PRECIOUS REMEDIES AGAINST SATAN’S DEVICES: Part Four. Satan’s Devices to Draw the Soul to Sin

Taken, condensed and adapted from, “PRECIOUS REMEDIES AGAINST SATAN’S DEVICES”
Written by, Thomas Brooks

383273_orig

Ah! says Satan, it is but a little pride, a little worldliness, a little uncleanness, a little drunkenness, etc…

DEVICE 3: BY MODERATING, JUSTIFYING, AND LESSENING OF SIN

 As Lot said of Zoar, “It is but a little one, and my soul shall live” (Gen. 19:20). Alas! says Satan, it is but a very little sin that you stick so at. You may commit it without any danger to your soul. It is but a little one; you may commit it, and yet your soul shall live.

Remedy (1). First; Solemnly consider, that those sins which we are apt to account small, have brought upon men the greatest wrath of God, as the eating of an apple, gathering a few sticks on the Sabbath day, and touching of the ark. Oh! the dreadful wrath that these sins brought down upon the heads and hearts of men! The least sin is contrary to the law of God, the nature of God, the being of God, and the glory of God; and therefore it is often punished severely by God; and do not we see daily the vengeance of the Almighty falling upon the bodies, names, states, families, and souls of men—for those sins that are but little ones in their eyes? Surely if we are not utterly forsaken by God, and blinded by Satan—we cannot but see it! Oh! therefore, when Satan says it is but a little one—you must say, Oh, but those sins which you call little, are such as will cause God to rain hell out of heaven upon sinners as he did upon the Sodomites!

Remedy (2). Seriously to consider, That the giving way to a less sin makes way for the committing of a greater sin. He who, to avoid a greater sin, will yield to a lesser, ten thousand to one but God in justice will leave that soul to fall into a greater. If we commit one sin to avoid another, it is just we should avoid neither, we having not law nor power in our own hands to keep off sin as we please; and we, by yielding to the lesser, do tempt the tempter to tempt us to the greater. Sin is of an encroaching nature; it creeps on the soul by degrees, step by step, until it has the soul to the very height of sin. David gives way to his wandering eye, and this led him to those foul sins that caused God to break his bones, and to turn his day into night, and to leave his soul in great darkness. Jacob and Peter, and other saints, have found this true by woeful experience, that the yielding to a lesser sin has been the ushering in of a greater. The little thief will open the door, and make way for the greater; and the little wedge knocked in, will make way for the greater.

Satan will first draw you to sit with the drunkard, and then to sip with the drunkard, and then at last to be drunk with the drunkard. He will first draw you to be unclean in your thoughts, and then to be unclean in your looks, and then to be unclean in your words, and at last to be unclean in your practices. He will first draw you to look upon the golden wedge, and then to desire the golden wedge, and then to handle the golden wedge, and then at last by wicked ways to take the golden wedge, though you run the hazard of losing God and your soul forever; as you may see in Gehazi, Achan, and Judas, and many in these our days. Sin is never at a stand-still (Psalm 1:1), first ungodly, then sinners, then scorners. Here they go on from sin to sin, until they come to the top of sin, that is, to sit in the seat of scorners.

By all this we see, that the yielding to lesser sins, draws the soul to the committing of greater. Ah! how many in these days have fallen, first to have low thoughts of Scripture and ordinances, and then to slight Scripture and ordinances, and then to make a nose of wax of Scripture and ordinances, and then to cast off Scripture and ordinances, and then at last to advance and lift up themselves, and their Christ-dishonoring and soul-damning opinions, above Scripture and ordinances.

Sin gains upon man’s soul by insensible degrees. “The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talking is mischievous madness.” (Eccles. 10:13) Corruption in the heart, when it breaks forth, is like a breach in the sea, which begins in a narrow passage, until it eats through, and cast down all before it. The debates of the soul are quick, and soon ended; and that may be done in a moment that may undo a man forever. When a man has begun to sin, he knows not where, or when, or how he shall make a stop of sin. Usually the soul goes on from evil to evil, from folly to folly, until it is ripe for eternal misery!

Remedy (3). The third remedy against this third device that Satan has to draw the soul to sin, is solemnly to consider, that it is sad to sin against God for a trifle. The Rich Man would not give a crumb; therefore, he should not receive a drop (Luke 16:21). It is the greatest folly in the world—to adventure the going to hell for a small matter. “I tasted but a little honey,” said Jonathan, “and I must die” (1 Sam. 14:29). It is a most unkind and unfaithful thing to break with God, for a little. Little sins carry with them but little temptations to sin, and then a man shows most viciousness and unkindness, when he sins on a little temptation. It is devilish to sin without a temptation; it is little less than devilish to sin on a little occasion. The less the temptation is to sin—the greater is that sin. Saul’s sin in not waiting for Samuel, was not so much in the matter—but it was much in the malice of it; for though Samuel had not come at all, yet Saul should not have offered sacrifice; but this cost him dear—his soul and kingdom.

It is the greatest unkindness that can be showed to a friend, to project the complaining, bleeding, and grieving of his soul—upon a light and a slight occasion. So it is the greatest unkindness that can be showed to God, Christ, and the Spirit, for a soul to put God upon complaining, Christ upon bleeding, and the Spirit upon grieving—by yielding to little sins. Therefore, when Satan says it is but a little one, you must answer—that oftentimes there is the greatest unkindness showed to God’s glorious majesty, in the acting of the least folly, and therefore you will not displease your best and greatest friend—by yielding to his greatest enemy.

Remedy (4). The fourth remedy against this device of Satan, is seriously to consider, That there is great danger, yes, many times most danger—in the smallest sins. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). If the serpent sneaks in his head, he will draw in his whole body after him. Greater sins do sooner startle the soul, and awaken and rouse up the soul to repentance, than lesser sins do. Little sins often slide into the soul, and breed, and work secretly and indiscernibly in the soul, until they come to be so strong, as to trample upon the soul, and to cut the throat of the soul. There is oftentimes greatest danger to our bodies in the least diseases that hang upon us, because we are apt to make light of them, and to neglect the timely use of means for removing of them, until they are grown so strong that they prove mortal to us. So there is most danger often in the least sins.

We are apt to take no notice of them, and to neglect those heavenly helps whereby they should be weakened and destroyed, until they are grown to that strength, that we are ready to cry out, the medicine is too weak for the disease! I would pray, and I would hear—but I am afraid that sin is grown up by degrees to such a head, that I shall never be able to prevail over it; but as I have begun to fall, so I shall utterly fall before it, and at last perish in it, unless the power and free grace of Christ acts gloriously, beyond my present apprehension and expectation. The viper is killed by the little young ones that are nourished and cherished in her belly—so are many men eternally killed and betrayed by the little sins, as they call them, that are nourished in their own bosoms.

I know not, says one, whether the nurture of the least sin be not worse than the commission of the greatest—for this may be of frailty, that argues obstinacy. A little hole in the ship sinks it. A small breach in a dyke carries away all before it. A little stab at the heart kills a man. A little sin, without a great deal of mercy, will damn a man!

Remedy (5). The fifth remedy against this device of Satan, is solemnly to consider, that other saints have chosen to suffer the worst of torments, rather than commit the least sin, that is, what the world accounts little sins. So as you may see in Daniel and his companions, that would rather choose to burn, and be cast to the lions—than they would bow to the idol which Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When this ‘slight offense’, in the world’s account, and a hot fiery furnace stood in competition, that they must either fall into sin, or be cast into the fiery furnace—such was their tenderness of the honor and glory of God, and their hatred and indignation against sin, that they would rather burn than sin! They knew that it was far better to burn for their not sinning, than that God and conscience should raise a hell, a fire in their bosoms for sin.

I have read of that noble servant of God, Marcus Arethusius, minister of a church in the time of Constantine, who had been the cause of overthrowing an idol’s temple; afterwards, when Julian came to be emperor, he would force the people of that place to build it up again. They were ready to do it—but Marcus refused; whereupon those who were his own people, to whom he preached, took him, and stripped him of all his clothes, and abused his naked body, and gave it up to the children, to lance it with their pen-knives, and then caused him to be put in a basket, and drenched his naked body with honey, and set him in the sun, to be stung with wasps. And all this cruelty they showed, because he would not do anything towards the building up of this idol temple! No, they came to this, that if he would do but the least towards it, if he would give but a half-penny to it, they would save him. But he refused all, though the giving of a half-penny might have saved his life; and in doing this, he did but live up to that principle that most Christians talk of, and all profess—but few come up to, that is—that we must choose rather to suffer the worst of torments that men and devils can invent and inflict, than to commit the least sin whereby God should be dishonored, our consciences wounded, religion reproached, and our own souls endangered.

Remedy (6). The sixth remedy against this device of Satan is, seriously to consider, That the soul is never able to stand under the guilt and weight of the least sin, when God shall set it home upon the soul. The least sin will press and sink the stoutest sinner as low as hell, when God shall open the eyes of a sinner, and make him see the horrid filthiness and abominable vileness that is in sin! What so little, base, and vile creatures—as lice or gnats—and yet by these little poor creatures, God so plagued stout-hearted Pharaoh, and all Egypt, that, fainting under it, they were forced to cry out, “This is the finger of God!” (Exod. 8:16; 10. 19). When little creatures, yes, the least creatures, shall be armed with a power from God, they shall press and sink down the greatest, proudest, and stoutest tyrants who breathe!

So when God shall cast a sword into the hand of a little sin, and arm it against the soul, the soul will faint and fall under it. Some, who have but contemplated adultery, without any actual acting it; and others, having found a trifle, and made no conscience to restore it, knowing, by the light of natural conscience, that they did not do as they would be done by; and others, that have had some unworthy thought of God, have been so frightened, amazed, and terrified for those sins, which are small in men’s account, that they have wished they had never been born; that they could take no delight in any earthly comfort, that they have been put to their wits’ end, ready to make away themselves, wishing themselves annihilated.

William Perkins mentions a good man—but very poor, who, being ready to starve, stole a lamb, and being about to eat it with his poor children, and as his manner was afore eating, to ask God’s blessing, dare not do it—but fell into a great perplexity of conscience, and acknowledged his fault to the owner, promising payment if ever he should be able.

Remedy (7). The seventh remedy against this device is, solemnly to consider, That there is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest affliction; and this appears as clear as the sun, by the severe dealing of God the Father with his beloved Son, who let all the vials of his fiercest wrath upon him, and that for the least sin as well as for the greatest.

“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23); of ALL sin, whether great or small, Oh! how should this make us tremble—as much at the least spark of lust as at hell itself; considering that God the Father would not spare his bosom Son, no, not for the least sin—but would make him drink the dregs of his wrath!

And so much for the remedies that may fence and preserve our souls from being drawn to sin by this third device of Satan.

The Imputed Righteousness of Christ in the Complete Salvation of Man

Taken, edited and adapted from, “Sermons, Fragments of Sermons, And Letters”
Written by William Gadsby, Of Manchester.

flowers_colorful_flower-01

The Christ of God, who is “come in the flesh,” is not only come to represent his people who are in union to him, but he is come to accomplish a complete salvation for them…

Not come to make it possible for them to save themselves; not come to open a way whereby, through their exertions, they may secure their own salvation. A Christ of that nature is one of the devil’s inventing. It is antichrist. It is not the Christ of God. No, no. The Christ of God is come “to put away sin,” “to finish transgression and to make an end of sin, and to bring in everlasting righteousness,” to “redeem from all iniquity,” and to “redeem unto God.” So we find, when the Holy Ghost is speaking upon the subject, he says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Do you not see, beloved, how it is? Has God made you to feel it? If this little word it gets into your conscience, it is a blessed thing, if God the Spirit puts it there. He gave himself for it. Not “gave himself” indefinitely “for all sin of all men,”—the doctrine of the day, to accomplish a great salvation, and make it possible for those who please to save themselves; that is antichrist; I do not care who preaches it, nor who believes it; it is not the Christ of God. No, no. God’s Christ has finished transgression, and made a complete atonement for sin; such an atonement that, as the Holy Ghost solemnly declares, “the redeemed of the Lord shall come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Now the Christ that you believe in and have felt in your soul, is it a Christ of this nature? Or is it a Christ that you say gives all men a chance of being saved, has done the best he can to save them, has made it possible for them to accomplish the conditions of salvation and so to save themselves? That is antichrist; as the living God is in heaven, that is not his Christ. God’s Christ has so completed the work that all the perfections of the Eternal Jehovah harmonize in it, to the complete salvation of God’s people. Hence it is said that “Israel shall be saved in the Lord;” not have a chance of being saved.

A chance of being saved?

Why, bless you, when I hear men talk about a chance of being saved, I am led to reflect— Then the declarative glory of the Eternal Trinity hangs upon a chance; the honor of God the Father hangs upon chance; the honor and effect of the work of God the Son hangs upon chance; the honor of God the Spirit, in his quickening, enlightening, sanctifying power, hangs upon chance! And that chance, too, to be accomplished by man—a poor, dying, crawling reptile! —the eternal Trinity having to wait in heaven to see if perchance we will let him work! Talk of Christ! It is antichrist. It is an insulting of God’s Christ; a despising of the Christ God has revealed in his Word and makes known in the hearts and consciences of his people.

If we believe that God’s Christ “is come in the flesh,” then, we believe that he has come as the Head and Representative of his people, and that he has completed their salvation and entirely finished the work. Yea, bless his holy name, we are brought to believe and feel in our souls that he has accomplished such a work that it can neither be mended nor marred. The manifestation of it may go through a variety of changes, and we through a variety of changes under it; but the work is as firm as the throne of God, and it shall stand forever. “His work is perfect; a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he.” The Christ of God that has “come in the flesh” is one that has accomplished this blessed, this God-glorifying work. Any other Christ is not the Christ of God, but it is antichrist, another Jesus, one of those “false Christs” that the Lord said should arise, and should deceive many; and so, God knows, there are many who are deceived.  

But, then, we observe further. the Lord Christ that is “come in the flesh” is that blessed Christ that has wrought out a complete righteousness for the justification of his people; not only atoned for their sins, but wrought out a righteousness, to present them just and perfect and righteous in his blessed and pure obedience. 

I know some people say, “O yes; we have a righteousness through Christ; he has accomplished such a work that if we are faithful and add our faithfulness to his work, we shall obtain righteousness and holiness too; but not without.” Why, then, the Christ that has done that is not God’s Christ; it is antichrist. The Christ of God that has “come in the flesh,” is emphatically called “The Lord our righteousness;” and God tells us plainly that it is not through, but “in the Lord,” that “all the seed of Israel shall be justified.” And this is the reason why an inspired Paul was anxiously concerned “to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness.” “Not having your own righteousness,” Paul? Why, you were a very zealous man, a pious man, a suffering man, a man led to undergo a great deal for Christ, in shipwrecks, and prisons, and stripes, and perils, and after all cannot you wear your own righteousness? No, says Paul; do not let me have that on! Well, but what righteousness could Paul wish to appear in then? “Not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” And here it is, that the poor child of God is brought, in solemn silence sometimes and in solemn awe, to bow before God, when “clothed and in his right mind,” and to see that he is “complete in Christ;” complete in him, who is “Head over all principalities and powers,” “God blessed forever.”

I know, antichrist mocks at the idea of looking for imputed righteousness, or depending upon imputed righteousness. Imputed righteousness, some say, is imputed nonsense. Now, so charitable am I, that I believe that a man who lives and dies declaring the imputed righteousness of Christ to be nonsense, dies to be damned, as sure as God is in heaven. I do not care who he is, nor what he is; the spirit by which he is guided is antichrist. It is not “the Spirit of God;” for God’s Christ is Christ “our righteousness” “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” Of God’s Christ it is said, that “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,” and that we are “justified freely through the redemption that is in him.” And when the Lord the Spirit brings this solemn mystery into the conscience of a poor, burdened, dejected, drooping sinner, O what glory teems into his heart!

