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Amen: Four Meanings in Scripture (Spurgeon)

August 29, 2013 Leave a comment

From Spurgeon’s 1862 New Year sermon, the following interesting points regarding the word ‘Amen’ in scripture.

First, what the Puritans observed:

 it is a very remarkable thing—that under the old Law, there was no amen to the blessings; the only amen was to the curses! When they pronounced the curses, “All the people said Amen.” Under the Law there never was an amen to the blessing! Now, it is an equally remarkable, and more blessed thing, that under the Gospel, there is no amen to the curses—the only amen is to the blessings!

The Four meanings of the word ‘Amen’:

1)      The Desire of the Heart – In agreement with what the Lord has said.  “Behold, I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” We say amen at the end of the prayer, to signify, “Lord, let it be so” —it is our heart’s desire.

2)      The Affirmation of Our Faith:  We only say amen to that which we really believe to be true. We add our affidavit, as it were, to God’s promise, that we believe Him to be faithful and true.

3)      Expresses the joy of the heart:  When of old they brought forth a Jewish king, the High Priest took a horn of oil and poured it on his head; then came forward a herald, and the moment he had sounded the trumpet, one with a loud voice said, “God save the king! God save the king!” and all the people said, “Amen!”

4)      An Amen of Resolution:  It means, “I, in the name of God, solemnly pledge myself that in His strength I will seek to make it so; to Him be Glory both now and forever.”

The Premillennial Rapture Timing

August 26, 2013 4 comments

I recently finished S. Lewis Johnson’s 1 Corinthians series, and his passing remarks in one of the last messages (early 1995) prompted my own further study, in reference to the “rapture of believers” (not “rapture of the church”).

I briefly looked at the issue of SLJ’s later rapture timing view in this previous post, but now for a closer look at the scriptural arguments for dispensational premillennialism:  both pre-tribulational and post-tribulational rapture.  In the following four messages (from two series), SLJ set forth the scriptural reasons given for both the post-trib and pre-trib rapture timing positions.

The Divine Purpose, #16                                             Revelation Series, #9

The Divine Purpose, #17                                             Revelation Series, #10

So for future reference, here is a summary of SLJ’s presentations on this topic.   Please note that the following is not intended to be an exhaustive consideration of the topic and is not intended to list every reason in favor of a view (by either proponents of the post-trib or pre-trib views) but only a look at the reasons set forth in these four lectures. Since SLJ in his messages presented the post-trib view first, I will take the same sequence in this post.

Arguments for a Post-Trib Rapture:

The Nature of the TribulationThe Old Testament’s clear and specific references to the tribulation indicate that there will be believers upon the earth at that time.  They (post-trib view) will acknowledge that there is no instance of the wrath of God afflicting the saints.  In fact, there are indications that the saints are exempted from the wrath of God, during that period of time.  But there is much evidence that the saints will suffer persecution and affliction during that period of time.  So from the nature of the tribulation itself, they argue the nature of the tribulation does not demand that one be exempt from presence on the earth during that time.

Biblical Imminence:  The 1st Century View (Not a ‘pre-trib’ any moment rapture)

Jesus’ Parables:  He stated certain things were going to come to pass before He came again.  He said, for example, ‘There was to be a sowing of the seed,’ and then He said at the end of the age, certain things would transpire.  So, it’s obvious that the premises of His coming must be broad enough to include an interval.  They cannot be any moment.

Acts 1:8-9:  The first century apostles did not believe in a pre-trib “any moment” type of rapture.  Acts 1:8-9 indicates a time period must occur, for the accomplishment of this evangelistic movement that will reach to the ends of the earth.

John 21:18: Related to Acts 1:8-9, Peter understood that he would live to become an old man and was told what would happen to him when he was old.

Specific New Testament passages and associated Old Testament references:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 – Generally agreed, the rapture of the church takes place here.  Yet in verse 54, the apostle cites texts from Isaiah 25 and Hosea 14, applying to the Lord’s Second Coming.  Paul links these texts to what happens in verses 50-51.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:  the term “to meet” and references to the same things that are associated with the Olivette Discourse: angels, clouds, trumpet, gathering of the people of God.

