Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Week Thirty-Seven - A History Lesson

Beside the Well

            In 1600 William Shakespeare published The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  In 1601 the 2nd Earl of Essex became the last person beheaded in the Tower of London and Elizabeth I addressed her final parliament. She died in March of 1603.  That same year, King James I united the crowns of Scotland and England and the Nine Years War was ended. 
            In 1604, under the authorization of James I, work on the Authorized King James Version of the Bible began.  In 1605 the Gunpowder Plot was foiled and Guy Fawkes was arrested, hung, drawn and quartered.  In 1607, Jamestown, Virginia is established as the first permanent English settlement in North America.
           By 1625 James I had died and soon thereafter England and Scotland were at war until 1644 in what became known as the Bishops’ Wars.  The English Civil war began in 1642.  Tea arrived in Britain in 1652 and the Great Fire of London ravaged the city in September of 1666.
            Needless to say, the first few years of the 1600’s were fraught with turmoil and unrest.  But during that time a preacher was preaching.  Jeremiah Burroughs, after several years in Rotterdam as a persecuted refugee, returned to England at the commencement of the civil war and began preaching to some of the largest and wealthiest crowds in England.
            His messages on the Beatitudes are so rich in thought.  They are a joy to read, now that someone has graciously updated the language. 
            This week I came to a particular section while reading the chapter “Blessed are the Peacemakers”.  Listen to what he writes and remember he is speaking to the elite of his day, the mid-1600s:
                        “Every one would fain have peace; but men and
                        women are loath that it should cost them anything.
                        What is the meaning of that?  Oh, they would fain
                        have peace, but they would fain have everybody
                        to be all of their mind; they would fain that they
                        might do everything whatsoever they pleased, and
                        nobody speak against it”  (p 183).
            I had to stop and gasp.  This is his description of the attitude of people living during his time—the 1600’s.  They all wanted the war to end, but no one was willing to pay the price for peace.
            They were fighting and warring because they wanted everyone else to agree with their position.  There was no surrender of rights for the benefit of the other.  They wanted to live without rule upon themselves while placing rules on others.
            It reminded me of what we see in the news headlines today and of the attitude of so many.  The old teaching of “my rights stop where yours start,” is a thing of the past.  We are trampling over others to get what we want without considering the end.  We don’t want to pay the price for peace; we just want to do what it right in our own eyes and no man judge us.  That is a definition of anarchy.
            Burroughs goes on to admonish, “But let us be willing to sacrifice what is our own and not God’s, especially when it is public peace.”
            I found that thought interesting.  To “sacrifice what is our own.”  What might that be?  Peace is not free. It always costs someone something. Think of the family as an example. There must be consideration of each other for peace to reign in the home.  Someone must take the first step in asking forgiveness.  Someone must allow the other to go first at meal times.  Everyone must carry their weight of duty for the good of the family.  We might not think of these as sacrifices, but anytime we yield our way to others in the pursuit of peace, we are sacrificing.
            The same principles apply in wider society.  We stand in line for the bus instead of pushing our way through.  We pay the grocer instead of stealing fruit from the stand.  We drive at the recommended speed limit to promote safety on the road.  Yielding to authority is a sacrifice for the greater public good and peace.
            Burroughs makes one exception.  We are not to sacrifice God’s directives.  He says, “The truth is, peace is never bought too dear but by sin.”  When we allow the philosophy of tolerance to create space for sin, we are not creating peace.  We are actually contributing to unrest, for sin never settles an argument.
            Burroughs goes on to say, “Well, I am resolved so long as I live, wheresoever God casts me, I will make it my endeavor that there may be peace where I live, and I will be at any cost that so I may procure it” (p 183).
            It leaves us with some questions.  Is our society so different from those in the 1600’s?  Are we not still biting and devouring one another to get what we want?  Are we guilty of going away from God-given principles to try to create some sort of false peace?  And yet, our world increases in turmoil and hatred?  Am I striving to create peace in my personal sphere?  Am I willing to pay the price for peace?  What am I teaching my children by my actions? What will history record of our generation?

Burroughs, Jeremiah, The Saint’s Happiness, Burroughs on the Beatitudes, Nicol’s Series of Commentaries, Beaver Falls, PA, USA, Soli Deo Gloria Publications

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