Friday, December 14, 2012

Willison's Recommended Sabbath Reading

Virginia is for Huguenots: Willison's Recommended Sabbath Reading: John Willison  (1680-1750), Church of Scotland minister, has the following reading advice for Christians in his "A Treatise Concerning the Sanctification of the Lord's Day".

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Public consultation on Bill to legalise gay marriage in Scotland

A crystal clear warning from Rev. David Campbell, Convener of the Religion and Morals Committee of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in a video news item here.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Some of the 20th Century Attempts at Union

The principles of the presbyterian view of unity and schism were firmly applied in 1893. The fathers of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland witnessed many sad and serious defections in doctrine, discipline and worship but it was only once they were compelled to sin that they separated. This point came when it was clear that they would be compelled to administer the Declaratory Act and thereby breach the ordination vows that they had made to God that they would assert, maintain and defend the truth. They could not discipline those who adhered to and preached Declaratory Act doctrines. They could not refuse to license, induct or ordain them, indeed they could not be confident of who did or did not make mental appeal to the Act.

The doctrinal constitution of the Church had been changed. As Thomas McCrie observed: “When a church once reformed and faithful not only departs from what she had professed and received, and persists in this by a series of public acts, but ...adopts doctrines inconsistent with her former scriptural profession and engagements, and imposes these by the perverted exercise of authority and discipline, separation from her communion is lawful. When the public profession and administrations of a church have been settled conformably to the laws of Christ, and sanctioned by the most solemn engagements, if the majority shall set these aside, and erect a new constitution sinfully defective, and involving a material renunciation of the former, the minority refusing to accede to this, adhering to their engagements, and continuing to maintain communion on the original terms, cannot justly be charged with schism”.

The FP Church maintained the constitution of the Free Church of 1843 while there was now a new body maintaining a different constitution. Rather than joining with the body maintaining the Free Church 1843 constitution, the minority of 1900 continued the new Declaratory Act body with the changed constitution and eventually in 1906 they decided to repeal the Declaratory Act. There was no doubt an opportunity here for them to agree terms with the FP Church.

It has been said that the repeal of the Declaratory Act by the Free Church removed any basis for a separate FP position. The Declaratory Act had only been removed as a "dead law" and not as a real defection - this was untrue and dangerous.   In fact the very repealing Act erected a barrier (still maintained) against union by recording a constitutional rejection of the Free Presbyterian position in 1893.  This directly inferred the Free Presbyterian separation to be sinfully schismatic. This provided an insuperable obstacle that would have required the Free Presbyterians to cast away the testimony raised in 1893 for a constitution that implicitly condemned their actions as schism. This was something that was not only part of their constitution but something concerning which they had vowed their approval to God. To dissolve the Free Presbyterian Church within the Free Church would have been sinful because it would imply that 1893 had been sinful.

In his first paper on union, Rev. Kenneth Stewart made reference to this fact and acknowledged that "the Free Church made a very bad mistake in claiming that she had ‘always adhered’ to her Confession – that is, that she had adhered to it in the intervening years between the passing of the Act and its repeal (1892-1905)". He notes that "the insistence on including this claim helped to scupper reunification".  He goes on "However, it is hard to avoid the impression that, later, it seemed to be the case that FP’s would work hard to find reasons for remaining separate even if they didn’t immediately seem to spring to mind". This is unsubstantiated, there was sufficient in the condemnation mentioned above to prevent union. JR Mackay wanted the phrase deleted by the Free Church; he did not get this but still joined. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Free Church overtures for union were largely opportunistic.

No one (whoever they might be), however, who had vowed their approval of the Deed of Separation m(1893) could abandon this constitution for a constitution that condemned clear statements of that Deed (and therefore constitution) without sinning. The FPs believed that the constitution had been changed legally but that the effect of this was that it created a new body with a new, altered constitution. They were now being asked to abandon the true representative of 1843 for a body whose constitution now condemned the separate position adopted in 1893. 

To reiterate the matters already discussed, the fundamental issue was that it would have been sinful for the FPs to have returned because the FCS had a constitutional condemnation of 1893 and while no one was going to impose that on individuals it meant that they would have been abandoning the truth for a constitution that implicitly condemned their actions as schism. To return would have been sinful because it implied that the 1893 separation had been sinful. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Unity: Real or Synthetic?

This post also appears on - an online meeting place for folk who profess to be reformed in doctrine, worship and practice. It picks up on current discussions and debates in relation to issues of unity.
There is a synthetic substitute for real unity within the visible Church. It is created within the parachurch through organisations formed for evangelical or reformed unity. Many of these parachurch organisations go as far as to have representatives and delegates from denominations and to all appearance may be like a council of churches. This is however a substitute for real, organic unity.The irony is that such bodies (including NAPARC and ICRC) actually facilitate schism rather than union and inadvertently serve to undermine presbyterian principles. Mark Hausam writes of this scenario on his blog:
‘The Christian churches today are in a deplorable state of division. One of the things that hinders the resolution of these divisions, or lessens the motivations of those in the church to work diligently for the sort of reform that would lead to their elimination if followed through, is a sense of complacency held by many in Reformed churches today. Many people will confess that there are divisions, and that we ought to work for their elimination, but they are lulled into thinking the situation better than it is by the feeling that we don't really need to have organic union among all the churches of Christ. Just as congregationalists/independents lull themselves into security regarding the disunity of the church (and thus split into thousands of mini-denominations) by their erroneous doctrine that church power does not extend beyond the local congregation (so that they hold that gatherings beyond the congregational level have only advisory and not binding authority), so many Presbyterian/Reformed people today have been lulled into security by the sense that the organic unity of the church need only extend up to a certain level, and after that we can adopt the model of the independents.’
Reformed churches have grown so comfortable with fraternal relations that they think that they can settle down with it as the real thing. The irony is that holding out for real union and unity rather than mere fraternal relations is dismissed as narrow, exclusive, separatist, etc– perhaps even schismatic according to a false understanding of schism. Actually striving for something more than fraternal relations is the bigger, more principled and more catholic (in a good sense) vision and position. When the Westminster Divines were offered a synthetic unity by Independents, to them it was no option at all and one which they roundly denounced as schism.
There are also inherent contradictions in synthetic unity because it means that you must recognise multiple denominations with very different standards and contradictory claims, including both sides of a division (as though there had been a no fault divorce). The main contradiction, however, is what we might call ‘pretend recognition.’ Mark Hausam describes this in another contribution:
‘Whenever there are multiple denominations, each denomination, by virtue of its existence separate from other denominations, is making a two-pronged statement: “We possess legitimate authority, and other denominations don’t.’
To recognise other denominations whilst in reality sayingby our actions that they have no legitimacy is a mere pretence. All these non-denominational structures look like what Baptists and Congregationalists do with their parachurch associations. It's not presbyterianism. This point is made by Carl Trueman:
‘I do not think that evangelical unity is particularly important or something to which we should aspire. Christian unity is; but Christian unity, if it is to be achieved this side of glory, will be a churchly unity. Evangelicalism is a non-churchly category. It does not organize churches. It does not ordain people. It does not disciple people. All these things are done by specific churches in specific places under specific leadership (both in terms of structure and personalities). The church is a creation of God; the parachurch is not. And Christian unity, if it is ever to be achieved on earth, requires churches talking to each other as churches. Being a pessimist, I myself doubt that such unity will ever be achieved this side of glory; but formal churchly interaction is the necessary precondition even for making it hypothetically conceivable.
In fact, to the extent that evangelical groups see themselves as instruments of moving churches along towards the achievement of true Christian unity (as opposed merely to providing support for churches and a forum for limited co-belligerence), to that extent they are playing a trick with gospel-centred smoke and mirrors. If we see Christian unity as something achieved by such parachurch coalitions, then what we are really seeing is a church unity which is essentially independent in ecclesiology and baptistic in practice. Every single evangelical group of which I am aware which sees itself as the key to real unity ultimately defaults in practice to privileging Baptist independency. That is, of course, absolutely fine for the Baptist independent; but if one is Presbyterian or paedobaptist by conviction, such ecumenism amounts to being told “Abandon much of what you hold dear and everything that makes you different to us and - hey presto! - we have unity. Oh, and by the way, if you are not prepared to do that, remember whose fault it is that we are still hopelessly divided.'
Trueman’s points are well made, but churches talking to each other would have to go beyond the kind of fraternal relations where we exchange greetings but always avoid the issues that divide. In that way we can keep up a charitable schism for ever.
Unity: Real, realisable and future
Real, organic unity may seem impossible to achieve. Doubts about the possibility of unity are, however, misplaced when it is promised in Scripture. We are to believe that the Scriptures prophesy of a time in the latter days when the visible Church shall be entirely united in time,‘to serve him with one consent’ (Zeph 3:9). ‘Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion’ (Isa 52:8). George Gillespie believed Scripture on this: ‘Brethren, it is not impossible, pray for it, endeavour it, press hard toward the mark of accommodation.’. Christ's prayer will be answered:‘That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us’ (John 17:21). ‘They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea’ (Isa 11:9).
This is something to be looked for by faith: ‘Thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down, not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken’ (Isa 33:20). There shall be one people of God even as they have one king. ‘I will make them one nation ... and David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd’ (Ezek 37:22, 24). ‘And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one’ (Zeph 14:9). Christ as king shall gather his Church into a visible unity. ‘He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the enmity of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim’ (Isa 11:12-13).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

