27 September, 2011
07 September, 2011
16 July, 2011
Samuel Rutherford, “To the Parishioners of Kilmacolm,” 5 August 1639, in Letters of Samuel Rutherford.
"…I would say two things: 1. To want [lack] complaints of weakness, is for heaven, and angels that never sinned, not for Christians in Christ’s camp on earth. I think our weakness maketh us the church of the redeemed ones, and Christ’s field that the Mediator should labour in. If there were no diseases on earth, there needed no physicians on earth. If Christ had cried down weakness, he might have cried down his own calling. But weakness is our Mediator’s world: sin is Christ’s only fair and market. No man should rejoice at weakness and diseases; but I think we may have a sort of gladness at boils and sores, because without them, Christ’s fingers (as a slain Lord) should never have touched our skin. I dare not thank myself, but I dare thank God’s depth of wise providence, that I have an errand in me, while I live, for Christ to come and visit me, and bring with him his drugs and balm. O how sweet is it for a sinner to put his weakness in Christ’s strengthening hand, and to take a sick soul to such a Physician, and to lay weakness before him, to weep upon him, and to plead and pray! Weakness can speak and cry, when we have not a tongue. ‘And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live’ [Ezek 16:6].The kirk could not speak one word to Christ then; but blood and guiltiness out of measure spake, and drew out of Christ Pity, and a word of life and love. 2. As for weakness, we have it that we may employ Christ’s strength because of our weakness. Weakness is to make us the strongest things; that is, when, having no strength of our own, we are carried upon Christ’s shoulders, and walk, as it were, upon his legs. If our sinful weakness swell up to the clouds, Christ’s strength will swell up to the sun, and far above the heaven of heavens."
05 May, 2009
The site is http://www.westminsterconfession.org/. May the Lord bless and build up Zion!
10 February, 2009
Obviously we do not desire to see every aspect of the Reformation reproduced today. In fact, such is impossible - too much has changed in our political, economical and ecclesiastical structures. We no longer have one visible face of the church. Think of the countless numbers of denominations that have erupted since Luther was used of God to call the church back to the truth of Scripture. We no longer have governments interested in defending true religion. Could Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bucer, Martyr and others have accomplished their work without the protection of their civil magistrates? Surely God is able to do what he desires without the help of any single man. However, when we survey the Reformation it becomes quite evident that the Lord providentially used city and national governors to aid his work of revival. These are just some of the real differences that would make revival today appear different than the 1500's, at least in circumstantial realities.
However, that we do not desire to see every aspect reproduced today - either of the Reformation or any other revival in history - does not change the fact that we possess a strong desire to see the essence of such a revival reproduced in our midst. Were there extravagances during the New England Awakening of Edwards' time? Most certainly! Were there things we wish Whitfield and the Tennets had done differently? I surely think so. But, do we not desire to see the authentic and vibrant Christianity, so obvious in their lives, return with power today?
Undoubtedly there are cries of simpleton, historical snob, fundamentalist, etc. when such thoughts are mentioned. However take a moment to think on the following questions. One thing I ask is that you seriously consider these questions with reference to your own life and then apply them to the church at large. Moreover I list these not to bring us down into a paralyzed state of soul. Rather, I ask them that the Lord might humble us from our great and unfounded pride, that in the end Jesus Christ alone would be exalted. And then, with Christ alone lifted up, may he adorn the church with her much needed grace.
1) Where is the weeping over sin today? When was the last time you shed tears for sin? Perhaps you are of such a constitution that you don't cry easily. Fine. When was the last time you paused and found sincere remorse over the sins you have committed - remorse that issued forth in true repentance?
2) Where are true hunger, delight and absolute desire for Jesus Christ to be found? Where is there weeping for Christ today?
3) When was the last time a Reformed church saw tears in the pulpit for the lost?
4) When was the last time a Reformed church saw tears in the pulpit weeping for the redemption in Christ Jesus?
5) Where do we find the Sabbath called "a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable"? Where is the communion of Christian fellowship prized over and above family, civil and recreational events?
6) Where are there believers gathered in a way similar to that heavenly vision of John: "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb."? Where are there assemblies gathered, fairly representing the demographics of the surrounding area? Where are the assemblies gathered together in purity, peace and victory, worshipping God through Christ with vigor, joy and grace?
If you are at all as I, you begin to wonder at the "host" of wisdom we have today. How long must we pride ourselves in the so-called cultural mandate, while a true sense of sin and grace fades away? Was Christ's coming and redemption really so I can make a better, faster, cooler and more efficient car? Was this the preaching of Christ? of the apostles? of Augustine? of Anselm? of Bernard? of Luther, Calvin, Knox, Melville, Rutherford, Gillespie, Edwards, M'Cheyne, etc.?
