Saturday, October 03, 2009
IFanboy Mini - Bad DC Villains Part 1 - Watch the best video clips here
Friday, October 02, 2009
...and Unnecessary DilemmasSarah Lynn at Presbyterian Bloggers writes a very personal reflection based on a very difficult story our of a PC(USA) church in San Antonio. The set-up is, a San Antonio church allowed an atheist to join, after filing a clearly atheist Statement of Faith. This set the ajudicatories of the church in to motion and resulted in the person's removal from the membership roles - for a minute - due to a technical bureaucratic maneuver his membership was soon restored. Sarah Lynn laments:
The root problem is that our systems rely on humans. Human humans, the kind with strengths and weaknesses, love and pain, doubts and sins and failures of every kind.But even the aformentioned Robert Jensen says:
But it’s also obvious that any group (religious or otherwise) that is to remain a recognizable group has to have some standards for membership, or else membership becomes meaningless.Jensen's piece is very personal and discusses the hurt he felt. But he, and the local congregation picked this fight. For one they could have admitted him to membership under the maneuver that restored it to begin with, removing all need for professions of faith and thus avoiding the conflict. Or Jensen could have affiliated with the congregation absent membership. Most PC(USA) congregations now have a large contingent of quite active attenders that are not members. Membership is really only necessary anymore for participation in leadership in one of the ordained lay offices. Jensen also could have, as I am quite certain many, many have before him, simply lied when it came to a profession of faith. Nope, they wanted this fight, so I don't buy the "innocence" of Jensen's presentation of what happened.
Which brings me to Sarah Lynn's lament. I have a hard time being upset by someone picking a fight and losing it. There are no innocent victims here.
Now , that does not mean there were not any number of mistakes made on the winning side. I am willing to bet the people that gave Jensen, and frankly, St. Andrew's, the fight they asked for, were not quite the ogres Jensen paints them - but such people, and I freely admit to being one of them (not in this particular case, just in general) lack a certain grace when approaching these issues. Jensen's presentation is so one sided, that I am not sure how much of it to believe, but he professes to wanting to affiliate with the congregation because of the grace he felt from it. That's a good thing - that many of us can only dream about.
But the bottom line is this - all the discussion seems to be about what we want, what we are attracted to - what we feel. That is not what the church is supposed to be about - It's supposed to be about what God wants and how attractive He is.
You see the key question is how to say to a Robert Jensen, if he is indeed sincere in his attraction to the church (which remains an open question, he could have other agendas, there is insufficient evidence) "Not yet," while continuing to offer and extend the grace that he finds so attractive.
Sarah Lynn is right when she says this:
Where I am right now, I tend to look for justice and kindness and humility on a personal scale before seeking out a larger context. I think it's hard to go wrong when facing this direction; the personal can and should be expanded outward to the global, while the neighbor can be disregarded when the focus is on the entire world.If the people involved are indeed changed by Jesus Christ, transformed into the images of the Almighty that we were created to be, then we would know how to be both firm and graceful.
That's my prayer, and belief - God has a way to "satisfy" both sides of this issue. Our job is to come to understand and know God well enough to do the same.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Closing The Back Door
What surprised Larry was that freedom that ‘killing that dream’ gave him. Now, instead of looking only for people to come in the ‘front door’ of the church, he now took more time to minister to the people God had already given him. In fact, he found that doing so allowed him to effectively close the ‘back door’ of his church. More people were staying than leaving. He was able to build into the lay leaders he already had. And he began to see organic growth begin to happen.The problem with Evangelicalism is that it confuses evangelism with being the church - they are two very different things. Evangelism is one, and only one, of the myriad things the church is supposed to be about.
Larry says that closing the back door really brought about three big changes for him and his church...
1. It changed the way he related to his lay leadership team. Larry says, “When most of my focus was on getting more people through the front door, the inner workings and interpersonal relationships of the board seemed more like a nuisance than an important part of our ministry.
2. It changed the way he taught and led his church. According to Larry, “Focusing on the front door aimed everything at two kinds of people: the not-yet Christian or the super saint who was ready to help me charge the hill. There wasn’t much room for people who came to Christ but didn’t grow at a fast enough pace or carried lots of baggage.
3. It caused Larry to start a small group ministry focused primarily on building significant relationships rather than growing the church.
The end result: “We became a noticeably stickier and healthier church. The back door slammed shut, and to my surprise more people than ever began coming through the front door?
The problem is we want numbers so we ignore the natural winnowing that occurs as we call people deeper and deeper into a life with Christ. Christ closes the parable of the king and the wedding feast by saying "many are called, few are chosen." I don't hear this parable discussed much - it's a difficult one. Christ is certainly condemning the Pharisees, but he seems to be saying more.
In the parable Christ seems to say we will cast a wide net for who comes to the feast, but not everyone that comes will stay. The problem is, we seem to stop with the casting of the net. There is no wedding feast for people to stay for. We invite people to something that simply is not there. They must go out the back door to find it.