lift up your voices

“Serve the LORD with gladness: come before His presence with singing” (Ps. 100:2).

First, you must know that singing is not a neutral matter in which you may or may not engage. Rather, it is God’s command. As we have shown you before, God requires this from you and desires to be served by you in this manner. Consider these and similar quotes and impress them upon your heart as being mandatory. Begin to engage in this duty with an obedient heart; break open your mouth and your closed heart will open as well.

Secondly, God has created this ability in the very nature of man. This is to be observed in children of three or four years old. Take note of how they walk around the house while singing at the same time. Observe how even in nature the birds in their own way already praise their Creator early in the morning by way of singing. If you go outside in the morning, or if you have birds in your home, you will hear it. Will the birds and small children rebuke you, and would you, who have the greatest reason in the world to sing joyously, be dumb and silent?

Thirdly, it is the work of angels, for they glorify the Lord in song (cf. Job 38:7; Luke 2:13-14; Rev. 5:11-12), and it is the work of the church upon earth and in heaven: “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9); “And they sung as it were a new song before the throne…and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth” (Rev. 14:3); “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty” (Rev. 15:3). If you have no desire to sing, then what will you do in church and in heaven? Furthermore, if you are desirous to magnify the Lord with an eternal hallelujah, you should presently begin upon earth.

Fourthly, God is particularly pleased when His children praise Him in song. There where the Lord is sweetly praised in song, there He will come with His blessings. “But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel” (Ps. 22:3). It is noteworthy to consider what transpired at the dedication of the temple. “It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one…that then the house was filled with a cloud…so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God” (2 Chr. 5:13-14). When Jehoshaphat, together with his army, lifted up their voices in joyous exclamation and song (2 Chr. 20:22), the Lord defeated their enemies. When Paul and Silas sang praises unto God in the middle of the night, the doors of the prison were opened and the bands of all the prisoners were loosened (Acts 16:25-26). Therefore, if you are desirous to please the Lord, and delight in having the Lord visit your soul and desire to experience His help, then accustom yourself to singing.

Fifthly, singing will move a heart which frequently remains unmoved during prayer. It can be that while singing the tears will drip upon the book. Have you not frequently experienced this? Have not you been stirred up by hearing the singing of others? Others will therefore also be stirred up by your singing. The Papists in France knew this, and therefore they strictly forbade the singing of psalms and meted out cruel punishment for this—even prior to massacring the church. Therefore, no longer be silent, but lift up your voices—in spite of the devil and all the enemies of God—to the honor and glory of your God, as this has done you too much good already (and still does) than that you would refrain from thanking the Lord with songs of praise. You must furthermore do so in order that you might stir up others to serve the Lord with gladness. It will then become manifest to all natural men that godliness is a joyous rather than a grievous life, and they will become desirous for this as well. And if you sing, sing with understanding, with a fervent desire, conscious of the presence of the Lord (and thus reverently), with a modest demeanor, and with both inner and external attentiveness, so that it may all be becoming before the Lord and to the edification of others who surround us.”

- Wilhelmus A’Brakel, The Christian's Reasonable Service HT: Building Old School Churches Blog

Friday, October 26, 2012

the religious factor in the decline of the Gaidhlig language

Significant resources are expended (sometimes controversially) in the promotion and hoped revival of Gaidhlig in Scotland. The observation has often been made by Highland presbyterians that there has been a studied neglect of and sometimes hostility to the role that the Church has played in sustaining Gaidhlig on the part of those who are seeking to promote the language. Of course some think that increasing use of English in worship is a key reason for the decline of Gaelic. No doubt the issue has its own complexities.

A recent thesis by Nathan Philip Gray ‘A publick benefite to the nation': the charitable and religious origins of the SSPCK, 1690-1715 makes the following significant conclusion to its study of the society and its work in the Highlands:
The absolute numerical decline in Gaelic speakers in Scotland can be associated with the
decline in the importance of religion. As members of the reformation societies insisted that Sunday was to be preserved from the performance of trade and business, so Gaelic was held to be the language of religion and the home, and English the language of commerce and worldly
As Highlanders migrated or emigrated they continued to keep a sense of community by using the Gaidhlig language for home and church.

