John Donne on Suffering

15 June 2008

I recently renewed my acquaintance with John Donne’s Devotions, an outstanding work I first met as a senior in high school. As it always does, the closing passage from Meditation XVII really struck me.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

(The bold emphasis is mine.)


Open Secrets

11 June 2008

Six Secrets of the Christian Life by Zane Hodges is one of the shortest, easiest books you’ll ever read, which is a good thing, because you’re going to want to read it several times. In his inimitably brief way, Hodges takes readers on a guided tour of central truths of the Christian life: its miraculous and transformative nature, the need to be open to God’s truth and to pray for His revealed will, the importance of mindset and understanding our position in Christ.

If this sounds like the same old standard stuff, that’s because in some ways it is — but you should hear Hodges tell it. As is typical for him, Hodges does not philosophize; he doesn’t “develop doctrines” or “draw out principles” that are abstracted from the text of Scripture. Rather, he teaches through a careful reading of (relatively few) key passages. The result is that by the time you’re done, you will understand the Bible more clearly, and also understand more clearly how to walk with God.

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