If you are called to cast the net - go and do it, but do not confuse that with building the wedding feast. You are but one of the slaves dispatched.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
If that is not designed to pick a fight, I don't know what is. The piece then proceeds to present fifteen suggestion for how to accomplish the goal stated in the title. I will present just three here:
1. Replace professional clergy with Priesthood of all Believers with authority to baptize, break bread and equip fishers of men. (1 Peter 2:9)I picked these three becasue they are all ideas I find very tempting and appealing. I have toyed with all of them. But some of the ideas presented are presumptive, highly judgmental, belie what is the bottom line problem with a list like this:
5. Replace the "Crumb and Sip" Holy Communion with simple "Community meals" eaten together with gladness from house to house. (Acts 2:46; 1 Cor 11:20-23)
7. Replace the spectator church to participatory, interactive, prophetic and Missionary sending church. (1 Cor 14:26-31; Acts 13:13)
12. Replace powerless and fruitless church with militants who heal the sick, raise the dead, expel the demons, bind the ‘strongman’ and plunder his possessions. (Matt 11:12, 12:29)Indeed, all the things suggested there are called for in the N.T., but do you see the problem? Consider the tone of presentation and the presumption that the church as it currently is practiced cannot do those things - that it is fruitless and powerless - an amazing assertion given that it has survived two millenia and we still hear the gospel somehow. Clearly, this guy's ego has gotten in the way of these perhaps good ideas just as much as ego and sin has gotten in the way of how the church has done things to this pint. Which is the bottom line.
You see, it matters less what the church does and more
If we are the people that God intends us to be, church will work right no matter how we choose to organize and do it.
Maybe that's where we should start. Instead of praying, "God help us to make the right decision here about how to...," we should pray "God make us your men and women - people submitted to your will." and then rely on the answer to that prayer to put us in the position to make the right decision.
That sounds really sacry to me, but I wonder.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
We have made Jesus into a flannel-graph figure. He has become a two-dimensional character at our mercy to move around and talk about the way we want. We can’t endure the wild-eyed Galilean prophet who bit off first century Judaism, chewed it up and spit it out. We like a Savior who is meek and mild. We refuse a leader who invites us into a life of insecurity and danger. We like a stained-glass Jesus who decorates our religious moments. We flee the blood-stained Jesus who shouts, “Pick up your cross and follow me, if you dare!”That's a prophetic word there folks. I am reminded of the book from several decades ago, "Your God is Too Small" by J.B. Phillips. Phillips' books presents series of images we have of God and how they fail to take in God's totality.
Hmmm, that word "images" falling off my fingertips onto the keyboard is interesting. Makes me think about idols. There are a couple of reasons idols are a problem. One, of course, are that they are "substitute" gods. We worship money rather than the Lord God Almighty. But day-to-day those idols don't worry me so much. Most Christians are on guard for them. Nope what worries me far more is what we imagine God to be and how that image is actually an idol - it is a "substitute" for God because even though it is an image of God, it is, because we imagine it, less than God. That's the problem with "graven images," even of Jesus - the infinite cannot be contained in the finite and when we do so, we tend to worship the finite rather than the true infinite.
There is something very important to remember here - we can never "know" God - our brains are finite, He is infinite. "How then do we have a relationship with Him?" you may ask. How do we have relationship with that which is beyond our comprehension?
The answer lies, of course, in that small word "faith." We must trust, rely upon, believe in, rest in the arms of that which we can never fully know. In the end, we only need to know one thing - God is good.
And we do not get to argue with Him about what is "good." That is simply Him - that which He decides is good, actually is because, He makes it so.
For those of us that like to think a bit too much this is hard to swallow (there's an idol again!), but it is what we have. We rely on a good God. In the end that is all we can know.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Now, before I go any farther, this does not mean I am not sympathetic to people in tough times. It's real, it hurts, it's hard. As Christians we are indeed to reach out to people in need, any need.
But to view a crisis as an opportunity to somehow 'build the church and spread the gospel' is just wrong. For one thing it is just flat out selfish. Someone else's pain is simply - their pain. We are not in this for any other reason than to offer comfort. It's not about the church, it's not about our need to minister, it's about them, their pain, and how we can help them. The idea of using a crisis like this to build the church makes ambulance chasing lawyers look downright humanitarian.
Secondly, how much of a commitment to the church is built by a crisis outreach anyway? Once the crisis is resolved, what is left as a connection? Which brings me to the real point.
Our need for Jesus Christ is not circumstantial. I do not need Jesus more in bad times than in good. I mean everybody has preached that sermon at some point in their life. So why would we want to "take advantage" of an unfortunate situation?
I know way too many people in my life that come to Christ "for a season." Such pains me,but as much as their misdirected soul pains me, the error of those that brought them for the season pains me. Do we really have so little understanding of what we have to offer that we have to resort to misdirection and bait-and-switch? What kind of good news is that? Those are techniques you use to sell something that is not actually differentiated from the competition.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not in a competitive marketplace. It is a product so superior to any pretender to competition, that were it not for the humility of the cross, arrogance would be the only possible response.
I am sick of people acting like what we have to offer is "just an alternative."
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Sermons and Lessons
Hear now my REASONING. – Job 13:6
I will without any delay at all, Declare what I Design. My Design is to inculcate a Doctrine of this Importance; That Men ought to hearken to Reason. I confess it seems a strange, and a sad Thing, and little short of a Satyr upon Mankind, That there should be any occasion to inculcate such a Doctrine But I am well Assured, and why should I not say, as much Ashamed, That I know not the Doctrine, which there is more occasion to insist upon.
They were Wise Men, and they were Good Men, whom the Afflicted Job has to do withal; and they were Men of Reason too. But it was a very sensible part of his Affliction, That they dealt Unreasonably with him. He does accordingly take pains to convince them of their Unreasonableness His Discourse is introduced with this Preface; Hear now my Reasoning. The Word signifies A Reasonable Demonstration; such a Demonstration as ought to be brought by a Man, that would hope to convince another Man; an Irrefragable, an unanswerable Argument. What he says amounts to this; If I speak reason, I think I ought to be heard. Yea, sir, so you ought, if you had been the meanest Man in all the Arabias. I suppose, No Man will be so Unreasonable as to deny the Justice of the Demand. I conclude, Every Man, will pay so much Homage to Reason, as to grant me my DOCTRINE, with which I do now again come upon you;
That he that would approve himself a Reasonable Man, must hearken to Reason.