No doubt, the Lord desires us to delight in his creation, to dwell upon things that are noble, pure, beautiful and so on. He desires us to do all of our work heartily unto him. If a lawyer, one ought to practice law in a Christian manner. If a doctor, one ought to practice medicine in a way that honor's Christ. But when Edwards finished preaching his sermons, was the congregation struck with a new found desire to manufacture goods more beautifully? Perhaps that is too easy for some to reject, because they find Edwards to be too "inward, pietistic and idealistic." Very well, I will ask the same question upon better received ground. Was the preaching of Pentecost attended with people pricked in their consciences because they had been neglecting to live in their surrounding culture well? When the early church gathered in Acts, was it to walk through the streets and admire the sculptures surrounding their cities? Surely, we ought to admire beauty in such works of art. We ought to reach out to our culture. However, is the newfound emphasis, so prevalent in many churches today, really the same emphasis of the Scriptures? If so, where are the same effects?
What is our need? Simply put, it is for God to stoop down once again in abounding grace. It is for the fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us all. No, Pentecost cannot be repeated. That was a special historical event testifying to the victory of Christ Jesus. However, do we not need something similar?
We need the same Spirit to work mightily in our lives. We need grace. Certainly grace for an individual, but I mean more than that. We need grace that newly humbles the church worldwide. Grace that awakens the many deceived souls sitting in our Protestant and Evangelical churches. We need grace that causes ministers of the gospel to delight in Christ above all else. We need grace that makes sin a word that strikes shame into our hearts. We need grace that makes salvation a word that makes us pause because of the immense joy that overcomes our souls. We need grace that makes Jesus a name that is desired and honored and cherished. We need grace that causes us to adorn the gospel with Spiritual fruit. You need such grace. I need such grace. Let us then pray for such grace, seek such grace and delight in such grace through Jesus Christ.
23 December, 2008
Through our Wednesday evening study of Scottish Theology, an interesting and vital question has arisen: how should the Christian relate to the law? This is a most necessary question for us to take up, and because of the gravity of such a question, the errors that have been committed in times past, and the great confusion concerning it in the present age, we are taking a break from our usual course. For the next seven weeks, Lord willing, we will consider questions relating to biblical law and grace, with a special focus upon how such relates to the believer today.
From the outset I feel constrained to make clear that my understanding of this question has already been answered by Scripture; and that this answer is accurately stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. Such an answer I believe is not out of blind submission to these documents; indeed, I can testify of the personal struggle I experienced several years ago now as I wrestled through this and related questions in a diligent study of Scripture. With this clarification, I also wish to make it known that the course of study will be heavily Scriptural. In this study I am not interested in giving a course of lectures through the Confession or Catechisms. This has been wonderfully and helpfully done by several men of note in the past. Of course, reference may be made to these writings as reference may be made to other writings, but our great emphasis will be that of looking directly to the word of God. We hope to be of the noble character ascribed to the Bereans of old.
I heartily invite any and all to attend. Whether you are well established in the Scriptural teaching on law and grace, are continuing to study, or have not given much attention to it at all, please accept my warm invitation to you. The method will be one of orderly studying of Scripture. We will try our best to take matters in a Scriptural, and therefore logical manner. Each lesson will build upon what was considered previously, but will be able to stand alone as a self-contained study. Nonetheless, it would be best to attend all, if possible. Obviously the heart of the issue will be dealt with later on in our weekly meetings. However this is necessary for the ground work that must be laid beforehand. Such a course we feel will prevent the common disappointment of misunderstanding and also encourage a more biblically informed conviction, having spent more time in God's word together. Please consider coming if you find you have the time, also feel free to invite your friends. We will try and spend 30-40 minutes at the most in study each week, reserving time for questions and prayer. Lord willing, we will resume our study of Scottish Theology once we conclude this present course.
The tentative course of studies will be as follows:
1) Tuesday, December 23 - Introductory Matters;
2) Wednesday, December 31 - Origin of Biblical Law;
3) Wednesday, January 7 - The Biblical Distinctions and Use of the Word Law;
4) Wednesday, January 14 - Christ's Work and the Law;
5) Wednesday, January 21 - Sin and the Law;
6) Wednesday, January 28 - The Christian and the Law;
7) Wednesday, February 4 - The Christian and the Sabbath - A Special Consideration.
As we are not fixed upon this setup by any outside constraint, we will reserve the liberty to amend it as necessary. Nonetheless, the overall direction will remain the same. We neither wish to shorten or lengthen the study unnecessarily. If there are any changes, I will be sure to keep you notified.
Each of these meetings will take place at 7 p.m. Please note that this week's meeting is Tuesday, as there were several families who had made prior commitments to their extended families for Wednesday evening. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. May we all look to the Lord for direction, grace and peace.
