From Charles Spurgeon

They feast on the abundance of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your delights. – Psalm 36.8.

Sheba’s queen was amazed at the sumptuousness of Solomon’s table.  She lost all heart when she saw the provision of a single day and she marveled equally at the company of servants who were feasted by the royal board.  But, what is this to the hospitalities of the God of grace?  Ten thousand thousand of His people are daily fed.  Hungry and thirsty, they bring large appetites with them to the banquet, but not one of them returns unsatisfied.  There is enough for each, enough for all, enough for evermore.  Though the host that feeds at Jehovah’s table is as countless as the stars of heaven, yet each one has his portion of meat.  Think how much grace one saint requires, so much that nothing but the Infinite could supply him for one day.  And, yet, the Lord spreads His table not for one, but many saints – not for one day, but for many years – not for many years only, but for generation after generation.  Observe the full feasting spoken of in the text: the guests at mercy’s banquet are satisfied, nay, more abundantly satisfied, and that not with ordinary fare, but with fatness, the peculiar fatness of God’s own house.  And, such feasting is guaranteed by a faithful promise to all those children of men who put their trust under the shadow of Jehovah’s wings.  I once thought that, if I might but get the broken meat at God’s back door of grace, I should be satisfied, like the woman who said, “The dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.”  But, no child of God is ever served with scraps and leavings.  Like Mephibosheth, they all eat from the King’s own table.  In matters of grace, we all have Benjamin’s mess – we all have ten times more than we could have expected and, though our necessities are great, yet are we often amazed at the marvelous plenty of grace which God gives us, experientially, to enjoy. – Devotion for March 4 (evening)

From: Evening by Evening by Charles Haddon Spurgeon (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1868)


Martin Luther and His Wife

Luther lived in a society where women ran household workshops, looked after apprentices and journeymen, and even engaged in the production processes.  Women could incur debts, invest and, in some areas, do business on their own account.  Yet, his comments assumed a sharp division of labor that simply did not accord with most people’s lives in the sixteenth century.  Instead, they reflected academic life, where a radically gendered division of labor made it possible for a man like Luther to write and read undisturbed while Katharina provisioned the household, saw to the accounts, and organized the student lodgers, who were a major source of income.  Katharina and the servants thus provided the invisible labor that allowed Luther to devote himself to study.  As part of her responsibilities, Katharina purchased land at Zulsdorf, near Wittenberg, to grow produce, in addition to the garden the family owned just outside the town walls, close to the pig market.  She was famed for her beer brewing, a necessity in a period when water was not safe to drink.

The marriage infuriated his opponents beyond measure.  They soon turned their fire on Katharina herself and, in 1528, two young graduates from Leipzig wrote a couple of scurrilous pamphlets.  Johann Hasenberg’s letter-cum-dialogue, addressed to “Martin Luther, disturber of the peace and of piety,” called on him repeatedly to “convert, revert,” and was twinned with an offering by Joachim von de Heyde.  His pamphlet called on Katharina to leave her “damned and shameful life,” and insulted her as a nun who had donned lay clothes and tripped off to the university at Wittenberg like a “dance girl.”  Other nuns had been misled by her example, and gave up “true freedom” of body and soul for the “fleshly freedom” Luther advocated in his pestilential writings.  They would end up, wrote the pamphleteer, not in their lovely convents with their good food but in “dishonorable brothels” where they would be beaten, their clothes sold, and they themselves pawned like common whores.

From: Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet by Lyndal Roper (New York: Random House, 2016), pp. 272-273.

Matthew Henry (53) (14)

Let us be thankful that we have the canon of Scripture complete and, by the wonderful and special care of divine providence, preserved pure and incorrupt through so many successive ages, and not dare to add to it nor diminish from it.  Let us believe the divine original of the sacred Scriptures and conform our faith and practice to this, our sufficient and only rule, which is able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  Amen. – Matthew Henry (1662-1714), commenting on 2 Thessalonians 3.16-18.

