benefits of that faith: “My sheep hear my voice; and I know them, and they follow me,” &c.

In these words, our Lord refers to a conversation which he had recently had with them respecting his sheep; and goes on to declare,

I.    Their character—

This is delineated with great simplicity:

1.   They hear his voice—

Sheep that are well attended, are always observant of the shepherd’s voice: so is the Christian also of the voice of Christ. Christ speaks to us in his word as truly as ever he spake to his Disciples in the days of his flesh: and it is the delight of all his people to hear and obey his word. The inspired volume is to them a source, an inexhaustible source, of comfort: they read it, they meditate upon it, they pray over it, they “esteem it more than their necessary food.” When they open it, they look up to their Divine Master, and say, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth;” “Open thou mine eyes, that I may see wondrous things out of thy law.” Directions, warnings, invitations, promises, are all alike acceptable to them: everything that conveys to them the mind and will of their good Shepherd, is received with implicit faith, and unreserved obedience.

2.   They follow his steps—

In the written word they behold the path their Savior trod; and wherever they see the traces of his feet, they endeavor to follow. They inquire not whether the way be arduous and self-denying, or perilous and beset with enemies; all that they desire is, to ascertain precisely the path of duty; and then to walk in it with steadiness and perseverance. They plainly see that their Shepherd is gone before them towards Zion, regardless of all dangers, indifferent to all the things of this world, and intent only on executing the will of his heavenly Father; and thither they direct their steps, cultivating in everything “the mind that was in him,” and endeavoring “to walk as he walked.”

In proportion as they pursue this path, they augment,

II.   Their happiness—

The Lord Jesus Christ regards them with approbation—

It is true that he “knows them” all by name; nay more, he knows everything relating to them, their wants, their weaknesses, their fears, their trials, their exertions, their desires. But the word in our text is intended to express the approbation with which their Shepherd notices their well-meant endeavors. And what can afford them greater happiness than the enjoyment of his favor? “In his favor is life; and his loving-kindness is better than life itself.” Is it asked, How be conveys to them a sense of his favor? I answer, by “the witness of his Spirit,” by “the testimony of their own conscience,” by “shedding abroad his love in their hearts through the Holy Ghost.” It is a certain truth, that “he will manifest himself to them as he does not unto the world:” and he “will give them the white stone, wherein is a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth itb.” In this sense of his love, they have a “peace that passeth all understanding,” and “a joy with which the stranger intermeddleth not.”

He loads them with his richest benefits—

Whatever he bestows upon them in this world, it is but a taste before the banquet, a drop before the shower, a pledge and earnest of infinitely richer blessings in the world to come. “He gives unto them eternal life:” he has prepared other pastures for them in heaven, where all his sheep from the commencement to the end of time shall be collected, and form “one-fold under one Shepherd.” If their “joys” even here are sometimes “unspeakable,” who shall declare the happiness reserved for them against that day? Never for a moment will they lose sight of their Beloved: they will hear his voice day and night: they will follow him incessantly without any weariness or difficulty: the richest images that can be borrowed from earthly things are incapable of conveying the smallest idea of the felicity that awaits them. And all this is given them; it is given them freely; it is given them now: it is said in our text, not, “I will give them,” but, “I give them:” the very moment that they are brought home to his fold, he bestows it on them: they have instantly a right and title to it; and when they go hence, they go and take possession of it, not as a new gift which shall then be conferred, but as an inheritance, which by the surest of all titles, they have before been enabled to call their own.

Their ultimate possession of these benefits is insured to them in such a manner, as warrants us to affirm and to rejoice in,

III.  Their security—

Nothing shall be permitted to rob them of their inheritance—

Sheep may perish either from internal disorders, or from outward enemies: and it should seem that the sheep of Christ also may fail of attaining eternal blessedness either through the corruptions of their own hearts, or through the assaults of their spiritual enemies. But against both these dangers their Shepherd has engaged to protect them: “they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand.” It is here taken for granted, that they are exposed to things, which, without the intervention of Omnipotence to prevent it, might terminate in their destruction: and every one of them feels that this is really the case. But Jesus guarantees, if I may so say, their safety: he has himself begun the good work in them, and he undertakes to perfect it: he “has laid the foundation in their hearts, and he will finish it, and bring forth the top-stone:” he has reserved heaven for them; and he will keep them for itc.

