Friday, August 31, 2007

The Free Church of the Welsh: Three

On Sunday 29 October, 1899, the elders of Chatham Street Church went above W. O. Jones' head, writing a letter to the Monthly Meeting of the presbytery asking whether temporary expulsion of a member for immorality was the proper course. Four elders signed the letter, one of them protesting that the issue was now past. The presbytery ruled in favour of excommunication. Feeling that his authority was under attack, Jones submitted his resignation. On 20 November 1899, the church met to consider their minister's resignation.
The meeting was more than a little odd. W. O. Jones later commented:
"The officials one after another offered the highest commendation of my character and among the tributes of praise none was more fulsome than those of Mr. William Williams and Mr. William Jones ... At the end of the meeting I received a strong vote of confidence, and it was made clear that I should continue in my position."
The vote in favour of Jones' continuation was almost unanimous. However, the breach was deep and lasting. The church members wetre virtually estranged from the elders, although the latter had the support of the presbytery. Three other ministers met with the elders on 30 November, and once more a promise of peace was extracted.
But the troubles continued, and by March 1900 Jones' health had collapsed again. He left for Wales on 6 March, giving permission to the officials of the presbytery to meet with the elders of Chatham Street to reconcile the opposing parties.
The elders refused to meet the committee, announcing on Saunday 11 March that the Minister had resigned and that a church meeting would be called on 15 March to discuss the matter. Jones cut short his holiday to return to Wales.


Preaching this coming Lord's Day. [Updated]

God willing, I shall be preaching the coming Lord's Day at Zion Strict Baptist Chapel, Leicester. The building (as shown in our illustration) was built as a telephone repair workshop, which is why it does not look terribly chapel-like. The Church meeting at Zion Chapel is small, and reduced from about six hundred in the last century (in a bigger, older building with, we are told by a man who preached there, a most impressive organ) to a faithful few today. Zion Chapel is located on Park Hill Drive, and Services are at 10.45 in the morning and 2.45 in the afternoon.
Zion Chapel was founded in 1873 by Mr. Grey Hazelrigg, former pastor of Trinity Chapel, Leicester. Mr. Hazelrigg was pastor from 1873 to 1912. He was succeeded by Mr. T. Robbins in 1918, but Mr. Robbins died suddenly in 1920. There followed a period without a minister until the call of Mr. Champion (1924-1950), who steered the church through the war years. Owing to the design of the chapel, evening services were held in an upper room during the war, due to the difficulty of blacking out the chapel.
The old chapel was sold in 1997, when the present building was purchased and fitted up as a chapel. The upper part of Mr. Hazelrigg's pulpit was moved to the new chapel, and is still used. The new Zion Chapel has a good location, and facilities. Not only does the main chapel have plenty of seating, but there is a large vestry and schoolroom and a small kitchen, not to mention the other necessary facilities.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - II.

David Brown came from a good background. His paternal Grandfather was Rev. William Brown, first pastor of the Secession Church at Craigdam, Aberdeenshire. William Brown was a gifted preacher and, what was more important, a godly man. He accdepted the call the Craigdam on £15 a year, and remained in that congregation all his long life. He was also gifted with physical health, and his brisk pace earned him the nickname of 'The Rinnin' Minister'. His grandson, also gifted with good health, was nicknamed 'The Running Commentary' for obvious reasons.
One of the sons of the Craigdam manse was called Alexander. He was not called to the ministry, but his calling was that of bookselling in Aberdeen. Every minister wil tell you what an honourable calling that of bookseller is, though some of us will also chafe a little at the prices!!! Alexander Brown also maintained a subscription library, another service we are sure the ministers and students of Aberdeen enjoyed. He bound books, an art that we are sure was much in demand in the town that boasted as many universities as the whole of England in those days (admittedly Aberdeen's were a lot smaller, but then Aberdeen is a lot smaller than all of England).
The esteemed bookseller was appointed a town councillor, and he rose to the office of Provost, holding the post twice, in 1822-3 and 1826-7. His wife, Catherine Chalmers, was granddaughter of Robert Trail of Edinburgh (father of the famous Puritan author), and one of her sisters was the mother of William Chalmers Burns the missionary to China. Mrs. Brown was the very pattern of the Proverbs 31 wife, helping her husband in his business. In those days all account-books in Aberdeen had to be sent to Edinburgh to be professionally ruled. Mrs. Brown saw an opening and ordered a ruling-machine from London. Keeping this device locked up in a garret of the family home, she provided all the ruled paper needed in Aberdeen!
She also gave birth to eight children, five sons and three daughters. All three daughters married ministers, three sons went into business, and two sons, David and Charles, were called to the ministry. (Charles wrote 'The Divine Glory of Christ' and 'The Ministry', both of which are published by the Banner of Truth Trust. Catherine Brown, one of the daughters, married Islay Burns, brother of William Chalmers Burns and Robert Murray M'Cheyne's successor at St. Peter's Dundee.
But all was not complete bliss in the Brown household. Provost and Mrs. Brown attended different Churches. Provost Brown, born a Seceder, had joined the Established Church for worldly motives, while his wife, born into a Church of Scotland family, had joined the seceders because she could not get the Gospel in the Church of Scotland churches in the Granite City!
So were David Brown's antecedents. God willing, next time we shall look at the early life of the man himself.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

'Through Many Trials'. David Brown. - I.

