The Grateful Christian

Essays, opinions, and works-in-progress by a conservative Lutheran pastor.

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Location: West Michigan, United States

In order of importance, I am a: Husband, father, pastor, hobby programmer, writer. Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust instead
Of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.

--C.S.Lewis, The Apologist's Evening Prayer

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Francis Bacon on Self-love and Doing Good

Bacon is considered one of the fathers of the scientific method. From his essay "On Goodness and Goodness of Nature" ca. 1597:
Beware how in making the portraiture thou breakest the pattern. For divinity maketh the love of ourselves the pattern; the love of our neighbors but the portraiture. Sell all thou hast, and give it to the poor, and follow me: but sell not all thou hast, except thou come and follow me; that is, except thou have a vocation wherein thou mayest do as much good with little means as with great; for otherwise in feeding the streams thou driest the fountain.

The pattern/portrait refers to what is sometimes called The Golden Rule, "Love your neighbor as yourself," Matthew 22:39. The italics is where he alludes to Jesus' saying to the "rich young man" in Mark 10:21. What follows is not contradiction, although it sounds like it.
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He seems to be making Jesus to say, "But don't try this unless you are going to follow Me." I wonder if his word "vocation" does not seem to relate so much as to "paid employment" as to the call of Christ. If you are called by Christ and follow him, you are never in danger of drying up the fountain, because He is a boundless fountain. On the other hand, by vocation he may mean one's station in life, in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 7:17-24:
Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches. Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.
 Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ's slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.

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