MEDITATION XXXVIII From the Spiritual Chymist by William Spurstowe

Logicians have a maxim, Relations sunt minimas entitatis & maxime efficace: relations are the smallest entity, and of the greatest efficacy: the truth which may appear in the payment of a single peppercorn, that freeholders pay their landlord, they do it not with any hope or intent to enrich him; but to acknowledge that they hold all from him.[1] To effect the one it is not have too mean a value[2], yet it preservers the Lord’s right fully as a greater rent, and aggravates the tenant’s folly to withhold more then if the demand had been higher.[3]

What Naaman’s servant spoke on to him, If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, wash and be clean?[4]

If the condition which mere bounty happily has so easy had been by the same hand and power restraints to a more costly and ample homage ought it not to have been performed?[5] How much more when nothing is required but what may  witness a dependency and not burden it?  How inexcusable then must be the ingratitude of those men be, receiving all their blessings from God, withhold a peppercorn of praise and honor for him, which is the only thing that they can pay or that he expects?

To cast the least mite into his treasury[6], which may add to its richest, is beyond the line [ability] of men or angels, for if it could admit to increase [if the praise could make God’s existing merit and treasure larger than it is at present], the abundance of it were not infinite: but to adore its fullness and to acknowledge that from it they derived theirs is the duty of all the partake of it.

This is the only homage that those Stars of the Morning and Sons of God[7] who behold his face do given in heaven, and this it is which the children of men should give on earth[8]. But alas! From how few are those sacred dues tendered to God, though all be his debtors? Does not the rich man when wealth flows in on him like a river forget that only the Lord gives him power to get riches? And sacrifice onto his net, and burn incense onto his drag?[9] Is it not the sin that God charges all Israel with, that they rejoice in the thing of nought, and say have we not taken horns to us by our own strength?[10]

Yea, does he not expressly say that he will not give his glory onto another?[11] Shall any  man then take it onto himself? And yet what stolen bread is so sweet[12] to any taste as the secret nimmings and purloinings[13] of God’s glory our onto the palate of most? If any design be effected, they think that their wisdom has brought it about; if any difficulties be removed, they ascribed it to their industry; if success and victory due build upon their sword, it is their own arm and right hand that has obtained it[14]

O how great is that pride and on thankfulness which reigns in the hearts of men who affect to rob God, rather than to honor him, and to deny him to be the author of what they possess, than to acknowledge the tenure that they hold in capite [a holding immediately from the king; English law].

Stealing from men may be acquitted again with single or double, with fourfold or sevenfold restitution: but the filching from God’s glory can never be answered. For who can give anything to him which he has not received?  Others may steal of necessity, to satisfy hungry; but such [as do not praise God] violate out of pride and wantonness the Exchequer of Heaven, and shall never escape undetected or unpunished.

Consider therefore this all you who are ready to kiss your own hands for every blessing that comes upon you[15], to what danger you expose yourselves, while you rob God – whose name is Jealous[16], who will vindicate the glory of neglected goodness in the severe triumphs of his impartial justice. It is Bernard’s[17] expression Uti datis, ut innatis est maxima superbia, to use God’s gifts as things inbred in us[18] is the highest arrogance. And what less merit than the very condemnation of the Devil – whose first sin (as some divines [theologians] conceive) was an affection of independent happiness,[19] without any respect or gratitude to God. I cannot wonder that the blackness of his sin and the dreadfulness of his Fall should not make all to fear the least shadow and semblance of such a crime in themselves as must bring upon them the like ruin.

Look upon him you proud ones and tremble, who are abettors of Nature against Grace[20], and resolve the salvation of man ultimately in to the freedom of the will rather than into the efficacy of God’s grace. [The one ] who in the work of conversion makes the grace of God to have only the work of a midwife, to help the child into the world but not be the parent and sole author of it. Is not this to cross the great design of the Gospel, which is to exalt and honor God and Christ? That he that glorieth might glory in the Lord?[21] And is not every tittle of the Gospel as dear to God as every tittle of the Law?[22] Can then any diminish aught from it and be guiltless?

Oh fear then to take the least due from God who has threatened to take his part out of the Book of Life and out of the holy City and from the things which are written in the Book of God.

Non test devotions dedisse probe totum, sed fraudis retinuisse vel minimum, It is not devotion, says Prosper rightly against his Collator, to acknowledge almost all from God, but accursed theft to ascribe though but a very little to ourselves.[23]

Lord, therefore, whatever others do

Keep me humble,

That as I receive all from thee,

So I may render that tribute of praise which thou expects from me

Both cheerfully and faithfully;

And though it can add nothing to thy perfection,

No more than my beholding and admiring the Sun’s light can increase it

Yet let me say, as Holy David did,

Not unto us, O Lord,

Not unto us,

But unto thy name be the glory

For thy mercy

And for thy truth’s sake.

