Posts Tagged ‘C.S. Lewis’

Surely, this is the time between times… our dear pastor calls it “the dawn.” After centuries and centuries of darkness, it is a time of hope rising, a new day has most-assuredly broken upon history now that God has walked among us.


Jesus alone did what we could not.  He lived righteously all his days on the earth.  He became our sin and bore its eternal penalty.  When all God’s wrath was spent on our sin, death had no further claim on Jesus and the grave could not hold him – He lives and has been given His promised place of eternal honor.  O yes, there is an enemy in the camp, but he is fatally wounded and his end is sure.  Even now the King makes preparation to come again in power and rightness.


Just as we are often unaware when dawn ends and day begins, so many move about unaware of the King’s sure coming.  Full Day will soon be upon us; soon Jesus will gloriously come again to set all things right.


When the dawn gives way to new Day, Jesus will draw those who are his into his marvelous safe kingdom where they will behold his beauty and know his goodness forever.  C. S. Lewis pictures for us the new Day in this way:  “All their life in this world and all their adventures… had only been the cover and the title page – now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on for ever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.”


Still, we have this moment of time before full Day breaks.  For God says, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”  Do not waste the dawn.  When the True Light appears the gates will close in the wake of his procession.  Now is the time of favor.


I tell you, the Day is on its way. The King’s men will soon declare, “The term is over – the holidays have begun. The dream is ended – this is the morning” (Lewis’ The Last Battle).

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There are actually two God-designed holes which the soul longs to have filled –
one, a God-shaped hole; the second, an eternity-shaped hole.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless,
until they can find rest in you.” ~ Augustine

– – – – –
The God-Shaped Hole:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, …though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”

~ Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII (425)

That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, and that you… may be able to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

– – – – –
An Eternity-Shaped Hole:

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

~ C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, New York, Macmillan, 1960), p. 119

“…He has put eternity into man’s heart…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

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A light, little romp today… a bleed over from a currently popular Facebook meme:  “Name three fictional characters with whom you identify.”  I pass this along here because someday my posterity may not know or remember me, but they will surely be able to find these three characters in literature to piece together a fairly accurate sketch of me.

My choices?  Miss Bates (from Jane Austen’s Emma), Puddleglum (from C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair), and Miss Caroline Bingley (from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice).  I desperately wanted Joe Gargery (from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations) for his simpleness, but alas, I know I am not that good.

My reasoning?
1) Miss Bates for her social awkwardness;
2) Puddleglum for his rare mix of pessimism and faith; and
3) Miss Bingley because, well… Hamlet expresses my thoughts in all ways but one; unlike me, he seems unable to answer his own question:

“I am myself indifferent honest; but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me. I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious; with more offenses at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. What should such fellows as I do crawling between earth and heaven?”

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25).

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Lucy, Calvin, Lewis

Welcome to our very blessed family, sweet little Lucy Grace, born May 26th at 9:59 p.m., to Ashley and Andrew and measuring 7# 9 oz. and 20″ long.

You are named after one of my favorite characters in literature – good Lucy Pevencie.  May you live courageously and nobly as Lucy does, and find Aslan ever your hope and joy.

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Blessed Assurance

So my Bible Study Fellowship question asked:
What assurance do you have that Jesus has purchased you for God?

My lesson offered several biblical assurances that are laid up for me in God’s excellent Word (John 3:16-19, Romans 10:9, Ephesians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 2 Timothy 2:19). In addition to these, however, several other assurances came to mind which bore witness immediately to my soul of having been re-created in Christ. This began that day in the break room at Sears when I joyfully came to throw all of my hope for life and salvation on the effectual death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God. The philosophical Law of Causality states that “every change in nature is produced by some cause” and this is no where more evident than in the change that took place in me from that day forward – the cause being none other than He who changed my heart of stone into a heart of flesh and wrote his moral law on this heart so many years ago.

From that moment of conversion, I experienced an uplifting of my spirit and a sense of peace and well-being which sprang from having the wrestlings of my heart and my impotent efforts answered by Jesus’ finished work on the cross – He did it all [Ephesians 2:8-9] – achieving for me that which I had been unable to do on my own. I immediately sensed a release of all my strivings when I realized my God-given desire to please Him was fulfilled, not in my never-ending checklists and duties, but in his own Son. I find my place at the banquet because of the Beloved.