The ultimate isolation of Gaelic within religion and community life meant that when society became more integrated and secularized, it was the final stage in the language’s overall withdrawal.
It remains true, however, that due to efforts in evangelism and education, 'for a period in the nineteenth century, Gaelic paradoxically experienced a new period of vitality through its religious and domestic orientation'.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

"Reformed Scottish Presbyterianism: Reunion in the 21st Century?" – A Response

This paper responds to a brief document entitled "Reformed Scottish Presbyterianism: Reunion in the 21st Century?" prepared and made publicly available by Rev. Kenneth Stewart of Glasgow Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

Mr Stewart's paper seeks to "suggest a possible way forward ... in the reunification of all those Presbyterian Churches in Scotland which adhere to the doctrine, worship and government … as prescribed in the Westminster documents." It discusses the question of disunity and introduces proposals for overcoming this in relation to formal union of various denominations in Scotland.

This response considers the topic to be important and of significant concern. It is largely, however, a critique of the principles, assumptions and conclusions of Mr Stewart's paper while concluding with a positive alternative.

Discussion elsewhere in relation to the Kenneth Stewart paper has been limited but there has been a vigorous set of comments here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Samuel Rutherford: an introduction to his theology #2

A word cloud of the text of Samuel Rutherford: An Introduction to His Theology (see table of contents below). This book can now be purchased from Reformation Heritage Books for $22.

Strangely, for someone who had a significant role in shaping one of the most important theological documents of modern times, Rutherford’s theology has fallen under comparative neglect. It offers, however, a valuable key to understanding the original intentions and context behind the Westminster standards.

Too many of Rutherford’s works are long out of print and were never reprinted after his lifetime; similarly his Latin works have never been translated into English. It would be immensely satisfying to think that this volume might encourage scholars, readers and publishers to invest in realising the goal of reviving these long obscured writings. It is hoped that the varied approaches contained within this collection may help to point to the richness and the rigour of this underestimated theologian and to stimulate further research and interest in Rutherford and his theology.

The General Table of Contents is as follows.

Chronology of Samuel Rutherford’s Life and Times

Revaluing Rutherford’s Theological Contribution
Chapter 1 Introduction: Samuel Rutherford Redivivus
Matthew Vogan
Chapter 2 Samuel Rutherford’s Theology in its Historical Context
San-Deog Kim

Rutherford and Practical Theology
Chapter 3 Samuel Rutherford and the Theology and Practice of Preaching
Matthew Vogan
Chapter 4 The Two shall become One Flesh: Samuel Rutherford’s ‘Affectionate’ Theology of Union with
Christ in the Song of Songs
Guy Richard
Chapter 5 Samuel Rutherford’s Polemic against Antinomianism in Christ Dying, and Drawing Sinners to Himself
Matthew Vogan
First Extract from Rutherford: The Influences of the Life of Grace

Rutherford and Covenant Theology
Chapter 6 Samuel Rutherford’s Contribution to Covenant Theology in Scotland
D. Patrick Ramsey
Chapter 7 Samuel Rutherford and the Preached Covenant
Sherman Isbell
Second Extract from Rutherford:
The Covenant of Life Opened

Rutherford and Ecclesiastical Theology
Chapter 8  Introduction to Samuel Rutherford’s The Due Right of Presbyteries
Sherman Isbell
Chapter 9  Samuel Rutherford on The Eldership of Matthew 18:17 and 1 Corinthians 5:4: The Ministerial Assembly of Elders Holds the Power to Bind and Loose
Richard Bacon
Third Extract from Rutherford:  A Peaceable and Temperate Plea for Paul’s Presbyterie in Scotland

Rutherford and Political Theology
Chapter10 Samuel Rutherford on Civil Government
David McKay
Chapter 11  Samuel Rutherford and Liberty of Conscience
Crawford Gribben
Fourth Extract from Rutherford:  A Brotherly and Free Epistle to the Patrons and Friends of Pretended Liberty of Conscience

Rutherford and the Covenanted Reformation
Chapter 12 A Half Reformation: English Puritanism  according to Samuel Rutherford
Michael Brown
Fifth Extract from Rutherford: Testimony to the Covenanted Work of Reformation, in Britain and Ireland

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Whose Faith Follow

A valuable little blog called Footsteps is establishing an excellent resource to "support young people who respect the Bible and want to understand more about how to live rightly in an unsympathetic environment".

The motto of the blog is 'whose faith follow…' John Owen comments on this part of Hebrews 13:7 that follow means “to imitate” "This remembrance of our guides is prescribed with reference unto the duty of following their faith: “Whose faith follow;” — ‘So mind them and their work, in preaching the word of God, as to follow or imitate them in their faith'". "It is such a following as wherein we are fully conformed unto, and do lively express, that which we are said to follow. So a scholar may be said to follow his master, when, having attained all his arts and sciences, he acts them in the same manner as his master did. So are we to follow the faith of these guides". He qualifies this: "No mere man, not the best of men, is to be our pattern or example absolutely, or in all things. This honor is due unto Christ alone". This is wrapped up in what Paul goes on to say "Considering the end of their conversation Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever." Is the whole goal and tendency of our life here to point to the unchangeable, never enough admired Altogether Lovely One?

This endeavour will have done valuable work for God in this generation if it encourages this spirit in a rising generation.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

The Temple


Richard Crashaw (1613?–49)

Know you fair, on what you look;
Divinest love lies in this book,
Expecting fire from your eyes,
To kindle this his sacrifice.
When your hands untie these strings,
Think you’have an angel by th’ wings.
One that gladly will be nigh,
To wait upon each morning sigh.
To flutter in the balmy air
Of your well-perfumed prayer.
These white plumes of his he’ll lend you,
Which every day to heaven will send you,
To take acquaintance of the sphere,
And all the smooth-fac’d kindred there.
     And though Herbert’s name do owe
     These devotions, fairest, know
     That while I lay them on the shrine
     Of your white hand, they are mine.

William Cowper said of them "I found in them a strain of piety which I could not but admire"
George Herbert himself said "they are a picture of spiritual conflicts between God and my soul before I could subject my will to Jesus, my Master". He was "desirous (thorow the Mercy of GOD) to please Him, for whom I am, and live, and who giveth mee my Desires and Performances".

Monday, July 30, 2012

Scotland must be rid of Scotland

"Ye that are the people of God, do not weary in maintaining the testimony of the day, in your stations and places; and whatever you do, make sure an interest in Christ, for there is a storm coming, which will try your foundations. Scotland must be rid of Scotland before the delivery come."
- Some of the last words of James Renwick on the scaffold

Robert Wodrow "I do not doubt but Mr Renwick's meaning might be, that a great many of that wicked persecuting time behoved to be so far swept off the stage as to make Scotland, as it were, a new people and nation. But I think likewise that martyrs at their death, and even ordinary believers that die under the administration of an abundant entrance, do not themselves know the full extent of their own impressions, or the expressions they make use of under them ; and many times after providences make the best commentary upon them".