For this Jesus pledges his own veracity and his Father’s power—

It is not asserted here, that they shall never be tempted: nor is it asserted that they shall never fall: but it is asserted that they shall never perish, nor be plucked out of their Redeemer’s hand. What shall we say then? That they are at liberty to live in sin? No; there is no such license allowed them. The way in which they shall be kept from perishing, is, by giving them “grace sufficient for them,” by enabling them to “mortify the deeds of the body,” and by sanctifying them throughout “in body, soul, and spirit,” and by “bruising Satan under their feet.” In this way they shall be made “more than conquerors through Him that loved them.” And, because Jesus was about to leave his Disciples, and to commit the keeping of them to his heavenly Father, he pledges himself, that his Father also, who was infinitely above all created Powers, yea, and greater than he himself also, as man, and as Mediator, should effectually preserve them; and that no enemy should prevail against them, unless he should first overcome Jehovah himself. This then being secured to them by a promise that cannot fail, and by a power that cannot he overcome, we may congratulate the sheep of Christ in the words of their good Shepherd; “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Now because of the singular importance of this subject, we shall,

1.   Guard it against abuse—

By referring the final issue of our warfare to the veracity and power of God, rather than to the faithfulness and diligence of man, it may be thought that we open a door for licentiousness of manners, or at least for carelessness and indifference in our spiritual concerns. But if it be recollected what has been stated as the character of Christ’s sheep, (that “they hear his voice” and “follow his steps;”) and what has been declared as to the manner of perfecting in them the good work, (that God enables them to mortify sin, and to vanquish Satan;) what room can there be for the objection of its tending to licentiousness? If however there be any man disposed to say, ‘God will not suffer me to perish, therefore I will be careless about my walk and conduct,’ he needs nothing more to prove that he is not one of Christ’s sheep; he has not the smallest resemblance to his sheep; he is altogether deaf to the voice of Christ; he walks in a way directly opposite to his; and, instead of vanquishing sin and Satan, he is overcome by them. Whatever therefore he may call himself, he is no other than a wolf in sheep’s clothing. To imagine that he can attain the end without the means, is absurd; for God has ordained not only the end, but the means, and the end BY the means. See how clearly this is stated by St. Paul: “God,” says he, “hath from, the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truthd.” To what hath God chosen us? to enjoy the means of grace? to possess heaven, if we can earn it by our good works? No; he has chosen us to salvation, even “to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But has he left it to our choice in what way this end shall be attained? No: he has appointed “sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth,” as the way to it: and if we are not proceeding in that way, it is in vain to think of ever attaining that end. If we choose to walk in sin, we may; but it will infallibly lead us to perdition: holiness is the appointed path to heaven; and “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” To those, therefore, who would take the comfort arising from this subject, we recommend, that they judge of their state by their character and conduct: if they resemble Christ, and are walking truly in his ways, let them confidently trust in Him who “is able to keep them from falling, and to present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy:” but let them never entertain the thought of reaching heaven in any other than the appointed way: for, if they resemble “the goats,” it is in vain to hope that they shall have their portion with “the sheep.”

2.   Defend it against objections—

Many are the objections confidently urged against the doctrines here maintained: and I most willingly acknowledge that these mysterious truths are to be stated with extreme caution, and that they should occupy only such a space in our general ministrations as they appear to occupy in the Holy Scriptures. Yet we must not keep back any part of divine truth; but, when occasion offers, must “declare the whole counsel of God.” It is true, that many pious men cannot receive these doctrines; and therefore we should, as much as possible, avoid such a statement of them as may wound their minds: still, however, we are not called to suppress the mention of them, but only to concede to others what we claim for ourselves, the right of forming our own judgment, and of being treated with respect and candor by those who differ from us.

It is said that the doctrines before stated are contrary to Scripture, to fact, and to the interests of morality.

The Scripture, it is said, abounds with warnings and exhortations to obedience; in many of which our final enjoyment of God’s favor is actually suspended on our perseverance in his ways. All this is true; and we are grieved, when any, from an undue attachment to human systems, attempt to deny it: but is it not also true that the Scriptures abound with passages of like import with the texte? The great fault of those who adopt human systems is, that they will be wise above what is written, and, instead of receiving God’s word as little children, will presume to reject everything which they cannot reconcile with their own favorite opinions. Who could ever reconcile God’s fore-knowledge with the free-will of man? but who will venture to deny either? So, we may not see how to reconcile God’s determination to keep his people, with his cautions against the danger of apostasy; and yet God’s determinations may exist, without superseding the need of fear and caution on our part; nay, I am persuaded, that they are carried into effect by means of that very fear which his warnings inspire. And this is, I apprehend, the true solution of the difficulty, as far as it can be solved by man. God’s precepts teach us what we ought to do: his exhortations put us upon making every exertion in our power: his threatenings humble us for our short-comings and defects: his promises incline us to look to him for strength: and his covenanted engagements encourage us to “hope even against hope,” and to renew our exertions in an assured expectation of ultimate success. View the different portions of Scripture in this way, and, whatever the heat of controversy may lead men to urge against each other, there will be found no real opposition between them, but a perfect harmony in every part.

But, it may be said, it is contrary to fact that the Lord’s people are so preserved; for the inspired records inform us of many who “make shipwreck of their faith,” and “whose end,” in consequence of their apostasy, was “worse than their beginning.” This also is true: but it disproves not one atom of what is asserted in our text.

