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Whatever Shall We Pray in Times Like These?

Some think the President of the United States is unqualified and unfit to hold office. Some think this man is the best chance to turn America around peacefully. Providence has caused many more hurricane landfalls on the US mainland than in the past ten years. Russia and China continue to use their proxies, Iran and North Korea, respectively, to cause strife in the world with the goal of overturning the existing world order. Whatever shall we pray in times like these?

The Lord Jesus Christ, when His followers requested: “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples,” said:

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.”

Matthew 6:9-13 English Standard Version (ESV)

And the Lord prefaced His instruction with a reassurance: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

So, should we merely repeat this prayer verbatim, or use it as a template for our own requests of the Living God? Let’s see what John Calvin had to say:

Do therefore pray thus …It was not the intention of the Son of God… to prescribe the words which we must use, so as not to leave us at liberty to depart from the form which he has dictated. His intention rather was, to guide and restrain our wishes, that they might not go beyond those limits and hence we infer, that the rule which he has given us for praying aright relates not to the words, but to the things themselves.

This form of prayer consists …of six petitions. The first three, it ought to be known, relate to the glory of God, without any regard to ourselves; and the remaining three relate to those things which are necessary for our salvation. …In prayer, Christ enjoins us to consider and seek the glory of God, and, at the same time, permits us to consult our own interests. …It would be altogether preposterous to mind only what belongs to ourselves, and to disregard the kingdom of God, which is of far greater importance.

Concerning our address to God, he says:

Our Father who art in heaven Whenever we engage in prayer, there are two things to be considered, both that we may have access to God, and that we may rely on Him with full and unshaken confidence: his fatherly love toward us, and his boundless power. Let us therefore entertain no doubt, that God is willing to receive us graciously, that he is ready to listen to our prayers, — in a word, that, of Himself, he is disposed to aid us.

…Now, as it would be the folly and madness of presumption, to call God our Father, except on the ground that, through our union to the body of Christ, we are acknowledged as his children, we conclude, that there is no other way of praying aright, but by approaching God with reliance on the Mediator.

Next, to the crux of the first petition, he says:

May thy name be sanctified …It is of unspeakable advantage to us that God reigns, and that he receives the honor which is due to him: but no man has a sufficiently earnest desire to promote the glory of God, unless (so to speak) he forgets himself, and raises his mind to seek God’s exalted greatness.

…To sanctify the name of God means nothing else than to give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name, so that men may never think or speak of him but with the deepest veneration. The opposite of this is the profanation of the name of God, which takes place, when men either speak disrespectfully of the divine majesty, or at least without that reverence which they ought to feel.

…We need not …wonder, if we are commanded to ask, in the first place, that the reverence which is due to [His Name] may be given by the world. Besides, this is no small honor done to us, when God recommends to us the advancement of his glory.

And, to the second petition:

May thy kingdom come …The substance of this prayer is, that God would enlighten the world by the light of his Word, — would form the hearts of men, by the influences of his Spirit, to obey his justice, and would restore to order, by the gracious exercise of his power, all the disorder that exists in the world.

Now, he commences his reign by subduing the desires of our flesh. Again, as the kingdom of God is continually growing and advancing to the end of the world, we must pray every day that it may come: for to whatever extent iniquity abounds in the world, to such an extent the kingdom of God, which brings along with it perfect righteousness, is not yet come.

Finally, to the third:

May thy will be done …It is said, that the will of God is done, when he executes the secret counsels of his providence, however obstinately men may strive to oppose him. But here we are commanded to pray that, in another sense, his will may be done, — that all creatures may obey him, without opposition, and without reluctance.

…It is a prayer, that God may remove all the obstinacy of men, which rises in unceasing rebellion against him, and may render them gentle and submissive, that they may not wish or desire anything but what pleases him, and meets his [approval].

…When we pray that the earth may become obedient to the will of God, it is not necessary that we should look particularly at every individual. It is enough for us to declare, by such a prayer as this, that we hate and regret whatever we perceive to be contrary to the will of God, and long for its utter destruction, not only that it may be the rule of all our affections, but that we may yield ourselves without reserve, and with all cheerfulness, to its fulfillment.

Now Calvin tackles what he calls ‘the second table:’

…Of the form of prayer which Christ has prescribed to us this may be called, as [it were], the Second Table. I have adopted this mode of dividing it for the sake of instruction. The precepts which relate to the proper manner of worshipping God are contained in the First Table of the law [above], and those which relate to the duties of charity in the Second [below].

…We must not be so exclusively occupied with what is advantageous to ourselves, as to omit, in any instance, to give the first place to the glory of God. When we pray, therefore, we must never turn away our eyes from that object.

He has much to say about the first petition of the second table:

Give us today our daily bread …Though the forgiveness of sins is to be preferred to food, as far as the soul is more valuable than the body, yet our Lord commenced with bread and the supports of an earthly life, that from such a beginning he might carry us higher. …Since God condescends to nourish our bodies, there can be no doubt whatever, that he is far more careful of our spiritual life. This kind and gentle manner of treating us raises our confidence higher.

…It is indeed the true proof of our faith, when we ask nothing but from God, and not only acknowledge him to be the only fountain of all blessings, but feel that his fatherly kindness extends to the smallest matters, so that he does not disdain to take care even of our flesh.

…Such a petition as the following: “O Lord, since our life needs every day new supplies, may it please thee to grant them to us without interruption.” The adverb ‘today,’ as I said a little ago, is added to restrain our excessive desire, and to teach us, that we depend every moment on the kindness of God, and ought to be content with that portion which he gives us, to use a common expression, “from day to day.”

…These words remind us that, unless God feed us daily, the largest accumulation of the necessaries of life will be of no avail. Though we may have abundance of corn, and wine, and everything else, unless they are watered by the secret blessing of God, they will suddenly vanish, or we will be deprived of the use of them, or they will lose their natural power to support us, so that we shall famish in the midst of plenty.

There is …no reason to wonder, if Christ invites the rich and poor indiscriminately to apply to their Heavenly Father for the supply of their wants. No man will sincerely offer such a prayer as this, unless he has learned, by the example of the Apostle Paul, “to be full and to be hungry, to abound and to suffer need,” (Philippians 4:12,) to endure patiently his poverty or his humble condition, and not to be intoxicated by a false confidence in his abundance.

…Why [do] we ask that bread to be given to us, which we call OUR bread? I answer: It is so called, not because it belongs to us by right, but because the fatherly kindness of God has set it apart for our use. It becomes ours, because our Heavenly Father freely bestows it on us for the supply of our necessities. …What we seem to have acquired by our own industry is his gift.

We may likewise infer from this word, that, if we wish God to feed us, we must not take what belongs to others: for all who have been taught of God, (John 6:45,) whenever they employ this form of prayer, make a declaration that they desire nothing but what is their own.

Next, he comments on a second petition composed of two complementary parts:

And forgive us our debts …Christ has included in two petitions all that related to the eternal salvation of the soul, and to the spiritual life: for these are the two leading points of the divine covenant, in which all our salvation consists. He offers to us a free reconciliation by “not imputing our sins,” (2 Corinthians 5:19,) and promises the Spirit, to engrave the righteousness of the law on our hearts. We are commanded to ask both, and the prayer for obtaining the forgiveness of sins is placed first.

…For, though the righteousness of God shines, to some extent, in the saints, yet, so long as they are surrounded by the flesh, they lie under the burden of sins. …For, when he commands all his disciples to betake themselves to him daily for the forgiveness of sins, everyone, who thinks that he has no need of such a remedy, is struck out of the number of the disciples.