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Lord hath removed Scotland’s crown, for we owned not His crown

The Lord hath removed Scotland’s crown, for we owned not His crown...Our gold is become dim, the visage of our Nazarites is become black, the sun is gone down on our seers; the crown is fallen from our heads; we roar like bears. Lord save us from that, “He that made them will not have mercy on them” (Isa. xxvii. 11). The heart of the scribe meditateth terror.

Samuel Rutherford

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Westminster Assembly

I hesitate to correct a correction to a factual error in the review recently posted since we appreciate the suggestion that the extracts in The King in His Beauty could be of daily devotional use.

My understanding, drawn from a number of reliable sources, is that the Westminster Assembly first of all met in the Lady Chapel (built by Henry VII) in Westminster Abbey.
During the winter of 1643 they moved to the warmer surroundings of the Jerusalem Chamber, where they remained. Robert Baillie gives a first hand report: "The like of that Assemblie I did never see, and, as we hear say, the like was never in England, nor any where is shortlie lyke to be. They did sit in Henry the 7th's Chappell, in the place of the Convocation; but since the weather grew cold, they did go to Jerusalem chamber, a fair roome in the Abbey of Westminster, about the bounds of the College fore-hall, but wyder"

The Jerusalem Chamber is the setting for the historical painting depicting the Assembly, which while anachronistic in some respects is accurate in this. There is a useful review by Rowland Ward here. He concludes: "There is a certain artistic licence in that men who were not actual members are included, such as Baxter, Owen, Cromwell and Milton. nIt might seem strange that this picture of an Assembly dear to Presbyterians should have been conceived by an Independent who claimed too much for his party, be painted by a Roman Catholic convert, and represent that which Presbyterians of the time opposed as inimical to the reformation of the British church. But that’s how it is in God’s providence."

St. Margaret's was the location for the services held in connection with the Fast Days of the Westminster Assembly and the Fast Days appointed by the Long Parliament. It was here, rather than in the Houses of Parliament, that the Divines preached before the Parliamentarians. The King in His Beauty states that Rutherford preached before the Long Parliament and that the Westminster Assembly met in Westminster Abbey.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Review of The King in His Beauty

The King in His Beauty: the Piety of Samuel Rutherford.  Ed. Matthew Vogan. 184pp. N.P. Pbk. ISBN 978-1-60178-125-3. 
This selection from Rutherford’s writings conveys to the believing reader a sweet savour of the loveliness of Christ. Whether counselling suffering saints or exposing this world’s vain glory, he always leads us to Christ as the only resting place for our souls. We could do far worse at the close of each day than read, meditate 
on, and pray over one of these extracts. One factual error needs a mention: the Westminster Assembly did
not meet in Westminster Abbey but in St. Margaret’s, next to it.                                  

SGU Magazine Peace & Truth 2011:4

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

blogs to add to your reader

A new blog Assert, Maintain, Defend gives Analysis and Comment from the Religion and Morals Committee of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The title refers to the ordination vows of office bearers to assert, maintain and defend the doctrine, worship and government of the church. Here is an important public means of carrying that out faithfully.

Welcome back to the Virginian Hugenot - we've missed your posts.
Book lovers take a look here. If you're interested in apologetics go here.
Students of the puritans can keep up to date here.
Go for a presbyterian experiment here.

I haven't forgotten the old favourites...keep up the good work.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Samuel Rutherford: an introduction to his theology

Samuel Rutherford was perhaps the most influential religious writer in post-Reformation Scotland. He is famous for his Letters but his theological writings have been strangely neglected. This diverse collection of essays examines the breadth of his theological contribution. Several extracts from his writings are also included.

A preview is available here where it can also be purchased.

Monday, June 11, 2012

spiritual jubilee

The Archbishop of Canterbury's recent sermon on the Jubilee thanksgiving was a rather depressing exercise in pulling down the spiritual in Scripture to the level of mere civic duty rather than using the occasion to speak of true spiritual values and realities especially the glorious gospel of the blessed God.

The Bible speaks of a year of jubilee every fifty years when debts were to be cancelled and those in bondage were to go free. No doubt if we had more of the spirit of this in our temporal affairs Britain would be a better and a fairer country. The Lord Jesus Christ spoke of the Jubilee as pointing forward to His own person, work and gospel (Isaiah 61 and Luke 4).

We could speculate what the Puritan Thomas Watson might have said if he had the opportunity afforded to the Archbishop. He refers in fact quite often to the jubilee.

He might have begun to consider the great kingship of the King of Kings and how he is able to proclaim a spiritual jubilee. He would first show the grievous bondage of sinfulness and misery that is ours due to sin and the Fall in four things. "1. Under the power of Satan. 2. Heirs of God’s wrath. 3. Subject to all the miseries of this life. 4. Exposed to hell and damnation"

"See here our misery by original sin; enslaved to Satan. Eph 2: 2. Satan is said to work effectually in the children of disobedience. What a sad plague is it for a sinner to be at the will of the devil!...If the devil bids a man lie or steal, he does not refuse; and, what is worse, he willingly obeys this tyrant. Other slaves are forced against their will: 'Israel sighed by reason of their bondage,' Exod 2: 23; but sinners are willing to be slaves, they will not take their freedom; they kiss their fetters.

Let us labour to get out of this deplorable condition into which sin has plunged us, and get from under the power of Satan. If any of your children were slaves, you would give great sums of money to purchase their freedom; and when your souls are enslaved, will ye not labour for their freedom? Improve the gospel. The gospel proclaims a jubilee to captives. Sin binds men, but the gospel looses them. Paul's preaching was 'to turn men from the power of Satan to God.' Acts 26: 18. The gospel star leads you to Christ; and if you get Christ, then you are made free, though not from the being of sin, yet from Satan's tyranny. 'If the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed.' John 8: 36. You hope to be kings to reign in heaven, and will you let Satan reign in you now? Never think to be kings when you die, and slaves while you live. The crown of glory is for conquerors, not for captives. Oh get out of Satan's jurisdiction; get your fetters of sin filed off by repentance."

He might warn solemnly that "in hell, there is no year of release when the damned shall go free! (Mark 9:44). Have people lost their reason—as well as their conscience! They never think—what their sins will bring them to. Though now sin shows its beauteous colors—yet in the end it will bite like a serpent!"

Here in hell "sinners shall be upbraided by their own conscience. This is the worm that never dies, a self-accusing mind. Mark 9: 44. When sinners shall consider that they were in a fair way to the kingdom; that they had a possibility of salvation; that though the door of heaven was strait, yet it was open; that they had the means of grace; that the jubilee of the gospel was proclaimed in their ears; that God called but they refused; that Jesus Christ offered them a plaister of his own blood to heal them, but they trampled it under foot; that the Holy Spirit stood at the door of their heart, knocking and crying to them to receive Christ and heaven, but they repulsed the Spirit, and sent away this dove; and that now, through their own folly and wilfulness, they have lost the kingdom of heaven; a self- accusing conscience will be terrible, it will be like a venomous worm gnawing at the heart".

