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An excerpt from C.H.M.’s “‘Accepted’ & ‘Acceptable’.”

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

“The blessed apostle knew he was accepted. Did that make him lax, careless, or indolent? Far from it. ‘We labor’ he says, ‘to be acceptable to him.’ The sweet assurance that we are accepted in Him is the ground of our labor to be acceptable to Him. ‘The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead. And he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again.’ 2 Cor. 5:14, 15.

All this is pre-eminently practical. We are called upon, by every argument which can bear sway over the heart and conscience, to labor diligently to be acceptable to our blessed and adorable Lord. Is there aught of legality in this? Not the slightest tinge. The very reverse. It is the holy superstructure of a devoted life, erected on the solid foundation of our eternal election and perfect acceptance in a risen and glorified Christ at God’s right hand. How could there be the very smallest atom of legality here? Utterly impossible. It is all the pure fruit of God’s free and sovereign grace from first to last.

But ought we not, beloved Christian reader, to rouse ourselves to attend to the claims of Christ as to practical righteousness? Should we not zealously and lovingly aim at giving Him pleasure? Are we to content ourselves with simply talking about our acceptance in Christ, while at the same time there is no real earnest care as to the acceptability of our ways? God forbid! Yea, let us so dwell upon the rich grace that shines in the acceptance of our persons, that we may be led out in diligent and fervent effort to be found acceptable in our ways.

It is greatly to be feared that there is an appalling amount of antinomianism amongst us—an unhallowed traffic in the doctrines of grace, without any godly care as to the application of those doctrines to our practical conduct. How all this is to end, it would be hard to say; but, most assuredly, there is an urgent call upon all who profess to be accepted in Christ to labor fervently to be acceptable to Him.” C.H. Mackintosh, “‘Accepted’ & ‘Acceptable’” in Things New & Old, Vol. 17; quoted in Milk & Honey, April 2017; electronic ed. accessed on 5/13/17 here: http://bibletruthpublishers.com/accepted-and-acceptable/charles-henry-mackintosh-chm/things-new-and-old-volume-17/la50614 [Italics original.]

An Effective Ministry, A Guest-post by Randal Amos

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

Paul’s ministry in 1 Thessalonians 2

2:1 – Paul taught his entrance among the Thessalonians was a positive thing.

What qualified the ministry to be counted as positive?

13-16“Ye received it [the word preached] not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God”.  Therefore the Word effectually changed their hearts.  They became followers, not of Jewish religion and its legal practices, but of the other churches of God in Christ Jesus.  And they suffered for this culturally and religiously but kept going on.

Why were the results effective?  Following are 8 things that characterized his ministry. 

#1.   2:2The Right Mentality  (mental toughness)

Paul was jailed and shamed in Philippi.  Yet he and the others did not quit.  They then went on to Thessalonica and “were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention”.  They had the heart of a lamb but the hide of a rhinoceros.

Negative happenings did not change their faithfulness.   

#2.   2:3-4The Right Message

Their message was not religious law, political reform, financial prosperity, a better health-diet or a self-help program but “the gospel of God”.  Their “exhortation was not of deceit” with twisted error or trickery.  It was a message that did not try to please men but only God.  He opened God’s Scriptures and proved the gospel – that Christ suffered fully for our sins to save from our due judgment.  And that this Jesus rose from the dead showing He is that Christ (God’s anointed Lord and Savior), Acts 17:1-3.

Many speakers dynamically motivate but with the wrong message.

#3.   2:5-6The Right Motive

Paul did not wear a “cloke of covetousness”, i.e. pretending on the outside to care and represent God which would mask from them his real reason – being after their money through guilt, greed and gimmicks.  He did not make “merchandise of you” (2Pet. 2:3).

Neither did he flatter their egos to make them feel ok and special the way they were so they would like him.  “Nor of men sought we glory” that would make him a spiritual hero to them thus making it easy for him to take advantage of them.  They, as saved souls, in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ were his only glory and joy, 2:19, 20.

He was not in it for self but for God – Who tries the heart, and is a witness of it.  

#4.   2:7, 11The Right Match  (balance)

When Paul was among them he was neither a tyrant nor a wimp.  He had both father and mother qualities to him.  He was “gentle among you” (not harsh) as a nursing mother is with her dear children.  But he also “exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father” does his to children.   He was kind but firm in the things of God.

