Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity

Book: A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity
Author: William Wilberforce
Edition:  epub-Gutenberg, read on iBook. Page numbers reflect iBook pages.
Read: January 2013
354 pages
Rated: 4 out of 5

Wilberforce was distressed about the state of religion in England in the early 1800's. He saw where it had fallen to a place where everybody assumed they were Christian because they were born in England. This was particularly true amongst the privileged class. This book was meant to combat this thinking by showing that it is not geography which counts but their actions and spirituality which causes people to be Christian.

He takes on this challenge in seven chapters:
  1. How the current conception of Christianity is inadequate
  2. The corrupt nature of humans
  3. How the current image of Christianity by the bulk of those who called themselves Christian is defective
  4. How the prevailing conception of the nature and strictness of practical Christianity is inadequate
  5. How Christianity excels because of its divine origins
  6. The cause of the current state of English Christianity
  7. Practical Hints


This book is one which causes you to re-examine yourself. Particularly knowing the author's background and what he accomplished. It seems to me the person who looks on this book and does not ponder their own actions is one who is dead to his own conscience. Consequently, a lot of my thoughts are personal.

Early in the book, two phrases caught my attention: the plan of life (12) and the accounting of stewardship (16). Do I have a plan on how to live my life? Do I make good use of my time? These are some of the questions which Wilberforce's book raises in my mind.

Throughout the book, Wilberforce talks about what he sees in English religion—the lack of devotion, the lip service to Christian principles, the debauchery surrounding him—and which he engaged in, and the baseness which human life was held in.  It was no longer the goal of the regular English Christian to focus on God's glory (126).

Wilberforce notes that it is a cold hearted person who can hear their neighbor in trouble and turn their back on them, or at least not understand what Christ would do (6). That is the central issue in Wilberforce's mind—what would Christ do?

In the book, Wilberforce continues to make the distinction between those who say they are Christian and those who act like Christ (11). What do we have today? More particularly, how do I act?  Even more so, Wilberforce may say, how do I love? (68)  He says that is is Love, Zeal, Joy, Gratitude, Hope and Trust are signs of a redeemed life. He says that no man has the right to be idle. (128). Words spoken are in vain, unless backed up by conduct (141). It is the heart, outwards is where Christianity happens. Wilberforce notes that it is the glory of Christianity to not be content with the superficial, but to work on the heart. (169, 260)

We now enter a part which I felt particularly spoke to me. The books talks about how God has put us here to do a work. This work is not one which we can say that God will do it for us, but that he has given us a particular disposition that we can accomplish this work. We are to find it—or more probably, we are to receive it with a warm heart when it comes. (74) I cannot turn my back on it. Wilberforce understood that it is very easy to be distracted from the first things in our live to those which are merely important, or just plain trivial. (208)  As much as Wilberforce has us set our minds on things above, Wilberforce says that we are primarily to act for the Kingdom of God. (252)

But least we misunderstand Wilberforce through my review, Wilberforce believes in grace and pardon. It is because we do not understand this do our lives revert to a shallowness of character. His life was one which resounded in grace. He reflected this in his dealing with his foes, and his friends. How we live our life reflects grace working within us.

Our society status did not come all of sudden. There was no French Revolution to drastically and dynamically change our society. But as Wilberforce pointed out in his England, the slide of morals comes one small change at a time. (269)  The small bucket of sand taken from the beach does not change the beach. But as a million people lives are changed, a nation's moral's change. Wilberforce's England did not become decadent in a year, but took a century. Wilberforce's effort to bring about manners took the man most of his adult life.

Where does the change  away from God happen? In the upper class. Wealth leads to stagnation; stagnation to death.  (292)  They live the good life and start the slide. As you get leaders both secular and spiritual leadership who no longer believe in what they profess to lead, they live a life which does not reflect their values. Do the leaders of our nation believe in uniting for the nation's good? Do our religious leaders love God foremost? It is so easy to love the praise of man and forget the cause which we were once passionate about. (272) As the slide continues, it then becomes fashionable and the norm not to believe, but to disavow our God and his works. (275)

Wilberforce's age is similar to ours. We fight a losing battle in trying to legislate goodness. We are so particular about our laws, unless it is specifically said in the law, it is legal to do. Consequently our laws increase. We substitute legality for our morals. In doing so, we have lost our soul. Apparently in Wilberforce's day, this was also the case. (138)

As our moral integrity fades, it is replaced by a lack of trust. Truth vacated leads to societal decline.  (296) Good will is replaced by failed good intentions. This is true on both personal and national levels. When our own selfishness replaces righteousness, we are suspected in only looking out for ourselves. (309)  Lawsuits occur, we mistrust our leaders intentions, our leaders mistrust each other. Each nation only wants theirs and will fight and destroy to get something or retain power.  Think of a difference in society based upon moral goodness rather than on who has the best lawyers and politicians in their pocket.   (287) 

Above all else, to Wilberforce and Christians everywhere, true religion is devoting themselves to God, first and foremost. (203) This leads real Christianity to the radicalness which Wilberforce practiced.  (308)

 After reading this book, I heard the song, Amazing Grace. The thought which I had was, what does a man do with the life and love God has given to him? This is the depth of question which this book raises in a reader.

