“He is the glad Creator” by C.S. Lewis

“We desire, like St Paul, not to be unclothed but to be re-clothed: to find not the formless Everywhere-and-Nowhere but the promised land, that Nature which will be always and perfectly—as present Nature is partially and intermittently—the instrument for that music which will then arise between Christ and us.

And what, you ask, does it matter? Do not such ideas only excite us and distract us from the more immediate and more certain things, the love of God and our neighbours, the bearing of the daily cross? If you find that they so distract you, think of them no more.

I most fully allow that it is of more importance for you or me today to refrain from one sneer or to extend one charitable thought to an enemy than to know all that angels and archangels know about the mysteries of the New Creation.

I write of these things not because they are the most important but because this book is about miracles. From the title you cannot have expected a book of devotion or of ascetic theology. Yet I will not admit that the things we have been discussing for the last few pages are of no importance for the practice of the Christian life.

For I suspect that our conception of Heaven as merely a state of mind is not unconnected with the fact that the specifically Christian virtue of Hope has in our time grown so languid. Where our fathers, peering into the future, saw gleams of gold, we see only the mist, white, featureless, cold and never moving.

The thought at the back of all this negative spirituality is really one forbidden to Christians. They, of all men, must not conceive spiritual joy and worth as things that need to be rescued or tenderly protected from time and place and matter and the senses. Their God is the God of corn and oil and wine.

He is the glad Creator. He has become Himself incarnate. The sacraments have been instituted. Certain spiritual gifts are offered us only on condition that we perform certain bodily acts.

After that we cannot really be in doubt of His intention. To shrink back from all that can be called Nature into negative spirituality is as if we ran away from horses instead of learning to ride.

There is in our present pilgrim condition plenty of room (more room than most of us like) for abstinence and renunciation and mortifying our natural desires. But behind all asceticism the thought should be, ‘Who will trust us with the true wealth if we cannot be trusted even with the wealth that perishes?’ Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even an earthly body?

These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables.

Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else—since He has retained His own charger—should we accompany Him?”

–C.S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 264–266.

“The Living Lord is with us” by William Milligan

“Our Lord Himself connected both the obligation and the encouragement of Christian work with the thought of His condition now, when after His resurrection He said to the disciples:

‘All authority hath been given unto Me both in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’ (Matthew 28:18-20)

Once before He had sent them forth, but it was in other terms, ‘Go not into any way of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ (Matthew 10:5-6)

The time had not yet come for the practical work of the Church to be presented to her in all its extent. Now it has come, and every limitation has disappeared. The Kingdom of God, no longer realised, though imperfectly, in one nation, is to be realised in its highest perfection among all nations.

The love of God is revealed in its fulness in a Redeemer who, exalted in spiritual glory, is equally near to men, whatever be the clime or the age in which they live.

The eye of the Church’s Head travels to every corner of the world—no spot so remote but He is there; no labourer so apparently unnoticed amidst the throng of universal life but He is beside him; no home so poor but He is ready, in the power of His Spirit, to illuminate its darkness and to heal its sorrows.

“Lo, I am with you always,’ is His language— ‘I, to whom all authority has been given both in heaven and on earth, who have alike the power and the right to rule, whose grace shall be sufficient for thee, and whose strength shall be perfected in weak- ness.’

In fulfilling His great commission we need have no fear that we may be out of harmony with God’s eternal plan, and none that our task may prove too much for us to accomplish.

The Living Lord is with us, who once knew every such disappointment as we experience, and every such cause of despondency as weakens us; who once sighed over the stubbornness of men more deeply than we can sigh, and shed more bitter tears for those who refused to listen to Him than we can weep.

Yet He triumphed; and He comes to us now that He may communicate to us His joy of victory, and that, in doing so, He may afford us an earnest of our own.

Thus it is, then, that everything most distinctive of the Church of Christ, alike in her inward and outward life, in her relation to her various members and to the world, flows out of the fact that she is the representative not only of the humbled and suffering but of the Exalted and Glorified Lord.

The great Head from whom she draws all that is most characteristic of her being and her duties is no longer upon earth; He is in heaven,—His humiliation over.

His cup of sorrow drained, His eternal and glorious reign begun. To that Head the Church is united in the bonds of closest fellowship.

She is one with Him who in all His Divine majesty, in all His heavenly power, with all the influences of His Spirit, is at the right hand of the Father, that she may dwell in Him, and may produce even here below the fruits of that tree of life which grows by the river of the water of life, which bears its fruits throughout the year, and the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations.

The Church of Christ is not an institution of this world’s policy, nor does she exist for this world’s ends.

It is presumption on the part of men clothed with mere worldly power to think that they can lend her strength or that they can save her when she is in danger.