He had grace and truth like his Lord. 

#5.   2:8, 17-20The Right Moving  (what moved his heart was love, not self)

He had heart affection for the people themselves.  He just didn’t give them the gospel and ‘hit and run’. “Ye were dear unto us”. With desire he tried to return – then wrote them.

He loved the Lord and His people also.  He knew a head has a body – both are cherished.

#6.   2:9The Right Method

It was more than just bringing the saving gospel word to them but he used methods that were strategically meant to reveal God’s character and ways – thus aiding their knowledge of God.  Because they needed the example to work for a living, he, rather than depend on them for financial help (which was his due, 1 Cor. 9), “labouring night and day” with his own hands in hardship to help meet his needs. (Acts 18:3, 20:34).  Thus they would learn not to covet.  Later he could compellingly and un-hypocritically charge from God to the idle busy bodies; “if any would not work, neither should he eat”, (2 Thess. 3:10).

The method in telling the message of God should compliment the God of the message, (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

#7.   2:10The Right Manner of Life

Paul not only told them what was right, he lived what was right.  “How holily, and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.”  Holy is piety toward God.  Justly is righteous fairness toward man.  Blameless is public reputation.  Paul was a living example of his message – written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.

Paul not only talked the walk but he also walked the talk. 

#8.   2:12The Right Mark  (aim of ministry to hit – goal)

Paul was not after money or fame.  He was not after stunning numbers but after their walk“That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory”.  As he would further write in 4:1; “ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more”.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth”, 3John: 4.

May we seek these 8 qualities by His grace in our ministries for the Lord Jesus.

Serve The Lord Where You Are, Believer! (C.H. Spurgeon)

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

“Providence, which arranged your surroundings, appointed them so that, all things being considered, you are in the position in which you can best display the wisdom and the grace of God. Now, if you can once accept this as being a fact, it will make a man of you. My Christian brother, or my dear sister, it will enable you to serve God with a force which you have not yet obtained, for then, instead of panting for spheres to which you will never reach, you will enquire for immediate duty, asking, ‘What does my hand find to do?’ You need not use your feet to traverse half a nation to find work, it lies close at hand. Your calling is near at home; your vocation lies at the door, and within it. What your hand finds to do, do it at once, and with all your might, and you will find such earnest service the best method in which you can glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘A large family,’ says one, ‘what can I do?’ Train them in the fear of God; these children are yours to serve the Lord withal. What nobler service can a mother render to the republic upon earth, and to the kingdom in heaven, than to educate her children for Christ? ‘Working in a large factory with ungodly men, what can I do?’ Needless enquiry! What cannot the salt do when it is cast among the meat? You, as a piece of salt, are just where you should be. Immure Christians in monasteries and nunneries! why it is like putting salt into a strong iron box and burying it in the ground. Nay, but the salt of the earth must be cast all over that which is to be conserved by it, and each of us must be put in a position where our influence as a Christian will be felt. ‘I am sick,’ says another, ‘I am chained to the bed of languishing.’ But, my friend, your patience will magnify the power of grace, and your words of experience will enrich those who listen to you. Your experience will yield a richer wine than ever could have come from you had you not been cast into the wine-press and trodden by the foot of affliction. I tell you, brethren, I cannot go into instances and details, but it is a most certain fact that all about you, though it be a blind eye, a disabled arm, a stammering tongue, a flagging memory, poverty in the house, or sickness in the chamber; though it be derision, and scorn, and contempt, everything about you is yours; and if you know how to use it rightly, you will turn these disadvantages into advantages, and prosper by them.” C.H. Spurgeon, “Things Present,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 15. Originally preached on May 9, 1869. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1869), 273-274.

The Mockery Of The Cross (C.H. Spurgeon)

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: Let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” Psalm 22:6-8

He is despised and rejected of men; A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: And we hid as it were our faces from him; He was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3

