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downloadThe following is a quote from David Calderwood’s (1575-1650) introduction to the First and Second Books of Discipline of the Church of Scotland (1560 and 1578 respectively).  Here, we have a find statement of sound, Christian historiography.  It really goes to the heart of unbelief as applied to the doing of history in our modern, secular age.  “Let God arise, and His enemies be scattered!”

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“Is the Lord changed, because he changes the manner of his working? God forbid. For although he declares not in our times who belongs to him by miraculous fire sent from heaven, as in the days of Elijah; the earth opens not her mouth, as in the days of Korah; he rains not showers of brimstone upon the Sodomites of this age; he turns not such as look back into pillars of salt to season others; neither is his favour manifested towards his own secret ones in earthly and visible blessings, so wonderfully as of old; yet the God of Israel is our God, and the God of the old testament is the God of the new, and better testament, having still a secret and equivalent providence most wisely disposed, and framed for the weal of his kirk, according to the diversity of the ages succeeding one after another. So that no wise heart perceiving the course thereof could wish another than the present, howsoever the folly of infidelity blinds men to affect the miracles, ease, and outward prosperity of former generations, and if these fail, to cast themselves headlong in desperation, defection, or atheism. Yea, because he works not as before, in their haste they conclude that he works not at all.”

parsonct

A PARSON of a certain township who
Was poor, but rich in holy thought and work.
He also was a learned man, a clerk;
The Christian gospel he would truly preach,
Devoutly his parishioners to teach.
Benign he was, in diligence a wonder,
And patient in adversity, as under
Such he’d proven many times. And loath
He was to get his tithes by threatening oath;
For he would rather give, without a doubt,
To all the poor parishioners about
From his own substance and the offerings.
Sufficiency he found in little things.
His parish wide, with houses wide asunder,
He’d never fail in either rain or thunder,
Though sick or vexed, to make his visitations
With those remote, regardless of their stations.
On foot he traveled, in his hand a stave.
This fine example to his sheep he gave:
He always did good works before he taught them.
His words were from the gospel as he caught them,
And this good saying he would add thereto:
“If gold should rust, then what will iron do?”
For if a priest be foul in whom we trust,
No wonder that the ignorant goes to rust.
And it’s a shame (as every priest should keep
In mind), a dirty shepherd and clean sheep.
For every priest should an example give,
By his own cleanness, how his sheep should live.
He never set his benefice for hire,
To leave his sheep encumbered in the mire
While he ran off to London and Saint Paul’s
To seek a chantry, singing in the stalls,
Or be supported by a guild. Instead
He dwelt at home, and he securely led
His fold, so that the wolf might never harry.
He was a shepherd and no mercenary.
A holy, virtuous man he was, and right
In showing to the sinner no despite.
His speech was never haughty or indignant,
He was a teacher modest and benignant;
To draw folks heavenward to life forever,
By good example, was his great endeavor.
But if some person were too obstinate,
Whether he be of high or low estate,
He would be sharply chided on the spot.
A better priest, I wager, there is not.
He didn’t look for pomp or reverence
Nor feign a too self-righteous moral sense;
What Christ and his apostles had to tell
He taught, and he would follow it as well.

Root and branch

john_knox_statue_haddingtonThis is an extract from the First Book of Discipline of Scotland (1560). John Knox was one of the principal authors.  In these opening words, these godly reformers advocate total support of a godly preaching ministry throughout the realm and the total suppression of any preaching and worship not arising from the clear commandment of God.  While harsh to the modern ear, we must recall that God is a jealous God, prizing His instituted worship and passionately opposing all false religion.  Reformation must labor to cultivate pure worship root and branch and remove all false worship root and branch.  Or to use the imagery from the Books of the Kings, we must also take down the “high places,” the last holdouts and remnants of idolatry.

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The first head of docrtine.

Seeing that Christ Iesus is he whom God the Father hath commanded onely to bee heard and followed of his sheepe, wee judge it necessary that his Gospell be truely and openly preached in every Church and Assembly of this realme, and that all doctrine repugnant to the same, be utterly repressed, as damnable to mans salvation.

The explication of the first head.

