Friday, March 21, 2014

"Blessed are the meek"

One or two notes taken from a sermon by one of our ministers some years ago. This is a summary not a verbatim quote.

Matthew 5v5: "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth".

This is one of the best known sections of the Bible. Men believe it provides an easy religion. The expressions in the first few verses can be heard in ordinary conversation. Yet people ignore the fact that Christs exhorts men to be perfect in this chapter. And that He exhorts to greater righteousness than that of the Pharisees.

Meekness is that evenness of temper, in the face of oppression from others, that does not go into sinful passions; and on the other hand does not go into undue sadness. It is a calmness of spirit. It was seen in its clearest expression in Christ. But was also seen in David as he faced rebellion and the loss of friends and opposition from within his family. Also seen in Moses despite all that he faced. All these graces in the first section of Matthew 5 complement each other; where one is, the others will accompany it in some measure.

The promise is that such will inherit the earth. Some have interpreted this to refer to the whole earth being filled with the knowledge of God in the days of the latter glory. But the minister said he leaned more to it being the blessing of contentment with our lot in providence, which the Lord gives to His own. Some have been poor materially and some not, but whatever their circumstances there is this blessing for the meek .

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Purge me with hyssop"

One or two notes taken from a sermon by one of our ministers some years ago. This is a summary not a verbatim quote.

Psalms 51v7 "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow".

This is one of the seven penitential Psalms. Augustine asked for all seven to be put on the walls of the room where he lay in his final illness.

Hyssop was  a plant used to sprinkle blood and water in the various ceremonies of the Old Testament. It was used for example to confirm that the leper -- formerly kept outside the camp -- was now cured and therefore clean. That is a picture of the saved sinner. The priests used hyssop in the sacrifices. And it was also used by Moses in making the covenant with the Most High on behalf of the people. In this Psalm, David is seeking that the Lord would expiate -- put away  -- the guilt and pollution and power of sin. The word purge in this verse was translated in Luther's German Bible by a word not found normally in English -- "un-sin me". All of these points have relevance to the sacrament of baptism. The sprinkling is a symbol, a sign, something that signifies the inner cleansing that must take place in the sinner. The person baptised is under the vows and in adult life we should all be considering whether we have fulfilled the blessings available in the visible church, of which we become part by baptism.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Switzerland Reformation Tour 2014

Switzerland Reformation Tour. A tour to Geneva and other Swiss towns associated with the Reformation


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

John Knox @ 500

As you may know 2014 marks the 500th centenary (as far as can be fairly assessed) of John Knox's birth.  On the right hand side of this blog you will find regular tweets of John Knox quotations, there is also a page at http://about.me/johnknox.

You may also be interested in a conference on John Knox due to take place in April.

Why is there nothing else much - apart from a tour? Will there be a commemorative stamp? A google doodle home page? A photo call with the First Minister outside St Giles? Will the Established Church even acknowledge it?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Guest Post: The Establishment Principle and the Unity of the Church #2

Mark Hausam's second post. 

THE ESTABLISHMENT PRINCIPLE AND THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH

At this point we can begin to see how the Establishment Principle (EP) supports the unity of the church of Christ.  We can see this partly by recognizing how societies that have abandoned (either explicitly or in practice) the EP and instead embraced a voluntaristic view of the relationship between church and state have correspondingly had trouble maintaining the unity of the church.

In the United States of America, for example, abandonment of the EP has gone hand in hand with abandonment of the concept of the formal unity of the church.  This can be seen by taking a look at the revised version of the Westminster Confession embraced by the mainstream Presbyterian tradition in the United States, in particular the section on the civil magistrate that corresponds to the quotation from the original version of the Confession quoted at the very beginning of this article:

Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance (Westminster Confession 23:3 as revised by American Presbyterian synods in 1788).
Notice the intertwining here of two ideas, 1. that the civil magistrate ought not to establish or even show any favoritism to any particular Christian denomination, and 2. that there are multiple legitimate denominations.  Historically, the embracing of denominationalism--the idea that there can be multiple, legitimate, de jure denominations--is what led to opposition to the EP.  If there is more than one legitimate denomination, then it wouldn't make sense for the civil magistrate to establish only one of them.  And yet the civil magistrate can't establish all of them, because they are not in full formal communion with each other and have contradictory teachings and practices.  An attempt to formally recognize all of them fully would result in a contradictory position for the civil government.  So the only solution was to disestablish them all and treat them all, in effect, as private organizations no different in principle from the Boy Scouts or a country club or any other purely voluntary, not-officially-recognized organization.

Disestablishmentarianism (that is, the abandonment of the principles of the EP) and denominationalism tend to reinforce each other in a society.  Historically, in Britain and in the United States in particular, the pattern seems to have worked in this way:  Before 1690, most Christians were opposed both to denominationalism and to disestablishmentarianism.  They believed firmly that the church of Christ is one and that the nature of the church is incompatible with idea of multiple de jure denominations, and they also believed firmly that the state should formally acknowledge the legitimate denominational church.  However, in 1690, toleration begin to be established in Britain.  Multiple churches were allowed to exist without hindrance.  This contributed more and more over time to the advancement of an agnostic attitude in British society, and people became more and more indifferent to the truth claims of the various churches.  This attitude of indifferentism, in turn, created a lack of concern for the unity of the church.  "Agreeing to disagree in a friendly and charitable manner" came to replace biblical unity as the ideal for the people of God.  Toleration and indifferentism combined led to the setting up of more and more denominations until the point was reached that most of the church and the broader society became used to having multiple churches and thought nothing of it, even embracing it as the ideal--the state we are in today, except that we've now gone even further and embraced non-Protestant forms of Christianity and even non-Christian religions and Atheism and Agnosticism into the mix.  Denominationalism and indifferentism, in turn, serve to reinforce the idea that the civil government should not establish a particular church, which then continues to reinforce denominationalism, which continues to reinforce disestablishmentarianism, and so on.

It is easy to see how an embracing of the EP would tend to be a scourge for denominationalism and would encourage concern for the formal unity of the church.  We don't tend to have a problem similar to denominationalism in the civil sphere.  That is, we don't live in societies where people go around joining themselves to a whole host of different civil magistrates based on their personal taste, agreeing happily to disagree:  "Oh, David Cameron is your Prime Minister?  That's nice!  My personal Prime Minister is Ed Miliband!"  This doesn't happen because we understand the concept that there is an officially recognized civil government.  A person doesn't get to be a civil magistrate simply be standing up and declaring himself to be one.  He has to be properly appointed and legitimately recognized.  Otherwise, he is not legitimate, however much he may protest that he is or wish to be.  Similarly, in the EP system, the church is formally recognized by the society.  One cannot simply decide to start a new denomination and have it be recognized as legitimate.  One has to go through the proper channels, and if one doesn't do so, one cannot be recognized as having any legitimate authority.  If a session, or a presbytery, decides to break from the rest of the established church, the society will view that session or presbytery as having forfeited its legitimate authority to function and will treat it accordingly.

