Daily Devotions from the Classics

A Monthly Reading of Insights from Renowned Christians

April

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Day 1

A Morning Prayer

We adore and magnify your name, O Father of mercies and God of all consolation, for having called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to your own purpose and grace given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. O for a song of praise, for a psalm of everlasting thanksgiving to thee, the God of our salvation, in whose hand all power resides! Your power is to be seen everywhere man can turn his eye, and yet the impenitent man refuses to acknowledge it, refuses to see it in the creation of his very own soul. Open his eyes, we pray, to the light of your truth, lest he perish in his sins. We ask in the name of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Amen.


The Narrow Gate
by
Henry Scougal

"Then one said to Him, 'Lord, are there few who are saved?' And He said to them, 'Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, "Lord, Lord, open for us," and He will answer and say to you, "I do not know you, where you are from," then you will begin to say, "We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets," But He will say, "I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity."'" (Luke 13:23-27)

Among all the stratagems whereby Satan plots and contrives man's ruin, few are sadly more successful than the fond persuasion that heaven and everlasting happiness are easily attainable. The doors of Christian churches are now very wide, and men have access to them upon the easiest of terms. Many are reckoned "Christians" even before they come to know what it means!

Men have no marks on their foreheads whereby we can judge of their eternal future. They die, are laid in the grave, and none come back to tell us how it fared with them. We desire to think the best of every particular person. But whatever charity there is in this, there is little prudence in the inference that many draw from it -- that if they live as their neighbors did, then they will die just as happily, for the greatest part of mankind are such as themselves; and if they all are to be excluded from heaven, then heaven must be a very empty place. Self-love so strongly blinds the minds of men that they can hardly be turned from a belief which they would gladly believe were true. Hence it is that the opinion of the broadness of the way to heaven and easy access to it is the most epidemic and the most dangerous heresy.

Duty obliges us, and the Scriptures warrant us, to assure you that there are very few that shall be saved; that the whole world lies in wickedness; and that they are a little flock to whom the Father will give the kingdom. That this certain, though lamentable truth, may more deeply impress our minds, we shall propose some considerations for the better understanding of what great things are required in those who look for everlasting happiness.

First, consider the nature of that divine Majesty, whose presence and enjoyment makes heaven desirable. How inconsistent it is with God's infinite holiness to admit impure and impenitent sinners into the habitation of his glory. Certainly he is of purer eyes than to behold evil. He has no pleasure in wickedness; neither shall he allow evil to dwell with him. It is strange what conceptions foolish men entertain of Almighty God, who imagine that those who have been all their days wallowing in sin shall be admitted into an everlasting fellowship with God! Mercy is open to all who forsake their sins, but justice shall seize upon those who continue in them.

Second, consider the magnitude of the happiness which everyone so confidently promises to himself. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9). All that is excellent in the world is borrowed to shadow forth this bliss. We are told of crowns, kingdoms, treasures, rivers of pleasure, and fountains of living waters. Can we expect that so glorious a prize shall be gained without any labor? Shall such a recompense be bestowed on those who never took any pains to obtain it?

What toil and travail does a man take in order to accrue much money! What industry and study do men employ to be reckoned among the learned! And shall heaven and everlasting happiness slide into our arms while we sleep? No, certainly. God will never disparage the glories of that place to bestow them on those who have not thought them worthy of their most serious endeavors. Perhaps men think that in heaven they will feast and revel and lounge about in luxury, spending all their time in foolish mirth and vain talk, in sport and jesting and sensual pleasure. No, indeed. The joys of heaven are pure and spiritual, and in that place blessed spirits behold and admire the divine perfections and engage in intimate communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a strange infatuation of self-love that men in the gall of bitterness should think themselves good enough for the enjoyment of divine pleasures.

Third, let us reflect on those who have gone to heaven before us, who have fought, wrestled, and given their lives to obtain that glorious prize. And shall the greatest part of mankind think they may possess it with so little effort, much less pain? Read a catalog of their persecutions and scourgings in the 11th chapter of Hebrews. There you will find them inflamed with a holy passion for the glory of God and the propagation of the Christian faith. If heaven and happiness cost them so dearly, then why should anyone think he should be carried to heaven while fast asleep, or while engaging his energies in the exact opposite direction?

Fourth, a serious consideration of the laws and precepts of the gospel will fully convince us of the narrowness of the way that leads to eternal life. Read through that excellent Sermon on the Mount and you will see what our Savior requires of his followers. You will find him enjoining such a profound humility as shall make us think nothing of ourselves, and be content that others think nothing of us too; a meekness that overcomes all injuries, affronts, and indignities; a universal love that will make us tender toward another man's welfare, and that will never take revenge even against our most bitter enemy.

How do the tempers and actions of men accord with this? Looking back upon the old world, we see how quickly wickedness overspread the face of the earth. All flesh had corrupted their way; and of all the multitudes then in the world, only Noah and his family were found worthy to escape the general flood. After that, the church of God was confined to a very narrow corner; and while darkness covered the face of the earth, only Palestine was enlightened with the knowledge of God. God gave his statutes to Israel, but the rest of the nations were given up to the lusts of their own hearts, and they worshiped the works of their own hands. In the present condition of the world, what do we find? We find that the number of Christian nations is a very small percentage of the whole.

But what is to be found concerning the generality of the churches within these nations? First, we should find the great number of them so grossly ignorant of the Scriptures that they know not the way that leads to eternal life. And if we should remove the adulterers, idolaters, effeminate, thieves, coveteous, drunkards, deceivers, and scornful, to what a small number would the worshipers be reduced! This does not even include those who indulge in that hellish and unaccountable sin of swearing, whereby men throw away their souls without any temptation, pleasure, or advantage. This sin of taking the sacred name of God in vain is certainly inconsistent with a religious temper; and this alone would damn the greatest part of the Christian world.

When all has been said, there are many who cannot think it consistent with the goodness and mercy of God that the greatest part of mankind should be damned. They cannot imagine that heaven should have so very few to inhabit it. But what folly and madness is this for sinful men to set rules for the divine goodness and draw conclusions so expressly contrary to what God himself has revealed. Is it not enough that he has taught us the way to be happy and given his own Son to death to make it possible and that he has waited so long and invited us so earnestly to repent? If we obstinately resolve to continue in our wickedness, to despise his goodness, to slight his threatenings and have none of his reproof, to court damnation and throw ourselves headlong into hell, then how can we expect that he should put forth his omnipotence to pull us from thence and place us in heaven against our own will?

Let us be reminded that God was infinitely happy before he had made any creature. Though there are thousands of angels and ten thousand times ten thousand who stand about his throne praising him, yet he needs not their society. Most assuredly, he will never admit wicked and irreligious men to enter in.

Were the sense of these words deeply engraved on our minds, with what care and diligence, with what seriousness and zeal would ministers deal with the people committed to their charge, that they might save some. How would parents, husbands, and wives employ all their diligence and industry for reclaiming their near relations and pulling them from the brink of hell. And with what holy violence would we use for saving ourselves from this common ruin and making our calling and election sure.

The Works of the Rev. H. Scougal

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by William Jay

Here are two helpful articles: "The Fate of the Heathen" by John Gerstner, and "The Guilt of the Pagan" by W. G. T. Shedd.

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Day 2

A Morning Prayer

O Lord God, our heavenly Father, we are called to the duties of another day, entering into both the business of life and other occupations of time. The voice of pleasure may speak to some, the sound of amusement may attract others, and the snares of the world may more or less absorb us all. Deliver us, O Lord, in the hour of trial. Give strength when temptation comes. Be present in all our doings, and let the small voice of conscience do his busy work while we listen with attentive obedience. Give us that singleness of heart and purpose which was in Christ Jesus, that devotion to your will which marked his every work, and that desire to follow him in all things. And then may we be found, at the last, at the right hand of our King and Judge. Your grace is sufficient to accomplish this. Lead and guide us that we may find even this life pleasant because devoted to your service, and life eternal sure because we have not trusted in an arm of flesh to deliver us but in you only, through Jesus Christ our Mediator and God. Amen.


Covetousness
by
Thomas Watson

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." (1 John 2:15-17)

There are two words in the Greek which set forth the nature of covetousness. Pleonexia, which signifies an "insatiable desire of getting the world," and philarguria, which signifies an "inordinate love of the world." Augustine's definition of covetousness is "to desire more than enough." I shall show in six particulars when a man may be said to be given to covetousness.

1. When his thoughts are wholly taken up with the world. He can think of nothing but his shop or farm. He is always plotting and projecting about the things of this life.

2. When he takes more pains for getting earthly things than heavenly. He will turn every stone, disrupt his sleep, take many a weary step for the world, but will take no pains for Christ or heaven. He is loath to put himself to too much sweat or trouble to obtain Christ or salvation.

3. When all his discourse is about the world. It is a sign of godliness to be speaking of heaven. It is a sign of a man given to covetousness to speak always of secular things.

4. When he sets his heart upon worldly things. He would rather part with Christ than with all his earthly possessions.

5. When he overloads himself with worldly business. He has many irons in the fire, takes so much business upon him that he cannot find time to serve God. When a man overcharges himself with the world that he cannot have time for his soul, he is under the power of covetousness.

6. When his heart is so set upon the world that he cares not what unlawful means he uses to get it. He will wrong and defraud and raise his estate upon the ruins of another.

Were our hearts raised by the power of the Holy Ghost up to heaven, we should not be much taken with earthly things. "Lord, let the magnet of thy Spirit draw my heart upward. Dig the earth out of my heart and teach me how to possess the world and not love it; how to hold it in my hand and not let it get into my heart."

A Body of Divinity

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

What are we letting into our hearts? See Maclaren's sermon, "Chambers of Imagery".

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Day 3

A Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father, you are the God of all grace. We ask now that you would endue us with wisdom that we may use our time wisely, not as our own but as yours, so that we may be prepared at the last to render an account of our stewardship. Give us godly dispositions in conformity with our Savior's, that we may be meek, kind, forgiving, patient, and faithful. Teach us the forbearance that suffers long, which is your gift, the desire for our neighbor's best welfare, which is the Christian's mark, and the obedience that shows we are Christ's disciples indeed. Opportunities abound in which we may bring glory to you. Let us not allow them to pass by unnoticed, but accept them as the paths to spiritual blessing. We ask in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.


Means of Grace
by
George W. Perkins

"Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit."
1 Peter 1:22

Our modern religious phraseology has coined and thrown into universal currency a term not found in the Bible. The phrase I mean is that familiar one, "means of grace." But I am forced to believe that very inadequate ideas are held of "means of grace," and that great loss and evil result from the mistake.

Public worship is a means of grace, and of the service a prominent feature is the sermon. But what is the sermon? Perhaps an able theological discussion whereby the mind has gained a firmer hold on truth. That is valuable. Perhaps it unfolds the consequences of sin and holiness in the endless future. That is valuable, revealing to the mind worthy and powerful motives. Perhaps it states the principles of right, the details of duty. That also is valuable. The hearer knows the will of God. But where is the grace, the growth in goodness, even if the sermons have been listened to with profound attention and marked effect? The improvement is not yet. The sermon becomes profitable and growth in grace begins only when the hearer departs to put into practice what he has heard.

In everyone's daily life there are many and nameless annoyances -- the vexations, the carelessness, the rudeness, unpleasant manners, the mistakes, the heedlessness, the unamiableness one meets. They are countless. They provoke peevishness. They are the usual incentives to anger, the ordinary occasions of fretfulness and irritability. And they are usually very insignificant. Few people there are who think religion has anything to do with such petty affairs; but they are the occasions of no little sin. Yet they should be considered as constantly recurring opportunities for the exercise of that noble Christian virtue self-control. At each one of the thousands of petty vexations which one meets in the course of years, we have the opportunity of reflecting, "God will be pleased if I control myself, if I remain quiet and calm without excitement or irritability; therefore I will do so." In other words, God has given us countless "means of grace."

"But you forget," urges one, "there is one class of events or circumstances which must be excepted. We are surrounded by temptations. Surely they are not means of grace, are they?" But why not? For what is a temptation? It is a position in which there are opportunities and inducements to do wrong. Thus it is one of the noblest opportunities for obedience; for in God's sight it is a higher act of honor to choose right when there are strong inducements to do wrong. Yes, even a temptation may be a "means of grace" -- a struggle and a victory for a high moral purpose, both of which make him a better man.

Let us then understand God's plan. What we call drudgery, temptation, sorrow, misfortune, difficulties, all these are resplendent with this glorious end, that they are to qualify us to be heirs of God and future kings in heaven.

Sermons (condensed and paraphrased)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

A sermon of Maclaren also will be of help, "Mahanaim: The Two Camps".

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Day 4

A Morning Prayer

O Lord our God, we entreat your favor with our whole heart. We confess that we have forfeited all claims to it, and if we had no better ground of hope than our merits, we must sink into despair. But with you there is mercy, and with you there is plenteous redemption. You have sent your own Son into the world not to condemn it, but that the world through Christ might be saved. We rejoice that neither the number nor heinousness of our transgressions is a barrier to your forgiveness, a forgiveness founded on the sufferings and sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. But keep us from the hope of the hypocrite, who rests satisfied with a mere profession of belief and outward forms of worship, all the while having a heart not right with God. May we judge of our sincerity by our fear to offend you, by our concern to know what you would have us to do, and by our willingness to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ. We offer this prayer in the all prevailing name of our blessed Redeemer, who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood. Amen.


The Pharisee and the Publican
by
George Whitefield

"And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner!" (Luke 18:13)

"Two men went up to the temple to pray" (and never two men of more opposite characters), "the one a Pharisee and the other a Publican." The Pharisees were the strictest sect among the Jews. "I was of the strictest sect, of the Pharisees," says Paul. They not only prayed often, but they made long prayers. And that they might appear extraordinarily devout, they would pray at the corners of the street in order that people going or coming both ways might see them.

As for the Publicans, it was not so with them. It seems they were sometimes Jews, or at least proselytes of the gate, but for the generality I am apt to think they were Gentiles, for they were gatherers of the Roman taxes, and used to amass much wealth by wronging men with false accusations. They were so universally infamous that our Lord himself tells his disciples, "the excommunicated man should be to them as a heathen man, or a Publican." And the Pharisees thought it a sufficient impeachment of our Lord's character that he was a friend to Publicans and sinners, and sat down with them to eat.

But however they disagreed in other things, they agreed in this: that public worship is a duty incumbent upon all, for they both came up to the temple. And what did they go there for? "To pray." I fear one of them forgot his errand. I have often been at a loss as what to call the Pharisee's address; it certainly does not deserve the name of a prayer. He may rather be said to come to the temple to boast rather than to pray; for I do not find one word of confession of his original guilt, not one single petition for pardon of his past actual sins, or for grace to help and assist him for the time to come. He only brings to God, as it were, a reckoning of his performances, and does that which no flesh can justly do -- I mean, glory in his presence.

"The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican." Here is some appearance of devotion, but it is only in appearance. To thank God that we are not as wicked in our practices as other men are is certainly suitable, right, and our bound duty; for whatever degrees of goodness there may be in us more than in others, it is owing to God's restraining, preventing, and assisting grace. If the Pharisee had been thinking in this manner, then it would have been an excellent introduction to his prayer. But he was a free-willer as well as self-righteous (for he that is one must be the other) and thought that by his own power and strength he had kept himself from these vices.

Let us now take a view of the Publican. "And the Publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." Perhaps he was standing in the outward court of the temple, conscious to himself that he was not worthy to approach the Holy of holies; so conscious and so weighed down with a sense of his own unworthiness that he would not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven, which he knew was God's throne. I think I see him standing afar off, pensive, oppressed, and even overwhelmed with sorrow. Sometimes he attempts to look up, but then perhaps remembers that the heavens are unclean in God's sight and the very angels charged with folly. How then shall such a wretch as he dare to lift up his guilty head? And to show that his heart was full of holy self-resentment, and that he sorrowed after a godly sort, he smote upon his breast. The word in the original implies that he struck hard upon his breast. He will lay the blame upon none but his own wicked heart. Out of the abundance of his heart, I doubt not, with many tears, he at last cries out, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" Not, God be merciful to yonder proud Pharisee. Not, God be merciful to me a saint. Not, God be merciful to such or such a one. But, God be merciful to me, even to me a sinner: a sinner by birth, a sinner in thought, word, and deed; a sinner as to my person, a sinner as to all my performances; a sinner in whom is no health, in whom dwells no good thing; a sinner, poor, miserable, blind and naked, from the crown of the head to the sole of the feet, full of wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores; a self-accused, self-condemned sinner.

This man came up to the temple to pray, and he prayed indeed. And a broken and contrite heart God will not despise. "I tell you," says our Lord -- I who lay in the bosom of the Father from all eternity; I who am God and therefore know all things; I who can neither deceive nor be deceived, whose judgment is according to right -- I tell you, whatever you may think of it, or think of me for telling you so, "this man," this Publican, this despised, sinful, but broken-hearted man, "went down to his house justified" (acquitted, and looked upon as righteous in the sight of God) "rather than the other." That the Pharisee was not justified is certain, for "God resists the proud." That the Publican was at this time actually justified we have great reason to infer from the latter part of the text: "For everyone that exalts himself shall be abased, and he that humbles himself shall be exalted."

