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My 2018 journal article, “Desert Rose: Thomas Chalmers’ West Port Experiment (1844-1847),” published in the 2018 edition of The Confessional Presbyterian. Images used by permission. To purchase a copy, click here.

Petrus_et_Paulus_4th_century_etching (2)In the present debate over Aimee Byrd (et al.) and her book Recovering From Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, I have been forced to re-evaluate how and when naming names is appropriate in the Christian ‘public square.’ While it saddens me that rancor has developed among those with serious if not grave concerns over Byrd and company, it has at least helped me sharpen in my own mind a distinction that is vital.

For starters, I think the case is rather easily made that naming names in public matters involving public persons and opinions is unavoidable. To be sure, in private matters and where opinions are not openly set forth for public consumption, the order of the day is to deal with the brother privately to reclaim him. No one else need know, as it is a private affair. But there is only so much obfuscation possible with a big white elephant plopped down in the middle of the room.

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Brooks, Shelter of Shaddai

Flavel, Promises as a pregnant woman

[painting attribution]

Psalm 102'11-12 PsDM

IMG_3302“I am quite aware that the situation of some of the largest of our city churches in those central districts from which the better class of the population is rapidly receding towards the suburbs, and leaving their neighbourhoods to be occupied chiefly either by enormous warehouses, or by crowded masses of the very poorest people, renders it exceedingly difficult to use them in strict accordance with the territorial principle. I have a strong opinion that such districts will never be made what they ought to be in reference to church attendance and religion till this difficulty is boldly faced and completely overcome, and till the districts are worked and superintended as regular parishes, with their own ministers and kirk-sessions, responsible to the Church at large, and particularly to the presbytery of their bounds, for their faithful management. In some instances, however, transitional expedients might for a time be resorted to with advantage. A church confessedly too large for one parish of manageable extent might, for example, be used as the church not only of the district specially designated as its proper parish, but also of several other districts annexed to it for the nonce. Each of these should have its own minister from the first, and eventually would have its own church; but till things were made ripe for this latter consummation, the ministers of all the districts would work together from a common centre and have different services in the same church. Possibly in this way, by combined endeavours of a systematic kind, and by a variety of agencies and services, good might be done for all the districts in question, which could not be done for any one of them apart by itself. Nevertheless the expedient at best is of doubtful issue, and should only be tried in extreme cases ; and the thorough-going remedy of separate churches and of independent territorial work, wherever practicable, is to be preferred.”

– William Smith, Endowed Territorial Work, pp. 171-72.

The following chapter entitled, “The Parson Catechizing,” is taken from George Herbert’s (1593-1633) classic of pastoral theology, A Priest to the Temple, or, The Country Parson his Character and Rule of Holy Life. Herbert, a celebrated English poet, was a minister in the Church of England. Though a conformist, his work surely merits serious attention by the heirs of nonconformity – a definitely pre-Baxter Baxterian. May the lost duty & art of pastoral catechizing be revived and stimulated by this rich contribution! [Recorded in audio here.]

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The Country Parson values catechizing highly: for there being three points of his duty; the one, to infuse a competent knowledge of salvation in every one of his flock; the other, to multiply, and build up this knowledge to a spiritual temple; the third, to inflame this knowledge, to press, and drive it to practice, turning it to reformation of life, by pithy and lively exhortations; catechizing is the first point, and but by catechizing, the other cannot be attained. Besides, whereas in sermons there is a kind of state, in catechizing there is an humbleness very suitable to Christian regeneration; which exceedingly unnameddelights him as by way of exercise upon himself, and by way of preaching to himself, for the advancing of his own mortification; for in preaching to others, he forgets not himself, but is first a sermon to himself, and then to others; growing with the growth of his parish.

He useth, and preferreth the ordinary church catechism, partly for obedience to authority, partly for uniformity sake, that the same common truths may be every where professed, especially since many remove from parish to parish, who like Christian soldiers are to give the word, and to satisfy the congregation by their catholic answers.

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IMG_9458So a young lady, “Leah,” has come within our church’s orbit from our S. Providence outreach. Her story is shared here and here.

Leah doesn’t have a credible profession of faith, though she considers herself a Christian. In many ways, she is as the Ninevites of old, who did not know their “left hand from their right” in spiritual matters. But she has been encouraging in many ways. Since November, she has been faithfully coming to church with her precious little baby boy and eagerly participating in a Bible study. So far, we’ve tackled the first fourteen chapters of Genesis.

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Chalmers, A Neglected Population

The rest of the quote runs, “And I say, farther, that there is a smouldering flame gathering at the bottom of the social edifice, which, if it be not speedily met and extinguished, will upheave the social edifice from its base, and overthrow all the institutions of the country.”

From “Dr. Chalmers’ Lecture,” Witness, June 19th, 1844