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Discovering God's Kingdom – Growing the Church

Wednesday 15 April

More years ago than I care to acknowledge, my friend Andrew introduced me to the works of Ronald Blythe, Church of England lay reader, contributor to the Church Times, author of more books than you can shake a stick at. Blythe is now 97. If you haven’t found him yet, I urge you to look out for him. Well worth the effort. I have been rereading some of his prodigious output in recent weeks. He has a unique way with words, situations and faith. A day or two before Easter I fell upon his take on William Hazlitt, a somewhat conflicted character who wrote in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Hazlitt, the son of a Unitarian minister, had no time for what he claimed Christians throughout history had done to Christ’s legacy, “Almost every sect of Christianity is a perversion of its essence, to accommodate it to the prejudices of the world.”

On the other hand, Hazlitt’s perception of the teachings of Jesus is clear and uncluttered: “There is something in the character of Christ (leaving religious faith quite out of the question) of more sweetness and majesty, and more likely to work a change in the mind of man, by the contemplation of its idea alone, than any to be found in history, whether actual or feigned. This character is of a sublime humanity, such as was never seen on earth before or since. This shone manifestly both in his words and actions……His religion was the religion of the heart…….His whole life and being were imbued, steeped in this word charity: it was the spring, the well-head from which every thought and feeling gushed into act……He was the first true teacher of morality; for he alone conceived the idea of pure humanity…….He taught the love of good for the sake of good……”

So there we are. Andrew introduced me to Ronald Blythe. Through reading Blythe I have found Hazlitt, whose life I shall now explore. It bids fair to be oozing with interest. But first I have just spotted an essay by Blythe on “Growing Old”. It nestles shyly between “Strangely Orthodox” and “Mostly Apples”. And as my children and grandchildren insist that I am old, I suppose I should find out what an experienced Oldie has to say about the topic …

Bob Munro