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Ryle, Reason begins, faith ends

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There we were in the manse on Saturday night, in that sleepy little Canadian town. The minister’s wife was giving him a haircut before his Sabbath labors the next day. He was, well, idiosyncratic. The thin-framed parson had quite the shock of unmanageable white hair, much like Doc Brown. He sat there with some smock-like cloth draped around him, his helpmate-hairdresser poised with bowl of water and comb. Soon she set to taming the wild mane with the moistened comb. Water applied, it seemed as though his head had shrunk by half.

As she went to work with her clippers, the old minister told me about The Days of the Fathers in Ross-Shire, an old classic of the glory days of 18th and 19th century Highlands-Islands Presbyterianism. His eyes beamed, and he cackled with boyish delight as he retold his favorite story about Samsonesque Aeneas Sage and his rather unconventional missionary exploits. There was something about this all that strongly impressed me. There was something of greatness, a romance and even a mystique about that legacy that lingered about the place. The old Scots-Irish town, its church, manse, and, of course, this amusing old minister still retained something of the glow of the “years of the right hand of the Most High.”

Suffice it to say, this green goyim just had to find and read the book. And I did, again and again. And having been ‘bit,’ I’ve retold the story of Rev. Sage over and over to anyone who would listen. My children can probably repeat it verbatim … with a few eye rolls thrown in for good measure! And as an old bookish minister friend of mine would sometimes say, “And if it isn’t true, it should be!

Just finished reading and recording it. You can access it here. I also post a wide variety of classical Reformed, Puritan, and Scottish Presbyterian sermons, articles, and books. I aim to fill gaps with relatively quality audio recordings, especially for the benefit of pastors and elders who work with thinner margins of time.

Just preparing for another Reformed Parish Mission (RPM) slideshow presentation, this time at my good friend Rob Ventura’s church, Grace Community Baptist in North Providence, R.I. Many thanks to him and the dear brethren there for allowing me the opportunity to share about the work!

As I’ve had to trim things some to make sure it fits in the allotted time, here is a segment that may be of interest to anyone who wants to learn about how Thomas Chalmers proposed for ‘general,’ non-local congregations gradually to transition to the parochial plan. I made this rough-cut video of the segment – maybe someday I’ll update with a cleaner version. For now, ‘What I have recorded I have recorded.’

Also, if you think your church or group would like to host an RPM presentation (30 minutes plus Q&A) drop me a note! I’ve also done it remotely by Zoom, so that is an option too.

So, an update on “Leah.” Once COVID-19 hit and our services went online for a couple of months, connections with Leah became brittle. We had been helping her find a job, and she did get one. But during that period where we were no longer picking her up for church every week and visiting face to face, she and her live-in fiance “Matthew” hit a rough patch, and he left. Another fellow soon came in his place. Very sad indeed. Leah truly was a ‘Samaritan woman,’ in desperate need of the True Man to set things right.

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Designed the diagram below as an aid in teaching catechism last Sabbath. Focusing on the 2nd Commandment at the moment.

S Cat 049-052 Sorting Worship [CCat]

Thought catechism was just for the baptized children of the church? Think again. The extracts below are taken from The Memoirs of the Rev. David Brainerd:

1746

Jan..4. “Prosecuted my catechetical method of instructing. Found my people able to answer questions with propriety, beyond what could have been expected from persons so lately brought out of Heathenish darkness. In the improvement of my discourse, there appeared some concern and affection in the assembly : and especially in those of whom I entertained hopes as being truly gracious, at least several of them were much affected and refreshed.

Lord’s day, Jan. 5. “Discoursed from Matt. xii. 10—13. There appeared not so much liveliness and affection in divine service as usual. The same truths which have often produced many tears and sobs in the assembly, seemed now to have no special influence upon any in it. Near night, I proposed to have proceeded in my usual method of catechising; but while we were engaged in the first prayer, the power of God seemed to descend upon the assembly in such a remarkable manner, and so many appeared under pressing concern for their souls that I thought it much more expedient to insist upon the plentiful provision made by divine grace for the redemption of perishing sinners, and to press them to a speedy acceptance of the great salvation, than to ask them questions about doctrinal points. What was most practical, seemed most seasonable to be insisted upon, while numbers appeared so extraordinarily solicitous to obtain an interest in the great Redeemer. Baptized two persons this day : one adult, the woman particularly mentioned in my Journal of Dec. 22, and one child” (268-69). Continue Reading »

