The End of Sin

December 31, 2008

Struck by a recurring theme in the Protestant Ars Moriendi. One of the many advantages brought by death, at least, by death as subverted by the work of Christ, is the end of sin. No one puts this more succinctly than Otto Werdmueller, who, in his First Book of Death (Eng. trans. Miles Coverdale) writes, ‘sin ceaseth not, till we come to be blessed with a shovel’.

Happy New Year.


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Sixteenth-Century Advertising

December 22, 2008

I have been reading The Sick Man’s Salve by Thomas Becon. Composed in the reign of Edward VI and going through eleven editions by the turn of the century, it was one of the most important Protestant Ars Moriendi in English. Poor Epaphroditus lies dying and is comforted and encouraged by a number of friends. The book is a rather prolix account of their conversation. One of the characters is a minister called Philemon. Twice he asks for one of the others to hand him a copy of a book called The Flower of Godly Prayers so that he can read out one of the prayers. By coincidence The Flower of Godly Prayers is an earlier work by…Thomas Becon.

White is the New Black

December 21, 2008

I have  spent a bit of time over the last week or two reading early Protestant Ars Moriendi. This is fascinating material. One patristic reference which crops up now and again is a line from Cyprian of Carthage who, in the midst of the plague, urges his readers against inappropriate displays of grief over those who have fallen asleep in Christ:

that they should be desired, but not bewailed; that the black garments should not be taken upon us here, when they have already taken upon them white raiment there. [Cyprian, De Mortal., 20]

To do so destroys our profession of faith by our deeds before the eyes of the pagans. Cyprian’s words remind us that we are not to grieve like those without hope, even if there is a righteous anger at death, our enemy, albeit a defeated one. Interestingly, it seems that Puritans went out of their way not to wear black at funerals [according to David E. Stannard, The Puritan Way of Death: A Study in Religion, Culture and Social Change (New York: OUP, 1977), 103].

License to Kill

December 5, 2008

Seeing Quantum of Solace recently reminded me of this sermon on Judges 3, preached by my friend Sam Allberry (who blogs here) a few years ago.