MereChristianity: 5. The Practical Conclusion -C.S.Lewis

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5. The Practical Conclusion

 

 

 

     The perfect surrender and humiliation were undergone by Christ: perfect

because He was God,  surrender and humiliation  because He  was man. Now the

Christian belief is  that if  we somehow share the humility and suffering of

Christ we shall also  share  in His conquest for death and find  a new  life

after we have died and in it become perfect, and perfectly happy, creatures.

This  means something much  more  than our trying  to  follow  His teaching.

People often  ask  when  the  next step  in evolution-the  step to something

beyond  man-will happen. But on the Christian view, it has happened already.

In Christ a  new kind of man appeared: and the new  kind of life which began

in  Him is to be put into us. How is  this to be  done? Now, please remember

how we acquired  the old,  ordinary kind of life. We derived it from others,

from our father and mother and all our ancestors, without our consent-and by

a very curious process, involving pleasure, pain, and danger. A  process you

would  never have guessed. Most of us  spend a good many  years in childhood

trying  to guess it: and  some children,  when they  are  first told, do not

believe it-and  I am not sure that I blame them, for it is very odd. Now the

God who arranged that process is the same God who arranges  how the new kind

of life-the Christ life-is  to be spread. We must be  prepared  for it being

odd too. He did not consult us when He invented sex: He has not consulted us

either when He invented this.

 

     There  are three  things  that spread the  Christ life to us:  baptism,

belief,  and that  mysterious  action  which different  Christians  call  by

different names-Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lord's Supper. At least, those

are  the  three ordinary methods. I  am  not saying there may not be special

cases where it is spread without one or more of these. I have not time to go

into special  cases, and I do not  know enough.  If you are trying  in a few

minutes to tell a man how to get  to Edinburgh you will tell him the trains:

he can,  it  is true, get  there by boat or by a plane, but you  will hardly

bring  that  in. And I  am not saying  anything  about which  of these three

things is the most essential. My Methodist friend would like  me to say more

about belief  and less (in proportion) about  the other  two.  But I am  not

going into  that. Anyone who professes to teach you Christian doctrine will,

in fact, tell you  to  use all  three,  and that  is enough for  our present

purpose.

     I cannot myself  see why these things should be the conductors  of  the

new kind of life. But then, if  one did not happen to  know,  I should never

have  seen any  connection between a particular  physical  pleasure  and the

appearance of  a new human being in the world. We have to take reality as it

comes to us: there is  no good  jabbering about what it ought  to be like or

what we should have expected it  to be like. But  though I cannot see why it

should be so, I can tell you why I believe it is  so. I have explained why I

have to  believe that Jesus was (and is) God. And it seems plain as a matter

of history that He  taught His followers that the new  life was communicated

in this way. In other words, I believe it on His authority. Do not be scared

by the  word authority. Believing  things on authority  only means believing

them  because  you have been told  them by  someone you  think  trustworthy.

Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe  are believed on authority. I

believe  there is  such  a place as New  York. I have not seen it  myself. I

could not prove by abstract  reasoning that there must  be such a  place.  I

believe it  because  reliable  people  have  told me  so.  The ordinary  man

believes  in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and  the circulation of the

blood on authority-because the scientists say so. Every historical statement

in the  world  is  believed  on  authority.  None of  us has seen the Norman

Conquest  or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove  them by  pure

logic  as  you prove a thing in mathematics. We  believe them simply because

people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them: in fact,

on authority. A man who jibbed at authority in  other things as  some people

do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life.

   

 Do not think I am setting up baptism and belief  and the Holy Communion

as things that will do instead of your  own attempts  to  copy  Christ. Your

natural  life  is derived from your parents; that does not mean it will stay

there if you do nothing  about it. You can  lose it by neglect,  or you  can

drive it  away by committing suicide. You have to feed it and look after it:

but always remember  you are not  making it,  you are only keeping up a life

you  got from  someone  else.  In  the same  way  a  Christian can lose  the

Christ-life which has been  put into him, and he has to make efforts to keep

it.  But  even the best Christian that ever lived is not acting  on  his own

steam-he  is only nourishing  or  protecting  a  life  he could  never  have

acquired by his own efforts. And that has practical consequences. As long as

the  natural  life is in your  body, it will do a lot towards repairing that

body. Cut it, and up to a  point  it will heal, as a dead body would  not. A

live body is not one that never gets hurt, but  one that  can to some extent

repair  itself. In  the same  way a Christian is  not a  man who never  goes

wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over

again  after each  stumble-because the Christ-life  is inside him, repairing

him  all the  time, enabling  him  to repeat  (in  some degree) the  kind of

voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out.

    

That is why  the Christian is in a different position from other people

who are trying  to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there

is one; or-if they think there is not-at least they hope to deserve approval

from  good men.  But the Christian  thinks any good he does  comes from  the

Christ-life inside  him.  He does not think God will love  us because we are

good, but that God  will make us good  because He loves us; just as the roof

of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because  it is bright, but  becomes

bright because the sun shines on it.

    

And let me make it quite clear that when Christians say the Christ-life

is  in  them,  they do not mean  simply something mental or moral. When they

speak of  being "in Christ" or of Christ being "in them," this is not simply

a  way of saying  that  they are  thinking about Christ or copying Him. They

mean that Christ is actually operating  through them; that the whole mass of

Christians are the physical organism  through which Christ acts-that we are.

His fingers and muscles, the  cells of His  body. And  perhaps that explains

one  or two things. It explains why  this  new  life is spread  not only  by

purely  mental acts  like  belief, but by bodily acts like baptism and  Holy

Communion.  It  is  not merely the  spreading of an idea;  it  is  more like

evolution-a biological or super-biological fact. There is no good trying  to

be more  spiritual than God.  God never meant man  to  be a purely spiritual

creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the

new life into us. We may think this rather  crude and unspiritual.  God does

not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.

    

Here is  another  thing that used to  puzzle me. Is it not  frightfully

unfair that this new life should be  confined  to  people who  have heard of

Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us

what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can

be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who  know Him

can be saved through Him,  But in the meantime, if you are worried about the

people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can  do is to remain outside

yourself. Christians are Christ's body, the organism through which He works.

Every addition  to that  body enables  Him  to do more. If you want to  help

those outside you  must add your own  little cell to  the body of Christ who

alone can  help them. Cutting  off  a man's fingers would  be an  odd way of

getting him to do more work.

   

 Another  possible  objection  is  this. Why  is  God  landing  in  this

enemy-occupied  world in disguise  and starting a  sort of secret society to

undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it dial

He  is not strong enough?  Well,  Christians think  He is going to  land  in

force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to

give us the chance of joining His side  freely. I do  not  suppose you and I

would  have  thought  much of a Frenchman who  waited  till the Allies  were

marching  into Germany  and then announced  he was on  our  side.  God  will

invade.  But  I wonder whether  people  who ask  God to interfere openly and

directly in our world  quite realise what it will be like when He does. When

that happens,  it is  the end  of the world. When the author walks on to the

stage  the play is over.  God is going to invade, all right: but what is the

good  of saying  you are on  His side  then, when  you see the whole natural

universe melting away  like a dream and  something  else-something  it never

entered your head  to conceive-comes crashing in;  something so beautiful to

some of us  and so terrible to others that  none  of us will have any choice

left?  For  this  time  it  will  be  God  without  disguise;  something  so

overwhelming that  it will  strike either irresistible love  or irresistible

horror into every creature. It  will be too  late then to choose your  side.