To be led in faith and feeling to see that he stands before God in the spotless, pure, perfect obedience of Christ; his righteousness justifying him so fully and completely that God himself, by the apostle, challenges all creation to “lay anything to his charge,” this is Christ!

Hence, says the apostle, “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus;” not to them that talk about, nor to them that bring forth a false Christ, but to them that are really in God’s Christ. Why, that poor soul is so wrapped up in God’s Christ that in the sight of God it is Christ that is seen, and the man is seen in Christ; and therefore he is just and righteous and complete. This is the Christ that is “come in the flesh,”—Christ “our righteousness;” and we in his righteousness are brought to stand “complete in him.” “But then,” say some of you, “we must have holiness. Talk what you will about being righteous in Christ, we must have personal holiness. Except we have personal holiness, and are made pure and sanctified, what will the righteousness of Christ do for us? It will not save us.” Well, where will you look for personal holiness? In your Christ, which is a Christ that has done something for you, and leaves you to complete the work, by your penitence and mortification and alms-deeds and wonders that you are to manufacture? Is that what you mean by personal holiness? If it is, I hope you will keep it to yourselves. I hope God will not suffer me to be plagued with it; I have plague enough without it. But if, by personal holiness, you mean being made a partaker of the divine nature, by the quickening, enlightening power and divine communications of God the Holy Ghost, having Christ formed in the soul the hope of glory, being saved by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, all centering in and proceeding from Christ, then you have a holiness that will stand the test of God’s Word: “For Christ is made of God unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” And when his blessed Majesty is being spoken of under the Old Testament dispensation, this is his language: “I am like a green fir-tree; from me is thy fruit found.”

What is the holiness of a child of God, then—his real personal holiness? It is couched in this one blessed thing, in all the manifested bearings of it—Christ in you.

PRECIOUS REMEDIES AGAINST SATAN’S DEVICES: Part Three. Satan’s Devices to Draw the Soul to Sin

Taken, condensed and adapted from, “PRECIOUS REMEDIES AGAINST SATAN’S DEVICES”
Written by, Thomas Brooks

a5536ffb2983bf57bfba57b09dd4dfbd

DEVICE 3: BY PAINTING SIN WITH VIRTUE’S COLORS.

Satan knows that if he would present sin in its own nature and dress, the soul would rather fly from it than yield to it; and therefore he presents it unto us, not in its own proper colors—but painted and gilded over with the name and show of virtue, that we may the more easily be overcome by it, and take the more pleasure in committing of it. PRIDE, he presents to the soul under the name and notion of neatness and cleanliness; and COVETOUSNESS (which the apostle condemns for idolatry) to be but good business; and DRUNKENNESS to be good fellowship, and RIOTOUSNESS under the name and notion of liberality, and WANTONNESS as a trick of youth.

Remedy (1). Consider that sin is never a whit the less filthy, vile, and abominable—by its being colored and painted with virtue’s colors. A poisonous pill is never a whit the less poisonous because it is gilded over with gold; nor a wolf is never a whit the less a wolf because he has put on a sheep’s skin; nor the devil is never a whit the less a devil because he appears sometimes like an angel of light. So neither is sin any whit the less filthy and abominable by its being painted over with virtue’s colors.

Remedy (2). That the more sin is painted forth under the color of virtue, the more dangerous it is to the souls of men. This we see evident in these days, by those very many souls that are turned out of the way that is holy—and in which their souls have had sweet and glorious communion with God—into ways of highest vanity and folly, by Satan’s neat coloring over of sin, and painting forth vice under the name and color of virtue. This is so notoriously known that I need but name it. The most dangerous vermin is too often to be found under the fairest and sweetest flowers, the fairest glove is often drawn upon the foulest hand, and the richest robes are often put upon the filthiest bodies. So are the fairest and sweetest names upon the greatest and the most horrible vices and errors that be in the world. Ah! that we had not too many sad proofs of this among us!

Remedy (3). To look on sin with that eye with which within a short time, we shall see it. Ah, souls! when you shall lie upon a dying bed, and stand before a judgment-seat, sin shall be unmasked, and its dress and robes shall then be taken off, and then it shall appear more vile, filthy, and terrible than hell itself; then, that which formerly appeared most sweet will appear most bitter, and that which appeared most beautiful will appear most ugly, and that which appeared most delightful will then appear most dreadful to the soul. Ah, the shame, the pain, the gall, the bitterness, the horror, the hell that the sight of sin, when its dress is taken off, will raise in poor souls! Sin will surely prove evil and bitter to the soul when its robes are taken off. A man may have the stone who feels no fit of it. Conscience will work at last, though for the present one may feel no fit of accusation. Laban showed himself at parting. Sin will be bitterness in the latter end, when it shall appear to the soul in its own filthy nature.

The devil deals with men as the panther does with beasts; he hides his deformed head until his sweet scent has drawn them into his danger. Until we have sinned, Satan is a parasite; when we have sinned, he is a tyrant. O souls! the day is at hand when the devil will pull off the paint and garnish that he has put upon sin, and present that monster, sin, in such a monstrous shape to your souls, that will cause your thoughts to be troubled, your countenance to be changed, the joints of your loins to be loosed, and your knees to be dashed one against another, and your hearts to be so terrified, that you will be ready, with Ahithophel and Judas, to strangle and hang your bodies on earth, and your souls in hell, if the Lord has not more mercy on you than he had on them. Oh! therefore, look upon sin now as you must look upon it to all eternity, and as God, conscience, and Satan will present it to you another day!

Remedy (4). Seriously to consider, That even those very sins that Satan paints, and puts new names and colors upon, cost the best blood, the noblest blood, the life-blood, the heart-blood of the Lord Jesus. That Christ should come from the eternal bosom of his Father to a region of sorrow and death; that God should be manifested in the flesh, the Creator made a creature; that he who was clothed with glory should be wrapped with rags of flesh; he who filled heaven and earth with his glory should be cradled in a manger; that the almighty God should flee from weak man—the God of Israel into Egypt; that the God of the law should be subject to the law, the God of the circumcision circumcised, the God who made the heavens working at Joseph’s homely trade; that he who binds the devils in chains should be tempted; that he, whose is the world, and the fullness thereof, should hunger and thirst; that the God of strength should be weary, the Judge of all flesh condemned, the God of life put to death; that he who is one with his Father should cry out of misery, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46); that he who had the keys of hell and death at his belt should lie imprisoned in the sepulcher of another, having in his lifetime nowhere to lay his head, nor after death to lay his body; that HEAD, before which the angels do cast down their crowns, should be crowned with thorns, and those EYES, purer than the sun, put out by the darkness of death; those EARS, which hear nothing but hallelujahs of saints and angels, to hear the blasphemies of the multitude; that FACE, which was fairer than the sons of men, to be spit on by those beastly wretched Jews; that MOUTH and TONGUE, which spoke as never man spoke, accused for blasphemy; those HANDS, which freely swayed the scepter of heaven, nailed to the cross; those FEET, “like unto fine brass,” nailed to the cross for man’s sins; each sense pained with a spear and nails; his SMELL, with stinking odor, being crucified on Golgotha, the place of skulls; his TASTE, with vinegar and gall; his HEARING, with reproaches, and SIGHT of his mother and disciples bemoaning him; his SOUL, comfortless and forsaken; and all this for those very sins that Satan paints and puts fine colors upon! Oh! how should the consideration of this stir up the soul against sin, and work the soul to fly from it, and to use all holy means whereby sin may be subdued and destroyed!

After Julius Caesar was murdered, Antonius brought forth his coat, all bloody and cut, and laid it before the people, saying, “Look, here you have the emperor’s coat thus bloody and torn”—whereupon the people were presently in an uproar, and cried out to slay those murderers; and they took their tables and stools which were in the place, and set them on fire, and ran to the houses of those who had slain Caesar, and burnt them. So that when we consider that sin has slain our Lord Jesus, ah, how should it provoke our hearts to be revenged on sin—which has murdered the Lord of glory, and has done that mischief that all the devils in hell could never have done?

It was good counsel one gave, “Never let go out of your minds the thoughts of a crucified Christ.” Let these be food and drink unto you; let them be your sweetness and consolation, your honey and your desire, your reading and your meditation, your life, death, and resurrection.

Why the Paternal Love of God Sends Us Afflictions

Taken from, “The Great Duty of Resignation to the Divine Will in Affliction”
Written by William Bates, The Queen’s Puritan, Published 1645.

11225230_910913512316645_1174074892245092032_n

The Lord disciplines the one he loves,
                                                               and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
                                                                                                 –Hebrews 12:6.

The rule is general: 

All his sons are under the discipline of the rod; and who would be so unhappy as to be exempted from that number, for all the prosperity of the world? Afflictions, sanctified, are the conspicuous seal of their adoption and title to heaven: and who would forfeit the honor of that adoption, and lose the benefit annexed to it, the eternal inheritance, rather than patiently bear his fatherly chastisements?  Others that enjoy a perpetual spring of pleasure here, are declared bastards, and not sons: they are indeed within the compass of his universal providence, but not of that peculiar care that belongs to his sacred and select progeny. His corrections are an argument of his authority as our father, and an assurance that we are his children: this should induce us not only with submissive temper of soul, but with thankfulness to receive the sharpest correction from the hands of our heavenly Father. This was the reason of our Savior’s meek yielding himself to the violence and. cruelty of his enemies. ‘The cup which my father hath given me, shall I not drink it?’ 

Chastisement is the effect of his paternal love: he is the father of our spirits, and that divine relation carries with it a special love to the spirits of men, and in that degree of eminence, as to secure and advance their happiness, though to the destruction of the flesh.  The soul is of incomparably more worth than the body, as the bright orient pearl than the mean shell that contains it: this God most highly values; for this he gave so great a price, and on it draws his image.  If temporal prosperity were for our best advantage, how willingly would God bestow it on us? ‘He that spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?’ Rom. 8:32. Which words, among all that the Holy Ghost hath dictated to the interpreters of God’s heart to his people, are most expressive of his love and bounty, and most for their comfort.  He that gives grace and glory, the most real testimonies of his love, certainly withholds no good thing from them.  I shall produce one convincing instance of this. The apostle Paul, who by an incomparable privilege was rapt up to the celestial paradise, and heard ineffable things, yet was tormented by the angel of Satan, and his earnest repeated prayer for deliverance not presently granted. Did not God love that blessed apostle, whose internal love to Christ almost equaled the seraphim, those pure everlasting flames, and was expressed in the invariable tenor of his life, by such miraculous actions and sufferings for the propagating and defense of the faith of Christ, and the glory of his name?  ‘If we love him because he first loved us,’ as the apostle John testifies; certainly he that returned such a superlative affection to Christ, received the greatest love from him. Now if Christ did love Paul, why did he not upon his earnest repeated prayer, deliver him from his wounding trouble, whatsoever it was? That permission was a demonstration of the love of Christ to him, as it is acknowledged by himself; ‘lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of revelation, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, and the messenger of Satan to buffet me.’ 2 Cor. 13:7. 

That the auctions of the saints proceed from God’s love, will be evident, by considering:  First. His gracious design in sending them.  Secondly. His compassionate providence over them, and his assisting power afforded to his people in their troubles. Thirdly. The happy issue of them.

First; His gracious design in sending them. ‘God doth not afflict willingly, but if need be; not for his own pleasure, but for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness. Heb. 12:10. The expression is high and emphatic, ‘his holiness,’ the brightest glory of his nature, the divinest gift of his love. 

The two principal parts of holiness, are ceasing from doing evil, and learning to do well.  And afflictions are ordained and sent as profitable for both these effects. 

For the prevention or cure of sin, which is an evil incomparably worse in its nature, and terrible consequents in this and the next world, than all the mere afflicting temporal evils.  Sin defiles and debases the soul, which is the proper excellency of man, and separates from God our supreme good. ‘Your sins have separated between you and your God, and have hid his face from you.’ Isa. 59. 2. All afflictions that can befall us here in our persons or concernments, the most disgraceful accidents, the most reproachful contumelious slanders, the most loathsome contagious diseases, that cause our dearest friends to withdraw from us, yet cannot deprive us of union with God by faith and love, nor of the fruition of his propitious presence. Lazarus when covered with ulcers, was kissed with the kisses of his mouth: but sin hath this pernicious effect, it separates from his gracious presence here, and, if continued in without repentance, will exclude, from his glorious presence forever. Now afflictions are medicinal applications for the cure of sin, the disease and death of the soul, and therefore infinitely worse than the sharpest remedies.

The beginnings and progress of conversion to God, are by sanctified afflictions. Indeed, considering our folly, and perverse abuse of his blessings, they are the most congruous means for our recovery. The light of God’s law doth not so powerfully convince us of the evil of sin, till felt in the effects of it. ‘Thy own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee; know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and a bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord of hosts.’ Jer. 2. 19. The instructions of the rod are more sensible than of the word; as the feeling of a tormenting disease produces another kind of understanding of it, than the reading of its nature in books of physic; and they make us more attentive to God’s call, and leave a deeper impression on us.  It is Elihu his observation, ‘if sinners be bound in fetters, and held in cords, then he shows them their works, and their transgressions, that they have exceeded.’ Job 36. 8. 9. Affliction clarifies their sight, makes sin to be as heinous in the view of conscience, as in its own foul nature. It follows, ‘he opens also the ear to discipline, and commands that they return from their iniquity.’ Ver. 10. Gentle methods were lost upon them, but by judgments he effectually commands, they relent and return to their duty. And after conversion, we need their discipline, to make us more circumspect and obedient.  The Psalmist declares, ‘it is good for me that I have been afflicted:’ Ps. 119. for before he was afflicted he went astray: he was reduced from the error of his ways by his troubles: and it was his experimental observation, ‘I know in faithfulness’ (from the constancy of love) ‘thou hast afflicted me.’  Nothing so cools our zeal to eternal things, as the love of the world. Vital heat declines and languishes, as the feverish heat is inflamed; and till we feel the vexations, we are allured by the vanities of the world: Therefore, God is pleased by such bitter means to make us more holy and heavenly.  Sometimes he removes with jealousy those objects to which our hearts are so entirely engaged, that the enjoyment of them intercepts the ascending of our affections to himself. Besides, he will not suffer us to perish in prosperity. ‘We are chastened of the Lord for our amendment, that we may not be condemned with the unreformed world.’ 1 Cor:11. And is not this an infallible testimony of his love? David said, ‘let the righteous smite me, and it shall be a kindness; let him reprove me, and it shall be an excellent oil.’ Ps. 141:5. If he valued the reprehensions that were not contumelious and injurious, not to upbraid but reform him, as a favor and dear obligation, how much more should we the corrections of our heavenly Father? And it will be a greater incitement to an humble and grateful acceptance of this discipline, if we consider what a severe neglect it is, when God suffers the wicked to lead a voluptuous life without disturbance: they are encircled with riches and honors, softened with pleasures, charmed with enticing objects, and thus become hardened in sin; they are riotous and luxurious, and give the reins to their corrupt unruly appetites without control; the slaves of sense, led, only by principles of pleasure, and hereby are inexcusable, and made ripe for perdition, and reserved for final vengeance. Others, though not guilty of scandalous enormities, yet are by continual prosperity settled upon their lees, careless and secure, ‘neglect the great salvation’ and say in their hearts, ‘it is good to be here;’ and their damnation is as certain, though not so visible, as of those who commit gross and open wickedness. Sad preterition! In the midst of pleasures they are truly miserable. They have just reason to be abandoned to sorrow, being forsaken of the love of God. The bramble is not cut, when the vine is pruned till it bleeds, in order to its fruitfulness: this letting them alone, to take their fill of pleasures is a heavy presage at final ruin. When the patient is desperate, the physician lays no restraint upon the diseased appetite, but permits him to take what he craves. Heb. 4. 14. Besides, the intention of God is by affliction to exercise and illustrate their graces. The most excellent Christian virtues would be comparatively of little use, without hard trials. Unfeigned faith in the truth and power of God to accomplish his promises, sincere love to him, humble self-denial, persevering patience then appear in their radiance and vigor. What a blessed advantage is it, by the loss of temporal comforts to increase in the graces of the spirit? They are the truest riches, the fullest joy, and the highest honor of a Christian. The apostle Peter declares, ‘the trial of our faith is much more precious than of gold that perishes;’ 1 Pet. 1. 7. It is refined and resplendent by the fire of affliction, and ‘will be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Christ.’ It is the advice of the apostle James, ‘Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations. Knowing this, that the trial of your faith worketh patience.’ Jam. 1. 2, 3. Though afflictions simply considered, may be very grievous, yet if we advisedly weigh, and rightly compare things, even when our sorrowful passions are moved, our judgments will esteem them matter of joy, not only in expectation of future happiness, but as divine grace is thereby drawn forth in the most noble operations.  In short, the ultimate design of God in afflicting his people, is thereby to bring them to heaven. Affliction mortifies the lusts of the flesh, purifies the spirit, ‘and makes us fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.’ By persevering patience in sufferings, they are approved of God, and obtain a right and title to the kingdom of glory. For according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, heaven shall be conferred as a reward to those that overcome. Rev. 22. If there be no enemy, there will be no fight; and if no fight, no victory; if no victory; no triumph; only those who conquer are crowned. 

