The Babies I Never Knew

FeaturedThe Babies I Never Knew

A heavy sorrow lies
With hidden grief and heavy sighs
Inside a broken soul
Disguised by smiles, and joyful eyes
Unable to feel, and unable to cry
Shattered dreams – will I ever be whole?

The day that phone rang
I would never be the same
No heartbeat the call
Who is to blame?
Not present, I feel ashamed
The tears begin to fall.

Desperately crying – I may drown!
A million hopes come crashing down
A mama’s boy? A daddy’s girl?
Be strong for Steph! Don’t show your frown
It isn’t fair! I spiral down
Blue eyes? Brown hair? Crushing thoughts swirl.

Pull it together! I must be strong
Holding Steph in tears, the silence feels prolonged
The death of two beautiful lives
How can we go on?
It is well – we sing a song
The words cut like knives.

Is it really well?
This all feels like hell
Emotions bottled and time slowly passes
Upper lip stiffened, I’m locked in a cell
No closure and no farewell
A lovely vision falls to ashes.

Off to the hospital she goes
Once I’m there, and one time no
There’s no hello and no goodbye
Finality hits with blow after blow
For me, only silence and dreadful woe
No hello, and no goodbye.

Time has now flown
Two kids have grown
Does time heal all wounds?
Two loves remain I have never known
Guilt I feel, and mistakes I own
Time does not heal all I conclude.

Heavy sorrow still lies
With open grief and heavy sighs
Inside a healing soul
Honest tears and sorrowful eyes
Beginning to feel, and starting to cry
This side of glory not whole.

Yet it is well with my soul
One heavenly day, my babies I’ll hold
For earth hath no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.

“Remember Lot’s Wife”

The following is taken from Chapter 10 of J.C. Ryle’s Book Holiness. The chapter is titled: “A Woman to be Remembered.”

‘Remember Lot’s wife’—Luke 17:32

There are few warnings in Scripture more solemn than that which heads this page. The Lord Jesus Christ says to us, ‘Remember Lot’s wife.’

Lot’s wife was a professor of religion; her husband was a ‘righteous man’ (2 Peter 2:8). She left Sodom with him on the day when Sodom was destroyed; she looked back towards the city from behind her husband, against God’s express command; she was struck dead at once, and turned into a pillar of salt. And the Lord Jesus Christ holds her up as a beacon to His church; He says, ‘Remember Lot’s wife.’

It is a solemn warning, when we think of the person Jesus names. He does not bid us remember Abraham or Isaac or Jacob or Sarah or Hannah or Ruth. No, He singles out one whose soul was lost for ever. He cries to us, ‘Remember Lot’s wife.’

It is a solemn warning, when we consider the subject Jesus is upon. He is speaking of His own second coming to judge the world; He is describing the awful state of unreadiness in which many will be found. The last days are on His mind, when He says, ‘Remember Lot’s wife.’

It is a solemn warning, when we think of the person who gives it. The Lord Jesus is full of love, mercy and compassion; He is one who not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax. He could weep over unbelieving Jerusalem, and pray for the men that crucified Him; yet even He thinks it good to remind us of lost souls. Even He says, ‘Remember Lot’s wife.’

It is a solemn warning, when we think of the persons to whom it was first given. The Lord Jesus was speaking to HIS disciples; He was not addressing the scribes and Pharisees, who hated Him, but Peter, James and John, and many others who loved Him; yet even to them He thinks it good to address a caution. Even to them He says, ‘Remember Lot’s wife.’

It is a solemn warning, when we consider the manner in which it was given. He does not merely say, ‘Beware of following, take heed of imitating, do not be like Lot’s wife.’ He uses a different word: He says, ‘Remember.’ He speaks as if we were all in danger of forgetting the subject; He stirs up our lazy memories; He bids us keep the case before our minds. He cries, ‘Remember Lot’s wife.’

I propose to examine the lessons which Lot’s wife is meant to teach us. I am sure that her history is full of useful instruction to the church. The last days are upon us; the second coming of the Lord Jesus draws nigh; the danger of worldliness is yearly increasing in the church. Let us be provided with safeguards and antidotes against the disease that is around us and, not least, let us become familiar with the story of Lot’s wife.

There are three things which I shall do in order to bring the subject before our minds in order.

1. I will speak of the religious privileges which Lot’s wife enjoyed.

2. I will speak of the sin which Lot’s wife committed.

3. I will speak of the judgement which God inflicted upon her.

1. The religious privileges which Lot’s wife enjoyed:

I will first speak of the religious privileges which Lot’s wife enjoyed. In the days of Abraham and Lot, true saving religion was scarce upon earth: there were no Bibles, no ministers, no churches, no tracts, no missionaries. The knowledge of God was confined to a few favoured families; the greater part of the inhabitants of the world were living in darkness, ignorance, superstition and sin. Not one in a hundred perhaps had such good example, such spiritual society, such clear knowledge, such plain warnings as Lot’s wife. Compared with millions of her fellow creatures in her time, Lot’s wife was a favoured woman.

She had a godly man for her husband; she had Abraham, the father of the faithful, for her uncle by marriage. The faith, the knowledge and the prayers of these two righteous men could have been no secret to her. It is impossible that she could have dwelt in tents with them for any length of time, without knowing whose they were and whom they served. Religion with them was no mere formal business; it was the ruling principle of their lives and the mainspring of all their actions. All this Lot’s wife must have seen and known. This was no small privilege.

When Abram first received the promises, it is probable Lot’s wife was there. When he built his altar by his tent between Hai and Bethel, it is probable she was there. When her husband was taken captive by Chedorlaomer, and delivered by God’s interference, she was there. When Melchizedek, king of Salem, came forth to meet Abraham with bread and wine, she was there. When the angels came to Sodom and warned her husband to flee, she saw them; when they took them by the hand and led them out of the city, she was one of those whom they helped to escape. Once more, I say, these were no small privileges.

Yet what good effect had all these privileges on the heart of Lot’s wife? None at all. Notwithstanding all her opportunities and means of grace, notwithstanding all her special warnings and messages from heaven, she lived and died graceless, godless, impenitent and unbelieving. The eyes of her understanding were never opened; her conscience was never really aroused and quickened; her will was never really brought into a state of obedience to God; her affections were never really set upon things above. The form of religion which she had was kept up for fashion’s sake and not from feeling; it was a cloak worn for the sake of pleasing her company, but not from any sense of its value. She did as others did around her in Lot’s house; she conformed to her husband’s ways; she made no opposition to his religion; she allowed herself to be passively towed along in his wake; but all this time her heart was wrong in the sight of God. The world was in her heart, and her heart was in the world. In this state she lived, and in this state she died.

In all this there is much to be learned: I see a lesson here which is of the deepest importance in the present day. You live in times when there are many persons just like Lot’s wife; come and hear the lesson which her case is meant to teach.

Learn, then, that the mere possession of religious privileges will save no one’s soul. You may have spiritual advantages of every description; you may live in the full sunshine of the richest opportunities and means of grace; you may enjoy the best of preaching and the choicest instruction; you may dwell in the midst of light, knowledge, holiness and good company. All this may be, and yet you yourself may remain unconverted, and at last be lost for ever.

I dare say this doctrine sounds hard to some readers. I know that many fancy they want nothing but religious privileges in order to become decided Christians. They are not what they ought to be at present, they allow; but their position is so hard, they plead, and their difficulties are so many. Give them a godly husband or a godly wife, give them godly companions, or a godly master, give them the preaching of the gospel, give them privileges, and then they would walk with God.

It is all a mistake. It is an entire delusion. It requires something more than privileges to save souls. Joab was David’s captain; Gehazi was Elisha’s servant; Demas was Paul’s companion; Judas Iscariot was Christ’s disciple, and Lot had a worldly unbelieving wife. These all died in their sins. They went down to the pit in spite of knowledge, warnings and opportunities, and they all teach us that it is not privileges alone that men need. They need the grace of the Holy Ghost.

Let us value religious privileges, but let us not rest entirely upon them. Let us desire to heed the benefit of them in all our movements in life, but let us not put them in the place of Christ. Let us use them thankfully, if God grants them to us, but let us take care that they produce some fruit in our heart and life. If they do not do good, they often do positive harm: they sear the conscience, they increase responsibility, they aggravate condemnation. The same fire which melts the wax hardens the clay; the same sun which makes the living tree grow, dries up the dead tree, and prepares it for burning. Nothing so hardens the heart of man as a barren familiarity with sacred things. Once more I say, it is not privileges alone which make people Christians, but the grace of the Holy Ghost. Without that no man will ever be saved.

I ask the members of evangelical congregations, in the present day, to mark well what I am saying. You go to Mr. A’s, or Mr. B’s church; you think him an excellent preacher; you delight in his sermons; you cannot hear anyone else with the same comfort; you have learned many things since you attended his ministry; you consider it a great privilege to be one of his hearers! All this is very good. It is a privilege. I should be thankful if ministers like yours were multiplied a thousandfold. But after all, what have you got in your heart? Have you yet received the Holy Ghost? If not, you are no better than Lot’s wife.

