A unique statement of beliefs
Christian. Quaker. Progressive.
"As for the artists and writers I know, they seem almost universally convinced that they stand at the pinnacle of human undertakings. Doesn't society put out endless propaganda proclaiming that entertainers are beings close to gods?
Ever notice how this propaganda is feverishly spread by the very people who benefit from the image?
Don't you believe it. They are getting the whole thing backwards.
Oh, don't get me wrong; art is a core element to being human. We need it, from our brains all the way down to the heart and gut. Art is the original "magic." Even when we're starving -- especially when we're starving -- we can find nourishment at the level of the subjective, just by using our imaginations. As author Tom Robbins aptly put it:
"Science gives man what he needs,
But magic gives him what he wants."
I'll grant all that. But don't listen when they tell you the other half -- that art and artists are rare.
Have you ever noticed that no human civilization ever suffered from a deficit of artistic expression? Art fizzes from our very pores! How many people do you know who lavish time and money on an artistic hobby? Some of them quite good, yet stuck way down the pyramid that treats the top figures like deities.
Imagine this. If all of the professional actors and entertainers died tomorrow, how many days before they were all replaced? Whether high or low, empathic or vile -- art seems to pour from Homo Sapiens, almost as if it were a product of our metabolism, a natural part of ingesting and excreting. No, sorry. Art may be essential and deeply human, but it ain't rare."
"The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid 'dens of crime' that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men [and women] with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice."
I had heard much of Mr. Relly; he was a conscientious, and zealous preacher, in the city of London. He had, through many revolving years, continued faithful to the ministry committed to him, and he was the theme of every religious sect. He appeared, as he was represented to me, highly erroneous; and my indignation against him, as has already been seen, was very strong. I had frequently been solicited to hear him, merely that I might be an ear witness of what was termed his blasphemies; but, I arrogantly said, I would not be a murderer of time. This I passed on for a number of years, hearing all manner of evil said of Mr. Relly, and believing all I heard, while every day augmented the inveterate hatred, which I bore the man, and his adherents. When a worshipping brother, or sister, belonging to the communion, which I considered as honored by the approbation of Deity was, by this deceiver, drawn from the paths of rectitude, the anguish of my spirit was indescribable: and I was ready to say, the secular arm ought to interpose to prevent the perdition of souls.
I recollect one instance in particular, which pierced me to the soul. A young lady, of irreproachable life, remarkable for piety, and highly respected by the tabernacle congregation and church, of which I was a devout member, had been ensnared; to my great astonishment, she had been induced to hear, and having heard, she had embraced the pernicious errors of this detestable babbler; she had become a believer, a firm, and unwavering believer of universal redemption! Horrible! most horrible!
So high an opinion was entertained of my talents, having myself been a teacher among the Methodists, and such was my standing in Mr. Whitefield's church, that I was deemed adequate to reclaiming this wanderer, and I was strongly urged to the pursuit. The poor deluded young woman was abundantly worthy of our most arduous efforts. He, that converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. Thus I thought, thus I said; and, swelled with a high idea of my own importance, I went, accompanied by two or three of my Christian brethren, to see, to converse with, and, if need were, to admonish this simple, weak, but, as we heretofore believed, meritorius, female. Fully persuaded, that I could easily convince her of her errors, I entertained no doubt respecting the result of my undertaking. The young lady received us with much kindness and condescension, while, as I glanced my eye upon her fine countenance, beaming with intelligence, mingling pity and contempt grew in my bosom. After the first ceremonies, we sat for some time silent; at length I drew up a heavy sigh, and uttered a pathetic sentiment, relative to the deplorable condition of those, who live, and die in unbelief; and I concluded a violent declamation, by pronouncing, with great earnestness, He, that believeth not, shall be damned.
"And pray, sir," said the young lady, with great sweetness, "Pray, sir, what is the unbeliever damned for not believing?"
What is he damned for not believing? Why, he is damned for not believing.
"But, my dear sir," she asked, "what was that, which he did not believe, for which he was damned?"
Why, for not believing in Jesus Christ, to be sure.
"Do you mean to say, that unbelievers are damned for not believing there was such a person as Jesus Christ?"
No, I do not; a man may believe there was such a person, and yet be damned.
"What then, sir, must he believe, in order to avoid damnation?"
Why he must believe that Jesus Christ is a complete Saviour.
