Of Course, I Could be Wrong

To comment click on speech bubble to the right of post title

Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love

Where are you today?
Do you know your way?
Are you searching for some mountains lost?
Just wanting your win at any cost?

Our lives are shaped by what we love.

A young man walking this now blazed earth trail,
taught from childhood that he must never fail;
his steadfast values and “our necessary wiles.”
“Every stranger is your enemy, never smile.”

Our lives are shaped by what we love.

Pick up your head and look around;
ain’t nobody gonna be putting you down.
Leave your body on the killing floor;
float and dream and be free once more.

Our lives are shaped by what we love.

Be true.

Trump’s New Expansion Plans Revealed

I have just been informed by a completely unreliable source that following the rejection of his offer to buy Greenland, Donald Trump is now making a bid for Scotland. If the deal goes through, he intends to send the entire population of Scotland back to Maine “where they came from,” (his words) with the exception of those employed as gamekeepers or caddies. He will then be able to fulfil his dream of turning all of Lowland Scotland into a giant eighteen million hole golf course.

The Scottish Government is considering his offer and it is widely rumoured that it will be accepted as the ruling Scottish Nationalist Party consider it would be better to have no country at all than one that has anything to do with the English.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( on cop killers )

Another big difference between the U.K. and the U.S.A. In America, the cops kill children whilst in Britain, our kids kill cops.

Eventually, some right-wing prime minister will push through legislation making it compulsory for all our policemen to carry guns. Then our cops will start killing our children and our liberals and “community leaders” will start going on and on about police brutality.

Go figure!

A Closer Metaphor

From “Studies in Christianity”
by Borden Parker Bowne, 1847-1910

( click on the video link above for an audio presentation of this reading )

Religious truth can be expressed only by figures borrowed from the relations of the life that now is. All religious speech, then, is based on metaphor and must be taken, not for what it says, but for what it means. The task of religious thought is to find the meaning in the metaphor, and also to find the metaphor which shall best express the meaning. There is a choice in metaphors.

The traditional theological doctrine concerning sin and salvation has been largely built on metaphors, taken partly from the rites of the ancient temple service and partly from governmental, legal and criminal relations. God’s relation to people was generally conceived, in the obsolescent theology of the past, like that of an irresponsible governor. People were by nature criminals, and the theory of the mutual relations of God and people was based mainly on this conception. The notion of the governor and his rights was determined largely by the political absolutism of the time, and the standing of people was determined by the forms of criminal law and criminal procedure. The two together produced a most incongruous compound. The theology was bad and the ethics was worse. God, like the king, could do no wrong and the clay was forbidden to protest at anything the potter might do. The infinite ill-desert of a sin against an infinite being was a favourite contention. Guilt was artificial, justice was artificial, penalty was artificial, salvation was artificial, perdition was artificial. There was very little in the doctrine concerning any of these things that spoke clearly and convincingly to the reason and conscience of people. This general view resulted in conceiving people as rebels, apostates, traitors and as all deserving immediate perdition at the hands of God. They were by nature children of wrath and of course unsaved. A great many texts, interpreted according to the fashion of that time, readily lent themselves to such notions.

But the entire Church has grown away from this view, except as a very imperfect and inadequate representation of the truth. God may be represented as governor, but never with the limitations of a human governor and still less with the irresponsibility of an Oriental ruler. The crude devices of criminal law, also, which are mainly makeshifts for doing as little injustice as possible, are never to be appealed to as models of divine procedure. We are fast displacing the entire conception of God as governor by the conception of God as father and the conception of the divine government is giving place to the conception of the divine family. The deepest thought of God is not that of ruler, but of father and the deepest thought of people is not that of subjects, but of children. And the deepest thought concerning God’s purpose in our life is not salvation from threatening danger, but the training and development of souls as the children of God. Salvation or redemption is but an incident or implication of this deeper purpose and must be interpreted accordingly. The entire subject must be studied as a relation of living moral persons rather than of ethical and juristic abstractions.

This new conception of the fatherhood and the family contains all that was true in the old conception of governor and subject, but it is deeper and more comprehensive, and hence truer, than the old. And in so far as the older view conflicts with this, it must be modified or set aside. It may be retained as a partial view or as one aspect of the subject, but it must always be interpreted in accordance with the larger view. But, on the other hand, the new conception is not to be viewed as a sentimental one, or as involving a relaxation of the rigour of moral demands.

Labour Of Love

From “Letters to Salvationists on Religion for Every Day”
by William Booth, 1829-1912

Click on the video link above for an audio presentation of the following.

My contention then, is, that whether in the shop or on the ship, in the parlour or in the kitchen, in the factory or in the field, in the pulpit or in the coal mine, whether officers or soldiers, we are all alike, as servants of God, under the obligation to do all we possibly can in the service of humanity and to do it with the holy motive of pleasing our heavenly master.

Here let me review my warrant for requiring from you the kind of loving labour that I advocate.

  1. The Bible enjoins it. We have already quoted Paul’s words to the Ephesians, in which he says that our work is to be done, “Not with eye-service as people-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to people.” That is all I ask for.
  2. It is enjoined by the doctrine of neighbourly love. I cannot understand how people can suppose, for a moment, that they are living a life acceptable to God unless they are striving, with all their might, to fulfil the divine command, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Your employer, or whoever has a claim upon your service, must be included in the term “neighbour,” and to comply with the command of the Saviour, you must work for that employer from the voluntary principle of love rather than the earthly and selfish principle of gain.
  3. Is not the disinterested method I am urging upon you in keeping with the loftiest ideals the world possesses with respect to work? About whom does it write its poetry? Whom does it laud to the heavens in the pulpit, on the platform and in the press? Whose names does it inscribe the highest in its temples of fame, or hand down to posterity as examples for rich and poor, old and young alike, to follow? Is it people who make their own ease and enrichment their only aim in life and who toil and spin for nothing higher than their own gratification? Nothing of the kind. It is the generous, self-sacrificing, disinterested people who use themselves up for the benefit of other people.

No, at who does that same world ceaselessly sneer and who does it most pitilessly despise? Is it not the mean and narrow spirit whose conduct is governed by selfish greed and sensual indulgences? Whatever may be its general practice, in this respect, the sentiment of the world is in the right direction. It asks for benevolence evidenced by unselfish labour and admires it when it finds it.

A paragraph went the round of the newspaper world, a little time back, describing how an American millionaire had decided to spend the rest of his days on a leper island in the Pacific Ocean, in order to labour for the amelioration of the miseries of its unfortunate inhabitants. Wonder and admiration everywhere greeted the announcement.

Shall we go back on all this spirit of self-sacrifice? Shall this kind of thing die out, or only have an existence in poetry books, platform quotations or anecdote collections? Shall we change over to the “pound-of-flesh” principle and hire out the work of our hands, the thoughts of our minds and the burning passions of our souls for the largest amount of filthy lucre and the greatest measure of earthly comfort that we can obtain for them, so justifying the lying libel on humanity, long since spoken, and still often sneeringly quoted, that everyone has their price? Or shall we say that love, the love of God and people, is the highest and most divine motive of labour, a motive possible not only to the sons and daughters of genius but accessible to the plainest, humblest man or woman who suffers and toils on the lowest round of the ladder of life.

God The Liberator

From “Slavery and Freedom”
by Nikolai Berdiaev, 1874-1948

Click on the YouTube link above for an audio presentation of the following.

There is an immense distinction to be drawn between God and the human idea of God, between God in his essence and God as object. Between God and humankind, there stands human consciousness, the exteriorisation and projection of the limited condition of that consciousness, there stands objectivisation. An objectivised God has been the object of man’s servile reverence but here there is a paradox in the fact that the objectivised God is a God alienated from people and lord over them. And at the same time, God is created by the limitation of people and reflects that limitation. People have fallen into slavery to their own exteriorisation and objectivisation. People create God in their own image and likeness and put into God not only the best in their image of themselves but the worst also. Upon the God who reveals himself to human consciousness there lies the stamp of anthropomorphism and sociomorphism.

The sociomorphism of the human idea of God is especially important for our subject. Upon human ideas of God are reflected the social relations of humans, relations of the servile kind of which human history is full. The knowledge of God requires continual purifying and purifying above all from servile sociomorphism. The relations between master and slave, taken from social life, have been transferred to the relations between God and people. When we spoke of God as the master and man as the slave, we were thinking in sociomorphic terms. But in God and in his relation to people in the world there is nothing whatever like the social relations between people. The base human category of domination is not applicable to God. God is not a master and he does not dominate. No power is inherent in God. The will to power is not a property of his, he does not demand the slavish reverence of an unwilling human being. God is freedom; he is the liberator and not the master. God bestows the feeling of freedom and not of subjection. God is Spirit and Spirit knows nothing of the relation of domination and slavery. God is not to be thought of on the analogy of what takes place in society or on the analogy of what takes place in nature. We cannot think in determinist terms in relation to God. He determines nothing. Nor can we think in terms of causality. He is not the cause of anything.

Here we stand face to face with mystery and to this mystery are applicable no analogies with necessity, with causality, with domination, with causality in natural phenomena, with domination in social phenomena. Analogy is only possible with the very life of the spirit. God is certainly not the cause of the world. He certainly does not act upon the human spirit as necessity. He certainly does not pass judgment as judgment is in the social life of people. He certainly is not a master, nor authority in the life of the world and of humankind. None of these sociomorphic and cosmomorphic categories are applicable to God. God is Mystery, a mystery towards which people transcend and with which they enter into communion. A false servile understanding of God, a slavish kataphatistic knowledge of God are the last refuge of human idolatry. God has not made people into slaves. God is the liberator. Theology has made a slave of people. Theology and the seductions of theology have made a slave of them and idolatry has been possible in relation to God, and the slavish social relations of humankind have been transferred to the relation of humankind to God. God understood as an object with all the properties of an objectivised world has become a source of slavery. God as object is only the highest natural force of determination made absolute or the highest power of domination made absolute. What is determinism in nature is domination in society.

