Balaam’s Wish.3 (Richard Sibbes)


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At this point, Sibbes takes a turn which is contrary to the thinking of most people in this world at this time. Everything thinks that he will gain heaven. I one-time spoke with members of a gang, whose fellow had been murdered in a shooting. They were quite certain he was in some sort of “heaven”, where he evil actions could be taken with full vent to his desires and without the fear of the police or rival gangs. The men and women with whom I spoke seemed quite certain that his end was not in doubt – but to make sure, a few had lit the candles bearing a supposed picture of Mary, which candles can be purchased at a dollar store.

But Sibbes makes plain, it matters quite a bit whether one is “godly” or “wicked” at death:

Obs.3. There is a wide, broad difference between the death of the godly and of the wicked.

Even Balaam knows this – but he seems unable to see the way there:

The godly are happy in their death, for here we see it is a matter desirable. This caitiff, this wretched man Balaam, Oh, saith he, ‘let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.’ It being the object of his desire, it is therefore certainly precious, ‘the death of the righteous.’

However, unlike Balaam, the godly have a happiness which begins here and which fully comes to fruition after death:

And indeed so it is; holy and gracious men, they are happy in their life. While they live they are the sons of God, the heirs of heaven; they are set at liberty, all things are theirs; they have access to the throne of grace; all things work for their good; they are the care of angels, the temples of the Holy Ghost. Glorious things are spoken of these glorious creatures even while they live.

But they are more happy in their death, and most happy and blessed after death.

In their death they are happy in their disposition, and happy in condition.

That is, there is a subjective (disposition) and objective (condition) basis for the happiness of the godly. Sibbes does not present this as mere wish fulfillment or psychological word-games, but as an incontestable fact. I wonder the extent to which our apologetics suffers at this point with the question of “proof”. Very few people have much reason at all for those things which they assuredly believe. The default of a culture is not the product of consideration, but rather the laziness of the people who have other things taking their attention. Even though I have not taken a statistically significant survey, I would imagine that most people have more certain reasons for their expectations of a sports team or their enjoyment of a movie than they have believe in some god – or do not – or believe their morals are rights, and other are wrong, or any of the other things which one would think are “most important.”

Anyway, Sibbes first asserts, that faith in God itself creates a subjective disposition of happiness:

(1.) Happy in their disposition. What is the disposition of a holy and blessed man at his end? His disposition is by faith to give himself to God, by which faith he dies in obedience; he carries himself fruitfully and comfortably in his end. And ofttimes the nearer he is to happiness, the more he lays about him to be fruitful.

His last point is certainly true. I have often seen Christians who know they will die soon possessed of an ease and joy, coupled to a profound desire to work for God. It is not an urgent hope to be good enough at the end – that question of “good enough” seems to not enter their thinking. They know salvation is of grace, and think nothing of their works. Indeed, the harder they work at their end, the less their works hold “merit” for them.

What then are the blessings which come with death:

(2.) Besides his disposition, he is happy in condition;for death is a sweet close. God and he meet; grace and glory meet; he is in heaven, as it were, before his time. What is death to him? The end of all misery, of all sin of body and soul. It is the beginning of all true happiness in both. This I might shew at large, but I have spoken somewhat of this point out of another text. They are happy in their death, for ‘their death is precious in God’s sight.’ The angels are ready to do their attendance, to carry their souls to the place of happiness. They are happy in their death, because they are ‘in the Lord.’ When death severs soul and body, yet notwithstanding neither soul nor body are severed from Christ. ‘They die in the Lord;’ therefore still they are happy. Much might be said to this purpose, and to good purpose, but that the point is ordinary, and I hasten to press things that I think will a little more confirm it. They are blessed in death.

And even death is not the end of their hope and expectation:

(3.) And blessed after death especially;for then we know they are in heaven, waiting for the resurrection of the body. There is a blessed change of all; for after death we have a better place, better company, better employment; all is for the better.

Here he makes a kind of digression: he backs up and examines the matter from a slightly different vantage point. He explains the life of the godly as an ever increasing freedom; it is a movement toward greater liberty (and the wicked are moving toward the close world of the grave):

There are three degrees of life:

The life in the womb, this world, heaven.

The life in the womb is a kind of imprisonment; there the child lives for a time. The life in this world, it is a kind of enlargement; but, alas! it is as much inferior to the blessed and glorious life in heaven, as the life in the womb is narrower and straiter and more base than this life wherein we behold the blessed light and enjoy all the sweet comforts of this life. They are happy after death; then the image of God is perfect in the soul. All graces are perfected, all wants supplied, all corruptions wrought out, all enemies subdued, all promises accomplished, waiting their time for the resurrection of the body; and then body and soul shall sit as judges upon the wretches that have judged them on earth, and they shall be both together ‘for ever with the Lord.’ I might enlarge the point much. It is a comfortable meditation; and before I pass it, let us make some use of it.

What then does all this amount to:

If godly men be blessed and happy, not only before death, in the right and title they have to heaven, but in death, because then they are invested into possession of that that makes them every way happy,

What do we do with this promise of happiness? Sibbes makes two applications: a correction of our thinking, and an encouragement toward our action. First, are thinking:

 Use1. Therefore this may teach us who are truly wise. A wise man is he that hath a better end than another, and works to that end.

Having made the assertion, Sibbes then explains the basis of his meaning by drawing in brief the nature of the contrast. This is a good example of how to teach well. State the proposition to be known. Then explain the proposition at some length – here by dividing it into its two parts to better see the wisdom of the godly by contrasting it with the foolishness of the “worldling”. He will then repeat and expound the original point: tell them what you’re going to say, say it, tell them what yous said. First, the Christian:

A true Christian man, he hath a better end than any worldling. His end is to be safe in another world, and he works and carries his forces to that end. ‘Let my last end be like his,’ saith Balaam, insinuating that there was a better end in regard of condition and state than he had aimed at. A gracious man, his end is not to be happy here; his end is to enjoy everlasting communion with God in the heavens, and he frames all his courses in this world to accomplish that end, and he is never satisfied in the things that make to that end.

