Thursday, September 25, 2008

Preaching this Coming Lord's Day

God willing, this coming Lord's Day (28th) I shall be preaching at Salhouse Baptist Church, Chapel Loke, Salhouse. A loke, for those of you who don't know (probably most) is one step below a lane in Norfolk. Like a lot of older chapels, Salhouse chapel is located back from the road. This was done to avoid rioting mobs of Anglicans attacking the chapel, something that was not unknown in those days.

Services are at 11.00 in the morning and at 2.30 in the afternoon.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Preaching this Coming Lord's Day

God willing, this coming Lord's Day I shall be preaching at Devonshire Drive Baptist Church, Devonshire Drive, Greenwich. Services are at 10.30 in the morning and 6.30 in the evening.

Devonshire Drive Baptist Church is an historic Strict Baptist Church. The modern building is deceptive, as it was built to replace the old chapel next door, which was built in the Victorian age, and therefore was absolutely useless for disabled access, having a large number of steps up to the front door, and more steps down to the schoolrooms in the basement. The first pastor, Mr. Boorne, injured himself falling into the area around the basement.

The old chapel was badly damaged in the Second World War, and at the same time the houses that stood on what is now the church car-park were wrecked. After the War the Church was able to obtain the site on which the present chapel stands for a hall to use while the old chapel was rebuilt. A few years ago the present chapel was built, and the old building sold off for redevelopment. Rather than being demolished, the old chapel was converted into a little terrace of three houses. It looks rather nice too.


Friday, September 05, 2008

Preaching this Coming Lord's Day

God willing, this coming Lord's Day I shall be preaching at Bethel Chapel, the Bars, Guildford. Located near the centre of Guildford, Bethel Chapel is a pleasant oasis in the midst of a godless modern city.

Services are at 11.00 AM and 6.00 PM.

Guildford is also known in Chhurch history as the birthplace of George Abbot, the last Calvinistic Archbishop of Canterbury before William Laud. Abbot was a powerful preacher, and a moderate man who, while not a Puritan himself, sympathised with many of the concerns of the Puritans, and did not persecute them. His spirit is illustrated by his response to a hunting accident in which he shot a gamekeeper and killed him. While everyone agreed that the gamekeeper had behaved recklessly, Abbot was deeply troubled by the accident, and he paid a pension to the man's widow out of his own resources.

Abbot's greatest legacies are his Hospital (alms-houses) in Guildford, and the library at Lambeth Palace, which is largely his.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Teaching Theology for 140 Years - XV.

The aim of a theological seminary is not to make academic theologians, but to train pastors and preachers. Its professors are not employed to display their academic skills or to earn acclaim from the universities, they are there to train future pastors, and everything at the seminary has to be directed to that end.

So the United Secession Hall had a staff of professors who were also working pastors. It had a Chair of Exegetical theology to teach students how to interpret the Bible, and taught the original languages so that students were not dependent on an English translation. There was a chair of Pastoral theology to teach pastors about the other responsibilities of their office, and of course there was a chair of Systematic theology. Systematic Theology has fallen on hard times in recent times, with modern seminaries preferring Biblical Theology. Yet both have their place in a theological seminary. The aim of systematic theology is to bring together all that the Bible has to say on the various doctrines of Christianity. The Biblical theologian shows the progress of revelation. We need both.

Owing to the limited time in which he had to teach the subject, Professor Balmer had to leave about half of the field of systematic theology uncovered in his lectures. He made up for this by making sure that students read up on those parts of the system, and he made sure that they did the reading by means of examinations. Although he was Dr. Dick's successor, he did not rely on Dick's lectures, but followed his own direction. In criticising his students' preaching, he paid particular attention to the sort of preaching that relied too much on ornamentation and lacked real Biblical substance.