10 November, 2008
Not all have the same manner of temptation mentioned above by Andrew Bonar in his Diary. He of course is specifically discussing the difficulty faced by ministers when tempted to meet with God solely to prepare sermons, etc. Nonetheless, I am quite sure that we all struggle with perceiving the glories, blessedness and beauty of fellowship with God in Jesus Christ.
Why get up early, block off time in the day or stay up late at night in order to meet with God? Undoubtedly there are many true answers to this: we see it exemplified in Scripture, it is how we grow in our enjoyment of the blessings of Christ, etc. However, when engaged in such times of devotional fellowship with God, does such a thought as that mentioned by Rev. Bonar cross our minds? Do we realize that this is the end or goal?
It is often the case that those afflicted by God's sovereign hand, find more delights and satisfaction in Christ than previous to such times. Rev. Bonar himself had recently lost his intimate friend and co-labourer, Rev. Robert Murray M'Cheyne. Moreover he and many other ministers had recently experienced the Disruption from the Church of Scotland. Perhaps it is that we, having had much by the way of ease and abundance, will soon learn the glories of fellowship with God. There is a need among God's people throughout the world and especially in our homeland to learn the glories, the beauties and the ultimate joy of fellowship with Christ. Did Christ truly satisfy all those who claim him as Savior, I am sure that much of what passes today as worship and church activities would utterly vanish. For, if Christ truly satisfied, there would be no desire for these childish games that often pass for piety and religion.
I am convinced that the more and more we lose our satisfaction with Christ, the more we will continue to see a rise of ceremonies amongst so-called Reformed Churches . Why should it be any different? The very ceremonies we see returning to these denominations and congregations have a foundation in the Old Covenant, which, in their original context, witnessed of a Christ to come. The more we lose our satisfaction and delight in our Lord, the more we will rest upon ceremonies, liturgies and a whole host of replacements.
What is the answer to such issues before us today? It is simply, but painfully, to find an earnest delight in our present and reigning Lord. The more that true, simple and experiential fellowship is shared with Jesus, the less attractive all of these replacements will become.
Samuel Rutherford, writing from Aberdeen as an exile from his ministerial charge, learned the glories of fellowship with Christ. "Oh, if my soul might but lie within the smell of his love, suppose I could get no more but the smell of it! Oh, but it is long to that day when I shall have a free world of Christ's love! O what a sight to be up in heaven, in that fair orchard of the new paradise, and to see and smell and touch and kiss that fair field-flower, that ever-green Tree of Life! His bare shadow were enough for me. A sight of him would be the earnest of heaven to me...Christ, Christ, nothing but Christ can cool our love's burning langour. O thirsty love! wilt thou set Christ, the well of life, to thy head, and drink thy fill? Drink and spare not; drink love and be drunken with Christ! Nay, alas! the distance betwixt us and Christ is a death. O, if we were clasped in [each] other's arms! We should never twin [separate] again, except heaven twinned and sundered us; and that cannot be."
May the Lord grant us such desires for Jesus Christ.
01 September, 2008
O thine own people do thou save,
bless thine inheritance;
Them also do thou feed, and them
for evermore advance.
How often is such a petition upon our lips? How frequently and passionately do we plead with God to bless in this manner? That we are often in describing the evils of our present generation is beyond dispute. But how often do we seek the Lord's blessing?
This is in essence the same petition our Lord taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come." Doubtlessly this is uttered many times throughout the day, but I wonder with what confidence or manner.
The Westminster Divines gave a brief exposition to the petition taught by our Lord.
"In the second petition, (which is, Thy kingdom come,) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel-officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate: that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him for ever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends."
When we look at the things mentioned above, I doubt not but that we are tempted to lose hope. Take time and think of just several of these: "the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in; the church...purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate...that Christ would rule in our hearts here..."
We live in times of great declension. Because of this there are those who anticipate little spiritual good in the future. There is almost an expectation that things will only get progressively worse for the church. Whereas such may be the case for the indefinite future, it is nonetheless troubling and disheartening to look upon faces of Christians who have lost hope. They have all but thrown away hope for any spiritual renewal or revival. "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."
Perhaps this loss of confidence is because there has been a loss of perspective. It would be entirely right for all to lose hope were the future contingent upon the church alone. Is there any hope for the healing of divisions, correction of error and heresy or restoration of vital piety by the work of men, however good? I for one have no such hope.
But revisit the words of the Psalm mentioned above.
O thine own people do thou save,
bless thine inheritance;
Them also do thou feed, and them
for evermore advance.
