Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

Holiday Fun

The UK Xmas/New year holiday is long and lazy for many. We began Christmas Eve with services am & pm focusing on the nativity and in between a turkey dinner, crackers and full trimmings for 11 family and friends.
First thing on the 25th we opened presents then headed to church. The congregation was swollen to 70 by 40 Koreans who are to use our building for their own services from next week. Strangely, lunch was pizza and chips for 7 as we then set off for Wales for 3 days with Eleri's parents and sisters – 16 all told. We enjoyed eating, talking, exchanging presents, more crackers, reading, music, games (pictionary, consequences, etc). There was a traditional session with silly string too [see pic].
We 7 then went south to my sister and dad's (just 13 there) for more presents and crackers (same jokes again!), games, chat. Old friends popped in. I had a weird experience speaking Welsh with one who's learning. He never spoke a word before! We dropped our three youngest off with Eleri's sister and headed home then. Her cousin and family were up to celebrate an 18th with Les Mis and the Eye (so 8 of us here Friday night).
Us 4 then went to church again and later to a
get together at a deacon's home to welcome 2007. Today we head west again for a big family get-together in Wiltshire. Exhausting but fun!

Naked Jape Reviewed

One of my Christmas books was The Naked Jape by Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves. It's a fairly serious look at jokes and why they make us laugh. As I've had a lifelong interest in the subject I enjoyed it. What keeps it in on a light note is the inclusion of hundreds of jokes - many of which I bored my family with. Specimen - Throwing acid is wrong, in some people's eyes (Carr). I was relieved to read the suggestion that most people can only remember three jokes at any one time - that's me.
Some of the territory trodden was not to my liking and one would need to warn against certain passages. Carr has a Roman Catholic background, Greeves a Methodist one. Carr is more atheistic, Greeves more nominal but a vague sometimes determined liberalism predominates. Evolution is assumed (they not only refuse to believe every word of Genesis but think Phil Collins is a bad drummer!) and Freud is countenanced. There are interesting discussions of the Jerry Springer Opera, Lenny Bruce, the anti-Muslim cartoons, sexism, racism, etc, and info about Navajo laughing ceremonies, Eastern bloc jokes and ancient humour, etc.
In the last chapter they helpfully distinguish seriousness and solemnity. I agreed with this statement (p 292) 'There is indeed a time to weep and a time to laugh, and all of us should cultivate a healthy understanding of when that is.' I also liked G K Chesterton 'The reason that angels can fly is they take themselves lightly' (p xiv). Fascinating stuff.

The Bloggy Man 9



Bio 02c Octavius Winslow 1808-78

Winslow spent most of his life in England. He pastored firstly in a Baptist Church in Warwick Road, Leamington Spa (1839-1858), where he followed Rev D J East. In 1858 he became the founder and first minister of Kensington Chapel, Bath. In 1865 the church became a Union Church (mixed credobaptist and paedobaptist). This latter event probably marks a changing attitude in Winslow who in 1867 left the Baptist pastorate and in 1870 was ordained an Anglican deacon and priest by the Bishop of Chichester. For his remaining years he served as minister of Emmanuel Church, Brighton, on the south coast. In 1868 he had produced a hymn book for the congregation. Winslow died, following a short illness, on March 5, 1878, in Brighton. He was 70 years old. He was buried in Abbey Cemetery, Bath.
Over the years he had written more than 40 books, in which he promoted an experimental knowledge of the precious truths of God. Several of his books have been reprinted in recent years and he has many fans today. In his time, Winslow was a popular speaker for special occasions, such as the meetings held for the opening of Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1861. Spurgeon's remark about him is worth bearing in mind. He says (commenting on No condemnation in Christ) 'Dr. Winslow is always sound and sweet; but his works are better adapted for general readers than for students. He is extremely diffuse.' His remark on Soul depths and soul heights is rather unkind, 'Not very deep nor very high, but pleasant spiritual reading.' My friend suggests there was some antagonism between the two as Winslow endeavoured to be broader than Spurgeon could allow.

Winslow's books can be read at shilohonline and gracegems

Bio 02b Octavius Winslow 1808-78

Mary and Thomas Winslow went on to live in England and Octavius was born in Pentonville, then a village near London, on August 1, 1808. He was the tenth of 13 children. His name seems to have been given because he was then the eighth surviving child. Octavius's father was from a wealthy family but but by 1815, following his retirement from the army, he suffered ill-health and the loss of his fortune due to one of several such national financial disasters that occurred in this period. A decision was made to move to America, but before Mr Winslow could join his wife and children in New York, he died. At the same time, their youngest child died too.
Widowed at 40, responsible for a large family and scarcely settled in America, Mrs Winslow's entire life was turned upside down. Worst of all, spiritual darkness and despondency overwhelmed her for some months. Octavius was seven years old. They were a deeply religious family and Octavius later wrote a book about their experiences from his mother's perspective in a book entitled Life in Jesus, available on google books. All of the children became Christians, and three sons became evangelical ministers.
It is suggested that Winslow began his ministerial training in Stepney, London, but then moved to Columbia College, New York. He was certainly ordained as a pastor June 21,1833 (aged 25) in New York. He is said to have ministered in the newly started Second Baptist Church there in Brooklyn, in 1836 and 1837, the work sadly closing in 1838. In 1839 he moved back to England where he became one of the most valued ministers of the time. This was largely due to the earnestness of his preaching and the excellence of his prolific writings.
He was married to a Miss Ann Ring and they had four boys and four girls. His son, John Whitmore, died in 1856 aged only 21 and Octavius went on to publish some of the things he had written as a teenager.