Therefore, by these rather numerous parallels, since it’s evident from the Olivette Discourse that Jesus is talking about the coming of our Lord to the earth, it would be natural to assume that the apostle, using the same language, would be speaking about the same event.  And, furthermore, even the term “to meet” is a term that generally means to go out to meet someone and to come back to the same place from which you have come.  And so that would suggest that the saints meet the Lord and come to the earth, rather than are with the Lord in heaven for the period of approximately seven years.

  • 2 Thessalonians 1:7 – the rest that the saints will get from their trials, will occur at the time of Christ’s returning in judgment upon His enemies.  Well, according to the view that the church is caught up before the tribulation begins, they should have been given rest long before then.  But Paul links the rest with the revelation of our Lord. 
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8 – the same term parousia (the appearance of His coming) is used in both verses, and verse 8 is clearly speaking of the Second Coming

The same term parousia that is found in verse 1, in behalf of the coming of our Lord is said in verse 8, to be the time of the Second Advent.  So, again, that text would seem to suggest that the time of the coming and the time of the gathering together is the time when our Lord comes to the earth.

Argument from the Apocalypse

  • Revelation 3:10:  Post tribulationalists believe that both of those promises are promises, really, not of a complete separation from the threatening evil, but of God’s undertaking to preserve believers through those particular evils.  In other words, post tribulationists say, ‘We will be upon the earth during the time of the judgments, perhaps, but God promises that we will be kept from the wrath of God poured out upon us which is going to be poured out upon others around us.’  So, it’s a promise of keeping through the judgments that are to fall upon the earth.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:  the rapture is the time of the resurrection of the body.  It’s very plain that in chapter 20, verse 4 the first resurrection is post tribulational.  Now if the first resurrection is post tribulational, and if the rapture occurs at the time of the resurrection of the body, then of course you must have a post tribulational rapture.

Arguments for a Pre-Trib Rapture:

Exemption from Wrath

He (pre-trib view) will generally say this, ‘If you will read the Book of Revelation, from chapter 4 through chapter 19, and see those great and massive worldwide judgments that will be poured out from heaven, in which, literally, millions of people will be destroyed, and hardly anyone could help from being affected in some way.’  He will say, ‘It’s inconceivable that a person could go through the tribulation and be kept from the wrath of God.’  And one must admit that it does seem a very difficult thing for a person to go through all of those judgments and not be touched by them.

Response:  (post-trib view):  God will deliver the saints from the wrath of God, but they’ll not be delivered from the persecution that will be part of that tribulational period.  So the statement that we are not appointed unto wrath, in the one case, by the post-tribulationalists, mean they are not appointed to the wrath of God, but they are appointed to suffer because of their testimony and through persecution during that period of time.

The Term “Church” in the Book of Revelation

Well known by pre-tribulationalists, the term ‘church’ occurs very frequently in the first three chapters of Revelation. Then the word ‘church’ is not found in chapters 4 through 21, and then again in Revelation 22:16: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches.”

Robert Gundry’s reply to this argument: “It’s true, the term church is not found in the descriptions of the things that are happening on the earth.  But for my friends, the church is not mentioned as being in heaven, either.”   Dr. Johnson further notes here, those chapters are not intended to describe what’s happening in heaven.  Those chapters are intended to describe what happens on earth.

Argument from Apocalypse – Rev. 3:10

In John 17, “to keep from an evil one” is an absolute or complete separation from a threatening evil, and the threatening evil incidentally is not the persecution of the world about them, but the threatening evil is apostasy as the text says.  They should be kept from the evil one,  So the text there means a complete separation from an impending or threatening evil, apostasy.  In the Book of Revelation, it is not something spiritual, but something physical.  And here, “to be kept from the hour of testing,” is the hour of testing that shall come upon the whole inhabited world or earth to try those that dwell upon the earth.

