The Faithfulness of a little child…

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“There is no God but one.”

–1 Cor. 8:4

In the first ages of the Church of Christ, in the city of Antioch…

…a believer was carried forth to die as a martyr. “Ask any little child,” said he, “whether it were better to worship one God, the maker of heaven and earth, and one Savior, who is able to save us, or to worship the many false gods whom the heathen serve.” Now it was so that a Christian mother had come to the spot, holding in her hand a little son, of about nine or ten years old, named Cyril.

The heathen judge no sooner heard the martyr’s words than his eyes rested on the child, and he desired the question to be put to him. The question was asked, and to the surprise of those who heard it, the boy replied, “God is one, and Jesus Christ is one with the Father.” The judge was filled with rage. “O base Christian,” he cried, “thou hast taught that child to answer thus.” Then turning to the boy he said more mildly, “Tell me, child, how did you learn this faith?”

The boy looked lovingly into his mother’s face, and said, ” It was God’s grace that taught it to my dear mother, and she taught it to me.” “Let us now see what the love of Christ can do for you,” cried the cruel judge; and, at a sign from him, the officers, who stood ready with their wooden rods of the fashion of the Romans, instantly seized the boy. Gladly would the mother have saved her timid dove, even at the cost of her own life, but she could not do so; yet she did whisper to him to trust in the love of Christ, and to speak the truth. “What can the love of Christ do for him now ?” asked the judge. “It enables him to endure what his Master endured for him and for us all,” was the reply. And again they smote the child. “What can the love of Christ do for him?”

And tears fell even from the eyes of the heathen, as that mother, as much tortured as her son, answered, “It teaches him to forgive his persecutors.” The boy watched his mother’s eyes as they rose up to heaven for him; and when his tormentors asked whether he would not now acknowledge the gods they served, and deny Christ, he still said, “No; there is no other God but one; and Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of the world. He loved me, and I love Him for His love.”

The poor boy now fainted beneath the repeated strokes, and they cast the bruised body into the mother’s arms, crying, “See what the love of your Christ can do for him now.” As the mother pressed the child gently to her own crushed heart, she answered, “That love will take him from the wrath of man to the rest of heaven.” “Mother,” cried the dying boy, ” give me a drop of water from our cool well upon my tongue.” The mother said, “Already, dearest, hast thou tasted of the well that springeth up to everlasting life—the grace which Christ gives to His little ones. Thou hast spoken the truth in love. Arise now, for thy Saviour calleth for thee. May He grant thy poor mother grace to follow in the bright path.”

The little martyr faintly raised his eyes, and said again, “There is but one God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent;” and so saying he gave up his life.

Story taken and adapted from Anecdotes Illustrative of New Testament Texts, Author Unknown

Conversing with God on His Providences

Taken, edited and adapted from, “The Mystery of Providence”
Written by John Flavel

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Communion with God, properly and strictly taken, consists in two things;

First.  God’s manifestation of Himself to the soul,

Second.  The soul’s answerable returns to God.

This is that koinonia (fellowship) we have here with God. Now God manifests Himself to His people by providences as well as ordinances; neither is there any grace in a sanctified soul hid from the gracious influences of His providential manifestations. Sometimes the Lord manifests His displeasure and anger against the sins of His people in correcting and rebuking providences. His rods have a chiding voice: ‘Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it’ (Micah 6:9). This manifestation of God’s anger kindly melts and thaws a gracious soul, and produces a double sweet effect upon it, namely, repentance for sins past, and due caution against future sins.

It thaws and melts the heart for sins committed. Thus David’s heart was melted for his sin when the hand of God was heavy upon him in affliction (Psalm 32:4, 5). Thus the captive Church, upon whom fell the saddest and most dismal providence that ever befell any of God’s people in any age of the world, see how their hearts are broken for sin under this severe rebuke (Lamentations 2:17-19).

And then it produces caution against sin for the time to come. It is plain that the rebukes of Providence leave this effect upon gracious hearts (Ezra 9:13, 14; Psalm 85:8).

Sometimes God cheers and comforts the hearts of His people with smiling and reviving providences, both public and personal. There are times of lifting up as well as casting down by the hand of Providence. The scene changes, the aspects of Providence are very cheerful and encouraging, their winter seems to be over. They put off their garments of mourning, and then, ah, what sweet returns are made to heaven by gracious souls! Does God lift them up by prosperity? they also will lift up their God by praises (Psalm 18, title, and verses 1-3). So Moses and the people with him (Exodus 15) when God had delivered them from Pharaoh, how they exalt Him in a song of thanksgiving which, for the elegance and spirituality of it, is made an emblem of the doxologies given to God in glory by the saints (Revelation 15:3).

On the whole, whatever effects our communion with God in any of His ordinances is wont to produce upon our hearts, the same we may observe to follow our conversing with Him in His providences.

It is usually found in the experience of all the saints that in whatever ordinance or duty they have any conscious communion with God, it naturally produces in their spirits a deep abasement and humiliation from the sense of divine condescension to such vile poor worms as we are. Thus Abraham, ‘which am but dust and ashes’ (Genesis 18:27). The same effect follows our converse with God in His providences. Thus when God had in the way of His providence prospered Jacob, how does he lay himself at the feet of God, as a man overwhelmed with the sense of mercy! ‘I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast shown thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan, and now I am become two bands’ (Genesis 32:10). Thus also it was with David: ‘Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?’ (2 Samuel 7:18). And I doubt not but some of you have found the same frame of heart upon you that these holy men here expressed. Can you not remember when God lifted you up by providence, how you cast down yourselves before Him and have been viler in your own eyes than ever! Why, thus do all gracious hearts. What am I, that the Lord should do thus and thus for me! O that ever so great and holy a God should thus be concerned for so vile and sinful a worm!