Bio 02a Octavius Winslow 1808-78

A friend in the States is one of many who have a real passion for the writings of Octavius Winslow. He asked me if I could find out anything about the man. With some difficulty I was able to put the following together. My friend has also provided a rare image of Winslow, which I'll include in the second post.

Winslow stood out as a one of the foremost evangelical preachers of the 19th Century. A Baptist minister for most of his life, he seceded to the Anglican church in his last decade. His Christ-centred writings show devotion, practicality and excellence. He is richly devotional and warms the soul and inflames the heart with sincere love, reverence and praise to Christ.

He was a direct descendant of John Winslow and Mary Chilton, who braved the Atlantic to travel to America on the Mayflower in 1620. Legend has it that Mary was the first female of the little band to set foot in the New World. In 1624 she married John, brother to Edward Winslow (1595-1655), a celebrated Pilgrim leader.

Octavius's mother, Mary Forbes (1774-1854) had Scots roots but was born and raised in Bermuda, the only child of Dr and Mrs George Forbes. In 1791 British soldiers of the Forty-seventh foot came to the island and a whirlwind romance ensued. On September 6, 1791, when she was just 17, she married Lieutenant Thomas Winslow. Shortly after this, she came under spiritual convictions and was brought to gospel deliverance while pleading the promise, 'Ask, and ye shall receive'. Christ Himself powerfully told her heart, 'I am Thy salvation!' and she was saved.
Winslow wrote a spiritual biography of his mother called

A Testimony












[Pics: I used to sit in the third pew on the right; the room where I was converted then just had bare floorboards; idyllic looking the 1836 building is now surrounded by a housing estate]
I did have this in a side bar but thought it might be better here.

My parents were not Christians but they were moral people and they brought me up in line with the Ten Commandments, including the idea that Sunday is special and that I ought to go to Sunday School. I never got on with Sunday School as a child but I did start attending the Friday night meetings for young people and the Sunday evening service when I was 11 or 12. Then one night I was converted.
It was the early seventies so my hair would have been touching the panda collar of my Ben Sherman shirt. I would have worn flares and stack heel lace-ups and possibly a tank top knitted by my mum. It was a long time ago! After a sausage and chips meal, we sat and listened to the visiting speaker.
It was Spring time and I remember sneezing a lot with hay fever but I was still gripped. I don't recall very much about what the speaker actually said though I'm sure he urged us all to trust in the Lord Jesus. Afterwards he gave us something to read and the minister of the church urged me to look at John 3, which I probably did. I certainly prayed, confessing what a rotten sinner I was and asking that I might be born again. I don't remember church the day after next but certainly the matter was still on my mind when I headed for school the following Monday. I was determined to let others know that I was now trusting in Christ.
Not being from a Christian home this change was quite a dramatic one in some ways. Just over a year later I was baptised by immersion at the same chapel where I had been converted. From early on I felt called to be a preacher.
About 10 years on, after time away studying in Aberystwyth University and London Theological Seminary, I became a minister. I am still not what I would call a religious person, although I obviously pray and go to church. What I'm trusting in is not my religion but the grace of God in Jesus Christ my Saviour.

WTS Journal Fall 06

Since graduating last summer I've begun to take the Westminster Theological Journal. I've just received the second of the two journals for the year, complete with an index for this whole 68th volume. At 385 pages in total they are like two small books. Over 30 contributors have provided some 21 articles of various lengths and reviews of 17 different books.
The current journal also contains four short abstracts from recent WTS doctoral dissertations and begins with inaugural lectures by K Scott Oliphant (Apologetics) and Peter Enns (OT/Biblical Hermeneutics).
Nine more articles cover various subjects including Bavinck, Van Til, etc (Donald McCleod), geography in 1 Sam 17 (John A Beck) and Song of Songs (James M Hamilton Jr). Some of the essays are a little dry and serve only to move discussion on an inch or two but others are more stimulating. It is good to know that a Reformed institution such as Westminster can regularly produce this sort of material. Further details of the journal can be found here.

Jesus born at night 3


One more by Douglas L Rights says

Veiled in darkness Judah lay,
Waiting for the promised day,
While across the shadowy night
Streamed a flood of glorious light,
Heav’nly voices chanting then,
'Peace on earth, good will to men.'

Still the earth in darkness lies.
Up from death’s dark vale arise
Voices of a world in grief,
Prayers of men who seek relief:
Now our darkness pierce again,
'Peace on earth, good will to men.'

Light of light, we humbly pray,
Shine upon Thy world today;
Break the gloom of our dark night,
Fill our souls with love and light,
Send Thy blessèd Word again,
'Peace on earth, good will to men.'

Jesus born at night 2

The idea mentioned in the last post is picked up in some less well known hymns I found on Cyberhymnal. A French hymn by Placide Cappeau begins
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;

Chorus
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine.

Another by William A Hawley begins
A light came out of darkness;
No light, no hope had we,
Till Jesus came from Heaven
Our light and hope to be.
Oh, as I read the story
From birth to dying cry,
A longing fills my bosom
To meet Him by and by.

Another anonymous one says
All this night bright angels sing,
Never was such caroling,
Hark! a voice which loudly cries,
'Mortals, mortals, wake and rise.'
Lo! to gladness turns your sadness:
From the earth is ris’n a Son,
Shines all night tho’ day be done.'