Dr. Duncan was one of those preachers for whom amplification was developed. Although undoubtedly a very leaned man, and popular with his congregation, he tended to mumble a little. Nevertheless, he was a beloved pastor, and thus his lectures on pastoral theology were delivered with the benefit of years of experience as a pastor. His lectures covered much of systematic theology, and went on to go over the manner of teaching doctrine to the congregation, finally covering the church itself.

Dr. Duncan taught at the Hall until 1843, when he and Dr. Mitchell resigned their chairs. The Synod was thus left to replace them. Dr. Duncan was replaced in the Chair of Pastoral Theology by Dr. James harper of Leith, and Dr. Mitchell by Dr. John Eadie of Glasgow. But no sooner had Drs. Eadie and Harper begun their work, than Dr. Balmer died suddenly in the summer of 1844.

God willing, next time we shall see how the new Faculty developed the work of the Hall.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Teaching Theology for 140 Years - XIV.

While Dr. Dick had been professor, the Chair of Systematic Theology at the United Secession Hall had been the most important, simply because of Dr. Dick. With the reorganisation that followed his death, all four chairs were on a level. Each professor was equal to the others, there was no principal or president of the Hall.

The new professors were all older men, Dr. Balmer was forty-six, Dr. Brown fifty, and Dr. Duncan was fifty-six. While some thought that professors ought to be younger, the Synod had in fact acted wisely. Older men tend to be more stable and less easily drawn aside by the allure of novelty. Thus older professors act as an anchor to keep their students from wandering too far from the old landmarks. Secondly, in maintaining the old tradition of the professors being pastors at the same time, the Synod ensured that they were not mere ivory-tower academics, separated from the congregational life of the church and the realities of the ministry. This also tends to act as a check on foolish speculations, as it keeps the mind on the practical aspects of Christianity. Of course, there is no easy way to keep some men from embracing heresy, but by the time a man is fifty, the direction of his thinking ought to be obvious. A man who is an orthodox Calvinist at forty-six will probably still be one at sixty, but a man who is an orthodox Calvinist at thirty may be an Arminian by the time he is sixty.

The question of location was solved by the Synod dividing the class in two, with the junior class consisting of students in the first two years, and the senior of students in the last three years of their course. The Senior class, taught by Dr. Balmer and Dr. Duncan, was to meet in Edinburgh for the convenience of Dr. Balmer, who had to travel from Berwick-upon-Tweed, while the Junior class met alternately in Glasgow and Edinburgh, again because of the professors. Whilst this was an understandable system, it meant that the 'Hall' did not in fact have one location, and therefore that the hall library was not equally accessible to all the students whilst the Hall was in session.

Every theological institution has a top capacity of students, and even with four professors, the United Secession Hall struggled with an increasing intake of students. For one thing, there were fears that there would not be enough churches for them, even if some went to the colonies. As it turned out, however, the intake stabilised at an acceptable figure of twenty-five or so new students every year.

Dr. John Brown, Professor of Exegetical theology, was undoubtedly the Hall's best known professor in this period. AS we have previously written about him on Free St. George's, we direct the readers there for further information on this notable man. Dr. Brown taught exegesis as it ought to be taught- by example. He worked through books of the Bible. The final results of these lectures may be found in all good Christian bookshops today. Simply put, Dr. John Brown was probably the greatest exegetical theologian of his day. Thus he taught his students how to interpret the Bible by means of the Bible. This is the first rule of good preaching, that it has to be founded on the exegesis of the text itself. Thus, by providing a Chair of Exegetical Theology, the United Secession Hall gave students exactly the foundation that they needed to be accurate and Biblical preachers.

Next time, God willing, we shall continue this series.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Word of explanation

Not that one is usually given when there are no posts on this blog for weeks, but there you are, there's a first time for everything.

The Highland Host is a minister, of that you are all aware. What you may also be aware of is that he is not presently settled in a pastorate. Because of this, he has to do other things as well. Right now he is working (as from last Thursday) in the offices of a rail company. This may have some effect on the frequency of posting here.