The parable of the Publican and Pharisee is a glass wherein we may see all mankind divided into two general classes. The first is comprised of those who trust wholly or partly in themselves, believing they are righteous. These are Pharisees. The second comprises those who have no confidence in the flesh and see themselves as self-condemned sinners. These come under the character of the Publican just now described.

Hear this, all you who justify yourselves! Tremble, and behold your doom, a doom more dreadful than words can express or thoughts conceive! If you refuse to humble yourselves after hearing this parable, I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day that God shall visit you with all his storms and pour all the vials of his wrath upon your rebellious heads. You exalted yourselves here, and God shall abase you hereafter. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked." He sees your hearts, he knows all things. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God. Pull down every self-righteous thought and every proud imagination that now exalts itself against the perfect, personal, imputed righteousness of the dear Lord Jesus. "For he," and he alone, "who humbles himself shall be exalted."

Are there no poor sinners among you? What, are you all Pharisees? Surely you cannot bear the thought of returning home unjustified, can you? What if a fit of apoplexy should seize you, and your souls be hurried away before the awful Judge of the quick and dead? What will you do without Christ's righteousness? If you go out of the world unjustified, you must remain so forever. Oh, that you would humble yourselves! Then would the Lord exalt you.

Greater love can no man show than to lay down his life for a friend. But Christ laid down his life for his enemies, even for you, if you are enabled to humble yourselves as the Publican did. "Come, let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet," yet if you humble yourselves, "they shall be as white as snow." One act of true faith in Christ justifies you forever and ever. He has not promised you what he cannot perform. He is able to exalt you.

Sermons on Important Subjects (condensed)

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by "Various Authors"

Here's a good sermon by Theodor Zahn, "The Good Physician".

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Day 5

A Morning Prayer

Gracious Father, awaken us, we pray, from the paralyzing delusion that we may sit with our arms folded and our minds at ease, having nothing to do this day for you. Rouse us now, while we have energy to stir, to a sense of our danger from the enemy who roams tirelessly about seeking whom he may devour. Impress upon us the solemn and startling truth that it was anger kindled by our sins that led our Savior to the cross, and that only through his merits can we behold your holiness and glory. Strengthen us by your Holy Spirit that our penitence this day may be sincere, and sanctify us that we may glorify the triune God in all we do. We offer these petitions in the name of our precious Redeemer, Christ Jesus. Amen.


The Goal of Sanctification
by
John Murray

"But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God--and righteousness and sanctification and redemption--that, as it is written, He who glories, let him glory in Yahweh." (1 Corinthians 1:30,31)

The goal of sanctification is to be understood in two senses. First, there is the chief end to be promoted by it, and second, the attainment to which it is directed and in which it finds its terminus.

1. The chief end is the glory of God (cf. Eph. 1:6, 12, 14; Phil. 1:11). As we entertain the hope of our own glorification, this chief end should be uppermost in our objective and hope. If we think that the glory of God interferes in any way with the glory that belongs to our own glorification, it is because we have a distorted view of that which will be constitutive of our own glorification, namely, the glory that will redound to God in the consummation of the sanctifying process, and the vindication that will be accorded in the manifestation of his glory. Sometimes we have difficulty with the thought of the judgment that will be executed with reference to believers at the judgment seat of Christ, when God will bring every work into judgment with every secret thing, whether it be good or evil. We wonder how the exposure of sins will comport with the bliss of resurrection to life.

This difficulty only arises when we have restricted our thought to our own bliss and have overlooked the demands of the glory of God. When we give the priority to the claims of God's glory, then we appreciate the fact that the prerequisite to our bliss is the vindication of the glory of God. And the glory of God requires that there be perfect adjudication of all things, that the whole panorama of history will be finally adjudicated with perfect equity and truth. God "will judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth" (Ps. 96:13). How could the people of God contemplate with delight an eternity that would leave anything at loose ends? The adjudication that God will render with reference to their sins is not one that will fill them with dismay, but one that will only enhance in their esteem the marvels of redeeming grace, as it will also serve to exhibit the perfect justice of God in the provisions of his saving mercy. When sin is exposed in its true proportions and gravity, it is then that the glory of redemptive grace will be fully exhibited and the joy of the saints will reach its zenith. The bliss of heaven is not constituted by forgetting sin, but by glorying in the redemption that washed us from sin and made us white in the blood of the Lamb.

When we think of the glory of God as the chief end in the goal of sanctification, we must appreciate the extent to which God will be glorified in the glorification of his people. There is no limitation to the glory that will redound to God from the completion of the sanctifying process. God will be glorified in all his works. The damnation of the reprobate will redound to the glory of God, and no speck of stain will attach to God's action. It will redound to the glory of his justice and power. But in the glorification of the people of God, the whole sum of the divine perfections will be manifested as in no other handiwork of his. We must say this, because it is only in relation to the redemption of the elect that the incarnation of the Son has meaning. The glorification of the elect is really one with the final glorification of him who himself is the embodiment of the glory of God. So when his glory will be revealed, the people of God will also be manifested with him in glory. But the revelation of Christ's glory is surely the supreme exhibition of the glory of God. . . .

2. The second sense in which the goal of sanctification is to be understood is the attainment in which it finds its terminus. This is the glorification of the believer and of the whole body of the elect. It is noteworthy how seldom the term "glorify" (δοξάξω) is used with reference to the people of God (cf. Rom. 8:17, 30). This term is almost uniformly used of glorifying God or Christ. What is of particular significance in the glorification of the people of God is the relation it sustains to the glorification of Christ himself. In Romans 8:17 believers and Christ are said to be glorified together, and in Romans 8:29, 30 it is apparent that the glorification spoken of in verse 20 is the realization of the predestinating purpose spoken of in verse 29, namely, conformity to the image of God's Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

These two texts, therefore, both indicate the inseparable conjunction and community that exists between Christ and believers in respect of what is the final phase of Christ's exaltation and glorification, and the glorification of the elect. The title "firstborn" or "firstbegotten" (πρωτότοκος) refers to priority and pre-eminence and points to the supereminence that belongs to Christ. But it is supereminence among brethren, and therefore the supereminence involved has no meaning except in that relation. Hence, though there can be no underestimation of the pre-eminence belonging to the Son as the firstbegotten, yet the interdependence is just as necessary. The glory bestowed upon the redeemed is derived from the relation they sustain to the "firstborn." But the specific character involved in being the "firstborn" is derived from the relation he sustains to the redeemed in that capacity. Hence they must be glorified together.

The glorification of the elect is, by implication, said to consist in conformity to the image of the Son. The marvel of the destination is hereby brought to our attention in a way that is unique. For the title "Son" has reference to Christ as the only-begotten (Rom. 8:3, 32), and the eternal sonship is in view. The conformity cannot, of course, have in view conformity to him in that capacity or relation. The conformity includes conformity to the likeness of the body of Christ's glory (Phil. 3:21), and must, therefore, be conceived of as conformity to the image of the Son incarnate. But the glorified Christ does not cease to be the eternal Son. Hence conformity to his image as incarnate and glorified is conformity to the image of him who is the eternal and only-begotten Son. This is the highest end conceivable for created beings, the highest end conceivable not only by men but also by God himself. God himself could not contemplate or determine a higher destiny for his creatures.

We must not overlook, however, the succeeding clause -- "that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." This specifies the final aim of the conformity spoken of. We might well ask: What can be more ultimate than conformity of the sons of God to the image of the only-begotten and firstborn? If such a question has any appeal by way of objection, it is because our orientation is anthropocentric rather than Christocentric and theocentric. There is a final end that is more ultimate than the glorification of the people of God. It is the pre-eminence of Christ, and that pre-eminence vindicated and exemplified in the final phase of his glorification. "Firstborn" reflects on the priority and supremacy of Christ (cf. Col. 1:15, 18; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 1:5). The glory of God is always supreme and ultimate. And the supreme glory of God is manifested in the glorifying of the Son. . . .

But the glory for the people of God is only enhanced by the emphasis placed upon the pre-eminence of Christ. For it is among many brethren that Christ is the firstborn. That they should be classified as brethren brings to the thought of glorification with Christ the deepest mystery of community. The fraternal relationship is subsumed under the ultimate aim of the predestinating decree. This means that the pre-eminence of the Son as the firstborn carried with it the correlative eminence of the children of God. The unique dignity of the Son enhances the dignity bestowed upon the many sons who are to be brought to glory. "Both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Heb. 2:11).

We thus see how, in the final realization of the goal of sanctification, there is exemplified and vindicated to the fullest extent (an extent that staggers our thought by reason of its stupendous reality) the truth inscribed upon the whole process of redemption, from its inception in the electing grace of the Father (cf. Eph. 1:4; Rom. 8:29) to its consummation in the adoption (cf. Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:5), that Christ in all his offices as Redeemer is never to be conceived of apart from the church, and the church is not to be conceived of apart from Christ. There is correlativity in election, there is correlativity in redemption once for all accomplished, there is correlativity in the mediatorial ministry which Christ continues to exercise at the right hand of the Father, and there is correlativity in the consummation, when Christ will come the second time without sin for those that look for him unto salvation. This is the goal of sanctification. This is the hope it enshrines, and thereby its demands upon us are invested with sanctions of surpassing glory.

Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 2

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Are we awaiting the Second Advent? Read Alexander McCaul's sermon, "The Blessed Hope".

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Day 6

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, who is like you? Who but you can order all things? Who but you are high, holy, and omnipotent? Who but you can give life and take it away? And yet it is you who are mocked, despised, blasphemed, and neglected. You have given man the ability to reason so he can know you, understanding so he can walk unharmed through this troubled scene of our mortality. Yet these very gifts are used to defy you. Spare us, O good Lord, from such iniquity! Break down the pride and stubbornness of our corrupt nature and bring us all into subjection to the law of Christ. Teach us his obedience, that we may go about doing good. Make us ready to assist others where we can lessen their burden, seeing that he was ever ready to stretch forth his arm in acts of mercy and love. We ask all in the name of our great high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


The Knowledge of God
by
John Calvin

"That which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead." (Romans 1:20)

That there exists in the human mind (and indeed by natural instinct) some sense of Deity, we hold to be beyond dispute, since God himself, to prevent any man from pretending ignorance, has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead. This memory he constantly renews and occasionally enlarges, that all to a man may be condemned by their own conscience when they neither worship him nor consecrate their lives to his service. Certainly, if there is any quarter where it may be supposed that God is unknown, the most likely is among the dullest tribes farthest removed from civilization. But, as a heathen tells us, there is no nation so barbarous, no race so brutish, as not to be imbued with the conviction that there is a God. Nay, even idolatry is ample evidence of this fact. We know how reluctant man is to lower himself, in order to set other creatures above him. Therefore, when he chooses to worship wood and stone, it is evident how very strong this impression of a Deity must be. In opposition to his natural haughtiness, he spontaneously humbles himself before the lowliest object as an act of reverence to God.

Since the perfection of blessedness consists in the knowledge of God, he has been pleased . . . not only to deposit in our minds that seed of religion of which we have already spoken, but so to manifest his perfections in the whole structure of the universe. Daily he places himself in our view so that we cannot open our eyes without being compelled to behold him. His essence, indeed, is incomprehensible, utterly transcending all human thought; but on each of his works his glory is engraved in characters so bright, so distinct, and so illustrious, that none, however dull and illiterate, can plead ignorance as their excuse. Hence, with perfect truth, the Psalmist exclaims, "He covers himself with light as with a garment" (Psalm 104:2). Because the glory of his power and wisdom is more resplendent in the firmament, it is frequently designated as his palace. Wherever you turn your eyes, there is no portion of the world, however minute, that does not exhibit at least some sparks of beauty. It is impossible to contemplate the vast and beautiful fabric as it extends around without being overwhelmed by the immense weight of glory. Hence, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews elegantly describes the visible worlds as images of the invisible (Heb. 11:3), the elegant structure of the world serving as a kind of mirror in which we may behold God, though otherwise invisible. For the same reason the Psalmist attributes language to celestial objects, a language which all nations understand (Psalm 19:1), the manifestation of the Godhead being too clear to escape the notice of any people, however obtuse.

Calvin's Institutes, vol. 1, from chapters 4 and 5.

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See also the article by Addison Leitch, "The Knowledge of God: General and Special Revelation".

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Day 7

A Morning Prayer

Almighty God, arise and let your enemies be scattered! Like the smoke that vanishes, drive them away. But be merciful to us, your disciples, and send your Holy Spirit upon us in his fulness and power. Let him anoint our hearts that we may read your word with profit and pray with mighty power. We know your word is truth, but we are slow to believe it. We confess with our lips that Jesus is coming again soon, but we live as if there were no urgency in preparing for it. May your Holy Spirit be to us as cloven tongues of fire, giving us a burning zeal for you. May his influence be visibly seen by our lives and actions, and may we ever rejoice in his holy comfort. We bring these petitions before your throne through the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you. Amen.


About Anointing
by
Kenneth S. Wuest

"You did not anoint My head with oil,
but this woman has anointed My feet with ointment."
Luke 7:46

There are two Greek words both meaning "to anoint," and as used in the New Testament, referring to different kinds of anointing and for different purposes. These are translated by the one English word "anoint." In order to arrive at a full-orbed accurate interpretation of the passages in which the word "anoint" occurs, it is necessary to know what Greek word lies back of the English translation.

One word is aleipho. The non-literary manuscripts of the early centuries give us some instances of its use as seen in the following examples: [1] "which you will carefully grease," spoken of a yoke-band; [2] a man whose wife had gone away writes to her that since they had bathed together a month before, he had never bathed or anointed himself; [3] an inscription in honor of a gymnasiarch, namely, the head of a gymnasium, does him honor as the "much-honored anointer." In the first case the word is used of the action of applying grease to the yoke-band, the purpose of which was to keep it from chafing the ox. In the other two instances it referred to the practice, common in the orient, of giving the body an olive-oil massage. Olive-oil was used in the east for medicinal and remedial purposes in the case of illness. It provided an excellent rub-down for the tired athlete after exercise. It prevented skin dryness in the hot dry climate of the orient.

We see this use of the word aleipho in Mark 6:13 and James 5:14, where the word is used of the application of oil for medicinal purposes. Thus we find in the latter text the two God-appointed resources in the case of illness -- prayer and medical help.

It is also used of the application of ointment. A passage in Xenophon speaks of the greater suitableness of oil for the men and of ointment for women, saying that the latter are better pleased that the men should savour of the manly oil than the effeminate ointment. The ointment had oil for its base, but differed from the common oil in that it was highly scented. We can better understand the words of our Lord to the discourteous Pharisee, "My head with oil you did not anoint: but this woman has anointed my feet with ointment." It was as if He said, "You withheld from Me cheap and ordinary courtesies; while she bestowed upon Me costly and rare homages" (Trench). The Pharisee withheld from our Lord the courtesy of common oil for His head, that same anointing oil which the hypocrites denied themselves (Matt. 6:17). The woman anointed His tired, parched feet with the expensive, highly fragrant ointment which she as a woman naturally possessed, rather than with the anointing oil used commonly by men. The same precious ointment was used by Mary of Bethany (John 11:2; 12:3) and by the women at the tomb (Mark 16:1). How the fragrance of that ointment which permeated the room spoke of the heavenly fragrance of the one Man among all men who combined in His wonderful Person, and in most delicate balance, the gentleness of womanhood and the strength and virility of manhood, without either one detracting from the other.

In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, aleipho is the usual word for anointing with oil for either of the above purposes (although the other word for "anoint" is used in Amos 6:6). It is used in Ruth 3:3; II Samuel 12:20; 14:2; Daniel 10:3; Micah 6:15. Aleipho is the only word used for anointing with oil in the New Testament, there being no exceptions to this.

The other word used in the New Testament is chrio. It is never used here in connection with oil, but uniformly of the anointing with the Holy Spirit (although in the secular documents it had the same meaning as aleipho). Chrio is used in "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me" (Luke 4:18), a quotation from Isaiah 61:1, where the same Greek word appears in the Septuagint translation. It is used in Acts 4:27 and 10:38 of the anointing of our Lord with the Holy Spirit. In II Corinthians 1:21 the word is used in connection with the anointing of the believer with the Spirit. Hebrews 1:9 presents a seeming deviation of the rule that chrio is never used in the New Testament in connection with the anointing with oil. We have, "God has anointed thee (the Lord Jesus) with the oil of gladness," and chrio is used. How true the inspired writer was to the genius of the two words as they are used in the New Testament, for the word "oil" here does not refer to literal oil, but is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. In 1 John 2:20, 27, "unction" and "anointing" are from the noun form that comes from chrio, and refer to the anointing of the believer with the Holy Spirit.

Chrio is the usual word in the Septuagint of the anointing of the priests and kings at their induction into office. The anointing is with oil; but this oil is symbolic of the anointing of the Spirit, not for medicinal purposes. Aleipho is used in Exodus 40:15, which speaks of the anointing of the priest, and its usage here is an exception to the usual practice. The priest was anointed once only, at the time of his induction into the priest's office, the anointing being symbolic of a reality, the anointing with the Holy Spirit who by His presence with him equipped the priest for his service. Believers in this Christian era are priests in the New Testament sense. They are anointed with the Holy Spirit once and once only, at the moment they are saved. This anointing is the coming of the Spirit to take up His permanent residence in their hearts, thus providing the potential equipment for their service as priests. The baptism by the Spirit is for the introduction of the believer into the Body of Christ, the anointing with the Spirit is His coming to dwell in the Christian, and the fullness of the Spirit is for power for service.