Thus, an EP way of looking at things, in contrast with voluntarism, will make it impossible for a situation to arise in which the legitimate church can come to be viewed as being made up of multiple independent denominations.  Just as the fact that the federal government of the United States has an official position on who the legitimate governor of Utah actually is prevents multiple governors from being considered to be legitimate and accepted by different people in Utah, so the formal recognition of the true church by the civil government will have the effect of preventing multiple independent ecclesiastical organizations from being considered all to be legitimate, de jure churches (though it may still be recognized that those who are not members of the established, legitimate church may be, in fact, regenerated members of Christ's Body de facto or informally).  The question of the de jure legitimacy and authority of the various existing denominations and the mandate of the unity of the church must be faced whether or not the civil magistrate does his part by formally recognizing and establishing Christianity and the church, but if he does do his part, it makes it much harder for the society to forget the importance of these principles and these questions and for the indifferentism that allows denominationalism to flourish to become established.  In this way, the civil magistrate has a major role to play in taking order "that unity and peace be preserved in the Church."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Guest Post: The Establishment Principle and the Unity of the Church #1

Mark Hausam lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, where he is an instructor in Philosophy at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT, and an instructor at the New Geneva Christian Leadership Academy He is a member at Christ Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City, UT.  He is also the author of Why Christianity is True.  His blog can be found here



The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.


I have read the above-quoted portion of the Westminster Confession many, many times, but it was only recently that a particular phrase of it stood out to me, a phrase that briefly states an idea that I think is of enormous importance for the ideal of church unity.  In describing the duties of the civil magistrate relating to religion, the Confession notes that it is the civil magistrate's duty "to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the church."  Particularly, I am now interested in the idea that part of the role of the civil magistrate is to help preserve "unity" in the church of Christ.

WHAT IS THE ESTABLISHMENT PRINCIPLE?

How does the civil magistrate help preserve unity in the church of Christ?  In order to answer this question, we need to look at the overall idea of civil government put forward by the Westminster Confession.  The Confession puts forward a biblical view of the relationship between civil government and religion that has come to be known as the Establishment Principle.  The Establishment Principle can be expressed in these two basic concepts:

1. The civil magistrate is not neutral in religious matters.  This non-neutrality is both a logical necessity and a moral imperative.  The civil magistrate is in the business of making and enforcing civil laws and public policies.  In order to do this, he (or they--I'll use the singular pronoun for shorthand while recognizing the diversity of forms civil government can take) must have in mind ideals as to how society should function, a hierarchy of valuable ends that are worth pursuing, beliefs about what is right and wrong and good and bad, a perspective on what the purpose of civil government is and thus what tasks he should be about, and so on.  But all of these ideals, beliefs, values, etc., are dependent upon which worldview is actually true.  If Agnosticism or Atheism is the worldview through which we should view the world, this will lead to a particular set of ideals, values, and beliefs.  If Islam is the correct worldview, this will lead to a quite different set of values and beliefs.  If Reformed Christianity is true, this will lead to yet another distinct set of beliefs and values.

Granting that this is the case, it is evident to the mind of man, whether illuminated by special revelation or not, that civil governments ought to base their laws and policies not on falsehood but on reality.  It would be absurd to hold that while it is good for individuals to base their lives on reality, it is perfectly reasonable and harmless for entire societies to be grounded in fundamentally false views about the nature of the universe.  This is why Atheists and Agnostics are so bent on bringing about a fully secular society.  A secular society is a society that assumes that we have no knowledge of the supernatural but only of the natural world.  Secularists like to present secularism as a neutral point of view upon which government can be based, but of course it is not neutral at all--it is the political instantiation of Agnosticism or Atheism.  How foolish, then, is it for Christians to advocate for a secular society!  Can we imagine Atheists advocating for a Christian or an Islamic theocracy?  Of course not.  And yet we see Christians all too often advocating for an Agnostocracy or an Atheocracy (though they don't put it so bluntly).

Both Christian common-sense, then, as well as the Bible, leads us to conclude that the civil government should not be secular but should be explicitly, officially Christian.  The civil magistrate should acknowledge and establish the true Christian religion and base his laws and policies on that truth.  We see this idea put forward, among many other places in Scripture, in Romans 13:1-7:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
The Westminster Confession summarizes this teaching in this way:

God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, has ordained civil magistrates, to be, under Him, over the people, for His own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, has armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers. (WCF 23:1)

The civil magistrate is the "minister of God", whose job it is to keep the public sphere clear of evil and safe for the good as much as possible, judging good and bad and learning the rules and methods of his governing from the revelation of God.

Note also that these biblical principles do not lead to the conclusion that the civil magistrate should acknowledge and ground his laws in only some portion of God's revealed truth while neglecting other parts of it.  The established religion should not be merely a lowest-common-denominator, watered-down form of Christianity, but it should embrace the fullness of the the whole counsel of God.  Just as the individual, and the family, and the church, has no right to ignore any portion of God's Word, so the civil magistrate must also acknowledge all of it.  The church ought not to be simply "Christian" in a lowest-common-denominator sort of way, but it should have a confession that is distinctly Reformed and Presbyterian (because the Reformed faith, summarized in the Westminster Standards, is the full and purest expression of biblical Christianity).  Similarly, it is not just a watered-down Christianity that should be embraced by the civil magistrate and by the entire society, but true, biblical, Reformed Christianity.
2. The civil magistrate should not only acknowledge and establish the true religion in an abstract sense, but he should formally recognize the official rulers of the church.  It is not enough for Christians and for churches to acknowledge some abstract concept of "proper biblical civil governance."  We must fully and formally recognize the specific civil government that is set over us and the specific rulers who have formal rule over us in the civil sphere.  To put it more specifically, as an American, I cannot simply acknowledge the abstract principles of biblical civil government; I must also formally acknowledge my allegiance to the particular civil government set over me by the providence of God--the federal government of the United States of America, the government of the State of Utah, and the government of the City of Orem.  I must recognize and show proper respect and deference to all those who are formally recognized to have an official role in the functioning of these legitimate governments.  If I do not like the current president of the United States, I cannot simply ignore him and decide to set up my own president.  This would be rebellion against those who have lawful rule over me.

In the same way, the civil magistrate has an obligation not just to acknowledge in the abstract the doctrines of the true religion; he must also formally, explicitly, and officially recognize as established the true church of God.  He must formally acknowledge and recognize the sessions, presbyteries, synods, and national assembly of the true church of Christ in his nation.  He must recognize the formally-appointed officers who make up these ecclesiastical governing bodies.

The ideal the Establishment Principle points to is a situation where the society as a whole embraces a formal recognition of all of the leaders God has appointed over the people--both civil and ecclesiastical (and parental).  The society of the United States of America, for example, ought to acknowledge both an official body of civil governance and an official body of ecclesiastical governance, which bodies mutually and formally acknowledge each other and support each other in their distinct spheres of jurisdiction and activity.  Here in America, this concept is extremely foreign, as we have never had an officially-recognized established church.  In Scotland, on the other hand, this situation is at least in principle familiar (if not currently functioning in the best of conditions, to put it mildly).

---------------------
[Ed.]

Some Scripture Proofs of the Establishment Principle

2 Kings 18:4 He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. (1CH 13:1-8; 2KI 24:1-25) 2CH 34:33 And Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the Lord their God. And all his days they departed not from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.

