Quotations for December, 2007
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Commemoration of Charles de Foucauld, Hermit, Servant of the Poor, 1916
Race highlights the fact that in our congregational life we usually do not reflect the variety of cultures. There are Asian, West Indian, and Anglo-Saxon congregations worshipping and meeting close to each other. These groups meet at work and in school, but not always in church. If the church is middle-class and intellectual in the language of the services, in the music employed, in the life-style expected of Christians, in its leadership, and in the methods of presenting the gospel, then the whole atmosphere is such as to repel those who are not middle-class and intellectual. They feel out of place and unwanted, even if they are given a friendly greeting at the door.The life of the New Testament Church was evidence of the supernatural; God was in their midst. The power of Christ was a reality. The fellowship could not be explained in simple natural terms. A church divided on social and racial lines is not evidence for the supernatural, but for the simply human and social.
... David Bronnert, “The Gospel and Culture”, in The Changing World, Bruce Kaye, ed., vol. 3 of Obeying Christ in a Changing World, John Stott, gen. ed., 3 vol., London: Fountain, 1977, p. 126
(see the book; see also Matt. 12:25-28; 1 Tim. 5:21; more at Church)
Sunday, December 2, 2007
In an authority so high [as Scripture], admit but one officious lie, and there will not remain a single passage of those apparently difficult to practice or to believe, which on the same most pernicious rule may not be explained as a lie uttered by the author willfully and to serve a purpose.
... St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Ep. 28
(see also Ps. 119:105; more at Bible)
Monday, December 3, 2007
Commemoration of Francis Xavier, Apostle of the Indies, Missionary, 1552
Every wise workman takes his tools away from the work from time to time, that they may be ground and sharpened; so does the only-wise Jehovah take his ministers oftentimes away into darkness and loneliness and trouble, that he may sharpen and prepare them for harder work in his service.
... Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843), The Life and Remains, Letters, Lectures, and Poems of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, Andrew Alexander Bonar, New York: R. Carter, 1866, p. 157
(see the book; see also Ps. 139:11,12; more at Weakness)
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Commemoration of Nicholas Ferrar, Deacon, Founder of the Little Gidding Community, 1637
Some men, not content with [Christ] alone, are borne hither and thither from one hope to another; even if they concern themselves chiefly with him, they nevertheless stray from the right way in turning some part of their thinking in another direction. Yet such distrust cannot creep in where men have once for all truly known the abundance of his blessings.
... John Calvin (1509-1564), The Institutes of the Christian Religion, v. I , tr. John Allen, Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1921, II.xvi.19, p. 476
(see the book; see also 2 Pet. 1:10,11; more at Authenticity)
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
In deciding which passages he will accept, [the “rational skeptic”] proceeds on the a priori assumption that miracles can’t happen. So he automatically writes off any Biblical account of a wondrous happening which suggests that there is an order of reality transcending the observable regularities of nature and occasionally breaking in upon them.Nor is rational skepticism content with jettisoning the Bible’s miracle stories. It also dismisses other passages on the grounds that they reflect the ignorance and prejudice of a particular age, or the propaganda interests of the Church at a certain stage of its development. Its basic rule of Biblical interpretation is: “When in doubt, throw it out.” And the highest scores in the game of radical reductionism are awarded to pedagogues who find the most novel and far-fetched reasons for doubting that any part of the Bible really means what it says.
... Louis Cassels (1922-1974), Your Bible, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1967, p. 6-7
(see the book; see also Job 21:14-16; more at Bible, Doubt, Ignorance, Miracle, Prejudice, Reason, Skeptic)
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Feast of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, c.326
If I now want to add something of my own (i.e., inner assurances) to this faith, if this great and glorious faith is defective, and saves me not, till I can add my own sense, and my own feeling to it, at such a time or place, is not this saying in the plainest manner, that faith alone cannot justify me? ... All I would say of these inward delights and enjoyments, is only this, they are not holiness, they are not piety, they are not perfection, but they are God’s gracious allurements, and calls to seek after holiness and spiritual perfection.
... William Law (1686-1761), Christian Regeneration , in Works of Rev. William Law, v. V, London: G. Moreton, 1893, pp. 174, 178
(see the book; see also Gal. 2:16; more at Assurance, Authenticity, Call, Faith, God, Grace, Holiness, Perfection, Salvation)
Friday, December 7, 2007
Feast of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, Teacher, 397
They do greatly err who acknowledge that the flesh of man was taken on Himself by Christ, but deny that the affections of man were taken; and they contravene the purpose of the Lord Jesus Himself, since thus they take away from man what constitutes man, for man cannot be man without human affections.
