Thursday, December 29, 2005

The End of the Year (J.P.S.)

Sir Thomas Lawrence was often a very long time over his pictures. When he painted Lady Mexborough and her child, his delay was unusually provoking. Time after time her husband asked that the portrait might be sent home, but all in vain. At last he sent word that the portrait must be delivered up. "I know," was the answer, "that I have been rather long. Lady Mexborough is done, but the baby wants finishing. But if you would kindly ask Lady Mexborough to bring the baby and give me one more sitting, I really will finish the picture." "My wife," was Lord Mexborough's reply, "will be happy to give you another sitting whenever you like, but the baby is in the Guards!" That is to say, the baby was now an officer in the army. Sir Thomas Lawrence was like the man in the First Book of Kings who lost the prisoner he had charge of. "As thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone." And are we not like that man too? It seems like yesterday since the coming of a New Century filled our minds and hearts with deep and solemn thoughts and purposes. We were going to serve the Lord and be wholly His. But we put off completing our covenant with God. The finishing touches were not given when they might and should have been, and now the year, and with the year the hudredth part, and doubtless in the case of some of us the greatest part, of the Twentieth Century is past, and we are not saved.

(This first appeared in the Morning Watch for December 1901)

[A word to our readers. Normal service on Free St. George's will be resumed in the New Year, God willing]


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

John Eadie link

Solid Ground Christian Books have reprinted in the past year a lot of books by the 19th Century Scottish theologian John Eadie. Anyone interested in Eadie will find a fine potted biography of Eadie Here. A caricature of Eadie is to be found here. Pictures of Eadie's two churches are on the same site. Cambridge Street and Lansdowne. Both were United Presbyterian Churches when Eadie was pastor.

Eadie moved to Lansdowne in 1863, with a large part of the Cambridge Street Congregation. Arriving at Lansdowne, the Church officers found the following poem written on a placard that had been stuck on the Church door:
This Church is not for the poor and needy,
It's for the rich and Dr. Eadie;
The rich come in and take their seat,
The poor go on to Cambridge Street.


Idolatry of the Bible (By Edward Irving) III

"I hesitate to pronounce that unqualified approbation upon that sign of the times, in which the times delight themselves so much, that the written word is translated into all languages and circulated in all lands. It is a token of good for them; but to us it is no token for good, if the labour of that ministry of translating and circulated be abstracted from the higher ministry of reading, learning, marking and inwardly digesting the word... The times were when the words of the preacher were spirit and life, and master minds lent their energies to the noble work of this spiritual embassy, and wearied themselves, and wearied the people, and rallied again; so that in the olden time when a bishop preached, and turned the glass at the end of the hour, the congregation rejoiced with a manifest joy that they were to have the music of the glad sound a little longer in their ears."

"The second evidence and measure of the extent to which the idolatry of the Scriptures hath advanced amongst us, I discern in the notion which now begins to prevail amongst the most pious both of our ministers and people concerning faith, that it is no more than the reception of the truths of revelation into the mind, and their activity thereupon as truths... Now, the true doctrine concerning faith is, that to its production in the soul the Spirit of God must work as effectually as the word of God: or, even further, that the word is the instrument with which the Spirit worketh, and that the word, to be profitable to redemption, regeneration, and salvation, waiteth for the Spirit to work therewithal; and that we must be born of the Spirit by the seed of the word which liveth and abideth for ever... But we seem in the churches to be relapsing into the condition of those disciples mentioned in the Acts, who did not know that there was a Holy Ghost... they are converting religion into an objective thing, and the object they have chosen is surely the most worthy one, the written word; but inasmuch as it is objective merely, it is idolatry. Objective it must be, but subjective it must at the same time likewise be; and to make it subjective in us, the Holy Spirit must work upon us..."

That is idolatry of the Bible, despising preaching, and forgetting the need for the Holy Spirit. Thank you, Mr. Irving. But Irving must have the last word:

"But when I shall witness as strenuous and sedulous endeavours to seek out children of the Spirit for preaching the word, as much boldness to speak against the children of the world who usurp the high places of this ministry, - when I shall hear not in word, but see in deed, that the Holy Spirit is looked to for all the increase, and that in this dependence all expedients, managements, solicitations of the high and noble, and traffic with the vanity and self-importance of men, and human wits and wiles, are supplanted in all our works by spiritual trust, then shall I be sure that the way of the Lord is mightily preparing, and that He is going forth as a man of war to convert the nations."