Here he raises the worldling; he does not over pain the worldling’s vice (this is a common filler of many preachers; it is easier to ramble on about sin, because it is easier to know and describe; it is also an error in almost all cases). Notice how he says the worldling “prowls”; this both makes the worldling more an animal than a man; second, it alludes to the Devil prowling about as a lion:

A worldling he hath no such end. He hath a natural desire to be saved,—as we shall see afterwards,—but a man may know that is not his end, for he works not to it. He is not satisfied in prowling for this world; he is not weary of getting wealth; he is not satisfied with pleasure. So that his end is the things of this life.

He then concludes and repeats:

Therefore let him be never so wise, he is but a fool, for he hath not the true end, nor works to it. Wicked men are very fools in the manner of their reasoning; for they will grant that there is a happy estate of godly men in death, and after death better. If it be so, why do they not work and frame their lives to it? Herein they are fools, because they grant one thing and not another which must needs follow. They do believe there is such a happiness to God’s children, and yet seek not after it.

Note that last bit: their foolishness exists because they will not seek that which they hope to obtain. Rather than seek the life which cannot end, they prowl about.

Next, he makes an exhortation to live in accordance with wisdom:

Use2. If there be such a blessed estate of God’s children in death and after death, I beseech you let us carry ourselves so as that we may be partakers of that happiness;let us labour to be righteous men, labour to be in Christ, to have the righteousness of Christ to be ours, to be out of ourselves, in Christ; in Christ in life, in Christ in death, and at the day of judgment in Christ, ‘not having our own righteousness,’ as the apostle saith, ‘but his righteousness,’ Philip 3:9, and then the righteousness of grace and of a good conscience will alway go with the other. For this makes a righteous man to be in Christ, and to have his righteousness, and to have his Spirit, and the beginnings of the new creature in us. Let us labour to be such as may live and die happily and blessedly, and be for ever happy. So much for that third point.


Balaam’s Wish.2 (Richard Sibbes)


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Having faced the fact that we must die, Sibbes now turns to the fact that we must live:

Obs. 2. The estate of the soul continues after death.

This point is nearer to what Balaam desires. If he merely desired the death of the righteous, and if the righteous died in precisely the same way as the wicked, that would be nothing. Balaam did not desire the death, but the life which surpasses death:

For here he wisheth to die the death of the righteous, not for any excellency in death, but in regard of the subsistence and continuance of the soul after death.

This, of course, raises the question, is there life which consists after death? The near contemporary of Sibbes, Shakespeare has his hero Hamlet ask this question:

But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

Sibbes affirms that life does persist – and he makes two points, both Scripture and reason:

Scripture and reason and nature enforceth this, that the soul hath a subsistence of itself, distinct from the life it communicates to the body. There is a double life, a life proper to the soul, and the life it communicates to the body. Now when the life it communicates to the body is gone to dissolution, itself hath a life in heaven. And indeed it is in a manner the whole man; for Abraham was Abraham when he was dead, when his soul was in heaven, and his body in the grave. It is the whole man.

First, there is a principle in the soul which is segregable from the body:

Reas. 1. And it discovers, indeed, that it hath a distinct life and excellency in itself, by reason that it thwarts the desires of the body when it is in the body. Reason, if there be no grace in the soul, that crosseth the inclination of the body, grace much more.

Second, the soul seems to operate separate from and above (if you will) the operation of the body:

Reas. 2. And we see ofttimes, when the outward man is weak, as in sickness, &c., then the understanding, will, and affections, the inward man, is most sublime, and rapt unto heaven, and is most wise. Take a man that hath been besotted all his lifetime, that hath been drunk with the pleasures of a carnal life, that hath been a covetous wretch, an earth-worm, that enjoys not heaven, but lives as his wealth and lusts carry him in slavery, yet at the hour of death, when he considers that he hath scraped together, and considers the way that his lusts have led him, and that all must leave him, now he begins to be wise, and speaks more discreetly. He can speak of the vanity of these things, and how little good they can do. Indeed many, nay the most men, are not wise until that time. Therefore the soul of itself hath a distinct being, because, when the body is lowest, it is most refined and strong in its operations.

There is a principle of the soul which concerns itself with the future. If we were merely animals confined to a single life, then there would be no purpose in the soul:

Reas. 3. Likewise it appears by the projects that it hath of the time to come. The soul, especially of men that are of more elevated and refined spirits, it projects for the time to come what shall become of the church and commonwealth, what shall become of posterity and of reputation and credit in the world. Certainly, unless there were a subsistence of itself, it would never look so much beforehand, and lay the grounds of the prosperity of the church and commonwealth for the time to come. I will not stand further on it, but rather make some use of it.

If the soul continues to exist, then we must be careful of how it is used now:

Use. Let us know which is our best part, namely, the soul, that hath a being after death, that we do not employ it to base uses, for which it was not made nor given us.

First, our soul must be used for that which it was created:

Do we think that these souls of ours were made and given us to scrape wealth? to travel in our affections to base things worse than our souls? Are they not capable of supernatural and excellent things? Are they not capable of grace and glory, of communion with God, of the blessed stamp of the image of God? Let us use them, therefore, to the end that God gave them. And let us not deserve so ill of our souls as to betray them, to cast them in the dirt, to lay our crown in the dust. This is our excellency.

Living merely for the bestial operation of the body (which is a misuse of the body) is the life of too many men:

What can keep our bodies from being a deformed, loathsome thing, if the soul be taken away? Yet so we abase this excellent part! Ofttimes we abase it to serve the base lusts of the body, which is condemned to rottenness. What is the life of most men but a purveying and prowling for the body? The lusts of the body set the wit and affections on work to prowl for itself. What a base thing is this! Were our souls given us for this end? And especially considering this, that our souls are immortal, that they shall never die, but be forever.

