2002-04-16 - Joseph Hall
Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
I would like to tell you a little about Joseph Hall, who died in 1656. He was an Anglican or as we would say in America, an Episcopalian. He is called England's Seneca and is said to have died with a pen in his hand. One of his classic works was a folio volume published in 1633 on the hard texts of Scripture. It was never republished (I think, at least it is not included in his works, which is a 12 volume set), but it is a very useful volume as it hits on those texts that are difficult to understand. One volume I have been reading says of Hall that he was, "Not ill at Controversies, more happy at Comments, very good in his Characters, better in his Sermons, best of all in his Mediations."
So why the short history? Well, I'm neither Episcopalian nor Anglican and yet I find the writings of Joseph Hall very useful. Lately, I have had to deal with some denominational issues and with some who are convinced that if you don't walk, chew gum and smile like everyone else does in their denomination, then you probably are going to hell. At first this seems funny, then absurd, then annoying, then it becomes offensive. The author I read the most is a Baptist and I'm not a Baptist. The issue is never one of denominational affiliation, and when that becomes the heart of the Christian faith the gospel is lost in the dust of controversy.
"Live in peace with one another" 1 Thessalonians 5:13. I'm not going to pretend this is easy and this admonition extends beyond denominations to family relations and interpersonal aspects of our lives. Nonetheless we should seek peace. "Be at peace with one another" Mark 9:50. I know I am king of learning this the hard way, but it doesn't make this truth any less relevant. Today I learned this lesson well from a man who is not a Christian. There was an issue that needed to be confronted and it could have become nasty. I was ready with some zippy replies if needed, but he was gracious the entire time. I wanted peace, but I was ready for war if needed. He was seeking peace. It is a slap in the face when we have to learn godly character from someone who doesn't follow Christ. However, I will take my lessons where they come and seek to grow in the practice of my faith.
Faith in Christ is not about denominations, ethnicity, skin tone, or anything else but simple trust in Christ. We all can learn from each other. We may not agree on everything, but even within denominations people don't agree with each other. Faith in Christ is about resting in and living the gospel of salvation as offered in Christ through the Holy Spirit applying the Word of God to our hearts. It is a once for all event, that's why those who focus on the day and time of salvation are right. The day of salvation is significant. But salvation is more that that also, it is also a work in progress as we more and more die to sin and live for Christ. That is why those who don't focus on the day and moment of salvation are also right. It is both! Neither should bother arguing with the other, it is frivolous to do so. The key is salvation in Christ and resting in His grace and mercy. As we apply that to our hearts we find that, "peace which surpasses all comprehension" Philippians 4:7.
When you find out that your neighbor is a Methodist and you are a Pentecostal, keep your tank in the garage, bake a pie, and bring it over saying, "Glad you are here." In Christ we have much in common. We have much to learn from each other. This is what I have found as I have read Joseph Hall over the last few years. He and I don't agree on some things, but I have found that I can learn from his writings and joyfully spend time reading his wisdom. So also, we can learn from each other.
Soli Deo Gloria,