Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 2 Chronicles 21 and Augustine's Treatise on Profit of Believing 24

2 Chronicles 21 – Jehoshaphat is succeeded by his son Jehoram (also called Joram). Jehoram, age 32, has many brothers—Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariahu, Michael, and Shephatiah—and they are given many gifts “of silver, gold, and costly items, and also some of Judah’s fortified towns” (21:3); Jehoram is the oldest, howver, so he becomes the next king. “But when Jehoram had become solidly established as king, he killed all his brothers and some of the other leaders of Judah” (21:4). “He walked in the way of the kings of Israel” (21:6).

He takes one of Ahab’s daughters as his wife. He even makes “high places in the hill country of Judah” (21:11). He does what is evil, “[y]et the Lord would not destroy the house of David because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his descendants forever” (21:7).
During his reign, Edom rebels and sets up a king of its own. Jehoram tries to put them down, but the revolt continues. Libnah also—because of Jehoram’s abandonment of the Lord, it says (21:10).

The prophet Elijah writes him a letter that says because he has not walked in the ways of his father, and because he has even killed brothers of his that were better than him, “the Lord will bring a great plague on your people, your children, your wives, and all your possessions, and you yourself will have a severe sickness with a disease of your bowels . . .” (21:14-15). The Jerusalem Bible note says this is the only mention of Elijah in Chronicles. Kings says nothing of Elijah being in Judah. This reference, however, is to a prophetic document, not to a live appearance by the prophet.

The Lord also rouses the Philistines and the Arabs against him. They come and carry off all his possessions, even his children—all of them except for Jehoahaz, the youngest son. After eight years he dies—uncelebrated—and is buried in Jerusalem.

Augustine’s Treatise on the Profit of Believing
24 - But you say, Were it not better that you should give me a reason, that, wherever, that shall lead me, I may follow without any rashness? Perhaps it were: but, it being so great a matter, that you are by reason to come to the knowledge of God, do you think that all are qualified to understand the reasons, by which the human soul is led to know God, or many, or few? [Are all people, many people or few people able to understand the reasons we are led to know God?] Few I think, you say. Do you believe that you are in the number of these? It is not for me, you say, to answer this. Therefore you think it is for him to believe you in this also: and this indeed he does: only do you remember, that he has already twice believed you saying things uncertain; that you are unwilling to believe him even once admonishing you in a religious spirit. But suppose that it is so, and that you approach with a true mind to receive religion, and that you are one of few men in such sense as to be able to take in the reasons by which the Divine Power is brought into certain knowledge; what? Do you think that other men, who are not endued with so serene a disposition, are to be denied religion? Or do you think that they are to be led gradually by certain steps unto those highest inner recesses?

You see clearly which is the more religious. For you cannot think that anyone whatever in a case where he desires so great a thing, ought by any means to be abandoned or rejected. But do you not think, that, unless he do first believe that he shall attain unto that which he purposes; and do yield his mind as a suppliant; and, submitting to certain great and necessary precepts, do by a certain course of life thoroughly cleanse it, that he will not otherwise attain the things that are purely true? Certainly you think so. What, then, is the case of those, (of whom I already believe you to be one,) who are able most easily to receive divine secrets by sure reason, will it, I ask, be to them any hindrance at all, if they so come as they who at the first believe? I think not. But yet, you say, what need to delay them? Because although they will in no way harm themselves by what is done, yet they will harm the rest by the precedent. For there is hardly one who has a just notion of his own power: but he who has a less notion must be roused; he who has a greater notion must be checked: that neither the one be broken by despair, nor the other carried headlong by rashness. And this is easily done, if even they, who are able to fly, (that they be not alluring the occasion of any into danger,) are forced for a short time to walk where the rest also may walk with safety. This is the forethought of true religion: this the command of God: this what has been handed down from our blessed forefathers, this what has been preserved even unto us: to wish to distrust and overthrow this, is nothing else than to seek a sacrilegious way unto true religion. And whoso do this, not even if what they wish be granted to them are they able to arrive at the point at which they aim. For whatever kind of excellent genius they have, unless God be present, they creep on the ground. But He is then present, if they, who are aiming at God, have a regard for their fellow men. Than which step there can be found nothing more sure Heavenward. I for my part cannot resist this reasoning, for how can I say that we are to believe nothing without certain knowledge? Whereas both there can be no friendship at all, unless there be believed something which cannot be proved by some reason, and often stewards, who are slaves, are trusted by their masters without any fault on their part. But in religion what can there be more unfair than that the ministers of God believe us when we promise an unfeigned mind, and we are unwilling to believe them when they enjoin us anything. Lastly, what way can there be more healthful, than for a man to become fitted to receive the truth by believing those things, which have been appointed by God to serve for the previous culture and treatment of the mind? Or, if you be already altogether fitted, rather to make some little circuit where it is safest to tread, than both to cause yourself danger, and to be a precedent for rashness to other men?

Now that I have a sense what this treatise is really trying to get at, I have to say one of the first things I read about Augustine that drew me to him was that he was the model Protestant reformers looked to as a homolist. When he gave a sermon, he thought it was his job to make the message he was giving understandable to all the different people in his congregation. He knew there were very educated people there, but there were also uneducated and simpler people present as well. And it was his job to say something all could benefit from. I wish more homolists would set on their sights on this standard. 

No comments:

Post a Comment