The Painted Land August 23, 2010Posted by preacherwin in Uncategorized.
Tags: Allegory, C.S. Lewis, Children's Story, creation, Creativity of God, Fall, Fiction, Gospel, Grace, Painted Lands, redemption, Story, Supposal, Tale
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(A Children’s Story for Adults)
Once upon a time there was a land of color and filled with life. There were trees that reached almost to the heavens and upon their branches were all kinds of fruit in every shape and color—bright red apples, soft-yellow bananas, green pears that glittered in the sun and every other kind that boys and girls or their parents might enjoy. And these fruits were the best kind of apples and pears, they were always ripe, always sweet, and always juicy on a hot summer day. Even the plant life below the branches was lush and filled with different shapes and colors of an almost infinite number of hues. The greens were not simply green, but the shades were both dark and light with countless “in-betweens.” Such was the land of color.
And while the land was wild in a sense, it was not wild in the way we think of wildness. The brambles were not high and the bushes were kept trim even though no hands trimmed them back. This was because the land of color was no ordinary land, but it was a land painted by the hand of a Master Painter—one who had a sense of beauty and a sense of variety that did not reduce itself to clutter or chaos. No, everything that this painter added to the land of color was a perfect fit and had a perfect place to settle. There was a sense of rightness about this land of color because her painter understood the very nature of what was right. You might even say that our sense of the “rightness” of a thing did not define this painter’s work, but it is from this painter’s work that we can know what is right and balanced…but that is another story all together (even though all good stories somehow seem to be connected in one way or another to this painter and to his work).
One day this painter, though quite content with his colorful world, decided that he wanted to paint a painter in his garden. This painted painter, the great painter thought, should reflect one of his many glorious shades of color. Yet, since the colors of the painter were all unique, but perfect in their own way, the painter chose to begin with three painters, each being given paint in one of three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. He also gave them the authority to expand the land of color with their own combinations of colors and the great painter waited with delight to see the many colors that his created painters would produce. The only rule that they had to follow was that they had to rely on using the paint that the great painter would provide to them. He promised each—“If you rely on the color I give you, you will never run out of paint, no matter how much you mix with each other; but if you begin to create paint of your own, then the paint that I will send will dry up.
Of course, the three little painters knew that the Master Painter’s paint was perfect and would blend perfectly with all of the other colors in this world. They also knew that the Master Painter’s paint brought all things that they painted to life just as this world was alive. Thus the painters went to work, excited at the idea of learning what they could produce with this wonderful paint. At first, they simply experimented with color—they added a shade to a plant here or a colorful streak upon an animal there. Later, as they began to become more and more proficient with their buckets of color, they began copying the animals that the painter had made. At first, their copies were awkward, but with more and more practice, they became better and better able to imitate the work of the great painter. And notice that when I call these first tries awkward, that does not mean that they were bad and not beautiful in their own sense—it is just that our three junior painters were still learning their creator’s trade.
For a season, all went well. The great painter delighted in watching his created painters learn to manipulate color as he did. Often, he would walk in the colorful land with them, teaching them new ways to combine or apply their colors. The colorful land was quickly becoming a colorful world, and the great painter took satisfaction as his land began to grow bigger and was filled with more and more life and color. Happy was a word that described everything about this new and growing land…but happiness rarely lasts forever…
One day, the blue painted painter got an idea. Just as the Master Painter had painted painters, he thought, why not paint a painter himself. Then he could be the Master Painter teaching his own painted painter. When he brought the idea to the Yellow and Red Painted Painters, they did not like the idea. They thought that they still needed a lot more practice with painting before they would be ready to paint a painter. Plus, who would supply these new painted painters with paint? The Master Painter supplied them with paint, but they were not able to pour out their paint other containers to be used by this new painted painter. Certainly if the Master Painter had wanted more painters he would have made more and they had been forbidden to create their own paint to work with—all the colors had to come from the three of them mixing their paints together.
