God the Comforter

March 28th, 2010

Martin Luther, speaking of John 14:16, shows that the true God is the God of comfort:

What are the devil, death, and all things over against the eternal, almighty majesty of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who want to be and are our Comforter? For if He who is sent is called a Comforter, then both He who sent Him and He by whom He is sent must be the same Comforter. Then there is surely no God besides Him who is a Comforter. And henceforth he who wants to know God aright and name Him appropriately must call Him “Comforter” or, as St. Paul terms Him in Rom. 15:5, “the God of Comfort,” namely, for those who are frightened and have no other comfort. They must not conceive of God otherwise than as a Comforter of the wretched and troubled. They must give the lie both to the devil, who threatens with God’s wrath and with hell, and to their own heart, and say to the devil: “You are a false spirit of lies!” and to their heart: “You are a false, foolish heart!”

(From Sermons on the Gospel of St. John Chapters 14-16, which is v.24 of the 55-volume Works edited by Jaroslav Pelikan.)

The Baptist stands in the advent period. He fits into our Advent season. For isn’t our life still Advent: faith, expectation, patience, and longing for what is not yet visible? Do not we Christians have to build on what is “merely” hoped for and believed in? If we really want to be Christians, do we not, with God’s folly, have to sacrifice the bird in the hand here on earth for the sake of the two in the heavenly bush — monetary advantage, pleasures of the body, harsh insistence on our rights, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, that kingdom of heaven, alas, which no eye has seen?
The Baptist of today’s Gospel belongs to such an Advent of waiting for what is still to come. He is in reality what we ought to be in our lifelong season of Advent. He was in prison. He had been stupid enough to speak the truth even to the master of the state. How could anyone be as politically unrealistic as that? He sits there. It serves him right. No one gets him out. His friends do not start a revolt. They are much too insignificant for that, only interested in theology and quite ineffectual in real life, or so it seems at any rate.
And God, too, leaves his preacher of penance where he is. He too seems to be on the side of the big battalions. And yet he was working miracles in his Son. But — is it tragedy or comedy — those miracles cured a few poor wretches of apparently no great importance for the kingdom of God. Those miracles did not free the holy prophet, the blood relation and quite official precursor of the man who was working the miracles. He remained imprisoned until he was “liquidated.”
It is not easy for a prophet to sit in prison waiting for certain death, written off, and at the same time to take an interest in miracles which are of no help to himself.
But the Baptist is not a reed shaken by the wind. He believes despite everything. He is the messenger preparing the way for God, in his own life and heart first of all, preparing the way for the God who takes such an inhumanly long time to come and does not even hurry when his prophet is perishing, the God who always seems to arrive only when it is too late. The Baptist knows that God always makes his point, that he wins by losing, that he is living and gives life by being put to death himself, that he is the future which seems to have no future.
In a word, the Baptist believes. It was not easy for him. His heart was bitter and the sky overcast. The question in his heart has a rather agonized ring: Are you he who is to come? But that question was nevertheless addressed to the right person, to God who is man. In prayer we may show even a frightened heart to God, a heart that can practically do no more and no longer knows how long its strength will hold out. In a heart that prays there still remains faith and this receives a sufficient answer: “Go and tell John what you see… and blessed is he who takes no offence at me” even if he sits abandoned in prison.
We are in Advent all through our lives, for we Christians await one who is still to come. Only then shall we be proved right. Until then, however, the world seems to be right. The world will laugh, you will weep, our Lord said. We too are sitting in a dungeon, in the prison of death, of unanswered questions, of our own weakness, our own meanness, of the hardship and tragedy of our life. We shall not get out alive. But everyday we shall send the messengers of our faith and prayer to him who will come thence to judge the living and the dead. These advent messengers will come back each time with the answer: I am coming; blessed is he who takes no offence at me.

