Wisdom from the book of Sirach

holy wisdom

Holy Wisdom

The author of the Wisdom of Sirach is Jesus ben Sirach who was a Jewish scribe writing

somewhere around 200 to 174 before the time of our Lord. The book was written in Hebrew but no copies of the original exist. Only Greek copies. The 39 Articles of Religion, a Reformed Anglican confession of faith, gives us a list of books that,

“(as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine…”

This list of books includes the Wisdom of Sirach sometimes referred to by its older name Ecclesiasticus. Honestly, this is one of my favourite books to read from as it offers clear, straight forward advice grounded in the revelation of God. Richard Baxter wrote, “A Christian Directory,” in which he offers sage Christian advice. I consider this book in the same vain, it is a support to religion, but not of Divine inspiration.

All quotations are taken from the text of the St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint aka The Orthodox Study Bible.

Grace

“My son, accomplish your works with gentlness, And you will be loved by people the Lord accepts. The greater you are, the more humble you must be, And you will find grace before the Lord.” 3.17-18 SAAS

“A man without grace is like a story told at the wrong time; It will continue on the lips of the ignorant.” 20.19 SAAS

“There is an astute man who is a teacher of many, But is useless to his own soul. A man who devises words craftily will be hated. This man will go hungry, For grace was not given to him from the Lord, Because he is destitute of all wisdom.” 37.19-21 SAAS

The Incarnation

“To whom has the root of wisdom been revealed? And who has come to know her great deeds? There is one who is wise and is feared exceedingly. He who sits upon His throne. The Lord Himself created wisdom. He saw and numbered her And poured her out on all His works.” 1.5-7 SAAS

Humility

“If you desire wisdom, keep the commandments, And the Lord will supply it to you. For the feat of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and instruction, And His good pleasure is faith and gentleness. Do not disobey the fear of the Lord, And do not come to Him with a divided heart. Do not be a hypocrite in the sight of men, And be careful with your lips. Do not exalt yourself, lest you fall And bring dishonor to your soul. The Lord shall reveal your secrets, And in the midst of the assembly He will strike you down, Because you did not come in the fear of the Lord, And your heart was full of deceit.” 1.23-27 SAAS

“The greater you are, the more humble you must be, And you will find grace before the Lord.” 3.18 SAAS

“Forgive wrong done you by your neighbor; Then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.” 28.2 SAAS

“The prayer of a humble man passes through the clouds, And he will not be comforted until it reaches the Lord;” 35.17 SAAS

Praise and Glory to God

“Fill Zion with the celebration of Your divine virtue And Your people with Your glory. Give testimony to what You created in the beginning And raise up the prophecies spoken in Your name.” 36.13-14 SAAS

“The Lord did not enable His saints To describe all His wonders, Which the Lord Almighty established That the universe might be established in His glory. He traced out the abyss and the human heart And understands their craftiness; For the Most High possesses all knowledge And sees into the signs of an age.” 42.17-18 SAAS

Prayer

“O Lord, Father and Master of my life,
Do not leave me to their counsel,
Nor let me fall because of them.
Who will set whips over my thoughts
And the discipline of wisdom over my heart,

So they may not spare me in my  errors,

Nor neglect me in my sins?
Lest my mistakes be multiplied
And my sins abound,
Then I would not fall before my adversaries,

And my enemy would not rejoice over me.

O Lord, Father and the God of my life,
do not give me haughty eyes,
But turn me away from evil desire.
Do not let gluttony or lust overcome me,
Nor give me up to a shameless sou.” 23.1-6 SAAS

Yours in the Lord,

jm

The Life of God in the Soul of Man

lifeofgodsoulofman

Some quotes to entice you.

Correct orthodox or religious opinion is not true religion: 

“…I must regret that among so many pretenders to it, so few understand what it means ;  some placing it in the Understanding, in Orthodox Notions and Opinions, and all the account they can give of their Religion, is that they are of this or the other persuasion, and have join’d themselves to one of those many Sects whereunto Christendom is most unhappily divided .”

Works are not true religion:

“Others place it in the outward man, in a constant course of external duties, and a model of performances, if they live peaceably with their Neighbours, keep a temperate diet, observe the returns of Worship, frequenting the Church, or their Closet, and sometimes extend their hands to the relief of the Poor, they think they have sufficiently acquitted themselves.”

