I live in a hole here


William Blake is the most baffling of men. He is both brilliant, ridiculous, and insane. From a book about him which I intend to read:

I live in a hole here, but God has a beautiful mansion for me elsewhere,” Blake once said. He knew that he was pitied by the occasional prosperous artist who visited, but he thought that it was he who should be pitying them. “I possess my visions and peace,” he argued. “They have bartered their birthright for a mess of pottage.” Robinson was struck on that first visit by how at ease the Blakes seemed with their poverty. “I should be sorry if I had any earthly fame, for whatever natural glory a man has is so much detracted from his spiritual glory,” Blake told him. Despite how the world had treated him he was quite happy, he insisted, because he wanted nothing other than to live for art and had no desire to do anything for profit.

The excerpt is found here: https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/roundtable/god-has-beautiful-mansion-me-elsewhere

Alone in Ulysses


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Alone, what did Bloom feel?
The cold of interstellar space, thousands of degrees below freezing point or the absolute zero of Fahrenheit, Centigrade or Reaumur: the incipient intimations of proximate dawn.

Ulysses James Joyce

This book can have such poignancy which seemingly flips into something comic. The loneliness of interstellar space, or is it just exaggeration? Do we laugh at Bloom or feel for him?

And this discussion of suicide in the Hades episode (note we learn later in the story that Bloom’s father committed suicide):

–The greatest disgrace to have in the family, Mr Power added.
–Temporary insanity, of course, Martin Cunningham said decisively. We must take a charitable view of it.
–They say a man who does it is a coward, Mr Dedalus said.
–It is not for us to judge, Martin Cunningham said.
Mr Bloom, about to speak, closed his lips again. Martin Cunningham’s large eyes. Looking away now. Sympathetic human man he is. Intelligent. Like Shakespeare’s face. Always a good word to say. They have no mercy on that here or infanticide. Refuse christian burial. They used to drive a stake of wood through his heart in the grave. As if it wasn’t broken already.

I have remembered that last line for decades: as their heart wasn’t broken already. And Bloom’s memory of his own father:

Thought he was asleep first. Then saw like yellow streaks on his face. Had slipped down to the foot of the bed. Verdict: overdose. Death by misadventure. The letter. For my son Leopold.
No more pain. Wake no more. Nobody owns.

How very alone in that moment as he is in the end of the story.

The duty of conscience

There is a dangerous error grown too common in the world that a man is bound to do every thing which his conscience telleth him is the will of God; and that every man must obey his conscience, as if it were the lawgiver of the world; whereas, indeed, it is not ourselves, but God, that is our lawgiver. And conscience is not appointed or authorized to make us any duty, which God hath not made us; but only to discern the law of God, and call upon us to observe it; and an erring conscience is not to be obeyed, but to be better informed, and brought to a righter performance of its office.

Richard Baxter

Richard Sibbes, The Backsliding Sinner, 5.3 (wound and disease)


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How Sibbes develops the understanding of sin as a “wound and disease.” He begins with a partial observation on it is like to suffer a disease:

Now, as in sickness there is, 1, grief troubling and vexing the party who feels it; and, 2, deformity of the place affected, which comes by wounds and weaknesses;

This description is then applied from the metaphor to the original. If a disease in the body causes vexation and deformity, then so does sin. But sin, rather than troubling the body alone, troubles the mind and the body:

so in all sin, when we are sensible of it, there is first grief, vexation, and torment of conscience, and then, again, deformity. For it takes away the beauty and vigour of the soul, and dejects the countenance. It debaseth a man, and takes away his excellency.… So that sin is a wound and a disease, whether we consider the miseries it brings on soul and body, or both

It has always been the case that some sin or another is not a cause for shame in the culture but rather a boast. In some ages, extraordinary violence is a cause for praise; in others, greed; in others, lust. It is not just that such sins have always existed among us; it is that certain sins become a cause for praise. But to God, no amount of human praise will undo the deformity of sin:

Therefore, howsoever a sinful person think himself a goodly person, and wear his sins as ornaments about him, pride, lust, and the like, yet he is a deformed, loathsome person in the eyes and presence of God;

This judgment, “when the conscience is awakened” becomes our own evaluation of our own sin.

And when conscience is awakened, sin will be loathsome, irksome, and odious unto himself, fill him full of grief and shame, so that he cannot endure the sight of his own soul.

The language when “awakened” is important to understand. It is not bare conscience alone which is the judge of all things. On this point Bloesch writes:

The inner light or the light of conscience also reflects the indissoluble mystery of the divine in the human. Conscience is both the voice of Christ and the superego. Only a conscience that is captive to the Word of God (Luther) is absolutely normative for the Christian. Conscience is not so much a criterion as a clarification of the truth of faith (Ellul). Moreover, conscience can be lost with the demise of faith (1 Tim 1:19–20 NIV). Like the church it can be seared and maimed (1 Tim 4:2), but so long as the believer is linked with Christ in the mystery of faith, conscience will always be somewhat of a guide on the pilgrimage of faith.

The Enlightenment severed conscience from faith in the living God, elevating it to an independent criterion that actually opposed the claims of faith. This new understanding is to be found in Rousseau: “Conscience! Conscience! Divine instinct, immortal voice from heaven; sure guide for a creature ignorant and finite indeed, yet intelligent and free; infallible judge of good and evil, making man like to God!”40 It is also reflected in the idealist philosopher Fichte: “Conscience alone is the root of all truth: whatever is opposed to conscience, or stands in the way of the fulfillment of her behests, is assuredly false.”

Donald G. Bloesch, A Theology of Word & Spirit: Authority & Method in Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 201.