Hear what St. John says to this very point: he acknowledges that some had apostatized from the truth: but, says he, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest, that they were not all of usf.” To this it may be replied, that, if apostates are disclaimed as having ever really belonged to Christ, it is impossible to tell who do really belong to him. I readily acknowledge, that no man can know either that he himself belongs to Christ, or that any other person does, except by his works, or in any degree further than he is warranted by his life and conversation. If a man have the mark and character of Christ’s sheep, he may have a good hope that he belongs to Christ; but the very moment that he declines from that character, his evidences of relation to Christ decay, and, together with them, his hope of ultimate acceptance with him. “The foundation of God standeth sure; the Lord knoweth them that are his: but let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

As to the objection that these doctrines are contrary to the interests of morality, it has been already answered, when we were guarding this subject from abuse. The doctrine that asserts that we shall be kept in the way of holiness, can never be inimical to the interests of holiness. But we would further ask, What must be the effect of denying these doctrines? Will not men be tempted to trust in an arm of flesh? and will not that issue in disappointment? and will not repeated disappointments tend to create despondency? People are apt to dread the idea of despondency as connected with the doctrines of grace: but we will venture to affirm, that, for one instance of despondency arising from a view of the sovereignty of God, and of our entire dependence upon his power and grace, a hundred instances arise from want of just views of this subject. What is the answer which we uniformly receive when we exhort men to walk in the steps of Christ? Is it not this! ‘We cannot: You require more of us, than we are able to perform?’ Of course, in these persons exertion is discouraged; and they remain bond-slaves of Satan, because they conceive it impossible that they should be delivered from his power: whereas, the person who believes that God is all-sufficient and faithful to his promises, is encouraged to renew his application to him from day to day, and, even under the most distressing circumstances, to expect a happy termination of his conflicts. A view of God, as “able to keep us from falling,” and as engaged to “perfect that which concerneth us,” will be a cordial to the drooping soul: and will enable us to adopt the triumphant language of Christ himself; “He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? Let us stand together; Who is mine adversary I let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn meg?” And what the effect will be of such a cheering hope as this, I leave you to judge. Only see it realized in the Apostle Paul, and we have no fear about any conclusions that shall be drawn from ith.

3.   Improve it for your encouragement—

What unspeakable encouragement is here afforded to those who are yet ignorant of Christ! Who can hear this saying, and not wish to be numbered amongst his sheep? Methinks the hope of obtaining such security should induce everyone to return from his wanderings, and to put himself under his guidance and protection. Where shall we find any such promise made to those who are at a distance from the fold of Christ? Where has God said to them, “Ye shall never perish?” To them belongs rather that tremendous threatening, “Except ye repent, ye shall all perish.” O that all who are going astray might consider this, and “return immediately to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls!”

To you who have fled to him for refuge, here is indeed strong consolation. You are sensible of manifold corruptions, any one of which is sufficient to destroy your souls. You feel your weakness too, and your utter inability to withstand that roaring lion that seeketh to devour you. What then would you do, if you were left to preserve yourselves by the unassisted efforts of your own strength and resolution 2 To you it is no little joy to be assured, that you are in the hands of an Omnipotent Being, against whom neither earth nor hell shall ever be able to prevail, and who engages in your behalf, that you shall never perishi. Learn then to “cast your care on Him,” and to commit the keeping of your souls to Him in well-doing, as into the hands of a faithful Creatork.”[1]

 

 

b Rev. 2:17.

c 1 Pet. 1:4, 5.

d 2 Thess. 2:13, 14.

e Job 17:9. Isai. 54:17. Jer. 32:40.

f 1 John 2:19. See this also confirmed by facts, Luke 22:31, 32. John 17:12.

g Isai. 50:8, 9.

h Rom. 8:33–39.

i 1 John 4:4.

k 1 Pet. 4:19.

[1] Simeon, C. (1833). Horae Homileticae: Luke XVII to John XII (Vol. 13, pp. 511–519). London: Holdsworth and Ball. (Public Domain)

Repentance Urged

Repentance Urged

Repentance Urged

Joel 2:12–14. Now, saith the Lord, Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments; and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him, even a meat-offering and a drink-offering unto the Lord your God?

THE season of Lent has, for many centuries, been set apart in the Church of Christ, for the purpose of promoting in the minds of Christians a deeper humiliation before God, and of preparing them for a more profitable celebration of those mysteries which we commemorate in the Passion-week. The utility of consecrating that season to the end proposed was felt by the fathers of our Church at the time of the Reformation; and they have enjoined on all the members of our community to employ it in a more than ordinary course of penitence and prayer. But, unhappily, the superstitions of the Church of Rome, from which we separated, have excited such disgust in the minds of the generality amongst us, that we have run to a contrary extreme, so that at this day we put scarcely any difference between this season and the other parts of the year. Our Church expresses a regret that she is not able to enforce the rites of penance on offenders, as the custom of earlier ages had sanctioned: and if, in the stead of penance, we put penitence, I can most cordially unite in that sentiment. For, so entirely are the duties of this season neglected, that it will appear to many strange that we take such a subject as that before us, unless indeed on that day with which the season commences, and which is still observed amongst us as a public fast. But, in reality, the exhortation before us is suited to all seasons: and therefore, without apology, I will call your attention to it, and set before you,