Treasures from the Greek New Testament

Note: The Greek word chrio is a verb meaning to anoint and is related to the noun christos, meaning anointed one, written in English as Christ. In Hebrew, mashach is a verb and means to smear or to anoint and is the root of the noun mashiach, anointed one, written in English as Messiah. So Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah. Since the New Testament was written in Greek, not Hebrew, "Christ" is the word used to designate Jesus as the Messiah. He was King Messiah predicted in the Old Testament and whom devout Jews in New Testament times had been anticipating. For example, in Luke 2:25-26 it states that Simeon "would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ" or the Lord's Messiah. This coming deliverer of Israel was called "Messiah," because in Israel both priests and kings were anointed by oil. So Jesus is called the Messiah, the anointed one of God, because he is both Priest and King. Peter's famous confession was, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). --Ken Morgan

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

What is the Septuagint? Read Everett Harrison's essay, "The Importance of the Septuagint for Biblical Studies".

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Day 8

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, you try the souls of sinful men by suffering, giving them bitter waters of affliction to drink and a cup of sorrow as their portion, that they may confess their guilt and turn to you in repentance and faith. Enable them to see the righteousness of their punishment, that you are a long-suffering God who does not take delight in the death of the wicked, and that they may come to you for salvation and not be turned away. Draw them this day by your Holy Spirit and grant them saving faith for Jesus' sake, in whose name we pray. Amen.


Guilt Remembered
by
John Calvin

"Then they said to one another, 'We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.'" (Genesis 42:21)

This is a remarkable passage showing that the sons of Jacob, when reduced to the greatest straits, recall to memory a fratricide committed thirteen years previously. Before affliction pressed upon them, they were in a state of torpor. Moses relates that even lately they had spoken without agitation of Joseph's death, as if conscious to themselves of no evil. But now they are compelled to enter into their own consciences. We see, then, how in adversity God searches and tries men, and how, while dissipating all their flattering illusions, he not only pierces their minds with secret fear but extorts a confession which they would gladly avoid.

This kind of examination is very necessary for us. Astonishing is the hypocrisy of men in covering their evils; and if impunity be allowed, their negligence will be increased twofold. Wherefore no remedy remains except that they who give themselves up to slumber when the Lord deals gently with them, should be awakened by afflictions and punishments. Joseph, therefore, produced some good effect when he extorted from his brethren the acknowledgment of their sin in which they had securely pleased themselves. And the Lord had compassion on them in taking away the covering with which they had been too long deceived. In the same manner, while he daily chastises us by the hand of man, he draws us, as guilty, to his tribunal. Nevertheless, it would profit but little to be tried by adversity unless he inwardly touched the heart. For we see how few reflect on their sins, although admonished by most severe punishments. Certainly no one comes to this state of mind but with reluctance. There is no doubt that God, in order to lead the sons of Jacob to repentance, impelled them by the secret instinct of his Spirit as well as by outward chastisement to become sensible of that sin which had been too long concealed.

They acknowledge that it is by the just judgment of God that they obtained nothing by their suppliant entreaties, for they themselves had acted so cruelly toward their brother. Dreadful is that denunciation, "Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard" (Prov. 21:13). Therefore, while we have time, let us learn to exercise humanity, to sympathize with the miserable, and to stretch out our hand for the sake of giving assistance. But if at any time it happens that we are treated roughly by men and our prayers [for God's help] are rejected, then let the question occur to us whether we ourselves have in anything acted unkindly toward others. For although it were better to be wise beforehand, it is, nevertheless, to our advantage to reflect whether those with whom we deal have not experienced similar hardships from us.

Calvin's Commentary

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Read this short exposition of "Proverbs 14:25", "A true witness delivers souls, but a deceitful witness speaks lies," by Charles Bridges.

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Day 9

A Morning Prayer

O Lord God, who is like you, full of mercy, tenderness, and compassion? You know our infirmities and pity us because we are weak and frail. You sustain us because we cannot stand alone. You have wrought out a redemption for us because we could not redeem ourselves. You provide food, clothes, and all things necessary, even though our thoughts are not on you. You preserve us from danger and distress and are ever near to help and defend, though we neglect to return grateful thanks. O pardon our blind ignorance, our presumptuous rebellion, our daring folly, and open our eyes to see your favor working for us in every event, your providence directing all things for our welfare. And may we keep them in remembrance that they may sustain us during times of trial or affliction, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. We ask in Christ's name. Amen.


The Consolation of Christ
by
Robert Smith Candlish

"Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
John 11:21

It is remarkable that two persons so different in their turn of mind, so apt to view things in different lights and to be affected by them with different feelings, should both utter the very same words on first meeting the Lord Jesus: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

They had sat and watched together beside their brother's bed of sickness. They joined together in sending word to Jesus, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick." In their distress they both thought of the same remedy, and applied to the same physician. It was a joint petition that they despatched, and they did not doubt that it would prevail. Together they waited anxiously for his coming. They reckoned the very earliest moment when he could arrive, and as they looked on their brother's languid eye, and saw him sinking every hour and wasting away -- ah! they thought, soon their benefactor might appear, and all might yet be well. But moments and hours rolled on, and no Saviour came. Wearisome days and nights were appointed to them. Often did they look out and listen. Often did they fancy that they heard the expected sound, and the well-known accents of kindness seemed to fall upon their ears. But still he came not. The last ray of expectation is extinguished; the dreaded hour is come. It is over. Their brother has fallen asleep. Lazarus is dead.

And now four days are past and gone since he has been laid in the silent tomb. The first violence of grief is giving place to the more calm but far more bitter pain of a desolate and dreary sadness, the prolonged sense of bereavement which recollection brings along with it, and which everything around serves to aggravate and embitter. The house of mourning, after the usual temporary excitement, is still. And amid the real kindness of sympathizing friends and the formal attentions of officious strangers, the sisters are soothing or suppressing as best they may those bitter feelings which their own hearts alone can know.

Suddenly they are told that Jesus is at hand. He is come at last. But is it not too late? "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." It is the voice of nature that speaks in these words -- the voice of our common nature, mingling its vain regrets with the resignation of sincere and simple faith. Is it not thus that the heart speaks under every trying dispensation? Who has ever met with any affliction, who has ever lost any beloved brother or dear friend without cherishing some such reflection as this: If such or such a measure had been adopted, if such or such an accident had not happened, if it had not been for this unaccountable oversight or that unforeseen and unavoidable mischance, so grievous a calamity would not have befallen me.

Alas, the reflection, however natural, is only a sinful and sad delusion proceeding upon a very limited view of the power and the providence of God your Saviour. How did these sisters know that if Jesus had been there their brother would not have died? How could they tell whether he might not have ends to serve which would have required that, even though he had been there, he must have permitted their brother to die? And were they not aware that though he was not there, yet if he had so chosen and so ordered it their brother would not have died? Had they not heard of his being able at the distance of many a long mile to effect an immediate and complete cure of the most deadly disease? Did they not believe that he had but to speak and it would be done, had but to say the word and, however far off he was, his friend and their brother would be healed? Ah! they had forgotten who it was to whom they made this most touching and pathetic appeal -- that he was one who, though not actually present, could have restored their brother if it had been consistent with his wise and holy will; and that he was also one who, even if he had been present, might yet have seen fit, for the best ends, to permit their brother to die.

And are not these the very truths concerning him which, in your distress, even you who believe in him are tempted to forget when you dwell so much on secondary circumstances and causes instead of at once and immediately recognizing his will as supreme? You are overtaken by misfortune. You are overwhelmed in the depths of sorrow. You ascribe your suffering to what seems to be its direct occasion -- whether it be your own neglect of some precaution which you might have taken had you thought of it in time, or the fault of others with whose skill or diligence your dearest hopes were inseparably connected, or something perhaps in the course of events over which neither you nor they could have any control. And this is your train of thought: If we had only suspected what was about to be the outcome, if the help which we now see had been within our reach, if we had been warned in time or had taken the warning or had been able to employ the right means of escape, then we might not now have been left disconsolate.

But however natural the reflection, is it not in reality the very folly of unbelief, the dream of a soul forgetting that the Lord reigns? Do you conceive of him as limited by events which he himself ordains, as being the slave of his own laws? Do you think that if a certain obstacle had not prevented relief, then the calamity which you bewail might not have happened? But, notwithstanding that obstacle, might he not, if he had seen fit, have found means to avert the calamity? And are you sure that even if that obstacle had been removed, he might not have seen fit still to let the calamity come?

Look, ye afflicted ones, beyond second causes to Him who is the First Cause of all things. Believe and be sure that the circumstances which you regret as the occasion of your misfortune are but the appointed means of bringing about what he determines.

Bethany, or Comfort in Sorrow and Hope in Death (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

A pertinent sermon here is that of Maclaren, "A Petulant Wish".

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Day 10

A Morning Prayer

O Lord God, our creator and preserver, we bless your holy name for all your mercies granted to us. Enable us to recall them and thereby stir up our hearts to gratitude and heavenly love. May we be led to see more clearly how much you have done for us in giving your only beloved Son as an atonement for our sins. May we apprehend more fully the agonies of him whose vicarious death on the cross redeemed us from the power of Satan and set us on a sure footing in the kingdom of grace. And let us not keep such good news to ourselves, but give us the power of the Holy Spirit that we would be zealous in telling others of such great redemption. Then shall we be following in the steps of Jesus who was ever zealous for his Father's glory. Amen.


His Zeal to Suffer
by
Edward Wilson

"Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him." (Mark 10:32)

It was not in happy ignorance of the future that the Lamb of God was walking toward Jerusalem. Nor was it with the mere general knowledge of the fact that He should die there. No, we perceive He foresaw every tittle of every indignity and every pain which bitter Jew or scoffing Gentile was about to heap upon Him. What was said of Him in His last hour in the garden was true of Him throughout His life, that "He knew all things that should come upon him." Think then of our Redeemer -- perfect God, and so foretasting the bitterness of every drop in His cup of sorrows; perfect Man also, and endued with the finest feelings and tenderest sensibilities of our human nature. Think of this God-man going up toward the bloody city, and say whether it were not natural to expect He would have gone up towards it with heavy heart and slow reluctant step.

But did He thus go up? Did His foot shrink back with fear from His approaching struggles? And did His tardy pace betray His inward uneasiness to His lighthearted and more nimble twelve? Quite the contrary. "They were in the way going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went before them." Doubtless His great spirit was full of the glorious errand on which He was going, and His inward zeal quickened His outward movements. There was all through His life an amazing resoluteness of determination in our blessed Lord to finish, whatever it cost Him (and oh, who can conceive what it did cost Him), the work of our redemption which His Father had given Him to do; intending to build a tower of salvation for us perishing sinners into which we might "run and be safe." And He did what He recommends all builders do: He did "sit down first and count the cost, whether He should have sufficient to finish it" -- and finding He should at the cost of His own life.

He determined with a holy determination to be steadfastly willing. Hear how He speaks of Himself and His purposes in that fiftieth chapter of the prophet Isaiah, six hundred years before He came in the flesh: "The Lord God has opened my ear; and I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed."

The vehemence of the language sufficiently shows the vehemence of conflicting nature and resolution in the speaker. St. Luke says, "When the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem." There would have been no need for Him "steadfastly to set his face" had not some great conflict, some agony revolting to flesh and blood, been necessary to be gone through. But the Saviour's spirit was as dauntless as it was meek, as firm as it was gentle, as high as it was holy. Nothing and nobody could divert Him for a moment from His settled determination to drink to the very dregs the bitter cup of our redemption.

Oh, who can enough admire the Saviour's zeal for His Father's glory? He felt how He was dishonoured and His name blasphemed through our sins, and He was eager to give, on His bloody cross, an awful proof to the world, to angels, and to men that "God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity," or forgive it without satisfaction. Jesus, therefore, was anxious to "magnify the law and make it honourable," that God's whole universe might know that "sin," which '"is the transgression of that law," could not be overlooked, nor tolerated with impunity, nor be expiated by a less costly sacrifice than His own blood.

Also, who can worthily admire His love to fallen man? God's justice would have been satisfied and His honour have remained unsullied by the everlasting destruction of our sinful race, like the race of the fallen angels. But "Jesus loved us, and gave himself for us, that, through his obedience even unto death," "God might be just, and yet the justifier of him that believed in Jesus." And He gave not Himself by any constraint, except the constraint of holy pity, of Godlike compassion, which could not endure to see us perish everlastingly.

But the deportment of our blessed Lord in the text is recommended not only as the object of our just admiration but also as the pattern for our zealous imitation. "He left us an example that we should follow his steps." Let us note then His willingness to stoop and to work, and His readiness to suffer and to die that He might bring glory to His heavenly Father.

Again, was the Saviour zealous for the salvation of immortal souls? Was He panting to shed His heart's blood, if so be He might rescue them from eternal damnation? And can any of us look upon one another's spiritual interests with cold selfishness and frozen indifference and not be ashamed to call ourselves Christians? If our Lord and our God was so anxious and put forth such effort to save us, we ought also to do the same for others. Surely, there is nothing we can undergo in furthering the spiritual good of others but that it will be infinitely less than what our Redeemer underwent for us!

Parochial Sermons (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

John Walvoord has a good article on "Propitiation".

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Day 11

A Morning Prayer

Gracious Father, the Sabbath is closing, another day of grace is nearly ended, and what have we done? The voice of your minister has sounded in our ears, the united prayers of a congregation have mingled with the words of our lips, and your praises have been said and sung, and we must ask again, "What have we done?" Pardon us that we have worked so little to your honor and glory. The enemy has triumphed over us, for he is mighty and strong and we are very weak. Endue us with your strength, we plead, and give us the victory over the evil one. Let Jesus be our example, he who gained the greatest victory for us when he triumphed at the cross. We ask in his name. Amen.


The Last Supper
by
Alfred Edersheim

"Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, 'Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?' And He said, 'Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, The teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.' So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover." (Matthew 26:17-19)

It is difficult to decide how much of the ceremonial in regards to the Paschal Supper was obligatory at the time of Christ. Too often ceremonialism develops in proportion to the absence of spiritual life. But we may be fairly certain that, as prescribed, all men would appear at the Paschal Supper in festive array. We also know that they reclined on pillows, or divans, around a low table, each one resting on his left hand so as to leave the right free. But ancient Jewish usage casts a strange light on the painful scene with which the Last Supper opened. Sadly humiliating as it reads, and almost incredible as it seems, the Supper began with "a contention among them, which of them should be accounted to be greatest." We can have no doubt that its occasion was the order in which they should occupy their places at the table. We know that this was a subject of contention among the Pharisees, and that they claimed to be seated according to their rank. A similar feeling now appeared in the circle of disciples. We instinctively associate such a strife with Judas. We believe there is ample evidence to show that he not only claimed the chief seat at the table next to the Lord, but actually obtained it.

The table around which they reclined was an oval or elongated table of which one end was used for setting down the dishes. This end of the table was not covered with the tablecloth. The pillows, or divans, were placed around the perimeter of the table in the shape of an elongated horseshoe, and each guest reclined on his left side on a pillow with his feet stretching out behind him. This would make it necessary for the table to extend beyond the line of guests in order to place or remove anything from the table.

Jewish documents are explicit that in a company of more than two, say three, the chief personage or head, in this instance Christ, reclined on the middle divan. We know from the gospel record that John occupied the place on Jesus' right at the end of the divans. From this position he could lean back on the Savior. The chief place next to Jesus would be that to his left, or above him, and we believe this place was claimed and actually occupied by Judas. This explains how, when Christ whispered to John by what sign to recognize the traitor, none of the other disciples heard it. It also explains how Christ would first hand the sop to Judas as the chief guest, which formed part of the Paschal ritual, and not excite special notice. Lastly, it accounts for the circumstance that no one at the table knew what had passed when Judas, desirous of ascertaining whether his treachery was known, dared to ask whether it was he and received the affirmative answer. As regards Peter, we can quite understand how, when the Lord with such loving words rebuked their self-seeking and taught them of the greatness of Christian humility, he should, in his impetuosity of shame, have rushed to take the lowest place at the other end of the table. Finally, we can now understand how Peter could have beckoned to John, who sat across the table from him, and ask John who the traitor was.

The Paschal Supper began, as always, with the head of the company taking the first cup and speaking the thanksgiving over it. This thanksgiving consisted of two benedictions; one over the wine, the other for the return of this Feast day with all that it implied and for being preserved once more to witness it. From the gospels, the words seem to imply that Jesus made use of the ordinary thanksgiving so as to speak both these benedictions. The cup of wine, mixed with water according to Rabbinic testimony, was passed round. The next part of the ceremonial was for the head of the company to rise and wash hands. It is this part of the ritual that Christ adapted and transformed by washing the disciples' feet. There were two handwashings during the ceremony, but the second required all to wash, not the head only, and that would have meant that all were standing and thus not in the position to have their feet washed. Also, the footwashing was intended both as a lesson and as an example of humility and service, and evidently was connected with the dispute about which of them should be accounted the greatest. It was natural that the Lord should have begun with Peter who occupied the end of the table. This explains his expostulation. If Christ had turned to the others first, then Peter would have had to remonstrate before his own feet were washed, or else his later expostulation when the Lord came to him would be either an act of self-righteousness or of needless voluntary humility.

