“The Library” – George Crabbe

I recently came across this poem, “The Library” (1781), written by George Crabbe (1754-1832) while reading an article about reading. It is a lengthy poem, which concerns the soothing effect books have on us in this world of misery and trouble. Immediately I fell in love with it. It takes some slow and careful reading to absorb Crabbe’s thought and point, but it is worth it! I will only quote a portion of the poem, but you can find the entire poem online at places such as Project Gutenberg (here).

 

Also, here is a biographical piece on Crabbe found on Wikipedia:

He was born in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, the son of a tax collector, and developed his love of poetry as a child. In 1768, he was apprenticed to a local doctor, who taught him little, and in 1771 he changed masters and moved to Woodbridge. There he met his future wife, Sarah Elmy, who accepted his proposal and had the faith and patience not only to wait for Crabbe but to encourage his verse writing. His first major work, a poem entitled “Inebriety”, was self-published in 1775. By this time he had completed his medical training, and had decided to take up writing seriously. In 1780, he went to London, where he had little success, but eventually made an impression on Edmund Burke, who helped him have his poem, The Library, published in 1781. In the meantime, Crabbe’s religious nature had made itself felt, and he was ordained a clergyman and became chaplain to the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire.

 

Not Hope herself, with all her flattering art,
Can cure this stubborn sickness of the heart:
The soul disdains each comfort she prepares,
And anxious searches for congenial cares;
Those lenient cares, which with our own combined,
By mix'd sensations ease th' afflicted mind,
And steal our grief away, and leave their own behind;
A lighter grief! which feeling hearts endure
Without regret, nor e'en demand a cure.
   
But what strange art, what magic can dispose
The troubled mind to change its native woes?
Or lead us willing from ourselves, to see
Others more wretched, more undone than we?
This BOOKS can do;--nor this alone; they give
New views to life, and teach us how to live;
They soothe the grieved, the stubborn they chastise,
Fools they admonish, and confirm the wise:
Their aid they yield to all:  they never shun
The man of sorrow, nor the wretch undone:
Unlike the hard, the selfish, and the proud,
They fly not sullen from the suppliant crowd;
Nor tell to various people various things,
But show to subjects what they show to kings.
   
Come, Child of Care! to make thy soul serene,
Approach the treasures of this tranquil scene;
Survey the dome, and, as the doors unfold,
The soul's best cure, in all her cares, behold!
Where mental wealth the poor in thought may find,
And mental physic the diseased in mind;
See here the balms that passion's wounds assuage;
See coolers here, that damp the fire of rage;
Here alt'ratives, by slow degrees control
The chronic habits of the sickly soul;
And round the heart and o'er the aching head,
Mild opiates here their sober influence shed.
Now bid thy soul man's busy scenes exclude,
And view composed this silent multitude:-
Silent they are--but though deprived of sound,
Here all the living languages abound;
Here all that live no more; preserved they lie,
In tombs that open to the curious eye.
Published in: on January 31, 2012 at 12:18 PM  Comments (2)  

Old Princeton for New Calvinists

Old Princeton for New Calvinists – The Gospel Coalition Blog.

At the Gospel Coalition website, Andy Jones begins a year-long series on Princeton Seminary marking its 200th anniversary. For many years Princeton was a bastion of strong Calvinism and sturdy Presbyterianism in this country. It was the Seminary of the Alexander’s and the Hodge’s. But then it came under the spell of higher criticism and liberal theology, and Princeton became just another liberal Protestant Seminary. Of late there has been a few bright Calvinist lights shining there again, and the new Calvinists are taking interest in old Princeton, so this should be an interesting series. Here are a few paragraphs from the initial article to get us started.

The year 2012 marks the bicentennial of Princeton Seminary. In its modern form, Princeton had strayed far from its founders’ vision. Yet a look back at the early years and leaders of this venerable institution offers a storehouse of insights for navigating the issues facing the evangelical church today. Why should 21st-century Christians concern themselves with a 19th-century school in New Jersey? I can think of at least three reasons.

First, to be encouraged that we are not alone. Early Princeton bears a striking similarity to the Calvinist resurgence of our own day. The professors promoted Reformed theology while seeking to engage the rapidly changing world around them. We have much to learn from them, for better and for worse, as we seek to be biblically faithful in the modern world.

