Monday, 19 June 2017

O for a Closer Walk with God

The title of this blogpost is taken from the opening line of hymn by William Cowper (1731-1800). Here is the first verse:

O FOR a closer walk with God,
a calm and heavenly frame,
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb!

And the last verse, verse 6.

So shall my walk be close with God,
calm and serene my frame;
so purer light shall mark the road
that leads me to the Lamb.

I love Reformed theology, Reformed ecclesiology, systematic theology, the whole of the Bible and my historic biblical and Reformed heritage. However, the crucial part of it all, is that we cultivate a loving communion with the Triune God. Our prayer postures in the "secret place" of prayer should include at times kneeling as an act of submission or being prostrate before the Lord as a sign of submission at times and a heart being poured out before the throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16, Psalm 62:8, Ephesians 3:14, Deut 9:25). Look at Moses on Mount Sinai in Deuteronomy 9:25-26 "So I lay prostrate before the LORD for these forty days and forty nights, because the LORD had said he would destroy you. And I prayed to the LORD ...".

How is your communion with the Living God? We need Christians to be refreshed and revived in their personal communion with the Covenant LORD. This does not replace the public means of grace, but it should supplement and undergird the public means by the private means of grace.

Listen to the Lord Jesus Christ: Mark 6:30-32 "The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves".

We need to come apart from the distractions of the internet, TV, sports and so forth, in order to be renewed in our communion with the LORD. Oh to be restored in our first love!

We often talk of revival, but our own lives need to be revived before the Living God with renewed holiness. Holiness meaning being set apart for the Lord Jesus Christ. Iain Murray wrote this in his recent book "Seven Leaders" in reference to the life of John Elias.

"Thomas Charles and John Elias were of one mind on the remedy for this [a spiritual dullness with a loss of vigour in the church]. It is not speaking more about revival or the Holy Spirit, but renewed faith and renewed communion with the Lord Jesus Christ" (page 41).

Oh for renewed communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit lead and guide the church into renewed faith and renewed communion with the Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

What's missing in English Evangelicalism?

It is indeed important for every church in different countries, to critically examine themselves, including their own congregation and/or denomination. A minister friend who is from another country remarked to me how few English ministers he has met, are interested in theology! As I asked him to explain more, he did. He seemed to "hit the nail on the head" in my view in that theology is not on the radar for ministers, elders and churches in England. We have ideas, doctrine and preaching without theology. A theology-less church leads to a downgrade in who God is, what is salvation and a host of errors enter in to the church when this happens.

What is missing in the English Evangelical Church? In my view it is theology and ecclesiology. One of the principles of interpreting the Bible is to compare Scripture with Scripture. This leads the church then, to a body of theology, known as the Reformed understanding of Scripture. When theology is not mentioned, never mind ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church) as well, in the church, two huge "puzzle pieces" to rightly understand the Lord, salvation and other matters are then missing.

What is the answer to this problem? Someone once said that the first step to solving a problem, is to acknowledge that there is a problem in the first place. Once we recognise this significant theological problem, we need to repent, if this problem includes ourselves. We should pray for a recovery and a love for, the theological doctrines presented in Holy Scripture.

The Seven churches in Revelation present the critique of the Lord (chapters 1-3), of those churches falling short. With the state of the nation in the UK, it is not a surprise that the church is falling short in many areas. In each letter to each church the answer is to repent and for them to amend their ways.

Revelation 2:5 "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp-stand from its place, unless you repent".

Revelation 2:16 "Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth".

Revelation 3:19-20 "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me".

For people reading this blog who would like to become more theologically informed, here are some resources for you to make a start.

Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology

Louis Berkhof, A Summary of Christian Doctrine

J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Seven Leaders: Preachers and Pastors by Iain Murray

"So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet" 2 Kings 13:20-21.

This story is apt for this book. The author hopes that by putting our generation in contact with an array of godly men and their convictions that new life may to come to the church. This book is outstanding!!!

For the author who is now in his 80's to produce another fine quality book can only be attributed to the grace of God.

The seven leaders are:

John Elias
Andrew Bonar
Archie Brown
Kenneth MacRae
M L Jones
W. J. Grier
John MacArthur

For some reason John Murray was missed out but none the less the book says enough. Each chapter is short enough to maintain one's interest and a lifetimes experience and conviction oozes out of each page. I hope the Lord would use this book to stir in our hearts a number of things.

A zeal for genuine revival
A love for sound reformed doctrine
A passion for ecclesiology
An understanding that public worship should be sober and reverent
An appreciation of church history and the present state of liberalism often working under the guise of the label evangelical.

Above all, I hope this book moves all readers to their knees to call upon the name of the Lord for a recovery of truth and preaching in our own day.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Where are the Lord's Mordecai's?

"And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him" (Esther 4:12–17).

I almost gave this blog post the title, "what happens when good men remain silent?". Mordecai is one supreme example of a man who would not be silent in the midst of compromise and the threat against God's people. It seems that at one stage, that Esther was keeping her head down hoping for a quiet ride, but Mordecai gave this vital warning to her, one which we Christians need to hear today:> "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place ...".

Therefore, it is possible to keep silent for the sake of man pleasing and for a life of comfort and ease. Now I am not exhorting divisiveness. Some people are plain divisive and they seek to work for Satan in causing chaos in the church. Note the warning in Romans 16:17-18: "I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive".

If you associate with people who do not follow due process, those who seek their own agenda in the church rather than the cause of truth, you need to separate yourself from such people. However, there is the need for men especially to stand up for the truth. What are some the issues today that require men to stand up for the sake of truth?

1. The truth of 1 Timothy 2:12 "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man". Worldliness and compromise has entered into parts of the church, one which is promoting women to teach men and also for them to exercise authority over men. This is not permitted by Scripture. Paul writes as an apostle, something representing the whole counsel of God; "I do not permit". The answer according to Paul is that in the church, that women are to "remain quiet". Now this will confront the feminist spirit of the age. The question is, will we bow before the truth of Scripture or not?

2. The matter of a silent genocide called abortion requires the church to "break the silence". The 6th Commandment plainly states that "you shall not murder", yet over 200,000 abortions continue every year in the UK alone and the church remains virtually silent on this matter.

3. The introducing of worldly methods into public worship. The Lord is to be approached with 'reverence and awe' and our hearts are to be filled with gratitude (Hebrews 12:28-29). I suggest reading "Seven Leaders" by Iain Murray, a new book which is published by the Banner of Truth.

May we join in prayer for the Lord to raise men like Mordecai in our generation. They can provoke and exhort us all, including exhorting women like Esther who are in positions of prominence to do the right thing.

Monday, 22 May 2017

"Unordained women can do everything, that unordained men can do in the church": Is this true?

Every now and again, new phrases arise in the church. The validity of such catchy phrases vary in their helpfulness; sometimes they are helpful and sometimes they are not. One's such as "once saved always saved", is one that needs unpacking, before it can be taken on face value. A new slogan has emerged in the last couple of years, one which underlies a push for the much greater involvement of women in the life, organisation and ministry of the church. It is this phrase: "unordained women can do everything, that unordained men can do in the church". It is catchy, well thought out, and it is intended to neutralise opposition to suggested changes against the greater involvement of women in the church's ministry and worship. But, what does the Scripture teach?

There are significant pushes from many quarters for change on the role of women in the church. While there are denominations who have pushed for the ordination of women as elders and deacons, contrary to Scripture, some slightly more conservative denominations do not want to follow the liberals that far, but instead they push for a similar agenda with a different strategy. One example of a wholehearted and an open approach to ordain women is the Church of England; they have actively ordained women ministers for the last 25 years and now they ordain women bishops. It is only a matter of time before they install their first woman archbishop. Other denominations who are more conservative, they know that it would not go down well to suggest that women can be ordained ministers, but instead they seek ways to achieve the same goal, but by a different route.

In what way is Scripture plain on these matters?

1. Only qualified, called and gifted men can be elders to oversee the public worship and the work of the church. Titus 1:5-6 "This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife ...". Scripture discriminates against women from holding this office but also against 98% of men in the church. Not all men can hold this office either.

Although an elders wife has an important role, the wife does not hold the office of elder along with the husband. It is not uncommon today to see photos of the husband and wife, both of them called pastors, but this is not biblical.

2. Only qualified, called and gifted men can hold the office of deacon. 1 Timothy 3:12 "Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well".

