Dec 17

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“Soot & Varnish”

After twelve years of tedious labor, one of the most dramatic restorations in artistic history—the paintings by Michelangelo on the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel—is finished. Although the Frescoes were finished in 1512, it was not long until they became grimy from the charcoal braziers used in the chapel. Uncertain as to how to remove the dark smoky coating, and perhaps fearful of harming the paintings, restorers of earlier centuries used varnish and animal glues, which gave only a temporary sheen. In time, this coating also became dark, thus making the paintings even darker. More varnish would be applied, and the cycle would continue. The soot and the varnish took its toll through the decades in covering up the details, the color, and the true genius of Michelangelo.
Only recently has modern science reached a point where a restoration process could be utilized in cleaning the Frescoes. As soon as the first attempts were completed, the restorers saw that they would not only be uncovering history, but they would also be revealing the true method and technique of Michelangelo which had long been concealed. As it stood, all that could be seen were ocher, black maroon, and olive—but, after being cleansed from years of grime, there glowed lemon yellows, lime greens, neon shades of purple and pink. This discovery called into question the long-standing theories concerning his technique as a Fresco artist. Gianlurgi Colaucci, the chief restorer, said “Remember that our knowledge of Michelangelo as a painter is based solely on these paintings. People have only been able to judge these pictures in this state. There was even one theory that the lunettes represented Michelangelo’s dark, despairing view of sinful humanity. Now we see it’s not that at all!”
It appears that what we knew or at least much of what we knew of this great artist is wrong. The style and philosophy of what was attributed to him is gone, and the discovery of the real Michelangelo has been made. While this may be exciting to most artists and historians, there are those according to Colaucci, who are resentful and suspicious. Thus, with proof glaring before their eyes, they doubt that which has been proven.
Is this not an illustration of many people in regard to religion? During the time of Jesus there were those who read the scriptures through “soot and varnish.” Through the ages, the Jews had grown to expect an earthly king to come and lead them in revolt against Rome and become a great military and political power as they had once been under David and Solomon. Thus, when Jesus came claiming to be The King, they would not accept Him since He claimed to be a spiritual king ruling a spiritual kingdom. Yet, by many infallible proofs did Jesus clearly manifest Himself as the Son of God, and at the trial, so innocent was He, that the Jews could not prove their accusation and were forced to bring in false witnesses. Thus, with proof glaring before their eyes, they disbelieved that which could not be denied, and held fast to that which could not be proven.
There are those today in Christianity (in the broad sense of the word) who read the Scriptures through “soot and varnish.” There are old and erroneous doctrines such as : salvation by faith only, once saved always saved, premillennialism, present day tongue speaking, miracles and such like. These have been believed for so long, or have been believed by so many, or have been believed by some great person(s) that no matter how clearly one may disprove them, these people still disbelieve that which cannot be denied, and hold fast to that which cannot be proven.
God is not pleased with such actions. If one has had a truth obscured from his eyes due to earlier teachings, when he then learns the truth, God expects him to be, not like Michelangelo’s doubtful sceptics, rather, out of his love and respect for God and the truth, to make the corrections. Proverbs 23:23 states “Buy the truth and sell it not.” This means that truth is so valuable that one should give up everything necessary in order to obtain it. If one finds himself in contradiction to a Biblical truth, he should give up his falsehood no matter what it costs. One striving for the prize of heaven will not let tradition, pride, job, hobby, peer-pressure, and the such like keep him from “buying the truth.” Why is truth so valuable? It is the truth and only the truth that will set men free from sin.
Jesus said that the truth (which we are to buy at all costs) is the Word of God (John 17:17). However, many seem to think that just because one comes quoting verses and “sounding” Biblical in his reasoning that he is preaching the unaltered truth. Satan did this and Jesus had to correct him (Mt. 4:6-7). There were those who would use the Scriptures, but they would twist their meaning into falsehood (2 Pet. 3:16).
Brethren we MUST beware, for many false teachers are active (1 John 4:1), who are disguised as teachers of the truth (Acts 20:29-30), who, being evil, appear to be ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:15), who give all indications of being Godly (2 Tim. 3:5), who secretly bring in false teachings (2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 4) and false doctrines (1 Tim. 4:1), which are made to sound true to the Bible (Rom. 16:18) yet carries away unsuspecting souls away to destruction (2 Pet. 2:1).
We beg those in denominations to see through the “soot and varnish” and “buy the truth and sell it not.” Also, since Satan is so craftily active, we, too, need to constantly beware lest we should find ourselves looking at the Bible through “soot and varnish” (2 Pet. 3:17).

Gary Henson

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