Does communion with God in ordinances melt the heart into love to God (Song of Solomon 2:3-5)? Why, so does the observation of His providences also.

Never did any man converse with God’s works of providence aright, but found his heart at some times melted into love to the God of his mercies. When God had delivered David from the hand of Saul and all his enemies, he said, ‘I will love thee, O LORD my strength’ (Psalm 18:1 compared with the title). Every man loves the mercies of God, but a saint loves the God of his mercies. The mercies of God, as they are the fuel of a wicked man’s lusts, so they are fuel to maintain a good man’s love to God; not that their love to God is grounded upon these external benefits. ‘Not thine, but thee, O Lord,’ is the motto of a gracious soul, yet these things serve to blow up the flame of love to God in their hearts, and they find it so.

Does communion with God set the keenest edge upon the soul against sin? You see it does, and you have a great instance of it in Moses, when he had been with God in the mount for forty days and had there enjoyed communion with Him. When he came down and saw the calf the people had made, see what a holy paroxysm of zeal and anger it cast his soul into (Exodus 32:19, 20). Why, the same effect you may discern to follow the saints’ converse with God in His providences. What was that which pierced the heart of David with such a deep sense of the evil of his sin, which is so abundantly manifested in Psalm 51 throughout? Why, if you look into the title, you shall find it was the effect of what Nathan had laid before him, and if you consult 2 Samuel 12:7-10 you will find it was the goodness of God manifested to him in the several endearing providences of his life, which in this he had so evilly requited the Lord for. It was the realization of this that broke his heart to pieces. And I doubt not but some of us have sometimes found the like effects by comparing God’s ways and our own together.

Does communion with the Lord enlarge the heart for obedience and service? Surely it is as oil to the wheels, that makes them run on freely and nimbly in their course. Thus when Isaiah had obtained a special manifestation of God, and the Lord asked: ‘Whom shall I send?’ he presents a ready soul for the employment) ‘Here am I; send me’ (Isaiah 6:8). Why, the very same effect follows sanctified providences, as you may see in Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:5, 6) and in David (Psalm 116:12). O when a soul considers what God has done for him, he cannot choose but say, What shall I return? How shall I answer these engagements?

And thus you see what sweet communion a soul may have with God in the way of His providences. O that you would thus walk with Him! How much of heaven might be found on earth this way! And certainly it will never repent the Lord He has done you good, when His mercies produce such effects upon your hearts. He will say of every favour thus improved, it was well bestowed, and will rejoice over you to do you good for ever.

A great part of the pleasure and delight of the Christian life is made out of the observations of Providence. ‘The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein’ (Psalm 111:2). That is, the study of Providence is so sweet and pleasant that it invites and allures the soul to search and dive into it. How pleasant is it to a well-tempered soul to behold and observe.

Observe the sweet harmony and consent of divine attributes in the issues of Providence! They may seem sometimes to jar and clash, to part with each other, and go contrary ways; but they only seem so to do, for in the winding up, they always meet and embrace each other. ‘Mercy and truth are met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other’ (Psalm 85:10). This is spoken with an immediate reference to that signal providence of Israel’s deliverance out of the Babylonish captivity, and the sweet effects thereof. The truth and righteousness of God in the promises did, as it were, kiss and embrace the mercy and peace that was contained in the performance of them, after they had seemed for seventy years to be at a great distance from each other. For it is an allusion to the usual demonstration of joy and gladness that two dear friends are wont to give and receive after a long absence and separation from each other; they no sooner meet, but they smile, embrace and kiss each other. Even thus it is here. The Hebrew word may be rendered ‘have met us,’ and that also is true; for whenever these blessed promises and performances meet and kiss each other, they are also joyfully embraced and kissed by believing souls. There is, I doubt not, an indirect reference in this Scripture to the Messiah also, and our redemption by Him. In Him it is that these divine attributes, which before seemed to clash and contradict one another in the business of our salvation, have a sweet agreement and accomplishment. Truth and righteousness do in Him meet with mercy and peace in a blessed agreement. What a lovely sight is this, and how pleasant to behold! O, if we would but stand upon our watchtower (Habakkuk 2:3) to take due observations of Providence, what rare prospects might we have! Luther understands it of the Word of God, as much as to say, I will look into the Word, and observe there how God accomplishes all things, and brings them to pass, and how His works are the fulfilling of His Word. Others, as Calvin, understand it of a man’s own retired thoughts and meditations, in which a man carefully observes what purposes and designs God has upon the world in general, or upon himself in particular, and how the truth and righteousness of God in the Word work them selves through all difficulties and impediments, and meet in the mercy, peace and happiness of the saints at last. Every believer, take it in which sense you will, has his watchtower as well as Habakkuk; and give me leave to say, it is an angelic employment to stand up and behold the consent of God’s attributes, the accomplishment of His ends and our own happiness in the works of Providence. For this is the very joy of the angels and saints in heaven, to see God’s ends wrought out and His attributes glorified in the mercy and peace of the Church (Revelation 14:1-3, 8).

