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Two Ancient Saints of Immense Charm

Two Ancient Saints of Immense Charm

By Roger Salter
Special to VIRTUEONLINE
www.virtueonline.org
Sept. 17, 2016

Charm is a great quality of the divine nature and of Holy Scripture. The beauty of the Lord is beckoning. His loveliness is alluring. While there are hard sayings and unwelcome truths essential to the Gospel, Christian character ought to exude something of the attractiveness of Christ.

Some believers have a marked disposition and ability to commend the knowledge of God in a winsome way. They quicken a craving for the Lord, such is their delight in him, and their gift of amiability. It is not too much to say that while our speech and description of God should be, above all things, accurate it ought, nevertheless, to be as graceful as possible. Crudeness and cliche are unbecoming when it comes to talk of God and his kingdom. To compose ourselves before composing our witness to him is simply a matter of due reverence to the Lord and the sensibilities of our neighbor. Only the offense of the gospel to natural man is allowed to occur and God is in charge of that. When rough persons by nature speak roughly it is, at least, well meant and the Lord can ease their message softly into receptive and sensitive minds.

The emergency of human salvation may call for sharp warning and alarming exhortation but there is no sin in seeking for elegance of expression as we present the Lover of souls to those lost without him.

Of the many saints adept at attractive advocacy of the Savior, Augustine of Hippo and Bernard of Clairvaux are conspicuous. Their eloquence is inviting, their enthusiasm for Christ enlivening and enjoyable.

One delectable quote from each as an appetizer:

Augustine's works are ravishing for mind and heart and his sermons as a pastor, and his addresses as a catechizer, are ravishing. Most read by those familiar with Augustine are his Confessions and in Book Eight there happens to be the most captivating of pleas to the Lord: Let my bones be penetrated with you . . . Come, O Lord, stir us up and call us back, draw us to your loveliness. Let us love, let us run!

Augustine excites us with the prospect of close communion with God and the pleasure of his constant companionship. That was the intent of all the great man's intellectual endeavor and pastoral effort. Can we not concur with his yearning, "Let my bones be penetrated with you"?

Sweet Augustine - mentor of grace
Daily I meet you in this secret place,
And with you beside me
Seek his face.

With you I have an affinity -
To ponder the ineffable Trinity,
And with you beside me
Adore Divinity.

Bernard once wrote, "Jesus is honey in the mouth, melody in the ear, a cry of joy in the heart".

His warning to sinners is so heartfelt and compassionate: "If you who are listening to me have conceived a wish to flee from the wrath to come, you will, I think, be anxious to know how you are to agree with this adversary who seems to threaten you so terribly. This will be impossible unless you disagree with yourself and become your own adversary, and fight against your self without respite in a continual and hard struggle, and renounce your inveterate habits and inborn inclinations. But this is a hard thing. If you attempt it in your own strength it will be as though you were trying to stop the raging of a torrent, or to make the Jordan run backward. What can you do then? You must seek the Word, to agree with him, by his operation. Flee to him who is your adversary, that through him you may no longer be his adversary, but that he who threatens you may caress you and may transform you by his outpoured grace more effectually than by his outraged anger. (Sermon 85).

One ventures to observe that a missing element in contemporary Christian profession is our nervous omission to become our own adversary in authentically facing up to God.

Blessed Bernard of Clairvaux
Teach me all I long to know.
Anointed by the Spirit above
Immerse me in the Savior's love.

Much I've seen and much I've heard
Of the meaning of God's Word;
Now my eager soul's demanding
Deeper joy from understanding.

From your spirit, sweet, serene
Tell me what the Scriptures mean
So that I from close inspection
Feel the Savior's warm affection.

Blessed Bernard of Clairvaux
Teach me what I long to know.

The Rev. Roger Salter is an ordained Church of England minister where he had parishes in the dioceses of Bristol and Portsmouth before coming to Birmingham, Alabama to serve as Rector of St. Matthew's Anglican Church

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