2 Chron 15:12 And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; 13 That whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

2 Chron 19:8 Moreover in Jerusalem did Jehoshaphat set of the Levites, and of the priests, and of the chief of the fathers of Israel, for the judgment of the Lord, and for controversies, when they returned to Jerusalem. 9 And he charged them, saying, Thus shall ye do in the fear of the Lord, faithfully, and with a perfect heart. 10 And what cause soever shall come to you of your brethren that dwell in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and judgments, ye shall even warn them that they trespass not against the Lord, and so wrath come upon you, and upon your brethren: this do, and ye shall not trespass. 11 And, behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the Lord; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, for all the king's matters: also the Levites shall be officers before you. Deal courageously, and the Lord shall be with the good. (2 Chron 29-30)

Ezra 7:23 Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons? 25 And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not. 26 And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment. 27 Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem: 28 And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellers, and before all the king's mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.

Ps. 2:10-12 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Ps. 9:17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.

Ps.22:27-28 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations.

Ps. 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.

Isa. 49:23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

Isa. 60:12 For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.

Rom. 13:3-4 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

1 Tim. 2.1-2 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Revelation 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, [who is] the faithful witness, [and] the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.

Rev. 19:16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

Rev. 21:24, 26 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.

More Reading on the Establishment Principle

A paper on this topic can be found here, here and here and a useful booklet here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Nailed or Mailed?

...it's hard for me to think those words without hearing my son saying them as 7 syllables with emphasis. He seems to have picked up some things about Martin Luther but I don't think he understands the question that interests me here. Did Martin Luther nail his 95 theses to the church door or send them in the post? A blog post here handles it fairly well. I think Melancthon is reliable.

Friday, December 13, 2013

No fool

A quick google shows me that this is not an original observation but here goes anyway.


Jim Elliot had a great quote:

He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.

Allan Harman's biography of Matthew Henry quotes his father Philip Henry with much the same words:

He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose.

–from Matthew Henry: His Life and Influence, by Allan Harman, (Chritian Focus, 2012), Kindle location 345-47.

It would be remarkable if Elliott were not echoing Henry. Neither men were fools. They lived by these words. What about you?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus

One or two notes taken from a sermon by one of our ministers some years ago. This is a summary not a verbatim quote.

Philippians 3 v 8-10, especially "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord".

Excellency here means heavenliness and majesty. Knowledge is not mere head knowledge, but that which fills the whole soul. The verses are about justification. Man does not have righteousness but the Lord Jesus has worked out a righteousness that is eternal and unchangeable. This is imputed in justification to the ungodly who believe in His name. Justification is forensic, it is a legal matter where the sinner is declared righteous -- a sentence is passed by the Judge.

Faith lays hold of Christ. In terms of time, faith and the sentence that the sinner is righteous happen at the same point. But in terms of logic, the declaration of the sentence happens first and then faith.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What think ye of Christ?

The following notes are fragments from a sermon preached by one of our ministers some years ago on the text "What think ye of Christ?" Matthew 22v42. The notes are only a summary and not a verbatim report of words that were used.

The Father testifies to what He thinks of Christ - "this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased". The Father takes pleasure from all eternity in the infinite beauty and winsomeness and holiness and loveliness of Christ. The Spirit takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us.

One Puritan Divine said of Isaiah 6 that the angels do not have bodily parts but that the passage uses such words to allow our minds to understand something of them. The angels covered their eyes to show they are not worthy to look on Christ, covered their feet to show they are not worthy that He look on them, and that their wings signify that they go around serving him.

It is the view the Lord's people got in the Bible of his beauty and suitability that changed them.

The question remains for the sinner without Christ: "What think ye of Christ?"...why should the unrepentant or careless sinner be alone in the universe, not esteeming or valuing Him, while the Father and Spirit and angels and redeemed men say "He is altogether lovely".

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

the "difference between obscure and difficult"


Notoriously, Jeanette Winterson is no friend to the evangelicalism that she grew up with. But as she explained on Start the Week and here she owes a vast debt to the Authorised (King James) Version and appraises its value and lack of difficulty.

"I did not find the language difficult and I was not unusual. The King James translation was written to be read out-loud – and that simple overlooked fact changes every argument about ‘difficulty’ and ‘comprehension’. If you do not believe me, try it for yourself.

Even now, when patterns of spoken and written English have changed considerably since my 1960’s Bible debut, the phrasing of the King James has a naturalness to it. Awkwardness disappears within a few chapters of vocal reading – providing that you will trust yourself and trust the text...King James does not use sub-clauses or dependent clauses; it is a direct English, and one you can still hear, even now, in northern speech...The language is grammatically uncluttered, but rich in vocabulary and image...There is a difference between obscure and difficult. I accept that by now, the King James version seems more difficult than it is, but its rewards are greater than its difficulty. And can someone please pinpoint for me the cultural moment when ‘difficult’ became a dirty word?"

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Conference #3

Dr R Dickie gave a very comprehensive paper on Martin Luther and some of his Writings.
He reminded us that books by Luther were being imported into Scotland by 1525 when the parliament prohibited it. It was scarcely successful given that by 1527 there was a subsequent ban on Scots promoting the teachings of Luther or even discussing them.

Part 1 covered the historical context of the transition into renaissance from late middle ages.
Part 2 discussed the theology of the Roman Catholic church, particularly referring to scholastic theologians.
Part 3 was Luther's early life and education. This covered the period up until around 1520
Part 4 looked more closely at developments that Luther encountered in questioning the theology of the medieval Church. He could not harmonise Augustine and Paul with the scholastics, particularly the view of the latter that faith is solely assent. In his lectures he began to attack Aristotle and the scholastics. Scripture became the final authority. His lectures to students on the Psalms 1513 - 1517 were important as he discovered Pauline theology there and saw Christ as key to the psalter. Before the 95 theses there were also 97 theses against scholasticism which ended by saying that they were in no way in conflict with the Church. The 95 theses contained no such qualification.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Conference #2

Dr A. Ross gave a paper on The Response of the Churches to the Challenges of Evolution in the 19th Century. It focussed largely on Scotland but also with reference to relevant matters in the rest of the UK and across in the USA.

He showed how the origins of the controversy lay in the debates over old earth geology. Some such as Charles Hodge encouraged old earth geology but then attacked Darwinism as atheism for denying design in nature. Old earth geology arose from Moderate ministers in the Church of Scotland and elsewhere but there were also secular enthusiasts such as James Hutton who was a deist.

There were various uniformitarian and catastrophic theories. Thomas Chalmers had the gap theory and did not change his views once converted. Darwin acknowledged a debt to Hugh Miller who advanced the day-age theory with the fifth and sixth day being geological ages. The Sabbath, Miller argued was an immensely protracted period ignoring the natural meaning of the language of Scripture. There was no protest within the Free Church at these views  A secular newspaper commented with the question could there be a more unfaithful reader of the Scriptures and noted that falsehood was being applauded in the Free Church. Such theories were now being taught in the Free Church colleges. Robert Rainey gave his inaugural lectures on theology and evolution.

Those who sought to respond were few. The english minister Rev George Bugg advanced "Scriptural Geology".  Among presbyterians, Robert Watts in Belfast successfully countered Evolution for at least a generation.

