A Theology of Work in 50 Scriptural Observations

  1. 1 God is the first worker.
  2. 1 God’s work requires mental activity and planning.
  3. 1 Completed work pleased God.
  4. 1 As a worker, God is detail-oriented.
  5. 1:28 Work came before sin.
  6. 1:28 Man is given authority and responsibility to control the world by discovering all of the secrets God placed in the earth.
  7. 1:28 Under God, man rules the world—the rest of creation is not equal to him.
  8. Genesis 2:15, 18 Farming is the first job given to man in the Bible.
  9. Genesis 2:15, 18 God wants man to understand and document every part of His Creation.
  10. 2:20 Women were given to men because the man’s work would require all his ability.
  11. 3:16-19 Work became difficult as a result of sin.
  12. 3:16-19 Men are expected to sweat as a reminder of the hardness brought into life by sin.
  13. 3:16-19 The essence of masculinity is summarized in this first statement of manhood as a responsibility to labor intensely.
  14. 20:9 God gave the Sabbath day of rest because He expected men to work 6 days per week.
  15. 4:6 Men with a work ethic (a wholehearted mindset to work) accomplish much.
  16. 6:6-10 Lazy people are fools; hard workers are wise.
  17. 6:6-10 God has programmed His amoral creation to be examples of work.
  18. 6:6-10 Planning is a part of hard work.
  19. 10:4; 12:11; 13:4; et. al. Hard work produces wealth; poverty comes from a bad work ethic.
  20. 22:29 Hard workers will eventually be recognized.
  21. 24:30-34 Laziness produces poverty and ugliness.
  22. 24:30-34 A lazy man’s house places his culture on display.
  23. 31:13-27 The model woman is known by her hard work.
  24. 31:15 The model woman gets up early in order to work.
  25. 5:18-19 Labor is the tool God has ordained to provide man with physical pleasures.
  26. 5:18-19 Men can take pleasure in the labor itself, in accomplishing hard tasks.
  27. 20:1-8 The work day in Jesus’ lifetime was assumed to be 12 hours.
  28. 25:14-30 Jesus sanctions work by comparing earthly work with the spiritual world in his parables. (See also Matt. 20:1-14 and 21:28-31)
  29. 25:14-30 Jesus sanctions business, trading, and making a profit in his parables and sermons.
  30. John 8:29 Jesus always worked to please His Father.
  31. John 9:4 A sense of urgency followed Jesus in His work.
  32. John 17:4 Jesus did not stop until the work was done.
  33. Acts 6:4 God recognizes mental activity as labor.
  34. Acts 28:3 Paul was humble enough to do menial, manual labor.
  35. 13:8 If I would owe nothing to any man, then my life must be marked by personal responsibility.
  36. 1 Cor. 7:24 Each man must honor God in the specific situation in which he has been placed.
  37. 1 Cor. 9:7-14 Work is valuable; it must be paid.
  38. 1 Cor. 9:7-14 Biblical pastoral ministry should be supported by Christians who have jobs.
  39. 4:28 Hard work is the opposite of stealing.
  40. 4:28 Christians should labor to be rich so that they can give generously.
  41. 4:28 If a man receives a benefit for which he is not willing to work, he is stealing.
  42. 6:4 Fathers have a responsibility to teach their children how to work.
  43. 3:22-24 The way Christians work for their earthly employer is an act of worship to God.
  44. 3:22-24 An employer has authority over an employee.
  45. 2 Thess. 3:10 Lazy people forfeit their right to eat.
  46. 2 Thess. 3:10-14 Laziness is a sin that may deserve church discipline.
  47. 1 Tim. 5:17 Pastors are expected to work hard mentally.
  48. 2:5 Women are told to be “keepers at home” which necessarily means that men will be workers.
  49. 2 Pet. 1:10 Individuals must take personal responsibility in their individual callings to gain certainty that they have been elected.
  50. 22:3 Work is such a good thing, it will go on for all eternity as one more method of glorifying God.

If we wanted to cluster all these truths into one term, it would be the Protestant work ethic which has been responsible for the vast wealth of America and other countries heavily influenced by Christianity. (See Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, originally 1906.) Elton Trueblood wrote, “Not many areas of human behavior have been more radically affected by the Christian gospel than that of daily toil. Wherever the gospel has been truly influential the concept of the dignity of work has emerged.” Pagan religions either enshrine laziness as a cultural virtue or they borrow from the glory properly belonging only to Christianity.

