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Thirsting for God: Sight of The Cross (William Cowper)

Heard an evangelist attempting to turn people to Christ today by using the 10 Commandments to prove they are sinful - with some success it would seem. God works in mysterious ways... and I praise God for this evangelist. But, I can't help but think William Cowper gets it clearer.... 

"It was the sight of thy dear cross..."

I thirst, but not as once I did,
The vain delights of earth to share;
Thy words, Immanuel, all forbid
That I should seek my pleasure there.

It was the sight of thy dear cross
First weaned my soul from earthly thing
And taught me to esteem as dross
The mirth of fools and pomp of kings

I want that grace that springs from thee,
That quickens all things where it flows,
And makes a wretched thorn like me,
Bloom as the myrtle or the rose.

Dear fountain of delight unknown,
No longer sink below the brim:
But overflow and pour me down
A living and life-giving stream.

For sure, of all the plants that share
The notice of thy Father's eye,
None proves less grateful to his care,
Or yields him meaner fruit than I.


  1. Yes, the 10 commandments do reveal the wrath of God against sin clearly. However, of course the cross reveals it even more clearly. Just as it reveals God's grace more clearly, and God's power more clearly.

    The cross is the centre of the bible after all.

    By the way. Is it just me, but at my work on an old version of IE, and at home on the up-to-date one, I cannot view comments on your blog. It causes an error message and then doesn't display the page.

    Works fine on trusty firefox though.

  2. The centre indeed!

    Hmmm. I use Chrome these days.
    A generic or particular error?

  3. A friend persuaded me recently that our culture has such a lacking view of sin, that the 10Cs are useful in their particularity. Non-Jews may not be under the Torah, but we are creatures of God's rule, and thus under his word. (Israel as God's firstborn son, or first-fruits, expressed that all mankind was under God's word, not she alone.) If people are suppressing the fact of their sinfulness, the particulars of the law can be helpful to press it home. And seeing the King is the apex of this. I'm still pondering John 16 on this.

  4. what exactly does realising you've broken those 10 commandments do apart from telling you you've broken some commandments?

    don't you need to know who commanded them?
    don't you need to know who was so commanded?

    I really wonder if people are really convicted of sin - "that they do not believe in me" (John 16) by this.

    If the spirit does come and bring conviction, that's great, but this is a question of means, and that's a contextualisation question, not a question of absolutes.

    How would you feel if someone "convicted" you of being a criminal under ancient greek law, or in 16th century england for being brought up, say, "parlimentarian & protestant" not "royalist & catholic", or in Nazi Germany for being a Jew, or in Ahmadinejad's Iran for drinking? Why would a non Christian feel significantly different about torah, let alone Jesus' "don't even look lustily"?

  5. Chris, you make a good point in saying:

    'don't you need to know who commanded them?
    don't you need to know who was so commanded?'

    But I trust we all realise that the same kind of thing applies to the cross. The cross reveals the wrath of God against my sin only when I understand it in a certain (biblically-given) context. We need to know who is dying, why, how, as well as a bunch of other things.

    Therefore, Bish, while it remains true that the cross is the clearest demonstration of the wrath of God there is,
    1. This doesn't negate the usefulness, or necessity of those other places where the wrath of God is revealed.
    2. And, even the cross has to be understood against a backdrop. A fairly massive part of that backdrop is the torah generally and even the 10 words specifically.

    Agree or not?

  6. You might be interested to read my brief and incomplete comments here on the 'preach the law first' philosophy:

    For what it's worth. :)

  7. Chris, you said

    'I really wonder if people are really convicted of sin - "that they do not believe in me" (John 16) by this.'

    And I'd say, yes, if the law is preached correctly. After all, it was Luther who pointed out the essential congruence between the first commandment and the gospel of justification by faith alone (what else could it mean to have no other gods other than to have no other saviours and Lords?). Preach the law properly and you're showing the way people's hearts are steeped in hardened unbelief against Christ and his Father. Adam's commandment-breaking back in the garden was all about unbelief and false faith after all.

    I realise that doesn't answer the contextualisation/ methodology stuff you're asking about, but it atleast addresses some of the hermeneutics stuff.

  8. I entirely think that you can show the wrath of God from the 10 Commandments - Hebrews 1:1-2:4 does that... "Let me tell you about the Jews. God saved these people from slavery. And God gave them commands through an angel, and when they disregarded what God said they died. That's how serious it is to take God's word lightly. Then God sent his Son who is greater than the angels in everyway... how much more should we pay attention to him..." but that's very different isn't it?