Idolatry of the Bible (By Edward Irving) II

Resuming at the point where we left off:
"But the Spirit of God having no visible representation as the word hath, no form of a holy dove or consecrated oil, the danger is that His needful part should be lost sight of in an unspiritual age, and that the visible form of the word should carry it before the observation of the sense... there is a constant danger lest we should place our chief expectation of Spiritual knowledge upon the perusal of the word itself, and forget that a spirit hath to be born within us of the Spirit of God, which, like a mistress of all spiritual art, shall sit at the centre and weave the web of spiritual wisdom out of the revelations which are contained in the word of God.
Now that this safeguard, most clearly percieved by our fathers, and by them constantly presented to view, hath, through the wonderful mastery of things visible over this age, fallen out of sight of the godly among us, and the written word become proportionately more prominent than it ought to be, and in so far become an idol, appears manifest to my mind from the following characteristic features of our days."
By Now you are no doubt thinking that Irving was a way-out Charismatic. Bear with him.
"First, that the main current of our enthusiasm hath set towards the written word of God to a degree hitherto unexampled in the world; which would be to my mind the source of unmingled joy and glory, did I witness consentaneous therewith an equal enthusiasm for the preaching of its spiritual doctrines. But I witness the imperial ordinance of preaching Christ postponed in the estimation of the religious to pleadings for charitable and religious benevolence, to the reading of the liturgy, to public meetings, and other such inventions of men, and find, moreover, that there never hath been an age in the Church wherein spiritual doctrine was at so low an ebb, and the gifts of the preacher so little cared about, and the work of preaching so miserably put by..."

More to come (God willing), including Irving's plea for longer sermons.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Idolatry of the Bible (By Edward Irving) I

Edward Irving (1792-1834) is best known for his interest in eschatology and the gifts of the Spirit. He was, however, also a gifted preacher. Recently some things have been said about 'Idolatry of the Bible' at a certain blog. Irving had a few things to say on this matter.
The sermon 'Idolatry of the Bible' was part of a series on idolatry preached in Regent Square Church, London. It is found in volume IV of Irving's Collected Writings (London, 1865). These are some selected portions. Do not be put off by Irving's opening statement. Or by the fact that this is something of a space filler. Normal service will be resumed in January.

"It may make many to startle when I tell them that the first point upon which we are at present assailable, and where the enemy hath worked his mines the most effectually, is the Holy Scriptures itself, and that even now the worship of God is hindered among us by the worship of the Bible. Yet we need not start at such an announcement when we remember that the idolatry of the law is that which even now sealeth the bondage of the Jews, and that the law was inspired no less than the rest of the Scriptures, and contained within itself the warning of its own insufficiency to save the soul, no less than the book of the New Testament containeth within itself the declaration of its insufficiency to save the soul without the gracious aides of the Spirit of God..." Irving goes on to speak of the central place of the Bible in Protestantism, and Protestantism's victories won through the Bible.
"Now the book, never to be praised enough for these its mighty works unto us and to our fathers, doth contain within itself the safeguard against all idolatry, to which our fathers had dilligent respect, and from which if we their children do withdraw our eyes, it will become an idol to us as surely as the body of Moses would have become an idol to the children of Israel, had not the archangel Michael, our Prince, contested for it with Satan, who desired it for his craft, and prevailed to have it buried, no one of the camp knew where, and no one was able to discover. The safeguard against the idolatry of the word of God which it containeth within itself, is the assurance everywhere given that it is not profitable to any blessed uses save as the Spirit of God taketh it and useth it, and worketh with it effectually to the salvation of men and the redemption of the world... And it is the sound doctrine of all the Reformed Churches that the study of the word without the co-operation of the Spirit is as little able to produce spiritual life as the sight and study of the visible world is able of itself to beget intellectual life; and that as there is a mind given us of God for recieving the impressions of the sense and digesting them into the forms of understanding, so there is a spirit wrought within us by the Spirit of God for recieving the impressions of the word and digesting them into the forms of spiritual being."

(Pp 75-78) Next (God willing), Irving will tells us more about 'The Idolatry of the Bible'


Saturday, December 24, 2005

Our Christmas Message

While heart and strength as one combine
To celebrate Christ'a birth;
May faith and love in songs divine
Rise to celestial mirth.
But those that riot, sware and lie
And Christmas spend in sin,
Without a turn in hell shall burn
When Jesus comes again.

-Edward Trivett

(Edward Trivett was a Baptist Pastor in Norfolk in the late 18th Century)

When Apologetics Goes Wrong - III.