But God as subject, as existing outside all objectivisation, is love and freedom, not determinism and not domination. God is freedom and bestows freedom only. Duns Scotus was right in defending the freedom of God. But from the freedom of God, he made false and servile deductions by regarding God as an unlimited sovereign. One must not work out any concept about God and least of all is the concept of being applicable. It always indicates determinism and in that case always, rationalisation has already entered in. God can be thought of only symbolically. Apophatic, not kataphatic theology is right, but it is right only in part. It does not mean that God is unknowable. Contacts with God and communion with God are possible and dramatic struggle is possible. This contact is the communion and conflict of personalities between which there is neither determination nor causality, not domination our subjection. The only true religious myth is contained not in the fact that God is master and aspires to domination, but in the fact that God yearns for his other, for responsive love and awaits the creative answer of human beings.

An Indespensable Instrument Of God

TEXT

From “A Reformation of Morals Practicable and Indispensable,”
a sermon by Lyman Beecher, 1775-1863

With respect to the difficulties which may be expected to attend a work of reformation, one obvious impediment will be found in the number and character of those who will be immediately affected by such a work. The children of the devil, in a time of declension, are numerous and daring. Emboldened by impunity they have declared themselves independent both of God and humanity, and are leagued by a common interest and a common feeling to defend their usurped immunities. They are watchful and zealous and the moment an effort is made to execute the laws, every mouth is open against the work and their clamours and sneers and threatenings and lies, like the croakings of Egypt, fill the land. This direct opposition may be expected to receive, from various sources, collateral aid. In this wicked world, where the love of money is the root of evil, there are not a few who traffic in the souls and bodies of people. Not immoral always in their own conduct, they thrive by the vices of others and may be tempted to resist a reformation, which would dry up these impure sources of revenue. They would not justify intemperance, nor the means of promoting it, but pretexts are never wanting to conceal the real motives of people and justify opposition to whatever they deem inconsistent with their interest. Though reformation, therefore, might be admitted to be desirable, either the motives of those who make the attempt or the means by which they make it, will always be wrong and it will be impossible ever to devise a right way till their interest is on the other side. In many cases, it is to be hoped that integrity would get the victory over cupidity but in many more, it is to be feared that avarice, secretly or openly, would send recruits to the standard of the opposition.

To the preceding must be added the opposition of all the timid, falsely called, peacemakers. They lament bitterly, the prevailing evils of the day and multiply predictions of divine judgments and speedy ruin. But if a voice be raised or a finger be lifted to attempt a reformation, they are in a tremor, lest the peace of society be invaded. Their maxim would seem to be, “better to die in sin, if we may but die quietly, than to purchase life and honour by contending for them.” If men will be wicked, let them be wicked, if they will but be peaceable. But the mischief is, men freed from restraint will be wicked and will not be peaceable. No method can be devised more effectual to destroy the peace of society than tamely to give up the laws to conciliate the favour of the villainous. Like the tribute paid by the degenerate Romans to purchase peace of the northern barbarians, every concession will increase the demand and render resistance more hopeless.

Another class of men will encamp very near the enemy through mere love of ease. They would have no objection that vice should be suppressed, and good morals promoted, if these events would come to pass of their own accord but, when the question is asked, “what must be done?” this talk of action is a terrifying thing and, if in their panic they go not over to the enemy, it is only because the enemy also demands courage and enterprise. In this dilemma, it is judged expedient to put in requisition the resources of wisdom, and gravely to caution against rashness and innovation and zeal without knowledge, until all about them are persuaded, that the safest and wisest and easiest way is to do nothing.

There is another class of men, not too indolent, but too exclusively occupied with schemes of personal enterprise, to bestow that time or labour upon plans which regard only the general good. If their fields bring forth abundantly, if their profession be lucrative, if they can buy and sell and get gain, it is enough. Society must take care of itself. Distant consequences are not regarded, and generations to come must provide for their own safety. The stream of business hurries them on, without the leisure of a moment, or an anxious thought concerning the general welfare.

Another impediment to be apprehended, when the work of reformation is attempted is found in the large territory of neutrality around, which, on such occasions, is often very populous. Many would engage in the enterprise cheerfully, were they quite certain it could be done with perfect safety. But perhaps it may injure their interest or affect their popularity. They take their stand, therefore, on this safe middle ground. They will not oppose the work, for perhaps it may be popular, and they will not help the work, for perhaps it may be unpopular. They wait, therefore, till they perceive whether Israel or Amaleck prevail and then, with much self-complacency, fall in on the popular side.

This neutral territory is especially large in the government of a democracy, where so much of the profit from office and the gratification of so much ambition depend upon the votes of the people. It requires no deep investigation to make it manifest to the candidate that if he lends his influence to prevent travelling on the Sabbath, the Sabbath-breaker will not vote for him; if he lay his hand upon tippling shops, and drunkards, all the votes of those who are implicated will be turned against him. Hence many who should be a terror to evil-doers, do bear the sword in vain, They persuade themselves that theirs is a peculiar case and that for them it is not best to volunteer in the work of reformation.

To reduce the power of this temptation, it may be laid down as a maxim, that when the toleration of crimes becomes the price of public suffrage, when the people will not endure the restraint of righteous laws, but reward magistrates who violate their oath and suffer them to sin with impunity, and when magistrates will sell their conscience and the public good for a little brief authority, then the public suffrage is of but little value for the day of liberty is drawing to a close and the night of despotism is at hand. The people are prepared to become slaves and the villainous to usurp the government and rule them with a rod of iron. No compact formed by people is more unhallowed or pernicious than this tacit compact between rulers and subjects, to dispense with the laws and tolerate crimes.

In the midst of these difficulties, there are not a few who greatly magnify them by pusillanimous dejection. Like the captive Israelites, they sit down and fold their hands and sigh and weep and wish that something might be done, but inculcate unceasingly, the disheartening prediction that nothing can be done. Because the work cannot be done at a stroke, they conclude that it can never be done. Because all that might be desirable cannot be obtained, perhaps ever, they conclude that nothing can be obtained. Talk of reformation and the whole nation, with all its crimes, rises up before them and fills them with dismay and despair. It seems never to have occurred to them, that if we cannot do great good it is best to do a little and that, by accomplishing with persevering industry all that is practicable, the ultimate amount may be great, surpassing expectation.

There is yet another class of people who by no means despair of deliverance. But they have no conception that human exertion will be of much avail.

They say, “If we are delivered God must deliver us, and we must pray and wait till it shall please him to come and save us.”

But we may pray and wait forever, upon this principle, and the Lord will not come. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of means, and though the excellency of the power belongs to him exclusively; human instrumentality is indispensable.

Set Apart For Holiness

From “The Necessity, Nature and Fruits of Sanctification”
by Nathan Bangs, 1778-1862

Anything is said to be sanctified that is set apart from a common to a special service. The radical meaning of the word to sanctify, is, therefore, to set apart. The word rendered as “holy” has a kindred signification, implying that anything which has been taken from earthly and consecrated to heavenly, or spiritual, or religious purposes, is denominated holy, or is set apart for a religious use. This is the radical import of those two words, and this radical meaning will be found to be kept up in all those places where they occur in the Holy Scriptures, however little or much they may differ in their various applications to different things and subjects.

So it is said in “Genesis” chapter two, verse three, “And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it.” That is, he set it apart as a day of holy rest, and hence it has ever been denominated the holy Sabbath because it has been set apart from the other days of the week from secular to sacred purposes.

In “Exodus,” chapter nineteen, verse ten, it reads, “And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Go to the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes.’” The people were thus called upon to separate themselves from all uncleanness, to cease from their common and otherwise lawful occupations, that they might thus be prepared to hear the voice of God speaking to them through his servant Moses, to whom God was about to reveal his law. This related chiefly to an external cleansing, though, doubtless, God required the internal purification of the heart, which was typified by the “washing of their clothes and the abstaining from all fleshly indulgences.

Other passages might be quoted in support of this idea of sanctification, but these must suffice. There are one or two places, however, in which the word is used without any reference at all to the cleansing of the person from either external or internal pollution, as in “John,” chapter seventeen, verse nineteen, where Jesus Christ says, “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth.” Here the word most evidently signifies that setting apart, or that solemn dedication of himself to the glorious work of humankind’s redemption, for which Jesus Christ came into our world, and which he accomplished by his death and resurrection, and not from any cleansing from either natural, ceremonial or moral pollution, for Jesus Christ was “holy” from the beginning, “harmless and undefiled and separate from sin,” through the whole course of his spotless life.

Having thus ascertained the primary meaning of this most expressive word, and seen its various applications to men and things, let us examine its signification in its application to individual men and women, as sinners that need the cleansing efficacy of the blood of Christ. Taking along with us the radical meaning of the term, implying a setting apart, it imports that all the powers of the soul and body have been, or must be, solemnly consecrated to God s holy service. This most assuredly includes “a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness.” The soul that is wholly sanctified is separated from sin, sin being entirely eradicated from the heart, so that it no longer ” has dominion over that soul.”

In this sense it differs from justification, though every justified soul is in part sanctified, in the sense just now given, and in a lower sense it is wholly sanctified, that is, the soul that is now justified in the sight of God, is now solemnly dedicated to his service ; having renounced “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” the soul has pledged itself to be hereafter devoted to God, and to follow him according to the clearest light it has, and according to the best of its ability and if it continues, as certainly it may, to “walk in the light, as he is in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son will cleanse it from all unrighteousness,” and that speedily and effectually.