Most Reformed Christians are probably familiar with David Brown's writings, and many do not know that they are! He is the Brown of Jamieson, Faussett and Brown, whose Bible commentary, in its full or abridged form, is widely used. But how many know about the man? We think that David Brown, A Scottish minister whose life stretched from 1803 to 1897, is a most important person. Not only did he witness key events in Scottish Church history, he played a part in them. He worked with Thomas Chalmers and Edward Irving, and took an active part in controversies over the higher Criticism and the rise of the Dispensational movement.

We must confess that we were moved to write about Principal Brown (as he became) after we recieved our copy of Dr. John MacArthur's new book 'Because the Time is Near' through the front door. We have a high respect for Dr. MacArthur and his stand against modernism in all its disguises. We found his books on the Lordship controversy to be full of good matter and sense. We found his book 'The Truth War' to be enlightening and helpful. But we are not Dispensationalist. We cannot accept that artificial system, or any other, and find Dr. MacArthur's arguments for a pre-tribulational rapture weak in the extreme. Arguments from silence always are. But that is by-the-by. We put MacArthur's book in its place to wait its turn to be read. As we did so, we noted a portly little book in faded brown paper covers called 'Christ's Second Coming: Will it be Premillenial?' by David Brown. So we were moved to begin this series. After considering a number of titles we eventually settled on 'Through Many Trials', as it seemed to sum up David Brown's life. From a struggle with unbelief in his college years, through his experiences with Edward Irving, the Disruption, personal trials and the influence of the Higher Criticism in the Free Church of Scotland, David Brown was a tried believer. We trust this history of his trials will be of help to others.

God wiling, next time we shall open with Brown's interesting ancestry. While he was such a man as ornaments a family tree, and while there are men like John Brown of Haddington (no relation) who are the first noted people in their families, others find themselves the inhertors of a great legacy. We shall see what Daid Brown's position was.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Free Church of the Welsh: Two

Less than a month after W. O. Jones' return from the Mediterranean, a member at Chatham Street was accused of immorality, and the elders called on to discipline the offender. W. O. Jones was of the opinion that the offender's memberhip should be suspended for a fixed term, during which he would be excommunicated, something supported by two of the elders. A majority of the elders, however, were in favour of permanent excommunication. The result of the deadlock was that three of the four elders who opposed Jones submitted their resignations. W. O. Jones refused to accept their resignations, treatening to resign himself. On 18 July, agreement was reached and tranquility restored. W. O. Jones left on his summer holiday, returning at the end of August for a new year.

However soon after Jones' return problems it became clear that all was not well. On 7 September, at the first seiat (fellowship meeting), Jones' appearance was such that one of the members asked whether he was ill. Jones was later described as mumbling and dishevelled, supporting himself on the lectern. A baptism took place afterwards, where Jones mistook the nurse holding the baby for the mother and one member smelt alcohol on Jones' breath. After a second such incident, one member, William Williams, shared his concerns with the minister.

Jones reassured Williams that he was a teetotaller.

"I know," Williams replied, "your name is on the temperance book of the church, written with your own hand; but what was that smell?"

Jones informed the concerned member that he never touched a drop: 'only a glass of whisky sometimes on a Sunday night.'

Williams was later to state that he had shared his concerns with Humphrey Lloyd, the member who wad asked whether Jones was ill. Jones was later to state that Williams told him that the matter would not go further, but this was not to be.


Review: 'Truth's Victory Over Error'

The Westminster Confession of Faith is one of the most important documents of the English-speaking Reformed Churches. The Presbyterian Churches use it (or used to use it) as their primary Confession, the Baptists and the Congregationalists have adopted lightly edited versions of it. It is a standard that must be taken notice of.
This volume, with its characteristic Puritan title, is the first commentary on the Westminster Confesion, originally delivered as a series of lectures to theological students. It is constructed in the formal academic style of the 17th century, in the form of a series of questions and answers on the chapters of the Confesion. We give Question 2 of Chapter 1 as an example of how the book is constructed:
"Are the Holy Scriptures most necessary to the Church?

Yes (2 Tim. 3.15; 2 Peter 1.19).

Well then, doth not the popish church err that affirms the 'true church to be infallible in teaching and propounding articles of faith, both without and against Scripture: and that their unwritten traditions are of divine and equal authority with the canon of Scripture'?


