The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: C

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Collyer miscellany

On Writing: "There is a tendency to condemn an author as shallow or superficial if his writings are perfectly clear. And conversely, a writer will sometimes gain a reputation for profundity simply because no one can quite make out what he means."

On Faith: "Unless a man is prepared to affirm that he knows nothing, believes nothing, and harbours no opinions, unless he is prepared is prepared to condense all his positive belief into one solitary affirmation of his own ignorance, he must of necessity be in some sense a man of faith."

On Doctrine: "We frequently hear men say that they do not attach much importance to doctrine; they concentrate attention on the living of a good life. Such sentiment only emanates from a very shallow brain. It is as if a child should enter a garden, and seeing the gardener planting bulbs, should say, 'I do not care for those ugly bulbs, I like the beautiful flowers.' The living of a good life without a foundation of good doctrine is impossible, just as it is impossible to grow flowers without roots."

On Societal Pressure: "It is always difficult to resist fashions, whether in clothes or theology, and when we think we are quite unmoved by the stream, it often only means we are lagging a little way behind."

On Evolution and Morality: "When a modern thinker accepts the doctrine of evolution and repudiates revelation, how can he give us an authoritative moral code?"

On Sin: "The depth of a man's guilt is determined, not by reference to the degree of harm he does to other men, but by the degree of deliberateness with which the law is violated. In other words, sins of presumption are always worse than 'sins of infirmity.'"

On Disciplining Children: "Nothing could be more demoralizing than for children to be taught that disobedience did not signify [ie, count] so long as no evident harm was done. Yet how often we see parents taking a course which will inevitably give this impression. A child is perhaps meddling with some ornaments which should not be touched. The mother commands him to leave them alone, and comes away. The mandate has to be repeated several times, perhaps with threats, and it may be some kind of bribe. The child is not punished though richly deserving. But now, on the other hand, suppose that, without any deliberate disobedience of this nature, the child turning to come away at the first command, chances to break one of the most precious of the ornaments. The parent becomes a perfect fury, and the erring child is punished with the utmost severity."

On Self Examination: "This work is necessarily an individual matter, and herein lies the difficulty. A man is his own accuser, his own defender, and his own judge. With the most complete facilities for knowing the full measure of his guilt, he unites a most unjudicial bias in favor of the accused. He perhaps possesses all the knowledge necessary to draw up an unanswerable indictment; but his talent is mainly employed to find extenuating circumstances. He has all the skills of a defending counsel to raise a false issue, but lacks the impartiality of a judge to expose the pretense."

On Feigned Purity: "Close observers of mankind always feel rather suspicious of those who make a profession of superhuman purity. When frail human nature pretends to have grown more refined than God originally made it, we generally find that the profession is a mere cloak to cover exceptional depravity. Those who have been most successful in subduing the flesh have always been the most honest in describing it."

On Intentions: "We shall not have the praise of God simply for good thoughts which we have instantly dismissed, neither shall we be condemned for evil thoughts, which we have instantly repudiated. But a solid intention to perform a good work is counted for well doing, even though circumstances should prevent the consummation; and, on the other hand, a deliberate harbouring of evil thoughts is counted for sin, even though lack of opportunity prevents the sinful act."

On Motives: "It is possible for even the noblest work to be spoiled by an improper motive at the foundation. We have no right to judge the motives of others, but it is a duty to judge our own."

On Joy: "The most genuine joy is to be found among the servants of God, and the most complete misery and discontent is to be found among the most thorough servants of sin."

On Suffering: "The whole history of mankind does not constitute a fraction of eternity. The realisation of this fact helps us to see something of God's point of view, and we can understand why that which seems like the most awful suffering to us can be described as a 'light affliction which endureth but for a moment.'"

On Our Thoughts: "Every deliberate act is the outcome of deliberate thought, and it therefore follows that control of thought must be the mainspring of every virtue right up to that bridling of the tongue which is placed by an apostle as the supreme test of a man."

On Doubt: "To summarize the difference between ancient and modern doubt, we may suggest that in olden time men saw superhuman beings in every shadow, and so in time of trial they supposed that their God was only one of many. But in modern times men seek a prosaic and ordinary explanation for everything, and so in time of trial even [the one true] God is explained away."

(Islip Collyer)

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