…In the 19th century, Princeton was a leader among conservative evangelicals in America. It was the “grand central station” for the “young, restless, and Reformed.” Through The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, a prominent voice in 19th-century religious journalism, it apprised Presbyterians of the latest thinking among biblical scholars, engaged in controversies facing the church, and responded to challenges in the surrounding culture.

This year-long series will take a look back at the people, controversies, and legacy of Old Princeton. The church today faces many of the same issues as evangelicals did in the early to mid-19th century. Future articles will examine a previous era of the church in order to gain clarity on our own.

“The Answer in an Age of Uncertainty”

I want to make my readers aware of the fact that the two speeches from last Friday night’s conference on postmodernism (with the above title), sponsored by Hudsonville and Faith PRC’s in the Grand Rapids, MI area, have been posted on Hudsonville’s website (here) and on the PRC website (here). These are audio versions only at this time. I understand they will have full video versions up on YouTube in the next few weeks.When those are available, I will also let you know.

Rev.G.Eriks spoke on “Knowing Truth in an Age of Uncertainty” and Rev.A.Lanning spoke on “Finding True Freedom in an Age of Uncertainty”. They both did an excellent job of making the complex errors of postmodernism simple and clear, and critiqued its influence on the church and college campus with plain Biblical truth and wisdom. The crowd overflowed with people of all ages, a real blessing and encouragement. The two churches did an outstanding job of planning and preparing this timely conference (including having book and literature tables out!). It is my hope that they will do another one in the future, on another such timely subject.

 

So, if you missed the conference and missed the live stream of it, you can still receive the benefit of the speeches. Click on the links above to find your way to the audio.

Revelation’s Applications

On this final Monday in January we take one last look at this month’s Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ devotional. The January issue is devoted to the book of Revelation – “The Apocalypse of John” – which is really the unveiling of Christ our victorious Lamb as He comes throughout this final age in all its events, so that he may come fully and finally to usher in the everlasting state of all things, including the perfect redemption of His Bride, the church. I was interested in how Ligonier would treat Revelation, because R.C. Sproul holds a preterist, post-millennial viewpoint of the last things (eschatology). That did indeed come out in K.Mathison’s article “Understanding Johns Prophecy”. But this issue did have two amillennialists writing feature articles (C.Venema and D.Johnson), so at least the perspective was balanced.

 

It is the last featured on Revelation article which I post about today. It is written by Dennis E. Johnson, who teaches practical theology at Westminster Seminary in California. He had the task of applying the book of Revelation to the church today, and he did a nice job of laying out “seven applications of Revelation”. I cannot give you all of them, nor can I link you to the ones I don’t quote here, since his article is not posted online at this time. But I can at least give you a taste of them. Here are two of the applications that I found especially encouraging for us as the church today:

Revelation Reveals Our Champion in His True Glory

As its title promises, this truly is ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’ (1:1). It unveils Jesus and fixes our hearts and hopes on Him. He is the hero of each dramatic scene. He is the Son of Man foretold in Daniel 7, luminous in divine glory, who by His resurrection seized death’s keys and now walks among His churches. He is Judah’s Lion who conquered by being slain, redeeming people from all the earth’s peoples. He is worthy of worship from every creature everywhere. He is the Captain of heaven’s armies, riding into battle against His and our enemies, defending beleaguered saints, and finally destroying the Dragon and his beasts. Our Champion lifts our weary hearts with His promise: ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ We reply: ‘Amen. Come, Lord Jesus’ (22:20).

 

Revelation Calls Us to Stay Pure When Compromise Invites

Some of the first-century churches, like many churches in the twenty-first century, faced a subtler threat than persecution. Satan, the father of lies, tried to mislead believers through purveyors of false teaching (2:15,20). Material comfort and compromise with the paganism of the surrounding culture also proved alluring (2:14; 3:17). Such insidious assaults on wholehearted allegiance to Christ are still with us. Against the Devil’s lies and invitations to idolize pleasure and prosperity, Revelation calls us to keep our hearts and lives pure as befits those who will be the Lamb’s white-robed bride (3:4-5, 17-18; 7:9,14; 14:4; 19:7-8; 22:14-15).

