Saturday, January 28, 2006

Mr. By-Ends & Demas (Lesson)

The Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan

We have just finished the story of one who, having named the name of Christ, and been faithful to His cause, -one who paid the ultimate price for his faith. This next episode paints a very different picture: one of following "religion" when it is easy, convenient, and profitable. Mr. By-Ends represents Christianity-lite, which turns out in the end not to be Christianity at all. When we read about Mr. By-ends and his friends, Mr. Hold-the -World, Mr. Money-Love, and Mr. Save-All, two professions come readily to mind: politicians and preachers. These are the two high-visibility porfessions that regularly give Christianity a black eye, by using Christianity to gain respectability, influence, or wealth. But one does not have to be Jim and Tammy Faye, or Robert Tilton to be convicted by these scenarios. To some degree, all of us who name the name of Christ, have to examine ourselves regularly to be sure we are not holding our faith wrongly, to our own advantage. The story as it unfolds in the next few pages nips at all of our heels. Here are just a few excerpts of those pages. I will post the entire chapter, plus the chapter titled "Demas" in my next post.

By-Ends. 'Tis true, we somewhat differ in religion from those of the stricter sort; yet but in two small points: First, we never strive against wind and tide; secondly, we are always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers--we love much to walk with him in the street if the sun shines, and the people applaud it Chr. If you will go with us, you must go against wind and tide, the which, I perceive, is against your opinion; you must also own religion in his rags as well as when in his silver slippers; and stand by him too when bound in irons, as well as when he walks the streets with applause. By-ends. You must not impose nor lord it over my faith; leave me to my liberty, and let me go with you. Chr. Not a step farther, unless you will do, in what I propound, as we. By-ends. Then said BY-ENDS, "I shall never desert my old principles, since they are harmless and profitable. Mr. HOLD-THE-WORLD, Mr. MONEY-LOVE, and Mr. SAVE-ALL --men that Mr. BY-ENDS had formerly been acquainted with; for in their minority they were schoolfellows, and were taught by one Mr. GRIPEMAN, a schoolmaster in Love-gain, which is a market town in the county of Coveting, in the north. This schoolmaster taught them the art of getting, either by violence, fraud, flattery, lying, or by putting on a guise of religion; Chr. the man that takes up religion for the world will throw away religion for the world; for so surely as Judas designed the world in becoming religious, so surely did he also sell religion and his Master for the same. Hold-the-World. Aye, and hold you there still, good Mr. BY-ENDS; for, for my part, I can count him but a fool, that, having the liberty to keep what he has, shall be so unwise as to lose it.
These last words spoken by Mr. Hold-the-World remind me of the famous quote by Jim Elliott "A man is no fool, who gives up what he cannot keep, in order to gain what he cannot loose." Below, I have listed a number of scripture verses, in addition to those listed within the text, that we will use in connection with the discussion of this lesson Matthew 7:13, 14 Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.You cannot serve God and money. Luke 9:24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 1 Timothy 6 . . .people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

Mr. By-Ends & Demas (Text only)