There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it  has become impossible

to  stand  up. That will  not be the time for choosing: it will  be the time

when we  discover  which side we really have  chosen, whether we realised it

before or  not. Now, today, this moment,  is our chance to choose the  right

side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last for ever.

We must take it or leave it.

Posted via email from Classic Christian Digest

Foxe's Book Of Martyrs: (CHAPTER XVIII) "The Rise, Progress, Persecutions, and Sufferings of the Quakers"

CHAPTER XVIII

The Rise, Progress, Persecutions, and Sufferings of the Quakers

In treating of these people in a historical manner, we are obliged to have recourse to much tenderness. That they differ from the generality of Protestants in some of the capital points of religion cannot be denied, and yet, as Protestant dissenters they are included under the description of the toleration act. It is not our business to inquire whether people of similar sentiments had any existence in the primitive ages of Christianity: perhaps, in some respects, they had not, but we are to write of them not as what they were, but what they now are. That they have been treated by several writers in a very contemptuous manner is certain; that they did not deserve such treatment, is equally certain.

The appellation Quakers, was bestowed upon them as a term of reproach, in consequence of their apparent convulsions which they labored under when they delivered their discourses, because they imagined they were the effect of divine inspiration.

It is not our business, at present, to inquire whether the sentiments of these people are agreeable to the Gospel, but this much is certain, that the first leader of them, as a separate body, was a man of obscure birth, who had his first existence in Leicestershire, about the year 1624. In speaking of this man we shall deliver our own sentiments in a historical manner, and joining these to what have been said by the Friends themselves, we shall endeavor to furnish out a complete narrative.

George Fox was descended of honest and respected parents, who brought him up in the national religion: but from a child he appeared religious, still, solid, and observing, beyond his years, and uncommonly knowing in divine things. He was brought up to husbandry, and other country business, and was particularly inclined to the solitary occupation of a shepherd; an employment, that very well suited his mind in several respects, both for its innocency and solitude; and was a just emblem of his after ministry and service. In the year 1646, he entirely forsook the national Church, in whose tenets he had been brought up, as before observed; and in 1647, he travelled into Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, without any set purpose of visiting particular places, but in a solitary manner he walked through several towns and villages, which way soever his mind turned. "He fasted much," said Swell, "and walked often in retired placed, with no other companion than his Bible." "He visited the most retired and religious people in those parts," says Penn, "and some there were, short of few, if any, in this natiojn, who waited for the consolation of Israel night and day; as Zacharias, Anna, and Simeon, did of old time. To these he was sent, and these he sought out in the neighboring counties, and among them he sojourned until his more ample ministry came upon him. At this time he taught, and was an example of silence, endeavoring to bring them from self-performances; testifying of, and turning them to the light of Christ within them, and encouraging them to wait in patience, and to feel the power of it to stir in their hearts, that their knowledge and worship of God might stand in the power of an endless life, which was to be found in the light as it was obeyed in the manifestation of it in man: for in the Word was life, and that life is the light of men. Life in the Word, light in men; and life in men too, as the light is obeyed; the children of the light living by the life of the Word, by which the Word begets them again to God, which is the generation and new birth, without which there is no coming into the Kingdom of God, and to which whoever comes is greater than John: that is, than John's dispensation, which was not that of the Kingdom, but the consummation of the legal, and forerunning of the Gospel times, the time of the Kingdom. Accordingly several meetings were gathering in those parts; and thus his time was employed for some years."

In the year 1652, "he had a visitation of the great work of God in the earth, and of the way that he was to go forth, in a public ministry, to begin it." He directed his course northward, "and in every place where he came, if not before he came to it, he had his particular exercise and service shown to him, so that the Lord was his leader indeed." He made great numbers of converts to his opinions, and many pious and good men joined him in his ministry. These were drawn forth especially to visit the public assemblies to reprove, reform, and exhort them; sometimes in markets, fairs, streets, and by the highway-side, "calling people to repentance, and to return to the Lord, with their hearts as well as their mouths; directing them to the light of Christ within them, to see, examine, and to consider their ways by, and to eschew the evil, and to do the good and acceptable will of God."

They were not without opposition in the work they imagined themselves called to, being often set in the stocks, stoned, beaten, whipped and imprisoned, though honest men of good report, that had left wives, children, houses, and lands, to visit them with a living call to repentance. But these coercive methods rather forwarded than abated their zeal, and in those parts they brought over many proselytes, and amongst them several magistrates, and others of the better sort. They apprehended the Lord had forbidden them to pull off their hats to anyone, high or low, and required them to speak to the people, without distinction, the the language of thou and thee. They scrupled bidding people good-morrow, or good-night, nor might they bend the knee to anyone, even in supreme authority. Both men and women went in a plain and simple dress, different from the fashion of the times. They neither gave nor accepted any titles of respect or honor, nor would they call any man master on earth. Several texts of Scripture they quoted in defence of these singularities; such as, "Swear not at all." "How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?" etc., etc. They placed the basis of religion in an inward light, and an extraordinary impulse of the Holy Spirit.

In 1654, their first separate meeting in London was held in the house of Robert Dring, in Watling-street, for by that time they spread themselves into all parts of the kingdom, and had in many places set up meetings or assemblies, particularly in Lancashire, and the adjacent parts, but they were still exposed to great persecutions and trials of every kind. One of them in a letter to the protector, Oliver Cromwell, represents, though there are no penal laws in force obliging men to comply with the established religion, yet the Quakers are exposed upon other accounts; they are fined and imprisoned for refusing to take an oath; for not paying their tithes; for disturbing the public assemblies, and meeting in the streets, and places of public resort; some of them have been whipped for vagabonds, and for their plain speeches to the magistrate.

Under favor of the then toleration, they opened their meetings at the Bull and Mouth, in Aldersgate-street, where women, as well as men, were moved to speak. Their zeal transported them to some extravagancies, which laid them still more open to the lash of their enemies, who exercised various severities opn them throughout the next reign. Upon the suppression of Venner's mad insurrection, the government, having published a proclamation, forbidding the Anabaptists, Quakers, and Fifth Monarchy Men, to assemble or meet together under pretence of worshipping God, except it be in some parochial church, chapel, or in private houses, by consent of the persons there inhabiting, all meetings in other places being declared to be unlawful and riotous, etc., etc., the Quakers thought it expedient to address the king thereon, which they did in the following words:

"O King Charles!

"Our desire is, that thou mayest live forever in the fear of God, and thy council. We beseech thee and thy council to read these following lines in tender bowels, and compassion for our souls, and for your good.

"And this consider, we are about four hundred imprisoned, in and about this city, of men and women from their families, besides, in the county jails, about ten hundred; we desire that our meetings may not be broken up, but that all may come to a fair trial, that our innocency may be cleared up.

