Friday, April 30, 2010

Mikey asks: Did Newton accept bribes-gifts?

Good question as it troubled him. At first he did, as it was the tradition and expectation. His newly awakened conscience found it unacceptable and he stopped. This also caused a few problems, resolved by his entry into the ministry and moving to his first small parsonage in Onley.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace. Joanathan Aitken. Part 2

The story continues.
In deciding how to make his living, he was appointed the “Surveyor of Tides”. This was like a Harbor Master. It paid very well, 750 pounds each year. A very large sum for the day. Traditionally, the appointed income was supplemented by accepting bribes and favors from the various parties involved in shipping. After a few years, he was offered a preaching appointment, which only paid 40 pounds a year. “In a letter to John Catlett, Newton summarized his dilemma:.” I do not like disgrace or poverty, but I fear God more than either. Is absurd? I would do much to please my friends, but I would do more to please him who died for me”. Newton became a preacher for 40 pounds annual salary. Eventually he was the Curate (or pastor) of St. Mary Woolworth a very large and popular church in London. He became as famous as any preacher we know of today. He wrote books and tracts, many of which were best sellers worldwide. Many of these writings were translated into a number of languages. He was well known for a hymnbook written with William Cowper. It was titled Olney Hymns. It was a best seller and was used in churches through England. It contained 281 hymns, one of which was Amazing Grace.
Amazing Grace was written in 1772 and was somewhat autobiographical. It was never popular in England but by the late 1800’s, became a revival and spiritual favorite in the US It did not appear to be one of Newtons favorites either. It’s popularity increased in this country even more since a release in 1947. Originally, it had be set to a number of different tunes and meters. “ The Tune now inseparably linked to amazing Grace was called “New Brittan”. No one knows where it came from. It was never connected with a hymn until 1835 when it was suddenly popularized by a well-known compiler of spiritual songs, William Walker”
The Onley Hymnbook contained a number of other famous hymns some of which we still sing.I quote the author”Most (of the Hymns have) understandably been forgotten. Some barely escaped from the category of doggerel. By contrast, Cowpers 67 hymns in the book are of a far higher standard. Yet Newton as a hymn-writer was capable of soaring to peaks of excellence…..It is generally agreed that in terms of profound composition (Amazing Grace) is far from being Newtion’s most creative achievement. Many admirers of the hymnody would give a higher reading to much-loved favorites such as “How sweet the Name of Jesus Sound, May the Grace of Christ Our Saviour, and Be Still My Heart. Even more observers believe that Newtons finest hymn was from a theological and to report if you was “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken “ usually sung to the majestic tune “Austria” composed by Newtons contemporary Franz Haydn.”
Finally, the most important legacy of John Newton was his campaign against slavery. He joined with the abolitionist forces of William Wilberforce, an MP from Hull in a 26-year legislative effort for a slavery ban. Most of the legislative proposals were defeated in the beginning. Newton testified before parliament about the evils of the slave trade and is credited with being a sustaining spiritual force behind Wilberforce and his allies. Newton’s testimony carried a lot of weight as he could give first hand witness and experience in the trade. In 1807, a slave trade ban was passed and in 1833, slavery was banned throughout the British Empire. Newton and Wilberforce started their campaign in 1788.
I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the life and time of the 1700’s, history and religion.
Quotes from the book are in italics.

Friday, April 23, 2010

John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace. Joanathan Aitken. PT 1

