Wednesday, December 28, 2011

questions we should not ask#8

We are not to ask such a question as that: “What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God?” (Matt. 8. 29). This is the language of the devil; and yet such devilish hearts are among us that say the same thing. Some say it more closely and hiddenly under the shadow of humility: What have I to do with Christ, that am so unworthy of Him? What have I to do with His blood, His righteousness and merit, His Spirit, His promise, His grace, His fulness? Is it for the like of me? Have I any concern or interest therein? Yes, you have to do with all these, and you are called to make use of them, unless you will rank yourselves with the devils to whom they were never preached.
Again, some say it more grossly and profanely: What have we to do with Christ? What have we to do with His ordinances? What have we to do with His sacraments? What have we to do with His Sabbaths? What have we to do with so many sermons? We are wearied to the heart with them, and we care not a fig for these things. “What a weariness is it?” “Take a carnal man,” says one, “tie him to a post, and you may kill him with praying and preaching.” We are not so foolish as to trouble ourselves about these things. What have we to do with them? Lord, pity such creatures, for they are as like the devil as they can look. “What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God?”

- Ralph Erskine

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

swift to its close ebbs out life's little day: meditations for the shortest day

22 December is the shortest day in 2011, when the hours of sunlight are fewest and the sun follows its lowest arc through the sky.  Our life is but a brief day, the briefest of days. Time is short and eternity is very long. Each day represents a life in miniature and the opportunities of that life in miniature. The shortest day perhaps best represents our brief sojourn here.

"Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth." John 12:35

"Eternity to the godly is a day that has no sunset; eternity to the wicked is a night that has no sunrise."
—Thomas Watson

"I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." John 9:4

"Our life is our day, in which it concerns us to do the work of the day. We must be busy, and not waste day-time; it will be time to rest when our day is done, for it is but a day. The approach of death should quicken us to improve all our opportunities of doing and getting good. What good we have an opportunity to do, we should do quickly. And he that will never do a good work till there is nothing to be objected against, will leave many a good work for ever undone, Ec 11:4."
—Matthew Henry

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." - Eccl. 9:10

"Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." Psalm 97:11

"A good man must be like the sun; not like Hezekiah's sun that went backward, nor like Joshua's sun that stood still; but like David's sun, that as a bridegroom comes out of his chamber, and as a champion rejoiceth to run his race. Only herein is the difference, that when he comes to his high noon, he declineth not".
—Joseph Hall

"For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding". 1 Chronicles 29:15

"LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.
Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.
Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them". Psalm 39:4-6

"among the many things that a Christian should know, he should know this main and advantageous thing, the brevity of his life, and of his appointed time upon the earth. O study to know this more... We conceive this handbreadth is the breadth of one of our hands; it is one of the measures we carry about with us; it is the breadth of four fingers, which relates to these four times of man’s life, his infancy, his youth, his mid-age, and his old age; or it may relate to these four times, his morning, fore-noon, mid-day, and his evening, all of which but amounts to one day... the distinct knowledge of our time that we have upon the earth is a strong encouragement to us for the bearing of the cross and afflicting dispensations that we meet with, with much patience and submission unto God....the brevity and shortness of our life speaks the great love and matchless delight that God has to sinners. He is longing for the day when all the redeemed of the Lord shall be with Him, there to remain for ever and ever to enjoy all delights, and all manner of soul-pleasures. O when shall that day come, when we shall be brought out from this earthly tabernacle of clay, and shall enter our possessions in that blessed tabernacle not made with hands? 0 long for that day, And yet we should be submissive unto God’s dispensation and good pleasure, and we should not challenge Him for the brevity and shortness of our lifetime here".
—Andrew Gray

Friday, December 16, 2011

a surreal moment...

...on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme this morning (just prior to the 8am news). The discussion involved Ian McEwan and Dennis McShane lauding the recently deceased Christopher Hitchens. Reference was made of course to the latter's atheism and maverick streak. One of the above then proceeded to quote rather forcefully from a children's Sunday school chorus:

Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone,
Dare to have a purpose firm, and
Dare to make it known.

I suppose I shouldn't have been so taken aback, as it has featured strongly with some left wing writers. George Orwell went for the full quotation in his essay "The Prevention of Literature" and Tony Benn used it for the title of his autobiography, revealing how hard it is for such people to get away from their heritage. Perhaps Hitchens, himself would have welcomed it. Does it not seem ironic, however, if you know anything of what Daniel stood for?

And the blasphemy that Christopher Hitchens trademarked was nothing to stand for and in one sense not much to stand against. The New Atheism has often seemed much like the Emperor's New Clothes. I was quite taken aback by the lack of substance in his arguments when he debated his brother on the existence of God. He relied simply upon a rhetoric of vitriolic wit.

Daniel's position was altogether different. 'The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits' (Dan. 11:32).

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Questions we should not ask #7

We are not to ask such a question as that: “Who will shew us any good?” though there be many that say so (Psa. 4. 6). This is the question of the covetous worldling, and which Christ cautions His disciples against: “Say not, What shall we eat and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed? Be careful for nothing; but cast all your care upon Him, who careth for you.” But if you will fill your hearts with anxious cares and covetous questions to that purpose, “Who will shew us any good?” then see what answer you will make to that question
that Christ asks you: “What shall a man profit, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
-Ralph Erskine

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Questions we should not ask #6

We are not to ask Him such a question as that: “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Pet. 3. 4). This is the language of the graceless and profane, who would wish with all their hearts that Christ would never come again, and put the evil day far from them that they may take leave to indulge themselves in all manner of sin because
sentence against evil works is not speedily executed. But know that Christ will come to judgment as certainly as if you just now beheld Him.

“Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they
also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.”
Ralph Erskine

Monday, October 17, 2011

Questions we should not ask #5

It is not safe to ask such a question as that: “Lord, and what shall this man do?” (John 21. 21). Some that are attached to a respect of persons in order to follow them may be ready to say, What will this man or that man do? What course will this minister or that minister take? What side will this or that man turn to, when debatable things cast up? But such a question is justly answered with another, such as Christ put to Peter in that place: “What is that to thee? follow thou Me.” Take you the plain road of duty, without troubling yourself with what this or that man will do. Blessed are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. Follow none but as they follow Christ.
Ralph Erskine

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

the position that our Authorised Version has won

What is this Book which has been enthroned so high above all other literature and is the crowned queen among the grandest works of the ages? What is this Book that is receiving the homage of all ranks and classes, from the King to the peasant, from the university scholar to the backwoodsman in the wilds of the West? They tell us that it contains the purest English ever written. Of the words that go to make pure English it has 97 per cent., as against 85 per cent in Shakespeare and 81 per cent. in 'Paradise Lost.' And yet it has so entered into the language of the people, and exercised such a formative influence upon their everyday utterances, that of its six thousand words only about two hundred are not in common use. Writers of all kinds have extolled the beauty of its diction, the felicity of its phrases, and the sublimity of its style. But true as this is, it could never account for the position that our Authorised Version has won. Pious friends do not bestow this gift-book upon children simply to teach them elegancy or to save them from barbarities of speech. When the mother, with a teardimmed eye, begs her boy to remember his Bible and to read if only a few verses every day in the far-off land to which he is going, she is thinking of something very different from the dignified preservation of his native tongue. When the Book goes down with the mourner into the abyss of sorrow and keeps him from sinking into despair, it is not alone by the music of its sentences and the rhythm of its cadences that it speaks to his riven heart. When the aged saint reads over again the familiar passages on which his mind is wont to dwell, the mere felicity of the phrases will not account for the light that kindles on his face like a ray from the sunshine of heaven. No, we yield to none in our admiration of the English of the Authorised Version, but we are not foolish enough to imagine that this has been the sole secret of its power.

There is something more, then, in the old Book, which has been working in the nation for three [now four] hundred years and is working still, whose light is not yet dim nor its natural force abated. Yes, there is something more. It is the Word of God, and it has proved its origin by its achievements. The Holy Spirit, using it as His instrument, has enlightened the darkness of untold multitudes, pointed them to the Saviour, shown them the path of life, guided them in their pilgrimage, strengthened them to overcome temptation, implanted in them the principles of truth and righteousness, made them missionaries to others, consoled them in their sorrows, and filled them with the hope of immortality. By these glorious achievements He has set the English Bible on its throne and bent the minds of myriads to pay their tribute to it to-day.

The English Churchman, in a leading article (23rd March, 1911)

Friday, September 30, 2011

The King in His Beauty #3

There is a review of this book in Reformatorisch Dagblad by Ds. R.W. de Koeijer, Putten under the title 'Gevoelige vroomheid van Samuel Rutherford' (roughly 'The Sensitive Piety of Samuel Rutherford').