... St. Ambrose of Milan (Aurelius Ambrosius) (339-397), The Life and Times of St. Ambrose, v. II, Frederick Homes Dudden, The Clarendon Press, 1935, p. 596
(see the book; see also John 11:32-36; more at Jesus)
Saturday, December 8, 2007
The true, the genuine worship is when man, through his spirit, attains to friendship and intimacy with God. True and genuine worship is not to come to a certain place; it is not to go through a certain ritual or liturgy; it is not even to bring certain gifts. True worship is when the spirit, the immortal and invisible part of man, speaks to and meets with God, who is immortal and invisible.
... William Barclay (1907-1978), The Gospel of John, v. 1, Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1965, p. 154
(see the book; see also John 4:23,24; more at Worship)
Sunday, December 9, 2007
We love orthodoxy. It is good. It is the best. It is the clean, clear-cut teaching of God’s Word, the trophies won by truth in its conflict with error, the levees which faith has raised against the desolating floods of honest or reckless misbelief or unbelief; but orthodoxy, clear and hard as crystal, suspicious and militant, may be but the letter well shaped, well named, and well learned, the letter which kills. Nothing is so dead as a dead orthodoxy—too dead to speculate, too dead to think, to study, or to pray.
... E. M. Bounds (1835-1913), Preacher and Prayer, Publishing House of the M. E. Church, South, Dallas, Tex., 1907, p. 20-21
(see the book; see also Matt. 12:1-6,10-13; 2 Cor. 3:6; more at Legalism)
Monday, December 10, 2007
Commemoration of Thomas Merton, Monk, Spiritual Writer, 1968
This matter of “salvation” is, when seen intuitively, a very simple thing. But when we analyze it, it turns into a complex tangle of paradoxes. We become ourselves by dying to ourselves. We gain only what we give up, and if we give up everything we gain everything. We cannot find ourselves within ourselves, but only in others; yet at the same time, before we can go out to others we must first find ourselves. We must forget ourselves in order to become truly conscious of who we are. The best way to love ourselves is to love others; yet we cannot love others unless we love ourselves, since it is written, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” But if we love ourselves in the wrong way, we become incapable of loving anybody else. And indeed when we love ourselves wrongly, we hate ourselves; if we hate ourselves we cannot help hating others. Yet there is a sense in which we must hate others and leave them in order to find God... As for this “finding” of God, we cannot even look for Him unless we have already found Him, and we cannot find Him unless He has first found us. We cannot begin to seek Him without a special gift of His grace; yet if we wait for grace to move us before beginning to seek Him, we will probably never begin.
... Thomas Merton (1915-1968), No Man is an Island, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1955; reprint, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002, p. xvi-xvii
(see the book; see also Luke 14:26; Phil. 3:12-14; more at Attitudes)
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
In the twentieth century, the secularists, still living off the spiritual capital of Christianity, often pretended to chide Christians for having invented the term “secularist,” a term which, they said, was devoid of meaning. Their leaders knew very well, however, that secularism, like any other parasite, derives its sustenance from the object on which it feeds, and so they were rather pleased when milquetoast Christians timidly offered, as a definition of secularism, “living as though God did not exist.” What Christians should have called it was, rather, “a contemptibly fraudulent way of living on the cheap, by reaping the maximum fruits of Christian effort, while contributing the minimum effort of your own.” When secularists accused Christians of “living in the past,” the Christians ought to have retaliated by pointing out that secularists were “living off the past.” By the time they got around to doing so, however, the majority of secularists had become morally incapable of seeing the point.
... Geddes MacGregor (1909-1998), From a Christian Ghetto, London: Longmans, Green, 1954
(see the book; see also Ps. 14:1; Prov. 1:7; more at Historical)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Institutions can never conserve without betraying the movements from which they proceed. The institution is static, whereas its parent movement has been dynamic; it confines men within its limits, while the movement had liberated them from the bondage of institutions; it looks to the past, [although] the movement had pointed forward. Though in content the institution resembles the dynamic epoch whence it proceeded, in spirit it is like the state before the revolution. So the Christian church, after the early period, often seemed more closely related in attitude to the Jewish synagogue and the Roman state than to the age of Christ and his apostles; its creed was often more like a system of philosophy than like the living gospel.
