‘Biblical Spirituality’ Category

Judson’s Ground of Self-Denial

November 20th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Evan D. Burns

On May 10, 1836, Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) preached his only English sermon in Burma; it was for the ordination of the missionary printer, S. M. Osgood (1807-1875).  This lengthy sermon is a definitive presentation of the inherent relationship in Judson’s spirituality between the example of Christ and Christian minister’s mandatory self-denial in imitation of Christ.  Preaching from John 10:1-18 about Christ as the Good Shepherd, Judson began by saying that though Christ is the “Exemplar” of all his people, he is especially the “Exemplar” of his “subordinate shepherds.”  He urged Osgood to “look continually to the chief Shepherd” for emulation.  First, Judson instructed, the minister ought to imitate Christ’s wholesale denial of worldly desires.  Christ gave up his life for the good of his flock, and in the language of disinterested benevolence, Judson said the minister ought to imitate Christ by surrendering all worldly ambitions, pleasures, and gains “that he may, by all means, save some.”  Second, Judson taught that the minister ought to imitate Christ by showing affection and brotherly love to the flock.  Third, Judson said the chief duty of a minister in imitation of Christ is to indiscriminately call out Christ’s elect; then once they come in through the universal preaching of the gospel, the minister ought to make disciples through teaching them to observe the commands of Christ, of which the minister ought to be the greatest example of obedience.

 

Though the minister’s chief duty should be doing good, Judson went on to elaborate on the dominant motivation of such duty.  He explained that Christ’s “supreme regard to his Father’s will” and “the love of God” were the controlling themes of Christ’s life.  Judson tied Christ’s example of supreme love to the Father and a supreme desire to please the Father to the responsibility of the minister to esteem the will of God above all other good things.  He said no good works of self-denial or charity “are truly estimable, but just so far as they spring from regard to the will of God.  All true virtue has its root in the love of God.  Every holy affection looks beyond self . . . and finds its resting place in God alone.”  Then he went on to wax eloquent about God’s God-centeredness and righteous love for himself above everything else.  In light of God’s supreme happiness in God, Judson said it was fitting that Christ would “have supreme regard to the will of the Father,” greater than his regard for perishing souls.  Therefore, every minister must submit to the will of God.  In light of Christ’s example of supreme submission to the infinitely wise and loving will of the Father, the most God-centered Being in the universe, Judson issued a decisive verdict for his spirituality of self-denial:  “On this ground we rest the doctrine of self-denial, renunciation of self-interest, abandonment of self.  Still further, even our compassion for souls and our zeal for their salvation must be kept in subordination to the supreme will of God.”[1]  In his self-denying imitation of Christ, “Judson was indeed a Gethsemane soul.”[2]


[1]Francis Wayland, A Memoir of the Life and Labors of the Rev. Adoniram Judson, D.D., vol. 2 (Boston: Phillips, Samson and Company, 1853), 486-94.

[2]John Brush, “The Magnetism of Adoniram Judson,” Andover Newton Quarterly 2, no. 3 (January 1, 1962): 3.

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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.

400-Year-Old Lessons from English Baptists and Persecution

October 30th, 2014 Posted in 17th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History

By Steve Weaver

In the forthcoming 9Marks journal titled Vanishing Church?, Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin has an article offering lessons from the 17th-century English Particular Baptists. The article went live today on the 9Marks website. The article is titled “400-Year-Old Lessons from English Baptists and Persecution” and focuses on the experiences of three individuals:  John Bunyan (1628–1688), William Mitchel (1662-1705), and Abraham Cheare (d. 1668). The subject of persecution is a vital one for the church today as Haykin summarizes:

There are countless lessons we can learn from saints long-dead, particularly should our times increasingly approximate theirs. Like Paul speaking of Old Testament Israel to the church at Corinth: “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11). He says something similar to the Christians in Rome: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).

So it is with our 17th-century English Baptist brethren. They were determined to obey God where God had spoken clearly no matter the cost; they recognized that suffering is a means that God uses to sanctify us; they were conscious that no persecutor is ever able to hurt physically any of God’s children without divine sovereign permission; and they were aware that suffering for Christ’s sake is a means of bringing glory to their great Savior. For all of these reasons, they would have regarded persecution and even martyrdom as a gift to the Church.

Be sure to read the article in its entirety and check out the other articles in the upcoming journal.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children between the ages of 3 and 15. You can read more from Steve at his personal website: Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.