Continuing with the metaphor of disease, Sibbes continues that our current disease of sin flows from the hereditary disease of Adam’s sin:

Now, all sins whatsoever are diseases. The first sin of all sins, which we call hereditary, original sin, what was it but an hereditary disease? Now, all other particular, actual sins be diseases flowing from hence.

What are the sources of our diseases: flesh (ourselves), the world (others), the devil.[1]

So that all diseases in this kind arise either, 1, from ourselves, as we have a seminary of them in our own hearts; or else, 2, from the infection and contagion of others; or, 3, from Satan, who hath society with our spirits, as men have with the outward man, coming in by his suggestions, and our entertaining of them. So that in that respect sin is like unto a wound and a disease, in regard of the cause of them.

Having consider causes of this disease, he now turns to the effects of considered as a disease. A disease left unchecked will kill: “And, in regard of the effects, sin is like a disease. Diseases, if they be neglected, breed death itself, and become incurable. So it is with the diseases and sins of the soul. Neglect them, and the best end of them will be despair in this world.

Sibbes does not wait unti the end of the sermon to make his application. The constant movement of his preaching is to make a point and then apply it. Sin is a disease which will kill us. He then immediately moves to the cure: “Whereupon we may have advantage to fly unto the mercy of God in Christ. This is the end of sin, either to end in a good despair or in a fruitless barren despair, at the hour of death leading to hell, when they have no grace to repent. ‘The wages of sin is death,’ &c., Rom. 6:23.

In this section, Sibbes is seeking to obtain an emotional effect. He does this by using figures of expansion and repetition. Notice how often he repeats the words “disease” and “sin” and “wound”. Following that, he gives a series of six questions, all which use the form, “What is X … but”:

Sin itself is a wound, and that which riseth from sin is a wound too, doubting and despair; for this disease and wound of sin breeds that other disease, a despair of mercy, which is the beginning of hell, the second death. These things might be further enlarged. But for the present only in general know that sin is a disease and a wound of the soul; so much worse than the diseases of the body, by how much the soul is more precious than it, and the death of the soul more terrible than the death of the body.

Sin is a disease and a wound; for

what is pride but a swelling?

What is anger but an intemperate heat of the soul, like an ague, as it were?

What is revenge but a wildfire in the soul?

What is lust but a spreading canker in the soul, tending to a consumption?

What is covetousness but a sword, a perpetual wounder of the soul, piercing it through with many sorrows?

What is security but, as it were, the lethargy and apoplexy of the soul?

At this point, he anticipates a question:

Quest. But, it may be demanded, how shall we know that we are sick of this sickness and disease you speak of?

This is interesting: we can know our spiritual state from the nature of our affections or “passions” (emotions). The Puritans, and those who followed in their wake, had an intense concern with the nature of human emotion:

Ans. How do we know that we are sick in body? If the body be extreme cold we know there is a distemper, or if it be extreme hot. So if the soul be so extreme cold that no heavenly motives or sweet promises can work upon it, stir it up, then certainly there is a disease upon the soul.

If the soul be inflamed with revenge and anger, that soul is certainly diseased. The temper of the soul is according to the passions thereof. A man may know by his passions when he hath a sick soul.

He then develops this idea by means of the analogy. Look at the human body. A man must be very sick to be unaware of what is taking place in his body. The same with the soul: a must be very spiritually sick when he is unaware of what is taking place spiritually or morally. In particular, again, working through the analogy to the body, an inability to respond to the Word of God is evidence of sickness, “And there is certainly some sickness, some dangerous obstruction in that soul that cannot digest the wholesome word of God, to make use of it; some noisome lust then certainly obstructs the soul, which must be purged out.”

Now if this is sickness then the greatest sickness must be not merely an inability to use the Word of God, but even more refuse it:

It is a pitiful thing to see the desperate condition of many now, who, though they live under the tyranny of sin, yet flatter their own disease, and account them their greatest enemies who any way oppose their sick humour. What do they most cordially hate? The sound preaching of the word.

After having developed that theme at some length he comes to the end of such a state. The desire to live without limitation on my desires (and thus without the Word of God) is the worst of all possible states:

O that I might live as I list, that I might have what would content my pleasures without control, that I might have no crosses, but go smoothly on! Yet this, which is the desire of most men, is the most cursed estate of all, and most to be lamented. Thus it appeareth sin is a wound and a disease. What use may we make of it?

[1] Friend, if God hath thy negative obedience, some other hath thy positive,—for I cannot suppose thee idle all the time of thy life,—either the devil, or the world, or the flesh; man cannot live without a master, whose work and business he will do

George Swinnock, The Works of George Swinnock, M.A., vol. 5 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1868), 397.

Richard Sibbes, The Backsliding Sinner 5.2 (prayer)


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Sibbes argues from the structure of the text that:  “God answers all those desires which formerly he had stirred up in his people.” Which leads to this observation, “Where God doth give a spirit of prayer, he will answer.” To support this position, begins with the contention that it needs no proof, “It needs no proof, the point is so clear and experimental [that is a matter of experience].” He then provides Scriptural examples, such as Ps. 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”

Why is this so? Because the motivation to pray is a motivation which comes from God himself. “The reason is strong, because they are the motions of his own Spirit, which he stirs up in us. For he dictates this prayer unto them, ‘Take with you words,’ &c., ‘and say unto the Lord, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously.’”

What then of prayers which are not well-formed, which may not even amount to clear words due to our distress?

‘the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered,’ Rom. 8:26. Therefore there cannot a groan be lost, nor a darting of a sigh. Whatsoever is spiritual must be effectual, though it cannot be vented in words. For God hath an ear, not only near a man’s tongue, to know what he saith; but also in a man’s heart, to know what he desires, or would have.