Now, the forgiveness, which we here ask to be bestowed on us, is inconsistent with satisfaction, by which the world endeavors to purchase its own deliverance. For that creditor is not said to forgive, who has received payment and asks nothing more, —but he who willingly and generously departs from his just claim, and frees the debtor…

Thus reminding us: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So, then, it follows:

As we forgive our debtors This condition is added, that no one may presume to approach God and ask forgiveness, who is not pure and free from all resentment. And yet the forgiveness, which we ask that God would give us, does not depend on the forgiveness which we grant to others: but the design of Christ was, to exhort us, in this manner, to forgive the offenses which have been committed against us, and at the same time, to give, as it were, the impression of his seal, to ratify the confidence in our own forgiveness. …If the Spirit of God reigns in our hearts, every description of ill-will and revenge ought to be banished.

And, of course, this calls to mind the example of: “the unmerciful servant.”

Finally, Calvin tackles the third, a second compound petition that happens to be recently in the news:

And lead us not into temptation Some people have split this petition into two. This is wrong: for the nature of the subject makes it manifest, that it is one and the same petition.

…The meaning is: “We are conscious of our own weakness, and desire to enjoy the protection of God, that we may remain impregnable against all the assaults of Satan.” We showed from the former petition, that no man can be reckoned a Christian, who does not acknowledge himself to be a sinner; and in the same manner, we conclude from this petition, that we have no strength for living a holy life, except so far as we obtain it from God. Whoever implores the assistance of God to overcome temptations, acknowledges that, unless God deliver him, he will be constantly falling.

The word temptation is often used generally for any kind of trial. …We are tempted both by adversity and by prosperity: because each of them is an occasion of bringing to light feelings which were formerly concealed. But here it denotes inward temptation, which may be fitly called the scourge of the devil, for exciting our lust.

…All wicked emotions, which excite us to sin, are included under the name of temptation …We ask that the Lord would not cause us to be thrown down, or suffer us to be overwhelmed, by temptations. …We are liable to constant stumbling and ruinous falls, if God does not uphold us with his hand.

As the news says, some would want to change this petition. To this, almost five hundred years ago, Calvin said:

Christ used this form of expression, (μὴ εἰσενέγκὟς,) Lead us not into temptation: or, as some render it, Bring us not into temptation.

It is certainly true, that “every man is tempted,” as the Apostle James says, (1:14) “by his own lust:” yet, as God not only gives us up to the will of Satan, to kindle the flame of lust, but employs him as the agent of his wrath, when he chooses to drive men headlong to destruction, he may be also said, in a way peculiar to himself, to lead them into temptation.

In the same sense, “an evil spirit from the Lord” is said to have “seized or troubled Saul,” (1 Samuel 16:14) and there are many passages of Scripture to the same purpose. And yet we will not therefore say, that God is the author of evil: because, by giving men over to a reprobate mind,” (Romans 1:28,) he does not exercise a confused tyranny, but executes his just, though secret judgments.

And, Calvin concludes the third petition with:

Deliver us from evil …The meaning remains nearly the same [to the previous clause], that we are in danger from the devil and from sin, if the Lord does not protect and deliver us.

Lastly, Calvin comments on a sometimes omitted clause:

For thine is the kingdom [Left out of the Latin, this petition] was not added merely for the purpose of kindling our hearts to seek the glory of God, and of reminding us what ought to be the object of our prayers; but likewise to teach us, that our prayers, which are here dictated to us, are founded on God alone, that we may not rely on our own merits.

***

Circling back, then, to what we should pray in our times, as the hysteria subsides before beginning again, gratitude towards our Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, points the way.

The Lord’s Prayer by Dr. Albert Mohler – Lecture 1: Teach Us To Pray, YouTube, Mohler’s Series on Prayer

Despise – Part 2

In a previous post, we explored why we should not despise those in the church (Romans 14: 10-13.) Here, we try to understand the Lord Jesus’s command:

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 18:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

Much is said of these ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation. But what does this verse mean?

John Calvin, well regarded in some circles and not so well in others, said:

Beware of despising one of these little ones – As pride is the mother of disdain, and as contempt hardens men in giving offense, our Lord, for the purpose of applying an appropriate remedy for curing this disease, forbids his disciples to despise the little ones.

And certainly, as we have already hinted, no man who has a proper care for his brethren will ever allow himself, on light grounds, to give them offense. This conclusion of our Lord’s discourse has the same tendency as the commencement of it, to remind us that we ought to [compete] with each other who shall be most submissive and modest; for God embraces with wonderful love the little ones.

He goes on to explain the untenable position despisers put themselves in:

It would be strange indeed that a mortal man should despise, or treat as of no account, those whom God holds in such high esteem. He proves this love from the fact, that angels, who are ministers of their salvation, enjoy intimately the presence of God.

Yet I do not think that he intended merely to show what honor God confers on them by appointing angels to be their guardians, but likewise to threaten those who despise them; as if he had said, that it is no light matter to despise those who have angels for their companions and friends, to take vengeance in their behalf. We ought therefore to beware of despising their salvation, which even angels have been commissioned to advance.

And, in order to encourage the Church and thwart theological errors that are as common now as then, Calvin says:

The interpretation given to this passage by some commentators, as if God assigned to each believer his own angel, does not rest on solid grounds.

For the words of Christ do not mean that a single angel is continually occupied with this or the other person; and such an idea is inconsistent with the whole doctrine of Scripture, which declares that the angels encamp around (Psalm 34:7) the godly, and that not one angel only, but many, have been commissioned to guard every one of the faithful.

Away, then, with the fanciful notion of a good and evil angel, and let us rest satisfied with holding that the care of the whole Church is committed to angels, to assist each member as his necessities shall require.

Finally, he clarifies our relationship to the angels of God:

It will perhaps be asked, Do the angels occupy a station inferior to ours, because they have been appointed to be our ministers? I reply, though by nature they take rank above us, this does not prevent them from rendering service to God in dispensing the favor which he freely bestows upon us. For this reason, they are called our angels, because their labors are bestowed on us.

Let us always follow His command to: “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven,” and beware, for: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” And finally, to those who esteem the Church lightly, scripture declares that the angels encamp around (Psalm 34:7) the godly who are in Christ Jesus.

Guardian Angel

The Guardian Angel, 1656, Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669), In the Public Domain in the United States

What Kind of Friend?

What’s the quality of our friendships? Do you share yourself unreservedly with others? Do you communicate with vulnerability, even after long periods of absence, without missing a beat? If the truth be told, many of us fall short of this ideal. Some of us don’t have even one person with whom we can be this intimate. Perhaps we chalk this up to our fast-paced lifestyles. Could the crowd we run with not be the types with whom we have that much in common? Or, maybe, we’ve been burned before and haven’t even tried for such friendships.

There once walked a Person who, though he was highly exalted, did not count His high honor as something to hold on to, but gave up all privilege, becoming like one of us; in fact, becoming our servant, He walked among us, ate with us, and cried with us and for us. And, as one of us, yet righteous in all His ways, He humbled himself by suffering, in place of us, the ignominious punishment that is our due. This One said:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:12-15 English Standard Version (ESV)

Speaking on these verses, C. H. Spurgeon delivered a sermon, number 1552, on Lord’s-Day morning, August 8, 1880, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, titled: “The Friends of Jesus,” based on verse John 15:14: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” Spurgeon introduced his theme this way:

OUR Lord Jesus Christ is beyond all comparison the best of friends…”You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” That is the point by which your friendship shall be tested — “If you are obedient you are My Friends.” …You must, my Brothers and Sisters, yield obedience to your Master and Lord and be eager to do it, or you are not His bosom friends …This is the one essential which Grace, alone, can give us. Do we rebel against the request? Far from it! Our joy and delight lie in bearing our Beloved’s easy yoke.