Emotional responses are not true religion:

“Others again put all Religion in the affections, in rapturous heats, and ecstatic devotion, and all they aim at, is to pray with passion, and think of Heaven with pleasure, and to be affected with those kind, and melting expressions wherewith they court their Saviour, till they persuade themselves that they are mightily in love with him, and from thence assume a great confidence of their salvation, which they esteem the chief of Christian Graces.”

True religion is:

“…Religion is quite another thing, and they who are acquainted with it, will entertain far different thoughts, and disdain all those shadows and false imitations of it.  They know by experience that true Religion is an Union of the Soul with God, a real participation of the Divine Nature, the very Image of God drawn upon the Soul, or in the Apostle’s phrase, it is Christ formed within us.  Briefly, I know not how the nature of Religion can be more fully expressed than by calling it a Divine Life ;  and under these terms I shall discourse of it, showing first how it is called a Life, and then how it is termed Divine.”

True religion is based in a relationship:

AGAIN, Religion may be designed by the name of Life, because it is an inward, free, and self-moving principle, and those who have made progress in it, are not acted only by external Motives, driven merely by threatenings, nor bribed by promises, nor constrain’d by Laws ;  but are powerfully inclined to that which is good, and delight in the performance of it :  The love which a Pious man carries to God, and goodness, is not so much by virtue of a Command enjoining him so to do, as by a new Nature instructing and prompting him to it ;  nor doth he pay his devotions, as an unavoidable tribute only to appease the Divine Justice, or quiet his clamorous Conscience ;  but those Religious exercises are the proper emanations of the divine life, the natural employments of the new-born Soul.

He prays and gives thanks, and repents, not only because these things are commanded, but rather because he is sensible of his wants, and of the Divine goodness, and of the folly and misery of a sinful life ;  his charity is not forced, nor his alms extorted from him, his love makes him willing to give ;  and though there were no outward obligation, his heart would devise liberal things.  Injustice or intemperance, and all other vices, are as contrary to his temper, and constitution, as the basest actions are to the most generous spirit, and impudence and scurrility to those who are naturally modest :  so that I may well say with St. JohnWhosoever is born of God doth not commit sin :  for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. Though holy and religious persons do much eye the Law of God, and have a great regard unto it, yet is it not so much the sanction of the Law, as its reasonableness, and purity and goodness which doth prevail with them ;  they account it excellent and desirable in its self, and that in keeping of it there is great reward :  and that Divine Love wherewith they are acted, makes them become a Law unto themselves.”

To read the work it can be found online at: https://www.anglican.net/works/henry-scougal-the-life-of-god-in-the-soul-of-man-1677/

Anglican Rosary

 

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5.17

Years ago, when I was new to the Christian faith and a member of the Anglican Church, I purchased a string of beads called the Anglican rosary. When I left the communion they sat unused with other religious paraphernalia until this year. I have recently decided to throw myself into Anglicanism, observing Lent and attending the Lord’s Supper on a weekly basis. I have also decided to pray using beads and have still found them beneficial as an aid to prayer. I thought it might be a good to share how I have been using the beads and include some of the prayers and meditations I’ve found most useful.

beads

There is no set form of prayers like you would find with the Roman Catholic rosary so I have been free to choose more biblical prayers for my prayer times.

The Anglican rosary begins with the cross. I hold the cross in my hand and recite the Nicene Creed from the Book of Common Prayer taking time to reflect upon the words of the creed.

On the invitatory bead I make a confession of sins and ask for forgiveness. The Book of Common Prayer has a beautiful confession from the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper that I like to use before beginning the “weeks.”

Throughout the weeks I say the ancient Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, Have mercy on me a Sinner.” This is a prayer that I have used for almost 20 years without beads and one that I have found leads to a deeper sense of communion with Christ. As I pray I inhale and silently say, “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God” and exhale, “Have mercy upon me a sinner.” This slows down the prayer and allows me to focus on Jesus Christ.

On each cruciform bead I like to pray the Our Father (Matt. 6). I find consistency the best way to pray so I use the same prayers changing little if at all.IMG_20180321_203432_230

The final invitatory bead is the conclusion of the rosary and I finish with, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” Psalm 19.14

While holding the cross I use the final moments of my prayer time to think of the Gospel readings from the Lectionary or some other theological work I’ve recently read. The prayers and the final meditation draw one closer to Christ by driving home biblical passages and concept.