Why was there such capitulation? There was fear of denying a scientific advance such as the Copernican revolution but as Bugg pointed out the Copernicus theory was never a "heresy" against the Bible itself. The reality was that there was implicit trust of scientific academia. A problem that continues to this day.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Guest Posts

Two new guest posts on Mark Hausam's blog - http://freethoughtforchrist.blogspot.com
Part 1 and Part 2. These add to his 40 posts on the subject of schism and visible church unity and 36 posts on presbyterian church government.



Thursday, October 31, 2013

the phone hacking scandal and the NIV

At least twenty News journalists will face trial for phone hacking and/or corruption and could well face jail. While further focus centres upon the ethics of the News Corp Murdoch empire as the phone hacking scandal reignites, it is worthwhile pondering the NIV connection. Zondervan markets itself as the world's biggest publisher of bibles and the NIV is to this publishing company what News of the World was to News International (at least before it closed) - a cash cow, greedily milked for the past 23 years into Murdoch's billions. Did I mention that besides the immorality of his newspapers his empire comprises many pornographic TV channels? Harper Collins markets the Satanic Bible and books promoting sodomite immorality. It may also be worth mentioning that his empire controls exactly how much of the NIV and other versions you are allowed to quote. Would you buy a bible from Murdoch? Well, there are over 300 different types to choose from including Holy Bible: Stock Car Racing. What about the horrible histories theme 2:52™ Boys Bible ("Discover gross and gory Bible stuff")? NIV Faithgirlz! Bible ("Every girl wants to know she’s totally unique and special. This Bible says that with Faithgirlz!™ sparkle!") is another option. Of course they are printed in China, controversially given the degree of persecution of Christians there. 

Can anyone recall that it was this kind of profiteering out of religion that drove Luther to protest as he did on 31 October 1517? 

The Bible Industry. From Geez magazine, Fall 2009. Credit: Darryl Brown and Aiden Enns.

Conference #1

The FP theological conference in Glasgow was very profitable of a high standard and quite well attended although there was plenty of room for more. All the papers were heard in public. God willing, it would be good to be able to give some summaries of the papers given. I plan to start in reverse order and am indebted to a friend for notes of the last paper as it was the only one that I could get to. It must be strongly stressed that these notes are just a summary by way of paraphrase and not verbatim and things might have more meaning in their original context.

The last paper was by Rev. R. Macleod on The Covenant of Grace. He took Luke 14:12-30 as the focus, especially verse 17 "come, for all things are now ready". This speaks of how God has prepared a feast of the forgiveness of sins. He has appointed preachers of the gospel as his servants and the time of the feast is the availability of gospel ordinances. The persons of the Trinity prepared the Son of God as a feast for sinners. The invitation is to feast by faith on the Lamb of God who was offered on Calvary. This was a sacrifice of infinite merit because sin is an infinite evil. Christ is the surety of his people and his righteousness is the condition of the covenant. We must believe, yet by nature cannot. With God, however, all things are possible. The gift of faith is his to bestow.


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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Reformed consensus on 1 Cor 11:29 #2

Continuing from the previous post, we can demonstrate that the Westminster divines and a wide range of puritan authors held that 1 Cor 11:27, 29 and 32 indicate that unworthily partaking of the Supper would lead to chastisement but also damnation if not repented of.

In countering separatist arguments Samuel Rutherford said the following:
A worship corrupt by accident only through the fault of the worshipper, may and does make the Lord’s Supper damnation to the eater, and therefore the eater is forbidden so to eat. A worship in the matter and intrinsical principle unjust and sinful is defiled both to the man himself and to all that take part with him, as the teacher of false doctrine and all that hear and believe are defiled; but if the sin of an unworthy communicant even known to be so, is damnation to himself, and defiles the worship to others, then Paul would have said, he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh his own damnation, and the damnation of the whole church, and Paul should have forbidden all others to eat and drink withal, who communicates unworthily, if he allowed separation. But he says, he eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not to others.
David Dickson in his Commentary on 1 Corinthians makes it clear that the punishment of eating unworthily is "judgement, or temporal and eternal punishment, unless hee repent".

Richard Vines was one of the leading Presbyterians at the Westminster Assembly. He published A Treatise of the Institution, Right Administration, and Receiving of the Sacrament of the Lords-Supper. In this he deals extensively with the latter part of 1 Cor 11. Alluding to 1 Cor 11:29 and speaking of how Chrysostom says that just as bodily food can aggravate a disease albeit not in itself so the Lord's Supper may be the cause of spiritual death to the partaker yet not in itself, he says, "He that eats and drinks unworthily, eats damnation, drinks damnation to himself...So this Sacrament received by wicked men, aggravates their condemnation, not of it self, but through their unrepented sins" (p69).
That the Apostle in setting home the sin and danger of eating and drinking unworthily, speaks thundring and lightning in very pertinent, but yet new and unusual phrases, which...have no brother in any other part of Scripture, as guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, eating or drinking judgement or damnation, etc. full of terrour, and fit for compunction (p179)
The sin of receiving unworthily is largely insisted on in the following part of this Chapter, where the aggravation of this sin is shown by the special guilt that attends it, and that is a guiltiness of the Lords Body; by the particular cause of this guiltiness, Not discerning the Lords Body, by the judgement that Follows upon it, damnation or punishment; by the way of prevention of the sin, the guilt and judgement, and that is Self-examination, and Self-judging (p198)
Vines speaks of the danger of this sin of unworthily partaking. "'He eats and drinks judgement to himself'if he be a godly man that eats and drinks unworthily, or haply also damnation, if he be an hypocrite, for the word krima, may respectively extend to both. A strange phrase it is to eat and drink judgement, but it is allusive...as sure as he eats of the Bread and drinks of the Cup unworthily, so sure is judgement to follow thereupon, or to accompany it, for he eats judgement, but it is to himself, not to others, except they be partakers in his sin, which may be divers ways (p385)

We might also refer to Thomas Vincent's Explication of the Shorter Catechism, officially commended by a large array of the most eminent Puritan ministers of the time.

Q. 11. What is the sin of unworthy receiving the Lord's supper?
A. The sin of unworthy receiving the Lord's supper is, that such are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord; that is, they are guilty of an affront and indignity which they offer to the Lord's body and blood. "Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord."— 1 Cor. 11:27.

Q. 12. What is the danger of our unworthy receiving the Lord's supper?
A. The danger of our unworthy receiving the Lord's supper, is the eating and drinking judgment to ourselves; that is, provoking the Lord, by our unworthy receiving, to inflict temporal, spiritual, and eternal judgments upon us. "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep."— 1 Cor. 11:29, 30.

Likewise John Flavel:
Q. 10. What is the danger of coming to the Lord’s table without these graces?
A. The danger is exceeding great both to soul and body. (1.) To the soul; 1 Corinthians 11:29. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, (2). And to the body; 1 Corinthians 11:30. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

Jonathan Edwards writes, “Those who contemptuously treat those symbols of the body of Christ slain and
His blood shed, why, they make themselves guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, that is, of murdering Him."

James Fisher comments:
Q. 27. What risk do they run who omit to examine themselves as to the above graces, before they come to the Lord's table?

