His Name Will Be Emmanuel: Bossuet on "God With Us"

From his Elevations on the Mysteries, XV-IV:

His name will be Emmanuel: God with us. These are the mystical names which the Prophets give in spirit, to explain certain effects of divine power, which are necessary for those who use them. If we understand the force of that name Emmanuel, we find that of the Saviour. For what is it to be a saviour, if it is not to take away sins, as the angel had explained? But the sins being removed, and having no more separation between God and us, what else is left, unless being united with God and that God is with us perfectly? We are thus perfectly and eternally saved, and we recognise in Jesus who saves us, a true Emmanuel. He is Saviour, because in him, God is with us; it’s a God who unites our nature; reconciled with God, we are lifted up by his grace, until we are no more than a same spirit with him.

It is he which works who is at the same time God and who we are: God and man all together. God is in Jesus Christ reconciling himself to the world, not imputing to them their sins, and wiping them away in the Saints.  Thus God is with them,  because they no longer have their sins.

But this would be nothing if, at the same time, God was not with them to prevent their committing  new ones. God is with you, in the style of the Scriptures, that is to say that God protects you, helps you, and then with a help so powerful that your enemies cannot prevail against you. They fight, says the Prophet, and they do not prevail, because I am with you. (Jer. 1,19) Be with us, O Emmanuel, so that if, after the forgiveness of our sins, we fight his pernicious enticements, his personality, his temptations, and we stay victorious.

Is this all the grace of our Emmanuel? Doubtless no; in him there is a good much higher which also the last of all; it is that he will be with us in eternity, where God will be all in all, with us for us to purify our sins, with us to sin no more, with us for us, to the life where we cannot commit more.  See here, says St. Augustine, three degrees by which we pass to come to the salvation which the name of Jesus promises us and the perfect grace of the divine union by our Emmanuel: happy, when not only we do not sin any more under the yoke of him to whom we succumb, but when we no longer have to come against him whom we have had to fight, and who put our deliverance at risk.

O Jesus! O Emmanuel! O Saviour! O God with us! O conqueror of sin! O bond of the divine union! I wait with faith for that happy day where you will receive for me the name of Jesus; where you will be my Emmanuel, always with me, among all the temptations and dangers; go before me with your grace, unite me with you, and may all that is within me be submitted to your will.

The Two Choices at Jonestown

This comment from one Dr. Clarence Charles on the testimony of Sir Lionel Luckhoo is worth repeating:

As I meditate on Psalm 1 today, I contrasted the glorious life of Sir Lionel Luckhoo and its outcome, with the inglorious one of Jim Jones and his clan and their outcome in a piece entitled, “Eleven Days to the Rescue”:

“Eleven Days to the Rescue ….”.

I, a newly minted doctor, returned to my homeland Georgetown, Guyana in August, 1978. With the glowing MBBS degree from the University of the West Indies, I was confident of a viable exciting future.

I was gradually introduced to one choice made and within eleven days to witness the effect of that choice on another choice that was summarily reflexly made.

Two contrasting choices, two paths, two roads, two positions, two outcomes, two contrasting fortunes, two destinies – one for life, one for death; one for time, the other for eternity; both out of intense desperation, both end games: one out of sleepless nights and inner discord, the other out of public exposure and legal pursuit. Two contrasting choices made on single moves at a mutual critical intersection. The two paths intersected each other at a crucial defining moment in time and then diverged irretrievably, eternally.

One scenario was eminently redemptive, with twenty years of enviably productive peripathetic purpose-driven life yielded to “My… Jesus…”. The other was horrendously destructive, ending like Hitler’s final solution, sudden summary death of a captive multitude; seated “in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains” (Ps. 107;10).

It was a fiasco that the few survivors would never forget, not even for a single day, nay, a single moment. According to New Jersey-based cult psychiatrist, Dr. Hardat Sukhdeo, the psychological scars would remain active, unsoothed, unassuaged, smoulderingly volcanic, forever.

Both had revolutionary world-wide impact, though contrasting, with reverberations echoing through time to the present and for all eternity.

The Robert Browning “Two Roads” moment of two equally attractive and competing paths painted for me a Rembrandt, the iconic master of contrasts, with rich sharp black-white pastels, rooted in the first Davidic Psalm – “Trees planted by streams of water” versus “Chaff that the winds drive away” (Ps. 1; 3,4).

Happily, legal luminary, Sir Lionel Luckhoo, on November 7, 1978, quickly learning how “way leads to way”, took the” narrow road less travelled by”, and that, for him, “made all the difference”.

Regrettably, James Warren Jones, eleven days later, took to the broad way (Mt. 7: 13), the way that looked right to him (Prov. 14: 12, Prov. 21:2), the way that looked right in his own eyes (Judg. 21:25). He took with him 918 souls. They were bound captive men, women and children. His November 18, 1978 Jonestown jungle agricultural settlement, experiment and cultic commune, inevitably, imploded to obscurity and a cosmic instructive lesson in the art and end of deception.

