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The Law of God discuss William Einwechter on Stoning Disobedient Children in the Theological Forum forums; Stoning Disobedient Children? by William Einwechter Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the January 1999 edition of the Chalcedon Report, and is reprinted here ...

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    William Einwechter on Stoning Disobedient Children

    Stoning Disobedient Children?

    by William Einwechter

    Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the January 1999 edition of the Chalcedon Report, and is reprinted here with only a few minor changes. Also, be sure to read the follow-up article, Stoning Disobedient Children? Revisited, on pages 9-15 of this issue of The Christian Statesman.

    If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother...all the men of the city shall stone him with stones, that he die.... (Deut. 21:18, 21).

    Deuteronomy 21:18-21 contains what is, perhaps, the most vilified law of the Old Testament. It is widely believed that this law authorizes the stoning of children who disobey their parents. Accordingly, this law is used to prove how harsh, severe, and unworkable Old Testament law is in "the New Testament age of love and grace." When theonomists advocate the use of the case laws as the standard for ethics and civil law today, often, one of the first remarks they hear is something like, "So you advocate the stoning of children who disobey their parents." The supposition is that by merely referring to this "harsh" law, they have proven that the theonomic view is absurd and cannot possibly be the standard for Christians today. Detractors of theonomy believe that the mere mention of the law of "stoning children" in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 will silence the theonomist, and prove to all thinking Christians that these "cruel" Old Testament case laws should not govern our lives in this age of grace.

    But as with most attacks on theonomic ethics, this objection to the use of the Old Testament case laws is based on a shallow reading of the law, a misunderstanding of the actual case law requirement,1 and an attachment to sentimental impulses as opposed to a commitment to the high ethical provisions of biblical law.2 When this case law, which applies the moral law of the Fifth Commandment to a specific circumstance, is understood it will prove to be "holy, just, and good"; a delight to the heart of God's true people (Rom. 7:12, 22).

    This law is given in the standard case law formulation of "if...then." The genius of the case laws is that they establish justice (or duty) in a specific case so as to enable us to know how to proceed (act righteously) in all such related cases. The particular case at hand involves a "stubborn and rebellious son" who will not heed the admonitions of his parents, nor submit to their discipline (v. 18). It is vital to proper interpretation and application that the precise nature of the case be ascertained.
    The Nature of the Case

    First, the person in view is a not a small child but a grown "son." The Hebrew term for "son" (ben) employed here is indefinite. It is sometimes used of children of both sexes (Ex. 21:5) but most often of the male offspring of parents, and that is clearly the sense in this text. Of itself, the word "son" does not give any indication of age. It can refer to a child or a young man (cf. 1 Sam. 4:4; 19:1; 1 Kings 1:33); age must be determined from the context.

    In this case, the son in view is not a child, for the sins brought forth in testimony to show his contumacious manner are gluttony and drunkenness (v. 20); hardly the sins of the average 6 or 10 year old. The case also indicates that the parents have tried to restrain their son, but all their efforts have failed (vv. 18, 20); specifying that he is physically beyond their control. Furthermore, the parents bring their son to the magistrates to judge the matter (v. 19); hence, the son would have opportunity to speak on his own behalf. All of this indicates that the "son" in question is no mere child but, rather, a young man at least in his middle teens or older. As Wright observes, "The law is not talking about naughty children but about seriously delinquent young adults."3

    Second, the problems associated with this son are severe. This is not the case of a child who has failed to do his chores, spoken back to his parents, or even committed a serious act of disobedience, but of a son of dissolute character who is in full rebellion to the authority of his parents--he holds them and their word in contempt. The text says that the son is "stubborn" and "rebellious" (vv. 18, 20). Both of these descriptive terms are active participles thus indicating habitual action. The son does not display a stubborn streak now and then, or act rebelliously from time to time, but is continuously stubborn and rebellious.

    The word "stubborn" refers to one who is obstinate in their resistance to authority. It is used in the Old Testament of a wild untamed heifer (Hos. 4:16), of an immoral woman who has cast off restraint and indulges in lust (Prov. 7:11), and of Israel as a stubborn people who would not submit to God's authority (Ps. 78:8; Isa. 1:23).

    The word "rebellious" means, literally, to strike or lash, and is used of those who contend against authority and refuse to heed their words. The "rebellious" individual lashes out in contempt against those who have authority over them verbally, and perhaps even physically.