"London, 16th day, eleventh month, 1660."

On the twenty-eighth of the same month, they published the declaration referred to in their address, entitled, "A declaration from the harmless and innocent people of God, called Quakers, against all sedition, plotters, and fighters in the world, for removing the ground of jealousy and suspicion, from both magistrates and people in the kingdom, concerning wars and fightings." It was presented to the king the twenty-first day of the eleventh month, 1660, and he promised them upon his royal word, that they should not suffer for their opinions as long as they lived peaceably; but his promises were very little regarded afterward.

In 1661 they assumed courage to petition the House of Lords for a toleration of their religion, and for a dispensation from taking the oaths, which they held unlawful, not from any disaffection to the government, or a belief that they were less obliged by an affirmation, but from a persuasion that all oaths were unlawful; and that swearing upon the most solemn occasions was forbidden in the New Testament. Their petition was rejected, and instead of granting them relief, an act was passed against them, the preamble to which set forth, "That whereas several persons have taken up an opinion that an oath, even before a magistrate, is unlawful, and contrary to the Word of God; and whereas, under pretence of religious worship, the said persons do assemble in great numbers in several parts of the kingdom, separating themselves from the rest of his majesty's subjects, and the public congregations and usual places of divine worship; be it therefore enacted, that if any such persons, after the twenty-fourth of March, 1661-2, shall refuse to take an oath when lawfully tendered, or persuade others to do it, or maintain in writing or otherwise, the unlawfulness of taking an oath; or if they shall assemble for religious worship, to the number of five or more, of the age of fifteen, they shall for the first offence forfeit five pounds; for the second, ten pounds; and for the third shall abjure the realm, or be transported to the plantations: and the justices of peace at their open sessions may hear and finally determine in the affair."

This act had a most dreadful effect upon the Quakers, though it was well known and notorious that these conscientious persons were far from sedition or disaffection to the government. George Fox, in his address to the king, acquaints him that three thousand and sixty-eight of their friends had been imprisoned since his majesty's restoration; that their meetings were daily broken up by men with clubs and arms, and their friends thrown into the water, and trampled under foot until the blood gushed out, which gave rise to their meeting in the open streets. A relation was printed, signed by twelve witnesses, which says that more than four thousand two hundred Quakers were imprisoned; and of them five hundred were in and about London, and, the suburbs; several of whom were dead in the jails.

Six hundred of them, says an account published at that time, wer ein prison, merely for religion's sake, of whom several were banished to the plantations. In short, the Quakers gave such full employment to the informers, that they had less leisure to attend the meetings of other dissenters.

Yet, under all these calamities, they behaved with patience and modesty towards the government, and upon occasion of the Ryehouse plot in 1682, thought proper to declare their innocence of that sham plot, in an address to the king, wherein "appealing to the Searcher of all hearts," they say, "their principles do not allow them to take up defensive arms, much less to avenge themselves for the injuries they received from others: that they continually pray for the king's safety and preservation; and therefore take this occasion humbly to beseech his majesty to compassionate their suffering friends, with whom the jails are so filled, that they want air, to the apparent hazard of their lives, and to the endangering an infection in divers places. Besides, many houses, shops, barns, and fields are ransacked, and the goods, corn, and cattle swept away, to the discouraging trade and husbandry, and impoverishing great numbers of quiet and industrious people; and this, for no other cause, but for the exercise of a tender conscience in the worship of Almighty God, who is sovereign Lord and King of men's consciences."

On the accession of James II they addressed that monarch honestly and plainly, telling him: "We are come to testify our sorrow for the death of our good friend Charles, and our joy for thy being made our governor. We are told thou art not of the persuasion of the Church of England, no more than we; therefore we hope thou wilt grant us the same liberty which thou allowest thyself, which doing, we wish thee all manner of happiness."

When James, by his dispensing power, granted liberty to the dissenters, they began to enjoy some rest from their troubles; and indeed it was high time, for they were swelled to an enormous amount. They, the year before this, to them one of glad release, in a petition to James for a cessation of their sufferings, set forth, "that of late above one thousand five hundred of their friends, both men and women, and that now there remain one thousand three hundred and eighty-three; of which two hundred are women, many under sentence of praemunire; and more than three hundred near it, for refusing the oath of allegiance, because they could not swear. Three hundred and fifty have died in prison since the year 1680; in London, the jail of Newgate has been crowded, within these two years sometimes with near twenty in a room, whereby several have been suffocated, and others, who have been taken out sick, have died of malignant fevers within a few days. Great violences, outrageous distresses, and woful havoc and spoil, have been made upon people's goods and estates, by a company of idle, extravagant, and merciless informers, by persecutions on the conventicle-act, and others, also on qui tam writs, and on other processes, for twenty pounds a month, and two thirds of their estates seized for the king. Some had not a bed to rest on, others had no cattle to till the ground, nor corn for feed or bread, nor tools to work with; the said informers and bailiffs in some places breaking into houses, and making great waste and spoil, under pretence of serving the king and the Church. Our religious assemblies have been charged at common law with being rioters and disturbers of the public peace, whereby great numbers have been confined in prison without regard to age, and many confined to holes and dungeons. The seizing for 20 pounds a month has amounted to many thousands, and several who have employed some hundreds of poor people in manufactures, are disabled to do so any more, by reason of long imprisonment. They spare neither widow nor fatherless, nor have they so much as a bed to lie on. The informers are both witnesses and prosecutors, to the ruin of great numbers of sober families; and justices of the peace have been threatened with the forfeiture of one hundred pounds, if they do not issue out warrants upon their informations." With this petition they presented a list of their friends in prison, in the several counties, amounting to four hundred and sixty.

During the reign of King James II these people were, through the intercession of their friend Mr. Penn, treated with greater indulgence than ever they had been before. They were now become extremely numerous in many parts of the country, and the settlement of Pennsylvania taking place soon after, many of them went over to America. There they enjoyed the blessings of a peaceful government, and cultivated the arts of honest industry.

As the whole colony was the property of Mr. Penn, so he invited people of all denominations to come and settle with him. A universal liberty of conscience took place; and in this new colony the natural rights of mankind were, for the first time, established.

These Friends are, in the present age, a very harmless, inoffensive body of people; but of that we shall take more notice hereafter. By their wise regulations, they not only do honor to themselves, but they are of vast service to the community.

It may be necessary here to observe, that as the Friends, commonly called Quakers, will not take an oath in a court of justice, so their affirmation is permitted in all civil affairs; but they cannot prosecute a criminal, because, in the English courts of justice, all evidence must be upon oath.

An Account of the Persecutions of Friends, Commonly Called

Quakers, in the United States

About the middle of the seventeenth century, much persecution and suffering were inflicted on a sect of Protestant dissenters, commonly called Quakers: a people which arose at that time in England some of whom sealed their testimony with their blood.

For an account of the above people, see Sewell's, or Gough's history of them.