This should have been enough to discourage the Blue Painted Painter from pursuing his idea, but he kept on thinking about it. Every time he and Red and Yellow were painting, he brought up the question. At first they were angry with him for nagging them so greatly—and he was angry as well, because they did not trust him enough to go along. Later, the anger of the other Painted Painters became frustration and then concern and then worry. What if the Blue Painted Painter just went off and painted another Blue Painter? They could just walk away, couldn’t they? They could tell the Master Painter that Blue just did his own thing, but what would happen then? If the Blue Painted Painter got mad at them, they could no longer blend his paint with theirs to create their wonderful hues! A world with no purples and no greens—how could that be imagined, no, the three painters had to be together.
And that is when it happened. The Blue Painted Painter came to their meeting one day without his paint can. He said, if you won’t help me paint a painter, I won’t blend my color with you any longer. Heartbroken, the Painted Painters agreed to help paint a painter and in turn, would help the Blue Painted Painter make paint for their creation. Oh, how the Master Painter must have wept when he witnessed this terrible plan being worked out; how he must have ached as he watched his own beautiful painted painters acting in such rebellion…
And so it came about. The three painted painters began painting a painter with a color that combined all of their paints. That way, not one of the three could claim that they did not participate in the creation. The color they settled on was a form of grayish-brown. These painters did not understand why on this day their paints did not seem to combine as they supposed. Instead of a created painted painter that was filled with life and depth of color, what they had was more or less a dull blob that roughly held the form of a painted painter…there would be no confusing the two. They tried to correct the color, but the more they worked at it, the less it like a painted painter it became. It was not what they had imagined.
And that is when things really started to go badly. When this new painted painter began to paint he did not do so with nice, crisp strokes of the brush as they tried to teach him, but instead, he slopped his paint here and there and demanded more and more paint. And nothing that this new painter painted ever came to life. In fact, the new paint of this painted painter seemed to rob the life out of everything it splattered paint upon. At first, the three painted painters tried to work behind this new painted painter, hoping to undo what had been done. It wasn’t very long before they realized that the new painted painter could paint much faster than they could do. There might have been only one of him and three of them, but they had been taught to carefully and lovingly apply paint, which is much slower than just splattering it around. These three soon realized how great a mistake they had made and they feared what would happen when the Master Painter discovered their sin.
Of course, the Master Painter knew what was taking place from before the first time the Blue Painted Painter got the idea. Master Painters know their creations even better than the creations know themselves. And the Master Painter also understood just how badly the new painted painter would ruin the Painted Land with his second-hand paint. Oh, how he grieved what would have to come next, but we shall not get ahead of our story.
The Master Painter sent the three original painted painters a note, which read as follows:
THUS SAYS THE MASTER PAINTER: YOU HAVE BROKEN MY RULE AND CREATED PAINT OF YOUR OWN; NO LONGER THEN WILL I PROVIDE YOU WITH PAINT.
What were the painted painters to do? The one thing that they loved to do was to paint with the Master Painter’s wonderful paints. And now those paints were drying up. They tried to repent, they tried to cry out for forgiveness, but they heard no more and they did not see the painted painter’s brush in the Painted Land any longer. The three went back to their homes and sadly put their empty paint cans on the shelf and packed away their brushes lamenting their choice, but also hoping that the Master Painter would relent and let them paint again…one day.
The seasons came and went and years passed. If they had been regular boys and girls, they would have grown up and grown old and their grandchildren would have grown up and grown old and then their grandchildren would have grown up and grown old. Many years went by, but these painted painters were not like ordinary boys and girls—they did not grow old, they simply remained saddened in their homes, always hoping for a word from the Master Painter. Sometimes they would come together and pray, hoping to see the Master Painter return, but all remained silent. Sometimes they went out looking for some creation in the Painted Land that had not been touched by the new painted painter’s second-hand paint, but alas, as soon as they found something, they would find a small splotch on a corner.
They sensed that if they could find something untouched by the second-hand paint, that the Master Painter might be pleased with them and so each went on long journeys, which in stories we sometimes call quests, trying to find something that was untouched by second-hand paint to offer up to the Master Painter, but nothing was found. Even the sky had been filled with blotches of the dull-grey that the new painted painter used. The blotches even blocked out most of the sunlight, which made the colors even more warped and distorted. Even our original three painted painters had been covered with splotches of the second-hand paint so much so that it was hard to tell them apart unless you looked closely. The bright painted land had become dull and grey throughout.
