‘Biblical Spirituality’ Category

“All is Alike Inspired”

July 10th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Church History, Eminent Christians, Theology

By Evan D. Burns

Seeking to counter those who say the Bible is not inspired because of the varieties of its style and authorship, J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) employed metaphors and analogies that are very helpful for understanding the continuity of Scripture and its overall sufficient inspiration:

It proves nothing against inspiration, as some have asserted, that the writers of the Bible have each a different style. Isaiah does not write like Jeremiah, and Paul does not write like John. This is perfectly true— and yet the works of these men are not a whit less equally inspired. The waters of the sea have many different shades. In one place they look blue, and in another green. And yet the difference is owing to the depth or shallowness of the part we see, or to the nature of the bottom.  The water in every case is the same salt sea. The breath of a man may produce different sounds, according to the character of the instrument on which he plays. The flute, the pipe, and the trumpet, have each their peculiar note. And yet the breath that calls forth the notes, is in each case one and the same. The light of the planets we see in the skies is very various. Mars, and Saturn, and Jupiter, have each a peculiar color. And yet we know that the light of the sun, which each planet reflects, is in each case one and the same. Just in the same way the books of the Old and New Testaments are all inspired truth— and yet the aspect of that truth varies according to the mind through which the Holy Spirit makes it flow. The handwriting and style of the writers differ enough to prove that each had a distinct individual being; but the Divine Guide who dictates and directs the whole, is always one. All is alike inspired. Every chapter, and verse, and word— is from God.[1]


[1]J.C. Ryle, Bible Reading.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

“Have Mercy Upon Me”

June 26th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

In the Burmese catechism she wrote, Ann H. Judson (1789-1826) included her version of “The Sinner’s Prayer.”  It seems a bit different than the typical sinner’s prayer practiced today.  A few simple observations can be made about it:  it is rich with humility and God-centeredness, and it is Trinitarian.

O God our Father, I confess that I have committed many sins against you.
Because of these things, O Father, I deserve to be disowned and sent to suffer in hell, but instead Jesus died for me.
I want to depend on him.  So please have mercy upon me and give me a pure mind and clean heart.  Please forgive me for whatever sins I have done.
Please return me to the right way to be your disciple and help me keep your Word.
Please send down your Holy Spirit upon me, have mercy upon me, care for me and save me from hell after I die.  Take me to the peaceful City of Heaven, O God our Father.
Amen.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

“The Divine Harmony of Truth”

June 19th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

Charles Spurgeon challenged his students to preach the Word—all of it.  To withhold certain doctrines which do not appeal to the minister or which might be disagreeable to the people would be like withholding nutritious food necessary for bodily health.  The doctrines of Scripture are seen as most excellent when they come together in harmony as music in a grand symphonic orchestra.

The glory of God being our chief object, we aim at it by seeking the edification of saints and the salvation of sinners . It is a noble work to instruct the people of God, and to build them up in their most holy faith: we may by no means neglect this duty. To this end we must give clear statements of gospel doctrine, of vital experience, and of Christian duty, and never shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God. In too many cases sublime truths are held in abeyance under the pretence that they are not practical; whereas the very fact that they are revealed proves that the Lord thinks them to be of value, and woe unto us if we pretend to be wiser than He. We may say of any and every doctrine of Scripture—To give it then a tongue is wise in man. If any one note is dropped from the divine harmony of truth the music may be sadly marred. Your people may fall into grave spiritual diseases through the lack of a certain form of spiritual nutriment, which can only be supplied by the doctrines which you withhold. In the food which we eat there are ingredients which do not at first appear to be necessary to life; but experience shows that they are requisite to health and strength. Phosphorus will not make flesh, but it is wanted for bone; many earths and salts come under the same description— they are necessary in due proportion to the human economy. Even thus certain truths which appear to be little adapted for spiritual nutriment are, nevertheless, very beneficial in furnishing believers with backbone and muscle, and in repairing the varied organs of Christian manhood. We must preach “the whole truth,” that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works. [1]


[1]Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 336-337.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

The Key of Prayer

June 12th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Evan D. Burns

Charles Spurgeon, in his lectures to his students, commended the practice of prayer for the sake of unlocking the door of Scripture in order to find its hidden treasures.  Let us not forget the sacred union of prayer and Bible intake:

Your prayers will be your ablest assistants while your discourses are yet upon the anvil.  While other men, like Esau, are hunting for their portion, you, by the aid of prayer, will find the savoury meat near at home, and may say in truth what Jacob said so falsely, “The Lord brought it to me.” If you can dip your pens into your hearts, appealing in earnestness to the Lord, you will write well; and if you can gather your matter on your knees at the gate of heaven, you will not fail to speak well. Prayer, as a mental exercise, will bring many subjects before the mind, and so help in the selection of a topic, while as a high spiritual engagement it will cleanse your inner eye that you may see truth in the light of God. Texts will often refuse to reveal their treasures till you open them with the key of prayer. How wonderfully were the books opened to Daniel when he was in supplication! How much Peter learned upon the housetop! The closet is the best study. The commentators are good instructors, but the Author Himself is far better, and prayer makes a direct appeal to Him and enlists Him in our cause. It is a great thing to pray one’s self into the spirit and marrow of a text; working into it by sacred feeding thereon, even as the worm bores its way into the kernel of the nut. Prayer supplies a leverage for the uplifting of ponderous truths.[1]


[1]Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 43-44.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

What Are You Doing with Your Bible?