And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.” Luke 23:48

“Earth never beheld a scene in which so much unrestrained derision and expressive contempt were poured upon one man so unanimously and for so long a time. It must have been hideous to the last degree to have seen so many grinning faces and mocking eyes, and to have heard so many cruel words and scornful shouts. The spectacle was too detestable to be long endured of heaven. Suddenly the sun, shocked at the scene, veiled his face, and for three long hours the ribald crew sat shivering in midday midnight. Meanwhile the earth trembled beneath their feet, the rocks were rent, and the temple, in superstitious defence of whose perpetuity they had committed the murder of the just, had its holy veil rent as though by strong invisible hands. The news of this, and the feeling of horror produced by the darkness, and the earth-tremor, caused a revulsion of feelings; there were no more gibes and jests, no more thrustings out of the tongue and cruel mockeries, but they went their way solitary and alone to their homes, or in little silent groups, while each man alter the manner of Orientals when struck with sodden awe, smote upon his breast. Far different was the procession to the gates of Jerusalem from that march of madness which had come out therefrom. Observe the power which God hath over human minds! See how he can tame the wildest, and make the most malicious and proud to cower down at his feet when he doth but manifest himself in the wonders of nature! How much more cowed and terrified will they be when he makes bare his arm and comes forth in the judgments of his wrath to deal with them according to their deserts!

This sudden and memorable change in so vast a multitude is the apt representative of two other remarkable mental changes. How like it is to the gracious transformation which a sight of the cross has often worked most blessedly in the hearts of men! Many have come under the sound of the gospel resolved to scoff, but they have returned to pray. The idlest and even the basest motives have brought men under the preaching, but when Jesus has been lifted up, they have been savingly drawn to him, and as a consequence have smitten upon their breasts in repentance, and gone their way to serve the Saviour whom they once blasphemed. Oh, the power, the melting, conquering, transforming power of that dear cross of Christ! My brethren, we have but to abide by the preaching of it, we have but constantly to tell abroad the matchless story, and we may expect to see the most remarkable spiritual results. We need despair of no man now that Jesus has died for sinners. With such a hammer as the doctrine of the cross, the most flinty heart will be broken; and with such a fire as the sweet love of Christ, the most mighty iceberg will be melted. We need never despair for the heathenish or superstitious races of men; if we can but find occasion to bring the doctrine of Christ crucified into contact with their natures, it will yet change them, and Christ will be their king.” C.H. Spurgeon, “Mourning at the Sight of the Crucified,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 15. Originally preached on March 14, 1869. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1869), 145–146.

Never more shall God, Jehovah,
Smite the Shepherd with the sword;
Ne’er again shall cruel sinners,
Set at nought our glorious Lord. 
– Robert Cleaver Chapman

For me Thou hast borne the reproaches,
The mockery, hate and disdain;
The blows and the spittings of sinners,
The scourging, the shame and the pain;
To save me from bondage and judgment,
Thou gladly hast suffered for me –
A thousand, a thousand thanksgivings,
I bring, blessed Savior, to Thee!
 – Ernst C. Homburg; trans. Mrs. F. Bevan

The Lord Jesus Christ As The Word (C.H. Spurgeon)

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” John 1:14-18.

“Lest, however, we should imagine Jesus to be a mere utterance, a mere word spoken and forgotten, our apostle is peculiarly careful that we should know that Jesus is a real and true person, and therefore tells us that the divine Word, out of whose fulness we have received, is most assuredly God. No language can be more distinct. He ascribes to him the eternity which belongs to God: ‘In the beginning was the Word.’ He peremptorily claims divinity for him: ‘The Word was God.’ He ascribes to him the acts of God: ‘Without him was not anything made that was made.’ He ascribes to him self-existence, which is the essential characteristic of God. ‘In him was life.’ He claims for him a nature peculiar to God: ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all,’ and the Word is ‘the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.’ No writer could be more explicit in his utterances; and beyond all question he sets forth the proper deity of that Blessed One of whom we all must receive if we would obtain eternal salvation.

Yet John does not fail to set forth that our Lord was also man. He saith, ‘the Word was made flesh’—not merely assumed manhood, but was made; and made not merely man, as to his nobler part, his soul, but man as to his flesh, his lower element. Our Lord was not a phantom, but one who, as John declares in his epistle, was touched and handled. ‘The Word dwelt among us.’ He tabernacled with the sons of men—a carpenter’s shed his lowly refuge, and the caves and mountains of the earth his midnight resort in his after life. He dwelt among sinners and sufferers, among mourners and mortals, himself completing his citizenship among us by becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross. See, then, my beloved brethren, where God has treasured up the fulness of his grace. It is in a person so august that heaven and earth tremble at the majesty of his presence, and yet in a person so humble that he is not ashamed to call us ‘brethren.’