Nor can justified people long retain their justification unless they persevere after sanctification, for no person can stand justified before God, while they oppose or refuses to follow the will of God and this is “his will, even our sanctification,” fully declared, not only in the text just now cited, in which a part is put for the whole, and therefore fully includes the doctrine of entire sanctification for the person that abstains from the vices prohibited in the context, will necessarily abstain from all others but generally throughout the word of God. In fact, the sum and substance of all God s requirements, the manifest aim of all his institutions (whether under the old or new dispensation), the very design for which the Lord Jesus came into our world, suffered and died, the definite object of all the commands and promises of God, all these express, in unequivocal language, the will of God to be, that we should be holy. He cannot, indeed, consistently with his nature, require anything less. What is his nature? Is it not holy? Pure essential holiness? Is not then his will governed by this inflexible principle of his nature? To require, therefore, anything different or inferior to this, would be to contravene the immutable law of his own nature. This, then, is the unalterable law, the immutable will of God, that we should be sanctified. He cannot, as I have already said, require anything less. And this he has expressed a thousand times, in a thousand different places, and in a thousand ways.

Well, now, can people stand justified before God, who refuse to make this will (manifested in such numerous ways, declared in such a variety of phraseology and expressed in so many places by such unambiguous language) the supreme rule of their faith and practice? I hesitate not to affirm, and I believe every enlightened Christian, who is rightly instructed in the principles of Christianity, will say “amen” to my affirmation, that no one can stand justified in the sight of God, who does not either enjoy, or does not earnestly seek after, the full sanctification of their soul and body to God.

For the lack of this, there are so many weak and sickly among us, half dead and half alive professors of religion. They content themselves with some faint desires, unaccompanied with any strenuous, persevering efforts after this “great salvation,” hence their prayers are cold and formal. They are in fact backslidden. They have “lost their first love” and perhaps they are already questioning the work of grace which God once wrought in their hearts. They are. in the words of Saint Peter, “blind, and cannot see afar off, and have forgotten that they were once purged from their old sins.” What an awful state is this! Why is all this? Why? Alas! It is because they have neglected to “go on to perfection.” Instead of “forgetting the things that are behind, and pressing forward to the things which are before,” aiming at the “prize of their high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” they have looked back at their past experience, until they have lost sight of both it and the “mark of the prize set before them,” the prize of “perfect love,” of entire sanctification of soul and body to God. They have lost the evidence of their acceptance in the Beloved, merely because they have neglected to make the will of God, which is their sanctification, the rule of their faith and practice.

On Earth, As It Is In Heaven

From “The Relation of Christianity to Law and Government”
by Leonard Bacon, 1802-1881

The kingdom of God, is it a dream? The consummated identity of law with right, the completed subjection of human powers and sovereignties to the will of God and to his Spirit, is it a dream? Sometimes as we watch the vicissitudes of the long conflict between good and evil, we are tempted to discouragement. When shall the darkness flee away? When shall the powers of darkness be dethroned? We see liberty betrayed and cloven down by people who were sworn to defend her. The flaunting banners of victorious wrong offend our vision, might scoffs at right and violence and fraud join hand in hand to trample upon justice. Tempted to unbelief, we cry, where is the kingdom of God, where the influence of Christianity in the sphere of law and government? Is it a dream?

No; by the ancient word of promise, by the prayers which for thousands of years have been wafted to the throne of Infinite pity, by the groans of the ages that have travailed in pain together, by the cross and its victories, we know that it is not a dream. The force by which the world shall be subdued to Christ accumulates as time advances. The work is his with whom one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. He suffers nothing to be lost. No martyr’s ashes scattered on the winds, no protest against public wickedness, no example of patience under wrong, no appeal to the justice on high, no breath of prayer has been or shall be in vain. All has been gathered up. All has been added to the slow accumulation. Let us then do our part with an unfaltering hope. Who is there, of us all, that can do nothing? It is not ours to give a silent testimony only, when wrong is perpetrated in the name of law. It is not ours to suffer only, in uncomplaining meekness, waiting for God to vindicate our cause and his. Ours is a higher calling. We are not slaves. We are not subjects merely. We are free people. On public questions of mere expediency and policy, we may perhaps be silent or even indifferent. But when the power of our nations are to be employed in some great wrong, then if our voices do not ring out, fearlessly, in loud protest and remonstrance, we are traitors to the kingdom of God. There is no gift of genius, no advantage of culture, of position or of reputation, no skill, no knowledge, no power of thought or of utterance which may not be made serviceable to this high calling. The statesman in the senate or in the cabinet, the jurist on the bench or at the bar, the journalist in his close contact with popular thought and feeling, the historian making up the record of past ages, the philosopher, the teacher in the university, the teacher in the church, the poet with his melodious words of might, the artist with his creative touch, the most retired and quiet person of letters, each in their own sphere, each in their own way, each in the measure of their own light, may bring the contribution of their sound thought and earnest feeling, the effect of their own communion with the mind of God in Christ, to aid in the dethronement of wrong and the victory of truth, by helping to illustrate the legitimate bearing of Christian principle and sentiment on all the interests and duties of humankind.

Let us take courage from the contrast between the past and the present. How slowly, through what conflicts and sufferings, through what errors of true and earnest people who had caught only the glimmer of a dawning truth, through what cycles of revolution and of seeming retrogression, while people’s hearts were failing them for fear, has Christianity, thus far, wrought out the application of its own principles to questions of right and duty in the state. Let us not be discouraged. In all things right shall yet give law to power. We will not faint then. We will not be discouraged. Above all unjust law and usage, above all tyranny, all usurpation, all iniquity establishing itself in the name of right and robing itself in the sanctities of law, there is a higher law that stands forever. Above all the forces by which wrong is sustained, are the mightier forces, invisible and divine, by which Christianity will yet make its way to universal recognition and dominion. Then the tabernacle of God shall be with humankind and law shall be identified with the will of God.

Calling All Sinners

From “Christ’s Gracious Invitation,”
a sermon by Archibald Alexander, 1772-1851

“More precious than a stream of water to a traveller perishing with thirst, better than a skilful physician to one dying of a dangerous disease, more welcome than a reprieve to a condemned rebel, is the voice of mercy saying to the convinced sinner, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11: 28)

These are words that can never lose their sweetness nor power by age or repetition. They are as true and as full of grace and mercy now as when first uttered and are as free to those who hear the gospel in the present day as they were to those who first heard them in the land of
Galilee.

Who is he that speaks?

It is the voice of Immanuel, God with us.

What man or angel could invite a guilty world to come to him?

Neither Moses, nor Elijah, nor Paul, nor John, presumed to call men to look to them for rest. Only he in whom “dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” could give rest to every troubled soul. It is the voice of a loving saviour, the good shepherd of the sheep, the compassionate redeemer of men, whose heart is an ocean of love and whose love led him to take the form of a servant and to humble himself to the death of the cross.

To whom does he speak these words?

To all who hear the sound of the gospel. They are addressed to the person of pleasure or of sorrow, the person of wealth or of deepest penury, people esteemed for their morality or notorious for their vice, to Jew and Gentile, to “every creature under heaven.” And yet they seem especially suited to those burdened with a sense of their guilt. To those who feel they have a blind mind and a hard heart, and a load of sin that presses them to the ground, these words come as words of peace and hope.

How must you come?

Not by a bodily approach, this is now impossible. The heavens have received him out of our sight. A local coming, if it were practicable, might be useless. Many came to Christ when he was on earth; they heard his words and saw his miracles of mercy, and went unblessed, for they had not faith. Coming to Christ is the act of the soul, it is a spiritual approach, and is called trusting, receiving, believing on him. It is a full persuasion that he is the son of God and the saviour of the lost. It is the heavy-laden sinner giving full credit to the truth and sincerity of gospel invitations and promises. It is the hearty belief that Jesus is able and willing to save from sin and all its consequences. It is a sincere humble dependence upon the merits of his sacrifice for pardon and eternal life.

Will you come to Christ?

Then come just as you are, helpless, unworthy, full of guilt and misery. You can come in no other way, for a sense of sin and ruin lies at the foundation of the religion of the gospel. Do not for a moment suppose that you must make yourself better or prepare your heart for a worthy reception of Christ, but come at once, come as you are. He saves none because their sins are comparatively few and unnoticed by other people. He rejects none because their sins are many and great.

Christ knew the worst of all those who would come to him. He knew the depths of sin to which people would go. He understood the deep spiritual necessities of every immortal soul for time and eternity. He knew that people burdened and bound by sin would need such an invitation and assurance as he has given.

And because he knew that his grace would be sufficient for the worst of the human race, he, therefore, said, “Come unto me and I will not cast you out.”

If he made such a promise, what can prevent his fulfilling it?

Sooner shall heaven and earth pass away than any sinner who seeks to him be excluded from his mercy. He will not cast you out because of the number of your sins, nor because of their greatness and enormity, nor because of the peculiar aggravations attending them, nor because they have been of long continuance from early youth to hoary age. You may be a profligate and an outcast, abandoned by others as beyond the hope of recovery, lost to yourself and your friends, yet say not that you are excluded from the invitation. Even you are addressed as though by name. The invitation says “whosoever,” and that includes you; “If anyone,” and that embraces you; to “all,” and that takes you in. It says, “I will in no wise (not by any means, or on any account whatever)” cast him out. Surely this is enough.