The principal points upon which their conscientious

nonconformity rendered them obnoxious to the penalties of the

law, were,

  • 1. The Christian resolution of assembling publicly for the worship of God, in a manner most agreeable to their consciences.
  • 2. Their refusal to pay tithes, which they esteemed a Jewish ceremony, abrogated by the coming of Christ.
  • 3. Their testimony against wars and fighting, the practice of which they judged inconsistent with the command of Christ:
  • "Love your enemies," Matt. 5:44.
  • 4. Their constant obedience to the command of Christ: "Swear not at all," Matt. 5:34.
  • 5. Their refusal to pay rates or assessments for building and repairing houses for a worship which they did not approve.
  • 6. Their use of the proper and Scriptural language, "thou," and "thee," to a single person: and their disuse of the custom of uncovering their heads, or pulling off their hats, by way of homage to man.
  • 7. The necessity many found themselves under, of publishing what they believed to be the doctrine of truth; and sometimes even in the places appointed for the public national worship.
  •  

    Their conscientious noncompliance in the preceding particulars, exposed them to much persecution and suffering, which consisted in prosecutions, fines, cruel beatings, whippings, and other corporal punishments; imprisonment, banishment, and even death.

    To relate a particular account of their persecutions and sufferings, would extend beyond the limits of this work: we shall therefore refer, for that information, to the histories already mentioned, and more particularly to Besse's Collection of their sufferings; and shall confine our account here mostly to those who sacrificed their lives, and evinced, by their disposition of mind, constancy, patience, and faithful perseverance, that they were influenced by a sense of religious duty.

    Numerous and repeated were the persecutions against them; and sometimes for transgressions or offences which the law did not contemplate or embrace.

    Many of the fines and penalties exacted of them, were not only unreasonable and exorbitant, but as they could not consistently pay them, were sometimes distrained to several times the value of the demand; whereby many poor families were greatly distressed, and obliged to depend on the assistance of their friends.

    Numbers were not only cruelly beaten and whipped in a public manner, like criminals, but some were branded and others had their ears cut off.

    Great numbers were long confined in loathsome prisons; in which some ended their days in consequence thereof.

    Many were sentenced to banishment; and a considerable number were transported. Some were banished on pain of death; and four were actually executed by the hands of the hangman, as we shall here relate, after inserting copies of some of the laws of the country where they suffered.

    "At a General Court Held at Boston, the Fourteenth of October,

    1656"

    "Whereas, there is a cursed sect of heretics, lately risen up in the world, which are commonly called Quakers, who take upon them to be immediately sent from God, and infallibly assisted by the Spirit, to speak and write blasphemous opinions, despising government, and the order of God, in the Church and commonwealth, speaking evil of dignities, reproaching and reviling magistrates and ministers, seeking to turn the people from the faith, and gain proselytes to their pernicious ways: this court taking into consideration the premises, and to prevent the like mischief, as by their means is wrought in our land, doth hereby order, and by authority of this court, be it ordered and enacted, that what master or commander of any ship, bark, pink, or ketch, shall henceforth bring into any harbor, creek, or cove, within this jurisdiction, any Quaker or Quakers, or other blasphemous heretics, shall pay, or cause to be paid, the fine of one hundred pounds to the treasurer of the country, except it appear he want true knowledge or information of their being such; and, in that case, he hath liberty to clear himself by his oath, when sufficient proof to the contrary is wanting: and, for default of good payment, or good security for it, shall be cast into prison, and there to continue until the said sum be satisfied to the treasurer as foresaid.

    "And the commander of any ketch, ship, or vessel, being legally convicted, shall give in sufficient security to the governor, or any one or more of the magistrates, who have power to determine the same, to carry them back to the place whence he brought them; and, on his refusal so to do, the governor, or one or more of the magistrates, are hereby empowered to issue out his or their warrants to commit such master or commander to prison, there to continue, until he give in sufficient security to the content of the governor, or any of the magistrates, as aforesaid.

    "And it is hereby further ordered and enacted, that what Quaker soever shall arrive in this country from foreign parts, or shall come into this jurisdiction from any parts adjacent, shall be forthwith committed to the House of Correction; and, at their entrance, to be severely whipped, and by the master thereof be kept constantly to work, and none suffered to converse or speak with them, during the time of their imprisonment, which shall be no longer than necessity requires.

    "And it is ordered, if any person shall knowingly import into any harbor of this jurisdiction, any Quakers' books or writings, concerning their devilish opinions, shall pay for such book or writing, being legally proved against him or them the sum of five pounds; and whosoever shall disperse or conceal any such book or writing, and it be found with him or her, or in his or her house and shall not immediately deliver the same to the next magistrate, shall forfeit or pay five pounds, for the dispersing or concealing of any such book or writing.

    "And it is hereby further enacted, that if any persons within this colony shall take upon them to defend the heretical opinions of the Quakers, or any of their books or papers, shall be fined for the first time forty shillings; if they shall persist in the same, and shall again defend it the second time, four pounds; if notwithstanding they again defend and maintain the said Quakers' heretical opinions, they shall be committed to the House of Correction until there be convenient passage to send them out of the land, being sentenced by the court of Assistants to banishment.

    "Lastly, it is hereby ordered, that what person or persons soever, shall revile the persons of the magistrates or ministers, as is usual with the Quakers, such person or persons shall be severely whipped or pay the sum of five pounds.

    "This is a true copy of the court's order, as attests "EDWARD RAWSON, SEC."

    "At a General Court Held at Boston, the Fourteenth of October,

    1657"

    "As an addition to the late order, in reference to the coming or bringing of any of the cursed sect of the Quakers into this jurisdiction, it is ordered that whosoever shall from henceforth bring, or cause to be brought, directly, or indirectly, any known Quaker or Quakers, or other blasphemous heretics, into this jurisdiction, every such person shall forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds to the country, and shall by warrant from any magistrate be committed to prison, there to remain until the penalty be satisfied and paid; and if any person or persons within this jurisdiction, shall henceforth entertain and conceal any such Quaker or Quakers, or other blasphemous heretics, knowing them so to be, every such person shall forfeit to the country forty shillings for every hour's entertainment and concealment of any Quaker or Quaker, etc., as aforesaid, and shall be committed to prison as aforesaid, until the forfeiture be fully satisfied and paid.

    "And it is further ordered, that if any Quaker or Quakers shall presume, after they have once suffered what the law requires, to come into this jurisdiction, every such male Quaker shall, for the first offence, have one of his ears cut off, and be kept at work in the House of Correction, until he can be sent away at his own charge; and for the second offence, shall have his other ear cut off; and every woman Quaker, that has suffered the law here, that shall presume to come into this jurisdiction, shall be severely whipped, and kept at the House of Correction at work, until she be sent away at her own charge, and so also for her coming again, she shall be alike used as aforesaid.

    "And for every Quaker, he or she, that shall a third time herein again offend, they shall have their tongues bored through with a hot iron, and be kept at the House of Correction close to work, until they be sent away at their own charge.

    "And it is further ordered, that all and every Quaker arising from among ourselves, shall be dealt with, and suffer the like punishment as the law provides against foreign Quakers.

    "EDWARD RAWSON, Sec."