So I saw that, quickly after they were got out of the fair, they overtook one that was going before them, whose name was BY-ENDS; So they said to him, "What countryman, sir? and how far go you this way?" He told them that he came from the town of Fairspeech; and he was going to the Celestial City (but told them not his name). Chr. "From Fairspeech!" said CHRISTIAN; "is there any that be good live there?" (Proverbs 26:25)
"Yes," said BY-ENDS, "I hope."
Chr. "Pray, sir, what may I call you?" said CHRISTIAN.
By-ends. I am a stranger to you, and you to me: if you be going this way, I shall be glad of your company: if not, I must be content.
Chr. "This town of Fairspeech," said CHRISTIAN, "I have heard of; and, as I remember, they say it is a wealthy place."
By-ends. Yes, I will assure you that it is; and I have very many rich kindred there. Chr. Pray who are your kindred there, if a man may be so bold?
By-ends. Almost the whole town: and in particular, my Lord TURN-ABOUT; my Lord TIME-SERVER; my Lord FAIRSPEECH (from whose ancestors that town first took its name); also Mr. SMOOTH-MAN; Mr. FACING-BOTH-WAYS; Mr. ANY-THING; and the parson of our parish, Mr. TWO-TONGUES, was my mother's own brother by father's side. And to tell you the truth, I am become a gentleman of good quality; yet my great-grandfather was but a waterman, looking one way and rowing another-- and I got most of my estate by the same occupation. Chr. Are you a married man? By-ends. Yes; and my wife is a very virtuous woman--the daughter of a virtuous woman. She is my Lady FEIGNING'S daughter; therefore she came of a very honourable family, and is arrived to such a pitch of breeding, that she knows how to carry it to all, even to prince and peasant. 'Tis true, we somewhat differ in religion from those of the stricter sort; yet but in two small points: First, we never strive against wind and tide; secondly, we are always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers--we love much to walk with him in the street if the sun shines, and the people applaud it. Then CHRISTIAN stepped a little aside to his fellow HOPEFUL, saying, "It runs in my mind that this is one BY-ENDS, of Fairspeech and if it be he, we have as very a knave in our company as dwells in all these parts." Then said HOPEFUL, "Ask him; methinks he should not be ashamed of his name." So CHRISTIAN came up with him again, and said, "Sir, you talk as if you knew something more than all the world doth; and if I take not my mark amiss, I deem I have half a guess of you: Is not your name Mr. BY-ENDS, of Fairspeech?" By-ends. That is not my name: but indeed it is a nickname that is given me by some that cannot abide me: and I must be content to bear it as a reproach, as other good men have borne theirs before me. Chr. But did you never give an occasion to men to call you by this name?
By-ends. Never, never! the worst that ever I did to give them an occasion to give me this name was, that I had always the luck to jump in my judgment with the present way of the times, whatever it was, and my chance was to gain thereby; but if things are thus cast upon me, let me count them a blessing, but let not the malicious load me therefore with reproach. Chr. I thought indeed that you were the man that I had heard of; and to tell you what I think, I fear this name belongs to you more properly than you are willing we should think it doth. By-ends. Well, if you will thus imagine, I cannot help it. You shall find me a fair company-keeper, if you will still admit me your associate. Chr. If you will go with us, you must go against wind and tide, the which, I perceive, is against your opinion; you must also own religion in his rags as well as when in his silver slippers; and stand by him too when bound in irons, as well as when he walks the streets with applause. By-ends. You must not impose nor lord it over my faith; leave me to my liberty, and let me go with you. Chr. Not a step farther, unless you will do, in what I propound, as we. By-ends. Then said BY-ENDS, "I shall never desert my old principles, since they are harmless and profitable. If I may not go with you, I must do as I did before you overtook me: even go by myself, until some overtake me that will be glad of my company." Now I saw in my dream that CHRISTIAN and HOPEFUL forsook him, and kept their distance before him; but one of them looking back, saw three men following Mr. BY-ENDS; and behold, as they came up with him, he made them a very low bow, and they also gave him a compliment. The men's names were, Mr. HOLD-THE-WORLD, Mr. MONEY-LOVE, and Mr. SAVE-ALL --men that Mr. BY-ENDS had formerly been acquainted with; for in their minority they were schoolfellows, and were taught by one Mr. GRIPEMAN, a schoolmaster in Love-gain, which is a market town in the county of Coveting, in the north. This schoolmaster taught them the art of getting, either by violence, fraud, flattery, lying, or by putting on a guise of religion; and these four gentlemen had attained much of the art of their master, so that they could each of them have kept such a school themselves. Well, when they had, as I said, thus saluted each other, Mr. MONEY-LOVE said to Mr. BY-ENDS, "Who are they upon the road before us?" For CHRISTIAN and HOPEFUL were yet within view. By-ends. They are a couple of far countrymen, that, their mode, are going on pilgrimage. Money-love. Alas! why did they not stay, that we might have had their good company; for they, and we, and you, sir, I hope, are all going on a pilgrimage? By-ends. We are so, indeed; but the men before us are so rigid, and love so much their own notions, and do also so lightly esteem the opinions of others, that even if a man be never so godly, yet, if he jumps not with them in all things, they thrust him quite out of their company. Mr. Save-all. That's bad; but we read of some that are righteous overmuch, and such men's rigidness prevails with them to judge and condemn all but themselves. But, I pray, what and how many were the things wherein you differed? By-ends. Why, they, after their headstrong manner, conclude that it is their duty to rush on their journey all weathers; and I am for waiting for wind and tide. They are for hazarding all for God at a clap; and I am for taking all advantages to secure my life and estate. They are for holding their notions, though all other men be against them; but I am for religion in and so far as the times and my safety will bear it. They are for religion when in rags and contempt; but I am for him when he walks in his golden slippers in the sunshine, and with applause. Mr. Hold-the-World. Aye, and hold you there still, good Mr. BY-ENDS; for, for my part, I can count him but a fool, that, having the liberty to keep what he has, shall be so unwise as to lose it. Let us be wise as serpents; 'tis best to make hay when the sun shines: you see how the bee lies still all winter, and bestirs her only when she can have profit with pleasure. God sends sometimes rain, and sometimes sunshine; if they be such fools to go through the first, yet let us be content to take fair weather along with us. For my part, I like that religion best that will stand with the security of God's good blessings unto us; for who can imagine, that is ruled by his reason, since God has bestowed upon us the good things of this life, but that he would have us keep them for his sake? Abraham and Solomon grew rich in religion. And Job says, "That a good man shall lay up gold as dust." But he must not be such as the men before us, if they be as you have described them. Mr. Save-all. I think that we are all agreed in this matter; and therefore there need be no more words about it. Mr. Money-love. No, there need be no more words about this matter indeed; for he that believes neither Scripture nor reason (and you see we have both on our side), neither knows his own liberty nor seeks his own safety. Mr. By-ends. My brethren, we are, as you see, going all on pilgrimage; and for our better diversion from things that are bad, give me leave to propound unto you this question: Suppose a man--a minister, or a tradesman,--should have an advantage lie before him to get the good blessings of this life; yet so as that he can by no means come by them except-- in appearance at least--he becomes extraordinarily zealous in some points of religion that he meddled not with before: may he not use this means to attain his end, and yet be a right honest man? Mr. Money-love. I see the bottom of your question; and, with these gentlemen's good leave, I will endeavour to shape you an answer. And first, to speak to your question as it concerns a minister himself: Suppose a minister, a worthy man, possessed but of a very small benefice, and has in his eye a greater, more fat and plump by far; he has also, now an opportunity of getting of it; yet so as by being more studious, by preaching more frequently and zealously, and because the temper of the people requires it, by altering of some of his principles; for my part, I see no reason but a man may do this--provided he has a call. Aye, and more a great deal besides, and yet be an honest man. For why? 1. His desire of a greater benefice is lawful (this cannot be contradicted), since 'tis set before him by Providence; so, then, he may get it if he can, making no question, for conscience' sake. 2. Besides, his desire after that benefice makes him more studious, a more zealous preacher, and so on; and so makes him a better man. Yea, makes him better improve his parts, which is according to the mind of God. 3. Now, as for his complying with the temper of his people by dissenting--to serve them--some of his principles, this argues, 1st, that he is of a self-denying temper; 2nd, of a sweet and willing deportment; 3rd, and so more fit for the ministerial function. 4. I conclude then, that a minister that changes a small for a great, should not for so doing be judged as covetous; but rather, since he is improved in his parts and industry thereby, be counted as one that pursues his call, and the opportunity put into his hand to do good. And now to the second part of the question, which concerns the tradesman you mentioned: Suppose such one to have but a poor employ in the world, but by becoming religious he may mend his market, perhaps get a rich wife, or more and far better customers to his shop--for my part, I see no reason but that this may be lawfully done. For why? 1. To become religious is a virtue, by what means soever a man becomes so. 2. Nor is it unlawful to get a rich wife, or more custom to my shop. 3. Besides, the man that gets these by becoming religious, gets that which is good of them that are good, by becoming good himself; so, then, here is a good wife, and good customers, and good gain, and all these by becoming religious, which is good. Therefore, to become religious, to get all these, is a good and profitable design. This answer, thus made by this Mr. MONEY-LOVE to Mr. BY-ENDS' question, was highly applauded by them all; therefore they concluded upon the whole, that it was most wholesome and advantageous. And because, as they thought, no man was able to contradict it; and because CHRISTIAN and HOPEFUL were yet within call, they joyfully agreed to assault them with the question as soon as they overtook them, and the rather because they had opposed Mr. BY-ENDS before. So they called after them; and they stopped, and stood still till they came up to them. But they concluded as they went, that not Mr. BY-ENDS, but old Mr. HOLD-THE-WORLD, should propound the question to them; because, as they supposed, their answer to him would be without the remainder of that heat that was kindled betwixt Mr. BY-ENDS and them at their parting a little before. So they came up to each other; and after a short salutation, Mr. HOLD-THE-WORLD propounded the question to CHRISTIAN and his fellow, and bid them to answer if they could. Chr. Then said CHRISTIAN, "Even a babe in religion may answer ten thousand such questions. For if it be unlawful to follow Christ for loaves, as it is: ~ John 6:1-60 ~ how much more abominable is it to make of him and religion a stalking-horse to get and enjoy the world! nor do we find any other than heathens, hypocrites, devils, and witches, that are of this opinion. "1. Heathens, for when Hamor and Shechem had a mind to the daughter and cattle of Jacob, and saw that there were no ways for them to come at them, but by becoming circumcised, they say to their companions: 'If every male of us be circumcised, as they are circumcised, shall not their cattle, and their substance, and every beast of theirs be ours?' Their daughters and their cattle were that which they sought to obtain; and their religion the stalking-horse they made use of to come at them. Read the whole story. ~ Genesis 34:20-23 ~ "2. The hypocritical Pharisees were also of this religion; long prayers were their pretence, but to get widows' houses were their intent; and greater damnation from God was their judgment.~ Luke 20:46, 47 ~ "3. Judas the devil was also of this religion; he was religious for the bag, that he might be possessed of what was therein; but he was lost, cast away, and the very son of perdition. "4. Simon the witch was of this religion too; for he would have had the Holy Ghost, that he might have got money therewith and his sentence from Peter's mouth was according. ~ Acts 8:19-22 ~ "5. Neither will it out of my mind, but that the man that takes up religion for the world will throw away religion for the world; for so surely as Judas designed the world in becoming religious, so surely did he also sell religion and his Master for the same. To answer the question more affirmatively, as I perceive you have done, and to accept as authentic such answer, is both heathenish, hypocritical, and devilish; and your reward will be according to your works." Then they stood staring one upon another, but had not wherewith to answer CHRISTIAN. HOPEFUL also approved of the soundness of CHRISTIAN'S answer; so there was a great silence among them. Mr. BY-ENDS and his company also staggered, and kept behind, that CHRISTIAN and HOPEFUL might outgo them. Then said CHRISTIAN to his fellow, "If these men cannot stand before the sentence of men, what will they do with the sentence of God? and if they are mute when dealt with by vessels of clay, what will they do when they shall be rebuked by the flames of a devouring fire?" Demas Then CHRISTIAN and HOPEFUL, outwent them again, and went till they came at a delicate plain, called Ease, where they went with much content; but that plain was but narrow, so they were quickly got over it. Now at the further side of that plain was a little hill called Lucre, and in that hill a silver mine, which some of them that had formerly gone that way, because of the rarity of it, had turned aside to see; but going too near the brink of the pit, the ground being deceitful under them, broke, and they were slain; some also had been maimed there, and could not to their dying day be their own men again. Then I saw in my dream, that a little off the road, over against the silver mine, stood DEMAS (gentleman-like), to call to passengers to come and see; who said to CHRISTIAN and his fellow, "Ho, turn aside hither, and I will show you a thing." Chr. What thing is so deserving as to turn us out of the way to see it? Demas. Here is a silver mine, and some digging in it for treasure; if you will come, with a little pain you may richly provide for yourselves. Hope. Then said HOPEFUL, "Let us go and see." Chr. "Not I," said CHRISTIAN; "I have heard of this place before now and how many have there been slain; and besides, that treasure is a snare to those that seek it, for it hinders them in their pilgrimage." Then CHRISTIAN called to DEMAS, saying, "Is not the place dangerous? hath it not hindered many in their pilgrimage?" ~ Hosea 4:16-19 ~ Demas. "Not very dangerous; except to those that are careless;" but withal, he blushed as he spake. Chr. Then said CHRISTIAN to HOPEFUL, "Let us not stir a step, but still keep on our way." Hope. I will warrant you, when BY-ENDS comes up, if he hath the same invitation as we, he will turn in thither to see. Chr. No doubt thereof, for his principles lead him that way; and a hundred to one but he dies there. Demas. Then DEMAS called again, saying, "But will you not come over and see?" Chr. Then CHRISTIAN roundly answered, saying, "DEMAS, thou art an enemy to the right ways of the Lord of this way, and hast been already condemned for thine own turning aside by one of his Majesty's judges; and why seekest thou to bring us into the like condemnation? ~ 2 Timothy 4:10 ~ Besides, if we at all turn aside, our Lord the King will certainly hear thereof, and will there put us to shame, where we would stand with boldness before him." Demas cried again, That he also was one of their fraternity; and that if they would tarry a little, he also himself would walk with them. Chr. Then said Christian, "What is thy name? is it not the same by the which I have called thee?" Demas. Yes, my name is DEMAS; I am the son of Abraham. Chr. I know you; Gehazi was your great-grandfather, and Judas your father, and you have trod their steps. It is but a devilish prank that thou usest: thy father was hanged for a traitor; and thou deservest no better reward. ~ 2 Kings 5:20 ~ Matthew 26:14, 15 ~ Matthew 27:1-5 ~ Assure thyself, that when we come to the King, we will tell him of this thy behaviour. Thus they went their way. By this time BY-ENDS and his companions were come again within sight; and they at the first beck went over to DEMAS. Now, whether they fell into the pit by looking over the brink thereof, or whether they went down to dig, or whether they were smothered in the bottom by the damps that commonly arise, of these things I am not certain; but this I observed, that they never were seen again in the way. Then sang CHRISTIAN: "BY-ENDS and SILVER-DEMAS doth agree; One calls, the other runs, that he may be A sharer in his lucre: so these two Take up in this world, and no farther go."