I.    Our duty—

All acknowledge, in general terms, the duty of repentance: and here we are led to contemplate it,

1.   In its outward expressions—

“Fasting, and weeping, and mourning,” are the proper expressions of penitence in the soul. But “fasting” is grievously neglected amongst us; and all are ready to excuse themselves from it, as unprofitable to their souls. But why should it not be as profitable to us as it was to the saints of old? Or why should our blessed Lord have given us directions for the performance of this duty, if it were a matter of indifference whether we performed it or not? The truth is, that we are as far from observing those other duties, of “weeping and mourning,” as we are that of “fasting:” and hence it is that “fasting” is so little in request amongst us. Do but call to mind your state before God, my Brethren; and see how rarely, if ever, you have wept on account of your sins; and how rarely, if ever, you have so “looked on Him whom you have pierced by your sins, as to mourn and be in bitterness, as one that is in bitterness for his first-borna?”———Yet these, so to speak, are only the outward expressions of repentance. Let me call your attention to it,

2.   In the inward experience of the soul—

“To rend the garments,” however passionately it were done, would be a small matter, if we did not at the same time “rend the heart.” But O! what an idea does this convey! We can easily conceive, and see as it were before our eyes, a garment rent: but who can conceive of a heart torn, and rent as it were to pieces, by distress on account of sin? Yet this is the experience of one who is truly penitent and contrite: this is what God requires of us; and anything short of this he will utterly despiseb.

Further than this, God says to us in my text, “Turn ye unto me with all your heart, even turn unto the Lord your God.” And how shall I represent to you this duty? Methinks it would occupy a long space of time to enter particularly into this part of my subject. But I will set it before you, so that you may comprehend it perfectly, and in an instant. Who amongst you has ever seen a river that is affected with the tide? At one time you have seen the waters flowing with majestic force towards the ocean; and a few hours afterwards you have seen them returning with equal copiousness towards their fountain-head. This shews how all the powers of the soul have been engaged in the service of the world; and how they are to be employed in the service of our God. It is no partial change that will suffice; it must be entire: and all our faculties, whether of body or soul, which have been used as instruments of sin, must become instruments of righteousness unto Godc.”

Now think of this, my Brethren: dismiss from your minds those partial views of repentance with which you have hitherto been satisfied; and address yourselves to this duty in its full extent.

And that I may prevail with you, let me proceed to set before you,

II.   Our encouragement—

This arises,

1.   From the general character of God—

See God in his own essential perfections: “he is merciful and gracious,” and delights altogether in the exercise of mercy towards sinful men. See him also in his dealings with us: how “slow has he been to anger!” Against whom amongst us might he not have broken forth in anger a thousand times, just as he did against Korah and his company, or against Dathan and Abiram, or Ananias and Sapphira, whom he struck dead upon the spot? View him, also, when ready to execute upon us his wrathful indignation: how often has he, in his answer to the intercession of his dear Son, returned the sword to its scabbard, and “repented of the evil that he thought to do unto us!” And are these no encouragements to repentance? Can you willingly go on to insult so gracious a God, and to provoke him, till his anger break forth without a remedy, and “burn to the lowest hell?” I pray you, Brethren, “run not thus on the thick bosses of his buckler,” and defy him not thus to his face; but fall before him with the deepest self-abasement, and “seek his face whilst yet he may be foundd.”

2.   From the hope which this character inspires—

God, in the preceding context, has threatened to send an army that should lay waste the whole land of Israel; and so destroy it, that the very worship of God should be set aside for want of an offering to present to him. At this day, also, he often visits sin with temporal calamities, till he has reduced us to the greatest imaginable distress. And, in reference to these visitations, it is uncertain whether God will remove them from us on our repentance, or not. David, though pardoned as to his soul, was visited with severe trials in his family. And so may we be visited: nor can we be certain, that, “though God forgive us our sins,” he will not “take vengeance of our inventionse.” Yet may we hope for the removal even of these judgments: and “who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him,” even such a blessing as shall bring you into a state of sweet communion with your God?

But if the question be put in reference to the remission of sins, and the ultimate enjoyment of heaven, I will undertake, with reverence and humility, to say, “I Know.” Yes, the whole word of God declares that he will return in mercy to the contrite soul; and “blot out our iniquities as a morning cloud,” and “remember them against us no more forever.” Even though he had given the command for our destruction, yet would he revoke it, even as he did in reference to Nineveh, if he saw us, in penitence and faith, returning to him: and though we had not an hour to live, he would hear our prayer, and take us, like the dying thief, to be with him in Paradise. This hope is founded on his perfections, as set forth in the Holy Scriptures, and on the word of promise which he has given to returning penitents. And therefore I cannot but urge and encourage every one of you to humble yourselves before him, and to “seek at his hands the blessings which he is so ready to bestow.”