    "An Act Made at a General Court, Held at Boston, the Twentieth of

    October, 1658"

    Whereas, there is a pernicious sect, commonly called Quakers, lately risen, who by word and writing have published and maintained many dangerous and horrid tenets, and do take upon them to change and alter the received laudable customs of our nation, in giving civil respects to equals, or reverence to superiors; whose actions tend to undermine the civil government, and also to destroy the order of the churches, by denying all established forms of worship, and by withdrawing from orderly Church fellowship, allowed and approved by all orthodox professors of truth, and instead thereof, and in opposition thereunto, frequently meeting by themselves, insinuating themselves into the minds of the simple, or such as are at least affected to the order and government of church and commonwealth, whereby divers of our inhabitants have been infected, notwithstanding all former laws, made upon the experience of their arrogant and bold obtrusions, to disseminate their principles amongst us, prohibiting their coming into this jurisdiction, they have not been deferred from their impious attempts to undermine our peace, and hazard our ruin.

    "For prevention thereof, this court doth order and enact, that any person or persons, of the cursed sect of the Quakers, who is not an inhabitant of, but is found within this jurisdiction, shall be apprehended without warrant, where no magistrate is at hand, by any constable, commissioner, or selectman, and conveyed from constable to constable, to the next magistrate, who shall commit the said person to close prison, there to remain (without bail) until the next court of Assistants, where they shall have legal trial.

    "And being convicted to be of the sect of the Quakers, shall be sentenced to banishment, on pain of death. And that every inhabitant of this jurisdiction, being convicted to be of the aforesaid sect, either by taking up, publishing, or defending the horrid opinions of the Quakers, or the stirring up mutiny, sedition, or rebellion against the government, or by taking up their abusive and destructive practices, viz. denying civil respect to equals and superiors, and withdrawing from the Church assemblies; and instead thereof, frequenting meetings of their own, in opposition to our Church order; adhereing to, or approving of any known Quaker, and the tenets and practices of Quakers, that are opposite to the orthodox received opinions of the godly; and endeavoring to disaffect others to civil government and Church order, or condemning the practice and proceedings of this court against the Quakers, manifesting thereby their complying with those, whose design is to overthrow the order established in Church and state: every such person, upon conviction before the said court of Assistants, in manner aforesaid, shall be committed to close prison for one month, and then, unless they choose voluntarily to depart this jurisdiction, shall give bond for their good behavior and appear at the next court, continuing obstinate, and refusing to retract and reform the aforesaid opinions, they shall be sentenced to banishment, upon pain of death. And any one magistrate, upon information given him of any such person, shall cause him to be apprehended, and shall commit any such person to prison, according to his discretion, until he come to trial as aforesaid."

    It appears there were also laws passed in both of the then colonies of New Plymouth and New Haven, and in the Dutch settlement at New Amsterdam, now New York, prohibiting the people called Quakers, from coming into those places, under severe penalties; in consequence of which, some underwent considerable suffering.

    The two first who were executed were William Robinson, merchant, of London, and Marmaduke Stevenson, a countryman, of Yorkshire. These coming to Boston, in the beginning of September, were sent for by the court of Assistants, and there sentenced to banishment, on pain of death. This sentence was passed also on Mary Dyar, mentioned hereafter, and Nicholas Davis, who were both at Boston. But William Robinson, being looked upon as a teacher, was also condemned to be whipped severely; and the constable was commanded to get an able man to do it. Then Robinson was brought into the street, and there stripped; and having his hands put through the holes of the carriage of a great gun, where the jailer held him, the executioner gave him twenty stripes, with a threefold cord whip. Then he and the other prisoners were shortly after released, and banished, as appears from the following warrant:

    "You are required by these, presently to set at liberty William Robinson, Marmaduke Stevenson, Mary Dyar, and Nicholas Davis, who, by an order of the court and council, had been imprisoned, because it appeared by their own confession, words, and actions, that they are Quakers: wherefore, a sentence was pronounced against them, to depart this jurisdiction, on pain of death; and that they must answer it at their peril, if they or any of them, after the fourteenth of this present month, September, are found within this jurisdiction, or any part thereof.

    "EDWARD RAWSON"

    "Boston, September 12, 1659."

    Though Mary Dyar and Nicholas Davis left that jurisdiction for that time, yet Robinson and Stevenson, though they departed the town of Boston, could not yet resolve (not being free in mind) to depart that jurisdiction, though their lives were at stake. And so they went to Salem, and some places thereabouts, to visit and build up their friends in the faith. But it was not long before they were taken and put again into prison at Boston, and chains locked to their legs. In the next month, Mary Dyar returned also. And as she stood before the prison, speaking with one Christopher Holden, who was come thither to inquire for a ship bound for England, whither he intended to go, she was also taken into custody.

    Thus, they had now three persons, who, according to their law, had forfeited their lives. And, on the twentieth of October, these three were brought into court, where John Endicot and others were assembled. And being called to the bar, Endicot commanded the keeper to pull off their hats; and then said, that they had made several laws to keep the Quakers from amongst them, and neither whipping, nor imprisoning, nor cutting off ears, nor banishment upon pain of death, would keep them from amongst them. And further, he said, that he or they desired not the death of any of them. Yet, notwithstanding, his following words, without more ado were, "Give ear, and hearken to your sentence of death." Sentence of death was also passed upon Marmaduke Stevenson, Mary Dyar, and William Edrid. Several others were imprisoned, whipped, and fined.

    We have no disposition to justify the Pilgrims for these proceedings, but we think, considering the circumstances of the age in which they lived, their conduct admits of much palliation.

    The fathers of New England, endured incredible hardships in providing for themselves a home in the wilderness; and to protect themselves in the undisturbed enjoyment of rights, which they had purchased at so dear a rate, they sometimes adopted measures, which, if tried by the more enlightened and liberal views of the present day, must at once be pronounced altogether unjustifiable. But shall they be condemned without mercy for not acting up to principles which were unacknowledged and unknown throughout the whole of Christendom? Shall they alone be held responsible for opinions and conduct which had become sacred by antiquity, and which were common to Christians of all other denominations? Every government then in existence assumed to itself the right to legislate in matters of religion; and to restrain heresy by penal statutes. This right was claimed by rulers, admitted by subjects, and is sanctioned by the names of Lord Bacon and Montesquieu, and many others equally famed for their talents and learning. It is unjust, then, to 'press upon one poor persecuted sect, the sins of all Christendom.' The fault of our fathers was the fault of the age; and though this cannot justify, it certainly furnishes an extenuation of their conduct. As well might you condemn them for not understanding and acting up to the principles of religious toleration. At the same time, it is but just to say, that imperfect as were their views of the rights of conscience, they were nevertheless far in advance of the age to which they belonged; and it is to them more than to any other class of men on earth, the world is indebted for the more rational views that now prevail on the subject of civil and religious liberty.