Friday, January 27, 2006

Am I a Soldier of the Cross?

This is not the hymn we will be singing in class this Sunday. We will be going back over one of the two introduced in the last two weeks. The words to this hymn came to my mind this week as I was looking over the topic for this week's lesson. Mr. By-Ends in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is the personification of easy believism and convenient Christianity. I should have that lesson posted either later today or early tomorrow. In the mean time, here are some words to think about. This hymn asks the critical question "What is it costing you to be a Christian?" I am sure Mr By-Ends would have difficulty singing this hymn. It certainly gives me pause to consider that question. Does it give you pause? The tune that I have always sung this hymn to is called Marlow. I'm going to be lazy today and simply point you over to The Cyber Hymnal to listen to that tune. Any Common Meter tune will work. Isaac Watts is the author of the hymn.
Am I a soldier of the cross, A foll'wer of the Lamb, And shall I fear to own his cause, Or blush to speak his Name? Must I be carried to the skies On flow'ry beds of ease, While others fought to win the prize, And sailed through bloody seas? Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood? Is this vile world a friend to grace, To help me on to God? Sure I must fight if I would reign: Increase my courage, Lord; I'll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by thy Word. Thy saints, in all this glorious war, Shall conquer, though they die; They view the triumph from afar, And seize it with their eye. When that illustrious day shall rise, And all thine armies shine In robes of vict'ry through the skies, The glory shall be thine.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Memory Verse Podcast, and First Hall of Fame Honoree

Those of you who stop by from time to time perhaps will have noticed some changes here of late, especially around the top side-bar header on the right side of this web log, the one named Threshing Floor. This little corner, as well as the majority of posts, has been set aside for the high-school Sunday-school class that my wife and I teach. Over the week end, with the aid of our class, we have launched a Bible-verse-memorization project, which involves two parts, both of which appear under the Threshing Floor header:
  • A link to a weekly podcast called A Well-Lit Path, which features audio files of memory verses, a new verse each week, read by a different student each week (hopefully, that is, if they can overcome microphone fright).
  • A Hall-of-Fame honor roll and audio clip of those students who were able to stand up and recite from memory the Bible verse that was assigned for memorization the week before. You will note that this week we had only one Hall-of-Fame recipient, Zach F., not because he was the only one who memorized his verse, but because he was the only one willing to stand before a live mic. Congratulations, Zach.
A written copy of the verse to learn is given to each student at the beginning of Sunday school, and the audio podcastis available by Monday afternoon, which can be accessed either by subscription, direct download, or by playing the streamed file directly from the website. The clip can then be listened through out the week, as a memorization aid. The Hall-of-Fame honor roll and audio clip is also posted here at this site by Monday afternoon. Our class has decided that this is one way that we can take every thought ( and technology) captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). We have started this podcast as a study aid for our class, but the class welcomes anyone to feel free to subscribe, download, or listen online to our recorded verses, to use the audio files to aid in your own memorization programs. Drop us a comment and let us know how you are using them.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Trial and Death of Faithful