The beloved disciple, with his brother, though allied to our Savior by blood relations, who expected by special favor to be glorified without a preparatory trial, yet he tells them, ‘without drinking of his cup, they could not have a share in his kingdom:‘ and this should reconcile our spirits ‘to all our troubles; for the apostle declares, who was a competent judge, having been thoroughly acquainted with griefs, and had a prospect into the glorious kingdom; ‘I reckon that the sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us.’ Rom. 8. 

Secondly. God’s love is discovered in his compassionate providence over them, and assisting power afforded to them in their afflictions: he speaks to the afflicted and disconsolate, ‘my son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:’ Heb. 12:5. to sweeten by that tender expression, the rigor of his discipline; to signify his dear sympathy with their anguish and sufferings. 

Heavenly consolation! God himself bears a share in their sorrows, ‘is afflicted in their afflictions:’ and the effect of this love is, that he always tempers and moderates their trials to their strength; or increases their strength in proportion to the trial. His corrections are deliberate dispensations, that proceed from judgment, not from fury, which the prophet earnestly deprecates. Jer. 8. His rods are bound up with mercy, his faithfulness joins with his affection, in moderating their sufferings. It is one clause of the covenant of grace, made with Christ, typified by David, ‘if his children break my statutes, and keep not my commandments, then will I visit their transgression with a rod,’ to amend not to destroy them; ‘but my loving kindness I will not take away from them, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.’ Ps. 89:31,32,33. The apostle assures believers, ‘that God is faithful, who will not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able, but will with the temptation make a way to escape, that they may be able to bear it.’ I Cor. 10. 13.  Our Redeemer in his agony was relieved by heavenly succor, the presence of an angel with a message of comfort. St. Paul found it verified by his own experience, ‘that as the sufferings of Christ abounded in him, so his consolations abounded by Christ,’ 2 Cor.1:5.; 2 Cor.12:9. and the divine power was accomplished, illustriously appeared in supporting his weakness.  How many have enjoyed comforts of a more precious nature, and more abundant, in want of supplies from the world, than in the possession of them? When there is a total eclipse below, the blessed Comforter descends with light, and fills the soul with joy in believing. 

The historian tells us of a clear vein of water that springs from Mongibel, (that great furnace, that always sends forth smoke or flames,) yet is so cool, as if it distilled from a snowy mountain: thus the saints in the fiery trial have been often refreshed with divine comforts; and such humble submissions, and gracious thanksgivings have proceeded from their lips, as have been very comfortable to those about them. 

Thirdly. The issue out of all, is the most sensible declaration of God’s love to them.  The person under affliction is limited by his tender love, till they are prepared for mercy. The prosperity of the wicked is wine in the beginning, and lees at the bottom; but the worst and afflicted state of the saints is first, and will at length certainly end in felicity. In the tragedy of Job, the devil was the author, Chaldeans and Sabeans were the actors, ‘but the end was from the Lord.’  We are instructed by the apostle, ‘that although no chastisement for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness, unto them that are exercised thereby.’ Heb. 12:11.  It is an allusion to the rewards in the Olympic games, when the persons that overcame in those exercises; were crowned with wreaths of olive leaves, the emblem of peace.  Thus Christians, who with unfainting perseverance in their duty suffer affliction, shall be rewarded with holiness in conjunction with peace. This peaceable fruit of righteousness is not the natural product of affliction: grapes do not spring from thorns, nor figs from thistles; neither can it be so properly ascribed to the afflicted person, as to the powerful virtue, and special grace of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies afflictions, and makes them profitable for effecting God’s intention by them.  And when the afflicted person becomes more humble, more holy, more weaned from the world, more resigned to the will of God, this ‘fruit unto holiness’ will compensate all their pains and sorrows. And in conjunction with holiness, there is a divine peace, a joyful calm and quietness of conscience, the sense of God’s favor; his answers of peace are usually a reward, according to the operations of grace: his comforts are dispensed as encouragements to obedience.  Besides, when the sinful corruptions are purged out, which caused perpetual disturbance, and our affections and actions are correspondent to the divine law, there is that clearness and serenity of mind, that rest and ease in the soul, arising from its just and due subordination unto God which the disobedient, in all their seeming prosperity, never enjoy. ‘There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.’  These beginnings of happiness are obtained here, but the perfection of it is in the next life. ‘Blessed is the man that endures temptation, for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of righteousness, which God hath promised to them that love him.’ James I.12. The richness and value of the ‘crown of life’ is so great, that God, the most wise and just esteemer of things, gave the precious blood of his Son to purchase it for us. It is a felicity so transcendent in its quality, and stable in its duration, that the blessed God cannot give us a greater; for what greater good is conceivable than himself? And what more stable enjoyment of it than eternity? The hope of this makes a Christian blessed in the midst of the greatest miseries. ‘Our light afflictions that are but for a moment, work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ 2 Cor. 4. 

The infinite wisdom of God orders all things in the best manner for his own glory, and the final good of his people. 

If he governed by absolute empire, none in heaven or earth might say unto him, What dost thou? But there is an inseparable connection between his wisdom and his will; he is ‘the King eternal,’ and ‘the only wise God,’ 1 Tim:1. As the apostle joins those divine titles. In this the excellence of the divine liberty shines, that it is always regulated by infinite wisdom ‘he works all things according to the counsel of his will:’ Eph. 1:11. This is spoken according to human conceptions, but must be understood in a sense becoming the perfections of God : for counsel cannot properly be attributed to God, whose understanding is infinite, and in one view comprehends all things; but as those things are most complete that are the product of our deliberate reasonings and deep contrivance; ‘so his work is perfect, for all his ways are judgment.’ Deut. 32:4.  Whenever we are dissatisfied or displeased with his proceedings, it is from the error of our minds, and the viciousness of our affections; we presume to correct his providence, as if he were defective in regulating the affairs of this lower world; but ‘he is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.’ Isa. 28. 29.  In the creation this regular and beautiful world was formed out of darkness and confusion: and his providence, that is now mysterious and veiled to us, will bring into glorious order and sweet agreement, those things in their final resolution, that now seem so perplexed to our apprehensions. It was a confounding reproach from God to Job, ‘who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?’ Job 32:2.  His passionate exclamations were such, as if the divine wisdom had not disposed all the afflicting circumstances in the series of his sufferings; and that holy man being convinced of his presumptuous folly, repeats the charge against himself with tears of confusion: ‘who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not, things too wonderful for me, which I knew not; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes:’ Job 42.3,6. more particularly, 

All things are so wisely ordered, that God shall be ‘glorified in the event; and it is the noblest disposition of a Christian, to prefer the advancement of his glory, before all the comforts of this life, and life itself. Our blessed Savior in the forethoughts of his sufferings, was in distress and perturbation of mind, like the darkening of the sky before a great shower: ‘now is my soul troubled, what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour.’ John 12:27.  But the short conflict of nature was presently at an end, he willingly ridded up himself to be a sacrifice to the divine honor, and said, ‘Father, glorify thy name.’  Moses and Paul, whose admirable zeal, had only a parallel between themselves in the same degree of holy heat, desired the salvation of the Jews before their own, if God might be more glorified by it. This is the first petition in order and dignity, in that complete form of prayer composed by our Savior, as the rule of all our desires. ‘Thy name be hallowed and glorified in us, and by us.’  The admirable history of Jephtha’s only daughter, is applicable to this purpose; she joyfully came forth to meet her father, returning victorious and triumphant after his war with the Ammonites. Judg. 11:36. He had made a rash vow, to offer up in sacrifice to God, whoever should first meet him after his victory, and upon the sight of his daughter was so deeply wounded with sorrow, that his triumph was converted into lamentations : but the grief was only in the father; for in that first surprise of such a terrible sentence to be executed upon her, she did not answer his tears with tears, nor lamentations with lamentations, but said unto him, ‘my father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth, forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee on thine enemies.’ Methinks the admirable love and generosity in a young virgin, to whom her father’s honor and exaltation was more dear than her life, upbraids us for our unwilling submission to those providential dispensations that are ungrateful to flesh and blood wherein the glory of God is advanced.  If we were called to martyrdom for his truth, and our lives should bleed forth, as sacrifices on the altar, or our bodies be consumed as incense on the censer, it were an unjust and ungrateful complaint, to express passionate reluctanc against his providence. If there were no other consequences of our present sufferings, but the glorifying God, we should be content. That is the worthiest end which he proposes to himself, and will accomplish: his divine excellencies will be illustrated by the wickedness of men, that at present obscures the glory of his government; his wisdom, power, holiness, mercy and justice will be acknowledged, admired and magnified at last. 

His wisdom will order all things, even the most afflicting and dolorous, for the good of his people. This is a fearful paradox to a carnal mind, that judges of good and evil, as present things are pleasant or unpleasant to sense, without regard to what is future. It is like Samson’s riddle to the Philistines, ‘out of the devourer came meat, and out of the strong came sweetness.’ But to the mind that hath spiritual discerning, and judges of good and evil, as things are conducive or destructive to the happiness of the soul, it is a clear undoubted truth. ‘We know,’ saith the apostle with the greatest assurance, ‘that all things work together for good to them that love God.’ Rom. 8:28. All things, the most averse to their present desires, are so disposed and overruled by his providence, as if there were a secret intelligence and conceit between them, to promote the happiness of the saints: thus in mixed bodies the contrary qualities are reduced to such a just measure and temperament by the wisdom of the divine Maker, that a sound and healthful constitution results from them.  We have a rare instance of this in the history of Joseph; his envious brethren were the instruments of his exaltation; they sold him for a slave into Egypt to frustrate his prophetic dreams; and there, by many admirable turns of providence, he was advanced to the highest dignity; and then was verified in him and his brethren, ‘that his sheaf arose and stood upright, and their sheaves stood round, and did obeisance to his sheaf.’ God had reserved purposes of greater good for Joseph, than if he had continued under his father’s tender eye and care; therefore, it is said in his history, that they perfidiously ‘sold him, but God sent him.’  He that attentively reads the journeys of the Israelites through the wilderness to Canaan, cannot but wonder at the circuits and indirect motions in their tedious travel for forty years; and when near the borders of the place, so long and ardently desired, they were often commanded to retreat in the same line wherein they had advanced to it: had they chose the shortest way, and disobeyed the divine conductor, they had never entered into the land of promise: but following the pillar that directed their march, though they seemed lost in their intricate wanderings, yet they obtained the joyful possession of it. This was a type of the saints’ passage through a troublesome world, to the true rest above, and that they are guided through many cross ways directly to the kingdom of heaven.  ‘Who knows,’ saith Solomon, ‘what is good for a man in this life, all the days of his vain life, which he spends as a shadow? Eccles. 6:12.  That which is desired with importunity, as tending to his happiness, often proves his woe: some had not been so wicked, and consequently so miserable, if their lusts had not been excited by riches and power: others had not been secured from destructive temptations, but in a low and afflicted state. It is therefore both our duty and interest not to pray absolutely for any temporal thing; but when our desires are most passionate, to say with the humility and holiness, the reverence and obedience of our Savior, ‘not my will, but thine be done.’ We shall find ourselves more happy by the divine disposal of things, than if we had obtained our dearest wishes, and most ardent prayers. And when we shall come to the top of the holy hill, and look down on the various circuits of providence by which we ascended, we shall then understand that wisdom and love conducted us safely to felicity; we shall approve and admire all the divine methods in order to our blessed end. Now the belief of this should compose us to a patient and cheerful resignation of ourselves to God’s providence and pleasure. Who would not accept of the counsel of a friend that proceeds from love, though his judgment were not so exact as to be relied on? Much more should we thankfully receive the appointments of God, whose knowledge and affection are equally superlative, in whom there is united the wisdom of a father’s, and the tenderness of a mother’s love to his children.  Briefly, as Jonathan by tasting the honey at the end of his rod, had his eyes enlightened; so the end of the severest chastisements will convince them, that the providence of God was more benign and propitious than they could imagine. ‘His ways are as far above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts; as the heavens are above the earth.’ This point is applicable to us. 

By way of reproof for our unsubmissive behavior in afflictions, our incompliance with the divine disposals. Some are in a secret discontent at God’s afflicting providence; and this raises the memory of former mercies, and takes away the relish of present mercies; as the sweet showers of heaven that fall into the sea are turned into its brackish taste: such neither enjoy God nor themselves. What egregious folly and vile ingratitude is this! All we have, is from his most free favor; and shall we peevishly slight his benefits, because our desires are not gratified in every respect?  Others are moved with anger and vexation for the evils that befall them: as the red hot iron under the blows of the hammer casts abroad fiery sparks; so their stubborn fierce spirits, when afflicted, break forth in expressions of impatience and displeasure. They count it a base abjectness of mind, a despicable pusillanimity, to humble themselves under God’s judgments, and with contrition for their sins to implore his clemency. ‘The voice of the Lord makes the dear to calve, the timorous and weak creatures: but when the heavens roar, the lions thunder back again.’ Thus strong and stubborn sinners, when they feel the effects of God’s anger, are raging and furious in their passions and expressions. ‘The foolish man perverts his way, his most grievous sufferings are the fruits of his sins, and his heart frets against the Lord as the inflictor of them.’ Prov. 19:3. This is a high indignity to God, and an injury to themselves. For a vile creature, a base guilty wretch to murmur and storm against God’s righteous judgments, argues a prodigious forgetfulness, both of its dependence and obnoxiousness to the divine tribunal. It is said of the adherents of antichrist, ‘That they were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over the plagues, and they repented not to give him glory.’ Rev. 16. 9. Infinite insolence! Such obstinate souls the prince of darkness possesses as his peculiar dominion; they have more need of conversion than consolation. Besides, by impatience and vexatious fretting, they exasperate their pains, turn the rod into a serpent, vipers into dragons; and God’s mighty hand is more heavy by their resistance. Bold postulations irritate his anger, rather than incline his mercy; the willful man never wants woe. ‘With the froward,’ saith the psalmist, ‘thou wilt show thyself froward,’ Ps. 80. or, as it is rendered in the margin ‘wrestle.’  The strongest sinner is not a match for the Almighty; if his anger excites his power, how easily, ‘how sudden are they destroyed without remedy?’ Stubborn impatience under the inflictions of God’s righteous providence, is the nearest step to final ruin. Others are so dejected and broken with afflictions, that their continuance in the world is but a living death: everything entertains their grief, and the best means afforded for their reviving and comfort are ineffectual. Sorrow flows into despair, they lament and languish as if their case were hopeless and remediless. The fountain of this black stream, is a superlative esteem and affection to inferior things: and what is reserved for the blessed Creator? If a temporal loss be the most afflicting evil, it is a sign that God was not valued and loved as the chiefest good. The difficulty of receiving consolation, shows the necessity of their being afflicted: the language of such resolved sorrow is, ‘They have taken away my gods; and what have I more?’ The sole objects of their felicity are removed, and they refuse to be comforted; as if no less sacrifice were due to the remembrance of their loss, but life itself. What a disparagement is this of the divine excellencies? ‘Are the consolations of God small to us?’ Is not his love able to compensate the loss of a frail, mutable, mortal creature? Cannot he please and satisfy us without the fruition of one earthly comfort? This dejection of spirit is equally undutiful as uncomfortable; our griefs are sometimes as vain and as guilty as our joys; there is a tincture of disobedience in our tears; for we are commanded ‘to mourn as if we mourned not, for the fashion of the world passes away;’ and we at once break his law and our own peace.  Our disobedience in this is aggravated, as being contrary not only to the authority and sanctity of the Lawgiver, but to his loving-kindness and compassion. Ah, the miserable blindness of human minds! and the more miserable, because voluntary. Who is more deservedly unhappy than one that sits upon the bank of a river, and yet is tormented and dies with thirst? The clear, fresh stream passes before him, allures and invites him, but he will not stoop to drink; this is the case of those who neglect and refuse the spiritual consolations in the gospel, John 3:38, 39. that are compared to the flowing rivers of living water, for their cooling, refreshing quality. They meritoriously and actively bring trouble to their souls; their passions are the instruments of their misery. He that is his own executioner, has no excuse of dying; he is justly, because willfully miserable.