Next, he describes what obedience our Lord himself requests:

From those who call themselves His friends. True friends are eager to know what they can do to please the objects of their love. Let us gladly listen to what our adorable Lord now speaks to the select circle of His chosen. He asks of one and all obedience. None of us are exempted from doing His commandments. However lofty or however lowly our condition, we must obey. If our talent is but one, we must obey and if we have [ten], still we must obey. There can be no friendship with Christ unless we are willing, each one, to yield Him hearty, loyal service.

The smallest command of Christ may often be the most important and I will tell you why. Some things are great, evidently great and, for many reasons even a hypocritical professor will attend to them. But the test may lie in the minor points, which hypocrites do not take the trouble to notice, since no human tongue would praise them for doing them. Here is the proof of your love. Will you do the smaller thing for Jesus as well as the [weightier] matter?

…When we refuse to obey, we refuse to do what the Lord, Himself, commands! When the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Redeemer, is denied obedience, it is treason! How can rebels against the King be His Majesty’s friends? The precepts of Scripture are not the commandments of man nor the ordinances of angels, but the Laws of Christ and how dare we despise them! We are to act rightly because Jesus commands us and we love to do His pleasure—there can be no friendship without this. Oh, for Grace to serve the Lord with gladness!

To close this first point, it appears that our Lord would have us obey Him out of a friendly spirit. Obedience to Christ as if we were forced to do it under pains and penalties would be of no worth as a proof of friendship. Everyone can see that. He speaks not of slaves, but of friends. He would not have us perform duties from fear of punishment or love of reward. That which He can accept of His friends must be the fruit of love. His will must be our Law because His Person is our delight. Some professors need to be whipped to their duties. They must hear stirring sermons and attend exciting meetings and live under pressure. But those who are Christ’s friends need no spur but love.

Spurgeon, then posits: “those who do not obey him are not friends of his.”

…He who is truly Christ’s friend delights to honor Him as a great King, but he who will not yield Him His sovereign rights is a traitor and not a friend. Our Lord is the Head over all things to His Church and this involves the joyful submission of the members. Disobedience denies to Christ the dignity of that holy Headship which is His prerogative over all the members of His mystical body and this is not the part of a true friend. How can you be His friend if you will not admit His rule? It is vain to boast that you trust His Cross if you do not reverence His crown! He who does not do His commandments cannot be Christ’s friend because he is not of one mind with Christ—that is evident. Can two walk together unless they are agreed?

He, next, explores the thesis: “those who best obey Christ are on the best of terms with him.”

…There is no feeling of communion between our souls and Christ when we are conscious of having done wrong and yet are not sorry for it. If we know that we have erred, as we often do, and our hearts break because we have grieved our Beloved and we go and tell Him our grief and confess our sin, we are still His friends and He kisses away our tears, saying, “I know your weakness. I willingly blot out your offenses. There is no breach of friendship between us. I will still manifest Myself to you.”

When we know that we are wrong and feel no softening of heart about it, then we cannot pray, we cannot speak with the Beloved and we cannot walk with Him as His friends. Familiarity with Jesus ceases when we become familiar with known sin.

Search the Scriptures for yourselves, each one of you, and follow no rule but that which is Inspired. Take your light directly from the sun! Let holy Scripture be your unquestioned rule of faith and practice and, if there is any point about which you are uncertain, I charge you by your loyalty to Christ, if you are His friends, try and find out what His will is. And when you once are sure upon that point, never mind the human authorities or dignitaries that oppose His Law. Let there be no question, no hesitation, no delay. If He commands you, carry out His will though the gates of Hell thunder at you! You are not His friends, or, at any rate, you are not His friends so as to enjoy the friendship unless you resolutely seek to please Him in all things!

Finally, Spurgeon defends the statement: “the [friendliest] action a man can do for Jesus is to obey him.”

…If a man should give all the substance of his house for love it would utterly be [scorned]. Jesus asks not lavish expenditure, but ourselves. He has made this the token of true love—”If you do whatever I command you.” “To obey is better than sacrifice and to listen than the fat of rams.” However much we are able to give, we are bound to give it and should give it cheerfully. But if we suppose that any amount of giving can stand as a substitute for personal [obedience] we are greatly mistaken. To bring our wealth and not to yield our hearts is to give the casket and steal the jewels. How dare we bring our sacrifice in a leprous hand? We must be cleansed in the atoning blood before we can be accepted, and our hearts must be changed before our offering can be pure in God’s sight.

The practical outcome of it all is this—examine every question as to duty by the light of this one enquiry — “Will this be a friendly action to Christ? If I do this, shall I act as Christ’s friend? Will my conduct honor Him? Then I am glad. If it will dishonor Him, I will have nothing to do with it.” Set each distinct action, as far as you are able, in the scales and let this be the weight—is it a friendly action towards your Redeemer? I wish that we all lived as if Jesus were always present, as if we could see His wounds and gaze into His lovely countenance. Suppose that tomorrow you are brought into temptation by being asked to do something questionable? Decide it this way—if Jesus could come in at that moment and show you His hands and His feet, how would you act in His sight?

Behave as you would act under the realized Presence of the Well-Beloved. You would not do anything unkind to Him, would you? Certainly, you would not do anything to grieve Him if you saw Him before your eyes! Well, keep Him always before you.

Obedience will gladden you with the blissful Presence of your Lord and, in that Presence, you shall find fullness of joy. You shall be the envied of all wise men, for you shall be the beloved of the Lord. And your pathway, if it is not always smooth, shall always be safe, for Jesus never leaves His friends and He will never leave you! He will keep you even to the end. May this be my happy case and yours. Amen.

From Spurgeon’s sermon, we see we have no closer friend than the Lord Jesus Christ, to those He’s redeemed and those who shall respond to His call. Yet, though we’ve not covered it in this post, for those who resist Him, they have no fiercer enemy; and this is so to demonstrate His justice and hatred of evil.

Having said these things, what kind of friend are we to those who’ve come to Jesus, both those saved and those seeking Him? Do we die to ourselves? Do we put others first? Do we seek by faith, in all our ways, to honor and serve the One who’s purchased us at unfathomable cost to Himself? And, towards those outside who resist Him, do we leave vengeance to our Lord?

Mark Heard – What Kind Of A FriendSecond Hand (1991) , YouTube, Lyrics, alternate arrangement, third arrangement and alternate vocalization, fourth arrangement and second alternate vocalization

Confess Your Sins II

We’ve covered this topic before on July 2, 2015. This time we’ll explore it from the point of view of community. Google’s second definition for ‘community’ is:

A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

“the sense of community that organized religion can provide”

A church has common interests and goals built-in. And we should have one attitude. However, a church is also made up of a diverse collection of people. As with any group of flawed human beings, they will offend one another. For the cohesiveness of our church communities, we need to do the following more often:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16 English Standard Version (ESV)

The pastor to several church bodies during his tenure, Calvin comments on this verse:

Confess your faults one to another. …[James] had [just] said, that sins were remitted to the sick over whom the elders prayed: he now reminds them how useful it is to [disclose] our sins to our brethren, even that we may obtain the pardon of them by [our brethren’s] intercession.

…Many…think that James [is indicating] …the way of brotherly reconciliation, that is, by mutual acknowledgment of sins. But…his object was different; for he connects mutual prayer with mutual confession; by which he [implies] that confession [benefits us] for this end, that we may be helped as to God by the prayers of our brethren; for they who know our necessities, are stimulated to pray that they may assist us; but they to whom our diseases are unknown are [less likely] to bring us help.

…For the words clearly mean, that confession is required for no other end, but that those who know our evils may be more solicitous to bring us help.

Here, Calvin calls us to vulnerable community. He goes on to elaborate on the nature and quality of our prayer for one another. First, he says:

Avails much. …When others pray for us, [James] expressly mentions the benefit and the effect of prayer. But he names expressly the prayer of a righteous or just man; because God does not hear the ungodly; nor is access to God open, except through a good conscience: not that our prayers are founded on our own worthiness, but because the heart must be cleansed by faith before we can present ourselves before God. Then James testifies that the righteous or the faithful pray for us beneficially and not without fruit.