Thus, prayer begins and ends with God, “God, he first prepares the heart to pray, then his ear to hear their prayers and desires.” This should be a strong encouragement to prayer:

a Christian hath the ear of God and heaven open upon him; such credit in heaven, that his desires and groans are respected and heard. And undoubtedly a man may know that he shall be heard when he hath a spirit of prayer; in one kind or other, though not in the particulars or kinds we ask, hear he will for our good. God will not lose the incense of his own Spirit, of a spirit of prayer which he stirs up, it is so precious. Therefore let us labour to have a spirit of prayer,

He raises the question of how God answered their prayer. The prayer was “take away all mine iniquity.” Yet God anwers that he will “heal their backsliding”. Backsliding being a more serious crime than mere sin.

Ans. To shew that he would answer them fully; that is, that he would heal all sins whatsoever, not only of ignorance and of infirmity, but also sins willingly committed, their rebellions and backslidings. For, indeed, they were backsliding.

He recounts the gravity of Israel’s sin and idolatry. It was such as to seem a hopeless case. But God offers to cure this hopeless case. Here, the rhetorical form of Sibbes’ sermon becomes objection and answer:

So that we see, God, when he will comfort, will comfort to purpose, and take away all objections that the soul can make, a guilty soul being full of objections. Oh! my sins are many, great, rebellions and apostasies. But, be they what they will, God’s mercy in Christ is greater and more. ‘I will heal their backsliding,’ or their rebellion. God is above conscience. Let Satan terrify the conscience as he will, and let conscience speak the worst it can against itself, yet God is greater. Therefore, let the sin be what it will, God will pardon all manner of sins. As they pray to pardon all, so he will ‘take away all iniquity, heal their backsliding.’

By putting this into the form of objection-answer, Sibbes can deal with the objections which will naturally cause one to hesitate: I am simply too evil to be forgiven.

Another practical preaching point: Rather than ask, perhaps one someone here may feel, someone here may thing; which is the common way of presenting objections: Sibbes merely states the objections. To ask, “Maybe you feel, maybe you have experienced” is to give the hearer a ground to create a distance. We have a natural tendency to wish to not be drawn in. But to merely state the objection allows us to listen and respond. We are lead to consider our own hearts by this indirect approach.

Why then does God use the word “heal” (“I will heal their backsliding”) rather than forgive and sanctify? To heal implies a wound, disease. From this we have:

  1. The malignity and venom of it; and then,
  2. The wound itself, so festered and rankled.

Now, pardoning grace in justification takes away the anguish and malice of the wound, so that it ceaseth to be so malignant and deadly as to kill or infect. And then sanctification purgeth and cleanseth the wound and heals it up.

Here, Sibbes again speaks with utter frankness at the horror of sin and the guilty of humanity. But in all of this there is no condemning tone of I am better than you sinful congregation! He is both plain and sympathetic. It is a tone I have rarely seen preachers achieve.

First, he states the general proposition: God heals sin:

Now, God through Christ doth both. The blood of Christ doth heal the guilt of sin, which is the anger and malignity of it; and by the Spirit of Christ he heals the wound itself, and purgeth out the sick and peccant humour by little and little through sanctification. God is a perfect healer. ‘I will heal their backsliding.’

He then notes our weakness generally, by referring to the “church” being prone to backsliding:

See here the state of the church and children of God. They are prone to backsliding and turning away. We are naturally prone to decline further and further from God. So the church of God, planted in a family in the beginning of the world, how soon was it prone to backsliding. This is one weakness since the fall.

He then develops the general idea by making it more personal: it is not the abstract “church” but our very nature which is subject to this weakness:

It is incident to our nature to be unsettled and unsteady in our holy resolutions. And whilst we live in the midst of temptations, the world, together with the fickleness of our own nature, evil examples, and Satan’s perpetual malice against God and the poor church, are ill pilots to lead us out of the way.

He now turns to the matter of healing a “wound and disease.” This again is a move which is not common in most contemporary preaching. Sibbes is chasing down the understanding of the metaphor: If we must be healed, then we must have a wound or disease. If we have a wound or disease, what does that entail? It the second move, what is inherent in a wound or disease which goes beyond most preaching.

It is not necessarily bad that most preachers do not make this move, because the secondary move can easily lead to idea wholly unsupported and purely speculative. But as we shall see, Sibbes avoids the error or rank speculation. Another fault other than speculation is that the preacher could easily be led off into nonsense or matters well beyond the task at hand.

However, when this second move is handled with great care and wisdom, a sound theology and constant Scriptural application, the result can be something quite profound.

Richard Sibbes, The Backsliding Sinner, 5.1



Sibbes begins his fifth sermon in this series (the prior post is found here) with a recap of what has been covered so far. But he uses this recap as a sort of mini sermon. Rather than merely say, God has provided us with encouragement to repent, he in fact lays out that encouragement and provides an encouragement to repent.

The structure of this section is interesting, because he varies the rhetorical technique to underscore his conceptual point. The sort of movement between various rhetorical structures is not something can be easily formulated. There is no strict pattern of movement between structures. It is a matter of art not science. It is an ability which could only be obtained through exposure, through much listening and reading to such work.

However, by looking at he has done, one can become more consciously aware of this aspect of the sermon.

Based upon the text (Hosea 14), Sibbes makes an observation about God and uses that observation as a basis for praise. God is gracious and he cares for his miserable creatures. He demonstrates God’s care by looking to what God has done with this chapter so far. Notice, it is not a promise of God will do; rather, it is what God has done by the very words of the prophecy.