If our soul lives forever, the proper object of its happiness must be something fitting to an eternal existence. If our soul is fitted to a happiness which is dependent upon things which will perish with our death, then our soul will outlive its happiness:

Let us not altogether spend this precious time that is given us to save our souls, and to get the image of God stamped upon them, I say let us not spend this precious time in things that will leave us when our souls shall live still; let us not carry the matter so, that our souls shall outlive our happiness. All worldlings and base creatures, they outlive their happiness. For where do they plant it? In the base things of this life. All their life long they are prowling for those things that they must leave when they die, whereas their souls shall not die, but everlastingly subsist.

Here is a basis for eternal sorrow, to have souls fitted for that only which has perished and which shall never be regained:

What a misery is this, that these souls of ours shall have a being when the things wherein we placed our happiness, and abused our souls to gain them, they shall have an end! The souls of such men that seek the things of this life shall have a being in eternal misery. Indeed, so it is; for these souls of ours, the same degree they have in excellency if they be used as they should, if we do not abase them, the same degree they shall have in baseness and misery if we abuse them, and make them slaves to earthly things.

This degeneracy is seen in the devils who fell from their height of glory:

For as the devils, the same degree they had of excellency when they were angels, the same degree they have in misery now they be devils. The more excellent the creature is when it keeps its excellency, the more vile it is when it degenerates. So these souls of ours that next to angels are the most excellent creatures of God, the more excellent it is if it get the image of God stamped upon it, and the new creature, and have the life of grace, the more cursed is the state of the soul if it subsist to everlasting misery.

This again is theme sounded in Shakespeare, Sonnet 94, which ends with the lines,

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

Sibbes ends with a closer application of the point: it is not only those who are utterly outside the church, but often those within the church who live as if their souls would not continue after their death:

It were happy if the souls of such creatures were mortal that labour for a happiness in this life. Oh that we would think of this! Most men in the bosom of the church, which is lamentable to think, they live as if they had no souls. They overturn the order that God hath set, and hath given us our bodies to serve our souls. They use all the strength and marrow of their wits, all the excellencies in their souls, for the base satisfaction of the lusts of the body. So much for that point.

In making this point, Sibbes echoes and applies a point from Paul:

1 Corinthians 9:24–27 (ESV)
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Richard Sibbes’ Balaam’s Wish.1


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Richard Sibbes’ sermon “Balaam’s Wish” published in 1639 considers the statement of Balaam recorded in Numbers 23:10, Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!

To consider this verse, Sibbes begins by making observations. Before we look at what he writes, just look at the text itself: It concerns life (by implication) and death. He speaks of the righteous dying (which is a common experience); and the death of the righteous has unique element – which Balaam desires. When we come to a text, the first thing we must do is simply observe: what is this like? What is unlike this? What the parts? What causes this, and what does it cause? Any number of such questions should applied to the text.

Sibbes offers four observations:

First, That the righteous men die, and have an end as well as others.
Secondly, That the state of the soul continues after death. It was in vain for him to desire ‘to die the death of the righteous,’ but in regard of the subsistence of the soul.
Thirdly, That the estate of righteous men in their end is a blessed estate, because here it was the desire of Balaam, ‘Oh that I might die the death of the righteous!’
Fourthly, There is an excellent estate of God’s people, and they desire that portion: ‘Oh let me die the death of the righteous.’ These are the four things I shall unfold, which discover the intendment of Balaam in these words.

Concerning the first observation, he begins by answering a possible objection: if Christ came ot free us from death, then why do we still die?

For Christ, in his first coming, came not to redeem our bodies from death, but our souls from damnation. His second coming shall be to redeem our bodies from corruption into a ‘glorious liberty.’ Therefore wise men die as well as fools.

Next he draws our the observation (from Ecclesiastes 2, that all men will die, wise and fool) and makes it concrete. Good preaching always makes concrete observations; it draws ideas down in the world in which we live:

Those whose eyes and hands have been lift up to God in prayer, and whose feet have carried them to the holy place, as well as those whose eyes are full of adultery, and whose hands are full of blood, they die all alike, in manner alike. Ofttimes it is the same in the eye of the world.

So far Sibbes makes the point of Ecclesiastes describing life under the sun. But he then points to what will come after (for death is not an end in itself; but rather a summons to judgment):

Death comes upon good and bad, but to the good for their greater glory; for the shell must be broken before they come to the pearl. Death it fits them for the blessed life after the body lying a while in the grave, the soul being in the hands of God. And death now it makes an end of sin, that brought in death; and it makes us conformable to the Son of God, our Elder Brother, that died for us.

Death is an end of the body’s life in this age, but it is also the end of sin. Sibbes then stops and urges meditation:

The point is pregnant, and full of gracious and serious meditations.

This is point too little considered: you are, I am, going to die. Consider this carefully – it will change how we consider this life. To this end, Sibbes offers two “uses”, that is applications of the text – and in particular, applications of this meditation:

The first use is that we make use of this life: this is the question of why do you live? There are two answers, what you will say and what you actually believe. What you actually believe is shown by what you do. Sibbes gives the answer which should be given:

Use 1. It should enforce this excellent duty, that considering we have no long continuance here, therefore, while we are here, to do that wherefore we come into the world. As a factor, that is sent into a place to provide such goods beforehand, let us consider that here we are sent to get into a state of salvation, to get out of the state of nature into the state of grace, to furnish our souls with grace, to fit us for our dissolution to come. Let us not forget the main end of our living here. Considering we cannot be here long, let us do the work that God hath put into our hands quickly and faithfully, with all our might.

Having shown us how we should live, Sibbes then cautions against abuse of this life. This gets to the second question above – how do we show what we believe about life, based upon the way we live. What should the knowledge of death do to us:

Use 2. And let it enforce moderation to all earthly things. ‘The time is short, therefore let those that use the world be as if they used it not,’ &c., 1 Cor. 7:29. Those friends that have been joined together will part. Therefore let us use our bodies and souls so, that we may present them both comfortably to God. Let us beg of God to make a right use of this fading condition. But I hasten.