Karl Rahner, The Advent of Faith (on Matthew 11:2-10)

Valuing Christ Alone

November 27th, 2009

John Calvin, Harmony of the Gospels, V.2 on Matthew 17:8

They saw no man but Jesus only. When it is said that in the end they saw Christ alone, this means that the Law and the Prophets had a temporary glory, that Christ alone might remain fully in view. If we would properly avail ourselves of the aid of Moses, we must not stop with him, but must endeavor to be conducted by his hand to Christ, of whom both he and all the rest are ministers. This passage may also be applied to condemn the superstitions of those who confound Christ not only with prophets and apostles, but with saints of the lowest rank, in such a manner as to make him nothing more than one of their number. But when the saints of God are eminent in graces, it is for a totally different purpose than that they should defraud Christ of a part of his honor, and appropriate it to themselves. In the disciples themselves we may see the origin of the mistake; for so long as they were terrified by the majesty of God, their minds wandered in search of men, but when Christ gently raised them up, they saw him alone. If we are made to experience that consolation by which Christ relieves us of our fears, all those foolish affections, which distract us on every hand, will vanish away.

It’s obvious that being seized by prejudice against Calvin is simply a way to deprive yourself of great blessing.

Our times do not seem like a high-water mark for doctrinal preaching, for a variety of reasons (one of which might be a foolish notion that doctrinal preaching is opposed to textual or expository preaching). And some doctrines seem harder to preach than others, they seem to be set forth primarily as a safeguard against error, but to serve no purpose other than defense of more fundamental truths.

I suspect it is easy to feel that way about the doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum, set forth in WCF VIII.7 in these words:

VII. Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.

While it can be seen that this is certainly an explanation of the workings of Scripture phrases such as “crucified the Lord of Glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8; other texts cited in supports of this doctrine include Acts 20:28 and John 3:13), and that this usage itself serves as a safeguard against Nestorianism, the use of the doctrine may not be immediately apparent. But Martin Luther provides an example, not only of preaching doctrine, but of preaching this doctrine and doing so clearly, simply, and movingly. From Volume 24 of the Works edited by Jaroslav Pelikan, speaking of John 14:16:

We have stated often enough that in the divine essence of Christ and the Father there are two distinct Persons. Therefore when speaking of Christ here one must teach clearly that He is one Person, but that there are two distinct natures, the divine and the human. Again, just as there the nature or the divine essence remains unmingled in the Father and in Christ, so also the Person of Christ remains undivided here. Therefore the attributes of each nature, the human and the divine, are ascribed to the entire Person, and we say of Christ: “The Man Christ, born of the Virgin, is omnipotent and does all that we ask – not, however, according to the human but according to the divine nature, not by reason of His birth from His mother, but because He is God’s Son.” And again, “Christ, God’s Son, prays the Father, not according to His divine nature and essence, according to which He is coequal with the Fathe,r but because He is true man and Mary’s Son.” Thus the words must be brought together and compared according to the unity of the Person. The natures must always be differentiated, but the Person must remain undivided.
And now since He is believed as one Person, God and man, it is also proper for us to speak of Him as each nature requires. Therefore we should consider what Christ says according to His human nature and what He says according to His divine nature. For where this is not observed and properly distinguished, many types of heresy must result, as happened in times gone by, when some people asserted that Christ was not true God and others that He was not true man. They were unable to follow the principle of differentiating between the two types of discourse on the basis of the two natures.
(…)
Yes, all that Scripture says of Christ covers the whole Person, just as though both God and man were one essence. Often it uses expressions interchangeably and assigns the attributes of both to each nature. This is done for the sake of the personal union, which we call the “communication of properties.” Thus we can say: “The Man Christ is God’s eternal Son, by whom all creatures were created, Lord of heaven and earth.” And by the same token we say: “Christ, God’s Son (that is, the Person who is true God), was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified and dead.”
(…)
Here we must again confess with our Creed: “I believe in Jesus Christ, God the Father’s only Son, our Lord, born of the Virgin mary, suffered, was crucified, died.” It is always one and the same Son of God, our Lord. Therefore it is certain that Mary is the mother of the real and true God and that the Jews crucified not only the Son of Man but also the true Son of God. For I do not want a Christ in whom I am to believe and to whom I am to pray as my Savior who is only man. Otherwise I would go to the devil. For mere flesh and blood could not erase sin, reconcile God, remove His anger, overcome and destroy death and hell, and bestow eternal life.
Furthermore since the angels in heaven adore Him and call Him Lord as He lies in the manger, and say to the shepherds, according to Luke 2:11: “To you is born this day … a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” He must be true God. For the angels do not worship mere flesh or human nature. Therefore it follows that both God and man must dwell in this Person. And when you speak of Christ, you speak of an undivided Person, who is both God and man; and he who sees, hears, or finds Christ with the faith of the heart surely encounters not only the man Christ but also the true God. Thus we do no let God sit idly in heaven among the angels; but we find Him here below, lying in the manger and on His mother’s lap. We summarize and say: “Wherever we encounter this Person, there we surely encounter the Divine Majesty.”
As has often been stated, all this makes it possible for us to withstand the devil and to vanquish him in the hour of death and at other times when he terrifies us with sin and hell. For if he were to succeed in persuading me to regard Christ as only a man who was crucified and died for me, I would be lost. But if my pride and joy is the fact that Christ, both true God and true man, died for me, I find that this outweighs and eclipses all sin, death, hell, and all misery and woe. For if I know that He who is true God suffered and died for me, and also that this same true man rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, etc., then I can conclude with certainty that my sin was erased and death was conquered by Him, and that God no longer views me with anger and disfavor; for I see and hear nothing but tokens and works of mercy in this Person.
Make sure that you comprehend this doctrine in such a way that you leave the Person of Christ intact and assign the functions of each nature to Him despite the difference in these natures. For according to the divine nature, He was not born of a human being, nor did He inherit anything from the Virgin. It is true that God is the Creator and that man is a creature. But here the two have come together in one Person, and now God and man are one Christ. Mary bore a Son, and the Jews crucified a Person who is God and man. Otherwise – if He were only man, as other saints are – He would be unable to deliver us from even one sin or to extinguish one little drop of hell’s fire with all His holiness, His blood, and His death.