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Obituary: Tshifhiwa Irene, Public Speaker and False Teacher

Tshifhiwa Irene, pastor and public speaker for Divine Truth World Restoration Services for World Peace by Jesus Christ in Limpopo Province, passed away on 24 October around 5 am. Having been to her church and seen her in action, the best memorial to leave  of her memory are her own quotations.

“As from 20th November 2007, Jesus begun [sic] to unfold the program of that grace to free the world of HIV/AIDS. … Everyone who will accept Jesus Christ will be cleansed of the HIV/AIDS completely [sic]. However, that cleansing will depends [sic] entirely on your heart accepting the deliverance. Any person who refuses to believe and get delivered [sic], the virus will remain in that person; but, under the new grace, that person will not spread the virus whatsoever. After the HIV/AIDS root cut-off grace, if two people get married (or come together), one infected with HIV/AIDS and the other being negative; the infected partner will no longer pass on the virus to the uninfected partner.”

“It took 17 years for the kingdom of darkness to create HIV/AIDS. . . . The root/vein of HIV/AIDS is hidden in the ocean [sic] That root/vein is connected with the whole world. There were six demons that composed the HIV/AIDS disease. . . . They took the blood of man and mixed with the blood of four animals to produce a blend. They mixed that blend with six different demonic blood [sic], six different demonic saliva and six different demonic powers [sic] The final mixture produce [sic] the incurable HIV/AIDS to destroy humans without mercy. . . . That root/pot area is boiling steaming everyday [sic] As it steams and boils, it facilitates the HIV/AIDS spread from human to human. The devil lost the war.”

One of her staff wrote of her “[Pastor Tshifhiwa Irene] was calling and throwing the power of God to [a supposed witch], Sarah [the witch] was seen trying to shield herself from the power.”

When I visited her “ministry” she held up women’s undergarments during the “sermon” claiming that demons were responsible for any intimate problems the audience was experiencing.

She entered full-time ministry in 2001 and quickly matched the words of Peter’s description of a false teacher. As 2 Peter 2 says, she introduced destructive heresies (1), grew in popularity with the unconverted (2) indulged the flesh (10), blasphemed where she had no knowledge (12), enticed unstable souls (14), and trained her hearers’ hearts in greed (14).

After reading much of what she wrote, listening to sermons, interviewing her former pastor, and speaking with numerous church members, it is with sadness that I report at her death that she did not teach the great doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like so many other false prophets, she served as an angel of light to distract poor African sinners from personal responsibility, love for the Son of God, and hatred of sin.

May God be pleased through her death to startle into sobriety all those still bound by her false teaching and thus work, like Samson and our Lord Jesus, more good done in her death than was done in her life.

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What Is a Conservative?

A conservative tends to look to the past for wisdom rather than the present. The accumulated grace of God revealed throughout the ages is a mine in which he finds the resources to continue work in his own era. He does not despise the insight of the church fathers as if they were spiritual children. He thinks well of history and tradition because he would rather not tear down a fence until, at the least, he knows why it was built.

The dangerous waves of false teaching are usually recapitulations of past errors. A conservative wants the answers that helped the church in the previous chapters of her history. Reinventing and rebranding do not enter his mind—though reformation might.

His vocabulary of profanity includes words like fad, trend, and cool. He has no business with being “intentional” or “missional” because he sees the church as terrible as an army with banners. His models include the rough-edged apostle Peter and the weeping Jeremiah rather than the Fortune 500 executive. As David Gordon points out, “How can we worship the Ancient of Days while chasing the latest gimmick?”

A conservative strives for goodness, truth, and beauty. He seeks for orthodoxy, dies for orthopraxy, and covets earnestly orthopathy. To guard against novelty he checks his own interpretations and practices against the standards that have endured through the early persecuted church, the medieval church, the reformation, and the missionary movement. He pays extra attention to those men of God who have been specially chosen to lead thousands to Christ.

Through exegesis he has arrived at first principles, which he believes represent the unchanging mind of God. Make no mistake a conservative philosophy flows explicitly and implicitly from Scripture. It is implicit like the Scriptural proof for God’s existence. It is explicit in texts like Phil. 1:9-11; Rom. 12:1-2; Heb. 5:14; and even OT passages like Deut. 7:1-5.

Someone may say, “At the reformation, Luther was looking to the present against those who were looking to the past.” Not really. Luther looked right back to the beginning of the Christian church by mastering the Greek and Hebrew texts. He founded his most essential arguments on Scripture, which is the ultimate act of conservation. (And in his debate with Eck, he proved that the church fathers were often on his side as well.) In Samuel’s day it was written, “Word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.” Conservatives want the scarce resource of revelation to be carefully preserved for all believers of all times.

