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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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The Meesha Stele

The Meesha SteleArchaeology and the Bible:

The Meesha Stele (846 BC) which is popularly known as the Moabite Stone, records the revolt of Meesha, King of Moab, against Israel. This incredible stele mentions Omri, King of Israel, and David of the United Monarchy. It even refers to Yahweh, the unique name of the God of Israel! Together with the testimony from the Tel Dan Stele, we have a powerful external witness that the Bible records the true history of the kings of Israel and their interactions with foreign kings.

The Merneptah Stela

Archaeology and the Bible:

Confounding earlier skeptics, but confirming the Bible, an important discovery was made in Egypt in 1896. A tablet, called the Merneptah Stela, was found and it mentions Israel. Merneptah was the pharaoh who ruled Egypt from 1212-1202 B.C. The context of the stela indicates that Israel was a significant entity in the late 13th century B.C.

The Heart Which Believes

From the pen of J. C. Ryle:

A right heart is a heart which BELIEVES on Christ alone for salvation, and in which Christ dwells by faith (Rom. 10:10; Eph. 3:17). It rests all its hopes of pardon and eternal life on Christ’s atonement, Christ’s mediation, and Christ’s intercession. It is sprinkled in Christ’s blood from an evil conscience (Heb. 10:22). It turns to Christ as the compass-needle turns to the north. It looks to Christ for daily peace, mercy, and grace—as the sun-flower looks to the sun. It feeds on Christ for its daily sustenance, as Israel fed on the manna in the wilderness. It sees in Christ a special fitness to supply all its needs and requirements. It leans on Him, hangs on Him, builds on Him, cleaves to Him, as its physician, guardian, husband, and friend.

King Jesus

Jesus is exalted to be a King and a Savior, that He may give all that is needed to accomplish the salvation of all who come under His rule. Charles H. Spurgeon writes:

Some truths which it is hard to explain in words are simple enough in actual experience. There is no discrepancy between the truth that the sinner believes, and that his faith is wrought in him by the Holy Spirit. Only folly can lead men to puzzle themselves about plain matters while their souls are in danger. No man would refuse to enter a lifeboat because he did not know the specific gravity of bodies; neither would a starving man decline to eat till he understood the whole process of nutrition. If you, my reader, will not believe till you can understand all mysteries, you will never be saved at all; and if you allow self-invented difficulties to keep you from accepting pardon through your Lord and Savior, you will perish in a condemnation which will be richly deserved. Do not commit spiritual suicide through a passion for discussing metaphysical subtleties. . . .

You are not asked to trust in a dead Jesus, but in One who, though He died for our sins, has risen again for our justification. You may go to Jesus at once as to a living and present friend. He is not a mere memory, but a continually existent Person who will hear your prayers and answer them. He lives on purpose to carry on the work for which He once laid down His life. He is interceding for sinners at the right hand of the Father, and for this reason He is able to save them to the uttermost who come unto God by Him. Come and try this living Savior, if you have never done so before.

This living Jesus is also raised to an eminence of glory and power. He does not now sorrow as “a humble man before his foes,” nor labor as “the carpenter’s son”; but He is exalted far above principalities and power and every name that is named. The Father has given Him all power in Heaven and in earth, and he exercises this high endowment in carrying out His work of grace. Hear what Peter and the other apostles testified concerning Him before the high priest and the council:

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins (Acts v. 30, 31).

The glory which surrounds the ascended Lord should breathe hope into every believer’s breast. Jesus is no mean person—He is “a Savior and a great one.” He is the crowned and enthroned Redeemer of men. The sovereign prerogative of life and death is vested in Him; the Father has put all men under the mediatorial government of the Son, so that He can quicken whom He will. He openeth, and no man shutteth. At His word the soul which is bound by the cords of sin and condemnation can be unloosed in a moment. He stretches out the silver scepter, and whosoever touches it lives.

It is well for us that as sin lives, and the flesh lives, and the devil lives, so Jesus lives; and it is also well that whatever might these may have to ruin us, Jesus has still greater power to save us. (All of Grace)

God’s Certain Knowledge

According to Thomas Boston:

Has God decreed all things that come to pass? Then there is nothing that falls out by chance, nor are we to ascribe what we meet with either to good or bad luck and fortune. There are many events in the world which men look upon as mere accidents, yet all these come by the counsel and appointment of Heaven. Solomon tells us, Prov. 16:33. that “the lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.” However disordered and fortuitous things may be with respect to us, yet they are all determined and directed by the Lord. When that man drew a bow at random, 1 Kings 22:34, it was merely accidental with respect to him, yet it was God that guided the motion of the arrow so as to strike the king of Israel rather than any other man. Nothing then comes to pass, however random and uncertain it may seem to be, but what was decreed by God.