The Necessity of An Interval Between the Rapture and The Advent

If the millennium is to be peopled by some saints in nonglorified bodies, if the millennium is to be peopled by individuals who go into it not having been resurrected, that is not having been caught up at the Rapture and not having been raised from the dead and given a new body at that time, then one asks the question: where shall they come from if the Rapture and the Advent coincide?  In other words, if all believers are caught up to meet the Lord in the air and are given new bodies and our Lord comes right to the earth, and if the Scriptures do teach that there are people who enter the millennium in nonglorified bodies (reference Isaiah chapter 65:20, and even Revelation 7 through 10), then where do they come from?

S. Lewis Johnson briefly mentioned one post-trib answer, to where the nonglorified people of Israel come from in a post-trib scenario.  From thinking about it more, I can now see the possibility of having Gentiles in nonglorified bodies in the post-trib scenario and how it could work, including the people groups in the Matthew 25 Sheep and Goats account.

Additional online sources:

Pre-Tribulational View:

Post-Tribulation View (links updated, 2017, from previous links now gone):

What’s in a Name? (Understanding of Dispensationalism)

August 22, 2013 10 comments

An uproar in the online blog world this week started with David Murray’s post at Ligonier, actually an excerpt from his book, in which he suggested – rather casually, in passing – several reasons why preachers avoid teaching the Old Testament.  Reason #4 was quite out of place amongst the others: Dispensationalism, or rather the author’s mistaken concept of dispensationalism based on lack of familiarity with what dispensationalism actually believes and teaches, plus John MacArthur’s comments in this interview.   Jesse Johnson at the Cripplegate soon responded, and then David Murray at his blog featured a guest post from Dan Phillips, also in response to this erroneous idea that dispensationalism leads to neglect of the Old Testament.  The comments continue at those two posts, but what I want to focus on, here, is an overall look at some of the common doctrines (and some myths) associated with ‘dispensationalism’ by outsiders, and clarify these issues.

Dispensationalism Focuses Too Much On The Dispensations Rather Than the Covenants

This may be true of some seminaries and perhaps Arminian dispensational churches, at least the ones mentioned from people’s past experiences.  But current-day dispensationalism – and by this I mean Calvinist Dispensationalism as represented today at the Masters Seminary and associated teachers – gives the proper emphasis to the biblical covenants and understanding of the unconditional, unilateral covenants, especially the Abrahamic, Davidic and New Covenants.

Dispensationalism Leads to Neglect of the Old Testament

This issue has been well addressed this week by Jesse Johnson and Dan Phillips.  My own observation here is that actually the dispensationalists have a stronger overall unity of scripture and God’s overall purpose, including the overall biblical theme of the Kingdom of God, which covers everything from Genesis to Revelation (and special emphasis on the reverse-parallels seen in Genesis and Revelation).

Dispensationalism Teaches Two Ways of Salvation

This myth has been responded to many times, yet some non-dispensationalists keep repeating it, seemingly in willful ignorance.  See this article from Tony Garland, also this previous post and its quote from Dr. Richard Mayhue.  Dispensationalism has never taught such; dispensationalism addresses eschatology and ecclesiology but not soteriology.