Wake, O earth, wake ev’ry thing,
Wake and hear the joy I bring:
Wake and joy; for all this night,
Heav’n and ev’ry twinkling light,
All amazing, still stand gazing,
Angels, pow’rs and all that be,
Wake, and joy this Son to see.
Hail! O Son, O blessèd Light,
Sent into this world by night;
Let Thy rays and heav’nly pow’rs,
Shine in these dark souls of ours.
For most duly, Thou art truly
God and Man, we do confess:
Hail, O Sun of Righteousness!

Jesus born at night 1

I've been preaching on Jesus's birth over 20 years and I know the relevant texts well. One question I've never asked is exactly when Jesus was born. My instinct says 'at night', probably quite late. Am I right?
Christmas hymns certainly suggest it. There is Gruber's famous 'Silent night, holy night!' and Philips Brooks' 'O little town of Bethlehem!' He speaks of how

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!

The idea is reinforced by hymns such as 'All my heart this night rejoices as I hear far and near Sweetest angel voices', 'on a cold winter’s night that was so deep' and 'it came upon the midnight clear' and, in a different way, 'the race that long in darkness pined'.
But what about Scripture itself? References to the wisemen are irrelevant as, contrary to tradition, they did not see Jesus until some time after his birth. In Luke 2, immediately after saying that Jesus was born the evangelist writes (2:8) And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. This clearly points to the birth happening at night. Knowing John's fondness for such imagery I wonder if there is any significance in John 1:5 - The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. Given the state of the world, just as his being placed in a manger is surely significant, so also is his birth in the darkness.

The Bloggy Man 8

A Happy Christmas to all - from the Bloggy Man!

Happy Birthday Jan


Jan Akkkerman is 58 tomorrow. Happy Birthday Jan!

Album of the year 2006


1. Focus 9/New Skin - Focus:
A great discovery of my teens was Dutch band Focus. The predominance of instrumental numbers was a factor - as a young Christian I wanted to avoid certain lyrics. Thijs van Leer was one half of the genius, drummer Pierre van der Linden no small part of it. Here they carry on the tradition with help from guitarist Niels Van Der Steenhoven. The result is 14 varied tracks often breathtaking in skill and panache, sometimes strangely weird. There are slightly too many nods to the past for me but it's a fine album. Perhaps 'Curtain call' is my fave. I got mine on i-tunes and haven't seen the CD in a shop. Their loss. To hear some check out the Focus website.
2. Under The Iron Sea - Keane: We're all keen on Keane in our family. We boys like guitar bands but this is a trio with no guitarists and a brilliant singer in Tom Chaplin. Second albums are notoriously difficult (the first was a phenomenon) but this is great - 11 tracks, 3-6 minutes each, not a dud in sight. The lyrics are interesting enough, mostly on ups and downs in human relationships and with atmospheric arrangements a la U2 a 'sinister fairytale-world-gone-wrong' feel is everywhere. It's also Beatlesque ('A bad dream' is quite Lennonish). Gutsy but tuneful 'Is it any wonder?' and 'Crystal Ball' (I lost my heart, I buried it too deep, under the iron sea) were early singles. Other standouts are (musically) upbeat 'Put it behind you' & 'Broken Toy' and the more doleful 'Hamburg song' & 'Try again' (my favourites). 'Frog prince' at the end is whistful and winning. Those who think 'they don't make 'em like they used to' should hear this well-crafted pop album.
3. Love - The Beatles: Strictly for fans this one is limited in appeal. I don't need to say much about it except that the job is pretty well done, full of interest and best heard on headphones. Some tracks fail - why bother playing a track backwards or sticking guitar from elsewhere in front of a straight version of Yesterday? Others work well, eg the clever Get Back/Word, etc combination and the revelatory While my guitar gently weeps. They've been pretty conservative. Why not a verse of German on I wanna hold your hand? Sorry not to hear Lennon's 'India, India' here too.

Hebrew humour

Look here for fun with shwas

Wesley and Athanasius



Having referred to one of Wesley's big themes below I was interested to see the helpful series on partaking of the divine nature at exiled preacher. Do check it out.




חנוכה

It is currently Hannukah (חנוכה) here in Golders Green and surrounds (Dec 16-23). Wikipedia describes the Festival of Lights or Rededication here as an 8-day Jewish holiday observed in Jewish homes by the kindling of lights on each night of the festival - one the first, two the second, etc. This relatively minor feast is an inter-testamental one. Hannukah means 'dedication' and marks the re-dedication of the Temple after its desecration under Antiochus IV. It is calimed that a miracles occurred so that oil was miraculously provided for the menorah.
The main thing is the lighting of lights on a menorah. There is a large public one here in Golders Green. Wikipedia also talks about Hanukkah food and games. Under food it mentions potato cakes known as latkes in Yidish. The Ashkenazis in particular eat these as there is a custom of eating foods fried or baked in oil, preferably olive oil, in light of the supposed miracle. Many Sephardic families (as well as Polish Ashkenazim and Israelis) customarily eat all kinds of doughnuts deep-fried in oil.
As for games the dreidel or sevivon (a four-sided spinning top) is popular. Each side
has a different Hebrew letter - נ [Nun] ג [Gimel] ה [He] ש [Shin]. These letters are an acronym for the Hebrew, נס גדול היה שם, Nes Gadol Haya Sham - A great miracle happened there (the miracle of the oil). The dreidel is used for a sort of gambling game after the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah, to keep children interested during the short time the candles are burning.
Hanukkah gelt is often given to children. The amount is usually in small coins, although grandparents or others may give larger sums as an official Hanukkah gift. In more recent times chocolate gelt has become popular. Gifts can be given so that Jewish children do not feel they are missing out on Christmas.
Wikipedia also says that in recent years, a Christmas/Hanukkah amalgum has emerged - dubbed 'Chrismukkah' - celebrated by some mixed-fatih families, particularly in the US. A decorated tree has come to be called a 'Hanukkah bush'. Other Jews (tongue-in cheek) wish each other 'happy cholidays'.
I didn't spot anything on Hannukah there but this is a good site for Christians keen to reach Jews.

