In this modern world with its problems there are some people who have lost hope, other people doubting and some who hope regardless. And their concerns? For some it’s climate change. For many threats from disaffected immigrants, ebola in Africa, starvation in too many countries, and, yes, even slavery. Refugees in many numbers in camps wait seemingly forever to move on, while political feuds, fanatics in Iraq, power strugglers in Syria and other issues and unmentioned worries are concerns day by day of others. So are we being targeted specially in our time? Are we really meant to be getting it by the bucketful? Well, read this – written by Bishop George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne and a famously brilliant British philosopher. He wrote it in 1721.
“I know it is an old folly to makepeevish complaints of the times, and charge thecommonfailures ofhuman nature on a particular age. One may nevertheless venture to affirmthat the present has brought forth new and portentous villainies, not to be paralleled inour own or any other history. We have been long preparing for some great catastrophe. Vice and villainy have by degrees grown reputable among us; our infidels have passed for fine gentleman, and ourvenal traitors for men ofsense who knew the world. We have made ajest of public spirit, and cancelled all respect for whatever our laws and religionrepute sacred. The old English modesty is quite worn off, and instead of blushing for our crimes we are ashamed only of piety and virtue. Our symptoms are so bad that, notwithstanding all the care and vigilance of the legislature, it is to be feared the final period of our State approaches”.
So it’s not new. Interestingly enough Wesley followed some years later and brought about a great revival and re-interest in Christianity. People flocked to Church. That was the end of that period of woe.
But what to do when we are in the middle of trouble with little light for our own way? Let’s see what happened even earlier and how people coped.
The Bible writer, Ecclesiastes has this to say about life some thousands of years before Berkeley. He may not be famous but he does know a thing or two. There is a wryness, at times, about his observations which ring true. Consider these-
“Wisdom is better than weapons of war, often a single error spoils good strategy. A poisonous fly makes perfume putrid”:
“Man knows not what is to be: who can tell him what happens when he is gone?”
“Take shares in several ventures; you never know what will go wrong in this world.”
“Remember your Creator when you are young, before evil days come…(and before)… the day when the silver cord is snapped, and the golden lamp drops broken,… when your dust returns to Earth once more, and your spirit to God who gave it.”
He argues that all human effort ultimately is negated by death; to labour for great riches to leave after death to others is ridiculous; that few are remembered after death by their good works and, in a way, all human effort is temporary, unremembered and therefore vain. His final words might even be confirmed by the lack of detailed knowledge in our own families about the daily lives of those who preceded us – their sufferings and their joys. Read him for yourself – it’s easy reading. So what gives meaning to our lives? Simply that Christ came from the Beyond, from God, and promised that where He was going when he left the Earth was where he would take all those who believed in Him to be with him after they died. He even said to the thief on the cross beside him that the thief that day would be in Paradise with him. Jesus was acknowledging that the thief recognised a goodness which did not deserve punishment and He was merciful.
Can any of this help you to cope? Berkeley with his measuring the world against his faith and making an assessment? Ecclesiastes with his acceptance of mortality and his always remembrance of God? Or the hope that Christ gives us all if we believe? If you would understand more discuss this with your minister, pastor or priest.