Consider also what a reproach is cast upon Christianity, that so many virtuous heathens in great afflictions, were in some measure supported by the precepts of human wisdom; and that Christians, to whom there is revealed from heaven, that an eternal state of glory and joy shall be the reward of their patient sufferings, remain utterly disconsolate.  I will single out one example. Stilpon the philosopher, when his city was destroyed, with his wife and children, and he escaped alone from the fire, being asked whether he had lost anything? Replied, ‘All my treasures are with me,’ justice, virtue, temperance, prudence, and this inviolable principle, not to esteem anything as my proper good, that can be ravished from me: his mind was erect and steadfast under the ruins of his country. And others upon lower and less generous considerations, have born up in their sufferings.  How do such examples upbraid us, that their twilight excels our noonday brightness? If common cordials raised such courageous spirits in them, shall not the waters of life, the divine strong comforts of the gospel, fortify us to bear all sufferings with a valiant resignation to the good will of God? Can the spirit of a man, by rational principles sustain his infirmities, and cannot the spirit of God, the great comforter, support us under all troubles?  What a blot is this to religion? Those who will not be comforted, will not be Christians; by the same Holy Spirit who is styled the comforter, we are the one and the other. If the precious promises of the gospel do not alleviate our sorrows, it is not from infirmity, but from infidelity. It is an incredible miracle, that a person can be in reality a Christian, and not capable of consolation; as if eternal life were not purchased by Christ for his people, or the present sufferings were comparable to the future glory; or the possession of it were to be obtained after a thousand years of hard trial: but if it were delayed so long, that sensible duration should sink our spirits; for the misery that passes with time, is not of moment with respect to the blessedness that is established forever.

Let us be excited to transcribe this divine lesson (so full of excellency and difficulty) in our hearts and lives.  It is easy in speculation to consent to the reasonableness of this duty, but how hard to practice it, and to bear not too sensibly such evils as are incurable here? A deliberate, universal, constant subjection to God’s will, though contrary to our carnal desires and interests, how rarely is it to be found among those who in title and profession are his servants? In active obedience, some will readily perform some particular commands, but withdraw subjection from the rest; they seem to make conscience of the duties of piety, but neglect righteousness; or else are just in their dealings, and careless of devotion. Some are liberal, but irreconcilable. They will give for their honor, but forgive no contempt or injury; and as the dividing living twins destroys them, so the life and sincerity of obedience, that consists in the union and entireness of its parts, is destroyed by dividing our respects to some commands, neglecting the rest. And in ‘passive obedience,’ many will submit to lighter and shorter afflictions, but if an. evil comes that nearly touches the heart, or that remains long without redress, they become impatient, or so dejected as to neglect their duty. 

THE COVENANT OF SALT: It’s Place, Meanings, and Corollaries in the Bible and the Primitive Mind

Taken and adapted from, “A Covenant of Salt”
Written by, H.K. Trumbull.

covenant_gold

[I am probably a lot like many of you, for I enjoy peeking into books with new thoughts, new explanations, and new understandings that ground me, and mature me in my Christian thought, and for me this was one of those books. I wish I could say that I have brought forth even a tenth of what the author enumerated, but I cannot. For the author uses evidence from tidbits of information from all around the world, and I have tried to content myself here to condensing that into just some of the information from bible times and bible lands.  However, like a good theology professor in Seminary class, every once in a while, some little bit of juicy knowledge slips through his strict outline, and series of “ah’s” appear in your mind, as you begin in putting all the pieces together on things that you had deemed unrelated… So it is here. As you read, new ideas and new understandings will present themselves to you, and I think that you will gain insights you never had before. Enjoy!  –MWP]

A “covenant of salt” seems to stand quite by itself in the Bible record…

Covenants made in blood, and again as celebrated by sharing a common meal, and by the exchange of weapons and clothing, and in various other ways, are of frequent mention; but a covenant of salt is spoken of only three times, and in every one of these cases as if it were of peculiar and sacred significance; each case is unique. 

The Lord speaks of his covenant with Aaron and his sons, in the privileges of the priesthood in perpetuity, as such a covenant. To him he says: “All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the Lord, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, as a due for ever: it is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord unto thee and to thy seed with thee.”1

Of the Lord’s covenant with David and his seed, in the rights and privileges of royalty, Abijah the king of Judah says to Jeroboam, the rival king of Israel: ” O Jeroboam and all Israel; ought ye not to know that the Lord, the God of Israel, gave the kingdom over Israel to David forever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?”2

Again, the Lord, through Moses, enjoins it upon the people of Israel to be faithful in the offering of sacrifices at his altar, according to the prescribed ritual. ” Neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God,” he says, “to be lacking from thy meal offering: with all thine oblations thou shalt offer salt.”3

While the word “covenant” appears more than two hundred and fifty times in the Old Testament, it is a remarkable fact that the term “covenant of salt” occurs in only these three instances, and then in such obviously exceptional connections. The Lord’s covenant with Aaron and his seed in the priesthood, and with David and his seed in the kingship, is as a covenant of salt, perpetual and unalterable. And God’s people in all their holy offerings are to bear in mind that the salt is a vital element and factor, if they would come within the terms of the perpetual and unalterable covenant.

In the Bible, God speaks to men by means of human language; and in the figures of speech which he employs he makes use of terms which had and have a well-known significance among men. His employment of the term “covenant of salt” as implying permanency and unchangeableness to a degree unknown to men, except in a covenant of blood as a covenant of very life, is of unmistakable significance.

There are indeed incidental references, in another place in the Old Testament, to the prevailing primitive idea that salt-sharing is covenant-making. These references should not be overlooked.

In many lands, and in different ages, salt has been considered the possession of the government, or of the sovereign of the realm, to be controlled by the ruler, as a source of life, or as one of its necessaries, for his people. In consequence of this the receiving of salt from the king’s palace has been deemed a fresh obligation of fidelity on the part of his subjects. This is indicated in a Bible passage with reference to the rebuilding by Zerubbabel of the Temple at Jerusalem, under the edict of Cyrus, king of Persia. “The adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” protested against the work as a seditious act. In giving their reason for this course they said:” Now because we eat the salt of the palace [because we are bound to the king by a covenant of salt], and it is not meet for us to see the king’s dishonor, therefore have we sent and certified the king.”4

And so again when King Darius showed his confidence in the Jews by directing a supply, from the royal treasury, of material for sacrifices at the Temple, and a renewal of the means of covenanting, he declared: “Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to these elders of the Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king’s goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, expenses be given with all diligence unto these men, that they be not hindered. And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the word of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail: that they may offer sacrifices of sweet savor unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.”5

And again, in further detail: “Unto a hundred talents of silver, and to a hundred measures of wheat, and to a hundred baths of wine, and to a hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much;”6 the more salt they took, the more surely and firmly they were bound.

NOTE ONE, BREAD AND SALT:  Salt alone is a basis of an enduring covenant, but bread alone is not so. Yet in the oriental mind, bread and salt may be such a basis, because there is salt as well as bread there. So commonly does salt go with bread that it is the exception when they are not together. Our English Bible asks, at Job 6: 6, “Can that which hath no savor be eaten without salt? ” But the Septuagint reads: “Can bread be eaten without salt?”

NOTE TWO, BLOOD AND SALT: There are indications in the customs of primitive peoples that “blood” and “salt” are recognized as in some sense interchangeable in their natures, qualities, and uses. And in this, as in many another matter, the trend of modern science seems to be in the line of primitive indications.

Peoples who have not salt available are accustomed to substitute for it fresh blood, as though the essential properties of salt were obtainable in this way. An observant medical scientist, writing of his travels in eastern Equatorial Africa, tells of the habit of the Masai people of drinking the warm blood fresh from the bullocks they kill; and this he characterizes as “a wise though repulsive proceeding,” “as the blood thus drunk provided the salts so necessary in human economy; for the Masai do not partake of any salt in its common form.”7

The use of blood as food was forbidden to Noah and his sons after the Flood.8

A tradition of the Turkish or Tatar nations says that Noah’s son Japheth was their immediate ancestor, and that Toutug, or Toumuk, a grandson of Japheth, discovered salt as an article of diet by accidentally dropping a morsel of food on to salt earth, and thus becoming acquainted with the savor of salt,9 this carries back the traditional discovery of salt to the age when blood was first forbidden as food.

The correspondence of salt and blood in more primitive thought will perhaps throw light on a disputed reference on a fragment of Ennius to “salsas sanguis” (salted blood, or briny blood). It would seem that as the Jews held that the blood is the life, and the life is in the blood, similarly Greeks and Romans recognized the truth that salt is in the blood, and the blood is salt.

In light of this, In the second century there were Christian ascetics who refused to take wine in the Eucharist. Among these the Elkesaites and the Ebionites employed bread and salt instead of bread and wine. This seems to have been a recognition of the fact that salt, like wine, represented blood.10

As blood is synonymous with life in primitive thought and practice, and as salt has been shown to represent blood in the primitive mind, so salt seems to stand for life in many a form of primitive speech and in the world’s symbolism. When, indeed, we speak of salt as preserving flesh from corruption, we refer to the staying of the process of death by an added element of life; preserving by re-vivifying, rather than by embalming.

When Elisha, the prophet of Israel, was met by the men of Jericho, as he came from the scene of Elijah’s translation to enter upon his mission as the successor of Elijah and was told of the death-dealing power of the waters of the city, his words and action seemed to emphasize the correspondence of salt with life. “He said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast salt therein, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or miscarrying [of the land]. So the waters were healed [were restored to life] unto this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spake.”11

A spring of water is in itself so important to a primitive people that it is not to be wondered at that water is called the Gift of God, and that a living spring is looked at as in a sense divine, and that it has even been worshiped as a god among primitive peoples.12

When, therefore, salt, as the synonym of life or of blood, is found in a spring of living water, it is natural to recognize the spot as peculiarly favored of God.

There is said to be a salt lake in the mountain region of Kurdistan, which was changed from fresh water to salt, by the Apostle Peter, when he first came thither preaching Christianity. He wrought this change so that he could influence the people to accept his teaching through sharing his life by partaking of the salt. To this day the tradition remains, that, if the natives will bathe in that lake, they will renew their faith. Aside from the question of any basis of truth in the legend, it remains as a survival of the primitive idea of a real connection of shared salt with shared life.

A new-born child was at once washed and salted in many primitive cultures. If an Oriental seems lacking in life or wisdom, or is, as we would say, exceptionally “slow,” it is said of him, “He wasn’t salted when he was born.” This idea would seem to be included in the prophet’s reproach of Jerusalem: “Neither wast thou washed in water to cleanse thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.”13

A traveler in Asia Minor speaks of the practice among the Turkmans of the mother’s dipping a child two or three times into a skin of salt water, at the time of his naming. This would seem to be a primitive rite, and not a Christian one. The father of the child meanwhile eats honeyed cake, and drinks thickened milk, as milk is sometimes accepted by the Arabs as a substitute for salt, as the essential factor in the covenant of salt (the milha).

“There seem to be indications,” says W. Robertson Smith,14  “that many primitive peoples regard milk as a kind of equivalent for blood as containing a sacred life. Thus to eat a kid seethed in its mother’s milk might be taken as an equivalent to eating ‘with the blood,’ and be forbidden to the Hebrews15 along with the bloody sacraments of the heathen.”

The references of Jesus to salt would seem to have fuller meaning, if “salt” be understood as equivalent to “life.” Where he says to his disciples: ” Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men,”16 he would seem to remind them that they are the life of the world, if, indeed, they retain life in themselves. And where he says, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another,”17 he would call them to have life in themselves, and to join with others who have it, in making their life to be felt among their fellows.

An utterance attributed to Jesus, though not in the early manuscripts, which has been a puzzle to critics and commentators, possibly has light thrown on it in this view of salt as corresponding with life. Discoursing on life, and the wisdom of striving to attain or to enter into life, even at a loss of much that man might value here on earth, Jesus, according to some manuscripts, said, “For every one shall be salted with fire.”18 This sentence is disputed by some, not being found in all the more ancient MSS., and its meaning does not seem to be clear to any.19

It is obvious that whatever else “salted” here means, it does not mean “salted.” To salt is to mingle, or to accompany, with salt. Clearly, fire does not do that. The Greek is as vague, or as ambiguous, as the English.  There must be a conventional or popular, a figurative or symbolical, meaning in which “salt” is here used. What can this be? “Fire” is here spoken of as the synonym, or equivalent, or parallel, of “salt.” In this figure, fire is to accomplish what salt performs; the work of salt is to be done by fire. In what sense can this be true?

Fire does consume and destroy the perishable20 and it does bring out and refine that which is permanent and precious;21 it does try and test and reveal the measure of real value in that which is submitted to it.22 In the testing time, “each man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself shall prove each man’s work, of what sort it is. If any man’s work shall abide which he built thereon [on the one Foundation], he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned he shall suffer loss: but he himself [who has built] shall be saved; yet as through fire.”23

The whole context of the passage in Mark’s Gospel indicates that Jesus is speaking of life. He is showing the way to attain to life. He points to the final testing of life by fire. As salt is shown to correspond with life, and as this seems to have been understood by his hearers, would they not have seen that Jesus was pointing out that the measure of life, or salt, the reminder of God’s covenant with his people, in every one of them, would be revealed in the testing of fire?

It is, indeed, because salt represents life, that salt was to accompany every sacrifice under the Jewish dispensation. Not death, but life, was an acceptable offering to God, according to the teachings of the Bible, both in the Old Testament and the New.24

God wants “not yours, but you.”25 This was emphasized by priest and prophet in the history of the Jewish people, earlier and later. Paul re-echoed this primal thought when he appealed to Christians: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [yourselves] a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”26 Without salt, without the symbol of life, no sacrifice was to be counted a fitting or acceptable offering at God’s altar.

In Oriental and primitive thought Salt and Sun are closely connected, even if they are not considered as identical. They stand together as Life and Light. Their mention side by side in various places tends to confirm this view of their remarkable correspondence. The similarity of their forms accords with the Oriental delight in a play upon words, even apart from the question of any similarity in their meanings.