Some people have asked how it can be obtained in the UK. Evangelical Press released this for distribution in the UK in July this year. They have sold out and have a quantity of back orders. They are in the process of organising an order from the USA shortly and will take orders direct, although it doesn't appear to be on their website. It is generally retailing for £7.50.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Questions we should not ask #4

We are not to ask such a question as that: “Wherefore have we fasted, and Thou hast not seen? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and Thou takest no knowledge?” (Isa. 58. 3). This is the language of the hypocrite and legalist, who hath an over-rating thought of all his duties: “Wherefore have we fasted, and Thou hast not seen? Wherefore have we prayed, and Thou hast not heard?” They challenge God of injustice, for not giving them what they think they merit. “I thank God,” said the Pharisee, “that I am not as other men, no adulterer, no murderer, nor like this publican; I fast twice a week, I give alms of all that I possess.” This was no prayer, but a proud boasting of what he had done for God, and what obligations he laid upon heaven. A poor believer is of another spirit; let him do never so much, he sees all his righteousness to be rotten rags, a menstruous cloth; my tears need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Ralph Erskine

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

that they may be with me where I am

"Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory" (John 17:24)

1. All the presence that Christ affords, and his people now enjoy here, is, in regard of this, but absence from the Lord: (2 Cor. 5:6,8). Perfect presence is, when all on both sides is present ; all of Christ, and all of the Christian. But now all of Christ is not with us ; and all of us is not with him...this presence is imperfect, and mixed with much distance and absence.

2. This being with Christ where he is, hath in it perfect and full fruition and enjoyment of Christ.

3. This presence, this enjoyment, is in the best state and place. It is where he is.

4. This is to be for ever. The greatest blessing hath the longest duration.
...Would you secure heaven to yourselves? Seek to get into Christ by faith; seek acquaintance with him, press after communion with him. Let all your thoughts of heaven, all your care to secure your possessing of it, and all your exercise in pressing towards it, let all centre in this one person, Jesus Christ ...You need no more to secure your right to eternal life, than to be possessed of Christ by faith; and you need no better eternal life, than to be with Christ where he is. He himself describes it by this that they may be with me where I am. And surely Christ best knows what heaven is ; since he bought it, prepared it, and possessed it, for his people. And he knows the way to it ; for he is both the way and the guide to it. Hear his voice, therefore, and follow and he will give you eternal life ; and ye shall never perish (John 10:27-29. Rom. 8:35-39).

Learn to pray moderately for the lives of Christ's people. There are some of the godly that are very useful by their gifts and grace; and, if spared, might be of great profit to the church of Christ. Such we should be loth to lose, and their lives we may pray for; yet it must be done moderately. Who can tell but Christ and we are praying counter to one another. He may be saying in heaven, "Father I will have such a one to be with me where I am;" and we saying on earth, " Lord we would have him to be with us where we are:" we saying, "We cannot spare him as yet;" and Christ saying, "I will be no longer without him." It is the force of this prayer of Christ, "I will have them to be with me where I am," that is the cause of the death of the godly. It is the force of this prayer that carries away so many of the saints in our day. Christ is saying in heaven, "I will have them where I am. They are despised in the world, and badly used on the earth: "Father, let us have them where we are." Should not we pray modestly for their lives, while we know not his secret will? and should not we believingly submit to his will, when he reveals it ? Say, "Let them go from us, since Christ calls them to be with him." It is his will, and their great advantage, (Phil. 1:23).

Robert Traill

"Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men". (Psalm 12:1)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Questions we should not ask #3

We are not to ask such a question as that: “Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? Can He give us bread to eat? Can He provide flesh for His people?” (Psa. 78. 19). This is the question of unbelief, Can God provide supply for my temporal or spiritual necessities? Can He pardon such sins as mine? Can He subdue such corruptions as mine? Can He supply such wants as mine? “How can these things be?” O blasphemous unbelief! What cannot a God of infinite power do? This infidelity hath a mouth full of blasphemy. What answer gave God to this question to Israel? It is said, “The Lord heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel; because they believed not in God, and trusted not in His salvation.”
- Ralph Erskine

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Questions we should not ask #2

We are not to ask Him such a question as that: “Who shall ascend to heaven to bring down Christ? or, who shall descend into the depths to bring up Christ?” (Rom. 10:6, 7). We are discharged to say it in our hearts; and yet the heart is ready to say it when we are hearing the Word, and hearing Christ preached in it: O He is far away; He is in heaven; there is no winning to Him. Nay, but we are not to say so; for He is nigh when His Word is nigh. “He is in this Word of faith which we preach.” Now this Word, says the Holy Ghost, is even in our mouths,
and in our hearts. The Word is in our mouths, and when we find it there we should eat it. “Thy words were found, and I did eat them” (Jer. 15:16). And when the Word is in your mouth, Christ is there, and you should feed upon Him in the Word as well as in the sacrament. And as the Word is in your mouth, so it is in your heart that you may embrace Him.

Ralph Erskine

Saturday, August 27, 2011

the riots and moral relativism

The most insightful analysis of the causes of the recent English riots highlights the role of moral relativism. Encouragingly, this was shared by the Prime Minister. Even though he did not acknowledge where the absolutes would be derived. Another perspective is to see something of the symptoms that engulfed the declining Roman Empire as corroding the West into collapse. If we think this is melodramatic we might consider a decent summary of Gibbon's five basic reasons, as summarised by Tieman H. Dippel in The New Legacy:

  1. The sanctity and dignity of the home were undermined.
  2. Taxation became higher and higher, with public money being spent for free bread and circuses for the people.
  3. There was a mad craze for pleasure and violence, and sports became more exciting, brutal, and immoral as people grew increasingly desensitized.
  4. Armaments were built when the real enemy was the decay of individual responsibility.  
  5. Religion degenerated into mere form and lost its touch with life and no longer had the power to guide people in spiritual directions.
Gibbon speaks generally of the decline in civic virtue as much as economic collapse. It appears that factors 2 and 3 were linked with the boredom of thousands of unemployed Romans who were prone to civil unrest and rioting in the streets. They were bought off by the politicians through free bread and circuses. A rather weak argument has been made that there is a link between the English riots and taxation, because some of the rioters thought they were "getting their taxes back" (even though it will put £100m on the tax bill).  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Questions we should not ask #1

We are not to ask such a question as that: “How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?” (Psa. 73. 11). Indeed, whenever you indulge yourselves in secret sins which you would not have the world to see, the language of your heart is, How does God know? But, He that made the eyes, shall He not see? He that gives man knowledge, shall He not know? Yea, His understanding is infinite. The Lord is the God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed. He searcheth Jerusalem as with a lighted candle. Do not question His omnisciency, for as He sees in secret to reward openly them that fear Him, so He sees in secret to punish openly them that fear Him not.

Ralph Erskine

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Greed runs riot: my part in it

There have been a multitude of causes proposed for the England riots  There has been an inevitable left-wing counter-offensive against the simple assessment of the rioting and looting as feral criminality. It is a symptom of severe moral bankruptcy as a nation. It is easy and false to depersonalise the causes by blaming social and economic factors but it is also misleading and facile to isolate all of the responsibility with the individuals involved.

One of the proposed factors is the "culture of entitlement". David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham City University and a former prison governor observes that:
"It's not just about a particular class, it permeates all levels of society. When we see politicians claiming for flat-screen TVs and getting jailed for fiddling their expenses, it's clear that young people of all classes aren't being given appropriate leadership."

We are speaking of a culture of greed where sin is unrestrained and breaches of the 10th commandment go happily hand in hand with the 8th - if you can get away with it.  (The Larger Catechism rightly includes covetousness as a breach of the 8th commandment). Few will in fact face the consequences of this, just as few are brought to justice for their breaches of the 8th commandment. It's about getting what you want and feel entitled to for nothing whether it be significant sums of money or trainers from JD Sports. It is simply greed without fear of restraint from impotent and discredited authority. Government and society promote greed and the breach of the 8th commandment whether through the National Lottery or a dependence upon excessive and irresponsible consumer spending.

I'm not in the habit of quoting women priests but this writer has at least discerned some of this when she says:
"And what will we do? Continue to promulgate the values that have created this deadly cocktail of haves and have-nots, faithless, hopeless people who have been taught that consumerism is a recreational right and all moral and religious education completely nonsensical? Surely that would be nonsensical."

The question is: why is this happening now? Because it is evident to all that greed can run riot without being effectively checked. Politicians and bankers have proved this. "We're showing the police and the rich that we can what we want". I wonder where they learned that?

