Go local, grow local!

Unless otherwise noted here prior to the event, the lecture will be livestreamed here:


Just finished reading and recording Alexander Shield’s Church Communion Inquired Into (1706). Listen to it here, or read it below. This treatise is such a highwater-mark of classic Presbyterianism, with particular focus on the visible unity of the Church of Christ. It was his heartfelt, pastoral appeal to his brethren who refused to enter the Revolution Church of 1690 on account of its putative corruptions, urging them to reconsider their separation. It is not the easiest of reads, for sure, as it was written in the midst of controversy, among other things. But it is a definitive work on Presbyterian catholicity, right after James Durham’s On Scandal. Here is a very moving appeal from his conclusion:

“Keep your Zeal lively against all sin, but let it have two edges, to resent the Dishonour done to God, by Schism as well as defection; let it be Ballanced with Charity, and managed with Discretion. And we request you, that you study Uniformity in your Zeal, that you be not like Cake unturned, hot for some lesser Points in Religion, and cold for other Duties, but with a regular Proportion to their Concern in the Vitals of Religion. Let Religion be more in your Heart than Head, in Practice than in Controversie. Neglect not the Duties of your General Calling of Piety towards God, Sobriety in your selves, Righteousness and Mercy to Men, Brotherly Love, and Holy Christian Fellowship; And forget not the relative Duties of your particular Callings. Have a care of the Idleness of busy Bodies. 1 Thess. 4.11. But study to be quiet, and do your own business, and to work with your own hands. Beware of them that cause Divisions and Offenses, and avoid them. And look on them that blow the Bellows of Contention as no Friends to your or the Church’s Interest. Finally, study to be United one with another, and with your Pastors make Acquaintance, and entertain frequent and Friendly Converse with them, receive the Law at their Mouth, for they are the Messengers of the Lord of Hosts: Grieve them not by your Contempt, or continued Withdrawing, lest they be put to Complain of you to God, and it become Sin unto you.”

Here is a summary of the author by Matthew Vogan: “Alexander Shields (1660?–1700) is less well known than other field preachers such as Donald Cargill, Richard Cameron, and James Renwick. One of the last of the field preachers and a close associate of James Renwick, he was also a prisoner on the Bass Rock. He was a prolific writer and ably defended the Covenanter principles in the classic book A Hind Let Loose. After the Revolution of 1689, he was chaplain to the Cameronian regiment fighting against France in defence of Holland and the Protestant cause. In 1699, he was also among the first foreign missionaries of the Church of Scotland in the infamous Darien venture to what is now known as Panama. He died and was buried in Jamaica in 1700 at the age of forty. John Macleod well describes him as ‘one of the most striking figures of his epoch’. The life of this zealous young man is uniquely interesting and instructive.” Learn more about Shields and this treatise in Vogan’s two-part article, “Alexander Shields, the Revolution Settlement and the Unity of the Visible Church” (2013).

Listen to other titles at WPE Audio

Para ver más títulos, vaya aquí.

Para ver más títulos, vaya aquí.

Have a listen to recorded sermons by the Second Reformation divine, the great architect of the Church of Scotland in that era, Alexander Henderson. More titles from this and other expanding shelves in my audio library here.

Principal John Macleod in his definitive work, Scottish Theology in Relation to Church History (1943), wrote the following:

“There are great times in which a crop of great men is raised up. In one sense all times are great by reason of the opportunities which they offer and the duties for which they call. Men in quiet times, however, live in an age that tells on the more stirring times ahead and their influence will contribute to the stir and bustle of those times when they come. The quiet times see the stream of life running a more smooth and less exciting course. They may be said to be the days of the average man or of the leading man that is distinctly small. The days of the Second Reformation were not of the tame an uneventful kind. They were days when things happened that are not forgotten and great men appeared on the field and had the chance to show their quality. The leader of the Church of Scotland in those days was not one of the creatures of the court exalted to dignified office above his brethren. There were such men with honours thrust upon them—yet not against their will—strutting their petty hour upon the stage. They were, however, but the puppets and tools of the royal policy. The leader who emerged when the call his work came was the minister of a quiet parish in Fife where he had almost as his next neighbor the Archbishop of St Andrews. The Archbishop was Spottiswoode, and the minister was Alexander Henderson.”