3. Women cannot exercise authority over men in the work of the church. 1 Timothy 2:12-14 "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor".

I have heard teachers in the church, seek to explain away this summary statement given by Paul the apostle, one that summarises the whole position of Scripture from Creation onwards. Why would professing evangelical teachers seek to explain away such a text? It is because they have an agenda to create space in the church for women to teach, exercise all kinds of ministries and so forth, without them being ordained. However, we must return to Scripture and to first principles to examine such a position.

A push for women to exercise all kinds of roles in public worship, one's such as the leading of the worship, the reading of Scripture, the serving of the Lord's Supper, and the preaching of the sermon, is contrary to Scripture. Therefore the ditto phrase that "unordained women can do everything unordained men can do in the church" is a spiritually unhelpful and a muddied phrase, one that probably masks an agenda to promote women exercising authority over men in the church.

The issue at stake is the matter of the authority of Scripture. Do we accept and submit to the plain teaching of Scripture or are we going to throw off the yoke of the Lord and walk contrary to his will?

John the apostle instructed the church in 1 John 4:1 "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world".

Friday, 19 May 2017

Matthew Henry, "A Way to Pray".

This hardback book, now published by Banner of Truth has been edited and reviewed by O. Palmer Robertson. What a gem this book is! It is the only book I know of, apart from the Bible, that I would recommend it should be used on one's knees. I do not say the Bible should always be read on your knees, but this book is best used in prayer on your knees.

The first four major sections are prayers founded on Scripture on four main headings. These are:


I suggest getting on your knees in prayer, putting pieces of paper inside each section, then taking a portion of each of these sections in order in prayer. It will warm your heart as you approach the Living God. This book as you use it prayer, may so warm and soften your heart that you may even rise from your knees without dry eyes. We need helps in prayer and this book is about as good as it comes.

Palmer Robertson has used this book his whole life in his personal communion with the LORD. This indicates the ongoing usefulness of its biblical content in this book. There are many other prayers provided, one's based on Scripture, one's which you can expand, but it gets you started in prayer. There is an expanded directory for the Lord's Prayer as well.

Robertson writes in his introduction: "According to his own notations, Matthew Henry considered another work of his to be so important that he interrupted the writing of his commentary and as a consequence never completed it. That other work was his laying out a method for prayer altogether based on the expressions of Scripture.

I wholeheartedly commend this book to you, as indeed I commend people to take some time to pray on their knees. This follows the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and Paul the apostle.

'And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” '. Luke 22:41-42.

"For this reason I bow [bend] my knees before the Father ... " Ephesians 3:14.

Friday, 12 May 2017

"Preaching made Practical" by O. Palmer Robertson

A new book published by Evangelical Press has come out on preaching. It is by O. Palmer Robertson with a forward by Ian Hamilton. Ian Hamilton writes that this book "could well become a standard text used in seminaries and Bible colleges to help equip men become preachers of the word".

This is a welcome publication. In an age where preaching is so little found and where propositional preaching is not the flavour of the day, this book could help men already called to preach and those considering the call to preach and pastor. Really, preaching and pastoring go "hand in hand". Every pastor has to be a preacher, though he must be more than a preacher.

Listen to Paul the apostle instructing the Corinthians:

1 Cor 1:23 "But we preach Christ crucified"

1 Cor 9:16 "For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!".

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Foolishness of Preaching

1 Cor 1:18 "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God".

Paul knows that that the preaching of Christ crucified is foolishness in the yes of the world. Indeed it always was, is and will be. Therefore, we must cease seeking cultural relevance at the expense of presenting the truth. The means of preaching and the content of the message of the crucified Christ is foolishness. BUT. But this is what the Lord has promised to bless and use for the extension of the church.

This does not mean then, that those who preach should not work at their preaching. Far from it! A new book on preaching has come out by O. Palmer Robertson called "Preaching made Practical" and it is published by EP. I recommend it. Palmer says on page 14 "If God has called you to preach, don't dare do anything else".

If you are a man who has a desire to preach and to be trained to preach I would love for you to contact me. We must have our gifts tested out but the church needs a whole new generation of preachers. Let us all join together to pray for labourers. preachers who will stick to preaching and to preaching the message of the cross, apart from all the other duties of pastoring.

Matthew 9:37-38 "Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest".

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Run from Pride as from a Bear

Pride is a spiritual disease which is a killer. Every true Christian must wage war against the sin of pride, yet pride comes in so many forms.
James 4:6-8 "But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you".

2 Corinthians 2:11 "so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs".

We must ensure that we are not unaware of Satan's scheme of pride. There are few better than William Gurnall to unpick the lock of secret pride. In his book "The Christian in Complete Armour" he exposes the sin of pride most helpfully. On pages 187-213 he undoes the sin of spiritual pride. Pride of grace, pride of gifts, pride of privileges .

How would you respond if you were walking in the USA and a bear appeared? The natural instinct would be to run. How much more we must run from pride. Also we should NOT sit with professing Christians who persist in pride either, lest they infect our soul with this dreaded disease. Some diseases are contagious and such is pride. Our pride tells us "no, I can handle it. Their pride will not affect me". Are you so sure O Christian?

Joesph fled from Potiphar's wife so why do you stand gazing at sin and consider yourself lest you also be tempted? I commend this book by Gurnall again, even if you simply open a few pages. I read this morning Mark 13 and it was a reminder there by the Lord Jesus. He emphasises the need to "be on your guard" and to "be alert". May God help us by his Holy Spirit for us to walk in genuine humility.

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” Mark 13:32-37.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

O. Palmer Robertson Preaching at Sheffield Presbyterian Church

We are thankful that O. Palmer Robertson will be preaching at Sheffield Presbyterian Church on the Lord's Day of the 7th May 2017. Palmer spends 6 months of the year in Cambridge and the other 6 months in Uganda. Palmer has written some fine books such as Christ of the Covenants, and his latest book on the Psalms called "The Flow of the Psalms".

In England and especially in Sheffield, we need as much help as possible to expose people to solid biblical and reformed ministry. Yorkshire is very thin in terms of churches who openly hold to Reformed confessions and a Reformed understanding of worship. Therefore, we are thankful for Palmer visit, a minister who is firmly anchored in reformed truth, while being joyfully committed to the great commission. If you would like to come then you are welcome, but also you can listen to his sermons which will be on our website as well. The website is

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Knowing Christ by Mark Jones

A friend of mine recommended this book to me and it has just arrived. The contents list looks promising with 27 chapters on Christ. Each chapter is called "Christ's ..."; for example we have Christ"s Prayers and Christ's Sinlessness, his Exaltation and so on. The foreword is by J. I. Packer with a play on words with PAcker's book called Knowing God.

It is published by the Banner of Truth and looks promising. 250 pages to warm the heart and inform the mind. I have not read it yet, but that is my thoughts as I am on the verge of beginning to turn the pages.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Religious Hypocrisy does not only affect Liberals and Roman Catholicism!

In recent times, it is well documented of the hypocrisy that has been uncovered among the Roman Catholic fraternity. The outstanding movie "Spotlight" (2015) records the expose of the child sex-abuse scandal in the Greater Boston area. With a priesthood who are forbidden to marry, such sinfulness working in darkness is no surprise to believing Protestant evangelicals. Paul warned Timothy: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth" (1 Tim 4:1-4).

Similarly, among liberals, those who do not believe in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus or the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, we may well expect double-standards and hypocrisy. However, a prideful self-deception emerges when Christians think that because a church community holds to Reformed Confessions and the authority of the Bible, that hidden sin must be a rarity or that hypocrisy is not our primary concern. This is not biblical thinking.
Three teachings by the Lord Jesus Christ come to my mind for us to freshly consider this subject.

1. Matthew 7:1-5 "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye".

This is not a call to lay aside good discernment with the phrase "do not judge", but rather it is a call to examine oneself against hypocrisy. What is remarkable is that hypocrites are able to talk of this subject, while living in hypocrisy. Spiritual blindness hinders our spiritual vision and pride is the root of this problem.

2. Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness' ".

An evangelical Christian religion that refuses to exhort all professing Christians to self-examination is failing the people of God. Here, the Lord Jesus teaches that is absolutely possible to outwardly teach, preach and do mighty works, and yet to not be one of the Lord's people. It is not by might, gifts, eloquence or outward success that we know who are Christians, but by their fruits, we shall know them.