Think of different Sibbes answers the question than is common in culture, which would exult following after whatever we desire. He councils, do you duty and do not be much taken with the pleasure of earthly things, since you are going to leave.

A method of preaching

John Calvin on Hosea 4:1

Hosea now relates how vehemently he reproved the people, because every kind of corruption so commonly prevailed, that there was no sound part in the whole community. We hence see what the Prophet treats of now; and this ought to be observed, for hypocrites wish ever to be flattered; and when the mercy of God is offered to them, they seek to be freed from every fear. It is therefore a bitter thing to them, when threatening are mingled, when God sharply chides them. “What! we heard yesterday a discourse on God’s mercy, and now he fulminates against us. He is then changeable; if he were consistent, would not his manner of teaching be alike and the same today?” But men must be often awakened, for forgetfulness of God often creeps over them; they indulge themselves, and nothing is more difficult than to lead them to God; nay, when they have made some advances, they soon turn aside to some other course.

We hence see that men cannot be taught, except God reproves their sins by his word; and then, lest they despond, gives them a hope of mercy; and except he again returns to reproofs and threatening. This is the mode of address which we find in all the Prophets.

John Calvin, Hosea, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998).

Teaching Outline Hosea 4:1-3


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(This is an initial outline and observations on Hosea 4:1-3)
Hosea 4:1–3 (ESV)

4 Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel,
for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
and no knowledge of God in the land;
2 there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Therefore the land mourns,
and all who dwell in it languish,
and also the beasts of the field
and the birds of the heavens,
and even the fish of the sea are taken away.


This text consists of four parts:

First, a command

Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel,

Second, the basis of the command

for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.

Third, the substance of the “controversy”:

There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
and no knowledge of God in the land;
2 there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

Fourth, the results of bad acts (which are the substance of the controversy):

3 Therefore the land mourns,
and all who dwell in it languish,
and also the beasts of the field
and the birds of the heavens,
and even the fish of the sea are taken away.

I. The command: Hear or Listen to the word of the Lord.

A. What is it to hear/listen

1. It is not bare auditory reception.
2. It is hearing coupled with response: there must be an acknowledgement which goes beyond a passive “hearing”.

B. What is meant by the “word of the Lord”?

II. What is meant by a “controversy”?

A. Translations:

ESV: controversy
NET: covenant lawsuit
HCSB/NASB95: case
NIV/NIV84: charge

B. What do we make of this?

1. A legal proceeding.

2. The covenant between YHWH and Israel

III. What is the substance of the charge

A. What Israel has not done

1. The specific elements

a. no faithfulness

i. This element is often found in conjunction with hesed/steadfast love

Genesis 24:27 (ESV)
27 and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.”

Genesis 24:27 (ESV)
27 and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.”

2 Samuel 2:6 (ESV)
6 Now may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you. And I will do good to you because you have done this thing.

See, also gen. 24:48-49

ii. It is a characteristic of God

Exodus 34:6–7 (ESV)
6 The Lord passed befor
e him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

2 Samuel 7:28 (ESV)
28 And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant.

Jeremiah 10:10 (ESV)
10 But the Lord is the true God;
he is the living God and the everlasting King.
At his wrath the earth quakes,
and the nations cannot endure his indignation.

iii. It is an aspect of God’s goodness

Isaiah 38:19 (ESV)
19 The living, the living, he thanks you,
as I do this day;
the father makes known to the children
your faithfulness.

Isaiah 42:3 (ESV)
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

Isaiah 61:8 (ESV)
8 For I the Lord love justice;
I hate robbery and wrong;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

Jeremiah 32:41 (ESV)
41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

iv It is an element of true worship/life before God

Joshua 24:14 (ESV)
14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

1 Samuel 12:24 (ESV)
24 Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.

1 Kings 2:1–4 (ESV)
When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, 3 and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4 that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

2 Kings 20:3 (ESV)
3 “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Isaiah 10:20 (ESV)
20 In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.

v. It is what God requires:

Ezekiel 18:5–9 (ESV)
5 “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— 6 if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, 7 does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 8 does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, 9 walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.

(This has multiple parallels to Hosea 4:1-3)

v. It is truth in communication

1 Kings 22:16 (ESV)
16 But the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”6 And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom,

vi. It is security in the social world:

2 Kings 20:19 (ESV)
19 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?”

vii. God condemns its lack among his people:

Isaiah 48:1 (ESV)
Hear this, O house of Jacob,
who are called by the name of Israel,
and who came from the waters of Judah,
who swear by the name of the Lord
and confess the God of Israel,
but not in truth or right.

Isaiah 59:14–15 (ESV)
14 Justice is turned back,
and righteousness stands far away;
for truth has stumbled in the public squares,
and uprightness cannot enter.
15 Truth is lacking,
and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
The Lord saw it, and it displeased him
that there was no justice.

Jeremiah 9:4 (ESV)
4 Let everyone beware of his neighbor,
and put no trust in any brother,
for every brother is a deceiver,
and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.

b. no steadfast love

This is the goodness of relationship between human beings and between human beings and God:

1. joint obligation between relatives, friends, host and guest, master and servant; closeness, solidarity, loyalty: a) חֶסֶד and בְּרִית (שֹׁמֵר הַבְּ׳ וְהַח׳ Dt 79, with שָׁמַר 712); בּ׳ comes about by a ceremony ח׳ results from the closer relationship between two people, the obligations are largely the same; ח׳ וֶאֱמֶת Gn 2427.49 and אֱמוּנָה וְח׳ Ps 8925 lasting loyalty, faithfulness; עָשָׂה ח׳ to show loyalty Gn 2123 Jos 212 Ju 124 835 1S 156 208 2S 38 91.7 102 Ru 18 1C 192; b) ח׳ exists between a son and a dying father Gn 4729, a wife and a husband Gn 2013 (cf. Jr 22 || אַהֲבָה), relatives Ru 220, guests Gn 1919, friends 1S 208 2S 91, people who do each other a service Ju 124, king and people 2S 38 2C 2422; c) > esp.: אִישׁ ח׳ confidant Pr 1117, cj. אִישׁ חַסְדְּךָ your faithful servant Dt 338 (alt. favourite) אַנְשֵׁי ח׳ the godly Is 571; מַלְכֵי ח׳ loyal kings 1K 2031; אִישׁ חַסְדּוֹ each one’s faithfulness Pr 206; d) community > protection Ps 1442 (prp. חָסְנִי), > favour Ezr 29.17 (חֵן וָח׳), ח׳ לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ the favour of the king Ezr 728; תּוֹרַת ח׳ kind teaching Pr 3126; charm (of flowers) Is 406 (cf. MHb. חסודה lovely, cj. חֶמְדּוֹ); —2. ח׳ in God’s relationship with the people or an individual, faithfulness, goodness, graciousness: a) ח׳ י׳ Ps 335 10317, ח׳ אֱלֹהִים 2S 93 Ps 5210; ח׳ עֶלְיוֹן 218; לְעוֹלָם חַסדּוֹ Jr 3311 Ps 1361-26 1005 1061 1071 1181-4.29 Ezr 311; cj. Ps 44 (rd. חַסדּוֹ לִי) and 122 (rd. חֶסֶד), בְּחַסְדְּךָ in your faithfulness (to me) 14312; mercy חָפֵץ ח׳ :: אַף Mi 718; b) עָשָׂה ח׳ to show faithfulness with עִם Ru 18, with לְ Ex 206 and above (→ 1a); שָׁמַר ח׳ Dt 79 Da 94 and נָצַר ח׳ to keep faithfulness Ex 347 זָכַר ח׳ to remember Ps 983, עָזַב ח׳ מֵעִם to withdraw faithfulness Gn 2427; c) God is רַב ח׳ abounding in faithfulness Ex 346 Nu 1418 Jl 213 Jon 42 Ps 865.15 1038 Neh. 917; —3. pl. חֲסָדִים, חֲסָדַי etc. the individual actions resulting from solidarity: a) (of people) godly action, achievements: by Nehemiah Neh 1314, Hezekiah 2C 3232, Josiah 3526; b) (God’s) proofs of mercy Gn 3211 Is 637 Ps 892 Lam 322; חַסְדֵי דָוִיד mercies shown to David Is 553 2C 642; רַחֲמִים וַחֲסָדִים Ps 256; —Ps 523 rd. חָסִיד, Pr 2028b rd. בַּצֶּדֶק (?).

Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 336–337.

c. no knowledge of God in the land

Joshua 4:23–24 (ESV)
23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

1 Kings 8:59–60 (ESV)
59 Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, 60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.

Isaiah 5:11–14 (ESV)
11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
that they may run after strong drink,
who tarry late into the evening
as wine inflames them!
12 They have lyre and harp,
tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts,
but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord,
or see the work of his hands.
13 Therefore my people go into exile
for lack of knowledge;
their honored men go hungry,
and their multitude is parched with thirst.
14 Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite
and opened its mouth beyond measure,
and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude will go down,
her revelers and he who exults in her.

Isaiah 11:2 (ESV)
2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Jeremiah 9:5 (ESV)
5 Everyone deceives his neighbor,
and no one speaks the truth;
they have taught their tongue to speak lies;
they weary themselves committing iniquity.

Ezekiel 38:16 (ESV)
16 You will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

Malachi 2:7 (ESV)
7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
(God will condemn the priests for not teaching in the remainder of Hosea 4)

Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Which implies that the people addressed by Hosea do not have the fear of the Lord; rather, they are “fools”
Proverbs 1:29 (ESV)
29 Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,

2. Why are these particular things important?

A. These are the prerequisites for serving God and for living rightly in society. There can be no right action before man or God without right knowledge of relationship to God (knowledge of God).

B. We can think of these as a summary of the covenant obligations: Knowledge of God and right life before God and with men. Or,

Mark 12:28–34 (ESV)
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

(Note also “hearing”).

B. What Israel has done?

1. there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

2. Details of these elements:

a. Swearing

1 Kings 8:31–32 (ESV)
31 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath and comes and swears his oath before your altar in this house, 32 then hear in heaven and act and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.

Hosea 10:4 (ESV)
4 They utter mere words;
with empty oaths they make covenants;
so judgment springs up like poisonous weeds
in the furrows of the field.

Matthew 5:33–37 (ESV)
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

James 5:12 (ESV)
12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

b. Lying

כָּחַשׁ (kā·ḥǎš): v.; ≡ Str 3584; TWOT 975—1. LN 23.142–23.184 (qal) be thin, become lean, i.e., lose body weight as an indication of lack of health (Ps 109:24+), see also domain LN 86.1–86.3; 2. LN 17.20 (nif) cringe, cower, i.e., bow in submission, but in fear and not in respect or relationship, as an extension of lying or not being truthful in the relationship (Dt 33:29+); (piel) cringe, cower (Ps 18:45[EB 44]; 66:3; 81:16[EB 15]+); (hitp) cringe, cower (2Sa 22:45+); 3. LN 33.251–33.255 (piel) lie, deceive, i.e., to not tell the truth by speaking lies, or acting in deception (Ge 18:15; Lev 5:21[EB 6:2],22[EB 6:3]; 19:11; Jos 7:11; 24:27; 1Ki 13:18; Isa 59:13; Jer 5:12; Hos 4:2; Zec 13:4+), see also domain LN 72; 4. LN 57.37–57.48 (piel) fail, lack, i.e., not have enough of a quantity of items (Hos 9:2; Hab 3:17+); 5. LN 34.31–34.39 (piel) disown, i.e., to no longer be in association, and so be unfaithful (Job 8:18; 31:28; Pr 30:9+)

James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Leviticus 19:11 (ESV)
11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.

c. Murder

Exodus 20:13 (ESV)
13 “You shall not murder.

