Friday, May 29, 2009

Preaching this coming Lord's Day

God willing, this coming Lord's Day I shall be preaching at our church here at Tabor Baptist Church, Llantrisant at both services, at 11 AM and 6 PM.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Minister Behaving Badly: First Catch Your Mormon

A little-known factor in Welsh religious life was the short-lived rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. There were anti-Mormon riots in Swansea and other places, while a number of men from Wales emigrated to Utah, forming the basis of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Indeed, it was a popular diversion for Welsh travellers to America to go to Salt Lake City and find Welsh polygamists. One episode in the history of Mormonism occurred in the town of Aberaman, towards the latter part of the nineteenth century.

David B. Jones of Rhumney (Bardic name 'Dewi Elfed), newly ordained minister of Gwawr Welsh Baptist Chapel, became a Mormon. Asked to give an account of his behaviour before the Baptist Association, he refused, claiming that that Association had no jurisdiction over him. Unsurpisingly, he was excommunicated in absentia. Howeverm in the meantime, he had altered the trust deeds of the chapel in his favour. Removing the names of a number of people, including Dr. Thomas Price, minister of Calfaria Baptist Chapel, Aberdare. Having altered the chapel deed in order to make the chapel more or less his personal property, the chapel fell into the hands of the Mormons.

The Baptist Association, led by Dr. Thomas Price, were not going to take this lying down. They went to law, and, in 1851, the courts ruled that the chapel was legally the property of the Baptist Association. David Jones declared that he had no intention of vacating the premises.

Dr. Price, together with 2000 supporters and the law officer, marched to the chapel in an attempt to take possession. Seeing their approach, David Jones locked himself inside the Chapel, together with one supporter. The court official declared that he had no authority to break down the door. That being the case, Dr. Price and one of his deacons gained access through a window. After 'a wild and exciting chase around the chapel galleries', the Baptist minister turned Mormon was caught, and forcibly ejected from the Chapel, Dr. Price kicking him out of the front door.

The Chapel was regained for the Welsh Baptists, and although David Jones threatened to bring a charge of assault against Dr. Price, the action was dropped. There are no Mormons at present in Aberaman.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Preaching this Coming Lord's Day

God willing, this coming Lord's Day I shall be preaching at New Life Bible-Presbyterian Church, Salusbury Road, Queen's Park, Kilburn, London (two minutes walk from Queen's Park station). Services are at 11 AM and 4 PM. with a fellowship lunch between. Illustrated above is the sanctuary, dominated by the mighty pulpit, the throne of the Word of God. Behind is the great pipe-organ that is used to help the Lord's people to worship every Sunday morning.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Preaching this Coming Lord's Day

God willing, this coming Lord's Day I shall be preaching at New Life Bible-Presbyterian Church, Salusbury Road, Queen's Park, Kilburn, London. Services are at 11.00 AM and 4.00 PM, with a fellowship lunch between the services. The building illustrated above, now New Life, was built as St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in 1910. So still Presbyterian anyhow.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Book Review - Glory in the Glen

Revival. The word is one that ought to make every true Christian in this country fall down and plead with God that he would revive us again. The history of revival is one that we ought to study, not as a mere intellectual expercise, but to quicken our desires for God to work again in our day and age.
Glory in the Glen by Tom Lennie (Christian Focus Publications, paperback, 512 pages), is a patiently researched, well-written book. It is cautious in all its claims, and well-documented. The subject is Evangelical revivals in Scotland between 1880 and 1940. In this book Mr. Lennie shows that this period, which has been generally neglected, was in fact a period of great blessing in various parts of Scotland. He shows that the Welsh Revival fires spread to various parts of Scotland, and that the period prior to the First World War was a period of ingathering. Like the Welsh Revival, many converts of these awakenings died in the Trenches, and yet in the Highlands and Islands, and among the fisherfolk, the Revivals continued between the wars.
The book is in five parts. Part one, 'Glory filled the Land', deals with revivals in various parts of Scotland, from Ayrshire to Skye. Part two, 'Fire Among the Fisherfolk', focuses on the revivals among the fishing communities. Part three, ''Oer the Minch' - Hebridean Harvest', deals with revivals in the Outer Hebrides. The fourth part of the book, 'Bairns, Scholars and Holy Rollers', as the title suggests, is a little more mixed, the first chapter dealing with work among children and scholars, the second with the development of Pentecosalism in Scotland. Part five is more analytical, asking questions about revival in the light of the historical sections of the book.
Lennie's well-researched book does not hesitate to criticise such practices as that of giving out figures of converts. As he points out, the number of those 'coming forward' at a meeting is often highly misleading, since many who do so are not actually converted. The reader will no doubt find some of what he reads here difficult. After all, there are events recorded that we Reformed Christians don't find happening in our churches. But after all, we do think that the facts ought to be recorded as they really are, not as we would have liked them to be.
All in all, this is a good read, deeply challenging, and well-written. Readers will also appreciate the maps and illustrations that help to put the revival accounts in historical and gographical context.
Glory in the Glen is available from your local Christian bookshop, or from Christian Focus Publications. It costs £11.99.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Calvin Talk