3. Matthew 15:7-9 "You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

In musing on this blog post, let me put forward a number of signposts that may identify a Christian hypocrite. Someone who believes themselves to be a Christian, and yet they may not be the Lord's.

* Pride is the most obvious. When trials come, do such people respond in pride or in humility and teachability? If there is one mark of true Christianity, it is the willingness to be corrected and to be taught (Matthew 28:18-20).
* Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Religious hypocrites never talk of their personal spiritual struggles, instead they want to keep up false religious appearances. This is the result of pride and deception.
* Over the years, I have noticed some people after worship services, they never talk of the Lord, or of how the Lord has blessed them through the sermon, or of what the Lord has been teaching them in their personal devotions. Why is this?
Enjoying communion with the Lord in public worship and through our personal communion and prayer is an important means of grace and sign of being sanctified. There needs to be more than a burst of enthusiasm for these things but sustained long term, growth in knowing the Lord. Those who hear from Christ "I never knew you" could say the same of themselves of their knowing Christ, if they were honest they would acknowledge "I do not know Christ". They could then ask the church "will you please help me to know Christ Jesus personally?". Does this describe you as you read this blog? Be honest with yourself, because the gospel calls you to submit to Christ and to plead for mercy that you may be born again (John 3:1-8).
* A mark of some hypocrites is that they thrive on gossip, division, controversy and problems.
* The primary aim of this blog is pastoral. I want to win people to Christ for those who may not really know Him and yet think that they do. Also, I hope that this article is pastorally helpful, because it is perplexing when people profess to know Christ and yet their heart is in reality, far from Him.

We all need a fresh return to Paul's exhortation in 2 Corinthians Chapter 13. Why? The last thing we want is for people to falsely assume they have a good confession of the Christian faith, only to find out on the day of judgement that they have been kidding themselves and then to hear the words of the Lord Jesus "Depart from me, I never knew you".

"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for (2 Cor 13:5-6)".

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

"The Christian in Complete Armour" by William Gurnall

It is beyond doubt that this is a Puritan and Christian classic: "The Christian in Complete Armour" by William Gurnall. It is 656 pages long, and I have put off reading it, that is until recently. I have now decided to dip into it and to read a portion of it, rather than attempt the whole book. We must use this strategy more often when tackling writings by Puritans. We must not hold back reading the Works of Puritans, in thinking that we must read everything. Let our appetite be whet and then we can come back for more.

A ministerial friend recommended to me the section in this book, one which expounds Ephesians 6:12 "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against ... the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places". This section by Gurnall is terrific and how we need to be warned of the many stratagems and methods of the enemy of our souls, the devil. It is sheer unbelief to live as a Christian or as a church, as if the devil does not exist or that his work is irrelevant. This attitude is to leave ourselves open for deception. William Gurnall explains here (pages 177-213) on this single proposition given by Paul that:

"As spirits, they are invisible and their approaches also. They come and you see not your enemy" (page 178). Now this is sobering, therefore we must remain alert against the wiles of the devil, because we cannot see our enemy coming!

Ephesians 6:18 "praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints".
Here is another sobering gem from the pen of Gurnall, from page 181:

"Seest thou the monstrous pitch and height of wickedness that is in the devil? All this there is in the heart of every man. There is no less wickedness potentially in the tamest sinner on earth, than in the devils themselves, and that one day thou, whoever thou art, wilt show to purpose, if God prevent thee not by his renewing grace."

Why not get hold of this book and read a section? J. C. Ryle and Charles Haddon Spurgeon were both big supporters of this work. In fact, every Christian who has read it has raved to me about it. The church needs to be armed and equipped against Satan's constant attempts to deceive, discourage and wear us down.

Pick up and read! In the section I have mentioned above, Gurnall unmasks the sins of pride; pride of gifts, pride of grace and pride of privileges and how we all need to pursue humility and renounce all forms of hidden pride.

1 Peter 5:5-9 "Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith ...".

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Sin of Murmuring: Thomas Brooks expounds against this sin

In the essay by Thomas Brooks, Volume 1 Works, Brooks expounds about this sin in "The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod". As part of the valuable treatise on Psalm 39:9 he expounds the sin of murmering and complaining. Paul wrote to the Philippians: Do all things without grumbling [complaining] or disputing [quarrelling] (2:14). I have added the square brackets.

Which is easiest? To give thanks or to complain and grumble. The latter comes natural to us as sinners. What is more, we have many records in the Old Testament where the people of God grumbled against the Lord and Moses and the Lord judged his people. Note that grumbling is often directed to the Lord's elders. Religious professors get dissatisfied and they feel they have to target their grumbling somewhere and it often at God and his leaders. Such persons rarely think to examine their own sinful heart and work to take the beam out of their own eye (Matthew chapter 7). Which best describes you? Are you willing to humble yourself before the Lord concerning this sin of murmuring?

The Lord does not care much for false religious profession, hypocrisy or sedition. May we walk by God's grace in peace, love and truth.

Psalm 39:9 reads: "I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it".

Thomas Brooks writes against this sin with 12 headings (Works, Volume 1, pages 334-341):

1. First consider that murmuring speaks out many a root of bitterness to be strong in your soul.

2. Second, consider that the Holy Spirit has a set a brand of infamy among murmurers. He has stigmatised them for ungodly persons.

3. Third, consider that murmuring is the mother-sin; it is the mother of harlots, the mother of all abominations; a sin that breeds other sins.

4. Fourth, consider that murmuring is a God-provoking sin; it is a sin that provokes God not only to afflict, but also to destroy a people.

5. Fifth, consider, that murmuring is the devil's image, sin, and punishment.

6. Sixth, consider, that murmuring is a mercy-embittering sin, a mercy-souring sin.

7. Seventh, consider that murmuring is a mercy-destroying sin, a mercy-murdering sin.

8. Eighth, consider that murmuring unfits the soul for duty.

9. Ninth, consider that murmuring unmans a man; it strips him of all reason and understanding.

10. Tenth, murmuring is a time-destroying sin.

11. Eleventh, consider this Christians, that of all men in the world, you have least cause, yea, no cause, to be murmuring and muttering under any dispensation that you meet with in this world.

12. Twelfth, and last, consider that murmuring makes the life of man invisibly miserable.

If you are convicted of this sin, then why not come to Christ Jesus the mediator and ask for forgiveness but also for mercy. Forsake this wretched sin and drink from the living waters offered in the gospel.

John 7:37-39 "On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified".

Monday, 10 April 2017

Honour your Father and Mother: The Fifth Commandment's Challenge to our Culture

We cannot deny that the culture of the day impacts the church. It impacts the attitudes of individual Christians and families. How has contemporary culture shaped your opinions in respect to the fifth commandment?

Exodus 20:12 "Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you".

Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honour your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you".

I like to take time to regularly read the Westminster Standards as part of my spiritual devotions, but also to sharpened as a minister and pastor. I recently read the questions and answers on the fifth Commandment from the Westminster Larger Catechism. The Larger Catechism is perhaps the best Christian document ever produced by the church in the history of the church, in my opinion. But what does it teach on this subject and why is it so relevant?

Questions 123-133 offer perhaps the most detailed explanation of any single doctrine in the whole of the Westminster Standards. These 11 questions are:

123 Which is the fifth commandment?
124 Who are meant by Father and mother in the fifth commandment?
125 Why are superiors styled father and mother?
126 What is the general scope of the fifth commandment?
127 What is the honour that inferiors owe to the superiors?
128 What are the sins of inferiors against their superiors?
129 What is required of superiors toward their inferiors?
130 What are the sins of superiors?
131 What are the duties of equals?
132 What are the sins of equals?
133 What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment, the more to enforce it?

It is beyond the scope of this blog post to expound in detail all the points taught here. It is important to realise that superiors means those in authority and inferiors means those under authority. Authority structures are ordained by God, for the church through elders, in the civil realm with the government and police and our leaders at work, and in the home. In the home the husband is the head of the family.

Romans 13:1-2 "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment".

1 Peter 2:18 "Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust".

Here are some sins of inferiors; these could be against your church elders or against your boss at work. The list of sins in question 128 includes: "contempt and rebellion against superiors". In question 127 some duties of inferiors includes "prayer and thanksgiving for them [superiors] ... bearing with their infirmities [weaknesses]". Do you do this? I think we all have need of reformation when we read this teaching.