For the true believer, however, "the day of judgement will be a day of jubilee". More than this: "Death's coming is sooner than Christ's personal coming—and then begins the saint's blessed jubilee". Heaven is "an eternal jubilee; when you shall be freed not only from the power but from the presence of sin". "They shall weep no more, suffer no more. They shall be taken off the torturing wrack and laid in Christ’s bosom. The people of God shall not always be in the iron furnace; a year of Jubilee will come". "This is the great consolation', the Jubilee of the blessed which shall never expire."

"A pardoned soul needs not fear death. He may look on death with joy, who can look on forgiveness with faith. To a pardoned soul, death has lost his sting. Death, to a pardoned sinner, is like arresting a man after the debt is paid; it may arrest, but Christ will show the debt-book crossed in his blood. A pardoned soul may triumph over death, ‘O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory?’ He who is pardoned need not fear death: it is not to him a destruction, but a deliverance; it is a day of jubilee or release; it releases him from all his sins. Death comes to a pardoned soul as the angel did to Peter, when he smote him, and beat off his chains, and carried him out of prison; it smites his body, and the chains of sin fall off.

Let us not be content however without the evidence and sense of pardon. He who is pardoned and knows it not, is like one who has an estate bequeathed to him, but knows it not. Our comfort consists in the knowledge of forgiveness. ‘Make me to hear joy.’ Psa 51: 8. There is a jubilee in the soul when we are able to read our pardon. To the witness of conscience God adds the witness of his Spirit; and in the mouth of these two witnesses our joy is confirmed. O labour for the evidence of forgiveness!"

Saturday, May 26, 2012

On 26 May...

On 26 May 1892, the Free Church General Assembly passed the Declaratory Act anent the Confession of Faith. (For previous posts in this series see here and here). The Constitutionalists opposing it dissented from it in the strongest of terms. They stated that “the Church is left without any definite, fixed or authoritative standard of doctrine”. Some have tried retrospectively to justify the decision to remain under the Declaratory Act until 1900. The following questions and answers deal with these assertions.

8.Was it not simply a "relieving Act"?

This was a phrase coined in 1894 by Dr Rainy to appease conservatives.  The phrase reveals the whole problem.  The Act relieved office-bearers from confessing and subscribing to certain doctrines in the Confession of Faith that they otherwise must subscribe to. These were, however, doctrines embedded in the very constitution of the Church. The fact that it was a relieving Act did not nullify the damaging fact that it violated the Constitution of the Free Church by destroying the meaning of the Confession and Formula. It is noteworthy that the dissent tabled by the remaining Constitutionalists in 1894 acknowledged that the Declaratory Act had been confirmed "as a law of the Church, binding upon the Church courts in the administration of discipline".

9.Was it not possible to have remained in the Free Church without being "under" the Act as individuals?

This is a mistake.
a). Take for instance a presbytery that refused to licence a student who wished to appeal to the Declaratory Act.  The decision could be appealed against and the Presbytery would undoubtedly have been ordered by Synod or Assembly to give the student his legal right of recourse to the Act. They would have had to proceed to licensing.  This proved that noone could avoid obedience to the Act.
b). As Presbyterians each individual was responsible for the actions of the Church as a whole. When a Presbyterian Church by a competent majority changes its creed and constitution, the party opposed to this change has no alternative but to separate from the majority. In a Presbyterian Church each office-bearer discharges his vows to maintain the whole doctrine of the Westminster Confession of Faith not simply as an individual but as a member of a Church.  The Free Church departed from the whole doctrine of the Confession so far that it was impossible to discharge these vows.  A presbytery is unable to assert, maintain and defend the truth when it does not know and is not permitted to enquire whether or not the students that it licenses make mental appeal to rank heresy (the Declaratory Act).
c). The individual may not have been compelled to accept the doctrines of the Declaratory Act but if his congregation were more swayed by the official position of the Church his preaching would they listen to the "minority opinions" that he expressed in his preaching?
d). The individual was compelled to allow others to accept the doctrines of the Declaratory Act.  As an Act of the Church the Declaratory Act was obligatory and the individual was bound to recognise and acknowledge its operation. It is as sinful to give liberty to others to believe false doctrine as to believe it oneself.

10. Was there therefore any way to refuse to administer the Declaratory Act?

There was no way to refuse to administer the Act and those who believe that the Free Church preserved a right of continued protest are mistaken since either this principle was not important to them or they were happy to deny themselves continued protest.  The terms of their dissent in 1894 as referred to above show that they were concerned that administration of the Act was in fact binding upon them. Either way, it was impossible for those who remained to continue to fulfil their ordination vows or to exonerate their consciences.

11. What was Rev. D. MacFarlane's response?

Rev. D. MacFarlane read a protest at the 1893 Assembly after the passing into law of the Declaratory Act. Stating that since the Act was now retained in the constitution of the Free Church, the Church "ceases to be the true representative of the Free Church of Scotland".  MacFarlane added, "neither my conscience nor my ordination vows allow me to act under what has now been made law in this Church".

12.  Why did the Free Presbyterian Church never repeal the Declaratory Act?

The Free Presbyterian Church made a complete break with the Declaratory Act Church in taking up a separate position and therefore never had this Act on its statute book, so there was no need to repeal it.

For more on the intricate questions surrounding the constitutional issues of separation in 1893 as against 1900 see 1893, 1900 and Church Authority.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Schools in England will be sent copies of the King James Bible from this week to mark its 400th anniversary. Every state primary and secondary school in England is to receive a copy of the King James Bible.

Around 24,000 Bibles are being distributed to schools this week by the Department for Education to mark last year’s 400th anniversary of its publication. The Bibles, which have been published by the Oxford University Press, are accompanied by a letter from Michael Gove.

Education Secretary Michael Gove, described it as the most ‘important book written in the English language’. ‘The King James Bible has had a profound impact on our culture. Every school pupil should have the opportunity to learn about  this book and the impact it has had on our history, language, literature and democracy.’

Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the history of the Church at St Cross College, Oxford University, said the King James Bible ‘represents the culmination of a century of Biblical translation in the first golden age of modern English literature’.

The Right Reverend John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford and chairman of the Church of England Board of Education, said: ‘This is a fitting way of marking the seminal contribution this version of the Bible has made to our culture. It symbolically places the King James Bible at the heart of the educational process which it inspired.’

Professor David Crystal, author of Begat: the King James Bible and the English language:

'However one sees the King James Bible – whether as inspired text, great literature, cultural identifier, or political stimulus – the fact remains that it has played an unparalleled role in influencing the oratorical and literary style of many writers in English and shaping the expressive character of the language as a whole. Young people are fascinated by the history of their language, when it is presented to them in a vivid and lively way, and to hear the biblical stories that led to such idioms as "salt of the earth" and "fly in the ointment", or (at a younger level) "no room at the inn" and "the land of Nod" is an excellent way of broadening their linguistic horizons and developing their appreciation of the expressive range of English. Having the text easily available will help make this happen.'

