Nathaniel Martin sailed with his friend and fellow-naturalist Stephen Maturin on two long sea voyages in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, first as the ship's chaplain and later as Maturin's assistant surgeon. Never much of a fist at sermonizing, Martin took to writing and publishing impolitic tracts that offended the Royal Navy Board and prevented him from returning as a chaplain.
Martin lost an eye to an owl, and, as long as Martin's eye was single, O'Brian let him rival Captain Jack Aubrey for Maturin's time and friendship. Martin married between voyages, however, and his newfound obsession with providing for his family began to make him tedious company for Maturin. (Banality is the worst symptom a character can present with in these novels.) Martin's overheated conscience led him to an end straight out of Hawthorne, with whom he shared his first name.
These are the sermons he never wrote.
A real devotional book is one that you can live with year after year and that never stales or never fails to speak to some needs in your life. Douglas V. Steere wrote those words near the end of Prayer and Worship, one of a handful of devotional books he authored. By Steere’s definition, Prayer and Worship […]
I viscerally feel the lack of Eliot’s so-called “social-religious-artistic complex” if only because I feel torn among something like these three callings while something inside tells me I should hear them as one.
I am afraid to move: there is little left of a public sphere. “When the wicked rise, men hide themselves” (Proverbs 28:28). I like to hide; besides, I’m certainly no more talented than the next man. But the calling itself, whether it ever involves anything like action, is primarily a call to brood – to pray.
“Teach us to pray,” a student asks. So Jesus compares God to an unloving friend. He loans bread, but he doesn’t give it. He loans bread to his friend not because he’s a friend but because he’s pestered.
Later, teaching on prayer again, Jesus compares God to an unjust judge. The judge gives justice not because he’s a judge – he owns that he neither fears God nor respects men – but because he’s pestered.
We get these comparisons, but we don’t get the contrasts. As a result, our prayer is based not on friendship or justice but on magic and importunity.