Lest that upon this generalitie ungodly men take occasion to cavill, this we adde for explication. By preaching of the Gospel we understand not onely the Scriptures of the new Testament, but also of the old, to wit, the Law, Prophets, & Histories, in which Christ Iesus is no lesse contained in figure, then we have him now expressed in veritie. And therefore with the Apostle we affirme, that all Scripture inspired of God is profitable to instruct, to reprove, and to exhort. In which bookes of old and new Testaments, we affirme that all thing necessary for the instruction of the Church, and to make the man of God perfect, is contained and sufficiently expressed.

By the contrary doctrine we understand whatsoever men by lawes, counsells, or constitutions, have imposed upon the consciences of men, without the expressed commandement of Gods word, such as be the vowes to chastitie, forswearing of marriage, binding of men and women to several and disguised apparrells, to the superstitious observation of fasting dayes, difference of meat for conscience sake, prayer for the dead, and keeping of holy dayes of certaine Saints commanded by man, such as be all those that the Papists have invented, as the feasts (as they terme them) of the Apostles, Martyrs, Virgines, of Christmasse, Circumcision, Epiphanie, Purification, and other fond [foolish] feastes of our Ladie: which things because in Gods Scriptures they neither have commandement nor assurance, we judge them utterly to be abolished from this Realme: affirming farther that the obstinate maintainers and teachers of such abhominations ought not to escape the punishment of the civill Magistrate.

hodler_-_das_gebet_in_der_kathedrale_saint-pierre_in_genf_-_1882As always, Master Calvin states matters insightfully and with grace of style in speaking of the value of catechisms widely published:

“First, In this confused and divided state of Christendom, I judge it useful that there should be public testimonies, whereby churches which, though widely separated by space, agree in the doctrine of Christ, may mutually recognize each other. For besides that this. tends not a little to mutual confirmation, what is more to be desired than that mutual congratulations should pass between them, and that they should devoutly commend each other to the Lord? With this view, bishops were wont in old time, when as yet consent in faith existed and flourished among all, to send Synodal Epistles beyond sea, by which, as a kind of badges, they might maintain sacred communion among the churches. How much more necessary is it now, in this fearful devastation of the Christian world, that the few churches which duly worship God, and they too scattered and hedged round on all sides by the profane synagogues of Antichrist, should mutually give and receive this token of holy union, that they may thereby be incited to that fraternal embrace of which I have spoken?”

Chalmers-09-SepiaThe following is a guest post by Dr. George Grant.

The great Scottish pastor, social reformer, educator, author, and scientist Thomas Chalmers was born on March 17, 1780 at Anstruther on the Fife coast. His father was a prosperous businessman in the town and Thomas grew up as the sixth in a large family of fourteen children—he had eight brothers and five sisters.

Showing early signs of prodigy, at the age of three, he went to the local parish school to learn the classical trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric in English, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. His parents were people of strong Calvinist conviction and keen that their family should grow up to bear witness to a lively and relevant Christianity. Piety and intellectual rigor marked their daily lives.

Before he was twelve, he had sufficiently mastered language, literary, and philosophical skills that he was recommended to advance his studies at the University of St Andrews. His brother, William, who was just thirteen, accompanied him. At the time, Thomas was the second-youngest student at St Andrews and widely recognized as a student with extraordinary promise. Although a great part of his time in the first two sessions at the university were apparently occupied in boyish amusements, such as golf, soccer, and hand-ball—in which he was remarkably expert, owing to his being left-handed—he had already begun to demonstrate the great intellectual power which was to be one of his chief characteristics throughout adult life. For mathematics he developed special enthusiasm and to its study he gave himself with great energy and dedication. Ethics and politics were also themes of special interest to him as he sought to integrate his life and faith with the evident woes of the world around him.

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If you haven’t heard the story of Pr. Richard Bennett before, you must!  Profound insight into the unclean womb of Romanism and the glory of free grace.

Thomas_ChalmersBB_1024x1024If you’re looking for a short, accessible, and engaging introduction to the life of Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), you should definitely pick up Sandy Finlayson’s Thomas Chalmers. This is a giant who cast a long shadow, whose life and legacy give the modern Church many a lesson in pastoring, preaching, caring for the poor, and Christian living in general.

While you’re add it, if you like this, you may want to read more about the rich legacy of the Free Church of Scotland. You can do that with another of Finlayson’s works, Unity & Diversity: The Founders of the Free Church.  Listen to this podcast too!