And as it is a pleasant sight to see the harmony of God’s attributes, so it is exceedingly pleasant to behold the resurrection of our own prayers and hopes as from the dead. Why, this you may often see, if you will duly observe the works of Providence towards you. We hope and pray for such and such mercies to the Church, or to ourselves; but God delays the accomplishment of our hopes, suspends the answer of our prayers and seems to speak to us: ‘For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it: because it will surely come, it will not tarry’ (Habakkuk 2:3). But we have no patience to wait the time of the promise, our hopes languish and die in the interim; and we say with the despondent Church, ‘My hope is perished from the LORD’ (Lamentations 3:18). But how sweet and comfortable it is to see these prayers fulfilled after we have given up all expectation of them! May we not say of them that it is even ‘life from the dead.’ This was David’s case (Psalm 31:22); he gave up his hopes and prayers for lost, yet lived to see the comfortable and unexpected returns of them. And this was the case of Job (6:11); he had given up all expectation of better days, and yet this man lived to see a resurrection of all his lost comforts with an advantage. Think how that change and unexpected turn of Providence affected his soul. It is with our hopes and prayers as with our alms: ‘Cast thy bread on the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days’ (Ecclesiastes 11:1). Or as it was with Jacob, who had given over all hopes of ever seeing his beloved Joseph again, but when a strange and unexpected Providence had restored that hopeless mercy to him again, O how ravishing and transporting it was! (Genesis 46:29, 30).

What a transporting pleasure it is to behold great blessings and advantages to us wrought by Providence out of those very things that seemed to threaten our ruin or misery! And yet by duly observing the ways of Providence you may to your singular comfort find it so. Little did Joseph think his transportation into Egypt had been in order to his advancement there; yet he lived with joy to see it and with a thankful heart to acknowledge it (Genesis 45:5). Wait and observe, and you shall assuredly find that promise (Romans 8:28) working out its way through all providences. How many times have you been made to say as David, ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted’ (Psalm 119:71). O what a difference we have seen between our afflictions at our first meeting with them, and our parting from them! We have entertained them with sighs and tears but parted from them with joy, blessing God for them, as the happy instruments of our good. Thus our fears and sorrows are turned into praises and songs of thanksgiving.

What unspeakable comfort it is for a poor soul, that sees nothing but sin and vileness in itself, at the same time to see what a high esteem and value the great God has for him!

This may be discerned by a due attendance to Providence, for there a man sees goodness and mercy following him through all his days (Psalm 23:6). Other men pursue good, and it flies from them, they can never overtake it; but goodness and mercy follow the people of God, and they cannot avoid or escape it. It gives them chase day by day, and finds them out even when they sometimes put themselves by sin out of the way of it. In all the providences that befall them goodness and mercy pursue them. O with what a melting heart do they sometimes reflect upon these things! ‘And will not the goodness of God be discouraged from following me, notwithstanding all my vile affronts and abuses of it in former mercies? Lord, what am I, that mercy should thus pursue me, when vengeance and wrath pursue others as good by nature as I am?’ It certainly argues the great esteem God has of a man, when He thus follows him with sanctified providences, whether comforts or crosses, for his good. And so much is plain, from ‘What is man . . that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment!’ (Job 7:17, 18). Certainly, God’s people are His treasure, and by this it appears that they are so, that He withdraws not his eye from them (Job 36:7). I say not that God’s favour and respect to a man may be concluded solely from His providences, but sanctified providences may very much make it clear to us; and when it does so, it cannot but be matter of exceeding great joy.

What is there in all this world that can give a soul such joy and comfort as to find himself by everything set on and furthered in his way to heaven! And yet this may be discerned by a careful attendance to the effects and issues of providences. However contrary the winds and tides of Providence at any time seem to us, yet nothing is more certain than that they all conspire to hasten sanctified souls to God and fit them for glory.

Saint Paul knew that both his bonds and the afflictions added to them should turn to, or, as the word imports, finally issue in his salvation. Not that in themselves they serve to any such purpose; but as they are overruled and determined to such an end, ‘through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:19). When prayer, the external, and the Spirit, the internal means are joined with them, then afflictions themselves become excellent means to promote salvation. And have we not with joy observed how those very things that sense and reason tell us are opposite to our happiness have been the most blessed instruments to promote it! How has God blessed crosses to mortify corruption, wants to kill our wantonness, disappointments to wean us from the world! O we little think how comfortable those things will be in the review, which are so burdensome to present sense!

I beseech you consider what an effectual means the due observation of Providence will be to overpower and suppress the natural atheism that is in your hearts.

There is a natural seed of atheism in the best hearts, and this is very much nourished by passing a rash and false judgment upon the works of Providence. When we see wicked ones prospering in the world, and godly men crushed and destroyed in the way of righteousness and integrity, it may tempt us to think there is no advantage by religion and all our self-denial and holiness to be little better than lost labour. Thus stood the case with good Asaph: ‘Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches’ (Psalm 73:12). And what does the flesh infer from this? Why, no less than the unprofitableness of the ways of holiness: ‘Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency’ (verse 13). This irreligious inference carnal reason was ready to draw from the dispensations of outward prosperity to wicked men; but now if we would carefully observe either the signal retributions of Providence to many of them in this world or to all of them in the world to come, O what a full confirmation is this to our faith! ‘The LORD is known by the judgments which he executeth’ (Psalm 9:16). Psalm 58 contains the characters of the most prodigious sinners, whose wickedness is aggravated by the deliberation with which it is committed (verse 2) by their habit and custom in it (verse 3) and by their incorrigibleness and persistence in it (verses 4, 5). And the Providence of God is there invited to destroy their power (verse 6), and that either by a gradual and unperceived consumption of them (verses 7, 8) or by a sudden and unexpected stroke (verse 9).