Nobody who hears the gospel has any pretence to say that they are not invited. Stand where you may on this wide earth, among nominal Christians at home, or among the heathen abroad, or in the midst of Jews or Muslims, to those of every clime and every age and every condition of life, to the lovers of pleasure, or wealth, or any of the things of this world, and to the most guilty and the most hardened of the human race, with confidence and joy these words may be addressed, “Come unto Christ.”

The promise is that he will give you rest. And this includes pardon and acceptance with God. It includes deliverance from the condemnation and the tyranny of sin, from fear and remorse, from all spiritual enemies and all vain self-righteous hopes. It is a cordial for an accusing conscience, it is consolation for the oppressed, it is peace for the troubled spirit, it is a balm for every evil that can afflict us in our passage through life, and it is the earnest and pledge of the glorious, pure, eternal rest of heaven.

What is the warrant of all this?

The character of him who spoke these words, Christ, is love incarnate, divine love in human nature. The great end for which he came into the world was to seek and to save sinners. He came to honour and obey the law that man had broken and to bring in everlasting righteousness, which is “unto all and upon all them that believe.” (Rom. 3: 22) He came to die, “the just for the unjust” (1 Pet. 3: 18) and to pay the penalty that humanity’s sins had required, by offering himself as an atonement for guilt. The promise that he makes, rests on the value of the infinite price he paid to secure our salvation. He does not offer a gift that cost him nothing and yet it may be had “without money and without price.”

Consider too that he is “meek and lowly of heart” and will not proudly repel or scorn you for your unworthiness. When did he ever turn away from the cry of distress or from the wail of the most abject? When did he ever reject those who sought his aid, however lowly their condition or great their sorrow? All who have come to him have been welcomed and if you draw nigh in faith he will not cast you. out. That you may come aright, he promises the aid of his Holy Spirit to make you sensible of your sinfulness and of his grace and ability to save you.

What reception will you give to this golden saying, this gracious invitation?

The case is urgent; come speedily. There is danger if you delay. Do not speculate, nor argue, nor make excuse, nor hesitate, nor stand looking at a distance, but come and in faith cast yourself at the feet of Christ with the earnest penitential cry, “Lord, save or I perish. Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( on xenophobia )

Racism is normal. It is those people who claim not to be racist who are weird. Human beings are hard-wired to be xenophobic and this is a trait they share with the majority of species within the animal kingdom. We are inherently distrustful of and antagonistic towards strangers and for most of the time that homo-sapiens have been trying to survive on this planet the more racist we were the more likely we were to prosper. Being racist is no different in kind to being scared of the dark. Racism gave us an evolutionary advantage over more trusting competitors. It wasn’t until some of our ancestors started moving into cities that we had to learn to get on with people who didn’t smell like our own family members and, even then, we didn’t get rid of our racist tendencies. We simply increased our understanding of “us” to embrace the tribe and eventually the nation. This is something that people who campaign against racism need to accept and understand if they wish to make the nations more tolerant of “the other.” Regarding racists as subhuman is wrongheaded as they are perfectly human. The aim should be to persuade them to become super-human, to go against their own instinctive nature. This is, in essence, what Jesus Christ calls on us to do. We are to become children of God rather than remain the children of nature. Putting the welfare of someone else before our own is stupid but that’s what God insists we do. It’s difficult though, very difficult and we are always failing. Genetic coding is a bugger to override.

A Biblical Imitation Of Christ

From “The Politics of Jesus”
by John Howard Yoder, 1927-1997

As long as readers could stay unaware of the political/social dimension of Jesus’ ministry (which most of Christendom seems to have done quite successfully), then it was also possible to perceive the “in Christ” language of the Epistles as mystical or the “dying with Christ” as psychologically morbid. But if we may posit that the apostles had and taught at least a core memory of their Lord’s earthly ministry in its blunt historicity, then this centring of the apostolic ethic upon the disciple’s cross evidences a substantial, binding, costly social stance. There have perhaps been times when the issues of power, violence, and peoplehood were not at the centre of ethical preoccupations; but in the waning twentieth century they certainly are, and the rediscovery of this ethic of “responsibility” or of “power” can no longer at the same time claim to be Christian and bypass the judgment or the promise of the Suffering Servant’s exemplarity.

Yet this affirmation encloses some serious negatives. Seldom has the exemplary quality of Jesus’ social humanity been perceived as a model for our social ethics, yet the large body of New Testament traditions has not gone unnoticed. It has been perceived but interpreted differently. To these other interpretations, we must now turn.

One universal demand which the church as an agency of counsel and consolation must meet is the need of men and women of all ages for help in facing suffering: illness and accidents, loneliness and defeat. What more fitting resource could there he than the biblical language which makes suffering bearable, meaningful within God‘s purposes, even meritorious in that “bearing one’s cross” is a synonym for discipleship? Hosts of sincere people in hospitals or in conflict-ridden situations have been helped by this thought to bear the strain of their destiny with a sense of divine presence and purpose.

Yet our respect for the quality of these lives and the validity of this pastoral concern must not blind us to the abuse of language and misuse of scripture they entail. The cross of Christ was not an inexplicable or chance event, which happened to strike him, like illness or accident. To accept the cross as his destiny, to move toward it and even to provoke it, when he could well have done otherwise, was Jesus’ constantly reiterated free choice; and he warns his disciples lest their embarking on the same path be less conscious of its costs (Luke 14:25-33). The cross of Calvary was not a difficult family situation, not a frustration of visions of personal fulfilment, crushing debt or a nagging in-law; it was the political, legally to be expected result of a moral clash with the powers ruling his society. Already the early Christians had to be warned against claiming merit for any and all suffering; only if their suffering is innocent, and a result of the evil will of their adversaries, may it be understood as meaningful before God.

Another transposition makes the cross an inward experience of the self. This is found in Thomas Müntzer, in Zinzendorf, in revivalism and in Christian existentialism. An excellent modern statement is that by Carl Michalson, “How Our Lives Carry Christ’s Death and Manifest His Resurrection.”

The other direction in which “cross” language can evolve is that of subjective brokenness, the renunciation of pride and self-will. Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together” speaks of “breaking through to the cross” as occurring in confession.

“In confession, we affirm and accept our cross.”

Our sharing in Christ’s death, he continues, is the “shameful death of the sinner in confession.”

A similar thrust is typical of the Keswick family of renewal movements in Anglo-Saxon Protestantism. We may agree that the humility of confession may be quite desirable for mental health, for group processes and for the creation of community; but this should not keep us from realising that “cross” is not the word for it in the New Testament.

A long history of interpretation and application which we might designate as “mendicant” has centred its attention upon the outward form of Jesus’ life; his forsaking domicile and property, his celibacy or his barefoot itinerancy. Again, without disrespect for the nobility of the monastic tradition and its needed critique of comfortable religion, we must be aware that it centres the renunciation at another point than the New Testament. Both the few who seek thus to follow Jesus in a formal mimicking of his lifestyle and the many who use this distortion to argue Jesus’ irrelevance, have failed to note a striking gap in the New Testament material we have read. As we noted before more briefly: there is no general concept of living like Jesus. According to universal tradition, Jesus was not married; yet when the Apostle Paul, advocate par excellence of the life “in Christ,” argues at length for celibacy or for a widow’s not remarrying (I Cor. 7), it never occurs to him to appeal to Jesus’ example, even as one of many arguments. Jesus is thought in his earlier life to have worked as a carpenter; yet. never, even when he explains at length why he earns his own way as an artisan (I Cor. 9), does it come to Paul’s mind that he is imitating Jesus. Jesus’ association with villagers, his drawing his illustrations from the life of the peasants and the fishermen, his leading his disciples to desert places and mountaintops, have often been appealed to as examples by the advocates of rural life and church camping; but not in the New Testament. His formation of a small circle of disciples whom he taught through months of close contact has been claimed as a model pastoral method; his teaching in parables has been made a model of graphic communication; there have been efforts to imitate his prayer life or his forty days in the desert: but not in the New Testament.

There is thus but one realm in which the concept of imitation holds, but there it holds in every strand of the New Testament literature and all the more strikingly by virtue of the absence of parallels in other realms. This is at the point of the concrete social meaning of the cross in its relation to enmity and power. Servanthood replaces dominion, forgiveness absorbs hostility. Thus, and only thus are we bound by New Testament thought to “be like Jesus.”

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( Americans )

I have always experienced a weird disconnect between my American friends on Facebook and the society they live in. They are like “us” in so many ways that one is tempted to believe they are the same as us. However, in reality, Americans belong to a culture and have a communal mindset that is as strange to English sensibilities as the culture of communist China and the mindset of Chinese people.

But I still love them.

Sharing In The Work Of God

From “Laborem Exercens”
by Pope John Paul II, 1920-2005

The word of God’s revelation is profoundly marked by the fundamental truth that people, created in the image of God, share by their work in the activity of the Creator and that, within the limits of his own human capabilities, people in a sense continue to develop that activity and perfects it as they advance further and further in the discovery of the resources and values contained in the whole of creation. We find this truth at the very beginning of sacred scripture, in the “Book of Genesis,” where the creation activity itself is presented in the form of work done by God during six days, resting on the seventh day. Besides, the last book of sacred scripture echoes the same respect for what God has done through his creative “work” when it proclaims: “Great and wonderful are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty.” This is similar to the “Book of Genesis,” which concludes the description of each day of creation with the statement: “And God saw that it was good.”

