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Archive for the ‘Vital Godliness’ Category

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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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. (more…)

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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.”-

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IMG_0229Chalmers made no bones about the fact that the parish method of home missions was best. And with the confident precision of an engineer, he detailed how it should work. But he was no Pelagian mechanist:

“Let us not forget that, however indispensable the things for which we plead, they are, after all, but ‘the outward things of the house of God,’ — most important no doubt, as being the aqueducts for a diffusive and general conveyance of spiritual blessings; yet a vain and useless parade, if the grace only given to those who ask it, shall not light upon our tabernacles. With all our value for the mechanism of a well-ordered church, we must remember that its great master springs are in the hands of Him who casteth down the imaginations of the confident, and delights in lending Himself to the supplications of the humble, — so that, whatever glory may accrue from the wisdom of its rulers, it is in its of men of faith and prayer that the main strength of our Establishment lies.”

– Thomas Chalmers, Works 18:138-139

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The gospel is a discovery of a blessed contrivance that God has laid down for the salvation of sinners, for providing them a blessed supply of all [their] defects. There was from eternity a happy contrivance framed for providing sinful man with a garment, a robe of righteousness, that the shame of his nakedness may not appear; and for preparing eyesalve to him, to cure his natural folly and blindness; and riches to him, that he may have a sufficient stock to live upon in time and for eternity, even riches of grace, and riches of glory, the unsearchable riches of Christ…. There ensues the heart’s cleaving to this contrivance, even to the whole of it, with universal satisfaction, being fully content with it in all its parts, and preferring it to all other ways; nay, not only so, but counting them loss and dung, so it may have an interest in this way and method of God’s contriving. This is that acting of saving faith that gives a sure title to Christ and all his purchase

-Thomas Halyburton

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“Prayer is a debt: ‘God forbid that I should sin in ceasing to pray for you,’ saith Samuel; [1 Sam 12:23] and in regard of our particular parishes, a bond, a specialty: ‘We are bound to thank God always for you,’ 2 Thess 1:3. The minister’s prayers, as well as his parts [abilities], are the common stock of the parish, in which all have a share.”

-George Swinnock (1627-1673)

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“Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.”

-Martin Luther

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I consider myself rather conservative in my convictions about Lord’s day observance. As the biblical title suggests, it is the Lord’s day, not yours or mine. It should be dedicated to a holy rest, to “public and private exercises of God’s worship,” except for “works of necessity and mercy” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 60). But the following 18th century anecdote strikes me as (way!) over the top.

…our small beer shall be fetched in on Saturday nights, nor will we even dress a potato on the Sabbath. We will attend the preaching at five o’clock in the morning, at eight go to prayer meeting, at ten to public worship; hear Mr. Perry at Cripplegate at two, be at the Foundry (Wesley’s old preaching house) at five; meet with the general society at six, assemble at the United Bands at seven, and again prayer meeting at eight, and then come home and read and pray by ourselves.

If this is rest, I wonder what work is!

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index“It is our fault, that we look upon God’s ways and works by halves and pieces; and so, we see often nothing but the black side, and the dark part of the moon. We mistake all, when we look upon men’s works by parts; a house in the building, lying in an hundred pieces; here timber, here a rafter, there a spar, there a stone; in another place, half a window, in another place, the side of a door: there is no beauty, no face of a house here. Have patience a little, and see them all by art compacted together in order, and you will see a fair building. When a painter draweth the half of a man; the one side of his head, one eye, the left arm, shoulder, and leg, and hath not drawn the other side, nor filled up with colours all the members, parts, limbs, in its full proportion, it is not like a man. So do we look on God’s works by halves or parts . . .  yet do we not see, that in this dispensation, the other half of God’s work makes it a fair piece.”

-Samuel Rutherford, The Trial and Triumph of Faith (1645)

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The following is a section drawn from the Westminster Directory for Public Worship (1645).  May we be moved to respond!  “Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD” (Joel 1:14).

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39077_lgWHEN some great and notable judgments are either inflicted upon a people, or apparently imminent, or by some extraordinary provocations notoriously deserved; as also when some special blessing is to be sought and obtained, publick solemn fasting (which is to continue the whole day) is a duty that God expecteth from that nation or people.

A religious fast requires total abstinence, not only from all food, (unless bodily weakness do manifestly disable from holding out till the fast be ended, in which case somewhat may be taken, yet very sparingly, to support nature, when ready to faint,) but also from all worldly labour, discourses, and thoughts, and from all bodily delights, and such like, (although at other times lawful,) rich apparel, ornaments, and such like, during the fast; and much more from whatever is in the nature or use scandalous and offensive, as gaudish attire, lascivious habits and gestures, and other vanities of either sex; which .i.we; recommend to all ministers, in their places, diligently and zealously to reprove, as at other times, so especially at a fast, without respect of persons, as there shall be occasion.

Before the publick meeting, each family and person apart are privately to use all religious care to prepare their hearts to such a solemn work, and to be early at the congregation.

So large a portion of the day as conveniently may be, is to be spent in publick reading and preaching of the word, with singing of psalms, fit to quicken affections suitable to such a duty: but especially in prayer, to this or the like effect:

“Giving glory to the great Majesty of God, the Creator, Preserver, and supreme Ruler of all the world, the better to affect us thereby with an holy reverence and awe of him; acknowledging his manifold, great, and tender mercies, especially to the church and nation, the more effectually to soften and abase our hearts before him; humbly confessing of sins of all sorts, with their several aggravations; justifying God’s righteous judgments, as being far less than our sins do deserve; yet humbly and earnestly imploring his mercy and grace for ourselves, the church and nation, for our king, and all in authority, and for all others for whom we are bound to pray, (according as the present exigent requireth,) with more special importunity and enlargement than at other times; applying by faith the promises and goodness of God for pardon, help, and deliverance from the evils felt, feared, or deserved; and for obtaining the blessings which we need and expect; together with a giving up of ourselves wholly and for ever unto the Lord.”

In all these, the ministers, who are the mouths of the people unto God, ought so to speak from their hearts, upon serious and thorough premeditation of them, that both themselves and their people may be much affected, and even melted thereby, especially with sorrow for their sins; that it may be indeed a day of deep humiliation and afflicting of the soul.

Special choice is to be made of such scriptures to be read, and of such tests for preaching, as may best work the hearts of the hearers to the special business of the day, and most dispose them to humiliation and repentance: insisting most on those particulars which each minister’s observation and experience tells him are most conducing to the edification and reformation of that congregation to which he preacheth.

Before the close of the publick duties, the minister is, in his own and the people’s name, to engage his and their hearts to be the Lord’s, with professed purpose and resolution to reform whatever is amiss among them, and more particularly such sins as they have been more remarkably guilty of; and to draw near unto God, and to walk more closely and faithfully with him in new obedience, than ever before.

He is also to admonish the people, with all importunity, that the work of that day doth not end with the publick duties of it, but that they are so to improve the remainder of the day, and of their whole life, in reinforcing upon themselves and their families in private all those godly affections and resolutions which they professed in publick, as that they may be settled in their hearts for ever, and themselves may more sensibly find that God hath smelt a sweet savour in Christ from their performances, and is pacified towards them, by answers of grace, in pardoning of sin, in removing of judgments, in averting or preventing of plagues, and in conferring of blessings, suitable to the conditions and prayers of his people, by Jesus Christ.

Besides solemn and general fasts enjoined by authority, we judge that, at other times, congregations may keep days of fasting, as divine providence shall administer unto them special occasion; and also that families may do the same, so it be not on days wherein the congregation to which they do belong is to meet for fasting, or other publick duties of worship.

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