Of Course, I Could be Wrong

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In Which The Labour Party Shoots Itself In The Foot (Again)

If the Labour Party votes against Johnson’s deal, as Corbyn says they will, Brexit-favouring, Labour Party supporters in the north of England will vote either for the Brexit Party or the Tories at the next election. The Tories will win (perhaps in a coalition with the Brexit Party) and Labour will probably end up in third place behind the Liberal Party (who will pick up a lot of votes from remainers in the south who normally vote Labour.

If the Labour Party votes in favour of Johnson’s deal they will retain the votes of their supporters in the north who will have no reason to vote for the Brexit Party anymore and, with leaving the EU no longer being an issue, would rather be dead in a ditch than vote Tory. This would mean that the Labour Party could very well win the next general election and be asked to form the next government, albeit in a coalition with the Liberal Party. Corbyn could then press ahead with the reforms that he has always wanted to make, many of which he would not be able to do if we stay in the E.U. because of its neo-liberal, pro-capitalist regulations.

Sadly, Corbyn is too arrogant to consider such a course of action and it is going to be goodbye to socialism in the UK.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest (on Boris)

It does not matter if Boris Johnson can be trusted or not and it does not matter if his “deal” delivers anything new, what does matter is that he “appears” to have proved that he can be trusted to deliver. This makes it even more likely that he will win the next election with a landslide majority (and it was pretty certain that he would do so even before he “successfully” negotiated a deal with the E.U.). He is now in the perfect position to fight and win a general election and the remainers in Parliament along with the D.U.P. are going to hand him the opportunity to do just that by throwing out the deal this Saturday.

Since before he became prime minister the opposition has been playing into Johnson’s hands whilst displaying less political acumen than you would expect off a tantrum-throwing toddler trying to get its own way.

The Work Of The World To Come

From “The Life Of The World To Come”
by Henry Barclay Swete, 1835-1917

Eternal life is not only privilege or enjoyment. It is service, it is work. We make a great mistake if we connect with our conception of heaven the thought of rest from work. Rest from toil, from weariness, from exhaustion, yes; rest from work, from productiveness, from service, no. That abundant and increasing vitality of spirit and of body which is poured into the saints from the glorified Christ, that life from the very source of life, is not to be spent in idle harping upon harps of gold, reclining on clouds, or wandering aimlessly through the paradise of God, clad in white robes and with crowned heads. These apocalyptic pictures are symbols of bliss which passes words, but there is another side to the picture, which is too often forgotten in our anticipations of the life to come.

“They rest not day and night.” (1 Rev. 4:8)

“They serve day and night.” (Rev. 7:15)

“His servants shall do him service.” (Rev. 22:3)

The activities of the heavenly life are beyond our knowledge, as they are at present beyond our powers. From him that sits on the throne to the least of saints at his feet, all are at work.

“My Father works hitherto, and I work,” said our Lord. (1 John 1:17)

It is the law of the divine life. It is the law of all life which is worthy of the name. Here work is broken, necessarily rightly broken, by intervals of rest. God has given us the night for sleep, as he has given the day for work, and there are the longer intervals caused by sickness or enforced abstinence from work, and the last, immeasurable interval of death. To each of us “the night comes, when no man can work” (John 9:4). But beyond, in the age to come, there lie illimitable fields of work. Work without weariness, without rest, because there is no need for rest and no desire for it. Work which is rest and joy, the keen delight of overflowing vitality, perfect health, unclouded brain, untiring strength, absolute devotion.

And all this work is service.

“His servants shall serve him.”

It is one of the best features of our day that so much time and thought are given by men and women to the service of humankind. Christ served humanity, “the Son of Man came not to be ministered to, but to minister,” not to be served, but to serve and even to give his life for mankind. It is Christ-like to serve man. Yet to serve God, as they will serve him in the world to come, is greater and nobler.

But let us understand what we mean by this. “Divine service” as usually understood, means the public prayers of the Church. We inherit the phrase from monasticism, which spoke of the hours of prayer as the “Opus” or “Servitium Dei” (the work or service of God). But we are mistaken if we think of the life of heaven as worship only in our sense of the word. Worship, no doubt, it will be, all of it, because in that world all work will be worship and every act will be brought into relation with God, will be a doing of his will, an offering of a free heart to him, a priestly service acceptable to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. We shall serve as priests and kings, for, to serve God, as the old collect says, is to reign. It is perfect freedom, it is royalty. To serve God without intermission in every thought and action is the highest glory and the ultimate goal of human nature.

Will eternal service grow monotonous, as the ages advance? Many lives here are saddened by monotony. There is the same round of trivial duties to be discharged day by day, without any prospect of change or incident before the end. Men and women in this position become too often mere machines, their drab existence works itself out in unbroken dullness till the hour of death cuts it short. Imagine a deathless life of this kind, with immensely increased powers, to be employed eternally in the repetition of certain acts which at last become mechanical. Not such is the eternal life to which we are called. It is not only a life of knowledge, of possession, of service but a life of unceasing progress towards the infinite wisdom and goodness and power.

There is in the world as we know it much progress which is hurtful and downward in its tendency.

“Whosoever goes onward and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God,” writes Saint John in his second epistle.

Those are weighty words, worthy to be borne in mind in an age which attaches inordinate value to mere progressiveness. True progress is not found in breaking away from the old ways, but in abiding in the teaching of Christ and his Spirit in the Church. There is an apparent contradiction here, for how can we abide and yet advance? It is a paradox, like much else in scripture, but Christian experience proves it true. Those make the best progress in religion, who hold fast by the faith once for all delivered to the saints and not those who drift away from their moorings, rudderless upon a sea of doubt.

For the saints in the world to come there can be no change in the object of their faith and hope and love. They have Christ, they have God and they are satisfied. There can be no monotony in the contemplation and worship of the Infinite. Their great possession is unchangeable but also inexhaustible. No change is possible where all is love and truth. The centre of the heavenly life is fixed and immovable but the circumference may ever be advancing towards the centre, the saints may ever be drawing nearer and nearer to a goal which they can never reach. There may be progress in knowledge, progress in enjoyment, progress in service, a progress which at every point will open up new wonders, new opportunities, new outlooks into a greater future, and as that future unfolds itself, new and unsuspected scopes for the energies of the redeemed, new ways of fellowship with God in Christ, new companionships with the good and great of past generations, and with angelic beings who have watched and guarded us in life and rejoiced over our repentance and are ready to welcome us into the eternal mansions and will share our worship and our work, our service and our joy, in the ages to come.

But may we carry the idea of time into the life beyond? If not, how can there be progress? The true answer seems to be that which has been given by the great living philosopher, Henri Bergson, that while what he calls “clock-time” is limited to the present life, “duration” continues in the world to come. That is, as I understand him to mean, although we cannot think of divisions of time, such as hours and days and years, as existing in a future life, there will be succession there, age following age, though no age, as it passes, takes from the total sum of that deathless life. Certainly this is assumed everywhere in the “Bible,” where the next world is called “the ages of the ages” and even once by Saint Paul, “all the generations of the age of ages” (Ephesians 3:21). As the ages roll by, only that other ages may succeed them, the happy saints will find themselves nearer to God and to Christ, not raised as on earth by a cross, but drawn towards the throne by growing love and fellowship, of which there is no limit, and no end.

People Don’t Like What They Don’t Understand

Katie Pruitt’s new song and video for “Loving Her” premiered Friday in celebration of National Coming Out Day. The track is from her forthcoming album Expectations.

Pruitt reflects, “Why is being ‘gay’ and ‘Christian’ somehow mutually exclusive? I wrestled with this concept my whole life. It made no sense to me that ‘love’ could be a sin. I finally decided that even if it was a sin, I didn’t care. I was in love for the first time with a beautiful girl that loved me back. It didn’t feel wrong to me. After a tough phone conversation with my father, his words still ringing in my head…‘I’m sorry, I just don’t understand it’ to which I responded, ‘people don’t like what they don’t understand.’”

Be Still!

From “Quiet Musings,”
a sermon by Charles Spurgeon, 1834-1892

“While I was musing the fire burned.” Psalm 39:3.

Our subject this evening will not stand in need of much preface. The Psalm may teach us that there are times when solitude is better than society and silence is wiser than speech. The company of sinners was a grief to David’s soul and because their converse was profane he chose, rather, to fly away from their midst or if they must still continue in his presence, he determined that he would resolutely seal his lips.

Touchingly he says, “I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good.”

This painful necessity soon proved to him a pleasing occasion. While he yielded himself up to the thoughts, the reveries and the pensive workings of his own heart, a sacred fire of devotion was kindled in his breast.

Whatever the circumstances of the Psalmist, you will all see that the exercise was profitable. And however peculiar the advantages of meditation at particular seasons, it may not be amiss for us to make it a common habit. There is much that is light and frothy in our ordinary communion and our communications, one with another, soon grow frothy and insipid when we have no definite matter in hand. Whether, therefore, to free ourselves from the stress of business or to escape from the temptations of idleness, let it be thought worthy of note that “musing” has sweet charms and calm reflection is capable of kindling a bright fire.

We do not muse much in these days of ours. We are too busy. We are hurrying here and there, doing much and talking much, but thinking very little and spending but very little time, indeed, in the modesty of retirement. “The calm retreat, the silent shade” are things which we know very little about. We would be better people if we were more alone and I suppose that we should do more good, after all, if with even less of active effort we spent more time in waiting upon God and gathering spiritual strength for labour in his service. The world has put a little letter before the word “musing” and these are the days, not for musing, but for amusing. People will go anywhere for amusement. To muse is a strange thing to them and they think it dull and wearisome. Our forebears loved the quiet hour and loved it so well that they cherished those times which they could spend in musing as the most happy because they were the most peaceful seasons of their life. We drag such time off to execution in a moment and only ask others to tell us how we may kill it.

Now there is much virtue in musing, especially if we muse upon the best, the highest and the noblest of subjects. If we muse upon the things of which we hear and read in sacred scripture, we shall do wisely. It is well to muse upon the things of God because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. A person who hears many sermons is not necessarily well-instructed in the faith. We may read so many religious books that we overload our brains and they may be unable to work under the weight of the great mass of paper and of printer’s ink. The person who reads but one book and that book the Bible and then muses much upon it, will be a better scholar in Christ’s school than the person who merely reads hundreds of books and muses not at all. Those who get but one sermon in a day, if they meditate much upon it, will get far more out of it than those who hear two or three but meditate not. The truth of God is something like the cluster of the vine; if you would have wine from it, you must bruise it, you must press and squeeze it many times. The bruisers’ feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches or else the juice will not flow and they must leap and leap and leap again, and well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted. You must, by the feet of meditation, tread the clusters of truth if you would get the wine of consolation from them. Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, the process which really supplies the muscle and the nerve and the sinew and the bone is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with inner life. So is it with our souls. They are not nourished merely by what we hear by going here and there and listening awhile to this and then to that and then to the other. Hearing, leading, marking and learning all require inward digesting and the inward digesting of the truth of God lies in the meditating upon it. Ruminating creatures chew the cud and these have always been considered clean animals and so it is a mark of true children of God that they understand how to chew the cud of meditation.