Then, finally, Calvin says:

But what does he mean by adding effectual or efficacious? For this seems superfluous; for if the prayer avails much, it is doubtless effectual.

…Our prayers may properly be said to be ἐνεργούμεναι (i.e., working) when some necessity meets us which excites in us earnest prayer. We pray daily for the whole Church, that God may pardon its sins; but then only is our prayer really in earnest, when we go forth to [help] those who are in trouble.

But such efficacy cannot be in the prayers of our brethren, except they know that we are in difficulties. Hence the reason given is not general, but must be specially referred to the former sentence.

Puritan Pastor Thomas Manton also commented on James 5:16:

[We should privately confess our sins] to a godly minister or wise Christian [when we are] under deep wounds of conscience. It is but folly to hide our sores till they be incurable. When we have unburdened ourselves [to] a godly friend, [our] conscience finds a great deal of ease. Certainly, they are then more capable to give us advice, and can the better apply the help of their counsel and prayers to our particular case, and are thereby moved to the more pity and commiseration…

[Truly,] it is a fault in Christians not to disclose themselves and be more open with their spiritual friends, when they are not able to extricate themselves out of their doubts and troubles. You may do [so with] any godly Christians, but especially to ministers, who are solemnly entrusted with the power of the keys, and may help you to apply the comforts of the word when you cannot yourselves.

…The weak must pray for the strong, and the strong for the weak. There is none but should improve his interest. When there is much work to do, you give your children their parts… So in the family of Christ. None can be exempted: `The head cannot say to the feet, I have no need of you, 1 Cor. 12:21-22 .

God delights to oblige us to each other in the body of Christ, and therefore will not bless you without the mutual mediation and intercession of one an other’s prayers; for this is the true intercession of saints. And so, in a sense, the living saints may be called mediators of intercession. But chiefly the strong, and those that stand, are to pray for them that are fallen; for that is the intent of this place.

Oh! then, that we would regard this neglected duty. Not to pray for others is uncharitable; not to expect it from others is pride. Do not stand alone; two, yea, many, are better than one. Joint striving mutually for the good of each other makes the work prosper.

Let us, therefore, increase our sense of community in the churches by confessing to and praying for one another.

“Mercy Will Prevail” – Nashville Floods 2010, YouTube, thechoirvideos

Despise – Part 1

He shouldn’t have said that… Doesn’t she know what she’s done… How dare the leadership make that decision without… Why won’t [fill in name] apologize for something clearly against… And we go on and on. Now, it could be that they’re plumb wrong. But, maybe those people know something we don’t? Perhaps, they’ve made their choices and are fulfilling their destinies. Any which way, we must always have before us this admonition, which starts out this way:

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. Romans 14:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

Calvin counsels that we should exercise humility and forbearance:

But you, why do you, etc. …First, by the term brother, he checks this lust for judging; for since the Lord has established among us the right of a fraternal alliance, an equality ought to be preserved; everyone then who assumes the character of a judge acts [against reason].

Secondly, he calls us before the only true judge, from whom no one can take away his power, and whose tribunal none can escape. [In the same way that] it would be absurd among men for a criminal, who ought to occupy a humble place in the court, to ascend the tribunal of the judge; it is absurd for a Christian to take to himself the liberty of judging the conscience of his brother…

As we discussed in our last post, the visible church is populated by both wheat and chaff, between which, we cannot reliably discern except by their going out from us, therefore Calvin says:

As I live, etc. …The word of God has ever had its enemies, who have been perversely resisting it, and its despisers, who have ever treated it with ridicule, as though it were absurd and [mythological]. Even at this day there are many such, and ever will be.

It hence appears, that this prophecy is indeed begun to be fulfilled in this life, but is far from being completed, and will not be so until the day of the last resurrection shall shine forth, when Christ’s enemies shall be laid prostrate, that they may become his footstool. But this cannot be except the Lord shall ascend his tribunal: he has therefore suitably applied this testimony to the judgment-seat of Christ…

Finally, he calls to mind both scriptures: “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” and “It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand,” by his saying:

Every one of us, etc. This conclusion invites us to humility and lowliness of mind: and hence he immediately draws this inference, — that we are not to judge one another; for it is not lawful for us to usurp the office of judging, who must ourselves submit to be judged and to give an account.

From the various significations of the word to judge, he has aptly drawn two different meanings. In the first place, he forbids us to judge, that is, to condemn; in the second place, he bids us to judge, that is, to exercise judgment, so as not to give offense.

He indeed indirectly reproves those malignant censors, who employ all their acuteness in finding out something faulty in the life of their brethren: he therefore bids them to exercise wariness themselves; for by their neglect [of their obligations to serve God and fellow believers] they often precipitate, or drive their brethren against some stumbling block or another.

Therefore, let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.The Last Judgment, Sistine Chapel, from 1536 to 1541, Michelangelo (1475-1564)

The Last Judgment, from 1536 to 1541, Michelangelo (1475-1564), In the Public Domain in the United States

Stealing Seeds

Have you ever wondered whether that neighbor, coworker, or friend ever reconsidered their decision to reject the gospel? I’m not speaking of the ones who threw you out of their houses, fired you, or never spoke to you again; but those who, after some consideration, said no, not yet, or “I still have time.” Maybe they even attend church with you. Turns out, the Lord Jesus addressed this very issue when He walked among us two thousand years ago:

“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. Matthew 13:18-19 English Standard Version (ESV)

One of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation John Calvin, commented on the Lord’s words.

First, Calvin summarizes the entire passage:

…The doctrine of the Gospel, when it is scattered like seed, is not everywhere fruitful; because it does not always meet with a fertile and well cultivated soil. He enumerates four kinds of hearers: the first of which do not receive the seed; the second appear, indeed, to receive it, but in such a manner that it does not take deep root; in the third, the [seed] is choked; and so there remains a fourth part, which produces fruit.

…Where the word is sown, the produce of faith is not always alike, but is sometimes more abundant, and at other times [scantier]. …In many persons, the seed of life is lost [due to] various [failings, as result] of which it is either destroyed immediately, or it withers, or it gradually degenerates.

Then, he points out that the soils do not include those he terms: “the despisers:”

…We ought to bear in mind, that he makes no mention of despisers who openly reject the word of God, but describes those only in whom there is some appearance of docility. But if the greater part of such men perish, what shall become of the rest of the world, by whom the doctrine of salvation is openly rejected?

Next, Calvin delves into each verse. He starts with those “unprepared:”

When any one hears the word of the kingdom, and understands it not. …The barren and uncultivated, who do not receive the seed within, because there is no preparation in their hearts. Such persons he compares to a stiff and dry soil, like what we find on a public road, which is trodden down, and becomes hard, like a pavement.

He comments in his time, as it is now, how many hear and fall away:

I wish that we had not occasion to see so many of this class at the present day, who come forward to hear, but remain in a state of [disbelief], and acquire no [desire] for the word, and in the end, differ little from blocks or stones. Need we wonder that they utterly vanish away?

Calvin, then, finds it logically necessary to defend the seed’s integrity in the face of such rejection; not that the seed is lacking, but the soil that receives it:

That which was sown in their heart. …The wickedness and depravity of men does not make the word to lose its own nature, or to cease to have the character of seed. …We may not suppose the favors of God to cease to be what they are, though the good effect of them does not reach us.

With respect to God, the word is sown in the hearts, but it is [not] true that the hearts of all receive with meekness what is planted in them, as James (1:21) exhorts us to receive the word. So then, the Gospel is always a fruitful seed as to its power, but not as to its produce.