That we may prosecute this Doctrine to some Effect, we may first settle the matter, in Two Self-Evident Propositions. We shall speak after the manner of Men, in delivering of them.
I. There is a Reasonable Spirit in Man, and the Inspiration of the Almighty has given him an understanding; and there are certain Principles of Reason, which every Man does naturally and ordinarily bring with him into the World. This is not spoken without Book: The Book of GOD, has in express Terms asserted it, [Job 32:8.]
There is in every Man an admirable Spirit. In that Spirit, there is a Faculty called Reason. ‘Tis that Faculty which is called, Prov. 20:27, The Spirit of a Man, which is the Candle of the Lord. By the Light of this precious and wondrous Candle it is, that we discern the Connection & Relation of Things to one another. There are certain Idea’s imprinted on the Spirit of Man, by the GOD, who forms the Spirit of Man within him. It is an Irrational, as well as an Unscriptural Opinion, that we have no Ideas in our minds, but what are introduced from abroad, by Observation. There are a rich cluster of Ideas which we are born withal, and which are only awakened, and brought into Exercise by Observation. The Ideas which I mean, are those, which we call, the Principles of Reason. According to these Principles, the Reason of Men, does pronounce on Things that are plainly brought unto it. Reason proceeds according to these Common and Innate Principles, in passing a Judgment on what is plainly laid before it. Reason Judges of what is Mathematically True or False. But this is not all; It Judges as often, and as clearly, what is morally Good, or what is morally Evil; what is Right and what is Wrong, in morality too. Indeed, there are very many, who do not actually discern, what is morally Good or Evil, Right or Wrong; But so there are many, who do not actually discern Mathematical Truth from Falsehood. There were Sixscore Thousand Persons in Nenive, at one time, who did not actually discern, That an Hundred & Twenty would make Six score, or twice Five Hundred make a Thousand. This is no Objection. For the Faculty to discern such Things is in them; The Principles upon which these Objects are to be judged of, are already in their minds. When the Objects are laid near enough, and Reason comes into play, and the Sentence of Reason is called for; you may depend upon it, Reason which cannot but own, This is true; in Mathematical points: it will in Moral points, as readily own, This is Good; This is Right; The contrary is not so.
There is a Foolish and Cursed Opinion, which has taken Root, in a Debauched Generation of Men; who pretend indeed that they magnify Reason; Perhaps, their Brasen Heads will publish pretended, Oracles of Reason: but they go really to extinguish Reason, and chase it out of the World. The Opinion is, That nothing is Good or Evil, Right or Wrong, antecedent unto the Compact of Humane Society upon it: That all the Difference between Good and Evil, Right & Wrong, lies in the Agreement of Humane Society thereupon. These wicked Sons of the Leviathan do confute themselves. For they themselves must own, That antecedently unto all Compact, it is Good & Right, that a Compact should be kept; It is Evil and Wrong to break a Compact, else they say nothing. But it is too much Honor put upon such Wretches, to Argue with them; I doubt, whether it be Prudence to argue with them.
In brief, There is an Eternal Difference between Good & Evil; between Right and Wrong. ‘Tis constituted by GOD: GOD has inwrought those Principles in the Reasonable Spirit of Man, which will necessitate him to acknowledge this Difference, when it is evidently set before him.
II. There is all possible Reason [Excuse the Pleonasm of the Expression,] why every Man should Hearken to Reason; or do nothing against the Principles of Reason. There are many Principles of Reason; But, I take this to be the very First of them; That a Man ought to act according to them; Or, That a Reasonable Man must hearken to Reason.
It were a very unreasonable Thing to put me upon the Proof of this Assertion; Or, demand of me a Reason, why a Man should hearken to Reason. Yet I will, for a Reason, by and by to be mentioned, proceed upon it.
First; The Man who does not Hearken to Reason, does Rebel against the Glorious GOD, who has placed Man under the Guidance of Reason. It were mightily for the Honor of GOD, and for the Welfare of Men, if Men were apprehensive, That they have to do with GOD, in the affairs of Humane Life, oftener than is commonly imagined. I will particularly entreat, that this may be received as a very certain position; We have to do with GOD, as often as we have Right Reason calling upon us. I shall have opportunity anon to clear this Position, from the Infection which the Heresies of corrupt minds may give unto it. And I will now say, We never Transgress any Law of Reason, but we do at the same time, Transgress the Law of GOD. Now, there is always a Sin, the blackest thing in the World! in such a Transgression. GOD sets up Reason in Man. If we do not keep Reason in the Throne, we go to Dethrone the Infinite GOD Himself The voice of Reason, is the Voice of GOD. GOD speaks, as often as Reason and Wisdom utters its Voice. GOD who has furnished us with Reason, has required us, to be obedient unto the Dictates of Reason. To Man, He says, Let Reason be thy Guide Never go against thy well-enlightened Reason. We have received this Order from GOD our Maker; Is. 46:8. Show yourselves Men. That is to say, Act Reasonably, Do like Reasonable Men. How many Appeals to Reason, do we find in the Word of GOD? Ever now and then, we have a passage of that importance; I Cor 2:13. Judge in yourselves. And, Acts 4:19 Whether it be Right Judge ye. Such Things had never been spoken, if this were not incontestable; That if we shake off the Government of Reason, we shake off the Government of our Great Creator, who has put Reason into us, as the Grand Instrument of His Government over us. When we don’t Hearken to Reason, we say, GOD Himself shall not Reign over us! A Rebellion, Horrible to be thought upon!
