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ST. JOHN THE FISHERMAN AND THE DIVINE.pdf

ST. JOHN THE FISHERMAN AND THE DIVINE.pdf

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Published by glennpease
BY FREDERICK DENISON MAURICE, M.A.


St. John L 1.

In the beginning was the Word, cmd the Word was with God, and the Word was God,
BY FREDERICK DENISON MAURICE, M.A.


St. John L 1.

In the beginning was the Word, cmd the Word was with God, and the Word was God,

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Published by: glennpease on Nov 04, 2013
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11/10/2013

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ST. JOHN THE FISHERMAN AND THE DIVINE.BY FREDERICK DENISON MAURICE, M.A.St. John L 1.In the beginning toaa the Word, cmd the Word waa with God, and theWord was God,An eminent man, who died not long since in Germany,was wont to divide the life of the Church into threeperiods. That before the Reformation he called thePetrine; the three centuries since the Reformation, thePauline; one he maintained was at hand, which wouldlast to the end of this dispensation — that he named theJohannine. The classification is perhaps too ingeniousto be true; and there are many reasons why we oughtnot to treat all the years before the sixteenth century asbelonging to the same division. Nevertheless, there issomething in the observation concerning St. John whichhas commended itself to minds of a very different orderfrom his who put it into this shape. Some have supposedthat St. John is to displace the earlier writers of the iJewTestament, because his teaching is more profound, or morecharitable, or more simple than theirs. Some supposethat he was especially appointed to explain, unfold, bring2 DISCOURSE I.out into their fullest light, all that previous Prophets andApostles had presented under different aspects, in formssuitable to their own times and circumstances. Wide asthis difference is, both may agree that the writings of St.John, much as they may have been studied hitherto,deserve a fresh and a more earnest study. Both may hopethat if they have been intended for the illumination of ourdays, the meaning of them may come forth to us with
 
greater clearness than it did to our forefathers ; not becausewe are wiser than they, but because a larger experience,perhaps an experience of more intense doubt and ignorance,may make us more ready to welcome the divine interpreter,and less eager to anticipate his discoveries by the conclu-sions which ask to be corrected by them.There are three books in our canon which we attributeto St. John, besides the two short letters to Gains and theElect Lady. Of these, his Gospel appears to me a perfectsummary of Christian Theology, his First Epistle of CAm-tian Ethics, his Apocalypse of Christian Politics. I do notdespair of seeing even this last book come forth, out of the hands of soothsayers and prognosticators, as a reallesson-book respecting the dealings of God with thenations, respecting the method and the issues of Hisrighteous government. The craving there is in the mindsof men for a faithful history of the past, which shall bealso a faithful guide to the future, will surely be satisfiedsome day; this book may teach us how it shall be satis-fied. It requires even less faith to expect that when weare tired of speculations about the maxims and princi-ples of morality, which do not make our morality better,while yet their very failure convinces us that there areprinciples which we did not create and which must bindST. JOHN THE FISHEBMAN AND THE DIVINE. 3US, we maj torn to an old and simple docnment, whichsets forth the commandment that hgs life — which tells nswhat the end of our existence is, what has deranged it,how each man maj recover all that he has lost, and bewhat he was created to be.I had thought at first that these Bible ethics mightbe more suitable to a congregation of men, busy in theworld and valuing higher maxims onlj as they can testthem bj their application to its daily occasions, than what
 
I have called by the more imposing name of Theology. Ishould have acted upon that thought if I had believed thatSt. John's theology was of that stamp which has made theword agreeable to schoolmen, offensive to those who wouldturn words into acts. If theology is a collection of dryhusks, the granaries which contain those husks will be seton fire, and nothing will quench the fire till they be con-sumed. It is just because I find in St John the grainwhich those husks sometimes conceal, for which they aresometimes a substitute ; it is just because theology in hisGospel offers itself to us as a living root, out of which allliving powers, living thoughts, living acts may developthemselves ; it is just because there is nothing in him that ^-»is abstract, because that which is deep and eternal provesitself to be deep and eternal by entering into all the rela-tions of time, by manifesting itself in all the commondoings of men ; it is therefore, I believe, that he makes hisappeal, not to the man of technicalities, not to the schooldoctor, but to the simple wayfarer, and at the same time tothe man of science who does not forget thait he is a manand who expects to ascertain principles only by the honestmethod of experiment.To all such, I am sure, the careful study of the fourthb24 DISCOURSE I.Gospel will prove of unspeakable worth and interest. • Apreacher maj do muc];i to hinder such study ; he maj alsodo something to promote it. He will hinder it if he seeksto make texts give out a sense which he has first put intothem. He will hinder it if he seeks to stifle any doubtswhich the words themselves may excite ; any that are sug-gested by the contradictions of the world, and the perplexi-ties of the reader's own mind. He will hinder it if hebreaks the continuity of the narration by taking a passage

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