This description of creation, which we find in the very first chapter of the “Book of Genesis,” is also in a sense the first gospel of work. For it shows what the dignity of work consists of: it teaches that people ought to imitate God, their Creator, in working because people alone have the unique characteristic of likeness to God. People ought to imitate God both in working and also in resting since God himself wished to present his own creative activity under the form of work and rest. This activity by God in the world always continues, as the words of Christ attest: “My Father is working still.” He works with creative power by sustaining in existence the world that he called into being from nothing, and he works with salvific power in the hearts of those whom from the beginning he has destined for rest in union with himself in his “Father’s house.” Therefore a person’s work too not only requires a rest every seventh day but also cannot consist in the mere exercise of human strength in external action; it must leave room for people to prepare themselves, by becoming more and more what in the will of God they ought to be, for the rest that the Lord reserves for his servants and friends.

Awareness that a person’s work is a participation in God’s activity ought to permeate even the most ordinary everyday activities. For, while providing the substance of life for themselves and their families, men and women are performing their activities in a way which appropriately benefits society. They can justly consider that by their labour they are unfolding the Creator’s work, consulting the advantages of their brothers and sisters, and contributing by their personal industry to the realisation in history of the divine plan.

This Christian spirituality of work should be a heritage shared by all. Especially in the modern age, the spirituality of work should show the maturity called for by the tensions and restlessness of mind and heart. Far from thinking that works produced by a person’s own talent and energy are in opposition to God’s power, and that the rational creature exists as a kind of rival to the Creator, Christians are convinced that the triumphs of the human race are a sign of God’s greatness and the flowering of his own mysterious design. For the greater, a person’s power becomes, the farther his or her individual and community responsibility extends. People are not deterred by the Christian message from building up the world or impelled to neglect the welfare of their fellows. They are, rather, more stringently bound to do these very things.

The knowledge that by means of work people share in the work of creation constitutes the most profound motive for undertaking it in various sectors. “The faithful, therefore,” we read in the “Constitution Lumen Gentium,” “must learn the deepest meaning and the value of all creation, and its orientation to the praise of God. Even by their secular activity, they must assist one another to live holier lives. In this way, the world will be permeated by the spirit of Christ and more effectively achieve its purpose in justice, charity and peace. Therefore, by their competence in secular fields and by their personal activity, elevated from within by the grace of Christ, let them work vigorously so that by human labour, technical skill and civil culture, created goods may be perfected according to the design of the Creator and the light of his Word.”

The truth that by means of work people participate in the activity of God himself, their Creator, was given particular prominence by Jesus Christ – the Jesus at whom many of his first listeners in Nazareth “were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? Is not this the carpenter?’” For Jesus not only proclaimed but first and foremost fulfilled by his deeds the gospel, the word of eternal wisdom, that had been entrusted to him. Therefore this was also the gospel of work because he who proclaimed it was himself a man of work, a craftsman like Joseph of Nazareth. And if we do not find in his words a special command to work, but rather on one occasion a prohibition against too much anxiety about work and life, at the same time the eloquence of the life of Christ is unequivocal: he belongs to the working world, he has appreciation and respect for human work. It can indeed be said that he looks with love upon human work and the different forms that it takes, seeing in each one of these forms a particular facet of a person’s likeness with God, the Creator and Father. Is it not he who says: “My Father is the vinedresser” and in various ways puts into his teaching the fundamental truth about work which is already expressed in the whole tradition of the “Old Testament,” beginning with the “Book of Genesis?”

The books of the “Old Testament” contain many references to human work and to the individual professions exercised by people: for example, the doctor, the pharmacist, the craftsman or artist, the blacksmith (we could apply these words to today’s foundry-workers), the potter, the farmer, the scholar, the sailor, the builder, the musician, the shepherd and the fisherman. The words of praise for the work of women are well known. In his parables on the Kingdom of God Jesus Christ constantly refers to human work: that of the shepherd, the farmer, the doctor, the sower, the householder, the servant, the steward, the fisherman, the merchant, the labourer. He also speaks of the various form of women’s work. He compares the apostolate to the manual work of harvesters or fishermen. He refers to the work of scholars too.

This teaching of Christ on work, based on the example of his life during his years in Nazareth, finds a particularly lively echo in the teaching of the Apostle Paul. Paul boasts of working at his trade (he was probably a tent-maker) and thanks to that work he was able, even as an Apostle, to earn his own bread.

“With toil and labour, we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you.”

Hence his instructions, in the form of exhortation and command, on the subject of work: “Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living”, he writes to the Thessalonians. In fact, noting that some “are living in idleness … not doing any work,” the Apostle does not hesitate to say in the same context: “If anyone will not work, let him not eat.” In another passage he encourages his readers: “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not people, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”

Talking Not Listening

We went to see Billy Bragg in concert last Saturday. Although we often found ourselves in the same room as Billy back in the 1980s and although I have bought records by him over the intervening years, we had never actually been to one of his concerts. So we were looking forward to it.

It was okay but I wish I had bought tickets for the Furrow Collective, who were playing in the hall next door, instead.

Back in the day, Billy Bragg was a hardcore socialist. He stood beside the miners on the picket lines and sang songs about what it was like to be working class in Thatcher’s Britain. If his more recent songs and his rants between them are anything to go by, he appears to have become just another member of the liberal elite, telling working-class people what they should think and how they should behave. At one point he came out with this long spiel about how there was no such thing as political correctness which is not only complete bollocks but is also an insult to the teenage girls of Bradford and elsewhere who the police deliberately chose not to rescue from sexual abuse out of fear of offending liberal sensibilities.

Mind you, it’s hardly surprising that he has lost touch with the working class that he used to consider himself part of as he now lives somewhere near Lyme Regis in Dorset in what he himself refers to as a “very large house.” You could not find an area in England further removed from the everyday lives of the poor and poorly paid.

He talked a lot and presumed a lot about the politics of his audience. Two things he did not mention were British Muslims protesting outside schools because they want to stop children from being told that same-gender couples are normal and okay, and the fact that the miners of the North East who he idolised in his poorer, younger days, as well as their children, mostly voted to leave the E.U. because they want to see an end to unrestricted immigration. I think he has stopped listening.

Putting Christ’s Words Into Action

From “Preaching Is More Than Words,”
a sermon by William J. Barber II

To preach is to see the people who are crying out and the systems that are crushing them. It is to say, “Somebody’s hurting my people and it’s gone on far too long and we won’t be quiet and inactive anymore.” It is to do something about it. It is to join with others who are doing something about it.

When words are changed into deeds of liberation, that’s preaching. And anything else is just talking.

When the fruit of the lips become actions dedicated to justice—that’s preaching.

When our words call Jews and Muslims and Christians and Sikhs and Buddhists and even people not of faith to come together to work the work of love and work the work of liberation—that’s preaching.

When a call goes out that unites people across the lines of race and class and creed and sexuality—now that’s preaching.

When the Poor People’s Campaign brings Natives and Asians and Black and White and Brown people together, and march together and organize together and go to jail together for a moral revolution of values, that’s preaching.

When preachers go to the border and serve communion to the officers and communion to those who are holding back the immigrants and then tell them while they’re eating the communion that they need correction and that they’re wrong, that’s preaching.

When nuns lobby for healthcare and when preachers say, “I’m not gonna preach another funeral over somebody who died from the lack of healthcare and said ‘God called him home.'” Instead, I’m going to say, “God may welcome them home, but the government killed them.” That’s preaching.

When churches and synagogues and mosques open their doors and offer sanctuary to families that are being ripped apart by ICE, that’s preaching!

And when that kind of preaching is happening, it is transformative. It changes the world. It might get you killed, but that same preaching will get you back up again. And if it doesn’t get you back up, preaching also gets folks pregnant. So you might be dead, but those behind you will come forth. Preaching always produces.

Alone

The Wine Press 1864 John Roddam Spencer Stanhope 1829-1908 Presented by Sir Henry Grayson Bt 1930 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N04493

From “The Solitude of Christ,”
a sermon by Henry Orton Wiley, 1877–1961

“I have trodden the winepress alone and of the people, there were none with me.”
(Isa. 63:3a)

Christ travelled in the greatness of his might because he had trodden the winepress alone. It was in solitude that his strength was received and tested. There is something here akin to us all. Place and position may give one great power, but the final test is not what people possess but what they are. In this picture, our Lord is stripped of all that he possesses and is portrayed in his true inwardness, and here it is that his strength is revealed. Yet there was no solitude like his, although all people in their measure must learn the strength of solitude.

Observe almost any group of people and ordinarily, you will see nothing but cheerful appearances and joyful salutations. But could we follow the several individuals of these groups to their homes and look back over their line of history, we would find places of sorrowful recollections and discover in every home some dark spot or the outlines of a fearful shadow. There are few households that do not cherish some peculiar trial about which nothing is said except among themselves. There is some hope that is blasted, some member of the home wronged or trembling anxieties lest some other member may fail; some physical disability that cripples us, some spot which death has touched or the painful listening for his stealthy footsteps. These and a thousand other things make it certain that there is not a home where the shadow has not fallen or is about to fall. Further still, even in the home, there is no individual but has some secret trial which he dares not breathe even to his closest friends and loved ones. While it is true that we must bear one another’s burdens, yet when these have been shared, there is something left which has not been shared, and it is this that touches us most nearly and tenderly. It is in this sense that everyone must bear their own burden, must tread the winepress alone.

With this condition of solitude before us as a historical fact, the solitude of Jesus has profound significance for us as a philosophy of spiritual life.

(1) This appears as a process of individualisation, in which every person is separated to his or her own burden and work.

(2) It is at the point of isolation that freedom and strength are attained.

(3) People must meet God in the “aloneness” of their being.

The longer we live and the more our beings become individualised, the more we shall find ourselves alone. Children flow together easily and naturally. Their beings have not yet become strongly individualised. You will recall the little poem that we have so often discussed together, and the significance it has for this aloneness or solitude. The lines are from Tennyson.