Do not likewise the Libertines and Quakers err in affirming that God doth teach and guide the elect into all truth by the alone instinct and light of the Spirit, without any written word whatever?


By what reasons are they confuted?
1. Because the Scriptures are the foundation upon which the church is built (Eph. 2.20).
2. Because all things are to be examined by the rule of the Word, as the noble Bereans did (Acts 17.11-12).
3. Because unwritten traditions are subject and liable to many corruptions and are soon and quickly forgotten.
4. Because we have life eternal in the Scriptures; therefore they must be most necessary to the Church (John 5.39).
5.Because the Scriptures are given, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works (2 Tim. 3.16-17. And the Scriptures are written that men may believe (John 20.31),"

It will be seen that Dickson uses the Bible to prove heretics wrong. Some of these are heresies we know, others less known. But since old heresies are often recycled, it is good to know why they are wrong! Dickson writes in a style that is not popular today - he is concerned to contend for the truth! This is no book for the postmodern!
This edition also has a biographical introduction introducing Dickson to the modern reader. The layout is excellent, and it is everything we have come to expect from a Banner of Truth hardcover volume.
This is a straightforward book, although fiercely polemical in tone. We do not agree with all of it, but it is well worth the wait that was needed to buy it in England!!!

'Truth's Victory Over Error' is available at £15.50 from the Banner of Truth Trust Here.


Monday, August 27, 2007

The Free Church of the Welsh: One

Liverpool, the great Lancashire Port, is most definitely in England, yet in the late nineteenth century it was indupitably a centre of Welsh culture, with 60,819 Welsh people living in Lancashire as a whole. The Calvinistic Methodists, the most distinctively Welsh of the denominations, had a dozen churches there, and such luminaries as William Rees, Henry Rees and Owen Thomas ministered there, as did lesser men. It is with the story of one such man that our history is concerned, but more with the lessons this teaches us about church discipline.
The setting is Chatham Street Chapel, the year 1899. The chapel itself was nothing extraordinary, with 467 members and six elders. The minister, William Owen Jones, was a product of the push for an educated ministry. He had attended Bala Theological College, and the University College of North Wales, Bangor; from which he had gone on to St. John's College, Cambridge. He was a young man of talent and of promise.
However, the frequent calls on his time as a minister began to undermine his health, and in January 1899, he decided to return to Wales for a rest. While on the train, he met John Jones, Sefton, Prestatyn. Jones mentioned that he was an official with a shipping company, and was able to get the minister cheap tickets on the Steamer Vito, for a cruise in the Mediterranean, departing 19 January.
Despite a storm in the Irish Sea, the cruise was a success, and when W. O. Jones returned to Liverpool in 17 March he was fully recovered. But his troubles were only just beginning.


10 Great works of Scottish Church History: V

10. James Lachlan MacLeod: 'The Second Disruption' (East Linton, Tuckwell Press, 2000). Currently out of print.

While number 9 contains a short account of the events described in this book, this is a far more in-depth study of the tensions that eventually tore apart the Free Church of Scotland. It describes the pre-existing divide between the Highlands and the Lowlands, and how that divide grew in the Free Church. MacLeod's sympathies are clearly with the Free Presbyterians, and righly so, as they were the ones seeking to be faithful to the Free Church. MacLeod traces the origin of the division through the intricacies of Scottish society in the 19th century. This is a serious scholarly work, but it is well worth the read. The forces that operated in 19th century Scotland are still in operation today. True, the pressure today is from a 'post-modernism', but its effects are still very much those that modernism brought in the Victorian Free Church. MacLeod shows the important role played by the pseudo-science of race in the Lowlands, and reminds us that there are pseudo-sciences today. We see how the Second Disruption on 1893 was the result of processes that had been working in the Free Church, especially in the Lowlands, since its inception.
MacLeod introduces such key players as Marcus Dods, Henry Drummond and James Begg. There are copious citations from primary sources, exposing the false teachings of men who claimed to be evangelicals and even Reformed.
Does it sound familiar? It should! Modern evangelicalism is what the Free Church was in the 1880s and 1890s!! There are direct parallels between the teaching of Marcus Dods and Henry Drummond and the modern 'Emerging Church' teachers (a fact we have been pointing out since 2004, and on this blog since its inception). Even the diversity of the 'Emerging' movement is reflected in the Victorian movement. Because of this, MacLeod's book is a must-read today. It has been wisely said that there are no new heresies, only warmed-over old ones.
"[Marcus] Dods. defence of [higher] criticism was a classic enunciation of the position of the so-called Believing Critics, and is symbolic of how large the gulf was between them and the conservatives. The point is that they not only funda mentally disagreed on the methods of criticism, but on the purpose of criticism and the basic validity of the critical approach... The conservatives... viewed Biblical criticism within the Free Church as an attack on Christianity; Dods and those like him regarded it as a defence." (Pp.66-7)
History teaches us who were right.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Preaching this coming Lord's Day.

