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Archive for December, 2009

The following is a stinging rebuke of those of us in the ministry who tend to have a ‘clock in and clock out’ view of our calling:

The late excellent Mr. Hervey resolved – ‘Never to go into any company, where he could not obtain access for his Master.’ And at least we should determine to venture into no society, but where we sincerely desire and endeavour, to introduce our Master. There is indeed ” a time for keeping silence,” and ” keeping our mouth with a bridle,” in the presence of the ungodly; lest, by “giving that which is holy unto dogs, and casting our pearls before swine,” we should provoke a needless excitement of enmity against the Gospel. But (as Dr. Watts has well observed)—’ I doubt this caution has been carried much further by our own cowardice and carnality of spirit, than David ever practised it in the thirty-ninth Psalm, or than Jesus Christ meant it in the seventh of Matthew.’ Certainly if we are “dumb with silence, and hold our peace even from good,” without feeling, like David under these circumstances, our “sorrows to be stirred;” it is but too plain, that we have lost that distinction of ” the servants of Christ,” which it would have been our honour to have preserved; that our Christian prudence has degenerated into worldly cowardice; and that our conversation with the world has been regulated by the fear of man, fleshly indulgence, and practical unbelief of the most solemn warnings of the Gospel.

Our Divine Master never intended, that we should confine our religion to the services of the sanctuary. As men of God, we should have it at heart and in hand, spreading a spiritual savour over the common walks of society, and stamping us with the mark of confessors of Christ in the midst of a world, who hold him still in the same contempt, as when eighteen centuries since they nailed him to the cross. There must be some defect if we do not bring an atmosphere with us, which is more or less instantaneously felt.  It is the want of this high tone of character, that makes our private Ministrations so pointless and ineffective. For when parochial visits have been unaccompanied with one searching inquiry respecting the state of the soul, it is easily supposed, that, as no suspicion was thrown out, none was entertained; and that, if there was not quite so much religion as with some others, yet that there was no ground for alarm, nor had the solemn statements of the pulpit any specific reference to them (115-16).

When we consider that the ‘parson’ is the public person of the community, he must always be representing Christ in deed if not in word also.  We should especially fight the cultural pressure toward anonymity and the privitization of our faith.  Men of God, let us ever ‘go public’ with Him!

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The following is an excerpt from John MacLeod’s Scottish Theology in Relation to Church History, a volume compiled from his lectures at Westminster Seminary in April of 1939.  The children of the Scottish Kirk, grateful for their catechism, rise up to call their mother blessed!

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“From the point of view of modern pedagogy as set forth by so many theorists, who aspire to rank as specialists in the subject, exception has been taken to the wisdom of the method taken by the Reformers in conveying instruction.  Their critics hold that it was neither wisdom nor sound educational method for them to frame careful statements of Christian truth to be learned by heart by those under their charge.  Now we may take it that our fathers never meant to satisfy themselves when a mere rote acquaintance with such statemetns was attained.  They aimed at the opening up of the form of sound words in which they set forth the truth of the Gospel.  And when what was committed to memory was opened up by loving teachers at the fireside or in the congregation, the good of having learned the letter of such statements, which were a valuable exhibition of the Faith, came out.  And, what was more, those who, in the immature years of childhood, had their minds stored with what at the time when they learned to repeat it might be beyond their reach had, in later years, when their powers came to a measure of ripeness, the chance of working in their mind what they once had learned only by rote.  They carried with them from childhood a treasure the good of which they had been long familiar.  Often have those who have gone through a course in catechistic training in their early days come to discover how useful this teaching is to them now that in later days they have come to feel the power of the truth.  They are like a mill with all its mechanism in order that waited for the turning on of the water that it might work.  Once the power is brought to bear upon them they learn to their profit the connections in which the various portions of divine truth stand to one another. And thus they start their new life of discipleship with valuable assets to their credit.  When bread is thus cast upon the waters it may be found when most needed – in after days.  There is this over and above the blessing that often attends at the time the opening up and explanation of these statements to the mind of the child.  For those who teach a Catechism are expected to open up its teaching and explain its meaning” (101-102).

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For the previous installment, click here.  I include all of Paton’s comments reflecting his total abstinence views, though I do not share them.  They do provide an accurate picture of what some laborers in the city mission movement themselves endorsed. 

