Friday, May 30, 2008

Preaching this Coming Lord's Day

God willing, I shall be preaching this coming Lord's day at Bethel Chapel, the Bars, Guildford. Services are at 11.00 am and 6.00 pm. After the evening service there will be an opportunity for fellowship at 'Ivydene', next to the chapel.

We have obtained our picture of the chapel from the 'Further History of the Gospel Standard Baptists', so it is not terribly up-to-date. Whilst the chapel itself has not changed, the trees in front of it have grown larger, and the large building to the right of the photograph has been demolished and replaced by some rather ugly modern flats 'adorned' with the wood cladding that seems so fashionable at the moment.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Forthcoming Banner of Truth Titles.

The Banner of Truth Trust has been a consistently excellent publisher since the 1950s. They publish books of lasting worth, not just the latest paperback self-help book that will vanish as quickly as it appeared. Two books announced recently, but not yet available in the UK caught our eye as ones that are of particular interest.

First, John Morgan's Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales. Translated into English for the first time, it apparently consists of "two massive volumes", hence the rather steep price of £40. It is apparently full of primary source material, rather like the four volumes of the Lives of the Early Methodist Preachers. Another piece of Church history that was hidden to us English for so long is finally put into English dress. We trust that the translator has done his job as well as he did with The Atonement Controversy. It may take us a while to get together the funds to buy this work, if some kind soul does not send us a review copy.

The second volume is by Iain Murray, Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace. This is no mere re-hashing of material from the two-volume biography of Lloyd-Jones that Murray wrote, but a study of three major themes in Lloyd-Jones. These are: the nature of true preaching; the need for full assurance for Christianity to be vibrant and persuasive; and the question of whether or not Lloyd-Jones' understanding of the New Testament Church was overly divisive. It promises to be another of Iain Murray's great contributions to Reformed literature.

We shall be tightening the belts to add these volumes to our library. Unfortunately medical issues prevent us from selling our bed.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

JPS again!

Another of J.P. Struthers' jocular notes to Charles Jerdan. It reads: "It WILL come next year. J.P.S., Prophet."
This is from the Morning watch volume for 1913. And it did come next year. The volume for 1914 would, however, be the last. As the war that began in 1914 was to destroy the Edwardian world depicted in Struthers' magazine, so Struthers himself died suddenly after preaching in 1915. The last edition of the Morning Watch was a memorial number, edited by Struthers' widow.
Struthers would, of course, have denied all serious claim to prophetic powers.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A jocular book inscription

Inscriptions in old books can be extremely interesting. Last Friday we posted one from our copy of David Brown's biography. At first glance it looked just like another gift inscription - until we realised that it had been given to the subject's granddaughter by his daughter and son-in-law. So we intend, God willing, to present a few of the more interesting inscriptions we have run acrosss.

This inscription is found in the front of a copy of the 1907 volume of the Morning Watch, the Reformed Presbyterian children's magazine that ran from 1888 to 1915. It is from the author, the Rev. John Patterson Struthers of Greenock, to the Rev. Charles Jerdan, a United Free Church (formerly United Presbyterian) minister in the same town. It reads: "From his discarded locum tenens'. This was Struthers' usual way of describing himself to Jerdan, for Struthers had taught a Bible class at Jerdan's church at one time.

Struthers sent Jerdan a copy of the yearly volume each Christmas (a Christmas publishing date being sound business sense for a work for children). Whilst Jerdan certainly possessed a full set of the volumes, we do not know if Struthers sent them to him every Christmas from 1888, or if he acquired some of the earlier volumes later on. Since contributors to the Morning Watch included James Denney, it is very likely that Jerdan was at least a subscriber to the early volumes.

[Note: These inscriptions are a good way of posting something without doing too much work on the posts!!!]

