An 18C Exhortation to 21C Zealots

Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) was one of the leading lights of the 18C revival, a protegé of Isaac Watts whose writing helped convert William Wilberforce.

Hear what Brother Doddridge has to say in his great work of devotion, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, as if he were writing to us here in the blogosphere. (His frame of reference is Christianity, but the implications of his wisdom go out to everyone.)

How does your mind stand affected toward those who differ from you in their religious feelings and practices? I do not say that Christian charity will require you to think every error harmless…. But to hate persons because we think they are mistaken, and to aggravate every difference in judgement or practice into a fatal and damnable error that destroys all Christian communion and love, is a symptom generally much worse than the evil it condemns.

Do you love the image of Christ in a person who thinks himself obliged in conscience to profess and worship in a manner different from yourself? More than this, can you love and honor that which is truly amiable and excellent in those in whom much is defective–in those in whom there is a mixture of bigotry and narrowness of spirit, which may lead them perhaps to slight or even to censure you? Can you love them as the disciples and servants of Christ who, through a mistaken zeal, may be ready to “cast out your name as evil” (Luke 6:22) and to warn others against you as a dangerous person?

To show such love, says Doddridge, is one of the great triumphs of the work of God in one’s life.

I aspire to showing it much more…

(The quotation is from David Lyle Jeffrey, ed., English Spirituality in the Age of Wesley, republished by Regent College Publishing.)

0 Responses to “An 18C Exhortation to 21C Zealots”

  1. David Warkentin

    Thanks John! Having just spent a weekend with a diverse bunch of fellow pastors and church leaders, these words are a timely reminder and corrective for me as I seek unity with my brothers and sisters in the church.

  2. chuck

    When I first read this, I thought he was talking about other religions. I was thoroughly confused. 🙂

  3. Greg

    When I read this, I thought of men such as Greg Boyd and Clark Pinnock, who have endured such scorn, marginalization, and dismissal from those in the evangelical community who see their doctrinal revisions as sub-Christian and tarnishing the gospel. It’s one thing to disagree with these men, but the level of vitriol that is spewed at these thinkers who love Christ, promote the gospel, and are willing to place scriptural conviction above their own social and vocational success is, to my mind, antithetical to the spirit of Christ.

    You have pointed out, Dr. Stackhouse, in your essay in “Evangelical Futures” on the topic of “continual heresy hunting and the division it produces,” that “inter-evangelical wars are actually anti-evangelical.” The kind of “friendly fire” character assassination that has been happening in American evangelicalism in recent years seems toxic to our witness to the world and our own status as children of the same Father.

    Having said that about the accusers of Boyd & Pinnock, I have to confess the disgust and inward dismissal that I have for the arrogance, patronization, and ignorant zeal I perceive in some of the Reformed camps here in the states. Given the chance, would I saw off that limb of the evangelical tree (just as they might desire of me and my kin)?

    Your quote (and posture of love) cuts both ways…

  4. discokvn

    to quote Mark Heard: “dam of time can not hold back the dust that will surly become of these bones. And i’m sure i will not have loved enough, will not have loved enough.”

  5. Kirk Bartha

    Last night, after watching The National’s take on “Is the Christian Right Changing Canada?” this sentence fell out of my fingers onto the screen…”When the words “Christian” and “right” are welded to policy, there is something shrill & offputting in the volume & verbosity of subsequent intercourse; the cavernous cathedral where dogmatic becomes anti-dialogical.”

    The key is dialogue.. no dialogue equals ideology slipping into idolatry.. the prophet engages in the battle over good words being leveraged and cheapened into propaganda…

    Not so unrelated, I glanced at the front page of the NY Times this morning, something about a cleric saying, Jihad is as American as apple pie and as British as afternoon tea… and I’m like there’s a guy who understands the ciphers of propaganda.


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