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Archive for the ‘Patronage’ Category

In this 1816 charge to Thomas Chalmers’ newly elected elders, he winsomely appeals to them to ‘repair the breaches’ of the old system of spiritual, district visitation. Let the elders together with the ministers be once again the friends and spiritual patrons of all men, especially the poor. Ad urbem!

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“I am well aware how widely the practice of our generation has diverged from the practice of our ancestors—how, within the limits of our Establishment, the lay office-bearers of the Church are fast renouncing the whole work of ministering from house to house in prayer and in exhortation and in the dispensation of spiritual comfort and advice among the sick or the disconsolate or the dying. On this subject I urge nothing upon you. I am aware that a reformation in this department can only be brought about by an influence of a more gentle and moral, and withal more effectual kind than that of authority; and I shall therefore only say that I know of almost nothing which would give me greater satisfaction than to see a connexion of this kind established between my elders and the population of those districts which are respectively assigned to them—that I know of nothing which would tell more effectually in the way of humanizing our families, than if so pure an intercourse were going on as an intercourse of piety between our men of reputable station on the one hand, and our men of labour and of poverty on the other,—I know of nothing which would serve more powerfully to bring and to harmonize into one firm system of social order the various classes of our community; I know not a finer exhibition, on the one hand, than the man of wealth acting the man of piety, and throwing the goodly adornment of Christian benevolence over the splendour of those civil distinctions which give a weight and a lustre to his name in society; I know not a more wholesome influence, on the other, than that which such a man must carry around him when he enters the habitations of the peasantry, and dignifies by his visits the people who occupy them, and talks with them as the heirs of one hope and of one immortality, and cheers by the united power of religion and of sympathy the very humblest of misfortune’s generation, and convinces them of a real and longing affection after their best interests, and leaves them with the impression that here at least is one man who is our friend, that here at least is one proof that we are not altogether destitute of consideration amongst our fellows, that here at least is one quarter on which our confidence may rest—ay, and amidst all the insignificance in which we lie buried from the observation of society, we are sure at least of one who, in the most exalted sense of the term, is ever ready to befriend us, and to look after us, and to care for us.”

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How many different masters will the next century follow? The confusion will reach new heights. None of them will be willing to be governed by the opinion or authority of the others. Each will want to set up as his own rabbi: look at how Osiander and Agricola are already behaving. . . And what terrible scandals there will be! What excesses! The best course would be for the princes to avert such evils by means of a council. But the Papists would avoid this: they are so afraid of the light!

– Martin Luther, 1538

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In the following passage (A.D. 324), Constantine shows his support for patronizing Christian mission. I notice nothing of compulsion, and the historical record appears to bear this out. So is state endorsement of the true religion really such a tough pill to swallow after all?

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“When such grievous impiety controls human affairs and the commonwealth is in danger of utter destruction as by some plague and has need of much health-giving care, what alleviation does the Divinity devise, what rescue from our danger? And we must regard as altogether divine that which alone and really exists and whose power endures through all time. It is not vainglorious to acknowledge and boast of the beneficence of the Supreme Power. He sought out and judged fitting for His own purpose my service, starting from the sea which laps distant Britain and from those quarters where the sun is commanded by an ordinance of fate to set, thrusting aside by some mightier power all the dangers that beset me, that the human race might be recalled to the worship of the august law, schooled by my agency, and that the blessed faith might be increased under the guidance of the Supreme Power. Never can I ungratefully forget the gratitude that I owe; believing this to be the noblest service, this the gift granted to me, I advanced to the regions of the East, which, consumed by more grievous ills, called aloud for the greater healing care at my hands.”

 

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