The purpose of this introduction is two-fold. First, it declares to us the nature of God and praises God. Second, it is an encouragement to us to come to God despite our sin:

The superabounding mercies and marvellous lovingkindnesses

            of a gracious and loving God

            to wretched and miserable sinners,

                        as we have heard,

is the substance and sum of this short, sweet chapter,

He then offers six benefits God has provided. Notice that he does this be means of short clauses which all begin with the word “their” followed by “is” and then a final noun. In the fifth clause, the “is” becomes “are”. In the final clause, which ends the series, the “is+noun” becomes a conjugated verb, “answered.”


their ignorance is taught,

their bashfulness is encouraged,

their deadness is quickened,

their untowardness is pardoned,

their wounds are cured,

all their objections and petitions answered;

so as a large and open passage is made unto them, and all other miserable penitent sinners, for access unto the throne of grace.

He does not state this merely once. He repeats what God has done, but this time he phrases it in terms of conditional clauses: If X is lacking, then X is supplied. This list does not precisely duplicate the six categories. In addition, the explanation for what God does is provided in more detail

If they want words,

            they are taught what to say;

if discouraged for sins past,

they are encouraged that sin may be taken away;

yea, all iniquity may be taken away. ‘Take away all iniquity.’

If their unworthiness hinder them,

they are taught for this, that God is gracious.

‘Receive us graciously.’

If their by-past unthankfulness be any bar of hindrance unto them,

they are taught to promise thankfulness.

‘So will we render the calves of our lips.’

The passage also makes plain what our repentance must entail: a relinquishment of all reliance upon another other than God:

And that their repentance may appear to be sound and unfeigned,

they are brought in, making profession

of their detestation of their bosom sins,

of false confidence and idolatry.

‘Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the works of our hands, Ye are our gods.’

He then ends with an encouragement to come to God in repentance:

And not only do they reject their false confidence, to cease from evil, but they do good, and pitch their affiance where it should be. For ‘in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.’

None must therefore be discouraged, or run away from God, for what they have been, for there may be a returning. God may have a time for them, who, in his wise dispensation, doth bring his children to distress, that their delivery may be so much the more admired by themselves and others, to his glory and their good. He knows us better than we ourselves.

Sibbes returns his general proposition, but this from from a third point of view. This final section is more direct, it is far less rhetorically charged. He does include short expansion of three phrases which begin with “not/nor”, but the beginning end of the section consists of rather straightforward sentences and clear propositions: God seeks to turn us to himself, alone. To do this he removes from us all things which we trust upon other than him.

How prone we are to lean upon the creature. Therefore, he is fain to take from us all our props and supports, whereupon we are forced to rely upon him.

If we could do this of ourselves, it were an excellent work, and an undoubted evidence of the child of God, that hath a weaned soul in the midst of outward supports, to enjoy them, as if he possessed them not;

not to be puffed up with present greatness,

not to swell with riches,

nor be high-minded;

to consider of things to be as they are, weak things, subordinate to God, which can help no further than as he blesseth them

But to come to the words now read

Natural Law, “Philosophy of the Founding Fathers” (3)


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The prior post in this series may be found here.

The question about what constitutes the fundamental law and rights of the people, and who can articulate the existence of those rights underwent further development prior to the American Revolution. Dean Pound argues that with the Glorious Revolution of the 1688, Britain took the position that the highest law was the positive law as declared by Parliament. This was a movement away from the legal and philosophical position of Coke and Blackstone.

Thus, a philosophical conflict was set up in the streams of English law. The Americans took a position consistent with the earlier understanding and different than that developed in Britain after 1688.

The conflict is distilled in the argument over the Declaration of Independence, which the author of the essay (Manion) calls, “the best possible condensation of the natural law-common law doctrines as there developed and expounded in England and America for hundreds of years prior to the American Revolution.” (16)

It was those arguing on behalf of Parliament against the Americans who were taking the innovative position:

In 1776 the British Government was insisting that the “law of the land” and “the immemorial rights of English subjects” were exclusively and precisely what the British Parliament from time to time declared them to be. This claim for parliamentary absolutism was at variance with all the great traditions of natural law and common law as recored through the centuries from Bracton to Blackstone. (16)

At the time the Americans were insisting upon the Declaration of Independence, they saw themselves not as advancing new arguments as insisting upon old understanding of the law. Thus, ironically, the Revolutionaries were fighting against revolution. 

This also means that we must be careful not to attribute the American Revolution to arguments advanced by Locke (certainly not solely to Locke). In fact, Locke contains elements which militate against the natural law arguments made in the Declaration. For instance, Locke contends that once the government has been properly instituted, “the majority have the right to conclude the rest.” (19) Natural law would argue that the majority have a limited right. They cannot deprive a minority of their natural rights. 

Thomas Jefferson, writing to Francis J. Gilmer on June 7, 1816 explained that the duty of the legislature is to protect the natural rights of the citizen:

 Our legislators are not sufficiently apprised of the rightful limits of their powers: that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, & to take none of them from us.  No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him: every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society; and this is all the laws should enforce on him: and, no man having a natural right to be the judge between himself and another, it is his natural duty to submit to the umpirage of an impartial third. when the laws have declared and enforced all this, they have fulfilled their functions, and the idea is quite unfounded that on entering into society we give up any natural right.

Reference was also made to James Madison’s argument in the case Robin v Hardaway 1772, before the Virginia General Court. The argument is remarkable on many grounds:

The Indians of every denomination were free, and independent of us; they were not subject to our empire; not represented in our legislature; they derived no protection from our laws, nor could be subjected to their bonds. If natural right, independence, defect of representation, and disavowal of protection, are not sufficient to keep them from the coercion of our laws, on what other principles can we justify our opposition to some late acts of power exercised over us by the British legislature? Yet they only pretended to impose on us a paltry tax in money; we on our free neighbors, the yoke of perpetual slavery. Now all acts of legislature apparently contrary to natural right and justice, are, in our laws, and must be in the nature of things, considered as void. The laws of nature are the laws of God; whose authority can be superseded by no power on earth. A legislature must not obstruct our obedience to him from whose punishments they cannot protect us. All human constitutions which contradict his laws, we are in conscience bound to disobey. 