This would seem to give added significance and force to the words of Jesus as to salt and light. If in the days of Jesus, it was held, as Pliny says, that there was nothing that could help the life of humanity like salt and sun, life and light, the disciples of Jesus must have recognized a peculiar meaning in the teachings of the Great Physician as he sent them out into the world to heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons,27 when he suggested that it was what they were, rather than what they did, that was to be the help of humanity. In the same teaching he said, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” “Ye are the light of the world.”28

The recognized meaning of these words in the days of Jesus intensified their importance at every use of them, as when it was said that “in Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” Salt was blood; blood was life; salt was life; life was light; blood and salt and light were life.

Among folk-lore customs on both sides of the ocean, salt and a candle are carried across the threshold on moving in to a new house, as if representing life and light as needs in a new home. Sometimes the Bible also is included, as if in recognition of the true basis of all sacred covenanting.

SALT IN SACRIFICES

Salt seems to have been recognized as a vital element in sacrifices both in the teachings of the Bible and in the customs of the pagan world. In the Lord’s injunction to Israel, it is said unqualifiedly: “And every oblation of thy meal offering shalt thou sea son with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meal offering: with all thine oblations [offerings bloody or unbloody] thou shalt offer salt.”

An alternative reading of the words of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel refers to this custom when it says that “every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.”  Josephus, in his “Antiquities of the Jews,” makes reference to the large quantities of salt required for sacrifices.29 This corresponds with the provision of the King of Persia for Jewish sacrifices, “salt without prescribing how much,”30 “a limitless or indefinite amount.

In the Hebrew text which the Septuagint translators had before them, salt is represented as always on the table of shewbread, and as an important factor in that memorial offering before the Lord. It reads: “And ye shall put upon the pile [of bread] pure frankincense and salt, and they shall be to the bread for a memorial lying before the Lord.”31 Philo Judaeus makes mention of this salt with the bread, on the sacred table in the Holy Place, and refers to the salt as a symbol of perpetuity.32

In the directions for the preparation of the holy incense for use by the priests in the services of the tabernacle, the fragrant gums and spices were to be “seasoned [or tempered together] with salt, pure and holy.”33 And this incense was for sacrificial offering.

It is still a custom among strict Jews to observe the rite of the covenant of salt at their family table, before every meal. The head of the house, having invoked the Divine blessing in these words, “Blessed be thou O Lord our God, King of the universe, who causest bread to grow out of the earth,” takes bread and breaks it in as many pieces as there are persons present. Having dipped each piece into salt, he hands a portion in turn to everyone, and they share it together. In cases where there is less strictness of ritual observance on the part of modern Jews, this ceremony is limited to the beginning of the Sabbath, at the Friday evening meal.

This might seem to be merely a renewal of the covenant which binds the members of the family to one another and to God; yet it evidently partakes of the nature of a sacrifice, and it is so understood by the more orthodox Jews. The primitive idea of an altar was a table of intercommunion with God, or with the gods. It was thus with the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Hindus, the Persians, the Arabs, the early inhabitants of North and South America, and with primitive peoples generally.34 Thus also the Bible would seem to count an altar and a table as synonymous. The prophet Malachi reproaches, in God’s name, the Jews for irreverence and sacrilege. “And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar. And ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.”35

The Talmud emphasizes the home table of the Jew as the altar before the Lord, to be approached in sacrifice with the essential offering of salt. “As long as the Temple existed, the altar effected atonement, and now it is for the table of each man to effect atonement for him. It is for this reason that the description of the altar (in Ezekiel 41: 22) closes by saying, ‘And he said unto me, This is the table that is before the Lord.’”36

It would seem, therefore, that bread and salt are as the body and the blood, the flesh and the life, offered in sacrifice at the home table of the Jew, as formerly at the altar of intercommunion with God.37

This view of the household table as an altar has been recognized by many Jews. Picart38 says: “The German Jew sets bread and salt upon his table, but the loaf, if possible, must be whole. He cuts it without making a separation, takes it up with both his hands, sets it down upon the table, and blesses it. His guests answer, Amen. Afterwards he rubs it with salt, and whilst he is eating it, he is as silent as a Carthusian. The bread thus consecrated is distributed to all who are at table. If he drinks wine, he blesses it as he did the bread before; takes it in his right hand, lifts it up, and pronounces the benediction over it; and all other drink, water alone excepted, is consecrated in the same manner. The master of the family concludes with Psalm 23, and then everyone eats what he thinks convenient, without further ceremony. The ceremony of cutting the loaf without separation has the same reason to support it; and a passage from Psalm 10:3 is a voucher for its solidity. The master of the house holds the bread in both his hands, in commemoration of the ten precepts relating to corn; and each ringer is the representative of one of them.39 “The salt as the religious intention of it is typical of the ancient sacrifices. Meat without salt has no savor, which is proved from a passage in Job, chapter 6, verse 6.2 This is civil policy confirmed by religion.

“A modest deportment at table is much recommended; so likewise is temperance and sobriety. Their bread must be kept in a very neat place, and preserved with all imaginary care. They must talk but little, and with discretion at table, because, according to the opinion of the rabbis, the prophet Elijah, and each respective guest’s guardian angel, are present at all meals. Whenever that angel hears anything indecent uttered there, he retires, and a wicked one assumes his place. They never throw down bones of flesh or fish upon the ground; but, however, this caution is not the result of cleanliness only, but fear, lest they should hurt any of those invisible beings.40 “The knife that cuts their meat, must never touch what is made of milk;41 whatever, in short, strikes the senses in any manner, must be blessed. They never rise from the table without leaving something for the poor; but the knives must be removed before they return thanks, because it is written, ‘Thou shalt set no iron on the altar.’ Now a table is the representative of an altar, at saying grace before, or returning thanks after meal.”42

That the table was looked at as an altar among ancient peoples, is to be inferred from various proverbs and practices with reference to it. A comment on this is, that as the table was consecrated to God, whatever fell from it was not to be restored, but to be left, as was the gleaning of God’s fields, for the poor.43 When the Syrophoenician woman said to Jesus, “Yea, Lord: for even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table,”44 She spoke in recognition of this primitive truth, that the crumbs from the table might be shared by whoever hungered.

Salt was essential to a sacrifice among the ancient Romans, as among the Hebrews. A cake made of coarsely ground spelt, or wheat, mingled with salt, was broken, or bruised, and sprinkled upon the head of the victim for sacrifice, upon the fire of the altar, and upon the sacrificial knife. Hence the term “immolation,” or sprinkling with this salted meal, came to be synonymous with sacrificing.45 Pliny, telling of the priceless value of salt, says of it in conclusion: “It is in our sacred rites, more especially, that its high importance is recognized, no offering ever being made unaccompanied by the salted cake. 46

Wellhausen, in treating of the remains of Arabian paganism,47 tells of the custom of the old priests of throwing salt into the fire of sacrifice, unperceived by the worshiper as he appealed to the gods in his oath, and of the consequent startling of the offerer by the up-leaping flames, as though under a divine impulse. Various popular sayings are cited as incidental proofs of this custom; the purport of them all being that salt in the fires of sacrifice is supposed to be an effective appeal to the gods.

Pliny says that “salt, regarded by itself, is naturally igneous, and yet it manifests an antipathy to fire, and flies from it.48 This would seem to be a reference to the tendency of salt to spring up, or flash and sparkle, when thrown into the flames.

It has indeed been suggested that the very name “salt” was derived (through saltus, “to leap”) from the tendency of this substance “to leap and explode when thrown upon fire.”49 If there be any probability in this suggestion, or in another, and more natural one, that saltus was from the same root as sal, “salt,” it is easy to see that the primitive mind might infer that such was the affinity of salt with the divine, that, when offered by fire, it leaped toward heaven, and so was understood to be peculiarly acceptable to God or to the gods, in sacrifice. The Latin verb salts has the twofold meaning “to salt” or “to sprinkle before sacrifice,” and “to leap, spring, bound, jump;” and the root sal would seem to be in the Latin and the Sanskrit alike.50 Similarly, the word “salacious,” or lustful, had this origin.

FAITHLESSNESS TO SALT

The fact that in its primitive conception a covenant of salt is a permanent and unalterable covenant, naturally suggests to the primitive mind the idea of treachery as faithlessness to salt. The Persian term for a “traitor” is namak haram, “untrue to salt,” “one faithless to salt;”51 and the same idea runs through the languages of the Oriental world.

Of course, there is no human bond which will guard human nature against all possible treachery. These references to the measure of fidelity among different peoples or tribes are an indication of the relative degree of faithfulness prevailing among them severally. Those who are faithless to salt cannot be depended on for anything. If a man would not be true to one who is of his own blood, of his own life, and to whom he is bound in a sacred covenant of which his God is a party, he could not be depended on in any emergency. The covenant of salt is all this in the thought of the primitive mind.

It was said by the ancient Jews that Sodom was destroyed because its inhabitants had been faithless to salt, in maltreating guests who had partaken of salt in their city. In a Talmudic comment on Lot’s wife, the record is: “Rabbi Isaac asked, ‘Why did she become a pillar of salt?’ ‘Because she had sinned through salt. For in the night in which the men came to Lot she went to her neighbors, and said to them, Give me salt, for we have guests. But her purpose was to make (the evil-minded) people of the city acquainted with the guests. Therefore, was she turned into a pillar of salt.'”52  

This idea of foul treachery as equivalent to faithlessness in the matter of salt, seems to be perpetuated in Da Vinci’s famous painting of the Last Supper, where Judas Iscariot is represented as having over

turned the salt-cellar.53 And even among English speaking peoples the spilling of salt between two persons is said to threaten a quarrel; as though they had already broken friendship.

In both the Old Testament and the New faithlessness to a formal covenant is reckoned a crime of peculiar enormity as distinct from any ordinary transgression of a specific law. Transgressing a covenant with the Lord is counted on the part of Israel much the same as worshiping the gods of the heathen. This is shown in repeated instances in the Old Testament.54 In the New Testament, Paul includes among the grossest evil-doers of paganism those who are “filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God,” and so down to “covenant-breakers,” and those “without natural affection,” as among the lowest and worst of all.55 This idea shows itself continually in records and traditions, sacred and secular.

And so we find that, in the primitive world’s thought, shared salt has preciousness and power because of what it represents and of what it symbolizes, as well as of what it is. Salt stands for and corresponds with, and it symbolizes, blood and life. As such it represents the supreme gift from the Supreme Giver.

Because of the tremendous significance of salt, when it is made use of as the means of a lasting union, the Covenant of Salt, –as a form or phase of the Blood Covenant, is a covenant fixed, permanent, and unchangeable, enduring forever.

———————————-

Reference Table

1      Numbers 18:19

2     2 Chronicles 13: 5

3     Leviticus 2:13

4     Ezra 4: 14

5     Ezra 6: 8-10

6     Ezra 7: 22

7     Thomson’s Through Masai Land, p. 430

8     Genesis 9: 4

9     Price’s Mohammedan History, II., 458

10   See Clementine, Homilies, IV. 6; XIII. 8; XIV. 1, 8; XIX. 25, cited in art. “Elkesai” in Smith and Wace’s Diet, of Christian Biog.

11    2 Kings 2: 19-22

12    See Kadesh-barnea, p. 36, and note, 298 f

13    Ezekiel 16: 4

14    Relig. of the Sem., p, 204, note; also Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia, pp. 149, 150

15    Exod. 23: 19; 34: 26; Deut. 14: 21

16    Matt. 5: 13; Luke 14: 3

17    Mark 9: 50

18    Mark 9: 49. Comp. A.V. and R.V.

19    See notes and references in Nicoll’s Expositors’ Greek Testament; Lange’s Commentary; Meyer’s Commentary, in loco, etc.

20    Genesis 19: 24, 25; Exodus 9: 23, 24; Leviticus 10: 2; 13: 52-57; Matt. 3: 12; 7: 19; Luke 3: 17; John 15: 6,

21     Malachi 3: 2

22    1 Peter 1:7.

23    1 Cor. 3: 13-15.

24    See, “The Blood Covenant”  passim.

25    2 Cor. 12: 14.

26    Romans 12:1.

27    Matthew 10:8

28    Matt. 5: 13, 14

29    Antiquities of the Jews, XII, iii, 3

30    Ezra 7: 21, 22

31    Swete’s Septuagint at Lev. 24: 7

32    De Victimis, Sect. 3

33    Exod. 30: 34, 35

34    Blood Covenant, pp. 167-190

35     Malachi 1: 6, 7

36    Tract B’rakhoth 55 a., cited by the Rev. Dr. M. Jastrow

37    Blood Covenant, pp. 350-355

38    Ceremonies and Religious Customs of the Various Nations of the Known World, I., 245. London, 1733

39    Buxtorf ex Talmud.

40  Dr. Kohler states that the reason for not throwing these fragments on the ground, is because the Jews would not disgrace what is regarded as a special gift of God.

41    Because meat and milk are never to be eaten together. See p. 62, supra. (Exod. 23: 19; 34: 26; Deut. 14: 21

42    Buxtorf ex Talmud, cap. Xii

43    Lev. 19: 9, 10; Deut. 24: 19-21

44    Matthew 15: 27

45    Harper’s Latin Dictionary, s. vv. “Immolate,” “Mola”

46    sine mola salso

47    Wellhausen’s Reste Arabischen Heidentumes, in Skizzen and Vorar beiten, III., 124, 131

48    Hist. Nat., XXXI., 45

49    See citation of Lennep, and Scheideus, in Richardson’s English Dictionary, s. v. “Salt” 

50    See Harper’s Latin Dictionary, s. w. “sal,” “salio,” “saltus” 

51    Quoted in Burder’s Oriental Customs, 2d ed., p. 77

52    Rev. Dr. Marcus Jastrow refers to this in an article on ” The Symbolical Meaning of Salt,” in The Sunday School Times for April 28, 1894.

53    It has indeed been questioned whether the overturned salt-cellar in Da Vinci’s picture, as shown in many an engraving of it, was in the original painting, as it is not to be seen there now. But it would seem clear that the copy of this painting by Da Vinci’s pupil, Marco d’Oggoni, in the Brera, shows the overturned salt-cellar, while the original painting has had several retouchings and renovations. (See Notes and Queries, 6th Series, Vol. X., p. 92 f

54    Gen. 17: 14; Deut. 17: 2-7; Josh. 7: 11-15; Judg. 2: 20-23; 2 Kings 18: 11, 12; Psa. 55: 19-21; Isa. 24: 5, 6; Jer. 11: 9-11; 34: 17-20; Hosea 6: 4-7; 8: 1.

55    Romans 1:31

The Fundamental Hermeneutical Error Of Paedobaptists

Taken and adapted from Founders –Committed to Historic Baptist Principles
By Greg Welty, (M.Div, Westminster Theological Seminary; B.A., UCLA)

The moment of Christening

The moment of Christening

Paedobaptists, while rightly affirming the fundamental and underlying unity of the covenant of grace in all ages…

…wrongly press that unity in a way that distorts and suppresses the diversity of the several administrations of that covenant in history. To put it another way, paedobaptists rightly emphasize the inner continuity of the various administrations of the covenant of grace, while wrongly neglecting the various external discontinuities which exist between those administrations. To put it in still a third way, paedobaptists rightly stress the unity of redemptive history, while wrongly ignoring the movement of that redemptive history. Thus their error is fundamentally one of biblical theology, of understanding the progressive unfolding of God’s redemptive purposes in history.

This hermeneutical error, thus stated, inevitably leads to a twofold distortion of the relationship between the two testaments of the Bible. Paedobaptists simultaneously “Christianize” the Old Testament (read the Old Testament as if it were the New(3)) and “Judaize” the New Testament (read the New Testament as if it were the Old). In thus “Christianizing” the Old Testament, paedobaptists restrict the significance of circumcision to purely spiritual promises and blessings, while neglecting its national, earthly, and generational aspect. In thus “Judaizing” the New Testament, paedobaptists import Old Testament concepts of “covenantal holiness,” “external holiness,” “external members of the covenant,” “external union to God,” “covenant children,” etc. into the New Testament, even though these distinctions are entirely abolished by the New Testament and completely foreign to its teaching.