The apostle, lest we should by any means put a second person in comparison with the one and only Christ, throughout this chapter continually enters caveats and disclaimers against all others. He bars the angels and shuts out cherubim and seraphim by saying, ‘Without him was not anything made that was made!’ At the creation of the world no ministering spirit may intrude a finger; angels may sing over what Jesus creates, but as the builder of all things he stands alone. Further on, the apostle guards the steps of the throne against John, and virtually against all the other witnesses of the Messiah; albeit among those that are born of women there was not a greater than John the Baptist, yet, ‘he was not that Light.’ The stars must hide their heads when the sun shines; John must decrease and Christ must increase. Nay, there was one whom all the Jews reverenced and whose name is coupled with that of the Lamb in the triumphant song of heaven; they sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb. But even he is excluded from the glory of this text, ‘For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’ Moses must sit down at the foot of the throne with the tables of stone in his hands, but Jesus sits on the throne and stretches out the silver sceptre to his people. Lest there should remain a supposition that another person yet unmentioned should usurp a place, the apostle adds, ‘No man at any time hath seen the Father.’ The best and holiest have all alike been unable to look into that excellent glory; but the Word has not only seen the Father, but has declared him unto us.

The text is as Tabor to us, and while in its consideration, at the first we see Moses and Elias and all the saints with the Lord Jesus, receiving of his fulness, yet all these vanish from our minds, and our spirit sees ‘no man, but Jesus only.’ Gazing into this text, one feels as John did when the gates of heaven were opened to him and he looked within them, and he declared, ‘I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Zion.’ He saw other things afterwards, but the first thing that caught his eye and retained his mind was the Lamb in the midst of the throne. Brethren, it becomes us as ministers, to be constantly making much of Christ, to make him indeed the first, the last, and the midst of all our discourses, and it becomes all believers, whenever they deal with matters of salvation, to set Jesus on high and to crown him with many crowns. Give him the best of your thoughts, and works, and affections, for he it is who fills all things, and to whom all things should pay homage.” C.H. Spurgeon, “The Fulness of Jesus the Treasury of Saints,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 15. Originally preached on February 28, 1869. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1869), 122-123.

Beware of the spiritual slide (C.H. Spurgeon)

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; But the LORD weigheth the spirits.” Proverbs 16:2
“Do you not know, brethren and sisters, that very often our ways seem very clean to us when they are not. I have learned by experience, most painful to my own soul, that I am not in the least qualified to judge of my own spiritual health: I have thought myself gradually advancing in the ways of God when I have been going back, and I have had the conceit crossing my mind that I had now overcome a certain besetting sin, when to my surprise I had found it return with greater force than before. Fellow professor, you may be at this moment walking as you think very rightly, and going on very well and comfortably, but let me ask you a few questions: are you not less in private prayer than you used to be? Do you not now hurry over it, do you not sometimes omit it altogether? Do you not frequently come from your closet without really having spoken to God, having merely gone through the form for the sake of quieting yourself? Your way may seem clean, but is it not foul when the mercy-seat becomes neglected?

  How about your Bible, is that read as it once was, and are the promises as sweet to you? Do they ever rise from the page and talk with you? Oh, but if your Bible be neglected, my brother, you may be just as diligent in attending to the house of God as you used to be, but is not yours a sad state of decay? Let me come closer still. Is there the vitality about your profession that there used to be? There are some in this house this morning, who, if they could speak, would tell you that, when to their great sorrow they fell into sin, it was because by little and little their piety began to lose its force and power of life. They have been restored, but their bones still ache where they were once broken, and I am sure they would say to their brethren, ‘Take care of allowing a gracious spirit to evaporate, as it were, by slow degrees. Watch carefully over it, lest, settling upon your lees, and not being emptied from vessel to vessel, you should by-and-by become carnally secure, and afterwards fall into actual sin.

  I ask some of my brethren here, and I ask the question because I have asked it of my own soul and answered it very tearfully, may not some of us be growing hardened in heart with regard to the salvation of our fellow creatures? Do we not love less now, than we used to do, those who are crying to us, ‘Come over and help us’? Do we not think ourselves getting to be experienced saints? We are not the poor sinners we once used to be. We do not come broken-heartedly to the mercy-seat as we did. We begin to judge our fellow Christians, and we think far less of them than we did years ago, when we used almost to love the ground that the Lord’s saints did tread upon, thinking ourselves to be less than nothing in their sight. Now, if it were the case in others, that they were growing proud, or becoming cold, or waxing hard of heart, we should say of them, ‘they are in great danger,’ but what about ourselves, if that be the case with us? For my own self, I dread lest I should come to this pulpit, merely to preach to you, because the time has come, and I must get through an hour, or an hour-and-a-half of worship.