... H. Richard Niebuhr (1894-1962), The Kingdom of God in America, New York: Harper, 1959; Wesleyan University Press, 1988, p. 168
(see the book; see also Matt. 24:10-13; more at Historical)
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Feast of Lucy, Martyr at Syracuse, 304
Commemoration of Samuel Johnson, Writer, Moralist, 1784
Almighty and most merciful Father, by Whose providence my life has been prolonged, and Who has granted me now to begin another year of probation, vouchsafe me such assistance of Thy Holy Spirit, that the continuance of my life may not add to the measure of my guilt, but that I may so repent of the days and years passed in neglect of the duties which Thou hast set before me, in vain thoughts, in sloth, and in folly, that I may apply my heart to true wisdom, by diligence redeem the time lost, and by repentance obtain pardon, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.
... Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Prayers and Meditations, London: Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe, 1806, Sept. 18, 1757, p. 24
(see the book; see also Joel 2:25,26; more at Folly, Guilt, Holy Spirit, Prayers, Providence, Repentance, Sloth, Vanity, Wisdom, Year)
Friday, December 14, 2007
Feast of John of the Cross, Mystic, Poet, Teacher, 1591
A Christian should always remember that the value of his good works is not based on their number and excellence, but on the love of God which prompts him to do these things.
... St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), The Complete Works of Saint John of the Cross, v. I, Burns, Oates & Washbourne, 1935, p. 293
(see the book; see also 2 Cor. 9:8; Jude 20-21; more at Obedience)
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Two thousand years of failure have not taught some reformers that you can’t stop sin by declaring it illegal. Two thousand years have not taught them that you can’t save a man’s soul by force—you can only lose your own in the attempt. Drunkenness and gambling and secularism and lechery—various hopeful churchmen have earnestly tried to outlaw them all; and what is the result? A drunken nation, a gambling nation, a secularist nation, an adulterous nation. And, often, a ruined Church.
... Joy Davidman (1915-1960), Smoke on the Mountain, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1955, reprint, Westminster John Knox Press, 1985, p. 93
(see the book; see also Hos. 4:16-19; more at Apologetics)
Sunday, December 16, 2007
In God, we live every commonplace as well as the most exalted moment of our being. To trust in Him when no need is pressing, when things seem going right of themselves, may be harder than when things seem going wrong.
... George MacDonald (1824-1905), What’s Mine’s Mine , London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1889, p. 171
(see the book; see also Deut. 8:11-14; 1 Sam. 15:20-23; more at Faith)
Monday, December 17, 2007
Commemoration of Eglantine Jebb, Social Reformer, Founder of ‘Save the Children’, 1928
What makes some theological works like sawdust to me is the way the authors can go on discussing how far certain positions are adjustable to contemporary thought, or beneficial in relation to social problems, or “have a future” before them, but never squarely ask what grounds we have for supposing them to be true accounts of any objective reality. As if we were trying to make rather than to learn. Have we no Other to reckon with?
... C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, New York: Harcourt Brace and World, 1964, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002, p. 104
(see the book; see also Deut. 8:11-14; more at Attitudes, Future, Knowing God, Social, Theology, Thought, Truth)
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I was more convinced than ever that the preaching like an Apostle, without joining together those that are awakened, and training them up in the ways of God, is only begetting children for the murderer. How much preaching has there been for these twenty years all over Pembrokeshire! But no regular societies, no discipline, no order or connection; and the consequence is, that nine in ten of the once-awakened are now faster asleep than ever.
... John Wesley (1703-1791), entry for Aug 25, 1763, Journal of the Rev. John Wesley, v. III, London: J. Kershaw, 1827, p. 139
(see the book; see also Luke 13:24-27; more at Church)
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
I saw that a humble man, with the blessing of the Lord, might live on a little; and that where the heart is set on greatness, success in business did not satisfy the craving, but that commonly with an increase of wealth, the desire of wealth increased.
... John Woolman (1720-1772), The Works of John Woolman, Philadelphia: Benjamin & Jacob Johnson, 1800, p. 25
(see the book; see also Matt. 18:1-4; 1 Tim. 6:6-9; more at Weakness)
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The love I bear Christ is but a faint and feeble spark, but it is an emanation from Himself: He kindled it and He keeps it alive; and because it is His work, I trust many waters shall not quench it.