The baby new to earth and sky,
what time his tender palm is pressed
against the circle of the breast
has never thought that “this is I.”

But as he grows he gathers much
and learns the use of “I” and “Me”
and finds “I am not the things I see
and other than the things I touch.”

So rounds he to a separate mind
from which clear memory may begin,
and through the frame that binds him in
his isolation grows defined.

This individualisation is God’s plan for bringing us to a knowledge of ourselves. It was this that enabled the prodigal son to “come to himself.” We must be separated from all outward supports, that we may stand alone; we must be separated from all accidents of time or place, that we may come to a realisation of what we are and what we need. And so in the plan of God, there must come a separating, a cutting away of all supports, a breaking of tender ties, a parting from all that is dear to us, that God may reveal to us our true selves.

Let us not forget that there was one man who trod the dusty roads of this earth supremely alone. Whether in the crowds or in the desert, in the city or on the mountain, there was a fathomless depth between him and the people about him. Sometimes through the doors of his solitude, companies of angels came to minister to him in his weakness and agony and patriarchs and prophets came to talk to him on the Mount of Transfiguration when the inward glory shone through the thin veil of his flesh. His loneliness transcends ours as the infinite transcends the finite, and therefore he not only understands but meets us at this point of isolation with his presence through the Spirit. Say what we will, we live here as on an island; as our days increase and age creeps upon us, we are shut in more and more to ourselves. The sphere of kindred ties and personal relations keeps narrowing till we seem to stand on one of the solitary peaks, a lone rock in the ocean with the hungry waves all about us. But if he who was supremely alone is with us, our lonely island will be turned into a Patmos, heaven will open, the coastline of mystery will move off, until the sea of separation, the sea of turmoil and unrest, the sea of mystery will disappear in the apocalypse of God, and there shall be no more sea.

It is in our times of spiritual aloneness and dependence that God’s grace is made sufficient for us. Saint Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him. What this thorn in the flesh was, has been the matter of much speculation. But no one knows and therefore it has become a symbol for anything that frustrates and hinders us. For this thing, the apostle besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from him.

But God answered his prayer by saying, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Here Saint Paul was quickly made aware of the true philosophy of Christian service. It was not by mere human strength that he was to succeed, but in his weakness to lay hold, by faith, of the strength of God.

When Saint Paul saw this he exclaimed, “Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
(2 Cor. 12:7-10)

How often have we, like the great apostle, prayed for deliverance from some infirmity, rather than for grace to bear it! We have frequently called this the “small boy’s philosophy.” He goes out to fly his kite, and as he pays out the string, the wind carries it higher and higher. He probably does not understand that the kite is borne upward by a parallelogram of forces, the perpendicular force of the string and the horizontal force of the wind. He might argue that if the string were cut the kite would sail off into sightless space, but he knows better. He knows that it would fall to the ground. So it is with us. There is something deep down in our lives that we grieve over. It may be a physical infirmity or a mental incapacity; it may be some deep, dark secret of the family life, or something in our environment that we are sure hinders us in our work. We think that if this could be removed, then greater success would follow our labours. No, these things not only bring us into greater sympathy with those whom we serve, but they are God’s tethering string that enables his grace to play across our souls, lifting us higher and higher until in our aloneness we are brought near to God.

The very loneliness which we feel, the trials and sorrows which we cannot share with others, are the things that bind us most closely to him who trod the earth, supremely alone. If we could share everything with our fellow men, our minds would go out laterally and not rise continually to God.

Let us seek to learn the riches of divine grace until we can say with the great apostle, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

And if God should lead us through any of these things, let us, like the great apostle, always remember that his grace is sufficient and that he holds the tethering string as well.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( Litter Bugs )

On Tuesday evening the MadGang went to the seaside to celebrate Mrs MP’s dog, Edric’s fourth birthday.

The beach to the north of the city of Sunderland is popular with dog walkers all year round. Even in the depths of winter, you will find us walking along the strand braving the icy wind coming off the North Sea. I expect there are some irresponsible dog owners who do not clean up their dog’s mess but, honestly, you would be hard-pressed to find evidence of such sinful behaviour; it is certainly not a common occurrence.

It is the school holidays at the moment and we are also experiencing unusually hot weather, so, on Tuesday evening, the beach was crowded, not only with the usual doggie types but also with parents accompanied by young children and with teenagers perambulating aimlessly or playing games in groups, small and large. It had obviously been this packed with youngsters all day and the litter that had been discarded all over the place was horrific. Tin cans, empty sandwich packets and plastic bottles lay everywhere, waiting to be picked up by the incoming tide and carried out to sea. Some of it was possibly destined to feature in a future David Attenborough documentary about the ill effect our garbage is having on the sea-living creatures of our planet. Although there are many signs on the promenade warning dog owners that they will be fined a thousand pounds should they be caught not cleaning up after their dog, there are no similar instructions to parents to clean up after their children or to teenagers to deposit their empty energy-drink cans in the nearest litter bin (of which there are many). I assume that it is just assumed by the local authority that young people view everywhere as a tip for their convenience and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

It is the same in the park where I regularly walk my dogs. It is almost dog dirt free but you could not get anywhere near the skateboard ramps where the kids hang out without crunching through the detritus from their snacking the previous day.

No doubt, many of the children and young people who casually discard their non-biodegradable crap on our beaches and in our parks are the children and young people who have been taking days off school to march around the streets demanding that adults stop messing up the planet they are to inherit. No doubt the parents of these kids are the same ones who are banging on about how irresponsible adults are being and how environmentally righteous their children are.

To Be Led By The Spirit

From “The Leading of the Spirit,”
a sermon by B. B. Warfield, 1851-1921

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God.”
( Romans 8: 14 )

It is by the presence of the Spirit within us alone that the bondage in which we are by nature held to sin is broken; that we are emancipated from sin and are no longer debtors to live according to the flesh. This new principle of life reveals itself in our consciousness as a power claiming regulative influence over our actions; leading us, in a word, into holiness.

If we consider our life of new obedience from the point of view of our own activities, we may speak of ourselves as fighting the good fight of faith; a deeper view reveals it as the work of God in us by his Spirit. When we consider this divine work within our souls with reference to the end of the whole process we call it sanctification; when we consider it with reference to the process itself, as we struggle on day by day in the somewhat devious and always thorny pathway of life, we call it spiritual leading. Thus the “leading of the Holy Spirit” is revealed to us as simply a synonym for sanctification when looked at from the point of view of the pathway itself, through which we are led by the Spirit as we more and more advance toward that conformity to the image of his Son, which God has placed before us as our great goal.

It is obvious at once then how grossly it is misconceived when it is looked upon as a peculiar guidance granted by God to his eminent servants in order to ensure their worldly safety, worldly comfort, even worldly profit. The leading of the Holy Spirit is always for good, but it is not for all goods, but specifically for spiritual and eternal good. I do not say good people may not, by virtue of their very goodness, be saved from many of the sufferings of this life and from many of the failures of this life. How many of the evils and trials of life are rooted in specific sins we can never know. How often even failure in business may be traced directly to lack of business integrity rather than to pressure of circumstances or business incompetency is mercifully hidden from us. Nor do I say that the gracious Lord has no care for the secular life of his people. But it surely is obvious that the leading of the Spirit spoken of in the text is not in order to guide people into secular goods; and it is not to be inferred to be absent when trials come (sufferings, losses, despair of this world). It is specifically in order to guide them into eternal good; to make them not prosperous, not free from care or suffering, but holy, free from sin. It is not given us to save us from the consequences of our business carelessnesses or incompetences, to take the place of ordinary prudence in the conduct of our affairs. It is not given us to preserve us from the necessity of strenuous preparation for the tasks before us or from the trouble of rendering decision in the difficult crises of life. It is given specifically to save us from sinning, to lead us in the paths of holiness and truth.

Accordingly, we observe next that the spiritual leading of which Paul speaks is not something sporadic, given only on occasion of some special need of supernatural direction, but something continuous, affecting all the operations of a Christian’s activities throughout every moment of life.

It has but one end in view, the saving from sin, the leading into holiness; but it affects every single activity of every kind (physical, intellectual, and spiritual) bending it toward that end. Were it directed toward other ends, we might indeed expect it to be more sporadic. Were it simply the omniscience of God placed at the disposal of his favourites, which they might avail themselves of in times of perplexity and doubt, it might well be occasional and temporary. But since it is nothing other than the power of God unto salvation, it must needs to abide with sinners, work constantly upon them, enter into all their acts, condition all their doings, and lead them thus steadily onward toward the one great goal.

Passing Thought Of A MadPriest ( Boris )

This my official prediction re the next few months in British politics.

Boris will be no more successful than Mrs May in getting his way in Parliament. So, he will call a general election. His Conservative Party will win a landslide victory because he will attract the votes of many previous Labour Party supporters who voted to leave the E.U. as well as the majority of conservative supporters (a few business people who want to stay in the E.U. may vote for the Lib. Dems., but not enough to cause any substantial upset). Boris will also attract Brexit Party supporters as he is a more charismatic populist than Farage.

The Remainer vote will be split between the Labour Party, the Lib. Dems., the Green Party and the Scottish Nationalists. This will be the singular most decisive factor in the massive Tory victory. UKIP and Change UK will win fewer votes than the Monster Raving Loony Party (well, maybe not, but you get my drift, I’m sure).

With an eminently workable majority in the House of Commons, Boris will be able to withstand any Remainer or “no-deal” rebellion among his own backbenchers (his front bench will have been chosen by him for their loyalty to him).