God willing, I shall be preaching this coming lord's Day at Laxfield Baptist Church, Highstreet, Laxfield, Suffolk. The services are at 10.30 in the morning and 6.00 in the evening.
The building is large and rather eccentric in appearance - the result of having been enlarged and otherwise altered over the years. On the from of the building is the memorial stone illustrated below. In our present age it is all to easy to forget what Christ meant by 'take up your cross'. John Noyes knew what it meant some 450 years ago.

He also knew what the Church of Rome really was. In these days of 'Evangelicals and Catholics together', many are trying to ignore the good confession of men like John Noyes who shed their blood to bear witness to the truths of God's Word. Let us solemnly covenant NEVER to forget their sacrifice.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

10 Great works of Scottish Church History: IV

8. Thomas Brown: Annals of the Disruption (out of print hardcover. Illustration taken from book)
After the bravery of the Covenanters, the sufferings endured at the Disruption show how, in a free, protestant state, persecution can still claim its victims. 'Annals of the Disruption' is an account of the Disruption of 1843 not so much from the official perspective, but from the perspective of the ministers who left on that memorable day.
Our illustration shows the procession from the General Assembly in St. Andrew's Kirk, Edinburgh, on the Day of the Disruption, but that was only the beginning. The men who walked out of the Assembly in protest against government interference in the Church of Scotland left church buildings, manses and stipends to follow Christ, and they suffered greatly at the hands of landowners who would not grant a site for the Free Church congregation, at the hands of the Church of Scotland that retained buildings that had been constructed at the expense of the congregations that sat in them, and at the hands of civil courts that had sought to control the Church of Scotland. We have here heroic Christianity, not the sort of milk-and-water religion that passes for Christianity in so many places today. We have in fact a living example of Daniel 11.32, 'The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits.'

We are unable to select a single passage as an example of this work. The whole is too moving.

9. The History of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (Free Presbyterian Publications, hardcover) £7.95 from Free Presbyterian Bookroom.

The Free Church of Scotland did not remain a purely Evangelical Church for long. A desire for applause and worldly wisdom drove a number of Lowland ministers to abandon the simplicity of the Gospel and to surrender the holy, sufficient Word of God, preferring the vain philosophy of man. It was left to the heirs of John Kennedy of Dingwall to contend for the pure faith that is the inheritance of the Church of Christ. This book tells the story of a little group of seceders, forced to suffer for the testimony of Christ and the purity of the gospel. It has sometimes been said that the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland is too harsh in its discipline. Reading this book will inform the reader of WHY this discipline is kept up, as it was a breakdown of discipline that led to the fatal compromises that crippled the Free Church before 1900.
The history of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland was written by several authors between the 1930s and the 1970s. It takes the story of the largely Highland denomination from its roots in the Disruption era Free Church down to 1970. We have here the missions of the Free Presbyterian Church in Africa, and a record of faithful contending to keep the faith. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland may be narrow, but truth is narrow as well, and our present times call for this earnest contending, not for compromise.

Our extract is short, describing the reasons for the Free Church's decay in the late 19th century:
"Pride, and gaping after a name for scholarship and popularity, were the root cause which gave German rationalism such a hold in the Free Church."

And it is pride and a gaping for popularity that gives the world a foothold in the Church in all ages.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Preaching this coming Lord's Day.

God willing, I shall be preaching at Providence Baptist Church, Knaphill, this coming Lord's Day, taking both the morning and evening services. Providence is located on Robin Hood Road, and is a welcoming, friendly Church. Services are at eleven in the morning and six in the evening. The church has a fairly small, fairly modern building attached to the original chapel, which is older and tiny. Providence uses the New King James and Christian Hymns (old version, as far as I am aware, so I hope they do!!!)


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stop-over in London

God willing, I shall be visiting my friend Mok Chee Cheong at New Life Bible Presbyterian Church, Queen's Park, London on Saturday. New Life is a traditional Presbyterian Church with its roots in Singapore. The building was formerly St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, West Kilburn. It is a huge and slightly gloomy late 19th century building with the most impressive pulpit I have ever preached from and a splendid pipe organ.
The Saturday Prayer-meeting is at 4.00 and Lord's Day services are at 11.00 in the morning and 4.00 in the afternoon. There is a fellowship lunch at 1.00, and from my experience I can say that the food is delicious and the fellowship good.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