... John Newton (1725-1807), in a letter, 1776, The Works of the Rev. John Newton, v. I, New York: Williams and Whiting, 1810, p. 606
(see the book; see also Son. 8:7; more at Christ, Holy Spirit, Love, Trust, Work)
Friday, December 21, 2007
Not immediately, but as the months and years passed, increasingly, from experience and thought based on extensive reading, I found the Evangelical faith in which I had been reared confirmed and deepened. Increasingly I rejoiced in the Gospel—the amazing Good News—that the Creator of what to us human beings is this bewildering and unimaginably vast universe, so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Everlasting life, I came to see, is not just continued existence, but a growing knowledge—not merely intellectual but wondering through trust, love, and fellowship—of Him who alone is truly God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. [Continued tomorrow]
... Kenneth Scott Latourette (1884-1968), Beyond the Ranges, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1967, p. 73
(see the book; see also Rev. 1:18; more at Gospel)
Saturday, December 22, 2007
[Continued from yesterday]I was confirmed in my conviction that when all the best scholarship is taken into account we can know Christ as He was in the days of His flesh. Although I became familiar with the contemporary and recent studies of honest, competent scholars who questioned them, I was convinced that the historical evidence confirms the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection of Christ. Increasingly, I believed that the nearest verbal approach that we human beings can come to the great mystery is to affirm that Christ is both fully man and fully God. Although now we see Him not, yet believing, we can “rejoice with joy unspeakable” in what the Triune God has done and is doing through Him. This Good News, so rich that it is stated in a variety of ways, but always consistently, in the New Testament, is what we always imperfect children, but children [yet], are privileged—and commanded—to make known and to demonstrate to all mankind.
... Kenneth Scott Latourette (1884-1968), Beyond the Ranges, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1967, p. 73-74
(see the book; see also Rev. 1:7; more at Gospel)
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Welcome! all wonders in one sight!Eternity shut in a span!Summer in winter, day in night!Heaven in earth, and God in man!Great little One, whose all-embracing birthLifts earth to heaven, stoops Heaven to earth!
... Richard Crashaw (1613-1649), from “A Hymn of the Nativity, sung by the Shepherds”, in The Complete Works of Richard Crashaw, London: J. R. Smith, 1858, p. 40
(see the book; see also Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:30-33; more at Christmas, Earth, Eternity, Heaven, Wonder)
Monday, December 24, 2007
I saw a stable, low and very bare,A little child in a manger.The oxen knew Him, had Him in their care,To men He was a stranger,The safety of the world was lying there,And the world’s danger.
... Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861-1907), Poems, London: Elkin Mathews, 1908, p. 83
(see the book; more at Christmas)
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST’S NATIVITY This is the month, and this the happy morn,Wherein the Son of Heaven’s Eternal King,Of wedded maid and virgin mother born,Our great redemption from above did bring;For so the holy sages once did sing,That he our deadly forfeit should release,And with his Father work us a perpetual peace. That glorious form, that Light insufferable,And that far-beaming blaze majesty,Wherewith he wont at Heaven’s high council-tableTo sit the midst of Trinal UnityHe laid aside, and, here with us to be.Forsook the courts of everlasting day,And chose with us a darksome house of mortal clay. Say, Heavenly Muse, shall not thy sacred veinAfford a present to the Infant God?Hast thou no verse, no hymn, or solemn strain,To welcome him to this his new abode,Now while the heaven, by the Sun’s team untrod,Hath took no print of the approaching light,And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright? See how from far upon the eastern roadThe star-led wizards haste with odours sweet!Oh! run; present them with thy humble ode,And lay it lowly at his blessed feet;Have thou the honour first thy Lord to greet,And join thy voice unto the Angel Quire,From out his secret altar touched with hallowed fire.
... John Milton (1608-1674), The Complete Poems of John Milton, New York: P. F. Collier, 1909, p. 7
(see the book; see also Matt. 2:9-11; more at Christmas)
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Feast of Stephen, Deacon, First Martyr
O little town of Bethlehem,How still we see thee lie!Above thy deep and dreamless sleepThe silent stars go by:Yet in thy dark streets shinethThe everlasting Light;The hopes and fears of all the yearsAre met in thee tonight. For Christ is born of Mary;And gathered all above,While mortals sleep, the angels keepTheir watch of wondering love.O morning stars togetherProclaim the holy birth;And praises sing to God the King,And peace to men on earth. How silently, how silently,The wondrous gift is giv’n!So God imparts to human heartsThe blessings of His Heav’n.No ear may hear His coming,But in this world of sin,Where meek souls will receive Him still,The dear Christ enters in. O holy Child of Bethlehem,Descend to us, we pray,Cast out our sins, and enter in,Be born in us today.We hear the Christmas angelsThe great glad tidings tell;O come to us, abide with us,Our Lord Emmanuel.
... Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), Christmas Songs and Easter Carols, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1904, p. 11
(see the book; see also Matthew 2:4-6; more at Christmas)
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Feast of John, Apostle & Evangelist
The Rev. David Bronnert, who was quoted in CQOD at the beginning of the month, has kindly sent me the following meditation taken from the church magazine of St. John’s Church, Southall, in London, where he serves as vicar, living out, under God, the previous quotation he wrote thirty years ago. I am grateful to brother David for sending me this timely teaching so that I could present it to you. The light shines in the darkness Candles are always popular for giving a warm romantic glow and this time of year they are to be seen on many different occasions. Of course a candle is easy to blow out! So much so that its flickering light was chosen by Shakespeare as a picture of the transitory nature of life. Out out brief candle!Darkness is a reminder of evil, for it is in the darkness that people get lost, stumble and fall. It is in the darkness that power is misused, corruption reigns and evil is done. It is easy to imagine that in the end evil will triumph and the light will disappear. Situations change. Familiar landmarks—like this magazine!—disappear. There is the unrelenting pressure of a vanity fair society. The candle burns down and gives a thin wisp of smoke before going out.But there are also the special party candles that keep bursting back into life. They are a much better picture of the light of the gospel! For though they have been numerous attempts down the centuries to extinguish the light, it has kept on bursting back into flame.The light of Christ keeps on shining. New ways of sharing the good news come along. New believers are attracted to his light. Sleepy Christians are re-awakened. Fresh discoveries give even more confidence in the truth of the Bible.The light keeps on shining in the darkness. It is a statement and a promise at the same time. It is isn’t that once the light shone, but rather, that in the present it shines, and it will do so in the future as well. For the light comes from the one who is, as well as who was, and is also the one who is to come.
... David Bronnert, in a personal communication from the author
(see also Mal. 4:2; Luke 11:35,36; John 1:4,5,9,10; more at Church, Darkness, Evil, Flame, Gospel, Jesus, Light, Vanity)
Friday, December 28, 2007
Feast of the Holy Innocents
The most thrilling thing you can ever do is win someone to Christ. And it’s contagious. Once you do it, you don’t want to stop.
... Luis Palau (b. 1934), in a private communication from the Luis Palau Association
(see also Isa. 61:6; more at Attitudes, Christ, Encouragement, Evangelization, Missionary)
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Feast of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr, 1170
O how precious is time, and how it pains me to see it slide away, while I do so little to any good purpose. O that God would make me more fruitful and spiritual.
... David Brainerd (1718-1747), Memoirs of the Rev. David Brainerd, New Haven: S. Converse, 1822, p. 295
(see the book; see also Matt. 9:37,38; John 15:1-3; more at God, Goodness, Pain, Prayers, Time)
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Who hath not marvelled at the might of KingsWhen voyaging down the river of dead years?What deeds of death to still an hour of fears,What waste of wealth to gild a moth’s frail wings?A Caesar to the wind his banner flings,An Alexander with his bloody spears,A Herod heedless of his people’s tears!And Rome is flames while Nero laughs and sings:Ye gilded actors of a drama oldYour names are by-words in Love’s temple now,Your pomp and glory but a winding sheet;Then Christ came scorning regal robes and gold,To wear warm blood-drops on a willing brow,And lo! in love, we stoop and kiss His feet.
... John Richard Moreland (1880-1947), Red poppies in the wheat, New York: J. T. White & Co., 1921, p. 58
(see the book; see also Jer. 23:5; more at Jesus)
Monday, December 31, 2007
Commemoration of John Wycliffe, Reformer, 1384
The gist of what [John Wycliffe] has to say on every point is practically this, that where the Church and the Bible do not agree, we must prefer the Bible; that where authority and conscience appear to be rival guides, we shall be much safer in following conscience; that where the letter and the spirit seem to be in conflict, the spirit is above the letter.
... Lewis Sergeant (1841-1902), John Wyclif: last of the schoolmen and first of the English reformers, New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1893, p. 325
(see the book; see also 2 Cor. 3:6; Gal. 1:8; 2 Tim. 1:13,14; 3:16; more at Bible, Church, Conscience, Guidance, Historical, Spirit)
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