The Evangelical Gifts of Whitefield and Edwards

October 20th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Conferences, Eminent Christians, Revivals

By Evan D. Burns

George Whitefield (1714-1770) and Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) both ministered during the First Great Awakening (c. 1731-1755).  Both men were evangelical Calvinists and both were mightily used by the Spirit of Christ to breathe fresh life into the church.  Nevertheless, they were quite different and inimitable in their own ways.

In his book, Evangelical Spirituality, James M. Gordon briefly compares and contrasts George Whitefield with Jonathan Edwards.  Where Edwards was the philosopher-theologian, Whitefield was the evangelist-theologian.  Both men were mightily used by God, but in different ways, often depending upon their God-given temperaments and capacities.  Gordon observes that Whitefield was a “dramatic, colourful orator,” and Edwards was “much more controlled.”  In Whitefield’s sermon delivery, he was “forceful… and unrivaled in his day.”  The pathos of his sermons was found in his “presence and personality.”  Yet, Edwards was compelling in his “firm grasp” of the gospel and his commanding ability to extrapolate “a reasoned, biblical psychology of Christian experience.”  Whitefield was a “restless, energetic activist,” while Edwards “lived in a relatively small area.”  They both promoted evangelical Calvinism, but in Whitefield’s sermons, “there is little that is new or subtle.”  Yet, “by contrast Edwards conveyed a towering sense of the majesty of God.”[1]  The Holy Spirit empowered both of them uniquely to awaken and provoke renewal in ways that still deserve celebration and emulation today.


[1]James M. Gordon, Evangelical Spirituality (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1991), 63–64.

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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.

 

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On Tuesday and Wednesday, October 21st-22nd, a conference will be held on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on George Whitefield and the Great Awakening. You can watch the conference via livestream here.

Lessons for Pastors from Andrew Fuller

October 17th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Pastoral Ministry

By Steve Weaver

A few days ago, Brian Croft posted an article with ten lessons that he learned during a recent sabbatical from studying Andrew Fuller. He writes about his experience:

One of my goals for my sabbatical last year was to study the life and ministry of the 18th century English particular Baptist Pastor, Andrew Fuller.  Now that my time away has ended and feels so long ago, I thought I would still share about my findings.  After a few books read, portions of the 3 volume works read, and a very meaningful breakfast with Michael Haykin and Jeremy Walker (friends and Fuller experts) discussing Fuller, the blessing of studying this faithful man of God exceeded my expectations.

I was so blessed and learned so much that it would be unwise to try and share all the ways I was impacted.  However, as a steward and discipline to my time of study, I have summarized ten lessons that I learned from Andrew Fuller’s life that will impact my pastoral ministry from this moment on.  Because of this, I thought I would share them with you with the hopes you will be challenged in the same way I was and as a result, might be moved to dig deeper into this man’s life.

Croft gave the following lessons for modern pastors from Fuller in no particular order:

  1. Affirm a needed process to affirm pastors for pastoral ministry.
  2. Maintain the essential call for clear, faithful, and unwavering precision on the atonement.
  3. See the value of close, transparent, and life-long pastoral friendships.
  4. Embrace the opportunity for pastoral networks and associations.
  5. Keep the value of formal theological education in its proper perspective.
  6. Be steadfast in the primary focus between seekers/saints in the public gathering.
  7. Trust God’s unique purposes in the suffering of pastors.
  8. See the value of pastoral leadership outside a pastor’s individual local church.
  9. Be cautious to carefully balance family and ministry.
  10. Be wise to delegate responsibility.

Pastor Croft elaborates on each of these lessons in his original article. He also provides a list of resources that were helpful to him during his study of Fuller. Croft’s study of Fuller was clearly edifying for his spiritual life and ministry. I commend a similar study by other pastors for your own enrichment and encouragement.

Read Pastor Croft’s article in its entirety here.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children between the ages of 3 and 15. You can read more from Steve at his personal website: Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.