There are plenty of teaching resources to help...more...more...more...more

Friday, May 11, 2012

competing presbyterian denominations

A recent blog post counts up 11 Presbyterian denominations in Scotland. Another blog analyses shrewdly the reasons for this.

Should we be indifferent about the increasing number of competing presbyterian denominations? How does this relate to the unity of the visible Church emphasised in Scripture? This booklet addresses the sensitive area of schism in order to draw some applications for the contemporary context with help from the biblical views of older presbyterian writers. Available here as a free download.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

one visible Christian church and its government

David Dickson commenting on Psalm 47:9 shows that the visible Church can, should and will be one in its government throughout the world.

'As there is a necessity of the union of Jews and Gentiles in one visible Christian church, because it is promised and prophesied that it shall be so; so there is reason to wish for the more evident union of them, that they may be as eminently consociate as ever the Christian churches were, either in the Apostles' time, or in the Christian emperors' time, in a general assembly or oecumenical council; because there is at least a possibility of an oecumenical council, or a general assembly of Jews and Gentiles in this world under Christ their King. This place makes it plain, because after it is foretold that there shall be such a union of all the people of the God of Abraham, Jews and Gentiles, as their princes shall be gathered together, he takes away the chief ground of a great objection which may be made from the discord and disagreement of the princes of the world; some of them being averse altogether from the Christian religion, some of them from the true religion of Christ, and all of them almost dissenting one from another, and warring one against another; whereby now for many years the gathering of an cecumenical council hath not been possible. He meeteth this objection in the text, saying, for the shields of the earth belong unto God, that is, the hearts and power of all the kings of the earth are in the Lord's hand, and he hath the disposing of shields, armies, and ammunition, with all their commanders and rulers in the world, and therefore can make them serviceable for the nearest conjunction and union of his visible church, which can be for his glory in this world, as he sees fit, how and when he will.'

We need to recover the worldwide vision of the Second Reformation divines. Rutherford and Gillespie stressed on several occasions the ideal of an ecumenical Council of national churches. It is important to bear in mind the remarks of James Walker:
'The visible church, in the idea of the Scottish theologians, is catholic. You have not an indefinite number of Parochial, or Congregational, or National churches, constituting, as it were, so many ecclesiastical individualities, but one great spiritual republic, of which these various organizations form a part. The visible church is not a genus, so to speak, with so many species under it. It is thus you may think of the State, but the visible church is a totum integrale, it is an empire. The churches of the various nationalities constitute the provinces of this empire; and though they are so far independent of each other, yet they are so one, that membership in one is membership in all, and separation from one is separation from all . . . This conception of the church, of which, in at least some aspects, we have practically so much lost sight, had a firm hold of the Scottish theologians of the seventeenth century.' Dr. James Walker in The Theology of Theologians of Scotland. (Edinburgh: Rpt. Knox Press, 1982) Lecture iv. pp.95-6.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A constitutional Act

The debate in 1892 around the Declaratory Act related to its constitutional nature. This is well discussed in an anonymous letter to the Glasgow Herald in September of that year. Archibald McNeilage appears to have taken similar views in a separate letter to the same newspaper.

Donald Beaton wrote much later on the subject: "The founders of the Free Presbyterian Church, while holding that the majority in passing the Declaratory Act were acting ultra vires, inasmuch as a use was made of the Barrier Act for which it was never intended, at the same time asserted that the Declaratory Act, being inconsistent with the Confession, violated the Constitution of the Free Church. In taking up positions seemingly at variance, there was no inconsistency. Both positions were tenable and consistent with the real facts of the situation created by the ecclesiastical policy of one of the astutest ecclesiastical leaders Scotland ever had, though, alas! his gifts were prostituted to a bad cause." For more on the constitutional aspect of the Act see here.

We can resume the questions that we began in relation to this Act in a previous post.

4.Was it not only a mere Act and not part of the constitution?

The Declaratory Act was not just a resolution adopted by the Assembly; it was passed by a majority of presbyteries under the Barrier Act in 1893.  The Barrier Act makes provision that no proposal of the Assembly shall be regarded as a standing law and constitution of the Church without the consent of the majority of presbyteries. It follows that the Declaratory Act being passed under this Act formed part of the constitution, thereby changing it (by adding to and taking from the Confession of Faith).

5. Was it not beyond the powers (ultra vires) of the Free Church to change its constitution?

A Church has no right to change its constitution in the face of a dissenting minority and remain the same body - it is ultra vires. A Church can of course change its constitution unanimously and remain the same Church, particularly if there is nothing contradictory in the new constitution. What happens when a Church does change its constitution through the appropriate legal means but without entire unanimity? It ceases to be the same body that it was and the dissenting minority instead become the true representatives of the original body. This is what happened in 1893 and why the FP Church was now the true representative of the Free Church of 1843.

6.Did the Formula (ordination vows) not have to be changed before the Constitution was altered?

The Act had to be a law before it could be subscribed to. Putting the Act into the Questions and Formula did not make it a law - it was already in force. The failure to change the Formula was a political ploy to achieve the desired outcome without upsetting the minority.  It was the Church's Act and it ensured that anyone could accept the doctrines of the Act without hindrance. It was found to be impossible for anyone to subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith and add an explicit rejection of the Declaratory Act.  James Macdonald, Dornoch inserted this kind of rejection of the Act into his subscription (1893) but the Synod of Caithness and Sutherland ordered that it be removed from the records. The fact that the Formula was unchanged was due to a lack of honesty which would have required subscription to these doctrines if the Church was convinced that they were true.  The Declaratory Act also emptied the Formula of all meaning.  It was no longer possible to have any complete assurance or definite indication as to the views of ministers and office-bearers. The truth was that it was the Formula itself that was a dead letter and not the Declaratory Act.  Furthermore by the Act the Free Church sanctioned the sinful dishonesty of vowing full subscription while having mental reservations.

The idea that the Act was inoperative because the Formula had not changed is not valid.  Men were availing themselves of the Declaratory Act in subscribing the Formula and the Constitutionalists were powerless to prevent this or even detect it, and so unable to keep their ordination vows.  Maurice Grant recognises the weakness of the argument in relation to the Formula. “In their Reasons for Dissent at the passing of the Declaratory Act in 1892 the Free Church constitutionalists specifically stated that the Act 'must be regarded as a new law of this Church, which alters the relations of the Church to the Confession of Faith, by substituting for the doctrines therein embodied the statements made in the Act, as the future standard of orthodoxy in this Church' (Minutes of Free Church General Assembly, 1892). The argument that no change had been made in the Questions and Formula is in any event something of an academic one, since the Assembly of 1894, in what was presented as a relieving Act, stated that 'those who are licensed or ordained to office in this Church, in answering the Questions and subscribing the Formula, are entitled to do so in view of the said Declaratory Act'. Thus, though the Questions and Formula themselves were unchanged, the facility for an ordinand to take advantage of the Declaratory Act when answering and subscribing them was specifically written into the law of the Church. It is best therefore to look elsewhere for a satisfactory vindication of the constitutionalists' position” (The Heirs of the Disruption in Crisis and Recovery 1893-1920).

