Calvin On the Psalms

Calvin is most often dismissed by such as have read not one sentence of his writings, and solely on the basis of their fatuous prejudices. Since I have been known to mercilessly crush such detestable types under the full weight of my unrestrained fury, I would be distraught if any of you, my gentle snowflakes, should be found among their numbers.1 Because of this, I have decided to share with you a choice selection from Calvin’s preface to his Commentary on the Psalms, a jewel of keen insight and good sense, hoping that you will find it to be both challenging and enjoyableand that it will whet your appetite for more!

I have been accustomed to call this book, I think not inappropriately, “An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul;” for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated. The other parts of Scripture contain the commandments which God enjoined his servants to announce to us. But here the prophets themselves, seeing they are exhibited to us as speaking to God, and laying open all their inmost thoughts and affections, call, or rather draw, each of us to the examination of himself in particulars in order that none of the many infirmities to which we are subject, and of the many vices with which we abound, may remain concealed. It is certainly a rare and singular advantage, when all lurking places are discovered, and the heart is brought into the light, purged from that most baneful infection, hypocrisy. In short, as calling upon God is one of the principal means of securing our safety, and as a better and more unerring rule for guiding us in this exercise cannot be found elsewhere than in The Psalms, it follows, that in proportion to the proficiency which a man shall have attained in understanding them, nill be his knowledge of the most important part of celestial doctrine. Genuine and earnest prayer proceeds first from a sense of our need, and next, from faith in the promises of God. It is by perusing these inspired compositions, that men will be most effectually awakened to a sense of their maladies, and, at the same time, instructed in seeking remedies for their cure.

1This means that I won’t find your cute little “Protestant Deformation” zinger very funny at all, but rather wholly tedious and galling.

Why Jim West Is On Facebook

Since Jim West has kindly directed some traffic my way by naming this as an up-and-coming blog worth reading, I thought it appropriate to share in my humble blogging abode a video which, to my mind, quite clearly explains the real reason behind his decision to keep a Facebook account. Quite frankly, I would not be surprised in the least if the same explanation applied to the rest of these bibliobloggers on Facebook!

Very enlightening, isn’t it? [H/T to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Big Blog.]

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that certain malicious individuals, undoubtedly mirroring their own perversity on my wholly pure and blameless intentions, have disfigured the plain meaning of this post beyond recognition. As any person with the least whit of common sense readily infers from all of the above, I meant that the Rev Dr West, a noble Baptist preacher conscious of his evangelical duty to “rescue the perishing,” has set out to reach a youth most wayward that makes Facebook the epicenter of their moral meandering, as illustrated by the video above. Shame on all those who have so misconstrued my post! ;-)

For it Verily Behooveth Us to Read from His Majesty’s Bible

I am hardly one to bitterly decry contemporary translations of the Bible, but given that my very first Bible in English was a well-thumbed King James Version, I have never been able to shake the feeling that every other translation is, well, literarily substandard by comparison. And certainly, no rendering in a contemporary translation makes me squee with sheer delight the way that Acts 17:5 in the KJV does:

“But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.”

“Certain lewd fellows of the baser sort”! That’s the stuff; it doesn’t get much better than that. (I admit that the Revised English Bible’s “some ruffians from the dregs of society” is also amusing, but clearly not anywhere near as much as the KJV.)

This is a favorite of mine, and also of my good friend and mentor Andy Smith. Other mutual KJV favorites include Isaac “sporting with Rebekah his wife” (Genesis 26:8), and what should be the “life verse” of all those who imagine that “verses” are the ultimate units of biblical discourse, I Chronicles 26:18:

“At Parbar westward, four at the causeway, and two at Parbar.”

(Methinks that some company specializing in the manufacture of blasphemous Christian trinketry, by which I mean the many ridiculous items usually for sale in Christian bookstores, should try its hand at making some gadget or another featuring this verse. I’m sure that someone out there will find some deep, spiritual meaning for it.)

Anyway, back to “certain lewd fellows of the baser sort.” Why, I think I just might have found a whole new title for my biblioblogroll!

A Sect Most Treacherous

A misaddressed fund-raising mailer from the Salesian Missions reached my mailbox today, and the face of Don Bosco prominently displayed on the envelope reminded me of a darling little book about his life that I was given while still in Junior High. I quickly located it, and as I flipped through its pages, I came across this astonishing statement:

“The Catholic Readings that Don Bosco distributed took many proselytes away from the Protestants, particularly from the Waldensian sect. Because of this they decided to do away with Don Bosco, in cooperation with certain police authorities.”

There follow tales of seven distinct assassination attempts, all presumably at the hands of these despicable Waldensians. (Another biography, available online, recounts at least one of them in English.) Inconceivable! And to think that all these years I foolishly believed that it was the Waldensians who did all the, you know, violent dying.

