Monday, 27 June 2016

The Propagation of the Reformed Faith in England

Acts 20:27 "For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God".

I am very much enjoying reading the Collected Writings of John Murray this year. I am doing this for my own personal edification and one essay that grabbed my attention recently is from Volume 1 and it is called "The Propagation of the Reformed Faith in New England". Professor Murray served on a committee which sought to pursue church planting in New England in the USA and there are congregations which still exist today from this endeavour.
John Murray explains in this essay:

"It is for the propagation of the Reformed Faith, and that means simply the propagation of the whole counsel of God as it respects faith and life. Its purpose is the evangelism which is not only consistent with the Reformed Faith, but the necessary expression of it wherever it really exists as the controlling thought of mind and passion of the heart. In these times there is evangelism that is clap-trap, much so-called evangelism that does not have the gospel, and much also of evangelism that, though evangelical in its general spirit and result, is not true to the whole counsel of God. It is the aim of this committee to foster and further evangelism that will not be dependent upon the sensational for its appeal or success, but evangelism grounded in the conviction of the absolute sovereignty and efficacy of the grace of God, evangelism among the degraded, ignorant, the indifferent and hostile, that does not fear to declare the whole counsel of God and to proffer men lost and dead in sin the full and free salvation that is in Jesus Christ our Lord".

It is very important that we do not lose the vision for the propagation of the Reformed Faith as John Murray explains. This label as it were, is not and should not be a badge of division, but instead we should be unashamed in our pursuit of sound doctrine, sound care of the sheep and sound reverent public worship. There are so many unbiblical "winds of doctrine" in our day in England. Solid ministers and elders are urgently needed, men who "hold fast" to expounding the "whole counsel of God" is the urgent spiritual need of our day. It is the Reformed Faith as explained in documents such as the Westminster Standards which are needed to be applied and that so without amendment.

Will you join with us in this noble and demanding task in prayer? In Sheffield we are working on a new church plant in Manchester to do just what I have written about, and in Sheffield too we continue to work in Sheffield Presbyterian Church ( to further strengthen the work. Please contact me through our church website if you are excited about such a vision and to find out how you can be further involved.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Sermons and Talks from the Jonathan Edwards Conference 2016

The Jonathan Edwards Conference this year was most helpful. As a minister of the gospel, I returned home greatly refreshed, sharpened and exhorted. The theology of Jonathan Edwards is rich, expansive, Calvinistic and stimulating. I was asked as part of panel 'what is one thing that stands out in my mind of Edwards' theology?'. I could have said more, but his sermon titles stand out as a memorable feature. Just consider this. 250 + years after he preached it, titles such as "The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners"; "Heaven is a world of love" or "Hypocrites deficient in the duty of prayer" are still remembered and discussed. Now this is remarkable and I cannot think of many other preachers in church history where we can say the same of their sermon titles. This alone is a marvellous feature that should stir contemporary preachers to choose theologically rich titles, ones which in themselves convey a world of truth.

The talks and sermons from the 2016 conference are now being downloaded onto the website and the link is as follows:

I hope that these talks will stimulate further study of holy Scripture and with that the reading of the works of Jonathan Edwards. I have been informed recently that all his works and sermons are available online through Yale University and the link to these free resources is:

This is a canonical index of Edwards' sermons.

We live in an age of information overload, therefore we need to be good stewards of our time and of our minds, to guard what comes into our soul to influence us. I commend the fresh reading of Edwards to strengthen you spiritually and to promote personal and church holiness.

Ephesians 5:15-16 "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil".

Monday, 13 June 2016

The Claims of Truth upon the Church

At the beginning of the first volume of the "Collected Writings of John Murray", we find a summary of Murray's thought. This fragment found among the papers of John Murray, it succinctly summarises his thought on the importance of the claims of truth upon the church. Before I cite these three paragraphs, we all need to consider the basics of Christianity once again.

There are three primary components to truth.

1. Holy Scripture as it relates to God the Father: John 17:17 "Sanctify them in the truth; your [God the Father] word is truth".