Secondly. The Man who does not Hearken to Reason, is very Unthankful to GOD, for Endowing, Enriching, Ennobling of him with Reason. So dreadfully do they stand stigmatized, who do not Hearken to Reason; Rom. 1:21 Neither were they thankful Reason, ‘Tis a Noble Thing; It makes Man a Noble Creature. It is the Glory of Man; It is the Glorious Image of GOD upon him. Reason, ‘Tis That wherein we excel the Beasts of the Field. Thou, Reason, dwellest with Prudence; and thou findest out the knowledge of witty Inventions; Counsel is thine; and sound Wisdom & Strength. By Thee, Man is able to Rule over other Men, as well as over the Beasts of the Earth: Thou art the Sword in the Hand of all the Judges of the Earth. GOD giving Reason to Man, his Privilege is inexpressible. Reasonable and Privileged MAN, should Thankfully say upon it Is. 28:26-29. God does instruct him to Discretion, & does teach him. This cometh forth from the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful in Counsel & excellent in Working. To do Unreasonably is to do most Unthankfully. When a Man will not Hearken to Reason, he despises the peculiar Advantage of Mankind; He that won’t go according to Reason, blasphemes and proclaims, That it is better to Go without Reason. He debases the Nature of MAN. He treads under foot the most illustrious Jewel in the World. He says, He had rather GOD had made him a Beast, than made him a Man. 0 monstrous Ingratitude!
Thirdly. The Man who does not Hearken to Reason, does the part of a Brute, yea, he does worse than a Brute, that is destitute of Reason. We read of Brutish Men; and of those who are, Jude 10. As Brute Beasts Men, who as far as they can, quit the order of Men, & rank themselves with Brutes Verily, A Man who does not Hearken to Reason, so far Unmans himself, Transforms himself so far into a Brute. It is a Brutish Thing, to refuse the Direction of Reason. A Man who abandons the Rules of Reason in what he does, - Pardon me, wretch, that I miscalled thee, A Man, I will Recall it – Such a Brute is worthy to be addressed with nothing but Sarcasm, and Satyr Go, Thou Brute, Get a little more Hair, and crawl upon all Four, and come not among the Children of Reason any more. Don’t count me too severe; I will speak a thing, which to me seems but Reasonable. When it shall be with all convenient Solemnity put unto a Man, Whether he do not own such or such a thing to be Reasonable? He does own it; He must own it: And yet he will not Hearken to Reason, he will deliberately go against it, act Unreasonably. Such a Man deserves to be chased out of the Conversation of Men: The Desert of such a Man would be, to be sent a grazing with Nebuchadnezzar, among the Brutes of the Field. How bitterly were the People upbraided of old! Is. 1:3 The Ox knows his owner & the Ass his Masters crib but my people does not consider. A Man that will not consider what is Reasonable, is like the Ox and the Ass; yea, he is much worse than they. To go Against Reason, is worse than to be Without Reason. For a Man to Brutify himself - Oh! Do not this Abominable thing!
Fourthly There is a Conscience in the Case. The Man that will not Hearken to Reason, goes against the Light of his Conscience. There is a Conscience in Man, which commends unto him, what is Reasonable; which condemns him to suffer the Vengeance of GOD, if he do that which is not Reasonable. We read, Rom. 2:15. There is the work of the Law written in their Hearts; their Conscience also bearing witness What is Conscience, but, Reason submitting to the Judgment of GOD? When a Man will not Hearken to Reason, he is one of those, who, Job. 24:13 Rebel against the Light The Conscience of a Man, forewarns him, and assures him, of a Punishment reserved in another World; A Strange punishment for the workers of Iniquity. His Reason will give him some warning of it Hence we read; Acts 14:25. As Paul Reasoned (Righteousness; Temperance, & Judgment to come, Felix trembled. The Reason of the miserable Man, being minded of his Bribery, & his Drusilla, told him such uneasy things, that he had no way to be quiet, but by never hearing the Servant of GOD Preach any more. A Mans Reason will tell him, that he ought to live Righteously, and live Temperately, Not Abuse others, nor himself His Reason will tell him, that he must give unto the GOD of his Life an Account of his Life; in which he shall be Judged according to the Law that GOD has given him. The Conscience of the Sinner, is operating all this while; And if he will not Hearken to Reason in these things his Conscience will employ dreadful Scourges upon him. A Man will be dreadfully Scourged & Scalded by an enraged Conscience in another World, for doing such things, as his Reason forbad his doing of
The Reason of my speaking these things is, that I may come out the better armed for the Expedition which I am now to make, against an Host of Unreasonable things, which are every day doing among us. You see, my Hearers, what Thick-Bosses of a Buckler you have to run upon, if you will not Suffer that Word of Exhortation, with which I am now to call upon you. Hearken to Reason; That is the EXHORTATION. You see there is abundance of Reason, that you should hearken to it.
There are certain Maxims of Reason, which I am now to set before you. But they shall be every one of them, Glorious Maxims of Religion. They shall every one of them call upon you, as he once did upon his Countrymen; Hearken to me, that GOD may hearken to you another Day.