Why is it that some people are always in a place of worship and yet they are not holy, making only some slight advances in the divine life? It is because they neglect their closets. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it. They would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it. The fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it. The water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. They are either too idle or too busy, but often to be busy is to be idle and when some think us idle, we are then best at work. You who know anything of the divine life know very well what I mean by that. Meditation is not idleness and retirement is not forsaking the good of the world. I suppose that Moses did as much for Israel on the mountain’s summit with uplifted hands as ever Joshua did in the valley with his drawn sword. Elijah upon the top of Carmel, yes, even by the brook Cherith or in the house of the widow of Zarephath, was as much serving Israel as when he smote the priests of Baal and hewed them in pieces before the Lord. I commend meditation to you, then, for fetching the nutriment out of the truth of God.

Another note in the praise of this most blessed but much-neglected duty is that it fixes the truth upon the memory. You complain of short memories, you say that what you have heard you can scarcely remember to another day. If your paint is thin and you can not make your picture stand out in glowing colours, lay on many coats of your paint and so will you do what you want. If your memory will not retain the truth the first time, then think it over and over and over again and so, by having these several coats of paint, as it were, the whole matter shall abide.

When the fly fisherman goes out to fish, it may be that in mid-stream he sees a great fish and having cast his fly, the hook is soon fairly in the fish’s jaws. But what now? Why, he must let him run out the line, then he must drag him back again and, after all that, he never thinks his fish safely his own till he gets him into the net. Well, now, hearing sermons is, as it were, getting the hook into the fish’s mouth and meditation is the landing-net. It is this which gets the thing to shore. Furthermore, the same meditation becomes a fire of coals upon which the fish is broiled and prepared for our spiritual food? If you cannot hold a thing well, try and get many hooks to hold it with and meditation will supply you, as it were, with a hundred hands, every one of which you may grasp the truth of God. I am sure that we give not earnest heed enough to these things or else we should not let them slip.

Complain not, then, of your memory! Complain of yourself if you are not given to meditation. If your memory is frail let your closet rebuke you because you have not been there more often. Whereas another person may do with less meditation, if you say your memory is weak, the more reason why you should be a longer time and more often with your God in secret. All need this, but you need it more than others. See to it, then, that you neglect not this duty. For getting the nourishment out of truth and moreover, for preserving, for salting down the truth for future use, employ much meditation. Meditation clips the wings of thoughts which otherwise would fly away at the first clapping of the world’s hands. You shall thus keep your prey, as it were, surrounded and entangled in a net or else it might escape you. Your meditation shall hold it fast until you need it.

Yet further, meditation is of great value in opening up the truth of God and leading us into its secrets. There is some gold to be found on the surface of this land of Ophir, the Book of God. There are some precious jewels which may be discovered even by the wayfarer, but the mass of the gold is hidden in the heart of the earth and the person who would be rich in these treasures must dig into Scripture as one who seeks for choice pearls. You must go down into its depths and you must rummage there until you get at last at the treasure.

The Point Of Prayer

From “The Power of Prayer in Relation to Outward Circumstances,”
a sermon by Friedrich Schleiermacher, 1768-1834

We have a direct view of the Saviour, before he fell into the hands of his enemies, in an agitated and anxious state of mind. He knew that there was a plot against his life, which was now on the point of being carried out, and plainly and calmly as he had before talked with his disciples of what was before him, now that he was to enter on the conflict (now that all, as it came nearer, looked darker and more certain) the various feelings that such a prospect could not but excite in his mind threw him into a state of stronger agitation than was at all usual with him. He sought solitude and then fled from it. From prayer, he went back to his disciples, who were in no condition to comfort or cheer him and from them, he went back again to prayer. In circumstances like these, even to those who are furthest from true piety, the old, half-forgotten memory of God comes back and they turn to him for help and deliverance. In such circumstances, even those whose spirit is bravest and who are absolutely submissive to the divine will, are yet not quite without anxiety or without wishes and, therefore, in this instance, the prayer of the Saviour took the form of one of the ordinary petitions of men for a result according to their desires.

It is the value and the power of a prayer of this kind that we wish to consider. Let us first examine carefully the case before us, to see what it teaches us, and then, secondly, note any deductions to be drawn from it.

First, then, fix it firmly in your minds that you have the privilege of laying before God your wishes about the more important concerns of your lives. It cannot be superfluous, in these times, to strengthen ourselves in this belief. Those who would like to banish everything belonging to religion from the minds of men, by allowing no room for the exercise of it in daily life, do not fail to represent such a prayer as an offence against the Most High. It is irreverent, they say, to express a wish rising out of the narrowness of our intellect and heart, about something which his decree has long ago settled; it is an ill-timed curiosity to say, I wish it might be so and so when we shall presently learn how he has willed it. Do not be perplexed by such words. Christ did it, therefore we, too, may do it. It is one of the privileges that belong to our position as children of God. That would be a slavish family in which the children were not at liberty to express their wishes in the presence of their wiser father and is anyone able all at once to suppress their desires? If we cannot do so, then let us always speak them out when our heart is moved to do so; for even if we do shut them up within us, they are not hidden from him. Do not listen to those who tell you that, before you approach God, you must have your mind composed and your heart at peace; that it is unseemly to appear before him in this agitated state, while the dread of pain and disappointment, the clinging to some good thing which you are on the point of losing, still tosses your heart to and fro and leaves no room for submission to the holy will of God. If you waited until submission had won the victory, you would feel neither the need nor the inclination for such a prayer and the privilege of offering it would be useless to you. If the feelings that stir your heart are sinful emotions, if these emotions are kindled by the fire of passion, then the thought of God and prayer to him can have no place beside them, But that disquietude, so altogether natural to people as God has made them, which agitates us at the touch of loss and misfortune or when threatened with a check being laid on our activities or with separation from those we love should not keep us back from God; for only thus will our hearts not condemn us and we shall have confidence towards God (1 John 3:21). Christ himself, as you see here, used no other means to allay this so unusual agitation in his holy soul. Prayer alone was the means he took. In the very midst of his trouble, he turned in supplication to his heavenly Father. Just when his soul was sorrowful even unto death, he left his disciples to go and pray.

But while I most sincerely encourage you to do this, I just as earnestly entreat you, in the second place, by no means to feel sure that what you ask will of necessity take place because of your prayer. The words of Christ leave no room to doubt that he really and most earnestly prayed that the suffering before him might be averted. He uses the very same words which he always used in speaking of it and we know only too well from the close of his history that the event was not according to his prayer. That which he had always foreseen and foretold befell him. He had the cup of suffering, just as he saw it set before him in his hour of sorrow and dread, to drain to the last drop and a result which his prayer did not effect will not and cannot be affected by ours. Do not then infer, as many do, from the promises in certain passages of Scripture, that God always gives what is asked of him in true faith and out of a pure heart. You will not deny that Christ had a faith that might have been pre-eminently a reason for God’s favour, and in his filial and submissive entreaty you will find nothing unbefitting to a pure heart. Such an answer then must have been given to him above all others and the words spoken by himself, “Ask, and you shall receive,” must, therefore, have some other meaning than that which we have indicated, since this was not the sense in which the promise was fulfilled to him, the author and finisher of our faith. And if not to him, how should it come to pass that God should fulfil your wishes because of your prayers? Do you think it might be more possible in your case than in his because his suffering and death was a part of God’s great plan for the restoration of the human race? But in reality, everything is taken into account in God’s plan, and it is all one plan. Whatever your heart may long for, sooner will heaven and earth pass away than the slightest tittle be changed of what has been decreed in the counsels of the Most High. Or is this your idea: it is true that the Eternal cannot change his purpose, but knowing all things beforehand, he knew when and what his pious and beloved children would ask from him and has so arranged the chain of events that the issue shall accord with their wishes? That is to try at once to honour the wisdom of God and to flatter the childish fancies of humans. God has not called us to so high a place as that our wishes should be prophecies; but certainly to something higher than that the granting of those wishes should be to us the most precious evidence of his favour. This is really among the most perverted of the devices with which people have tried to adorn religion; but it is only an invention of a warped understanding, not a conclusion drawn from the way in which God reveals himself in the world. It is dishonouring to Christ to think that he should not have been the first in this respect and it is dishonouring to people that if God had arranged all this, we should so seldom meet with examples of answered prayer.

Let us see then, in the third place, what really is the effect of our prayers, if it is not to be sought in the agreement of the result with the expressed wish. Just the effect that it produced in Christ’s own case. Consider, with me, what passed, on that occasion, in his mind. He began with the definite wish that his sufferings might pass away from him; but as soon as he fixed his thought on his Father in heaven to whom he prayed, this wish was at once qualified by the humble, “if it is possible.” When from the sleeping disciples, the sight of whom must have still more disheartened him and added fresh bitterness to his sense of desertion, he returned to prayer, he already bent his own wish before the thought that the will of the Father might be something different. To reconcile himself to this and willingly to consent to it, was now his chief object; nor would he have wished that the will of God should not be done, had he been able by that means to gain all that the world could give.

And when he had prayed for the third time all anxiety and dread were gone. He had no longer any wish of his own. With words in which he sought to impart to them some of the courage he had gained, he awakened his friends from their sleep and went with a calm spirit and holy firmness to meet the traitor.

There you see the effect that such a prayer ought to have. It should make us cease from our eager longing for the possession of some earthly good or the averting of some dreaded evil. It should bring us courage to want or to suffer if God has so appointed it. It should lift us up out of the helplessness into which we are brought by fear and passion and bring us to the consciousness and full use of our powers that, so, we may be able in all circumstances to conduct ourselves as it becomes those who remember that they are living and acting under the eye and the protection of the Most High.

But prayer will more necessarily produce this effect if some point is not entirely lacking in our conception of the Divine Being. If we lay before God a wish that this or that may so happen in the world as it seems to be best for us, we must remember that we are laying it before the Unchangeable, in whose mind no new thought or purpose can arise since the day when he said, “all is very good.” What was then decreed will take place; we must not lose sight of the indisputable certainty of this thought. Well, and suppose that which you fear has been decreed. Suppose you are to be torn away from your beloved field of labour or to lose the friend to whom your heart cleaves, or that the undeserved calumny is still to rest on you. Inevitably our first impulse will be to thrust back those fears.

“It cannot be,” we say. “It will not be. It would be too hard; too unfatherly.”

But the thought, it cannot be, will perish in our hearts when we remember that it is the Unsearchable whom our hope seeks to limit in this way. We cannot bend his will; then what remains to us but to bring our will into accord with his?

