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A few updates on the Reformed Parish Mission effort.

Leah. First of all, after some initial baby steps, there’s been some definite faltering. Church attendance has been more checkered (and that’s putting it nicely). She has been, however, a part of a Zoom Bible study I lead, where my wife, Leah, and a couple of other young single ladies join me for lessons in Genesis. She’s very attentive and an eager learner. I’m often struck at how on-point her answers and observations are, given her lower education and troubled past. A sharp cookie! But still, concerned about her spiritual state, as well as that of her fiancé.

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“There is one lesson that we need not teach, for experience has already taught it, and that is, the kindly influence which the mere presence of a human being has upon his fellows. Let the attention bestowed upon another, be the genuine emanation of good-will, and there is only one thing more to make it irresistible. The readiest way of finding access to a man’s heart, is to go into his house; and there to perform the deed of kindness, or to acquit ourselves of the wonted and the looked for acknowledgment. By putting ourselves under the roof of a poor neighbour, we in a manner put ourselves under his protection—we render him for the time our superior—we throw our reception on his generosity, and we may be assured that it is a confidence which will almost never fail us. If Christianity be the errand on which the movement is made, it will open the door of every family; and even the profane and the profligate will come to recognise the worth of that principle, which prompts the unwearied assiduity of such services. By every circuit which is made amongst them, there is attained a higher vantage-ground of moral and spiritual influence; and, in spite of all that has been said of the ferocity of a city population, in such rounds of visitation there is none of it to be met with, even among the lowest receptacles of human worthlessness. This is the home walk in which is earned, if not a proud, at least a peaceful popularity—the popularity of the heart—the greetings of men, who, touched even by the cheapest and easiest services of kindness, have nothing to give but their wishes of kindness back again; but, in giving these, have crowned such pious attentions with the only popularity that is worth the aspiring after—the popularity that is won in the bosom of families, and at the side of death-beds.”

Thomas Chalmers, Collected Works, 14:49-50

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“It must now be obvious to all of you, that it is not enough that you give money, and add your name to the contributions of charity. You must give it with judgment. You must give your time and your attention. You must descend to the trouble of examination. You must rise from the repose of contemplation, and make yourself acquainted with the object of your benevolent exercises. Will he husband your charity with care, or will he squander it away in idleness and dissipation?”

To give money, is not to do all the work and labour of benevolence. You must go to the poor man’s sick bed. You must lend your hand to the work of assistance. You must examine his accounts. You must try to recover those debts which are due to his family. You must try to recover those wages which are detained by the injustice or the rapacity of his master. You must employ your mediation with his superiors. You must represent to them the necessities of his situation. You must solicit their assistance, and awaken their feelings to the tale of his calamity. This is benevolence in its plain, and sober, and substantial reality; though eloquence may have withheld its imagery, and poetry may have denied its graces and its embellishments. This is true and unsophisticated goodness” (Chalmers, Works, 11:302-4).

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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 »