I suggest a careful study of these questions. In order to please our heavenly Father, but also to humble us all. Being reformed is not simply a check box of doctrines, but a life-long pursuit of holiness and submission to the written truth of God's Word.

Monday, 3 April 2017

The Westminster Standards and the Christian Sabbath (Part 2)

It is an established principle and doctrine, that the first day of the week is the God-appointed day for public worship, but in recent decades this day has come under attack, so that many professing Christians worship in one service and probably give less than half of their day to worshipping the Living God. We worship God in the church by the command of God. The divine order for healthy Christianity is worship first and then service second (Matt 4:10). Though all life is to be lived for the glory of God, all of life is not worship. Worship is a conscious act, one to be practiced especially in the corporate setting in the church, on the day appointed by the Son of God. R. Scott Clark rightly contends against the contemporary church and he asks the question: “Whatever happened to the second service?”. Quite simply the Lord commands us to set apart as holy, the whole of the Lord’s Day and two services enables us to structure our day for worship and spiritual nourishment. Do not forget that from a biblical perspective, that preaching is the high point of worship, not singing. In the act of the preaching of sound doctrine, the Lord addresses us and we respond back with prayer and singing.

We are as Christians to be renewed in repentance and faith through our Christian lives. The Word of God comes and shakes our opinions, the Holy Spirit persuades us of the truth and we are then brought to a crossroads where we then respond by either hardening ourselves against the truth or by submitting to it. I fully expect that some people reading this essay will have their consciences awakened to realise their spiritual duties, but also to acknowledge what they are missing out on by not taking the Lord’s Day as the gift from God to them. When we read Isaiah 58:13-14 “… and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honourable; if you honour it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth … for the mouth of the Lord has spoken”; these verses should make more sense. A changed mind persuaded by the truth of the written Scriptures, should lead to a change in our doctrine, which should lead to a changed life.

Before we hear the writing of the Puritan George Swinnock, one who is exuberant on the practice and preparation for the Lord’s Day by Christians, let me recommend further reading for study. The Westminster Standards are deliberately placed at the front of this book. We want Christians to read them. I would like to point you to specific points that you can turn to for further study. I suggest that your starting point should be Chapter 21 of the Westminster Confession called “Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day”. 21:7 and 8 specifically explain the Christian Sabbath, with abundant scriptural proof texts to follow up with. The Westminster Larger Catechism devotes no less than seven questions to teaching the Christian Sabbath from the Fourth Commandment (questions 115-121).

Similarly the Westminster Shorter Catechism devotes 6 questions to the same truth (questions 57-62). This should provide a solid avenue for further study and do pray for the Holy Spirit to instruct you in the process (Psalm 119:18). Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686), another English Puritan wrote well, when he stated that “this commandment was engraved in stone by God’s own finger, and it will be our comfort to have it engraved on our hearts”. May we learn of Christ, the one who delighted in each of his sabbaths through his life.

The Seventeenth Century English Puritans excelled in their teaching on the Christian Sabbath. They wrote with clarity, pastoral warmth and a burning love for the honour of the Triune God and the head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ. One such author on this subject was the Puritan pastor George Swinnock (1627-1673). In the first volume of his later published Works, he wrote on “The Christian Man’s Calling” to expound the much neglected theme of godliness. He expounds 1 Timothy 4:7: “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness”. Swinnock then proceeds to lay out pastorally and in detail, what godliness looks like in practice. He devotes a whole chapter on: “How to exercise ourselves to godliness on a Lord’s Day”.

This essay is taken from an excerpt from that particular chapter. He works out his ideas with eight propositions, but we have only included the first proposition (and put this in to modern English). This first proposition connects to the two questions and answers from the Westminster Larger Catechism cited above. Most especially Question 117, in that “we are to prepare our hearts, with such foresight, diligence and moderation” for the Christian Sabbath. It is to the pastoral detriment of the church, in my opinion, when such teaching is hidden from Christians. It is our hope that Swinnock’s passion and pastoral gifts, will stimulate a further recovery of a delighting in the Christian Sabbath (Isaiah 58:13-14) in our own generation. It was Swinnock who probably coined this phrase: The Lord’s Day is “the market-day for your soul” and it is here in this excerpt below, that he expounds this delightful metaphor. It is my intention that this introductory essay and Swinnock’s teaching as well, will “whet our appetite" to more fully enjoy our Sabbaths as “stepping stones” on our journey towards heaven.

Thomas Brooks: "The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod"

Again, we return to theme of encouraging people to read the Puritans rather than just reading about the Puritans. Let me introduce you to a pastoral gem. It is from the Works of Thomas Brooks (6 Volumes), Volume 1 and this pastoral jewel is based on a single verse in Psalm 39:9.

"I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it", Psalm 39:9.

I have never read anything of a similar character, depth or value for the Christian who has suffered or who is suffering under the Lord's chastisement and a time of bitter providence. I have recommended it to many others who are reading this. Brooks writes with clarity, depth, rich explanations and searching analysis. It will lead you to freshly repent and to turn to the heavenly Father in humility.

I commend this work to you!

Monday, 27 March 2017

A Sermon worth Listening to!

At the first Banner of Truth ministers conference in 1962, Rev Kenneth MacRae the then minister of the Presbyterian church in Stornaway, Lewis, Scotland, spoke on the subject of "preaching and the danger of compromise" We have requested permission to upload this outstanding sermon onto our church website and it is now available.

I have listened to this sermon countless times and it has really strengthened my own soul in many ways. I hope that you can enjoy this and feel free to pass this web link to others also.

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Westminster Standards and the Christian Sabbath (Part 1)

GEORGE SWINNOCK (Introduction by Kevin J Bidwell)

Question: What is required in the fourth commandment?
Answer: The fourth commandment requires of all men the sanctifying or keeping holy to God such set times as he has appointed in his Word, expressly one whole day in seven; which was the seventh from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, and the first day of the week ever since, and so to continue to the end of the world; which is the Christian Sabbath, and in the New Testament called The Lord’s day.

Question: How is the Sabbath or the Lord’s day to be sanctified?
Answer. The Sabbath or Lord’s day is to be sanctified by a holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.

The Westminster Larger Catechism, questions 116 and 117.

An Introduction to the Subject of the Christian Sabbath: Kevin J. Bidwell

Have you ever met someone who has suffered from burn-out? Perhaps you are reading this and you yourself have had to endure the painful steps of rebuilding your life following the after-effect of a burn-out. The recovery process takes time and patience, in order to be fully reorientated after such a trial. As a Christian, we understandably wonder “why has this happened to me?”. While I would not want to diminish other forms of spiritual advice, I want to present before the readers, the too often neglected, yet biblically established truth, of the Christian Sabbath; also known as the Lord’s Day. The practice of the Christian Sabbath is not primarily an anti-dote to stress and burn-out, but it includes that, and I have little doubt of its practical and spiritual benefits for the church. Never mind its sign nature to point to the glory of the Triune God. There was unanimous approval of this doctrine and its practice among the Westminster assembly. The Westminster Standards demonstrate abundant proof of this. Why then has the practice of the Christian Sabbath fallen upon such hard times among evangelicals in our generation?

Perhaps one reason for this current ignorance and neglect is our restlessness, which is in reality the product of sin. However, the lack of exposure to such practical teaching, surely lies at the heart of the matter. Any true Christian desires to obey their Lord from their heart, one informed by a the right standard of teaching. Paul admonished the Christians in the city of Rome: “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). It is my aim here, to introduce this subject and to remove the common mistake that to remember the Sabbath is legalism, while also promoting godliness through its joyful observance.

Have you ever met someone, who once the Ten Commandments are mentioned, that they protest that “we are not under law but grace or that these commands are not for the church today?”. With one sentence, such a professing Christian has sought to release themselves from the plain teaching of the Word of God and to walk openly in to a path of manifest disobedience to the Living God. Legalism is adding commandments or rules to the word of God, but the Sabbath day of rest is not a man made rule or addition. It is the plain will and gift of the Lord, one which began in the Garden of Eden and it continues until the second appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus taught that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”, therefore this day, practiced once each week is a God-ordained seven-day rhythm built for man from the Creator. Who would want to turn down such a gift from the mouth of God? Jesus Christ went on to proclaim that “the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). To submit to Jesus Christ and to confess him as Lord, is therefore to be one who practices the Christian Sabbath as the Saviour did.