It comes closer to home in this analysis:
"Politicians have been part of this process, and some on the left may have even encouraged our young people to riot. The liberal intelligentsia encouraged posh kids to protest and riot over student fees – and now poorer kids have joined in and we are all appalled. How can you complain when you supported such activism only a few months ago?
In a way, we are all responsible for the riots, whether directly or indirectly. We watched the previous government talk up rights for young people but with no mention of responsibilities. We have allowed our welfare system to prop up immoral lifestyles. We have not taught all our young people that an entitlement culture is morally wrong. And we have paid the price for this liberalism. Now we need to collectively grow up and take responsibility for responsibility."

It's a start but if the soul-searching is at all real we need to discover "every man the plague of his own heart". That the seeds and a degree of the symptoms are with us too. "Are there not sins with you, even with you?" Though you were restrained by God's common and/or saving grace from joining with the looters, have we not had our own covetous part in the culture of greed? "When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him" (Ps. 50:18). Are we not seeing the full unrestrained working of what is in our hearts and even in our lives in the obsession with material things? Let us examine ourselves in relation to and pray over the biblical exposition of the 8th commandment that we have in the Larger Catechism

Question 141: What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to everyone his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary lawsuits and suretyship, or other like engagements; and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.

Question 142: What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the eighth commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, theft, robbery, man_stealing, and receiving anything that is stolen; fraudulent dealing, false weights and measures, removing land marks, injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of trust; oppression, extortion, usury, bribery, vexatious lawsuits, unjust enclosures and depopulations; engrossing commodities to enhance the price; unlawful callings, and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor: What belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; covetousness; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods; distrustful and distracting cares and studies in getting, keeping, and using them; envying at the prosperity of others; as likewise idleness, prodigality, wasteful gaming; and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate, and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God has given us.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Benefit of Meditation

From Virginia Hugenot
Joseph Hall, The Art of Divine Meditation in Works, Vol. 7, p. 44:

It is not, I suppose, a more bold than profitable labour, after the endeavours of so many contemplative men, to teach the Art of Meditation: a heavenly business, as any that belongeth either to man or Christian; and such as, whereby the soul doth unspeakably benefit itself. For, by this, do we ransack our deep and false hearts; find out our secret enemies; buckle with them, expel them; arm ourselves against their re-entrance: by this, we make use of all good means; fit ourselves to all good duties: by this, we descry our weakness; obtain redress; prevent temptations; cheer up our solitariness; temper our occasions of delight; get more light into our knowledge, more heat to our affections, more life to our devotion: by this, we grow to be, as we are, strangers upon the earth; and, our of a right estimation of all earthly things, into a sweet fruition of invisible comforts: by this, we see our Saviour, with Stephen; we talk with God, as Moses: and, by this, we are ravished, with blessed Paul, into paradise; and see that heaven, which we are loth to leave, which we cannot utter. This alone is the remedy of security and worldliness, the pastime of saints, the ladder of heaven; and, in short, the best improvement of Christianity. Lean it who can, and neglect it who list: he shall never find joy, neither in God nor in himself, which doth not both know and practise it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mutilating the Old Testament

A bible burning event by an Anglican vicar in Wales reveals the logical conclusion of the Enlightenment biblical historical criticism. It also reveals the persistent anti-semitical streak of the higher criticism. The vicar justifies his action with a reference to a certain German philosopher. “Nietzsche said we should philosophise with a hammer, whereas I prefer to theologise with a scissors. I have not burnt a Bible, I have merely cut bits out and burned the little parts that were left over leaving most of the book intact.” The idea is to get rid of the parts of the Bible  that represent a "cruel and vile God" and that supposedly contradict the teachings of Jesus. It's all a rehash of a very old heresy, Marcionism. Coming closer to home, we heard someone at the 2011 General Assembly asserting that certain parts of Leviticus had "never been part of the Word of God". The "moral" repugnance is thrown off onto the Jews.

How is historical criticism anti-Semitic? Try William Robertson Smith and his Lectures on the Religion of the Semites, whose major theme is in showing how different Christianity has always been from the lower ‘primitive’ 'ritualistic' Semitic religion out of which it emerged. Historical criticism is the application of an evolutionary 'scientific' method. Robertson Smith's mentor was Julius Wellhausen (inventor of the documentary hypothesis), whose anti-semitism has been discussed frequently. Johann David Michaelis defined the field of historical criticism and was virulently anti-semitic.

Solomon Schechter gave an address, “Higher Criticism—Higher Anti-Semitism” in 1903. Some warning signs  had been raised. Clearly, however the intellectual climate was prepared for the rise of Hitler when Adolf von Harnack was ready to rehabilitate Marcion.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Volcanic Ash and the Balancings of the Clouds

The ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 challenged scientific knowledge. While further understanding has been gathered, the recent eruption of Grimsvotn has revealed much of the lack of knowledge on the part of many about these things in spite of their claims. Now the Government has appointed an Ash Cloud Tsar, a scientist who is to give them the exact knowledge they need. There has been much debate about the computer forecasts of the ash cloud made by the Met Office’s Volcanic Advisory Centre. The computer model – called NAME – takes into account wind and rain patterns to predict the movement and concentration of the ash cloud up to altitudes of 55,000 feet. It also estimates the type of ash spewing out of the volcano in terms of the size, shape and hardness of volcanic ash particles.

In spring 2010 scientists conducted three flights into the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic ash cloud to collect air samples. They made new discoveries. 'Each volcano has its own character', they concluded. 'We found that hydrocarbon concentrations were up to 70% lower inside the Eyjafjallajökull ash cloud than outside.' They found that the ash plume contained not only the common volcanic gas sulfur dioxide, but also free chlorine radicals. Chlorine radicals are extremely reactive and even tiny amounts that can have a profound impact on local atmospheric chemistry. They are able to confirm that it was dangerous to attempt to fly through the cloud whereas at the time noone really knew for sure.

The media have referred foolishly to the forces of "mother nature" or being in "the lap of the gods" rather than acknowledge our helplessness, despite this knowledge, in response to divine providence. Those, such as ourselves, who found their travel plans affected by these work of providence should come to see our times are in his hands.

In the book of Job, Elihu asks, "Can any understand the spreadings of the clouds?" (Job 36:29). Elihu well knew something of their formation and composition. "He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not rent under them" (Job 26:8). Yet he acknowledged the real limits of his knowledge. He asks does anyone fully know the "balancings of the clouds" (Job 37:16), how millions of tons of water are suspended and sustained in the thinnest parts of the atmosphere even though water is heavier than air. Air currents may keep them aloft for a while, but who controls and directs the wind? There may be various theories based on ever closer analysis but if we are wise we must come to acknowledge and bow to the providence of God.

“Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. Dost thou know when God disposed them [i.e., the winds and clouds, the thunder and lightning, the frost and rain], and caused the light of His cloud to shine? Dost thou know the balancing of the clouds, the wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge” (Job 37:14-16).

"Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict. Men do therefore fear him: he respecteth not any that are wise of heart" (Job 37:23-24). This is the lesson to be drawn from considering the mighty, wise and holy works of providence.

"Men should therefore stand in awe of him, and beware of quarrelling with his conduct, for he regards none who are wise in their own conceit, or who dare contend with their Maker, or presume to censure his proceedings." (John Brown of Haddington)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Declaratory Acts

Another blog draws attention to the similarity between the praise controversy that has been ongoing within the Free Church lately and the Declaratory Act situation of 1892-3.

One of the points made is that in the Free Church lately there has been "surprising agreement that with Barrier Act legitimacy (however construed) the decision would be a binding law in the Free Church. This has always been the contention of the Free Presbyterian Church in connection with the Declaratory Act adopted in 1891 and made law under the Barrier Act in 1892".

The permission granted to consciences in 2011 to make known their convictions on purity of worship underlines many things. It underlines a situation where "every man does that which is right in his own eyes" and the Church is happy for vows and the definition of true and pure worship to be interpreted according to individual preference. It also acknowledges that the Church's position on worship has changed and in particular the vows of the individual and their meaning. Otherwise why would men need to seek to safeguard their consciences?

Merely to state one's convictions is on the face of it meaningless when this has no integral connection with the vows and it does not matter to the Church whether or not the statement is made. It does not absolve the individual from keeping the vows as the Church has altered them.

Men are now being required to assert, maintain and defend worship that previously their vows required them to oppose. It is no longer possible to assert, maintain and defend purity of worship in congregations that will reject purity of worship. While liberty will be granted to use purity of worship when conducting worship there, is there liberty to preach against the defection from purity of worship? Will this not be seen as schismatic and proceeded against? Will elders be able to protest against defections within their congregation?

When a man changes his views on worship this is entirely irrelevant to his presbytery now and even if the presbytery wished to take action, they cannot. A presbytery cannot require someone being licensed, ordained, inducted to make such a statement and even if they could they cannot act upon it. Thus their vows are now entirely changed.