Hence we see God’s certain knowledge of all things that happen in the world, seeing his knowledge is founded on his decree. As he sees all things possible in the telescope of his own power, so he sees all things to come in the telescope of his own will; of his effecting will, if he hath decreed to produce them; and of his permitting will, if he hath decreed to allow them. Therefore his declaration of things to come is founded on his appointing them Isa 44:7, “And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them.” He foreknows the most necessary things according to the course of nature, because he decreed that such effects should proceed from and necessarily follow such and such causes: and he knows all future contingents, all things which shall happen by “chance,” and the most free actions of rational creatures, because he decreed that such things should come to pass contingently or freely, according to the nature of second causes. So that what is casual or contingent with respect to us, is certain and necessary in regard of God. (“Important Lessons Drawn from the Decrees of God”)

The Place of Mercy

Do people really care for God’s mercy or comfort, when they continue to live in sin? Even so, God has devised a means by which justice can be satisfied, and mercy triumphant. Jesus Christ was sacrificed to Divine Justice and it was accepted as the punishment due to all His people. Andrew Bonar explains this in the context of the “mercy seat”:

“It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17: 11).

“There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat” (Exod. 25: 22).

[T]he place where mercy can be found, is the place where the blood is. No other place, O sinner, in the wide world for you! But to that place you may come; nay, must come, if you would escape the wrath of God.

You must come as a sinner. You must come with nothing but sin. On the Day of Atonement, the priest in Israel who came forward to the mercy-seat laid down nothing but sin on that blood-sprinkled lid. He showed a sinner’s way of coming to the Lord; and yet he brought nothing what-ever but sin, to be laid down there. So the sinner, in coming to the mercy-seat, brings nothing but sin. He confesses the sin he was born with: “Behold! I was shapen in iniquity”; and lays it down on the sprinkled blood. He confesses his inheritance of corruption from Adam, and lays it down on that mercy-seat. He confesses his own personal sins, in their various forms, aspects, aggravations; the sins of his life and lips, as far as memory can remember, and lays them down upon the sprinkled blood. . . .

At length it is done. But what does it discover? He has laid down his whole soul there his very self; but in all this there has been nothing but sin for him to leave there! No holiness is laid down on that blood, for it is from all sin that the blood cleanses.

You come, therefore, wholly as a sinner. Nothing can be more deeply solemnizing than this. To have such a burden to lay down there to have nothing else than a burden of this kind, and to lay all this on the Lord Jesus Christ! How humbling, how fitted to lay the sinner in the dust, is the view this gives of his utter guilt and vileness! And yet nothing is more inviting, for it is with sin he comes, and as a sinner; and the Lord Jesus meets the sin and the sinner. Is there, then, any room for delay? Any ground for excuse for hesitating to come at once? (“The Mercy Seat”)

Renewing Our Spiritual Strength

Quoting Ronald Reagan:

“This is the real task before us: to reassert our commitment as a nation to a law higher than our own, to renew our spiritual strength. Only by building a wall of such spiritual resolve can we, as a free people, hope to protect our own heritage and make it someday the birthright of all men.”

In Evil Long I Took Delight

By John Newton:

 In evil long I took delight,

Unawed by shame or fear,

Till a new object struck my sight,

And stopp’d my wild career:

 

I saw One hanging on a Tree

In agonies and blood,

Who fix’d His languid eyes on me.

As near His Cross I stood.

 

Sure never till my latest breath,

Can I forget that look:

It seem’d to charge me with His death,

Though not a word He spoke:

 

My conscience felt and own’d the guilt,

And plunged me in despair:

I saw my sins His Blood had spilt,

And help’d to nail Him there.

 

Alas! I knew not what I did!

But now my tears are vain:

Where shall my trembling soul be hid?

For I the Lord have slain!

 

–A second look He gave, which said,

“I freely all forgive;

This blood is for thy ransom paid;

I die that thou may’st live.”

 

Thus, while His death my sin displays

In all its blackest hue,

Such is the mystery of grace,

It seals my pardon too.