The fourth of the Ten Commandments simply requires God’s people to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11). This Commandment was not a new one, because it spanned all the way back to the Garden of Eden. The first day that Adam enjoyed in the paradise, was a Sabbath Day of worship, communion with God and rest. However, after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Day moved forward, from what is now known as the Saturday (the last day of the week), to what is called today Sunday (the Lord’s Day, which is the first day of the week). This forward-moving of the appointed day of worship signifies the forward-movement from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The Sabbath is not abolished, but in the New Testament it is strengthened as the day appointed by Christ, the main day in which he primarily communes with his church (Rev 1:9-20). It was on the first day of the week that Christ Jesus was resurrected (Matt 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1); it was in that first Lord’s Day evening that he met with the disciples together (John 20:19); and then the church met on that day thereafter for public worship (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor 16:2, John 1:10).

Monday, 13 March 2017

The International House of Prayer Movement (IHOP): Weighed in the Balances and Found Wanting

"You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting" Daniel 5:27

A friend of mine called Brett Hoskins contacted me about his concerns regarding a large and growing, USA based parachurch prayer movement. It seems like parachurch prayer movements are a growing phenomena today. A valid question is: what legitimacy do they have? The Bible teaches us that prayer should be under the guidance of men, men who are ordained elders (1 Timothy chapter 2-3 as an example).

Brett's writing is emphatic, provocative and incisive. He is a man I have known for many years. He does hold to a Calvinistic view of Salvation and he is unashamed to profess to be a cessationist. That meaning he believes in the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, but not in what the IHOP practice. though IHOP, may be extreme, something of their teaching permeates the minds and actions of many professing Christians. Read what Brett writes, examine is thoughts and examine yourself as well as to the biblical basis of your beliefs and actions or otherwise.

7 Things Wrong With the International House of Prayer (IHOP)

1. A Personal Testimony Gospel
If you follow any of their teachers or students, you will almost immediately notice that whatever it is they believe, it has very little to do with God’s Word, and it seems to be revolving around their own personal stories. Personal Encounters. Divine Appointments. Soaking in the Spirit. Experiencing the Glory. These are phrases that are taught, learned and used by people at IHOP as they tell stories about their spiritual encounters. Most of the time they do not even know what they are talking about. Sermons are mainly anecdotal, while Scripture is twisted and false theology is claimed to be real. The clear aim of their sermons are personal power encounters with the Holy Spirit, angels and miracles.

2. An Obsession With Experiencing God
There is an over-emphasis on experiencing God that is so strong that they do not care how you experience God, just as long as you are experiencing him. In other words, it does not have to be in spirit and and truth (John 4:24). It just needs to be feelings of passion, happiness, intimacy, love, etc. And because the feeling is more important then anything else, as long as you are having the experience and feeling you can believe just about anything you want. You can be a Mormon, Catholic, Reformed or Pentecostal. Your experience is the most important; you can be barking like a dog or shaking like a rattle snake. Who cares what you believe when you’re experiencing “his spirit”? Of course they are experiencing a spirit, its just not God’s Spirit.

3. Dominion Theology (NAR = New Apostolic Reformation)
“The Holy Spirit moves whenever there is a declaration, so they believe. First we say it, and then the Holy Spirit moves after it …that is how we change the atmosphere of a room, a meeting or those kinds of things.” The idea that God the Father gave all authority to Jesus (in other words, the Father does not have all authority) and now Jesus, being in heaven, has given all authority to us (in other words, the Son does not have all authority, we do) is a central point of the NAR. A common thought is “bringing heaven to earth”. It permeates their prayers, songs and conversation. This is a different Gospel than the Kingdom of Heaven the Lord Jesus Christ talked about. Dominionism is the idea that Christians should literally set up a kingdom of God on earth by taking possession of “Seven Mountains”: government, media, entertainment, education, business, family, and religion.

4. A Functional Denial of Sola Scriptura
While IHOP and Bickle would always strongly affirm Sola Scriptura when asked by outsiders (I say by outsiders because its not a topic they themselves talk about), on a functional or practical level, they are more non-Sola Scriptura than many of our Roman Catholic friends. Where Roman Catholicism would says it is Scripture and tradition, IHOP would says, it’s anything you want it to be. You, not the Church (as Roman Catholics would have it), they are receiving direct revelation and fresh words from God which should lead you and teach you what to do. This denial of Sola Scriptura also reveals itself in women preachers and teachers, encouraging the use of tongues in public without interpretation, offering the Lord’s Supper privately, etc.

5. Constant And Acknowledged Blaspheming Of The Holy Spirit
Mike Bickle himself says that 80% of what people say is from God, is not. “You can enjoy it without believing all of it”. In another “sermon” Bickle says, “Most of the stuff people tell me about, I just don’t believe. I think Nope, nope, nope. Lie. HamburgerHelper. Exaggeration. Fake. Hype. No. No. And I’m in the middle of a lot of prophetic people. And I think, no, yuk. Gross. Thats how I feel about most of what I hear. But there are some true ones in the land. But most of what is going on in the prophetic, kind of makes my stomach hurt to be honest. Most of it is embarrassing, ridiculous, peripheral. Completely side issues that aren't even on God’s heart. And I go, what are they talking about? But there is the real.”
Bickle, however much he says he hates the “fake”, is actually a breeding ground for it. He acknowledges the problem, but says he will keep the fake for the sake of the real.

6. Continuationism Run Wild
What makes their continuationism different from the old Charismatic movement, is the idea of “Being like Jesus in power.” They believe they can literally control the wind and the waves like Jesus did if they just have enough faith. They believe they have authority to heal all sickness, raise the dead, appoint apostles and prophets and manipulate the atmosphere. Its word of faith and the health and wealth teachings that have been sophisticated in their presentation.

7. Biblical Illiteracy
The fruit of this “ministry” is the inability of its people to discern right from wrong. Members of IHOP seem to have no power to discern what the Bible is actually teaching, nor to know when Bible twisting is happening. Although Mike Bickle himself claims that 80% of peoples experiences are made up or lies, his followers do not possess the ability to know true from false. Nor are they able to righty divide the Word of God. Any interpretation of scripture is valid. In the end, its not fidelity to God through his Word that these people are interested in. Its rather their own empowerment and feelings of importance. All this, of course, is packaged in Christian vocabulary, songs, and the like.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Why is it that Christians are not reading good Christian books currently?

"When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments" 2 Timothy 4:13.

Paul asked for this little known servant Carpus to bring his scrolls and parchments (literally membranes). We are not given information as to what was written on these documents. It is commonly known that written materials were expensive in the New Testament times and therefore the reading of the Scriptures was something that Christians delighted in. Everybody did not have their own copy of the Old Testament, never mind the whole of the New Testament. Written Christian materials were important for Paul, both of the written word of God and no doubt other material as well for his spiritual edification. Reading, hearing, listening and filling our mind with the things of God instead of the things of the world has always been a central component to spiritual growth, sanctification and also the means of propagating the gospel.

Why is it then today that Christians are reading so little of quality Christian books? It is commonly known, especially in the UK that professing evangelical Christians are not reading quality Christian books for their spiritual profit. Here are some possible reasons:

*The internet provides their materials and there is no need to buy books
*The evangelical church is waging or declining and people do not need to keep buying books when their library is full
*The church is spiritually lukewarm and impacted by theologies that over-emphasise personal experience at the expense of solid biblical study.
* Churches and ministers are doing very little to promote the reading of good Christian materials
* An assumption that Christians cannot or will not read anything but a thin easy-to-read book and we must not expect anything else. In other words giving into laziness and accommodating people's personal preferences rather than giving people solid food.

No doubt there could be other reasons and do feel free to make a blog comment to suggest other reasons. It is one thing to diagnose a problem, it is quite another to find the right solution.

2 Corinthians 13:5-6 "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!".

First, we all need to examine ourselves. Are you reading excellent quality Christian books including reading the Bible on a regular and consistent basis?

Second, how can we as ministers and in churches promote the reading of good books? How could your church promote a book of the quarter or book of the bi-month to promote reading and spiritual growth?

Third, when we have conferences or other events, how could you go about contacting a publisher for discount and selling good books at good prices?

Fourth, seek ways to promote the reading of good books. A personal recommendation does a huge amount to get people to buy a book, read it and thereby grow in the Lord.