I ask the servants of religious families to mark well what I am saying. It is a great privilege to live in a house where the fear of God reigns. It is a privilege to hear family prayers morning and evening, to hear the Word of God regularly expounded, to have a quiet Sunday, and to be able always to go to church. These are the things that you ought to seek after when you try to get a situation; these are the things which make a really good place. High wages and light work will never make up for a constant round of worldliness, sabbath-breaking and sin. But take heed that you do not rest content with these things; do not suppose because you have all these spiritual advantages that you will of course go to heaven. You must have grace in your own heart, as well as attend family prayers. If not, you are at present no better than Lot’s wife.

I ask the children of religious parents to mark well what I am saying. It is the highest privilege to be the child of a godly father and mother, and to be brought up in the midst of many prayers. It is a blessed thing indeed to be taught the gospel from our earliest infancy, and to hear of sin and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and holiness and heaven from the first moment we can remember anything. But, oh, take heed that you do not remain barren and unfruitful in the sunshine of all these privileges; beware lest your heart remains hard, impenitent and worldly, notwithstanding the many advantages you enjoy. You cannot enter the kingdom of God on the credit of your parents’ religion. You must eat the bread of life for yourself, and have the witness of the Spirit in your own heart. You must have repentance of your own, faith of your own and sanctification of your own. If not, you are no better than Lot’s wife.

I pray God that all professing Christians, in these days, may lay these things to heart. May we never forget that privileges alone cannot save us. Light and knowledge and faithful preaching and abundant means of grace and the company of holy people are all great blessings and advantages. Happy are they that have them! But, after all, there is one thing without which privileges are useless: that one thing is the grace of the Holy Ghost. Lot’s wife had many privileges; but Lot’s wife had no grace.

2. The sin which Lot’s wife committed:

I will next speak of the sin which Lot’s wife committed.

The history of her sin is given by the Holy Ghost in few and simple words: ‘She looked back from behind her husband, and she became a pillar of salt.’ We are told no more than this. There is a naked solemnity about the history. The sum and substance of her transgression lies in these three words: ‘She looked back.’

Does that sin seem small in the eyes of any reader of this paper? Does the fault of Lot’s wife appear a trifling one to be visited with such a punishment? This is the feeling, I dare say, that rises in some hearts. Give me your attention while I reason with you on the subject. There was far more in that look than strikes you at first sight: it implied far more than it expressed. Listen, and you shall hear.

a. That look was a little thing, but it revealed the true character of Lot’s wife. Little things will often show the state of a man’s mind even better than great ones, and little symptoms are often the signs of deadly and incurable diseases. The apple that Eve ate was a little thing, but it proved that she had fallen from innocence and become a sinner. A crack in an arch seems a little thing, but it proves that the foundation is giving way, and the whole fabric is unsafe. A little cough in a morning seems an unimportant ailment, but it is often an evidence of failing in the constitution, and leads on to decline, consumption and death. A straw may show which way the wind blows, and one look may show the rotten condition of a sinner’s heart (Matthew 5:28).

b. That look was a little thing, but it told of disobedience in Lot’s wife. The command of the angel was straight and unmistakable: ‘Look not behind thee’ (Genesis 19:17). This command Lot’s wife refused to obey. But the Holy Ghost says that ‘to obey is better than sacrifice’, and that ‘rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft’ (1 Samuel 15:22, 23). When God speaks plainly by His Word, or by His messengers, man’s duty is clear.

c. That look was a little thing, but it told of proud unbelief in Lot’s wife. She seemed to doubt whether God was really going to destroy Sodom: she appeared not to believe there was any danger, or any need for such a hasty flight. But without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). The moment a man begins to think he knows better than God, and that God does not mean anything when He threatens, his soul is in great danger. When we cannot see the reason of God’s dealings, our duty is to hold our peace and believe.

d. That look was a little thing, but it told of secret love of the world in Lot’s wife. Her heart was in Sodom, though her body was outside. She had left her affections behind when she fled from her home. Her eye turned to the place where her treasure was, as the compass needle turns to the pole. And this was the crowning point of her sin. ‘The friendship of the world is enmity with God’ (James 4:4). ‘If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him’ (1 John 2:15).

I ask the special attention of my readers to this part of our subject. I believe it to be the part to which the Lord Jesus particularly intends to direct our minds. I believe He would have us observe that Lot’s wife was lost by looking back to the world. Her profession was at one time fair and specious, but she never really gave up the world. She seemed at one time in the road to safety, but even then the lowest and deepest thoughts of her heart were for the world. The immense danger of worldliness is the grand lesson which the Lord Jesus means us to learn. Oh, that we may all have an eye to see and a heart to understand!

I believe there never was a time when warnings against worldliness were so much needed by the church of Christ as they are at the present day. Every age is said to have its own peculiar epidemic disease; the epidemic disease to which the souls of Christians are liable just now is the love of the world. It is a pestilence that walketh in darkness, and a sickness that destroyeth at noonday. It ‘hath cast down many wounded; yea, many strong men have been wounded by it’. I would fain raise a warning voice, and try to arouse the slumbering consciences of all who make a profession of religion. I would fain cry aloud, ‘Remember the sin of Lot’s wife.’ She was no murderess, no adulteress, no thief; but she was a professor of religion, and she looked back.

There are thousands of baptized persons in our churches who are proof against immorality and infidelity, and yet fall victims to the love of the world. There are thousands who run well for a season, and seem to bid fair to reach heaven, but by and by give up the race, and turn their backs on Christ altogether. And what has stopped them? Have they found the Bible not true? Have they found the Lord Jesus fail to keep His word? No, not at all. But they have caught the epidemic disease: they are infected with the love of this world. I appeal to every true-hearted evangelical minister who reads this paper: I ask him to look round his congregation. I appeal to every old-established Christian: I ask him to look round the circle of his acquaintance I am sure that I am speaking the truth I am sure that it is high time to remember the sin of Lot’s wife.

a. How many children of religious families begin well and end ill! In the days of their childhood they seem full of religion. They can repeat texts and hymns in abundance; they have spiritual feelings and convictions of sin; they profess love to the Lord Jesus and desires after heaven; they take pleasure in going to church and hearing sermons; they say things which are treasured up by their fond parents as indications of grace; they do things which make relations say, ‘What manner of child will this be?’ But, alas, how often their goodness vanishes like the morning cloud, and like the dew that passes away! The boy becomes a young man, and cares for nothing but amusements, field sports, revelling and excess. The girl becomes a young woman, and cares for nothing but dress, gay company, novel reading and excitement. Where is the spirituality which once appeared to promise so fair? It is all gone; it is buried; it is overflowed by the love of the world. They walk in the steps of Lot’s wife. They look back.

b. How many married people do well in religion to all appearance, until their children begin to grow up, and then they fall away! In the early years of their married life they seem to follow Christ diligently, and to witness a good confession. They regularly attend the preaching of the gospel; they are fruitful in good works; they are never seen in vain and dissipated society. Their faith and practice are both sound, and walk hand in hand. But, alas, how often a spiritual blight comes over the household when a young family begins to grow up, and sons and daughters have to be brought forward in life. A leaven of worldliness begins to appear in their habits, dress, entertainments and employment of time. They are no longer strict about the company they keep and the places they visit. Where is the decided line of separation which they once observed? Where is the unswerving abstinence from worldly amusements which once marked their course? It is all forgotten. It is all laid aside, like an old almanac. A change has come over them: the spirit of the world has taken possession of their hearts. They walk in the steps of Lot’s wife. They look back.

c. How many young women seem to love decided religion until they are twenty or twenty-one, and then lose all! Up to this time of their life their conduct in religious matters is all that could be desired. They keep up habits of private prayer; they read their Bibles diligently; they visit the poor, when they have opportunity; they teach in Sunday schools, when there is an opening; they minister to the temporal and spiritual wants of the poor; they like religious friends; they love to talk on religious subjects; they write letters full of religious expressions and religious experience. But, alas, how often they prove unstable as water, and are ruined by the love of the world! Little by little they fall away and lose their first love. Little by little the ‘things seen’ push out of their minds the ‘things unseen’ and, like the plague of locusts, eat up every green thing in their souls. Step by step they go back from the decided position they once took up. They cease to be jealous about sound doctrine; they pretend to find out that it is ‘uncharitable’ to think one person has more religion than another; they discover it is ‘exclusive’ to attempt any separation from the customs of society. By and by they give their affections to some man who makes no pretence to decided religion. At last they end by giving up the last remnant of their own Christianity, and becoming thorough children of the world. They walk in the steps of Lot’s wife. They look back.

d. How many communicants in our churches were at one time zealous and earnest professors, and have now become torpid, formal and cold! Time was when none seemed so much alive in religion as they were; none were so diligent in their attendance on the means of grace; none were so anxious to promote “the cause of the gospel, and so ready for every good work; none were so thankful for spiritual instruction; none were apparently so desirous to grow in grace. But now, alas, everything seems altered! The ‘love of other things’ has taken possession of their hearts, and choked the good seed of the Word. The money of the world, the rewards of the world, the literature of the world, the honours of the world, have now the first place in their affections. Talk to them, and you will find no response about spiritual things. Mark their daily conduct, and you will see no zeal about the kingdom of God. A religion they have indeed, but it is living religion, no more. The spring of their former Christianity is dried up and gone; the fire of the spiritual machine is quenched and cold; earth has put out the flame which once burned so brightly. They have walked in the steps of Lot’s wife. They have looked back.

e. How many clergymen work hard in their profession for a few years, and then become lazy and indolent from the love of this present world! At the outset of their ministry they seem willing to spend and be spent for Christ; they are instant in season and out of season; their preaching is lively and their churches are filled. Their congregations are well looked after; cottage lectures, prayer meetings, house-to-house visitation, are their weekly delight. But, alas, how often after ‘beginning in the Spirit’ they end ‘in the flesh’ and, like Samson, are shorn of their strength in the lap of that Delilah, the world! They are preferred to some rich living; they marry a worldly wife; they are puffed up with pride and neglect study and prayer. A nipping frost cuts off the spiritual blossoms which once bade so fair. Their preaching loses its unction and power; their weekday work becomes less and less; the society they mix in becomes less select; the tone of their conversation becomes more earthly. They cease to disregard the opinion of man; they imbibe a morbid fear of ‘extreme views’, and are filled with a cautious dread of giving offence. And at last the man who at one time seemed likely to be a real successor of the apostles and a good soldier of Christ, settles down on his lees as a clerical gardener, farmer, or diner out, by whom nobody is offended and nobody is saved. His church becomes half empty; his influence dwindles away; the world has bound him hand and foot. He has walked in the steps of Lot’s wife. He has looked back.

