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)

 

Tenth Month 26

This is the Instruction for animals, fowl and all living beings that stir in the water, all beings that swarm upon the earth,
that there may be separation between the tamei and the pure,

between the living creatures that may be eaten and the living creatures that you are not to eat. – Leviticus 11:46-47 (Everett Fox translation)

*   *   *

We want logical reasons for including or excluding this food or that from a religious diet. Is it a matter of health, after all? Or the local ecology?

I suspect the mere act of saying I can’t eat this or won’t eat that – the imposition of a limit and the ability to say “no” – is the ultimate purpose.

We grew up without alcoholic beverages but had pork, which is hardly scriptural.

*   *   *

I am sensible many are the Temptations to allure you unto Vanity; but as you eye the Lord, they shall not overcome you, he will fight your Battles for you, and lift up a Standard in you against your Souls Enemies, and Satan and his Host shall fall like Lightning before you. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Tenth Month 25

And it was in the fortieth year,
in the eleventh New-Moon, on (day) one after the New-Moon,
Moshe spoke to the Children of Israel
according to all that YHWH had commanded him concerning them … –Deuteronomy 1:3 (Everett Fox translation)

*   *   *

It helps to have guidelines. Just follow the rules without reinventing the wheel. Still, it also helps to have some idea of why we’re doing something this way.

My best friend’s Plain style of attire, as I observed at the time, “often opened opportunities to witness that don’t arise for me, even when I’m with him. And then I’m open to opportunities he isn’t, like walking into a liquor store or flipping through a Playboy. Which may be why I ought to be sliding into broadfalls shortly. So, make sure thee lands a husband who can keep up his end of the contract – or else! We men need to remember that as believers, we, too, are brides of Christ . . . and thus loved and obedient. Or else. Let me tell thee sometime of one of my best friends, who married a non-believer the week before yearly meeting – and has been regretting it ever since. And she thought she had a clear leading from the Lord, that she would be the instrument to bring him to Christ.”

Or as the letter continued: “Hey, am I arguing about that covering? Thee notes with dismay the frequency with which such hair-splitting has split the church. Amen. We run a constant danger of thinking like Greeks rather than like Hebrews. The Greeks, as philosophers, always want to define and refine – that is, split hairs. (‘Was Christ human or divine? Or both? And if so, how and why.’ Et cetera ad infinitum. Thee can cite a thousand other examples, no doubt.) But the Hebrews would want to know what he did – which keeps our eyes focused on what we’re supposed to do. A vast difference.”

*   *   *

So though they may outwardly beset us, yet we have a Rock to shelter us, where the Enemy shall despair for ever at coming at us. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Tenth Month 24

And in all manners of wisdom and understanding, that the king found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. – Daniel 1:20

*   *   *

Likewise, Nebuchadnezzar “ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was wont to be heated” (3:19, RSV).

What, they measured IQ? They had thermometers?

Still, it’s tens and sevens in their layers of meaning.

*   *   *

Thus shall the Wicked see our Rock hath not sold us; for stronger is he that is in us, than they that are against us. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Tenth Month 23

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and place it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

*   *   *

The concept of the City Placed on a Hill is another biblical expression, this time from the Sermon on the Mount.

Says one Friend: “We’re going to be getting back to the streets.” According to the Brethren Encyclopedia, the Society of Friends in its first half-century was far-and-away the most evangelical and proselytizing denomination in all of North America.

As a Meeting is renewed in Christ, the power being poured upon it will be lost if the members do not find service – not more committee work, but real service. This can mean joining with others in feeding the homeless in town – and in the process, being blessed, too.

The Friend heard a radio preacher tell about a congregation that was solid, but just wasn’t growing. After twenty years, membership was still right around the 200 it had always been. “Why aren’t we growing?” they asked one another. “We have all this love among us. Our sermons are powerful, our services uplifting.” Then someone felt a leading: “Well, maybe what we need to do is go out and lend a hand to other Christians who are already involved in real service projects. Not start our own, mind you, but join in where we’re needed. Let them see our love, while we’re at it.”

In two years, their membership was over two thousand.

*   *   *

For this was Christ’s Promise, Other Sheep have I, which are not of this Fold, them also (saith he) will I bring, and there shall be one Sheepfold, and one Shepherd over them: And when Christ comes to fold them upon his Holy Mountain, which Mountain is within, then will they walk in the Footsteps of the Flocks of his Companions, and know a lying down where he makes his Flocks to rest at Noon. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

Tenth Month 22

Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy. – Psalm 82:3-4

*   *   *

They easily become invisible, which makes ignoring them all the easier. Look the other way, toward the rich and famous.

Or not.

*   *   *

For this is the Honour which all the faithful in Heart chiefly esteem, it being the Unbelieving who seek the Praise of, and Honour from Men; which made Christ say to some of old, How can ye believe, who receive Honour one of another, and seek not the Honour that cometh from God only? (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)