Alexander Balmain Bruce's Concessive Apologetic was, in the eyes of Warfield, reducing the value of Bruce's books for evangelicalism. I said that I would discuss the effects of this on Bruce's faith, because the sources are not agreed. Some sources actually say that Bruce died "without a single Christian conviction" (R.A. Finlayson, How Liberal Theology Infected Scotland in Reformed Theological Writings (Fearn, Christian Focus, 1996) P. 198). Following Bruce's death, William Robertson Nicoll wrote to James Denney, Bruce's successor, that Bruce "abandoned the contention that Jesus was sinless. Christ he believed to have been a very good fellow, almost as good as Sandy Bruce, though less enlightened. But did he go any further than that?" (W.R. Nicoll, letter given in full in T.H. Darlow, William Robertson Nicoll Life and Letters (London, 1925) P. 349). On the other hand, both seem to be founding their opinions on an encyclopaedia article by Bruce, which some have contended was just another example of Bruce's one-sidedness. Was A.B. Bruce saved? I should like to think so, but I have to suspend my Judgement.

Which should not make anyone hold off The Training of the Twelve for a minute.

Our lesson rather is to stick to our guns, and to hold our ground. Bruce's mistake was to think that proclaiming a bare minimum of the faith would bring people into the Kingdom, but W.M. Macgregor, a later professor of New Testament at Glasgow, noted that:

"The victories of the Faith have commonly been won not by the proclamation of a bare minimum of belief but rather of things strange and hard to accept, because they are too full of God." (Persons and Ideals (Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1939) P. 5).


Our Christmas 'Reason for Not Going to Church' (J.P.S)

Time: 11.15 pm, Saturday, 30th December, snow beginning to fall. This girl, who still has nine parcels to deliver, several of them insufficiently addressed and all of them presents for children urgently needed for New Year's morn, is asking the policeman where 'Honeysuckle Hollow' is. "Honeysuckle Hollow? Second turn to the left and it's the last house at the top of the hill, the very last house; it's covered with ivy, and you go up a lot of steps to it."
"And, if you please, where is 'The Hut'?"
"Oh the Hut! You are a good bit past it; it is the big white granite house with the stone lions at the gate."
"And where's 'Labrador'?"
"Labrador? Labrador? Ah, but you beat me there, lassie!"
It will be near 1 am when she gets home, and as she has been on her feet since 8 am to-day, she will be in such a deep sleep to-morrow that her mother will not have the heart to waken her in time for the forenoon service.
'Labrador', - as after vainly seeking for it all Monday forenoon she will find out on Tuesday when a lady calls in at the shop to say that, as her little daughter's New Year Doll has not been delivered yet, after being ordered on Saturday evening before half-past nine, in PLENTY of time to be sent home that night, they need not trouble sending it NOW - turned out to be the name of the upperflat -entrance by the back- of a house whose front door flat has lately been changed from 'Tierra del Fuego lodge' to 'Madagascar Villa'.

(This first appeared in the Morning Watch for January, 1912)


Saturday, December 17, 2005

A word of Explication

So far Free St. George's has been pretty much daily. From today until about 14th January, however, posts will be sporadic, and mostly consist of Morning Watch material. This is because the Highland Host will be far from Broadband and such conveniencies of modern technology. And VERY busy preparing and preaching sermons (not to mention enjoying a family Christmas). So every blessing to our readers. All of them, not just Michael Haykin. And many thanks to John Paterson Struthers and his wife Anne, who between them made the Morning Watch such a wonderful little magazine.

(This picture first appeared in the Morning Watch in September 1898)

When Apologetics Goes Wrong - II.

Last time I introduced you to Alexander Balmain Bruce, the late 19th Century Free Church of Scotland apologist. I intimated that his apologetic ran into trouble. This time I intend to say something about that.
Bruce was noted for his use of ad hominem apologetic, arguing from the position of his opponents and showing that, even if their alledged 'facts' were true (Bruce's specialty was New Testament criticism), Christ was more than just a man, and the New Testament histories were, in a great measure, accurate.
Bruce also believed that, if he yielded certain outworks of the faith, he would be better able to defend the citadel, the core of Christian belief. Thus his method is sometimes called the Concessive Apologetic. He conceded a few points in order to gain a hearing.