No Works for Salvation, But Plenty of Works Afterwards

In his hymn, “Rock of Ages,” Augustus Toplady spoke of the gospel as “the double cure,” saving us from both sin’s guilt and its power.  The gospel announces that we are free not only from condemnation but from the cruel tyranny of sin.  In the act of justification, works and grace are totally opposed.  However, precisely on the basis of justification, good works are the fruit of faith.  The faith that receives Christ apart from works for justification also receives Christ for works in sanctification.  We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, for a life of good works (Ephesians 2.8-10).  The order is first justification, then good works; not first good works, then justification.  The Spirit creates faith through His Word; faith clings to Christ alone, and this faith produces the fruit of the Spirit.  The gospel indicative is not only that we are justified, but that we are buried and raised with Christ in resurrection life (Romans 6.1-11).  The imperative naturally follows: “Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal bodies” (verse 12).

From: Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples by Michael Horton (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), pp. 304-305.

On Creation

Creation does not take place within God’s being, as neo-Hegelian theologies assume.  Yet, it also does not generate itself.  Nor is the world a self-sustaining mechanism in the way that deism supposed.  It is not only brought into being but sustained in being and becoming and, finally, brought to its consummated goal by the Father, in the Son, through the Spirit.  Creation is rightly described by Christians as one of God’s external works (opera ad extra) – that is, one of the contingent and freely chosen relations to that which is not God – rather than being one of His internal works (opera ad intra), that is, necessary intratrinitarian relations and attributes.  “Our material, therefore, imposes on us a clear choice between a biblical and a Hellenic ontology,” writes Colin Gunton.  “Either the world created itself or it is the product of a personal creator.”

The necessary implication of this view is that God created the world for His own glory and not out of any need for self-fulfillment, self-completion, or company (contrary to the opinion of Meister Eckhart and even some of the tendencies in Arminian accounts, but especially in Moltmann and process theologies).  Appealing to Jonathan Edwards, Jenson rightly insists that we cannot substitute God’s love for His glory as the motive and final end of creation.  It is a “disastrous” move and “is, doubtless, one cause of late modernity’s degradation of deity into a servant of our self-help.”

In sharp contrast, the biblical doctrine of ex nihilo (“from nothing”) creation maintains that God created finite, temporal, and material-spiritual creatures and pronounced this intrinsic difference “good.”  Human beings – in the totality of their existence as spiritual and physical – belong in this world of time and space.  There is no place for the idea of a divine soul longing to transcend its creaturely finitude in order to return to a primordial condition of eternal pre-existence in the unity of being.  Neither divine nor demonic, nature was created good but different from God.  This doctrine of ex nihilo creation is the correlate to the rival paradigm of “meeting a stranger.”

From: The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way by Michael Horton (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), pp. 327-328.

Dying and Rising with Christ

All for whom Christ died also died in Christ.  All who died in Christ rose again in Christ.  The rising again with Christ is a rising to newness of life after the likeness of Christ’s resurrection.  To die with Christ is, therefore, to die to sin and to rise with Him to the life of new obedience, to live not to ourselves but to Him who died for us and rose again.  The inference is inevitable that those for whom Christ died are those, and those only, who die to sin and live to righteousness.

Now, it is a plain fact that not all die to sin and live in newness of life.  Hence, we cannot say that all men distributively died with Christ.  And neither can we say that Christ died for all men, for the simple reason that all for whom Christ died also died in Christ.  If we cannot say that Christ died for all men, neither can we say that the atonement is universal. – John Murray (1898-1975)

Being With Jesus

Will it add nothing to the glory of that event and to the happiness of that moment when the Son of God descends and, dissolving the soft slumbers of the holy dead, will reanimate each with its former occupant, that then we will perfectly recognize those we once knew and loved and renew the sweet intercourse, before imperfect and limited, but now complete and eternal?  Dry, then, your tears and cease to mourn, you saints of God.  They are not lost, but gone before.  Their spirits live in Jesus.  And, when He comes, He will bring them with Him, and you will see and know them with a cloudless sight and a perfect knowledge.  The very eyes which once smiled on you so kindly, the very tongue which spoke to you so comfortingly, the very hands which administered to you so skillfully, the very feet which traveled by your side so faithfully, the very bosom which pillowed you so tenderly – you will meet again.  “For the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5.8), and “through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4.14).  Let us “encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4.18).