How then would natural rights be protected? The American contribution was to divide the power:

The effective limitation of sovereignty and government by division, judicial review, and democratic forces, was thus held to be a necessary corollary to the doctrine of unalienable rights….Revolutionary America believed that such an evil institution as government would certainly get out of hand unless closely checked from every side….It was not enough … to belabor sovereignty with sound philosophy.  Sovereignty had to be split and checked and degraded to the point where it was obviously a servant of the people’s God-given rights. (21-22)

There were debates about the timing of the Declaration. But the philosophical argument made concerning the excess of the British government was not questioned. The pre-political rights of the people was understood by all American Founding Fathers. 

This essay ends as follows:

Meanwhile, and ever more and more precariously, we continue to be the one remaining country on earth where the individual may protect his God-given rights against his own government and everybody else. (29)

Something which seems inherent in this discussion of rights is what mean by “right.” If a “right” is a pre-political “right” inherent in the individual and given by God, then it is coherent to say the government may not take away that right.

What then if the government (not God) is the source of a “right.” Such a right is merely shorthand way of naming some privilege I currently possess. But if that privilege comes only from the government and is not grounded in anything beyond the positive exercise of power by the government, depriving me of that “right” is quite different. Yesterday, I had the right to drive 45 mph on this street. Tomorrow I may only drive 35. The government’s action may be capricious, but have I really lost a “right”? 

The giving or taking of such “rights” contains no moral component: I may or may not approve such a change in position, but I cannot really say I have been wrongfully treated. To say that I will not be punished or I will be punished for some behavior is all one. But calling the absence of punishment a “right” is to equivocate on “right.” If some appropriately instituted governmental authority exercises its power in some way or another, there has been no real change of “rights” even if their has been a change of law. 

“Right” means merely I do not want to assert an argument and I want to prevent you from advancing an argument against my position. A “right” means something it would be morally wrong to take. But where the rights are not “natural” but merely political, then “wrong” means nothing more than what I want. Immoral thus becomes a matter of counting noses (assuming a democracy). 

We could argue from some pragmatic position, which will be raised in the next essay in the Natural Law Institutes recorded proceedings, “The Natural Law and Pragmatism”. 

The Nature of Joy in the Bible



Sometimes we speak about “joy” as if it were something the Christian was just “supposed to have”. We tell people to be joyful. We speak about “joy in the Lord.” Then we say something along the lines of, “Joy can be independent of circumstances.” But I do not think that is a fair statement of the way “joy” is discussed in the Bible.

The trouble with that statement is that it fails to account for the fact that our circumstance may be complex: there may be multiple frames of reference.

Hebrews 12:2 speaks of Jesus enduring the cross: that is was not “joyful”. That is one frame of reference. But there is a second frame of reference, what would come after the cross, “the joy set before him.”
The encouragement to joy in the midst of difficulty (1 Thess. 1:6) is not because the immediate circumstance does not bring sorrow or pain, but rather that the immediate circumstance is not the only circumstance.

The encouragement to joy does not deny the immediate pain which may be present, “Weep with those who weep.” Rom. 12:15 Your companionship in another’s loss is part of the ground for their ability to find a second context for understanding their present circumstance. (Personal friendship and love is not at all divorced from joy; it is often a basis for it.)

Joy is not divorced from circumstance: it is because of circumstance. But the most immediate circumstance is not the full story. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Ps. 30:5 Your presence with another in their sorrow is a basis for their hope and thus their joy.


The references to joy typically come in the context of convent fulfillment: (a) The rescue God had performed (such as bringing them into the land, or the delivery from an enemy); or (b) The rescue God will perform. The nature of this delivery changes somewhat at the inauguration of the New Covenant. 

Below, the verses are quoted with reference. Beneath the quoted verse, there is a brief comment.

Deut 16:15
For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.
This is a celebration of the Feast of Booths. Notice the reason they are to rejoice: “Because the LORD your God will bless you.”

Deut 28:47
Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things,
The failure to fulfill the covenant, which includes rejoicing. Cf. Rom. 1:21, they did not give thanks.

Judg 19:3
Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. And she brought him into her father’s house. And when the girl’s father saw him, he came with joy to meet him.
The joy at military victory and a safe return home.

1 Sam 18:6
As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments.
Military victory

1 Kings 1:40
And all the people went up after him, playing on pipes, and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth was split by their noise.
This was a short-lived joy.

1 Kings 8:66
On the eighth day he sent the people away, and they blessed the king and went to their homes joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had shown to David his servant and to Israel his people.
God keeping his covenant with Israel & with David.

1 Chron 12:40
And also their relatives, from as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, came bringing food on donkeys and on camels and on mules and on oxen, abundant provisions of flour, cakes of figs, clusters of raisins, and wine and oil, oxen and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.
The enthronement of David.

1 Chron 15:16
David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy.
The Ark being brought to Jerusalem.

1 Chron 16:27
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.
This is a song of praise for the Lord who has kept covenant, created the world, and rules over all.

1 Chron 16:33
Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
To come to judge the earth.

2 Chron 7:10
On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart for the prosperity that the LORD had granted to David and to Solomon and to Israel his people.
Keeping is covenant with David and with Solomon (because you have not asked for ….)