First. Hear now my Reasoning. We are to Distinguish between what is Against Reason, & what is Above Reason. We must not call a Thing Unreasonable, merely because unto us, it is Incomprehensible. We must not so Hearken to Reason, as to make an Idol of Reason: or to admit nothing as a Revelation from GOD, but what we can fathom, with our little Reason. There is no Reason for That There are Mysteries in the Christian Religion, incomprehensible Mystery, Three Persons United in ONE GOD; Two Natures United in the ONE PERSON of our Immanuel, The Resurrection of the Dead, into a Life of Immortality in the celestial City and the like Mysteries, that carry with them their Astonishments. We read; Job 11:7 Canst thou by searching find out GOD? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto Perfection? Even so; Canst thou by Searching find out the Mysteries in the Religion of GOD? Canst thou find out the Great Mysteries of Godliness unto Perfection? It must not be pretended unto!
There was of late Years a Notable Experiment of this matter. The Pelagians every where decried the Doctrines of Grace; yea, though they subscribed them, they decried them. The cry was; Reason could not comprehend them; They did not square well with Reason. Well; when this cry for a while had carried all before it, anon the Socinians begun theirs. Gentlemen, we hope you won’t oblige us to believe the Trinity of Persons in GOD, & the Godhead and Sacrifice of our Savior; why Reason cannot comprehend them; They don’t square well with Reason. This made Men see, how presumptuously the Gospel may be betrayed by presences of Reason, too far insisted on.
This Reason will do. It will demonstrate it unto us, That the Scriptures are the Word of GOD, & the Book of Truth. If you will Hearken to Reason, you must confess, That Writings full of such Holiness; and Wisdom, & Grandeur, & exquisite contrivance and Heavenly Intention, as compose our Bible, must needs be of Divine Original. But there are many things in the Scriptures which are Above Reason. Our shallow Reason must not be set up, as the measure of what is to be Received, as a Faithful Saying, & Worthy of all Acceptation. Faith, Faith is here to interpose. Reason, Stand thou by, with an humble Reverence, an awful Silence. In the Scriptures, there is nothing Against Reason, though there be some things Above Reason. It must also be remembered, that by our Fall from GOD, the strength of Reason is much impaired in us; the Eye of Reason is darkened, is depraved, is miserably wounded. We are prone to take some things, as according to Reason, which are not so. If then there be anything prescribed in the Sacred Scriptures, which our carnal Reason, may be ready to cavil at, say not, I can’t see Reason for this There is a famous Instance, for this caution. The way prescribed in the Gospel, for the Justification of a Sinner O Sinner, ‘Tis, that thou repair with all thy Sinfulness, and without any Righteousness of thy own, unto the Lord JESUS CHRIST; hoping to be Justified before GOD, only by pleading of that wonderful Righteousness. Proud Man will try to make his Reason invent a World of objections against this Glorious Gospel of the Blessed GOD. But if there be Scripture for any thing, lay this down for a Maxim, There is Reason for it. Perhaps we can’t see the Reason: But Reason says, The Scripture is a Revelation from GOD: And Reason says, what GOD has Revealed must be Reasonable. But then also, Vain Man, Do not imagine, That they Light within, or the Light of Reason, is a Sufficient Guide without the Scripture, to bring thee unto Salvation: much more, To make a Christ, and a God of that Light, it is a dangerous Idolatry. We must Hearken to Right Reason: but beware, Lest we ascribe too much, to our own broken Faculties.
Secondly. Hear now my Reasoning, There is a Golden Rule of Reason, which well-applied, would wonderfully rectify the Conversation of Mankind: Even that Rule, For a Man to do unto others; as he would own it reasonable for others to do unto him. Our Savior has Honored & Confirmed this Rule with His own Royal Stamp upon it; Matt. 7:12. All things whatsoever ye would that Men should do to you do ye even so to them. Yea; but it is a Rule engraven by the Hand of GOD, upon the Reason of Mankind. There is no Reasonable Man, but what will fall down before this Rule, and say, ‘Tis an Excellent Rule! Happy, Happy would the World be; if this Rule might bear Rule in the World. You may as easily bring a Man to own this Rule, as to own that Three and Four make Seven. And the Man that will say, ‘Tis unjust for another Man to do so & so unto me, but it is not unjust in me to do the same unto him, will presently prove himself as great a Sott; as he that shall say, Three & Four make Seven, but Four & Three won’t do so. The Rule has been acknowledged, both among Jews & Gentiles They have sometimes expressed it positively; Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne fèceris. The Talmuds of the Jew, have those words, Do not that unto another, which thou hatest, when it is done unto thy self ‘Tis also in the Apocrypha. Among the Gentiles; how often do their moral Writers recommend it? I might bring an Army of them. Their General shall be that Roman Emperor, who had it in his mouth continually; and made the Officers of the Empire to put it into public Proclamations.
A very considerable part of our Duty; is, What we owe to one another Might this One Rule be hearkened unto, what a vast influence would it have upon the Discharge of our Duty! In our Treating of other People, their Place, their Peace, their Bed their Wealth, their Name, any Article of their prosperity; Sirs, Hear now my Reasoning; we should come to think, Should others do by me, just as I do by them, Say, O my Reason, Say Impartially would it be my Duty to think it Reasonable?
There is a most notorious violation of this Golden Rule; in those Persecutions which at any time worry the Churches and Servants of GOD. Persecutors are called, II Thess. 3:2 Unreasonable Men. Those Unreasonable Men, while they are uppermost, what vile Things will they do? Things that the very Hottentots of Africa would cry, Shame upon. Let there be any Turn of the Times, & let them have no other Harm done them, except only to Restrain them from doing Harm to others, what an outcry do they make, as if they were the most oppressed People that ever were in the World. They rage, & roar, & bring Heaven & Earth together. Come not into their secret; O my Soul! O my Tongue, speak not a word for their Assembly.