[Is a link broken? Please drop me a note! mjives dot refparish at gmail dot com]

Just finished recording this masterful article by Principle John Macleod (1872-1948) of the Free Church of Scotland. While it is somewhat encumbered by historical details less familiar to the American reader, it is still a fresh, perceptive, and prophetic appeal for the old adherence to full, good faith subscription to the Confession of Faith. If you’re a historic Presbyterian belonging to or respectful of the old Church of Scotland and Free Church testimonies, you owe it to yourself. The PDF of the article is below; and here is a ‘handful of purpose’:

“The Churches of Scotland were unprepared for the day that had overtaken them. In their halting uncertainty they suffered a tendency that was inimical to their historical faith to effect a lodgment in their bosom. They lost sight of the essential simplicity of the Christian position- “Heaven’s easy artless unencumbered plan.” When John tells us that he wrote his Gospel that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing we might have life through His Name he thought the witness borne by his fellows and himself to be ground enough for the faith of Christians to build upon. Christian faith through the ages has responded to this claim. It was the claim not only of the Apostle but of the Holy Ghost who spoke in him. It is undoubtedly the mind of the Spirit that the evidence which He thus bore to the truth as it is in Jesus should suffice for the Church of God to the end of time and to the ends of the earth. What was thus in the Gospels claimed by the Apostles for the witness that they bore they claimed for their teaching in the Epistles. They spoke not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Ghost teaches. They could say, ‘We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us.’ Such claims were in full keeping with the promises given to them in the Upper Chamber. There has been from the beginning a Holy Catholic Church -define it how we may- to whose care and keeping the New Testament books were committed and from whose hands in successive generations her children have received them as being alike in their witness and in their teaching the crystallised and perpetuated ministry of the Apostles. As many as are willing to sit at their feet, as they thus continue to bear witness and to teach, will learn to treat the Old Testament. Scriptures as the Lord and His Apostles did. Here we have the common view of Holy Writ held throughout historical Christendom. On this view the whole structure of Christian Theology is built. To maintain the superstructure we must defend the substructure.”

Check out my growing audio library here.

The following selections are from Alcuin of York (c. 735-804), some of which were directed to the Emperor Charlemagne​. Drawn from The History of Christian Missions, by George Frederick Maclear (1863).

* * * *

“The Apostolic Order . . . is first to teach all nations, then is to follow the administration of baptism, and further instruction in Christian duties. Therefore in teaching those of riper years, that order should be strictly maintained, which the blessed Augustine has laid down in his treatise on this special subject.

First, a man ought to be instructed in the immortality of the soul, in the future life, in its retribution of good and evil, and in the eternal duration of both conditions.

Secondly, he ought to be taught for what crimes and sins he will be condemned to suffer with the devil everlasting punishment, and for what good and beneficial actions he will enjoy eternal glory with Christ.

Thirdly, he ought most diligently to be instructed in the doctrine of the Trinity, in the advent of the Saviour for the salvation of mankind, in His life, and passion, His resurrection, ascension, and future coming to judge the world. Strengthened and thoroughly instructed in this faith, let him be baptized, and afterwards let the precepts of the Gospel be further unfolded by public preaching, till he attain to the measure of the stature of a perfect man, and become a worthy habitation of the Holy Ghost.”

Alcuin in another letter exhorts the emp​e​r​o​r to provide competent catechists for his newly-conquered subjects: “They ought to follow the example of the apostles in preaching the Word of God; for they at the beginning were wont to feed their hearers with milk, that is, gentle precepts, even as the Apostle Paul saith, ‘And I,​ ​brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed​ ​you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were​ ​not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able​.’​ And​ ​thereby that great Apostle of the whole world, Christ​ ​speaking in him, signified that newly converted tribes ought​ ​to be nourished with mild precepts, like as children are with milk, lest if austerer precepts be taught, their weak​ ​mind should reject what it drinks. Whence also the Lord​ ​Jesus Christ Himself in the Gospel replied to those asking
Him why His disciples fasted not, ‘Men put not new​ ​wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine​ ​runneth out, and the bottles perish; but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.’ For, as the​ ​blessed Jerome saith, the virgin purity of the soul which​ ​has never been contaminated with former vice is very different from that which has been long in bondage to foul​ ​lusts and passions.”

“In this sacrament​ . . . there are three visible​ ​and three invisible things. The visible things are the​ ​priest, the person to be baptized, and the water; the in​ ​visible are the Spirit, the soul, and faith. The three visible things effect nothing externally, if the three invisible​ ​have no internal operation. The priest washes the body​ ​with water, the Spirit justifies the soul by faith. He that​ ​will be baptized must offer his body to the mystery o​f​ the sacred washing, and his mind to the voluntary reception of the Catholic Faith. These points ought a teacher​ t​o consider most diligently if he desire the salvation of the​ ​neophyte, and he must beware of slothfully or carelessly​ ​celebrating so great a sacrament.”

[image source]