A Charles Wesley Christmas 5

One final post on this.

Wesley also likes the idea of a sojourn - staying in a place for a while as on a journey. See Glory be to God on high and Let Angels and Archangels.
Now God comes down, He bows the sky,
And shows Himself our Friend!
God the invisible appears,

God the Blest, the Great I AM,
He sojourns in this vale of tears,

And Jesus is His Name.

The everlasting God comes down To sojourn with the sons of men;

Other notable expressions include
Away with our fears! The Godhead appears
(Away with our fears!)

Abject earth, Sees his birth,
Whom the heavens adore.
(Angels speak, let man give ear)

See in that Infant’s face The depths of deity,
Suffice for us that God, we know, Our God, is manifest below.

(Let earth and heaven combine)

And where he plays on God’s title ‘Ancient of Days’
Infant of days He here became, And bore the mild Immanuel’s Name.

Also

In Christ reconciled, The Father of Mercies in Jesus the Child.
He comes from above, …
(Let earth and heaven combine)

Finally, in O mercy divine we have
So heavenly-mild His innocence smiled,
No wonder the mother should worship the child.


That hymn includes a reference to the shepherds and wise men and the notable observation that 'The rich are permitted to follow the poor'. The hymn ends with the immortal
Like him would I be, my Master I see
In a stable; a stable shall satisfy me.

With him I reside: the manger shall hide
Mine honour; the manger shall bury my pride.

And here will I lie, 'til raised up on high
With him on the cross I recover the sky.

A Charles Wesley Christmas 4

The idea of Christ's Godhead being hidden is also in Join all ye joyful nations:
Go see the King of glory, Discern the heavenly stranger,
So poor and mean, His court an inn,
His cradle is a manger:

Who from his Father's bosom,

But now for us descended,
Who built the skies, On earth he lies,
With only beasts attended.

Whom all the angels worship,
Lies hid in human nature;

Incarnate see The deity, The infinite Creator!

The idea of Jesus as stranger is in Angels speak, let man
Wrapped in swaths th' immortal stranger,
Man with men, We have seen,
Lying in a manger.

Another repeated idea is that of God stooping down. This points to God’s humility. It is in All glory to God, O astonishing grace and
All-wise, all-good, almighty Lord.
What moved the Most High so greatly to stoop,
He comes from the sky our souls to lift up.

The Creator of all, To repair our sad fall,
From his heaven stoops down, Lays hold of our nature, and joins to his own.

How did thy glorious mercy stoop To take the fallen nature up,
When thou thyself wert man?

The humility involved is referred to in Glory be to God on high along with the identifying with man.
See the Lord of earth and skies Low humbled to the dust He is,
And in a manger lies!
See - Jesus is our Brother now, And God is all our own!

The 'God and sinners reconciled' is in
Let earth and heaven
He deigns in flesh t’appear, Widest extremes to join;
To bring our vileness near, And make us all divine:
And we the life of God shall know, For God is manifest below.

It is also in
Away with our fears!
Made flesh for our sake, That we might partake
The nature divine, And again in his image, his holiness shine.

In manifest love, The Ancient of Days
To redeem a lost race, From his glory comes down,
Self-humbled to carry us up to a crown.

Also see Sing, ye ransomed nations, sing
Humbly in a manger laid. Jesus is our flesh and bone,
God-with-Us is all our own.

And
All-wise, all-good, almighty Lord
Didst thou not in thy person join The natures human and divine,
That God and man might be Henceforth inseparably one?

And Father, our hearts we lift
The Lord of hosts, the King of Kings, Declares himself our friend,
Assumes our flesh and blood, That we his Spirit may gain.

A Charles Wesley Christmas 3

The idea of the Saviour divesting himself of his glory is a common theme in Wesley. As in 'Mild he lays his glory by'. Compare that with
The Lord of hosts, the God most high, Who quits His throne on earth to live.
(To us a child of royal birth)
Emptied of His majesty,
Of His dazzling glories shorn
(Glory be to God on high)
Lo! He lays his glory by, Emptied of his majesty!
See the God who all things made, Humbly in a manger laid.
(Sing, ye ransomed nations, sing)

The being shorn motif cleverly picks up the Lamb of God idea. See also Let Angels and Archangels
Without his majesty or crown, The great Invisible is seen:
Of all his dazzling glories shorn, The everlasting God is born!

Also see All-wise, all-good, almighty Lord and Let earth and heaven combine
Th' Eternal God from heaven came down,
The King of glory dropped his crown,
And veiled his majesty,
Emptied of all but love He came

He laid His glory by, He wrapped Him in our clay;
Unmarked by human eye, The latent Godhead lay.

Of course this is the same as the often criticised but surely allowable line in And can it be, 'Emptied himself of all but love'.