A man may indicate that his views are conservative and receive a call but what if he omits to make a statement during the process of being inducted, has he changed his views? Could the congregation compel him to make such a statement? But what is the value of the statement? A man may make a statement and change his views not long after. No congregation can be guaranteed otherwise. After all, did not many make such statements and solemn vows but have then changed? A man may decide that he needs to stay in the current Free Church in order to preserve the truth in his own congregation. But what will happen after he is gone?

This brings us back to the point of agreement, that binding rules and constitutions may even if ultra vires, effectually change in practice and reality the meaning and force of one's vows. This is what happened in 1892-3, yet men sought to argue otherwise. One argument was that they were not required to preach heresy. The point was, however, that they had the keys of discipline taken away from them in relation to heresy and their ordination vows were meaningless on this point. Noone is now required to administer worship other than purity of worship but that does not mean that the vows have been altered.

James S. Sinclair commented in relation to the 1892 Act in words that are now very relevant:

"It is very apparent, however, to all observers that the present age is distinguished for great laxity of opinion on religious subjects in general, and that men, from lack of reverence to any authority in heaven or earth, but their own narrow reason, are ready to kick against all fixed doctrinal standards even though these should be clearly supported by the unerring Word of God".

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One of Heaven's Jewels: Rev Archibald Cook #2

The second edition of this unique book has now been produced following the success of the first edition. The second edition is largely the same as the first with minor differences. This site posted a review of the first edition which does not need to be repeated. The second edition can be purchased here.

It is certainly worth drawing attention to Cook and his ministry afresh, however. The question was put to Archibald Cook on one occasion, ‘Which do you fear most, that which has gone past in your life, or that which is to come?’ He replied that it was what was past in his life. He was asked, ‘Why is that so?’ ‘Well, I mean this,’ he said, ‘if what took place in the past was right, I fear not what will come after.’

The preface to the book makes reference to one minister who reads a portion of Cook's sermons every day. The author also makes the following summary of Cook's influence. "Perhaps his major long-term legacy to Highland Christianity is that he reinforced the evangelical idea that people claiming to have been born again in Christian religious conversion should give up some parts of their previous life-style, including secular entertainments". In the following extract from a sermon, Cook speaks of coming up out of the wilderness of this world and away from its attractions.

The world is a wilderness literally, because it lost the beauty in which it was created. "Cursed is the ground for thy sake." God's curse wasted the original beauty of the earth. Again, the earth is a wilderness, because it is unable to satisfy the soul. The soul was created to be a dwelling place for God; and when God left the soul of man at the Fall nothing else could ever fill it. Because the Creator is robbed of the affection of the soul by the world, He is provoked to place a worm at the root of everything that is drawing the soul away from Himself. The Lord desires the soul's affection for Himself. When it is given to any creature and not to the Creator, He sees the extent to which He Himself is being despised in favour of that other object of affection. Even if it were to an angel that you would give your soul's affection you would thus be guilty of robbing God. When, for example, a man's worldly affairs prosper and take away his soul's affection from God, he is guilty of robbing God. Throughout eternity many will be cursing the day in which their worldly affairs began to prosper. You take care that the world does not draw your heart away from God.

...The world is a wilderness because it is under sentence of death. The day of judgement will usher in the end of the world. The sentence of death has been pronounced against it as a murderer. They are few in number whose souls are not being destroyed by the world. In the day that you come to a saving knowledge of God you will come to know that the world is a murderer, and in that day you will lose your love for it.

...In the day when the Lord comes into the soul, the world becomes an empty place it becomes a wilderness to that soul. Blessed is the man in whom this view of the world is maintained until the day of his death. In the day in which the Lord will come into your soul you will see no beauty in the creature but what is of God in it. This is what no hypocrite ever saw; but those who are the objects of God's love must see it, and do see it. Until they come to see this, any godliness they may have will be a half-grown godliness; and it is no wonder that they do not bear fruit. But when their eyes are opened they do not see any excellency in the world but what is of God in it. You who have not this view of the world, still have the world, and not God, as your portion.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

only a few days left... download
The Next Story by Time Challies as an audio book for free. It is very insightful reading for anyone that uses a mobile phone, the internet and related technologies. He reveals the dangers of the digital revolution in terms of virtualism and how our engagement with this type of media is changing us. It has an engaging style especially in the use of various metaphors but has a crucial theological perspective upon its subject. The aim of the author is to provide the reader with a framework they can apply to any technology. Here is a sample to read.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

sin: the enemy of usefulness#2

Mortification prunes all the graces of God, and makes room for them in our hearts to grow. The life and vigour of our spiritual lives consists in the vigour and flourishing of the plants of grace in our hearts. Now, as you may see in a garden, let there be a precious herb planted, and let the ground be untilled, and weeds grow about it, perhaps it will live still, but be a poor, withering, unuseful thing. You must look and search for it, and sometimes can scarce find it; and when you do, you can scarce know it, whether it be the plant you look for or no; and suppose it be, you can make no use of it at all. When, let another of the same kind be set in the ground, naturally as barren and bad as the other, but let it be well weeded, and every thing that is noxious and hurtful removed from it, -- it flourishes and thrives; you may see it at first look into the garden, and have it for your use when you please. So it is with the graces of the Spirit that are planted in our hearts.

That is true; they are still, they abide in a heart where there is some neglect of mortification; but they are ready to die, Rev. 3:2, they are withering and decaying. The heart is like the sluggard's field, -- so overgrown with weeds that you can scarce see the good corn. Such a man may search for faith, love, and zeal, and scarce be able to find any; and if he do discover that these graces are there yet alive and sincere, yet they are so weak, so clogged with lusts, that they are of very little use; they remain, indeed, but are ready to die. But now let the heart be cleansed by mortification, the weeds of lust constantly and daily rooted up (as they spring daily, nature being their proper soil), let room be made for grace to thrive and flourish, -- how will every grace act its part, and be ready for every use and purpose!

John Owen - Chapter 4 Mortification of Sin

Thursday, May 05, 2011

sin: the enemy of usefulness

Sin "will take away a man’s usefulness in his generation. His works, his endeavours, his labours, seldom receive blessing from God. If he be a preacher, God commonly blows upon his ministry, that he shall labour in the fire, and not be honoured with any success or doing any work for God; and the like may be spoken of other conditions. The world is at this day full of poor withering professors. How few are there that walk in any beauty or glory! how barren, how useless are they, for the most part! Amongst the many reasons that may be assigned of this sad estate, it may justly be feared that this is none of the least effectual, — many men harbour spirit-devouring lusts in their bosoms, that lie as worms at the root of their obedience, and corrode and weaken it day by day. All graces, all the ways and means whereby any graces may be exercised and improved, are prejudiced by this means; and as to any success, God blasts such men’s undertakings...Keep alive upon thy heart these or the like considerations of its guilt, danger, and evil; be much in the meditation of these things; cause thy heart to dwell and abide upon them; engage thy thoughts into these considerations; let them not go off nor wander from them until they begin to have a powerful influence upon thy soul, — until they make it to tremble."
John Owen, Chapter 10, Mortification of Sin

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

US Bible readers prefer the Authorised Version

Of the 89% of U.S. adults who own at least one Bible, 67% own a King James. 82% of those who read the Bible at least once a month rely on the AV. More information here

Friday, April 08, 2011

The King in His Beauty #2

The King in his Beauty now has the release date of 13 April 2011. This is a "wordle" of the total content of the book. Wordles are “word clouds” generated from blocks of text. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. What it shows is something that would have been very important to Rutherford, that Christ is most frequently mentioned in the book much more than Rutherford himself.

"I wish it were in my cry down all love but the love of Christ, and to cry down all gods but Christ, all saviours but Christ, all well-beloveds but Christ, and all soul-suitors and love-beggars but Christ."

"Oh, but Christ is heaven's wonder, and earth's wonder. What marvel that His bride saith, "He is altogether lovely," Oh, pity for evermore, that there should be such a one as Christ Jesus, so boundless, so bottomless, and so incomparable."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

the dawn of heaven breaks

As well remembered here, today marks the 350th anniversary of Samuel Rutherford's death 29 March 1661.

Rutherford wrote in his book Christ Dying:

When the sun riseth first, the beams over-gild the tops of green mountains that look toward the east, and the world cannot hinder the sun to rise: some are so near heaven, that the everlasting Sun hath begun to make an everlasting day of glory on them; the rays that come from his face that sits on the throne, so over-goldeth the soul, that there is no possibility of clouding peace, or of hindering daylight in the souls of such.

We believe that he had such himself upon the date mentioned above. Howie gives an account of it as follows.