IMG_2869We often say (and rightly so) that the church building is not the church.  After the advent of Christ, true worship was untethered to a sacred site.  And yet, while the structure of a Christian congregation possess no inherent sacredness, it is the theater where the drama of eternal things is played out.  Chalmers put it this way:

“What is to be done here may tell on the everlasting destiny not of ourselves only, but of our children’s children throughout many generations. We are sometimes told of the mighty doings which go on within the walls of an exchange, where the bargains that are made from week to week, the commercial transactions which are there settled bear on the state and fortune of whole classes of society—or within the walls of a university, where the lessons daily given are deposited Continue Reading »

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My recent journal article, “Pastor and Parish Redux: Thomas Chalmers’s Conversion & Kilmany Ministry, 1811-1815” (submitted copy), published in the July 2020 edition of the Puritan Reformed JournalImages used by permission. To purchase a copy, click here.

440px-Robert_Murray_McCheyne“No person can be a child of God without living in secret prayer; and no community of Christians can be in a lively condition without unity in prayer. In Daniel’s time you see how it was. (Dan. ii. 17, 18.) You see what Jesus said to his disciples on it (Mat. xviii. 19), and what a sweet promise of his presence and a gracious answer he connects with meeting for prayer. You see how it will be in the latter day (Zech. vii. 21), when meetings for prayer, or, at least, concerts for prayer, shall be held by different towns. One great rule in holding them is, that they be really meetings of disciples. If four or five of you, that know the Lord, would meet together regularly, you will find that far more profitable than a meeting open to all. In an open meeting you are apt to become teachers, and to be proud. In a secret meeting you feel all on a level, poor and needy, seeking water. If a young man, acquainted with any of you, becomes concerned about his soul, or a lively Christian is visiting any of you, these may be admitted; but do not make your meeting more open. Continue Reading »

Boston, The light of the Jews

“A Griegos y á bárbaros, á sabios y á no sabios soy deudor” (Rom. 1:14) —

Chalmers, Orator of the Species [Esp]

More quotes, sans image …

Communion of the Saints

“The speech of one hearty friend cannot but revive the spirits of another. Sympathy hath a strange force, as we see in the strings of an instrument, which being played upon, as they say, the strings of another instrument are also moved with it. After love hath once kindled love, then the heart, being melted, is fit to receive any impression. Unless both pieces of the iron be red hot, they will not join together. Two spirits warmed with the same heat will easily solder together.”

-Richard Sibbes

Faith & the Promise

“The faith of the promises is the door at which the accomplishment of the promises doth enter in: according to the word, Luke 1:45, Blessed are they that believe, for there shall be a performance of those things that are spoken of the Lord unto them. If we were more in waiting for the accomplishment of the promises, the vision should speak, and should not tarry: and no doubt, a mercy coming to us, as the fruit and performance of a promise, will make it an exceeding refreshful thing, when a Christian getteth leave to sing that song, which is in Isa 25:9, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will come and save us. And when a mercy is the fruit and accomplishment of the promise, there is a beautiful lustre and dye upon that mercy, which no art could set on, but only the finger of the love of God.”

-Andrew Gray

Regeneration of Children

“The education of children should proceed on the principle that they are in an unregenerate state, until evidences of piety clearly appear, in which case they should be sedulously cherished and nurtured. . . . Although the grace of God may be communicated to a human soul, at any period of its existence, in this world, yet the fact manifestly is, that very few are renewed before the exercise of reason commences; and not many in early childhood.”