Application Questions

  1. What common blessings do you have? List them: a place to live? Food to eat? Clothing?
  2. Are you content with these things? “6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1 Timothy 6:6–8 (ESV)
  3. What extraordinary blessings have you received? List them.
  4. What abilities do you have? Begin with common abilities, those things which when missing we call “disabilities”. Do you possess any uncommon abilities? These would be things such as special skills or training [are you a welder, a musician, a nurse].  List them.
  5. How often have you failed to give thanks to God for the possession of such blessings?
  6. How often have you credited yourself for common or extraordinary blessings or possession?
  7. How will you repent of your failure to give God thanks and glory for your blessings?
  8. How will you make it a habit to give thanks to God for your blessings? How will you ensure this will take place on a consistent basis. Who will encourage you in this work?

[1] At law, the payment of a “peppercorn” is the making of a token payment. It acknowledges the fact of the contractual relationship without involving the passage of anything of valuable. So, when a tenant pays a landlord a peppercorn, the tenant acknowledges that the landlord owns all of the land held by the tenant.

[2]  Too small an amount.

[3] Since the rent is so small, that would be especially wrong of the tenant to withhold that small payment.

[4] Naaman was a military leader of the Syrian kingdom. Naaman had  leprosy. He approached the  prophet Elisha at the suggestion of his Israelite servant. 

9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

2 Kings 5:19-24

[5] Where the kindness (bounty) of the landlord  permits the tenant to make a small payment, shouldn’t the tenant just make that payment?

[6] Mark 12:41–44 (ESV)

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

[7] Job 38:6–7 (KJV)

6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; 7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

[8] Romans 1:21–23 (ESV)

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

[9] Habakkuk 1:14–17 (ESV)

            14        You make mankind like the fish of the sea,

like crawling things that have no ruler.

            15        He brings all of them up with a hook;

he drags them out with his net;

                        he gathers them in his dragnet;

so he rejoices and is glad.

            16        Therefore he sacrifices to his net

and makes offerings to his dragnet;

                        for by them he lives in luxury,

and his food is rich.

            17        Is he then to keep on emptying his net

and mercilessly killing nations forever?

[10] Amos 6:13 (KJV)

13 Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?

Amos 6:13 (ESV)

            13        you who rejoice in Lo-debar,

who say, “Have we not by our own strength

captured Karnaim for ourselves?”

“Israel had recovered previous losses east of the Jordan as a result of the campaigning of Jeroboam II (2 Kgs 14:25). Two of the cities he recovered were “Lo Debar” (probably a pun on the name of the Gadite city of Debir), which means “not a thing,” and Karnaim (qarnāyim), which means “a pair of horns.” Amos used the names to engage in biting sarcasm. Their rejoicing over “not a thing” and their saying (or thinking) they had by their own strength taken “a pair of horns” were alike prideful boastings. The horns of an animal were symbols of power or authority in Old Testament times. Perhaps Israel thought that by taking Karnaim they had doubled their strength. Actually Karnaim was a relatively insignificant city.”

 Billy K. Smith and Franklin S. Page, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, vol. 19B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 123.

[11] Isaiah 42:8 (ESV)

            8          I am the Lord; that is my name;

my glory I give to no other,

nor my praise to carved idols.

[12] Proverbs 9:13–18 (ESV)

            13        The woman Folly is loud;

she is seductive and knows nothing.

            14        She sits at the door of her house;

she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,

            15        calling to those who pass by,

who are going straight on their way,

            16       “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”

And to him who lacks sense she says,

            17       “Stolen water is sweet,

and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”

            18        But he does not know that the dead are there,

that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

[13] Taking/thieving and stealing in small amounts.

[14] Deuteronomy 8:11–18 (ESV)

11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

[15] To kiss your own hand would be to bless yourself, to praise your own ability.

[16] Exodus 34:14 (ESV)

14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).

The concept of God being jealous may sound strange, because we often associate jealous with an irrational fear and effort to control another. However, jealousy is also an appropriate emotion when it seeks to protect and vindicate what is right and what is one’s own. God is jealous for his own glory. God’s jealousy for His own glory is good and right. No creature is worthy of taking God’s glory away from God. If this concept seems inappropriate, then one has an improper understanding of God and His glory.

[17] 12th Century Christian theologian.

[18] As something which comes from us.

[19] The Devil’s original sin was to seek his own good and happiness independent of God.

[20]  Nature refers to the things created in and of themselves.  Grace refers to that which comes from God. This alludes to a centuries’ long debate in Christian theology of the scope of nature and grace. The  nearest contemporary equivalent would be the debates concerning the scope of “common grace.”

[21] 1 Corinthians 1:30–31 (ESV)

30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

[22] Matthew 5:18 (KJV)

18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

[23] It is accursed to claim for ourselves any glory.