CHRISTIAN TRAVELERS GUIDES
READINGS FOR THE CHRISTIAN
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Essentially there are two kinds of people, because there are two kinds of love. One is holy the other is selfish. One is subject to God; the other endeavors to be equal to Him.
St. Augustine, Commentary on Psalm
Christ is not here. Hence a Christian must not be here. Therefore no man can tie down Christ or a Christian ...
Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans
First keep thyself in peace, and then shalt thou be able to pacify others. A peaceable man doth more good than he that is well learned.
Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
There are many assemblies of Christian worshippers on earth at this very day in which there is literally nothing to attract the natural man. They meet in miserable dirty chapels, so-called, or in wretched upper-rooms and cellars. They sing unmusically. They hear feeble prayers, and more feeble sermons. And yet the Holy Spirit is often in the midst of them ...
J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion, on Happiness
Then Jehoshaphat rested with his fathers and was buried with them in the City of David. And Jehoram his son succeeded him as king. Jehoram's brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat, were Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariahu, Michael and Shephatiah. All these were sons of Jehoshaphat king of Israel. Their father had given them many gifts of silver and gold and articles of value, as well as fortified cities in Judah, but he had given the kingdom to Jehoram because he was his firstborn son. When Jehoram established himself firmly over his father's kingdom, he put all his brothers to the sword along with some of the princes of Israel. Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. 6 He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD.
2 Chronicles 21.1-5
The people of Jerusalem made Ahaziah, Jehoram's youngest son, king in his place, since the raiders, who came with the Arabs into the camp, had killed all the older sons. So Ahaziah son of Jehoram king of Judah began to reign. Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem one year. His mother's name was Athaliah, a granddaughter of Omri. He too walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother encouraged him in doing wrong. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, as the house of Ahab had done, for after his father's death they became his advisers, to his undoing.
2 Chronicles 22.1-4
Joash was seven years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty years. His mother's name was Zibiah; she was from Beersheba. 2 Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years of Jehoiada the priest.
2 Chronicles 24.1-2
Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother's name was Jecoliah; she was from Jerusalem. 4 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done. 5 He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success.
2 Chronicles 26.3-5
To modern readers the historical books of the Bible seem far removed from contemporary life. The history of ancient Judaism is a monotonous account of the deeds of kings who "did evil in the eyes fo the Lord," punctuated by stories about other rulers who "die what was right in the eyes of the Lord." The ideas associated with kingship and the autocratic rule of a monarch seem a long way away from modern politics with democracy, elections, presidents, chancellors and prime ministers. But, these biblical stories come alive during visits to the great cathedrals of Europe with their tombs and monuments to great Kings and Queens.
In many ways the history of Europe until the beginning of the nineteenth century is a biblical style epic with good and bad kings following their own ways or serving the Lord. This is something that Bede recognized in his History of the English Church and People which he wrote around 730 AD. It's something Einhard and Notker the Stammer also recognized in their lives of Charlemagne.
Today many modern readers are shocked to learn that although Charlemagne had several wives and numerous concubines he was regarded for centuries as the greatest Christian king ever to rule Western Europe. They are also shocked to read that about his many battles and the slaughter of his enemies only to find that his biographers praise him for the very things that modern readers find so completely unchristian. Yet when Charlemagne's biographies are read alongside the story of biblical kings they no longer seem so remote or strange. The Bible makes no attempt to sanitize even the best of kings like David and Solomon. Instead, it depicts real men with all too real human failings and in doing so provides insight into events in church history that would otherwise leave us doubting the faith of people who were prepared to die for their faith even though the acted in ways modern Christians find offensive.
All of this reminds us that the ultimate judge in history ought to be God and His Word not passing human conventions and the ethics of the moment. We cannot really judge the past unless we do so through the lens of scripture, and when we do we see a very different world to our own.
Day: 3 - 4 - 5
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.