Friday, August 14, 2009

I've been reading a 17th century English Puritan divine, Richard Dent (not to be confused with former Chicago Bears defensive end, Richard Dent), who wrote a book for new Christians entitled, A Poor Man's Pathway to Heaven. It's one of the books that God used to bring about John Bunyon's conversion.

In it he describes a conversation between four men: Theologus (Theologian), his old friend Philagathus (Lover of Good), Asunetus (Clueless), and
Antilegon (Skeptic).

Here's a paragraph that got my attention:

Theologos: Some of God's dear children, in whom no doubt the inward work is
truly and soundly wrought, yet are so troubled and encumbered with a crabbed
and crooked nature, and so clogged with some master sin ; as some with
anger, some with pride, some with covetousness, some with lusts, some one
way, some another; all which breaking out in them, do so blemish them and
their profession that they cannot so shine forth unto men as otherwise no
doubt they would; and this is their wound, their grief, and their heart
smart, and that which costeth them many a tear, and many a prayer: and yet
can they not get the full victory over them, but still they are left in
them, as the prickin the flesh, to humble them.

Philagathus: Yet love should cover a multitude of such infirmities in God's
children.

Theologos. It should do so indeed: but there is great want of love, even in
the best; and the worst sort espying these infirmities in the godly, run
upon them with open mouth and take upon them to condemn them utterly, and to
judge their hearts, saying they be hypocrites, dissemblers, and there is
none worse than they. (That is, those who judge a sinning brother are worse
off than their sinning brothers.)

It reminded me of C. S. Lewis' essay on "Nice and New People":

If you are a poor creature—poisoned by a wretched upbringing in some house
full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels—saddled, by no choice of
your own, with some loathsome sexual perversion—nagged day in and day out by
an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends—do not
despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He
knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you
can. One day (perhaps in another world, but perhaps far sooner than that) He
will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one. And then you may
astonish us all--not least yourself: for you have learned your driving in a
hard school. (Some of the last will be first and some of the first will be
last).

(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity pp 214-215).

It seems to me that Lewis' parenthetical remark makes the Dent's point about those of us who would judge a struggling brother.

DHR

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