Proverbs 4:23-27 "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

Monday, 6 March 2017

George Swinnock on the Christian Sabbath

Swinnock in Volume 1 of his Works is one of the best writers on the Christian Sabbath that I have ever come across. Read two excerpts below.

Esteem the public ordinances the chief work of the day, and let your secret and private duties be so managed that thy soul may be prepared for them, and profited by them. Duties in your closet and family are of use and have their blessing; but to put God off with these, and neglect the public worship, is to rob God of a greater sum, to pay him a lesser. The sacrifice of the Jews on that day was double; they offered sacrifice in the tabernacle, besides their lambs for the daily sacrifice.
It is worth your observation, that the Sabbath and public service are by God himself joined together, and therefore let no man put them asunder [divide them]: “You shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD”, Lev. 19:30. They that despise God's sanctuary, cannot observe God's Sabbath.

I would wish you, therefore, to be present at, and to continue to the end of public ordinances. David would be a door-keeper in the house of God; because a door-keeper is first in and last out. Friend, if thou were feasting with some noble person, you would not rise from table, unless necessity forced you, before all were taken away, and thanks returned. I must tell you, that when you are feeding with the blessed Potentate, it is much below good manners to turn your back upon him, without his leave and blessing.

If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honourable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Matthew 12:8: "For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath”.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Inclusive Hymnody and Psalmody: Singing Hymns and Psalms in Congregational Singing

It is important that we base our views upon sound principles of biblical interpretation. We need the whole panorama of Scripture, of the Old and New Testaments, rightly understood, to come to sound and biblical conclusions. This is why churches should sing both hymns (with correct biblical content) and psalms (ideally metrical and in modern English) for their congregational singing. We contend for both. We contend that both hymns and psalms should be sung as Ephesians 5:19-20 teaches: "Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ". These exhortations are repeated in Colossians 3:16.

Singing of hymns in Congregational Singing

We are thankful for the Book of Psalms, which I believe should be sung in metrical form by all congregations where possible, but our singing must never be restricted only to psalms. Why is that? The psalms, though they are very important as a collection of songs for singing, teaching and prayers (which are vital to the life of the church), we must not overlook that they were written in the shadow of the Old Testament revelation period.

Colossians 2:16-17 "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ".

Hebrews 10:1 "For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near".

While as a minister, I contend for the singing of psalms, we must sing hymns also, because the church has moved forward from the Old Testament revelation to the perfection of the new. The church has moved from shadow to fulfilment, from the shadow of good things to accomplishment, to the true form of those realities and to the substance of the Lord Jesus Christ. The content of singing, praying, preaching and catechising are all to reflect that great redemptive forward movement by God Almighty. I have a topical index of the psalms in metre which I regularly use in service planning, but there are many topics missing. This is because the Book of Psalms are in shadow, instead of in New Testament fulfilment.

Here are some examples of things omitted in the Book of Psalms which need to be sung about using hymns:

The atonement accomplished by the blood of Jesus through the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The name and title of the Lord Jesus Christ
The name of the Triune God (Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit) and the doctrine of the Trinity
The title Holy Spirit is only found once in the Psalms (in 51:11) and yet this title is found on almost every page of the New Testament.
Baptism and the Lord's Supper are absent from the Psalms, as is understandable
Plain teaching on justification, adoption, regeneration and the new birth, heaven and the church's adversary Satan

It is true that not all hymns should be sung. They need to convey accurate doctrinal truth. But, we cannot imagine singing without including the name of Jesus, reference to the Trinity or plain truth on the atonement, the cross of Calvary and the resurrection and ascension of Christ.

Singing of Psalms in Congregational Singing

It is a poor state of affairs today, that much of evangelical Christianity have adopted an exclusive hymnody position. The church have sung the Book of Psalms for 3000 years. To neglect to sing psalms as part of the compliment of our singing is to impoverish the church, it is to disobey Scripture (Ephesians 5:19), and it reveals a lack of appreciation for divine revelation and of church history.

In conclusion, I pray for a recovery of the singing of hymns and psalms in public and private singing, to rightly obey the Lord, to convey truth to the church and the world, to enrich our public worship and to honour the Triune God through the Lord Jesus Christ. However, we need biblical balance because singing, though it is important, it is not a mark of a true church. The high point of worship is to be the preaching of sound doctrine, the right administration of the sacraments and prayer.

Finally, let us hear Jonathan Edwards who recorded some errors that occurred in the 18th Century revival (Jonathan Edwards, Works, Volume 1, Banner of Truth, p 396).

Jonathan Edwards on Including Hymns and Psalms for Congregational Singing

But what is more especially found fault with, in the singing now practised, is making use of hymns of human composure. I am far from thinking that the Book of Psalms should be thrown by in our public worship, but that it should always be used in the christian church to the end of the world: but I know of no obligation we are under to confine ourselves to it. I can find no command or rule of God's word, that does any more confine us to the Words of Scripture in our singing, than it does in our praying; we speak to God in both. And I can see no reason why we should limit ourselves to such particular forms of words, that we find in the Bible, in speaking to him by way of praise, in metre, and with music, than when we speak to him in prose, by way of prayer and supplication. And it is really needful that we should have some other songs besides the Psalms of David.

It is unreasonable to suppose that the Christian church should for ever, and even in times of her greatest light, in her praises of God and the Lamb, be confined only to the words of the Old Testament, wherein all the greatest and most glorious things of the gospel, that are infinitely the greatest subjects of her praise, are spoken of under a veil, and not so much as the name of our glorious Redeemer ever mentioned, but in some dark figure, or as hid under the name of some type. And so as to making use of the words to others and not those that are conceived by ourselves, it is no more than we do in our public prayers; the whole worshipping assembly, excepting one only, makes use of the words that are conceived by him who speaks for the rest.

Jonathan Edwards succinctly conveys the sum and substance of New Testament truth, regarding the congregational singing to be practiced by the church.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Christ and the Church: The opening of a sermon preached from Song of Songs 2:8-17

Christ and the Church (Song of Songs, 2:8-17)

On August the 14th 1836, Robert Murray M’Cheyne preached as a candidate for the vacancy at St Peter’s, Dundee. He was 23 years old. If you are tempted to have feelings of self-exaltation or spiritual pride, simply read this sermon. How could one so young be so well acquainted with the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ? The answer is clearly the sovereign grace of God. Yes, he was trained under Thomas Chalmers, but clearly it was a time of significant blessing upon the church in Scotland, with many other preachers of the same warm Calvinistic view in the 19th Century. Oh that the Lord would revive his church in Scotland and elsewhere again.

He began this sermon by giving it the title “The Voice of my Beloved” from The Song of Songs 2:8-17 and he took the reformed orthodox line of it speaking of Christ and the church. My title for today from the same passage is “Christ and the Church”. They must have liked M’Cheyne’s trial sermon, because he was inducted a few months later as their minister in November 1836.

However, this was his opening sentence for that sermon:
“There is no book of the Bible which affords a better test of the depth of a man’s Christianity than the Song of Solomon”.
I agree, do you?

M’Cheyne died age 29, just short of his 30th birthday of typhoid. He was a burning and shining light. However, we must never put preachers on a pedestal, something only reserved for the head of the church the Lord Jesus Christ. We give honour to the Lord’s servants, but without flattery or by looking at man unduly. When Robert was a young man, he was tempted to do this with Jonathan Edwards whom he read and then he wrote in his diary:

“Read part of Jonathan Edwards. How feeble does my spark of Christianity appear beside such a sun! But even his was borrowed light, and the same source is still open to enlighten me”. If we are tempted as M’Cheyne was, may we remember that the Lord Jesus is the true light, he is the light of the world and may we be only fixed upon him for salvation, blessing and truth. He is the unchangeable Master who sticks closer than a brother, whose interpretation is infallible, whose promisees are unbreakable, who alone can be fully trusted with our lives.

1. Christ
2. The Church (Believer)
3. Uses

Song of Songs 2:8-17

The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, there he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, looking through the lattice. My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.
Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.”
My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies. Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle or a young stag on cleft mountains

Monday, 13 February 2017

"How to exercise ourselves to godliness on the Lord's Day" by the English Puritan George Swinnock (1627-1673)

I am currently reading the Works of George Swinnock. A Presbyterian minister within the Church of England and he was one of the 2000 ministers ejected in 1662 by the shameful work of King Charles II. King Charles II was a crypto-Roman Catholic and he created havoc in the church in this nation. Roman Catholic doctrine has never changed and it is anti-Christian to the core.