Four biblical passages may be set forth as the exegetical basis for identifying and exposing this basic hermeneutical error of paedobaptists: Jeremiah 31:31-34, Jeremiah 32:37-41, John 1:11-13, and Romans 9:2-4/8:15-17. Many other passages of Scripture could profitably be examined on this point, but none speak to the vital issues so clearly or succinctly.

1) Jeremiah 31:31-34 “‘The time is coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the LORD. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’”

Jeremiah’s statement is central, not peripheral, to identifying the relationship between the New Covenant and previous historical administrations of the one covenant of grace. Jeremiah’s words are quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12, in Hebrews 10:16-17, and alluded to by our Lord in John 6:45. They speak directly to the issue of continuity and discontinuity between the covenant administrations. Three implications clearly follow from Jeremiah’s description of the New Covenant.

First, the New Covenant is an unbreakable covenant. The very reason why God established this New Covenant with his people is because they broke the old one (v. 32). And if the New Covenant is an unbreakable covenant, then the paedobaptists have failed to recognize an important discontinuity between the New Covenant and the previous covenant administrations. The covenant as administered to Abraham and to Moses was breakable. “Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant” (Genesis 17:14). “They broke my covenant” (Jeremiah 31:32; cf. Deuteronomy 28, 29:19-25). But according to Jeremiah, the covenant as administered in the New Covenant is not breakable by the covenantees.

Second, the New Covenant is made with believers only. This of course is the exact reason why the New Covenant is unbreakable, for only believers will persevere to the end without breaking God’s covenant. Three blessings are spoken of with respect to the New Covenant: law written on the heart–“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts” (v. 33); personal knowledge of God–“No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (v. 34a); and forgiveness of sins–“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (v. 34b). Now the contrast between the Old and the New is not that these three blessings will be experienced for the first time in redemptive history by the people of God! That would be to succumb to radically dispensational assumptions. The elect in every age have experienced these blessings, including the elect under the Old Covenant–law written on the heart (Psalm 37:31, 9:10, 76:1); personal knowledge of God (1 Samuel 2:12, 3:7); the forgiveness of sins (Psalm 32:1-2). Rather, the true contrast between the Old and the New Covenants is that now under the New Covenant, all who are covenant members experience these peculiar blessings. The fact that not all covenant members experienced these blessings under the Old Covenant is part of the divine motivation for readministering the covenant under the New! (v. 32: “It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers . . . because they broke my covenant.”)

Third, the New Covenant is made only with the elect, with those who have experienced these blessings. It is not made with those who have not experienced these blessings. This is simply a restatement of the first two implications already mentioned. Thus in accordance with the covenant as newly administered in Christ, baptists do not give the New Covenant sign to those who give no evidence of being in the New Covenant. While recognizing the proper Old Testament distinction between an external covenant (elect and non-elect) and an internal covenant (elect only), baptists understand this external/internal distinction to be abolished in the New Covenant. No one is in covenant with God who is not a believer. Thus when paedobaptists speak of their “covenant children” as “breaking covenant” (i.e. becoming apostate by rejecting the faith), baptists rightly respond, “What covenant are you talking about? Obviously not the New Covenant! Only those who have the law of God written on their hearts, who know the Lord, and who have their sins forgiven, are in the New Covenant! Your ‘covenant children’ were never in the New covenant, and so never should have received the New Covenant sign!”

Now paedobaptists may try to reinterpret this passage in at least four possible ways, in order to preserve their belief that non-elect persons (such as their “covenant children”) may still be in “external” covenant with God, as was the case under the Old Covenant.

A) Paedobaptists may claim that Jeremiah’s phrase, “they shall all know me,” applies only to those covenant members who happen to be elect, but not to all covenant members whatsoever. Thus the Lord is saying through Jeremiah, “All (the elect) shall know me,” not “all (who are in the covenant) shall know me.” But this would be to erase the very difference, the very contrast, the very newness that Jeremiah is attributing to the New Covenant! In every covenant administration (Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic) only the elect covenant members knew the Lord, even if all covenant members whatsoever did not. Rather, Jeremiah is saying here that all the covenantees, all who are in the New Covenant, will know him. Thus only the elect are in the New Covenant. There are no covenant members who do not know the Lord.

B) Paedobaptists may claim that Jeremiah’s phrase, “they shall all know me,” applies to all types of people in the New Covenant. Thus they interpret Jeremiah’s contrast to be, “Whereas under the Old Covenant only one type of person really knew the Lord (the leaders: priests, prophets, and kings), now under the New Covenant all kinds of people will know him, from the greatest of them to the least.” But this characterization of the Old Covenant flatly contradicts the testimony of Scripture. Under the Old Covenant, even the lowly Hannah (1Samuel 1-2) and Mary (Luke 1:46-55) had an intimate knowledge of God, and not just the ‘great’ Samuel or David. All types of people knew the Lord under both covenants, so this can’t be the contrast Jeremiah is drawing!

C) Paedobaptists may claim that the knowledge of God which Jeremiah is speaking of is an external knowledge about the things of God revealed in Scripture. Since paedobaptists faithfully teach and catechize their “covenant children,” all covenant members do know the Lord under the New Covenant! But this is to woefully mischaracterize the knowledge of God spoken of in Jeremiah. The very point of God’s complaint against the people through Jeremiah is that the people, despite their external knowledge of the things of God, had yet turned away from the Lord and rebelled against him. The one kind of knowledge which the passage can’t be speaking of is an external knowledge of the things of God passed on by parents and teachers!

D) Paedobaptists may claim that baptists are failing to recognize that the contrast which Jeremiah is drawing here is between the New Covenant and the Mosaic (Old) Covenant, not between the New Covenant and the covenant as originally administered to Abraham. Since paedobaptists justify infant baptism with reference to the Abrahamic (not Mosaic) Covenant, the fact that Jeremiah speaks of the New Covenant as different from the Mosaic is of no relevance for the question of infant baptism. This point is well taken–the Mosaic Covenant was indeed added to the Abrahamic promises, not repealing or replacing them but furthering their ultimate purpose (Galatians 3:17-19). But reflection upon the realities of the Abrahamic Covenant will reveal that each of the contrasts Jeremiah asserts here between the New and the Mosaic Covenants, is also a contrast between the New and the Abrahamic! Under the Abrahamic Covenant, all did not have the law written on their hearts, or know the Lord, or have their sins forgiven. Covenant children such as Ishmael and Esau, who lived under the Abrahamic but not the Mosaic Covenant, bear eloquent testimony to this fact.

2) Jeremiah 32:37-41 “I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.”

Now to all non-dispensationalist interpreters, the references to the land do not denote a future earthly millennium, but the Christian’s spiritual inheritance. This passage is fulfilled in the church. It reiterates the teaching on the New Covenant in the previous chapter. The text says that the covenant which God will make with his people is an everlasting covenant. It will not be broken and then succeeded by yet another covenant. The reference is not to the return of the exiles under Ezra/Nehemiah, but to the New Covenant under Christ.

Central to the blessings of this everlasting covenant is that, just like the covenant spoken of in chapter 31, it is an unbreakable covenant. The text says God will inspire the covenant members to always fear him, “so that they will never turn away from me.” All thought of “covenant children” who break covenant is banished in this covenant. Again, there is a contrast between this New Covenant and the older administrations, confirming what Jeremiah has said in chapter 31.

Yet blessings do accrue to the children of these covenant members! Baptists should be among the first to recognize the practical privileges their children enjoy by being in a God-fearing home. Jeremiah says that those who are in this covenant will not only fear God for their own good, but for the good of their children after them. The faithfulness of parents in fearing God will have a profound effect upon their children. But this blessing of “doing good” to the children does not imply their covenant membership. The very terms of this covenant explicitly describe all of its members as “always fearing” God and “never turning away” from him. Therefore if believer’s children are to be members of this covenant, they must be among the elect. Simply because they are believer’s children does not make them covenant members. Nor does this blessing guarantee salvation. To interpret this “doing of good” to the children as a guarantee of salvation would prove too much for the paedobaptist. It would imply that all “covenant children” are saved, that there are no apostate covenant children. This is a prospect which no (evangelical) paedobaptist accepts.

3) John 1:11-13 “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

Jesus came to “that which was his own”; that is, to his own people. The Jews were his own people because they were in covenant with God, under the terms of the Old Covenant. They were properly considered to be God’s children: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1). And yet those very people who were God’s own, his own children under the terms of the Old Covenant, rejected him. Indeed, they crucified him. But now who are the children of God, according to the text? Who are “God’s own”? Those in an “external covenant” with God? Those called out of Egypt but who later reject him? Those descended from certain parents? No! “To those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” And these children are children because they were “born of God,” not because they were born by natural descent from Christian parents.

The implication is clear. Under the Old Covenant, you could be a child of God and yet reject God. You could be “God’s own” and yet be on your way to hell. But in the New Covenant it is not that way. Those who are children of God are not so by virtue of their birth. John explicitly denies this. Rather, they are children of God because they are born of God. In the New Covenant era, only the elect can be properly considered children of God, “his own,” in covenant with God. The concept of “belonging to God,” being a “son of God,” and being “his own” has been transformed under the terms of the New Covenant. But the aforementioned paedobaptist tendency to “Christianize” the Old Testament and “Judaize” the New Testament flattens out this historical-redemptive transformation of terms.

4) Romans 9:2-4, 8:15-17 “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.” (Romans 9:2-4); “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:15-17).

Note that under the Old Covenant (9:2-4), you could be adopted by God and yet be on your way to hell, in need of the very gospel which Paul proclaimed. This parallels the paedobaptist understanding of “covenant children” being in the “external covenant.” But under the New Covenant (8:15-17), all those who are adopted by God have the Spirit of God within them, testifying to their adoption. Because they are children, they are heirs of God who will certainly share his glory. Thus the concept of adoption has been transformed in the New Covenant. New Covenant adoption involves election, regeneration, and the indwelling of the Spirit. Such indwelling was not necessary to Old Covenant adoption, although Old Covenant adoption was by the design of God. All this to say: the “covenant children” of Romans 9 (Old Covenant) are not the “covenant children” of Romans 8 (New Covenant). There are no “covenant children” (in the Romans 9 sense) any more.

Significant Discontinuities in the Meaning and Function of the Covenant Signs

Having seen the exegetical basis for identifying the paedobaptist hermeneutic as indeed in error, it will now be useful to point out how this error leads paedobaptists to overlook significant discontinuities in both the meaning and function of the covenant signs. Much paedobaptist argument dwells upon the analogy between circumcision and baptism, inferring from the application of circumcision to infants under the Old Covenant, the responsibility to apply baptism to infants under the New Covenant. But this conveniently ignores the many disanalogies which exist between these signs as well. Such oversight causes many paedobaptists to overdraw the analogy between circumcision and baptism, illegitimately transforming that analogy into an identity.

1) The meaning of the sign of circumcision is not identical to the meaning of the sign of baptism. We agree that there is a significant overlap of meaning between the two signs (Romans 4:11; Colossians 2:11-12). But we deny that there is an identity of meaning between the two signs. Circumcision signified specific promises and blessings that baptism does not signify, and has never signified. God made many promises to Abraham in the covenant of circumcision (Genesis 17, which confirmed the covenant of Genesis 15). Circumcision sealed the promises of that covenant. For instance: “I will make you very fruitful” (physical descendants as many as the stars in the sky)–baptism does not signify this promise, but circumcision did. Or “you will be a father of many nations”–baptism does not signify this promise, but circumcision did. Or “kings will come from you”–baptism does not signify this promise, circumcision did. Or “the whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you”–baptism does not signify this promise, but circumcision did.

Similarly, due to this difference in meaning, we also deny that the relationship between physical and spiritual blessings is the same under the Old and New Covenants. Under the Old Covenant, the previously mentioned physical blessings were enjoyed, and the promises for these blessings were cherished, by the Israelites, even by those Israelites who lived an outwardly moral life but had no personal faith in the God of Abraham. That is, the physical blessings of the Old Covenant could be enjoyed even by those who did not personally experience its spiritual blessings (as long as the community as a whole remained faithful). But under the New Covenant, things are very different. Any covenantal promises and blessings which could be construed as “physical” (the glorified resurrection body, the new heavens and the new earth) will never be fulfilled or enjoyed by those who do not personally experience the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant (i.e. the elect).

Additionally, if circumcision allegedly has the same meaning as baptism, then two important questions need to be asked: Why institute a new sign? Why baptize those who had already been circumcised into the covenant community?

2) Baptism did not replace circumcision as to its function among the covenant people of God. Jesus’ institution of the sign of Christian baptism commanded that it be applied to disciples who had been made by the original apostles (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:16). Throughout the rest of the New Testament, and especially displayed in the book of Acts, baptism functions in accordance with Jesus’ institution of it. It is a sign for disciples, who have placed their faith in Jesus (cf. Acts 2:38). All clear cases of baptism in the New Testament reflect this “believers’ baptism” policy. (The “household baptisms” will be treated later in this paper.)

But if, as paedobaptists allege, baptism did replace circumcision as to its function in the covenant community, several problems emerge. First, why did Paul have Timothy circumcised? “Paul wanted to take him [Timothy] along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:3). Surely if baptism functioned the same way under the New Covenant as circumcision functioned under the Old, Paul would never have done this! Something must have been signified in Timothy’s later circumcision that was not signified in Timothy’s earlier baptism as a convert. Second, why did Paul bend over backwards to accommodate the Jewish converts’ continuing practice of circumcising their children? (Acts 21:20-26). Why did he not rather challenge the practice as completely inappropriate for Christian converts, since now baptism has replaced circumcision? Third, why didn’t the apostles and elders at the Jerusalem council refute the Pharisees’ charge (“The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses”, Acts 15:5) by the simple statement, “Because baptism has now replaced circumcision”? Fourth, why didn’t Paul, in the book of Galatians, refute the Judaizers who insisted on circumcision with the simple argument: “baptism has replaced circumcision”?

Paedobaptist Misuse of Key Biblical Texts

Apart from their more broadly hermeneutical and systematic errors (identified above), paedobaptists often misuse isolated biblical texts in an attempt to find the practice of infant baptism in the New Testament. The baptist response to these paedobaptist misinterpretations needs to be given.

1) Acts 2:38-39 “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Many, if not all, paedobaptists interpret this text to say that God has given a “special” promise to the children of Christians, which insures that they are in the covenant community, and are “different” from the children of non-Christians. Baptists rightly respond that the paedobaptist ear is so attuned to the Old Testament echo in this text (“you and your children”) that it is deaf to its New Testament crescendo (“and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call”). (4) The three phrases must be taken together: (1) you, (2) your children, (3) all who are far off. According to the text, the promise is equally applied to all three categories of people. There is nothing “special” about category (2) which cannot be said about category (3), with respect to the promise of God spoken by Peter.

Depending upon how the word “call” is interpreted (outward call of the gospel, or the inward call of God’s irresistible grace), this text either proves too much for the paedobaptist, or too little. The one thing it does not prove is a “special” promise for covenant children. If the outward call of the gospel is meant, then the text proves far too much for the paedobaptist. It proves that the promise is for all who hear the gospel, “all who are far off.” Do we baptize all hearers of the gospel into the covenant community, regardless of how they respond to the message? How does a promise for everyone serve to distinguish covenant children from anyone else who happens to hear the gospel? But if the inward call of God’s irresistible grace is meant, then the text proves far too little for the paedobaptist. It proves that the promise is for the elect only. Indeed, it proves the baptist position! Unless we are willing to presume election for our covenant children (a presumption without Scriptural warrant, and fraught with practical dangers for the child’s Christian nurture), then we must baptize only those who actually give evidence of being elect, of receiving the promise (i. e. a credible profession of faith). This is precisely what happened after Peter’s sermon, for it was only “those who accepted his message” who were baptized (Acts 2:41)!