And what shall the effects of such providence be to the righteous? Why, it shall be matter of joy (verse 10) and great confirmation to their faith in God: ‘Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth’ (verse 11).

And, on the contrary, how convincingly clear are those providences that demonstrate the being, wisdom, power, love and faithfulness of God in the supporting, preserving and delivering of the righteous in all their dangers, fears and difficulties! In these things the Lord shows Himself to His people (Psalm 94:1). Yea, He shows Himself to spiritual eyes in the providences, as clearly as the sun manifests itself by its own beams of light. ‘And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand; and there was the hiding of his power’ (Habakkuk 3:3, 4). It is spoken of the Lord’s going forth for His people in their deliverance from their enemies. Then He had horns or rays and beams of power and mercy coming out of His hands. By His hands are meant His providential administrations and dispensations, and the horns that came out of them are nothing else but the glorious display of His attributes in those providences. How did God make Himself known to His people in that signal deliverance of them out of Egypt? (Exodus 6:3). Then He was known to them by His name Jehovah in giving being by His providences to the mercies promised.

Thus when Christ shall give His people the last and greatest deliverance from Antichrist, He shall show Himself to His people ‘in a vesture dipped in blood, and his name shall be called, The Word of God’ (Revelation 19:13). His name was the Word of God before; but then He was the Word revealing and manifesting the promises and truths of God; and He is now accomplishing and fulfilling them. ‘For that thy name is near, thy wondrous works declare (Psalm 75:1).

But more particularly, let us bring it home to our own experience. It may be we find ourselves sometimes assaulted with atheistical thoughts. We are tempted to think God has left all things below to the course and sway of nature, that our prayers do not reach Him (Lamentations 3:44), that He does not regard what evils befall us. But tell me, saints, have you not enough at hand to stop the mouths of all such temptations? O do but reflect upon your own experiences, and solemnly ask your own hearts the following questions:

Have you never seen the all-sufficient God in the provisions He has made for you and yours, throughout all the way that you have gone? Who was it that supplied to you whatever was needful in all your straits? Was it not the Lord? ‘He hath given meat unto them that fear him; he will ever be mindful of his covenant’ (Psalm 111:5). O do but consider the constancy, seasonableness and at some times the extraordinariness of these provisions, and how they have been given in answer to prayer, and shut your eyes if you can against the convincing evidence of that great truth: ‘He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous’ (Job 36:7).

Have you not plainly discerned the care of God in your preservation from so many and great dangers as you have escaped and been carried through hitherto? How is it that you have survived so many mortal dangers, sicknesses, accidents, designs of enemies to ruin you? It is, I presume, beyond question with you that the very finger of God has been in these things, and that it is by His care alone you have been preserved. When God had so signally delivered David from a dangerous disease and the plots of enemies against him, ‘By this,’ he says, ‘I know thou favourest me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me’ (Psalm 41:11). He gathered from those gracious protections the care God had over him.

Have you not plainly discerned the hand of God in the returns and accomplishments of your prayers? Nothing can be more evident than this to men of observation. ‘I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto him and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles’ (Psalm 34:6). Parallel to this runs the experience of thousands and ten thousands of Christians this day; they know they have the petitions they asked of Him. The mercy carries the very impress and stamp of the duty upon it, so that we can say, This is the mercy, the very mercy I have so often sought God about. O how satisfying and convincing are these things!

Have you not evidently discerned the Lord’s hand in the guiding and directing of your paths to your unforeseen advantage? Things that you never planned for yourselves have been brought about beyond all your thoughts. Many such things are with God; and which of all the saints has not found that word, ‘The way of man is not in himself’ (Jeremiah 10:23) verified by clear and undeniable experience? I presume, if you will but look over the mercies you possess this day, you will find three to one, it may be ten to one, thus wrought by the Lord for you. And how satisfying beyond all arguments in the world are these experiences, that there is a God to whom His people are exceedingly dear, a God that performs all things for them (Psalm 57:2)! Is it not fully convincing that there is a God who takes care of you, inasmuch as you have found in all the temptations and difficulties of your lives His promises still fulfilled and faithfully performed in all those conditions? I appeal to yourselves, whether you have not seen that promise made good: ‘I will be with him in trouble’ (Psalm 91:15) and that, ‘God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able: but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may he able to bear it’ (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Have not these been as clearly made out by Providence before your eyes, as the sun at noonday? What room then is left for atheistical suggestions in your breasts?

“It is finished.” The first vernacular translation of a portion of God’s word in England.

The Last Chapter

“It is finished.”

–John 19:30

In the year 735 there stood on the south bank of the Tyne…

…near the retired hamlet of Jarrow, a small monastery. On the evening of the 26th of May a stillness, unusual even in that peaceful sanctuary, reigned throughout the building. The monks moved along the corridors with silent tread and solemn faces, ever and anon addressing each other in low, anxious whispers.