 

With pleasing grief, and mournful joy,

My spirit now is fill’d,

That I should such a life destroy,

Yet live by Him I kill’d!

The One Who Humbles Himself Will Be Exalted

J. C. Ryle explains how we should present ourselves before the Lord:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 ESV)

Now, before entering closely into the parable, I would have you mark, that the first verse tells us there was one point on which the Pharisee and the tax collector were agreed—one point which they had in common, and one only—and this was, “They both went up into the temple to pray.” They both set their faces the same way, they walked in the same path, they entered the same house, and so far we can discover no difference whatever between them, in their outward behavior at least. But we shall soon find that their hearts were far asunder, and like the first worshipers recorded in the Bible, even Cain and Abel, there was a mighty gulf between them—for God, we shall see, accepted the sacrifice of the one—but rejected that of the other.

Oh, beloved, this passage suggests very solemn reflections, and for our sakes no doubt it was written. Both these men, it appears, “went up to the temple to pray,” and yet how fearfully the narrative ends! Jesus had just been speaking of the necessity of constant prayer, in the parable of the unjust judge, and immediately, without anything happening to break the thread of his discourse, he adds the parable we are now considering. Surely, then, this must be meant to remind us, as a thing we are liable to forget, that, however important prayer may be, we are not to suppose all who pray have a godly spirit; and that outward service is often given where there is no real dedication of the heart to God.

Truly it is cheerful and encouraging to see a multitude going up to the house of God—but still it is painful to remember that too many go in the spirit of the Pharisee, and far too few in that of the Tax collector. They all use the same prayers, they bow the knee, they move the lips together, and yet they are as widely different as gold and base metal. All are not Israel, who are called Israel. All are not Christians who name the name of Christ. All are not acceptable worshipers who are found in the temples of the Most High.

And what is the line of distinction? We learn this in the parable. Some come as Pharisees, and some as tax collectors; some appear with a broken and a contrite heart, such as the Lord will not despise, and others with an unhumbled and self-exalting spirit, wise in their own eyes and pure in their own sight—the sacrifice of all such is abominable in the sight of God. Oh that you would try to bear in mind more constantly, that “the Lord sees not as man sees, for man looks on the outward appearance—but the Lord looks on the heart”; that to Him “all hearts are open, all desires known, and from Him no secrets are hidden!” And if you felt this more, you would be more careful about the spirit in which you draw near to His throne; you would avoid anything like vain or trifling conversation both before and after service, and so observe the advice of Solomon—to guard your steps when you go to the house of God.”

In The Midst Of The Flames

Charles H. Spurgeon

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon:

“When thou pass through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walks through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43:2).

Bridge there is none: we must go through the waters and feel the rush of the rivers. The presence of God in the flood is better than a ferryboat. Tried we must be, but triumphant we shall be; for Jehovah Himself, who is mightier than many waters, shall be with us. Whenever else He may be away from His people, the LORD will surely be with them in difficulties and dangers. The sorrows of life may rise to an extraordinary height, but the LORD is equal to every occasion. The enemies of God can put in our way dangers of their own making, namely, persecutions and cruel mocking, which are like a burning, fiery furnace. What then? We shall walk through the fires. God being with us, we shall not be burned; nay, not even the smell of fire shall remain upon us. Oh, the wonderful security of the heaven-born and heaven-bound pilgrim! Floods cannot drown him, nor fires burn him. Thy presence, O LORD, is the protection of Thy saints from the varied perils of the road. Be-hold, in faith I commit myself unto Thee, and my spirit enters into rest.

Our Plan Or God’s?

Why is it that Christian leaders may be deceived? It is probably because they often walk by sight, and not by faith in the Word of God. They have forgotten the advice Proverbs 3:5-6; “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Reality consists of more than material things. P. G. Matthew discusses the consequences:

So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them. . . . (Joshua 9:14-15 ESV)

The ninth chapter of Joshua gives us a clear picture of what happens when God’s people do not pray. When we neglect prayer, we can be easily deceived and make wrong decisions. And when leaders do not pray, they also fail the people under them. This chapter speaks about the utter failure of Israel’s leaders—Joshua, the princes of tribes, the priests and the elders—to seek guidance from God when they were approached by the Gibeonites.

