The New England Congregationalist pastor and missionary John Eliot (1604-1690) exhorted readers of his The Harmony of the Gospels (1678) to be wise. Wisdom, he said, is one aspect of the image of God in human beings (24). The full title of Eliot’s Lord’s Supper “preparativo” is The Harmony of the Gospels in the Holy History of the Humiliation and Sufferings of Jesus Christ from his Incarnation to his Death and Burial. It was published the same year as the English Baptist pastor John Bunyan’s spiritual allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress.
In the section of Eliot’s Harmony sub-titled “the Conversation [or, lifestyle] of Jesus Christ all the time of his Youth,” Eliot briefly instructed readers in the way of gaining wisdom. He said that God “hath appointed for mankind” certain means to employ in obtaining “wisdom, knowledge and learning.” Those means are hearing, reading, conference [what we today call conversation or counsel], meditation, and study. He said the use of each of these should be “watered” with prayer (31).
To substantiate his instruction to pray for wisdom, Eliot quoted James 1:5 without citing the verse, “If any lack wisdom let him ask it of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” To clarify what should be heard, read, talked about, meditated upon, and studied, Eliot wrote, “The matter of our learning is chiefly the Scriptures, that is the book above all books” (32).
However, in addition to the Scriptures, there are two other kinds of books to be studied. The “book of God’s creatures,” which he also called appositionally, “the works of God,” should be examined. Eliot said this book is “where all the liberal Arts are to be found and learned.” Finally, “the books, labours, and works of learned men, and especially of holy men, who lay open the Treasures of wisdome and knowledge, which are laid up in Jesus Christ, laid out, displayed, and revealed in the Scriptures, and explained to our Capacityes…” Books about the Bible were to be studied in order to better understand God and his Word and, by so doing, gain wisdom and joy. Eliot’s The Harmony of the Gospels was such a book.
At Bethlehem College & Seminary we aim to train our men and women to carefully exegete both God’s Word – or, “the book above all books” – and God’s world. Faculty members with various areas of expertise labor together to that end. Our goal is to equip students for a lifetime of diligent study, wise personal choices, faithful discipleship, and fruitful service of others. Thank you for supporting this endeavor with your financial gifts and prayers.
Travis Myers, Assistant Professor of Church History and Mission Studies
Please pray this week:
- For the hundreds of individuals who generously contributed to Serious Joy Scholarship at year-end.
- For students and faculty who are making their ways back to Minneapolis for the start of the second semester.
- For Jonathon Wooodyard, M’Div ’16 and rising seminary grads Adam Pohlman and Ryan Eagey, all of whom are launching out plant new churches in the year ahead.
- For more pastors and church leaders to register for the upcoming Bethlehem Conference for Pastor’s + Church Leaders beginning January 30.
- That many may yet be willing to contribute to the current $100,000 matching fund grant to the school’s Building Fund, extended to March 1.