On a humble pallet in one of the little cells lay an aged monk. His body was wasted almost to a skeleton. The sunken eyes and hollow cheeks, and quick-drawn, gasping breath told but too plainly that death was near. Beside the bed sat a scribe. A book was before him, and a pen in his hand. He had just raised the pen from the page, and as he held it ready, he looked with an expression of deepest anxiety, mingled with grief, on the face of the dying man.

“Now, father,” he said, “there remains only one chapter; but you speak with difficulty, the exertion is too great.” “It is easy,” replied the monk, in feeble accents. “Take your pen; write—write as fast as you can.” Sentence after sentence flowed from the tremulous lips, and was committed to writing. There was a pause. Nature seemed exhausted. “Father,” said the scribe, with anxious tenderness, “only one sentence is now wanting,—only one.” In faltering accents that sentence too was repeated.

“It is finished,” said the scribe. “It is finished,” repeated the dying saint. “Lift up my head; higher yet; let me sit in my cell. Let me sit in the spot where I have been accustomed to pray.

And now, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.” Thus died the Venerable Bede; and thus was completed the first vernacular translation of a portion of God’s word in England.

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Meet this early Christian and part of your wonderful Christian heritage: Bede (beed; Old English: Bǣda or Bēda; 672/673 – 26 May 735), also referred to as the Venerable Bede, was an English monk at the monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth and its companion monastery, Saint Paul’s, in modern Jarrow, Northeast England, both of which were located in the Kingdom of Northumbria. He is well known as an author and scholar, and his most famous work, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) gained him the title “The Father of English History”.

Bede died on Thursday, 26 May 735 (Ascension Day) and was buried at Jarrow. Cuthbert, a disciple of Bede’s, wrote a letter describing Bede’s last days and his death. According to Cuthbert, Bede fell ill, “with frequent attacks of breathlessness but almost without pain”, before Easter. On the Tuesday, two days before Bede died, his breathing became worse and his feet swelled. He continued to dictate to a scribe, however, and despite spending the night awake in prayer he dictated again the following day. At three o’clock, according to Cuthbert, he asked for a box of his to be brought, and distributed among the priests of the monastery “a few treasures” of his: “some pepper, and napkins, and some incense”. That night he dictated a final sentence to the scribe, a boy named Wilberht, and died soon afterwards.

The brief biographical sketch taken from Wikipedia

Story taken and adapted from Anecdotes Illustrative of New Testament Texts, Author Unknown

The Demoniac of Gadara

demon-possessed-man

“They went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind.” 
— Luke 8:35

Christmas Evans, in a sermon on the cure of the demoniac, says…

“The man out of whom the unclean spirits were cast, besought Jesus that he might be with Him, but He [Jesus] told him to return to his own house, and show how great things God had done unto him. And he went his way, and published, throughout the whole city of Decapolis, how great things Jesus had done unto him.”

I imagine I see him going through the city, crying— ‘Oh, yes! Oh, yes! Oh, yes! Please to take notice of me, the demoniac among the tombs. I am the man who was a terror to the people of this place—that wild man, who would wear no clothes, and that no man could bind. Here am I now, in my right mind—Jesus Christ, the Friend of sinners, had compassion on me. He remembered me when I was in my low estate, when there was no eye to pity, and no hand to save. He cast out the devils and redeemed my soul from destruction!’

“Most wonderful must have been the surprise of the people to hear such proclamation. The ladies running to the windows, the shoemakers throwing their lasts one way and their awls another, running out to meet him and to converse with him, that they might be positive that there was no imposition, and found it to be a fact that could not be contradicted. ‘Oh, the wonder of all wonders! Never was there such a thing,’ must, I think, have been the general conversation.

“And while they were talking, and everybody having something to say, homeward goes the man. As soon as he comes in sight of the house, I imagine I see one of the children running in, and crying, ‘Oh, mother! Father is coming—he will kill us all!’ ‘Children, come all into the house,’ says the mother. ‘Let us fasten the door. I think there is no sorrow like my sorrow!’ says the brokenhearted woman. ‘Are all the windows fastened, children?’ ‘Yes, mother.’ ‘Mary, my dear, come from the window; don’t be standing there.’ ‘Why, mother, I can hardly believe it is father! That man is well dressed!’ ‘Oh, yes, my dear children, it is your own father, I knew him by his walk the moment I saw him.’ Another child stepping to the window, says, ‘Why, mother, I never saw father coming home as he comes to-day. He walks on the footpath, and turns round the corner of the fence. He used to come towards the house as straight as a line, over fences, ditches, and hedges; and I’ve never seen him walk as slowly as he does now.’

“In a few minutes, however, he arrives at the door of the house, to the great terror and consternation of all the huddled family. He gently tries the door, and finds no admittance. He pauses a moment, steps towards the window, and says in a low, firm, and melodious voice, ‘ My dear wife, if you will let me in, there is no danger, I will not hurt you. I bring you glad tidings of great joy.’ The door is reluctantly opened, as it were between joy and fear.

