We had midterms this past week, which caused no little stress in my life. This was the perfect storm of schoolwork, and I cannot remember doing more work in one week since I had to write my senior thesis in a week, and then preach that Sunday, a couple of years ago. Praise God for his strength through this week, but I am very glad to have been lifted out of Sheol. (Okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit there.)Changing the subject, I have been very interested, since I took a Puritan Spirituality class last January, in the relationship between Puritans (who largely led to my Presbyterian denomination) and Anglicans. Certainly, many Anglicans were Puritans, but there were many parts of Anglicanism that caused Puritans to reject the Church of England with great passion. The problem then was not the same problem that we have now–that is, the growing liberalism in the (western) Anglican church that almost wholly rejects the true gospel–but mainly a difference over whether the priest would wear vestments (or even if we should call the pastor a priest!), the use of art and lavish architecture in churches, and the celebration of holy days. Strict Puritans followed the “Regulative Principle of Worship” rigorously, while Anglicans were more likely to appropriate certain elements of the Catholic tradition into their worship (that is, they followed the Normative Principle of Worship). On the other hand, however, most of the doctrine itself in the Anglican church is highly influenced by John Calvin and his Puritan offspring. (Just take a look at the 39 Articles some time.) One day, a PCA friend in seminary with me mentioned that he was hoping that more Anglicans would join the PCA instead of mainly Baptists, so that more and more of the PCA membership in the future would bring in a high, rather than a strictly memorial, view of the sacraments. That comment, though, caused me to wonder whether we Presbyterians might benefit from resurrecting the old Anglicans by reading their theology and poetry, just as we benefit from reading the old Puritans. With that in mind, I picked up a book with some of the poetry and writings of John Donne and George Herbert, two of the greatest writers in the English language, both of whom were Anglicans and wrote substantial Christian poetry, sermons, and essays in the 17th century. So, when I have time this semester, I’m going to try to get into some of their poetry, and I’ll try to pass along the best of it to you. As a good example of John Donne, read “At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners.” I sang a gorgeous arrangement of this song in high school, and I found a YouTube video of another high school singing the song here. It is a breathtaking, vivid account of the hope of the resurrection. As an example of George Herbert, allow me to present a poem he wrote on one of my favorite subjects. It is entitled “Holy Baptism,” and, as you will see, Herbert was big about formatting his poems:
Since, Lord, to theeOh let me still
A narrow way and little gate
Is all the passage, on my infancy
Thou didst lay hold, and antedate
My faith in me.
Write thee great God, and me a child:
Let me be soft and supple to thy will,
Small to myself, to others mild,
Behither ill. Although by stealth
My flesh get on; yet let her sister
My soul bid nothing, but preserve her wealth:
The growth of flesh is but a blister,
Childhood is health.