There is so much symbolism bound up in the names of the characters in this next section of Pilgrim's Progress. By the time we leave this piece, we learn why Faithful is so named: Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. . . . I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. (Revelation 2:10b, 13). At the other end of the spectrum is Faithful's judge, Lord Hategood. Jesus told his disciples that as the world hated Him, it would also hate them. The righteousness of Christ floods the world with light, exposing everything for what it is, and the world hates that. All of the other names, those of the witnesses, jurors, and citizens, fall into their proper places, and give wonderful opportunity to show the corruption and deceitfulness of sin, as well as the animosity that the world has for Christ and His disciples. We won't be able to nail down all of the symbols to the names, but there will be plenty of material for discussion. At Faithful's execution we see the world's attempt to degrade those executed by all manner of torture and fantastic means of execution; yet note the beautiful picture of a chariot and horses waiting to take Faithful up into it and wisk him away to glory with the fanfare of trumpet blasts.
Then, a convenient time being appointed, they brought them forth to their trial, in order to their condemnation. When the time was come, they were brought before their enemies and arraigned. The judge's name was LORD HATEGOOD. Their indictment was one and the same in substance, though somewhat varying in form; the contents thereof was this: That they were enemies to, and disturbers of, their trade; that they had made commotions and divisions in the town, and had won a party to their own most dangerous opinions, in contempt of the law of their prince. Then FAITHFUL began to answer, that he had only set himself against that which had set itself against him that is higher than the highest. "And," said he, "as for disturbance, I make none, being myself a man of peace; the parties that were won to us, were won by beholding our truth and innocence, and they are only turned from the worse to the better. And as to the king you talk of, since he is BEELZEBUB, the enemy of our' Lord, I defy him and all his angels." Then proclamation was made, that they that had aught to say for their lord the king against the prisoner at the bar, should forthwith appear and give in their evidence. So there came in three witnesses: to wit, ENVY, SUPERSTITION, and PICKTHANK. They were then asked if they knew the prisoner at the bar? and what they had to say for their lord the king against him? Envy. Then stood forth ENVY, and said to this effect: "My lord, I have known this man a long time; and will attest upon my oath before this honourable bench, that he is---" Lord Hategood, the Judge. Hold; give him his oath! So they sware him. Then he said, "My lord, this man, notwithstanding his plausible name, is one of the vilest men in our country; he neither regards prince nor people, law nor custom; but doth all that he can to possess all men with certain of his disloyal notions, which he, in the general, calls principles of faith and holiness. And in particular, I heard him once myself affirm that Christianity and the customs of our town of Vanity were diametrically opposite, and could not be reconciled. By which saying, my lord, he doth at once not only condemn all our laudable doings, but us in the doing of them." Judge. Then did the judge say unto him, "Hast thou any more to say?" Envy. "My lord, I could say much more; only I would not be tedious to the court. Yet, if need be, when the other gentlemen have given in their evidence, rather than anything shall be wanting that will dispatch him, I will enlarge my testimony against him." So he was bidden to stand by. Then they called SUPERSTITION, and bade him look upon the prisoner; they also asked what he could say for their lord the king against him? Then they sware him; so he began: Superstition. My lord, I have no great acquaintance with this man; nor do I desire to have further knowledge of him. However, this I know, that he is a very pestilent fellow, from some discourse that the other day I had with him in this town; for then, talking with him, I heard him say that our religion was naught, and such by which a man could by no means please God; which sayings of his, my lord, your lordship very well knows what necessarily thence will follow: to wit, that we still do worship in vain; are yet in our sins: and finally shall be damned. And this is that which I have to say. Then was PICKTHANK sworn, and bid say what he knew in behalf of their lord the king against the prisoner at the bar. Pickthank. My lord, and you gentlemen all, this fellow I have known of a long time; and have heard him speak things that ought not to be spoken. For he hath railed on our noble Prince BEELZEBUB; and hath spoken contemptibly of his honourable friends, whose names are, the Lord OLDMAN; the Lord CARNALDELIGHT; the Lord LUXURIOUS; the Lord DESIRE OF VAINGLORY; my old Lord LECHERY; Sir HAVING GREEDY; with all the rest of our nobility: and he hath said moreover, that if all men were of his mind, if possible, there is not one of these noble men should have any longer a being in this town. Besides, he hath not been afraid to rail on you, my lord, who are now appointed to be his judge; calling you an ungodly villain, with many other such like defaming terms, with which he hath bespattered most of the gentry of our town. When this PICKTHANK had told his tale, the judge directed his speech to the prisoner at the bar, saying, "Thou apostate, heretic, and traitor !--hast thou heard what these honest gentle- men have witnessed against thee?" Faith. May I speak a few words in my own defence? Judge. Sirrah, sirrah !--thou deservest to live no longer, but to be slain immediately upon the place; yet that all men may see our gentleness towards thee, let us hear what thou, vile apostate, hast to say. Faith. 1. I say, then, in answer to what Mr. ENVY hath spoken, I never said aught but this: That what rule, or laws, or customs, or people, were flat against the Word of God, are diametrically opposite to Christianity. If I have said amiss in this, convince me of my error; and I am ready here before you to make my recantation. 2. As to the second, to wit, Mr. SUPERSTITION, and his charge against me, I said only this: That in the worship of God there is required a divine faith; but there can be no divine faith without a divine revelation of the will of God: therefore whatever is thrust into the worship of God that is not agreeable to a divine revelation, cannot be done but by a human faith; which faith will not profit to eternal life. 3. As to what Mr. PICKTHANK hath said, I say--avoiding terms, as that I am said to rail, and the like--that the prince of this town, with all the rabble--his attendants, by this gentleman named--are more fit for being in hell than in this town and country; and so the Lord have mercy upon me! Then the judge called to the jury--who all this while stood by, to hear and observe,--" Gentlemen of the jury, you see this man about whom so great an uproar hath been made in this town; you have also heard what these worthy gentlemen have witnessed against him; also you have heard his reply and confession: it lieth now in your breasts to hang him, or save his life; but yet I think meet to instruct you into our law. "There was an act made in the days of Pharaoh the Great, servant to our prince, that lest those of a contrary religion should multiply and grow too strong for him, their males should be thrown into the river. (Exodus 1:7-22) There was also an act made in the days of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, another of his servants, that whoever would not fall down and worship his golden image should be thrown into a fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:1-18) There was also an act made in the days of Darius, that whoso, for some time, called upon any God but his, should be cast into the lions' den. (Daniel 6:1-9) Now the substance of these laws this rebel has broken; not only in thought (which is not to be borne), but also in word and deed, which must therefore needs be intolerable. "For that of Pharaoh, his law was made upon suspicion to prevent mischief, no crime yet being apparent; but here is a crime apparent. For the second and third, you see he disputes against our religion; and for the treason he hath confessed, he deserves to die the death." Then went the jury out, whose names were, Mr. BLIND-MAN, Mr. NO-GOOD, Mr. MALICE, Mr. LOVE-LUST, Mr. LIVE-LOOSE, Mr. HEADY, Mr. HIGH-MIND, Mr. ENMITY, Mr. LIAR, Mr. CRUELTY, Mr. HATE-LIGHT, and Mr. IMPLACABLE; who everyone gave in his private verdict, against him among themselves, and afterwards unanimously concluded to bring him in guilty before the judge. And first among themselves, Mr. BLIND-MAN the foreman said, "I see clearly that this man is a heretic." Then said Mr. NO-GOOD, "Away with such a fellow from the earth!" "Aye," said Mr. MALICE, "for I hate the very looks of him." Then said Mr. LOVE-LUST, "I could never endure him." "Nor I," said Mr. LIVE-LOOSE; "for he would always be condemning my way," "Hang him, hang him !" said Mr. HEADY. "A sorry scrub," said Mr. HIGH-MIND. "My heart rises against him," said Mr. ENMITY. "He is a rogue," said Mr. LIAR. "Hanging is too good for him," said Mr. CRUELTY. "Let us dispatch him out of the way," said Mr. HATE-LIGHT. Then said Mr. IMPLACABLE, "Might I have all the world given me, I could not be reconciled to him; therefore let us forthwith bring him in guilty of death." And so they did; therefore he was presently condemned to be had from the place where he was to the place from whence he came, and there to be put to the most cruel death that could be invented. They therefore brought him out, to do with him according to their law; and first they scourged him, then they buffeted him, then they lanced his flesh with knives; after that they stoned him with stones, then pricked him with their swords; and last of all they burned him to ashes at the stake. Thus came FAITHFUL to his end. Now I saw that there stood behind the multitude a chariot and a couple of horses waiting for FAITHFUL, who--so soon as his adversaries had dispatched him --was taken up into it, and straightway was carried up through the clouds, with sound of trumpet, the nearest way to the Celestial Gate. But as for CHRISTIAN, he had some respite, and was remanded back to prison; so he there remained for a space. But he that overrules all things, having the power of their rage in his own hand, so wrought it about that CHRISTIAN, for that time, escaped them, and went his way. And as he went he sang, saying: "Well, FAITHFUL, thou hast faithfully profest Unto thy Lord, with whom thou shalt be blest, When faithless ones, with all their vain delight, Are crying out under their hellish plight. Sing, FAITHFUL, sing!--and let thy name survive; For though they killed thee, thou art yet alive." Now I saw in my dream that CHRISTIAN went not forth alone; for there was one whose name was HOPEFUL (being so made by the beholding of CHRISTIAN and FAITHFUL, in their words and behaviour, in their sufferings at the fair), who joined himself unto him; and entering into a brotherly covenant, told him that he would be his companion. Thus one died to bear testimony to the truth, and another rises out of his ashes to be a companion with CHRISTIAN in his pilgrimage. This HOPEFUL also told CHRISTIAN that there were many more of the men in the fair that would take their time and follow after.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fear-Driven Everybody Else?

