An excerpt from the classic missionary autobiography, John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebridies.
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In the year 1857 came the call for which he had so long been waiting. In December, the “licence” to preach was conferred upon him, and early in the following spring, home and friends, and the scene of his late beloved labours, were left behind. For what? Hard, thankless toil amongst a horde of savage barbarians on an island in the South Pacific. Of course, the undertaking had first to encounter the most strenuous opposition from devoted friends, who saw every reason why any effort to reduce cannibals to a state of civilization should be powerless :—
‘ Why forsake the work in which ‘God is so richly blessing you here?’ say some. ‘ Why not attend to the heathen perishing at your very door? ’ say others; to whom the retort might very reasonably be made, ‘ That may well be left for you to do.’ Amongst many who sought to deter me was one dear old Christian gentlemen, whose crowning argument always was, ‘The cannibals! you will be eaten by cannibals!’ At last I replied, ‘Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now; and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honouring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms ; and in the great day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.’
Some robust natural theology, courtesy of the redoubtable Mr. Sherlock Holmes (from The Naval Treaty, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).
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“What a lovely thing a rose is!”
He walked past the couch to the open window and held up the drooping stalk of a moss-rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any keen interest in natural objects.
“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”
“The last time I saw your father [Cotton Mather] was in the beginning of 1724, when I visited him after my first trip to Pennsylvania. He received me in his library, and on my taking leave showed me a shorter way out of the house through a narrow passage, which was crossed by a beam overhead. We were still talking as I withdrew, he accompanying me behind, and I turning partly towards him, when he said hastily, “Stoop, stoop!” I did not understand him, till I felt my head hit against the beam. He was a man that never missed any occasion of giving instruction, and upon this he said to me, “You are young, and have the world before you; STOOP as you go through it, and you will miss many hard thumps.” This advice, thus beat into my head, has frequently been of use to me; and I often think of it, when I see pride mortified, and misfortunes brought upon people by their carrying their heads too high….”
-Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Samuel Mather, 1784
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Friend, Benjamin Franklin passes on good advice. Yet sadly, from what I know if him, he did not stoop far enough. We as sinners must stoop, indeed, bow down in the dust before God in Christ, begging for mercy. Only when we are hopelessly prostrate in the dust, looking for free and sovereign grace in the blood of Christ, can we be lifted up and spared for time and eternity. So stoop, sinner, stoop!