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Reviews | A Sound Mind

A Sound Mind

L. G. Sargent

Paperback or e-book (ePub)

206 pages

The Testimony review (from February 1972)

A Sound Mind

THIS BOOK consists of a series of essays by brother Sargent that have appeared in The Christadelphian. Most of them are quite short, about four to five pages, and each can be read in a few minutes. So here is an ideal book for all brethren and sisters to have at hand to be picked up at any time and read with profit. The articles are varied, the early ones of a general nature and the later ones particularly concerned with the work of Jesus as our redeemer and what this means to us.

In an early article dealing with the miracle Jesus performed on the woman who was “bowed together” he comments, “The saying that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, does not mean that the Sabbath was made for human needs, and must be accommodated to those needs. It means the Sabbath, being the foreshadowing of the future age, is the type of God’s redemptive purpose with man: and the purpose is greater than the type. When Jesus on the Sabbath performs the works of the Messianic age … he is acting as the Messiah … For that work no day is so appropriate as the Sabbath.”

Frequently, we are left to make the application to ourselves. For example speaking of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem riding on the ass he writes, “In the incident in the Temple the hearts of the two groups are laid bare by the contrast they provide. But are we never blinded by hidden motives? Is our ‘righteous indignation’ never moved by personal jealousy? Or on the other hand do we sometimes exalt a work which is for the glory of men? Let us look honestly in the mirror held up to human nature by these two groups in the Temple.”

His interest in Nature is shown in the article, “Ask now the beasts”. “A flutter of fur in a hole in the hedgebank … An orange-tip butterfly zig-zagged wantonly along … that yard of Worcestershire hedge, so filled with life … So David comes to the conclusion: ‘O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.’ Wisdom is shown in the light with which creation begins; in the preparation of the world as a home; in the development of the web of life in which every creature is a strand: and above all in man, who is capable of contemplating the work and acknowledging the wisdom.”

The duties of parents are indicated in the history of Rehoboam and Solomon where he reminds us, “Whatever his heredity, Rehoboam had the advantage of having as father the greatest educationist in history; and, however it is explained, the fact is that the inspired author of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes failed in the education of his own successor. The causes we can only guess. Did Solomon among the cares of state and his many pursuits find time to apply his principles to the nurture of his son? Could he give Rehoboam the personal care of a father? … the facts as far as we can know them do suggest that both in Rehoboam’s heredity and his environment, Solomon was not without a measure of responsibility for his failure. And from it all some obvious lessons may be drawn for today.”

There are excellent articles on Christ and Freewill and the Sign of the Son of Man. In calling for a return to the centre he writes, “If problems at the circumference of our faith come to occupy more thought than the certainties at the hub, there will be a shifting of balance. Not all the problems can be solved in this life, whether in Scripture or out of it, but there are realities which are abiding. Times occur in the life of individuals and communities when the greatest need is a return to the centre.” Later on he continues, “In the past there was no doubt about it: the very beginnings in the work of Dr. John Thomas left a clear line of demarcation. Christadelphians were a people ‘called out’, not merely from the world at large, but from the ‘names and denominations of Christendom’. Believing that they had the ‘Truth’, they stood apart from all the churches, refusing any compromise of their distinctiveness or any association which could lead to their being regarded as merely one ‘persuasion’ among many. They rejoiced in being ‘the sect everywhere spoken against’. Their essential task was to guard undefiled that deposit of truth which was committed to their trust, and this they could only do in strict separation from others.” He concludes the essay, “Unless it remains firm on those essentials of truth which a hundred years ago were presented as a whole body of belief and the way of life, the real work of the Christadelphian community will have ended and it will be only a matter of time before its light is put out.”

In a series of articles on “Foundations”, he calls attention to the reality of the things we believe. “But ,the eternal things are not abstract principles or immaterial entities; the future is the fruition of God’s creation, not the annihilation of it … There is no conflict between God and things material, for He has made them; the conflict is between ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’ as states of mind and disposition, the one having its ground in fallen man, the other having its source in God and His revelation.” Later he adds, “The fact of Christ risen is the core of our faith and the object of our hope. And by resurrection we mean – a real historical event, occurring in Jerusalem at a certain passover when Pontius Pilate was governor under the Emperor Tiberius; an event in which Jesus demonstrated his substantial bodily existence, was identified by his wounds and by his power of knowing what was in men, and showed 'his reality by eating before their eyes and preparing a meal for them … The truth of the resurrection must mean far more to us than defence against unbelief, or resistance to any encroachment of it into our own midst … This is our faith and life.”

This emphasis on the resurrection is all the more appropriate when we remember that our brother sleeps in the hope of the resurrection along with so many of like precious faith, and to quote from one of his earlier articles, “‘But now is Christ risen, and become the firstfruits of them that are asleep’. We see the sheaf; we know the harvest will follow.”

H. J. SALTER

(Originally published in the February 1972 edition of The Testimony Magazine (pages 67-68), and is reproduced by kind permission.)

The Testimony review (from November 2010)

Developing the mind of Christ

IT MAY SEEM ODD in 2010 to review a book first published nearly forty years ago, but as it is still in print, readily available and very profitable it is worth reminding older readers of its value and alerting younger readers to its existence. The book under review is the collection of essays and articles written by the late Brother L. G. Sargent, first published in 1971 under the title, A Sound Mind. [1]

Readers of his expositional works on the Sermon on the Mount (The Teaching of the Master), the Gospel of Mark (The Gospel of the Son of God) and Ecclesiastes and Job (Ecclesiastes and Other Studies) will already be acquainted with Brother Sargent as both a fine Bible student and an excellent writer. A Sound Mind introduces its readers to a wider canvass than these three major works; it exhibits the breadth of the author’s Biblical interests, his wide and varied reading in related fields and his sensitive attention to the spiritual needs of his brothers and sisters.