Other evidences?

I received a new and lasting affection toward God. From then on, I have had a bend toward the things of God. I am hungry, still, after more than 30 years, to move “further up and further in” as C.S. Lewis put it.

A spiritual sensitivity to my offenses against God has increased not decreased over the years. Conviction of sin, which targeted first only my behavioral sins, has expanded its sanctifying work in me by addressing also those outwardly-imperceptible sins of thought and motivation as the Holy Spirit continues to form the new man in me.

Scripture began to make sense to me (1 Corinthians 2:14). I’ve read it now seven times and it continues to teach me. Each time I take up the Book, I still find it speaks to my soul, shapes my thinking, and magnifies Yahweh.

I have a filial connection to the Body of Christ, the Church. I am bound to fellow believers in a way that transcends race and ethnicity, geo-political boundaries, and socio-economics. I am not only bound to those believers in my local church, but to those who claim the name of Christ in my city, country, and around the world. Watching the global news these days, 1 Corinthians 12:26 is played out many times over: If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. This connection and association with the Body transcends time as I look ahead to worshiping around the throne with believers from ages past, present, and future.  There is a unity of the Spirit which we recognize in each other that goes deeper often than the unity of many blood relations.

Lastly, I have a deep-seated soul-peace when I consider the security of my eternal destination. Until I take possession of it, I bear the seal of the Holy Spirit (as the above evidences attest to) and He is the guarantee of my inheritance to come. I no longer wonder and hope and fret over my place in eternity. I walk this world now as a stranger and wayfarer, but I am confidently making my sure way to the Celestial City.

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Aslan's country III

It’s almost unforgivable, I know, but here I stand in the second half of life, only just having completed C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. And what an ending (or beginning) awaits the reader in The Last Battle, book 7! If you’ll never read the entire seven books, skip to this last one and enjoy! In it, Narnia is one last battle away from its ending and Aslan’s Country is in view.

The Chronicles of Narnia are, of course, a set of seven books that deal with a parallel world to our own, known as Narnia. What’s not to love? – brave and heroic youth; noble, mythological creatures; wrongs to be righted; and a good (but not safe), most high being Who knows the deep magic from before the beginning of time; Who is never late, but rarely early; Who rewards them who diligently seek him; and Who is working out all things for the good of those whom He has called. I speak of the great lion (and Christ figure), Aslan.

In The Last Battle bravery is again called upon and in the face of great cost and danger, Aslan’s true followers must take the adventure Aslan sends, come what may. But Aslan’s country (heaven parallel) is nearer than they know and what a reward awaits those who will endure to the end!

There are so many great themes and quotes in this book – add it to your Bucket List and go ahead and read it!  (spoiler alert)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I love the noble examples of faith and courage in the face of martyrdom and the commendation for those who will not waver in that hour.

> “Nothing now remains for us seven but to go back to Stable Hill, proclaim the truth, and take the adventure that Aslan sends us.” (ch. IX, “The Great Meeting on Stable Hill,” p. 92)

> “I was going to say I wished we’d never come. But I don’t, I don’t, I don’t. Even if we are killed. I’d rather be killed fighting for Narnia than grow old and stupid at home and perhaps go about in a bath-chair and then die in the end just the same.” (ibid., p. 96)

> ”Courage, Child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan.” (ch. X, “Who Will Go into the Stable?” p. 107)

> “[Aslan said,] ‘Well done, last of the Kings of Narnia, who stood firm at the darkest hour.’ ” (ch. XIII, “How the Dwarfs Refused to be Taken In,” p. 146)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Lewis illustrates two groups and their sorting out in the end – they who seek and savor God in faith and humility of spirit, and those who lean on their own understanding, rejecting the gifts of God that are so near as to be touched and tasted if they would only receive them.

> “I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog.” (ch. XV, “Further Up and Further In,” pp. 165-166)

> They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.” (ch. XIII, “How the Dwarves Refused to be Taken In,” p. 148)

> The sorting out: “But as they came right up to Aslan one or other of two things happened to each of them. They all looked straight in his face; I don’t think they had any choice about that. And when some looked, the expression of their faces changed terribly – it was fear and hatred… And all the creatures who looked at Aslan in that way swerved to their right, his left, and disappeared into his huge black shadow… The children never saw them again. I don’t know what became of them. But the others looked in the face of Aslan and loved him, though some of them were very frightened at the same time. And all these came in at the Door, in on Aslan’s right.” It is Peter, the High King of Narnia, who shuts the Door after Aslan commands, “Now make an end.” (ch. XIV, “Night Falls on Narnia,” pp. 153-154, 157)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
But more than all of these, and perhaps precisely because I am in the second half of my life, I found immense joy and hope welling up from Lewis’ descriptions of Aslan’s Country, that promised place beyond the reach of the Shadow-Lands of death; a place we in our world know by another name.