It is sad to write of these things, but it is far more sad to see them. It is sad to observe how professing Christians can blind their consciences by specious arguments on this subject, and can defend positive worldliness by talking of the ‘duties of their station’, the ‘courtesies of life’ and the necessity of having a ‘cheerful religion’.

It is sad to see how many a gallant ship launches forth on the voyage of life with every prospect of success and, springing this leak of worldliness, goes down with all her freight in full view of the harbour of safety. It is saddest of all to observe how many flatter themselves it is all right with their souls when it is all wrong, by reason of this love of the world. Grey hairs are here and there upon them, and they know it not. They began with Jacob and David and Peter and they are likely to end with Esau and Saul and Judas Iscariot. They began with Ruth and Hannah and Mary and Persis and they are likely to end with Lot’s wife.

Beware of a half-hearted religion. Beware of following Christ from any secondary motive, to please relations and friends, to keep in with the custom of the place or family in which you reside, to appear respectable and have the reputation of being religious. Follow Christ for His own sake, if you follow Him at all. Be thorough, be real, be honest, be sound, be whole-hearted. If you have any religion at all, let your religion be real. See that you do not sin the sin of Lot’s wife.

Beware of ever supposing that you may go too far in religion, and of secretly trying to keep in with the world. I want no reader of this paper to become a hermit, a monk or a nun: I wish every one to do his real duty in that state of life to which he is called. But I do urge on every professing Christian who wishes to be happy the immense importance of making no compromise between God and the world. Do not try to drive a hard bargain, as if you wanted to give Christ as little of your heart as possible, and to keep as much as possible of the things of this life. Beware lest you overreach yourself, and end by losing all. Love Christ with all your heart and mind and soul and strength. Seek first the kingdom of God, and believe that then all other things shall be added to you. Take heed that you do not prove a copy of the character John Bunyan draws, Mr. Facing-both-ways. For your happiness’ sake, for your usefulness’ sake, for your safety’s sake, for your soul’s sake, beware of the sin of Lot’s wife. Oh, it is a solemn saying of our Lord Jesus: ‘No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’ (Luke 9:62).

3. The judgement which God inflicted upon her:

I will now speak, in the last place, of the punishment which God inflicted on Lot’s wife. The Scripture describes her end in few and simple words. It is written that ‘she looked back and became a pillar of salt’. A miracle was wrought to execute God’s judgement on this guilty woman. The same almighty hand which first gave her life, took that life away in the twinkling of an eye. From living flesh and blood she was turned into a pillar of salt.

That was a fearful end for a soul to come to! To die at any time is a solemn thing. To die amid kind friends and relations, to die calmly and quietly in one’s bed, to die with the prayers of godly men still sounding in your ears, to die with a good hope through grace in the full assurance of salvation, leaning on the Lord Jesus, buoyed up by gospel promises, to die even so, I say, is a serious business. But to die suddenly and in a moment, in the very act of sin, to die in full health and strength, to die by the direct interposition of an angry God—this is fearful indeed. Yet this was the end of Lot’s wife. I cannot blame the Prayer Book litany, as some do, for retaining this petition: ‘From sudden death, good Lord, deliver us.’

That was a hopeless end for a soul to come to! There are eases where one hopes, as it were, against hope, about the souls of those we see go down to the grave. We try to persuade ourselves that our poor departed brother or sister may have repented unto salvation at the last moment, and laid hold on the hem of Christ’s garment at the eleventh hour. We call to mind God’s mercies; we remember the Spirit’s power; we think on the ease of the penitent thief; we whisper to ourselves, that saving work may have gone on even on that dying bed which the dying person had not strength to tell. But there is an end of all such hopes when a person is suddenly cut down in the very act of sin. Charity itself can say nothing when the soul has been summoned away in the very midst of wickedness, without even a moment’s rime for thought or prayer. Such was the end of Lot’s wife. It was a hopeless end. She went to hell.

But it is good for us all to mark these things. It is good to be reminded that God can punish sharply those who sin wilfully, and that great privileges misused bring down great wrath on the soul. Pharaoh saw all the miracles which Moses worked; Korah, Dathan and Abiram had heard God speaking from Mount Sinai; Hophni and Phinehas were sons of God’s high priest; Saul lived in the full light of Samuel’s ministry; Ahab was often warned by Elijah the prophet; Absalom enjoyed the privilege of being one of David’s children; Belshazzar had Daniel the prophet hard by his door; Ananias and Sapphira joined the church in the days when the apostles were working miracles; Judas Iscariot was a chosen companion of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. But they all sinned with a high hand against light and knowledge and they were all suddenly destroyed without remedy. They had no time or space for repentance. As they lived, so they died; as they were, they hurried away to meet God. They went with all their sins upon them, un-pardoned, unrenewed and utterly unfit for heaven. And being dead they yet speak. They tell us, like Lot’s wife, that it is a perilous thing to sin against light, that God hates sin, and that there is a hell.

I feel constrained to speak freely to my readers on the subject of hell. Suffer me to use the opportunity which the end of Lot’s wife affords. I believe the time is come when it is a positive duty to speak plainly about the reality and eternity of hell. A flood of false doctrine has lately broken in upon us. Men are beginning to tell us that God is too merciful to punish souls for ever, that there is a love of God lower even than hell, and that all mankind, however wicked and ungodly some of them may be, will sooner or later be saved. We are invited to leave the old paths of apostolic Christianity. We are told that the views of our fathers about hell, and the devil, and punishment, are obsolete and old-fashioned. We are to embrace what is called a ‘kinder theology’, and treat hell as a pagan fable, or a bugbear to frighten children and fools. Against such false teaching I desire, for one, to protest. Painful, sorrowful, distressing as the controversy may be, we must not blink it, or refuse to look the subject in the face. I, for one, am resolved to maintain the old position, and to assert the reality and eternity of hell.

Believe me, this is no mere speculative question. It is not to be classed with disputes about liturgies and church government. It is not to be ranked with mysterious problems, like the meaning of Ezekiel’s temple or the symbols of Revelation. It is a question which lies at the very foundation of the whole gospel. The moral attributes of God, His justice, His holiness, His purity, are all involved in it. The necessity of personal faith in Christ, and the sanctification of the Spirit, are all at stake. Once let the old doctrine about hell be overthrown, and the whole system of Christianity is unsettled, unscrewed, unpinned and thrown into disorder.

Believe me, the question is not one in which we are obliged to fall back on the theories and inventions of man. The Scripture has spoken plainly and fully on the subject of hell. I hold it to be impossible to deal honestly with the Bible, and to avoid the conclusions to which it will lead us on this point. If words mean anything, there is such a place as hell. If texts are to be interpreted fairly, there are those who will be cast into it. If language has any sense belonging to it, hell is for ever. I believe that the man who finds arguments for evading the evidence of the Bible on this question has arrived at a state of mind in which reasoning is useless. For my own part, it seems just as easy to argue that we do not exist, as to argue that the Bible does not teach the reality and eternity of hell.

a. Settle it firmly in your mind, that the same Bible which teaches that God in mercy and compassion sent Christ to die for sinners, does also teach that God hates sin and must, from His very nature, punish all who cleave to sin or refuse the salvation He has provided. The very same chapter which declares, ‘God so loved the world,’ declares also, that ‘the wrath of God abideth’ on the unbeliever (John 3:16, 36). The very same gospel which is launched into the earth with the blessed tidings, ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,’ proclaims in the same breath, ‘He that believeth not shall be damned’ (Mark 16:16).

b. Settle it firmly in your mind that God has given us proof upon proof in the Bible that He will punish the hardened and unbelieving, and that He can take vengeance on His enemies, as well as show mercy on the penitent. The drowning of the old world by the flood, the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, the overthrow of Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea, the judgement on Korah, Dathan and Abiram, the utter destruction of the seven nations of Canaan—all teach the same awful truth. They are all given to us as beacons and signs and warnings, that we may not provoke God. They are all meant to lift up the corner of the curtain which hangs over things to come, and to remind us that there is such a thing as the wrath of God. They all tell us plainly that ‘the wicked shall be turned into hell’ (Psalms 9:17).

