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The Israelites would ask for proof that the God of their fathers was with Moses. Other translations are, "I will be what I will be," "I am the existing One," and "I cause to be what comes to pass. It is an assertion of authority, a confession of an essential reality, and thus an entirely appropriate response to the question Moses poses. Moses had asked, "Who am I? The issue was not who Moses was, but who God is.

I believe God was saying, "I am the God of your forefathers, who proved Myself long ago as completely adequate for all their needs; so it really doesn't matter who you are, Moses! Pharaoh, too, then learned God's complete adequacy. The real issue, then, was, and still is, who God is.

There is an interesting interchange involving identity in this conversation. Moses said, "Who am I? He said the Israelites would ask, "Who is He? In effect, God was saying, "It's Me! Now He had reappeared, and would demonstrate to them Who He was—in the plagues and the Exodus to come! This is the first reference to "the elders of Israel" v. God told Moses to request Pharaoh's permission for the Israelites to leave Egypt v. Pharaoh knew perfectly well that this implied no return; indeed, since Israel was a tolerated alien people, he would have no claim on their return, once they had left his territory.

The miraculous signs God proceeded to give Moses would demonstrate to the Israelites that their God was again actively working for them v. God reassured Moses that the Israelites would believe him v. Probably there were several reasons the Israelites were to ask their Egyptian neighbors for jewelry "articles of silver and articles of gold" and "clothing" v. By doing so, they would humiliate the Egyptians further. They would also obtain materials and tools needed for the wilderness march and the construction of the tabernacle. Moreover, they would receive partial payment for the labor the Egyptians had stolen from them during their years of slavery cf.

The writer stated God's sovereignty over Pharaoh in verses God demonstrated it in the plagues that followed chs. The narrative deals next with Moses' own authority, and how that is to be made clear. His mind was filled with imaginary scenarios. God gave Moses the ability to perform three miracles, in order to convince the Israelites that the God of their fathers had appeared to him. They also served to bolster Moses' faith. Moses had left Egypt and the Israelites with a clouded reputation, under the sentence of death, and he had been away for a long time.

He needed to prove to his brethren that they could trust and believe him. Not only were these miracles strong proofs of God's power, but they appear to have had special significance for the Israelites as well cf. God probably intended the first miracle, of the staff and serpent vv. This was the power before which Moses had previously fled. Moses' shepherd "staff" now became a symbol of authority in his hand, a virtual "scepter. The "serpent" represented the deadly satanic power of Egypt, that sought to kill the Israelites, and Moses in particular.

The Pharaohs wore a religiously symbolic metal cobra around their heads. It was a common symbol of the nation of Egypt. However, the serpent also stood for the great enemy of man behind that power—Satan—who had been the foe of the seed of the woman since the Fall Gen. Moses' ability to turn the serpent into his "staff"—by seizing its "tail"—would have encouraged the Israelites. With these miraculous proofs, they ought to have believed that God had enabled him to overcome the cunning and might of Egypt, and to exercise authority over its fearsome power.

This was a sign that God would bless Moses' leadership. The second miracle, of the leprous hand vv. But first, He would punish the Egyptians with crippling afflictions the plagues. Presently the Israelites were unclean because of their confinement in wicked Egypt. Moses' hand was the instrument of his strength. As such, it was a good symbol of Moses, himself being the instrument of God's strength in delivering the Israelites, and Israel, God's instrument for blessing the world. The miraculous restoration to health of Moses' hand may have also attested to God's delegation of divine power to him.

The third miracle, of the water turned into blood v. The Egyptians identified the Nile River with the Egyptian god Osiris, and credited it with all good and prosperity in their national life. Moses possessed the power to change the life-giving water of the Nile into blood. Josephus wrote that the color of the water was that of blood, "but it brought upon those that ventured to drink of it, great pains and bitter torment.

Each of these signs attested to Yahweh's creative power. Normally at least two witnesses were necessary to establish credibility under the Mosaic Law Deut. A third witness further strengthened the veracity of the testimony. Here, God gave Moses three "witnesses" to confirm His prophet's divine calling and enablement. God entrusted Moses with His powerful word and endowed him with His mighty power.

Moses was the first prophet with the power to perform miracles. Moses' claim to be "slow of speech and … of tongue" not handicapped, but lacking in eloquence was a thinly veiled excuse, by which Moses hoped to escape his calling. Stephen said Moses was "eloquent" Acts Apparently Moses felt he did not have sufficient oratorical ability to persuade the Israelite elders or Pharaoh "I have never been eloquent," v.

So Moses' limitation was psychological, not physical. Again God reminded Moses that He was the Creator. This pattern is a metaphor of theological assertion in the Bible, and everywhere it occurs, its fundamental message is the same: God's word, God's rule, God's teaching, God's deliverance come not from man, no matter who that man may be, but from God. Even the election of Israel makes this point. Indeed that election is probably the most convincing of all the occurrences of the pattern. Self-depreciation may lead to the marring of a useful life.

We must think soberly of ourselves, not too lowly, as not too extravagantly. The one talent must not be buried in the earth. Swindoll restated Moses' four objections to God's call: "I don't have all the answers" , "I may not have their [the Israelites'] respect" , "I'm slow in my expressions" , and "I'm not as qualified as others" Unable to excuse himself, Moses finally admitted that he did not want to obey God "send the message by whomever [else] You will"; vv.

God became angry with Moses because he refused to obey. However, the sovereign Lord would not let His reluctant servant go cf. Instead, He provided a "mouthpiece" for Moses, a press secretary, a human loudspeaker, in his older brother by three years, Aaron "he will be as a mouth for you"; cf. This act was both an aid to Moses and a discipline for his disobedience. On the one hand, Aaron was an encouragement to Moses, but on the other, he proved to be a source of frustration as a mediator e.

Moses would be as God to Aaron because he would tell him what to say, just as God would tell Moses what to say. It would not matter if it were dumb altogether, and Aaron's mouth, as well. Yahweh will be there, and Yahweh will take responsibility for both the message and the messengers. The staff in the hands of Moses and Aaron is a symbol of this powerful Presence. As time passed, Moses grew more confident and communicative, and increasingly took his proper place as Israel's leader.

Moses apparently concluded, even after his experience at the burning bush, that there was no hope for the Israelites "let me go, that I may return … and see if they are still alive". This section makes it possible for us to gain great insight into Moses' feelings about God's promises to his forefathers and about his own life. Moses had become thoroughly disillusioned. He regarded himself as a failure, the objects of his ministry as hopeless, and God as unfaithful, uncaring, and unable to deliver His people. He had learned his own inability to deliver Israel, but he did not yet believe in God's ability to do so.

Even the miraculous revelation of God at the burning bush, and the miracles that God enabled Moses to perform, did not convince him of God's purpose and power. One supernatural revelation, even one involving miracles, does not usually change convictions that a person has built up over years of experience. We not only need to believe in our own inability to produce supernatural change, as Moses did, but we also need to believe in God's ability to produce it. Moses had not yet learned the second lesson, which God proceeded to teach him. God spoke to him again, this time in Midian, and sent him back to Egypt, assuring His servant that everyone who "[was] seeking" his "life" earlier was "dead.

Verse 20 describes what Moses did after God's full revelation to him, in Midian, that continues in verses In chronological order, verse 20 follows verse God here was giving Moses a preview of all that would take place in his dealings with Pharaoh vv. When God said that He would "harden [Pharaoh's] heart" v. God made Pharaoh's heart progressively harder as the king repeatedly chose to disobey God's will cf. In the last five passages it is invariably stated that 'Jehovah hardened … Pharaoh's heart.

But if, in order to determine the precise relation of the divine to the human causality, we look more carefully at the two classes of expressions, we shall find that not only in connection with the first sign, by which Moses and Aaron were to show their credentials as the messengers of Jehovah, sent with the demand that he would let the people of Israel go , but after the first five penal miracles, the hardening is invariably represented as his own. Not as though God took pleasure in the death of the wicked! No; God desires that the wicked should repent of his evil way and live Ezek. As God causes His earthly sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust Matt.

In this twofold manner God produces hardness, not only permissive but effective ; i. This is what we find in the case of Pharaoh. See Romans for the New Testament expression of this truth. Even though God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart was only the complement of Pharaoh's hardening his own heart, God revealed only the former action in verse God's purpose in this revelation was to prepare Moses for the opposition he would face. He also intended to strengthen Moses's faith, by obviating any questions that might arise in his mind—concerning God's omniscience —as his conflict with Pharaoh intensified.

If one's heart was 'heavy' with sin, that person was judged. A stone beetle scarab was placed on the heart of the deceased person to suppress his natural tendency to confess sin which would subject himself to judgment. This 'hardening of the heart' by the scarab would result in salvation for the deceased. Instead of his heart being suppressed so that he was silent about his sin and thus delivered, his heart became hardened, he confessed his sin Ex.

For the Egyptians 'hardening of the heart' resulted in silence absence of confession of sin and therefore salvation. But God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart resulted in acknowledgment of sin and in judgment. The real question that God's dealings with Pharaoh raises is: "Does man have a free will? We have many examples of this fact in analogous relationships: A child has limited freedom under his or her parent.

An adult has limited freedom under his or her human government. Likewise, individuals have limited freedom under divine government. God is sovereign, but we are responsible for the decisions God allows us to make cf. John ; , 36; ; ; ; Rom. I would say, No, they have been right at least in principle to sense such a dimension, but wrong to see the question of divine determination in human affairs arising only in connection with Pharaoh's heart-hardening.

For the whole story may be seen in these terms—Moses and the people, as well as Pharaoh, exist and act within a framework of divine 'causality. Are they manipulated by God? Have they freewill? Are they 'pre-destined? No one in the story entirely escapes God's control or its repercussions, whether directly or indirectly. Moses who sits removed in Midian finds himself forced by Yahweh into a direct servitude but is nevertheless allowed to develop a measure of freedom.