There are many versions of this book, such as the Real Christianity, edited by James Houston. I read the version from 1797. Consequently, it is a harder read than the more modern, sometimes having references and mannerisms more with the times. On the other hand, once I started getting into the book, I believe there was a richness which modern speak does not posses.

It is amazing to see how the conditions in Wilberforce's England, in a lot of ways parallel those of modern America. I do not believe that we are as obnoxious towards evangelical Christians as the English was then. But we are on that road. But in many ways we are like the people Wilberforce wrote this book for—those who claim the name Christian, but do not take the actions of Christ. In this way, the book is convicting. How Wilberforce asks do we love Jesus? Do we act how Jesus would—not quite the original WWJD, but could very well be.

This book will be up there to read, particularly as a devotional. It is to be used as a devotional to lead me to a changed life, which is Wilberforce's intent. It is a book which causes me to search myself and see how I am in my following of Christ. It is this dependence on pardon which drives a real Christian's life. This leads to gratitude and love, not sin and decadence. (97, 99) The title of Christian is given, not earned nor can it be inherited.

New Words:
  • gibes (13): make taunting, heckling, or jeering remarks
  • cavils (13): To find fault unnecessarily; raise trivial objections
  • apophthegm (25): a short cryptic remark containing some general or generally accepted truth; maxim
  • pernicious (142): wicked or malicious, causing grave harm; deadly
  • totus in illis (144): Be in them, taken from Horace
  • prophanation (150): the act of profaning; desecration; defilement; debasement.
  • sursum corda (176):Lift up your hearts
  • Sume superbiam quæsitam meritis (177): assume the proud place your merits have won (Horace)
  • vicissitudes (189): the quality or state of being changeable
  • Miraturque novas frondes et non sua poma (203):Virgil
  • Non meus hic sermo est (213): (Horace)
  • palliating (219): to lessen the severity of (pain, disease, etc.) without curing or removing; alleviate; mitigate
  • Anaxarchus (252): as a Greek philosopher of the school of Democritus. Together with Pyrrho, he accompanied Alexander the Great into Asia. The reports of his philosophical views suggest that he was a forerunner of the Greek skeptics
  • Facilis descensus (279): the descent to hell is easy (Virgil)
  • alacrity (286): alacrity
  • assiduities (296): Persistent application or diligence; unflagging effort.
  • Leland (344): ????
  • Pyrrhonism (346): was a school of skepticism founded by Aenesidemus in the 1st century BC and recorded by Sextus Empiricus in the late 2nd century or early 3rd century AD. It was named after Pyrrho, a philosopher who lived from c. 360 to c. 270 BC, although the relationship between the philosophy of the school and of the historical figure is murky. A revival of the use of the term occurred during the 17th century