"The attitude of the apologist must be that of one who refuses to be deeply committed on critical questions. But on the other hand, he cannot go on his way as if nothing had happened, or as if he had never heard of modern higher criticism. He must adjust himself to the new situation. He must take into account opinions confidently advanced by others for which he declines to be personally responsible, at least to the extent of how far they are compatible with the faith he is concerned to defend." (Apologetics P. 172)

Bruce's writing style was, however, more than a little involved, and it is sometimes difficult to tell where he is stating his own opinion and when he is practising ad hominem. Bruce's lack of technical learning made him overly respectful of German higher critical Scholarship. Marcus Dods was impatient with this and exclaimed: "his is an infinitely better mind than theirs!" Yet Bruce felt that these men's learning made them ex officio worthy of respect.
Bruce was also unable to deal with more than one aspect of a point under discussion at any one time. The result of this was that he failed to consider qualifications and balancing judgements. Because of this Bruce sometimes seemed to present a solely human Jesus when he was discussing the humanity of Christ.

What was worse was that, as time went on, Bruce seems to have become willing to concede more and more, and, to quote B.B. Warfield, "as the minimizing spirit of a concessive apologetic grew upon Bruce, his theological product decreased in value." It is significant that The Training of the Twelve was Bruce's first book.

God willing, we shall discuss the result of this apologetic on Bruce's personal faith next time.


Reasons for Not Going to Church (J.P.S.)

This lady, who has just returned from London on the Thursday with some lovely dresses, remembered at the last moment on Sabbath that she had ordered a high door to be made to her seat in church to prevent draught and secure greater privacy. Her footman, who cycled along to church to make measurements, has just reported that the entrance to the seat is twenty-three-and-a-half inches wide. Her hat is two feet seven inches diameter. To go to church is therefore quite out of the question!


Friday, December 16, 2005

When Apologetics goes wrong - I.

Alexander Balmain Bruce

Apologetics is 'the defence of the faith.' Does it have a place in Christian theology? In some sens it is impossible for Christians to avoid apologetics. One of my favourite definitions of the sphere of apologetics is this: Apologetics, then, as I concieve it, is a preparer of the way of faith, an aid to faith against doubts whencesoever arising, especially such as are engendered by philosophy and science.
It was written by Alexander Balmain Bruce (1831-99), in his book Apologetics: or, Christianity Defensively stated (Edinburgh, T.&T. Clark, 1892). Bruce was Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Apologetics at the Free Church College, Glasgow, from 1876-1899. If he is known for anything today it is for his book on the Synoptic Gospels The Training of the Twelve (various editions), still in print, which is a classic on Christian leadership, and well worth reading. In his own day, however, Bruce was best known as an apologist. Bruce was an accomplished popular theologian (he must have been to publish a 500+ page book which is still in print today), and his winning presentation makes for compelling reading. Bruce read and knew well the modern German theologians of his day, and he engaged them on their own ground. His book on The Miraculous Element in the Gospels (Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1893) is one of the most helpful books I have ever read on the subject.
But Bruce's determination to formulate an apologetic for the 20th Century led him down a dangerous path. His method was twofold: First, there were too be no appeals to external authority to support Christianity, Christian claims were to rest on their own self-evidencing powers, nothing could be taken for granted. Secondly, the apologist set out to gain a verdict for faith from the point of view of his opponent. The aim was to win the thinking doubter for the faith, and that requires careful argument.
How Bruce argued we shall see next time (God willing).


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Free Grace AND a Free Gospel. IX

Image: Erskine Memorial Kirk, Stirling

Thomas Boston's discovery of the Marrow of Modern Divinity had led to the spread of the Marrow's evangelical doctrine among the younger ministers of the Church of Scotland. While the Marrowmen were left in their own parishes, and no processes were begun to depose them, it soon became clear that their opponents were not going to leave them in peace. Every effort was made to keep the Marrowmen from being transferred to more important charges in the Church of Scotland, and Boston found he was "tied down in Ettrick." Young men going forward to licence who held the Marrow theology were refused licence to preach, and members of the Synod of Fife suspected of being Marrowmen were required to re-subscribe to the Confession of Faith, adding a new clause condemning the Marrow "in view of the recent decision of the Assembly."
"We became strangers to our brethren, and as aliens and saw that our mothers had borne us men of contention." Boston complained.

The break came in 1733, when the Marrowmen, led by the Erskine brothers, seceded from the Church of Scotland, forming the 'Associate Presbytery', better known as the Secession Church. The unity of the Church of Scotland was broken, not to be mended from that day to this.

And the Marrow of Modern Divinity has passed into legend, as one of the great classics of the Scottish Church, although it was written by an English Puritan.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Free Grace AND a Free Gospel. VIII

Picture: A scene in Boston's Ettrick parish.

