Friday, August 14, 2009

Negligent Hearing: A Thousand Lost Sermons

"Take heed how you hear. This is the warning of Christ to his disciples, after they hear the parable of of the seed (Luke 8:18)...When I consider how many labourers God has sent to his vineyard, and yet how little fruit it yields to the sower, I cannot impute it to lack of teaching, but to the lack of hearing...to a kind of negligent hearing [so that] a thousand sermons have been lost and forgotten, as though they had never been preached at all. The devil ....labours all he can to keep us from hearing. To effect this, he keeps us at taverns, at plays, in our shops...He casts fancies into our minds, drowsiness into our heads, sounds into our ears, temptation before our eyes...He infects us with prejudice of the preacher... or takes us to dinner, or pastime, to remove our minds, that we should think no more of it."

-Henry Smith (1620–1668) "The Art of Hearing."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dreary Flickerings Over Who Knows What

"My Dear Wormwood...

The Christians describe the Enemy [God] as one 'without whom Nothing is strong.' And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man's best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing [italics added]. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,

Your affectionate uncle
Screwtape"

(C.S. Lewis; The Screwtape Letters, pg. 64-65.)