> Here, we realize that Narnia is not the real Narnia. “That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia, which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world… is only a shadow or copy of the something in Aslan’s real world… And of course it’s different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.” (ch. XV, “Further Up and Further In,” pp. 169-170)

> “It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia… Perhaps you will get some idea of it, if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones; yet at the same time they were somehow different – deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know.” (ibid., p. 170)

> Jewel, the Unicorn, summed up what everyone was thinking: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.” (ibid., p. 171)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Aslan’s Country:

> “…They stood on grass, the deep blue sky was overhead, and the air which blew gently on their faces was that of a day in early summer… There was something in the feel of the air that told him it could not be later than June.” (ch. XIII, “How the Dwarfs Refused to be Taken In,” p. 136)

> “…warm daylight, the blue sky above them, flowers at their feet, and laughter in Aslan’s eyes.” (ch. XIV, “Night Falls on Narnia,” p. 157)

> “Many other creatures were slowly moving the same way, but that grassy country was wide and there was no crowding.” (ch. XV, “Further Up and Further In,” p. 167)

> “I’ve a feeling we’ve got to the country where everything is allowed.” (ch. XIII, “How the Dwarfs Refused to be Taken In,” p. 137)

> “What was the fruit like? Unfortunately, no one can describe a taste. All I can say is that… the freshest grapefruit you’ve ever eaten was dull, and the juiciest orange was dry, and the most melting pear was hard and woody, and the sweetest wild strawberry was sour. And there were no seeds or stones, and no wasps. If you had once eaten that fruit, all the nicest things in this world would taste like medicines after it. But I can’t describe it. You can’t find out what it is like unless you can get to that country and taste for yourself.” (ibid., p. 137)

> “Everyone else began to run, and they found, to their astonishment, that they could keep up with [the Unicorn]… Faster and faster they raced, but no one got hot or tired or out of breath. If one could run without getting tired, I don’t think one would often want to do anything else.” (ch’s XV, “Further Up and Further In” and XVI “Farewell to Shadow-Lands,” pp. 171-172)

> “Isn’t it wonderful?” said Lucy. “Have you noticed one can’t feel afraid, even if one wants to? Try it.”

“By Jove, one can’t,” said Eustace after he had tried. (ch. XVI, “Farewell to Shadow-Lands,” p. 173)

> “About half and hour later – or it might have been half a hundred years later, for time there is not like time here…” (ibid., p. 179)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Of those on Aslan’s right:

> “…He led him to the eldest of the Queens – but even she was not old, and there were no grey hairs on her head and no wrinkles on her cheek.” (ch. XII, “Through the Stable Door,” p. 134)

> Edmund describes the railway accident that brought him to Aslan’s Country, saying, “There was a frightful roar and something hit me with a bang, but it didn’t hurt. And I felt not so much scared as – well, excited.” (ch. XIII, “How the Dwarfs Refused to be Taken In,” p. 138)

> “The older Lord Digory describes it as having “been unstiffened… We stopped feeling old.”

“I don’t believe you two really are much older than we are here,” said Jill.

“Well if we aren’t, we have been,” said the Lady Polly. (ibid., p. 138)

> “…Before [Tirian] had had much time to think of this, he felt two strong arms thrown about him and felt a bearded kiss on his cheeks and heard a well-remembered voice…

”It was his own father, the good King Erlian: but not as Tirian had seen him last when they brought him home pale and wounded from his fight with the giant, nor even as Tirian remembered him in his later years when he was a gray-headed warrior. This was his father young and merry as he could just remember him from very early days, when he himself had been a little boy playing games with his father in the castle garden… just before bedtime on summer evenings.” (ch. XVI, “Farewell to Shadow-Lands,” p. 177)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Chapter One of the Great Story

> “…They found themselves facing great golden gates. And for a moment none of them was bold enough to try if the gates would open… ‘Dare we? Is it right? Can it be meant for us?’”