2 Chron 20:27
Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the LORD had made them rejoice over their enemies.
Military victory

2 Chron 30:26
So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.
Celebrating Passover: God’s rescue from Egypt.

Ezra 3:12
But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy,
Returning the people to Jerusalem, as God as promised.

Ezra 3:13
so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.

Ezra 6:16
And the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.

Ezra 6:22
And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the LORD had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.

Neh 8:10
Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Same. Also reading the Law (the terms and content of the Covenant)

Neh 12:43
And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.
This is the dedication of the wall around Jerusalem.

Esther 5:9
And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai.
He thinks he is going to have victory over his enemy.

Esther 5:14
Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.” This idea pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made.

Esther 8:16
The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor.
Victory over their enemies.

Esther 8:17
And in every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.

Ps 4:7
You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
Delivery from enemies.

Ps 5:11
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.

Ps 16:11
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Eschatological: with you.

Ps 19:5
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

Ps 20:5
May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!
Receiving from the Lord salvation. Verse one: delivery and protection from enemies.

Ps 21:6
For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

Ps 27:6
And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
Triumph over enemies.

Ps 30:5
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Ps 32:11
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Forgiveness of sins.

Ps 33:1
Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.
Praise for creation and God’s rule over the world.

Ps 35:27
Let those who delight in my righteousness shout for joy and be glad and say evermore, “Great is the LORD, who delights in the welfare of his servant!”
Victory over enemies

Ps 43:4
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
Verse 1: vindicate me.

Ps 45:15
With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.
The establishment of the victim and the presentation of the bride. Typologically, this is eschatological

Ps 47:1
Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
God’s victory over all his enemies.

Ps 48:2
beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.

Ps 51:8
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Forgiveness of sin.

Ps 51:12
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Forgiveness of sin.

Ps 63:5
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
Rejoicing in the promised delivery of God.

Ps 63:7
for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
Ps 65:8
so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.
Joy at God’s rule over the earth.

Ps 65:12
The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy,

Ps 65:13
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

Ps 66:1
Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
Joy for God’s rule and victory over his enemies.

Ps 67:4
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
Joy in God’s judgment; eschatological.

Ps 68:3
But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!
v. 1, “His enemies shall be scattered.”

Ps 71:23
My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.

Ps 81:1
Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob!

Ps 84:2
My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Rescue; eschatological

Ps 92:4
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
v. 1 “Oh LORD, God of vengeance.”
Ps 95:1
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

Ps 95:2
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Ps 96:12
let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
God’s rule. “He will judge” Eschatological

Ps 97:11
Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.
God will triumph over his enemies. V. 10, he will delivery his people.

Ps 98:4
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
The Lord has and will judge his enemies.

Ps 98:6
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!

Ps 98:8
Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together

Ps 100:1
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!

Ps 105:43
So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing.

Ps 107:22
And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

Ps 119:111
Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.
This is part of a prayer for deliverance. (v. 107) It is personal but it is also covenantal.

Ps 126:2
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion” v. 1 Delivery, covenantal

Ps 126:5
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!

Ps 126:6
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Ps 132:9
Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your saints shout for joy.
This is a prayer for delivery, based upon the covenant with David. We will rejoice when you fulfill your promise.

Ps 132:16
Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy.

Ps 137:6
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!
A prayer for delivery.

Ps 149:5
Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds.
v. 4, “He adorns the humble with salvation.”

Eccles 2:26
For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
It is a gift.

Eccles 3:12
I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;
To be thankful.

Eccles 5:20
For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.
A gift.

Eccles 7:14
In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
Joy is a property of prosperity.

Eccles 8:15
And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

Eccles 9:7
Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

Isa 9:3
You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

Isa 12:3
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

Isa 12:6
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Isa 16:10
And joy and gladness are taken away from the fruitful field, and in the vineyards no songs are sung, no cheers are raised; no treader treads out wine in the presses; I have put an end to the shouting.
Joy is a gift; therefore, it can be taken away. This is sorrow at a loss.

Isa 22:13
and behold, joy and gladness, killing oxen and slaughtering sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
A foolish joy.

Isa 24:11
There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished.
No joy.

Isa 24:14
They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the LORD they shout from the west.

Isa 26:19
Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Isa 29:19
The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

Isa 32:14
For the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks;

Isa 35:2
it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.

Isa 35:6
then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;

Isa 35:10
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Isa 42:11
Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the habitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains.
Because God will conquer his foes.

Isa 48:20
Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it out to the end of the earth; say, “The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob!”

Isa 49:13
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.

Isa 51:3
For the LORD comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.

Isa 51:11
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Isa 52:8
The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion.
Delivery; covenant.

Isa 55:12
“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Because of God’s victory.

Isa 56:7
these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Isa 60:15
Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, with no one passing through, I will make you majestic forever, a joy from age to age.

Isa 61:7
Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.

Isa 64:5
You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
Eschatological delivery

Isa 65:18
But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.
Eschatological: I will create a new heavens (v. 17)

Isa 66:5
Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at his word: “Your brothers who hate you and cast you out for my name’s sake have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy’; but it is they who shall be put to shame.
A false joy.

Isa 66:10
“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her;
Eschatological delivery

Jer 8:18
My joy is gone; grief is upon me; my heart is sick within me.
Lost joy

Jer 15:16
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.
Hope for delivery.

Jer 31:13
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
He will deliver them in the future.

Jer 33:9
And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.
In the future, I will deliver and rebuild.

Jer 48:33
Gladness and joy have been taken away from the fruitful land of Moab; I have made the wine cease from the winepresses; no one treads them with shouts of joy; the shouting is not the shout of joy.
There is no joy when you have been conquered.

Jer 49:25
How is the famous city not forsaken, the city of my joy?
Loss has no joy.