-Archibald Alexander, Thoughts on Religious Experience

Honesty in Confessional Subscription

“Honesty is as important in theology as in trade and commerce, in a religious denomination as in a political party. Denominational honesty consists, first, in a clear, unambiguous statement by a Church of its doctrinal belief, and, second, in an unequivocal and sincere adoption of it by its members. Both are requisite. If a particular denomination makes a loose statement of its belief, which is capable of being construed in more than one sense, it is so far dishonest. If the creed of the denomination is well drawn and plain, but the membership subscribe to it with mental reservation and uncertainty, the denomination is dishonest. Honesty and sincerity are founded in clear conviction, and clear conviction is founded in the knowledge and acknowledgement of the truth. Heresy is a sin, and is classed by St. Paul among’the works of the flesh,’ along with ‘adultery, idolatry, murder, envy and hatred,’ which exclude from the kingdom of God. (Gal. v. 19-21). But heresy is not so great a sin as dishonesty. There may be honest heresy, but not honest dishonesty. A heretic who acknowledges that he is such, is a better man than he who pretends to be orthodox while subscribing to a creed which he dislikes, and which he saps under pretence of improving it and adapting it to the times. The honest heretic leaves the Church with which he no longer agrees; but the insincere subscriber remains within it in order to carry out his plan of demoralization.”

– W. G. T. Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed, 152

Trials in the Womb of the Covenant of Redemption

“Whatever trials you have, whatever troubles you have, whatever difficulties you have, they come from the same covenant as Christ came for your salvation. They come from the same covenant as your regeneration came. They come from the same covenant as your hope of heaven comes. And they come with the same love, and they come for the same purpose, and that is that you might be to the glory of his grace throughout eternity.”

-Hugh M. Cartwright (1943-2011)

The Virgin Mary’s “Low Estate”

“​In the following words she teaches us how worthless she felt of herself and that she received by the heavenly grace that was lavished on her every sort of good merit that she had. She says, “For he has considered the humility of his handmaid. For behold from this time on all generations will call me blessed.” She demonstrates that in her own judgment she was indeed Christ’s humble handmaid, but with respect to heavenly grace she pronounces herself all at once lifted up and glorified to such a degree that rightly her preeminent blessedness would be marveled at by the voices of all nations.”

-Venerable Bede

The Right Veneration of the Virgin

But that she was eminently a saint; that her faith, and resignation, and absolute devotion to God, on the message of the angel, were most extraordinary and exemplary; that her relation to our common Saviour should render her name dear and venerable to us all; and that we should fulfil our part of her own prediction, that “henceforth all generations shall call me blessed,” [Luke 1:48]—all this is not only to be admitted, but remembered and regarded​. . .  Yet in counteracting this error, the veneration and affection due to her true character, has, I think, been sometimes refused, or impaired. Let us avoid both extremes. Let us worship God alone; but let us love and venerate all his saints, and the mother of our Lord among the chief.”

-Ashbel Green

A Penitent Marveling at Common Grace

“Her self-conceited heart is self-convict’d,
With barbed arrows of compunction prick’d;
Wonders how justice spares her vital breath,
How patient heav’n adjourns the day of wrath;
How pliant earth does not with open jaws
Devour her, Korah-like, for equal cause;
How yawning hell, that gapes for such a prey,
Is frustrate with a further hour’s delay.”

-Ralph Erskine

“Social” Christianity & the Individual

“Nevertheless, the attempts to apply Christianity socially have profoundly affected the meaning which the Christian faith has for the average man and ordinary churchgoer. The emphasis on the social has largely stifled the spiritual nature of the faith. It has obscured the revealed fact that the Christian message was primarily to and for individuals. . . For the business of the Church in its God-given mission is to the individual and through the individual to society. Moreover, the Christian revelation holds out no hope for society except in so far as the men and women who form it are Christian, which for the secular State is a futile and unattainable ideal. It is therefore all the more essential that the truth should be understood that a Christian society can only be fashioned out of and by Christian men and women. . .”

“Evangelical ministers, holding their high commission as ambassadors of Christ, must ever plead with men to be reconciled to God. When people are reconciled to God they are in fact at peace with one another. From this peace, conditioned by faith in Jesus Christ, can alone arise a state of mutual peace among peoples of nations and a fellowship in peace of the states constituted of these reconciled peoples. . .”

“To-day, therefore, as at all times, the primary privilege and service of this ministry must be the regeneration of men who will become creators of a better and more really Christian civilisation.”

-Donald Maclean (1869–1943), Principal of the Free Church of Scotland and co-founder of the Evangelical Quarterly. From “An Evangelical Ministry.”-