This makes the second post related to the antics of the Purpose Driven guru in about a week. I am not normally a Rick Warren basher, but it has just happened that way. The material for these two posts found me. I did not go out looking or them. My personal life hasn't been affected much at all by post modernism or the emergent (emerging?) church movement. In one sense, I don't really care. I know that is probably not the right attitude, but there you have it. I spent the first 25 years of my adult life in a small, rural, independent reformed Baptist church. Looking back, I realize I was, in many ways, on an island; isolated from the general evangelical Christian culture. Even these past five years in a "blue-collar" conservative Southern Baptist church with definite sovereign grace leanings, I have not felt the winds of evangelical change on my face at all. I have begun to realize of late that I am affected, though. We all are, in small ways that we don't even realize, unless we stop and look closely. I think with comments like the following that I stumbled across at Dr. Mohler's web log from last Thursday, that we all may soon feel, not just a zephyr, but perhaps a blue north'r. I've trimmed Dr. Mohler's post by about 50% for the sake of space.
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church and author of the best-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life , was the subject of an interview in The Philadelphia Inquirer. This is how [that] article concludes: Warren predicts that fundamentalism, of all varieties, will be "one of the big enemies of the 21st century. Muslim fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, secular fundamentalism -- they're all motivated by fear. Fear of each other." Equating Christian fundamentalism with Muslim fundamentalism is both wrong and dishonest. This falls right into the hands of those who argue for a phenomenological definition of "religion" that includes "fundamentalism" as a general reference to any person or movement that refuses to accept the basic worldview of modernity. Adding the therapeutic category of "fear" just adds to the confusion. The motivation of fundamentalist Christianity is fear of Muslims and Jews? And, we might ask, just what definition of Christian fundamentalism operates here?
So what should we do about this problem we call post modernism? Carp and moan and point fingers? Maybe some; for a while; when we need to and have to. Then let's get up and start acting like the Church: quit this therapeutic, moralistic, deism that is so popular even in many conservative churches, and start preaching the whole council of God; preach against sin; preach about the glory of God; preach about a risen Savior, strong to save. Let's start repenting and believing, and start being salt and light in a rotten and dark culture. Let's put legs and hands to our Christianity and go out and minister to a lost and dying world in word and deed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness: Authors

Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, who was the author of Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness, was born into high aristocracy on May 26, 1700, in Dresden, Germany. He studied law for a time, and then traveled throughout Europe. In his early twenties, he inherited a large estate, where he gave refuge to a religous group that came to be known as the Moravians. Zinzendorf is considered to be the leader of this group, that eventually grew to a small settlement of about 600 people. A number of Moravian settlements were established in New England. Zinzendorf is credited with authorship of about 2,000 hymns, which were used in the Moravian Church. He died on May 9, 1760, in Herrnhut, Germany.

John Wesley was born on June 28, 1703, in Epworth, Lincolnshire, England. John and Charles Wesley are considered the founders of what is know today as the Methodist church. Whereas Charles wrote far and a way more hymns than John, John's particular skill was in translating hymns from other languages, mostly German, into English. He began studying the German language on board the ship which carried him and his brother to Georgia in 1735. Also on the ship were 26 German Moravian colonists, and Wesley wanted to be able to talk with them and share in their worship services. John Wesley died on March 2, 1791, in London England.

William Gardiner, the author of the tune known as Germany, was born on March 15, 1770, in Leicester, England. Although he was a prominent merchant, a stocking manufacturer, he was also quite an acomplished musician, playing the piano and viola. This tune was first published in 1808, in a song book (in 6 volumes) by Gardiner entitled Sacred Melodies. He traveled extensively throughout Europe, and was acquainted with many of the classical composers of his time. William Gardiner died on November 16, 1853, in Leicester, England.

Sources: The Cyber Hymnal, and Bethany Lutheran College Website

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness

What does this opening phrase mean: Jesus, thy blood and righteousness? Notice the repetition of this theme through out the hymn: These things are my beauty, my glorious dress (stanza 1). Arrayed in these I shall lift up my head, even in the midst of "flaming worlds" (stanza 1). Through these two things I am fully absolved from sin, fear, guilt and shame (stanza 2). My plea to enter the eternal rest is that "Jesus hath lived, hath died for me." (stanza 3). Now we are getting closer to the meaning of the opening phrase, but lets look further: The final stanza repeats the phrase, not just for the author, but for all, all who are banished, all who are dead. Here is what they must hear, and rejoice in: That their beauty, their glorious dress, is Jesus, thy blood and righteousness. It is not enough that Jesus died for our sins (thy blood ); that only takes away our guilt and condemnation. We not only need our sins taken away, to be able to stand before the Judge of all the earth, we need a positive righteousness (Jesus, thy righteousness). That is why Jesus didn't just drop from the sky go to the cross and then return to his Father. He had to live a sinless life here among us to provide us with that righteousness. That is what Paul means in 2 Corinthians 5:21: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. The blood and righteousness in this hymn represents the two-fold gift of God in Christ through faith to us; the gift of the removal of our sin guilt, and the putting on of an alien righteousness (Romans 1:16,17) that makes us acceptable to God, in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Look at the words now listed below, and sing along with the mp3 file posted to the right. To God be all the glory.
Words: Nikolause Ludwig von Zinzendorf, 1739 Tune: Germany (L. M.), by William Gardiner, 1814 Translated by: John Wesley, 1740 Jesus, thy blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress; 'Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, With joy shall I lift up my head. Bold shall I stand in thy great day; For who aught to my charge shall lay? Fully absolved through these I am From sin and fear, from guilt and shame. When from the dust of death I rise To claim my mansion in the skies, Ev'n then this shall be all my plea, Jesus hath lived, hath died, for me. Jesus, be endless praise to thee, Whose boundless mercy hath for me-- For me a full atonement made, An everlasting ransom paid. O let the dead now hear thy voice; Now bid thy banished ones rejoice; Their beauty this, their glorious dress, Jesus, thy blood and righteousness.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Purpose Driven vs Pilgrim