And, finally, in answer to our question that we first posed:

Luke adds, that the devil takes away the seed out of their heart, that they may not believe and be saved Hence we infer that, as hungry birds are wont to do at the time of sowing, this enemy of our salvation, as soon as the doctrine is delivered, watches and rushes forth to seize it, before it acquires moisture and springs up…

This is one important reason, among many, why the gospel is preached every Lord’s Day.

To examine our question more deeply, Augustine helpfully explains the relation of the soils to the wheat and the tares:

…You know that those three places…where the seed did not grow, “the way side,” “the stony ground,” and “the thorny places,” are the same as [“the tares sown among the wheat.”] They received only a different name under a different [likeness.]

He, then, assures his hearers (this was a sermon) that though they and those described in the parable might desire that all the ungodly be separated from their congregations, they were not infallible and therefore not equipped for the task:

…O you Christians, whose lives are good, you sigh and groan as being few among many, few among very many. The winter will pass away, the summer will come; lo! the harvest will soon be here. The angels will come who [are able to] make the separation [between the wheat and the tares, without mistake…]

…We too indeed, if we finish our course, shall be equal to the angels of God; but now when we chafe against the wicked, we are as yet but men. And we ought now to give ear to the words, “Wherefore let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.”

Next, Augustine exposes what is evident in all the churches, and yet, by our words and actions, we deny it:

…I tell you a truth, my Beloved, even in [the church leadership] there is both wheat, and tares, and among the [laypeople] there is wheat, and tares. Let the good tolerate the bad; let the bad change themselves, and imitate the good.

Finally, he follows through in his exhortation to his congregation and to us:

Let us all, if it may be so, attain to God; let us all through His mercy escape the evil of this world. Let us seek after good days, for we are now in evil days; but in the evil days let us not blaspheme, that so we may be able to arrive at the good days.

How, then, shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? Let us not trample underfoot the Son of God nor reject the Holy Spirit. Rather, believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved.

The Parable of the Sower – C. H. Spurgeon, YouTube, Condensed Sermon Text

Fear of Death

Lifelong slavery, whether it is political, economic, or social is unjust and oppressive. Walter E. William’s, in his foreword to Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, the condensed version, defines slavery as: the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another. Humans worldwide have fought over the centuries for freedom from this recurring scourge.

However, though they might gain release from earthly masters, all are still subject to one final master: death. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, speaking about Christ, those in the church, and those outside, wrote:

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2:14-15 English Standard Version (ESV)

Clearly, scripture acknowledges this slavery which still oppresses us no matter how free we might think we are apart from Christ. In his exposition of the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews, Calvin says:

Forasmuch then as the children, etc., or, since then the children, etc. …[This] passage deserves special notice, for it not only confirms the reality of the human nature of Christ, but also shows the benefit which [therefore] flows to us. “The Son of God,” he says, “became man, that he might partake of the same condition and nature with us.” What could be said more [suited] to confirm our faith?

Here [is] his infinite love towards us…; but its [overabundance is seen] in this — that he put on our nature that he might thus make himself capable of dying, for as God he could not undergo death.

And though he refers but briefly to the benefits of his death, yet there is in this brevity of words a singularly striking and powerful representation, and that is, that he has so delivered us from the tyranny of the devil, that we are rendered safe, and that he has so redeemed us from death, that it is no longer to be dreaded…

And deliver them who, etc. This passage expresses in a striking manner how miserable is the life of those who fear death, as they must feel it to be dreadful, because they look on it apart from Christ; for then nothing but a curse appears in it: for [where does] death [come] but from God’s wrath against sin?

Hence is that bondage throughout life, even perpetual anxiety, by which unhappy souls are tormented; for through a consciousness of sin, the judgment of God is ever presented to [those persons’] view.

From this fear Christ has delivered us, who, by undergoing our curse, has taken away what is dreadful in death. For though we are not now freed from death, yet in life and in death we have peace and safety, when we have Christ going before us.

But if any one cannot pacify his mind by disregarding death, let him know that he has [little understanding of what] faith [in] Christ [means]; for [since] extreme fear is [due] to ignorance [of] the grace of Christ, so it is a certain evidence of unbelief.

Death here does not only mean the separation of the soul from the body, but also [eternal] punishment which is inflicted on us by an angry God…; for where there is guilt before God, there immediately hell shows itself.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, before it’s too late.

P.O.D. – Southtown (Video shot to LP Version), YouTube, Atlantic Records, Lyrics

Cast Away – by Bernhardt Writer

I suppose this is also the title of a popular survival movie involving a volleyball as costar. However, after a post titled: “Coup,” I thought it fitting to examine further the motivations of our political, economic, and religious elites from a biblical standpoint. And, when I write ‘religious,’ I mean that term in the broadest sense.

Psalm 2 lays down God’s assessment of the kings of the earth:

The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,

“Let us burst their bonds apart

and cast away their cords from us.”

Psalm 2:2-3 English Standard Version (ESV)

When King David said, “kings and rulers,” most likely he meant those in charge of nations. Nowadays, that term refers to many more than in his day, as we discussed in our post “Why We Use Block Quotes.” There, our commentator, John Calvin, wisely points out regarding Philippians 2:

Hence it is not to be wondered if humility is so rare a virtue. For, as one says, “Everyone has in himself the mind of a king, by claiming everything for himself.” [emphasis added]

Here, we review Calvin’s comments on Psalm 2. He first grounds King David’s statements in his history as told elsewhere in the Old Testament, and as summarized in the Psalms:

We know how many conspired against David, and endeavored to prevent his coming to the throne…But, he had the testimony of an approving conscience, that he had attempted nothing rashly nor acted as ambition and depraved desire impel many to seek changes in the government of kingdoms.

On the contrary, [as he was] thoroughly persuaded that he had been made king by divine appointment, when he coveted no such thing, nor even thought of it; he encouraged himself by strong confidence in God against the whole world, just as in these words, he nobly pours contempt both on kings and their armies.

…We ought carefully to mark the ground of such confidence, which was, that he had…only followed the call of God… He declares that he reigned only by the authority and command of God, inasmuch as the oil brought by the hand of Samuel made him king who before was only a private person.

Just like the Lord Jesus Christ was opposed by His own nation and its chief priests, as we discussed in the post “If Only They Had Known,” Calvin notes:

David’s enemies did not…think they were making a violent attack against God. [Indeed], they would resolutely deny their having any such intention; yet it is not without reason that David places God in opposition to them, and speaks as if they directly levelled their attacks against Him, for by seeking to undermine the kingdom which he [, David,] had erected, they blindly and ferociously waged war against Him. If all those are rebels against God who resist the powers ordained by Him, much more does this apply to that sacred kingdom which was established by special privilege.

Next, Calvin develops the thought that David foretold of Christ’s kingdom.

…That David prophesied concerning Christ, is clearly manifest from this, that he knew his own kingdom to be merely a shadow… He, with his posterity, was made king, not so much for his own sake as to be a type of the Redeemer…David’s temporal kingdom was a kind of [sign or promise] to God’s ancient people of the eternal kingdom, which at length was truly established in the person of Christ, those things which David declares concerning himself are not violently, or even allegorically, applied to Christ, but were truly predicted concerning him.

Drawing together both David’s history and prophesy, he says:

…To place our faith beyond the reach of all [complaints], it is plainly made manifest from all the prophets, that those things which David testified concerning his own kingdom are properly applicable to Christ.

Let this, therefore, be held as a settled point, that all who do not submit themselves to the authority of Christ make war against God. Since it seems good to God to rule us by the hand of his own Son, those who refuse to obey Christ himself deny the authority of God, and it is in vain for them to profess otherwise. For it is a true saying,

“He that honors not the Son, honor not the Father which has sent him,” (John 5:23.)

And it is of great importance to hold fast this inseparable connection, that as the majesty of God has shone forth in his only begotten Son, so the Father will not be feared and worshiped but in His person.

