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.

A Pity, Then, That it Should Cleave to the Earth

Today, I thought it would be wise to follow up with Matthew Henry’s second point concerning the creation of man. In the first post he showed that man was made of clay and therefore comes from a low origin. This was designed to keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves. However, this second section from his commentary is in regards to our soul and its high origin. I find it intriguing that his argument appears to be that we do not value our soul and its origin enough. I have to agree with him on this point. I think he is also correct concerning the tragedy it is that we focus so much on our body and its appetites when it is such a base thing, but forget that our spirit has appetites that must be fulfilled and it is a high thing. It must indeed be a devilish scheme that keeps us from looking upon the higher things with gratitude and from truly appraising them for their worth. Let us not be distracted with dirt!

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The high origin and the admirable serviceableness of the soul of man. (1.) It takes its rise from the breath of heaven, and is produced by it. It was not made of the earth, as the body was; it is a pity then that it should cleave to the earth, and mind earthly things. It came immediately from God; he gave it to be put into the body (Eccl. 12:7 ), as afterwards he gave the tables of stone of his own writing to be put into the ark, and the urim of his own framing to be put into the breast-plate. Hence God is not only the former but the Father of spirits. Let the soul which God has breathed into us breathe after him; and let it be for him, since it is from him. Into his hands let us commit our spirits, for from his hands we had them. (2.) It takes its lodging in a house of clay, and is the life and support of it. It is by it that man is a living soul, that is, a living man; for the soul is the man. The body would be a worthless, useless, loathsome carcase, if the soul did not animate it. To God that gave us these souls we must shortly give an account of them, how we have employed them, used them, proportioned them, and disposed of them; and if then it be found that we have lost them, though it were to gain the world, we shall be undone for ever. Since the extraction of the soul is so noble, and its nature and faculties are so excellent, let us not be of those fools that despise their own souls, by preferring their bodies before them, Prov. 15:32 . When our Lord Jesus anointed the blind man’s eyes with clay perhaps he intimated that it was he who at first formed man out of the clay; and when he breathed on his disciples, saying, Receive you the Holy Ghost, he intimated that it was he who at first breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life. He that made the soul is alone able to new-make it.