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: Before we proceed to the consideration of any particular defects in the religious system of the bulk of professed Christians, it may be proper to point out the very inadequate conception which they entertain of the importance of Christianity in general, of its peculiar nature, and superior excellence.  Chp 1 (1)
  • Last Line:  Let him urge the fond wish he gladly would encourage; that, while, in so large a part of Europe, a false philosophy having been preferred before the lessons of revelation, Infidelity has lifted up her head without shame, and walked abroad boldly and in the face of day; while the practical consequences are such as might be expected, and licentiousness and vice prevail without restraint: here at least there might be a sanctuary, a land of Religion and piety, where the blessings of Christianity might be still enjoyed, where the name of the Redeemer might still be honoured; where mankind might be able to see what is, in truth, the Religion of Jesus, and what are its blessed effects; and whence, if the mercy of God should so ordain it, the means of religious instruction and consolation might be again extended to surrounding countries and to the world at large. Chp 7, Section 4 (354)
  • the duty of every man to promote the happiness of his fellow-creatures to the utmost of his power; and that he who thinks he sees many around him, whom he esteems and loves, labouring under a fatal error, must have a cold heart, or a most confined notion of benevolence, if he could refrain from endeavouring to set them right.   Introduction (6)
  • With Christianity, as distinct from these, they are little acquainted; their views of it have been so cursory and superficial, that far from discerning its characteristic essence, they have little more than perceived those exterior circumstances which distinguish it from other forms of Religion.   Chapter 1 (11)
  • that Christianity calls on us, as we value our immortal souls, not merely in general, to be religious and moral, but specially to believe the doctrines, and imbibe the principles, and practise the precepts of Christ   Chapter 1 (18)
  • The latter proceeds on this groundless supposition, that the Supreme Being has not afforded us sufficient means of discriminating truth from falsehood, right from wrong  Chapter 1 (20)   Some argue they do not act Christian because God has not been specific enough in his instruction.
  • She has every where improved the character and multiplied the comforts of society, particularly to the poor and the weak, whom from the beginning she professed to take under her special patronage  Chapter 2, Section I (29)
  • deliverance is not forced on us, but offered to us    Chapter 2, Section II (43)
  • To this end, let the power of habit be called in to our aid. Let us accustom ourselves to refer to our natural depravity, as to their primary cause, the sad instances of vice and folly of which we read    Chapter 2, Section II (44)
  • In vain you strive to bring them to speak on that topic, which one might expect to be ever uppermost in the hearts of redeemed sinners Chapter 3, Section I (55)    Speaking about those who say they are Christian, but are giving lip service.
  • But suppose Religion were discarded, then Liberty remains to plague the world; a power which though when well employed, the dispenser of light and happiness, has been often proved, and eminently in this very instance, to be capable when abused, of becoming infinitely mischievous   Chapter 3, Section I (63)
  • Why should we be so much surprised and scandalized, when these importers are detected in the church of Christ   Chapter 3, Section I (64)
  • We can scarcely indeed look into any part of the sacred volume without meeting abundant proofs, that it is the religion of the Affections which God particularly requires   Chapter 3, Section II  (68)
  • generally serve to distinguish them from those partial efforts of diligence and self-denial, to which mankind are prompted by subordinate motives. All proofs other than this deduced from conduct, are in some degree ambiguous   Chapter 3, Section II (72)
  • We have every one of us a work to accomplish, wherein our eternal interests are at stake; a work to which we are naturally indisposed. We live in a world abounding with objects which distract our attention and divert our endeavours; and a deadly enemy is ever at hand to seduce and beguile us. If we persevere indeed, success is certain; but our efforts must know no remission  Chapter 3, Section II  (74)
  • wherein there is a call for laborious, painful, and continued exertions, from which any one is likely to be deterred by obstacles, or seduced by the solicitations of pleasure. What then it to be done in the case of any such arduous and necessary undertaking? The answer is obvious—You should endeavour not only to convince the understanding, but also to affect the heart; and for this end, you must secure the reinforcement of the passions   Chapter 3, Section II  (75)
  • They consider not that Christianity is a scheme for “justifying the ungodly,” by Christ’s dying for them “when yet sinners;” a scheme “for reconciling us to God—when enemies;” and for making the fruits of holiness the effects, not the cause, of our being justified and reconciled: that, in short, it opens freely the door of mercy, to the greatest and vilest of penitent sinners; that obeying the blessed impulse of the grace of God, whereby they had been awakened from the sleep of death, and moved to seek for pardon, they might enter in, and through the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit might be enabled to bring forth”“the fruits of Righteousness”   Chapter 3, Section IV (95)
  • the internal disposition of the mind; where the dependence for pardon, and for holiness, is really placed; not what the language is, in which men express themselves  Chapter 3, Section IV (97)
  • they who in the main believe the doctrines of the church of England, are bound to allow that our dependence on our blessed Saviour, as alone the meritorious cause of our acceptance with God, and as the means of all its blessed fruits and glorious consequences, must be not merely formal and nominal, but real and substantial: not vague, qualified, and partial, but direct, cordial, and entire   Chapter 3, Section IV (99)
