Archive for June, 2010

Anne Steele, “The Savior calls”

June 29th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

One of the very few of Anne Steele’s hymns that are still sung today was originally entitled “The Savior’s Invitation,” and was based on Jesus’ words in John 7:37, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (KJV).

The Saviour calls—let every Ear
Attend the heavenly Sound;
Ye doubting Souls, dismiss your Fear,
Hope smiles reviving round.

For every thirsty, longing Heart,
Here Streams of Bounty flow,
And Life, and Health, and Bliss impart,
To banish mortal Woe.

Here, Springs of sacred Pleasure rise
To ease your every Pain,
(Immortal Fountain! full Supplies!)
Nor shall you thirst in vain.

Ye Sinners come, ‘tis Mercy’s Voice,
The gracious Call obey;
Mercy invites to heavenly Joys,—
And can you yet delay?

Dear Savior, draw reluctant Hearts,
To Thee let Sinners fly;
And take the Bliss Thy Love imparts,
And drink, and never die.[1]

Based on Jesus’ open invitation to sinners to come to him and drink, that is, find eternal life, Steele urges “every Ear” to “attend” to Christ’s heavenly invitation. He calls all who are “thirsty” and “longing” to come to him, where they will find “Life, and Health, and Bliss,” in sum, “Springs of sacred Pleasure” that will ease every woe. This invitation is a command—“the gracious Call obey”—but Steele is also aware that “the thirsty, longing Heart” is not sufficient in itself to come to Christ. In the final analysis it is a “reluctant Heart,” filled with doubt and fear. Hence, she prays, “Dear Savior, draw reluctant hearts.”

Anne was an eighteenth-century woman, and much has changed since her day: fashion and food, technology and government. But the human heart has not changed and nor has Jesus—“the same yesterday and today and forever.” And so we pray the same for our family and friends and neigbours and those we have never seen.


[1] A Collection of Hymns Adapted to Public Worship (3rd ed.; Bristol: W. Pine, 1778), Hymn 145.

Toronto violence, Scripture, and William Ward

June 29th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

There was violence this past weekend in the streets of Toronto, a city well-known to me and one that I love. In fact, the staging ground for the beginning of the protest marches against the G20 that led to the violence was the Allan Gardens, literally right next door to Toronto Baptist Seminary. Thankfully, I have been told that no damage was done to the seminary. But a lot of damage was done to downtown Toronto stores and businesses by anarchists intent on disrupting the G20. When that could not happen, they evidently became intent on doing as much damage as possible. There have been questions raised about police over-reaction to the rioting. Personally, I am very thankful that we had so many officers of the law on the scene who did a very credible job of containing the violence. We live in a democratic society—for which I thank God—and there are proper channels to voice disapproval of economic policies. And it strikes me as the height of hypocrisy to smash the windows of small stores and cause heartache and problems for small storeowners—all in the name of striking at big C capitalism and “corporate bosses.”

Biblically, Romans 13—though I know it is not the only text of the Bible that deals with our relationship to the state—has to be the Christian’s guideline here. Developing an attitude of submission to duly-constituted authorities is central to the development of Christian character. Of course, when the state seeks to shackle men and women in body and soul, Christians must obey God rather than man. But that is miles away from being the case here. The charges of statism against our government or any of those in the West is merely empty rhetoric. These protestors need to go to Saudi Arabia or Iran or North Korea and see what true statism looks like.

If you want to see what true radicalism looks like ponder the life of William Ward (1769-1823), who, as a printer during his younger years, had been involved in radical politics. It was the era of the French Revolution, and for some in the British Isles that historic event sparked thoughts of similar events in England. But then God got a hold of his life and he went out to India to serve as a missionary. His hardcore commitment to radical politics he put forever behind him when he went out to India, for he was invovled in a much radical exercise: ushering in the Kingdom of the Lord Christ. Of course, his Christian witness had political ramifications. One thinks of Ward’s role in the ending of sati and his prayers for and rejoicing in the end of slavery. But there was so much more: there was the freeing of the human spirit and the reconciliation of sinners to a holy God.

