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Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) records the following about an invitation he had accepted to preach.  In the passage, he relates his growing revulsion as he learned of the details planned for the event.  It’s amusing, yet sobering – especially since it’s so contemporary!

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“They have got the sermon into the newspaper, and on reading the advertisement I was well-nigh overset by the style of it. They are going to have a grand musical concert along with the sermon, to which the best amateurs and performers of the neighborhood are to lend their services. This is all put down in their gaudy manifesto, and to me it is most ineffably disgusting. You know that I am to be very guarded; but I could not perfectly disguise my antipathies to this part of the arrangement. I asked Mr. Grant if I might take the paper with me for the amusement of my Scottish friends. He asked if I disliked music. I said that I liked music, but disliked all charlatanry. Thus far I went; and it was perhaps too far, but this is really making it a theatrical performance, and me one of the performers. But let me be patient; I am jaded and overdone, and reserve my further writing till Monday. . .

When I went to the great preaching hall, I found that there was just this practicing before an immense assemblage, on which I called out, in the distinct hearing of those about me, that there was an air of charlatanry about the whole affair, and that I did not like it at all. I would stay no longer in that place, and went along with them to the committee-room, where there were about twenty managers and others. I said that I had come from a great distance on their account, and had therefore purchased the privilege of telling them plain things; that they should have consulted me ere they had made their arrangements—that I was quite revolted by the quackery of their advertisement—that they had made me feel myself to be one of the performers in a theatrical exhibition—that what they had done stood in the same relation to what they ought to have done, that an advertisement of Dr. Solomon’s did to the respectable doings of the regular faculty, &c., &c. I was firm and mild withal—they confused, and awkward, and in difficulties. I said, that still I would preach, but that I thought it right to state what I felt” (Memoirs 2:41).

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John Knox, the great Scottish Reformer, was definitely no adept in worldy-wisdom.  His positions were always unbending and uncompromising.  He despised subtlety, and spoke always with the greatest of candor.  He obviously had little interested in making friends and influencing people; that is, unless by influence one means shameless, hard-hitting argument!

When Queen Mary came to Scotland in 1561 to take the throne, she was of a mind to assert her royal prerogatives in everything – religion included.  An ardent Romanist from her youth, she decided to make a clear, bold statement at the outset.  She would have a mass celebrated in the chapel of the Holyrood house, something forbidden by the Protestant magistracy at the time.

Not surprisingly, Knox was outspoken against the celebration.  There could be no accommodation, no middle ground.  “One mass,” proclaimed Knox,  “was more fearful unto him than if ten thousand armed enemies were landed in any part of the realm, of purpose to suppress the whole religion.”

One mass, Master Knox?  One private mass, as a concession to the rightful heir of the throne?  And that one mass should be of more dire consequence than a foreign invasion?  Not only is this intolerant, but it’s unreasonable!  Don’t you realize that to get what you want, you’ve got to give?

Knox responds to the naysayers.  The mass issue is a non-negotiable, for “in our God there is strength to resist and confound multitudes, if we unfeignedly depend upon Him, of which we have had experience; but when we join hands with idolatry, it is no doubt but both God’s presence and defence will leave us; and what shall then become of us?”

What the calculators of this world can’t grasp is that he was more practical than them all!  His explanation here reveals the deepest sagacic insight.  Why?  Because, thought Knox, you must factor God into every equation.  Giving in to Queen Mary on one little point may have been expedient on the earthly plane in the short-run, but by doing so it would alienate the One whose favor is absolutely indispensable.  You don’t want to mess with the ‘wrong man’ (or woman, in Mary’s case), but it’s far worse to mess with the ‘wrong God!’

Knox had learned his other-worldly wisdom at the feet of Wisdom incarnate.  He, the Logos, the Light that lightens every man entering the world had said, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” (Lu. 17:33).  To make it in this world and in the next, you must think counter-culturally, counter-intuitively.  But be assured, this is the best way!

In deference to the One who “knows all things,” Knox shunned statescraft.  But in doing so, he became the true patron and friend of the nation.  If only we had eyes to see what Master Knox saw!  If we would close our eyes and heed true Wisdom, we would walk the safest and most expedient course.  And we would assign much less weight to earthly factors, which to the eye of the flesh loom so large.

 

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