I’ve been trying out the Kindle since last fall. Looking around my study here at the Rectory, I have too many books to pack up and move once retirement comes! The Kindle can hold my entire library and my lower back sings with joy.
A great feature is the way I can upload a pdf file to the device and read it there. I’ve been able to scoop up a number of Puritan classics that way. One that I have been reading is a work by John Flavel, The Method of Grace. I first read some of his works as I prepared my lectures last year for the Reformation course I taught in the deacon school. Flavel got my attention when I found out he was one of the pastors who was forced from his parish church in 1662 in what is known as the Great Ejection. Managing the tension of being an evangelical still in the Episcopal Church, you can see how the period when my brothers in Christ experienced similar pressures demands a closer look.
There is one quote from a sermon he preached that has just pierced me through the heart:
“All our excellencies are borrowed excellencies. Therefore there is no reason to be proud of any of them.
What intolerable insolence and vanity would it be for a man who wears the rich and costly robe of Christ’s righteousness, in which there is not one thread of his own spinning, but all made by free grace and not by free will, to jet proudly up and down the world in it, as if he himself had made it and he were beholden to none for it?
O man! Thine excellencies, whatever they are, are borrowed from Christ. They oblige thee to him, but he can no more be obliged to thee, who wearest them, than the sun is obliged to him that borrows its light or the fountain to him that draws its water for his use and benefit.
And it has ever been the care of holy men, when they have viewed their own gracious principles, or best performances, still to disclaim themselves, and own free-grace as the sole author of all.
Well then, let the sense of your own emptiness by nature humble and oblige you the more to Christ, from whom you receive all you have.”
All around me in this age I see repeated the Triple Way of classical mysticism: cleansing one’s life through illumination toward union with God. Yet this reverses the order of the gospel which starts with union with Jesus Christ claimed by faith, leading to the illumination by the Holy Spirit and consequent cleansing through the process of sanctification.
How contrary is the way of the gospel from the values of the world!
What is the gospel?
THE CROSS! What is the CROSS…
- The way up is down.
- The way to power is to serve.
- The way to life is a willingness to die.
- The way to spiritual wealth is to admit you’re spiritually poor.
- The last shall be first.
- The way to become utterly Royal is to cast your crown before Him.