After the washing, the dishes were immediately brought to the table. Jesus would dip some of the bitter herbs into the salt water or vinegar, speak a blessing, partake of them, and then hand them to each of the disciples. Next, he would break one of the unleavened cakes of which half was set aside for after supper. This is called the Aphiqomon, or after dish, and we believe it was the bread of the holy eucharist. The dish in which the broken cake lies (not the Aphiqomon) is elevated, and these words are spoken. "This is the bread of misery which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. All that are hungry, come and eat; all that are needy, come, keep the Pascha." As we think of the Lord's comment on the Passover and Israel's deliverance, the words spoken have deeper meaning attached to them.

After this the cup is elevated and the service proceeds somewhat lengthily, the cup being raised a second and then a third time. A prayer is spoken and the cup drunk. This ends the first part of the service.

The Paschal meal begins by all washing their hands, a part of the ritual that we scarcely think Christ observed. It was during this part of the meal that Jesus became troubled in spirit, and he solemnly testified to them of his near betrayal. It is no wonder that they all became exceedingly sorrowful and each asked, "Lord, is it I?" According to St. John, the disciples were looking at each other, wondering of whom he spoke. In this agonizing suspense, Peter beckoned from across the table to John, whose head was resting on the Lord's bosom, and asked him of whom Jesus spoke. And to the whispered question of John, the Lord gave the sign that it was he to whom he would give the sop when he had dipped it. Even this perhaps was not clear to John since each one in turn received the sop, Judas naturally receiving it first since he was reclining to Jesus' left in the first and chief position. But before Jesus did so, probably while he was dipping the sop in the dish, Judas, who could not but hear that his purpose might be known, whispered into the Master's ear, "Is it I, Rabbi?" It must have been whispered, for no one at the table either heard the question nor Christ's answer.

The meal was scarcely begun, and Judas rushed out into the night. None of the others knew why there was this strange haste, unless it was from obedience to something that Jesus had bidden him to do; perhaps to purchase something needful for the feast, or to give something to the poor. It is sufficient here to state that anything needful for the Feast was allowed on the 15th Nisan. And this must have been especially necessary when, as in this instance, the first festive day, or the 15th Nisan, was to be followed by a Sabbath on which no work was permitted. In the Paschal night, when the great Temple gates were opened at midnight to begin early preparations for the offering of the Chagigah, or festive sacrifice that was not voluntary but mandatory, such preparations would be quite natural. And equally so that the poor who gathered around the Temple might then seek to obtain help from the charitable.

The institution of the Lord's Supper took place after the departure of Judas. The meal continued to its end, and then the third cup was filled. We can have little doubt that the Institution of the Cup was in connection with this third cup of blessing. A question arises: to what part of the Paschal Service does the breaking of bread correspond? While the Paschal Lamb was still being offered (before the destruction of the Temple [in A.D. 70]), it was the Law that after eating its flesh nothing else should be eaten. But after the Paschal Lamb could no longer be offered, it became the custom after the meal had ended to break and partake of the after dish, that is, the half of unleavened cake which had been set aside before the supper. Christ anticipated this, and because his death was truly the last Paschal Sacrifice, and consciously so to all the disciples, he connected the breaking of the unleavened cake at the close of the meal with the Institution of the Bread in the Holy Eucharist.

As far as we can judge, the Institution of the Holy Supper was followed by the discourse in John 14. The concluding psalms of the Hallel were sung after which the Master left the upper chamber. While still in the house, Jesus gives the discourse recorded in John 15. The last of the parting discourses was that recorded in John 16. And last of all, before leaving the house, is recorded for us in John 17 Christ's High-Priestly prayer.

The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

For more reading on this subject see W. M. Christie, "Did Christ Eat the Passover with His Disciples?"

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Day 12

A Morning Prayer

O Lord our God, King of kings and Lord of lords, we seek your favor and grace. Root out that pride which lurks in our hearts and that self-confidence which mars our best hopes. Silence within us all rebellious thoughts, all evil imaginations, all proud and presumptuous stirrings of discontent. Remove from among us every thought of pride, every unkind word, and every foolish boast, as if we were better than our brethren. Make us be of one heart and one mind, preferring the lowly station in order that others might be preferred. Let us follow the example of our great Redeemer, Jesus, who came from heaven to be a servant of sinners. It is in his name that we bring these petitions. Amen.


The Servant of Sinners
by
Horatius Bonar

"Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, 'The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called "benefactors." But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.' " (Luke 22:24-27)

The dispute among the disciples respecting preeminence must have grieved and wounded Jesus, more especially because of the time when this jealous strife arose. Scarcely had they finished the first solemn supper, the newly-instituted memorial of the body and blood of the Lord; scarcely had the Master ceased warning them of the traitor, and the treachery that was among them; and scarcely had their own searching inquiry ended ("Is it I?") when there arose a strife among them as to which of them should be accounted the greatest. How strange and sad, how almost incredible the scene! Rising from the table of love to contend for the mastery, the one over the other; to wound the ear and heart of the Master with their angry words and selfish arguments; to turn the holy quiet of that upper chamber into a stir of strife and ambition and jealous wrangling in the very presence of the Lord. How unbecoming, how unkind, how inconceivably selfish and hateful!

To calm this tumult, to allay this strife, to stop the mouths of the disputants, the Lord interposes. And he does so in a way so pointed, yet so mild and loving, as must have overwhelmed the contenders and covered their faces with shame.

The burden of his rebuke is just this: "Look at me. Am I striving for preeminence? Am I coveting honour, or power, or greatness? Am I even exercising superiority over you? Am I not foregoing even my rightful claim of service and acting as your servant? Instead of demanding service at your hands, I am among you as he that serves." He admits that this is not man's principle of acting or estimate of service. He shows that this is not the scale on which earthly distinctions are ranked. Among the nations of the earth each one strives to be uppermost, and covets the titles which rank confers. But with his disciples this order was to be wholly reversed. Man's idea of greatness was that of preeminence over his fellow man, in virtue of which all should be his servants. God's idea of greatness was that of lowly love, in virtue of which a man should be willing to be the servant of all.

It is not with His birth in Bethlehem that Christ's service begins. His visit to our first father in Paradise was its true commencement. After that we find him, age after age, visiting the children of men, and always in the character of one ministering to their wants. His intercourse with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob was that of his offering, not asking, service. In his dealings with Israel we find the same unwearied, ever watchful ministry; for the pillar-cloud that led them, that sheltered them, that guarded them by night and day was the dwelling of the Son of God, the visible exhibition of his presence and service. It was he who ministered to them in the desert. He fought their battles. He selected their encampments. He shaded them from the scorching sun. He drew water for them out of the rock and brought food out of the storehouses of heaven. In Canaan, too, he ministered to them, generation after generation; and the long record of Israel is the history of his manifold service.

At his birth, his life of service visibly began. It was to serve that he descended to Bethlehem. And his life at Nazareth for thirty years was a life of service. In the three years and a half of his public ministry, he shewed how skilful he was in serving, how willing to undertake it in all its parts. At the well of Jacob we find him serving a needy sinner. In the house of Simon the Pharisee we find him doing the same. In the house of Lazarus we find him ministering to saints. Wherever he goes, we find him still exercising the same lowly vocation -- ministering alike to soul and body, to Pharisee and publican, to child or to man, to Jew or to Samaritan or to Gentile. The upper chamber, Gethsemane, Pilate's hall, the cross, the grave -- these were all places of service. After his resurrection, on the way to Emmaus and on the shore of the lake, we find him still the same. At his ascension He only entered on a new department of service; and as the Advocate with the Father, the Intercessor, the Forerunner, we see him still serving. As the priests under the law were (in all things relating to the tabernacle) the people's servants, ever standing ready to do the required work to any Israelite, so is our Intercessor. He stands ready to take up any case that may be put into his hands. He wearies not, is not provoked, turns not away, and is as willing and prompt to serve even the most unworthy as in the days of his flesh. For the glory that surrounds him above has not altered his love or his meekness of spirit, nor made him ashamed of the lowly office which he exercised here as the servant of the needy and the evil.

And when he comes again in strength and majesty as King of kings and Lord of lords, he does not lose sight of his character as the ministering one. Thus in that passage in which he refers to this day of glory (Luke 12:37), he makes reference to this same gracious office as not even then laid aside: "Blessed are those servants," says He, "whom the Lord, when he comes, shall find watching. Verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them." As if, even in that day of triumph and happy festival, there would be something omitted, something incomplete, something incongruous, something not like himself if he did not then find scope for his old office of condescending love, and appear even at his own marriage supper as the servant of his ransomed ones.

Family Sermons (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

"The Identity of the Servant of the Lord", is chapter 6 in a study on Isaiah 40-53 by Robert Culver, and most excellent reading.

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Day 13

A Morning Prayer

O merciful Father, hear us now as we bring our petitions, for we come through the blood of your dear Son, Christ Jesus, who glorified your name in his death. We think upon his ignominious death, recognizing that it is only through faith in its efficacy that we can come before your throne of grace. May we meditate often on the hour of our Savior's agony, for it was our sins that added to its weight and accumulated fresh sorrows on his head. Turn our eyes to Calvary and there behold his innocent hands pierced with cruel nails, a sad return for the healing touch they often gave. There we see his brow crowned in thorns and hear the heartless mockery of those who had heard your lips speak peace. Let your Holy Spirit kindle us to heavenly musings, rousing us from the dullness of indifference to meditate on the love which could endure such suffering for rebellious man. Amen.


Christ's Cross
by
Charles Spurgeon

"Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name.
Him they compelled to bear His cross."
Matthew 27:32

Let us now gaze for awhile upon Christ carrying his cross. He comes forth from Pilate's hall with the cumbrous wood upon his shoulder, but through weariness he travels slowly. His enemies, urgent for his death and half afraid from his emaciated appearance that he may die before he reaches the place of execution, allow another to carry his burden. The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. They cannot spare him the agonies of dying on the cross; they will therefore remit the labor of carrying it. They place the cross upon Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country. Whether a disciple then or not, we have every reason to believe that he became so afterwards -- he was the father, we read, of Alexander and Rufus, two persons who appear to have been well known in the early Church. Let us hope that salvation came to his house when he was compelled to bear the Saviour's cross.

We see in Simon's carrying the cross a picture of what the Church is to do throughout all generations. Mark then, Christian, Jesus does not suffer so as to exclude your suffering. He bears a cross, not that you may escape it, but that you may endure it. Christ does exempt you from sin, but not from sorrow. He does take the curse of the cross, but he does not take the cross of the curse away from you. Remember that, and expect to suffer.

Beloved, let us comfort ourselves with this thought: that in our case as in Simon's, it is not our cross but Christ's cross which we carry. When you are molested for your piety, when your religion brings the trial of cruel mockings upon you, then remember it is not your cross, it is Christ's cross.

Do not forget that you bear this cross in partnership. It is the opinion of some commentators that Simon only carried one end of the cross, and not the whole of it. That is very possible. Christ may have carried the heavier end, against the transverse beam, and Simon may have borne the lighter end. Certainly it is so with you. You do but carry the light end of the cross; Christ bore the heavier end.

Although Simon carried Christ's cross, he did not volunteer to do it; but they compelled him. I am in fear that the most of us, if we ever do carry it, carry it by compulsion. At least when it first comes onto our shoulders we do not like it, and would fain run from it. But the world compels us to bear Christ's cross. Cheerfully accept this burden, ye servants of the Lord. Yet I do not think we should seek after needless persecution, for that man is a fool and deserves no pity who purposely excites the disgust of other people. No, no, we must not make a cross of our own. Let there be nothing but your religion to object to, and then if that offends them let them be offended. It is a cross which you must carry joyfully.

Though Simon had to bear the cross for a very little while, it gave him lasting honor. Well, beloved, the cross we have to carry is only for a little while at most. A few times the sun will go up and down the hill, a few more moons will wax and wane, and then we shall receive the glory. "I reckon that these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." We should love the cross and count it very dear, because it works out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

Christians, will you refuse to be cross-bearers for Christ?

Our Lord's Passion and Death

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Please read Robert Culver's chapter, "The Submission of the Servant of the Lord", a study on Isaiah 53:7-9.

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Day 14

A Morning Prayer

O almighty God, you sent your dear Son into the world to save sinners. He was subjected to all the temptations and trials to which we are subjected, in order that he might be a righteous judge and Savior. Mercifully grant that we may use such abstinence as shall subdue within us every evil passion and desire, every motion that accords not with the purity of your gospel. May we remember what Jesus bore for us and our salvation, what he suffered in order to secure for us benefits which nothing else could purchase, blessings which none else could obtain. May we never be permitted to forget how he was bruised for our iniquities, how the chastisements of our peace was upon him, and that with his stripes we are healed. And then inspire us with such gratitude, such love, and such an ardent desire to show them forth in our life and conversation that we may indeed walk worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.


The Death of Christ
by
J. C. Ryle

"And when the sixth hour had come, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani? which is translated, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? And when some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, Behold, he is calling for Elijah. And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave him a drink, saying, Let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down. And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." (Mark 15:33-38)

We have in these verses the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. All deaths are solemn events. Nothing in the whole history of a man is so important as his end. But never was there a death of such solemn moment as that which is now before us. In the instant that our Lord drew his last breath, the work of atonement for a world's sin was accomplished. The ransom for sinners was at length paid. The kingdom of heaven was thrown fully open to all believers. All the solid hope that mortal men enjoy about their souls may be traced to Jesus giving up the ghost on the cross.

Let us observe, in these verses, the visible signs and wonders which accompanied our Lord's death. St. Mark mentions two in particular which demand our attention. One is the darkening of the sun for the space of three hours. The other is the rending of the veil which divided the holy of holies from the holy place in the temple. Both were miraculous events. Both had, no doubt, a deep meaning about them. Both were calculated to arrest the attention of the whole multitude assembled at Jerusalem. The darkness would strike even thoughtless Gentiles, like Pilate and the Roman soldiers. The rent veil would strike even Annas and Caiaphas and their unbelieving companions. There were probably few houses in Jerusalem that evening in which men would not say, "We have heard and seen strange things today."

What did the miraculous darkness teach? It taught the exceeding wickedness of the Jewish nation. They were actually crucifying their own Messiah and slaying their own King. The sun itself hid its face at the sight. It taught the exceeding sinfulness of sin in the eyes of God. The Son of God himself must needs be left without the cheering light of day when he became sin for us and carried our transgressions.

What did the miraculous rending of the veil mean? It taught the abolition and termination of the whole Jewish law of ceremonies. It taught that the way into the holiest of all was now thrown open to all mankind by Christ's death. It taught that Gentiles as well as Jews might now draw nigh to God with boldness through Jesus the one High Priest, and that all barriers between man and God were forever cast down.

May we never forget the practical lesson of the rent veil. To attempt to revive the Jewish ceremonial in the Church of Christ by returning to altars, sacrifices, and a priesthood is nothing better than closing up again the rent veil and lighting a candle at noonday.

May we never forget the practical lesson of the miraculous darkness. It should lead our minds on to that blackness of darkness which is reserved for all obstinate unbelievers. The darkness endured by our blessed Surety on the cross was only for three hours. The chains of darkness which shall bind all who reject his atonement and die in sin shall be forevermore.

Let us observe, secondly, in these verses, how truly and really our Lord Jesus Christ was made a curse for us and bore our sins. We see it strikingly brought out in those marvelous words which he used at the ninth hour, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

It would be useless to pretend to fathom all the depth of meaning which these words contain. They imply an amount of mental suffering such as we are unable to conceive. The agony of some of God's holiest servants has been occasionally very great under an impression of God's favor being withdrawn from them. What then may we suppose was the agony of the holy Son of God when all the sin of all the world was laid upon his head, when he felt himself reckoned guilty though without sin, when he felt his Father's countenance turned away from him? The agony of that season must have been something past understanding. It is a high thing; we cannot attain to a comprehension of it. We may believe it, but we cannot explain and find it out to perfection.

One thing, however, is very plain, and that is the impossibility of explaining these words at all except we receive the doctrine of Christ's atonement and substitution for sinners. To suppose, as some dare to do, that Jesus was nothing more than a man or that his death was only a great example of self-sacrifice, makes this dying cry of his utterly unintelligible. It makes him appear less patient and calm in a dying hour than many a martyr or even than some heathen philosophers. One explanation alone is satisfactory. That explanation is the mighty scriptural doctrine of Christ's vicarious sacrifice and substitution for us on the cross. He uttered his dying cry under the heavy pressure of a world's sin laid upon him and imputed to him.

Let us observe, lastly, in these verses, that it is possible to be forsaken of God for a time and yet to be loved by him. We need not doubt this, when we read our Lord's dying words on the cross. We hear him saying to his Father, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" and yet addressing him as "my God." We know too, that our Lord was only forsaken for a season, and that even when forsaken he was the beloved Son in whom, both in his suffering and doing, the Father was "well pleased."

