Tenth Month 31

For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations.
As you have done, it shall be done to you, for your deeds shall return on your own head.
For as you have drunk upon my holy mountain, all the nations shall drink;
they shall drink, and stagger,
and shall be as though they had not been. – Obadiah 15-16 (RSV)

*   *   *

About that time, I came up square against liberal bigotry: “I thought your message was too judgmental.”

So who’s doing the judging here?

Sometimes, it even begins before anyone says a word. After all, “pre-judge” becomes “prejudice.”

So it’s not always coming from the Right?

*   *   *

The Principle of Truth I call it; for so my Soul doth witness it, although I am not unsensible, that such who do despise it, will not stick to scandalize it, and instead of calling it by its true and proper Name, brand it with the opprobrious Terms of Heresy and Schism, sullen Separation, and the Effect of a melancholy Brain. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)




Tenth Month 30

For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live. – Amos 5:4

*   *   *

I sensed that one of the reasons we were being led out into other denominations (besides our being leavening amongst them) was that we, too, might learn of them – see what they’re doing right as well as wrong. Robert Barclay’s Apology, for instance, was certainly strengthened by his Jesuit and Presbyterian intellectual training.

Just so we don’t try to implement programs or liturgies rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to do its mighty work.

One week I stopped by the Assembly of God to see some people I hadn’t chanced across in some time. Their Sunday night (somehow, “First-day evening” just doesn’t work with the following word) programming is an organizer’s envy – two thousand people in the house or worship, something for everybody from the toddlers through the senior citizens – they even have their own variation on the scouting movement, which meets at that time. Their senior pastor has been speaking on people who knew Jesus, and I have usually found his teaching helpful and instructive. But that night, there were some points I wanted to question him on. As I approached afterward, his manner of treating me blew my eyes wide open – his “down-home, country-boy” manner is exactly that, as long as he’s on stage; but when the performance is over, the other self emerges: the one that relishes those $25 silk ties and $500 Jos. A. Banks’ tailored suits (I recognize the quality and cut). It’s that air of power and wealth, the exact same air I’ve sensed with the biggest editors and many top business executives. And I received the same brush-off. Especially when he knew that I was there to worship God, rather than become a member of his congregation. (No wonder some people like to preach that “God wants to prosper you” or that “He wants His people to have success”)!

*   *   *

They do also believe that the Scriptures are profitable for Doctrine, for Reproof, for Correction, for Instruction in Righteousness; that the Man of God may be throughly furnished unto every good Work. But yet still it is in Christ Jesus, whom his People do believe; and he is the Rule by which they live, according to the Example of the Apostle, who saith, The Life that I now live in the Flesh, I live by the Faith of the Son of God. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Tenth Month 29

In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab; and half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but the language of each people. And I contended with them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair; and I made them take oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women?” – Nehemiah 13:23-26 (RSV)

*   *   *

Here we are again, blaming the women. But what was really wrong with the Jewish men that they didn’t find wives who shared their culture? How I wish we’d hear this history from their side!

As a wrote at the time, a Friend “had mentioned something thee had raised in conversation – about how Plain sects seem to be closed societies, rather than reaching out to preach the gospel to all peoples. (If I understood rightly.) Actually, after a few generations, all denominations seem to close in – Plain or Fancy. It happened to the Methodists as well as the Mennonists. The Plain ones simply stand out from society a little more. He contended that the Mennonites went about it wrong from the very beginning – rather than going to the people first, they attempted to reform the church first. Friends, of course, went loudly into the marketplace as well as the churchyard – which is why they could raise 250,000 to 400,000 members within a few years. It wasn’t until the Wesleyan revivalism of the 1740s and on, when everybody else was trying to ‘save’ people by bringing them to the altar to repeat a few words, that Friends felt to emphasize that what happened after accepting Christ was important – that just because we had accepted an altar call, we could continue in our old, sinful ways – and thus we began tightening the screws on our discipline. Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to observe the outside of a person – and administer the discipline there – than the inner person. Which can lead us back into legalisms and phariseeism. (As thee well knows and rails against. Rightfully. Now, back to the inner person …)”

*   *   *

That I may be rightly understood, let me acquaint my Reader, Neither do I assert, that those who are set out as Travellers in Sion’s Road, are at once so perfectly instructed in all the Paths thereof, that they need not to inquire of those who are gone before, which is the Way thither, whose Experiences may be to them of use, for escaping the Snares which the subtil Fowler layeth to catch Souls in, both on the Right-hand and on the Left, that so they may walk right forward with their Faces Sionward, until they shall come to sit down in Heavenly Places … (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)


Tenth Month 28

Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever. – Ezra 9:12

*   *   *

Looking at the events of the Bible, I keep wondering how the Jewish people have survived at all. We have all the missed opportunities to establish a larger people, beginning with the loss of Ishmael and the children of Abraham’s later wives and concubines. Likewise, Esau and his family. The list continues, even before we get to the ten tribes lost in the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon or its later slaughter and ruin by the Romans. The Nazis were only the latest manifestation.

*   *   *

I felt echoes as we drove down the road and noticed that mailbox after mailbox having a Quaker surname – families that had fallen away from the faith and practice. The town itself was now overwhelmingly redneck. Why didn’t they stick with Friends?

“Pure Christianity is too difficult. You can’t pass that to your children. They have to work at it to discover it for themselves. Most of them wouldn’t. They’d prefer the entertainment of hymns or fancy singing, if they turn to anything.”

*   *   *

As the Jewish remnant returned to Jerusalem, Ezra and his circle made harsh choices to preserve an inheritance forever. Among other actions, they ordered divorces and dissolved families. They chose to separate themselves from the wider society, much like the Amish today or even Friends through much of our history. Still, I look at what’s lost and wonder.

*   *   *

Wherefore such who will not turn from their Idols, to serve the living God, so as to break off their Sins by a real Reformation, he will be terrible unto them, and will certainly visit them with Ruin and Destruction. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)


Tenth Month 27

My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins. For whereas my father put a heavy yoke upon you, I will put more to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. – 2 Chronicles 10:110-11 and, with slight variation, 1 Kings 12:10-11

*   *   *

Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon, stands as an example of a self-centered monarch who had nothing but scorn for his subjects. Likewise, he “abandoned the Law of Yahweh” (2 Chronicles 12:1, NJB) and leaves the nation vulnerable to invasion. Whatever glory Israel had achieved under David and Solomon was soon dissipated, and the kingdom shattered.

He is a tragic figure in its full sense of defying the gods and suffering the due consequences.

Unfortunately, that meant along with the people.

*   *   *

Ah Friends! is it not Pity that Sin should make an Aceldama of our Nation and this City? See therefore ye mind your inward Reprover, that ye may be no Cause in procuring the Nation’s Misery. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)