Because he sees a low view of God’s dignity and majesty as a bag with holes that will eventually—though not necessarily immediately—allow the gems of grace to be quietly lost, a conservative does not merely love the gospel. Therefore, he values Tozer and Lloyd-Jones in the 20thcentury. He could gladly be one of Spurgeon’s church members in the 19thcentury. He would happily fellowship with Charles or John Wesley from the 18thcentury. He would be spoiled for choice among the Puritans of the 17thcentury. If you would not fit smoothly in the church culture of these men, then you may not be a conservative.

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A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America

The soul is a river that always moves onward. Heroes that are on our own level or lower form a kind of dam where the water can stagnate. Did not Paul say, “I press on” precisely because he had not arrived? Was he not even concerned lest he should be a castaway? It may be exhausting to swim against the current, but it sure beats drowning.

Lacking vice though still better than promoting vice, is not the same thing as modeling virtue. The things we give our minds to and the food on which our children’s souls feed should obviously be free from those vices that ensnare the imagination, but that diet should also possess the gracious nutrients that will form our character like the Lord Jesus. The best heroes do that, and the average modern hero works against that.

When a hero gives in repeatedly to anger or pride or some other vice and then is defended with the question, “Aren’t we all sinners?”, the right response is, “Aren’t we supposed to aspire to be saints?”

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America


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Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes

1. The books and tales which have consistently been asked for over the centuries are those stories that highlight virtue.

The word classic means that which has been approved over time by a wide section of men and women. We need virtuous heroes because some deep, primordial desire wants them inside of us. No one will be watching today’s Marvel movies in 100 years, but people will still be reading Sherlock Holmes and Shakespeare’s plays. Classics speak to our hearts’ most basic needs therefore we need the kinds of heroes that are found in that canon of literature.

2. Our imaginations need to be informed by virtue rather than a range from mediocrity to vice.

Though philosophy departments may deny it, and liberal Christianity ignores it, the natural sinfulness of man is a truth so universally attested to in history that those who do not believe in it are further proof of it. In short, we need no help with vice. Our imaginations need to have holy ideals set before them.

Do we have so many perfect—complete, mature—people around us that we have no need of reading about one more? Who needs a mediocre example? Am I not a sufficient example of that for myself? The law of entropy ensures that I will always be spiraling downward unless an opposite force of greater power pulls me up. An imagination is not so much like a shelf where ideas can be stored and only one good example is needed for us to continually refer back to. Rather, the imagination is a garden pestered by birds and monkeys and erratic rainfall and a painfully apathetic farmer. It stands in need of good seeds all the time because it naturally brings weeds. Let writers and speakers give us those seeds that have the greatest tendency to inspire our minds to reflect much on the beauty of Christian character.

John Bunyan does this with characters like Hopeful and Faithful in The Pilgrim’s Progress. Church history does this with colorful men like John Huss (15thcentury preacher), John Knox (16thcentury Reformer), and John Eliot (17thcentury missionary). Classic literature raises the imagination with Jean Valjean in Les Miserables or Sir Percy Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel or Mr. Knightley in Emma. None of these heroes is sinless, but all of these heroes lived a life characterized by the traits you would like to see in your children. Paul urges us to dwell on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8).

3. The character of a hero speaks to the soul differently from the propositions of a syllogism.


Souls are complex creations that do not respond merely to facts. Give us examples that attract our sympathy and so the complex heartwork of the affections moves forward. If truth was enough, why do we need to watch parents for our first 20 years? The NT assumes this because Jesus took flesh and tells us to follow Him. He did not start the disciples with a catechism, but an internship. Love “as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Husbands would not know the right way to maintain their marriage without looking at His example (Eph. 5:25). The OT is filled with examples for us so that our desires would be correctly calibrated (1 Cor. 10:6). People persuade people with an intangible influence spreading out from an attractive life. Solomon told us that God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11) which at the least means we have great spiritual capacity and desires even if we are not able to reach all our aspirations. Good heroes cast our imagination a little further in the right direction. We need no help going the wrong direction, so why would a writer not offer us a lead character that can move us nearer to God? Perhaps, the writer’s mind is not interested in drawing nigh to God. If that is the case, then why are we interested in that writer’s work? We need virtuous heroes because when a person enters our imagination he begins to exert more influence than we may have thought possible in ways that we had not anticipated. “The prudent man gives thought to his steps (Pro. 14:15).”