Mr Blair, whose praise is in the Churches, being present, when he took a little wine in a spoon to refresh himself, being then very weak, said to him, "Ye feed on dainties in heaven, and think nothing of our cordials on earth." He answered, "They are all but dung; but they are Christ's creatures, and, out of obedience to His command, I take them. Mine eyes shall see my Redeemer; I know He shall stand the last day upon the earth, and I shall be caught up in the clouds to meet Him in the air, and I shall ever be with Him; and what would you have more? there is an end." And stretching out his hands, he said again, "there is an end." And a little after, he said, "I have been a single man, but I stand at the best pass that ever a man did; Christ is mine, and I am His;" and spoke much of the white stone and new name. Mr Blair, who loved with all his heart to hear Christ commended, said to him again—" What think ye now of Christ?" To which he answered, "I shall live and adore Him. Glory! glory to my Creator and my Redeemer for ever! Glory shines in Immanuel's land." In the afternoon of that day, he said, "Oh! that all my brethren in the land may know what a Master I have served, and what peace I have this day. I shall sleep in Christ, and when I awake I shall be satisfied with His likeness. This night shall close the door, and put my anchor within the vail; and I shall go away in a sleep by five of the clock in the morning;" which exactly fell out. Though he was very weak, he had often this expression, "Oh! for arms to embrace Him! Oh! for a well-tuned harp!"

When some spoke to him of his former painfulness and faithfulness in the ministry, he said, "I disclaim all that; the port that I would be at is redemption and forgiveness through His blood; 'Thou shalt show me the path of life, in Thy sight is fulness of joy:' there is nothing now betwixt me and the resurrection, but "to-day thou shalt be with Me in paradise."' Mr Blair saying, "Shall I praise the Lord for all the mercies He has done and is to do for you?" He answered, "Oh ! for a well-tuned harp." To his child he said, "I have again left you upon the Lord; it may be you will tell this to others, that 'the lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; I have got a goodly heritage.' I bless the Lord that He gave me counsel."

Thus, by five o'clock in the morning, as he himself foretold, it was said unto him, "Come up hither;" and he gave up the ghost, and the renowned eagle took its flight unto the mountains of spices.

Thus died the famous Samuel Rutherford, who may justly be accounted among the sufferers of that time; for surely he was a martyr, both in his own design and resolution, and by the design and determination of men. Few men ever ran so long a race without cessation; so constantly, so unweariedly, and so unblameably. Two things rarely to be found in one man, were eminent in him, viz., a quick invention and sound judgment; and these accompanied with a homely but clear expression, and graceful elocution; so that such as knew him best, were in a strait whether to admire him most for his penetrating wit, and sublime genius in the schools, and peculiar exactness in disputes and matters of controversy, or for his familiar condescension in the pulpit, where he was one of the most moving and affectionate preachers in his time, or perhaps in any age of the Church. To sum up all in a word, he seems to have been one of the most resplendent lights that ever arose in this horizon.

Rutherford's epitaph, composed by William Wilson, (see Thomson, Martyr Graves p.208) may not be the highest poetry but expresses things very well.

Most constantly he did contend,
Until his time was at an end.
At last he won to full fruition
Of that which he had seen in vision.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What must be the subject matter of the Church's praise?

Of course "glory to God in the highest" must ever form its all-pervading and most distinguishing element. Praise is the celebration of God's majesty and supremacy—of the glory of his works, and the sublimity of his purposes—the absolute perfection of his dominion over the universe, and the concentrated splendour of his moral attributes, softened into grace, as it shines upon our sinful world in the Person and work of his eternal son. Any serious error or defect here must be fatal to the Psalmody of the Church.

The grace and truth which emanate from God, and are wrought up into the subjective and devotional life of the Church, form an essential part of the matter of her praise. In all their original parity and completeness, these should be reflected in our songs of worship. Besides, the matter of the Church's praise must include and duly celebrate the great deliverances, spiritual and providential, which are all summarily represented in those wonders of old which God wrought for his chosen people, as recorded in his Word, but which he is perpetually renewing to the end of time. The answer of every believing prayer, the issue of every spiritual conflict, the agonising consciousness of impending danger, the piercing cry for immediate help, the joyous confidence of approaching victory, and the irrepressible shout of a realised deliverance—all must find full, poetic expression in the songs of the Church.

These songs, moreover by their prophetic expansiveness, must embrace the gradual enlargement and final triumphs of God's cause on earth—until "men shall be blessed in him, and all nations shall call him blessed." Praise exults in anticipation of the future, as well as in remembrance of the past. Thus exuberant gratitude and rejoicing hope mingle together their joyous strains as the Church advances in her career of conquest, or as individuals gradually advance towards, and are at length permitted to take part in, the ecstatic praises of eternity.

Assuredly not by the Church. She is incompetent to the task. And even if competent, she is not warranted to undertake it. When did God devolve on any man, or body of men, the right to determine what should be offered to him in praise? We naturally look to One higher than a worshipper for songs of worship. We instinctively ask for One far removed above the level of sinful, erring, wayward humanity, to teach us to praise, and supply us with its matter. Our songs must be known to have come from the very midst of the throne and of the excellent glory, that we may be confident of their acceptance there, when they return glowing with the enkindled emotions, and fragrant with the bursting gratitude, of the church. Divine matter alone can be employed, or accepted, in the exercise of praise. And even were that matter furnished to their
hand, men would prove utterly incompetent to prepare it aright for the ordinance of worship.
The matter of praise must be distributed in brief, poetic, and exulting odes of universal adaptation. The highest and most elevating style of thought and of utterance alone is befitting such a service. Each song must be framed so as to express the emotions, not of one, or of a few, but of all. The completed collection must embrace in its various songs—each differing from the rest in length, or style, or substance—the entire matter of the Church's praise for all time. Yet this collection, as a whole, must be so brief, simple, and easy of entire appropriation, that when associated with suitable music, it may be readily grafted upon the memory of childhood, and so familiarised as to become the living embodiment and efflorescence of the devotion and piety of the people from generation to generation. An immature, ever-changing, multitudinous, uncertain psalmody mocks, but cannot satisfy, the deep and abiding necessities of the Church of God. This is no proper field for the display of conceited gifts, or the trial of empirical effusions. When the rage of hymn-making seizes upon men, countless rhapsodies will be amassed together and offered as suitable vehicles of the Church's praise. Must they all be accepted and sung, that a full tribute of worship may be presented to Jehovah? If not, who is authorised to make the final selection? And when it is made, who can give confidence to the anxious worshipper, that all the matter of praise is embraced in it, clothed in language
fitted to the ear of God, untainted with error, and purged from such spurious and self-pleasing emotions as are so apt to beguile us even in the divine presence? The Church never has undertaken a work so superhuman and responsible as this. Nor has God given the slightest hint that such a work was ever expected at her hands. We are shut up to the conclusion, that God himself must be the author and finisher of the praises of the Church.

In singing the book of Psalms, we may pass at once, and with boldness, into the holiest of all, confident that we are offering praise, that we are giving to the great God the glory due unto his name, that we are stirring up within ourselves and presenting unto him only such emotions as are well-pleasing in his sight, and such as will be beneficial to ourselves and others—in short, that we are doing true homage before the Jealous One, by worshipping him only in the way which he has appointed, and which he has pledged himself to accept at our hands.

On the other hand, if we take up one of the almost countless collections of hymns recently offered to the Church, what a Herculean and superhuman task is required of us before we dare venture to use any part of it in the solemn exercise of worship! Does it contain the true matter of the Church's praise without the fatal admixture of error or defect? Is each separate ode expressive of the sentiments of scriptural worship in language of celestial purity and poetic fire? Does the entire collection contain no misrepresentation of the divine character and purposes—no biased statement of Christian truth or experience—nothing that fosters sinful prejudice, ministers to self-deception, or panders to a domineering sensationalism—thus tending to make self, and not God, the centre and the end of all our worship? These questions require to be settled by each worshipper before he opens his lips in the use of such hymns. He cannot depute the task to another.

Nor is any council or synod competent to decide for him what he should offer in praise to God. He must decide for himself. To his own Master he standeth or falleth. And, when he has done so, may he not still be arrested and silenced by the challenge, "Who hath required this at your hands?" Is it not a daring impertinence, a solemn affront offered in the very exercise of worship, to come before God with the singing of human hymns, when he himself has furnished us with psalms which he has commanded us to sing?

Men must know beforehand what they are to sing, and be well assured that it is in accordance with God's will, before they can praise with the spirit and with the understanding also. How can they know this of hymns that bear no stamp whatever of divine approval? And even if an infallible test could be devised, how is it to be applied to the hundreds of hymns in different collections, that are so hastily adopted, and then so speedily subjected to change, revision, and alteration.

Josias A. Chancellor ("One of the ablest scholars and preachers that the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland has produced")

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

the value of the English Bible

Various translations of the Psalms are before the public. Many of them have much merit and preserve much of the heavenly savor of the original. All of them may occasionally afford a good hint. Of those made into English none can compare with the authorized competent scholar would agree that our authorized version has any successful rival.

