Wednesday, October 05, 2005

John Bois and the translation of the AV

The translators of the Authorised Version were certainly the most learned of their age (perhaps of any age) in the Biblical languages . John Bois (not to be confused with John Boys, Dean of Canterbury from 1619-1625) was one of the most distinguished scholars of all the eminent translators and revisers of the Authorised Version. He was a brilliant classics scholar, proficient in both Hebrew and Greek, Fellow at St. John's College, Cambridge and chaired the translation committee of six scholars who delivered the final copy of the Authorised Version in 1611.

A Godly Home
He was born in Nettlestead, Suffolk on 3 January, 1560. His father William Bois, had been taught by Martin Bucer when he was professor of divinity at Cambridge and had converted from Romanism. He went to live in Hadley, Suffolk which was at that time renowned for its godliness and as Foxe notes in his Book of Martyrs it was 'one of the first which received the purity of the gospel', 'the whole town seemed rather a university of the learned, than a town of cloth-making or labouring people'. William Bois married Mirable Poolye a godly woman who, according to one of her children, had read the Bible through over twelve times, the Book of Martyrs twice, besides many other books. She appears to have counselled her husband wisely while he wrestled over a call to the ministry, saying 'he was in the wrong way whilst he forbore'. He became curate and then rector at Elmesett near Hadley and later West Stow about four miles from Bury St Edmunds.

John was their only child that survived childhood, and he was carefully and thoroughly taught by his father in the truth as well as to a very high academic standard. At the age of only five years old, he had read the Bible in Hebrew. By the age of six, it seems that he could also write in Hebrew in such a legible and attractive script that would have been remarkable if he had 'been as old in the university as he was in nature'. (It should be noted that Hebrew is an exceptionally difficult language to write). He attended school at Hadley, where he was a fellow-student with John Overall later dean of St Paul's, Bishop of Norwich and translator of the Authorised Version who was well known for his skill in Latin and the biblical languages and his comprehensive knowledge of the Church Fathers. From this period in his life, John Bois was grounded in the practice of meditating in the Scripures in the morning and evening.

A Diligent Scholar
Bois went up to Cambridge University and was admitted to St. John’s College in 1575 at the age of fourteen, an amazing accomplishment in those days when students were considered precocious if they went to university before 21 or 22 years old. Dr. Andrew Downes, who was the king's professor of Greek and the chief university lecturer in that subject, paid particular attention to Bois, even in his first year, by giving him personal tuition. They read together twelve of the most difficult Classical Greek authors, in poetry verse and prose, 'the hardest that could be found, both for dialect and phrase'. Downes was later to be one of the most significant translators and revisers on the translation team that prepared the Authorised Version. He was professor of Greek in Cambridge from 1585 to 1625 and published lectures on classical authors throughout this time. He was spoken of as 'one composed of Greek and industry.'

Bois had been at the College for only half a year when he was writing letters in Greek to the Master and Senior Fellows. This is significant because scholars usually find it challenging enough to translate from Greek into English without actually composing freely in that language. Bois was so diligent in the language that during the summer he usually went to the University Library at four a.m. to read and study remaining without interruption until eight o'clock in the evening, a total of sixteen hours a day!

In 1580, Bois was elected Fellow of St John's College, and for ten years, he was Greek lecturer in his college and gave additional lectures in his own chamber at four o’clock in the morning, when most of the Fellows and lecturers also attended. One of the most famous pupils taught in this way was Thomas Gataker - an eminent Hebrew, Latin and Greek scholar and later to be a member of the Westminster Assembly. Gataker carefully preserved the notes that he had taken at these lectures, and years after when visited by Bois he showed them to him. Bois was overjoyed at the profit that had been derived from the lectures, saying that it made him feel many years younger.