  • the example of Christ is their pattern, the word of God is their rule; there they read, that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” It is the description of real Christians, that “they are gradually changed into the image of their Divine Master;” and they dare not allow themselves to believe their title sure, except so far as they can discern in themselves the growing traces of this blessed resemblance   Chapter 4, Section I(115)
  • God will not accept of a divided affection; a single heart, and a single eye are in express terms declared to be indispensably required of us   Chapter 4, Section I(119)
  • To put the same thing therefore in another light. All who have read the Scriptures must confess that idolatry is the crime against which God’s highest resentment is expressed, and his severest punishment denounced   Chapter 4, Section I  (121)
  • It is not in bowing the knee to idols that idolatry consists, so much as in the internal homage of the heart; as in the feeling towards them of any of that supreme love, or reverence, or gratitude, which God reserves to himself as his own exclusive prerogative   Chapter 4, Section I(121)
  • We now, it is to be feared, shall find too much cause for believing that they who approach a little nearer, and do discover in Christianity somewhat of a distinct form, yet come not close enough to discern her peculiar lineaments and conformation  Chapter 4, Section II(123)
  • Religion, agreeably to what has been already stated, (the importance of the subject will excuse repetition) may be considered as the implantation of a vigorous and active principle; it is seated in the heart, where its authority is recognized as supreme, whence by degrees it expels whatever is opposed to it, and where it gradually brings all the affections and desires under its complete controul and regulation   Chapter 4, Section II (124)
  • Every endeavour and pursuit must acknowledge its presence; and whatever does not, or will not, or cannot receive its sacred stamp, is to be condemned as inherently defective, and is to be at once abstained from or abandoned   Chapter 4, Section II (124)
  • The greatest part of human actions is considered as indifferent    Chapter 4, Section II  (125)
  • The promotion of the glory of God, and the possession of his favour, are no longer recognized as the objects of our highest regard, and most strenuous endeavours; as furnishing to us, a vigorous, habitual, and universal principle of action.   Chapter 4, Section II   (126)
  • No man has a right to be idle  Chapter 4, Section II   (128)
  • “Know thyself,” is in truth an injunction with which the careless and the indolent cannot comply    Chapter 4, Section II   (134)
  • Is some friend, or even some common acquaintance sick, or has some accident befallen him? How solicitously do we inquire after him, how tenderly do we visit him, how much perhaps do we regret that he has not better advice, how apt are we to prescribe for him, and how should we reproach ourselves, if we were to neglect any means in our power of contributing to his recovery  Chapter 4, Section II   (136)
  • Whatever is not expressly forbidden cannot be very criminal; whatever is not positively enjoined, cannot be indispensably necessary—If we do not offend against the laws, what more can be expected from us.  Chapter 4, Section II   (138)
  • It is indeed true, and a truth never to be forgotten, that all pretensions to internal principles of holiness are vain when they are contradicted by the conduct.    (141)
  • Not that he will retire from that station in the world which Providence seems to have appointed him to fill: he will be active in the business of life, and enjoy its comforts with moderation and thankfulness; but he will not be “totus in illis”.  Chapter 4, Section II (144)
  • And how are they employed when not engaged in the public services of the day.  Chapter 4, Section II (147)
  • It is the distinguishing glory of Christianity not to rest satisfied with superficial appearances, but to rectify the motives, and purify the heart.    Chapter 4, Section III(169)
  • He endeavours to acquire and maintain a just conviction of his great unworthiness; and to keep in continual remembrance, that whatever distinguishes himself from others, is not properly his own, but that he is.  Chapter 4, Section III  (170)
  • The favourable opinion and the praises of good men are justly acceptable to him.  Chapter 4, Section III (170)
  • Ready however to relinquish his reputation when required so to do, he will not throw it away; and so far as he allowably may, he will cautiously avoid occasions of diminishing it, instead of studiously seeking, or needlessly multiplying them, as seems sometimes to have been the practice of worthy but imprudent men.   Chapter 4, Section III(173)
  • He meditates often on the probability of his being involved in such circumstances, as may render it necessary for him to subject himself to disgrace and obloquy; thus familiarizing himself with them betimes, and preparing himself, that when the trying hour arrives they may not take him unawares.  Chapter 4, Section III (175)
  • Christian is aware, that he is particularly assailable where he really excels.   Chapter 4, Section III  (177)
  • Above all, let them labour, with humble prayers for the Divine assistance, to fix in themselves a deep, habitual, and practical sense of the excellence of “that honour which cometh from God”.  (179)
  • remember that the Christian is not to be satisfied with the world’s superficial courtliness of demeanor  Chapter 4, Section IV(201)
  • True practical Christianity (never let it be forgotten) consists in devoting the heart and life to God.   Chapter 4, Section IV (203)
  • But to resume my subject; let us when engaged in this important scrutiny, impartially examine ourselves whether the worldly objects which engross us, are all of them such as properly belong to our profession, or station, or circumstances in life; which therefore we could not neglect with a good conscience? If they be, let us consider whether they do not consume a larger share of our time than they really require; and whether, by not trifling over our work, by deducting somewhat which might be spared from our hours of relaxation, or by some other little management, we might not fully satisfy their just claims, and yet have an increased overplus of leisure, to be devoted to the offices of Religion.  Chapter 4, Section IV (208)