And we are drawn to do this, and to do it from the heart, by the encouraging thought that he to whom we would present our petition is the Only Wise. You imagine something to be beneficial and good and you wish that God may allow it to happen. Does not your wish as well as your judgment stand silent at the thought of him? How far can you see into the consequences and the connection of those events, even as regards your own well-being? He knows the best and the whole. If according to his appointment you must do without what you desire, you have compensation for that in all the good that you see in the world. And thus will be called forth in us distrust of our own wisdom; humility, that looks on ourselves as only a little part of the whole; benevolence, that will find its satisfaction more in consideration of the world than in our own prosperity.

But the Wise is also the Kind. He will not let you suffer and lack your desires merely for the sake of others; his will is that to the upright man everything shall serve to his own highest good. And so there comes to us the trust that, little part as we are, account has been taken of us among the whole and from this comes repose of the spirit; for, whatever befalls us, good must come out of it and thus, at last, the quieted and soothed heart can cry, “Father, your will be done.” If we once face the dreaded evil with calmness and submission, we shall readily see in the right light the intention of all that happens to us and our chief attention will be directed to that. Those who pray must remember that everything that befalls them has its end in themselves and is intended for our improvement and the increase of good in us. Then they will become conscious that this aim of the Most High, which their excited feelings had for a little while pushed out of sight, is yet, in reality, their own aim also. And if everything can be, and ought to be, a means to this end, why should they shrink from anything that may come upon them? If both prosperity and adversity draw out and confirm good points of character; if in both they can act worthily and in a way well-pleasing to God; why should they not welcome both as coming from the hand of God and by his direction? When the heart has reached this point it has taken the right attitude.

Now we are occupied with something else than our feelings; with the question, “What will be required of me should this or that befall, what kind of powers shall I employ, what kind of stand shall I make against it, what acts of thoughtlessness must I avoid?”

And if we find that it always depends on those same qualities which we have often exercised and studied over; that the whole of what we may be able to accomplish consists of single acts which we have often before performed with good results; then the soul that had shrunk in fear comes back to the consciousness of its powers; then we feel ourselves strong enough to walk in the way that God has traced out for us, strong enough to comfort those who are sad on our account and more disheartened than ourselves and if the hour comes when the evil does befall, we can say, with a mind composed and at peace, “Let us rise and go to meet it.”

According to the example of the Saviour, these are the right effects of such a prayer. I hope they will appear to you all great and important enough to make you willingly forget the impossible and wonderful which so many regard as the main point in prayer. If you count it a better thing to teach those whose training is in your hands to bear all kinds of trouble and hardships, than always to guard them from it, then praise the divine wisdom which, in giving us prayer, has put into our hands a powerful means to the former, but not to the latter.

The Way, The Truth And The Life

From “History of the Christian Church, Volume One”
by Philip Schaff, 1819-1893

When “the fullness of the time” was come, God sent forth his only-begotten Son, “the Desire of all nations,” to redeem the world from the curse of sin, and to establish an everlasting kingdom of truth, love, and peace for all who should believe on his name.

In Jesus Christ a preparatory history both divine and human comes to its close. In him culminate all the previous revelations of God to Jews and Gentiles and in him are fulfilled the deepest desires and efforts of both Gentiles and Jews for redemption. In his divine nature, as Logos, he is, according to Saint John, the eternal Son of the Father, and the agent in the creation and preservation of the world, and in all those preparatory manifestations of God which were completed in the incarnation. In his human nature, as Jesus of Nazareth, he is the ripe fruit of the religions growth of humanity, with an earthly ancestry, which Saint Matthew (the evangelist of Israel) traces to Abraham, the patriarch of the Jews, and Saint Luke (the evangelist of the Gentiles), to Adam, the father of all men. In him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily and in him also is realised the ideal of human virtue and piety. He is the eternal Truth and the divine Life itself personally joined with our nature. He is our Lord and our God, yet at the same time flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. In him is solved the problem of religion, the reconciliation and fellowship of people with God. We must expect no clearer revelation of God, nor any higher religious attainment of humankind than is already guaranteed and actualised in his person.

But as Jesus Christ thus closes all previous history, so, on the other hand, he begins an endless future. He is the author of a new creation, the second Adam, the father of regenerate humanity, the head of the church, “which is his body, the fullness of him, that fills all in all.” He is the pure fountain of that stream of light and life, which has since flowed unbroken through nations and ages and will continue to flow until the earth shall be full of his praise and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The universal diffusion and absolute dominion of the spirit and life of Christ will be also the completion of the human race, the end of history and the beginning of a glorious eternity.

It is the great and difficult task of the biographer of Jesus to show how he, by external and internal development, under the conditions of a particular people, age and country, came to be in fact what he was in idea and destination and what he will continue to be for the faith of Christendom, the God-Man and Saviour of the world. Being divine from eternity, he could not become God, but as a human, he was subject to the laws of human life and gradual growth.

“He advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and people.”

Though he was the Son of God, “yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”

There is no conflict between the historical Jesus of Nazareth and the ideal Christ of faith. The full understanding of his truly human life, by its very perfection and elevation above all other men before and after him, will necessarily lead to an admission of his own testimony concerning his divinity.

Who would not shrink from the attempt to describe the moral character of Jesus, or, having attempted it, be not dissatisfied with the result? Who can empty the ocean into a bucket? Who (we may ask with Lavater) “can paint the glory of the rising sun with charcoal?” No artist’s ideal comes up to the reality in this case, though his ideals may surpass every other reality. The better and holier people are, the more they feel their need of pardon and how far they fall short of his own imperfect standard of excellence. But Jesus, with the same nature as ours and tempted as we are, never yielded to temptation; never had cause for regretting any thought, word or action; he never needed pardon, or conversion or reform; he never fell out of harmony with his heavenly Father. His whole life was one unbroken act of self-consecration to the glory of God and the eternal welfare of his fellow men and women. A catalogue of virtues and graces, however complete, would give us but a mechanical view. It is the spotless purity and sinlessness of Jesus as acknowledged by friend and foe; it is the even harmony and symmetry of all graces, of love to God and love to man, of dignity and humility of strength and tenderness, of greatness and simplicity, of self-control and submission, of active and passive virtue; it is, in one word, the absolute perfection which raises his character high above the reach of all other people and makes it an exception to a universal rule, a moral miracle in history. It is idle to institute comparisons with saints and sages, ancient or modern. Even the infidel Rousseau was forced to exclaim: “If Socrates lived and died like a sage, Jesus lived and died like a God.” Here is more than the starry heaven above us and the moral law within us, which filled the soul of Kant with ever-growing reverence and awe. Here is the holy of holies of humanity, here is the very gate of heaven.

Going so far in admitting the human perfection of Christ (and how can the historian do otherwise?) we are driven a step farther, to the acknowledgement of his amazing claims, which must either be true or else destroy all foundation for admiration and reverence in which he is universally held. It is impossible to construct a life of Christ without admitting its supernatural and miraculous character.

The divinity of Christ and his whole mission as Redeemer is an article of faith and, as such, above logical or mathematical demonstration. The incarnation (the union of the infinite divinity and finite humanity in one person) is indeed the mystery of mysteries.

“What can be more glorious than God? What viler than flesh? What more wonderful than God in the flesh?”

Yet aside from all dogmatising which lies outside of the province of the historian, the divinity of Christ has a self-evidencing power which forces itself irresistibly upon the reflecting mind and historical inquirer, while the denial of it makes his person an inexplicable enigma.

It is inseparable from his own express testimony respecting himself, as it appears in every Gospel, with but a slight difference of degree between the Synoptists and Saint John. Only ponder over it! He claims to be the long-promised Messiah who fulfilled the law and the prophets, the founder and lawgiver of a new and universal kingdom, the light of the world, the teacher of all nations and ages, from whose authority there is no appeal. He claims to have come into this world for the purpose to save the world from sin, which no mere human being can possibly do. He claims the power to forgive sins on earth; he frequently exercised that power and it was for the sins of humankind, as he foretold, that he shed his own blood. He invites all people to follow him and promises peace and life eternal to everyone that believes in him. He claims pre-existence before Abraham and the world, divine names, attributes, and worship. He disposes from the cross of places in Paradise. In directing his disciples to baptise all nations, he coordinates himself with the eternal Father and the Divine Spirit and promises to be with them to the consummation of the world and to come again in glory as the Judge of all people. He, the humblest and meekest of men, makes these astounding pretensions in the most easy and natural way; he never falters, never apologises, never explains; he proclaims them as self-evident truths. We read them again and again and never feel any incongruity nor think of arrogance and presumption.

And yet this testimony, if not true, must be downright blasphemy or madness. The former hypothesis cannot stand a moment before the moral purity and dignity of Jesus, revealed in his every word and work and acknowledged by universal consent. Self-deception in a matter so momentous and with an intellect in all respects so clear and so sound is equally out of the question. How could he be an enthusiast or a madman who never lost the even balance of his mind, who sailed serenely over all the troubles and persecutions, as the sun above the clouds, who always returned the wisest answer to tempting questions, who calmly and deliberately predicted his death on the cross, his resurrection on the third day, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the founding of his Church, the destruction of Jerusalem (predictions which have been literally fulfilled)? A character so original, so complete, so uniformly consistent, so perfect, so human and yet so high above all human greatness, can be neither a fraud nor a fiction. The poet, as has been well said, would, in this case, be greater than the hero. It would take more than a Jesus to invent a Jesus.

We are shut up then to the recognition of the divinity of Christ and reason itself must bow in silent awe before the tremendous word: “I and the Father are one,” and respond with sceptical Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”

This conclusion is confirmed by the effects of the manifestation of Jesus, which far transcend all merely human capacity and power. The history of Christianity, with its countless fruits of a higher and purer life of truth and love than was ever known before or is now known outside of its influence, is a continuous commentary on the life of Christ and testifies on every page to the inspiration of his holy example. His power is felt on every Lord’s Day from ten thousand pulpits, in the palaces of kings and the huts of beggars, in universities and colleges, in every school where the sermon on the Mount is read, in prisons, in almshouses, in orphan asylums, as well as in happy homes, in learned works and simple tracts in endless succession. If this history of ours has any value at all, it is as new evidence that Christ is the light and life of a fallen world.

Truly, Jesus Christ, the Christ of the Gospels, the Christ of history, the crucified and risen Christ, the divine-human Christ, is the most real, the most certain, the most blessed of all facts. And this fact is an ever-present and growing power which pervades the church and conquers the world and is its own best evidence, as the sun shining in the heavens. This fact is the only solution to the terrible mystery of sin and death, the only inspiration to a holy life of love to God and neighbour and only guide to happiness and peace. Systems of human wisdom will come and go, kingdoms and empires will rise and fall, but for all time to come Christ will remain “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

Facebook Disappoints

Whenever I open Messenger a message pops up that reads, “Continue as Jonathan Hagger?” Annoyingly it doesn’t give me an option, which is a shame because I would quite like to continue as someone else – somebody with a job and a salary, for example.