John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace. Joanathan Aitken.
When I die, Courtney and Megan are going to sing Judy Collins arrangement of Amazing Grace at the funeral. I will be close by and listening. Hopefully, it won’t take too long for St. Peter to decide if the gate is open. While he flips the coin, I will wait and listen one last time to my favorite hymn. John Newton wrote it and I have been fascinated by his story for several years. His greatest accomplishment had nothing to do with hymns rather the abolishment of the slave trade and his church ministry. In poetic irony, Newton’s claim to fame as an abolitionist was his prior history as a cruel slave trader. This book was long but extremely interesting. So much was firsthand accounts, letters and selections of journal entries. It opened a small window into actual, not fictional, life of the 1700s.The book was fairly well written and had an overtly churchy flavor. If I had a criticism, it would be as follows. I felt the author was a little too much of a fan and believer in Newtons “sainthood” . (Quotes because Anglicans cannot be saints.) It was as if after Newtons conversion, he could do no wrong. All is forgiven and forgotten.
Newton was born in England in1725 and died 82 years later in 1807. Newton’s mother‘s “educational and spiritual Legacy to her son was greater than either of them realized during her lifetime. She had brought him up to believe in God’s omnipotence, to fear his judgment, and to accept that his word, as recorded in the Bible, was the source of all truth. In his adolescence and early manhood John Newton often rebelled against these teachings. Yet the spiritual lessons the boy had learned at his mother’s knee were never forgotten. They became the Foundation for Newton’s eventual conversion and Christian commitment .in addition to her spiritual instruction of her only son, Elizabeth also in calculated the good habits of industry and intellectual curiosity, as well as the enjoyment of expressing oneself in a wide ranging vocabulary.“ Pretty amazing, what a good mother can do.
Newton, like Crusoe, was drawn to the sea and at a young age. His father was a Captain of some reputation and this saved Newtons life on at least 2 occasions. Friends of his father intervened frequently to help Newton out of near death situations. Newtons first sailing voyage was at age 11 with his father to Spain and the Mediterranean. Newton believed he was had been repeatedly saved by divine providence and interventions; Saved to do some great work. The first time was at age 15 when he missed the longboat, which was to take him to a ship. The longboat overturned and everyone drowned while Newton watched from the quay. “Missing the boat” and watching everyone drown happened several times during Newtons time at sea. Apparently, at that time, NONE OF THE SAILORS LEARNED TO SWIM. If you went in the water, you drowned! Plus, PFDs were not invented yet.
At the age of 19, a press gang found him walking the streets and suddenly he was in the navy. He was taken to the HMS Harwich and found fit to serve. Newton was supposed to sail to the far east, a FIVE YEAR trip before any hope of return to England and discharge. The Royal Navy was extremely dangerous. Climbing up the rigging, pulling on the sheets and lines, furling and unfurling the sails in all weather all the while, learning to cope with the smoke and recoil of the guns was part of the training. This was called “learning the ropes”. He was in love, could not conscience leaving Polly, his future wife, for 5 years, and promptly deserted. Captured again, he was beaten, not hanged, as was the custom probably because of his father’s influence. He was however “traded to a Slave trading ship” for one of their crew members. This was the beginning of Newtons slaving years. He was an amoral and successful slaver by his own admission but like Joseph and Potifers wife, he managed to anger the wife of his boss. She made him a slave himself and for over a year was chained to a small cage eating the leftovers given him by the other slaves on the Sierra Leone plantation. A friend of his father eventually saved him. On the return trip, their boat was severely damaged by a storm and was sinking. When it looked like all was lost and he would surely drown, he had a “deathbed conversion” and began to pray. Miraculously, the boat was saved, Newton believed once again by divine intervention. Although he was converted, he needed money and so continued in the slave trade although he says with more compassion. He openly admits he was guilty of committing all the known vices but tried hard to repent. Even after conversion, he had difficulty controlling one of his major moral failings. He had an uncontrollable desire for the female slaves. As captain of the slaving ship, apparently it was his privilege to have his way with the female slaves as he saw fit. He saw fit quite often by his own admission.
Polly finally agreed to marry him and he quit the sea. At age 29, he had been shipwrecked, a slaver, a slave himself, a blasphemer and debaucher and now was a converted Christian. He felt he was called to the ministry. He also joined the Freemasons but quit after a short time. He was influenced heavily by John Wesley and George Whitefield the founders of the Methodist Church. This actually made it more difficult for him to be appointed a preacher in the Church of England. He also was friends with William Cowper a famous poet and together they wrote a famous “best selling” hymnbook.
Part 2 later.
NOTE: Italics are quotes from the book. No page numbers as it was electronic.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mad for Decades

MAD FOR DECADES may be a departure from the nature and gravity of the previous book reviews but it is the latest book I finished reading. It was written by “ The Usual Gang Of Idiots”. This edition was published in 2007. It is a compilation of favorite comics, parodies, and such favorites as Spy versus Spy, and other favorite departments. It started with magazines published in the 50s and contined through the 90s. Many of the television shows which were parodied were unknown to me or at least I had never watched an episode. Examples include LA LEWD, SickER, GROSSANNE and more. I didn't always get the "joke". The volume was well over 1000 pages. Probably 200 pages were interesting. Some of the humor which I found irresistible in my youth has aged badly.So I have the book in hard copy if any of you are interested. Let me know I will try to get it to you.