And now let me ask,

1.   Is not this repentance necessary?

Yes, for every one amongst you. I readily grant, that many of you are free from any thing that comes under the character of gross sin: but who amongst you has not grievously departed from God? Who has not shamefully slighted our blessed Savior? Who has not resisted the motions of the Holy Spirit? Who has not lived for time, rather than for eternity; and to himself, rather than unto his God? Here, then, is reason enough for every one of you to weep and mourn, and to rend your very souls to pieces before God. I entreat, therefore, you who are young, and you also who are moral, to reflect on these things, and to turn to God without delay; yea, to turn unto him with your whole hearts.

2.   Are not the considerations with which the duty is enforced sufficient encouragements to the performance of it?

I might have enforced the duty with far different arguments, and “persuaded you rather by the terrors of the Lord” to turn unto him. But I greatly prefer the views of God, as he is exhibited in the text. It is in this light that he is revealed to us in the Gospel; even as coming down to this earth to seek and save us, and to reconcile us unto himself in the person of his dear Son. And these considerations have a far greater tendency to humble the soul; which, if terrified for a moment by the threatenings of the law, is ready, like fused metal, to return in a little time to its wonted hardness. “Let, then, the riches of his goodness and long-suffering and forbearance be duly regarded by you; and let the goodness of your God lead you to repentancef.”

3.   Will not the mercies offered you amply compensate for all the efforts which you may make to obtain them?

Truly, if there were but a “peradventure” that you should find mercy, it were worth all the labor of ten thousand years to obtain it. Think only what it must be, to be monuments of God’s righteous indignation to all eternity; and what it must be, on the other hand, to be everlasting monuments of his grace and love. Can you contemplate this alternative, and duly estimate its importance? No: you must go down to hell, and taste the misery of the damned, and be exalted to heaven, to enjoy the blessedness of the saints in glory, before you can form any just idea of what is before you, either to be suffered or enjoyed, according as your state shall be found before God. I pray you not to trifle with your souls; but now, while the opportunity is afforded you, “flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold on eternal life.” Could you ask of Manasseh, or David, or Peter, or any of the saints, whether they wept too much; you can easily conceive the answer that would be returned you by them. To every one amongst you then, I say, “Begin, without delay, to sow in tears; and then expect, without a doubt, to reap in joy.”[1]

 

 

a Zech. 12:10.

b Ps. 51:17.

c Rom. 6:13.

d Isai. 55:6.

e Ps. 99:8.

f Rom. 2:4.

[1] Simeon, C. (1832). Horae Homileticae: Hosea to Malachi (Vol. 10, pp. 168–172). London: Holdsworth and Ball. (Public Domain)

God the Only Source of All Good

God the Only Source of All Good

God the Only Source of All Good

Jam. 1:16, 17. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

THERE is much evil in the world. But people are little aware from whence it proceeds. We forget that at the first creation there was no such thing as evil, either natural or moral, in the whole universe. God, it is true, could have prevented the existence of it: and so he could have prevented the existence of the world itself, which only came into being through the operation of his sovereign will and of his almighty power. It is not for us to inquire, why he permitted evil to exist. Doubtless he will ultimately be glorified in all that he has done, yea and, on the whole, in all that he has permitted, though we cannot exactly say how that glory shall accrue to him. All that we, in our present state, are called to, is, to feel and to maintain that he does all things well: that, however he may permit, he does not do evil; but that, on the contrary, all good, and nothing but good, is to be ascribed to him.

Now it is of great importance that we should, at least as far as regards ourselves, have just views of this matter, since for want of them we greatly err. So, the Apostle evidently intimates in the words which we have read: from whence I will take occasion to shew,

I.    The true character of the Deity—

He is here declared to be the only, and the unchanging source of all good—

1.   He is the only source of all good—

The sun in the material world may properly be called “the father of lights,” because there is no light but what proceeds from him. The moon and stars only reflect the light which they receive from him. Thus is God to the whole creation the only source of light and life. There is no “good and perfect gift,” but proceeds from him. In nature, all the worlds were framed by him, and everything in them was fitted for its peculiar use, and for the benefit of the whole. In providence, everything is ordered with unerring wisdom to sub-serve the designs of God, and to accomplish his holy will, yea, and ultimately to further the welfare of all his chosen people———In grace this appears in a still more striking point of view. Every good disposition is formed by him in the heart of man, which, without the agency of his Spirit, would continue one entire and unaltered mass of corruption through all eternity. If we either will or do anything that is good, it is in consequence of his electing love and sovereign gracea———

2.   He is the unchanging source of all good—

If in the communication of good he in some respects resembles the sun, he in other respects differs widely from it. The sun, though the fittest emblem that we have of immutability in dispensing good, has yet its changes, both annual and diurnal, and at different seasons of the day and year, casts its shadows in a widely different form, according to the quarter in which it shines, and to its position in our hemisphere, as more vertical or horizontal. But not so Jehovah, the Father of all heavenly lights. There are no changes with himb. “With him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” To his believing people he is “the same yesterday, to-day, and for everc.” True, his light may be intercepted by a cloud: but he himself remains the same: and let only the cloud be dispelled, and he will shine as bright as ever on the believing soul———

Now that you may see how important this view of the Deity is, I beg you to notice,

II.   The errors we run into for want of duly adverting to it—

We err exceedingly,

1.   In a way of self-vindication—

This is the precise point to which St. James directs our attention. After saying, “Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil; neither tempteth he any man: but every man, when he is tempted, is drawn away of his own lust and enticed;” he adds, “Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning:” Evil is from yourselves, and from yourselves alone: good, and only good, is from God.