"Well, suppose he were to believe, that Jesus Christ was the complete Saviour of others, would this belief save him?"
No, he must believe, that Christ Jesus is his complete Saviour; every individual must believe for himself, that Jesus Christ is his complete Saviour.
"Why, sir, is Jesus Christ the Saviour of any unbelievers?
"Why, then, should any unbeliever believe, that Jesus is his Saviour, if he be not his Saviour?"
I say he is not the Saviour of any one, until he believes.
"Then, if Jesus be not the Saviour of the unbeliever until he believes, the unbeliever is called upon to believe a lie. It appears to me, sir, that Jesus is the complete Saviour of unbelievers; and that unbelievers are called upon to believe the truth; and that, by believing they are saved, in their own apprehension, saved from all those dreadful fears, which are consequent upon a state of conscious condemnation."
No, madam; you are dreadfully, I trust not fatally, misled. Jesus never was, nor never will be, the Saviour of any unbeliever.
"Do you think Jesus is your Saviour, sir?"
I hope he is.
"Were you always a believer, sir?"
"Then you were once an unbeliever; that is, you once believed, that Jesus Christ was not your Saviour. Now, as you say, he never was, nor never will be, the Saviour of any unbeliever; as you were once an unbeliever, he never can be your Saviour."
He never was my Saviour till I believed.
"Did he never die for you, till you believed, sir?"
Here I was extremely embarrassed, and most devoutly wished myself out of her habitation; I sighed bitterly, expressed deep commiseration for those souls, who had nothing but head-knowledge; drew out my watch, discovered it was late; and, recollecting an engagement, observed it was time to take leave.
I was extremely mortified: the young lady observed my confusion, but was too generous to pursue her triumph. I arose to depart; the company arose; she urged us to tarry; addressed each of us in the language of kindness. Her countenance seemed to bear a resemblance of the heaven which she contemplated; it was stamped by benignity; and when we bade her adieu, she enriched us by her good wishes.
I suspected that my religious brethren saw she had the advantage of me; and I felt, that her remarks, were indeed unanswerable. My pride was hurt, and I determined to ascertain the exact sentiments of my associates, respecting this interview. "Poor soul," said I, "she is far gone in error." "True," said they; "but she is, notwithstanding, a very sensible woman." Ay, ay, thought I, they have assuredly discovered, that she has proved too mighty for me. "Yes," said I, "she has a great deal of head knowledge; but yet she may be a lost, damned soul. "I hope not," returned one of my friends; "she is a very good young woman." I say, and it was with extreme chagrin, that the result of this visit had depreciated me in the opinion of my companions. But I could only censure and condemn, solemnly observing,--It was better not to converse with any of those apostates, and it would be judicious never to associate with them upon any occasion. From this period, I myself carefully avoided every Universalist, and most cordially did I hate them. My ear was open to the public calumniator, to the secret whisperer, and I yielded credence to every scandalous report, however improbable. My informers were good people; I had no doubt of their veracity; and I believed it would be difficult to paint Relly, and his connexions, in color too black.
...all now seemed delightful. We had a sweet little retirement in the rural part of the city; we wanted but little, and our wants were all supplied; and perhaps we enjoyed as much as human nature can enjoy. One dear pledge of love, a son, whom my wife regarded as the image of his father, completed our felicity. But, alas! this boy was lent us not more than one short year! He expired in the arms of his agonized mother, whose health, from that fatal moment, began to decline. I was beyond expression terrified...The disorder advanced with terrific strides; my soul was tortured; every time I approached her chamber, even the sigh, which proclaimed she still lived, administered a melancholy relief. This was indeed a time of sorrow and distress, beyond what I had ever before known; I have been astonished how I existed through such scenes. Surely, in every time of trouble, God is a very present help.
...To add to my distresses poverty came in like a flood...Thus was I circumstanced, when the fell destroyer of my peace aimed his most deadly shafts at the bosom of a being, far dearer to me than my existence...