There is deep experimental instruction in this which deserves the notice of all true Christians. No doubt there is a sense in which our Lord's feeling of being forsaken was peculiar to himself, since he was suffering for our sins and not for his own. But still after making this allowance, there remains the great fact that Jesus was for a time forsaken of the Father and yet for all that was the Father's beloved Son. As it was with the great head of the church, so it may be in a modified sense with his members. They too, though chosen and beloved of the Father, may sometimes feel God's face turned away from them. They too, sometimes from illness of body, sometimes from peculiar affliction, sometimes for carelessness of walk, sometimes from God's sovereign will to draw them nearer to himself, may be constrained to cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

It becomes believers who feel forsaken to learn from our Lord's experience not to give way to despair. No doubt they ought not to be content with their position. They ought to search their own hearts and see whether there is not some secret thing there which causes their consolations to be small. But let them not write bitter things against themselves and hastily conclude that they are cast off forever, or are self-deceivers and have no grace at all. Let them still wait on the Lord and say with Job, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." Let them remember the words of Isaiah and David, "Who is among you that fears the Lord, that walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God." "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise him."

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Here is Robert Culver's chapter, "The Atonement of the Servant of the Lord", a study on Isaiah 53:4-6.

See W. M. Christie for more on "Golgotha".

Read Spurgeon's sermon, "Come, For All Things Are Now Ready".

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Day 15

A Morning Prayer

O King eternal, immortal, and invisible, we come this morning to the foot of the cross on which Jesus died. It is a subject into which angels desire to look. And if they who need no repentance inquire into the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, how much more should we, to whom they are all important. Let us not turn aside and allow a dying Savior to address us in vain. It is at the cross where we see the value of our souls in the price paid for their deliverance. May we live only and wholly for him who died for us. And in the afflictions of life, whatever be the cross we are required to bear, may we look at Jesus, who carried a much heavier one, and carried it for us without a murmur. We ask all in his name, who washed us from our sins in his own blood. Amen.


Jesus Dies
by
Robert Hawker

"Pilate marveled that He was already dead."
Mark 15:44

Precious Jesus! Had the unjust judge but known your soul's travail and agonies, he would not have wondered at the speediness of your death. Instead his astonishment would have been that nature, so oppressed and so suffering, could have held out so long. That which would have crushed in a moment all creation, angels as well as men, Jesus endured on the cross in sustaining the wrath of God due to sin. In point of suffering, he wrought out a whole eternity due to sin on the cross; and in point of efficacy, he "forever perfected them that are sanctified." Jesus accomplished more in that memorable day than all the creatures of God could have done forever. Wonderful were the works which God dispatched in creation, but the wonders of redemption far exceed them.

The six hours which Jesus hung upon the cross wrought out a more stupendous display of almighty power and grace than the six days God was pleased to appoint to himself in making the world. But, indeed, Pilate need not have marveled at the quickness of Christ's death had this unjust judge but reflected on the previous sufferings of the Redeemer. They who have spent sweet hours in tracing Jesus' footsteps through the painful preludes to his death, and especially in the concluding scenes, have been able to note many a sorrowful part which bore hard upon his body also. If you were to trace back the solemn subject, you would find enough to excite your astonishment that Jesus lived so long on the cross rather than that he died not before.

His agony evidently began four days before the Passover. The evangelist Luke tells us that he spent the whole night in prayer and the whole day in preaching to the people in the temple. "My soul is exceeding sorrowful," said the dying Lamb, "even unto death." And the beloved apostle John's testimony is to the same effect: "Now is my soul troubled," said the holy Sufferer, "and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this cause came I unto this hour!" And if to these agonies of soul we call to mind how the Lamb of God was driven to and fro, hurried from one place to another, from Annas to Caiaphas and from the judgment hall to Calvary, we cannot be surprised at his fainting under the burden of the cross. Many a mile of weariness did he walk before nine o'clock in the morning of the day of his crucifixion. And many a bodily fainting must he have felt from the thorny crown, the soldier's scourging, and their buffetings and smitings with the palms of their hands.

Unfeeling Pilate! Your marveling will be now and to all eternity of another kind. As for you, my soul, take your stand at the foot of the cross and marvel while you are looking up and beholding Jesus dying, that He who might have commanded twelve legions of angels to his rescue should in love to his church and people thus give "his soul an offering for sin," and die, "the just for the unjust, to bring us unto God!"

The Poor Man's Evening Portion

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by William Jay

Read William Nevin's excellent sermon on Micah 7:18, "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardons iniquity?"

You may also be interested in "Was the Crucifixion on Friday?" by W. M. Christie.

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Day 16

A Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father, we rejoice today as we celebrate the all-sufficiency and acceptance of the sacrifice Jesus offered on the cross. He is a risen Savior, securing for us an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and which will never fade away. In all our difficulties and dangers, may we rejoice that he who was dead is alive again, to plead for us, defend us, and supply all our needs. We glory in his victory, not only over death and the grave, but over the powers of darkness. Establish in our minds a full persuasion that he was delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification. And may we view his resurrection not only as the pledge of our own, but the model as well, for he shall change this vile body into a glorious one. Enable us to esteem it our highest honor to be like him, and feel it our greatest pleasure to serve him. To Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, Mediator, and Intercessor, be glory forever and ever. Amen.


The Resurrection of Christ
by
J. Gresham Machen

"But he said to them, Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him." (Mark 16:6)

Some nineteen hundred years ago in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire, there lived one who, to a casual observer, might have seemed to be an unremarkable man up to the age of about thirty years. He lived an obscure life in the midst of a humble family. Then He began a remarkable course of ethical and religious teaching, accompanied by a ministry of healing. At first He was very popular. Great crowds followed Him gladly, and the intellectual men of His people were interested in what He had to say. But His teaching presented revolutionary features, and He did not satisfy the political expectations of the populace. And so, before long, after some three years, He fell a victim to the jealousy of the leaders of His people and the cowardice of the Roman governor. He died the death of the criminals of those days, on the cross. At His death, the disciples whom He had gathered about Him were utterly discouraged. In Him had centered all their loftiest hopes. And now that He was taken from them by a shameful death, their hopes were shattered. They fled from Him in cowardly fear in the hour of His need, and an observer would have said that never was a movement more hopelessly dead. These followers of Jesus had evidently been far inferior to Him in spiritual discernment and in courage. They had not been able, even when He was with them, to understand the lofty teachings of their leader. How, then, could they understand Him when He was gone? The movement depended, one might have said, too much on one extraordinary man, and when He was taken away, then surely the movement was dead.

But then the astonishing thing happened. The plain fact, which no one doubts, is that those same weak, discouraged men who had just fled in the hour of their Master's need, and who were altogether hopeless on account of His death, suddenly began in Jerusalem, a very few days or weeks after their Master's death, what is certainly the most remarkable spiritual movement that the world has ever seen. At first, the movement thus begun remained within the limits of the Jewish people. But soon it broke the bands of Judaism and began to be planted in all the great cities of the Roman world. Within three hundred years, the Empire itself had been conquered by the Christian faith. But this movement was begun in those few decisive days after the death of Jesus. What was it which caused the striking change in those weak, discouraged disciples, which made them the spiritual conquerors of the world?

The New Testament answer to this question is perfectly plain. According to the New Testament, the disciples believed in the resurrection of Jesus because Jesus really, after His death, came out of the tomb, appeared to them, and held extended intercourse with them, so that their belief in the resurrection was simply based on fact.

If you take the shortest Gospel -- the Gospel according to Mark -- you will find, first, that Mark gives an account of the burial, which is of great importance. Modern historians cannot deny that Jesus was buried, because it is attested by the universally accepted source of information, I Corinthians 15. Mark is here confirmed by the Jerusalem tradition as preserved by Paul. But the account of the burial in Mark is followed by the account of the empty tomb, and the two things are indissolubly connected. If one is historical, it is difficult to reject the other. Modern naturalistic historians are in a divided condition about this matter of the empty tomb. Some admit that the tomb was empty. Others deny that it ever was. Some say that the tomb was never investigated at all until it was too late, and that then the account of the empty tomb grew up as a legend in the Church. But other historians are clear-sighted enough to see that you cannot get rid of the empty tomb in any such fashion.

But if the tomb was empty, why was it empty? The New Testament says that it was empty because the body of Jesus had been raised out of it. But if this be not the case, then why was the tomb empty? Some say that the enemies of Jesus took the body away. If so, they have done the greatest possible service to the resurrection faith which they so much hated. Others have said that the disciples stole the body away to make the people believe that Jesus was risen. But no one holds that view now. Others have said that Joseph of Arimathea changed the place of burial. That is difficult to understand, because if such were the case, why should Joseph of Arimathea have kept silent when the resurrection faith arose? Other explanations, no doubt, have been proposed. But it cannot be said that these hypotheses have altogether satisfied even those historians who have proposed them. The empty tomb has never been successfully explained away.

So the witness of the whole New Testament has not been put out of the way. It alone explains the origin of the Church, and the change of the disciples from weak men into the spiritual conquerors of the world.

From Historic Christianity (condensed)

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by William Jay

Don't neglect to read Robert Culver's chapter, "The Exaltation of the Servant of the Lord", a study on Isaiah 53:10-12.

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Day 17

A Morning Prayer

Almighty and most merciful God, go with us this day and bless us in all our ways. Whatever we do, may we do it heartily as unto you, remembering at what great cost our sins have been forgiven. Preserve us so that the pleasures, cares, and honors of this life do not turn away our thoughts from that life of eternal happiness which is to come. Enable us to live above the deceitful riches of this world and to follow our occupations with a heavenly mind, taking pleasure in the work you have appointed for us. And let us be always ready for the return to earth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, when he shall appear as King of kings and Lord of lords, in power and great glory. We offer this prayer in his name. Amen.


The News of Christ's Resurrection Sent to Peter
by
Charles Bradley

"But go, tell his disciples and Peter
that he is going before you to Galilee."
Mark 16:7

Who was Peter that he should be thus singled out from among the disciples? By what was he distinguished from the other ten that he should be thus honored? We know that at the period when he received this message he was distinguished from them by a preeminence -- a preeminence not in merit but in guilt. Just two days before, he had denied his Master when his Master was about to die for him. "All the disciples forsook him and fled," but Peter went further and added the guilt of falsehood, curses, and oaths to the baseness of desertion. His sin was of the first magnitude, of a crimson dye. It had too this peculiar aggravation, that it brought a scandal on the church when the church seemed least able to bear it. The Shepherd was smitten, the sheep were scattered; and this was the season in which Peter dishonored his Lord and denied his connection with his persecuted followers.

This then was the man to whom the risen Jesus specially directed his angel to send this joyful message. Had the faithful John, who adhered to him in his sufferings and stood by his cross, been thus singled out, it might have excited no surprise. But for Peter -- the treacherous Peter -- to be thus honored seems indeed mysterious. Who can fathom the depth of the Savior's love? Who can measure his unbounded grace?

Was Peter singled out then on account of his peculiar guilt? God forbid. Never let us attempt to magnify the grace of God by making that abominable thing which he hates a recommendation for his favor. It is true that he is ready to pardon the greatest, the vilest sinner who really seeks his pardon. It is true that he has sometimes shown the riches of his grace by making a heinous sinner a holy saint. But are we therefore to "sin that grace may abound?" Does the greatness of the sinner's guilt plead with the greatness of divine mercy? Never. Sin may draw down vengeance from heaven on a transgressor's head, but never has it drawn down mercy and grace.

Why then, it may again be asked, was Peter thus distinguished and honored? We have hitherto taken only a partial view of his conduct. Let us more closely examine it.

Peter was not only a great and scandalous sinner, he was also a penitent, mourning sinner. Scarcely had he denied Jesus in the hall of Pilate when a look of love and pity from his injured Master melted his heart and filled him with the deepest sorrow. We do not see him trifling with sin, making light of his transgression, and attempting to excuse or palliate it. We do not find him comforting himself with the thought that he was a disciple of Christ and therefore might sin without fear; and, that though a heinous transgressor, he was a child of God and could not be finally cast away.

Rather, we see in Peter nothing but self-loathing and contrition, sorrow and tears. St. Matthew says that "he went out and wept bitterly." And Clement, an ancient Christian writer, relates that throughout all his future days, every morning when he heard the cock crow, Peter fell down on his knees, and with tears streaming from his eyes he supplicated pardon for his dreadful sin. Here, then, we see that it was not the guilty Peter who was thus honored; it was the sorrowful, contrite Peter. It was not his cursing and oaths which brought this mercy to him, but his penitence and tears.

There is no comfort, then, in this scripture for the careless, hardened sinner; no comfort for the self-righteous sinner; no comfort for the man who, in the midst of his iniquity, feels no self-abhorrence, no deep contrition for his guilt. There is no comfort for such characters as these.

But there is the sweetest comfort for the broken-hearted transgressor. And if there be such a sinner here, may the Holy Spirit enable him to derive peace and hope from this instance of his Savior's love! May he "draw water with joy" out of this well of consolation!

Sermons Preached in the Parish Church of High Wycombe

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Take time to read "Sin and Forgiveness" by Alexander Maclaren.

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Day 18

A Morning Prayer

O Lord God great and glorious, giver of all good things and sole author of every blessing, how little have we deserved at your hands and yet how much have we received. We have had no claim on your bounty, yet it has been unfailing. And though we have not walked in your ways as we should, yet you have preserved us when danger was nigh and when sickness was round about. Make us humble and truly thankful for all these undeserved mercies and blessings, and enable us to express our thankfulness in deed as well as in word. And if you have denied us any good thing, if you have withheld the thing we asked for, let us not complain. Close our lips against the utterance of even one murmur and let not discontent lay hold of us. Teach us to see a merciful Providence overruling every event, turning all things not only to your glory and honor but to the good of all. We ask in the name of our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Humility
by
Matthew Henry

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:3

This poverty in spirit is put first among the Christian graces. The philosophers did not reckon humility among their moral virtues, but Christ puts it first. Self-denial is the first lesson to be learned in his school, and poverty of spirit entitled to the first beatitude. The foundation of all other graces is laid in humility. Those who would build high must begin low, and it is an excellent preparation for the entrance of gospel grace into the soul. It prepares the soil to receive the seed.

The poor in spirit are happy. Yet there is a poor-spiritedness that is so far from making men blessed that it is a sin and a snare; it is cowardice and base fear, a willing subjection to the lusts of men. But the poverty of spirit of which Jesus speaks is a gracious disposition of soul by which we are emptied of self in order to be filled with Jesus Christ.

To be poor in spirit is to be contentedly poor, willing to be empty of worldly wealth if God orders that to be our lot. Many are poor in the world but high in spirit, poor and proud, murmuring and complaining and blaming their lot. But we must accommodate ourselves to our poverty, acknowledging the wisdom of God in appointing us to it. We must patiently bear the inconveniences of it, being thankful for what we have and making the best of that which is. To be poor in spirit is to bear losses and disappointments that may befall us in the most prosperous state. It is not, in pride or pretense, to make ourselves poor by throwing away what God has given us. But if we be rich in the world, we must be poor in spirit; that is, we must condescend to the poor and sympathize with them. We must expect and prepare for poverty, and not inordinately fear or shun it, but must bid it welcome, especially when it comes upon us for keeping a good conscience. Job was poor in spirit when he blessed God in taking away as well as in giving.

To be poor in spirit is to be humble and lowly in our own eyes. It is to be as little children in our opinion of ourselves -- weak, foolish, and insignificant. It is to look with a holy contempt upon ourselves, to value others and undervalue ourselves in comparison to them. It is to acknowledge that God is great and we are lowly; that he is holy and we are sinful; that he is all and we are nothing, less than nothing, worse than nothing. It is to come off from all confidence in our own righteousness and strength that we may depend only upon the merit of Christ for our justification.

"For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The kingdom of glory is prepared for them. Those who humble themselves, and comply with God when he humbles them, shall be thus exalted.

Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Please read "The Spirit of Christ" by James Richards.

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Day 19

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, Jehovah Jesus, our propitiation and by whom our redemption was worked out, plead with the Father for us. Look now upon us from your seat of glory and remember all the trials and temptations to which you were subjected on earth, and then strengthen your plea on our behalf. Call to mind our weakness, and then ask that we may be strengthened. Forget not our total inability to do, say, or think anything of ourselves that can be acceptable before our God, and then send upon us the Holy Spirit to direct our thoughts to you. Let him teach us what we ought to speak, what we ought to do, and to set our feet in the right path that we may run in the way of your commandments. May he teach us the depravity of our own hearts, which of themselves ever choose evil before good, which refuse the benefits you have in store for us, and reject the blessings and mercies you so freely offer to every one of us, and which were purchased at the exceeding great price of your own blood. Amen.


The Deity of Christ
by
Thomas Scott

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

Several texts of the Old Testament concerning Jehovah [Yahweh] are applied in the New to Christ. The prophet Joel declares "that whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be delivered" (2:32); and Paul expressly refers this to Christ, for he adds, "How shall they call on him of whom they have not heard? or how shall they hear without a preacher" (Rom. 10:13). It is manifest that Joel predicted the judgments which awaited the Jews for rejecting the Messiah. Certainly they did very earnestly call upon Jehovah, the God of their fathers, to deliver them from the power of the Romans. Yet they were not delivered because they would not join with those who called on the name of Jesus; and they only who called on him were saved. As therefore the Scripture cannot be broken, Christ must be Jehovah. Paul considered him as such, and the event demonstrated him to be so.

