Wednesday, March 18

Morning Light in the Library

“A quiet library in the early morning--there's just nothing quite as wonderful. All possible words and ideas are there, resting peacefully.” Haruki Murakami

Tuesday, March 17

Thomas Chalmers (March 17, 1780 - May 31, 1847)

“There is not, of course, any difficulty in explaining the indifference of the modern secular mind to Chalmers, neither is it surprising that churchmen of liberal persuasion should lack enthusiasm for his memory. What is more problematical is the question why evangelical Christianity itself should have made so little of him these many years.” Iain Murray

“To know Chalmers is to love him, and to wish to be like him. Those to whom the cause of Christ is dear can but seek that a double portion of his spirit should be upon them.” Adam Philip

“What I thirst to read is Chalmers’ life….I cannot conceive of a wiser, greater or better man. Every part of his character was colossal; he had the heart of twenty men; the head of twenty men; the energy of a hundred. He has not left his equal in the world.” John Mackintosh

“He had the greatest concern for the nation, as well as well as for the Church, and it is an immense gain to a Churchman when he has such an interest in the State as keeps his ethics from becoming ecclesiastically narrow in range.” Principal R.G. Denney

“He answered all one’s young notions, and more, of what ‘greatness’ might be….Scotland was but a platform to and fro on which there walked a Chalmers.” Professor L.T. Masson

“You ask me to tell you about Dr. Chalmers. I must tell you first, then, that of all men he is the most modest and speaks with undissembled gentleness and liberality of those who differ from him in opinion. Every word he says has the stamp of genius; yet the calmness, ease and simplicity of his conversation is such that to ordinary minds he might appear and ordinary man.” Mrs. A.G Grant

“Truly I consider him as raised up by God for a great and peculiar work. His depth of thought, origionality in illustrating and strength in stating are unrivalled in the present day. In other respects he is too sanguine. He does not sufficiently see that a Chalmers is necessary to carry into effect the plans of a Chalmers." Charles Simeon

“It was his contagious ‘enthusiasm for humanity’ that invested him in the eyes of students, as well as congregations, broad Scotland over, classes and masses alike, with an admiring reverence assigned to one of the old Prophets of Israel.” J.R. Macduff


“During his life of sixty-seven years, Chalmers gave forty-four years of public service. Twenty of these he spent as a minister in three parishes—twenty-four he spent as a professor in three different chairs.” Adam Philip

Patrick: Missionary to Ireland

Several years ago, I wrote this little piece for Ligonier Ministry's very fine Table Talk magazine. Here it is again on this St. Patrick's Day:

Patrick of Ireland was a younger contemporary of Augustine of Hippo and Martin of Tours—the fifth century heroes of the faith who laid the foundations for the great civilization of Christendom. He was apparently born into a patrician Roman family in one of the little Christian towns near present day Glasgow—either Bonavern or Belhaven. Although his pious parents, Calphurnius and Conchessa, nurtured him in the Christian faith, he later confessed that he much preferred the passing pleasures of sin. One day while playing by the sea as a teen, marauding pirates captured Patrick and sold him into slavery to a petty Celtic tribal king, named Milchu. During the next six years of captivity he suffered great adversity, hunger, nakedness, loneliness, and sorrow while tending his master’s flocks in the valley of the Braid and on the slopes of the Slemish.

It was amidst such dire straits that Patrick began to remember the Word of God his mother had taught him. Regretting his past life of selfish pleasure-seeking, he turned to Christ as his Savior. Of his conversion he later wrote, “I was sixteen years old and knew not the true God and was carried away captive; but in that strange land the Lord opened my unbelieving eyes, and although late I called my sins to mind, and was converted with my whole heart to the Lord my God, who regarded my low estate, had pity on my youth and ignorance, and consoled me as a father consoles his children. Every day I used to look after sheep and I used to pray often during the day, the love of God and a holy fear of Him increased more and more in me. My faith began to grow and my spirit was ardently stirred. Often, I would pray as many as a hundred times in a single day—and nearly as many at night. Even when I was staying out in the woods or on the mountain, I would rise before dawn for prayer, in snow and frost and rain. I felt no ill effect and there was no slackness in me. As I now realize, it was because the Spirit was maturing and preparing me for a work yet to come.”

Amazingly, Patrick came to love the very people who humiliated him, abused him, and taunted him. He yearned for them to know the blessed peace he had found in the Gospel of Christ. Eventually rescued through a remarkable turn of events, Patrick returned to his family in Britain. But his heart increasingly dwelt upon the fierce Celtic peoples he had come to know so well. He was stunned to realize that he actually longed to return to Ireland and share the Gospel with them.

Though his parents were grieved to see him leave home once again, they reluctantly supported his efforts to gain theological training on the continent. His classical education had been interrupted by his captivity, so he was far behind his peers academically. But what he lacked in knowledge, he made up for in zeal. Before long he had secured a warrant to evangelize his former captors.

Thus, Patrick returned to Ireland. He preached to the pagan tribes in the Irish language he had learned as a slave. His willingness to take the Gospel to the least likely and the least lovely people imaginable was met with extraordinary success. And that success would continue for over the course of nearly half a century of evangelization, church planting, and social reform. He would later write that God’s grace had so blessed his efforts that “many thousands were born again unto God.” Indeed, according to the early-church chronicler W. D. Killen: “There can be no reasonable doubt that Patrick preached the Gospel, that he was a most zealous and efficient evangelist, and that he is entitled to be called the Apostle of Ireland” (Ecclesiastical History of Ireland, London, 1875).

