Archive for June, 2006

At the Cradle of the Reformation

June 30th, 2006 Posted in Reformation

I went with Nigel Pibworth today to Cambridge, England, one of my favourite cities. Saw a number of things that I hope to blog about: most deeply impressed with seeing Hugh Latimer’s pulpit in the church where Thomas Bilney and Robert Barnes began to proclaim Reformation truth. According to the website of this church, St Edward King and Martyr:

“The church played a unique role in the early days of the Reformation. A group of evangelicals in Cambridge, of whom Thomas Bilney was the first, had been meeting regularly in the early 1520s. They were influenced by a fresh translation of the New Testament by Erasmus and by the ideas of Luther, and believed passionately in the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ.”

“At the Christmas Midnight Mass at St Edward’s in 1525 one of them, Robert Barnes, preached what was probably the first openly evangelical sermon to be preached in any church in the country, proclaiming the Christian gospel and accusing the Church of its heresies. St Edward’s can thus claim to be ‘the cradle of the Reformation’ in England. Other reformers preached regularly at St Edward’s, including Hugh Latimer until he left Cambridge in 1531. Some of his sermons preached here have been preserved, and the pulpit from which the reformers preached is still in use.”

Thomas Chalmers on the Imputed Righteousness of Christ

June 30th, 2006 Posted in 19th Century, Great Quotes

The doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ is being challenged today by some Evangelicals. They are far are not only from Scriptural truth but also our Evangelical heritage rooted in that truth.

Here is Thomas Chalmers, from his introduction to Abraham Booth’s The Reign of Grace from its Rise to its Consummation (1768):

“Had we fulfilled the law of God, heaven would have been ours, and it would have been given to us because of our righteousness. We have broken that law, and yet heaven may be ours, not because of our righteousness, but still because of a righteousness; and the honor of God is deeply involved in the question, What and whose righteousness this is? It is not the righteousness of man, but the righteousness of Christ reckoned unto man. The whole distinction between a covenant that is now exploded, and the covenant that is now in force, hinges upon this alternative. If we make a confidence of the former plea, we shall perish; and if of the latter, we shall have everlasting life.

“The merit of His well-beloved Son is to Him the incense of a sweet-smelling savor, so that the guiltiest creature who takes shelter there, has posted himself on the very avenue, along which there ever rolls the tide of divine complacency. We should invest ourselves then with this merit, and wrap ourselves firmly in it, as in a covering. We should put on Christ, who is offered to us without money and without price. We should present ourselves before God, with His invitation as our alone warrant, and the truth of His promises, which are yea and amen in Christ Jesus, as our alone confidence. His place in the new covenant is to declare our forgiveness, through the blood of a satisfying atonement. Our place in the covenant, is to give credit to that declaration.”

Reader: is what is delineated in the second paragraph a reality in your life?

Seeing the 1526 Tyndale New Testament

June 29th, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

I must admit I do love large metropolitan areas: the life and energy, the bookstores and libraries, the variety of people, the press of life and the urgency of reaching them for Christ… I love Manhattan for all of this. And London where I went today.

Spent some time at the THE BRITISH LIBRARY – The world’s knowledge. Awesome to see Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus, two of the most precious Biblical codices.

Also thrilling was seeing the book for which the British Library paid the equivalent of well over two million dollars in 1994. Dr. Brian Lang, the chief executive of the Library at the time, described it as “certainly the most important acquisition in our 240-year history.” The book? A copy of the New Testament. Of course, it was not just any copy. In fact, at the time it was purchased there was only one other known New Testament like this one in existence, and that one, which is in the library of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, is lacking seventy-one of its pages.

The New Testament that the British Library purchased was lodged for many years in the library of the oldest Baptist seminary in the world, Bristol Baptist College, Bristol, England. It had been bequeathed to the College by Andrew Gifford (1700-1784), a London Baptist minister. It was printed in the German town of Worms on the press of Peter Schoeffer in 1526 and is known as the Tyndale New Testament after its remarkable translator—William Tyndale. It was the first printed New Testament to be translated into English out of the original Greek, and is indeed an invaluable book. Since then a third copy has been found in a German library.

But what a thrill to see it. How much we owe, under God, to Tyndale.