    In light of this, it is important to note that the Law of the Covenant prescribes death for anyone who strikes his parents (Ex. 21:15) or curses his parents (Ex. 21:17). There is, therefore, reason to suppose that the son in this case law has broken the Law of the Covenant in one or both of these ways. The parents also describe the character of their son as being a "glutton" and a "drunkard." These sins are put forth as examples of a life lived without restraint.

    In the case of such rebellion and riotous living, and after all attempts at discipline and control have failed, the parents are to bring their son before the magistrates for judgment. If the magistrates concur in the parents' estimate of the situation, they are to order the men of the city to stone the rebel with stones so that he dies (vv. 20-21). The purpose to be served in the execution of the rebellious son is to "put evil away from among you" and that all will "hear and fear" (v.21).
    The Real Meaning

    Therefore, the law of Deuteronomy 21:18-21 is not about stoning disobedient children. The Bible does not instruct parents to use stoning in dealing with the rebellious nature and disobedience of their children, but to use the rod and reproof (Prov. 29:15). Children are to be trained from a young age by consistent and loving discipline so that the foolishness that is bound up in them can be driven out (Prov. 22:15), and that they will learn to honor and obey their parents and all those whom God has placed in authority over them.

    The case law in discussion does not apply to young children during the formative years, but applies, instead, to a grown son (and by extension to a daughter as well) who, for whatever reason, has rebelled against the authority of his parents and will not profit from any of their discipline nor obey their voice in any thing. It is a case of habitual contempt of parental authority characterized by a young adult living a life without moral restraint who lashes out verbally and/or physically against his mother and father. It is a case where the evil character of the son is apparently set, and there is no reasonable hope of him ever changing.

    The kind of rebellion against parental authority described in this case law is called "evil" (v. 21). It is evil because it holds both God and His law (i.e., the command to honor parents) in derision. It is evil because it threatens the very existence of the family, and therefore, of society itself. It is evil because it signals the rejection of all God-ordained authority and leads to civil and ecclesiastical disorder. God considers it such a dangerous evil that it must be extinguished by death at the hands of the civil magistrate.4
    Inescapable Death

    Those who consider death as a horrible punishment here must realize that in such a case as described in Deut. 21:18-21 death is inescapable. Contempt of parental authority, if left unchecked, is the death of the family, law, and order. The question then is: Who or what should die? The rebel, or family and society?

    Furthermore, the life of a rebel inevitably leads to the grave (sheol; cf. Prov. 30:17); he will die an early death, and probably take others with him.

    Finally, God Himself declares that even if such a rebel against parental authority escapes the judgment of man, His curse is upon that man and he shall be cut off (Deut. 27:16; Prov. 30:17). Therefore, the execution of the rebel in view is just, merciful, and preventive. Just, in that the transgressor deserves to die; merciful, in that his quick death prevents the destruction of the family, society, and others; preventive, in that it strikes fear in the heart of other would be rebels and restrains them from taking a similar ruinous course.
    Conclusion

    Christians must not be embarrassed by the law of Deuteronomy 21:18-21, nor should they be chagrined when others try to use it to discredit the case laws of the Old Testament. Properly understood, it displays the wisdom and mercy of God in restraining wickedness so that the righteous might flourish in peace. It is those who reject this case law that should be embarrassed, for they have cast reproach on God and His law, cast aside the testimony of Christ,5 and have substituted their own imaginations (Jer. 7:24) for the blessed Word of God.

    William Einwechter is vice president of the National Reform Association and the editor of its publications. He serves as a pastor at Immanuel Free Reformed Church in Ephrata, PA.
    Link
    Rev. Benjamin P. Glaser, M. Div, ARP
    Pastor, Ellisville Presbyterian Church, ARP
    Ellisville, Mississippi

    ‎‎"Ministers of the Gospel, when dispensing the truths of God, must preach home to their own souls, as well as unto others. Sir's, we do not deliver truths or doctrines to you, wherein we ourselves have no manner of concern. No, our own souls are at the stake, and shall either perish or be saved eternally, as we receive or reject these precious truths which we deliver unto you. And truly, it can never be expected that we will apply the truths of God with any warmth or liveliness unto others, unless we first make a warm application thereof to our own souls. And if we do not feed upon these doctrines, and practise these duties, which we deliver to and inculcate upon you, though we preach unto others, we ourselves are but castaways." -- Ebenezer Erskine, "The Assurance of Faith", pg. 8

    Deo Vindice

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    As I often say: STWTAYAYWHTSTWTAO (PM me to find out what that means).
    Daniel
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    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    As I often say: STWTAYAYWHTSTWTAO (PM me to find out what that means).
    Without PMing

    "STWTA yourself and you will have to STWTA others."

