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.