c. Settle it firmly in your mind that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has spoken most plainly about the reality and eternity of hell. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus contains things which should make men tremble. But it does not stand alone. No lips have used so many words to express the awfulness of hell, as the lips of Him who spake as never man spake, and who said, ‘The word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father’s which sent Me’ (John 14:24). Hell, hell fire, the damnation of hell, eternal damnation, the resurrection of damnation, everlasting fire, the place of torment, destruction, outer darkness, the worm that never dies, the fire that is not quenched, the place of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, everlasting punishment—these, these are the words which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself employs. Away with the miserable nonsense which people talk in this day, who tell us that the ministers of the gospel should never speak of hell! They only show their own ignorance, or their own dishonesty, when they talk in such a manner. No man can honestly read the four Gospels and fail to see that he who would follow the example of Christ must speak of hell.

d. Settle it, lastly, in your mind that the comforting ideas which the Scripture gives us of heaven are at an end, if we once deny the reality or eternity of hell. Is there no future separate abode for those who die wicked and ungodly? Are all men after death to be mingled together in one confused multitude? Why, then, heaven will be no heaven at all! It is utterly impossible for two to dwell happily together except they be agreed. Is there to be a time when the term of hell and punishment will be over? Are the wicked after ages of misery to be admitted into heaven? Why, then, the need of the sanctification of the Spirit is cast aside and despised! I read that men can be sanctified and made meet for heaven on earth: I read nothing of any sanctification in hell. Away with such baseless and unscriptural theories! The eternity of hell is as clearly affirmed in the Bible as the eternity of heaven. Once allow that hell is not eternal, and you may as well say that God and heaven are not eternal. The same Greek word which is used in the expression ‘everlasting punishment’ is the word that is used by the Lord Jesus in the expression ‘life eternal’, and by St Paul, in the expression ‘everlasting God’ (Matthew 25:46; Romans 16:26).

I know that all this sounds dreadful in many ears. I do not wonder. But the only question we have to settle is this: ‘Is it scriptural?’ Is it true? I maintain firmly that it is so; and I maintain that professing Christians ought to be often reminded that they may be lost and go to hell.

I know that it is easy to deny all plain teaching about hell, and to make it odious by invidious names. I have often heard of ‘narrow-minded views’, and ‘old-fashioned notions’, and ‘brimstone theology’, and the like. I have often been told that ‘broad’ views are wanted in the present day. I wish to be as broad as the Bible, neither less nor more. I say that he is the narrow-minded theologian, who pares down such parts of the Bible as the natural heart dislikes, and rejects any portion of the counsel of God.

God knows that I never speak of hell without pain and sorrow. I would gladly offer the salvation of the gospel to the very chief of sinners. I would willingly say to the vilest and most profligate of mankind on his deathbed, ‘Repent, and believe on Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.’ But God forbid that I should ever keep back from mortal man that Scripture reveals a hell as well as heaven, and that the gospel teaches that men may be lost as well as saved. The watchman who keeps silence, when he sees a fire, is guilty of gross neglect; the doctor who tells us we are getting well when we are dying, is a false friend, and the minister who keeps back hell from his people in his sermons is neither a faithful nor a charitable man.

Where is the charity of keeping back any portion of God’s truth? He is the kindest friend who tells me the whole extent of my danger. Where is the use of hiding the future from the impenitent and the ungodly? Surely it is like helping the devil, if we do not tell them plainly that, ‘The soul that sinneth shall surely die.’ Who knows but the wretched carelessness of many baptized persons arises from this, that they have never been told plainly of hell? Who can tell but thousands might be converted, if ministers would urge them more faithfully to flee from the wrath to come? Verily, I fear we are many of us guilty in this matter; there is a morbid tenderness among us which is not the tenderness of Christ. We have spoken of mercy, but not of judgement; we have preached many sermons about heaven, but few about hell; we have been carried away by the wretched fear of being thought ‘low, vulgar and fanatical’. We have forgotten that He who judgeth us is the Lord, and that the man who teaches the same doctrine that Christ taught cannot be wrong.

If you would ever be a healthy scriptural Christian, I entreat you to give hell a place in your theology. Establish it in your mind as a fixed principle, that God is a God of judgement, as well as of mercy, and that the same everlasting counsels, which laid the foundation of the bliss of heaven, have also laid the foundation of the misery of hell. Keep in full view of your mind that all who die unpardoned and unrenewed are utterly unfit for the presence of God and must be lost for ever. They are not capable of enjoying heaven; they could not be happy there. They must go to their own place: and that place is hell. Oh, it is a great thing in these days of unbelief to believe the whole Bible!

If you would ever be a healthy and scriptural Christian, I entreat you to beware of any ministry which does not plainly teach the reality and eternity of hell. Such a ministry may be soothing and pleasant, but it is far more likely to lull you to sleep than to lead you to Christ, or build you up in the faith. It is impossible to leave out any portion of God’s truth without spoiling the whole. That preaching is sadly defective which dwells exclusively on the mercies of God and the joys of heaven, and never sets forth the terrors of the Lord and the miseries of hell. It may be popular, but it is not scriptural; it may amuse and gratify, but it will not save. Give me the preaching which keeps back nothing that God has revealed. You may call it stern and harsh; you may tell us that to frighten people is not the way to do them good. But you are forgetting that the grand object of the gospel is to persuade men to ‘flee from the wrath to come’, and that it is vain to expect men to flee unless they are afraid. Well would it be for many professing Christians if they were more afraid about their souls than they now are!

If you desire to be a healthy Christian, consider often what your own end will be. Will it be happiness, or will it be misery? Will it be the death of the righteous, or will it be a death without hope, like that of Lot’s wife? You cannot live always; there must be an end one day. The last sermon will one day be heard; the last prayer will one day be prayed; the last chapter in the Bible will one day be read; meaning, wishing, hoping, intending, resolving, doubting, hesitating—all will at length be over. You will have to leave this world and to stand before a holy God. Oh, that you would be wise! Oh, that you would consider your latter end!

You cannot trifle for ever: a time will come when you must be serious. You cannot put off your soul’s concerns for ever: a day will come when you must have a reckoning with God. You cannot be always singing and dancing and eating and drinking and dressing and reading and laughing and jesting and scheming and planning and moneymaking. The summer insects cannot always sport in the sunshine. The cold chilly evening will come at last and stop their sport for ever. So will it be with you. You may put off religion now and refuse the counsel of God’s ministers; but the cool of the day is drawing on, when God will come down to speak with you. And what will your end be? Will it be a hopeless one, like that of Lot’s wife?

I beseech you, by the mercies of God, to look this question fairly in the face. I entreat you not to stifle conscience by vague hopes of God’s mercy, while your heart cleaves to the world. I implore you not to drown convictions by childish fancies about God’s love, while your daily ways and habits show plainly that ‘the love of the Father is not in you’. There is mercy in God, like a river, but it is for the penitent believer in Christ Jesus. There is a love in God towards sinners which is unspeakable and unsearchable, but it is for those who hear Christ’s voice and follow Him. Seek to have an interest in that love. Break off every known sin; come out boldly from the world; cry mightily to God in prayer; cast yourself wholly and unreservedly on the Lord Jesus for time and eternity; lay aside every weight. Cling to nothing, however dear, which interferes with your soul’s salvation; give up everything, however precious, which comes between you and heaven. This old shipwrecked world is fast sinking beneath your feet; the one thing needful is to have a place in the lifeboat and get safe to shore. Give diligence to make your calling and election sure. Whatever happens to your house and property, see that you make sure of heaven. Oh, better a million times be laughed at and thought extreme in this world, than go down to hell from the midst of the congregation, and end like Lot’s wife!

And now, let me conclude this paper by offering to all who read it a few questions to impress the subject on their consciences. You have seen the history of Lot’s wife—her privileges, her sin and her end. You have been told of the uselessness of privileges without the gift of the Holy Ghost, of the danger of worldliness and of the reality of hell. Suffer me to wind up all by a few direct appeals to your own heart. In a day of so much light and knowledge and profession, I desire to set up a beacon to preserve souls from shipwreck. I would fain moor a buoy in the channel of all spiritual voyagers and paint upon it, ‘Remember Lot’s wife.’

a. Are you careless about the second advent of Christ? Alas, many are! They live like the men of Sodom and the men of Noah’s day: they eat and drink and plant and build and marry and are given in marriage and behave as if Christ was never going to return. If you are such an one, I say to you this day, ‘Take care: remember Lot’s wife.’

b. Are you lukewarm, and cold in your Christianity? Alas, many are! They try to serve two masters: they labour to keep friends both with God and mammon. They strive to be a kind of spiritual bat, neither one thing nor the other: not quite a thoroughgoing Christian, but not quite men of the world. If you are such an one, I say to you this day, ‘Take care: remember Lot’s wife.’

c. Are you halting between two opinions, and disposed to go back to the world? Alas, many are! They are afraid of the cross; they secretly dislike the trouble and reproach of decided religion. They are weary of the wilderness and the manna and would fain return to Egypt, if they could. If you are such an one, I say to you this day, ‘Take care: remember Lot’s wife.’