Having deliberately seated himself, he says, ‘I am come to show you what great things God has done for me. He loved me with an everlasting love. He redeemed me from the curse of the law and the threatenings of vindictive justice. He saved me from the power and dominion of sin. He cast the devils out of my heart, and made that heart, which was a den of thieves, the temple of the Holy Spirit. I cannot tell you how much I love my Savior. Jesus Christ is the foundation of my hope, the object of my faith, and the center of my affections. I can venture my immortal soul upon Him. He is my best friend. He is altogether lovely—the chief among ten thousand. He is my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. There is enough in Him to make a poor sinner rich, and a miserable sinner happy. His flesh and blood is my food, His righteousness my wedding garment, and His blood is efficacious to cleanse me from all my sins. Through Him I can obtain eternal life; for He is the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of His person; in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. He deserves my highest esteem, and my warmest gratitude. Unto Him who loved me with an eternal love, and washed me in His own blood, unto Him be the glory, dominion, and power, for ever and ever! For He has rescued my soul from hell. He plucked me as a brand from the burning. He took me out of the miry clay, and out of a horrible pit. He set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings, and put in any mouth a new song of praise, and glory to Him! Glory to Him forever! Glory to God in the Highest! Glory to God for ever and ever! Let the whole earth praise Him! Yea, let all the people praise Him!’

How sweet was all this, the transporting joy of his wife! It is beyond the power of the strongest imagination to conceive the joy and gladness of this family.

It is the joy of seafaring men delivered from shipwreck; it is the joy of a man delivered from a burning house; it is the joy of not being found guilty at a criminal bar; it is the joy of receiving pardon to a condemned malefactor; it is the joy of freedom to a prisoner of war, and it is nothing in comparison to the joy of him who is delivered from going down to the pit of eternal destruction. For it is a joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

Are You an Enemy of the Cross ?

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But there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
–Galatians 1:7

They are the enemies of the cross of Christ.
–Philippians 3:18

Often, the best way to positively set forth the gospel message is by exposing those things which stand against it.

Not only are we armed with “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17), but also with “the shield of faith” (Eph. 6:16). We are not only to “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), but to be even as Paul,“set for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:17). We must not only build the walls with carefulness, but we must be at all times prepared to defend those walls against their enemies (see Neh. 4:17). One of the old Puritans, Thomas Manton (1620-1677), said,

“It is our duty not only to fodder the sheep, but hunt out the wolf. Error is touchy, and is loath to be meddled with; yet we must warn, and warn often.”

We indeed seek to warn the children of the Living God, even with tears as the apostle “that many walk,… that… are enemies of the cross of Christ”… These “grievous wolves” (Acts 20:29) must needs be exposed.

When we say ‘enemies of the cross’, what do we mean? Simply this: ‘the cross’ is often used in the Scripture to denote ‘the gospel’ (1 Cor. 1:18, Gal. 5:11, 6:12).

Those who are ‘enemies of the cross’ are enemies of the gospel which is the message of God’s redeeming grace revealed in His son, Jesus Christ. An enemy of the gospel is ultimately an enemy of Christ.

I believe these ‘enemies of the cross’ fall into three categories:

1.   Those who openly oppose the gospel and teach against it. These enemies are seen quite clearly, so very few words of warning are needful. We are not sent to do battle with infidels and supposed atheists, but we will”let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch”(Mt. 15:14). They are “raging waves of sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 13).

2.   Those who make no profession of love for Christ nor faith in His person. This group is often not so easily distinguished as ‘enemies’ of Christ as the first group clearly is. contained in this category are those who are obviously opposed to Christ for their false Gospel is an open sin and they heed not the warnings of the gospel to “flee from wrath to come” (Mat. 3:7) nor obey its commands to repent (Acts 18:30) and believe the gospel and be baptized (Mk. 16:16). But this group also contains those who do not live in open sin and unrestrained wickedness, yet do not follow Christ and profess Him before men. While those of the latter division are esteemed more highly in the eyes of men, they are equally condemned in the sight of the Lord, who said, “he that is not with me is against me” (Mat. 12:30). “Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him sill I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Mt. 10:32,33). “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:27).

3.   Those who professedly and seemingly walk in the gospel, yet in reality are set against it. This category is the most difficult to deal with; for those who make it up are often extremely hard to distinguish from the true bearers of the cross. Therefore they are the most dangerous enemies and the ones which Paul specifically warns us of in the texts. “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14,15). Another difficulty in dealing with this group is that many sincere people (and I doubt not, come true children of God) follow the teachings of these false prophets out of ignorance. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John. 4:1).

These enemies of the cross are those who set up any standard for faith, conduct, doctrine, or practice, other than the Holy Scriptures.

Of course they would not be bold so as to blatantly deny the supremacy of the Word, yet they subtly set up other standards. Such persons rely on tradition (“Well, we have always believed this or done this”), what their denomination or church teaches (“If it’s not what my church believes, I don’t even want to hear it or think about it”), special revelations and leadings of the Lord (“I feel like the Lord is leading me to…”), or their own ideas and understanding (“That doctrine cannot possibly be true because I don’t understand it”), rather than being like the Bereans who, “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). They are the ‘enemies of the cross’ for, “if they speak not according to this word (the law and testimony) it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

Those who teach that the free will of man is the determining factor in salvation are also subtle ‘enemies of the cross.’