But, Hear now my Reasoning: Whatever would seem Hard in others towards ourselves, Nothing, Nothing of that should be found, in what we do towards others. I press this Advice, with the greatest Importunity; & I will a little particularize it.
This Advice, ought very particularly to take place, in the Business which Men have with one another; their Traffic, their Commerce. There are those Dealers, who may provoke this Expostulation; ‘Man, wouldest not thou complain of it, if another Man should use that Fraudulence or Extortion towards thee, which thou dost put upon him? Wouldest thou not be full of Complaints, if another Man should withhold from thee thy Dues, or Delay to make up Accounts with thee, or deny or obstruct thy Just Satisfaction. as thou dost unto him? Hear now my Reasoning; For thee to persist in this way, ‘tis Abominable, ‘tis Inexcusable!’
Again, This Advice ought mightily to Regulate the Carriage of Relatives to one another. We sustain several Relations to one another. Now let us in our Thoughts change Relations with our Correlates; put ourselves into their Circumstances. Consorts, Think, what Goodness you would wish from your Consorts, if you were They, and They were you. Parents, make yourselves Children; Children, make yourselves Parents. Masters & Servants, Rulers & Subjects, interchange Conditions with one another. Think; What would I expect, if I were he! What should I Resent, if I were what he now is? My Friend, Hear now my Reasoning; Certainly, it becomes thee to do, as thou wouldest have him to do; For thee to do, what thou wouldest be vexed if he should do, ‘tis against all the Reason in the World.
Yea; This Incomparable Rule of Reasoning, you will find it applicable to the Government of all your Actions, and of all your Passions. When I examine it over again, I find it Exceeding Broad; extendible to a much Broader Application, than I at first imagined. In the case of Sorrow for a Dead Friend: Suppose, I were Dead; would I have my Friend mourn for me, with an Excessive, Oppressive, Destructive Sorrow. No, sure. Why then let my Sorrow for my Friend, be discreetly moderated. Yea, I find a Person of Quality observing, That without offence, our Duty towards our Creator, may from this very Rule of Reason receive some Direction. For, if we had Power to Create we should certainly expect from our Creatures, all the Love, all the Reverence, all the Obedience imaginable. Then, O Man, Render it unto thy Creator.
Thirdly, Hear now my Reasoning. It stands to Reason, that in passing of Censures we should not make Flesh of one, & Fish of another. We read; I Tim. 5:21 Of Doing nothing by Partiality. The Greek Word, for, Partiality, Procklisis is as much as to say, A Tilting the Balance on one side. Unreasonable Partiality How often, how often, is the Balance of Justice turned with it!
One Man shall suffer, I know not what, Exclamations. Another Man shall come, and do the same thing, yea, much worse; and not a Word must be spoken of it: or perhaps, ‘tis laudable in him. This is not Reasonable!
If a thing be decried as a Folly, or a Baseness in a Man of another Party, ‘tis but Reason, that it should be decried in one of our own Party too. And so, if old Eli, can see Faults in other People, & their Families, ‘tis but Reason, that he should not wink at the same Faults in his own Children. If Sinners of an Inferior Quality must be punished for their misdemeanors, ‘tis but Reason, that the Bigger sort of Sinners also should not pass unpunished. There is no Reason, for Laws to be Cobwebs, only to catch the little Flies, and let the Greater Birds break through them.
Fourthly. Hear now my Reasoning. It is but Reason, that a Man should not be Condemned, without any Hearing of what may be pleaded for him. It was of old said; Acts 25:16. It is not the manner of the Roman, to deliver any Man to dye; before that he which is Accused, have license to answer for himself concerning the Crime laid against him. Even so; It is not the manner of the Reasonable, to condemn a Man as a Criminal, without first Hearing, or Knowing, what may be said in his Defense. If this one Demand of Reason might be hearkened unto, what would become of the Defamations, with which we commonly keep wounding one another! We Curse the Deaf we Accuse, we Expose, we Revile, those who can’t speak for themselves. They are Absent. We have not understood, what Reason they might have to do, what we are so ready to blame them for. O Unreasonable! Reason says, Audi alterum partem. A Man has Two Ears. ‘Tis monstrous to have both of them on one side. Reserve one of them; it may be ‘tis that Reserved Ear, that Reason is to enter at.
Fifthly. Hear now my Reasoning: Methinks, ‘Tis no more than Reason that Men should curb their Passion, and not let that usurp the place of Reason. If Men are of a boisterous, raging, raving, (I will not say, Temper, but rather) Distemper, there is little of Reason to be expected in their Doings. The Bridle of Reason is cast off, and Passion, Headstrong Passion will precipitate them, into very unreasonable Exorbitances & Enormities. Ah, Fury, how unseemly dost thou Behave thyself. The bravest Man in the World, once in a Passion, broke both Tables of the Law. Fearful Breaches are made upon the Law of Reason, when Men let their Passion govern them. How loathsome then will be the Behavior of those Cholerick Folks, that are almost always in a Fury! We read, Ecc. 9:17. The words of Wise Men are heard in Quiet The Rules of Reason, & of Wisdom, are not heard, but when Passion lies Quiet We are forbidden to make any Friendship with a Furious Man. Why so? Because he is a Man that will not Hearken to Reason. We are told, The Wrath of Man will not work, that Righteousness and Reasonableness which GOD would have His People always maintain among them. Oh! moderate, & mortify all uncomely Passion. Let Reason, calm Reason, cool Reason have the upper-hand.
