Archive for July, 2008

William Carey, egotism, and eternal ennui

July 31st, 2008 Posted in Uncategorized

Writing to his dear friend Samuel Pearce in the autumn of 1795, William Carey told him: “Egotism is tedious…” [Letter to Samuel Pearce, October 2, 1795 in Periodical Accounts relative to the Baptist Missionary Society, I (1800), 215].

In the years that followed, Carey became something of a celebrity in the UK. He was very glad he was far away from most of it.

Why is egotism so tedious? Because to focus on the finite inevitably leads to boredom. But to focus on the Infinite God–infinite in glory, Infinite Beauty, infinite in kindness, infinite in goodness, Infinite Holiness–now that is a subject of which we shall never tire and it will take an eternity to plumb–and even then we shall not be done! And to be with men and women who are taken up with the Infinite God and filled with his glory and goodness and beauty–wow, what holy company, what fascinating fellowship–who would not want to be with such?

In this snippet of a comment, Carey joined that great theological conversation that had been going on since Origen postulated that the wicked angels fell because of satiety. Not so! But they and their fiendish leader are taken up with themselves–filled with egotistical pride–and what insufferable company to spend eternity with–eternal ennui–horrific the thought!

Call for papers

July 29th, 2008 Posted in Uncategorized

It might seem a tad early to be advertising this, but this post will serve as an initial call for papers to be presented in the parallel sessions of the 3rd annual Andrew Fuller Center conference to be held August 24-25, 2009, on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The theme for the conference is “Baptist Spirituality.” Plenary sessions will be given by, among others: Drs. Robert Strivens of London Theological Seminary; Crawford Gribben of Trinity College, Dublin; Tom Nettles and Greg Wills of SBTS; Greg Thornbury of Union University; and Gerald Priest of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.

Also, as a way of remembering the quatercentenary of the baptism of John Smyth, we hope to have as part of the conference a paper or two on John Smyth, his piety, and the General Baptists. This will be on the evening of August 25, when it can function as a stand-alone lecture or be taken as part of the conference.

Next year is also the sesquicentennial of the Seminary and so it will be a great time to be on campus.

We have a limited number of spaces (between a dozen and sixteen) available for the parallel sessions which should be 30 minutes or so in length. Potential speakers need to e-mail the Center ( ) with a title and brief outline of their proposal as well as a brief resume before October 31, 2008. The topic of these papers must fall within the theme of the conference, namely, “Baptist spirituality.” Submission of the proposal does not guarantee acceptance. The schedule of the parallel sessions will be posted within two weeks of this deadline.

And while you are thinking of this, check out on this website the upcoming conference on “The English Particular Baptists of the 17th century” which we trust will be a fabulous time of learning, challenge and fellowship. It will be held this August, on the 25th and 26th.

How to critique Andrew Fuller

July 28th, 2008 Posted in Andrew Fuller

Silhouettee of Fuller

Silhouette of Fuller

Andrew Fuller has not been immune from criticism in the past or in the present. A few authors in the nineteenth century were quite critical of “Fullerism” for its emphasis on the necessity of faith in Christ. If faith is a gift, then they argued it cannot be a duty. A few authors in the twentieth century had similar concerns. What is disturbing about some of these attacks is not so much their critical theological comments but their ad hominem spirit.

I recently came across this marvellous review of Thomas Ekins Fuller’s A Memoir of the Life and Writings of Andrew Fuller inThe Primitive Church (or Baptist) Magazine 20 (London, 1863) that shows how criticism of Fuller should be done. The author of the review begins by saying that “once for all, we must enter our protest against that system of wholesale condemnation, that will admit of nothing good in a man, if some part of his divinity system happen to be open to question.” Though a man may be wrong as a divine, the author continued, he may well rank “among the most devoted servants of God” (p.254).

The author believes that “Fullerism” is not at all scriptural, yet he is prepared to argue that Fuller himself was “an eminent, a powerful, and a useful man.” So passionate was he for missions and devoted to God, that the author was prepared to say: “we ardently wish there were tenfold more Andrew Fullers among us now.” And in order to perpetuate “the piety, the devotedness, and self-denying zeal” of Fuller the reviewer recommended this memoir by his grandson (p.255).

Personally I do not believe “Fullerism” is unbiblical, but how refreshing to read such a review–albeit one hundred and forty-five years after it was written. This is how to critique those with whom we disagree.

Being myopic

July 27th, 2008 Posted in 21st Century

Here is a fabulous phrase from Cardinal Ivan Dias, the Vatican’s Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, who made a very recent splash in some British newspapers when he remarked that some Western churches live “myopically in the fleeting present”. Whatever the Cardinal may have intended by the remark–it seems it was a dig at British Anglicanism–his remark can be read also as a pungent critique of North American Evangelicalism that more often than not is quite happy to forget the past and bask in “the fleeting present.”