A Note on Repetitive Prayer: 

Our Lord gives the warning that is often applied to those who use prayer beads and rosaries, one doesn’t apply to the Anglican Rosary,

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Matt. 6.7

Let’s add some context. The footnote in the Geneva Bible reads on Matthew 6.7, “Long prayers are not condemned, but vain, needless, and superstitious ones. ” I believe this is actuate. Setting aside a specific time isn’t the issue but the motive is the issue. If one was to believe we could trade our prayers to earn a reward we would be in violation of the Lord’s command and acting superstitiously.

The People’s New Testament Commentary reads, “What is forbidden is not much praying, nor praying in the same words (the Lord did both), but making the number of prayers, length of prayers, or time spent in praying, a point of observance and of merit. 1 Kings 18:26 gives an example of the repetitions of the heathen. Mahometans and Catholics still hold that there is merit in repeating certain prayers a set number of times.” (emphasis added) I do not believe Matthew 6.7 is condemning rosary style prayers but pagan prayers performed to earn something and prayer done out of a superstitious need for comfort.

Christians are instructed to avoid “vain repetitions” when praying, but I must contend the Jesus Prayer or similar prayers are not in vain. The time I spend in prayer is not superstitious but soul nourishing. When I pray, each and every time, the words of the prayer are new. They strike me with fresh force and meaning. Prayer is needful to the spiritual life and must be meaningful so choose your prayers wisely. The prayers you choose should be taken from or relating to scripture with a motive to love the Lord Jesus more. May God through Jesus Christ forgive me if I am in error on this subject.

Yours in the Lord,

jm

Insights into Anglicanism

Michael P. Jensen is the author of Sydney Anglicanism: An Apology and (with Tom Frame) Defining Convictions and Decisive Commitments–The Thirty-Nine Articles in Contemporary Anglicanism. He is the rector of St Mark’s Anglican Church, Darling Point, in Sydney, Australia.st mark icon

1. Since the arrival of Christianity in Britain in the 3rd century, British Christianity has had a distinct flavor and independence of spirit, and was frequently in tension with Roman Catholicism. The Britons were evangelized by Irish missionary monks, and it wasn’t until the 7th century that the Roman church established its authority over Christianity in the British Isles, at the Synod of Whitby. But tensions continued until the 16th century.

2. The break with Rome in the 16th century had political causes, but also saw the emergence of an evangelical theology. The Church of England was not just a church of protest against the pope’s authority and his interference in English affairs. It was also a church that adopted a distinctly evangelical theology. The English Reformation cannot be reduced to the marital strife of Henry VIII.

3. Anglicanism is Reformed. The theology of the founding documents of the Anglican church—the Book of Homilies, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion—expresses a theology in keeping with the Reformed theology of the Swiss and South German Reformation. It is neither Lutheran, nor simply Calvinist, though it resonates with many of Calvin’s thoughts.

4. Scripture is the supreme authority in Anglicanism. Article VI, “Of the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation,” puts it this way:

Holy Scriptures containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

In Anglicanism, Scripture alone is supreme as the saving Word of God. Reason and tradition play an auxiliary role. This was the view of divines like Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker. There is a popular myth that Anglicanism views reason, tradition, and Scripture as a three-legged stool of authorities, but it is quite false.

5. Justification by faith alone is at the heart of Anglican soteriology. In its liturgy, its view of the sacraments, in its founding documents, and in the mind of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the Church of England holds that works do not save and cannot save a person. Only the blood of Jesus Christ is effective to save.

6. In Anglican thought, the sacraments are “effectual signs” received by faith. For Anglicans, the sacraments—the Lord’s Supper and baptism—do not convey grace in an automatic sense, or by a grace adhering to the objects used in them.

7. The Anglican liturgy—best encapsulated in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer—is designed to soak the congregation in the Scriptures, and to remind them of the priority of grace in the Christian life. There is grace on every page—it is not only the heart of Anglican theology, it is the heart of Anglican spirituality.

8. Anglicanism is a missionary faith, and has sponsored global missions since the 18th century. The sending and funding of missionaries to the far reaches of the globe to preach the gospel has been a constant feature of Anglican life, although this has happened through the various voluntary mission agencies as much as through official channels.

9. Global Anglicanism is more African and Asian than it is English and American. The center of contemporary Anglicanism is found in places like Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya. In these places there are burgeoning Anglican churches, and a great deal of evangelism and church planting. There are strong Anglican churches too in Asia and elsewhere. Noticeably, where liberal theology has become dominant in Anglicanism—mainly in the “first world”—Anglicanism is rapidly shrinking, and is possibly only a generation from its demise.