For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.
—C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote that the universe gasps at the evils of men who seek satisfaction in hand-dug, dirty, broken cisterns that can hold no water when the fountain of living waters is not only full and fresh, it is available.
C.S. Lewis wrote that God does not find our desires too strong but rather too weak. We are far too easily pleased. Like kids making mud pies in the slum we miss a vacation at the sea. We’re pleased with broken cisterns.
Albert Einstein said that “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is the definition of insanity. It’s insane to think our thirst will be satisfied from broken cisterns this time.
As God’s people, we need not be surprised that our hearts are hungry because we pursue bread for our bellies more than for our hearts. We are happy being distracted by digital mud pies in our pockets and wonder why we aren’t enjoying the ocean of God’s truth. We seek self all week long and then wonder why the questions in our small groups seem pokey or why Lord’s day worship seems cumbersome.
It’s crazy to think that we will get different results, spending our summer days in all the same ways, sticking our heads down in all the same cisterns. Our desires are too weak and it is not because God has become less desirable.
This is a sermon by Jonathan Edwards at the ordination of another minister. He took John 5:35 as his text, noting Jesus’ description of John the Baptist as a “burning and a shining light.” Edwards shows that a “burning” light is one that is fervent, zealous, energetic, with a “holy flame enkindled in the soul.” A “shining” light is one that is pure and clear, that brings truth to the souls of men.
Edwards illustrates the need for both heat and light:
It is the glory of the sun that such a bright and glorious light, and such a powerful, refreshing, vivifying heat, are both together diffused from that luminary. When there is light in a minister…without a spiritual warmth and ardor in his heart, and a holy zeal in his ministrations, his light is like the light of an ignis fatuus, and some kinds of putrefying carcasses that shine in the dark, though they are of a stinking savor.
Truly excellent ministers must burn and shine. Edwards observes that, as we pursue both,
hereby our ministry will be likely to be as beneficial as our office is honorable.
Too many men love the honor of the office and do not consider if they are actually beneficial. They do not consider if their religion remains “only in the head,” or consists in “outward morality, or forms of religion” but if it “reaches the heart” and “burns there.” Those who fail in personal, spiritual fervency not only suffer an ineffectual ministry, they are also “so much the more hurtful and pernicious” to men and “the more abominable and inexcusable” before God.