I took a few moments to read through a few pages of a Solid Ground book I mentioned a few weeks back, Heroes of the Reformation by Richard Newton. I was struck by the fact that though it is meant for young people, in reality, sadly, given the passage of time, it would be quite appropriate for most adults today. And I was also struck by the unapologetic, obvious attempt to apply the lessons learned from history to every day Christian living. Here’s an example from the section on William Farel:
Farel was a self-denying man. If he had desired to live an easy, quiet life, without exposing himself to dangers, or trials, or persecutions of any kind, he could have done so by simply giving up the cause for which the Reformers worked, and remaining in the Romish church. But his desire was to do what was right in the sight of God, and not what would be the easiest for himself. It was no easy thing to travel over the Swiss mountains at any time, but especially in the depths of winter. Yet Farel never hesitated to go when duty called him. He was always ready to deny himself for the glory of God, and for the good of men. And this is the true spirit of a Christian. Jesus said, “If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Let us all try to have a self-denying spirit.
But there was one thing about Farel that was not so good. It mention this not that we should try to imitate it, but that we should avoid it.
Farel was a hot tempered man. He was something like the disciples when they wanted their Master to let them call down fire from heaven, as Elijah did, on those who would not do what they wished. One day he saw a Romish procession going along the street. He went up to the priest, who was carrying an image of St. Anthony, snatched the image out of his hands and threw it in the river. This raised a great tumult, and Farel came close to losing his life. It was wrong for him to do this. It was not what our blessed Lord would have advised him to do. One of his friends, a leading man among the reformers, reproved him for this violence.
“Remember, brother,” he said, “men may be led by gentleness, but they will not be driven by violence. Do not forget that you were sent to preach to people, but not to rail at them. Pour on wine and oil in due season, and try to act as a loving minister of Christ, but not as a task master or a tyrant.” This was good advice for him, and it is good advice to us. Jesus said, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” Let us strive to imitate “the gentleness of Christ.”
I know, I know, “How quaint!” Yet I wonder how much better things would be if we took to heart such honest, simple, plain and uncomplicated exhortations to godly behavior? Here’s the link to the book–oh, and I just saw that there is another volume, Heroes of the Early Church that I don’t have.