”But while they were standing thus a great horn, wonderfully loud and sweet, blew from somewhere inside that walled garden and the gates swung open…

”‘Welcome, in the Lion’s name. Come further up and further in.’ ” (ch. XVI, “Farewell to Shadow-Land,” pp. 176-177)

> “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” (ibid., pp. 183-184)

Lewis, C. S., and Pauline Baynes. The Last Battle. New York: Collier, 1970. Print.

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Welcome to our dear little Lewis Elliot, born August 3rd at 5:07 a.m., to Ashley and Andrew and measuring 7# 15 oz. and 20″ long.

May you grow to wisely share the Christian faith like C.S. Lewis and be passionate in your obedience to Christ like Jim Elliot, the two men after whom you are named.

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C.S. Lewis wrote a letter on May 14, 1954 to Sheldon Vanauken who sought help in counseling students with questions about Christianity and homosexuality.  Vanauken shared Lewis’ response (as well as 17 other letters from C.S.) in his book A Severe Mercy [reprint: HarperOne, 2009, pp. 146-148].  Reminded of this letter from a recent post by Mark Shea, Justin Taylor has posted Lewis’ response.  He has spelled-out the abbreviations, but maintained the original emphasis.

For clarity’s sake, Lewis begins, “I have seen less than you, but more than I wanted of this terrible problem. I will discuss your letter with those whom I think wise in Christ.”  Lewis does not preach to the gay demographic in general.  He seeks to address the spiritual nature of the struggle for the homosexual wishing to bring his entire being under the dominion of Christ.

Lewis clarifies his position from the outset: “I take it for certain that the physical satisfaction of homosexual desires is sin,” but adds, “this leaves the homosexual no worse off than any normal person who is, for whatever reason, prevented from marrying.”

He continues:

Our speculations on the cause of the abnormality are not what matters and we must be content with ignorance. The disciples were not told why (in terms of efficient cause) the man was born blind (John 9:1-3): only the final cause, that the works of God should be made manifest in him. This suggests that in homosexuality, as in every other tribulation, those works can be made manifest: i.e. that every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will ‘turn the necessity to glorious gain.’ Of course, the first step must be to accept any privations which, if so disabled, we can’t lawfully get. The homosexual has to accept sexual abstinence just as the poor man has to forego otherwise lawful pleasures because he would be unjust to his wife and children if he took them. That is merely a negative condition.

What should the positive life of the homosexual be? I wish I had a letter which a pious male homosexual, now dead, once wrote to me—but of course it was the sort of letter one takes care to destroy. He believed that his necessity could be turned to spiritual gain: that there were certain kinds of sympathy and understanding, a certain social role which mere men and mere women could not give. But it is all horribly vague and long ago. Perhaps any homosexual who humbly accepts his cross and puts himself under Divine guidance will, however, be shown the way. I am sure that any attempt to evade it (e.g. by mock or quasi-marriage with a member of one’s own sex even if this does not lead to any carnal act) is the wrong way. Jealousy (this another homosexual admitted to me) is far more rampant and deadly among them than among us. And I don’t think little concessions like wearing the clothes of the other sex in private is the right line, either. It is the duties, burdens, the characteristic virtues of the other sex, I suspect, which the patient must try to cultivate. I have mentioned humility because male homosexuals (I don’t know about women) are rather apt, the moment they find you don’t treat them with horror and contempt, to rush to the opposite pole and start implying that they are somehow superior to the normal type.

I wish I could be more definite. All I have really said is that, like all other tribulations, it must be offered to God and His guidance how to use it must be sought. 

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Floral books 3

“To be…a chuser of books! And to be having any one’s improvement in view in her choice!” So marvels Jane Austen’s good heroine, Fanny Price, as she rhapsodizes about the opportunities to improve oneself by being a renter…“a chuser [sic] of books” from a circulating library.

Agreed.  To read the writings of the world’s great thinkers and to read the great literature of the western world is to understand the genesis and progression of modern philosophy, religions, language, and science; to observe constants in human nature; to learn from those who have preceded us, both of the truths they illustrated and the errors of which they theorized; it is to see the glory of God reflected in his image bearers as they display their God-given abilities of reason and thought as well as language, spiritual understanding and creativity.