David says, "Taste and see that Jehovah is good" (Ps. 34:8). To this Peter manifestly refers when he uses these words: "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Coming to Him as to a living stone . . ." (1 Pet. 2:3,4). And in what follows the attentive reader will perceive that he applies to Christ in the most unreserved manner what Isaiah had spoken of "Jehovah, God of hosts himself" (Isa. 28:16).

Isaiah had a most extraordinary vision of Jehovah in his temple (Isa. 6); and John declares that Isaiah "saw the glory of Christ, and spoke of him" (John 12:41).

In Romans 14:11 Paul applies to Christ's coming in judgment what Isaiah had written of Jehovah swearing by himself, that "every knee should bow to him, and every tongue confess to God" (Isa. 45:23). Indeed, the whole passage referred to (especially the last verse, "In Jehovah shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory") proves that Emmanuel was especially meant, in whom alone believers are justified and glorified.

Instances of this kind might be easily multiplied did not brevity forbid. But I would rest the argument principally on those which follow. Jehovah, speaking to Moses, declared his self-existent, immutable, and eternal Deity by saying, I AM THAT I AM, and ordered him to inform Israel "that I AM had sent him to them." Christ expressly applied this to himself when he said to the Jews, "Before Abraham was, I AM." And his enemies clearly perceived that he was saying he was equal to God, for they went about to stone him for blasphemy (John 10:33).

Again, Isaiah introduces Jehovah, saying, "I am the first and I am the last, and besides me there is no God" (Isa. 44:6). While appearing in vision to John, Christ expressly and repeatedly claimed this truth for himself: "Fear not, I am the first and the last. I am he that lives and was dead, and am alive forevermore" (Rev. 1:17,18; cf. 1:11; 2:8; 22:13). How can any reasonable man suppose that Jesus would have used such language to describe himself -- appropriating the very words by which Jehovah declared his own eternal power and Godhead! -- had he been no more than a mere creature?

Finally, Jehovah claims it as his prerogative "to search the hearts and try the minds" (Jer. 17:10). And Christ most emphatically says, "all the churches shall know that I am He, who searches the minds and hearts" (Rev. 2:23). Did any holy angel ever use such language? Or would the holy Jesus have used it if he had not been one with and equal to the Eternal Father?

Essays on the Most Important Subjects in Religion (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

You may want to take a look at Calvin Linton's essay, "Jesus Christ the Divine Redeemer".

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Day 20

A Morning Prayer

Merciful God, give ear to our prayer, for we cry unto you in the name of Jesus Christ. The things of the world--the lust of the eye, and the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life--are continually tempting us and leading us astray. Our affections toward you are cold and dull. Our tempers are often unsanctified, and we are lukewarm and indifferent to perishing sinners when we ought to have holy zeal for their salvation. Oh, give us grace this day to overcome temptation and to mortify all our corrupt affections, and grant an abundance of your Holy Spirit that we may abound in every good work and walk worthy of the gospel of Christ, proclaiming the good news of salvation to all men. And we pray especially for your chosen people, Israel, asking that you would give them a new heart and new spirit, that they may worship their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the land you promised to their fathers. Amen.


Christ the Desire of All Nations
by
Ashbel Green

"For thus says Yahweh of hosts: 'Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,' says Yahweh of hosts. . . . 'The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former . . . And in this place I will give peace,' says Yahweh of hosts." (Haggai 2:6-9)

The occasion on which these words were uttered by the Prophet was as follows. After the return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon, they began to rebuild the house, or temple, of Jehovah [Yahweh], the God of Israel. Before they had proceeded far, their undertaking was interrupted by a prohibition from the Persian monarch, to whose authority they were still subject. It was not long, however, that this obstacle needed to have hindered their proceeding in their design. But in the meantime their inclination to proceed had subsided, and it was not till several severe judgments had been inflicted on them for their negligence, and the prophet on whose words I discourse had been sent to awaken them to a sense of their duty, that they could be induced again to engage in the work which they had relinquished.

At length, however, it was resumed with spirit; and yet it was soon after retarded anew by another discouraging circumstance. Some of the persons concerned in rebuilding the temple were old enough to recollect that which had been destroyed; and all of them, no doubt, had been informed of its magnificent appearance and costly furniture. And it was obvious, at once, that the edifice they were engaged in erecting would be far inferior in point of splendor to the one in place of which it was to stand. This thought damped the ardor of all those who were concerned in building it, for nothing is more discouraging than to know that after every effort we must rest far short of what others have performed, and of what we ourselves are desirous to achieve.

To remove this new difficulty, the same prophet who had been employed to stir them up to the enterprise was sent with a new message to encourage them in its prosecution. He, accordingly, informed them by the command of Jehovah that although the temple they were erecting would be inferior in external grandeur to that which had been built by Solomon, yet in another and far more important particular it should be superior. A great and glorious personage, who should be emphatically "the Desire of all nations," should enter and make his appearance in it, and by his presence he would put an honor upon it unspeakably greater than any which had been conferred on Solomon's: "I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts . . . The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts . . . And in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts."

In showing that our Lord Jesus Christ is the personage intended or described in the text as the Desire of all nations, the chief consideration is, that the truth of the whole passage with which these words are connected is incapable of vindication unless we admit that the Messiah was the subject of the prediction. And this being admitted, it must appear incontrovertible that our Lord was the only person during the period to which the prophecy refers who can be imagined to have possessed that character. If the advent of the Messiah, so long expected by the Jews and foretold by their prophets, was not contemplated in the text as the circumstance or event which was to render the second temple more glorious than the first, it is impossible to say what was intended, or to clear the prediction from the charge of falsehood. For in every respect, except the presence of the Messiah, the glory of the latter house was not greater but incomparably less than that of the former. The nation and the individuals who respected and offered their devotions in it were less important in the eyes of the world, and much more inconsiderable in number, than in the days of Solomon. The temple itself, although very much enriched and adorned in the time of Herod, yet never was at any period either as large or as magnificent as that which preceded it. And as to that which might be called the spiritual furniture, the first temple possessed the honor and advantage. It very likely contained the Urim and Thummim, certainly the ark of the covenant, the fire from heaven, and the glorious Shechinah (or visible manifestation of the presence of Jehovah). All of these were lacking in the second.

The prophecy, therefore, that this house should be more glorious than the former, has not been and never can be verified unless the presence of the Messiah was the circumstance to which it referred as that which should give truth to the declaration. The presence in the second house of the incarnate Son of God would completely and most signally verify the prediction; because, as he was the great object to which every symbol -- and indeed the whole Jewish dispensation -- pointed, his coming into this temple would make it as much superior to the former as the substance is superior to the shadow, the thing which is signified to that which is only a faint emblem of it. There was, moreover, no other person or thing, so far as we know, that could with any show of propriety be denominated the Desire of all nations; so that it seems impossible not to believe that it was the Messiah to whom the prophet here referred. And if the Messiah was really the object pointed at, our Lord Jesus Christ must unquestionably be he. For although there were others who laid claim to this character during the existence of the second temple, yet they have long since been considered as impostors both by Jews and Gentiles, and from the nature of the case can never hereafter be considered in any other light.

Christ Jesus, therefore, is the only individual who can ever be supposed, with any degree of probability, to have possessed the character of the Messiah, the anointed of the eternal Father, and Immanuel, God with us, during the period of which I speak. He, consequently, must be the illustrious personage whose presence in this temple was to do it an honor, with which nothing that belonged to Solomon's could pretend to vie. In this temple he, accordingly, did make his appearance. In this temple he was presented to the Lord while an infant, according to an established ordinance, and was on that occasion solemnly recognized as the Messiah by holy Simeon and Anna, acting under the influence of divine inspiration. He honored the temple by his presence again at the age of twelve years, when he visited it with his parents. And he purified it from the abuses that were practiced in it when, after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he scourged from it those who pursued an unlawful merchandise there. Nay, we are told that he daily preached in the temple, and that after his crucifixion and resurrection the apostles began to publish the gospel there. This it was that eminently constituted the glory of the second temple. It was from this, as from its central point, that the rays of the glorious gospel began to dawn on the benighted world. Here first broke forth that fountain of living water, whose salutary streams shall never cease to flow, of which whosoever drinks shall never thirst, in which whosoever washes shall be cleansed and healed from every spiritual pollution and malady, and from the efficacy of which all who drink of it imbibe the principles of eternal life. This was an honor infinitely transcending all the pomp and splendor of the world.

Thus was the prophecy most illustriously and strikingly fulfilled in Jesus our Saviour; and thus evident is it that he is the glorious person spoken of as "the Desire of all nations."

Practical Sermons (condensed)

Prayer from Prayers for the Use of Families by William Jay

Also see Ken's article, "Does Eschatology Matter in Jewish Evangelism?"

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Day 21

A Morning Prayer

O most holy Lord, who can adequately express your praise or declare your mercy? Angels and archangels pass their eternity of existence singing it, and they never cease, for there is no power that can do it justice. Their work and their pleasure is the same. They wait to do your bidding all the while adding expressions of grateful love and adoring praise. And such is the ready occupation of your redeemed, the willing employment of those who have washed themselves in the blood of the Lamb, who are now standing in your presence for evermore beholding the fulness of the glory and majesty of their Redeemer and their God. And shall we who are this day receiving mercies continually and in great abundance be silent? Shall we refuse to prepare ourselves here for our hoped-for employment hereafter? Alas, we live as if our lives had no reference to the future, as if our work were to accumulate this world's goods only, to rejoice in the things of time and sense. Teach us better, O Lord. Seal us as your own by a zealous obedience and love for Jesus Christ's sake, our God and Savior. Amen.


The Danger of "The World"
by
Richard W. Church

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.
If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
1 John 2:15

We hear a great deal said in Holy Scripture about "the world." It is common in all religious books and discourses. The world is spoken of as an enemy, a temptation, a danger. The love of this world is what we are continually warned against. Worldliness is one of the worst signs against a man, one of the sins which we all acknowledge (in words at least) to be inconsistent with true religion. Everybody has a word to say against worldliness. Everyone takes for granted that it is wrong to love the world. Then should we not know as clearly as we can what is meant by "the world"?

"Know ye not," says St. James, "that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." "Love not the world," St. John says, "neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." "The whole world," he says in another place, "lies in wickedness," and the great victory of faith "overcomes the world." In all these passages "the world" stands for something confessedly evil, contrary to Christ's Gospel, inconsistent with His service, and fatal to men's souls. And so we ask, What is meant by "the world" here? What is this terrible world which rises up in the pages of Scripture as the mighty and dangerous foe of Christ and of His kingdom?

If we were asked to explain what it stands for, our first answer would be something of this kind: the world means all this present state of things which we see, with all the fine and pleasant and profitable things which men are so fond of, and with all the people who are fond of them and follow them. Well, if that were true, are we not then living a worldly life? We have families and family ties, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and children. Our hearts are full of them, we love them, and our hearts are bound up with their lives and happiness. And do not family ties and interests belong to this present state of things?

We have our employment and work that takes up our time and thoughts. Our days are given to it. We think it right to be earnest and thorough in it. And if we are doing it as we ought, then we are finding great and real pleasure in doing it to the very best of our power. But does not every pursuit and calling in which man is employed belong to this present state of things?

We have many pleasures and enjoyments. When we speak of them religiously, we say that God has graciously been abundant in His gifts to us. We enjoy the beauty and the bounty of His creation, rejoice in the great and wonderful inventions of man's skill and power, find delight in reading about men from ages past. These things, I say, belong only to this present state of things; they are of the world. And should the love of them be called "worldliness"?

Let us consider what comes of using such a word as this without thinking of what it really means. People either put a wrong meaning to it or they come to think that it has no meaning at all. Either way they torment themselves with scruples and difficulties, and get into harsh and uncharitable ways of denouncing others for particular things they themselves do not like or which are not to their taste.

The world that the Bible warns us against is not simply this present state of things, but this present state of things set against and preferred to the world to come and eternity. If there were no heaven and no hereafter, we could have nothing to think of but this present state. But there is a hereafter; there is a heaven to be gained or lost. And this being so, this present state (whatever be its goodness or desirableness) must of course be of very trifling moment when it is compared or weighed against that which is to come.

So if we choose this present life rather than life eternal, we choose what Holy Scripture calls "the world." If we are so full of the things which belong to this present state (however in themselves lawful and innocent and right) so that we forget that other world, then our hearts are full of what Holy Scripture calls the cares of this world. If we who are Christians and have the promise of an everlasting inheritance live like the heathen, who know nothing of any promise of everlasting life, then we are living a worldly life -- a life conformed to this world. If we love anything of this present state so much that it drives out of our hearts the love of our Father and God and the wish to be with Him and to be like Him forever, then we have that love of the world which the Bible declares is enmity with God. Indeed, God himself bids us to love our neighbours, our friends, father and mother, wife and children. But if even these we love more than Him, we choose our portion with this world and are not worthy of Him and His kingdom.

This, I say, is what the Bible means by "the world," by the "love of this world," by "worldliness." It is not simply this present state in which we must have our dealings, our interests, our deepest human love and affection. Rather, "the world" is this present state whenever it is the one and only love of our hearts, whenever it throws the other--the eternal state--into the shade, shuts it out, and makes us live as if it were not to be.

Village Sermons (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See Charles Bridges on Proverbs 11:1, "Dishonest scales are an abomination to Yahweh, but a just weight is His delight."

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Day 22

A Morning Prayer

Gracious Father, you love the humble one who comes to you. Make us understand the service you would have us do and feel it as a delight. Enable us to pursue it as our best occupation, and to promote it as our highest interest. Lead us to search after the spirit which marked the every act of him who went before us as an example, who taught with authority, yet was obedient in all things. And as we hope to serve our Lord in heaven, teach us to serve him here on earth, and to rejoice that we are granted the privilege of doing so. Hear us now through the merits of Jesus Christ, our great intercessor. Amen.


The Indispensable Duty of Loving our Enemies
by
Henry Scougal

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies,
and do good to those who hate you.”
Luke 6:27

To love those who have obliged us is what nature might teach and wicked men practice, for to favor those who have never wronged us is but a piece of common humanity. But our religion requires us to extend our kindness even to those who have injured and abused us, who continue to wish us mischief. We are never to design any other revenge against our most bitter and inveterate enemies than to wish them well and do them all the good we can. We are to love them.

In what does this love consist?

First, it excludes all harsh thoughts and groundless suspicions. The Apostle tells us that charity "thinks no evil." Thus, to receive with pleasure a bad report about one who has offended us and to put the worst construction upon what are likely doubtful actions, is a clear evidence of our hatred. Had we the love of Christ, we would soon cast out these sour suspicions, harsh surmises, and embittered thoughts. We would interpret all things in the best meaning of which they are capable.

Second, the love we owe our enemies excludes all causeless and immoderate anger -- the anger that breaks forth in indecent expressions or violent and blameworthy actions, that exceeds the value of the cause and circumstances, that disturbs the quiet and repose of one's night. By its continuance, the same passion and resentment which was innocent and rational in its first rise may become vicious and criminal. Though anger may kindle in the breast of a wise man, it rests in the bosom of a fool.

Third, the love we are to show our enemies excludes all rooted malice and rancor proceeding from the memory and resentment of injuries. Certainly there is nothing more contrary to charity than a peevish rumination and poring over the offenses we have met with. A person's memories are very ill employed who seldom remember a courtesy but never forget a wrong! There is but one way in which we may lawfully remember an injury, and that is so as to be more cautious in trusting one who has deceived us or by exposing ourselves to the power of him who has wronged us. In this case, religion does allow and direct us to join the serpent's wisdom with the dove's innocence. But still it is neither necessary nor fit to threaten those who have wronged us with our resolution to remember the injury. We may be as cautious as we please without it. A meek and charitable person will be loathe to have his memory infested and his thoughts soured with resentment of wrongs. If they occur to his mind, he will make no other use of them than to put himself on his guard, at the same time taking occasion to pray and do good to the offending party.

Fourth, love to our enemies excludes and prohibits taking or procuring any revenge. By revenge we mean such a simple evil done to our adversary that brings no real benefit or reputation to ourselves. It is evidence of a wicked and malicious nature to please ourselves with the misery of another, or to delight in an evil that brings us no good.

Fifth, the love which we owe our enemies excludes all supercilious and scornful contempt and neglect of them, as if they were beneath our regard. Charity is not "puffed up."

But what does love of our enemies require?

First, it imports an inward kindness and affection. This does not mean that it reaches to the passionate tenderness which we have for our near relations and intimate friends. Yet it does imply a good will and friendly concern in their interests, a wish for their best welfare. And this does not rest in empty wishes but expresses itself in kind words and friendly actions.

Second, we must perform those good offices which their necessities call for and our power can reach. Do good to them that hate you. Then shall we heap coals of fire upon their heads, mollifying obdurate tempers and overcoming evil by our good.

Finally, we must employ our interest on their behalf in the court of heaven, begging God that he would turn their hearts to himself and bless them with the pardon of their sins. "Pray for them who spitefully use you." This may be the surest evidence of our love for them.

The Works of the Rev. H. Scougal

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Find more on the Beatitudes from Matthew Henry, from Matthew Poole, and especially from the sermon on judging one another by Walter Smith, The Law Kept by Sympathy.