It is clear that the period in which Bois was at his prime was marked by great scholarship and expertise in the biblical languages. Many scholarly editions of classical works, translations, lexicons, grammars and dictionaries were published by laymen and ministers during this period. Men such as Archbishop Ussher displayed expert knowledge of Greek geography, astronomy and Greek chronological material. Ussher wrote a treatise on the origin of the Greek Septuagint and edited two ancient Greek translations of the Book of Esther. Jeremiah Whitaker, of Oakham free school, read all the epistles in the Greek Testament twice every fortnight. John Conant, regius professor of divinity in Oxford, often debated publicly in Greek. The zenith of this scholarship was witnessed in the gathering of the translators of the Authorised Version. According to The Cambridge History of English and American Literature (1907-21) Volume VII, the most eminent Greek scholars of the day were engaged in this project.

Calling to the ministry
Bois began to study medicine but was called to the holy ministry and was first of all ordained a deacon, on 21 June, 1583, and the very next day, by a dispensation, he was ordained minister. At the death of his father, Bois followed as rector of West Stowe, but shortly after resigned, and went back to St John's College, after which he was briefly chaplain to the Earl of Shrewsbury. His marriage was rather curiously contrived when Mr. Holt, Rector of Boxworth, died, 'leaving the advowson of that living in part of a portion to one of his daughters; requesting of some of his friends, that “if it might be by them procured, Mr. Bois, of St.John’s College, might become his successor by the marriage of his daughter.”' When Bois was told, he went to meet the lady in question, and it seems that they became genuinely attached to one another and he became rector of the Boxworth on October 13, 1596.

As a consequence of marrying, Bois had to resign the fellowship at St. John’s. Still, however, he rode from Boxworth over to Cambridge every week in order to hear some of the lectures of Andrew Downes together with those of the king's professor of Hebrew Edward Lively (later translator on the AV project, regarded as 'one of the best linguists in the world' and the author of a Latin exposition of five of the Minor Prophets), as well as the other divinity lectures. He lost none of the time that he spent in riding in that he meditated on certain theological questions that he could discuss with his friends at the college. Every Friday he met for dinner with a group of twelve neighboring ministers in order to relate the studies that they had been engaged in over the week and to discuss and resolve difficult questions for their mutual benefit. Bois also paid a young scholar to teach his own children and other children of the town, both poor and wealthy. The domestic affairs of the rectory were left to his wife who found great difficulty in her task and managed to incur such serious debts that he was forced to sell his library, 'which contained one of the most complete and costly collections of Greek literature that had ever been made'.

Translating and revising
When the translators for the Authorised Version were gathered together, Bois was enlisted along with Andrew Downes amongst the many scholars assembled. Both men were engaged in Company Six, the Cambridge group, which translated all the books of the Apocrypha. It should be noted that the Church of England and the translators were in no way giving any veneration to the Apocryphal books. The Thirty-Nine Articles reject the Roman Catholic position of adding them to the Old Testament as canonical. 'And the other books (as Jerome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine'. They are in no way the inspired Word of God: the only value of these books is in providing historical background to biblical times and history. None of the Apocryphal books are in Hebrew in contrast to all of the canonical Old Testament. None of the writers claim inspiration and it is clear that the spirit of prophecy was withdrawn in the period between the Old and New Testaments in any case. They were never acknowledged as sacred Scriptures by the Jewish Church, to whom were committed the oracles of God (Rom 3:2) and are not cited in the New Testament. Consequently, the Early Church gave them no place in the canon.

Some of their content is plainly legendary. There are also statements in these books which contradict not only the canonical Scripture but themselves: for instance in the two books of Maccabees Antiochus Epiphanes is made to die three different deaths in various places. Various unbiblical doctrines are taught such as prayers for the dead, salvation by works and sinless perfection, they also encourage lying, suicide and magic. The translators showed that they did not regard it as inspired Scripture in the time (a mere few months rather than years) that they took to complete the task. The translators also made a clear distinction between the Old Testament and 'the books called Apocrypha' (as they distinguished them on the contents page) by stating at the end of Malachi 'The end of the prophets'. The books that follow are clearly marked as the Apocrypha, indeed each page notes at the top that it is the Apocrypha rather than Scripture. These books conclude with the rubric 'The End Of The Apocrypha'.

