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Gleanings 1

Gleanings: These are things I stumbled on in the course of what is obviously not very systematic reading.   Some stood out because of what they said, others because of the way they said it.

"Infinity dwindled to infancy".  This is the suggestive title of a recent book on the incarnation by Edward J Oakes, SJ.  Published by Eerdmans.

"With its preaching Christianity stands or falls."P T Forsyth

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Doing God

Ever since Alastair Campbell issued his famous ‘We don’t do God’ decree in 2003, politicians have regarded religion as extremely bad for their image.  They do do atheism, of course.  Everyone knows that Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg are atheists, yet they’re riding high on the backs of the secular and gay votes.  But we don’t do God.

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Muslims and Poppies

Muslims have been part of my world since I first entered it a century ago, spending  the first five years of my life I lived above one of Stornoway’s best known retail outlets, Bùth nan Daione Dubh, on Point Street.  I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say that in English.  They weren’t Pakistanis, because this was before India gained independence and Pakistan emerged out of the trauma of partition.  We called them “The Darkies’” and thought it no more impolite than referring to the chemist as “Kenny Froggan” or the draper as “Peter Squeak”; and it was certainly less offensive than Christopher Columbus calling America’s First Peoples “Indians” (just because he’d got his navigation wrong) and they in turn calling Europeans “palefaces”.

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Childhood and Postcode Students

This week I may as well begin by acceding to a reader’s request that in future I avoid serious subjects and confine myself, instead, to regaling readers with lyrical waxings about my idyllic childhood.

Well, it was idyllic in its own way.  We could get “hurls” on the milk-lorry, a lift to school on Louis Quinn’s ash-cart and a ride on an old mare when we went on holiday.  And yes, we did play cricket all summer on the slopes of the Barvas Hills, we had splendid Halloween parties and even more splendid bonfires, courtesy of Guy Fawkes.

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Demo at St Paul's

Looks like I got it wrong last week over the anti-capitalism demo outside St Paul’s.  It’s the church, not the demonstrators, which now has egg on its face.  No banker has been forced to resign and no chief executive has been forced to take a cut in pay, but the Dean and his Chancellor have found themselves, for different reasons, with no option but to stand down, leaving the media to spin the story as a crisis for Christianity.

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Prejudices and Tolerance

A wise Roman Catholic once remarked that there is no one so prejudiced as someone who thinks he has no prejudices; and what’s true of individuals is equally true of societies.  The more we pride ourselves on our tolerance the more intolerant we seem to become.

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The Spiritual Life of Thomas Chalmers - Part 2

Effects of the change

What Chalmers himself called “the very great transition in sentiment” was accompanied by an inward peace and joy which he never lost.  Reflecting on the experience years later, he wrote: “The righteousness which we try to work out for ourselves eludes our impotent grasp, and never can a soul arrive at true or permanent rest in the pursuit of this object.  The righteousness which, by faith, we put on, secures our acceptance with God and secures out interest in His promises.  We look to God in a new light – we see Him as a reconciled Father; that love to Him which terror scares away re-enters the heart.”

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The Spiritual Life of Thomas Chalmers - Part 1

Thomas Chalmers gained renown as an orator, preacher, political economist, philanthropist, educationalist, ecclesiastical statesman and – above all – as an incomparable motivator of his fellow Christians. Men of high birth and scholars of world-renown sought his friendship. The University of Oxford conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Laws; the French Institute enrolled him as a corresponding member. Neither of these honours had ever before been conferred on a Scottish clergyman. When he died, he was buried “amid the tears of a nation, and with more than kingly honours”.

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Free Church Ministers & their Consciences

Ever since the Plenary Assembly the Free Church seems to have sprouted a remarkable number of consciences, and each one, sadly, seems to think itself more important than either the collective wisdom of the Church or the unity of the denomination.

The latest claim is that as a result of the Act passed by the Plenary Assembly many can no longer in good conscience assert, maintain and defend the form of worship authorised by the General Assembly.  This set me thinking: to what, exactly, are the consciences of Free Church ministers bound?

We are bound, first of all, to the supreme and final authority of Holy Scripture as the only rule to direct us.  Oddly enough, the question, ‘What saith the scripture?’ has scarcely figured in this sad debate.  ‘Ordination vows’ have been invoked to proscribe all appeal to the Bible.

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The Christian Experience of Suffering (3)

Some of the lessons are brought out even more clearly in the twelfth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews.  The passage is too long to quote in full, and we shall confine ourselves to the leading feature of its teaching.

We learn in the first place that we must not expect to derive blessing automatically from suffering.  Affliction by itself, no matter how great its intensity, does not sanctify.  

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