God willing, to-morrow evening I shall be speaking on 'The Life and Work of John Calvin' for the Sovereign Grace Union (Surrey Auxilliary), at Providence Baptist Church, Knaphill, near Woking, Surrey.

This lecture will be the fruit of several months of study of the Genevan Reformer, and hopefully will be of some benefit to those who listen.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Preaching this Coming Lord's Day

God willing, this coming Lord's Day I shall be preaching at Cheltenham Evangelical Free Church, Whaddon Road, Cheltenham. Services are at 11.00 AM and 6.30 PM.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The History of a Historian - A.R. MacEwen. VI

With the death of his father, Alexander MacEwen faced a time of decision. Should he go forward with the Theology course, or accept, at least for a time, the appointment in Glasgow University as an assistant Professor? The question was one of timing more than anything else. He fully intended to go to the Divinity Hall, was conscious of a calling to the ministry, but was faced with a providence that seemed to be pushing him towards academia instead. Was he calld to be a pastor, or to glorify God as a univerity lecturer? He was unsure which way to take. He hesitated, considered the way forward. Providence is not always easy to interpret, and his father's death seemed to suggest that it would be best to get a paying post, which would also give him an opportunity to learn some more.

So he accepted the post at Glasgow, to teach Latin to Scottish Undergraduates. With a secure short-term future, he was able to accept an invitation of some friends to go climbing in the Tyrol. This was his first opportunity to travel outside of the United Kingdom. Apart from a bout of fever caught in Prague, he enjoyed the trip and came home refreshed, ready to begin teaching in November.

The place of an Assistant in an old Scottish University may be described as doing the work that the Professor would rather not do. It was a difficult and demanding job. He had to teach large classes, and classes that were often rowdy, and mark papers, as well as give tutorials. MacEwen determined that he would allow no monkey-business in class. He had a simple method of dealing with disruptive elements - he threw them out of the classroom! He was also a good teacher. One of his pupils was James Denney, a man who would later be closely associated with him. The classes appreciated him, despite (or perhaps in part because of) the strict discipline that he enforced.

At the same time, he was working on preparing a volume of his father's sermons for the press, a memorial to the work of his father. He was also working on an essay on the Roman satirists for the Arnold Prize at Oxford. The essay was successful, but what was more to him was that the volume of his father's sermons was acceptable. He was a popular teacher, he had won another academic prize, and once again he was faced with the question of his future. Should he continue in this academic life, or enter the theological college?

He turned to the learned and godly minister Dr. John Ker (caricatured) for help. Ker wisely refused to tell MacEwen what he ought to do, instead he told him that he could glorify God in either sphere of service. What he did tell MacEwen was that the young man had to stop halting between two positions and fix on a definite aim in life. The words had their effect, and MacEwen gave in to the call to the ministry, presenting himself as a student for the United Presbyterian Hall.

God willing, next time we shall deal with MacEwen the theology student.


Monday, May 04, 2009

The History of a Historian - A.R. MacEwen. V

Alexander Robertson MacEwen was a fairly typical undergraduate, with pleasant manners, a keen sense of humour, and an interest in all sorts of things. As such, he made many friends at Oxford. While some were those friendships that pass with the end of university, others were of the more enduring kind. He was a member of the college rowing club, as well as a debating society, and among his friends were men who would become MPs and leading educationalists. He was cheered in 1872 by the arrival of another United Presbyterian, W. Gunion Rutherford, who had also won a scholarship. The news prompted him to write to his mother: "UPs for ever!"