The topic for Tabletalk Magazine this month is The Pilgrim's Progress. This issue alone is worth the annual subscription price. As a matter of fact the fine art work and just one article are worth the annual subscription price: In his Right Now Counts Forever segment, Dr. R. C. Sproul makes a very apt and pointed contrast between The Pilgrim's Progress and The Purpose Driven Life. Here is an excerpt from that article.
There is a stark contrast between the second best-seller in the history of the English language, second only to the Bible, namely, John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and the runaway best-seller of the last two years, The Purpose Driven Life. In Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, we see set forth in masterful literary style the depths and the riches of the biblical Gospel. When we compare it to The Purpose Driven Life, we see a book in which it is difficult to find a full explanation of the biblical Gospel. Justification, the relief from the burden of sin that weighs down the soul, is all but absent in the setting forth of a new and different gospel of achieving or discovering purpose in one's life. One of the leaders of the recent emerging church movement boasts that he has not mentioned the word "sin" in the last ten years of his preaching. He wants to make sure that his people will not feel crushed by guilt or by a loss of their self-esteem. When the acute awareness of guilt is removed from the conscience, there is no sense of the burden of sin. There is no sense of being under the crushing weight of the law of God that bears down upon our souls relentlessly. However, if we turn our attention to the insights of Bunyan set forth in the Christian classic Pilgrim's Progress, we see a story that focuses on the groaning pressure of a man who is weighed down to the depths of his soul with a burden of which he is unable to rid himself. It is like the apostle Paul's description in Romans 7 of the body of death that crushes the spirit. In the very first paragraph of the first page of Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan pens these lines: "As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a den; and I laid me down in that place to sleep: and as I slept I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled: and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry; saying, 'What shall I do?'" When preachers announce from their pulpits that God loves people unconditionally, there is hardly any reason for the hearer to feel any burden or cry out with any lament, saying, "What shall I do?" If indeed God loves us unconditionally and requires nothing of us, then obviously there is no need for us to do anything. But if God has judged us according to the righteousness of His perfect Law and has called the whole world before His tribunal to announce that we are all guilty, that none of us is righteous, that none of us seeks after God, that there is no fear of God before our eyes, that we are in the meantime, before the appointed day of judgment, treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, then anybody in his right mind (and even those in their wrong mind) would have enough sense to cry out the same lamentation, "What shall I do?" The story of Christian is the story of a man who is burdened by the weight of sin. His conscience was smitten by the Law, but where the Law is eliminated in the church, no one needs to fear divine judgment. Without the Law there is no knowledge of sin, and without a knowledge of sin, there is no sense of burden. The pilgrim knew the Law, he knew his sin, and he realized he had a burden on his back that he could not, with all of his effort and his greatest strivings, ever remove. His redemption must come from outside of himself. He needed a righteousness not his own. He needed to exchange that weighty sack of sin on his back for an alien righteousness acceptable in the sight of God. For the pilgrim there was only one place to find that righteousness, at the foot of the cross.
R. C. Sproul, Christian Loses His Burden, Right Now Counts Forever, Tabletalk Magazine, January, 2006, p. 4-6. Ligonier Minsitries, Inc., 400 Technology Park, Lake Mary, FL 32746 Learn more about Tabletalk Magazine.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Vanity Fair

