Damsel in Distress

The fairytale princess in the tower, being rescued by her knight in shining armour, evokes images of “happily ever after”, with all the sweet and colourful imagery of a children’s book.
But not every damsel in distress wants to be rescued. Some damsels devote the whole of their life to distress, no matter how hard their shining knight tries to make them happy. Instead of riding off to “happily ever after” they end up at a place called “Why can’t you make me happy?!”

What’s the Problem?

Why is the damsel in distress?
The fairytales suggest that damsels are both beautiful and happy, but are prone to being locked up by ogres, cruel step-mothers, dastardly uncles, dragons, witches, jealous queens or the like.
So the fairytale blames an external source for the damsel’s distress.
If only she could be saved from her home, her restrictive parents or some similar external constraint she would sing like a lark.

In reality, however, there are many damsels whose distress is completely self-inflicted. They have fallen prey to their own emotional vulnerabilities, selfishness and untamed spirit.

Stay Home White Knight

If the dear damsel is in distresses of her own making, then the knight in his shining armour, on his trusted steed, should head home immediately and close the shutters until some unsuspecting fool effects the rescue.
Let someone else trouble his life with a complaining, implacable creature who is ruled by selfishness, irrational feelings and untamed will.

If the damsel can’t come to terms with her present circumstances, then she will continue to fail in that area.
She will fail to come to terms with her disappointments with her ‘all too human’ knight.
She will fail to happily come to terms with the hard moments and tough challenges of married life and raising a family.

The poor fool who thinks he can rescue such a damsel will find himself seeking solace in the commiserations of his drunken companions. Only failure will rain upon him for decades to come.

Immune to Distress

The best bride to find is one who can sing her way through her limitations and the frustrations in her present circumstances. A damsel who accepts today’s problems with faith, courage and cheer will never truly be a damsel in distress. She will be a damsel in delight.

A damsel who is immune to distress will bring her cheery presence into her marriage, family and home. She will be a delight to her husband and a blessing to all who know her.

Knight Beware

So, dear young knights scouring the hillsides for maidens trapped in towers, please heed the following warning.

If she is in distress – take heed – she may be happy to live there. If distress is her tune, she will likely play it again and again. If she can sing a lament, how can you be sure that won’t be her favourite tune for the rest of her life?

If she is immune to distress, then she won’t really need you. She will not try to manipulate or control you. She will not demand that you make her happy.

The problem with young knights is that they love the fairytale notion of saving the maiden in distress. Her cries for help and her dependence on his strong arm, fire the young fool’s imagination with visions of grandeur.

You’ve Been Warned

What you do is what you will do. I take no responsibility for your determination to avoid happiness. Go and seek your desperate damsel. But just remember, if she is in distress, you may never rescue her from it!

My wish for you is that you will accidentally stumble across the woman in delight, who doesn’t need you, but chooses you as worthy of her great strength and enduring qualities.
When you find her, don’t dump her because you hear the faint cries of someone in a tower!

Thomas Binney Preaches with Power

Thomas Binney was born on April 30, 1798, at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. The author of Great Modern Preachers (1875) (a curious volume where the author’s name is nowhere mentioned), Thomas Binney is described as “one of the greatest non-conformist preachers of these 40 years …” (page 81).

For 40 years he pastored the King’s Weigh House Chapel (Congregational) in Eastcheap, London … “his powerful preaching making it one of the most influential churches in the United Kingdom” (Famous Birthdays, by G. Powell, page 61).

Twice he was elected president of the Congregational Union.  He wrote 50 books … and pioneered liturgical services, introducing anthems and chants into non-conformist churches …

One of his hymns is still found in today’s hymnals:
Eternal Light!  Eternal Light!
How pure the soul must be,
When, placed within Thy searching sight
it shrinks not, but with calm delight
can live, and look on Thee.

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Binney was a forthright an conscientious man, who claimed the right to criticize everything national, including the Church of England. He was credited with saying that ‘the State Church damned more souls than it saved’ and his outspoken denunciations had great influence in the formation of the Tractarian movement.

He strongly advocated universal fellowship among Christians, seeking to reform and unite the Christian church. And he was keenly interested in political issues, including the British colonies; Australia in particular.

By 1833 his Weigh House chapel had to be extended, as his practical and forthright preaching drew growing crowds. His preaching motivated men to go to the colonies, such as John Brown, Robert Gouger and RD Hanson who won prominence in South Australia, and John Fairfax (newspaperman), David Jones (retailer) and John West in New South Wales. In 1836 Binney was the virtual founder of the Colonial Missionary Society which by 1856 had supplied nearly three-quarters of the Congregational ministers in Australia and Canada. His name became known to thousands of emigrants by his published sermons and by petitions from the Weigh-House in support of colonial self-government.

When he visited Australia in 1858/59 he met with overwhelming acceptance, from religious and political leaders, as well as the general population, from the well-to-do to shearers and simple country folk.

He wrote devotional verse and several of his published sermons circulated widely. He also influenced improvements in the form of worship of Noncomformist churches.