Also, the content of this promise is often misconstrued by paedobaptists. In the immediate and surrounding contexts, it is obvious that the promise Peter is speaking of is the promised gift of the outpoured Holy Spirit, as predicted by Joel. Do paedobaptists assume that, because their children have received “the promise,” they have therefore received the Holy Spirit?

2) 1 Corinthians 7:14 “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified [hêgiastai] through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified [hêgiastai] through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean [akatharta], but as it is, they are holy [hagia].”

Many paedobaptists interpret that Paul takes it for granted that the children of at least one believing parent are “covenantally holy,” that is, in the covenant community. They are not “externally unclean,” like the children of non-Christians. But this is a species of “hit-and-run” exegesis. The same root word for “holy” is applied to both the child and to the unbelieving spouse. If they are both “covenantally holy,” then why are they not both included in the covenant community and baptized? Paedobaptists will baptize the child, but not the spouse. To posit a meaning for “holy” as it applies to the child, that is different from the meaning of “holy” as it applies to the spouse, is pure eisegesis (reading into the text). The same root word is applied to both persons. It also undermines Paul’s argument that the holiness of the child guarantees the holiness of the unbelieving parent. In order for his inference to be valid, the same type of holiness must apply to each.(5)

In addition, the paedobaptist interpretation of this text is a classic example of what was previously identified as “Judaizing” the New Testament. That is, distinctions peculiar to the Old Testament, such as “external” or “covenantal” holiness, are read into New Testament texts. Paedobaptists forget that the entire concept of “covenantal” holiness has been abolished in the NT. In Acts 10:28, Peter informed Cornelius’ household that “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure [koinon] or unclean [akatharton].” In the context it is obvious that Peter is speaking about external, covenantal holiness, based upon external membership in the covenant community. Thus the very thing which God commanded Peter never to do (call men unclean because of their birth outside the covenant community), paedobaptists do with respect to the children of non-Christians (call them unclean). They forget that such distinctions have been abolished in the New Covenant era, as God taught Peter.

3) Romans 4:11 “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.”

Many paedobaptists interpret this text to say that Paul is giving a definition of what circumcision sealed for everybody who received it: righteousness by faith. Thus circumcision was not a merely earthly sign. Rather, like baptism, it sealed the highest spiritual blessings of the covenant of grace. But paedobaptists overlook the fact that in the context, and in the verse explicitly, Paul is speaking of circumcision sealing the righteousness by faith which Abraham had, and a righteousness by faith which Abraham already had. That is, in accordance with the biblical notion of a seal, Abraham’s circumcision sealed to him a present possession. It did not seal his need for righteousness; it did not seal a conditional promise of righteousness; it sealed to him a righteousness which he already had while uncircumcised. Thus Paul in Romans 4:11 is not giving a general definition of the significance of circumcision for everybody who received it; that would go counter to the context of Romans 4, which is the personal case of Abraham and how he discovered that justification is by faith alone. Rather, Paul is giving the significance of that sign for Abraham. The fact that circumcision signified many other realities for everyone who received it (including Abraham) has already been discussed.

Of course, paedobaptists may respond that the baptist view construes two completely different definitions of circumcision: one for believers and another for unbelievers. But we do no such thing. Circumcision signified the same promises to everyone who received it. But to some who received it in faith (such as Abraham and adult converts into the covenant community), it also sealed the righteousness which they had by faith. Additionally, this paedobaptist response may be turned against the paedobaptist. For they also posit two “different” meanings for circumcision. For Abraham it sealed a righteousness which he already had by faith; it sealed a present possession. But for Isaac, and for all who received it in infancy, it sealed their need for righteousness by faith. These are two different things, and they are posited on the paedobaptist view of the sacrament, not the baptist view.

4) Colossians 2:11-12 “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”

Many paedobaptists interpret this text as teaching that baptism and circumcision have replaced each other, and have the same exact significance. These Gentile converts are considered by Paul to have been circumcised, when they were really baptized. In response, Baptists agree that there is an obvious analogy between the two signs asserted here, corresponding to the overlap in meaning previously mentioned. What we deny is the identity of meaning between the two signs. Who is this text talking about? About believers! Who are those who are circumcised in God’s sight? Those who have put off the sinful nature, and have been raised with Christ through their faith. Thus the concept of circumcision has been transformed in the New Testament, to denote those who have experienced salvation in Christ. It is this inward experience of spiritual circumcision that is tied to baptism in the New Testament!

5) Household baptisms, of which there seem to be four in the New Testament. It will be discussed later how paedobaptists never consistently practice the same kind of “household baptism” policy they claim to find in the New Testament.

A) With respect to Cornelius’ household (Acts 10:46-48), Peter’s explicit warrant for baptizing this household is that “they have received the Holy Spirit just as we have,” NOT “the covenant head of the household has converted.” Indeed, Luke explicitly records that while Peter was preaching to them, “the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.” Unless we are willing to posit the reception of the Spirit, and speaking in tongues, for unbelievers, we must conclude that this was a household conversion, on the part of the individuals who composed it, and for that reason it was also a household baptism.

B) With respect to Lydia’s household (Acts 16:15), baptists admit that evidence of an explicit profession of faith among all household members is lacking. But baptists also argue(6) that nothing in the passage implies Lydia was a married woman with nursing children, for she traveled on business some 300 miles from her native city; she felt the liberty, as head of the house, to invite men into her home; Luke speaks of her household being baptized, and of the importunity with which she constrained the apostles to abide in her house, no mention being made of her husband. Thus the most likely hypothesis is that she had no husband, and therefore no children. If Lydia had no children, she has no significance for infant baptism either. To read infants into the text thus goes contrary to the context (and to read the baptism of adults into the text, apart from their conversion, goes contrary to paedobaptist practice, as examined below).

C) With respect to the Philippian jailer’s household (Acts 16:33), note that in the preceding verse (v. 32), the entire household heard the message of the gospel: “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in the house.” Interpreters are divided on how to interpret the Greek singular participle of the succeeding verse (v. 34): did the jailer rejoice with his whole house, having believed in God? (paedobaptist interpretation), or did the jailer rejoice, having believed in God with his whole house (baptist interpretation)? Note that even if the paedobaptist interpretation is taken (which is quite unnecessary), it implies the baptist view that the entire household believed. For it would be exceeding strange if (1) the whole household heard the gospel, (2) the jailer believed the gospel but the others rejected it, and (3) the whole household rejoiced that the head of the household believed while they themselves rejected the same message! Only the baptist view avoids such absurdity. “Taken at its face value, the account in Acts sets before us a hearing, believing, rejoicing household that received baptism.”(7)

D) With respect to Stephanas’ household (1 Corinthians 1:16), Paul does indeed state that he baptized the household of Stephanas. But he also informs us “that the household of Stephanas were the first converts [aparchê, firstfruits] in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints” (1 Corinthians 16:15). This is positive evidence that a household conversion occurred, and not merely a household baptism. As Jewett puts it, “When Paul declares, ‘I baptized the house of Stephanas,’ and later adds that they ‘set themselves to minister to the saints,’ . . . how plausible is it to make the circle of his meaning larger in the one instance than in the other? ‘I baptized all the house of Stephanas, of which some have ministered to the saints’ is the way we should have to understand the apostle if we are to see clear evidence for infant baptism in this passage. Such an interpretation is possible, but it is a rather thin thread on which to hang the practice of bringing infants to baptism.”(8)

Inconsistencies in Paedobaptist Practice

There is a tendency for paedobaptists to base their theory of baptism upon a strict principle of Old Testament continuity, and then to violate that very principle in their practice of baptism, by “smuggling in” discontinuities not warranted by the text of Scripture, but required if insoluble difficulties in the practice of infant baptism are to be avoided. This dilemma is to be expected, for once the teaching of the Word of God is misinterpreted as to our duty, inconsistencies are bound to be revealed in our practice.

1) Paedobaptists look for a warrant of faith in the parents of those to be baptized. On the one hand, paedobaptists claim that their practice is mandated by the command given to Abraham in Genesis 17. And yet paedobaptists will not baptize an infant unless the parent(s) give a credible profession of faith. Thus they baptize infants on different grounds than circumcision was mandated! A warrant of faith in the parents was never required in the Old Testament. “Every male among you shall be circumcised” (Genesis 17:12), period. In fact, in the Old Testament, if anyone was physically descended from Abraham, he had no right not to be circumcised! Never in the darkest days of the judges or of the canonical prophets was the privilege of circumcision revoked due to the people’s apostasy.

Any attempt to read the Old Testament as if a profession of faith in the parents was required for the circumcision of their offspring is clearly a species of “Christianizing” eisegesis, a reading of the Old as if it were the New. When Abraham was required to circumcise his (hundreds of) servants (Genesis 17:27) and their offspring, neither he nor God required a personal profession of faith of any of them. Rather, “every male among you shall be circumcised,” period. When the people of God crossed the Jordan River under Joshua, an entire nation was circumcised in a day (Joshua 5:2-3). A profession of faith in the God of Abraham could not possibly have been required of each and every one of them. Again, “every male among you shall be circumcised,” period.

It may objected that the very fact that these parents remained within the covenant community shows an implicit profession of faith on their part. That is, by not living an outwardly immoral life, they were not cut off from the covenant community. But this objection could not apply to the hundreds of males in Abraham’s household, since at that time the covenant community was less than a day old, and there was no time to “apostatize” by an outwardly immoral life. Indeed, paedobaptists justify the practice of infant baptism with respect to the Abrahamic (not the Mosaic) covenant. In other words, the life of the parents could not possibly have been evaluated by the stipulations of the Mosaic law during the hundreds of years between Abraham and Moses, for the Mosaic law had not yet been given. There was thus no possibility of “excommunication” between Abraham and Moses. Once again, the criterion is physical descent from Abraham, and not the faith of the parents. Besides, since when does an outwardly moral life substitute for a profession of faith? Would paedobaptists baptize longtime visitors to their churches, simply because such individuals lived an outwardly moral life? The two are simply not the same.

2) Paedobaptists do not bring their little children to the covenant meal.(9) This is significant, because the replacement of the Passover Meal (Old Covenant) with the Lord’s Supper (New Covenant) as the covenant meal, is even more explicitly stated in the New Testament than the alleged replacement of circumcision with baptism as the covenant sign. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper while he was sharing the Passover meal with his disciples (Matthew 26:17-30; cf. Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-30). And under the Old Covenant, all in the household were invited to participate in the covenant meal. “Each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household” (Exodus 12:3). No warrant of faith in the recipients of the Passover meal was required. “You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat” (Exodus 12:4), not in accordance with their profession of faith!

In order to justify their failure to bring their little children to the covenant meal, paedobaptists appeal to the strictures of 1 Corinthians 11:28-29, 31, wherein “a man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself . . . if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.” But baptists reply that the paedobaptist interpretation of this stricture is wholly inconsistent with their interpretation of various passages concerning baptism. When confronted with texts concerning the necessity of faith and repentance prior to baptism (Acts 2:38; Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:16), paedobaptists reply that such texts “obviously” are intended for adults only and not for all. But when they come to 1 Corinthians 11:28-29, paedobaptists arbitrarily reverse their hermeneutic and reply that such a text “obviously” is intended for all and not for adults only! Could it be that paedobaptists are accommodating their interpretation of Scripture to their previously-accepted practice, rather than judging their practice by means of Scripture?

Indeed, baptists also reply that this paedobaptist recognition of a significant discontinuity between the recipients of the sacraments under the Old and New Covenants only proves the baptist point: due to the progress of redemptive history, in the administration of the New Covenant the signs and seals of the covenant are for believers only. Paedobaptists accept this with respect to communion, but not with respect to baptism. They are “halfway baptists,” halfway down the road to a baptist understanding of the New Covenant.

In order to justify their failure to bring their little children to the covenant meal, paedobaptists also appeal to the alleged “active” nature of the Lord’s Supper, as opposed to the “passive” nature of baptism. But apart from Scriptural warrant, this distinction seems to be an arbitrary artifice designed to preserve the paedobaptist practice of baptizing (passive) babies, while only communicating (active) adults.

3) Paedobaptists do not baptize entire households. This is inconsistent with their “oikos formula” interpretation of the household baptisms in Acts, by which they see entire households being baptized indiscriminately upon the conversion of the head of the household. In order to justify their failure to baptize spouses, adult children, and household servants upon the conversion of the head of the household, paedobaptists appeal to at least three considerations.

A) The greater spirituality of the New Covenant. But this introduces the very type of “discontinuity without Scriptural warrant” that they accuse the baptists of affirming. Why would the “greater spirituality” include the babies but exclude the spouses and older children?

B) Cultural considerations. Paedobaptists recognize that it would be unacceptable in our culture to practice “coerced baptisms” on these adults. But since when should cultural considerations be allowed to overturn apostolic example, especially when we are talking about the explicit command of God (Genesis 17, “every male among you shall be circumcised)?

C) A supposed confession of faith on the part of the spouse and/or other adults in the household. But this is to do the very thing paedobaptists accuse the baptists of doing: reading into the household baptisms what is not explicitly there in the text.

4) Paedobaptists do not practice the “halfway covenant.” That is, if the children of covenant members are also in the covenant, then are the children of these covenant members also in the covenant? That is, if God has “children” (believers) and “grandchildren” (believers’ children), why may he not have “great-grandchildren” (believers’ children’s children), who by virtue of their descent from covenant members are also in the covenant? Thus, practically speaking, why not baptize the children of covenant children, even if those covenant children have never made a profession of saving faith? To do so was the practice with respect to circumcision under the Old Covenant. Why is it not the practice of paedobaptists under the New, given their principle of strict continuity with the Old Testament?

This “halfway covenant” controversy is no abstract speculation. It was a deep practical crisis for paedobaptists in New England (1634-1828), who were forced to develop several contradictory lines of response to a fundamental practical absurdity which their paedobaptist theology raised. Note how it was not an absurdity under the Old Covenant: “every male among you shall be circumcised,” period (Genesis 17:12-14). Also note how it is not an absurdity if the covenant signs are restricted to those who profess saving faith in Jesus Christ (i.e. if the baptist view is adopted).

Paedobaptist Sentimentalism Examined

Some may ask, “Why end your booklet by critiquing a series of emotionally-driven, ad hominem arguments for infant baptism? No respectable theologian would indulge in this kind of tugging of the heartstrings, as a substitute for genuine biblical argument!” Perhaps not, but otherwise respectable seminary students, professors, and their wives do, if my personal experience is any rule! And as long as these kinds of questions are repeatedly asked–informally yet forcefully–of baptist seminary students, church members and pastors, a response needs to be at hand.

1) “Are you saying my covenant children aren’t ‘special’?” Baptists rightly respond with the words of Paul: “Just as it is written: Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Romans 9:13). Thus is God’s testimony concerning these “covenant children.” God may not love your “covenant children” any more or less than the general mass of unregenerate mankind. Your only assurance of God’s love for them is if they specifically repent and believe the gospel, thus showing themselves to be chosen and loved by him from eternity. Any other view is pure presumption without Scriptural warrant. Isaac would have been presumptuous to write a letter to his newborn Esau in which he stated: “Dearest Esau, child of the covenant: Not only do I love you, but more importantly, God loves you as well!” Such a letter would have been contrary to Christian responsibility, and the God-ordained facts.(10)

2) “Are you saying that God won’t hear the prayers of my four-year old covenant child?” Baptists rightly respond that God will always hear a prayer for conversion from anyone, young or old. God will also hear and answer any prayer which issues from a sincere, renewed heart. Of course, not all covenant children have sincere, renewed hearts (Ishmael? Esau? the sons of Korah? Eli’s sons?). Therefore, parents can have confidence that God hears the prayers of their children to the extent that they have confidence that their children have renewed hearts, or that their children are praying for conversion. Besides, what has this to do with infant baptism? Did the covenant with Abraham involve a “promise” to hear the prayers of all the descendants of Abraham, simply because they were his descendants? Do we adopt infant baptism because it allows us to say comforting things about our children?