    Posted via email from Classic Christian Digest

    ChristianLeadershipTopics: Spiritual Growth by Henry T. Blackaby

    Spiritual Growth

    by Henry T. Blackaby Return to Articles

    The great apostle Peter learned, often the hard way, the necessity of “spiritual growth!” So in his wonderful short letter he urged other believers, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 3:18)

    It is important to notice what he did not say: grow in disciplines, in Bible memory, in prayer activities, in soul-winning, or Bible knowledge. Though these are all very important—they are a bi-product of what Peter urged. What growth he did encourage was first, “grace.” That means to grow in the experience and appropriation of all that God has already freely provided: the fruits of righteousness (Phil. 1:11); that their “love may abound still more and more” (Phil. 1:9); that they would grow in “discernment” (vs. 9); that they would “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:15); that they would be “strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man (Eph. 3:16).

    Second, that they would grow in the “knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Their growth was to be in their relationship with their Lord. He put it this way, “… that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19).

    They were to learn, in ever-increasing measure, the practical and personal presence of their Living Lord in every area of their lives. This means in the home, in the workplace, in their recreation, and in the life of their church family. “Knowledge” of Christ meant “in personal, real experience.” Religious activity and personal relationship with Christ are very different and is very vital that you know the difference. Are you “growing in grace and the knowledge of [your] Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to have this kind of spiritual growth, which pleases God and brings glory to your Lord!

    TheChristianBookClub: "Quiet Talks" by S. D. Gordon (Quiet Talks On Service) Chapter 8: Gideon's Band - Sifted for Service

     

    Quiet Talks On Service

    S. D. Gordon

    Chapter 8: Gideon's Band - Sifted for Service


     

    God Wants the Best

    Salvation is for all. Service is for those chosen for it. All may serve. That all do not is simply because service requires qualities which all do not have. Yet, again, all may have them who will, for the required qualities are heart qualities. And every one of us can cultivate the heart qualities. There is special service, chiefly of leadership, requiring brain qualities as well as heart. But the Master attends to the choosing of men for such service.

    And where His spirit has touched human hearts there will be a glad doing of just what service He appoints. It will be an honor to do just what He asks because He asks. What it may happen to be will be a small matter in itself. It is for Him, at His desire, and that is full enough to bring out the best we have.

    Our old Tarsus and Antioch friend and leader has written a special word about this matter of being chosen for service. It is in his first letter to the recently organized church at Corinth. It is really his second letter, for he seems to have written one before it that has not been preserved.[23] There were some very serious matters in this new church requiring strong treatment by its much-loved founder. Among them was one about service.

    There were some who had gifts in service that seemed more attractive and desirable than others had, it might be said more showy. And their brethren, not free from the old worldly spirit, were envious and jealous. And these who had such gifts were not free from a boasting spirit. Factions or parties had arisen as a result. It was the bad world spirit of competition and rivalry in among Christ's followers where it should never come, yet where it still does come. In writing this letter Paul throughout blends great plainness and common sense with great tenderness.

    In the beginning of his letter he calls attention to the fact that there are not many among them of those who were reckoned by the world's standards as wise or mighty or noble. On the contrary, in choosing His leaders God had purposely chosen those reckoned by the world's standards foolish that He might show plainly the shallowness of what they deem wise. And so things reckoned weak had been chosen to give the conception of what true strength is. And things even base, and despised, and not counted at all had been used that so men might learn the God-standards of wisdom and strength and honor and of what is worth while. The purpose being that men should quit glorying in themselves and glorify Him from whom everything had come, and was ever coming.

    The passage has oftentimes been quoted as though God prefers weakness; never put so bluntly as that perhaps, but plainly meaning that. That of course is not true. God wants the best we have. He needs the best. And for leadership often His plans must wait till a man of the sort needed can be gotten. And gotten frequently means broken, shattered, and then made over wholly new, that the native strength may be used according to true standards.

    Jacob was chosen rather than his elder brother Esau, not because of Jacob's goodness but because of Esau's weakness. God was narrowed to these two grandsons in carrying out the promise to Abraham. Jacob was contemptible in his moral dealings, but he had qualities of leadership wholly lacking in his brother. His moral character was a serious hindrance. God had to handle him heroically before He could get the use of his stronger mental equipment. Jacob had to get a bad throw-down before he would be willing to let God have His way. His body must be weakened before his mental power would yield. That was the weakness of his stubbornness. Stubbornness is strength not strong enough to yield.

    God's Use of Weak Things

    It is true that over and over again God has used men utterly weak and foolish and despised in the light of life's common standards. He wants men of the best mental strength, of the finest mental training, and He uses such when they are willing to be used, and governed by the true God-standards of life. But talent seems specially beset with temptation. The very power to do great things seems often to bewilder the man possessing it. Wrong ambition gets the saddle and the reins and whip too, and rides hard.

    Frequently some man who had not guessed he had talent, born in some lonely walk of life, without the training of the schools, is used for special leadership. It takes longer time always. Early mental training is an enormous advantage. Carey the cobbler had mental talents to grace a Cambridge chair. It took a little longer time to get him into shape for the pioneer work he did in India. Duff's training gave him a great advantage.

    But God is never in a hurry. He can wait. What He asks is that we shall bring the best we have natively, with the best possible training, and let Him use us absolutely as He may wish. And always remember that every mental power is a gift from Him; that actual power in life must be through Him only; and that mental gifts are not serviceable save as they are ever inbreathed by His own Spirit.

    This word of Paul's finds most graphic illustration in the book of Judges. Judges should be put alongside of the first chapter of First Corinthians. It is a series of pictorial illustrations of what Paul is saying there. These two books, Joshua and Judges, side by side in the Old Testament stand in sharpest contrast. The keynote of Joshua is victory; of Judges defeat. There's music in both, but contrasted music. Joshua rings with songs in the major key, triumphant, militant, joyous, victorious.

    The music of Judges is in the minor, sad and weeping, with the harps hanging on the willows. Joshua is upon the mountain top with sun shining and air bracing and outlook inspiring. Judges is down in the valley bottoms, dark and gloomy, and depressing. Yet Judges has bright spots, and has spurts of good music interspersed. It is a study in lights and shadows, bright lights, and dark shadowings, but with the blacker tints intensifying and overcoming the others.

    There are here seven striking illustrations of God's use of strange unusual means, such as are reckoned weak and trivial. A left-handed man uses that peculiarity to get a great victory and eighteen years of freedom for the nation.[24] A farmer with as homely a weapon as an ox-goad delivers his people from oppression.[25] Men came to be so scarce, that is men that were men enough to take their true place as leaders, that a woman had to step into the breach, and assume leadership. But the student of history and of modern times is used to that. The result was great victory, and a forty years' rest from the nation's enemies.[26]

    A nail or tent-pin, only a wooden peg, in the hands of a woman with a hammer helps to make the enemy's defeat more decisive.[27] Three hundred young men with pitchers and trumpets completely rout the three armies of three nations, and bring another deliverance.[28] Another time a piece of a millstone shoved over the wall by a woman turns the tide of battle favorably.[29] And as contemptible a thing as the jawbone of an ass in the hands of one strong man is used to slay a thousand men.[30]

    Call for Volunteers

    It is of one of these, one of the most striking of these, that we are to talk together awhile; the graphic story of Gideon and his band of three hundred young fellows. Things were in bad shape in the nation; about as bad in every way as they could be. This time it was the Midianites who overran the land, and held the leaderless people in most abject slavery. With them were joined two other nations, the Amalekites and the Children of the East. When the crops were almost ready to harvest, these raiders swooped in in great numbers and destroyed all the crops and drove away all the stock.