Sixthly, Hear now my Reasoning: In the Churches of GOD, when matters of Prudence occur, why should Plain Reason be laid aside, merely because Men do not see Express Institution? A Church of the Lord JESUS CHRIST, must keep close to His Institution & no parts or means of Divine Worship are to be introduced there, without His Institution. Our Loyalty to the Son of GOD, in this Point, is with Infinite Reason, to be preserved Inviolable. But yet, our Lord JESUS CHRIST, when He Instituted particular Church & did presuppose them, to Consist of Reasonable People. The Common Law of Reason, whereto all Societies as such, are to conform themselves, is always presupposed. There was no need at all, of any Institution, for such Things to be done in Churches, as Reason tells us, are to be done in all Societies. This will give no advantage to Superstitions & Ceremonies, of Will Worship, Usurpations which have no Warrant in the Word of GOD. But then it will rebuke some Unreasonable Practices, that creep into Churches, & have a tendency to render them Unreasonable Societies; which they ought not to be. When some Irregularities did show their Heads in the Church of Corinth, our Apostle so rebuked them; II Cor. 11:14 Doth not even Nature itself teach you otherwise? Thus, I will say; Shall a Member of One Church, have his Relation to it fully transferred unto another, without some Declared Allowance of the Church to which he formerly belonged, where it can be obtained? Nature itself teaches otherwise. Shall any One Church refuse to show any Respect unto the countenance of any Neighboring Churches, and yet require to be countenanced as such, in all the Churches? Nature itself teaches otherwise. And, I think, I do more than think; a Covenant is to be looked upon as mutual. There is a Covenant between the Pastor & the People. The Pastor must not leave the People, must serve them Day and Night; But it seems, the People owe no Regards unto the Pastor. They may without saying one word unto him, utterly withdraw from his Ministry, & his Communion; yea, though they continue to live in the same Town with him. This is Reason; is it? No, ‘Tis a Scandal. Nature itself teaches otherwise.
Seventhly, Hear now my Reasoning: Reason says, That it is a most aggravated Wickedness, for a Christian to do that, which a sober Pagan would blush to do. I remember, That Festus, would not permit a barbarous thing to be done unto a Famous Minister of the Gospel; and the Reason he gave was this; Acts 25:27. It seems to me unreasonable. This Ruler was a Pagan, & he was not the best Man in the World. Yet an oppressed Servant of GOD, found more fair dealing from this Pagan, than he did from his own Countrymen, who called themselves, The People of GOD. They would have done such Things, as Governor Festus would abhor to do. A Man shall sometimes be more fairly dealt withal among Pagans themselves, than among some that would be called, The People of GOD. Professed Christians will sometimes deal more basely than many Infidels. They will be called, Most Christian, and yet the Turks be Saints to them. Church-Members will sometimes more basely shuffle with you, & abuse you more ungratefully & unreasonably, than People that make no Profession at all. They will before the Face of the Court itself, be detected in such Actions, that were Festus the Judge, & Plutarch the Foreman of the Jury, they would be cried out upon. Sirs, Is this Reasonable? The Pagans have only the Light of Reason. We have the Light of Reason, & the much brighter Light of the Gospel. But, as it was said, Go to the Ant, thou Sluggard: So, shall it be said, Go to the Pagan, thou Christian, & receive thy Condemnation! Would Aristides have so played the knave; whom they Syrnamed, The Just? Would Fabritius have been so Covetous, who would not receive a Bribe on any terms? Would Regulus have been so Treacherous, who would not break his Word unto his very Enemies? Regulus, a Man so true to his Country, that rather than have it hurt, he would expose himself to all the Tortures that his Enemies could inflict upon him! Alas, That the Pagan should condemn the Christian! Reason! Reason, makes a fearful cry on this occasion: Oh! Let it not be so!
Lastly, Behold, An Engine, to batter all Impiety! Hear now my Reasoning: It is from a prodigious Hardness of Heart, if Men will not be Reasoned out of all Impiety. Of all ungodly Men, we read, Ps. 14:4. They have no Knowledge; They act, as if they had no Reason in them. We may strike all Impiety, with the Lightning of Reason as well as with the Thunder of Scripture. It is a most flaming Aggravation, [and, Oh! that it were more considered!] of the Impiety committed in the World, That the Plain Rules of Reason are therein boldly contradicted, grosslv superseded. There are certain Principles of Religion, which must be acknowledged by the Reason of all Men, as much as any Principles of the Mathematics. A Reasonable Creature, you may compel him to acknowledge, That Two & Two make Four; or, That a Square is double to a Triangle, of Equal Base and Height. The proportions in Arithmetic and Geometry, he must needs acknowledge them. You may as easily compel him, to acknowledge, That there is a GOD, who must be Adored & Obeyed: you may compel him, to acknowledge, That he ought not to offer unto his Neighbor, anything which if he himself were in the State of that Neighbor, he would count an Injury. Now; upon Transgressions on these Two Points, there turns all the Wickedness of the World.
I must then arraign all Wickedness before the Bar of Reason. Ah! Shameful wickedness! Ah! wicked Man; when Reason does come, as it must one day come, to be heard, it must be said of the Things done by thee; Rom. 6:21. They are the Things, whereof you are now ashamed.
It is an awful Work, which I am now upon. Hear now my Reasoning. I must call upon you, as the Prophet of old; I Sam. 12:7. Now stand still, that I may Reason with you, before the Lord. I will propound unto you some Assertions of Practical Religion, which you must every one of you, acknowledge to be Reasonable. The Man who does not acknowledge them, does cast off, and Slander, & Smother his own Reason. The Man who does acknowledge them, & yet will Practically Renounce them; GOD will, with the Brian & Thorns of his Affronted Reason, tear him in pieces, & there shall be none to deliver him.