It should be clear to all that David's hope was not in himself, rulers and elders of Israel or any group of men - however numerous, wise or gifted. Rather he looked directly to Jehovah. The Psalm begins, "Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock". Here, then, is ground for a different story! When we look to Jehovah, God covenanted to us by promise and sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ, do we not have sufficient ground for an exuberant hope in spite of all opposition?
If there are those among us today, and I trust that there are, who desire to see Christ's kingdom come with power, here is where we must place our hope. Let us then begin to look to our God, to cry out to our rock with confidence that he hears us. Let us take in all of the evils facing us today; those evils outside the church and those evils within the church. Let us paint them in the darkest colors, most dreadful tones and hues and withhold no fitting description. Let us name all of the sins plaguing the church today: division, immorality, worldliness, lust, deception, compromise, and onward.
But, when we have done so and made an end of confessing the horrors opposing the onward march of Christ's spiritual kingdom, let us then look to the LORD our rock and cry out "Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever." Remember with whom we plead. Is anything too mighty for him? Is anything too difficult for him? Surely not! Do we not have this confidence, "Ask, and it shall be given you"?
Let us then ask, and continue asking until we find that the LORD of hosts visits his people with grace, truth and revival.
21 August, 2008
Those in attendance represent different backgrounds, denominations and even countries. Each year we are thankful to have a minister from Scotland to share in the Gospel labour. However, not only were we blessed to have a minister from Scotland, this year we also had two families who drove from Mexico City to be in attendance! What makes this all the more exciting is that the fellowship is centered on Jesus Christ. How exciting it is to have a foretaste of heaven, where there will be those from all different backgrounds worshipping the Lamb of God! Oh how we long for that day!
The unifying theme of the conference was that of experimental religion. The phrase is certainly strange to modern ears. We no longer speak of such a thing; moreover, experimental is typically used only with reference to Science or prototypes. However, such a phrase used to be something of a watchword to former generations steeped in the piety of the Reformation. Two excellent addresses were given by Rev. Sherman Isbell, both defining what is meant, and explaining why experimental religion has been all but lost by those indebted to the Reformation. Those who find themselves wondering at the marked differences between Puritan emphases and modern Reformed emphases would benefit greatly from these addresses. You may find these addresses, and all others from the conference at a link posted below. There is also a helpful article written by Rev. Joel Beeke on experimental preaching available in PDF: http://www.frcna.org/Data/StudentSocietySpeeches/The%20Lasting%20Power%20of%20Reformed%20Experiential%20Preaching%20-%20Dr%20Joel%20R.%20Beeke.pdf.
Rev. David Murray, formerly of Stornoway and now professor at Puritan Reformed Seminary, gave four addresses on the doctrine and attainment of assurance. These were especially helpful as words of guidance and encouragement. These are fine examples of well-crafted, orderly, orthodox and heart-affecting addresses. In a day where many presume that a simple profession of faith is a warrant for assurance, these addresses are very needful. Moreover, the weak believer struggling with assurance will do well to listen and give much meditation to these words.
Rev. McCurley of Greenville's congregation gave two addresses on communing with Christ at the Lord's table. Much of the Reformed world is split into two extremes today over this issue. Many see communion as a bare remembrance of Christ's work on the cross. While no one would undermine the great benefits that come from meditating upon our Savior's work, Paul's letter to the Corinthians demands that we recognize a true communion with the living Jesus at the Lord's table. Thus there are many who have reacted to a mere remembrance and embraced a form of high Sacrementalism closely akin to that of Lutheranism or even Roman Catholicism. Rev. McCurley's addresses needfully and pastorally steer us into the Scripture's teaching of a true, but Spiritual and faithful communing with Christ. Very helpful and refreshing to the soul of the believer!
Lastly there were four sermons preached by Rev. William Macleod, principal of the Free Church Seminary, editor of the Free Church Witness and minister of a congregation in Glasgow. These were heart-stirring, convicting and edifying sermons. As a believer by God's grace, I must testify that these addresses did much to awaken me from a slumbering walk. I left stirred up to turn from my sin and pursue the will of Christ Jesus with more vigor and dependence upon the grace of God. Such addresses are needed for believer and unbeliever alike.
The Lord willing, the Presbytery of the United States hopes to host the family conference during the week of August 10-14, again in the Shenandoah Valley. For more information you may visit the conference website at http://members.aol.com/rsiworship/2009.html.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or Rev. Isbell whose information you may find at the link above.
Free Church Conference 2008 Addresses:
01 July, 2008
Services will be held at the auxillary chapel of Southminster Presbyterian Church, at 10126 East Watson Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63126. Worship will begin at 6:15 p.m. Prior to worship will be a catechism class at 4:00 p.m. followed by a shared meal at 5:00 p.m.
All are cordially invited.
For more information, please contact me at 314-520-1629 or email@example.com.