d. Are you secretly cherishing, some besetting sin? Alas, many are! They go far in a profession of religion; they do many things that are right, and are very like the people of God. But there is always some darling evil habit, which they cannot tear from their heart. Hidden worldliness or covetousness or lust sticks to them like their skin. They are willing to see all their idols broken, but this one. If you are such an one, I say to you this day, ‘Take care: remember Lot’s wife.’ e. Are you trifling with little sins? Alas many are! They hold the great essential doctrines of the gospel. They keep clear of all gross profligacy, or open breach of God’s law, but they are painfully careless about little inconsistencies, and painfully ready to make excuses for them. ‘It is only a little temper, or a little levity, or a little thoughtlessness, or a little forgetfulness,’ they tell us, ‘God does not take account of such little matters. We are none of us perfect; God will never require it.’ If you are such an one, I say to you this day, ‘Take care: remember Lot’s wife.’

f. Are you resting on religious privileges? Alas, many do! They enjoy the opportunity of hearing the gospel regularly preached, and of attending many ordinances, and means of grace, and they settle down on their lees. They seem to be rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing’ (Revelation 3:17); while they have neither faith, nor grace, nor spiritual-mindedness, nor meetness for heaven. If you are such an one, I say to you this day, ‘Take care: remember Lot’s wife.’

g. Are you trusting to your religious knowledge? Alas, many do! They are not ignorant, as other men: they know the difference between true doctrine and false. They can dispute, they can reason, they can argue, they can quote texts; but all this time they are not converted, and they are yet dead in trespasses and sins. If you are such an one, I say to you this day, ‘Take care: remember Lot’s wife.’

h. Are you making some profession of religion, and yet clinging to the world? Alas, many do! They aim at being thought Christians. They like the credit of being serious, steady, proper, regular church-going people; yet all the while their dress, their tastes, their companions, their entertainments tell plainly they are of the world. If you are such an one, I say to you this day, ‘Take care: remember Lot’s wife.’

i. Are you trusting that you will have a deathbed repentance? Alas, many do so! They know they are not what they ought to be: they are not yet born again, and fit to die. But they flatter themselves that when their last illness comes they shall have time to repent and lay hold on Christ, and go out of the world pardoned, sanctified and meet for heaven. They forget that people often die very suddenly, and that as they live they generally die. If you are such an one, I say to you this day, ‘Take care: remember Lot’s wife.’

j. Do you belong to an evangelical congregation? Many do and, alas, go no further! They hear the truth Sunday after Sunday, and remain as hard as the nether millstone. Sermon after sermon sounds in their ears. Month after month they are invited to repent, to believe, to come to Christ and to be saved. Year after year passes away, and they are not changed. They keep their seat under the teaching of a favourite minister and they also keep their favourite sins. If you are such an one, I say to you this day, ‘Take care: remember Lot’s wife.’

Oh, may these solemn words of our Lord Jesus Christ be deeply graven on all our hearts! May they awaken us when we feel sleepy, revive us when we feel dead, sharpen us when we feel dull, warm us when we feel cold! May they prove a spur to quicken us when we are falling back, and a bridle to check us when we are turning aside! May they be a shield to defend us when Satan casts a subtle temptation at our heart, and a sword to fight with, when he says boldly, ‘Give up Christ, come back to the world, and follow me!’ Oh, may we say, in such hours of trial, ‘Soul, remember thy Saviour’s warning! Soul, soul, hast thou forgotten His words? Soul, soul, remember Lot’s wife!’

A COVID Apology to America, on Behalf of the Evangelical Church

A COVID Apology to America, on Behalf of the Evangelical Church

Reformed Hope

dc Talk’s 1995 hit “What If I Stumble?” starts with someone reading these lines: “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Like it or not, true Christians have to deal with the consequences of the professing church. Many unbelievers look at the professing church’s lack of faithfulness and conclude that such is what true Christianity is.

As such, for many a true follower of Jesus, the response of the professing evangelical and even Reformed church during the coronavirus has been one of the most discouraging and disheartening parts of this whole year. Dealing with government overreach, media-induced fear, and hysteria without end would have been bad enough. But the one place where Christians should have been able to find…

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Tetelestai – “It is Finished!”

The following is an excerpt from Matthew Henry, commenting on the glorious last words of Christ from the cross on Good Friday.

“Tetelestai—It is finished, a comprehensive word, and a comfortable one.

(1.) It is finished, that is, the malice and enmity of his persecutors had now done their worst.

(2.) It is finished, that is, the counsel and commandment of his Father concerning his sufferings were now fulfilled; it was a determinate counsel, and he took care to see every iota and tittle of it exactly answered, (Acts 2:23).

(3.) It is finished, that is, all the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, which pointed at the sufferings of the Messiah, were accomplished and answered.

(4.) It is finished, that is, the ceremonial law is abolished, and a period put to the obligation of it. The substance is now come, and all the shadows are done away… The Mosaic economy is dissolved, to make way for a better hope.

(5.) It is finished, that is, sin is finished, and an end made of transgression, by the bringing in of an everlasting righteousness… The Lamb of God was sacrificed to take away the sin of the world, and it is done.

(6.) It is finished, that is, his sufferings were now finished, both those of his soul and those of his body. The storm is over, the worst is past; all his pains and agonies are at an end, and he is just going to paradise, entering upon the joy set before him. Let all that suffer for Christ, and with Christ, comfort themselves with this, that yet a little while and they also shall say, It is finished.

(7.) It is finished, that is, his life was now finished, he was just ready to breathe his last, and now he is no more in this world.

(8.) It is finished, that is, the work of man’s redemption and salvation is now completed, at least the hardest part of the undertaking is over; a full satisfaction is made to the justice of God, a fatal blow given to the power of Satan, a fountain of grace opened that shall ever flow, a foundation of peace and happiness laid that shall never fail. Christ had now gone through with his work, and finished it. For, as for God, his work is perfect; when I begin, saith he, I will also make an end. And, as in the purchase, so in the application of the redemption, he that has begun a good work will perform it; the mystery of God shall be finished.”

Biblical Lament: Learning What It Is and Why It’s Important to the Christian Life

Cancer. Miscarriage. Slavery. Sex trafficking. Abortion. Racial Injustice. Marital infidelity. Divorce. Job loss. Spiritual abuse. Physical abuse. Corruption. Cover-ups. Sin. Death. Have you experienced any of these issues in your life? 49 more words

Biblical Lament: Learning What It Is and Why It’s Important to the Christian Life

A Puritan Wedding Prayer

I heard this prayer at a wedding over the weekend and I thought it was absolutely lovely! This prayer shows (I think) the depth of Puritan thinking and meditation that makes their work so edifying:

Oh, God of love, you have established marriage for the welfare and happiness of mankind. Yours was the plan and only with You can we work it out with joy. You have said that “It is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helpmate for him.” Now our joys are doubled since the happiness of one is the happiness of the other. Our burdens are now halved, when we share them, we divide the load.

Dear Father, we would ask that you would bless the [groom]. Bless him as a provider of nourishment and raiment and sustain him in all the expectations and pressures of his daily battles. May the [groom’s] strength be [the bride’s] protection, his character her boast and her pride, and may [the groom] so live that [the bride] will find in him the haven for which the heart of a woman truly longs.

And dear heavenly Father, we would ask you to bless [the bride]. Give her tenderness that will make her great, a deep sense of understanding and great faith in You. Give her inner beauty of soul that never fades, that eternal youth that is found in holding fast the things that never age.

Teach [the groom] and [the bride] that marriage is not living merely for each other, it is two uniting and joining hands to serve You. Give them a great spiritual purpose in life. May they seek the kingdom of God and Your righteousness and the other things shall certainly be added unto them. Loving You best, they shall love each other the more, and faithful unto You, faithful unto each other they will be. May they not expect that perfection of each other that belongs alone to You. May they minimize each other’s weaknesses, be swift to praise and magnify each other’s points of comeliness and strength, and see each other through a lover’s kind and patient eyes. Now make such assignments to [the groom] and [the bride] on the scroll of Your will as will bless them and develop their characters as they walk together.

Give them a little something to forgive every day that they may grow in the grace of longsuffering. Give them enough tears to keep them tender, enough hurts to keep them human, enough failures to keep their hands clenched tightly in Yours, and enough success to make them sure they walk with You. May they never take each other’s love for granted but always experience that breathless wonder that exclaims, “out of all this world, you have chosen me.”

When life is done and the sun is setting, may they be found then as now, hand in hand still thanking God for each other. May they serve You happily, faithfully together until at last one shall lay the other into the arms of Jesus. This we ask through Jesus Christ, the great Lover of our souls.

Amen.

Sermon: Psalm 46- “God Our Help in Times of Trouble”

Sermon: Psalm 46- God Our Help in Times of Trouble

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.
Selah.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Selah.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Selah.

This sermon was preached on 3/22/2020 at the Bible Fellowship Church of Greentown.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

Craving Recognition: A Disease with Many

The following is a quote by Charles Spurgeon from his book Words of Counsel for All Leaders, Teachers, and Evangelists. The closing questions and comments are my own. I pray you will find this edifying.