The Pre-Trib Rapture

Current-day dispensationalism does consider the pre-trib rapture a secondary matter, of lesser importance and not essential to the basics of dispensationalism.  See, for instance, Michael Vlach’s list of six essentials of dispensationalism.  That said, it is true that the vast majority of dispensationalists, and even progressive dispensationalists, believe in the pre-trib rapture, though a few hold to mid-trib or pre-wrath (3/4) rapture.  I’ve found the writings of one person who refers to himself as a Post-Trib Progressive Dispensationalist (but that individual is also evidently a non-Calvinist).  It is also worth noting that, often, those who hold to the essentials of dispensationalism (as defined by Dr. Vlach) yet post-trib rapture, distance themselves from the term “dispensationalism” due to the strong association of that term with the pre-trib rapture.  S. Lewis Johnson in his day certainly viewed dispensationalism as closely associated with the pre-trib rapture, observing in the Divine Purpose series (mid-1980s) that this is one challenge for dispensationalists: to work on the fine points of the hermeneutical claims, the defense of their millennialism against recent challenges to their position on the relation of pre-tribulationism to dispensationalism on their soteriology and on their integration of dispensational truths and to the biblical covenantal unfolding of Scripture which they themselves often acknowledge.  Barry Horner (author of Future Israel) never calls himself a dispensationalist yet holds to the essentials as defined by Michael Vlach.  Horner further describes several of the 19th century classic premillennialists as “non-dispensational” though they too believed in the future restoration of Israel; among these teachers, notably B. W. Newton, S.P. Tregelles, and Nathaniel West, believed basically the same as the early dispensationalists (and current day dispensationalists as described here) but with post-trib rapture.

Premillennialism With Future Restoration of Israel to Their Land

This is one of the defining essentials of dispensationalism.  Here, too, is some irony.  As noted concerning the pre-trib or post-trib rapture, here is where some believers, who hold the essentials of dispensationalism (including Future Israel) yet are post-trib, distance themselves from the label of “dispensationalist.”  Yet it is on this very point, premillennialism with future restoration of Israel, that non-premillennialists over-generalize, unaware of the different variations in various individuals’ overall Christian beliefs: anyone who believes this “must be dispensational,” which of course includes the whole package of other ideas of that label (pre-trib rapture, antinomianism, two ways of salvation, neglecting the Old Testament).  Especially appropriate here, and to conclude, Barry Horner observes:

This writer’s frequent experience has been, especially within a Reformed environment, that upon his expression of a future premillennial hope, he is then subjected to careful scrutiny. Qualification is sought as to whether one is an historic premillennialist, after the manner of George Eldon Ladd, or a dispensationalist after the lineage of Darby, Schofield, Chafer, Walvoord, etc. The tone of the enquiry suggests that the former is acceptable while the latter is unacceptable. So explanation is made that one believes in a glorious future time when the redeemed people of God, distinctively comprising national Israel and the Gentile nations, will enjoy the consummation of their salvation on an earth of renovated spiritual materiality where the glorious, spiritually tangible and substantial Jesus Christ will reign from Jerusalem in the midst of Israel. At this juncture, the common response is that such a belief identifies one as a dispensationalist, especially since Ladd is said to have not incorporated such particularity concerning Israel within his premillennialism. In other words, if a person was an historic premillennialist, he would not retain any clear-cut distinction between Israel and the church, but especially within the one redeemed people of God in their future manifestation. When one then points out and specifically names a number of notable Christians who were not dispensationalists, such as Horatius Bonar, J. C. Ryle, and C. H. Spurgeon, even postmillennialist Jonathan Edwards, who nevertheless believed in the aforementioned scenario, that is Israel and the Gentile nations retaining their distinctive identity under the earthly reign of Christ, the frequent response is that of a blank stare.

Historic (Classic) Premillennialists: Free Online Books

August 20, 2013 18 comments

Update (addition) to the resources listed here:  an online discussion group for Historic (Classic) Premillennialism.

Barry Horner, in Future Israel and other writings (see page 5 here and page 14 here) has mentioned several names of classic (Judeo-Centric) historic premillennialists.  The list mentioned by him, and mentioned elsewhere in connection with Horner’s work, includes well-known preachers such as Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle, and many others as well:  Adolph Saphir, David Baron, Andrew and Horatius Bonar, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, George N.H. Peters, Nathaniel West, Henry Grattan Guinness, B.W. Newton, S. P. Tregelles, Joseph Seiss, and Charles Simeon. These men lived and wrote during the 19th and early 20th century, and much of their work is now available in the public domain, free in online and e-book format.