A. They run the risk of coming unworthily.

Q. 28. What is it to come unworthily?

A. It is to come without any real sense, or consciousness of the need that we stand in of Christ, as "of God made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption," 1 Cor. 1:30.

Q. 29. What danger do they incur who thus come unworthily?

A. They eat and drink judgment to themselves, 1 Cor. 11:29.

Q. 30. In what sense can they who come unworthily, be said to eat and drink judgment to themselves?

A. In so far as by their eating and drinking unworthily, they do that which renders them obnoxious to the righteous judgment of God.

Q. 31. To what judgment do they render themselves obnoxious?

A. To temporal judgments, or afflictions of various kinds, in the present life; and to eternal judgment, or condemnation (if mercy prevent not) in the life to come, 1 Cor. 11:30, 32.

Joseph Woodward was a puritan minister in England settled at Dursley in Gloucestershire who declared his resolve to admit none to the Lord's Supper except those who had a credible profession.
A certain man obstinately said that he would not submit to examination and that if the minister would not give him the sacrament he would take it! In pursuance of this impious resolution, this man attended the church on sacrament day, but had scarcely set foot in the building before he fell dead, the Lord thus making clear to all the church members that the solemn admonitions addressed to the Church of the Corinthians by the apostle in the first Christian century were ageless in their solemn application.

The Reformed consensus on 1 Cor. 11:29

As we noticed in a previous post, the Westminster Assembly were very clear in their interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:27, 29 and 32, i.e. that it includes the warning of damnation as well as chastisement. The Confession states: "Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament; yet, they receive not the thing signified thereby; but, by their unworthy coming thereunto, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to their own damnation."

We stressed that those who are not brought to repentance for partaking unworthily through chastisement are liable to damnation. In what follows we wish to make clear the Reformed consensus on 1 Corinthians 11:29, i.e. that it includes the warning of damnation as well as chastisement. This is the context for understanding the statement in the Confession and other relevant parts of the Standards. Without this context we will try to force the interpretation of the Confession to our own preferences rather than acknowledge the plain sense according to the original intent. While the interpretations of former times are determinative of the interpretation of Scripture we ought to have the humility to take seriously how the Spirit has illuminated men of old with greater godliness and understanding of the Scriptures.

It is interesting that John Calvin, in opposing paedocommunion, makes clear that he regards damnation as a potential consequence of receiving unworthily:
He does not admit all to partake of the Supper - but confines it to those who are fit to discern the body and blood of the Lord.... ‘He who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body’ [First Corinthians 11:29].... Why should we offer poison - to our young children? 
The Form of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments, etc. Used in the English Congregation
at Geneva (1556) was used in Scotland following the Reformation. This makes very clear the same interpretation:
Therefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, he shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. Then see that every man prove and try himself, and so let him eat of this bread and drink of this cup; for whosoever eateth or drinketh unworthily, he eateth and drinketh his own damnation, for not having due regard and consideration of the Lord's body.
so is the danger great if we receive the same unworthily, for then we are guilty of the body and blood of Christ our Saviour, we eat and drink our own damnation, not considering the Lord's body; we kindle God's wrath against us, and provoke him to plague us with diverse diseases and sundry kinds of death.
Without making a minute examination of every key document or key minister that we might we shall pass to consider the views of Robert Bruce from the generation immediately following the Reformation. During his five sermons on the Lord's Supper, Bruce refers to the warning of damnation on those receiving unworthily.
Therefore come not to the sacrament, except you bring both faith and obedience with you. If thou come not with a heart minded to obey Christ, at least more than thou wast wont to do, thou comest to thine own damnation. And if thou bringest a heart void of faith, thou comest to thine own damnation.
He then deals with an objection regarding damnation upon an unbeliever who receives the Lord's Supper. It was objected that since an unbeliever could not receive Christ in a spiritual manner, he was not eating and drinking unworthily, and not therefore guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ. Interestingly, Bruce makes it clear that it is the elements that are being eaten and drunk and therefore whether or not the body and blood of Christ is spiritually received, there is still guilt. "Yet theyare accounted guilty of the body and blood of the Son of God, because they refused Him".
For when they did eat that Bread and drink that Wine, if they had had faith, they might have eaten and drunk the flesh and blood of Christ Jesus. Now because thou refusest the body of Christ, thou contemnest His body; if thou have not an eye to discern and judge of His body that is offered thee. For if they had had faith, they might have seen His body offered with the Bread; by faith they might have taken and eaten that body. Therefore lacking their wedding garment, lacking faith whereby they should eat the body and drink the blood of Christ; lacking faith, which is the eye of the soul to perceive, and the mouth of the soul to receive that body which is spiritually offered ; they are counted guilty of the body and blood of Christ. 
if thou come as a swine or a dog to handle the seals of the body and blood of Christ...I say, mayest thou be reckoned guilty of His body and blood.

From Hebrews 6:6 and 10:29 he shows that these are not real believers but apostates who in their apostasy crucify Christ again and are so guilty of his body and blood.

The wicked cannot eat the body of Christ; but they may be guilty of it. The Apostle makes this more plain yet by another speech which I have aforetime handled from this place. In Heb. vi. 6, it is said that the apostates, they that make grievous defection, "crucify again to themselves the Son of God;" and their falling away makes them as guilty as they were who crucified Him. He is now in heaven, they cannot fetch Him from thence to crucify Him : yet the Apostle says they crucify Him. Why? Because their malice is as great as theirs that crucified Him ; so that if they had Him on the earth, they would do the like : therefore they are said to crucify the Son of God. Likewise in Heb. x. 29, there is another speech: the wicked are said to tread the Blood of Christ under their feet. Why? Because their malice is as great as theirs that trode upon His blood. They are accounted for this reason to be guilty of the body and blood of Christ, not because they eat His body, but because they refuse it, when they might have had it.  
Now the time remains yet, wherein we may have the body and blood of Christ. This time is very precious, and the dispensation of times is very secret and has its own bounds ; if you take not this time now, it will away. This time of grace and of that heavenly food has been dispensed to you very long: but how ye have profited, your life and behaviour testify. Remember, therefore, yourselves in time, and in time make use of it, for you know not how long it will last : crave a mouth to receive, as well the food of your soul that is offered, as the food of your bodies : and take this time while you may have it, or assuredly the time shall come, when you shall cry for it but shall not get it ; but in place of grace and mercy, shall come judgment, vengeance, and the dispensation of wrath.

In a further post we wish to make extensive reference to the Puritans on this topic, God Willing.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Queensferry Paper

Photo: Flickr James B. Brown
Whilst leaving Dalmeny Station last week I noticed on a map that there was a street in Queensferry called Covenanter Lane. This rang a few bells in relation to the Queensferry Paper. It appears that this was the location from which Donald Cargill was nearly captured on 3 June 1680 while Henry Hall of Haugh Head was seized together with a draft document that came to be known as the Queensferry Paper. Hall later died of the wounds that he sustained. They were originally betrayed by the curates of James Hamilton and John Park, Ministers at Bo'ness and Carriden who notified the governor of Blackness Castle, Middleton. Park was deposed from the ministry some years later.

