From Faith and Life, here is a reading for Palm Sunday that comes from the “Epistle to Diognetus.” It is not known who wrote this, but the Epistle to Diognetus is an early example of Christian apologetics – along the lines of the writings of Justin Martyr.
When our unrighteousness was consummated, and full proof was given that punishment and death were to be looked for as its reward, and the time was come which God had preordained for the manifestation of His own loving-kindness and power, (for the love of God, which proceeds from His transcendent benignity, is peerless,) He did not hate us, nor repel us, nor did He remember evil, but showed His long-suffering, bore with us, Himself took upon Him our sins,—gave up, of Himself, His own Son as a ransom for us, the Holy for the lawless, the Innocent for the wicked, the Just for the unjust, the Incorruptible for the corruptible, the Immortal for the mortal. For what else but His Son’s Righteousness was able to cover our sins? Wherein was it possible for us, the lawless and impious, to be justified, save in the Son of God alone? O that sweet Substitution! O that unsearchable plan! O those unexpected benefits! That the transgression of many should be covered by one Righteous, and the Righteousness of One should justify many that were unrighteous.
–Anonymous Epistle to Diognetus, c. 9 (early in the second century).
It is remarkable how beautiful are the writings of so many from this time – and this one is as beautiful as those by Melito of Sardis. Truly, God was and is so merciful, that “the transgression of many should be covered by one Righteous, and the Righteousness of One should justify many that were unrighteous.”
For consideration in deepening one’s prayer life, I commend J.C. Ryle’s A Call to Prayer to you. As the Amazon notes say, it is a direct exhortation to pray fervently and without ceasing. Ryle writes: “I want the times we live in to be praying times. I want the Christians of our day to be praying Christians. I want the church to be a praying church. My heart’s desire and prayer in sending forth this tract is to promote a spirit of prayerfulness. I want those who never prayed yet, to arise and call upon God, and I want those who do pray, to see that they are not praying amiss.”
There are study questions at the end of each chapter that will help one think about these things, and I thank Chapel Library and Mount Zion Bible Institute for making this available.
The kind folks at Logos Bible Software have provided me with a review copy of their Anglican Software Package. I have now gotten it downloaded and installed on my Windows PC, along with a corresponding Android app on a tablet. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to take this package for a drive, and will give an in-depth review after I have tried it out. But so far I am impressed: the PC software and Android app work very well for Bible study, and I hope to gain understanding as to how the reference materials that come with the package integrate with the software and app. The range of reference books that comes with the package (the one they provided me is the “Anglican Silver” version) is astonishing – 514 different resources, ranging from the 14-volume New Testament Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture and the 10-volume Popular Patristics Series to the works of Richard Hooker, Jeremy Taylor, and J.C. Ryle. In addition, it has at least twelve different Bible versions plus Greek and Hebrew interlinear editions of a lot of those.
Please stay tuned, and I hope to have that in-depth review soon. It takes some time to go through a candy store!
From Dean Phillip Jensen of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, here is the seventeenth video in a series on the Book of Ephesians. This one is titled “Dawning of Spiritual Wisdom” and here he draws from Ephesians 5:7-21.
Instapundit links to this report that the head of OKCupid gave money to a candidate opposed to same-sex marriage – after it had been urged that users boycott Mozilla/Firefox because its new CEO, Michael Eich, had donated to the campaign for California’s Proposition 8 in 2008. This sequence of events reminds me of this line from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, unsaid but thought by Sydney Carton as he awaited his execution during the French Revolution: “I see Barsad, and Cly, Defarge, The Vengeance, the Juryman, the Judge, long ranks of the new oppressors who have risen on the destruction of the old, perishing by this retributive instrument, before it shall cease out of its present use.”
This intolerance of the Left is beginning to seem very much like the French Revolution: those who led the chorus calling for the guillotine in the beginning of that convulsion sometimes found themselves being hauled to the guillotine. Remember Robespierre?
Here is a lovely piece of music – Alleluia Behold the Bridegroom – composed by Alexander Gretchaninov, and performed by the St. Petersburg Chamber Choir. It sounds very Russian to me, and is something I think you’ll enjoy.
For the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the book Faith and Life also had this from Athanasius, on “The Eternity of the Son”:
If He is called the eternal offspring of the Father’, He is rightly so called. For the essence of the Father was at no period imperfect, that what was properly its own should be an accidental addition to it; nor has the Son been begotten in the way that one man is by another, so as to be later than His Father’s existence; but He is God’s offspring, and as being the proper Son of the eternally existent God, He exists eternally. For it is the property of men to beget in time, because of the imperfection of their nature; but God’s offspring is eternal, because of the eternal perfection of God’s nature. If then He is not a Son, but has come into existence as a thing made out of nothing, let them first prove it, and then, as if speculating about a creature, cry aloud, “Once the Son was not,” for things which are made once were not in existence, and then come to exist. But if He is Son,—and that He is so, the Father says, and the Scriptures proclaim,—and Son means simply the Begotten of the Father, and what is begotten of the Father is His Word and Wisdom and Effulgence; what must we say but that by saying, “Once the Son was not,” they, like robbers, strip God of His Word, and openly affirm of Him that once He existed without His own Word and Wisdom, that the Light was once without radiance, and the Fountain once barren and dry?
–St. Athanasius, First Oration against Arians, 14.
And this has much to do with why Jesus is able to save: He is indeed the Word and Wisdom of the Father, from all eternity.
I posted this last year and it is well worth reposting. For the Fifth Sunday in Lent, the book Faith and Life offers this selection from St. Augustine, on the natures of Christ:
I. THE MEDIATOR.
IT was necessary that a Mediator between God and men should have something like to God, something like to men; lest, if he were wholly like to men, he should be far off from God; or if he were wholly like to God, he should be far off from men, and so should not be a Mediator. The true Mediator whom in Thy mysterious mercy Thou hast manifested to men, and hast sent, that by His example they should learn humility itself, that Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, appeared between sinful mortals and the Immortal Righteous One; being mortal with men, righteous with God; that as the wages of righteousness are life and peace, He might through His righteousness, which was united to God, make void that death of those who were once ungodly and had been made righteous, which He was pleased to share in common with them. He was manifested to the ancient saints, that so they might be saved by faith in His Passion as then future, even as we are saved by faith in it as past. For inasmuch as He is Man, He is Mediator; in that He is the Word, He is not midway between us and God, because He is equal to God, and is God with God and One God, together with the Holy Spirit .
–St. Augustine, Confessions, xc 42, 43.
This is an excellent summary of the importance of our Lord’s being both divine and human. Truly, we have much for which to be thankful.
Thanks to the Church Society blog, I found out about an audio sermon by the Rev. Steve Goodbody, preaching at St. Leonard’s Church, on bitterness, faith, doubt and the goodness of God. There is indeed a great deal packed into the Scripture reference – the opening verses of the Book of Ruth. As Rob Brevis of Church Society notes, “How can we avoid simple solutions to our difficult situations and personal problems? How can we embrace the power of suffering for our Christ-likeness? How does suffering-faith express itself? How does Ruth 1 lead us to Jesus?” I hope to hear more from the Rev. Steve Goodbody in the future.