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Blaise Pascal and the wager which everyone must make to find infinite gain

“Either God exists or he does not exist. Reason is powerless to decide the question. All I can do is to weigh the chances for and against. It is, as it were, a game of pitch and toss. On which side shall I wager?
But why wager at all? What necessity is there to run this strange chance? Can I not put away from me this problem whose solution either way is sure to leave me disturbed and ill content? I cannot. My every action, every movement of my will, implies a certain solution of this unique problem. It is not with the existence of God as with questions of science, which do not affect me personally. It is quite evident that I must act differently according as God exists or not. So I am bound to wager. There is no choice in the matter. We have committed ourselves. Now to examine the conditions of the wager.

In this hazard, as in every other, there are two things to be considered: the degree of probability and the amount of risk. The question of the existence of God being infinitely beyond the scope of reason, the probability is the same for the affirmative as for the negative. This term then is cancelled. There remains the risk. On the one hand there is the finite to be ventured, on the other hand the infinite to be gained. Now, however great may be the finite, it becomes as nothing before the infinite. Strictly speaking then, it becomes a question of venturing the infinitely little in order to gain the infinitely great. Hence we are clearly bound to wager in favour of the existence of God. The reasoning is conclusive. If I am capable of discerning any truth, this is one.”

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Emile Boutroux Pascal (Manchester: Sherrat and Hughes, 1902) 69-70.

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Jonathan Edwards: The only source of all help, hope and happiness

“Happiness is nowhere else to be had, but in their [Israel’s] God, and with their people. There are that are called gods many, and lords many. Some make gods of their pleasures; some choose Mammon for their god; some make gods of their own supposed excellencies, or the outward advantages they have above their neighbors; some choose one thing for their god, and others another. But men can be happy in no other God but the God of Israel: he is the only fountain of happiness. Other gods can’t help in calamity; nor can any of them afford what the poor empty soul stands in need of. Let men adore those other gods never so much, and call upon them never so earnestly, and serve them never so diligently, they will nevertheless remain poor, wretched, unsatisfied, undone creatures. All other people are miserable, but that people whose God is the Lord.”

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) cited by H. Norman Gardiner in Selected Sermons of Jonathan Edwards (New York: MacMillan, 1904) 51.

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John Huss recites Matthew 10:8 in refuting the greed of the teachers of the gospel

“He [John Huss] especially scourged the whole system of selling indulgences, as utterly at variance with the spirit of Christ and the teaching of the Gospel. The power of the priest to forgive sins rested only on repentance and contrition on the part of the guilty one; based on the payment of money or property, it was simony pure and simple, for had not the Savior said, “Freely ye have received, freely give?” The same thing applied to the pope, and the declaration made by some that the pope was infallible he declared to be not only false, but sacrilegious, for this would make the pope equal to Christ Himself. It goes without saying that these bold statements were not received without strenuous opposition on the part of the adherents of the hierarchy.” John Huss (c. 1372-1415) was a priest, professor, and eventually became a martyr. He died by being burned at the stake.”

Oscar Kuhns in John Huss: The Witness (Cincinnati: Jennings & Graham, 1907) 72-73.

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Columba helps a soul be healed of the sin of avarice

“At the same time, Conall, bishop of Coleraine, collected almost innumerable offerings from the people of Mag nEilni and prepared a lodging for St Columba on his way home from the meeting of the kings with a great crowd of people around him. When the saint arrived, the many offerings of the people were set out in the open area of the monastery for him to bless them. Looking at them as he blessed them, he pointed to a particular gift of a rich man:

‘The man,’ he said, ‘who gave this enjoys the mercy of God on account of his generosity and his mercies to the poor.’

Picking out another item among the many offerings he said:

‘Of this offering the gift of a man both wise and greedy, I cannot so much as taste, unless he first truly does penance for his sin of avarice.’

This word was at once circulated among the crowd, and Colum man Aedo, hearing it, recognized his guilt and came forward, to kneel before the saint and do penance. He promised too that henceforth he would renounce avarice, mend his way of life and practice generosity. The saint told him to stand and from that hour his sin was healed and he was no longer grasping.”

St. Adamnan of Iona and Richard Sharpe in the Life of St. Columba (London: Penguin Books, 1991) 152.

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William Tyndale’s statement in defense of his translation of the New Testament

“As touching his translation of the New Testament because his enemies did so much carp at it, pretending it to be full of heresies, he wrote to John Frith, as followeth, “I call God to record against the day we shall appear before our Lord Jesus, that I never altered one syllable of God’s Word against my conscience, nor would do this day if all that is in the earth, whether it be honour, pleasure, or riches, might be given me.”

John Foxe in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs: An Edition for the People (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1911) 152.

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Ulrich Zwingli: Article XXIII

The Sixty-Seven Articles of Zwingli:
The articles and opinions below, I, Ulrich Zwingli, confess to have preached in the worthy city of Zurich as based upon the Scriptures which are called inspired by God, and I offer to protect and conquer with the said articles, and where I have not now correctly understood said Scriptures I shall allow myself to be taught better, but only from said Scriptures.