Outlining

August 9th, 2008

Charles J. Brown gives some sage advice in his book, The Ministry: Addresses to Students of Divinity

Then, more specifically, first, let there be no mechanical observing of any fixed and unvarying method in the preacher’s outlines. An endless variety will naturally arise here from the character of the text and of the theme, which ought ever to guide, as to his specific plan.

In general, the text dictates not only the content of the sermon, it also dictates the structure. Brown doesn’t go into it, but there are two real dangers to that mechanical observation of a fixed and unvarying method (however excellent it may seem) in outlining.

One is the danger of boredom. When you have the same outline every week, it makes the content seem very similar. But more than that, it tends to impose a similarity of content as well. So there is an appearance of similar content, and there is also a reality. Having always the same sort of outline works to keep you from seeing in the text anything that doesn’t square with your outlining, or at least keeps you from using whatever more you saw in your sermon. Your principle of selection is influenced by your outline: if your outline is always the same, your principle of selection is always the same, and so your content varies very little. And thus your preaching becomes very boring.

The other danger is that of undermining the force of your message with an inappropriate outline. A sermon on the doctrine of adoption, for instance, that has the structure of a harangue is a sermon that has lost much of its rhetorical force. Or there are sermons that have an imperatival structure, an “every Christian must _______” method of organization, and yet the content is of grace, an announcement that God in Christ has done. The structure in that case puts the emphasis on the hearer’s responsibility, on their duty, though the theme and focus of the message may be on the grace of God. There again, the structure undermines the content.

Combine these two factors, and a sermon on the reasons Christians have for joy can become a depressing monologue that leaves a congregation drained and clubbed down by the very content that should have rejoiced their hearts and strengthened their hands.

Mary’s Eternity

June 22nd, 2008

A remarkable instance of valuable reflections upon an occasion of lies.

Karl Rahner, “The Assumption of Mary into Heaven”