A Charles Wesley Christmas 2

Wesley's great skill is in taking an important theological truth and expressing it pithily, accurately and imaginatively. Some of his lines are well known
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity.
Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Our God contracted to a span, Incomprehensibly made Man.

Another obvious example would be (in Glory be to God on high)
See the eternal Son of God A mortal Son of Man,
Now dwelling in an earthly clod Whom Heaven cannot contain!

What Wesley does there is to take the facts of God's eternity and immensity and man's mortality and locality and highlight how both are true of Jesus. He does a similar thing with the fact that God is invisible and man visible. In To us a child of royal birth he says 'The invisible appears on earth'. Father, our hearts we lift similarly refers to
The everlasting Son of God, The mortal Son of man.

Glory be to God on High repeats the idea 'God the invisible appears'. It also says
Our being’s Source begins to be, And God Himself is born!

In Let Angels and Archangels we have again 'The great Invisible is seen'. This use of paradoxical language is very powerful. See O mercy divine
What a wonder of grace! The ancient of days
Is found in the likeness of Adam's frail race.
He comes from on high, Who fashioned the sky,
And meekly vouchsafes in a manger to lie.

Our God ever blest, With oxen doth rest,
Is nursed by his creature and hangs at the breast.

It is also in Let angels and archangels again, where he addresses the angels and says
Though now he on his footstool lies, Ye know he built both earth and skies.

A Charles Wesley Christmas 1

The 18th Century Methodist leader and younger brother of John, Charles Wesley (1707-1788) was a prolific hymn writer. It is said that he wrote over 6000 altogether. A large number are still sung today. One modern hymn book contains over 80.
In 1745 Wesley published his Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord. It contains some 18 hymns on the incarnation. The book went on to be published in over 25 further editions in Wesley's life time, not always with his approval. The numerous editions contain many variations. The best known of the 18 are Glory be to God on high and Let earth and heaven combine. Come Thou long expected Jesus is not really now thought of as a Christmas hymn.
Absent from this collection are To us a child of royal birth and Hark the Herald angels sing which we now sing in a different form to that in which Wesley wrote it.
The hymns vary but are all excellent attempts to set out the story of the incarnation and wonderful lines occur such as The inn is a palace; for Jesus is there (16). One of the strongest themes is that because God has become a human being then we also can become divine, in the sense of entering into the delights that God bestows on his children.
The small book can be accessed
here.

Hand me up

My boys are not sure about my current coat. Having abandoned my C&A job (how long ago was it that they stopped trading here?) I'm now using my eldest son's old parka. A 'hand me up' is what they call it.

Seasonal diary entry

I was browsing through Life in Jesus: a memoir of Mrs. Mary Winslow, arranged from her correspondence, diary, and thoughts by Octavius Winslow yesterday on Google books. See here. Mary lived 1774-1856 in England and the US. It looks a fascinating read. On page 106 Winslow quotes his mother's diary for 1829. Very seasonal I guess.

Dec 26 - Was ill yesterday, and was obliged to keep my bed. The family had a happy day together. It was pleasant to them to meet so many and I am sure my kind-hearted T_______ was as happy as a prince. After all I could but reflect on the way in which Christmas-day is generally kept. It is the birthday of our blessed Lord. In general, when the world celebrates the birthday of a highly distinguished individual, they speak much of his character, ways and exploits. But on this day of carnal delight, Christ‘s name [in the social circle] is seldom mentioned. He is kept out of sight, or if any allusion should be made to him, it would be received with grave looks and sullen indifference. Oh, what a God of longsuffering is ours! How He hears with, and how much, and how much he hath to bear with, even in his children. May He keep us from the evil of the world! I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