10 Great works of Scottish Church History: III

6. Jock Purves: 'Fair Sunshine' (Banner of Truth paperback) £.3.95 from Free Prebyterian Bookroom
'Fair Sunshine' is a series of character-sketches of thirteen heroes of the Scottish Covenant, from James Guthrie to James Renwick. We have here Richard Cameron, the pastor who returned to Scotland knowing that it meant certain death, John Brown of Priesthill, the 'Christian Carrier', executed summarily at his own cottage-door in front of his wife, Margaret MacLachlan and Margaret Wilson, an elderly lady and a girl of eighteen, sentenced to death by drowing for attending the field-meeetings of the Covenanters. Reading this book we are moved to utter a prayer of thanks that we live in a day when we have the liberty of the Gospel that these martyrs bought with their own life-blood. These men and women may seem at times to have been narrow and bigotted in their commitment to the Covenants, but as Burns rightly said,
'Solemn liberty was theirs,
If thou'rt a slave, indulge thy sneer.'
We see from the martyrs of the Covenant what it can mean to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. This is faithful contending exemplified indeed. Purves tells the stories of martyrdom as they ought to be told.
Our extract comes from his account of the Wigtown Martyrs and opens with Magaret MacLachlan.

"We never read of any word the old saint spoke. It appears that, sick at heart and disappointed with madly cruerl humanity, she turned to unending communion with the Lord. 'It is needless to speak to that damned oild bitch,' they rudely cried, 'let her go to hell,' and they tied her roughly fast to her leafless but fruitful tree. So came the hungry waters up and up, every wave splashing death, until she was choking in their cold, cold grasp. As she struggled, before she became a poor limp thing lying in the swirling flood, they said to young Margaret, 'What do you think of her now?' 'Think! I see Christ wrestling there,' said she. "Think ye that we are sufferers? No; it is Christ in us, for He sends none a warfare at their own charges." (Pp. 80-81)

7. John Kennedy: 'The Days of the Fathers in Ross-Shire (Christian Focus Paperback) £9.99 from Christian Focus
Dr. John Kennedy of Dingwall was one of the great Highland leaders of the 19th century. He exemplified Highland Calvinism for many. A friend of C.H. Spurgeon, Kennedy looked with great concern at the changes that came over his beloved Free Church of Scotland and called for a return to the Old Paths. Those old paths are described with passion in this book.
This edition of 'The Days of the Fathers' is in two parts. The first is strictly 'The Days of the Fathers', the second is Kennedy's biography of his own father, pastor of Killearnan. We have here a sketch of the Gospel in Ross-Shire, the Ministers of Ross-Shire, 'The Men' of Ross-Shire and the Religion of Ross-Shire. We see real, living religion, and ministers and people who suffered and struggled and won REAL VICTORIES for Christ. Some of the ministers were what Mr. Spurgeon calls 'Eccentric Preachers', and they were all the better for that. They did not put on a character that was not theirs, but God sanctified their existing characters. This is not the sort of book that can be read without leaving the feeling that our Church today needs that holiness that Kennedy so admired in the 'Fathers'.

Our extract comes from Kennedy's description of the godly ministers of the Highlands in those days:

"It was neither by talents, nor by learning, nor by oratory, nor was it by all these together that a leading place was attained by the ministers in the Highlands, but by a profound experience of the power of godliness, a clear view of the doctrines of grace, peculiar nearness to God, a holy life, and a blessed ministry. Without these, without all these, a high place would not be assigned to them either by the Lord or by men. Eminence thus reached is surely the holiest and the highest; and it is a healthful state of matters when the attainment of it otherwise is rendered impossible. In other portions of the Church a minister might become famous as an ecclesiastic, an orator, or a scholar, who, merely for his godliness, would be utterly unknown. But mere gifts and acquirements were but little accounted of in the north. Few opportunities for displaying them, apart from the pulpit, were presented to those who may have had them, and the unsanctified use of them there would earn only the distinction of disgrace." (Pp 30-31)


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

10 Great works of Scottish Church History: II

4. John Knox: The Scottish Reformation (Banner of Truth paperback) £6.25 from Banner of Truth Trust.
This is no unbiassed, detatched, scholarly account of events, but it is a history produced by a man at the centre of the events it desribes. John Knox was the man for the hour, a fearless man who was not afraid to say what he thought even if it was incredibly offensive to those in power. This book is imbued with that same spirit of defiance to all who oppose the cause of God and Truth. Our extract is from the early part of the book and describes a most unseemly incident:
"The Cardinal Beaton was known proud; and Gawin Dunbar, Archbishop of Glasgow was known a glorious fool... The Cardinal being in the town of Glasgow, and the Archbishop in the Castle, question rises for bearing their crosses. The Cardinal alleged, by reason of his Cardinalship.. that he should have the pre-eminence, and that his cross should not only go before, but also that it only should be borne wheresoever he was. The Archbishop lacked no reasons for maintenance of his glory. 'He was an Archbishop in his own diocese, and in his own cathedral seat and church, and therefore ought to give place to no man. The power of the Cardinal was but begged from Rome, and appertained but to his own person and not to his bishopric; for it might be that his successor should not be Cardinal. But HIS dignity was annexed with his office, and did appertain to all that ever should be Archbishops of Glasgow.'" (Pp. 60-61)
The end of all this was a fight in Glasgow Cathedral between the two cross-bearers, using the crosses as weapons!