Judson’s Vision of Eternal Happiness

October 2nd, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

From early in his spirituality, Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) had an Edwardsean vision of how enjoyment of God would be ever increasing.  Because God is effulgent and infinite in himself, his glory is limitless and therefore our happiness in his glory is limitless.[1]  In a letter on October 25, 1810, Judson sketched his meditations of what it means to be a “lover of Jesus.”  It partakes in the genuine spiritual blessings both now and in eternity.  “Love to Jesus” describes superlative happiness.  There is no greater happiness than in loving Jesus because Jesus has supreme control over everything.  Jesus has promised happiness to his friends, and his happiness will fill their capacity; it will be neither partial, nor temporal.  Brimming with eager expectation of eternal joy, Judson went on to propose,

Nor does he intend a happiness eternally stationary.  It will be eternally increasing….  As their capacities will be eternally enlarging, the quantity of happiness they enjoy will be eternally increasing; and not merely eternally increasing in the same ratio, but eternally increasing in an eternally accelerated ratio.  So that there will unquestionably arrive a moment in the ages of eternity when the additional happiness, that instant superadded to the happiness already enjoyed by each glorified spirit, will almost infinitely outweigh the whole sum of human happiness enjoyed in this world.  To all this may he aspire who is a lover of Jesus.  Blessed Jesus, thou art no “niggard provider.”[2]  When thou givest, thou givest like a God.[3]


[1]Judson’s descriptions of heaven and rewards sound reminiscent to Jonathan Edwards’ treatment of heaven and eternal happiness in God.  See Jonathan Edwards, Works of Jonathan Edwards(with a Memoir by Sereno E. Dwight), ed. Edward Hickman(Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 2:243–46.

[2]A niggard was a term for a miser or a stingy person.

[3]Wayland, Memoir, 1:35-36.

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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.

“Keep that Reward in View”

September 25th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

In the following excerpt from “The Work and Encouragement of the Christian Minister,” Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) compared inactivity with weak piety.  Essentially, Fuller said that to the degree that we are abiding in the Vine, to the same degree we are bearing fruit.  This is a good perspective on laboring for the Lord’s approval:

II. The important motives which are here presented to us for the discharge of our trust.
1. You will receive the approbation of your Lord.—Place yourself in idea, my brother, before your Lord and Master, at the last day, and anticipate the joy of receiving his approbation. This is heaven. We should not study to please men so much as to please God. If we please him, we shall please all who love him, and, as to others, they are not on any account worthy of being pleased at the expense of displeasing God. It is doubtless gratifying to receive the “Well done” of a creature; but this in some cases may arise from ignorance, in others from private friendship; and in some cases men may say, “Well done,” when, in the sight of Him who judges the heart, and recognizes the springs of action, our work may be ill done. And even if we have done comparatively well, we must not rest satisfied with the approbation of our friends. Many have sat down contented with the plaudits of their hearers, spoiled and ruined. It is the “Well done” at the last day which we should seek, and with which only we should be satisfied. There have been young ministers, of very promising talents, who have been absolutely nursed to death with human applause, and the hopes they inspired blighted and blasted by the flattery of the weak and inconsiderate. The sound of “Well done” has been reiterated in their ears so often, that at last (poor little minds!) they have thought, Surely it was well done; they have inhaled the delicious draught, they have sat down to enjoy it, they have relaxed their efforts, and, after their little hour of popular applause, they have retired behind the scenes, and become of little or no account in the Christian world; and, what is worse, their spirituality has declined, and they have sunk down into a state of desertion, dispiritedness, and inactivity, as regards this world, and of uncertainty, if not of fearful forebodings, as to another.… ‘My brother, you may sit down when God says, “Well done!” for then your trust will be discharged; but it is at your peril that you rest satisfied with any thing short of this. Keep that reward in view, and you will not, I trust, be unfaithful in the service of your Lord.[1]


[1]A. G. Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, ed. J. Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 1:499–500.

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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.

Holy Wisdom that Possesses the Soul

September 18th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

In a sermon on Proverbs 14:8, Andrew Fuller observed an insightful principle of how the Word of God helps us get wisdom.  The Word shows us that wisdom deters us from the destruction of folly; moreover, wisdom should not look mainly to the destruction of folly but to the greatness of Christ.  This gaze upon Christ is done through meditation and prayer.

We shall read the oracles of God: the doctrines for belief, and the precepts for practice; and shall thus learn to cleanse our way by taking heed thereto, according to God’s word.  It will moreover induce us to guard against the dangers of the way.  We shall not be ignorant of Satan’s devices, nor of the numerous temptations to which our age, times, circumstances, and propensities expose us.  It will influence us to keep our eye upon the end of the way. A foolish man will go that way in which he finds most company, or can go most at his ease; but wisdom will ask, “What shall I do in the end thereof?”  To understand the end of the wrong way will deter; but to keep our eye upon that of the right will attract.  Christ himself kept sight of the joy that was set before him.  Finally, as holy wisdom possesses the soul with a sense of propriety at all times, and upon all occasions, it is therefore our highest interest to obtain this wisdom, and to cultivate it by reading, meditation, prayer, and every appointed means.[1]


[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 465-66.