There are several lessons to be learned from this weeks passage. This section of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress clearly paints a vivid picture of the material world we all live in. 1. The items that make up the first list of things that may be found at the fair are not, for the most part, evil things, in and of themselves. It is what we do with the things of the world that matters. It's how we handle what we have. God gave us all things richly to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17), we just need to love the Giver more than his gifts. That is the great great sin of humanity: to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). That is the essence of idolatry. 2. Our Lord also went through Vanity Fair, and was tempted by the things in it. Christ is someone who can associate with us in our pilgrimage in the world (Hebrews 4:15). 3. Notice how indifference to the things of the world on the part of Christian and Faithful enrage the general populace of Vanity Fair, causing them to abuse the pilgrims, and eventually themselves.
Then I saw in my dream, that when they were got out of the wilderness, they presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is "Vanity"; and at the town there is a fair kept, called "Vanity Fair"; it is kept all the year long. It bears the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where 'tis kept is lighter than vanity; and also because all that is there sold, or that comes thither is vanity. As is the saying of the wise, "All that comes is vanity." This fair is no new erected business; but a thing of ancient standing. I will show you the original of it. Almost five thousand years agone, there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City, as these two honest persons are; and BEELZEBUB, APOLLYON, and LEGION, with their companions, perceiving by the path that the pilgrims made, that their way to the City lay through this town of Vanity, they contrived here to set up a fair; a fair wherein should be sold of all sorts of vanity, and that it should last all the year long. Therefore at this fair are all such merchandise sold: as houses, lands, trades, places, honours, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms; lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts--as whores, bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not. And moreover, at this fair there is at all times to be deceivers, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues and that of every kind. Here are to be seen, too--and that for nothing--thefts, murders, adulteries, false-swearers, and that of a blood red colour. And as in other fairs of less moment, there are the several rows and streets, under their proper names, where such and such wares are vended; so here likewise you have the proper places, rows, streets (viz., countries and kingdoms), where the wares of this fair are soonest to be found: here is the Britain row; the French row; the Italian row; the Spanish row; the German row--where several sorts of vanities are to be sold. But as in other fairs, some one commodity is as the chief of all the fair, so the ware of Rome and her merchandise is greatly promoted in this fair: only our English nation, with some others, have taken a dislike thereat. Now, as I said, the way to the Celestial City lies just through this town, where the lusty fair is kept; and he that will go to the City, and yet not go through this town, must needs go out of the world. The Prince of princes himself, when here, went through this town to his own country, and that upon a fair day too; and as I think, it was BEELZEBUB, the chief lord of this fair, that invited him to buy of his vanities; yea, would have made him lord of the fair, would he but have done him reverence as he went through the town. Yea, because he was such a person of honour, BEELZEBUB had him from street to street, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a little time, that he might, if possible, allure that Blessed One to cheapen and buy some of his vanities. But he had no mind to the merchandise; and therefore left the town without laying out so much as one farthing upon these vanities. This fair, therefore, is an ancient thing, of long standing, and a very great fair. Now these pilgrims, as I said, must needs go through this fair: well, so they did; but behold, even as they entered into the fair, all the people in the fair were moved, and the town itself as it were in a hubbub about them; and that for several reasons. For-- First, the pilgrims were clothed with such kind of raiment as was diverse from the raiment of any that traded in that fair. The people, therefore, of the fair made a great gazing upon them: some said they were fools; some they were lunatics; and some they are outlandish men. Secondly: and as they wondered at their apparel, so they did likewise at their speech; for few could understand what they said. They naturally spoke the language of Canaan; but they that kept the fair were the men of this world: so that from one end of the fair to the other, they seemed barbarians each to the other. Thirdly: but that which did not a little amuse the merchandisers was, that these pilgrims set very light by all their wares--they cared not so much as to look upon them; and if they called upon them to buy, they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, "Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity;" and look upwards, signifying that their trade and traffic was in heaven. One chanced mockingly, beholding the carriages of the men, to say unto them, "What will ye, buy?" but they, looking gravely upon him, said, "We buy the truth". At that there was an occasion taken to despise the men the more: some mocking; some taunting; some speaking reproachfully; and some calling upon others to smite them. At last, things came to a hubbub and great stir in the fair, insomuch that all order was confounded. Now was word presently brought to the great one of the fair, who quickly came down, and deputed some of his most trusty friends to take these men into examination, about whom the fair was almost overturned. So the men were brought to examination: and they that sat upon them, asked them whence they came; whither they went; and what they did there in such an unusual garb? The men told them that they were pilgrims and strangers in the world; and that they were going to their own country, which was the heavenly Jerusalem; and that they had given none occasion to the men of the town, nor yet to the merchandisers, thus to abuse them, and to let them in their journey. Except it was, for that when one asked them what they would buy, they said they would buy the truth. But they that were appointed to examine them did not believe them to be any other than lunatics and mad, or else such as came to put all things into a confusion in the fair. Therefore they took them and beat them, and besmeared them with dirt; and then put them into the cage, that they might be made a spectacle to all the men of the fair. There, therefore, they lay for some time, and were made the objects of any man's sport, or malice, or revenge; the great one of the fair laughing still at all that befell them. But the men being patient, and not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing, and giving good words for bad, and kindness for injuries done, some men in the fair that were more observing and less prejudiced than the rest, began to check and blame the baser sort for their continual abuses done by them to the men. They, therefore, in angry manner, let fly at them again: counting them as bad as the men in the cage, and telling them that they seemed confederates, and should be made partakers of their misfortunes. The other replied, that for aught they could see, the men were quiet and sober, and intended nobody any harm; and that there were many that traded in their fair that were more worthy to be put into the cage, yea, and pillory too, than were the men that they had abused. Thus after divers words had passed on both sides--the men behaving themselves all the while very wisely and soberly before them,--they fell to some blows among themselves, and did harm one to another. Then were these two poor men brought before their examiners again, and there charged as being guilty of the late hubbub that had been in the fair. So they beat them pitifully, and hanged irons upon them, and led them in chains up and down the fair for an example and a terror to others, lest any should further speak in their behalf, or join themselves unto them. But CHRISTIAN and FAITHFUL behaved themselves yet more wisely; and received the ignominy and shame that was cast upon them with so much meekness and patience, that it won to their side--though but few in comparison of the rest--several of the men in the fair. This put the other party yet into a greater rage; insomuch that they concluded the death of these two men. Wherefore they threatened that the cage nor irons should serve their turn; but that they should die for the abuse they had done, and for deluding the men of the fair. Then were they remanded to the cage again, until further order should be taken with them. So they put them in, and made their feet fast in the stocks. Here therefore they called again to mind what they had heard from their faithful friend, EVANGELIST; and were the more confirmed in their way and sufferings by what he told them would happen to them. They also now comforted each other, that whose lot it was to suffer, even he should have the best of it; therefore each man secretly wished that he might have that preferment; but committing themselves to the all wise disposal of him that rules all things, with much content they abode in the condition in which they were, until they should be otherwise disposed of.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

From Ev'ry Stormy Wind: Authors

Hugh Stowell, the author to From Ev'ry Stormy Wind that Blows, was born December 3, 1799, on the Isle of Man, which is a small island in the Irish Sea, which was a part of the British Isles. He was educated at Oxford, and became a member of the Anglican clergy in 1823. Stowell wrote several theological books, and is credited with authorship of five hymns. From Ev'ry Stormy Wind is the only hymn of any popularity today. Hugh Stowell died on October 8, 1865, at Pendleton, Lancashire, England. Source: The Cyber Hymnal

Thomas Hastings was born on October 15, 1784, in Washington, Connecticut. His father was a doctor, and young Thomas grew up on a farm. His life's career was a music teacher, with no formal training. He taught himself, reading instruction books. He served the church in various capacities as a musician, mostly in the Presbyterian Church. In addition to training choirs to sing in church, Hastings wrote nearly 1000 hymn tunes and 600 hymn texts, a good number of which are still in use today. His hymn tune, Retreat, is the tune most often associated with our hymn by Hugh Stowell. Thomas Hastings died on May 15, 1872 in New York City. Sources: Free Pages, and The Cyber Hymnal

Monday, January 09, 2006

Mercy Seat

From Ev'ry Stormy Wind that Blows Words: Hugh Stowell, 1828 Tune: Retreat, L.M., by Thomas Hastings, 1842 Harmonized by: Rhys Thomas, 1916
From ev'ry stormy wind that blows, From ev'ry swelling tide of woes, There is a calm, a sure retreat, 'Tis found beneath the mercy-seat. There is a place where Jesus sheds The oil of gladness on our heads, A place than all besides more sweet; It is the blood-stained mercy-seat. There is a spot where spirits blend, Where friend holds fellowship with friend, Tho' sundered far; by faith they meet Around the common mercy-seat. Ah, whither could we flee for aid, When tempted, desolate, dismayed, Or how the hosts of hell defeat, Had suff'ring saints no mercy-seat? There, there on eagle wings we soar, And time and sense seem all no more, And heav'n comes down our souls to greet, And glory crowns the mercy-seat. O may my hand forget her skill, My tongue be silent, cold, and still, This bounding heart forget to beat, If I forget the mercy-seat.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Talkative Takes His Leave