See this previous post for many available works from Adolph Saphir and David Baron.  The following is a links-reference to the many available works by these other Christian premillennialists, as well as a good resource from a 20th century writer, Robert D. Culver.  Note that many, but not all, of the titles here relate to prophecy and premillennialism.  Google Play is one of the formats available, but for those desiring e-pub or PDF format, note that Google Play includes options to download e-pub and/or PDF formats available for many of the titles.

Robert D. Culver (1916-) :  Daniel and the Latter Days (1954)

Andrew Bonar (1810-1892):

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889):

Volume 1 (1849)
Volume 2 (1850)
1854 
1855
1857
1858
1864
Volume 19 (1867)
Volume 23 (1871)

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900):


George N.H. Peters (1825-1909):

Nathaniel West (1826-1906):


Henry Grattan Guinness

Joseph A. Seiss  (1823-1904):


 Benjamin Wills Newton (1807-1899)

Many of the titles are tracts less than 50 pages.  Full-length books include:

Tracts relating to eschatology:


Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (1813-1875)


Alexander Keith (1791-1880)


Websites:

The Charismatic Movement, A Potemkin Village: S. Lewis Johnson in 2 Peter

August 17, 2013 6 comments

I’m currently going through S. Lewis Johnson’s series in 2 Peter, an evening class (ten sessions) he taught in early 1976, with emphasis on the false teachings of the 1st century as well as modern errors.  Studying the Bible, so many ideas and problems really are timeless, just as true now as nearly 40 years ago: as for instance, Dr. Johnson’s comments regarding the charismatic movement.

The first lecture tells about the “Potemkin Village” expression (something I was unfamiliar with, either never learned or had forgotten) and its background in Catherine the Great’s Russia: the story that the great Russian man Potemkin had exaggerated his accomplishments, then the Queen decided to visit the city he had supposedly built; so Potemkin hurriedly went to the site and built up a scene of impressive buildings rather like a Hollywood movie set..

Upon later reflection I recalled the 1970s movie “Capricorn One”, which presented basically the same idea of a façade, a fake image as supposedly the truth to the people being fooled:  astronauts about to embark for the moon are taken away minutes before launch, to a fake set of a moon landing while the real space launch occurs without them on-board, and all transmissions of the astronauts to the public are really from this movie-set location.

In the 2 Peter series, here SLJ likens the modern-day charismatic movement to a Potemkin Village — something that appears to be the real thing, visually impressive to people who lack discernment, but is hollow and without substance: observations to an issue still with us today (nearly 40 years later).  A friend observed that if SLJ were still with us, she could easily picture him as one of the speakers at the upcoming “Strange Fire” conference.

No one ever gains the favor of God through false doctrine and no one ever gains a sense of peace through false doctrine. You may have a kind of false peace for awhile, but you never will have the true peace with God until you have the right doctrine. This is why I do not think that we can ever expect Christians to find any deep satisfaction in the charismatic movement, because there is no truth in their peculiar doctrines — and sooner or later it will be seen to be what it is, bogus knowledge. …

So he says, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”  This is why I do not think that we can ever expect Christians to find any deep satisfaction in the charismatic movement because there is no truth in their peculiar doctrines and sooner or later it will be seen to be what it is, bogus knowledge….   A Potemkin Village is a village in which is all façade, in which there is no reality.  Incidentally that story is also greatly exaggerated.  He was an eccentric man but there is no real historical proof that he ever did that.  But nevertheless the figure of speech of Potemkin Village has come into our language expressing that which is supposed to be something but it’s really nothing.  And in my opinion, if I may just pass an opinion, the charismatic movement is one giant Potemkin Village and we are going to see as time passes that it does not satisfy those who are most deeply involved in it.  True salvation comes through the knowledge of our God and of Jesus our Lord, as Peter says.