The Marrowmen had presented their answers to the Assembly. But the Assembly refused to listen, instead the Marrowmen were cited to appear at the bar of the Assembly to be rebuked and admonished! But they were not to be intimidated. Stepping forward boldly, Mr. Kid of Queensferry, the bravest of the Marrowmen, laid on the table of the Assembly a protest against the acts of Assembly that had condemned the Marrow. The acts were, "Contrary to the Word of God and to the standards of the Church and our covenants." The Marrowmen declared that "it shall be lawful to us to profess, preach, and bear testimony unto the truths condemned by the said acts of Assembly, notwithstanding of the said acts of Assembly, notwithstanding of the said acts or whatsoever may follow thereupon."

It was a declaration of war. A breach in the Church of Scotland was threatened, but while the Assembly was willing to condemn a book and admonish a few ministers, they did not want to split the Church, and the Marrowmen were left to themselves in their parishes.
Boston went ahead and published, a few years later, his own edition of the Marrow, with notes (this is available from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom, just search for 'Marrow'). The book sold very well. The English Puritan book was adopted by Scottish Evangelicalism as their standard text.

Thomas Boston died in 1732, on 20th May, one of the latter-day Scots Worthies. But the doctrine of the Marrow lived on, and it was destined to disturb the Church of Scotland once and again. Boston's Memoirs are still in print, and the Marrow, in Boston's edition, has been republished in South Korea recently.

Next time (God willing) we shall see what happened to the Marrowmen after Boston's death.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Where I am Today (and To-Morrow)

At the Westminster Conference. Not in Westminster (confusingly) but in Friends House, Euston.

Another Reason for Not Going to Church (J.P.S.)

The Mother of these two boys is not able to go to Church herself and will not let them go without her, because, her pew being in the front of the gallery, she is afraid they may fall over. "They are such restless creatures," she says, "that they can't sit still a single minute, and I always like to know where they are, and to keep my eye on them."

And this is where they are every moment they get the chance, every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, all July and August.

(This 'Reason for Not Going to Church', number 7 in the 10th series, is here reproduced by demand of a Free St. George's reader)


Monday, December 12, 2005

Free Grace AND a Free Gospel. VII

VII: Is preaching the necessity of a holy life, in order to the obtaining of eternal happiness, of a dangerous consequence to the doctrine of free grace?
The Marrowmen carefully considered this query. "We cordially and sincerely own a holy life, or good works, necessary, as an acknowledgement of God's sovereignty, and in obedience to His command... For glorifying God before the world... As being the end of our election... As expressions of gratitude to our great benefactor... To testify our thanksgiving to our Lord Redeemer and Ransomer... for evidencing and confirming our faith..." and so on. That was how far they were from denying the necessity of good works. But at the same time they believed that it was extremely dangerous to speak of holiness without also speaking of salvation at the same time. That is to say that the Marrowmen preached Evangelical obedience, that the believer obeys out of thankfulness for salvation received.

VIII. Is the knowledge, belief, and persuasion, that Christ died for me, and that he is mine, and whatever he did and suffered, he did and suffered for me, the direct act of faith, whereby a sinner is united to Christ, interested in him, instated in God's covenant of grace? Or, is that knowledge a persuasion included in the very essence of that justifying act of faith?
The Marrowmen carefully stated that they believed this to be a true statement of the act of justifying faith. We believe the promises of the gospel, fixing on the Word as our warrant to believe.

IX. What is that act of faith by which a sinner appropriates Christ and his saving benefits to himself?
The Marrowmen just referred back to their answer to the previous query.

X. Whether the revelation of the divine will in the word, affording a warrant to offer Christ unto all, and a warrant to all to receive him, can be said to be the Father's making a deed of gift and grant of Christ unto all mankind? Is this grant to all mankind by sovereign grace? And whether it is absolute or conditional?
The Marrowmen explained that God offers Christ to everyone in the gospels. The free offer of the gospel is, they said, based upon the fact that Christ is offered to all in the Bible (John 3.16). They quote Rutherford: "reprobates have as fair warrant to believe as the elect have." The grant is made to lost mankind in general. Yet this is not to be confused with the doctrine that Christ died for all. But the gospel promises are made to men, not as elect, but as lost sinners.

XI. Is the division of the law, as explained and applied in the Marrow, to be justified, and which cannot be rejected without burying several gospel truths?
The tripartite division of the law, they replied, is certainly to be defended (that is, into the moral, civil and ceremonial law). Yet the Marrow's distinction of the law as the law of works and as the law of Christ (that is, as a covenant and as a rule of life for believers) is extremely important. Unless this distinction is made, believers may fall into either antinomianism or legalism.