Today we celebrate the feast of Mary’s Assumption. After her quiet death, the Blessed Virgin and mother of God entered, body and soul, into eternal life, the life of God himself. In Mary’s case, too, the fruit of death was life, and so this feast is also the anniversary day of a death. It is a question of that mysterious moment when time and eternity, transitoriness and immortality touch one another in the existence of one human being, the moment when a mortal person enters the house of her eternity. From this point of view we shall attempt to come a little closer to the mystery of this feast.
If we examine the life of a human being as it appears to us externally and immediately, we find in that life—as in all things—that common trait of being bound up with and limited by time. Everything breathes the breath of evanescence, every earthly thing lives only a moment, laboriously joining one tiny interval to the next, just as one breath follows the other, so that life may continue. And each period of time, each breath, can be the last. Each is born only for a little while, first one, and only then the next. As we seize the next, the first escapes from us, and no power calls it back to life again.
So, everything that we do—whether in the inner life of the soul or in the external works of the body—takes place in this temporal order. Everything is endlessly a coming and a going. People come into existence and pass away; they are born and they die. Everything that has its beginning here on earth must someday come to an end. The shout of joy will someday fade away; all misery will one day be wept out; someday all power will vanish like smoke. Vanity of vanities, moaned Qoheleth.
How strangely vain and puny, in a certain sense, must all our activity be: no matter how great it may have been, it cannot endure, but passes away. It hastens away as soon as possible to hide its insignificance in the empty darkness of the past. This is probably why human beings, whose hands tremble with greed and with secret horror in the face of death, snatch up in this short interval, in this short dream that we call life, as much pleasure and honor, power and knowledge as they can. But the vessel is narrow, and everything that we pour into it is finite. Both the wine of joy and the bitter water of suffering are always coming to nothing. Everything ends in death.
The immortal soul seems to be only the ground over which marches the ghastly procession of things and actions destined for death. The soul seems to exist only for this purpose, that the eternal succession of all thoughts, actions, and feelings that flutter past may be eternally accompanied by the painful knowledge of their transitory nature. The soul seems to exist only for the purpose of whispering to each moment of success the bitter truth that it shall pass away like the success that was previously experienced and seen to pass away. All living is dying.
Still there is something in these things that does not pass away. Every wave of time that seems to rise only to sink back as if it had never existed lifts something up that it does not take back again into the frightening emptiness of the past. In the indifference of all coming and going there mysteriously lives something full of meaning, something eternal: good and evil. It is as if every wave of time in its restless rise and fall is continually beating against the shore of eternity, and each wave, each moment of time, each human deed leaves there what is eternal in it: the good and the evil. Good and evil are things of eternity; they are eternity in the things of time.
It is at once a comforting and a frightful mystery: our deeds sink into nothingness, but before they die they give birth to an eternal property that does not disappear with them. The eternal goodness and badness of our perishable works sink down into the eternal “ground” of our imperishable soul, and shape this hidden ground. Even if new transitory waters keep rushing over this deep ground of the soul, neither time nor forgetting obliterates what goodness and badness have brought about in those depths. Only new goodness and repentance can make good what evil has done there for eternity; and only new evil can still destroy the hidden beauty of the goodness there. Only evil, not time; not what is transitory.
In this way the eternal countenance of our soul—and in it our eternal destiny—slowly develops while we exist in this transitory state. And then the moment comes when a person passes out of the temporal order into eternity. When this happens, a stream of transitoriness vanishes forever. The restless fluctuation of time ceases to surge over a soul in endless rise and fall, and it sets free the ground of the soul that until now was seen by God alone. The eternal countenance of the soul is now revealed—the countenance that was hidden in the depths, veiled by the haze of life on earth. What exists now, what has endured, is eternal; and we are eternal because of what we have thus become in time. This means that an individual travels the path of his or her life through time into an eternity that is no longer time.
Mary has traveled this path. Today we celebrate the day when for her time became eternity. She too led this life of transitoriness. With her as with all the children of the earth, life was a restless coming to be and passing away. Her life began quietly and obscurely, somewhere in a corner of Palestine, and soon it was snuffed out, gently, and the world knew it now. In between these two points, her life was filled with the same restless change that constitutes our life, and it was filled with the cares common to all Eve’s children: anxiety for bread, suffering and tears, and a few small joys.
So too were her hours measured out to her: a few hours of the utmost happiness in God her savior joined with many routine, ordinary hours of grief, one after another, lusterless, feeble, and seemingly so empty and dull. But finally all the hours, the sublime as well as the ordinary, had passed away; and they could all now appear as one insignificant whole, precisely because they could thus fade away into the past.
Mary’s life was a life of transitoriness, just like our own. And yet, in one respect it was entirely different. How enigmatic and incomprehensible our life is, not because of the darkness of fate—Mary, too, [345]had her share in this common loss—but because of guilt. This is what makes our life so paradoxical and so confused. In our life, the eternal that makes up a part of our moments is sometimes good, sometimes evil.
And when through God’s grace a moment of repentance blots out what the evil hours would have made eternal in the depths of our being, even then there is one effect still left: these evil hours are gone forever; they are forever empty. Never again will a bright eternity issue from their womb, for they have sunk back fruitless into the nothingness of hours that “have been.” No one can fetch them back again to relive them in the present, to make them good. Never again will the radiant light of the goodness that shall shine like an everlasting dawn rest upon them.
