A City and its society: The City of God in this World

Greetings friends, it has been a little while since I last posted. I have recently been going through the hiring process with a church and this has taken much of the time I was dedicating to writing and reading for this blog. In that time, I have become the senior pastor at New Horizon Baptist Fellowship in Marion, Nc. It is my hope that my congregation may find this blog to be a good resource and a blessing, as I hope those of you who have been following it have.

To the point, today I was struck by a short text written by St. Augustine in his “City of God” and thought it was a fitting way to move back into working on this blog.

St. Augustine writes:

“I know, of course, what ingenuity and force of arguments are needed to convince proud men of the power of humility. Its loftiness is above the pinnacles of earthly greatness which are shaken by the shifting winds of time– not by reason of human arrogance, but only by the grace of God. For, in Holy Scripture, the King and Founder of the City of which I have undertaken to speak [the city of God] revealed to His people the judgment of divine law: ‘ God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.’ Unfortunately the swollen spirit of human pride claims for itself this high prerogative, which belongs to God alone, and longs and loves to hear repeated in its own praise the line: ‘To be merciful to the conquered and beat the haughty down.’ (Augustine is quoting a line from the Greek poet Virgil here, about being a great conqueror.)

Hence, in so far as the general plan of the treatise demands and my ability permits, I must speak also of the earthly city [the city of man]– of that city which lusts to dominate the world and which, though nations bend to its yoke, is itself dominated by its passion for dominion.”

Here we see in Augustine’s argument the difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. Those who reside in what Augustine calls the “City of God” are driven by humility and service. He will go on to argue that for these two reasons the people who live in the “City of God” are more studious and effective citizens, because they do not seek their own glory and do not look for others to serve them. Rather, they serve and love sacrificially. This will prove somewhat of a fulfillment of Christ’s promise that we will be known for our love for one another. Love, true biblical love, does not seek its own glory.

Sadly, this leads us to the consideration of Augustine’s other city the “city of man” where lusts and pride rule and those in power are the most arrogant. Let us as believers keep these cities in mind. I pray that we would seek humility as a people recognizing that whatever we have, we have because it was given to us, not earned by us. All things are a gift from God. At the root, you have no control over you will take in your next breath, or your heart will beat one more time. Because of this, every second and every event that happens in the space of that time, is a gift of God to you. I pray that you might rejoice in the love of a creator that sees fit to keep you living today, and more than that, keeps you in the city of God. We are kept by a generous and loving God, who does not let us wander, but rather blesses us and keeps us close, under the shadow of His wing. Let us delight in Him.

Not to be dissolved at Pleasure

Reading again in Matthew Henry’s commentary this morning, I was struck by his explanation of the nature of man and the relationship of family. In our day marriage is looked on as a thing suited to make me happy and, if I find myself unhappy, easily put asunder. However, Matthew Henry, relying on the pattern established by our Lord in the book of Matthew, establishes several doctrines concerning man that you likely have not heard from your pastor. I, at least, have not considered these facets of the doctrine of man as coming from the creation. However, it seems that once you see what Matthew Henry has to say about these issues you might ask why you haven’t heard these thoughts before since they do appear to be natural implications drawn from the text. It is my hope that these thoughts might bless you this morning.

0_0_0_0_188_234_csupload_30932249

That man was made male and female, and blessed with the blessing of fruitfulness and increase. God said, Let us make man, and immediately it follows, So God created man; he performed what he resolved. With us saying and doing are two things; but they are not so with God. He created him male and female, Adam and Eve—Adam first, out of earth, and Eve out of his side, ch. 2. It should seem that of the rest of the creatures God made many couples, but of man did not he make one? (Mal. 2:15), though he had the residue of the Spirit, whence Christ gathers an argument against divorce, Mt. 19:4, 5. Our first father, Adam, was confined to one wife; and, if he had put her away, there was no other for him to marry, which plainly intimated that the bond of marriage was not to be dissolved at pleasure. Angels were not made male and female, for they were not to propagate their kind (Lu. 20:34-36); but man was made so, that the nature might be propagated and the race continued. Fires and candles, the luminaries of this lower world, because they waste, and go out, have a power to light more; but it is not so with the lights of heaven: stars do not kindle stars. God made but one male and one female, that all the nations of men might know themselves to be made of one blood, descendants from one common stock, and might thereby be induced to love one another. God, having made them capable of transmitting the nature they had received, said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. Here he gave them, 1. A large inheritance: Replenish the earth; it is this that is bestowed upon the children of men. They were made to dwell upon the face of all the earth, Acts 17:26. This is the place in which God has set man to be the servant of his providence in the government of the inferior creatures, and, as it were, the intelligence of this orb; to be the receiver of God’s bounty, which other creatures live upon, but do not know it; to be likewise the collector of his praises in this lower world, and to pay them into the exchequer above (Ps. 145:10); and, lastly, to be a probationer for a better state. 2. A numerous lasting family, to enjoy this inheritance, pronouncing a blessing upon them, in virtue of which their posterity should extend to the utmost corners of the earth and continue to the utmost period of time. Fruitfulness and increase depend upon the blessing of God: Obed-edom had eight sons, for God blessed him, 1 Chr. 26:5. It is owing to this blessing, which God commanded at first, that the race of mankind is still in being, and that as one generation passeth away another cometh.

