Call for Candles

Let’s get on with the work of being His witness in these dark days.

Reading Spurgeon’s commentary on 1 Peter, I came across an illustration drawn from an event in American history. It’s a strong encouragement in “dark days” to be faithful.

On May 19, 1780, New England was thrown into complete darkness in the middle of the day. It was so dark that farm animals began nighttime routines, frogs and crickets began their songs, people had to abandon their outdoor work and those inside required candlelight. There were signs of the coming darkness in the skies for days before the event. Even George Washington made note of the “heavy and uncommon… clouds,” in his diary for May 18th. Today, scientists have a pretty good idea of what caused the blackout but for many New Englanders in that day it portended the arrival of divine judgment.

There was growing confusion and fear throughout the day. One clergyman wrote of people rushing “to the nearest church to confess their sins and say a prayer. Some even hunted down their local parson and demanded an impromptu sermon.” (1) The less religious folks began casting caution to the wind and urged debauchery as it seemed the world was ending.

In Connecticut, a number of the Governor’s Council were so shaken by the blackness around them that they proposed adjourning the meeting. Abraham Davenport, a colonel of Connecticut militia, refused to do so. He said: “The Judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjourning; and if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may be brought.” (2)

John Greenleaf Whittier, a Quaker poet and abolitionist, recalled the event in a poem entitled with Davenport’s name:

Meanwhile in the old State House, dim as ghosts,
Sat the lawgivers of Connecticut,
Trembling beneath their legislative robes.
‘It is the Lord’s Great Day! Let us adjourn,’
Some said; and then, as if with one accord,
All eyes were turned to Abraham Davenport.
He rose, slow cleaving with his steady voice
The intolerable hush. ‘This well may be
The Day of Judgment which the world awaits;
But be it so or not, I only know
My present duty, and my Lord’s command
To occupy till He come. So at the post
Where He hath set me in His providence,
I choose, for one, to meet Him face to face, –
No faithless servant frightened from my task,
But ready when the Lord of the harvest calls;
And therefore, with all reverence, I would say,
Let God do His work, we will see to ours.
Bring in the candles.’ And they brought them in.

(2) – From “Abraham Davenport”

Spurgeon used this incident as an illustration regarding 1 Peter 1:13. He was urging believers to faithful determination in their walk with Christ. “The teaching necessary for today is this: ‘Prepare your minds for action’ (1 Pet 1:13). Brace yourselves up; pull yourselves together; be firm, compact, consistent, determined. Do not be like quicksilver, which keeps on dissolving and running into fractions. Do not fritter away life upon trifles, but live to purpose, with undivided heart and decided resolution.” (Spurgeon, C. (2014). Spurgeon Commentary: 1 Peter. (E. Ritzema & J. Strong, Eds.)

Spurgeon turned to the account of Abraham Davenport to illustrate his point and concluded it with a paragraph that echoes down the years to the day we find ourselves in:

“It is dark. But whatever is going to happen, or whatever is not going to happen, let us be found girded, sober, and hopeful. In these dark political times, these dark religious times, I call for candles. For we mean to go on working.”

Yes indeed. Call for candles. Let’s continue to faithfully be salt and light. Let’s get on with the work of being His witness in these dark days.

Ballad of the Goodly Fere

Ezra Pound's Captivating Portrait of Jesus

The Ballad of the Goodly Fere

by Ezra Pound
Simon Peter speaking after the Crucifixion.

Ezra Pound. Ballad of the Goodly Fere

Ezra Pound. Circa 1967: portrait of american poet, editor and critic Ezra Pound (1885-1972) sitting at a restaurant table. (Photo by Horst Tappe/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.) Ezra pound

(Fere=Mate, Companion.)

Ha’ we lost the goodliest fere o’ all
For the priests and the gallows tree?
Aye lover he was of brawny men,
O’ ships and the open sea.

When they came wi’ a host to take Our Man
His smile was good to see,
“First let these go!” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
“Or I’ll see ye damned,” says he.

Aye he sent us out through the crossed high spears
And the scorn of his laugh rang free,
“Why took ye not me when I walked about
Alone in the town?” says he.

Oh we drank his “Hale” in the good red wine
When we last made company,
No capon priest was the Goodly Fere
But a man o’ men was he.

I ha’ seen him drive a hundred men
Wi’ a bundle o’ cords swung free,
That they took the high and holy house
For their pawn and treasury.

They’ll no’ get him a’ in a book I think
Though they write it cunningly;
No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
But aye loved the open sea.

If they think they ha’ snared our Goodly Fere
They are fools to the last degree.
“I’ll go to the feast,” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
“Though I go to the gallows tree.”

“Ye ha’ seen me heal the lame and blind,
And wake the dead,” says he,
“Ye shall see one thing to master all:
‘Tis how a brave man dies on the tree.”

A son of God was the Goodly Fere
That bade us his brothers be.
I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men.
I have seen him upon the tree.

He cried no cry when they drave the nails
And the blood gushed hot and free,
The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue
But never a cry cried he.

I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men
On the hills o’ Galilee,
They whined as he walked out calm between,
Wi’ his eyes like the grey o’ the sea,

Like the sea that brooks no voyaging
With the winds unleashed and free,
Like the sea that he cowed at Genseret
Wi’ twey words spoke’ suddently.

A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea,
If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.

I ha’ seen him eat o’ the honey-comb
Sin’ they nailed him to the tree.

(For those who don’t know Pound’s work, he was quite the controversial figure – a giant in his art and a lighting rod politically. I remain amazed that some of the most touching pictures can emerge from the most conflicted hearts and imaginations – Jeff)