The author thinks proper here to record his high estimate of the value of the English Bible now in common use. It seems to him that his brethren, who seek to bring it into disrepute, might be much better employed. He gives it as his deliberate judgment that he has never seen even one chapter done into English so well anywhere else. The learning of the men, who made it, was vast, sound, and unquestionable. In this respect their little fingers were thicker than the loins of the men, who decry their labors.

William Swan Plumer, Commentary on the Psalms. (see this related post)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Praise for The English Bible - 2011

It is a year of praise for the only translation of the Bible into English that can justly be referred to as The English Bible. "After four centuries, the symbolic power of the 1611 Bible remains mighty indeed" writes Boyd Tonkin.

"Today it is a commonplace to note that the words and rhythms of the KJB and its source translations shape the speech of countless millions who never open a bible or enter a church. Somehow, the language of the 1611 version never falls from grace (Galatians 5.4) even if its message falls on stony ground (Mark 4.5). In a secular age where ignorance of religion goes from strength to strength (Psalms 84.7) among lovers of filthy lucre (1 Timothy 3.8) who only want to eat, drink and be merry (Luke 12.19), we know for a certainty (Joshua 23.13) that these resonant words endure as a fly in the ointment (Ecclesiastes 10.1) and a thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12.7) of the powers that be (Romans 13.1). They can still set the teeth on edge (Jeremiah 31.29) of those who try to worship God and Mammon (Matthew 6.24). But does this ancient book, proof that there is no new thing under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1.9), now cast its pearls before swine (Matthew 7.6), and act as a voice crying in the wilderness (Luke 3.4) – a drop in a bucket (Isaiah 40.15) of unbelief, no longer a sign of the times (Matthew 16.3) but a verbal stumbling-block (Leviticus 19.14) or else all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9.22) while the blind lead the blind (Matthew 15.14)?"

A useful indication of its continuing influence upon the language (besides Crystal's "Begat" book) is available here.

James Naughtie's radio series was very worthwhile - he writes here. Another insightful article by Charles Moore is worth extensive quotation (Daily Telegraph, Saturday 27th November 2010: ‘Gove’s sense of the nobility of education offers hope to us all’.)

This week marked the 400th anniversary celebrations [of the King James Bible]. It has often been said – by Winston Churchill and T S Eliot among others – that the King James Bible is the greatest work in the English language, and it is true...Time and chance [sic] found a moment when our language was young yet mature, sprightly yet stately, earthy yet sublime.

But what was the purpose of this enterprise? It was not to produce lovely language for its own sake. It was educational. The translators dedicated their work to King James 1, explaining that it was essential that “God’s holy truth . . . be yet more and more known unto the people” (who, until then, had had no one, permitted, English version). They praised James for “cherishing the teachers” of this truth. They saw what they were doing as a work of national salvation, both in a religious and political sense. The fact that the version is known by the name of an earthly King tells you a lot about its aims.

So the point of this Bible was not only that everyone might study it in private, but also that it was “appointed to be read in churches”, often to those who could not read. It was taught in schools, it was the classic text, the words – the Word, indeed – which people needed to know.

This persisted until the 1960s, and, to a remarkable degree, it worked. Contrary to the claims of the modernists, you did not have to be clever to profit from the King James Version . . . In my own village school, where most of the pupils were the children of gypsum miners and labourers, we read and heard always the King James Version (and the collects from the Book of Common Prayer). No doubt we frequently did not understand it, but only a fool would claim to fully understand the Bible in any version. We benefitted from something that was seriously beautiful and beautifully serious.

All this changed, as it was bound to do. The 1960s saw the production of the New English Bible, which was intended to be relevant. Today, nobody reads it at all: it is – to adapt a King James phrase – perished as though it had never been. It failed, but it succeeded in dethroning the King James Version. Now there are many Bibles, but no known one - a Babel of Bibles, in fact."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The King in His Beauty #1

Matthew Vogan, “The King in His Beauty”: The Piety of Samuel Rutherford

“The King in His Beauty” introduces readers to the life and writings of Samuel Rutherford (1600–1661). Matthew Vogan’s biographical introduction traces the significant events of this Scottish theologian’s life and guides readers through his writings, focusing on his distinctive insight into Christian experience. In forty-three excerpts drawn from Rutherford’s letters, major treatises, catechism, and sermons, readers will discover the depth of Rutherford’s compassion, piety, and theological wisdom, all rooted in his unwavering love for Christ.

Description by the publishers. Coming soon (DV) from Reformation Heritage Books

Friday, February 11, 2011

nothing can hinder God from aiding us

Calvin on Psalm 102:12 "But thou, O LORD, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations".

When the prophet, for his own encouragement, sets before himself the eternity of God, it seems, at first sight, to be a far-fetched consolation; for what benefit will accrue to us from the fact that God sits immutable on his heavenly throne, when, at the same time, our frail and perishing condition does not permit us to continue unmoved for a single moment? ...What advantage would we derive from this eternity and immutability of God's being, unless we had in our hearts the knowledge of him, which, produced by his gracious covenant, begets in us the confidence arising from a mutual relationship between him and us? The meaning then is, "We are like withered grass, we are decaying every moment, we are not far from death, yea rather, we are, as it were, already dwelling in the grave; but since thou, O God! hast made a covenant with us, by which thou hast promised to protect and defend thine own people, and hast brought thyself into a gracious relation to us, giving us the fullest assurance that thou wilt always dwell in the midst of us, instead of desponding, we must be of good courage; and although we may see only ground for despair if we depend upon ourselves, we ought nevertheless to lift up our minds to the heavenly throne, from which thou wilt at length stretch forth thy hand to help us."

Whoever is in a moderate degree acquainted with the sacred writings, will readily acknowledge that whenever we are besieged with death, in a variety of forms, we should reason thus: As God continues unchangeably the same—"without variableness or shadow of turning"—nothing can hinder him from aiding us; and this he will do, because we have his word, by which he has laid himself under obligation to us, and because he has deposited with us his own memorial, which contains in it a sacred and indissoluble bond of fellowship.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

falling into Christ's lap

O how sweet to be in Christ, and to grow as a tree planted on the banks of the river of life! when such die, they fall in Christ's lap and in his bosom, be the death violent or natural; 'tis all one whether a strong gale and a rough storm shore the child of God on the new Jerusalem's dry
land, or if a small calm blast even with rowing of oars bring the passenger to heaven, if once he be in that goodly land.
from Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself

See here for related quotations

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Open Communion

Sometimes one comes across inferences that the FP Church practices closed (as opposed to restricted) communion. Closed communion means that no one outwith that denomination or congregation can be admitted to the Lord's Supper. The following longstanding Synod resolution gives the accurate statement of the position:

"The Synod would record their strong disapprobation of the conduct of some individuals connected with this Church, who have circulated unfounded charges among our people about the meaning of a resolution passed by the Synod in November last year. The resolution reads follows—"That the Synod approve of the procedure adopted by Mr Macintyre at Winnipeg in the matter or admitting persons to the privilege of the communion, and give it to be understood that, while this Church does not hold close communion, none are to be admitted to the privilege mentioned but such as are known as God-fearing persons by a majority of those who are responsible for admission." The Synod declare that the meaning attached by them to the above resolution is as follows- 1) The office-bearers of the Church in Canada, having sent a request to the Synod to give a deliverance in regard to the position held by this Church about communion, the Synod gave it to be understood that neither the Church of the Reformation, or the Fire Presbyterian Church of Scotland, held or hold close communion; 2) The Synod gave it to be understood that none are to be received to the Lord's table in this Church 'but such as are God-fearing persons'; and that none shall be admitted without the approval of the majority of the Kirk Session. That this has been all along the way of admission to the Lord's Table in the Free Presbyterian Church will be quite manifest to all their people. 3)The Synod would also declare that it flows from ignorance or something more blameworthy on the part of some, to have spread a report to the effect that the Synod, by foresaid resolution, had changed the Constitution of the Church and opened a wide door to receive members wholesale from other Churches to the Lord's table. The people of this Church may rest assured that the Synod did not and does not intend to open the door to communion in the least degree wider than it has been in the Reformed Church of Scotland since the Reformation, and in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland hitherto."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

the transcendent love of Christ

Christ’s love made Him willing to suffer for us. And for us He has
suffered all miseries that all our sins had deserved and cruelty could
inflict. He who with one word caused the vast fabric of heaven and earth
to start out of nothing, who was King of kings and Lord of lords, who
had heaven for His throne and earth for His footstool, was, out of love
to us, content to take upon Him the form of a servant, and to live in such
a poor condition as He had not a cradle when born, nor a place to lay His
head while He lived, nor a sepulchre to bury Him when He died. He who
was the King of glory, the splendour of whose glory dazzled the eyes of
seraphims, nay, whose glory is above the heavens, was, out of love to us,
willing to be “despised and rejected of men” (Isa. 53. 3); to be accounted
as “a worm, and no man; a reproach of men and despised of the people”
(Psa. 22. 6, 7). He who was adored by the glorious host of heaven, was
the Object of their eternal praises, yea, and “counted it not robbery to be
equal with God,” was, out of love to us, content to be “numbered
amongst transgressors,” to be reviled and slandered as a wine-bibber, a
glutton, a Sabbath-breaker, a blasphemer, a madman, and possessed with
the devil.