3) “How dare you baptists separate the children from their own parents in the covenant community! They are your own flesh and blood!” But paedobaptists do not include the spouse in the covenant community! And yet the term “flesh and blood” is more reminiscent of the marriage relationship than the parent-child relationship! “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Thus children are not “separated” any more from their parents on the baptist view, than the unbelieving spouse is “separated” from his or her spouse on the paedobaptist view. This question seems to imply that when baptist parents go to church, they leave their kids in the parking lot. Baptist parents also bring their children under the influence of preaching, catechizing, and family instruction. So what’s the point?

4) “Now you say, as part of your so-called ‘gospel,’ that my children aren’t in the covenant, and cannot receive the covenant sign. Is that ‘good news’? No!” This kind of argument, inferring from a general notion of “expanded privileges” under the New Covenant a specific application to infant privileges, should have about as much force as the following pseudo-argument of a paedo-communionist to most paedobaptists: “You won’t let my children partake of the covenant meal (Lord’s Supper)? You are revoking the privileges they had under the Old Covenant with respect to the Passover! Is that ‘good news’?” Thus, there is no paedobaptist “argument from expanded privilege” against the revoking of baptismal privileges for infants that cannot also be made for infant communion. Arguments like this have about as much force as any Jewish objection to the passing away of the types and shadows of the Old Testament. A much more relevant question would be: “What does God require of me under the New Covenant?” or “Who is in the New Covenant?”

Summary and Conclusion

By now it is clear that the traditional arguments for paedobaptism, including the widely-accepted “Reformed argument from the covenant of grace,” are greatly mistaken. As was stated at the outset, the traditionally Reformed version of covenant theology needs to be subjected to a more careful biblical scrutiny. Paedobaptists commit a fundamental and therefore fatal hermeneutical error with respect to the historical administrations of the covenant of grace. In doing so, they overlook significant discontinuities in the meaning and function of the covenant signs, misuse key biblical texts, raise insoluble but inevitable difficulties for their practice of paedobaptism, and (at times) make a degrading and unworthy sentimentalism masquerade in the place of genuine Scriptural argument.

Such errors are serious, and ought to give rise to serious pastoral (not merely academic) concern. For the paedobaptist error strikes at the heart of God’s present covenantal dealings with his people, “on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). If the New Testament church is Old Testament Israel come of age (Galatians 4:1-7)–Israel renewed and transformed by the gracious purpose and power of God–then we dare not include within that covenant community individuals concerning whom we have little or no evidence are actually in covenant with God. The witness of the Old and New Testaments are united on this point: God’s New Covenant people actually know the Lord, have their sins forgiven, and have the law of God written on their hearts. And as far as is humanly possible, in subjection to the standards of the Word and in humble dependence upon God, this conception of the church and of its membership must be maintained and pursued. To do otherwise, to embrace confusion on so vital a point, will bring and has undoubtedly brought an increase of spiritual self-deception among those who profess the name of Christ.(11)

Footnotes
1 For the purposes of this paper, the terms ‘infant baptism’ and ‘paedobaptism’ will be used interchangeably.

2 Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1978.

3 Rather than reading the Old Testament in light of the New, which is the proper hermeneutic accepted by both baptists and paedobaptists, but forgotten by paedobaptists at this point. My terminology of “Christianizing” and “Judaizing” is taken from Jewett (pp. 91-93).

4 Jewett, p. 122.

5 For a more detailed discussion of 1 Corinthians 7:14, see the article by Stan Reeves at

http://www.eng.auburn.edu/~sjreeves/personal/1cor.html.

6 Jewett, p. 49.

7 Jewett, p. 50.

8 Jewett, p. 50.

9 Paedocommunionists obviously do, but they are a minority among paedobaptists. And since they simply argue for an expanded level of “covenant privileges” for their infants, the arguments already given against infant covenant membership apply equally to them.

10 I am talking, of course, about God¼s special, covenant love to his own, not his general love of benevolence to all his creatures.

11 For further references and supporting information, see the FAQ on the Reformed Baptist View of Baptism.

For those who want to know: THE PRIMITIVE ORIGINS OF LENT

Taken and adapted from, “Lent, Past and Present”
Written by, Hermann Lilienthal
Published in, 1895lent

The earliest name given to this fasting season…

…seems to be Quadragesimal,  –the Latin equivalent for the Greek term, or the Quadragesimal Fast, referring to its length. But whether the Quadragesimal Fast was for forty days or only forty hours is a point on which differences of opinion have existed.

Another name given to this season is the Ante-Paschal fast, referring to the fact that from the very first age it was customary to fast before Easter –the paschal feast or pass over.

Still another name is the one with which we are most familiar, is Lent. This name of the season is supposed to be derived from the old English word for Spring ‘Lencten, meaning perhaps, the time when the days lengthen.”

Now to enter into a more detailed examination we have these three names: Quadragesimal, referring to the length of the fast whether according to hours or days; Ante-Paschal fast, referring to the position of the fast in the Christian year; and Lent, referring to its position in the natural year.

The earliest reference we have to it is in a letter preserved by Eusebius in his Church History. Eusebius, who was born about the year 260 A. D., quotes in his history (Book v. ch. 24) a passage from a letter of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons in Gaul, to Victor, Bishop of Rome. The letter was written in reference to the diversity of usage of keeping Easter in the primitive Church, and incidentally the fact is brought out of the observance of Lent. “For the controversy,” writes Irenaeus, “is not only concerning the day (Easter) but also concerning the very manner of the fast (the fast before Easter). For some think that they should fast one day, others two, yet others more; some moreover count their day as consisting of forty hours, day and night. And this variety in its observance has not originated in our time, but long before in that of our ancestors.” Now Irenaeus, the writer of this letter, was born about the year 130 A. D., and had sat at the feet of Polycarp, who was himself a disciple of John. This is what Irenaeus says of Polycarp: “Polycarp was instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ; and I saw him in my early youth.” “I can recall the very place where Polycarp used to sit and teach, his manner of speech, his mode of life, his appearance, the style of his address to the people, and the accounts which he gave of his intercourse with (St.) John and with the others who had seen the Lord; how he used to repeat from memory their discourses, and the things which he had heard from them concerning our Lord, His miracles, and His teaching.” And in addition he says, “These things being told me by the mercy of God, I listened to them attentively, noting them down, not on paper, but in my heart.”

I am particular to observe this connection of Irenaeus with Polycarp because it gives us a hint how early must have been the origin of a Lenten fast. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, and Polycarp was a disciple of St. John.

By spiritual descent we might say Irenaeus was a spiritual grandson of the beloved disciple St. John. In this letter to Victor we further notice, the writer says of the observance of Lent, it “has not originated in our time; but long before in that of our ancestors.” Now as Polycarp was the teacher of Irenaeus, we may safely say that a Lenten fast must have been observed as early as the time of this teacher, and this teacher lived in the later years of St. John the apostle. Again, if ”ancestors ” refers back to more than one generation, we have then the Lenten fast referred back to St. John, the teacher of Irenaeus. It seems reasonable and worthy of credit therefore, that some Lenten or Ante-Paschal fast was an established custom at least as early as the beginning of the second century, and perhaps earlier, at the close of the first century in the last years of the beloved disciple himself. The place of institution of this fast, connecting it as we do with St. John, was, we may believe, in the East, in Ephesus and the cities adjacent.

Again, we have evidence of the early origin of the Lenten fast in the writings of Tertullian, who lived in the second and third centuries, and who after his perversion to Montanism, in controversy with the primitive Church about fasts, chides it for keeping only the two days before Easter. We hear again of the observance of Lent by the allusion of the First General Council held in 325 A. D., and the reference to Lent by this Council tends to confirm us in the belief that this season had already been long established. In the fifth canon of this Council concerning excommunication, in order that this discipline may not be arbitrarily exercised, it is advised that two synods be held in a year when questions of discipline might be reviewed. In determining the time when these synods shall be held the canon says, ”Let one synod be held before Lent,” or, according to the Latinized form of the original Greek, before the Quadragesimal Fast.

After this First Council had concluded its deliberations the Emperor Constantine wrote an encyclical letter to the bishops of the Church urging uniformity in the observance of Easter, and from this letter we indirectly learn of the universal practice of an Ante-Paschal fast. Thus the Emperor writes, “Let your pious sagacity, (the bishop) reflect how evil and improper it is, that days devoted by some to fasting should be spent by others in convivial feasting; and that after the paschal feast, some are rejoicing in festivals and relaxations, while others give themselves up to the appointed fasts.” By the year 325 A. D. we may say the observance of the Lenten fast was universal in the Church. Its earliest origin, as we have seen, may reach as far back as to the later years of the apostle St. John; but if this early date be questioned, then certainly to the generation of Christians immediately succeeding the apostle one of whose disciples was Polycarp. We may safely say that a Lenten or Ante-Paschal fast of some kind has been observed continuously in the Christian Church from the beginning of the second century down to our time.

We have already seen from the letter of Irenaeus that there was a difference of usage as to the time of keeping, and also as to the length of the fast. Let us now observe what was presumably the original duration of the fast, and how it has been developed to its present length.

The early historians notice diversity of usage in regard to the fast; still they lead us to think that originally the Lenten fast was but forty hours long, begun about twelve on Friday before Easter, Good Friday, and continued till Sunday morning, the time of our Savior’s resurrection. Irenaeus, whom we have already mentioned, refers to this fast as ‘the fast of forty hours before Easter.’ It perhaps is only right to notice that a difference of punctuation of this passage from Irenaeus gives us a different interpretation, that is, that the fast was of forty days, but the general consensus of modern scholars interpreting with the light of the historical development of this season thrown upon this passage, favors the rendering ” forty hours ” rather than ” forty days.”

Tertullian also refers to the Lenten fast as coinciding with the two days, the time our Lord lay in the sepulcher, and his allusion to this period leads us to think that in his day the Ante-Paschal fast was not of more than forty hours in length. We may well believe that the Church, even from apostolic times, observed this season, basing the fast, as Tertullian and others tell us, on the words of our Lord, “The days will come that the Bridegroom shall be taken from them and then shall they fast.” Our examination seems so far to establish the view that at the first the Lenten fast extended only over about forty hours.

Without being able to trace the gradual in-crease in length of this season, we notice that by the end of the third and beginning of the fourth century the Lenten fast had greatly lengthened; but even so, though the practice of a fast was universal, there was no absolute uniformity as to its duration. The historian Socrates writes, ” One may observe how the Ante-Paschal fast is differently observed by men of different churches. The Romans fast three weeks before Easter, only the Sabbaths and Lord’s Days excepted; the Illyrians and all Greece and the Alexandrians fast six weeks; others (the Church of Constantinople) begin their fast seven weeks before Easter, but only fast fifteen days by intervals.”

Cassian, another historian, tells us, “Though some churches kept their Lent six weeks, and some seven, yet none of them made their fast above thirty-six days in the whole.” Yet, not-withstanding the fact that the various churches had different periods for their fast, they all called it the Quadragesimal Fast. So the name Quadragesimal is by no means proof positive of the belief of some, that the fast was always one of forty days. In fact, as we have just seen, Cassian says none “made their fast above thirty-six days in the whole,” and the reason given for this period of observance was that it was one tenth of the year, a tithe of time which should be devoted to God. As Christians tithed their alms so should they tithe their year.

Thus those who kept six weeks reckoned only thirty-six days for their fast, for from the forty-two days of six weeks was deducted the six Sundays, thus leaving but thirty-six days.

Again, those churches which kept seven weeks kept only thirty-six fasting days: for though seven weeks give us forty-nine days, yet all the Saturdays “the Saturday before Easter being excepted” as well as Sundays were taken out; thus thirteen days were deducted from the forty-nine days, which still made the fast one of thirty-six days. It was the Eastern Church rather than the Western which kept a greater number of weeks, because in the Eastern Church Saturday “the great Sabbath excepted” ” has never been a fast day, not even in the Lenten season. This accounts for the Lenten fast beginning earlier in the Eastern than in the Western Church, and so lasting through a greater number of weeks, though the actual number of fasting days was the same.

It is interesting to observe the reason given by St. Chrysostom for the exception of Saturdays and Sundays from fasting. ”As there are stations,” says he, ”and inns in the public roads, for weary travelers to refresh themselves, and rest from their labors, that they may more cheerfully go on again in their journey; and as in the sea there are shores and havens for seamen to betake themselves to, when they are in a storm, and refresh themselves from the violence of the winds, and then begin sailing again; so the Lord hath appointed these two days (Saturday and Sunday) in the week, as stations, and inns, and shores, and havens, for those to rest in who have taken upon them the course of fasting in this holy time of Lent, that they may refresh their bodies a little from the labor of fasting, and recreate their minds, and after the two days are past, to go on again with cheerfulness in the journey which they have begun.”

But to return to the extension of this season the next advance is to the exact period of forty days which now prevails throughout western Christendom. Who added Ash-Wednesday and the three days following it to the be-ginning of Lent in the Western Church so as to make the season exactly forty days is not unanimously agreed upon by historians. Some say it was the work of Gregory the Great, but others ascribe it to Gregory II., who lived over a hundred years later. ” But whichever of these Bishops added the four extra days, they are an addition made to the season sometime after it had been an established usage of the Church to observe a Lenten fast, as Cassian has told us, of only thirty-six days. If the four extra days were added by Gregory L, the Lent fast of forty days would not be earlier than the close of the sixth or beginning of the seventh century. If the change was made by Gregory II., then the practice of a Lent fast of forty days does not antedate 715 A. D.

But we may see a reason for the change from thirty-six days ” the tithe of the year ” to forty days. Forty days is a period that occurs frequently in the Bible as a time of fasting and prayer.

Moses when first he went up into the mount to receive the Law says of himself, ” I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights. I neither did eat bread nor drink water.” Again he says of himself after he had broken the two Tables of the Law because of the idolatry of his people, “And I fell down before the Lord as at the first, forty-days and forty nights, I did neither eat bread nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned.” So too it is inferred by many that Elijah fasted forty days after he had twice eaten of food prepared for him by an angel, ” and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.”

Briefly to instance a few more Old Testament examples of this number forty: “This was the number of days God covered the earth with the deluge; this the number of years in which the children of Israel did penance in the wilderness; and the Ninevites had this number of days allowed for their repentance.” But chiefly is the parallel found in the life of our Lord, who, led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, ” fasted forty days and forty nights.” The change then which was made from thirty-six to forty days we may believe was based on the scriptural analogies which have been quoted, and which at the same time made the number of days agree with the name of the season itself “Quadragesimal” a name which notwithstanding the variation in the length of the season in different sections of the primitive Church, was indifferently applied.

It may not be amiss to briefly state how the forty days’ fast is computed. Ash-Wednesday to Easter “a period of six weeks and four days” gives us forty-six days, from which number of days are subtracted the six Sundays in Lent, thus giving us the Lenten fast of forty days.

Here too a word may be permitted as to the origin of the word Ash-Wednesday. We have learned that originally there was no Ash-Wednesday connected with the Lenten fast.

This day was not added, at the earliest, until the time of Gregory I., and it derives its name from the custom which was instituted at the time the day was added of sprinkling ashes upon the heads of penitents to remind them of their mortality. Further, as to this practice we are led to believe that ashes were not sprinkled upon all the worshippers, but only on the heads of those who were penitents, and were under sentence of ecclesiastical discipline.