Numbers 35:30–34 (ESV)
30 “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses. But no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 31 Moreover, you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death. 32 And you shall accept no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the high priest. 33 You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. 34 You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.”

d. Adultery

Exodus 20:14 (ESV)
14 “You shall not commit adultery.

Jeremiah 23:9–14 (ESV)
9 Concerning the prophets:
My heart is broken within me;
all my bones shake;
I am like a drunken man,
like a man overcome by wine,
because of the Lord
and because of his holy words.
10 For the land is full of adulterers;
because of the curse the land mourns,
and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up.
Their course is evil,
and their might is not right.
11 “Both prophet and priest are ungodly;
even in my house I have found their evil,
declares the Lord.
12 Therefore their way shall be to them
like slippery paths in the darkness,
into which they shall be driven and fall,
for I will bring disaster upon them
in the year of their punishment,
declares the Lord.
13 In the prophets of Samaria
I saw an unsavory thing:
they prophesied by Baal
and led my people Israel astray.
14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from his evil;
all of them have become like Sodom to me,
and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”

(There are multiple parallels with Hosea 4-5)

C. The list of what has and has not been done roughly parallel the Ten Commandments

IV. The Results of the Sin

A. De-creation:

1. Zephaniah 1:2–6 (ESV)
2 “I will utterly sweep away everything
from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
3 “I will sweep away man and beast;
I will sweep away the birds of the heavens
and the fish of the sea,
and the rubble with the wicked.
I will cut off mankind
from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
4 “I will stretch out my hand against Judah
and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal
and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests,
5 those who bow down on the roofs
to the host of the heavens,
those who bow down and swear to the Lord
and yet swear by Milcom,
6 those who have turned back from following the Lord,
who do not seek the Lord or inquire of him.”

2. This is a specific instance of the general curse of the Fall:

Genesis 3:17–19 (ESV)
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

Romans 8:19–22 (ESV)
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

3. When God brings judgment, he removes his blessing – which entails even the existence of the created order.

B. Common Grace is implied here. Discuss that doctrine?

V. Use

Use 1. Israel’s fault was first not listen. Therefore, we must know how to listen rightly. Hebrews 3-4

Use 2. Why did Israel fall into this sin? Because they stopped hearing, they stopped listening to the word of the Lord.

a. Why does one stop listening?

1. Idolatry (Ps. 115/Mark 4:9)
2. Trials and riches: Mark 4:1-20
3. Heb. 3:12-13

Use 3. Why does God call Israel to hear if he has convicted Israel of crime and has already pronounced sentence? God’s pronouncement of judgment is first meant to sound an alarm to bring sinners to repentance. Jonah 4

Ezekiel 18:21–23 (ESV)
21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

Repent and believe

Mark 1:14–15 (ESV)
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Carl F. Henry, Secular Man and Ultimate Concern


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(Chapter 8, God, Revelation and Authority. Btw, these short takes on his essays cannot begin to cover the density and wealth of thought in Henry.  They really must be read, but) Theologian Millard Erickson once said, “I love Carl Henry’s work. It’s extremely important. I hope someday that it is translated into English!”

Secular Man and Ultimate Concerns

There is a Woody Allen joke, “If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit, in my name, at a Swiss bank account.” But what sort of evidence would show that God exists. No matter how power an agent were to display itself, would that ever be proof of God? If something as powerful as the aliens in a thousand movies were to appear about a large city, would that prove God? What if the agent were as dazzling as the sun?

In this essay, Henry argues that the radical secularism – which the is the default “intelligent” position of the age – itself bears witness to God. It is an answer to the question, “If God is real, then why don’t I see Him?” To answer this question, Henry speaks of “cognitive levels of experience”. The reason why God is not obvious is because He is not being sought in the right place and the right way. (This is an interesting sort of presuppositionalist argument.)

Western secularism has made naturalism, a radical empiricism to be the entire basis for rational discourse and understanding. This radical naturalism entails a number of related entailments:

A correlative implication of this theory of the comprehensive contingency, total transiency, and radical relativity of all reality and experience is the absolute autonomy of man. Man alone remains, self-sufficient and autonomous, to rescue the cosmos from absurdity and worthlessness. No divine sovereign places human life under unchanging commands, no divine revelation tells man what is true and trustworthy, no divine book stipulates what is permanently right and wrong. External reality supplies no transcosmic supports for human security. A clean break is required with all transcendent, heteronomous absolutes as alien and arbitrary.

Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 139. The universe – and us – are contingent, transient, relative – and somehow also autonomous. It is an odd sort of agency, because it is grounded in absolutely nothing.

This autonomous agent, contingent and existent only for a whisper of time, seems strangely to be completely unable to believe this true. For instance, if we are truly meaningless, then what is the basis and what is the point seeking for “meaning” and security. Then why do we do what we do? “Modern man actually has a much wider range of experience than the naturalistic credo acknowledges.” (145)

This simply does not work.

And when we move beyond just our desire to be meaningful, we run into other problems.

For example, how do we explain any moral fact? Why is murder wrong? It certainly and without question is evil. But why? Because we don’t like it? There is no naturalistic explanation. But what if someone were to make the adaptive argument: not murdering was necessary for the survival of the species and those camps which held to the no-murder position survived better than others. That merely proves it is more adaptive, but not that it is truly right or wrong. Moral facts are just feelings about things, not truths. If one were merely able to overcome the feeling, there would be no morality at all.

Here is where makes the argument for God. God is “inescapably an aspect of everyday experience” (149). God is there and cannot be gainsaid or avoided. The fact of God is built into our consciousness; a “primordial ontological awareness of God as the ultimate given.”

