Nothing New Under the Sun

March 31, 2010

Quite some time ago I came across a great line in a sermon of Ussher’s from 1650 on the subject of death. He covers the usual themes – the inevitability of death, the way in which Christ’s work subverts its power, etc. Then he says:

‘Death is, as the Red Sea was to the Israelites, to destroy his Enemies, And to give him passage to the land of Promise’.

What a wonderful image, capturing the aspects of salvation and judgement. Succinct. Powerful. So there I was thinking what a good turn of phrase came from Ussher’s pulpit. Some time later I was reading Lewis Bayly’s The Practice of Piety (circa 1611) and found these words:

‘And as the Red Sea was a gulf to drown the Egyptians to destruction, but as a passage to the Israelites to convey them to Canaan’s possession, so death to the wicked is a sink to hell and condemnation, but to the godly the gate to everlasting life and salvation…’

Preachers have always stolen one another’s best illustrations. This is one of the factors shaping the discourse of puritanism – one finds more than a shared outlook but a shared discourse. The same analogies and illustrations come up again and again, the same way of making a point. And the traditionary lines are there to trace back into the medieval and patristic periods.

My question now is…where did Bayly get it from??


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