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Day 23

A Morning Prayer

O blessed Lord and Savior, Son of the living God, you indeed are God, and as God you were manifested in the flesh. We know that on the confession of this truth depends life eternal, and that its belief can exist only as the gift of the Holy Spirit. Enable us to say with holy confidence and unwavering faith, "You, O Lord, are our God forever and ever, holy and reverend is your name." For that great multitude who cannot confess this truth, set before them in its awful reality that great day which is coming, when every knee shall bow and every tongue constrained to own you as Lord and God. Will they be among those who obeyed your bidding and will remain among the glorious company of the redeemed, or will they be among the hard-hearted who refused to have you reign over them and must depart as accursed into perdition? Open their ears to hear your gentle persuasive reasonings that they may turn to you in penitence and seek you by prayer. Amen.


The Total Depravity of the Heart
by
Thomas Reade

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;
who can know it?”
Jeremiah 17:9

The corruption of the human race after the fall was radical and universal: "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5). It would seem surprising, then, that anyone should read this passage in the Bible and yet deny the doctrine of human depravity if we did not know the natural blindness of the understanding due to sin.

A painful truth, nevertheless, is plainly stated: that the heart of man is evil. And in order that this solemn truth may be placed in the strongest light, it is further added that not only the thoughts but the imaginations of the thoughts of his heart are evil. By this declaration we learn how the fall has corrupted all the secret workings of the human mind, since the very outline or rude sketch of the thoughts is polluted. And if the fountain be thus poisoned, can we wonder at those deadly streams which issue from it? Oh, that sovereign grace may cast down every proud and sinful imagination and bring them into captivity to the obedience of Christ!

Some there are who contend for a portion of natural goodness, saying, "True, the imagination is often defiled, but must we acknowledge there is no remainder of virtue?" What says the Scripture? Every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is evil.

"But allowing this to be true, yet may there not be some mixture of good with the evil?" What says the Scripture? Every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil.

"Admitting this, yet might there not be some intervals of goodness?" What says the Scripture? Every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil continually.

"But if this be indeed the state of man's heart, yet may not the innocent season of youth be an exemption from this awful charge?" What says the Scripture? "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen. 8:21). "The wicked are estranged from the womb" (Ps. 58:3). "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child" (Prov. 22:15). And, as if determined to abase the pride of fallen man and to place the doctrine of original sin beyond dispute, David declares, "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5).

Hence we conclude that we are "by nature the children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3), and "that there is none righteous, no not one" (Rom. 3:10).

Oh dear readers, don't quarrel with your justly offended Creator, but confess your guilt, both original and actual. Seek for grace to lie low at his feet and accept with joyful heart those gracious offers of pardon and peace so freely made to you through the great propitiatory sacrifice of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

Christian Retirement: or Spiritual Exercises of the Heart

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See also Theodor Zahn's sermon, "The Word of Truth".

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Day 24

A Morning Prayer

O God most high and holy, we come into your presence confessing that our offenses are many. Cleanse us, we pray, and take away every prejudice that hinders us from a clear view of ourselves. Your word declares that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Yet how blind we are to our own shortcomings and how quick to detect the shortcomings of others. Let Jesus be our example, and lead us in his steps. Give us his meekness and patience, his endurance, and his faithfulness even unto death. Whatever comes our way, be it evil or good, suffering or joy, let us praise your name and acknowledge your providence working for us. And with our confidence anchored in you, we shall walk through the valley of the shadow of death fearing no evil. Hear us for Jesus' sake. Amen.


Meekness
by
Matthew Henry

"Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.”
Matthew 5:5

The meek are happy. They are those who quietly submit themselves to God, to his word, and to his rod. They follow his directions and comply with his designs, and are gentle toward all men (Tit. 3:2). The meek can bear provocation without being inflamed by it; they are either silent or return a soft answer. They can show their displeasure when there is occasion for it without being transported into any indecencies. They can be cool when others are hot, and in their patience keep possession of their own souls when they can scarcely keep possession of anything else. They are the meek who are rarely and hardly provoked but quickly and easily pacified; who would rather forgive twenty injuries than revenge one, having the rule of their own spirits.

These meek ones are here represented as happy, even in this world. They are like the blessed God himself, who is Lord of his anger and in whom fury is not. They are blessed because they have the most comfortable, undisturbed enjoyment of themselves, their friends, their God. They are fit for any relation, any condition, and company; fit to live and fit to die.

They shall inherit the earth. It is quoted from Psalm 37:11, and it is almost the only express temporal promise in all the New Testament. Not that they shall always have much of the earth, much less that they shall be put off with that only; but this branch of godliness has, in a special manner, the promise of the life that now is. Meekness, however ridiculed and run down, has a real tendency to promote our health, wealth, comfort, and safety, even in this world. The meek and quiet are observed to live the most easy lives, compared with the froward and turbulent. Some read it, They shall inherit the land of Canaan, a type of heaven. So that all the blessedness of heaven above and all the blessings of earth beneath are the portion of the meek.

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

"Pride goes before destruction." Charles Bridges has a short exposition of Proverbs 16:18-19.

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Day 25

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, you have taught us that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. Give us grace to seriously weigh and patiently reflect upon every word we utter, that we may thereby know whether our hearts are right with you. Enable us to make this search neither vainly, as if it were a matter which concerned us only as creatures of this world, nor proudly, as if we had performed some meritorious act that would justify our sin or claim pardon at your hands, but earnestly, knowing that our hearts are set to do evil continually. Let us strive to correct the evil suggestions from within with all the energy that despair calls forth, for we are very blind to our condition by nature. We are apt to think ourselves, if not very good, at least better than we are. Teach us to weigh our words and scan our thoughts by the balance and test of your holy law, that we be no longer deluded and no longer tempted thus to our ruin, but that we may henceforth become new creatures in Christ Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.


The Unknown Heart
by
David Black

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, Yahweh, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings." (Jeremiah 17:9,10)

True and faithful is the testimony of God. Men may amuse themselves and their fellow creatures with empty, high-sounding descriptions of the dignity of human nature and the all-sufficient powers of man, but every humble, truly enlightened mind will see and acknowledge the justness of the declaration in the text, that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked."

This is a truth which, like many others in the word of God, can only be learned from experience. If we assent to it merely because it is contained in the Scriptures, then we are strangers to its nature and cannot understand what it means.

I purpose at present to speak only of the deceitfulness of the heart, a subject sufficiently extensive not merely for one, but for many discourses, and which, after all that can be said on it, must remain in a great measure unexhausted; for who can know it? The deceit that lodges in the heart is so complicated and of such variety that it is impossible to trace it in all its windings.

1. This deceitfulness can be seen from men's general ignorance of their own character. There is not anything in the history of mankind more surprising, or at first view more unaccountable, than the self-partiality which prevails in the world. One would be apt to imagine that it should not be so difficult to arrive at the knowledge of our real character. But we see, in fact, that of all knowledge this is the rarest and most uncommon. Nor is it difficult to account for this fact, since "the heart is deceitful above all things." Self-love casts a veil over the understanding; the judgment is warped by various circumstances; and hence it is, that many seem to be almost entire strangers to their own character. They think, reason, and judge quite differently in anything relating to themselves from what they do in those cases in which they have no personal interest.

Accordingly, we often hear people exposing follies in others for which they themselves are notable, and talking with great severity against particular vices of which, if all the world is not mistaken, they themselves are notoriously guilty. It is astonishing to what a pitch this self-ignorance and self-partiality may be carried! How frequently do we see men not only altogether blind to their own character, but insensible to everything that can be said to convince them of their mistake. In vain do you offer them instruction or reproof, for they never once imagine they are the persons for whose benefit these counsels and admonitions are chiefly intended.

2. The deceitfulness of the heart appears from men's general disposition on all occasions to justify their own conduct. This disposition our first parents discovered immediately upon their eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. When the Lord appeared to Adam and charged him with his guilt, he attempted to justify himself by saying, "The woman You gave to be with me, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate." And in like manner the woman replied, "It was the serpent! He deceived me, and I ate."

We are all extremely partial to ourselves and apt to view our own conduct in a different light from that of our fellow creatures. When we observe improper conduct in others, the impropriety strikes us at once. Sin appears to us in its true and genuine colors, and we are ready to judge and condemn. But in our own case, the action is seen through a deceitful medium. Our judgment is perverted by self-love, and a thousand expedients are employed, if not to vindicate, at least to apologize for our conduct. Thus, on all occasions men endeavor to justify their own conduct. They even learn to call their favorite vices by softer names -- intemperance is only the desire of good fellowship, lewdness is gallantry or the love of pleasure, pride is a just sense of our own dignity, and the love of money is a prudent regard to our worldly interest. Strange infatuation it is to think that by changing the names of vices it is possible to change their nature, and that what is base and detestable in others should be pardonable only in ourselves!

3. The deceitfulness of the heart appears from the difficulty with which men are brought to acknowledge their faults, even when conscious that they have done wrong. How few can bear to be told their shortcomings! Instead of reflecting on their own conduct, they are only concerned in finding equal, if not greater, faults in others.

Since the ways in which men deceive themselves are so various, can we be too jealous over our own hearts? "He who trusts in his own heart," says the wise man, "is a fool!" And the reason is obvious: "because the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Let us therefore accustom ourselves to self-examination. Instead of indulging a censorious disposition and looking abroad to discover the faults of our neighbors, let us descend into our own breasts and observe the plagues of our own hearts. Let us attend not merely to our outward actions but to the principles and motives from which these actions proceed. Let us consider our conduct, not in the light in which self-love and self-partiality would present it to our minds, but in the light in which any impartial spectator would view it, in the light in which God's word teaches us to consider it, and in the light in which it will be judged of at last, "when God shall bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of all hearts."

We are all more or less liable to self-deceit, and those who think they have the least of it are in general most of all under its dominion. Let us therefore distrust our own judgment, and, sensible of our own ignorance and liability to mistake, let us pray to God for his divine teaching, saying with Elihu, "That which I see not, teach me"; and with the Psalmist, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

Sermons on Important Subjects (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Here is J. Oliver Buswell's essay on "The Origin and Nature of Sin".

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Day 26

A Morning Prayer

Gracious Lord and Father, governor of the world, you are a most merciful God and hate nothing that you have made. Give us such a sense of that mercy that we may come to you as children to a loving father, looking for comfort, joy, and peace. Show yourself to us in this rich attribute, and enable us to apprehend its fulness by revealing to us the fearful depravity of our own hearts, the total alienation to you we possess by nature, and our rejection of your rightful sovereignty. Then open our eyes to the sacrifice made for our redemption, that of your only and beloved Son. Your invitation to come for salvation is open to all, and so draw us this day and subdue our pride, obstinacy, and enmity of heart, that we may joyfully pray, "Your sovereign grace is rich and free, and if for others why not for me?" We ask in the name of our only Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Misuse of Election
by
Grattan Guinness

"Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place." (Isaiah 28:17)

From the time of Adam down to the present day, thousands have taken refuge from the threatening of God's wrath by cleaving to the lies of the Evil One. Tonight I want to expose some of these lest death should come upon you unawares and your souls perish in hell.

First, let me ask you, Are your sins forgiven? There are many of you who know your sins are not forgiven. Are you prepared to die? There are many of you who would have to say, "I could not lie down tonight and die in peace." Now let me ask, Then why are you listening to me? You say, "To learn the way to be saved." My answer is, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." "But," you say, "I believe in election." Well, what has that to do with it? I said believe in Jesus. You answer, "It is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy."

Tell me what you mean in your heart by quoting that text. "Well," you say, "if I am elect I shall be saved, do what I may. But if I am not elect I must be damned, do what I will. Thus there is no use in my trying to do anything." Let me tell you earnestly that this is a "refuge of lies." Now do not mistake me. I do not wage war with the doctrine of election but simply with your manner of holding it. I believe the doctrine of election runs like a golden thread through the silver tissue of the Word of God, and it is impossible to tear it out without rending asunder the very texture of everlasting truth. It is no dark doctrine to me, but shines as the first sweet ray of light that came down from God into the black abyss of our ruin.

Election is not iron fate but unutterable love. I accept it, and I cannot but do so for it is as plainly revealed to me in the Bible as the doctrine of redemption. First, I cannot but see that God is everything in the salvation of all those who reach heaven. Second, I cannot but see that He intended this from all eternity. This is, of course, election. From the eighth chapter of Romans I learn that election is the first link in the great chain of salvation reaching from heaven to earth, and that if you break that link all the rest fall to the ground. No Election? Then there is no calling, no justification, no sanctification, and no glory.

My friends, do not distort this doctrine to your own damnation. Look into the matter and you will find that election is not exclusive but inclusive! In plain English, election shuts no one out while it shuts many in. Scripture represents election as making the salvation of many certain, but it does not represent it as putting an impossible barrier in the way of anyone. Election has made many saints, but it has made no reprobates. Election only saves. Only sin destroys.

But even if election were as you say, you still have no right to sit still in indecision. Do you act that way in everyday things? Let us take, for example, a friend inviting you to dinner. The table is spread and you are asked to sit down to eat. "Stop!" you say to your friend. "Does not God know everything?" "Yes," says your friend. "Well, then God knows whether I shall eat this food or not. It's all fixed and I can't alter it. So if I am not to eat this dinner, I cannot eat it even though I were to try. But if I am to eat it, I must eat it even though I were to rise and leave the room. Therefore, I will sit still and do nothing." Would you reason thus? Surely not. Then why, when God lays before you the "Bread of Life" and freely offers the Lord Jesus Christ to feed your perishing soul, would you say, "If I am to eat of the Bread of Life I must, do what I may. If I am not to partake of it I cannot, do what I will. Therefore, I will sit still and do nothing."

Suppose you were sick and near death. The doctor offers you medicine that will undoubtedly cure you. Would you say, "If I am to live I shall live, and if I am to die your medicine will make no difference. So take it away and leave me." Ah, no! Why then, when the good physician Jesus offers the only medicine that can cure your soul's disease and save you from eternal death, would you say, "If I am elect I shall be saved, do what I may; and if I am not elect I shall be damned, do what I will. Therefore I will do nothing."

Now, if Christ does not truly offer to save you, then there is nothing more for me to say. But you admit that He does offer to save you! And if your refusal to come to him for salvation does not lead to hell, then again I can add nothing. But you admit that to die in your present state is to be damned! Then why do you linger and do nothing? Forsake this folly and escape to Jesus, for most surely "the hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters will overflow your hiding-place" (Isa. 28:17).

Sermons

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

See John Murray's short essay, "The Fall of Man".

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Day 27

A Morning Prayer

Gracious Father, we bring before your throne of grace those who are yet unsaved. They have no due sense of their danger and are blind to the eternal ruin that must be their just portion unless they find pardon in that Savior who sits at your right hand. Open their eyes to see their lost condition. Send them convicting grace that they may repent and turn to Jesus, lest in the darkness of this night they are taken unawares and perish in their sins. And give us, your disciples, an earnest zeal to share the good news with them. Your word declares that the fields are ripe for harvest, yet we all too often sit with our hands folded as if there were nothing to do. Give us the compassion of Jesus, who saw the lost as sheep without a shepherd. Let us labor today to bring them into the fold, because the night is coming when no man can work. We pray in the name of Jesus, our great High Priest. Amen.


Divine and Human Will
by
Richard Cattermole

"My son, give me your heart,
and let your eyes observe my ways.”
Proverbs 23:26

This demand of Solomon, "My son, give me your heart," is the demand of God addressed to man. The heart (that is, man's will and affections) is what the Creator esteems most. In the midst of his boundless bliss, it is what God most desires; and while surrounded by the riches of his glory, it is what he covets. He has sought to win our heart by the most costly sacrifice and the most touching proofs of love. And though he seeks the gift only that he may fill our perverse hearts with joy and peace, this alone of all things in his universe he too often seeks in vain. O, the blindness of fallen man to his true interests, his astonishing indifference to the means of his eternal welfare!

If we loved God, then we would see his will as it truly is -- the perfection of wisdom and goodness. It would at once become the motive and rule of our actions. No sooner should we incline to do his will from the proper motive of love, then we would find obedience flowing so readily that it would be almost impossible for us habitually to transgress any one precept of the law. We shall acquiesce with constant and undeviating resignation to his dealings with us, neglecting no duty, murmuring at no distress, overcome by no temptation, but cordially receiving every dispensation of his providence as what he deems good, and which we would find it impossible to regard as evil. We would never be shaken in our faith, for a will in entire agreement with the Divine will is the highest degree of faith. We would never be weary in well doing, never puffed up in prosperity nor cast down in adversity. We would be well assured that God can impose nothing upon us, can require nothing at our hands, except from that principle of beneficence, which must be the prime motive in all his dispensations.

And what to some persons must appear harder still, we would submit our understanding, as well as our hearts and lives, to his guidance. Being convinced that he is wiser than ourselves, we would take his law for our rule of conduct, accept his revelation as the standard of our faith. With alacrity we would comply not only with what his Word explicitly commands, but with what God in his Word merely intimates.

Our language would soon be, "Not my will but thine be done." However severe his divine dealings should be, we shall be disposed to say with Eli, "It is Yahweh. Let Him do what seems good to Him." Such a disposition renders a man's whole life one acceptable offering, one continual cloud of grateful incense ascending before God. This pervading spirit of faith and love imparts a religious value to the most trivial actions.