XII. Is the hope of heaven and the fear of hell to be excluded from the motives of the believer's confidence? And if not, how can the Marrow be defended, that expressly excludes them, though it should allow of other motives?
So long as heaven is properly represented as "a state of endless felicity in the enjoyment of God in Christ", then of course desire of heaven is a motive of obedience. But a freedom from the fear of hell is, "one of the special branches of that glorious liberty wherewith Christ has made his people free." Fear of God is a worthy motive of obedience for believers, but not fear of hell.

So the Marrowmen replied to their critics, hoping that such an explanation would persuade the Assembly to withdraw their condemnation of the Marrow. Next time (God willing) we shall see what the Assembly said in reply.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Where I am this Week-End

And on the Lord's Day I shall, God willing, be
So no more posts until Monday (God willing). No, I'm just going to be in the congregation.

Free Grace AND a Free Gospel. VI

The Marrowmen were examined by the committee on the following questions:

1. Whether are there any precepts in the gospel that were not actually given before the gospel was revealed?
The Marrowmen replied that there were no precepts, properly speaking, in the gospel. The gospel is grace, not law. It contains promises of mercy and salvation.

II. Is not the believer now bound, by the authority of the creator, to personal obedience to the moral law, though not in order to justification?
To which the Marrowmen heartily agreed.

III. Doth the annexing of a promise of life, and a threatening of death to a precept, make it a covenant of works?
Yes, they answered, as it relates to the law given to our first parents.

IV.If the moral law, antecedent to its recieving the form of a covenant of works, had a threatening of hell annexed?
The Marrowmen answered that the moral law never was in the world as a rule of life except in one of the two covenants, of works and of grace. Therefore this was a silly question. But sin, they affirmed, is always deserving of hell.

V. If it be peculiar to believers to be free of the commanding power of the law, as a covenant of works?
Yes, the Marrowmen replied.

VI. If a sinner, being justified, has all things at once that are necessary for salvation? And if personal holiness, and progress in holy obedience, is not necessary to a justified person's possession of glory, in case of his continuing in life after his justification?
The grounds of this question was a quotation from Luther contained in the Marrow, "For in Christ I have all things at once, neither need I anything more, that is necessary unto salvation." The Marrowmen agreed totally with this passage, but they added that personal holiness and progress in holy obedience will certainly be found in any true believer. Personal holiness and justification, they insisted, would always be found together, since, "grace is glory begun, and glory grace in perfection." Yet holiness and obedience are not conditions required to gaining glory. Holiness is a part of salvation.

We shall reserve the rest of the points for another post.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Free Grace AND a Free Gospel. V

Image: St. Giles Kirk, Edinburgh, as it was in Boston's day. The Assembly met in one of the Kirk's aisles.

The General Assembly's 'Committee for the Purity of Doctrine' condemned The Marrow of Modern Divinity on five counts, as teaching:
1. That assurance is of the nature of faith.
2. That the atonement of Christ is universal.
3. That holiness is not necessary to salvation.
4. That the fear of punishment and the hope of reward are not proper motives of a believer's obedience.
5. That the believer is not under the commanding power of the Law.

The Assembly accepted the overture, and the Marrow was condemned as a dangerous book. Thomas Boston was horrified. The Marrow was not just another book to him, it had come as a messager of God. What was more, it had been condemned for teaching what it did not teach, the 'support' that the Committee had found for their charges being passages wrenched out of their contexts. The Marrow did not teach that Assurance was of the nature of faith, although some quotations from Luther seemed to do so. It did not teach a universal atonement, only a universal Gospel call. The Marrow did teach that holiness was not a condition of salvation, and that the proper motive for a believer's obedience is love to Christ, and it did teach that the believer is not under the commanding power of the law, but is under grace, and the Law is a rule of life to him.
Boston sought redress for the unjustice at presbytery and synod, at last appealing to the General Assembly of 1721. He and the other 'Marrowmen' gave a Representation to the Assembly, hoping for action. But the Assembly was disturbed by the terrible illness of the King's commissioner, and the matter was again taken up by the committee. Boston and his friends were examined by the committee on a dozen questions.