  9. Peter - false faith, "using law properly" - absolutely, eg Dave's Hebrews example. I had in mind the rather crass "have you ever lied? been angry? looked lustily? - then you're a lying, adultering murderer - boy, God's gonna getcha!" I'm all for understanding the law better, but I'm also for double listening.

    How about Tim Chester's use of the law in The World We All Want? He takes Nehemiah 9 to say "we can't bring God's new world - even all the instruction in the world can't change us. we're part of the problem not part of the cure". Yet in the law, God has tied his unconditional promise of blessing to Israel's obedience => BIG problem for God's reputation, Israel has profaned his name among the nations. In fact, God's ruined it for himself by using Israel, but there's a bold prayer "vindicate your name for your own sake" wonder Jesus said "hallowed be your name".

    Could we make more of Ex 19 here? "although the whole earth is mine, you shall be my treasured possession, IF you obey" To a generation looking for significance, to standout, for uniqueness, to be precious, valued as someone's treasure, I think holiness as "standing out" is actually very appealing. But Israel didn't stand out, preferring to blend in. To stand out and belong to God will make us strange in the world. But the cross tells me there's something wrong with the world, not with Jesus. So to follow Jesus into God's new world means I'll really have to obey the gospel.

    Titus 2 is relevant - "the grace of God has appeared, teaching us to say redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his very own possession"

  10. I think I get what you're saying from Hebrews Bish. And of course, who could disagree with that.

    But, are you also saying that you'd be against any use of e.g. the 10 commandments to highlight our specific sins? Or is the 'they ignored God's word - don't let's us ignore God's word in the Son' the sum total of the affair?

    I.e. is there ever a case for saying - look, one of the ways we know we've rejected and disbelieved in the Son is the way we constantly ignore his instructions for our sex-lives. The bible says 'do not commit adultery' but what do we find all over our TV screens, blah blah blah' - I massively simplify of course, but you get the idea?

    Chris, I like Titus 2 and I think it is significant in these kind of discussions.

    I take your point also about the rather crass way of trying to 'convict' using the 10. I'm guessing we'd agree the problem is not hermeneutics there but communication strategy? I'm all for double listening too.

  11. I think this discussion shows how the particular issue being discussed is just one example of a bigger question:

    'how is all the bible about Jesus Christ (and particularly his death and resurrection)?

    The question is whether anything in the bible which doesn't explicitly mention Jesus (e.g. 10 commandments) can be used without making clear how they are fulfilled in Jesus. If we have them operating independently then we are making the same mistake as the Pharisees. But if we accept that God knew what he was doing when spending centuries and most of the bible word count before sending his Son, then we must also accept that there is a valid way of using the scriptures on their own terms.

    Does that make sense?

    BTW. Is it just me everybody? Because I really cannot view the comments with IE. I think it has been ever since Dave changed the layout and had this advanced popup stuff going on to check your identity.

  12. pete - what you're really asking is about ethics, and the relation of the 10cs to natural goods (assuming we're moral realists). I'm concerned that instead of being serious & deep moral realists, it's far too easy to react against cultural amoralism with a simplistic moralism - and end up invoking some shabby muslim concept of sin as a bare matter of crime & punishment.

    the other 3 questions are important, but rather more 'in house'
    - hermeneutics (for Christians reading law as Xn scripture)
    - evangelism (for Christians preaching law as part of the whole counsel of God, and calling non Christians to Christ)
    - apologetics (persuading people that they live in this LORD God's world and are accountable to him)

  13. ps dave you make a good point. We're actually asking for evangelical ethics, ie
    1) how do 10cs relate to natural goods
    2) how do natural goods relate to Jesus' death & resurrection

    If anyone's got a copy of Oliver O'Donovan, Resurrection & Moral Order, I'd love to borrow it. I've heard it's a classic.

  14. I used to have it, but it made my head hurt like few other things I've ever read. You'll probably find it a enjoyable light read.

    I don't know what I've done with it but I haven't had it since I moved house. Sorry.

  15. The change in comments is a Blogger feature, which I like and have no problem with in IE, Firefox or Chrome...

  16. I like it. Just doesn't seem to work with me... perhaps it is just me! Curious.


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