The resolve to do all as unto the Lord will elevate you above that craving for recognition, which is a disease with many. It is a sad fault in many Christians that they cannot do anything unless the whole world is told about it. The hen in the farmyard lays an egg and feels so proud of the achievement that she must cackle about it. Everybody must know about that one poor egg, until the whole country resounds with the news. Some professors are like this; their work must be published, or they can do no more. “Here have I,” said one, “been teaching in the school for years, and nobody ever thanked me for it. I believe that some of us who do the most are the least noticed, and what a shame it is.” But if you have done your service unto the Lord, you would not talk like that, or we would suspect you of having other motives. The servant of Jesus will say, “I do not want human notice. I did it for the Master; He noticed me, and I am content. I tried to please Him, and I did please Him. Therefore, I ask no more, for I have gained my end. I seek no praise from men, for I fear the breath of human praise could tarnish the pure silver of my service.” If you seek the praise of men, you will in all probability fail in the present, and certainly, you will lose it in the future. For do I now persuade men or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the slave of Christ (Galatians 1:10). . . . How little we ought to care about the opinions and criticisms of our fellow men when we recall that He who made us what we are and helps us by His grace to act our part will not judge us after the manner in which men complain or flatter, but will accept us according to the sincerity of our hearts. If we feel, “I was not working for you; I was working for God,” we shall not be as wounded by our neighbors’ remarks.

Here are a few good questions for self-reflection in light of Spurgeon’s wise words :

1) Who are you now working for and seeking to please in your ministry?

2) Does the hidden approval of God satisfy you? Or are you striving to get thousands of Twitter followers and hundreds of “likes” on your Facebook and Instagram ministry posts?

3) When you preach or teach, do you feel an irresistable urge to post something about it on social media?

4) How do you respond when you receive criticism in your ministry?

It is very easy in our present day and age after a long day of ministry to log onto social media and either pat ourselves on the back or seek others to do so for us. It provides a short term rush to see the approving comments and likes for our efforts come pouring in. However, in Matthew 6:1, Jesus warns us against such displays when he says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”

Dear brethren, let me encourage you to take the long view instead. 2 Corinthians 2:9 says, “But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” We must be careful not to exchange the priceless approval of God for the porridge of social media recognition.

Southern Slavery as it REALLY Was

Frederick Douglass

In Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman’s economic work on slavery in the Antebellum South titled, Time on the Cross, they ask the following question:

Both masters and slaves are painted as degraded brutes. Masters are vile because they are the perpetrators of unbridled exploitation; slaves are vile because they are the victims of it. How true to life is the portrait?

Doug Wilson in his book, Black and Tan comments on this quote, “their subsequent discussion shows (109-144), the answer to the question is ‘not very.'”

My goal in sharing the following excerpt from a speech given by Frederick Douglass is not to address Wilson, Fogel, or Engerman in detail. I believe (as do most serious scholars and even Doug Wilson himself) that Time on the Cross is sloppy and seriously misguided scholarship. But the question over the historical conditions of chattel slavery in the antebellum south is one that has seemingly been cropping up more frequently in recent days. Doug Wilson, while critiquing Fogel and Engerman, seems to conclude that while there were many evils attending Southern Slavery, it truly was much more benign than most historians, scholars, and abolitionists have portrayed it to be. Wilson’s ideas can be read in full on this subject in his book Black and Tan: Essays and Excursions on Slavery, Culture War, and Scripture in America. I will let you the reader be your own judge regarding Wilson’s thoughts on these matters, and I have no interest in critiquing his book in this article. My primary goal in sharing this excerpt from Douglass is simply to oppose the idea that southern slavery somehow wasn’t really as bad as history has made it out to be.

The following excerpt is found in the book My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass. The excerpt is taken from a speech titled “The Nature of Slavery” which was given by Douglass in Rochester, NY on December 8, 1850.  I believe it provides a much-needed rebuke to the modern notion that chattel slavery in the Antebellum South was broadly more benign than most have believed. I believe such a notion to be fallacious, out of touch with reality, and revisionist history that is devoid of proven facts.

The reader will note that Douglas is quick to establish his argument, not on the basis of personal experience, biased newspaper articles, or the exaggerated declarations of abolitionists. Rather, he points to the laws of the land. He does mention his personal experience but only to establish credibility; not to influence the reader’s conclusions. He aims his entire argument against the notion that southern slavery was “not really as bad as it seemed” on the basis of established facts. The reader may argue, however, that there were many kind slaveholders who taught their slaves to read, write, and supported marriage etc.  Frederick Douglas admits that there were indeed some slaveholders who were kind to their slaves, but he emphatically states, “these form the exception.”

Without further ado, here is Frederick Douglass’s response to the notion that chatel slavery in the antebellum south was more benign than we have been lead to believe (emphasis mine):

     More than twenty years of my life were consumed in a state of slavery. My childhood was environed by the baneful peculiarities of the slave system. I grew up to manhood in the presence of this hydra headed monster—not as a master—not as an idle spectator—not as the guest of the slaveholder—but as A SLAVE, eating the bread and drinking the cup of slavery with the most degraded of my brother-bondmen, and sharing with them all the painful conditions of their wretched lot. In consideration of these facts, I feel that I have a right to speak, and to speak strongly. Yet, my friends, I feel bound to speak truly.

Goading as have been the cruelties to which I have been subjected—bitter as have been the trials through which I have passed—exasperating as have been, and still are, the indignities offered to my manhood—I find in them no excuse for the slightest departure from truth in dealing with any branch of this subject.

First of all, I will state, as well as I can, the legal and social relation of master and slave. A master is one—to speak in the vocabulary of the southern states—who claims and exercises a right of property in the person of a fellow-man. This he does with the force of the law and the sanction of southern religion. The law gives the master absolute power over the slave. He may work him, flog him, hire him out, sell him, and, in certain contingencies, kill him, with perfect impunity. The slave is a human being, divested of all rights—reduced to the level of a brute—a mere “chattel” in the eye of the law—placed beyond the circle of human brotherhood—cut off from his kind—his name, which the “recording angel” may have enrolled in heaven, among the blest, is impiously inserted in a master’s ledger, with horses, sheep, and swine. In law, the slave has no wife, no children, no country, and no home. He can own nothing, possess nothing, acquire nothing, but what must belong to another. To eat the fruit of his own toil, to clothe his person with the work of his own hands, is considered stealing. He toils that another may reap the fruit; he is industrious that another may live in idleness; he eats unbolted meal that another may eat the bread of fine flour; he labors in chains at home, under a burning sun and biting lash, that another may ride in ease and splendor abroad; he lives in ignorance that another may be educated; he is abused that another may be exalted; he rests his toil-worn limbs on the cold, damp ground that another may repose on the softest pillow; he is clad in coarse and tattered raiment that another may be arrayed in purple and fine linen; he is sheltered only by the wretched hovel that a master may dwell in a magnificent mansion; and to this condition he is bound down as by an arm of iron.

From this monstrous relation there springs an unceasing stream of most revolting cruelties. The very accompaniments of the slave system stamp it as the offspring of hell itself. To ensure good behavior, the slaveholder relies on the whip; to induce proper humility, he relies on the whip; to rebuke what he is pleased to term insolence, he relies on the whip; to supply the place of wages as an incentive to toil, he relies on the whip; to bind down the spirit of the slave, to imbrute and destroy his manhood, he relies on the whip, the chain, the gag, the thumb-screw, the pillory, the bowie knife the pistol, and the blood-hound. These are the necessary and unvarying accompaniments of the system. Wherever slavery is found, these horrid instruments are also found. Whether on the coast of Africa, among the savage tribes, or in South Carolina, among the refined and civilized, slavery is the same, and its accompaniments one and the same. It makes no difference whether the slaveholder worships the God of the Christians, or is a follower of Mahomet, he is the minister of the same cruelty, and the author of the same misery. Slavery is always slavery; always the same foul, haggard, and damning scourge, whether found in the eastern or in the western hemisphere.

There is a still deeper shade to be given to this picture. The physical cruelties are indeed sufficiently harassing and revolting; but they are as a few grains of sand on the sea shore, or a few drops of water in the great ocean, compared with the stupendous wrongs which it inflicts upon the mental, moral, and religious nature of its hapless victims. It is only when we contemplate the slave as a moral and intellectual being, that we can adequately comprehend the unparalleled enormity of slavery, and the intense criminality of the slaveholder. I have said that the slave was a man. “What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a God! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!”

The slave is a man, “the image of God,” but “a little lower than the angels;” possessing a soul, eternal and indestructible; capable of endless happiness, or immeasurable woe; a creature of hopes and fears, of affections and passions, of joys and sorrows, and he is endowed with those mysterious powers by which man soars above the things of time and sense, and grasps, with undying tenacity, the elevating and sublimely glorious idea of a God. It is such a being that is smitten and blasted. The first work of slavery is to mar and deface those characteristics of its victims which distinguish men from things, and persons from property. Its first aim is to destroy all sense of high moral and religious responsibility. It reduces man to a mere machine. It cuts him off from his Maker, it hides from him the laws of God, and leaves him to grope his way from time to eternity in the dark, under the arbitrary and despotic control of a frail, depraved, and sinful fellow-man. As the serpent-charmer of India is compelled to extract the deadly teeth of his venomous prey before he is able to handle him with impunity, so the slaveholder must strike down the conscience of the slave before he can obtain the entire mastery over his victim.