The U.K. will leave the E.U. without a deal and Remainers in Parliament will ask, “Why the fuck didn’t we pass Mrs May’s deal when we had the chance?”

And the Speaker of the House will reply, “Because you are a bunch of twats. Order! Order!”

The Forever Christ

From “Jesus Christ Our Lord”
by John F. Walvoord, 1910-2002

The doctrine of the eternity of the Son of God is the most important doctrine of Christology as a whole because if Christ is not eternal then he is a creature who came into existence in time and lacks the quality of eternity and infinity which characterises God himself. If on the other hand it is held that Christ is eternal, it is immediately affirmed that he is not dependent upon another for his existence, but is in fact self-existent. To say that Christ is eternal is to affirm more than to say that he is preexistent. Arius, for instance, believed in the preexistence of Christ but, because he held that Christ was the first of created spirits, he did not believe that Christ was eternal. If Christ is eternal, of course, he is also preexistent, that is, existed before his birth in Bethlehem. The arguments for his eternity and for his deity are therefore inseparable.

In general, those who accept the scriptural testimony as inerrant find ample evidence to support the conclusion that Christ is not only eternal but that he possesses all the attributes of God. The works of Christ, his titles, his majesty and promises that are related to him are all those of God himself. His appearances in the Old Testament referred to as theophanies also provide historical evidence of his existence in the Old Testament period prior to his birth in Bethlehem.

The Old Testament evidence for the eternity of Christ is both direct and indirect. In Messianic prophecy, Christ is spoken of as the child to be born in Bethlehem “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). This is one of many passages which state in effect his eternity.

As A. R. Fausset has said, “The terms convey the strongest assertion of infinite duration of which the Hebrew language is capable.” (cf. Ps. 90:2; Prov. 8:22, 23; John 1:1)

Keil in a long discussion defends the concept of the eternity and deity of the promised child. He states,

“The announcement of the origin of this ruler as being before all worlds unquestionably presupposes his divine nature; but this thought was not strange to the prophetic mind in Micah’s time, but is expressed without ambiguity by Isaiah, when he gives the Messiah the name of ’the mighty God.’”

Even those who do not affirm biblical inerrancy, but who accept the general reliability of the Scriptures, find ample evidence to support the doctrine of the eternity of Christ. Scholars such as Westcott and Lightfoot, and more modern scholars such as J. S. Stewart, A. M. Hunter and D. M. Baillie would fall into this classification. Baillie, for instance, cites Barth with approval as affirming the eternity of the Trinity which involves the eternity of Christ.

All of the Old Testament predictions of the coming of Christ which assert his deity are also evidence for his eternity. For instance in Isaiah, chapter nine, verse six, Christ is declared to be not only “mighty God” but also “everlasting Father” or, better translated, “Father of eternity.” The name Jehovah frequently given to Christ as well as to God the Father and the Holy Spirit is another assertion of eternity, for this title is defined as referring to the eternal I AM. (cf. Exodus 3:14)

The eternity of Christ is frequently asserted also in the New Testament in even more definite terms than in the Old Testament. The introduction to the gospel of John is generally considered an affirmation of the eternity of Christ in the statement “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God .” (John 1:1)

The phrase “in the beginning” seems to refer to a point in time in eternity past beyond which it is impossible for us to go. The verb is also chosen to state eternity as the word “was” implies continued existence.

As Marcus Dods states, “The Logos did not then begin to be, but at that point at which all else began to be he already was.”

As previously noted, the statement in John, chapter eight, verse fifty-eight, is another express proof of eternity recognised as such even by the enemies of Christ. When Christ said, “Before Abraham came to be, I am,” he was not only claiming to have existed before Abraham, but he was claiming to be the eternal IAM, that is, the Jehovah of the Old Testament.

Evidence for the eternity of Christ is also found in the Pauline Epistles as in Colossians, chapter one, verses sixteen and seventeen, where both his eternity and work as Creator are affirmed: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

The two statements found in these verses declare not only that Christ was before all creation, but that all creation stemmed from his creative activity. If Christ was before all creation, it is obvious that He himself could not have been created.

Additional proof of the eternity of Christ is found in statements concerning the eternal promises of God (Eph. 1:4) and in the declaration by Christ himself: “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.” (Rev. 1:8)

In the New Testament as in the Old, there are many contributing arguments to support the assertions of his deity and eternity such as his titles, his works, his divine attributes, his eternal promises and almost any other aspect of his person and work which would imply his deity.

If Christ is truly God, he is also truly eternal. In the history of the Church, it is significant that no denial of the eternity of Christ has endured which has not also denied the Scriptures as the very word of God and ultimately lowered the person of Christ to something less than God himself. Within orthodoxy, there never has been any effective denial of the eternity of Christ and orthodox creeds throughout the history of the church have either stated or implied his eternity.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( unelected leaders )

The upside to living in a country with a constitution that allows someone to become prime minister without being elected directly by the people of the country is that whatever the latest tenant of number ten Downing Street does and whatever damage he causes (even unto the ending of the earth), it is not the fault of the people. Instead of half of the population hating the other half (as is the state of things in the, far from, United States of America) almost all of us can join together, whatever our political affiliations, and hate the comparative handful of decidedly odd people who got to choose the nation’s leader.

Wonderful Fruit Of Wonderful Tree

From “The Wonderful Tree,”
a sermon by Geerhardus Vos, 1862-1949

“I am like a green fir-tree; from me is thy fruit found.”
( Hosea XIV, 8 )

The fruition of himself granted by God to us is individual. There can be no division to it; each must of necessity receive the whole if he is to receive it at all. This follows from the nature of the gift itself. If the gift consisted of impersonal values, either material or spiritual, the supply might be quantitatively distributed over many persons. But being, as it is, the personal favour of God, it must be poured as a whole into the receptacle of the human heart. The parable of marriage not only teaches that the covenant relation is a monogamic one, but implies besides that it is a bond binding unitary soul to soul. There is an inner sanctuary of communion, where all else disappears from sight, and the believer shut in with God gazes upon his loveliness and appropriates him, as though outside of him nothing mattered or existed. These may be fugitive moments, and they may be rare in our experience, but we surely must know them, if God’s fruit-bearing for us is to be a reality in our lives.

The prophet, Hosea, evidently had a feeling for this, although the dispensation of the covenant under which he lived made it far more difficult to attain than in our time. The collective method of procedure pursued at that stage, related everything in the first instance to the nation of Israel. To it belong the election, the love, the union with God, the future. It is quite in accordance with this that Israel as a body appears as the bride and wife of Jehovah, or in the terms of a different figure as the son he has called out of Egypt. None the less it yields a pure abstraction when this is carried to the extreme of a denial of every individual bond between the single Israelite and Jehovah. On the basis of the collective relationship, in which the many unite as one, there must of necessity have sprung up an individual attachment, in which the single believer and Jehovah directly touched each other. As there was private sacrifice alongside of the public ritual service, so there must have flourished personal worship and affection for God in the hearts of the pious. The devotional fragrance wafted to us from so many a page in the Old Testament bears abundant witness to this. But, while no true Israelite could be entirely without this, there existed doubtless many degrees in the individualising of what was so largely a common possession.

The nature of the prophetic office brought with it a certain detachment from the mass and a peculiar intimacy with Jehovah. And yet the note of individualism is not equally strong in all the prophets. It is interesting to observe where and when and how it emerges. Its two great exponents before the exile are Hosea and Jeremiah. These two speak not only from and for Jehovah but also to Jehovah. They are pre-eminently the prophets of prayer. In the case of each, there appears to be some connection between the temperament of the prophet and the cultivation of this element. Both exceptionally endowed in their emotional nature, they instinctively sought, and under the influence of the Spirit were enabled to find, what could satisfy this deep instinct. Religion, as centred in the heart, cannot but incline towards individualism, for the heart with its hidden feelings is the most incapable of duplication of all the factors that enter into it. Belief and intent of will may be standardised; the emotional reaction is like the wind of heaven: we hear its sound, yet know not where it comes from nor where it goes. So it is with the world of religious feeling; it has a colouring and tone of its own in each individual child of God.

Hosea being of a most tender and impressionable temperament was on that account chosen to secure for the covenant-bond in his own life, and through his influence in the life of others, that sweet privacy and inwardness which forms the most precious possession of every pious soul. Here lies the cause of that vivid, life-like personification to which the prophet subjects the people of Israel, putting words upon their lips expressing a mode of feeling such as, strictly speaking, only an individual can experience. It is his own heart that the prophet has put into the body of Israel. The construction is in the plural, but the spirit is in the singular, and it needs only to be translated back into the singular, to render it a most appropriate speech for every believer in addressing Jehovah:

“Come and let us return unto Jehovah; for he has torn, and he will heal us; he has smitten and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live before him. And let us know, let us follow on to know Jehovah: his going forth is sure as the morning; and he will come unto us as the rain, as the latter rain that waters the earth.”

And thus the prophet, and through him, doubtless others, had the wonderful experience that the God of Israel could give himself to a single person with the same individual interest and undivided devotion as if that person were the only one to whom his favour extended. This is necessary to complete the fruition of God. Every child of God, no matter how broad their vision and enlarged their sympathies, is conscious of carrying within themselves a private sanctuary, an inner guest-chamber of the heart, where they desire to be at times alone with God and have their Saviour to themselves.

So instinctive and irrepressible is the craving for this, that it may easily give rise to a sort of spiritual jealousy, making it difficult to believe that the God who has given himself to millions of others should receive us alone into absolute intimacy and show us the secret of his covenant.

Does it seem improper to pray, “Come, Lord, to me alone, and close the door, that I may have you to myself for a day and an hour?”

