Friday, November 30, 2012

Setting Aside Our Nets

I'd never heard of Mark Frank until coming across a portion of one of his sermons, on St. Andrew, in Celebrating the Saints, a collection of daily spiritual readings which follows the calendar of the Church of England.

Mark Frank or Franck (1613–1664) was an English churchman and academic, Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge. Baptized at Little Brickhill,  Buckinghamshire, he was admitted pensioner of Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1627, elected to a scholarship in 1630, and to a fellowship in 1634, having become M.A. the same year. In 1641 he became B.D., and was chosen junior treasurer of his college, and senior treasurer in 1642. He had attracted the favorable notice of Charles I by a sermon he preached at Paul's Cross before the lord mayor and aldermen in 1641, which the king commanded to be printed. In 1644 he was ejected as a malignant by the parliamentary visitors, because he refused to take the Solemn League and Covenant.

Frank was re-established in his fellowship in 1660 after the Restoration, and was rewarded by ecclesiastical promotions. In 1661 he was made D.D. by royal mandate, and was chosen master of his college in 1662, succeeding Benjamin Lany. Archbishop William Juxon appointed him one of his chaplains, and he held the office of domestic chaplain and ex-officio licenser of theological works to Juxon's successor, Archbishop Gilbert Sheldon, by whom he was presented to the archdeaconry of St. Alban's, and to the treasurership of St. Paul's Cathedral in 1660. He was also presented to the rectory of Barley in 1663 by Matthew Wren. He died at the age 51 in 1664, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral. His Course of Sermons for all the Sundays and Festivals throughout the Year was published  in 1672, and was later republished in the library of Anglo-Catholic Theology.

Here is the portion of his sermon on St. Andrew which first attracted me: "And alas what have we, the best, the richest of us as highly as we think of ourselves and ours, more than Andrew and his brother: a few old broken nets? What are all our honors but old nets to catch the breath of the world? What are our estates but nets to entangle us? What are all our ways and devises of thriving but so many several nets to catch a little yellow sand and mud? What are all those fine catching ways of eloquence, knowledge, good parts of mind and body, but so many nets and snares to catch others with? The rational soul itself we too often make but a net to catch flies, petty, buzzing knowledges only; few solid sober thoughts. And our life itself, what is it but a few rotten threads knit together into veins and sinews, its construction so fragile that the least stick or stone can unloose it or break all to pieces. O blessed saint of this day, that we could but leave these nets as thou didst thine; that nothing might any longer entangle us or keep us from our Master's service! Follow we St. Andrew as he did Christ; follow him to Christ, cheerfully and without delay, and while it is today, begin our course...let Christ be your business, his life your pattern, his commands your law..." (Celebrating the Saints, compiled and introduced by Robert Atwell, Norwich: Canterbury Press, 1998, p. 453)

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