June 5th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

For those of us who are prone to buy good books, aspire to read them though they go on the shelf, and then rarely read them let alone read the Bible itself, J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) issues a clarion call to wake up from lethargic Bible intake:

Next to praying, there is nothing so important in practical religion as Bible-reading. God has mercifully given us a book which is “able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3: 15.).  By reading that book, we may learn what to believe, what to be, what to do; how to live with comfort, and how to die in peace. Happy is that man who possesses a Bible! Happier still is he who reads it! Happiest of all is he who not only reads it— but obeys it, and makes it the rule of his faith and practice! Nevertheless, it is a sorrowful fact that man has an unhappy skill in abusing God’s gifts….  And just as man naturally makes a bad use of his other mercies, so he does of the written Word. One sweeping charge may be brought against the whole of Christendom, and that charge is neglect and abuse of the Bible. To prove this charge we have no need to look abroad: the proof lies at our own doors. I have no doubt that there are more Bibles in Great Britain at this moment than there ever were since the world began. There is more Bible buying and Bible selling, more Bible printing and Bible distributing—than ever was since England was a nation. We see Bibles in every bookseller’s shop— Bibles of every size, price, and style; Bibles great, and Bibles small— Bibles for the rich, and Bibles for the poor. There are Bibles in almost every house in the land. But all this time I fear we are in danger of forgetting, that to have the Bible is one thing— and to read it quite another….  Surely it is no light matter what you are doing with the Bible. Surely, when the plague is abroad, you should search and see, whether the plague-spot is on you.[1]


 [1]J.C. Ryle, “Introduction”, Bible Reading.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

“To Hold Myself in Readiness”

May 8th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Missions

By Evan D. Burns

In 1826, God’s bitter providence had called Ann Judson to her heavenly home and left Adoniram Judson to mourn and continue on in his missionary labor.  After her death, in a letter on December 7, 1826, to Ann’s mother, Adoniram’s heavenly-minded piety shone through the dark night:

I will not trouble you, my dear mother, with an account of my own private feelings—the bitter, heart-rending anguish which for some days would admit of no mitigation, and the comfort which the Gospel subsequently afforded—the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which brings life and immortality to light.  Blessed assurance—and let us apply it afresh to our hearts—that, while I am writing and you perusing these lines, her spirit is resting and rejoicing in the heavenly paradise—

“Where glories shine, and pleasures roll
That charm, delight, transport the soul,
And every panting wish shall be
Possessed of boundless bliss in Thee.”[1]

And there, my dear mother, we also shall soon be, uniting and participating in the felicities of heaven with her for whom we now mourn.  Amen.  Even so come, Lord Jesus.[2]

Approximately six months after Ann’s death, their two-year old daughter Maria was also called home.  In a letter to Ann’s mother on April 26, 1827, Judson recounted his horrible grief and his heavenly hope.

All our efforts, and prayers, and tears could not propitiate the cruel disease; the work of death went forward, and after the usual process, excruciating to a parent’s heart, she ceased to breathe…. The next morning we made her last bed in the small enclosure that surrounds her mother’s lonely grave.  Together they rest in hope, under the hope tree, which stands at the head of the graves; and together, I trust, their spirits are rejoicing after a short separation of precisely six months.  And, I am left alone in the wide world.  My own dear family I have buried; one in Rangoon and two in Amherst.  What remains for me but to hold myself in readiness to follow the dear departed to that blessed world, “Where my best friends, my kindred, dwell, where God my Saviour reigns?”[3]


[1]From a hymn by Isaac Watts.

[2]Middleditch, Burmah’s Great, 222;  Wayland, Memoir, 1:420-421.

[3]Middleditch, Burmah’s Great, 230.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

“The Best of All Is, God Is With Us”

May 1st, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Missions

By Evan D. Burns

Adoniram Judson, after many years of pain and thankless labor, witnessed the death of the chief of the Karen people in Burma.  Most deaths led to sadness because they died without the light of the gospel of Christ (since the Bible was still being translated).  But this death was different than most; this Karen chief died in the Lord.  After witnessing the old dying chief’s conversion and baptism, the mysterious providences that clouded Judson’s life and labors didn’t seem so inscrutable anymore.  Judson rejoiced with the chief that God is indeed with us.  Judson wrote:

The dying words of an aged man of God, when he raised his withered, death-struck arm, and exclaimed, “The best of all is, God is with us.”  I feel in my very soul. Yes, the great Invisible is in these Karen wilds.  That mighty Being, who heaped up these craggy rocks, and reared these stupendous mountains, and poured out these streams in all directions, and scattered immortal beings throughout these deserts—he is present by the influence of his Holy Spirit, and accompanies the sound of the Gospel with converting, sanctifying power.  “The best of all is, God is with us.”