He in whose presence was fulness of joy, and from whose smile
spring rivers of pleasures, was, for love of us, willing to become “a Man
of sorrows, acquainted with grief,” yea, and it seems with nothing else;
we never read that He laughed. He whose beauty was the glory of
heaven, the brightness of His Father’s glory, the sight whereof transports
those happy spirits that behold it into an eternal rapture, was, for love to
us, by His suffering so disfigured as He seemed to have no form nor
comeliness in Him, nor beauty that any should desire Him; “He gave His
back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: He
hid not His face from shame and spitting” (Isa. 50. 6).
He in whose sight the heavens are not clean, who was of purer eyes
than to behold iniquity, was, out of love to us, content to “bear our sins
in His body upon the tree,” to be “wounded for our transgressions,” and
to have all our iniquities laid upon Him. This love made God, blessed
for ever, willing to be made a curse, the glorious Redeemer of Israel toTHE LOVE OF CHRIST 107
be sold as a slave, and the Lord of life to die a base, accursed and cruel
And, which is above all, He who was His Father’s love and delight,
who was rejoicing before Him from eternity, and in whom alone His soul
was well pleased, did, out of love to us, bear the unconceivable burden
of His Father’s wrath – that wrath which was the desert of all the sins of
the elect, which would have sunk the whole world into hell, the weight
whereof made His soul heavy unto the death, and was a far greater
torture to Him than ever damned soul felt in hell (if we abstract sin and
eternity from these torments), the burden whereof pressed from Him that
stupendous, bloody sweat and made Him, in the anguish of His
oppressed soul, cry out to heaven, “My God, My God, why hast Thou
forsaken Me?” and cry out to earth, “O! have ye no regard, all ye that
pass by? See if there be any sorrow like My sorrow, wherewith the Lord
has afflicted Me in the day of His fierce wrath.”

No, Lord, there was no sorrow like Thy sorrow, no love like Thy
love. Was it not enough (dearest Saviour) that Thou didst condescend to
pray, and sigh, and weep for us perishing wretches? Wilt Thou also
bleed and die for us? Was it not enough that Thou wast hated, slandered,
blasphemed, buffeted? but Thou wilt also be scourged, nailed, wounded,
crucified. Was it not enough to feel the cruelty of man? Wilt Thou also
undergo the wrath of God? Or if Thy love will count nothing a sufficient
expression of itself, but parting with life, and shedding that precious
blood, yet was it not enough to die once, to suffer one death? Wilt Thou
die twice, and taste both first, and something of the second death, suffer
the pains of death in soul and body?

O the transcendent love of Christ! Heaven and earth are astonished
at it. What tongue can express it? What heart can conceive it? The
tongues, the thoughts of men and angels are far below it. O the height,
and depth, and breadth, and length, of the love of Christ! All the creation
is nonplussed; our thoughts are swallowed up in this depth, and there
must lie till glory elevate them, when we shall have no other employment
but to praise, admire and adore this love of Christ.

David Clarkson

Monday, January 17, 2011

more benefit from the private means than public?

Sometimes people either say or think "I enjoy God more in private, than in the public means of grace. Why should I attend the public means when I can get more benefit in private?"

Is it not an easy thing for a man to think that God is most enjoyed when his heart is most affected? It is possible a man’s heart may be more affected when God is less enjoyed; such is the deceit of our hearts. God is most enjoyed where God is most served. But, now, suppose God were more enjoyed in private than under public ordinances, I do but suppose it, yet were this no reason why a man should lay by the public ordinances: for you are sometimes in your closet at prayer, and there you enjoy God; sometimes you are below at dinner and supper, and you have some enjoyments of God there. But, I pray, tell me, whether do you enjoy God more at your ordinary dinner and supper or in your closet in prayer? Surely I enjoy God more in my closet in prayer. And is this a reason why you should never dine and sup again? Yet, notwithstanding, how do people reason thus: I enjoy God more in private, therefore I must lay by the public.

William Bridge. Vindication of Ordinances (Works, 4:141-42).

In his sermon David Clarkson says that "the presence of God, which, enjoyed in private, is but a stream, in public becomes a river, a river that makes glad the city of God". "David saw as much of God in secret as could then be expected, but he expected more in public, and, therefore, as not satisfied with his private enjoyments, he breathes and longs after the public ordinances, for this reason, that he might have clearer discoveries of the Lord there" (Ps. 27:4; Ps 63:1-2) "Public ordinances are a better security against apostasy than private, and therefore to be preferred: an argument worthy our observation in these backsliding times. He that wants the public ordinances, whatever private means he enjoy, is in danger of apostasy" (see 1 Sam. 16:19).

Clarkson deals at length with objection of more benefit being obtained in private.

Obj. But notwithstanding all the arguments brought to prove public worship is to be preferred, I find something to the contrary in experience; and who can admit arguments against experience? I have sometimes in private more of God's presence, more assistance of his Spirit, more joy, more enlargement, more raised affections; whereas in public I often find much dullness of heart, much straitness and unaffectedness, therefore I cannot so freely yield that public worship is to be preferred.

Ans. I shall endeavour to satisfy this in many severals.

1. Experience is not a rule for your judgment, but the word of God; that is a fallible guide, this only infallible. If you press your judgment always to follow experience, Satan may quickly afford you such experience as will lead you out of the way. Be scrupulous of following experience when it goes alone, when it is not backed by the word, countenanced by Scripture. It has deceived many. Empirics are no more tolerable in divinity than in physic. As there reason and experience, so here Scripture and experience, should go together. Those that live by sense may admit this alone to be their guide, but the event has often proved it a blind one. Those that live by faith must admit no experiments against Scripture. Nay, those that are but true to reason will not admit a few experiments against many arguments. You find this sometimes true in private, but do you find it so ordinarily? If not, here is no ground to pass any judgment against what is delivered. It may be a purge or a vomit does sometimes tend more to your health than your meat and drink; will you therefore prefer physic before your ordinary food? It may be in some extremity of cold you find more refreshment from a fire than from the sun; will you therefore prefer the fire, and judge it more beneficial to the world than the sun? Experience must not rule your judgment here, nor must you be confident of such apprehensions as are only granted upon some few experiments.

2. It may be your enjoyments in private were upon some special occasion. Now some special cases make no general rule; nor are they sufficient promises to afford an universal conclusion. For instance, it may be you enjoyed so much of God in private, when you were necessarily and unavoidably hindered from waiting upon the Lord in public ordinances. Now in this case, when the people of God bewail the want of public liberties as an affliction, and seek the Lord in special manner to supply that want in private, he is graciously pleased to make up what they are deprived of in public, by the vouchsafements of his quickening and comforting presence in private. So it was with David in his banishment, yet this did nothing abate his esteem of or desires after the public ordinances; far was he from preferring private duties before public, though he enjoyed exceeding much of God in private. Nor must we from such particular cases draw an universal conclusion; either affirmatively, that private is to be preferred; or negatively, that public is not to be preferred.

3. These enjoyments of God in private may be extraordinary dispensations. These the Lord does sometimes use, though seldom, though rarely. Now, such extraordinary cases are exceptions from the general rule, and such exceptions do limit the rule, but not overthrow it. They take off something from the extent, nothing from the truth of it. It holds good still, more of God is enjoyed in public than private; except in rare extraordinary cases, ordinarily it is so. And this is sufficient, if there were no other argument to establish the observation as a truth, public worship is to be preferred before private.

4. It may be thy enjoyments in private are the fruits of thy attendance upon God in public. It may be the assistance, the enlargement, the affections thou findest in private duties, are the returns of public worship. The benefits of public ordinances are not all, nor always, received while ye are therein employed; the returns of them may be continued many days after. The refreshment the Lord affords his people in public worship is like the provision he made for Elijah in the wilderness, 1 Kings xix. 18, 'He arose and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days.' When the Lord feasts his people in public, they may walk with the Lord in the strength thereof in private duties with more cheerfulness, with more enlargedness, more affection, many days after. Those that know what it is to enjoy communion with God in his ordinances, know this by experience. When the Lord meets you in public, find ye not your hearts far better disposed to, and in, private duties? Now, if the assistance you find in private be the fruits of your waiting upon God in public, this should rather raise your esteem of public worship than abate it. That which is objected tends to confirm this truth, so far should it be from hindering you to subscribe it.

