The Adventure of the Owl
From the Preface:
Scarcely any work of its kind illustrates the good, the bad, and sometimes, the strange material of which Church History is composed… …even its queer stories, like that of the council held at Rome by Pope John the XXIII, when a slight event occurred which quite disturbed the whole council, namely, the adventure of the owl. The mass of the Holy Ghost had just been performed; Pope John was seated on his throne, when suddenly a frightful looking owl came screaming out of his hole, and placed himself just in front of the Pope, staring him full in the face, and intently and immovably gazing upon him. In such a superstitious age, an adventure like this, of the large nocturnal bird in the full brightness of the day, led to many speculations; some took it for an ill omen, others smiled, and whispered that the Spirit had chosen a strange form in which to appear after the mass – both of which, of course, were not true. The records say that the Pope blushed, and was in a great sweat. He instantly arose and broke up the assembly. But when they met in session again, again appeared the owl in the same place; whence he continued to fix his eyes imperturbably on, and to outstare the Pope. An interesting sight it must have been, to behold all the prelates hunting the owl, for he would not decamp; at last he was killed as an incorrigible heretic by the assembly throwing their canes at him. Thus ended the adventure and the owl.
“I called on a poor man for the collection, [writes the author] who said, ‘I am very sorry, but work has been so bad, that I cannot get my little money together, even to help buy a Bible, so I shall be obliged to make my part of a Bible do until after haymaking season.’ ‘Let me see the part you talk of,’ said I. ‘Here it is,’ said he. ‘It looks well used,’ I replied, ‘but how came you to have it in this cut state?’ ‘You see when my mother died, I and my brother both wanted it; so we cut it in half, and he took the New Testament, and I the Old. I take it with me every day to read in the hay-fields with my comrades.’ I called the next morning, and left my own Bible with the man as a gift. I know both the brothers are Christian people.”
There is nothing of so ill consequence to others as falsehood, or so dark a blot as untruthfulness, which as Montaigne said well, “is only to be brave toward God, and a coward toward man;” for a lie faces God, and turns away from man.
“What is your opinion of your two sons as preachers?” inquired a friend of Mr. Clayton, an old dissenting minister. “Well,” he replied, quaintly but pleasantly, “George has a better show in his shop window, but John has a larger stock in his warehouse.”
Which is to say, a sermon may be preached to please people and look good on the bulletin, but a good, solid sermon will have deep thoughts and be edifying to your heart.
A Providential Word in Season
The Countess of Huntingdon once spoke to a workman who was repairing a wall, and pressed him to take some thought concerning the state of his soul. Some years afterward she was speaking to another on the same subject, and said to him, “Thomas, I fear you never pray, nor look to Christ for salvation.” “Your ladyship is mistaken,” answered the man; “I heard what passed between you and James at such a time, and the word you designed for him took effect on me.” “How did you hear it?” asked the countess. “I heard it,” answered the man, “on the other side of the garden, through a hole in the wall, and shall never forget the impression I received.”
This is the first of the last nine posts for this blog. Then 100 posts will have been made, and I hope that at least one has edified someone in some way. I will be starting a new blog in the coming year and will do a final post detailing what and where it is. For now, enjoy and be encouraged by the last posts taken from all the major sections of the book.
The last two verses of the last poem in this series:
It should be manly, just and rational,
Wisely conceived, and well expressed withal;
Not stuffed with silly notions apt to stain
A sacred desk, and show a muddy brain.
It should be mixed with many an ardent prayer
To reach the heart, and fix and fasten there;
When God and man are mutually addressed,
God grants a blessing, man is truly blessed.
The thoughts from my friend on the mysterious poem are coming soon!
From the book:
What a good sermon might, and probably should be, may be gathered from the following:
It should be warm – a living altar coal,
To melt the icy heart, and captivate the soul;
A sapless, dull harangue, however read,
Will never rouse the soul, or raise the dead.
It should be simple, true, and clear;
No fine-spun theory to please the ear;
No curious lay, to tickle lettered pride,
And leave the poor and plain unedified.
Continued on Monday . . . .
I have a few thoughts from one of my good friends for the previous post coming soon.