But into this happy world of sports and studies an unexpected tragedy came. The captain of the cricket club was found in his rooms dead, a bullet through his brain and a pistol by his side. He had shot himself during the night. The cause of the suicide was unknown, though it was thought to have been extreme physical pain. The whole college was shocked, and an atmosphere of seriousness descended on everyone, including MacEwen. Face to face with death in the midst of life, he wrote to one of his sisters: "I feel here that all study is a weariness of the flesh, and no better or more elevating than stone-breaking, unless it be pursued with a spiritual aim and a desire to serve and know and thereby glorify God. I believe that you are right in joining our Church, but, my dear girl, I know that there is a danger of deluding ourselves that in so doing we are doing an act that is itself good."

He was also engaged in practical works. John Ruskin (pictured), one of Oxford's celebrities at the time, and considered extremely eccentric, had a scheme to drain the marshes around the village of Hincksey, which he felt were having a bad effect on the health of the villagers. To do this, he enlisted a small army of undergraduates who were christened 'the Diggers'. They came, many of them, as men who did not know how to dig, but under the foremanship of Ruskin's head gardener, they were soon moulded into a reasonably effective workforce, and the marshes were drained.
At the end of it all came the examinations. McEwen was incredibly unwell during an examination. He was seized with some sort of fit, and wrote 'worse than nonsense', before having to be taken to a doctor's, where leeches were applied and he was put on medication. He was glad to find that he had a second-class degree. All of this he later saw as God's providence. A First Class degree might have pushed him into the life of an Oxford scholar, a Second Class kept him for the Church.
But he was still invited to spend some time in academia, as Assistant Professor of Humanity in Glasgow University. While he was considering what to do, a new tragedy struck. On the family holiday to Wales in the summer of 1875, his father Dr. MacEwen was taken ill and died. On his death-bed he testified "I have no fear of death. God in His goodness has kept that away, but I should have liked to work for Him a little longer." He died on 4th June, before he could see his son enter the Divinity Hall, but knowing that he would do so.


Friday, May 01, 2009

The History of a Historian - A.R. MacEwen. IV

In the previous post I dealt with the influences in Oxford at the time, many of them hostile to Scottish Calvinism. But of course as well as the influences of the Secularists and the Anglo-Catholics, there was the influence of his Scottish Calvinist upbringing. Arriving in Oxford he was astonished to meet Dr. John Cairns (illustrated) on the street. Dr. Cairns was one of the most important ministers in the United Presbyterian denomination, and he had met MacEwen before. The Presbyterian theologian greeted the young student and asked him to show him Oxford. When MacEwen replied that he too was a stranger, Cairns said "then let us see it together." The Scots theologian cut a strange figure on the Oxford streets, but he was the most welcome man in the world to MacEwen. Cairns knew Oxford, and was able to share all the historical associations of the colleges and the town with the young undergraduate. When they parted Dr. Cairns gave MacEwen a blessing that the student was always to remember.
His first meeting with the Master of Balliol was not auspicious - it followed a food-fight that several freshmen undergraduates were involved in. Thankfully the relationship was not to be defined by the fight! MacEwen always respected Jowett, although the two were, and remained, poles apart theologically, Jowett being firmly in the liberal camp.
Why, then, did MacEwen go to Balliol? First of all, we must remember that he had won a scholarship there. Secondly, he was still a young man of nineteen, anxious to gain understanding. Oxford had a high reputation for scholarship, as it still does, and it was only natural for him to accept the scholarship.
As a Scotsman, MacEwen was rather amused by Dean Stanley's lectures on the Scottish Church. It was obvious to the young Presbyterian that Stanley did not understand Scottish Church history, and overrated the importance of the Episcopal Church. He also had an experience with a 'mesmerist', or hypnotist. He was far from impressed, describing the hypnotist as "a combination of the Paradise Serpent and the Witch of Endor". Membership in a debating society gave him an opportunity to learn how to argue a point. Experiences with ritualism led him to conclude "I shall never be a ritualist." The exaltation of the Virgin Mary from a humble servant of God to the 'Queen of Heaven' disgusted him. He might return from England with a greater understanding of the Church of England, but quite without any temptation to enter it.
God willing, next time we shall deal with MacEwen's friendships at Oxford.