Mary & Others

We can profitably compare Mary with many women in the Old Testament, such as Eve, Leah, Miriam, Ruth, Bathsheba. However six particular women who had one thing in common with each other are particularly linked to Mary. Their experiences were no doubt intended to point forward to and prepare the way for the virgin birth itself. I refer to Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Samson's mother, Hannah and Elizabeth (an OT woman in a NT setting). John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets, the forerunner of Jesus. His mother, Elizabeth, was the last in a line of women unable to conceive except by a miracle and the one nearest in time to Mary herself. We can make several points.
1. All these women were mothers to first born sons who were significant men that we read of in the Bible.
Sarah - Isaac, from whom came the children of Israel; Rebekah - the mother of Jacob or Israel (as well as Esau); Rachel - Joseph (as well as Benjamin). Joseph was Jacob's favourite because of his godliness and was appointed his eldest son (1 Ch 5:2). He was very much the Saviour of his people when he went ahead of them down into Egypt where figuratively he died and rose again (Ps 105:17); Manoah's wife - Samson was a significant judge. He began the deliverance from the Philistines; Hannah - Samuel was the last of the judges, a prophet, a godly man and the one who prepared the way for King David; Elizabeth - John the Baptist, the last of the prophets and the immediate forerunner of Christ. Mary - Jesus Christ, the Saviour himself, whom these other men could only point to and prepare for.
2. They were all women unable to have children in the normal course of things but in whose lives God worked to bring about a significant birth. All six were initially barren. The first and the last (Sarah and Elizabeth) became too old to have children anyway. A particular note is made of their joy in both cases (Gen 18:6, 7; Lk 1:58). Mary is also joyful (Lk 1:46-49).
Sarah - Gn 16:2, 18:12; Ro 4:19, He 11:11; Rebekah - Gn 25:32; Rachel - Gn 29:31; Manoah's wife - Jg 13:2, 3; Hannah – 1 Sa 1:3ff; Elizabeth - Lk 1:7. Mary's problem was that though she had reached mature enough years to conceive, she was a virgin until after Jesus was born.
3. All these women showed themselves to be imperfect but women of faith and virtue to some extent. We see submission in Sarah, generosity and selflessness in Rebekah, commitment and perseverance in Rachel, good sense in Manoah's wife, devotion and dedication in Hannah, thankfulness in Elizabeth. Mary is marked particularly by humility but other virtues too.
As for imperfections, we see that in Mary's failure to understand Jesus as she should have. We see unbelief in Sarah's scheming and laughter (Gn 16; 18:12), Rebekah's scheming and tricks, Rachel's idolatry and willingness to trust in other means (Gn 31:19; the mandrakes, Gn 30). The latter three are more free from obvious signs of sin.
4. The first three women are important as mothers in Israel building up the family line. Like Mary they gave birth to children of promise (Gn 21:1, etc; Gn 25:3 and Rom 9). Without the miracles in their lives there would have been no Jewish race and so no Messiah.
The latter three arrive on the scene after the Jews are well established as a people. What they have in common is that each of their sons (Samson, Samuel and John) appear to have been Nazirites from birth (Jg 13:4, 5; 1 Sa 1:11, 28; Lk 1:15 ). Jesus was not a Nazirite in the proper sense but was entirely dedicated to God and is the fulfilment of the Nazirite idea. In the cases of Samson, Samuel and John there are clearly references to them being moved by the Spirit from early on (Jg 13:25; 1 Sa 3:19-21; Lk 1:15 ). This is a mark of Christ himself. Another theme common to the last three is the way they shine in comparison to their menfolk. Manoah's wife certainly outshines him in logic and good sense (Jg 13:22, 23) and is clearly the outstanding one. Something similar is true of Hannah and Elkanah. With Elizabeth and Zechariah the faith of the former and the lack of faith of the latter are obvious. Mary's faith is especially contrasted, not with Joseph's, but with Zechariah's lack of it (Lk 1). Something else that stands out about these three and Mary herself is that they give birth at times of great moral declension and corruption.
5. Obvious contrasts are how Rachel and Hannah, unlike Mary, had to share their husbands. All the women were married and older than Mary, of course, some much older. Although Hannah and Mary sing songs, Sarah and Elizabeth only express their gladness in prose. Elizabeth's husband sings, however. Unlike Mary, Sarah and Rachel died before their husbands.
6. The women have more particular connection with Mary.
Sarah and Mary were both reminded of God’s power to do the impossible (Gn 18:14; Lk 1:37). Rebekah and Mary are both virgins when we first encounter them. Rebekah is described (Gn 24:16) as very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever lain with her. If Mary was not outwardly beautiful, she certainly had that inner beauty that Peter commends. Rachel and Mary had a strong Bethlehem connection. See Gn 35:16, 48:7 concerning Rachel's death (also Ru 4:11). Also Je 31:15, which is quoted in Mt 2:18.
Manoah's wife, like Sarah and Mary, received an angelic visit to announce the birth of their sons. In the case of Manoah and his wife and Abraham and his they met with a theophany, while Mary was visited by Gabriel. Like Mary, Manoah's wife hears the news before her husband. Hannah's son Samuel, John and Jesus are said to have grown up in the Lord (1 Sa 2:21; Lk 1:80, 2:40, 2:52). Elizabeth was told through her husband, like Mary, to give her son a specific name.

In Writing 113

For many years now I've been involved in the Evangelical Library here in London (See link). One of my reponsibilities is to produce what is usually a twice yearly magazine called In writing. The task has only nominally been in my hands in recent years but it is now back in my court and we have recently produced a new 32 page edition (No 113).
The main feature is an 11 page transcript of a lecture given by Dr Gerald Bray back in the summer on Martyrdom: the baptism of fire. This was the Library lecture for 2006. There are also various other brief articles of news and general interest plus an update on books recently added to The Library. The magazine is free to Library members and sells at £1.50 to others.

The Bloggy Man 7

Kerb Drill

Preaching yesterday, I had reason to refer by way of illustration to the kerb drill I learned in junior school in the sixties.
 
1) AT THE KERB HALT! 2) LOOK RIGHT - LOOK LEFT!
3) LOOK RIGHT AGAIN! 4) IF ALL'S CLEAR, QUICK MARCH!
 
It all sounds very military and from another age. I guessed it was pre-sixties. It actually goes back to 1942 and was produced by RoSPA.
These days they have what looks to me a rather cumbersome thing:

1. THINK FIRST. Find the safest place to cross, then stop.
2. STOP. Stand on the pavement near the kerb.
3. USE YOUR EYES AND EARS. Look all around for traffic, and listen.
4. WAIT UNTIL IT'S SAFE TO CROSS. If traffic is coming, let it pass.
5. LOOK AND LISTEN. When it's safe, walk straight across the road.
6. ARRIVE ALIVE. Keep looking and listening for traffic while you cross.
 
How things change. We had Tufty the squirrel to help us. Hedgehogs are used these days.