In conclusion of the foregoing, Calvin applies this doctrine to us, saying:

A twofold consolation may be drawn from this passage: First, as often as the world rages, in order to disturb and put an end to the prosperity of Christ’s kingdom, we have only to remember that, in all this there is just a fulfillment of what was long ago predicted, and no changes that [may] happen will greatly [upset] us. …Nor is it at all [amazing], or unusual, if the world begins to rage as soon as a throne is erected for Christ.

The other consolation which follows is, that when the ungodly have mustered their forces, and when, depending on their vast numbers, their riches, and their means of defense, they not only pour forth their proud blasphemies, but furiously assault heaven itself, we may safely laugh them to scorn, relying on this one consideration, that he whom they are assailing is the God who is in heaven.

Then, having laid the groundwork, Calvin explains:

Let us break, etc. …The prophet introduces his-enemies as [expressing] their [own] ungodly and traitorous design. Not that they openly avowed themselves rebels against God, (for they rather covered their rebellion under every possible pretext, and presumptuously boasted of having God on their side;) but since they were fully determined, by all means, fair or foul, to drive David from the throne, whatever they professed with the mouth, the whole of their consultation amounted to this, how they might overthrow the kingdom which God himself had set up.

Lastly, he examines the inner attitude of those rebels toward King David and his Messiah:

When he describes his government under the metaphorical expressions of bonds, and a yoke, on the persons of his adversaries, he indirectly condemns their pride. For he represents them speaking scornfully of his government, as if to submit to it were a slavish and shameful subjection, just as we see it is with all the enemies of Christ who, when compelled to be subject to his authority reckon it not less degrading than if the utmost disgrace were put upon them.

Therefore, lest we be found fighting against God, no matter what our words, let us submit to His rule and “kiss the Son.”

Treasury of David: Commentary on Psalm 2 – C. H. Spurgeon (Audio book,) YouTube

Why We Use Block Quotes

We’ve explained before how and why we use brackets [ ] and ellipses for clarity and concision. This week, we explain why we use block quotes so extensively in our posts.

First, links (i.e., hyperlinks,) to articles, editorials, and posts from which block quotes are taken, serve as footnote references to those sources. We rely on fair use, permissions granted, and works deemed in the public domain. Links in our posts, which are unrelated to block quotes, serve to develop the linked words, phrases, or sentences. These latter links are often crucial and expand upon and/or substantiate the thoughts expressed in the post. We try to ensure that all links open in separate tabs or windows (depending on your browser’s or reader’s properties.)

Next, delving into our motivation behind our heavy block quote usage, the glory of human beings is defined as:

…A number of external manifestations and conditions, aspects of internal character, and the inherent condition of human nature. As applied to external manifestations and conditions of human beings, glory may refer to position, possessions, strength, or length of life…

We view the written expression of exquisite thoughts as one of those possessions.

That said, we could digest and regurgitate another’s thoughts, representing their insights as our own; but that, of course, is stealing the glory due others (and ultimately, that of our God, from and to Whom are all things.) It is necessary to give credit where credit is due.

Also, our intent is to call attention to otherwise neglected or obscure thoughts; not so because they have no merit, but because our modern times trade in the facile and trending rather than investing in the deep and time-tested.

You might venture to think that we are just lazy. To this, I must say, you might be right.

Ultimately, however, we are called to humility:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 English Standard Version (ESV)

The authors of what we block quote are more significant than ourselves. They thought and wrote these things first (and, usually, with more eloquence than we can muster.) Though we might stand on the shoulders of giants, let us acknowledge them as such.

Calvin, our go-to commentator for all things biblical (except the Books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Revelation, and a few others, regretfully,) says about these verses in Philippians:

Nothing through strife or vain-glory. …We avoid strife by deliberating and acting peacefully, especially if we are not actuated by ambition. For ambition is a means of fanning all strife. Vain-glory means any glorying in the flesh; for what ground of glorying have men in themselves that is not vanity?

But by humility. For both diseases [(i.e., strife and vain-glory,) Paul] brings forward one remedy — humility, and with good reason, for it is the mother of moderation, the effect of which is that, yielding up our own right, we give the preference to others, and are not easily thrown into agitation. He gives a definition of true humility — when everyone esteems himself less than others. Now, if anything in our whole life is difficult, this above everything else is so.

Hence it is not to be wondered if humility is so rare a virtue. For, as one says, “Everyone has in himself the mind of a king, by claiming everything for himself.” See! here is pride. Afterwards from a foolish admiration of ourselves arises contempt of the brethren. And, so far are we from what Paul here enjoins, that one can hardly endure that others should be on a level with him, for there is no one that is not eager to have superiority. [emphasis added]

Yet, Calvin, modest as he was, poses a question we might dare to ask for ourselves:

…How it is possible that one who is in reality distinguished above others can reckon those to be superior to him who he knows are greatly beneath him? I answer, that this altogether depends on a right estimate of God’s gifts, and our own infirmities.

For however any one may be distinguished by illustrious endowments, he ought to consider with [regard to] himself that they have not been conferred upon him that he might be self-complacent, that he might exalt himself, or even that he might hold himself in esteem.

Let him, instead of this, employ himself in correcting and detecting his faults, and he will have abundant occasion for humility. In others, on the other hand, he will regard with honor whatever there is of excellences, and will by means of love bury their faults.

The man who will observe this rule, will feel no difficulty in preferring others before himself. And this, too, Paul meant when he added, that they ought not to have everyone a regard to themselves, but to their neighbors, or that they ought not to be devoted to themselves.

Hence it is quite possible that a pious man, even though he should be aware that he is superior, may nevertheless hold others in greater esteem.

So then, let this proverb be true of us all:

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;

    give me neither poverty nor riches;

    feed me with the food that is needful for me,

lest I be full and deny you

    and say, “Who is the Lord?”

or lest I be poor and steal

    and profane the name of my God.

Proverbs 30:8-9 (ESV)

As our Lord said: “Many who are first will be last, and the last first.” And “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Modern Romans, YouTube, The Call – Topic, Lyrics

Coup? – By Bernhardt Writer

I must preface this post with an appeal for civility that United States Congressman Rodney Davis made after he was shot at during the attempted assassination of members of the US House of Representatives including Majority Whip Steve Scalise back in June of 2017.

Rep. Rodney Davis Blames ‘Political Rhetorical Terrorism’ For Virginia Shooting, YouTube, Published on June 14, 2017

Representative Scalise was released from the hospital in late July.

For those uncertain how to pronounce coup, Google provides audio. Wikipedia defines Coup d’état, for which coup is short, as:

The illegal and overt seizure of a state by the military or other elites within the state apparatus.

Today’s theme was prompted by a recent editorial in the blog American Greatness which opened:

The president was widely seen as incompetent, naïve, hostile to the professional experts in the bureaucracy, if not an outright traitor, paid off by the nation’s ancient enemies.

The traditional political establishment, the intelligence services, and the career federal police were proven patriots and experts, who saw a tragedy unfolding before their eyes. They and everyone in their circle were increasingly worried over the destruction of the nation’s economy and the dangerous concessions to foreign enemies. He must be stopped.

Familiar, no?

In light of recent domestic events, it is worth remembering [that this described the circumstances around] the 1991 coup attempt against Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev…

The coup leaders thought they would be celebrated as saviors of the nation and that the Soviet people, long bred in habits of fear and passivity, would accept these events regardless…[However,] quite the opposite occurred.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators appeared in Red Square in Moscow and Leningrad to defend nascent democratic institutions…Ordinary people, it turned out, were hostile to the legacy Soviet elite. They wanted change, and they risked their lives for it.

Soon the coup plotters were arrested, several committed suicide, and the Communist Party and eventually the Soviet Union were soon officially disbanded.