    Am I getting there?
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    "Seek the Kingdom of God first."

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    Quote Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    As I often say: STWTAYAYWHTSTWTAO (PM me to find out what that means).
    Without PMing

    "STWTA yourself and you will have to STWTA others."

    Am I getting there?
    No, sorry.
    Daniel
    RPCI
    Northern Ireland
    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    As I often say: STWTAYAYWHTSTWTAO (PM me to find out what that means).
    Without PMing

    "STWTA yourself and you will have to STWTA others."

    Am I getting there?
    No, sorry.
    Bummer.
    Bryan Wiley
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    Reformed Baptist Church
    Louisville, Kentucky

    "Seek the Kingdom of God first."

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    Is the "STWTA" repeating itself word-for-word?
    Bryan Wiley
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    "Seek the Kingdom of God first."

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    Quote Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
    Is the "STWTA" repeating itself word-for-word?
    Yes.
    Daniel
    RPCI
    Northern Ireland
    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

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    Young old... I'm cooking
    Bryan Wiley
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    when they are young when they are old
    Bryan Wiley
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    As I often say: STWTAYAYWHTSTWTAO (PM me to find out what that means).
    S T when they are young and Y W H T S T when they are old
    Bryan Wiley
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    Quote Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
    Young old... I'm cooking
    Quote Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
    when they are young when they are old
    You are getting warmer.
    Daniel
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    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

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    Stone them when they are young and Y W H T Stone them when they are old.
    Bryan Wiley
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    Quote Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Ritchie View Post
    As I often say: STWTAYAYWHTSTWTAO (PM me to find out what that means).
    S T when they are young and Y W H T S T when they are old
    Getting very warm: change old for older.
    Daniel
    RPCI
    Northern Ireland
    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

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    Stone them when they are young and you will have to stone them when they are old.

    That can't be it.
    Bryan Wiley
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    "Seek the Kingdom of God first."

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    You must have forgot "not." You will not have to stone them when they are older.
    Bryan Wiley
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    Quote Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
    Stone them when they are young and you will have to stone them when they are old.

    That can't be it.
    Think of the opposite of will.
    Daniel
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    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

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    Gotcha.
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    Quote Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
    You must have forgot "not." You will not have to stone them when they are older.
    I used won't. But it would probably have been better to use will not. You are getting closer.
    Daniel
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    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

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    Tell me what I've won! A new car?
    Bryan Wiley
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    Quote Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
    Tell me what I've won! A new car?
    Sorry, no prizes.
    Daniel
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    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

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    You must not have seen my final answer.

    There's an old Irish saying: "Stone them when they are young and you won't have to stone them when they are older."
    Bryan Wiley
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    Quote Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
    You must not have seen my final answer.

    There's an old Irish saying: "Stone them when they are young and you won't have to stone them when they are older."
    You are close, but still not there yet. Think of what must be done (by parents) in order that a youth would not end up becoming incorrigible.
    Daniel
    RPCI
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    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

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    Spank?
    Bryan Wiley
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    Spank them when they are old and you will not have to stone them when they are older?
    Bryan Wiley
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    "Seek the Kingdom of God first."

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    Quote Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
    Spank them when they are old and you will not have to stone them when they are older?
    You win.

    Replace 'spank' with 'smack' if you are in the UK. In all seriousness though, the lack of proper child discipline can only lead to wild youths who are a menace to society. This is illustrated in the lives of David's sons who rebelled.
    Daniel
    RPCI
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    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

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    Man, I became a junior with that run of posts. I had to work for that one!
    Bryan Wiley
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    Quote Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
    Man, I became a junior with that run of posts. I had to work for that one!
    Daniel
    RPCI
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    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

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    For the record:

    There's an old Irish saying "Smack them when they are young and you won't have to stone them when they are older."
    Bryan Wiley
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    Quote Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
    For the record:

    There's an old Irish saying "Smack them when they are young and you won't have to stone them when they are older."
    Daniel
    RPCI
    Northern Ireland
    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

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    A few parents in our church carry "whackies" in their pocket to discipline their kids on the spot. It's rare in the States. They have them in Ireland? Common, uncommon? Never heard of them?
    Bryan Wiley
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    "Seek the Kingdom of God first."