Of which more next time (God willing)


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Free Grace AND a Free Gospel. IV

The Marrow of Modern Divinity had been republished in 1717, by James Hog, minister of Carnock. Thomas Boston rejoiced to see the book republished, but another man, Principal Hadow of St. Andrews University, entertained very different feelings. Hadow was a 'Neonomian', one who believed that Christ had died in order to establish a 'new law', with certain conditions that had to be fulfilled in order to come to Christ. What was more, he held a personal grudge against Hog from their student days in Holland. Hadow's 'Orthodoxy', as far as it went, was a cold, hard thing, and his doctrinal deviations and personal enmity against Hog led Hadow to preach violently against the Marrow as soon as it was published. Had he been just an ordinary minister in a parish charge, the effects would not have been so great. But he was principal of St. Andrews, and therefore one of the most senior men in the Church of Scotland. Hadow preached many violent sermons against the book, declaring that the author was 'an Independent barber', and that the work itself was antinomian. The matter was taken to the General Assembly, the highest court of the Church, and they set up 'The Committee for Purity of Doctrine' to look into the work.
The Committee examined various supporters of the Marrow (they were now termed the 'Marrowmen' on various points. In the Assembly of 1720 the Committee submitted an overture condemning the Marrow on five points.

Of which more (God willing) next time.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Free Grace AND a Free Gospel. III

Pictured: Ettrick Kirk, where Boston ministered for twenty-five years after he left Simprin in 1707. The tower is a 19th Century addition.

The Church of Scotland had regained her freedom at the Glorious Revolution of 1688. However plans had not been wanting to bring her into bondage once again. in 1714 one of the Divinity professors at Glasgow was accused of 'Socianianism, Arminianism and Jesuitism' and tried for heresy. He wriggled and escaped, partly due to the Assembly's unwillingness to try him. What was more worrying, however, was that some of the statements made in the Assembly's trial of the professor seemed to deny Evangelical truth and erred on the side of legalism. The Presbytery of Auchterarder, determined that no-one holding unevangelical views should hold office in the bounds of their presbytery, drew up a list of questions to be asked to candidates for ordination. One of these questions ran thus: "I believe it is not sound and orthodox to teach that we must forsake sin in order to our coming to Christ, and instating us in covenant with God."
The presbytery intended to guard against legalism. Taken out of context, however, their question might be seen as antinomian. When a student refused to sign this article and was refused license to preach, he complained to the Assembly, who roundly condemned the article as antinomian in 1717.
It was in that very year that James Hog of Carnock republished The Marrow of Modern Divinity. A veritable firestorm ensued.

Of which we shall tell (God willing) next time.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Free Grace AND a Free Gospel. II

In our last post we saw how Thomas Boston was so affected by a little book called The Marrow of Modern Divinity. A book with such a title written today would be a compendium of errors, but the book Boston found was published in 1646 (A second part was published in 1648, but Boston found only the first part at Simprin. The full text may be found here). The date tells us that what Boston had found was the marrow of Puritan divinity. The book gathered together the choicest passages out of authors such as Luther, Calvin, Perkins, Thomas Goodwin, Theodore Beza, Thomas Hooker, and a forest of the best British and continental theologians of the 16th and 17th centuries.
The author was one Edward Fisher, an English gentleman and a scholar of Brazenose College, Oxford. He presents the First Part (which is what we are interested in) as a conversation between four men, EVANGELISTA, a Minister of the Gospel. NOMIST, a Legalist. ANTINOMISTA, an Antinomian. NEOPHYTUS, a Young Christian. The subject of their conversation is the place of the Law in the Christian life, the Covenants, the Gospel, and conversion. One of the most enlightening and suprising portions of the book is the section on The Warrant to Believe on Christ. There Fisher presents a wonderfully free Gospel offer. Boston observes on this that, "from this deed of gift and grant [of Mark 16.15] it was that the ministerial offer was appointed to be made in the most extensive terms." Fisher wrote: "Go and tell every man without exception, that here is good news for him; Christ is dead for him; and if he will take him, and accept of his righteousness, he shall have him."
Fisher's concern in the book was to undermine both legalism and antinomianism, and present the full Gospel way of faith and salvation by grace. He had himself been oppressed by legalism for twelve years, labouring to justify himself by works and, when he discovered the true Christian teaching on Justification, he wrote his little book and published it so that all the world cound discover the same thing. His intentions were good, and his little book is as enlightening and arresting today as it was in 1646 and in 1700. Boston's Simprin parishoners were amazed at the change it effected in their young minister's preaching. No longer was it heavy, confused and unsure, it was full of life, power, and authority from the King of Kings.

But Thomas Boston was not to be left to preach this free Gospel unmolested. God willing our next post shall explain why not.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Great Question

Free Grace AND a Free Gospel. I

I posted, a little while back, a quotation from Principal Macleod's book Scottish Theology on the subject of Hyper-Calvinism. Well, here at Free St. George's we do not believe in ducking issues. Principal Macleod was writing about the 'Marrow Controversy' of the early eighteenth century. Here I begin what will be (God willing), a series of posts on the 'Marrow Controversy.'