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Great good resulted from this Total Abstinence work. Many adults took and kept the pledge, thereby greatly increasing the comfort and happiness of their homes. Many were led to attend the church on the Lord’s Day, who had formerly spent it in rioting and drinking. But, above all, it trained the young to fear the very name of intoxicating drink, and to hate and keep far away from everything that led to intemperance. From observation, at an early age I became convinced that mere Temperance Societies were a failure, and that Total Abstinence, by the grace of God, was the only sure preventive as well as remedy. What was temperance in one man was drunkenness in another ; and all the drunkards came not from those who practised total abstinence, but from those who practised or tried to practise temperance. I had seen temperance men drinking wine in the presence of others who drank to excess, and never could see how they felt clear of blame; and I had known ministers and others, once strong temperance advocates, fall through their “moderation ” and become drunkards. Therefore it has all my life appeared to me beyond dispute, in reference to intoxicants of every kind, that the only rational temperance is total abstinence from them as beverages, and the use of them only as drugs, and then only with extreme caution, as they are deceptive and deleterious poisons of the most debasing and demoralizing kind. I found also, that when I tried to reclaim a drunkard, or caution any one as to intemperate habits, one of the first questions was,— “Are you a pledged Abstainer yourself?” By being enabled to reply decidedly, ” Yes, I am,” the mouth of the objector was closed ; and that gave me a hundred-fold more influence with him than if I had had to confess that I was only “temperate.” For the good of others, and for the increase of their personal influence as the servants of Christ, I would plead with every Minister and Missionary, every officebearer and Sabbath school teacher, every one who wishes to work for the Lord Jesus in the family, the Church, and the world, to be a Total Abstainer from all intoxicating drinks.

I would add my testimony also against the use of tobacco, which injures and leads many astray, especially the very young, and which never can be required by any person in ordinary health. But I would not be understood to regard the evils that flow from it as deserving to be mentioned in comparison with the unutterable woes and miseries of intemperance. To be protected, however, from suspicion and from evil, all the followers of Jesus should, in self-denial (how small!) and consecration to His service, be pledged Abstainers from both of these selfish indulgences, which are certainly injurious to many, which are no ornament to any character, and which can be no help in well-doing. Praise God for the many who are now so pledged!  Happy day for poor Humanity, when all the Lord’s people adopt this self-denying ordinance for the good of the race !

Not boastfully, but gratefully, let me record that my Classes and Meetings were now attended by such numbers that they were amongst the largest and most successful that the City Mission had ever known ; and by God’s blessing I was enabled to develop them into a regular, warmly attached, and intelligent Congregation.  My work, however exacting, was full of joy to me. From five to six hundred people were in usual weekly attendance; consisting exclusively of poor working persons, and largely of the humbler class of mill-workers. So soon as their circumstances improved, they were constantly removing to more respectable and healthy localities, and got to be scattered over all the city. But wherever they went, I visited them regularly to prevent their falling away, and held by them till I got them interested in some Church near where they had gone to live. On my return, many years after, from the Foreign Mission field, there was scarcely a congregation in any part of the city where some one did not warmly salute me with the cry, ” Don’t you remember me ?” And then, after greetings, came the well-remembered name of one or other member of my old Bible Class.

Such toils left me but small time for private studies. The City Missionary was required to spend four hours daily in his work ; but often had I to spend double that time, day after day, in order to overtake what was laid upon me. About eight or ten of my most devoted young men, and double that number of young women, whom I had trained to become visitors and tract distributors, greatly strengthened my hands. Each of the young men by himself, and the young women two by two, had charge of a portion of a street, which was visited by them regularly twice every month. At a monthly meeting of all our Workers, reports were given in, changes were noted, and all matters brought under notice were attended to. Besides, if any note or message were left at my lodging, or any case of sickness or want reported, it was looked after by me without delay. Several Christian gentlemen, mill-owners and other employers in the Gallon, Mile-end, and Bridgeton of Glasgow, were so interested in my work that they kindly offered to give employment to every deserving person recommended by me, and that relieved much distress and greatly increased my influence for good.