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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.

Book Review: A Christian Guide to Spirituality: Foundations for Disciples by Stephen W. Hiemstra

September 8th, 2014 Posted in Biblical Spirituality, Books

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Stephen W. Hiemstra,
A Christian Guide to Spirituality: Foundations for Disciples
(Centreville, VA: T2Pneuma Publishers, 2014), xx+206 pages.

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 During Easter 1985, Thomas Howard—a graduate of Wheaton College and a professor of English at Gordon College, both long-standing bastions of Evangelicalism, and himself the product of a staunch Evangelical family, whose sister is Elisabeth Eliot, author and widow of the Evangelical martyr Jim Eliot—became a Roman Catholic. His conversion to Roman Catholicism caused quite a stir at the time in Evangelical circles, and Christianity Today, that quintessential Evangelical publication, ran a nine-page special report on the event. It makes for fascinating reading. When asked why he had decided to make the journey to Rome he cited the “shallowness” of Evangelicalism, “the desperate, barren, parched nature” of its worship, and its “poverty when it comes to the deeper riches of Christian spirituality.”

Howard’s observation that contemporary Evangelical spirituality is poor and shallow, indeed “gossamer-thin,” is something that many others have also apparently recognized, for a growing number of Evangelicals in the past thirty years or so have begun to pay more attention to this vital subject. In fact, in Evangelical circles, “spirituality” has become what American Evangelical historian Richard Lovelace has called “a growth industry.” A helpful contribution to this “industry” is this new book by Stephen Hiemstra, who is described on the website of his publisher as “a slave of Christ, husband, father, aspiring pastor, economist, and writer.” Based mainly on the very familiar texts of the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s prayer, and the ten commandments, the book comprises fifty meditations that flesh out each of the phrases of these texts with rich reflections, prayers and follow-up questions. There are also fifteen other meditations that deal with basic questions about knowing God and various spiritual disciplines (Hiemstra includes music, physical exercise, and marriage among these disciplines). The inclusion of questions at the close of each meditation will enable the work to be used in small groups that want to advance their understanding of what is biblical and reformed spirituality.

Upon an initial read I thought the title inappropriate: the book’s design is clearly that of a devotional, not a systematic study of Christian spirituality. But as I began to read the various meditations, I perceived that though each one is short—usually no more than 190 words or so—together they give the reader a rich overview of Christian spirituality from a reformed perspective.

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

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Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.

 

Spurgeon’s Kind of Revival

September 4th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Revivals

By Evan D. Burns

In his day, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) called for Christians to labor in prayer for revival.  He outlined a few facets of genuine revival:  First of all, revival, if is authentic, should be “real and lasting” as opposed to “feverish and transient.”  Second, genuine revival should emphasize “old-fashioned doctrine,” including teaching the infallibility of the Scriptures and doctrines such as “the ruin, redemption and regeneration of mankind.”  Third, true revival would see the rise of “genuine godliness” and men who are “consecrated to the Lord and sanctified by His truth.”  Fourth, real revival should affect “domestic religion” in such a way that families are “trained in the fear of God.”  And fifth, the revival that Spurgeon prayed earnestly for was a revival of “vigorous, consecrated strength” where men of God find power in secret prayer.  Let us heed Spurgeon’s call for genuine revival in our day:

Saints acquire nobility from their constant resort to the place where the Lord meets with them. There they also acquire that power in prayer which we so greatly need. Oh, that we had more men like John Knox, whose prayers were more terrible to Queen Mary than 10,000 men! Oh, that we had more Elijahs by whose faith the windows of heavens should be shut or opened!  This power comes not by a sudden effort; it is the outcome of a life devoted to the God of Israel! If our life is all in public, it will be a frothy, vapoury ineffectual existence; but if we hold high converse with God in secret, we shall be mighty for good. He that is a prince with God will take high rank with men, after the true measure of nobility….  Given a host of men who are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, the glory of God’s grace will be clearly manifested, not only in them, but in those round about them. The Lord send us a revival of consecrated strength, and heavenly energy![1]


[1]Charles Spurgeon, The Kind of Revival We Need.

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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.

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.