  • But if we deliberately and honestly conclude that we ought not to give these worldly objects less of our time, let us endeavour at “least to give them less of our hearts: striving that the settled frame of our desires and affections may be more spiritual; and that in the motley intercourses of life we may constantly retain a more lively sense of the Divine presence, and a stronger impression of the reality of unseen things; thus corresponding with the Scripture description of true Christians, “walking by faith and not by sight, and having our conversation in Heaven”. Chapter 4, Section IV(208)
  • Hence the guilt of actions is estimated, not by the proportion in which, according to Scripture, they are offensive to God, but by that in which they are injurious to society.   Chapter 4, Section V(212)
  • Thus, by the generality, it is altogether forgotten, that the Christian has a great work to execute; that of forming himself after the pattern of his Lord and Master, through the operation of the Holy Spirit of God, which is promised to our fervent prayers and diligent endeavours.   Chapter 4, Section V (219)
  • In the language of Scripture, Christianity is not a geographical, but a moral term. It is not the being a native of a Christian country: it is a condition, a state; the possession of a peculiar nature, with the qualities and properties which belong to it.    Chapter 4, Section V (220)
  • Religon is a dull uniform thing, and they have no conception of the desires and disappointments, the hopes and fears, the joys and sorrows, which it is calculated to bring into exercise; in the true Christian all is life and motion, and his great work calls forth alternately the various passions of the soul.    Chapter 4, Section V (224)
  • Love outruns the deductions of reasoning; it scorns the refuge of casuistry; it requires not the slow process of laborious and undeniable proof that an action would be injurious and offensive, or another beneficial or gratifying, to the object of affection. The least hint, the slightest surmise, is sufficient to make it start from the former, and fly with eagerness to the latter.   Chapter 4, Section V (226)
  • If there were any thing of that sensibility for the honour of God, and of that zeal in his service, which we shew in behalf of our earthly friends, or of our political connections, should we seek our pleasure in that place which the debauchee, inflamed with wine, or bent on the gratification of other licentious appetites, finds most congenial to his state and temper of mind.     Chapter 4, Section V  (226)
  • These men wish to reform, but they know neither the real nature of their distemper nor its true remedy.    Chapter 4, Section VI  (236)
  • Again and again they resolve; again and again they break their resolutions.     Chapter 4, Section VI   (237)
  • In concurrence with the Scripture, that Church calls upon them, in the first place, gratefully to adore that undeserved goodness which has awakened them from the sleep of death; to prostrate themselves before the Cross of Christ with humble penitence and deep self-abhorrence; solemnly resolving to forsake all their sins, but relying on the Grace of God alone for power to keep their resolution. Thus, and thus only, she assures them that all their crimes will be blotted out, and that they will receive from above a new living principle of holiness.    Chapter 4, Section VI   (239)
  • When we see that, rather than sin should go unpunished, “God spared not his own Son,” but “was pleased, to bruise him and put him to grief” for our sakes; how vainly must impenitent sinners flatter themselves with the hope of escaping the vengeance of Heaven, and buoy themselves up with I know not what desperate dreams of the Divine benignity!     Chapter 4, Look to Jesus   (244)
  • And while we steadily contemplate this wonderful transaction, and consider in its several relations the amazing truth, that “God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all;” if our minds be not utterly dead to every impulse of sensibility, the emotions of admiration, of preference, of hope, and trust, and joy, cannot but spring up within us, chastened with reverential fear, and softened and quickened by overflowing gratitude.    Chapter 4, Look to Jesus   (245)
  • Whenever we are conscious that we have offended this gracious Being, a single thought of the great work of Redemption will be enough to fill us with compunction.     Chapter 4, Look to Jesus   (246)
  • Our enmities soften and melt away: we are ashamed of thinking much of the petty injuries which we may have suffered, when we consider what the Son of God, “who did no wrong, neither was guile found in his mouth,” patiently underwent.    Chapter 4, Look to Jesus   (247)
  • Let him still remember that his chief business while on earth is not to meditate, but to act.    Chapter 4, Look to Jesus  (252)
  • the real Christian, on the contrary, these peculiar doctrines constitute the center to which he gravitates! the very sun of his system! the soul of the world! the origin of all that is excellent and lovely! the source of light, and life, and motion, and genial warmth, and plastic energy.    Chapter 4, Look to Jesus   (254)
  • Christianity is not satisfied with producing merely the specious guise of virtue. She requires the substantial reality.  Chapter 5 (260)
  • Whoever falls below this standard, and, not unfrequently, whoever also rises above it, offending against this general rule, suffers proportionably in the general estimation.   Chapter 6 (268)
  • It must also be remarked, that the causes which tend to raise or to depress this standard, commonly produce their effects by slow and almost insensible degrees; and that it often continues for some time nearly the same, when the circumstances, by which it was fixed, have materially altered.  Chapter 6 (269)
  • We formerly had occasion to quote the remark of an accurate observer of the stage of human life, that a much looser system of morals commonly prevails in the higher, than in the middling and lower orders of society.   Chapter 6 (272)
