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Common Men; Uncommon Master

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Luther & Whether One May Flee From A Deadly Plague

Keeping in mind that 1527 is not 2020, Wittenberg Germany under Charles V (if memory serves – and it may not) is not Central Minnesota under Trump and Walz, and the Black Death is not COVID-19, basic human nature remains identical across the ages, medical mysteries still persist, the need for careful thinking and wisdom remains as persistent as ever, and the voices of the past whose value is proven by the fact they continually echo down the corridors of history nearly five centuries later are still worth hearing.

To that end, I encourage you to read some Luther as he wrestled through the advice he would offer to those seeking for a wise course of action during a time of plague. Basically the question was “stay, or flee?” I give you a sample here, at no expense to me, and hopefully great benefit to you:

We must pray against every form of evil and guard against it to the best of our ability in order not to act contrary to God… If it be God’s will that evil come upon us and destroy us, none of our precautions will help us. Everybody must take this to heart: first of all, if he feels bound to remain where death rages in order to serve his neighbor, let him commend himself to God and say, “Lord, I am in thy hands; thou hast kept me here; thy will be done. I am thy lowly creature. Thou canst kill me or preserve me in this pestilence in the same way as if I were in fire, water, drought, or any other danger.” If a man is free, however, and can escape, let him commend himself and say, “Lord God,
I am weak and fearful. Therefore I am running away from evil and am doing what I can to protect myself against it. I am nevertheless in thy hands in this danger as in any other which might overtake me. Thy will be done. My flight alone will not succeed of itself because calamity and harm are everywhere. 

Martin Luther

Read the entire piece here (and I say this more by way of command than information).

The lazy may check out Dr. Steve Nichols’ treatment of it in five minutes, with a little Cranberries intro music thrown in here. Your indulgence will be smaller, but something is better than nothing.

Doctor’s Orders: Lloyd-Jones on obsession with polemics

The polemic element is of course important and it has its very definite place; it is good for the people. But I’m warning now against the danger of too much polemic. And I think this will be the danger when most of you begin. You’ve been struggling with rival theories and heresies and things of this description, and your mind is naturally full of this. But I say be careful that you don’t have too much of this. Why? Well the people, the bulk of the people to start with are probably not interested. A large number of them don’t even understand. Remember that, there are such people. Now I’m saying there’s a place for it; I’m saying that there mustn’t be too much. And of course you’ve always got a certain number in the congregation who are too interested in polemics and it’s very bad for them of all the people. They’re the people who will travel miles in order to hear a slashing attack on a man, on a theory, or all the rest of it. And as you know, men who are always polemical generally get a good hearing and generally get good collections also. But this is a real snare. Now I’m so concerned about this because I’ve seen good men ruined in this way, and I’ve seen good ministers ruined. I’ve seen great preachers ruined, I think, by this. Continue reading “Doctor’s Orders: Lloyd-Jones on obsession with polemics”

On the Preacher’s Appearance

…The preacher who measures himself by his looking glass, may please a few silly girls, but neither God nor man will long put up with him. The man who owes his greatness to his tailor, will find that needle and thread cannot long hold a fool in a pulpit. A gentleman should have more in his pocket than on his back, and a minister should have more in his inner man than on his outer man. Continue reading “On the Preacher’s Appearance”

The Most Diligentest Bishop

Do you know who is the most diligentest bishop and prelate in all England?… I see you listening and hearkening that I should name him… I will tell you… It is the devil. He is never out of his diocese; ye shall never find him out of the way; call for him when you will, he’s ever at home. He is ever at his plough. Ye shall never find him idle, I warrant you. Where the devil is resident – there away with books and up with candles; away with bibles and up with beads; away with the light of the Gospel and up with the light of candles, yea at noondays; down with Christ’s cross, up with purgatory pickpurse; away with clothing the naked, the poor, and impotent, up with decking of images and gay garnishing of sticks and stones; down with God’s traditions and his most holy word. Oh! that our prelates would be as diligent to sow the corn of good doctrine as Satan is to sow cockle and darnel! Truly may it be said, “there was never such a preacher in England as he is.”

– Hugh Latimer, as relayed by D’Aubigne

Our lot is cast in an age of abounding unbelief, scepticism and, I fear I must add, infidelity. Never, perhaps, since the days of Celsus, Porphyry and Julian, was the truth of revealed religion so openly and unblushingly assailed, and never was the assault so speciously and plausibly conducted. The words which Bishop Butler wrote in 1736 are curiously applicable to our own days: ‘It is come to be taken for granted by many persons, that Christianity is not even a subject of inquiry, but that it is now at length discovered to be fictitious. And accordingly they treat it as if, in the present age, this was an agreed point among all people of discernment, and nothing remained but to set it up as a principal subject of mirth and ridicule, as it were by way of reprisals for its having so long interrupted the pleasures of the world.’ I often wonder what the good bishop would have now said, if he had lived in 1879.

JC Ryle

What a thing is sin!

What a thing is sin, what a devil and master of devils is it, that it should, where it takes hold, so hang that nothing can unclinch its hold but the mercy of God and the heart-blood of his dear Son! O the fretting, eating, infecting, defiling, and poisonous nature of sin, that it should so eat into our flesh and spirit, body and soul, and stain us with its vile and stinking nature: yea, it has almost turned man into the nature of itself… wherefore sin is a fearful thing, a thing to be lamented, a thing to be abhorred, a thing to be fled from with more astonishment and trembling than one would fly from any devil, because it is the worst of things… and because where it takes hold it so fasteneth that nothing, as I have said, can release whom it has made a captive, but the mercy of God and the heart-blood of his dear Son. O what a thing sin is!
-John Bunyan

many thanks to Dr. Ivan Fiske for the gift this evening of Bunyan’s works, from which this is taken. jr

As Little a While as Possible!

He arose as it began to dawn toward that day; as soon as it could be said that the third day was come, the time prefixed for his resurrection, he arose; after his withdrawings from his people, he returns with all convenient speed, and cuts the work as short in righteousness as may be. He had said to his disciples, that though within a little while they should not see him, yet again a little while, and they should see him, and accordingly he made it as little a while as possible.
– Matthew Henry

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
– John, echoed by the Saints of all the ages

Of all the things that will surprise us in the resurrection morning, this I believe will surprise us most, that we did not love Christ more before we died.

-JC Ryle

A Somber Exhortation from Bishop Ryle

When we have carried you to your narrow bed, let us not have to hunt up stray words and scraps of religion, in order to make out that you were a true believer. Let us not have to say in a hesitating way one to another, ‘I trust he is happy; he talked so nicely one day, and he seemed so pleased with a chapter in the Bible on another occasion, and he liked such a person, who is a good man.’ Let us be able to speak decidedly as to your condition. Let us have some solid proof of your repentance, your faith and your holiness, so that none shall be able for a moment to question your state. Depend on it, without this, those you leave behind can feel no solid comfort about your soul. We may use the form of religion at your burial, and express charitable hopes. We may meet you at the churchyard gate, and say, ‘Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.’ But this will not alter your condition! If you die without conversion, without repentance, and without faith, your funeral will only be the funeral of a lost soul, you had better never have been born.

-JC Ryle, Holiness

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