5. There may be a deceit in thy experience. All those joys, affections, enlargements, which men find in duties, are not always from the special presence of God. There may be a great flash of spirit, and much cheerfulness and activeness from false principles; some flashes of fleeting affections, some transient and fading impressions, may fall upon the hearts of men, and yet not fall from above. The gifts of men may be sometimes carried very high, even to the admiration of others, whenas there is little or no spiritual life. Vigour of nature, strength of parts, enforcement of conscience, outward respects, delusive joys, delusive visions, ungrounded fancies, deceiving dreams, yea, superstitious conceits, may work much upon men in duties when there is little or nothing of God. When men seem to be carried out with a full gale of assistance, it is not always the Spirit of God that fills the sails. A man may move with much life, freedom, cheerfulness, in spiritual duties, when his motion is from other weights than those of the Spirit.

Nay, further, not only those potent workings which are ordinary, but extraordinary, such as ecstasies and raptures, wherein the soul is transported, so as to leave the body without its ordinary influence, so as it seems without sense or motion; such inward operations on the soul as work strange effects upon the body, visible in its disordered motions and incomposed gestures. Such workings as these have been in all ages, and may be now, from the spirit of darkness transforming himself into an angel of light; and therefore, if such private experiences be produced to disparage the public worship, the public ministry, or any other public ordinance of God (however they pretend to the Spirit of God), they are to be rejected. The deceits of our own hearts, or the delusions of that envious spirit, who has always shewed his malice against God's public worship, should not be admitted, to render this Scripture truth questionable, that public worship is to be preferred before private. And, indeed, the experiences of ordinary personal assistance in private duties, if it be made use of to this end, is to be looked upon as suspicious; you may suspect it is not as it seems, if this be the issue of it. Those assistances which come from the Spirit of God have a better tendency than to disparage the public worship of God, which himself is so tender of. And this should be the more regarded, because it is apparent Satan has a design against God's public worship, and he drives it on in a subtler way than in darker times. He would thrust out one part of God's worship by another, that so at last he may deprive us of all. Mind it, then, and examine thy experiences, if there be a deceit in them, as many times there is. They are of no force against this truth, public worship is to be preferred before private.

6. It may be the Lord seems to withdraw from thee, and to deny thee, spiritual assistance in public worship for trial; to try thy love to him, and the ways which most honour him; to see whether thou wilt withdraw from him and his worship, when he seems to withhold himself from thee; to try whether thou wilt serve God for nothing, when thou seemest to find nothing answerable to thy attendance and endeavours. This is the hour of England's temptation in other things, and probably it is so in this as well as others. If it be so with thee, thy resolution should be that of the prophet, Isa. viii. 17, 'I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob.' If this be thy case, thy esteem of his public worship should hereby be rather raised than abated, since this is the way to comply with the Lord's design in this dispensation, the way to procure more comfortable returns, more powerful assistance than ever.

7. You may enjoy more of God in public, and not observe it. As there may be a mistake in thinking you enjoy much of God in private when you do not, so there may be a mistake in thinking you want the presence of God in public when indeed you have it. It is not the improvement of parts, enlargement of heart, flashes of joy, stirrings of affections, that argue most of God's presence; there may be much of these when there is little of God. It is a humble soul, one that is poor in spirit, that trembles at the word, that hungers and thirsts after Christ, that is sensible of spiritual wants and distempers, that is burdened with his corruptions, and laments after the Lord and freer enjoyments of him. He whose heart is soft and pliable, whose conscience is tender, it is he who thrives and prospers in the inward man. And if these be the effects of thy attendance upon God in public worship, thou dost there enjoy much of God's presence, whatever thou apprehend to the contrary. These are far more valuable than those affections and enlargements by which some judge of the Lord's presence in his ordinances; for these are the sound fruits of a tree of righteousness, whereas those are but the leaves or flourishes of it, which you may sometimes find in a barren tree. So far as the Lord upholds in thee a poor and hungering spirit, a humble and thirsting heart, so far he is graciously present with thee; for this is it to which he has promised a gracious presence in his ordinances, Isa. lxvi. 1, 2. The Lord speaks here as though he were not so much taken with the glory of the temple, no, not with the glow of heaven, as with a spirit of this temper. As sure as the Lord's throne is in heaven, this soul shall have his presence. The streams of spiritual refreshments from his presence shall water these valleys, whenas high-flown confidents, that come to the ordinances with high conceits and carnal boldness, shall be as the mountains, left dry and parched. See Mat. v. 8-6. You may enjoy the presence of God in public, and not observe it. Now, if thy experience be a mistake, no reason it should hinder thee from yielding to this truth, that public worship is to be preferred before private.

8. It is to be suspected that what you want of God's presence, in public worship, is through your own default. Not because more of God is not to be enjoyed, more spiritual advantage is not to be gained in public ordinances, but because, through some sinful miscarriage, you make yourselves incapable thereof. Let this be observed, and your ways impartially examined; and you will find cause to accuse yourselves, instead of objecting anything against the pre-eminence of public worship. There is so much self-love in us, as we are apt to charge anything, even the worship of God itself, rather than ourselves; yea, when ourselves ought only to be charged and accused. The Lord's hand is not straitened, &c. The worship of God is the same, the Lord as much to be enjoyed in it; no less comfort and advantage to be found in it than formerly (and formerly more has been enjoyed therein than in private); how comes it, then, that there is any occasion to object against it? Why, our iniquities have separated between us and our God.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

the best reading that ever I had

"MY Dear Friend, At present I am busy about my Bible; being suffered to live to read it over once again.. Two things have occurred to me in the present perusal, in both which I am enabled to triumph. The one is a deeper discovery of the horrible state I am in through sin; so that, as a child of Adam, I feel nothing in my self but the working of corruption by and under the law, dead to God; but all are alive to sin every faculty at work to bring it forth-the mind-the heart-the senses, yea, the very imagination, in prayer disturbing, distracting, quite lawless-I can do nothing but cry out, Rom. vii. 24. Reading verse 25, I get my second lesson, and find employment for my Jesus. A body of sin and death like mine wants an almighty Saviour, and I am learning to put more honour upon His 'Word and work daily. I find more need of Him than ever, and it is some true joy that He is most exactly suited to my desperate case; having no hope but in His blood, not one ray but in His righteousness, no strength but in His arm, no happiness but out of His fulness; I am led even to triumph in what He is to me; I would lay myself at His foot, and would bless His dear name that He has become all my salvation, and glory in Him that He is now all my desire. It is the best reading that ever I had: self was never so brought down, and so crucified daily; nor did I ever see so much reason to magnify the person of God-Jesus. In this spiritual crucifixion of self and sin-in this true growing up out of self into Christ-may the Holy Spirit teach you to profit daily.
Pray for yours, in our common Lord.-William Romaine

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Reformation Attainments

In 1910 the Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church passed a resolution called "A Declaration anent Reformation Attainments, and the Church’s Relation thereto". It was a means to "humbly record, with gratitude to Almighty God, the great goodness and mercy with which He graciously visited Scotland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by the Reformations from Popery and Prelacy, the spirit of wisdom and understanding He bestowed on the men who were instrumentally used in accomplishing His will during those memorable periods, whereby they were led to grasp, with eminent light and ability, the great doctrines and principles of religious, social, and civil liberty contained in the Bible, and the magnanimity, fortitude, and patriotism wherewith He enabled them to uphold and vindicate the same against inveterate enemies".

It uses the language of the Free Church Act of 1851 to recognise that while not absolutely satisfactory in that the Church was hindered from "realising fully the attainments that had been reached during the Second Reformation" and the failure of the civil power "in adequately acknowledging the Lord’s work done formerly in the land", there is much reason to be thankful for the Revolution Settlement of 1690. "For it would be in a high degree ungrateful to overlook the signal and seasonable benefits which the Revolution Settlement really did confer upon the Church, as well as upon the nation".

The Synod added their comments "The Synod heartily concur in the above statement of the Church in 1851, and they declare that, in their humble judgment, the fact that the “Rescissory Act” has
been left unrepealed on the Statute Book leaves the Presbyterians of Scotland in a dangerous position, and that effective steps should be taken for its repeal along with all the other pernicious cognate Acts of that period of our history".

In seeking the repeal of this Act and desiring that the covenants would have been acknowledged in the Revolution Settlement, the Synod were acknowledging the perpetual obligation of the Covenants. There is also a reference to renewal of the national covenant before the time of 1638. "Our fathers found the renewing of the National Covenant repeatedly during this period a source of much strength in their opposition to their enemies and of maintaining unity among themselves."