Clearly John Hobbins, an unrepentant Waldensian sectarian, and indeed a leader among them, has much explaining to do!

An Exceeding Small Florilegium Which Aims to Demonstrate Why St Jerome Rocks

My trip to sunny Southern California, which should have been well underway by now, has been temporarily delayed due to circumstances beyond my control. In the meantime, I’ve been required to do quite a bit of sitting and waiting. So as to not waste my time in idleness, I decided to follow the example of my hero J. Gresham Machen (a Classics major who was known to never leave home without a volume of the Loeb Classical Library), and I’ve taken with me Loeb’s volume 262, Jerome: Select Letters. I’ve had the chance to go through many of the letters, from which come the following choice quotations:

Fiunt non nascuntur Christiani. (Christians are not born, but made.)

  • A very consoling (and challenging) thought, indeed!

[On the education of a young girl:] Cave [….] ne capillum inrufes et ei aliquid de gehennae ignibus auspiceris. (Take heed [….] [that you do] not dye her hair red and thereby presage for her the fires of hell.)

  • I knew I was right about redheads all along!

[Discussing the exemplary Christian witness of some family members, which caused the conversion of hardened relatives:] Ego puto etiam ipsum Iovem, si habuisset talem cognationem, potuisse in Christo credere. (I, for my part, think that even Jove might well have believed in Christ if he had kinsfolk of this kind.)

  • Behold St Jerome’s rhetorical genius at work! With a single stroke, he scores one against the pagans, by alluding to the moral want of their gods, and he impresses on his reader the absolute necessity to lead a holy life in the context of one’s family.

[Explaining how he had finished composing a beautiful letter of admonition on a single night, without even thinking of adorning it with rhetorical niceties, he concludes:] Quod idcirco dixi, ut, qui non ignoscit ingenio, ignoscat vel tempori. (I say this that those who make no excuses for lack of ability may make some for lack of time.)

  • Ah, the delightfully undiluted crank! Here he scores one against his critics, who justified their own mediocrity by accusing him of spending too much time composing his letters and treatises according to the canons of Rhetoric.

So there you have it: your patristic awesomeness for the evening!

Saturday à Machen: Christian Americanization

“[R]eligion has become a mere function of the community or of the state. So it is looked upon by the men of the present day. Even hard-headed business men and politicians have become convinced that religion is needed. But it is thought to be needed merely as a means to an end. We have tried to get along without religion, it is said, but the experiment was a failure, and now religion must be called in to help.

“For example, there is the problem of the immigrants; great populations have found a place in our country; they do not speak our language or know our customs; and we do not know what to do with them. We have attacked them by oppressive legislation or proposals of legislation, but such measures have not been altogether effective. Somehow these people display a perverse attachment to the language that they learned at their mother’s knee. It may be strange that a man should love the language that he learned at his mother’s knee, but these people do love it, and we are perplexed in our efforts to produce a unified American people. So religion is called in to help; we are inclined to proceed against the immigrants now with a Bible in one hand and a club in the other offering them the blessings of liberty. That is what is sometimes meant by ‘Christian Americanization.’ […]

“Such considerations have led to a renewed public interest in the subject of religion; religion is discovered after all to be a useful thing. But the trouble is that in being utilized religion is also being degraded and destroyed.”

(J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism [1923; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999], pages 149, 150)

The End of an Era

I had scarcely finished my Necrology 2007 post when the list of deceased notables offered therein was rendered obsolete by the death of C. F. D. Moule. I regret not having had the chance to acknowledge his passing before today, though I have been aware of it since Monday. I have now updated my earlier post to include the late great Dr. Moule, and have linked to Dan Wallace‘s obituary post there. I chose that because Wallace (as does Max Turner in the comments) offers a wonderful, warm picture of the man; links to other obituaries may be found there, too. (See also Robert Bradshaw’s obituary post here, which includes an interesting letter that Moule sent him last year, as well as links to a couple of articles by Moule that he hosts in his wonderful site.)

Wallace says that Moule’s death marks the passing of the last of the gentlemen-scholars, and I am inclined to agree. To my mind, C. F. D. Moule, Bruce Metzger, Jaroslav Pelikan and Esteban Tollinchi embodied the immense erudition and splendid virtues that would earn someone the distinction of being called “a gentleman and a scholar.” Tollinchi died on December 4, 2005 (aged 93); Pelikan on May 13, 2006 (aged 82); Metzger on February 13, 2007 (aged 93); and Moule, as we have learned, just a few days ago (aged 98). I studied with none of them, but have read, with something approaching reverential fear, every book of theirs that I’ve ever encountered. And in a world after their passing, it is hard to not feel orphaned.