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In the following passage (A.D. 324), Constantine shows his support for patronizing Christian mission. I notice nothing of compulsion, and the historical record appears to bear this out. So is state endorsement of the true religion really such a tough pill to swallow after all?

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“When such grievous impiety controls human affairs and the commonwealth is in danger of utter destruction as by some plague and has need of much health-giving care, what alleviation does the Divinity devise, what rescue from our danger? And we must regard as altogether divine that which alone and really exists and whose power endures through all time. It is not vainglorious to acknowledge and boast of the beneficence of the Supreme Power. He sought out and judged fitting for His own purpose my service, starting from the sea which laps distant Britain and from those quarters where the sun is commanded by an ordinance of fate to set, thrusting aside by some mightier power all the dangers that beset me, that the human race might be recalled to the worship of the august law, schooled by my agency, and that the blessed faith might be increased under the guidance of the Supreme Power. Never can I ungratefully forget the gratitude that I owe; believing this to be the noblest service, this the gift granted to me, I advanced to the regions of the East, which, consumed by more grievous ills, called aloud for the greater healing care at my hands.”

 

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“.  . . a single human being called out of darkness, though he lives in some putrid lane or unheard of obscurity in your great city, is a brighter testimony than all the applauses of all the fashionables.”

-Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847)

I consider myself rather conservative in my convictions about Lord’s day observance. As the biblical title suggests, it is the Lord’s day, not yours or mine. It should be dedicated to a holy rest, to “public and private exercises of God’s worship,” except for “works of necessity and mercy” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 60). But the following 18th century anecdote strikes me as (way!) over the top.

…our small beer shall be fetched in on Saturday nights, nor will we even dress a potato on the Sabbath. We will attend the preaching at five o’clock in the morning, at eight go to prayer meeting, at ten to public worship; hear Mr. Perry at Cripplegate at two, be at the Foundry (Wesley’s old preaching house) at five; meet with the general society at six, assemble at the United Bands at seven, and again prayer meeting at eight, and then come home and read and pray by ourselves.

If this is rest, I wonder what work is!

Below is an extract from an upcoming journal article I’m writing on Thomas Chalmers’ territorial (parochial) method of outreach.

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The method also capitalizes on the power of moral influence. Now, as we have seen already, the very doctrinal keystone of Chalmers’ model was the stern, Calvinist doctrine of human depravity. Attraction might work, if men were not half bad. But as they are altogether bad – spiritually speaking – there must be aggression. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, the aggression must be gentle. The laborer must go among the people and “ingratiate” himself in their affections by his manifest care for them, body and soul, parents and children:

… he is to watch every opportunity, to go to them especially at those seasons when, through sickness or death in their houses, their hearts are peculiarly open and susceptible to impressions from one who comes to them in the character of a friend and comforter, as interesting himself in the education of their families, and by a thousand nameless offices and topics of introduction by which you may make a pretext or a reason occasion of visiting them: and you will infallibly, in ninety-nine cases out of the hundred, meet with a cordial welcome from this alienated population.

This aggression is the force of moral suasion, or as he wrote elsewhere, the “omnipotence of Christian charity.” That the people are thus susceptible highlights Chalmers’ convictions of a certain abiding goodness in human nature, which the territorial method exploits. It may not always result in conversion, but it should very well restore a population to regular church attendance – a more hopeful prelude to conversion.

Hugh Martin (1822-1885), commenting on Jonah 3:6-8, gets at a foundational issue supporting national establishments of religion.  ” . . how can religious obligations be upon the separate individuals of a nation, and yet the nation as a whole be exempted from it? It is certain that nations as a whole may please or provoke God: just as a family may do; just as an individual may do.”

Here is a great article highlighting the lessons we can glean from John Knox and company on missions.

The following passage comes from the Memoirs of James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698). In it, we hear the heartbeat of a true fisher of men, a pastor-evangelist that all pastors should strive to be. Also, note that he urged the duty of the minister going beyond the four walls of the church into the “highways and hedges” to speak to the lost.  This is the good old parish way – ministerial house to house evangelistic labor in a fixed, geographical district. Would to God it may be recovered! (Italics below mine.)

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God did not send me to baptise, but to preach. But that which I was called to was, to testify for God, to hold forth his name and ways to the dark world, and to deliver poor captives of Satan, and bring them to the glorious liberty of the sons of God: this was I to make: my only employment, to give myself to, and therein to be diligent, taking all occasions; and to be plain, full and free in this charge. I was called to enter in hot war with the world and sinners, to fight by my testimony against them for God ….

He is [in addition to public preaching] to execute his commission by exhortation, private and occasional instruction, whether for reproof, comfort, or in formation and direction. And this is it which I suppose I was moſt called unto, viz. to take all occasions with all persons in private discourse, to make the name of Christ known, and to do them good, and to do this as my only work; and to do it boldly, and faithfully and fully: and this to do is very hard in a right and effectual manner; to do this is harder than to preach publickly; and, to be strengthened, directed and encouraged in this, is that for which I ought to live near in a dependence on Christ, without whom we can do nothing, and of whom is all our sufficiency. In preaching there are a great many whom we can not reach, and there are many to whom we have no occasion to preach publickly; we may thus preach always, and speak more succesfully than in publick, where the greatest part of hearers do not understand the minister tho’ he speak never so plainly. This likewise we are called unto this day, seeing we are by force incapacitate: but oh how is this neglected! were ministers faithful in this, we should quickly fee a change in affairs; but, alas, with grief of heart I speak it, it is in this thing that I challenge myself most of any, it is in this that I have most come ſhort, and I suppose it may be so with others too. The Apostles went from house to house.