John Newton

I asked the Lord that I might grow in faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know, and seek more earnestly His face.
‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray, and He, I trust, has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way as almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favoured hour at once He’d answer my request;
And, by His love’s constraining power, subdue my sins and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel the hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry powers of hell assault my soul in every part.
Yea, more, with His own hand He seemed intent to aggravate my woe,
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed, blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

“Lord, why is this?” I trembling cried, “Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“‘Tis in this way,” the Lord replied, “I answer prayer for grace and faith.
“These inward trials I employ, from self and pride to set thee free,
“And break the schemes of earthly joy, that thou mayest seek thy all in Me.”

G.K. Chesterton, Chaucer

But what the medievals meant, by thus dividing and labeling the vices, was that a man might fall into one of these vices even when fleeing too far from another. A man who neglects his business may fall into sloth; a man who pursues his business may fall into avarice. And what the wreckers of the medieval system really did, practically and in the long run, was to let loose some of the vices on the excuse of exterminating the others. After the Renaissance, the Pagans went in for unlimited lust and the Puritans for unlimited avarice; on the excuse that at least neither of them was being guilty of sloth.

Note that unlimited avarice is a defection from Puritanism, not a tenet of it.

Excess Motivation

May 15th, 2008

From S.T. Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria

It [his exhortation to youthful literati] will be but short; for the beginning, middle, and end converge to one charge: never pursue literature as a trade. With the exception of one extraordinary man, I have never known an individual, least of all an individual of genius, healthy or happy without a profession, i.e. some regular employment, which does not depend on the will of the moment, and which can be carried on so far mechanically that an average quantum only of health, spirits, and intellectual exertion are requisite to its faithful discharge. Three hours of leisure, unannoyed by any alien anxiety, and looked forward to with delight as a change and recreation, will suffice to realize in literature a larger product of what is truly genial, than weeks of compulsion. Money and immediate reputation form only an arbitrary and accidental end of literary labour. The hope of increasing them by any given exertion will often prove a stimulant to industry; but the necessity of acquiring them will in all work of genius convert the stimulant into a narcotic. Motives by excess reverse their very nature, and instead of exciting, stun and stupefy the mind.

Here is a little approach to Calvinist soteriology, made by none other than Leo the Great, a Bishop of Rome who would not have liked some of his successors.

Sermon 73, On Whitsuntide
As therefore we abhor the Arians, who maintain a difference between the Father and the Son, so also we abhor the Macedonians, who, although they ascribe equality to the Father and the Son, yet think the Holy Ghost to be of a lower nature, not considering that they thus fall into that blasphemy, which is not to be forgiven either in the present age or in the judgment to come, as the Lord says: “whosoever shall have spoken a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him, but he that shall have spoken against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him either in this age or in the age to come.” And so to persist in this impiety is unpardonable, because it cuts him off from Him, by Whom he could confess: nor will he ever attain to healing pardon, who has no Advocate to plead for him. For from Him comes the invocation of the Father, from Him come the tears of penitents, from Him come the groans of suppliants, and “no one can call Jesus the Lord save in the Holy Ghost,” Whose Omnipotence as equal and Whose Godhead as one, with the Father and the Son, the Apostle most clearly proclaims, saying, “there are divisions of graces but the same Spirit; and the divisions of ministrations but the same Lord; and there are divisions of operations but the same God, Who worketh all things in all.”