John Howie devoted a chapter to Hall in the Scots Worthies. He describes how when the persecuting governor discerned "the house where they alighted, he sent his servant off in haste for his men, putting up his horse in another house, and coming to the house to them as a stranger, pretended a great deal of kindness and civility to Mr. Cargil and him, desiring that they might have a glass of wine together. -- When each had taken a glass, and were in some friendly conference, the governor, wearying that his men came not up, threw off the mask, and laid hands on them, saying, they were his prisoners, and commanded the people of the house, in the king's name to assist. But they all refused, except one Thomas George a waiter; by whose assistance he got the gate shut. In the mean while Haugh-head, being a bold and brisk man, struggled hard with the governor, until Cargil got off; and after the scuffle, as he was going off himself, having got clear of the governor, Thomas George struck him on the head, with a carbine, and wounded him mortally. However he got out; and, by this time the women of the town, who were assembled at the gate to the rescue of the prisoners, convoyed him out of town. He walked some time on foot, but unable to speak much, save only some little reflection upon a woman who interposed, hindering him to kill the governor, that so he might have made his escape more timeously. At last he fainted, and was carried to a country house near Echlin; and although chirurgeons were speedily brought, yet he never recovered the use of his speech any more. Dalziel, living near-by, was soon advertised, and came quickly with a party of the guards, and seized him; and although every one saw the gentleman just a-dying, yet such was his inhumanity, that he must carry him to Edinburgh.

Photo: Flickr James B. Brown
But he died, on their hands, on the way thither; and made an end of this his earthly pilgrimage to receive his heavenly crown. His corpse was carried to the Cannongate tolbooth, where they lay three days without burial; and then his friends conveened for that end, to do their last office to him; yet that could not be granted. At last they caused bury him clandestinely in the night; for such was the fury of these limbs of antichrist, that after they had slain the witnesses, they would not suffer them to be decently interred in the earth; which is another lasting evidence of the cruelty of those times". A week later Margaret Wauchope was brought in  as a prisoner from Queensferry "for being accessory to Mr Cargill's escape". It seems likely that this was the lady who tended to his wounds and brought him to a nearby house where he sheltered in a barn for the night. Another man who took Cargill to a doctor, William Punton of Carlowrie was imprisoned in Edinburgh and heavily fined. Three days later Cargill was preaching in the fields in Lanarkshire.

A drawing of the house where the incident took place is available. The house was demolished in the 1930s but a photograph of it exists. It was called The Palace or Covenanters' House.


The Queensferry Paper is extensive and considered to be quite detailed and advanced. It is also said to contain republican political views. It was also called "The Fanaticks New Covenant". It was also called "Cargill's Covenant". There were no signatories and it seems likely that much though not all of it was the work of Donald Cargill. Cargill could not readily consent to all of its content, however. It was indeed expressed as a Covenant and was resolute in its language:
we cannot but with much trembling of heart renew our covenant, or engage anew, especially considering our own weakness and hazard; yet the clear conviction of duty, zeal to God’s glory, and love of Christ’s reigning, which is the highest duty that a man can perform to God, trusting in his mercy, who knows the integrity and rightness of our intentions, will both instruct, enable, accept, preserve and prosper us: we go on declaring those, and nothing but those to be our present purpose

It can be read here and here. Its key points have been summarised as follows.

1. To covenant with and swear acknowledgement of the Trinity and to own the Old and New Testaments to be the rule of faith.

2. To advance God`s kingdom, free the church from Prelacy and Erastianism, and remove those who had forfeited authority.

3. To uphold the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, with her standards, polity, and worship, as an independent government.

4. To overthrow the kingdom of darkness, ie Popery, Prelacy and Erastianism.

5. To discard the royal family and set up a republic.

6. To decline hearing the indulged clergy.

7. To refuse the ministerial function unless duly called and ordained.

8. To defend their worship and liberties, to view assailants as declarers of war, to destroy those assaulting, and not to injure any but those that have injured us

Friday, October 11, 2013

eating and drinking damnation

These words in 1 Cor 11:29 are very solemn, spoken as they are in connection with partaking of the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner."For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." Some object to this translation as too strong, and that krima, ought to be rendered condemnation or judgement in the sense of chastisement. Modern bible versions follow this preference.

The Westminster Confession follows this wording in Chapter 29:8. "Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament: yet they receive not the thing signified thereby, but by their unworthy coming thereunto are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord to their own damnation. Wherefore, all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Him, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table; and cannot, without great sin against Christ while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto".

Some believe that the Westminster Divines were referring here to unbelievers. This is not the case, however, they distinguish ignorant as well as wicked men. This does not absolutely define such as unbelieving, it refers to their fitness for this duty i.e. knowledge and discerning the Lord's body. We can see this by comparing with other uses of this verse in the Westminster Standards. In the Larger Catechism it refers to the ability to examine oneself in this matter.  Question 173: May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s Supper, be kept from it? Answer: Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s Supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ hath left in his church, until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation (see also Q170, 171, 174 and 177 - Q112 indicates that it relates to the right use of the sacraments).

The Shorter Catechism asks:
Q. 97. What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s supper?
A. It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.

The fact that the word judgement is used here as well as offered in the margin means that the words are interchangeable. The word damn in older usage could just mean to condemn someone for something as well as its most solemn meaning. Romans 14:23 in the AV is an example of this - they did not always use the word damn in its most solemn sense (it is likely that the use of the word in Rom 13:2 also carried a lesser connotation).

The truth is that being guilty of the body and blood of Christ may not be the unpardonable sin but if it is not repented of it does expose a person to damnation (John 19:11; Heb. 10:29). We are considering here the sin of blasphemy as the Divines themselves were keen to make clear in bringing in this consideration as part of the third commandment. Careless partaking through negligent preparation or the absence of such preparation altogether fails to distinguish between common bread and the sacramental bread, which represents the Lord's body; but treats it the same which is a contempt of Christ, his ordinance and his body and blood.

This is the blood that delivers the justified from damnation (Rom. 5:9). In 1 Cor 11:32 we understand that there is a divine purpose in chastisement in order that "we should not be condemned with the world". When someone eats and drinks unworthily then chastisement is necessary to bring them to repentance otherwise they would be condemned with the world through eating and drinking damnation to themselves. Even if we were simply to understand damnation as referring to objective guilt, that guilt must be repented of and removed and "every sin deserves God’s wrath and curse". What guilt are we speaking of? The guilt of the body and blood of the Lord, i.e. the worst sin ever committed and do we not think that Paul might mean that this objective guilt is unto damnation?

Do we understand "the guilt and heinousness of this sin"? John Willison defines this as "they are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, i.e. It is an accession to the guilt of shedding the innocent blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. — It is an implicit approbation of the Jews' act in crucifying Christ. — It is a trampling Christ's blood under our feet. — It is a crucifying Christ afresh and harbouring the traitors and enemies of Christ in our bosom".  "The sin of it is no less than murdering the Son of God, and being accessory to the guilt of shedding his innocent blood".

