Christian Devotion [ePub]

by John Baillie

I have a friend who is a big Baillie fan and I find solid wisdom in his books as well. This is my third to read and this one I read as my Sunday Sermon for the last 10 weeks or so. It is a collection of sermons online here:

Here are a couple of good quotes:

From my John Baillie Sermons he was talking about this image of Christ Knocking and made the following point:

Religion always appears under two contrasted guises, corresponding to these two contrasted scenes. It is first an austere and disturbing challenge, and then it is a glorious and happy feast. Under the first of these guises religion is known to us all. In every man's life that first scene has been enacted. We all know what is meant by that stranger on the doorstep, and by that annoyingly persistent knocking, and by the terrible strain it puts on the man within. So much of religion is familiar to everybody. But the tragedy is that many a man's acquaintance with religion stops at that point, and he knows nothing of the second scene, when Christ is inside the room. That is why so many people carry with them all through their lives the idea of religion as a harsh and joyless thing, a thing that limits their freedom and cramps their spirits and makes them unhappy. That is why so many writers of books present religion as a morbid perversion of the human spirit. That is why so many of our novelists portray religious folk as peevish and morose kill-joys with long, sour faces and a melancholy and dyspeptic disposition. They are familiar only with the first scene, when Christ is outside the door; and of that scene every one of these things is true and not a whit exaggerated. It is quite true that when religion is known to men only as an unanswered summons, it can be the cause of more misery and melancholy and dyspepsia, more morbid introversion and more nervous disorder, than anything else in the world. Some men have just enough religion to make them desperately miserable. All some men know of religion is hell.

And from a different sermon:

Luke 18:1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint

"St. Luke tells us that the moral of this parable is that men ought always to pray and not to faint. The word faint will, however, come to many people today as a surprise. We are so apt to interpret the meaning of prayer as if Jesus had said that men ought always to pray and not to work. That, I believe, is precisely the mistake that most of us make in our thinking about prayer: we think of it as an alternative to effort. We often speak as if there were two contrasted ways of facing the evils of our mortal lot—we may either fold our hands and pray about them, or we may pull ourselves together and do what we can to mend them.

But it is quite plain that our Lord's way of looking at prayer is as different from this as the day is from the night. What He said was that men ought always to pray and not to faintor, as the modern versions have it, not to lose heart. That is to say, He regarded prayer, not as an alternative to effort, but as an accompaniment of effort and an alternative to despairing acquiescence and inaction. In His language, and indeed in the language of the whole New Testament, the opposite of praying about a thing is to do nothing about it at all, and the opposite of working for a cause is to stop praying about it. Prayer unaccompanied by hard work and work unaccompanied by urgent prayer are two things that Jesus Christ not only never preached but never even contemplated as a plausible possibility.

Jesus thought of it as an alternative to fainting, an alternative to losing heart in our labours and so failing to get anything effective done at all.



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