H C G Moule on Hebrews 13:7 and the need for church history

June 27th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

Handley C.G. Moule (1841–1920) was a descendant of Caleb Evans (see previous post). In his Messages from the Epistle to the Hebrews (London: Elliott Stock, 1909), chapter 12, he has this to say about the importance of church history:

Hebrews 13:7 “consecrates the fidelity of the Christian memory. It assures us that to cherish the names, the words, the conduct, the holy lives, the blessed deaths, of our teachers of days long done is no mere indulgence of unfruitful sentiment. It is natural to the Gospel, which, just because it is the message of an unspeakably happy future, also sanctifies the past which is the living antecedent to it. Just because we look with the love of hope towards “our gathering together unto Him,” we are to turn with the love of memory towards all the gifts of God given to us through the holy ones with whom we look to be “gathered together.” “The exit of their walk of life” (ver. 7) is to be our study, our meditation. We are to “look it up and down” ([Greek: anatheorountes]) as we would some great monument of victory, and from that contemplation we are to go back into life, to “imitate their faith,” to do just what they did, treating (xi. 1) the unseen as visible, the hoped-for as present and within our embrace. Thank God for this authorization and hallowing of our recollections. Precious indeed is its assurance that the sweetness of them (for all its ineffable element of sadness, as eyes and ears are hungry for the faces and the voices gone, for the look and tone of the preacher, the teacher, through whom we first knew the Lord, or knew Him better) is no half-forbidden luxury of the soul but a means of victorious grace.”

Caleb Evans and being a good historian

June 27th, 2010 Posted in 18th Century, Baptist Life & Thought

I first came across the name of Caleb Evans around 1977–78 when I was studying for my comprehensive exams for my Th.D. at the University of Toronto. In Church History at that time we were given 100 questions, in four groups of 25 questions apiece, covering the entire range of Church History. We prepared ourselves on five out of each category, thus twenty and then eight of these were chosen for written exams and also, if need be, oral exams.

 

One of the questions I was studying had to do with historiography. And it was while preparing for it that I came across this statement by the Welsh Baptist leader Caleb Evans (1737–91)[1]: “Every Christian ought to be a good historian.”[2] I forget now where I found it—it was not a Baptist work, I know that—but I have never forgotten this statement. It is so good and so true. It was not for another ten years or so that I discovered anything more about who Evans was. He is probably mostly remembered today as the key Baptist leader who “crossed swords” with John Wesley over the American Revolution. Evans’ critique of Wesley drew responses from two key Methodist lieutenants, John Fletcher and Thomas Olivers. But I will ever remember Evans for this statement about history!

 

Before making this statement, Evans says this about the purpose of history: “The study of History is one of the most improving as well as entertaining studies, the human mind can be engaged in. It extends our views, elevates our minds, blots out our narrow prejudices, and from a just and comprehensive view of the past, enables us to improve and enjoy the present moment, and prepare for the future.”[3]


[1] Evans, though Welsh, could not understand the Welsh language.

[2] The Remembrance of Former Days (2nd ed.; Bristol: William Pine, 1778), 24. This was a Fifth of November sermon.

[3] Remembrance of Former Days, 24.

Leadership in the Ancient Church

June 26th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

Over the past two hundred years it has not been uncommon for some historians of the Ancient Church to argue that formal leadership simply did not exist in the early decades of the church’s existence. Rather, they have maintained, things were quite fluid in the decades immediately after the resurrection of Christ and Pentecost. It was a period of charismatic leadership, when people who gave leadership to the church were regarded as leaders not so much due to any official recognition on the part of churches but because of their personal giftedness or because of the force of their personalities. Only with the passage of time did the church begin to have clearly designated offices of leadership like elders or bishops, and this marks a growing institutionalization of the church. From a fairly open fellowship of the Spirit in which all were equal, the church became more rigid and hierarchical.

The only problem with this model is that the evidence of the New Testament clearly presents us with a different picture. As we look at the following texts, it will be immediately clear that leadership, ever vital to any group of people, was present from the very origins of the Church:

a. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, for instance, which, apart from possibly James’ letter, is the earliest book in the New Testament, Paul states that the “one who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches” (ESV).

b. Again, in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, also a very early text, Paul encourages his readers: “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you” (ESV).

c. And in Philippians 1:1, Paul and Timothy, greet not only “all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi,” but also the “overseersand deacons” (ESV).