An Empty Diary

I bought my diary for next year, today. It’s a bog-standard plain one. It is the first time in over thirty-five years that I have not chosen a church diary of some kind. It’s not that I have given up believing in God, but I have stopped believing in the Church. I can see no reason why I should not stop believing in the existence of a “Christian” Church as the institution that professes to be it has taken the stance that I don’t exist ever since one of its bishops sacked me from my life’s work of parish priest following my hospitalisation suffering from clinical depression .

Perhaps I should take a leaf out of Richard Dawkins’ book and write my own entitled “The Church Delusion.”

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( on eugenics )

When abortion is used to select against the birth of babies with Down’s Syndrome or other so-called disabilities, then it is nothing less than the practice of pre-natal eugenics.

I am not saying this is a bad or a good thing. I am saying that those who would quickly take to the streets to oppose the return of any of the barbaric practices of the twentieth century’s eugenics movement should consider their stance towards abortion legislation in order to avoid being hypocritical.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

We need to be having fewer children, not more. Infertility and same-gender love are two of the ways in which nature maintains balance and protects itself. Personally, I would stop all fertility treatment and work on getting people to value childlessness and the vocation of the childless to help save the planet.

Sowing The Seeds Of Love

From “Christianity and the Social Crisis”
by Walter Rauschenbusch, 1861-191

The first apostolate of Christianity was born from a deep fellow-feeling for social misery and from the consciousness of a great historical opportunity. Jesus saw the peasantry of Galilee following him about with their poverty and their diseases, like shepherdless sheep that have been scattered and harried by beasts of prey and his heart had compassion on them. He felt that the harvest was ripe, but there were few to reap it. Past history had come to its elimination, but there were few who understood the situation and were prepared to cope with it. He bade his disciples to pray for labourers for the harvest and then made them answer their own prayers by sending them out two by two to proclaim the kingdom of God. That was the beginning of the world-wide mission of Christianity.

The situation is repeated on a vaster scale today. If Jesus stood today amid our modem life, with that outlook on the condition of all humanity which observation and travel and the press would spread before him, and with the same heart of divine humanity beating in him, he would create a new apostolate to meet the new needs in a new harvest-time of history.

To anyone who knows the sluggishness of humanity to good, the impregnable entrenchments of vested wrongs and the long reaches of time needed from one milestone of progress to the next, the task of setting up a Christian social order in this modem world of ours seems like a fair and futile dream. Yet in fact, it is not one tithe as hopeless as when Jesus set out to do it. When he told his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world,” he expressed the consciousness of a great historic mission to the whole of humanity. Yet it was a Nazarene carpenter speaking to a group of Galilean peasants and fishermen. Under the circumstances at that time, it was an utterance of the most daring faith (faith in himself, faith in them, faith in what he was putting into them, faith in faith). Jesus failed and was crucified, first his body by his enemies and then his spirit by his friends; but that failure was so amazing a success that today it takes an effort on our part to realise that it required any faith on his part to inaugurate the kingdom of God and to send out his apostolate.

Today, as Jesus looks out upon humanity, his spirit must leap to see the souls responsive to his call. They are sown broadcast through humanity, legions of them. The harvest-field is no longer deserted. All about us, we hear the clang of the whetstone and the rush of the blades through the grain and the shout of the reapers. With all our faults our slothfulness we modern humans in many ways are more on a level with the real mind of Jesus than any generation that has gone before. If that first apostolate was able to remove mountains by the power of faith, such an apostolate as Christ could now summon might change the face of the earth.

The apostolate of a new age must do the work of the sower. When sowers go forth to sow their seed, they go with the certainty of partial failure and the knowledge that a long time of patience and of hazard will intervene before they can hope to see the result of their work and their venture. In sowing the truth people may never see or trace the results. The more ideal their conceptions are, and the farther they move ahead of their time, the larger will be the percentage of apparent failure. But they can afford to wait. The powers of life are on their side. They are like a man who has scattered his seed and then goes off to sleep by night and work by day, and all the while the seed, by the inscrutable chemistry of life, lays hold of the ingredients of its environment and builds them up to its own growth. The mustard seed becomes a tree. The leaven assimilates the meal by biological processes. The new life penetrates the old humanity and transforms it. The future belongs to sowers provided they scatter seed and do not mistake the chaff for it which once was so essential to the seed and now is dead and useless.

It is inevitable that those who stand against conditions in which most people believe and by which the strongest profit, shall suffer for their stand. But Jesus told his apostles at the outset that opposition would be part of their day’s work. Christ equipped his Church with no legal rights to protect it; the only political right he gave his disciples was the right of being persecuted. It is part of the doctrine of vicarious atonement, which is fundamental in Christianity, that the prophetic souls must vindicate by their sufferings the truth of the truth they preach.

Disappointment’s dry and bitter root,
envy’s harsh berries and the choking pool
of the world’s scorn, are the right mother-milk
to the tough hearts that pioneer their kind
and break a pathway to those unknown realms
that in the earth’s broad shadow lie enthralled;
endurance is the crowning quality,
and patience all the passion of great hearts;
these are their stay, and when the leaden world
sets its hard face against their fateful thought
and brute strength, like a scornful conqueror
clangs his huge mace down in the other scale,
the inspired soul but flings his patience in
and slowly that outweighs the ponderous globe,
one faith against a whole earth’s unbelief,
one soul against the flesh of all mankind.

( James Russell Lowell, 1819-1891 )

The championship of social justice is almost the only way left open to a Christian nowadays to gain the crown of martyrdom. Theological heretics are rarely persecuted now. The only rival of God is mammon and it is only when its sacred name is blasphemed that people throw the Christians to the lions.

Imitation Of Christ

From “The Inward Witness and Other Discourses”
by William Burt Pope, 1822-1903

Let us not shrink from saying how true it was that he who gave himself for us must die if we should live! There was never any necessity so necessary as that. If humankind was to be saved it must be by his uttermost self-sacrifice. Apart from that self-imposed law, we may indeed suppose him abiding alone, whether as the eternal Son or as the Son incarnate. He might have counted his equality with God a thing to be held fast and left the creature which had marred his image to perish, but the mind that was in him forbade that. He must, having taken our nature, die to atone for our sin. He went on his way toward the cross. His hour had now come and he speaks of it as of his glorification. He had been glorified before in the new dignity of his human estate, in the control given to him over all nature, in his victories over human sicknesses and the terror of death. But had that been all he would still have continued alone. He might have left the model of a human perfection unapproachable by us. He might have bequeathed to us the traditions of the loftiest teaching ever heard on earth, but teaching that could lead only to despair. He would have remained alone, even as the Godman, the memory of a form and presence for a few years manifest in the flesh only to leave us again doubly bereaved. If we were to be saved by him he must die and rise again in a new life to pour into our ruined nature. There might be no absolute eternal necessity that he should die, but if humankind was to be saved there was but one way for him to become a saviour and that was the way of the cross.

Now, this was in his thought as his hour drew nigh and out of the abundance of his heart he spoke. It was his profound and most affecting soliloquy as he approached the end and by expressing thus his sense of the need of his death he comforted his human heart in the prospect of the passion.

“If it dies, it bears much fruit.”

This was “the joy set before him, in the strength of which he endured the cross.” He as purely and perfectly accepted his dread sufferings for our salvation as if the great offer had been now for the first time made to him. We know that he came from heaven our predestined saviour and yet we must hear these words as expressing his free acceptance of his own death for our life. We know not, we shall never know, how gratefully he looked out during this awful week on the prospect of the salvation of multitudes. When the centurion and the Syrophoenician put their trust in him at an earlier time he saw in them the earnest of a vast harvest.

“They shall come from the east and the west!”

But now these Greeks open the very flood-gates of his desire and rejoicing.

“I, if I am lifted up out of the earth, will draw all people to me.”

Thus he accepted the necessity of self-sacrifice for himself and showed the most profound meaning of his figure.

I have made no application, scarcely any comment, on this sublimest of all illustrations of the necessity of self-sacrifice. We must adore it in reverent silence as the mystery of, love to which we owe our all. Yet there is an application to ourselves, which the Lord instructs us here to make. He suddenly diverts us, as it were, from his own voluntary passion and fastens our thought on the absolute necessity of following him in the same self-renouncing devotion with which he saved us. You hear the old tone here in Saint John which you have marked in the three earlier evangelists.

“Whoever serves me must follow me.”

Concerning himself, he spoke indirectly and disguised himself under the similitude of the seed-corn.

But he fixes his eye, as he used to do, on every one of us now.

“If people want to save themselves, it must be by the same law under which I am their saviour.”

For this is the deepest ground of the need of our self-sacrifice. We must offer up and renounce our own soul, our own life, as unworthy to exist, in the unity of the Lord’s sacrifice of our sinful nature.

This seems to be the profound meaning of those most solemn words, “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Christ’s sacrifice for us not only condemned sin in the flesh but also condemned us the sinners in our natural state.

It was as if he said, “O righteous Father, I offer up and renounce this person’s impure soul that it may die and that my life may live and grow in him.”

If after that you “love yourself or your soul, you lose it.” You must, my fellow sinner in Adam and fellow redeemed in Christ, hate and renounce and put away your self, hate your soul as having been a sinning soul and renounce it as if it had never been and you had never known it. There is the beginning, continuance, and end of the Christian religion as it pertains to the individual. But I am now speaking chiefly, as the Lord is, of the beginning.

“If you will be perfect,” he said to a young inquirer, ambitious to be a Christian, “go away and bury yourself and come back to me with nothing and take up my cross as the token that you have done with self, and follow me!”

You have never yet effectually learnt the lesson of the Lord’s passion if you have not come to this total, perfect and absolute abandonment and hatred of yourself. The great renunciation of the Master must in this sense be copied by the great renunciation of the disciple. Your poor, faltering, ineffectual religion, forever vacillating between the world and him who draws you to himself, is a melancholy comment on the absolute necessity of this entire self-sacrifice. O what a life from him you are losing until you lose your life for him!

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( on the one true God )

If Richard Dawkins is right and there is no God then there is absolutely no reason why people should not believe in God if they want to and, for that matter, should not disbelieve the theory of evolution.

If Richard Dawkins is wrong and there is a God everybody should believe in the theory of evolution if it is true.

There is truth without God but God alone gives value to the truth.

Truly Penitent

From “Christian Repentance,”
a sermon by John Henry Newman, 1801-1890

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and am no more worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:18-19)

The very best that can be said of the fallen and redeemed race of Adam is, that they confess their fall, and condemn themselves for it, and try to recover themselves. And this state of mind, which is, in fact, the only possible religion left to sinners, is represented to us in the parable of the Prodigal Son, who is described as receiving, then abusing and then losing God’s blessings, suffering from their loss and brought to himself by the experience of suffering.

First, observe, the prodigal son said, “I am no more worthy to be called your son, make me as one of your hired servants.”