If this is so, then why do we deny its truth:

The reality of God as depicted in his revelation best explains why secular man refuses to order his life exclusively by the naturalistic world life view, while the fact of sin best explains why he refuses to order his life exclusively by the truth and will of God. (148)

He makes an interesting observation which deserves further consideration. The conflict inherent in humanity as a result of a conflict with a sovereign God creates psychological damage within the human being, which we attempt to manage by various psychological and psychiatric methods. (149)

Our very existence, our concern for meaning and morality, our refusal to take our own and other life as utterly meaningless (which is precisely what secular naturalism teaches), is constant undeniable evidence of God. Sin makes hypocrites of Christians; God makes hypocrites of secularists:

Not only his secret alternatives to meaninglessness, but also his distressing anxieties concerning personal worth, imply presuppositions that touch upon man’s responsible relationship to his Maker. The ongoing revelation of God and remnants of the imago Dei in man supply the continuing conditions of man’s humanity. The ineradicable convictions we harbor about the character of reality and the way we frame the fundamental questions of our lives reflect, however unwittingly, a response to God’s revelational confrontation of his creatures. The universal disclosure of God penetrates deeply into all man’s confidences and doubts. God is the Eternal with whom unrenewed man, in all his experiences, has a vagabond relationship. Evidence of God’s reality and power and truth and goodness is ongoingly refracted into the course of man’s daily life. (151)

In short, the espoused secularity of the modern world cannot account for itself. Even the bare attempt to “explain” the world in terms of secular naturalism is itself a contradiction of that naturalism.


Dangers are Tyrants’ Desires

Reading Medea by Euripides today. Here is a quotation appropriate for the 4th of July:

Deina turannon lemata kai pos

Olig’ archomenoi, polla kratountes

Chalepos orgas metaballounsin

To gar eithisthai zen ep’ isoisin



Dangerous are tyrants’ desires

For how little are they are ruled

And how much they command:

Rarely will they cast off anger.

The best custom is to live as equals.

Trophos  (119-124)

Notes on the Mechanics of Spurgeon’s Preaching


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Spurgeon was a master preacher. Today, preachers often quote him when they wish to particularly emphasize a point.  This passage, taken nearly at random, illustrates two of his common attributes: (1) Turning abstractions into images; and (2) divide concepts into their parts and examine each in turn. (I could also discuss his expert use of rhetorical figures, but that would be too much for this already long post).

Consider this portion of a paragraph

We know that nothing can occur to us save as it is written in the secret roll of providential predestination; consequently all the trials resulting from circumstances are traceable at once to the great First Cause. Out of the golden gate of God’s ordinance the armies of trial march forth in array. No shower falls unpermitted from the threatening cloud; every drop has its order ere it hastens to the earth. Consider poverty for instance. How many are made to feel its pinching necessities. They shiver in the cold for want of raiment; they are hungry and athirst; they are houseless, friendless, despised. This is a temptation from God, but all this Christ knew—“Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have not where to lay my head.” When he had fasted forty days and forty nights he was an hungered, and then it was that he was tempted of the devil. Nor does the scant table and the ragged garment alone invite temptation, for all Providences are doors to trial. Even our mercies, like roses, have their thorns. Men may be drowned in seas of prosperity as well as in rivers of affliction. Our mountains are not too high, and our valleys are not too low for temptation to travel. Whither shall we flee from their presence? What wings of wind can carry us? What beams of light can bear us? Everywhere, above and beneath, we are beset and surrounded with dangers. Now, since all these are under the superintendence and direction of the great Lord of Providence, we may look upon them all as temptations which come from him. But in every one of these Christ had his part.

C. H. Spurgeon, “A Tempted Saviour—Our Best Succour,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 9 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1863), 3.

The first proposition is common place in Reformed theology: God is the sovereign over all occurrences. Here is the doctrine from Chapter V of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

I. God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

II. Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly, yet by the same providence he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, with Translations, vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1882), 612. Now look at what Spurgeon does with that concept:

We know that nothing can occur to us save as it is written in the secret roll of providential predestination; consequently all the trials resulting from circumstances are traceable at once to the great First Cause. Out of the golden gate of God’s ordinance the armies of trial march forth in array. No shower falls unpermitted from the threatening cloud; every drop has its order ere it hastens to the earth.

Note: it is not providence as an abstraction; it is providence as an action. Providence is written upon “a secret roll”. Like Borges’ library, the entire history of the world has been written down in a book (although this book contains no false histories).

Spurgeon takes then the second point of the chapter: God is the First Cause of all things. Notice how he takes the abstruse and abstract “First Cause” and draws it with a pencil: The First Cause is simply what God has written down.

Look further: he takes the same idea and repeats it in a new set of images. Now, rather than a book, the decrees come marching through a gate. The troubles you face are an army which God has sent marching in order. Next, it is rain rather than an army; this image he takes from Jesus:

Matthew 5:45 (ESV)
For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Spurgeon takes that rain and merely pays attention to every drop as it falls, “every drop has its order ere it hastens to the earth.

IV. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God; who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

V. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support unto1 himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, with Translations, vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1882), 613–614.

Look at what this becomes in Spurgeon:

Consider poverty for instance. How many are made to feel its pinching necessities. They shiver in the cold for want of raiment; they are hungry and athirst; they are houseless, friendless, despised. This is a temptation from God, but all this Christ knew—“Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have not where to lay my head.” When he had fasted forty days and forty nights he was an hungered, and then it was that he was tempted of the devil.

He does not slavishly follow the original; but he carries out an element of it.  He turns “manifold temptations” into “pinching necessities”. We could show how the other ideas in the Confession are found in other parts of this sermon.

Another aspect to note comes in the division: he takes the concept of trial/temptation and looks at it from parts. A trial/temptation can from poverty. Well what is poverty — a lack of money. What is the opposite? Wealth. Can wealth brings its own temptations? Yes. Have we ever met a wealthy sinner? What did abundance due to Solomon?

Look at how Spurgeon makes this point:

Even our mercies, like roses, have their thorns. Men may be drowned in seas of prosperity as well as in rivers of affliction. Our mountains are not too high, and our valleys are not too low for temptation to travel. Whither shall we flee from their presence? What wings of wind can carry us? What beams of light can bear us? Everywhere, above and beneath, we are beset and surrounded with dangers.