5. J.G. Vos: 'The Scottish Covenanters' (Blue Banner Productions, paperback) £.7.95 from Free Presbyterian Bookroom.
Johannes G. Vos was the son of the great Biblical Theologian Geerhardus Vos. Johannes was a Reformed Presbyterian by conviction, and this book is full of that conviction and zeal for Christ's Crown and Covenant. It sketches the history of the Covenats and Covenanters from the Reformation under Knox to the 20th century. We have here a book that is as much an apologetic for the Reformed Presbyterians as it is a history. And it is none the worse for that! The sole headship of Christ over His Church must be maintained today in the face of a militant secularism that intrudes itself into the Church of Christ as much as the Erastinism of the Stuarts ever did. The question of the Establishment of religion is a matter on which we disagree with the Covenanters, but we can still admire their contending for the truth as they understood it.
We hold this to be one of the finest books on the subject written in recent times.
Our extract is really a summary of the book itself:
"Much of the history of the Church of Scotland after the time of Knox has been a history of a desperate struggle to maintain the spiritual independence of the Church, the principle of the sole headship of Christ over the Church, in the face of Erastian encroachments on the part of the civil power. These encroachments became most severe during the period of persecution between the Restoration and the Revolution, but were also characteristic of a large part of the period before the Second Reformation and of the period after the Revolution Settlement." (P. 208)


Friday, August 10, 2007

Preaching this coming Lord's Day.

God willing, I shall be preaching at the morning service at Brooke Baptist Church, High Green, Brooke, Norfolk. The service is at 10.45. The chapel is one of the finest in Norfolk, the Church meeting there is small, but devoted to Christ. We are always glad to be able to support these small village Churches in prayer and with practical help filling the pulpits.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Preaching this evening

This evening, God willing, I shall be taking the Bible study and prayer-meeting at Oulton Broad Free Presbyterian Church, Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, Suffolk, just across the border from my home county of Norfolk. Oulton Broad is linked in our sidebar under 'Churches the Highland Host has preached at'. We thank God for these preaching engagements and trust that He will accomplish much good through the preaching of His Word.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

10 Great works of Scottisch Church History: I

The third in an occasional series pointing out great books. As with the previous posts in this series, not all of these books are currently in print, but all of them are important. Scottisch Church history is a fascinating, though sometimes almost overwhelming subject. These books help to make it understandable.

1. Thomas McCrie: 'The Story of the Scottish Church' (Reprinted, Free Presbyterian Publications, 1988) £10.95 from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom here.
This Thomas McCrie is not the biographer of John Knox, but his son and successor in the ministry at Davie Street, Edinburgh. He taught Church History and Systematic Theology at the English Presbyterian College from 1856 to 1866. This is undoubtedly his best-known book. It had its origins in a series of popular lectures to young people delivered in the mid 1840s. It covers the history of Scottish Presbyterianism from the Reformation to the Disruption of 1843. The full form of the book was reached in 1874, and it is this edition that the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland reprinted. Although the original lectures were intended for young people, the book extends to some 568 pages and is anything but superficial. McCrie writes in a clear, enjoyable and easy style, and the reader can easily follow the narrative of the history.
Our extract comes from his description of Thomas Chalmers: "This meteor shot up suddenly into our horizon in 1815. Transported from the quiet hamlet of Kilmany to the Tron Church in Glasgow, his 'Astronomical Discourses' burst on the astonished gaze of multitudes, at once proclaiming the marvel of his recent spiritual change, and proving the prelude of his future fame. Seldom, if ever, in the history of the Church has such a luminary appeared, shining from first to last with such intense and sustained brilliancy" (P. 527)

2. John Macleod, 'Scottish Theology in Relation to Church history Since the Reformation' (Previously published by Banner of Truth Trust, now Reformed Academic Press).
This is another one of the great classics of Scottish Church history. Like McCrie's book, it originated as a series of lectures, in this case given at Westminster Seminary in April 1939. The full title of the book explains its scope, and it takes a sweep from the Reformation through to the Scottish Church of the early 20th century. Macleod writes from a strict Calvinistic standpoint, the standpoint, theologically, of the Free Presbyterian and Free Churches in the 1930s. He charts rises and falls, and the book's outline is primarily historical rather than being laid out according to doctrine. That is, rather than analysing the sweep of Scottish thought on individual doctrines, each chapter covers a historical period. Leading theologians are brought forward and displayed to us. That this book is apparently out of print strikes us as a terrible tragedy. It is a splendid survey, and we know of nothing like it.