We know that the kingdom of heaven belongs to “those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness” (Matt. 5:10) and that great “blessings” and “rewards” eventually await those who have been “insulted,” “slandered,” and “sore vexed” who nevertheless persevere in their high callings (Matt. 5:12–13). We know that often it is in “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, sleeplessness, and hunger” (2 Cor. 6:4–5) that our real mettle is proven. Nevertheless, we often forget that these things are not simply to be endured. They actually frame our greatest calling. They lay the foundations for our most effective ministries. It is when, like Patrick, we come to love God’s enemies and ours that we are set free for great effectiveness.

Jesus said, “Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who persecute you (Matt. 5:44); and again, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27). Therein is the missionary impulse. Patrick’s life provides us with a stunning reminder of that remarkable Gospel paradox.

Wednesday, March 4

Just Start

“One of the most powerful strategies for changing behavior, changing the way we think and use time was this: Just Start.” Brigid Schulte

“Sometimes it’s easier to act ourselves into a new way of thinking, than it is to think ourselves into a new way of acting.” Udaya Patnaik

Wednesday, February 18

Muhammad and Jesus


"Wherever you find the infidels, kill them, for whoever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection. Know that paradise is under the shade of the swords." Muhammad of Mecca

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Jesus of Nazareth

Saturday, February 14

Umberto Eco: My Favorite Quotes


With the news that Umberto Eco's newest novel is at last being prepared for publication in the US, I thought I'd assemble a few of my favorite quotes from his earlier books:


“We live for books.”

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

“When men stop believing in God, it isn't that they then believe in nothing: they believe in everything.”

“I love the smell of book ink in the morning.”

“The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.”

“Absence is to love as wind is to fire: it extinguishes the little flame, it fans the big.”

“Books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.”

"Because learning does not consist only of knowing what we must or we can do, but also of knowing what we could do and perhaps should not do.”

“All poets write bad poetry. Bad poets publish them, good poets burn them.”

“To survive, you must tell stories.”

“Love is wiser than wisdom.”

“For every complex problem there’s a simple solution, and it’s wrong.”

“Any fact becomes important when it's connected to another.”

Friday, February 13

Petty Tyrannies


There are two wonderful quotes about the omnipresent governmental busybodies that have become the bane of modern living. Alas, these epigrams are often conflated or misattributed or misquoted. For the record, here they are as originally composed, one from Ronald Reagan and the other from C.S. Lewis.

The one from Lewis in his anthology of essays, God in the Dock: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”


The one from Reagan in his Collected Speeches: "The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.”

And, There They Go Again


“The electoral victory of the Neo-Communist Syriza Party in Greece, led by Alexis Tsipras, has been described in the mainstream media of Britain and America as a ‘sweep to power.’ However, Syriza’s victory, though perfectly legitimate in the constitutional sense, was far from triumphant or overwhelming. It received votes from only 23 per cent of registered Greek voters--hardly an overwhelming victory. So, while the media reports have not exactly been outright lies, they have hardly represented the facts of the matter: rather they have offered only partial truths, as are so many truths in the field of politics. As the old proverb avers: A change of rulers is the joy of fools; in other words the next lot will be as bad as the last.” Theodore Dalrymple


Tuesday, January 13

Lord of Creation Reign


Hymn #443 in the 1875 Wesley Hymnal (or #431 in the Collected Works of John and Charles Wesley) is a remarkable call for faithful evangelism and intercession in the Muslim world:

1. Sun of unclouded righteousness,
With healing in Thy wings arise
A sad, benighted world to bless,
Which now in sin and error lies,
Wrapped in Egyptian night profound,
With chains of hellish darkness bound.

2. The smoke of the infernal cave,
Which half the Christian world o'erspread,
Disperse, Thou heavenly Light, and save
The souls by that impostor led,
That Arab-thief, as Satan bold,
Who quite destroyed Thy Asian fold.

3. O might the blood of sprinkling cry
For those who spurn the sprinkled blood!
Assert Thy glorious Deity,
Stretch out Thine arm, Thou triune God,
The Unitarian fiend expel,
And chase his doctrine back to Hell!

4. Come, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Thou Three in One, and One in Three,
Resume Thine own for ages lost,
Finish the dire apostasy;
Thine universal claim maintain,
And Lord of the creation reign.

Saturday, December 27

The Coventry Carol: A Pro-Life Hymn

The Coventry Carol is a 14th-16th century English Christmas Carol. It is the second of three songs in a traditional Nativity Pageant, a lament sung by the women of Bethlehem, immediately after Joseph is warned by an angel to take his family to Egypt—now, they face the specter of a horrific slaughter:

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing,
Bye bye, lully, lullay?

Herod the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might in his own sight
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor child, for thee
And ever mourn and may
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.

Very appropriately, the carol is now often sung at Childermas (also known as Kindermord or the Feast of the Innocents) when Christians traditionally solemnizes the slaughter of the children of Judea by Herod (Matthew 2:1-18). It provides focus for the Christian Community’s calling and commitment to protect and preserve the sanctity of all human life--and thus in some ways the Coventry Carol is one of the church's earliest pro-life hymns.