Now you cannot but know, that, like our first parents, we are ever ready to exculpate ourselves, and to cast the blame of our sins, either on the tempters that led us to them, or on the propensities which God himself has implanted in us. But in both of these cases we do, in fact, cast the blame on God, as either immediately or remotely the cause of the evils we commit. But beware of all excuses, be they what they may. The fault is all your own, and nothing but humiliation and contrition will become you to the latest hour of your lives———If ever you perish, you will have none but yourselves to blame.

2.   In a way of self-dependence—

We are ever prone to look for some good in ourselves, instead of seeking all good from God alone. But it is in vain to rely on any wisdom of our own to guide us, or strength of our own to support us, or righteousness of our own to justify us. Satan himself may as well look for these things in himself as we: and it is on this account that God has been “pleased to treasure up in his dear Son a fullness of them, that we may receive them all from him” from day to day, and from hour to hour. Know ye this, that in yourselves “ye are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked;” and “from Christ alone can ye ever receive raiment to cover you, or gold to enrich you, or the eye-salve” that shall administer healing to your organs of vision. “All your fresh springs must be in God,” even in God alone———

3.   In a way of self-applause—

We are no less prone to take to ourselves credit from what is good, than to shift off from ourselves blame in what is evil. But “if we differ from others or from our former selves, who is it that has made us to differ? or what have we that we have not received from God himself?” As well might the earth boast of its fertility independently of the sun, whose genial rays have called it forth, as we arrogate to ourselves honor on account of any good that we have ever done. If you would see what the earth would be independent of the sun, go to the polar regions in the depth of winter. And, if you would see what you yourselves would be independent of God, go down to that place where God never comes by the operations of his grace, and where the damned spirits are left without control. If there be any good in you, it is from Christ that you have received it: for “without him you could do nothing.” If you have attained to anything more than ordinary, you must say, “He that hath wrought me to the self-same thing is God.” Even if you equaled the Apostle Paul in holiness, you must say, “By the grace of God I am what I am;” and in reference to every individual act, “It was not I, but the grace of God that was with med.”

Application—

Do not err then, my beloved brethren”—

Be aware of your tendencies; and remember how to correct them. You never can err in taking shame to yourselves: nor can you ever err in giving glory to God. But if you arrogate anything to yourselves, you will rob God: and, in robbing him, you will eventually, and to your utter ruin, rob yourselves.”[1]

 

 

a Phil. 2:12, 13.

b Mal. 3:6.

c Heb. 13:5, 8.

d 1 Cor. 15:10.

[1] Simeon, C. (1833). Horae Homileticae: James to Jude (Vol. 20, pp. 32–35). London: Holdsworth and Ball. (Public Domain)

How to Pray

How to Pray

by R. A. Torrey

Contents

Chapter 1.       The Importance of Prayer

Chapter 2.       Praying Unto God

Chapter 3.       Obeying and Praying

Chapter 4.       Praying in the Name of Christ and According to the Will of God

Chapter 5.       Praying in the Spirit

Chapter 6.       Always Praying and Not Fainting

Chapter 7.       Abiding in Christ

Chapter 8.       Praying with Thanksgiving

Chapter 9.       Hindrances to Prayer

Chapter 10.     When to Pray

Chapter 11.     The Need of a General Revival

Chapter 12.     The Place of Prayer Before and During Revivals

Torrey, R. A. (1900). How to pray. Chicago; New York: Fleming H. Revell company. (Public Domain)

The Word of God Quick and Powerful

The Word of God Quick and Powerful

Heb. 4:12. The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

THE state of a Christian’s mind should be alike distant from slavish fear and from presumptuous confidence. He is authorized to entertain a confidence, because he has Omnipotence for his support, and the veracity of God pledged to supply him with all that is needful for his spiritual welfare. But he has need of fear also; because he is in the midst of temptations, and has a deceitful heart, ever ready to beguile him. In the view of his privileges, he may rejoice: but in the view of his dangers, he should tremble. In a word, he should, as David expresses it, “rejoice with trembling.” This frame of mind is supposed by many to be unsuited to that full liberty into which we are brought under the Christian dispensation. But St. Paul continually inculcates the necessity of it in order to a safe and upright walk: “Be not high-minded, but fear:” “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” But in no place of Scripture is this mixture of diffidence and affiance more strongly insisted on than in this and the preceding chapters. We are taught the indispensable necessity of “holding fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of hope, firm unto the enda;” and yet we are again and again warned by the example of the Israelites, who were excluded from the promised land, lest we also should “fall after the same example of unbeliefb.” It is in this view that the declarations in our text are introduced. There is an abruptness in them which renders the meaning of the Apostle somewhat difficult at first: but when the connecting link is supplied, the sense of the passage is clear, and very important. It speaks to this effect: The Israelites thought they had sufficient grounds for their unbelief; yet it ruined them. You also may be deceived by an evil heart of unbelief: but, however you may vindicate yourselves, that word, which you now disobey, will judge you in the last day; and will both expose your self-delusion, and justify God in passing against you a sentence of exclusion from the promised land.