  I dread getting to be a mere preaching machine, without my heart and soul being exercised in this solemn duty; and I dread for you, my dear friends, who hear me constantly, lest it should be a mere piece of clock-work, that you should be in the seats, at certain times in the week, and should sit there, and patiently hear the din which my noise makes in your ears. We must have vital godliness, and the vitality of it must be maintained, and the force and energy of our religion, must go on to increase day by day, or else, though our ways may seem to be very clean, the Lord will soon weigh our spirits to our eternal confusion.

  Do you know that to his people the divine weighing in fatherly chastisement is rough work, for he can put the soul into the scale to our own consciousness, and when we think that it weighs pounds, he can reveal to us that it does not even reach to drachms! ‘There,’ saith he, ‘see what you are!’ and he begins to strip off the veil of self-conceit, and we see the loathsomeness and falsehood of our nature, and we are utterly dismayed. Or perhaps the Lord does worse than that. He suffers a temptation to come when we do not expect it, and then the evil boils up within us, and we, who thought we were next door to the cherubs, find ourselves near akin to the demons; wondering, too, that such a wild beast should have slumbered in the den of our hearts, whereas we ought to have known it was always there, and to have walked humbly with God, and watched and guarded ourselves.

  Rest assured, beloved, great falls and terrible mischief never come to a Christian man at once, they are a work of slow degrees; and be assured, too, that you may glide down the smooth waters of the river and never dream of the Niagara beyond, and yet you may be speeding towards it. An awful crash may yet come to the highest professor among us, that shall make the world to ring with blasphemy against God, and the church to resound with bitter lamentations because the mighty have fallen. God will keep his own, but how if I should turn out not to be his own! He will keep the feet of his saints, but what if I leave off to watch, and my feet should not be kept, and I should turn out to be no saint of his, but a mere intruder into his family, and a pretender to have what I never had! O God, through Christ Jesus, deliver each of us from this.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Unsound Spiritual Trading,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 15. Originally preached on January 10, 1869. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1869), 22-23.

Christ’s resurrection is essential to the Gospel (D.W. Gooding)

Friday, April 14th, 2017

“. . . [T]he story of the body of Christ lies at the very heart of the Christian gospel, does it not? When God set himself to save us fallen human beings, he didn’t remain in his high and lofty heaven. God is spirit; he didn’t remain simply like that, but sent forth his Son who, being God and never ceasing to be God, took upon himself a human body. He took it, not just as a temporary motel in which he might live for a few years and then discard it as irrelevant; he took a human body because a human body is an integral part of a human personality, and for our salvation it meant that he would become truly human like we are. His body was sinless, but listen to what the gospel says: ‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree’ (1 Pet 2:24). He took upon himself the death we deserved, the penalty and judgment under a holy God for our sin as human beings. ‘Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures’—he was really dead, ‘he was buried, but he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures’ (see again 1 Cor 15:3–4).

  The significance of it is glorious indeed. Take the first thing: The Bible says that Jesus Christ was delivered over to death for our trespasses, dying the just for the unjust, bearing in his sinless body our sins, paying the penalty (see 1 Pet 3:18). But he was raised the third day by God for our justification (Rom 4:25). In raising the body of Jesus Christ, God was saying, ‘It’s this same Jesus that stood before the cross as the representative of all mankind, truly human and therefore with a human body.’ He went to the cross to bear our sins in his body and bear the judgment of God against our sin. ‘And now,’ says God, ‘that judgment is past, the penalty has been paid. And the guarantee and demonstration of it is this, that holy body is raised again from the dead.’ It’s glorious, isn’t it? And Jesus Christ is raised, not as a disembodied spirit, but as a man still: a man who for our sakes died at Calvary, but has been raised as our representative man and received up into glory (1 Tim 3:16) . . .  The other part of the gospel is this, that one day all who trust him shall have a redeemed body, a body transformed to be like our Lord’s glorious body (Phil 3:21). This is not half a salvation; it’s God giving the whole of Christ, body, soul and spirit, for the whole of man, body, soul and spirit. When God’s redemption is finished, it shall not be a collection of disembodied spirits that God will have in heaven; it is a collection of whole men and women, spirits, souls and bodies, redeemed by Christ. A whole Christ for the whole human being . . . And finally, the bodily resurrection of Jesus proclaims him to be God’s Son, and is the evidence of a coming judgment. One day, because he is truly human and remains truly human, and because he is the Son of Man, all judgment shall be committed to him. The day will come when he shall speak the word and ‘those that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and come out, those that have done good to the resurrection of life, and those that have done evil to the resurrection of judgment’ (see John 5:25–29). That is the Christian gospel.