Their teaching has spawned a generation of hypocrites who “draw near (the Lord) with their mouth… but have removed their heart far from (Him) and their fear toward (Him) is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). Many have been swallowed up by their zeal to make converts. but oh how many true converts are there in this day of those “who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:19) and have a “form of godliness but deny the power thereof” (2 Tim. 2:5)? Who can give “a reason of the hope that is in them” (1 Pet. 3:15)?

These are also ‘enemies of the cross’ whose message of salvation begins, is sustained, or ends with anyone or anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Some give pre-eminence to the Holy Spirit, and truly He is to be worshipped, but His presence is always marked by the fact that Christ alone is exalted. “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come… He shall glorify me (Christ).” (John 16:13,14).

Finally, they are ‘enemies’ who preach any message which gives men any thing that they can glory in or boast of in their salvation. From the beginning to end, our salvation is all of God’s grace. He has designed it, He has provided it, He applies it, and He sustains it. He is going to have all the glory in salvation of men and He will not share that glory. Salvation is in Him and Him alone (Acts 4:12). We are helpless and hopeless. We need Him. He does not need us. We are shut up to His mercy. A man will not be saved unless God is pleased to grant mercy. There is no salvation but that which He wills to bestow upon men. Oh but this is good news, for He is a God who delights in mercy. He has shown to thousands who call on His name. My friend, I plead with you to fly to His throne this moment and seek that saving mercy. Perhaps He shall be pleased to save you from your certain ruin. Bow down at His feet today; call upon Him while He is near. But oh believe not the great swelling words of those who tell men that they can be saved anytime they want to by an act of their own will. I tell you even weeping, ‘they are the enemies of the cross of Christ’.

–Mike McInnis

The Perfect Efficiency of a Limited Atonement

Taken and adapted from, “The Reformed Faith”
Written by, Loraine Boettner 

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We are not told why God does not save all mankind…

….when all were equally undeserving, and when the sacrifice on Calvary was that of a Person of infinite value, amply sufficient to save all men had God so desired it. But the Scriptures do tell us that not all will be saved. However, we can say that the atonement, which was worked out at an enormous cost to God Himself, is His own property, and that He is at liberty to make whatever use of it He chooses. No man has any claim to any part of it. We are told repeatedly that salvation is by grace. And grace is favor shown to the undeserving, even to the ill-deserving. If any part of man’s salvation were due to his own good works, then indeed there would be a difference in men, and those who had responded to the gracious offer could justly point the finger of scorn at the lost and say, “You had the same chance that I had. I accepted, but you refused. Therefore you have no excuse.” But no. God has so arranged this system that those who are saved can only be eternally grateful that God has saved them.

It is not for us to ask why God does as He does, for the Scripture declares: 

“Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou make me thus? Or hath no the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering vessels fitted unto destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy which he afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he also called.” (Rom. 9:20-24)

Only the Calvinist seems to take the fall of man seriously. A proper evaluation of the fall and of man’s present hopeless condition is the missing element in so much of today’s thinking, teaching and preaching. Arminianism seriously errs in assuming that man has sufficient ability to turn to God if only he will. The Calvinist insists that man is not merely sick or indisposed or just needs the right incentive, but that he is spiritually dead, and that the atonement of Christ does not merely make salvation an abstract possibility such that all men can turn to God if they will. The Calvinist holds that the atonement was an objective work accomplished in history which removed all legal barriers against those to whom it was to be applied, and that it would be followed by the work of the Holy Spirit subjectively applying the merits of that atonement to the hearts of those for whom it was divinely intended.

We call attention again to one of the most important verses in Scripture concerning the matter of salvation: “No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him” (John 6:44). Another like it is; “All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me; and he that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). And to the Christians in Corinth, Paul wrote: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged” (I Cor. 2:14).

And how does God cause the elect to exercise faith? The answer is: In regeneration the Holy Spirit subdues man’s heart to Himself, and imparts to man a new nature which loves righteousness and hates sin. He does not force man against his will, but makes him lovingly and spontaneously obedient to His will.

When the Lord Jesus appeared to the hardened persecutor Saul as he was on the way to Damascus, he immediately became obedient to the Lord’s will. “Thy people offer themselves willingly in the day of thy power,” said the Psalmist (110:3). Thus God gives His people the will to come. That act on God’s part, in the sub-conscious nature of the person, is known as regeneration, or as a new birth, or being born again. When a man is thus given a new nature, he reacts according to that nature, as do all of God’s creatures. He then exercises faith and does good works characteristic of repentance as naturally as the grape-vine produces grapes. Whereas sin was his natural element, now holiness becomes his natural element – not all at once, for he still has remnants of the old nature clinging to him, and as long as he remains in this world he still is in a sinful environment. But as his new nature is free to express itself he grows in righteousness; he enjoys reading God’s Word, praying, and having fellowship with other Christians.

We therefore have to choose between an atonement of high-efficiency which is perfectly accomplished, and an atonement of wide extension which is imperfectly accomplished. We cannot have both.

If we had both we would have universal salvation. But the Arminian extends the atonement so widely that so far as its actual effect is concerned, it has practically no value other than as an example of unselfish service. Dr. B.B. Warfield used a very simple illustration to present this truth. He said that the atonement is like pie dough – the wider you roll it the thinner it becomes. And the Arminian, in making it apply to all men, reduces its effectiveness to such an extent that it becomes practically no atonement at all.