Hermeneutics and Creation: What Happened in Genesis 6

August 13, 2013 8 comments

A popular topic of interest is the interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4, what seems very strange to our modern naturalist minds.  Certainly some can take too much interest in the idea of the Nephilim, and as S. Lewis Johnson well observed (in his Systematic Theology series, angelology section):  Isn’t it interesting that Christians are more interested in the evil angels than they are in the good angels, because there’s just a lot of good interesting material in the Bible about Satan and his demons?  And, it’s I guess part of our human nature to be more curious about the evil than about the good. 

Still, as part of God’s word the teaching itself is worth some consideration, something we can apply good hermeneutics to and determine the basic understanding of.  From the standpoint of hermeneutics as well as the importance of the doctrine of creation and the Flood, Genesis 6:1-4 should not be neglected on the basis of what fanatics and extremists may do.

The original understanding of this passage, along with other New Testament references (in Jude and 2 Peter) and the content of the book of Enoch that Jude referenced, was clearly that the “sons of God” refer to fallen angelic beings.  Both Jewish and Christian expositors through the first 400 years of the church likewise understood this meaning.  Some hold that the angels actually took on human form (which would seem to present difficulties with the DNA of angels), while others (and here I concur; including John MacArthur, S. Lewis Johnson) see this as demons cohabiting with human men, demonic possession of human bodies.  Starting in about the 5th century this view fell into disfavor, for the alternative explanation that all it’s talking about is the godly line of Seth versus the wicked line of Cain: a view found in many commentaries since the Reformation, including commentaries from John Gill and Alfred Edersheim.

Yet both for hermeneutical and logical reasons, as well as for understanding the teaching about the creation and the flood, that explanation falls short for many reasons.  As Henry Morris points out (Biblical Creationism):

Such an idea, while more amenable to our modern naturalistic environment, is certainly not the obvious meaning of the text — Noah could easily have said “sons of Seth” if that were his intent. Such a more-than-human state of global evil, violence, and giantism, capable of being remedied only by a worldwide hydraulic cataclysm, must have had a more sinister cause than believers marrying unbelievers!

Also from S. Lewis Johnson’s Genesis series, the following exegesis of Genesis 6:1-4 (this message):

Hermeneutical problem with the “Sethite view”:  Genesis 6:1 uses the term “men” as a reference to both men and women, that daughters were born to men.  Then verse 2 also has the word “men”:  “the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive.” According to the Seth/Cain view, verse 2 is referring to the Cainites – usually in the precise local context, words have similar senses, and if we give them different senses we tend at times to make the text unintelligible.

Exegetical / logical questions and problems with this view:

  • Why are the Nephilim associated with such a natural union as Sethites and Cainites marrying?
  • Why would giants be the product of that particular kind of union?
  • Why are God’s people associated with the male sex only?  The sons of God the Sethites, they are males, saw of the daughters of men, the Cainites, they are all females.
  • If the Sethites were all godly, then why did they all perish in the flood?

When the flood came there is only Noah and his wife and his three sons and their wives and that’s all, only eight souls.  So, you can see that it’s not so easy as it sounds to say that this is the union of Sethites, godly men and Cainites, ungodly women.

The Old Testament term “sons of God” in the Bible always refers to angelic beings

the precise form that is found here in the Hebrew text is found several times in the Old Testament, but in every place in which this precise form is found, that precise form is used only of angelic beings in the Old Testament.

  • Job: three references
  • Daniel 3

The New Testament references to this event are clear:

Jude notes the similarities between the event in Noah’s day, and Sodom and Gomorrah.

He says that Sodom and Gomorrah just like the angels indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh.  Now in the Bible, we have two words for different.  In fact we have something similar in English.  Now in Greek, there is the word that means essentially “another of the same kind.”  Now, that word is not the word that is used here, but there is another word that means another but it’s another of a different kind.  It’s the word from which we get heterodoxy, for example, as over against orthodoxy, a different kind of opinion and usually associated with the wrong opinion.

Now that word in Greek is ordinarily heteros.  Not always but generally that’s the meaning, a different kind.  Well that’s the word that’s translated strange here: strange flesh.  So, what Jude is saying is that, the angels just as Sodom and Gomorrah went after strange flesh.