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Monday, May 26, 2008

'This One Thing I do' John Brown of Broughton Place - XXXV

John Brown’s last exegetical work was ‘an Analytical Exposition of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans’, published in July 1857. For more than forty years, Brown had lavished study on this most complex of Epistles, the Apostle’s great system of Gospel theology. He had intended to write a long and complex exposition for the scholar, but increasing age forced him to abandon the plan and to write a more ‘popular’ commentary as a hint of what he had desired to do.
The book occupied more than six hundred pages, a hint that what we today regard as a popular level work is not quite what passed for such in the Scotland of 150 years ago. It was founded on his pulpit ‘lectures’, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ massive series was.
The book of Romans is The centrepiece of the Pauline theology, so it was only natural that so Pauline an exegete as Dr Brown should have planned an elaborate commentary on it. It has over the centuries attracted the greatest of expositors. Martin Luther’s whole worldview was changed by it, John Calvin wrote on it, Thomas Chalmers’ ‘Lectures’ on the Epistle rank high among his writings. Charles Hodge and Robert Haldane both wrote excellent commentaries on the Romans, and Haldane’s lectures on the book began a revival of the Reformed doctrine in the very city of Geneva itself.
Of Brown’s work, Spurgeon wrote: “Dr. Brown’s work must be placed among the first of the first-class. He is a great expositor.” as Spurgeon was not given to unmerited praise, we may take it that he found the work extremely helpful.

John Brown felt that his commentary on the Romans would be his last exegetical work, and in a way he was right. However, after his death the complete manuscript of a commentary on Hebrews was discovered among his papers, and published . The book had been fully prepared for the press by Brown, so that it did not suffer from the usual deficiencies of posthumous works, and his executors felt that it was too important a work to remain hidden simply because its author had died before it had been sent to the printers. Again we quote Spurgeon’s verdict on the work:
“Dr. David Smith says of this work: ‘There is not a single instance of carelessness in investigating the meaning of a text, or of timidity in stating the conclusion at which the author had arrived.’ What more could be said in praise of any exposition?”

So we have seen how John Brown enriched the world with his commentaries, always rich, warm and evangelical. His Edinburgh home at Arthur Lodge, Newington, provided him with the setting he needed to study, surrounded by the works of dozens of orthodox evangelical expositors.

Whilst a few of his works have fallen into obscurity, many more of John Brown’s writings are in print today. Tentmaker Publications of Stoke-on-Trent publishes his ‘Romans’, and the Banner of Truth Trust his ‘Hebrews’.

Yet his later years were not completely taken up with literary work, and it is to his other labours that we shall next turn, God willing.


Friday, May 23, 2008

David Brown: Appendix.

This is the inscription in the front of our copy of Brown's biography. It reads:
"To dear Mabel, From her affectionate father and mother, Sir David and Lady Stewart. Banchory House, 16 May 1898."
This is significant because Lady Stewart was David Brown's daughter. This is one of the family copies of the book.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

'This One Thing I do' John Brown of Broughton Place - XXXIV

John Brown’s next book appeared in May 1853, and it was one of his most elaborate and well-known works, his commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians. The amount of work that went into it was fantastic, as he cites more than one hundred works on the Galatians in his preparation for the writing of the book. Yet he also kept the treatise within a moderate compass, so that one hardcover volume contains the whole of Brown’s work on the Galatian epistle.
In his Galatians Brown shows an amazing familiarity with the Pauline theology. He is one of the most able expositors of the Apostle’s works, and understood Paul himself. These extracts will give some idea of Brown’s thought:
“Never was there a man more disposed than the Apostle Paul to bear with weak brethren; but never was there a man more determined to expose false brethren.”
“Let us be certain that a man is to be blamed before we withstand him; and when we do so, let it be to his face.”
Like Paul, John Brown was supremely concerned with the Gospel of Christ. He was a peaceable man, but was totally unable to be silent when the Gospel itself was under attack. Thus he saw that Paul had not merely lost his temper writing to the Churches in Galatia. He was writing in deep concern, yes, and he was emotionally affected, but it was out of love for the Galatian Churches, and for the truth of the Gospel. Unlike our present so-called postmodernists, Brown saw that Truth is of vital importance. Truth matters, it cannot be compromised.
So ended John Brown’s second period of authorship. Ten volumes had come from his hand in the course of five years, an average of one volume every six months. He had been pressed by some to write a commentary on the Second epistle of Peter as a companion to his commentary on the first. Since 2 Peter has been the subject of relatively few works, Brown considered the idea, and even began work on it. Increasing age and infirmity, joined with difficulty in understanding the second and third chapters of the book to a level that satisfied him, forced him to stop, however. As he had finished his exposition of Chapter One, which forms a unit by itself, he published that as a volume entitled ‘Parting Counsels’. It was a suitable title for a book written by a man who, at age 72, knew that he would soon be departing to be with Christ, ‘Which is far better.’