Pharaoh Egypt exalts his own mastery and is cast into a total and mortal servitude. The people of Egypt and Israel are buffeted this way and that in varying indirect roles of servitude. An exodus story that saw no murmuring, no rebellion or potential for rebellion by Moses and by Israel, would indeed be a fairy tale, a piece of soft romance. But to talk of God and 'insecurity' in the same breath is also to see that the gift of human 'freedom' to some if not to others itself creates external pressures on God which in turn circumscribe his own action. In short, in his relations with humankind, God's freedom is circumscribed by humankind just as the freedom of humankind is circumscribed by God.

Verses summarize Moses' future messages to Pharaoh on several different occasions. Israel was God's "firstborn" son, in the sense that "he" was the nation, among all others, on which God had chosen to place His special blessing. Israel was first in rank and preeminence, by virtue of God's sovereign choice to bless Abraham's seed. The essence of the conflict between Pharaoh and Yahweh was the issue of sovereignty.

Sovereignty refers to supreme power and authority. Regarding God, it refers to the fact that He has supreme power and authority, more than any other entity. Sovereignty does not specify how one exercises supreme power and authority. Specifically, it does not mean that God exercises His sovereignty by directly controlling everything that happens. Scripture reveals that this is not how He exercises His sovereignty. Rather, He allows people some freedom, yet maintains supreme power and authority. Were Egypt's gods , or Israel's God , sovereign? This issue stands out clearly in the following verses.

It was god-given, established when the world was created; and it continued to form part of the universal order. In the person of Pharaoh a superhuman being had taken charge of the affairs of man. Pharaoh was his descendant and his successor. Pharaoh would not release Yahweh's metaphorical "son," Israel "you [Pharaoh] have refused to let him go".

Therefore, Yahweh would take subdue Pharaoh's metaphorical son, namely, the Egyptians as a people, and even destroy his physical son, thus proving His sovereignty. Evidently God afflicted Moses "sought to put him to death"; perhaps making him very ill because he had not been obedient to Him; Moses had failed to circumcise at least one of his two sons The Midianites practiced circumcision on a groom right before his marriage instead of circumcising male infants.

The Egyptians practiced partial circumcision on adults. God was ready to carry out this sentence on Moses for his failure cf. In doing this, God was making Moses face his own incomplete obedience—which reflected his lack of faith in God. God afflicted Moses, but whether He did so naturally or supernaturally is unclear and unimportant. He was getting him to acknowledge His sovereignty. Zipporah performed the operation at her husband's insistence. It is obvious that she did not approve of it. Most scholars believe that Zipporah "cut off her son's foreskin and threw it at Moses' feet.

Or the circumcision may have left the boy in such pain that he could not continue the trip to Egypt. We have no record of exactly when Moses sent his wife and sons back to Midian, but we read of them rejoining Moses later at Sinai The "bridegroom of blood" figure v. It was as though God had given Moses a second chance, and he had begun life as her husband all over again, as a bridegroom cf.

She therefore abandoned her claim on Moses, and made him available dedicated or consecrated him to Yahweh's service. Like Jacob before him, Moses must undergo a night struggle with his mysterious God before he can become a worthy instrument of YHWH and can enjoy a completely satisfactory relationship with his brother. In all this, Moses, like Jacob, is not only an historical person, but also a paradigm. The Israelite people, the people whom YHWH has encountered and whom he will slay with pestilence and sword if they go not out into the wilderness to serve him v.

Since for the sin of the Pharaoh his son's blood will be shed, it is appropriate that the blood which saves Moses should not be his own, but that of his son. It is also fitting that this blood should be blood shed during the rite of circumcision. Since before the Passover lamb is eaten the participants must all be circumcised, it is right that the neglect of Gershom's circumcision though this omission is not the cause of the attack should be repaired. The boy cannot be circumcised by his father, who is otherwise engaged, so Zipporah takes it upon herself, acting on behalf of her absent father, Jethro hence the words to Moses 'You are my son-in-law by virtue of blood, the blood of circumcision' , to perform the rite, thus showing herself to be a worthy member of the elite class typified by Rahab the Canaanite harlot and Ruth the Moabitess—the foreign woman who puts Israelites to shame and earns the right to be held up as a model for imitation.

Why does she touch Moses' raglayim ["feet"] with the severed foreskin? Although, as I have argued, Moses is to be thought of as already circumcised, this action of his wife is, I have suggested, to be construed as a symbolic act of re-circumcision: Moses as representative of the people as a whole is thus symbolically prepared for the imminent Passover celebration.

The vocation of the Israelite is a matter of high moment. One's reluctance to serve YHWH wholeheartedly has to be broken down in a fearsome lone struggle in the darkness, and even then before one can meet YHWH there must be a twofold shedding of blood, the blood of circumcision and that of the Passover lamb. Furthermore, the pride of the male Israelite in his high vocation must needs be qualified, by reflecting that in his mysterious strategies for the world YHWH often employs in major roles those who are neither male nor even Israelite. These few verses underscore a very important principle: Normally, before God will use a person publicly, he or she must first be obedient to God at home cf.

Moses was apparently on his way from Midian back to Egypt when Aaron met him. Compare the reunion of Jacob and Esau Gen. The Israelites "believed" what Moses and Aaron told them, and what their miracles confirmed. They believed that the "God of their fathers" had appeared to Moses, and had sent him to lead them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land v. The relationship of faith and worship is clear in verse "the people believed … they bowed low and worshiped. In this conflict, God displayed His superior power and sovereignty over Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt. God strengthened the faith of His people, so that they would trust and obey Him, and thereby realize all of His gracious purposes for them as a nation.

God also used these events to heighten anticipation of, and appreciation for, the redemption He would provide. The Israelites would forever after look back on the Exodus as the greatest demonstration of God's love at work for them. These conflicts show how divine sovereignty works with human freedom. God exercises His sovereignty by allowing people a measure of freedom to make choices, for which he holds them responsible.

They also clarify how God hands people over to the consequences of the sins they insist on pursuing—as punishment for their sins. Pharaoh's response to Moses and Aaron's initial request — By Egyptian law, the Israelites could have worshipped only the gods of Egypt while in the land, but they had to leave Egypt to worship a non-Egyptian God. Moses' request was a request to exercise a basic human right, namely, freedom of worship.

On this topic, useful background comes from the extensive, fragmentary and often very detailed records kept for the activities of the royal workmen who lived at the Deir el-Medina village , who cut the royal tombs in the Valleys of the Kings and Queens in Western Thebes, c. Sometimes reasons for absence are given. In Ancient Egypt—as elsewhere—major national festivals usually main feasts of chief gods were also public holidays. Then, each main city had its own holidays on main feasts of the principal local god s.

Besides all this, the royal workmen at Deir el-Medina can be seen claiming time off for all kinds of reasons, including 'offering to his god,' ' off for his feast'; even 'brewing for his feast' or for a specific deity. Not only individuals but groups of men together could get time off for such observances. And a full-scale feast could last several days. So, when Moses requested time off from Pharaoh, for the Hebrews to go off and celebrate a feast to the Lord God, it is perhaps not too surprising that Pharaoh's reaction was almost 'not another holiday!

Pharaoh was not only "the king of Egypt," but the Egyptians regarded him as a divine person; he was worshipped as "a god" v. He knew i. If Yahweh had identified Himself with these slaves, and if He had not, by now, already delivered them, why should Pharaoh fear and obey Him? They were accustomed to receive Divine titles and honours, and to act as irresponsible despots.

Their will was indisputable, and all the world seemed to exist for no other reason than [to] minister to their state. I do not know the L ORD …"] form the motivation for the events that follow, events designed to demonstrate who the Lord is. Throughout the plague narratives we see the Egyptians learning precisely this lesson ; , 27; As the narratives progress, the larger purpose also emerges. The plagues which God had sent against the Egyptians were 'to be recounted to your son and your son's son … so that you may know that I am the L ORD.

In their second appeal to Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron used milder terms v. They presented themselves not as ambassadors of Yahweh but as representatives of their brethren. They did not mention the name "Yahweh," that was unknown to Pharaoh, or "Israel," that would have struck him as arrogant.

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They did not command but requested "Please …". Moreover, they gave reasons for their request: their God had appeared to them "met with us" , and they feared His wrath if they disobeyed Him "He will fall upon us with pestilence or with sword". Acts ]. The Egyptians regarded the sacrifices that the Israelites would offer as unacceptable, since almost all forms of life were sacred in Egypt.

They believed their gods manifested themselves through cows, goats, and many other animals. In addition to these there were anthropomorphic gods; that is, men in the prime of life such as Annen, Atum, or Osiris. God had only said they would serve Him in that mountain. In the OT the pilgrim feasts to the sanctuary three times a year incorporated the ideas of serving the L ORD and keeping the commands.

So the words here simply use the more general idea of appearing before their God. And, they would go to the desert because there was no homeland yet. Only there could they be free. Pharaoh's reply to Moses and Aaron's second appeal was even harsher than his response to their first command v.

Their aggressive approach may have been what God initially used to cause Pharaoh to harden his heart. From then on, the Israelites chopped up stubble and mixed it with the clay to strengthen their bricks, because they were no longer provided "straw" for this purpose. By contrast, here in the cry of the people is before Pharaoh.

It is as if the author wants to show that Pharaoh was standing in God's way and thus provides another motivation for the plagues which follow. The Israelites now turned on Moses, just as the Israelites in Jesus' day turned against their Savior. Why did You ever send me? He, too, needed the demonstrations of God's power that followed. It was God's work, and Moses was sent by God to do it. This section climaxes with the apparent failure of Yahweh's plan to rescue Israel.

This desperate scenario provides the pessimistic backdrop, and the bleak circumstances, for the supernatural demonstrations of Yahweh's power that follow. The writer gave the credentials of God and His representatives, Moses and Aaron, in these verses. God proceeded to remind Moses of His promises to the patriarchs, and to reveal more of Himself by expounding another one of His names:. Exodus is not saying that the patriarchs were totally ignorant of the name Yahweh.