The scope of the passage being thus explained, we propose to consider,

I.    The description here given of the word of God—

Many able commentators have given it as their opinion, that, by “the word of God,” we are to understand the Lord Jesus Christ, who is frequently called by that name in the Holy Scriptures. But St. Paul never speaks of Christ by that name: nor is there any mention of Christ in the context. On the contrary, the word of revelation is mentioned, as that which the Israelites would not believec; as that also which excluded them from the promised restd; and as that which speaks to us precisely as it did to theme. And the different things spoken of it in the text are far more suited to the written word, than to the Lord Jesus Christ. To that, therefore, we limit the description before us. Its properties are set forth,

1.   In figurative terms—

It is “quick,” that is, a living word. Our blessed Lord represents it in the same view: “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are lifef.” And it is the very same term which Stephen also makes use of, when he calls the Scriptures “the lively oraclesg.” The word is not a mere dead letter, that will soon vanish away: it lives in the mind of God: it lives in the decrees of heaven: it liveth and will live for ever: nor will millions of ages cause it to be forgotten, or in the least enervate its force. All besides this shall wax old, and decay: but this shall endure, without the alteration of one jot or tittle of it, to all generationsh.

It is also “powerful.” ear the appeal which God himself makes to us respecting it: “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord: and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in piecesi?” Yes: there is nothing that can resist its force.

But in the text it is compared with “a two-edged sword,” which, how sharp soever it may be, cannot penetrate like that. Frequently is it characterized by this image, especially as proceeding from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christk. Yet does that image give but a very faint idea of its power: for a sword, though it may inflict a mortal wound, would be utterly incapable of dividing, with accuracy, the almost imperceptible organs of the human frame: but the word can “pierce to the dividing asunder the joints and marrow, yea, and the animal soul also from the rational spirit.” By this is meant, that there is nothing so hidden, which it cannot detect; nothing so blended, which it cannot discriminate.

This the Apostle proceeds to set forth,

2.   In plain language—

The word is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Of the unregenerate man it is said, that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continuallyl.” The regenerate are “renewed in the spirit of their minds.” But still they are not so renewed, but that some imperfection cleaves to all which they do: there is something in every thought and every purpose of the human heart, something which still shews that man is a fallen creature, and which cannot stand the strict scrutiny of God’s all-seeing eye. If he lay judgment for a line, and righteousness for a plummet, there is not anything in which there will not be found some obliquity. Such a perfect standard is the word of God: “it will discern between the good and evil that is in the most holy thought of the most perfect of men.” In the hand of “the Spirit, whose sword it ism,” its power is infinite, even though it be wielded by the feeblest arm. In the hand of the prophets, it “hewed” the hypocritial Jews in piecesn. In the hand of the Apostles, it pierced thousands to the heart at onceo. In the hand of ordinary ministers, it has still the same power, and can so detect all the secret thoughts of men’s hearts, as to evince that, it is indeed the very word of God himselfp,———and through him is still, as much as ever, “mighty to the casting down of the most haughty imaginations, and to the bringing of every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christq.”

But that which gives to this description its force, is,

II.   The end for which it is adduced—

The Apostle means to say, that, however secret the workings of unbelief may be, they will all be detected and condemned by the word in the last day. Now,

Unbelief is a most subtle sin—

It has ten thousand pleas and pretexts by which it clokes its malignity, and justifies to the mind and conscience its operations. See it in the Jews, whom it deceived to their ruin. There was always some great trial, some apparently insuperable difficulty in their way. They supposed that God would make all their way easy, and that they should have nothing to try their faith and patience. Hence they construed every difficulty as a violation of God’s promises, and a prelude to his final dereliction of them. Hence also they made their appeals upon this subject with as much confidence, as if their conclusions were undeniable: and the chastisements which they received for their impiety only increased their complaints, as though, in addition to the disappointments of their legitimate expectations, they were treated with undeserved cruelty. Thus it is with us: we hide from ourselves, or rather we justify to ourselves, the workings of unbelief. Its operations all seem to us to be founded in truth and equity. If we look at God’s threatenings, it cannot be that they should ever be executed, because such a procedure would be inconsistent with the Divine perfections, and an act of injustice towards man. If the promises of God be the object to which our attention is turned, they are too great, and too good to be performed; or at least, that they are not intended for such sinners as we. Besides, they are so far out of our sight, as to have, in our conceptions, little or no reality, in comparison of the objects of time and sense. Other sins we excuse as acts of frailty: but this we justify, as an act of wisdom.