Psalm 61 – The Psalter (1912)

As our Psalter is 100 years old this year (see my post on January 19, 2012 ), I want to introduce you to some of the versifications and tunes to the Psalms found in it, especially on those Sunday’s when I cannot find a good video version of the Psalm we are considering. Surprisingly, as beautiful and popular as Psalm 61 is, there were not any decent versions of it on YouTube. So today we open our Psalter to #160, which is the second version of Psalm 61 found in it. Below are the lyrics, and if you click on the title, you will also hear a piano version of the melody. Feel free to just listen as you follow the words, or to sing along with it. This Psalter information is taken off the Protestant Reformed Churches website at prca.org.

 

160.  Confidence in God.   Psalm 61.  C.M. (4 stanzas)

1. O God, give ear unto my cry,
And to my voice attend;
Though far from home and from Thy house,
To Thee my prayers ascend.

2.When troubles overwhelm my heart,
Then Thou wilt hear my cry,
For safety lead me to the Rock
That higher is than I. 

3. A refuge Thou hast been for me
When storms of trouble lower;
When foes assail, then Thou hast been
My strong defense and tower.

4. Within Thy holy temple, Lord,
I ever will abide;
Beneath the covert of Thy wings
In confidence I hide.

J.Calvin on Psalm 61

Also for our meditation on Psalm 61 today we take in these words of John Calvin on v.4. May they too help us to come before God with true humility and godly desires.

 

In the verse which follows, he expresses the confidence which he had that he would dwell from this time forth in the sanctuary of the Lord…. It is noticeable, that now when he was returned from his banishment, and established within his own palace, his heart was set more upon the worship of God than all the wealth, splendor, and pleasures of royalty. We have his testimony in other parts of his writings, that in the worst calamities which he endured, he experienced nothing which could be compared to the bitterness of being shut out from the ordinances of religion; and now he accounts it a higher pleasure to lie as a suppliant before the altar, than to sit upon the throne of a king. By the words which immediately follow, he shows that he did not, like too many uninformed persons, attach a superstitious importance to the mere externals of religion, adding, that he found his safety under the shadow of God’s wings. Ignorant persons might conceive of God as necessarily confined to the outward tabernacle, but David only improved this symbol of the Divine presence as a means of elevating the spiritual exercises of his faith. I would not deny that there may be an allusion to the cherubim when he speaks of the shadow of God’s wings. Only we must remember, that David did not rest in carnal ordinances, the elements of the world, but rose by them and above them to the spiritual worship of God.

 

Taken from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (www.ccel.org)

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 61

As we come to our last Lord’s Day in January and prepare to worship our sovereign King and gracious Savior, we turn to the 61st Psalm in the OT Psalter. Psalm 61 was also penned by “the sweet psalmist of Israel”, David, and includes elements of lament, petition, and thanksgiving. It is well-suited then for our worship, for whenever we appear before our holy and merciful God we come as needy sinners, burdened with life’s troubles and afflictions, praying earnestly for His saving help and praising Him for His flawless character and faithful works. Here are the psalmist’s words:

Psalm 61

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.

2From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

3For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.

4I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.

5For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name.

6Thou wilt prolong the king’s life: and his years as many generations.

7He shall abide before God for ever: O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him.

8So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows.

 

Though we do not know the precise historical setting for this psalm (at least that the heading indicates), David clearly penned it at a time in his life when he was removed from the city of Jerusalem and the house of God, and when he was overwhelmed with troubles. I have a note in the margin of my Bible that David wrote this when he had to flee Jerusalem after his son Absalom and his men took over the city (see 2 Samuel 15). If this was in fact the context, it was a grievous time in David’s life, not only because of the insurrection of his own son (part of God’s chastisement of David for his sin with Bathsheba), but also because it meant he was taken away from the signs of God’s presence with him and the means of grace.

Yet David finds that God has not forsaken him, that God still hears him, protects him, and has blessed him beyond measure (v.3-5). And so he confides in God and commits his way to Him (vss.1-2). And in the midst of pain and problems he still performs his vows and praises his God (vss.5,8). Do we not see Christ in this psalm as well? In the midst of his supreme desolation of suffering human rejection and the wrath of God, especially on the cross, – brought about by our sin and shame – still he trusts in His Father, calls upon Him for deliverance, and praises Him from the depths. In the midst of ultimate grief and pain still he performs His vow to endure all things for the elect’s sake! And that perfectly faithful suffering and obedience of Christ is our salvation!