Should this feeling come to us and perplex us, the best way to meet it is to consider the existence of the same mystery in the relation of earthly parents to their children. It matters not whether there be one or ten, each child has the full affection of the father’s and mother’s heart. If we that are creatures can experience the working of this miracle in our finite lives, how much more can the infinite God be present to a countless number of souls and give to each one of them the same ineffable gift? He is God and not man, the Holy One, both in our midst and in our hearts.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( conspiracy theory special )

Of course, the moon landings were faked. The United States could not have sent men to the moon for the simple reason that Columbus never discovered the Americas. Nobody had the technology in 1492 to sail the ocean blue, least of all the Portuguese. The United States is an invention, the whole North and South America thing is just fake news.

You want proof?

Okay. I cite Donald Trump. No democracy would ever vote such a talentless and reprehensible dumb-ass into the office of assistant street-cleaner. To expect people to believe that he is the duly elected president of a world super-power is ridiculous. How credulous do they think we are?

Togetherness

From “The New Ideal in Education,”
an address given before the League of the Empire on July 16th, 1916
by Nikolaj Velimirovic, 1880-1956

If we do not want war we must look to the children. There is the only hope and the only wise starting point. It is not without a deep prophetic significance that Christ asked children to come unto him. In all the world-calamities, in all wars, strifes, religious inquisitions and persecutions, in all the hours of human misery and helplessness, he has been asking, through centuries, the children to come unto him.

I am sure, if anybody has ears for his voice today, amidst the thunderings of guns and passions and acts of revenge, one would hear the same call: “Let the children come unto me!”

Not kings and politicians, not journalists and generals, not the grown-up people, but children. And so today also, when we ask for a way out of the present world misery, when we in the depth of darkness today ask for light and in sorrow for tomorrow ask for advice and comfort, we must look to the children and Christ. Why does Christ not ask the kings to come to him, the kings and politicians and journalists and generals? Because they are too much engaged in a wrong state of things and because they are greatly responsible themselves for such a wrong state of things and because consequently, it is difficult for them to change their ways, their hearts and their minds.

Every generation is laden with sins and prejudices. That is the reason why Christ goes only a little way with every generation, and then he becomes tired and asks for a new generation, he calls for children. Christ is always new and fresh as children are. Every generation is spoiled and corrupted by long-living and struggling. But for a new generation, the world is quite a new wonder. Christ is getting tired of an old generation. Sadly he calls for a new one for children. In our distress today, I think, we should multiply his voice, calling for him, for a new generation and for a new education.

The education which makes for war is called by a very attractive name, the individualistic education. The true name of it is selfishness or egotism. It is born in the heart of Europe, in Germany. It was brought up by Schopenhauer and Goethe. It was subsequently supported by the German biologists, by the musicians, sculptors, philosophers, poets, soldiers, socialists and priests, by the wisest and by madmen. Unfortunately, France, Russia and even Great Britain have not been quite exempt from this pernicious theory of individualistic education.

War is the result of this old ideal of education. The old European ideal of education was so-called individualistic. This ideal was supported equally by the churches and by science and art. Extreme individualism, developed in Germany more than in any other country, resulted in pride, pride resulted in materialism, materialism in pessimism. Put upon a dangerous and false base every evil result followed quite naturally. If my poor personality is of limitless value, without any effort and merit of my own, why should not I be proud? If the aim of the world’s history is to produce some few genial personalities, as Carlyle taught, why should not I think that I am such a personality for my own generation, and why should I not be proud of that? Once filled with pride I will soon be filled also with contempt for other men. Selfishness and denial of God will follow my pride; this is called by a scientific word materialism. Being a materialist, as long as I possess a certain amount of intellectual and physical strength, I will be proud of myself. But as soon as my body or spirit are affected by any illness
(it may be only a headache or toothache), I will plunge into a dark pessimism, always the shadow and the end of materialism.

When will wars really stop in the world’s history? As soon as a new ideal of education is realised. What is this new ideal of education which makes for peace? I will give it in one word: “pan-humanism.” This word includes all I wish to say.

Individualism means a brick, pan-humanism means a building. Even the greatest individuality (may it be Caesar, or Raphael, or Luther) is no more than a brick in the pan-human building of history. The lives of individuals are only the points, whereas the life of humankind is a form, a deep, high and large form.

If a great and original individuality were the aim of history, I think history should stop with the first man upon earth, for our first ancestor must have been the most striking individual who ever existed. If one striking individual is the aim of history, history should close with the death of Adam. But history still continues. Why? Just because Adam was not its aim, but humankind; not one, or two, or ten heroes, but millions of human creatures; not a few great people, but all people, all together, all without exception.

Voluntary obedience is the education of tomorrow. It is a stage where all people will see their mission in their collective work and, therefore, voluntarily enchain themselves into the pan-human organism, plunging their imaginative, point-like personalities into a big and mystic personality of humankind.

This voluntary obedience will mean voluntary slavery. We are going to be slaves again, but not by royal or papal compulsion, but by our goodwill; we are going to be slaves as the parts of a body are slaves and servants of each other, and as the bricks are slaves and servants of a great building. We are going to be ” prisoners of the Lord,” as Saint Paul says, instead of being, as now, the prisoners of our dreams, imaginations and ambitions.

There is no hope for the future in the politicians, or generals, now struggling. The only hope and guarantee lie in the children. A new education in personal goodness making for social greatness is the only beneficial way forward. Therefore, let us look to the children!

The Choice

From “The Pursuit of God”
by A. W. Tozer, 1897-1963

Every soul belongs to God and exists by his pleasure. God being who and what he is, and we being who and what we are, the only thinkable relation between us is one of full lordship on his part and complete submission on ours. We owe him every honour that is in our power to give him. Our everlasting grief lies in giving him anything less.

The pursuit of God will embrace the labour of bringing our total personality into conformity to his. And this not judicially, but actually. I do not here refer to the act of justification by faith in Christ. I speak of a voluntary exalting of God to his proper station over us and a willing surrender of our whole being to the place of worshipful submission which the creator-creature circumstance makes proper.

The moment we make up our minds that we are going on with this determination to exalt God over all, we step out of the world’s parade. We shall find ourselves out of adjustment to the ways of the world and increasingly so as we make progress in the holy way. We shall acquire a new viewpoint, a new and different psychology will be formed within us, a new power will begin to surprise us by its upsurgings and its outgoings. Our break with the world will be the direct outcome of our changed relation to God. For the world of fallen humanity does not honour God. Millions call themselves by his name, it is true, and pay some token respect to him, but a simple test will show how little he is really honoured among them. Let the average person be put to the proof on the question of who or what is above, and that person’s true position will be exposed. Let him or she be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and people, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time. Those other things will be exalted above. However people may protest, the proof is in the choices they make day after day throughout their lives.

“Be thou exalted” is the language of victorious spiritual experience. It is a little key to unlock the door to great treasures of grace. It is central in the life of God in the soul. Let seeking people reach a place where life and lips join to say continually, “Be thou exalted,” and a thousand minor problems will be solved at once. Their Christian life ceases to be the complicated thing it had been before and becomes the very essence of simplicity. By the exercise of their will, they have set their course and on that course, they will stay as if guided by an automatic pilot. If blown off course for a moment by some adverse wind, they will surely return again as by a secret bent of the soul. The hidden motions of the Spirit are working in their favour and “the stars in their courses” fight for them. They have met their life problem at its centre and everything else must follow along.

Let no one imagine that they will lose anything of human dignity by this voluntary sell-out of their all to their God. They do not by this degrade themselves as a human being; rather they find their right place of high honour as one made in the image of their creator. Their deep disgrace lay in their moral derangement, their unnatural usurpation of the place of God. Their honour will be proved by restoring again that stolen throne. In exalting God over all they find their own highest honour upheld.

Anyone who might feel reluctant to surrender their will to the will of another should remember Jesus’ words, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” (John 8:34)

We must of necessity be servant to someone, either to God or to sin. Sinners pride themselves on their independence, completely overlooking the fact that they are the weak slaves of the sins that rule their members. The person who surrenders to Christ exchanges a cruel slave driver for a kind and gentle master whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. Made as we were in the image of God we scarcely find it strange to take again our God as our all. God was our original habitat and our hearts cannot but feel at home when they enter again that ancient and beautiful abode.

I hope it is clear that there is a logic behind God’s claim to preeminence. That place is his by every right in earth or heaven. While we take to ourselves the place that is his the whole course of our lives is out of joint. Nothing will or can restore order till our hearts make the great decision: God shall be exalted above.

“Them that honour me I will honour,” said God once to a priest of Israel, and that ancient law of the Kingdom stands today unchanged by the passing of time or the changes of dispensation. The whole Bible and every page of history proclaim the perpetuation of that law.

“If any person serves me, that person will my Father honour,” said our Lord Jesus, tying in the old with the new and revealing the essential unity of his ways with humankind.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( on political opponents )

Most of Trump’s supporters are scared and Trump addresses their fears. Not only do Democrats not address their fears they stigmatise them. The same happened in England where liberal arrogance and their method of silencing the expression of working-class fears through stigmatisation led to the Brexit vote. If Trump’s supporters have become racist then calling them racist is only going to make them less likely to turn their backs on racism. By all means, name the beast in the White House but do not make permanent enemies out of temporary ones. It’s like evangelism. Winning one soul for Jesus being of equal worth to winning a thousand. Turning one Trump supporter from fascism is worth everything, even in practical terms as it might mean one less insult hurled at a black person or perhaps one less dead black child. Anyway, it’s not within our God-given remit to write anyone off.

To access older posts please use the archive feature in the sidebar.