Thursday, June 4, 2009

Christian Paradoxes

In 1645, Herbert Palmer published Memorials of Godlinesse and Christianitie. Part I contains meditations on "making religion one's business" and an appendix on the calling of a minister. Part II contains "The Character of a Christian in Paradoxes and seeming Contradictions," "A Proof or Character of visible Godliness," "Some general Considerations to excite watchfulness, and to shake off spiritual drousiness," "Remedies against carefulness [anxiety]," and "The Soul of Fasting." Part III contains "A Daily Direction, or, Brief Rules for daily Conversation" and "A particular Direction for the Lord's-Day."

The "Paradoxes" are a series of wise aphorisms noting seeming contradictions in the life of a believer.

Palmer died in 1647. That same year, Ralph Venning published Orthodox paradoxes theoretical and experimental; or, a believer clearing truth by seeming contradictions : With an appendix of the Triumph of assurance over the law, sin, the world, wants, present enjoyments. To which is added the new command renewed, or, love one another; with ten rules for the right understanding of scripture by Ralph Venning, A.M.

In 1648, an edition of the Remaines of Francis Bacon included Palmer's Christian Paradoxes attributed to Bacon, not Palmer, and for a long time many assumed the Paradoxes were Bacon's. Venning's Orthodox Paradoxes, meanwhile, was clearly derived from Palmer's Christian Paradoxes, although without attribution (Palmer published 85 paradoxes, Venning published 299). These facts were made clear in 1865 when Alexander Grosart published Lord Bacon not the author of "The Christian paradoxes" (reprinted in 2008 by Angell Press and available at Amazon). The sorting out of who wrote what is worth reading, but most especially worth reading, and pondering, is Palmer's Christian Paradoxes. A sampling of his aphorisms is below:

1. A Christian is one, who believes things which his reason cannot comprehend.

5. He believes Three to be One, and One to be Three; A Father not be elder then his Son, and the Son to be equal with his Father, and one proceeding from both to be fully equall to both.

6. He believes in one Nature three Persons, and in one Person two Natures.

7. He belives a Virgin to have been a Mother, and her Son to be her Maker.

22. He is rich in poverty, and poor in the midst of riches.

25. He loses his life and gains by it, and even while he loses it, he saves it.

36. He loves all men as himself, yet hates some men with perfect hatred.

40. He is a peacemaker, yet continually fighting, and an irreconcilable enemy.

54. He confesses he can do nothing; yet as truly professes he can do all things.

68. He cannot sinne, yet he can do nothing without sin.

71. He is a Serpent and a Dove, a Lamb and a Lion, a Reed and a Cedar.

74. He believes like Abraham, in hope and against hope: and though he can never answer God's Logick, yet with the woman of Canaan he hopes to prevail with the Rhetorick of importunity.

80. After he begins to live he is ever dying; and though he have an eternal life begun in him, yet he makes account he hath a death to pass through.

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