Saturday, January 24, 2009

0 The Highest Good, a la William Ames

William Ames's sermons on themes from the 52 Lord's Days of the Heidelberg Catechism, newly published by Reformation Heritage Books, can be bought here, as I noted a while back on this blog. This is one of three major works of Ames, and is one of two that is now readily available - the third, "Conscience, with the Power and Cases Thereof" is not out in any recent printing that I'm aware of (much the pity!) and hence seems nearly impossible to come by.

This wonderful collection contains brief expositions worthy of studying alongside the Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day by Lord's Day; each week a short section of Scripture which illustrates the theme of that Day's Catechism selection is exposited by way of several short lessons. This would make for excellent family devotional material. As an example, here is a part of the first Lord's Day's study on Psalm 4:6-8 that I just finished reading. Ames is dealing with the duty of the Christian to seek the highest good above all other things, and he supports that duty with these reasons:
1. The goal of our life consists in this highest good, and this goal ought to be considered in regard to all things. Someone who does something without a goal is the sort of person who acts rashly and without reason. Someone who lives in such a way, without considering the highest good, lives rashly - like a brutish and irrational creature.
2. All our actions must be directed according to the consideration of this goal; the only actions that are right are those that extend like a straight line to this goal. All other actions are warped and distorted. Therefore, whoever lives without regard to this highest goal acts just like someone who shoots arrows without aiming. Or he lives like someone who commits a battleship to the waves or winds when he has disregarded the North Star or all concern for a safe haven where he ought to land.
3. The highest good has the highest dignity and excellence. It thus deserves the primary place in our thoughts and pursuits. Therefore, those who have neglected the highest good in allowing themselves to be detained in other matters are living like toddlers who, after indifferently considering the best things, occupy themselves, while surrounded with their trifles. (pp. 6-7, A Sketch of the Christian's Catechism, William Ames, RHB)
In the rest of Lord's Day 1, Ames addresses the questions of worldly pleasures vs. divine pleasures, joy that is the believer's in seeking the highest good, and the precious connection between the seeking after that highest good and communion and fellowship with God that thereby obtains. In short, this is full of excellent pastoral and meditative delights. I very much look forward to the coming year as I incorporate this wonderful work into my Lord's Day reading.



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