The occurrences of "El Shaddai" in Genesis are in ; ; ; ; ; and partially in The name occurs 30 times in Job. In the former case, it would mean "God the Nourisher," and in the latter "God of the Mountain. Moses was having a terrible day; things were going from bad to worse, but the L ORD reminded Moses five times to keep focused on who He was vv. Get our eyes back on Me again. Remember who I am again. In this revelation, God promised to do three things for Israel:.

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He would deliver the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage v. Moses communicated this in a threefold expression, suggesting the completeness of the deliverance: "I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians … I will deliver you from their bondage … I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.

This took place at Sinai He would bring Israel into the Promised Land "I will bring you to the land … and I will give it to you for a possession," v. Note the repetition of the phrase "I will" seven times in these verses, emphasizing the fact that God would certainly do these things for Israel. The Jews regarded "seven" as the symbolical number of the covenant.

God made a covenant with the patriarchs to give them the land of Canaan Ex He remembered his covenant when he heard the cry of the Israelites in Egyptian bondage v. He is now going to deliver Israel from their bondage and take them to himself as a people and be their God v. He will also bring them into the land which he swore to give to their fathers v.

The die is cast for the remainder of the events narrated in the Pentateuch. He failed to grasp the full significance of what God had just revealed to him. Jesus' disciples, and we, had and have the same problem. It was God , not Moses, who would bring the people out of Egypt. They have been thus epitomised [ sic ]: Lack of fitness, 'who am I, that I should go? She must have been a remarkable woman. Pharaoh was to be the executor of that will. Aaron would be Moses' "prophet" as he stood between Moses and Pharaoh, and communicated Moses' and God's will to the king.

Verse 1 helps us identify the essential meaning of the Hebrew word nabhi "prophet"; cf. This word occurs almost times in the Old Testament, and "in its fullest significance meant 'to speak fervently for God. Verses 1 and 2 repeat Repetition is a feature of Hebrew prose that shows emphasis. God referred to the miracles Moses would do as "signs" i. The glory of God was at stake. The Egyptians would acknowledge God's faithfulness and sovereign power—in His delivering the Israelites from their bondage and fulfilling their holy calling.

God's intention was to bless the Egyptians through Israel Gen. Nevertheless the Egyptians would, in the final analysis, acknowledge Yahweh's sovereignty. The writer included the ages of Moses and Aaron 80 and 83 respectively as part of God's formal certification of His messengers v. Moody wittily said that Moses spent forty years in Pharaoh's court thinking he was somebody; forty years in the desert learning he was nobody; and forty years showing what God can do with somebody who found out he was nobody.

Pharaoh requested that Moses and Aaron perform "a miracle" to prove their divine authority, since they claimed that God had sent them vv. Their ultimate purpose was to reveal the greatness of the power and authority of God to the Egyptians — in order to bring Pharaoh and the Egyptians into subjection to God. The Jews preserved the names of the chief "magicians," even though the Old Testament did not record them. Paul said they were "Jannes" and "Jambres" 2 Tim.

These were not sleight-of-hand artists, but "wise men" who were evidently members of the priestly caste cf. The power of their demonic gods lay in their "secret arts" v. They were able to do miracles in the power of Satan 1 Cor. The rod "staff" , again, represented regal authority, and implied that Yahweh, not Pharaoh, was sovereign cf. There are at least three possibilities regarding the Egyptian magicians' rods becoming snakes: First, the magicians may have received power to create life from Satan , with God's permission.

Second, God may have given them this power directly. Third, their rods may have actually been rigid snakes that, when cast to the ground, were seen to be what they were: "serpents. Some interpreters believe the Hebrew word tannin "serpent"; cf. Deut ; Ps. This is not a popular view.

Aaron's miracle should have convinced Pharaoh of Yahweh's sovereignty, but he chose to harden his heart in unbelief and disobedience. Consequently God sent the plagues that followed. The plagues were penal; God sent them to punish Pharaoh for his refusal to obey God, and to move persuade him to obey Yahweh. They involved natural occurrences rather than completely unknown phenomena.

At various times of the year: gnats, flies, frogs, etc. Even the pollution of the Nile, darkness, and death were common to the Egyptians. Some interpreters have concluded that the plagues were the result of purely natural occurrences, such as the conjunction of planets. Moses set the time for the arrival and departure of some. Some afflicted only the Egyptians. The severity of the plagues increased consistently. They also carried a moral purpose ; ; ; This was the first of four periods of miracles in biblical history that continued through the ministry of Joshua.

The others were: the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, Christ and the apostles, and the two witnesses in the Tribulation. God has done miracles throughout history, and He still does miracles today. But these were periods when He gave select individuals the ability to do them in order to authenticate His messages.

Here the plagues were signs to Pharaoh and the Egyptians that the God of the Israelites had spoken.

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God designed these miracles to teach the Egyptians that Yahweh sovereignly controls the forces of nature. Now, it will focus on preparing Pharaoh for it. The theological emphasis for exposition of the entire series of plagues may be: The sovereign Lord is fully able to deliver his people from the oppression of the world so that they might worship and serve him alone. The Lord also used the plagues to teach the Israelites that He is the only true and living God.

Ezekiel tells us that some of the Israelites had begun to worship the gods of Egypt. Psalm says that they did not understand God's wonders in Egypt or remember His many mercies. Some writers have offered a possible schedule for the plagues, based on the times of year certain events mentioned in the text would have normally taken place in Egypt. For example, lice and flies normally appeared in the hottest summer months.

Barley formed into ears of grain and flax budded in January-February. Locusts were a problem in early spring. The Jews continued after the Exodus to celebrate the Passover in the spring. This schedule suggests that the plagues began in June and ended the following April. Even to this day we are not completely sure of the total number of gods which they worshipped. Most lists include somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty gods …" []. Many students of the plagues have noticed that they appeared in sets of three.

The accounts of the first plague in each set the first, fourth, and seventh plagues each contain a purpose statement in which God explained to Moses His reason and aim for that set of plagues cf. These plagues also all took place in the morning, possibly suggesting a new beginning. God had announced His overall purpose for the plagues in The first set of three plagues apparently affected both the Egyptians and the Israelites, whereas the others evidently touched only the Egyptians. The plagues became increasingly destructive to the Egyptians, and thus gave them a growing appreciation for Yahweh's sovereignty.

The first three caused inconvenience, the second three were more annoying, the third three proved costly, and the last one was devastating. The first, second, and fourth plagues involved the Nile River, Egypt's lifeline. The Egyptian magicians were able to duplicate only the first two plagues, but not the remaining eight, and in the sixth one they were incapacitated and could not stand.

Pharaoh granted Moses some permission after the second, fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth plagues, reflecting their growing severity. Only the last and worst plague involved a divinely sent angel who executed God's will; God accomplished all the previous ones through Moses and Aaron. The first mighty act of God serves in the narrative as a paradigm of the nine plagues that follow. Striking the Nile with the rod suggested dominion over creation and all the gods of Egyptian mythology.

The Egyptians linked many of their gods with the life-giving force of the Nile. The tenth plague is unique, in that it is both a part of the narrative of Exodus as a whole, and is a mighty act of God in itself. Evidently Pharaoh had his morning "devotions" on the "bank of the [sacred] Nile" River. Bathing in the Nile supposedly empowered Pharaoh. He makes that a scourge to us which we make a competitor with him. We could perhaps interpret the statement that the "water … turned to blood" v.

Moses may have meant that the water appeared to be blood. The Hebrew word translated "blood" means blood, so a literal meaning is possible. Arguments for the Nile not turning to literal blood follow:. Each of these is a natural event that occurs in a miraculous way, in quantity or timing. The change of the waters into blood would not be a natural event. A change of the water to actual blood would be out of step with this pattern.

An appropriate miracle of natural timing might be that God caused torrential rains to flood and pollute the sources of the Nile to create this plague at the time it was needed. Red soil and algae would make the waters of the Nile red, unfit for drinking and deficient in oxygen for the fish. Understood figuratively or literally, either way, a real miracle took place, as is clear from the description of the effects this plague had on the Egyptians, and on the fish in the Nile.

The Egyptian wizards were seemingly able to duplicate this wonder, but they could not undo its effects. One is trickery. The Nile was considered sacred by the Egyptians. Many of their gods were associated either directly or indirectly with this river and its productivity.

For example, the great Khnum was considered the guardian of the Nile sources. Hapi was believed to be the 'spirit of the Nile' and its 'dynamic essence. The Egyptians believed that the river Nile was his bloodstream. In the light of this latter expression, it is appropriate indeed that the Lord should turn the Nile to blood!

It is not only said that the fish in the river died but that the 'river stank,' and the Egyptians were not able to use the water of that river. That statement is especially significant in the light of the expressions which occur in the 'Hymn to the Nile': 'The bringer of food, rich in provisions, creator of all good, lord of majesty, sweet of fragrance'. Crocodiles were forced to leave the Nile.

One wonders what worshipers would have thought of Hapi the god of the Nile who was sometimes manifest in the crocodile. Pierre Montet relates the following significant observation:. He was worshipped in his temple where his statue was erected, and venerated as a sacred animal as he splashed about in his pool. A lady of high rank would kneel down and, without the slightest trace of disgust, would drink from the pool in which the crocodile wallowed. Ordinary crocodiles were mummified throughout the whole of Egypt and placed in underground caverns, like the one called the Cavern of the Crocodiles in middle Egypt.

Those who venerated Neith, the eloquent warlike goddess who took a special interest in the lates , the largest fish to be found in the Nile, would have had second thoughts about the power of that goddess. Nathor was supposed to have protected the chromis , a slightly smaller fish. Those Egyptians who depended heavily on fish and on the Nile would indeed have found great frustration in a plague of this nature. This continues for three months, until the waters begin to abate, but the water, meanwhile, is wholesome and drinkable.

The miracle of involved three elements by which it differed from the accustomed phenomenon: the water was changed by the smiting of Moses' rod; the water became undrinkable; and the condition lasted just seven days v. The commentators have interpreted the reference to blood—being throughout all Egypt "in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone" v. Others think it refers to water in all kinds of vessels used for holding water.