7.Was the Act not just a dead letter on the statute book?

No, because protests against the Act (e.g. in the Synod of Glenelg) were not permitted by the General Assembly (1893).  This showed that individuals were bound by the Act even in their consciences since it was impossible to protest against it in order to clear the conscience.  An overture by Rev. Angus Galbraith, Lochalsh (Free Church minority 1900) to the same General Assembly recognised this fact by observing that it was clear that it was not "optional for them to receive or to reject this Act". He went on to say that it "was very small comfort to be told that this Act was not intended to interfere with their personal beliefs when they learned that it regulated their creed and public testimony as a Church". Dr. Rainy responded with an indication of the real force of the Act, emphasising that "the Act has set forth the Church's understanding of the range of opinion which is open in this Church in its own understanding of what is involved in the acceptance of the Confession of Faith by our ministers and long as it lasts, no doubt it is authoritative."

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Declamatory Act

declamatory (dɪˈklæmətərɪ)

merely rhetorical; empty and bombastic

The above is a good definition of the Free Church Declaratory Act of 1892 which, as noted here, is 120 years old in May. It declaimed against the Westminster Confession of Faith. It was mere empty rhetoric designed to encompass and deceitfully hide a wide variety of errors in opposition to the precise theology of the Confession of Faith. In a phrase they "destroyed the integrity of the Confession of Faith". The only unobjectionable and non-declamatory word in the Act was the first one, "Whereas". It was, as BB Warfield described it, "a bungling piece of work".

In History of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, Rev. John Dickson writes:
A creed is only a light-holder; to declaim against it is to act like the savage [sic] who, walking through the streets of London at night, complained that the lamp-posts were an obstruction to traffic. 
See here for more on exactly how the Declaratory Act was guilty of subverting as well as declaiming against the Confession of Faith. 

1.What was the Declaratory Act?

It was officially called "Act Anent Confession of Faith" and was passed by the Free Church in 1892. It stated that its purpose was "to remove difficulties and scruples which have been felt by some in relation to the declaration of belief required from" office-bearers, ministers, probationers etc. In other words some seeking office in the Church could not (although ordination vows explicitly required it) affirm that the "whole doctrine" of the Westminster Confession of Faith was their personal confession of faith.  The Church sought a way to get around this.  The Declaratory Act allowed men to assent publicly to the same vows of strict and full subscription but privately they could make secret appeal to the Declaratory Act's qualification of the confession.

2.What was the motivation for the Act?

The motivation for the Act was to permit students who held views contrary to the Westminster Confession of Faith in terms of evolution, higher criticism, Arminianism etc. to subscribe in a qualified way to the Westminster Confession of Faith without abandoning such convictions.  It was also intended to facilitate union with the United Presbyterian Church who had passed their own Declaratory Act that was practically identical to the Free Church 1892 Act. 

3.What was the effect of the Declaratory Act?

By the Declaratory Act the Free Church "destroyed the integrity of the Confession of Faith as understood and accepted by the Disruption Fathers and their predecessors" thereby overthrowing "the fixed Doctrinal Constitution of the Church" (Rev. James S. Sinclair). The Church's relation to the Westminster Confession of Faith changed from entire acceptance to modified acceptance. The Church's declaration was that it "maintains, holds" doctrines that were actually subversive of the Confession while "disclaiming" certain crucial confessional doctrines. This amounted to an additional creed.  The Church was also giving approval and shelter to the false doctrines named above and those who held to them. Rev. James S. Sinclair said: "The Free Church in order to please the fickle tastes of carnal men has traitorously lowered the standard of accepted truth, and weakened down the saving doctrines of the Gospel, so that they shall be powerless for any spiritual good to this or future generations".

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Praise is Comely - wordle

See previous post
'A line of praise is worth a leaf of prayer, an hour of praise is worth a day of fasting and mourning' 
- John Livingstone

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Faith in His blood

"Faith looks for acceptance to nothing in itself, but goes quite out of a man's self, and rests upon the merits and death of Christ as only satisfactory to justice, and through which it expects to be accepted of God:—therefore it is faith in his blood."
-- John Brown of Wamphray

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The autobiography of Jesus Christ

The gospels give us biographies of the Lord Jesus Christ but with the exception of the Servant Songs of Isaiah it is only really the Book of Psalms that gives us his autobiography. E.S. McKitrick states "the person of Christ is fully presented in the Psalter, as well as His work. Indeed, it has been asserted, and not without reason, that out of the Psalms one could compile a biography of Jesus". The proper term here would be autobiography, but he goes on helpfully:

His eternal Sonship is declared in Ps 2: "Jehovah said unto Me, Thou art My Son; This day have I begotten Thee." [Ps 2:7] His incarnation is foretold in Ps 40 as applied in Heb 10: "Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body didst Thou prepare for Me," [Heb 10:5] and in Ps 22: "Thou art My God since My mother bore Me." [Ps 22:10] It is at least suggestive of the supernatural birth of Jesus that, while He speaks repeatedly and tenderly in Ps 22 of a human mother, there is not a word concerning a human father. His favorite name, "Son of Man," is taken from Ps 8, as well as from the Book of Daniel. As we have seen, He is presented in Ps 2 as the "Son of God," and in the same Psalm He is called the "Anointed," that is, "the Christ," while Ps 23 is evidently the origin of "the Good Shepherd." All the usual names applied to Him in the New Testament are given in the Psalms, except the name Jesus, and it is given frequently in substance, if not in form. His trust in God and obedience to Him are beautifully set forth in the whole of Ps 18; His moral beauty in Ps 45—"Thou art fairer than the children of men" [Ps 45:2]; likewise His anointing of the Holy Spirit—"Grace is poured into Thy lips." [Ps 45:2] His life of self-sacrifice is shown from Ps 69 by the Apostle Paul, "For Christ also pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on Me." [Rom 15:3] In this Psalm we have His passionate devotion to God's service—"The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up." [Ps 69:9] His taking sinners into union with Himself—a truth which underlies the whole Psalter—is stated in Ps 22, as interpreted in the Epistle to the Hebrews—"I will declare Thy name unto My brethren." [Ps 22:22] His rejection is mentioned in Ps 69—"I am become a stranger unto My brethren, and an alien unto My mother's children"; "They that hate Me without cause are more than the hairs of My head." [Ps 69:8,4] His triumphal entry into Jerusalem was foreshadowed in Ps 8—"Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou established strength," [Ps 8:2] and in Ps 118—"Blessed be He that cometh in the name of Jehovah." [Ps 118:26] The conspiracy of His foes against Him is in Ps 31—"They took counsel together against Me, they devised to take away My life." [Ps 31:13] His betrayal by one of the Twelve is foretold in Ps 41, as He Himself pointed out—"He that eateth My bread lifted up his heel against Me." [Ps 41:9] The manner of His death is foretold in Ps 22—"They pierced My hands and My feet." Even the disposition of His clothes is mentioned—"They part My garments among them, and upon My vesture do they cast lots." [Ps 22:16,18] His cry of desertion was in the opening words of this Psalm, in which they are followed by a most accurate and pathetic description of the whole crucifixion scene. Ps 69 adds another line to the dark picture—"They gave Me also gall for My food; and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink." [Ps 69:21] That His bones should not be broken, as were those hanging on either side of Him, is predicted in Ps 34, as applied in John's Gospel—"A bone of Him shall not be broken." [John 19:36] His dying words were from Ps 31—"Into Thy hands I commend My spirit." [Ps 31:5] His resurrection is foretold in Ps 16, as cited in Peter's sermon at Pentecost—"Thou wilt not leave My soul unto Hades, neither wilt Thou give Thy Holy One to see corruption." [Ps 16:10] His ascension, also, is mentioned—"Thou hast ascended on high" [Ps 68:18]; "God is gone up with a shout, Jehovah with the sound of a trumpet." [Ps 47:5] His kingdom and its ultimate triumph are described in the familiar Ps 72, and His coming in judgment in Ps 50 and Ps 98—"Our God cometh, and doth not keep silence"; "He calleth to the heavens above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people"; "For He cometh to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity." [Ps 50:3-4; Ps 98:9]