The other Cambridge company, who were translating Chronicles to the Song of Solomon, earnestly desired the assistance of Bois in their translation from the Hebrew. Professor Lively, who had been overseeing the project, died not long after it had begun. During these four years Bois spent Monday to Saturday on translation work and returned to conduct the Sabbath services and to spend the day with his family. His dedication to the work of translation was evidenced in the fact that he received no financial remuneration for this work, except meals and accommodation in College.

After the first stage, he was one of the twelve delegates who were sent (two from each company), to make the final revision at the Stationers’ Hall, in London, which took nine months in all. Bois took notes of all the proceedings of this committee, they were discovered recently and have been reprinted. The notes run to thirty-nine pages and are the only record of some of the deliberations and preferences of the translators. It is a record of the sheer diligence of the translators, comparing, discussing and consulting authorities. The Preface to the Translation explains this work of revision. 'Neither did we disdain to revise that which we had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered: but having and using as great helps as were needful, and fearing no reproach for slowness, nor coveting praise for expedition, we have at the length, through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the work to that pass that you see'.

Later life
Bois gave great help to his fellow-translator, Sir Henry Savile, in his publication of the complete works of the Early Church father,John Chrysostom (347-407 A.D.), which extended to eight large folios. Sir Henry refers to Bois, in the Preface, as the 'most ingenious and most learned Mr. Bois'. Bois regarded Chrysostom as 'one of the sweetest preachers since the apostles' times'. Savile, who was Provost of Eton College, had been employed in the New Testament Oxford company of translators and was a brilliant Greek scholar from an early age, well known for his Greek and mathematical learning. He was so well known for his education and skill in languages, that he became Greek and mathematical tutor to Queen Elizabeth during the reign of her father, Henry VIII. He translated and published many learned works in English and Latin, and was referred to as 'that magazine of learning, whose memory shall be honorable among the learned and the righteous forever' and 'one of the most profound, exact, and critical scholars of his age'
Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Ely and fellow translator made Bois a Prebendary of Ely Cathedral, in 1615. He spent the last twenty-eight years of his life in this capacity, where he attended church twice or three times a day. At his death, Bois left as many pages of manuscript as he had lived days, having lived eighty-three years and eleven days this was a total of 30,306 days. Even in his old age, he spent eight hours in daily study and produced a large commentary in Latin on the Gospels and Acts (with the intention of covering the whole New Testament) which was published some twelve years after his death. Yet despite being so studious, he would not study between supper and bed-time; but preferred to spend the interval in conversation with friends. He had the entire Greek New Testament committed to memory and was so familiar with it that he could, at any time, turn to any word that it contained. He was a very careful linguist who had read no less than sixty grammars in the Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Syriac languages. It was also said of him that he was 'in highest esteem with studious foreigners, and second to none in solid attainments in the Greek tongue'. The Dictionary of National Biography notes that Bois was an able textual scholar, pointing out that one of Bois's works 'consists of brief critical notes on words and passages of the Greek text, in which the renderings of the Vulgate are in the main defended'. It is likely that these 'renderings' are the Received Text readings which are testified to by the Latin translations.

Despite his learning, when he was in the pulpit, Bois sought to be easily understood by the most uneducated of his hearers. He compared those of weak ability to the young and tender of the flock who should not be overdriven (Gen 33:13). He preached without notes, having well prepared himself with much prayer and study. His desire was that he might live no longer than he was able to preach or be a minister. He was also diligent in hearing sermons himself, always keeping a note of the preacher and his text. Frequently, he fasted twice in the week and was so generous to the poor that he often left himself with very little; he seldom went to church without giving something to the poor by his return. He was regular in family worship, always kneeling on the bare bricks. He made frequent approach to the throne of grace, often praying while he walked. He was a frequent walker in fact, and in his journeys he sought to enter into profitable conversation with those that he travelled with, but if the company was not desirable he preferred to take out a book and read while he walked. The Holy Scriptures were in such reverence with him that he would always uncover his head in hearing them read or in reading them himself. His dependence upon divine assistance in his labours was always acknowledged and he would often finish a hard piece of study with the Latin words of praise to God 'Deo Sit Laus'.