First, Reason says, There is a GOD, the Maker & Ruler of the World. Hear now my Reasoning: It is but Reasonable, That this GOD should be Sought & Served by all the Men in the World. For a Man, to live without Prayer to GOD: For a Man to Do any thing, which he knows, that GOD has forbidden him to do; I will add, For a Family which depends on GOD for His Blessings, to live without any Homage to GOD: certainly, There is not one Man among you, but what will acknowledge, ‘Tis against Reason, that it should be so.
Secondly, Reason says, That all our Enjoyments are the Blessings and Favor of GOD. The Devil himself will say so much: We read, Job 1:10. Satan said Thou has blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the Land. A Man who when he has the comfortable Things of an Increased Substance about him, will not own, These an the Blessings of GOD Such a Man is in this, worse than a Devil. But Hear now my Reasoning: Surely; ‘Tis but Reasonable, That a Man should study how to use his Blessings and Comforts, for the Service of GOD. That GOD should Bless a Man, and the Man Serve none but himself I beseech you, Sirs, What Reason for that!
Thirdly, Reason says, That the Soul of a Man requires as much care to be well provided for, as his Body. We Rise up Early, we Sit up Late, we Eat the Bread of Sorrows All to provide for a Body, that can’t be kept long undissolved. Hear now my Reasoning: It is but Reasonable sure, That we should be more solicitous, about the Happiness of a Soul which must be Happy or Undone, after the Death of the Body. Our Lord Redeemer spoke a most Reasonable Thing; Matt 16:26. What is a Man profited if he gain the whole World, and lose his own Soul? A Thing so Reasonable, that it is in the Writings of the Heathens themselves to be met withal! For a Man to be so taken up with the World, as to do nothing for his Reasonable Soul; Verily ‘Tis a thing against all the Reason in the World.
Fourthly, We all say, We desire the Grace of GOD. Reason says, we ought then to attend the Means of Grace. Means in our use of which we may hope, that he will dispense His Grace. Hear now my Reasoning; To think, That GOD should give us Faith in His Christ, without our Attentive Hearing of His Word, when Faith comes by Hearing. To think, That GOD should give us Help against Sin, without our Asking, & Crying, & Weeping to Him, for His Help. To think, That GOD should Save us, & we never set apart any Time to work out our own Salvation What Reason have we to look for such Things? For, Ez. 36:37. Thus saith the Lord God, I will yet for this be Enquired of
Fifthly. Hear now my Reasoning: ‘Tis Unreasonable, O our Young People, Tis Unreasonable, to give the Prime of your Strength, to Sin and Satan, and reserve only an Uncertain Old Age for your only SAVIOR. A Glorious CHRIST Exhibits Himself unto you. In His Gospel He has done enough to assure the Reason of all Mankind. That He is what He is; The Son of GOD, the Prince of Life, the Lord of all. ‘Tis but Reason, That you should immediately Embrace Him, and Resign and Devote yourselves unto Him. There is all the Reason imaginable in that Exhortation; Ecc. 12:1 Remember now thy Creator, in the days of thy Youth. To continue in the Drudgeries of the Devil and think; Hereafter But I know not when, I will hearken to my SAVIOR. Oh! Say, Is not this Unreasonable? Then in the Name of GOD, we charge you, Don’t venture upon a thing so Unreasonable What would you do, if you could see the Heavens opened, and have a view of the Glories there? would you not say, Nothing would be so Reasonable, as for me Betimes to lay hold on Eternal Lift! What would you do, if you could look down into the Horrible Pit, and see the Torments of the Damned in the Place of Dragons! would you not say, Nothing would be so Reasonable as for me to flee from this Wrath to come? Oh! why will you not now do, what you could not but own to be Reasonable, if you saw things as they are? Or, when a Dying Hour comes upon you, will you not pronounce Early Religion, the most Reasonable thing in the World? My Children, your Dying Hour is hastening upon you. But this is what I am in the last place to advise you of.
Lastly, My Hearers; You are Dying; you are Dying; you will Die Speedily you may Die Suddenly. You are called, you know not how soon, out of the World. Presently, presently, to make Ready for it, is the most Reasonable Thing in the World. You make Ready for Death, by Repenting of all Sin, and Renouncing all your Sinful Vanities; by Embracing of the Great GOD, for your GOD, His CHRIST for your complete and only Redeemer; by Resolving upon a Life of Serious PIETY. Till you are thus made Ready, you are every Day in a Danger, wherein a Reasonable Man would not Sleep a Night, for a Thousand Worlds! Awake, O Reason, Awake! And Oh! That Men would Reasonably consider That they are a Dying, and What they would chose and wish, when they come to Die. I have read of one, who at once performed a great Exploit, and committed a great Offence. He was therefore honored with the Sword of Knighthood; but at the same time a Burning Match was laid by him, and he was condemned to suffer a terrible Death as soon as that Match was burnt out. Sirs, you enjoy your Delights and Honors; Oh! but the Burning Match Your Lives are that Burning Match. Do you know what will become of you, when that Match is burnt out? What an horrible Punishment is reserved for you, if you are found in ill Terms with Heaven! Hear now my Reasoning. Something should be done about the matter, Effectually done, & Immediately done. I beseech you, delay not the doing of it.
But the Crooked Things, that are against Reason, among us, cannot be Numbered! However, let these be Reformed, these be Redressed; and the rest will of course quickly be so too.