He uses the commonplace of roses bearing thorns. The image works because he does not belabor it. He alters, slightly, the commonplace and uses it as an intellectual anchor. Yes, good things may come with complications.

He then switches the image immediately to death by water: “Men may be drowned in seas of prosperity as well as in rivers of affliction.”  Then a new image, “Our mountains are not too high, and our valleys are not too low for temptation to travel.” We are in constant danger of temptation: the world is rife with its danger.

He then takes over an image from Psalm 139:

Psalm 139:7–10 (ESV)

7  Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9  If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10  even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.

Which he delivers as “Whither shall we flee from their presence? What wings of wind can carry us? What beams of light can bear us?” Note also that this is a “legitimate” use of the original in that it is God who sends the trials, who is the First Cause.

Now to the division into parts. This is has already been noted: poverty comes paired with wealth: temptation and trial can come from any direction

Christians Must Grow Deeper In Biblical Doctrines

Years ago, a fellow Christian asked me why I spent so much time trying to understand doctrine when we would all just “know it” when we got to heaven (so why “waste time” now). This post is the answer to his question.

The Domain for Truth

Christians do you desire to grow more deeper in biblical doctrines?  By doctrines I mean the truth found in God’s Word.  While I have written more on defining doctrine and theology in my post ‘Doing’ Christian Theology in the 21st Century here in this post I want to look more at Bible verses on the topic that Christians must grow deeper in doctrines.

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Carl F. Henry, The Jesus Movement and Its Future


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Theologian Millard Erickson once said, “I love Carl Henry’s work. It’s extremely important. I hope someday that it is translated into English!”

Briefly summarized, this essay gives a taxonomy of the Jesus Movement as it appeared. First, he ties the Jesus Movement to the general countercultural movement

Many in the Jesus movement (the name originated with the February 1971 issue of Look magazine) boldy identified themselves with much of the general countercultural protest against contemporary social trends. They deplored racial discrimination and wanton pollution of the environment. They lamented a pursuit of problems and of solutions to those problems indifferent to personal values. They disowned technological totalitarianism which assumes that human needs are primarily technical in character and which by social engineering manipulates and depersonalizes human beings.

However, the Jesus movement differed fundamentally from the general countercultural critique:

But the Jesus movement declared that sin, and not technocracy, is the root of all evil, and disputed the countercultural assumption that man is basically sound and needs only to be liberated. It proclaimed unapologetically that “Christ is the answer.” It boldly emphasized that the Christian gospel carries in it a divine revelation and redemption absent from the counterculture no less than from the technocratic society it assailed. It was aware that historic Christianity is by nature both counterculture and counter-counterculture, indeed has less the character of a protest movement than of a witness movement that affirms Jesus Christ and his kingdom.

 Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 123–124.

This relationship to the broader culture gave the Jesus movement peculiar display of Christianity:

The Jesus movement was in some respects as much a product of the times as a manifestation of the Spirit of God. The depersonalizing aspects of rationalistic and technocratic cultural excesses triggered a reaction from which not even the Jesus movement escaped. On the whole the movement was experience-centered and antihistorical in respect to Christian tradition. Theological orientation was minimal, but that was not unlike the plight of many congregations whose pastors were more socially oriented than biblically illuminated. Some Jesus followers no doubt came to know more about the nature ofGod than their former Sunday school teachers.

Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 126. I would like to note here, that this Jesus Movement, which swelled the ranks of the church for the most part never outgrew its lack of depth in the Christian tradition. The “traditions” which developed from the Jesus movement have seemingly remained largely experiential. And while I have never studied the matter, I would not be surprised to find that the “Seeker Sensitive” its cousins have their roots in this soil. This is of course ironic, because the Seeker churches are marked by their consumerism

The apologetic of the movement took a true strand of Christianity, the doctrine of love, but put it a slogan which left susceptible to manipulation and decay as we have learned. Henry explains:

Most Jesus people—although not all—deplore the fundamentalist reduction of the spiritual life to a list of “don’ts.” Churches prone to such negation displayed the weakness of their own traditions when they refused to welcome young believers simply because, after accepting Christ, they retained long hair and mod dress characteristic of the counterculture. The Jesus movement wanted above all else to be known by its love for God and man. Its greeting to others became “God loves you.” Whereas deference to evangelical traditions ran the risk of straight-jacketing the Spirit, the experiential approach of the Jesus movement ran the risk of spiritual aberration and left many young believers vulnerable to cultic excesses. The ecumenical movement with its focus on “what the Spirit is saying to the churches” rather than on what the inspired Scripture ongoingly says, has meanwhile been more open to an emphasis on charismatic renewal than on a recovery of the Reformation.

Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 131.

There was an earnestness and a desire; however, that earnestness (from this perspective) never seemed to rightly mature in many (most?) instances. The Charismatic tendency of much of the Jesus Movement reduced to emotionalism. It’s lack of doctrinal depth, left it without resources to develop:

The Jesus movement’s revolt against institutional religion has issued in no clear alternative in the way of a united Christian front. It is vulnerable therefore to personality cults and to fads that lack the stability of a viable permanent movement. Its stance is basically isolationistic and escapist with regard to society, and its life style is countercultural. Some biblical wrestling with the nature of community in the light of the doctrine of the church was ventured by those devoted to pacifism or to a communal life style, but on the whole the Jesus movement was not inclined to serious academic investigation, particularly by those who recognize that communes have not demonstrated themselves to be the family of the future in view of the evident breakdown of open marriage.

Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 133–134. As we know, a great deal of that counterculture devolved into nothing more hedonistic excess or went indoors and became consumeristic (if there was evolution, it was in the nature of different pursuits around the self). The Jesus movement  came before a generation of Christians who were barely distinguishable from the broader culture. There was a great emphasis on getting people through the door — a great emphasis on the porch: but once inside, there was little Christian to offer, and so consumerism filled the bill.