In these revelations of Jesus in the Psalter there is this advantage over all others—He speaks mainly in the first person, and tells us His own feelings while working and suffering and dying for our redemption. And these revelations are chiefly in the past tense, as if to indicate that they were intended more for the gospel age than for that in which they were written.

'Christ in the Psalms' E. S. McKitrick From The Psalms in Worship, edited by John McNaugher, Pittsburgh 1907.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Praise is Comely

This booklet is intended for all who are concerned
for the glory and honour of God. The praise of God
is a vitally important means of glorifying His Name
and all are therefore encouraged to enter into it as
fully as possible – whatever may be their ability.

The booklet outlines the biblical basis for taking
seriously congregational psalm-singing since due
consideration, reverent care and skill in this area
are a spiritual priority rather than a matter of mere
musical taste. Further aspects could well be developed
but the basic principles of public praise are to
be found here in order to bring the subject within
the reach of everyone.

That I may show forth all thy praise in the gates
of the daughter of Zion …
Psalm 9:14

Published by Kirk Session of the Inverness Congregation of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
£2 (not including p&p) from FP Bookroom.

We are all commanded to praise God
We are all commanded to praise
God in singing
We are all commanded to praise God
in singing together
We are all commanded to praise God in 
singing together to edification
We are all commanded to praise God in 
singing together to edification and comeliness

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The manner in which psalms are to be sung

Something re: singing of praise before too long but for now...

From the Body of Practical Divinity by theologian John Gill (1697-1771):

The manner in which psalms are to be sung may be next considered. . . .

With grace in the heart,” (Col. 3:16) with the several graces; not one note, but a mixture of notes, makes melody; many voices, yet one sound, make a chorus: so singing must be with various graces; with faith in God, without which it is impossible to please him; and with strong love and affection for him; and also “with reverence and godly fear;” for God is “fearful in praises” reverend in them, to be praised with great fear and reverence of his Majesty. . . .

We should have in view the glory of God; for we are to “sing unto the Lord;” not to ourselves, merely to raise our natural affections, to gain applause from others, by the fineness of our voice, and by observing an exact conformity to the tune; but to the glory of Father, Son, and Spirit, the one God, who condescends to inhabit the praises of Israel.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Scottish Reformation Society Historical Journal Vol 2

The Scottish Reformation Society Historical Journal contains articles on Scottish Church history written from an evangelical perspective. Subjects in the 2012 issue include the Constitutional Principle of the Scottish Reformation; Robert Bruce in Inverness; Walter Ker and the Sweet Singers; Alexander Shields and the Revolution Settlement; the Literary Labours of the Apostle of the North; Robert Shanks of Buckie; James MacGregor and the Robertson Smith Case; Resistance to the 1892 Declaratory Act in Argyllshire; and the Chisholmites of Achmore.

Monday, February 06, 2012

the progress of sin

"Vice first is pleasing; then it grows easily; then delightful; then frequent; then habitual; then confirmed; then the man is impenitent; then he is obstinate; then he resolves never to repent; and then he is damned." Edward Reynolds as quoted by Charles Bridges on Eccl. 8:11

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Top 5 Books that I read in 2011

It's incredible to me that I managed to work through any book from cover to cover last year (beside books for toddlers) - a top 10 would have been more challenging.

1.  Narrative of Mr. James Nimmo written for his own satisfaction to keep in some remembrance the Lord's way dealing and kindness towards him, 1645-1709.

Providence brought this to me through the kindness of a friend. This is remarkable not for the Covenanting history but the personal struggles of the writer and his clear witness to the guidance of God on his path through earnest prayer and supplication. I hope that the impression made does not pass away like the morning dew.

2. The Last Days of Jesus: The Forty Days Between the Resurrection and the Ascension by T V Moore
This is a remarkable book, still to be fully finished in reading but one that sparkles with rare insight into the understanding of the Scriptures and warms with devotional and practical usefulness. Although it is by a Victorian writer from America, it is by no means verbose but on the contrary very concise and suggestive.

3. The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies.
Possibly a bit more influential in describing and measuring the impact of the Digital Explosion upon our lives and its risks than in how to respond to it. Essential reading nevertheless.

4. The Rage Against God: Why Faith is the Foundation of Civilisation by Peter Hitchens
An interesting personal testimony of how he returned to belief in God against the systematic post-war destruction of Christian influence. A former Trotskyist, he demonstrates from close knowledge, the weakness of atheistic arguments in relation to religion as they relate to the track record of atheistic regimes in the 20th Century.

5. Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language by David Crystal
In the 400th Anniversary Year a truly original study showing exactly how many proverbial expressions we owe to the AV.

The blessings of sufficient time and sight to read and abundant material to read are not to be taken for granted. We might take up the words of the Larger Catechism 193 and "pray for ourselves and others, that both they and we, waiting upon the providence of God from day to day in the use of lawful means, may, of his free gift, and as to his fatherly wisdom shall seem best, enjoy a competent portion of them; and have the same continued and blessed unto us in our holy and comfortable use of them, and contentment in them". This is one of the outward blessings that we owe to the kindness of the Most High, and we need grace to be humbly and diligently making use of it to the glory of God with thankfulness.