Last week, I read myself happy. When was the last time you read some spiritual material that made you spiritually happy and deeply satisfied? I read George Swinnock Works, Volume 1:XXI, “How to Exercise Ourselves to Godliness on a Lord’s Day", pp 222-249.

This is the best work I have ever read on the Christian Sabbath. When I read it, it made me spiritually joyful. I am not sure if you are familiar with this writer or this work, but what he writes does one’s soul good in preparing for the Sabbath. Swinnock is expounding 1 Timothy 4:7-8.

"Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come".

One of the urgent requests for prayer in our day, everywhere, is for the Lord to recover a love for the Christian Sabbath among God's people. This would be revival enough and it would bring great honour to the Lord. This recovery would eliminate lazy pastors though, because a minimum of two services on the Lord's Day and probably with catechising as well is needed with this doctrine. We need it. The church needs it. The testimony of Christ in this dark world needs this. Let us join in prayer for it.

Here is a website link to read this chapter online:

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 1 Corinthians 9:16

I have almost finished the J. C. Ryle book by Iain Murray. In reading one chapter, I was impressed that Ryle had this verse inscribed on the pulpit in a congregation he served in Stradbroke, Suffolk. For a man who was educated at Eton School, with a top University degree from Oxford, this inscribed verse speaks volumes of what it means to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

As for Paul the apostle, JC Ryle, and any true servant of Christ, the joy of preaching the gospel outweighs any other path. Paul the apostle was constrained and he writes to the Corinthians that "necessity is laid upon me". To preach is an irrepressible burden.

A man called to the office of teaching elder must be qualified by managing his own household, being gifted for the office and trained, but there must be more. A man called by God has this inner-burning conviction to preach. He must preach!

However, it is not just preaching or heralding the message. The content of the message must be right. It is the gospel that is to be preached in all of its facets. We must pray for these kinds of men to be raised up by the Lord again in our own generation.

Monday, 6 February 2017

"Reading the Puritans" rather than "Reading about the Puritans"

The more I think of the English Puritans, the more I think that this was an exceptional time in church history. The number of theological pastors of such high quality emerging seemingly simultaneousy is a providence to be studied.

The Puritan time-frame is basically 1560-1660. There were a number of Scottish worthies and some in Ireland, such as Archbishop James Ussher as well. A number of decades ago, it would have been timely to have urged for the republishing of Puritan books. After World War 2, very few Puritan books were in print. It is mainly to the credit of the emergence of the Banner of Truth publishing house, that the printing landscape began to change. Today, there are Puritan books available in many places. However, many people today are writing about the Puritans and many are reading about the Puritans. This is not wrong, but going to the original Puritan sources is invaluable.

A preacher and friend of mine made the almost 'throw away' comment to me me last year which has resonated. It was this: "We need to spend more time reading the Puritans, than reading about them". I concur. However, where should you begin? Let me suggest a number of places for you.

Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance, a Puritan paperback by the Banner of Truth

John Flavel, Volume 1 of his Works and this volume contains many superb sermons.

George Swinnock, Volume 1 of his Works which teaches on "godliness".

John Owen, Communion with God, either the abridged paperback or the copy in John Owen's Works.

Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity

William Ames, The Marrow of Theology

This is just a start. May we return to the source of this reformed stream of theology to be built up in our faith in our day. If people know of other great works to recommend to blog readers, then do make a comment on this blog post.

Hebrews 13:7 "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith".

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Preaching and the Danger of Compromise, Kenneth MacRae, Banner of Truth Ministers Conference, 1962

Preaching and the Danger of Compromise, Kenneth MacRae, Banner of Truth Ministers Conference, 1962

Some years ago, I came across the early addresses of the Banner Ministers Conference. I decided to order a number of CD's with preachers such as Iain Murray, Professor John Murray, Professor Loughridge, W. J. Grier and some others. Among the CD's that I ordered, there was a single recording by Kenneth MacRae. I am not ashamed to say that I have listened to it countless times, most especially on journeys in the car. I cannot commend it enough. But what does it contain that is so gripping and that it has compelled me to keep listening?

First, the tone of the man simply conveys seriousness about the Lord when he speaks. This is something I found refreshing, especially in an age of much levity. This levity even enters into some churches and pulpits, with what I presume must be driven by a hunger to be popular.

Second, the title caught my attention. Ecclesiastes 9:11 has been an important verse in my reflections of Christian endurance and it states that: "the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong". Therefore, it is not speed or power that counts, but endurance without compromise and that by the grace of God. This is the heartbeat of MacRae's address to the ministers in his own day.

Third, the content of his address is like "iron sharpening iron". What does he highlight for ministers in order that they preach without compromise? It is an eminently practical address and he uses Paul as the model preacher, one who "was careful to present the truth as it is recorded in the Word of God" stated MacRae. Also he warns that we must avoid false teachers as Paul warned in Galatians 1:9: "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed". He commends Paul as an "out an out man" and the type of man we need today. However, if we are to guard the truth carefully then we need a norm or standard from which we will not depart. This standard to which we are to be faithful and to be aware of a contrary power or influence to compromise. There should be no bargaining of the truth, in order to get accepted what a preacher has to declare. The norm or standard is the word of truth as expressed in holy Scripture. Preachers must be careful to preach the whole counsel of God and every doctrine worked into the gospel (Acts 20:27).

Election is a doctrinal example. We must preach this truth because it is found in the Word of God. We must preach the whole counsel of God, without modification or compromise, to hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught (Titus 1:9). We do not desire needless offense explained MacRae and common sense is needed for ministers also. In preaching, we must not weary our hearers by preaching for too long, when we should stop. MacRae warns of the "fatal gift of fluency" where men dispense with much study. He believed that men who do not study are in danger of being finished before God. A sober comment indeed in my view.

Another warning is the danger of compromising by trying to please our audience. This danger may lead some preachers in going too far and in coming down from the platform of the truth. Another warning is to preach only one side of the gospel, the bright side of the Gospel such as the love of God in giving Christ Jesus the Saviour, and the prospects of the promises of God. But we must not neglect to preach sin in its reality, as that which is an unspeakable offense and man as a sinner with its consequences. Compromise enters into the church, when we try to improve the gospel or to try to make the gospel acceptable. We cannot and must not tamper with the gospel and cut things out or add things to make it acceptable.

Why do men expect us to compromise? Men by nature have an innate dislike of the gospel and certain truths men will not accept and they want a preacher to remain silent on some things. Such truths that need heralding without shrinking back, should be done so repeatedly. These include the doctrines of: the total corruption of man by the Fall; that man's righteousness is by grace alone without works; that we can have no hand in our salvation, but it is the sovereign will of a merciful God; that professors must repent from the love and practice of sin and realise that there are no short-cuts in repentance; and the doctrine of the eternal punishment of sin. MacRae understood that the less that preachers preach everlasting punishment, the more people will approve of them. We cannot soften any of these truths or keep them in the background of our preaching. The preaching of the new birth must not be held back either.

The last point is the effect of compromise. This means to be unfaithful to our Master and that grieves the Spirit of the Lord. What is more then, is that we are likely to affect our hearers when there are gospel aberrations.When the preacher compromises, then Christ will hide his face from us and we then lose our power, spiritually. The need is for faithfulness and not success. Noah is an example of a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5) and we must consider his example. A preacher must desire to hear from the Lord Jesus Christ the words: "Well done good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21).

Monday, 30 January 2017

Al Martin "The Forgotten Fear"

I am so thankful to the Lord that as a young Christian I was introduced to the topic of the fear of the Lord. This is a theme which pervades all of Scripture. Indeed it is the starting point for long term discipleship as a true Christian and the starting point for public and private worship.

Deuteronomy 6:13 is cited by the Lord Jesus Christ who interprets fear as worship in Matthew 4:10.

Deut 6:13 "It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear".

Matthew 4:10 "
Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’ ”.

Could the contemporary worship problems of being man-centred be as the result of this forgotten fear being missing? What is the forgotten fear? It is the fear of the Lord. This was the distinguishing mark of Job and it should be of us if we are serious minded about the God of the Bible and the gospel of God.

Al Martin has done the church a service in writing this book and again, though I have just begun reading it, I commend it to you. If I can do anything to promote the fear of the Lord in my lifetime, I will. Fearing the Lord is one of my primary life pursuits and it has been a pursuit since around 1991 when I was first introduced to this biblical truth.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Psalm 111:10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!".