4. Men who are above us draw us magnetically upward.

All of these reasons are so connected to each other that they strengthen each other like branches from a similar trunk. Perhaps, they are all the same and their only differences lie in perspective. We need virtuous heroes for the same reason that a sinking man needs a life vest. Mortimer Adler in How to Read a Book encourages us to read book by authors that can raise us up. Some authors, he tells us can only raise us once, and then we will be at their level making the book unnecessary for us in the future. But owing to the nature of inborn foolishness, virtuous models need to keep visiting us like friends. Why do we go to church each week? Seeing those other Christians has a vital impact on our godliness.

It may be that movie heroes are not usually enduring examples of virtue because it is a little uncomfortable to stand in the presence of a mature person. In this age of come-as-you-are relaxation, who wants to feel the pinch of a moral superior? He may make judgments that differ from mine, and isn’t that a microaggression or something? Oh, the silliness of a generation that cannot even bear the existence of a moral standard above ourselves! This is why we must not glut ourselves on heroes with no moral high ground, and thus unwittingly through the seeming innocuous means of entertainment and relaxation form an imagination that works against our best principles of personal responsibility and self-improvement.

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America


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Good Presentations of Total Depravity

Another objection might say that the Bible is full of sins and sinners. In the closing chapters of the book of Judges the history shows violent murder, rampant theft, and animalistic fornication. Throughout the OT, crass and vile episodes are recorded by divine inspiration for our instruction. Does that mean that when we read books or entertain ourselves we should have heroes who are obviously flawed?

The correct frame to put around the picture of sin always makes it appear immediately and enduringly odious. No one thinks of Jezebel as a heroine. Only an insane mind would choose Judas as the hero in the gospels. Satan is found in Job, but no readers cheer for him. The men of Sodom, king Herod, and Haman all picture total depravity, but none of the accounts of these sinners gives wickedness a charming quality. Nor are any of these men heroes. Virtue happily allows the ice of depravity to showcase itself knowing that it will only melt in the minds of men if it is exposed by the light of the Sun of Righteousness. If we do not come away from a picture of depravity hating and even being sickened by the presence of sin, then it was not a good picture.

Perhaps this is why Melville’s Moby Dick resonates with its readers. This novel has a wicked man as the main character and an unknowable animal as the hero. Ahab is depraved in the most devious way. Rather than chasing after superficial lusts like fornication, the captain of the Pequod directs all his powers and intellect to demonstrating his resentment of the White Whale. The power of the story rests in the terror that a good reader has of Ahab’s unflinching will to hate and exterminate the mysterious, “ubiquitous” Being who harvested Ahab’s leg as he “blindly [sought] with a six inch blade to reach the fathom-deep life of the whale”.

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America


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Wasn’t David a Raw, Broken, Messy Hero?

David broke God’s law with a high hand for a prolonged period of time, yet he is a hero of the faith. One of the remarkable traits of Scriptural history is its portrayal of the terrible sins of the patriarchs. Does this disprove the thesis that heroes should be models of virtue? No, for three reasons.

  1. David’s life was marked by godliness.

He fell to adultery with Bathsheba after decades of living wisely and in obedience to the law. For nearly 10 years Saul persecuted him, and he “behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul (1 Sam. 18:30).” He refused to kill Saul though David was anointed to be king, and the death of Saul would have been self-defense (1 Sam. 24:6; 26:9). He showed mercy to the suffering men who needed a leader while he was on the run (1 Sam. 22:2; 30:22-23). He showed mercy to Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 9:7). He encouraged himself in the Lord (1 Sam. 30:6).

He sinned terribly, but this was a relatively small amount of the Biblical data (2 chapters out of 58) appearing after years of faithfulness and before continued decades of obedience, as well as humble repentance seen in both Psalms 51 and 32.

  1. David lived without the benefit of the Holy Spirit.

Living a life of character must be fantastically difficult because so few do it. However, David did for decades live as a model without the constant indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. His sin is not so remarkable as his many years of good example.

  1. David is only a minor character, and he is not the real Hero.

Who is supposed to captivate our minds, but the shadowy Promise that David wrote about in Psalm 2? “I have installed my King.” He is the true Prophet, Priest, and King. Further, He is the righteous Judge and Lawgiver surpassing Samuel and Moses. Of course, sidekicks and ancillary characters have flaws, but the real Hero does not.

So, if modern authors patterned their heroes after David’s example, they would be placing great men before our eyes. The patriarchs of Scripture are examples of faith, resilience, and self-control. Their sins are sometimes recorded, but evil does not dominate their lives. Yet even when it does, they are still in Scripture to keep us longing for One who plays the man at all times.