We know that God’s service is perfect freedom, not servitude, but this it is in the case of those who have long served him. At first, it is a kind of servitude, it is a task until our likings and tastes come to be in unison with those which God has sanctioned. It is the happiness of saints and angels in heaven to take pleasure in their duty and nothing but their duty, for their minds go that one way and pour themselves out in obedience to God, spontaneously and without thought or deliberation, just as humans sin naturally. This is the state to which we are tending if we give ourselves up to religion, but in its commencement, religion is necessarily almost a task and formal service. When people begin to see their wickedness and resolve on leading a new life, they ask, “What must I do?” They have a wide field before them and they do not know how to enter it. They must be bid to do some particular plain acts of obedience. They must be told to go to church regularly, to say their prayers, morning and evening, and regularly to read the scriptures. This will limit their efforts to a certain end and relieve them of the perplexity and indecision which the greatness of their work at first causes. But who does not see that this going to church, praying in private and reading scripture, must in their case be, in great measure, what is called a form and a task? Having been used to do as they would and indulge themselves, and having very little understanding or liking for religion, they cannot take pleasure in these religious duties; they will necessarily be a weariness to them and they will not be able even to give his attention to them. Nor will they see the use of them. They will not be able to find they make them better though they repeat them again and again. Thus their obedience at first is altogether that of hired servants.

“The servant knows not what his lord does.” (John 15:15)

This is Christ’s account of them. Servants are not in their employer’s confidence, do not understand what their employer is aiming at or why their employer commands this and forbids that. They execute the commands given them, they go hither and thither, punctually, but by the mere letter of the command. Such is the state of those who begin religious obedience. They do not see anything come of their devotional or penitential services, nor do they take pleasure in them. They are obliged to defer to God’s word simply because it is God’s word. To do this implies faith indeed, but also shows they are in that condition of a servant which the prodigal felt himself to be in at best.

Now, I insist upon this, because the conscience of repentant sinners is often uneasy at finding religion a task to them. They think they ought to rejoice in the Lord at once and it is true they are often told to do so; they are often taught to begin by cultivating high affections. Perhaps they are even warned against offering to God what is termed a formal service. Now, this is reversing the course of a Christian’s life. The prodigal son judged better when he begged to be made one of his father’s servants. He knew his place. We must begin religion with what looks like a form. Our fault will be, not in beginning it as a form, but in continuing it as a form. For it is our duty to be ever striving and praying to enter into the real spirit of our services and in proportion as we understand them and love them, they will cease to be a form and a task and will be the real expressions of our minds. Thus we shall gradually be changed in heart from servants into children of Almighty God. And though from the very first, we must be taught to look to Christ as the saviour of sinners, still his very love will frighten, while it encourages us, from the thought of our ingratitude. It will fill us with remorse and dread of judgment, for we are not as the heathen, we have received privileges and have abused them.

So much, then, on the condition of repentant sinners; next, let us consider the motives which actuate them in their endeavours to serve God. One of the most natural, and among the first that arise in their minds, is that of propitiating him. When we are conscious to ourselves of having offended another and wish to be forgiven, of course we look about for some means of setting ourselves right with that person. If it is a slight offence, our overtures are in themselves enough, the mere expression that we wish our fault forgot. But if we have committed some serious injury or behaved with any special ingratitude, we, for a time, keep at a distance, from a doubt how we shall be received. If we can get a common friend to mediate on our behalf, our purpose is best answered. But even in that case, we are not satisfied with leaving our interests to another; we try to do something for ourselves and on perceiving any signs of compassion or placability in the person offended, we attempt to approach that person with propitiations of our own, either very humble confession or some acceptable service. And this holds good when applied to the case of sinners desiring forgiveness from God. The marks of his mercy all around us are strong enough to inspire us with some general hope. The very fact that he still continues our life, and has not at once cast us into hell, shows that he is waiting awhile before the wrath comes upon us to the uttermost. Under these circumstances, it is natural that conscience-stricken sinners should look round them for some atonement with which to meet their God. And this, in fact, has been the usual course of religion in all ages. Whether with burnt-offerings and calves of a year old, with thousands of rams and ten thousands of rivers of oil, with the offering of a couple’s first-born for their transgression, the fruit of their bodies for the sins of their soul or, in a higher way, “by doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God” (Micah 6:6-8) by some means or other, repentant sinners have attempted to win God’s attention and engage his favour. And this mode has, before now, been graciously accepted by God, though he generally chose the gift which he would accept. Thus Jacob was instructed to sacrifice on the altar at Bethel, after his return from Padan-aram.

David, on the other hand, speaks of the more spiritual sacrifice in the fifty-first Psalm: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Such are the services of the penitent, as suggested by nature, and approved by God himself in the “Old Testament.”

But now, turning to the parable of the prodigal son, we find nothing of this kind in it. There is no mention made here of any offering on his part to his father, any propitiatory work. This should be well observed. The truth is, that our Saviour has shown us in all things a more perfect way than was ever before shown to humankind. As he promises us a more exalted holiness, a more exact self-command, a more generous self-denial and a fuller knowledge of the truth, so he gives us a more true and noble repentance. The noblest repentance, the most decorous conduct in conscious sinners, is an unconditional surrender of themselves to God (not a bargaining about terms, not a scheming to be received back again, but an instant surrender of themselves in the first instance). Without knowing what will become of them, whether God will spare or not, merely with so much hope in their hearts as not utterly to despair of pardon, still not looking merely to pardon as an end, but rather looking to the claims of the benefactor whom they have offended, and smitten with shame and the sense of their ingratitude, they must surrender themselves to their lawful sovereign. They are runaway offenders. They must come back, as a very first step, before anything can be determined about them, bad or good; they are rebels and must lay down their arms. Self-devised offerings might do in a less serious matter as an atonement for sin, but they imply a defective view of the evil and extent of sin in their own cases. Such is that perfect way which nature shrinks from, but which our Lord enjoins in the parable, namely, a surrender. The prodigal son waited not for his father to show signs of placability. He did not merely approach a space and then stand as a coward, curiously inquiring and dreading how his father felt towards him. He made up his mind at once to degradation at the best, perhaps to rejection. He arose and went straight on towards his father with a collected mind and though his relenting father saw him from a distance and went out to meet him, still his purpose was that of an instant frank submission. Such must be Christian repentance: First, we must put aside the idea of finding a remedy for our sin; then, though we feel the guilt of it, we must set out firmly towards God, not knowing for certain that we shall be forgiven. He, indeed, meets us on our way with the tokens of his favour, and so he bears up human faith, which else would sink under the apprehension of meeting the Most High God. Still, for our repentance to be Christian, there must be in it that generous temper of self-surrender, the acknowledgment that we are unworthy to be called any more “his child,” the abstinence from all ambitious hopes of sitting on his right hand or his left and the willingness to bear the heavy yoke of bond-servants, if he should put it upon us.

This, I say, is Christian repentance.

Will it be said, “It is too hard for a beginner?”

Yes, but I have not been describing the case of a beginner. The parable teaches us what the character of the true penitent is, not how people actually at first come to God. The longer we live, the more we may hope to attain this higher kind of repentance in proportion as we advance in the other graces of the perfect Christian character. The truest kind of repentance as little comes at first, as perfect conformity to any other part of God’s Law. It is gained by long practice, it will come at length. Dying Christians will fulfil the part of the returning prodigal more exactly than they ever did in their former years. When first we turn to God in the actual history of our lives, our repentance is mixed with all kinds of imperfect views and feelings. Doubtless there is in it something of the true temper of simple submission, but the wish of appeasing God on the one hand, or a hard-hearted insensibility about our sins on the other, mere selfish dread of punishment or the expectation of a sudden easy pardon, these and such like principles, influence us, whatever we may say or may think we feel. It is, indeed, easy enough to have good words put into our mouths and our feelings roused and to profess the union of utter self-abandonment and enlightened sense of sin; but to claim is not really to possess these excellent tempers. Really to gain these is a work of time. It is when Christians have long fought the good fight of faith and by experience know how few and how imperfect are their best services, then it is that they are able to acquiesce and most gladly acquiesce in the statement that we are accepted by faith only in the merits of our Lord and Saviour.

A Necessary Hatred

From the sermon, “Hatred Necessary to Love”
by Frederick Denison Maurice, 1805-1872

“Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?” (Psalm 139: 21)

The Psalmist answers his own question: “I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.”

We should most of us reply quite differently.

We should say, “Hate them? We hate nothing. We try to obey Christ’s command, ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’”

“There is a way which seems right to people, but the end of it is the way of death.” I believe that this plausible, self-complacent language of ours indicates that we are in exceeding danger of wandering into that dark road if we are not walking in it already. We think that we are far more gentle, humane, charitable than David was. If we have the courage to consider what he meant and what we mean, I fear we shall find that we are as much behind him in these especially Christian graces as in those which we may perhaps allow that he possessed, zeal and earnestness.

You will tell me that David hated actual flesh-and-blood men, Moabites and Hagarenes, Goliaths and Sauls. Well, I do not care to dispute it. He hated whatever rose up against righteousness and truth in the earth, whatever sought to set up a lie. I cannot tell to what degree the particular man or the particular nation was the object of his aversion. To some extent I am sure it was, because I find that to some extent, probably to a much greater extent, it is so with us. But I am sure, just so far as he hated men or nations because they rose up against the God of truth and goodness and just so far he was hating the untruth and unrighteousness of these nations, just so far he was hating the same untruth and unrighteousness in himself. He felt that there were deadly powers which were working deadly mischief in God’s world. He who was about his path and his bed, and spying out his ways, showed him what they were. He felt them plaguing his own heart, tormenting him every moment, withdrawing him from trust and obedience, dragging him into a whirlpool of contradictory thoughts, words, acts. In the inmost region of his being, he had to encounter these principalities of spiritual wickedness. In those high places, he had to wrestle with them. There he was trained to hate them, to hate them from a thorough knowledge of their intense essential vileness. This hatred grew just in proportion to the degree in which he believed, trusted, delighted in a being of absolute purity and perfection. The dimmer his vision was of such a being, the more tolerant he was of that which opposed his nation and resisted his will The more sure he was that God is and that he is the Lord of man, and that he seeks to establish righteousness and truth in the earth, the more vehemently and savagely he abhorred whatever he saw which denied God and aimed at keeping the earth an abode of deceit and wrong. When he forgot God’s name and disbelieved in his mercy, he could be meek and gentle with the butchers of the world and the chosen race; when his heart was thoroughly possessed with the Divine Spirit, “he hated them right sore, even as though they were his enemies.”

And can it be then, brethren, that the blessing of our Christian profession consists in this, that we have acquired a patience of whatever hates God and rises up against him, which David had not? Assuredly our, Christian profession then does not mean the following the example of our Saviour Christ, and being like him? It is something the most opposite of this. For do you discover in him any sign of this patience, this tolerance? You are told that when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not. You hear that he bore the contradiction of sinners against himself; you hear that he ate and drank with publicans and sinners, whom the religious men of the day considered it a defilement to approach. But do you not hear of his making a scourge of small thongs and driving out of the Temple those who sold and bought there? Do you not find him denouncing the Scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites and whited sepulchres?