Almost the only enemies I had were the keepers of Public-Houses, whose trade had been injured by my Total Abstinence Society. Besides the Saturday night meetings all the year round, we held, in summer evenings and on Saturday afternoons, Evangelistic and Total Abstinence services in the open air. We met in Thomson’s Lane, a short, broad street, not open for the traffic of conveyances, and admirably situated for our purposes. Our pulpit was formed by the top of an outside stair, leading to the second flat of a house in the middle of the lane. Prominent Christian workers took part with us in delivering addresses; an intimation through my classes usually secured good audiences; and the hearty singing of hymns by my Mission Choir gave zest and joy to the whole proceedings. Of other so-called ” attractions ” we had none, and needed none, save the sincere proclamation of the Good Tidings from God to men!

On one occasion, it becoming known that we had arranged for a special Saturday afternoon demonstration, a deputation of Publicans complained beforehand to the Captain of the Police that our meetings were interfering with their legitimate trade. He heard their complaints and promised to send officers to watch the meeting, prevent any disturbance, and take in charge all offenders, but declined to prohibit the meetings till he received their reports. The Captain, a pious Wesleyan, who was in full sympathy with us and our work, informed me of the complaints made and intimated that his men would be present, but I was just to conduct the meeting as usual, and he would guarantee that strict justice would be done. The Publicans, having announced amongst their sympathisers that the Police were to break up and prevent our meeting and take the conductors in charge, a very large crowd assembled, both friendly and unfriendly, for the Publicans and their hangers-on were there ” to see the fun,” and to help in baiting the Missionary. Punctually, I ascended the stone stair, accompanied by another Missionary who war also to deliver an address, and announced our opening hymn. As we sang, a company of Police appeared, and were quietly located here and there among the crowd, the Serjeant himself taking his post close by the platform, whence the whole assembly could be scanned. Our enemies were jubilant, and signals were passed betwixt them and their friends, as if the time had come to provoke a row. Before the hymn was finished, Captain Baker himself, to the infinite surprise of friend and foe alike, joined us on the platform, devoutly listened to all that was said, and waited till the close. The Publicans could not for very shame leave, while he was there at their suggestion and request, though they had wit enough to perceive that his presence had frustrated all their sinister plans. They had to heat our addresses and prayers and hymns ; they had to listen to the intimation of our future meetings. When all had quietly dispersed, the Captain warmly congratulated us on our large and well-conducted congregation, and hoped that great good would result from our efforts. This opposition, also, the Lord overruled to increase our influence, and to give point and publicity to our assaults upon the kingdom of Satan. Though disappointed thus, some of the Publicans resolved to have revenge. On the following Saturday evening, when a large meeting was being addressed in our Green Street Church, which had to be entered by a great iron gateway, a spirit merchant ran his van in front of the gate, so that the people could not leave the Church without its removal. Hearing this, I sent two of my young men to draw it aside and clear the way. The Publican, watching near by in league with two policemen, pounced upon the young men whenever they seized the shafts, and gave them in charge for removing his property. On hearing that the young men were being marched to the Police Office, I ran after them and asked what was their offence ? They replied that they were prisoners for injuring the spirit merchant’s property; and the officers tartly informed me that if I further interfered I would be taken too. I replied, that as the young men only did what was necessary, and at my request, I would go with them to the Office. The cry now went through the street, that the Publicans were sending the Missionary and his young men to the Police Office, and a huge mob rushed together to rescue us; but I earnestly entreated them not to raise disturbance, but allow us quietly to pass on. At the Office, it appeared as if the lieutenant on duty and the men under him were all in sympathy with the Publicans. He took down in writing all their allegations, but would not listen to us. At this stage a handsomely dressed and dignified gentleman came forward and said,—

” What bail is required ?” 

A few sharp words passed ; another, and apparently higher, officer entered, and took part in the colloquy. I could only hear’ the gentleman protest, in authoritative tones, the policemen having been quietly asked some questions.—

“I know this whole case, I will expose it to the bottom ; expect me here to stand by the Missionary and these young men on Monday morning.”

Before I could collect my wits to thank him, and before I quite understood what was going on, he had disappeared; and the superior officer turned to us and intimated in a very respectful manner that the charge had been withdrawn, and that I and my friends were at liberty. I never found out exactly who the gentleman was that befriended us; but from the manner in which he asserted himself and was listened to, I saw that he was well known in official quarters. From that day our work progressed without further open opposition, and many who had been slaves of intemperance were not only reformed, but became fervent workers in the Total Abstinence cause.

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