  The wonderful thing, perhaps, for us is this. The risen Son of God tells us not merely that one day he will call the physically dead out of their graves to stand before his judgment throne; but the risen Son of God tells us that, even now, he longs to give us the gift of eternal life; imperishable, incorruptible, eternal life. ‘An hour is coming,’ said he, ‘and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live’ (v. 25).” David W. Gooding, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: ‘The Rattle of Dead Men’s Bones,” A Myrtlefield Transcript. (Coleraine, NI: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 14-15. [Brackets mine.]

The Reason for many modern scientists’ (naturalists) rejection of the miraculous

Friday, April 14th, 2017

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is the fact that many scientists say that; but it’s not their science that forces them to say so. They say it, not because science has forced them to say that miracles are impossible; they say it because they start off with the assumption that there is no God, that all there is in the universe is matter and, if that is so, miracles are impossible. Therefore, the story of the resurrection can’t be true. It’s not that science proves it; it’s their pre-supposition that there’s no God that leads them to conduct their science in such a way as they will tell you science proves the resurrection impossible. Now, don’t just take that from me. I want to read you a recent statement from a scientist. His name is Richard Lewontin,4 one of the leading older scientists in the United States. He was a great personal friend of Carl Sagan,5 the scientist who made it his speciality to use his radio telescopes to listen into space. He did it in the conviction that there must be intelligent beings on other planets trying to get in touch with us. Both Carl Sagan and Richard Lewontin are atheists (Carl Sagan is now dead). This is rather difficult language, but I want you to listen to what this atheist scientist says.

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.6

  If you ever hear scientists saying that science has made it impossible for people to believe in God or the resurrection of Jesus Christ, remember what Professor Lewontin says, as an absolute atheist and a world famous scientist. ‘It’s not science that makes it impossible for us to believe in such things as the resurrection of Christ.’ What is it then? ‘It’s our prior commitment to materialism, and we are determined to maintain that standpoint. We’re not prepared for any God to put his foot inside our door.’”

Ftnt. #4: Evolutionary geneticist (born 1929).

Ftnt. #5: American Astronomer (1934–96).

Ftnt. #6: From Lewontin’s review of Carl Sagan’s last book, Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium, in the New York Review of Books, 1 July 1997 (italics in original).

David W. Gooding, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: ‘The Rattle of Dead Men’s Bones,” A Myrtlefield Transcript. (Coleraine, NI: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 11-12.

Death & Life, A Historic Post From Horatius Bonar

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

“Ours is a dying world; and immortality has no place upon this earth. That which is deathless is beyond these hills. Mortality is here; immortality is yonder! Mortality is below; immortality is above. “Neither can they die any more,” is the prediction of something future, not the announcement of anything either present or past. At every moment one of the sons of Adam passes from this life; and each swing of the pendulum is the death-warrant of some child of time. ‘Death,’ ‘death,’ is the sound of its dismal vibration. ‘Death,’ ‘death,’ it says, unceasingly, as it oscillates to and fro. The gate of death stands ever open, as if it had neither locks nor bars. The river of death flows sullenly past our dwellings; and continually we hear the splash and the cry of one, and another, and another, as they are flung into the rushing torrent, and carried down to the sea of eternity.

Earth is full of death-beds. The groan of pain is heard everywhere,—in cottage or castle, in prince’s palace or peasant’s hut. The tear of parting is seen falling everywhere; rich and poor, good and evil, are called to weep over the departure of beloved kindred, husband or wife, or child, or friend. Who can bind the strong man that he shall not lay his hand upon us or our beloved ones? Who can say to sickness, Thou shalt not touch my frame; or to pain, Thou shalt not come nigh; or to death, Thou shalt not enter here? Who can light up the dimmed eye, or recolour the faded cheek, or reinvigorate the icy hand, or bid the sealed lip open, or the stiffened tongue speak once more the words of warm affection? Who can enter the death-chamber, and speak the ‘Talitha Cumi’ of resurrection? Who can look into the coffin, and say, Young man, arise? Who can go into the tomb, and say, Lazarus, come forth?

