Thursday, March 26, 2020

Cyprian on How Christians Deal with Adversity

Here’s another gem from Cyprian of Carthage (c. 200-258) in “To Demetrian.” The pagans were blaming Christians for a run of plague, drought, and pestilence that had stricken the land. According to the pagans, since Christians had abandoned the old religion, the gods were exacting vengeance. Cyprian, however, seizes on the circumstances to explain how Christians respond differently than pagans to adverse circumstances:

On the other hand, there is no pain from the outbreak of present evils for those who have confidence in future good things. In sum, we are not terrified by adverse events, nor are we crushed by them, nor do we grieve about them, nor do we complain in any natural disaster or physical sickness. Living by the Spirit rather than the flesh, we overcome weaknesses of the body with the strength of the soul. We know and are confident we are being tested and strengthened by means of those very disasters that place you on the rack and harass you (p. 87).



Howie said...

Hello Dr. Riddle,

Trust this noted finds you well, in all things. What surreal times these are; may Cyprian's comments be as true then, as now by His grace.

I wrote elsewhere yesterday, is it possible that the past 25 years we've witnessed a sort of politically correct "pregnancy" (gay agenda, abortion, global warming, feminism, etc.) where moral dissent of any kind is off-side, that has now "birthed" the global COVID-19 baby, and its panic-herd response that seems unequal to its own threat (I don't speak of the elderly or those with existing health conditions)? This may be the bigger long-term issue the Church, and we as believers, will face. Praise God for the truths of Psalm 46.

The quote below is from John Knox (1514-1572) who lived in turbulent and unsettling times. Of course, we ought not interpret providence but observe it, while leaving all in God's hands as we seek to live faithfully by His grace -- and Knox would hold to the same. His quote below is both sobering and optimistic and echoes a call to “return to God” so often seen in Scripture.

"Omnipotent and everlasting God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who by Thy eternal providence disposes kingdoms as best seemeth to Thy wisdom: we acknowledge and confess Thy judgements to be righteous, in that Thou has taken from us, for our ingratitude and for abusing Thy most holy Word...justly may Thou pour forth on us the uttermost of Thy plagues, for that we have not known the days and times of our merciful visitation. We have held Thy Word in contempt and despised Thy mercies. We have transgressed Thy laws, for deceitfully have we wrought every man with our neighbours...But, O Lord, behold now Thy own mercy and goodness... behold our troubles and apparent destruction and stay the sword of Thy vengeance before it devour us. Place above us, O Lord, for they great mercy's sake, such a head, with such rulers and magistrates as fear Thy name and will the glory of Christ Jesus so spread. Take not from us the light of the gospel, and suffer Thou no papal religion to prevail in this realm. Illuminate the heart(s) of (Prime Minster Trudeau and President Trump) with pregnant gifts of Thy Holy Ghost. And inflame the hearts of (their) counsel with Thy true fear and love. Repress the pride of those that would rebel, and remove from all hearts contempt for Thy Word" (The Collected Prayers of John Knox, pg. 3-4, Brian Najapfour, Reformation Heritage Books, 2019).

May the Lord search our (my) hearts, for it is the Church that is revived first before any lasting good happens in the world.

The LORD God omnipotent reigneth.

Blessings in Christ,


Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Greetings Howie,

Thanks of the comment. I hope you are well and have had you in mind in prayer. Love the statement that we "ought not interpret providence but observe it." Love also the Knox quote. Very timely.

Blessings, JTR