Friday, July 4, 2008

A Lifting up for the Downcast - Introduction

This seventh book of the Puritan Reading Challenge is going to be the most challenging to date. It is only the 4th of the month, and I know that I am already behind in my reading since I have just now completed chapter one (through page 28).

The book of which I speak is William Bridge's A Lifting up for the Downcast, a series of sermons on Psalm 42:11. Bridge (1600-1671) is another English non-conformist minister who endured the persecutions of the 17th century, at one point fleeing to Holland where he served with Jeremiah Burroughs. Bridge served, prior to his excommunication for his non-conformist beliefs, at Norwich, a town familiar to me since I lived for 18 months in its vicinity in Norfolk.

This book is a compilation of 13 sermons that Bridge preached at Stepney, London, in 1648. Once again I am overwhelmed at the systematic exposition of Scripture of these Puritan divines. However, this leads to me being already behind in my reading this early in the month.

Let me state that I am not behind due to the fact that I haven't been reading, or due to the fact that this book is 287 pages (thus necessitating approximately nine pages per day). The reason why I am behind, and anticipate remaining behind, is due to the fact that each page requires thoughtful analysis and reflection. I am finding it impossible to read a single page without significant mental interruption to process what I am reading. Couple this with the fact that this work is more archaic in style than the others that we have read to date, and I am hoping that July ends up having 50 days just so that I can finish!

Due to the fact that I made a commitment to read these works, and not necessarily to blog on them, it has become apparent to me that my spiritual life would be better served by concentrating primarily on the reading alone. However, before I drop out of sight, let me share the following:

But I pray tell me, did those who have had all this trouble, did they purchase or buy their peace at the hand of Christ with all this trouble? or did Christ give them that peace and comfort freely? Buy it! you reply, no surely; they did never purchase it, never buy it, but Christ gave it them freely. Why, if Christ gave it them freely after all their trouble, why may He not give it you after less trouble? I have read, and so have you, in the gospel, a parable about two that came into the vineyard to work; the one in the beginning of the day, who bare the heat of the day, and the other at the latter end of the day; and both had a penny. When they were both paid, he that was there at the beginning of the day, murmurs, saying, I have been here all this day, and I have borne the heat of the day, and I have but a penny; and the other, that came in at the latter end of the day, has a penny as well as I. The man that had been there working at the beginning and in the heat of the day, murmurs; but he that came at the latter end, he did not murmur, nor say, Surely, my penny is naught, because I have a penny given me, as well as he that hath borne the heat of the day. If any should complain, those that have borne the heat of the day, that have been much troubled, should in reason be the persons. But has the Lord taken you, and given you a penny, the same peace with him who bare the heat of the day; and will you complain, and say, Surely, my penny is false coin, and my peace naught, because I have not endured so much trouble as another has? (pg. 21-22)

It is going to be a tough slog, but I think that it will be worth the effort to digest this work.

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