The key question for the early Christians was not whether to have leaders or not, but what kind of leaders? Leadership was a given. The key question was: What model of leadership was to be promoted?

Thomas De Laune (d.1685), the Cork Baptist and his Irishness

June 24th, 2010 Posted in 17th Century, Baptist Life & Thought

Thomas De Laune (d.1685), was native to Cork, Ireland. His background was Roman Catholic, but in the early 1650s he was converted through the instrumentality of Major Edward Riggs, a wealthy Cromwellian soldier who had settled on a large estate about seven miles from the town of Cork in 1651, and who was a key figure in the founding of the Cork Baptist Church (where I was for about eight days earlier this month). Riggs provided for De Laune’s education till the Cork man was sixteen or so. De Laune eventually moved to London, probably in the 1660s, where he became linked  with the leadership of the London Particular Baptist community. In July 1675, for instance, De Laune co-authored a book with Hanserd Knollys and William Kiffin and three others that defended believer’s baptism. Six years later De Laune and Benjamin Keach co-authored the monumental Tropologia, in which the authors seek to give the interpreter of the Bible a kind of Bible handbook in which he or she can find the explanation of the various tropes, metaphors, and similes in the Scriptures.

Reading through a work attributed to De Laune, namely, A Plea for the Non-Conformists (London, 1684) just now, I came across an interesting, albeit disturbing, statement. The author—indentified simply as “Philalethes” on the title page—is drawing his case for nonconformity to a close and he says that he hopes that he will be heard for he is appealing to “our own Country-men, Neighbours, Fellow-Citizens, Acquaintance, Relations, Gentlemen, Scholars, with men professing the same Protestant Religion with our selves.” He is not speaking, he emphasizes, to “brutish Irish Massacring-Cut-Throats, worse than Canibals [sic] (to whom all Reason, Right and Truth is unacceptable)” (p.78). The author is clearly De Laune, as can be seen by his Two Letters to Dr. Benjamin Calamy (London, 1683), and, in fact, A Plea for the Non-Conformists got De Laune committed to the infamous Newgate prison, where he perished in 1685, a genuine martyr for Dissent.

But what is shocking is that an Irishman could say such things about his fellow Irish! It could be that De Laune has one group of Irishmen in mind, but, at first glance the statement seems to reveal the racism that existed among the English regarding the Irish—and sadly, how an Irishman—who would have been betrayed by his accent like the ancient Galileans—could adopt English attitudes. Oh to move beyond such stereotyping, and see that at the door of the Church such perspectives must be shed wholly and utterly!

Andrew Fuller: the very model of a pastor-theologian

June 18th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

Broadman & Holman have been publishing a new series of monographs on the history of Baptists entitled “Studies in Baptist Life and Thought.” These monographs explore Baptist life together and Baptist thought, and are vital reading for anyone who loves the truths that Baptists have lived and died for. Given the many significant changes that the world is undergoing in our day, Baptists are being tempted to divorce themselves from their theological and spiritual roots. Behind this series is the conviction that such would be suicidal and that the volumes in this series will provide a way in which Baptists can learn from the past how to live faithfully for God in the present.

The latest volume in the series is Paul Brewster’s Andrew Fuller: Model Pastor-Theologian, due out this summer or early fall. Brewster, pastor of Ryker’s Ridge Baptist Church, Madison, Indiana, and an earned PhD from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, examines Fuller as a pastor and theologian and the way in which he was able to frame a theological perspective in the midst of a very busy pastorate.

In recent years, with the upsurge of interest in Reformed theology, there are a number of theologians who have been the focus of attention, Edwards, for example, or some of the Puritans like Owen. But when it comes to a solid model of Baptist ministry, who do we have? Spurgeon, without a shadow of a doubt. Well, after Spurgeon I would suggest that Fuller is a prime example of what a pastor-theologian looks like. Read Brewster’s book and see for yourself!

You can pre-order from Amazon.com for $19.79.

Jonathan Edwards: The Missionary?

June 7th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized

Dr. Haykin addresses whether Jonathan Edwards’ commitment to a Calvinist worldview inhibited missions in a recent post at the Jonathan Edwards Society’s blog.

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