Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Humbled again ...

... by the puritans. How does my commitment to cultivate a close relationship with the Lord compare with that of Samuel Fairclough, whose biography was included in Samuel Clarke's Lives of Sundry Eminent Persons (1683)?:

"None surely can be found who walked in a more constant course of private duties such as Reading, Meditation, Self-examination and Prayer, which four duties he seldom or never divided one from the other; and by a daily performance of them all, he had much of his Conversation in Heaven, and lived in close Communion with God.

The sun is not more true to its time of rising and setting than he was to his stated course of secret Prayer, both Morning and Evening. So soon as he was awake (which was early every Morning till he was very old) he did immediately rise, and prostrate himself at Gods Foot-stool; after which he constantly read some portion of Scripture, upon which he did peruse the best Commentators and constantly (for some time) did meditate thereon, observing the counsel of Pythagoras to his Schollars ... if you will not purifie your food, and ruminate upon [chew] it, don't eat. But having thus digested truth himself, after some time he came down to perform Family worship ..."

Here's an echo from a modern voice, John Piper (Brothers, We Are Not Professionals):

"Both our flesh and our culture scream against spending an hour on our knees beside a desk piled with papers. It is un-American to be so impractical as to devote oneself to prayer and meditation two hours a day ... Take one of your days off and go away by yourself and pray about how you should pray. Say to yourself right now: 'God help me to do something radical in regard to prayer!' Refuse to believe that the daily hours Luther and Wesley and Brainerd and Judson spent in prayer are idealistic dreams of another era."

NB: My primary intent here is not to glorify the puritans, nor to bring shame upon modern evangelicals, nor to exalt self-discipline for its own sake; it is to glorify God, who alone is worthy of such 'drastic' measures, and who alone provides the grace to accomplish them. I think people like Fairclough simply show us what life looks like when God is put in his proper place – when we "acknowledge him in all our ways" (Prov. 3:6) and "seek his kingdom and his righteousness" before all other things (Matt. 6:33). Glory to God alone.

The quote on Fairclough is cited in Dr. Simon Chan's excellent Cambridge dissertation, The Puritan Meditative Tradition, 1599-1691: A Study of Ascetical Piety.


Bridges said...

Thanks Chris. Samuel Fairclough preached one of the Parliamentary fast sermons that I am studying. This is helpful personal information about the preacher.

May we seek the Lord with passion and discipline!


Lance said...

Way too convicting.

Thanks for the healthy disruption of my soul.


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