Friday, April 25, 2008

Fearless Conservatism: the Spirit of Power, of Love, and of a Sound Mind (from the Presbyterian Magazine), part 1

The Presbyterian Magazine.
January, 1860.
Edited by Rev. C. Van Rensselaer, D.D.
Chestnut St, Philadelphia.
pages 8-11

“Fearless Conservatism, or the Spirit of Power, of Love, and of a sound Mind.”

In times of perplexity, we should endeavor to act upon the principle of fearless conservatism.

God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. “The spirit of fear,” which is not God’s gift, is, on the one hand, that unrestrained lust of power, which, riding on the whirlwind of passion, and spreading its bolts of destruction, presages woe to man; and on the other hand, “the spirit of fear” is that servile, timorous spirit which cringes before arrogance, trembles in the face of opposition, heartlessly yields principle, and ignominiously shrinks from all danger and struggle. These are both alike foreign to the Gospel temper, for “God has not given us the spirit of fear” either to produce dread in others, or to be the subjects of terror ourselves.

I. The Gospel and civilization were detained, tarrying at Jerusalem, until the disciples were “endued with POWER from on high.” (Luke 24:49.) From that baptism of power the hosts of God have gone forth under “the banner of love,” evangelizing and elevating the nations. Then and now, the temper of Christian progress has been “from on high,” a power to encounter foes and dangers; a power to bear up under trials; to triumph in persecutions. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle (6:10) exhorts children and parents, servants and masters: “My brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” The nature of the Gospel is to inspire its possessors with holy courage.

This Christian boldness is the very opposite of that reckless audacity, whose frenzied zeal overrides all caution, tramples under foot principles of eternal truth, justice and mercy; and whose fell sport is “as a madman who casts firebrands, arrows, and death.” Blind to time and fitting season, and defiant of natural causes, relations, and results, this mad audacity inflames peaceful communities to fratricidal war, and claims, forsooth, to be doing service to God and humanity.

These tempers are as diverse as light and darkness. “And I turned myself to behold wisdom and madness and folly.... Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as far as light excels darkness.” (Ecclesiastes, 2:13.)

Part 2.
Part 3.

Baxter's Directions for the Depressed: Cast your cares on God (part 1)

The Signs and Causes of Melancholy, with directions suited to the case of those who are afflicted with it. Collected out of the works of Mr. Richard Baxter, for the sake of those, who are wounded in Spirit. By Samuel Clifford, minister of the Gospel London, Bible and Three Crowns, 1716. pp51-66. [Edited and abridged by SML.]

Click here for an introduction to Baxter on Melancholy

Chapter 4: Directions to the Melancholy.

When the disease is gone very far, directions to the melancholy persons themselves are vain, because they have not reason and free will to practice them: at that point, it is their friends around them who must have the directions. But because with most of the melancholy people, and at the onset, there is still some power of reason left, I shall give the following directions for use of such ones.

Direction 1: Take notice of worldly sorrows and discontents: don’t put so much value in earthly things to that they can disquiet you: but learn to cast your cares upon God.

1. Do not give way to a habit of peevish impatience. Did you not reckon on sufferings and of bearing the cross when you first gave yourself up to Christ, and now you think it strange when afflictions come on you? Look for them, and make it your daily study to prepare for any trial God may bring upon you, and then it will not surprise and overwhelm you. It is your unpreparedness that makes it seem insufferable.

Especially make it a matter of conscience to keep yourself out of a settled state of discontent in your mind: do you not have much better than you deserve? Do you forget how many years you have enjoyed undeserved mercy? Discontent is a continued resistance to God’s disposing will, and some rebellion against it. It is like an Atheist to think that your sufferings are not by his providence; and dare you complain against God and continue in such complaining? To whom else does it belong to dispose of you and all the world? And when you feel distracting cares for your deliverance, remember that this is not trusting God. Take care of your own duty and obey His commands, but leave it to Him what you shall have. Tormenting care only adds to your afflictions. It is a great mercy of God that he forbids these cares and promises to care for you. Your Savior himself has largely, though gently, reprehended them (Matt 6), and told you how sinful and unprofitable they are, and that your Father knows what you need; and if he deny it you, it is for a just cause; and if it is to correct you, it is also for your benefit, and if you submit to him and accept his gift, he will give you much better than what he takes from you, even Christ and everlasting life.

Part 2.