But, how subtle soever our unbelief may be, the word of God will discover and condemn it—

The word of God is so comprehensive, that there is not in the whole creation a thought or purpose that does not come within its ranger: and it is so minute, that there is not the slightest “imagination of a thought,” of which it does not take cognizance. It is spiritual, even as the Author of it himself is spiritual; and, when it is brought home with power to the soul, it convinces a man of sins of which he had before not the least conceptions. As by a chemical process the constituent parts of material bodies may be discovered, so by the application of the word to our souls in the last day will every thought be decompounded, as it were, and its every particle of good or evil be disclosedt. The fire that will try us will search the inmost recesses of the soul, and determine, with infallible precision, the quality of the most latent imagination thereu. Of this we have an earnest in the events which happened to the Jews in consequence of their unbelief. Thus, God addresses them by the Prophet Zechariah: “our fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live forever? But my words and my statutes which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the Lord of Hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with usx.” And the very same confession will, assuredly, be made in the last day by the most confident unbeliever in the universe: “His sin shall surely find him outy;” and it shall then be seen, “whose word shall stand, God’s or hisz.” The counsels of every heart shall then be made manifesta;” and God be justified before the whole universe in the sentence that he shall passb.

From hence we may see—

1.   How attentive we should be to the word of God—

Would we but inspect it with humility and care, it would be as a glass to reflect our own image, in a way that nothing else can doc. And, is it not madness to neglect the opportunity it affords us of learning our true character, and of ascertaining, beforehand, the sentence of our Judge? To what purpose is it to deceive our own souls? Will that word be altered? Will any other standard be brought forward whereby to estimate our state? Or shall we be able either to dispute its testimony, or avert its sentence? Dear brethren, remember the description given of it in our text: think how unavailing all your pleas and excuses will be, when its voice shall be raised against you: and now, ere it be too late, take it as a light to search all the secret corners of your heartsd, and to guide your feet into the way of peace.

2.   How fearful we should be of unbelief—

As there is no grace which so honors God, as faith, so there is no sin which so dishonors him, as unbelief. Other sins, though they oppose his authority, do not deny his right to command: but unbelief questions the very existence of his truth. Hence does St. John so frequently speak of it, as “making God a liare.” Ah! little do the sceptic and the unbeliever think what guilt they contract: and little do they imagine what chains they are forging for their own souls! How, I would ask, will any man get his sins forgiven? it can only be by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; and by a living faith too: for it is not a dead faith that will suffice; but such a faith as unites the soul to Christ, and derives out of his fulness all that grace, and mercy, and peace which we stand in need of. Most awful is that declaration of God, that “all the fearful and unbelieving shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second deathf.” Whether we believe this or not, it will prove true in the end: and the sentence, once denounced against Israel with an oath, shall again be repeated against all that abide in unbelief; “I swear in my wrath, that they shall not enter into my rest.”

3.   How earnestly we should pray to God for the gift of his Spirit—

It is by the Spirit of God alone that we can either “be convinced of unbeliefg,” or be enabled to exercise a living faithh. O! beg of God to give you his Spirit. Seek it in earnest; and you shall not ask in vaini. It is the Spirit’s office to “take of the things that are Christ’s, and to shew them unto youk.” It is his office to make the word effectual to your souls: for it is then only effectual, when “it comes in demonstration of the Spirit and of powerl.” Read not then, nor hear, the word in dependence on your own strength; but cry mightily to God to bring it home to your hearts “with power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurancem.” Then shall you experience its life-giving efficacy, and find it “the power of God to the salvation of your soulsn.”[1]

 

 

a Heb. 3:6.

b ver. 1, 11.

c ver. 2.

d Heb. 3:7–11.

e ver. 7–9.

f John 6:63.

g Acts 7:38.

h 1 Pet. 1:23–25.

i Jer. 23:29.

k Isai. 49:2. Rev. 1:16.

l Gen. 6:5.

m Eph. 6:17.

n Hos. 6:5.

o Acts 2:37.

p 1 Cor. 14:24, 25.

q 2 Cor. 10:4, 5.

r Ps. 119:96.

s Rom. 7:9, 14.

t John 12:48.

u 1 Cor. 3:13.

x Zech. 1:5, 6.

y Numb. 32:23.

z Jer. 44:28.

a 1 Cor. 4:5.

b Ps. 51:4. with Rom. 3:4.

c Jam. 1:23, 24.

d John 3:19–21. Prov. 20:27.

e 1 John 2:22. and 5:10.

f Rev. 21:8.

g John 16:8, 9.

h Eph. 2:8. Phil. 1:29.

i Luke 11:13.

k John 16:14.

l 1 Cor. 2:4.

m 1 Thess. 1:5.

n Rom. 1:16.

[1] Simeon, C. (1833). Horae Homileticae: 2 Timothy to Hebrews (Vol. 19, pp. 204–210). London: Holdsworth and Ball. (Public Domain)


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