You might ask how the new painted painter got fresh supplies of his second-hand paint if the Master Painter had stopped his supply to the three original painted painters. The new painted painter recognized that the original three could be bullied into making paint for him for only so long, so he sought out a new source of paint. He began his process by painting a grey flint-stone for himself and then began the process of scraping the original color off of the painting. Anything that the Master Painter had painted, he sought to scratch and chip away. He then combined these paint chips and with his dark-grey arts, combined them with a small amount of paint that oozed from his own form, thus creating more and more dull-grey paint to spatter about.
But the new painted painter also did not stop there. He began painting more painters and supplying them with their own paints. These third-hand painters did not even really look like painters at all, but instead looked like awful caricatures of the painter form. They were still painters, but were hideous and their splattering went about in an awful way.
It is a wonder that the Master Painter did not just crumple up his painted world right then and there and start from scratch on a new canvas—indeed, I probably would have were I holding his brush, and thankfully, I have never held his brush! You see, the Master Painter loved his three painted painters and he loved the painted world that he had begun and they had added to. He knew that the work of these second-hand and third-hand painters had to be undone, thus the Master Painter did something remarkable.
One day, the Master Painter once again lowered his brush onto his canvas to paint something wonderful. He painted one more painter. Except that this time, the Master Painter did not paint a painter of a primary color, the Master Painter painted himself into the portrait—and the Master Painter was not of one distinct color, but he contained in his person all colors together in perfect harmony.
The first one to spot this new painter was the blue painted painter. The Blue Painted Painter recognized the Master Painter at once, but the guilt of his deed (being the one who talked the other two painted painters into painting the second-hand painted painter) caused him to run away and hide. Yet, one cannot hide from one’s maker for long. Soon, the Blue Painted Painter was trembling at the feet of the Painted Master Painter, worried at what might happen next. Yet, what happened next was not what the Blue Painted Painter expected. The Painted Master Painter reached down and touched the Blue Painted Painter and slowly, not all at once, but little by little, the dull grey that had so long coated the blue of his original form passed away from him and onto the Painted Master Painter.
The process surprised the Blue Painted Painter for two reasons. First, because the Blue Painted Painter had been so long covered with dull grey that he had forgotten what his shade of blue looked like in the first place. But second, though the grey paint that was coming off of him did not seem to stick to the Painted Master Painter, it seemed to cause him pain at the same time. It was so unfair. Blue recognized that he was the one who deserved to suffer, but the Painted Master Painter was suffering to make him clean. He wept and he wept tears of pure-blue water that swept up from his heart. Then he heard the most wonderful words…words he had given up hoping to hear. The Painted Master Painter said, “I forgive you; go and tell the others.”
Oh, how the Blue Painted Painter ran with the good news to his brothers. The Red and Yellow Painted Painters would be so excited to hear the news, yet the news was not received in the way that the Blue Painted Painter had hoped. At first, they ignored his message…surely the Master Painted Painter had not come. If he had, how could he have waited so long. But then they saw that the Blue Painted Painter was no longer covered with grey. This made them angry. He was the one who caused all of the trouble in the first place…why should he be clean and they not!
Then the Yellow Painted Painter and the Red Painted Painter did something despicable. They cornered the Blue Painted Painter and tied him to a chair. Then they found some of the grey paint and proceeded to splatter it back upon the poor Blue Painted Painter. If they were not clean; he should not be clean either!
The Blue Painted painter could not look. His heart was broken. The wonderful gift that the Painted Master Painter had given him would soon be taken away. He felt the second-hand paint splatter all over his body and could do nothing but weep big tears of sorrow. But something unusual happened. The Red and Yellow Painted Painters had stopped throwing paint and were talking with one another in hushed tones. The Blue Painted painter opened his eyes and what he saw astonished him. None of the dull-grey paint had stuck to him! He was still as blue as the day he was originally painted!
He cried out to the other two painted painters: “Brothers, stop and listen! You too can be made clean if you will but follow me to the Painted Master Painter! Let me bring you to him, please!”
The other two talked amongst themselves. Was it a trick? It certainly was too good to be true, but what if it was true. Could they too be made clean? What if the Blue Painted Painter wanted to take their revenge on them for tying him up and splattering him with paint? No, deep down inside of them they knew that what the Blue Painted Painter had said was true. Could the Master Painter really have painted himself into this world? Was he here to undo the mess of the created painted painters? Such a thing would be too good to be true. They untied the Blue Painted Painter and begged his forgiveness.