Dr Thomas Binney died in 1874.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

Joseph Henry Gilmore and Psalm 23

Joseph Henry Gilmore was born in Boston, Massachusetts USA, in 1834. At the age of 28 he was ordained to the Baptist ministry, later becoming professor of “logic, rhetoric and English literature” at the University of Rochester, New York.

It was when he was 28 – speaking at a mid-week meeting on Psalm 23 – that he jotted down the words of the hymn for which he is remembered:

He leadeth me! O blessed thought,
O words with heavenly comfort fraught.
Whate’er I do, where-e’er I be,
still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me….

He recounts the events thus: He was a 28 year old student soon to become a pastor and was invited to preach at the historic First Baptist Church of Philadelphia. “I set out to give the people an exposition of the Twenty-third Psalm. I had given this exposition on three or four other occasions; but this time I did not get beyond the words ‘He leadeth me’. So greatly impressed was I with the blessedness of divine guidance that I made this my theme.”

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After the meeting Henry and others “continued our discussion of divine guidance. While I was still talking and listening, I wrote on a piece of my exposition manuscript the words to this hymn. I handed the paper to my wife and more or less forgot the incident.”

Some months later Henry’s wife sent the poem to the Watchman and Reflector, a Christian magazine. It was first printed on 4 December, 1862, under the pseudonym, Contoocook. Nobody, today, knows why (Companion to the Baptist Hymnal, page 85)!

But there’s more!  Composer of gospel melodies, William Bradbury, set the poem to music in 1864, and it was not until the following year, when he was preaching at the Second Baptist Church, Rochester, New York State, that Joseph Gilmore found it in the hymnal (Companion to Hymns, page 314)!

Three years after he preached that message, having pastored for some time in New Hampshire, Henry was invited to preach a trial sermon at the Second Baptist Church in Rochester, with the view to possibly becoming their minister. “I picked up a church hymnal to see what songs they sang and was surprised to have the book fall open to the very song I had written three years earlier”.

When he related this to his wife she told him how she had sent the verses on, hoping others would be blessed. Henry took this as a sign that he was indeed to take the pastorate in Rochester, which he did, and which led him to a long and fruitful season of academic involvement as well.

Being in Rochester put Gilmore in position two years later to accept an offer to teach Hebrew at Rochester Theological Seminary. The following year, he was offered a professorship of logic and English literature at the University of Rochester, which he held until his retirement in 1908. An English chair at the school is named after him.

Joseph Gilmore died in Rochester on 23 July, 1918.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

A Model Marriage

Susan and I know that we have much yet to learn about creating a godly family which produces “godly seed” for future generations. We both came from Christian homes, but our parents had failings and were impacted by the limitations of their own parents.

While we may not make as good a model family as we want to, it is always nice to see that there have been godly families which others could learn from.

One such family was created by a once celibate priest who married a nun!

Martin Luther, the renowned Reformer, not only broke from the doctrinal traditions of the Catholic Church, he also broke from the vow of celibacy which priests were required to make. His example prompted a group of nuns to also wish to break from church traditions.

The ladies, however, had a problem. They were effectively prisoners in the convent where they lived. They had to be smuggled out in fish barrels, by a friend of Martin Luther. Luther then assisted them all to pursue a normal life, either returning home or being married.

But one young woman, Katharina von Bora, remained in Luther’s care, despite several engagements which did not resolve in marriage. Finally Luther’s father suggested that Luther marry the young woman. And thus a remarkable family was created, glowing with the devotion and energy of the young bride.

Martin Luther became excited about family life, commending it highly, and for centuries thereafter the model family created by Martin and Katharina was looked to by German families as their role model.

To find out more about the remarkable Katharina and her marriage to Martin Luther, check out the church history post at http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/church-history/katherina-von-bora-and-luther

Anthony Ashley-Cooper Blesses the Helpless

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, was born in London on April 28, 1801. He was to become the “outstanding Christian layman of the 19th century,” writes JC Pollock in his magnificent biography of this man of God.

Born into aristocracy, young Lord Ashley had his course in life moulded by a godly housekeeper, Maria Mills. When he entered parliament in 1826 he brought his strong evangelical convictions to bear on a variety of social evils.  Child labour … cruelty to workers … “in the mines and the factories, in the prisons and asylums, among the waifs of the cities and the toilers on the rural farms, he effected reforms by which life was simply transfigured. Existence for countless thousands was scarcely tolerable until he came to their relief. He revolutionised the whole industrial world” (Dr FW Boreham).

Lord Shaftesbury became president of the British and Foreign Bible Society and worked alongside such other evangelical bodies as the London Missionary Society and the Church Missionary Society.

At his death, on 1 October, 1885, thousands lined the streets to pay their final respects as the funeral cortege made its way to St Giles’ Church.

The Temperance Society Band played Safe in the Arms of Jesus, and in that vast crowd there were none that doubted that was true of “the poor man’s Earl” – the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury.

A more complete history of Lord Shaftesbury can be found at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/church-history/lord-shaftesbury

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history