Advocating Closed Communion–Being a Consistent Baptist

June 29th, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

Nathan Finn has been blogging about closed communion. Some good stuff here, check it out. Also he has a very interesting post on Baptism, Church Membership, and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. I too think that the slippery slope argument can be overworked in terms of historical precedent, but this is a very sobering post. Read it.

Kirk Wellum Joins Tbs Full-Time

June 28th, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

Here is an important announcement from my dear friend and now full-time colleague Kirk Wellum: A Time of Change.

Evangelical History near Biggleswade

June 28th, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

I am currently in the UK—in Biggleswade, Beds., England, to be exact—staying with my dear friends Nigel and Janice Pibworth.

I flew over last night into Heathrow on British Airways. Nigel picked me up and today he and I visited nearby Moggerhanger Park—For more information visit the Moggerhanger Website (click here)—built by Sir John Soane and linked with the Thorntons of the Clapham Sect (the abolitionist friends of William Wilberforce), and Moot Hall in Elstow, which is associated with John Bunyan (1628-1688) (see Elstow Moot Hall photo).

There is so much Evangelical history in this area of England! What a delight to the soul to remember the works of the Lord in the past and trust him to do similar great things again.

Spinoza and God

June 21st, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

In a recent review of Rebecca Goldstein’s Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity (Nextbook/Shocken, 2006), literary critic Harold Bloom notes that “Spinoza’s God is scarcely distinguishable from Nature, and is altogether indifferent to us, even to our intellectual love for him” [“The Heretic Jew”, The New York Times Book Review (June 18, 2006), 7]. Despite some critical remarks about Spinoza as a thinker, Bloom feels that his Ethics is quite illuminating, though “light without heat” [ibid., 7]. I could not help but think of Jonathan Edwards when I read this remark, for Edwards loved to use this metaphor of light and heat. But how different Edwards’ philosophical reflections: there we find both heat and light.

And, although Bloom calls Spinoza “greatly cold and coldly great” in his thinking about God, he feels that this perspective is vastly better than the situation that currently prevails in what he calls “our religion-mad” United States. For in the latter, many are “persuaded that God loves each of them, personally and individually” and this, from Bloom’s vantage-point, is surely one of the reasons for “the daily slaughters on the streets of Baghdad” during “this era of George W. Bush.” [ibid., 7].

The logic here is tenuous at best and at worst is a mockery of what is at the heart of biblical Christianity. Belief in a personal God who is active in history and loves men and women as individuals does not necessarily entail what Bloom claims. And how can one explain the passion we feel and the longing for both heat and light if our Maker is merely Cold Light?

Spurgeon on Keeping in Step with the Spirit

June 20th, 2006 Posted in Theology

This week I am at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—one of my most favourite places in the world—teaching a course on Baptist theologians. At the end of the week we shall be looking at Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), that remarkable preacher-theologian. Here is a taster of the theological riches to be found in his preaching. These texts speak of the need of our churches to keep in step with the Holy Spirit. May God enable us to learn the theological lesson these texts proclaim.

In an early sermon, “The Superlative Excellence of the Holy Spirit,” Spurgeon emphasizes that the Spirit must be treated with “deep awe and reverence.” Believers must be careful not to grieve him or provoke him to anger through sin. Moreover, if “the Holy Spirit be indeed so mighty, let us do nothing without him; let us begin no project, and carry on no enterprise, and conclude no transaction, without imploring his blessing.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 10:338).

In a later sermon, entitled “The Paraclete,” which was preached in 1872, Spurgeon reminded his audience that if they truly considered the Spirit to be their “sole force,” then they ought to: “Love the Spirit, worship the Spirit, trust the Spirit, obey the Spirit, and, as a church, cry mightily to the Spirit. Beseech him to let his mighty power be known and felt among you.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 18:564). And putting his own advice into practice, Spurgeon went on to cry: “Come, Holy Spirit now! Thou art with us, but come with power and let us feel thy sacred might!” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 18:564).

Spurgeon was all too aware of the consequences of failing to heed such advice. In a sermon preached two years before “The Paraclete,” the Baptist preacher laid before the congregation of the Metropolitan Tabernacle what he called “A Most Needful Prayer Concerning the Holy Spirit.” His text was the prayer of David in Psalm 51:11: “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” After a personal confession, in which Spurgeon declared that he “would sooner die a thousand times, than lose the helpful presence of the Holy Ghost,” he used a vivid illustration, fresh in the minds of his hearers, to depict the church from which the Spirit has departed.