It is, then, the first business of the enslaver of men to blunt, deaden, and destroy the central principle of human responsibility. Conscience is, to the individual soul, and to society, what the law of gravitation is to the universe. It holds society together; it is the basis of all trust and confidence; it is the pillar of all moral rectitude. Without it, suspicion would take the place of trust; vice would be more than a match for virtue; men would prey upon each other, like the wild beasts of the desert; and earth would become a hell.

Nor is slavery more adverse to the conscience than it is to the mind. This is shown by the fact, that in every state of the American Union, where slavery exists, except the state of Kentucky, there are laws absolutely prohibitory of education among the slaves. The crime of teaching a slave to read is punishable with severe fines and imprisonment, and, in some instances, with death itself.

Nor are the laws respecting this matter a dead letter. Cases may occur in which they are disregarded, and a few instances may be found where slaves may have learned to read; but such are isolated cases, and only prove the rule. The great mass of slaveholders look upon education among the slaves as utterly subversive of the slave system. I well remember when my mistress first announced to my master that she had discovered that I could read. His face colored at once with surprise and chagrin. He said that “I was ruined, and my value as a slave destroyed; that a slave should know nothing but to obey his master; that to give a negro an inch would lead him to take an ell; that having learned how to read, I would soon want to know how to write; and that by-and-by I would be running away.” I think my audience will bear witness to the correctness of this philosophy, and to the literal fulfillment of this prophecy.

It is perfectly well understood at the south, that to educate a slave is to make him discontened(sic) with slavery, and to invest him with a power which shall open to him the treasures of freedom; and since the object of the slaveholder is to maintain complete authority over his slave, his constant vigilance is exercised to prevent everything which militates against, or endangers, the stability of his authority. Education being among the menacing influences, and, perhaps, the most dangerous, is, therefore, the most cautiously guarded against.

It is true that we do not often hear of the enforcement of the law, punishing as a crime the teaching of slaves to read, but this is not because of a want of disposition to enforce it. The true reason or explanation of the matter is this: there is the greatest unanimity of opinion among the white population in the south in favor of the policy of keeping the slave in ignorance. There is, perhaps, another reason why the law against education is so seldom violated. The slave is too poor to be able to offer a temptation sufficiently strong to induce a white man to violate it; and it is not to be supposed that in a community where the moral and religious sentiment is in favor of slavery, many martyrs will be found sacrificing their liberty and lives by violating those prohibitory enactments.

As a general rule, then, darkness reigns over the abodes of the enslaved, and “how great is that darkness!”

We are sometimes told of the contentment of the slaves, and are entertained with vivid pictures of their happiness. We are told that they often dance and sing; that their masters frequently give them wherewith to make merry; in fine, that they have little of which to complain. I admit that the slave does sometimes sing, dance, and appear to be merry. But what does this prove? It only proves to my mind, that though slavery is armed with a thousand stings, it is not able entirely to kill the elastic spirit of the bondman. That spirit will rise and walk abroad, despite of whips and chains, and extract from the cup of nature occasional drops of joy and gladness. No thanks to the slaveholder, nor to slavery, that the vivacious captive may sometimes dance in his chains; his very mirth in such circumstances stands before God as an accusing angel against his enslaver.

It is often said, by the opponents of the anti-slavery cause, that the condition of the people of Ireland is more deplorable than that of the American slaves. Far be it from me to underrate the sufferings of the Irish people. They have been long oppressed; and the same heart that prompts me to plead the cause of the American bondman, makes it impossible for me not to sympathize with the oppressed of all lands. Yet I must say that there is no analogy between the two cases. The Irishman is poor, but he is not a slave. He may be in rags, but he is not a slave. He is still the master of his own body, and can say with the poet, “The hand of Douglass is his own.” “The world is all before him, where to choose;” and poor as may be my opinion of the British parliament, I cannot believe that it will ever sink to such a depth of infamy as to pass a law for the recapture of fugitive Irishmen! The shame and scandal of kidnapping will long remain wholly monopolized by the American congress. The Irishman has not only the liberty to emigrate from his country, but he has liberty at home. He can write, and speak, and cooperate for the attainment of his rights and the redress of his wrongs.

The multitude can assemble upon all the green hills and fertile plains of the Emerald Isle; they can pour out their grievances, and proclaim their wants without molestation; and the press, that “swift-winged messenger,” can bear the tidings of their doings to the extreme bounds of the civilized world. They have their “Conciliation Hall,” on the banks of the Liffey, their reform clubs, and their newspapers; they pass resolutions, send forth addresses, and enjoy the right of petition. But how is it with the American slave? Where may he assemble? Where is his Conciliation Hall? Where are his newspapers? Where is his right of petition? Where is his freedom of speech? his liberty of the press? and his right of locomotion? He is said to be happy; happy men can speak. But ask the slave what is his condition—what his state of mind—what he thinks of enslavement? and you had as well address your inquiries to the silent dead. There comes no voice from the enslaved. We are left to gather his feelings by imagining what ours would be, were our souls in his soul’s stead.

If there were no other fact descriptive of slavery, than that the slave is dumb, this alone would be sufficient to mark the slave system as a grand aggregation of human horrors.

Most who are present, will have observed that leading men in this country have been putting forth their skill to secure quiet to the nation. A system of measures to promote this object was adopted a few months ago in congress. The result of those measures is known. Instead of quiet, they have produced alarm; instead of peace, they have brought us war; and so it must ever be.

While this nation is guilty of the enslavement of three millions of innocent men and women, it is as idle to think of having a sound and lasting peace, as it is to think there is no God to take cognizance of the affairs of men. There can be no peace to the wicked while slavery continues in the land. It will be condemned; and while it is condemned there will be agitation. Nature must cease to be nature; men must become monsters; humanity must be transformed; Christianity must be exterminated; all ideas of justice and the laws of eternal goodness must be utterly blotted out from the human soul—ere a system so foul and infernal can escape condemnation, or this guilty republic can have a sound, enduring peace.

 The relation of master and slave has been called patriarchal, and only second in benignity and tenderness to that of the parent and child. This representation is doubtless believed by many northern people; and this may account, in part, for the lack of interest which we find among persons whom we are bound to believe to be honest and humane. What, then, are the facts? Here I will not quote my own experience in slavery; for this you might call one-sided testimony. I will not cite the declarations of abolitionists; for these you might pronounce exaggerations. I will not rely upon advertisements cut from newspapers; for these you might call isolated cases. But I will refer you to the laws adopted by the legislatures of the slave states. I give you such evidence, because it cannot be invalidated nor denied. I hold in my hand sundry extracts from the slave codes of our country, from which I will quote.

Now, if the foregoing be an indication of kindness, what is cruelty? If this be parental affection, what is bitter malignity? A more atrocious and blood-thirsty string of laws could not well be conceived of. And yet I am bound to say that they fall short of indicating the horrible cruelties constantly practiced in the slave states.

I admit that there are individual slaveholders less cruel and barbarous than is allowed by law; but these form the exception. The majority of slaveholders find it necessary, to insure obedience, at times, to avail themselves of the utmost extent of the law, and many go beyond it. If kindness were the rule, we should not see advertisements filling the columns of almost every southern newspaper, offering large rewards for fugitive slaves, and describing them as being branded with irons, loaded with chains, and scarred by the whip. One of the most telling testimonies against the pretended kindness of slaveholders, is the fact that uncounted numbers of fugitives are now inhabiting the Dismal Swamp, preferring the untamed wilderness to their cultivated homes—choosing rather to encounter hunger and thirst, and to roam with the wild beasts of the forest, running the hazard of being hunted and shot down, than to submit to the authority of kind masters.

I tell you, my friends, humanity is never driven to such an unnatural course of life, without great wrong. The slave finds more of the milk of human kindness in the bosom of the savage Indian, than in the heart of his Christian master. He leaves the man of the bible, and takes refuge with the man of the tomahawk. He rushes from the praying slaveholder into the paws of the bear. He quits the homes of men for the haunts of wolves. He prefers to encounter a life of trial, however bitter, or death, however terrible, to dragging out his existence under the dominion of these kind masters.

The apologists for slavery often speak of the abuses of slavery; and they tell us that they are as much opposed to those abuses as we are; and that they would go as far to correct those abuses and to ameliorate the condition of the slave as anybody. The answer to that view is, that slavery is itself an abuse; that it lives by abuse; and dies by the absence of abuse. Grant that slavery is right; grant that the relations of master and slave may innocently exist; and there is not a single outrage which was ever committed against the slave but what finds an apology in the very necessity of the case. As we said by a slaveholder (the Rev. A. G. Few) to the Methodist conference, “If the relation be right, the means to maintain it are also right;” for without those means slavery could not exist. Remove the dreadful scourge—the plaited thong—the galling fetter—the accursed chain—and let the slaveholder rely solely upon moral and religious power, by which to secure obedience to his orders, and how long do you suppose a slave would remain on his plantation? The case only needs to be stated; it carries its own refutation with it.

Absolute and arbitrary power can never be maintained by one man over the body and soul of another man, without brutal chastisement and enormous cruelty.