"It argues a low esteem and an undervaluing of Christ, his precious blood, and redeeming love...It is a solemn affront to Christ; as it is to a king to throw his picture or great seal into a puddle...It is a horrid mocking of Christ, as it is a pretense of love to him, and hatred of sin, while, in the mean time, sin is hugged and Christ despised...It is a plain accession to the guilt of the Jews and Romans, who imbrued their hands in Christ's blood; for he is reckoned accessory to a murder who consents to it, aids, or abets the murderers, and this unworthy communicants are guilty of".
"Unworthy receivers of the Lord's supper contract great guilt, and also incur great danger to themselves". 
"They provoke God to inflict sore judgments on them, temporal and spiritual judgments here, and eternal judgments hereafter. The meaning is not, that this sin is unpardonable, but that it deserves damnation, and will bring it on, without repentance, and flying to the blood of Christ for cleansing. Every sin is in its own nature damning, and therefore such a heinous sin, as profaning this holy ordinance, must surely be so. But timorous and fearful believers should not be discouraged from attending this holy ordinance by the sound of this word, as if they bound upon themselves the sentence of damnation, by coming to the Lord's table unprepared. For hearing and praying unworthily, incurs damnation, as well as communicating unworthily. But this sin, as well as others, leaves room for forgiveness upon repentance".
"as the virtue of this precious blood saved and cleansed many, who actually shed it at Jerusalem; so it can save and cleanse those who spill and trample it under foot in the sacrament, upon their application to it, (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 2:36,38,41; 1 John 1:7)"
In relation to the word chosen by the AV translators and the Westminster Divines, I am inclined to agree with a former Professor of Church History and Principles at the Free Church College who expressed his preference for the older rendering in the face of the criticism that is all too commonly heard.

We should not lose the significance of the rendering however, as it is drawn out by Willison and "be much concerned to guard against this heinous and dangerous sin; and cry with the Psalmist, 'Lord, deliver us from blood-guiltiness.'"

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

the beams of our house

Whilst away in one of our other congregations elsewhere in the Highlands I heard a precious sermon on a text that is not expounded as frequently as others. The following are not the words that were used but simply a paraphrase in recollecting the drift of some of the things that were expressed.

Song of Solomon 1:17  The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir

The minister emphasised that the text speaks of "our house"; something that is a shared possession. A house speaks of a mutual dwelling place for fellowship. Jacob found this at Bethel in Genesis 28. What is referred to is a spiritual house, a place for the habitation of God where He may dwell and meet with His people. Moses had to build a house for the purpose of worship and communion, it had to be built according to the pattern shown in the mount but this is a spiritual house. Hebrews 3:1-6 brings in a contrast between Christ and Moses, particularly that Christ excelled Moses in building a spiritual house.  "Whose house are we if we hold fast". This spiritual house was designed in eternity by God who built all things and built in the incarnation, life and atoning work of the Redeemer. Solomon also built a house, the house of holiness, this had beams of the cedar of Lebanon which is of course very durable. There would have been a fragrance of the wood there. Christ built a house with the beams of cedar that are the beauty and glory of Christ's work in righteousness and atonement. There is fair, carved work there that doesn't need to be gilded with paint. He is the foundation and chief corner stone. He built a house which is for the mutual communion of Himself and His people. It includes all of the means of grace in public and private, all of which are intended for the exercise of grace. We should be seeking that grace would be in exercise anytime that we engage in these means of grace. Those that sit down at the Lord's table are beholding the fabric of this house for the fellowship that they are able to enjoy at that ordinance. They can say "the beams of our house are cedar".

If you would like to read James Durham's comments on this beautiful portion of Scripture go here.

Monday, September 09, 2013

the configurations of their glorie!


Biblical visualisations of cross-references are found here. The above rainbow shows the distance between two places among 63,779  cross-references using colour. The following one uses 340, 000 references.




Seeing not onely how each verse doth shine,
            But all the constellations of the storie.

This verse marks that, and both do make a motion
             Unto a third, that ten leaves off doth lie:

Thy words do finde me out, & parallels bring,

These are George Herbert's words from the poem on Holy Scripture. Would it not be beautiful if we could trace cross-references with our own life and experience? The "lights" and "perfections" of the Urim and Thummim found in Scripture as a lamp to our feet. What would that look like as a patchwork of colour and embroidery of light? This places the emphasis upon the word "I" at the start of Herbert's poem.

OH that I knew how all thy lights combine,
             And the configurations of their glorie!




Thursday, August 01, 2013

Headcovering


"my judgment is that presupposed in the Apostle’s words is the accepted practice of head covering for women in the assemblies of the Church" John Murray

While we may not cross every "t" and dot every "i" with the detail of interpretations offered in relation to this passage on the above website www.headcoveringmovement.com, it is encouraging to see the issue given more prominence and this biblical requirement encouraged. For more of John Murray's views read here. There are some useful sermons here and here. See also things written by Brian Schwertley and Richard Bacon. Again we are not of course recommending every detail of the arguments offered or of the bible versions that have been used.

Monday, July 29, 2013

audio sermons

For those who appreciate audio sermons, there is a valuable quantity to be found from the London ministry of Rev. Keith Watkins on Sermonaudio.com.

One that I first listened to on cassette not far short of twenty years ago, and which made a lasting impression, is the sermon on Lovest thou Me? I would also recommend the series on Godly Sorrow. There are many precious sermons on the Song of Solomon, it is often rare to find multiple sermons on this book these days. Listen also to the inspired Title of Psalm 45 being expounded.

Mr Watkins came to paedobaptist convictions while worshipping in churches that did not hold to these principles and his sermons on Baptism are often very helpful for this reason. It's a shame that the very beneficial lectures on Church Principles given in London have not been put onto sermonaudio.com as these are very useful expositions of presbyterian and FP principles. You can hear a sermon on Acts 15 though and obtain Lectures on Church Principles on another site. You can also find more up to date sermons on the Old Testament and New Testament as preached in Barnoldswick (near Colne), Lancashire.

The series on Ruth is also very helpful in bringing out the types of Christ and the gospel in that narrative. In his book Ruth: Her Story for Today, Mr Watkins writes the following:

Through the work of the ministry, in which His truth is proclaimed with authority and sinners are called to faith and repentance, the Lord Jesus saves those who believe. Sinners are united to Christ through faith, and "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Usually, they hear through a preacher, for "how shall they hear without a preacher?" (verse 14). The Lord uses the preaching of His servants to bring people to Himself. That is why Paul spoke of himself as a "masterbuilder", of all ministers as "labourers together with God", and of the Church as "God's building" (1 Corinthians 3:9,10). So we should pray for the ministers of the Word, that the Lord would use their labours to build His house.

Friday, July 12, 2013

My two mites

And will the LORD, indeed, condescend to avouch me for his own? Shall I be of his chosen ones! Will the FATHER of mercies look upon me as accepted in the beloved, and mark me as the object of his peculiar love? Hath my JESUS purchased me with the peculiar price of his blood? Hath the HOLY GHOST visited my soul with the influences of his peculiar grace? Am I, indeed, the object of the united mercy of the Holy Three in One: and are the peculiar blessings of the covenant, the portion of my soul? LORD! grant me grace this day to avouch myself, with all I have, and all I am, to be thine forever. Take my two mites (for soul and body are nothing more, compared to this vast treasury) and accept them, O LORD, in JESUS, for of thine own do I give thee. Witness for me, ye angels of light, that I will know no other GOD but the LORD GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; that I desire to be distinguished from all the nations of the earth, that are not the Israel of GOD, as separated from them; and that henceforth I will make mention of his righteousness, even his only, who is the GOD of my life, and will be my portion forever.