And, will it be no additional joy to meet and to know those eminent servants of the Lord whose histories and whose writings stimulated, instructed, and cheered us, shedding light and gladness on our way: Abraham, whose faith had animated us; David, whose experiential psalms had comforted us; Isaiah, whose visions of Jesus had gladdened us; Paul, whose doctrinal epistles had instructed us; John, whose letters of love had subdued us?  To gaze on the Magdalene sitting at Jesus’ feet, on the beggar reposing in Abraham’s bosom, and on the thief with Christ in paradise – oh, will not this add to the happiness of heaven?  Will this be no joy, no bliss, no glory?  Assuredly, it will!  At Christ’s coming, will not His ministers, too, and those to whom their labors had been useful meet, know, and rejoice in each other?  The pastor and the flock, will there be no certain and permanent reunion – no sweet and fond and holy recognition?  Will their union in the church below exceed, in its beauty and sweetness, their reunion in the church above?  Here, it is necessarily mingled with much that is imperfect.

Much concealment is connected with their united labors in the vineyard of Christ.  They go forth weeping, bearing precious seed, and often are called to their rest before the fruit of their prayers, tears, and toil appears.  Here, too, seasons of sickness and of separation frequently transpire, shadowing the spirit with gloom and wringing the heart with anguish.  And then, at last, death itself rudely breaks the tender bond, lays the standard-bearer low, leaving the affectionate flock to gaze, with tears, on the lessening spirit of their pastor as it ascends and towers away to glory.  But, the coming of Jesus with all His saints will restore this happy union, invest it with new and richer glory, and place it on a permanent, indeed, everlasting basis.  “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at His coming?  Is it not you?  For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2.19-20).  Yes, beloved, we will know each other again, altered and glorified though we may be. – Octavius Winslow (1808-1878)

From: Morning Thoughts; Daily Walking with God by Octavius Winslow; 2nd edition of the reprint, edited by Joel R. Beeke (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016 [2003]), pp. 67-68.  Entry for March 11, commenting on 1 Thessalonians 4.14.  Originally published in 1856.  Lightly edited, and substituting the ESV for the KJV in the biblical quotations.

In memory of James Shinker, Sr. (1933-2018).  RIP.

On the Relationship Between the Old Testament and the New Testament

The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted.  The introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before, but it brings out, into clearer view, much of what is in it but was only dimly, or even not at all, perceived before. . .Thus, the Old Testament revelation of God is not corrected by the fuller revelation which follows it, but is only perfected, extended, and enlarged. – Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851-1921)

Matthew Henry (52) (13)

The apostle begins with thanksgiving to God.  Being about to mention the things that were matter of joy to him, and praiseworthy in them, and greatly for their advantage, he chooses to do this by way of thanksgiving to God, who is the author of all that good that comes to us, or is done by us, at any time.  God is the object of all religious worship, of prayer and praise.  And thanksgiving to God is a great duty, to be performed always or constantly; even when we do not actually give thanks to God by our words, we should have a grateful sense of God’s goodness upon our minds.  Thanksgiving should be often repeated; and not only should we be thankful for the favors we ourselves receive, but for the benefits bestowed on others also, upon our fellow creatures and fellow Christians.  The apostle gave thanks not only for those who were his most intimate friends, or most eminently favored of God, but for them all. – Matthew Henry (1662-1714), commenting on 1 Thessalonians 1.2-5.