The parallels with the current talk against Trump are rather remarkable. As Trump noted in his inaugural address:

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished―but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered―but the jobs left, and the factories closed. What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.

…Whether Trump is somehow forced to resign, taken out in a real or quasi-coup, or hobbled by passive resistance from the federal bureaucracy, it is worth remembering his American enemies echo almost identically the themes of the ’91 Soviet plotters, right down to the excuse of illness, claims of national emergency, and suggestion that the vice president would be a more capable steward of their interests.

…While they might try to pull this off, perhaps they should be worried they’ll share the same fate as the Soviet coup plotters.

I’ve sensed subversion and insurrection in the air for some time now. Perhaps you have too? Our Declaration of Independence says, among other things, that:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

A commentator at Claremont Review of Books, Angelo M. Codevilla, wrote:

So many on all sides have withdrawn consent from one another, as well as from republicanism as defined by the Constitution and as it was practiced until the mid-20th century, that it is difficult to imagine how the trust and sympathy necessary for good government might ever return.

Instead, we have a cold civil war. Statesmanship’s first task is to prevent it from turning hot. In today’s circumstances, fostering mutual forbearance may require loosening the Union in unfamiliar and unwelcome ways to accommodate differences that may otherwise become far worse…

Revolutions end when a coherent, persuasive idea of the common good returns to the public mind. Only then can statecraft be practiced rationally, as more than a minimalist calling designed to prevent the worst from happening.

Dennis Prager holds a similar, if gloomier, outlook:

It is time for our society to acknowledge a sad truth: America is currently fighting its second Civil War.

In fact, with the obvious and enormous exception of attitudes toward slavery, Americans are more divided morally, ideologically and politically today than they were during the Civil War. For that reason, just as the Great War came to be known as World War I once there was World War II, the Civil War will become known as the First Civil War when more Americans come to regard the current battle as the Second Civil War.

This Second Civil War, fortunately, differs in another critically important way: It has thus far been largely nonviolent. But given increasing left-wing violence, such as riots, the taking over of college presidents’ offices and the illegal occupation of state capitols, nonviolence is not guaranteed to be a permanent characteristic of the Second Civil War.

There are those on both the left and right who call for American unity. But these calls are either naive or disingenuous. Unity was possible between the right and liberals, but not between the right and the left.

Liberalism – which was anti-left, pro-American and deeply committed to the Judeo-Christian foundations of America; and which regarded the melting pot as the American ideal, fought for free speech for its opponents, regarded Western civilization as the greatest moral and artistic human achievement and viewed the celebration of racial identity as racism – is now affirmed almost exclusively on the right and among a handful of people who don’t call themselves conservative.

The left, however, is opposed to every one of those core principles of liberalism.

Like the left in every other country, the left in America essentially sees America as a racist, xenophobic, colonialist, imperialist, warmongering, money-worshipping, moronically religious nation.

Just as in Western Europe, the left in America seeks to erase America’s Judeo-Christian foundations. The melting pot is regarded as nothing more than an anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-Hispanic meme. The left suppresses free speech wherever possible for those who oppose it, labeling all non-left speech “hate speech.”

But, how did we get here? We’ve discussed it before on this blog. However, this time, let’s go back to our miraculous beginning to see where we’ve come from:

The Great Awakening profoundly shaped the American Revolution. Growing as it did out of a period of deep religious fervor and ferment, the American Revolution was not going to be an anti-religious revolution like the one in France. “The Revolution was effected before the War commenced,” John Adams wrote, “The Revolution was in the Minds and Hearts of the People. A Change in their Religious Sentiments of their Duties and Obligations.”

Lord Acton traced the history of liberty as the story of mankind’s struggle down through the centuries to realize the political implications of the Gospel. Harry Jaffa agreed: “That the equality of human souls in the sight of God ought to be translated into a political structure of equal political rights has come to be regarded as the most authentic interpretation of the Gospel itself.”

It was the Founders’ great achievement, after nearly two millennia, to make equal political rights that authentic interpretation.

City Journals Fred Siegel wrote:

The Constitution…established a society in which property was widely if not always evenly distributed, but it did not pit the owners of property against the workers in intractable opposition. The Constitution was meant to serve and represent the broad middle ranks of society.

The great danger to the Constitution was the rise of an oligarchy able to convert its wealth into political power and vice versa. Madison, the Constitution’s primary author, warned that, eventually, “the proportion being without property” would increase, and create a crisis of legitimacy for the ruling class. At that point, Madison intuited, “the institutions and laws of the country must be adapted, and it will require for the task all the wisdom of the wisest patriots.”

But, wisdom did not prevail. Instead, the oligarchs took control:

Against the concept of Biblical monarchy, the republicans counterposed the Biblical idea of covenant among individuals whose spiritual sovereignty arose from their personal experience of revelation…through Scripture. …No other nation had entrusted religion to individual citizens rather than to a state church. Americans emerged from the beginning as a covenantal people.

How then did America leap from Lincoln’s Calvinism to the Progressive conceit that the world was under human control, not under divine judgment? …Perhaps it is no accident that Woodrow Wilson’s father was a Southern Presbyterian minister who defended slavery: The Civil War’s losers did not like the idea that their humiliation was a divine judgment.

Instead of a world redeemed by God, the Progressives envisioned one made whole by human cleverness. “The Progressive response to all the problems posed by trusts, strikes, immigrants, corruption, education, public health, and more was scientific management through governance informed by credentialed experts…A modern society needed a modern state to fulfill the promise of rapid and permanent progress.”

[And] So did a modern world. [Mainline Baptist preacher and social gospel proponent] Walter Rauschenbusch … “claimed that God had not raised the United States to great power and wealth merely to be an example to other nations…but rather to act strenuously on behalf of righteousness in the world.”

And these idolatrous tenets were instituted through a new, living constitution embodied in an unelected administrative state. Phillip Hamburger, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, spoke about this subversion of America’s founding principles:

Administrative law…is a post-1789 development and—this is the key point—it arose as a pragmatic and necessary response to new and complex practical problems in American life…and, of course, if looked at that way, opposition to administrative law is anti-modern and quixotic.

But there are problems…Rather than being a modern, post-constitutional American development, I argue that the rise of administrative law is essentially a re-emergence of the absolute power practiced by pre-modern kings. Rather than a modern necessity, it is a latter-day version of a recurring threat—a threat inherent in human nature and in the temptations of power….

In this way, over the past 120 years, Americans have reestablished the very sort of power that the Constitution most centrally forbade. Administrative law is extra-legal in that it binds Americans not through law but through other mechanisms—not through statutes but through regulations—and not through the decisions of courts but through other adjudications…

…Much early administrative procedure appears to have been modelled on civilian-derived inquisitorial process. Administrative adjudication thus becomes an open avenue for evasion of the Bill of Rights. [emphasis mine]

And this constitutional subversion continues apace:

There is an obvious logic to the progressive dynamic. So long as there is no realistic prospect of dismantling the administrative state whose foundations were laid by Wilson and built upon by the New Deal [by FDR] and the Great Society [by LBJ], the movement of history must be in a progressive direction. Every major conservative political victory becomes a victory for the status quo; every major liberal victory becomes another step forward. Progressives are always just one electoral victory away from resuming the forward march of history.

And yet, this “progress” must not stand says Myron Magnet, Editor at Large for City Journal, who wrote:

For Americans to think that it is “progress” to move from the Founders’ revolutionary achievement—a nation of free citizens, endowed with natural rights, living under laws that they themselves have made, pursuing their own vision of happiness in their own way and free to develop as fully as they can whatever talent or genius lies within them—to a regime in which individuals derive such rights as they have from a government superior to them is contemptible.

How is a return to subjection an advance on freedom? No lover of liberty should ever call such left-wing statism “progressive.” In historical terms, this elevation of state power over individual freedom is not even “liberal” but quite the reverse.