When we do not pray and consult the word of God carefully, we are deceived by Satan’s devices. Then we make wrong, rash decisions, whose serious and destructive consequences affect not only our lives, but also the lives of our descendants. Everyone who is responsible for making decisions—fathers, mothers, teachers, elders, or others—must pay careful attention to this chapter, because it is written for our warning and edification. If we heed it, we won’t be deceived, but will learn how to make correct decisions that result in blessing, not only to ourselves, but also to all those under our leadership.

The Lord had already given Joshua a certain charge before he and the people entered Canaan. Joshua was to lead Israel into Canaan and give them rest by defeating all their enemies; he was to be strong and courageous; he was to obey the entire word of God, not turning to the right or to the left; and he was to meditate upon the Scriptures and be careful to do everything written in them. As Joshua did these things, he would be successful in all that he did (Joshua 1:1-9).

Joshua had the ark, the priests, the book of the law, and God with him; his job was to simply hear and do the will of God. Yet Joshua failed to do so at least two times. We want to examine these failures of Joshua and then look at the success of the greater Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first failure of Joshua occurred before his encounter with the Gibeonites, when he failed to seek the will of God in his campaign against the city of Ai. The name “Ai” literally means “the heap” or “the ruin”; it was a small, insignificant city. Joshua sent spies to bring back a report about Ai (Joshua 7:2-3), but we are not told that Joshua inquired of the Lord or that he consulted the captain of the Lord’s host. Joshua listened to the spies’ report and apparently made his decision based solely on it.

What did the spies say? “Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there” (Joshua 7:3). How eager we are to hear from people rather than from God! As Christians, we say that Jesus Christ is Lord and that we are his servants; therefore, we should say, like Samuel, “Speak, Lord, your servants will hear and do.” But in reality we often act as though we were self-determining lords. We follow our own desires, though we would say we are doing the will of God. Joshua 8:1 tells us that God’s will in this matter was the exact opposite of the recommendation of the spies: “Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land.’” The spies had said, “It is a small place; send only two or three thousand men against it. Let the others rest.” That sounded very nice, but there was one problem: It was not the will of God.

The Lord wants all of his people to engage in battle against the flesh, the world, and the devil every day of our lives. Yet often our prayer, or “inquiry,” to the Lord, is simply an expression of our own carnal desires and we are seeking God’s approval of it. This was what Abraham, the father of all believers, did in Genesis 17. The Lord told Abraham that he was going to give him a son in his old age through his wife—the old, shriveled, barren Sarah: “I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her” (v. 16). But in verse 18 we see Abraham “inquiring”: “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” In other words, Abraham was saying, “Make my plan your plan.”

How many times have we tried through our “prayer” to have God alter his eternal plan and accept ours! When someone asks us, “Have you prayed about this?” we quickly say, “Oh, yes.” What we mean is, “Yes, I told God what he should do”! But God does all things according to the counsel of his own sovereign will; thus, as Christians, we are called to know and do the will of God, not our will. We are to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” and, “Not my will, but thine be done.” We are to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Christ daily. (“When We Don’t Pray”)

Athens And Jerusalem

Dinesh D'Souza

From the pen of Dinesh D’Souza:

The West was built on two pillars: Athens and Jerusalem. By Athens I mean classical civilization, the civilization of Greece and pre-Christian Rome. By Jerusalem I mean Judaism and Christianity. Of these two, Jerusalem is more important. The Athens we know and love is not Athens as it really was, but rather Athens as seen through the eyes of Jerusalem.

Slowly and surely, Christianity took the backward continent after the fall of the Roman Empire and gave it learning and order, stability and dignity. The monks copied and studied the manuscripts that preserved the learning of late antiquity. Christopher Dawson shows in Religion and the Rise of Western Culture how the monasteries became the locus of productivity and learning throughout Europe. Where there was once wasteland they produced hamlets, then towns, and eventually commonwealths and cities. Through the years the savage barbarian warrior became a chivalric Christian knight, and new ideals of civility and manners and romance were formed that shape our society to this day. If Christianity had not been born out of Judaism, Rodney Stark writes, we might still be living in the Dark Ages. (“Adrift”)

Read the entire article at. . . .

The New Year Begins

In the words of George Hodges:

The year begins; and all its pages are as blank… Let us begin it with high resolution; then let us take all its limitations, all its hindrances, its disappointments, its narrow and common-place conditions, and meet them as the Master did in Nazareth, with patience, with obedience, putting ourselves in cheerful subjection, serving our apprenticeship. Who knows what opportunity may come to us this year? Let us live in a great spirit, and then we shall be ready for a great occasion.