Jer 51:48
Then the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, shall sing for joy over Babylon, for the destroyers shall come against them out of the north, declares the LORD.
Joy at victory over an enemy.

Lam 2:15
All who pass along the way clap their hands at you; they hiss and wag their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem: “Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the earth?”
Lost joy

Lam 5:15
The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning.
Lost joy.

Ezek 7:7
Your doom has come to you, O inhabitant of the land. The time has come; the day is near, a day of tumult, and not of joyful shouting on the mountains.
Lost joy.

Ezek 24:25
“As for you, son of man, surely on the day when I take from them their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes and their soul’s desire, and also their sons and daughters,
Lost joy

Ezek 36:5
therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Surely I have spoken in my hot jealousy against the rest of the nations and against all Edom, who gave my land to themselves as a possession with wholehearted joy and utter contempt, that they might make its pasturelands a prey.

Joel 1:16
Is not the food cut off before our eyes, joy and gladness from the house of our God?
Lost joy

Hab 3:18
yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

Zech 8:19
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace.
Kept covenant, delivery.


Matt 2:10
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
The coming Messiah.

Matt 13:20
As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,
Because it is good news.

Matt 13:44
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Normal emotion.

Matt 25:21
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Matt 25:23
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Matt 28:8
So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

Mark 4:16
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy.
Because it is good news.

Luke 1:14
And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,
The birth of a promised child.

Luke 1:44
For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
The Messiah is here!

Luke 2:10
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Delivery, covenant promised fulfilled.

Luke 6:23
Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

Luke 8:13
And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.
Good news.

Luke 10:17
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”
Delivery over demons.

Luke 15:7
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Joy in heaven.

Luke 15:10
Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Joy in heaven

Luke 19:6
So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.
Jesus is here.

Luke 24:41
And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”

Luke 24:52
And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,

John 3:29
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.
The Messiah is here.

John 15:11
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
It is a promise of delivery and perseverance through trial: you will abide.

John 16:20
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

John 16:21
When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.
Personal joy.

John 16:22
So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
Because delivery is certain; death has been overcome.

John 16:24
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
The promise has been fulfilled.

John 17:13
But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
The promised delivery.

Acts 8:8
So there was much joy in that city.
Good news had come.

Acts 12:14
Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate.
Personal joy at Peter’s delivery.

Acts 13:52
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
At the work God was doing.

Acts 15:3
So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.
Good news.

Rom 14:17
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
What causes this joy in the Holy Spirit? It is being contrasted with the conflict between the people over food. It is the in-breaking of an eschatological kingdom.

Rom 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Joy tied to hope

Rom 15:32
so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.
The joy of personal greeting.

2 Cor 1:24
Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.
His goal is their joy.

2 Cor 2:3
And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.
Joy of personal relationship.

2 Cor 7:4
I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.
The joy is based upon hope.

2 Cor 7:13
Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.
The joy in personal greeting – there is also thanksgiving.

2 Cor 8:2
for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

Gal 5:22
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
It is a work of the Spirit.

Phil 1:4
always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,
Because God is working: delivery and conquering have moved from

Phil 1:25
Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,
Eschatological perseverance,

Phil 2:2
complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Phil 2:29
So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men,
Personal greeting

Phil 4:1
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
Because of what God has done for them. In 4:4 “rejoice always” has content and basis. V. 3, your name is written in the Book of Life (eschatological delivery). V. 5, “the Lord is at hand.”

That God has delivered them from their former life. The working out of God’s sanctification is fitting them for an ultimate delivery. “The phrase reminds the readers again of the imminent coming of the Savior from heaven to transform humiliation into glory.” (Hansen). “AMBROSIASTER: “The Lord,” he says, “is at hand.” They must be prepared and wakeful in prayer, giving thanks to God and putting away every worldly care, so as to hope and have before their eyes what the Lord promises. What he promises is, as he teaches, the reason for giving him thanks.”

That joy is the product of a deliberate eschatological posture

Col 1:11
being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;
This joy is pointed toward the end and is based upon the delivery. You have been rescued by God and are being brought to Eschatological Kingdom.

1 Thess 1:6
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
This is probably the most on-point verse when it comes to joy in the midst of suffering. But notice the context: It springs from their salvation: they have been delivered from their bondage to sin. V. 9, you turned from idols. V. 10, you now are eagerly expecting the victorious return of the Lord. Notice the language of delivery, “Who delivers us from the wrath to come.” The OT language of delivery from an enemy is picked up, and interestingly, the ultimate enemy will be God coming in judgment.

The Thessalonian believers were undergoing persecution at this time and are here assured not only of their own liberation (1 Thess. 5:9) but also of the judgment of God that will come upon those who afflict them (2 Thess. 1:6–10). Whatever the agony and shame of the present, in the end God will reverse their fortunes. Those who are without power now will participate in the final victory, while those who have power over them now will have to meet the Judge, the God of the Christians

Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos, 2002), 111.

1 Thess 2:19
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?

1 Thess 2:20
For you are our glory and joy.
Personal and eschatological

1 Thess 3:9
For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God,
Personal and eschatological
2 Tim 1:4
As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.

Philem 7
For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Heb 10:34
For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
Because of what will happen.

Heb 12:2
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Eschatological delivery – after loss.

Heb 13:17
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

James 1:2
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
Because it will bring about spiritual transformation

James 4:9
Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Loss of joy in repentance.

1 Pet 1:8
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

1 John 1:4
And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
The advancing of the Kingdom.

2 John 12
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

3 John 4
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
Personal; the Kingdom’s advance.

Jude 24
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,

Edward Taylor, Meditation 39.4


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Fifth Stanza

I have no plea mine Advocate to give.

What now? He’ll anvil arguments great store

Out of his flesh and blood to make me live.