…Deference to the greater wisdom of government, which Wilsonian progressivism deems a better judge of what the era needs and what the people “really” want than the people themselves, has been silently eroding our unique culture of enterprise, self-reliance, enlightenment, and love of liberty for decades.

…As the Founders often cautioned, a self-governing republic doesn’t have a governing class. Part of America’s current predicament is that it now has such a class, and the American people are very angry about it.

This governing class, Madison’s oligarchs who are: “able to convert [their] wealth into political power and vice versa,” view the people of the United States with contempt. These establishment elites (of the so-called right and the left) are globalists who think in this way:

We live in an interconnected world. Globalization and the internet have created new networks of belonging and new forms of social trust, by which borders are erased and old attachments vaporized…The nation-state was useful while it lasted and gave us a handle on our social and political obligations. But it was dangerous too, when inflamed against real or imaginary enemies.

In any case, the nation-state belongs in the past, to a society in which family, job, religion and way of life stay put in a single place and are insulated against global developments. Our world is no longer like that, and we must change in step with it if we wish to belong.

In rebuttal, the author continues:

The argument is a powerful one…but it overlooks the most important fact, which is that democratic politics requires a demos. Democracy means rule by the people and requires us to know who the people are, what unites them and how they can form a government.

This globalist elite seeks to abolish the people by overturning their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness:

[Globalism’s] purpose is not to seek value in the earth’s far corners but to get across the border to where the customs, expectations, and regulations that arose in the industrial age regarding compensation of the workforce don’t apply…

…In 1993, during the first month of his presidency, Bill Clinton outlined some of the promise of a world in which “the average 18-year-old today will change jobs seven times in a lifetime.” How could anyone ever have believed in, tolerated, or even wished for such a thing?

A person cannot productively invest the resources of his only life if he’s going to be told every five years that everything he once thought solid has melted into air. Far from being a promise, this much-touted side of globalization would be worth a great deal of hardship to avoid.

The more so since globalization undermines democracy… Global value chains are extraordinarily delicate. They are vulnerable to shocks. Terrorists have discovered this. In order to work, free-trade systems must be frictionless and immune to interruption, forever.

This means a program of intellectual property protection, zero tariffs, and cross-border traffic in everything, including migrants. This can be assured only in a system that is veto-proof and non-consultative—in short, undemocratic. That is why it is those who have benefited most from globalization who have been leading the counterattack against the democracy movements arising all over the West.

This last paragraph brings to mind two thoughts from the Book of Revelation:

They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,

“Alas! Alas! You great city,

    you mighty city, Babylon!

For in a single hour your judgment has come.”

And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls. [emphasis added]

Revelation 18:10-13 English Standard Version (ESV)

And

And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” Revelation 13:4 (ESV)

Our recent election sought, through lawful means, to correct the actions of the subversive elite:

What if a naïve faith in voters’ rationality is not the source of our system’s difficulties?

What if the problem is that the public wants to tell its leaders something they don’t want to hear?

What if the literature of anti-democratic political science, like so much of our elite conversation about politics, is just a way to tell the public to shut up?

What if, as a result, the leaders who secure a hearing for public frustrations manage to do so by working around or undermining our institutions, rather than by harnessing them?

What if that willful elite ignorance is why our institutions face a crisis of legitimacy, leading to elections that force us to choose between bland technocrats and reckless brutes?

In other words, what if our constitution-bound democratic republicanism is not the problem but the solution—not a romantic delusion but the epitome of realism? If that were so, what then would this moment demand, both of citizens and of those who would be practitioners of a political science that deserves the name?

Friedrich Hayek foretold the outcome of this journey to totalitarianism in his book, Road to Serfdom, albeit, in terms of collectivist socialism rather than the current elite’s globalism.

Walter E. Williams’ foreword to the condensed version summarized Hayek’s argument and remedy:

In the last paragraph of The Intellectuals and Socialism, Hayek says, ‘Unless we [true liberals] can make the philosophic foundation of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, …the prospects of freedom are indeed dark’. If Hayek is correct that neither selfish interests nor evil intentions motivate intellectuals towards socialism, there are indeed grounds for optimism. Education offers hope. We can educate them, or at least make others immune, to the errors of their thinking.

…There is not a lot to be gained by challenging the internal logic of many socialist arguments. Instead, it is the initial premises that underlie their arguments that must be challenged. Take one small example. One group of people articulates a concern for the low-skilled worker and argues for an increase in the minimum wage as a means to help them. Another group of people articulating the identical concern might just as strongly oppose an increase in the minimum wage, arguing that it will hurt low-skilled workers.

How can people who articulate identical ends, as is so often the case, strongly defend polar opposite policies? I believe part of the answer is that they make different initial premises of how the world works…

The only way government can give one person money is to first take it from another person. Doing so represents the forcible using of one person, through the tax code, to serve the purposes of another. That is a form of immorality akin to slavery. After all, a working definition of slavery is precisely that: the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.

Well-intentioned socialists, if they are honest people as Hayek contends, should be able to appreciate that reaching into one’s own pockets to assist one’s fellow man is laudable and praiseworthy. Reaching into another’s pocket to do so is theft and by any standard of morality should be condemned.

Collectivists can neither ignore nor dismiss irrefutable evidence that free markets produce unprecedented wealth. Instead, they indict the free market system on moral grounds, charging that it is a system that rewards greed and selfishness and creates an unequal distribution of income.

Free markets must be defended on moral grounds. We must convince our fellow man there cannot be personal liberty in the absence of free markets, respect for private property rights and rule of law. Even if free markets were not superior wealth producers, the morality of the market would make them the superior alternative. [emphases mine]

How, then, can we get back to our founding principles:

The nobility of the founding consists in its realism about the self-interested nature of man, combined with its idealism about building a government that serves the common good by enabling people to acquire enough property to live, while making it possible for people in their private lives to serve God in the way they believed best and to cultivate their minds without being tormented by persecution.

And

The Founders’ generation embraced and emphasized this distinction. John Adams inserted this passage in the Massachusetts state constitution:

“All people are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in [short], that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.”

Therefore, we must seek godly and lawful correctives before it’s too late and we find ourselves where a once prosperous Venezuela finds itself now:

That’s what’s new in the protests taking place in Venezuela — the conviction that the 21st-century socialism begun by former President Hugo Chávez has failed and has left the country in ruins. And there are other, darker new elements involved — police brutality, mass detentions and the use of paramilitary groups armed by the government to carry out the dirty work the military doesn’t want to handle: murdering people.

The demonstrations multiplied across the country. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets, knowing they face armed repression, because they have realized that the institutions that make democracy work are in grave danger and that they must defend themselves against a despotic government.

What awakened them was the declaration made early last month by the attorney general, Luisa Ortega Díaz, concerning two resolutions, 154 and 155, issued by the Supreme Court’s constitutional division that in effect voided the National Assembly. She denounced the ruling as “breaking the thread of constitutional continuity,” words that were translated into a rallying cry for the protesters:

“Maduro, coup-monger! We didn’t say so — the attorney general said so!”

Maduro held a stacked vote that 7 in 10 opposed. The Venezuelan people want democracy, not a Cuban inspired dictatorship.

Here, in America, the Republicans are fractured and the Democrat party is breaking up. This lost political consensus is not without grave national security implications, too.

Our shared situation calls for faithful witness and patient endurance.

We must remember: God is on His throne and directs the kings’ decisions as He wills. Even more, let us remember that He says:

The king is not saved by his great army;

    a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.

The war horse is a false hope for salvation,

    and by its great might it cannot rescue.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,

    on those who hope in his steadfast love.

Psalm 33:16-18 (ESV)

Therefore, pray for peace and seek well-being for the people of these United States.

I Am Back! and I’d Like to Tell You Something Important to Me, May 26, 2017, YouTube, soniastravels