Bio 01 Thomas Pestell

(Gleaned from ONDB)
An Anglican clergyman and poet, Pestell was born c 1586. Son of a tailor adn eldest of 5, he gained a BA (1606) and MA (1609) from Queens College, Cambridge and became rector of Coleorton in his native Leicestershire. Around 1612 he married Sarah Carr ‘disappointing’ a Mistress Stacy and initiating a lengthy feud with her family. They had several children. Two older sons, Thomas and William, went into the ministry.
In 1615 Pestell published The Good Conscience and 2 sermons castigating avarice and oppression. He was chaplain to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, and may have written the Spenserian Coleorton Masque performed (1618) to celebrate the wedding of Essex's sister.
Regarding himself as ‘a poor retired Vicar in an obscure angle of the Countrey’ he published
nothing more until persuaded to issue God’s Visitation (1630). In 1633 he produced two elegies for the countess of Huntingdon, which must have had a wider currency. Queen Henrietta Maria was said to have read the elegies.
Pestell was controversial, capable of arrogance and even violence. By 1633 he had been accused of ecclesiastical irregularities but charges against him in the 1640s point to at least a degree of conformity, and he was acquitted, though ordered to apologise to his patrons and pay damages to others. He held a royal chaplaincy 1641-1644. During the civil wars his house was apparently looted 11 times. In 1646 he and his elder son were charged by a parliamentary committee with offences including using the prayer book and keeping hunting beagles that damaged property. They were sequestered and Thomas Sr was ejected from his charge at Packington by soldiers. Several times imprisoned, he was dependent on charity and assumed the pseudonym Perditus.
Sermons and Devotions Old and New (1659) was ‘an oblation of gratitude to all such of the nobility, gentry and clergy as retain the noble conscience of having ministered to the weak condition of the author, now aged 73’. It included a discourse on duels.
In 1659 he became vicar of St Mary's, Leicester and at the Restoration rector of Lutterworth and confrator of Wigston Hospital, where he died in 1667, being buried in the chapel.

Behold the great Creator

At this time of the year we sing hymns about the incarnation. Yesterday we sang this striking one from New Christian Hymns (198)

1. Behold the great Creator makes
Himself a house of clay,
A robe of virgin flesh He takes
Which He will wear for aye.

2. Hark, hark, the wise eternal Word,
Like a weak infant cries!
In form of servant is the Lord,
And God in cradles lies.

3. This wonder struck the world amazed,
It shook the starry frame;
Squadrons of spirits stood and gazed,
Then down in troops they came.

4. Glad shepherds ran to view this sight;
A choir of angels sings,
And eastern sages with delight
Adore this King of kings.

5. Join then, all hearts that are not stone,
And all our voices prove,
To celebrate this holy One
The God of peace and love.

It's from a poem by Thomas Pestel[l] (c1586-1667), in Sermons and Devotions Old and New (1639). The above are stanzas 5-9 of A Psalm for Christmas Day Morning. The first 4 verses (printed in a book of his poems in 1940) are as follows:

Fairest of morning lights, appear,
Thou blest and gaudy day,
On which was born our Saviour dear;
Arise and come away.

See, see, our pensive breasts do pant,
Like gasping land we lie,
Thy holy dews our souls do want.
We faint, we pine, we die.

Let from the skies a joyful rain
Like mel or manna fall
Whose searching drops our sins may drain,
And quench our sorrows all.

This day prevents His day of doom;
His mercy now is nigh;
The mighty God of Love is come,
The dayspring from on high.

[Gaudy = feast; mel = honey; prevents = comes before; doom = judgment]

Some biographical detail for Pestel in another post, I hope.

Teenage sons

5 daughters and 1 bathroom is worse I guess but 5 boys (3 teenaged) is a challenge.

Cyngerdd Nadolig

It was my younger kids' school concert yesterday, cyngerdd nadolig, down at the Ysgol Gymraeg Llundain in Stonebridge Park near Harlesden. It's a small school so everyone takes part. Eleri coaxed an 'I orwedd mewn preseb' (Away in a manger) out of the little ones then the older ones got going on 'Y Ffactor 'X''.
Our older boy held it all together as compere, dealing with the judges (Y beirniaid) - some unintended humour there as he was determined to refer to them as Louie, Seemon and Sha-ronn (as in the Israeli leader). Our younger son was part of one of the four the singing groups - Yr anrhegion (presents) and delivered his one spoken line well.
My Welsh is not great so I really enjoyed this production with each group singing a song (translations of English songs such as Ffrosti Y Dyn Eira, the Slade hit plus a striking version of Firestarter [if you don't know it you don't want to know it] performed by Christmas crackers or Cracodorion) and the judges then repeating much the same lines after each one (Ardderchog, arbennig, da iawn/lovely/and Seemon usually moaning).
It's the 13th one of these I've attended I guess. I thought it one of the best ever. It was ardderchog, arbennig, da iawn ....

The Bloggy Man 6

1.3 Why Study Solomon?

Why Study Solomon (More)
If for some reason your remain unconvinced about this let me give you four further reasons for studying the life of Solomon from Scripture, reasons of a more specialised type.