To talk of kindness entering into a relation in which one party is robbed of wife, of children, of his hard earnings, of home, of friends, of society, of knowledge, and of all that makes this life desirable, is most absurd, wicked, and preposterous.

I have shown that slavery is wicked—wicked, in that it violates the great law of liberty, written on every human heart—wicked, in that it violates the first command of the decalogue—wicked, in that it fosters the most disgusting licentiousness—wicked, in that it mars and defaces the image of God by cruel and barbarous inflictions—wicked, in that it contravenes the laws of eternal justice, and tramples in the dust all the humane and heavenly precepts of the New Testament.

The evils resulting from this huge system of iniquity are not confined to the states south of Mason and Dixon’s line. Its noxious influence can easily be traced throughout our northern borders. It comes even as far north as the state of New York. Traces of it may be seen even in Rochester; and travelers have told me it casts its gloomy shadows across the lake, approaching the very shores of Queen Victoria’s dominions. The presence of slavery may be explained by—as it is the explanation of—the mobocratic violence which lately disgraced New York, and which still more recently disgraced the city of Boston. These violent demonstrations, these outrageous invasions of human rights, faintly indicate the presence and power of slavery here. It is a significant fact, that while meetings for almost any purpose under heaven may be held unmolested in the city of Boston, that in the same city, a meeting cannot be peaceably held for the purpose of preaching the doctrine of the American Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal.” The pestiferous breath of slavery taints the whole moral atmosphere of the north, and enervates the moral energies of the whole people.

The moment a foreigner ventures upon our soil, and utters a natural repugnance to oppression, that moment he is made to feel that there is little sympathy in this land for him. If he were greeted with smiles before, he meets with frowns now; and it shall go well with him if he be not subjected to that peculiarly fining method of showing fealty to slavery, the assaults of a mob.

Now, will any man tell me that such a state of things is natural, and that such conduct on the part of the people of the north, springs from a consciousness of rectitude? No! every fibre of the human heart unites in detestation of tyranny, and it is only when the human mind has become familiarized with slavery, is accustomed to its injustice, and corrupted by its selfishness, that it fails to record its abhorrence of slavery, and does not exult in the triumphs of liberty.

The northern people have been long connected with slavery; they have been linked to a decaying corpse, which has destroyed the moral health. The union of the government; the union of the north and south, in the political parties; the union in the religious organizations of the land, have all served to deaden the moral sense of the northern people, and to impregnate them with sentiments and ideas forever in conflict with what as a nation we call genius of American institutions. Rightly viewed, this is an alarming fact, and ought to rally all that is pure, just, and holy in one determined effort to crush the monster of corruption, and to scatter “its guilty profits” to the winds. In a high moral sense, as well as in a national sense, the whole American people are responsible for slavery, and must share, in its guilt and shame, with the most obdurate men-stealers of the south.

While slavery exists, and the union of these states endures, every American citizen must bear the chagrin of hearing his country branded before the world as a nation of liars and hypocrites; and behold his cherished flag pointed at with the utmost scorn and derision. Even now an American abroad is pointed out in the crowd, as coming from a land where men gain their fortunes by “the blood of souls,” from a land of slave markets, of blood-hounds, and slave-hunters; and, in some circles, such a man is shunned altogether, as a moral pest. Is it not time, then, for every American to awake, and inquire into his duty with respect to this subject?

Wendell Phillips—the eloquent New England orator—on his return from Europe, in 1842, said, “As I stood upon the shores of Genoa, and saw floating on the placid waters of the Mediterranean, the beautiful American war ship Ohio, with her masts tapering proportionately aloft, and an eastern sun reflecting her noble form upon the sparkling waters, attracting the gaze of the multitude, my first impulse was of pride, to think myself an American; but when I thought that the first time that gallant ship would gird on her gorgeous apparel, and wake from beneath her sides her dormant thunders, it would be in defense of the African slave trade, I blushed in utter shame for my country.”

Let me say again, slavery is alike the sin and the shame of the American people; it is a blot upon the American name, and the only national reproach which need make an American hang his head in shame, in the presence of monarchical governments.

With this gigantic evil in the land, we are constantly told to look at home; if we say ought against crowned heads, we are pointed to our enslaved millions; if we talk of sending missionaries and bibles abroad, we are pointed to three millions now lying in worse than heathen darkness; if we express a word of sympathy for Kossuth and his Hungarian fugitive brethren, we are pointed to that horrible and hell-black enactment, “the fugitive slave bill.”

Slavery blunts the edge of all our rebukes of tyranny abroad—the criticisms that we make upon other nations, only call forth ridicule, contempt, and scorn. In a word, we are made a reproach and a by-word to a mocking earth, and we must continue to be so made, so long as slavery continues to pollute our soil.

We have heard much of late of the virtue of patriotism, the love of country, &c., and this sentiment, so natural and so strong, has been impiously appealed to, by all the powers of human selfishness, to cherish the viper which is stinging our national life away. In its name, we have been called upon to deepen our infamy before the world, to rivet the fetter more firmly on the limbs of the enslaved, and to become utterly insensible to the voice of human woe that is wafted to us on every southern gale. We have been called upon, in its name, to desecrate our whole land by the footprints of slave-hunters, and even to engage ourselves in the horrible business of kidnapping.

I, too, would invoke the spirit of patriotism; not in a narrow and restricted sense, but, I trust, with a broad and manly signification; not to cover up our national sins, but to inspire us with sincere repentance; not to hide our shame from the the(sic) world’s gaze, but utterly to abolish the cause of that shame; not to explain away our gross inconsistencies as a nation, but to remove the hateful, jarring, and incongruous elements from the land; not to sustain an egregious wrong, but to unite all our energies in the grand effort to remedy that wrong.

I would invoke the spirit of patriotism, in the name of the law of the living God, natural and revealed, and in the full belief that “righteousness exalteth a nation, while sin is a reproach to any people.” “He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from the holding of bribes, he shall dwell on high, his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks, bread shall be given him, his water shall be sure.”

We have not only heard much lately of patriotism, and of its aid being invoked on the side of slavery and injustice, but the very prosperity of this people has been called in to deafen them to the voice of duty, and to lead them onward in the pathway of sin. Thus has the blessing of God been converted into a curse. In the spirit of genuine patriotism, I warn the American people, by all that is just and honorable, to BEWARE!

I warn them that, strong, proud, and prosperous though we be, there is a power above us that can “bring down high looks; at the breath of whose mouth our wealth may take wings; and before whom every knee shall bow;” and who can tell how soon the avenging angel may pass over our land, and the sable bondmen now in chains, may become the instruments of our nation’s chastisement! Without appealing to any higher feeling, I would warn the American people, and the American government, to be wise in their day and generation. I exhort them to remember the history of other nations; and I remind them that America cannot always sit “as a queen,” in peace and repose; that prouder and stronger governments than this have been shattered by the bolts of a just God; that the time may come when those they now despise and hate, may be needed; when those whom they now compel by oppression to be enemies, may be wanted as friends. What has been, may be again. There is a point beyond which human endurance cannot go. The crushed worm may yet turn under the heel of the oppressor. I warn them, then, with all solemnity, and in the name of retributive justice, to look to their ways; for in an evil hour, those sable arms that have, for the last two centuries, been engaged in cultivating and adorning the fair fields of our country, may yet become the instruments of terror, desolation, and death, throughout our borders.

It was the sage of the Old Dominion that said—while speaking of the possibility of a conflict between the slaves and the slaveholders—”God has no attribute that could take sides with the oppressor in such a contest. I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Such is the warning voice of Thomas Jefferson; and every day’s experience since its utterance until now, confirms its wisdom, and commends its truth. (1)

(1) Douglass, Frederick: My Bondage and My Freedom (Rochester, 1855), “Extract from a Lecture on Slavery”, 201-212.

What Are Good Works?

What are good works and what makes a work “good?” I believe this short quote by the Puritan Anthony Burgess is a wonderful explanation of what good works are and are not.

First, therefore, take notice what we mean by good works. We take not good works strictly, for the works of charity or liberality; nor for any external actions of religion, which may be done where the heart is not cleansed; much less for the Popish good works of supererogation. But [rather] for the graces of God’s Spirit in us, and the actions flowing from them. For, usually with the Papists and Popish persons, good works are commonly called those superstitious and supererogant works, which God never commanded. Or, if God has commanded them, they mean them as external and sensible; such as, coming to church, and, receiving of sacraments; not internal and spiritual faith, and a contrite spirit, which are the soul of all duties. And if these be not there, the outward duties are like clothes upon a dead man, that cannot warm him, because there is no life within. Therefore much is required even to the essence of a godly work, though it be not perfect in degrees:

1. It must be commanded by God.

2. It must be wrought in us by the Spirit of God. All the unregenerate man’s actions, his prayers, and services are sins.

3. It must flow from an inward principle of grace, or a supernatural being in the soul, whereby a man is a new creature.

4. The end must be Gods glory. That which the most refined man can do, is but a glow-worm, not a star. So that then only is the work good, when, being answerable to the rule, it is from God, and through God, and to God. (1)

Burgess would undoubtedly concur with fellow Puritan Thomas Brooks who said, “A man’s most glorious actions will at last be found to be but glorious sins, if he has made himself, and not the glory of God, the end of those actions.”

(1): Anthony Burgess, Vindiciae legis, 39.