Article XXIII. That Christ scorns the property and pomp of this world, whence from it follows that those who attract wealth to themselves in His name slander Him terribly when they make Him a pretext for their avarice and willfulness.

Ulrich Zwingli Selected Works of Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531): The Reformer of German Switzerland (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1901).

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God raised up Girolamo Savonarola to speak out because the love of money was ruining the Church in the Renaissance

“Throughout the Renaissance period the Papacy was engaged in pursuing purely secular objects and was without scruple in its pursuit of them. The Pope who had most resolutely set himself to the task of consolidating the states of the Church and of carving out of them an Italian principality for his own kindred was Sixtus IV. (1471-1484). It is not necessary to credit Sixtus IV with all those nameless vices and unspeakable abominations, which have been attributed to him in his own day and since. Such charges rest upon evidence, which is tainted and have been dismissed by Creighton as “not proven”. But whatever may have been the extent of his erudition and even of his private virtues, there can be no doubt that, as Pontiff, Sixtus IV used the Papacy to secure his private interests, enlisting without scruple and without remorse all the temporal and spiritual weapons at his command in the service of ambition, intrigue and the disquietude of Italy. With such an example before them the great dignitaries of the Church naturally sought their own interests, regardless for the most part of the spiritual obligations imposed upon them by their position. The most astounding luxury prevailed in high places at Rome. The most shameless effrontery was displayed in the means used to get money. The holiest relics, the most sacred services of religion were prostituted for the purposes of gain. The inferior clergy were for the most part sunk in ignorance and sloth. The monastic orders had lost their freshness and enthusiasm, the regular clergy were dull and formal, and in the meantime in Italy itself vice walked about naked and unashamed. Assassination was a legitimate political weapon and a legitimate instrument of private revenge. Abominable vices went unreproved. It did not need the gift of prophecy to enable any thinking and observant man to be assured that in the near future reaction or revolution was inevitable.”

Edward Lee Stuart Horsburgh in Girolamo Savonarola (London: Methuen & Company, 1901) 58-59.

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George Wishart, mentor to John Knox of the Scottish Reformation, as described by a pupil

An admiring pupil there [at Cambridge], Emery Tylney, describes him in 1543 as a man of tall stature, comely in person, courteous, lovely, glad to teach, desirous to learn, fearing God, hating covetousness. “If I should declare his love to me, and all men, his charity to the poor in giving, relieving, caring, helping, providing, yea, infinitely studying how to do good to all and hurt to none, I should sooner want words than just cause to commend him.”

Henry Cowan in John Knox: Hero of the Scottish Reformation (London, G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1905) 57.

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Charles R. Hale: “Give an Account of Thy Stewardship”

The demand of our text (Luke 16:1-13) will soon be made to each of us: “Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.

Let us conceive the question put to each of us now, could we give in our account with joy? Or would it not be given in the case of very many of us, with deepest shame and grief?

The talents for which we must give account are the opportunities of all kinds for honoring GOD and doing good to our fellow men.

But, as a searching inquiry is best conducted by coming down from generalities to particulars, let us on the present occasion–putting aside for the time being the thought of health, strength, influence, mental abilities–ask ourselves how we have used, how we are using, the earthly possessions GOD has put into our hands.

The question is one more important than we are apt to think. It is our SAVIOUR Himself who asks, “If ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?”

The gift of GOD cannot be purchased with money, but money not rightly used may cause us to miss heaven.”

“Give an Account of Thy Stewardship” A Sermon preached in St. Timothy’s Church, New York, The Third Sunday in Advent, 1873, by the Rev. Charles R. Hale.

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Bonaventure’s account of God’s providential provision for Francis and his companions which forged their commitment to their rule

“Strengthened by God’s grace and the pope’s approval, Francis with great confidence took the road toward the valley of Spoleto, where he intended to preach and live the Gospel of Christ. On the way he discussed with his companions how they should sincerely keep the rule which they had taken upon themselves, how they should proceed in all holiness and justice before God (Luke 1:75), how they should improve themselves and be an example for others. It was already late in the day as they continued their long discussion. Fatigued from their prolonged activity and feeling hungry, they stopped at an isolated spot. When there seemed to be no way for them to get the food they needed, God’s providence immediately came to their aid. For suddenly a man appeared carrying bread in his hand, which he gave to Christ’s little poor and then suddenly disappeared. They had no idea where he came from or where he went. From this the poor friars realized that while in the company of the man of God they would be given assistance from heaven and so they were refreshed more by the gift of God’s generosity than by the food they received for their bodies. Moreover, filled with divine consolation, they firmly resolved and irrevocably committed themselves never to turn back from the promise they had made to holy poverty, in spite of any pressure from lack of food or other trials.”

St. Bonaventure (Cardinal, 1221-1274) as cited by Ewert H. Cousins in Bonaventure (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1978) 207.

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