Reflections from a Trip to Wales, Part I

July 5th, 2008 Posted in 18th Century

It is often not during a visit to another clime or land that one realizes the impact of the visit or sojourn. It was so for me last month when I visited Wales.

Statue of Thomas Charles

Statue of Thomas Charles

The last time I had been in Wales was in 1992 when I drove to Aberystwyth from Oxford to do research at the National Library of Wales. I spent three or four glorious days in that town, studying by day in the Library and by night walking the promenade along the beach and looking wistfully across the Irish Sea to my forebears’ native land of Ireland.

It was too long to have not been back to Wales! No wistful longing for Ireland on this trip. I was too absorbed by what I was seeing and experiencing. I went to Wales to speak at the Bala Ministers’ Conference, preach—in Newport, Gwent (Emmanuel Church, Newport) and Narberth (—and give a talk on Benjamin Daniel Thomas (1843-1917)—“Dr. Thomas of Toronto”—at Bethesda Baptist Church, Narberth, where Thomas had grown up as a child of the manse (it is the church’s 200th anniversary this year). I was with my daughter for much of the time, so we did the legionary fortress at Caerleon (which was superb) and had a day in Bath.

Ann Griffiths

But it was the drive to and from Bala, a half-day looking at Howell Harris sites, and the time in Pembrokeshire that deeply impacted me. Pastor Graham Harrison, who generously gave of his time to drive me around and who, with his wife Eluned, fabulously hosted my daughter and I, drove me to Bala. And then on the way back drove through country associated with Ann Griffiths (1776-1805) and William Williams Pantycelyn (1717-1791). I was deeply moved to see places associated with these two figures, two of my favourite hymnwriters. And then to go to places associated with Howel Harris: Talgarth, where he was converted—I wish I had recalled that Williams was awakened in the very graveyard adjacent to the church (see Look at Talgarth church); Trefeca, where Harris’ home is located, once a college, now a retreat

Tombstone of William Williams

Tombstone of William Williams

and conference centre and where there is a Howell Harris Museum; and Llangasty, where Harris had a “baptism of fire” as Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it—see his Howell Harris and Revival. It wasdeeply moving to be in places where God had moved so powerfully and kindled revival. It brought to the fore, as I have reflected on those aspects of the trip, that our great need as Evangelicals—our greatest need—is to cease from man and cry out to God for the outpouring of his Spirit in power and in a baptism of fire and renewal.

To be cont’d.

Owen and A “Clear Shining From God”

July 5th, 2008 Posted in 17th Century, Puritans

Would you work for God in a specific cause? Then, there must be what John Owen, that immortal Puritan, called a “clear shining from God”:

“Clear shining from God must be at the bottom of deep labouring with God.”[1]

[1] Cited Peter Barraclough, John Owen (1616-1683) (London: Independent Press Ltd., 1961), 6.

Desserts and Irony

July 5th, 2008 Posted in 21st Century

In a statement reeking with hubris, Henry Morgentaler has said that he believes he deserves the Order of Canada given to him earlier this month and that, in part it appears, because abortion has become “one of the safest surgical techniques.” The utter irony of this statement seems to have been lost on the man and the media that reported this remark [Morgentaler: I ‘Deserve’ Order of Canada].

Canada Day: Rejoicing and Sorrowing

July 1st, 2008 Posted in 21st Century

I am a Canadian. My parents brought me here from the United Kingdom when I was twelve in 1965. I found it difficult at first, but I have come to love this nation—her topography and human archaeology, her customs and culture—and I am proud to describe myself as a Canadian. I love my roots in England and Ireland, and my wife’s Scottish heritage—I have grown to love the United States—but I am first of all a Canadian when it comes to national identity. And Canada Day is therefore a special day (though I do wish it were still called Dominion Day—I love to think of this nation as a Dominion). A day to celebrate what is best about this nation and how good God has been to us. What a shock then to read of Henry Morgentaler being named to the Order of Canada on Canada Day. To do such on the day when we celebrate what is best about our nation is little better than an insult to those of us Canadians who believe that most of this nation’s abortions over the past thirty or more years have amounted to wholesale murder. Morgentaler’s advocacy of the right to abortion has not helped our fair land but stained it with the blood of countless innocents. He claims to speak for women—but who speaks for the voiceless within the womb? To honour such a man is transpose the categories of good and evil and say what is evil is good. I weep for this nation. O Lord Almighty be merciful to us for not only this sin, but all of the others with which we as Canadians have angered you. In wrath remember mercy!