She can lend strength to them and save them; they can do none of these things for her.

Her spirit, her strength, her life are from above.

She is the child of heaven upon earth, that she may witness to the heaven which she now partially introduces, and for the full manifestation of which she prepares and waits.”

–William Milligan, The Resurrection of our Lord (New York: Macmillan, 1917), 220-223.

“It is certainly indulgence to ourselves that makes us aggravate other men’s faults” by Hugh Binning

Charity beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)

Charity beareth all things.’ By nature we are undaunted heifers, we cannot bear anything patiently; but charity is accustomed to the yoke, to the yoke of reproaches and injuries from others, to a burden of other men’s infirmities and failings.

We would all be borne upon others’ shoulders, but we cannot put our own shoulders under other men’s burdens, according to that royal law of Christ (Rom. 15:1), ‘We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.’ And, ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ‘ (Gal. 6:2), that is, the law of love, without question.

Charity believeth all things.’ Our nature is malignant and wicked, and therefore most suspicious and jealous, and apt to take all in the worst part; but charity has much candour and humanity in it, and can believe well of every man, and believe all things, as far as truth will permit.

It knows that grace can be beside a man’s sins; it knows that it itself is subject to similar infirmities; therefore, it is not a rigid and censorious judge; it allows as much latitude to others as it would desire of others.

It is true that it is not blind and ignorant: it is judicious, and has eyes that can discern between colours.

Credit omnia credenda, sperat omnia speranda. It hopes all things that are hopeful, and believes all things that are believable.”

If love has not sufficient evidence, yet she believes if there are some probabilities to the contrary, as well as for it; the weight of charity inclines to the better part, and so casts the balance of hope and persuasion; yet being sometimes deceived, she has reason to be watchful and wise; for ‘the simple believeth every word.’ (Prov. 14:15)

If charity cannot have ground of believing any good, yet it hopes still: Qui non est hodie, cras magis aptus erit, (‘He who is not amenable today, will be more so tomorrow.‘) says charity; and therefore it is patient and gentle, waiting on all, ‘if peradventure God may give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth‘ (2 Tim. 2:25).

Charity would account it both atheism and blasphemy, to say such a man cannot, will not, find mercy.

But to pronounce of such as have been often approved in the conscience of all, and sealed in many hearts, that they will never find mercy, that they have no grace, because of some failings in practice and differences from us, it would not be insobriety, but madness.

It is certainly love and indulgence to ourselves that makes us aggravate other men’s faults to such a height; self-love looks on other men’s failings through a multiplying or magnifying glass; but she puts her own faults behind her back.

Non videt quod in mantica qua a tergo est (‘She does not see what is in the bag behind her.’); therefore she can suffer much in herself but nothing in others; and certainly much self-forbearance and indulgence can spare little for others.

But charity is just contrary, she is most rigid on her own behalf, will not pardon herself easily; knows no revenge but what is spoken of (2 Cor. 7:11), self-revenge; and has no indignation but against herself.

Thus she can spare much candour and forbearance for others, and has little or no indignation left behind to consume on others.”

–Hugh Binning, Christian Love (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1735/2022), 24-26.

“We will travel along the street of love together” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“Dear reader, whenever you are as certain about something as I am go forward with me; whenever you hesitate, seek with me; whenever you discover that you have gone wrong, come back to me; or if I have gone wrong, call me back to you. In this way we will travel along the street of love together, making our way toward Him of whom it is said, ‘Seek His face always’ (Psalm 105:4).”

–Augustine of Hippo, The Trinity (De Trinitate), ed. John E. Rotelle, Second Edition., vol. I/5, The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2017), 67. (I.iii.5)

“This happy victory” – The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

“O Almighty God,

The sovereign commander of all the world, in whose hand is power and might which none is able to withstand:

We bless and magnify Thy great and glorious name for this happy victory, the whole glory whereof we do ascribe to Thee, who art the only giver of victory.

And, we beseech Thee, give us grace to improve this great mercy to Thy glory, the advancement of Thy gospel, the honour of our nation, and, as much as in us lieth, to the good of all mankind.

And, we beseech Thee, give us such a sense of this great mercy, as may engage us to a true thankfulness, such as may appear in our lives by a humble, holy, and obedient walking before Thee all our days, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with Thee and the Holy Spirit, as for all Thy mercies, so in particular for this victory and deliverance, be all glory and honour, world without end.

Amen.”

–Samuel L. Bray and Drew Nathaniel Keane, eds., The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, International Edition (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2021), 576.

“The Christian should be an inexhaustible source of forgiveness” by Herman Bavinck

“The metaphors of turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, surrendering your coat, and adding the cloak are explained in Matthew 5:44: ‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’

The idea is that evil must be repaid with good, curses with blessing, hatred with love, sin with forgiveness, misery with compassion.