Robert Hawker


--
Matthew

Saturday, July 06, 2013

breaking bread

It is good, though not always possible, to witness visibly the minister actually break the bread at the Lord's table. There is some historical and doctrinal significance to this - since it not only functioned as an obedience to the example of Christ but affirmed that Christ's presence was spiritual and not locally as a physical substance with, around, under or even within the bread. It seems that for this reason Lutherans, historically did not break the bread i.e. in order to signify that the substance of Christ was joined to the bread. As a side point it is worth noting that breaking of bread of bread in Scripture does not always or necessarily refer to the Lord's Supper (Acts 27:35 - it is debatable to what extent other uses of the term "breaking of bread" in the book of Acts refer to the Lord's Supper, Acts 2:46 is clearly common meals as per Luke 9:16; 24:30&35; Matt. 14:19; 15:36; Mark 6:41; 8:6,19; and Jeremiah 16:7). 

The apostle Paul asks: "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" (1 Cor 10:16). In other words, there is a greater spiritual significance to the bread and its being broken that we must enter into. If we would consider the bread that is set before us at the Lord's Table, John Willison reminds us that "Bread, ere it be fit to nourish us, must be first sown, and die in the earth; then it must be threshed, grinded in the mill, baken in the oven, broken and eaten: So Christ, that he might be a fit Saviour to us, was content to die, and be bruised for our sins, and scorched in the oven of his Father's wrath. Bread is the most necessary thing in the world; it strengthens man s heart, it is the staff that upholds his life; so Christ is the mercy of mercies, the most useful and necessary blessing to our starving souls".

He goes on: "When we see the minister take the bread, think how God did choose and take Christ from among men to be our Mediator, and a sacrifice for our sins. When the minister sets apart, blesses, and consecrates the bread, think how God set apart and sent his Son, sanctified and furnished with all gifts and graces needful to his mediatory office".

When you see the bread broken, think on the breaking and tormenting of Christ s body, and the bruising of his soul for our sins. He suffered a double death, one in his soul, and another in his body; he suffered from men and devils: But all was nothing to what he suffered from his Father; for, when men were wounding his body, the Father s hand bruised his soul, made a thousand wounds therein, and poured in a whole ocean of wrath upon him: he brake him with breach upon breach, and overwhelmed him with one wave of vengeance upon the back of another, till all his billows went over him. This was a sad time to our Saviour: yet all these floods could not drown his love to us, nor make him quit the grip he had taken of us, but, come of him what will, his poor people must not perish; his love to them flamed highest when his sufferings were greatest. 
Again, when you see the bread broken, look to Christ's wounds as an open city of refuge for thy soul, that is pursued by justice, to take sanctuary in: His wounds are laid open, that you may see into his bleeding heart, and see his yearning bowels of mercy, and hear them sounding towards you, an object of pity and spectacle of misery. Poor shelterless soul, quit all other shelters, and flee to the clefts of the rock here opened, saying, "This is my rest, and here I will stay." 
Pray at this time, "Lord, may my hard heart be broken and melted, that I may in some measure be conformed to my broken Saviour" Or, "Lord, break the united forces of my sins, and scatter them by thy mighty arm."
When you see the minister offering the bread to the communicants, and hear him saying, "Take ye, eat ye," think how freely God offers his Son, and Christ offers himself to be ours: Think how you see him at the head of the table, making offer of himself to you, saying, "Take me, and the whole purchase of my blood; take my sealed testament, and all the legacies in it; take a sealed pardon of all your sins, and a sealed right to eternal life."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Preparation for the Lord's Supper

In many churches the Lord's Supper is administered without any acknowledged need for due spiritual preparation for this means of grace. The Puritan Richard Vines gives some indications as to the necessity of spiritual preparation.

There is a certain peculiar preparation due to the celebration of this Ordinance; for where the manner is so contrary, as worthily and unworthily, and the effect of the Ordinance much depending upon the manner of receiving it, and the benefits so great, as communion of Christ's body, the danger no less than of condemnation, reason will tell us, that there is a preparation requisite, that the fruit may be of the Tree of Life, and not of the Tree of knowledge of good and eyil, Eat and die. It's either too much blindness or boldness to rush upon this Ordinance without preparation...Our Saviour did not only use, but honour preparations, when he fasted and pray'd in order to his great work. To the Passover there belong'd...a solemn preparation: The Lamb was taken upon the tenth day, the leaven was enquired after and purged out which if they have now no obligation, yet they have a meaning: and you use to have Sermons for preparation, which are but preparatives to preparation they do but light the candle, but you must, as that woman, Luke 15:8 "Sweep the house and seek diligently"; else Sermon preparation may (as I fear it often doth) go without soul-preparation. That word 1 Cor. 11:28 "And so let him eat", tells us plainly, that somewhat must go before. 

Preparation is not something that we may trust in and though we must take it seriously and engage in it with sincerity we must take ourselves to Christ by faith and only go to the Lord's Table in his strength and merit.
I look for no preparation that shall not stand in need of mercy. If I see so much in my self, as makes my self empty, and that emptiness doth make me athirst for Christ, then I shall not dispute my preparation, but deny my worthiness, and yet come.

Monday, June 24, 2013

self-examination with Love

Dr John Love of Greenock (1757-1825) writes helpfully concerning the duty of self-examination with regard to our state, i.e. "am I in Christ?" He gives the following scripture proofs (Ps 28:5; Ps 111:2; Ps 103:2; Ps 106:7).

He also distinguishes a duty of self-examination with regard to our frame or condition, i.e. "am I growing in Christ?" (2 Peter 3:18; Lam 3:40; Ps 119:59). In relation to the latter text he observes that self-examination is absolutely necessary for repentance.

Self-examination as to both state and frame are required in order to have that peace of conscience that is desirable. Without self-examination no man can utter 2 Cor 1:12 "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward". Only after self-examination can the conscience give its testimony - both our state and frame will come under judgement of Christ at the last day.

'Memorials,' vol. 2:499

Monday, June 10, 2013

Unsearchable Riches

Rev Donald Maclean (1915-2010) of the St Jude's congregation of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland was well-known to generations of people who lived, worked or studied in Glasgow. His previous Portree ministry (1948-1960) had also been noted for its wide influence. (Dutch friends can find out more here)

This volume of his sermons -- available now on Kindle and expected soon in hard-back and paper-back -- shows some of the reason why. Twelve sermons are preceded by an insightful biographical sketch.

His Christ-focused preaching was warm in tone, clearly explained the text of the Bible, robustly tied the verse(s)to the doctrine, appealed to the hearer's conscience, showed where the text fitted into the 'big picture' of the teaching of the covenants in the Bible, and stressed 'the free offer of the gospel'.

Many people who wanted to have Scripture explained by Scripture, instinctively listened to Mr Maclean's preaching. Many felt it reflected the Reformed confessional Calvinistic Scottish pulpit in its better days. A new generation can now sample it in 'Unsearchable Riches'.

Review by N. Campbell.

p.s. you can listen to audio sermons of Rev. D. Maclean here and here.

p.p.s. hard copies can be ordered and an excerpt can also be read here.