  • The multiplication of great cities also, and above all, the habit, ever increasing with the increasing wealth of the country, of frequenting a splendid and luxurious metropolis, would powerfully tend to accelerate the discontinuance of the religious habits of a purer age, and to accomplish the substitution of a more relaxed morality.  Chapter 6 (273)
  • so far at least as to be rendered less abhorrent from the general disposition to relaxation and indulgence.   Chapter 6  (273)
  • Their effect is sure; and the time is fast approaching, when Christianity will be almost as openly disavowed in the language, as in fact it is already supposed to have disappeared from the conduct of men; when infidelity will be held to be the necessary appendage of a man of fashion, and to believe will be deemed the indication of a feeble mind and a contracted understanding.   Chapter 6(275)
  • These men would barter comfort for greatness.   Chapter 6  (286)  Talking about people who rather listen to the crowd than the commandments.
  • General integrity in all its dealings would inspire universal confidence: differences between nations commonly arise from mutual injuries, and still more from mutual jealousy and distrust. Chapter 6  (287)
  • by patriotism be understood that quality which, without shutting up our philanthropy within the narrow bounds of a single kingdom, yet attaches us in particular to the country to which we belong; of this true patriotism.  Chapter 6(288)
  • Wealth and luxury produce stagnation, and stagnation terminates in death.   Chapter 6  (292)
  • A system, if not supported by a real persuasion of its truth, will fall to the ground.  Chapter 6  (296)
  • The very loss of our church establishment, though, as in all human institutions, some defects may be found in Chapter 6  it, would in itself be attended with the most fatal consequences.  (299)
  • Their Christianity is not Christianity. It wants the radical principle.  Chapter 7, Section I  (308)
  • Selfishness is one of the principal fruits of the corruption of human nature; and it is obvious that selfishness disposes us to over-rate our good qualities, and to overlook or extenuate our defects.  Chapter 7, Section I  (309)
  • Many persons, as was formerly hinted, are misled by the favourable opinions entertained of them by others; many, it is to be feared, mistake a hot zeal for orthodoxy, for a cordial acceptance of the great truths of the Gospel; and almost all of us, at one time or other, are more or less misled by confounding the suggestions of the understanding with the impulses of the will, the assent which our judgment gives to religious and moral truths, with a hearty belief and approbation of them.   Chapter 7, Section I   (310)
  • Christianity recognises no innocence or goodness of heart, but in the remission of sin, and in the effects of the operation of divine grace.  Chapter 7, Section I  (317)
  • This is a point of infinite importance.   Chapter 7, Section I  (319)
  • These are the ready-made Christians formerly spoken of, who consider Christianity as a geographical term, properly applicable to all those who have been born and educated in a country wherein Christianity is professed; not as indicating a renewed nature, as expressive of a peculiar character, with its appropriate desires and aversions, and hopes, and fears, and joys, and sorrows.   Chapter 7, Section I  (320)
  • whose views of the Christian character are not sufficiently elevated, and who are not enough possessed with a continual fear of “grieving the Holy Spirit of God,” and of thus provoking him to withdraw his gracious influence.  Chapter 7, Section I  (325)
  • Above all, measure your progress by your improvement in love to God and man.    Chapter 7, Section I  (326)
  • Religion prohibits no amusement or gratification which is really innocent.  Chapter 7, Section I  (329)
  • Whatever consumes more time, or money, or thought, than it is expedient (I might say necessary) to allot to mere amusement, can hardly be approved by any one who considers these talents as precious deposits for the expenditure of which he will have to give account.  (329)
  • Imagination, and taste, and genius, and the beauties of creation, and the works of art, lie open to him.   Chapter 7, Section I  (330)
  • A little Religion is, it must be confessed, apt to make men gloomy, as a little knowledge to render them vain.   Chapter 7, Section I  (332)
  • There are not a few in our relaxed age, who thus satisfy themselves with what may be termed general Christianity; who feel general penitence and humiliation from a sense of their sinfulness in general, and general desires of universal holiness; but who neglect that vigilant  and jealous care, with which they should labour to extirpate every particular corruption, by studying its nature, its root, its ramifications, and thus becoming acquainted with its secret movements, with the means whereby it gains strength, and with the most effectual methods of resisting it.  Chapter 7, Section II   (335)
  • there is no short compendious method of holiness: but that it must be the business of their whole lives to grow in grace, and continually adding one virtue to another, as far as may be, “to go on towards perfection.”   Chapter 7, Section II   (337)
  • Let him then, who would be indeed a Christian, watch over his ways and over his heart with unceasing circumspection. Let him endeavour to learn, both from men and books, particularly from the lives of eminent Christians.   Chapter 7, Section III   (338)
  • It is rather the slow production of a careless and irreligious life, operating together with prejudices and erroneous conceptions, concerning the nature of the leading doctrines and fundamental tenets of Christianity.   Chapter 7, Section III   (339)
  • it appears plainly that infidelity is generally the offspring of prejudice, and that its success is mainly to be ascribed to the depravity of the moral character.    Chapter 7, Section III   (342)
  • It may therefore be laid down as an axiom, that infidelity is in general a disease of the heart more than of the understanding.  Chapter 7, Section III   (343)


