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Archive for the ‘Church of Scotland’ Category

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

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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.

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download“And, I am sure, it is not much for our safety, that national and provincial fasts are so much neglected, when Providence so loudly calls us to the work of humiliation and prayer; when sin is arriving to so great a height, when clouds of wrath are gathering so fast; when all Europe is threatened with blood and confusion, and when destructive divisions and schisms are ready to break out among us at home; and O, do not these frightful appearances proclaim it to be a proper season for us to meet, and fast, and mourn, and see is we can weep our hearts into one lump, and, by our united prayers, prevail with God, for Christ’s sake, to ‘spare his people, and not give his heritage to reproach;’ or else, that he will prepare us to meet him, when coming in the way of his judgments? And, if judgment begin at the house of God, what shall be the end of these that obey not the gospel? O that God, in his mercy, may awaken us in time to think on these things!”

-John Willison of Dundee (1680-1750)

 

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Here is a delightful vignette of old parish ‘missions,’ if you will, in 17th century Presbyterian Scotland.  The minister, William Guthrie (1620-1665), labored to be all things to all men, that he might gain some.

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After William Guthrie came to Fenwick, many of the people were so rude and barbarous, that they never attended upon divine worship, and knew not so much as the face of their pastor. To such, everything that respected religion was disagreeable; many refused to be visited or catechised by him; they would not even admit him into their houses. To such he sometimes went in the evening disguised in the character of a traveller, and sought lodging, which he could not even obtain without much entreaty, but, having obtained it, he would engage in some general amusing conversation at first, and then ask them how they liked their minister. When they told him that they did not go to church, he engaged them to go and take a trial; others he hired with money to go. When the time of family worship came, he desired to know if they made any, and if not, what reasons they had for it.

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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.”

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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.

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One of my personal heroes is Scottish Presbyterian minster, Aeneas Sage (1694-1774). I’m not quite sure if everything written about him is totally accurate; I get a whiff of the hagiographic if not the legendary in some of the stories.  Yet, something in my gut tells me it is too good and so must be true!  (Like a historian friend of mine quipped, ‘If it ain’t true, it should be!’)  Whatever the case, Aeneas Sage captivates me, for as a pastor he knew how to captivate an audience – in more ways that one.

I’ve retold the following story countless times, from John Kennedy’s The Days of the Fathers in Ross-Shire.  I still remember first hearing it by an idiosyncratic minister having his wispy locks trimmed by his wife in his living room.  How his eyes sparkled as he struggled to repress laughter!  As I remember it again, it also gives me some tantalizing ideas in drawing a crowd for open air preaching, and of course, to win hearts for King Jesus in an increasingly secular age.  I already know one friend whose church has had good success gaining a crowd by basketball.  Then they preach a solid, Reformed sermon for 45 minutes – to public schoolers.  Maybe they took a chapter out of Aeneas Sage’s playbook.

If  you like the following, you’ll no doubt appreciate this piece about him too.  Now, without further audieu …

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Mr. Munro was preceded by the famous Mr. Aenas Sage —”a man of an undaunted spirit, who did not know what the fear of man was. He had, however, the fear of God, and great zeal for the good cause in its highest perfection. He was the determined enemy of vice, and a true friend of the gospel.” Such, according to Mr. Lachlan, was the character of Mr. Sage, the first minister who is known to have preached the Gospel in purity and with success in Lochcarron. At the time of his induction, the state of the parish was very much the same as it was found by the Presbytery to be in 1649, when after visiting it, they reported that “there were no elders in it, by reason of malignancy; swearing, drunkenness, cursing, Sabbath profanation, and uncleanness prevailed.” As to the church, there was found in it “ane formal stool of repentance, but no pulpit nor desks.” The stool, if the only, was truly the suitable seat for all the people of Lochcarron in these days; but the more it was required, the less power there was to make it aught else than “ane formal” thing, as the solitary occupant of the church.

Matters continued in this state till the induction of Mr. Sage, nearly eighty years after. He was just the man for the work of breaking up the fallow ground of a field so wild, and a rich blessing rested on his labours. On the night of his first arrival at Lochcarron an attempt was made to burn the house in which he lodged, and for some time after his induction his life was in constant danger. But the esteem he could not win as a minister, he soon acquired for great physical strength. The first man in Lochcarron in those days was the champion at the athletic games. Conscious of his strength, and knowing that he would make himself respected by all if he could only lay big Rory on his back, who was acknowledged to be the strongest man in the district, the minister joined the people on the earliest opportunity at their games. Challenging the whole field, he competed for the prize in putting the stone, tossing the caber, and wrestling, and won an easy victory. His fame, was established at once. The minister was now the champion of the district, and none was more ready to defer to him than he whom he had deprived of the laurel. Taking Rory aside to a confidential crack, he said to him, “Now, Rory, I am the minister, and you must be my elder, and we both must see to it that all the people attend church, observe the Sabbath, and conduct themselves properly.” Rory fell in with the proposal at once. On Sabbath, when the people would gather at their games in the forenoon, the minister and his elder would join them, and each taking a couple by the hand, they would drag them to the church, lock them in, and then return to catch some more. This was repeated till none were left on the field. Then, stationing the elder with his cudgel at the door, the minister would mount the pulpit and conduct the service. One of his earliest sermons was blessed to the conversion of his assistant, and a truly valuable coadjutor he found in big Rory thereafter. Mr. Lachlan thus describes the result of his ministry: —”Mr. Sage made the people very orthodox.” They “seem to have a strong attachment to religion.” “There is a great appearance of religion in Lochcarron; and as the fire of God’s Word is hereafter to try every man’s work, there is cause to hope that some of it will bear the trial.’

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