A thousand sober amens to this.
Posts from the ‘Christian Spirituality’ Category
O Lord, You who are the fountain of all wisdom and learning,
because You have pleased to give me the means of instruction as a child,
so I may know how to rule myself in holiness and honorable behavior throughout the course of my life:
Please also illumine my understanding, which of itself is blind,
so that it may grasp the teaching that will be given to me;
please strengthen my memory to be able to remember well, dispose my heart to receive (what is taught) willingly and with due eagerness,
so that the opportunity You present to me may not be lost because of my ingratitude.
To do this, please pour out Your Holy Spirit on me,
the Spirit of all intelligence, truth, judgment, prudence, and teaching,
Who will make me be able to profit well so that my teachers’ efforts to teach me may not be lost.
Whatever the studies to which I apply myself, grant that I may direct them to the true purpose,
which is to know You in our Lord Jesus Christ,
to have full confidence of salvation and life in Your grace alone,
and serve You rightly and purely, according to Your pleasure,
so that everything I learn may be an instrument to aid me in that [serving Your pleasure].
And because You promise to give wisdom according to Your pleasure also to the small and humble,
and to confound the proud in the vanity of their minds — and likewise to manifest Yourself to those of right heart,
and on the contrary to blind the wicked and perverse — grant that I may be brought under the rule of true humility,
by which I may be made teachable and obedient:
first to You, secondly to those in authority over me, whom You have appointed to rule and teach me.
Moreover, please dispose my heart to seek You without pretense, renouncing every carnal and evil affection.
And in such a way I now am preparing myself to serve You one day
in the estate and calling to which You may be pleased to appoint me when I have come of age.
Hear me, merciful Father,
by our Lord Jesus Christ,
[John Calvin, "Prayer to say before studying his lesson at school," quoted in John Calvin: Writings on Pastoral Piety, trans. Elsie Anne McKee (New York: Paulist Press, 2001), 212-13; line breaks mine.]
We all know with what distinguished ardor our blessed Redeemer purged an earthly temple; a zeal for his father’s house even eat him up: with what a holy vehemence did he overturn the tables of the money-changers, and scourge the buyers and sellers out before him! Why? They made his father’s house a house of merchandise: they had turned the house of prayer into a den of thieves.
O my brethren, how often have you and I been guilty of this great evil? How often have the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, insensibly stolen away our hearts from God? Once they were indeed houses of prayer; faith, hope, love, peace, joy, and all the other fruits of the blessed Spirit lodged within them; but now, O now, it may be, thieves and robbers. Hinc illa lachryma [sic; "hence these tears"].
Hence those hidings of God’s face, that dryness, and deadness, and barrenness of soul, those wearisome nights and days, which many of us have felt from time to time, and have been made to groan under. Hence those dolorous and heart-breaking complaints, “O that I knew where I might find him! O that it was with me as in days of old, when the candle of the Lord shone bright upon my soul!”
Hence those domestic trials, those personal losses and disappointments: and to this perhaps some of us may add, hence all those public rebukes with which we have been visited: they are all only as so many scourges of small cords in the loving Redeemer’s hands, to scourge the buyers and sellers out of the temple of our hearts.
O that we may know the rod and who hath appointed it! He hath chastised us with whips: may we be wise, and by a more close and circumspect walk prevent his chastising us in time to come with scorpions! But who is sufficient for this thing?
None but thou, O Lord, to whom alone all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden! Cleanse thou therefore the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy blessed Spirit, that henceforward we may more perfectly love thee and more worthily magnify thy holy name!
[From "Christians, Temples of the Living God," in Selected Sermons of George Whitefield; paragraphs mine. The entire sermon may be read here.]
How convicting this is! Edwards, in Religious Affections:
The hypocrite has his mind pleased and delighted, in the first place, with his own privilege, and the happiness which he supposes he has attained to, or shall attain to. True saints have their minds, in the first place, inexpressibly pleased and delighted with the sweet ideas of the glorious and amiable nature of the things of God. And this is the spring of all their delights, and the cream of all their pleasures: it is the joy of their joy. This sweet and ravishing entertainment they have in the view of the beautiful and delightful nature of divine things, is the foundation of the joy that they have afterwards, in the consideration of their being theirs. But the dependence of the affections of hypocrites is in a contrary order: they first rejoice and are elevated with it, that they are made so much of by God; and then on that ground he seems, in a sort, lovely to them. …
And because the joy of hypocrites is in themselves, hence it comes to pass that in their rejoicings and elevations, they are wont to keep their eye upon themselves: having received what they call spiritual discoveries or experience, their minds are taken up about them, admiring their own experiences; and what they are principally taken and elevated with, is not the glory of God, or beauty of Christ, but the beauty of their experiences. They keep thinking with themselves, What a good experience is this! What a great discovery is this! What wonderful things have I met with! And so they put their experiences in the place of Christ, and his beauty and fullness; and instead of rejoicing in Christ Jesus, they rejoice in their admirable experiences; instead of feeding and fasting their souls in the view of what is without them, viz., the innate, sweet refreshing amiableness of the things exhibited in the gospel, their eyes are off from these things, or at least they view them only as it were sideways; but the object that fixes their contemplation, is their experience; and they are feeding their souls, and feasting a selfish principle, with a view of their discoveries: they take more comfort in their discoveries than in Christ discovered, which is the true notion of living upon experiences and frames, and not a using experiences as the signs on which they rely for evidence of their good estate, which some call living on experiences; though it be very observable, that some of them who do so are most notorious for living upon experiences, according to the true notion of it.
The affections of hypocrites are very often after this manner; they are first much affected with some impression on their imagination, or some impulse which they take to be an immediate suggestion or testimony from God of his love and their happiness, and high privileges in some respect, either with or without a text of Scripture; they are mightily taken with this as a great discovery, and hence arise high affections. And when their affections are raised, then they view those high affections, and call them great and wonderful experiences; and they have a notion that God is greatly pleased with those affections; and this affects them more; and so they are affected with their affections. And thus their affections rise higher and higher, until they sometimes are perfectly swallowed up: and self-conceit, and a fierce zeal rises withal; and all is built like a castle in the air, on no other foundation but imagination, self-love, and pride.