“Do not I hate them that hate you, Father? Am I not grieved with them that rise up against you?” was the language of the Master far more fully than of the servant; it expressed far more thoroughly the spirit of his life.

He was engaged in a conflict to blood against evil, in a death-struggle whether it should put out the light of the world, or whether that light should prevail against it. And since he ascended on high he has been carrying on the same death-struggle in his Church and members, a struggle in which he tells us we must all engage, on one side or the other.

What means then this notion which we seem to have taken up, that we are better than our forefathers because we hate less strenuously? Does it mean that there is nothing left in the world which deserves to be hated? Does it mean that Christianity or refinement or civilisation or science or mechanical achievements or aesthetics or anything else we reverence, has put an end to pride and malice or cruelty? Does it mean that there are no scandals and abominations in the nation? No fierce party-spirit, no lying, in the Church? Does it mean that people are everywhere worshipping the God of truth and love, that they are not worshipping the evil spirit of falsehood and ill-will?

No one believes this; no one doubts the existence of that which ought not to exist, of that which is contrary to the good of humankind and the character of God. We are used to these things. We suppose they cannot be helped. We think God is indifferent to them. That is to say, we have ceased to believe in a God of truth and love; we do not suppose that what is evil is rising up against him.

As for our hating less those who rise up against us or those who dislike our notions, religious, political or philosophical, I cannot see the evidence of it. We cannot, thanks be to God, indulge our desire for the suppression of the opinions that contradict ours as we once did. We are obliged at present to limit ourselves to bitter words, dark insinuations, the destruction of each other’s characters, to the undermining of moral freedom in the land. But withdraw for an instant the legal restraints upon our mutual animosities, give any one sect or party the opportunity of indulging to the full its passions against the rest and it would be seen how much excuse we have for boasting of our charity, even of our toleration.

And that bitterness on behalf of our own notions and dogmas, that desire to crush whatever and whoever runs counter to them, can, I believe, only be overcome by a very earnest cultivation of the other temper, of that which we have denounced in David. Determine to hate that which rises up in you against God, that first, that chiefly, and you will hate, along with your indifference, cowardice, meanness, all this conceit of your own poor judgment, this dislike of opposition to it, this unwillingness to have your thoughts probed to the quick. The intense certainty that there is a God of truth and without iniquity, and that he must mean to sweep all falsehood and all injustice from this earth, will make you desire, above all things, that he should search you and try your ways, that he should detect whatever in you is yours and not his and should burn that with unquenchable fire. The acknowledgement of a God who was revealed in Jesus Christ, a God in who is light and no darkness at all, will compel us to desire that no traditions of the past, no conceits of our own minds, may shut him out from us. The acknowledgement of a God who bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things, (who has been long-suffering with all his creatures and long-suffering with us), will make us tremble to deal harshly with the struggles and doubts (how much more with the convictions) of our fellow-beings. Believing that God’s Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, is the only guide to truth and that he is seeking to guide us in the right way, how we must fear to check his mighty operations upon our own spirit or upon the spirit of any with whom we are in contact. How we must desire that we may be his instruments, not his foes and, therefore, that we may partake of his own grace and gentleness.

And so with this hatred, deeply and inwardly cherished, will come the true, and not the imaginary charity, the genuine, not the bastard toleration. To detect the right meaning, the sound faith, the divine inspiration which is latent under confused, rough angry words, directed against ourselves, even against principles which are dearer to us than ourselves, will be a duty which we learn at the Cross, a faculty which only Christ can impart to us. We shall exercise it just because we believe the truth to be all-important, falsehood accursed; just because we love the one and hate the other. We shall remember that God honoured Job (who complained bitterly and spoke words like the east wind and was determined that he would know the meaning of the Divine judgments) more than the three friends who pretended to justify him and in fact only showed their want of sympathy with his purposes of mercy and goodness. Whatever is contrary to that mercy and goodness, which are parts of his being, we shall desire to hate more and more, therefore to bear more and more with all that merely crosses our tastes and inclinations and judgments. ts.

These are lessons which I think are not quite out of place at the beginning of a general election. In spite of the mingling and confusion of parties amongst us and the uncertainty about leaders (perhaps about principles), I suspect we shall find excuses enough for denouncing one another, if not for hating one another. To interpose general maxims about goodwill and forbearance at such times is mere idleness; everyone accepts them, no one gives heed to them. I would press another exhortation upon you, I would beseech you to give full scope to your hatred. I am sure you will need it. For you will be tempted to do things that are hateful in the sight of God and that you should do your utmost to make hateful in the sight of men. Those frauds which candidates use to disguise their meaning, to pass themselves off as intending that which they do not intend to obtain suffrages from two opposite quarters, do they not deserve to be hated with a perfect hatred? Is not every slander against any opponent, every encouragement which you give to tongues and pens less scrupulous than your own, part of a hateful system? Is not the trafficking with party-symbols and ambiguous phrases, which may import everything or nothing, hateful? Is not the trafficking with sacred names for low purposes more profane and hateful still? Is not everything which tends to bewilder the consciences, to degrade the moral nature of those whose support you seek, to be hated as an insult to the God of Truth, to the God who seeks truth in his creatures? Do not all these deceitful words and acts go to make up a frightful sum of falsehood, to destroy the land which we pretend that we wish to save? Must not they bring God’s curse upon us? Oh, for a more burning rage in us all against that which makes our professions ridiculous, our acts and words destructive of sincerity in ourselves and in all whom they influence! And since we are so unfit to search each other, because we have so many hidden falsehoods of our own, let us rejoice while we tremble that God has promised to search us and try us, and see what wicked way there is in us, and lead us in his true and everlasting way!

Followers Of Christ

From “Practice in Christianity”
by Søren Kierkegaard, 1813-1855

It is well known that Christ consistently used the expression “follower.” He never asks for admirers, worshippers or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for.

Christ understood that being a “disciple” was in innermost and deepest harmony with what he said about himself. Christ claimed to be the way and the truth and the life. For this reason, he could never be satisfied with adherents who accepted his teaching, especially with those who in their lives ignored it or let things take their usual course. His whole life on earth, from beginning to end, was destined solely to have followers and to make admirers impossible.

Christ came into the world with the purpose of saving, not instructing it. At the same time, as is implied in his saving work, he came to be the pattern, to leave footprints for the person who would join him, who would become a follower. This is why Christ was born and lived and died in lowliness. It is absolutely impossible for anyone to sneak away from the “pattern” with excuse and evasion on the basis that it, after all, possessed earthly and worldly advantages that they did not have. In that sense, to admire Christ is the false invention of a later age, aided by the presumption of “loftiness.” No, there is absolutely nothing to admire in Jesus, unless you want to admire poverty, misery and contempt.

What then, is the difference between an admirer and a follower? Followers are or strive to be what they admire. Admirers, however, keep themselves personally detached. They fail to see that what is admired involves a claim upon them and thus they fail to be or strive to be what they admire.

To want to admire instead of to follow Christ is not necessarily an invention by bad people. No, it is more an invention by those who spinelessly keep themselves detached, who keep themselves at a safe distance. Admirers are related to the admired only through the excitement of the imagination. To them, he is like an actor on the stage except that, this being real life, the effect he produces is somewhat stronger. But for their part, admirers make the same demands that are made in the theatre: to sit safe and calm. Admirers are only all too willing to serve Christ as long as proper caution is exercised, lest one personally come in contact with danger. As such, they refuse to accept that Christ’s life is a demand. In actual fact, they are offended at him. His radical, bizarre character so offends them that when they honestly see Christ for who he is, they are no longer able to experience the tranquillity they so much seek after. They know full well that to associate with him too closely amounts to being up for examination. Even though he “says nothing” against them personally, they know that his life tacitly judges theirs.

And Christ’s life indeed makes it manifest, terrifyingly manifest, what dreadful untruth it is to admire the truth instead of following it. When there is no danger, when there is dead calm, when everything is favourable to our Christianity, it is all too easy to confuse admirers with followers. And this can happen very quietly. Admirers can be in the delusion that the position they take is the true one when all they are doing is playing it safe. Give heed, therefore, to the call of discipleship!

If you have any knowledge at all of human nature, who can doubt that Judas was an admirer of Christ? And we know that Christ at the beginning of his work had many admirers. Judas was precisely an admirer and thus later became a traitor. It is just as easy to reckon as the stars that those who only admire the truth will, when danger appears, become traitors. Admirers are infatuated with the false security of greatness; but if there is any inconvenience or trouble, they pull back. Admiring the truth, instead of following it, is just as dubious a fire as the fire of erotic love, which at the turn of the hand can be changed into exactly the opposite, to hate, jealousy and revenge.

There is a story of yet another admirer, it was Nicodemus. Despite the risk to his reputation, despite the effort on his part, Nicodemus was only an admirer; he never became a follower.

It is as if he might have said to Christ, “If we are able to reach a compromise, you and I, then I will accept your teaching in eternity. But here in this world, no, that I cannot bring myself to do. Could you not make an exception for me? Could it not be enough if once in a while, at great risk to myself, I come to you during the night, but during the day (yes, I confess it, I myself feel how humiliating this is for me and how disgraceful, indeed also how very insulting it is toward you) to say ‘I do not know you?’”

See in what a web of untruth admirers can entangle themselves. Nicodemus, I am quite sure, was certainly well-meaning. I’m also sure he was ready to assure and reassure in the strongest expressions, words, and phrases that he accepted the truth of Christ’s teaching. Yet, is it not true that the more strongly people make assurances, while their lives still remain unchanged, the more they are only making a fool of themselves? If Christ had permitted a cheaper edition of being a follower (an admirer who swears by all that is high and holy that he or she is convinced) then Nicodemus might very well have been accepted. But he was not.

Now suppose that there is no longer any special danger, as it no doubt is in so many of our Christian countries, bound up with publicly confessing Christ. Suppose there is no longer need to journey in the night. The difference between following and admiring (between being or at least striving to be) still remains. Forget about this danger connected with confessing Christ and think rather of the real danger which is inescapably bound up with being a Christian. Does not the Way (Christ’s requirement to die to the world, to forgo the worldly, and his requirement of self-denial) contain enough danger? If Christ’s commandment were to be obeyed, would they not constitute a danger? Would they not be sufficient to manifest the difference between an admirer and a follower?

The difference between admirers and followers still remain, no matter where you are. Admirers never make any true sacrifices. They always play it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, they are inexhaustible about how highly they prize Christ, they renounce nothing, give up nothing, will not reconstruct their lives, will not be what they admire and will not let their lives express what it is they supposedly admire. Not so for followers. No, no. Followers aspire with all their strength, with all their will to be what they admire. And then, remarkably enough, even though they are living amongst a “Christian people,” the same danger results for them as was once the case when it was dangerous to openly confess Christ. And because of the life of followers, it will become evident who the admirers are, for the admirers will become agitated with them. Even that these words are presented as they are here will disturb many, but then they must likewise belong to the admirers.

