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Archive for the ‘Church of Scotland’ Category

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

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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]

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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.


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“Our Reformers were men of great wisdom, undaunted courage, irrepressible zeal and strong faith. They relied not on human expediency, vain traditions, or worldly wisdom, but on God’s promised blessing on His own means. They went direct to the Bible for all their plans, and the result was that every rag of rotten Popery, and every relic of the Amorite was purged away, and cast forth as things accursed into the region of eternal detestation, and the pure evangel set up instead. In the language of George Gillespie:

‘The Church of Scotland was blessed with a more glorious and perfect reformation than any of our neighbor Churches. The doctrine, discipline, regiment, and policy established here by ecclesiastical and civil laws, and sworn and subscribed unto by the king’s majesty and [the] several presbyteries and parish churches of the land, as it had the applause of foreign divines; so was it in all points agreeable unto the word; neither could the most rigid Aristarchus of these times challenge any irregularity of the same.'”

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These words are drawn from the opening of David Hay Fleming’s four-part series of articles in the Original Secession Magazine in 1878 entitled, “The Discipline of the Reformation.” I’ve just finished recording the fourth today. Listen to them here. The PDF is below. And check out more titles in my expanding amateur audio library.

I do not suggest that everything our fathers in the Reformation and Second Reformation did or said regarding discipline should be carried over in toto today. Nor do I think Fleming himself thought this. But before we too quickly dismiss what we may judge austere or harsh, let us consider that we are just as much creatures of our time as they were. And if we shouldn’t be slaves to their judgments, yet we still ought to honor father and mother. And listen to them in the first case!

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Listen to this classic work of Presbyterian church government written by London divines at the time of the Westminster Assembly. But fair warning: not for the faint of heart! But if you’re a thinker and would like to learn as you go, let me do the reading for you. [Project in progress.]

“Arguably the best biblical defenses of presbyterian ecclesiology and explanations of its polity were produced in the seventeenth century. Among these, none has a reputation better than an English work with the Latin title Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici, with the English subtitle The Divine Right of Church Government. In three successive editions, two of which were penned during the time that the Westminster Assembly met, ‘sundry’ London ministers laid out their case. In the first part of the book they demonstrate that there is a government of the church established and revealed by God. In the second part of the book they describe that government, explain its benefits to God’s people, and further develop the biblical and theological justifications for presbyterianism.

Chris Coldwell’s new edition of this classic work will prove a most welcome addition to the Presbyterian minister’s or even church member’s bookshelf. The entire book was addressed to people who were not yet persuaded regarding the merits of presbyterian church government. It hardly needs to be said that such an audience has only expanded in the Christian world and that many people could benefit from understanding a principled form of church government rather than ones where leaders (or members) make it up as they go along. This critical edition is almost a third longer than earlier abridged versions. It offers David Noe’s translations of Latin material and a thoughtful introduction. The edition also evidences Coldwell’s careful editorial work and successful sleuthing, in some cases solving puzzles that have stumped historians for centuries. Editor, subscribers, and publisher are to be thanked for this invaluable scholarly contribution.” 

— Chad Van Dixhoorn, editor of The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly 1643–1652

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Read the entire chapter from William Cunningham’s Historical Theology: A Review of the Principal Discussions in the Christian Church Since the Apostolic Age (1863). Or, listen to the audio here.

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The first installment of my series on the distinctives of the Presbyterian Reformed Church, or the old Scottish Presbyterian doctrine, worship, government, and discipline. Below is a very lightly edited transcript (special thanks to sister Susan!).

* * * *

Psalm 78:5 – Our Testimony, Part 1: Psalm Singing

Turn with me to Psalm 78 and verse 5, in which we read the words, For he [that is the Lord] established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children…

The Seventy-eighth Psalm opens with the words that concern the passing along, the faithful passing along, of the fear of the Lord, the right worship of God, the doctrine that had been revealed to the people of God from one generation to another. It is, as we have not too terribly long ago considered, the way of the Lord to deal through generations. Yes, he saves individuals, and there is none who are saved but individuals; and yet individuals find themselves planted by the hand of God, more oftentimes than not, within families. Indeed, we are all children of fathers and mothers, and so it pleases the Lord that, by and large, within his church there should be families, one generation succeeding the other.

Well, it was commanded Abraham that he should teach his children in the ways of the Lord and the Lord said, I know Abraham that he will command his children after him that they may keep the way of the Lord, that God might fulfill his promise that he had for them. Joshua, that courageous and valiant man, he had become old and gray-headed, and he stood before the congregation at a crossroads, when one generation was to succeed the other and he charged them: If the Lord be God then serve him, or if these other gods of the nations, if they be true, then go your ways, but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Well, Psalm 78 is a psalm in which these themes are captured, the concept of the receiving of the the truth, and passing that along to the next generation. We have a responsibility – fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters in Jesus Christ, to hold onto what God has given us; in the words of Psalm 78:5, that testimony, that witness to the truth, and to pass it along to the next generation – which means two things: We must maintain what we have received, and not let it slip though our fingers, not grow lax and careless, and we must then impart them to the next generation, that they may be faithful in the Lord.

(more…)

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The following is a series of messages given to lay out the distinctives of the Presbyterian Reformed Church, a denomination organized through the instrumentality of Professor John Murray in 1965, committed to the principles of historic Scottish Presbyterianism in doctrine, worship, government, and discipline, as enshrined in the original Westminster Confession of Faith (1646).

(Note: The title “Our Testimony” is merely thematic, and does not refer to a supplementary ecclesiastical document besides the Westminster Standards as is done among Reformed Presbyterian brethren.)

Original Series

Our Testimony, Part 1: Psalm Singing

Our Testimony, Part 2: Instruments in Worship

Our Testimony, Part 3: Presbyterianism

Our Testimony, Part 4: Holy Days, True & False

Our Testimony, Part 5: Confessionalism

Our Testimony, Part 6: Experimental Religion

Our Testimony, Part 7: The Free Offer of the Gospel

Our Testimony, Part 8: Religious Establishments #1

Our Testimony, Part 8: Religious Establishments #2

Our Testimony, Part 9: Head Coverings

Our Testimony, Part 10: Liberty of Conscience

Our Testimony, Part 11: Our Communion Practice

Our Testimony, Part 12: Frequency of Communion

Additional Messages

One Table, One Cup, One Bread

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Interested in learning more about Chalmers? Here are several helpful resources (in addition to mine) for those who want to explore his life and thought further.

(1) Introductions online

(2) Audio/visual resources online

(3) Biographies & scholarly references

  • Sandy Finlayson, Thomas Chalmers (Bitesize Biographies)
  • John Roxborogh, Thomas Chalmers, Enthusiast for Mission
  • Hugh Watt, Thomas Chalmers and the Disruption
  • Stewart J. Brown, Thomas Chalmers and the Godly Commonwealth in Scotland

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I recently added a tremendous sermon by Thomas Halyburton (1674-1712), representing some of the best of the old, venerable Old Church of Scotland. Explore further recorded sermons at WPE Audio!

Dr. Beeke below gives an introduction to Haylburton, who was buried next to Samuel Rutherford:

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