1. He is spoken of in God’s Word. We must always remember that what we read of Solomon in Scripture is given to us by God himself. The legends and myths may not be true but what is in the Bible certainly is. Scripture comes to us through men, of course, anonymous men in Solomon’s case, but God had his hand on the ones who wrote these things down in a special way so that we may have inspired, God-breathed words of life, words that that are able to ‘make wise to salvation’. The writers were like great sailing ships catching the Wind of God in their sails so that although they plotted a course and tacked this way and that, it was God who sent his Spirit to direct them exactly where he intended. Solomon’s story is therefore useful, profitable; it is here to teach us, rebuke us, correct us and train us. We do well to pay close attention to it like a light in the darkness and to learn from it.
2. He is for the most part a great man of God. As we have said, Solomon eventually fell into idolatry and some wonder whether he ever came back, nevertheless, he was a godly man for the most part and an example to us. In 1 Kings 3:3 we read that he ‘showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.’ That sums up most of his life. That is the official record from heaven. He is a man to take note of. He is not named specifically in Hebrews 11 but he is among the great cloud of witnesses whose example points us to a life of faith and devotion to God.
3. He is spoken about in order to benefit Christians. This must be our approach to the Old Testament Scriptures. In 1 Corinthians 10:11 Paul refers to the Old Testament characters saying ‘These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come.’ Everything has been leading up to this present age in which we now live, the age following Christ’s first coming and so all that we find in the Old Testament is there for our instruction. That includes what we read of King Solomon. We must make good use of his story. This book is designed to help us to do just that.
4. He was an ancestor of Christ and one who points to him. He is not only the Son of David but an ancestor of great David’s greater son. In Luke 11:31 Jesus says The Queen of the South (ie Sheba) will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s, and now one greater than Solomon is here.
Solomon points us forward to Christ in several ways.
For example, in his name, which means peace. Christ is the King of Peace, the great Reconciler of God and man. We learn something of that through the life of Solomon.
Also in his kingship and glorious kingdom, for Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords who rules over a vast and growing kingdom that Solomon’s anticipates.
Obviously, in his wisdom. Again this points to Christ who is the all wise God and our wisdom if we are believers.
In his Temple. As we have said the Temple points us to Heaven and indeed to Christ too. Solomon was its builder and a study of his life entails a consideration of his great Temple.
In Chronicles 22:10 a prophecy is made of Solomon He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever.
It is not difficult for those with eyes to see it to realise that such a verse points beyond Solomon to Christ himself. We ought to take careful note of such lessons. Any glory we see in Solomon is designed to point to the glory of Jesus Christ, to whom all glory must be given.
Be in no doubt then regarding the importance of this study. Solomon has been too long neglected by too many. His life is crying out for examination and by the grace of God that is what we intend to do here.

Grace Assembly 2007

I was at the steering committee meeting today to finalise the programme for the next Grace Baptist Assembly. Assembly endeavours to draw together Calvinistic Baptist churches in England and Wales (and sometimes beyond) for fellowship and mutual edification. For some years the assembly gathered at our church but in more recent thimes we have gone for a residential conference, which works better. Previous conferences have been at Swanwick, Derbyshire but we are planning to meet May 23-25, 2007, at High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, Herts.
The host and hostess will be my parents-in-law, Geoff and Iola Thomas. On the two evenings the speaker will be Pastor Conrad Mbewe (Lusaka, Zambia). See here. There are also sessions on baptism (Nigel Lacey), confessionalism and co-operation (Robert Oliver) and building churches in a multi-ethnic society (Graham Heaps). There will also be reports sessions and plenty of time for discussion and informal fellowship,etc. Over 50 are already booked and we hope that between a hundred and 200 will attend. Contact me if you want to know more.

Was it for me, for me alone

Every other Wednesday I lead a morning prayer meeting for residents in nearby sheltered housing. As we prayed this morning one man who has been attending with us for a little while now, a Scotsman, quoted part of the hymn below - not one I knew. He used to sing it as a solo he told me later. I've discovered it by Canadian Methodist evangelist John M Whyte (1850-1927) from Paris, Ontario. With brother, D A Whyte, he published three hymn collections: Sing Out the Glad News (1885), Songs of Calvary (1889) Battle Songs of the Cross (1901). One writer says Whyte was 'one of the most prolific hymn and tune composers in Canadian musical history, with about 200 to his credit. His texts and music are clearly in the gospel idiom, with vivid imagery and simple harmony such as his The Dripping of the Blood and The Crimson Stream both from Battle Songs.'

Was it for me, for me alone,
The Saviour left His glorious throne,
The dazzling splendors of the sky?
Was it for me He came to die?

Refrain:
It was for me, yes, all for me,
O love of God, so great, so free,
O wondrous love, I'll shout and sing,
He died for me, my Lord and King!

Was it for me, sweet angel strains
Came floating o'er Judea's plains
That starlit night so long ago?
Was it for me God planned it so?

Was it for me the Saviour said:
"Pillow thy weary, aching head
Trustingly on thy Saviour's breast"?
Was it for me? Can I thus rest?

Was it for me He wept and prayed,
My load of sin before Him laid,
That night within Gethsemane?
Was it for me, that agony?

Was it for me He bowed His head
Upon the cross and freely shed
His precious blood, that crimson tide?
Was it for me the Saviour died?


I think it can be sung to Redemption Ground (Daniel W. Whittle, 1840-1901) or The countless multitude on high (Archibald Rutherford, 19th Century)

Christmas Grotto

Apparently my youngest son was at Harrods today with his school to see Santa (Sion Corn in Welsh - John Chimney!). It's not like the old days. They all went in together. He didn't even ask them what they wanted for Christmas. He was just interested in encouraging them to leave mince pies out for him!
When I was a boy it was quite different. Little boys sat on Santa's knee for their photo. For various reasons that doesn't happen today.
So here's a snap of me in the corner of a sixties supermarket sat on some bloke's knee. I wonder who he was. (Assuming it wasn't the real one).