In view of the 7th and its divine directive, thereof, Sir Lionel, in obedience, dare not turn up as Jim’s Jones’ demanded legal counsel and intermediary. He thus, wisely, absented himself from the crucial Leo Ryan-People’s Temple consultation on the 18th.

As such, God preserved his life, immediately ratifying his destiny before his very eyes. The Lord Jesus, as ever, had timed the American FGBMF-Guyana visit and hotel testimony meeting to perfection.

Like Nehemiah, Sir Lionel had begun to do a great work, by just simply believing in the Lord Jesus and following His nudges, in the first instance, and, as such, he would not travel by small plane to Jonestown (Neh. 6: 2-4). He had determined not to “walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of the scornful” (Ps. 1: 1). He thus escaped the quick cyanide Kool-Aid collateral death. He avoided a wild wayward bullet to the chest.

“Eleven Days to the Rescue” was, for Sir Lionel, a mission in God’s international divine design of Pauline proportions, character, singularity, intensity, consistency and urgency ….”

Although for us those two choices probably don’t look as dramatic as they did during that fateful November in Guyana, they are still the choices we all have to make.

Click here to help make that choice

Let's Not Do Something Stupid About the Russians

It’s supposed to be the time of year for joy and merriment, but I’ve seen a few things lately that bother me about the immediate course of the country. Most of those concern foreign policy, that necessary evil Americans aren’t very good at, even with all the years of travel and media coverage. (I think the media coverage is part of the problem, but I digress…)

What I specifically have in mind are the drumbeats of war about Vladimir Putin and the Russians. I’ve heard endless bawling about how he is the new Adolf Hitler and the Russian Federation the new Nazi Germany and, if we don’t “do something” about him, he’ll go on and conquer the world.  I’m sure that some Boomers, whose lives were dominated by the Cold War but who were too late to the party to end it, feel a tingle up their legs at the whole idea of reviving the ethic of that era.

It’s a lot of rubbish.

Back in 2008 I wrote a piece entitled Why I Wouldn’t Obsess Over the Russians. In that piece I noted the following:

It’s fair to say that the current regime in Moscow is looking for yet another buffer, having lost not only the Warsaw Pact countries but also the other republics of the old Soviet Union. From a strategic standpoint the touchiest of those is the Ukraine. Invading Georgia is one sure way of sending a message to the Ukrainians not to welcome NATO with open arms, which the Russians would interpret as a stab into their heartland (and a look at the map would confirm this.) Wisdom for the Americans would dictate that we, while certainly securing a position in places like Poland (maybe, I’ll take that up later,) should not push too hard in places like Georgia or Ukraine. If we corner the Russians, they have no where else to come out but straight at us, and that’s not a pleasant thought for a country with a large arsenal of nuclear weapons–especially if some of them end up in Cuba.

But I also noted this:

…it’s hard to think of a nation which is more blessed than Russia with sheer territory and natural resources and yet never seems to take full advantage of it. Russia had a golden opportunity to shed its authoritarian past and adopt a working economy and state, yet squandered it in a fashion worthy of the Middle East, first in the “Mafia” years of Boris Yeltsin and then those of Vladimir Putin when the power of organised crime was centralised in the state. The main reason why the Soviet Union lost the cold war was that it never developed a viable economy to match its military arsenal, and both Russian and American history show that, if you want to be a sustaining world power, you have to have both.

Or put more humorously:

 In the early 1970’s, when the Brezhnev era seemed most full of promise, an elderly Frenchman travelled from Moscow to Khabarovsk on the Trans-Siberian railway.  After only a few hours at the eastern end of the line he boarded the train again for the long journey back to Moscow.  The Frenchman watched life through the windows of the train, commenting on what he saw to his wife and anyone else who would listen.  The sights, as he saw them a second time, seemed even more fascinating and puzzling; and as the train passed yet another straggling town he took off his spectacles and addressed the carriage.  ‘There are only two words in the English language to describe this country.  One is mesee and the other is sloppee.’ (Mark Frankland, The sixth continent: Russia and the making of Mikhail Gorbachov, p. 46)

Russia is, to use their own expression, a very specific country, one which people in the West (to say nothing of Americans) have always found mystifying. The simple fact of the matter is that most of what we are seeing Putin doing is basically defensive posturing wrapped up in Russian nationalism. Putin is playing from a weak hand and he knows it; his adventures are nibbling about the edges and not swallowing up vast territories.  I think that Angela Merkel understands this but whether her counterparts in Washington do is another matter.

Rather than being another Hitler, Putin is an outsized Mussolini.  Russia is no Germany, never has been. (Neither, for that matter, are we, which is one reason why we don’t have a Hitler in the White House, either).

What dealing with Russia will take is patience and flexibility, understanding our real national interests rather than our hippie or Cold War dreams. We don’t need to do something stupid or impulsive we will regret later. That advice also applies to the Middle East, where endless calls for “boots on the ground” defy the lessons of recent history or that everyone there has many natural enemies who can prove useful.

We are paying a foreign policy establishment well; it’s time we got something for our investment other than one fiasco after another. Otherwise we will prove once again what most snobs know: that you can be a real American and a foreign policy expert, but you can’t be both.