The end of a diligent life
In later days Bois often meditated solemnly upon Samuel's words 'I am this day fourscore years old, and can I discern between good and evil?' (2 Sam 19:35) as well as the wisdom of Moses in Psalm 90:10. At the end of his days he was in health like Moses whose 'eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated' (Deut 34:7). 'His brow was unwrinkled, his sight clear, his hearing sharp, his countenance fresh, with a full head of hair and a full set of teeth'.

Having witnessed three of his seven children die young, together with the death of his wife, he said solemnly, near the end of his life that 'There has not been a day for these many years, in which I have not meditated at least once upon my death'. In his last illness he was so concerned that he might express himself unwisely under affliction that he asked his children that they should tell him if at any time, he expressed any thing which seemed to express impatience with his condition. He desired much time for devotion in solitude, often painfully conscious of his remaining sin. Bois departed this life on the Lord’s Day, 14 January, 1643, in the eighty-fourth year of his age. 'He went unto his rest on the day of rest; a man of peace, to the God of peace'.

the worldly christian

A new type of professing Christian has emerged over recent decades; one whose lifestyle is in no way different from that of an unbeliever except that they make a profession. In many evangelical churches the worldly Christian is now the norm. "Try to fit it in with the world" says the worldly Christian, "it is wrong to put up barriers and not be accepted". They have been told that godly living is really a kind of legalism that makes God into a killjoy. They have been misled to believe that what the gospel does is to make lives that are only partially fulfilled by the world, to be completely fulfilled by Jesus who is a type of missing add-on extra. Worldly Christians are assured by the equally materialistic lifestyle of other professing Christians: they take their standard from each other primarily rather than the Word of God. What does the New Testament say, however? Can we simply live as pagans: going to the same places and enjoying the same pleasures?

These are days in which we need to hear the clear, uncompromising teaching of the apostles. The apostle Paul writes in Romans 13: 13-14: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof". That whole passage in Romans 13 is indeed powerful, especially beginning at verse 11. Paul is picking up a previous theme stated at the beginning of Romans 12 (one of the major turning points of the epistle to the Romans). In Romans 12:2 there is a clear command: "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind".

No time for it

In the latter part of Romans 13 this command is given added urgency by the consideration that time is so short. We must have an eye on the clock, as it were, "knowing the time". There is significance in each moment, any life is so short that each moment is vitally important (Psalm 90:9-11). Eternity is always at hand. "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light". The apostle Paul is making it clear that time is shorter than we think. The present age is temporary like one single night (Psalm 90:4). The day of the appearing of our Lord and Saviour will soon come. We must live our lives in recognition of this fact rather than quibble or speculate about whether the second coming will take place before we die (John 21:22). We can be aware of the light of that "day" afar off just as Abraham saw Christ's day centuries before, and was glad (John 8:54).

Living honestly

It is a question of attitude and response to these facts - if we think it will always and forever be only dark and night then we will do the works of darkness. But if we know that a new era, a new world, a new heavens and new earth must come about as sure as day follows night, if there is a horizon as certain as every days dawn - we will prepare for that morning by dressing and acting appropriately. "Live as though the day has already dawned" he is saying, "let us walk honestly as in the day". The word "honestly" has the sense of properly or becomingly and therefore the type of behaviour that is suitable and respectable for the daytime.

Behind the apostle's imagery is the assumption that even pagans have a limited sense of decency and conscience. They would never engage in some of their shameful deeds except at night when they can have the cloak of darkness rather than do what they do in full view. Paul is implying that we ought to and must live open lives and do nothing, of which we might be ashamed, especially if the Second Coming of Christ interrupted it.