“In these deserts let me labor,
On these mountains let me tell
How he died—the blessed Saviour,
To redeem a world from hell.”[1]


[1]Middleditch, Burmah’s Great, 294.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

“We Reap on Zion’s Hill”

April 10th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians, Missions

By Evan D. Burns

After a life consumed in service to Christ, on April 12, 1850, Adoniram Judson entered his heavenly rest.  Judson’s eminent biographer, Francis Wayland, comments on the effect of Judson’s heavenly-minded piety on his life and virtue.

In treating of his religious character, it would be an omission not to refer to his habitual heavenly mindedness. In his letters, I know of no topic that is so frequently referred to as the nearness of the heavenly glory.  If his loved ones died, his consolation was that they should all so soon meet in paradise.  If an untoward event occurred, it was of no great consequence, for soon we should be in heaven, where all such trials would either be forgotten, or where the recollection of them would render our bliss the more intense.  Thither his social feelings pointed, and he was ever thinking of the meeting that awaited him with those who with him had fought the good fight, and were now wearing the crown of victory. So habitual were these trains of thought, that a person well acquainted with him remarks, that “meditation on death was his common solace in all the troubles of life.”  I do not know that the habitual temper of his mind can in any words be so well expressed as in the following lines, which he wrote in pencil on the inner cover of a book that he was using in the compilation of his dictionary:

“—In joy or sorrow, health or pain,
Our course be onward still;
We sow on Burmah’s barren plain,
We reap on Zion’s hill.”[1]


[1]Wayland, Memoir, 2:381-382.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

Uneducated Ministers?

April 3rd, 2014 Posted in Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Missions

By Evan D. Burns

Sometimes theological education can be downplayed as though it were an unnecessary hobby for left-brained seminarians.  Unfortunately, rigorous biblical/theological training can be disparaged and treated as peripheral for “real” ministry to “real” people with “real” problems.  Doctrine divides, Jesus unites; deeds, not creeds; practical application, not propositional truth… so goes the post-modern, anti-authoritarian mantra.  One of the most oft-cited examples supposedly in support of this anti-intellectualism is that Jesus chose uneducated simpletons to be his disciples, not the highfalutin scribes and Pharisees, as though pure spirituality corresponds to untrained simple faith.  However, this is not the case.  Eckhard Schnabel explains in Early Christian Mission vol.1, 277-278:

The calling of the twelve disciples in Galilee must not be burdened with the view that Jesus called uneducated Galileans to the task of preaching and teaching.  It is rather probable that Jesus’ disciples, including the fishermen Simon and Andrew, were educated.

According to John 1:44, Peter, Andrew and Philip came from Bethsaida, an up-and-coming town that was granted the status of a polis in A.D. 30 and was located in the vicinity of the Greek city Caesarea Philippi.  Rainer Riesner argues that people “who grew up in such close proximity to a Hellenistic city must have spoken more than a few scraps of Greek.  Thus John 12:21 presupposes that Philip could speak Greek.”  Andrew, Philip and Simon had Greek names, which may not be coincidental.  Riesner observes, “The Galilean fishermen in Jesus’ group of disciples belonged not to the rural lower class but to the vocational middle class.  As the latter had religious interests, we may assume a certain degree of education in the case of the disciples such as Peter and John….  We may assume that several disciples came from that segment of the Jewish people who displayed religious interests and that they received, like Jesus, a good elementary education in the parental home, in the synagogue and in elementary school.”  A Jew who came from a pious background “had a solid, albeit one-sided, education.  He could read and write and he could retain large quantities of material in his memory by applying simple mnemonic devices….  Whether a boy of the lower classes received an elementary education depended on two preconditions:  the piety of the father and the existence of a synagogue in the village.”

The view that Jesus had untutored disciples is a romantic and entirely unwarranted one.  Note, for example, the calling of Matthew-Levi, a tax collector….  A tax collector belonged to the higher levels of society.  His position presupposed not only that he was wealthy but also that he had…education.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

Preaching from the “Spiritual Sense”

March 27th, 2014 Posted in 17th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Pastoral Ministry, Puritans

By Evan D. Burns

The Puritan John Owen argued that preachers must have “experience of the power of the truth which they preach in and upon their own souls….  A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul.”[1]  So his resolution was: “I hold myself bound in conscience and in honour, not even to imagine that I have attained a proper knowledge of any one article of truth, much less to publish it, unless through the Holy Spirit I have had such a taste of it, in its spiritual sense, that I may be able, from the heart, to say with the psalmist, ‘I have believed, and therefore I have spoken.’”[2]

Would that the Holy Spirit raise up more preachers who would resolve never to preach a text unless they have already tasted its spiritual sense.


[1] Owen, Works, XVI: 76.

[2] Works, X: 488.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.