In looking at this Reflection we must remember that Boyle lived in the 17th century. Unlike when we start a fire for one of a variety of reasons – pleasure, mood, one of our options for heat – it is just that… optional. When Boyle lit a fire it wasn’t optional, it was survival. The cost of failing here could be life itself.
Have you ever had to light a fire or been in the presence of someone who did? If you have, but only once, then things might have gone perfectly, and the fire lit without a hitch. If you have experienced this event more, then you have watched the battle between the wood and the fire starter. Let’s assume for a minute that fire starter is you. You balled up the paper and piled it in the fireplace. You’ve added to that some wonderfully seasoned (dried) hardwood. You hit the button on your lighter and confidently touch it to the papers. That confidence is short lived, however, as the papers have all but burned away and those nice dry logs have no more than a few tiny glowing orange spots that also begin to fade. What do you do? You do what Boyle did. You take a deep breath and begin to blow on those tiny embers. In a short time, having blown yourself out, maybe even to the point of light headedness, you wonder:
“How many fruitless Blasts have I been spending upon this sullen Fire!”
You begin to ask yourself, “Why won’t this fire start?” Then you realize… Yes, the wood is dry but they were very large pieces, too large for the fleeting flames of the papers to ignite. Or as Boyle put it:
“ `twas alone the greatness of the Loggs, on which the Fire could take no hold”
He realized, as you likely did, he had forgotten the “Twiggs.” For the logs you placed to burn, you must place smaller wood under them. These twiggs were much more vulnerable to the fire, thus easily ignited. Once lit they would hold the fire long enough to undermine the strength of the larger logs causing them to also ignite.
“I had no sooner laid on a little Brushwood, but the flame, from those kindled Twiggs,
invading and prevailing on the Billets, grew suddenly great enough to threaten to make the House itself part of its Fuel, and turn it to such Ashes
as it makes haste to reduce the Wood into.”
Now sitting in the warmth of his new fire, Boyle gazed into it and thought:
“…this Fire should light me to discern something instructive in it”
His Reflections were this:
The “Blocks” or great logs represent “our Necessary” or the essentials, the big important parts of our relationship with God. The “Sticks” or twiggs, “our less important, Religious practices.” Finally, the “aspiring Flame” which he saw as representing “the subtile Inhabiter of that of Hell.” It is his analysis of these three parts that brought me to share this particular Reflection with you. He goes on to submit that “the Devil can attempt our grand Resolves,” (our Necessary) but like Boyle’s attempts to light the large logs, the Devil would do so without success. For example, most people who call themselves Christians, even those who are really unbelievers, if confronted directly with the exclamation that there is No God, would stiffen their Resolve and defend His existence. Boyle points out that the Devil’s success is to “have first master’d our less considerable ones.” Continuing with the example, as pointed out in “The Omnipotence of Man,” when God’s existence is nibbled at the edges, those same Christians turn to ash. Having been successful against the “less considerable ones,” his flame (power) not only gets stronger but these “more neglected and seemingly trivial Affections,” have become his instruments against the others. Once these “twiggs” have all “receiv’’d his Fiery impressions” (aspiring flame) they serve to “Kindle (ignite) solider Materials” (the logs). Finishing the example: Once the Devil’s “aspiring Flame” has burnt away the idea that God is exactly who, what, and how the Bible says He is, the Great Log has already begun to burn.
Can you see why this Reflection ended up here? We spend a lot of time referencing “The Moments.” The way we think or act in the little moments being the thing that builds and reflects our stand with God. Boyle points to the same idea but looks at it from the other side of the coin. Boyle concludes:
“It is therefore the safest way, to be faithful ev’n to our lesser Determinations, and watchful over our less predominant Passions…”
Boyle points out that what we suggest is the point at which our Godliness begins, is also the point of greatest weakness. This is the point the Devil will begin to undermine that same Godliness. Boyle submits that we consider these little things so inconsiderable that we don’t look too close as to consider the consequences if we “Violate” or “Neglect” them.
Boyle leaves us with this:
“to consider the importance of what such slighted things may, as they are manag’d, prove Instrumental, either to endanger, or preserve.”
I leave you with this:
Our ultimate goals as Christians are to honor God, Live with His Character, and remain strong and invulnerable to the Devil’s attempts to undermine the same. Lucifer, as one of God’s greatest creations, is no dummy, and he knows these Goals are met or surrendered in the moments. Knowing this is where he will be most effective, this is where he attacks. So be sure to pay attention! Watch for the “aspiring fire” the Devil will use to tempt you and ignite the flames of destruction of your Godliness. Remember the “twiggs” of our religious practices can be a strength or a vulnerability if they are no more than rituals practiced without consideration to our “Great Log.” The “Great Log,” our commitment to God, is the only thing that matters and we should live every moment aware that in that moment we can either open ourselves to “the Devil,” or “Improve Life” and honor God!
© Scott A Caughel 11/20/2018