But John Brown’s labours were not yet done. Of which more, God willing, next time.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

'This One Thing I do' John Brown of Broughton Place - XXXIII

Dr. John Brown followed Discourses and Sayings with a volume on Our Lord’s high Priestly Prayer. Entitled ‘An Exposition of Our Lord’s Intercessory Prayer’, it did not enjoy the same sales as ‘Discourses and sayings’, but like all of Brown’s works, it combined accurate interpretation of the Scripture with warmth of devotion. All too often the accurate exposition of the Word is disjoined from devotional warmth, so that preachers who stick by the text seem at times to be more like dispassionate lecturers, and preachers who preach with passion seem to ignore the accurate exposition of the text. Dr. Lloyd-Jones defined preaching as ‘logic on fire’. Too often those who consciously or unconsciously model themselves on the Doctor remember the logic and forget the fire. John Brown had both in good measure.

He note that few expositions have ever been written on Our Lord’s prayer in John 17. The reason for this, Brown felt, was that men reach the chapter, and “the disposition to inquire is lost in the resistless impulse to adore.”

He followed it in December 1851 with a volume entitled ‘The Resurrection of Life’, which was an exposition of 1 Corinthians 15. Like his other books, it was a preacher’s book, a volume of expositions that not only explained the text, but applied it. Brown’s works were all designed to feed the whole man, not simply the intellectual or devotional impulses. The doctrine of the resurrection is of course one of the most important in Christianity. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come, and any work that expounds that is welcome. The denial of the resurrection is one of the oldest of heresies, and the influence of Greek philosophies have often tended to make the doctrine one that is little preached. John Brown took it head on.

While John Brown published many books on the Scriptures, it will be easily seen that his area of interest was the exposition of the New Testament. His expository writings consisted almost entirely of expositions of the New Testament. The one exception to this was his next book, ‘The Sufferings and Glories of the Messiah’. This consisted of expositions of Psalm 18 and Isaiah 53. He had been planning the book for more than thirty years, but it was only in 1852 that he finally got it into a form suitable for publication. Again he demonstrated that he was an extremely able exegete, of the Old and New Testaments. He revealed that he had little confidence in his ability to write (as opposed to preach) on the Old Testament. In fact his ability with the Hebrew was very good, just not on a level with his Greek.
The Old Testament witness to Christ is clear, and Isaiah 53 is certainly the plainest testimony to the sufferings of Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures. Brown declared in this book that Christ is the Old Testament Messiah.

His next book would be one of his greatest, of which more, God willing, next time.


Monday, May 19, 2008

'This One Thing I Do.' John Brown of Broughton Place. - XXXII

July 1850 saw the publication of the next of Dr. Brown's major works, the three volumes entitled Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This was a study of Our Lord's words in the Gospels, omitting the parables, but dealing with all the main discourses of Our Lord, including the Sermon on the Mount and the lengthy discourses in John's Gospel.

Dr. Brown had been a diligent student of the Gospels for many years. As we have noted, it was his custom to preach expository discourses, or 'lectures', as the Scottish church called them, in the evening services on the Lord's Day. He had preached through John's Gospel between 1807 and 1813. At that time he had consulted mostly English works on John, with only the commentaries of Lampe and Calvin in Latin. Between 1813 and 1850 he consulted many more commentaries, and of course he based his expositions on the Greek text. He explained:
"In preparing these volumes for the press, I have studied the original text of their subjects with all the grammatical and lexical helps I possessed. I have further availed myself of every assistance within my reach, to be derived from versions of, and commentaries on, the passages explained. My aim was not to produce and original work, but a satisfactory exposition of an important portion of Scripture."

