Sic semper tyrannis (“thus always to tyrants”) was the cry of Brutus when he assassinated Julius Caesar. It is a cry for freedom in the face of tyrannical use of power, destroying an Empire for the free Republic. But behind every tyrant is the Dragon; deceiving Eve in the Garden, and deceiving tyrants – Pharaoh, Nero, Hitler – to make war on the children of promise. When a daughter of Eve gave birth to the Dragon Slayer, followers of Jesus know that we overcome the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb. Since Jesus has “overcome the world” (John 16:33) of tyrants, we trust that by His Spirit we ourselves are born of God and have overcome the world in Him (I John 5:4). In Christ we are more than conquerors over the Dragon, and “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16:20).
Luther to his depressed friend:
“I am told that you are plagued by a depressed spirit… I beg you, through Christ our Lord – and with all the prayers I can possibly pray – not to be dwelling on your own thoughts and feelings, but rather listen to Christ… Therefore I beg you, join us! We are truly great and hardboiled sinners, so that you do not diminish Christ for us, who is not a savior for imaginary or trivial sins, but rather a Savior for real sins – not only small ones, but great ones – yes even the worst, and for all sins committed by all people… You will have to get used to the belief that Christ is a real Savior, and you a real sinner.”
Letter to Spalatin, 1544
ALMIGHTY AND ETERNAL GOD, with Whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day; we bring Thee thanks and praise for Thy blessings, more than we can number, with which Thou hast crowned our lives during the year now past; and since Thy mercies are ever new, let the year which has now begun, be to us a year of grace and salvation. Have pity upon us in our misery, whose days are as the grass. Deliver us from the vanity of our old fallen nature; and establish us in the fellowship of that life which is the same yesterday and today and forever. Graciously protect and conduct us through the uncertainties of this new year of our earthly pilgrimage. Prepare us for its duties and trials, its joys and sorrows. Help us to watch and pray, and to be always ready like men that wait for their Lord; and grant that every change, whether it be of prosperity or adversity, of life or of death, may bring us nearer to Thee and to that great eternal year of joy and rest, which, after the years of this vain earthly life, awaits the faithful in Thy blissful presence; where we shall unite, from everlasting to everlasting, with angels and saints, in ascribing blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, unto Him who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen.
Order of Worship for the Reformed Church in the United States, p. 26. See more New Year’s prayers here.
Everything I’ve written about intelligence starting with The Bell Curve has said explicitly: do not confuse IQ with moral worth. It just, you know… One of the problems here is the decline of religiosity, and I’m thinking specifically of Christian theology, which has as its central tenant that God does not judge people by their good works nor by their IQ scores, that this is irrelevant to human worth. And, it also teaches you to be very humble about your own frailities, your own mistakes, your own sins and the rest of it. There was built into Christians, serious Christians, an understanding, a gut level understanding of that truth, about moral worth and IQ just being separate planets.
“May God’s Son Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God and gives gifts to men, sanctify us in the truth, lead to the truth those who err, silence the mouths of those who lay false accusations against sound teaching, and equip faithful ministers of his Word with a spirit of wisdom and discretion, that all they say may be to the glory of God and the building up of their hearers. Amen.”
A prayer from Flemish theologian Andreas Hyperius:
Thou, most wise heavenly Father, art the fount and origin of all knowledge and wisdom: thou pourest into the minds of all men knowledge of thyself and of thy will, thou pourest understanding, weightiness of judgment, prudence, right counsel, and the other excellent gifts of the Holy Spirit, by which thou both unitest, in accordance with thy good pleasure, and teachest the minds not only of small children but even of babes and sucklings, and fashionest their mouths to exalt thee with praises. I therefore pray that thou wouldst render my natural disposition docile both to the discipline of piety and to all good arts, in order that, when, by means of the example and aid of thy Son Jesus Christ, I have made some progress in true wisdom and grace and age before thee and before men, I may continuously refer all my study and effort to magnifying and propagating the glory of thy name and of the same your Son and to the advantage of men, through the same our Lord Christ. Amen.
Thanks to Dr. Scott Swain for the notice, and Dr. E. Hutchinson for the translation.
A public- school system, in itself, is indeed of enormous benefit to the race. But it is of benefit only if it is kept healthy at every moment by the absolutely free possibility of the competition of private schools. A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective. Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them then to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist. Such a tyranny, supported as it is by a perverse technique used as the instrument in destroying human souls, is certainly far more dangerous than the crude tyrannies of the past, which despite their weapons of fire and sword permitted thought at least to be free.
Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom,
have established three hierarchies of angels,
have arrayed them in marvelous order
above the fiery heavens,
and have marshaled the regions
of the universe with such artful skill,
You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.
Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.
You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
The goodness of Your blessing.
Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.
guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.
You Who are true God and true Man, who live and reign, world without end.
qui de thesauris sapientiae tuae
tres Angelorum hierarchias designasti,
et eas super caelum empyreum
miro ordine collocasti,
atque universi partes elegantissime disposuisti,
tu inquam qui
luminis et sapientiae diceris
ac supereminens principium infundere digneris
super intellectus mei tenebras
tuae radium claritatis,
duplices in quibus natus sum
a me removens tenebras,
peccatum scilicet et ignorantiam.
Tu, qui linguas infantium facis disertas,
linguam meam erudias
atque in labiis meis gratiam
tuae benedictionis infundas.
addiscendi modum et facilitatem,
loquendi gratiam copiosam.
Tu, qui es verus Deus et homo,
qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum.
and make the death of thy Son Jesus Christ effectual to my redemption at the hour of my death
Samuel Johnson (b. 1709) is an interesting figure for a number of reasons, but I wanted to post a prayer he wrote in his dying days. Having held a variety of beliefs, and only coming around to biblical orthodoxy in his later years, to see him grapple with his beliefs and end in certainty on what the Scriptures say is gratifying to behold. As his positions on God, man, Christ, and the truth became more certain, his attending physicians noticed the change in his speech – about doctrine – and in his behavior. In the last week of his life, Johnson composed the following prayer:
May we all go to our final moment, before our eyes close, with such clear-sighted faith!