Epiphany 4c – Sunday 3rd February 2012
Luke 4: 21-30
I have just finished reading an excellent book. I don’t know why it caught my eye. It wasn’t recommended to me, nor was it about anyone I knew. I don’t usually go for biographies, but I did on this occasion and I’m glad I did.
The book was Alexander the Corrector by Julia Keay, and I suppose it was the subtitle that hooked me in: “The tormented genius who unwrote the Bible”.
The book told the story of Alexander Cruden, the man who wrote the monumental Concordance to the Bible, a book published in 1737 and yet one that has never been out of print since. Born in Aberdeen in 1699, he was educated to a very high standard at Marischall College – the forerunner of the University of Aberdeen, and the fourth oldest University in Scotland. He excelled at Latin, Greek and French, was very accomplished at history and geography, but his passion lay in the study of Scripture. Having started Grammar School at the age of 8, he was in the equivalent of University at 13, and was a college tutor by the age of 18. He would have gone on to become a very fine Presbyterian Minister if it hadn’t been for the fact that at the age of 21 he was locked up in the Aberdeen Tollbooth – confined in the lunatic asylum.
In 1724 Cruden left Aberdeen for London where he became a personal tutor, then a proof reader for the flourishing publishing business, eventually becoming a publisher himself. Alongside this he spent over 10 years putting his Concordance together, a colossal undertaking that displayed his encyclopaedic knowledge of the Scriptures, a book that has been universally acknowledged ever since by those who study the Bible as an invaluable aid. By the time he died in 1770 he had spent another 3 occasions in ‘private madhouses’ and yet had become a very well respected man in London academic, publishing, political, religious and Royal circles.
It really is a fascinating story and I won’t give away any more of the plot, but instead commend you to read it yourself. What I found amazing about his story was that, despite coming from a very loving and caring family background in Aberdeen, Alexander Cruden never returned to his hometown for 45 years. It reminded me immediately of the gospel reading for this week:
Well, let me tell you something: No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown.
(Luke 4: 24 – The Message)
After reading from the book of Isaiah the people were very impressed with Jesus. But when he explained that the message of the Messiah would not be welcomed in his home town the people were outraged and made to throw him off some local cliff. But Jesus just released himself from them and went about his way.
I recently read a blog that talked about the qualities needed for Bible inspired leaders. Effective leaders, like Jesus and Paul, are those who have figured out what they stand for, it said. It must have impressed me because I printed out and stuck right above my desk the following words:
They have identified their purpose and pursue it with a passion.
That’s the image that sticks with me from this Bible reading. Jesus was a man on a mission. He knew where he was headed in life. And everything he did, he did with passion. That’s exactly what I liked about Alexander Cruden – he had a real passion in his life for God’s word. He wanted to tell others the good news message, he was passionate about observing the Lord’s day, he wanted to change the lives of those around him. He was compassionate and enthusiastic, he had a real zeal for God’s work.
I hope the same can be said about me and you.