Still others believe Moses described the water in trees and in wells. However, this expression could refer to the water kept in buildings, that the Egyptians normally constructed out of wood and stone. This is a "synecdoche," a figure of speech in which a part stands for the whole or the whole represents a part. The quotation above supports the idea that God even changed the water stored in buildings to blood.

That point, concisely summarized, is that Yahweh powerfully demonstrates his Presence to a Pharaoh prevented from believing so that Israel may come to full belief. Before the second plague, Moses gave Pharaoh a warning v. These associations caused the Egyptians to deify the frog and make the theophany of the goddess Heqt a frog. Heqt was the wife of the great god Khnum. She was the symbol of resurrection and the emblem of fertility. It was also believed that Heqt assisted women in childbirth. The goddess Heqt "… who is depicted in the form of a woman with a frog's head, was held to blow the breath of life into the nostrils of the bodies that her husband fashioned on the potter's wheel from the dust of the earth …" [].

The presence of the frogs normally would have been something pleasant and desirable, but on this occasion quite the opposite was true. The frogs came out of the rivers in great abundance and moved across the land into the houses, the bedchambers, the beds, and even moved upon the people themselves v. One can only imagine the frustration brought by such a multiplication of these creatures.

They were probably everywhere underfoot bringing distress to the housewives who attempted to clear the house of them only to find that they made their way into the kneading troughs and even into the beds. It must have been a unique experience indeed to come home from a long day's work, slip into bed only to find that it has already been occupied by slimy, cold frogs! Whatever popularity the goddess Heqt must have enjoyed prior to this time would have been greatly diminished with the multiplication of these creatures who at this point must have tormented her devotees to no end.

Aaron's rod "staff," v. The Egyptian magicians were able to bring up frogs, too v. How the Egyptian magicians produced the frogs is a mystery, but it seems that this was not just sleight-of-hand trickery. This may be an argument to support the view that all of the magicians' "miracles" were supernatural. Satanic power does not generally work for the welfare of humanity but is basically destructive. To impress upon Pharaoh that a personal God was performing these miraculous plagues v. Yahweh was in charge of the very territory over which Pharaoh regarded himself as sovereign.

The Hebrew word translated "gnats" kinnim probably refers, not to lice or fleas, but to gnats. Kaiser suggested that mosquitoes may be in view. They were "… a species of gnats, so small as to be hardly visible to the eye, but with a sting which, according to Philo and Origin, causes a most painful irritation of the skin. They even creep into the eyes and nose, and after the harvest they rise in great swarms from the inundated rice fields.

Moses evidently used the language of appearance here a metaphor. The magicians failed to reproduce this miracle v. They had to confess that it was of divine origin and not the result of Moses and Aaron's human ability. The "finger of God" v. It is probably another synecdoche , as well as an anthropomorphism a depiction of God in human terms. Here the "finger of God," a part, represents the totality, namely, all His power. See 1 Samuel and Psalm , where the "hand of God" also pictures His power.

Their confession plays an important role in uncovering the writer's real purpose in recounting these events. The magicians gave credit to "God" [or "gods," Elohim , not Yahweh. They did not ascribe this miracle to the God of the Israelites, but were only willing to say it had some supernatural origin. It is entirely possible, however, that the plague was designed to humiliate the official priesthood in the land, for it will be noted in verse 17 that these creatures irritated both man and beast, and this included 'all the land of Egypt.

Daily rites were performed by a group of priests known as the Uab or 'pure ones. They were circumcised, shaved the hair from their heads and bodies, washed frequently, and were dressed in beautiful linen robes. They, like their worshipers, were inflicted with the pestilence of this occasion. Their prayers were made ineffective by their own personal impurity with the presence of gnats on their bodies.

They controlled to a large degree, the minds and hearts of the people. The Egyptian priests wore animal masks representing various gods, to help the people understand which god the mask portrayed, and their activities. To make this the more obvious, the fourth and fifth plagues were merely announced by Moses to the king.

They were not brought on through the mediation of either himself or Aaron, but were sent by Jehovah at the appointed time; no doubt for the simple purpose of precluding the king and his wise men from the excuse which unbelief might still suggest, viz. Moses announced this plague to Pharaoh like the first, in the morning beside the Nile River v. God demonstrated His sovereignty over space, as well as nature and time, by keeping the flies out of "Goshen" and off the Israelites v.

The exact location of Goshen is still unknown, but its general location seems to have been in either the eastern part of the delta region of Egypt cf. God miraculously distinguished between the two groups of people, primarily to emphasize to Pharaoh that Israel's God was the author of the plagues, and that He was sovereign over the whole land of Egypt v. For the first time, Pharaoh gave permission for the Israelites to sacrifice to Yahweh v. Pharaoh admitted that Yahweh was specifically the God of Israel " your God" , but he did not admit that he had an obligation to obey Him.

The Egyptians regarded the animals the Israelites would have sacrificed as holy "what is an abomination to the Egyptians" to sacrifice , and as manifestations of their gods. Consequently the sacrifices would have been an abomination. The "abomination" that the Israelites' sacrifice would have constituted to the Egyptians, may have also consisted in the method by which the Israelites would have sacrificed these animals.

The Egyptians themselves practiced animal sacrifices, but they had rigorous procedures for cleansing their sacrificial animals before they killed them, which the Israelites would not have observed. Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites leave Egypt, to sacrifice temporarily in the wilderness, after Moses reminded him of the problems involved in sacrificing in Egypt v. Yet they were "not [to] go very far" from Goshen. Again Pharaoh asked Moses to pray that his God would remove the plague "make supplication for me"; v. Even though the L ORD graciously "removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh," his "heart was hardened" again, and he changed his mind vv.

This plague, apparently some kind of disease like anthrax , was more severe than the preceding ones, in that it affected the personal property of the Egyptians for the first time. None can sin or suffer alone. No man liveth or dieth to himself. Our sins send their vibrations through creation, and infect the very beasts. All the other plagues had caused the Egyptians irritation or pain to their bodies, but now God began to reduce their wealth.

A large number of bulls and cows were considered sacred in Egypt. In the central area of the Delta, four provinces chose as their emblems various types of bulls and cows. A necropolis of sacred bulls was discovered near Memphis which place was known for its worship of both Ptah and a sacred Apis bull. The Apis bull was considered the sacred animal of the God Ptah; therefore, the associated worship at the site of Memphis is readily understood.

There was at any one time only one sacred Apis bull. As soon as it died another was chosen to take its place, an event that attracted a great deal of attention in the area of Memphis. The worship of this deity was centered mainly in the city of Denderah although its popularity is witnessed by representations both in upper and lower Egypt. This goddess is often depicted as a cow suckling the king giving him divine nourishment. In upper Egypt the goddess appears as a woman with the head of a cow. In another town—Hathor was a woman, but her head was adorned with two horns of a cow with a sun disc between them.

Another deity associated with the effects of the plague would be Mnevis, a sacred bull venerated at Heliopolis and associated with the god Re. In a statue made of sandstone was excavated representing a cow and Amenhotep II leaning his head under its head; he is also depicted kneeling under a cow, drinking its divine milk.

He is thus seen as child and slave of the cow goddess. What a threat this must have been to him! The expression "all the livestock" v. Some cattle survived this plague cf. The only new element in this fifth report is the notice that Pharaoh "sent" messengers to Goshen to check on the predicted exclusion of the Israelites' livestock from the epidemic v.

The "soot from a kiln" v. First, the soot was black , and symbolized the blackness of skin in the disease, linking the cause with the effect. Second, the "kiln" was probably one of the furnaces in which the Israelites baked bricks for Pharaoh as his slaves. These furnaces became a symbol of Israel's slavery ; God converted the suffering of the Israelites in "the furnace of Egypt," so that they and what they produced became a source of suffering to the Egyptians.

This is called by the Egyptians Hamm el Nil , or the heat of the inundation. According to Dr. Bilharz , it is a rash, which occurs in summer, chiefly towards the close at the time of the overflowing of the Nile, and produces a burning and pricking sensation upon the skin; or, in Seetzen's words, 'it consists of small, red, and slightly rounded elevations in the skin, which give strong twitches and slight stinging sensations, resembling those of scarlet fever' p.

The cause of this eruption, which occurs only in men and not in animals, has not been determined; some attributing it to the water, and others to the heat. While it did not bring death, it was serious and painful enough to cause many to seek relief from many of the Egyptian deities charged with the responsibility of healing. Serapis was one such deity. One is also reminded of Imhotep, the god of medicine and the guardian of healing sciences. The inability of these gods to act in behalf of the Egyptian surely must have led to deep despair and frustration.

Magicians, priests, princes, and commoners were all equally affected by the pain of this judgment, a reminder that the God of the Hebrews was a sovereign God and superior to all man-made idols. A new twist, however, is put on their work here.

Their problem now is not that they cannot duplicate the sign—something which they would not likely have wanted to do; rather, they cannot 'stand before Moses because of the boils. It also provides a graphic picture of the ultimate failure of the magicians to oppose the work of Moses and Aaron. The magicians lay helpless in their sickbed before the work of Moses and Aaron. If a person continues to harden his own heart, God will then harden it further in judgment cf. It is also the first indication that the Egyptian learned men "magicians"; the best educated and most skilled in their supposedly advanced system of higher knowledge and "secret arts" could no longer resist Moses and his God.

Moses announced the purpose of the following plagues to Pharaoh "in the morning" cf. This purpose was twofold: that Pharaoh personally might know God's power v. God sent the worst hailstorm Egypt had ever experienced "a very heavy hail," never before seen in Egypt; vv. The Lord could have destroyed Pharaoh and his people in a moment v. He could have brought each plague without warning, but in most cases He served notice see In anticipation of this plague, He warned the Egyptians to gather their livestock so they might be spared the hailstorm. Pharaoh's repentance was shallow, even though his words sounded sincere; he acknowledged only his mistake and unfairness "I have sinned … I and my people are the wicked ones" , but he did not repent of his blasphemy of Yahweh v.