The Blue Painted Painter responded, “Brothers, I have been forgiven by the Master Painter, how can I hold anything against you? What I have been given is beyond what I can measure; in comparison, your sin against me is small and nearly insignificant. Come, let me take you to the Master.
And that is what the Blue Painted Painter did. The three of them found the Painted Master Painter sitting under a beautiful fig tree, which it seemed that the Master Painter had cleansed of its second-hand paint as well. And there they sat and they talked and they talked for hours and days and weeks, feasting on the beautiful fruit that grew on the tree. And, to their delight, both Red and Yellow were made clean.
For three wonderful years, the three painted painters followed the Painted Master Painter through the Painted lands, slowly removing the dull-grey paint from its canvas. And just as before, though the second-hand painters tried to splatter paint on the three Painted Painters, none of it stuck so long as they were with the Painted Master Painter. Something else happened that the original three painted painters never expected. There were some of the third-hand painted creatures that one day came to the Painted Master Painter. At first, the three Painted Painters thought that they should destroy the abominations, but the Painted Master Painter reached out his hands and absorbed their dull-grey paint as well. And when the Painted Master Painter had done so, what was left was a small painted painter! Not a deformed creation of a sloppy hand, but a clean and beautiful painter, all sporting different hues of color. A following soon surrounded this Painted Master Painter, but as before, it seems that good things often do not last.
The Grey-brown second-hand painted painter did not appreciate this work of the Painted Master Painter, so he developed a plan to stop this activity for good. The Painted Painters still had no paint, they only had the presence of the Painted Master Painter who was undoing the work of splattering that had been so long done.
The Second-Hand Painter had noticed that when the Painted Master Painter cleansed something of the dull-grey paint, the process caused the Painted Master Painter pain. The Second-hand Painter gathered all of his own painted painters together and hatch their plan. They would lure the Painted Master Painter to a specified place and then they would pour out their entire stockpile of dull-grey paint upon him. The pain that this would cause would be excruciating and they felt that it ought to be great enough to kill the Painted Master Painter.
What the Second-Hand Painter did not realize—in fact, what not even the painted painters realized, was that this is exactly what the Master Painter had sent his Painted Master Painter to do. The pain would indeed kill the Painted Master Painter, but not before all of the reserves of the second-hand paint would be destroyed and the curse upon the painted painters lifted, thus permitting them to paint again.
So, that is what took place. The Second-Hand Painter promised one of the little created painters that had been uncovered an abundance of paint if he would but lead the Painted Master Painter into a given cave at the right time. The little created painter agreed, being a little frustrated that the Painted Master Painter had not yet given him any paint to paint with himself. The night before the trip down into the cave, the Painted Master Painter told his Painted Painters that on the next day they would flee and abandon him.
The Blue Painted Painter could not believe his ears. “No!” he exclaimed. “I will follow you even into death if that be what you ask of me.”
“My little Blue Painted Painter,” the Painted Master Painter said, “how do you think you can bear what I alone am meant to?”
The Blue Painted Painter did not understand and thus the Painted Master Painter followed the little created painter down toward the cave. It wasn’t until they had entered the cave that the Painted Painters realized the trap that had been set. Vats of slimy, brackish, dull, grey-brown paint were poised to be poured out upon those who entered into the cave.
The Painted Painters cried out, “Run!”
And that is what everyone did…that is, except for the Painted Master Painter. At first, the Blue Painted Painter had thought that the Painted Master Painter was fleeing behind him, but when he turned around and did not see him, he began to turn back and his heart sunk at what he saw. Every ounce of dull-grey second-hand paint that could be found in the world was being poured out upon the Painted Master Painter. His cries of agony could barely be heard over the laughter of the Second-Hand Painter and his helpers. When the little created painter realized what he had done, he too fled, but sadly to commit suicide rather than be covered once again by that second-hand paint. The world began to get very dark once again and the cave became the tomb of the Painted Master Painter.
