Archive for the ‘Historiography’ Category

In light of the ‘National Day of Mourning’ tomorrow, I find New England Puritan Increase Mather’s sermon here such an illuminating and worthy rejoinder. As the King Philip’s War (1675-1678) raged, natives attacking English settlements, he leads his contemporaries to probe the source. And it’s no hateful rant against the Indians! (Listen here; read here.)

Mather indicts the English settler’s provocations of the natives, including land-greed, which may well have contributed to the war. For these and other offenses, Mather takes off the gloves and summons his peers to repentance. But more, he rebukes them for growing cold and even in some cases becoming hostile to the explicit missionary intentions of the New England Fathers. How many had become prejudicial to these poor souls!

Definitely a cause for mourning, as the bodies piled up and the houses burned in 1676. But a far cry from the mourning of the modern “1619 Project” types who have swung from the one extreme of myopic idealization and historical whitewashing, to the other extreme of tarring and feathering everything that is European. The truth, as they say, is often in the middle.

I mourn today for all the wrongs my ancestors have done to those who lived before us — though hardly all of them, or even the majority. I further mourn for our national apostasy and covenant-breaking with God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and grieve for the judgments we are even now experiencing, one of which is a generation that has been taught to reject and abhor all things past, including the Pearl of Great Price that our ancestors brought with them to the New World.

But tomorrow I’m going to give thanks and remember the Pilgrim Fathers, and Squanto, and Massasoit, the fair treaties that were honored, and John Eliot’s work among the Massachusetts, and their Praying Villages, the myriad of other blessings we now enjoy in civil society where the rule of law prevails, and above all, the freedom to worship God according to His Word. God knows the New World was no native paradise before 1619.

For more audio resources from our Reformed heritage, visit WPE Audio.

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16th century lawn bowls“We show and teach daily in our sermons, that God took upon him our nature: but how do men hear them? Who is there that troubleth himself much to read the scripture? There are very few that attend to these things; every man is occupied with his own business. If there be one day in the week reserved for religious instruction, when they have spent six days in their own business, they are apt to spend the day which is set apart for worship, in play and pastime; Some rove about the fields, others go to the taverns to quaff: and there are undoubtedly at this time as many at the last mentioned place, as are here assembled in the name of God. Therefore, when we see so many shun and flee from this doctrine, can we marvel that there is such a brutishness, that we know not the rudiments of Christianity?”

– John Calvin, sermon on 1 Tim. 3:16

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downloadThe following is a quote from David Calderwood’s (1575-1650) introduction to the First and Second Books of Discipline of the Church of Scotland (1560 and 1578 respectively).  Here, we have a find statement of sound, Christian historiography.  It really goes to the heart of unbelief as applied to the doing of history in our modern, secular age.  “Let God arise, and His enemies be scattered!”

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“Is the Lord changed, because he changes the manner of his working? God forbid. For although he declares not in our times who belongs to him by miraculous fire sent from heaven, as in the days of Elijah; the earth opens not her mouth, as in the days of Korah; he rains not showers of brimstone upon the Sodomites of this age; he turns not such as look back into pillars of salt to season others; neither is his favour manifested towards his own secret ones in earthly and visible blessings, so wonderfully as of old; yet the God of Israel is our God, and the God of the old testament is the God of the new, and better testament, having still a secret and equivalent providence most wisely disposed, and framed for the weal of his kirk, according to the diversity of the ages succeeding one after another. So that no wise heart perceiving the course thereof could wish another than the present, howsoever the folly of infidelity blinds men to affect the miracles, ease, and outward prosperity of former generations, and if these fail, to cast themselves headlong in desperation, defection, or atheism. Yea, because he works not as before, in their haste they conclude that he works not at all.”

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William Hanna, son-in-law and biographer of Thomas Chalmers, here reflects on the bearing of Chalmers’ inner, spiritual history on his outer history in the public light.  Inner histories are certainly more inaccessible and uncertain to others.  “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?”  Even self-knowledge is murky at best.  Yet with the infallible light of Scripture, we may shed light on what is left us of the inner-histories of great men, shaping the parts they played on the stage of divine providence.

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“The events in which Dr. Chalmers mingled, and which ho helped so much to mould, were far from engrossing his thoughts. The part he took in them was in fact the product of those deeper convictions which rested upon the unseen and enduring objects of faith. Behind the outer history of his life there lay that inner spiritual history which made the other what it was. His correspondence, his speeches, his published writings, and his public acts, which furnish such ample materials for unfolding the one history, are absolutely barren as to the other. We know of no other iImagendividual of the same force and breadth of Christian character, who, in all his converse, public and private, with his fellow-men, spoke so little of himself, or afforded such slender means of information as to his own spiritual condition and progress, and yet it would be difficult to name another of whose deeper religious experience we have so full and so trustworthy a record. We owe this to the openness and perfect truthfulness of his private Journal. The strict reserve which he observed in his communications with others he entirely laid aside when communing with his own heart, the fullness of the one disclosure more than atoning for the stintedness of the other. The very breaks and gaps, the compressed or the expanded condition of his private Journal, when studied in connection with his external occupations during different periods, are themselves instructive. Judged of in this way, the year 1840 formed a marked epoch in his spiritual life, as exhibiting the commencement of that softening, refining, elevating process which, ripening to perfection, threw such a pure and mellow light of piety around his closing years—a light whose chastened lustre was perceived and felt even by those who saw not into the place of its birth.”


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