Sitting in the Seat Of Mockers

In Psalm One King David says “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates both day and night.” What does it mean to sit in the seat of the mocker? To mock by definition is “to tease or laugh at in a scornful or contemptuous manner.” It also means “to make something seem laughably unreal or impossible.” One does not have to read very far in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” to understand that Twain definitely sits in the seat of the mocker. Despite his prodigious talent, or maybe because of it, Twain could not make peace with his maker. In their biography of Twain, Ward, Duncan and Burns note that “Twain knew from the start that God was the greatest dramatist, and much of his genius can be found in simply getting out of the way of a good story. He took for granted that God was everywhere, but Twain’s own search disappointed him continually.”1

In the chapter entitled “The Pinch Bug and His Prey” 2 Twain describes a church service. Of the choir he says “The choir always tittered and whispered all through the service. There was once a church choir that was not ill bred, but I have forgotten where it was now.” Of the announcements: “Rev. Mr. Sprague turned himself into a bulletin board and read off ‘notices’ of meetings and societies and things till it seemed that the list would stretch out to the crack of doom….” Of the prayer: “And now the minister prayed. A good, generous prayer it was, and it went into details.” Having grown up attending a Baptist church in a small town I personally find these images hilarious. Believe me I sat through every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday evening service the church had, and not a few of them had tittering choirs, a list of announcements as long as the constitution and droning prayers. Yet despite the frailties of our human worship, those services made a deep impression upon me that remains to this day. I am deeply appreciative for that heritage.

When Twain describes the preaching he says “The minister gave out his text and droned along monotonously through an argument that was so prosy that many a head by and by began to nod- and yet it was an argument that dealt in limitless fire and brimstone and thinned the predestined elect down to a company so small as to be hardly worth the saving.” When I read this I must admit I laughed. Twain is riotously funny. Yet that is the very danger of mockery. It makes what is serious seem “laughably unreal.” What the above statement told me was that Twain knew quite a bit. If you are familiar with the idea of the elect, you have more than a passing knowledge of Christianity. The Bible makes clear that we are creatures meant for eternity and that all of us have an eternal destiny to be spent somewhere. Making hell seem amusing gives men the idea that they can be complacent in their lives about finding God. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is not a man in hell today that thought he would be there. As the famous puritan preacher Jonathon Edwards says “Men flatter themselves that they will escape hell.” Twain continues “The minister made a grand and moving picture of the assembling together of the world’s hosts at the millennium when the lion and the lamb should lie down together and a little child should lead them. But the pathos, the lesson, the moral of the great spectacle were lost upon the boy.” What Twain is describing here is more than “a great spectacle.” What he is describing is the return of the King. When Christ returns in his glory. The Bible makes clear that Jesus Christ is the only hope man has to be released from his imprisoned state as a sinner and be restored to a relationship with God. Someday Christ will return and it will be the most glorious entrance any King ever made and “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Philippians 2:9-11 ) It is clear in his writing that Twain is working out his struggle both with life and with God and he draws us into it. When Twain says “the pathos, the lesson, the moral of the great spectacle were lost upon the boy” he means they were lost upon himself. He is searching for God, but he cannot find him. He can’t find him because Twain sits in the seat of mocker. One can only find God by humbling himself and sitting in the seat of worshiper. That is to acknowledge that we are the creature he is the creator and we will never understand all. We must believe and have faith. God has given us many and numerous reasons to believe, as many as the stars in the sky. He has given enough reasons and proofs that men of the highest intellect should be astounded. The problem of faith in God is never due to God not providing enough evidence, it is due to man not being willing to humble himself in the face of such astonishing, overwhelming clarity of truth.

1Ward, Duncan and Burns, Mark Twain: An Illustrated Biography (New York: Knopf, 2001).
2Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (New York: Grossett & Dunlap, 1974).

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