O, let us earnestly pray to God to incline all hearts here below, our own especially, to a complete and cordial obedience, since this is only in the power of Him whose influence over our wills is greater than our own. Let us make it the subject of our prayers to have our self-will annihilated and the will of God implanted in its stead; that we may, in a word, have no will but His. Take his revealed Word for the guide of your conduct. And in regard to the outcome of all that concerns you, let his gracious pleasure and all-wise disposal determine your preference, until that time when you are transferred to that perfect state where all are blessed, because "God has put it in their hearts to fulfill his will."

Sermons Preached in the District Church of St. Matthew

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

Here is John Caird's sermon on "Self-Ignorance."

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Day 28

A Morning Prayer

O eternal God, you are the source of every good, the author of every blessing. To know you is eternal life. Give us, we beseech you, that life. Make it ours now by faith, and ours hereafter in its full and blessed reality. We have much to do. The task is ours to secure the prize, to run, as in a race, to make our calling and election sure, and to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. O God, enable us by your grace and Holy Spirit to do this. Pour out your blessing and favor upon us, lest we walk under a delusion and say to ourselves, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace. Our hearts are deceitful. They mislead and deceive, promising things never to be performed, telling of joys that we will never know. We rest content in our righteousness and bow the knee as a cold duty. We pass the greater part of our days in the mists of indifference or in the darkness of error. Enlighten us, we pray, and show us your Son Jesus Christ as our only hope, and convince us that an unwavering faith in him is our only hope for safety. Bless us for his sake, in whose name we pray. Amen.


Salvation as a Work
by
William M. Paxton

"Being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)

Work is the subject of this text. The world is full of busy work; the din of toil and the hum of industry is ever in our ears. But there is another work. Simultaneous with this work of the world, mingling with it but rising above it in grandeur and importance, is another work, a divine work -- a work for the salvation of souls. It is a work that has a strange secret of power. It is unseen and mysterious. It interpenetrates the world's work and often overreaches it. It draws men more effectually than the attractions of the world's enjoyments. It often separates them from worldly gains by the motive of more enduring riches. This work is going on busily amid the world's active industries. Its agencies are organized. A divine message is meeting men in every avenue of life. The farmer stops his plow in the furrow as he listens to the strange words, "Break ye up the fallow ground, and sow to yourselves in righteousness." The workman amid the din and clank of machinery hears a still small voice, more penetrating than the din of toil, "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?" The swift trains freighted with a nation's merchandise bear with them the agencies of the Gospel. The ships that carry the world's commerce carry also the missionary and the Bible to extend this work to the ends of the earth.

This work is not only, like the world's work, external, but also invisible, secret, and mysterious. It is a work in the souls of men -- quickening, renewing, transforming. It generates a new life, forms a new character, and lifts man into alliance with God. Oh, there is nothing more sublime than to think that amid all the noise and turmoil of the outward world this busy and mysterious work is silently going on in the souls of men, assimilating them to the divine image, and preparing upon this earth the great family of God and the kingdom of heaven.

1. It is a good work. ''He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." It is good in its experience. Nothing is so delightful as salvation, nothing else brings such present enjoyment, or so meets the wants and desires of our troubled and agitated spirits. In every other work we wander in disquietude through the circuit of humanity; but this brings us at once to the Creator, and, having found the center of rest and satisfaction, we wander no more. One distinguished for knowledge and wisdom records his experience of salvation thus: "So long as I strove after earthly good and earthly wisdom there was in this striving nothing but restlessness and disquiet; but now in the hope of salvation all my cares and desires have become so tranquilized that there is continual peace" (Tholuck).

2. This good work is, secondly, described in the text as an inward or internal work. "He who has begun a good work in you." It is not a work without, but a work within. It is a great and sublime fact that the Holy Ghost, the third Person of the blessed Trinity, dwells in the Christian. True religion is the new life with which he quickens the soul; hence religion is essentially a work within. In this age of externalism, when so much thought and energy is expended upon that which is outward and material, it seems impossible to get people to understand the inwardness of true religion. Dr. James W. Alexander said: "Inward, inward we must go for the true elaboration of gracious virtues. We may give ourselves too exclusively to visible activities, and have to take up the lamentation, 'They have made me keeper of vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept.' It is a great moment in a man's life when he awakes to the conviction that of all the works he has to perform the greatest is within his own breast."

3. This good work is, thirdly, a divine work. "Being confident of this very thing, that he" (that is, God) "who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." It is a work which God begins, performs (or carries forward), and finishes in the day of Jesus Christ. It seems rather singular, in view of so distinct an inspired announcement, that this should be precisely the point of divergence between the two great theological systems which have divided the Church for so many ages. The question is: Who begins the work of salvation? The Arminian answers, Man himself; the first movement of the soul to God begins in the self-determining power of the human will. The Calvinist, upon the other hand, maintains that the work begins with God, and owes all its efficacy -- in its origin, continuance and consummation -- to divine grace. It is easy to see on which side of the question the Apostle stands, when in the text he attributes the whole work from first to last to the power of God. Indeed, if the Bible be received as the word of God, and its simple teachings be left unadulterated by the interpretations of a worldly philosophy, there can be no doubt upon this point.

4. Again, let us notice as a fourth point that salvation is described in our text as a progressive work. "He who has begun a good work in you will perform it." The idea is that of a continuous, progressive performance. All the works of God are progressive. The creation of the world was not instantaneous and perfect, but gradual and progressive, as the hand of the Creator wrought amid chaos bringing beauty and order out of confusion, molding the world, spreading out the heavens, fashioning the stars, ordaining the sun and moon, garnishing the earth till all stood forth in the perfection of beauty, and he pronounced it good. Such also is the law of gradual and continuous progress in the work of grace.

If a piece of fine, polished, flexible steel could tell the history of the processes which have made it what it is, it would have to tell of much work done upon it, and of a great change wrought in it. It was once a dark, impure mass, scarcely to be distinguished from the stones with which it was mixed and incorporated. It would have to tell of the force that dug it out of darkness, of the blows that broke it into pieces, of the crucible in which it was closely imprisoned, of the heaps of charcoal that overlaid and of the intense fires melting the metal, changing the charcoal into a subtle gas and forcing the new element to mix with the whole substance of the iron. It would have to tell how again and again it had to feel the heavy blows of the hammer, the heat of the furious fire, the plunge into hissing steaming water, and how it was not till after much protracted labor that the dull, heavy, brittle iron became steel, rivaling in brightness the polished silver and in toughness the strongest cable.

In like manner the Christian is wrought by God himself for his present work and future destiny. All the trials and temptations, all the sorrows and suffering, all the various changes and chances of the Christian's life are just the blows of the hammer or the flames of the furnace that in God's providence and grace are preparing him for his future bliss.

5. This blessed, internal, divine, progressive work is here described as a work that will assuredly be completed. Of this the Apostle gives us a double expression of his confidence. "Being confident of this very thing," it is a point about which there can be no room for doubt that "he who has begun a good work in you will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ." This strong confidence of the Apostle is based upon the character of God. If salvation were the work of man, if either the beginning, continuance, or termination of the work depended upon ourselves, there could be no ground of certainty or confidence in the matter. But the simple fact that God has begun a good work in us leaves no room to doubt but he will carry it on to its uttermost perfection. To suppose that God would leave unfinished a work which he has already begun is to impute weakness and imperfection to the all-perfect and ever-blessed God.

6. Finally, our text informs us of the time when this work will he completed. "Will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." That is, the day of his second coming, the day of his glorious appearing when he shall come without sin unto salvation, to be admired in all his saints, but to the terror of all his enemies. Upon this day, the coronation-day of the King of Glory, when the trumpet shall sound and all that are in their graves shall hear the call of the Son of Man and come forth, a voice, we are told, shall issue from the throne, saying, ''It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end" (Rev. 21:6). It is done. He who began the good work in you, the Alpha of its incipiency, is now the Omega of its completion. He has performed it until the day of Jesus Christ. The simple truth thus taught us is: salvation will be finished then -- and this is the confidence of the Christian; and not till then -- and this is the death of presumptuous perfectionism.

In conclusion, the whole subject resolves itself into one single inquiry: Is this good work begun in you? Without it you have missed the end [purpose] of your creation, you are the cast-off lumber of creation, forever to be burned. But with it you are God's workmanship, and inheritors of an heirdom of glory. The efficiency is God's, the instrumentality is yours. It is yours to work, to ''work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling." It is God's to "work in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."

Princeton Sermons (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

The bronze serpent in the wilderness was a type of Christ. Read about it here in "The Brazen Serpent" by Carl Armerding.

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Day 29

A Morning Prayer

Heavenly Father, another day is taken from the sum appointed to man. Though death seems far off, yet it is day-by-day nearer because of its certainty. It may happen at any moment, and shall a man be so foolish as to wait for a better time to set his house of flesh in order? Grant him wisdom, and purify him from such vain and deceitful notions. Show him that it is the present, and the present only, that is the promised time to seek salvation. Now is the time when he has his health and is in full possession of his faculties, and, most importantly, has your word at hand. When this hour is past, will he have another to call his own, another in which he will resolve to turn to you in sincerity of heart? To postpone a matter of such vital importance is the height of folly. Open his eyes and remove every delusion that rivets his affection on this uncertain and fleeting life. Enable him instead to focus on that certain and everlasting life, and to see that today is the day of salvation. Draw him for Jesus' sake, we pray. Amen.


Three Types of Hearers
by
A. J. Mowatt

"And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, 'We will hear you again on this matter.' So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them." (Acts 17:32-34)

Paul is preaching at Athens. He has the philosophers and fools of the world listening to him. But he is equal to the occasion. Taking his stand in the midst of Mars' Hill, the most famous tribunal in the world, with the judges around him in a sort of semi-official capacity, and choosing for his text an inscription he had found on one of the public altars -- "To the unknown God" -- he preaches Jesus and the resurrection.

I suppose his sermon would be a powerful one. There was everything to arouse his noble soul and fire his eloquence. What a privilege to hear such a sermon! He would feel that he was on trial, and the doctrine he preached too. He had the learning of the world before him. He had the wisdom of Greece listening to him. But grander still, he had Christ's claims to vindicate, and there were hundreds of precious souls to be saved. All this would inspire him. So he preaches. How boldly he speaks out -- no whimpering. How grandly he reasons. How earnestly he appeals to the noblest sentiments of his hearers.

But he fails to carry them along with him. His logic is powerless to convince their stupid prejudices, and even his eloquence is insufficient to arouse their dead souls to the claims and aims of the higher life. When he speaks of the resurrection, his audience grows to be tumultuous and disorderly, some mocking, others intimating that they will hear him on that theme some other time; and so the meeting comes to a close. But the sacred historian tells us that his efforts were not altogether without results: "However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them."

Now I want you to notice the three representative classes of hearers in Paul's audience -- the mocker, the procrastinator, and the believer. We may find them in most audiences.

First, THE MOCKER. "And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked."

Now it requires little wit or wisdom to make a mocker, and the less sense the better!. It needs no brains, none of the learning of the schools. Anybody can get up a laugh at the expense of an earnest man who has some grand idea that the world has not yet come to believe in. Ridiculing is an easier way than reasoning to answer a powerful argument. And with many it goes very much farther. If you have an opponent who has the best of an argument and is entrenched in an impregnable position, you do not argue with him but laugh at him. Make some silly jokes at his expense and you will get the better of him.

That is the sort of game the world has always played in dealing with the men who have made the great discoveries and blessed the world with good. The old foolish world before the flood spent the 120 years of respite God gave them in mocking Noah and his ark. How the philosophers and fools of that age ridiculed his ideas, mocked his earnestness, and made fun of his ark. But Noah was right and they were wrong. And he lived long enough to see the day when they would have given everything they had in the world to have been in the ark with the preacher of righteousness. There never has been a movement of any consequence but there have been mockers to laugh over it, ridicule it, and run it down as an innovation fraught with every evil. A man might well question the utility of that project which mockers did not assail!

Next, THE PROCRASTINATOR. "We will hear you again on this matter."

There is much said all through Scripture about being prompt and decided. "Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts." "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation." "Choose you this day whom you will serve." That is the way the Bible speaks. In a matter of so much importance as the salvation of the soul, it will brook no delay. And the reason is obvious: time is short, life is uncertain. There is not a moment we can call our own. The only time we are sure of is the present, and everyone's present duty is to seek salvation. Everything else can be postponed and no great loss accrue to a man. But if he postpones his salvation, then he does so at a tremendous risk. He runs the risk of losing his soul. He runs the risk of spending an eternity in woe.

How inconsistent men are! These same men who dilly-dally with Jesus without ever coming to the point of decision do not act so in business. Tell them just once how to make a little money, and before the day is done they will be trying it. Is it much of a surprise that Jesus gets tired out waiting on them? I have oftentimes marveled at His patience. My soul within me has been wearied out listening to men's wretched excuses and frittering. And there is such a thing as the patience of Jesus being worn out. My hearer, cannot you come to Jesus today? Cannot you decide right now?

Thirdly, THE BELIEVER. "However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them."

They did not all mock. They did not all procrastinate. There was Dionysius who believed. And there was a brave, true-hearted woman named Damaris. Now, we would like to know something more about them, but what we have here is all we know. And it speaks volumes. They held fast to Paul in the face of much opposition, setting themselves against the wisdom of Athenian philosophers. They had the strength to own Jesus in spite of all the influence that would be brought to bear upon them, showing us what a mighty power there is in the simple gospel and what the grace of God can do in the most unfavorable circumstances.

But I must close these simple remarks, and in closing I would like to feel that there are some here today who, like Dionysius and Damaris, have been led to believe in Jesus. Oh my hearers, you can trust Him. He will not fail you. The world will fail you. The money you are gathering and hoarding, perhaps idolizing, will fail you. Your friends will fail you. I care not what it is, the time is coming when you will find that there is nothing on earth that you can rely on. But Jesus will be true forever. He will never leave you, never forsake you. Oh, then take Him, and take Him now. Hesitate no longer. He says, "Come!" He says it to you.

Gospel Sermons (condensed)

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

You will want to read Spurgeon's sermon, "Come, For All Things Are Now Ready".

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Day 30

A Morning Prayer

O eternal and glorious Lord God, before whom angels bow in lowly reverence as they do your bidding and whose service is their best delight, give us that same delight as we come to worship you on this your appointed day. Enable us to enter this house of worship with godly reverence and meek and quiet spirits, remembering that we are vessels chosen for your glory. Let us with a lively voice sing your praises, with attentive ears hear your word, and as faithful givers cheerfully return to you what is your own. We ask in the name of Jesus, who washed us from our sins in his own blood. Amen.


The Court of the Women
by
Alfred Edersheim

"Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.'" (Mark 12:41-44)

The Court of the Women obtained its name, not from its appropriation to the exclusive use of women, but because they were not allowed to proceed farther, except for sacrificial purposes. Indeed, this was probably the common place for worship, the females occupying, according to Jewish tradition, only a raised gallery along three sides of the court. This court covered a space upwards of 200 square feet. All around ran a simple colonnade, and within it against the wall were placed the thirteen chests, or "trumpets," for charitable contributions. These chests were narrow at the mouth and wide at the bottom, shaped like trumpets, and thus their name.

The specific objects of these trumpets were carefully marked on them. Nine were for the receipt of what was legally due by worshipers; the other four for strictly voluntary gifts. Trumpets 1 and 2 were appropriated to the half-shekel Temple tribute of the current and past years. Into Trumpet 3, those women who had to bring turtledoves for a burnt offering and a sin offering dropped their equivalent in money. This money was daily taken out and a corresponding number of turtledoves offered. This not only saved the labor of so many separate sacrifices, but spared the modesty of those who might not wish to have the occasion or the circumstances of their offering publicly known. Into this trumpet Mary the mother of Jesus must have dropped the value of her offering, when the aged Simeon took the infant Savior "in his arms and blessed God." Trumpet 4 similarly received the value of the offerings of young pigeons. Into Trumpet 5 contributions for the wood used in the Temple were deposited, into Trumpet 6 those for the incense, and into Trumpet 7 those for the golden vessels. If a man had put aside a certain sum for a sin offering, and any money was left over after its purchase, it was cast into Trumpet 8. Similarly, Trumpets 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 were destined for what was left over from trespass offerings, offerings of birds, the offering of the Nazarite, of the cleansed leper, and voluntary offerings.

In all probability, this space where the thirteen Trumpets were placed was the "treasury" where Jesus taught on that memorable Feast of Tabernacles. We can also understand, from the peculiar and known destination of each of these thirteen "trumpets," how the Lord could distinguish the contributions of the rich who cast in "of their abundance" from that of the poor widow who of her penury had given "all the living" that she had. But there was also a special treasury chamber into which, at certain times, they carried the contents of the thirteen chests. There was also "a chamber of the silent," where devout persons secretly deposited money which was afterward secretly employed for educating children of the pious poor.

It is probably an ironical allusion to the form and name of these treasure-chests that the Lord, making use of the word "trumpet," describes the conduct of those who, in their almsgiving, sought glory from men as "sounding a trumpet" before them (Matt. 6:2); that is, carrying before them, as it were, in full display, one of these trumpet-shaped alms boxes (literally called in the Talmud "trumpets"), and sounding it.

The Temple, Its Ministry and Services

Prayer from Short Prayers for the Morning and Evening

A good companion essay is that of Maclaren, "Blemished Offerings".

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