Moses perceived Pharaoh's true attitude. The king had not yet believed that Yahweh was sovereign "that you may know that the earth is the L ORD 's … I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God"; v.

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Fearing Him means bowing in submission to Him as sovereign over all the earth v. Nut was the sky goddess. It was from her domain that this tragedy originated. One reflects upon the responsibilities of both Isis and Seth who also had responsibilities relating to agricultural crops. The black and burned fields of flax were a silent testimony to the impotence and incapability of wooden and stone deities.

The Egyptians used "flax" v. The Egyptian priests, among other people, dressed in linen. This plague was a judgment on them, therefore. The Egyptians used "barley" v. Moses explained another purpose of God in sending further plagues, in this context: namely, so the Israelites in future generations would believe in Yahweh's sovereignty v. Locusts were and still are a menace in Egypt, as well as in many other countries of the world. The wind drove them from the wetter areas to the whole land of Egypt—excluding Goshen—where they multiplied.

They consumed the remaining half of the crops and trees left by the hail. Pharaoh's permission for the male Israelites to leave Egypt to worship God, brought on by the urging of his counselors, was arbitrary. Egyptian females worshipped with their husbands, so, to be fair, Pharaoh could have permitted both men and women to worship Yahweh.

Pharaoh offered Moses three compromises, which the world still offers Christians. First, he suggested that the Israelites stay in Egypt He said, in effect: "You can be who you are, but live as a part of your larger culture; do not be distinctive. He allowed them to separate from their culture, but not drastically. Third, he gave permission for the males to leave, but their women and children had to remain in Egypt Even godly parents are sometimes inclined to desire prosperity and worldly position for their children. Pharaoh's "servants" seem to have been ready and willing to acknowledge Yahweh as a god "the L ORD their God" , but for Pharaoh, this conflict had greater significance.

In the Roman system penance is one of the seven sacraments, the fourth in the series. The word, however, is used two different senses. In the narrow sense penance has reference only to the works assigned by the priest and their performance by the penitent. The Baltimore Catechism defines penance as follows:. The penance given to me by the priest does not always make full satisfaction for my sins. I should, therefore, do other acts of penance… and try to gain indulgences.

Moreover, after confession some temporal punishment due to sin generally remains, and some of this punishment is taken away in the penance prayers the priest gives you to say. You should perform other acts of penance also so that you can make up for the temporal punishment due to sin and to avoid a long stay in purgatory. According to the Roman system God has established a tribunal on earth in which the priest sits as judge, through which the penitent receives absolution and an assignment of works to be performed, in doing which he shows his sorrow for sin.

According to this view God does not cancel out all the punishment due to the sinner when he forgives his sins. No limit is set to the works and services that can be demanded. The poor sinner is always left at the mercy of the priest. The Church of Rome thus demands acts of penance before she grants forgiveness, inferring that the sacrifice of Christ was not sufficient to atone fully for sin and that it must be supplemented to some extent by these good works. Protestantism is primarily a reassertion of New Testament Christianity, the teaching that salvation is by faith rather than works.

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen expresses this doctrine in the following words:. And the Church has a tremendous spiritual capital, gained through centuries of penance, persecution, and martyrdom; many of her children prayed, suffered, and merited more than they needed for their own individual salvation.

This is the bondage in which the Church of Rome keeps its millions of adherents. But against all this futility of human works stand the simple words of Scripture. Woods has well said:. Penance is an outward act; repentance is of the heart. Penance is imposed by a Roman priest; repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit. Penance is supposed to make satisfaction for sin.

But nothing that the sinner can do or suffer can satisfy the divine justice. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can do that, and He did it once for all when He made atonement on the cross and completely satisfied the divine law. Such are the tortures of Buddhist and Hindu devotees. It is the work of man on his body; true repentance is the work of God in the soul.

In all Roman Catholic catechisms and theological books which deal with this subject it is taught that God grants forgiveness only to those who, on their part, try to atone for their sins through worthy fruits of penance. In other words, while Romanism teaches that Christ died for our sins, it also teaches that His sacrifice was not sufficient, that our sufferings must be added to make it effective.

In accordance with this, many have tried to earn salvation by fastings, rituals, flagellations, and good works of various kinds. But those who attempt such a course always find that it is impossible to do enough to earn salvation. To suffer as a Christian in defense of a righteous cause serves to identify one with his Lord and Master. Each receives a discipline divinely suited to him and, as a living stone, each is polished for his unique setting when the Lord of Glory makes up His jewels.

It has been the sad history of the Roman Church that while making much of outward evidences of humility and suffering on the part of its people as administered through its doctrine of penance, its priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes have flouted those principles and usually have lived in luxury and splendor. The easy way in which the Church of Rome deals with sin is seen in this doctrine of penance.

But the Bible teaches that the first duty of a sinner who is moved to true repentance is to confess his sin to God, and to Him alone, and to turn effectively from his sin. It denies the efficacy of His sacrifice on the cross. Romanism has a Christ, but He is not sufficient as a Savior. What He did on Calvary must be repeated in the mass and supplemented through works of penance , and this makes priestcraft and sacramentarianism necessary.

It offers salvation on the installment plan, and then sees to it that the poor sinner is always behind in his payments, so that when he dies there is a large balance unpaid, and he must continue payments by sufferings in purgatory, or until the debt is paid by prayers, alms and sufferings of his living relatives and friends. The whole system and plan calls for merit and money, from the cradle to the grave, and even beyond. Good works, of course, are pleasing to God, and they have an important and necessary place in the life of the Christian.

They naturally follow if one has true faith, and they are performed out of love and gratitude to God for the great salvation that has been bestowed. If any professing Christian does not want to obey the Bible and live a good Christian life, that is proof that his faith is not sincere. The born again Christian produces good works as naturally as the grape vine produces grapes. They are a part of his very nature. He performs them not to get saved but because he is saved. And it is to be observed further that the distinguishing mark of a saint is not, as in the Roman Church, what one has done for God, but what God has done for him.

Penance is, therefore, merely another clever tool or scheme to control those who are ignorant of the Biblical way of salvation. We should confess all our sins to God, and to Him alone, and we need confess our personal shortcomings only to those who may have been injured by us. The Bible declares that the salvation of sinners is a matter of grace.

Accordingly all men are represented as sunk in a state of sin and misery, from which they are utterly unable to deliver themselves. To that end Christ, the second person of the Trinity, assumed our nature and guilt, and obeyed and suffered in our stead; and the Holy Spirit was sent to apply that redemption to individual souls. It is something that is given irrespective of any worthiness in man, and to introduce works or merit into any part of the system vitiates its nature and frustrates its design. Just because it is grace, it is not given on the basis of preceding merits. It cannot be earned.

As the very name imports, it is necessarily gratuitous; and since man in his fallen nature is enslaved to sin until it is given, all the merits that he can have prior to it are demerits and deserve only punishment, not gifts or favor. Because of His absolute moral perfection God requires spotless purity and perfect obedience in His intelligent creatures. All men naturally feel that they should earn their salvation, and a system which makes some provision in that regard readily appeals to them.

Salvation is based solely on the merits of Christ who suffered and died for His people. It is for this reason that God can demand perfection of all who enter heaven and yet admit into heaven those who have been sinners. And to buy without money must mean that it has already been produced and provided at the cost of another. The farther we advance in the Christian life, the less we are inclined to attribute any merit to ourselves, and the more to thank God for all. Time and again the Scriptures repeat the assertion that salvation is of grace, as if anticipating the difficulty that men would have in coming to the conclusion that they could not earn it by their own works.

The reason for this system of grace is that those who glory should glory only in the Lord, and that no redeemed person should ever have occasion to boast over another. Romanism destroys this purely gracious character of salvation and substitutes a system of grace plus works. I accepted, and you rejected the offer; therefore you deserve to suffer.

VI, Can. In taking this stand Rome rejects the teaching of Augustine, one of the church fathers whom she is most anxious to follow; for Augustine taught that salvation is purely by the grace of God, not by human merit. Immediately he got up on his feet and walked down the steps. How wrong it was for anyone to think that he could earn salvation through works of penance! Although Luther did not make a formal break with the Roman Church until some years later, his action in Rome that day was in reality the prelude to the Protestant Reformation.

New Testament Christianity repudiates the doctrine that the believer must, or can, earn his salvation through good works assigned by a priest, or that saving grace can be conferred by a priest regardless of his moral character, or that such grace is given because of allegiance to any church or organization. Instead it teaches that we have only to receive it in simple faith.

Witness the following:. Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned as of grace, but as of debt. What a significant coincidence it is that this doctrine of justification by faith is given such prominence in the Epistle to the Romans, since Rome later became the seat of the papacy! It seems to be written there as if intended as a strong and permanent protest against the errors of the Roman Church. The Baltimore Catechism defines an indulgence as follows:. Indulgences are granted by the pope, who the Roman Church teaches has personal jurisdiction over purgatory; and they usually are granted through the priests in return for gifts or services rendered to the church or as a reward for other good deeds.

Thus not only the suffering and death of Christ, but also the good works of Mary and the saints, are the grounds of forgiveness of sins. The church claims to be able to withdraw merits from that store and to apply them to any member of the church just as if he had suffered what was necessary for the forgiveness of sins. An indulgence is not, as many think, and as the term might suggest, a license to commit sin, although that has been done on numerous occasions particularly among the more backward and ignorant people.

That was one of the abuses that developed during the Middle Ages. Indulgences are like prison paroles. He does not forgive venial sins. Those have to be atoned for in the present life, or they have to be suffered for in the flames of purgatory after death. For those who go to confession, the absolution of the priest removes mortal sin and thereby releases from eternal punishment; but the punishment remains and must be atoned for by good works, prayers, etc.

In practice this means that every Roman Catholic, if he escapes hell, must reckon on going through purgatory. As we have indicated earlier, there seems to be no very definite catalogue of which sins are mortal and which are venial. Only the pope can grant a plenary indulgence, canceling out all suffering. Bishops can grant up to forty days, and parish priests shorter periods. During the Middle Ages plenary indulgences were granted to persons who visited the holy sepulcher in Jerusalem, or joined the crusades to regain the Holy Land, or helped in the work of persecuting Protestants and extirpating heresy.