Giving an account of our stewardship

Perhaps the apostle Paul has in mind the picture of a large household, the management of which has been left to various servants by the rich home owner. Some of the servants take advantage of his goods and wine cellar and leave aside their duties and responsibility for a wild time. One servant, however, has kept his affairs in order, and rises early to go about his business, knowing that some day perhaps in the early morning (who knows?) his master will arrive. "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall being to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of. And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 24:44-51). "And that servant, which knew his lords will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:47-48).

What if having been given gifts, talents, and resources and having been instructed to trade with them to make them useful and profitable in extending our Masters estate ("occupy till I come" Luke 19:13) we should be asked suddenly to "give an account of stewardship"? (Luke 16:2) The call is to wake up and to get our house in order. It is "high time" - the crisis time of the crucial moments before the deadline of the judgement. The candle of night is burning very low, it is far-gone like a burning match that is very nearly spent, hardly anything is left. Paul is the watchman, calling out the last watch of the night. It is now the hour to be roused out of sleep.

The apostle Peter makes the same point about remaining time in one of this letters. "He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead". I Peter 4:1-5

The reasons and arguments that Peter uses are exactly the same as Paul's: the (sinful) past and the future (God's judgement day) must dominate our view of the present. Our past is a goad behind us; the shame and pain of it prodding us forward, the future is bright but with a holy brightness that shines on all of our life, exposing every area however private and undisclosed. Our consciences are quickened as we realise that we have already filled up our lives with so much that will shame us profoundly on that Day. As the parables indicate, the day of judgement will be a time of reward, (Rev. 22:12) what can we expect?

Casting off the works of darkness

Wake up to these facts, says Paul, wake up to these towering shadows of past and future that influence the present so totally. Compare the present with the past and the future, see how short the present is, you don't in fact know how long it will be and that is why each moment of it is precious. Too much time has been lost already. "All the time we spend in a sinful state is all lost time. O look to this you young ones. All the time you spend in the vanity of your youth is lost time, and you who have lived until you are old and have been a long time in a sinful state, you have lost all your time. O the time upon which eternity depends is all lost for you have spent it in the ways of sin which has no good in it at all". (Jeremiah Burroughs)

"Are you living like a pagan?" asks Paul, "Are you doing the works of darkness, hoping to get away with it unnoticed because none has found out?" "Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame" (I Corinthians 15:34). Are you flirting with the gross sins that Peter lists? Surely you know that God sees and won't ignore it? (Psalm 90:8). Have you lost your spiritual and moral alertness, drowsing away in apathy? You need a sudden recollection of forgotten duty. The ultimate mark of our generation is of course apathy: the tuned out, dropped out careless sloth of many a young person: the sleep of unconcern about their destiny, their existence and their lifestyle. There is a deadly apathy that is ignorant of coming judgement and will not listen to any warnings. "Seek him that...turneth the shadow of death into the morning...The LORD is his name" (Amos 5:8). "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the masters use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart". (I Timothy 2:19-22).

Sinful practice and the works of darkness must be cast off and thrown away, these three vile pairs that Paul mentions in particular: rioting and drunkenness, chambering and wantonness, strife and envying.

Night life

The word translated "rioting" is rendered "revellings" in I Pet. 4:3 and Gal. 5:21. It means boisterous merrymaking, we might call it partying or clubbing in our day. In some evangelical churches up and down the land the youth fellowship after church consists of heading to the pub. Many university Christian unions find that their meetings must not be organised at a time that would prevent members from going to pubs and clubs. Is it right for a Christian to do these things? Are we free to if we want to? Our age and many Christians sadly say, "Yes, it's not forbidden really" or "its up to you to decide". As though the Scriptures had not said 'be not among winebibbers'.

Neither Paul nor Peter, however, is not afraid to draw the line and be seen to dictate how Christians ought to live, they are not at all vague and non committal. The word connected with "rioting" "drunkenness" means excess or "drinking bouts" (having alcoholic drink after alcoholic drink) and is generally translated as 'drunkenness'. "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares" (Luke 21:34).