    They harried the Israelites so that life was made very miserable for them. They were forced to flee from their farms and take refuge in caves and dens and the fastnesses among the hills. Then, as usual, when they got into bad shape the people remembered God, and cried for help, and, as usual with Him, He at once forgave them and planned another great deliverance.

    First of all Gideon the leader is chosen out, and put through a bit of schooling. That is a fascinating story of great helpfulness. Then this trained young leader gathers his band of helpers. And we want to mark keenly how these three hundred men were sifted out of the thousands for service. They were sifted out. They sifted themselves out. In that army of thousands were just three hundred who had the needed qualifications for the bit of service God wanted done.

    Look over the gathered thousands: which are the chosen three hundred? No man knew. They didn't know themselves until the tests came. They chose themselves out by the way they stood the three tests applied. Even so is God ever sifting out men for service. The more difficult the service, the higher the grade of leadership needed, the severer the test. The testing both reveals the qualities, and in part makes them.

    The first quality these men had was willingness. They were all volunteers. When the call came they rallied to the leader's side. Gideon sent runners, criers, out throughout that whole section. They went first to his own family clan, then to his tribe, then to three neighboring tribes. They said that God had called upon Gideon to lead a movement against the Midianites and their allies and he wanted every man to come and help. The messengers went swiftly through the whole territory of these neighboring tribes, arousing the men to action and calling for volunteers.

    A good many did not respond to the summons. Some were simply indifferent. They could not help hearing the call, but there was no response without or within. No change of expression in the eye or face. They went right on in their heavy, dull way as though they hadn't heard. They were utterly indifferent to the call. Some were reluctant. They stopped and listened, but with a heavy slant backwards to their bodies. Their heels bore most of their weight. It was a good idea to get up such a movement, the enemy ought to be driven back and out, but—but—and their eyes are half shut already.

    Some criticised. Who was Gideon? A young upstart! trying to push himself forward as a leader. He had no skill or experience. And the people had no weapons. The enemy had stolen everything of the sort away. And they were clear outnumbered. There wasn't a ghost of a show. It would only make bad matters worse. This young upstart Gideon would soon be sorry enough when he butted his head against the experienced Midianite leaders. And—and—and—there they are talking, criticising, but not responding to the call. Such critics seldom respond, and helpers criticise in a very different way. It takes less brain to criticise unwisely, captiously, far less than to help. Almost any hare-brain can tear a thing to pieces. And nothing is commoner than just such criticism.

    Some ridiculed. “Ha! ha! ha! Gideon going to be national leader; ha! ha! ha! And whip the enemy. Ridiculous! Absurd!” And some were outrightly opposed. They objected. The people would be aroused, their hopes awakened only to be dashed. The whole thing was wrong, for it was impossible. And these men tried to keep others from going.

    A Willing People

    But many came. A crowd of volunteers came hurrying from farms and caves, bringing such weapons probably as they had been able to keep in hiding. They were willing to respond. It was a motley crowd, no doubt. There were thirty-two thousand of them. These four tribes had once numbered as many as one hundred and eighty-four thousand five hundred fighting men. And at another, later, enumeration they had two hundred and twelve thousand men of war age. Their numbers may be smaller now, though possibly not. It looks as though only a small minority of all had responded, maybe one in six or so.

    These men had the first great qualification for service, they were willing. They were actively willing. They willed to come down to the front and help fight the enemy, and deliver their nation. It is a great quality this of being willing. That prophetic One Hundred and Tenth Psalm mentions this as the great characteristic of those who shall rally about God's King in a coming day of power. God reckons our service not by our ability but by our willingness.[31]

    Whatever is given out of a warm, willing heart is eagerly accepted by Him. The Hebrew tabernacle was constructed of free-will offerings. The people came willingly with their offerings and left them for Moses' use. Some brought gold and silver, some finely woven tapestries and silks. Here was one poor woman who wanted to give but had very little. So she went out to her little flock of goats whereby her living came to her, and cut off a big bunch of goat's hair, and then with much pains dyed it red.

    And then one day she went up to where they were presenting their gifts and timidly laid her bunch of goat's hair on the pile of offerings, and quietly, quickly slipped away. It seemed very small on that pile of gold and silver and richly-colored weavings. But it was the gift of her heart. They had to have goat's hair as well as gold. And her offering was acceptable because it came from a willing heart. Willingness is a heart quality. It is the heart volunteering.

      “Our wills are ours to make them Thine.”

    This was the first test. Thirty-two thousand out of four tribes stood this test. Gideon's army had one great qualification at the start.

    Courageous Volunteers

    Now these men are put to a second test. The next morning God surprised Gideon by telling him that he had too many men. If a victory was given them with so many men they would feel that they had done the thing themselves. They would grow so large as to shut God out of their landscape. There would be no getting along with them. Each man would feel that he was the essential factor. They would go back to the homefolks to tell of themselves. God seems to know us folk down on the earth fairly well.

    Now He would lessen their numbers, but in doing it He will pick out the best. The men are encamped on the hillsides overlooking a valley. Across the valley to the north lay the encamped armies of three nations. They were a vast host. They were spread out as thick as the grasshoppers of Egypt had been years before. Everywhere you looked there they were swarming.

    Gideon spoke to his men. He said, “Gentlemen, Fellow-Israelites, there is the enemy. Take a good look at them.” And his followers looked, and as they looked some of them began to get scared. They had not realized just what was involved. Their footwear seemed to grow too large. They were shaking in their boots. And their eyes grew big and their faces white under the tan.

    Then Gideon said, “Now, every man of you that thinks it can't be done—I wish you would get right out of this, and go back home.” And he watched. And I imagine even Gideon shook a bit inside as he watched. They commenced to move away in squads, in scores, in fifties. Great gaps were left in the mob of men. Here is a fellow standing, looking. He thinks, “It looks pretty bad, sure enough; but then, I suppose, if God is planning—” hello, the fellow by his side has gone, and on this other side too—“I guess I'd better go too.” And off he goes. Fear is very contagious. There is great power in feeling a man by your side. And two-thirds of them disappear over the hills.

    The motto of these disappearing men was this: “It can't be done.” They must have organized themselves into a society to perpetuate their own idea. If so the society has shown great vitality. Many of its members abide with us until this day. No, probably they didn't organize. They didn't have enough gumption to. And such a sentiment grows like a weed without any cultivation.

    I recall a certain town in Ohio where I had gone to talk about an enlargement and re-vitalizing of the Young Men's Christian Association. Thousands of young men in the place needed just such help as that organization is supposed to provide. I outlined the plan to a clergyman. He said it was a good plan, there was great need, the thing should be done, “but,” he said, with an air of settling the thing, “it can't be done in this town.”

    Among others I talked with a business man. He listened attentively, approved the plans, agreed upon the great need, and then settling back in his chair with the same air of finality, used exactly the same words, with the same emphasis, “It can't be done in this town.” I got that same reply from several men that day. And I said to myself, “They are right; it can't be done with them; but it can be done without them.” And it was.