God acts this way, too (Matt. 5:45-48).

Once more, that is not apathy, no Stoic passivity, no condoning the enemy’s behavior. On the contrary, Jesus rebukes His enemies and pronounces woe upon the Pharisees. But while He is reprimanding the sin, He is loving and blessing the enemy.

Indeed, He commands us to forgive those who wrong us as often as seventy times seven– that is to say, countless times, again and again (Matt. 18:21-34).

The Pharisees said that one must forgive three times. Peter boldly says: Isn’t seven times enough?

But Jesus will have nothing to do with numbers or calculations here. The Christian should be an inexhaustible source of forgiveness.

After all, Christians need forgiveness themselves (Matt. 18:33).

Certain evidence that we love our enemies is when we pray for them in all sincerity. Righteous anger is certainly permissible and obligatory, but it must be an anger without sin, not long-lasting, and not rising rashly (Eph. 4:26-27; Ps. 4:4; 37:8).

‘The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God’ (James 1:20; cf. Col. 3:8; Titus 1:7). And vengeance is never fitting; it belongs to God (Deut. 32:35).

Love thinks no evil (1 Cor. 13) and covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 439-440.

“The Christians changed a funeral into a feast” by Herman Bavinck

“Holy Scripture gives us no specific prescriptions with regard to burial. We have an example in the tender way Jesus was buried by his disciples; the same is true of Stephen (Acts 8:2).

We are allowed to mourn and to be sad as appears from both the Old Testament (Gen. 23:2; 37:34-35; 50:1-3; 1 Sam. 25:1) and the New Testament (Luke 7:12-13). Jesus himself (John 11:33-35), Mary (John 20:11), and the disciples (Mark 16:10; Luke 24:17; John 16:20) mourned, and the church at Ephesus mourned for Paul (Acts 20:37).

Death is an evil. Yet Christian mourning is different from pagan mourning. No sorrowing without hope (1 Thess. 4:13), no worldly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10).

The Christians changed a funeral into a feast of celebration and triumph.

They buried their dead not at night but during daytime, in the full light of day, dressed in white robes, accompanied by retinues and spectators, without wailing women, without wreaths on the body or the coffin.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 433.

“Blood relatives” by Herman Bavinck

“All people are blood relatives (Acts 17:26).”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 424.

“All of us are murderers” by Herman Bavinck

“All of us are murderers– it was our sins that caused Jesus’s death.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 454.

“Not paying attention is a great sin” by Herman Bavinck

“We are to develop a Christian character with respect to the intellect. To that end we must first of all instill a love of truth– not just saving truth but also scientific truth and truth in everyday life.

This love of truth is not only of formal (logical) truth- that is, not just the freedom of our propositions from contradiction– but also the love of material, factual truth.

Christianity has given us knowledge of God as the Truth (John 17:3; 14:6) and given us proper love for the truth, not for its own sake (which is ultimately for our own sake, egotistically), but made possible for the sake of God.

The Word, a lamp unto our feet, the truth (John 17:17), enables us to pursue truth, to recognize it, to distinguish it from the lie (Acts 17:11; 1 Cor. 2:14-16; 1 John 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:21).

Indifferentism and skepticism are therefore not permitted for the Christian– they are a sickness of the soul that needs healing. And we are called to abound, to mature, to grow in knowledge (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12 and 13; Phil. 1:9; 4:8; 1 Thess. 5:21; Titus 3:8-9; 2 Pet. 3:18).

But the arena of the intellect contains other faculties, each of which also needs to be developed. These include the capacity to pay attention and to observe, for to observe is better than the fat of rams (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22).

Not paying attention is a great sin (2 Chron. 33:10; Prov. 1:24; Zech. 7:11).

In every field, attentiveness, both spiritual and natural, is so difficult. We must compel our senses to observe well, and we must practice this. To see, hear, touch, and read well is such an art.

Next, there is memory and the capacity of recollection: the cupbearer forgot Joseph (Gen. 40:23); Israel repeatedly forgot the covenant, forgot the Lord (Deut. 4:23; 6:12; 8:11-16; 32:18), forgot God’s works and wonders (Ps. 78:7, 11), forgot their Savior (Ps. 106:21); we are forgetful hearers (James 1:25).

The believer, however, is seized with a desire to remember it all-God’s acts of loving-kindness (Ps. 48:9), His works (Ps. 77:12)-in order to remember His word, law, and ordinances and not forget them (Ps. 119:16, 61, 83, 176).

The same is true in the natural arena: kindnesses should be inscribed in marble, but insults written in sand.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, Volume 2The Duties of the Christian Life, Ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 2: 406.