Archive for August, 2008

8,000 martyrs

August 31st, 2008 Posted in 17th Century, Puritans

In response to my mention in the previous post of 8,000 Dissenters dying in prisons during the reign of Charles II and James II, a dear friend, Ron Miller, made this extremely helpful comment:

“The 8000 number is found in De Foe’s preface to De Laune’s A Plea for the Non-Conformists, p 4 in the 1720 edition I have, the seventh paragraph from the start. De Foe says this, ‘I am sorry to say, he is one of near eight thousand Protestant Dissenters that perish’d in prison in the days of that merciful [sarcasm?!] prince, King Charles the Second’.”

John Bunyan & his poem/hymn “He who would valiant be”

August 31st, 2008 Posted in Uncategorized

In a recent book, Tom Paulin—The Secret Life of Poems: A Poetry Primer (London: Faber and Faber, 2008)—discusses John Bunyan’s “He who would valiant be” (pages 31-35) in terms of its poetic merit, its thought and its historical context.

Paulin judges it to be “one of the finest English hymns” (p.31-32), a “simple and austere puritan lyric,” that is deeply indebted to Shakespeare in spots (p.32). The phrase “come hither,” for example, Paulin reckons to be taken from the Stratford bard’s As You Like It (p.32-33).

Paulin relates portions of the hymn to Bunyan’s own writings, especially The Pilgrim’s Progress and the vicious historical context of the persecution by the Stuart regime. He notes that 8,000 Dissenters died as a result of goal fever in this time. I do not recall having seen such a figure. Nor does Paulin give his source for it. But it drives home the difficulties of that day.

In sum, Paulin writes that “this short, beautiful lyric is packed with great historical and personal suffering—and with unyielding courage and conviction” (p.35)—high praise indeed.

P.S. Incidentally, at the 2nd annual Andrew Fuller Center conference, held this past week at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a number of papers dealt with this theme of persecution: the plenary session by Austin Walker on Benjamin Keach, and two parallel sessions on Abraham Cheare and Thomas Hardcastle by Jeff Robinson and Peter Beck respectively.

For the audio of these, see The English Baptists of the 17th Century, August 25-26, 2008.

Conference Audio Now Available

August 29th, 2008 Posted in Uncategorized

The audio for this week’s conference on the 17th Century English Particular Baptists has now been posted online.  All the lectures (including the parallel sessions) are now available for free MP3 download on the conference page.  By all accounts, the conference was a great blessing to those who attended and it is hoped that this blessing can now be extended to those who would have liked to have attended, but were unable to do so.

Posted by Steve Weaver, Research and Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin.

Conference on 17th Century English Baptists Begins Today

August 25th, 2008 Posted in Uncategorized

Today the 2nd annual conference of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies begins.  The theme this year is the English Calvinistic Baptists of the Seventeenth Century.  A complete schedule is available here.  It is hoped that the audio will be available soon in MP3 format online for the benefit of those unable to attend.

Posted by Steve Weaver, Research and Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin.

Augustine Birrell and the weakness of Victorian Nonconformity

August 15th, 2008 Posted in 19th Century

What kind of historical memory is needed today? Well, we need to know the Fathers, to remind ourselves of the catholicity of our Faith. We cannot forget the great gains made by the Reformers–no, I dare opine, the Reformation is not over. The children of the Reformers, the Puritans, need to be read for their sturdy piety and confessionalism. The eighteenth century–my favourite century, if I were to name one–must be remembered for the Spirit’s great works. And then overlaying these last two our Baptist heritage (we cannot know who we are if we not know whence we came–whence our persons indeed if we forget our spiritual kin?).

Now, in all of this, it would be easy to overlook the Victorians. But there is much to be learned from them. This one thing, for example: the way in which much of late nineteenth-century Evangelicalism traded in its heritage for a mess of liberal stew! The rot, so evident in the twentieth century, has far deeper roots than we imagine.

These words of the Victorian politician Augustine Birrell (1850-1933), an unbeliever though the son of the Evangelical Baptist minister Charles Mitchell Birrell (d.1880), about the impact of the writings of Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)–born in Ecclefechan, what a name that!–and the Roman Catholic John Henry Newman (1801-1890) could have been written today: “these great writers found their most enthusiastic readers among the ranks of youthful Nonconformity” [Things Past Redress (London: Faber and Faber, 1937), 273]. “Youthful Nonconformity”–the heirs of the Puritans and the Evangelicals of the eighteenth century–Birrell continues, found “great solace” in these two authors, one an arch-opponent of all things Evangelical and the other a Roman Catholic author (ibid.).

Little wonder the succeeding weakness of Nonconformity when faced with the behemoth of Liberalism. The abandonment of a rich heritage and for what? And what the end result? Spiritual desolation. 1 Cor 10:6.

Eusebeia 9 to the Printer

August 13th, 2008 Posted in Uncategorized

The latest issue of Eusebeia: The Bulletin of the Andrew Fuller Center is headed to the printer and should be ready to be shipped by the end of this month.  This issue focuses on the namesake of the Center, Andrew Fuller himself.  The theme is “Reading Andrew Fuller.”  The journal features nine scholarly articles by the likes of Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin, Dr. Carl R. Trueman, and Dr. Thomas J. Nettles.  Most of the articles were originally papers presented at last year’s conference. For a complete Table of Contents with free access to the editorial and an article by Dr. Haykin click here.

Subscription information, as well as limited access to past issues, is available here.  It is our desire to eventually provide a Table of Contents for all issues along with each issue’s editorial by Dr. Haykin, a select article from each issue, and book reviews, all available for free PDF download. Some of the Table of Contents and articles from past issues have always been posted.  Others will be posted soon.  Be sure to visit this site regularly as new content is added often.