"The story is told of one of Cunningham's students who had thoughts of taking a session at Princeton with Hodge. He was a canny Scot and wanted to make sure beforehand that a session taken overseas would count as part of his Divinity course. So he went to see the Principal about it. He stated his case. Cunningham, when he heard it, took a pinch of snuff - for he was a snuffer - and then gave his answer. He had a question in his mind about this business. But here was the shape that it took. His only question about the matter was whether a session taken with Hodge ought not to be counted as equal to two" (P. 271, though of the Knox Press edition of 1943).

3. James Walker, 'The Theology and Theologians of Scotland 1560-1750' (Reprinted Knox Press, 1982) £2.95 from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom here.
Like the other two books in this post, Walker's 'Theology and Theoilogians' originated as a series of lectures, namely the Cunningham Lectures for 1871. Although the title invites comparison with Macleod's book, Macleod himself deprecated any such comparison. The structure and intention of the two books is quite different. Macleod called Walker "a masterly work... in its own department, a classic." Walker takes the loci of theology, Predestination, the Atonement, the doctrine of the Church, and expounds the teachings of Scottish theologians on the doctrines. In the introductory and concluding chapters, Walker gives a survey of Scottish Theology and clears up misrepresentations. Scottish theology is cleared of the accusation of dourness, and Scottish theologians are shown full of love for Christ and sinners. The whole is such a sustained argument that we shall not give an extract, but say 'taste and see.'


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Preaching this coming Lord's Day.

God willing, I shall be preaching this coming Lord's Day at Bethel Chapel, Guildford. Bethel Chapel is located in The Bars (next to the new flats), close to the city centre, yet secluded and quiet. Services are at 11.00 in the morning (prayer meeting at 10) and 6.00 in the evening.
Since the photograph used to illustrate this post was taken, the trees in front of the chapel have grown somewhat, which is a very nice effect this time of year.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Donald Fraser: 'Sound Doctrine'. II

We saw last time how Donald Fraser was a fairly typical Victorian Evangelical in dealing with the first five articles of the English Presbyterian Confession of 1890. With Article VI he came on the articles dealing with redemption.

"It is the joyful duty of the Church of God to announce and testify His grace to fallen and sinful men," (P. 65) is typical of Fraser the preacher, anxious to proclaim the mercy of God. He insists on that glorious text that 'God is Love', a text that is unique to Christianity and to the Bible. "[God] was induced by His love to designate and send a redeemer. This thought we have derived from the Bible; and it has become so familiar that it passes for an obvious, almost an axiomatic truth, Yet, in reality, it has not been at all self-evident to the human mind, nor has it been commonly recieved in any age of the world" (P. 67). Free and sovereign grace is proclaimed plainly.

Christ is taught as He is declared in Scripture, the eternal Son of God, Son of God from eternity, 'God manifest in the flesh,' fully God and fully man, with body and soul. That is an important matter, for denials of these things have been preached in every generation. Christ is declared as the only Saviour, and a perfect Saviour, who has fully satisfied the Justice of God. However, at best Fraser is Amyraldian in his view of the extent of the atonement (that is, he holds the view that Christ died savingly for the elect and conditionally for the non-elect, on a condition they cannot fulfil). The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is taught according to the Bible.

Election is taught, and unconditional election, "It is not to salvation, do what they may; it is to salvation in a way that is right and holy, and the divine purpose contemplates and secures the means as well as the end, the steps as well as the terminus" (P. 121). This is something we and all Calvinists have always insisted on against the Arminian straw man that "the elect shall be saved, do what they may" (Wesley). Although Fraser notes that God has elected a people, he also notes that the community is of INDIVIDUALS. Justification by faith ALONE is insisted on, as is the imputation of the active and passive obedience of Christ (though the two cannot be separated, being aspects of the one obedience)

Donald Fraser notes quite correctly that detailed plans of the future have no place in confessions of faith: "The best men in Israel did not forsee what would occur at the First Advent of Christ; and it is quite likely that all the maps of futurity drawn by students of Scripture regarding the Second Advent are full of mistakes. But the Church commits herself to no details regarding the order and succession of events. In these articles she specifies the chief features of the time of the end, as shown in Scripture - the second advent, the Resurrection, the Last Judgement, the Life Everlasting. As to the order of time, and all similar questions, let students of the Bible think for themselves, as it may be revealed to them" (Pp. 196-7). We have always thought it a tragedy when denominations (and much more inter-denominational missions) set themselves up with a basis of faith that commits every member to a particular theory of the End Times. We know of a mission to the Jews that insists all its members are premillenial, yet while the Bonar Brothers and David Brown of Aberdeen differed widely on their view of the timing of the millenium, all three were utterly committed to reaching the Jewish people with the Gospel. All three were members of the same denomination, and could have the closest fellowship. So why is there then a problem?
Having said this, Fraser was not a Dispensationalist (remember that modern 'Progressive Dispensationalism' did not yet exist, and the only sort of Dispensationalism in existence in 1892 was that of J.N. Darby), noting that "There is to be only a Second Advent, not a third, and it is to be splendidly conspicuous. Every eye shall see Him" (P. 198).
We have said that Fraser wobbled on the question of Eternal Punishment. He was constrained by the Bible to say that the punishment will be eternal, but he professed agnosticism on the exact nature of the punishment. But note that this is MUCH FURTHER than some modern 'evangelical' preachers are willing to go!