We know of only one person besides Jesus who can enter into eternity without repentance. This is Mary, the ever-pure Virgin, the immaculate one. What our heart in its bitter experience can hardly believe has become true for one human being—Mary. She need not disclaim one moment of her life; no part of it has remained empty and dead. She can stand by each deed of her life: not one was dark; not one passed away without enkindling an eternal light, without shining with the luminosity that entirely consumes the moral possibilities of each moment.
Such a life did not come to an end with Mary’s death; when she died, only the transitory died, so that what was eternal in her life might be revealed—that eternal light from the many thousand candles enkindled by each moment of her life. Thus her whole life entered eternity—each day, each hour, each breaking of the waves of the life of her soul, every joy and every pain, the great and the small hours. Nothing was abandoned; everything lives on in the eternal goodness of the soul that has gone home.
Is not such a day, a day of joy for us? We know, indeed, from our own experience, that our constantly changing human life hurries on towards its eternity, to its everlasting destiny. But when the last moment of time that is meted out to an individual has come, then his mouth is closed in death, and his eyes no longer transmit a glimpse of his soul; only an enigmatic death mask looks at us—and he is silent. It is as if the passageway of death had two gates, and when the person steps into this passageway, she closes the first gate behind her before she opens the second, so that no light shines through to us from tat land that lies beyond the passageway.
Is it not wonderfully consoling, then, that our faith tells us of that world into which the dead have gone and of their eternal destiny? What can move us most deeply in all this is that this witness of faith does not [346]merely give us information about the objective, impersonal possibilities that can begin after death. It is rather as if God’s revelation, which speaks to us of the life of God hidden in inaccessible light, reveals to us more than that life’s blessedness.
The very same word of God speaks also of the holy lives of those who rest eternally in the merciful heart of God. God affectionately calls each one by name: Peter, with his repentance and threefold love, is with me; Paul, the great warrior and long-sufferer is with me; Francis, the happy beggar, is with me; Benedict Labre is with me, and he spent his life begging on the highway; Stanislaus is with me, and he was simply a pious, brave child.
And so God still has many names for us: he has called us by countless names. He has thereby willed to entrust to us a sweet mystery of his heart; he has, as it were, placed us in intimate contact with those whom he has sheltered forever in his heart as his child, his friend, his betrothed. And thus we know that a blessed soul’s quite fixed life—a life which cannot be repeated once it is lived, which we can call by name, which we can narrate, in the paths of which we follow, which we love and honor and which calls us to imitation—this life has not disappeared, but still lives.
With meaning and profit let each moment of such a life pass before us once again and we can say again and again: the goodness that inspired that fixed deed still shines unimpaired and bright in the soul; the heroic spirit that sacrificed its life at that instant has outlived death.
That is why the church celebrated feast upon feast of her saints, fresh again every day, birthdays of an eternity, victory feasts of imperishable goodness, feasts of delight because love never ceases. They rouse us anew every day from tired resignation to transitoriness: it is not true that everything passes away, for the good is immortal. Wherever in this world only a tiny light of purity, of kindness, of humility, of fortitude, of patience shines, it burns on before God’s eternal light as the reflection of his own eternally blessed light.
And just as the mysterious God is quite close to us in faith because his own reality brings the shining rays of his beauty to the eye of our faith, so too, in the same faith, these holy men and women of eternity are close to us; the beauty of their goodness completes our love. It is as if each one gently touches our soul, and we can say to each in words of love: I am joyful over your eternal goodness, you are very close to me, and your goodness is an eternal victory.
Thus it is with the Virgin Mary. In faith we know that the charming splendor of grace that already filled her soul when the word of her maker called her into being is still an indestructible reality. The tender humility, the brightness of her grand spirit, the boundless submission to God—everything that filled her soul when she said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord”—all this is always present and new. The simple greatness of her life, the sacrifice of her Son under the cross: all this goodness and holiness that once brightened this dark world is eternal that now, at this very hour, mixes its roar with the waves of divine life in the eternal today.
As eternal life slowly came into being during her earthly existence, all that was once broken up and then vanished into the past has streamed together into a superabundance of bliss in the one now of eternity. This now of eternity, always the same and always new, beyond all time, sees how, in the uttermost depths, time makes its way.
And only the thin veil of this earthly life lies between us and this perpetual rejoicing—a veil through which the light of faith and the voice of God, who is a God of the living, penetrate. And these give witness of the eternal life of the most pure Virgin. For him who in yearning and longing reaches out for it, isn’t her gracious heart close to us through the nearness of faith and of love, through the still, holy nearness of eternity?
When we, from the depths of our dying day, greet this eternal today, we will be greeted with the same endlessness of eternal life that has been roaring for two thousand years (in human measurement) and that shall never vanish. And then we reflect that this eternity rises up out of the dark valleys of the transitoriness, and we look up full of blessed hope, because in Mary’s bliss we see prefigured the blessed destiny that our soul shall one day find.
If it is true that we merit more love the purer and holier we are, then whose love are we indebted to, if not that of the most Blessed Virgin and mother of Jesus? When we love goodness, we should be excited by the thought that Mary’s incomprehensible goodness is now blessed and preserved in eternity.
Thus we are blessed in the pure, unselfish joy that the goodness, purity, and all the virtues that we love have achieved an eternal victory through the most Blessed Virgin. We sense that her victory is our own. We know, too, that the goodness that today has become eternity was not on that account taken away from us, but works among us in blessing and grace.
That is why we should fold our hands and pray: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now in this transitoriness, which was also yours, and in the hour of our death, so that we may enter into the eternity that today is yours.