Hopeful Imagination

From “Ethical Christianity”
by Hugh Price Hughes, 1847-1902

“Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17)

These words from the pen of the prophet Joel were declared by Saint Peter to refer to the Christian era, which was finally inaugurated on the Day of Pentecost. The marked characteristic of this era is that those who promote and represent it have visions and dreams of an ideal state of happiness unattained but attainable. Instead of accepting the existing situation as unchangeable, instead of submitting to evil as inevitable, Christians have visions and dreams of a golden age in which sin and evil and sorrow shall be no more. It has often been remarked that one of the most striking differences between Christianity and the classical religions of the south of Europe which it superseded, is that they placed their golden age in the dim and receding past, but Christianity places its golden age in the bright and advancing future.

Now the faculty of the soul which apprehends the beatific vision both of the actual and of the attainable is the imagination. This great faculty reaches its maturity and achieves its noblest deeds in the service of religion when purified and illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Then it sees visions and dreams dreams of “whatsoever things God prepared for them that love him.” It was this imagination which enabled the great saints to do their mighty deeds. Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and all the prophets “saw visions and dreamed dreams.” They were not deceived and paralysed by “the things which are seen and temporal.” With the eye of faith or imagination they saw “the things that are unseen and eternal,” and in the strength of that beatific vision, they accomplished gigantic moral revolutions which lifted the whole human race to higher levels of goodness and of happiness.

But it may be necessary to remind you that this great faculty existed in the most vigorous and vivid form in the Master himself.

When the seventy evangelists returned with their artless story of spiritual triumph, his eyes flashed and he exclaimed, “I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven.”

His imagination was so alert and so penetrating, that in the first feeble triumphs of his emissaries he saw the promise and potency of the restitution of all things.

Again, certain Greeks came to one of his disciples and said, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”

When that request was conveyed to him he exclaimed exultingly, “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”

To his lofty imagination that little group of obscure Greeks was the advance guard of the southern races of Europe, of the Teutonic tribes, of the great churches of our own time and of the greater churches not yet born. Christ, indeed, lived habitually in the unseen. He realised always that great future when his disciples would sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, and when all the gentiles would be subject to his sway.

There is nothing which ordinary Christians lack so much as this inspired Imagination. They do not see visions. They do not dream dreams. You and I have probably been too hard upon them. They have not lacked, as we have been tempted to believe and say, religion or faith, but imagination. We have been indignant and angry at their parochial ideas, at their grovelling hopes, at their small satisfactions, at their dwarfish ambitions. But they have not been unreal or unbelieving. Their dull, undeveloped souls have not realised the divine possibilities. There are human moles that burrow and grope in the darkness of narrow boundaries, of subterranean passages and there are human eagles that spurn the low earth and soar aloft into the bright sunlight. Only eagles can see the vast horizon of life and beauty. Are you a mole or an eagle? Do you belong to the class of Christians whose imaginations have never been roused and exalted by God or to those who see visions and dream dreams of glorious spiritual victories?

Ordinary Christians, with their unsanctified imagination, are not perturbed by a half-empty sanctuary or by a Christian Church that is more dead than alive. They have no enterprise. They have no enthusiasm. They hold that as it was in the beginning or is now, so it must be forever and forever. They are indignant with Christians whose imagination enables them to realise spiritual prosperity yet un-attained. Imaginative Christians see the sanctuary crowded with healthy, happy, united Christians. They see all the great revivals and spiritual miracles of the past repeated under their eyes. Unimaginative Christians are affronted by such visions. They regard people who cherish them as a dangerous visionaries, foolish fanatics, reckless enthusiasts. The real difference between these two types is not that one is Christian and that the other is not; but that one has the eyes of their imagination opened, while the others are still blind.

Again, in civic life, the ordinary Christian citizens are well satisfied if they discharge their own commonplace duties to the rate-collector and to the municipal authorities. But Christian citizens whose imaginations are inspired of God dream of social changes which would make it as easy for their fellow-citizens to do right as it now is for them to do wrong. What a dream of social reform has come to General Booth in his old age That veteran of the faith imagines social arrangements which will abolish pauperism and all the world wonders. There is no sphere of life in which there is more scope for the imagination than in civic life. Only at present, there is no sphere in which it is so little exercised. Nothing could be more dull, narrow, and brutish than the ordinary conception of municipal life in our great towns. Only here and there do municipal authorities begin to realise how much could easily and cheaply be done to beautify life, to ennoble it, to instruct and inspire it and, on the other hand, to repress both hideousness and vileness. Some day Christians will see visions and dream dreams of noble and glorious citizenship. Then the voice of complaining will no longer be heard in our streets.

When we rise to the sphere of patriotic or national life we find the noblest scope for the Christian imagination. The real patriot is ever dreaming of the good time when people will dwell together in peace and amicability. Think of the glorious vision of peace which came to Isaiah! He dreamed of the nations “beating their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks” and not even “learning war any more.” The dull and stupid say that war is inevitable. This ignoble sentiment is not due to the fact that they are bloodthirsty but to the degraded condition of their imagination which has never been roused by the touch of the finger of God.

O, how shall we kindle the imaginations of people? Nothing is so much needed to redeem life from its smallness, its narrowness, its abject impotence. Read “Isaiah,” read “The Revelation,” read the four lives of Christ and, first of all, realise this very hour what Christ can do for you. Young people, see visions of a noble and beneficent career! Old people, dream dreams of a life not wholly lost, of much that may yet be done for God and for humanity! How glorious it is when young and old thus combine in anticipating, and therefore in promoting, the kingdom of God which shall yet be established upon earth! How delightful when the daring and ardent vision of youth is corrected and extended by the peaceful and serene dream of old age! Everyone, at every period of life, may cherish the beatific vision of the Christian world, the “new earth” that is to be. Only so shall we rise above the tyranny of the past and the despair of the present. Things are not as they seem. Ancient evils are already tottering to their fall. The Lord God, omnipotent, reigns. Nothing is too hard for him. The only real hindrance to the progress of his kingdom is to be found in the narrowness of our thoughts and in the parochial smallness of our enterprises. Let us ask for great things and expect great things. According to our divinely inspired imagination, it shall be done unto us.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest

From the pragmatic point of view, I understand the argument that says that the UK should stay in the EU because if we leave then international businesses will go elsewhere and many jobs will be lost. But from both moral and ideological points of view, the reasoning stinks. In fact, it is economic blackmail and the sooner we sever our ties with this neo-liberal institution, that exists to enrich and enable the multinationals at the expense of local companies, the better.

Yes, it will cost us big-time. But that is invariably the way with doing the right thing.

We Shall All Be Changed

From “The World Its Creation and Consummation: the End of the Present Age and the Future of the World in the Light of the Resurrection” by Karl Heim, 1874-1958

That for the Early Church everything depends on the reality of the resurrection, that with this everything else, even faith, stands or falls, is most plainly shown in the record of the resurrection faith which Paul has left us in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter fifteen, verses fourteen to nineteen.

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain (that is, it rests on an illusion), and your faith is in vain (it has then no longer any content). We are found as false witnesses of God because we have testified of God that he has raised Christ, whom he did not raise… If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (for then the power of sin, which has come into the world through the Satanic Fall, is still powerful) and then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ (those who have persevered in faith in Christ in spite of all persecutions) have perished. If in this life we who are in Christ have our only hope in him, we are of all men most to be pitied (more exactly: the most worthy of pity, because we have then indeed risked our whole existence for an illusion, which has been shattered).”

Here then, everything is made dependent on the one fundamental fact, with which the transformation of the whole cosmos has begun, and as whose first fruits and beginning Christ came from the grave on Easter morning.

This new beginning, of which all who have seen the risen Lord have become witnesses, thus divided the whole course of the world into two periods, of which the second has begun with Christ’s resurrection, but only after a long interval finds its continuation and completion in Christ’s return. This second period is contrasted with the first by its fundamental form.

This is implicit in the eloquent declaration in Revelations, chapter twenty-one, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… for the former things have passed away.”

World history thus falls like a tragedy into two acts. In the first act, in which we still find ourselves at present, the knot is tied and a tragic conflict is developed, which reaches its climax with the crucifixion of Jesus. Only the second act brings the solution of the conflict, in which the complicated knot is untied. Hence, in the first stage, the world in every sphere is characterised by unsolved problems, both in personal life and in the political life of the nations. Only in the second stage comes the solution of the tragic conflict. The knot, twisted in the first stage and ever more intricately ravelled, is untied.

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more; for the former things have passed away.”

There is truth in the words, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21) and, “For the form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7)

The contrast between the two stages of world history in which we are all involved is still more impressively illustrated in Romans, chapter twenty-two, where it is written, “The whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now.”

Here our human destiny is linked with all the rest of the created world and seen in a vivid picture. It is the picture of the painful and afflicted state in which a mother finds herself immediately before the birth of her child. She groans and waits in the intervals of her pains with anxious expectancy for the moment of deliverance when the child frees itself from the mother’s body and all her trouble is at an end. In such painful affliction, the whole creation finds itself in its present unredeemed state. It waits anxiously for the moment of deliverance when the new stage will be born. In the first unredeemed stage, the creation lives “in the bondage of corruption.” It is shut up in polarity as in a prison. This is especially evident in the flight of time and in the painful character of the I-Thou relationship, from which the lover especially suffers because he cannot get inside the other person as he would like to, but the other must ever remain a stranger to him.

All this goes to show the profound contrast between the two stages of world development, the unredeemed stage in which we all still exist at present, and the second redeemed stage, of which the risen Christ is the “first-fruits.” Now the question arises: How does the transition take place from the unredeemed state to the redeemed state, which Christ as our forerunner has attained and to which we may follow if we belong to him?

This is the question which the Corinthians put to Paul when they said: “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”

In other words: how does the transition from the old to the new embodiment take place?

Paul answers in his first letter to the Corinthians where he explains the mysterious transition by pointing to the fundamental idea which here comes into force. This is the idea of transformation.

“We shall not all die,” he says, “but we shall all be changed.”

Transformation is contrasted with another kind of transition. This consists in the fact that a first phenomenon is annihilated, and then a second phenomenon is newly created independently of this. Such a transition could also take place, indeed, in resurrection. The old bodies might die and, independently of them, new physical natures might be created in their place. But according to Paul, this is not at all what happens in resurrection, a transformation takes place. What this means is vividly illustrated by Paul from the processes of organic nature. Here again and again a seed of corn falls into the earth. Underground it goes through a mysterious transformation and then grows out of the soil in an entirely new form. “It is sown” and experiences a resurrection.

Paul refers to the mystery of transformation which here confronts us when he says: “What you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen and to each kind of seed its own body.”

But now comes the decisive point, which Paul seeks to prove with this reference to the course of nature. He draws a daring conclusion from lesser to greater, from a process which takes place within the little relationships of the polar world to an infinitely greater total transformation process, embracing the whole cosmos and extending far beyond the polar world. If God, says Paul, within the little world which is under the shadow of corruption, can carry out such wonderful transformations in millions of living creatures that we see round about us, how much more will he deliver the cosmos he has loved from the prison-house of corruption, and bring it into a new existence. This is summarised in the mighty sentences in which Paul opposes the present time of sowing to the future age which is characterised by the resurrection of the cosmos.

