Continued from part III, and repeating the last couple of sections of that article:
Clearly, Augustine is not dismissing the active life (though he has also not yet fully defined it). He is pointing, in fact, to a sanctifying function in that life.
In a similar text, with a less absolute division between the two lives, Augustine says the following (I give it in two translations – the first from the Cuthbert Butler book cited above, and the second, again, from an online NPNF version):
“Two virtues are set before the soul of man, the one active, the other contemplative; the one whereby we journey, the other whereby we reach our journey’s end; the one whereby we toil that our heart may be cleansed for the vision of God, the other whereby we repose and see God; the one lies in the precepts for carrying on this temporal life, the other in the doctrine of that life which is eternal. Hence it is that the one toils, and the other reposes; for the former is in the purgation of sins, the latter in the light [or illumination] of the purgation effected. Hence it is that, in this mortal life, the former consists in the work of leading a good life, the latter more in faith, and with some few, through a mirror in enigma and in part, in some vision of unchangeable Truth. These two virtues are seen figured in the two wives of Jacob. . . . the three first evangelists, who principally record the words and deeds of our Lord for the right conduct of the present life, are chiefly concerned  with active virtue; but John is chiefly concerned in commending contemplative virtue.”[i]
Then we find in Augustine a view we might almost describe as “pragmatic” – that the active life is simply necessary to us, as beings of the sort we are, and though we might desire to fly directly to the contemplative life, we cannot do so – and that’s not entirely a bad thing. We’ll take it piece by piece, reflecting on each as we go:
Last week my friend Mark Galli wrote a post on the need for more pastors who loved and shepherded their congregations as chaplains. I attend a funeral on Saturday and saw this happen in the most amazing way I’ve ever witnessed. I wish I had a DVD of what I saw. Every pastor in America should learn how to be a chaplain in a funeral service. Then my friend Tod Bolsinger wrote a great response suggesting that what we needed is a missional leader(s), not chaplains. I agree, to a point, but I also found myself thinking this is not a both/and but an either/or. Then this morning Michael Mercer, the Internet Monk, responded and expressed my thoughts perfectly. Three friends all engaging one other in respect and humility. This is truly one of the finest dialogs among Christian leaders I’ve read in a long, long time.
Illustration from Edward Eggleston, The Circuit Rider: A Tale of the Heroic Age (1906): A Methodist circuit rider on horseback
One purpose of these “memorials,” and certainly a primary purpose of the separate volumes of memorials which were reprinted, was to present to people everywhere, Christian and non-Christian, the “moral example” of these dedicated ministers of Christ. This purpose perhaps ran deeper as the Victorian age wore on.
For example, at the front of the Black River and Northern New York Conference Memorial, Second Series, edited by Rev. P. Douglass Gorrie, and published in 1881, the editor presents the following wish:
The Author begs leave to present his feeble, yet grateful Tribute of Respect to the Memories of Departed Worth and Moral Heroism.
His subjects he goes on to describe as “the noble dead.” In the preface of the same book, the only regret expressed in its publication is “that each and all had no more worthy pen to portray the virtues that adorned their Christian character.” (v-vi) Continue reading →
The Methodist Mission in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, United States, as it appeared in 1834.
While at Duke in the late 1990s, I enjoyed a seminar led by historian of American Methodism Dr. Russell Richey. Each week we read stacks of old Methodist documents: letters, histories, reports of annual conferences, newspapers, and – the genre I remember best and enjoyed most – obituaries and memorials of departed ministers (and in a few cases, laypeople). Continue reading →
In a lighter vein, check out this fascinating post on pastors and other Christian leaders reading comic books and other fantasy genres, and why they do it. More do than you may think, and most are ashamed to admit it. But that’s just the way the genre is seen by society-at-large. As the tweet from “Fake AP Stylebook” tells reporters: “When covering comic book conventions, be sure to walk past 400 normal people to interview the fat guy dressed like Aquaman.”
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