Pilgrims Progress/Sunday School

"You did well to talk so plainly to him as you did. There is but little of this faithful dealing with men nowadays, and that makes religion to stink in the nostrils of many as it doth; for they are these talkative fools whose religion is only in word, and are debauched and vain in their conversation, that (being so much admitted into the fellowship of the godly) do stumble the world, blemish Christianity, and grieve the sincere. I wish that all men would deal with such as you have done: then should they either be made more conformable to religion; or the company of saints would be too hot for them." Christian's closing statement to this section is one we would do well to listen to and take to heart. This world's favorite Bible verse is "Judge not . . ." (Matthew 7:1), so we dare not dig into someone's real "life, and conversation" lest we find their true faith and practice. The world fails to notice that in the same context of "Judge not" is "Don't cast your pearls before swine, or what is holy to the dogs." How can this be done without being "judgemental"? The answer is better seen from another passage: Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. (John 7:24) Notice throughout this section that neither Christian nor Faithful are unkind. In a very real sense, they are bestowing the greatest kindness possible to Talkative. Let's now read the Passage.
Chr. Take my advice, and do as I bid you; and you shall find that he will soon be sick of your company too--except God shall touch his heart and turn it. Faith. What would you have me to do? Chr. Why, go to him, and enter into some serious discourse about the power of religion; and ask him plainly (when he has approved of it, for that he will) whether this thing be set up in his heart, house or conversation. Faith. Then FAITHFUL stepped forward again, and said to TALKATIVE: "Come, what cheer? how is it now?" Talk. Thank you, well. I thought we should have had a great deal of talk by this time. Faith. Well, if you will, we will fall to it now; and since you left it with me to state the question, let it be this: How doth the saving grace of God discover itself, when it is in the heart of man? Talk. I perceive, then, that our talk must be about the power of things; well, 'tis a very good question, and I shall be willing to answer you. And take my answer in brief, thus: First, Where the grace of God is in the heart, it causes there a great outcry against sin. Secondly-- Faith. Nay, hold; let us consider of one at once: I think you should rather say, it shows itself by inclining the soul to abhor its sin. Talk. Why, what difference is there between crying out against, and abhorring of, sin? Faith. Oh, a great deal! a man may cry out against sin of policy; but he cannot abhor it, but by virtue of a godly antipathy against it. I have heard many cry out against sin in the pulpit; who yet can abide it well enough in the heart, and house, and conversation. Joseph's mistress cried out with a loud voice, as if she had been very holy; but she would willingly, notwithstanding that, have committed uncleanness with him. Some cry out against sin, even as the mother cries out against her child in her lap; when she calls it "slut" and "naughty girl," and then falls to hugging and kissing it. Talk. You lie at the catch, I perceive. Faith. No, not I; I am only for setting things right. But what is the second thing whereby you would prove a discovery of a work of grace in the heart? Talk. Great knowledge of Gospel mysteries. Faith. This sign should have been first; but first or last, it is also false: for knowledge, great knowledge, may be obtained in the mysteries of the Gospel, and yet no work of grace in the soul. Yea, if a man have all knowledge, he may yet be nothing; and so consequently be no child of God. When Christ said, Do you know all these things? and the disciples had answered, Yes: he added, Blessed are ye if ye do them! He doth not lay the blessing in the knowing of them; but in the doing of them. For there is a knowledge that is not attended with doing: "he that knows his Master's will, and does it not." A man may know like an angel, and yet be no Christian; therefore your sign of it is not true. Indeed, to know is a thing that pleases talkers and boasters; but to do is that which pleases God. Not that the heart can be good without knowledge; for without that the heart is naught: there is, therefore, knowledge and knowledge. Knowledge that rests in the bare speculation of things; and knowledge that is accompanied with the grace of faith and love, which puts a man upon doing even the will of God from the heart: the first of these will serve the talker; but without the other the true Christian is not content. "Give me understanding, and I shall keep Thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart". Talk. You lie at the catch again; this is not for edification. Faith. Well, if you please, propound another sign how this work of grace discovers itself where it is. Talk. Not I; for I see we shall not agree. Faith. Well, if you will not, will you give me leave to do it? Talk. You may use your liberty. Faith. A work of grace in the soul discovers itself either to him that hath it, or to standers by. To him that hath it, thus: it gives him conviction of sin, especially of the defilement of his nature, and the sin of unbelief--for the sake of which he is sure to be damned, if he finds not mercy at God's hand by faith in Jesus Christ. This sight and sense of things works in him sorrow and shame for sin; he finds moreover revealed in him the Saviour of the world, and the absolute necessity of closing with him for life; at the which he finds hungerings and thirstings after him, to which hungerings, etc., the promise is made. Now, according to the strength or weakness of his faith in his Saviour, so is his joy and peace; so is his love to holiness; so are his desires to know him more; and also to serve him in this world. But though I say it discovers itself thus unto him, yet it is but seldom that he is able to conclude that this is a work of grace; because his corruptions now, and his abused reason, make his mind to misjudge in this matter: therefore in him that hath this work there is required a very sound judgment, before he can with steadiness conclude that this is a work of grace. To others it is thus discovered: 1. By an experimental confession of his faith in Christ. 2. By a life answerable to that confession: to wit, a life of holiness-- heart holiness, family holiness (if he hath a family), and by conversation holiness in the world; which in the general teaches him inwardly to abhor his sin, and himself for that, in secret; to suppress it in his family; and to promote holiness in the world--not by talk only, as a hypocrite or talkative person may do, but by a practical subjection in faith and love to the power of the Word. And now, sir, as to this brief description of the work of grace, and also the discovery of it, if you have ought to object, object; if not, then give me leave to propound to you a second question. Talk. Nay, my part is not now to object, but to hear; let me, therefore, have your second question. Faith. It is this: Do you experience the first part of this description of it? and doth your life and conversation testify the same? Or standeth your religion in word or in tongue, and not in deed and truth? Pray, if you incline to answer me in this, say no more than you know the God above will say Amen to; and also nothing but what your conscience can justify you in: for not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. Besides, to say I am thus and thus, when my conversation and all my neighbours tell me I lie, is great wickedness. Talk. Then TALKATIVE at first began to blush; but recovering himself, thus he replied: "You come now to experience, to conscience, and God; and to appeal to him for justification of what is spoken. This kind of discourse I did not expect, nor am I disposed to give an answer to such questions; because I count not myself bound thereto, unless you take upon you to be a catechiser; and though you should so do, yet I may refuse to make you my judge. But I pray, will you tell me why you ask me such questions? Faith. Because I saw you forward to talk, and because I knew not that you had aught else but notion. Besides, to tell you all the truth, I have heard of you, that you are a man whose religion lies in talk; and that your conversation gives this your mouth-profession the lie. They say you are a spot among Christians; and that religion fares the worse for your ungodly conversation; that some already have stumbled at your wicked ways, and that more are in danger of being destroyed thereby. Your religion, and an ale house, and covetousness, and uncleanness, and swearing, and lying, and vain company keeping, etc., will stand together. The proverb is true of you which is said of a whore, to wit, that "she is a shame to all women": so you are a shame to all professors. Talk. Since you are ready to take up reports, and to judge so rashly as you do, I cannot but conclude you are some peevish or melancholy man, not fit to be discoursed with: and so adieu! Chr. Then came up CHRISTIAN, and said to his brother, "I told you how it would happen: your words and his lusts could not agree; he had rather leave your company than reform his life. But he is gone--as I said: let him go; the loss is no man's but his own. He has saved us the trouble of going from him; for he continuing--as I suppose he will do--as he is, he would have been but a blot in our company; besides, the Apostle says, "From such withdraw thyself." Faith. But I am glad we had this little discourse with him; it may happen that he will think of it again: however, I have dealt plainly with him, and so am clear of his blood if he perish. Chr. Then did FAITHFUL say: "How TALKATIVE at first lifts up his plumes! How bravely doth he speak! how he presumes To drive down all before him! but so soon As FAITHFUL talks of heart-work, like the moon That's past the full, into the wave he goes; And so will all but he that heart-work knows." Thus they went on talking of what they had seen by the way; and so made that way easy, which would otherwise no doubt have been tedious to them, for now they went through a wilderness.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A New Year

I have taken the last week off, mainly getting The Plowman "tuned up" and ready for 2006. This year I plan to devote more energy here using the site as a study aid for the high school Sunday school class my wife and I teach. You will notice a few additions to my "Threshing Floor" header in the sidebar. There will be more to come in the next few weeks I will still be blogging to my wider audience, but not as much. I'm sure you all will enjoy and benefit from the "student" posts as much as our class will. Thank you all for your support and interest in 2005. To God be all the glory in 2006.