“What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

The beginning of this transformation of the whole body from the polar state to the supra-polar state arises out of the decisive event, in which the Saviour of the world emerges from the grave as first-fruits, in order next to deliver the human world, which until then had languished in captivity of corruption and lead it into “the liberty of the sons of God.” This sheds a light on the nature of the resurrection of Christ. As the first-fruits of the cosmic transformation, Christ, as Saviour of the world, must be bodily resurrected. Only then can he enter with his whole being into the new form of existence delivered from decay. It would not have sufficed if Christ had appeared in a subjective or objective vision, in which the memory of a disciple, overwhelmingly impressed by the life of Jesus, produced a visionary illusion while at the same time the body of Jesus lay mouldering in the grave in Jerusalem. For Paul, everything depends, rather, on the fact that Christ emerged from the grave in complete bodily form. It is of the essence of a transformation that the first body, which is the subject of the transformation, enters entirely into the new state and that nothing remains unchanged. The witnesses of the resurrection accordingly report unanimously that the grave was empty. Everything depended on the fact that during the forty days when he came and went among his disciples Christ, the Saviour of the world, had indeed a new form of being which made it possible for him to pass through closed doors and walls and to appear out of the unseen and vanish again; but that nevertheless he had the same body as before, only in a changed form, and that he still bore the marks of the crucifixion, the imprint of the nails on his hands and feet.

We of a later generation, who “belong to Christ,” can therefore only have hope that, when our time is fulfilled, our whole being will be transformed from the corruptible form of existence to the new incorruptible form, if our Saviour with all his being has assumed a new form of existence. But to make this possible, it is essential that he emerged from the grave and left it behind him empty so that no remnant of his bodily nature remained there.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( Don’t Thomas Cook It )

As the bosses of the now-defunct Thomas Cook travel agency hoof-it off to their substantial country residences along with the millions of pounds of undeserved bonuses they paid themselves when they realised the company was heading towards bankruptcy, the young representatives of the company are still in the resorts selflessly helping the thousands of stranded holidaymakers to get home. They have no idea whether or not they will be paid.

I think the least our government can do is make sure they are speedily repatriated to the UK (or wherever) when their task is done and pay their wages in full, even if they have to do so out of the public coffers.

The Gospel And Society

From “Essays on the Social Gospel”
by Adolf von Harnack, 1851-1930

The same Gospel which preaches a holy indifference to earthly things embraces yet another principle: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

This spirit of love likewise is to be a guiding rule of the character built up by the Gospel. Accordingly, Christianity originally took the form of a free brotherhood, a form essential to its very nature, for, after trust in God, the very essence of religion is brotherly love. In addition, then, to the quietistic and radical principles, we have a third, the social, active principle. I give it this name of a social, active principle because the Gospel nowhere teaches that our relations to the brethren should be characterised by a holy indifference. Such indifference expresses rather what the individual soul should feel towards the world with all its weal and woe. Whenever it is a question of one’s neighbour, the Gospel will not hear of this indifference, but, on the contrary, preaches always love and mercy. Further, the Gospel regards as absolutely inseparable the temporal and spiritual needs of the brethren. It draws no fine distinctions between body and soul; sickness is always sickness, and want is want.

Thus, “I was hungry and you gave me meat. I was thirsty and you gave me drink.”

Again, when it is a question of giving signs to prove that the promises of God have now been fulfilled, it is said, “The blind see, the lame walk and to the poor, the Gospel is preached.”

In the “Gospel of the Hebrews” we read in the story of the rich young man: “Behold many of your brethren, sons of Abraham, are clad with dung, dying with hunger and your house is full of much goods, and there goes out from there nothing at all to them.”

Thus in the simplest and most emphatic terms possible, Christians are urged to help the needy and the miserable with all the strength of love. But it is to the rich that the most earnest exhortation is addressed. While it is assumed that wealth tends to make its possessors hard-hearted and worldly, they are warned that their perilous possessions impose upon them the highest responsibility.

A new spectacle was presented to the world. Religion hitherto had either clung to what was earthly, adapting itself readily to things as it found them, or else built in the clouds and set itself up in opposition to everything. But now it had a new duty to scorn earthly want and misery, and earthly prosperity alike, and yet to relieve distress of every kind, to raise its head to heaven in the courage of its faith, and yet with heart and hand and voice to labour for the brethren upon earth. The task thus set them has never been wholly abandoned by Christians, who consequently, have held fast the conviction that no economic system can oppose to the mission of Christianity a really insuperable obstacle, while, on the other hand, no economic system can ever release it from its duties.

The Church has from the first availed itself of three means of helping the brethren and relieving misery and want and the same three methods are still at its command.

The first of these consists of rousing the individual conscience, in such a way as to awaken strong, regenerate, self-sacrificing personalities. This is the all-important thing; but the means to such an end vary; as the Lord’s method of teaching shows. It may either begin within and work outwards or it may penetrate from without to the inmost being. But the vital point is that there should be a Christ-like personality and that in every action the power of love from one person to another should operate and make itself felt. The kingdom of God must be built upon the foundation, not of institutions, but of individuals in whom God dwells and who are glad to live for their fellow humans.

The second method consists in converting every congregation of individuals into a community full of active charity and bound together by brotherly love; for without such a bond all effort is sporadic. This fellowship was strongest in the early days of the Church and the consciousness that Christianity cannot exist upon the earth in any other form never altogether passed away, although it became enfeebled.

Then there is still the third line of action. Religion is not independent in its growth even if it takes refuge in solitude, it must enter into some relation with the arrangements of the world as it finds them and it cannot regard with indifference the nature of these ordinances. It was, indeed, at a time when extortion and violence were common and slavery and tyrannical oppression prevailed, that the Apostles instructed the faithful to “take no anxious thought.” But at the same time, they at once began to exert their influence against so much of the existing order of things as was in fact disorder and sin. Christians were urged so to walk that their example should both make others ashamed and incite them to imitation. Only a few decades later, representatives of Christianity were presenting petitions to the emperors and the governors of provinces and addressing written appeals to society, demanding the abolition of gross and flagrant abuses and outrages. But, as far as I can see, the limit of their interference was clearly defined. It did not occur to them to propose economic improvements or to attack fixed institutions. such as slavery. What they demanded was the suppression of such sin and shame as could not but be recognised as sins and scandals even by a Greek or Roman conscience. They were convinced that the divine image in man cannot be destroyed by oppression and suffering of any kind (never was there an age of less sentimentality with regard to want and misery than the early days of Christianity) but that it is effaced by uncleanness and sensuality and that, therefore, conditions which plainly tended in that direction, for example, a tolerated and privileged unchastity, secret murder, exposing of children, and wholesale prostitution, are altogether intolerable.

From “Calvinistic Controversy”
by Willbur Fisk, 1792-1839

Previously, I have attempted to prove that God created people with a spontaneous power of moral action; and that this was the only ground of their moral responsibility. It is now proposed to inquire how far this power has been affected by the fall of humanity and the subsequent provisions of grace. The doctrine of the Methodist Church on these points is very clearly expressed by the seventh and eighth articles of religion in its “Book of Discipline.”

  1. Original sin stands not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians vainly talk,) but it is the corruption of the nature of every person that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby people are very far gone from original righteousness and of their own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.
  2. The condition of human beings after the fall of Adam is such, that they cannot turn and prepare themselves by their own natural strength and works, to faith and calling upon God: wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, (going before to assist us,) that we may have a goodwill and working with us when we have that goodwill.

It is not pretended here that any intellectual faculties are lost by sin or restored by grace; but that the faculties that are essential to mind have become corrupted, darkened, debilitated, so as to render people utterly incapable of making a right choice without prevenient and cooperating grace. As muscular or nervous power in a limb, or an external sense, may be weakened or destroyed by physical disease, so the moral power of the mind or an inward sense may be weakened or destroyed by moral disease. And it is in perfect accordance with analogy, with universal language, and with the representations of scripture to consider the mind as susceptible, in its essential nature, to this moral deterioration. To put it simply, the soul has become essentially disordered by sin and as no one can prove the assertion to be unphilosophical or contrary to experience, so I think it may be shown from scripture that this is the real state of fallen human nature. And it may also be shown that this disorder is such as to mar our free agency. There is a sense, indeed, in which all voluntary preference may be considered as implying free agency. But voluntary preference does not necessarily imply such a free agency as involves moral responsibility. The mind may be free to act in one direction and yet it may so entirely have lost its moral equilibrium as to be utterly incapable, of its own nature, to act in an opposite direction and, therefore, not, in the full and responsible sense, a free agent. It is not enough, therefore, to say free agency (of a responsible kind) consists in the possession of understanding, conscience, and will, unless “by will” is meant the spontaneous power already alluded to. The understanding may be darkened, the conscience may be seared or polluted; the will, that is, the power of willing, may, to all good purposes, be inthralled; and this is what we affirm to be the true state and condition of unaided human nature.

It will be farther seen that the above account of human nature does not recognise the distinction between natural and moral ability. The fact is, our inability is both natural and moral; it is natural because it is constitutional and it is moral because it relates to the mind. To say those who are fallen have natural power to make the right choice because they have the faculties of their minds entire, is the same as to say that a paralytic man has the natural power to walk because he has his limbs entire. It appears to me that the whole of this distinction, and the reasoning from it, proceed on the ground of a most unphilosophical analysis of mind and an unwarranted definition of terms. The simple question is, have those who are fallen, on the whole, the power to make the right choice, or have they not? I say that without grace they have not. And therefore a fallen human being is not, in the responsible sense of that term, a free agent without grace.

Don’t Just Book It

It was such a good idea of the Thomas Cook company to announce their unilateral plans to tackle climate change during the UN climate change summit. Now, if other airline companies would follow their example and declare bankruptcy the human race might have a chance of surviving into the next century.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( saving the planet )

The way climate activists are pitting different groups of people against each other (the young against the old, women against men, poor nations against rich nations, citizens against their governments) is so sad and so typical of how we do things nowadays. Why can we not just join together and get the job done rather than wasting time and alienating people through our constant bickering about who cares the most? I am sure we would stand far more chance of saving our planet if we did.

Passing Thoughts Of A Mad Priest ( population overload )

There are far too many people. This is as much a result of the technologies that are leading to catastrophic climate change as climate change itself. Fossil fuel hungry technologies have led to a huge growth in the population of the earth which has, subsequently, demanded more from those technologies which, in turn, has led to more pollution and a greater strain on the world’s natural resources. It is a vicious circle.

If we do not reduce the number of people as radically as we need to reduce our pollution of the earth’s atmosphere then, whatever we do, we will not stop our self-regulating ecosystem from stopping us with dispassionate efficiency.

Global warming is our enemy but, in the long term, it will be our planet and it’s organic life’s friend, with or without the human race.

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