We all recognize what happened at Sodom: homosexuality.  Jude here is saying that the angels, likewise, went after strange flesh, different flesh.

Here we see the judgment of the fallen angels connected with the time of the flood.

  • 1 Peter 3:18-20:  The word “spirits” in only used of angelic spirits in the New Testament.  Again this has reference to the time of the Flood.

Again, and what cannot be emphasized enough, is the unique nature of whatever happened, that it corrupted the genetic pool of the human race (the second of Satan’s seven attempts to thwart God’s plan for the coming Redeemer), that it was necessary for God to send the flood to wipe out humanity and begin again with the eight people on the Ark. This unnatural union created offspring with genetic mutations such that the human race was no longer pure.  Of course we do not know the specifics of it, other than the reasonable possibility that demonic possession has the power to affect genetic structure.  As SLJ observed, we know that simple things like LSD have had strange effects upon the human body.  Epidemiology studies have even found that a person’s privations and malnutrition during childhood affect the DNA of his or her children a generation later.

An idea never thought of until the 5th century AD.,the reproduction involving humans who were godly with those who were wicked (and assuming that all the men in the Seth line were in fact godly and all the women in the line of Cain were wicked), does not explain something of such importance as to bring about the Genesis flood.

The Hidden Life: Devotional Book, by Adolph Saphir

August 9, 2013 Leave a comment

After trying a few different free online Christian books recently (including works from Henry Morris and Alfred Edersheim), I am now reading Adolph Saphir’s “The Hidden Life”.  This work is available in several formats from archive.org, and also free on Google Play: the format I’ve chosen, without the many typo errors in, for instance, archive.org’s Kindle version.

I’ve only read the first three chapters so far, but finding it a good devotional with the proper emphasis on different aspects of the Christian life: prayer, reading of scripture, and the overall question of what it means to draw near to God.  Saphir’s work considers the epistle of James, and specifically James 4:8 – “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” Scripture verses and Christian poetry abound, as Saphir considers the proper way to come to God, how we should approach prayer (along with discussion of our tendency to not pray), and more.

A few excerpts are noteworthy, including this from the preface:

It is right to guard the house against the attacks of foes, or rather to point out the strength and security of the divinely-laid foundation. It is also right to point out the gate wide and open, and to declare to all the freeness and fulness of divine grace. But to describe the home itself, the inner sanctuary, seems to be more essential, and also more in accordance with the practice of the apostles, who declared the whole counsel of God, and regarded the preaching of the gospel, in its fulness, and with the power of the Holy Ghost, as at once the great argument to convince, and the great attraction to persuade.

And

The Word, or the Scripture, is the great, and in many respects the unique, channel of God’s communications to the soul; or rather it is central, round which all other divine influences gather. Scripture is the divine revelation in a special sense, but so that it connects itself with all other manifestations of God to the soul, be they in Nature or Providence, or by the direct influence of the Spirit.

Saphir keeps balance, avoiding the excesses and negative associations of mysticism and Christian mysticism, while noting the proper focus the Christian should have: on the Lord Himself, rather than on the “experience” of communion we enjoy with the Lord (which tends toward self-centeredness).  Notes at the end of chapter 1 specifically address the errors of mysticism, also observing:

The Christian knows not only wherein religion consists, but he also knows the source and power of the true life. The mystics outside Christianity have truly felt the necessity of death, of hating our own will and life, and in this respect put to shame many professing Christians who mind earthly things, and are the enemies of the cross of Christ. But they did not know : ” Ye have died with Christ, and your life is hid with Christ in God. ” They did not know the power of Christ’s resurrection, and the constraining love of the Divine Saviour, who for us died and lived again, that we henceforth may live unto Him. They may therefore be viewed as resembling those who, through the law, have become dead and long for life.

Later chapters deal with worldliness and the Christian’s proper response: to not love the world, yet in our service in the world, The less he loves the world in its God-opposed character, the more he truly loves the world, and is a blessing to those around him.