The voice of death is heard everywhere. Not from the bier alone, nor the funeral procession, nor the dark vault, nor the heaving churchyard. Death springs up all around. Each season speaks of death. The dropping spring-blossom; the scorched leaf of summer; the ripe sheaf of autumn; the bare black winter mould,—all tell of death. The wild storm, with its thick clouds and hurrying shadows; the sharp lightning, bent on smiting; the dark torrent, ravaging field and vale; the cold seawave; the ebbing tide; the crumbling rock; the up-torn tree,—all speak of dissolution and corruption. Earth numbers its grave-yards by hundreds of thousands; and the sea covers the dust of uncounted millions, who, coffined and uncoffined, have gone down into its unknown darkness.

Death reigns over earth and sea; city and village are his. Into every house this last enemy has entered, in spite of man’s desperate efforts to keep him out. There is no family without some empty seat or crib; no fireside without a blank; no circle out of which some brightness has not departed. There is no garden without some faded rose; no forest without some sere leaf; no tree without some shattered bough; no harp without some broken string.

In Adam all die. He is the head of death, and we its mortal members. There is no exemption from this necessity; there is no discharge in this war. The old man dies; but the young also; the grey and the golden head are laid in the same cold clay. The sinner dies; so also does the saint; the common earth from which they sprang receives them both. The fool dies; so also does the wise. The poor man dies; so also does the rich. ‘All flesh is grass.’

The first Adam died; so also died the second Adam, who is the Lord from heaven. But there is a difference. The first Adam died, and, therefore, we die. The second Adam died, and therefore, we live; for the last Adam was made a quickening spirit; and this is the pledge of final victory over death and the tomb. Thus, the grave is the cradle of life; night is the womb of day; and sunset has become sunrise to our shaded and sorrowful earth. Yet, this is not yet realised. We are still under the reign of death, and this is the hour and the power of darkness. The day of the destruction of death, and the unlocking of sepulchres is not yet. It will come in due time. Meanwhile we have to look on death; for our dwelling is in a world of death,—a land of graves.

If, then, we would get beyond death’s circle and shadow, we must look above. Death is here, but life is yonder! Corruption is here, incorruption is yonder. The fading is here, the blooming is yonder. We must take the wings of the morning and fly away to the region of the unsorrowing and the undying; where ‘that which is sown in weakness shall be raised in power, and death be swallowed up in victory.’”

Horatius Bonar, Family Sermons. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1863), 416–419.

God’s mercy & justice – A meditation by Horatius Bonar

Monday, February 20th, 2017

“And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” Genesis 6:6

“Mercy had long prevailed against judgment; now judgment prevails against mercy. Grace had done wonders for the sinner. To do more would be to subvert righteousness, and to tamper with the awfulness of law. As the gracious Father, he had hitherto delayed the vengeance; but now, as the righteous Judge, he must interpose. He has long lingered in his love, yearning over his rebellious children; he can linger no more. His strange work must be done, at whatever sacrifice, either to himself or to man. He must not only withhold the good, he must visit with the evil, and he must do it himself. He, the Maker, must be the destroyer too. Man must be given up! He has gone beyond the limit within which grace can be righteously exercised. He has made it impossible for God to bless him. He has put it out of God’s power to do anything more in his behalf. He has made it a matter of righteous necessity that God should execute vengeance upon him. God wanted to bless, man has compelled him to curse. God wanted to save, man has compelled him to destroy. Condemnation, wrath, ruin, wretchedness for ever, must now be man’s portion! The vessel which God had made, and meant for honour and for gladness, must become a vessel of shame, eternal shame, filled with gall and wormwood! No wonder that it grieved him at his heart! . . . [These words] affirm that God’s grief is both sincere and deep. It is a Creator’s grief. It is a Father’s grief. It is grief such as afterwards uttered itself, over Israel, in such words as, ‘How shall I give thee up, O Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee up, O Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah, how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me; my repentings are kindled together.’ It is grief such as, at a still later day, gave vent to itself in Christ’s tears over Jerusalem. And is not all that reality? Was there ever reality like it? Yet all this does not make hell less true, nor the everlasting burnings less terrible.