O dear bought arguments: good pleas therefor.

Nails made of heavenly steel, more choice than gold

Drove home, well clenched, eternally will hold.


Since a lawyer is limited by the facts of the case (attorneys’ pleas spring from the state/

The case is in), and since this case is so dire, they “knock me down to woe”, the poet has nothing to help:

I have no plea mine Advocate to give.

There is nothing particularly musical about this line: it is a plain statement of fact. And this leaves him with the wholly prosaic question:

What now?

The first line and-a-half of this stanza contain no clever image, interesting musical devices. It is just a clear statement of fact. But when we turn to the Advocate’s work, the stanza becomes “poetic”. This is an interesting rhetorical tactic by Taylor, increasing the rhetorical fireworks when it comes to the Advocate’s work.

How will the Advocate plead for the poet, when the facts are against the poet?

            He’ll anvil arguments great store

Out of his flesh and blood

The image striking: the argument will come from the Advocate’s own “flesh and blood”. Moreover, he will not merely take these arguments, they will be hammered like a blacksmith with iron at a furnace, He’ll anvil arguments.

The picture is grotesque and wonderful: how does not take an hammer and anvil to one’s own body? And yet it is out of the body of the Advocate that the defense is raised.

Here is a central mystery of the Christian claim. All human beings have a body which is ultimate derived from the body of Adam. All people are of one body: “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.” Acts 17:26 (ESV) Thus, in both a representative and physical sense, all human beings are born “in Adam”.

The Son of God is “made flesh”. (John 1:14) Christ then lives a sinless life, and yet suffers the death allotted to all of Adam’s descendants. Being innocent, and being representative, he bears the weight of the judgment against sin: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24 (ESV) In the end he is vindicated (as evidenced by this resurrection, Romans 1:4). Christ becomes a new Adam. (Rom. 5:12-19) As raised, he stands as a new humanity.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:42–49 (ESV) Much, much more could said on this point from the New Testament. But is without question the doctrine of the Apostles that the physical body of Christ in life, death, burial, and resurrection, becomes the plea for our salvation: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) The way in which that life of Christ becomes our life is a further discussion. The point here is that Taylor says nothing but what the Bible teaches. In a roughly contemporary work, William Gurnal uses an image which reminds of the language here in Taylor:

“He lived and died for you; he will live and die with you; for mercy and tenderness to his soldiers, none like him. Trajan, it is said, rent his clothes to bind up his soldiers’ wounds; Christ poured out his blood as balm to heal his saints’ wounds; tears off his flesh to bind them up.”

William Gurnall and John Campbell, The Christian in Complete Armour (London: Thomas Tegg, 1845), 6.

These arguments made from the body of the advocate bring life, “to make me live.” As Paul writes: “But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans 4:23–25 (ESV)

These arguments come at great cost, “O dear bought arguments”. They will also work, they are “good pleas.”

Ship’s Nail, courtesy Neil Cummings

The final couplet makes an in ironic use of nails:

Nails made of heavenly steel, more choice than gold

Drove home, well clenched, eternally will hold.

At one level, “nails” references the strength of this argument: They are “heavenly steel.” They are more precious that gold. And they have been fit so well, that the argument will be valid for all eternity: “Drove home, well clenched, eternally will hold.”

The final line contains two pauses, which slows down and underscores the proposition raised: This argument will stand.

The use of nails as the image for the argument then alludes to the basis for the argument: Christ’s sacrificial death. He was nailed to the tree, and in so doing, our sins were nailed to the tree. In this seeming loss, there was victory:

11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Colossians 2:11–15 (ESV)

Edward Taylor, Meditation 39.3


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Fourth Stanza

Joy, joy, God Son’s the sinner’s Advocate

Doth plead the sinner guiltless and a saint.

But yet attorneys’ pleas spring from the state

The case is in: if bad it’s bad in plaint.

My papers do contain no pleas that do

Secure me from, but knock me down to woe.


There are three propositions in this stanza. First, the Son as Advocate can plead the guilty innocent. How this possible is not yet raised. Second, a lawyer’s work can be no better than the material he has to work with. Third, the material I can supply only proves my guilt.

Proposition one:

Joy, joy, God Son’s the sinner’s Advocate

Doth plead the sinner guiltless and a saint.

Aside from the spondee of JOY JOY, these two lines run in regular iambs. There is a usesful alliteration on S which draws primary elements together: Son SinnerS, Sinner, guiltless, Saint.

The work of this advocate does not merely obtain a not-guilty plea. The sinner is not merely left off for insufficient evidence. Rather, the work of the Son transforms the sinner into a saint. He is not only “not guilty”, he is positively innocent.

Proposition two:

But yet attorneys’ pleas spring from the state

The case is in: if bad it’s bad in plaint.

The plea an attorney can enter in a trial is limited by the nature of the underlying facts: the plea “springs from the state the case in.”  To make the negative case clear: if it the facts are bad, the attorney’s plea (his “plaint”, as in “complaint”) is also bad. “If bad it’s bad in plaint” is a fine clause.

Proposition Three

My papers do contain no pleas that do

Secure me from, but knock me down to woe.

We now come to the poet’s particular situation. We have just been told that the quality of the plea will depend upon the quality of the facts. So what facts are here for the poet?

He looks to his legal papers, but there is nothing in the papers to absolve him.

My papers do contain no pleas that do

Secure me

What do the papers say:

The facts “but knock me down to woe.” Woe: that is condemnation.

Thus, the legal conflict is set in full: A lawyer can only plead what the facts permit. The facts here condemn. But the Son can somehow make a plea which can make the poet guiltless. How can this be? That is the matter of the remainder of the poem.