CHRISTIAN TRAVELERS GUIDES
READINGS FOR THE CHRISTIAN
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As pilgrims on the way, sing in hope, but keep on marching.
St. Augustine, Sermon 256
The sum of the Gospel is this: the kingdom of Christ is a kingdom of grace and mercy ...
Martin Luther, Sermon on Luke 10
Truly, at the day of judgment we shall not be examined what we have read, but what we have done; not how well we have spoken, but how religiously we have lived.
Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
Now promises, in the religion of the Bible, are one grand means by which God is pleased to approach the soul of man.
J. C. Ryle, Holiness
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: "Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world." Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, "I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding." And Isaiah boldly says, "I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me." But concerning Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people." Ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah--how he appealed to God against Israel: "Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me" ? And what was God's answer to him? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day." And David says: "May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever." Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles ...
Paul's comments about the apostasy of Israel could be applied to almost any European nation today. Italy in the sixteenth century persecuted its reformers, England in the seventeenth century drove out the Puritans, France in the eighteenth century murdered thousands of clergy, and Germany in the twentieth century turned to neo-pagan religions and persecuted God's people the Jews. Of course when anyone says "England", or "Germany" did this or that, it's a figure of speech. Some English leaders and some German leaders persecuted Christians and Jews. Most ordinary people were too busy surviving to pay much attention to what was going on around them.
Yet the excuse that "we didn't know" isn't something accepted by God. As Paul points out, He expects His people to hold themselves apart from their neighbors and to avoid the worship of idols including he idol of the nation. God's demands are great. The obedience of faith is not something we can embark on lightly. As Christians we are judged by a higher law that ought to cause us to see our world in terms of a higher law. God is above the nation and the history of Europe provides numerous examples of why Christians need to remember this and cling to God's Word.
Culture is a strange thing. Many of us are Americans, Brits, Canadians, French, German, Italian or simply devoted football fans before we are Christians. That's not good enough. God calls us to renounce all allegiances other than our commitment to Him. This is why Exodus 20.5 describes God as "a jealous God." Once again eighteenth century Deists like Jefferson and Paine thought that this was an obscene thought and evil teaching. The history of Europe teaches otherwise because when men and women give themselves to forces or ideologies other than the service of God disaster follows.
Day: 13 - 14 -15
These readings are based on a) John E. Rotelle O.S.A's., excellent Augustine Day by Day, (New York, Catholic Book Publishing, 1986). Permission to use these passages has been sought, although I believe what I have used falls within a "fair use" policy; b) Various works of Martin Luther (1483-1546); c) Thomas á Kempis (1380-1471); d) Anglican Bishop J. C. Ryle's (1816-1900) Holiness (18??) or Practical Religion (1900); e) Zondervan's New International Version of the Bible.