Night passed and a new day arose, but this day was darker and greyer than usual. It seemed as if the dull-grey paint was covering up the Sun. So much for the beauty that was brought about by walking with the Painted Master Painter; all seemed lost. Another night passed and again the day that arose was more grey than light, but figuring that the sloppy paint used to kill the Painted Master Painter had likely finished seeping into the earth through the cracks in the cave, the three Painted Painters decided to make the sad journey to the cave to find the remains of their beloved Painted Master Painter.
When they arrived, they were met with a shock. The paint had seeped away, but there was no body. The only thing they found was a brilliant white lily growing up from the spot where they last saw the Painted Master Painter…and there was no sign of stain on the lily.
They went home confused about the flower, when on the road they met what they took to be a stranger. He asked them questions about what was going on in these parts of the Painted Land. Could this wanderer not know what had just taken place? Then the wanderer stopped, and out of his satchel, he gave each of the Painted Painters a brush and told them to go home quickly and soon they would find paint in their paint buckets. It was at that point that they recognized their beloved Painted Master Painter, but they noticed something different about him as well—on each hand he had a single spot of black paint, from where he had absorbed the stain brought on my the second-hand painter.
The Painted Painters did not know what to say, they were overwhelmed with joy to find their Master Painted Painter with them again. He instructed them to go back to their homes and wait until their buckets filled once again. Then, they were to go out into the Painted World and repaint all that had been stained with sin…their paint being a testimony that the Master Painter had forgiven their sins and that the Painted Master Painter would one day return to judge the Second-Hand Painter and all who served him for their wickedness, but in the meantime, there were many little painted painters who needed to see what true paint looks like. Then the Painted Master Painter rose in the air and disappeared as if a great brush had swept him off the canvas…and indeed, that is exactly what took place as the Painted Master Painter took his place with the Master Painter.
And friends, rather than being the end of the story, this is just the beginning. For the three painted Painters began filling the world with the good news of new paint and cleansing from the stain of the sinful second-hand splotches. It is a story that even we participate in to this day as we paint for the world the truth that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh to redeem us from our sins and to give us new life. And one day, like our Painted Master Painter, Jesus too will come again to judge evil and to condemn his enemies into the fires of hell. But that is a story that is yet to be told.
Tags: Bible, Biblical Principles, Christian Education, Christian Philosophy, classroom, Classroom Management, discipline, Education, homeschooling, Imago Dei, living faithfully, parental responsibility in education, parents teaching, Peah 1:1, Philosophy of Christian education, Philosophy of Education, sanctification, Sin, teachers
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Some initial thoughts as to some Biblical principles that ought to shape the way Christian schools and Christian teachers order their classrooms. These thoughts are not meant as exhaustive, but instead are meant to be a Biblical foundation upon which a philosophy of Christian education can be built.
1. The interaction with students, from instruction to discipline, must be built on the principle that students bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26), and though that image was twisted and deformed as a result of the fall through the entrance of sin and death (Romans 5:12), the image of God was not lost in the fall (Genesis 9:6). Thus, a large part of the role of Christian education is that of “straightening” the fallen person—helping to restore the person in such a way that they accurately reflect the image of God. As Christ is the perfect reflection of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), it is into the image modeled for us by Christ that we seek to direct the transformation of our students. The life and well-being of the child is seen by scripture in a special way (Psalm 127:3; Matthew 19:14; Mark 9:42). How we handle sin in the classroom as well as education in the classroom must be seen in this context, and teachers are to understand that they are to be held to a higher standard than others (James 3:1).
2. Education is a divinely ordained responsibility of parents, but particularly that of the Father as the covenant head of the household (Ephesians 6:4; Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 4:10; 6:7, 20-21; 11:19; 32:46; Psalm 78:5; 2 Timothy 1:5). It is also noted in scripture that the Levitical priests were to come alongside of the parents for the purpose of educating their children (Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 33:10; Judges 13:8; 1 Samuel 12:23; Ezekiel 44:23; 2 Chronicles 15:3) as part of the larger covenantal community of believers (Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 26:12; Matthew 2:6; Romans 9:25; 2 Corinthians 6:16). There are also occasions where others within the covenant community who had particular gifts and skills were gifted to teach (Exodus 35:34). While it is recognized that God’s people can learn things from non-believers (1 Kings 5:6; Acts 7:22), the Bible presents teaching as an activity to be undertaken by the covenant community. Though the Levitical Priesthood has fallen away and been replaced by Christ (Hebrews 7), all believers are now priests (1 Peter 2:9; Isaiah 66:20-21) and thus responsible to fulfill the Levitical functions which are not a part of the sacrificial system as that role has been fulfilled by Christ alone (Hebrews 10:10-14). Hence, Christian parents must not only seek to oversee the education of their children, but they also have a Biblical mandate that the education of their children is done by Christians, and not by non-believers. In turn, teachers must be mindful that they are serving as proxies for the student’s parents, not as replacements and are to instruct in such a fashion as to honor the parents for whom they are acting.