Many seem to suppose that, because God has not passions such as we have; that because he is not liable to emotions like ours; that because there are no such swellings and subsidings of feverish excitement, interfering with the infinite serenity and blessedness of his divine being, that therefore God does not feel; that it would be degrading him to suppose that he can be affected, in the remotest degree, by the alternations of joy or sorrow,—especially in so far as the condition of his creatures can be conceived as being the source of either.

It is not so. This would be indifference, not serenity. It would make Jehovah not the God who is revealed to us in the man Christ Jesus. It would make him inferior to his creatures in all those tender affections which constitute so noble a part of our being. It would invest him with the insensibility of Stoicism. But with him whom we call our God, there is no such insensibility, no such Stoicism. He is love. He is the God of all grace. He is merciful and gracious, long-suffering, slow to anger, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. He so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son. It is written of him, that ‘his soul was grieved for the miseries of Israel;’ that ‘in all their affliction he was afflicted.’ He stoops over us in the fondness of parental love. He yearns over us. He longs to see us happy. He delights to bless. His strange work is to curse. Nay, he is the very fountainhead of love. All the affections of man’s soul are but the copy of his; faint indeed and dim, yet truly the copy, the counterpart, the earthly likeness of the heavenly reality. Man’s heart is, in all the affections that are holy, the very transcript of God’s. In God is the birthplace of all feeling, and shall he not feel? With him is the well-spring of all affection, and shall he be cold, and divested of all loving sympathies? Shall he give to man such powers of emotion, constituting the divinest part of our nature, and shall he himself be unmoved and immoveable? He is the Father of spirits, and shall he so entirely differ from the spirits that he has made? He made them in his own image; and is that image nothing but unsympathising callousness? Is it but the ice, or the rock, or the iron? He sent his Son to be the revelation of his mind and heart; and do we not see, from that Son, how deeply the Father feels? Do we not see in him, who is his perfect image, what is the Creator’s sympathy for his creatures in their joys and sorrows? Do we not see in him, with what strength he can hate the sin, and yet love, nay, weep over, the sinner? Ay, and does not the Holy Spirit also unfold his feelings? And do we not read of that Spirit being resisted, vexed, grieved, as if sorrowing over our coldness, our neglect, our unbelief, our ungodliness?

What, then, can these things mean, but that our God truly and deeply feels? There can, indeed, be nothing carnal, nothing allied to imperfection or weakness, in such sensibility; but to suppose him to be devoid of feeling, as we too often do, is to deny him to be perfectly and truly God! Ah! it is only when we learn how profoundly he feels, that we know aright the character of that God with whom we have to do. It is only when we realise how sincerely he yearns, and pities, and joys, and grieves, and loves, that we understand that revelation which he has made of himself in the gospel of his grace, and in the person of his Incarnate Son. Nor till then do we feel the unutterable malignity of sin, as being a grieving of God, a vexing of his loving Spirit, and become rightly alive to the depravity of our own rebellious natures. It is only then that we can cordially enter into God’s condemnation of the evil, and sympathise with him in that which makes him grieve. Never, till we give him credit for feeling as he says he does, can we really long for deliverance from that which is not only the abominable thing which he hates, bat that thing of evil and sorrow over which he so sincerely mourns.

It is this which gives such power to God’s expostulations with the sinner, and his appeals to the sinner’s conscience and heart. We are apt to treat these utterances of God as mere words of course, or, at least, as words which, however gracious in themselves, could not be supposed to embody the feelings of him from whom they come. It is far otherwise. God not only means what he says, but he feels what he says. He is not unconcerned about our condition, or indifferent to the reception or rejection of his messages. When he says, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked,’ he utters the deep feeling of his heart. When he says, ‘How shall I give thee up?’ he shews us how he feels. When he says, ‘O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments,’ he tells us how he feels. And when his only-begotten Son, in the days of his flesh, said to the unbelieving Jews, ‘Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life,’ he shewed us how truly, in this respect, the Father and the Son are one, and that to each poor child of earth, however erring, however dark, however unbelieving, however rebellious, he is stretching out his hands in love, and, not the less sincerely, because, to tens of thousands, he is stretching out these hands in vain.” Horatius Bonar, Family Sermons. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1863), 305-310. [Italics original.]