That is why we now can and do make this psalm our own. For Christ’s sake, in the midst of our own suffering and pain, we cry and pray, we trust and wait, we sing and praise. Because God is our Shelter and Strong Tower, because we always abide in His tabernacle (Christ – see John 1:14)! Shall we not worship our great and glorious God this day with thankful hearts?! May He give us grace so to do.

“Abortion is as American as Apple Pie” — The Culture of Death Finds a Voice

AlbertMohler.com – “Abortion is as American as Apple Pie” — The Culture of Death Finds a Voice.

Our second post today also concerns abortion. This time we let noted Christian theologian and ethics teacher, Dr. Al Mohler, speak to the issue. He posted this on his blog last Friday, January 20. I apologize for being a week late on these posts – better late than never – but they are always timely, because these “legalized” abortions (murders) go on every day. May we never become accustomed to this sin in our land, but remain Biblically sensitive to its evil and to the judgment of God on those who sanction it and commit it.

 

Here is part of what Mohler has to say about this sin of our culture (read the rest at the link above):

Most Americans will pay little attention to the 39th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision. In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a woman has a constitutional right to arrange the killing of the unborn life within her. Since that decision was handed down, more than 50 million babies have been aborted, at a rate of over 3,000 each day.

One of the most chilling aspects of all this is the sense of normalcy in American life. Abortion statistics pile up from year to year, and each report gets filed. Moral sentiment on the issue of abortion has shifted discernibly in recent years, as ultrasound images and other technologies deliver unquestionable proof that the unborn child is just that — a child. Nevertheless, the larger picture of abortion in America is basically unchanged.

…Just recently, Merle Hoffman, a major voice in the abortion rights movement and founder of Choices, a major center for abortions in New York City, has written a memoir, Intimate Wars. In telling her story, Hoffman calls for her colleagues in the abortion industrial complex to defend abortion as a moral choice.

…“Abortion is as American as apple pie.” Hoffman made that statement in a recent interview about her book. She laments that abortion is the cause of shame in some women and that shame attaches itself to abortion in the larger culture, even now. In her view, if women would start talking more honestly and directly about their abortions, the shame would be removed and women would discuss their abortions like they speak of “a bikini wax.”

Is Merle Hoffman right? Is abortion “as American as apple pie?” To our great shame, she has a right to make that claim. How can it be refuted when abortion on demand has been legal in this country for almost forty years, when one out of three American women will have an abortion, when within some communities far more babies die by abortion than are born?

In Merle Hoffman, the Culture of Death has found a new voice. Almost forty years after Roe v. Wade, abortion remains a central part of the nation’s moral landscape. Over 50 million unborn children have been aborted within the span of just one generation.

The Great Sin of Abortion in Our Land

This past Sunday, January 22, is known as “Sanctity of Life” Sunday, when Christians marked the 39th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision giving the right to mothers to murder their unborn children (Roe vs. Wade, Jan.22, 1973). While we may differ with other Christians on the grounds for opposing this immoral law of our land (according to God’s law!) and the wicked murders it has spawned since that infamous day, we will certainly always stand against these evils. And we too should be a voice in letting our government know that we are opposed to this decision and this grievous sin in our land – not just for the sake of the mothers who may think they have a right to kill their unborn babies – and not just for the sake of the life of these unborn children – but also, and especially, for the sake of the honor of our sovereign God, Whose right alone it is to give life and to take it away (Deut.32:39; 1 Sam.2:6-8; Job 12:9-10).

 

Last Saturday, January 21, Desiring God Ministries – tied to pastor John Piper – posted this brief summary of what that Supreme Court decision was. This will be the first part of our “culture-watch” post this Saturday. May we never forget what happened that day, nor since then.

 

What Does Roe v. Wade Actually Say?

By Jonathan Parnell | Jan 21, 2012 07:40 pm

January 18, 1987, John Piper preached a sermon to expose the evil of abortion. Since this sermon he has preached against abortion every year on the Sanctity of Life Sunday, which correlates with the dark anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

38 years and 50 million killed babies since this Supreme Court decision, what exactly does it say?

Pastor John:

When the American Medical Association was formed in 1847, abortion was commonly practiced “before quickening.” But through the efforts of the A.M.A. and anti-obscenity crusaders and (ironically) feminists, abortion became illegal every where in the U.S. by 1900. Abortions went underground or out of the country.