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    Quote Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
    A few parents in our church carry "whackies" in their pocket to discipline their kids on the spot. It's rare in the States. They have them in Ireland? Common, uncommon? Never heard of them?
    I have never known anyone to do that. Probably a good idea.
    Daniel
    RPCI
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    "May that happy period soon arrive when the unclouded glory of divine revelation will shine from pole to pole; when men every where will see eye to eye, in all things that are connected with divine glory, and with their own eternal felicity." William Stavely (Irish Covenanter), An appeal to light (1796), pp 143-4

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    Well God gave us two "whackies"...
    Rev. Benjamin P. Glaser, M. Div, ARP
    Pastor, Ellisville Presbyterian Church, ARP
    Ellisville, Mississippi

    ‎‎"Ministers of the Gospel, when dispensing the truths of God, must preach home to their own souls, as well as unto others. Sir's, we do not deliver truths or doctrines to you, wherein we ourselves have no manner of concern. No, our own souls are at the stake, and shall either perish or be saved eternally, as we receive or reject these precious truths which we deliver unto you. And truly, it can never be expected that we will apply the truths of God with any warmth or liveliness unto others, unless we first make a warm application thereof to our own souls. And if we do not feed upon these doctrines, and practise these duties, which we deliver to and inculcate upon you, though we preach unto others, we ourselves are but castaways." -- Ebenezer Erskine, "The Assurance of Faith", pg. 8

    Deo Vindice

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    I'll take the bait. What are the two whackies?
    Bryan Wiley
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    Hands I guess? I was hoping something deeply theological.
    Bryan Wiley
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    Sometimes the "Plain meaning" is all you need.
    Rev. Benjamin P. Glaser, M. Div, ARP
    Pastor, Ellisville Presbyterian Church, ARP
    Ellisville, Mississippi

    ‎‎"Ministers of the Gospel, when dispensing the truths of God, must preach home to their own souls, as well as unto others. Sir's, we do not deliver truths or doctrines to you, wherein we ourselves have no manner of concern. No, our own souls are at the stake, and shall either perish or be saved eternally, as we receive or reject these precious truths which we deliver unto you. And truly, it can never be expected that we will apply the truths of God with any warmth or liveliness unto others, unless we first make a warm application thereof to our own souls. And if we do not feed upon these doctrines, and practise these duties, which we deliver to and inculcate upon you, though we preach unto others, we ourselves are but castaways." -- Ebenezer Erskine, "The Assurance of Faith", pg. 8

    Deo Vindice

  36. #36
    staythecourse's Avatar
    staythecourse is offline. Puritanboard Junior
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    As a new father may you only need to use your whackies ever so infrequently on the new addition.
    Bryan Wiley
    Layman
    Reformed Baptist Church
    Louisville, Kentucky

    "Seek the Kingdom of God first."

  37. #37
    Backwoods Presbyterian's Avatar
    Backwoods Presbyterian is offline. Puritanboard Doctor
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    Yes, only so much back talking a 4-day old can do...
    Rev. Benjamin P. Glaser, M. Div, ARP
    Pastor, Ellisville Presbyterian Church, ARP
    Ellisville, Mississippi

    ‎‎"Ministers of the Gospel, when dispensing the truths of God, must preach home to their own souls, as well as unto others. Sir's, we do not deliver truths or doctrines to you, wherein we ourselves have no manner of concern. No, our own souls are at the stake, and shall either perish or be saved eternally, as we receive or reject these precious truths which we deliver unto you. And truly, it can never be expected that we will apply the truths of God with any warmth or liveliness unto others, unless we first make a warm application thereof to our own souls. And if we do not feed upon these doctrines, and practise these duties, which we deliver to and inculcate upon you, though we preach unto others, we ourselves are but castaways." -- Ebenezer Erskine, "The Assurance of Faith", pg. 8

    Deo Vindice

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