A similar enthusiasm to Fanny’s goal of self-improvement and an accompanying desire to continue to learn new things all my life, if the Lord gives me capacity, is reflected in two items on my biblio-dream list (which is several steps removed from a wish list).  There are several “classics” collections out there (i.e. Barnes and Noble’s for one) and any number of those titles might be on my wish list, but because of their price, these two collections wait on my dream list—the Harvard Classics and the Yale Shakespeare, 40-volume set.


Harvard Classics

Collier's Junior ClassicsThe Harvard Classics collection is a 51-volume set (above) published by P.F. Collier.  I suspect Collier modeled his own Collier’s Junior Classics after the Harvard Classics.  These beloved Junior Classics (mostly abridged classics) presently stand erect on my bookshelf and bring back good, warm, childhood memories.

The Harvard anthology was originally called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf and its authors read like a character list from Lost.  According to Wikipedia, Harvard University President, Charles W. Eliot (1869 – 1909), averred that “the elements of a liberal education could be obtained by spending 15 minutes a day reading from a collection of books that could fit on a five-foot shelf (originally he had said a three-foot shelf).”

To be a collector of books is both a blessing and a curse as it is very difficult for a collector to satisfy himself only with the volumes he’s likely to read.  Not only must the covers match but the set must be complete.  It does not matter if the title is the only thing that will be read of some volumes (i.e. volume 30 for me); the set must have all the volumes in order to be completely worthwhile.

Also, half the fun of collecting books in my opinion is the vision of their faded, but matching covers, beautifully aligned together on one’s bookshelf. For the little less compulsive though, for those whom the bookshelf vision is not a driving force, Bartleby.com provides the Harvard Classics free online and this may be where I myself will have to begin.

What riches do the Harvard Classics contain?  Check it out—

Great Books of the Western WorldEncyclopædia Britannica seems to have used the Harvard Classics as a springboard for their Great Books of the Western World collection, published in 1952. Wikipedia tells us that University of Chicago president Robert Hutchins and Mortimer Adler collaborated to develop a course, “generally aimed at businessmen, for the purpose of filling in gaps in education, to make one more well-rounded” and familiar with the great ideas of the past three millennia.  Hutchins clearly saw the finished work as something much more though, calling the collection an “act of piety.”  He said, “Here are the sources of our being. Here is our heritage. This is the West. This is its meaning for mankind.”

Because the Harvard Classics were published in 1909, they necessarily omit most 20th century works.  The Great Books were criticized for the same reason.  So in 1990, Encyclopædia Britannica published a second edition which added and subtracted from some of the volumes of the previous edition and added 6 more volumes of material covering the 20th century.

There are many overlapping works and authors in the Harvard Classics and The Great Books, but for my money, I am drawn more to the body of titles in the Harvard Classics.  Although the second edition of the Great Books offers Alexis de Tocqueville and Calvin’s Institutes, I am not persuaded by the addition of the 20th century material; much of the subject matter covered in these titles is just unalluring to me.   Also, since many of these works are still in the realm of modern discourse, it is likely one has already brushed up against the truly great ones in his reading of current events or casual discussions or school assignments.  No, my choice would be the Harvard Classics above either edition of the Great Books.

Yale Shakespeare

Yale Shakespeare

The 2nd collection on my Dream List is the Yale Shakespeare, 40-volume set.  I ran across an incomplete set of these beautiful, perfectly-sized books with their pale blue covers and gilt lettering in a local antique store. I continue to enjoy the idea of a complete set adorning my bookshelf, standing at the ready whenever a comedy or a tragedy might be required.

The 40 volumes of the Yale Shakespeare include:

  • Shakespeare of Stratford (which I take to be a biography);
  • Shakespeare’s Sonnets;
  • “Venus and Adonis, “Lucrece,” and the Minor Poems;
  • All’s Well That Ends Well;
  • As You Like It;
  • The Comedy of Errors;
  • King Henry the Fourth (part I);
  • King Henry the Fourth (part II);
  • King Henry the Sixth (part I);
  • King Henry the Sixth (part II);
  • King Henry the Sixth (part III);
  • The Life of Henry the Fifth;
  • The Life and Death of King John;
  • The Life of King Henry the Eighth;
  • The Life of Timon of Athens;
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost;
  • Measure for Measure;
  • The Merchant of Venice;
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor;
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream;
  • Much Ado About Nothing;
  • Pericles, Prince of Tyre;
  • The Taming of the Shrew;
  • The Tempest;
  • The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra;
  • The Tragedy of Coriolanus;
  • The Tragedy of Cymbeline;
  • The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark;
  • The Tragedy of Julius Caesar;
  • The Tragedy of King Lear;
  • The Tragedy of King Richard, the Second;
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth;
  • The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice;
  • The Tragedy of Richard the Third;
  • The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet;
  • The Tragedy of Titus Andronicus;
  • The Tragedy of Troilus and Cressida;
  • Twelfth Night (or What you Will);
  • Two Gentlemen of Verona;
  • The Winter’s Tale

In closing, I share the encouragement of C.S. Lewis to seek the great writers in their own words.  He wrote,There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books…The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator.

“The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.”

Lewis continued, “Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”

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I’ve seen t-shirts that say “Jonathan Edwards is My Homeboy” which makes me laugh.  Well…Jonathan Edwards is my Facebook friend.  I, therefore, receive occasional posts which included this insightful one-liner:

“This world is all the hell that ever a true Christian is to endure, and it is all the heaven that unbelievers shall ever enjoy.”

C.S. Lewis puts a twist on this in The Great Divorce, his treatise on heaven and hell.  He wrote:

“That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.1

“And of some sinful pleasure they say ‘Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences’: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of sin.

“Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness.

“And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say ‘We have never lived anywhere except Heaven,’ and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’ And both will speak truly.”

1 [This is why John Piper says we are more than conquerors.  We not only are conquerors, ultimately triumphing in eternity because of Christ, but more than conquerors as he turns even our earthly agonies to his great purpose of bringing us good and him glory.]

Returning to Edwards, we are challenged to consider our given path and its ultimate end when we read his one-liner within its context, the sermon he wrote, “Dying to Gain,” when he was but 19 years old.  I stumbled upon an excerpt of the sermon on a beautiful gem of a site called Tolle Lege, meaning (which I love) “Take up and read.”  The blog’s author, Nick Roarke, shares the context for Edward’s one-liner which should cause us all to pause and consider our ends:

“What a vast difference is there between the death of a child of the devil and a child of God! The one leaves all his troubles and afflictions behind him, never to feel them more; the other, he leaves all his pleasures behind him, all the pleasure that ever he will enjoy while God endures.

The one leaves all his temptations forever, but the other instead of that falls into the hands of the tempter, not to be tempted but to be tormented by him. The one is perfectly delivered from all remainders of corruption; the other, he carries all that vast load of sin, made up of original sin, natural corruption, and actual sins, into hell with him, and there the guilt of them breaks forth in the conscience and burns and scorches him as flames of hell within.

The filthiness of sin will then appear and be laid open before the world to his eternal shame. Death to the true Christian is an entrance into eternal pleasures and unspeakable joys, but the death of a sinner is his entrance into never-ending miseries. This world is all the hell that ever a true Christian is to endure, and it is all the heaven that unbelievers shall ever enjoy.

‘Tis a heaven in comparison of the misery of the one, and a hell in comparison of the happiness of the other. The sinner, when he dies, he leaves all his riches and possessions: there is no more money for him to have the pleasure of fingering; there is no more gay apparel for him to be arrayed in, nor proud palace to live in. But the Christian, when he dies, he obtains all his riches, even infinite spiritual, heavenly riches.

At death, the sinner leaves all his honor and enters into eternal disgrace; but the Christian is then invested with his. The one leaves all his friends forever more: when he sees them again at the resurrection, it will be either glorifying God in his justice in damning him, or else like furies ready to tear him.

But the other, he goes to his best friends and will again meet his best earthly friends at the resurrection in glory, full of mutual joy and love. The death of a believer is in order to a more glorious resurrection, but the death of a sinner is but only a faint shadow and preludium of the eternal death the body is to die at the great day and forever more.

So great is the difference between the death of the one and the other, ’tis even as the difference between life and death, between death and a resurrection. Wherefore, now you have both before you—the glorious gainfulness of the death of a Christian, and the dreadfulness of the death of a sinner—or rather you have life and death set before you, to make your choice: therefore, choose life.”

[Illustration: Marvelous Journey by Dehong He]

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