...I sat down by her bedside. That face upon which strangers had gazed enraptured, was now the seat of death's wan harbinger and her struggles to conceal her sufferings were but too visible. Quitting the room, I inquired of the nurse, how she had been during my absence? She told me, she had endured much pain, was very anxious for my return, and expressed a fear, that she should never again behold me. I was summoned by the mistress of the house, who was so charmed by the deportment of my Eliza, and had conceived so great an affection for her, as to find it difficult to quit her apartment. But my suffering friend, taking my hand, and drawing me near her, whispered a wish, that we might be alone; I gave the good lady a hint, who instantly withdrew. I kneeled by her bedside: she drew me closer to her, and throwing her feeble, her emaciated arms around my neck she gave me an ardent embrace; I was unutterably affected. "Be composed my dear," said she, "and let these precious moments be as calm as possible; we may not be allowed another opportunity. Dear faithful friend, in life,--in death, dearer to me than my own soul,--God reward you for all the kind care you have taken of me. O! may my heavenly Father provide some one to supply my place, who may reciprocate the kindness you have shown me. Pray be composed; remember we are not at home; that we shall shortly meet in our Father's house"--here she paused--and again resuming--"Our parting, when compared with eternity, will be but for a moment. Though we have not continued together so long as we fondly expected, yet, my love, we have had an age of happiness. It is you, my precious husband, who are the object of pity. God all gracious console and support you. Be of good cheer, my love, we shall meet in the kingdom of the Redeemer--indeed, indeed we shall." Again she threw her dying arms around me; her soul seemed struggling with the magnitude of her emotions. For me, I could not have articulated a syllable for the world. It is astonishing I did not expire; but there is a time to die. Again, like the wasting taper, she seemed to revive. Again with uncommon energy, she pronounced, upon her almost frenzied husband, the most solemn benediction; this brought on a cough, she pointed to a phial upon her dressing table. I gave her a few drops. "There, my best friend, I am better--be composed my faithful, my suffering guide, protector, husband. Oh! trust in the Lord: let us, my love, stay upon the God of our salvation; He will never leave us; He will never forsake us"--then grasping my hand, she continued: "These moments, my dear are very precious; we have had many precious moments; you will not go out again, I shall not again lose sight of you. You will abide with me, so long as I shall continue"--I could contain no longer: My suppressed agony became audible; she drew me to her: "Do not distress me, my love."--She was deeply affected; her cough came on with additional violence. The sound of my voice brought in the kind lady of the house; she believed the angel had escaped. I requested her, to reach the phial. The expiring saint motioned it away. "It is too late my love," she would have added; but utterance instantly failed her, and without a single struggle, she breathed her last, still holding my hand fast in hers. I was on my knees by her bedside, I saw she was breathless, but she still held my hand. Ten thousand worlds, had I possessed them, I would have given, for permission to have accompanied her beatified spirit. I am astonished that I retained my reason. Only a few weeks, a few tremendous weeks since the commencement of her illness, had rolled on when, kneeling in speechless agony by her bedside, I saw her breathe her last; she expired without a sigh, without a pang, and I was left to the extreme of wretchedness. A few moments gave me to reflection--I contemplated her form, beautiful even in death; she was now no more...
Here I close another period of my eventful life! What a sad reverse! A few short weeks since, I was in the most enviable circumstances; my situation was charming, my dwelling neat and commodious, my wife, the object of my soul's devout and sincere affection, her lovely offspring swelling the rapture of the scene, a male and female domestic attached to our persons, and faithful to our interest; and the pleasing hope, that I should enjoy a long succession of these delights. Now I was alone in the world; no wife, no child, no domestics, no home; nothing but the ghosts of my departed joys. In religion, and religion only, the last resort of the wretched, I found the semblance of repose...
"Rightly may we say our unhappiness is of our own making, since we know what we shouldn't do, but still do it.
Disappointments that aren't a result of our own foolishness are a testing of our faith or a correction from heaven, and it is our own fault if these disappointments don't work for our good.
To complain about them does not help; indeed, to do so is only to grumble at our Creator. But to see the hand of God in our difficulties, with humble submission to his will, is the way to turn our water into wine and to induce the greatest love and thankfulness toward God in our hearts."
I read Evil and Forrest Gump, you wrote "God's desire is for true, loving relationship with the people that He has made in His own image. In order for this to occur, people had to be given free will. Only if they could choose to reject God would it mean something if they chose to love God. Unfortunately, the choice to reject God and His ways results in evil."
Are you saying to reject God and his ways always results in evil? What about people who reject God but are kind and generous in thier own right (you know a few of those) or those who accept God but behave in evil/sinful ways?
I personally take issue with the word "evil" and how we tend to use it anyway, but thats just me.