Thursday, 26 January 2017

J C Ryle, "Prepared to Stand Alone" by Iain Murray

I have just received this book from my darling wife Maria for my birthday. We have been promoting it as the book of the quarter as a church and many people are telling me how much it has blessed them. I am promoting a book that I have not read yet, but I do know the author's other books which are all excellent. I know something of the life of J C Ryle, but the title alone is excellent; Prepared to Stand Alone.

In an age of Facebook likes, I wonder how many of those Facebook Likes Ryle would have got for his clear evangelical stand in his own day, had there been such a thing. Never-the-less, truth is unchanging and a stand for truth always requires resolute conviction based on the authority of the Bible. This is not fundamentalism. It is biblical Christianity. So I commend this book in advance and I may add further comments when I have enjoyed its contents.

It is published by the Banner of Truth.

Ephesians 6:13 "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm". Note that it is all Christians who are to "stand firm" and not just Christian ministers. Are you standing firm for the truth? Could you be described as a Mr or Mrs Stand-fast for the truth?

Monday, 23 January 2017

2017 is the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

It was on the 31st October 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany. This led to the onset of what we now call the Reformation. What was this reformation? It was a recovery of the gospel and the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. The Roman Catholic Church had descended into a spiritual darkness, of which they still remain, so that the gospel was completely distorted and they proclaimed a works-based righteousness. They offered people the false hope of paying to get others peoples sin forgiven. This is utterly false.

The first doctrines to be recovered were justification and five key teachings have become associated with the Reformation. This reforming (present tense active participle) continues today and it must continue. The sinfulness of man tends to falsity and a departure from a biblical path and therefore the work continues. These five tenets of salvation are:

Scripture alone
Christ alone
Faith alone
Grace alone
To the glory of God alone

In the early part of the Reformation era magisterial Reformers such as Luther, then Calvin laid down clear teaching. The church began to work collectively to produce Confessions to clarify the content of biblical truth. Thomas Watson called this "The Body of Divinity". At the end of the line of all Protestant Confessions and Catechisms was the Westminster assembly and the resultant Westminster Standards. Probably the best summary of the Christian faith ever penned by the church. It is available to read on the website of Sheffield Presbyterian Church ( and it is being published this year in Modern English.

The Westminster Standards not only pens the final statement of the Reformation era, but it embodies the whole counsel of God. This is not a group of isolated doctrines but it contains the doctrines to keep church's on track and to best nourish the flock of God and to guard them from euro. The first chapter in the Westminster Confession is on Scripture. The first point of recovered truth must be Scripture. Let em recommend some resources for reading to encourage people.

Roland Bainton, The Life of Martin Luther
R C Sproul, Scripture Alone
Thomas Watson, The Body of Divinity

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

In October this year, there is a Reformation 500 conference in Newcastle. I commend this conference and the website to learn how you can attend is:

Monday, 16 January 2017

The Westminster Standards and the Lord's Day (also known as the Christian Sabbath)

The Westminster Assembly which met over several years in the 1640's in London was the last of the Reformation synods to pen Reformed Catechisms and a Confession. This meant that, by being at the end of the line of theological development, that they were able to pen mature doctrinal standards building on the previous works of the Reformers. These works upon which they built, were Martin Luther and the German Reformation, including the Heidelberg Catechism. The Synod of Dort in the Low Countries which resolved the Arminian controversy, as well as the work of Zwingli, Bucer and others in Switzerland and elsewhere.

One of the "high watermarks" of the Westminster Standards was the clarity of thought and teaching on the Lord's Day, also known as the Christian Sabbath. It was in the Westminster Confession and the two Catechisms that this teaching reached a climax, most likely in the history of the church. The blessing of the Lord's Day, rightly understood and practiced, has shaped the Protestant church since, at least up until the last generation. An American Presbyterian minister told me in recent years that this is the first generation in North America (USA) where the whole church has not practiced the Lord's Day with two services. Why is that? This generation has more time than ever before, but seemingly less time for the worship of the Triune God.

"If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honourable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 58:13-14

The Westminster Confession has a whole chapter (21) "Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day". The last two of eight points teach the Christian Sabbath. The Westminster Larger Catechism expounds the Fourth of the Ten Commandments (Remember the Sabbath Day) and there are seven questions and answers on this Commandment (questions 115-121). The Shorter Catechism similarly expounds the same Fourth Commandment with six questions (57-62).

An important question emerges for every professing Christian. Why do we go to church on the Lord's Day (Sunday)? How do you answer that question? The correct answer from the Bible is that we go to church on the Sabbath to worship the Triune God by the command of God. To wilfully and persistently to fail to do so, is putting yourself in the danger of what the Bible calls covenant unfaithfulness. However, this commandment is for the profit of our souls, it is to be a delight; the whole day is to be put aside for the personal and public exercises of worship, communion with the Lord and with his saints. In short; Call the Sabbath a delight!

Two of the Puritan divines who excelled in their teaching on the Lord's Day were Thomas Watson and George Swinnock.

George Swinnock: “A thanksgiving day has a double-precedency of a fast-day. On a fast-day we eye God’s anger; on a thanksgiving day we look to God’s favour. In the former we specially mind our corruptions, in the latter God’s compassions; therefore a fast-day calls for sorrow, a thanksgiving day for joy. But the Lord’s day is the highest thanksgiving day”.

Thomas Watson: “How highly should we esteem and reverence this day!. It is more precious than rubies. God has anointed it with the oil of gladness above its fellows. On the Sabbath we are doing angels’ work, our tongues are turned to God’s praises. The Sabbath on earth is a shadow and type of the glorious rest and eternal sabbath we hope for in heaven, when God shall be the temple and the lamb shall be light of it”.

My aim in this blog post is the recovery of the joyful delight of honouring the Lord's Day by Christians everywhere. This includes church ministers and elders. The practice of a single service on the Lord's Day by churches today, is a sign that much recovery of Christian truth is needed. Our priority in the church is first to please the Lord, not people. People may say I am not interested in the Lord's Day or in two services, but churches must do what Jesus Christ said in Revelation 2:25 "Only hold fast what you have until I come".

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Westminster Standards and the Song of Songs

It is remarkable that the Westminster assembly held to a Christological line on The Song of Songs. It is what we expect but this fact is often overlooked. How do we know that this is the line of interpretation for that Book of Scripture? It is from the proof texts that are used to support various doctrines. Indeed we could say that the Westminster divines held a Trinitarian and Christological line for this book. Let me give you the citations in the Westminster Standards.

1:4 "Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers".

This is cited in chapter 10:1 of the Confession in relation to the doctrine of effectual calling. That is that we as hardened sinners, we are made willing to come to the Lord by the sovereign grace of God.

The Duty of Christians after the Lord's Supper (Westminster Larger Catechism, question 175).

3:4 "Scarcely had I passed them when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her who conceived me".

I love this phrase here that says "I held him, and would not let him go". What a delightful idea and something for us to consider if it describes our own present spiritual condition and our communion with Christ Jesus.

The Perseverance of the Saints, Assurance of Grace and Salvation and the duty of Christians after the Lord's Supper

5:2 "I slept, but my heart was awake. A sound! My beloved is knocking. 'Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one, for my head is wet with dew, my locks with the drops of the night'. I had put off my garment; how could I put it on? I had bathed my feet; how could I soil them? My beloved put his hand to the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me. I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the bolt. I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone. My soul failed me when he spoke. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer".

It is beyond the scope of this blog post today to fully expound this text from the Song. I hope that you can see its relevance to the way it is cited. For example, with respect to the assurance of grace, there is a serious warning given in the Westminster Confession, one drawn from Scripture, of neglecting the means of grace. It states in Chapter 18:4

4. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers
[various] ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted [temporarily
lost]; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special
sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit; by some
sudden or vehement temptation, by God's withdrawing the light of
His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in
darkness and to have no light: yet are they never so utterly destitute
of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the
brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which,
by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be
revived; and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported
from utter despair.

May we ensure that we do not neglect the means of grace appointed to be administered through the church and public worship. Namely, the preaching of the Word of God, the right administration of the Sacraments and prayer.

My conclusion is that in various places that the Song of Songs was clearly believed to be understood in a spiritual sense as a portrait of the life of the believer and the church, in their union and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is compelling evidence for this line of interpretation.