    Irresistible Logic

    But there remained ten thousand. These men by their staying said, “It ought to be done. What ought to be done can be done. What can be done we can do. What we can do we will do.” Here is another man standing looking at that vast host across the valley. He is thinking that it is a desperate case, but he thinks of God's call through Gideon. Just then he notices that his neighbor on the left has taken to his heels, and on his right also. That shakes him for a moment. His heels say, “You go too.” His heart said, “No, stay.” He obeyed his heart. He said, “I'll stay if I stay alone.”

    That was the stuff in these remaining ten thousand. They stood a double test in remaining, the desperate situation seen in the presence of such an enormous army, and the desertion of their fellows. They had courage; not only willingness but courage. Courage is a heart quality. Courage is the heart fighting. It faces fearful odds and keeps right straight ahead regardless.

    A prize was offered once for the best definition of “pluck.” The definition that won the prize said, “Pluck is fighting with the scabbard after the sword is broken.” What a picture in a single sentence! The man is fighting with might and main in the thick of the enemy, up and down, parry and thrust, and just about holding his own, when suddenly, without a moment's warning, the blade snaps close up to the hilt. The game's up now surely. This accident decides the day. Maybe—for some men. But not for this fellow. He simply sets his jaws a bit firmer as, quick as lightning, he grabs the scabbard by his side and fights with it.

    Such a man can't be whipped. He doesn't know when he is whipped. And the man who doesn't know when he is whipped, never is whipped. No man can be whipped without his own consent. I said courage is a heart quality. These ten thousand were not chicken-hearted nor downhearted. They were lion-hearted, stout-hearted. They had hearts of oak.

    It was a keen stroke of generalship on Gideon's part that sent the timid, discouraged ones back home. Nothing is more demoralizing than the presence of such people. And there was no discipline much finer for those who remained than to feel their fellows leaving them. It's hard to be left by those who have been in touch. It is hard to stand alone.

    There is no harder test of character than that. And too there is no finer thing to make character. Think how the fiber of those ten thousand toughened and strengthened as they stood there, with men on every side hurrying away. This was the second test. But the men who can stand testing are growing fewer. Thirty-two thousand men were willing. Only a third of them are both willing and courageous. These men are more than volunteers. They have seen the foe. Their fiber has stood the test, and toughened in the test. They are courageous volunteers.

    Hot Hearts

    But there is a third test. God comes to Gideon and says, “You have too many men yet, Gideon.” And Gideon's eyes bulge out a bit. Too many! Yes, this is to be a quality fight. No common fighting here. God works best with the men who come nearest to having His own thought of things. Numbers don't count. You can't count men for service. You must weigh them, and feel the firmness of their fiber.

    There is a little running brook down the valley. Gideon gives an order to his men to advance a bit. And he watches them. Most of them as they come to the water stretch out leisurely on the ground and putting their mouths to the water take a good long drink, and another, and again. They seem to say by their action, “Well, there's some tough work ahead, but we must take care of ourselves. A man must look out for number one. We must not get unduly stirred up over the thing. We're not fighting yet.”

    But one fellow comes along with a quick, nervous step, and his eye still on the enemy. He is all on tenter-hooks. His eye flashes fire. He reaches down with a quick movement and gathers up some water in his hand, up to his mouth, and hurries on. Then a second fellow, and a third, and more. Gideon is watching. As each of these comes along he calls him off to one side. When the whole number of men have passed the brook there are just three hundred of the hot-hearted, intense-spirited fellows.

    God said, “Gideon, keep these men; send the others back.” These thousands sent back were sturdy men. They would make good fighters in many a campaign, but they would not do for this higher kind of campaigning planned for that day. The little band remaining had stood a third test, they were willing, and courageous, and enthusiastic.

    Enthusiasm is the heart burning. These fellows had spring and snap to them. Yet it was a tempered spring and snap, the sort that would last. By their action at the brook they said, “If there's fighting to be done, let's do it quickly; let's go at the enemy with a vim and a rush. Oh! let us at them.”

    God Still Sifting

    Yet, mark you, their enthusiasm was seasoned. It grew under fire, or practically so, in the presence of the danger. There is always an abundance of the green article of enthusiasm, but it's not worth much for steady ditch-work. There is a sort of wood enthusiasm, apple-wood. You know how apple-wood burns in a fire. It catches quickly, throws out a good many sparks, makes a loud crackling noise, but doesn't last long.

    There is another sort, a soft-coal enthusiasm. It's better than wood. But it needs a lot of attention continually to keep a steady fire. Then there's the hard-coal enthusiasm that will burn steadily and faithfully by the hour. Yet no kind, mark you, will run long without fresh fuel. We need in our service more of the seasoned enthusiasm.

    It has been said of General Grant that one great reason for his success as a soldier was in his coolness. While the fighting and firing were hottest he sat on his horse quietly, coolly watching, listening, and giving his orders. And much of his power has been attributed to that quality. Well, if coolness is a qualification for success in Christian service there seems to be a large number of persons splendidly qualified. They are cool all the time; cool as icebergs at the North Pole; cool from the topmost layer of hair to the bottommost cuticle—about certain things.

    We want coolness of head such as General Grant had and hotness of heart such as he had, too. The ideal combination is a cool head and a hot heart. The head should resemble a refrigerator, and the heart a flaming furnace. There is one bother, however, among many people. Either the coolness of the head works down too much and affects the heart, and that is bad, or, else the heat of the heart gets up into the head, and a hot head is always bad.

    Yet there is a sure key to preserving the poise between the two. It is in the quiet time daily with Jesus, over the Book, with the knee bent, and the ear keen, and the spirit quiet. In that time there comes, and comes ever more, the calmness for the brain, and the fresh fuel for the heart, and new steadiness for the will that holds all under its strong hand.

    Many difficulties will yield only to fire. When you cannot reason your way through a problem, or a difficulty, or into a man's heart, burn your way through. Nothing can withstand fire. It is very remarkable that the symbol used most for God in the Bible is fire. A man never amounts to anything until he catches fire.

    The proportions are worth noticing here. Thirty-two thousand were volunteers. A third of that number are courageous volunteers. About a thirty-third of these, less than a hundredth of the original, are hot-hearted, courageous volunteers.

    This is Gideon's Band; three hundred young men fresh from the farm, who were willing, and courageous, and hot-hearted, all heart qualities. They stood every test. They had faced a foe that humanly they had no chance to overcome, and because of God's call they were not only willing, and stout-hearted, but intense in their desire to get at the fighting.

    Then under Gideon's leadership they were well fed, and organized; they proved individually faithful in the thick of the fight, and they pushed persistently on even when bodily tired out. And the nation knew a great victory over its enemies, and a time of prosperity for years after.

    God is still sifting men for service. He will use gladly every man who is willing to be used. When a man stands the first test well, there comes a second. That, stood well, means others. These are our promotion tests. He lets those who stand all testings into the thickest of the fight and up to the highest heights of victory.

    Master, help us to endure every test as seeing Him who is invisible.

     

    Posted via email from Classic Christian Digest

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