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Archive for the ‘Church of Scotland’ Category

“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!).

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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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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.

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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.

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Figures_Moses_fixes_the_brazen_Serpent_on_a_pole“As to the attendance of the people on the Sabbath ministrations of the missionary, you will doubtless find that they will give you very fair promises. They may all say they will go to church; but by many of them the promises will not be kept. In such circumstances, a very good plan, which I would recommend to you, would be this, — Let either the agent of the district, or some person on whom he can depend, after the hour at which the various churches go in, go to the district where the defaulters, — reside, and entering one of their houses, beg to be allowed to conduct a family exercise, to which the neighbours may be called in. Depend upon it, they will take it very well. They will of course feel themselves caught . . . but still they will tolerate you, and make their escape next Sabbath, by going to the place of worship. That’s one of a variety of doing the thing. It will bring them in contact with the gospel at any rate. The great matter is to get them into the habit of church-going.”

-Thomas Chalmers, 1844 lecture on the eve of the West Port Experiment

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