What Power Does God Have Over Evil Actions?

B.H. Carroll

Providence is an effective, all-comprehensive, divine agency that touches every event in the physical and spiritual world. Many of God’s saints, in the hardest and darkest times of their lives, have had peace by their understanding of and faith in the Lord’s providential care. The Lord God omnipotent reigns! B.H. Carroll (1843-1914) explains further:

If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3)

The providence of God is not only preventive and permissive of evil but is also directive. What do I mean by directive? I mean that God so directs evil actions as to disappoint the purpose and expectation of the sinner and his tempter. Let us get that very clear. Two scriptures will serve to show that God’s providence is directive with reference to the actions of evil men when it so operates that this evil action shall miss its issue, shall come to another issue neither intended nor desired by the perpetrator.

The first scripture is from the book of Genesis. The wicked brothers of Joseph, who had sold him into Egypt, are now in trouble in that very land. Their consciences accuse them:

“And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother,in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? Therefore, behold, also his blood is required.” (Genesis 42:21, 22.)

This was the human side. On the other hand, hear Joseph: “I am Joseph, your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now, therefore, be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life *** to preserve you a posterity in the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” That is, you meant evil. God directed that action so as to change it into an issue that was not foreseen nor purposed by you. The other scripture is from the fourth chapter of Acts. These two will answer for a thousand. They equal in importance any in the Bible:

“And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou has anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done.” (Acts 4:24-28.)

Now here was an entirely independent purpose and expectation on the part of Herod, on the part of Pilate, on the part of the Jews. They meant death and ruin and yet God’s providence governed their very malice to an issue neither foreseen, desired nor purposed by them, in that it accomplished not only His own predetermined purpose, working not for the ruin but for the salvation of the world.

Yet another term may be employed to show how the providence of God touches evil actions, to-wit, determinative. Terminus means a boundary, a limit, and to determinate is to set a boundary. The providence of God then touches evil actions by putting a limit upon them. An illustrative case or two may be rapidly stated. The devil wanted to get hold of Job, to worry and destroy him. He asked the Lord for an opportunity. God, having purposes of His own to accomplish concerning Job and others, gave the permission but set a limit at Job’s life: “You may take his cows; you may take his camels; you may take his children so far as their earthly health and existence is concerned; you may touch Job himself and cover his body with loathsome ulcers, but the life of Job, the soul of Job, the spiritual standing of Job in the sight of God, oh, devil, you cannot touch.” There God puts an impassable barrier.

In the same direction are the words of the Psalmist:

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say: If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul; then the proud waters had gone over our soul; blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we are escaped. . . .” (Psalm 124:1-7)

Leave out the determinative providence of God, that feature of God’s providence that sets a limit to the wrath of evil men and the devil, and the foundation would be removed, and then what could the righteous do?

Charles Spurgeon Writes On Everlasting Consolation

Charles H. Spurgeon

Quoting Charles H. Spurgeon on 2 Thessalonians 2:16:

“Consolation.” There is music in the word: like David’s harp, it charms away the evil spirit of melancholy. It was a distinguished honor to Barnabas to be called “the son of consolation”; nay, it is one of the illustrious names of a greater than Barnabas, for the Lord Jesus is “the consolation of Israel.” “Everlasting consolation”-here is the cream of all, for the eternity of comfort is the crown and glory of it. What is this “everlasting consolation”? It includes a sense of pardoned sin. A Christian man has received in his heart the witness of the Spirit that his iniquities are put away like a cloud, and his transgressions like a thick cloud. If sin be pardoned, is not that an everlasting consolation? Next, the Lord gives His people an abiding sense of acceptance in Christ. The Christian knows that God looks upon him as standing in union with Jesus. Union to the risen Lord is a consolation of the most abiding order; it is, in fact, everlasting. Let sickness prostrate us, have we not seen hundreds of believers as happy in the weakness of disease as they would have been in the strength of hale and blooming health? Let death’s arrows pierce us to the heart, our comfort dies not, for have not our ears full often heard the songs of saints as they have rejoiced because the living love of God was shed abroad in their hearts in dying moments? Yes, a sense of acceptance in the Beloved is an everlasting consolation. Moreover, the Christian has a conviction of his security. God has promised to save those who trust in Christ: the Christian does trust in Christ, and he believes that God will be as good as His word, and will save him. He feels that he is safe by virtue of his being bound up with the person and work of Jesus. (Morning and Evening Devotions)

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