Posted by Steve Weaver, Research and Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

August 11th, 2008 Posted in 20th Century, 21st Century, Books

Another literary figure for whom I have a great admiration and who recently died was Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008). His literary masterpieces from my perspective were parts of The Red WheelAugust 1914, November 1916, Lenin in Zurich–and then One Day in the Life of Ivan Denosovich (a difficult read emotionally). I read many of his essays when a much younger Christian and deeply appreciated his critique of the godlessness and soul-lessness of Communism, especially when I had once professed myself a Marxist.

For a recent obituary, see Alexander Solzhenitsyn: Dissident writer who exposed the moral infamy of Soviet Communism by Mark Le Fanu (The Independent, August 5, 2008). See also John Piper, “Thank You, Lord, for Solzhenitsyn.”

Pauline Baynes (1922-2008)

August 11th, 2008 Posted in 20th Century, 21st Century, Books

Art and religion have long gone hand in hand. One thinks of the base use of the arts to create idols for worship. But, on the other hand, one needs to remember Bezalel, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit “to desvise artistic designs” in gold, silver, and bronze for use in the Temple (Exodus 31). And the Spirit filled this man so that his artistic ability might be a blessing to the people of God.

It is no less true today. One thinks of Rembrandt’s work, for example. Or the twentieth-century artist Pauline Baynes, who has just died. Her marvellous drawings of figures to accompany the Narnia tales of C.S. Lewis will long be remembered by this writer/reader.

For a recent obituary, see Pauline Baynes: Illustrator who depicted Lewis’s Narnia and Tolkien’s Middle-earth by Brian Sibley (The Independent, August 6, 2008).

New book by Iain H. Murray reviewed

August 10th, 2008 Posted in 20th Century, Pastoral Ministry

Iain H. Murray,
Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace
(Edinburgh/Carlisle, Pennsylvania:
The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008)

I am biased when it comes to books by and on Martyn Lloyd-Jones. By the grace of God, this man’s preaching and teaching has exercised such an influence for good in my life, I find it hard to pick up a book like this and not be reminded again of the central importance of this man’s ministry—not simply for my life—but for the life of the Church in the modern Western world. I trust that I do not think his ministry is the model for every conceivable Christian ministry (see the remarks on p.xi-xii, 6-7), but here is a man whose teaching the Church in our day needs to hear and heed. Lloyd-Jones’ great concern was “the recovery of true spiritual power amid the decline of Christianity in Britain”—and we might add, “and in the western world in general” (p.xiii; see also p.26-28). Some of his emphases in this regard were controversial, in particular his assertion of a distinct second work of the Holy Spirit, which he held in common with such Puritan authors as Richard Sibbes and Thomas Goodwin (p.127-163). And it would be easy to dismiss his great concern because of one’s disagreement with him on this specific issue. But that would be a great mistake. Murray has his disagreements with “the Doctor” in this matter (p.162-163), but he is rightly confident that Lloyd-Jones’ life and teaching can still be a great help to us today. The first chapter, entitled “The Lloyd-Jones Legacies” (p.3-28), is thus in some ways the key theme of the whole book—the way in which the emphases of Lloyd-Jones’ remarkable ministry are needed as much now as when they were first made.

In tracing the specific ways that Lloyd-Jones’ great concern for true spiritual revival is of present significance, Murray especially looks at: the Welshman’s deep conviction about the life-changing power of biblical preaching (p.17-22, 29-54) and that true preaching is a gift of the Holy Spirit (p.83); his evangelistic use of the Old Testament (p.55-83)—a rarity today among Reformed and Evangelical men; and his quarrel with fellow Reformed men who believed they could work with out-and-out liberals (p.165-208—see also p.263-267). Along the way there are numerous details about his preaching (p.85-106, 227-255) and a very helpful comparison between Lloyd-Jones and the Victorian Baptist C.H. Spurgeon, the similarities of their ministries and also the differences between them (p.109-125). Finally, a CD in a jacket at the back of the book which contains a tremendous sermon by Lloyd-Jones on the way men and women die—either “in their sins” or “ in the Lord”—serves as a reminder of the power of God that rested on his preaching.

What is clear from Murray’s examination of Lloyd-Jones’ legacy is that although his ministry cannot be taken as an exact blueprint of what biblical ministry looks like, its main emphases can be seen as typical: Christianity as fundamentally and ultimately a God-centered religion, the Church’s desperate need for the power of the Holy Spirit, the glorious transformation brought about by anointed preaching. Oh for such in our day!

New biography of John Cennick

August 3rd, 2008 Posted in 18th Century

Today I happened to drop in to the Coles bookstore at Limeridge Mall on the Hamilton mountain. Spent a few moments looking at the Biography section. Was amazed–though I shoudn’t be!–that most of the bios were of movie stars, rock stars, some royalty, and some sports heroes. Is this honestly what people are reading when it comes to biographies?

I spent a few minutes looking at one, that of Tatum O’Neal. I remembered her starring with her Dad in Paper Moon, a movie that sticks in my mind because I took my wife to it on our first date. What a sad, sad story she’s lived. I don’t expect most of the others of this genre–movie star bios–are much different. There is a place for such bios, if only to show how sad life is when the Lord Jesus is not in it.

What a contrast, then, was a recent biograpphy that I read, cover to cover–Peter Gentry and Paul Taylor, Bold as a lion: The Life of John Cennick (1718-1755), Moravian Evangelist (2007)–when I flew back from Wales in June. Here was a biography that was truly uplifting and strengthening to the soul, both challenging and inspiring to the heart. And in good biblical fashion, the book ended with a challenge to the present-day from Cennick’s life and theology.