To close, then, Fraser is not completely sound, but he was plainly an evangelical and a true Christian, at least in his profession. We firmly believe him to be now in glory.

(Illustration is West Hartlepool Presbyterian Church, opened by Donald Fraser)


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Donald Fraser: 'Sound Doctrine'. I

Donald Fraser's last published work was his commentary on the English Presbyterian Articles of Faith. These articles were adopted by the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of England on 1st May 1890. The 'Articles' were intended to be a simplified repacement for the Westminster Confession, which had functioned as the Subordinate Standard of the Church up to that point. But J. Oswald Dykes, Fraser's friend and close neighbour, and joint-convenor of the Synod's Committee for the Instruction of Youth, recognised the need for a systematic exposition of the new Articles due to the fact that "Loose and erroneous opinions on nearly every doctrine of religion are widely spread among all classes" (from the preface, P. xi). Donald Fraser was thus appointed by the Synod to write this exposition of the articles. This means that we have a systematic exposition of Fraser's own doctrinal views.
Fraser's doctrinal views are indeed, for the most part, 'sound' and in line with the Westminster Confession. What is notable, however, is that the Articles open, not as the older confessions do, with an article or chapter on Scripture, but with an article on God. Indeed, the article on Scripture does not come until the 19th article, following the article on the Church. Fraser cannot be blamed for that, and he defends the placing of the article on God first, since God is indeed first.

Alas, as was all too common in that period among the most evangelical men, Fraser effectively gives up creation in six days. God's being the creator is, however, stated plainly, and Fraser does not capitulate to evolutionary theory, affirming on P. 57 that Adam was indeed our first father, "Our faith rests serely on Holy Writ, which refers all human life back to 'the first man, Adam'". That would come in the next generation, influenced by the teaching of men like Henry Drummond.

God's providence is asserted in the strongest possible terms, and the fall described as a vital doctrine, since, "the Fall of Man is that which makes both redemption and reformation necessary" (P. 56). The Federal Headship of Adam is affirmed, and the fall traced back to him, not to Eve, since she did not hold a federal headship, but was under Adam as her head. Though (P.59) Fraser says that there is freedom to believe that the Biblical account of the Fall may be "an allegory", his insistence on a literal Adam really cuts the ground out from under this idea. Satan is affirmed as the tempter, and thus a real, personal Satan is taught, as well as a real, personal Adam. The imputation of Adam's sin is taught, since "All mankind, being in him, have come under just condemnation" (aticle V). Death is also affirmed as the result of Adam's sin. The Total Depravity of man is taught with precision, namely that "all parts and faculties of his originally upright nature have been injuriously affected by original sin" (P. 63). "A grievous and even gloomy doctrine this: but it is only the necessary acknowledgement of the grievous and gloomy facts of human history and experience. Every capable observer has taken account of the facts. The Bible alone has given a clue to account for them" (P. 63).

The place of this doctrine is convict men of sin, and to prepare them for Article VI, 'Of Saving Grace'. Here Fraser is in his element as a preacher, and that we sahall see, God willing, next time.

('Sound Doctrine' was published by the Publication Committee of the Presbyterian church of England in 1892. Our illustration is taken from it and is the only portrait of Donald Fraser that we know of)


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Donald Fraser's Preaching: The place of Christ.

Today we give you the opening part of one of Donald Fraser's sermons entitled 'In the Midst'. The text is from John 20.19 and 26.

"Some truths are central, and some are circumferential. Some people are central, and others form groups around them.
"In Christian thought, the Gospel is the central truth. In christian life and fellowship, the Christ of the Gospel is the central personality. Distrust a theology that is not Christo-centric, that has not Christ for its Sun of Righteousness in the midst, from whom grace and truth radiate, and to whom homage and faith return. Avoid any Church connection which is not Christo-centric - which is content to have the Lord somewhere within reach on an emergency, but does not form itself around Him as the indispensable Saviour. His proper place is in the midst, in the heart of the service and of the sermon, central in the assembly of the saints, with all the prayers and praises and all the joy of faith circling and twining round Him.
"There are two classes of statements in the Scripture on the Lord's centrality. One of these shows Him in the midst between the saved and the unsaved, making a difference; the other shows Him in the midst of the saved, for their union and strength and gladness."

(Our Ilustration shows Blyth Presbyterian Church, which Fraser opened)

Labels: ,