3. The teacher must understand that the Biblical end of education is to equip the students to obedience to God’s commands so that their days may be long in the land (Deuteronomy 5:33; 11:9). Hence, children are also commanded to honor their parents (which implies an honoring of their instruction) so that their days may be long in the land (Exodus 20:12). The Biblical idiom of “living long” does not so much refer to long physical life in the land as it refers to the life and essential health of the covenantal community of the faithful in the land which God had given them. This language, though, is later applied to the church (Ephesians 6:3) under the auspices of living faithfully in the world. To accomplish this, teaching is to include the law for righteous living (Exodus 24:12; 2 Kings 17:27) and also instruction in more mundane areas (2 Samuel 1:8; Exodus 35:25; Isaiah 28:23-29). In addition, scripture mandates the teaching of the history of God’s acts (Exodus 12:14; 2 Samuel 1:18; Psalm 66:5). Thus, teaching that is scriptural (and hence mandated to be done within the community of faith) is teaching that covers every discipline of life and is designed so that the believer may walk in reverence and obedience to the commands of God (Deuteronomy 14:22; Micah 4:2; 1 Peter 1:16). The implication of this marks Christian teaching as being something distinct from secular (the Greek model) education. For the heathen, religion and faith have no bearing on one’s thinking, philosophy, or ordinary life; for the Christian, knowledge of God lived out in faith is everything—there is no aspect of life that religion is not meant to touch and inform. Hence, the Christian classroom needs to reflect that principle.
4. Discipline is a God-given tool by which education is furthered (Hebrews 12:5-11; Psalm 50:16-23; Proverbs 12:1; 13:24; Revelation 3:19). It is designed to keep children from vicious teachings and error, to suppress feelings of bitterness of students who have been wronged, to punish wrongdoing, and to show the repulsive nature of sin and the pains that are associated with it. Said discipline should be non-preferential and balanced to suit the infraction. Discipline also should not be designed to break, humiliate, or discourage the child from a pursuit of a God-honoring life. It should be firm, but delivered with a spirit of kindness and not vengeance or anger. Ultimately discipline should build up not only the student being disciplined, but the entire class as well. Finally, once discipline is administered, the student is to be considered as justified as to the law of the classroom and should be reinstated to the covenantal community of the class in question without lingering reminders of said sin.
A few final thoughts about the childhood education that Jesus would have received:
- Synagogue schools were funded by the parents of the children attending. The education of poor students was funded by donations given in the temple or at Sabbath worship.
- Teachers were salaried by the synagogue and were not allowed to accept money from wealthy families lest favoritism be given.
- Teachers were forbidden from losing their patience with students for not understanding concepts, but were expected to be able to make them plain to all.
- Kindness was encouraged and schools used the strap in discipline, not the rod.
- Parents were prohibited from sending their children to schools in other communities for the purpose of eliminating rivalries and to maintain the educational level of the town.
- Leviticus was the first book taught to children (particularly Leviticus 1-8).
- Other passages of scripture that were found in Children’s primers were: the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41); the Hallel Psalms (Psalms 113-118); and The Creation and Flood narratives (Genesis 1-11).
- To the Jew, the study of scripture was of greater importance than any other study they could pursue. The culture considered it profane to even learn a trade apart from a study of the scriptures. The study of trades did not replace scriptural study, but flowed out of scriptural study.
Part of a Traditional Jewish Morning Prayer:
“These are the things of which man eats the fruit of the world, but their possession continues for the next world: to honor the father and mother, pious works, peacemaking between man and man, and the study of the law, which is equivalent to them all.”