Our Pleasure and Advantage, Work!

This morning, I was reading in Matthew Henry’s commentary regarding the fourth day of creation when I was struck by a point that he made regarding God’s creation. he writes concerning the Sun and Moon:

They do also give light upon the earth, that we may walk (Jn. 11:9 ), and work (Jn. 9:4 ), according as the duty of every day requires. The lights of heaven do not shine for themselves, nor for the world of spirits above, who need them not; but they shine for us, for our pleasure and advantage.

He states that the lights of Heaven shine for “our pleasure and our advantage”. This appears to echo the great words of the Westminster catechism which asks “what is the chief end of man?” The wonderful answer is, “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” It would seem that, in pointing us to the Sun and Moon as workers for our advantage and pleasure, Matthew Henry is stating that these work so that we might glorify God and enjoy Him. It is then tragic when He points out what men typically do with the light given by these luminaries:

Lord, what is man, that he should be thus regarded! Ps. 8:3Ps. 8:4. How ungrateful and inexcusable are we, if, when God has set up these lights for us to work by, we sleep, or play, or trifle away the time of business, and neglect the great work we were sent into the world about! The lights of heaven are made to serve us, and they do it faithfully, and shine in their season, without fail: but we are set as lights in this world to serve God; and do we in like manner answer the end of our creation? No, we do not, our light does not shine before God as his lights shine before us, Mt. 5:14 . We burn our Master’s candles, but do not mind our Master’s work.

Let us, friends by faithful to our master as His luminaries are faithful to serve us! Lets not trifle away the day on vain things, but rather let us be about glorifying God and enjoying Him! How does one go about this work? In a day when “audacious faith” and “mighty acts” are preached to the believer, it would be wise to remember the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. We are there commanded to lead a quiet life and to be about our business. Are you a plumber or a carpenter? perhaps you are a teacher or a parent in the home? Then be about honoring God in your work and testifying to His goodness as you are able. Do not be a lazy worker, but seek to honor the Lord where you are. In being faithful and working to His glory, you are testifying to His goodness and faithfulness on your behalf. Come friends, let us be faithful like the luminaries, and let us see that they work for our pleasure (enjoyment) in God and our Advantage (glorifying Him) in our work.

Troubles

There is a type of Christianity today that teaches that Jesus is here to ease all of our earthly troubles. However, they are unable to produce legitimate texts to support their position. We are told to count it all joy when we face trials and tribulations (and these are not the little difficulties of having unruly children). God’s common grace ensures that we will have the good things, but it also means that the wicked will enjoy the good things of the earth as well. So too, the bad will dog the heels of all who dwell on this earth. We serve a sovereign and risen Lord, but we will not see Heaven here. That is, not until it comes to Earth at Christ’s return. However, take heart dear Christian, we might die in the midst of troubles on this earth, but these troubles are only designed to make you yearn so much more for Heaven. These earthly troubles are the worst you will face, and soon they will be no more. Let us take to heart the words of J. C. Ryle.

“If we are true Christians, we must not expect everything smooth in our journey to heaven. We must count it no strange thing, if we have to endure sicknesses, losses, bereavements, and disappointments, just like other people. Free pardon and full forgiveness, grace by the way and glory to the end – all this our Savior has promised to give. But He has never promised that we shall have no afflictions. He loves us too well to promise that.” ~ J.C. Ryle

The Bible

Here we have a section from the introduction of Matthew Henry’s commentary on Genesis. His commentary work is the best devotional material I have found, and he is often much more insightful than our modern critical commentators. Perhaps today, we might consider this view of the Bible and be reminded of the majesty of the book and the beauty of its creator.

0_0_0_0_188_234_csupload_30932249

We have now before us the holy Bible, or book, for so bible signifies. We call it the book, by way of eminency; for it is incomparably the best book that ever was written, the book of books, shining like the sun in the firmament of learning, other valuable and useful books, like the moon and stars, borrowing their light from it. We call it the holy book, because it was written by holy men, and indited by the Holy Ghost; it is perfectly pure from all falsehood and corrupt intention; and the manifest tendency of it is to promote holiness among men. The great things of God’s law and gospel are here written to us, that they might be reduced to a greater certainty, might spread further, remain longer, and be transmitted to distant places and ages more pure and entire than possibly they could be by report and tradition: and we shall have a great deal to answer for if these things which belong to our peace, being thus committed to us in black and white, be neglected by us as a strange and foreign thing, Hos 8:12. The scriptures, or writings of the several inspired penmen, from Moses down to St. John, in which divine light, like that of the morning, shone gradually (the sacred canon being now completed), are all put together in this blessed Bible, which, thanks be to God, we have in our hands, and they make as perfect a day as we are to expect on this side of heaven. Every part was good, but all together very good. This is the light that shines in a dark place (Pe2 1:19), and a dark place indeed the world would be without the Bible.

– Matthew Henry (Introduction to the Commentary of Genesis)