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America



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Two Kinds of Sin

Every man is a sinner, but not the same kind of sinner. When Paul writes to the church at Corinth he calls this struggling, immature body “the church of God … those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling.” In this same letter, he warns that certain kinds of sinful lifestyles exclude you from the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Believers cannot sin in this kind of way or else they are not believers. John makes this even more plain in 1 John 3:8-9.

The one who practices sin is of the devil… No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

The standard for true Christianity is a lifestyle. Those who lack an ongoing practice of holiness and discipline should fear that their profession is false. They know very little of spiritual maturity.

Another kind of sinning exists whereby truly converted people fall into sin. All believers are in this category because we sin more often than we know. We cannot know our own hearts (Jer. 17:9-10) because of the remaining corruptions in them. But even while we can sin, John says that no believers are in the previous group of people who “keep on sinning.” One group of sinners are those who have a lifestyle or a character marked by sin. The second group sometimes sins, but their lives cannot fairly be characterized as sinful.

Heroes should be taken from the second group. They should be models of virtue whose lifestyle shows them to be worthy subjects for our imaginations to consider even though they are still sinners. This is why Paul wrote a list of requirements for pastors (1 Tim. 3:1-7) so that even though church leaders will be chosen from among a group of redeemed sinners, the church will be watching the best models of holiness from within their local church.

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America


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Why We Need Virtuous Heroes

The modern hero is usually unusually handsome and in that way distances himself from the average man. His rugged features must show well on the screen because that is the preferred medium today. But writers know that their audience must relate to their protagonist. A strange thing happens then in modern stories. In order to find some common ground with the average person watching the movie or reading the book, today’s heroes are messy, angry, and broken in the name of realism.

The argument goes something like this: Since we are all sinners, then the key characters of our stories should be as well. Anything else is unrealistic and unbelievable. Life is raw and anything less would be smarmy hypocrisy.

Here are a few examples.

In C. S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian, Peter is a young hero following a virtuous path. The wisdom and humility he displays are found from his elders, so even though he is young, Lewis’ was not propping up a nascent youth culture. The same character in the 2008 movie walks onto the screen as an angry teenager with “issues”.

Tolkien’s Faramir in The Two Towers is a model for my sons of justice, restraint, and discernment. Peter Jackson’s Faramir in the movie of the same name is a petulant, self-aggrandizing post-modern. What model of virtue is impoverished more than he? Only Jackson’s version of Frodo who—can you believe it?—rejects Sam in favor of Gollum. (Incidentally, Tolkien wrote Frodo as a 50-year old wealthy hobbit who nevertheless condescends with friendship to his faithful, lower-class, 35-year old servant. The cultural Marxists had to cut that dynamic as well when they rewrote the story.)

What would these kinds of writers do to Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy if they could? What would they do to the apostle Paul who lived from his conversion as a model of Christian piety (Acts 24:16)? We want our heroes exciting, but not convicting. They’ve got to be mostly like us except with superpowers or else they will not make it to market.

Here is the rest of the series.

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America


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Keep Studies in Their Place

Richard Baxter inThe Reformed Pastor urged pastors to spend time in evangelism, especially in instructing their own people to be sure not to lose one of their own church members. He then answered a number of objections that people may bring up.

Objection 3: This course of evangelism will take up so much time, that a man will have no opportunity to follow his studies. Most of us are young and inexperienced, and have need of much time to improve our own abilities, and to increase our own knowledge, which this course will entirely prevent.

Answer 1: I highly value common knowledge, and would not encourage any to set light by it; but I value the saving of souls more. That work which is our great end must be done, whatever be left undone. Men’s souls may be saved without knowing whether God did predetermine the creature in all its acts; whether the understanding necessarily determines the will; whether God works grace in a physical or in a moral way of causation; what freewill is; and a hundred similar questions, which are probably the things you would be studying when you should be saving souls. Get well to Heaven, and help your people thither, and you shall know all these things in a moment, and a thousand more, which now, by all your studies, you can never know; and is not this the most expeditious and certain way to knowledge?

Answer 2: You may have competent time for both evangelism and personal studies. Lose no time upon vain recreations and employments; consume it not in needless sleep; trifle not away a minute. Do what you do with all your might; and then see whether you have not competent time for these other pursuits.

Answer 3: If you must choose one duty above another, I there were such a case of necessity, that we could not carry on further studies, and instruct the ignorant too, I would throw aside all the libraries in the world, rather than be guilty of the perdition of one soul; or at least, I know that this would be my duty.

*These paragraphs are abridged from pages 213-215 in The Reformed Pastor by Banner of Truth.

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