In the best tradition of Scottish piety, these works have nothing of the sentimentality so often associated with the Victorian era in them. They are strong, fervent books, written for the whole man, the mind as well as the feelings.

Dr. Brown's intention in writing and publishing these three volumes was to re-emphasise the centrality of the person of Christ in Christianity, and not some ideal person, but the man Christ jesus who lived a real life and died a terrible death. He noted:
"Dr. Owen did good service to the cause of Christianity, two hundred years ago, by showing the pre-eminent place the Person of Christ holds in that religion, in opposition to the British rationalists of the age, who had almost lost sight of Him in speculation about evidences and dogmas and ethics; and... Neander and Tholuck have done a similar service, in opposition to the German rationalists of our times. A personal Deity is the soul of natural religion; a personal Saviour, the real living Christ, is the soul of revealed religion
The book sold well, and in 1852 a second edition was called for. It remains an important work for those studying the teaching of Christ in the Gospels.
But Dr. Brown had not yet finished his second period of literary productiveness. Of which more, God willing, next time.

Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord is published today by the Banner of Truth Trust. It is available here for £40 for all three hardcover volumes.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Preaching this coming Lord's Day

God wiling, this coming Lord's Day I shall be preaching at the historic Salhouse Baptist Church, Chapel Loke, Salhouse. Services are at 11.00 and 2.30. Those who cannot tell which is the morning service and which the afternoon are not safe to be out alone anyhow.


Friday, May 02, 2008

Book Review: Hugh Miller

Michael A. Taylor, Hugh Miller, Stonemason, Geologist, Writer (Edinburgh, National Museums of Scotland, 2007). Paperback, 176 pages. £12.99

Hugh Miller (1802-1865) is a controversial character in Scottish Church history. A devout Calvinist, he nevertheless held to the 'Gap Theory', that there is a gap between Genesis 1.1 and 1.2. He was a champion of the Free Church in the Ten Years' Conflict, but airbrushed out of history by the official historian, Robert Buchanan. He was a godly man, yet took his own life in a tragic incident. He was a pioneer in geology, and a chronicler of folk-tales, a scientist with an interest in the legendary and a love for Christ and the Church. Hugh Miller stood between the old ways and the modern age, a newspaper editor who went about Edinburgh in the grey maund of a stonemason.

And Michael Taylor manages the great feat of portraying the whole man in his book. We have Miller the rebellious youth, Miller the workman, the journalist, the churchman and the scientist, not to mention the family man. Taylor is thoroughly sympathetic and strictly factual. There is no historical speculation here, but the life of a man of God who never forgot his humble origins. We have presented in this book a man who, having wasted his early opportunities in life, saw the error of his ways after conversion and turned all his natural powers to improve himself. But better than that, Miller turned his abilities as a writer to the service of the Church he loved. Yet, after the Disruption of 1843 and the death of Thomas Chalmers, Miller stood against ecclesiastical domination of his paper, a paper that had championed the Free Church cause in the Ten Years' Conflict. As a consequence, he was airbrushed from history by Robert Buchanan, his role being reported only by his friends, and by later historians.

Miller's tragic suicide reminds us that the past was not a golden age. A devout Presbyterian elder, Miller rose early one morning and shot himself through the heart with a pistol that he had carried for protection (he had been a bank messenger at one point in his career, and the job had required him to be armed). What are we to make of this? Had he lost his faith following his geological researches? No, Taylor replies, there is simply no evidence for that, not even in his anguished suicide note. It is more likely that he was suffering some sort of depression, and following a particularly horrific nightmare, he rose and killed himself. Rightly, his friends and minister did not hold his death to have destroyed all the good that he had done, and Hugh Miller had the burial he deserved.

This book is a tour de force of popular historical writing. Sacrificing nothing in the way of scholarship, Taylor nevertheless writes so as not to put off the less scholarly readership that such a book as this needs to survive. In many ways, the book is just the sort of thing that Miller himself, journalist and popular writer that he was, would have approved of.

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