Lustful actions
"Chambering" might be translated as cohabitation, but probably has more a meaning of promiscuous sex (the word is related to conception in Rom. 9:10).
"Wantonness" is a word sometimes translated "lasciviousness" (Mark 7:22, 2 Cor 12:21, Gal. 5:19, Eph 4:19) or lustfulness (I Peter 4:3). Paul would have used the Greek word for fornication if he meant that alone, but this would repeat the sense of "chambering". Paul is surely covering all actions, attitudes, words, and motives. We would do well to return to the Westminster catechisms. The Larger Catechism teaches us that the duties required in the seventh commandment: "chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behaviour; and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance; keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel...diligent labour in our callings, shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto". The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment "besides the neglect of the duties required, are "all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections; all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behaviour, immodest apparel...idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, unchaste company; lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays; and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others". There are Scripture proofs for all these statements too.

All in all, it deals with lustfulness as the fuel and force of a wide range of sins, an excess of lust that totally dominates, possesses and controls. The way of guarding against this sin is to be strict in controlling what our eyes and ears take in.


Each pair of sins in Paul's list appears to deal firstly with shared sins and secondly with personal sins, he deals with the root as well as the outward manifestation. When he goes on to speak of strife and dissension, or fighting, he is dealing with the root of envy. Verbal strife comes from built up envy and frustrated selfishness (which is what envy is). The apostle James describes this sullen, selfish covetousness accurately. It is a spirit that seems to characterise the youth and youth culture of our day.
"From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" James 4:1-3.

However, fashionable all these pairs of sinful practices are (and they are supremely fashionable since selfishness and serving one's own lusts are the only thing that apathy does not touch) they are clothes that we cannot wear. Instead we should prove our identity as children of God by putting on the armour or weapons of light. We cannot put on night-clothes in preparation for a battle and self-defence. The flimsiness of night-clothes could not be more different from battle-wear: wearing night-clothes on military duty or in battle is about as absurd as wearing armour in bed. We must be prepared at all times therefore, ready for action, ready either to be on the defensive or the offensive.

Put on Christ

In the Bible the metaphor of clothing generally represents character, ability, and commitment. To put on Christ - is to put on the armour of light, to draw upon our resources in union with him, to live out the new man in Christ Jesus. Union with Christ is the crucial fact of the Christian life: think of how much the New Testament uses the words "in Christ". Paul urges us to be what we really are; to live properly dressed wearing the new garments of holiness that speak of our new status as sons of God. We are to enjoy and to display what is ours. "Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breast plate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation." (I Thess. 5:5-8). We are given the practical help of this last phrase "make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof". Paul is telling us how to avoid these sins of excess, these works of darkness. The crucial point concerns the mind, the command "make not provision" means "don't plan or think about such things beforehand", don't think about anything that would put you in a dangerous situation, and don't plan to put yourself there. Before you do things and enter into situations think about consequences and where it will lead. A thought sows an action. The answer is to make the things of God a conscious priority, to set your mind on things above and then there will not be room for sinfulness and even dubious things, we can only die more and more to sin as we live more and more to righteousness. This passage tells us that as Christians we can have no other lifestyle. "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will some forth and serve them. And if he come in the second watch, or come in the third watch and find them so, blessed are those servants." (Luke 12:35-37, read also Matt 25:1-13).

Monday, October 03, 2005

the side winds of christian experience

"tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience"

I have heard that a full wind behind the ship drives her not so fast forward as a side wind, that seems almost as much against her as with her; and the reason, they say, is because a full wind fills but some of her sails, which keep it from the rest, that they are empty; when a side wind fills all her sails, and sets her speedily forward. Whichever way we go in this world our affections are our sails; and according as they are spread and filled, so we pass on swifter or slower, whither we are steering. Now, if the Lord should give us a full wind and continued gale of mercies, it would fill but some of our sails - some of our affections - joy , delight and the like. But when he comes with a side-wind - a dispensation that seems almost as much against us as for us - then he fills our sails, takes up all our affections, making His works wide and broad enough to entertain every one, - then we are carried full and freely towards the haven where we would be"

John Owen