A Country Parson’s Advice to Jedi Christians

Where are the Yodas?

It is my contention that there is a remnant of younger generation of Christians, eager to experience authentic Christianity, who when recognizing the need for mentors come to the realization that they are aspiring Jedi Christians in search of a Yoda. My generation, for a whole host of reasons, has produced very few Yodas. Fortunately, previous generations have left journals, notebooks and memoirs packed with useful insights for the Jedi Christian in training.

One such resource is “The Country Parson’s Advice to His Parishioners.” (A Serious Exhortation to a Religious and Virtuous Life). This anonymous book was published in 1680 and has now been made available in an edited and revised version by George Byron Koch. The book’s purpose was to provide an argument for living a holy life and to provide general directions on how to do so.

The editor points out that it was probably written by someone familiar with the religious societies springing up around England and became widely accepted and used by them. After establishing their “Holy Club,” the Wesley’s recommended the book to young men forming societies for the purpose of mutual edification and spiritual devotion.

¢â‚¬¢ Koch points out in his introduction that there were certain rules for society meetings (Written by Dr. Horneck and Rev. Smithies for “London Religious Societies.), among the rules:

1. All that enter the Society shall resolve upon a holy and serious life.
2. No person shall be admitted…until…first confirmed by the bishop, and solemnly taken upon himself his baptismal vow.
3. They shall choose a minister of the Church of England to direct them.
4. They shall not be allowed, in their meetings, to discourse of any controverted point of divinity.
5. Neither shall they discourse of the government of Church or State.
9. After all is done, if there be time left, they may discourse with each other about their spiritual concerns; but this shall not be a standing exercise which any shall be obliged to attend unto.
18. The following rules are more especially recommended to the members of this society, viz. To love one another. When reviled, not to revile again. To speak evil of no man. To wrong no man. To pray, if possible, seven times a day. To keep close to the Church of England. To transact all things peaceably and gently. To be helpful to each other. To use themselves to holy thoughts in their coming in and going out. To examine themselves every night. To give every one their due. To obey superiors, both spiritual and temporal.

¢â‚¬¢¢â‚¬¢The societies recognized that younger men needed spiritual guides and provided information on their role and qualifications.

“Chapter 6 – Spiritual Guides Containing the last general advice, To commit our souls to the care and conduct of spiritual guides with proper directions relating to it.

You must commit your soul to the care and conduct of a spiritual guide. For the enforcing of this advice much might be said, and, indeed, the little account that most men make of their spiritual guides in this age requires that much be said. But because I have set myself but short bounds, and because I hope that you are well disposed by the foregoing discourses to receive good counsel, I shall be as brief as I can with respect to your good. There are three or four things which are well known to Christians, and I hope they will be readily acknowledged by you for great truths, which being well considered by you, will let you know both how necessary and how beneficial this advice will be to you.

The societies hoped a local Church of England clergyman could serve as the spiritual guide, but whether a local pastor or a mature, respected lay Christian, the spiritual guides were to meet the following criteria:

6.2 – Spiritual Guides are Authorized by Christ You must acknowledge likewise that this order of ministers, thus settled by Christ to take care of souls, are authorized and empowered by him.

To preach the Gospel,

To make known the love of God, as manifested in Christ to the world.

To receive those that do believe the gospel into the covenant of grace, and society of Christians, by baptism.

To instruct those whom they have baptized in the will of God, both publicly and privately,

To encourage them in their obedience to it.

To excite and quicken them when they are dull and slothful.

To reprove and admonish them when they do amiss.

To restore them when they have fallen,

To comfort them in their sorrows,

To pardon their sins,

To feed them with the body and blood of Christ.

To pray for them, and bless them in Christ’s name,

To help them all the ways they can in the whole course of their lives,

And to assist them in their last agonies, that so they may finish their course with joy.

(This you will plainly see if you will consider, besides the places of scripture already mentioned, the following texts, Acts 20:20, 21, 26, 27, 31, 2 Timothy 4:1, 2, Galatians 6:1, Luke 22:19, 20, 1 Corinthians 11:23, 24, James 5:14, 15.)

The commitment to holiness among a cadre of seriously devoted disciples of Jesus Christ played a huge part in the spiritual vitality of the 1680’s. It spilled out of these societies and into their churches and eventually their culture.

I think the renewal of today’s church and culture may be fueled by a similar movement of deeply devoted disciples of Jesus Christ working out their own salvation in community.

If this resonates with your spirit, you may find it useful to go back to the future by revisiting “The Country Parson’s advice to His Parishioners.”

‚© CRS Communications 2003 (Excerpts used by permission of George Byron Kock)

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