The list is almost endless. Technically, indulgences must not be sold by the church. But that rule has been violated on many occasions, and the spirit of it on many more. The sale is still carried out in countries where Rome is supreme, and where it is not calculated to revolt public opinion.


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The late Pope John XXIII, in , granted a plenary indulgence to all who attended his coronation ceremony or listened by radio or viewed the ceremony by television or news reel. And again, on Easter Sunday, , he granted a plenary indulgence to all who attended the Easter observance in St. Most indulgences, however, are partial. The practice of granting indulgences was unknown in the early church. It arose in the Middle Ages in connection with penances imposed by the Roman Church. At first they were applicable only to the living. In the year , at the Synod of Clermont, Urban II promised a plenary indulgence for all who would take part in the crusades.

From that time on indulgences became a fixed and remunerative part of the religion of Rome. Since that time indulgences have been considered helpful to the dead as well as to the living. Many of the promoters played heartlessly on the credulity of the bereaved. The great majority of mankind was pictured as suffering in the flames of purgatory until their survivors provided the money for their release. The demoralization which resulted from this evil practice spread like poison through the church.

A commission of cardinals reported to Pope Paul III that pardons and dispensations produced indescribable scandals, and begged him to put an end to them. For years indulgences were sold openly. When Pope Leo X needed money to complete the great cathedral of St. Those found a ready market in many parts of Europe. It was this corrupt practice of taking money from the people that revolted Martin Luther against the whole system of indulgences and led to his posting the 95 theses on the cathedral door in Wittenburg, Germany, October 31 on the eve of All Saints Day, The act marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Peter out of his own money, rather than out of the money of the faithful poor? Needless to say, his challenge was not accepted. But it did arouse intense excitement, and it met with a ready response in the hearts of the people over a wide area. And well might he challenge the indulgence system, for in so doing he was simply taking his stand for first century Christianity.

We wonder how many who visit St. The question may well be asked: If indulgences are so clearly opposed to the Gospel plan of salvation, why did the popes persist in selling them? Or why do they still uphold the practice? The answer is: Because indulgences have been a source of enormous revenue to the Vatican. Although the popes knew there was no warrant whatever in Scripture for such practice, they could not resist the temptation to acquire easy money.

By appealing to the superstitions and fears of the people, high and low, they collected large sums. Not only St. Having examined the tenets and practices of the Roman Church as regards the matter of individual salvation, we have no hesitation at all in branding as false the entire system of penance and indulgences. And that for the simple reason that those who trust Christ for salvation are justified by faith, not by works. They have no need for penances or indulgences from any priest or pope. The superabundant merits of the saints, alleged to have been accumulated by those who have done more than was required, are purely imaginary.

No man can earn his own salvation by good works, much less can he have merits left over which can be transferred to others. The penances and indulgences which the people receive are not only worthless but are clever frauds and are without any foundation whatever in the Bible. Such a system represents God as forgiving sins, yet holding the sinner guilty and subjecting him to punishment both here and after death.

What an arrogant assumption that is on the part of the priests when they presume to take charge of and to dispose as their own the merits of the saints, and even those of Christ Himself! It is readily apparent what effective weapons the assigning of penances and the granting of indulgences really are for keeping a spiritually unenlightened people under the power of the priesthood.

The first consequence of the doctrine of penance and indulgences is that the Roman Catholic, though baptized and confirmed, can never have that assurance of his salvation and that sense of spiritual security which is such a great blessing to the Protestant. In proportion as he is spiritually sensitive, the person who holds to a works religion knows that he has not suffered as much as his sins deserve, and that he can never do as much as he should in order to be worthy of salvation.

The dying Roman Catholic, after he has done all that he can do and after the last rites have been given to him, is told that he still must go to purgatory. What a marvelous blessing is the evangelical faith, both in life and at the time of death! The Council of Trent even pronounced a curse upon anyone who presumed to say that he had assurance of salvation, or that the whole punishment for sin is forgiven along with that sin.

Such assurance is pronounced a delusion and a result of sinful pride. Rome keeps her subjects in constant fear and insecurity. No one can be truly happy without the assurance of salvation; and particularly in spiritual matters a state of doubt and uncertainty is a state of misery. The simple truth, however, is that one can be saved and can be sure that he is saved. All he has to do is to trust in the finished work of Christ and to receive from Him the gift of eternal life.

Nothing less than a supernatural act on the part of God regeneration can bring a soul from a state of spiritual death to a state of spiritual life, and nothing less than another supernatural act of God could reverse that condition. Thus God wants us to be saved, and He wants us to know that we are saved. He has told us so in His Word. In Romanism one must work hard for it and must pay dearly for it, and after he has done all that the priest has prescribed, he still cannot know whether he has it or not.

And through it all there stands the anathema of the Council of Trent against all who affirm the certainty of their salvation. Nor can Modernism or Liberalism give that assurance, nor Judaism, nor Mohammedanism, nor any of the pagan religions. Evangelical Protestantism alone can give that assurance.

But the article met strong disapproval on the part of the church authorities. How is it possible that the ecclesiastical demigod who had the keys of heaven and earth is unable to use those keys to gain entrance into his own eternal salvation? All the pomp and ceremony, all the masterfully devised rituals in his honor may impress the people, especially Roman Catholics, but they cannot gain him one inch of heaven.

And what about his soul and his eternal destiny? What Roman Catholic knows where this pope is right now? If we search for the factors that account for the power and influence of the Roman Catholic Church, not only over its own members but over many others who have no personal connection with that church, we find that one of the most important is its ritualistic worship. The gorgeous vestments, colorful processions, pageantry and mystifying symbolism, the stately music, the solemn intonations of the priests in a singsong voice, the flickering candles, the tinkling bells, the sweet-smelling incense, the dim light of the cathedral where Mary holds sway—all are designed to impress the senses and the emotions.

Hollywood could never outdo, nor even equal, the colorful coronation of Pope John XXIII, in November, , as that ritual was presented directly to some fifty thousand persons in Rome and to millions more by television and movie film. One news source described the coronation spectacle in part as follows:.

Chaplains in violet soutanes, bishops in white mitres and robes decorated with silver; ecclesiastics in scarlet capes, and the College of Cardinals in cream colored vestments heavy with gold embroidery, followed each other in measured procession. Finally, amid renewed shouts of enthusiasm, the pope was carried in by 12 bearers, seated in the gestatorial chair beneath a richly embroidered canopy.

To right and left were members of the noble guard and Palatine Guard in gala uniforms. All of that in a purely manmade religious display, a ritualistic ceremony that is not even hinted at anywhere in the Bible! Representative Roman Catholic writers acknowledge that the entire series of rites in connection with the coronation is unessential since a man becomes pope at the moment he accepts the office after his election. An American observer describes a public appearance of the pope in St.

Then borne by 12 men on their shoulders, a huge chair on which the pope sits. He has a white skull cap and is dressed in white robes. We see the light flash on the diamond of his crucifix. He is carried through the full length of the great church to the great altar and steps from his chair to a red throne on a platform raised above the heads of the people. They cheer and raise their children to see his face. We fear the devotion given him is the type one would give only to his God! The pope is carried out, scattering his greetings all about him.

As he is about to pass the curtain, he rises and again gives the apostolic blessing. The vast crowd pours out into the Piazza San Pietro, having seen a man who, to most of them, stands in the place of God. It has been the highest point in their experience the most exquisite emotion of their lives.

Jesus was a humble itinerant preacher, but this gentleman rides into the church on the shoulders of 12 men. Eucharistic and Marianistic congresses, with priests, bishops, and cardinals wearing gorgeous robes and bejeweled mitres, present similar spectacles. What a contrast with the manner in which Protestant ministers dress! Some people however, want to be dazzled with a theatrical display of religion, and the Roman Church readily obliges.

But the total effect of such ritualistic displays, so lacking in spiritual instruction is usually repulsive to thoughtful minds, and is entirely outside the bounds of true Christianity.

Time for married priests?

What spiritually sensitive souls most condemn seems often to have been the chief attraction for the great mass of people who, without interest in religion as such, are moved by the spectacular display of what seems to be a union of the human and the divine. To the ignorant and uneducated, and also to a considerable extent to the educated, the splendor of the Roman Church appears as something awesome, fascinating, and inspiring.

But many a spiritually weary traveler has found after all that such ritual and ceremony is only a mirage seen from a distance, a gorgeous display promising rest for the traveler on his way through a desert land, but failing utterly to supply the water of life that could bring peace and joy to his thirsty heart.

Gradually the mirage fades on the horizon, and the desert that was to have bloomed as the rose yields only briars and thorns. How different from all that is the evangelical Protestant service, where with a minimum of ritual the emphasis is on the sermon which is designed to impart Biblical knowledge and to nurture and edify the spiritual and moral nature of man! Concerning the rituals and ceremonials of Romanism, Stephen L.

Testa says:. But when Christ came to save the world He did not copy or adopt any of them; rather He disdained them. He founded His church, not as a hierarchy, but as a simple brotherhood of saved souls, commissioned to preach the Gospel to all the world. The early church, the church of the catacombs, for years had no such ceremonials.

Italy and the other Catholic countries have derived no benefit whatever, spiritual or material, from them, as anyone can see for himself. The Reformation of course rejected them. We are often amazed at the magnificence of Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals, even in areas where the people are comparatively poor, or even in poverty. Romanism is largely a religion of ceremonials and rituals, and as such it is a far departure from the purity and simplicity of the Gospel. The supposed blessing is mysterious and magical.

No really intelligent participation is required on the part of the people. The mystifying mannerisms of the priests, and the mumble-jumble of the unknown tongue used at the altar, tend more toward credulity and superstition. Fifteen centuries of history make it clear that the Roman ritual is powerless to uplift the world. We charge Rome with obscuring rather than revealing the simple truth of the way of salvation as set forth in the Bible, and with the addition of many doctrines and practices not found in the Bible.

Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; new moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot away with iniquity and the solemn meeting. Elaborate ritual and ceremony, which theoretically are designed to aid the worshipper, usually have the opposite effect in that they tend to take the mind away from things which are spiritual and eternal and to center it on that which is material and temporal.

Artistic ritual and exquisite music often become ends in themselves, and can easily become instruments which prevent the people from joining in the worship of God. The reason the Roman service tends to become more and more elaborate, liturgical, and ritualistic, is that the heart of the exercise, true adoration of God, is missing, and a persistent effort is made to fill up the emptiness and unsatisfactoriness of it all by piling one ceremony and ritual upon another.

But ironically, the more that is done the more difficult it becomes to worship God, and so the vicious circle goes round and round. We object to the elaborate ceremonials and gorgeous furnishings of Romanism, not because of any lack of aesthetic taste, but on theological grounds. Such things may be all right in a theater, but they are out of place in a Christian church. Within proper limits dignity and beauty are characteristics which are proper in the worship of God, as indeed is clear from the prescriptions for worship which were given to the children of Israel.

Their purpose was to present the Gospel in picture to a primitive people. But those things were done away in Christ, and no others were put in their place Hebrews , , Romanism is in this respect a recrudescence of Judaism, and in its ceremonialism stands much closer to Judaism than to New Testament Christianity. It has a delight in the picture language of ceremonies that were designed for the childhood of the church, and it still is fascinated with the beauty of the temple and its gorgeous ritual.

We maintain that the New Testament assigns no liturgy at all for the church. We maintain further that there is a beauty in chaste simplicity, that this characterized the early church, that the departure from this simplicity in the fourth and later centuries was the result of spiritual deterioration, and that most of the ritualism and ceremonialism was taken over from the pagan religion of ancient Rome.

Most churches develop an order of service sufficient to give order and dignity to the service without going to the extreme of Romanism. Let Protestants not be deceived by the outward splendor of Romanism. The most elaborate rituals will not save one if the heart is not right. Neither the two thousand proscriptions of the Canon Law, nor all the absolutions of the priests, can open the kingdom of heaven for one who is not first of all a true believer.

Some of the ceremonials of Romanism are of special interest. It reads as follows:. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. It is repeated many times in the churches, in the schools, and by individuals in private as a work of penance and as one of the most effective means of storing up merit. Another ceremonial, always used by Roman Catholics in entering a church as well as in various personal acts, is the sign of the cross.

This is considered both a prayer and a public profession of faith. Fasting has a prominent place in Romanism. When carried out according to the rules of the church it is supposed to gain certain merits for the person fasting. A day of abstinence is one on which meat is forbidden, but the usual number of meals is allowed. Fish, but not other meat, allowed on Fridays. This, like the days of fasting and the days of abstinence, is of course an empty formalism, a purely arbitrary rule, without any New Testament authority, and can be set aside at any time by a dispensation from the priest because of hard work, sickness, or for various other reasons.

Yet the people are taught that under normal conditions it is a mortal sin to eat meat on Friday and on other days of abstinence. The general rule against eating meat on Friday has also been abolished. Thus what only a short time ago was a mortal sin now becomes permissible, changed by the bishops as nonchalantly as if they were merely changing for worship on Sunday morning. The fasts commanded by the Church of Rome are wholly different from those in the Old Testament.

They are not necessarily connected with any religious observances. The wild revelry, drinking, and feasting which precedes Lent and other occasions in Roman communities, particularly that best known one, the Mardi Gras carnival in New Orleans and some other cities, proves this beyond dispute. True fasting is a spiritual exercise usually connected with prayer, repentance, and meditation. Mere arbitrary fasting is denounced in Scripture as an abomination. How completely arbitrary and unchristian are commandments which impose fasts, making certain meats edible on some days but not on others, edible at certain times of the day but not at other times, and for some people but not for others!

That, in fact, is the New Testament principle as regards eating or fasting. This is not to be thought of as merely a barbaric and stupid custom practiced back in the Middle Ages. In some places it still is a reality in our twentieth century. Flagellation, however, has never been practiced by the rank and file of Roman Catholics. Another important peculiarity of the Roman Church has been its use of the Latin language. It has been a long standing rule that the mass cannot be celebrated in any language other than Latin, that it is better not to celebrate mass at all than to do so in the language of the people.

However, the Second Vatican Council, in , gave permission for the mass to be celebrated in the common tongue, or for a translation to be provided so that the people can follow intelligently what is being said. Early in the Middle Ages, about the year , preaching in the Latin tongue was instituted—which surely was one of the most ridiculous things in the world. Latin had been the basis of the Italian language, but was no longer understood by the people.

However, preaching never was a very important part of the Roman service, and it is no longer conducted in Latin. Christ spoke the Aramaic of His day, which was the language of the people. Yet Roman priests hold that it is a sacrilege to commemorate that experience in anything but Latin! Protestants always conduct their services in language of the people and that surely is more uplifting. There are certain benefits, however, which in a may seem to accrue to the Roman Church as it conducts its ceremonials under the veil of a dead language.

Most importantly, it adds to the air of mystery that surrounds the service, and helps to set the priest apart from the people as a man with special wisdom and special powers. The prayer by which that is done intimates that its object really is to drive the devils out of this common water, and indirectly to keep them from the people who are sprinkled. Probably not one priest in a hundred really believes that, and it doubtless would seem rather crude and awkward to go through the ritual in English.

But they do not seem to mind doing it in Latin. In Medieval times it was customary for the priest to do a preliminary devil chase before the service began by going back through the audience and sprinkling holy water on the people while calling on all demons and devils to depart. The baptism of infants is an elaborate ritual in which the Devil is exorcised and commanded to depart from the child, and undoubtedly would be somewhat embarrassing if done in English.

Yet the Latin ritual is accepted without question. And in theological books detailed instructions to the priests concerning questions relating to sex to be asked of women and girl penitents in the confessional are given in Latin, and so in the main are kept concealed from the public. Still another problem to be considered in this connection is the appearance of priests and nuns in public in their church garb, which of course is offensive to Protestants. Recently C. Stanley Lowell wrote:.

Resentment mounted to such a pitch that the people did not even want to look at the clergy. Roman Catholicism is a majority faith in many areas of this country. As a majority faith Catholics frequently show insensibility to the religious sensitivities of those who do not share their faith. They may flaunt their religious practices and virtually force them on the entire community. They have an astonishing faculty for never suspecting that the symbol or observance which inspires them may be shocking and abhorrent to persons of another faith.

The fact is that Romanist religious regalia is almost always offensive to those who do not belong to that church. Oftentimes the tendency toward forcing their religion on other people of the community is also carried out by dedicating public statues, parks, schools, etc. We submit that in fairness to all the people of a community statues, parks, schools, etc. In the first commandment we are commanded to worship God, and none other. Literally hundreds of other passages also condemn the making or worshipping of images. A few examples are:. How very clearly, then, the commandment against the making or use of images or idols for they are the same thing if used in worship is written into the law of God!

Where can a more deliberate and willful contradiction of the command of God be found than that? The practice of the Church of Rome is that she solemnly consecrates images through the blessing of her priests, places them in her churches and in the homes of her people, offers incense before them, and teaches the people to bow down and worship before them. It cannot be denied that the Roman Church has made the second commandment of no effect among her people, and that she teaches for Christian doctrine her own precepts, which are the commands of men.

She has not dared to remove the commandment from her Bible, but she has withdrawn it as much as possible from view. As a result of this sophistry multitudes of people are misled and are caused to commit the sin of idolatry. With this official encouragement it is not surprising that images of Christ, Mary, the saints and angels are very common in Roman Catholic circles. They are found in the churches, schools, hospitals, homes, and other places. Occasionally one even sees a little image of Jesus or Mary or some saint on the dashboard of an automobile often the image of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers.

Thus as one drives he supposedly has the protection of Jesus, or Mary, or the saint. There remain 58, plus Mary, Joseph, the apostles, and the angels, who are objects of universal veneration must be mentioned at mass at least once a year. And there are hundreds of others at lower levels.

Roman Catholics tell us that they do not pray to the image, or idol, but to the spirit that is represented by it. But that is the answer given by idol worshippers the world over when they are asked why they pray to their idols. They did not intend their worship to terminate on the image.

But on other occasions the Israelites worshipped idols as such. Undoubtedly the better educated do make the distinction between the idol and the god or spirit which it is designed to represent. But in actual practice in Roman Catholic countries and among the ignorant, the tendency is for this distinction to disappear and for such worship to become simply idolatry. The Old Testament prophets and the Bible as a whole makes no distinction between false gods and their images, and the cult practices of the heathen tend to identify them completely.

The Israelites were severely condemned for using idols in their worship of God. It cannot be otherwise with the Roman Catholics. On numerous later occasions the Israelites attempted to worship God through the use of images, but such practices were always severely condemned. Even if it were true that Roman Catholics pray only to the person or spirit represented by the image, it still would be sin, for two reasons: 1 God has forbidden the use of images in worship; 2 there is only one mediator between God and men, and that one is Christ, not Mary or the saints.

Historically, when men have made images or idols which they could see, as an aid to worship, they later came to think of the images themselves as indwelt by their gods. The images became the centers of attention rather than that which they were supposed to represent. Instead of helping the worshippers they confused them. This has been particularly true in regard to the larger images which are preserved from one generation to another.

In the same manner as the heathen, the Romanists make gods of wood and stone, dress them up, paint them with gaudy colors, bow down before them, and worship them. The priests encourage the people to have little shrines in their homes at which they can worship. Millions of illiterate people in Europe and in the Americas attribute supernatural qualities to those images.

In doing so they feel that they have the full approval of their church—which of course they do have. But the Bible calls such practice idolatry and condemns it. The Bible teaches that God is a Spirit, and that they that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth John We should never forget that one of the most heinous sins of ancient Israel, in fact the besetting sin of ancient Israel, was the worship of idols, and that Israel paid a fearful penalty for that practice. Were the apostles to return to earth and eater a Roman Catholic church, they would scarcely be able to distinguish between the pagan worship of idols that they knew and the present day practice of kneeling before images, burning incense to them, kissing them, praying to them, and carrying them in public processions.