Furthermore, for God to have laid the sins of all men on Christ would mean that as regards the lost He would be punishing their sins twice, once in Christ, and then again in them. Certainly that would be unjust. If Christ paid their debt, they are free, and the Holy Spirit would invariably bring them to faith and repentance. If the atonement was truly unlimited, it would mean that Christ died for multitudes whose fate already had been determined, who already were in hell at the time He suffered. If the atonement merely nullified the sentence that was against man so as to give him a new chance if he would exercise faith and obedience, it would mean that God was placing him on test again as was his ancestor Adam. But that kind of a test was tried and had its outcome long ago, even in a far more favorable environment. Carried to its logical conclusion, the theory of unlimited atonement leads to absurdity.

We should remember that Christ’s suffering in His human nature, as He hung on the cross those six hours, was not primarily physical, but mental and spiritual. When He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” He was literally suffering the pangs of hell. For that is essentially what hell is, separation from God, separation from everything that is good and desirable. Such suffering is beyond our comprehension. But since He suffered as a divine-human person, His suffering was a just equivalent for all that His people would have suffered in an eternity in hell.

As a matter of fact, the redeemed man gains more through redemption in Christ than he lost through the fall of Adam. For in the incarnation God literally came into the human race and took human nature upon Himself, which nature Christ in His glorified body will retain forever, and evidently He will be the only visible God that we will see in heaven. Peter tells us that we now are “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4); and Paul says that we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Think of that! Partakers of the divine nature, and joint-heirs with Christ! What greater blessing could God possibly confer upon us? As such we are superior to the angels, for they are designated in Scripture only as God’s messengers, His servants.

Ultimately the Arminian is faced with precisely the same problem as is the Calvinist – that broader problem as to why a God of infinite holiness and power permits sin at all. In our present state of knowledge we can give only a partial answer. But the Calvinist faces up to that problem, acknowledges the Scriptural doctrine that all men had their fair and favorable chance in Adam, that God now graciously saves some of the fallen race while leaving others to go their own chosen sinful way and manifests His justice in their punishment. But having admitted foreknowledge, the Arminianism has no explanation as to why God purposefully and deliberately creates those who He knows will be lost and who will spend eternity in hell.

However, as regards the problem of evil, we can say that God created this world as a theater in which He would display His glory, His marvelous attributes for all of His creatures to see and admire – His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Here we are concerned primarily with His justice.

God’s justice demands that goodness must be rewarded and that sin must be punished. And it is just as necessary that sin be punished as it is that goodness be rewarded. God would be unjust if He failed to do either. Therefore He created men and angels not as robots who would automatically produce good works as a machine produces bolts or tin cans but who would deserve no rewards, but as free moral agents, in His own image, capable, in Adam before the fall, of choosing between good and evil. He manifests His justice toward those whom He has purposed in grace to save by rewarding them for the good works that are found in Christ their Savior and credited to them, confirming them in holiness, and admitting them into heaven. And He manifests His justice toward those whom He has purposed to by-pass for their willing continuance in sin.

Likewise, if sin had been excluded, there could have been no adequate revelation God’s most glorious attributes, grace, mercy, love and holiness, as is displayed in His redemption of sinners. Let us remember that the angels in heaven earned salvation through a covenant of works, by keeping God’s law. As in the Case of Adam, they had been promised certain rewards if they obeyed. They did obey, and were confirmed in holiness. They have not experienced salvation by grace. There is an old hymn which says, “When I sing redemption’s story, the angels will fold their wings and listen.” And so it will be in the ultimate contrast between men and angels.

Hence the explanation of sin is that God permits it, but controls and overrules it for His own glory. If sin had been excluded from the creation those glorious attributes could never have been adequately displayed before His intelligent universe of men and angels, but for the most part would have remained forever hidden in the depths of the divine nature.

The Wayward Daughter

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A mother whose daughter had behaved very badly…

…and at length had run away from home, thought of a singular plan in order to find the wanderer and draw her back to her home. After having exhausted the ordinary means, she had her own portrait fixed on a large handbill and pasted on the walls of the town where she supposed her daughter to be concealed. The portrait, without name, had these words, “I love thee always.”

Crowds stopped before the strange handbill, trying to guess its meaning. Days elapsed, when the young girl at last passed by, and in her turn lifted her eyes to the singular placard. “Can it be?” Yes, truly it is the picture of my mother. Those eyes, full of tenderness, I know from childhood. Why is it here?” She approaches nearer and reads. “I love thee always,” She understood; this was a message for her. Her mother loved her, –and had pardoned her.

Those words transformed the daughter. Never had she felt her sin or ingratitude so deeply. She was unworthy of such love. “She loves me always,” she cried.

If she had ever doubted that love, if in moments of distress she had feared to return home, those doubts were all gone now. She set out for the house of her mother; at last she crosses the threshold and collapses in her mother’s arms.

“My child!” cried the mother, as she presses her crying and repentant daughter to her heart; “I have never ceased to love thee.”

Isn’t that like God? 

Are you one of those who longs to come home, but feel you have done too much, or gone too far?  Your Father loves you. Your elder brother died for you.  All heaven is looking and hoping that you will come home. It is not too much to imagine angels traveling between earth and heaven with news about you.  Your whole heavenly family yearns for your presence, and looks for your safe arrival….

Will you not come?  Will you not turn around? Will you not come home, now? Come home!  It is my prayer that you will.

The story of the daughter was by, La bonne Nouville.