On the other side of the English Channel the Franco-Prussian War was raging, and, as Spurgeon preached, the war was going badly for the French, who would suffer a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Prussians at the end of that year. “Any church from which the Spirit has departed,” Spurgeon declared, “becomes very like that great empire with whose military glory the world was dazzled, and whose strength made the nations tremble. France, mistress of arms, queen of beauty, arbiter of politics, how soon has she fallen!…The nation once so great now lies bleeding at her victor’s feet, pitied of us all none the less because her folly continues the useless fight. Just so have we seen it in churches; may we never so see it here.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 16:562).

Spurgeon turns to the geography of Egypt to drive his point home even further. Areas of land in Egypt which were once fertile because of life-giving irrigation canals drawn from the Nile River are now desert simply because these canals have been allowed to lapse into disuse. So it is with churches, Spurgeon emphasizes. Churches “irrigated by the Spirit,” he declared, “once produced rich harvests of souls; left of the Spirit the sand of the world has covered them, and where once all was green and beautiful there is nothing but the former howling wilderness.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 16:563).

Sticking with Egypt for a further illustration, Spurgeon takes up an aspect of the history of that land. The nineteenth century witnessed the systematic ransacking of the Egyptian pyramids by European archaeologists and explorers. Prominent amongst the treasures found in these pyramids were the mummified bodies of the Pharaohs. Spurgeon clearly has little sympathy with the removal of these bodies of the ancient Egyptian kings. Their discovery and exposure to “every vulgar eye” awakens in Spurgeon “melancholy reflections.” These poor mummies, “once a Pharaoh whose voice could shake a nation and devastate continents,” are now mere objects for a museum. And now Spurgeon draws the comparison with the local church.

“[A]live by the divine indwelling, God gives it royalty, and makes it a king and priest unto himself among the sons of men; its influence is felt further than it dreams; the world trembles at it, for it is fair as the sun, clear as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners; but when the Spirit of God is departed, what remains but its old records, ancient creeds, title-deeds, traditions, histories and memories? it is in fact a mummy of a church rather than a church of God, and it is better fitted to be looked at by antiquarians than to be treated as an existent agency.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 16:563).

Happy Birthday to C.H.S. & Blaise Pascal

June 19th, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

Here is a good quote from C.H. Spurgeon on his 172nd birthday by Darrin Brooker:

Also happy birthday to Blaise Pascal, born on this day in 1623.

Boyce, Broadus and the Doing of Church History

June 17th, 2006 Posted in Church History, Historians

I have been working through the life of James Petigru Boyce (1827-1888) by his close friend John A. Broadus (1827-1895), just reprinted by Solid Ground Christian Books as A Gentleman and a Scholar: Memoir of James P. Boyce (2004). It is a tremendous study, exhaustive and rich with Broadus’ comments on the life and times of Boyce. I suspect the time is ripe for a new biography of Boyce, especially with the sesquicentennial of the founding of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary upcoming in 2009.

Here is one priceless comment by Broadus on the teaching of Church History. He is in the midst of discussing the great sacrifice made by Boyce in 1872, for theological reasons, of giving up his favourite subject, Systematic Theology, to his colleague William Williams to teach. William Williams taught as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government. In his ecclesiological convictions, though, Williams believed that immersion in a Paedobaptist congregation or immersion by the Campbellites was a valid baptism. Understandably, there were objections to this view, and Boyce, knowing that his own views on the issue were more mainstream offered to switch teaching responsibilities. It was a great sacrifice, not least, because Broadus says, church history is “a subject so vast, and demanding boundless reading” (A Gentleman and a Scholar, 227).

How true this is! Whenever someone tells me that they would like to study church history among the traditional curricula of theology, I urge him to consider this truth about church history: it is “a subject so vast, and demanding boundless reading.” You must be a reader and be prepared to attempt to survey the vast picture. Quite a challenge!

And even more so now than when Boyce took it up. Why so? Not only do we have another 150 years of church history, but also because the breadth of methodological tools have increased. In that day, the focus was very much “a history of ideas and institutions” approach. But today an historian must be familiar with tools of sociological and cultural analysis. Who is sufficient for such things?