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mysterious Island

Book: The Mysterious Island
Author: Jules Verne
Edition: epub – Gutenberg, 1874
Read: January 2013
440 pages
Rated: 4 out of 5

In today's adventure story mania, we are much to interested in action and not in people or how things happen. Verne does not write that way. He takes the stories of five prisoners during the Civil War and weaves it with survival, another castaway and mysterious providence to form his story.

The five prisoners of war escape during the siege of Richmond aboard a hot air balloon, during a storm. This storm takes them all the way to the South Pacific, someplace close, but not to close, to New Zealand. There, they are left without their leader, Cyrus Harding. The band of castaways make due until the dog, Top, who came with them finds them and leads them to the unconscious body of Cyrus Harding. Harding survives.

From here, the five castaways start to create a life and bring civilization to the uninhabited island. Through their ingenuity and determination they set up various industries, such as a pottery and glass shops, a foundry, livestock pens and places to farm. Life seems pleasant, except for three things. First, they miss their country and wonder what is the outcome of the Civil War. Second pirates invade, but are rebuffed. Third, there is this mysterious agent at work on the island.


There are several unexplained occurrences on the island.  always and everywhere he pondered over those inexplicable facts, that strange enigma, of which the secret still escaped him[Cyrus Harding]! (204) These include, most of these are recited on page 289:
  • Cyrus Harding being found unconscious in a cave without a scratch a mile from the ocean, but with no visible means of having arrived there.
  • Top, the dog, finding the castaways in the middle of a storm on a strange island, several miles from where he came ashore.
  • Top being thrown clear of the dugong
  • The dugong killed mysteriously, underwater by what like a sharp blade.
  • A cask of supplies appearing while they were surveying the shore.
  • A lead bullet in a young rabbit.
  • The castaway's canoe appearing a long ways from where it was moored, right when it was wanted.
  • Note in a bottle, recently written, asking for help on an island 150 miles away.
  • On the return trip from rescuing a fellow castaway, a fire is lite, guiding the rescuers back to the island.
  • A pirate brig which is about to blast the castaways home is blown up itself.
  • Box of quinine is found on a table in their home
  • Five marauding pirates who are left over from the blown ship have been found dead from what looks like a lightening strike.
Some of the castaways think there is a supernatural reason, Harding is more reserved and is looking for the reason behind these. When the cause of the mysteries is discovered, is Verne saying that there is not a need for the supernatural? Can every obstacle be overcome by ingenuity, intelligence and strong humans? Not sure because Verne has his chief man blessing God because for supplying their benefactor.

One of the themes is the ability of these men to persevere even when it appears there is no chance of rescue. This is shown at the start when Verne attributes a quote of struggling even when there is no hope left. To the last when Lincoln Island is no more than a small granite rock. The men of this book continue to work.

Note: There is only a few references—and you have to look hard for them—of females.

It seemed like to me, everything which Cyrus Harding attempted succeeded as he expected. There were sometimes when there was trial and error, such as when they were trying to make glass. But even this succeeded. This is so improbable. But it is also part of the charm of the story. There is a man who can figure out anything by examining the situation around him.

What drives Harding is that he does not believe in chance, but in hard work finding answers to problems. Intelligence wins out over letting the dice roll. When I was working, something I would ask occasionally is which would you rather be, lucky or smart? To me, lucky was better since you could always have a problem bigger than you could solve. But the real answer was being smart really tipped the tables for you to be lucky.

There is a certain element of this book where it is a follow up to Verne's book, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But Mysterious Island, is a different book, telling a different story—Verne just cleans up some of the background to 20,000 Leagues.

 As a story, do not look for action packed drama—even though there is drama and action—but it is not as tame as Tom Hanks in Castaway. This is a plodding stories where you see the lives of men in isolation and how they overcome obstacles. Yes, there is action in it, but there is also explanation about how the survivors are able to create their solutions—the solutions do not come out of thin air, but from knowledge and self-reliance. So be prepared to read lots of descriptive text.

The writing is well done, though a good dictionary by your side helps. I was kept involved with the story. Of course, I had read it before as a teenager, during my Jules Verne era. Still, there is so many books you were really enthralled with as a youth which you realize they were not suitable for a mind a bit a long in years. It is good to know that Verne still can captivate.

New Words:
  • voracious (21): Having or marked by an insatiable appetite for an activity or pursuit; greedy
  • couroucous (33): ???-type of animal
  • presentiments (41): A sense that something is about to occur; a premonition
  • titra (49): to shake or tremble
  • palanquin (53):  A covered litter carried on poles on the shoulders of four or more bearers, formerly used in eastern Asia.
  • Lamantin (108): The manatee.
  • Dugong (108): A herbivorous marine mammal (Dugong dugon), native to tropical coastal waters of the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and southwest Pacific Ocean and having flipperlike forelimbs and a deeply notched tail fin.
  • Saponifying (112): To convert (a fat or oil) into soap.
  • Chelonia (154): An order of reptiles, including the tortoises and turtles, peculiar in having a part of the vertebræ, ribs, and sternum united with the dermal plates so as to form a firm shell. The jaws are covered by a horny beak.
  • Quadrumana (192): A division of the Primates comprising the apes and monkeys; - so called because the hind foot is usually prehensile, and the great toe opposable somewhat like a thumb. Formerly the Quadrumana were considered an order distinct from the Bimana, which last included man alone.
  • Ruminants (202): Any of various hoofed, even-toed, usually horned mammals of the suborder Ruminantia, such as cattle, sheep, goats, deer, and giraffes, characteristically having a stomach divided into four compartments and chewing a cud consisting of regurgitated, partially digested food.
  • Diminution (218): The resulting reduction; decrease.
  • Fowling-pieces (242): shotgun
  • esculents (260): Suitable for eating; edible.
  • qui vive (308): On the alert;
  • spars (318): A wooden or metal pole, such as a boom, yard, or bowsprit, used to support sails and rigging.
  • Antiphlogistics (339): Reducing inflammation or fever; anti-inflammatory.
  • Coaptation (340): the joining or reuniting of two surfaces, esp the ends of a broken bone or the edges of a wound
  • suppuration (345): The formation or discharge of pus
  • quotidian (357): Recurring daily. Used especially of attacks of malaria.
  • Tertian (357): Recurring every other day or, when considered inclusively, every third day:
  • febrifuge (358): A medication that reduces fever; an antipyretic.
  • Assidous (359): Unceasing; persistent
  • mobilis in mobile (406): Latin for "moving amidst mobility", "moving within the moving element", or "changing in the changes"
  • ebullition (413): A sudden, violent outpouring, as of emotion:

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: Are we rising again?
  • Last Line: There, to conclude, all were happy, united in the present as they had been in the past; but never could they forget that island upon which they had arrived poor and friendless, that island which, during four years had supplied all their wants, and of which there remained but a fragment of granite washed by the waves of the Pacific, the tomb of him who had borne the name of Captain Nemo.
  • I can undertake and persevere even without hope or success. Attributed to William the Orange, pg 7
  • He had tried them. He knew their abilities. Pg 82
  • an energetic man will succeed where an indolent one would vegetate and inevitably perish. Pg 125
  • Why should we be ill, since there are no doctors in the island? Pg 126
  • I [Cyrus Harding] seriously believe that the aspect of our globe will some day be completely changed; that by the raising of new continents the sea will cover the old, pg 139
  • Chance! Spilett! I [Cyrus Harding]  do not believe in chance, any more than I believe in mysteries in this world. There is a reason for everything unaccountable which has happened here, and that reason I shall discover. But in the meantime we must work and observe. Pg 272
  • the world is very learned. What a big book, captain, might be made with all that is known!" "And what a much bigger book still with all that is not known!" answered Harding.  Pg 386
  • So is man's heart. The desire to perform a work which will endure, which will survive him, is the origin of his superiority over all other living creatures here below. It is this which has established his dominion, and this it is which justifies it, over all the world. Pg 390


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Escape From North Korea

Book: Escape From North Korea, The Untold Story of Asia's Underground Railroad
Author: Melanie Kirkpatrick
Edition: First, hardback
Read: Jan 2013
316 pages
Rated: 3 out of 5

In the 1800's, before the Civil War, there was an underground railroad which would bring slaves out of the South into Canada. Kirkpatrick talks about an underground railroad from North Korea, through China to various countries surrounding China. There are stories of North Koreans who have escaped, along with some who did not. Kirkpatrick goes through the conditions in North Korea, both the oppression and the economic and agricultural conditions there which are causing more North Koreans to consider leaving there land of birth, even at the risk of death and torture.

She talks about the people in China who assist the Koreans escape. Also about what a North Korean will face in China. China's policy is to return Koreans back to their lands and not treat them as refuges, but opportunists, looking for a better life, similar to our immigration issues with Mexico. Also if a young women or a girl makes her way to China, she may be bought as a bride for female-poor China.

In addition, she talks about activists in both the United States and in South Korea. These are people who are looking at changing the policies in these countries to allow for a better reception for the North Koreans. Also to pressure China to be more receptive to the flow of North Koreans through through territories.

Kirkpatrick feels that there are three main goals in helping North Korean refugees. The first is humanitarian—to rescue people from the most oppressive, closed nation currently in the world. The second is more ambitious. She feels the more refugees are able to escape, the more the North Korean story will be known, causing, eventually the downfall of the current North Korean leaders. The third goal is as the refugees are able to communicate with those left behind, there will be a realization within the country that there can be a better life. This is not a short term project, but more the planting of seeds which will be ready to blossom in time.

There are two things which I was wondering about while reading the book:
  • What am I to do about this situation? Kirkpatrick does not really address that. She does provide links for the reader to do further research. The links are shown below.
  • Most of the groups and people she talks about helping to run the underground railroad are  Christian. I can easily believe that, but I would be interested to know is this a representative sample. Kirkpatrick seems to say yes—that the people are usually either Christians or professional human smugglers. The publisher looks like it is a conservative leaning company, but not necessarily Christian.

 This book is a good look at how North Korea treats its citizens and the extent which they will go to escape.  Her writing is pretty common, but clear. She tells the story. But that is the extent which I see in this book. It is an introduction to those of us who do not think about North Korea. It should get us to think about others besides ourselves.

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: In the spring of 1857, the antislavery Vigilance Committee of Philadelphia copied into its confidential Underground Railroad Record and and excerpt from a letter it had received from Abram Harris, a former slave who had escaped from his master in Charles County, Maryland. (2)
  • Last Line: Meanwhile, the escape to freedom of a small number of its people is a rare good-news story that foretells a happier future for that sad country.
  • The first survival tip a North Korean leans when he reaches China is: find a Christian. (41)
  • “No dictatorship can tolerate jazz,” he said (Dave Brubeck) at the time of what Cold War visit. “It is the first sign of a return to freedom.” (63)
  • The example of Christians who put their faith into action is a powerful recruiting tool. (160)
  • Where you live shouldn't determine whether you live. (217)