Young ministers in their first churches often find things difficult. Thomas Boston (1676-1732. Pictured) was ordained pastor of the Church of Scotland at Simprin, in the Scottish Borders in 1699. It was a tiny parish, and a tiny congregation (Boston called them his 'handful). A new manse was built for him, on a very humble scale, close to the Kirk building, and he began his work as a country pastor.
Boston often visited his 'handful', and, due to the paucity of his library, he studied the people as well as books. One day in 1700, while visiting an old soldier's cottage, Boston saw two little books above one of the windows. With the instincts of a minister with a small library, he took down the books, and to his joy they proved to be works of theology. One was a book by Saltmarsh, a hyper-Calvinist, the other a book entitled The Marrow of Modern Divinity. Boston had never heard of the book before. The old soldier let his young minister keep both books, for he himself saw that Boston needed to learn the way of the Gospel better. Boston found Saltmarsh quite unpleasant, but he drank in the Marrow, and it cleared up all his confusion on the covenant theology. It gave him boldness in evangelistic preaching, and soon the little Kirk was ringing with the free offer of the Gospel to sinners. It became Boston's favourite book, and it remained so.

In the next post, God willing, we shall consider what exactly the book that so excited and changed young Thomas Boston was.


Friday, December 02, 2005

'The New Evangelism' IV

We saw in the last post Henry Drummond's criticism of the 'old evangelism'. So what was the 'New Evangelism' going to be?

"Perhaps the most important principle, in the first place, is that the New Evangelism must not be doctrinal. By this is not meant that it is independent of doctrine, but simply that its truths as conveyed to the people are not to be in the propositional form... Now, when it is said that preaching is not to be doctrinal, what is meant is this. When Evangelism wishes to recieve truth, so as to expound it, it is to refer to criticism for information rather than dogmatism. And when it gives out what it has recieved, it is neither to be critical in form, nor doctrinal." (p. 20)

So the New Evangelism majors on non-doctrinal preaching. Preaching is not to be directed so much to reason as to the imagination (P. 26).

"The old theology was a product of reason. It was an elaborate, logical construction. The complaint against it is that, as a logical construction, it was arrived at by a faculty of the mind, and not by a faculty of the soul. On close scrutiny it turns out to be nothing more or less than rationalism. The doctrine of the atonement, for instance, and the whole federal theology, is an elaborate rationalism." (P. 26).

But will there not be a loss in this non-doctrinal mode of preaching which is aimed at the imagination? Yes, for the New Evangelism "...will never say that it sees quite clearly." (P. 33).

Non-propostional, non-doctrinal preaching, which aims at the imagination rather than the mind and cultivates vagueness? Yes, Henry Drummond had 'Emergent' typed and filed in the 1890s. Truly there is 'nothing new under the sun.' Drummond's brand of mysticism did not fill the churches then, it will not do so now.
I have noted in a published article that Drummond so under-emphasised the atonement, and dwelled in his preaching on the incarnation and the ethical aspects of Christianity. Although he worked with D.L. Moody, Drummond's message was not Moody's. Drummond would never preach about the blood of Christ. His teaching, in the words of a friend, "seemed to do without all that, to common Christianity, is indispensable."


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Why Hyper-Calvinists are like Arminians

"In regard to the claims of God, each of these extremes (of Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism) worked from a common principle which they turned to opposite ends. The Hyper-Calvinistic brethren held that there is no world-wide call to Christ sent out to all sinners to whom the in letter the Gospel comes, neither are all bidden to take Him as their Saviour. On the other hand, they maintained that Christ is held forth or offered as saviour to those to whom God effectually calls. To such positions they came because they reasoned that man, as a bankrupt in spiritual resources, cannot be called upon to do what is out of the compass of his power. He can neither repent nor believe. So it was out of place to call upon him to do what he cannot do. In this, when we look into it, we find the common Arminian position that man's responsibility is limited by his ability. The Arminian holds to the presence of a certain ability in those that are called; otherwise sinners could not be called upon to repent and believe the Gospel. Each side takes up the principle from its own end. They fail together to recognise that the sinner is responsible for his own spiritual impotence. It is the fruit of sin; and man's sin does not destroy nor put out of court God's right to ask for an obedience alike in service and repentance and faith that his sinful creatures have disabled themselves from yielding to Him. His title to make His demand is entirely and absolutely unimpaired."

John Macleod Scottish Theology (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth Trust, 1974) P.141

Yes, I AM going to post the last post in the 'New Evangelism' series. This is 'news'. It came up in a Systematic Theology lecture yesterday. Our Principal isn't sure Macleod wrote it. Here's the proof!