Friday, April 9, 2010

2 Books on Free Masonry

The symbolism of Freemasonry, Albert Mackey, 1869
The Mysteries of Free Masonry, Captain William Morgan ?date Subtitle:All the Degrees Conferred in the Royal Arch Chapter and Grand Encampment of Knights Templars-Knights of the Red Cross-of the Christian Mark and of the Holy Sepulcher

I read these books because of the connection between Freemasonry and the early church. As best I can tell, two practicing Masons wrote these books in the late 19th century. According to their traditions, the association of Freemasons started during the building of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. The High Priest conveyed not so much secret but private symbols, signs, tokens, handshakes and other oral traditions to the builders of the Temple. Hiram Abiff was the original Mason to whom the secrets were revealed. He was murdered and this tradition is important in modern Freemasonry. There are several forms of Masonry, Craft being the most important, but also speculative and others. At first only real stonemasons (craft) were admitted to the order but in 1717, the society was opened to any male. It is overtly religious and strongly Christian but anyone who is of good moral quality and professes a belief in God may be admitted. This includes Moslem, Hindus etc. It does emphasize the Judeo-Christina beliefs in most of it written liturgy. One is advanced to 3rd degree Master Mason along several paths but each required memorization of pages of question and answers asked by the grand master as you are presented for advancement.
-According to the Freemasons, those amazing and beautiful medieval-Crusader era cathedrals were built with the special knowledge from the construction of Solomon’s Temple. This construction was possible at a time when technology was less developed because of the special and secret building knowledge these Masons possessed. The Knights Templar were not mentioned in either book related to the Masons but are in some way related. This relationship evolved during the construction of the Crusader cathedrals. I did not go outside of these books to investigate is relationship. According to the authors, the secrets of the craft of stonemasonry as well as the secret religious traditions were passed on orally since the building of the Temple. It appears many of the rituals and modern procedures were developed, enhanced and enlarged in England in the early 19th century. In the early 1800’s some of the oral traditions were recorded. By the time these books were written the traditions and rites had been embellished and enhanced. This augmentation occurred over one hundred years and by the late 1800s was complete. I think there are over 90 degrees at this time. There was also a reconciliation of several of break-off lines. I really did not learn much by reading the details of the rites and traditions except they are very complex.
As an aside, when I was in Medical School I worked in the rehab hospital at night as a “Dr” handling all kinds of non-emergencies. One night I was called to a patient’s room who had developed a drug induced temporary psychosis. He was waving his arms, making signs, and repeating strange liturgies. He was very paranoid and was making Mason signs to signal friendship and looking for refuge from a brother Mason. Masons are committed to defend and aid each other when in need or distress. After reading these too books, they were very long; I have now lost interest in Freemasonry.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Response to Comments

Thanks for the comments! Sorry it has taken so long to respond. We moved Lillian this week to a new Assisted Living Home and it has been all consuming.
Marx and Engels did not necessarily think of these 10 principles. They simply recognized the critical path to Socialism/Communism, defined as government control of production, required these 10 elements.Public schools were debated and rejected by the founders as an example. My objections the the other 9 would fill volumes. To point out just a few would fill pages. How about a few lines?
Progressive income tax creates class warfare. Inheritance taxes magnify class envy. 50% of the workers in the US pay ZERO federal tax. With ZERO liability they are highly motivated to receive benefits and elect those who promise to tax only the rich (recently defined as those making over $200K) to provide these free benefits. Income redistribution defies the promise of government to protect the ownership of private property(income)and makes this property, public. It allows politicians to promise and deliver socialist programs like Obamacare soon to be followed by Cap and Tax, Amnesty and more by creating a government which has constituencies dependent on housing, food and now healthcare.
#6 Centralization of communications allows for more government interference. At one time, AT&T with government regulation, owned 100% of the telephone service in the US. Think the cable or DMV is bad, at that time "phone service" had its own definition. Deregulation and the destruction of the government monopoly was the beginning of the communication age.
#5 Again. Government interventions and regulations were 60-70% responsible for the banking collapse requiring the take over of these banks. If I thought Barny Frank and Chris Dodd were smart enough, I would believe they conspired through these congressional distortions of the market place as part of a well thought out plan on the march to Socialism. They aren't that smart. "Reasonable regulations and bank compliance with these mandates starting with the Community Investment Act and subsequent rules to prevent redlining encouraged banks to make loans to unqualified buyers. FREDDIE and FANNIE gave government guarantees to banks the make these bad loans and the FED used interest rates to join the party. Now when the bubble breaks, the government cripples banks with "mark to market" accounting rules. Suddenly bank reserve requirements skyrocket as the "Market value" of what were preforming assets (90% of these upside down loans were performing) decline causing instant bankruptcy and buyouts. The FED and the government didn't protect people, it was actively involved in ruining people.
This could go on for days...
Next post: Freemasonry. I read 2 books and will comment.
PS. Courtney is reading Atlas Shrugged, maybe she could comment. I read it several years ago and while its ideas still reverberate in my head, it was too long ago for me to make comments.