Challenges to faith

Brother Sargent was appointed Editor of the Christadelphian following the death of Brother John Carter, and served throughout the remainder of the 1960s. These were tumultuous years for the Western world, and the Brotherhood was not immune from the challenges confronting the wider community in which it witnessed to God’s truth. Many of the articles reflect the pressures and issues that arose within the Brotherhood in those years. It is a testimony to the wise manner in which Brother Sargent deals with these problems that his remarks remain so fresh and relevant today. While tackling the issues head-on, Brother Sargent does so in a balanced and nuanced way that ensures he rises above the polemics of debates which caused so much heartache. In doing so he brings out the most edifying aspects of the Bible’s teaching on the various issues he addresses. His essay on the Memorial Name is a case in point and is particularly commended.

The book opens with the essay from which the title is drawn. It is a thought-provoking piece with a message that is perhaps even more appropriate today than it was when it was first written. Drawing in particular on the advice of Paul in the Pastoral Epistles, the author deals with the problems that arise when brothers and sisters become obsessed by a particular opinion or view which is disruptive. Each generation faces its own challenges in this regard: some of these disputes have been peculiar to a point in history; other disruptive views have re-emerged periodically in successive generations. The power of Brother Sargent’s observations in this essay lies in the fact that they are relevant to a wide range of issues, and it will repay thoughtful and repeated contemplation.

Helpful exposition

There is much of value from an expositional perspective in this book. The essay about Rehoboam, for instance, offers useful insights, while the essay on the sign of the Son of man is instructive. A series of articles on the first principles of the faith, under the collected heading of “Foundations”, tackles these familiar themes in ways which broaden our thinking and draw out many of the moral implications implicit in these subjects and which we can sometimes overlook. This section is followed by a series of seven articles on “The risen Lord,” which unpacks many facets of the doctrine of the resurrection and its power in the life of a believer.

There is pervading the book a strong sense of a wonder in the grace of God extended to men and women through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not surprising, therefore, that the atonement should feature in several of the entries. A highlight in this regard is a piece which emphasises the sacrificial elements of our Lord’s death.

Practical issues

The practical elements of our first principles are addressed incidentally in many of the articles. One in particular, entitled “Christ’s service and war,” deals not just with our attitude to service in the armed forces but more generally with our relationship to the state. This is an example of the material in the book that remains highly relevant to readers today, for there are in our midst some that are arguing that Christadelphians are free to become involved in protest movements, voting and other aspects of secular politics. This is unhelpful to our long-held and well-recognised stand on conscientious objection, while manifesting a failure to grasp the significance of the full testimony of Scripture on the subject.

Brother Sargent was well read and intellectually gifted. He valued the insights available from the writings of many students, both within our community and elsewhere; he certainly was no enemy of or stranger to scholarship. Many of the pieces included under the heading “Editorial articles” deal with the inspiration of the Bible and the confidence we should place on the revealed Word of God. Some in our community in the days of Brother Roberts challenged this and developed a theory of partial inspiration, which made shipwreck of the faith of many. In Brother Sargent’s day there were some who sought to make a distinction between inspiration and revelation, and this likewise undermined the faith of many. Brother Sargent responded to this debate with articles which are well worth re-reading today. A chapter entitled “The implanted Word,” which addresses these issues, concludes with this eloquent summary:

“There is much intellectual pride in the world today, and intellectual pride is inimical to the truth of God. Let us be ready always to accept truth but beware of pride, for pride is the ultimate sin. It can come to us in many forms, and none is more insidious than the appeal to intellect and the authority of scholarship. Where facts are concerned we must recognise the claims of scholarship, but in many ways bearing especially on faith in the Bible, fact and judgement or opinion are so interwoven as to be very difficult to disentangle. The ‘wisdom of the world’ starts its thinking from presuppositions which govern its conclusions, and where the presuppositions are false the conclusions will be also, no matter how learnedly and persuasively they are presented.”

Wise counsel

There is always a need for the Brotherhood to respond to challenges that emerge and remain relevant to evolving trends in the wider community. Brother Sargent’s appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of the ecclesia, both in his own day and in the past, and his awareness of the legacy we inherited from former generations, equipped him to address calls for change in a constructive and balanced way. This comes out very well in an article entitled, “That which is committed to our trust,” and also in a curious little piece entitled, “To communicate forget not,” with which the book concludes. While the wise man’s advice not to say “that the former days were better than these” (Eccl. 7:10) means we should never allow ourselves to be bound unnecessarily by that which was done in the past, Brother Sargent’s approach ensures that we will always apply the apostle’s advice to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).

A Sound Mind is one of the gems of Christadelphian literature that deserves to be widely known and read. It is a showcase of beautiful, thoughtful writing by a gentle brother who clearly loved his God, his Lord and the Word of God. Those who know Brother Sargent’s writings will enjoy reacquainting themselves with his thoughts, while those who have not yet had that privilege will relish the experience. If you have a copy, take it down from the shelf and re-read it. If you do not already have a copy, purchase one while it is still in print. Either way, there is a treat in store for any who open the pages of A Sound Mind.

Geoff Henstock

[1] First reviewed by the Testimony in February 1972 (see above).

(Originally published in the November 2010 edition of The Testimony Magazine (pages 357-358), and is reproduced by kind permission.

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