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ON THIS DATE 

John Milton published his classic Paradise Lost 3/27/1667.  Milton, born in 1608 (12/9), was at a good mental age to produce this excellent contribution except for the fact that by now he was blind (a daughter wrote what he dictated to her from his memory).  Paradise Lost is not only a most worthy piece of English writing, it has become an enduring poem in the field of literature at large.

It is impossible to imagine a greater backdrop than he chose: Heaven, Earth, & Hell. His imagination is vast, his vocabulary stretches the modern mind.  Bible believers can “see” his word pictures yet must guard against making them too authoritarian – after all, Milton’s inspiration is only the earthly kind allowed to poets & great prose writers – he was not inspirited in the same sense as writers of Holy Writ.

Milton himself was an interesting person.  After preparing to enter the clergy (at Cambridge) he changed careers to become a poet.  He gave himself to extensive classical & modern readings (religion, science, philosophy, history, politics, & literature). He became proficient in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Spanish,  Italian, & was familiar Old English & Dutch.  His education was “rounded out” by a 13-month tour of France & Italy in which he met several intellectuals among whom was Galileo,

Opening lines of Paradise Lost

Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater man

Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,

Sing heavenly muse, that on the secret top

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire

That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,

In the beginning how the heavens and earth

Rose out of chaos: Or if Sion hill

Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed

Fast by the oracle of God; I thence

Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song…

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“Christ is the only right Heir of the Crown of England”

 

His last words were “welcome joy!”

 

John Eliot a Puritanmissionary” to the American Indians on this date,8/22/1670, founded a church for Indians atMartha’s Vineyard,Massachusetts, and became known as “the Indian apostle.”

 

Earlier he had published The Christian Commonwealth: or, The Civil Policy Of The Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ.   This was the first book on politics penned by an American.  It also became the first book an American government had banned.

 

Eliot was born in 1604 at Widford, Hertfordshire, England, attended Jesus College, Cambridge, became assistant to Thomas Hooker at a school in Little Baddow, Essex.  Eliot emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, arriving 11/3/1631.  He died 5/21/1690.

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Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness

 Since I am coming to that holy room,
        Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,
    I shall be made thy music; as I come
        I tune the instrument here at the door,
        And what I must do then, think here before.

    Whilst my physicians by their love are grown
        Cosmographers, and I their map, who lie
    Flat on this bed, that by them may be shown
        That this is my south-west discovery,
    Per fretum febris, by these straits to die,

  I joy, that in these straits I see my west;
      For, though their currents yield return to none,
  What shall my west hurt me? As west and east
      In all flat maps (and I am one) are one,
      So death doth touch the resurrection.

  Is the Pacific Sea my home? Or are
      The eastern riches? Is Jerusalem?
  Anyan, and Magellan, and Gibraltar,
      All straits, and none but straits, are ways to them,
      Whether where Japhet dwelt, or Cham, or Shem.

  We think that Paradise and Calvary,
      Christ’s cross, and Adam’s tree, stood in one place;
  Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me;
      As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face,
      May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.

  So, in his purple wrapp’d, receive me, Lord;
      By these his thorns, give me his other crown;
  And as to others’ souls I preach’d thy word,
      Be this my text, my sermon to mine own:
  “Therefore that he may raise, the Lord throws down.”

John Donne died this date, 3/31/1631.  Donne was born on Bread Street, 1/24/1573 at London.  He was first educated by Jesuits, then studied at Oxford and later Cambridge.  He was twenty-one when he left the Roman Catholic system though he did not publish his Pseudo-Martyr and Ignatius his Conclave (anti-catholic works) until 1610, 1611 respectfully.  He was ordained for Church of England and became known as one of the more remarkable poet-preachers of his day. Some of his earlier poetry is undesirable but his later works show a clear spiritual side. Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1623-1624) contains his most quoted line: “No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind.”  A couple other well known lines are “For whom does the bell toll?  It tolls for thee” and “Death be not proud.”

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“God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

 

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

 

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

 

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

 

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

 

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

 

William Cowper on this date, 7/6/1774, published “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.”

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March, 3

The End Of Our Strength

“Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

How strong is the snare of the things that are seen, and how necessary for God to keep us in the things that axe unseen! If Peter is to walk on the water he must walk; if he is going to swim, he must swim, but he cannot do both. If the bird is going to fly it must keep away from fences and the trees, and trust to its buoyant wings. But if it tries to keep within easy reach of the ground, it will make poor work of flying.

God had to bring Abraham to the end of his own strength, and to let him see that in his own body he could do nothing. He had to consider his own body as good as dead, and then take God for the whole work; and when he looked away from himself, and trusted God alone, then he became fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able to perform. That is what God is teaching us, and He has to keep away encouraging results until we learn to trust without them, and then He loves to make His Word real in fact as well as faith.–A. B. Simpson

I do not ask that He must prove
His Word is true to me,
And that before I can believe
He first must let me see.
It is enough for me to know
‘Tis true because He says ’tis so;
On His unchanging Word I’ll stand
And trust till I can understand.
–E. M. Winter

Lettie Burd Cowman was born this date (3/3/1870) in the state of Iowa.  She and her husband, Charles, founded OMS (Oriental Missionary Society) in 1907.  She first published Streams in the Desert in 1925.   It has been translated into at least fifteen (15) languages.

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“It Came upon the Midnight Clear”

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Edmund Hamilton Sears died this date (1/14/1876) in Weston, MA.  Words to this carol are said to have been published 12/29/1849.

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