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.”

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales: Prologue

A good man ther was of religioun,
That was a poure PERSONE of a tonn:
But riche he was of holy thought and werk.
He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
That Cristes gospel trewely wolde preche.
His parishens devoutly wolde he teche.
Benigne he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversite ful patient:
And swiche he was ypreved often sithes.
Ful loth were him to cursen for his tithes,
But rather wolde he yeven out of doute,
Unto his poure parishens aboute,
Of his offring, and eke of his substance.
He coude in litel thing have suffisance.
Wide was his parish, and houses fer asonder,
But he ne left nought for no rain ne thonder,
In sikenesse and in mischief to visite
The ferrest in his parish, moche and lite,
Upon his fete, and in his hand a staf.
This noble ensample to his shepe he yaf,
That first he wrought, and afterward he taught.
Out of the gospel he the wordes caught,
And this figure he added yet therto,
That if gold ruste, what shuld iren do?
For if a preest be foule, on whom we trust,
No wonder is a lewed man to rust:
And shame it is, if that a preest take kepe,
To see a shitten shepherd, and clene shepe: soe
Wei ought a preest ensample for to yeve,
By his clenenesse, how his shepe shulde live.
He sette not his benefice to hire,
And lette his shepe acombred in the mire,
And ran unto London, unto Seint Poules,
To seken him a chanterie for soules,
Or with a brotherhede to be withold:
But dwelt at home, and kepte wel his fold,
So that the wolf ne made it not miscarie.
He was a shepherd, and no mercenarie.
And though he holy were, and vertuous,
He was to sinful men not dispitous,
Ne of his speche dangerous ne digne,
But in his teching discrete and benigne.
To drawen folk to heven, with fairenesse,
By good ensample, was his besinesse :
But it were any persone obstinat.
What so he were of highe, or low estat,
Him wolde he snibben sharply for the nones.
A better preest I trowe that no wher non is.
He waited after no pompe ne reverence,
Ne maked him no spiced conscience,
But Cristes lore, and his apostles twelve,
He taught, but first he folwed it himselve.

Under 7.5 minutes

December 25th, 2007

John Bunyan, The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate, Explained (Practical Works, v. 6)

…it is evident that saints neither can, nor dare venture to plead their cause. Alas! the Judge is the Almighty and Eternal God; the law broken is the holy and perfect rule of God, in itself a consuming fire; the sin is so odious, and a thing so abominable, that it is enough to make all the angels blush to hear it but so much as once mentioned in so holy a place as that is, where the great God doth sit to judge. This sin now hangs about the neck of him that hath committed it, yea, it covereth him as doth a mantle; the adversary is bold, cunning, audacious, and can word a thousand of us into an utter silence in less than half a quarter of an hour. What then should the sinner (if he could come there) do at this bar to plead? Nothing, nothing for his own advantage. But now comes in his mercy; he has an Advocate to plead his cause. “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

The Message of the Psalms

December 16th, 2007

James E. Adams, War Psalms of the Prince of Peace

The riches of Jesus Christ must be our theme from the Psalms—not the poverty of the hearts of men or our own needs.