The key reversal of this legal situation came on January 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade made the following rulings:

  • that no state may make laws regulating abortion during the first three months of pregnancy except to provide that they be done by licensed physicians;
  • that laws regulating abortion between the third month and the time of viability are constitutional only in so far as they are aimed at safeguarding the health of mothers;
  • that laws relating to the time from viability (6–6 1/2 months) until the end of the pregnancy may not prevent abortion if it is “to preserve the life or health of the mother”;
  • that the “health” of the mother includes “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient.” . . .

Summary

In effect, therefore, the law of our land today [in 1987 and 2012] is that any abortion is legal in America until birth if the mother can give reason that the pregnancy or the child will be an excessive burden or stress on her well-being.

Excerpted from Abortion: You Desire and Do Not Have, So You Kill (1987).

Of Cabbages, Bumper Stickers, and Herman Hoeksema

I have a bathroom book – at Seminary. In the basement, where I can read in privacy until my legs get numb. But you are more interested in the book. It is the collection of stories called Of Cabbages and Kings, written by former Christian Reformed minister Jacob D. Eppinga, who pastored LaGrave Ave CRC in downtown Grand Rapid for many years. He had a column in The Banner under the above title, where these stories first appeared. They are homey and humorous recollections of his experiences in the church and in normal life, usually with a good spiritual/theological lesson attached (a later collection of similar stories appeared as The Blue Marble).

 

The other day I read one of the stories (actually it might have been three!) – on “Bumper Stickers” – and if Herman Hoeksema didn’t appear in the story! (one of the founding fathers of the PRC, for those who may not know). Right then I knew that this had to be a “Friday fun” item. So here it is. I am going to let Eppinga tell the story, since he does it best anyway. Obviously, I cannot relate the whole story, but I will give you enough to appreciate Eppinga’s dilemma – his humor – and his lesson. Enjoy this Part 2 of our Friday Fun.

 

Automobiles must have horns. It is the law. But drivers may not lean on their horns unnecessarily. This, too, is the law. To blow or not to blow, that is the question.

It was this question that put me in a quandary a few weeks ago while waiting for a traffic light. A bumper sticker on the car ahead caught my eye. It said, ‘Honk if you love Jesus.’

Years ago I read a good article by the late Dr. H. Hoeksema entitled ‘Hawking Religion’ (There it is! Actually, the full title was ‘Jesus-Savior, and the Evil of Hawking Him’, if I am not mistaken – cjt). He was against that sort of thing. but what about honking it?

..Whoever thought up such a bumper sticker anyway? Probably the same person who dreamed up the other one I saw which said, ‘Warning. This car will be unmanned when the rapture comes.’ I wondered what kind of witness that could be for such mystified motorists as had not the foggiest as to the meaning of that word so dear to premillennial hearts.

I set my jaw and determined that I was not going to blow my horn. Then I listed my grounds mentally. It was a cheapening of the faith. Anyway, most people love Jesus in one way or another. At present, His is the most admired and popular name in the land. What a racket it would be, then, if all drivers took that bumper sticker seriously. What is more, my little VW Klaxon made a most unenthusiastic squeak. Then, too, what would the lady behind me, who couldn’t see the sign ahead, think? She would probably put me down as a son of Jehu.

A made-up mind, however, does not always produce peace of mind. Was the driver ahead concluding from my silence that I was not a Christian? Or, if a Christian, one of those who is afraid to identify himself as one?

…It is surprising how many thought the human brain can process in just thirty seconds. The sign ahead made me think of some Christians who blow all the time about their love for Jesus. In meetings and in other ways. But nothing more. Quick with tongue, but slow with deed, they make noise for God but little else. Some loud-mouths in the churches have no hands for God, but only fingers wherewith to pinch wallets when Christ’s collection plate is passed. Our Master talked to such when He said something like, ‘Why do you blow your horns for me, but do not the things I say?’ (Luke 6:46).

..The traffic light was about to change. My mood softened toward the bumper sign ahead. After all, it had occasioned a fruitful train of thought. …As the car in front pulled away, I sounded forth, without conscious decision, two tiny beeps.

…Somewhere between the lights, I had found my text for Sunday’s sermon.

…Not ‘Honk if you love Jesus’, but similar, though better, words from Christ Himself. ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15).

 

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