‘Biblical Spirituality’ Category

Spiritual Formation at Andover

August 28th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Church History

By Evan D. Burns

At the founding of Andover Theological Seminary (1807), the professors actively engaged the students intellectually and spiritually.  Leonard Woods (1774-1854), the Abbot Professor of Christian Theology, recounted the illuminating spiritual ethos shared among the faculty and the students of Andover.[1]  Not more than a few weeks after the seminary was opened, Woods called the faculty and students to a meeting for prayer and religious intercourse, which developed into a regular “Wednesday Evening Conference.”[2]

All the students were expected to attend, and either Woods or [Moses] Stuart met them, and prayed and conversed for an hour in a practical way on the whole range of Christian doctrine.  Professor Stuart late in life expressed the belief that the Wednesday evening conferences were the most valuable contribution that he made to the Seminary.[3]

Woods states, “while we attached high importance to literary acquisitions, we gave a still higher place to spiritual improvement.  We strove to make the impression… that spiritual religion and growth in grace should be their paramount object.”[4]  The faculty addressed the seminarians on matters of “holy religion, both doctrinal, experimental and practical.”[5]  They spoke on different subjects for six to seven years, and purposefully did not repeat the same subject at least for three years.


[1]For a full description of the spiritual life fostered at Andover, see Leonard Woods, History of the Andover Theological Seminary (Boston: J. R. Osgood and Company, 1885), 159-70.

[2]Woods, History of the Andover Theological Seminary, 164.

[3]H. K. Rowe, History of Andover Theological Seminary (Boston: Thomas Todd Company, 1933), 50.

[4]Woods, History of the Andover Theological Seminary, 163.

[5]Woods, History of the Andover Theological Seminary, 164.

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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.

Degrees in Glory

August 21st, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Theology

By Evan D. Burns

Andrew Fuller was a man who loved to think of heaven and future glory awaiting all who love the Lord.  His sermon entitled, “Degrees in Glory Proportioned to Works of Piety, Consistent with Salvation by Grace Alone,”[1] is medicine for the soul.  In relation to the degrees of glory enjoyed in heaven based upon piety and obedience in this life, the fragrance of Jonathan Edwards emanates from Fuller’s pen.  Here is a brief outline of Fuller’s sermon:

  1. First, Heavenly bliss will greatly consist in our being approved of God.
  2. Secondly, Heavenly bliss will consist in the exercise of love, supreme love to God.
  3. Thirdly, Heavenly bliss will consist in ascribing glory to God and the Lamb.
  4. Fourthly, Heavenly bliss will consist in exploring the wonders of the love of God.

And then Fuller goes on to elaborate how heavenly rewards should motivate our piety in this life:

  1.  In the first place, Rewards contain nothing inconsistent with the doctrine of grace, because those very works which it pleased God to honour are the effects of his own operation.
  2. Secondly, All rewards to a guilty creature have respect to the mediation of Christ.
  3. Thirdly, God’s graciously connecting blessings with the obedience of his people serves to show, not only his love to Christ, and to them, but his regard to righteousness.

[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 741-43.

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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.

Fuller’s Sketch of the Lord’s Prayer

August 8th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Eminent Christians, Prayer

By Evan D. Burns

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) was a skillful pastor-theologian.  He was also a soul physician who knew how to guide God’s people into a deeper knowledge of Christ.  Below is an example of Fuller’s ability to unfold the principles and meaning of Scripture in a way that is clear, practical, and faithful to the text.  Fuller summarizes the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-15) with a few simple observations:[1]

If in anything we need Divine instruction, it is in drawing near to God. It does not appear to have been Christ’s design to establish a form of prayer, nor that it was ever so used by the disciples; but merely a brief directory as to the matter and manner of it. Such a directory was adapted not only to instruct, but to encourage Christians in their approaches to God.

  1.  First, The character under which we are allowed to draw near to the Lord of heaven and earth.—“Our Father.”
  2. Secondly, The place of the Divine residence.—“Our Father, who art in heaven.”
  3. Thirdly, The social principle which pervades the prayer.—“Our Father—forgive us,” etc.
  4. Fourthly, The brevity of it.—“Use not vain repetitions, but in this manner pray ye.”
  5. Fifthly, The order of it.—Our attention is first directed to those things which are of the first importance, and which are fundamental to those which follow.

As there are three petitions in respect of God’s name and cause in the world, so there are three which regard our own immediate wants; one of which concerns those which are temporal, and the other two those which are spiritual.

  1.  “Give us this day (or day by day) our daily bread.” Bread comprehends all the necessaries, but none of the superfluities, of life.
  2. “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” As bread in this prayer comprehends all the necessaries of life, so the forgiveness of sin comprehends the substance of all that is necessary for the well-being of our souls.
  3. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The last petition respected the bestowment of the greatest good; this, deliverance from the worst of evils. Christ teaches us to suspect ourselves.

The concluding doxology, though omitted by Luke, and thought by some not to have been originally included by Matthew, appears to agree with the foregoing petitions, and to furnish encouragement to hope for an answer.


[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 578-583.

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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.

“It Is All Right”

July 31st, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Missions

By Evan D. Burns

After the death of Ann Hasseltine Judson (1789-1826), Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) wrote to her mother to inform her of Ann’s death.  In his long letter, he weaves together his heavenly-minded piety with his providentialist piety in order to make sense of Ann’s protracted suffering and in order to comfort Ann’s grieving mother.  Here is a small portion of that letter:

Oh, with what meekness, and patience, and magnanimity, and Christian fortitude, she bore those sufferings!  And can I wish they had been less?  Can I sacrilegiously wish to rob her crown of a single gem?  Much she saw and suffered of this evil world; and eminently was she qualified to relish and enjoy the pure and holy rest into which she has entered.  True, she has been taken from a sphere, in which she was singularly qualified, by her natural disposition, her winning manners, her devoted zeal, and her perfect acquaintance with the language, to be extensively serviceable to the cause of Christ; true, she has been torn from her husband’s bleeding heart, and from her darling babe; but infinite wisdom and love have presided, as ever, in this most afflicting dispensation.  Faith decides, that it is all right, and the decision of faith, eternity will soon confirm.[1] 


 [1]Adoniram Judson, “Letter from Rev. Dr. Judson, to Mrs.Hasseltine of Bradford, (Mass.), Amherst, Feb. 4th, 1827,” in The Baptist Missionary Magazine, vol. 7, 89 vols. (Boston: Lincoln & Edmands, 1827), 261–62.

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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.

“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.