The Roman Church today is about as thoroughly given over to idolatry as was the city of Athens when Paul visited there. Many priests do not believe in images, but they keep them in their churches because it is established custom and because, they say, it helps the worshippers, particularly if they are uneducated, to have a visual representation of the person they are worshipping.

For health he prays to that which has no health or strength. For a good journey he prays to that which cannot move a foot. For skill and good success he prays to that which cannot do anything. For wisdom and guidance and blessing he commits himself to a senseless piece of wood or stone. Romanism, with its image or idol worship, has no appeal at all for the Mohammedan world, which is so strongly opposed to all forms of idolatry.

In fact it has made practically no attempt to win Mohammedans. But through the centuries that field has remained almost untouched and unchallenged by Roman Catholicism. Yet Rome sends thousands of missionaries across the oceans to India, Japan, South America, and even to the United States, which even by Roman standards is in much less need of them than is North Africa. Nor does Roman Catholicism have any attraction for the Jews, who also are strongly opposed to all forms of idolatry.

Instead, the Roman Church persecuted the Jews for some fifteen centuries. The evangelization of both Jews and Mohammedans has been left almost exclusively to Protestants. But in practice that distinction breaks down. The people, particularly those who are illiterate, of whom the Roman Catholic countries have so many, know nothing of the technical distinctions made by the theologians. The only name for their practice is idolatry. The Old Testament strictly forbade image worship, and in time such practice came to be an abomination to the Jews. With that background it seems incredible that idols should ever have been admitted into the more spiritual worship of the Christian church.

But in the fourth century, with the granting of official status to the Christian church and the great influx of pagans, the heathen element in the church became so strong that it overcame the natural opposition to the use of images. Most of the people could not read. Hence it was argued that visible representations of Scripture persons and events were helpful in the church. But during the eighth century prayers were addressed to them and they were surrounded by an atmosphere of ignorant superstition, so that even the Mohammedans taunted the Christians with being idol worshippers.

But when that failed to achieve the desired ends, he issued an order forbidding the use of images in the churches as heathenish and heretical. To support his action a council was called in Constantinople, in , which gave ecclesiastical sanction to his actions. The Eastern church banned all use of images or icons, and to this day that remains one of the great contrasts between the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church.

But in a council met at Nicaea Bithynia , repudiated the work of the earlier council, and fully sanctioned the worship of images and pictures in the churches. Thomas Aquinas, who is generally acknowledged as the outstanding medieval theologian of the Roman Church, fully defended the use of images, holding that they were to be used for the instruction of the uses who could not read and that pious feelings were excited more easily by what people see than by what they hear. The popes of the Roman Church have strongly supported the use of images.

The argument in favor of the use of images, that in the Old Testament God commanded the making of the cherubim and the brazen serpent, ignores the fact that the cherubim were not to be used in worship, whereas the images are. A further and most important difference is that God commanded the making of the cherubim, but He strictly forbade the making of images. Likewise the brazen serpent was not made to be worshipped. When it later became a sacred relic and was worshipped by people who offered incense to it, good king Hezekiah destroyed it.

The moral and religious effects of image worship are invariably bad. It degrades the worship of God. It turns the minds of the people from God, who is the true object of worship, and leads them to put their trust in gods who seem near at hand but who cannot save. Closely akin to the use of images is that of pictures of Christ. And these, we are sorry to say, are often found in Protestant as well as Roman Catholic churches.

No picture of Him was painted during His earthly ministry. The church had no pictures of Him during the first four centuries. That is why there are so many different ones. It is simply an untruth to say that any one of them is a picture of Christ. All that we know about His physical features is that He was of Jewish nationality. Yet He more often is represented as having light features, even as an Aryan with golden hair. How would you like it if someone who had never seen you and who knew nothing at all about your physical features, resorted to his imagination and, drawing on the features of his own nationality, painted a picture and told everyone that it was a picture of you?

Such a picture would be fraudulent. Certainly you would resent it. And certainly Christ must resent all these counterfeit pictures of Him. No picture can do justice to His personality, for He was not only human but divine. And no picture can portray His deity. All such pictures are therefore fatally defective.

Like the grave of Moses, the physical features of Christ were intended to be kept beyond the reach of idolatry. The large rosary consists of fifteen sections. But usually one who wishes to say the complete rosary goes over the short form three times. In some religious orders the large rosary is used, and is worn as a part of religious habit.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Scott, S. Another explanation is that the beads originally were made of rosewood.

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But they may also be of glass, stone, or other hard material. The rosary has ten times as many prayers addressed to Mary as to God the Father, with none addressed to Christ or the Holy Spirit. It is designed primarily as a devotional to Mary, thus exalting a human being more than God. It is more commonly used by girls and women, and is by far the most popular and universal devotion in the Roman Church. Peter the Hermit invented the rosary, in the year , more than a thousand years after the time of Christ. The more such prayers are said the more merit is stored up in heaven.

The Bible teaches that the true believer should pray to God reverently, humbly, and with a believing and thankful heart, thinking of what he doing and of the great King to whom he is praying. For a spiritually minded person the mechanical use of beads destroys the true spirit of prayer.

A mechanical device similar to the rosary and used for counting prayers had been in use among the Buddhists and Mohammedans for centuries before the rosary was introduced, so its origin is not hard to trace. It is simply another device borrowed from paganism. And, strange as it may seem, Roman Catholics who condemn as pagan and foolish the use of prayer wheels by the Buddhists in Tibet wheels with attached prayers, placed in a stream of water or in the wind so that each time the wheel turns over the prayer is repeated , nevertheless display great devotion in counting their repetitious rosary prayers as one bead after another is pushed across the string.

But surely the principle is exactly the same. Indeed, why should Roman priests condemn the chanted incantations of African and West Indies Voodoo priests while themselves continuing the practice of sprinkling holy water with solemn exorcisms of demons or evil spirits? Crosses and crucifixes. The most widely used religious symbol both for Roman Catholics and Protestants is the cross, much more so in Roman Catholic than in Protestant churches. The crucifix is a cross with the figure of Christ crucified upon it.

In the Roman Church the sign of the cross has to be in every altar, on the roofs of all Roman Catholic churches, in the school and hospital rooms, and in the homes of its people. For interior use the crucifix is often displayed rather than the cross. Small crosses four or five inches long and suspended on a chain are often worn as part of the religious garb of priests and nuns, and a small gold cross on a chain suspended around the neck is often worn by the women. But as regards the cross as a symbol of Christianity, we must point out that the Scriptures do not give one single instance in which a mechanical cross was so used, or in which it was venerated in any way.

There are, of course, numerous instances in Scripture in which the cross is spoken of figuratively. Nor is there any evidence that the cross was used as a Christian symbol during the first three centuries of the Christian era. A Roman Catholic authority asserts:. The cross as a symbol of Christianity, then, it is generally agreed, goes back only to the days of emperor Constantine, who is supposed to have turned from paganism to Christianity.

In the year he was engaged in a military campaign in western Europe. According to tradition he called upon the pagan gods, but there was no response. Taking this as a token of divine favor, he issued various edicts in favor of the Christians. At any rate, the alleged sign in the sky, like so many other signs of that and later times, undoubtedly will have to be explained on other grounds.

The idea that Christ would command a pagan emperor to make a military banner embodying the cross and to go forth conquering in that sign is wholly inconsistent with the general teaching if the Bible and with the spirit of Christianity. In any event, the cross, in pre-Christian as well as in Christian times, has always been looked upon as an instrument of torture and shame. Christians do not act wisely when they make such an instrument an object of reverence and devotion. Rather we should recognize it for what it is, a detestable thing, a pagan symbol of sin and shame.

He meant rather that one who is a faithful follower should be willing to do His will, to serve and to endure suffering as He did, since all those who sincerely follow Him will meet with some degree of hardship and suffering and perhaps even with persecution. Ever since the time that the emperor Constantine allegedly saw the sign of the cross in the sky, and took that as his banner, that banner has been raised over a half-Christian, half-pagan church.

Protestant churches, too, have often offended in matter, and, like Lot, who pitched his tent too close to Sodom, these bodies have camped too close to the gates of Rome. Another object of special devotion in the Roman Catholic Church is the scapular. According to tradition this holy man withdrew into a wood where he lived in great austerity for twenty years, at the end of which time the Virgin Mary appeared to him in celestial splendor, with thousands of angels, and, holding the scapular in her hand, commissioned him to take this as the sign of the Carmelite Order to which he belonged.

The scapular consists of two pieces of brown cloth about four inches square, on which are pictures of the Virgin Mary, to be worn next to the skin, suspended over the shoulders by cords fore and back. Normally it must be of wool or other cloth, but not of silk, since it is worn in honor of the Virgin Mary and it is said that she never wore silk. It is to be worn day and night, never to be taken off until death, and it is good even to be buried with it. Carmel, pray for us.

Paul Blanshard cites the following use or misuse of the scapular:. It bears the official Imprimatur of Archbishop [now Cardinal] Spellman, and it was issued at the height of the war in That, we assert, is pure fetishism, the same kind of thing practiced by primitive tribes in many pagan countries. By such means do priests and cardinals substitute charms and superstitions in place of the New Testament which contains no such deceptions.

Each of these supposedly has some degree of the supernatural attached to it and is regarded with more or less reverence, depending to a considerable extent on the education or lack of education of the worshipper. Such relics have an important place in the worship of the Roman Church. Paul Blanshard writes:. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Church, even the American Church of the present day, still operates a full-blown system of fetishism and sorcery in which physical objects are supposed to accomplish physical miracles. Relics range from pieces of the true cross, the nails, thorns from the crown of thorns, the seamless robe of Christ, the linen of Mary, her wedding ring, locks of her hair, vials of her milk, and her house miraculously transplanted from Palestine to Italy, to the more common and more abundant bones, arms, legs, hair, garments, and other possessions of the saints and martyrs.