2. The Lord Jesus Christ: John 14:6-7 "“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him".

3. The Holy Spirit: John 16:13-15 "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you".

We can mentally assent to these biblical propositions and yet still fail to lay hold of the truth and to walk in the truth. Do you consider yourself, that you are seeking to walk in the truth? The error of post-modern thought has invaded the church and we must be warned against it. This prevalent contemporary thought teaches that there are many truths. This is untrue. Jesus said "I am the truth". What does it mean then to walk in truth?

Firstly, you have to accept that the Bible is the basis for absolute truth. Secondly, you must then submit to the truth of Scripture even when it conflicts with your private interpretation and thirdly you must recognise and acknowledge that there is a single correct line of interpretation on church doctrine, worship, government and ethics. This is a demanding process that elders especially, have to undertake, along with church members, in order for the church then to walk in this REVEALED truth. Revealed as in the teaching of the written pages of holy Scripture, and not some private revelation.

Now then, how do you assess yourself on these three points? Have you erred from the truth unknowingly? The Westminster Confession teaches so on holy Scripture in Chapter 1:9:

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

Now hear the wisdom of John Murray on this matter.

The claims of truth are paramount. That is why Westminster Theological Seminary was founded. As members of the Faculty we should not be here if it were not for the claims of truth upon us.
But the battle of the faith is oftentimes focused in the inward travail of soul which the claims of truth demand. There are so many temptations to allow the claims of truth to become secondary.
Mental laziness is one of those temptations. We have become accustomed to a certain pattern of thought and conduct. It may be surrounded by the halo of sanctity derived from an established family, social or ecclesiastical tradition, and we are not willing to bring this pattern or conviction to the test of those criteria which the truth demands. Or perhaps after persuasion to the contrary by the evidence of truth, we are not willing to let truth have its way, just because it means a breach with the convenient and the conventional.
The temptation may come in the opposite way. Convenience or opportunity may dictate the renunciation of former conviction, and the renouncing is dictated by convenience rather than by the claims of truth. We must beware of that temptation also.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Outstanding Theology: Collected Writings of John Murray, Volume 1

There is a mis-conception that is common today. It is that theology is only for theologians. Theology is the study of God and therefore this line of study belongs to the whole church. While it is true that we cannot distil Christianity down to simply a desire for personal study, none the less studying the right materials is a valuable aid to nourish the church. Christ Jesus has ordained that he sends teachers to his church and we all need to be taught. Indeed we should want to be taught and we should pray to be teachable.

A few months ago, I set out to read the "Collected Writings of John Murray: The Claims of Truth, Volume 1". This reading has been for my own personal spiritual nourishment. While Murray is not new to me, these writings have been fresh to my soul in recent times. I commend this particular book and any books by John Murray because he is probably one of the finest and most faithful Reformed theologians of the last century.

John Murray (1898-1975) was from Sutherland, Scotland, but he spent his life-labours teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary in the USA. He was ordained with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and he has had a continued and profound impact on those who have studied him. The particular volume I am recommending has superlative teaching on the "Moral Law and the Fourth Commandment". Chapter 43 on "The Importance of the Westminster Confession" is a classic and perhaps I need to say more on chapter 18 on another blog post on "The Propagation of the Reformed Faith in New England". We need the propagation of the Reformed Faith in Old England in our own generation.

Perhaps by reading this volume by John Murray, it can help some to be much clearer in their theology, ideas about worship and also the doctrine of the church. We need to find a church which is faithful to the Reformed faith and then to support it. May there be a recovery of sound doctrine, sound preaching and sound churches in our own day.

'Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Once more they shall use these words in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I restore their fortunes: “ ‘The LORD bless you, O habitation of righteousness, O holy hill!’ And Judah and all its cities shall dwell there together, and the farmers and those who wander with their flocks. 25 For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish” (Jeremiah 31:23–25)'.

My desire is for a return to the "ancient paths" in the church so that our Lord's flocks are nourished. We long for our LORD to restore the fortunes of the church. May we pray for the good of the LORD's church.